by JOE KRISTUFEK

Saturday morning I’ll pack up the car and make the two-hour drive from Louisville to Henderson to spend the weekend at Ellis Park, where last summer I served as the on-air racing analyst.

With Sunday’s Kentucky Downs’ Preview Day looming on Sunday, I decided to focus on turf racing for my Twinspires.com Saturday spot plays.

I’ll partner with paddock host Rocco O’Connor on the Ellis Park simulcast show to dig deeper into a few of races and to preview Sunday’s big card, so make sure to tune in!

Wagering approach

Any attack strategy should be based on the strength of your opinion and the type of player you are. If you love a horse or a race, bet more. If you’re a risk taker, swing for the fences. If you’re conservative, construct your wagers accordingly. Personally, I’m somewhere in between.

Today’s action

I’m going to give myself a $150 budget to spread over the five grass races.

Race 2

TOP PICK — #4 Valentine Wish (5-1 ML)

Proven on turf, this 4-year-old daughter of Lemon Drop Kid ran perhaps the two best races of her career last summer, finishing a close second behind the classy Sensitive in advance of a stalk and pounce score. She’s only run four times this year, but her recent starts are encouraging. In a very contentious race, she should offer a square price.

The Wagers

$1 trifecta 4 with all with all = $20

50-cent trifecta all with 4 with all = $10

$20 show #4 Valentine Wish = $20

$50 total wagered so far

Race 4 — #9 Sunshine Cake (5-2)

Trainer Chris Hartman has won with five of 13 starters at the current Ellis Park stand, and four of those wins have come with lower level claimers. Sunshine Cake smoked cheapies on dirt last out and she’ll try grass for the first time here. She has some turf influences in the pedigree, and unlike most of these, her arrow is pointing up.

The Wager

Cheap races are not my thing. For multi-race purposes, I might be willing to single #9 Sunshine Cake on a few tickets, but intra-race, I doubt she’ll offer much value.

$10 win #9 Sunshine Cake

$60 total wagered so far

Race 6 — #10 Noble Love (9-2)

What a fun race. Intended for turf but forced to run over a sloppy main track instead, Noble Love could only manage an even finish in her career debut at Churchill. She’s posted three useful works since and the race day experience should work in her favor. Her sire Noble Mission earned over $2 million on turf and her dam Pyramid Love was graded stakes placed on grass.

The Wager

This is the kind of race that is tough to bet in advance. Outside of pedigrees, connections and workouts, there’s not much to go on. Additional clues can be found watching the Pick Three will pays going in and by checking out the combatants in the paddock and post parade. After gathering all the information at hand, there’s a chance my opinion, and level of confidence, could change. I might decide to dive into the gimmick pools, but for our purposes in this space, we will keep it simple.

$5 win, $10 place & $15 show #10 Noble Love = $30

$90 total wagered so far

Race 8 — #10 Bridled Temper (5-2)

As a 9-1 shot, I really liked #10 Bridled Temper in the Hatoof Stakes at Arlington. After making a big move into an even pace off the turn, she flattened out late to finish fourth of 10. She posted a pair of useful works between starts, and this is a much softer spot than that one. #8 Our Closure (9-2) just missed off the bench in a solid race for the level last out at Ellis, and #4 High Tech (5-1) should take a huge step forward off a needed sprint. I will be really surprised if the winner doesn’t come from one of these three horses, so I’ll wager accordingly.

$5 exacta box 4, 8, 10 = $30

$5 exacta 8, 10 with 4, 8, 10 = $20

$140 wagered so far

Race 9 — #8 No Richie (9-2)

I’m willing to take a stand against the likely favorites, but my opinion in this race isn’t strong enough to really sink my teeth into it. I’m familiar with No Richie from his time at Fair Grounds, where slow starts cost him regularly. He returns fresh in a logical spot and appears ready to fire off the bench.

$10 win #8 No Richie

$150 wagered