BREEDERS' CUP JUVENILE FILLIES TURF | PURSE: $1 MILLION | 2-YEAR-OLD FILLIES | 1 MILE (TURF)
Five years ago, trainer Michael Matz was the guy everybody wanted to talk to around Churchill Downs, both prior to and of course following Barbaro's victory in the 2006 Kentucky Derby. Now, he's back on the scene again, hoping he'll be one of the guys everybody wants to talk to again after this year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile and Juvenile Fillies Turf.
Matz returns to Churchill Downs with a pair of top Breeders' Cup contenders, likely favorite Union Rags in the Juvenile and his stablemate Somali Lemonade, who may vie for favoritism with Elusive Kate, in the Juvenile Fillies Turf.
"It's been a long time since I've been back here," Matz said shortly after his arrival from Fair Hill over the weekend. "I think I have two nice horses and I think I have a chance in both races."
Somali Lemonade has been in Kentucky for nearly a month, remaining at Keeneland after her last-to-first victory in the Grade 3 Jessamine on Oct. 13. Matz had scheduled a work over the turf at Churchill Downs on Saturday, but called an audible following last week's rain.
"I was so nervous about whether we'd be able to get on the turf over here at Churchill Downs, I figured I better get it done while I could, so we worked her over the Poly at Keeneland instead," Matz said. "We didn't have to do much with her. She's pretty fit now. So far she's done everything right and after her race at Keeneland, I know she'll handle the course if it comes up soft on Friday."
Somali Lemonade will have to overcome a tough starting position, post 14, if she is to remain undefeated after the Juvenile Turf.
"It's never easy is it?" Matz said following the draw. "I don't necessarily think she has to be as far back as she's been in her earlier races, but we don't have much choice now but to take her back from that post. Fortunately, it's a pretty long stretch and hopefully they'll be plenty of pace in the race."
The fact that Somali Lemonade drew poorly will likely make Group 1 winner Elusive Kate the post-time favorite for the Juvenile Fillies Turf.
Other key contenders include Stopshoppingmaria, who tries grass for the first time Friday, and her uncoupled stablemate Sweet Cat.