05/19/2011 1:22PM

Churchill Downs: Pleasant Prince taking major drop


LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The last time Pleasant Prince started, he faced Blame and Zenyatta in the Nov. 6 Breeders’ Cup Classic, finishing ninth of 12.

Suffice to say he isn’t racing against the same level of competition Saturday at Churchill Downs when Pleasant Prince begins his 4-year-old season in a $56,000 third-level allowance with an $80,000 claiming condition that goes as the featured ninth on the card.

Though his class-drop is appreciable – even against a good allowance field that includes proficient runners such as Mad Flatter, Headache, and Stay Put – trainer Wesley Ward cautions he does not expect Pleasant Prince’s best effort. Saturday’s race is very much a prep.

“He’s an easy-going guy that doesn’t put a lot into his works in the morning, just goes at his own pace,” Ward said.

For a horse unraced since the Breeders’ Cup and who had surgery over the winter to take care of what Ward referred to as “minor problems,” that leaves Ward believing Pleasant Prince could be somewhat short of fitness.

He said it is difficult to determine how prepared Pleasant Prince is because the colt doesn’t extend himself as much on Polytrack, the surface at Keeneland, where Ward bases his horses in Kentucky. Pleasant Prince is fonder of dirt, Ward said.

That is not to say his class might not carry him to victory, regardless. He did win the Ohio and Oklahoma derbies last year, and perhaps most notably, ran second, beaten a nose, in the Grade 1 Florida Derby last March.

Jeffrey Sanchez has been named to ride Pleasant Prince, a son of Indy King owned by Ken and Sarah Ramsey.

Pleasant Prince, was also entered in the William Donald Schaefer Memorial at Pimlico on the Preakness undercard, but will be scratched from that race, Ward said.

Pleasant Prince is not the only horse with Grade 1 experience in the ninth race, a 1 1/16-mile dirt contest. Others include Mad Flatter, who ran 12th in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, and Stay Put, the fifth-place finisher in the 2010 Belmont Stakes.

Both are threats, as is Da Da Da Dum, who has strung together three straight 90 Beyer Speed Figures in going unbeaten in three starts at Oaklawn Park this winter.

A 6-year-old horse claimed for a scant $10,000 last fall at Churchill Downs, he has improved noticeably since being stretched out to two-turn races by trainer Gary “Red Dog” Hartlage.