For its 1st Saturday card of the 12-day Meet, Churchill Downs in Louisville will host a splendid stakes-laden line-up that includes a bevy of races with "playoff" implications.
Both the Grade 3 Pocahontas (for 2-yr-old fillies), and the Grade 3 Iroquois (for 2-yr-old-colts) not only have "Derby Points" (10-4-2-1) attached to then, but they are also Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In" contests for both the BC Juvenile and Juvenile Fillies. Plus ... as if that were not enough ... the Grade 3 Locust Grove is going to be a superb challenge for older fillies & mares. What a line-up!
We at Horseracing.net/us have you covered every step of the way at Churchill Downs, as we offer all of our selections, and an analysis of the Late Pick 5. Even though the new $10 million Matt Winn Turf Course refurbishment project will not be completed until some time in the Spring of 2022 (that means no grass contests), the Main Track is the place to be. So, stay tuned!
If you're looking for picks elsewhere around the country this Saturday be sure to check out our free Horse Racing Picks via the gold button below.
LEG 1: (Race 7: Dirt, 6F, Louisville Thoroughbred Society S., $275k, 3+)
You can look at the start of this sequence from the perspective of field size … since there are only 6 drawn in here, is it better or worse? Hit the “All” or form a strong opinion about 1 entry? I am going to choose the latter course because I know this ticket is going to get expensive very quickly. I believe that “Singling” Steve Asmussen’s Mighty Mischief #6 is the way to go. Not only is this colt well-bred out of Into Mischief, but he gets Ricardo Santana in the irons. Even though he is a 3-yr-old, he has already been in some tough competition at Oaklawn, Pimlico, and Monmouth. Always a short price, he has delivered in these spots, and triumphed even when coming in 2nd. Maybe Just Might #3 and Bango #5, will take significant money, which will cause bettors to overlook this young speedster. I do not always wager on those runners who are in older company, but this seems like an angle that can work. Let’s hope for a quality move out of the gate …
Selections: 6 (Single)
LEG 2: (Race 8: Dirt, 1 1/16th, Pocahontas S. (G3), $300k, 3F)
Here is your chance to get an early look at the next generation of “Oaks” runners. This race, the Pocahontas (G3) will give us a good idea about who might be ready for both some KYOaks “Points,” and a trip to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1). Out of this field of 11, I particularly like the look of Mark Casse’s Lemieux #10. Out of Nyquist, this filly is not only well-bred, but she likes to go to the lead early. The choice to keep Tyler Gaffalione on board is a plus, and though she has never contested 2 turns, he has the ability to take a step forward here.
Another one to consider is Brad Cox’s Maxine Machine #6. Although she only has one race to her credit, it was a maiden win on the grass at Ellis in a MSW51k event. Clearly, Cox sees something in this runner, and we all know what he can do with young fillies. Including her is a must, as Florent Geroux takes the mount. One other to seriously consider is Goddess of Fire #2 from the barn of Todd Pletcher. This Red Oak Stable homebred won by only a neck, breaking her maiden the 1st time out, but that was in a high-level MSW100k race at Saratoga. We all know how tough those can be, and even though John Velazquez will not be aboard, Javier Castellano takes the controls, ably. If this Mineshaft filly can fire, then she could be rolling hard down the lane. I would remiss if I did not mention the presence of trainer Laura Wohlers, and her charge, Joyrunner #11. You might not recognize her name, but she is the personal conditioner for Jim McIngvale, aka "Mattress Mack." The well-known salesman and philanthropist sends this daughter of Gun Runner into some way higher company. She might be able to handle the jump based on her last run at Ellis. I like the pedigree, the ownership, and the angle.
All of these entries will be chasing Norm Casse’s Ontheonesandtwos #4 for supremacy at the top of the tote. Out of Jimmy Creed, she has a major class rating having run last time in the Adirondack (G2) back at The SPA. Even though she was 6th in that contest, she still demands respect in this spot as Ricardo Santana will ride for the first time. There is absolutely nothing easy about this portion of the ticket … nothing like a bunch of precocious 2-yr-old fillies to get the blood pumping. We are not done yet … not by a long shot.
Selections: 2/4/6/10/11 (5-Deep)
LEG 3: (Race 9: Dirt, 1 1/16th, Iroquois S. (G3), $300k, 2)
As if we did not have a tough time in the previous race, its mate, the Iroquois (G3), is no let up. Look out below … I do have some opinions to offer, and I will just state it early and often that Steve Asmussen’s Guntown #9 is my top selection. I am not so bold as to predict that he should be a “Single,” but the Winchell-owned homebred was impressive at Ellis Park going around 2 turns on the grass. That was a nice tactical ability that he exhibited, and I am hoping that on the dirt, he can do the same. Since that last start, he has worked in some solid tabs on 3 occasions. With Tyler Gaffalione in the saddle, who is dominate at Churchill, I think this runner has a superb chance. I want to also include a couple of others who I think could also win.
Do not leave out Todd Pletcher’s Major General #8 for Winstar, nor Asmussen’s victor from Saratoga, Stellar Tap #6. Both of these have a bright future, and should be vying for supremacy late in the game. Last but not least, I do not want to neglect an Ian Wilkes submission that I think will be a nice price. Bourbon Lane Stable does some really good work, and they have the red/manila clad Bourbon Heist #11 coming into this spot. This son of Practical Joke was right behind Pletcher’s ace in a MSW100k affair last time at Saratoga. I think the colt can improve off that effort, and you never know about Joe Talamo. I have seen him put in some commanding performances over the years that date back to his time in SoCal. We will see how this very tough race shakes out. On with the show …
Selections: 6/8/9/11 (4-Deep)
LEG 4: (Race 10: Dirt, 1 1/16th, Locust Grove (G3), $400k, F&M 3+)
At this point in the sequence, we could really use a reminder of the story of Roger Bannister. If you do not know who he was, then you need to head to Google, right now. Entering this lap, it is time to dig deep, and grab some wherewithal, because this is not for the faint of heart. I know what is coming in the finale, and that means that we will need to go as deep as possible to get this ticket cashed. I have a leveling solution … grab a “Single” in here. In this Grade 3 go there is only one logical choice … you can try and beat her, but I do not see how that is possible, if she is on her game. A perfect 4/4 at Churchill Downs, Brad Cox’s Shedaresthedevil #7 is the real deal. In 2021, the only one that could best this 4-yr-old filly out of Daredevil was Fausto Gutierrez’s excellent Letruska. Cox is sending her back to Churchill in hopes of getting one more race under her belt before she makes the trip to Del Mar for the BC Distaff (G1). She is a major player in this division, and I rest my case … no one can beat her, if she is as sharp as she can be. When she shipped to SoCal for the Hirsch (G1), I was impressed with her professionalism and determination. Florent Geroux is riding a heck of a filly. It is going to be wonderful to see her run circles around this field.
Selections: 7 (Single)
LEG 5: (Race 11: Dirt, 1 Mile, ALLW127k, 3+)
Entering the “last lap” we are going to be witnessing a 1-turn mile. Coming out of the chute at Churchill, and rolling down near the temporary rail, it will be interesting to see who can make the lead. Speed held up well on Friday, so it might do just that again today. My sense is to look for a price, but like I said, I am probably going to err on the side of caution and hit the “All” button. It makes good sense, and can keep us covered in case we do get the proverbial bomb. My top selection comes the barn of Wayne Catalano. The “Catman Cometh,” and he has this colt out of Bernardini that suits. A CoffeePot Stables homebred, Regular Guy #3 has just missed in from his last 2 races up against some not too shabby company. Clearly, he can handle any situation, being so tactical. That might be just the trick, as Joe Talamo gets aboard for another try. His works at Keeneland also look swift, and I am hopeful that his price will remain above 8/1. As for one other to take a look at, why not back the Into Mischief colt who resides in the barn of Joe Sharp? Flint Ridge #6 won last time out at Saratoga, and he got a nice trip in that MSW100k. Coming to Churchill is a good move, as Sharp is getting hot of late. You pair his mount with Brian Hernandez, and this could be a dynamic duo! What a way to finish this sequence … let’s go!