Kentucky Derby Week stakes action at Churchill Downs kicks off Thursday with the $100,000 Kentucky Juvenile, a five-furlong dash being run for the first time since 2010.
An assortment of Keeneland maiden winners trained by Wesley Ward, who won this race in 2009 with the filly Aegean, figure to attract the most attention at the betting windows. In fact, Ward’s trio — Lady Aurelia, Con Te Partiro, and Silvertoni, are also fillies.
Lady Aurelia dazzled in her April 21 debut, winning by 7 1/2 lengths in a time of :50 4/5 for 4 1/2 furlongs. Con Te Partiro won in a time of :52 eight days earlier by 5 1/2 lengths, but was facing males in her debut. A day after Con Te Partiro’s win, Silvertoni won on debut by two lengths in :52 1/5.
Other first-out winners in the field are the Mike Maker-trained Hey Mike, a son of grass champion Cape Blanco who rallied to win by a half-length at Keeneland in :51 1/4 April 20. Debuting for Tevis McCauley is Cold Snack Thirty, who held on after a prolonged duel to win his Gulfstream Park debut going 4 1/2 furlongs for prior trainer Jason McCutchen.
Looking for their first career win are Bluegrass Gem, second in his Keeneland debut; Thirstforlife, a Mark Casse-trained son of Stay Thirsty making his first start; and Cold Hearted Pearl and Rapa Iti, both unplaced in their debuts last month.