As the summer racing meets drew to a close, we saw several Kentucky Derby (G1) alumni in action from coast to coast. And, with Kentucky Downs getting underway, we can look forward to several more who have found their homes on the grass preparing to strut their stuff there.
- Max Player (5th, 2020 Kentucky Derby) emerged as a serious candidate in the handicap division when he outslugged Mystic Guide in the Suburban (G2) on July 3. The Steve Asmussen trainee proved Sept. 4 in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) that his last race was no fluke. Max Player stalked the pace and drew clear to beat defending winner Happy Saver by four decisive lengths, winning not only his second graded race of the year but also his second “Win and You're In” prep for the Breeders' Cup Classic.
- Like the King (12th, 2021 Kentucky Derby) ran second in the Kent (G3) on July 3, and returned to the grass on Sept. 4 at Saratoga for the Saranac (G3). In range from the outset, stalking just off of Never Surprised, he was right there in the battle between that foe and the rallying Public Sector midstretch. Just outkicked by that pair, he still held off the rest to save the show, his third top-three finish in a graded stakes this year.
- Gray Magician (19th, 2019 Kentucky Derby), making his first start since running ninth in an allowance dirt sprint at Del Mar on Aug. 21, returned in a $25,000 claiming dirt mile there on closing day, Sept. 6. Now trained by Daniel Azcarate, he settled toward the rear, improved to midfield around the far turn, but flattened out in the lane to finish seventh and last behind runaway winner Colosi.
- Necker Island (9th, 2020 Kentucky Derby) tried the grass in the Kentucky Downs Mint Million Preview on Aug. 8, where he finished third behind Betwithbothhands. He remains on the grass for his next start; he is entered in the TVG S. at Kentucky Downs on Sept. 8, where he is part of an 11-horse field. That race covers a mile and 70 yards on the grass, and is limited to horses who have not won a graded race this year.
- The other division of this, also scheduled for Sept. 8 at Kentucky Downs, is aptly named the TVG2 S. In there we find two more alums among the 10-horse field. Sole Volante (11th, 2020 Kentucky Derby) makes his first start since running sixth in a handicap at Gulfstream on July 11. South Bend (15th, 2021 Kentucky Derby) returns after finishing 6th in the Lure S. on Aug.