Updated on 09/16/2011 7:15AM

It's a Trial, but not for the Derby

Email
Horsephotos
In his last two starts, Mayakovsky won the March 17 Gotham Stakes, then faded to fourth after setting the pace in the Santa Anita Derby. He will be ridden by Jerry Bailey and breaks from post 3.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - What a difference a week makes.

Churchill Downs will open its 52-day spring meet Saturday with the Derby Trial, a race that once again offers very few clues to the colossus that comes one week later.

Not that the Trial - a Grade 3, $100,000, one-turn-mile - isn't a good race. It is. Cashel Castle, unbeaten in five starts, squares off against the speedy Mayakovsky in what shapes up as a nice-looking field of nine 3-year-olds.

Yet the misnomer is self-evident. Partly because no horse has advanced from the race to win the Kentucky Derby since Tim Tam did it in 1958, and partly because the race has become more a prep for the Preakness than the Derby, the Trial figures to accomplish nothing in regard to the eagerly awaited outcome of the 128th Derby on May 4.

In fact, the Trial appears unlikely to produce so much as even one longshot for the Derby. Patrick Biancone, trainer of Mayakovsky, shrugged his shoulders Thursday morning when asked about the chances of his colt running back a week later in the Derby.

"Maybe one in a million," he said. "We'll go for Saturday first."

In his last two starts, Mayakovsky won the March 17 Gotham Stakes, then faded to fourth after setting the pace in the Santa Anita Derby. He will be ridden by Jerry Bailey and breaks from post 3.

Cashel Castle, with Pat Day to ride, could be a slight favorite, considering he has never been seriously threatened in his five-race career. In his last start, Cashel Castle easily won the Lafayette Stakes at Keeneland, after which trainer Chris Block said he would not tempt fate by making a quantum leap into far more demanding races such as the Derby.

One somewhat surprising entrant in the Trial is Stephentown, who has not raced since disappointing as the second choice in the Feb. 16 Fountain of Youth. Trainer Tony Reinstedler said the colt has recovered so well from a mid-March setback that he is willing to try him in the Trial.

The rest of the field is Clergy, Governor Hickel, Sky Terrace, Shah Jehan, Ide Be Spencers, and Revolver.

The Trial is the ninth of 10 races Saturday, when three allowance races, including one featuring graded stakes winners Moonlady and Solvig, also will be run. Post time for the Trial is 4:44 p.m.

The weather forecast for opening day calls for a good chance of rain and a high of 68.

for Churchill Downs entries.

Subscribers: to purchase past performances for Churchill Downs.

Non-subscribers: to purchase past performances for Churchill Downs.