Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 28, is annually a feast for horseplayers, and this year should be no different even with the cancellation of Del Mar due to a rare certain forecast of heavy rain.
Fair Grounds opens its meet on Thanksgiving, and Churchill Downs, Aqueduct, Laurel Park, and several other tracks are also running appetizing racecards. At Churchill, this year’s edition of the $300,000, Grade 2 Falls City Handicap for fillies and mares age 3 and older came up strong, with five stakes winners entered in the nine-horse field and the top four morning-line betting choices all between odds of 3-1 and 7-2.
Here’s a betting strategy to maximize value on a $30 budget for the Falls City, which is the ninth race on a 12-race card and has a scheduled post time of 3:24 p.m. ET.
Go Google Yourself (#9, 3-1 morning-line odds) enters off of a neck win in the Sept. 14 Grade 3 Locust Grove Handicap at Churchill and has finished in the money in six of eight starts under the twin spires. She also has a nice stalking style for this edition of the Falls City, which doesn’t feature a lot of early speed, but is 0-for-2 in top-three finishes at a mile and an eighth.
Sally’s Curlin (#6, 3-1) also comes in off of a Grade 3 win at Churchill, rallying from off of the pace in the one-turn mile Chilukki Stakes to score by three-quarters of a length on Nov. 2. She has rounded into good form over the past couple of months under patient handling from trainer Dale Romans and has won three races in a row.
Mylady Curlin (#3, 7-2) finished second to Sally’s Curlin in the Chilukki, opening up a clear lead in the stretch but yielding late. Another daughter of Hall of Famer and stamina-rich sire Curlin, she won five in a row from March to August, all at different tracks, but has gone slightly off form in her last two at Churchill, finishing third in the Locust Grove (beaten 1 ¼ lengths) and then second in the Chilukki.
Ratajkowski (#8, 7-2) ships in from New York, where she has won three races in a row. The Brian Lynch trainee stepped up in her most recent start and stakes debut to win the one-turn mile Empire Distaff Handicap at Belmont Park by a diminishing head. She also has run well at a mile and an eighth, finishing second in a Saratoga allowance optional claiming race in late July and then winning one in mid-August.
Moonlit Garden (#1, 10-1) is inconsistent, but her best effort puts her right among the top contenders. She was getting to Go Google Yourself in the final sixteenth of the Locust Grove but came up a neck short, and to start 2019 she finished three-quarters of a length behind top-class Midnight Bisou in a Grade 3 race at Sam Houston. The Malibu Moon mare ran a well-beaten third in her most recent start at Aqueduct but has put in two good workouts since at Churchill for Brad Cox, who also trains Mylady Curlin.
Princess Causeway (#7, 10-1) made her most recent start on dirt in a seven-furlong allowance optional claiming race at Churchill on Nov. 9, after three starts on turf this year, and she won the seven-furlong race going away by two lengths after bobbling at the start. She also won a race on dirt last year and, as a daughter of the late great Giant’s Causeway out of an A.P. Indy mare, should appreciate extra distance even though she has yet to win at two turns. She also retains jockey Chris Landeros from her recent dirt win, who is a good finishing rider.
Projected Race Shape:
Ratajowski should go straight to the lead with Julien Leparoux up. Expect Leparoux to urge his horse out of the gate from the eighth post position and then move to the inside once he clears the field. Mylady Curlin and Go Google Yourself should be prominent along with longshot Over Thinking (#5, 20-1) under Jon Court. Over Thinking has been racing on turf and usually is more of a closer, but Court is known to be aggressive riding in route dirt races at Churchill. Moonlit Garden needs to break clean from the inside, and if so will be in midpack saving ground, and Princess Causeway should be in a stalking position as well, with Sally’s Curlin reserved near the back alongside longshot closers Grandaria (#2, 20-1) and Vevina (#4, 15-1).
Ratajowski could get brave on an uncontested lead, but I still question her ability to go a mile and an eighth against this group despite her success at Saratoga. I have the same distance concerns about Go Google Yourself, as classy as she is, and on the other hand I think Mylady Curlin’s yearlong good form has been achieved against suspect competition. I will therefore bet a $2 exacta box with Moonlit Garden and Princess Causeway hoping that the former rebounds to her best form and the latter continues her upward climb, and wheel those two in a $.50-cent trifecta with the other four horses discussed, using ABR’s handy betting calculator. I’ll also make a win bet on Moonlit Garden as I favor her slightly over Princess Causeway based on her back class.
What to say at the window:
Churchill Downs, Race 9, $6 win on 1.
Churchill Downs, Race 9, $2 exacta box, 1 and 7. (TOTAL WAGER : $4)
Churchill Downs, Race 9, $.50-cent trifecta part wheel, 1 and 7 with 1,3,6,7,8,9 with 1,3,6,7,8,9. (TOTAL WAGER: $20)