04/19/2012 6:05PM

Santa Anita: Amazombie to start in Churchill Downs Stakes on Kentucky Derby Day

Benoit & Associates
Amazombie, with regular rider Mike Smith aboard, wins the Potrero Grande.

ARCADIA, Calif. - Amazombie, the champion sprinter of 2011, is bound for the $400,000 Churchill Downs Stakes on the Kentucky Derby undercard on May 5, trainer Bill Spawr said on Thursday.

Spawr was between the Churchill Downs Stakes and the $125,000 Tiznow Stakes at Hollywood Park next Saturday for Amazombie's next start. The absence of Amazombie from the Tiznow Stakes is likely to lead to a larger field. Run over 7 1/2 furlongs for California-breds, the Tiznow Stakes is part of the California Gold Rush program for statebreds.

Without Amazombie, the Tiznow Stakes lacks a standout. Holladay Road, the winner of the Crystal Water Handicap at Santa Anita in January, is a candidate, along with M One Rifle, who won the Cool Frenchy Stakes at Hollywood Park last spring, and the recent allowance race winners Italian Rules and Mobilized.

Spawr said that the purse difference between the two races was a major factor in the decision to start Amazombie at Churchill Downs.

The Grade 2 Churchill Downs Stakes will be Amazombie's first start at that track since a win in the Breeders' Cup Sprint last November, a victory that clinched his championship.
Spawr said he  was further swayed after discussing options with Mike Smith, Amazombie's regular rider.

"Mike called me on Monday and said, 'What are you going to do?'" Spawr said. "He said, 'It's not the money. It's the surface.' He said the way he flew over the track at Churchill Downs, he's a different horse. That had something to do with it."

A 6-year-old gelding, Amazombie has won 11 of 25 starts and $1,639,708.

Third in the Grade 2 San Carlos Stakes in February, Amazombie won the Grade 2 Potrero Grande Stakes at Santa Anita over 6 1/2 furlongs on April  7.