A collaborative effort by Vance Hanson and J. Keeler Johnson
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 Sunday, December 1 runners below for Churchill Downs races 7, 9 and 12!
#1 Full Authority – From the first crop of turf performer Summer Front, whose debut runners have struck at 11%; unraced dam a full sister to Smartyfly, who also peaked on the turf winning the Wonder Where at Woodbine; Ohio-based colt likely to find the waters deep here for 10% first-out barn.
#2 Willfred – Flashed some early foot but ran out of gas in the final quarter-mile in a race ultimately dominated by Mr. Monomoy; no apparent excuses for Arky-bred, who could prove more competitive in the state-restricted ranks at Oaklawn over the winter.
#3 Fort Knox – Well bet first out but wound up trailing in that Ellis event more than three months ago; barn has sent out 8 wins and placers from its first 11 starters this meet, so wouldn’t discount witnessing an improved try, though their second-out stats not all that enticing at 8%.
#4 Trust Me Now – Tiznows strike at 8% first out, while dam is a half-sister to the mighty stallion Tapit; despite powerhouse pedigree, this colt fetched only $8K at Keeneland September; 9% debut barn; prefer to watch one.
#5 Speightstown Again – Made little noise first out when beaten 5 1/2 lengths by repeater Halo Again; barn typically much stronger with second-time starters: 19% and positive ROI, according to latest Brisnet stats; pricey yearling buy eligible to improve here at a decent price.
#6 Big Biz – Chicago-based Williamson enjoying a solid meet, and first-timers from his barn show a profitable ROI; Fed Biz a highly capable first-out sire (16%), while dam has reared five winners from six to race; strong string of works at Hawthorne, including a swift pair over five furlongs; worth a look.
#7 Shanghai’s Dream – The more experienced of the Asmussen pair, but not a great asset when we’re talking maidens, especially one with a loss in the claiming ranks on his record; certainly looks quick enough to get a small slice, but stablemate Little Menace more promising here.
#8 Little Menace – Held off all save Bango when favored first out on Nov. 2; looks the one to catch here with no other other apparent front runners, at least among those with prior experience; logical at a short price.
#9 Kickin’ Kirby – A troubled start proved costly in his follow-up at Parx, which came nearly four months after a fine debut second at the tough Saratoga meet; deserves a shot at redemption here, and could be a threat for a share or more if he runs back to that initial performance.
#10 Datza Five Oh – Danza just a 3% debut sire to this point, while little black type shown in this female family going back several generations; this is a rare first-time starter for low-profile Wodobury; others preferred.
#11 Son of Ga Ga – Sire clicks at a nice 16% with debut runners, while dam was multiple stakes-placed in sprints; limited worktab yields few clues for barn that strikes with 10% firsters, though worth noting R9 entrant No Shirt No Shoes placed at big odds first time on the track for Anderson.
#1 Untap – Trailed in both starts to date and hard to envision son of Tapit doing a 180 against rivals like these without showing improved early foot.
#2 Tiz the Journey – By 8% first-out sire Tiznow, who won a BC Classic (G1) over this surface, and from the family of G1 filly sprinter Birdatthewire; if this one surprises, it would mark first debut win for Zito barn in quite awhile.
#3 Speaking the Truth – Readily threw in the towel after a troubled trip at Thistledown back in June; gelded since and adds blinkers here; sire was a graded stakes winner on turf and dirt, though leaned better on the former, while dam a half-sister to multiple G1 winner You; barn an excellent 29% second out with a positive ROI; better likely on the way, though fact he debuted on a minor circuit somewhat hard to overlook.
#4 No Shirt No Shoes – A nice debut effort given bettors’ low expectations; eligible to build on that performance and extra quarter-mile could work to his benefit; barn 15% with its last 34 second-time starters.
#5 No Bad Days – Bad break proved costly first out, but displayed better form when trying the turf though staying power proved lacking after setting quicker internal fractions; gelded since his last start, he descends from the family of classic winners Fusaichi Pegasus and Pine Bluff; maybe for a share.
#6 Shared Sense – Probable favorite after a strong track-and-distance try here Nov. 8 when beaten just a half-length as the chalk; Godolphin homebred sports a terrific pedigree as he’s by a Derby winner and out of a full sister to G2 winner Penwith, with multiple G1 winner Composure the dam of both; the one to beat.
#7 In Sky We Trust – Earned his best finish to date when taking the photo behind the exciting Mr. Monomoy, an improved try after encountering some trouble second out; connections haven’t won with great frequency this meet and this season in general, which is the main drawback.
#8 Liberty Blue – Proved a bit hard to handle in the run down the backside first out and disappointed after getting a little bit of support in a congested field; sire’s first crop have made a significant impact so far, but this one will have to progress significantly following a pair of slowish interim works.
#9 Alex Joon – Like several of these breaking outside in this field, he didn’t make much hay first out after a slow beginning; he was also saddled with post 1, which isn’t to every inexperience horse’s taste; Santana sides with stablemate Descent, but Leparoux obviously more than capable; dam a full sister to multiple graded stakes winner Redeemed, so pedigree suggests he could still develop into a decent one.
#10 Decision Maker – Passed a few rivals late when finishing 5 1/2 lengths behind a repeat winner in his debut going seven; half-brother to Divine Queen, who won the Dogwood and Open Mind here, this colt gets a bit more ground to work with and some improvement expected if he can avoid falling too far behind early.
#11 Descent – A tardy beginning over a sloppy strip left him near the rear of the field throughout his debut at Keeneland; eligible to improve for prominent connections and pedigree is there to have more impact at a one-turn mile; sire relished this kind of trip while half-sister Pretty N Cool was a multiple graded stakes winner at two.
#1 All in Harmony: Never threatened in debut over this track and distance on November 1, finishing well back with a modest 64 Brisnet speed rating. Maintenance workouts since then don’t hint at dramatic improvement, and securing a clean trip from rail draw could be problematic. Appears to be in deep.
#2 Dynamite Gift: Hasn’t missed the board in three starts but Brisnet speed ratings in the 74-75 range won’t cut it against this caliber of competition. Best finish came for a $50,000 claiming tag in September and subsequent efforts against tougher company have been less inspiring. Looking elsewhere for the winner.
#3 Lipstikliesnlovers: Leading first-crop sire American Pharoah sires 15% debut winners and dam has produced three winners from three starters, including juvenile winners and graded stakes performers Queen Bernardini and Tap Rap Strike. There’s a lot of turf in this pedigree since dam was a six-time stakes winner on the lawn and American Pharoah is siring more winners on grass than dirt, but precocity is the key to winning juvenile sprints and Lipstikliesnlovers is bred to be a win-early type. Work tab is solid if not overly flashy; trainer Eddie Keneally strikes at a respectable 15% rate with first-time starters, and leading jockey Corey Lanerie accepts the mount. In with a chance to spring the upset.
#4 Jilted Bride: Cracked the trifecta against good company in her first two starts, posting back-to-back 80 Brisnet speed ratings. Came up short at 2-1 last time out, but trainer Steve Asmussen strikes at a 26% rate with runners beaten as the favorite in their previous start. Bullet work on November 22 indicates fitness for first run in six weeks. A logical contender.
#5 Double That: Half-siblings have been sprinters, including juvenile debut winner Henry’s Holiday, runner-up in the 2014 Best Pal Stakes (G2). Trainer Ian Wilkes has been hot with 20% winners at Churchill Downs but succeeds just 6% of the time with first-time starters. Daughter of two-time Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) winner Midnight Lute has a classy pedigree, but might need a run to gain experience.
#6 Kiss Mo: Dam was a multiple graded stakes-placed turf miler, and her most successful foal to date won his debut as a juvenile going a mile on grass at Churchill Downs. Sire Uncle Mo was a juvenile champion on dirt but has produced plenty of graded winners on turf. Trainer David Vance is 0-for-17 with first-time starters over the last five years, and considering Kiss Mo’s overall pedigree is slanted toward grass, she looks like one to oppose.
#7 Speighty Shirl: Weakened to finish third after pressing a fast pace over this track and distance three weeks ago. Hot jockey Martin Garcia, a new face on the Kentucky circuit, picks up the mount for trainer Dallas Stewart, a 10% winner with second-time starters. Daughter of Speightstown is bred to sprint, but needs to take a step forward in the Brisnet speed rating depertmant.
#8 Adhwaa: Was never involved in debut over a sloppy, sealed track on November 7. Adds Lasix while stepping up from a high-priced maiden claimer to maiden special weight company, but needs to take a big step forward for a trainer who strikes just 6% of the time with second-time starters.
#9 Carpe Amorina: Runs backthree weeks after failing to challenge in debut at Aqueduct. Add blinkers for trainer Mort Shirazi, who wins at a 29% rate with this move and at a 20% rate with shippers. Apprentice jockey Virginia Tormey retains the mount and gives filly a seven-pound weight break, but Tormey is 0-for-17 (0% in the money) at the current Churchill meet. Hard to endorse off uninspiring debut.
#10 Lucky Dime: 0-for-4 so far but posted a competitive 84 Brisnet speed rating when beaten a neck over this track and distance on November 1. Fast works since then hint at readiness for another big try, and wide draw affords options for a clean trip under hot jockey Julien Leparoux. Lots to like here.
#11 Catechsim: Ran well enough in debut at Keeneland but faded badly to finish far behind Lucky Dime on November 4. Sire won the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) and dam was a stakes winner running 1 1/16 miles as a four-year-old; trainer fares better with older runners than youngsters, winning at just an 8% rate with juveniles. Seems like one to oppose.
#12 Fancified: Overcame a troubled start and a wide journey to rally and finish fifth in November 14 debut. Trainer Kenny McPeek rarely wins with first-timers, but 19% of his second-time starters reach the winner’s circle. Could be set for another wide trip from outside draw, but should show improvement off debut. A contender for the exotics.
#13 A J Rock: Employed pace-tracking tactics to finish second on November 14, 5 ¼ lengths clear of Fancified. Her 84 Brisnet speed rating is tied for the fastest in this field. Leading jockey Corey Lanerie has this also-eligible filly named as an alternative mount, and trainer Peter Miller is winning at a staggering 44% rate at Churchill Downs. A dangerous contender if allowed to start.
#14 Shining Colors: Daughter of Belmont Stakes (G1) runner-up Paynter is a half-sister to a pair of juvenile winners, including the graded stakes-placed Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) participant Majestic Presence. Classy pedigree hints at potential, but sire and trainer are relatively infrequent winners with first-time starters. Take a wait-and-see approach if she draws in.
#15 Kertara: 0-for-10 so far over a wide variety of distances and racing surfaces, with a trio of distant third-place finishes standing as her best efforts. Career-best 77 Brisnet speed rating comes in on the slow side. $2,200 yearling purchase seems exposed at this level.
#16 Senora Roma: Verrazano sires just 6% debut winners, but this might be offset by high-percentage trainer Larry Rivelli, who wins at a 38% rate with runners debuting in maiden special weights. Dam has produced a half-dozen winners from as many starters and pedigree suggests speed and precocity more than stamina. Bullet five-furlong breeze from the Hawthorne starting gate is encouraging. Also-eligible will be a contender if she draws in.