American Turf Stakes Preview: Winfromwithin an 'A+' Horse

Todd Pletcher's Winfromwithin gets an 'A+' grade from our turf-man!
Todd Pletcher's Winfromwithin gets an 'A+' grade from our turf-man!

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1 1/16th (Turf) American Turf Stakes (G2), Purse $500k, 3

The turf at Churchill Downs over the Matt Winn Course might be on its last leg, but we still have a few more grass races available for your viewing enjoyment. Recently, this race has seen its fair share of celebrated runners come through the starting gate. Who could forget Silver Max, Noble Tune, Global View, Divisidero, Camelot Kitten, Arklow, Maraud, Digital Age, and Fancy Liquor? That is truly a list of greats who showcased the very best “staying” and “settling” ability in what has always been a nicely contested race. Who will join them this year?

Now, let’s find out about this field… 

#1 Excellent Timing (Jky: U. Rispoli/Trn: C. Brown):

Here is a trainer-rider combo you don’t see all that often since they hang out on different coasts. Chad Brown hands the reigns of this colt to accomplished SoCal turf jock, Umberto Rispoli. It is like getting the keys to a sportscar that has yet to go off-road. Testing the turf for the first time, Brown’s entry has very nice bloodlines that speak to his charge being able to handle the surface switch. Nothing easy about this move though into “G2” Co.

Grade: C+

 

#2 Winfromwithin (Jky: /Trn: T. Pletcher): 

Todd Pletcher is making the same move that Chad Brown made a few years back with Digital Age. His colt out of Into Mischief won the Columbia Stakes 75k at Tampa, and now enters this one. Major advantage getting Luis Saez back aboard. The jock is going to have a monster day with all of the mounts he has on his docket. Expect big things from a turf horse who is looking to be one of his conditioner’s best, following in the hoofsteps of English Channel. Pick of the day on the Derby undercard for me . . .

Grade: A+

 

#3 Chess’s Dream (Jky: J. Ortiz/Trn: M. Maker): 

The Micheal Dubb-led ownership group is hoping this son of Jess’s Dream is ready to go after a pair of lackluster performances down in Florida in some rather non-plussed 100k events. Mike Maker is a conditioner who knows how to prepare a turf horse, and he specifically held this one back from running at Keeneland, in the hopes of having him ready for this event. Jose Ortiz is signed on to try and steady this ship, but even he may not be much of a help. If you wanted a better price on this Maker runner than last time, here is your opportunity. 

Grade: B-

 

#4 Annex (Jky: I. Ortiz/Trn: B. Mott): 

HOF trainer Bill Mott has what figures to be the presumptive favorite since this colt out of Constitution is 3/3, and gets Irad Ortiz aboard for the first time. There is nothing this entry cannot do, based on his priors. But one has to wonder, will he be effective now that he is running on a track other than Gulfstream Park? That is the question . . . Certainly he is fit, and it is all systems go for a celebrated team that includes the accomplished ownership conglomerate of LNJ Foxwoods and Eclipse Thoroughbreds. I never like picking against Aron Wellman and Co. Will see how it all turns out. This one is going to be tough to beat.

Grade: A-

 

#5 Du Jour (Jky: F. Prat/Trn: B. Baffert): 

Trainer Bob Baffert doesn’t cut lawns, and he rarely sends his runners out for turf events. Here is one who is part-owned by Natalie Baffert, and she has a nice SoCal son of the great grass sire Temple City. Now we are going to see if a SoCal-based specialist on the sod can hang with his eastern brethren. That same concept applies to the jockey aboard—Mr. Prat. Is he ready to face the likes of Ortiz-Castellano-Saez-Rosario? I am sure I know his answer . . . but the proof is in the pudding, so to speak. It is time to prove it on the track.  

Grade: B

 

#6 Royal Prince (Jky: J. Castellano/Trn: B. Cox): 

Last out at Sam Houston Race Park, the short-priced colt out of Cairo Prince by way of Pioneerof the Nile, was clearly best against a pretty weak field in the Bayou City 75k. Before that, his conditioner had him rolling in the Black Gold 75k at the Fair Grounds. The results were spectacular, but some of the company could have been a touch better. It is going to get much deeper here, and one has to wonder if Cox should have taken the Keeneland route instead. That could have yielded some better competition. Still, getting Javier Castellano aboard could make all the difference as this one tries to move forward.

Grade: B-

 

#7 Dyn O Mite (Jky: J. Graham/Trn: K. Desormeaux): 

Here is a son of Goldencents who looks to have some nice bloodlines on paper. A couple back he was 2nd to gatemate Royal Prince #6 in the Black Gold 75k @FG. Trainer Keith Desormeaux then decided to switch gears and send his charge up to the lion’s den at Turfway to contest the Jeff Ruby (G3). That result was a 7th place finish, and now it seems like the connections are wandering around in the dark after their car keys. James Graham is going to hop aboard again (he was on during that FG race), so maybe he can provide some stability.  

Grade: C+

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#8 Barrister Tom (Jky: D. Van Dyke/Trn: M. Ewing): 

The Ewing outfit is going to try another Kentucky turf race in the hopes of at least hitting the board. Last out in the Transylvania Stakes (G3) at Keeneland, this gelding out of Artie Schiller had trouble down the lane after rating well on the backside. At 41/1, he was a boxcar extraordinaire, and now the connections are thinking that entering here is a good plan. It is decidedly not . . . Getting Drayden Van Dyke back aboard, a rider who has lost his mojo, doesn’t seem to be the antidote either. If this one can somehow muster some of that form that he exhibited at Kentucky Downs last September, now would be the time it seems.

Grade: C

 

#9 Holy Vow (Jky: S. Doyle/Trn: J. Ortiz): 

I spent the better part of the Sam Houston 2021 Meet extolling the virtues of Sophie Doyle’s turf riding ability. She has come a long way, and continues to build on her resume. She is going to need all of her strength to get this one home though. John Ortiz claimed this colt out of Broken Vow, after Doyle rode her on 3 different occasions for Scott Young. Those events were solid in Sam ALLW Co., and also in the Bayou City 75k against Royal Prince #6. It is hard to imagine that just off the barn switch, into a G2 that is on the turf, that this one is going to be able to spring a major upset. If it happens, I am prepared to eat crow. Maybe with some salt and pepper . . . please. 

Grade: C-

 

#10 Next (Jky: J. Velazquez/Trn: W. Ward): 

The pairing of Johnny V and Wesley Ward during the Keeneland Meet was a perfect match. As you can see from their numbers (30% winners/23 tries), it is no wonder that Ward won the training title at his home track. This time around they are entering a tough spot with this 3-yr-old colt out of Not This Time. Here is a sire with a superb bloodline that screams grass. Ward is a top-notch conditioner, and if anyone knows how to bring one off-the-bench it is him. The last time we saw this colt was back in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Keeneland. He was a massive price at 36/1 that day, and most knew it was going to be tough going up against Essential Quality and Jackie’s Warrior. The switch to the new surface makes sense after a nice score last year at Kentucky Downs. Don’t count this one out, with the Ward-Velazquez tandem intact.

Grade: B+

 

#11 Hidden Enemy (Jky: M. Smith/Trn: S. Asmussen): 

Neither Steve Asmussen nor Mike Smith, have regular experience running in high-level turf races like this one. But here they be . . . They are both taking a shot with a MSW runner who won nicely in a 75k race of that type back at the Fair Grounds before the Meet closed in late March. How sharp will this one be? No clue . . . It appears that the HOF trainer is hoping for a long shot to come in. What he has going for him more than anything is his sire—Galileo. Even that may not be enough to spring the upset that is needed in here.

Grade: C-

 

#12 Lucky Law (Jky: F. Geroux/Trn: P. Biancone):

Trainer Pat Biancone has a runner in his midst that is well-bred for the turf. Now he just needs to prove it. No Nay Never is a hot international grass sire, and this one has had at least one success on the blades. Last out in the Cutler Bay 100k, things did not go all that well, and traffic troubles kept him from exercising any late gait that could bring him to hit the board. With Florent Geroux riding, maybe all will be right. This entry is sure to be a big price, since this is a large field with all sorts of options.

Grade: C

 

#13 Scarlett Sky (Jky: J. Rosario/Trn: S. McGaughey): 

This Stuart Janney homebred was smart and fit all in the same breath back in the Transylvania S. (G3) at Keeneland. I am not sure if that field was the absolute best the colt out of Sky mesa could face, but a late-charging win is a late-charging win. Joel Rosario is back for another go, and I am sure HOF trainer Shug McGaughey is pleased to have him. There is no question that he is accomplished, and will be a formidable opponent. I would argue though, this race at Churchill Downs is going to be the ultimate test of his career to date.

Grade: A-

 

#14 Palazzi (Jky: Tyler Gafflione/Trn: M. Casse):

There is nothing like a rider upgrade, and that is what this colt out of Pioneerof the Nile is getting as he comes into Churchill off 4 nice performances. They did not always yield “wins,” but under Mark Casse’s tutelage, he has blossomed. The John Oxley-owned and Hank Nothhaft-bred runner has major routing ability. A tough test lies ahead, but he has all the makings, especially with that powerful late kick that can be a force to be reckoned with. Gaffs can make the difference with a well-timed scored. He does have that history.

Grade: B

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