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Weekly Bankroll Builder: How I'm Playing Churchill's Friday Big Pick 5

by Brian Nadeau

May 2, 2018

With a huge Kentucky Derby Weekend on-tap at Churchill Downs, let’s deviate away from Belmont Park and head to Louisville for a look at the big middle Pk5 (R7-11), which ends with the Kentucky Oaks. Whereas in the past I’ve put together one caveman ticket on a small-scale budget, going forward I’m going to try and present a bit more of an in-depth play that will utilize backup horses and tickets, while painting a broader picture of a suggested play.

*** Please take note that this analysis is done upwards of 36 hours in advance, so obviously weather, track conditions and especially late scratches can and will have an effect. Please check back around 12pm Friday for an update. ***

Race 7: 3up GIII TwinSpires Turf Sprint at 5 furlongs

With rain in the forecast, the turf course could be a bit soggy for this, which should further affect the bevy of speedsters entered, so I’m siding against anyone who wants to be on or near the front end. Enter #8 FRISKY MAGICIAN (15-1), who has a stalking/closing style, really improved off the Abreu claim last time, and will be a nice price to boot. The horse to beat is #7 VISION PERFECT (3-1), who has a hint of a rating gear too and has never been better, as his win in GP’s Silks Run last time was heady stuff. The consistent #9 BUCCHERO (7-2) is rounding into form and should be primed in his third start off a Breeders’ Cup layoff and is another who fits the race profile, as does #1 DELECTATION (6-1), who is facing the boys off an October layoff and probably wants longer, but who wants to toss out a Wesley Ward sprinter in Kentucky right now?

Pk5 A horses (listed in order of preference): 8,7,9,1

Tossing all the speed runs the risk of being out after Leg 1 if someone catches a flier at the start, gets brave and forgets to stop, but I think it’s the right play, so even on my B backups I’m still not using any pure pace players. A pair of stalkers from New Orleans figure underneath, as #10 WILL CALL (6-1) looked good at FG but didn’t fire over soft ground in the GII Shakertown at Keeneland last time (so take note of the turf condition here) and #2 FLASHAWAY (5-1) wasn’t far behind in Nola, and if he doesn’t bounce off his last, could surprise.

Pk5 B horses (listed in order of preference): 10,2

Race 8: 4up GII Alysheba at 1 1/16 miles

Budget players will be singling Kentucky Derby hero Always Dreaming (see below), who could be a Lone F, but as a guy who is on record saying he will not win another race, I can’t call him an A. The two I’ll use are #4 BACKYARD HEAVEN (9-2), who should be pressing the issue from the outside and could open up a huge lead if ‘Dreaming doesn’t fire, and #1 GOOD SAMARITAN (5-2), who may need a pace meltdown, but is primed for a big campaign this year off a huge return win in the GII New Orleans at FG. The former is unproven, has never run in a stakes or at two turns, but comes in off a huge figure win for Chad Brown, while the latter wants longer to show his best, but might simply be too good for these regardless.

Pk5 A horses: 1,4

The aforementioned #3 ALWAYS DREAMING (3-1) is one of the more fortunate Derby winners in the last half-century, as he rode a huge inside bias to victory, and hasn’t won since, and while his comeback in the GII GP Handicap was solid, he’s still a huge play against as an A, positive race flow and all. If you’re going to the C-line, then #5 Hoppertunity (3-1) should be used, but he may be second-tier at this point against this type, while #8 Awesome Slew (5-1) has always been a better one-turn horse and could/should opt to run over that trip Saturday on the Derby undercard.

Pk5 B horses: 3

Race 9: 3f 75k/N1X at 7 furlongs.

I’m not getting cute here, as #2 ELECTRIC FOREST (3-1) really tipped her hand with a sharp debut win for Chad Brown, is bred to be a really nice sprinter, and just seems better than an average bunch. You won’t get rich betting her to win, at a lot lower than this weak ML (think 7/5 by post), but by singling her in the horizontal exotics, you’ll guarantee more value.

Pk5 A horses: 2

There’s not a ton of speed here, which means #3 C P QUALITY (10-1) should be close throughout, and her debut win at OP, which I saw in person, was a lot better and more polished than it looked. She has a ton of upside, and it’s worth noting that Von Hemel was about 3% with firsters going into her debut, which further speaks of her quality. You could use others, as #1 Saint’s Girl (10-1) will like getting back to one-turn, #4 Upset Brewing (9-2) has some class to her, #5 Maho Bay (10-1) may need to be caught, #6 Devine Mischief (7-2) could get first run off ‘Bay, #7 Beautiful Street (8-1) should only improve second-off the long layoff, and #10 Sworn Silence (8-1) goes for a potent Cox barn, but I think Electric Forest could be special, so that’s not the type I want to spread deep trying to beat.

Pk5 B horses: 3

Race 10: 3f GIII Edgewood at 1 1/16 miles on the turf

There is little doubt the undefeated #11 RUSHING FALL (4-5) is the most likely winner and will be odds-on, but there are a few potential chinks in her armor, so at extremely short odds, I’m not going to single her. I’m actually trying to beat her with #7 TOINETTE (12-1), who has had a lot thrown at her in three lifetimes starts but has handled it all and notably really improved trying two turns last time. Yes, she needs to step up to beat the heavy chalk, but it’s a big sign of confidence that Drysdale ships here, and the fact she’ll be several lengths ahead of ‘Fall entering the far turn, at maybe 10 times the price, is a big bonus too. I mentioned a few possible chinks in Rushing Fall’s armor, and while they may be nit-picking, you’re allowed to do that when talking about a likely $3.40 winner. First, as awesome as she’s been in winning all four starts, Rushing Fall really isn’t that much faster than any of these gals on figures, which really negates her margin for error in a big field. Second, this post is a worry, so much so that Chad Brown entered her Saturday against the boys (where she drew wide again), and while she’s rallied wide and won easily before, again, her margin for error is slim. So, point being, yes, she’s likely going to win, I just don’t think she’s got the winning chance the toteboard will tell you.

Pk5 A horses: 7,11

For what it’s worth, I voted for Rushing Fall as the champion 2yof, and her comeback was as good as any of her wins last year, so I don’t want to go too deep trying to beat her. However, #4 FIGARELLA’S DREAM (12-1) is very interesting, as she might be a Lone F and could really improve off her win in GP’s Sanibel Island last time, as she was a private purchase after that race and now goes into a potent Cox barn. If you want to go even deeper, #1 Got Stormy (20-1) just missed to ’Dream last time, while Rushing Fall’s stablemate #3 Altea (6-1) should improve off her US debut after just missing in the GIII Florida Oaks at Tampa.

Pk5 B horses: 4

Race 11: 3f GI Kentucky Oaks at 1 1/8 miles

The big one has two decisive favorites in #10 MIDNIGHT BISOU (5-2) and #14 MONOMOY GIRL (2-1) and a bunch of others trying to get to their level. I’ll use both as A’s, but neither is a lock and I want more coverage on that line. My top choice is actually #4 CHOCOLATE MARTINI (12-1), who just keeps getting better off the Amoss claim, gets a huge jock switch to Castellano, will be a nice price, and should sit the right kind of stalking trip too, in a race with a lot of speed. She needs to improve off her GII FG Oaks win, but I see no reason why she can’t, at a trip she figures to like a lot more than the others. The two favorites are rock solid, with ‘Bisou getting the nod over ‘Girl, since the former has a running style better suited for the race flow, while the latter is drawn poorly and could run the risk of getting caught up in a pace that looks very honest, and maybe even fast.

Pk5 A horses: 4,10,14

The obvious wildcard is #7 RAYYA (12-1), who will be nowhere near this price, since she now runs for the first time for Baffert and was just 2nd (albeit a football field behind) against Derby
hotshot Mendelssohn in the GI UAE Derby at Meydan. Truth be told, I have no idea what to make of her, but she does add Lasix and has run farther (twice) than today’s distance, and both of those are big positives. That’s it for me, though #2 Coach Rocks (12-1), #3 Classy Act (15-1), #5 Wonder Gadot (20-1), #11 My Miss Lilly (10-1) and #13 Eskimo Kisses (15-1) will all get some support and would hardly be impossible if they pick today to run a lifetime best.

Pk5 B horses: 7

The main A ticket is 4x2x1x2x3 for $24, and that’s our starting point. But by adding in our B horses in with the A’s in the other legs, we can get more coverage and allow for some margin for error too. As you’ll see below, the backups tickets are a more cost conducive way of getting added coverage, without breaking the bank; if we combined all the A’s and B’s, the ticket would cost $216, (6x3x2x3x4), whereas this way is a more manageable $92. I’m also an advocate of playing you’re A ticket for $1 (or more), so you capitalize if you handicap it out of the park.

Main Ticket: 8,7,9,1 with 4,1 with 2 with 7,11 with 4,10,14 = $24

R7 B Backup: 10,2 with 4,1 with 2 with 7,11 with 4,10,14 = $12

R8 B Backup: 8,7,9,1 with 3 with 2 with 7,11 with 4,10,14 = $12

R9 B Backup: 8,7,9,1 with 4,1 with 3 with 7,11 with 4,10,14 = $24

R10 B Backup: 8,7,9,1 with 4,1 with 2 with 4 with 4,10,14 = $12

R11 B Backup: 8,7,9,1 with 4,1 with 2 with 7,11 with 7 = $8