Two of those four graded stakes at Churchill Downs, the Stephen Foster and Fleur de Lis, have Breeders’ Cup implications as win-and-in events.
Purses have fallen below pre-casino levels, so graded titles and an all-expenses-paid trip to Lexington on November’s first weekend will need to suffice.
The sequence begins with the Bashford Manor for juveniles, followed by the Fleur de Lis, Foster, and Regret– a skull-buster of a Grade 3 for three-year-old fillies going 1-1/8 miles on the turf. Let’s get to it:
RACE 8 — G3 BASHFORD MANOR
Which Asmussen to you like? I can’t decide, so I’m using both. Hulen (5-1) was gritty and professional winning on debut and needed to overcame some adversity.
Cazadero (8-5) had an easier time as an outside stalker but when he was set down, whoosh! Stable rider Ricardo Santana presumably had his pick and takes this one. The outside post suggests a similar trip here. Both own wins over the track.
G2 FLEUR DE LIS
This mile and an eighth has a celebrated roster of winning mares and Midnight Bisou (3-5) figures to add her name to a recent group that includes, Royal Delta, Elate and Rachel Alexandra.
We understand speed is always dangerous but with Mike Smith stalking Serengeti Empress in the stall immediately to her left, we’re not anticipating a soft-pace front-end heist in the spot. If we wanted to price it up, we’d take improving late developer, Go Google Yourself (8-1).
G2 STEPHEN FOSTER
The middle of three straight nine-furlong events, it’s Tom’s d’Etat’s (1-1) race to lose. We don’t believe he will. In a select group of older horses in training, the only element giving us pause is losing Joel Rosario to a prior commitment.
Miguel Mena does a lot of riding for ‘Little Al’ Stall and cheerfully takes Saturday’s assignment. The seven-year-old is both a Horse for Course and Distance. High-weighted at 124 pounds, he spots six rivals from two to four pounds.
‘Tom’s’ chief rivals have made a good transition from 3 to 4. By My Standards (5-2) and Owendale (4-1) have performed well this season. Between them we prefer the former, given the tougher of two recent trips, but neither would be shocking.
Regret, I like a few, but then again, too few to ignore…
We’ going to conclude our play with a six-pack of potential turf stars, listed loosely in order of preference:
Crystal Cliffs (3-1) won a prep for this over the course, at the distance, with first-Lasix in her U.S. debut for Team Motion/ Velazquez. Need better connections? Micheline (8-1) put her big late kick all together beneath brilliant Bravo handling. She’s not been this far but pedigree says yes.
Dominga (5-1) had trouble in the Tepin, a one-mile prep, broke maiden on debut on this course and goes for Cox/Geroux team. In Good Spirits (8-1) appeared short of condition in same race; a course winner and bred for added ground.
Stunning Sky (20-1) has improved since turf ace Mike Maker claimed her, finishing well too late over speed Gulfstream lawn last out. She’s nicely posted with Tyler.
Pass the Plate (6-1) has weak bottom line for trip but inherent class and Leparoux can get her this far. Beaten 1-1/4 by top turfer Sharing in CD return. We’re taking them all but leaning on top three, particularly the early line favorite.
50-Cent Pick 4: 2, 6 // 5 // 5, 6 // 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 12 = $12
Grade 3 OHIO DERBY
This year, the Ohio Derby is not an afterthought for late developers or those unable to race at Grade 1 talent but an actual Kentucky Derby qualifier, albeit a more 50-pointer for the winner.
As the euphemism goes, it’s a “good betting race” with a large field at various stages of development, in other words anything can happen, especially given predicted thunderstorms.
Our first look gave rise to an interest in five of the runners but unfortunately a deeper dive wasn’t particularly revealing except that there more negatives than positives to consider. Listed in post order, inside to outside.
Rowdy Yates (9-2) earned a ticket to the Middle East to no avail with a victory at Sunland Park in his three-year-old debut, was given a month off the recover but returned to the work tab on May 2 with eight timed workout for Steve Asmussen. He reunites wit Tyler Baze who won with him at Ellis in 2019.
Lebda (7-2) is the early line favorite based on his consistency, performance figures and in the hands of a Maryland-based super trainer. He’s been working bullets and is well posted but is light on pedigree for the trip and promise of a wet track.
Continuing, in post position order, is the Bill Mott ship-in Sprawl (15-1), who developed rapidly this spring with maturity and addition of blinkers, has forward looking figures, has won both two-turn dirt starts, is bred bottom side for the trip and on both sides for wet. Paco Lopez will get him in the game.
Going turf to dirt, South Bend (8-1) is interesting. Never involved in a turf stakes last out, he returns to the dirt where he has been competitive at the stakes level, including a win in the Street Sense at Churchill.
Blinkers off is a 22% winning event for trainer Stan Hough and the Algorithms colt has had three solid works since the dull try last out and goes first time for Rafael Bejarano.
Juvenile champion Storm the Court (3-1) is a deserving favorite based on accomplishment and company lines but was hurt badly by the draw. Since his dully try in the Arkansas Derby, he’s been working better than at any time of his career.
Having five drills since returning from Hot Springs he’s been working extremely well, presumably without blinkers, removed today by trainer Peter Eurton, who is 31% efficient with that equipment change, and Flavien Prat sticks. The negative is a lack of wet track experience and suitable pedigree.
We’re looking to wager on either South Bend or Sprawl or both, allowing the tote board to guide us, and will consider using the others in some fashion in exactas and super-exotics.
BETTING at BELMONT
RACE 7: Grade 3 Vagrancy
Chalon (5-2) to win at 2-1 or greater. Exacta part wheel Chalon and Come Dancing (7-5) with each other and Jakarta (20-1) underneath.
RACE 8: Grade 2 New York Stakes
Mean Mary (7-2) to win and boxed exacta with Call Me Love (9-5).
RACE 10: Grade 1 Just A Game
Uni (7-5) to win, key-box exactas with Newspaperofrecord (7-5) and Regal Glory (10-1), extra ticket with Uni first.