Analysis: Blood Curdling brings value to Churchill's Pocahontas

September 13, 2019 01:45pm
Analysis: Blood Curdling brings value to Churchill's Pocahontas
Photo: Coady Photography
For handicappers, the main challenge in analyzing Saturday's Grade 2, $200,000 Pocahontas Stakes at Churchill Downs is deciding which fillies will handle the two-turn route distance on dirt. Only a pair of fillies in this have previously tried a route – Portrait and Morning Gold – and those efforts came on turf. 

Portrait is tied with Morning Gold on the morning line as a 3-1 co-favorite. But in all likelihood, Portrait will go off favored off a 12 1/2-length victory at Ellis Park.

Odds and value aside, Portrait is one promising filly who broke her maiden in that Ellis Park Debutante, defeating the regally-bred Pleasant Orb. In her career debut on turf, she finished a a gradually closing third.

The turf route proves she can handle this race's configuration.  But if that is not enough evidence, her third dam, Polish Holiday, and fourth dam, Kapalua Butterfly, also ran as turf routers. Polish Holiday won the 1991 Martha Washington Handicap (G3) at nine furlongs.

Plus, the high-percentage Brad Cox trains and LNJ Foxwoods owns her, making Portrait's connections high-profile. But that is also the problem.

Once bettors see Cox and LNJ Foxwoods combined with a 12 ½-length win, it will look too good on paper to pass up. Actually getting 3-1 by post time is questionable.

As for Morning Gold, will she be 3-1? Both of her starts came on turf, and she did not earn any spectacular speed figures from TimeformUS in either of them. Furthermore, trainer Kenny McPeek horses aren't known to get bet down.

With that said, Morning Gold ran well in both races. In her career debut at Saratoga, she closed for second after Sweet Melania got the jump on her through a slow pace. Morning Gold then won by 5 ¼ lengths in her next start, and the third-place Micheline returned out of the same race to win.

But neither of those races are evidence Morning Gold can handle dirt. 

For what it is worth, Morning Gold's third dam Looking for Gold is a full sister to Seeking the Gold, who finished runner-up in the 1988 Travers Stakes (G1), 1988 Breeders' Cup Classic and 1989 Metropolitan Handicap (G1). Still, there must be a reason why Morning Gold began on turf.

Instead of Portrait Morning Gold, my top selection will go to Blood Curdling, who broke her maiden by 11 lengths. 

Granted, Blood Curdling won at Colonial Downs. But she also earned a 91 TimeformUS Speed Figure, which is not too far off Portrait's 99 at Ellis Park. The third-place finisher Larimar had finished a close second in her debut at Monmouth Park, signaling Blood Curdling faced a semi-decent field.

Review the replay of Blood Curdling's maiden win. It is nice how the field speads thin towrd the end, with 31 lengths separating from front to back. 

If the pace gets too hot, Blood Curdling's style is perfect, as the TimeformUS Pace Projector places her in fourth early, giving this filly first run.

In terms of pedigree, Blood Curdling is a half-sister to Paid Up Subscriber, the 32 ½-length winner of the 2017 Shuvee Handicap (G3) at nine furlongs. Paid Up Subscriber also took Songbird to the limit in the Ogden Phipps Stakes (G1). 

The connections paid $325,000 for Blood Curdling as a yearling, which means this is not a rags to riches story, either. They expect results for that price. 

Blood Curdling is drawn well in Post 5, giving top Churchill Downs jockey Corey Lanerie options. 

Because Dane Kobiskie conditions Blood Curdling and the majority of bettors do not know this trainer too well, it might give her the best value even with Lanerie aboard.

The rest of the field appears overmatched. 

To be clear, any of the three fillies described above can win. It all depends on which of these top contenders are capable of best going this new distance.

But at 4-1 or higher, Blood Curdling is the main selection. Those playing horizontal wagers might want to use other horses alongside Dennis' Moment in the Iroquois Stakes (G3), or even go against him at even money. Letmeno and Scabbard are good upset alternatives in the next race.

I'll play a Pocahontas and Iroquois double with Blood Curdling as the key, or one of the other three fillies if she gets overbet.

Win: 5 
Double: 5 / 2,3

 

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Meet Reinier Macatangay

My first time at the racetrack came as a 5-year-old kid at Santa Anita Park. For most of my younger life, that was the only track I attended other the occasional visit to Hollywood Park. 

Years later, after graduating California State University, Stanislaus with an English MA, I began writing for Lady and the Track. From late 2014-2016, my articles were seen on a weekly basis and covered handicapping, interviews with well-known racing personalities, fashion and more. 

The handicapping style I use concentrates on pace analysis. Some horses are compromised by the pace. Others are helped. Handicappers just starting out cannot easily see how pace affects the finish, so with this blog, I hope to help those unsure of how to apply pace into their handicapping and post-race analysis. 

On an unrelated note, I enjoy video games and attending anime or comic-book conventions. I am currently based in Kentucky, but spend a lot of time traveling between there and California.

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