Weekend Overview: Churchill Downs is hosting a fabulous all stakes Pick 6 and I'll weigh in with my selections for those races in this post then look at some of the great races from other tracks in Part 2. The Stephen Foster is the showpiece race of the weekend and it should have an impact on the older male division. Master Command, the morning line favorite is currently the #2 ranked older horse and is 7th overall. A win here would propel him into the top 5 and send a message to Invasor's camp that he is a real force to be reckoned with. His stablemate Magna Graduate could stamp himself as a horse to follow with a win but I think many fans will have their eye on the unbeaten Diamond Stripes. The older mare division looks set for a shake up with Ermine, Indian Vale, Asi Siempre, Take D' Tour and Teammate all in action. No one has really stepped up to convincingly lead this division so the results are sure to have a huge impact on the standings. Top Turf Mares Pommes Frites and Karen's Caper also make their seasonal debuts at Monmouth. I am also interested to see how Duveen fares, he is the 14th ranked Turf horse in the nation and he is still 3 years old.
Jefferson Cup Stakes
I think Duveen is a single in this race. I think some value players will try to beat him with horses like Lattice and Trimaran but Duveen looks solid up and down to me. He loves the grass and is once beaten on the surface, I think he will eventually prove to be the best 3yo Turf horse in America. He is getting better with every start and the horses he beat last time have come out to do very well. Marcavelly and Distorted Reality who ran 4th and 5th in the American Turf ran 1-2 in a Belmont stakes race so the form looks rock solid. He has already won over the course and his trainer and jockey have been a hot combination lately.
Northern Dancer Breeders Cup Stakes
If this race was not part of the Pick 6 I would probably leave it alone, none of the selections in this race will count towards the handicapping total of this blog. I think 5 horses have a good chance but not all of them are worth using. It's just an 8 horse field after all. Chelokee is more than good enough to win but I don't trust him at all. How a horse of his talent has failed to ever win two races in a row is a great mystery to me. Hopefully he has figured some things out and if so the race could be very simple for him. Sam P in my opinion is the worst value in the race. he is the second choice because of the company he has been facing but he isn't a winner, his father had a habit of winning when least expected but I'd only use him if he drifted significantly in price. I much prefer Zanjero, he isn't a winner either but I think his best race is good enough and he should be the main challenger for Chelokee. I give an outside chance to Tsali, Zito is dangerous with horses stretching out and Tsali's lifetime best effort already came around two turns. I also think Loose Leaf could make some noise. His overall record is spotty but his best results have always come around two turns on conventional dirt. If you think Chelokee is vulnerable I would use those 3 horses as alternatives and take my chances by leaving out Sam P.
Early Times Mint Julep Handicap
I think this race is all about the chalk. Danzon, Magnificent Song and Quite A Bride should win this race between them. Magnificent Song is probably the worst of the trio but she should get a better pace setup here and hopefully she will look better with a race under her belt. I think I favor Quite A Bride over Danzon just because I think Danzon's last out figure is inflated. At the same time she beat Better Talk Now that day and he came back to win the Manhatten so it's not wise to get cute and leave her out. Quite A Bride has simply displayed the most consistent class in the field.
Quite A Bride
Fleur De Lis Handicap
This race could shred a lot of Pick 6 tickets. Not a single horse in the race is without a chance so it may not be a bad idea to take the ALL button if you are bankrolling a large ticket. For straight players it means likely decent prices on good horses. I for one cannot believe that Ermine is the 3rd choice on the morning line. She is clearly the class play in this race and if I were stuck taking just one horse it would be her without a doubt. She is simply a consistent and high class filly, she is also quite good at Churchill. I would oppose Indian Vale despite her perfect 5 for 5 record at 9f. She either wins or runs right off the board and in many of her wins she gets things all her own way. They aren't likely to present this race on a platter for her. We should get some decent pace thanks to Fiery Pursuit. They tried going slowly last time and it back fired, I think the pace will be hot and I'm looking at closers mostly. It is hard to overlook Asi Siempre as both of her races on this strip have been very good even if she has not won. Another closer I like is Kettleoneup. She is 10/1 here because of her last race but she never had any chance in that one. The pace was ridiculously slow and although she came home very quickly it was not enough. I think she can easily beat Rolling Sea if the pace is true.
Stephen Foster Handicap
I feel like this race will be a stepping stone into the limelight for at least one horse. The trick is figuring out which horse it will be. Master Command is the obvious first target, he is unbeaten this year after showing flashes of brilliance last year. He has still never won a G-1 race though and he was 4th on his only race over this track. That is a bit misleading though because he was just nosed out for second that day and no one was going to get near an awesome Premium Tap. No one has been near Master Command since and he is a deserving favorite. Magna Graduate has looked fantastic in his last two races as well and he is actually a Clark winner. He has had some mysteriously bad performances in his career so I don't really trust him but I think it is significant that Gomez is up. Most people think of Velasquez as Pletchers go to rider but in races where both of them are on Todd's horses Gomez has outperformed him by a long way. as near as I can figure they have both ridden for Pletcher in the same race 18 times and Gomez finished in front of Johnny V on 12 occasions and won 7 of those races. Velasquez finished in front just 6 times and won only once. Despite this statistic I think I will leave him out because his best races seem to come when he is allowed to sit close to a slow pace. There is almost no chance of that happening here. I am very excited to see Diamond Stripes and I will be cheering for him. There is always excitement around unbeaten horses, especially if they're older horses. The thing I like about him is that he does everything so effortlessly. He always seems to be moving in slow motion despite the fact that he's pulling away. He has already beaten his fair share of decent horse and I think he is good enough to win this race. there are still a lot of good horses that I have not mentioned but I am fine with going against the likes of Wanderin boy and Flashy Bull. If I went for a longshot in this race it might be Wiggins. He loves the track and is in fine form recently. He might be worth using underneath.
My strategy in this race is to oppose Dreaming of Anna with both fists. She is not the same horse she was and this group is good enough to beat her. I think High Heels is well suited to this race. She is certainly better than this lot on dirt and I see no reason why she shouldn't take to Turf. I usually play Turf specialists against first time Turfers but I think in this case her class will tell. The KY Oaks has already turned out to be a key race, I think she'll add to that form. She isn't a single though as we don't really know how she will like Turf. I am interested by Sans Reward. I love playing Dollase on the grass and she was a good third to older allowance horses last time out. A repeat of that race would be good enough I think.