Churchill Downs: Early Pick 5 Opening Night Thursday Sept. 14

September 14th, 2023

Racing at Churchill Downs is back for the next three weeks, and it all kicks off with the Twilight Thursday card on Sept. 14. First post is 5 p.m. ET and I’ll be taking a swing at the Early Pick 5 to kick this meet off. 

It's an interesting sequence to attempt to find separation. The most obvious single is #2 Cigarette Boat (5-2) in Race 3, but he faces two entries from Wesley Ward, and it’s a turf sprint, so many will go for either of those. In Race 4, the morning line favorite is #2 Kattath (5-2), and in Race 5, it is #5 Remembering (3-1). Either could be the public’s anchor.

#5 Can’t Hush This (5-2) and #1 Koufax (3-1) are beatable morning line logicals in Race 2. I see them as need-the-lead types who fade when headed and they’ll be joined by one or two others vying for the early lead.

#2 Dual Monarchy (5-2) is tabbed as the top in Race 1, but I see #4 Inexorable (3-1) as the likely post-time favorite. Either could get it done, but I see multiple runners in this field with legitimate excuses and reasons for form reversal.

Let’s build a ticket that attacks Cigarette Boat in Race 3. He just raced at Kentucky Downs 12 days ago and there is no doubt he is fit, but this will be his fourth start in two months. He has gained a reputation for running well but not winning, and he faces a likely tough pace scenario after having it easy out front in his last start. If we want to be very aggressive, the next move would be to fade the two Wesley Ward entries as well. Up to you. I’ll spread in this leg, using one Wesley…the “other” Wesley #6 Tasterfor the King (8-1), who draws better and will likely have a better pace set-up than his stablemate.

I will also shake a few tickets in the second leg by fading the two morning line favorites.

I’ll use the logicals in the get-out leg while singling Kattath in Race 4, who I see as a horse many tickets could try to beat.

Race 1 Dirt 7 Furlongs Clm 30000N2L three year olds & up

#2 Sound Doctrine (10-1) is making his first start for trainer Matt Shirer. He faced better on a speed-favoring track at Saratoga last out; the time before, he was mixed up in a five-horse kamikaze stakes race at Gulfstream. #5 Jewelstown (4-1) gets needed class and distance relief for this. #8 Judo (8-1)’s figures plus Jordan Blair’s numbers going from turf to dirt have me thinking this could be the one we want to key our play around.

Race 2 Dirt 1 Mile Clm 25000 three year olds & up

#2 Cool Rags (7-2) won last out coming from off the pace on a speed-favoring Ellis Park day.

Once upon a time #3 Mohaafeth (8-1) was entered in graded stakes. If he can find that summer 2022 form, then he is dangerous in here off the bench. #6 Mine Own Star (5-1) vindicated Cano’s claim and class hike last out. Now can he do it on the dirt? The pace should set up nicely for his late kick.

Race 3 Turf 5 1/2 Furlongs Md Sp Wt 120k three year olds & up

#1 Airborne Elite (12-1) attracts Declan Cannon, the hottest turf rider in Kentucky, and being by Army Mule, you know he’s live on any surface. #3 Halmstad (12-1) has siblings with some seriously strong efforts at first asking. #4 Cuore Sacro (5-1) chased a hot pace on a speed-favoring turf course last out. #6 Tasterfor the King (8-1) is a textbook long-layoff Wesley Ward entry who should get the pace he needs to run at late. #8 Command' Oro (12-1) exits the same race as Cuore Sacro, and after a bad break was able to show his ability late and in the gallop out. Trainer Richard Castillo has excellent numbers with horses coming back after more than 90 days and #9 American Raider (10-1) looks to utilize his big late kick.

Race 4 Dirt 6 1/2 Furlongs Alw 50000s three year olds & up

Single: #2 Kattath (5-2) strutted his stuff last out against decent company at Monmouth Park. Fairly recent to trainer Lindsay Schultz’s barn, I think she’s got this one right and ready to string together back-to-back wins. 

Race 5 Dirt 1 1/16 Miles Md Sp Wt 120k two year olds

I am covering the four logicals in the last leg, as many in this field will be making their second start and stretching out for the first time, and I have no strong opinion about which will be the winner.

#2 Takethesilver (4-1), #4 Umeboshi (5-1), #5 Remembering (3-1), and #9 Iuka Miss (7-2)

50-cent Early Pick 5 = $108

  • R1 2,5,8
  • R2 2,3,6
  • R3 1,3,4,6,8,9
  • R4 2
  • R5 2,4,5,9