05/04/2009 11:00PM

Oculuna back on turf going shorter


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - No, it's not a misprint. Citing a lack of sufficient entries in the period that follows the Kentucky Derby, Churchill Downs racing officials carded only eight races instead of the scheduled nine for Thursday, with the nominal feature being a $52,700 turf sprint for 3-year-old fillies.

Slotted as the fourth race of the day, the Thursday feature carries no restrictions and therefore serves to partly replace the now-defunct Open Mind Stakes, a former fixture on the spring calendar. A field of eight is entered, although one of them, Northern Belle, is a main-track-only designee and therefore will start only in case the race has to be transferred off the turf.

Oculuna, trained by Darrin Miller, looks like the filly to beat in the five-furlong turf sprint. She kicked off the year by winning back-to-back grass routes at Tampa Bay Downs before fading to seventh in her most recent race, the Grade 3 Bourbonette Oaks over one mile of Polytrack at Turfway Park. Julien Leparoux has the call.

Love You Everybody and Breathtakingbreeze look like the main opposition. Love You Everybody likely needed her last race, which came against rugged company in the Grade 2 Beaumont at Keeneland last month. Breathtakingbreeze comes into this riding a four-race win streak, albeit one amassed versus lesser types on dirt in Chicago.

Simplify, from the ever-dangerous Steve Asmussen stable, has the class to threaten, even though she failed to make an impact in her turf debut last month at Keeneland. That was in the Appalachian Stakes, a Grade 3 mile race that proved beyond her scope.

Donna D, Reta's True Love, and Gibsonsfastrick complete the field.

The card includes one other allowance (race 7), a $50,200 entry-level turf route for 3-year-olds.

Churchill is scheduled to card 10 races for Friday, the first twilight program (2:45 p.m. Eastern post) of the meet.

There are no stakes races scheduled here this weekend. The next stakes is the $100,000 Matt Winn for 3-year-olds at seven furlongs on May 16.