The Grade 3, $100,000 Commonwealth Turf Stakes on Nov. 12 at Churchill Downs drew a field of 11, led by Canadian Classic winner Sir Dudley Digges along with 2016 graded stakes winners Surgical Strike and One Mean Man.
One Mean Man (#7) was pegged the 3-1 morning-line favorite for the 1 1/16-mile turf race for 3-year-olds, with Sir Dudley Digges (#2) listed as the 9-2 second choice, and both appear to be key players.
One Mean Man won an allowance race on the Churchill Downs turf in June and has won four of his last five races. He posted a half-length score in the Grade 3 American Derby on July 9 and, most recently, a clear win in the off-the-turf Jefferson Cup Stakes at Churchill on Oct. 1.
One Mean Man’s only defeat during the five-race stretch was a fourth-place finish in the Grade 1 Secretariat Stakes, in which he finished only 1 ¼ lengths behind the winner and earned a career-best 108 Equibase Speed Figure. Trained by Bernie Flint, One Mean Man is in terrific form and can handle a little moisture in the ground if necessary.
Sir Dudley Digges won the first jewel of the Canadian Triple Crown with a half-length victory in the Queen’s Plate on the synthetic Polytrack surface at Woodbine on July 3. After an unplaced finish on the dirt at Fort Erie in the second jewel, the Gio Ponti colt rebounded with a runner-up finish on the turf in the final jewel of Canada’s Triple Crown, the 1 1/2-mile Breeders’ Stakes, back at Woodbine. Sir Dudley Digges led in the stretch of that race but could not hold off the winner, so cutting back in distance to 1 1/16 miles could be advantageous in the Commonwealth Turf Stakes.
Surgical Strike (#5) posted a career-best 110 Equibase Speed Figure at Churchill Downs when third in the Grade 2 American Turf Stakes on the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands undercard on May 7. He subsequently won the Grade 3 Arlington Classic Stakes before a pair of off-the-board finishes in Grade 1 races. Surgical Strike comes into the Commonwealth Turf Stakes off a runner-up finish in the Centaur Stakes at Indiana Grand and offers nice value at 8-1.
While any of the above three could win the Commonwealth Turf, I landed on Blackout (#3) from the barn of Mark Casse, who won the Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Juvenile with Classic Empire and finished second with two other Breeders’ Cup runners on Nov. 4-5.
Blackout began his career in England, where he won three of seven races. The Dream Ahead colt ran into some traffic trouble when eighth in his U.S. debut in September at Saratoga Race Course, but he rebounded with a win from off the pace in an allowance race at Belmont Park on Oct. 14. He’s turned in a pair of terrific workouts for this race, and jockey Florent Geroux has been winning with Casse at a 28 percent rate this year. Blackout looks like he’s sitting on a big race at 6-1 on the morning line.
Casse has two other runners in the race, Tizzarunner (#10) and Ikerrin Road (#9). The former enters off a nice allowance win and has run consistently well this year while the latter will be trying a race around two turns for the first time.
Trainer Graham Motion’s Scholar Athlete (#6) earned a career-best 106 Equibase Speed Figure in his most recent start when beaten by three lengths in the Commonwealth Derby presented by the Virginia Equine Alliance. Scholar Athlete has shown improvement since he was gelded in the spring, including fourth-place finishes in two of the Canadian classics – the Queen’s Plate in June and the Breeders’ Stakes in July.
Strategies on a $25 Budget
$10 win on #3 Blackout
$15 place on #3 Blackout
$4 exacta 3,7 with 3,5,6,7 ($24)