The Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes is an important test for 2-year-olds for several reasons. Held at 1 1/8 miles, it gives juveniles a taste of competing around two turns, which will be a staple in major 3-year-old stakes, and it will also give a handful of them a head-start on Kentucky Derby qualifying points with 10-4-2-1 going to the top four finishers. Beyond all that, the Grade 2 race is contested at Churchill Downs, home of the run of the roses, which could provide a glimpse of what may happen in the Derby. A year ago, Tiz the Law suffered his lone loss at two in the Kentucky Jockey Cub and then went down to defeat again at Churchill Downs in Derby 146.
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2. Swill (6-1): There’s an entry in this race but it does not involve this colt and Inspector Frost, even though they are both trained by Brad Cox. Due to separate ownership groups, they will run as separate wagering interests. That aside, they seem like identical twins with both Cox horses coming off decisive frontrunning wins at seven furlongs and looking to be the lone speeds in the race. If you’re looking for some sign of who to back, jockey Florent Geroux rode both horses in their last start and he’s staying on Swill. Beyond that, it’s a coin flip.
1. Sittin On Go (5-1): He’s part of the entry with Smiley Sobotka and you have to decide which of his last two races to toss. Last time, he was ninth in the TVG Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Presented by Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance at Keeneland. Before that he won the Grade 3 Iroquois Stakes Presented by Ford with a strong closing kick over this track. We’re leaning toward discounting the Breeders’ Cup race since he got away to a slow start and fell too far behind, while his win at Churchill Downs was too impressive to forget. Look for a bounce-back effort here.
3. Arabian Prince (8-1): He’s already experienced at 1 1/16 miles here, having finished fourth in the Street Sense Stakes. He lacked a rally in the stretch that day at Churchill Downs, but he’s trained nicely since then and the jockey switch to Tyler Gaffalione is a big plus. He also beat the morning-line favorite, Keepmeinmind, in his first start.
4. Keepmeinmind (6-5): He’s a maiden, but his odds speak the truth about him. In three career starts, he’s been third in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, second in the Grade 1 Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity and second in a maiden race to Arabian Prince. Even though he’s winless, he has the best résumé. You have to wonder, though, if he’ll get a fast enough pace to complement his late kick. He’s a must-use in the trifectas but taking him to win comes with some risk given his past history.
1A. Smiley Sobotka (5-1): He’s probably the weaker half of the entry, though a nice maiden win at 1 1/16 miles in his last race makes him competitive with most of the entrants.
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5. Inspector Frost (8-1): As mentioned, he’s similar to Swill and it’s hard to choose between the two. Geroux opted for Swill, but this colt gets John Velazquez, which isn’t bad at all.
6. Oncoming Train (10-1): He’s one of three starters to exit the Street Sense, where he was third, 4 ¼ lengths behind King Fury. It wasn’t a bad try for just his second career start and first beyond six furlongs and it’s not out of the question he could take a step forward here.
7. King Fury (6-1): He won the Street Sense but then finished seventh in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. He seems to alternate good and bad efforts in his four career starts and he’s due for a nice one, like he turned in to win the Street Sense.
8. Ultimate Badger (15-1): He’s a third Romans starter but is not part of the entry due to different owners. A seventh in the Iroquois paints him as a longshot, though he looked good winning an allowance race at Churchill Downs at this distance in his last start. A problem may come from the outside post.
THE PICK: Swill
LIVE LONGSHOT: Inspector Frost