The Jury: Bets and fades for July 2

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July 1st, 2022

The Independence Day weekend is highlighted by Stephen Foster Day at Churchill Downs, plus important stakes at Belmont Park and Gulfstream Park. The TwinSpires Jury of James Scully, Vance Hanson, and Ashley Anderson have their opinions on what to look for.

What is your best bet?

James Scully: #1 Awesome Gerry (8-1) has improved significantly at age four, and he'll seek a minor upset in Saturday's $160,000 Kelly's Landing S. at Churchill Downs following a pair of sharp allowance wins at Keeneland and Churchill. The Saffie Joseph Jr. trainee won his first two starts in 2020, and appeared promising following a runner-up finish versus stakes rivals in his juvenile finale, but Awesome Gerry lost all 10 starts last year, recording only three placings. He turned things around at Keeneland, winning smartly from off the pace at 20-1, and came back to record a frontrunning tally under the Twin Spires, scoring by 2 3/4 lengths at 5-2. Awesome Gerry will face a class check, but his Brisnet Speed ratings (97 last two outings) compare favorably to his main rivals, and the gray colt should offer value on the upswing.

Vance Hanson: In a maiden race that includes a handful of relatively unexposed fillies, #3 Dreamalot (5-1) might be the one to beat in Race 4 at Churchill on Saturday based on her debut last August at Ellis Park. Although no threat to her winning entrymate in a second-place effort, there's absolutely no disgrace having lost to Matareya, who has developed into arguably the best one-turn filly in the country off consecutive wins in the Beaumont (G3), Eight Belles (G2), and Acorn (G1). Dreamalot adds Lasix for her comeback, and if she's ready, figures very tough here for Brendan Walsh.

Ashley Anderson: #3 Shotgun Hottie (5-2) hit a 94 Speed figure at 1 1/8 miles last out and will cut back in distance in Saturday's Delaware Oaks (G3). The Gun Runner filly opened as the 5-2 morning line favorite, but I'll look to beat her with #5 Morning Matcha (5-1), who makes a return to dirt after finishing seventh in the New York Stallion S. on Belmont's turf June 19. Two back, the three-year-old flashed a 93 Speed rating at 1 1/8 miles in the Black-Eyed Susan S. (G2) and clocked a career-best 94 Speed figure at 1 mile 70 yards in March's Main Line S. at Parx, which she won by 6 3/4 lengths. Conditioner Robert Reid Jr. is a 40% winner with horses transitioning from turf to dirt, and new rider Carol Cedeno is a 22% winner (20-for-92) this meet.

Who is the horse to fade?

JS: #4 Wicked Halo doesn't break well from the starting gate, and wasn't a serious factor rallying from off the pace in her first three stakes attempts earlier this year, but she was able to breakthrough with a victory in the five-horse Leslie's Lady S. on June 12. That wasn't a strong field, and the gray filly earned only a 90 Brisnet Speed rating. She'll face better company in Saturday's Tepin S. at Churchill Downs, and Wicked Halo has been installed as the 9-5 morning choice in her first start at a mile. I will try to beat her.

VH: I'm taking a cautious view of Stephen Foster (G2) favorite #6 Mandaloun (2-1). While his effort in the Saudi Cup (G1) was hardly representative of his best effort, he is facing a difficult test in his comeback against a group that largely has a recency edge. Although a top-class performer, others offer more appeal at a price.

AA: Pegasus World Cup (G1) and Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) champ Life Is Good opened as a heavy 1-2 favorite in the seven-furlong John A. Nerud S. (G2) at Belmont, but I’m leaning toward Carter Handicap (G1) victor Speaker’s Corner (6-5). Life Is Good will cut back in distance after racing at one mile or farther in his last four races and placed second by a neck to Jackie’s Warrior in his only try at seven furlongs, back in August in the H. Allen Jerkens Memorial S. (G1). Speaker’s Corner, on the other hand, is 3-for-3 at today’s distance and flashed a 108 Speed figure two back in the Carter Handicap in April. The Street Sense colt posted a sharp, 59-second five-furlong workout on June 25 and makes a rider switch to Jose Ortiz, who won this race in 2018 aboard Limousine Liberal.

What else is worth noting?

JS: Olympiad will bring a four-race win streak to the Stephen Foster. And while he appears capable of making it five straight, the four-year-old found himself in a serious tussle in midstretch of the 1 1/16-mile Alysheba (G2) on May 6. He surged late to win going away, but I'm not convinced Churchill Downs is his favorite track or 1 1/8 miles his best distance. Olympiad won his lone attempt at nine furlongs, the New Orleans Classic (G2) two back, but faces deeper competition in the Stephen Foster. I'm intrigued by #2 Americanrevolution (7-2), who weakened to fourth when returning from a six-month hiatus in the June 4 Blame S. The four-year-old colt needed the race, and shows a couple of quick works in the four-week interim, and Americanrevolution rebounded from his last setback, a non-threatening third in the Pennsylvania Derby (G1), with an 11-length romp at 1 1/8 miles.

VH: The Eclipse (G1) at Sandown on Saturday offers the first weight-for-age clash between older horses and three-year-olds in Europe this season. Although Prix du Jockey-Club (G1) winner Vadeni is the early favorite, the older set may prove to have an edge of sort in a relatively paceless race. I concur with Alastair Bull that #1 Alenquer (8-1) could be the value play in the Eclipse following a big win in the Tattersalls Gold Cup (G1). It's also worth noting he beat a stellar field over the course and distance last year in the Classic Trial (G3), defeating eventual Epsom Derby (G1) winner Adayar and American turf champion Yibir.

AA: Like James, I'm intrigued by Americanrevolution's rebound attempt at Churchill after failing as the favorite in the Blame on June 4. While the Constitution colt looks promising to pull off a slight upset of Olympiad, I'm also interested to see how #1 Caddo River (10-1) performs in his step up in class. The Hard Spun colt is 2-for-2 at Churchill and won last out by 4 1/2 lengths in a one-mile optional claimer at this track under regular rider Ricardo Santana Jr., a 32% winner paired up with trainer Brad Cox the last two months. While Mandaloun is the higher-profile name out of Cox's barn, I think Caddo River drew the better post and will contend for the minor awards on Saturday.