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Best Horse Racing Bets Today | Churchill Downs, June 1

Written by: Brian Zipse
Published May 31, 2024
7 min read

The Stephen Foster Preview Day card on Saturday at Churchill Downs features six stakes races totaling $1.65 million. As the local prep for the Grade 1 Stephen Foster, which will be contested on June 29, the Blame Stakes has attracted a deep field of eleven. Led by Highland Falls and Tapit Trice, the Grade 3 race is the headliner of an excellent afternoon of racing under the famed twin spires.

The supporting stakes include three other graded stakes races. Top turf trainer Charlie Appleby has the favorite in the $275,000 Arlington Stakes with his English-bred gelding Ottoman Fleet. In the Grade 3 Regret, also on turf, Buchu will look to return to her winning ways in a wide open field of ten. Finally, the Grade 3 Shawnee Stakes on the main track is led by the trio of Xigera, Scylla, and Wet Paint. Without further ado, let’s get to my analysis and best bets on this solid card of racing in Louisville, Kentucky.

Churchill Downs Horse Racing Bets June 1



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Race #6 Arlington Stakes (Grade 3) $275,000 1 1/16-Miles Turf - 3:18pm EST

Having just missed winning his second straight edition of the Grade 2 Fort Marcy at Aqueduct, Ottoman Fleet looks to keep his strong American form going when he invades Churchill Downs as the headliner in Saturday’s Grade 3 Arlington Stakes on the turf.

A 5-year-old gelded son of the champion Sea the Stars, the English-bred has been consistent to the tune of 15 times in the top three out of 17 lifetime starts. In three previous starts in the U.S. he has finished first, second, third in a trio of graded stakes in New York.  Given his form here and overseas, the Charlie Appleby-trained runner looks like a very legitimate favorite in this 8 1/2-furlong test. 

If he were to be beaten on Saturday, certainly it is Emmanuel who appears the best equipped to get the job done. Trained by Todd Pletcher, the 5-year-old son of More Than Ready has won half of his 14 lifetime starts, including five graded stakes races. He also seems to be better on a firm turf which he should get on Saturday.

Of the rest, Smokin’ T could be the most dangerous. A graded stakes winner over the Churchill Downs turf course last fall, he added a win in the Appleton Stakes at Gulfstream Park two starts ago. Still, I see Ottoman Fleet as the class of the race and  the horse to beat here. He is my top pick.

My Plays

  • $20 Exacta Part Wheel - Ottoman Fleet over Emmanuel and Smokin’ T = $40

  • $10 Exacta Part Wheel - Emmanuel and Smokin’ T over Ottoman Fleet = $20

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Race #8 Shawnee Stakes (Grade 3) $275,000 1 1/16-Miles Dirt - 4:23pm EST

Last year’s winner of the Grade 3 Shawnee Stakes went on to be named champion Older Female. It remains to be seen if anyone in this year’s field will go on to enjoy the success of Idiomatic, but in Xigera, Scylla, and Wet Paint, this year’s edition has attracted a classy bunch.

A winner of four stakes races in the second half of last season, Xigera rates top billing as the morning line favorite of the 1 1/16-mile affair. Her best performance came in a 6 1/2-length romp over the track late last year while winning the Grade 3 Falls City. In her only start this year, she faded badly on a sloppy track behind Idiomatic in the Grade 1 La Troienne four weeks ago. 

Chief among her opposition on Saturday will be Scylla from the barn of Bill Mott. Although the regally bred daughter of Tapit has yet to break through in stakes company, she certainly looks headed that way after an overpowering romp against allowance foes on Kentucky Derby afternoon. That was her third win in only five lifetime starts, and a repeat effort could be enough to get the job done here.

Wet Paint cannot be ignored after consistently facing top competition since winning her stakes debut in January of 2023. The daughter of Blame is a four-time stakes winner, including the Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks at Saratoga. Well beaten in her seasonal debut in the Grade 1 Apple Blossom, she should be ready for a better performance here. It is a strong field overall, but I like the chances of the improving Scylla the best. She will be the top pick.

My Play

  • $50 Win - Scylla = $50

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Race #9 Regret Stakes (Grade 3) $275,000 1 1/8-Miles Turf - 4:55pm EST

Three fillies exiting the Grade 2 Edgewood Stakes on Kentucky Derby Day lead the way in Saturday’s Grade 3 Regret Stakes for 3-year-old females on the Churchill Downs turf course.

Although she finished behind both Way to Be Marie and Dancing N Dixie last time, Buchu is the lukewarm morning line favorite in the field of ten. Before finishing out of the money in the Edgewood, the daughter of Justify had won three of her last four. Included in those victories were a pair of grade 2 stakes wins at Keeneland. Trained by Phil Bauer, she is the most accomplished filly in the field.  

Second and third, respectively in the Edgewood, both Way to Be Marie and Dancing N Dixie merit serious respect in this 9-furlong turf test. The former will look to do her best running from the end while breaking from the rail, while the latter makes a big late run in hopes of picking up all the pieces. 

A longshot possibility in the Regret is Faith Understood. A lightly raced daughter of Catholic Boy, she has improved with each start and her first two starts on the turf make me believe that she can compete with this bunch. At 15/1 on the morning line, she offers nice value in a wide open race. She is my top pick to pull off an upset.

My Plays 

  • $5 Exacta Part Wheel - Faith Understood over Buchu, Way to Be Marie, and Dancing N Dixie = $15

  • $5 Exacta Part Wheel - Buchu, Way to Be Marie, and Dancing N Dixie over Faith Understood = $15

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Race #10 Blame Stakes (Grade 3) $275,000 1 1/8-Miles Dirt- 5:27pm EST

The local prep for the Grade 1 Stephen Foster, Saturday’s Grade 3 Blame Stakes has attracted a solid field of eleven older males going 9-furlongs on the main track at Churchill Downs. Leading the way on Saturday will be Tapit Trice and Highland Falls.

Trained by Todd Pletcher, Tapit Trice was the second choice in last year’s Kentucky Derby after winning the Grade 3 Tampa Bay Derby and the Grade 1 Blue Grass. He disappointed on Derby Day, but did bounce back to finish third in both the Belmont and the Travers. Making his first start back in nine months for trainer Todd Pletcher, he has not found an easy spot for his return.

Highland Falls, meanwhile, was still unraced last spring, but has come around nicely for trainer Brad Cox. An impeccably bred son of Curlin, he has won three of six overall and comes in off a pair of solid efforts in his first two attempts in graded stakes racing. Off his recent form, he rates a big chance on Saturday.   

Another major contender in the Blame is the other Todd Pletcher-trainee. Dreamlike has not yet had his breakthrough, but the son of Gun Runner still ran some very big races last year as a 3-year-old. Narrow defeats in the Wood Memorial and Pennsylvania Derby point him out as a horse of quality. With a solid return race under his belt recently, he should be ready for a top effort here. He is the top pick.

My Play

  • $20 Win & Place - Dreamlike = $40

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Brian Zipse

Horse Racing Betting Analyst

Horse Racing
Betting Picks
Taken to the races at a very young age, Brian has been a passionate fan of horse racing his entire life. Professionally, his work has been published on several leading industry sites. Brian served as the Editor of Horse Racing Nation from 2010-2017, where he still writes a regular column and hosts the popular weekly webcast HorseCenter.
Nationality: American
Education: Bachelor of Communications
Favourite Sportsbook: FanDuel Sportsbook
Favourite Casino: BetMGM Casino
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