Why I'm Betting Mr. Misunderstood in the River City Handicap

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

November 14th, 2018

He’s arguably the fastest horse on paper, he has a perfect record over the local turf course, and he’s dropping in class out of a Grade 1 race. What’s not to like about #3 Mr. Misunderstood in Saturday’s $100,000 River City Handicap (gr. III) at Churchill Downs?

I certainly don’t see any convincing reasons to oppose him. Trained by Brad Cox, the four-year-old son of Archarcharch has compiled a 10-for-15 record on turf, a run of success that includes victories in the Wise Dan Stakes (gr. II), Commonwealth Turf Stakes (gr. III), and the Jefferson Cup Stakes at Churchill Downs. True, he’s been beaten in his last two starts, but one was a respectable third-place finish in the Tourist Mile over the unique, undulating turf course at Kentucky Downs, and the other was a sixth-place finish in a deep, competitive renewal of the Shadwell Turf Mile (gr. I) over a rain-soaked course at Keeneland that he might not have cared for.

You can make a case that Mr. Misunderstood might be a bit better going a mile than the 1 1/8 miles he’ll have to negotiate on Saturday, but he does boast a win and a second from three starts over this distance and his class should be enough to carry him the extra furlong.

I’m planning to key Mr. Misunderstood on top in the exacta and trifecta, but who to use underneath? #4 Oscar Nominated is a multiple graded stakes winner, but he’s generally been at his best running 1 ½ miles, and his last few races have been a bit dull by his past standards. #2 Postulation is another accomplished graded stakes winner, but like Oscar Nominated he’s enjoyed his strongest success going 1 ½ miles or further, so the substantial cutback in distance is a question mark.

In contrast, Mr. Misunderstood’s Cox-trained stablemate #5 Big Changes appears to be on the rise with five straight victories under his belt this year, including a hard-fought triumph in a 1 1/16-mile allowance race at Keeneland last month. At six years old, this son of Midshipman seems to have found his best stride and could have a chance to finish on the board at a nice price.

The same goes for #8 Sir Dudley Digges, who finished a close third behind the talented Aklow in a slow-paced renewal of the Kentucky Downs Preview Calumet Farm Turf Cup Stakes at Ellis Park in August. Racing for the high-profile team of trainer Mike Maker and owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey, Sir Dudley Digges has won three of his four starts at Churchill Downs and should be right at home going 1 1/8 miles on turf, which seems to be the best fit for him these days.

Here’s how I would play the race:

Update: Due to the scratches of Oscar Nominated and Postulation, these tickets have been slightly revised.

$5 exacta: 3 with 5,8 ($10) $4 trifecta: 3 with 5,8 with 5,6,8 ($16) $1 trifecta: 5,8 with 3 with 5,6,8 ($4)

Good luck!