By Sean Morris

Pimlico Full-Card Picks & Analysis for October 3

By Sean Morris
We take a look at the stakes action at Pimlico on Saturday
We take a look at the stakes action at Pimlico on Saturday

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The Preakness Stakes isn't the only game in town on Saturday afternoon at Pimlico. Our in-house handicapper takes a look at the whole card at Pimlico this Saturday with his Picks and all important analysis...

Pimlico Picks - Saturday 3 October 2020
  • Race Number
  • Main Plays
  • Backup
  • Order of Preference
  • Preview & Odds

Race Number

  • 1 - Selima Stakes
  • 2 - Gallorette Stakes
  • 3 - Skipat Stakes
  • 4 - Hilltop Stakes
  • 5 - Miss Preakness Stakes
  • 6 - Dinner Party Stakes
  • 7 - Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash Stakes
  • 8 - Laurel Futurity
  • 9 - James W. Murphy
  • 10 - Black-Eyed Susan Stakes
  • 11 - Preakness Stakes

Main Plays

  • Main: 4,5,7
  • Main: 1
  • Main: 3,6
  • Main: 6,7
  • Main: 5
  • Main: 1,7
  • Main: 1,3,5
  • Main: 1,2,3,6,8
  • Main: 7,10,11
  • Main: 5,8,9
  • Main: 3,9

Backup

  • Backup (priority): 1,2,3
  • Backup (priority): 4
  • Backup (priority): 1
  • Backup (priority): 4
  • Backup (priority): 3
  • Backup: 2,3
  • Backup (priority): 4,7
  • Backup: 4,7
  • Backup (priority): 9,13
  • Backup (priority): 10
  • Backup (priority): 2,4

Order of Preference

  • Order of preference: 7-5-4-2
  • Order of preference: 1-4-8-6
  • Order of preference: 6-3-1-5
  • Order of preference: 5-3-1-4
  • Order of preference: 5-3-1-4
  • Order of preference: 1-7-3-2
  • Order of preference: 3-5-1-4
  • Order of preference: 2-3-6-8
  • Order of preference: 7-11-10-13
  • Order of preference: 8-5-9-10
  • Order of preference: 3-9-4-2

Race 1 (Selima)

This is a crazy race and a fitting way to kick off a fantastic day of non-stop stakes action at Pimlico. I really don’t trust any of the short-priced fillies in this race, which is why I felt the need to get creative with my top pick. Line Dancing (#7) looks too slow to win, however her trainer Michael Matz doesn’t win often with first-time starters and she beat a stablemate in her debut that came back to run much better at Belmont Park in her next start. Line Dancing is well bred for this trip and if she moves forward as anticipated she can compete with this lackluster bunch.

I’m also interested in first-time turfer Zeyaraat (#5) at a price. She’s by poor turf sire Honor Code, however her dam was strictly a grass runner and her connections are wasting no time getting her on this surface after a successful debut on dirt in mid-September at Parx Racing. She wouldn’t have to improve by much to beat this field.

Of the two Chad Brown-trained runners in this race, I prefer the maiden Domain Expertise (#4). She earned a 69 Beyer Speed Figure for her debut on the Saratoga lawn when she finished behind a well-regarded stablemate, and I think it’s fair to expect her to run even better here. She’s the favorite on the morning line, so value is probably going to be nonexistent with her, but I do think she’s a likely winner of this race.

Main:  4,5,7     Backup (priority):  1,2,3

Order of preference:  7-5-4-2

 

Race 2 (G3 Gallorette)

Juliet Foxtrot (#1) is going to win this race if she shows up with one of her better performances. Two starts ago I thought she could’ve won the G1 Jenny Wiley at Keeneland over his division’s leader Rushing Fall with a more aggressive ride, and she had really turned into one of the better milers in the country at the end of 2019. You can forgive her underwhelming performance in the G3 Mint Julep in her seasonal debut, however the trouble with her is that she ran inexplicably poorly last out in the G2 Distaff Turf Mile at Churchill Downs. I have faith in world-class trainer Brad Cox to get her to rebound, but she’s still a little bit of a dicey proposition as a heavy favorite in this race.

Storm the Hill (#6) is somewhat intriguing as she makes her first start with Mike Maker. She’s run a few big races on turf in California, however she’s been rather ordinary on the East Coast and she’s also coming off a long layoff, which is why my preferred alternative to the favorite is No Mo Lady (#4).

I’ll admit No Mo Lady is not anywhere near as talented as the good version of Juliet Foxtrot, but she is a 4-year-old filly on the rise and it’s been a point of emphasis for me all week to pay special attention to local horses. I thought she ran better than the similarly ascendant She’sonthewarpath (#3), who also figures to take some money here, two back in a stake at Indiana Grand, and she may not have cared for the soft turf course she found herself on in her last race. If she continues the upward trajectory that she was on earlier this year, she’s a strong candidate to round out the exacta and maybe even upset the favorite.

Main:  1     Backup (priority):  4

Order of preference:  1-4-8-6

 

Race 3 (Skipat)

Chalon (#1) is probably going to go over the million dollar mark in career earnings here, which is a testament to her ability and longevity, however she’s clearly lost a step at the age of 6 and is going to be a short price in this race. She can win if she gets back to the effort she turned in three back in the Dashing Beauty at Delaware Park, but she got a very good trip last out in the Alma North at Laurel Park and had to settle for second.

I prefer the filly that beat Chalon in the Alma North, Never Enough Time (#3), who was a very game winner of the race. She battled through a wicked opening quarter-mile with multiple G1-placed Amy’s Challenge and shrugged off her pace rival in the stretch before withstanding a late charge from the classy Chalon. Her performance makes you wonder if there was an inside bias that day at Laurel, however she’s hinted at that kind of effort in the past and I think she’s going to be dangerous on the front end again in this spot.

It’s taken a long time, but Bronx Beauty (#6) finally recaptured a sliver of her excellent 2019 form with a win last out in the Regret. She beat a nice Chad Brown-trained filly in Royal Charlotte in that race, and did so going away on just a week’s rest. That effort alone makes her a primary contender, but if she takes another step toward the legitimately fast races she was running last year, she’s a very likely winner of this event.

Main:  3,6     Backup (priority):  1

Order of preference:  6-3-1-5

 

Race 4 (Hilltop)

The first thing that stands out in this edition of the Hilltop is that there is a ton of early speed. That should bode well for Secret Time (#6), who makes her U.S. debut for the Maryland-based Arnaud Delacour. This filly likes to make one run from the back of the pack, which could’ve gone a lot better in her last start if she wasn’t held up in traffic in the stretch before making a belated run. She easily should’ve placed at least third in that race, the Group 2 Prix de Sandringham, and a repeat of that effort is going to make her very dangerous as she finds a soft spot to make her initial start in the States.

I’m going to use Secret Time prominently, but my top pick in this race is her next-door neighbor Vigilantes Way (#7). As her pedigree suggested would be the case, this filly was sensational when she made her turf debut two races ago at Colonial Downs in a race that easily could’ve earned a higher speed figure. She’s a half to a plethora of quality turf runners, including Mr Speaker and Fire Away, and if she’s able to rate off the pace the same way she did last time on dirt, she’s going to be awfully tough to beat.

She’s going to need to improve to win, but the other filly I have a keen interest in in this race is American Giant (#4). She showed much improved early speed last out in the G3 Lake George at Saratoga, a race that has already produced two next-out winners who significantly improved upon their speed figures in subsequent starts, and she’s getting back to her trainer Mike Trombetta’s home circuit while making her third start of the form cycle. She also figures to benefit from the hotly contested pace.

Main:  6,7     Backup (priority):  4

Order of preference:  7-6-4-3

 

Race 5 (G3 Miss Preakness)

Mundaye Call (#5) is unquestionably the filly to beat in the G3 Miss Preakness as she comes out of the much tougher G2 Eight Belles on the Kentucky Derby undercard. She was a bit disappointing in the Eight Belles as she finished fourth at even-money, however she set a very fast pace and was hounded by the talented Four Graces throughout. The cut back to six furlongs should be to her advantage, and either of her past three races would probably be good enough to beat this field.

The filly that intrigues me most as a higher-priced alternative to the favorite is Fly On Angel (#3). She was wheeled back on relatively short rest last time in the G3 Charles Town Oaks, and she ran very well to win after carving out a scorching pace. That was her first start off the claim for Claudio Gonzalez, and now that she’s had ample time to recuperate between races I expect an even better effort here. The only worry with her is that she’s going to have to deal with Mundaye Call early, who is probably faster than her.

Main:  5     Backup (priority):  3

Order of preference:  5-3-1-4

 

Race 6 (G2 Dinner Party)

I told myself I was finally done betting against Factor This (#7) after his strong second-place finish last out in the G1 Turf Classic at Churchill Downs with no apparent bias, which had been his calling card earlier in the year, but that’s only partially true. I’m most certainly using him as he ran extremely well in the Turf Classic and is as game as they come, but I prefer a horse that finished behind him that day.

True Valour (#1) had the unfortunate job of pressing the pace in the Turf Classic, a role I’m hoping falls on Somelikeithotbrown (#2) in this race. If Somelikeithotbrown, who got rank early in the Turf Classic and seems to need a more aggressive ride to be effective, can keep Factor This honest on the front end, or even force the favorite into a stalking position, I like True Valour to spring the upset. The Turf Classic was True Valour’s first start with Graham Motion and came off a bit of a layoff, and I thought he ran quite well all things considered. I think he’s really going to appreciate the slight cut back to 1 1/16 miles as he was strictly a miler on the West Coast and has historically been at his best coming from off the pace. I’m expecting something much better for him as he goes out for quality Maryland-based connections.

Main:  1,7     Backup:  2,3

Order of preference:  1-7-3-2

 

Race 7 (G3 De Francis Memorial Dash)

I’m not against either of the likely favorites Admiral Lynch (#1) or Landeskog (#5), but I don’t think they have a big edge on this field and aren’t going to offer much value. I’ve been assiduously betting against the former since he was transferred from Jason Servis to Mike Maker earlier this year, but he took a big step forward last out defeating next-out winner Honest Mischief at Saratoga with a 104 Beyer Speed Figure. The track was speed-favoring that day at the Spa, however Admiral Lynch ran very well regardless and the subsequent performance of Honest Mischief certainly flatters that effort. I don’t entirely trust him in this spot, but if he runs back to his last race he’s going to be tough to beat.

Landeskog came back off a very long layoff to prevail in his last race over a next-out winner at Churchill Downs in Rubus. He showed during his sophomore campaign that he’s a very talented dirt sprinter, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him improve in his second start of the year, which would make him very dangerous.

I’m using Admiral Lynch and Landeskog, but my top pick in the De Francis Memorial is Eastern Bay (#3). In a race in which I don’t wholly trust the short-priced entrants, I’m happy to take a shot with a seemingly slower runner from the local contingent. The likely hot pace is going to help the chances of the late-running Eastern Bay, and I thought his last race in the Polynesian was quite good as he had to rally behind soft splits to win.

Main:  1,3,5     Backup (priority):  4,7

Order of preference:  3-5-1-4

 

Race 8 (Laurel Futurity)

This was a tough race for me to narrow down my selections given the fact the top contenders have yet to actually win and there’s so much uncertainty among this field of 2-year-old turfers. Pivotal Mission (#1) and Hidden Enemy (#8) enter this race as maidens, yet they may be the two shortest prices on the board. They’ve both run the fastest races of anyone in here, however I really don’t think much of the horses they’ve been facing and the speed figures they’ve been earning could be a bit misleading.

As far as Pivotal Mission is concerned, I prefer his stablemate Wootton Asset (#3), who makes his first start in the country on the heels of some mediocre performances in France. Wootton Asset is a complete unknown since he’s been running on softer courses overseas against suspect competition, but his trainer Graham Motion is lethal with horses making their U.S. debuts and he wouldn’t have to be much to beat this field.

Since none of the likely favorites do much for me in this spot, I think this is a race to shop around for a price. The one that intrigues me most is No One to Blame (#2), who makes his first start on turf after a dominant win on the main track in an off-the-turf race at Delaware Park. That win established that he appreciates two-turn racing, but what I really like about him is the abundance of turf breeding he possesses. His sire Blame connects at 14% with turf runners and his dam had a clear preference for grass racing. If he improves at all with the surface switch, he has a big shot.

The other higher-priced horse I’m keen on in this race is second-time starter Arrest Me Red (#6). He wasn’t overly impressive in his debut (though he did win by 4 ½ lengths), but I anticipate him moving way forward at second asking since that’s a strong category for his trainer Arnaud Delacour and this horse has a pedigree that suggests he’ll appreciate the stretch-out in distance.

Main:  1,2,3,6,8     Backup:  4,7

Order of preference:  2-3-6-8

 

Race 9 (James W. Murphy)

The James W. Murphy is a tricky race to handicap with a full 14-horse field and no obvious standout. I suppose Don Juan Kitten (#10) is going to end up favored. I’m not against him in this spot, but he’s a difficult one to get a read on as he ran over a very soft course last out in the G3 Saranac and two back inherited the lead from a runaway early speed and never looked back on the Saratoga turf. Both were strangely run races, and the James Murphy is going to be a true litmus test for him.

I actually think the most likely winner of this race is Vanzzy (#7), who had some trouble at the start and clearly didn’t care for the soft course in the Saranac. His two prior efforts on turf are both very good. Three starts ago he knocked heads with top 3-year-old turfers Gufo and Pixelate in the G3 Kent and finished a good third, and two back he exploded late to win the Jersey Derby over eventual Saranac winner Bye Bye Melvin. He may actually fly under the radar a bit in the wagering, but if he gets back to either of those races he’s going to be tough to beat.

My price idea in this race is Buy Land and See (#11). Bizarrely, this horse was diagnosed with the coronavirus earlier this year but has returned to the races with two solid efforts. His last race in the 5 ½-furlong Mahony doesn’t look all that imposing, but it was an odd race in which the closers didn’t make much of an impact and this horse may not truly be a turf sprinter anyway. As he did as a 2-year-old, I expect him to get better with more distance, and if he can attain good forward position from his outside post I think he can spring the upset in this wide open race.

Main:  7,10,11     Backup (priority):  9,13

Order of preference:  7-11-10-13

 

Race 10 (G2 Black-Eyed Susan)

Bonny South (#5) is a deserving favorite in the G2 Black-Eyed Susan coming off a runner-up finish in the G1 Alabama behind Swiss Skydiver, who is a contender in the G1 Preakness one race later. I’m by no means against her, but I worry that this filly is going to be overbet as a result of her effort in the Alabama, for which she earned a field-best Beyer Speed Figure of 98 that no one else in this group has even approached. I don’t doubt that she’s the most talented runner in this field, however her Alabama performance seemed to largely be a product of the distance, as she wanted every bit of the mile and a quarter, and the figure she earned may be a touch high to begin with. While her prior race in the G1 Ashland would still make her a primary contender, it doesn’t exactly give her a big edge on this field. Bonny South is a very likely winner of this race, but I wouldn’t be content to lean on her at a short price.

In lieu of the favorite, my top pick in this race is Hopeful Growth (#8). After being scratched out of a spot at Charles Town in favor of the G1 Kentucky Oaks, she didn’t disgrace herself at all in that much tougher assignment. She broke a bit tardy and took a ton of dirt along the inside route before tapering off a little in the stretch, and while it wasn’t a spectacular effort by any means, she finished just 2 ¾ lengths behind top 3-year-old filly Speech. I expect her to be much better this time around as she returns to the mid-Atlantic, where she trounced a field two back in the G3 Monmouth Oaks, a race that makes her a major player.

Initially I was leery of the chances of Miss Marissa (#9), who got away with murder on the front end in her latest victory at Saratoga, but the more I delved into this race, the more I came away thinking she has a shot. She did get an unbelievably great trip last time, but that’s going to happen when you have excellent tactical speed like her and she at least proved she can thrive at this distance. Also, the filly she beat in that race, Risky Mandate, is a talented older filly, and if she were eligible for this race she’d be a very short price. I don’t think she gets an easy, uncontested lead in this spot, but she’s plenty capable of stalking the pace and getting the jump on Bonny South and Hopeful Growth, which could be a decisive advantage.

I also wouldn’t dismiss the filly I view as the main local hope for this race, Landing Zone (#10), who enters the Black-Eyed Susan on a three-race win streak. She set a glacial pace two back and won over a sloppy track last out, but she’s clearly coming into her own now and her trainer Claudio Gonzalez is always dangerous on this circuit. It’s going to take some regression from a few others, but I do believe there’s a path to the winner’s circle for this up-and-coming filly.

Main:  5,8,9     Backup (priority):  10

Order of preference:  8-5-9-10

 

Race 11 (G1 Preakness)

No conversation of the G1 Preakness can begin without first discussing the merits (or lack thereof) of Authentic (#9). The biggest question I have with him is how does a horse go from being life and death to hold off Ny Traffic (#7) at a mile and an eighth in the G1 Haskell to one race later setting a much faster pace at a mile and a quarter in the G1 Kentucky Derby and turning back top 3-year-old Tiz the Law? It’s almost inconceivable to me and at first I suspected a track bias must have been at play, but after going back through the card I could find no such bias; it seems his Derby win is for real. The kicker is that if that trip doesn’t get him beat — setting a blistering pace at 10 furlongs against a better field — then what scenario needs to unfold in this race for him to lose? There is some more speed to potentially go with him and it remains to be seen if he actually needs the lead to be effective, however there’s no denying if the same horse we saw last month shows up again, he’s probably going to win.

The biggest threat to the new and improved Authentic, and my top pick in this race, is Art Collector (#3). His connections made a commendable decision to skip the Derby with him, and if he’s ready to fire his best shot in this race I think he has a very good chance to post the mild upset over Authentic. This horse has simply been a freight train in his two-turn races this year, rattling off three straight open-length victories at a trio of tracks in Kentucky. He has the speed to take the race to Authentic early, though he’s also capable of tracking the pace if need be. I don’t think he’s yet turned in a performance on the level of Authentic’s Derby win, but if that race proves to be an aberration or Authentic regresses at all, Art Collector is poised to capitalize.

I have nothing but the utmost respect for Swiss Skydiver (#4), who just keeps running good races regardless of venue. Her consistency should be lauded and is certainly a feather in her cap in a race in which the favorite’s backing stems largely from a solitary strong performance, but she’s likely going to need to improve to beat Authentic or Art Collector, the latter of which gave her a sound thrashing three starts ago in the G2 Blue Grass. It is encouraging that she was so dominant in the G1 Alabama at a mile and a quarter, but in retrospect I’m not sure that was a very good field and I’m not a big fan of Shedaresthedevil, who beat her last out in the G1 Kentucky Oaks. I have much admiration for Swiss Skydiver, but I can’t use her as a ‘main’ play in this race.

No one’s stock received a bigger boost out of the Derby than third-place finisher Mr. Big News (#2), mostly because he was a relative unknown prior to rounding out the trifecta in the ‘Run for the Roses’ with a legitimately good effort. Even more than Authentic, Mr. Big News improved by leaps and bounds in the Derby, albeit with a very good trip. He did get parked wide around the far turn and still came with a strong, sustained rally in the stretch, but before that he was in an ideal spot in midpack behind a swift pace. It was the kind of performance that’ll make you take notice as it seems he’s really starting to blossom in the second half of the year, however he never really threatened Authentic in that race and he’d need to take another step forward to win this race.

Thousand Words (#5) is going to get another crack at Triple Crown glory after flipping in the paddock of the Derby and being forced to scratch. I was dubious of his chances in that race, so of course I’m skeptical of him again here, except as a possible foil to his stablemate Authentic. He’s actually kind of similar to Authentic in that he has one race that appears to make him fast enough to be a contender, which came last out in the Shared Belief at Del Mar when he defeated Honor A. P., however he’ll be hard-pressed to make the lead again in this spot and is clearly the lesser of the two Baffert runners.

Pneumatic (#10) has received a bit of a buzz heading into this race following a pretty convincing win in the Pegasus at Monmouth Park, but I didn’t think much of the field he beat that day and I don’t think more ground is going to benefit him.

I suppose Ny Traffic and Max Player (#8) are fringe contenders, too, but the former, despite giving Authentic all he could handle two back in the Haskell, was dusted by him last out, and the latter is probably just exotics fodder again as he’ll likely come with his usual belated run to nab a minor award. Ultimately, I think there’s a pretty clear hierarchy of contenders in this race and the betting will more or less provide an accurate snapshot of that.

Main:  3,9     Backup (priority):  2,4

Order of preference:  3-9-4-2

 

Most Likely Winner:  Mundaye Call (Race 5)

Best Value:  True Valour (Race 6)

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