In a division with only two grade 1 races held annually – the Jaipur on the Belmont Stakes undercard and the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint – the handful of grade 2 options tend to attract large fields of the fastest grass horses in training. There’s no such thing as shopping around for an easier spot.
The May 6 Twin Spires Turf Sprint on the Derby undercard at Churchill Downs features a full field of 14, led by four exiting Keeneland’s Shakertown, the year’s first grade 2 for turf sprinters. That includes three of the top four finishers—Bad Beat Brian (2nd), Arrest Me Red (3rd), and Oceanic (4th). The winner was divisional leader and Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint hero Caravel , who is pointing to Royal Ascot in June.
The top four in the Shakertown were separated by three-quarters of a length. Bad Beat Brian pressed Caravel every step of the way only to come up a neck short. The Jack Milton gelding was 40-1 off of three starts over Turfway Park’s all-weather surface but was a consistent performer in listed turf sprint stakes last year.
Bad Beat Brian (outside) kept on for a game second against Caravel in the Shakertown at Keeneland
Shakertown third Arrest Me Red, by Pioneerof the Nile, won last year’s Twin Spires Turf Sprint as the betting favorite for trainer Wesley Ward. Oceanic, by Constitution , ran second to Golden Pal in last fall’s Woodford Stakes (G2) at Keeneland before a disinterested 10th in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint, also in Lexington.
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Artemus Citylimits also comes out of the Shakertown, having finished 11th, but outran several of these at the end of last season when fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint.
The morning-line choice is Big Invasion , who won six in a row last year for owner Dean Reeves and trainer Christophe Clement. The Declaration of War colt made his 4-year-old debut in March, winning the listed Silks Run Stakes at Gulfstream Park convincingly under regular rider Joel Rosario. The third-place finisher in that race, Carotari , also runs back in the Twin Spires.
Two West Coast shippers have recent wins with final times and speed figures that suggest the ability to step up against this level of competition. Motorious was an easy winner of the San Simeon (G3) on Santa Anita Park’s downhill turf course in March and comes from the barn of Phil D’Amato, who won five stakes in California last weekend between Santa Anita and Golden Gate Fields. Noble Reflection has won two straight allowance races at Santa Anita on the pace but could have a harder time making the lead breaking from the outside post 14 in the Twin Spires.
Also rating highly based on recent speed is Nothing Better , who ran six furlongs over the Aqueduct Racetrack outer turf in a course-record time of 1:06.80 April 13.
The other Ward entrant is Go Bears Go , a multiple group 2 winner who was second in the 2021 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint (G2). The Kodi Bear colt moved to America’s foremost turf sprint trainer after running off the board in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint last fall.
Entries: Twin Spires Turf Sprint S. presented by Cohere Health (G2T)
Churchill Downs, Saturday, May 06, 2023, Race 7
- Grade IIT
- 5 1/2f
- 3 yo’s & up
- 1:56 PM (local)