Can Blofeld Be Beaten in the William Walker?

By J. Keeler Johnson ("Keelerman") @J_Keelerman

You know the Kentucky Derby is almost here when the entries are out for opening day at Churchill Downs, which will be held this Saturday. An exciting eleven-race card is on schedule, with the highlight being the $100,000 William Walker Stakes, a six-furlong sprint for three-year-olds that replaces the Derby Trial Stakes (now being run on Derby day as the Pat Day Mile) as the opening-day feature. The William Walker may not have drawn a large field, but the quality of the competitors assures that this will be an intriguing race. Let’s take a look at who’s running!

William Walker Stakes

# Horse Jockey Trainer Last race
1 Henry Jones James Graham D. Wayne Lukas 5th Coolmore Lexington Stakes (gr. III) (VIDEO)
2 Blofeld John Velazquez Todd Pletcher 1st Nashua Stakes (gr. II) (VIDEO)
3 Senor Grits Julien Leparoux Ian Wilkes 3rd Fasig-Tipton Swale Stakes (gr. III) (VIDEO)
4 Cinco Charlie Ricardo Santana, Jr. Steve Asmussen 2nd Mine That Bird Derby (VIDEO)
5 Weast Hill Jesus Castanon Brad Cox 1st Rainbow Stakes (VIDEO)
6 Holiday Camp Miguel Mena Bob Baffert 9th Del Mar Futurity (gr. I) (VIDEO)

Much of the attention in this race will be focused on 7-5 morning line favorite Blofeld, an unbeaten colt that won the Futurity Stakes (gr. II) and Nashua Stakes (gr. II) last year. Trained by Todd Pletcher, the son of Quality Road accomplished his stakes victories in impressive fashion while defeating such well-known colts as El Kabeir and Far Right, both of which will be running in the Kentucky Derby. He’s already proven at six furlongs, having won the Futurity in the sharp time of 1:09.49, and he has posted a solid series of workouts at Palm Beach Downs in preparation for this race. Even coming off the layoff, he should be tough to beat and warrants a close look for all exotic wagers.

Still, he will be conceding three to five pounds to each of his rivals, and a layoff is a layoff. As the 7-5 favorite on the morning line, it might be worth trying to beat him for the top spot, so let’s take a look at some of his challengers and see if we can’t come up with a solid longshot to secure a surprise victory.

The most logical candidate to pull an upset is probably Cinco Charlie, a five-time stakes winner from the barn of Steve Asmussen. After a very busy juvenile season in which he ran eight times, Cinco Charlie began 2015 with a victory in the one-mile Riley Allison Futurity at Sunland Park, his first start in a route race, then followed that up with a runner-up effort in the 8.5-furlong Mine That Bird Derby on February 21st. He hasn’t run since then, but has trained sharply for his return, breezing five furlongs in :59 4/5 on April 13th and four furlongs in :49 3/5 on April 20th. He should relish the cutback to six furlongs, and figures to try and take this field as far as he can on the front end.

Another intriguing candidate for an upset is Holiday Camp, a 5-1 shot on the morning line. Trained by Bob Baffert, the son of Street Boss won his debut at Santa Anita last June in impressive fashion, sprinting five furlongs in :57.47 to win by 2 ½ lengths. However, his next two starts were major disappointments, as he finished last in both the Santa Anita Juvenile Stakes and Del Mar Futurity (gr. I) while being well-backed on both occasions. He hasn’t run since then, but has posted a long series of very sharp workouts in preparation for his return, culminating with a half-mile breeze in :48 2/5 at Churchill on April 21st. On that occasion, he breezed in company with the Kentucky Oaks-bound filly Maybellene and held his own against her, suggesting that he is ready for a big effort off the layoff.

But as talented as Cinco Charlie and Holiday Camp may be—and I think they are very talented and capable of winning this race—it’s also worth noting that they are both front-runners, as are the longshots Henry Jones and Weast Hill. Even Blofeld has shown a tendency to race near the lead, so with a fast pace a strong possibility, why not take a shot with Senor Grits? The only true closer in the field won a six-furlong allowance race at Tampa Bay Downs two starts back in the sharp time of 1:09.74, then finished a distant third behind Ready for Rye and Daredevil in the seven-furlong Swale Stakes (gr. III) at Gulfstream Park. The switch from Gulfstream to Churchill Downs should help his late run, and the long homestretch at Churchill should be to his liking as well. If the pace is fast, I expect to see him closing strongly in the homestretch at around 8-1, and I think he has the talent to pull off the upset.

Now it’s your turn! Who do you like in the William Walker Stakes?


In order to aid in handicapping the Derby, here is a current list of the top 22 Derby contenders, along with the replays of their last three races. Also, here are links to the Kentucky Derby prep race schedule and the complete entries and current standings for our "Road to the Kentucky Derby" Handicapping Challenge. Enjoy the racing!

Horse Points Last race
International Star 171

1st Louisiana Derby (gr. II) (VIDEO)
1st Risen Star Stakes (gr. II) (VIDEO)
1st LeComte Stakes (gr. III) (VIDEO)

Dortmund 170 1st Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) (VIDEO)
1st San Felipe Stakes (gr. II) (VIDEO)
1st Robert B. Lewis Stakes (gr. III) (VIDEO)
Carpe Diem 164 1st Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) (VIDEO)
1st Tampa Bay Derby (gr. II) (VIDEO)
2nd Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I) (VIDEO)
American Pharoah 160 1st Arkansas Derby (gr. I) (VIDEO)
1st Rebel Stakes (gr. II) (VIDEO)
1st FrontRunner Stakes (gr. I) (VIDEO)
Frosted 113 1st Wood Memorial (gr. I) (VIDEO)
4th Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. II) (VIDEO)
2nd Holy Bull Stakes (gr. III) (VIDEO)
Mubtaahij 100 1st UAE Derby (UAE-II) (VIDEO)
1st Al Bastakiya Stakes (replay posted below)
2nd UAE 2,000 Guineas (UAE-III) (replay posted below)
Materiality 100 1st Florida Derby (gr. I) (VIDEO)
1st Islamorada Handicap (gr. II) (VIDEO)
1st Maiden Special Weight (VIDEO)
El Kabeir 95 3rd Wood Memorial (gr. I) (VIDEO)
1st Gotham Stakes (gr. III) (VIDEO)
2nd Withers Stakes (gr. III) (VIDEO)
Upstart 76 2nd Florida Derby (gr. I) (VIDEO)
2nd (DQ'd from 1st) Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. II) (VIDEO)
1st Holy Bull Stakes (gr. III) (VIDEO)
Far Right 62 2nd Arkansas Derby (gr. I) (VIDEO)
1st Southwest Stakes (gr. III) (VIDEO)
1st Smarty Jones Stakes (VIDEO)
Itsaknockout 60 4th Florida Derby (gr. I) (VIDEO)
1st (via DQ) Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. II) (VIDEO)
1st Allowance Optional Claiming (VIDEO)
Firing Line 58

1st Sunland Derby (gr. III) (VIDEO)
2nd Robert B. Lewis Stakes (gr. III) (VIDEO)
2nd Los Alamitos Futurity (gr. I) (VIDEO)

Danzig Moon 45 2nd Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) (VIDEO)
4th Tampa Bay Derby (gr. II) (VIDEO)
1st Maiden Special Weight (VIDEO)
War Story 44 3rd Louisiana Derby (gr. II) (VIDEO)
2nd Risen Star Stakes (gr. II) (VIDEO)
2nd LeComte Stakes (gr. III) (VIDEO)
Tencendur 41 2nd Wood Memorial (gr. I) (VIDEO)
5th Gotham Stakes (gr. III) (VIDEO)
4th Withers Stakes (gr. III) (VIDEO)
Stanford 40 2nd Louisiana Derby (gr. II) (VIDEO)
2nd Islamorada Handicap (VIDEO)
1st Allowance Optional Claiming (VIDEO)
Mr. Z 34 3rd Arkansas Derby (gr. I) (VIDEO)
9th Louisiana Derby (gr. II) (VIDEO)
3rd Southwest Stakes (gr. III) (VIDEO)
Ocho Ocho Ocho 30 3rd Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) (VIDEO)
8th San Felipe Stakes (gr. II) (VIDEO)
1st Delta Downs Jackpot Stakes (gr. III) (VIDEO)
Bolo 30 3rd Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) (VIDEO)
3rd San Felipe Stakes (gr. II) (VIDEO)
1st Eddie Logan Stakes (VIDEO)
Madefromlucky 30 4th Arkansas Derby (gr. I) (VIDEO)
2nd Rebel Stakes (gr. II) (VIDEO)
1st Allowance Optional Claiming (VIDEO)
Keen Ice 22 4th Louisiana Derby (gr. II) (VIDEO)
4th Risen Star Stakes (gr. II) (VIDEO)
5th Holy Bull Stakes (gr. III) (VIDEO)
Frammento 20 4th Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) (VIDEO)
3rd Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. II) (VIDEO)
6th Holy Bull Stakes (gr. III) (VIDEO)

Al Bastakiya Stakes

UAE 2,000 Guineas (UAE-III)

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