Stay Lucky Picks: ‘Downs After Dark’ Bonanza at Churchill

The field for the 2018 Fleur de Lis Handicap rolls through the stretch for the first time under the lights at Churchill Downs. (Eclipse Sportswire)

Welcome to the 2019 Stay Lucky season with new presenting sponsor Breeders' Cup! We have several exciting new prizes plus a smoother, faster app for the new season!

If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve downloaded the app and are ready to start picking winners. If you have not yet downloaded Stay Lucky, what are you waiting for?

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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.

This week's slate features a stakes-rich Downs After Dark card Saturday evening at Churchill Downs, headlined by two Breeders’ Cup Challenge “Win and You’re In” races – the Stephen Foster Stakes and the Fleur de Lis Handicap. Those two stakes races anchor an hour-and-a-half broadcast on NBCSN from 8:30-10 p.m. Eastern. For more information on television coverage, click here

Saturday, June 15

Matt Winn Stakes (8:03 p.m. ET): I would not be surprised if Nolo Contesto (#3) is the post-time favorite in this 1 1/16-mile race for 3-year-olds. He defeated Omaha Beach earlier this year and then matched up against the likes of Roadster and Game Winner in his next two starts out in California, including finishing fourth in the Santa Anita Derby. But I prefer Mr. Money (#6), who was very impressive winning the Pat Day Mile Presented by LG & E and KU on the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve undercard, defeating subsequent Woody Stephens Stakes winner Hog Creek Hustle. Mr. Money has continued to train lights out at Churchill and is a solid Stay Lucky play to start off the weekend.

Wise Dan Stakes (8:37 p.m. ET): Named after the sensational two-time Horse of the Year, this 1 1/16-mile turf race drew a full 14-horse field, and there’s no standout. Inspector Lynley (#9) was a close second in this race last year and along with Itsinthepost (#7) has the most graded stakes class in the field. But there are about a half-dozen intriguing price plays in this race (I favor Hot Springs [#4] who’s four-for-five at Churchill and Admission Office [#12] who was catching up to Catholic Boy last month in the Dixie Stakes at Pimlico), which makes this an excellent betting race but one to move past when looking for a Stay Lucky selection.

Fleur de Lis Handicap (9:12 p.m. ET): The Fleur de Lis drew a compact field of six fillies and mares, but it’s still a contentious one. She’s a Julie (#2), Elate (#3), and Blue Prize (#5, last year’s Fleur de Lis winner) are all graded stakes winners, and you can make a strong case for each in this 1 1/8-mile race. She’s a Julie is in the best current form and Blue Prize loves Churchill Downs. But I have a feeling Elate, who looked like a budding superstar two summers ago and has raced sparingly since, is sitting on a big comeback race. She’s my Stay Lucky play, but not an ironclad lock by any means.

Stephen Foster Stakes (9:47 p.m. ET): The 1 1/8-mile Foster drew a 12-horse field full of class, including Grade 1 winners Gift Box (#6) and Yoshida (#12). There are many different angles to consider here, but more so for an ambitious pari-mutuel wagering strategy than for Stay Lucky. This is simply too competitive a race to build a winning streak around. I’m a follower of several horses entered, including two that I pegged as 3-year-olds to watch early last year (Tenfold [#7] and Quip [#10]) who have come into their own in 2019. It’s a great betting race.

Regret Stakes (10:19 p.m. ET): Churchill Downs closes out a fantastic five-race graded stakes sequence with 11 3-year-old fillies contesting the 1 1/8-mile Regret on turf. This is another tough race to gauge for Stay Lucky purposes, as several impressive maiden winners are entered along with fillies such as Winter Sunset (#1), Hard Legacy (#5), Belle Laura (#7), and Princesa Carolina (#11) who have already run well in graded stakes races but have yet to break through. I am backing Princesa Carolina and recent maiden winner Varenka (#4) at the betting windows Saturday night, but passing on this race for a Stay Lucky pick.

Sunday, June 16

Trillium Stakes: (4:55 p.m. ET): Trainer Mark Casse, fresh off winning two-thirds of the Triple Crown, has three entered in here, and I think two of them – She’s the Berries (#5), who is five-for-nine on Woodbine’s synthetic main track, and Summer Luck (#7), who has kept better company in her career – are the most logical win candidates in this 1 1/16-mile race for fillies and mares. But in an 11-horse field with several synthetic specialists, neither is a standout candidate for a Stay Lucky pick.

Poker Stakes(5:18 p.m. ET): The Poker drew nine veteran turf horses, and it’s yet another competitive field on a weekend full of good betting races. Clyde’s Image (#1) has run well against Grade 1 company for two straight races and gets the services of Javier Castellano, Gucci Factor (#4) came back in his first 2019 start and romped over this Belmont Park turf course and at this one-mile distance, and Dr. Edgar (#9) is very tough to beat on the front end. I am leaning toward Gucci Factor as my win selection in the Poker, but not enough to make him a Stay Lucky play.

Affirmed Stakes (7:30 p.m. ET): Santa Anita Derby winner Roadster (#5) returns in this 1 1/16-mile race after a poor effort in the Kentucky Derby, and he faces five opponents, including Bob Baffert-trained stablemates Mucho Gusto (#6) and Kingly (#4). Mucho Gusto, the probable pacesetter, enters off of a sharp win in the seven-furlong Lazaro Barrera Stakes in mid-May. This is no easy spot for Roadster’s comeback attempt, as the three non-Baffert starters are no slouches, either – especially Visitant (#1), who is three-for-four lifetime and makes his dirt debut. I’m inclined to just watch this race… but if you’re in need of starting a new Stay Lucky streak by Sunday evening, he’s the play.

Patrick’s Top Stay Lucky Plays:

1. Mr. Money (Matt Winn Stakes)

2. Elate (Fleur de Lis Handicap)

3. Roadster (Affirmed Stakes)

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