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 Saturday, November 2 runners below!
Churchill Downs – Race 6: Maiden special weight (6 furlongs)
#1 MATCH RUNNER (15-1): Part of the Calumet Farm entry along with also eligible Hard Pass, this horse breaks from post 9 for trainer D. Wayne Lukas. The colt was a $160,000 yearling purchase by Hard Spun out of a dam that has produced a stakes winner, so there’s probably a lot to be optimistic about. Perhaps, however, not today. Lukas is winless with his last 100 first-time starters. Maybe later, and a stretch-out also wouldn’t hurt.
#1A (AE) HARD PASS (15-1): The other part of the Calumet entry is an also eligible drawn out in post 15 for trainer Dale Romans, who wins with 9% of his first-time starters. This is the dam’s fourth foal to race, and the first three have yet to win. Like the stablemate, this horse is by Hard Spun, but of the two runners, this horse is more likely to benefit from today’s six-furlong distance. Wait and see.
#2 CHILL HAZE (7-2): First-time starter for trainer Stan Hough, who has won with three of his last 15 first starters (20%). Overall in maiden special weight races, Hough has won with eight of his last 25 starters (32%), and this horse cost $100,000 as a two-year-old from $5,000 stallion Justin Phillip. Draws the rail, which is often a tricky proposition for juvenile first starters, but based on the two-year-old sales price, it would be no surprise whatsoever if this horse came out running for win-early connections.
#3 LITTLE MENACE (3-1): Expensive first-starter for trainer Steve Asmussen sold for $460,000 as a yearling, which is more than three times the stud fee of sire Into Mischief. First foal out of an unplaced dam. Channing Hill is aboard. Asmussen wins between 18-21 percent in all relevant categories, which is good, except by his standards.
#4 STRONG ENDING (15-1): Making career debut for trainer Brian Lynch, who wins 9% with his first starters from a 134-horse sample. Steady Churchill Downs worktab has one or two highlights. Cost $90,000 as a yearling and is bred to sprint all the way. Dam has been a strong producer, with five winners from six foals to race so far, including one stakes winner. Sire Strong Mandate wins with 13% of his first-time starters.
#5 TENDERFOOT (20-1): Trainer Ian Wilkes is winning at 14% overall in 2019, but he’s only a 6% winning trainer with first-time starters, indicating it’s clearly better to wait before taking the plunge on his babies. By sire Graydar, who wins with 11% of his first-time starters, and out of a stakes-placed dam who produced one winner from two prior foals. That winning sibling won as a two-year-old. Owns some decent workouts, but with this barn it’s generally better to give them a race or two before going to the betting windows.
#6 TADEO (12-1): One of only four horses in this field who have already raced, he debuted with a distant sixth-place finish in a loaded Saratoga maiden race, and then showed improvement here at Churchill last time in the second career start, but it took a drop down in against maiden claimers and it only resulted in a fourth-place finish. Rises back up in class in against maiden special weights today, but trainer Bill Morey has won with only one of his last 12 such moves with maiden class rises. Owns some early speed, so he could threaten for a spot in the money if these first starters in this field don’t show up with good debut efforts.
#7 CLIFTON PARK (12-1): Never threatened when trailing the whole way in last-place career debut effort at Saratoga Labor Day weekend. To be fair, that maiden race won by Gouverneur Morris was absolutely loaded and this race is likely to be softer. Nevertheless, there are very little grounds for a positive opinion on this horse according to what we’ve seen so far. Romans wins with 19% of his second-time starters, so at least there is hope that improvement is on the way.
#8 BLIP (8-1): Was well-bet in Keeneland career debut last time out in October 4 race won by Ingrid Mason-trained longshot Lykan, who improved greatly moving from Polytrack to dirt. This horse, meanwhile, broke slow in that 12-horse field and never got involved at any point in the race despite going off very live on the tote board at just a tick under 4-1. Trainer Ken McPeek doesn’t do a lot of damage with his first starters but improves to a 20% trainer with his second-time starters. Just needs a better break out of the gate today, because it’s far too early to give up on this guy.
#9 LIBERTY BLUE (12-1): Another entrant trained by McPeek, this horse is a first-time starter and McPeek wins with only 5% of his first starters, as opposed to his 20% win percentage second time out. Beyond the barn’s low-percentage stats with debut runners, there is plenty of reason to believe this horse has some talent. He was a $150,000 yearling purchase, which is 10 times the stud fee of $15,000 sire Constitution, who so far has been winning at a 22% clip with his first-time starters. The dam has produced four winners from five prior starters, but none of them won at age two. Lots to like, but prefer to wait until later.
#10 NO SHIRT NO SHOES (20-1): Trainer Doug Anderson wins with 10% of his first-time starters, and sire Shackleford sends out 11% winners with his debut runners. This horse is 20-1 odds on the morning line, but it is worth noting that this horse’s dam has produced three winners from four prior foals to race, and all three of those horses won at age two. Couple gaps in the worktab, but based on mom’s stats with her two-year-old runners, it would be a mistake to overlook this horse in what looks like a wide-open spot.
#11 BANGO (7-2): Owns this field’s higher Prime Power rating of the four horses in the bunch who have already raced, and has looked promising at times in three prior outings to date including in-the-money finishes in the last two starts. Best race so far was a second-place finish two races ago in a seven-furlong race here at Churchill where he led in the stretch but got caught in the late stages to settle for second by three-quarters of a length while five lengths clear of the third-place horse. Distant show finish last time out looks a lot better now that the runner-up in that race, Relentless Dancer, came back to win his next start. Trainer Greg Foley won his first start of this Churchill fall meet. Blinkers on. All systems “go.”
#12 WINNING IMPRESSION (12-1): Trainer Dallas Stewart wins with a modest 7% of his first-time starters. This horse by Paynter sold for $77,000 as a two-year-old, which is six times the stud fee. Paynter wins with 10% of his first starters. This is the first foal to race out of a winning dam. Worktab steady. Jockey Miguel Mena off to a good start at the meet with four wins and eight exacta finishes from his first 19 mounts.
AE #13 FRONT MAN (15-1): First on the also eligible list makes career debut today for trainer Dan Peitz, who is not known as a high-percentage trainer of first-out winners (won just one of his last 20). Stakes-placed dam has produced one winner from three prior foals, and sire Pioneerof the Nile wins with 11% of his first starters. This horse is bred to win with more distance, so perhaps wait for a stretch-out.
AE #14 SINGER MCGEE: Also eligible horse could be a sneaky factor in this race if able to draw into the field at 15-1 odds on the morning line. Sire Warrior’s Reward wins with 12% of his first starters, and the dam has produced three winners from three prior starters, and all of them won at age two. Ships in from home base at Fairmount Park, and you can bet they’ll come here for a reason. Live at a price, if not today then next time if they can’t draw in.