February 4, 2023

Horse-by-horse guide for Churchill Downs juvenile racing on November 16

Phantom Boss and jockey Rafael Bejarano prevail in the Bashford Manor Stakes (G3) at Churchill Downs on June 29, 2019 (c) 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 Sunday, November 17 runners below for Churchill Downs races 6 and 7!

Churchill Downs Race 6 for November 17 — Maiden Special Weight


First starter from trainer Cherie Devaux, who has won with 5 of her last 21 first-time starters (24%). Sire Union Rags, however, gets only 4% winning first starters and 5% winners on the grass. Stakes-placed dam has produced six winners from 9 prior foals to race including two turf winners. This colt sold for $45k as a two-year-old, and the barn gets ’em ready to win early, but worktab doesn’t show much speed and this horse may be bred for success at longer distances.

#2 RUBATO (30-1)

Eased and failed to finish in difficult 1 1/8-mile sloppy track career debut assignment last time out. Now trainer Murat Sancal almost could not possibly switch gears any more, bringing this horse back for another try in the second career outing in a 5 1/2-furlong turf sprint with blinkers on and with Ricardo Santana aboard. Sancal is winning 12% overall in 2019 and has won with 4 of his last 23 runners with blinkers on, but his numbers are sparse with second-time starters (1-for-17) and first-time turfers (0-for-15). Sire The Factor gets 15% winners on the turf. Can’t recommend this horse based on the first outing, but this is a totally fresh start today.


Showed speed in career debut last time to press the pace and challenge for the lead until fading to sixth beaten 11 lengths due to those early efforts. These types of second-time starters often go a lot further and a lot faster in their second outings, and trainer Brian Lynch is winning with a good 16% of his second starters. Switches to the turf today, but it sure would have been nice to see any money at all come in on this horse in the debut instead of going off at 47-1 odds. Sire Strong Mandate gets only 3% winners on the grass, but there’s turf on the dam’s side with mom producing 5 winners from 7 prior runners including three turf winners. Sold for $90k as a yearling and bred to sprint. This horse’s 117 Prime Power rating is not amongst the best in this field, but Lynch is off to a hot start at this CD meet with 3 wins and 5 finishes in the exacta with his first 10 starters.

#4 DATA LOAD (15-1)

Trainer Keith Desormeaux winless from his first four starters at the CD meet, but note that all four ran well enough to hit the board and Desormeaux is winning at 12% overall for 2019. Barn doesn’t win with many first-time starters (6%), however, and this horse has pretty modest-looking workouts. Sire Data Link gets 10% turf winners but just 4% wins with first-time turfers. Dam yet to produce a turf winner. Waiting until later.

#5 READY TO ROLL (5-1)

Let’s see if this first starter can live up to his name in the first lifetime outing. Trainer Bret Calhoun wins with a solid 14% of his first starters, but generally those winners are not happening on the turf (1-for-27). Sire City Zip certainly churns out the win-early runners on the grass with 13% winning first-time turfers. Buried in the worktab is a four-furlong bullet breeze at CD in :47.3 on October 10. Would prefer to see this horse in action in an off-the-turf scenario today, but a first-out turf winner by City Zip sure would be no shocker, either.

#6 IN CHARGE (20-1)

Finished seventh beaten 12 lengths at 46-1 in career debut last time out and the comment reads “done early,” even after failing to make it close to the early lead. Trainer D. Wayne Lukas wins with 8% of his second-time starters these days, and with 6% first-time turfers. Prime Power rating 106.5 needs to improve and perhaps the switch to the turf will help based on sire Will Take Charge’s 14% turf winners (10% wins with first-time turfers). They certainly paid a pretty penny for this horse who sold for $325k as a yearling. Must show more.

#7 VAYA CON DIOS (8-1)

Has the experience edge in this field already making his fifth lifetime start. Trainer Robertino Diodoro, who took over training this horse last time, tries this runner on grass today in hopes of a wake-up call. Has finished in the money in 3 of 4 starts to date including a pair of maiden claiming races at Saratoga and then last time out at Keeneland with a step up in class against maiden special weights. Prime Power rating of 113.4 doesn’t offer much optimism, and the best career race in terms of speed figures came last time out in the slop (70 BRIS speed rating with added blinkers in the first start for this barn). Seems to be improving for the new connections, benefited from blinkers, and would handle mud if this is off the turf. On the grass, sire Majesticperfection gets 16% winners, so perhaps Diodoro is onto something here with the switch to the lawn. Don’t overlook.


Made a middle move before fizzling last time out in the career debut which came in a maiden claiming spot at Keeneland on the dirt. Didn’t receive a good speed figure or a good Prime Power rating for the first start, but perhaps improvement is on the way on the grass with sire Can the Man showing 19% winners on the turf. Blinkers on, and trainer Michael Tomlinson has won with 4 of his last 37 shades additions. Dam still looking for first winning foal. No workouts posted since last race, and Tomlinson wins at just 3% going dirt to turf.


Second-time starter already shows positive turf sprint experience, which is a huge plus in this field. Closed to finish third in career debut last time in a turf sprint this distance at Keeneland, earning a solid 77 speed rating and a 119.6 Prime Power rating. Trainer Ian Wilkes won with 5 of his first 21 runners at the CD fall meet (24%), and he does a lot better with his second-time starters (11% wins) than he does with his first starters. Should be mowing them down in the stretch so beware.

#10 FRAY (10-1)

First starter from high percentage trainer Joe Sharp, who actually doesn’t win with as many first starters as he does in other categories (11% wins and 9% with horses debuting on the turf). Nevertheless, five of Sharp’s first 15 starters at the CD meet have hit the exacta, so you’ve gotta take note of this barn’s runners. Sire Lemon Drop Kid gets 11% winning first-out turfers. Dam has produced two winners from three prior starters but no grass winners. Workouts don’t indicate any flashy speed. Jockey Gabriel Saez just 2-for-31 so far at CD. Colt sold for $115k as a yearling, so anything is possible.


Made career debut in a Kentucky Downs turf sprint and ran well there to be third for that track’s leading trainer Mike Maker. This will be the first return to the turf since then, with both intermediary starts coming in dirt sprints including a solid fourth-place finish here at Churchill two races ago with a fast speed figure. Maker wins 16% going turf-to-dirt, and we already know this horse can sprint on the turf. Prime Power rating of 120.8 is tops of the horses drawn in the main body of this field. Looks like the horse to beat.

#12 GROOM LAKE (15-1)

First starter from trainer Bobby Barnett, who is 0-for-17 with firsters including 0-for-5 on the turf. Sire Noble Mission gets 9% winning first-out turfers. Dam’s only winner so far won on the grass. Worktab solid but not spectacular. Watching this time around and taking notes for later.

#13 ELUSIVE D’ORO (9-5)

The top Prime Power rating in the field at 131.8 draws first on the also eligible list and is obviously a major factor in this race if able to draw in for trainer Steve Asmussen (10 wins at the meet already) with his main man Ricardo Santana aboard. The thing about this horse that jumps of the page is the fast that he is definitely fast enough to graduate, yet is still seeking the main win in what will be his fifth lifetime start after finishing second in all four starts to date. Bridemaid type looking to get over the hump at a short price, and seems better suited for the back end of your exactas based on the evidence we see so far.

#14 HOFFA (12-1)

First starter for trainer Paul McGee who wins with only 2% of his first-time starters (1-for-41). Sire Street Boss does well with these types with 15% winners first-out on the turf, but can’t pull the trigger for a trainer that rarely wins first time out.

#15 STEELDRIVER (10-1)

Bet down to favoritism in turf sprint career debut at Indiana and ran a solid third after stalking the pace. This will be a tougher assignment today, but horses often improve for their second career starts and this runner could benefit from the experience and contend versus these.

#16 MAJOR FED (12-1)

Trainer Greg Foley has hit the exacta with 4 of his first 12 starters here at the Churchill fall meet. First starter by Ghostzapper (9% wins with first starters on the turf) is out of a dam that has produced four winners from six prior starters, all of whom won on the turf. Foley wins with just 6% of his first starters, and this horse is bred for more distance. Wait for a stretchout.

#17 HIGH PROOF (12-1)

Main track only entrant makes first start with solid workouts. If this race gets rained off the turf, this one could get on and be forgotten about as the number 17 horse if able to draw in. Lots of mud breeding on the dam’s side. Not the craziest longshot to fill out spots in your trifectas and superfectas if this gets rained off the turf.

Churchill Downs Race 7 for November 17 — Maiden Special Weight

#1 MY MANE GIRL (6-1)

First starter from trainer Ken McPeek, who is having a hard-luck meet so far at Churchill with just one win from his first 28 starters but with a total of 12 in-the-money finishes. He’ll probably start winning, but that might not start happening with this horse based on the barn’s 5% win percentage with first-time starters. On the other hand, there are some reasons for optimism with this particular horse, who rattled off three straight bullet workouts in preparation for this debut. Sire Fast Anna is getting 21% winners with first starters. This horse solid for $125k as a yearling from a dam who has produced one winner from one prior foal to race. May come out running right off the bat so don’t overlook.


Two races so far have resulted in 10th and 11th-place finishes in similar sprints at Churchill and Keeneland, so giant improvement will be necessary for this horse to challenge today. Overall 4% winning barn gets 5% winning two-year-olds. On the plus side, out of the horses in here who’ve already races, her Prime Power rating of 110.8 ranks third. Still has a long way to go to find the winner’s circle based on what we’ve seen so far.


Finished third in muddy track off-the-turf career debut last time out at Indiana Downs, but the water is likely to get a lot deeper here today at Churchill. Pressed the pace but was fading a bit late in that five-furlong first start, so perhaps this stretch to 5 1/2 furlongs will not help the cause. Trainer Ben Delong is winning at 17% this year, but he gets just 4% winning two-year-olds and has won with just 1 of his last 8 second-time starters and. This will be the barn’s first starter at the CD fall meet. Prefer some others.


Making career debut today for trainer Rodolphe Brisset, who has hit the exacta with 3 of his first 7 starters at this meet with 2 wins. Brisset wins with 9% of his first-time starters, and this runner is sired by Into Mischief, who gets 15% winning first starters. Out of a dam that has produced two winners from two prior foals to race including a stakes winner. Worktab was capped by a :47.2 bullet four furlongs breezing from the gate at Keeneland on Nov. 5. Ricardo Santana gets the mount. Expect this horse to be live on the tote board and in with a big chance to win at first asking.


Popped and stopped last time in the first lifetime start, showing good speed but getting hooked in a multi-horse battle for the lead and fading badly in the stretch as a result. Has a lot of improving to do, but these pop-and-stop types often run a lot further and a lot faster in their second lifetime starts. Even with the fade job in the stretch, she still earned a 60 BRIS speed rating for that debut, which stacks up competitively against today’s rivals. No workouts since last raced. Trainer Eric Foster wins at a respectable 19% clip overall (1-for-8 with second-time starters), but at only 8% with two-year-olds. Owns some speed, so her best chance would be to get out front and hope for an uncontested trip on the lead. Unlikely, but possible.

#6 SENSE YOU LEFT (15-1)

This first starter is trainer William Mauk’s first runner of 2019. This horse shows a fast bullet three-furlong workout in :35.2 on Nov. 11 in preparation for this career debut. Sire Street Sense gets 13% winning debut runners, and this horse is out of a dam that has produced 2 winners from 2 prior starters, but no winning two-year-olds. Likely to do better when stretched out. Taking a wait-and-see approach.

#7 CECILIA’S A GEM (20-1)

Debuted with some brief speed but an overall total clunker last time out with an eighth-place finish against maiden claimers. That doesn’t bode well for the chances today with the class rise up against maiden special weights here. Adds first Lasix, but runners from this barn don’t usually improve with first-time Lasix (0-for-18), and they don’t usually improve in their second lifetime starts (1-for-33).


First starter from a low-profile barn absolutely can’t be ignored based on the fact the dam has produced seven winners from eight prior starters including three winning two-year-olds. Certainly bred to sprint, but this sire, Taste of Paradise, gets only 4% winning first-time starters. Worktab has a few highlights. Check for tote board action and proceed accordingly.


Out of the horses in this field who’ve already raced, this horse is by far the most appealing, and she will be bet accordingly with morning line odds at 2-1 for high-percentage trainer Joe Sharp (18% wins this year, !3% winning two-year-olds, 16% winning second-time starters). Sharp is already doing solid work at the current CD meet with 2 wins and 5 finishers in the exacta from his first 15 starters. Speed rating of 77 tops these, as does her 121.7 Prime Power rating. Finished a clear third in a 10-horse field in the debut at Keeneland last time. Looms the horse to beat unless one of these first starters jumps up and bites her.


Wesley Ward first starter is actually the morning line favorite in this race at 9-5 odds, based mainly on Ward’s outstanding numbers with two-year-olds including first time starters (29% wins). Sire Uncle Mo gets 15% winning first-time starters. Dam’s first foal to race. Solid but not spectacular worktab. Hot-riding Tyler Gaffalione gets the mount. Would be a surprise to no one if she was a runner who gets the job done at first-asking for a win-early trainer, but others in the field will offer better value on the tote board.