October 3, 2023

Horse-by-horse guide for Churchill Downs juvenile maidens on November 14

Churchill Downs Racing
Coady Photography/Churchill Downs

Races with juveniles can be challenging to handicap and formulate opinions when the two-year-old talent has limited experience racing. Our writers have compiled talking points for each runner for most of such races for the fall meet.

Find Thursday, November 14th runners below for Churchill Downs races 5 and 7!

Churchill Downs – Race 5

Maiden special weight, two-year-old fillies, 6 ½ furlongs

#1 SUNDAE SMILE (10-1)

First starter from trainer Rusty Arnold who gets only about 6% winners with his first time starters, and wins 11% of his races overall with two-year-olds. Solid worktab showing at Keeneland includes a bullet three furlongs three days ago in preparation for this unveiling. Many Curlin babies like her come out running right off the bat. Must respect.


First starter from low-profile connections has been blazing in morning drills and could loom large versus this field if able to transfer that morning speed to the p.m. People won’t be betting this horse based on the connections with jockey Aragon winning at just 4% this year (9-for-207) and trainer Tom Bergin showing three wins this year from a total of 27 starters. The workouts, however, are difficult to ignore including back-to-back bullet drills breezing from the gate on Oct. 25 and Nov. 2 and another fast workout since then. If you are not a fan of the horses in this race who have already run, this filly looks like a legitimate option at 8-1 odds on the morning line.

#3 ALLEY MUSIC (6-1)

Trainer Al Stall just sent out a two-year-old winner at Churchill on Sunday with a horse shipping in from Delaware, and now he’ll try to add to his win total with this first-time starter by Street Sense who solid for $95k as a yearling. Workouts have not been flashy, but Stall does good work with two-year-olds including 19% wins with his first-time starters. Trainer/jockey combination with Mena is strong at Churchill Downs.

#4 TARAZ (2-1)

Juddemonte first-time starter is the morning line favorite at 2-1 for high-percentage trainer Brad Cox, with his main man jockey Florent Geroux aboard. Homebred by Into Mischief out of an Empire Maker mare could improve with distance and perhaps turf, but the worktab at Ellis/Keeneland/Churchill is loaded with fast drills indicating this horse has speed as well as some talent including a best-of-75 bullet four furlongs from the gate at Keeneland and most recently a fats move her at Churchill on this surface. The Cox barn has many strengths, including 20% winners with first time starters.

#5 COVE BAY (6-1)

Makes second lifetime start after the career debut last time out in a totally different kind of spot, losing badly after never getting involved at any point in a 1 1 /16-mile turf race. Trainer Bill Mott starts over again, cutting back into a sprint today and switching from turf to dirt, so basically you can toss out that first race and perhaps give this horse another shot to strut her stuff if you are inclined to go with Mott runners in this sort of scenario. Mott went back to the drawing board with four workouts since last race, but the workouts aren’t particularly fast for this sprint try, and it would have been nice to see more speed from this horse last time if you are planning on betting her today.

#6 SCREAMIN’ BY (12-1)

Trainer Ian Wilkes is off to a fast start at the Churchill fall meet with 4 wins from his first 16 starters (25%), so it’s usually not a bad idea to go with the hot barn. One area where Wilkes does not tend to excel, however, is with his first-time starters, winning with just 5% of his debut runners from a large sample which means he clicks only about one out of every 20 times. Speightstown filly cost $135k as a two-year-old, and the worktab includes some very promising drills right here on this surface. Tough to totally overlook, but it may be wise to wait until next time.

#7 SNAFFLE (5-2)

Exits a third-place finish in the first lifetime start last time out in a similar kind of spot at Keeneland going six furlongs in a race where she showed dramatically improved early speed and held on fairly well behind a runaway winner. The speed rating earned last time is enough to win some of these local juvenile maiden races, and this filly seems to be moving forward with each outing. Now that she’s finally shown some speed and ability, it might mean the light-bulb has finally come on and it’s a good sign to see Leparoux picking up the mount for trainer Ken McPeek.  McPeek is off to a slow start at this Churchill meet with 1 win from his first 22 starters, but perhaps that means he’s is just about ready to heat up. Good workout for this filly since last raced indicates continued good fitness.


This filly wasn’t cheap, she cost $250k as a yearling by $20k stallion Creative Cause. Making career debut at 6 1/2 furlongs today off of a solid and steady, but not overly flashy worktab. Trainer Dale Romans is winning at 14% overall this year and wins with about 11% of his two-year-olds, but he doesn’t tend to crank out very many winning first-time starters with just 6% wins. This horse might benefit from more distance eventually.

Churchill Downs – Race 7

Maiden special weight, two-year-old fillies, 6 ½ furlongs

#1 TAP N SWAY (6-1)

Speed and the rail. Finished second in career debut in the mud at Indiana Grand after being bet down to 4-1 on that first start. Ships in from Indiana base for trainer Randy Klopp, and second out improvement is certainly possible. Facing far tougher here with a stretchout from five furlongs to 6 1/2 furlongs, and faces other speeds here to make the task even tougher with the switch to the Kentucky circuit.

#2 FANCIFIED (12-1)

First-time starter for trainer Ken McPeek, who tends to bring his young horses along slowly based on just 3% winners with first-time starters despite an overall win percentage with two-year-olds of 14%, which is more than respectable. That kind of statistic makes you wonder if it’s not worth taking a wait-and-see approach and perhaps betting this horse next time. Will Take Charge baby sold for $60k as a yearling, and it’s good to see Leparoux aboard for this career unveiling. Solid workouts. Take notes.

#3 INNOVATE (12-1)

Expensive $200k yearling purchase by Uncle Mo makes career debut for the always-dangerous Rusty Arnold stable, which wins with 11% of its two-year-olds. Winning first starters are not a strength for Arnold, however, based on his 6% statistic with winning first-time runners. Plenty of highlights showing in the steady worktab. Don’t overlook.

#4 DROP A HINT (5-1)

Stacks up well enough against the other horses in this race who have already run based on speed figures, and has a runner-up finish at Saratoga on her resume showing amongst her four career outings so far.  Trainer D. Wayne Lukas is off to a slow start at the meet at 0-for-10, and is only winning at about 2% overall with his two-year-old runners at this point in his career. Canchari, like Lukas, is having trouble finding the winner’s circle with just 1 win from his first 37 Churchill mounts this season. Two starts since that second-place finish on July 31 have resulted in fourth-place finishes at both Saratoga and Keeneland, and while this horse continues to prove to be competitive, we are not seeing improvement or steps in the right direction to indicate that the maiden win is forthcoming without a class drop.

#5 A J ROCK (8-1)

No dice whatsoever in first lifetime start last time out, which came in a Kentucky Downs 6 1/2-furlong turf sprint where this horse actually attracted a ton of support on the tote board at 4-1 odds in an 11-horse field. Ok, so this horse finished 10th and was never a factor, but now we’re talking about a whole new ballgame. This horse gets onto the main track for the first time and is likely to improve in the second career start. Goes out for trainer Peter Miller, who has started the Churchill Downs meet blazing hot with 3 wins from his first 4 starters. This horse was a $150,000 two-year-old purchase by a $5,000 stallion. All signs point to a total positive turnaround making A J Rock the horse to beat despite the 8-1 morning line odds.

#6 RISING SEAS (5-1)

Showed speed in 7-1 career debut at six furlongs but couldn’t hold on, fading to fourth to be beaten by 10 lengths. Had fast workouts leading up to that first lifetime start, so the talent appears to be there. These types often go a lot further and a lot faster the second-time around, so it would be no surprise if this horse won or hit the exacta at second asking for trainer Ben Colebrook, who has been successful with 3 of his first 12 runners at the current Churchill Downs meet.

#7 BONNY SOUTH (5-2)

Goes first-time out for high-percentage trainer Brad Cox who already owns six wins at the current Churchill Downs meet. Cox is winning at 25% this year and also does well with two-year-olds (21%) and with first-time starters (20%). The barn’s main man, jockey Florent Geroux, gets the mount on this Juddmonte baby by Munnings. Fast worktab capped off by a Churchill five-furlong bullet from the gate in 1:00.2 also included a best-of-75 Keeneland four-furlong bullet from the gate on Oct. 13. Should come out running, and that expectation will be reflected on the tote board based on the 5-2 morning line.

#8 OLHO DE MEL (10-1)

Went off quietly on the tote board at 60-1 in career debut last time out at Churchill Downs, and didn’t threaten to win in that 10-horse field but wasn’t embarrassed, either, finishing fourth and with a speed figure that is competitive versus today’s field. Trainer Paulo Lobo doesn’t train a bunch of horses but wins about 15% of his starts, and he can’t be completely overlooked in this spot. Passed five horses in the second half of the race last time, and there’s a lot of speed entered in this race. If the pace gets hot and melts down, this horse could come running late for at least a share.

#9 STRONG FLAG (4-1)

Trainer Steve Asmussen has been winning everything in sight so far at this young fall season at Churchill Downs, having already tallied 10 wins from his first 42 starters for a 24% win percentage. The stable’s go-to rider, Santana, gets the mount on this $435k yearling purchase by sire Strong Mandate. Assmussen wins with 21% of his two-year-olds and 20% of his first starters. Worktab is not blazingly fast, but money will fly in on this horse on the tote board, either way.