The Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club for 2yos over 8.5 furlongs is set to go with a prospective field of 12 on Saturday at Churchill Downs.
There is still much to be found out about these horses going forward, but at least we have some idea about where these horses stand, with 7 of the 12 already having graded stakes experience.
Pace Projector favors neither frontrunners nor closers in this race, and it places the ML favorite, Lord Nelson, up on the pace along with the speedy El Kabeir and Sky Hero. There is a healthy gap back to the next group of runners, with the rest of the field filtering out behind. Considering the amount of speed on display from Lord Nelson and El Kabeir in the past, it would not surprise us to see things get relatively heated up front in this race. That would work against those two horses, and, considering they are the two shortest prices on the ML, it could have much to do with the outcome.
Because we see the potential for some racing going on early, and because those two horses are short prices, we are going to look to beat them. Lord Nelson is clearly not a horse to take lightly shipping across country for Bob Baffert. He comes here after pairing up TFUS Speed Figures of 94 for his last two races, and he was a visually impressive winner in stakes company last time. That came on a cut-back, however, and over a speed-favoring track (note Race Rating box shaded in red), and his Grade 1 try over a route of ground was a disappointing effort with a perfect trip.
El Kabeir is fast and has some ability, but he is not a horse we are looking to follow as distances increase. He posted his big win sprinting over a speed-favoring track, as well, and has been unable to stick around late over one mile in his last two starts.
Of the two runners entered by Mark Casse that are likely to run here, we prefer #11 Flashaway. His #1 Sky Hero appears to have plenty of talent, but he is speed from the inside, and may not pull the most comfortable trip in here with both El Kabeir and Lord Nelson outside of him. Flashaway was defeated by Sky Hero last time, but he showed the ability to rate back off of a fast pace and close late, and those tactics may play well in this field.
The horse we will take to post a mild upset in this race is #8 Imperia. A Grade 3 winner on grass, he obviously has plenty of questions to answer, having never run on dirt, but one thing we are sure of is his overall ability. He emerges from the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf a very unlucky horse, after getting hopelessly blocked in traffic. He pulls a strong Breeding Rating of 90 for dirt routes, and his dam won the Grade 1 Beldame en route to winning 7 of her 10 career races on dirt.
One other horse we would include at a price is #2 Eagle. He enters this race a little light figure-wise, but he overcame a slow pace to win for the second time in three career starts last time, and he figures to have a better set-up in here.
The Play: Win bet on Imperia. Exactas using Imperia with Eagle, Lord Nelson, and Flashaway.