Racing continues at iconic Churchill Downs on Friday with a nine-race program and three turf races that could be in jeopardy given the forecast. Nonetheless, our in-house handicapper has provided picks for every race, as well as analysis of his strongest opinions throughout the day, which assume that all turf races will remain on their intended surface.
If you're looking for picks elsewhere around the country on Friday, be sure to check out our Free Horse Racing Picks via the gold button below.
Most Likely Winner: Bhoma (Race 2) - Ken McPeek runners tend to perform much better in their second start, which would be scary for this field given how good Bhoma’s first race was. In reality, it wouldn’t take any improvement at all for Bhoma to win this race given the distinct lack of quality present, but I really liked what I saw from her in her debut when she closed well and galloped out with a purpose. I’m anticipating her taking a step forward here, which should make her virtually unbeatable unless one of the firsters can really run.
Best Value: Strike Me Down (Race 3) - It’s possible Strike Me Down just can’t run anymore, but it wasn’t so long ago that this horse finished a quality second in the Clocker’s Corner to Gregorian Chant, who has blossomed into one of the top turf sprinters in the country. There really aren’t any killers in this second-level optional claimer, so if Strike Me Down is able to get back to that kind of performance in his first start with trainer Michelle Lovell, who knows her way around a turf sprinter, he should be able to win at a generous price. Listed at 15-1 on the morning line, I think he’s well worth the gamble in the face of some disappointing recent races on dirt.
Other Races of Interest: Race 6 - Media Blitz (#2) as a heavy favorite is laughable, in my opinion, which is why I’m going to give the resurgent Botswana (#6) a try as he continues to stretch out in distance. At one time in his career Botswana would’ve absolutely dusted this field, but he’d gone off form for a long time prior to his last race, which was a noticeable step in the right direction. It’s perhaps a little alarming that he’s being offered for a tag here despite still having the condition at his disposal, but if he can somehow build on his last race he’s clearly capable of winning at potentially double-digit odds.
Race 9 - It’s tough to get a good read on anyone in this open 25k claimer on turf, which is why I’m all too happy to default to the Chris Hartman trainee Overzealous (#8), who has a nose for the wire and handles turf just fine. In addition to the horse’s merits, you have to consider the run Hartman is in the midst of at Churchill Downs, where he’s hitting at a remarkable 44% clip. Nearly everything Hartman has sent out at the meet has been live, so I see no reason why Overzealous can’t take this race at square odds against a suspect bunch.
*If you're interested in seeing payouts for these races, you can find them and others on our Results page linked to below*