Thursday, May 1, 2014

Kentucky Oaks & Derby + Weekend Quick Picks





5/3/2014 Churchill Downs Race 11: G1 Kentucky Derby: #3 Uncle Sigh
While I embrace several methods of handicapping, I'm first and foremost a trip handicapper and there's no doubt in my mind that Uncle Sigh has a big shot in this race at a price after how he ran despite his tough trip in the Wood Memorial. Twice a close second behind Samraat earlier in the prep season, Uncle Sigh broke a step slow from the wide post and instead of rushing to the lead, he settled off the pace, which he had yet to do in a race to that point. He ended up getting a wide trip (he covered the most ground by far, according to Trakus) and yet he finished the race with interest, which makes me think an extra furlong won't be an issue. Add to the equation he'll be first time blinkers, with which he's looked fantastic on video in his works, and the fact that he not only fits visually, but numbers-wise, as well, and this looks like a horse sitting on a big race. I expect him to be near the rail and in the second flight of horses, just behind Vicar's In Trouble -- watch his work on the NYRA YouTube page and you'll get a taste of the move he may very well have to throw down on Derby day.
**Others to consider: #6 Samraat, #12 Dance With Fate, & #14 Medal Count


Friday, May 2nd, 2014:

Churchill Downs Race 5: G1 La Troienne: #6 On Fire Baby (M/L 7/2)
In what looks to be a pretty evenly matched field, On Fire Baby enters here after having finished a game second behind Close Hatches in the G1 Apple Blossom Handicap. In the past, she's run well at Churchill Downs (4 starts, 2 wins & a second) and her lone off the board finish locally was in the Kentucky Oaks, in which she finished fifth and she enters here having worked sharply as of late.

Churchill Downs Race 8: G3 Eight Belles: #4 Our Amazing Rose (M/L 3/1)
She may only have two starts under her belt, but Our Amazing Rose, a daughter of Yes It's True, has an unblemished record thus far, albeit against lesser competition than she'll face today. Typically, I'm not inclined to take a sprinter at 7f over others who are cutting back in distance, but I'm thinking today's distance is right up her alley and being so lightly raced, she could very well improve today.

Churchill Downs Race 9: Edgewood S.: #7 Istanford (M/L 7/2)
Istanford has only won twice in six starts, but she has two wins and has never finished worse than second on turf -- and that second place finish was at the hands of none other than the highly regarded Testa Rossi. While Istanford's most recent finish in the G1 Ashland sticks out as a poor performance, bear in mind the pace scenario was completely against her that day in on the all weather at Keeneland.
**Other to consider: #5 Little Journey (M/L 10/1)

Churchill Downs Race 10: G2 Alysheba: #7 Golden Ticket (M/L 6/1)
Will Take Charge will be the heavy favorite in here and if he runs his race, he should easily win this one, but I can't get over how gassed he looked en route to barely winning the Oaklawn Handicap, a race in which many felt he should've been disqualified for drifting into competitors. At first glance, my choice in here was Normandy Invasion, but his scratch has forced me to look elsewhere. Golden Ticket started the season with a bang, losing to perhaps the best American horse in training, Palace Malice, by just a head at Gulfstream. He struggled when cutting back to seven furlongs last out, but today's distance is much more up his alley. He's run well at Churchill Downs (5: 1 3 0), having finished off the board only once in five starts there and he should get plenty of pace to close into with Moonshine Mullen and Appealing Tale in the field.

Churchill Downs Race 11: G1 Kentucky Oaks: #8 Aurelia's Belle (M/L 50/1)
With so many contenders in this race having won their previous preps in wire-to-wire fashion, I'm thinking the pace in here could be very quick early on and am, therefore, inclined to side with a horse who I know can come from off the pace. Aurelia's Belle was up against the track bias while running down at Gulfstream, but she showed exactly what she's made of when impressively coming from off the pace to get the win in the Bourbonette at Turfway Park. She'll switch back to the dirt here and in my eyes she looks like a horse who's getting good at the right time.
**Other to consider: #2 Ria Antonia 

Saturday, May 3rd, 2014: 

 Newmarket Race 4: Qipco 2000 Guineas Stakes: Toormore
Undefeated in four starts, Toormore has firmly had my attention since his win over Outstrip, who would go on to win the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf, at Goodwood last season. Some scoffed his only effort so far this season, calling it "workmanlike" and pointing out that he idled on the lead, but bare in mind Toormore is a deep closer and his running style in that one was atypical in that he was in front so early on. Richard Hughes jumps back aboard now that he's thankfully fully recovered from his injuries and the presence of Kingman and Australia in here all but ensures he'll be a decent price.
**If the ground is good, another to consider is BC Juvenile Turf winner Outstrip e/w

Newmarket Race 6: Makfi Newmarket Stakes: Cloudscape
Cloudscape has been mighty impressive while undefeated in two starts, one which was on the synthetic at Kempton and the other having come over Windshear, who subsequently won easily in his next outing, over course and distance. This son of Dansili looks to have plenty of room to improve even further and is one of the horses I'm excited to see more of this season.

Churchill Downs Race 5: Allowance Optional Claiming $75,000: #1 Watery Moon (M/L 3/1)
This is actually a pretty nice race and one that's not easy to pick a winner, with several of these being fairly lightly raced, but Watery Moon was one of the standout winners to me during the Keeneland spring meet and he's eligible to improve in what will be his second career start -- not to mention this guy is bred to run on dirt. The surface switch is definitely a plus for him.
**Others to consider: #2 Twang, #7 Thundergram

Churchill Downs Race 7: G1 Humana Distaff: #5 Scherzinger (M/L 7/2)
I'll admit that Judy the Beauty looked fantastic when I saw her at Keeneland, but Scherzinger -- a daughter of Tiz Wonderful out of an A.P. Indy mare -- made me a believer in her last start. Iotapa is no slouch and yet Scherzinger set the pace early before dropping back and then retaking the lead down the stretch, ultimately defeating Iotapa by a length. More importantly here, she should get the first jump on Judy the Beauty and if so, she'll be tough to catch.

Churchill Downs Race 8: G2 American Turf Stakes: #2 Chief Barker (M/L 5/1)
A winner in three out of his four starts in the UK, Chief Barker was responsible for the dearly departed Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies winner Chriselliam's only loss and he also finished in front of 2000 Guineas runner The Grey Gatsby when they both ran at Doncaster. His one disappointing run was on soft ground, which obviously won't be an issue here. He'll get Lasix for the first time and he's been working well leading up to this, his debut in America. I will say that I have been waiting since the Transylvania, where Global View didn't even run a step on the synthetic, to play him back, so those two will be on my tickets.
**Other to Consider: Global View (M/L 9/2)

Churchill Downs Race 9: G2 Churchill Downs Stakes: #2 Clearly Now (M/L 9/2)
There looks to be a fair amount of early speed in here with Falling Sky, Broadway Empire, & Delauney in the field, so I'm going to side with a horse I know will come off the pace in Clearly Now. The multiple graded stakes winner clearly needed the run last time out when coming off a nearly five month layoff, and yet he still closed to get third.

Churchill Downs Race 10: G1 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic Stakes: #5 Kaigun (M/L 8/1)
Back in November, I said this about Kaigun "He appears to have steadily improved since the Fall and he nicely used his speed to win a $62,000 optional claimer last time out. Back in November, he finished a good third in a G3 at Churchill Downs behind River Seven and Frac Daddy, so there's no reason to think this step up in class will be too much for him." It all still applies except now he's making his second G1 start after finishing second to Wise Dan in the Maker's 46 Mile at Keeneland -- a race which essentially fell apart in front of him. Nevertheless, after breaking a step slow, he did run down quality horses and was closing on a not fully cranked Wise Dan late. Sure, Wise Dan should win this race, but he does break from the rail and the probable early speed is drawn to his immediate outside, which could pose a problem. All in all, the only bet I'll have that has anything to do with this race will be the Oaks-Woodford-Derby pick-3 and my single will be Kaigun, not Wise Dan for value reasons.  

Churchill Downs Race 12: $62,500 Allowance Optional Claiming: #3 Slan Abhaile (M/L 7/2)
Son of Hard Spun finished second in his only run at Churchill Downs and he just plain and simple looks to be better than these. After winning an Allowance at Saratoga last summer, he finished sixth in the G1 King's Bishop before 2012 Champion Two-Year-Old Colt Shanghai Bobby beat him by only a neck. He ran third at this level when forced to the lead after drawing the rail in his 2014 debut, but he needed the run after a five month layoff and tactically that wasn't his typical style.

Churchill Downs Race 13: Maiden Special Weight: #10 H Town Brown (M/L 4/1)
It's easy to dismiss this guy as you typical hanger, but I can more than forgive him for his losses to Hartford and most recently to Watery Moon, who I picked to win earlier on this card. As far as maidens go, he's finished second in four attempts on dirt including his debut, which was at Churchill Downs. Perhaps, this will be the race where he finally finds the winner's circle.

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