One of my favorite days of racing each year is the Stars of Tomorrow card at the end of the Churchill Downs fall meet. Several talented two year olds have emerged from this program over the years to make waves in the three year old divisions in the subsequent year. There’s an all-stakes Pick-4 that closes the card today. As a fan, these should be some very good races, but as a gambler, I do think this sequence could be on the chalky side.
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Race 9: The $200K Lively Shively Stakes: Top Pick: 3
Chattalot (#3) was a distant third in the Bowman’s Mill Stakes at Keeneland last month. He caught a sloppy track that day, and it looked like he wasn’t loving it. Wesley Ward’s Nakatomi, took full advantage of that, and turned the tables on his rival that day. Chattalot bested that one on this track back in the beginning of October when winning an optional claiming/N2L allowance race. Steve Asmussen’s barn was ice cold at Keeneland, but his wins have been coming in bunches at this meet, with him coming off a five win afternoon on Thursday. I think he sits the right trip today and gets back on track. Tejano Twist (#5) is the morning line favorite after a dominating performance in an optional claiming/allowance race at Keeneland last month. He continues to improve for Calhoun and his last two efforts definitely make him the one to beat. However, his efforts here in May and June weren’t his best, so that may be enough for me to take a little bit of swing against him at a short price. Cool Papa G (#2) is 5-1 on the morning line, and I’d like to get a little better than that on him, but I think he’s the most likely one to spring the upset in this spot if the favorites falter. He was 8+ lengths behind Tejano Twist last out at Keeneland when he was making his first start since breaking his maiden on this course in June. Joel Rosario getting the mount is a definite upgrade on a horse that should show more in his second start off the layoff.
Race 10: The Grade 2 Golden Rod: Top Pick: 1
Last year, Travel Column and Clariere established their rivalry in this race, and both went on to have solid three year old campaigns with Travel Column winning the Fair Grounds Oaks and Clariere going on to win the Grade 1 Cotillion. This year, there’s another dynamic and promising duo in Famed (#1) and Sandstone (#4). I’ll give the slight edge to Famed, as her pedigree is second to none. She’s a half to Essential Quality, and she debuted very well on this course in September, finishing a close second behind next out stakes winner, Sweet Dani Girl (see Race 12). She could not have been more impressive next out, dominating some well meant maidens in the slop at Keeneland. She returns here and stretches out to two turns for the first time, while drawing the rail to do so. I think she could be any kind after two very strong races to start her career. Essential Quality took a big step forward when he made his two turn debut, so there’s reason to believe that she hasn’t come close to hitting her ceiling yet. Sandstone has three career starts and two dominating wins, all on this course. She was a nine length winner in the slop at the beginning of October when breaking her maiden in her second time out. She followed up that effort with a 10+ length win in the Rags to Riches Stakes on the first Stars of Tomorrow card at the beginning of this meet. She can clearly get the distance, which is a question that her rival will have to answer. I do think there’s a chance that Famed could actually go off as the post time favorite, and if that’s the case, I think she would be more enticing from a value standpoint. Regardless, these two should be the ones that decide this race, and it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see this pair back on this track in May in the Kentucky Oaks..
Race 11: The Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes: Top Pick: 5
A full field of 14 is entered in the last Kentucky Derby prep race run on the same course as the Derby itself. A few years ago, Dale Romans campaigned a very sharp two year, Not This Time, for the Albaugh Family Stable. Not This Time was injured after finishing second in a thrilling edition of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, so he didn’t get the opportunity to chase the Triple Crown. However, the same connections look to pave a path to the Derby with one of his more promising sons, Howling Time (#5). He broke his maiden here in September and was a handy winner of the Street Sense Stakes here last month. He’s been very professional in both starts, and he should be able to sit a good trip, stalking the early leaders. I think he’s the one to beat here. Classic Causeway (#1) ran a monster race at Saratoga, easily winning on debut in September. He tried the Grade 1 Breeders Futurity at Keeneland, where he drew post 13. Ortiz had to use him hard early that day, and he wilted late in his first two turn start. Despite tiring late, he showed some grit to dig in and hold third that day. I liked his effort a lot, because often you se young horses like that pack it in after getting passed. He gets the rail today, which is a definite upgrade, and Rosario picks up the mount. Tiz The Bomb (#6) is the only Breeders’ Cup graduate on the program, coming out of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf. He finished second that day and he has a monster score in an off the turf race on the main track at Ellis. He can handle the dirt, but this is a much deeper bunch than the last time he was on the main track. I think the value lies elsewhere, but I respect him enough to use him. On deeper tickets, and especially underneath in the exotics, I think both Ben Diesel (#12) and Mannix (#13) could be upset minded. Ben Diesel was a winner at this distance on debut. He’s a son of WIll Take Charge, who ran well on this course in his day. He sired a $110 winner on yesterday’s card as well. Mannix broke his maiden on the Tapeta at Gulfstream, drawing off to win in his North American debut. He’s never competed on the dirt before, but there is pedigree to do so on the dam side. Edwin Gonzalez, who has been riding very well in South Florida, comes North to ride. Neither horse was done any favors by the post draw, but they have some potential and could be impactful here if they can work out a trip.
Race 12: The $200K Fern Creek Stakes: Top Pick: 4
Veryllittlecents (#4) and Sweet Dani Girl (#8), came within less than a length of each other in the Myrtlewood Stakes on closing week at Keeneland this fall, and both are back here. I think there was more speed signed on in the Myrtlewood, which could tilt the advantage to Verylittlecents today. She was very good at Ellis this summer, breaking her maiden there and then winning the Debutante in August. The turf experiment was a fail, but her last showed that she’s more than capable when sprinting on the main track. Sweet Dani Girl has been perfect in both career starts, winning both coming from off the pace. Her trainer, Carlo Vaccarezza, had an impressive winner on the card yesterday (Injunction, Race 9). She continues to work well in the AM and looks ready to go. Marissa’s Lady (#6) is the third part of the three headed monster in this race. She was very good winning on debut with maiden special weight company on the first Stars of Tomorrow Card here last month. She closed well that day to win at 14-1. You won’t get near that number today, and the water is definitely deeper this time around. I prefer the other two but she’s worth covering here.