With heavy rain in the forecast Wednesday night into Thursday the two turf stakes on the card are in serious jeopardy, but the racing at Churchill Downs still provides plenty to get excited about two days out from the Derby. As usual, our in-house handicapper has scoured the card for winners, providing picks for every race and detailed analysis of his strongest opinions throughout the day.
If you're looking for picks elsewhere around the country on Thursday, be sure to check out our Free Horse Racing Picks via the gold button below.
Most Likely Winner: Keep Your Distance (Race 6) - This starter allowance race presents a fascinating showdown between a pair of super salty 7-year-old mares in Radiantrithym and Keep Your Distance, who are as hard-knocking as they come, with my preference obviously being the latter. While Radiantrithym is starting to show her age a bit, the Robertino Diodoro-trained Keep Your Distance is actually getting better at 7. Her last race, a starter allowance win at Keeneland, was one of the best performances of her career and came against a far better bunch than this. I have nothing but respect for Radiantrithym, but if Keep Your Distance runs back to her latest effort she’s not going to lose.
Best Value: Leader of Men (Race 7) - I found this mid-priced claimer to be a complete puzzle, but one think I do know is I want to no part of the returning Borracho, who was mercurial as a 4-year-old and now shows up for a tag for the first time in his career. I found this race to be ripe for an upset, which is why I’m giving Leader of Men a try at 15-1 on the morning line. He needs to improve off his recent dirt races to have a chance, but at one point this guy was actually a stakes winner on the surface and given his versatility he should relish a wet track. His recent worktab is compelling as he goes first off the claim for Grant Forster, who represents an upgrade over his former trainer, and ultimately there’s no one in this field that scares me. With even slight improvement Leader of Men should have a big shot.
Other Races of Interest: Race 4 - This is another race in which I’m not impressed with any of those that figure to be short prices, which is why I’m giving A Little Flyer (#5) a try for trainer Ismael Bahena. This filly’s debut over this track was nothing short of a fiasco, however it’s clear she’s much improved since then, as evidenced by her decent fourth-place finish last out at Keeneland over a sloppy track. She earned a highly competitive 55 Beyer Speed Figure for that race, and if she can duplicate it here as she cuts back in distance and likely catches another wet track, she can absolutely win this race.
Race 8 - I have no idea if the Opening Verse is going to be able to stay on the turf given the biblical amounts of rain in the forecast on Thursday, however I think Snapper Sinclair (#7) is a strong play regardless of surface. On dirt this race would essentially be a walkover for him, but even on turf I think he has a great chance. His best turf racing has historically come at Kentucky Downs, though he’s run well over this turf course in the past and should appreciate plenty of cut in the ground. There is really no one else in this race I trust, so I’m content to take the horse I believe is the classiest runner of them all.
*If you're interested in seeing payouts for these races, you can find them on our Results page linked to below*