With 25 stakes races scheduled to be run from coast to coast, Saturday will be a busy day for racing in North America.
Churchill Downs and Arlington Park have both put together appealing cards, with Churchill offering two stakes races and Arlington providing a couple of quality allowance events. Why don’t we dig through the action and come up with a few spot plays?
Churchill Downs Race 4: Keertana Stakes
No. 6 Gentle Ruler hit the board in 10 of her first 11 starts without winning, but the four-year-old daughter of Colonel John has made a turnaround this year, breaking her maiden in an off-the-turf event at Gulfstream Park before returning to turf for a 1 ½-mile allowance race at Keeneland, which she won by a length. Gentle Ruler sprinted the final quarter-mile that day in about 23 1/5 seconds, a fast fraction that earned her a 104 Brisnet Late Pace rating. From all appearances, Gentle Ruler is on the rise for her patient trainer Ian Wilkes, and she’s facing a manageable field for her stakes debut.
No. 2 Gaining, runner-up behind the capable Ickymasho in the 1 ½-mile Bewitch Stakes (G3) at Keeneland last month, looms as Gentle Ruler’s main opposition. Trained by Brad Cox and owned by Juddmonte Farms, Gaining was a Group 3 winner in France last year, but she seems to prefer racing on moist turf courses and could be slightly vulnerable if the going is firm on Saturday.
Churchill Downs Race 10: Winning Colors Stakes (G3)
Once upon a time, No. 11 Honey Bunny lost her fair share of races, but losing doesn’t seem to be part of her vocabulary anymore. A five-year-old veteran with 30 starts under her belt, Honey Bunny managed to pack four victories into a seven-week span from March 15 through April 30, utilizing a variety of running styles (tracking, pressing, front-running) to win those four races by a combined 16 ¾ lengths. Honey Bunny is stepping up in class for the Winning Colors, but in this large and competitive field, her versatility and willingness to win are appealing traits.
But Honey Bunny isn’t the only filly to catch my eye here. No. 4 Classy Act seemed a bit burned out at the end of her 2018 campaign, but an 8 ½-month layoff could help her return to the classy form she demonstrated during the first seven months of 2018, highlighted by runner-up efforts in the Rachel Alexandra Stakes (G2) and Victory Ride Stakes (G3). Although she’s run well going long, I suspect sprinting could wind up being Classy Act’s strong suit.
Since Honey Bunny and Classy Act are 12-1 and 6-1 on the morning line, respectively, let’s bet them both to win and box them in a small exacta.
$12 to win on No. 4 Classy Act
$6 to win on No. 11 Honey Bunny
$1 exacta: 4,11 with 4,11 ($2)
Arlington Park Race 4
The four-year-old No. 5 Our Thomas has really rounded into form this year, firing off three straight wins (all since April 19) by an average margin of four lengths. Conditioned by Arlington’s leading trainer Larry Rivelli, Our Thomas is again wheeling back on short rest for this six-furlong Polytrack sprint, but with his red-hot form and back-to-back victories over this course and distance, he looms as an appealing alternative to possible favorite No. 1 What’s Up Dude. The latter loves the Arlington Polytrack and rallied to finish second in the Hanshin Cup (G3) just two weeks ago, but that race was a mile, and What’s Up Dude is cutting back significantly in distance.
I’ll bet Our Thomas to win and play him in the exacta with What’s Up Dude and No. 7 Archiemyboy.
$10 to win on No. 5 Our Thomas
$5 exacta: 5 with 1,7 ($10)
$5 exacta: 1 with 5 ($5)
Arlington Park Race 8
No. 7 Lightscameraaction has never run over a synthetic track, but she showed potential on both dirt and turf last year for trainer Kenny McPeek, even placing third behind future Kentucky Oaks (G1) winner Serengeti Empress in the Pocahontas Stakes (G2). Subsequently transferred to trainer Chris Block, one of the leading conditioners at Arlington Park, Lightscameraaction appears to be taking a subtle drop in class and should beat this field if she handles the Polytrack course. After all, many of her rivals in this one-mile test have questions of their own to answer when it comes to surface and/or distance preferences.
$10 to win on No. 7 Lightscameraaction
Total cost of all plays: $75