Today is the Opening Day of Churchill Downs’ traditional Fall Meet, which will be highlighted by the track’s annual Thanksgiving Day festivities. The historic track will begin the action with an impressive array of races exclusively for 2YOs today.  And, there are 4 Stakes events scheduled for the day’s card, as well.  Tip of the hat to Churchill Downs’ executives and racing secretary Ben Huffman for the work they have done to make this meet and this day so special.

Here is a closer look at today’s card:

1st: 7-6-1-5-4-3…Northern Trail (7) finally gets back to the dirt track that he appears to prefer.  The last time he was seen on the dirt, this colt ran a huge second to Dak Attack in the Ellis Park Juvenile. The latter very well may have been one of the top favorites for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile if not for a bout with sore shins. If this one runs anything close to that performance, then they all will be watching his back side from the beginning to the end. My first Best Bet. Monteleone (6) is coming into this one off a victory in a MCL event at Keeneland at 6F.  Will stretch out a bit today, but the colt that ran second to him last out has come right back to win. Will gas it from the outside, too, and should have the preferred choice just to his outside. Bye Crazy Eyes (1) broke his maiden in a MCL event last time out, too, for a solid barn. He did it over this track and he was pulling away at the end. Came back to work a bullet in the mud here on Oct. 24.  The track may have moisture in it today, so this one may prefer that condition. I bet the 7 to win/place/show and then key the 7 over/under all the other numbers in the exactas.

2nd: 10-4-1-11-6-8-12…Flash n’ Dance (10) has been narrowly defeated in all three of her outs to date. She will shorten back up today to a flat 6Fs, and gets Florent Geroux back in the saddle. This one has faced some good ones in the first two, in particular. Hint of Mint (4) made her debut at Saratoga and ran a good one for half, before faltering late to finish 3rd to a filly who has already returned to win again. This one is training lights out, with a huge bullet work here on Oct. 22. Trainer does well with this bit of a layoff, and she should improve on the second out. Dance Rhythms (1) goes for her third try after a really good try in her debut and a wide effort in the second out. Gets a huge rider change for this one today and she has started to improve her work pattern in the a.m., as well. I bet the 10 to win/place/show and then box the top 3 choices in one exacta.

3rd: 12-4-3-9-2-(16)…Keep an eye out to see if the #16 draws in to this crowded field and also if the race stays on the turf.  This handicapping is for a turf event. If it stays on the grass, and the #16 does NOT get in, here is how I have it: Emmport (12) gets a horrible draw but this one is certainly good enough to overcome it. She figures to break OK and settle into a nice stalking position and if she can run anything close to her debut effort at Saratoga on Aug. 6, then she will be very tough.  Comes into this one off two great works in a row. The ML favorite and worthy of that title. Miraculously (4) went 7-wide on debut at Indy on Sept. 29, and still was beaten only a head. Gets a huge rider switch for this one to one of the hottest riders in the country right now and one of the best grass riders anywhere. Is working well, too. I like the 6-1 ML. Kitten’s Covergirl (3) is a first time starter for Wesley Ward and had a good work 2 back.  She is a chestnut by Kitten’s Joy, and I was told awhile ago by a top trainer to avoid the chestnuts by this sire. We will see today if that theory holds true. Saucy Dame (9) moves to the grass and gets the blinkers after a disastrous first out on the dirt in the slop at Keeneland. Bred very well and it will be interesting to see if she transitions well. I bet the 12-4 to win/place/show and then box those two in one exacta and then key both of them over the rest of the numbed in another.

4th: 1-5-12-4-10-6-2-3…Sensational Zip (1) had a horrific debut at Keeneland on Oct. 7. He hopped at the start; gave the crowd a big head start and then went 7-wide throughout.  Still, he made a nice run at the end to finish 4th against tough odds. Has worked very well of late and should like the bit of extra ground in here for a top rider. Love progeny of City Zip and this one just may just up today with a better start. Seven Trumpets (5) was nearly even-money for the debut and ran like it for half of his debut, before spitting the bit. Ran against a good one, in Graded Stakes Placed winner John Tippmann in that one.  This one is training very well, again, and should make a big improvement today with the barn’s No. 1 rider in the saddle. Ripe (12) gets hung way wide for this one, but comes into this race off a huge move against a very impressive colt in Curlins Honor. If he runs back to that form, he will be tough today. That was an impressive debut. Take note. New york Central (4) cost $750,000 as a yearling and has been training like a good one for Steve Asmussen. Gets the barn’s No. 1 rider and appears to be on game edge for this one. I bet the 1 to win/place/show and then box the top 3 choices in one exacta and then try the 1-5-12 over/under the 4, as well, in another.

5th: (13)-8-9-11-3-6-1-10…If the #13 draws in, take note.  She has been nipped in her first two and should figure with these today if able to run.  If not, I go to Mia d’Oro (8). This well-bred filly stretches out to a mile and she should love the extra ground today. She has run 2 seconds in a row, as well, and was just nipped at 7Fs here in September. Persephone’s Dawn (9) made a nice run on debut before tiring late.  That was a 7F effort, which is a tough debut distance. Should improve off that one nicely and goes for a top young trainer. Watch out at 8-1 ML. Red Ruby (11) is another longshot, at 15-1 ML odds, with a real shot here, IMO. Is a first timer for a trainer that can win out of works alone, and this one is training very well. Interesting that jockey Robby Albarado picks this one over the Romans-trained one entered, as he normally rides first saddle for that barn. Take note. I bet the 8-11 to win/place/show and then box the top 3 choices in one exacta.

6th: (14-16)-11-12-9-4-2-1…If the #14 draws in, then he is my top pick.  If not, then here is how I go, if the race stays on the grass course: True Loyalty (11) ran a solid 3rd on debut against Dak Attack and Sporting Chance, both Stakes winners now. Came back to try the grass after that and has a 2nd and a 3rd to his credit on the turf. Caught a yielding track and a good one at KY Downs, in the last.  Sho0uld improve off that effort and absolutely love the stretch out to two turns today.  Gets a huge rider switch to Corey Lanerie, who really started to heat up towards the end of the recently concluded Keeneland meet. Heza Kitten (12) should be another running late for Wesley Ward. Gets a strong finisher in the saddle today after a rough trip in the debut effort. Got off to a slow start and then was steadied at the quarter pole, as well. Still managed to finish 4th in that one at Keeneland and should improve off that effort. Discovered (9) has hit the board in 3 of 4 lifetime starts. Should like the extra ground today, too. I bet the 11-12 to win/place/show and then box the top 3 choices in one exacta.

7th: 1-7-5-8…Spendthrift Juvenile Stallion Stakes…John Tippmann (1), who we mentioned earlier, ran a huge one while in trouble for much of the G3 Bourbon Stakes at Keeneland in his last try.  Caught a sloppy track that day and still was beaten only 31/2 lengths by a Breeders’ Cup Juvenile horse. Before that, this one had two 2nds and a win.  This one is very nice. Take note. Captivating Moon (7) was another who experienced trouble in the G3 Bourbon.  He went 8-wide in there, which compromised his closing kick. Needs a little racing luck and an opening, but he has the kick. Ezmosh (5) is the even-money choice in the ML and if you only look at the MSW win two back, I can see why. Sped off to an east win in that one over this track after a third and a second at Saratoga.  But he was well beaten in each of those efforts. He had real trouble going two turns in the G1 Breeders’ Futurity, fighting the jock the entire way.  Backs up to 7Fs for this one and that should help, and gets his winning jock back. Both should help, but I am going to try to beat him today. I bet the 1 to win/place/show and then key the 1 over/under all the rest listed.

8th: 8-10-6-4-5-9-1…The Rags to Riches Stakes…Queen Mum (8) is one of my Best Bets, even though she only broke her maiden in her last start. She was well reserved in that 6F event until called on to run by Julie Leparoux and she showed a brilliant turn of foot to rush from 7th to the easy win by 11/2 lengths. The second place finisher has already come back to win, and this one should love this stretch out to the one-turn mile. Keep a keen eye on this one.  She is cut out to be a good one. Foxtrot Sally (10) broke her maiden in the last, as well, for trainer Rusty Arnold, who had a super meet at Keeneland. This one won here, and showed speed in that event. She will need to harness that with the stretch out. Monomoy Girl (6) has 2 straight wins for trainer Brad Cox, including a wire-to-wire win over just 5 rivals in the last.  That was a 1-mile race on the grass, and she will try the dirt for the first time today.  Trainer does well with the surface switch (.24) and this one has been working lights out, like many from this barn do on a regular basis. If she takes to the dirt in the afternoon, then watch out. I bet the 8 to win/place/show and then key the 8 over/under all the rest listed in the exactas.

9th: 9-2-1-6-3…The Spendthrift Juvenile Filly…Sultry (9) is 7-2 ML and I love those odds on this one. This high-priced daughter of Malibu Moon won her last out at Keeneland, closing from last to the victory in another 7F event. She will need a little racing luck, but she will be finishing on a track known in the past to favor deep closers. Take note. Mia Mischief (2) is the even-money ML favorite after winning by 161/4 lengths in the slop at Keeneland to break her maiden in the last. Will stretch out another furlong today and will face winners for the first time. Obviously, she was impressive in that run as the odds-on favorite, and she, too, is very well bred. But I prefer the experience of the pick. Southampton Way (1) is a Maryland-bred who tried a G3 on the turf in the last out.  That didn’t turn out well at all but she gets back to the dirt, where she broke her maiden at Saratoga. This one has talent and will be in a nice stalking position behind the speedsters in the turn for home. Don’t dismiss. I am betting the 9 to win/place/show and then boxing the top 3 picks in one exacta and then keying the 9 over/under all the numbers in two more.

10th: 6-8-9-3-7-10-1-2…The Street Sense Purse…A very well-balanced field with a multitude of true challengers for this Stakes event, which will be contested at a mile on the dirt. I go with Bravazo (6), despite the fact that he was a 47-1 outsider in the Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland in the last out.  He ran second to Free Drop Billy in that one, and, although he wasn’t a threat to win, it was a nice run — his second in a row. He may like the back up in distance today, too. Honorable Treasure (8) was right in the hunt in the G1 Champagne last out before he spit the bit and Firenze Fire hit the bit. Overmatched there, but this one should fit better in here today. Is working well on the return home, too. Lone Sailor (9) ran behind Bravazo in the Breeders’ Futurity, while closing in the stretch.  Compromised in that one by a slow start and the fact that he had to alter course in the short stretch at Keeneland, too. Keep this one in the equation.  I really like Rubus (3), too. He is stepping way up after a MSW win at Keeneland. But this boy has talent and should get a golden trip from the post. I use. I bet the 6-3 across the board and then box the 6-8-9 in one exacta and then the 6-8-3 in another.

11th: 2-10-12-8-11-9-1…A nice MSW event on the dirt to finish the day and the card. I go with Conquistador (2) the even-money ML favorite in here. He ran second to Rubus (see race before) in his last out and should benefit greatly from that debut effort. Will stretch out to a mile today, and that may be a concern, but his one cost $2.45 million at the OBS April 2YO Sale.  So, obviously he looks the part. Combatant (10) went a mile on the turf here in September for the debut and made a nice run before tiring late. This son of Scat Daddy is out of a Boundary mare and that should help the transition to the dirt. This one should love this distance. Coastbuster (12) gets the Lasix for the first time from trainer Ian Wilkes. Will stretch out to a distance that he should prefer. This one is 20-1 ML.  Wow. My Upset Special to get out the door. I bet he 2-12 across the board and then box the 2-10-12 in one exacta and then key the 2-12 over the rest of the numbers in another.

Good luck &

All the Best/Gene