The Jury: Bets and fades for June 4

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TwinSpires Staff

June 3rd, 2022

Stephen Foster Preview Day at Churchill Downs is the racing highlight domestically, while the worldwide feature on Saturday is the famed Epsom Derby (G1). Kellie Reilly, Vance Hanson, and Ashley Anderson chime in on those events and more in this week's jury deliberation.

What is your best bet?

Kellie Reilly: #2 Floriform (4-1) brings an improving profile into Saturday's Arlington (G3) at Churchill Downs. Trained by Bill Mott, the Juddmonte homebred sports a 5-3-1-1 mark on turf. That third-place effort came in his lone stakes attempt, the Feb. 5 Tampa Bay (G3), off a nine-month layoff — a spotting that could be read as a hint in itself. Floriform came right back to take a second-level allowance at Keeneland, beating Cellist who's since won the Louisville (G3). As a lightly-raced four-year-old in a field largely consisting of the usual suspects, Floriform is poised to continue his progress. He also has pedigree appeal. By Into Mischief and out of an Empire Maker mare, he is bred on the same cross as Mandaloun. And Floriform's dam, the multiple English stakes-placed July Jasmine, is a half-sister to classy miler Rob Roy.

Vance Hanson: Floriform is far less exposed than his five rivals in the Arlington, and he looks like a solid play in my estimation, too. There appears to be just enough pace to aid the Juddmonte homebred's rally from a stalking position, and his current relative class looks strong enough for him to make an impact against this field. As Kellie noted, his recent form at Tampa and Keeneland against graded quality types stack up well here despite his limited actual stakes experience.

Ashley Anderson: #6 Scalding (5-2) brings a 4-for-4 record this season to Churchill Downs in the Blame S. and will challenge heavy morning line favorite Americanrevolution, winner of the Cigar Mile H. (G1) last out at Aqueduct in December. Todd Pletcher's pupil clocked a 118 Brisnet Speed figure the last time he raced 1 1/8 miles, back in October at Belmont, but Pletcher has earned just two wins in 27 starts during Churchill's spring meet. A jockey switch to Florent Geroux gives promise, but I'll lean toward Scalding, who bested rivals Dynamic One and Proxy at Keeneland in the 1 1/8-mile Ben Ali (G3) in late April.

Who is the horse to fade?

KR: #6 Amalfi Coast (5-2) returns to defend her title in the Royal North (G2) at Woodbine Saturday as the newly-minted Canadian champion female sprinter. But she is likely to need this tightener. Aside from her age as a six-year-old mare, Amalfi Coast has yet to win first up. Although she was a close second in her career debut, she was sixth in her 2020 reappearance and third to start 2021. And she's changed barns in the interim. Since selling for $475,000 at Keeneland last November, Amalfi Coast has joined Mark Casse, who has three others in the Royal North, including the fascinating #8 Souper Sensational (8-1). Between the depth of the opposition, and a question about how sharp she might be off the bench for new connections, Amalfi Coast appears vulnerable as a win candidate.

VH: The Aristides S. is traditionally Churchill Downs' premier post-Derby week sprint for older horses during the spring meet, but strangely there's not a whole lot of speed in Saturday's renewal. That might put morning line favorite #5 Bob's Edge (3-1) at a distinct disadvantage. Although his local mark is a stellar 4-2-0-1 and he has sufficient class via his Oaklawn form over the winter, the closing Bob's Edge might not get the pace help he needs in this six-furlong dash.

AA: #5 Field Pass (5-2) came home third last out in the Henry S. Clark S. at Laurel Park, beaten 5 1/2 lengths by undefeated Chez Pierre. The Mike Maker trainee makes his return to Churchill, where he boasts a 5 1-1-2 record, with his lone win coming in the Audubon S. in June 2020. In Saturday's Arlington, he'll join a field of six, with intriguing rivals Get Smokin, Floriform, and Gray's Fable capable of earning a trip to the winner's circle.

What else is worth noting?

KS: Saturday's Derby at Epsom will be a riveting spectacle, although I still haven't gotten over the blow of Luxembourg's injury that has ruled him out until the fall. Ballydoyle nevertheless presses ahead with its usual armada, but I can't escape the thought that the lad's best chance has sailed away. In Luxembourg's absence, Sir Michael Stoute's unbeaten #2 Desert Crown (8-5) has surged to favoritism, and it would be a great story for another British legend to win the Derby, run this year in honor of the late Lester Piggott.

Yet Godolphin's supplemented #9 Nations Pride (6-1) looked like a beast at Newmarket. His sire, Teofilo, had ambitions of pursuing the elusive English Triple Crown before his career was cut short, so I'd love to see him get a Derby winner. Note that Teofilo also has #17 West Wind Blows (20-1), a beautifully-bred son of 2007 French Oaks (G1) heroine West Wind, who has a stealthy look with a 2-for-2 mark versus lesser.

If you're looking for a massive longshot who can crash the exotics, #7 Masekela (50-1) has better form than his odds imply. Beaten just a head by champion Native Trail last summer, he was runner-up to the smart Eydon in his lone start this season. Masekela was a late scratch from the Dante (G3) after acting up in the gate, and if he'd run and placed to Desert Crown that day, he might be half the price here.

VH: The Derby at Epsom is the race I'm most looking forward to betting and watching this weekend. You can read more about my win selection and wagering strategy here.

AA: Friday night's Penn National card features the Penn Oaks and Penn Mile (G2), with two heavy favorites headlining their respective races. In the latter, unbeaten #1 Annapolis (9-5) makes his third career start for trainer Todd Pletcher and first since his win in the October Pilgrim S. (G2) at Belmont. I'll be interested to see how the lightly raced three-year-old fares against #7 Red Danger (5-2), who may benefit from a cut back in distance and a rider change, with Paco Lopez picking up the mount for the Brian Lynch trainee.