04/30/2016 9:49PM

Toews On Ice scores as favorite in William Walker Stakes

Coady Photography
David Lopez guides Toews On Ice to a two-length victory in the slop in the William Walker for 3-year-old sprinters.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Jimmy Barnes, the traveling assistant to Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, was serious as he surveyed the winner’s circle following the $100,000 William Walker Stakes as Churchill Downs opened its spring meet Saturday night.

“Does the horse’s head go this way or that?” he asked.

It drew a laugh, because Barnes sure knows which way to pose when photos are being taken in the infield winner’s circle exclusive to the Kentucky Derby winner, having done so last spring after American Pharoah prevailed on the way to the Triple Crown.

Barnes ultimately got proper instructions before Toews On Ice and jockey David Lopez were led in. The dark bay colt had just splashed to a two-length victory over late-closing Entertainer, returning $4.20 as favorite in a field of five 3-year-old sprinters. The winning time for six furlongs was 1:10.91 over a sloppy track.

“David did a good job,” said Barnes, who was deputizing as he frequently does in Baffert’s absence. “He’s been here to work horses for us this week and this is a nice way to get him paid.”

Toews On Ice and Patton Proud gave closest chase to front-running Twizz down the backstretch, with Toews On Ice going better of the two through the turn. By the quarter pole, Toews On Ice was in front, and Lopez merely kept the colt’s attention as only Entertainer made late headway after being the distant trailer much of the way.

Toews On Ice, an Archarcharch colt, is owned by the partnership of Mike Pegram, Karl Watson, and Paul Weitman. The Walker, the highlight of an 11-race Downs After Dark card held under the lights and with intermittent rain, was his fourth stakes victory from eight overall starts. All those prior stakes were at distances of seven furlongs or less and were ungraded. He was turning back in distance and making his first start since fading to sixth as an odds-on favorite in the one-mile Smarty Jones on Jan. 18 at Oaklawn Park.

“I’m sure Bob will figure out a next spot for him,” said Barnes.

The $2 exacta (4-5) paid $28.60 and the $1 trifecta (4-5-2) was worth $39.

This was the second running of the Walker, named for the jockey of the 1877 Kentucky Derby winner, Baden-Baden. The Walker replaced the outdated Derby Trial, which became the Pat Day Mile, now a Grade 3 race on the Derby undercard.

There is no racing here Sunday. A five-day Derby week then runs Tuesday through Saturday, with the track dark May 8, the Sunday after the Derby.