While we are taking a couple of weeks off following daily handicapping of both the Fair Grounds mammoth Winter/Spring meet, the Keeneland April meet and the just-concluded Churchill Downs Spring/Summer meet, we will be selecting a race or two that may peak some local interest.

Today’s top race for us is the 5th at Ellis Park, a Maiden Special Weight event going 5 furlongs over the main dirt track for 2-year-olds. Here’s a closer look at the race:

  1. World (5), an Orb colt who brought $400,000 at the 2017 Keeneland September Sale, will be making his career debut this afternoon for trainer Steve Asmussen and the owners Winchell Thoroughbreds, LLC and Willis Horton. Like any Asmussen horse that shows up in these parts, this one will be heavily bet, for sure. And, maybe, rightfully so today. This one has shown a steady line of works at Keeneland, and, lastly, at Churchill Downs in preparation for this inaugural run. The best work looks to be the one at Keeneland on June 23, when he went a half mile in a brisk :47.1. The thing that bothers me the most about that move, though, is that it was only the fifth best time of the day. And, the other works don’t seem to compare. The trainer does hit with .17% of those making the debut, and the sire hits with .16% of those making the first start, too. The dam was a winner, but the Smart Strike mare has not had a starter to date. Not much to go on there. Asmussen has already stamped his mark on this meet with a 2YO winner in the first race of the meet. This one could (should?) add to his local record?
  2. Two Bit Kid (7), a son of Stay Thirsty, comes into this race from a totally different perspective. This one has already run four times to date. And, he has a second and two thirds to show for his efforts. The race two back at Churchill Downs, going just 4.5 furlongs, was a nice move. He lost that one by only a head while stalking the lead. So, he has experience on his side, but he also has had opportunities, too, right? I think a bettor has to use, though.
  3. Knicks Go (1), a son of Paynter who was purchased for $87,000 at the 2017 Keeneland September Sale, may be the best bet in the race today, though. Despite the fact that he draws the rail, which can be a bit intimidating for debut runners of all ilk, this one shows some super nice works at Keeneland for trainer Ben Colebrook. Although the conditioner only wins with .06% of those making the first start, this one comes from a dam who has two winners in three starters, and he tuned up for this one with a bullet move at Keeneland on June 28. That day, he worked a half mile in :47 flat from a standing start in the gate. Earlier this summer, he worked another half mile in :48.2. Looks like this one could be sitting on go, with a solid start.
  4. Lemniscate (6) is a son of Exchange Rate and cost $145,000 at the Fasig-Tipton July Sale a year ago. His works to date are OK, and the trainer only hits with .08% of those making the debut run. But the dam of this one, by Smoke Glacken, has one winner from one starter and the broodmare sire was known for quick starts and lightning speed. Dangerous, especially with Brian Hernandez in the irons today. The guy is the hottest rider around.

So, how do I bet the race? I take the 1-5 across the board and then box those two solidly in one exacta. I key the 1-5 over the 7-6 in a smaller version to cover.

My “Upset Special” doesn’t come until the 8th race today, an allowance event that will be contested at 1 mile over the grass course. This is a doozy. Some really nice horses fill this starting gate today, led by Convict Pike (2), Killeen (4), Mr. Recio (5) and Nice Not Nice (6). They all should be hard to handle, especially the first two in that group. But the horse that I may utilize is a different one. Here’s who and why:

  1. Mr Darcy (3) is a 4YO gelded son of Harlan’s Holiday, one of my all-time favorite sires. The dam is by Distorted Humor, and while she was a winner she has already thrown a grass winner from three starters. The key to using this one, though, is the fact that he broke his maiden on the grass when he got blinkers for the first time in March of 2017. Since then he got nearly a year off — just two days shy — and he is just now rounding into race shape, or so it appears. The last two races have been outstanding. The first, on May 17, came over a sloppy track that washed it off the grass. He ran on the lead that day and easily put away his other 5 competitors. Grain of salt. But he came back on May 28, and this time was back on the grass. After stalking the lead throughout, he tired late in that 11/16-mile event and finished third. But here’s the thing. The runner-up that day has already come back to win. The winner? Bantu? He just ran a huge one at Churchill Downs, in his own right against some top runners. In that race, too, Mr Darcy was bothered both at the start and going into the first turn. Lots of issues. Today, he backs up to a mile, which is the distance that he won at when breaking the maiden. If he gets a clean run, I like his chances at an upset, or, at the least, of hitting the board. He is 6-1 in the ML, and could definitely drift up the odds board. Finally, the trainer has 4 wins in the last 10 races over the past two weeks and is a perfect 1-for-1 here. My Upset Special.

Good Luck & All the Best/Gene