The premier races for older horses during the spring meet, the Fleur de Lis (G2) and Stephen Foster (G2), are among four stakes being offered on Saturday’s 11-race program at Churchill Downs, and the Late Pick 5 carries a $250,000 guarantee.
I’ll give my thoughts on the sequence and recommend a Pick 5 ticket on a $50 budget.
An $88,000 allowance at 5 1/2 furlongs on turf kicks off the Late Pick 5, and the pace promises to be hot with Captain Scotty, Fareeq and Wellabled mixing it up early. #5 Just Might is eligible to sit an ideal trip just off the leaders before pouncing in the stretch, and I like his chances in the second start off the layoff.
The gelded son of Justin Phillip has improved at age 4, earning his first stakes triumph in February’s Colonel Power at Fair Grounds two back, and Just Might didn’t run poorly when narrowly missing second against the impressive Fast Boat last time. Michelle Lovell wheels him back 15 days later, and Just Might can move forward while stretching out an extra sixteenth of a mile.
#3 Smart Remark will be added to the ticket. The turf sprinter needed his last start off the layoff, the two-turn Appleton (G3) at Gulfstream, and the late runner should receive an ideal setup. The 5-year-old gelding finished second in last year’s Turf Sprint (G2) over the course and distance, and Smart Remark should be rolling late with James Graham.
Race 8 – Bashford Manor (G3)
#6 Cazadero didn’t break sharply but still ran his rivals off their feet when capturing his career debut by a widening 8 3/4-length margin. The 2-year-old son of Street Sense registered a strong 91 Brisnet Speed rating and is eligible to break better the second time out for Steve Asmussen, and Cazadero will be the lone single in the sequence.
Race 9 – Fleur de Lis (G2)
After being pointed to $20 million Saudi Cup in late February, #5 Midnight Bisou delivered a career-best showing to miss by less than a length to Maximum Security. It was an enormous performance considering the trip – she was last early and so far back that Mike Smith hustled her entering the far turn to keep up. Smith angled the 5-year-old mare off the inside in upper stretch and then had to zig-zag back to the rail for clean running room in deep stretch as Midnight Bisou closed like a freight train. She received time off afterwards and is a candidate to regress in the first start off such a massive effort.
While Midnight Bisou may be good enough to win here at less than her best, she is at a tactical disadvantage against #4 Serengeti Empress. The Grade 1-winning Serengeti Empress looks like the controlling speed and I think the tactics will be similar to last year’s Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs. She shouldn’t be loping along on a short lead. The jock put his foot on the pedal from the start in the Oaks, never letting the competition close as Serengeti Empress rolled unopposed on the front end, and I expect Joe Talamo to utilize similar tactics.
Race 10 – Stephen Foster (G2)
#6 By My Standards was a late-blooming sophomore, breaking his maiden in mid-February and recording an unplaced effort in the Kentucky Derby two starts later, and I think he looks much-improved at age 4. The pace was soft in the New Orleans (G2) two back, allowing the early/presser to save plenty for the latter stages, but By My Standards settled just off a hot pace in the Oaklawn H. (G2) last time before finishing powerfully. He’s my top pick.
More of a front-runner early in his career, #5 Tom’s d’Etat really came on when he became more settled during the early stages last summer. He thrived for Al Stall Jr. in November’s Clark (G1) under the Twin Spires, winning wrapped up by a 3 1/4-length margin, and exits a terrific win in the April 11 Oaklawn Mile S. I will include the top class 7-year-old.
Race 11 – Regret (G3)
After a sharp win at Churchill in her U.S. debut, #5 Crystal Cliffs looks dangerous at short odds. However, she will be making her stakes debut in a competitive spot. I’m giving a slight edge to #10 Harvey’s Lil Goil, who switches back to turf for Bill Mott, but will take a spread approach to the finale by using 12 runners.
Pick 5 Ticket
- 3,5 with 6 with 4,5 with 5,6 with 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12 ($48)