Powell: How to bet the Aristides Stakes at Churchill Downs

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TwinSpires Staff

May 31st, 2018


It seems like only yesterday when ARISTIDES won the first running of the Kentucky Derby (G1). But here we are, 143 years later, and trying to make some sense out of a six-furlong sprint named after him. Since 2004, it has been run at today’s distance. Open to three-year-olds and up, the youngest entrants in today are at least age four and some go up to age seven.

This year’s renewal attracted a field of seven so we will be able to take a close look at all of them before deciding how to play the race.

#1 SMART SPREE has never been better at the age of seven. He raced on the Tapeta last year up at Woodbine but spent the winter at Oaklawn Park for Norman Pointer and gradually upped his game to where he was beating high-quality allowance foes. Last out, the speedball tried the Count Fleet S. (G3) but he was run down by horse for the course WHITMORE. He has blazing speed and the rail position will force Ricardo Santana, Jr. to try to take these down the road. Just in case, he is two for two on wet tracks.

#2 SHADOW TRACER has five wins in 14 career starts but looks overmatched in here. He doesn’t get any real break in the weights and his best racing came against Michigan-breds. Racing all over the Midwest, he can show good speed but unless he is ready to run the race of his life, I can’t see him doing much in here.

#3 WILBO has to carry two pounds more than the rest of the field. The horse for the course was no match for WHITMORE in his last two starts at Oaklawn Park but won a stakes race there before. He broke his maiden in his career debut here and was second to LIMOUSINE LIBERAL in last year’s renewal. Trainer Chris Hartman won this race two years in a row with ALSVID.

#4 HEARTWOOD broke his maiden here in his fourth career start and shows a stakes win last year at Mahoning Valley at 68/1. He beat high-class allowance foes on a sloppy track at Keeneland seven weeks ago and has had two dull races since then. The gelded son of TAPIT will need a pace meltdown to get a piece of this.

#5 MR. CROW could be an emerging 4yo. He began his career with Todd Pletcher and ran two monster races last year at Saratoga; winning by wide margins and earning triple-digit BRIS speed figures both times. Now with Ben Colebrook, the son of TAPIZAR returned here off a six-month layoff and was an easy winner in very fast time going this distance. He has already shown he can run stakes-quality races and second start off the layoff could be just what he needs to show his best.

#6 AWESOME SATURDAY is turning back in distance for Bret Calhoun. He broke his maiden first time out going six furlongs at the Fair Grounds 15 months ago then raced well going longer until running a dull one in the Indiana Derby (G3). Off for over six months, he was a sharp winner of a turf sprint at Fair Grounds then missed by two lengths there in a wide trip. Last out, he was right there in a Grade 3 stakes race at Keeneland going seven furlongs and he should be a late factor in here.

Finally, #7 CHIEF CICATRIZ is a very fast 5yo gelding. He won his first five starts out in New Mexico and Arizona including a good stakes win. The son of MUNNINGS was no match for WHITMORE last year at Oaklawn Park but he came back this year to win two stakes races in Arizona at Turf Paradise then tired last out here going seven furlongs when Lasix was added for the first time.

As fast as SMART SPREE is, CHIEF CICATRIZ is faster, with first half-miles routinely run in 44 and change, if not faster. We could get a strong pace duel from those two which should set it up for MR. CROW. Ben Colebrook won this race last year with LIMOUSINE LIBERAL and it looks like he has this one ready for a big effort. Corey Lanerie should be able to set up shop behind the leaders and make the first run on them.

The bet will have to be an exacta with the short field:

#5 with #3 and #6.

If #5 is not the favorite, put a win bet on him as well.