Pick 4s Aplenty on Churchill Downs Stephen Foster Saturday Night Card

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Ed DeRosa

June 13th, 2015

Churchill Downs put together an excellent Stephen Foster night card with 11 races--four of them graded, including the featured $500,000 Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap. As a multi-race bettor, the card is lousy with opportunities: 10 doubles, 9 Pick 3s, 4 Pick 4s, a Pick 5, a Pick 6, and the Lucky 7 dime jackpot bet.

As a Churchill Downs Inc. employee, I can not play any wager involving four or more horses, so my betting will mostly involve the rolling Pick 3s and selected spot plays as odds dictate, but since I did an ABC grid for the whole card, anyway (see below), I can't resist offering some Pick 4 thoughts.

In general, the first thing worth noting is that four Pick 4s and 11 races mean five of the night's races (nearly half) will involve two Pick 4s. Those are key races, obviously, because if you're really wrong then you're likely out of half of the night's Pick 4s just like that.

Here are some spot thoughts on the card:

Most likely winner: Fame And Power (#5 in race 9). I'm sure there's some story out there about how this colt is different from the two-year-old who lost all four starts to the three-year-old who has two wins from three starts with a pair of triple digit Speed Ratings, and whatever that story is will be the introduction to what could be an extremely productive sophomore in the shadow of his stablemate Triple Crown champion American Pharoah. I expressed some concern on "At The Races" with Steve Byk that he hasn't ascended the class ladder much after some flashy performances, but Steve rightfully pointed out that Juddmonte is likely looking to rack up stakes wins for sire First Defence, and with plenty of big pots awaiting this summer why not strike locally? This is the type of race where if I'm going to lean on a big chalk then I'm not interested in the second choice. I.e., any tickets that go against Fame And Power won't be lean on Bold Conquest.

Best Value Race: The Fleur de Lis Handicap, race 7. This may come as a bit of surprise given that I have 2-to-1 morning line favorite Sheer Drama as a lone "A" in the 9-horse race, but I think both #2 Tiz Windy and #4 Yahilwa have big chances in here, and while I do like the chalky #7, I'm not crazy about either of the next two alternatives, especially morning line second choice #8 My Sweet Addiction. I will watch the board on whether to play either #2 or #4 straight, but I certainly plan to get them in the number mostly with the likely favorite, but I won't cut off my nose to spite my face by ripping up tix if it comes 8-2 or even something like 8-9-4.

The big one: #1 Commissioner in the Stephen Foster Handicap (Race 8). This is a classic funeral-post-wedding move, but I can't resist the horse who's fastest via Speed Ratings as the third choice in the race. I wasn't a believer in Commissioner in the Pimlico Special off his gaudy Skip Away number, but he held his form last out and can do so again here. Lea sure did impressive in the Donn Handicap last year, but his two performances this year haven't left me wanting 7-to-5 against this bunch. Hoppertunity is another that I can't endorse at shorter odds than Commissioner. The win over the track against some good ones is great, but the layoff conspires against. Of the remaining prices, there is lots of steam on Noble Bird, and it's easy to understand why given the strength of his last race. Will be interesting to see if he's actually 10-to-1.

Spot plays:

  • I'd love to beat the favored entry in race 4 and will lean on #3 Golden But Stormy most heavily to do so. Race 4 is part of both the early and mid Pick 4s, so this could be a night-making opinion. Golden But Stormy's last tries at this level did not go well, but he's done well with new connections this year--trainer gets 20% turf winners w/ a positive ROI, and jockey Loveberry has had this gelding in a positive to win each time.
  • It's tough to take 2-to-1 favorite #7 Enduring Honor in the second race. Trainer LoPresti only 1-for-18 at the stand with two other thirds. Best effort from this colt so far was last out in the slop. The debut horses are worth a look in here considering the field has made 28 starts and only two have registered a Speed Rating at par (89) or better for this group. #3 Busby Alley is out of a mare who's thrown two foals to race and both won as two-year-olds. #8 Rollforward is the fifth foal to race out of his dam Flaming Heart--the other four have all won including two stakes winners, and trainer Kellyn Gorder has a positive ROI for debut runners, debut going more than 1 mile, and debuting in a maiden special weight.