How to bet the 2018 Commonwealth Turf
Churchill Downs (c) Coady Photography
by Dick Powell
A field of seven is entered for the Commonwealth Turf (G3) at Churchill Downs for straight three-year-olds going 1 1/16 miles on the turf. Let’s take a deep dive on the runners.
RERIDE (#1) (4-1) won his turf debut second time out last October at Keeneland going a mile on soft turf. He won two minor stakes races on the dirt and his connections decided to take a shot in the $2 million U.A.E. Derby (UAE-G2) at Meydan. Unfortunately, the bay colt ran into Mendelssohn, who won the race by 18 1/2 lengths. Reride was another three lengths back in third.
Trainer Steve Asmussen took Reride off the Triple Crown trail, played the turf card and entered him 11 weeks later in the $200,000 Mystic Lake Derby at Canterbury Downs, but the colt could not overcome post 12. Back on dirt, he ran fourth of five in the Jim Dandy Stakes (G2) at Saratoga, then went back to turf at Kentucky Downs, where he could not overcome a troubled start. Reride’s last start was intended to be on the turf but was run on a sloppy main track at Keeneland, where he just missed going gate to wire by a half-length.
The son of Candy Ride has some class but, more importantly, he has good early speed from the rail. Florent Geroux picks up the mount.
MARZO (#2) (12-1) broke his maiden in his turf debut three starts back at Ellis Park, then returned at Keeneland to just miss. Nine days ago, his intended turf race at Churchill Downs was rained out but he showed good speed before tiring on a sloppy track going two turns. Albin Jimenez, who combined with trainer Ben Colebrook aboard Knicks Go to upset the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) at 70-1 and then almost won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) at 40-1, picks up the mount. The gelded son of Medaglia d’Oro started his career on the dirt for Todd Pletcher but has improved greatly since switching barns and surfaces.
SNIPER KITTEN (#3) (7-2) broke his maiden in good time second time out going two turns at Gulfstream Park. He came back and beat allowance foes at Keeneland before shipping to Canterbury Park where he took down the Mystic Lake Derby going a mile in very fast time. With that form established, trainer Mike Maker took a big swing in the Secretariat Stakes (G1), but he drew post 10 and could not overcome it. Last out was an even effort at Indiana Downs, so Maker gave him a 66-day rest and spots him well here with Tyler Gaffalione.
MARCH TO THE ARCH (#4) (5-2) stayed with Florida-breds for the winter, then ventured north with two good efforts on the Tapeta at Woodbine. He won the $100,000 Toronto Cup going nine furlongs at Woodbine, then was a good third in faster time in Saratoga’s Saranac Stakes (G3). Last out, he rallied wide to be fourth, missing by 1 1/4 lengths, in the Hill Prince Stakes (G2) at Belmont Park and now draws in the middle with Julien Leparoux, who is only 12 percent with his turf mounts this year.
YEAR OF THE KITTEN (#5) (15-1) is a son of leading turf sire Kitten’s Joy who began his career with Mike Maker. When he began to flounder, the dark bay colt raced in a pair of $40,000 claimers with a win and a second. The second start saw him claimed by Pat Reynolds, but that enabled Maker to take him back for $50,000 for new owners Three Diamonds Farm. This is a pretty good jump up in class and I would expect we will see him this winter at Gulfstream Park going much longer on turf.
ZERO GRAVITY (#6) (8-1) took nine starts to finally break his maiden, getting the job done at Canterbury Park in late June. His only turf start since then was not much, a seventh in a Kentucky Downs stakes, and now he takes on Grade 3 company for trainer Joe Sharp, who wins 18 percent with his overall turf starters. The Orb colt’s last two starts in off-the-turf races put him in the mix with these but he will have to show big improvement back on the green.
HOT SPRINGS (#7) (2-1) has an attractive pattern of development. The horse-for-the-course broke his maiden second time out on the turf at Churchill and came right back to beat allowance foes. He was a good second in the Kent Stakes (G3) at Delaware Park next out, then was an even fourth behind March to the Arch at Saratoga in the Saranac. Last out under the Twin Spires, Hot Springs won the $100,000 Jefferson Cup Stakes race going nine furlongs. Ricardo Santana Jr. wins 21 percent riding for trainer Steve Asmussen, but only 9 percent on the turf.
Steve Asmussen and Mike Maker have two horses each in here, but they are all with different owners so I can’t assume one will be used to help the other. There seems to be decent pace, so trips should not be important as the field of seven has plenty of time to get stretched out. I look for the race to bunch up at the top of the stretch and then it is a question of who can quicken the best.
I like how Mike Maker has managed Sniper Kitten and he will be my top choice and key. The bay colt flourished on the turf from the start of the year and was pointed toward the Secretariat Stakes. He did everything right up to then but post 10 and a classy group did him in.
Horses just don’t bounce right back three weeks later, even against lesser company, after having an upwards trajectory, so it was no surprise that he was beaten last out. Maker has given him 66 days off and Sniper Kitten should be much sharper in this one with two speed horses to his inside.
I look for Gaffalione to sit behind them on the rail in third and wait for running room. Sometimes short fields yield overlaid exactas so we will key Sniper Kitten with Hot Springs.
Exacta Box: #3, #7