By Alan Carasso
A few weeks ago, the GIII Matt Winn S. was added as a points race on the Road to the Kentucky Derby, reconstituted when Churchill Downs relocated the 2020 ‘Run for the Roses’ to Sept. 5. The race took on added importance earlier this week, when officials at Belmont Park announced that its marquee race, the GI Belmont S., would be the first of this year’s Triple Crown races and take place June 20. Saturday’s first graded stakes of the season beneath the Twin Spires therefore takes on added importance and has attracted an interesting field of 12, headed by Godolphin’s undefeated Maxfield (Street Sense).
The homebred colt, out of a winning half-sister to GISW and sire Sky Mesa (Pulpit), is the least experienced, but the most accomplished of the dozen sophomores signed on for the 8 1/2-furlong test. No better than 10-1 for his one-mile debut over this main track last Sept. 14, he recovered from a slow dispatch and shaded :25 for the final quarter-mile to graduate by a length. Thrown to the wolves for the GI Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland the following month, Maxfield lingered towards the back of the pack, but was cut loose at the three-eighths marker and whooshed home a six-length winner from ‘TDN Rising Star’ Gouverneur Morris (Constitution) and Enforceable (Tapit). The former has since finished third in the GI Arkansas Derby, while Enforceable took the GIII Lecomte S. and was runner-up in the faster division of the GII Risen Star S. this season.
Maxfield, who was scratched from the GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and subsequently underwent surgery to remove an ankle chip, could prove one of the chief beneficiaries of the Derby postponement and has trained forwardly for this return to action.
Drawn widest and two stalls outside of Maxfield is Major Fed (Ghostzapper), who has quietly entered the 3-year-old discussion over the past few months. A maiden winner first time long at the Fair Grounds New Year’s Day, the dark bay overcame a wide trip to be second in the slower split of the Risen Star and was forced to cover ground when a running-on fourth to Wells Bayou (Lookin At Lucky) in what ended up a merry-go-round renewal of the GII Louisiana Derby Mar. 21. It’ll be up to Joel Rosario to work out a trip, but he should be finishing through the lane.
Winchell Thoroughbreds’s ‘TDN Rising Star‘ Pneumatic (Uncle Mo) gets the litmus test Saturday. He defeated a pair of next-out winners when graduating by a neck at Oaklawn Feb. 15 and he handled a stretch out to two turns last time with aplomb, coming away to post a 2 1/2-length victory over SW Captain Bombastic (Forty Tales) in Hot Springs Apr. 11. Fellow ‘Rising Star’ Mystic Guide (Ghostzapper) is expected to scratch in favor of an allowance try.