Jeff Siegel’s Blog: “What You Need to Know” for Churchill Downs – Saturday, May 4, 2024

Jeff Siegel’s Churchill Downs “What You Need to Know”
Full-Card Kentucky Derby Day program
Saturday, May 4, 2024

Specifically designed for the rolling exotic player, Jeff Siegel’s “What You Need to Know” isolates those horses that should be included in daily doubles, pick-3s, pick-4s, pick-5s, and the pick-6.

The selections are posted at 6:00 a.m. and updated later in the morning to reflect late scratches and changes (approximately 10:30 a.m.). For additional commentary, follow us on twitter @jsiegelracing.

Grade Descriptions: Grade A=Highest degree of confidence; Grade B=Solid Play. Grade C=Least preferred or pass; Grade X=probable winner but likely at odds too short to play.

RACE 1: Post: 10:30 ET Grade: C+
Main Ticket: 7-Culprit; 6-House United; 2-Pure Force
Backups/savers: 1-Evan On Earth; 5-Lou’s Legacy.

Forecast: We’re expecting the winner to be among those listed above on our main ticket, but there are question marks surrounding each of the three, and without any video workouts available we’re kinda flying blind. Culprit was believed to be precocious enough to win very early in his juvenile campaign last summer at Woodbine but performed far below expectations in two starts (was a beaten choice in both) and then was stopped on. The son of Justify from the stakes winning mare Henny Jenny – a $675,000 Keeenland yearling – is a May foal and therefore may not have been physically ready for his June debut but returns for trainer Wesley Ward (a strong 21% with layoffs) with a series of workouts that should have him plenty fit and could easily be a much better type this time around. The barn’s go-to rider Johnny V. takes the call, and that combined with the always-popular blinkers off angle earns him top billing at 7/2 on the morning line. House United closed a gap in his debut to be an okay but non-threatening fourth in his debut at Fair Grounds in March and seems likely to produce a forward move with that bit of experience behind him. He’ll get an extra half-furlong to work without today while adding blinkers, so at 5-1 on the morning line he’s a legitimate middle price contender. Obviously, we haven’t seen Pure Force in the morning, but his raw workout times are quick enough to indicate he can run some. The B. Cox barn hits at a powerful 25% with first time starters, so this homebred Juddmonte colt by Constitution colt from the stakes winning mare Mexican Gold may be the most dangerous of the newcomers. The pre-race tote and rolling exotic probable payoffs will be worth checking out.

RACE 2: Post: 11:01 ET Grade: B
Main Ticket: 6-Scylla
Backups/savers: none.

Forecast: Scylla may be hard to trust at 6/5 on the morning line after failing as the heavy chalk in her first two 2024 outings, first at Gulfstream Park at 50 cents on the dollar in an allowance race in mid-March and then most recently at 6/5 when a lackluster third in the Doubledogdare S.-G3 at Keeneland just two weeks ago. That said, her Beyer speed figures are fast, (both of her recent races are better than any career top from any of her rivals), so as long as she doesn’t regress the W. Mott-trained daughter of Tapit shouldn’t miss this chance. The four-year-old filly was all the rage early in her career last year when she won her first two outings all by herself before having to be stopped on, so if she’s ever going to reach her potential she’ll need to beat this second level allowance field over a one turn mile trip that seems perfect for her second flight, stalking style.

RACE 3: Post: 11:31 PT Grade: B
Main Ticket: 11-Mindframe; 9-Invigorated.
Backups/savers: 1-Cartucho.

Forecast: As of this writing we aren’t sure if both of the Repole/Pletcher colts will start in this stakes-quality first-level allowance race, but if they do, both are “must uses.” Mindframe ran out of the picture in his debut over seven furlongs at Gulfstream Park in late March, winning by almost 14 lengths while earning a Grade-1 quality Beyer speed figure of 103. However, two subsequent workouts at Palm Beach Downs were visually just ordinary (we didn’t see his recent Churchill Downs breeze), but maybe he’s the type that only performs when the money is down. He’s drawn on the far outside (11 of 11) and with the relatively short run into the clubhouse turn there’s no guarantee he can avoid a wide trip. Stable mate Invigorated didn’t run nearly as fast in his debut win (his Beyer number was 15 points slower) and jockey I. Ortiz, Jr. opted for ‘Fame, but this son of Street Sense won his race around two turns and was visually very impressive overcoming the extreme outside draw before producing an exceptional late turn of foot while coasting home under wraps. As a backup, we’ll toss in Cartucho, who walked out of the gate in his debut at Tampa Bay Downs but then inhaled his badly outclassed rivals to win going away and was just getting warmed up when crossing the wire. This is an entirely different level of competition, but based on the race video we viewed we’d be disappointed if the son of Gun Runner didn’t at least hit the board.

RACE 4: Post: 12:04 ET Grade: B
Main Ticket: 6-Best Actor
Backups/savers: 1-Strong Quality; 7-Kapuna.

Forecast: At first glance, this year’s renewal of the Knick’s Go Overnight Stakes may ap-appear to be a somewhat messy affair, with no result out of the question. However, digging a bit deeper we’ve been able to isolate a top pick and take a stand with Best Actor. Though he burned money in his last two starts, missing in a photo at odds on in the Mineshaft S.-G3 and then fading to finish a lackluster third as the chalk in the New Orleans Classic-G2 in mid-March. The B. Cox-trained colt could bounce back big time shortening up to today’s one-turn mile distance. Three runs back over this track and distance the veteran son of Flatter scored handsomely in a strong overnight outing, a performance that upped his record over the local main track to two-for-two. Four sharp breezes since raced indicate he’s ready to produce a top effort, and with regular pilot F. Prat staying aboard there should be no excuses under conditions that for him are nothing short of ideal.

RACE 5: Post: 12:36 ET Grade: B-
Main Ticket: 4-Motorious (GB); 8-Mischief Magic (IRE); 10-Big Invasion.
Backups/savers: 12-Arrest Me Red; 14-Cogburn; 6-Filo Di Arianna (BRZ).

Forecast Here’s a high class turf sprint that drew 14 in-the-field entrants plus three on the also-eligible list and hardly any of them are true front-running types. The simple nature of the race demands a spread strategy in rolling exotics with the traditional mid-pack runners who can manage to obtain a good early position enjoying a distinct advantage. Motorious (GB) has a history of firing big fresh and in his first start since winding up a close fifth (beaten less than two lengths) in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint-G1 last November the P. D’Amato-trained gelding can be expected to produce a top effort, maybe even one good enough to win. The work tab should have him cranked and ready, and after finishing an excellent runner-up over this course and distance in last year’s renewal of the Turf Sprint S.-G2, the British-bred gelding has shown he can handle this sand-based course. Magical Mischief (IRE) was outrun early in the Shakertown S.-G2 in his U.S. debut last month at Keeneland and was stymied in heavy traffic until the head of the lane, then angled widest and closed with purpose to finish an excellent second. The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint-G2 in 2022, the Godolphin homebred will hope for clear sailing today, but without tactical speed in a big field racing luck certainly will be needed. Big Invasion always has been a powerful late running turf sprint and has won over this course and distance in the past. He’s another that would be well advised to stay in touch during the early stages.

RACE 6: Post: 1:14 ET Grade: B
Main Ticket: 10-Vahva; 7-Alva Starr.
Backups/savers: none.

Forecast: Alva Starr and Vahva hit the wire a half-length apart when well clear of the others in the recent Madison S.-G1 at Keeneland and they could easily finish that way again in this year’s edition of the Derby City Distaff-G1 over the same seven furlong distance. This time, though, the slight edge goes to Vahva due to her perfect two-for-two record over the Churchill Downs main track. Cozily drawn outside, the daughter of Gun Runner projects to settle in the second flight and then have dead aim and every chance from the three furlong pole to the wire. ‘Starr has a bit more tactical speed and can pop and go or stalk and pounce depending upon the race flow and therefor is a “must use” on your ticket as well. While there are others in the field that have credentials to win, we’ll try to survive and advance using the just the two listed above.

RACE 7: Post: 1:56 ET Grade: B+
Main Ticket: 11-Coppice (GB)
Backups/savers: 3-Chili Flag; 6-Delahaye; 8-Heavenly Sunday.

Forecast: Coppice (GB) makes her U.S. debut (had been with J. Gosden overseas, now trained by C. Brown) in this year’s edition of the Churchill Distaff Turf Mile-G2 and if the extreme outside post position 11 doesn’t do her in the British-bred filly should be able to outclass this field. A respectable fourth (no mishap but stayed on gamely) in the Sun Chariot S.-G1 at Newmarket behind champion Inspiral when last seen in October, the daughter of Kingman (GB) is reunited with Frankie, who was aboard her two runs back when she won a listed affair that if repeated today would make her hard to deny. The barn hits at a powerful 25% with Euro-imports and is equally effective with layoffs of all types, so at 5-1 on the morning line there’s a reasonable gamble to be found with this Royal Ascot winner, who has looked terrific in the morning while preparing for this outing,

RACE 8: Post: 2:46 PT Grade: A-
Main ticket: 11-Vlahos
Backups/savers: 12-Nash.

Forecast: Vlahos earned a monster speed figure in winning his debut from the rail at Santa Anita in early March and was privately purchased soon after the race. The son of Kantharos has had his 98 Beyer verified by subsequent runners exiting the race, so we’ll take the number at face value and expect the D. O’Neill-trained sophomore to handle the class hike and win this year’s renewal of the Pat Day Mile-G2, which, quite frankly, didn’t come up as tough as usual. Very quick but not speed crazy, he’s listed at an enticing 8-1 on the morning line. You might want to play him in the rolling exotics, where you might wind up getting an extra point or two of value. Obviously, he’ll also have to prove he can cope with the stretch out to a one turn mile, but we’re expecting the trip will be within his range.

RACE 9: Post: 3:40 ET Grade: A
Main ticket: 5-Legend of Time
Backups/savers: none.

Forecast: Legend of Time (GB) is a gifted Godolphin European import trained by C. Appleby with an outstanding resume of four wins from five career starts, the last three of which were earned in runaway victories at Meydan Racecourse in Dubai. The sophomore colt is unproven in graded/group company but the manner in which he has dispatched each of his rivals during his 2024 campaign makes him look like an outclass against his North American-based foes in this year’s American Turf S.-G2. With outstanding tactical ability and the ability to quicken on a dime, the son of Sea the Stars picks up Frankie and is listed as the lukewarm 7/2 morning line favorite. We should only be so lucky to get that price.

RACE 10: Post: 4:31 ET Grade: B
Main ticket: 6-Zozos; Mr. Wireless; 3-Mr. Cruz.
Backups/savers: 2-Tejano Twist; 11-Hoist the Gold.

Forecast: Zozos has plenty of back class and has a history of winning off layoffs, so in this year’s renewal of the Churchill Downs S.-G1 the son of Munnings should be set for a major effort. Let’s hope this year his connections keep him around one turn. Winner of the Ack Ack Stakes over the local dirt track in a one-turn miler two runs back, the B. Cox-trained horse shows three triple-digit Beyer figures in his last six starts, so we know he’s fast enough and good enough to beat this field. Freshened since the BC Dirt Mile last November, he hails from a stable that hits at a remarkable 32% with layoff runners while his work tab, though a bit light, indicates that he’s retained all of his speed. Mr. Wireless has been routing most of his career but is probably most effective going short. His mid-March allowance win at Fair Grounds over six furlongs in his first start in 10 months earned a career-top number, one that puts him in the fray right back despite the raise to graded company. At 6-1 on the morning line, the Dialed In gelding in a “must use.” Bo Cruz is lightly raced and improving and his recent Keeneland win at this same extended sprint trip in the Commonwealth S.-G2 in just his seventh career start was noteworthy. With another forward move, he has a chance to at least hit the board and maybe do even better than that at 10-1 on the morning line.

RACE 11: Post: 5:27 ET Grade: A-
Main ticket: 6-I’m Very Busy
Backups/savers: 5-Program Trading (GB); 11-Naval Power (GB)

Forecast: The sudden improvement since the beginning of 2024 by I’m Very Busy has been stunning and a repeat of either one of his last starts likely will be good enough to win this year’s edition of the Turf Classic-G1. An unlucky runner-up at 14-1 in the Pegasus World Cup Turf-G1 two races back that was followed by a nearly four length obliteration of his rivals in the Muniz Memorial-G3 at Fair Grounds in March (both outings earned triple-digit Beyers), the son of Cloud Computing has developed an electric turn of foot, and with eight wins, four seconds, and a third in eight career starts, he’s already proven to be genuine, consistent, and on the verge of stardom. The 4-year-old colt has especially gotten good since I. Ortiz, Jr. has become his regular pilot, so at 4-1 on the morning (he won’t be this price, will he?) the C. Brown-trained colt is a strong play in the win pool and in the various rolling exotics.

RACE 12: Post: 6:57 ET Grade: B+
Main ticket: 17-Fierceness; 2-Sierra Leone
Backups/savers: 18-Stronghold; 11-Forever Young (JPN).

Forecast: We won’t get fancy here. Other public handicappers can take a random stab at a big price seeking notoriety and why not? If the pick runs up the track, nobody will remember, anyway. Fierceness is the best and fastest horse in the race by any logical metric. If he repeats any one of three races on his resume he’ll demolish this field, and from his outside 16-hole post the chances are good that he’ll enjoy a comfortable stalking or second flight trip in the clear and then be able accelerate when he so chooses. We’re not sure how close to his 5/2 morning line he will be, but while he’ll certainly leave as the chalk, his closing odds probably won’t be ridiculously short. Since his runaway win five weeks ago in the Florida Derby-G1 in a race that was assigned a stratospheric 110 Beyer speed figure, the son of City of Light has never looked better in his breezes leading up to the Derby. Yes, two of his five outings were clunkers – he had excuses for both – and there’s always a possibly that he fails to deliver for whatever reason. But we’re not seeing that. Sierra Leone is the most dangerous of the closers and has fired every time he’s been led over. His lack of tactical speed is a concern, his inside post position 2 is less than ideal, he might be a bit pace dependent and traffic issues are more than likely. Nonetheless, we expect him to rolling late. He’s worth saving with on top. Stronghold is considerably slower on the Beyer scale, though until proven otherwise we’ll believe that his 89 figure short changes him by at least five points. He’s another that has been quite impressive in the morning leading up to the race. The son of Ghostzapper has never taken a backward move, will stay the trip, and is very likely to produce yet another career top performance. If you’re playing trifectas and supers, we strongly recommend including him underneath. The unbeaten Japanese invader Forever Young-JPN is relentless if not brilliant, and his numbers are reasonably competitive with any colt in the field not named Fierceness. A true 10 furlong-type runner that more than likely will settle somewhere in mid-pack, he should have dead aim and every chance from the quarter pole home. We’re not inclined to underestimate him.

RACE 13: Post: 8:00 ET Grade: B+
Main Ticket: 7-Jefferson Street; 6-General Partner
Backups/savers: 2-Discreet Mischief; 4-Raging Torrent.

Forecast:It’s always dangerous if not downright unwise to give full credit – or any credit – to a performance that was accomplished over a wet or muddy track. At least in this case, Jefferson Street has run well on fast tracks, too, so his highly rated, runaway maiden score over a sloppy Keeneland main strip last month may be a true indication of his natural talent, the off track, notwithstanding. A smooth-as-silk athlete with easy, flawless action, the son of Street Sense graduated by six lengths without being asked for anything close to his best, so today, on the one-level raise, we should get a truer line on his potential (hey, and if it rains, all the better). The Triple Crown-nominated sophomore has the proper pace pressing style to be very effective in extended sprints and likely two turns as well, so we’ll put the W. Mott-trained Godolphin homebred on top and anticipate that he can successfully handle the class hike. When last seen in November, General Partner was cutting out the fractions before understandably retreating at the quarter pole when displaced by Fierceness in the BC Juvenile-G1. His workouts look good for his return, he’s a first-time Lasix user for C. Brown (26% with layoffs), he’s strong in the speed figure department, and he finished second in the Champagne S.-G1 in a sea of mud, so if it’s wet on Saturday, that’s fine with him. Last year he took a race to get fit, and it’s possible he’s not completing cranked up today, so this placement in a first level allowance race rather than the Pat Day Mile-G2 may be telling.

RACE 14: Post: 8:35 ET Grade: B
Main ticket: 1-Dive Bomber; 12-Timeout.
Backups/savers: 3-Gun Party; 6-Banned for Life.

Forecast: Dive Bomber has been away since finishing second in a killer maiden race won by General Partner (with Jefferson Street third, see 13th race) at Saratoga last September, but even if ready this one-turn mile affair will be no picnic for him, especially from his rail post position (he’d better break well). The son of Omaha Beach hails from the B. Cox barn (powerful stats with layoffs) and his local work tab is especially impressive, so this first time Lasix user deserves top billing, though at 9/5 on the morning line there’s not a lot of value to be found. The second times starter Timeout may be equally intriguing at the price at 6-1 on the morning line. A big, growthy son of Curlin who looks and runs like a thoroughbred version of a camel, he nonetheless displayed some ability when overcoming a slow start in his debut last month at Keeneland to finish second behind runaway winner Discreet Mischief (see 13th race) without being knocked about in an obvious educational run. Draw comfortably outside while getting an extra furlong to work with and retaining F. Prat, the W. Mott-trained colt seems certain to produce a forward move. There’s plenty of room for development, for sure.

Jeff Siegel’s Blog: “What You Need to Know” for Churchill Downs – Saturday, May 4, 2024

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