How to Play the Late Pick 5 on opening night at Churchill Downs
by SCOTT SHAPIRO
Tonight starts the Spring meeting at the home of the Kentucky Derby, Churchill Downs.
A 10-race card is on tap, including a pair of Pick 5s with the new player friendly 15% takeout rate. The first sequence begins in Race 2 with the second commencing in Race 6.
I am more interested in the later one, so let's take a look at the final five races on the Opening Night card.
The opening leg of the late Pick 5 is a $10,000 maiden claimer run at the tricky 6 1/2 furlong distance over the main track. I lack a strong opinion in this one, so I will use three horses that I hope get me onto the next leg.
#2 Unfading Beauty comes into the race in good form for trainer Greg Foley and makes a lot sense, but the 0-for-18 record makes her hard to get excited about at 7-2 on the line. I will include her nonetheless since this group lacks significant quality.
I will also use #6 Truckstop Diamond making the drop from special weight company into the maiden claiming ranks for the first time since her debut for trainer William Denzik Jr, and #7 Faith In Jimmy who took support at the windows in both of his first two starts for trainer Neil Howard, but failed to do any significant running. I expect to see more from her against this bunch.
The seventh is an allowance event conducted at 1 1/16 miles over the Churchill Downs lawn.
#5 Cruz Diez lacks early speed, but the son of Lookin at Lucky should be ready for a big effort in his third start of the form cycle for trainer Brendan Walsh. If they quick early jockey Adam Beschizza should have this gelding rolling late. The blinkers on will hopefully help get him into the race a bit earlier this evening.
I will also include #1 Plug Catcher who looks to make it three in a row for trainer Daniel Habeeb, as well as lukewarm 3-1-morning line favorite #8 Patriot Drive for trainer Tom Amoss.
My single comes in this high level optional claimer where I like the chances of #4 Miss Kentucky.
The daughter of Blame battled three-wide in a similar spot at Keeneland on April 6, but tired late. I am forgiving since she probably needed the race off a two and a half month freshening from trainer Rusty Arnold. This six-furlong dash has a lot less early speed signed on than the race in Lexington earlier this month. With the race off the short layoff under her belt she should be able to make the early lead and have enough late to earn career victory number four.
The featured William Walker Stakes run at five-eighths over the grass drew a competitive group of ten three-year-olds led by British-bred #7 Beckford. The son of Bated Breath makes his first start since a fifth place effort in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf (G1), but has a class edge over this field. He is hard to lean too heavily on though given his lack of early zip and the fact that Julien Leparoux is in the midst of a serious slump.
#4 Pure Mischief is one of the more intriguing price horses on the Opening Night card. The $350,000 OBS April 2017 purchase for John Oxley and trainer Mark Casse encountered trouble in his first start versus winners at Keeneland on April 7, but gets back to his preferred surface on Saturday. If he can move forward off of his impressive maiden breaking score in Louisiana two-back he can upset this group.
The finale is a starter allowance event contested at 1 1/16 miles over the main track. The pace should be honest in this two-turn event given the presence of #3 Surprise Prize, #7 Tribal Message, and #8 Pat's Shoes, so I will use a few runners from off the pace to try to close the sequence.
#1 Uno Mas Modelo stretches out to two turns after a pair of solid efforts sprinting at Gulfstream Park. At 20-1 you could do worse. Win machine #5 Mineyourownmalone is a deserving 2-1-favorite and hard to toss.
Here is my suggested wager:
Race 6: 2+6+7
Race 7: 1+5+8
Race 8: 4
Race 9: 3+4+7+9
Race 10: 1+5+6
Ticket Cost: $54
Let's this meet started right!