Spot plays for the Early Pick 5 at Churchill Downs Sept. 16

September 15th, 2023

A trio of Grade 3 races highlight an 11-race card during opening weekend of Churchill Downs' September meet, which will kick off the 2024 Road to the Kentucky Derby (G1).

Below we examine the undercard and offer spot plays for the first five races, which cover the Early Pick 5 on Saturday.

Race 1: maiden special weight, six furlongs, 2yo fillies

#10 Accommodate Eva (5-1) came home third as the favorite on debut in a six-furlong maiden special weight at Saratoga on Aug. 13. The Munnings filly will look to rebound here for Dallas Stewart, a 16% winner with beaten favorites and a 14% winner with horses running their second career race. Accommodate Eva is out of a dam who has produced six winners from seven starters, including a stakes winner, and will pick up jockey Reylu Gutierrez, who strikes at a 16% rate with sprints. The two-year-old may benefit from an outside post, and looked sharp in a four-furlong workout at Churchill on Sept. 4. She's worth a shot at 5-1, but #1 Butterfly Queen (4-1), by hot freshman sire Omaha Beach, and Steve Asmussen pupil #5 Mo for Us (9-2) should be included in horizontal wagers.

Race 2: maiden special weight, 1 1/8 miles (turf), 3yo and up

#3 Fayette Spirit (5-2) has yet to break his maiden, but the gelding recorded a career-best 84 Brisnet Speed figure last out in his first start with Robert Medina after transferring from the barn of Chad Brown. The Kitten's Joy gelding rallied to finish fourth by 1 1/2 lengths in a one-mile maiden special weight at Ellis Park on Aug. 27, and he may improve with the added distance. The three-year-old will also add blinkers for the first time and makes his second start off a layoff while retaining the services of Cristian Torres, who's 2-for-3 to start the Churchill meet. 

Race 3: maiden special weight, six furlongs, 2yo fillies

#3 Mischievousness (8-1) will make her debut for trainer Michelle Lovell, a 20% winner with horses debuting at the maiden special weight level, and the Maximus Mischief two-year-old is by a dam who has produced three winners from four starters, including a stakes winner. Add in the fact first-time starters by Maximus Mischief are winning at a 28% rate, and Mischievousness is alluring at her 8-1 price. She has looked sharp in morning drills and will get Colby Hernandez in the saddle.

First-time starters #2 Plagne Champagne (6-1) and #10 Life Advice (4-1) are also notable contenders to consider for exotics or horizontal wagers, as are also-eligibles #13 Pin Up Betty (4-1) and #14 Almostgone Rocket (7-2), should they draw into the field.

Race 4: Louisville Thoroughbred Society S., six furlongs, 3yos and up

#4 Bango (1-1) will go for a record-tying 11th victory at Churchill Downs in Race 4 on Saturday while competing at a distance from which he owns a 15-8-2-1 record. The Congrats six-year-old was last seen beating next-out winner Marsalis by half a length in the 6 1/2-furlong Kelly’s Landing S. in a race originally scheduled for Churchill Downs before the second half of the spring meet was moved to Ellis Park.

Trainer Greg Foley is a 25% winner in non-graded stakes, and the second-leading jockey from the Churchill spring meet, Tyler Gaffalione, will retain the mount. Three back, Gaffalione was aboard Bango for his five-length romp in the St. Matthews Overnight S. at Churchill on May 4 and has reached the winner’s circle with the dark bay in his last four starts aboard Bango. The track specialist is a viable single if playing horizontal wagers.

Race 5: $75K claimer, seven furlongs, 3yos and up

#1 Quick Hammer (3-1) broke his maiden on debut in a six-furlong maiden special weight at Aqueduct on Sept. 16, then moved up to face stakes company at Keeneland, where he came home fifth, before he finished fourth and fifth in his next two, both at the allowance level. The Mor Spirit three-year-old will get a rider switch here to Gerardo Corrales, a 23% winner in sprints and a 41% winner over the last two months when paired with Brad Cox (a 28% winner at the claiming level), and Quick Hammer posted a bullet four-furlong workout at Ellis Park on Sept. 10 in preparation for this event.