Wilbo Should Receive Winning Trip in Aristides Stakes

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

May 30th, 2018

The field for the $100,000 Aristides Stakes (gr. III) on Saturday at Churchill Downs might not be huge, but it’s certainly not lacking in early speed.

Four of the seven horses entered in this six-furlong sprint—#1 Smart Spree, #2 Shadow Tracer, #5 Mr. Crow, and #7 Chief Cicatriz—prefer to race on or very close to the lead, which should ensure that the pace of the Aristides is testing right from the start.

That could play to the strengths of #3 Wilbo, who is arguably the most consistently fast horse in the race. Trained by Chris Hartman, the son of Candy Ride finished second in this race last year and subsequently made a name for himself at Oaklawn Park over the winter. In four starts going six furlongs at Oaklawn, Wilbo won an allowance race and the King Cotton Stakes before finishing fifth in the Hot Springs Stakes and second in the Count Fleet Sprint Handicap (gr. III), beaten less than a length by the talented Whitmore in the latter race while earning a 97 BRIS speed figure and a 100 Beyer.

This isn’t the toughest field compared to some of the races Wilbo has contested in the past, and as a late runner with the ability to stay within a few lengths of a fast pace, Wilbo should be able to work out a perfect trip settling behind the early leaders in the Aristides before rolling past in the homestretch.

#6 Awesome Saturday, who rallied to finish a close third in the Commonwealth Stakes (gr. III) two months ago at Keeneland, has compiled a solid record sprinting on dirt and is another that could benefit from a fast pace in the Aristides. I’ll use him strongly in the exotics, but I’ll also consider #1 Smart Spree, who might be the “speed of the speed” among the front-runners. The seven-year-old former claimer made his first 28 starts on synthetic and turf courses, but found new life when switched to dirt at Oaklawn over the winter, winning his first three starts (all going six furlongs) in gate-to-wire fashion before stepping up in class for the Count Fleet Sprint Handicap, in which he set a fast pace before fading slightly in the final furlong to finish fourth.

Smart Spree hasn’t been headed over the opening five furlongs over his last five starts, and drawing the rail should give him every opportunity to secure the early lead in the Aristides and take this field a long way on the front end.

Here’s how I would play the race:

$5 exacta: 3 with 1,6 ($10) $2 trifecta: 3 with 1,6 with 1,5,6,7 ($12) $2 trifecta: 3 with 5,7 with 1,6 ($8)

Good luck!