Dan’s Double: Pace Key to Saturday Churchill Plays

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Horses race into the first turn at Churchill Downs on May 15 with no fans in attendance. (Coady Photography)

Dan’s Double of the week, featuring handicapping analysis from America’s Best Racing’s New York correspondent Dan Tordjman, is brought to you by Horseplayers.com, the official online qualifying site of the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge (BCBC) and National Horseplayers Championship (NHC).

Horseplayers.com offers low-cost feeders every day and BCBC and NHC qualifiers every weekend, and it’s the only site where you can qualify for the $1 million BCBC. It’s free to sign up – click here to get information about registering and how to enter contests.

When it comes to making money when handicapping races and betting on horse racing, it’s all about picking winners. Tordjman – DanonymousMan to those who follow him on Twitter – is one of the sharpest horseplayers around.

Each week, Tordjman will provide readers with his two best bets of the weekend and strategies for how to bet them. Good luck!


Saturday, May 23

Churchill Downs, Race 5, 3:04 p.m. ET

weekend Television schedule

Thursday, May 21: 1-6 p.m. ET on FS2; post time varies on TVG

Friday, May 22: 12:30-2:20 p.m., 4:30-6 p.m. ET on FS2; 4-7 p.m. ET on NBCSN; post time varies on TVG

Saturday, May 23: 1-2:30 p.m. ET on FS2; 2:30-6:30 p.m. ET on FS1; 4-8 p.m. ET on NBCSN; post time varies on TVG

Sunday, May 24: 1:30-3:30 p.m. ET on FS2; 3:30-6 p.m. ET on FS1; 4-8 p.m. ET on NBCSN; post time varies on TVG

Monday, May 25: 1-6 p.m. ET on FS2; 6-8 p.m. ET on NBCSN; post time varies on TVG

#8 First Premio: You might overlook First Premio if you only briefly scroll through the past performances for this race. He ran what looks like a pretty flat return race last month, finishing a well-beaten fifth despite sitting off of a pretty hot pace. However, it’s important to note that even though they went fast early in that race, there wasn’t really anyone who closed into a pace set by return stakes winner Halladay and next-out allowance winner Kroy. Trainer Mark Casse wins about 18% of races second off the layoff, and First Premio had been spotted in some tougher races at the end of his 2019 campaign. In fact, with returning rider Miguel Mena aboard, he closed powerfully late in the Grade 1 Shadwell Turf Mile last October and lost by less than a length despite a grueling trip. This horse has won in allowance company on the turf at Churchill, and he’s also run his best races at this 1 1/16-mile distance. The wild card in this race is #2 Mick’s Star. If he shows the kind of speed he’s capable of here, he’ll guarantee an honest pace along with #7 A Thread of Blue. The faster they go early, the better the chances of First Premio.

Strategy on a $10 Budget 

$5 win, place on #8 First Premio ($10)

Strategy on a $25 Budget 

$5 win, place on #8 First Premio ($10)

$1 exacta box: 7,8,9 ($6)

$1 trifecta 8 with 1,7,9 with 1,6,7,9 ($9)

Strategy on a $50 Budget

$10 win, place on #8 First Premio ($20)

$6 exacta 8 over 7,9 ($12)

$1 exacta box: 7,8,9 ($6)

$1 trifecta key 8 with 1,6,7,9 ($12)

Churchill Downs, Race 11, $100,000 War Chant Stakes, 6:16 p.m. ET

#2 Bodecream: I want all closers in the finale at Churchill on Saturday. There is a lot of speed signed up for the nightcap, including #3 Island Commish, #4 Vanzzy, #6 Hieronymus, #9 Smooth Like Strait, and possibly even the stretching-out #8 Liam’s Pride. With Bodecream, you can put a line through that last out third-place finish at Fair Grounds – he had some trouble settling down early, had to be restrained, and was then extremely erratic running through the stretch. He was also forced to sit off loose pacesetter Hieronymus in that small five-horse field. The Texas Turf Mile two races ago is probably a better indicator of what this horse is capable of when he’s got a decent pace to run into (and minimal trip trouble). In that race, he blew past Jack and Noah and Chimney Rock, who just finished first and second in a nice allowance at Churchill last weekend. I’m going to try to pair up Bodecream in exactas with some of the other known closers, as well as #13 Billy Batts who finally returns to a mile on the turf for the first time since his runner-up finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf.

Strategy on a $10 Budget 

$2 win, place on #2 Bodecream ($4)

$1 exacta 2 with 1,7,10,13 ($4)

$2 exacta 2 with 12 ($2)

Strategy on a $25 Budget

$5 to win, place on #2 Bodecream ($10)

$2 exacta 2 with 1,7,10,13 ($8)

$6 exacta 2 with 12 ($6)

Strategy on a $50 Budget

$15 to win, place on #2 Bodecream ($30)

$10 exacta 2 with 12 ($10)

$2 exacta 2 with 1,7,10,13 ($8)

Last Week’s Earnings: $66.60

2020 Earnings: $1,762.40


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