I’m a big fan of opening days. And given today’s realities, more so now than ever. Santa Anita opens today; Churchill Downs Saturday and New York…well, it’s not yet a perfect world.
With horses shipping in from almost every significant circuit, there’s lots of all-day action in the bluegrass.
Since we’re a sucker for good horses in particular, and turf races in general, we’re going to key on a pair of daily doubles from Louisville, even with the threat of thunderstorms. Public handicappers are not the only ones who get things wrong, so here’s hoping…
A champion returns in Saturday’s fourth race is good news; the bad is that she’s coming off a 560-day layup. Monomoy Girl 4/5 has had more than enough workouts to have her fit for return and her love for Churchill is underscored by her (4) 3-1-0 slate and is also perfect in two one-mile trips.
When last seen she was winning the Breeders’ Cup Distaff, defeating older horses for the title. She meets six rivals at level weights. On paper, and on everyone’s speed figure scale, she’s unbeatable. Having said that, we’re using her, and losing her.
We see two rivals with a license to upset. Both Lady Kate and Talk Veuve to me are co-second favorite at 7-2. Lady Kate has recency, figures that are within hailing distance and is 2-for-2 on one-turn miles. Also, she’s nicely drawn outside and attracts aggressive Jose Ortiz.
On her inside is Talk Veuve To Me. She hasn’t started since a speed-and-stop effort in Keeneland’s G2 Thoroughbred Club of America last fall. But did we mention she’s making her first start for the Steve Asmussen barn? Do you think he intends to embarrass himself here?
Neither do I, especially since she’s been in training since mid-February; she won’t lose because she’s short of condition.
We’ll use all three to get alive, an extra ticket with the champ, but will use her only defensively in verticals. We’ll see how the odds shake out, how the track is playing, and take one of her main rivals straight. At posting, the lean is to ‘Veuve’.
The fifth is a full field of maiden allowance fillies going 1-1/16 miles on turf.
Early line favorite Implication (3-1) is co-fastest on the Thoro-Graph scale and makes her season’s debut at 4 vs. mostly three-year-old rivals. But that also means she spots the younger fillies seven pounds.
She has maturity, so rates be be faster, and was narrowly beaten on debut despite a huge, wide, premature move to the lead at Tampa Bay. She probably was best. Graham Motion taps Manny Franco.
Given that equally fast Mr Jaggers (7-2) has a ground saving draw, is more tactical, and attracts Joel Rosario, the price on the choice, given her outside post and formidable competition, should be fair.
Fortuity (6-1) will complete a three-horse double-cross, with Implication to press going backward, but it’s this three-year-old that might offer irresistible value. She loses Rosario here but Michael Stidham didn’t go anywhere, he clicks at 21% with second-time starters and gets weight.
We are likely to take her straight at near early line odds and verticals with her and Implication on top, with Mr Jaggers second and third in exactas and trifectas, a 2x3x3.
In the seventh, Say Moi (3-1) will be an extremely tough out. An excellent second vs. a gateful from a very wide post at Gulfstream on debut, she’s exiting a fast race with good spacing and Johnny is riding her back for Bill Mott. Expect a much shorter price.
We’re key-boxing in exactas with two interesting rivals–all three to complete another three-horse DD criscross, pressing Say Moi forward and considering a straight play on either Bernadette the Jet (5-1) and Tormenta (12-1), odds dependent.
‘Bernadette’ is another ‘probably best’ case from her juvenile dirt finale, finding trouble half way then making up 6-1/2 lengths in the lane, falling a head short of the winner. It’s Motion again, and an outside post should mean smoother sailing with the switch to Rosario.
After pulling up at the start from close quarters, Tormenta made ground the entire long Fair Grounds stretch and galloped out with the winner. Now he returns first time for Larry Jones with a sharp workline and rates to be a big price with a low profile rider aloft.
Say Moi is the key to exacta boxes and we’re tempting to add Offering (8-1) to the super-exotics mix below.
The eighth features a horse making his first start on turf for the Mike Maker barn, a strong angle for years. He owns a long string of works for the barn and Joe Talamo is likely to gain a forward position behind the leaders. Labeq (6-1) exits a key race the produced two next out winners.
We’re completing another three-horse DD cross including Tankerville (6-1), another Mott/Johnny scenario, and Bama Breeze (10-1), who raced well on his debut, has been working strongly for Rusty Arnold for return and attracts Leparoux. We’re pressing back to the seventh with Labeq.