Noel’s Weekend Winners: Betting on Derby, Oaks Prospects at Churchill

Churchill Downs Kentucky Derby Kentucky Oaks Golden Rod Kentucky Jockey Club Stretch Ride Risk It Dancing Groom Romans Asmussen Thorpedo Anna Central Avenue Intricate Brad Cox betting handicapping Weekend Winners
Fans enjoy a fall day watching the races in the shadow of the twin spires at Churchill Downs. (Eclipse Sportswire)

Welcome to Noel Michaels’ Weekend Winners, the place to go for weekend best bets and spot plays from veteran handicapper and tournament-play pioneer Noel Michaels. Check back every week for a couple of highlighted selections designed to help you cash a few bets and make some money.

Noel's selections have been featured just about everywhere horse racing picks can be found, including in print in the Daily Racing Form, The HorsePlayer Magazine and American Turf Monthly, online at, and, from the paddock on-track at Arlington International Racecourse, and on the air on HRTV, TVG, NYC OTB Extra, NYRA's SatuTalking Horses, and on broadcast TV on WAVE-3 Louisville, ABC KOLO-8 in Reno, Nevada, and channel 72 Long Island Cablevision.

Noel Michaels’ Weekend Winners is brought to you by, the official online qualifying site of the Breeders' Cup Betting Challenge (BCBC) and National Horseplayers Championship (NHC). 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 $1.25 million BCBC. It’s free to sign up – click here to get information about registering and how to enter contests.

Six Beginner Betting Tools

  1. Start simple with an easy guide for how to bet on horse racing.
  2. Not sure what that word means? Horse racing terminology is a language of its own. Allow us translate for you
  3. What the heck is a speed figure? This beginner’s guide to speed figures has everything you need to know.
  4. Betting on horse racing can be intimidating. Team ABR put together some Dos and Don’ts for the new fan getting started betting on racing.
  5. We all make mistakes when it comes to betting on horse racing, here are eight lessons learned from experience.
  6. Figure out how much each bet will cost in advance with our Gambling Calculator, presented by NYRA Bets.

Kentucky’s dirt racing season comes to an end this weekend as the Churchill Downs fall meet goes out with a bang with a stakes-filled Thanksgiving holiday . The 2-year-olds take center stage on Saturday’s program at Churchill Downs with the runnings of a pair of $400,000 Grade 2 races, the Golden Rod Stakes for fillies and the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes for the boys. These two juvenile events are qualifying points races for the 2024 Longines Kentuky Oaks and Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve, respectively, and they headline a terrific Saturday of racing and wagering at Churchill featuring 12 races on the card. Let’s pick some winners and bolster those holiday bankrolls. Best of luck and enjoy the races.

Churchill Downs, Race 10, $400,000 Golden Rod Stakes, post time 5:18 p.m. ET

weekend Television schedule

Thursday, Nov. 23: post time varies on FanDuel TV

Friday, Nov. 24: 12-4:30 p.m. on FS2; post time varies on FanDuel TV

Saturday, Nov. 25: post time varies on FanDuel TV

Sunday, Nov. 26: 12-4:30 p.m. on FS2; post time varies on FanDuel TV

The Grade 2 Golden Rod Stakes for 2-year-old fillies has drawn a field of eight ready to go 1 1/16 miles on the main track. The pace scenario of this race should play a key role in the outcome with the speed horse on the outside, #8 Thorpedo Anna, looking fast enough to send to the front and make the lead. The problem is that trainer Brad Cox has two entered in here and one of either #6 Gin Gin or #7 West Sunset should also vie for the lead as well, which means these fillies may end up battling it out and setting the race up for a contender coming from off the pace. That kind of contentious pace should play right into the hands of #5 Central Avenue who will be closing late and should be able to use the 1 1/16-mile distance of this race to get up in time for the win. Central Avenue won at first asking with a last-to-first move in her seven-furlong career debut and followed it up with a solid second in the Grade 1 Frizette Stakes, which turned out to the ultimate key race when the Frizette’s winner, Just F Y I, came back to win the NetJets Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies in her next start. Thorpedo Anna looks good enough to run on for a spot in the exactas. For the trifectas, another off-the-pace runner like #2 Intricate could also run on late for a high placing after improving a ton last time out with the stretchout to this route distance.

The Play: Bet #5 Central Avenue (5-1) to win and box him in the exacta with #8 Thorpedo Anna (8-5). Then play a three-horse trifecta box with Central Avenue and Thorpedo Anna along with #2 Intricate (6-1).

Churchill Downs, Race 11, $400,000 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes, post time 5:48 p.m. ET

The counterpart of the Golden Rod Stakes for colts and geldings is Saturday’s featured Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes, which goes at the same distance of 1 1/16 miles and has also drawn an eight-horse field. When handicappers start searching for Kentucky Derby contenders in earnest this winter, many will focus on the results of this race over the track at Churchill Downs. Trainer Dale Romans appears to have a really good one on his hands with #6 Stretch Ride, who won his career debut at six furlongs and then wasted no time stretching out to this distance last time out for an even better-looking win at 1 1/16 miles at Keeneland. Stretch Ride sold for $5,000 as a yearling, so this could have all the makings of a rags to riches story. The horse he will have to beat is #7 Risk It, who scored a dynamite wire-to-wire maiden sprint win at Saratoga in his career debut and then finished second last time in the one-mile Grade 3 Iroquois Stakes here at Churchill Downs after racing close up to a pace that was very fast. Risk It should be able to relax much better in this spot and can come out on top with continued 2-year-old development under the tutelage of trainer Steve Asmussen. The third major player in the Kentucky Jockey Club should turn out to be #4 Dancing Groom, who exited a five-length maiden win at one mile at Saratoga and then was thrown to the wolves in the Grade 1 Champagne Stakes last time where he finished third. A similar outcome may be in the works Saturday.

The Play:  Bet #7 Risk It (5-2) to win and box him in the exactas with #6 Stretch Ride (3-1). Then back it up with a three-horse trifecta box including the same two horses along with #4 Dancing Groom (10-1).

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