We may have to wait until September 5 for the Kentucky Derby itself, but at its home of Churchill Downs there are two Grade 3 events this Saturday and it seems in them trainer Brad Cox has an outstanding chance of landing a big race double underneath the Twin Spires.
We have three bets from the Kentucky track in all and one from Santa Anita this week, while it now appears we are only six days away from being able to handicap three Group 1 races in Britain at Newmarket as our bread and butter is finally being handed back to us!
21:08 Churchill Downs – Race 7 (Winning Colors Stakes – Grade 3) – BREAK EVEN
A good quality six-furlong sprint race for the older fillies and mares, one in which the likely favourite is Breeders’ Cup performer Mia Mischief of Steve Asmussen’s barn. While she is undoubtedly good, she’s had plenty of chances without improving a whole lot in recent times and so should could struggle giving away 2lbs to some less exposed types.
Another who is very well fancied is Mark Casse’s five-year-old Spiced Perfection, though again I’m not convinced that on the balance of her form she would deserve to be a short price come go time.
The one who convinces most from gate 2 is Brad Cox’s four-year-old filly Break Even, the mount of Joel Rosario. Having rattled off three on the bounce last summer she was caught close home by the flying Royal Charlotte at Saratoga, but it looked a lazy or overconfident ride from her jockey that day she’ll be a different proposition this time.
The fact that she went off odds-on in a Grade 2 contest in New York tells you something about her ability, and she is taken to land this $100,000 race.
22:44 Churchill Downs – Race 10 (Allowance Optional Claiming Race) – TOP SEED
There’s $83,000 up for grabs in this 1m½f event on the dirt track and the four to concentrate on appear to be Plus Que Parfait, Fearless, Gun It and the selection here which is Top Seed.
Undoubtedly, the second choice on the list is Fearless, the four-year-old of Todd Pletcher’s who was once favourite for a Grade 2. While he is undoubtedly good and his win over Winking At Thedude from Gulfstream in February reads well enough, he may well just have his work cut out to keep at bay our horse who has untapped potential at the race distance.
That horse, Top Seed of Shug McGaughey’s, is only just beginning to get going in all truth and he was a very wide-margin winner over 6½ furlongs at Tampa Bay Downs recently. While the form itself is nothing to write home about, it was impressive both visually as well as on the clock, and judging by his breeding he should be very much suited to going up in trip.
By Kentucky Derby winner Orb out of a Giant’s Causeway mare, Top Seed should thoroughly relish this and is taken to open up on the stretch under Corey Lanerie and record a win that may have connections thinking Breeders’ Cup later in the year.
23:16 Churchill Downs – Race 11 (Old Forester Mint Julep Stakes – Grade 3) – JULIET FOXTROT
Another Grade 3 event for the 4yo+ fillies and mares for $100k, though this time on the turf track and over a trip of a mile and half a furlong.
The one to be on from the inside gate is likely to be the former Charlie Hills trained Juliet Foxtrot, one of Khalid Abdullah’s fillies. Now trained by Brad Cox, the five-year-old daughter of Dansili has done very well since going Stateside, winning at Keeneland and Arlington before going close in a Grade 2 as well as both the First Lady and the Matriarch Stakes at the top level.
She’s rested now, will appreciate this better covering of grass and should be just about peaking meaning she is the best of Cox’s two under jockey Florent Geroux, the trainer’s other runner Beau Recall being second on our list.
As well as the two stable mates, the likes of Altea and Mitchell Road hold definite place chances but aren’t ideally drawn and so are passed over this time.
23:37 Santa Anita – Race 7 (Honeymoon Stakes – Grade 3) – LAURA’S LIGHT
This Grade 3 race for the three-year-old fillies on the turf in California represents a terrific opportunity for Laura’s Light, a daughter of Constitution owned by Gary Barber.
Her win over just about this course and distance back in December against a couple of today’s rivals was dominant and, having followed up over a much shorter trip in February, it would seem she is as fit as anything and improving plenty.
It’s hard to see her not at least going very close in this $100,000 race and she may yet be allowed to go off at a reasonable price, with three in behind being hard to split for the places; Croughavouke, Parkour and Stela Star who can all go well.