Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) runner-up Airoforce will make his first dirt start in Saturday’s $200,000 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2) at Churchill Downs and the Mark Casse-trained colt is the slight 3-1 favorite on oddsmaker Mike Battaglia’s morning line. The 1 1/16-mile race, a co-feature on the “Stars of Tomorrow II” program along with the $200,000 Golden Rod (G2) for fillies, has drawn a full field of 14 and is part of the Road to the Kentucky Derby series, offering points on a 10-4-2-1 sliding scale to the top four finishers.
The Kentucky Jockey Club will provide insight upon five horses entered in Pool 1 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager, which closes Sunday at 6 p.m. (EST). Joining Airoforce in Pool 1 are Annual Report, Gun Runner, Mor Spirit and Rated R Superstar.
Airoforce, who won at first asking at Kentucky Downs before easily capturing the October 4 Bourbon Stakes (G3) at Keeneland, closed boldly to miss by a neck in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf on October 31. The gray son of Colonel John adds first-time blinkers and retains the services of Julien Leparoux.
Mor Spirit is a well-regarded prospect for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, who recorded his fourth Kentucky Derby victory earlier this year via Triple Crown champion American Pharoah. A son of sire Eskendreya, Mor Spirit finished second when making his debut in a sprint and broke his maiden the second time out at two turns, taking an October 23 maiden special weight at Santa Anita by 4 ¼ lengths. Martin Garcia will be in for the mount and Mor Spirit is listed as the 7-2 second choice.
Annual Report, the 5-1 third choice on the morning line, is 2-for-2 in his career for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, winning the October 17 Futurity (G2) at Belmont Park last time, and regular rider Joe Bravo will accompany the colt from New York. Gun Runner, who is based locally with Steve Asmussen, will bring a 2-for-2 mark into his stakes bow, most recently posting an impressive allowance victory at Keeneland in his first attempt at two turns, and Ricardo Santana Jr. has the assignment. Gun Runner is listed at 8-1.
Rated R Superstar will need to rebound from a disappointing 11th in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) but did finish second in the September 12 Iroquois (G3) at Churchill Downs and third in the October 3 Breeders’ Futurity (G1) at Keeneland. He’s 8-1 on the morning line along with Mo Tom, winner of the November 1 Street Sense at Churchill Downs.
Street Sense runner-up Tom’s Ready and Discreetness, who finished fourth as the favorite behind Mo Tom, will also return for the Kentucky Jockey Club.