The 2023 meet at Colonial Downs began July 13 and the New Kent, Va. racetrack traditionally offers some of the best turf racing in the country. The action heats up quickly as Colonial’s Saturday card features four turf stakes races, each with a purse of $125,000, for Virginia-bred or Virginia-sired runners.
The Tyson Gilpin/Petty Stakes and the Punch Line Stakes both are 5 ½-furlong turf sprints that drew eight and 10 runners, respectively. The former is for fillies and mares 3-years old and older while the latter is open to all Virginia-bred or sired 3-year-olds and older. The card also features the Brookmeade Stakes at 1 1/16 miles for fillies and mares and the one-mile Edward P. Evans Stakes, which drew a competitive field of 10 and is the focus here.
edward P. evans stakes
1. E. P. Milton (30-1 morning-line odds): Ran in the aforementioned Punch Line Stakes last July and finished seventh at 69.50-1 odds, but E. P. Milton enters off a sharp win going seven-eighths of a mile June 6 at Mountaineer Casino Racetrack & Resort that earned a career-top 88 Equibase Speed Figure. Adding 2022 leading Colonial Downs jockey Jevian Toledo gives him some appeal as a longshot.
Jockey: Jevian Toledo; Trainer: Susan Cooney
2. Southpaw Mike (30-1): As a lifelong baseball fan named Mike, I wanted to like this 3-year-old gelding, but he’s 2-for-10 lifetime and has been beaten by 4 1/4 lengths or more in last three races. Looks outclassed against this bunch.
Jockey: Antonio Gallardo; Trainer: Susan Cooney
3. Spritzer (30-1): He’s been sprinting on the main track and enters off back-to-back third place finishes, but Spritzer has not finished in the top three in eight previous tries on the grass. With rain in the forecast, he would be helped if this race came off the turf.
Jockey: Jesus Castanon; Trainer: Leanne Hester
4. Hay Chief (30-1): Rallied from well back to finish second and third, respectively, in his previous two starts at 1 1/16 miles on the turf at Laurel Park. Tough to endorse as win candidate, however, with no wins in five career starts, all at the maiden claiming level. A fast pace would improve his chances to close for a minor award, and he ran well when second on a sloppy track in his second race if this stakes is washed off the turf.
Jockey: Yan Aviles; Trainer: Rodolfo Sanchez-Salomon
5. Reconvene (30-1): Has found trouble in three of his last four races and is winless in last 16 starts dating back to an allowance win in August 2020 at Monmouth Park. Reconvene has closed for third in a pair of stakes races during the winless stretch and would really benefit from a fast early pace and some moisture in the turf (his best races have come on softer ground). Jockey-trainer tandem has clicked at 39% with a sparkling return on investment.
6. Passion Play (4-1): He won this race in 2021 and faded to fifth last year in the Edward P. Evans (following a layoff of over a year) after setting the pace. The 7-year-old Hold Me Back gelding is a win candidate at his best, but there is reason for concern that he might need a race to reclaim his top form as this is his first start in eight months. Trainer Mary Eppler wins at a 20% rate off a layoff of 180 days or longer.
Jockey: Horacio Karamanos; Trainer: Mary Eppler
7. Kendama (8-1): Finished third last year in this race and ran third in another turf stakes later in the 2022 Colonial meet at 1 1/16 miles. Took a nice step forward in his second start of 2023 when winning a 1 1/8-mile turf race June 11 at Laurel Park. Should be a nice price and could outrun his odds.
Jockey: Jeiron Barbosa; Trainer: Madison Meyers
8. Buddy Buddy (15-1): His stock is on the rise after back-to-back wins at Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races. In fact, he’s finished in the top three in all four starts in 2023, but all of those starts came in dirt sprints and he’s unplaced in three tries on grass. He is another who could benefit greatly if rain washed this stakes off the turf onto the main track.
Jockey: Fredy Peltroche; Trainer: Tim Collins
9. Gigante (9-5): The probable favorite. He’s a winner on turf and dirt for a Hall of Fame trainer and scored two starts back in May in the Caesars Handicap at this one-mile distance on the turf at Horseshoe Indianapolis. Gigante also has a victory on this turf course last year as a 2-year-old when he romped by 6 ¾ lengths in the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance Kitten's Joy Stakes.
10. Alex Joon (3-2): Enters off a third-place finish in an allowance race going 1 1/8 miles at Keeneland on turf rated as good, so the 6-year-old Flatter gelding might appreciate if rain softens the ground a bit. Finished second in this race last year and has a chance to improve upon that in this edition. A win candidate.
THE PICK: Gigante
LIVE LONGSHOTS: E. P. Milton/Reconvene