DOWNS AFTER DARK PICK 4 ANALYSIS

6- Regret, 9f Turf, 7:32

In a race where all but one runner is stretching out in distance from their last start, and one with two confirmed front-runners that probably don’t want to go this far, we’ll look for choices that have shown an ability to stalk and pass foes in the stretch and might benefit from a bit of added distance. Our Arlington bias aside, PRADO’S SWEET RIDE comes in third off the lay for trainer Chris Block and jockey Florent Geroux and appears to fit the bill here. Her two worst career races have come at distances less than a mile, while she is a perfect 3/3 at 8f and beyond, making up ground in each, which suggests that 9f may be right in her wheelhouse. Her win two back over the Tampa Bay Downs turf versus optional claimers earned her an 86 BRIS figure, the second highest career turf figure in the field. She takes a step up in class here but should appreciate the stretchout. DON’T LEAVE ME draws the rail for her first turf start of 2015, but don’t let that deter you, as she won her first two career races over the green last year and closed well at Turfway over synthetic to win the 8f Bourbonette two back, posting a 90 BRIS figure, which would be the highest career figure in the field if including all surfaces. Having already won on turf, daughter of Lemon Drop Kid should move up switching back to it and appreciate the stretchout, and it bears mention that she’s the only graded winner in the field. The lone aforementioned runner that is not stretching out for this is RETURN TO GRACE, who broke her maiden going 9f in her last after two tries at shorter distances, the only runner to have won at today’s distance.  She’s also the only runner with a win over the Churchill Downs turf course, and while she steps up in class for just her fourth career start, she could be sitting on a peak effort. While still just a maiden winner, LADY ZUZU deserves a look on class, as she’s run behind solid fillies like Spanish Queen, Quality Rocks, Feathered and Miss Temple City in her last three starts while duplicating field-high 89 BRIS speed figures. A pure speed type, what concerns us here is that she has been backing up after setting the pace in four consecutive races, all but one at shorter distances, so it’s tough to make a logical argument that she will appreciate the stretchout. She figures to get enough pace pressure from the one-dimensional CRISTINA’S JOURNEY (our ill-advised top choice in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies), who makes her first start on turf, has looked terrible in her two starts since then, and has never gone or wanted to go 9f before.

Picks:

1) Prado’s Sweet Ride 4-1

2) Don’t Leave Me 3-1

3) Return To Grace 7-2

4) Lady Zuzu 7-2

7- Fleur de Lis, 9f, 8:08

A lot of speed lines up for this Grade II event, as seven of the nine runners have been winners on the lead at some point in their career. If the morning line is any indication, TIZ WINDY may be overlooked here after a string of 4th and 5th place finishes since her last win, but taking a closer look (and giving her a pass for her first race off the layoff/ drawing a line through it), she’s closed ground in all of her last three to miss the win by just a combined 5.25 lengths in graded company. The extra half furlong and added pace to run into may be just enough to get the job done here at a square price. The lone concern is form cycle related, as she posted a career high BRIS speed figure of 100 in her last in her third off the lay, but recent works give no indication that she is due to bounce off that. In fact, since her first start off the lay was really just a glorified workout rather than an actual race, form cycle players might be well-advised to consider this her third start off the lay rather than her last. She’s also won twice at Churchill and no others in the race can lay claim to the same, and one can only drool over that dirt pedigree (by Tiznow out of an AP Indy mare). For the value, she will be our strongest bet on the card and a potential single in multi-race sequences. However, the presence of morning line favorite SHEER DRAMA makes that a scary proposition. Winner of the Grade 2 Royal Delta two back, she posted field high Beyer (99) and BRIS (106) speed figures for the effort, and ran on well to be 2nd in the Grade I La Troienne last out, narrowly besting the top choice and the fading speedster GOLD MEDAL DANCING at the shorter 8.5f distance. That one, along with Grade I Vanity winner MY SWEET ADDICTION, line up as foes today but look like underlays on the morning line drawn side by side with a suicidal speed duel imminent. If the pace meltdown play is the right one, it’s worth including GLORY’S LAST CHANCE underneath in exotics. She shows the best average BRIS Late Pace Figures in the field and could surprise moving from Prairie Meadows to a less speed favoring surface in a race that appears loaded with pace.

Picks:

1) Tiz Windy (8-1)

2) Sheer Drama (2-1)

3) Glory’s Last Chance (30-1)

4) Gold Medal Dancer (3-1)

8- Stephen Foster, 9f, 8:42

A strong field including three Grade I winners lines up for the marquee event in the dark, and as opposed to last year, where we nailed 10-1 longshot Moonshine Mullin as the lone speed winner, this edition appears rather chalky. LEA hasn’t raced since a somewhat disappointing 3rd place finish in the Dubai World Cup at the end of March, but has been working lights out leading up to this. Consider that in addition to that being his first career 10f attempt (a distance that if we’re being honest, is a touch longer than his ideal race), he’s also won both starts off a layoff since being transferred to the Bill Mott barn, and you have the look of a horse that is in the right place at the right time. In a race with no blazing speed types but full of forwardly placed runners and devoid of deep closers, his versatility and ability to rate just behind the front-runners should play well here from a ground-saving post. HOPPERTUNITY also runs back from a long layoff and will try to duplicate the form he showed in winning the 9f Clark Handicap over this surface last fall. He fired a bullet work over the track on June 8th; all systems go for the stalking son of Any Given Saturday who was poised to be our Derby pick last May before being sidelined by injury. COMMISSIONER enters off a front-running score in the 9.5f Pimlico Special where he posted a field high 113 Beyer and 107 BRIS speed figure. He’ll be forced to send from the rail here though, and while he proved his ability to wire a field in his last when setting pretty tame fractions at Pimlico, he didn’t have to do it from the inside. One wonders if the cutback in distance is really what he wants here with a pedigree that is geared towards longer races; he’s always been more of a grinder with tactical speed than a horse that runs fields off their feet with his speed. CAT BURGLAR will take action at the windows after a sharp 5f workout over the track in his third off the lay for the Baffert barn, but he’s still never won a graded race and doesn’t inspire as a win candidate based on his last two efforts. Underneath, we’d rather look towards NOBLE BIRD, who just missed the Grade 2 Alysheba over this course in his last and posted a competitive field high last out 107 BRIS figure in that effort, his fourth consecutive improving number. Even MAJESTIC HARBOR, who is the other Grade I winner in the race, offers value underneath, having shown a return to form earlier this year when cutting back to 8.5f and winning over this track after a long 10f campaign out west in 2014.

Picks:

1) Lea 7-5

2) Hoppertunity 5-2

3) Noble Bird 10-1

4) Commissioner 3-1

9- Matt Winn, 8.5f, 9:13

This is a tougher race to figure out than the morning line suggests, as the heaviest favorite of the entire sequence closes out the last leg. That’s FAME AND POWER, an impressive three length wire to wire winner at this distance in his last, posting field high BRIS (108) and Beyer (99) speed figures. But for us, he is far from a sure thing in this spot. The problem is, in both of his two career wins, he got easy leads, and since the same can be said for less talented foes HENRY JONES and ALABASTER drawn to his outside, he may be vulnerable here at a short price following a career effort over a track that may have been biased towards his front-running style. BOLD CONQUEST, who finished an easily beaten second to the favorite last out, is regally bred and continuing to improve, having posted three consecutive increasing speed figures dating back to March. He’s kept classy competition too, including 3rd place finishes in Grade 1 and Grade 2 company. Perhaps with a slightly different race shape and continued upward trajectory, today is finally his breakout performance; he’s still just a maiden winner. ISLAND TOWN is the mystery horse having never run beyond 8f, but he made up 3 lengths in the stretch winning his last at 7f, posting a field high BRIS Late Pace figure. His breeding (by Hard Spun out of a Distorted Humor mare) suggests that this distance should be perfect for him. He also shows two wins in four starts over the Churchill dirt, so he fits as the horse for the course as well as the pace meltdown play. There isn’t a ton to get excited about outside of those three, but we’ll give PHENOMENAL PHOENIX a shot underneath from the rail coming off a decent 3rd in the Grade 3 Illinois Derby last out and a win in allowance company before that.

Picks:

1) Bold Conquest 5-2

2) Island Town 6-1

3) Fame and Power 6-5

4) Phenomenal Phoenix 8-1

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