Garrity's Thursday Churchill Downs Stakes Picks: The $175K St. Matthews and the $300K Opening Verse

Garrity's first post is 5:11 pm EDT.
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We normally don’t post plays on Thursday, but we’ve been hit by a case of Kentucky Derby fever, and are looking to wet our whistle with a couple of plays at Churchill Downs. We have opinions in the two stakes on their card: the first is on dirt, which will be fast; the second is on turf, which will be firm. Let’s go.

Churchill Downs, Race 9, 5:11 pm ET

$175,000 St. Matthews Overnight Stakes, 6 furlongs, Dirt, 4 & Up

Eight go in the St. Matthews, a race restricted to horses who have not won a graded stakes this year or last. There is one entrant who we think will like both the conditions and the expected race shape: It’s 2-Miles Ahead, who has been facing much tougher horses, and who should therefore appreciate the class relief; and who should also get an ideal stalking trip, sitting just behind what should be a swift pace, ready to move when the pacesetters begin to tire. He looks the best of this group, and consequently his 5/2 morning line number looks too good to pass up. We will bet him to win, and also play him (see below) in the Double covering Races 9 and 10. The bets: Churchill Downs, Race 9, $30 to win on 2-Miles Ahead; $40 double 9 (2-Miles Ahead with 5 (Set Piece).  

Churchill Downs, Race 10, 5:45 pm ET

$300,000 Opening Verse Stakes, 1 mile, Turf, 4 & Up

The Opening Verse drew twelve entrants, and that makes it a terrific race to handicap. Partly because the size of the field, and partly because of the traits of the horses comprising it, we think the early pace will be swift, which should set the table quite nicely for 5-Set Piece, who comes off a layoff here, having last run at Del Mar in November, but who ran very well last year, in seven starts, all of them graded stakes, before that. He’s been best when quick early fractions set up his strong late charge; since that is exactly what will happen here, we will bet him to win at 5/2. The bet: Churchill Downs, Race 10, $40 to win on 5-Set Piece.

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

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