by The Oracle
Today’s contest is at Churchill Downs where they are running a twilight card for opening day. My sources tell me that this is the first twilight Road to Kentucky contest card in the history of the Road to Kentucky contest. The double point bonus race is the Derby Trial which features Travelin Man and Machen, horses we have seen on previous contest cards that had distance limitations or weren’t up to the Kentucky Derby grind. Travelin Man will be a strong favorite for Pletcher at this 1 turn mile distance. Since this is opening night, there are no stats concerning track bias or favorite win% for Churchill. I will continue my strategy of picking as few favorites as possible and hope to be right 2 or 3 times at a good price. Good luck with your selections!
Race 1: This is a claiming route for 3+ fillies and mares at 1m1/16th. I selected Paoli Princess (ML 5-1) who moves from the Fair Grounds turf to the Churchill dirt and switches back to jockey Napravnik. She was aboard for a win and a second in her two starts with the horse.
The Result: 4-5-1 in the opener as Paoli Princess ran by them late at a heavily supported 6/5 to beat Yesenia (8-1) and Alpha Nova (5-1). I guess the morning line maker was a little rusty! Yesenia got the most contest points for her second place finish.
Maximum Points: Yesenia 106
Maximum Score: 106
My Score: 104
Race 2: This is a maiden claimer for 3+ at 1m1/16th. I selected Devil’s Hammock (ML 12-1) who showed speed at Fair Grounds running against maiden special weights. He returns from a brief layoff with three workouts over the Churchill track. He also ran in some key maiden races at the Fair Grounds.
The Result: 4-6-5 as Will’s Wildcat (7/2) sprinted wire to wire with Borel up to win easily over Thankfulness (4-1) and Devil’s Hammock (15-1). My selection made a brief bid on the turn but was a well beaten third. He needed the lead and didn’t get it.
Maximum Points: Will’s Wildcat 182
Maximum Score: 288
My Score: 186
Race 3: This is a maiden claimer for fillies and mares 3+ at 6f. I selected Smokinalisa (ML 5-1) who is a second time starter shipping in from the Fair Grounds. She showed speed in her debut and was bet down to 3-1 that day. She will need to break sharply from the rail.
The Result: 2-7-4 as Ridgester shipped in from Oaklawn Park and closed strongly for an easy win at 6-1 over W.W’s Senorita (5-1) and Pure Mary (7/2). My selection battled with the favored Pray for Grace on the front end and faded to fourth at 6-1.
Maximum Points: Ridgester 266
Maximum Score: 554
My Score: 186
Race 4: This is an allowance race for 3+ at 6f. I selected Berberis (ML 4-1) who should get a good trip from off the pace against this field with three confirmed front runners. He is trained by Steve Asmussen which practically assures he will be less than 4-1 at post time! Berberis won 2 of his last 4 at Oaklawn Park.
The Result: Chalk central as the favorites dominated 7-5-3. Chipshot (9/5) won easily and Berberis (2-1) just edged Henry’s Time (4-1) at the wire.
Maximum Points: Chipshot 114
Maximum Score: 668
My Score: 236
Race 5: This is a claiming race for 3+ at 6f. I selected Irish Emperor (ML 6-1) who has a good closing kick at the sprint distance. He was sent long in his last start at Oaklawn Park but fits much better in this spot. The question is whether or not the early pace will be fast enough to set up his late run.
The Result: 8-10-1 in a four horse blanket on the wire. Irish Emperor (9-1) prevailed in a long drive over Steph’s Sonset (10-1) and Elsaroarin (5/2). Early speed hasn’t looked particularly good so far!
Maximum Points: Irish Emperor 346
Maximum Score: 1,014
My Score: 582
Race 6: This is a maiden special weight for fillies and mares 3+ at 6.5f. I tried to make a case for a longer priced horse but couldn’t do it. I selected Time Counts (ML 9/5) who has improved each race and has sharp early speed. It looks very likely that the two favorites will finish 1-2 in this race so I reluctantly conceded to the chalk. She ships in from Santa Anita for the Asmussen barn. If she doesn’t win it then Vegas Trip, a shipper from Gulfstream from the Romans barn probably will.
The Result: First time starter Senacher pulled a HUGE upset at 29-1 as she rallied up the rail to just beat Time Counts (3/2) at the wire. Ensign’s Soul (23-1) finished third. The winner was sired by Include, who is decent with debut runners at 12% but the trainer/jockey combo was pretty obscure. Congratulations if you found that one! Senacher win points were capped at 600 points.
Maximum Points: Senacher 912
Maximum Score: 1,926
My Score: 666
Race 7: This is a claiming race for 3+ at 6f. I selected Flatter Me Blue (ML 8-1) who has been off about 18 months and drops to the bottom of the claiming ladder. If he doesn’t win he will probably finish off the board. I’m not thrilled with the pick; the horse is a big X factor.
The Result: 14-11-10 was the result as the three outside runners completed the trifecta. Valid Citizen (4-1) defeated Buddha Can Dance (20-1) and Joe Six Pack (2-1). Jockey C. Roman won his second consecutive race! Buddha Can Dance got the most contest points for his second place finish. My selection was in the early pace battle but faded badly at 3-1. Not a good pick on my part…
Maximum Points: Buddha Can Dance 222
Maximum Score: 2,148
My score: 666
Race 8: This is the featured G3 The Cliff’s Edge Derby Trial for 3yos at 1m. Travelin Man looks strong for Pletcher off his races at Gulfstream Park but he will need to stretch his speed for another furlong. I selected Dominus (ML 10-1) who ships in from Santa Anita for trainer Asmussen after a solid maiden win. There is plenty of speed in this race and I thought Dominus might be the highest price between Machen, Indiano and Dominus who might be able to sit off the pace. If Travelin Man doesn’t win it really looks up for grabs.
The Result: A great race finished 3-6-5 as Machen (6-1) flew late to nail Dominus (5-1) on the line. J J’s Lucky Train (5-1) was two lengths back in third. The race set up differently than I expected with Dominus taking it to the 8/5 favorite Travelin Man early, although the pace was relatively soft with a half mile in 46.6. Dominus put the favorite away at the top of the stretch and looked home free until Machen rolled late. The betting also surprised me as I was expecting Dominus to be a much higher price than Machen. Of course, part of the game is trying to predict off-odds when making selections and I had a bad line in my head on this one. Machen was the play at 6-1. Another bonus race favorite bites the dust!
Maximum Points: Machen 580
Maximum Score: 2,728
My Score: 898
Race 9: This is an Allowance race for 3+ fillies and mares at 1m1/16th on the turf. In a wide open race I selected West Court (ML 20-1) who exits a pair of listed stakes races over the polytrack at Turfway Park where she ran just okay. Her form isn’t the best; the selection is really based on some strong trainer stats for Lopresti with layoff and allowance races of this type. In a race where I’m guessing, might as well guess with a big longshot…
The Result: 5-2-1 in a very formful finish for such a wide open race. Oregon Lady (Ire) (5/2) was up in time over In the Rough (4-1) and Aquitaine (10-1). My selection was stalking the slow early fractions in second but faded on the turn at 31-1.
Maximum Points: Oregon Lady (Ire) 158
Maximum Score: 2,886
My Score: 898
Race 10: This is a claiming race for 3yo fillies at 6f. I selected Knock Out Princess (ML 8-1) based on her projected pace advantage against this field. She has been very quick early in her races at Mountaineer Park and projects to get a lone “F” trip in this race. I doubt a Mountaineer shipper will get a lot of play.
The Result: 1-10-5 was the order of finish as Need an Angel (5-1) closed strongly on the outside to nip favored Needadrink (6/5) at the wire. Sober Living (4-1) finished third. My selection sprinted clear at 12-1 but weakened late and lost the photo for show.
Maximum Points: Need an Angel 204
Maximum Score: 3,090
My Score: 898
Race 11: This is a starter allowance for 3+ at 1m1/16th. I selected Babu (ML 6-1) who has finished 1-2 in 9 of his last 10 races at various second tier Midwest tracks. He has a lot of early speed which I have noticed isn’t really an advantage tonight!
The result: 9-7-1 as Babu (6-1) was able to slow down the early pace and wire the field over Atlantic Paws (7/2) and Big Flirt (7-1). Babu was very strong to wire a field on this track tonight!
Maximum Points: Babu 256
Maximum Score: 3,346
My Score: 1,154
Summary: Senacher, the first time starter in race 6 was the key to the contest as he was worth maximum points on the win price. Machen was a nice 6-1 double point horse in the Derby Trial and a solid overlay in my view. Something in the 1,700-2,000 point range will be a strong candidate for the top weekly prize. Next week is the Kentucky Derby which looks as wide open as any year I can remember. Dialed In is the likely favorite but we have seen how chaos can easily rule the race depending on the post-position draw, the break, traffic, pace, etc.!!! I will be looking forward to the “greatest 2 minutes in sports” with a mint julep in hand! See you next week.