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LOUISVILLE, KY – A pair of Kentucky Derby (G1) also-rans in Helium and O Besos get another shot at winning over the famed Churchill Downs dirt when they enter Saturday’s $150,000 Matt Winn Stakes (G3).
The Matt Winn is a 1 1/16-mile dirt route restricted to 3-year-olds. This year’s edition is the ninth event on an 11-race card and has a local post time of 4:55 PM.
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Here’s a look at the full field for the Matt Winn:
1. Ready to Pounce 15/1 – After finishing fourth on debut in a 5 1/2-furlong turf sprint at Fair Grounds, he was a dominating 4 3/4-length winner in an off-turf mile route over a good Keeneland dirt course. The waters get deeper here, but Brian Hernandez Jr. – who has a 24% win rate since the start of 2020 for trainer Neil Pessin – remains the only rider that the More Than Ready colt has known on race day.
2. Helium 5/2 – The Mark Casse trainee won 3 straight to start his career, including the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) in his 2021 debut, before entering the Kentucky Derby. He closely attended the early pace before fading to eighth in a respectable showing and should give a career-best effort in his third start of the form cycle. Expect to see him close up early and try to get first jump at the top of the stretch.
3. O Besos 2/1 – This late-running colt has only won when sprinting on dirt and while receiving race day Lasix, but his Beyer Speed Figures are the field’s best. Being known as “the wise guy horse” in the Kentucky Derby is often a death sentence for that runner’s win chances, but while he finished fifth in this year’s main event, he showed that his turn of foot can be deadly against the division’s best.
“We love running at Churchill and this race gives us plenty of options going forward,” trainer Greg Foley said. “He worked an easy 1/2-mile (in :49) Monday morning and is doing well from the Derby. We can lead him over for the race right from Barn 11.”
4. Southern Passage 20/1 – The first of two entries for trainer Dale Romans exemplifies everything we’ve come to expect from this barn: he runs and runs and runs, but boy does he not like to win. In 11 career starts, he has just 1 victory and 5 on-the-board finishes while facing much less than what he sees here, but at least that lone score (against $50k maiden claimers in the slop) came in a local 1-mile event.
5. Fulsome 5/2 – The Juddmonte Farms homebred put together a 4-1-1-0 record on turf to start his career, but he really seemed to flourish when defeating allowance rivals going a sloppy off-turf 1 1/16 miles at Keeneland in April. He repeated that success on fast Oaklawn Park dirt when winning May 1’s Oaklawn Stakes and reunites with trainer Brad Cox’s top jockey Florent Geroux (26% win rate together).
6. Hello Hot Rod 20/1 – He adds blinkers for the first time in his debut for new trainer Calo Caramori, who’s won 1 of 5 when making similar equipment changes. The Maryland-bred was sharp to start his career, winning 3 of 4 starts and missing by a neck in his lone defeat, but those were sprints against lesser. He was a non-factoring fourth in the Federico Tesio Stakes last time out, his lone prior route attempt.
7. Sittin On Go 8/1 – Romans’ second runner started his career with a bang, winning 2 straight including the 1-mile Iroquois Stakes (G3) over the local dirt last September, but that’s where the fun stopped. He finished no better than fifth in his 6 subsequent starts while facing elite graded stakes rivals, so perhaps this long-needed drop in class will wake him up – if he hasn’t already been run into the ground.
8. Game Day Play 8/1 – He won 2 of 8 to start his career before trainer Robertino Diodoro claimed him for $75k out of a third-place finish in a 6-furlong sprint at Oaklawn Park. He finished third in the Oaklawn Stakes during his first trip out for the new barn and should at the very least play a factor in the early running for a trainer with 51 recorded medication violation rulings on his record (through May 12).
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