Tips to betting 2-year-olds on Churchill Downs' Sunday races

Tips to betting 2-year-olds on Churchill Downs' Sunday races
Photo: Eclipse Sportswire

By Jarrod Horak

The handicapping process in many races begins and ends with pace and speed figures, but juvenile races are not so cut and dry. Two-year-old sprint races in the spring and summer are typically dominated by early developing speed horses, though things begin to change when distances increase and surfaces switch.

Here, I will lay out two of my favorite money making situations in juvenile races with Churchill Downs set to host its "Stars of Tomorrow" card Sunday under the Twin Spires.

Maiden 2-Year-Old Turf Routes

Pedigree analysis and trainer angles are the keys to making money in maiden juvenile turf races, and there are a pair of grass routes Sunday at Churchill. 

In the third race, Emmport is the 6-5 favorite, but she is stuck in an outside post and is already 0-for-2 in turf routes including a 6th-place finish as the heavy favorite from post 11 at Churchill Downs back on Sept. 23. She finished 2nd in her turf bow at Saratoga, worked back-to-back Churchill bullets for this race, and her connections are easy to like -- but she won’t offer any wagering value.   

Wesley Ward first-time starter Kitten’s Covergirl is an intriguing alternative to the aforementioned chalk. Her sire, Kitten’s Joy, is 15% with debut turf runners and Ward excels with first time starters. Jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. has been on a roll with Ward recently, and her 5-1 morning line price is right.  

The sixth race is a turf route for two-year-old males. Once again, we have a favorite with proven turf form (Discovered) but the $250,000 son of Gemologist might be a bigger threat underneath after a trio of minor placings from as many grass starts. 

Ward is at it again with another Kitten’s Joy turf runner, Heza Kitten. The latter had a slow start and found trouble before checking in 4th in his turf route bow at Keeneland on Oct. 12. He was only 3.5 lengths behind Discovered that day and can improve with Ricardo Santana Jr. in the saddle. 

A couple more horses with strong turf pedigrees are worth considering in this race. True Loyalty hit the board in his first two turf starts, and the dam has produced five turf winners. Lion’s Share was a troubled 6th in the same Kentucky Downs sprint race True Loyalty exits, and the $550,000 son of Animal Kingdom can go better for Dale Romans. Dam has produced three turf winners and Romans excels with his first route starters.    

Maidens in 2-Year-Old Stakes Races

Maidens and first-time starters have been known to jump up and graduate in the juvenile stakes ranks. Just last weekend, Graham Motion unveiled last-to-first winner Clever Mind in the $100,000 Maryland Million Nursery. Earlier this month, Chad Brown maiden Good Magic finished 2nd in the Grade 1 Champagne Stakes at Belmont Park. 

Three maidens square off in the $200,000 Spendthrift Stallion Stakes on Sunday at Churchill (Race 7). It is hard to make a case for Just Be Frank and Dream Baby Dream, but Fight On is another story. 

Fight On might be a maiden after three starts, but Steve Asmussen’s $340,000 purchase finished 2nd in his last two outings and earned better numbers each time. He was clearly second best in a six and one-half furlong dirt sprint at Churchill Downs on Sept. 29 and show finisher Karen’s Cove returned to break his maiden at Keeneland on Oct. 20. He owns fine tactical speed and drew the advantageous outside post in his stakes debut at seven furlongs. Even-money favorite Ezmosh might have a real battle on his hands.  

Race 9 is the $200,000 Spendthrift Juvenile Filly Stallion Stakes, and maiden second-time starter Aerial Assets is interesting at 20-1 on the morning line. Kelly Breen’s filly was up for 3rd in her flat mile debut at Belmont Park on Oct. 1 and returned to work a strong half-mile bullet on Oct. 21. A win might be asking a lot vs. the likes of Mia Mischief and Sultry but she could certainly end up on the board at long odds.

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