Post time is 12:45 pm
We're back for another day of pre-Derby racing at Churchill Downs. The weather is an issue today: the forecast in Louisville is for mostly dry, if cloudy, skies, but there's a chance for afternoon thunderstorms, some of which may possibly be severe. We've seen these kind of springtime downpours at Churchill before, and they can very quickly change the racing surface into a sloppy mess. With no way to guess what the weather is going to be, we are going to handicap today's card for fast and firm, which it is as we write this on Thursday morning, and hope that it things stay that way. Let's go.
Race 1 is a baby race, a 5-furlong dash for 2-year-olds. Post time is at 12:45 pm (all times are Eastern). If it's a juvenile race in Kentucky in the spring, Wesley Ward must be involved, and that's certainly the case here, as he has the favored entry, 1-Lady Delaware and 1A-Winyah Bay. Lady Delaware looks like the runner here, as she is by Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, whose first babies have made it to the races just recently, and who so far have been impressive.
Ward has been a wizard in these juvenile races, but his success has come at a significant parimutuel cost: his horses now are routinely overbet. His entry here is 8/5 on the morning line, but post-time odds of even money, or even less, are likely. So we are going to look elsewhere, and it's to 7-Deviant. This son of Daredevil shows a breeding trait that is a pet angle of ours: his stallion commands a relatively modest $7,500 stud fee, but he sold at a public auction (the Keeneland yearling sale last September) for $150,000. This low stud fee/high sales price combo means that Deviant is probably an impressive physical specimen: Otherwise he would have sold for less. And his work in the morning makes him look like he's a runner. He's handled by a competent trainer, Danny Pish, who can get horses to win at first asking, and we think with all the attention on Ward's horses, Deviant may be overlooked in the betting. We think he wins, and we will bet him to win at 7/2. The bet: Churchill Downs, Race 1, $20 to win on 7-Deviant. Let's make it a win for our fellow deviants everywhere.
The 3rd at Churchill (post time: 1:45 pm) is a another classy maiden race, for females at a mile on the dirt. The condition book says it's for fillies and mares 3 and up, but since all the runners are 3-year-old fillies, we will treat it as a race restricted to 3-year-olds. We like the outside horse here 7-Second Coming. This daughter of Ghostzapper finished second in a 7-furlong maiden sprint at Keeneland a few weeks ago, and we think the extra distance will suit her, especially since the one-mile races at Churchill are run around one turn, rather than two as at most tracks, and are therefore usually run more like sprints than routes. We think she will get a nice stalking trip, with the outside post giving Brian Hernandez the luxury of choosing when to make his move. We think she sits outside the speed and takes command of the race around the turn, and holds off the late-runners. We will bet her to win at 2-1. The bet: Churchill Downs, Race 3, $20 to win on 7-Second Coming.
Race 5 (post time: 2:52 pm Eastern) is another good race, a first-level allowance for horses 3 and up at a mile and a sixteenth on the turf. We like Chad Brown's runner here, 4-Voting Control. This 4-year-old son of Kitten's Joy has been away for a long time, last running in the fall of 2017, but he was good enough to finish a very good third in that year's Breeders Cup Juvenile Turf. We like that back class, and we like this horse's ability to finish strongly on the turf, but we like even more the fact that Brown generally does not bring his horses to the races until they are ready: He wins at a 30% clip with horses coming off layoffs of 6 months or more. We think Voting Control sits comfortably in mid-pack down the backstretch, and takes control of the race down the stretch with his late kick. We will bet him to win at 3-1. The bet: Churchill Downs, Race 5, $25 to win on 4-Voting Control.
There are two stakes races at the Downs today, with the feature the 8th, the Opening Verse, which is a mile on the grass for horses 3 and older. Post time is 4:37 pm. Ten are entered for the grass. 3-Monarchs Glen is the pick here. This 5-year-old Juddmonte entrant, son of the all-time great turf horse Frankel, ran at the very highest level in Europe last year, competing in Group races at tracks like Ascot and Newmarket, and doing fairly well, including winning the Group 3 Darley Club Stakes at Newmarket. There are few hard and fast rules in horse racing, but one is that the best Euro turf horses are better than the best American turf horses, and we think that Monarchs Glen is going to show that today. Bill Mott does not always have his horses cranked up for their first start in North America, but we think this will be an exception, and we will bet Monarchs Glen to win at 6-1. The bet: Churchill Downs, Race 8, $25 to win on 3-Monarchs Glen.
The 10th at Churchill is the other stakes race, the Unbridled Sidney. It's a 5 1/2 furlong grass dash for fillies and mares 3 and up. Post time is 5:45 pm Eastern. Nine are entered. We like the inside horse, 1-Painting Corners. This Peter Miller trainee is in good form, having just won the Mizdirection Stakes at Santa Anita, and she has abundant, even wicked, early speed. We think she goes right to the front from her rail post, and stays in front all the way. We will bet her to win at 5-1. The bet: Churchill Downs, Race 10, $15 to win on 1-Painting Corners.
That's all for today. We'll be back tomorrow for the mammoth Kentucky Oaks card at Churchill, and after that for the even more mammoth Kentucky Derby card on Saturday. This is a great week, so please enjoy the racing. And good luck at the windows.