Nine horses, including two former Derby contenders will line up in the $500,000 Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic, the undercard race preceding the 136th Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on Saturday.
Fan favorite General Quarters, finished 10th in last year’s Derby, while Court Vision placed 13th in the 2008 Run for the Roses.
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General Quarters will make his turf debut in the Woodford Classic. The 4-year old exploded onto last year’s Derby scene with a victory in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes, but then after a poor showing in the 2009 BlackBerry Preakness Stakes, it was discovered the colt had a chip and would need to undergo surgery to repair the injury. After a long six months of recovery he returned to run second by a half-length in his first start back at Fair Grounds Dec. 26.
The Kentucky bred colt will enter the Woodford Reserve with a record of 3-7-1 from 17 starts and earnings of $746,535. Rafael Bejarano, a California-based jockey who has been aboard for General Quarters’ last three starts, will pilot the colt on Saturday, as the pair will start from postposition two.
Although he has been unable to secure a win since in his last six starts, the son of Sky Mesa has been runner-up in four of those trips, the most recent of which was the March 27 New Orleans Handicap at Fair Grounds. For this he is at 15/1 odds.
Court Vision, a 5-year-old Kentucky bred son of Gulch, has triumphed in six graded stakes during his four-year career, including the 2008 Hollywood Derby and 2009 Shadwell Turf Mile Stakes. His most recent victory came when Take the Points was disqualified from first to fifth in the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap and Court Vision was deemed the winner.
Court Vision enters Saturdays race off a close runner-up effort in the April 9 Makers Mark Mile at Keeneland. With an impressive 7-3-4 record from 21 starts, he has earned more than $1.8 million. Jockey Robby Albarado, who has ridden the horse in his last three starts, will be in the irons from postposition No. 3. He is currently listed as the odds on favorite at 9/5.
Rounding out the field are graded stakes winners Blues Street (6/1), who has won his last four straight, Wise River(15/1) piloted by Mr. Churchill Downs Calvin Borel, Al Khali(8/1), Battle of Hastings(5/1), Loup Breton (4/1)with Jockey Garrett Gomez aboard, stake winner Yate’s Black Cat (8/1) and longshot Pop Tarrt (30/1).
Just as a muddy track could affect the outcome of Saturday’s Kentucky Derby, forecasted torrential rainfall may also play a role in deciding the Woodford Reserve.
That scenario would seemingly enhance the chances of 9/5 morning-line favorite Court Vision, who won last at Keeneland on soft ground, as well as Loup Breton who won on a sloppy surface in France earlier in his career, and Blues Street, who was second in a $100,000 claiming race over wet turf last summer at Saratoga.
Considering the horse, jockey and potential for extreme track conditions, I’m going with Court Vision winning with Blues Street and Luop Breton rounding out the trifecta.
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