Catching My Eye: Positive and negative notes from Churchill Downs Nov. 12-13
Racing analyst Kevin Kilroy takes a look at the positives and negatives he witnessed over the weekend at Churchill Downs.
Run Classic makes the list again. Stretching out to two turns after punishing two sprint fields, on Sunday Bret Calhoun’s tank dueled in overdrive with Eleven Central (a legit frontrunner) through opening fractions of 23.52 and 46.88. Coming into this race, Eleven Central had a 6-3-2-0 running line, but where did he finish today? Eleven lengths back in seventh. Run Classic? A head shy in second.
The closers were flying late, but Run Classic dug in through the wire. A gutsy effort from a towering horse—this performance answered my one question around if he could stay sound and sustain his giant stride two turns. He can. This is an exciting colt in Calhoun’s care.
Farmington Road?! In Cherie DeVaux’s care all things are possible. This 2020 Derby trail horse, at the time trained by Todd Pletcher, always seemed to be on the verge of a monster performance that never came. He transferred to Rusty Arnold’s barn; no improvements. Now, as a five-year-old training with DeVaux since May, he did progress. Or did he?
Farmington Road has always had a dangerous late kick, and the aforementioned duel set up perfectly for him. Many will see him as a one-kick specialist who had a perfect setup. But I don’t see it that way.
Yes, he closed into scorching fractions, but he did it gamely, cutting through horses to get off the rail, and he beat out a litany of other closers (who, yes, traveled more ground). But, DeVaux takes her time with horses, runs them when they are ready, and the fact that Farmington Road earned a career-best speed figure tells me he has matured and advanced. He is a contender, and I hope to see him running in the stakes races at Fair Grounds.
What do we do with Knocker Down? And Strobe, for that matter? Listen, it was wet — a sloppy sealed course at Churchill Downs on Saturday. So was the reason Strobe couldn't seal the deal on a perfect setup trip?
Knocker Down ran huge on the dirt track at Keeneland, almost getting the disadvantaged win against Tejano Twist. Transferring into Genaro Garcia’s barn from Doug Anderson’s care could have been what the doctor ordered to get this Cairo Prince gelding to take another step up, or it could simply be a three-year-old continuing to develop late into the year. Or, it could have been the track conditions.
I will take the opinion that Knocker Down is a legit horse who will run back to that figure earned on Saturday.
And here we transition from the positive to one neutral concerning Strobe. It is a more nuanced read. As long as he is in a race where I feel confident he will get the lead, I believe he can win. We can’t assume a horse is game to pass and until he proves it, I will take the stance that Strobe is an all-out need-the-lead type.
I will not back him if Cox now decides to go two turns. He would have chosen that spot for him already if that was in the cards.
Anytime we have situations like this where backers will need to take a clear stance one way or another, it sets up an opportunity for value. So, either way, be sure to keep tabs on both Knocker Down and Strobe and watch the markets the next time they run.
Make it six seconds in a row for Intrepid Heart. I was high on this guy when he offered value, seemingly coming up and ready to beat a few favorites. But he has trouble passing horses, the barn doesn't seem to have his running style figured out, and it has taken too long for me to honestly believe he has another level within him. We know who he is, and his best is not enough.
What do we think about this field of sprinters in Sunday’s Bet On Sunshine S.? These fellas have shown up time and again, seemingly in form, seemingly having trip excuses, ready to step forward and assert themselves. But…it really never happens.
Take a look at all the horses in this field and make a decision whether you think they are contenders or pretenders. Obviously, against lesser competition, they can win. But for me, I want to toss all of them from any field with a fresh face or horse in form. They just have not proven themselves to be as classy as the purses they are running for.
Kavod? He doesn't fit against stakes company, so if conditional allowance races are written for him, then yes, he can win, but otherwise, I don't want any part of him.
Top Gunner just isn’t that fast to have an edge as a frontrunning type in sprints. His pedigree says he can handle two turns, and that is the only spot I would be interested in backing him going forward.
Surveillance has had tough trips time and again, but still, he hasn’t progressed to be a real threat against stakes company.
Bango loves Churchill Downs. Anywhere else I am not interested.
Ditto Miles Ahead at Gulfstream Park.
Long Range Toddy has not won in two years. He’s picking up pieces and should be played accordingly.
Mucho just isn’t the same horse he was in 2021, and I’ll be surprised if we see him run as a seven-year-old.
Sibelius will continue to attract money because of the triple-digit Brisnet Speed figures he clocked earlier in the year. Good. We want to bet against him and take that money as often as they let us.
Williston Way was reaching to begin with. Fade.