Cinco Charlie, a tantalizing prospect who trail-blazed his way to a swift 2 ¾-length victory in his career debut, headlines a field of six juveniles entered Saturday at Churchill Downs for the 113th running of the Grade 3, $100,000 Bashford Manor.
The six-furlong Bashford Manor -- one of Churchill Downs' most storied races -- is the first of three consecutive stakes races that will be run on Saturday's 10-race program. It will be followed by the $65,000 Kelly's Landing and the Grade 2, $200,000 Firecracker.
Cinco Charlie, conditioned by the meet's leading trainer Steve Asmussen, created a favorable impression May 9 when he debuted in the first two-year-old race of the spring meet as the 3-2 favorite against seven rivals. The Indian Charlie colt broke fastest of all in the 4 ½-furlong sprint and set a pressured pace on the outside of the filly To Be Determined through fractions of :22 ⅖ seconds and :45 ⅖ seconds. Entering the stretch, he was met to his outside by a rallying Far Right, but shook off that rival and edged clear with a furlong to go and increased his lead under steady urging from jockey Shaun Bridgmohan. His final time of :51.65 seconds is the fastest of six 4 ½-furlong races this meeting at Churchill.
Cinco Charlie will break from post 4 under Bridgmohan.
Skyway breaks will depart the stalls from the rail, which is the same post that he successfully debuted from on April 5 over the synthetic Polytrack at Keeneland. The New York-bred son of Sky Mesa stalked the pacesetter before taking command at the top of the stretch and drawing off to win by 6 3/4 lengths despite lugging in under left handed urging. Trainer Mark Casse and his assistant/son Norman have won with four of 12 juveniles at the spring meet to rank second behind Asmussen.
Trainer Bret Calhoun, who captured last Saturday's Debutante with two-year-old filly Promise Me Silver, hopes to scoop another stakes pot with a Lone Star Park invader bred in Texas by promising freshman sire Silver City. Silverhill walked out of the starting gate in his May 24 debut and spotted the leaders two lengths before grabbing the lead at the head of the stretch with a five-wide move. The homebred drew clear inside the final furlong and outran his ballyhooed stablemate and eventual third-place finisher Supermason, which gave Calhoun the confidence to try the Bashford Manor.
Owner Tim O'Donohue and Mid-Atlantic-based trainer Jerry Robb hope to raid the Bashford Manor for a second straight year with a winner of Pimlico's Rollicking Stakes. They successfully brought Debt Ceiling to Churchill last year and easily won the race by 2 ¾ lengths at odds of 5-1. This year's entrant Governmentshutdown, a gray Exchange Rate gelding, enters Saturday's race off a 3 ¾-length win in the mud over three rivals in this year's Rollicking. He steadied slightly heading into the turn before shifting outside to grab the lead for good with about 200 yards to run.
Lucky Player is another Asmussen trainee who won at first asking. The Florida-bred Lookin at Lucky colt rallied to beat four others on May 23 at odds of 3-5 after his rider lost his whip at the three-sixteenths pole. Julien Leparoux takes over the reins from Ricardo Santana Jr., and Lucky Player will receive Lasix for the first time.
The field is rounded out by Ohio-bred Draw Nigh, who stalked the leaders before making an outside run to grab the lead 200 yards from the finish in his second start on June 8 over the synthetic Tapeta at Presque Isle Downs.
Louisville-born trainer Dale Romans will play a strong hand on Saturday when he sends out the accomplished duo of millionaire Silver Max and 2012 winner Guys Reward in a bid to win the 24th running of the Grade 2, $200,000 Firecracker going a mile on the Matt Winn Turf Course.
A win by either of Romans' charges would be the trainer's fourth Firecracker victory in the race's last 10 renewals. He collected his first Firecracker win in 2005 with Kitten's Joy and followed that victory with successful runs by Thorn Song in 2008 and the win by Guys Reward four years later.
Silver Max is the likely favorite in the Firecracker although he has not raced since a fourth-place finish to two-time Horse of the Year and two-time Firecracker winner Wise Dan in last November's Breeders' Cup Mile at Santa Anita. That loss snapped a three-race win streak for the son of Badge of Silver that included an upset over Wise Dan on Keeneland's Polytrack course in the Shadwell Turf Mile, a race that was moved from the grass course because of excessive rain. Silver Max handed Wise Dan his only defeat of 2013 in that win, which was preceded with victories by the Romans-trained star in the Bernard Baruch at Saratoga and Oceanport at Monmouth Park.
Regular rider Robby Albarado will be in the saddle aboard the five-year-old Silver Max.
Guys Reward's 2012 Firecracker victory remains the career high point for the seven-year-old son of Grand Reward, and five of his eight career wins have come over the grass at Churchill Downs. Jesus Castanon will ride from post 1.
A major Firecracker rival for the Romans-trained duo could be Nikki's Sandcastle, a seven-year-old Castledale gelding who won the Hanshin over Arlington's Polytrack in his most recent start. Trained by David Kassen, Nikki's Sandcastle also won last fall's Fayette on Keeneland's Polyrack and earned stakes wins on turf in Arlington's Sea O Erin and Gulfstream Park's El Prado. Leandro Goncalves has the mount on Kassen's star, who breaks from gate 5.
Regally Ready stretched out to defeat Firecracker rival Villandry in the 1 1/16-mile Opening Verse at Churchill on May 31, and the duo will meet back up again Saturday. The Firecracker field is completed by dual stakes winner Free World, Grade 2 runner-up Valentino Beauty and Grade 1 veteran Joha.
The seven-furlong Kelly's Landing will take place between the Bashford Manor and Firecracker, and features a field of 10.