Saturday plays: Find out how to play stakes and more at Churchill

Saturday plays: Find out how to play stakes and more at Churchill
Photo: Carlos J. Calo / Eclipse Sportswire

With a full field and plenty of speed on paper, this edition of the Grade 3, $300,000 River City Stakes at Churchill Downs on Saturday favors closers. One closer in particular enters this race off a strong runner-up effort at Kentucky Downs where he was pace compromised chasing a loose leader.

Click here for Churchill Downs entries and results.

The runner in question is the key for a late double. First, here are some thoughts on the $300,000 Dream Supreme earlier on the card.

Churchill Downs Race 4: Dream Supreme Stakes

The morning line favorite Wicked Halo has shown a decline in speed figures.

On Sept. 16, Wicked Halo made no impact with a distant third in the local Open Mind Stakes while only earning a 100 TimeformUS speed figure. Then a few weeks later in the Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes (G2) at Keeneland, she lost by a nose to Yuugiri while improving only slightly to a 110. 

In contrast, Little Prankster enters this race in peak form after winning an optional claiming race at Keeneland on Oct. 12 by 4 1/2 lengths with a 117 on TimeformUS, which is significantly faster than Wicked Halo’s recent numbers. She also won an allowance race at Saratoga on Aug. 30 with a 109.

While Wicked Halo could still win, Little Prankster makes more sense to bet on top. For a straight exacta, Wicked Halo is useful for the second slot.

Win: 4 (at 9-5 or longer)

Exacta: 4 over 5

Churchill Downs Race 10: River City Stakes (G3)

This nine-furlong turf race features at least three horses with pacesetting speed including Stitched, Dominican Pioneer and Cellist, as well as tactical speed types such as Injunction and Smokin’ T too. 

The most interesting closer lined up is Siege of Boston, who closed for second while chasing a loose pacesetter in a one-mile handicap worth $500,000 on Sept. 3 at Kentucky Downs. About a month before that, he also rallied for a close third in the 10-furlong Kentucky Downs Preview Turf Cup at Ellis Park.

Perhaps Siege of Boston’s best distance is nine furlongs though. Back in June, he turned in a powerful closing bid to win an allowance optional claimer at Laurel Park by 5 1/2 lengths at the same distance as this race.

Siege of Boston overcame a slow 48.23 half-mile from midpack in fifth to make his wide move on the far turn. Once Siege of Boston took the lead in the early part of the stretch, he opened up on field with mild urging and came home in a powerful manner against weaker horses.

According to TimeformUS, trainer James Toner and jockey Jorge Ruiz form a great team with a perfect 100 rating and 30-percent win rate out of a large sample size of 50 entries over the past year. 

Siege of Boston will need to overcome traffic as a midpack closer, but he could also adapt into a stalking role if the pace ends up more moderate.

Given the pace scenario and strong trainer and jockey combination, Siege of Boston is the key in the late daily double listed below.

Win: 11 (at 7-2 or longer)

Double: 11 with 2,7

Churchill Downs Race 11: Maiden special weight

Enigmatic set the pace in a one-mile turf race at Kentucky Downs in early September before fading to fourth by seven lengths. Now Enigmatic switches to dirt while stretching out slightly to the mile and one-sixteenth distance.

Some horses do not handle the European-style course over there. On a more standard oval this time, Enigmatic should improve. From a pedigree standpoint, the daughter of West Coast is supposed to handle a route.  

For a second option, Class Act could also improve on the stretchout. Class Act made a nice closing move from ninth to finish fifth in a local seven-furlong dirt maiden race on Sept. 21. She only lost the race by 3 1/4 lengths.

Class Act’s family indicates she wants to go long. As a daughter of Street Sense out of an Afleet Alex mare, she is projected to handle the route.

In addition, bettors will get a nice price on a Todd Pletcher-trained filly with Luis Saez on board. Most of the time, the Saez and Pletcher combination does not offer 8-1 odds, but she might hold at that price. 

Both Enigmatic and Class Act fit in the double tied to Siege of Boston.

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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