Night racing at Churchill Downs

An all-graded stakes Pick 4 highlight's an excellent Saturday night card at Churchill Downs this week. Here's what I noted on my first pass through the PPs.

The Pick 4 begins at 7:57 ET with the Matt Winn Stakes (G3), for three-year-olds going 1 1/16 miles on dirt. I could see myself going deep in this five-horse field on my main ticket (four of the five!?). But Macho Macho is interesting to me in here if I can get a price going first-time around two turns. He broke slowly two back in the loss to Bourbon Courage (watch that replay, 3-24-12 FG R10) and then won a very fast allowance race on May 5.

Next up is the Regret Stakes (G3), for 3yo fillies going 1 1/8 miles on the turf. I think I will bet against the ML favorite Coup in here. She's a nice filly, but the field she beat at Pimlico was just ok. Three fillies catch my eye. Centre Court is just coming off a maiden win, but she was a tough-luck runner-up in her previous two starts behind very strong winners. She came home in 35-flat after being checked and earned a fast speed figure under a hand ride here on May 19.

The filly who beat Centre Court two back at Keeneland, Colonial Flag, was really impressive when she came back to win a NW 1 at Belmont. This 3/4 sister to Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1) winner Shared Account is a gangly filly with a big, energetic stride.

I also might take a flyer at 8-1 on Funny Proposition. This Medaglia d'Oro filly goes first-time turf and her dam was all turf. Funny Proposition was wide pressing a very strong pace on May 4 and still drew off to win.

Next up will be the Fleur de Lis Handicap (G2), where 2011 Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic (G1) winner Royal Delta is 4-to-5 on the ML. This will be Royal Delta's first race since finishing 9th in the world's richest race the Dubai Wold Cup. Royal Delta got shuffled back in Dubai and it did not look like she liked the surface that day. She is a tempting but uncreative single. Probably a good idea to work up a second ticket using 2nd-off-the-layoff St. John's River and pace presser Afleeting Lady, who has three wins and two seconds in six starts at CD

The sequence ends with the Stephen Foster Handicap (G1), which drew a very nice field of nine older horses going 1 1/8 miles on dirt. Note that Wise Dan is expected to run, and stablemate Successful Dan to scratch. The two price shots that jump out at me are Fort Larned and Nehro (who gets in light and should get a nice pace to run at). I would also cover Ron the Greek and Alternation.

Who do you like on Saturday?

24 Comments

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JayJay

Thanks!  Now at least I have an idea of who to play in the 2nd and 3rd leg.  I have this nagging feeling Royal Delta will be short so I'm trying to beat her.  I think I'll go with Afleeting Lady as my 2nd horse in that leg.

Also decided not to single Right To Vote, I like Neck N'neck as my 2nd horse in the 1st leg.

15 Jun 2012 12:02 AM
-Keelerman

Nice post, Pete! I've really been enjoying your blog.

In the Matt Winn Stakes, I find Stealcase an intriguing horse. He's coming into the race in good form, having finished third in the Derby Trial Stakes (just a neck behind Paynter) and first in an allowance optional claiming race. My lone concern is that his best efforts have come in one-turn races, but he did break his maiden around two turns back in January.

Right to Vote is probably a safer selection, given how impressive his runner-up effort in the Peter Pan Stakes was. And even though he was 47-1, I do not believe it was in any way a fluke performance. I liked his chances going into the race based simply upon his third-place effort to Union Rags and Alpha in the Champagne Stakes last fall. So long as he breaks well, he appears to be the controlling speed in this race and should be the one to catch.

I agree entirely with your thoughts on the Regret Stakes. I've been a fan of Coup ever since she broke her maiden, and picked her to win the Hilltop Stakes, but she really couldn't have gotten a better trip that day, sitting seven lengths behind a speed duel in third while racing well clear of the rest of the field. She is obviously a talented filly, and I'm sure she'll win her fair share of races this year, but Centre Court and Colonial Flag look like better selections.

In the Fleur de Lis, Royal Delta does look best, and I won't be surprised at all if she wins. One longshot I do like is It's Tea Time, at 10-1 on the morning line. She has spent the majority of her career racing on turf and synthetic, but her dirt efforts -- as few and far between as they have been -- were very good. She won the off-the-turf Woodford Reserve Lake Placid Stakes (gr. III) at Saratoga in 2010, the same year that she finished fourth in the Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic behind Unrivaled Belle, Blind Luck, and Havre de Grace. Plus, I liked her performance last time out, in which she finished second to Afleeting Lady in an allowance optional claiming race after rating off of a slow pace. The presence of Sterling Madame should ensure a faster pace today, which could possibly set up a decent late run from It's Tea Time.

Finally, in the Stephen Foster Handicap, Wise Dan looks like a solid and tough to beat favorite. Even if you chalk up his huge Ben Ali Beyer as a one-time fluke that he won't repeat, one can't deny that he won the Clark Handicap (gr. I) here at Churchill in authoritative fashion. The Stephen Foster will be his second start of the year, so he should only be sharper, and he has been training brilliantly for this spot.

For a longshot, I like Rogue Romance. He is 2-for-3 this year, with his lone defeat coming in the Ben Ali Stakes over a synthetic track which he apparently didn't care for. From a Beyer speed figure perspective, he is not far behind the likes of Nehro, Ron the Greek, Mission Impazible, and Alternation. Granted, he would have to turn in a career-best performance to secure a victory, but I don't think trainer Kenny McPeek would be running him here if he didn't think he could contend. And at 30-1, he might be worth a look.

Also intriguing is Mission Impazible, who finished a so-so fourth last time out in the Pimlico Special. It wasn't the best of performances, but it's worth noting that he ran second in last year's Stephen Foster when coming off of a worse effort in the Alysheba Stakes (gr. III).

-Keelerman

15 Jun 2012 1:23 PM
Pete Denk

Keelerman-

Rogue Romance is interesting at 30-1 if you key off his dirt races.

I liked Steeelcase's last race quite a bit too. I am not going to take a stand in that race. 4-deep in the P4 (tossing Master Rick).

15 Jun 2012 4:25 PM
Slew

I don't know...saying the Stephen Foster drew a nice field is like saying Secretariat won the Belmont with a nice Margin.

This is a real powerhouse field, with some of the best older horses out there.  I can't think of one that I would care to see lose.  I keep wondering if there will be a blanket finish with at least half the field.  While partial to Ron The Greek and Nate's Mineshaft, I couldn't deny the prowess of Wise Dan or Alternation or Fort Larned or Nehro etc..etc.  I think the odds are too high for Rogue Romance; he's always had a beautiful efficient stride.  And I've learned never to take Mission Impazible for granted.  It will be more like a BC race than just another stakes race.  It should be awesome.

While I like Royal Delta, there was always something special about Rosie's gutsy ride on St. John's River in the KY Oaks.  Rosie will be her jockey again, and I think she has a great chance of stealing the race.  It may be Royal Delta's first race back...but...Mott wouldn't enter her unless she was ready to go.

It looks like we have a great day of racing coming tomorrow, and I, for one, can't wait.

15 Jun 2012 6:44 PM
woodshade

Pete Denk,

  Just wanted to thank you for your tip on a horse you liked. It was Wine Princess running at Churchhill on 6-8-12 in the 10th race. She came in 4th and I lost $50.00 on her. Please no more tips.

15 Jun 2012 8:42 PM
Evilbear

Will consider Sterling Madame in  Fleur de Lis. Last race was best effort, gets in light at 115. Only 3 weeks rest a concern.

15 Jun 2012 10:25 PM
Pete Denk

Hey Woodshade, sorry about Wine Princess. I liked her first two races, including the debut loss in the turf sprint at FG. I thought she might do well moving back to turf.

I also gave out 3-1 winner Love to Run and 6-1 winner Desert Blanc in the chat your are referring to. I missed on Wine Princess, Brimstone Island, and Paynter. That's still a healthy ROI.

Here's the chat transcript: cs.bloodhorse.com/.../live-blog-friday-june-8-at-noon-edt.aspx

15 Jun 2012 11:43 PM
Pete Denk

If the Stephen Foster was 1 1/4 miles, I would really like Ron the Greek and Nehro.

15 Jun 2012 11:56 PM
woodshade

Hi Pete.

 Just wanted to say, no big deal with Wine Princess. Wasn't the 1st time I lost $50. Normaly don't bet horses to win. My preferred bet is the Superfecta. Usally box 5 or 6 for $120 or $360. Some times I wil do a 4-4-6-6. Have done good this year. Up about $7500.

 Did not like when they came out with the $.10 bet. It took away from some big prices and some occasional "all" wins.

 Don't understand you guys looking to beat the favorites most fo thr time. Isn't it better to win something than lose. As I told Jason, horse racing is picking the winner, not trying to beat the winner, Thats why I box them.

 No body can pick all the winners. Good luck trying to win.

16 Jun 2012 9:18 AM
Pedigree Ann

Why isn't the Stephen Foster 10f? There is a serious hole in the schedule for older horses east of the Mississippi that a 10f Foster would fill.

With the Suburban, Monmouth H (aka A.L. Haskell, aka Iselin), Mass Cap, etc. all cut back from 10f to 9f or less, these horses aren't getting a chance to be tested at the full BC Classic distance.

Humans don't tune up for a championship 15k race by running nothing but 10k preliminaries; they run in a series of 15k races against more regional competition. Horses need the same sort of preparation to a) become conditioned for the distance and b) see if they are even suitable for the distance.

Hey, Churchill Downs. Call it "the Derby for older horses" in your advertising and make the Foster 10f.

16 Jun 2012 9:30 AM
JayJay

woodshade : Favorites don't always win.  Horse racing is gambling - picking the winner doesn't mean the winner is a favorite.  If you always box your bets, doesn't that mean you're always trying to beat the favorite?

Pete : Any thoughts on Alternation ?  He's NTRA's no. 1 horse but he seems to get 2nd billing to the Dan horses.  You even have him as an "also cover" on your P4 bets.  The only thing I can think of is that people are comparing the races they've won and the quality of the field but I think Alternation has beaten a solid field in his races this year.  Don't get me wrong, I love that Alternation is getting less attention, just wondering why.  I'm hoping he goes off at 7-2 or even 4-1, 5-1 which is possible considering this is a very sold field.

16 Jun 2012 11:40 AM
woodshade

JayJay,

 Yes I do box my bets and normally have the favorite included. Of course I don't want that one to win. I prefer turf races, They usually have more horses in them. But stay away from races if some never ran on the turf. Never know about those horses.

16 Jun 2012 12:24 PM
Pete Denk

JayJay-

It could be that I am also underestimating Alternation, who I think is a SOLID horse, but yeah like u said, I am using defensively in the pick 4.

I think he's really going to have to work out a trip in this race. There is a lot of speed and stalking speed and a couple deep closers.

16 Jun 2012 2:45 PM
Kevin

My best bet of the day is the 4 in race 6. I dabbled a cheap pick 4 with 1,4 with 3,4 with 1 with 3,4

16 Jun 2012 6:48 PM
JayJay

Pete : Yeah, I like him in this race, I don't know if Wise Dan is unbeatable or not but I'm not singling him.

Just made my bet online, hopefully I got it right :

$1 P4

3 / 3, 4, 8 / 3, 5 / 1, 7, 8

$.50 P4

4 / 3, 4, 7 / 3, 5 / 1, 7, 8

Good luck to all on your late P4 :)

16 Jun 2012 7:31 PM
Jockeygirl

I love watching horses run under the stars!! And it really helps horses stay away from heat and bugs.And it entertains fans! Love it!

16 Jun 2012 10:28 PM
LAZMANICK

Pedigree Ann

I totally agree.  The Foster should be at 10F.  I also think that the Woodward should be switched back to 10F also.

16 Jun 2012 11:28 PM
JayJay

I was right, I knew Afleeting Lady was much the best in the Fleur De Lis.  When they turned for home, I had no doubt that she wasn't going to give up the lead.  It was a little scary as there was a horse that was doing a workout, but good thing that horse went ahead by 8 lengths.  I'm not sure why they would let a horse do its workout during a real G2 race.   I'd like to know the name of that horse, she looked like a super horse with that workout.  Anyone know ?

I was so bummed that I didn't have Centre Court in my P4 but I was trying to get some value and felt it was that race where longshots would come in.  I felt a little better after the Foster.  Nate set some torrid pace and Wise Dan tracked him all the way but Ron The Greek saved a lot in the backstretch and he needed it to beat WD.  I'd like to see Nate in the Classic, I think he'll make things interesting just like he did in the Foster.

Pete : You were spot on with Alternation, I don't think they expected the pace to be that fast.  They were trying to chase Nate all throughout the race.  Still, I was expecting him to at least hit the board.

17 Jun 2012 1:36 AM
GunBow

Pedigree Ann:

Couldn't agree more about the lack of 10 furlong grade 1s for older males back East.

That's why the California series consisting of the Big Cap, Hollywood Gold Cup, and Pacific Classic is the standard for older males.  All 10 furlongs.

17 Jun 2012 2:03 AM
GunBow

JayJay:

That's funny.

Yep, they definitely shouldn't be allowing a horse to work right in front of a live race being run.  

Seriously though, Royal Delta was the best horse that ran at Churchill tonight.  Her time was a second faster than the Foster(5 lengths).  Yes, she ran it under optimal conditions, stalking cheaper speed and then waltzing home uncontested, but still.  Good luck beating her at 10 furlongs in the Del Cap.

17 Jun 2012 2:07 AM
GunBow

In the ;ast 35 runnings of the Santa Anita Handicap prior to this year's running, 2 Eastern shippers had emerged victorious.  One was Broad Brush, a multiple grade 1 winner who was near the top of his age-group at 3 and 4, and the other was Einstein, a 5-time grade 1 winner.  If one includes Milwaukee Brew, who was permanently relocated to Bobby Frankel's barn out West just before the 02' Big Cap, then we're discussing another quality horse; Milwaukee Brew not only won the Big Cap in 02', but the next year he joined John Henry as just the second horse to win two runnings of the Big Cap.  Additionally, Milwaukee Brew placed in the 02' Hollywood Gold Cup, Pacific Classic, and Breeder's Cup Classic.

Short story is that mediocre shippers don't win the Big Cap, at least not recently.  Yet many handicappers, writers, and fans, particularly back East, were acting like Ron the Greek had merely a grade 3 to his name.  True, the Big Cap field without Game on Dude wasn't vintage, but it featured a full field and it was still the Big Cap.

I thought Ron the Greek ran very well to be 2nd last out in the Oaklawn Cap when running into a slow pace, and then Mott gave him a little extra time to the Foster by skipping the Pimlico Special.  Mott is just such a first-rate horseman, and he's all class.

I don't think the Foster is going to produce a good speed figure, and like in the Big Cap it took the leaders almost crawling home to get Ron the Greek up, but that's now 2 BIG grade 1 races to his name.  And very importantly, Ron the Greek has won these two grade 1s in different geographic areas, one in California and the second back East in Kentucky.  His connections have sought out the best compeition ACROSS North America, and as a reward the horse is thoroughly deserving of the ranking as #1 older male(at least at 2 turns).

17 Jun 2012 2:22 AM
Rusty Weisner

JayJay:

That was priceless.

I'm glad I wasn't playing.  That's lousy to have try to imagine a way of beating Royal Delta there (I don't think I've ever seen a 4-5 ML choice go off at odds longer than 3-5).

I'll play a little bit of Belmont and Saratoga in July.  Good luck to everyone until then.

18 Jun 2012 11:27 AM
-Keelerman

I am in awe. Frankel looked absolutely amazing winning the Queen Anne Stakes this morning. He has the kind of acceleration rarely seen anywhere in the world. They way he kicked away from Excelebration inside the final quarter mile was truly spectacular to watch. What a magnificent horse!

Now let us imagine for a moment one of the most spectacular races of all time -- Frankel, Nijinsky, Sea the Stars, Sea-Bird, Mill Reef, and Brigadier Gerard facing each other in a straight, one-mile race. Who would triumph?

-Keelerman

19 Jun 2012 11:54 AM
Slew

Jay-Jay..priceless.  I really can't seem to figure out why they would schedule a workout in the middle of the Fleur De Lis.  I'm guessing no one wanted to run in a race against her.  Poor St John's River floundered..and gosh she is tiny...especially against the backdrop of a mare just loping along in her workout.

Keelerman: Frankel Was sensational..he really left no doubt who was boss...but the Ascot Stakes really got my attention when #11 went by in review.  Al Khawaneej looks like a monster...had to check his pedigree.  No wonder he reminded me of Rock Hard Ten.  He's by Arch out of an Acatenengo mare. And he is really BIG.  Great race, but he moved late and managed 2nd.

But Keelerman...Sea the Stars...it's time Frankel moved on to 10f.  

19 Jun 2012 5:56 PM

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