September 28, 2022

Horse-by-horse guide for Churchill Downs juvenile maidens on November 1

Dennis' Moment and jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. capture the Iroquois Stakes (G3) at Churchill Downs on Saturday, September 14, 2019
Dennis' Moment (blue silks) winning the Iroquois (G3) at Churchill Downs (c) Coady Photography

Races with juveniles can be challenging to handicap and formulate opinions when the two-year-old talent has limited experience racing. Our writers have compiled talking points for each runner for most of such races for the fall meet.

Find Friday, November 1st runners below!

Churchill Downs – Race 2: Maiden Special Weight, 2YO fillies (1 mile)

#1 GRETCHEN: Exits a non-threatening seventh-place finish in career debut where she never got involved in a tough two-turn 1 1/16-mile assignment at 45-1. The second-place and third-place finishers from that race returned to finish second and fourth in a loaded Churchill maiden race on Sunday. Adds blinkers on here today and the possibility certainly exists from second-out improvement, but there’s no doubt she’ll need to show more today to contend for a minor placing.

#2 LADY JENNEVIERE: Actually broke her maiden in a turf sprint at Kentucky Downs but was disqualified and placed second that day, and then came back in a one-mile turf race last time out and settled for second again as the beaten 3-5 favorite after breaking from the far outside post versus males in a 10-horse field which definitely didn’t help her chances. Knocking on the door versus maidens for trainer Brad Cox who wins at a high percentage in just about any category, including turf-to-dirt moves. Does show one dirt line in her past performances in a 5 1/2-furlong sprint at Ellis Park in her career debut, and that fifth-place finish looks a lot better now that the race has become a key race, with both the winner and the third-place horse coming back to win their next starts. Speed ratings stack up nicely against these. Looms the horse to beat.

#3 MERITATEN: Yet to finish better than fifth in three career turf tries so far for trainer Al Stall. Obviously they think this is a turf horse, but you can’t blame them for trying to switch things up today and give this horse a wake-up call with the move to the dirt. Stall shows average numbers with his turf-to-dirt moves. This horse had an opportunity to improve last time with the stretchout to two turns for the first time but failed to make any headway when fifth in that Keeneland one mile turf race. Will need big improvement on the new surface to post the upset.

#4 MISS IMPORTANT: No dice when tenth in 50-1 career debut turf outing at Kentucky Downs in a race that has turned into a key race since then, and then had the chance to improve last time out when switched to the dirt at Keeneland, but was never involved in that race either after trailing an 11-horse field much of the way en route to a sixth-place finish but with a lesser speed rating. Stretches out to a route for the first time today, and that’s a strong positive winning move for trainer Ken McPeek, whose runners often need a race or two to round into their best form to start their careers. This horse has no early speed at all that would be suitable sprint success, so you can’t blame those who take an optimistic stance on this horse as she gets a distance to run at for the first time.

#5 SUMMER EXPRESS: First starter for trainer Neil Howard, who does not win at a good percentage with his first-time starters. Debuts with Lasix with a steady, if not flashy worktab. Howard has won with 1 out of his last 7 first starters debuting in a route, so there is some hope today, especially in this field that seems to lack a standout. .

#6 LADY MCKENZIE: Flopped on the turf last time out, but there is plenty of reason for optimism today with the switch back to the main track for trainer Jinks Fires. The best career outing by far so far was her second start, where she stretched out to a mile here at Churchill Downs and ran a very competitive fifth versus a 12-horse field, beaten just 1 1/2 lengths with a speed rating that stacks up favorably against today’s competition. The runner-up in that race came back to break her maiden in her next start, and the third-place finisher has since run second twice in a row. Seems likely to land in the exactas in this spot along with Lady Jenneviere.

#7 OCCASION: Making career debut for trainer Rusty Arnold, who has been having a big year so far with several strong meets under his belt already as we start off the fall season at Churchill. Arnold’s success in many categories has not carried over to his two-year-olds, however, as he shows win percentages of 10 percent or lower with two-year-olds, first starters, and first starters debuting in route races. Worktab looks solid, including a very good four-furlong drill in :47.4 breezing at Keeneland on Oct. 19 which was sixth best of 102 horses on the worktab that day at that distance.

Churchill Downs – Race 7 – Maiden Special Weight, 2YO fillies (6 furlongs)

#1 CATECHISM: Drew post 11 in a 12-horse field at Keeneland last time and was sent off at 70-1 odds, but somebody forgot to tell the horse that he was an outsider – both literally and figuratively – in the race when she chugged along for a solid third-place finish in a debut that looks even better now that the runner-up from that race has already come back to win in her next start. Karakontie baby cost $30k as a yearling, and trainer Doug Anderson is more than capable of winning with his maiden second-time starters (16%). Speed rating of 84 is best compared to the other horses in this field who’ve already started, and his Prime Power rating of 123.0 is second-best in this race behind Dancing Destroyer on the also eligible list, but tops amongst horses that have drawn in the main body of field.

#2 SPEEDY VANESSA: American Pharoah baby making first career start for trainer Graham Motion seems to have landed in a winnable spot for the career debut. Good-looking worktab mostly at Motion’s base at Fair Hill indicates this runner has some ability and should come out running despite Motion’s tendency to bring his young horses along gradually to begin their careers. American Pharoah is just starting his stud career and has 16% winning first starters. Dam has produced seven winners from 10 prior foals to race, but just one win from her seven foals who started as two-year-olds.

#3 PALACE AVENGER: Still looking for the maiden win in the fourth career outing for win-early trainer Wesley Ward after being sent out as the favorite in career debut back on July 3 at Belmont but mustering only a fourth-place finish that day. Was never involved at Saratoga in her second career start, but then really sprang to life last time out at The Spa, showing vastly-improved early speed and holding on for a clear second in a seven-horse field at 5 1/2 furlongs with a solid speed rating. Needs to go an extra half-furlong today at six furlongs, which might not help the cause based on what we’ve seen so far, but it might not matter because she might be long gone if able to one again flash the same type of good early speed versus this crew.

#4 LUCKY DIME: Shortens up in her fourth lifetime start after a seven furlong outing at Saratoga followed by two mile races at Belmont to start her career. Really wasn’t too bad in the first couple tries, hitting the board with third- and second-place finishes. Showed front-running speed at a mile last time before emptying out and tiring to a distant fifth, so perhaps this distance cutback to six furlongs will be just what the doctor ordered, and we already know this horse has ability based on the first two lifetime outings in New York. Leparoux picks up the mount for Bill Mott. Expecting a positive rebound.

#5 ALL IN HARMONY: First starter debuts for trainer Joe Sharp, who wins at a high percentage across several different categories although first-time starters is not necessarily one of them with 11% wins overall and only 9% in maiden special weight races. Sire Palace Malace wins with 17% of his first starters, and this horse was a $140k two-year-old purchase. Worktab includes some pretty solid drills, including a sharp five-furlong work in the mud at Keeneland going :59.1 breezing from the gate.

#6 BECKINSDALE: First starter by Curlin for trainer Ken McPeek solid for $100k as a yearling, which is not a big number for a Curlin baby. McPeek not known for his success with first-time starters with only a 5% winning percentage. Curlin gets 13% winning first-time starters. Dam was a stakes winner and four of her five prior foals were winners including three who won as two-year-olds. Plenty of reason for optimism, but can’t blame those who wait until next time.

#7 TOO PRETTY: Sent off at 74-1 last time out in the career debut and didn’t do much running en route to a tenth-place finish, beaten 18 lengths. Adds Lasix here today which certainly could help matters considerably, but this horse will need to improve a bunch in order to contend. Trainer Dan Peitz wins 7% with his second-time starters.

#8 MUSIC IN THE AIR: Dallas Stewart-trained first starter from sire Creative Cause, who wins with 11% of his first-time starters. Stewart also does not own a high percentage of first-out winners at just 7% overall. Dam was a winner whose one winning foal to date from two starters is a stakes winner. Worktab has some highlights, but has not been flashy of late.

#9 WICKED SMART: Got off to a slow start in 6 1/2 furlong career debut last time out at Churchill, then rushed up to press/stalk the pace but emptied out due to those early efforts and faded to fifth beaten 12 lengths. Certainly has room for improvement if she gets off to a better star today, because it appears she has some early speed in her arsenal if able to get out of the gate today. Attracted some tote support at around 5-1 odds last time in that career debut for trainer Tom Amoss, which also has to be considered a positive sign. Amoss wins 21% with his second-time starters. Big chance to improve today and should make a dent it able to get a decent start.

#10 GLORIOUS GAL: Finished sixth in career debut last time out, but has a legit shot to improve here today if she gets off to a better start after being bothered early and beginning near the back of an 11-horse field in the career debut. Trainer Dan Peitz wins with only 7% of his second-time starters. This horse adds first-time Lasix, which perhaps could help out today long with the possibility of a better break.

#11 TICKLE: First starter by Distorted Humor, who wins with 16% of his first-time starters, out of a dam who has produced two winners from three to race, but none at age 2. Trainer Ben Colebrook wins for a good percentage overall, but at just 9% with his first starters from a 140-horse sample. Keeneland worktab looks promising, but seems bred for more distance both top and bottom, so you can’t blame those who wait for this horse to stretch out.

#12 BELLA MISCHIEF: Sent off at 57-1 odds in the career debut and then didn’t do much running last time, failing to get to the front and then steadily fading to finish a well-beaten 11th in a 12-horse field. Trainer Joe Petalino is 0 for his last 13 with second-time starters. This horse will need to show much more to contend.

#13 HALAMA: First starter for trainer Brendan Walsh, who does not win at a high percentage generally with his first-time starters. This filly buy Pioneerof the Nile seems to have a better than average chance, however, debuting with first-time Lasix and a solid worktab. Cost $200k as a yearling and could come out running if able to draw into the field.

#14 SWEET BAY: Ready to make career debut for trainer Michelle Lovell with a solid, steady, but unspectacular worktab showing in preparation for this first start. Lovell does not win a whole lot with two-year-olds, and is 0 for her last 15 with first-time starters overall.

#15 DANCING DESTROYER: Hit the board in both outings so far for trainer Norm Casse, including a front-running third-place finish going five furlongs at Ellis Park followed by a second-place finish at this distance here at Churchill last time out after battling for the lead most of the way on fast fractions. Definitely one of the top contenders if she’s able to draw in today.

#16 RUBY Y’ALL: First starter based at Indiana Downs for trainer Cipriano Contraras, who usually wins at a solid percentage overall but is not known for sending out many first time starters. Shaun Bridgmohan is named for the mount, and rode a $38.40 winner in his only prior mount for this stable.