#1 Keen Ice – Since the Kentucky Derby this horse might be the most consistent horse in America! He’s consistently gotten better all year, and even though American Pharoah wasn’t on his “A game” in the Travers it still took a great performance to beat him and Keen Ice did just that. With the pace set up the way it was in the Breeders Cup Classic finishing fourth wasn’t a terrible outcome for Keen Ice, and he’s training like a monster leading up to this race today. I think the long stretch of Churchill Dows is going to be his advantage, and I have faith there will be enough pace for him to get up in time. It’s hard to believe this horse has only won twice, but his earning of nearly 1.8 million dollars shows his class. If anyone deserves to win this race it’s Keen Ice.
#9 Race Day – After coming to Oaklawn and looking amazing winning the Razorback and Oaklawn Handicap I felt like Race Day could be the next big star, but his races in the summer were AWFUL in every way. After finishing 6th in Grade 3 and 9th in a Grade 1 (getting beat by a combined 30 lengths) I thought the horse was finished and would not be heard from again. Then he ran his eye balls out in the Grade 2 Fayette Stakes on the Breeders Cup undercard and surprised a lot of us! The “real” Race Day will have every chance in this race, and has a tactical advantage over who I believe are his two biggest competitors in Keen Ice and Hoppertunity. Will the “real” Race Day show up once again? We’ll find out Friday!
#6 Hoppertunity – Went back and fourth on whether to put him in the “Likely Winners” or “Exotic Plays” and finally landed in this spot. He is the defending champion of this race, and really even though he’s only won once since last years Clark Handicap he’s ran some solid races. Last time out on the Breeders Cup undercard he fell way behind in the Grade 2 Fayette Stakes but still nearly caught the speedy Race Day to finish second. I still have him ranked behind Race Day in this one, however I feel like that race was extremely strong and both horses ran exceptional. If Hoppertunity can find a way to lay a little closer today he’ll give himself a nice shot at winning.
#5 Protonico – Has not looked good in his last two starts, but this will serve as his third race off the layoff so there is a little hope for improvement. Also, check out his record at Churchill Downs…2 races with a win in a Grade 2 and a second place effort in this exact race last year. I’m not sure he’s the same horse he used to be, but if he’s going to show his old self again today is the day. Didn’t have the guts to put him on top, but I could see him rounding out the trifecta or superfecta.
#3 Mr. Z – Of course Mr. Z will run in this spot…why not?? This horse has danced every dance this year, and even when you thought he couldn’t dance anymore he found another one to tackle. You have to like and respect his soundness, and he’s about as honest as they come. He’s become very consistent in his races lately…always tries to run with some of the front runners, usually stays with the slower ones, and carries on to the wire. He has absolutely no chance to win this race, but playing him underneath is never a bad option.
#7 Shotgun Kowboy – “Oklahoma’s Horse” must step outside of the state for the first time today, but I don’t believe you can totally throw him out. Two races back he was a wire to wire winner in the Oklahoma Derby, and if he can run that race again he’ll factor into the equation here. He’s one of the best Oklahoma breds we’ve seen in a long time, and his trainer C.R. Trout knows how to get a horse ready to fire big races. This is a tall order for his first race outside of Remington Park which is why I couldn’t put him in the “likely winners” category, but I do believe he has enough of a chance to make him worth a small wager.
#8 Effinex – I must be crazy…throwing out the morning line favorite?!? Sometimes when you see a dominate performance like American Pharoah’s Breeders Cup Classic, and things can get fluky for the minor awards which is what I believe happened last time out. Can’t say I’d be totally shocked if Effinex won, he’s a good horse, but at these odds there is no way I can bet him.
#4 Frivolous – She will most likely scratch from this race in favor of the Falls City Handicap against females. She won that race last year and is a logical win candidate for that race once again.
#2 Looks to Spare – Simply too tough of a spot for him here. Overmatched.