The $100,000 Aristides Stakes may be the feature worth the most June 1 at Churchill Downs, but a familiar cast of characters makes the $65,000 Opening Verse a more intriguing contest.
Padua Stables' Rothko is the 9-5 morning line favorite in a lackluster field of five sprinting six furlongs on dirt in the Aristides, while Turallure heads seven -- including fellow graded winners Silver Max and Keep Up -- going 1 1/16 miles over turf in the Opening Verse.
The Aristides will be run early in the card, race 5 with an approximate post time of 2:51 p.m. EDT, while the Opening Verse has been slated in the premiere spot as Race 10 with an approximate post of 5:30 p.m.
Turallure, who has earned $1,342,360 with victories in races such as the Ricoh Woodbine Mile and Bernard Baruch, won the Opening Verse in 2011 for Four D Stable and trainer Charlie LoPresti. He went to the sidelines in the summer of 2012 after running fourth in Churchill's Firecracker Handicap, and returned from the lengthy layup this spring with a pair of sixths in allowance company. Jockey Corey Lanerie will ride the 6-year-old son of Wando, 7-2 on the morning line, from post 2.
Silver Max, Mark Bacon and Dana Wells' 4-year-old Badge of Silver colt, was fourth last time out in the May 5 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic behind defending Horse of the Year Wise Dan. Trainer Dale Romans seeks a return to the winning ways that saw the speedy colt register five straight stakes wins last year, including his most recent victory in the Virginia Derby last July. Robby Albarado has the mount from post 4; Silver Max is 3-1 on the morning line.
Mill Ridge Farm's Keep Up won the River City last fall in his stakes debut, but the 6-year-old son of Unbridled's Song has been off the board in two allowance starts for trainer Alex Clarkson since then. Shaun Bridgmohan rides from the 5 hole.
Also of interest in the turf event is Corporate Jungle, entered to make his first appearance since finishing sixth in the 2012 Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint for Gary and Mary West at Santa Anita Park. The 5-year-old son of Giant's Causeway won the Appleton Stakes at Gulfstream Park and the Elkwood Stakes at Monmouth Park last year for trainer Chad Brown, and also finished second to Wise Dan in the Fourstardave on a yielding turf last August at Saratoga Race Course. Rosie Napravnik has the mount for new trainer Tom Proctor from the outside.
G. Watts Humphrey and St. George Farm Racing's graded stakes winner Middie, third in the Woodford Reserve last out, Cathy and Bob Zollars' 2012 Sunland Derby winner Daddy Nose Best, and Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider's allowance winner Cease complete the field.
In the Aristides, 5-year-old Arch homebred Rothko looks to defend his title. He took the race for trainer Steve Asmussen by 2 1/2 lengths in 2012 with a driving four wide bid but has not seen the winner's circle since. He ran second in the Iowa Sprint Handicap at Prairie Meadows last June, then was off the board in the Alfred G. Vanderbilt and Vosburgh Invitational before going to the sidelines.
Ricardo Santana Jr. rides Rothko from the rail in his second start off the layup; Rothko returned from an absence of almost eight months with a fourth in a May 1 allowance optional claimer at Churchill.
Two other contenders emerge from that event. JEOG Racing's Scatman, 5-2 on the morning line, was half a length behind winner Off The Jak for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott. The 4-year-old son of Scat Daddy has not fared well in graded company this year; he was ninth in the Canadian Turf Stakes and sixth in the Hal's Hope on dirt at Gulfstream. As a 3-year-old he placed in the Rebel and a division of the Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park.
Jasizzle, 3-1 on the morning line, was 1 1/2 lengths in front of Rothko when finishing third, a half length behind Scatman in that six-furlong sprint. His most recent win was earned by a head with a game closing finish going five furlongs at Mountaineer Casino Racetrack & Resort March 1 after getting pinched at the break. The 4-year-old son of Jazil makes his graded stakes debut for owner/trainer Tommy Ray Mills from the outside.
Good Lord is also 3-1 on the morning line for trainer Forrest Kaelin. The 6-year-old Florida-bred son of Greatness has won multiple stakes but seeks his first graded score for Thomas D. Shank and Stan Young off a third in the April 27 Texas Mile.
Rounding out the field is Robert J. Hunt's allowance winner St. Maximus Gato.