Stay Lucky Weekly Guide: Churchill's Big Night and More

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Stay Lucky offers participants the opportunity to win great prizes by stringing together winners in Thoroughbred races. Unbroken streaks of five, seven, nine, 14, 17 and 20 reward the players with a prize or choice of prizes. Terms and conditions apply.

The object is simple: pick winners from North American graded stakes races that draw at least six entrants. Races will be scored in real time but streaks will be updated only once daily to make sure they are scored in the correct order.

Pick as many races each weekend as you like, but be sure to play at least one race every weekend or your streak will be reset.

Churchill Downs grabs most of the spotlight this weekend, with five graded stakes on its "Downs After Dark" June 17 card including two Breeders' Cup Challenge Series "Win and You're In" events.  Let’s dig in to this week's contest races and decide how to approach them (numbers listed correspond to game play, not program number).

Saturday, June 17

Salvator Mile Stakes (5:20 p.m. ET):  There are some interesting horses in here, including two from Todd Pletcher’s barn – Donegal Moon (#5), who won last year’s Pegasus Stakes at Monmouth, and Far From Over (#8), who briefly was spotted on the Triple Crown trail in early 2015. The most intriguing horse is lightly-raced Red Dragon Tattoo (#1), who’s 2-for-2 at one mile, has plenty of speed, and shares his name with a great Fountains of Wayne song. But this race is a toss-up to me, so I’ll look elsewhere for a Stay Lucky pick.

Honeymoon Stakes (6:30 p.m. ET): Sircat Sally (#4) won her first two races on dirt late last year by a combined 17 lengths, was switched to turf by trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, and has hummed right along through four starts at Santa Anita this year without a loss. She will likely be the shortest-priced favorite in any Stay Lucky race this weekend, and with good reason. The only filly I would give a slight chance to upset her is Pacific Wind (#2), who has looked very good through two career races but was still a length and a half behind Sircat Sally in the May 6 Senorita Stakes.

Summertime Oaks (8:00 p.m. ET): The Jerry Hollendorfer-trained It Tiz Well (#3) and Spooky Woods (#2) are eligible to run better now that the likes of Abel Tasman, Unique Bella, and Paradise Woods are not present. Bob Baffert also has two fillies entered: Noted and Quoted (#8), a Grade 1 winner last year as a juvenile who looks to be back on the beam; and Faypien (#6), who will be stretching out from seven furlongs to 1 1/16 miles but is bred for it and could be any kind. All in all, this is a good betting race, but I’ll move on to Louisville in search for another clear-cut Stay Lucky pick.

Matt Winn Stakes (8:03 p.m. ET): McCraken (#2) was one of the most highly-regarded members of his 3-year-old class going into the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands, where he endured a rough start but still mounted a challenge through the far turn before flattening out. He looks primed for a rebound in the Matt Winn. Ian Wilkes has put his charge through some good workouts under the twin spires since then, and McCraken enters Saturday’s race with a 3-for-4 record at Churchill Downs and a 2-for-2 mark at the distance. There are some improving types in this race, such as Aquamarine (#5) and Excitations (#1), but McCraken is the standout.

Wise Dan Stakes (8:35 p.m. ET): Pleuven (#7) is in good form, runs well at Churchill, and is 3-for-5 at the Wise Dan’s distance of 1 1/16 miles… but this is a very well-matched eight-horse field with veteran stakes winners such as Thatcher Street (#3) and Chocolate Ride (#4) going up against horses with some untapped potential such as Bondurant (#2) and Conquest Panthera (#6). Other races on the Stephen Foster card have more appeal for the Stay Lucky contest.

Fleur de Lis Handicap (9:09 p.m. ET): The key question here is whether Forever Unbridled (#1) is ready to fire coming back after a seven-month layoff. Last year’s Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff third-place finisher is the clear class of the field. If she’s sharp, she should run away with the Fleur de Lis. If not, others like Carrumba (#3), Big World (#5), and the improving Walkabout (#2) have a chance. I'll pass on the favorite in this race, and pass on the race overall as a Stay Lucky option, although Forever Unbridled is a superb racemare.

Stephen Foster Handicap (9:43 p.m. ET): Similar to the Fleur de Lis, the main question in the Stephen Foster is whether the big favorite, in this case Gun Runner (#3), can bring his “A” game after a layoff. He last ran in late March, half a world away, when finishing a good second to superstar Arrogate in the Dubai World Cup. I’m more confident about his chances than I am about Forever Unbridled’s in the Fleur de Lis. Steve Asmussen has kept Gun Runner fit with regular workouts at Churchill Downs, and he’s 2-for-4 at the Stephen Foster’s 1 1/8-mile distance. I envision him sitting just off of pacesetters Bird Song (#1) and Stanford (#8) through the first mile or so and getting the jump on the rest, including main threat Honorable Duty (#4), at the top of the lane. 

Regret Stakes (10:15 p.m. ET): This is a very well-matched field of 12 3-year-old fillies. I’ve been high on Proctor’s Ledge (#4) since she flew home in a Gulfstream Park allowance back in February; since then, she hasn’t been able to hang with the very talented La Coronel in two graded stakes, but I think she could be ready to take the next step and claim her first stakes win on Saturday. That being said, there are several others here who also have major upside, including Savannah Belle (#8) and Shadwell Stable’s Sameeha (#9), so I’ll pass on this race as a Stay Lucky option.

Sunday, June 18

Poker Stakes (5:13 p.m. ET): This drew a competitive field of six turf horses (and one main-track-only entry), spanning the gamut from Bolting (#4), a European shipper making his stateside debut with first-time Lasix, to hard-knocking New York-bred 10-year-old Lubash (#7) making his 54th career start. My bets in this race are Projected (#2) and Ballagh Rocks (#3), who I think have the best chance to close from a stalking position in this one-turn turf mile, but overall, I’ll refrain from using this race as a Stay Lucky option.

Top 3 Stay Lucky Plays

1. Sircat Sally

2. McCraken

3. Gun Runner

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