Keying Divisidero in the Wise Dan Stakes

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

June 14th, 2018

If you want to play the classic “horse for the course” angle this weekend, look no further than #1 Divisidero in Saturday’s $200,000 Wise Dan Stakes (gr. II) at Churchill Downs.

Divisidero might not be the most consistent horse in the country—as a deep closer, he’s often reliant on a quick pace to set up his late rally—but he’s been a different horse at Churchill Downs, going unbeaten in three starts while winning the American Turf Stakes (gr. II) and back-to-back renewals of the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (gr. I).

Minor soundness issues have limited Divisidero’s campaigns in the past, but he enjoyed a more complete season last year and kicked off 2018 with a solid runner-up effort in the Monmouth Stakes (gr. II) on May 26th, a race in which he didn’t get the best pace setup but still fought on well to be beaten less than a length over a turf course that was probably firmer than he prefers.

With that comeback run under his belt, I expect to see Divisidero take a nice step forward in the Wise Dan. Certainly the return to Churchill Downs won’t be an issue, and the 8.5-furlong distance should be an ideal fit as well. Even better, he could offer a bit of a price in the wagering, making him a very appealing play this weekend.

His main competition figures to come from #4 World Approval, the champion turf male of 2017 following consecutive wins in the Fourstardave Handicap (gr. I), Woodbine Mile (gr. I), and Breeders’ Cup Mile (gr. I). But the Mark Casse-trained gelding has looked less than unstoppable in two starts this year, narrowly winning the Tampa Bay Stakes (gr. III) before finishing fifth without an obvious excuse in the Frank E. Kilroe Mile (gr. I) at Santa Anita. Throw in the fact that World Approval hasn’t run in three months, and I think he could be vulnerable at a short price in the Wise Dan.

Therefore, I’ll also consider the chances of #5 Mr. Misunderstood, who is 2-for-2 at Churchill Downs, The Brad Cox-trained four-year-old hasn’t won a race this year, but was beaten just 2 ½ lengths in the Maker’s 46 Mile (gr. I) last time out despite suffering a poor trip against a competitive field.

Here’s how I would play the race:

$7 exacta: 1 with 4,5 ($14) $8 exacta: 4,5 with 1 ($16)

Good luck!