Handicapping Churchill Downs' Saturday program

Profile Picture: James Scully

November 18th, 2017

An 11-race card, including a pair of stakes, is on tap at Churchill Downs Saturday. Windy and rainy conditions are expected and here are my thoughts on the program:

Race 1: An October 29 starter allowance at Churchill Downs looks like a key race for this six-horse field. #2 Bye Crazy Eyes and #6 Over Rider weren’t able to make a serious impact against a visually impressive Nuclear Option that day, finishing fourth and fifth, respectively, but they figure to relish the drop today against four rivals who haven’t run fast enough in previous starts. Giving a slight edge to Over Rider, who posted a nice win two back at the one-turn mile distance and should appreciate the stretch back out after a slow start last time at 6 ½-furlongs, but will use both runners in any multi-race wagers.

Race 2: #1 Big Exchange dropped three straight as the favorite before recording back-to-back wins and merits respect for a Brad Cox stable that is making a serious push to win the November meet training title. But the 7-5 morning line choice appears vulnerable in my estimation. He broke his maiden in a weak off-the-turf event at Indiana Grand and exits a non-winners of two lifetime score at Churchill with little-to-no pace, utilizing a favorable forward trip with a 6-furlong split in 1:14 3/5. Remains dangerous (top last-race BRIS Speed of 86) but envisioning different circumstances today against a better field.

#5 Private Party crushed foes on the lead two back at today’s 1 1/16-mile trip and gained valuable seasoning last time against a solid field at a one-turn mile. He’s won on an off track and stretching back to two turns should benefit him. With superior BRIS E1 Pace numbers to his credit, the gelding looks like the one to catch with Alex Canchari and it’s no surprise to see a son of Mineshaft continue to develop with racing experience. The 3-year-old Private Party will be looking for his third win from the last six starts today.

Race 3: Chris Hartman appears to have gotten away with entering #4 Fort Fortitude for a $50,000 tag in his September 23 debut at Churchill Downs. The 3-year-old gelding delivered a smashing maiden win, sitting just off the speed before exploding to win going away by eight lengths, and registered outstanding BRIS Speed (90) and Pace (90-90-94) numbers. Bred for a wet track (Twirling Candy offspring 23% & Cherokee Run damsire), Fort Fortitude has plenty of upside and doesn’t appear to be facing an imposing group of rivals.

Race 4: Excited to see #8 Tap Daddy, who has the potential to be a good 3-year-old for Steve Asmussen. The youngster took some betting action when making his debut on dirt in a salty Saratoga maiden (winner Sporting Chance came back to capture the Hopeful [G1] and runner-up Givemeaminit exits a fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile [G1]) and Tap Daddy earned his first victory in eye-catching fashion when switching to turf for his second start, scoring by a widening 3 ¼-length margin at Kentucky Downs. His next start, the Bourbon (G3), was moved from turf to a sloppy track and Tap Daddy performed admirably to miss by only a head while being roughed up in the stretch drive. He failed to draw into the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf from the also-eligibles list at Del Mar and as a result, the versatile Scat Daddy colt appears poised to pick up a confidence-building victory in this spot before returning to stakes company next time.

Race 5: Difficult to get too creative in this spot with #8 Limousine Liberal running his best races at Churchill Downs and towering over the competition in this listed stakes. He’s 2-for-2 on off tracks.

Race 6: Rain is expected and that could dampen the chances of 12 Last Drop of Wine, who is the one to beat at short odds. Bret Calhoun trainee showed good speed recording a pair of fourths versus maiden special weight foes at Remington and drops in for a $15,000 tag today with leading rider Corey Lanerie, but sire Sing Baby Sing is only a 10% mud sire from 100+ starters and Last Drop of Wine has never raced on an off track.

#3 Majestic Threat is bred top and bottom for wet conditions and exits an improved front-running performance in his second start for Steve Asmussen. He’s the pick with Ricardo Santana Jr. #9 Dr Spaulding will also be used in multi-race wagers. Gelding has finished third to a pair of nice winners (Nuclear Options and Schliffy) in both starts over the track and may continue to move forward here.

Race 7: #7 Jokasa registered a field-best 89 BRIS Speed rating in her last start at 6-furlongs, scoring by a 1 ¼-length margin at Keeneland earlier this year, and the City Zip mare broke her maiden at Churchill Downs on a wet track and also finished third versus allowance foes under sloppy conditions. This $30k claiming heat appears to set up well for her late kick. #2 Like a Haint figures to send from her inside post and looms as a wire-to-wire threat if she takes to expected wet conditions.

Race 8: Watch the tote board in this contentious maiden special weight. #4 Tiz a Legacy is listed at 12-1 and interested to see whether the Ian Wilkes trainee takes action in her second start. She ran well in sloppy conditions at Keeneland, passing half the field in the latter stages to be fifth, and Wilkes doesn’t mind giving horses a race. I’m expecting improvement and will give the Tiznow filly a slight edge, #9 Pinot is another one to consider at a possible price – Into Mischief filly showed good speed from the inside against a tough field last time and figures to appreciate any moisture in the track

Race 9: Previous connections gave up on #4 It’s the Truth last time, entering her for a $40k tag at Keeneland, and leading trainer Cox takes over the handling duties. The 4-year-old filly has won two of her last three wet-track starts in convincing fashion and may appreciate the cutback in trip. She’ll be forwardly placed and has a chance to steal it with Alex Canchari. #8 Mythical Tale won her last start from an outside post at Churchill two back and should appreciate the draw after a less-than-favorable trip from the rail last time. She could receive the right trip with her tactical speed.

Race 10: Yielding conditions expected and #2 Tricky Escape ran a good race when finishing second to Kitten’s Roar on soft ground two back. That rival came back to finish second in the E.P. Taylor (G1) and romp in the Goldikova (G2) at Del Mar, and Tricky Escape registered an excellent 107 BRIS Late Pace rating when capturing the Violet (G3) three back. Her last appearance came at a one-mile distance that is too short for the 4-year-old and Tricky Escape will look to finish fastest of all at today’s 1 1/8-mile trip.

Race 11: Donald Habeeb has had some success in the first start off the claim over the past 12 months and haltering #7 Oater for a $10k tag last time could yield immediate dividends today. Ten-pound apprentice Edgar Morales stays aboard and will be hustling from the start and the Smoke Glacken colt didn’t run poorly in a pair of wet track starts earlier in his career. Like Oater’s chances on the front end.

Good luck!