Saturday plays: Upset choices at Churchill, Santa Anita

Saturday plays: Upset choices at Churchill, Santa Anita
Photo: Eclipse Sportswire

Even though the $110,000 Roxelana Stakes at Churchill Downs on Saturday lacks a designated grade, it once again attracts a field worthy of a Grade 2 or Grade 3 designation. The headline filly is the in-form Sconsin, but she is in deeper waters this time with the presence of the proven closer Bell’s the One and returning Four Graces in the field.

Also, there is an interesting 20-1 shot at Santa Anita to discuss.

Churchill Downs Race 10: Roxelana Stakes

At one point in 2020, Four Graces went on a three-race win streak that saw her capture the Dogwood Stakes (G3) and Beaumont Stakes (G3) impressively.

In the Dogwood, Four Graces finished 2 1/2 lengths ahead of an inexperienced Edgeway in second with a 115 TimeformUS Speed Figure. Edgeway went on the shelf afterward, but she has won both starts this year, including the Carousel Stakes at Oaklawn over Frank’s Rockette.

Then in the Beaumont, Four Graces took a step forward and won by 4 3/4 lengths over Sconsin with a 123 TimeformUS Speed Figure.

Later in the year Sconsin won the rescheduled Eight Belles Stakes (G2) by 2 1/4 lengths over Four Graces and ran fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint, while Four Graces disappointed bettors with a seventh in the Raven Run Stakes (G2) at 3-1 before hitting the shelf.

Forget about the Raven Run flop. Given the following layoff, perhaps something went physically wrong with Four Graces during the race.

Trainer Ian Wilkes is confident enough to start off Four Graces’ 2021 campaign in a tough spot such as this one. Plus, she has beaten the favorite Sconsin in the past.

Some handicappers may argue Sconsin improved this year, and that is true. With that said, who can say that Four Graces did not grow and mature physically as she became a 4-year-old filly as well? If nothing else, Four Graces offers longer odds to make up for some of the uncertainty in betting her. Also, the pace scenario favors her style. 

As long as Four Graces stays around her 7-2 morning line, she is a value play.

Santa Anita Race 8: Allowance optional claiming

In this allowance optional claiming race, there is a speed horse named Whisky My God who is an interesting play if he stays at 20-1. 

When Whisky My God made his North America debut locally in a May 15 optional claiming race, he became involved in a head-to-head duel with Good With People approaching the turn. According to TimeformUS, the half-mile went in a swift 44.48 seconds, effectively cooking Whisky My God’s win chances. Surprisingly, Good With People had enough energy left to hold on late, but that is a testament to his overall talent.

Whisky My God is not as good as Good With People, but he avoids him here. In fact, he avoids any obvious speed threat. According to TimeformUS Pace Projector, Whisky My God is projected to secure an uncontested lead through a slow pace.

The second and third-place finishers from that race, Howbeit and Littlebitamedal, are entered in this race too. Both of them took advantage of the speed duel though.

As for the morning line favorite Ka’nah, he is a fragile 5-year-old gelding with only one off-the-board turf start this year. It is hard to tell where his current form lies.

If Whisky My God can secure an uncontested lead through a slow pace, he can upset this field at double-digit odds. If not, maybe at least he can hit the board.


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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