Turf Classic & Churchill Downs Stakes Odds and Picks

The Kentucky Derby is obviously the main attraction at Churchill Downs on Saturday, but the three G1s on the undercard are feature events in their own right. Chad Brown’s trio of Tribhuvan, Public Sector and Adhamo set the standard in the Turf Classic; it could be hold-your-hats time in the Churchill Downs Stakes if the sizzling Jackie’s Warrior is in his usual high-octane form; and the Derby City Distaff is a fascinating re-run of the Madison, with the fast-improving Just One Time leading a reunion of the first five home in that Keeneland G1.

Turf Classic

Grade 1, $1,000,000, 1m 1f turf, 4yo+

For the last three years the Turf Classic – the main supporting feature at Churchill Downs on Saturday – has been won by Chad Brown (he shared a dead-heat last year), and the master trainer puts three in the gate as he bids to sustain his dominance in the million-dollar contest.

In Tribhuvan he has a bona fide G1 route runner, who earned that label with a bravura front-running performance to win the United Nations over a mile and three-eighths at Monmouth Park in July, following on from his runner-up spot in the Manhattan over ten furlongs at Belmont Park. His form tailed off after that but he goes well fresh, winning the G2 Fort Marcy at this distance, also at Belmont, on his first run of 2021, and he could get his own way on the lead.

Barnmate Public Sector won the G2 Hill Prince over today’s distance at Belmont before blowing his three-race winning streak in the G1 Hollywood Derby at Del Mar, where he was a late-running fourth. He is likely to have improved from three to four, which has been the case for barnmate Adhamo, a French import who hit the ground running on his first start Stateside when runner-up in the G3 Fair Grounds over a mile-eighth at the New Orleans track, denied on the line when beaten a head by longshot Cavalry Charge , who led from halfway and just lasted home. Santin was fourth, beaten head-head-neck.

That was a major move up for Cavalry Charge and he couldn’t repeat it when third in the G2 Muniz Memorial Classic over the same course and distance, when he couldn’t get the lead or the better of Santin, who was three-quarters of a length ahead in the runner-up spot. There’s more to come from Santin after just five starts and he could emerge as the pick of these three old rivals.

Today’s extra furlong should hold no fears for Shirl’s Speight, who hit the jackpot in the G1 Maker’s Mark Mile at Keeneland last month when rallying hard to get up right on the line and win by a nose, with Mira Mission beaten only a length and a half into fifth in a wild finish. He’ll have plenty of pace to aim at today and is firmly on the upgrade, looking for a four-timer.

It’s been a long time since Ivar got his head in front – October 2020 – but like Tribhuvan he is a solid G1 performer and ran the race of his life last time when third in the Breeders’ Cup Mile at Del Mar, beaten a length and a half. He was sixth in this race last year, never a threat, but it would be no surprise if he made a better fist of it this time.

HorseJockeyHorse Racing Odds courtesy of JazzSports
Ivar (BRZ)Joseph Talamo+400
Bizzee ChannelGerardo Corrales+3000
Public Sector (GB)Irad Ortiz, Jr.+500
Tribhuvan (FR)Manuel Franco+500
Mira MissionJulien R. Leparoux+1000
Shirl’s SpeightLuis Saez+300
Cavalry ChargeBrian Joseph Hernandez, Jr.+1200
Adhamo (IRE)Flavien Prat+450
Kentucky GhostRafael Bejarano+2000
SantinTyler Gaffalione+600

Turf Classic Betting Prediction

There are several major players, but SANTIN has long threatened to make his mark at the top level and, with greater scope for improvement than most, is the choice to claim his first G1.

Churchill Downs Stakes

Grade 1, $750,000, 7f, 4yo+

It’s possible that he might not be a horse for the very biggest occasions, but the Churchill Downs isn’t one of the year’s greatest races and so it revolves around the brilliant speed of Jackie’s Warrior.

With an outstanding nine-for-13 record Jackie’s Warrior doesn’t get it wrong very often, but he has let the side down twice at the Breeders’ Cup, when fourth in the 2020 Juvenile as an odds-on favourite and last year when totally eclipsed in the Sprint, again at odds-on, trailing home a weary sixth behind today’s rival Aloha West.

At other times, in other places, Jackie’s Warrior is a titan of early, sustained speed who also stretched out to win last year’s G2 Pat Day Mile at this track. His neck defeat of the top-class Life Is Good in the seven-furlong G1 Allen Jerkens Memorial at Saratoga was a superlative performance, and his recent cantering win in the G3 Count Fleet Sprint at Oaklawn Park over six furlongs will have set him up perfectly for this. He’ll go from the gate, catch him if you can.

Make no mistake, there was no fluke about Aloha West’s upset victory in the BC Sprint, picking up the pieces after a frantic pace scenario with a last-gasp lunge for the line that made it by a nose, but he hadn’t shown that level of ability before and, off a six-month layoff, may not be able to reproduce it going an extra furlong.

Others have more to prove. Reinvestment Risk was runner-up in a G1 for the third time in four attempts when left for dead by Speaker’s Corner in the Carter at Aqueduct over seven, although he had two and a half lengths to spare over Mind Control – who reserves his very best for the Big A – in third.

Reinvestment Risk is lightly raced with the scope for improvement, which also applies to Godolphin runner Prevalence , who was eighth behind Jackie’s Warrior in last year’s Pat Day Mile but has matured and moved up since then. He made his stakes breakthrough last time out when clearing away to take the seven-furlong G3 Commonwealth at Keeneland by two and a quarter lengths from longshot Long Range Toddy, although plenty more is required today.

Former Bob Baffert trainee Cezannehad it easy when winning the G2 San Carlos at Santa Anita in March, and then on his first start for Todd Pletcher was outfought by Fulsome in a final-furlong duel for the G3 Oaklawn Mile and beaten a neck. Coming back to seven furlongs should suit and he’s preferred to barnmate Mind Control.

Seven wins is a good career return for Sir Alfred James, but with just one stakes win to his name – on Turfway Park’s synthetic track – he’s out of his depth today.

HorseJockeyHorse Racing Odds courtesy of JazzSports
Aloha WestJose L. Ortiz+350
Long Range ToddyLuis Saez+3000
Jackie’s WarriorJoel Rosario+120
Sir Alfred JamesJon Kenton Court+3000
Reinvestment RiskIrad Ortiz, Jr.+450
PrevalenceTyler Gaffalione+700
Mind ControlJohn R. Velazquez+600
CezanneFlavien Prat+500

Churchill Downs Stakes Betting Choice

JACKIE’S WARRIOR stands out from the crowd with a catalogue of high-class performances over seven furlongs and a mile, and if he’s on his A-game he’ll leave the opposition for dead.

Derby City Distaff Stakes

Grade 1, $750,000, 7f, 4yo+ fillies/mares

Bettors used to ploughing through acres of past-performance details can take their foot off the gas before the Derby City Distaff, for six of the eight runners met in the same race on their most recent start.

The contest in question is the G1 Madison over seven furlongs at Keeneland, won by the late-running Just One Time by three-quarters of a length from fellow closer Bell’s The One. Pace-presser Kimari was third, three lengths further back, while front-runner Lady Rocket was a length and a half away in fourth, Four Graces was beaten another half-length into fifth, and Center Aisle was a never-in-it last of nine.

So much for the bare bones of this remarkable reunion. What are the prospects of a similar result? This was the latest instalment in the remarkable rise of Just One Time, now six-for-seven lifetime and winner on her penultimate start of the G2 Inside Information at Gulfstream Park, in which she had three-quarters of a length to spare over Four Graces.

With such a progressive profile it seems reasonable to expect a little more from Just One Time, and she should again have pace assistance from barnmate Lady Rocket, who led at every call when winning the G3 Go For Wand at Aqueduct over a mile in her race before the Madison.

Bell’s The One has a phenomenal lifetime record, going 11-for-23 with four wins from her last six starts. She won this race by a nose two years ago and tried to repeat last year, but never got competitive when fourth behind Gamine. It might be expecting too much for her to be capable of improvement at the age of six, but she has only missed the board once in eight races under the twin spires and is sure to be in the mix.

Kimari had won the 2021 version of the Madison and has been exceptionally consistent during her career, only missing the board twice at the Breeders’ Cup when running in open company. She’s certain to be thereabouts again in what is a fascinating contest.

The remaining pair bring good recent form to the table. Obligatory won the G2 Eight Belles over course and distance on this weekend last year, and arrives off the back of victory in the G3 Hurricane Bertie at Gulfstream Park over six and a half, in which Four Graces was a soundly beaten third.

West-coast mare Edgeway has won three of her last four and when she didn’t win she was runner-up in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint. Her victory in the G3 Las Flores at Santa Anita last time was little more than a paid workout, and alone among this excellent eight might find the seven furlongs a stretch for her stamina.

HorseJockeyHorse Racing Odds courtesy of JazzSports
Lady RocketIrad Ortiz, Jr+500
Just One TimeFlavien Prat+250
Center AisleTyler Gaffalione+1500
KimariJoel Rosario+450
ObligatoryJose L. Ortiz+350
Bell’s the OneCorey J. Lanerie+475
EdgewayJohn R. Velazquez+400
Four GracesJulien R. Leparoux+1500

Derby City Distaff Stakes Betting Pick 

This is an absolute barnburner, one of the best races of the weekend, and JUST ONE TIME is the choice to continue her rapid rise and confirm G1 Madison form with half this strong field.

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