Churchill Downs pick of the day, May 23
Five stakes highlight Saturday’s 11-race card at Churchill Downs, and Kentucky Derby qualifying points will be on the line in the $150,000 Matt Winn (G3). The 1 1/16-mile race marks the return of Grade 1-winning juvenile Maxfield, who benefits from the Kentucky Derby being postponed to Sept. 5.
Maxfield must break better as a 3-year-old, overcoming slow starts to win both starts at age 2, and he can continue to mature for trainer Brendan Walsh. The well-regarded sophomore appears to have cranked up his training in recent weeks, posting a 5-furlong bullet work from the gate, and I expect Maxfield to get away much better under Jose Ortiz on Saturday.
He won’t offer much value as the favorite, but I won’t go against Maxfield in multi-race wagers.
Here are some other thoughts:
In the fifth race, #8 First Premio (12-1 morning line) looks primed for a good showing in his second start of the year. He recorded a pair of respectable efforts at Churchill last summer before improving down the stretch, missing by less than a length in the Shadwell Turf Mile (G1) and $750,000 Tourist Mile, and his rallying fifth against a stakes-quality allowance field last time could serve as a perfect tightener for today. The Mark Casse trainee stretches back out to his favorite 1 1/16-mile distance (3-for-4), and I like his chances from off the pace with Miguel Mena.
In the ninth race, the $100,000 Blame S., #13 Mr. Money (5-1) finally returns to a one-turn mile distance. He was brilliant winning the Pat Day Mile (G3) last May, with the runner-up coming back to win a Grade 1 race, but Mr. Money has raced exclusively at two turns since. Churchill Downs is his favorite track (3-for-4), and Mr. Money has the speed to ensure a good trip from his outside post. He’s my best bet.
In the 11th race, the $100,000 War Chant S. a hot pace appears likely. #11 Pixelate (6-1) enters on the upswing for Michael Stidham, recording a fast-closing second in the Feb. 29 Black Gold S. at Fair Grounds, and the 3-year-old colt will receive a better setup for his late rally. The son of City Zip can finish fastest of all beneath Joel Rosario.