Day One of the World Championships was fantastic! We saw the future of our sport in the Future Stars Friday races. Now we see the championship contenders for all divisions. Here is my full card analysis:
It is the Super Bowl of horse racing this weekend. The Breeders’ Cup World Championships kick off Friday at beautiful Keeneland Racecourse in Lexington, Kentucky with so many championship races and many of the best horses in the world. The action begins with Future Stars Friday, where the next best horses will square off in five championship races. Check out my full Friday analysis below and enjoy the races!
Alabama. Georgia. 2 v 3. A rivalry renewed. A trip to Tuscaloosa for the first time since 2007. A possible changing of the tides in the SEC. What will be the outcome of the season’s first huge game? This battle of goliaths will go far in deciding who will go into the playoffs, or at the very least who will make it to the SEC Championship Game. Other than this monster matchup, there will be plenty to watch this weekend, including games involving all 15 ACC teams. Meanwhile, the defenseless Big 12 will only get one game – West Virginia v Kansas. What will happen in this last game before the Big Ten takes the field? We shall find out.
Season Stats: 11-14 (6 Outright)
Auburn at South Carolina (+3.0)
This hasn’t been the greatest year for the Will Muschamp led Gamecocks, but they get a rattled and shaky Auburn team at home to begin their fourth game. Auburn, after a first game win over Kentucky, got exposed against Georgia, and then “won” in a game that Arkansas got cheated by the refs to conclude. Their offensive line has been exposed badly throughout this season and Bo Nix has not developed since last year. Meanwhile, South Carolina played toe-to-toe with Tennessee and Florida before coming on top in dominating fashion over Vanderbilt. I look for Muschamp to right the ship and put South Carolina in a good spot on Saturday.
Kansas at West Virginia (-21.5)
It is time to ride or die with betting against Kansas. They have been awful this season (and really the past decade). Without Les Miles making the trip, this looks even worse for the Jayhawks. All West Virginia.
Louisville (+16.5) at Notre Dame
We opened the season last year with this matchup (in which Ian Book hit a cheerleader with a football), which was Scott Satterfield’s first time at the helm of the Cardinals. While it is unlikely that Louisville wins this, this line seems pretty big, especially after Notre Dame let Florida State score up plenty a week ago. Louisville needs to show more on defense to keep this close, but they have an offense that should push them within 16.
Georgia (+5.0) at Alabama
First… I’m picking Alabama to win outright here. As good as Georgia has been, they’ve been beating up on very weak offensive lines. Now they get one of the strongest teams upfront and a QB in Mac Jones that will be very difficult to stop. But, history is on Georgia’s side; per ESPN’s Chris Fallica, “Under Nick Saban, Alabama has been less than a seven-point favorite at home five times. The Tide have lost four of the games outright (’19 LSU, ’11 LSU, ’10 AUB, ’07 UGA) and pushed the other (’08 ARK)”. Give me those five points.
Boston College (+13.0) at Virginia Tech
Perhaps one of the most underrated squads in the FBS this season, Boston College nearly got UNC, had it not been for a botched 2-pt conversion which would’ve tied the game at the end. They then took down what was a strong Pittsburgh team. Now they take on Virginia Tech one week removed from their loss against North Carolina. Boston College has shown a lot of strengths on defense this season – I look for them to win.
Week Six may be one of the most exciting weeks on the season, with tough matchups such as Florida @ Texas A&M, Virginia Tech @ North Carolina, Oklahoma-Texas, Tennessee @ Georgia, and Miami @ Clemson, among many other quality games. Lots of teams will have their season decided on Saturday – and many will have their fate sealed with a loss. Let’s see what bets to make this week.
Season Stats: 10-10 (6 Outright)
Virginia Tech (+3) at North Carolina
The Tar Heels may be one of the favorites to upset Clemson in the ACC, but getting past the Hokies is their first test. This matchup the last two years has been decided by a total of 5 points, with Virginia Tech currently on a four game win streak. From how these schools have played, UNC looks very overrated for their quality of play while VT is still improving and looks to be near the top of the ACC. These squads should have a very tight content throughout.
NC State @ Virginia (-7)
The Wolfpack shocked many in a close victory over the previously undefeated Pittsburgh Panthers. But now they need to finish up this road trip against UVA – a squad playing angry after their trouncing last week by Clemson. Virginia is one of the best schools in the ACC and can really cause some chaos for other schools. This is a revenge game for last week’s embarrassment – Virginia up big.
UTSA (+34.5) at BYU
The BYU Cougars currently sit atop the standings of both total offense and total defense, but they now get a very tough UTSA squad that has been improving. Sure last game was a loss against UAB, but outside of what was a defensive matchup, they’ve been putting up the points. While I still believe BYU is the victor, I wouldn’t be surprised if this stays close.
Texas Tech (+11.5) at Iowa State
This Big 12 matchup has been a relatively close scoring series of late, even with Iowa State winning the last four. Texas Tech has been playing well since their scare against Houston Baptist while Iowa State is currently sitting on a high. But how will Iowa State backup their play after an upset victory against OU last week, and with Oklahoma State on the horizon? 11.5 points just seems like too much to pass up.
Mississippi State (+3) at Kentucky
Mike Leach’s Air Raid offense was sputtered last weekend, but a trip to Kentucky may be just what they need. The Wildcats don’t have the best defense against the pass and their offense has only been subpar. Even though we have no idea which Bulldogs team will show up, if they can move the ball through the air, this should be an easy game.
Odds provided by Caesars Sportsbook by William Hill.
As the leaves change colors and the temperatures drop, it is finally feeling like College Football season. After last week’s debut for the SEC and two huge Top 25 upsets, the season is starting to be in full swing. Sadly, last week was a brutal beating in the bets, but looking for Week Five to turn that around.
Season Stats: 6-9 (2 Outright)
Baylor at West Virginia (+2)
Morgantown has not been kind to Baylor – having lost to the Mountaineers all four trips to Milan Puskar Stadium. Baylor beat up on a very weak Kansas squad last week while West Virginia contended with one of the top Big 12 teams in Oklahoma State. Now heading back home, the Mountaineers have a lot on their side in this one.
Memphis at SMU (+1)
One of the top games last year was this matchup, when Memphis and SMU fought at the Liberty Bowl in front of College Gameday. That 54-48 game went the way of the Tigers. But now the series switches to Dallas as the Mustangs look to dethrone the Tigers. Memphis is coming off a long month of rest since their opening week win over Arkansas State while SMU has been rolling to three straight, albeit against much weaker. The Pony Express looks to be back and will be a threat in the American this year.
Central Arkansas at North Dakota State (-24.5)
The defending FCS champions continue their domination in their one Fall football game against Central Arkansas. They CRUSHED opponents last year, with an average margin of victory in the regular season of nearly 28 points. Trey Lance has just one opportunity this fall to make an impression on NFL Scouts – this should be the Trey Show and we are ready. The Bison win big!
Ole Miss (+6) at Kentucky
Alright… maybe this is a mistake… but the Lane Kiffin’s of Mississippi looked good last week in defeat. Their defense was stout during the first half (until the doors busted open) and their offense was finding its rhythm. But that was their first game together. Now they get a Kentucky team that just didn’t look right last week. I expect a close one.
Navy at Air Force (+7)
The Air Force Falcons make their first appearance of the season in a battle for the Commander-In-Chief’s Trophy against the Midshipman. Navy was thoroughly rocked in its first game against BYU but rebounded to a nice come from behind victory against an average Tulane team. But a trip out west isn’t easy for Navy; they haven’t won at Falcon Stadium since their OT win in 2012 (and before that have to go back to 2008 for a regulation time win. This is a tough challenge for Navy to come away with a win.
Odds provided by Draftkings Sportsbook.
This past week has definitely been one of the best in college football history – with the Pac-12, Mountain West, and MAC all announcing their return to play, we have college football from every conference once again! Now, as we approach the end of September, the SEC joins the mix to make our Saturdays even better, and to give us more games to bet on. So let’s see what we will be betting Week Four.
Season Stats: 5-4 (1 Outright)
Kentucky (+6.5) at Auburn
SEC Football is Back! Kicking off at noon is a thrilling showdown between the Wildcats and the Tigers at Jordan Hare. The Kentucky defense has been one of the most ferocious in the SEC as of late and that won’t be any different this year. It won’t be easy to score against Kentucky, especially for an Auburn offense that can stutter at times. Lots of cobwebs to worry about here. Going to be a close one and possibly an upset.
Louisville (+2) at Pittsburgh
Last week the Cardinals got exposed against a very good Miami team, but the second half showed their spark. Scott Satterfield will have his boys all revved up for this game against the Panthers, who didn’t look too great in victory over Syracuse.
Florida International at Liberty (-8)
FIU makes their seasonal debut against a very tough Liberty squad. This is one of the hidden mismatches of the weekend – Liberty should roll in this one.
Army (+12.5) at Cincinnati
In two games, Army has impressed – blanking Middle Tennessee and coasting by Louisiana-Monroe. But both games have been against doormats of their conference. Now they take on American hopeful Cincinnati. Cincinnati has the offense to score when given the chance, but they were not great given their chance early against a weak Austin Peay. Army is my favorite to win here and shouldn’t need to many of the 12.5 points (if any) to win this bet.
Florida State at Miami (-12)
Sorry Seminoles fans, this will be another crazy week. The Hurricanes have looked fantastic these last few games – its been impressive to see how much they have grown under Manny Diaz in year two. Meanwhile Florida State is a complete mess and I don’t see that changing this week. Miami rolls in the rivalry.
NC State (+6.5) at Virginia Tech
Dave Doeren won’t have the easiest time against Virginia Tech, but they are tackling a team light on conditioning. After a close rivalry win over Wake Forest, they now get a challenge at Lane Stadium against Virginia Tech. The Wolfpack have a lot of weapons and can score in bunches – should be a shootout in Blacksburg.
Odds provided by Draftkings Sportsbook.
What a week it has been! Now that college football is in full swing, the Big Ten is joining back into the race for the playoffs (with the Pac-12 possibly closely behind). Going to be fantastic to see these conferences return at the end of October. But for now, we focus on week three, where we have a ton more games to look at and try to find some solid bets.
Season Stats: 2-3
Syracuse (+21.5) at Pittsburgh
A good old fashioned rivalry in the ACC pits the Orange and the Panthers together. Syracuse kept it close in the first half last week against a much better North Carolina, before the Tar Heels pulled away. Pittsburgh has a tough offense to deal with, but it is still no where close to what UNC has. Syracuse probably won’t win, but will keep this rivalry game close.
Louisiana (-15) at Georgia State
What a mismatch here. Coming off their upset victory (and shorthanded victory) over Iowa State, the Ragin’ Cajuns head to Atlanta to take on the Georgia State Panthers. Now retooled and nearly at full strength, this should be a Louisiana route. They’ve romped in the previous matchups of these two teams and I could see this being a three score game.
Liberty (+14) at Western Kentucky
We last saw the Hilltoppers playing Louisville tough for parts of last week’s game. Now they take on the Liberty Flames, a squad that won a bowl game last year and put up some good numbers against the bottom feeders of the FBS. But in year two of Hugh Freeze, they should improve and could be one of the surprise stories of the year. Don’t sleep on this offense and squad – they will do damage against a very week Western Kentucky defense.
FAU (+2.5) at Georgia Southern
It isn’t easy facing the option threat of Georgia Southern, but FAU has all the talent to do so. One of the top Group of Five schools last year, the Owls, with new head coach Willie Taggart, will look to continue that against a Georgia Southern team that looked mediocre against Campbell last week.
Louisiana Tech (+5) at Southern Miss
After the loss to South Alabama Week One, Southern Miss fired their coach to move in a new direction. Not sure how that will work going forward and will now get a tough Bulldogs team in their first game under the new regime. Going to be a close one.
All lines compliments of DraftKings Sportsbook.
We had a nice slate of games last week to tease us for the true start to the college football season! The ACC and Big 12 kick off this weekend, including six of our ranked schools going at it, headlined by two in-conference games: Syracuse at North Carolina and Duke at Notre Dame. Of course, the start of the college football season brings some of the best betting action of the year, and we’ve been waiting a long time for it, so let’s go with my five top bets of the Week Two action in College Football.
Syracuse (+23) at North Carolina
The Tar Heels and Mack Brown start their season with a lot of hope at an ACC Title, but they will need to brush off the rust against a decent Syracuse squad. While UNC should win this game, having to win by more than three touchdowns is a huge ask.
Duke (+21.5) at Notre Dame
Another game with a lot on the line is this opening in the ACC for the Irish. If they want any chance at going against Clemson for the crown, they will need to start with a win over the Blue Devils. Again, three touchdowns is a lofty ask, especially considering the last time Duke traveled to South Bend, they came away with the upset. The Blue Devils should be improved over last year’s team, with former Clemson backup Chase Brice leading the offense.
South Alabama (+10) v Tulane
The Jaguars just got their first road win since 2017 and now have their inaugural game at Hancock Whitney Stadium. Going against this Tulane team won’t be an easy ask, but South Alabama has a lot of talent at receiver and a game under their belt. Should be a close one!
Western Kentucky at Louisville (Over 57.0)
In Year Two of Scott Satterfield at Louisville, the Cardinals should be all gears ready for a great ACC campaign. But first they face in-state foe Western Kentucky, who they beat 38-21 last year at Nissan Stadium in Nashville. They were rolling much of the year and should be all cylinders go here. But they won’t get an easy game, with a touch Hilltoppers squad looking to score some points here too – should be a shootout!
Kansas (-6.5) v Coastal Carolina
The Jayhawks have revenge on their mind when the Chanticleers come to town. Just last year, Lawrence, Kansas saw the Jayhawks stunned by Coastal Carolina 12-7. Now it is Round Two and I know these Kansas players don’t want to go down again like that. Year Two under Les Miles should see this team be very improved and coast with a win by at least a touchdown, if not more.
All lines compliments of DraftKings Sportsbook.
On a farm in Kentucky, or Florida, or Maryland, or California, or Virginia, or even New York, about 20,000 foals looked into the sky and imaged themselves blanketed in roses come May of their three-year old year. Now, only sixteen of those have reached the pinnacle of the dreams, making it to the starting gate under the Twin Spires. In a year unlike any other, a year where the First Saturday in May becomes the First Saturday in September, where Mint Juleps are sipped on the couch rather than track side, where the hats populate twitter rather than the winners circle, and the roar of the crowd is just a little bit farther away. For the breeders, this is a culmination of patience, knowledge, work, and most importantly, hope; for the owners, this is the dream of a lifetime – and one they will never forget; for the trainers, this represents everything going right; and for the jockeys, this is a career defining moment. Everyone wants to be the lucky connection to have their horse enter the gate, and even luckier be the one crossing the finish line first and taking that garland of roses in the winners circle used just once per year.
So now, we stand – distantly – and watch these stars of the sport all take time a chance at immortality – its the Run for the Roses, the Kentucky Derby. This year, it takes a special spot in the calendar… generally the kickoff of the Triple Crown and the culmination of the spring racing schedule… but now it is the second leg, following the shortened Belmont Stakes, and a major prep for the Breeders’ Cup Classic in just two months. To get there, fifteen of these three-year olds will need to get the heavy favorite Tiz the Law, who won that Belmont Stakes in his home state of New York before capturing the Travers Stakes in easy fashion. Since the calendar turned to 2020, he has cruised past his foes race after race, starting in Florida with the Holy Bull-Florida Derby double. And while he had to wait a bit longer to get his spot in Kentucky, he hasn’t disappointed along the way. But now, he has his toughest test – many other top three-year olds are here to contend, including the one to his outside, Authentic, the winner of the Haskell Invitational, or the one to his inside, Honor A.P, the Santa Anita Derby winner. In most years, they would be right up there in odds – but this year is far from like most, and when you have someone as accomplished and as dominant as Tiz the Law – he deserves to be odds on. And then you have the new shooters, the ones that wouldn’t have gotten into the gate had this race been in May, including Shared Belief Stakes winner Thousand Words, hard-trier Mr. Big News, and the ever improving Attachment Rate.
Of course, it wouldn’t be Derby Day without a thrilling supporting card, led by the Old Forester Bourbon Turf Classic and the Derby City Distaff. And even more special, the Iroquois, which will give us a glimpse at some of the horses that may be racing next May. With that, let’s get starting looking at this amazing card of stakes action.
Race 8 – American Turf (G2)
Three-year old turf stars go in this mile and a sixteenth affair. Smooth Like Strait has taken the favorite spot on the morning line following his wins in the War Chant over this course and the La Jolla Handicap at Del Mar; hall of famer John Velazquez gets the call once again and looks to take this in a stalking trip. But he takes on a much tougher group than before. He should be a short price once again, and if the Friday betting was anything, he could be close to even money; I can’t take that. Rather I like the horse to the outside, (8) Fancy Liquor; he has been improving in his last three races on turf, including a win in the Caesars at Indiana Grand. The Indiana Grand form has been holding really well, and he has been trending up in his performances. With Florent Geroux back aboard, he should get out to a clear lead and could coast away wire to wire with this one. Additionally, at a slight price I fancy (3) Sugoi on the step up. Coming out of lesser, he was a sharp winner last out Ellis Park in just his second start in the Michael Tomlinson barn. He didn’t really need to expend anything last time out but was visually impressive. Finally, don’t count out (4) Field Pass, who has made a name for himself as of late. Last out he found a lot of trouble, but if he can get a clear trip, he can contend with just about anyone.
Race 9 – Pat Day Mile (G2)
The old Derby Trial Stakes, the one turn mile, has historically been a speed favoring race. With how speed favoring the main track at Churchill was on Friday, it would not be surprising to see a gate to wire winner. That is where (7) No Parole comes in to this for me. He crushed the Grade One Woody Stephens in June and relishes these one turn sprints. While I do think the one turn race is (6) Tap It To Win‘s specialty, No Parole should be the one leading early and taking the field first down the stretch. I’ll be boxing both of these horses up as they should be the ones dueling at the end.
Race 10 – Iroquois (G3)
Future stars of the sport line up for the Iroquois, shortened back to one mile this year, which brings in eleven two-year olds with a win on their belt. For me, I am going with the Steven Asmussen trained (3) Super Stock, winner last out in the Texas Futurity at third asking. He has speed and prowess and has shown great progression in each subsequent start. Looks to be just a bit more conditioned than the rest of the field.
Race 11 – Churchill Distaff Turf Mile (G2)
This race always holds a special spot for me, where I saw Tepin win back to back and helping add to her amazing legacy, and where I made quite a payday with Coffee Clique leading my trifecta many years ago. This year, we have eight fillies and mares lining up, all looking to get a win on the road to the Breeders’ Cup, including last year’s Distaff Turf winner Beau Recall and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf winner Newspaperofrecord (we all remember how easily she cruised home over this course that day). While Beau Recall was coming into last years in good form, this year she is a bit off her balance and just not looking the same. Meanwhile, (4) Newspaperofrecord is back to her old self after three head scratching efforts, with now wins in the Intercontinental and Just A Game. I like her to cruise here on this effort, even with the jockey change. However, I do think I have to give a long look at (1) She’sonthewarpath, who comes here improving and posting some of the best figures of the group. She should appreciate the mile distance and gets an advantage from the one post. Her turn of foot puts her right there with the rest of them.
Race 12 – Derby City Distaff (G1)
Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint hopefuls go in this elite Grade One, formerly known as the Humana Distaff, to try and take the lead in this division with two months left. The current leader of the pack, the Madison winner Guarana, does not show up here, and instead leave it to many of the horses that finished behind her, including Mia Mischief and Bell’s The One. On the other end, (8) Serengeti Empress returns to the site of one of her greatest wins, when she won the Kentucky Oaks just last year. Now sprinting, she showed she has the stuff in wining the Ballerina last out at Saratoga ahead of Bellafina. I love her stride going the seven furlong trip and think she is a must use on all tickets. I’ll be playing her alongside Churchill Downs lover (6) Sally’s Curlin and Madison runner-up (1) Mia Mischief.
Race 13 – Old Forester Bourbon Turf Classic (G1)
One of the top turf races every year is the Turf Classic on Derby Day! This year is no different, with some of the top turf stars coming to Churchill Downs. Last out, (9) Somelikeithotbrown took the lead and shocked many in his win of the Bernard Baruch last out at Saratoga, taking it gate to wire. He is one of the only ones that shows any forward pace here and, while I’m not a huge fan of the outside post, should get a simliar trip with Gaffalione aboard. I’ll also be playing (8) Sacred Life for Chad Brown, who we have yet to really see at his best… he was pushed forward in class to try the Pegasus World Cup Turf, a valiant forth, and then only really seen storming home in the Oceanport. He could be the next Chad Brown star of the stable. And he has some top back class, finishing second to Ghaiyyath back in 2018 at Longchamp; Ghaiyyath is arguably the best horse on the planet currently.
Race 14 – Kentucky Derby (G1)
Finally, we get to the big one, the Run for the Roses! Let’s go horse by horse through this field:
(1) Finnick the Fierce – scratched
(2) Max Player – been improving well each time and looks better as the races have gotten longer. The switch to Steven Asmussen is positive and should help, but the inside post is far from ideal. While he does seem to be getting better, he also continues to grow more distant from Tiz the Law – not a great sign.
(3) Enforceable – an early bloomer that hasn’t found his stride again. His figures are improving and should be one closing late, but not sure if this track will let him gain much ground.
(4) Storm The Court – the defending Breeders’ Cup Juvenile champion hasn’t shown the same prowess; his try on turf last out was more of a “we don’t know” than a good impression. If he wins, he wins… but I can’t fathom a bet on him.
(5) Major Fed – Finished second in the Indiana Derby last out after a troubled trip. His starts against this class of company haven’t been super endearing, but he may be in better form now. Worth a play depending on the price. Workouts have been a big positive.
(6) King Guillermo – scratched
(7) Money Moves – currently a wise-guy play, this Pletcher trainee will be trying takes company for the first time. It is really telling that he sent him here rather than keeping him at Saratoga for the Jim Dandy. He is worth a shot with a good stalking trip and should break much better than last out. Longshot chance for the exotics.
(8) South Bend – this ones a closer that just keeps getting better. While he had no chance to close last out at Saratoga, he should get a bit better pace in this spot. His figures put him near the top contenders and if he can get a clear run might be able to pick up some of the exotics.
(9) Mr. Big News – an intriguing one for W. Bret Calhoun; he has been training on turf as of late in the lead up for this start. Well beaten in the Blue Grass, the Oaklawn Stakes winner will try to right the ship. I’m excusing his last effort and giving him a chance at some money in the exotics.
(10) Thousand Words – the Shared Belief winner has had an up and down career, with highs like the win in the Los Al Futurity and a complete disaster in the Oaklawn Stakes. Still, he shows up when he needs to. He isn’t perfect, and is still a bit below most of this field, but isn’t one to discount. But, he is a need the lead type, and he won’t get that here.
(11) Necker Island – Chris Hartman loses the blinkers here and takes the third place finisher in the Ellis Park and Indiana Derbies to this one. Necker Island hasn’t been nearly as good as the top three, but taking the blinkers off may help him find his finishing kick – he is always well places late before fading so this could be the changer here. I’ll use him in the exotics.
(12) Sole Volante – he will definitely get overbet here. He had no chance going one turn in the Belmont Stakes and the increase in distance won’t help. Just not cut for this.
(13) Attachment Rate – he is on an upward progressing trend to watch. While he still is looking for his first stakes win, hes been getting better and getting closer with each start, albeit finding trouble. If he can just keep clear of trouble, he has a huge chance to upset here.
(14) Winning Impression – Dallas Stewart finds his longshot in this one. Fourth in the Arkansas Derby, he has been a hard trier in his last two. But with no pace to close in, he had no chance. Should get more pace today and could find himself finishing fast for a chance at the show money.
(15) Ny Traffic – the aptly named New York bred, even if traffic is a thing of the past this year, has been just missing in his last three, with a case of seconditus. But that is just more of a reason to watch out for one that has an extremely good late kick and is sitting on a huge effort. Beware!
(16) Honor A.P. – Mike Smith and John Shirreffs team up with this one, that loves to shift around on the track. He didn’t show much last out in the Shared Belief, but had a lot more winning the Santa Anita Derby. Yet, this will be his first test. I’m just not a fan.
(17) Tiz the Law – the Belmont Stakes winner has not flinched in his attempt to capture the Kentucky Derby. He cruised easily in the Travers Stakes just a month ago and has been training well. There is little that I can knock on him. A star in the making.
(18) Authentic – it was nearly a loss late in the Haskell last out as he just held off a fast closing Ny Traffic. Can this son of Into Mischief go a mile and a quarter? And can he take them gate to wire? Not quite sure.
As you can tell, I’m fully on (17) Tiz the Law and team Barclay Tagg & Sackatoga Stables. It should be a dejavu moment under the Twin Spires. I will be using (15) Ny Traffic, (13) Attachment Rate, and (8) South Bend underneath to get some value. But this should be an easy show for the current leader in the clubhouse.
With that, go grab yourself a Mint Julep, a nice seat, and a spot near the TV cause this should be one exciting Kentucky Derby Day!
The fillies may be running for the lillies many months after the fact, but a star studded matchup between Gamine and Swiss Skydiver makes this race just as exciting if not even more so than usual. While the Kentucky Oaks headlines the card, it is backed by many races that may have a play on the Breeders Cup in a few months, with the Eight Belles, Edgewood, Alysheba, La Troienne, and Twin Spires Turf Sprint rounding out the stakes action on the day.
Race 8 – Eight Belles (G2)
Three-year old sprinting fillies go here with the winner most likely being aimed at the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint next time out. A field of 7 goes here, including the duel-Grade 3 winner Four Graces. Early speed usually takes control of these types of races at Churchill Downs, and that is exactly the type of style (7) Four Graces is known for; she will be my top pick in here. She will face a tough challenge from the Brad Cox barn with Mundaye Call, who romped to a 7 1/4 length win in the Audubon Oaks at Ellis Park. However, the class edge for Four Graces gives her the edge for me.
Race 9 – Edgewood (G2)
We head to the turf for the next one, as a field of turf three-year old fillies will go the mile distance. Having been won by many fantastic fillies in recent memory, like Concrete Rose and Catch A Glimpse, this is generally one of the classiest races on Oaks Day. The heavy favorite here, without a doubt, is the H. Graham Motion trainee (3) Sharing, the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf champion of last year who turned her Tepin Stakes win earlier this year at Churchill Downs into a runner up effort at Royal Ascot in the Coronation Stakes. She has had blitzing workouts leading up to this race and should be the one coming home clear late. I’d add in (6) Pranked at a price – she has been improving with each effort and showed a lot of tough finishing an off the pace 2nd last out.
Race 10 – Alysheba (G2)
What better way to get prepped for the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Keeneland than on the other side of the commonwealth at Churchill Downs. The Alysheba has some of the top handicap horses in training showing up, including last year’s Classic runner-up and defending Alysheba champ McKinzie, Oaklawn Handicap winner By My Standards, and fan-favorite Bodexpress. For me, (3) Owendale gets the nod; he had a completely wide trip last our in the Stephen Foster which took away all chance, but his Blame Stakes win was ultra impressive. He got time off and has been working well. The inside post will pose well for him. Should get a good run under Florent Geroux. I can’t back By My Standards or McKinzie, both of which had head scratching efforts as of late and just seem like they are lacking the finishing kick recently. (1) Silver Dust on the inside is one that could pose well here; he’s another that got wide and touch runs but moving to the inside and his early speed could give him enough to crack the money.
Race 11 – La Troienne (G1)
Distaffers go in this Grade 1, which drew four last out winners. While Midnight Bisou won’t be showing up here, Vexatious and crew will have to get past Monomoy Girl, winner of nine straight races, including the Ruffian Stakes last out and last year’s Breeders’ Cup Distaff. Can she be beat? Hard to say. She might be another chalk that we will have to eat, as she looks to tough. I have to put (8) Monomoy Girl on top of my tickets – she is an absolute star. But I have some nice prices to put aside her in (7) Lady Kate, winner of the Groupie Doll last out who has a lot of speed to contend, and (5) Risky Mandate, who has been improving each out and is one to watch.
Race 12 – Kentucky Oaks (G1)
Finally it is time for the headliner of the day – the Kentucky Oaks! The routes to this race have been anything but normal, as is par for the course this year. But nonetheless, we have an absolute showdown between Swiss Skydiver, a filly that was aimed at the Investec Oaks for a time, and Gamine, the lightly raced Baffert that ran away with the Acorn on Belmont Stakes day. And don’t leave out the rest of this group, which includes the Santa Ysabel winner Donna Veloce (runner up in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies too), Ashland winner Speech, Indiana Oaks winner Shedaresthedevil, and Monmouth Oaks winner Hopeful Grace. Going horse by horse, (1) Swiss Skydiver shows everything that I’d want in an Oaks winner – the ability to rate, relax, and turn up the gears when needed; she nearly beat the boys in the Blue Grass earlier this Summer and looks tuned up after her Alabama win. As for (2) Tempers Rising, this one should be charging late at the end; with a lot (read: hot hot hot) of pace here, there will be plenty for this closer to run after and should grab a spot in the money. Donna Veloce has been sitting on the sidelines for more than six months, missing much of the action this year and only starting once all year – she has talent, but this long layoff just isn’t the type of pattern for me. Speech is an interesting one; she took the very easy Ashland at Keeneland once Swiss Skydiver defected for the Blue Grass, just one race after beating Speech in the Santa Anita Oaks; she has been second best for much of this year (even when going behind Gamine) and I expect just the same – but should be one to include in exotics. As for Gamine, she has been lights out around one turn this year in the Acorn and the Test, but two turns isn’t necessarily her thing – I don’t know how she will stay on top against a hot pace and down the long Churchill Downs stretch. Bayerness, the aptly named daughter of Bayern, has not shown too much going shorter this year – perhaps she steps up here (but probably not). The Indiana Oaks winner (7) Shedaresthedevil has caught my eye for Brad Cox – she had a mix of results early, with trainer changes of Norm Cassee and Simon Callaghan, but she seems to have found her stride the Cox barn; her Indiana Oaks win was visually impressive and I’m excited to see what she can do with her return to Churchill Downs (a track she loves). Hopeful Growth and Dream Marie on the outside are two coming out of the Monmouth Oaks, but no Monmouth magic is expected for me – both tosses.
Race 13 – Twin Spires Turf Sprint (G2)
One of my favorite races of the weekend every year is the 5.5 furlong dash on the turf – the Twin Spires Turf Sprint. This year horses are coming from pretty much everywhere to tackle this turf sprint, and a major prep for the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint. For me, this race will depend on if (2) Wellabled can go gate to wire – he has the speed to do just that, and has really improved with the switch to turf, but this will be his toughest test yet. If he can’t, (10) Carotari and (4) Bound For Nowhere will be right on his tail to take over late.
There you have it. While it may be a chalky Friday, it is sure to be a good Friday, and a nice prelude day leading up to Saturday’s action of the Kentucky Derby! Enjoy!