Horse Racing Picks for Saturday, May 30: Best Bets, Exotics and Longshots for Churchill Downs
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For Today’s horse racing preview I’m focusing on Churchill Downs, but rather than break down the entire card or focus on an entire sequence of races, like a Pick 5, I’m instead going to key on races where I have a strong opinion.
Today’s card at Churchill features 11 races and gets going at 1 p.m. ET.
New to Horse Racing?
For those of you that might be new to horse racing, the wagering pools are pari-mutuel, which means that, unlike in sports betting, you aren’t trying to beat the house but rather the public at large. The key to long-term success in betting the ponies is being disciplined in identifying value in the pools.
Speed Ratings and Beyer Speed Figures
Speed ratings are relative performance indicators that allow us to compare performances across tracks where not all factors are even. Some tracks might be naturally faster like Gulfstream or Santa Anita, where the surfaces are harder, compared to a track like Belmont or Aqueduct, where the surfaces are generally a bit deeper.
They also account for the condition of the track as most horses will travel slower over softer ground. This means that simply comparing times is ineffective as they need some kind of leveling factor.
That’s what is built into speed ratings and they give a nice, although imperfect indicator of relative performance and ability.
A relative strength index for the field of a specific race. This gives you an idea of the level of the competition the horse was facing, as it can vary wildly from track to track even with the same win conditions.
How often do favorites win in horse racing?
Generally speaking, the favorite in horse racing wins at about a 35% rate but that number varies depending on the number of horses in the field. Armed with that knowledge you might want to just pick the favorites, frequently known as the chalk, but a closer look at the implied odds shows that you’d need average odds of 2-1 or better to break even on “win” bets.
So, in order to profit horseplayers must pick and choose the horses that they feel have a better chance to win than their implied odds, which is known as positive expected value (+EV). Expected value is not unique to horse racing and something that all bettors should get familiar with if they want to succeed.
2 p.m. ET
This maiden special weight event for fillies and mares was the first race that caught my eye. The entrants will be running 1 1/8 miles over the turf course.
Typically, it’s difficult to have a strong opinion in a maiden race, well because none of them have ever won, but most of these runners have experience under their belts.
I landed on No. 12 Flying the Colors (5-1) for trainer Graham Motion in this race. She’s bred up and down to love the turf, being sired by War Front and out of a Galileo dam. Both of their offspring win at 16% in turf starts.
Flying Colors started her career back in 2018 and after two starts was sent to the sidelines for 18 months. While this is typically a red flag, she came back off the layoff in March at Tampa and ran a competitive second, only missing by 1/2 length.
She should appreciate the added furlong in here today as the average winning distance for War Front’s offspring is 7.4 furlongs and Galileo’s is 10.4 furlongs.
Flying Colors is also getting blinkers for the first time which typically indicates they want her to have more speed earlier in the race. Motion’s horses win 25% when they wear blinkers for the first time, 19% in turf starts and 19% in route races.
The Bet: No. 12 Flying Colors to win
3:36 p.m. ET
Race 6 is an $81,000 allowance race for three year olds. It will be run at a mile and an eighth over the turf course. With a full field of 12 this will be a competitive race.
Towards the outside is No. 11 Tabled (6-1), who is trained by Michael Stidham, This gelded son of Super Saver switched over the turf earlier this year and hasn’t looked back. He has two wins and a second in three turf starts and that second-place finish was only by a head.
His speed figures have continually improved in each turf start and that trend will need to continue for him to win here. Tabled’s tactical speed will be beneficial, especially considering his post position. Stidham is 20% coming off a 31-60 day layoff, 19% with turf starters and 17% with last out winners (when his horses won their last race).
The other horses to consider and watch out for in here are No. 6 Noble Order (6-1), No. 10 Tiesto (5-2) and No. 12 Angelus Warrior (12-1).
The Bet: No. 11 Tabled to win; 11/3,7 Double
Race 7: The Winning Colors Stakes
4:08 p.m. ET
Race 7 is one of two graded stakes races on the card. The Grade 3 Winning Colors is for fillies and mares four years old and up and will be run at 6 furlongs over the main track. This is a very competitive field of 9 runners with six of them being graded stakes placed.
My top pick is No. 7 Spiced Perfection (7-2). This will be her first start for trainer Mark Casse. She is a perfect 3-for-3 at today’s distance and it seems like she’s an “every other” type of horse, meaning that she wins every other start dating back to April 2019.
Last time out, she finished a disappointing fourth in a graded stakes race at Gulfstream in January. If the pattern holds true, Spiced Perfection should win here.
The other horse that I took a long look at is No. 3 Princess Causeway (12-1). While she’s taking a big step up in class, her running style may prove to be the difference for her.
On paper there looks to be a lot of pace in this race with No. 1 Sneaking Out (12-1), No. 2 Break Even (9-5), No. 6 Take Charge Angle (20-1), No. 8 Mia Mischief (8-5) and No. 9 Lady Subee (20-1). If the pace is as hot and contested as it looks on paper, Princess Causeway will be picking up the pieces late.
The Bet: 3,7 Exacta Box
5:12 p.m. ET
Race 9 is an optional claiming $62,000, 5 1/2 furlong turf sprint for fillies and mares three years old and up. This is another full, deep field of 12.
If she draws into the race, my top pick is No. 13 Hidden Facts (4-1). She will need to overcome her outside post, but has the tactical speed to do so. She has two wins, four seconds and one third from 12 starts over the turf, with her most recent outing being three weeks ago at Gulfstream where she finished third by 1/2 length.
Simply put, her speed figures are by far the best in this race. Between that and the bullet workout on May 21st, she should win this race.
I also considered No. 8 Cardamon (8-1) for trainer Bill Mott. She will be trying turf for the first time, but her breeding suggests she should like the grass. Her early speed should put her in contention out of the gates and she’s coming in off a win on the dirt at Oaklawn.
I also gave a look to No. 11 Dixieincandyland (9-2), who is coming off a win at turf course at Gulfstream. Over her last four starts, she has alternated wins, while never finishing worse than third.
The Bet: Pick 3: 5,8,11,13/7/2,14
5:44 p.m. ET
The 10th race is an optional claiming $62,000 for non-winners of two going 1 1/16 miles over the main track.
I ended up on No. 7 Fearless (2-1). The Todd Pletcher trainee has shown versatility in his running style winning from front end or being able to close, albeit he by missed 2 1/4 lengths while rallying from way back last time out.
Hopefully jockey John Velazquez has him closer today and can use his turn of foot coming for home to sweep past the rest of the field.
The Bet: No. 7 Fearless to win
Race 11: Old Forester Mint Julep Stakes
6:16 p.m. ET
The nightcap is the Grade 3 Old Forester Mint Julep for fillies and mares four years old and up, which will be run over the turf course at a distance of 1 1/16 miles.
No. 14 Mitchell Road (10-1) is my top pick as she’s one of the only horses that has early speed, while the rest of this field will be doing their best running late.
Mitchell Road has six wins and five seconds from 13 career turf starts, but has never raced at Churchill. At the distance she has three wins and three seconds from six career starts. At the price, she was too hard to pass up.
The other horse that interested me is No. 2 Beau Recall (4-1). Since switching over to the Brad Cox barn at the end of 2018, she hasn’t finished worse than second in seven starts, winning four of them. She is also 1-for-1 over the Churchill turf course.
While this will be the first start of her 2020 campaign, she has been training consistently since the end of April and she should be ready to fire in this spot. Her biggest question mark is will there be enough pace for her to close into.
The Bet: No. 14 Mitchell Road to win; 2, 14 Exacta Box