Kentucky Derby Undercard Picks

churchill-downs-og

6- Humana Distaff, 7f, 12:13

1) Spiced Perfection (7-2)- Winner of three of last four at this distance, and the other was a 2nd place finish by a nose, so she’s really found her niche at 7f and is well-aimed in this spot. Received a brilliant ride from Castellano who retains the mount here when winning the Grade 1 Madison, sitting just off the pace behind today’s foe Amy’s Challenge and pouncing late, earning career high speed figures (100 Brisnet, 96 Beyer). Should be even sharper second off the lay for Peter Miller as her figs have been ascending over her last three.

2) Marley’s Freedom (7-5)- BRIS Prime Power selection cuts back to 7f in her third start off the lay for Baffert, who wins with 27% of his runners in that stage of their form cycle. Owns the best speed at the distance for her score last summer on Travers day (103 Brisnet, 100 Beyer) and also has a 7f win over dirt labeled “good” at Santa Anita (97 Brisnet, 99 Beyer). Fired a bullet at Churchill on 4/25, the fastest of 25 workers; all systems go, a must-use on top.

3) Amy’s Challenge (4-1)- Front-running type took them as far as she could last out while seeking her first win beyond 6f, but couldn’t quite hold off the top selection. With a bullet work under her belt from 4/27, the fastest of 79 that day, she should be keen to make the lead again, but the fear is that there’s enough pace signed on to keep her honest, and she may meet a similar fate beyond her ideal distance of 6f.

4) Mia Mischief (12-1)- Held her own against this group last year, as she defeated Talk Veuve To Me to win over this track and distance on Derby weekend (98 Brisnet, 97 Beyer) and ran within a neck of Amy’s Challenge at 6f. She’s run twice over muddy tracks this year, finishing 1st and 2nd, and is 5-2-2-0 lifetime at Churchill. Should be involved early third off the lay for Steve Asmussen, who wins with 22% of his starters in that form stage.

7- Churchill Distaff Turf Mile, 8f, 12:55

1) Proctor’s Ledge (5-1)- Defending winner of this race (99 Brisnet, 96 Beyer) returns to her ideal distance a bit under the radar after having experimented and failed going longer. She still owns the best speed figures at 8f in the field from the narrow runner-up finish on Belmont Day that followed that score (100 Brisnet, 99 Beyer), although she’s had three declining figures since then. Wasn’t disgraced when beaten a neck for the win by today’s foe Valedictorian in her last when cutting back to this distance from 10f after a nearly six month layoff, and will be sharper for this; daughter of Ghostzapper hasn’t been out of the exacta in her last three 8f starts.

2) Precieuse (3-1)- Chad Brown on turf can’t be ignored, especially with the girls, and he has this one in form. BRIS Prime Power selection exits a half length win over today’s foe Valedictorian at this distance after a 7 month layoff (98 Brisnet, 97 Beyer). Has another shorter layoff to contend with here, but Brown wins with 27% of his runners off a 46-90 day rest and this one in particular appears to run well fresh, and has handled surfaces ranging from soft to firm.

3) Valedictorian (6-1)- There’s little separating the top three here based on recent head to head results, and she merits inclusion based on race shape considerations. In a race with no “E” designations, she’s the only one to have wired a race, which has happened in two of her last three, and also shows a wire to wire win over yielding turf from last year at 8.5f. Looms potential lone speed, dangerous at this distance which hits her right between the eyes, although the wide post is a concern.

4) Environs (8-1)- The “other Chad” looks to be potentially ignored here, and that might be a mistake. Stakes winner in France won her stateside bow at this distance in allowance company and earned a 94 Brisnet figure; fits here with a move forward in her second off the lay for a trainer that wins with 24% of his runners in that spot. Leaving Chad Brown out of races like these in multis is generally not wise.

8- Churchill Downs Stakes, 7f, 1:45

1) Whitmore (4-1)- When we see a race that sets up with this much pace, the first thing we ask ourselves is who the best closer is at the distance. It’s true that Whitmore has been racing closer to the pace of late but his best races emerge from more of a stalking trip, and consistent six year-old continues to run his race every time out; he hasn’t missed the exacta in his last seven races, and he’s run triple digit Beyers in 8 of his last 10. He ran a great race when 2nd over this track at 6f in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, and owns the top Beyer in the field at the distance (104) from last year’s Forego. That’s appealing in a race full of types that may prefer a panel shorter. It’s true that he was no match for likely favorite Mitole in his last, but that one has never raced beyond 6f and will meet pace pressure the likes of which he hasn’t seen before, and he’s one that we will try to keep him off the board entirely.

2) Do Share (10-1)- His last race may fall into the category of “show me that again before I believe it”, but at this price it’s worth finding out if he can. Deep closer finds a spot here that fits his style perfectly following a career best where he saw his high Brisnet speed figure at 6f explode from 105 to 116, which by far tops the field. Enters off a long layoff and has lost head to head to some of these, and while he does have a win against weaker at 7f, his closing kick hasn’t been duplicated beyond 6f; a head scratcher for sure, but must be used if there is any chance his last was real, especially as he figures to be flying from off the pace.

3) Promises Fulfilled (4-1)- Our BC Sprint selection from last year makes his first stateside start following a 4th place finish in the world class Dubai Golden Shaheen. He’s the only pace colt we have any faith in to hang around for a piece, as he’s far more battle tested than Mitole and has indeed won at 7f. But the feeling is that he might simply be better at 6f and that he may need this race to regain his top form after the Dubai trip. An interesting speed figure paradox we stumbled upon today: both he and Whitmore covered 7f in and identical 1:21.2 on Travers Day last August in separate races. Beyer awarded the top selection a figure five points higher, while Brisnet, perhaps more logically, awarded equal figures (102).

4) Majestic Dunhill (30-1)- Bombs away underneath, playing for a complete pace meltdown. George Weaver trainee has run four straight times at this distance, and has posted Brisnet Late Pace figures above 100 in three of them; holds the best average closing number and makes sense to blow up the trifecta at a price if the pace sets up as we imagine.

9- American Turf, 8.5f, 2:37

1) Social Paranoia (10-1)- In a race that sets up as fairly paceless, Pletcher entry figures to sit a ground saving trip near the lead as the only colt in the field to have run a triple digit Brisnet E1 Pace figure. He takes a class leap having just broken his maiden in his first start of the year after five unsuccessful attempts last year, but if the figure earned in his last at this distance is to be believed (95 Beyer, 97 Brisnet) they are all running for 2nd, as no other foe has broken the 90 Beyer threshold. Morning line price seems unlikely to hold, but half of that seems sufficient.

2) Avie’s Flatter (6-1)- Winner of last three dating back to last year, all at distances at or beyond this one, including the field’s only win over yielding turf last October, where he posted a competitive 92 Brisnet (81 Beyer) speed figure holding off today’s foe Henley’s Joy as that one charged late.

3) Henley’s Joy (8-1)- Encountered traffic in both of his last two turf starts but rallied strongly in both to just miss, son of Kitten’s Joy could work out a better trip at a price here and fits on form going back to his 8f win in last year’s Pulpit Stakes (94 Brisnet). Ran poorly in only start on off-going.

4) A Thread of Blue (3-1)- Perfectly logical favorite draws the rail and should show some speed early. Winner of last three owns the field’s second best speed figures at the distance (95 Brisnet, 88 Beyer) but hasn’t raced in over two months; may need a sharpener, and lost only race over yielding turf. Include in multis but doesn’t jump off the page at this price in a wide open race.

5) Seismic Wave (8-1)- Closing type stretches out for Bill Mott third off the lay following a 9f Stakes win. We don’t really like Bill Mott third off the lay, but will include son of Tapit reluctantly in multis. Shows ascending Brisnet figures in all four career races but moves up in class here.
10- Pat Day Mile, 8f, 3:28

1) Last Judgment (5-1)- This race is a shitshow, but hopefully not on par with last year’s result, which saw slop transform the race into a catastrophic win by a colt named Funny Duck that destroyed the Pick 4 dreams of the entire planet. We digress. At 8f on the dirt, eager and ambitiously placed speed colts will ensure a wicked pace up front, so again we look for a closer with upside, and land on this lightly raced Pletcher trainee, who cuts back from 8.5f after winning in optional claiming company. Drawn wide in 14, he may be slightly overlooked, but the feeling is that he wouldn’t be entered here if he couldn’t win (read: wasn’t GOING to win). His Brisnet Late Pace Last Race figure (99) is best in the field after having run at least a 75 E1, and that is the stat that we are banking on here.

2) Instagrand (6-5)- By far the most likely winner, but far from a lock or an advisable single in our eyes. The two “Ps”- pace and price- render this race worthy of a spread, but son of Into Mischief must be used off his field high figures at this distance (100 Brisnet, 93 Beyer). Provides some security in this spot as his form towers over these, but far from a sure thing, especially at these odds. He’ll have company on the lead, including Mr. Money Bags, who doesn’t appear to be bred for this distance.

3) Durkin’s Call (15-1)- Rail draw can’t hurt, and neither can experience… Bill Mott charge has raced his last five at this distance and has gone 3-1-1, winning his last two (89 Brisnet, 87 Beyer). A class leap looms large here but he has finished races well, and he is the only colt in the field to have won twice at this distance in 2019. Versatile runner runs off a layoff here but can be competitive fresh.

4) Frolic More (20-1)- How about a closer that is also a horse for the course? Son of More Than Ready is 3-1-1 at Churchill and gets a cutback following a 90 Brisnet figure, which is competitive here. Still has just a maiden win to his credit, however, and that came at 7f, but he did earn a 94 Brisnet figure when 2ndover an off track at 8f three back, and was flattered when the colt that beat him just 1.5 lengths came back to win the Lexington.

*** We could make a case for nearly anyone here. Dream Maker, specifically, continues to puzzle, as he works bullets and then refuses to run when the gates open; he’s burned us one too many times at this point to play again despite our affinity for Monarchos, but would be no surprise to win this outright. Also, Hog Creek Hustle offers value at 30-1 in the event of a full blown pace meltdown, and Captain Von Trappe is the other colt to win at 8f this year. Dumph and Mr. Money are also appealing on the cutback, and Mr. Money Bags could be any kind despite the fact this will be a massive stretchout for him. ALL key is in play here with a likely even money favorite, which isn’t great news.***

11- Turf Classic, 9f, 4:25

1) Bricks and Mortar (5-2)- Son of Giant’s Causeway should be the star of the entire day, and would be an absolute steal for the win at these odds, as he is the most likely winner of the sequence by far in our eyes, and holds the largest BRIS Prime Power advantage (+12.9). The race doesn’t appear to be loaded with speed to set up his late move, but look at how impressively Irad Ortiz sat close to a slow pace in his last and was able to overtake the leader. The fractions of :51 and 1:15.1 he closed into are almost impossible to imagine regardless of the lack of speed, and the defection of Brisnet E designation Prime Attraction from the Alysheba back into this race ensures at least a target to run at. Simply put, his figures tower above these (106 Brisnet, 107 Beyer), and he’s won over both yielding and firm turf. A very logical single in a sequence where one is badly needed, and it merits mention that this “S” designation still holds the highest average E1.

2) Synchrony (8-1)- He was our pick in this race last year, when he ran out of ground chasing a very slow pace and finished 3rdover yielding turf. He is the only other runner to have duplicated triple digit Beyers at or beyond the distance outside of the top selection, but considering the similarities in their running style, it is very hard to imagine this six-year-old turning the tables given the fact that they both chased the same slow pace in their last.

3) Breaking The Rules (15-1)- Sneaky type won his last two races of 2018 before a three month layoff, and his return at the shortened 8f distance did not result in a win, but he was gaining ground late to finish 2nd. Son of War Front out of an AP Indy mare merits a look in this spot as a mid-pack runner in a race loaded with what appear to be deep closers; if the pace is a crawl, he can have a say here from a more tactical position.

4) Ticonderoga (8-1)- We’d be remiss to not include a Chad, so this is the one. To view this son of Tapit as a win candidate is likely a bit of a stretch, but deep closer will be flying late, and shows ascending Brisnet speed figures over his last four races dating back to last May.

***We are generally not a fan of the 8f Makers at Keeneland form, as all of the runners that exit it appeared to be losing ground at a shorter distance. Markitoff and Prime Attraction will not get away with easy fractions given that they are here together, so both will be tossed. Next Shares deserves respect but the feeling is that he is better suited to 9f races, and his recent form has been in decline. ***

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