Downs After Dark and Shoemaker Mile Picks

Following a BRUTAL Triple Crown season for yours truly, I’ve decided to get back to basics. That means abandoning exactas and trifectas until I can bring home some winners and get my confidence back. After all, you can’t hit the exacta or the trifecta if you can’t pick the winner. So let’s start there and see how we do, playing win bets, place bets and a narrow Pick 3 at Churchill Downs. (All times EST as I will be in Indianapolis this weekend).

Race 6: Matt Winn, 8.5f, 8:30 PM

There’s lots of familiar three year-old faces in here, and there’s also a lot of speed, as Tapiture, Rise Up, Almost Famous and The Admiral all figure to go to the lead early in this 7 horse field. Of those, we like the chances of ALMOST FAMOUS best. He wired the field in his last start over this very track, an 8.5f allowance, where he posted a 102 Beyer, which tops the field. He’s 3/4 lifetime at CD, and seems the horse for the course that appears to be rounding into form in his second start off a two month layoff. For the pace meltdown play, we’ll look to CONQUEST TITAN, who runs off a two month layoff that he likely needed. Before a puzzling 4th place finish in a weak Tampa Bay Derby and a 5th place finish in a very tough Arkansas Derby that was probably better than it looked, he showed an impressive turn of foot that should suit him here based on the setup. He closed well over this track to win an allowance at 8f last November, and his hard closing 2nd at GP in the Holy Bull was remarkable considering how poorly that track played against his style, and he finished ahead of the top choice in that race. TAPITURE is accomplished enough and a gutsy colt, but seemed to trail off in the spring as the distances of his races increased. He shows a win over this course at the distance last November and cuts back following a 15th place Kentucky Derby run to a distance more fitting, but still has never run a triple digit Beyer, and appears beatable on top as the short-priced favorite.

1) Almost Famous (2-1)
2) Conquest Titan (10-1)
3) Tapiture (9-5)

Place: Conquest Titan
Pick 3: Almost Famous, Conquest Titan

Race 7: Fleur de Lis, 9f, 9:05 PM

It would require quite a leap of faith to go against favored ON FIRE BABY in this spot. Her last three Beyers of 92, 98 and 94 rank as the top three in the field, so she towers over the competition on figures. She’s also 3 for 5 lifetime at CD, and her second place finish at Oaklawn just 1.25 lengths behind Close Hatches was flattered when that one ran back to win the Ogden Phipps over highly regarded fillies Beholder and Princess of Sylmar. If there’s an angle to beat her here, it’s due to the potentially hot pace, as she’s likely to see pressure from Fiftyshadesofhay and Ondine. Looking for an off-the-pace type to play spoiler at a decent price in this short field, we land on FLASHY AMERICAN, who returns off a seven week rest following a career effort at Hawthorne, winning the 9f Sixty Sails and posting a 90 Beyer. Her Brisnet late pace numbers tower over the field, and she figures to get a perfect trip from post 6 where she can track the leaders and move late. FIFTYSHADESOFHAY deserves respect off her Grade 2 win in the Ruffian last out at 8f, where she showed some versatility running off the lead and posted a 92 Beyer. That was an improvement from her prior start, where she set the pace and faded badly late at the 9f distance. She has won at 9f before against weaker foes, but at likely short odds, may be worth going against for the win today at this distance.

1) On Fire Baby 8-5
2) Flashy American 7-2
3) Fiftyshadesofhay 9-5

Pick 3: On Fire Baby, Flashy American

Race 8: Stephen Foster, 9f, 9:39 PM

An accomplished group enters the most important race of the day. In contrast to the prior two races, this one doesn’t shape up to have a ton of speed, and for that reason we believe MOONSHINE MULLIN looks attractive at a double digit morning line in this spot. He comes off a surprising win over this track in the 8.5f Alysheba, where he wired the field and defeated highly regarded challengers Golden Ticket, Bradester and Will Take Charge, two of whom he’ll see today. He ran a 108 Beyer in the race before that against optional claimers, which is good for the second best in the field this year, and a return to that number should get the job done here without anyone to challenge him on the front end. While he stretches out in distance from his recent efforts, he’s shown success at 9f before, finishing 2nd in the 2011 Jim Dandy behind eventual Travers winner Stay Thirsty, and gets a five pound weight break here. The aforementioned WILL TAKE CHARGE threw in his first clunker in as long as we can remember when a hapless 6th in the Alysheba; we’ll give him a pass for that after a steady, consistent  campaign that dates back to last spring. He should be expected to improve off six weeks of rest, and will offer better value here than in recent memory based on his last race; take it, as he hasn’t been above 3-2 in his last four. Favored REVOLUTIONARY exits a career best effort after winning the 9.5f Pimlico Special from well off the pace, where he posted a 106 Beyer running double digit lengths off the pace through the first two calls. He cuts back in distance and wheels back quickly for this, and we’re not sure that similar racing tactics will get the job done over 9f, a distance where he was beaten by Will Take Charge in both of his last two efforts. DEPARTING appears to be a bit of a wildcard in here, as we’re just not sure what he’s capable of. He made a name for himself beating up on weak fields in 2013, but does have a win over this surface in his last following a long layoff. GOLDEN TICKET finished just a half length behind the top pick in his last, but seems best closing into shorter distances and into hotter paces.

1) Moonshine Mullin 10-1
2) Will Take Charge 5-2
3) Revolutionary 2-1
4) Departing 9-2
5) Golden Ticket 8-1

Win/Place: Moonshine Mullin
Pick 3: Moonshine Mullin, Will Take Charge

Bonus Race at Santa Anita:

Race 7: Shoemaker Mile, 8f, 7:00 PM

A remarkable collection of talent enters for this edition, as the three horses with the four highest turf Beyer figures of 2014 meet here. Of the seven entered, five of these horses want to run on the lead, and we believe that sets up nicely for our top pick JACK MILTON, who does his best running from off the pace and appears in career form in his third off the layoff shipping west from Belmont. He posted a career high Beyer of 104 closing from off the pace in his last at 8f, and may have found his niche at this distance. He will be in receipt of five pounds from the high weight, and it doesn’t hurt that his stablemate Pulpit’s Express is entered here way above his depth in a clear attempt to add to the pace (read: Rabbit). The highly regarded OBVIOUSLY wasted no time getting back to business in his last, destroying a Grade 3 field on the lead at this distance following a 6 month layoff, posting a field high 107 Beyer. He’ll get a ground saving trip from the rail and will be the one to catch, but could be compromised by all the other speed. Still, we prefer his sharp current form slightly to WINNING PRIZE, another highly regarded front-runner who posted back to back 105 Beyers this winter over the SA strip, but runs off a three month layoff here. SUMMER FRONT has put together a solid career closing from off the pace in races like this, and seems logical cutting back from a hard closing runner-up finish at 9f in his last. However, he wasn’t flattered when the horse that beat him there came back to run a dull 5th in the Manhattan at BEL, and his speed figures (98, 102) rank just below the top choices. It would be no surprise to see him come on late for a piece but we will try to beat him for the top spot as he makes his first start over the SA strip.

1) Jack Milton (3-1)
2) Obviously (9-5)
3) Winning Prize (5-2)
4) Summer Front (6-1)

Win/ Place: Jack Milton

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