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Derby prep highlights weekend at Churchill, as plans begin to bring back spectators

Josh Sullivan, Lexington Herald-Leader on

Published in Horse Racing

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Churchill Downs' Spring Meet will resume this week with racing Thursday through Monday, and the action is highlighted by a Kentucky Derby prep race on Saturday.

The Grade III, $150,000 Matt Winn is one of five stakes races scheduled for Saturday. It will be the 10th contest in an 11-race lineup and will award 85 points toward qualifying for a spot in the Kentucky Derby on a 50-20-10-5 scale. The Derby has been pushed back to Sept. 5 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Like last weekend's meet-opening races, no spectators will be allowed at Churchill Downs because of COVID-19, but online wagering is available.

Among the favorites in the Matt Winn is expected to be the Brendan Walsh-trained colt Maxfield, who last raced in October when he won the Grade I Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland. The son of multiple graded stakes winner and 2007 Kentucky Derby champion Street Sense, Maxfield has won both of his career starts but has been sidelined for months because of a problem in his right front leg. He was considered a top contender for the $2 million Breeders' Cup Juvenile before being scratched.

"The biggest difference we have all noticed with him from last year to this year has been his physicality," Walsh said. "We never really questioned what he was like mentally but you can tell when we got him back to training he's really filled out physically."

Another top contender in the Matt Winn is Major Fed, who finished second in a division of the Grade 2 Risen Star and fourth in the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby.

 

"Hopefully we will finally get lucky with a good trip," Major Fed trainer Greg Foley said. "He ran two really hard races in the Risen Star and the Louisiana Derby. We just got a little bit unlucky with our trips."

Saturday's four other stakes races are each worth $100,000. The Blame Stakes (race No. 9) features multiple graded winners such as Mr. Money, who won four stakes contests last year including two at Churchill Downs, and Owendale, three-time stakes winner who last time out finished second in the Clark Stakes.

The Shawnee Stakes (race No. 7) and Tepin Stakes (race No. 8) will both feature some of the top fillies in Thoroughbred racing. Sharing, winner of the $1 million Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, is set to make her 3-year-old debut in the Tepin

The War Chant Stakes (race No. 11) will feature Jeff Ruby Steaks winner Field Pass along with Hieronymus, who's coming off three straight wins.

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