by NICOLLE NEULIST
If it weren’t for Noel Michaels, I might not have played the Pick 6 on Saturday at Churchill Downs, even though I had handicapped the card.
But thanks to the Arlington International Racecourse analyst mentioning the Pick 6 with a 20-cent minimum, $327,613 carryover and mandatory payout, I had to give the sequence a shot, even though I rarely play the Pick 6.
I reviewed my notes and put together my ticket on TwinSpires.com. Using only two horses in five of the races and a single of Magic Dance in the Debutante Stakes (10th race, fourth leg), my ticket cost $6.40 for the 32 combos.
i guess i can handicap a bit of Churchill every once in a while…not too shabby for a $6.40 ticket. :-O pic.twitter.com/AUXEjxKkEK
— nicolle neulist (@rogueclown) June 29, 2019
In the seventh race (first leg), I wanted a horse a few lengths off the lead. I thought Battle of Memphis was the one to beat. He fit the level, could sit the trip and could move forward in his third start off a layoff. But Ry’s the Guy also had upside. His six-length maiden win was a “light-on” effort, trainer Ian Wilkes wins at 19% with last-out maiden winners and his turf breeding was solid.
For the eighth race—the Kelly’s Landing Overnight Stakes—my strongest opinion was that both Warrior’s Club and Control Stake were underneath types. I also liked some trainer changes. Line Judge was making his first start off a claim by trainer Peter Miller, a 28% angle, and had won his only one-turn, seven-furlong race. Uncontested had moved to the barn of Tom Amoss, another who shines with new arrivals. I preferred Line Judge, with his passing gear. But Uncontested at his best could be fast enough to clear.
The ninth race was a stakes-quality turf dash allowance. Last time out Om finished in the same ZIP code as World of Trouble, and had the tactical versatility to handle the outside. Undrafted was the other I had to use. He was making his second start off a layoff, was dropping in class, was a Churchill horse for the course and he’d get pace to chase.
My strongest opinion came in the 10th race, the Debutante. Part of that opinion was based on speed ratings. Magic Dance ran a 91 Brisnet figure on debut, and no one else had topped 80. I don’t live or die by figures, but they suggested Magic Dance would be too fast, unless someone else made a big move forward. I also liked Magic Dance’s stalking gear.
One Boss almost sunk me in the third leg, but in the 11th race, the Bashford Manor, I didn’t sell the other Boss short. Phantom Boss shipped in from California, along with jockey Rafael Bejarano. Even though Phantom Boss broke his maiden against California-breds, he finished a neck behind Fore Left on debut. I also liked Verb. Though well behind Phantom Boss in their debut, he improved in his second start and got off the fence.
The final leg, the 12th race, was a maiden special weight turf mile. If not for the scratch of Make Room, my ticket would have been a high-rolling $9.60—I like Dane Kobiskie second-time starters, as well as Scat Daddys trying grass. His defection left me liking only two. I preferred Zip Your Lip. Though second in his last four, it was his first start at two turns and he was a 4-year-old facing a lot of sophomores. Alfons Walde was the other contender, third off a layoff and cutting back to a mile.
When I saw that Zip Your Lip won, I couldn’t believe it. I had stepped out of my horseplaying comfort zone, leaned into my opinions, and hit a Pick 6 for the first time. In addition to being a thrill (and a four-figure score!), it taught me to keep a more open mind and consider those ambitious vertical wagers if I have enough strong opinions to craft a targeted ticket.
Nicolle Neulist is a Chicago-based freelance writer; follow them on Twitter @Rogueclown