December 1, 2023

Street Sense, Rags to Riches highlight Churchill Downs opener

V V's Dream in The Pocahontas (G3) at Churchill Downs
V V's Dream in The Pocahontas (G3) at Churchill Downs (Photo by Coady Photography)

Although it’s being held less than a week before the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1), Sunday’s $200,000 Street Sense (G3) at Churchill Downs is gaining influence as a long-term predictor.

Among the last five winners of the 1 1/16-mile test for two-year-olds was Improbable, the favorite for the 2019 Kentucky Derby and future champion older horse. Last year the Street Sense was won by Two Phil’s, an outstanding second to Mage in the Derby last May.

With the Street Sense being added to the Road to the Kentucky Derby series for the first time this year, the field has come up stronger than usual. The respective top five finishers on Sunday will earn 2024 Kentucky Derby qualifying points of 10-5-3-2-1.

Moonlight might go off a slight favorite in the Street Sense on the back of a devastating eight-length maiden win going a mile at Aqueduct. The Todd Pletcher trainee sported blinkers for the first time that day, though it’s worth noting the son of Audible was entered for turf in both outings so far.

Generous Tipper edged stablemate Northern Flame for third in the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) earlier this month, 4 1/4 lengths behind the Breeders’ Cup-bound winner Locked. Generous Tipper has done best so far when not outpaced in the early going.

Liberal Arts rallied for third in the one-mile Iroquois (G3) in September and might appreciate racing two turns for the first time. That might not be the case, though, for Informed Patriot, the likely pacesetter whose maiden margin of victory last out was decreasing at the end of seven furlongs.

The unexposed Gettysburg Address and Parchment Party were winners of their respective debuts for notable barns, but both are late foals and concede relative maturity and experience to the top players.

The other stakes on the first Stars of Tomorrow program at Churchill is the $200,000 Rags to Riches for two-year-old fillies, also at 1 1/16 miles. The 2024 Kentucky Oaks (G1) qualifier will also award points of 10-5-3-2-1 to the top five.

V V’s Dream, an easy winner of both starts at Churchill, including an 8 3/4-length romp in the Pocahontas (G3), is the class of the Rags to Riches field. She certainly wouldn’t be out of place in next week’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1), for which she was pre-entered, but might stay home after finishing second in the Alcibiades (G1) last time.

Among the last-out maiden winners to watch for is Twirling Good Time, a four-length scorer going 5 1/2 furlongs at Churchill for trainer Phil Bauer, who is enjoying an excellent season while winning at a 24 percent clip.