by Jerry Shottenkirk
June 15, 2018
Backyard Heaven goes for a Grade 1 win in just his five career starts, and while the beginning of his career was very much delayed, it’s better late than never, right?
Trainer Chad Brown didn’t give Backyard Heaven his 1st start until Sept. 17, 2017 – deep into his 3-year-old season. He proved his mettle last time when he battled early on and then drew off with the Grade 2 Alysheba at Churchill on Derby Day. The Tizway colt was a $150,000 purchase by Ken and Sarah Ramsey way back in September of 2015, and the wait has been worth it, especially with the relatively low price.
You cannot take a great deal of his first three starts, but the Alysheba win clearly was impressive.
When he enters the gate as the favorite for the Stephen Foster Handicap Saturday night at Churchill, he will have his toughest test to date and he’s a key player in the Pick 5, which runs from 5th through 9th races.
The Pick 5 is a particularly strong challenge because of some odds-on favorites, mainly Ax Man in the Matt Winn (5th race), World Approval in the Wise Dan (6th) and Backyard Heaven. Beat any of those and you have a healthy payoff.
World Approval is the single on this suggested ticket. As a 6-5 favorite in the Wise Dan, World Approval will be singled on a lot of tickets, and rightfully so. His four-race win streak came to an end in the G1 Kilroe at Santa Anita last time, but he was particularly impressive in that string, which include wins in the Fourstardave, the Woodbine Mile and the Breeders’ Cup mile. While his latest was a big disappointment, he’s likely to recover in this spot.
Ax Man is 4-5 in the Matt Winn, and while impressive in his last two, he’s in much tougher than he’s been. He’s 3 of 4, is trained by Bob Baffert and will be ridden by Mike Smith. Any of those factors would be enough to make him a favorite, and the combination makes him odds-on.
Not so fast with a single in that one. Combatant has been in wars that were all better than what Ax Man has faced, and while he’s still eligible for a non-winners of two allowance, he’s likely to recover his good form and is a legit player.
The Fleur de Lis is the toughest in the sequence and is the first spread race on the ticket. Fillies and mares used here are Blue Prize, Streamline, Valadorna, Apologynotaccepted and Farrell.
It’s wise to include Backyard Heaven on your ticket, but he’s not alone on mine. Hawaakom is a lovable 8-year-old who is having his best season, is a solid threat. Horses with his running style aren’t consistent but are very capable. Recent claim and upstart Matrooh, Wood Memorial and Pimlico Special winner Irish War Cry and and southern California stakes regular Pavel aren’t without a chance.
The anchor of the Pick 5 is the Regret Stakes and is a real crapshoot. Heavenly Love is the 5-1 morning line favorite. Consolida, Finess Bere and Go Noni Go look good here and are included on the ticket.
Here’s the suggested ticket for the Pick 5 at Churchill Downs:
Race 5) #5 Combatant, #7 Ax Man
Race 6) #4 World Approval
Race 7) #3 Blue Prize, #4 Streamline, #7 Valadorna, #8 Apologynotaccepted, #9 Farrell
Race 8) #3 Hawaakom, #5 Matrooh, #6 Backyard Heaven, #8 Irish War Cry
Race 9) #2 Consolida, #4 Finess Bere, #12 Go Noni Go
50-cent Pick 5: 5-7 with 4 with 3-4-7-8-9 with 3-5-6-8 with 2-4-12 ($60).