11/15/2012 2:05PM

Churchill Downs: Commonwealth Turf draws huge, wide-open field

Barbara D. Livingston
King David comes off a 28-1 upset victory in the Jamaica at Belmont.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – In more desperate times, Churchill Downs racing officials might have been tempted to split the Commonwealth Turf into divisions. The Saturday race drew 18 entries, which would have made for a couple of tidy nine-horse races, if in fact there was such a need.

But this being “The Roaring Twenties” at Downs After Dark, prosperity and opulence reign. The Grade 3, $100,000 Commonwealth Turf remains intact, with 16 3-year-olds on the Churchill program after two were excluded. Two more horses make up an also-eligibles list for the 1 1/16-mile race, leaving an absurdly competitive field of 14 to put on a show of vaudevillian proportions under the Churchill lights.

Where to start for a favorite? King David, with Julien Leparoux to ride from post 11, has won his last five races, ending with a 28-1 stunner in the Grade 1 Jamaica at Belmont Park six weeks ago. But with the colt having spent virtually all his career competing in maiden or claiming events, doesn’t he have something to prove despite what appears to be a drop in class?

“It is a little ironic because even with this being a Grade 3, it might actually be a deeper race [than the Jamaica],” said trainer Mike Maker. “So yes, that’ll make our task tougher than the last time. But I do think he’s got the credentials now, absolutely. We brought him back to Trackside after that last race and got a few works under his belt, and he hasn’t missed a beat.”

Other considerations in a delightfully unwieldly lineup include five returnees from the Hawthorne Derby, including the top three finishers, Two Months Rent (post 3), Film Shot (post 1), and Lea (post 6); Finnegans Wake (post 13), runner-up in the Grade 1 Secretariat two starts back; and Lockout (post 14), seeking a third straight turf win and his second in a stakes.

Finnegans Wake, with Robby Albarado to ride, is an intriguing prospect, partly because trainer Dale Romans chose to try him against the likes of Point of Entry in his last start, the Grade 1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic at Belmont.

“It’s a huge field with a lot of speed, so things could set up for us,” said Romans. “I like the fact he’s won over this course, too.”

This is the ninth running of the Commonwealth Turf. It precedes its sister race, the Grade 2 Mrs. Revere, by about an hour as the seventh of 11 Saturday races. First post is 4:30 p.m. Eastern, with the Commonwealth Turf set for 7:32.