Churchill Downs Picks & Analysis for April 24

The Churchill Downs Spring/Summer Meet begins on Saturday with a first post of 6 p.m. ET
The Churchill Downs Spring/Summer Meet begins on Saturday with a first post of 6 p.m. ET

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With a week to go before the G1 Kentucky Derby on May 1, Churchill Downs opens its doors for the first time in 2021 as it hosts a 10-race card on Saturday evening. Our ever-vigilant in-house handicapper is on the scene with picks for the entire program and detailed analysis of his best value plays throughout the day.

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Horse Racing Picks

Race 7

The turf racing looks a little dicey for Opening Day at Churchill Downs with rain in the forecast, but perhaps conditions will improve enough by night (Race 7 has a scheduled post of 9:05 p.m. ET) that the two grass races on the card can remain on their intended surface. If this race does stay on turf, Attorney Tim (#1) is probably the horse to beat. He can be a little hit or miss, but at his best he’s got a strong late kick, like the one we saw two back when he finished a clear second behind G1 Maker’s Mark Mile entrant Darain, and he appreciates some cut in the ground. I think he’s a horse you should probably use in any multi-race wagers given the dearth of quality in this field, however his late-running style always leaves him a bit vulnerable and he’s not the most trustworthy to begin with.

Since Attorney Tim is a shaky favorite and I like the other horses that figure to be short prices even less, I went with Hellorhighwater (#8) as my top pick. This horse is no great shakes himself, but he does have some turf races that would make him a serious contender here and it feels like he’s rounding into his best form following an encouraging runner-up finish in an allowance race at Turfway Park in his last start. I’m expecting him to drift up off his 8-1 morning-line odds despite being squarely in the mix based on his turf form. Ultimately, this is an eminently beatable group and he feels like the right upsetter.


Race 9

While my Race 7 selection presupposes grass racing will be a go on Saturday night, my pick in the William Walker assumes both that the race will remain on turf and that Charles Chrome (#12) draws in off the Also Eligible list. Looking around this field I just couldn’t bear to accept too short a price on anyone. I do have a lot of respect for Cowan (#8), and he will be my top pick if Charles Chrome doesn’t draw into the race, however you have to wonder how he’s going to respond to his Middle East excursion, which saw him finish second in the Saudi Derby and 10th in the Group 1 Al Quoz Sprint. I actually don’t think he ran all that poorly in the Al Quoz Sprint against older horses, but shipping halfway around the world has a tendency to take something out of horses, and with only one purely maintenance breeze in the interim it’s tough to gauge what kind of condition he’s in.

I suppose either half of the uncoupled Wesley Ward-trained duo could be dangerous, however neither Roderick (#1) nor Next (#2) have shown much as turf sprinters. If this race does get washed onto the main track you’d have to take them very seriously, but on turf they’re very likely to be underlays.

All of this brings me back to Charles Chrome, who, if Cowan needs a race as he reacclimates to the States, I believe is a primary contender. A son of dual-Classic winner California Chrome, Charles Chrome showed a clear preference for turf racing as a 2-year-old, a surface on which he ran two strong races at Indiana Downs, one a second-place finish behind next-out stakes winner Beer Can Man and the other a victory over Lookin for Loki (#10). The Beyer Speed Figures he earned for those efforts already put him in the mix here, and there’s reason to believe he could improve in his 3-year-old debut with maturation and an additional half-furlong to navigate, both of which are only going to benefit him. His real appeal, however, lies mostly in his price as he should get completely overlooked in the wagering should he draw in. I would expect him to drift up significantly off his 10-1 morning line, making him a strong play in this race.


Race 10

If I’m expecting both of my other value plays to drift up in price off their morning-line odds, I have to acknowledge that the opposite could happen with She Can’t Sing (#5), though I’m hopeful the cat’s not fully out of the bag with her. She Can’t Sing was in solid form over the winter at Fair Grounds. She didn’t run anything that blows you away and was consistently in the low 80’s on the Beyer scale, however when you isolate her races at Churchill Downs it’s clear that she’s just a different filly on this track. All of her best races have come under the twin spires. She made this exact same move last year and ran the fastest race of her career on May 22 behind Casual, and she closed out her sophomore campaign with an authoritative win going 6 ½ furlongs over a next-out winner. The horse-for-course angle is usually played out and of little value, but in her case I think there’s no doubt she has an affinity for this track; I just hope other bettors aren’t as quick to recognize it.

Aside from just her prowess at Churchill, part of the reason I like She Can’t Sing so much is a lack of serious competition. It would be downright laughable if Lady Rocket (#2) goes off favored, which she is on the morning line. While she was a very hot item to begin her career with back-to-back wins that netted her Beyers of 89 and 84, she’s done nothing since to suggest she’s truly of that caliber and her last two races are mediocre at best. Just to her outside, Tipsy Gal (#3) looks a bit imposing coming off an 8 ¼-length allowance win at Fair Grounds, however she beat absolutely nothing in that spot and was eviscerated by She Can’t Sing when last they met on November 27. The short-priced entrant I think makes the most sense is Aunt Nadine (#7), who is coming off a solid third-place finish in an allowance race at Keeneland, but she’s nothing special and is likely to attract a good deal of support.

 

*If you're interested in seeing payouts for these races, you can find them on our Results page linked to below*

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