Wednesday, July 29, 2020

The Chad Brown-trained Devamani is the defined favorite in Wednesday’s featured race on turf. He looms as the one to beat, but others intrigue, including Just Howard, who spent his spring in Louisville. 

As the racing analyst at Churchill Downs, it’s my job to provide information you can’t necessarily read in the past performances. I keep detailed track bias, pace and trip notes for every race, every day, and that information can prove to be quite valuable, particularly when horses travel from one circuit to another.

For the entirety of the Saratoga meet, I will provide “scouting reports” for the horses who raced in Kentucky in their most recent start.

Race 3

#5 New Day Dawning    9-5 ML (MTO)

In what was her second start back off a seven-week break, New Day Dawning was a little headstrong into the first turn on the Churchill grass, sat at the back in a well-bunched group through slow fractions and she ran evenly in what was a very average race for the level. Cut back to a dirt sprint first off the Sharp claim four weeks later at Ellis, she pressed into a fast pace and proved to be no match for a legit top pair. She’s versatile and would fit quite well in this route should it come off the grass.

Race 4

#1A Ashiham    6-5 ML

On May 30 at Churchill, Ashiham sat an advantageous pocket trip behind a moderate pace in a strung out field. All in on the turn, he failed to make a serious impact, finishing evenly behind a 17-1 shot in what was a very average race for the level. His follow-up start four weeks later wasn’t any better. He hopped at the start, losing some three lengths, sat at the back of the pack behind an even pace, raced closer to the leaders on the turn while in hand, was all in while five wide off the turn, and finished willingly to be second. He has been the beaten favorite in three consecutive races, and the last two at Churchill were even more disappointing than they look on paper. His stablemate isn’t any better. If this pair truly plays like a 6-5 shot in the multi-race wagers, fire up that TwinSpires account as fast as you can to play against. 

#2 Hometown  9-2 ML

Hometown didn’t debut until June 20 of 4-year-old year, sprinting 6 furlongs at Churchill. Bumped at the start, he was out the back early in the field of 12, was hung five wide on the turn for home, and raced evenly to the wire behind a winner who scored again at Saratoga just last week. He’s bred to stretch out, and trainer Rudolphe Brisset has exceptional stats with this kind. He could offer some value here.

#4 Lucky Asset  5-2 ML

In the second start of his career off a 13-week layoff at Churchill, Lucky Asset was covered up at the inside behind a fast pace early and skimmed the rail before running on late, passing tired horses to be fourth behind a winner who scored again at Saratoga just last week (same race as Hometown). Less than three weeks later over a wet-fast track at Keeneland, he sat near the back of the 12-horse field behind a fast pace, got a dream run at the rail, rallied on the wrong lead and was not pushed on late while finishing a clear second. He’s bred for the added distance, and the timing is right to try it in career start number four. Must use.

Race 6

#2 Lone Rock    12-1 ML

Leaving from the extreme outside post in a field of 11 on May 30 at Churchill, Lone Rock lost three lengths at the start and raced 3-wide in a tightly bunched field through tepid fractions, ranged up into a pressing position nearing the second turn, but failed to punch home over a track that slightly favored off-the-pace types. That was a much tougher race than this one, and now he drops in class and cuts back for rare sprint try in what will be his first race for Bill Mott. Likely a secondary contender, but if you’re inclined to spread in this leg, I wouldn’t argue against using him.

#3 Pete’s Ply Call          5-2 ML

On May 24 at Churchill, Pete’s Play Call enjoyed a perfect, pressing trip through honest fractions. He led late and dug in over a track slightly favored off the pace types, but lost a narrow decision. Stepped up in class four weeks later, he lost a couple of lengths at the start, stalked a fast pace while pushed out on the backstretch, was hung five wide off the turn for home, and raced evenly to the wire behind a razor-sharp winner. Maker and Irad have been hot this meet, so chances are he’ll play close to his 5-2 morning line. We can only hope. Stand against.

Race 7

#5 Secretary At War     12-1 ML

Off an 11-wek layoff on June 14 at Churchill, Secretary At War, a turf router by trade, cut back to a sprint. In tight between horses early while racing in front of just one of his 11 rivals while chasing an honest pace, he was held up on the turn before uncorking a serious late rally to finish fourth behind the chalk. With a fair amount of speed signed on, his late kick should prove effective here. At 12-1 in the morning, my colleague Scott Shapiro is salivating. Must use.

#6 Mick’s Star   12-1 ML

In what his second start back off an 11-week layoff on May 23 at Churchill, Mick’s Star broke alertly and made the lead through comfortable fractions, only to be swallowed up off the turn by most of the field. Three weeks later against a softer field, he once again broke on top and made the lead through pedestrian splits. This time he held on for third behind the two obvious favorites. Given his inability to punch home with good horses routing, he cuts back in distance here. You can’t blame the connections for trying, but at the same morning line odds as Secretary At War, there’s no question which one I prefer.

#9 Ghoul (BRZ)  10-1 ML

After competing in Saudi Arabia, Ghoul was out of action for three months, and he’s not as good as when he left. On May 29 at Churchill, he was out the back early, saved ground while racing last in the field of nine, and failed to close any ground into a fast pace. His race four weeks later wasn’t any better, as he once again sat a rail trip near the back of the pack with fast fractions in front that he failed to kick at. I realize Rosario is up, but unless he turns his form around, which is not completely out of the question with this barn, I give him very little chance to make a dent. 10-1 would be an underlay.

Race 9

#4 Just Howard 10-1 ML

Off a 6 1/2 month layoff on May 23 at Churchill, Just Howard trailed early behind a slow pace. He finished best of all, but it was too little, too late. Four weeks later when stepped up into the Wise Dan (G2), he ran a very similar race, just against better competition. Racing in the two path behind moderate fractions, he finished with plenty of energy, but so did most of the rest of the field. He fits well with these but will need an honest pace in order to be effective. Gidu should provide just that. The defined favorite Devamani isn’t much better than Just Howard. Must use.

#5 Made You Look        15-1 ML

Off a nine-week layoff on May 23 at Churchill, Made You Look enjoyed a pocket trip in a well bunched field of 12, was held up a bit turning for home, and then kicked on willingly while failing to threaten. Four weeks later he lost four lengths at the start, save ground while stalking fast fractions, and once again ran on willing while failing to seriously threaten. It might not look like it, but he’s outperformed his odds in the last two starts. I don’t think he can win, but he might be worth using in the gimmick equation.

Race 10

#4 Sequin         3-1 ML

Prior to running three times in Kentucky, Sequin just missed in her career debut at Saratoga. Sent off as the even-money favorite at Kentucky Downs in her second try, she closed against the speed bias to finish a close second. Tried dirt and two turns for the first time in the Alcibiades (G1) at Keeneland and pressed the pace before giving way on the second turn over a racetrack that noticeably favored outside and off-the-pace types. Cut back three weeks later to once again sprint on turf, she stalked an even pace before closing well to grab the place spot behind a talented winner. She looks like the better of the two Ward horses, but Cox’s Zaccapa looks like the one to beat. For multi-race sequin-ces (see what I did there?), I’d use 1 and 4 and be done with it.