The analysis of Friday’s and Saturday’s races will touch on favorites and longshots, but the emphasis is on value, so I’ll be looking mainly for price horses who could be worth a straight win bet. I will have an analysis of Friday’s card on today, followed by Saturday’s card excluding the Classic, and then the Classic. Any updates in the first two analyses will be included in the subsequent column; or if I see anything in the morning training over the next couple of days that changes my opinion.
JUVENILE TURF SPRINT – This race is purely a guess, with seven of the 12 starters Europeans and four of the five American horses trained by Wesley Ward, all of whom competed at Royal Ascot. What is amazing is how Ward managed to get all four of his horses in the starting field with 28 horses pre-entered, and all of them drawing well in posts 4, 6, 7, and 9. The only one who ran well at Ascot is SHANG SHAN SHANG, who won the group 2 Norfolk Stakes against the boys, but hasn’t run since. The other three, CHELSEA CLOISTERS, STILLWATER COVE, and MOONLIGHT ROMANCE have bounced back and are in excellent form. The classiest of the Europeans are SOLDIER’S CALL, winner of three major stakes and third, beaten a head last out in the group 1 Prix de l’Abbaye on Arc day against older horses, and the Aidan O’Brien-trained SO PERFECT, who has run big in all six of her starts, including a victory in the group 3 Balanchine Stakes at the Curragh and a narrow defeat in the group 1 Phoenix Stakes. But she may be compromised by the 10 post. O’Brien also sends out SERGEI PROKOFIEV, brilliant early in the year at Navan and Naas and then winning the group 3 Cornwallis Stakes at Newmarket last time out. Of Ward’s horses, Stillwater Cove beat Chelsea Cloisters in the Bolton Landing Stakes at Saratoga, but failed to stretch out to a mile in the grade 1 Natalma Stakes, tiring to finish fifth. She should appreciate dropping back to 5 1/2 furlongs and her style of running seems to fit well here. The big question mark is BULLETIN, who made his debut in a stakes race at Gulfstream and romped to a seven-length victory. It’s just a question whether he’s seasoned enough to take on these horses. He is certainly fast enough. If you feel compelled to bet this race, it would be wise to bet minimally. Soldier’s Call has to be the horse to beat running such a bang-up race against older horses, but you can never count out a Wesley Ward 2-year-old filly sprinting against the boys. Good luck separating his bunch. But looking for decent price I like the cutback angle of STILLWATER COVE, who should be able lay off the pace and make a late run. And she gets Irad Ortiz back, who won the Bolton Landing on her.
JUVENILE FILLIES TURF – This race is always wide open. The unbeaten Frankel Filly EAST, who beat colts in the group 3 Prix Thomas Bryon, drew post 14, so that should compromise her. The Aidan O’Brien-trained JUST WONDERFUL is coming off a stylish victory in the group 2 Rockfel Stakes at Newmarket and looks interesting in here. Another tough European is LILY’S CANDLE, coming off a victory in the group 1 Prix Marcel Boussac. Making her second start in North America is LA PELOSA, who rallied in the final furlong to win the grade 1 Natalma Stakes at Woobine. The Euros are very deep in here, with THE MACKEM BULLET coming off big efforts in three group races, inclusing a neck defeat in the group 1 Cheveley Park Stakes at Newmarket last time out. All four Euros, however, appear to prefer firm ground, which they will not get. The Americans are well represented, headed by unbeaten NEWSPAPEROFRECORD, trained by Chad Brown, who has won both her starts by huge margins, including a 6 1/2-length romp in the Miss Grillo Stakes. She loves yielding going and no doubt will get that on Friday. Another filly undefeated in two starts is Jessamine Stakes winner CONCRETE ROSE. It looks tough separating both those fillies. California will be represented by LADY PRANCEALOT, who came here from Europe and ran two bang-up seconds in listed stakes at Del Mar and Santa Anita, and SIMMERING, who is two-for-three, including a victory over Lady Prancealot at Del Mar before finishing behind her in the Surfer Girl Stakes last time. Coming from Canada in excellent form is MY GAL BETTY, winner of three of her four starts with a strong second in the Natalma. She seems to love the yielding ground, but post 13 will not help her. My longshot selection is BELLE LAURA, who finally drew a halfway decent post after drawing post 9 of 9, then 9 of 10, and finally 13 of 13 in the Jessamine Stakes. Yet she closed from the clouds to finish a strong third. She will break from post 8 this time; still not great, but it puts her in a far better position. Her maiden victory at Churchill Downs was a very powerful effort. If she can handle the expected soft to yielding ground she could be right there at a huge price.
JUVENILE FILLIES – Good luck separating the top five fillies in here. BELLAFINA, JAYWALK, SIPPICAN HARBOR, SERENGETI EMPRESS, RESTLESS RIDER are all brilliant, top-class fillies and each one is a likely Eclipse winner with a victory. Four of these fillies are impressive group 1 winners and the other, Serengeti Empress, won a group 2 by 19 1/2 lengths at Churchill Downs and a listed stakes by 13 1/2 lengths. The likely favorite, Bellafina, has to make sure she doesn’t get caught too wide breaking from post 10, as she likes to be on or right off the pace. She definitely will outrun the two horses directly inside her, but with Jaywalk, Serengeti Empress, and VIBRANCE all having good speed, she could be four-wide going into the turn. If the pace is hot or even contentious, Spinaway winner Sippican Harbor should be flying late. But we really don’t know what her running style is, and she broke her maiden by 17 lengths on the front end, then was squeezed back at the start of the Spinaway and made a dramatic late run from far back to win going away. Restless Rider is two-for-two at Churchill Downs, including an 11 1/4-length romp in the Debutante Stakes, has a two-turn race under her belt after winning the Alcibiades at Keeneland, and has the right running style, sitting right behind the speed. Trainer Kenny McPeek is always dangerous in Kentucky, and she might be the value horse in what promises to be a real barn burner. Sippican Harbor looks a bit high at 12-1 considering her unlimited potential. If you’re looking for a good hit and want to try to beat Bellafina, as well as Jaywalk and Serengeti Empress, an exacta box of RESTLESS RIDER and SIPPICAN HARBOR should pay a decent price.
JUVENILE TURF – This race does not looks as strong as the Juvenile Filly Turf, and, believe it or not, there is not a single Chad Brown horse in the field. The Euros are not as deep or as strong, and no one really stands out to me. Two of the leading contenders, CURRENT, from the Todd Pletcher barn, and the Aidan O’Brien-trained ANTHONY VAN DYCK, drew posts 12 and 14, respectively, so they will have to overcome that and try to work out a good trip. Godolphin’s LINE OF DUTY is a dangerous horse after winning the group 3 Prix du Conde at Deauville, and the son of Galileo has never been worse than second in four career starts. His 10-1 odds seem pretty high in this field and he should not be ignored. With a mile and an eighth race already under his belt, he has a great foundation under him, is all class, and will take a lot beating. The American horse I like is only listed at 5-1, which makes it difficult to find a bomb in here. That is FORTY UNDER, who displayed great professionalism and patience, waiting for room and then finally extricating himself from traffic and pouring it on in the stretch to win the Pilgrim Stakes, running down the With Anticipation Stakes runnerup SOMELIKEITHOTBROWN, who had opened a two-length lead at the eighth pole. And he did it over the yielding ground he likely will encounter on Friday. There is a 30-1 shot who bears watching. THE BLACK ALBUM began his career in the French provinces, winning twice and finishing third in his career debut. He was then sent to Deauville, where he was fourth in the Prix Francois Boutin at seven furlongs before heading to Longchamp, where he upset the seven-furlong Prix la Rochette at 16-1. He was challenged in the final furlong but hung on tenaciously to win by a nose. This is another big step up in class, but for 30-1 he does have some upside and is improving, and could continue to improve stretching out to a mile. That is your longshot special. As for Forty Under, he should be included in all exotics, but likely will be too low to bet straight win, at least for those looking for a price. But there is a lot to like about him.
JUVENILE – It’s going to be tough beating grade 1 winners GAME WINNER and COMPLEXITY, representing East and West. I ranked the Juvenile horses as potential Kentucky Derby prospects in a recent column and ranked CODE OF HONOR No. 1 and DUELING No. 3. Not only do both these colts look to be classic material, they have a pretty good shot to win the Juvenile or at least be right there. Code of Honor is trained by Shug McGaughey and he definitely will be bet, and definitely can upset the two favorites. But Dueling is listed at a generous 20-1. On paper, he has catching up to do if he is going to compete with these horses, but, visually, I loved what I saw in his maiden victory at Santa Anita, and that was reaffirmed watching him gallop over the Churchill Downs surface, which he seemed to relish. He has a very fluid way of moving and just has a look of class about him. Of course, he’ll also have to contend with major stakes winners KNICKS GO and MIND CONTROL. I would also consider SIGNALMAN as a legitimate longshot after his troubled second in the Breeders’ Futurity, getting bumped pretty soundly, losing his action briefly, and shrugging it off, but post 14 is a bit troublesome. The other longshot I like is the Chad Brown-trained STANDARD DEVIATION, who I also had ranked pretty high as a Derby horse. After an impressive off-the-turf maiden victory going seven furlongs at Saratoga in his career debut, he drew post 13 in the Breeders’ Futurity and dropped way out of it before putting in a sustained rally to finish third in an excellent performance. He looks to be a live horse in the exotics. So my two longshots in here are DUELING and STANDARD DEVIATION, the latter a lesser price at 12-1, if not to win then to hit the board. But for my true longshot special for win and in the exotics, it has to be Dueling.