Churchill Downs Racing Predictions: Late Pick Four Picks
Saturday is closing day at Churchill Downs, and the folks in Louisville have put together a stellar 12-race program to go out with a bang. The late Pick Four begins in the ninth and is composed entirely of stakes races. Three are of the graded variety, and I’ve got a $28 ticket. Here’s how I’ve put it together.
We kick off the sequence with the Grade 3 Bashford Manor for 2-year-olds. I’m taking my first stance of the day here. I think #9 RED RUN will go favored given his flashy pedigree and first-out win, but I’m not convinced. His debut victory came over a sloppy track he’s bred to love, and I think he wants even more distance than he gets here.
I’ll try to beat him by going four-deep, and my top pick is #8 DOUBLE THUNDER. The Todd Pletcher trainee won his debut at Monmouth Park, and the final time looks far more impressive once you remember the restrictive whip rules in place on the Jersey Shore. Pletcher’s always been a top-notch trainer of 2-year-olds, John Velazquez hops aboard, and I just think he makes a lot of sense.
I’ll also use #2 LANSDOWNE, #3 TAPPED OFF, and #4 GLACIAL. If Red Rum beats me at a short price, I’ll live with it, but for several reasons, I think he’s a vulnerable favorite, and I hope I’ve gone deep enough in going against him to provide some value.
Named for one of my favorite horses in recent racing history, the Grade 2 Wise Dan has drawn a solid field of older turf routers. The morning line man, however, sees this as a two-horse race, and I’m inclined to agree.
#3 SOMELIKEITHOTBROWN is the answer to a fantastic racing trivia question. A few years ago, he won a maiden race at Saratoga run at the wrong distance, and he’s since emerged as an ultra-consistent turf horse at this level. His win in the Grade 2 Dinner Party at Pimlico was very good, and I think he’ll sit an ideal trip on or near a manageable early pace.
#1 SET PIECE, meanwhile, has won twice at the meet and steps into graded company for the first time since a 14th-place finish in the Group 1 2,000 Guineas overseas back in 2019. Trainer Brad Cox seems to have this son of Dansili locked in, and his best race could be good enough to win. I’m a bit concerned he may not get the pace setup he wants, but I simply can’t leave him off my ticket…
…especially since I have a single in the Saturday feature.
The Grade 2 Stephen Foster has traditionally drawn some of the top older horses in training. One horse fitting that description will be a heavy favorite, and I simply can’t get past him. That’s #8 MAXFIELD, who cruised home in the Grade 2 Alysheba and seems head and shoulders above this bunch. He’s 3-for-3 at Churchill, and his lone loss came going a mile and a quarter in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap, which doesn’t seem like his preferred trip. This is his home track, this has always been a major target, and if he runs anything close to his usual race, I simply don’t think he loses.
Singling Maxfield allowed me to use both Set Piece and Somelikeithotbrown in the second leg, and it will also allow me to spread in the finale. Named for one of the top turf distaffers of the last 20 years, the Tepin Stakes drew 13 3-year-old fillies, and I’m using seven of them, but not #8 TOBYS HEART. The likely favorite just doesn’t seem like she wants to go longer than six furlongs or so, and while the spot makes sense, I simply prefer others and think she’ll be an underlay.
I’ve always been fond of #13 ARM CANDY, and not just because I liked her when she won her debut at odds of 14-1. I think she’s got a lot of talent, and she showed some of it last time out at Pimlico, when she was a hard-charging third in the Hilltop after sitting 17 lengths back at the first point of call. The far outside post isn’t ideal, but I have to think she’ll be a bit closer to the pace here. If she is, I think we’ll see an improved effort, and if we do, that gives her a big shot at a nice price.
#1 INVINCIBLE GAL, #3 FAIRCHILD, #4 TOWN AVENGER, #7 ADVENTURING, #11 COMMANDERS PALACE, and #12 BARISTA are on my ticket as well. Simply put, I needed to spread here because this hit me as the most challenging race of the sequence to handicap. It’s a real puzzler, and I hope I’ve landed on the right one.