First…you did notice that our 4-horse box from last week’s Mrs. Revere Stakes hit for the exacta, tri & super. Just sayin’.
Second…send your River City Handicap winner to John@ESPNLouisville.com by 4:00p ET Saturday (November 19) & if you’re the first to email the winner, tasty $25 to The Sports & Social Club is coming your way!
Saturday’s Sports Voyage
Quite a few of us who choose to live in Louisville realize there are pockets of time in this town where, seemingly, there’s absolutely nothing going on (certainly not on the sports calendar). This Saturday ain’t that day.
Saturday afternoon…at the same time…Louisville Football (@ UConn), Louisville Basketball (@ Butler) & Churchill Downs (River City Handicap) will all be in action. And for dessert…the $1,000,000 Delta Jackpot starts Kentucky Derby 2012 action too.
After watching Big East officials whistle the traitorous Pitt Panthers for ZERO penalties at Papa John’s last week, Louisville returns to the scene of the infamous “Fair Catch that wasn’t.” Another shining moment in the legendary incompetence of the Big East & its officials (as it relates to Louisville). Have I mentioned how I can’t wait to get out the Big East? Now the panicked league is inviting in Central Florida…current poster child for cheating in football & basketball…only in the Big East. Calgon (or Big 12)…take me away. Believing in the Cards is risky bid'nes this year. UConn 26, Cards 22.
Basketball should be intriguing as Cards get real road test. Two-time defending national runner-up Butler seems down this year, especially after losing to Evansville. Rick Pitino always seems to cough one or two up in the early season (insert the mighty Drexel Dragons here). Cards are a fragile bunch in need of Peyton Siva to get into better rhythm. Rumors abound that Siva might be out though. America’s most lucrative college basketball program might start walk-ons Elisha Justice or Tim Henderson at the point. Really. THREE walk-ons potentially start Saturday. I LIKE RICK PITINO...having said that, how many years has Rick been here now? Cards 67, Butler 62.
Now for all that's good & pure in this world…let’s go RACING over to Mr. Churchill's place!
After two weeks of world class racing, this year’s 34th running of the River City Handicap brings the Churchill Fall Meet back to earth. Field of eight (8) less-than-salty older horses will compete for honors in the $100,000 Grade 3 event. Surprising this field came up so soft & light on entries.
The River City Handicap dates to 1978 when it began as end-of-the-year sprint for older horses. Some great names from the days of my misspent youth dot its early history. Inca Roca won the first running, followed by Go With The Times in '79 & Tinsley's Hope in '80. Classy local runners like Raymond Earl, Tiger Lure & Rapid Gray also graced the early runnings.
The River City Handicap took its current form in 1987 when it went to its current grassy 1 1/8th miles.
River City Lineup
#1 Plutonium 8-1 (Victor Lebron)…should be wingin’ from the inside gate. Wired a muddy Churchill allowance on Breeders’ Cup Thursday by 6 lengths at 9-1 odds. Not likin’ the fact that he was largely uncompetitive this summer on the weeds at Ellis Park. Did win a soggy grass race last spring at Churchill though at 11-1. He’s lit tote board up twice this year in Louisville (off four starts). Can’t discount that (but I will).
#2 Cherokee Lord 6-1 (Mark Guidry)…easy winner last out in nice grass stake at Remington Park. Also had his picture taken twice in Arlington allowance tests this summer. Has been competitive at this level before & he’s worth a shot at a price. Speedy sort might see too much company on the front end Saturday though.
#3 Gleam of Hope 6-1 (Corey Lanerie)…upset Jefferson Cup at Churchill Downs last year at 9-1. Two starts this year in Louisville were fairly pedestrian. Found his better form in Chicago of late with win at Arlington & nice second last month in Hawthorne grass stake. Lookin’ for a way to see him upset this race.
#4 Bergerac 12-1 (Manny Cruz)…he’d be my upset choice, however, not at all convinced he cares much for the Churchill grass. His last three grass starts in Louisville were 2nd (at 4-1) & 7th (at 2-1) this past spring & a bad 4th (at 4-1) last November. Since switching from sprints to routes, he’s been stellar. Rider change from Edgar Prado to capable Manny Cruz. He’s been running lights out lately, but not at Churchill Downs. Little chance he'll end up anywhere near double digits, need solid 6 or 7-1 at least.. Jimmy Baker tightening the saddle helps.
#5 Zimmer 15-1 (Calvin Borel)…Pedro Martinez isn’t expected at the track, so first off, that’ll help him stand up in here. Makes his first stakes start in his 14th lifetime run. Only a single second place finish in four turf starts. Hasn’t even been on the grass since November 2009 here in Louisville. Last out was a nice mid-level allowance second at Keeneland (at 17-1) on the ground up snow tires (polyturf). Thinkin’ this dude was hustled into the race as it came up light on class & soft on entries.
#6 Blues Street 2-1 (Robby Albarado)…only Churchill start was disappointing 5th (at 3-1) in 2010 Woodford Turf Classic. Only an allowance win at Belmont in five starts this year. Was a nice 2nd in Grade 3 at Gulfstream, but that was early January. Was full of run in off-the-turf race last month at Keeneland. Has the back class but looks like he’s lost a step. Having said that, still might be enough to take this field into deep stretch.
#7 Allie’s Event 15-1 (Leandro Goncalves)…made a nice run at this event last year when 4th at 11-1. Winless in three allowance tries in 2011 at Presque Isle & Keeneland. Another who was full of run last out when just missing at 7 furlongs in a Keeneland allowance. Winner of that race though (A Diehl) is a plodder who rarely wins. Normally he’d be a toss-out, but this field is weak, so…
#8 Tajaweed 9-5 (Jesus Castanon)…while beaten in 14 of 19 lifetime starts, his body of work & the company he’s kept in 2011 makes him your obvious play. Couldn’t hold off Turallure in an extra tough Opening Verse Stakes on a Friday Night Racing card this past spring. Turallure just missed winning the Breeders’ Cup Mile two Saturdays ago. Tajaweed followed the Opening Verse with nice win in Grade 3 Arlington Handicap & wasn’t disgraced next out when 6th in Arlington Million. Easy winner of an Arlington allowance led to another 6th last out (to Gio Ponti) in Grade 1 Shadwell Turf Mile in Lexington. Turallure & Gio Ponti aren’t walking through the paddock door in this one. His race to win or lose.
#8 Tajaweed (9-5) WINS
#3 Gleam of Hope (6-1) 2nd
#4 Bergerac (12-1) 3rd
#6 Blues Street (2-1) 4th
Let’s box ‘em up (3-4-6-8) in $2 exacta ($24); $1 tri ($24) & .20 super ($4.80). If Gleam of Hope is 6-1 or better, we’ll go $20 WP ($40).
Finally, as you pour a nice Woody or Makers as the Saturday sun sets, it’ll be time to take a peak at the $1,000,000 Delta Jackpot from Delta Downs. This race highlights all that's right with states (like Louisiana) that got on board the casino train & states like Kentucky (thanks to David "Black Jack" Williams) that will not. By the by, Williams received the fewest statewide votes of any Republican candidate in last week’s elections. Guess when your daddy-in-law "ponies" up more than a million dollars so you can run for governor, you don’t have to care how many thousands of jobs have left the state since you dug in your heels against Kentucky's signature industry.
#1 Longview Drive 10-1 (Joel Rosario)…three straight wins at, get this, Fresno, Santa Rosa & Pleasanton. Does have Jerry Hollendorfer tightenin’ saddle though.
#2 Seven Lively Sins 9-2 (Julien Leparoux)…nice second in Churchill’s Iroquois. Son of Street Sense has look of one who’ll need larger track to run around. Certainly wouldn’t surprise if he’s a factor late.
#3 Tiz Moe 15-1 (Jamie Theriot)…easy winner against small bunch at Hoosier. Well beaten 2nd last out against My Adonis. Tiznow’s his daddy, but like Seven Lively Sins, thinking 6 furlong track won’t be his bag baby.
#4 Basmati 8-1 (Corey Nakatani)…six starts already on the tough southern California circuit. Fan of his dad, Borrego. Doesn’t have the look of anything that’ll be a factor next year. Need to see big price on him to get serious.
#5 My Adonis 4-1 (Elvis Trujillo)…never worse than second in five lifetime starts & was easiest of winners in Delta’s prep for this. Kelly Breen stopped by ESPN 680 Tuesday w/his friend Will Perdue…so there’s that. Rider Elvis Trujillo’s first-ever ride (& win) at Churchill Downs came aboard my Casey’s Jet in May of 2008, so there’s that too. Son of long-winded Pleasantly Perfect has look of someone you might see loading into gate for 2012 Kentucky Derby.
#6 Drill 2-1 (Martin Garcia)…10th in Breeders’ Cup Juvenile off top tier southern California season. Son of Lawyer Ron should like the short track & should be able to get 1 1/16th miles as a two-year-old. Thinkin’ he’ll be too short of price for my liking though.
#7 Laurie’s Rocket 10-1 (Brian Hernandez)…big time overachiever has won twice at 7-1+ odds & ran second in his debut at 45-1+. Brian Hernandez has been white hot on the longshots in last couple weeks too. Will they give me a tasty price again? Very playable is a price.
#8 Saber Cat 8-1 (Gerald Melancon)…took awhile to catch on, but last two (wins) were pretty sharp. Have to take any Steve Asmussen juvenile serious. Going to lean against though.
#9 Dougs Buddy 20-1 (Rex Stokes)…undefeated & undisputed king of Canada’s Northlands Park where he’s 4-for-4 w/three stakes wins. Has he come a long way to get hot & dirty…you bet’cha.
#10 Jake Mo 15-1 (Doug Simington)…son of Giacomo comes off never close 5th in Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Sprint. Outside post & question his talent level. Pass.
And the Delta Jackpot Goes to…
#5 My Adonis 1st
#7 Laurie’s Rocket 2nd
#4 Basmati 3rd
#6 Drill 4th
Brian Hernandez has made me a mint of late, we’re all in for Laurie’s Rocket ($20 WPS). Let’s also $2 exacta key 5,7 w/2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 ($20); $1 tri box 4-5-6-7 ($24) & $1 tri key 5, 7 w/2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 ($40).
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