We'll head today to Churchill Downs, which is winding down its fall meeting. The racing in Louisville ends Thanksgiving weekend, which is really the end of fall racing across the country. We will hang onto what is left of autumn, and head to northern Kentucky, where there's an eight race midweek card and a 1 pm first post. It should be fast, firm, and cold, a harbinger of winter. Let's go.
Churchill Downs, Race 1, 1:00 pm ET
$10,000 claiming, 6 furlongs, dirt, 3 & Up
The first race of the day at Churchill is a hard-knocking, $10,000 claiming dirt sprint. We like 5-Zipto, who is trained by Mike Maker. This 3-year-old son of Bodemeister made the first three starts of his career on the synthetic racing surface at Turfway Park, where he fared reasonably well, but last out, after a summer vacation, dropped into claiming company and switched to the natural dirt surface at Keeneland. He won that race smartly, coming from just off the pace, running a 71 Beyer Speed Figure that was much better than anything he'd run before. The jump is probably partly due to physical maturity, and partly due to running on dirt, but either way, we think a repeat of his last will be enough to take this one. He should get a similar trip today, stalking in mid-pack before making a stretch run. At 2-1, he merits a play; we will bet him to win. The bet: Churchill Downs, Race 1, $30 to win on 5-Zipto.
Churchill Downs, Race 5, 3:03 pm ET
$50,000 Claiming, 1 1/16 miles, turf, Fillies & Mares 3 & Up
A full field of ten will go to the post in this claiming race on the grass. It's a pretty wide open race, as is indicated by the fact that the favorite is a tepid 3-1, and seven of the ten runners have morning line prices between 3-1 and 8-1. The oddsmakers do not know what to make of this field, and we suspect the actual betting will follow a similar pattern.
That looks like an opportunity to us, because we like the favorite, 2-Peru. This 6-year-old mare has been running in some pretty tough company, but today drops in for a $50,000 tag. This kind of class drop would normally be a negative sign for us, but her age, and her performance in allowance and stakes races over the spring and summer, suggest to us that this is probably the level at which she belongs. She is another runner trained by Mike Maker, and this is another positive sign, as Maker is not known for alarming class drops. This is by no means an easy field, but we think that Peru is going to find the competition much easier than in her recent races. We think she simply outclasses the rest of the field, and will bet her to win at 3-1. The bet: Churchill Downs, Race 5, $40 to win on 2-Peru.
Churchill Downs, Race 7, 4:06 pm ET
Starter Allowance/Optional Claiming, 1 mile, dirt, 3 & Up
This is a terrific race to handicap, as the field of twelve lacks a clear standout, and the top six or eight runners appear very evenly matched. It's a race that should reward thorough handicapping, digging deeper into the data to look at how these horses have run in their recent races.
We've done the digging, and we like 2-Risky Town. This 5-year-old gelding has been moving around, running at different tracks and on various surfaces, but it looks to us like he does his best running on dirt, and at these middle distances. He should get a good stalking trip from his inside post, and from there finish strongly. He won his last race, a two-turn route at a mile and an eighth at Keeneland, and we think he'll improve off that effort. We will bet him to win at 6-1. The bet: Churchill Downs, Race 7, $30 to win on 2-Risky Town.
Churchill Downs, Race 8, 4:36 pm ET
Maiden Special Weight, 7 furlongs, dirt, 2-Year-Old Fillies
A field of eleven goes here, but we are all over the favorite, 9-Bibiana. Her last race, which was the first of her career, was good enough to win: she finished second in a maiden race in September at Gulfstream Park West, but only because she ran into a buzzsaw: the winner of that race, Tonalist's Shape, came back to win her next start, an allowance at Gulfstream Park West a few weeks ago, as the 4/5 favorite. Bibiana is coming out of a big race, and while a repeat of her last will probably be enough to win this, we think she'll actually improve, as trainer David Fawkes's horses usually run better second time out. This means the rest of the field is running strictly for second; we will bet Bibiana to win, and will do so aggressively and enthusiastically. The bet: Churchill Downs, Race 8, $50 to win on 9-Bibiana.
That's all for today. As always, good luck at the windows.