Memorial Day Weekend features outstanding racing across the country, including Saturday's six-stakes card at Churchill Downs that culminates with the Aristides Stakes. The Race 10 anchor is a 6-furlong sprint that attracted a field of 10. The sequence of stakes also includes the Grade 3 Matt Winn and Grade 3 Regret. The Aristides is named after the first Kentucky Derby winner in 1875.
TAP IT TO WIN is Grade 1-placed, but in search of his first stakes win. EMPIRE OF GOLD is Grade 2-placed, but also seeking his first stakes victory. LONG RANGE TODDY has the signature win in the field, a Grade 2 Rebel score, but that was in 2019. TAP IT TO WIN, EMPIRE OF GOLD and BANGO have held the strongest company lines.
The race projects to have a very fast pace. BANGO and TAP IT TO WIN were dueling on the front end of the Grade 1 Churchill Downs Stakes earlier this month. EDGEMONT ROAD and EMPIRE OF GOLD are very fast from the start. Several others want to press and force the issue. If you can find a solid closer, he'll have a reasonable chance late even if 6-furlong races tend to favor those with early speed.
TAP IT TO WIN has been enigmatic and hard to trust over his career. There's apparent talent, but it's fleeting. That he was favored in Grade 1 company on Derby Day should tell you that he's going to be bet in this race, and perhaps harder than he ought to be. He could whistle to victory or implode and fade; he's that kind of horse. At a short price, I have to shop around with the hot pace projection in this event. Trainer Mark Casse looks to have a strong stakes hand today; tab how Spanish Loveaffair and Helium run in the two prior races for any sort of clues how the barn is going.
BANGO loves Churchill Downs with a 4-for-7 local record, and one of those losses was when out-finishing TAP IT TO WIN in stakes company 4 weeks ago on Derby Day. But that was a tough race on the front end, and the fear is that he regresses some off that effort. He's best at 6 furlongs, so a return to his favorite trip and over his favorite track make him a legit threat ... if he's not zapped.
EDGEMONT ROAD is 7: 4-2-1 in his last 7 races on dirt; don't let his poor turf try at Keeneland cloud your judgment of his form. But he's never fired on the main track at Churchill and may be more dependent on the front end than some of the others in this race. Ricardo Santana takes over the mount and that would be seem a very good pairing of styles between horse and rider. Still, the local record (4: 0-0-1) stands out as a concern.
The Oaklawn contingent in this race looks strong with EMPIRE OF GOLD joining past Arkansas rivals ROYAL DAAHER and MOJO MAN. Since finishing fourth in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Sprint last fall, EMPIRE OF GOLD has finished third in the Grade 3 Count Fleet (to BC Sprint 1-2 finishers Whitmore and CZ Rocket), and defeated ROYAL DAAHER in allowance company. Trainer Jimmy DiVito sends out both ROYAL DAAHER and MOJO MAN, who should be threats from off the pace.
LONG RANGE TODDY cuts back in distance, and while not a pure sprinter, could benefit the hotter the pace gets.
Most Certain Exotics Contender:
EMPIRE OF GOLD hasn't misfired sprinting and is the most trustworthy of the front-end types.
Best Longshot Exotics Contender:
MOJO MAN was sixth at 15-1 in that brutal Count Fleet that featured 3 of the top 4 Breeders' Cup Sprint finishers. He's consistently a 95-99 BRIS late pace figure performer, and that makes him the closer to fear in a race loaded with speed.
Sending it in ($100 bankroll):
$60 win MOJO MAN. $10 exacta key-box MOJO MAN with BANGO and EMPIRE OF GOLD ($40).
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