The Jury: Expert Picks, Bets and Fades for Nov. 18 [Video]
Racing analysts Ashley Anderson, James Scully, and Darin Zoccali analyze a number of races at Churchill Downs, Aqueduct, and Fair Grounds this weekend. 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
#2 Alogon (6-1) in Aqueduct's ninth race on Saturday, the Turf Sprint Championship. The four-year-old California Chrome gelding finished fourth when facing a couple of today's race rivals in the six-furlong Belmont Turf Sprint, which was taken off the turf, but two back, he finished just a head second in the Da Hoss S. at Colonial to Nobals, who came back to win the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint (G1) a few weekends ago. Alogon is 4-for-8 with two seconds and a third from eight tries on the turf and won the Wolf Hill S. four back at Monmouth when racing 5 1/2 furlongs. He'll pick up hot jockey Manny Franco, who's a 24% winner this meet and has posted a 24-7-4-3 record over the last week.
There is rain in the forecast, so if this event comes off the turf, main-track-only entree #15 Durante (9-5) is the better bet. He just won the Grade 3 Bold Ruler at Aqueduct with a 100 Brisnet Speed figure and has reached the winner's circle in five of his last six races.
#1 Nostalgic (9-2) in the Chilukki (G3) at Churchill Downs. Love the cutback to a mile; Nostalgic ran her best races in a pair of mile races at Saratoga. After a victory in the 1 1/8-Gazelle (G2) early in her three-year-old season, the four-year-old has been given every opportunity at longer distances, recording a third to Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) runner-up Randomized in the 1 1/8-mile Beldame (G2) last out, but the daughter of Medaglia d’Oro favors less ground and doesn’t appear to be facing the strongest competition.
Top Fade for Weekend Racing
#12 Pacific States (7-2) in Race 4 at Churchill Downs, a 6 1/2-furlong maiden claimer and the start of the Pick 5. The three-year-old gelding is 0-for-10 and drew the far outside post with improving three-year-old #11 Solevo (4-1) to his inside. Pacific States just raced on Nov. 3 at Churchill and recorded a low 68 Brisnet Speed figure when a distant fifth in a $30K claimer, and trainer Keith Desormeaux is just an 8% winner second off the layoff. I prefer Solevo in his second start off the claim for Asmussen and like #8 Chitwood (9-2), who can improve with the rider switch to Tyler Gaffalione after he was beaten as the favorite last out for Greg Foley, who’s winning at a 23% clip at Churchill this meet.
#7 Puckered (3-1) in the sixth race at Churchill Downs. The two-year-old filly dropped into $30,000 maiden claiming ranks and caught a weak field, showing the way on a glacial pace before drawing off to win by 12 lengths. Speed figures typically come back high for dominant performances, but Puckered netted only a 73 Brisnet Speed, which is slower than most of her rivals. She won’t receive the same trip on the lead and appears vulnerable at short odds with leading rider Tyler Gaffalione.
What Else Is Worth Noting
Fair Grounds will kick of its 76-day winter meet on Friday, with 73 stakes scheduled, including the $1 million Louisiana Derby (G2) and the Gun Runner S., both Kentucky Derby (G1) prep races. Among the notable storylines this meet, there are 15 new trainers stabling at Fair Grounds, one of which is Larry Rivelli, who just won the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint with Nobals. Rivelli also conditioned Two Phil's, the second-place finisher in the 2023 Kentucky Derby and last year's Lecomte (G3), as well as the third-place finisher in the Risen Star (G2).
Among the new riders for the Fair Grounds meet, Ben Curtis, a former top rider in England, will make Fair Grounds his home for the winter, and Jaime Torres, who just got his first win at Churchill last September, will join as well. If you listen to Jason Beem's podcast, analyst Kevin Kilroy discusses these storylines and more in depth ahead of Friday's kickoff.
#3 Integration will put his perfect record on the line in the Hill Prince (G2) at Aqueduct, and I’m excited to see what the Quality Road colt has to offer the third time out. A convincing first-out winner for Shug McGaughey in mid-August, the three-year-old came back to record an impressive win in the Virginia Derby (G3) three weeks later, and Integration appears to have a bright future.