by Brian Nadeau
November 24, 2017
Potential Abounds in Churchill’s Kentucky Jockey Club
Wednesday, November 22, 2017 by Xpressbet Race Chat Host Brian Nadeau
While Churchill Downs will host the GI Clark Handicap for older rivals Friday, and Aqueduct will counter with the prestigious GI Cigar Mile next Saturday, hope always springs eternal in horse racing, which is why Saturday’s GII Kentucky Jockey Club for 2-year-olds will likely be the main attraction this week in Louisville. And with good reason, as several would-be stars will get a chance to toss their hat into the ring as soon-to-be 3-year-olds to be reckoned with, since, as we all know, it’s never too early to talk Kentucky Derby.
With a total of 17 points going towards Kentucky Derby qualifying and a two-turn race over the very track said Derby is run over, not to mention a $200,000 purse and a grade II ranking, it’s no surprise the Jockey Club drew a robust field of 14. Deciphering a winner won’t be easy, especially since the 14 horses ran over a combined six different tracks in their last start, while testing dirt, turf and Tapeta. Basically, there’s going to be a lot thrown at the wall, and what sticks is a big guess at this point. But there are some clues, so let’s see what we can come up with.
The throwouts: While the morning line has yet to come out, it’s pretty safe to say #3 JOHN TIPPMAN will be in the 30-1 range, and rightfully slow, as he’s the slowest horse on paper and his lone win came against a weak crew sprinting at Ellis Park this winter. After that, there’s really isn’t a horse that I see that simply can’t win, it’s that type of race.
The fringe contenders: Here’s where things get a little dicey and it really comes down to the eye of the beholder, as you could make a case for the rest of the field, though you could also make a case that the rest of the field are win candidates too. In this group I’ll lump in #4 ARRIVAL (only finally broke through in his fifth career start), #5 GIVEMEAMINIT (classy, but still a maiden, so the hurdles are significant), #7 PROMISES FULFILLED (yet to try two turns and could get used up on the pace), #8 HIGH NORTH (slow MSW win, though he does add Lasix today), #10 BRAVAZO (GI-placed, but very slow on paper), #13 LONE SAILOR (tough post and could have traffic trouble) and #14 PEPPERED (talented, but has never run on dirt).
The win candidates: As I said above, the win candidates could be easily interchanged with the fringe contenders, based on personal preference, but I’ve got #1 GOTTA GO (stakes win locally, drew well, should like two turns), #2 DIAMOND KING (unbeaten and untested, bred to love two turns, goes for very crafty connections), #6 ENTICED (solid 3rd in GI Champagne, should love two turns, not like McLaughlin to ship without the goods), #9 RERIDE (versatile, unbeaten, yet to run past 4 ½ furlongs on dirt, but bred to love this trip and beyond), #11 QUIP (a real wildcard for an unknown trainer in Brisset, but has impressed in both wins), #12 TIZ MISCHIEF (progressing for Romans, owns a two-turn win, can sit the right kind of stalking trip).
The verdict: In a race where you could make a case for 13 of them, taking value seems paramount, which is why I’ll side with the unknown who seemingly has a high ceiling and play DIAMOND KING, since I have the utmost respect for owner Cash Is King Stable (of Afleet Alex fame), and a view of both his Parx wins says there’s a ton of untapped potential here. ENTICED seems to be going the right way for McLaughlin and should really move up going two turns, and don’t forget that rousing BC Juvenile winner Good Magic was 2nd in the Champagne. Dale Romans has really built a penchant for developing a nice 3yo, and TIZ MISCHIEF fits the bill, so while he has to answer the class question, the gut says he will. It’s tough to leave out the house horse, GOTTA GO, but there’s also little doubt he needs to improve off his Street Sense win if he wants to be a player here, let alone win.