1st: 2-4-8-7-9-3…Copper Bullet (2) ran a huge one after the baby drew the rail in a field of 10 at Keeneland on April 26. Still stuck inside today, but that experience had to help, and should be enough to give rider Frenchy Geroux the edge tonight. This colt brought $200,000 at a yearling for the Winchell racing empire. And, they definitely know what they are doing – along with trainer Steve Asmussen. Pick here at a low price. Field has some other prime contenders, though, including Sky Promise (7) who ran behind Copper Bullet in the last. Trainer Kenny McPeek doesn’t ever crank his horses up for the first out, evidenced by his win percentage with such is around .06 percent. Second starts are another story. His win percentage nearly triples for the next out. McPeek’s regular rider these days, Channing Hill, gets the mount. My third pick here is the first time starter Special Forces (8) – a Candy Ride colt that fetched $220,000 as a yearling. Training well and Mark Casse gets them ready to go quick. Northern Trail (9), trained by Jack Van Berg, is not without a shot here – especially in the exotics – at a price. Consider. I bet the 2 to win/place and then box in the exactas with 2-4-8 and 2-4-7.
2nd:…3-1-5-7…Wildwood Dancer (3) gets the soft nod in a competitive field here. Claimed two starts back by a high-win percentage trainer, but he failed to menace in a modest bump up race at Keeneland. Drops back down to his normal spot tonight and if he runs the same races he ran earlier this year at The Fairgrounds, then he is very tough to beat here. All Shacked Up (1) picks up the meet’s top rider in Corey Lanerie and should love the class relief. This is the first time at this level and this 3YO has a ton of speed. Facing older for the first time is a concern for me. Afleet Jay (5) goes for the hottest barn in the country. In 15 starts this meet, trainer JR Caldwell – who was featured on this site this week – has won 10 times with one second and a third. How do you not use here? Attraction (7) is another one that likes to be close, if not on the lead, in a race full of speedsters. Veteran trainer Angel Montano is having a solid meet. Dropping from long on the grass to short on the dirt raises questions, but this gelded son of Blame loves, loves, loves Churchill Downs’ dirt (4 starts with a win and two seconds). Have to use. Bootleggin (6) takes a huge drop in class and is in his third race back cycle off a layoff. Makes him dangerous – especially if he returns to last summer’s performances. I bet the 3 to win/place/show and box 3-1-5 and 3-1-7 in exactas.
3rd: 1-5-7-6-4…Jury Wise (1) ran a good one in her last and with any luck at all today from the apprentice rider (wouldn’t be my choice to leg up), then this one could make the winner’s circle. Loves Churchill with a win and two seconds here. Will stalk or take command today from the rail. Rilla (5) ships in from Gulfstream off three disappointing efforts, but drops to the bottom today. If she returns to the form that she showed when owned by Maggi Moss here last fall, she will be dangerous at a price. Stormy Rhonda (7) is the other one entered by trainer Chris Hartman, and this one gets a huge jock improvement to Miguel Mena. Drops in class and should be tough in this spot. Dixie Lover (4) won her last out here at this class level and gets Lanerie today, so why do I drop her so low? She has never really ran two good races in a row and I think the Arkansas-bred may be coming back a bit early. But if she runs back the same way, she will be tough. Not my choice today. I bet 1 to win/place and then box the 1-5-7 and the 1-5-6 in the exactas – looking to hit a price.
4th: 8-2-1-4…Milady Rocks (8) won at Keeneland two back, but was rightfully disqualifield that day when rider Luis Saez nearly deposited Corey Lanerie – making an inside move – into the toteboard hedges. If she comes back with that performace – and not the one she exhibited here on Derby weekend – then she will be tough. Apprentice Gazader gets the mount and she will pull him to the front early on. Awesometastic (2) is a daughter of Harlan’s Holiday that could be a nice claim play if she would take to the turf (which she has never tried before). Lanerie sticks here after a good effort last time – despite the aforementioned trouble at Keeneland. She was going to win that day! Have to use! I’m betting the 8 to win/place but boxing solidly with the 8-2-1. Trifecta box of 8-2-1-4. Another exacta box of 8-4.
5th: 3-4-8-1…Caldwell can’t win them all. Or can he? I go with his gelding Rage Riot (3) in this spot. Drops in class and had traffic issues in each of the last two. Picks up huge rider switch today and will be extremely tough. Van Berg’s California Coast (4) gets class relief after the last two and picks up a hot rider, too. If he duplicates any of the last three speed figures, he will be tough here. Jack Tripp (8) is another with a needed class drop and he can win from the outside tonight. Must use. I bet the 3 to win/place and the exacta boxes of 3-4-8 and (note a change here) 3-8-1.
6th: 9-1-5-7-4-10-8…Nice turf, allowance race at a mile draws a very good field. I land on Southern Wild (9), a 4YO gelded son of Lemon Drop Kid, who is a deep, deep closer. Great rider selection for this one, in BJ Hernandez, who is strong and can finish, too. Might be enough to get up at the end today. Mucho Macho Bets (1) gets the third out off a layoff cycle tonight and is 1-for-1 at CD turf. May be sitting on a good one. Zambian (5) is coming off a layoff for a trainer who knows how to get them ready off the shelf. I like the training pattern, and this gelded son of Smart Strike has a good stalking kick. Another deep closer to consider is Sabrena’s Bling (7), who has regular rider Calvin Borel back aboard. Needs a rail trip. Know anyone that can do that, Calvin? Sea Rover (4) has been close, but doesn’t show a propensity to finish. It a wide open affair I bet the 9 to win/place/show and then box in exactas with 9-1-5 and 9-1-7…with a $2 dollar all button over the 9…
7th: 2-3-5-6-4…Gray Sky (2) is the most accomplished and merits the top billing in this very attractive betting tilt. Yet, this son of Tapit – who cost $700,000 as a yearling – does NOT like to win. In 21 lifetime starts, he has one one win – with 6 seconds and 5 thirds. So…what gives? He has faced the toughest competition of the bunch and his race strategy seems to vary from start to start. So, he has a definite “Z Pattern” going into this one. Two back, he closed right nicely. In the last, he was put on the lead. Now, here’s the kicker – he gets Lanerie. The magic tough and the right one, too. My choice. Shut the Box (3) is 10-1 ML and I love the way this one comes into the race – as a first time gelding off an extended layuoff. Work pattern has been eye-opening and the horse has ability – as demonstrated with three very nice races in a row last summer. The change of equipment and rider moves this one up today for a trainer that can get them ready. Philoctetes (5) may be the prevailing speed in his one and Mena may be able to keep him up there with this turn back in distance. Seems good right now. Forge Ahead Franki (6) fits this race profile nicely, as one of the few stalkers. May trip out perfect. Very seldom to I use a “dot” on a horse I rank this lowly in my handicapping, but I put one on Curlin’s Vow (4). So, you have to use here. Hasn’t had a decent trip in forever, but is 1-for-1 at CD and seems to be training great over this track. Another live mount for BJ Hernandez, who is having a solid meet. So, I bet the 2 to win/place/show and then wheel over and under all the rest above. I also bet across the board on the 4, with a 2-4 exacta box.
8th: 8-10-2-5-7…Another Turf event to close out the night and a good betting race, again. I finally selected Showreel (8), who was claimed off her last race – strangely enough on the dirt. I bet her in the last effort despite the surface change, but I really like where she is spotted tonight. My “dot” horse in this one. Global Affair (10) didn’t show much in her career debut, but excuses galore – wide trip; awful ride; MSW against good company, where the third place finisher that day came right back to win the next out. Fits better here. Tiff (2) is a first-time starter trained by Bill Mott for owner/breeders’ Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider. This daughter of Algorithms may be a trap play (looks better on paper than grass), but I have to use. I think a possible claim play here, too. Throw in Cantcatchchanneled (5) and On My Toes (7), too, as price plays underneath. Trainer Buff Bradley and Keene Ridge almost pulled off a big win the other day together and this first timer may be OK, too. I bet the 8 to win/place and then key over /under the rest of the numbers above.
Good luck &
All the Best/Gene