Churchill Downs could be forgiven for taking life easy after Kentucky Derby day but they have pulled out all the stops to put on a great card to help us get over the post-Belmont blues. We have five Graded stakes to savor with a combined purse of $1.1m.
We start our review with the Fleur de Lis Handicap, a $200k Grade 2 event for 3 year old and up fillies and mares over a mile and an eighth. Importantly, the winner of the race gets a free entry to the Breeders’ Cup Distaff.
Although Untapable is 7/5 in the Morning Line, it is unlikely the backers will let her go off at odds against. There are a lot of things in her favour, a lack of opposition being one of them. She only faces five opponents and, of those, only Ahh Chocolate and Brooklynsway have won a stakes race.
She is also running on home soil and there doesn’t look to be any pace on so she will be able to set or comfortably hunt up the pace. Furthermore, despite what was deemed a disappointing run last time out, she was still awarded a better Beyer figure than any of the opposition has ever achieved!
The one negative is that she might not be the horse with only one win in her eight runs since the beginning of 2015. If you are keen to take her on, then maybe Ahh Chocolate is the one to choose. She is in good form and runs well at the track with two wins and a second in her three runs at Churchill.
The other Grade 2 race on the card is the Wise Dan, a $200k contest for 3 year olds and above over a mile and a sixteenth of the turf course. The 6/5 Morning Line favourite is horse number 2, The Pizza Man. Last year’s winner of the Arlington Million has been off the track since February when he failed to deliver in Florida.
Connections have not exactly been bullish about his chances today as they see this race as just one of a number of stepping stones on the path to another appearance in the Arlington Million in August.
With no other stand out horse in the race, I will take a chance with Za Approval, who needed the run last time out when 8th in Pimlico’s Dixie Stakes. He will come on a lot for this and represents the powerful team of Casse/Leparoux, who were so successful with Tepin at Royal Ascot last Tuesday. At the Morning Line Price of 8/1, he looks a decent value win, place and show bet.
On to Churchill Downs’s feature race, the Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap for 3 year olds and above over a mile and an eighth and worth a cool $500,000.
All eyes will be focused on the New York based Effinex, who just seems to get better with every passing race. He is top rated by the track’s handicapper and will have to give his six opponents between four and seven pounds.
Effinex is already a Grade 1 winner at the track, having won the Clark handicap last fall. Connections have been targeting the race for some time as the winner gets a free entry into the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic; Effinex was second to American Pharoah in last year’s renewal of that race.
It does look Effinex’s race to lose and it is difficult to pick out another contender that has the credentials to cause an upset. Everything dropped right for Majestic Harbour when he won the Alysheba last time out and he was given a great ride by today’s pilot, Corey Lanerie. If he can reproduce that form here, he may be able to bustle up the favorite.
The final race in today’s review is the Grade 2 Summertime Oaks (Race 8 on the Santa Anita card), a $200k race for three year old fillies over a mile and a sixteenth.
A virus robbed Songbird of the opportunity to add the Kentucky Oaks crown to her glittering trophy cabinet. She comes to this race unbeaten, in fact not even tested in her seven starts to date. The opposition is not strong as the other potential stars in this division ran on last week’s Belmont card.
It would be a seismic event if Songbird did not win this race and continue on her irrestible path to the Breeders’ Cup Distaff.