The winners circle at Churchill Downs sits empty, Wednesday, April 22, 2020, in Louisville, Ky.
The winners circle at Churchill Downs sits empty, Wednesday, April 22, 2020, in Louisville, Ky. |Darron Cummings | Associated Press
Thoroughbreds

Thursday picks from Churchill Downs and Gulfstream Park, courtesy of Garrity

We expect fast dirt and firm turf in all these races — first post is 3:49 pm EDT.

Chris Garrity

The track bias that we were anticipating during yesterday’s card at Will Rogers Downs disappeared inexplicably at some point between Tuesday night and Wednesday afternoon. After favoring runners on the outside for many days, the Will Rogers surface was completely different yesterday, favoring forwardly-placed horses and horses on the rail. After the first race, when the heavy favorite, who was trying to come from behind, labored to finish second, we knew that our wagering strategy was in trouble; after Race 5, when a horse named Hunka BurningLove won in sizzling, wire-to-wire fashion, missing a track record by less than a fifth of a second, we knew that our pari-mutuel chances were dead. Napoleon had his Waterloo; Custer his Little Bighorn; and we had closing day at the 2020 Will Rogers Spring meeting.

Track biases are like this, ephemeral and elusive, and just when one thinks one has a bias figured out and dialed in, it disappears like a thief in the night, leaving one feeling like a total moron. It’s like trying to catch lightning in a bottle, and though we whiffed yesterday, we will keep on trying. We can’t embarrass ourselves again today at Will Rogers -- they’re closed until the fall -- so we’re moving on to Gulfstream and Churchill, where we have a pair of plays at each. We expect fast dirt and firm turf in all these races, so let’s go.

Gulfstream Park, Race 7, 3:49 pm EDT

$6,250 Claiming, 6 furlongs, Dirt, 4 & Up

Nine older claimers go in this 6-furlong sprint. We like the favorite, 3-Star Juancho. He’s making a big class drop, from a $50,000 claimer to $6,250, and while drops of this magnitude are concerning -- it’s like dropping from Double A ball to an American Legion game -- we think it makes sense, as he’s an older horse, and has probably lost a step. He’s a cinch to get claimed out of this, but we think he should be able to get one last win for trainer Jose D’Angelo, as he appears superior to the other runners. We will bet him to win at 5/2. The bet: Gulfstream Park, Race 7, $35 to win on 3-Star Juancho.

Churchill Downs, Race 8, 4:40 pm EDT

$30,000 Claiming, 1 mile, Dirt, Fillies & Mares 3 & Up

Ten females will run a one-turn mile in this claimer at Churchill Downs. The pick is 6-Princess Phone. She’s a lightly raced 4-year-old who is coming off a layoff and making a surface change, having last run in August on the turf at Colonial Downs. She’s got good speed figures, has run well on dirt before, and trainer Dane Kobiskie is good at getting horses to fire off the bench, hitting at a 17% clip with horses returning from a vacation of six months or longer. Princess Phone will be forwardly placed early, perhaps even on the lead, and that is a plus, as there’s not much speed in this race, and we expect the early pace to be moderate. We think she has mor upside than the other runners in the field and will bet her to win at 9/2. The bet: Churchill Downs, Race 8, $40 to win on 6-Princess Phone.

Gulfstream Park, Race 9, 4:52 pm EDT

Allowance/Optional Claiming, 6 ½ furlongs, Dirt, 4 & Up

This is a non-winners of three allowance for older horses, and man, did the field come up tough: the eight entrants would not be out of place in a stakes race. It’s a fascinating race to handicap.

We like 5-Admiral Lynch, who makes his first start for trainer Mike Maker. He’s got a pace-pressing style that we think will work here, as there’s a lot of speed, but we are not sure the speedsters will be able to carry their speed the entire 6 ½ furlong distance. Look for him to be just behind the first flight of horses early, and to move to the front at the top of the stretch. We will bet him to win at 3-1. The bet: Gulfstream Park, Race 9, $35 to win on 5-Admiral Lynch.

Churchill Downs, Race 9, 5:12 pm EDT

Allowance/Optional Claiming, 1 mile, Turf, 3 & Up

The featured race at Churchill today is a tough third-level allowance for horses 3 and older. There is a full field of ten, and they’re all good.

We’re going for a score here, and it’s with a fresh face, a lightly raced horse making his first North American start: it’s 4-Ivar, a Brazilian-bred 4-year-old who is undefeated in three career starts in Argentina, with his last being an eye-popping win in the Group 1 Estrallas Juvenile the Palermo racetrack in Buenos Aires. He looked like a very, very serious racehorse in that win, winning by six lengths under a hand ride, and while that race was on dirt, and today’s is on grass, he won his first two career starts on turf, so we know he can handle the surface. The only question is whether he’s good enough, and we think the answer could very well be yes. He’s trained by Paulo Lobo, who’s an excellent horseman and who has had success in the past with South America -- he won the 2004 Met Mile with Pico Central, who was also bred in Brazil -- and at 12-1, we like Ivar’s chances today. We will bet him to win. The bet: Churchill Downs, Race 9, $40 to win on 4-Ivar.

That’s all for today. Until tomorrow, enjoy the racing, be safe, and, as always, good luck at the windows.

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