Churchill Downs' opening-day feature, the Derby Trial, received a $100,000 purse boost and Grade 3 status for Saturday's 86th running, and the one-mile event is relevant to the 2010 Kentucky Derby (G1) picture due to the $120,000 now available to the winner in graded earnings. Renamed The Cliff's Edge Derby Trial, the $200,000 event honors Robert LaPenta's Grade 1-winning The Cliff's Edge, who was named for the late Cliff Guilliams, a longtime chart caller, handicapper and media personality on the Kentucky racing circuit.
EIGHTYFIVEINAFIFTY (Forest Camp), who exits an impressive 2 1/2-length score in the seven-furlong Bay Shore S. (G3), will look to parlay a victory Saturday into a starting spot in the Derby field. Trained by Gary Contessa, the bay colt broke his maiden in scintillating fashion three starts back, romping by 17 1/4 lengths over inner track at Aqueduct, and was lucky to avoid significant injury when suffering an equipment failure in the Whirlaway S. next time out, bolting into the far turn and dislodging his jockey as he jumped the outer rail. Eightyfiveinafifty figures to appreciate the one-turn distance Saturday and will show speed from post 10 with jockey Ramon Dominguez.
PLEASANT PRINCE (Indy King) is also being pointed toward a Derby bid, but he won't make it without a victory on Saturday. The Wesley Ward trainee nearly secured a spot two starts back in the Florida Derby (G1), missing by a nose in second on the head-bob, and this will be his second attempt to move inside the graded earnings bubble over the last five weeks following a dull seventh in the April 10 Blue Grass S. (G1). His connections are willing to chalk up his last performance to the Polytrack at Keeneland, and Pleasant Prince will look to make a late impact at Churchill beneath regular rider Julien Leparoux.
Multiple Grade 1-placed AIKENITE (Yes It's True) isn't considered a Derby candidate, but he's another who's eligible to show much than he did in the Blue Grass, where he retreated to eighth after being forwardly placed in the early stages. Garrett Gomez will stick with the Todd Pletcher-trained colt. GAME ON DUDE (Awesome Again) and MINER'S RESERVE (Mineshaft), who were both making their stakes debuts in the Florida Derby, are a pair of good-looking maiden winners at Gulfstream Park who are capable of better than they showed last time. Game on Due will make his first start for Bob Baffert and picks up the services of Robby Albarado, and the Nick Zito-conditioned Miner's Reserve will receive a new rider in Jose Lezcano.
SOARING EMPIRE (Empire Maker) finished third in the Iroquois S. (G3) under the Twin Spires last November and opened his three-year-old campaign with a nice allowance tally at Gulfstream Park. The dark bay experienced a troubled trip when eighth in the Florida Derby last time and is a candidate to rebound with a much-improved showing for Cam Gambolati. PRIVALAGED (Southern Image), who hails from the John Sadler shedrow, gave a fine account of himself when opening his three-year-old season with a third in the Swale S. (G2).
Stakes veterans HEAR YE HEAR YE (Hear No Evil), HURRICANE IKE (Graeme Hall) and WOW WOW WOW (Broken Vow) round out the line-up.