FORGET ALL STAKES PICK 4...ALL STAKES PICK 3 IS SATURDAY'S BEST
FORGET ALL STAKES PICK 4...ALL STAKES PICK 3 IS SATURDAY'S BEST
Matt Winn, Stephen Foster And Regret Looks Like A Great Churchill Wagering Combo
With four straight graded stakes scheduled in races 6-9 at Churchill Downs on Saturday it is logical that the track would schedule a Pick 4 that would encompass all of them.
However, the first leg of the Pick 4 is the Grade II Fleur De Lis, a mile and an eighth main track race for 3-and-up fillies and mares, which drew a short field of 5 runners and for all intents and purposes has turned out to be a soft spot for the 2-5 ML favorite Royal Delta who races for the first time since a disastrous trip to the United Arab Emirate in which she finished 20 lengths behind the boys in the $10 Million Dubai World Cup. A multiple Grade I winner, Royal Delta has worked brilliantly at Belmont Park and even if 80% fit figures to dominate her four rivals.
As such a prohibitive favorite she will likely be a single on the tickets of 90% of Pick 4 Bettors, which of course will depress the potential payoff significantly. And it is also worth noting that betting pattern record keeping has also shown that when the "single wager" horse in a Pick 4 or Pick 3 wager is in the first leg as opposed to the second or third leg, the payoff of an otherwise equal bet is actually lower.
All this is a lead in to the suggestion that while the Pick 4 is the "promoted" highlight wager for this all stakes combination, the better play could be the Pick 3 which starts with the Grade III Matt Winn Stakes in race 7.
I am fully aware that Pick 4's pay more than Pick 3's and that were one to single Royal Delta in the first leg with the same number of horses from each of races 7 through 9, the ticket would not cost any more money. But I also see that as a nonsensical argument for one reason. Those people who bet the Pick 4 and single Royal Delta ARE NOT (with very few exceptions for bettors that don't know how to a lot their resources) going to then start a Pick 3 in race 7.
They might of course start one if Royal Delta is upset, but that would only mean they are contributing to enlarging the pool for those that make their first combo bet in Race 7. But the essential point from a VALUE STANDPOINT is that so much money has gone into the Pick 4, money that generally comes from bigger pocketed bettors, and if the odds-on favorite does win, they will be sitting on their bet when Race 7 begins. And Races 7 to 9 are comprised of the kind of fields that are deep in contention.
Without getting too technical regarding records of betting patterns, let me just explain that favorites (as we know) win at about a 35% clip nationwide and odds on favorites at about a 50% clip. That means that all things being equal, Royal Delta has an equal chance of winning or losing. That means that the return on investment for the Pick 4, with her as the single, would have to be twice as much as the return on the Pick 3...given the same amount wagered. And I can assure you that if Royal Delta wins the first leg, the Pick 4 WILL NOT return twice as much as the following Pick 3...and with those three races being competitive, it is well worth the wager.
So yes, Churchill Downs wants you to play the Pick 4, but your best move would be to wait a race and invest in what could be a HIGH PAYOUT PICK 3.
And all that being said, let's take a look at the three Graded Stakes in question.
RACE 7 - Grade III Matt Winn Stakes
What the 2013 3-year old crop seems to lack in overall speed and distinguished head of the class stardom is apparently compensated for by the depth of the division. In Saturday's Matt Winn that depth is clearly on display as nine colts, a ridgeling and a gelding have signed on for the mile and a sixteenth main track test. And the competitiveness of the field is clearly expressed in the morning line assignment which has Code West listed as the 4-1 favorite with Abstraction and Bellarmine at 9-2 and the trio of Sunbeam, Uncaptured and Treasury Bill at 6-1. Let's take a look at the field from the rail out.
LOOKING COOL (15-1) - The candy Ride colt is an entry allowance winner who will face graded stakes winners for the first time. He hasn't raced since finishing 2nd as the 8-5 favorite in the Native Spur Stakes on Arkansas Derby day. His by far best speed figures have been in his last two races and he is working well over the surface for the return.
SUNBEAM (6-1) - Hot jock Joel Rosario (14-40 at CD heading into Thursday) will ride for the first time as Mike Maker (38% at the meet) sends the son of Brahms out for his first try since getting caught 5 wide as the 5-2 favorite in the Lexington Stakes. The colt showed plenty of promise at Fair Grounds before also running into trip problems in the Louisiana Derby, so his upside could be pretty solid if he is fit and gets the journey.
UNCAPTURED (6-1) - The Mark Casse trained Lion Heart colt is one of seven to have run over the surface and one of only three who have won here. In fact, in his 10 race career he has run on synthetic 8 times and traditional dirt twice, both wins under the spires, one of which was last year's Grade II Kentucky Jockey Club at this distance. He has yet to win in 2013 from three tries but did finish second in the Grade III Spiral to begin the year and after a disaster in the Grade I Bluegrass finished second at Woodbine in the Wando six weeks ago. He has good tactical speed, has turned in three sharp 5 furlong breezes over the surface since May 25 and Miguel Mena, who was aboard for the two CD wins during the juvenile campaign is back aboard.
DEWEY SQUARE (12-1) - The Dale Romans trainee is another who appears to like the CD main track. He has a win and a third in two tries and his show finish was 1 ¼ lengths behind Uncaptured's Kentucky Jockey Club tally. 2013 has been a struggle for the Bernardini colt, however, so the connections are hoping that a return to a preferred surface will revitalize him. Romans also reaches out to Belmont Stakes winner Mike Smith.
CODE WEST (4-1) - The son of Lemon Drop Kid has been carefully spotted during his 3-year old campaign by trainer Bob Baffert. It took the colt 4 tries and a distance of ground to get his first win, after which he was second in an allowance and second in the Grade II Risen Star at FG. He was off the board in the Louisiana Derby and Baffert backed off a bit before the colt dropped a neck decision to Bellarmine (who he'll face again today) in another allowance on the Kentucky derby undercard. In his most recent he dominated the allowance field he faced on the Preakness undercard and off three brilliant drills over this surface since May 29 steps back into the graded ranks. He might finally be ready to get one. Rosie Napravnik, who rode him for the first time at Pimlico, takes the return assignment.
TREASURY BILL (6-1) - After breaking his maiden in career start number two the son of Lemon Drop Kid ran a decent second in the Grade II San Vicente in February, but was no threat when shipped to Oaklawn for the Grade II Rebel. Returned to the west cost he finished a so-so third behind Let Em Shine in the 70K Came Home Stakes but was hardly flattered by that one, who was a disappointing fourth as the favorite in the Woody Stephens Stakes on the Belmont Stakes undercard last week. Now in the barn Wayne Catalano (previously with Ron Ellis) the colt has worked well her after arriving a few weeks back, but still has much to prove.
ABSTRACTION (9-2) - So far the lightly raced son of Pulpit has done little wrong in his three race career. Clearly bred for two turns the David Carroll trainee closed well for the place when sprinting in his debut and then easily blew out MSW foes at Fair Grounds and followed that with a convincing win in the Federico Tesio at Pimlico on 4/27. Off since that Maryland race, the colt might be ready to fire fresh. He has worked five times over the surface since May 13, including back-to-back 5 furlong breeze bullets...a best of 24 in :59 2/5 and a best of 14 in :59 1/5 (May 20 and 27 respectively) followed by a half mile leg-stretcher on Tuesday. If he runs to his works and promise he could be tough.
STREET SPICE (20-1) - While perhaps deserving of longshot status, this is yet another runner that proves how deep this field is. After winning an entry allowance two turn race at Hawthorne the son of Street Sense turned in a decent second in a conditioned allowance and was a not-totally-embarrassed fifth of fourteen in the Grade III Illinois Derby. Off since that race the Greg Geier trainee has worked forwardly and his sire "sort of showed up" at this venue.
RULER OF LOVE (12-1) - Another fresh horse, the son of Peace Rules began his career on synthetic and turf before moving to dirt for the Sophomore Stakes at Tampa Bay (ran second) and the Grade III Derby Trial her on 4/27 (rallied for third behind last week's Woody Stephens Stakes winner Forty Tales.) The speed figures are a tad below what might be needed to get a piece of this, but the colt does have some late kick and with enough pace signed on could get a minor award if the race falls apart.
BELLARMINE (9-2) - The Ken McPeek trained son of Magna Graduate has come to hand nicely in his four race career. He certainly doesn't lack for experience at two turns as all four races have been between 8 ½ and 9 furlongs. In his most recent he dug in to hold off Code West in that allowance race on the Kentucky derby undercard and has been kept busy in the morning with a quartet of sharp breezes at 4 and 5 furlongs since May 18. He has already shown an ability to track or press the pace and win (4-2-2-0) has the best BRIS speed number over the surface and gets reunited with Julian Leparoux. Figures tough on his best.
CARVE (12-1) - The argument can be made that only traffic trouble kept him from finishing in the winner's circle instead of third in the Grade I Arkansas Derby (behind Overanalyze and Frac Daddy.) While he is hardly flattered by the recent exploits of those two, trainer Steve Asmussen, who claimed this son of First Samurai for 30K out of his debut, has been successful moving forward with more than a few reclamation projects and is known for his horses running well off a break. Preferred meet rider Ricardo Santana, Jr. (he and Asmussen are 31% at CD this spring) takes the assignment on yet another price horse in the race that cannot be ruled out completely.
Just looking at the depth of this FIRST LEG OF THE ALL STAKES PICK 3 gives you an idea of why I expect a HUGE PAYOUT.
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RACE 8 - Grade I Stephen Foster Handicap
The field might be a tight six runners, but there is no overwhelming choice as 4 of the 6 have been priced at between 2-1 and 3-1 on the morning line and collectively the 4 share just two wins from their last 8 tries. And not to be outdone, the remaining two challengers have each won over the surface, including Pool Play who is the 2011 Stephen Foster winner but is the longest shot on the board.
GOLDEN TICKET (12-1) - The Ken McPeek trainee warmed up for this with an in-hand win in a third level optional allowance race over the surface in his most recent. The son of Speightstown did finish well behind Take Charge Indy (who he'll meet again today) in the Grade III Skip Away at Gulfstream, but his most recent try and subsequent works over the track might be a signal that he is ready to regain the form that saw him dead-heat with Alpha as the winner of last year's Travers. He might be a bit compromised by the short field and pace but is far from your worst longshot.
FORT LARNED (3-1) - So far 2013 has not been much fun for the connections of the 2012 BC Classic winner. In his first start (the Grade II Gulfstream Park Handicap) he stumbled and lost the rider. In his last start (the Grade II Oaklawn Handicap) he stalked the pace and had no answer behind a weak field and checked in a 10 lengths beaten 4th. He has worked well since the two debacles, but since he still has to prove he is the same horse as he was in 2012, he'll be heavily dearly priced.
RON THE GREEK (3-1) - Beaten handily by Fort Larned in the BC Classic, the 6-year old horse has raced three times in 2013 and has only his return race win in the restricted Sunshine Millions on January 19. Of course his two losses since that race have been to division leader Game On Dude (4th in the Grade I Santa Anita Handicap and 3rd on the Grade II Charlestown Classic.) trainer Bill Mott has kept after him in the morning and it is noteworthy that the horse won this race last year after a similar layoff and last out result. Regular rider Jose Lezcano is aboard.
TAKE CHARGE INDY (5-2) - His dominant win in the Grade II Alysheba Stakes here on the Kentucky Derby Eve card certainly flatters him in here. The Patrick Byrne trained son of A. P. Indy has the kind of versatile early/late speed that is most useful in a shorter field and base on how he has moved forward during his 4-year old campaign might not yet have reached his top. He does look formidable in here, but will have plenty of company early with favorite Successful Dan and his 4-1-1-0 CD resume puts a bit of pause in declaring him the most ready to move forward.
POOL PLAY (15-1) - The difficulty in judging what to do with the 2011 winner of the Stephen Foster is looking at his recent form (three double digit length defeats and a second in his last four tries) and measuring that against the knowledge that trainer Mark Casse is not one to run his horses just for the sake of it. In fact, Casse has had the horse in training here since moving north from Gulfstream in early April and despite being up the track in the Grade I Donn and Grade II Elkhorn on the Keeneland Turf in his most recent appears determined to go forward.
SUCCESSFUL DAN (2-1) - One of these had to be the favorite so I suppose this versatile veteran with good tactical speed who is also 3 for 4 over the surface earned the honors. He split 1-2 finishes with Fort Larned in his final two races of 2012, beating that one in the Grade II Alysheba here and then dropping the Grade III Cornhusker at Prairie Meadows. In his lone star of 2013 the Charlie Lopresti trained son of Successful Dan easily went wire-to-wire in eclipsing the Grade III Ben Ali at Keeneland April 21. Lopresti is solid off the layoff and has won 43% of his graded stakes tries from a sizable sample. Expect this 7-year old gelding to be tough.
PICK 3 WRAPS UP WITH THE GRADE III REGRET IN RACE 9
Just as the Pick 3 began with a deep field of 11 combatants, so will it conclude as the same combined number of fillies and mares line up for the mile and an eighth Grade III Regret Stakes on the CD Turf course.
The morning line maker might turn out to be correct in assigning the 5-2 favoritism to Ken and Sarah Ramsey's Kitten's Dumpling. The daughter of Kitten's Joy certainly put up the buy sign with her recent win over the surface in the Edgewood Stakes. Trained by Michael maker and ridden by Joel Rosario she does figure as a major player given her 3 for 6 turf mark and highest earnings in the field. But she is far from an automatic against this bunch.
For starters she'll once again have to deal with both Praia and Broken Spell who checked in second and third respectively in the Edgewood.
The former lit up the exacta at 45-1, but was coming off a maiden win in her first attempt on the grass and improved dramatically with a 5 wide rally from the back of the pack and now gets an extra sixteenth of a mile of ground.
Broken Spell was probably a bit better than her 3rd place finish implies as the daughter of Broken Vow was blocked and steadied repeatedly throughout and made a strong run when clear. The Wayne Lukas trained miss has had a series of mishaps...stumbling at the start of the Grade I Ashland and getting caught 5 wide in the Grade III Bourbonette in her two prior. She has worked well during a short break and rumor is this guy Lukas pulls upsets now and then.
Trainer Wayne Catalano also has reason to feel optimistic as he sends out the uncoupled pair of Oscar Party and Miss Lucky Sevens. The former has won two of five on grass. She finished third in her turf debut behind Kittens Dumplings when that one got her initial win and then broke her own maiden with a popular triumph in the Kentucky Downs Juvenile Fillies. She easily took care of allowance foes over this grass course when she made her first 3-year old start on May 25. Like a few others in here, she may yet to have run her top. And on paper, Catalano's second entrant, Miss Lucky Sevens might appear a cut below her stable mate, but she showed the kind of speed in the Hilltop Stakes on Preakness Eve that could make her a dangerous factor in here. Her speed and Oscar party's kick give the trainer a nice combo.
Ken McPeek, in addition to Praia, will also send out the lightly raced Beverage Queen, who in her third career start last out was following Oscar Party around the course and was coming on late as she gained the show spot. Julien Leparoux takes over the assignment and the extra ground and expected improvement could make this 10-1 ML filly an interesting prospect.
Another who figures to contribute to a contested pace is Eden Prairie, the Neal Pessin trained Mizzen Mast filly who almost stole the Grade III Appalachian Stakes at Keeneland with her front end effort after wiring allowance foes at Fair Grounds prior to that.
Also of interest are Intelyhente and Seaneen Girl.
The Eddie Kenneally trained Intelyhente is coming off just the second start of her career, but that was a 4 wide run to victory in a MSW race over the turf course here on May 19. The well bred daughter of Smart Strike could be any kind.
Seaneen Girl is much more experience than the Kenneally filly and has had plenty of seasoning vs some pretty good competition. She won the Grade II Golden Rod over the CD main track to wrap up her juvenile campaign and the Bernard Flint trained daughter of Spring At Last ran third in the Grade II Fair Ground Oaks behind Belmont Stakes starter Unlimited Budget and prepped for this with a rallying second vs older rivals in a second level 62.5K allowance/optional claimer three weeks back. This will be her turf debut, but she opened her career showing a fondness for synthetic at Woodbine and Flint gets the services of 29% at the meet jock Shaun Bridgmohan.
Completing the field are last out MSW winner Abbey Street (in start number seven) and last out main track entry level allowance winner Miss Squeal who showed vast improvement over a wet surface in that CD main track test but must still prove she belongs with this kind and on the grass.
IN SUMMARY: You can obviously see there is absolute value in these three straight Graded Stakes Races and that is why I have made them my CHURCHILL DOWNS PICK 3 OF THE MONTH.
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