The biggest two days of the year is finally here, and there is some excellent racing and wagering opportunities. The card covers four allowance races as an extended warm-up to the six Breeders' Cup races. This blog thoroughly enjoys the undercard races on big days like this, especially this weekend in particular. Several poor BC's (from a wagering standpoint) were saved by nice cashes in the races that surrounded the main event. This blog will offer some thoughts on each race on the card. Some races will have more commentary than others, and each top pick will get a "Confidence Rating" for each race. (1-10; 1: "Had to pick someone.", 5: "Kinda like it.", 10: "Go to the window."
The first race is a second level allowance race, with the additional option of running for a claiming price of $62,500. The morning line favorite and the pick is Grand Traverse. This gutty 8yo gelding just shows up every single time. He figures to benefit from the expected hot pace and will be unaffected by the off track. Several of his foes are coming off a layoff, with some off several months. While he is the favorite, he figures to be no lower than 2-1. He is a great way to start your wagering weekend with a nice cash.
Pick: #5 Grand Traverse
Confidence Rating: 10 (Best Bet all weekend)
The second race for horses who not won a race other than maiden, claiming or starter allowances in their careers. Last year's Kentucky Jockey Club winner Santiva returns to the races after finishing well back in the Belmont Stakes in June. He was installed as the morning line favorite, but he looks highly vulnerable due to his lack of recency and the the fact that this is a one-turn mile, where he has been more effective at two turns. This blog like Katz My Song to go gate-to-wire. The lack of other true speed figures to let this Pletcher trainee to establish earlier position and keep going all the way to the wire. Relinquere interests some due to fact that he ran alright in his first race in over a year last out and should improve second time out in a return to dirt.
Pick: #9 Katz My Song - Others who can contend: #8 Relinquere
Confidence Rating: 8.2; 9.4 that one of the two will win)
The third is the only graded stakes on the undercard, the G3 Ack Ack Handicap. This is a competitve, evenly matched field. There are some true need the lead types in here, which should induce a solid pace. The choices are Mister Mardi Gras and Glenwood Canyon. These two are solid horses coming off good efforts. MMG cuts back from a fast-closing 4th in the Hawthorne Gold Cup. The winner of that race is headed to the Classic, while two others will head to the Marathon. He cuts back in distance to 8.5 furlongs, which should help his late kick. Glenwood Canyon comes of a game effort getting up n the final strides.
Co-Picks: #4 Mister Mardi Gras, #5 Glenwood Canyon
Confidence rating: 7.4 that one of these two is the winner
Race 4 is the Jimmy V Stakes, and while there are some interesting longshots worthy of maybe a flyer, the lack of even a so-so opinion makes this a race where the voucher will stay in the pocket.
Confidence Rating: N/A
Race 5 is the 1st Breeders' Cup race of the day, the Juvenile Sprint. The newest race on the program figures to have the shortest favorite in Secret Circle. He looks unbeatable at very low odds and is the most likely winner among the 15 BC races. Maybe Blacky The Bull to spice up the exacta?
Pick: #6 Secret Circle
Confidence Rating: 9.8
The Juvenile Fillies Turf begins the races for the females that will make up the rest of the card. A full field of 14 fillies will run. Elusive Kate figures to be the favorite based of her record in Europe. Two domestic horses worth a shot at long odds are front-runner Sweet Cat and deep closer Stephanie's Kitten. This is a very tough race to narrow down.
Pick: #5 Stephanie's Kitten - Others to use: #6 Sweet Cat, #10 Elusive Kate
Confidence Rating: 3; 5 that one of three will win
Next up is the Filly & Mare Sprint. The first and second choices on the morning line reside here in Southern California in Turbulent Descent and Switch. Along with Tanda, Irish Gypsy and Great Hot, this race looks like it could be dominated by the West Coast.
Pick: Tanda (Blog favorite, this pick definitely has some sentiment attached to it.)
Confidence Rating: 4; 9 that one of those five will win.
A classic east-wet showdown in the Juvenile Fillies with the winners of the Frizette (My Miss Auerlia) and Oak Leaf (Weemissfrankie). This blog thinks that M.M.A. is very vulnerable as the favorite and will not be on any of the tickets. Weemissfrankie will come from the back of the pack with her run. Grace Hall has a ton of buzz around her off her last win. The Euro invader Questing has a very dirt friendly pedigree. (Hard Spun out of a Seeking the Gold mare) Also pulling for Putthebabiesdown, as she is a daughter of Closing Argument.
Pick: #11 Weemissfrankie - Others to use: #5 Grace Hall, #1 Questing, #7 Putthebabiesdown
Confidence Rating: 6; 7.6 that one of those four will win
The Filly and Mare Turf is 11 furlongs due to the configuration of the Churchill Downs turf course. That additional furlong for this blog cuts down the possible winners to just four horses. Nahrain and Announce come off a ding-dong battle in the Prix de l'Opera, with Nahrain prevailing. That was a grueling effort for her coming in just her fourth start. This blog thinks that Announce can turn the tables on her and win today. The only two with a puncher's chance at victory are Stacelita and Dubawi Heights. The "home" team's beast chances ran 1-2 in the Beverly D. earlier in the year and come off wins in the respective Grade 1 preps.
Pick: #6 Announce - Others to use: #5 Nahrain, #2 Stacelita, #1 Dubawi Heights
Confidence Rating: 6.1; 8 that one of these four will win
The last race on the first day of the Breeders' Cup is the Ladies' Classic. The best dirt female is headed to the Classic, so this race is ripe for the taking. The original plan was the swing for the fences with Medaglia D'Amour, but with her becoming ill and being scratched, it is back to drawing board. The horse who was the biggest threat to her was Royal Delta. This Empire Maker filly came into her own as the season progressed, including winning the Alabama. She figures to get a good tracking trip off of Plum Pretty, then burst to the lead. Her last race (The Beldame) has been a prime prep for winning this race when it is held at Churchill.
Pick: #6 Royal Delta
Conifdence Rating: 7.9
Here are a couple of stabs at the P5 and late P4, both .50 base:
Pick 5: 5 / 8,9 / 4,5 / ALL / 6 = $22
Pick 4: 1,2,3,6,8 / 1,5,7,11 / 1,2,5,6 / 6 = $40
So there are some picks for Friday. Coming up soon will be the thoughts on Saturday, including the Classic. Good luck folks.