Piassek's Plays: Searching for an Upset Under the Twin Spires

Horses race around the turn at Churchill Downs. (Coady Photography)

In his regular gambling blog, John Piassek presents his top picks for the upcoming weekend in horse racing, offering betting options at different budget levels. Piassek’s Plays 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.

Piassek has contributed to the horse racing sites The Racing Biz and Danonymous Racing and worked at Tioga Downs, Monmouth Park, and Saratoga Race Course. He joined America’s Best Racing in January 2021.

Saturday, Oct. 2

Churchill Downs Race 9, post time 4:55 p.m. ET

weekend Television schedule

Friday, Oct. 1: 12:30 p.m.-5:30 p.m. ET on FS2; post time varies on TVG

Saturday, Oct. 2: 12:30 p.m.-6:30 p.m. on FS2; post time varies on TVG

Sunday, Oct. 3: 8 a.m.-10:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.-4:30 p.m. on FS2; 4:30 p.m.-5:30 p.m. on FS1; 5:30 p.m.-6 p.m. on FS2; post time varies on TVG

#8 Himiko: A competitive field of 11 fillies and mares have been entered in this allowance-optional claiming dirt sprint. Himiko's form has been obscured a bit, but she's a strong contender in this field. She was impressive in sprints earlier in her career, including a gutsy win at Churchill in a second-level allowance-optional claiming race in May. After that race, she was transferred to the Steve Asmussen barn, and was stretched out around two turns for the Iowa Distaff Stakes at Prairie Meadows. She showed speed and faded in the stretch. Last out in the Groupie Doll Stakes at Ellis Park, she had a tough trip and was unable to get to ther usual spot near the front. As such, she was no factor. That last race might spook some bettors but it shouldn't. She's better suited for shorter distances, and cuts back for the first time since her victory at Churchill in May. She has lots of early speed and should relish these conditions. 

Strategy on a $10 Budget

$5 to win on 8

$5 exacta: 8 with 2

Strategy on a $25 Budget

$13 to win on 8

$6 exacta: 8 with 2,3 ($12 total)

Strategy on a $50 Budget

$30 to win on 8

$10 exacta: 8 with 2,3 ($20 total)

Churchill Downs Race 10, Grade 3 Ack Ack Stakes, post time 5:26 p.m. ET

#6 Aloha West: The star of this year's Ack Ack is #10 Beau Liam, and not without reason. He's a perfect 3-for-3 in his career, including an impressive win in a second-level allowance-optional claiming race at Saratoga last out. While he's loaded with upside, I have a feeling he's going to get a lot more play than he deserves. He's 3-1 on the morning line, but I expect him to be much lower than that at post time. As such, I'll go looking for a better price.

Aloha West is the 7-2 second choice on the morning line. However, I'm expecting him to get lost in a shuffle a little bit with all the Beau Liam hype. He's been rapidly ascending the class ladder since breaking his maiden on debut at Oaklawn Park in February. He won twice at the Saratoga meet, including an impressive 2 3/4-length win in a third-level allowance race on Sept. 2. He earned an Equibase Speed Figure of 113 in that race, not far away from Beau Liam's career-top of 115. The two are in similar form right now and are both loaded with upside, but Aloha West will very likely be the better price of the two. 

Strategy on a $10 Budget

$7 to win on 6

$3 exacta: 6 with 11

Strategy on a $25 Budget

$15 to win on 6

$5 exacta: 6 with 10, 11 ($10 total)

Strategy on a $50 Budget

$26 to win on 6

$8 exacta: 6 with 10, 11 ($16 total)

$4 exacta: 10, 11 with 6 ($8 total)

newsletter sign-up

Stay up-to-date with the best from America's Best Racing!