Churchill Downs Pick Six Analysis/Ticket: 6/30/17

Friday is closing day at Churchill Downs, and that means a mandatory payout in the 20-cent Pick Six. As I’ve detailed in the past, this means a large pool and an attractive wagering opportunity, so I’m jumping in.

My ticket ultimately costs $28.80, and it assumes fast and firm conditions. Additionally, the ticket is structured in a pretty odd way given the layout of the sequence. I’ll dissect it below…

Race #5: 2,9,12

We open with a $16,000 claimer that’s drawn a field of 12. Some bigger tickets may punch the “ALL” button here, as this has all the makings of a race that could go to a huge longshot.

My top pick isn’t a bomb, but 5-1 on the morning line is pretty attractive. I’m referring to Fat Daddy, who turned the corner last time out when romping by more than five lengths. That was against a much weaker field, but his race three back (the only other time he ran on a fast dirt track) was okay, and this will be his first start for Mike Maker. A repeat of his last race will make him tough to beat.

I’ll also use Blabimir and Caniform, who figure to be the top two betting choices. Blabimir drops way down in class after shipping in from California, while Caniform has improved with every start and should be rolling late.

Race #6: 5,6

This is the Bashford Manor for 2-year-olds, and this seems like a two-horse race between Copper Bullet and Ten City. I’m using them both. Both were runaway maiden winners when last seen, and I love the outside draws that both get in this spot.

Race #7: 2,4,9,10,11,12

I thought this was the most wide-open race in the sequence. It’s a maiden race going long on the turf, and there are some appealing prices in here.

There doesn’t appear to be much early speed signed on, and as such, 10-1 shot Sharm El Sheikh is my top pick. He’s a consistent sort whose lone bad race came at five furlongs, and this route should be to his liking. His trainer has had a strong meet, and I hope we get a price on him on Friday night.

With that in mind, I’m far from in love with any of these horses. This is another potential “ALL” spot for bigger tickets, and if you have the bankroll to go that route, that may not be a bad idea.

Race #8: 1,6,9,11

This is the Debutante for 2-year-old fillies. Contrary to its counterpart (the Bashford Manor), this race drew a huge field, and it presents an interesting handicapping puzzle.

Sunny Skies is probably the best horse in here, especially adding Lasix at second asking. However, there are some other very strong 2-year-old fillies in here. She’s a Julie thumped a next-out winner in her debut, Amberspatriot just missed in stakes company last month, and Lady O’Toole overcame plenty of trouble to win going away in her unveiling.

Race #9: 7

Race #10: 4

Yep, I’m ending my ticket with back-to-back singles. My best bet of the sequence is the first one, which is Drop Dead Red in the ninth. On paper, she appears to be the lone true early speed horse in the field. She loves this surface, romped by nearly 10 lengths last time out, and while this is a step up in class, it’s not like this is a tremendous allowance race.

The payoff leg is the Kelly’s Landing, a seven-furlong stakes race. I opted to single Limousine Liberal, who has won two in a row (largely against better competition). If you’re playing a bigger ticket, you may also want to use The Player, who appears to be ready to run off a long layoff. That one’s best is pretty good, but I’ll bank on a sprinter that appears to be in career form.

THE TICKET

R5: 2,9,12
R6: 5,6
R7: 2,4,9,10,11,12
R8: 1,6,9,11
R9: 7
R10: 4

144 Bets, $28.80

2017 Kentucky Derby Analysis, PLUS Three Pick Four Tickets

I’ve never been accused of mincing words, and I’m not going to start now. Friday was, um…NOT a good day for yours truly. On Twitter, I likened it to the start of the Drago/Rocky fight in Rocky IV, when the big Russian is beating the daylights out of the champ. Hopefully, Saturday is akin to the second half of the fight, where Rocky comes back, beats the giant, and ends the Cold War.

I’ll start by analyzing the main event, the 2017 Kentucky Derby. It’s one of the most wide-open renewals in recent memory, with every single horse seeming to have some sort of redeeming factor and massive flaw. You’re likely to get a square price on whichever horse you like, and the exotics wagers figure to be very enticing as well.

My top pick is Classic Empire. It’s by no means a top pick made with tons of conviction, or with a proclamation that he can’t lose. However, he overcame a tough trip to win the Arkansas Derby over a solid group. He was shuffled back, raced between horses most of the way around the track, and came flying late in such a way that it convinced most Saturday’s distance will not be a problem. If he can negotiate a comfortable trip (always the biggest ‘if’ in any Derby), I think he’s the horse to beat.

Having said that, I’ll be going five-deep in all multi-race exotics wagers I play. Three of the other horses are ones who will receive plenty of support at the windows. Always Dreaming is undefeated around two turns, McCraken loves Churchill Downs and should improve off the Blue Grass, and Irish War Cry’s record fits the mold of a Derby winner if you can toss his unconscionable clunker in the Fountain of Youth.

The fifth horse I’m using is my price horse, the one who would potentially make Saturday a very good day for me. That’s Tapwrit, and if you’re willing to throw out the Blue Grass, his huge price doesn’t make much sense. The 10-furlong distance should fit him like a glove given his pedigree, he’s won over a wet track before, and he turned in a flashy workout at Churchill last week leading up to the Derby. I want every bit of him at his likely price, even after his lousy race at Keeneland last month.

With all of that in mind, let’s shift gears to a few Pick Four plays for Saturday. These are posted with the same caveats as Friday’s: These tickets assume all races carded for the turf course stay there. If they get rained off, updated versions of my tickets (or advice to pass the sequences entirely) will be posted on my Twitter page.

$0.50 Pick Four: Race #2

R2: 2,4,7,8
R3: 1,5
R4: 1,5,6,7
R5: 1

32 bets, $16

This isn’t an expensive ticket, and I really like this sequence. The first and third legs are strong betting races, and I’ve got confidence in the second and fourth legs. Flashy Jewel will likely go off shorter than his 8-1 morning line in the third, and I think he’s the lone speed horse in the race. Part of me wanted to single him, but Rocket Time possesses considerable back class and merits respect coming back to a track he loves.

The fifth race features a major spot play, assuming we stay on the grass. Forge ran a strong race in his American debut last month at Keeneland, which doubled as his first race since September. He’s run up against some very tough European competition, and he faces an optional claiming group that doesn’t appear very imposing. I’ll gladly take 7/2 if I can get it, although that’s another morning line that seems very generous.

$0.50 Pick Four: Race #5

R5: 1
R6: 5,7
R7: 1,6
R8: ALL

48 bets, $24

Forge starts off this sequence, and then things get tricky. Finest City and Carina Mia head this year’s Humana Distaff, which features some other strong sprinters, and I’m hoping I can skate through only going two-deep. I’m also only going two-deep in the Distaff Turf Mile following the scratch of Miss Temple City; Linda’s been working well for Ian Wilkes, and Roca Rojo goes out for Chad Brown.

This brings us to the Pat Day Mile, which gave me headaches of increasing intensity every time I looked at it. I can make cases for almost every runner in what’s now a 12-horse field, so I’m hitting the ALL button. I know I’m going to get some heat for this on Twitter, but the fact is that I have absolutely no confidence in any opinion I could present here, and given that I can come in well under my soft budget ($40) by using each runner, that’s what I’m going to do.

$0.50 Pick Four: Race #9

R9: 2,4,7,10
R10: 2
R11: 2,6,8,9
R12: 5,14,15,16,17

80 bets, $40

In one of several animated Twitter discussions on Friday, I mentioned that I really like Pick Fours that act as glorified odds boosts on short-priced horses. Everyone wants to catch a big price, sure, but if you can take a heavily-bet favorite, single that horse in a Pick Four, and beat a favorite or two along the way, the sequence essentially turns into an odds boost. If said single is 4/5 and jogs after you play it to win, you won’t get much of a rate of return. However, if a $40 Pick Four ticket like this one hits and returns $300 or so, all of a sudden, you’ve turned that 4/5 into odds closer to 6-1. That’s value, and that’s my strategy here.

My single comes in the 10th race, the Churchill Downs. Masochistic burned me in his 2017 debut, but there are plenty of reasons to back him here. He’s easily the top early speed on paper, and if the track is playing to speed (as it often does on Kentucky Derby Day), he’s going to be very difficult to beat. This is not an easy sequence, and you need to single somewhere so as to spread in the other three legs. There are worse horses to do that with than a horse that could make an easy lead in a race without much other speed.

We dissected the Derby above, so I’ll go through the other two legs here. In the American Turf, I prefer closers Big Score and Good Samaritan, but if one of Oscar Performance or Conquest Farenheit gets away, they may be tough to catch. Meanwhile, in the Woodford Reserve, I most prefer Beach Patrol, although he’s no cinch in a wide-open betting race. Divisidero is 2-for-2 at Churchill, and both Bal a Bali and Enterprising (subbed in for the scratched World Approval) are good enough to win on their best days as well.

2017 Kentucky Oaks Day Pick Four Tickets/Analyses

Here’s my approach for Kentucky Oaks Day. I’ll have several Pick Fours explained below, and my singles double as spot plays. As a heads-up, it is supposed to be a bit wet in Kentucky on Friday, and this analysis assumes that all races carded for the turf stay there. If races come off, then some of this is outdated.

Anyway, on with the show!

$0.50 Pick Four: Race #2

R2: 1,3,4,5,6,7
R3: 3,5
R4: 4,7,8
R5: 4

36 bets, $18

If you want to spend a few more bucks and punch the “ALL” button in the first leg, go ahead. It’s one of the best betting races on the card, and chances are you’ll want to spread in there. As far as the rest of the ticket is concerned, Elate will be heavily-favored in the second leg, but her recent money-burning pattern is a big concern and Daria’s Angel may very well be the lone speed horse in the field. Sassy Little Lila will be a heavy favorite in the third leg, but she may need a race, so I sought some more coverage there. The one favorite I have tons of confidence in is Paid Up Subscriber, who’s 3-for-3 at Churchill Downs and has the pedigree to embrace a wet track.

$0.50 Pick Four: Race #4

R4: 4,7,8
R5: 4
R6: 4
R7: ALL

39 bets, $19.50

The first two legs of this Pick Four are the last two legs of the previous one, so use that analysis here. I’ll expound a bit more on my somewhat-aggressive third-leg single, which comes in the form of Honorable Duty in the Alysheba. This race has a TON of early speed signed on, and while it’s far from cheap speed, it’s safe to assume they’ll be flying early on. Honorable Duty comes in on a three-race winning streak, likes Churchill Downs, and has beaten a number of rivals he’ll face in this spot during his recent run of success. I think he’ll be tough to hold off late, and I’ll gladly take 5-1 odds if I can get them. I don’t have the same convictions about the payoff leg, but the previous legs were pretty thin, so we can afford to punch the “ALL” button and hope for a price.

$0.50 Pick Four: Race #8

R8: 1,2,4,7,9,10
R9: 3,4,7,9,10,11
R10: 1
R11: 4

36 bets, $18

The first two legs of this wager are not easy. If you have deep pockets and conviction in the last two legs, going ALL-ALL may not be the worst idea in the world. Hopefully, we can get to a cold double of favorites to finish it off, but note that La Coronel (my single in the 10th) may bypass the Edgewood for the American Turf on Saturday. If she does, this ticket will be altered (and likely cost more since the race will become much more wide-open). Paradise Woods, meanwhile, looks extremely tough to beat in the Kentucky Oaks, and I’m not going to try to do that. Hopefully, one or two of our price horses connect in the opening two legs to make this pay a bit.

$0.50 Pick Four: Race #10

R10: 1
R11: 4
R12: ALL
R13: 2,4,5,7,10,11

60 bets, $30

If you’re burnt out by this point, I get it. However, I think this Pick Four could provide a surprising return, even if it starts out in formful fashion. The 12th race is a complete mess, and the finale isn’t much clearer. That’s a recipe for a healthy Pick Four payoff, one that could provide a healthy boost to our Derby Day bankroll.