There are 11 races scheduled for Saturday, September 21 at Churchill Downs, but the most interesting events on the card are the final two of the afternoon.
The $125,000 Dogwood Stakes for 3-year-old fillies attracted a small but intriguing field, while the finale is a deep maiden special weight with an abundance of entries.
Let’s dig in and come up with a couple of spot plays.
Race 10: Dogwood Stakes
#6 Covfefe is the “speed of the speed” in this seven-furlong sprint, and she is also the most accomplished runner. She battled to victory against a classy field in the Test Stakes (G1) at Saratoga on August 3.
But Covfefe is entering the Dogwood off a pair of gut-wrenching battles. Two starts back she finished a close third against older mares in the Roxelana Stakes after she battled hard for the lead through blazing fractions. I have to wonder if these tough sprints will take a toll on Covfefe, who will be an overwhelming favorite Saturday. Another pace battle could be in the offing, thanks to #2 Take Charge Angel, who ran with Covfefe from start to finish in a 6 1/2-furlong allowance race at Keeneland in April.
I’m tempted to take a shot with #5 Champagne Anyone. The experienced daughter of Street Sense has competed in seven consecutive graded stakes races, including six at a mile or farther. Her recent form is uninspiring—a fourth in the Coaching Club American Oaks (G1) and a sixth in the Alabama Stakes (G1)—but she has been facing tough company, and I’ve long suspected Champagne Anyone might relish a cutback in distance.
Champagne Anyone broke her maiden sprinting seven furlongs and produced a sharp late rally to finish third by less than a length in the seven-furlong Forward Gal Stakes (G3) at Gulfstream during the winter. Given a fast pace to work with, Champagne Anyone might take a huge step forward and swallow her Dogwood rivals in the homestretch.
Race 11: Maiden Special Weight
Fifteen juvenile fillies have been entered in this one-mile grass event, though a maximum of 10 will be allowed to start. There are some promising first-time starters in the mix, including #2 Egyptian Princess (a daughter of hot young stallion American Pharoah) and #6 Seattle Slang (a $600,000 2-year-old-in-training purchase), but I’m inclined to oppose them both for the top spot.
While Egyptian Princess has decent grass breeding (American Pharoah’s foals have been surprisingly successful on turf), trainer Brendan Walsh rarely wins with first-time starters, so I doubt this filly will be ready to roll on debut. As for Seattle Slang, her breeding leans more toward dirt than grass, and Steve Asmussen is off to a slow start with juveniles at the current Churchill Downs meet (0-for-9 so far, with only one runner cracking the trifecta).
I’ll favor the experienced #3 Hey Kitten. Produced from the Kitten’s Joy mare Love This Kitten, Hey Kitten has already shown promise on grass. After she finished sixth in her debut going a mile at Ellis Park, Key Kitten improved in a similar race August 11, when she led into the stretch and finished second.
The turf course at Ellis wasn’t playing very fast August 11, so Hey Kitten’s final time of 1:38.25 was decent. The previous day, over a similarly slow course, future stakes winner Jezebel’s Kitten finished in 1:37.32 to win an identical maiden heat. Hey Kitten looks like a standout among the experienced runners in Saturday’s field, so unless Egyptian Princess or Seattle Slang outrun expectations, the third time should be the charm for Hey Kitten.
$15 to win on #3 Hey Kitten
$5 exacta: 3 with 2,6 ($10)