The Jury: Bets and fades for Nov. 19

November 18th, 2022

In advance of a feast of graded stakes helpings during the Thanksgiving holiday, the TwinSpires Jury of James Scully, Kellie Reilly, and Vance Hanson have scouted this weekend's offerings to find what they hope are appetizing plays and fades.

What is your best bet?

James Scully: Saturday's $135,000 Gio Ponti S. at Aqueduct lacks a standout, and I'm intrigued by #3 Riot House, who looks poised to improve in his second stakes attempt for Danny Gargan. Kendrick Carmouche traveled to Woodbine for the stakes debut in the Sept. 10 Toronto Cup at Woodbine, and Riot House chased a hot pace before weakening to sixth in the stretch. The lightly-raced sophomore son of Violence was making his first start off a five-month freshening last time, recording a pair of promising wins over maiden and entry-level allowance foes at Gulfstream last spring, and the gelding shows a half-mile bullet turf work in preparation for the Gio Ponti. Listed at 15-1, Riot House should relish a projected tepid pace scenario.

Kellie Reilly: A return to Louisiana-bred company at Fair Grounds could be just what #10 Unified Report (6-1) needs in Saturday's Monte Man S. The Dallas Stewart trainee sports a 2-for-3 local mark, both wins coming at this six-furlong trip, including last December's Louisiana Champions Day Juvenile. His lone loss here was an eighth in the Jan. 22 Lecomte (G3). Likewise, his only reverse against state-breds also came in a route stakes at Delta Downs earlier this year. Sprinting is his game, although he's found it more challenging in open company. After trying ultra-competitive turf allowances at Kentucky Downs and Keeneland, he fits back among these on the New Orleans main track, especially with an overload of speed to set him up. 

Vance Hanson: I'll go in a different direction in the Gio Ponti with another Danny Gargan trainee, #6 Dakota Gold (9-2). Although he's been sticking to New York stallion stakes in a limited campaign so far this year, the colt was one of the more capable juvenile turf performers in open company last season. He actually went favored in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) after the premature scratch of Modern Games and only missed by a little more than two lengths to that world-class colt, who ran for purse money only. Dakota Gold appears fairly priced on this morning line and is more than capable stepping back into open company.

Who is the horse to fade?

JS: #1 Coach is listed as the 9-5 morning line favorite in Saturday's $300,000 Chilukki S. (G3) at Churchill Downs, but the four-year-old filly must work out a trip from the rail at a tricky one-turn mile distance. And given she favors two-turn distances, racing exclusively at two turns, including a pair of mile races at Oaklawn, over the last two-plus years, Coach appears vulnerable at short odds. I'm intrigued by the progressing Ice Orchid, who is listed at 10-1 in her stakes debut, and will also include Mariah's Princess and She Can't Sing in any multi-race wagers.

KR: As smart as #1 Oh Darlin (8-5) looked in breaking her maiden at Gulfstream Park, she's making an abrupt stretch-out from five furlongs to a mile and 70 yards in Saturday's Juvenile Fillies S. for Florida-breds. A few others have credentials at a more appealing price. Navy Goat (4-1), a Kentucky Downs maiden winner for Arnaud Delacour, figures to enjoy the switch to Tapeta, and stakes-placed Esoteric (6-1) should improve with added distance as a full sister to 2021 Longacres Mile (G3) hero Background.

VH: #10 Who Took the Money (7-5) could be overbet in the Scott's Scoundrel S., for Louisiana-bred older horses, at Fair Grounds. Although coming off a romping win in the Gold Cup at Delta Downs, there's a chance he might bounce off that career peak. Also note he's not invulnerable to losing at a short price, as was shown in the Star Guitar S. last March against a couple returning rivals. The strong possibility of an off track might also make his task more difficult.

What else is worth noting?

JS: #4 Without a Song (8-1), a three-year-old colt by Medaglia d'Oro, will make his career debut in Saturday's fifth race at Churchill Downs, and the half-brother to Honor Code appears to be training forwardly for Steve Asmussen in preparation. Asmussen has interestingly kept him away from Churchill and Keeneland clockers, readying Without a Song at Ellis Park, and his charge is listed at 8-1 with Ricardo Santana Jr. Without a Song is bred to run early, with both Honor Code and another half-brother, multiple graded stakes winner Noble Tune, winning their first start by open lengths, and he may receive a favorable setup in a race packed with speed.

KR: Will highly-regarded two-year-old filly #1 Justique (8-5) rebound in Saturday's Desi Arnaz S. at Del Mar? The John Shirreffs pupil was a buzzworthy, last-to-first debut winner at this track over the summer, but then came down with a fever and ended up skipping the Del Mar Debutante (G1). While she had more time to prepare for the Oct. 8 Chandelier (G2) at Santa Anita, she wound up a belated, lackluster third in that stakes and two-turn test. As a Justify half-sister to Grade 1 star (and promising freshman sire) Mo Town, Justique has every right to keep progressing, and reverting to one turn at Del Mar might get her back on track. Yet that same pedigree implies that her future lies over further, and she'll have to be plenty sharp to catch speed merchant #6 Blessed Touch (9-5). Another rival of note is well-bred #2 Parody (4-1), a close relation of 2003 Kentucky Derby (G1) and Preakness (G1) champ Funny Cide who was transferred to Bob Baffert after scoring first out for Rodolphe Brisset. I'm hoping that Justique shows enough spark to renew the initial excitement.

VH: I'm not sure what happened to #3 Center Aisle (6-1) last spring when she trailed in both the Madison (G1) and Derby City Distaff (G1), but she appeared to right the ship in her recent comeback at Keeneland and looks a serious player in the aforementioned Chilukki at Churchill Downs. The Paulo Lobo charge hasn't yet won over a mile, but is bred to get the extra ground and is already a Grade 3 winner having knocked off the capable Frank's Rockette in the Sugar Swirl (G3) at Gulfstream last winter.