Churchill Downs Picks & Late Pick 4 Analysis for May 16

Churchill Downs closes out the week with a nine-race card
Churchill Downs closes out the week with a nine-race card

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Another week of racing at Churchill Downs comes to an end on Sunday with a solid nine-race program. As usual, our in-house handicapper has broken down the action, providing picks for the whole card and detailed analysis of the Late Pick 4 sequence.

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Horse Racing Picks

Race 6

The Late Pick 4 kicks off with a maiden claiming race that seems to have two main contenders: Savoy (#5) and Tenth of Gold (#6). Despite appearing significantly slower than the latter, my preference is Savoy, who had a good deal of trouble in his last race and maybe would’ve won with a clean trip. That maiden special weight race has proven to be a decent one for the level as the third-place finisher came back to win with an improved Beyer Speed Figure, and if Savoy runs back to that effort I think he’s going to be very tough in this spot for trainer Chad Brown.

Tenth of Gold is coming off an imposing 77 Beyer at Oaklawn Park, however I’m not sure that race is quite as good as it looks. It was a vast improvement for Tenth of Gold, who didn’t show much in his debut over this track as a 2-year-old, but he sat a very good trip and was no match for his stablemate Long Term Thinking, a horse that had previously seemed destined to be a career maiden. I’m expecting Tenth of Gold to regress considerably here, as I also don’t think the added furlong of this race does him any favors. 

As far as backups go, I’m more interested in Junesandra (#3). Taking a trainer that is winless on the year is a tough pill to swallow, but Junesandra has been holding his own against maiden special weight company at Oaklawn, and I think the cutback to seven furlongs could be to his benefit. I don’t know that he can truly threaten Savoy, but he should offer plenty of value underneath.

Main:  5     Backup:  3,6

Order of preference:  5-3-6-2


Race 7

Chaps (#11) looks like the horse to beat in this turf-sprint optional claimer based on his 2020 form, however I have some concerns he’s going to return in the same kind of condition considering he was scratched out of a cheaper spot earlier in the meet. The fact he was entered for 50k isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement for a horse who nearly won a G2 over this course last year, so I’m anticipating a subpar effort from him as the favorite.

With Chaps potentially vulnerable here, there are two horses I believe are going to offer tremendous value. The first, and my top pick, is American Butterfly (#4), who I cannot believe is 12-1 on the morning line. The only turf sprint showing in his past performances came two back in the G2 Shakertown at Keeneland, in which he finished fifth with an 87 Beyer that stands out in this field. For those thinking it was just a meaningless, belated run to pick off a few stragglers late in the Shakertown, I can tell you that he did some legitimate running in the stretch, and even outfinished graded stakes winner Kanthaka. I do wish he showed a bit more early speed in that spot as I don’t love betting deep closers in turf sprints, but that performance undoubtedly makes him a primary contender against this group.

The other horse I’m very interested in at a price is Gray Attempt (#7), listed at 20-1 on the morning line. Gray Attempt ran much better than it looks in his lone turf sprint try, which came on this course last year against a superior field, and he showed some signs of life last out in his first start off-the-claim for trainer Chris Hartman. I could very easily see him taking another step forward in this race and think he’s highly likely to outrun his odds.

Main:  4,7     Backup:  2,11

Order of preference:  4-7-11-2


Race 8

I wish I had something more creative to say about this race, but I think Exulting (#3) is a very likely winner for trainer Mike Maker, who has simply pushed all the right buttons with this horse. Exulting actually won a stakes race at Oaklawn in his first start with Maker back in 2019, and after his career appeared over this winter for a different trainer, Maker claimed him back for 7.5k and immediately turned his form around. More than just a simple revival, Maker actually has him in near career form, and if he were to repeat either of his last two races he’d be awfully tough to beat.

The other two I think you have to take seriously here are I Will Stand (#5) and Don’t Forget (#9), though value doesn’t figure to be there with either. The former actually finished ahead of Exulting in his last start, but that seemed to be a somewhat aberrant performance for him and Exulting has moved forward in the interim. Don’t Forget is my preferred option of these two. He looks like more of a sprinter based on his recent races at Oaklawn, however he’s also run well going longer in the past. The one concern I have is that the last time he was on this circuit he was a major disappointment, losing as the odds-on favorite on April 7 at Keeneland.

Main:  3     Backup:  5,9

Order of preference:  3-9-5-8


Race 9

I absolutely love Purple Dream (#5) in the finale. If people are going to hop off the bandwagon already because of a subpar effort last out in an off-the-turf race at Keeneland that’s fine by me, because this horse showed a world of potential in his debut on March 27 at Turfway Park and is bred much more for this surface. Purple Dream also didn’t run nearly as poorly as it looks in that Keeneland race as he was chasing wide on a day the inside was very good. I think we’re going to see him start to realize his true potential here, and anything close to his 10-1 morning-line odds would be a gift.

Shaldag (#13) is another horse I have an affinity for, but unfortunately he’s mired on the Also Eligible list. Should he draw into this race I do actually think he has a big chance based on his last race, a troubled outing on March 20 at Fair Grounds. It’s clear from that race that he’s really turned a corner at 3, whether it be the addition of Lasix or otherwise, and I think he’s going to be dangerous if he’s able to run.

Main:  5,13     Backup (priority):  3,12

Order of preference:  5-13-12-3

 

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