With seven stakes races on the card, there's plenty to get excited about on Saturday at Churchill Downs. Thankfully, our in-house handicapper has you covered with picks for every race to go along with detailed analysis of the Late Pick 4 sequence that features the G3 Matt Winn for 3-year-olds.
If you're looking for picks elsewhere around the country on Saturday, be sure to check out our Free Horse Racing Picks via the gold button below.
Kicking off the Late Pick 4 on this stakes-laden card at Churchill Downs is the G3 Regret, which is undoubtedly one of the most wide-open races on the program. Spanish Loveaffair (#2) was made the slight morning-line favorite at 5-2, however she’s a tough one to trust coming off a dull effort in the G2 Appalachian at Keeneland. She may have a bit of an excuse for the Appalachian considering she had some trouble at the start and was caught behind glacial splits, but it’s still a disconcerting effort for a filly that could be a decisive favorite. It wouldn’t surprise me if she bounces back, and her race two back in the G3 Herecomesthebride at Gulfstream Park would make her tough to beat, but at a short price I’m going to try to beat her.
The two I’m siding with are both coming out of the same allowance race on May 8 at Churchill Downs. While Gam’s Mission (#7) came out on top in that spot, it’s actually the runner-up Flown (#8) who is my top pick. There was very little separating these two fillies in that May 8 race, but I do think you have to give the edge to Flown as she had the slightly tougher trip and has more experience running without Lasix, which is always a big question looming over stakes runners these days. Ultimately, I believe the allowance race these two are coming out of is just as good as this weak G3 event, and I think they will assert their class here at reasonably good odds.
Main: 7,8 Backup (priority): 2,4
Order of preference: 8-7-4-2
If this card wasn’t chock full of very likely winners at short prices, O Besos (#3) might have been in the running to be the day’s ‘Most Likely Winner.’ I couldn’t quite give him that distinction, but I still think he’s in a great spot in the G3 Matt Winn. Despite having a substantial speed figure edge, I think many could dismiss him as more of a plodding type and not well suited to this distance, which is a sentiment I don’t agree with. It’s true he has a late-running style, but he actually could’ve been much closer to the pace in the G1 Kentucky Derby last out, and after uncorking a serious rally into the stretch it’s safe to say he didn’t just clunk up to be fifth. This horse has also won going 5 ½ furlongs in the past, so I don’t think the turnback is going to be an issue for him, and I think he’s just classier than the lackluster competition he’s meeting in the Matt Winn. Even his morning-line odds of 2-1 could represent great value.
The other main player I see in this race is also coming out of the Derby, and that’s Helium (#2). I don’t think he ran nearly as well as O Besos, however he did press a pretty fast pace and may not have cared for the mile and a quarter distance of that race. He overcame some adversity to win the G2 Tampa Bay Derby in his prior start in 2021, and that effort makes him a very logical player in this spot.
Main: 3 Backup (priority): 2
Order of preference: 3-2-5-4
In the Aristides I have to go back to my old friend Bango (#3), who is about as much of a horse for course as you will ever see. It’s clear from his running lines that Bango is at his best over this track, which is why he was among my main picks in the G1 Churchill Downs last out. While it didn’t quite work out in that spot, he did give me a brief thrill as he opened up a daylight lead at the top of the stretch before fading in the final furlong, which is understandable given how hard he had to work early. His performance that day also leads me to believe that he’s going to greatly appreciate cutting back to six furlongs, which is a distance he’s 4-for-6 at, and there’s really not much serious competition for him to deal with.
Bango is my top pick, but one challenger I do have the utmost respect for is Empire of Gold (#5), who has made a habit of outrunning his odds in big spots, including nearly winning the G2 Phoenix at Keeneland last fall at 51-1. This horse has since proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that his near miss in the Phoenix was no fluke, and if he runs his race he’s quite simply a major player. The one concern I do have is that he’s never run without Lasix in his career, so there’s no telling how the absence of that medication might impact his performance.
I’m also pretty interested in Edgemont Road (#4), who I would’ve made a ‘main’ play if not for his curious placement in a turf race last out, which resulted in a subpar effort. Edgemont Road was running races in Kentucky last year that would make him a primary contender in the Aristides, and I think his recent dirt outings at Tampa Bay Downs are better than they look. If he gets back to his 2020 form, which is a distinct possibility as the Eddie Kenneally barn is really starting to wake up after a prolonged slump, he’s going to be a huge overlay.
Main: 3,5 Backup (priority): 4
Order of preference: 3-5-4-2
Set Piece (#8) is the horse to beat in the Douglas Park, but he’s not the kind of favorite I’m going to lean on at a short price. He has seemed to have found his niche as a turf miler, but his form is a little spotty and I just don’t consider him to be reliable. If he repeats his latest win in the Opening Verse he’s going to be very tough, however it’s not something I’m going to bank on.
Instead, I prefer the horse that finished just behind him in the Opening Verse, Gray’s Fable (#9). This guy has come back better than ever as a 5-year-old, and if he’s able to set a more moderate tempo on the front end he could easily turn the tables on Set Piece. With little speed signed on for this race aside from Ramsey Solution (#4), and at two or three times the price of the favorite, that’s certainly something I’m comfortable betting on.
I think you also have to use the classy Parlor (#3) to close things out, especially if he’s going to be near his morning-line odds of 5-1. He closed out 2020 on a low note and is now coming off a long layoff at 7-years-old, however his form last year was very good on the whole, and he boasts one of the top turf trainers in the game. He’s a bit of a shaky proposition at a short price, but there’s no doubt the ability is there for him to win this race.
Main: 3,8,9 Backup: 4
Order of preference: 9-8-3-4
*If you're interested in seeing payouts for these races, you can find them on our Results page linked to below*