Churchill Downs Stakes
Favoritism in this race will really depend on whether or not Half Ours and Wanderin Boy run in this race. Both are cross entered in the Alysheba. If i had to predict I'd say Half Ours will go in this race and Wanderin Boy will stay in the Alysheba. Half ours is a horse I've been trying to beat ever since his comeback effort in December of 06'. I think this is the weekend where he finally gets beaten. I don't see him winning the Alysheba and in this race I think he will find it very tough. Again he is a tough horse to really judge because he only does what he has to. The slop leaves him with a chance but it may not matter in this spot because the very tough Ah Day is in here. His best distance is 7f and this race is definitely a step down in class for him. He is in great form as his works attest and he really is the best horse. The possibility of an off track only enhances his claims as he is 4 for 4 on off tracks. Will He Shine also interests me, I think he is quickly improving. In his last race he did not get the best start and he was forced to go well wide. He still stuck on well in the lane. I like sprinters to be fresh and he's really the freshest horse in the race. Dale Romans is very hot right now and is always dangerous at Churchill Downs. Will He Shine is a very live alternative. Istan is more of a miler and will find himself well behind the pace in this one. He should be coming late and may just get there.
2)Will He Shine
This is a low class renewal of this race. Last years field with English Channel, Cacique and Gorella was far more worthy of G-1 status. It is the spot Motion has chosen to bring back Better Talk Now and actually this old pro is decent off the shelf and dangerous at 9f. But I think we'll try to see him beaten here. Einstein is the other standout, he finished a close 4th in this race last year and he should do better with the softer competition. He is able to adapt to any pace scenario and I rather suspect that he will end up being the postime favorite. But the Woodford Reserve is not always a straightforward affair longshots do make their presence felt typically and the longshot I love is Brilliant. Depending on how much Einstein gets bet down he will be my primary selection. He is 3 for 3 over the Churchill surface. This is his best distance and he looks ready to go second off the layoff. Albarado has chosen Einstein over him but Guidry was on board for his best ever performance in the Kent so he surely is not loosing much. I also think that he is better served by some give in the ground so the possibility of rain is a real positive. One of the best things I like about him though is that he exits a key race. Ascertain beat him last out and came back to win the Sycamore at Keeneland. Minister's Joy also finished in front of him and just missed in the Ben Ali. Brilliant could confirm that form and his love for Churchill with a shocking upset. Go Between may be finally getting back on track after falling woefully out of form. Last year about this time he looked like a prime candidate to back for this years renewal of this race. He gets Gomez on board and hopefully he can stay in the vein of form he's been in.
We've been analysing and over analysing this race for months now. There would seem to be little point in going through all my thoughts on every horse. I'll just stick to the ones I like and others who may effect the running. I have decided to go against Street Sense. I think he could easily win this race but there are too many negatives about him for me to take. This is perhaps where statistics come into play but the most troubling thing I find about Street Sense is his Beyer pattern. Despite what people have been saying about him he has been getting worse speed wise. I simply cant take a horse who will likely be favored when his best race (which appeared to be an aberration at the time) was run last November and he's been getting steadily worse since then. It's a gamble going against him that's for sure but he is no more solid than Point Given and that one met defeat.
I will also be opposing Curlin. With Street Sense I'm dropping him but I'm very wary of doing so because of his workouts but with Curlin I'm dropping him and not even giving it a second thought. He would need to be a superhorse to win and I don't see any superhorses in this race.
I will key myself around Dominican, Any Given Saturday and Scat Daddy. I think Dominican is the best value in the race. I love the way he is able to close in the stretch and I love the way he has turned the corner from 2 to 3. Forget that both of his races were on Polytrack. This horse is simply much better than he was last year. The outside post is a slight worry but he should be dropping off the pace and coming with a run. The interesting thing about him is that he is actually quick enough to get into a contending position on the turn. He shouldn't need to pass 10 horses in the lane. His bullet over the CD surface is a signal that he's ready to fire. A little contrarian statistic I like about Dominican is that he and Imawildandcrazyguy are the only horses with Dosage above 4.00. He clearly gets the distance and betting on the horses above 4.00 has turned out well. Also note that despite Dominicans score of 14 in my 20-20 Derby system, he would have a perfect score if not for the Beyer speed figures achieved over Polytrack which I think are too low. The off track may be a slight worry in that speed generally holds better but he nearly got the beating of Street Sense on the slop last year. He should handle it this year.
Any Given Saturday has looked like a Derby horse to me since his first try around two turns. That was his second lifetime start and I'm impressed that he has not only made it to the big dance but he's made it here as a contender. Forget his last race in the Wood. All the signs since then have been positive. Pletcher prepped him exactly as his successful runners of the past have been prepped. He's put in some nice work, he's got the positive jockey switch and the change in tactics. I think Gomez and the tactical changes will be huge for him. Gomez is unofficially Pletchers leading rider. In virtually every race where he and John Velasquez have ridden for Todd, Gomez has come out on top. Dropping further off the pace should help to sharpen his closing kick. I'm picturing a Real Quiet vs Victory Gallop type of stretch duel between these two.
Scat Daddy also has my attention. At the start of the year he looked like all class but not enough speed or brilliance. As it's turned out brilliance has been hard to find this year so class is an excellent reason to like a horse. He has been prepped perfectly for the Derby and meets all the criteria that I like to see in a potential Derby winner. The only types of performances from Scat Daddy that would shock me would be a flat finish in the back half of the field or a blowout win. He isn't the kind of horse that should run either of those races. If he wins he'll be gutting it out. I do like the post, I really believe that this horse doesnt like having other horses to his outside. This post will be good in that regard and he wont be giving up too much ground.
Dominican, Any Given Saturday and Scat Daddy are the only horses I'll use for the top spot. There are plenty of interesting horses to use underneath. Chief among them is Sam P. He needs to be hard ridden but now that Dominguez has been on him he'll know what to expect. He is going to stay all day and his best race is definitely good enough to be in the frame. He should be close to the pace and staying on through the lane. An interesting little angle on Sam P is that he is the highest 20-20 scoring horse who lost his last race. Those horses have done pretty well in the Derby. I will also use Hard Spun and Liquidity underneath as well as Street Sense who looks too good to leave entirely off all tickets. It is often harder to close on an off track. Hard Spun is the speed of the speed and also has good form over a sloppy surface. He is definitely dangerous as is any horse with stamina who can get to the front. That is why Liquidity moves up in my book. He may be a quitter but his connections have been trying everything to get him to be more competitve. He has great talent, should get blinkers off, which is a positive angle and will likely be sent right to the front. If others back off he might be surprisingly tough to pass.
2)Any Given Saturday