LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Nick Zito's instructions to John Velazquez for Friday's Grade 3, $150,000 Alysheba Stakes will be quite simple: Go to the front with Cool Coal Man and improve your position.
"That's the plan," Zito said. "If he makes it, he makes it."
The Alysheba is one of five stakes on the Kentucky Oaks undercard.
In a race with several name horses such as Macho Again, Mambo in Seattle, and Dr. Pleasure, there isn't much early speed. Cool Coal Man tried to go gate to wire in the Grade 3 Excelsior but lost a stretch battle with Giant Moon in that 1 1/8-mile race. In the 1 1/16-mile Alysheba, he'll cut back a sixteenth of a mile. As a 2-year-old, Cool Coal Man won a first-level allowance here at 1 1/16 miles in pace-pressing fashion. Velazquez rides from post 4.
If someone tries to run with Cool Coal Man - perhaps Dr. Pleasure or Informed - then that could set things up for a closer like Macho Again, Ready Set, or Mambo in Seattle.
Macho Again is 2 for 3 at Churchill, including a victory in the 2008 Derby Trial. He enters this race off a one-length victory in the Gradeo2 New Orleans Handicap.
"I was very impressed with him. He came from way back in the mud and just ran them down," trainer Dallas Stewart said.
Macho Again will break from the rail under Robby Albarado. At 124 pounds, Macho Again is conceding four to six pounds to the field.
Mambo in Seattle has yet to flash the form he displayed as a 3-year-old when he won three straight races and lost a nose decision in the Travers. But trainer Neil Howard has seen improvement in the colt off an allowance loss at Keeneland and is not concerned about a potential lack of pace.
"That's okay, because I think he could be versatile," Howard said. "He's fairly fresh. When he's in form, I think he matches up with those horses."
Ready Set, last year's West Virginia Derby winner, makes his 4-year-old debut. Bullsbay (2 for 2) and Shift Power (3 for 3) are undefeated at Churchill.