Newtown Anner Stud’s Beckford (GB) heads a field of 10 3-year-olds entered Wednesday for the fourth running of the $100,000 William Walker going five furlongs on the turf, the highlight of Opening Night presented by Budweiser.
Saturday’s 10-race program that begins at 6 p.m. (all times Eastern) will kick off the 38-day Spring Meet that will be highlighted by the 144th runnings of the $2 million Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (Grade I) on May 5 and the $1 million Longines Kentucky Oaks (GI) on May 4.
The William Walker will go as the evening’s ninth race with a 10:11 post time.
Now trained by Brendan Walsh, Beckford will be making his first start since finishing fifth behind Mendelssohn in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (Grade I). Prior to that, Beckford had won a Group II race in Ireland and was runner-up in two Group I tests.
Julien Leparoux has the mount on Beckford, who will break from post position seven.
Top challengers to Beckford come from both coasts: Starlight Racing’s Salmanazar and Abdullah Saeed Almaddah’s Masked.
Trained by Todd Pletcher, Salmanazar has won one of two grass starts this year with his victory coming in the Texas Glitter at Gulfstream Park going five furlongs. Corey Lanerie has the mount and will break from post position one.
Masked comes to Churchill Downs off two consecutive victories over Santa Anita’s hillside turf course going 6 ½ furlongs. Trained by Bob Baffert, Masked will be ridden by Shaun Bridgmohan and break from post position five.
The field for the William Walker, with riders and weights from the rail out: Salmanazar (Lanerie, 123 pounds), I’m Corfu (Arienne Cox, 123), Vitsal (Robby Albarado, 118), Elusive Mischief (Adam Beschizza, 118), Masked (Bridgmohan, 118), Angaston (Brian Hernandez Jr., 118), Beckford (GB) (Leparoux, 123), Battle Station (Albin Jimenez, 118), Drena’s Star (Florent Geroux, 118) and Pure Shot (Ricardo Santana Jr., 118).