Churchill Downs is back with another great Friday afternoon card. The Early Pick 5 features challenging races surrounding a major single in the middle of the sequence. I expect this sequence to pay for sure!

Best of luck!

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Race 1: Claiming $50,000 for 4-year-olds and upward going 1 mile (8 furlongs) on the dirt. Purse $54,000

#1 Jungle Warfare looked very impressive in his last start at Oaklawn Park, winning by over a length. He takes a slight step up but will be a tough foe. I prefer him to his entry-mate #1A Shivermetimbers, who’s struggled as of late against much better while giving lackluster performances. Both are scheduled to make their Churchill Downs debuts. #3 Curlin Rules looks like the quickest of the bunch and seems to like Tyler Baze, who rode him to a 1 1/16-mile victory at Oaklawn Park last time out and has a 5-1-2-0 record aboard overall. #5 Super Dude makes his local debut after facing tougher. He usually needs to be on the lead, which he was unable to do in his last start when Curlin Rules beat him, but Super Dude will be a great price at post-time and is a good value play, especially if he beats Curlin Rules to the lead. #6 Fort Peck owns three wins here and has looked great in 2020. The competition at Laurel Park isn’t as fierce, but he comes into this spot in great form. #7 Heavy Roller is the first runner of the meet from trainer Rob Atras, who is well-known on the NYRA circuit but needed to get his 6-year-old a start under his belt before Belmont Park resumes racing. John Velazquez getting the call is a plus.

Race 2: Maiden Special Weight for 2-year-olds going 5 furlongs on the dirt. Purse $79,000

#1 Nautilus is one of two Brad Cox runners debuting here and owns an impressive bullet work on May 16, covering 4 furlongs in :46.20. His 3/1 morning line would be a good price at post time. #4 Cazadero was purchased as a yearling for $120,000 and is by strong sire Street Sense, who also sired Maxfield, the Triple Crown hopeful who won the Matt Winn Stakes (G3). #10 Gypsy King‘s trainer, Wesley Ward, is known for his prowess with juveniles (26% winners), and he attracted top jockey Joel Rosario. #12 Knicks Front is the other Cox runner. He worked with Nautilus on May 16 at Keeneland, matching him stride for stride, and Cox’s first-call jockey Florent Geroux chose him over his stablemate.

Race 3: Claiming $5,000 for 4-year-olds and upward going 6 furlongs on the dirt. Purse $17,000

Steve Asmussen claimed #5 Flight Time last fall for $7,500, then saw him defeat this class level at Sam Houston by open lengths last time out. That field was much weaker than this group, but he still outclasses this field and gets Asmussen’s best rider Ricardo Santana, Jr., aboard. Look for Flight Time to make it two wins in a row.

Race 4: Claiming $10,000 for 3-year-olds and upward going 1 mile (8 furlongs) on the dirt. Purse $26,000  

#2 Victory Element has been the epitome of consistency, hitting the board in eight of 11 starts. Although he might be best at a shorter distance, he has talent and takes a major class drop. He has a great chance to win his third race here. #9 Roaring Fork was a consistent California runner prior to the pandemic, with both of his wins coming at this distance. Riding him is Fernando De La Cruz, who has won 3 of 11 Peter Miller runners since 2019. #10 Coworker didn’t show his best effort his last time out, breaking outwardly and getting forced six-wide in the far turn. He prefers to be near the lead and gets one of the hottest jockeys in Corey Lanerie.

Race 5: Claiming $50,000 for 3-year-olds going 1 mile (8 furlongs) on the turf. Purse $43,000

This was the toughest race of the sequence. #4 Mishko will be tough to beat. He was on a two-win streak before finishing fourth in February’s Black Gold Stakes at Fair Grounds, where he pressed Hieronymus early before fading in that long stretch run. Joe Sharp is a fantastic trainer, but his numbers off extended layoffs leave something to be desired (8%). Mishko might need a race in him after not running in three months, so I gave myself some coverage: #5 River Finn, #6 Special Day, #7 Fortheluvofbourbon, #10 Shackleford’s Joy

THE TICKET

$.50 PICK 5 (Races 1-5) 1-1A,3,5,6,7 / 1,4,10,12 / 5 / 2,9,10 / 4,5,6,7,10 – $150