In looking over all the stakes races being run today, the one that I found to be most challenging is the G1, Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs. It's for 3YO and upwards running a mile and an eighth over the dirt for a purse of $400,000. There is a field of nine going forward (no scratches when this was written) and at least 5 of them have a solid chance of winning this race. What makes this group so difficult is the versatility of them, for all of them can race to the lead or press, so trying to figure out the pace is nearly impossible. Regardless, it will be a good one no matter who wins it. So here we go ...
#1a Successful Dan ML 8/5
This is one of those times where I had to push my personal bias to the side and really look at the best horse. I'm a big Nate's Mineshaft fan, and will play my money there but from a pure handicapping perspective, Successful Dan has to be the one to beat. Winner of 7 of 10, 3 of 4 at Churchill Downs and carrying a 5 race winning streak, that includes a G1 win and 2 G2 wins (will ignore the DQ in the Clark). His versatility set's up well with this group, he can to the front, press and even stalk the pace. I see no drop off with JohnnyV taking over today. The one to beat.
#1 Nates Mineshaft ML 6/1
Probably more wishful thinking on my part for he is a notorious "horse for course", winning mostly at Fair Grounds and the other tracks in the south. He has only one try at CD and it wasn't pretty finishing 6th in the Alysheba behind Successful Dan and Fort Larned. He since bounced off that performance with a G3 win. Going to use the bad trip scenario in the CD outing instead of not liking the surface. I can see Campbell taking him out and go wire to wire. The old come and get me trip.
#8 Alternation ML 4/1
It will be his first venture into Churchill Downs, but he has shown he can win where ever he races. On a 4 race winning streak, including 2 G3's and a G2. The key here is that Von Hemel wins 21% with horses that won last out, and has a staggering 29% stakes winning record with a ROI $3.53! He will get a good price today, and has all the ability to take off and nail this group. Quinonez knows him well and can race him anyway he wants to suit the pace.
#5 Ron the Greek ML 6/1
The attraction here is that he is a G1 winner taking the Santa Anita Handicap and likes to rate off the pace. He can go forward, but I believe Lezcano will let the others go out and wait to see the pace break down. He likes to go long and can run down a field from the outside. He is in a tough group of speedsters but if there is a melt down he will prevail.
#6 Rogue Romance ML 30/1
He is not the long shot pick due to the odds but there is something about him that says, "watch out." He bounced off his poor performance in the Ben Ali (G3) to win an Optional Claiming here at CD. A jockey switch to Cruz also seemed to be a tonic. I like that he can lay back and see what opens with this speed today, and he is comfortable at Churchill. He has shown he can handle the Graded level, and today he could make his mark.
1a - 1 - 8