Shapiro's Churchill Downs Opening Day Pick 5

Profile Picture: Scott Shapiro

May 14th, 2020

Opening Day at legendary Churchill Downs is finally here!

With full fields, Hall of Fame jockeys, and top barns from all over the country, the 26-day meet in Louisville promises to offer incredible wagering opportunities from start to finish.

Let’s take a look at the late Pick 5 sequence

The Pick 5 sequence starts with a maiden special weight over the main track and concludes with an allowance event on turf.

Race 7:

#5 Say Moi makes her second lifetime start after an impressive runner-up performance on debut in late March for Hall of Famer Bill Mott. The daughter of Union Rags opened up live on the tote board on Mar. 29 despite the presence of heavily backed Chad Brown first-time starter Center Aisle. She was no match for the winner, but made a great account of herself losing by less than four lengths in the end. The $300,000 Keeneland September 2018 purchase has put in a trio of 4-furlong drills at Payson Park since her initial try and appears ready to find the winner’s circle in this special weight event over the main track. A single to kick things off.

Race 8:

Like most of the races on the Opening Day card, there are a number of ways to go in this two-turn allowance event over the lawn. #7 Limnery is listed as the lukewarm 4-1-morning line favorite by oddsmaker Mike Battaglia based on his consistency, but the Brad Cox trainee has disappointed his backers in all five starts over the lawn. He is difficult to trust as the likely chalk.

#6 Labeq intrigues in his first start for Mike Maker. The Three Diamonds Farm gelding has posted an 88 Brisnet Speed rating or better in his three most recent tries on the turf and comes in off a solid series of works at Turfway Park. He is my top choice.

#3 Mind the Gap and #12 Clear for Action should be involved early at big prices in a race where there does not appear to be a ton of early zip signed on. Clear for Action disappointed as the 4-5-favorite versus starter allowance foes in New Orleans when last seen, but should make the lead from his outside draw. Mind the Gap comes in fresh after facing some solid groups as a 3-year-old for Arnaud Delacour. Both are worth including, as is #4 Tankerville in his stateside debut and #5 Danny California, who attracts Joel Rosario.

If the race gets washed off the grass, #17 Dinar looks like a potential single in his first start since late February for Cherie DeVaux. #9 Motagally will also take plenty of support.

Race 9:

#2 Adhhar is my top choice in this non-winners-of-two event at 7 furlongs. The son of Daaher showed an affinity for the Churchill Downs main track when he finished second in his only local try in November. After a brief freshening, he progressed nicely in his three starts at Oaklawn Park, including a third-place finish against better in his first try for new trainer Tom Amoss. The Kentucky-bred will cut back to one turn Saturday, and Amoss is a lethal 39% in his second start off the claim over his last 74 starts. Once he figures out his new stock, he knows exactly where to place them. If the pace is honest, Adhhar should have enough late to get the best of this bunch.

If the early pace is not quick enough to set up Adhhar’s late run, #12 Admire is the likeliest to hit the wire first. The Cairo Prince colt draws outside the main speeds and should be ridden aggressively out of the gate by new rider Ricardo Santana Jr. He could thrive at seven-eighths of a mile.

Race 10:

This 7-furlong dash for 3-year-old fillies is loaded, but I will lean on a pair of logical contenders that I have high hopes for in 2020.  

#2 Portrait cuts back to a sprint after tiring late in a pair of two-turn events at Fair Grounds to start her 3-year-old campaign. The LNJ Foxwoods filly has worked steadily at Keeneland since losing by a head to Alta’s Award in mid-February and should get an honest pace to run at under Javier Castellano. With a clean voyage, she will be tough to deny.

#8 Four Graces won impressively on debut for a barn that is not known for having their runners cranked on first asking. The half-sister to McCraken and With Dignity regressed significantly in her first try versus winners on Apr. 10, but should bounce back in a big way in her first start in Louisville. The daughter of Majesticperfection should get the jump on Portrait.

Race 11:

The finale is one of the most wide-open events on the Opening Day card. I lack a strong opinion so will use several in hopes of closing out a challenging sequence.

Suggested Wager:

  • 5 with 3,4,5,6,12 with 2,12 with 2,8 with 1,3,9,10 = $40

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The full Churchill Downs horse racing analyst crew is back and looking at the return of spring racing in Kentucky! Host Joe Kristufek asks Handicappers Ed DeRosa, Scott Shapiro and James Scully what they are looking for this weekend in racing from Louisville.