05/22/2013 2:41PM

Churchill Downs: Louisville Handicap signals return to top racing

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Coady Photography/Keeneland
Dark Cove will be the highweight in the Grade 3 Louisville Handicap.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The three-week drought between six-figure races at Churchill Downs will end Saturday when the Grade 3, $100,000 Louisville Handicap kicks off the holiday weekend.

A field of nine older horses was entered Wednesday for the Louisville, a 1 1/2-mile turf race in which Dark Cove, Ioya Bigtime, and Atigun figure as the favorites.

Dark Cove, assigned high weight of 122 pounds for the Louisville, was part of an end-of-meet rampage at Keeneland last month for owners and Ken and Sarah Ramsey and trainer Mike Maker when he upset the closing-day Elkhorn Stakes by 4 1/4 lengths at nearly 9-1. The 6-year-old horse had competed in claiming races in his four prior starts.

Ioya Bigtime, a Chicago shipper for Team Block, will be trying to redeem his ninth-place finish in the Elkhorn, a race in which the 6-year-old sped off to an early lead before tiring from his efforts. The Illinois-bred horse has earned more than $520,000 from 22 career starts.

Atigun, trained by Ken McPeek for the Shortleaf Stable of John Ed Anthony, dropped in class to win a turf allowance on the May 4 Kentucky Derby undercard and has a wealth of prior stakes experience to his credit.

By design, Churchill front-loads its spring meet with major stakes on Kentucky Derby weekend. The post-Derby portion of the schedule is comprised of 11 stakes, starting this weekend with the Louisville and the $100,000 Winning Colors on Monday.

From the rail, with weights and jockeys, this is the field for the 76th running of the Louisville, which is carded as the 10th of 11 Saturday races:

Prime Cut, 113 pounds, Corey Lanerie; Harrods Creek, 115, Shaun Bridgmohan; Mack’s Blackhawk, 112, Ricardo Santana; Atigun, 115, Alan Garcia; Ioya Bigtime, 118, Jeffrey Sanchez; Dark Cove, 122, Rosie Napravnik; Najjaar, 112, Leandro Goncalves; Al Qasr, 117, Jesus Castanon; and Heathcote, 115, Emma-Jayne Wilson.