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 8th runners below for races 7 and 8 at Churchill Downs!
Race 7: Maiden Special Weight (1 mile)
#1 Frank Senior: Half-brother to versatile graded stakes winner Term of Art sold for $550,000 as a yearling and has the pedigree to handle a mile. Raced greenly when fourth as the favorite in his first two starts at Ellis Park, but Ian Wilkes trainees tend to improve with experience, and Wilkes strikes at a 27% rate with beaten favorites. Has the talent to be a player, but needs to work on his mental game.
#2 Yashima: Never got close in his debut sprinting at Churchill Downs, but did pass tired rivals late while finishing behind a couple of next-out winners. Breeding suggests improvement while stretching out in distance, and the addition of blinkers could sharpen his speed. Improvement seems probable, but will it be enough?
#3 Lynn’s Map: Ran evenly to finish third on debut at Churchill Downs and stretches out another furlong today. 83 Brisnet speed figure is competitive and not far off the race par. Sire won Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) and half-sister Exclusive Diva was a four-time black-type stakes winner running six furlongs to a mile, so he has enough pedigree to handle this one-turn mile. In the mix.
#4 Bourbon Wisdom: Never contended on debut at Keeneland when finishing far behind Predator, who competes for a claiming tag in Race 3. Has a stout pedigree and could improve second-time out for Ian Wilkes, but will need a big step forward to challenge the favorites.
#5 Cernan: Half-sister Baccaret Honor was a juvenile winner, as was sire Malibu Moon. $500,000 yearling purchase is bred to win early and carry speed over a mile, promising possibilities for the high-profile team of Ricardo Santana Jr. and Steve Asmussen. A dangerous first-time starter.
#6 Lucky Curlin: Knocked heads with future graded stakes winners By Your Side and Basin in his first two runs and has shown improvement since stretching out in distance, not surprising given his stamina-oriented pedigree. Showed more speed last time with addition of blinkers and should be involved from the outset again. Trainer Mark Casse wins at a 26% rate with horses defeated as the favorite in their previous run. The one to beat.
#7 Untap: Lukas trainee was never ahead of a single rival when debuting on turf at Keeneland. Son of Tapit might appreciate switch to dirt, an 11% move for Lukas, but would need a boost in tactical speed to contend. Modest half-mile maintenance breeze on October 28 doesn’t hint at improved early foot. Half-brother Get Jets was a juvenile stakes winner, but he’ll need improvement to follow in those footsteps.
#8 Obiwan: Soundly beaten on dirt and Tapeta in his first two starts while failing to flash early speed, but did make a strong mid-race last time out before flattening out. Stoutly-bred colt returns to dirt and drops blinkers for second route try. Might be capable of better, but needs a big step up in the speed figure department.
#9 Dreams of Yvonne: Son of Liam’s Map is bred for this distance, but has drawn wide for trainer John Ennis, who is 0-for-31 with recent first-time starters. Work tab includes a bullet five-furlong breeze on October 18, but the best from this colt might come with time and experience.
#10 Total Destruction: Broke slowly and faded after making a mid-race move at this class level last month. Stretches out another furlong for Neil Howard, who improves his strike rate from 9% overall to 14% with horses running long for the first time. Keep in mind, though, half-brother Ransom the Moon was a two-time Grade 1-winning sprinter. Wide draw could stretch the stamina of this Sam-Son Farm homebred.
#11 Shared Sense: Godolphin homebred ran evenly on debut at Keeneland while posting an 85 Brisnet speed figure, the best in this field. Top jockey Corey Lanerie takes over the mount for high-percentage trainer Brad Cox, 4-for-15 at the current meet and a 27% winner with runners stretching out in distance. Son of Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Street Sense was produced from a mare by Preakness (G1) winner Bernardini and should stay a mile. Serious contender for high-profile connections.
#12 Ahsad: Has only been so-so in three starts running long on grass, but breeding suggests a switch to dirt could be beneficial. On the other hand, trainer Daniel Peitz strikes at just a 4% rate with juveniles and with runners transitioning from grass to the main track. Wide draw is another challenge for this Shadwell Stable homebred.
#13 Mayberry Deputy: Work tab is solid and hot jockey Corey Lanerie is named to ride, but trainer Kenny McPeek rarely wins with first-time starters. Son of fast sprinter Majesticperfection could be set for a wide trip if he draws in off the also-eligible list.
Race 8: Allowance/Optional Claiming (6 1/2 furlongs)
#1 Takeitback: Grass filly tries the main track after a couple of speed-and-fade efforts going long. Faced tough field in Jessamine (G2) last time out; winner Sweet Melania came back to finish third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1). Secured lone victory over this distance at Kentucky Downs and breeding is strongly geared toward dirt. Addition of blinkers and bullet three-furlong blowout suggest a front-running gambit is in the offing. Could take a big step forward.
#2 Bean: Threw down some fast speed figures on Tapeta at Presque Isle Downs and is stakes-placed over this distance, but breeding suggests running long will be her forte. Bernardini sires stout types, while half-siblings Overture and Mexikoma were stakes winners running 1 1/16 miles or farther. Trainer Larry Rivelli boasts a 32% strike rate overall, which drops to 19% with runners switching from synthetic to dirt. Bullet half-mile move on November 3 is encouraging, but this $340,000 weanling purchase might be best down the road.
#3 Western Taffy: Showed early potential sprinting on synthetic and turf, but was trounced when stretching out and trying dirt in the Alcibiades (G1). The competition was fierce though, as winner came back to claim the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) and runner-up was already a Grade 1 winner. Return to sprinting might seem ideal at first glance, but pedigree leans toward routing and half-brother was stakes-placed running 1 1/16 miles on synthetic. It’s possible dirt isn’t her strong suit.
#4 Lil Miss Hot Mess: Never threatened in stakes debut running long on turf at Kentucky Downs, but broke her maiden sprinting on dirt and should appreciate the return to favorable conditions. Sharp workout over sloppy track on October 26 suggests readiness for first start since August, and trainer Kenny McPeek wins at an 18% rate off layoffs of this length. Entered for $75,000 claiming tag and might be in too deep to win, but could get a piece with the right setup.
#5 Misty Blue: Churchill Downs maiden winner tries allowance company again after fading at Keeneland. Best Brisnet speed figure is competitive and hot jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. takes the mount. Has the speed to be a pace presence and a contender for the exotics.
#6 Into Humor: Daughter of leading sire Into Mischief broke maiden on Polytrack, then wasn’t disgraced when third on dirt at Keeneland. Needs to improve in the speed figure department, but slight distance cutback could help for hot trainer Chris Block, who is 2-for-3 at the current meet. Warrants respect.
#7 Kodikova: Posted competitive 81 Brisnet speed figure when winning turf sprint debut at Ellis Park. Faded when stretching out to a mile at Churchill, but Brendan Walsh wins at a high percentage when cutting runners back in distance (25%) and when transitioning horses from turf to dirt (19%). Leading rider Corey Lanerie retains the mount. Third time might be the charm for this daughter of champion sprinter Speightstown.
#8 American Legend: Daughter of Triple Crown winner American Pharoah has some tactical speed, but seems stuck in a rut from a speed figure perspective. Half-sister Co Cola was graded stakes-placed sprinting on dirt, but American Pharoah’s progeny have been widely excelling on grass. Might be better-suited to the lawn than another try on dirt.
#9 Baileston Lassie: Belterra maiden winner has been soundly beaten in three races on the Kentucky circuit. Wide draw could be tricky for filly seemingly lacking the tactical speed to clear her rivals and save ground around the turn.
#10 Indy Takes Charge: Sharp debut winner went off form during the summer, but bounced back to miss by a head in an allowance race at Keeneland. Stoutly-bred filly was gobbling up ground late and might have won with a clean trip, but full-brother Take Charge d’Oro has been best running 1 1/16 miles or farther. A clear contender, but might be better-suited to racing around two turns.
#11 Turtle Trax: Finished behind Misty Blue with a tough trip on debut, but showed improved tactical speed to break maiden at Keeneland by 3 1/4 lengths. Solid 83 Brisnet speed figure ranks among the best in the field. Further improvement could be on the horizon for this half-sister to stakes-winning juvenile sprinter Backtohisroots. Ian Wilkes runners improve with experience and Julien Leparoux retains the mount; together; Wilkes and Leparoux have won at a 38% rate over the last two months. A serious contender stuck in a tough outside draw.