Inaugural William Walker Headlines Opening Day

Kentucky Derby week begins with Saturday’s opening-night program at Churchill Downs, featuring the inaugural running of the $100,000 William Walker for three-year-olds. The six-furlong event features the return of multiple stakes hero Blofeld (Quality Road), who captured all three starts before heading to the sidelines last fall.

Trained by Todd Pletcher, the Nashua (G2) and Futurity (G2) winner figures to be a heavy favorite against five challengers. John Velazquez will be back aboard Blofeld, who is making his first outing in 174 days.

The William Walker is named for African-American jockey and 1877 Kentucky Derby winner William “Billy” Walker. The first race post time is 6 p.m. (ET) and the William Walker, the seventh of 11 races, is scheduled for 9:05.

The other stakes winners in the field are Cinco Charlie (Indian Charlie) and Weast Hill (Rockport Harbor). Senor Grits (Elusive Quality) will enter on the upswing for Ian Wilkes following a third in the Swale (G2) at Gulfstream Park and Bob Baffert will be represented by maiden winner Holiday Camp (Street Boss), who makes his first appearance since an unplaced effort behind stablemate American Pharoah (Pioneerof the Nile) in the Del Mar Futurity (G1).

Gates open at 5 p.m. and guests entering through Gates 10 and 17 will be welcomed with an opportunity to walk the “Hollywood Style Red Carpet” and be interviewed by Red Carpet hosts. Dress to impress cocktail attire and fashionable headwear are encouraged. The night’s entertainment lineup will include Sam Sneed on the Plaza Stage beginning at 5 and Tony and the Tan Lines beginning at 8.

The $2 million Kentucky Derby on May 2, and the $1 million Kentucky Oaks the day before, are the main highlights of the 38-day spring meet that runs through June 27. Those days will also feature outstanding undercards.

The $300,000 La Troienne (G1), $400,000 Alysheba (G2), $200,000 Eight Belles (G3), $150,000 Edgewood (G3) and $150,000 Twin Spires Turf Sprint (G3) are supporting features on Oaks Day, and the Derby Day program offers the $300,000 Humana Distaff (G1), $500,000 Churchill Downs (G2), $300,000 Churchill Distaff Turf Mile (G2), $250,000 American Turf (G2) and $200,000 Pat Day Mile (G3) (formerly known as the Derby Trial).

“Downs After Dark” programs are scheduled for June 13 and June 27. June 13 features the premier event of the spring meet for older horses, the $500,000 Stephen Foster H. (G1), as well as the $200,000 Fleur de Lis H. (G2), $100,000 Matt Win (G3) and $100,000 Regret (G3). On the June 27 closing-day card, the $200,000 Firecracker (G2), $100,000 Bashford Manor (G3), $100,000 Debutante and $65,000 Kelly’s Landing will be in the spotlight.

Churchill Downs will also feature “Twilight Thursdays” featuring a 5 p.m. first-race post along with food and drink specials.