Churchill Downs: Playing opening weekend on a $100 budget

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May 16th, 2020

Racing returns to Churchill Downs in a big way this weekend, with a pair of competitive 11-race cards.

If large fields and lucrative wagering opportunities sound enticing, let’s dig into the action with a trio of spot plays on a $100 budget.

Saturday, May 16

Race 11: Allowance (6:16 p.m. ET)

This 5 1/2-furlong turf sprint looks ripe for conquest by #4 Karak.

The winner of the Tyro S. against colts as a juvenile, this Wesley Ward-trained daughter of Karakontie competed at Royal Ascot last summer and kicked off 2020 with a runaway, 8 1/2-length victory in the Feb. 14 Cincinnati Trophy S. at Turfway Park.

A bullet :46 3/5 half-mile breeze Apr. 22 at Keeneland signals Karak’s readiness for another strong run, so we’ll bet her to win and key her on top in exotics.

Underneath, Karak’s stablemate #11 Chili Petin warrants respect, after she won an allowance sprint at Turfway to start the season. But there is a ton of speed in Sunday’s dash, so the late-running duo of #10 Fly So Pretty (who defeated Karak in the Nov. 10 Stewart Manor S.) and #8 Fashionable Lady (a quick maiden winner at Churchill last summer) should also be used.

$16 to win on #4 Karak
$4 exacta: 4 with 8,10,11 ($12)
$2 trifecta: 4 with 8,10,11 with 8,10,11 ($12)

Sunday, May 17

Race 9: Allowance/optional claiming (5:12 p.m. ET)

#10 Art Collector showed promise as a juvenile, when he crossed the wire first in two of his five starts, on both dirt and turf. He was particularly impressive in his final start of the season, when he rallied from behind a fast pace to hit the wire 7 1/2 lengths clear, with a 96 Brisnet Speed rating.

A son of Bernardini, out of a Distorted Humor mare, Art Collector has the pedigree to improve with maturity, and a stretch out to 7 furlongs for Sunday’s allowance test shouldn’t be an obstacle. Trainer Thomas Drury wins at a 28% rate with horses returning from long layoffs, so we’ll box Art Collector in an exacta with #9 Toledo, who will drop in class after he finished third behind Road to the Kentucky Derby veterans Tiz the Law and Ete Indien in the Holy Bull (G3):

$10 exacta box: 9,10 ($20)

Race 11: Maiden special weight (6:16 p.m. ET)

#10 Chasing Anna sits atop the Brisnet Prime Power rankings in this 6-furlong dash, and I’m optimistic a winning performance is in the offing. Trainer Kenny McPeek rarely saddles ready-to-win first-time starters, yet Chasing Anna ran a strong race in his debut April 25 at Gulfstream Park, where he carved out quick fractions of :22.29 and :44.85 in a 7-furlong sprint, then weakened in the final furlong to finish fourth in a large field.

Cutting back to 6 furlongs should be perfect for Chasing Anna, who figures to sit a clean trip, setting or stalking the pace from post 10. Outside posts tend to fare well in dirt sprints at Churchill Downs, and McPeek wins at a 16% rate with second-time starters, so all signs suggest Chasing Anna is sitting on a big effort.

$30 to win on #10 Chasing Anna
$5 exacta: 10 with 1,2 ($10)

Good luck!