Starting the Meet With a Bang: Opening Night at Churchill Downs

Profile Picture: Scott Shapiro

April 27th, 2018

On Saturday night, I will enjoy my first ever Opening Night card at the home of the world famous Kentucky Derby.

The last time I spent time during live racing at was several years ago on a cross-country trek from Asheville, North Carolina to Southern California. I am really looking forward to the start of the new meeting and a ten-race card that kicks off at 6PM local time in my new hometown of Louisville, Kentucky. Let’s see if we can the meet started with a bang.

The opener is an $7500 claimer run at six panels over the main track. #3 Googleado looks extremely tough to beat to start the evening. The 6-5-morning line favorite should be fast enough to beat this group to the front. If veteran rider Jon Court can dictate terms early on he will be tough to get by in the lane.

I will try to find value underneath Googleado in the exotics by tossing 2-1 second choice #4 Big Legacy. The Ontario-bred has had an affinity for hitting the wire first throughout his 40-race career, but half of those victories have come over the synthetic surface. Furthermore, he has made an easy lead and taken zero pressure on the front end in conditional claiming events at Turfway Park. It is possible he can follow my top choice around the track, but I also believe there is a significant chance he tires late after chasing the morning line chalk.

#6 Midnight Shine is my choice for second in this six-furlong dash. The son of Indygo Shiner has had success over the Churchill Downs surface compiling 3 wins in 5 tries and draws favorably to the outside in this compact group of 7. Look for apprentice Edgar Morales to sit a couple lengths off the early lead and grind away a minor share.

Since Googleado is too short of a price to back in the Win pool I will single him in the multi-race wagers and hope to find value elsewhere. The early Pick 4 intrigues me most.

The second race looks wide open so I will spread in that $40K maiden claimer at a mile and a sixteenth and hope to beat even-money favorite #6 Flight Risk.

The third is an open $20K claimer that has a number of horses that do their best running on the front end. It is possible that #2 Wildcat Beauty, #3 D’ Cat or #4 Promisory Note can outbreak this group and take the field all the way, but class dropper #7 Charcuterie is the one that appears likeliest to take advantage if they go at it on the backstretch. The massive drop is concerning, but I still like his chances for trainer Phillip Bauer.

The final leg of the Pick 4 is a conditional $40K claimer over the lawn. #9 Vigilante appears a vulnerable favorite in the first grass race of the meet. The $335,000 Keeneland September 2013 purchase has not been the same horse since coming off over a year layoff last March. On paper his run from the back of the pack last time out looks solid in his initial try for trainer , but he really just passed tiring rivals. I will try to beat him and 3-1-second choice #10 Gorgeous Kitten to close out the sequence.

Despite being all in on Googleado in the opener, there is plenty of room to separate from the public being against the favorites in Races 2 and 4.

Here are my suggested wagers to start the card:

Race 1 Exotic Play

$10 Exacta 3-6 = $10

Pick 4 (50 cents):

Race 1: 3

Race 2: 1+2+3+5

Race 3: 2+3+4+5+7

Race 4: 1+2+4+7+8

Ticket Cost: $50

Total Budget: $60

Good luck on Opening Night!