05/21/2009 11:00PM

Louisville Cap looks like a spring rerun

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Photos By Z/Keeneland
Spice Route, winning the 1 1/2-mile Elkhorn on closing day at Keeneland, will be a solid favorite at the same distance in the Louisville.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Spice Route is back for an encore of sorts. Nearly a month after closing the Keeneland spring meet with a victory in the Elkhorn Stakes, the British-bred Spice Route has returned to the Bluegrass after going home to Canada for a brief spell.

Spice Route will be the highweight and deserving favorite Saturday at Churchill Downs in the Grade 3, $100,000 Louisville Handicap, which, at 1 1/2 miles on the turf, is a virtual replay of the Elkhorn. By pulling clear to win the April 24 Elkhorn by two lengths, Spice Route reaffirmed his prowess in this niche, and his eight Louisville opponents could have a difficult time denying him a Kentucky repeat, assuming he fires another good shot.

"Spice Route is definitely the main competition," said Buff Bradley, who will send out Brass Hat, a strong-closing third in the Elkhorn. "But our horse is ready to go. He's feeling good and has been coming off the track playing."

Spice Route, based at Woodbine in Toronto with trainer Roger Attfield, will be ridden by Shaun Bridgmohan when he spots his rivals three to eight pounds carrying 121. The 5-year-old Spice Route has earned more than $720,000 from 19 career starts.

Brass Hat, a versatile earner of more than $1.8 million, is second on the weights list at 118, including Calvin Borel, who experienced phenomenal success on earlier Saturdays this month by winning the May 2 Kentucky Derby on Mine That Bird and the May 16 Preakness on Rachel Alexandra.

"I've got a hot jock," Bradley said in knowing understatement.

Both Spice Route and Brass Hat will be looking to come from behind in the three-turn Louisville, which shapes up with Why Tonto and Thabazimbi as the primary speed.

Why Tonto, trained by Todd Pletcher, disappointed as the favorite in a turf allowance early on Derby Day, but some of his previous efforts suggest he could threaten, including a two-back runner-up finish at Keeneland.

Thabazimbi, trained by Bill Mott, made a terrific first showing in North America after being imported from France when leading most of the way to win an April 23 turf allowance at Keeneland with authority.

The Louisville goes as the 10th of 11 races on a card that also includes three allowances (races 4, 8, 9). First post is 12:45 p.m. Eastern.

:: Illman and Serling: (DRF Plus)