Race 1: Maiden Special Weight for 2-year-old maidens going 4 1/2 furlongs on the dirt. Purse $79,000

#1 Cowan debuts for Steve Asmussen, who has won 22 leading trainer titles at Churcihll Downs but is looking for his first win of the current meet. Cowan’s sire, Kantharos, produced multiple graded stakes winners World of Trouble and X Y Jet and hits at 18% with 2-year-old first-time starters. I will also use the Wesley Ward runner, #12 Sheriff Blanco. Julio Garcia has done well with Ward before (winning 30% from 23 mounts since 2019) and the Speightster colt recently fired a 4-furlong bullet at Keeneland.

Race 2: Claiming $30,000 for 3-year-olds and upward going 1 1/16 miles (8 1/2 furlongs) on the dirt. Purse $34,000

I couldn’t find any strong opinions here, so five runners found their way onto my ticket. #2 Galindo made his 2020 debut in February at Fair Grounds, finishing last of eight against allowance/optional claiming horses. He’s finished second in all four starts at Churchill Downs, plus the class drop and this being his second race off of the layoff makes him tough to beat. Other Runners: #5 Holy Muchacho, #6 Runnin’ Ray, #7 Oro de Tejano.

Race 3: Claiming $25,000 for 4-year-olds and upward going 7 furlongs on the dirt. Purse $37,000

#3 Hardly a Secret is a fan of Churchill Downs, finishing first or second in five of his nine local starts. The trend of Oaklawn Park runners doing well here has stayed true to form so far this meet, and that should continue here. #5 Around the Dial is an extremely consistent runner who steadied early last time out but still had a great chance to win, only fading late as a result of rushing up to reengage midway through. #6 Spokane Eagle‘s early speed should play well in this spot. He’s won two of three starts at this distance three times and Joel Rosario is one of the country’s best jockeys. #10 Lionite outclasses this group, having beaten much tougher last time out while running for a higher price tag. I’m using him defensively, but because speed dominated opening weekend, he must be included on all multi-race tickets.

Race 4: Maiden Claiming $10,000 for 3-year-olds and upward going 6 furlongs on the dirt. Purse $24,000

This is a very low-level race for a Ken and Sarah Ramsey runner’s debut, but #6 Spelling Bee should fare well against this field. As I talked about in the opener, the Ward/Corrales duo is tough to beat. #11 Taino House doesn’t have an official workout since the end of March, but he looked spectacular that morning. He was scratched as an Also-Eligible against maiden claiming $30,000 on opening day, so I have confidence that he can beat this much cheaper group in his debut. #12 Rivers of Lite raced at Will Rogers Downs a little over two weeks ago, just missing by a neck. His first three races are good enough to win as he adds blinkers for the first time.

Race 5: Claiming $8,000 for fillies and mares 4-year-olds and upward going 6 furlongs on the dirt. Purse $25,000

There are two horses that are much better than the rest of the group. #9 Sturdy One was on a three-race win streak before losing her most recent start. She is the quickest of the bunch and should be on the front end early. The most likely runner to catch her is #10 Sweet Carli, who’s shown an ability to grind out victories by staying just a few lengths off of the lead. Expect Martin Garcia to employ the same tactics that he did last time out with her. This looks like a two-horse race on paper.

THE TICKET

$.50 PICK 5 (Races 1-5) 1,12 / 2,5,6,7 / 3,5,6,10 / 1,6,11,12 / 9,10 – $128