2022 Opening Night Plays for Churchill Downs
The action gets underway beneath the Twin Spires on Saturday evening with a very good 10-race card set to commence the meeting.
Starter allowance tilt for fillies and mares going 6 1/2 panels on the main surface attracted six. #3 Delta Gamma Cats (9-5) was a big second on the surface in November while facing $50,000 claiming foes, where she registered a lifetime best 87 Brisnet Speed figure. A repeat of that performance by the Vancouver filly will be good enough to take down this cast under Rafael Bejarano.
Maiden special weight event at 1 1/4 miles on the dirt intrigues me. Seven fillies and mares will go postward in the endurance test where early speed is always dangerous. Todd Pletcher’s #4 Five Prizes (5-2) didn’t show much on the All-Weather last time out, but I expect the daughter of Bernardini to relish the move back to the dirt in this spot. The pacey bay has gone close when second in both lifetime races on the main strip, and I expect her to graduate under Flavien Prat.
An overflow field of 14 fillies and mares will dash 5 1/2 furlongs on the lawn in this race, which I believe is a good betting affair. I have a lot of respect for morning-line choice #10 Bay Storm (9-5) and wouldn’t be surprised to see her come out on top, but #6 Sterling Miss (5-1) offers much better value. Trained by Greg Foley, the speedy seven-year-old is in good current form, and the chestnut has also won or placed in four of her six lifetime tries on the green. The Kentucky-bred will be forcing the action from the break in a field lacking an abundance of pace.
A huge field is signed on for the finale, a $10,000 maiden claiming dirt endeavor at seven panels. #4 Knightly Mischief (4-1) tailed off towards the latter part of 2021, but the Kenny McPeek pupil showed enough to me early in his career to single him to close out the card. The Goldencents colt runs with Lasix off the layoff with a big class drop, and he should be fit with some solid morning drills in anticipation of Saturday.