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Andrew Champagne delivers his best picks for the 9th race on Saturday's program at the Churchill Downs

It may seem early (and to be blunt, it is), but the roads to both the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks start Saturday at Churchill Downs. Two graded stakes races for 2-year-olds offer points for each event, and I’ll look at the Grade 3 Pocahontas, which goes as the ninth of 11 races on the Saturday program.

A field of nine 2-year-old fillies will go postward, and I thought this was a fascinating race. Some of these horses have gone two turns, but not on dirt, which raises questions. Furthermore, my top pick is a juicy price on the morning line, and I sincerely hope she’s close to it come post time. Let’s take a look!

The Live Longshot

When trainer Doug O’Neill ships a 2-year-old out of California, he’s not doing it to rack up frequent flyer miles. He conditions #4 LAZY DAISY, who exits the Grade 1 Del Mar Debutante. She was a distant fourth that day, but the winner freaked and she was beaten just a half-length by the second-place finisher.

Lazy Daisy runs like a horse that wants two turns, and she’s got enough tactical speed to sit close to the pace and get first run turning for home. She’s 8-1 on the morning line, and anything 9/2 and up would entice a win bet. Despite the lofty price, I think she’s the one to beat.

The Likely Favorites

#3 PORTRAIT has done very little wrong in two career starts. She debuted going two turns on turf and ran an OK third before going to the main track and airing by more than a dozen lengths going seven furlongs. She comes back to a two-turn route of ground, and given the success of trainer Brad Cox, it wouldn’t be surprising if she winds up a pretty low price as the field approaches the starting gate.

I vastly prefer her to fellow 3-1 shot #6 MORNING GOLD, who I’m against (especially at her likely price). She’s run well twice, but is unproven on dirt and got a dream trip last time out at Saratoga. She’ll almost certainly have to work to maintain position early, and that’s a bar she’s never cleared before. With that in mind, she won’t be on any of my tickets.

The Class-Jumpers

A few fillies exiting maiden special weight races look well-meant, but have questions to answer. #7 BRITISH IDIOM was a strong first-out winner for Cox at Saratoga, and it helps that the runner-up came right back to win. However, her pedigree doesn’t exactly scream that she wants two turns, which, in my opinion, makes her difficult to trust at a fairly short price.

Additionally, #5 BLOOD CURDLING looked like a star when overpowering a field of maidens at Colonial Downs. Her $325,000 auction price hinted that she may be a runner, and run she did, crushing four others by 11 lengths. These waters are far deeper, but she’s got a pedigree that says two turns shouldn’t be a problem and the presence of top local rider Corey Lanerie is a plus.

How I’ll Bet It:

I’ll key Lazy Daisy and Portrait on top of exactas that include those two, British Idiom, and Blood Curdling underneath. I’ll also have a conditional play on Lazy Daisy if she’s a bit of a price.

2 units: Exacta key, 3,4 with 3,4,5,7

3 units: Win, 4 (if 9/2 or higher)

By Andrew Champagne

Article Author


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