Saturday’s $150,000, Grade 3 Matt Winn Stakes at Churchill Downs stands as the marquee race for 3-year-olds during the iconic Louisville track’s spring meet. Yes, you read that right – with the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve postponed until Sept. 5 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 1 1/16-mile Matt Winn has been elevated in importance, and added to Churchill’s Road to the Kentucky Derby qualifying series.
The top four finishers in the Matt Winn receive points to help get them in the Kentucky Derby starting gate in September, distributed on a scale of 50-20-10-5. It’s the first points race since the split Arkansas Derby on May 2, and will join the June 6 Santa Anita Derby as the only scheduled points races in the series until the Belmont Stakes kicks off the Triple Crown (yes, you read that right again) on June 20. Read more about the Matt Winn’s history and unique 2020 status here.
The Matt Winn drew an intriguing 12-horse field with one clear headliner: Godolphin homebred Maxfield, an undefeated Grade 1 winner as a juvenile who makes his return to the track after a 7 ½-month absence. The race anchors a stacked Saturday card at Churchill that also features four other stakes, and has a scheduled post time of 5:44 p.m. ET. It will be televised on the “America’s Day at the Races” show broadcast on FS1.
1. Mystic Guide (15-1): The lesser-known of two Godolphin homebreds in this race, he flashed graded stakes-caliber talent in only his second start on March 21, taking a 1 1/16-mile maiden race at Fair Grounds by a widening five lengths. Maxfield aside, the Matt Winn field came up long on potential but short on graded stakes accomplishment, which means that this very-well bred son of Hall of Famer Ghostzapper has a big shot at scoring the upset if he can take the next step in development. He’s paired with a good Churchill-based rider, too. *** UPDATE: Byron King of BloodHorse reported Friday that Mystic Guide would scratch from the Matt Winn and run in an allowance race instead. ***
JOCKEY: Brian Hernandez Jr.; TRAINER: Michael Stidham
2. Pneumatic (4-1): Another late-developing type, this son of champion Uncle Mo enters off of a sharp 2 ½-length score going one mile at Oaklawn Park on April 11, improving to 2-for-2 in his career. He’s well-bred for stretching out and has top-class connections who’ve been successful in this race, as owner-breeder Winchell Thoroughbreds leads in wins with three and trainer Steve Asmussen is tied in wins with four. A win candidate if Maxfield isn’t at full speed for his return.
JOCKEY: Ricardo Santana Jr.; TRAINER: Steve Asmussen
3. Informative (20-1): Has been soundly defeated in both of his graded stakes tries, including his most recent start, finishing seventh by 6 ¾ lengths in the Gotham Stakes at 51.50-1 odds. Overall, he’s on the improve but he faces the toughest field of his career and should go off at similarly gargantuan odds Saturday.
JOCKEY: John Bisono; TRAINER: Uriah St. Lewis
4. Celtic Striker (20-1): Like Informative, this cold exits a poor performance in the Gotham – in his case, finishing last of 11 by 42 ½ lengths. He has led at every point of call in his two wins through five career starts and won’t be able to do that Saturday against this field. Projects as an early pace factor but that’s it.
JOCKEY: Manny Franco; TRAINER: Ray Handal
5. Flap Jack (20-1): Followed up a sixth-place finish in the Gotham with a 12th-place effort (losing by 33 ¼ lengths) in the Oaklawn Stakes. His two best races through five career starts, including a stakes win, came last year on Arlington Park’s synthetic track. Anything better than fifth or sixth Saturday would be a surprise.
JOCKEY: Rafael Bejarano; TRAINER: Jack Sisterson
6. Ny Traffic (10-1): Shapes up as the controlling speed on Saturday and could get brave on the lead without a lot of company. New jockey Paco Lopez is a good pace rider and this one kept battling in the stretch in both of his graded stakes tries at Fair Grounds (finishing third and second) leading into the Matt Winn. A definite threat to hit the board.
JOCKEY: Paco Lopez; TRAINER: Saffie Joseph Jr.
7. Necker Island (15-1): Enters off of a decent fourth-place finish in a listed stakes at Gulfstream Park going 1 1/16 miles. That was his first route race and an improvement from his prior two stakes efforts. He’s got a win at Churchill Downs back in November where he set a career-best speed figure, but overall appears to be best suited to one-turn races. A minor award is his ceiling.
JOCKEY: Tyler Gaffalione; TRAINER: Stanley Hough
8. Crypto Cash (20-1): Comes in off of a sixth-place finish in the first division of the Arkansas Derby dominated by Charlatan. He was only 4 ¾ lengths behind the runner-up, however, and usually puts in a late rally that could help him fill out the trifecta or superfecta Saturday at high odds if the early pace is fast enough.
JOCKEY: Corey Lanerie; TRAINER: Kenny McPeek
9. Shake Some Action (12-1): Like Crypto Cash to his inside, he’s another longshot candidate to hit the board. Was steadied in his last start – the Twinspires.com Louisiana Derby where Wells Bayou and Ny Traffic ran 1-2 the entire race – and picked off horses late to finish sixth. Prior to that, he came from off the pace to win two in a row, one of those on turf. Javier Castellano was aboard for his only dirt win through four starts and gets the mount again on Saturday. His recent workouts have been good, too.
JOCKEY: Javier Castellano; TRAINER: Brad Cox
10. Maxfield (5-2): Makes eagerly anticipated return to racing after posting two very impressive wins last fall, taking his seven-furlong debut at Churchill and then posting a 5 ½-length score in the Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland at this distance. His off-the-pace style may work to his disadvantage in a race that lacks a lot of early speed, but based on class and his excellent recent workouts he’s a deserving favorite. Expect a good comeback effort that should put him right back on track for the delayed Kentucky Derby, even if he doesn’t win.
JOCKEY: Jose Ortiz; TRAINER: Brendan Walsh
11. Attachment Rate (4-1): Has run well in all four of his starts this year and comes in off of arguably his best race, where he lost a stretch duel in a 1 1/16-mile listed stakes at Gulfstream (Necker Island finished fourth). Should stalk what projects to be a modest pace and if he can improve off of his last, he’s a threat to at least fill out the exacta at good odds, and possibly post the upset.
JOCKEY: John Velazquez; TRAINER: Dale Romans
12. Major Fed (5-1): Turned heads in his 3-year-old debut on New Year’s Day at Fair Grounds with a dominant maiden win and subsequently ran well in two graded stakes, finishing second in the second division of the Risen Star Presented by Lamarque Ford and then fourth in the Louisiana Derby. He got off to a slow start and trailed the field before rallying in the Louisiana Derby, and look for Joel Rosario (who retains the mount) to get him involved in the race early breaking from the outside. He’s been training lights out coming into the Matt Winn and is the main threat to spoil Maxfield’s comeback.
JOCKEY: Joel Rosario; TRAINER: Greg Foley
THE PICK: Major Fed
LIVE LONGSHOT: Shake Some Action