Churchill Distaff Odds & More Derby Day Turf Races

The focus at Churchill Downs on Saturday is, of course, on the Kentucky Derby, but there’s a heap of star quality – and familiar faces – on the lawn. Santin (G1 Turf Classic), Arrest Me Red (G2 Twin Spires Turf Sprint) and Speak Of The Devil (G2 Churchill Distaff ) are all bidding to repeat their victories of 12 months ago, although the latter faces stiff opposition from the potentially top-class Spendarella, while promising sophomore colts Major Dude, Far Bridge and Carl Spackler duel in the G2 American Turf.

Turf Classic

G1, $1,000,000, 1m 1f turf, 4yo+, 5.27pm ET

The Turf Classic is the second-richest race on the Ky Derby undercard with a cool million up for grabs, and it’s a surprise that no European or Japanese challengers have been tempted to Churchill Downs on Saturday by such a big purse, as there are no stand-outs among the home team.

Last year’s winner Santin (9-2) is back to defend his title after chasing the pace and getting up in the final strides to win by a neck 12 months ago, and he proved his affinity for this course and distance when snagging another seven-figure purse in the G1 Arlington Million in August, employing identical tactics and being more convincing in victory on that occasion.

He has been otherwise inconsistent – perhaps, like a supermodel, he only gets out of bed for a million dollars – but he can be forgiven defeat on his first start of 2023 after stumbling badly leaving the gate in a stakes at Turfway Park, and today’s race should bring the best out of him again.

That Turfway race was won by Wolfie’s Dynaghost (10-1), making his stakes breakthrough after several near-misses, and he figures to be part of the pace set-up without necessarily having the class to make it stick. That goes too for the front-running Bye Bye Melvin (6-1), who cuts right back after a career-best when runner-up to War Like Goddess in the 12-furlong G1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic at Aqueduct in October, although he has been successful at this distance at a much lower level.

Todd Pletcher, who could be forgiven for having his attention on the Derby, has two strong options with Up To The Mark (4-1) the better of them. He moved right up after two allowance wins to finish third in the G1 Maker’s Mark Mile at Keeneland on his stakes debut, just a neck behind top-class runner-up Modern Games, and the extra yardage today should be right down his alley. His barnmate Steady On (5-1) made his stakes breakthrough in a weak race at Gulfstream Park and has yet to show that he’s ready for this level of competition.

Phil D’Amato brings two from California including the prolific Hong Kong Harry (7-2), who needs to bounce back from a flat effort when fourth in the G1 Frank E. Kilroe Mile at Santa Anita, his first time off the board since 2020. He’ll be sharper now, although he seems best at a mile, while his barnmate Earls Rock (10-1) also needs to rebound after a no-factor fifth in the G3 American over a mile at Santa Anita.

The greybeard Spooky Channel (5-1) has won four of his last five including the G2 Muniz Memorial Classic over a mile-eighth at the Fair Grounds in March, and although he’s never appealed as a G1 winner he’s in the form of his life and rates a threat.

Turf Classic Odds & Betting Prediction

UP TO THE MARK stepped right up on his stakes debut when third at G1 level and can maintain his rapid improvement, with today’s extra furlong expected to suit.

HorseJockeyOdds by Jazzsports
Ocean AtlantiqueJuan J. Hernandez+2000
Master Piece (CHI)Christophe Lemaire+800
Wolfie’s DynaghostJohn R. Velazquez+1000
Steady OnJose L. Ortiz+500
Up to the MarkIrad Ortiz, Jr.+400
Earls Rock (IRE)Luis Saez+1000
Hong Kong Harry (IRE)Flavien Prat+350
SantinTyler Gaffalione+450
Spooky ChannelJoel Rosario+500
Bye Bye MelvinManuel Franco+600

American Turf

G2, $500,000, 1m 1/16 turf, 3yo, 3.40pm ET

An oversubscribed field for the American Turf, but the quantity isn’t matched by the same depth in quality, with three colts standing out and all the others at double-figure odds.

In different circumstances Major Dude (5-2) would have bigger fish to fry in the Derby itself, but he missed the cut for that and is probably better suited by the lawn, as he showed when justifying favouritism in the G3 Kitten’s Joy over a mile-sixteenth at Gulfstream Park two starts ago.

His effort when runner-up to Derby livewire Two Phil’s in the mile-eighth G3 Jeff Ruby Steaks on synthetic at Turfway Park underlined his class, and he can confirm the placings with Funtastic Again (12-1), who tried to go gate-to-wire but faded back to third in the closing stages, two and a quarter lengths behind Major Dude.

His barnmate Far Bridge (7-2) is far less exposed and makes his stakes debut after going two-for-two at Gulfstream, maiden and allowance over a mile-sixteenth, when he made a huge move around the turn and drew off in the stretch for an easy score.

In his maiden, he came out best by a head in a duel with fellow debutant Carl Spackler (3-1), with the third horse toiling six lengths back. It looked exciting form at the time and that was confirmed when Carl Spackler came back to Gulfstream to break his maiden with a romping victory over a mile, drawing off to win by eight and three-quarter lengths. Both horses are full of talent and could easily improve past the established stakes form of Major Dude.

The pace could come from Mo Stash (10-1), who rolled gate-to-wire to make his stakes breakthrough in the G3 Transylvania over a mile-sixteenth at Keeneland, building on his fine fourth in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at the same venue. Transylvania third and fifth Webslinger (20-1), beaten two lengths, and Andthewinneris (30-1), beaten four lengths, were also behind Mo Stash at the Breeders’ Cup and look up against it.

If you like Mo Stash, you also have to like Talk Of The Nation (10-1), who beat him by two and a half lengths when they filled the exacta in a mile stakes at Tampa Bay Downs in March, although Talk Of The Nation had the benefit of race fitness there and that isn’t the case today.

Dual Santa Anita stakes-winner Johannes (15-1) is pitching for a four-timer and was a comfortable winner over a mile last time; he could appeal to exotics players, as may Irish import Behind Enemy Lines (30-1), who made an immediate impact Stateside when beating longshot Anglophile (50-1) by two lengths in a Gulfstream stakes over seven and a half furlongs.

American Turf Odds & Betting Pick

Very impressive maiden winner CARL SPACKLER comes with a big reputation and, hailing from a barn with a great record on the weeds, can continue his Cinderella story.

HorseJockeyOdds by Jazzsports
Major DudeIrad Ortiz, Jr.+250
Far BridgeJoel Rosario+350
Mendelssohns MarchBrian Joseph Hernandez, Jr.+1200
Talk of the NationTyler Gaffalione+1000
JohannesUmberto Rispoli+1500
Behind Enemy Lines (GB)Flavien Prat+3000
Desert DukeChris Landeros+3000
Mo StashLuis Saez+1000
AnglophileJohn R. Velazquez+5000
OtagoAdam Beschizza+3000
Carl Spackler (IRE)Jose L. Ortiz+300
Funtastic AgainGerardo Corrales+1200
AndthewinnerisFlorent Geroux+3000
WebslingerJavier Castellano+2000
WadsworthManuel Franco+1500
Scoobie QuandoChristophe Lemaire+3000

Churchill Distaff

G2, $500,000, 1m turf, 4yo+ females, 12.36pm ET

The words ‘distaff turf’ point immediately to the prospects of trainer Chad Brown, whose prowess in this division has become almost overwhelming and always makes his entry the place to begin the search for a winner.

He has three in the Churchill Distaff Turf Mile, a race he has won three times and the last twice, and the market likes best last year’s winner Speak Of The Devil (7-2), who was impressive 12 months ago on her first start in the US. She started slow and finished fast, surging clear to score by two and three-quarter lengths from subsequent multiple G1 winner In Italian, with the inconsistent Wakanaka (5-1) three lengths further back in third.

Two defeats since then, including a dull fifth in the G3 Honey Fox at Gulfstream Park on her return from a nine-month layoff, temper confidence a little, but she is likely to be much sharper today.

It’s been almost nine months since we saw barnmate Haughty (4-1) and we liked what we saw, an all-the-way capture of the G2 Lake Placid at Saratoga over a mile-sixteenth. A long layoff isn’t usually a problem for Brown’s horses – although Speak Of The Devil was obviously one of the exceptions – and Haughty is preferred to Brown’s third-string Fluffy Socks (9-2), who has one win from her last dozen starts and habitually comes up just short in this type of race.

For all his firepower, though, Brown doesn’t have the favourite. That position is occupied by the very lightly raced Spendarella (7-5), who didn’t race at two and was four-for-five in 2022, with her only defeat coming in the G1 Coronation over a mile at Royal Ascot when runner-up to top-class Inspiral.

She’s therefore unbeaten on home soil, and signed off last year with a romping success in the mile-eighth G1 Del Mar Oaks, taking control around the turn and drawing off to win by four and a half lengths. There’s likely further improvement in store and she could really shine this summer.

Freedom Speaks (20-1) has been similarly lightly campaigned with just six starts, although the mile seemed to sap her stamina when she ran fourth in a Keeneland allowance last month. Sister Lou Ann (30-1) could be part of the pace set-up but doesn’t have the class to make those tactics stick, while Hawthorne regular Sharp Hero (50-1) is best in sprints and looks way out of her league.

Churchill Distaff Odds & Betting Tip

She has hardly put a foot wrong in her life and SPENDARELLA, whose only defeat came in the white heat of Royal Ascot, can maintain her progress towards the top.

HorseJockeyOdds by Jazzsports
Sharp HeroJareth Loveberry+5000
Speak of the Devil (FR)Flavien Prat+350
HaughtyJose L. Ortiz+400
Wakanaka (IRE)Joel Rosario+500
SpendarellaTyler Gaffalione+140
Sister Lou AnnLuis Saez+3000
Fluffy SocksIrad Ortiz, Jr.+450
Freedom SpeaksJames Graham+2000

Turf Sprint Stakes

G2, $500,000, 5 1/2f turf, 3yo+, 1.56pm ET

The Twin Spires Turf Sprint has also drawn a full field, and with 14 sprinters engaging in a headlong pace burn-up there isn’t a lot of room for error, with post position and racing luck set to play a major part.

Twelve months ago Arrest Me Red (4-1) justified favouritism in this race from the same 10-hole he occupies today, staying close to the speed and finishing off strong for a comfortable win, with Just Might (20-1) beaten four lengths into seventh, but he hasn’t been able to get his head in front since then. However, he retains all his ability judged on his first race of 2023, when he took the show spot behind G1 winner Caravel in the G2 Shakertown at Keeneland over today’s distance.

A half-length in front of him there was Bad Beat Brian (15-1), outrunning his 40-1 odds with a career-best on his 32nd start, which may make it a lucky accident rather than a definite sign of improvement. Oceanic (15-1) was a nose away in fourth and Artemus Citylimits (12-1) 11th of 12 after running rank early.

Arrest Me Red’s barnmate Go Bears Go (12-1) makes his first start for Wesley Ward after some good performances in Europe, including two G3 wins. The change could do him good and he seems an overlay.

Were it not for a bad start at odd Kentucky Downs, where form often takes a holiday, Big Invasion (7-2) would be riding an eight-race winning streak after upgrading steadily through 2022. He regained the winning thread in a stakes at Gulfstream over five furlongs, moving through late to have two and a quarter lengths in hand of third-placed Carotari (10-1), and there may be even more to come.

This is a step up for Nothing Better (5-1), his Graded-stakes debut, but he comes along in fine form after leading every step of the way to win a six-furlong allowance at Aqueduct last month, and his mid-gate post looks ideal for those tactics. More is needed, though.

California shipper Motorious (8-1) did a rare thing last time when getting the better of Santa Anita specialist Brickyard Ride in his own backyard, dominating the G3 San Simeon over six and a half furlongs by two and a quarter lengths. That was his stakes breakthrough, the cutback won’t hurt, and he’s on the up-and-up.

Others coming off a career-best (at a lower level) are Evan Sing (12-1), who made his stakes breakthrough over today’s distance at the Fair Grounds, and Noble Reflection (15-1), who wired two allowances at Santa Anita after a whole year on the sidelines and seems a different horse after that layoff. He’ll have to work hard to make the lead from his outside post, though.

Turf Sprint Stakes Odds & Betting Pick

Not a race to bet the farm; last year’s winner ARREST ME RED will be sharper for his comeback run and with normal racing luck has a fine chance of going back-to-back.

HorseJockeyOdds by Jazzsports
NobalsGerardo Corrales+2000
Go Bears Go (IRE)John R. Velazquez+1200
Evan SingJose L. Ortiz+1200
Big InvasionJoel Rosario+350
Necker IslandChris Landeros+3000
Bad Beat BrianChristopher A. Emigh+1500
Nothing BetterManuel Franco+500
Just MightColby J. Hernandez+2000
OceanicEdgar Morales+1500
Arrest Me RedIrad Ortiz, Jr.+400
Motorious (GB)Flavien Prat+800
CarotariLuis Saez+1000
Artemus CitylimitsTyler Gaffalione+1200
Noble ReflectionUmberto Rispoli+1500

Stay tuned for the latest 2023 Kentucky Derby Odds. Check out the World’s major Racetracks entries and don’t forget to Sign-up and get a 10% horse rebate. We have the biggest rebate!

Daily Horse Betting Rebate

Boost your winning chances, with our Horse Betting Guide. We have a guide for all levels!

Follow us on Social Media for instant Churchill Distaff & More Ky Derby Day Turf Races updates!