Churchill Distaff Turf Mile & Pat Day Mile Odds

The action comes thick and fast at Churchill Downs on Saturday, with even the three Grade 2s on a G1-loaded afternoon capable of capturing the imagination and holding it tight. Former two-year-old star Jack Christopher makes his comeback from injury in the Pat Day Mile against a field of one-time Derby possibles on their own personal retrieval missions; Chad Brown could have another star European import in the shape of Speak Of The Devil in the Churchill Distaff Turf Mile; and the unbeaten Sy Dog will try to extend his streak to four in the American Turf.

Pat Day Mile

Grade 2, $500,000, 1m, 3yo

The Pat Day Mile is full of names that once served as signposts along the Road to the Kentucky Derby, once-promising types who failed to go the distance and are now looking for something a little more accessible.

That applies in all cases except for one, as the eagerly awaited return to action of the unbeaten Jack Christopher is a highlight of the afternoon. Here is a colt who was favorite for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, then strongly fancied for the Derby, only to miss both objectives through injury and a slow recovery.

Last year’s top two-year-old form has been largely discredited, though, and it’s hard to work out the value of his victory in the G1 Champagne at Belmont Park on just his second start, when he cleared away impressively to beat Commandperformance – who is still a maiden – by two and three-quarter lengths. He is mighty short on the morning-line for a horse with so many questions to field.

Todd Pletcher has two chances, with Major General arguably the more interesting of the pair. He won the G1 Iroquois here over a mile-sixteenth in September but hasn’t yet hit the groove as a three-year-old, chasing home Tawny Port in the G3 Lexington at Keeneland on his most recent start – Howling Time a distant eighth.

That nevertheless gives him a slight edge of class and stamina over barnmate My Prankster, who took the G3 Swale over seven furlongs at Gulfstream Park before posting a disappointing fourth place in a stakes at Keeneland over the same distance, with Tejano Twist , who makes his Graded-stakes debut here, 11th of 12.

Big things were expected of Pappacap over the winter, but the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile runner-up has simply not gone forward in three starts at three. He was five and three-quarter lengths behind White Abarrio when fourth in the G1 Florida Derby at Gulfstream – O Captain fifth, two lengths away – and maybe coming back to a mile could help him rediscover some of his old zip.

Three more come from another major Derby prep, the G1 Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn won by Cyberknife, in which Doppelganger was a plugging-on fourth, eight lengths behind the winner. The resilient but limited Kavod was a length and a half further back in fifth with Ben Diesel sixth, beaten another two lengths. None of the three have won any kind of race this year and there’s no reason to believe they’ll start now.

That last sentence also applies to G1 Blue Grass fifth Trademark and G2 Risen Star seventh Trafalgar, although the Risen Star was just about the best of the early Derby preps and Trafalgar did win his maiden over course and distance.

HorseJockeyHorse Racing Odds courtesy of JazzSports
Major GeneralIrad Ortiz, Jr.+450
TrademarkRafael Bejarano+2200
PappacapFlavien Prat+600
Ben DieselJon Kenton Court+2200
Jack ChristopherJose L. Ortiz+200
Tejano TwistJoseph Rocco, Jr.+1100
Howling TimeJoseph Talamo+3000
KavodMitchell Murrill+2200
TrafalgarColby J. Hernandez+2000
DoppelgangerJohn R. Velazquez+600
My PranksterLuis Saez+400
O CaptainTyler Gaffalione+2000

Pat Day Mile Betting Prediction

All eyes will be on unbeaten Jack Christopher, but there are too many questions about him for confidence and MAJOR GENERAL, who showed clear signs of a revival last time out, is preferred.

Churchill Distaff Turf Mile Stakes

Grade 2, $500,000, 1m turf, 4yo+ fillies/mares

When it comes to turf racing, Europeans tend to have the upper hand, which makes the presence of French import Speak Of The Devil in the Churchill Distaff Turf Mile of great interest.

At three, Speak Of The Devil was beaten a nose in the G1 Poule d’Essai des Pouliches at Longchamp, the French 1,000 Guineas mile classic. She was later fourth in the G1 Prix Rothschild at Deauville over a mile, and improved upon that performance last year when third in the Rothschild, beaten a head and a short head behind multiple G1 winner Mother Earth. In the seven-furlong G1 Prix de la Foret at Longchamp in October she was six lengths behind future Breeders’ Cup Mile winner Space Blues, and rounded off the year with two good stakes wins over a mile at Saint-Cloud.

It’s a very impressive portfolio and, unlike many French horses, she doesn’t have to have it muddy. She gets an upgrade with her new trainer Chad Brown and should be very hard to beat now she’s dropped in class.

A Graded stakes on turf for females wouldn’t be a Graded stakes on turf for females without multiple runners from Brown, and he also has In Italian – in the same ownership as Speak Of The Devil – in the mix.

In Italian is riding a three-race winning streak after turning in a strong effort in the G3 Honey Fox over a mile at Gulfstream Park in March, her stakes debut, when she rolled gate-to-wire and turned back the challenge of Wakanaka, who rallied best of all but was a length and a quarter short at the line. Wakanaka is an Italian import who has done well since arriving Stateside, but she wasn’t in the same league as Speak Of The Devil during her time in Europe.

Canadian two-year-old G1 winner Lady Speightspeare is zero-for-four in US Graded stakes and was some way off the pace when third behind Regal Glory – another Brown trainee – in the G1 Jenny Wiley over a mile-sixteenth at Keeneland last month. It’s hard to rationalise her morning-line odds with her achievements, while Flower Point is a slow burner who still hasn’t really caught fire by the age of six, zero-for-two at Graded level and third in a short-field stakes over a mile at Aqueduct last month.

She Can’t Sing has thrived at the Fair Grounds this winter, making her stakes breakthrough in February – Abscond beaten two necks into third, another Canadian two-year-old G1 winner who hasn’t won since September 2019 – and then doubling up in another stakes the following month, when she dug deep over a mile-sixteenth to take the spoils by a length and a quarter.

This is a big step up and, along with Mona Stella, who was easily outrun by the classy Shifty She in a stakes at Tampa Bay Downs in March, she may well be out of her depth.

HorseJockeyHorse Racing Odds courtesy of JazzSports
She Can’t SingManuel Franco+1050
Flower PointJoel Rosario+850
Mona StellaFlorent Geroux+2200
AbscondTyler Gaffalione+2200
Wakanaka (IRE)Jose L. Ortiz+600
Lady SpeightspeareLuis Saez+225
In Italian (GB)Irad Ortiz, Jr.+280
Speak of the Devil (FR)Flavien Prat+180

Churchill Distaff Turf Mile Betting Pick

If she can maintain the level of her high-class French form on her first start Stateside, SPEAK OF THE DEVIL will have nothing to fear from these rivals and is a confident selection.

American Turf Stakes

Grade 2, $500,000, 1m 1/2f turf, 3yo

There’s an open look to the American Turf and a fair-sized field, but there’s not a huge amount of strength in depth among sophomore turf horses and the race might not take as much winning as it may first appear.

The immediate eyecatcher is the unbeaten Sy Dog , who has gone maiden-stakes-Graded in just three steps and showed plenty of resolve when rallying strongly to win the mile-sixteenth G3 Transylvania at Keeneland last month, getting it done by three-quarters of a length with the vastly more experienced Coinage a half-length further away in third.

Sy Dog should improve anyway, given that he has had just three starts, but the Transylvania was his first run off a four-month break and he’s entitled to be sharper today.

Another last-time-out winner is Main Event, who made his stakes breakthrough at Gulfstream Park over a mile-sixteenth when breaking on top and improving his position thereafter, driving clear to beat the consistent Red Danger by three and a quarter lengths with Smokin’ T a nose away in third.

There should be more in store, which also applies to French import Balnikhov, who finished fast and late on his US debut in a stakes at Santa Anita last month but just too late, going down by a nose in a frantic finish. That is better form than he ever managed in his native land, from which he bade farewell with two victories in minor handicap grade on a synthetic surface.

Portfolio Company has been on the bench since running a disappointing eighth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, a place behind Stolen Base and a place in front of Coinage, and is probably better than that implies, while a long absence for a Chad Brown runner is not always an issue.

Stolen Base has struck out on all three starts this year, the last two on the synthetic surface at Turfway Park. On his most recent outing he was a never-at-the-races seventh behind Tiz The Bomb in the G3 Jeff Ruby Stakes, four lengths behind fourth-placed Dowagiac Chief – a stakes winner on turf at the Fair Grounds in March – and a length and three-quarters off Royal Spirit in fifth. He was also seven lengths clear of eighth-placed Red Run, also a stakes winner over a mile on turf, punching his ticket at Sam Houston in January.

HorseJockeyHorse Racing Odds courtesy of JazzSports
Smokin’ TJohn R. Velazquez+1500
Main EventJose L. Ortiz+450
Red RunBrian Joseph Hernandez, Jr.+1500
Red DangerLuis Saez+1000
Balnikhov (IRE)Manuel Franco+500
Portfolio CompanyJoel Rosario+450
Sy DogIrad Ortiz, Jr.+325
Royal SpiritTyler Gaffalione+1500
Stolen BaseFlavien Prat+1200
CoinageFlorent Geroux+600
Dowagiac ChiefJames Graham+1000

American Turf Top Choice

Not a strong race for such a big purse, and it may prove best to not overthink things and stick with the unbeaten G3 winner SY DOG, who may still have any amount of improvement to come.

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