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The immediate future of American racing will be on display on Saturday at Churchill Downs, as a full card of races for promising 2-year-olds will be contested at the track that hosts the Kentucky Derby each year.
Headlined by the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club for the males and supported by the Grade 2 Golden Rod for the fillies, we’ll handicap a quartet of stakes races. Without further ado, let’s get right into the excellent card and my favorite wagers of the day.
A sharp debut winner at Saratoga before finishing second in his stakes debut, Risk It looks to become an early Kentucky Derby contender when he tops a contentious field of eight juvenile colts entered in Saturday’s Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club.
Trained by Steve Asmussen, the son of Gun Runner had a solid race over the track when he finished a good second in the Grade 3 Iroquois Stakes ten weeks ago. Working well since then, he looks like the horse to beat as he stretches out another half-furlong in the 1 1/16-mile Kentucky Jockey Club.
Chief among his rivals on Saturday should be the unbeaten Stretch Ride from the barn of Dale Romans. A game debut winner over the track back in September, the son of Street Sense was very impressive in winning a 1 1/16 allowance race at Keeneland, easily handling a solid field by nearly six lengths. After that performance, he will be the top pick.
Another one to watch here is the Brad Cox-trained Awesome Road. He was a sharp winner of his debut this summer at Ellis Park, but failed to live up to that performance with a dull effort in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity last out. Making his third career start here, it’s not a stretch to believe he can bounce back with a much better effort on Saturday.
$20 Exacta Box - Stretch Ride and Risk It = $40
$10 Exacta Part Wheel - Stretch Ride over Honor Marie and Dancing Groom = $20
In this long-term prep for next spring’s Kentucky Oaks, Thorpedo Anna and West Sunset will clash when they put their undefeated records on the line in Saturday’s Grade 2 Golden Rod Stakes for juvenile fillies.
While West Sunset is the stakes winner of the pair, it is Thorpedo Anna who could be the choice among bettors. A daughter of Fast Anna, she has been ultra-impressive in her first two career starts. In both a 7-furlong maiden race at Keeneland and then a one-mile allowance race at Churchill Downs, she came from off the pace to win by open lengths for trainer Kenny McPeek.
West Sunset, meanwhile, has won both of her starts at Churchill Downs. A big rally got the Brad Cox-trained filly up in time to win a 6-furlong maiden race, before dominating a sloppy edition of the Rags to Riches Stakes on the front end four weeks ago.
Of the rest in the eight-horse field, Central Avenue could be the biggest threat to the two favorites. A late running winner of her career debut at Colonial Downs, she exits the Grade 1 Frizette where she ran second behind Just FYI. That result has since been flattered when that one came back to win the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies in her next start. She is the top pick.
$20 Exacta Part Wheel - Central Avenue over Thorpedo Anna and West Sunset = $40
$10 Exacta Part Wheel - Thorpedo Anna and West Sunset over Central Avenue = $20
While the Kentucky Jockey Club and the Golden Rod are rightfully the headliners of Saturday’s big card, there are some very promising horses in the other two stakes races. Chief among them is second-time starter Booth. The Steve Asmussen-trained runner should be a strong favorite when he tops a field of nine in the $225,000 Ed Brown Stakes going 6-furlongs.
A son of the champion sprinter Mitole, Booth looked like a seriously talented runner when he was unveiled for his debut last month at Keeneland. Taking over from the beginning, he coasted to a 5 1/4-length victory in fast time.
A competitive second in the 6-furlong Bowman Mill Stakes last out in Keeneland, Normandy Hero could be the second choice behind Booth on Saturday. Twice a winner in five career starts, the son of Omaha Beach has already proven himself to be a capable sprinter.
Another one to watch in this field is the recent maiden winner, Agoo. The son of Munnings was a very good second to the talented Stretch Ride in his debut two starts back and then broke his maiden nicely last time out at Keeneland. I like his second best here, but the top pick is Booth.
$20 Exacta Box - Booth and Agoo = $40
In the afternoon’s final race, the fillies will sprint 6-furlongs on the main track in the $225,000 Fern Creek Stakes. This one has attracted a field of 12, led by the two-time stakes winner, Youalmosthadme.
Trained by Brad Cox, the daughter of Oxbow has scored by daylight in three of her five career starts, including last month’s Myrtlewood Stakes at Keeneland. Having also performed well in both her defeats, she looks like the one to beat in this full field of fast fillies.
The second choice here will likely be the first-out winner, Halina’s Forte. Trained by Phil Bauer, she made the most of her debut, which came earlier this month at Churchill Downs. Sent right out to contest a strong pace, the Mitole filly pulled clear and coasted to an impressive win down the stretch.
In a race with plenty of early speed, I will take a shot on a longshot who likes to come from off the pace. Fibber has rallied in each of her three starts, including when third behind the favorite last time in the Myrtlewood. At 15/1 on the morning line, she should offer outstanding value. She is the top pick to spring an upset on Saturday.
$20 Win, Place & Show - Fibber = $60
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.
Email: [email protected]
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