05/30/2013 12:43PM

Churchill Downs: Tough turf race steals spotlight

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The Aristides Stakes drew five fair-to-middling sprinters for its 25th running Saturday at Churchill Downs. It is carded as the fifth of 11 races.

Meanwhile, the Opening Verse – once a six-figure race at Churchill before being relegated to overnight-stakes status – got an excellent field of seven, including such graded turf winners as Turallure, Silver Max, and Keep Up. It goes as race 10.

Guess which has a bigger purse and is the Saturday “feature.”

That would be the Aristides, with its Grade 3 ranking and $100,000 purse – not that it matters much. The $65,000 Opening Verse clearly is the more compelling race, and thus its spot late on a program that starts at 12:45 p.m. Eastern.

The 1 1/16-mile Opening Verse (post: 5:30) shapes up as a potential prep for more important engagements, such as the Grade 2 Firecracker at Churchill – although Turallure likely would pass on the Firecracker because his trainer, Charlie LoPresti, already has circled the June 29 race as a possible next start for 2012 Horse of the Year Wise Dan.

Whatever the case, Turallure and his $1.34 million bankroll are among the major factors in this Saturday race. Likewise, the speedy Silver Max, the winner of five stakes last year, and Keep Up, the winner of the Grade 3 River City over this course last fall, figure as threats.

The favorite’s role in the six-furlong Aristides (post time: 2:51) could go to Good Lord, whose 78-year-old trainer, Forrest Kaelin, said he was surprised at how light the race came up. Good Lord will have Fernando De La Cruz aboard when breaking from post 4.

“I couldn’t believe there wasn’t but five in there,” Kaelin said. “We can’t help that, though. I’m just glad to see we got an outside post where we can kind of let it all unfold. He’ll run hard like he always does. He’s doing about as good as he can be.”

The main challengers all exit the same Kentucky Derby week allowance won by Off the Jak, those being Jasizzle, Scatman, and Rothko, who finished second through fourth. The even-money favorite in that race, Sum of the Parts, faded to fifth.

Rounding out the field is St. Maximus Gato.

Among the conspicuous absentees from the Aristides lineup are Gentlemen’s Bet, who would have entered on two weeks’ rest after earning a 107 Beyer Speed Figure in a May 17 allowance triumph here, and Pass the Dice, the runner-up to Delaunay in the Grade 2 Churchill Downs Stakes on the May 4 Kentucky Derby undercard.

“Just too quick back,” said Ron Moquett, who trains Gentlemen’s Bet.

“Six furlongs might be a little short, and I wanted maybe a little more time with him,” said Wayne Catalano, the trainer of Pass the Dice. “Maybe seven-eighths, a mile, the grass, something else.”

The Saturday card also includes back-to-back allowances (races 8 and 9).