Pat Day Mile shows power of horses cutting back to one turn

May 15th, 2024

We’ve noted in the past how cutting back in distance from two-turn route races to one-turn miles or sprints can trigger massive improvement from some horses. This is commonly seen with three-year-olds who tackle route races on the Road to the Kentucky Derby, but who ultimately prove best as sprinter/milers.

That’s why, when handicapping one-turn stakes races for three-year-olds during and after the Road to the Kentucky Derby, favoring horses with experience running long in Derby preps can reap dividends. They often start at decent prices and prove superior to rivals exiting other one-turn races.

This angle is exemplified by the Pat Day Mile (G2), a one-turn mile for three-year-olds held at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Derby Day. Check out these winners since 2017:

  • Wild Shot (2017): After competing without winning in five straight two-turn Road to the Kentucky Derby qualifiers, Wild Shot tackled the Pat Day Mile and upset the field by four lengths at 8-1. Runner-up No Dozing (5-2) and third-place finisher Uncontested (7-2) were likewise exiting two-turn Derby qualifiers, and they completed a $1 trifecta that paid $163.70.
  • Funny Duck (2018): Funny Duck wasn’t exiting a Road to the Kentucky Derby qualifier, but he was cutting back from two turns after finishing seventh in the Transylvania (G2) on turf. In the Pat Day Mile, he started at 39-1 and rallied to defeat fellow longshots New York Central (31-1) and Givemeaminit (21-1), who were coming out of two-turn Derby preps. The $1 trifecta returned $17,138.50.
  • Mr. Money (2019): A trio of two-turn Derby qualifiers prepped Mr. Money for a peak performance in the Pat Day Mile. Starting at 7-1, he rallied from midfield to win by 5 1/4 lengths over fellow Road to the Kentucky Derby alums Hog Creek Hustle (16-1) and Dream Maker (16-1), leading home a $1 trifecta that paid $1,319.60.
  • Rushie (2020): After finishing third in the Santa Anita Derby (G1) and Blue Grass (G2) around two turns, Rushie cut back to one turn for the Pat Day Mile and won at 5-2.
  • Jackie’s Warrior (2021): Victorious in the Champagne (G1) racing a one-turn mile, Jackie’s Warrior faltered when trying two turns, finishing fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) and third in the Southwest (G3). Returning to a one-turn mile for the Pat Day Mile triggered a big rebound as Jackie’s Warrior won at 2-1 over fellow two-turn Derby prep alum Dream Shake (7-2), triggering a $1 exacta that paid $12.10.
  • Seize the Grey (2024): Fresh off competing around two turns in the Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3) and Blue Grass (G1), Seize the Grey cut back for the Pat Day Mile and score a 9-1 upset over Nash (5-2), a Road to the Kentucky Derby veteran likewise dropping down from two turns to one turn. The $1 exacta returned $40.22.

As can be guessed from some of the odds and payoffs outlined above, cutting back from two turns to one turn can be such a potent angle that longshots who would be unlikely to factor otherwise are able to step up and exceed expectations. The next time you see a longshot who fits this angle, consider the possibility that you’re looking at a future winner or runner-up at double-digit odds.