Churchill Downs Racing Preview – 5/7/21 – By Eric Solomon

The Friday card is highlighted by a pair of maiden claiming races for two year olds early in the card and a solid N1X allowance turf sprint that is the feature today, going off in Race 8. Luis Saez is leading in the rider standings, but that appears to be short lived, as he is back riding in New York this week. Tyler Gaffalione and Florent Geroux are tied for second, currently sitting three wins off the pace. The trainer standings are pretty tight in the early stages of the meet, with Brad Cox leading the way with 6 wins, followed by Al Stall with 5, and Brendan Walsh with 4. All three have runners slated to go this afternoon.

Race A B C Exotics Menu
1 5 2,2B   DBL, PK3, PK 5
2 2,6   9 DBL, PK3, PK 4
3 5     DBL, PK3, PK4
4 7,8 1,4   DBL, PK3, PK 6
5 6,7,10 2   DBL, PK3, PK 5
6 4,10   2 DBL, PK3, PK4
7 2,6 1,3 8 DBL, PK3
8 3   8,10 DBL
9 2 8 4  


Race 1: Top Pick: 5

A pair of $50K maiden claiming races for two year olds, kick off the Friday card. The first race is open, whereas the second is restricted to fillies. Both races are run at 4 and ½ Furlongs. Wesley Ward will likely be prominent in both races as he sends out the heavy favorites. In this spot, he has Old Town Road (5) who comes from the first crop of babies sired by two year old champion, Classic Empire. Ward is always to be respected with two year olds and he’s even more dangerous when he debuts a horse with maiden claimers, winning 45% of the time (with 49 starters since 2020). His works are a bit slower than some of his other two year olds that he’s been sending out thus far, however, there doesn’t appear to be a ton of quality in this spot, at least on paper. Timothy Hamm had a coupled entry for Blazing Meadows Farm, sending out both Over It (2) and Templeman Alley. Both horses shipped to Belterra, so it’s possible they could be waiting for their two year old races to go, but it appears, at least one is ready now. Templeman Alley does has the slower works of the pair, but he has the more precocious pedigree. I’d be ok using either one as an option to maybe try to beat the Ward horse and offer a little value.


Race 2: Top Pick: 2

Wesley Ward has the big favorite here as well with Guajira (6), but I’m going to try for the upset with Van Sickle (2). I’m hoping the debut was just a forgettable disaster for this two year old daughter of the Australian bred sire, Astern. Astern, son of Medaglia d’Oro, was a speedy and precocious Group 2 winner in Australia, and he’s had some early success with his runners overseas. This filly broke slow, and found herself out of touch with Averly Jane when she debuted. That one went on to beat boys in the Kentucky Juvenile Stakes last week. Chapman’s horses typically improve in their second career start, and this one dropping to maiden claiming makes sense. Guajira had a strong 3F drill at Keeneland on 4/24 in preparation for her debut. She was only purchased for $3K and is personally owned by Ward, so this spot makes sense for her debut. She’s from the first crop of two time Grade 1 winner, Gormley, out of a Henny Hughes mare. Ding Ding (9) is the likely second choice here after finishing a distant third in her debut to a Wesley Ward trained horse, Kaufymaker. Ennis doesn’t have great numbers the second time around or dropping them in class from maiden special weight. I think she may be overvalued off her last race, so I’m not sure she’s a great bet here. I’ll use her a saver, but I’ll try to beat her with the top two choices.


Race 3: Top Pick: 5

This is the third straight maiden claiming contest, this one for fillies and mares three and up, running 6 Furlongs with a $20K tag. I don’t have a lot of strong opinions in this race, but I’m not loving the workout patterns for either of the two short priced first time starters. Stagecoach Mary (4) has solid works for Brian Lynch, but she hasn’t worked in over two weeks and she only has three recent works, as she had a four month gap between works from December to April. Anna’s Moonlight (6) also has some gaps in her works, which are slower than those of Stagecoach Mary. Either could win, but I don’t like playing short priced first time starters with those kind of breaks in published workouts. I’ll single with Pictoral (5), knowing that is a bit of a risk for a short price, from a horse that hasn’t broke well in her last few tries. However, she is dropping from maiden special to maiden claiming for the first time, and she has been facing better opponents on a consistent basis than the others with experience. Her loss two back to Twenty Carat at Turfway looks a whole lot better now since that one won the Grade 3 Beaumont at Keeneland last month. None of the other’s with experience are really looking promising here.


Race 4: Top Pick: 7

The Derby City Pick 6 kicks off here with an $8K claiming contest at 6 Furlongs. There are three dedicated frontrunners in this spot; Ace Destroyer (1), Tiz Approved (4), and Flight Time (5). All three have a similar speed and fade style that should set things up for a closer here. State Treasurer (7) was my pick last month in an optional claiming/starter allowance race at Keeneland last month and he didn’t run a step that day. Perhaps the bump at the break took him off his game, but for whatever reason, he was very dull in that race. His prior form suggests that he is better than that effort, while showing several strong efforts at the Fair Grounds this past winter. I’m hoping for a rebound in this wide open spot. Thirsty Betrayal (8) is another one that fits the pace profile of this race fairly well. He’s 0-3 on the main track, with all of his best work coming on the synthetic. However, his last race here wasn’t bad when facing $16K claimers last year, and an effort like that would likely put him pretty close at this level.  Ace Destroyer and Tiz Approved are the two front runners I’ll cover, in case the speed duel doesn’t percolate here. Ace Destroyer is coming in from Oaklawn after a few dull efforts in a row with better. This is a steep drop, so he may be able to take them all the way, but he’ll likely have to work pretty hard to do so. Tiz Approved ships in from Tampa where he was claimed for $5K three starts back. He floundered with better at 7 Furlongs when he was done in by a hot pace, and he struggled again with similar last out when he was pressured hard in the early stages. The second and third place finishers in his last race did come back to win, so the five horse field he was a part of last out, had some quality to it.


Race 5: Top Pick: 7

We saw an interesting one mile, $50K maiden claiming race for fillies and mares yesterday and today, they’ve carded the counterpart for that race, geared toward the male horses. Another eclectic field has been assembled, and the favorite on the morning, Windcracker (4) seems vulnerable, despite dropping to the maiden claiming level for the first time. I think his best races have come at two turns and at other tracks. His recent one turn efforts and his three efforts on this course have been on the dull side. I’m looking for a strong second race from Bugler (7) today, after debuting at this level, going two turns at Keeneland last month. He was last in the early stages of that race, and made some headway to get into 4th, beaten 3+ lengths. He’s sired by Tonalist, who is best known for his Belmont and Jockey Club Gold Cup scores, however, he was a pretty sharp miler as well, winning the Cigar Mile and the Westchester at that distance. Kobiskie has good numbers second of the layoff, and he looks like one that could be overlooked in this wide open affair. Lavender Earl (6) has gradually improved in four career starts on synthetic at Turfway, just missing with maiden special weight foes last out while going the two turn mile. He’s never finished worse than third in four career tries, and is going to be tough to beat if he takes to the dirt. He’s sired by More Than Ready out of a Scat Daddy mare, so there is definitely versatility in his blood. Excursion (10) moves up in class after being claimed by Diodoro last out for $30K at Keeneland. He was chasing while three wide throughout that race at two turns. He’s posted wide again, but that should not be an issue with the long run into the turn. Diodoro always is sharp first off the claim, and this one could continue to improve here. On deeper tickets, I’d include Tap Attack (2), who is bred to get longer distances, being sired by Candy Ride out of a Tapit mare. However, he been sprinting exclusively in his seven career tries. He’s in his third race off an extended layoff and dropping back to this level for this first time since being claimed in November 2019. He was a little flat last out at 5 and ½, but I think he could move forward going longer.


Race 6: Top Pick: 10

I think there’s a decent amount of speed signed on in this $50K claiming contest on the grass. I’ve been impressed with Cane Creek Road (3) at both Keeneland and the Fair Grounds in his four turf tries this year, however, I think he finds a spot with a lot of speed after running a huge race with better at long odds. I’m a bit curious as to why he’s entered for a tag off that big effort last time as well, so he’s one I’m trying to beat in this spot. I made Hard Strike (10) my top pick, as he returns to grass in his second race off the layoff. He ran into Fulsome in his return in an off the turf allowance in the slop at Keeneland last month. That one went on to win a stakes race on closing day at Oaklawn. I feel like McPeek opted to run him there because he needed the race, having not run since winning his debut on turf at Ellis on July 4th. He adds Lasix and has shown an ability to win from off the pace. I really liked his effort in his debut as a two year old, as he didn’t get the greatest trip, but still was able to run from off the pace, and win going away. I think he’s very live here. Risk Manager (4) is the other one I’m using as an A horse here in the first leg of the late Pick-4. He won on debut on the grass at Keeneland, and has gotten close while facing optional claiming/N1X horses at Gulfstream and the Fair Grounds, when running on the grass. He too can come from the pace, which should be an asset in this race. On deeper tickets, I’ll include maiden winner, Swingin Friar (2) on the rise in class after coming from way off the pace to defeat $25-$20K maiden claimers at Tampa in his most recent start. He’s bred up and down for the turf (Point of Entry out of a Fantastic Light mare). 5-1 is the morning line, and I think that’s a little low as this is a steep rise in class off that strong closing effort. If his odds float up closer to the 8-1 neighborhood, I’d be inclined to use him more prominently.


Race 7: Top Pick: 6

I feel like the one turn races thus far at the meet have been very wide open, or at least for me, some of the tougher races to handicap. Since there’s aren’t a ton of tracks that offer the one turn mile, many times you are getting a variety of entrants in those races. In this $50K starter allowance for three year olds, we have different horses entered that are stretching out and cutting back in distance from their last start. We have horses that have started on dirt, synthetic, and turf in their last races, and we have horses that are moving up and dropping in class. All of these factors make for a wide-open contest, one where I’d want a good amount of coverage in my horizontal wagers. I ended up with C F V Nova Rags (6) as my top pick, as he made nice progress in his four career dirt races. The two synthetic tries in between were forgettable, but he ran a strong race at this level when getting back on dirt at Keeneland last out. He broke in a bit of a tangle, sat off the lead, then made a big sweeping move, before flattening out in the final furlong. He’s run well on this track before and should be more effective if can sit a little closer to the early pace. Bejarano gave him a great ride under the circumstances last out, and he gets the return call. Copa (2) seems like a horse where the lightbulb just went on, as he’s won his last two after losing his first seven. He dropped in for a tag in both of his wins, so he moves up in class, but he is protected with the starter allowance condition. He was claimed last out by Robertino Diodoro, who looks to have another live starter here. Richiesgotgame (3) is undefeated in two starts at one turn on the main track. Most recently, he was seen on the turf at Gulfstream this winter, with similar company. He is a winner at 7 Furlongs on this track with claiming company during the Fall Meet. Military Briefing (1) has two straight wins at two turns, one on turf and the most recent on the dirt in a race that was originally carded for turf. He’s in good form, so he needs to be respected here, but I’m not convinced that he wants to only go one turn, so I’m not sure there will be proper value here for me. Tkotchke (8) is a longshot that might be a useful addition for larger tickets. He is second off the layoff and second off the Wesley Hawley claim. He returned to the races in a pretty solid optional claiming/N1X field at Oaklawn on the Arkansas Derby undercard. He finished 4th that day and drops in class, while still being protected. He’s sired by Frosted, who had that monster performance in the Met Mile at this one turn mile distance. This will be a stretch out for him, but I believe that he is exiting the toughest race out of anyone in here.


Race 8: Top Pick: 3

The featured allowance this afternoon is an N1X contest for fillies and mares and 5 Furlongs on the turf. I think this is a spot where the favorite is very good and there is a chance to get decent value on her as well. Senora Roma (3) returned in a 5 and ½ Furlong sprint at Keeneland at this level last month, after nearly a year away from the races. She understandably got a little tired in the late stages on the good course, and finished third, beaten only a length in a wild finish. Girl Named Patsy (8) finished in front of her and Wesley Ward brings in Flying Aletha (4), the latter of which I’m against here. She looks like she’d prefer dirt, but I think she’ll take some money because of the success Ward has with turf sprinters.  Senora Roma shortens up to five furlongs and comes in here with the best early speed. Rivelli does very well with turf sprinters and with horses that are second off the layoff. All this feels like it adds up to a gate to wire victory, and with the big field, you might be able to get her at 5-2, which is very good value in my eyes, on a horse that feels like the most likely winner on the card. Girl Named Patsy makes sense to cover on deeper tickets. She was a nose in front of Senora Roma last time, but I think that one has the advantage today. If there is a pace meltdown, or if she can take another step forward, she’s one that I feel has a better shot at the favorite in here than most. Joy of Painting (10) is another interesting longshot that is unproven at this distance. However, she runs well on the turf, and she is sired by Munnings, so there’s reason to believe that sprinting on the grass will be good for her. She was graded stakes placed two starts back, so she’s been keeping better company than many of these.


Race 9: Top Pick: 2

$10K maiden claimers go 1 Mile and 1/16 in the nightcap. Al Stall sends out Mr. Flattery (1) and Delightfullywicked (2), both with advantageous draws in this spot, but Delightfullywicked is the one for me here. He plummets after debuting at the Fair Grounds with off the turf $50K maiden claimers in March. He caught a muddy track and was wide every step of the way, finishing last against better, but earning a respectable speed figure. He was only purchased for $9,500, so this drop isn’t alarming off his debut. He should be able to save significantly more ground this time around. I think he’ll be prominent against these today. Tiz Valentino Daze (8) improved at Keeneland against better after debuting with maiden special weight company at Mahoning Valley in March. He was forwardly placed last out before fading late. I believe he has another forward move in him while dropping in class and possibly offering decent value, as he’s 12-1 on the morning line. I’ll use Wick (4) from the D. Wayne Lukas barn as a saver here in his 9th career try. He’s never run at a level this low, so there’s reason to think he can compete with these. His current form has been tailing off though, after improving in Kentucky this past fall. Perhaps the return to Louisville will help.

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