The Jury: Expert Picks, Bets and Fades for April 27 [Video]

April 25th, 2024

Racing analysts Ashley Anderson, James Scully, and Darin Zoccali reconvene to discuss their bets and fades for Churchill Downs' opening night, Oaklawn Park, and more. Ashley and James give their thoughts in the written portion below. Be sure to check out Darin's opinions in our on-camera portion as well!

Best Bet for Weekend Racing

James Scully:

#3 Speedy Traveler (9-2) in the Roxelana S. at Churchill Downs Saturday. A sharp odds-on debut winner at Fair Grounds on New Year’s Eve, the four-year-old filly came back five weeks later to easily dispatch a nice entry-level allowance field, with the runner-up coming back to win her next start at the level by more than five lengths. Roxelana continued to show more last time, putting her dynamic speed to good use in the opening stages and holding for a comfortable win, and the six-furlong specialist appears poised to carry her form forward against stakes rivals. Phil Bauer points his horses toward to the opening of the Churchill Downs meet, and Speedy Traveler won’t face the stiffest competition in this spot. I’ll look for another strong performance on the front end.

Ashley Anderson:

#1 Miss Lizzy (6-1) in the Royal Heroine S. (G3), a one-mile turf event in Race 9 at Santa Anita. The Classic Empire filly has been sprinting between six and 6 1/2 furlongs in her last four but will stretch back out to a mile, a distance from which she has a win and a third from two tries. Doug O'Neill is a 14% winner going from back-to-back sprints to a route, and Miss Lizzy closed late to finish second by 1 1/2 lengths in the Grade 3 Monrovia S. last out at Santa Anita while clocking a 90 Brisnet Speed figure. The four-year-old also likes the track — she's 9-3-3-1 lifetime, and she'll keep rider Hector Berrios, who's winning at a 21% clip this meet and a 23% rate on turf. With a decent amount of speed signed on, I'll look to the closer to get up in time to get her first graded stakes win.

Top Fade for Weekend Racing


#4 Holy Gata (2-1) in the seventh race at Churchill Downs Saturday. The four-year-old filly needed five starts to break her maiden, breaking through over a suspect group at Kentucky Downs last fall, and Holy Gata has followed with three consecutive runner-up finishes, twice as the favorite. The competition gets stiffer in this spot and Holy Gata is no standout based on numbers. And Holy Gata has displayed a willingness to settle for minor awards, recording five seconds or thirds from nine starts.


#6 Dazzling Blue (3-1) in the Roxelana Overnight S., R9 at Churchill on opening night. The Brad Cox trainee has two victories from two starts at Churchill, including a dominant 4 1/2-length win on debut in November of 2022 but since jumping up to graded stakes company in her last three, her speed figures have dwindled. The Into Mischief four-year-old went gate to wire in her first three career starts, all at six furlongs, then stretched out to 6 1/2 furlongs in the Victory Ride (G3) at Belmont and finished second by 2 1/2 lengths. Next out, she cut back to six furlongs in the Prioress (G2) and came home an 11-length third, then she finished 13 lengths back in third in the seven-furlong Raven Run (G2) at Keeneland in October. She'll return off a six-month layoff and drop in class here, and will need to bring her speed figures back up — her last two figures clocked in at an 82 and an 84. She'll also get challenged for the early lead here and could be vulnerable, so I'll look elsewhere for a price. Late runners #5 Zeitlos (4-1) and last year's Roxelana runner-up #2 Last Leaf (10-1) both have a shot and #9 Socially Selective (6-1) is an interesting filly for Bill Mott who will be stalking the early pace from the outside.

What Else Is Worth Noting


Churchill Downs opens Saturday evening and I’ll be watching for horses who raced against the flow of a Keeneland main track that favored speed and the inside during the first couple of weeks. Whether it’s horses who didn’t win but offered a respectable showing while rallying wide or speed horses taking advantage of favorable circumstances, I’ll be searching for value in pursuit of either backing or fading these Keeneland runners.


The Bachelor S. at Oaklawn Park drew a competitive field of seven three-year-olds, including three Triple Crown nominees — #1 Bergen (7-2), #3 Market Street (8-1), and #4 Time for Truth (3-1), who were previously on the Kentucky Derby (G1) trial. However, the morning line favorite is #6 Valentine Candy (5-2), who has been consistently running between 5 1/2 and seven furlongs, and he's 3-for-3 at Oaklawn. The Steve Asmussen trainee will likely take a lot of money, but I'll try to beat him with Brad Cox runner Bergen. The Liam's Map colt won by 5 1/4 lengths two back at the six-furlong distance in the Jimmy Winkfield S. at Aqueduct over a muddy track, and with rain in the forecast, he should get a similar surface. He's also 2-for-2 from six furlongs and will cut back to the distance after stretching out to a mile in the Gotham (G3), where he tired to finish eighth of 11. Brad Cox is a 26% winner with non-graded stakes and Axel Concepcion will pick up the mount; he's winning at a 35% clip paired with Cox over the last two months. Every other runner in the field is an early speed type, so I'll look for a hot pace to set up nicely for Bergen to close late and score his second stakes win.