06/19/2013 3:26PM

Colonial Downs: Atigun seeks elusive stakes win in Turf Cup

Tom Keyser
Atigun, most recently second in the Louisville Handicap, will try for his first stakes victory in Saturday's Grade 2 Colonial Turf Cup.

Atigun finished third in the 2012 Belmont Stakes. He was fourth in the Travers Stakes and had the lead before folding up late in the Breeders’ Cup Marathon last fall.

This spring, Atigun was switched from dirt to turf, and on May 25, he was a close second in the Grade 3 Louisville Handicap. But for all the good he has done – and Atigun’s bankroll stands at nearly a half-million dollars – Atigun still has not won a stakes race, a void on his résumé he’ll seek to fill Saturday at Colonial Downs in the Grade 2, $300,000 Colonial Turf Cup.

If the race holds as drawn Wednesday, the Turf Cup, race 7 on a 12-race, four-stakes card that also includes the Grade 3 All Along, will go with an eight-horse field. Atigun, Air Support, and Swift Warrior figure to attract the most attention from bettors, and Air Support has shown a particular fondness for the Colonial grass course.

The others entered are Hyper, Roadhog, London Lane, General Logan, and Two Notch Road. Post time for the Turf Cup is scheduled for 7:46 p.m. Eastern, with the card starting at 5 p.m. The turf course should be firm, with dry conditions forecast in the area throughout the latter part of the week.

Atigun drew post 1 and will be reunited Saturday with jockey Julien Leparoux, who rode Atigun to victory two races ago in a Churchill Downs turf allowance race and was aboard for Atigun’s good showing in the Belmont.

“We’re pleased Julien is back on him,” said Ken McPeek, who trains Atigun, a 4-year-old son of Istan, for the Shortleaf Stable. “He’s run well for Julien before.”

Atigun’s runner-up finish in the 1 1/2-mile Louisville was the latest in a long string of close losses for him in stakes races.

“He’s still yet to win one, but he’s knocked on the door a lot,” said McPeek, who will send Atigun to Colonial by van from Louisville, Ky., on Friday.

Air Support, based in New York with trainer Shug McGaughey, drew post 6 and has Javier Castellano named to ride. Air Support was somewhat disappointing in finishing fourth as the favorite in a May 2 Churchill turf allowance but should appreciate the return to Virginia. In 2011, he won the Virginia Derby at Colonial in the best race of his career, and in the 2012 edition of the Turf Cup, he rallied for second behind a loose-on-the-lead Turbo Compressor.

Swift Warrior (post 5, Julio Espinoza) won a pair of Grade 3 turf races over the winter but could only muster a seventh-place finish last month in the Dixie Stakes at Pimlico.

Todd Pletcher had nothing to enter in the Turf Cup this year, but in Channel Lady, he might have the favorite for the $100,000 All Along.

Channel Lady finished fourth in her most recent start, the Grade 2 Distaff Turf Mile on Kentucky Derby Day, but meets no horse Saturday possessing the quality of that race’s first three home: Stephanie’s Kitten, Hungry Island, and Daisy Devine.