Churchill Downs: How to bet the $500,000-guaranteed Pick 5

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

May 30th, 2020

Saturday’s late Pick 5 at Churchill Downs is shaping up to be an ultra-competitive sequence.

With 67 horses entered across the five races, there are plenty of possible outcomes for handicappers to consider. Throw in a guaranteed pool of $500,000, and the potential exists for a very big payoff.

Let’s tackle the sequence on a $60 budget:

Race 7: Winning Colors (G3)

This 6-furlong dash looks fairly straightforward. #8 Mia Mischief won the Humana Distaff (G1) at Churchill last spring and is 2-for-2 this year, while the blazingly fast Eight Belles (G2) winner #2 Break Even recently cruised to an effortless allowance victory at Oaklawn Park. Both have posted multiple triple-digit Brisnet Speed ratings, stamping them as the fastest runners in the Winning Colors field, so we’ll use them equally to kick off the Pick 5.

Race 8: Maiden Special Weight

The 3-year-olds #3 Mau Mau and #8 Ashiham appeared poised for improvement in this 1 1/16-mile maiden test on the main track. The stoutly-bred Mau Mau can step forward in his second start for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott, while Ashiham—a grandson of Horse of the Year Azeri—should show more speed while adding blinkers and stretching out in distance with hot jockey John Velazquez in the saddle.

#7 Bear Alley, a front-runner switching back to dirt after finishing second over the Gulfstream Park grass, is also worth including in this competitive heat. Sold for $525,000 as a yearling, Bear Alley is bred to be a late-maturing sort and is slowly improving for longtime Churchill trainer Dale Romans.

Race 9: Allowance Optional Claiming

This wildly competitive 5 1/2-furlong turf sprint is difficult to dissect. Hitting the “ALL” button could be a viable strategy, but we’ll try to survive the sequence with #7 Bingwa (a delicate 4-year-old switching back to grass for trainer Wesley Ward), #9 Cardamon (a Juddmonte Farms homebred trying the lawn after success on dirt), and #12 Dixieincandyland (a fast allowance winner at Gulfstream Park).

We’ll also use course-and-distance allowance winner #13 Even Beat and the stakes-experienced #14 Hidden Facts if they draw in off the also-eligible list.

Race 10: Allowance Optional Claiming

Trainer Shug McGaughey appears to have #8 Top Seed poised for a big effort in this 1 1/16-mile allowance test. A son of Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Orb, Top Seed is 2-for-3 so far and absolutely crushed his rivals in a 6 1/2-furlong dash at Tampa Bay Downs last month, powering clear to win by nine lengths.

Top Seed is bred to stretch out and has the tactical speed to be a factor from the start under Churchill’s leading rider Corey Lanerie. A swift half-mile workout on May 25 suggests Top Seed remains in fine form for his two-turn debut. The Phipps Stable homebred looms as a possible single, but we’ll back him up with #7 Fearless, who posted a 107 Brisnet Speed rating three starts back when dominating a 1 1/16-mile allowance race at Gulfstream by 8 1/2 lengths.

Race 11: Mint Julep H. (G3)

Hot trainer Brad Cox holds a strong hand in this 1 1/16-mile grass race with #1 Juliet Foxtrot and #2 Beau Recall, a pair of Grade 1-placed mares dropping in class for their 2020 debuts. Both have proven to be consistent performers against top competition and offer contrasting running styles—Juliet Foxtrot has speed and Beau Recall is a strong late runner, so no matter what pace scenario unfolds on Saturday, one or the other should benefit. We’ll use both to wrap up the Pick 5.

Race 7, 50-cent Pick 5: 2,8 with 3,7,8 with 7,9,12,13,14 with 7,8 with 1,2 ($60)

Good luck!

The Kentucky Derby returns to Churchill Downs on Saturday, Sept. 5.