First picked race, the 2nd at Churchill Downs, has a post time of 1:32 pm ET
It’s Derby week.
It’s also opening day at Churchill Downs, and in anticipation of the big weekend there, we will be focusing most of our attention in the coming days on the racing underneath the Twin Spires. The forecast there this afternoon is warm, cloudy, and dry, and while there is the possibility of some rain later this week, Friday and Saturday at this point look pretty close to ideal. We expect fast dirt and firm turf in Kentucky this afternoon, so let’s go.
Seven 3-year-olds line up to run 10 furlongs on the main track at Churchill Downs. It’s an interesting race to handicap, if only because most of them appear to have little interest in running that far: this makes the pick 2-Good Juju, who comes from the Ian Wilkes Barn. He’s winless in four career starts, and while he hasn’t shown much so far, he has improved as the distances have grown longer, and his breeding (by Ghostzapper, out of an E Dubai mare) suggests that he should take another step forward at today’s distance. That should be enough to beat this modest group. Look for him to be galloping in the middle of the pack early, and to grind his way to the front in the final quarter mile. We will bet him to win at 4-1. The bet: Churchill Downs, Race 2, $35 to win on 2-Good Juju.
Mile and a half dirt races used to be common, but these days there are few of them, stakes or otherwise. Evidence of that is the past performances of the horses here: there are six of them, and they have made a combined two starts, and have one win, at the 12-furlong distance. We’re going with the colt who has the win, 6-Sir Winston, whose victory was a biggie: it was in last year’s Belmont Stakes.
His results in the four races he’s run since his Belmont triumph have been mixed at best, but he has been running against much tougher than he faces today, and he has the kind of stamina that should have him finishing strongly, rather than gasping for air, in the race’s latter stages. We will bet him to win at 8/5, and will play him in the Double comprising Races 4 and 5 (see below for analysis of Race 5). The bets: Churchill Downs, Race 4, $40 to win on 6-Sir Winston, $25 double, 6 (Sir Winston) with 8 (Ice Queen).
A full field of ten juvenile fillies goes to the post in this maiden race. Winning first time out is tough, at any level, and winning first time out going around two turns on the grass is even tougher, which makes the pick 8-Ice Queen, who is coming off a very good second at Saratoga, where she finished a neck behind the winner in a turf race at Saratoga on August 9. A repeat of that race could be good enough to win here, but we actually think she will run better, which will put her in the winner’s circle. We will bet her to win at 5/2. The bet: Churchill Downs, Race 5, $40 to win on 8-Ice Queen.
This second-level allowance on the turf drew a field of nine. It’s a good race, probably the best race of the day at Churchill to handicap. We expect the early pace to be legitimate, but not ridiculously fast, which should set the table for a stalker, a horse who can sit in mid-pack early and finish strongly. We think that is 4-Tizzarunner, a Brian Lynch trainee who is coming off two strong efforts at Gulfstream Park, both in allowance races with conditions similar to this race. We think a repeat of either of those will be enough to take the prize here, and because we think he will do that, we will bet him to win at 3-1. The bet: Churchill Downs, Race 8, $40 to win on 4-Tizzarunner.
That’s all for today. Until tomorrow, enjoy the racing, be safe, and, as always, good luck at the windows.