04/24/2013 3:44PM

Kentucky Derby: Trial critical to Titletown Five's chances of making field

Barbara D. Livingston
Trainer D. Wayne Lukas would like to see Titletown Five move on to next weekend's Kentucky Derby if he runs well in Saturday's Derby Trial.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – A field of nine 3-year-olds is set to clash Saturday night at Churchill Downs in the Derby Trial, the traditional spring-meet opener that may or may not yield a final starter for the 139th Kentucky Derby a week later.

Titletown Five, owned by a large local group that includes football legend Paul Hornung, definitely would run back in the Derby, but beyond that, the potential implications of the Derby Trial are less clear. The Grade 3, $175,000, one-turn-mile race offers 20 “wild card” points to the winner in the new eligibility system that guides entry into the 20-horse Derby field.

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Titletown Five was a fading ninth at 15-1 in his second and most recent start as a 3-year-old, the March 30 Louisiana Derby. Trainer D. Wayne Lukas has said all winter he has been playing catch-up in trying to make the Kentucky Derby after Titletown Five underwent minor surgery last fall following a nine-length maiden victory at Churchill. He returned with a second in a minor Oaklawn Park sprint stakes in early March prior to the Louisiana Derby.

From the rail, this is the Trial field: Officer Alex, Ruler of Love, Zee Bros, Forty Tales, Ruble, Capo Bastone, Tour Guide, G. T. Tabu, and Titletown Five.

One horse considered for the Trial but not entered was Treasury Bill, who will instead stay home in California to compete in the Came Home, Affirmed, and Swaps, said trainer Ron Ellis.

The Trial is carded as the 10th of 11 opening-night races. First post is 6 p.m. Eastern, with the Trial set for 10:36 and the last race going at 11:10.

This is the third year Churchill has opened the spring meet with an evening card. Previous Trial winners under the lights were Machen (2011) and Hierro (2012).

Churchill also will host Downs After Dark programs on the last three Saturdays (June 15, 22, 29) of its 38-day spring meet. The first of those cards will include the Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap.

After the Saturday opener, Churchill will go dark Sunday and Monday before the five-day Derby week commences Tuesday afternoon.