Best Horse Racing Bets Today | Thistledown, June 22

Written by: Brian Zipse
Published June 21, 2024
6 min read

The first weekend of Summer brings us both warm weather and hot racing from Northern Ohio. The $500,000 Ohio Derby is the premier race of the year in the Buckeye State and in 2024 it has attracted a field of ten sophomores looking to add a graded stakes win to their resume. Leading the way will be the two-time stakes winner Catching Freedom, who ran well in the first two legs of the Triple Crown.

In the $250,000 Lady Jacqueline Stakes, Musical Mischief, Misty Veil, and Corningstone top a wide-open edition of the race for older females. Other stakes races I will be handicapping include the Cleveland Gold Cup and the George Lewis Memorial. Both races feature the best of Ohio-bred racing. Without further ado, let’s get to my analysis and best bets for this solid card of racing from Thistledown.

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Race #9 Cleveland Gold Cup Stakes $75,000 1 1/8-Miles Dirt - 4:00pm EST

Trainer Timothy Hamm holds a very strong hand when he sends out four in Saturday’s $75,000 Cleveland Gold Cup. All four are in with a shot in this 9-furlong test for Ohio-bred 3-year-olds but Shadowy might be the toughest of the bunch.

The son of National Flag was a strong second in the Best of Ohio Juvenile going two turns last fall and is rounding into top form this year. An easy allowance winner two starts back, he finished third to his stablemate Spellcast in a recent turf stakes race. That one is a threat once again, but may be stronger on the grass. 

Of the non-Hamm runners, Dial Direct looks like the most likely to defeat the four-pronged entry. Trained by Robert Gorham, the son of Dialed In is proven at two turns and has won two straight nicely over the Thistledown main track. 

Another son of Dialed In, Gunner Gabriel has never finished out of the money on dirt in eight tries. His last race behind Spellcast on the grass was not great, but returning to the dirt on Saturday, he merits respect. Still, it’s hard to look past the Hamm foursome. Shadowy, as part of the entry, is my top pick.

My Play

  • $20 Exacta Box - Hamm entry and Dial Direct = $40

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Race #11 George Lewis Memorial Stakes $75,000 1 1/16-Miles Dirt - 5:00pm EST

Timothy Hamm once again will be the trainer to beat when he sends out a trio of 4-year-old geldings as part of a 12-horse field in Saturday’s George Lewis Memorial Stakes at Thistledown.

Looking to rebound from a dull effort against open company in his seasonal debut, Casual Attire could be the strongest of the Hamm entry. Top rider Luis Saez will be aboard this son of National Flag, who is well proven at the distance. He finished first or second in his last six tries going two turns in 2023.

Each of his stablemates are also dangerous in this spot. Both Controller and Excitement have finished ahead of Casual Attire before and won at Thistledown in 2023. The latter will have regular rider Rocco Bowen in the saddle, while the former will pick up the services of Ramon Vasquez on the big day.

Others of interest in the George Lewis Memorial include the experienced trio of Mister Mobil, Moester, and First Song. All three veterans have won recently over the track and have the recent form advantage over the favored entry. I expect the Hamm trio will be tough to keep out of the win spot, however. Casual Attire is my top pick.

My Play

  • $40 Win - Hamm entry = $40

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Race #12 Lady Jacqueline Stakes $250,000 1 1/8-Miles Dirt- 5:30pm EST

Second in the DuPont Stakes on Preakness weekend last out, Musical Mischief rates slight favoritism over Misty Veil and Corningstone as part of a ten-horse field of older females set for Saturday’s $250,000 Lady Jacqueline Stakes at Thistledown. 

Making her tenth career start in the 9-furlong test on Saturday for trainer Michael McCarthy, Musical Mischief has been knocking on the door in stakes company of late. An 11 1/2-length winner of a Churchill Downs allowance race last fall, it looks like just a matter of time before the daughter of Into Mischief earns her first stakes victory.

Misty Veil, meanwhile, has collected nearly $750,000 in earnings in her career. The veteran stakes winning daughter of Tonalist failed last time against top competition in the Grade 1 Apple Blossom, but before that she had turned in three consecutive strong performances in stakes races in Arkansas.

A winner of a pair of Indiana-bred stakes races last season, Corningstone will be looking for her first at the next level. A 4-year-old daughter of Kantharos, she was close this winter in Louisiana and Texas. Most recently, she was a sharp winner of an allowance race in Kentucky. Coming off that strong win at Churchill Downs, I believe she is ready to win her first open stakes race on Saturday. Corningstone is the top pick.

My Plays 

  • $10 Exacta Part Wheel - Corningstone over Misty Veil, Musical Mischief, and Frosty O’Toole = $30

  • $5 Exacta Part Wheel - Misty Veil, Musical Mischief, and Frosty O’Toole over Corningstone = $15

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Race #13 Ohio Derby (Grade 3) $500,000 1 1/8-Miles Dirt - 6:00pm EST

Making his first start since a solid third-place effort in last month’s $2 million Preakness Stakes, Catching Freedom looks to return to his winning ways when he headlines a field of ten sophomore males in Saturday’s Grade 3 Ohio Derby at Thistledown.

A son of Constitution trained by Brad Cox, Catching Freedom is already a two-time stakes winner this year, having won the $300,000 Smarty Jones at Oaklawn Park in January and the $1 million Louisiana Derby in March. Chasing the top 3-year-olds in the nation in his last two, he rallied to finish a good fourth in the Kentucky Derby and then third in the middle jewel of the Triple Crown. The step down in class on Saturday makes him the one to beat here.

The Bill Mott-trained Batten Down could be the biggest threat to the favorite in this 9-furlong affair. A royally bred son of Tapit and Close Hatches, he showed promise while losing his first three starts before breaking out with a huge maiden score last time at Churchill Downs.

Others of interest in the feature race at Thistledown include: four-time stakes winner Copper Tax; Withers winner Uncle Heavy; and the runner-up from the recent Sir Barton Stakes on the Preakness undercard Gould’s Gold. While they all are in with a shot, this is strictly Catching Freedom’s race to lose. The class of the race, he is the top pick.

My Play

  • $20 Exacta Part Wheel - Catching Freedom over Batten Down and Gould’s Gold = $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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