The Jury: Bets and fades for Sept. 23
What is your best bet?
James Scully: #8 War Campaign (6-1) in the sixth race at Churchill Downs Saturday. Four-year-old will keep progressing off his first turf attempt, the 1 1/4-mile Kentucky Downs Preview Turf Cup at Ellis Park on Aug. 6. By Declaration of War, War Campaign offered a good run to challenge in upper stretch before coming up a little short in fifth versus a good field, one spot back of Get Smokin, who came back to win the Kentucky Turf Cup (G2), and I like the cutback in distance following the encouraging effort.
Vance Hanson: #6 Just Katherine (12-1) is an intriguing alternative to heavy favorite Pretty Mischievous in the Cotillion (G1) at Parx. The daughter of Justify noticeably turned the corner in a pair of runs at Saratoga, finishing second best to eventual Alabama (G1) winner Randomized in the Wilton S., and then passing her first allowance condition in relatively fast time for 1 1/8 miles. She wheels back on 19 days' rest here, but is going good and might thrive if the track comes up wet.
Who is the horse to fade?
JS: #3 Pretty Mischievous (2-1) in the Cotillion (G1). After a neck win over Gambling Girl in the Kentucky Oaks (G1), the sophomore filly cut back in distance to record a pair of head decisions in Grade 1 events, but those efforts came back slow for the level, several points below par. Pretty Mischievous has never earned a triple-digit Brisnet Speed rating, and I will take a stand against in the Cotillion.
VH: I'll take a stand against another prominent three-year-old filly, #1 Taxed (5-2), in the Seneca Overnight S. at Churchill Downs. The Black-Eyed Susan (G2) winner was a below-par fifth in the Alabama last time and lands in a far easier spot here, but the feeling is Taxed has not really built on her nice win at Pimlico in May and probably could use a little more distance than the 1 1/16 miles she gets to work with here. She's a likely underlay in the Seneca.
What else is worth noting?
JS: Gunite appears to be using Saturday’s Parx Dirt Mile as a prep for the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1), which opens the door for Echo Zulu (who shares common ownership) to face males in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1). Three fillies have won the Sprint (Desert Stormer, Safely Kept, and Very Subtle), and Echo Zulu is of the same caliber. She will take some beating at Santa Anita.
In Saturday’s Bourbon Trail S. at Churchill Downs, #4 Shirl’s Bee (15-1) will make his U.S. debut for Charles Fipke and Dallas Stewart. He hasn’t raced since a runner-up effort in mid-February, making both career starts over the winter in Dubai, but the early runner appears to be training forwardly for his return and catches a field lacking pace. I’ll tab Shirl’s Bee as my longshot special.
VH: #7 Without Cause (12-1) is an intriguing first-time starter in the opener at Churchill Downs, a turf maiden for juvenile fillies. By hot freshman sire Omaha Beach, Without Cause is out of a half-sister to last year's champion turf mare Regal Glory and has already produced one turf winner, who also hailed from this War Front sire line. Trainer Mark Casse doesn't have the best stats with debut runners, nor when teaming up with jockey Adam Beschizza, but this filly has shown plenty of speed in her morning trials and might outrun her odds.