What a day! Great races all over the country. Sun shines bright on this old Kentucky Home, as I sit in my office at the Lake House overlooking one of the most magnificent scenes outside of a Norman Rockwell picture. Vibes are rocking this a.m. Karma on our side.  So, let’s take a look at today’s races at Churchill Downs and the 5 Graded Stakes at Santa Anita:

Churchill Downs:

1st: 7-3-4-5…Glitnir (7) gets the saddle from trainer Rick Hiles and comes into this one off an impressive win at Ellis Park.  Moves up in class today, but deserves too.  Watch out. Lamy (3) hasn’t been close in the last three outs, but gets much-needed class relief for this one. Moon Gate Warrior (4) goes for a top barn operation and you can’t ignore at this level. I bet the 7 to win/place/show and then box the top 3 in the exacta.

2nd: 1-1A-6-2-5…I take the entry of Over Rider (1) and Analyzing (1A) to both run in the money here for trainer Ken McPeek and assistant trainer Jeff Hiles (yep, the Hiles boys could get off to a good start today). Over Rider had a tough start in the last and you can toss that one, and he ran against some good competition in both of the first two. Analyzing is back in 15 days and that’s a good sign.  I bet the 1-1A to win/place/show and then key them over/under the rest of the numbers.

3rd: 3-4-8-5-7…Fetch’s Mon (3) hasn’t liked the grass in 2 of 3 starts, but ran nicely at 20-1 odds on the dirt at Ellis Park.  Back on dirt today.  Gull Island (4) gets the saddle from Ian Wilkes, one of the top trainers in the land. Picks up a solid rider change to the barn’s go-to jock in Brian Hernandez.  Watch out. I bet the 3 to win/place/show and then box the 3-4 in one exacta and key those two over/under the rest of the numbers listed in two more.

4th: 10-8-9-4-3-2-6…Burma Road (10) is another pupil of Wilkes, and she has been running against some real good ones.  She has hit the board in 9 of 13 starts and has never missed the board in 3 starts here. Will be stalking the lead from the get-go and should be tough at the wire. My first “Best Bet of the Day.” Princess Princess (8) and Sully’s Dream (9) both have a shot.  I bet the 10 to win/place/show and then key the 10 over/under all the rest.

5th: 8-3-5-4-1-6…Clever Serve (8) is 5-2 odds in the ML and deserves to be. Gets the huge drop out of tough races after sweeping to a 93/4-length victory here on June 29.  If she finds her old CD form, look out. If not, then wide open. Witticism (3) has hit the board in three straight , and ran a solid second here on Sept. 17.  Back in 13 days. Don’t dismiss Greely’s Comet (5) at 8-1 odds for my man Gary Thomas.  This one has been knocking on the door and may kick it in today.  My first “Upset Special.”  I bet the 8-5 (both) across the board and then box those two in one exacta and then key the 8-5 over the rest of the numbers in another.

6th: 4-3-7-6-1-2…Perfect Partner (4) must be named after my wife, right? Has to be.  He didn’t like the grass course at Kentucky Downs in the last, but if you toss that one, he fits perfectly in this spot. This son of Curlin cost $550,000 and could be any kind if he figures out how to get up at the end. Curlins Vow (3) and Whole Lotta Luck (7) both have a chance.  The latter has already won 3 times. Take note of that is this condition. But I bet the 4 to win/place/show and key over/under all the other numbers listed.

7th: 6-1-8-7-10-12-2-5…Wide open affair, but I settle on Mia d’Oro (6). This one ran a solid second in her career debut and she should be salty if she improves off that performance at all. Dance Rhythms (1) ran well in her debut, too, and fires right back in 15 days for Dale Romans. Back up in distance will surely help. Party Club (8) ran against the latter and edged past her in the end.  Should like the shorter route today, too. Don’t leave out Caramel Cream (10) in here, though.  She was placed n the Arlington Washington Lassie in her career debut. Although she had all kinds of trouble and didn’t run particularly well in that spot, her connections thought enough of her to give a Stakes race debut.  She has trained very well since then, too, and gets Lasix for the first time.  My second “Upset Special” today.  I bet the 6-10 across the board in this one and then box the 6-1-10 in one exacta and then key those three over (only) the rest of the numbers listed.

8th: 3-2-1-7-8-4-5…$100,000 Jefferson Cup…Mr. Misunderstood (3) is undefeated in 5 lifetime starts on the grass, and goes for one of the hottest trainers in the Midwest. Comes into this one off two straight Stakes victories at Louisiana Downs, including an easy 3-length victory in the Super Derby. Hard to knock this one’s credentials. Giant Payday (2) is my bet, though.  In the last five starts, this one has posted 2 wins and 2 seconds — with the only butt kicking coming from the likes of Cowboy Culture (a good one). He closes with style and meaning and the distance may be a tad more than the favorite will prefer. Watch out here. Bronson (1) is now trained by Mike Maker after being prepped by Todd Pletcher before. He ran a solid race at 15/16 miles at Kentucky Downs in the Dueling Grounds Derby, losing by a couple of lengths to Big Bend, one of our HTW. Has hit the board in 6 of 9 career starts and 4 of 5 on the turf. Will be knocking on this door, too. My longshot to watch in here is Adonis Creed (8), who also comes from the barn of Brad Cox. I think this one may like the distance better than his No. 1 pick in here. I bet the 2 to win/place/show and then key the 2 over/under all the numbers listed. I also box the 2-1-3 in another exacta.

9th: 7-6-1-3-5…G3 Lukas Classic…Honorable Duty (7) is 11 for 14 ITM and comes into this one off a freshener after a second to Gun Runner in the G1 Stephen Foster.  Training nicely for this return, and picks up Corey Lanerie, as well. All the stars are aligning for Brendan Walsh here. Eagle (6) is a quality horse for a quality trainer in Neil Howard, one of the best humans to ever walk God’s green earth.  This closer will need some racing luck to get to the favorite, but runs his race nearly ever time — with 16 ITM finishes out of 22 career starts. Seeking the Soul (1) has never missed the board at 11/8 miles and will close with a purpose, too. May hit the board or split the exacta. I bet the 7 to win/place and then key the 7 over/under all the rest.  Big key over the 6-1.

10th: 7-4-5-8-1…G3 Ack Ack Stakes…The Player (7) is up against it today, what with the addition of Awesome Slew (4) in this spot, too. But I love this horse, The Player.  Trained by my good friend, Buff Bradley, this horse reminds me of Churchill Downs paddock analyst Joe Kristufek.  They are both cool as hell. The horse sprawls out in his stall, sticks his head out into the shedrow, and normally begs Bradley for his daily peppermints.  Rumor has it that Joe does the same thing — just with his sunglasses on! Seriously, The Player is doing very well coming into this race.  After a tough trip at Mountaineer, on a track he didn’t like, The Player returned to run away with a win at Ellis Park in near track record time.  Watch out for him today.  Awesome Slew will be tough to handle, though.  He comes in off a second to Drefong (the Breeders’ Cup Sprint favorite) in the G1 Forego and a second to Mind Your Biscuits in the G2 Belmont Sprint.  Stretches out to a mile, though, today and that may be a compromising factor for this son of Awesome Again.  The Player — one of my “Best Bets of the Day” — is 3-for-3 at the distance. Warrior’s Club (5) has never been better, coming in off an impressive victory in an allowance at Saratoga.  I think the distance may be a negative factor for him, too.  I bet the 7 to win/place and then box the 7-4 hard.  I then key the 7 over/under all the rest of the numbers slightly, to cover.

11th: 5-8-9-11-12-1-4…I love One Last Strike in this MSW event that closes out the card. Worth sticking around for, I think. He comes in off two straight seconds against top competition and picks up Corey Lanerie for this one.  I think this one will be very salty in here and he gets a “Best Bet of the Day” title, too. Big Dollar Bill (8) goes for Ian Wilkes and was 6 wide in his last out.  He is better than that effort in the last with a good trip today.  Bold Prophet (9) has hit the board in 3 of 4 career starts.  Needs a little racing luck today. I bet the 5 to win/place and then key over/under all the rest listed.

Santa Anita Stakes:

5th: 1-4-3…G1 Zenyatta Stakes…The first of 5 Graded Stakes races today at the Great Race Place.  All of them are “Win & You’re In” for the Breeders’ Cup.  This one features a return of Paradise Woods (4), who was the heavy favorite for this year’s Kentucky Oaks. She disappointed in that race after setting the early pace and many thought the wet track condition was a compromising factor.  However, the 3YO daughter of Union Rags came back to run a disappointing 6th in the Torrey Pines at Del Mar on Aug. 27 after an extended layoff.  She broke in a tangle that day and, reportedly, came out of that one sore in the back.  Training well at her home base, but she really needs to get back on her game if she has any shot of making an appearance in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff. And, it won’t be easy.  Faithfully (1) is our pick here. This 4YO has been running very well behind all of the best — including both Stellar Wind and Val Dori. She was a tough-beat third to those dynamos in the G1 Clement Hirsch at Del Mar in July.  I bet the 1 to win/place and then key over/under the other two listed.

7th: 7-8-3-2-1…G1 Chandelier Stakes…Piedi Bianchi (7) gets the nod here for trainer Doug O’Neill — despite the fact that she is an Indiana-bred. I think this talented filly will like the stretch out to two turns better than any other horse in the field. Just a Smidge (8) is one of the Baffert team members and she didn’t like her first try at 7Fs in the Del Mar Debutante. Will she take to two turns? I think she will relish the return to Santa Anita. Moonshine Memories (3) is all speed in a field full of front-end runners.  I look elsewhere. And, I don’t forget Dancing Belle (1), who looks to want a distance of ground.  Could be an upset brewing at 10-1 odds. I bet the 7-1 across the board and then box the 7-8-1 in one exacta and key those three over the others in another.

8th: 4-1-7-3-8…G1 Frontrunner Stakes…Bolt d’Oro (4) has won impressively in his first two career starts despite a slow start in each of them.  Still wears the blinkers, but that nasty little habit may turn out to be a problem if it lingers. Zatter (1) looks to be the real deal for Baffert, and should like the extra ground. Encumbered (7) moves from the grass to the dirt for this one, but should love the distance, as should the British-bred Ayacara (3).  Wouldn’t be surprised if either one of those turned up at the end of this one. I am betting the 1 on top here with a win/place/show bet.  I key the 1 over/under all the rest of the numbers listed.

9th: 10-5-7-8-3…G1 Rodeo Drive Stakes…Goodyearforroses (10) is an Irish-bred that looks to be coming into this one in fine form for trainer Richard Baltas. Gets a top turf rider in Corey Nakatani back in the saddle. This one has 2 wins and 2 seconds in 5 starts this year and it could easily be 4 wins.  Avenge (5) is a War Front mare owned by Ramona Bass and trained by Richard Mandella — as solid a team as you can get. Beaten as the heavy favorite in the G2 Yellow Ribbon at Del Mar in the last, but I expect a big comeback effort today. Should be ready to go off a nice work since that race. Beau Recall (7) is 8-1 ML and I love her closing style.  With a little bit of racing room and luck, she could be right there, too. I bet the 10-7 across the board and then key those two over/under all the rest listed.

10th: 6-8-5-3-2…G1 Awesome Again Stakes…Mubtaahij (6) will be making his debut for Bab Baffert. And, this is one talented horse right here. He has been back and forth between NA and Dubai several times, but he may just find a good home right here. Baffert fixes this one with the glasses for the first time, and from appearances sake in the a.m., he looks fit and ready to go.  Cupid (8) is another from the barn of Baffert, and all he has done is win two stakes this year in two tries. Will be stalking the lead from his outside post, and there should be plenty of pace for him to run into today. The one to beat, for sure. Breaking Lucky (5) finally breaks free of Gun Runner, who he has hooked in each of the last two outs. This one is steady as can be and picks up HOF rider Mike Smith in his first try on the West Coast. Could split the top two with a good run. I bet the 6 to win/place and then box the top 3 choices.

Good luck &

All the Best/Gene