Bettors can feel thankful for plenty of stakes races this weekend, especially at Churchill Downs where both the Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby trails heat up on Saturday. The historic track will run the Grade 2, $400,000 Golden Rod Stakes and Grade 2, $400,000 Kentucky Jockey Club, which are slated right next to each other on the card.
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Here are some thoughts and selections on both races.
Churchill Downs Race 10: Golden Rod Stakes (G2)
Sandstone comes close to being a single for cheaper tickets.
Following her local nine-length maiden win over the slop on Oct. 3, Sandstone went on to dominate the Rags to Riches Stakes on Oct. 31 by 10 3/4 lengths after repelling a bid from the 3/5 favorite Yuugiri. In Yuugiri’s debut, she had broken her maiden on this course by 7 1/4 lengths.
The only way Sandstone could lose is if she gets tangled up in a speed duel with Famed on the rail or Yuugiri again in Post 6. Otherwise, expect Sandstone to build on her two wins with another clear-margin victory.
In case the pace does heat up though, it might make sense to include a second horse in multi-race wagers with a good closing punch.
Secret Oath, who is trained by D. Wayne Lukas, has the punch. In her career debut on Oct. 3, she lost by 10 ¼ lengths to Sandstone. But, Secret Oath did display interest towards the end after losing position.
In her next start, Secret Oath then rebounded with a 5 ¼-length maiden win on Oct. 31 while stretching out slightly to a mile and one-sixteenth.
If a pace collapse occurs, Sandstone can upset this field
Top selection: No. 4 Sandstone (8/5)
Live longshot: No. 3 Secret Oath (15-1)
Exacta box: 3,4
Churchill Downs Race 11: Kentucky Jockey Club (G2)
This is a tough race to point out a single.
Howling Time deserves the most respect out of the contenders. He won the local Street Sense Stakes by 3 ¼ lengths in his most recent start.
Check out the margins between each horse in the Street Sense. Not only did Howling Time win by 3 ¼ lengths, but another four lengths came between the runner-up Red Danger and third-place Red Knobs. Then, an extra 5 ½ lengths came between Red Knobs and the fourth-place Skippylongstocking.
Big finishing margins between each horse is a great sign. Howling Time is not a lock, but if he can work out a clean trip, he will be hard to beat.
With that said, Classic Causeway also has a chance, if only because he starts on the rail and might get sent aggressively to the lead.
Although setting the pace did not work out for him in the Breeders’ Futurity (G1), this is a different group and he could get softer fractions.
Tiz the Bomb is tough to analyze, but he looks like another contender.
This runner brings class after finishing second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf and winning the Bourbon Stakes (G2) at Keeneland prior to the Breeders’ Cup. But, those are turf stakes races. How is he on dirt?
For what it is worth, Tiz the Bomb broke his maiden on dirt by 14 ¼ lengths at Ellis Park last July, which makes his turf campaign in the fall puzzling. Most connections want to win the important juvenile dirt races if there is potential to compete in those races. It is difficult to trust him off of one Ellis Park dirt win that came months ago against babies, and discounting him is hard as well given his proven form in stakes races.
Smile Happy also brings added intrigue after breaking his maiden by 5 ½ lengths in a one mile and one-sixteenth dirt route at Keeneland on Oct. 29.
He did not beat a great field, but this son of Runhappy moves well and could become the forgotten McPeek runner with Tiz the Bomb the 3-1 morning line favorite. Even though Smile Happy won impressively, he is double digits at 12-1.
Given the wide open nature of this field, spreading in multi-race wagers is the right strategy. As for other wagers, a win bet on Howling Time might be fine if he stays at 7/2. If he drops any further, then rethink it.
Top selection: No. 5 Howling Time (7/2)
Contenders: No. 1 Classic Causeway (7/2), No. 6 Tiz the Bomb (3-1)
Live longshot: No. 8 Smile Happy (12-1)
Win: 5 (at 7/2 or higher)