Churchill Downs Picks & Derby City-6 Analysis for May 1

It's the Kentucky Derby amid all the splendor of a fabulous betting card! Our J.N. Campbell has a nice value ticket for Derby City Pick 6 planned, that you will not want to miss! Enjoy Derby Day from Churchill Downs!
It's the Kentucky Derby amid all the splendor of a fabulous betting card! Our J.N. Campbell has a nice value ticket for Derby City Pick 6 planned, that you will not want to miss! Enjoy Derby Day from Churchill Downs!
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Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, the home of the Twin Spires, will host the Kentucky Derby. Back on its original date, “The First Saturday in May,” marks the pinnacle of North American racing, and brings together the very best that the sport has to offer. Thoroughbred racing at its finest . . .

A year of COVID-19, where we saw the Earth stand still, has given some a renewed since of appreciation and humility about what is important. Equine athletes actually battled a form of the coronavirus in the not-too-distant past, proving once again that their experiences are really not that different from humans. Lends perspective . . .

This year Horseracing.net/us has you covered with a full slate of expert picks and analysis. Our lead handicapper, turf-man, and editor have all made our selections. Once the scratches and changes are put forward, it will be time for the tradition that makes the Derby, the Derby. Join us, as we celebrate the return of the "Run for the Roses"—number 147!

If you're looking for picks elsewhere on Saturday, be sure to check out all of our Free Horse Racing Picks from around North America via the gold button below.

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KYD147: All-Stakes Derby City PICK 6 . . .

LEG 1: (Race 7: Dirt, 7F, Derby City Distaff S. (G1), $500k, F&M 4+)

The Pick 6 on May 1st, now the renamed “Derby City,” is a can’t miss wager. In that spirit, here is a value ticket that keeps this ticket from turning into the “Snowpiercer.”

The 1st Leg of this sequence has all of the makings for a “Single,” but I want to exercise caution. It makes me quite nervous to see Bob Baffert’s powerhouse sprinter from last season, Gamine #4 drawn in here with a M/L of 1/5. I know she is stellar, and her “workout” in the Las Flores (G3) was nothing short of a formality. After a controversial summer a year ago, she failed to beat Shedaresthedevil in the Oaks last September. Her redemption came at the Breeders’ Cup, where the trainer watched her take over the Fillies Sprint (G1) in fine fashion. Quoting Trevor Denman, “stylish,” comes to mind as it was Baffert triumphant. Don’t get me wrong, her speed is lethal, and with John Velazquez aboard, she has the ability to live up to 1/5. But I am looking at this from the standpoint of a P6 sequence . . . and for that reason, I want to add one more.

Most will say that Sconsin #2, presumably named for the Big Cheese state, doesn’t have the back class to game with Gamine #4. I beg to differ. Like her well-regarded rival, she is a 4-yr-old filly who needed a traditional freshening before entering in this race. Last time out in the Grade I Madison at Keeneland, she was coming off the shelf into a way more difficult spot than Baffert’s charge. To me, it would be totally understandable that she might be “done early.” Coming off that 7th place, it is now time for her to shine, and this homebred has some major ability to do just that for trainer Greg Foley. A reminder . . . last year she was incredible in some key races, the zenith being a convincing “win” in the Eight Belles (G2) right here at Churchill Downs on September Derby Day. While Gamine was losing in the Oaks, this one was a triumph at odds of 7/1. This distance suits, and so does the addition of Irad Ortiz. What could be better?

Let’s include her, in case the favorite doesn’t show, and move right along . . .

Selections: 2/4 (2-Deep)

 

LEG 2: (Race 8: Dirt, 1 Mile, Pat Day Mile S. (G2), $500k, 3)

The Pat Day (G2) represents one of the toughest races on the Derby undercard, and with a full field like this one, it will be a major handicapping challenge. For that last reason, I want to go as deep as possible, in order make sure I have enough coverage. Some “Singles” are coming, just not in here.

The horse that will take some money in this one is Peter Eurton’s Dream Shake #8 because along the Derby Trail he managed to garner some support. Whether that was worthy or not is a question, but if you go back to when he broke his maiden the first-time out, he clearly liked to close. That 4-length win sparked something in a bettor’s imagination, and has been fixed ever since. Though he failed in the 2 signature SoCal Preps (San Felipe/SA Derby), that experience is just too valuable to discount. Use him . . .

I will not be placing him on top though, since I believe in Brad Cox’s Joe Frazier #12. He is going to probably be one of the biggest prices coming from Cox’s barn on Saturday, and I understand why. His last race at Keeneland was only an OC75k after all, and most will say that cannot hold a candle to some others drawn in here with “Graded” backgrounds. I agree . . . but I would argue that Cox used that race as a test, and Frazier #12 rope-a-doped his way to victory by staying close to the lead in a jam-packed field. Yep, he only won by a nose, but he handled the adversity, coming out on top. Great price from a barn that is going super nova . . .

Let’s not leave out Jackie’s Warrior #3, who never had much of a chance against EQ in the SW Stakes (G3) at Oaklawn. Boy, she was at short odds back in the BC Juvenile! Finally, Steve Asmussen got his act together and is cutting him back to a distance that suits. He is a player, to be sure. I also like Defunded #4 because he is a Baffert cardmember, and Brendan Walsh’s Prevalence #5 since he is a Godolphin homebred at a square price. A pair that some might miss are Dallas Stewart’s star who garnered some attention along the Louisiana Series, Starrininmydreams #6. Also, a real tasty price emanates from Winchell’s Whiskey Double #7, whose last call was against power runner Drain the Clock in the Bay Shore (G3) at Aqueduct.

Those selections should get us through this barricade. Time to get the trebuchets out! Onward . . .

Selections: 3/4/5/6/7/8/12 (7-Deep)

 

LEG 3: (Race 9: Turf, 1 1/16th, American Turf S. (G2), $500k, 3)

Moving right along . . . I am going to come up with some cost savings that are going to blow your socks off! This race, the Am Turf (G2) is as tough as they come. You have to understand though, I am what is called a “consulting turf-man” in this one, and I have a specialty for these spots. I can tell you that it doesn’t take a genius handicapper to think that a good bit of the money is going to float towards Shug McGaughey’s Scarlett Sky #13. That win in the Transylvania (G3) was impressive as Joel Rosario used the “Nitro” button, and took his mount from 6th to 1st in a matter of seconds. The win was impressive on “good” ground. I wouldn’t discount that race, except to say that the field of 6 didn’t have much star appeal. Yes, Palazzi #14, who is a gatemate here, was solid coming in, but Fire At Will didn’t end up equal to his odds or the talk that was swirling. I want to try and beat Shug’s late-footed champ, and I can with Todd Pletcher’s Winfromwithin #2.

At Tampa, one of the saltiest races that produces some excellent turf colts for the remainder of the year, is the Columbia Stakes 75k. Back in early March, this son of Into Mischief was grand up front, and Luis Saez controlled the pace from the beginning. This runner is the male version of Aunt Pearl. He has rating ability, and jets galore to cruise over the blades. Switching to the turf this year, he has put together solid wins and works. This is clearly a “Single,” especially since you are getting a jockey whose aggressiveness and patience on the turf is continuing to evolve. I would put him just behind Irad and Castellano, when it comes to “settling” ability during routes. That’s right . . . ahead of Prat and Rosario, folks. You read it here . . .

Bet him . . . This one will be a major “win” wager for me, and qualifies as a “best bet.”

Selections: 2 (Single)

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LEG 4: (Race 10: Dirt, 7F, Churchill Downs S. (G1), 4+)

I know what you are thinking . . . “I guess he is fresh out Singles.” Not a chance! I am going to throw down another one in this spot—Churchill Downs S. I am sure Mind Control #2 will take money because of Irad Ortiz, and Flagstaff #4 will look like a sure one because of that Commonwealth (G3) win back at Keeneland. The sentiment will flow like butter when it comes to backing Moquett’s Whitmore #9 . . . makes sense.

However, the clear choice for me is Mark Casse’s Tap It to Win #5. This runner has so much going for him, that he could pair nicely in a $2 Double with my turf router from the previous race. I wouldn’t miss backing this one because he has so much going for him. This Florida-bred is, of course, out of Tapit, and he is coming into this contest off a score back in a “Non-G” 110k back at Tampa in late March. The speed fig was inviting, and once again, Tampa gets little respect from the handicapping deities.

I like his ability, especially after he tried the 2020 Derby “Off-Road” Trail from last year. He built some lovely class lines running in the Belmont (G1), Jerkens (G1), and the Pat Day (G2). Johnny V gets the call, and he knows what this one can do. The price . . . 8/1 . . . is going to be excellent!

Rolling it!

Selections: 5 (Single)

 

LEG 5: (Race 11: Turf, 1 1/8th, Turf Classic S. (G1), $1 Million, 4+)

It is time to get tactical, and break out some military science . . . Sun Tzu, Clausewitz, and even some Sam Grant might be useful in this situation. The main obstruction ahead that is littered with barbed wire and hedgehogs, is how does anyone beat Todd Pletcher’s Colonel Liam #3? He is an NTRA Top 10 member for sure when it comes to the Thoroughbred Poll. This son of Liam’s Map has taken on all challengers in a pair of “Graded” runs that were impressive. Getting super turf jock Irad Ortiz makes him lethal once again, and he probably should be the deserving favorite. I don’t want to say that he will for sure be the winner because this is a better field than some might think. The Matt Winn could have moisture in it, and that could end up being an “X-Factor” that we will not understand until it is too late.

Looking at the rest of the field, I concluded earlier this week that I wanted to try and use this race as an “All” race, if the opportunity presented itself. It has . . . In turf racing you simply cannot count out anyone. Handicappers that talk about speed figs and pace projections are misguided, in my opinion. What is more important is jockey decision-making when it comes to settling in the proper spot. If you can get a runner to relax, it goes a long way to being there at the end. The other issue is traffic because if everyone is unhurried, then more juice is loose in the end. That last issue can be a tough one for the likes of Colonel Liam#3. Yes, he has a superlative rider who is great at bullying his way to an opening. However, everyone has their limits. Even, Irad . . .

I am hoping for an upset here, and what you have are some experienced SoCal types, mixed in with some Klaravich grass economists, and all of them are coupled along with a Paulo Lobo-trained specialist who might be the sneakiest of all off-the-bench. Tough contest . . . Hence, the touch of the “All” button. Good plan . . .

Selections: 1-9 (All)

 

LEG 6: (Race 12: Dirt, 1¼, The Kentucky Derby (G1), $3 Million, 3)

EQ #14 . . . EQ #14 . . . EQ #14 . . . That pair of letters signals the arrival of my Kentucky Derby “Single.” I was on this horse before the Breeders’ Cup, and since then, he has not failed me yet. Why would I hesitate in not backing him once again? I find all this debate tiresome, but necessary. Mea culpa . . . He has so many virtues that this will sound like a “tout.” It is decidedly not.

Yes, he is the best horse in this race, and you could spend time disassembling what is under the hood. Yet, what people need to realize is that in the end all that matters is the work ethic of the Louisville-native, Brad Cox. He has masterfully infused this horse with the tools to exhibit the “Heart of a Champion.” Not trite . . . trust me . . . He has poured his knowledge and desire, along with a specific Derby progress plan, into a Godolphin homebred that was sent to him for one purpose—bring the elusive KYD Trophy home to the “Boys in Blue.”

The break at the start of the KYD is “essential,” but now with the new Australian-built Starting Gate, it should make for a cleaner experience for all. I expect Luis Saez to take a page from his ride at the Dubai World Cup, when he guided another Godolphin homebred to victory on the other side of the world—Mystic Guide. Laying close and finding running room by the top of the stretch is central. If he can stay clear, the lane will open up for his aggressively-minded pilot. Fractions will be just that, times on a board, but I have little concern for them. EQ #14 is like K.I.T.T. of Knight Rider fame (80s reference), or the Iron Spider Suit (Marvel reference), in that he can morph and calibrate into different “modes” depending on the situation at hand. That gives Saez options, and a bevy of dirt gears when he needs them.

I’ve crafted argument after argument thus far, penned pieces on the “eclipse” of Cox’s rise to the pinnacle of this sport in North America, and even discussed how Saez continues to be a comet. I remember seeing this jockey pass by when he came to Sam Houston one year, and thought, “When will his time come?” Well, it did in 2019, and then it was gone. Nothing like redemption and horse racing, rolled into an inviting package with a bow tied on top . . . eh?

For the connections, the time has arrived. No more verbiage, guff, or platitudes from the pundits (including me) . . . Let’s race! Check out this affordable ticket . . .

Selections: 14 (Single)

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.20 DCP6 TICKET COST: $25.20

It is time once again for the tradition and spectacle that is the 147th edition of the Kentucky Derby!

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