by Jeremy Plonk
October 29, 2018
Morning line favorite Strike Silver closed from the clouds at Keeneland, but will have a tricky starting spot from the rail. Not only will he be first to load, but the field absolutely figures to take his spot. Jockey Julien Leparoux will have to carve out a trip. There’s a solid run to the only turn, so don’t discount wide draws at first blush.
With Europeans in posts 2,3,4 it could be a bad neighborhood inside with their propensity for Breeders’ Cup gate issues, especially at this age. Those drawn widest must be best to overcome ground loss or drop-back closers. You’d really like your chances in the middle of this gate as it turns out.
Morning line chalk Bellafina will have to overcome post 10, widest draw of all. She’s a forward-placed sort with plenty of speed to her inside. It’s almost inevitable she’ll have to lose ground on the clubhouse turn or be hard-used to overcome and cross over. This race has been feast or famine over the years in terms of prices, and you may be feasting on a bigger number now.
Current is poorly drawn in post 12 off a good Bourbon Stakes victory, and morning line favorite Anthony Van Dyck is even farther out in 14. This is a race with a 4-1 morning line chalk and probably got even more crazy post-draw. Uncle Benny drew really nicely in post 2 and will save ground before launching his move.
Speedball Knicks Go in post 10 outside of Game Winner (No. 9) is very interesting. Complexity is the other key prep wire-to-wire winner of note, so the post 6 for that one puts the 8-5 morning line chalk Game Winner potentially between horses if he doesn’t relax. Code Of Honor from post 11 figures to drop back and save ground with his late run, while 14-Signalman may drop a bit farther back early because of the draw and come with his rally.
Morning line favorite Marley’s Freedom (8-5) drew nicely in post 13 with an eternity to the first and only turn going 7 furlongs. There are no major advantages or disadvantages at this trip.
Posts 3-4-5 are my preferred draws in turf sprints at this kind of configuration, so that’s good news for Hembree, Vision Perfect and 7-2 morning line favorite Disco Partner. Conquest Tsunami drew the 14-hole and looks fastest of all from the gate. He’ll need to be to clear and conquer. He seems to have drawn a break with Pay Any Price not going into the final lineup in terms of early heat.
Probably the race where post means the least, the run to the only turn is forever, and the run until the chute meets the track proper is long enough that the inside doesn’t feel any push down. The outside draw for 8-5 morning line favorite Catalina Cruiser offers more benefits than negatives. Principal challenger City of Light drew the rail and has plenty of natural speed to make good of that.
Around 3 turns with a short run to the first bend, outside horses can give some ground here. The Europeans are harpooned in 13 and 14, while 3-1 morning line favorite Sistercharlie drew well in post 6 among a quintet for Chad Brown. If you can identify some inside speed in this race, you could do well and perhaps outrun the odds.
Promises Fulfilled goes full throttle from the 2-hole. It’s a great draw in 5 for Imperial Hint, the 9-5 morning line favorite. He’ll be outside the principle speed threat. Defending champ Roy H draws widest in the 9-hole and likely will come 3-wide or so on the turn. Whitmore down on the rail will have to navigate some late, but they should leave him early. He’ll just need a path and fortunate only 9 have entered.
A full field of 14 is signed on, but don’t be afraid of the outside draws. They tend to do far better historically than you’d think. Giving away ground for traffic isn’t a bad deal here. From 11-out you have quality Europeans and Chad Brown’s 3YO Analyze It. Post 5 for Oscar Performance looks to be a good spot for a potential lone speed situation. 4-Polydream, the 5-1 lukewarm morning line favorite, drew very well.
In a match-up of the last 2 Kentucky Oaks winners, Monomoy Girl drew post 11 as the 2-1 morning line choice, while Abel Tasman will start from the 2-hole. You can expect Abel Tasman to come out firing from an inner-draw and be the aggressor in a field without much early pace. Baffert also has Vale Dori in post 8 who can keep tabs on Monomoy Girl, if you will. Calvin Borel starts on the rail at Churchill with Champagne Problems if you’re price shopping.
The baker’s dozen in the Turf goes around 3 turns, but with a bit more run into the first turn than the F&M Turf. Still, it doesn’t hurt to save some ground here. Even-money favorite Enable got post 2, and there’s zero complaint there. Defending champion Talismanic found the rail in hopes of re-awakening form. Waldgiest, whom many consider the big European threat to Enable, drew poorly in the 12-hole.
There are no major plusses or minuses in just the draw for 1-1/4 miles and a field of 14. Bob Baffert’s pair of McKinzie (6) and West Coast (7) have nothing inside of them to worry about early, but will have Mendelssohn potentially breathing some fire from post 9. If I had to pick a winner here, it would be Mendelssohn…if he shows up at Churchill Downs. Morning line favorite at 5-2, Accelerate starts in post 14 and it’s not a big deal given his running style and eternal run to the clubhouse turn.