Kodiak Cowboy 5-2
Sok Sok 3-1
The Roundhouse 8-1
Analysis. Kodiak Cowboy likes Churchill Downs and loves 7f and the Tomlinson 363 for the wet stuff is fine, as is the second and two thirds on wet surfaces in the past. Sok Sok beat Kodiak Cowboy in an open stakes ($95k purse) in the slop March 14 at the Fairgrounds, but Kodiak Cowboy needed the race off a layoff from Nov. 25 and has every right to reverse the outcome here, notably at the 7f. Sok Sok has won at 7f too and is a definite contender here, third off a layoff from Nov. 27.
Although The Roundhouse exits only a NW1XMC allowance win, the race occurred at 7f and in the slop and Pletcher jumps this 4YO colt several levels in class, a confident move bolstered by the much improved speed figure in the NW1XMC score. The Roundhouse has an upset chance at an attractive price and should be covered in the serial bets.
Play. Kodiak Cowboy to win at 5-2 and a cold trifecta box among the three contenders.
C.S. Silk 6-1
Four Gifts 7-1
Loveyou Everybody 8-1
Analysis. In a relaively unpredictable long spring around one turn at 7.5-odd-furlongs, Auspicious mertis a mild first call. The Asmussen filly won her first pair by open lengths with solid figures and then at 4-5 disappointed in her first stakes try, a minor $50k spot and 4-horse field where she was beaten by 9 lengths. That was at Oaklawn Park out of Fairgrounds and Churchill Downs, and maybe the filly did not adatp to the strange surroundings. At least she has won at Churchill and by 6 1/2 open lengths in her 2YO debut last Nov. 1. A return to top form gives Auspicious the race and she does not need the lead. She was 1-5 second out and won like it.
C.S. Silk has been well beaten both attempts as a 3YO and may be a case of a failure to improve from the 2YO season. Still, she broke slowly last time, lost a Gr. 2 in her 3YO debut and three back finished second in a Gr. 3 at a mile at Delta Downs to Four Gifts, another in this tough sprint. Four Gifts was hammered by champion Rachel Alexandra last out and is a Gr. 3 winner with another second in a Gr. 3. She may prove best on class here but her wet-track speed figure is weak. Loveyou Everybody also has been beaten twice at 2 in Gr. 3/Gr. 2 company and now drops into this lesser open stakes in her second as a 3YO. She moves from Polytrack to the dirt andmay bounce back to her NW1XMC allowance win at 2, which was not only at Churchill Downs but occurred in the slop.
Play. Auspicious to win at 9-2 and a key to win in trifectas, with the other three contenders in a place and show box.
Lemon Chiffon 9-2
Ballymore Lady 6-1
Elusive Lady 7-1
Rustic Flame 9-1
Analysis. Frankel's Visit makes her third start this season off a 35 flat final three-eighths in a Gr. 2 at Santa Anita and she looks to hold a decisive class edge here as she approaches a peak performance. She beat older fillies & mares in a Gr. 3 at Goodwood in England last August 1 and subsequently finished third by 1 1/2 in a 10-horse Gr. 1 at Newmarket open to older again. Gomez takes the call on this classy closer and he should not fail to get up. A caveat is that Visit has not yet won on soft turf, but the Europeans train on soft and yielding turf all the time and if Frankel lets this 4YO run it's a safe sign she can handle the soggy surface.
Lemon Chiffon needed her last, a downhill turf sprint and going away win at Santa Anita with a speed figure that matches her best of last year. She has a right to move forward, even as a 6YO, as the mare is still lightly-raced with 9 starts lifetime. Two back she finished second by 1 1/4 lengths in a Gr. 2 at Santa Anita with a very strong 22 4/5 final quarter. Look for a strong finish and the main threat to the top call. Ballymore Lady looks like a Gr. 3 specimen but she does finish faster than 12 seconds a furlong at 35 flat last out and a very strong 28 4/5 two back, both in Gr. 3 company.
Elusive Lady is the threat to go wire to wire but she does not look strong enough tohold Visit safe in the lane. Rustic Flame is a deep threat for a share.
Play. Visit to win at 2-1, a key bet, and a key to win in trifectas and supers, with the other four to be 2nd, 3rd, and 4th.
Royal Michelle 7-2
Informed Decision 4-1
Game Face 5-1
Analysis. Either Informed Decision or Game Face may be classier but Royal Michelle is three for three on wet tracks with the high speed figure on the wet stuff and she merits a definite chance for the upset at a good price. She has won in the mud and on a good drying surface too. She tracks the lead nicely, is five for nine lifetime with one second and one third and has every right to win if the surface is gooey.
Informed Decision just beat Ventura in the Gr. 1 Madison at Keeneland and may be best, but the 4YO has never run on a wet surface, but if she handles the mud she remains three for three at 7f and is the only multiple Gr. 1/Gr. 2 in the field. Game Face is two for three on wet tracks and just won a Gr. 2 at Gulfstream pulling away handily at 7-10 but she has paired figures at the top of her form cycle in her last two and is subject to a regression today. She will be overbet out of the Pletcher barn with Gomez up.
Play. Royal Michelle to win at 7-2 and a cold exacta box with Informed Decision; both on top of Game Face.
Zambesi Sun 9-2
Artiste Royal 6-1
Court Vision 7-1
Analysis. Einstein's last three final fractions in turf wins are 24 4/5 in the Arlington Million, 37 1/5 in the Churchill Turf Classic, and 36 3/5 in Gulfstream Park's Turf Classic, which makes this probably favorite a good vulnerable favorite to try to beat. Still, the field is hard to evaluate, notably on soft and yielding surfaces. Frankel's Zambesi Sun is an interesting overlay play based upon his European record, which include a Gr. 2 win at Longchamp and a Gr. 2 runner-up to Doctor Dino at Chantilly. He finished within 5 lengths of Youmzain in a Gr. 1 at Saint Cloud and that would be good enough here. His two in the states are below his top form but he was pulling two back on the Anita turf and last out was entered on the Pro-Ride track in the classic Gr. 1 Santa Anita Handicap. Gomez rides, a good sign, and if this 5YO can revert to top form he deserves first call.
Artiste Royal seems to prefer the hard turf but the 9YO arrives in good form and ran one of the top turf miles at Santa Anita on Jan. 19 when he surged from far back to win with a 22 3/5 final quarter at a flat mile. Court Vision is a Mott 4YO who won the Gr. 1 Hollywood Derby at 10 furlongs last Nov. 30 with a furious 22 4/5 final quarter. He gets back on the turf and he has won on a good turf at Belmont Park and Mott is always a strong factor with a good horse on the grass. Einstein will be overbet but can certainly earn a share and Proudinsky will be rallying from far back and he likes the soft turf, but looks to have to settle for a share.
Play. Zambesi Sun to win at 9-2 and a key to win in trifectas, with the other four contenders in a place and show box.
Pioneer of the Nile 9-2
General Quarters 8-1
I Want Revenge 9-1
Friesan Fire 9-1
Papa Clem 11-1
Analysis. With the scratches of the three high-quality speed horses Quality Road, The Pamplemousse, and Old Fashioned, that takes tremendous pressure off the early pace and improves the chances of the colts that have arrived with good speed figures but soft pace figures, notable Friesan Fire and I Want Revenge. Still, and although the pace will be weaker, the strongest finisher will be Pioneer of the Nile, who flew home in the February Robert B. Lewis Stakes at Santa Anits with a 29-flat final five-sixteenths. Three-year-olds of February do not often do that. This colt is green and runs rank at times during the races but Gomez stayed with him, which not only indicates he and his agent do not believe that Dunkirk is clearly best, but also gives Baffert's colt a rider that know him well and finishes better than any other jockey in the nation. Pioneer of the Nile can be expected to lag early and unleash a tremendous late rally that should be good enough.
Dunkirk's finish will depend upon his class, which is not well understood, but he did finish second to Quality Road in the strongest of the 3YO Gr. 1/Gr. 2 preps by a clear margin. He deserves respect but his lack of seasoning may be too much to overcome in the mud or slop at 10 furlongs in this vicious race. General Quarters is the upset candidate as he won the Blue Grass (G1) with a 35 4/5 final three-eighths and was going away strongly at the finish with a 12-flat final eighth. Leparoux rides for the one-horse trainer and owner Thomas McCarthy, a great story if it happens.
I Want Revenge and Friesan Fire will be overbet and if the three frontrunners with high-quality speed were present I would not like their chances at all as both arrive with soft pace figures. But the pace is much weaker than expected and if either gets first run and can draw away into the stretch off reasonble fractions, either may not be caught. Papa Clem has a chance at a price off his strong Arkansas Derby, a Gr. 2 that should be a Gr. 1. The closers to cover in trifectas and supers include Advice, Hold Me Back, Summer Bird, and Chocolate Candy. Last year with the favorite Big Brown winning at $6.80 the superfecta returns more than $27,000 so it's well worth the increased play on this special day.
Play. Pioneer of the Nile to win at 9-2 and a key to win in trifectas and supers, with the others to be 2nd, 3rd, and 4th; a cold exacta box with Dunkirk. Good luck to all the players.