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 Friday, November 22 runners below for Churchill Downs races 8 and 10!
Churchill Downs – Race 8
Maiden special weight, two-year-old fillies, 1 1/16 miles
#1 FORCED FAMILY FUN (10-1)
First starter with a fast worktab for trainer Ben Colebrook, who is off to a 4-for-20 start to the current CD meet. Sire Uncle Mo wins with a good 15% of his first-time starters and the dam has produced six winners from seven prior foals to race including four two-year-old winners. Colebrook’s percentage of 8% wins with first starters is not as good as his stats in other categories, and this will be a tough 1 1/16-mile two-turn assignment for a first-time starter to handle. Cost $450K as a yearling purchase, so all other signs look positive for this horse that shouldn’t be ignored at first asking.
#2 TEMPERS RISING (5-2)
Owns the top Brisnet Prime Power rating of the horses in this field who’ve already raced at 122.7 and has been in the money in all four career starts to date. Still looking for the maiden win and is a two-time beaten favorite in the last two races, which some will consider a negative strike against this horse. However, both of those races were still very solid efforts at today’s distance. The runner-up finish from two starts back was a performance good enough to win most races at this level locally, and the distant second-place finish last time happened after a troubled trip. Much too early to give up on this horse, who very well could turn out to be the horse to beat.
#3 I WAS LOOKING UP (20-1)
Both starts to date were on the grass, so this will be her main track debut. Perhaps the switch in surface will be what the doctor ordered, because this $425k yearling purchase by Empire Maker has done very little so far, finishing eighth in the Laurel career debut and then 10th last time out at Keeneland. Trainer Dane Kobiskie wins with 17% of his runners going from turf to dirt. Chance for improvement exists, but prefer to see more before jumping on the bandwagon.
#4 SEATTLE SLANG (10-1)
Trainer Steve Asmussen started the meet going great guns with 10 wins but had cooled off in the last week or so. He’s already had a couple of chances with this horse here at Churchill, including a turf race in the career unveiling during the summer meet and then a distant third here last time at this distance in the main track debut. Tapit baby sold for $600k as a two-year-old in training and dam has produced four winners including two stakes winners from six prior foals to race, but not any two-year-old winners yet. Has shown some ability, but must improve to win and prefer to use her in the underneath positions in the exotics.
#5 NEW DAY DAWNING (9-2)
Comes in off a second-place finish in her last start at this same distance for trainer Rodolphe Brisset. That race was on the turf, and this race is back on the main track where she started her career two races ago with a fifth-place finish in a sprint. But the dirt should pose no problem for this runner, and it might even prove to be a positive. The runner-up finish last time was solid in a race where she was 4 ½ lengths clear of the third-place finisher. Her Prime Power rating of 122.6 is just a hair behind Tempers Rising for tops in this field, and Brisset has posted a very encouraging 6-for-14 record with horses routing for the second time. Two bullet workouts since last raced look great and add vastly to this horse’s appeal. Expecting a win with the switch back to the dirt.
#6 BOURBINA (30-1)
Trending in a positive direction with Speed figure improvement noted in the three lifetime starts so far, which were all off-the-board finishes in sprints. Even so, however, this horse will obviously have to show more if she is going to make a dent here. Needs to improve based on the stretch-out, but trainer Jason Cook is 0-for-7 with first-time routers. Has shown some speed in the last couple of races, but will need to find a way to stretch that speed out around two turns, and others look better.
#7 POWDER RIVER (12-1)
Finished sixth in both career outs so far for trainer Norm Casse, both in turf routes where she failed to challenge at any point in either race. Exited a key race in the career debut at Ellis Park and then was bet down to 5-1 odds in the second race but failed to deliver anything positive that day. Norm Casse has been good going turf to dirt with 4 wins from 17 starts for 24% with the limited sample size. Prime Power rating lags behind at 113.3 (10th). Certainly bred to get a distance, but she will need to show more to beat these.
#8 NAVAL LAUGHTER (12-1)
First starter from trainer Ken McPeek, who is not having a meet to write home about (2-for-29, 7%) and generally does very little winning with first-time starters at 5%. Sire Midshipman wins a solid 16% with his first-time starters, and this horse sold for $90k as a yearling which is 10 times Midshipman’s stud fee. Worktab shows promise, but prefer to wait until next time.
#9 LADY MCKENZIE (9-2)
Making her fifth lifetime start and exiting by far her best effort so far when second here at Churchill Downs at this level in a one-mile race. Now stretches to two turns for the first time and tries to build upon the improvement she showed last time, which is certainly a possibility. Note, however, this spot looks potentially a lot tougher than the seven-horse field she was a part of last time out, and she was 0-for-3 in the money in her three prior outings. Prime Power rating of 117.1 is only good enough for sixth best here. Lost to Tempers Rising back on September 13 here at Churchill, but if you base your pick on her last-out speed rating, she stacks up very nicely against this field.
#10 SENSE A MILLION (15-1)
Debuted with a sixth-place finish in a sprint and then if anything took a step backward last time out when finishing seventh in the first stretch-out attempt to this longer distance. Has yet to show any speed or be involved at any point in either race so far. Trainer Ian Wilkes having a solid meet at 5-for-26 (19%) in the win column, but the negatives outweigh the positives for this filly today.
#11 MISS IMPORTANT (6-1)
Finished a vastly-improved third last time out in the same race where Lady McKenzie was second, which calls into question again the strength of the field both fillies faced that day. Well, at least according to the BRIS Speed rating of 80 for this horse, the race seemed for real, so certainly she can threaten to graduate again today if able to muster another similar effort. The stretch-out to one mile certainly seemed to agree with her as she was able to show pace-pressing speed that was completely lacking in her first two starts, so perhaps even more improvement is on the way here today with the stretch-out to two turns for the first time. Far outside post will not help the cause.
#12 RHYTHM TREE (15-1)
Draws the far outside post 12 and it will take a big effort to win from out there in the parking lot. As mentioned before with Wilkes’ other runner in this race, the barn is enjoying a solid Churchill meet with 5 wins from 26 starters for 19% wins. This filly’s first couple races were not bad looking, but those fourth- and third-place finishes came against maiden claimers, and today’s tougher assignment will come against maiden special weights. Prime Power score of 113.3 leaves something to be desired. Not expecting much.
#13 AE SUMMER EXPRESS (20-1)
First on the also eligible list, this Neil Howard trainee will try to draw in and progress from her first start where she finished sixth in a seven-horse field – and well-beaten by a pair of today’s same rivals at 31-1 odds. If she draws in, she’ll be far outside. Tough to take.
#14 AE LOADED (5-1)
Loaded and very interesting horse unfortunately needs help to get into this race from the also eligible list. Exits a pair of solid second-place finishes to begin her career, including a loss to repeat next-out winner Turtle Trax in the career debut followed by another second last time behind a very heavy favorite. She’s beaten a bunch of horses already in those two starts, and unless there is a true standout entered in the main body of this field like the ones who’ve beaten her so far, she could spell trouble for the favorites in this race who will all be hoping she needs to scratch.
Churchill Downs – Race 10
Maiden claiming $50,000, two-year-olds, 6 furlongs
#1 SUPER VALENTINE (15-1)
While this horse has been competitive at Indiana Grand and Mahoning Valley with a pair of in-the-money finishes, this will be a tougher tack here at Churchill Downs. Shows up against maiden claimers which is realistic, but he’s already failed to graduate versus maiden claimers at Indiana. Speed figures don’t stack up against the top horses in this field, and the Prime Power rating of 102.3 is only good enough for sixth best in this spot.
#2 DEMI PATRICK (12-1)
First starter from trainer Dallas Stewart has generally shown very little in morning workouts in preparation for this debut, and Stewart is not known for winning with first-time starters with only 6% wins in the category. Stewart has also been struggling so far at the current meet with 2 wins from 33 starters (6%). Sire Mucho Macho Man wins with 11% of his first starters First starter out of winning dam. Prefer to wait till later.
#3 BIRD IN THE HAT (20-1)
Showed very brief interest early in six-furlong career debut at Keeneland before fading to last beaten 30+ lengths at 28-1. Not much to base a selection on from that first outing, but at least there is some hope with this horse dropping in class down versus maiden claimers and trainer Philip Sims winning with 13% of his second-time starters. Had an encouraging four-furlong workout at Keeneland on November 10 in :47.2. Wouldn’t doubt that some improvement could be on the way today, but it’s highly questionable whether that improvement will be enough to make him a contender.
#4 INGENICO (50-1)
Has had four cracks at it so far with absolutely nothing to show for it, beating a total of only two horses in the four races combined. Has already tried a variety of spots on turf and dirt with no results. Prefer others.
#5 CHITTO (5-1)
Class drop today down versus maiden claimers, but bettors might find this horse coming up a bit short in the past performances so far after two outings to date have resulted in sixth- and eighth-place finishes, turf and dirt respectively for trainer Joe Sharp. Actually did show early interest last time out in an improved effort before tiring, and we can’t blame those who give a runner from this barn the benefit of the doubt. Sharp runners win 20% of the time when class-dropped from maiden special weight to maiden claiming. Runners from this barn have hit the exacta in 5 of 16 starts so far at the current Churchill Downs meet. Needs big improvement, even if you acknowledge that it’s far too early to give up.
#6 MACHINE GUNNER (20-1)
Showed a little bit more last time out in a turf sprint at Kentucky Downs than he did in the first career outing on dirt way back at the Ellis Park meet in a fifth-place finish, beaten 10 lengths at 39-1 odds. Low-profile barn takes over the training duties today and goes back to the drawing board, but this horse has a lot to prove based on what we’ve seen so far, and if anything this horse might do his best running later and with a stretch-out.
#7 WENT (9-2)
Making fourth lifetime start and the best outing so far, according to the BRIS Speed ratings, was the turf mile race two starts ago where he finished a non-threatening fifth. Trainer D. Wayne Lukas still looking for his first in-the-money finisher at the meet after his first 12 starters all fizzled. Drops in class versus maiden claimers for the first time, which is an 11% move for Lukas, and cuts back in distance from routes into this sprint, which is also an 11% move lately for the Hall of Fame trainer. Just not seeing enough speed or overall quality in the outings so far to make us believers. Pass.
#8 WYOMING CONQUEST (6-1)
Finished third in first outing last time, but note that was against a field of $30k maiden claimers. Showed good early speed and tallied a solid 70 BRIS speed rating with room for improvement. All-time Churchill great Calvin Borel picks up the mount for trainer Gary Thomas, who has won with one of his last 11 second-time starters. Best chance is to get out in front and hope for a clear early lead. Not likely in this big field, but sure looks better than most of these and is certainly not impossible.
#9 SKY RIDE (4-1)
Drop in versus maiden claimers was nearly enough to do the trick for this horse last time out. He rallied for second and was beaten only a head in a solid effort with a much improved BRIS speed rating of 79, which is enough to put him squarely in the mix against today’s field. Note the barn switch to trainer Michelle Lovell, who clicks 11% first off the claim. Should be sitting back off the pace and will be charging late. Major contender.
#10 THE FALCON (15-1)
First starter from trainer Anthony Quartarolo, who has won with 2 of his last 11 first-time starters. Sire Union Rags gets 11% winning first starters, and dam’s only foal to race so far was a winner (but not at age two). Sold for $60k as a two-year-old, which is certainly encouraging, but the fact the horse debuts for $50k maiden claiming is not a good sign. This horse may need this race and may do better when stretched out. Watching today’s race and will proceed from there.
#11 TAP ATTACK (3-1)
Many positives and some negatives as well. Invades from Remington, where he did hit the board in all three outings to date, but note that all three times he went down in flames as the favorite and burned a lot of money in the process. That’s worth noting today because this horse is likely to be favored again as he makes his Churchill Downs debut. Enters at the correct level, down versus maiden claimers for the first time, and has top connections in his favor with trainer Steve Asmussen getting his main man Ricardo Santana Jr. aboard. Speed figure last time out was far above what the others in today’s field have accomplished so far, but when the chips were down and he had a chance to win, he ultimately fell short in the stretch run. Deserves to be the favorite, but the odds will be low and he might end up settling for second again. Box the exactas.
#12 CAN IMAGINE (12-1)
First-time starter for trainer James Baker, who has won with 3 of his last 19 first starters. Workouts not jumping off the page so far, but the horse is bred to sprint and could come out running at first asking. Sire Can the Man getting 16% wins with first starters, and dam has produced two winners from two prior foals to race, but no two-year-old winners. Check for tote board action and proceed with caution.