Churchill Downs pick of the day, May 21

Profile Picture: James Scully

May 21st, 2020

Thursday’s sixth race at Churchill Downs will feature a full field of 12, and #6 Overzealous appears set for a strong showing from just off the pace.

A maiden winner at Churchill Downs, Overzealous ran well in a pair of starts under the Twin Spires during the fall. He rolled to a four-length win, then recorded a runner-up effort to a next-out stakes winner in November, and the 6-year-old gelding continued to perform at a high level at Fair Grounds over the winter, where he posted three wins and a second.

Trainer Chris Hartman could have kept him racing when Fair Grounds ended in March, with options at Oaklawn Park and Will Rogers Downs, but wisely decided to freshen his pupil. Overzealous has an affinity for Churchill Downs and favors Thursday’s 1 1/16-mile distance (three wins and a second in four starts).

He won off a two-month freshening at Gulfstream Park in 2019, and Overzealous returns from a similar rest in this spot.

Hartman, who didn’t have any starts during Churchill's opening weekend, is a trainer I am watching for early in the spring meet. His stable caught fire in the final weeks of the recently completed Oaklawn meet, and Hartman started the spring meet fast last year, with three wins in nine starts.

After he went winless in 14 starts over the weekend, jockey Corey Lanerie will be hungry to start the week. The 19-time leading rider at Churchill Downs was up for Overzealous’ last win, and his mount has the tactical speed to establish favorable positioning, just off the early leaders, before he strikes.

The Kentucky Derby returns to Churchill Downs on Saturday, Sept. 5.