Forgetting football with Saturday Churchill stakes picks

IMG_8224Such is the life of a University of Kentucky football fan. The opening weekend of the September meet at Churchill Downs presents an opportunity to escape from the ongoing train wreck — even while I’m sitting in Commonwealth Stadium. Let’s just say I don’t think I’ll have too much trouble getting enough bandwidth to watch the Churchill races while at the UK-New Mexico State game.

Race 3 | Grade III Locust Grove Stakes | 1 1/16 miles

1. Sweetgrass
2. Innovative Idea
3. Ahh Chocolate
4. Engaginglee

Comment: Since last running in Kentucky in the spring, Sweetgrass has been racking up in-the-money finishes this summer at the premier Saratoga Race Course meet against company at least as good as she faces today. Innovative Idea won the Grade III Groupie Doll last month at Ellis Park and looks to win her third straight here — something that wouldn’t be a shocker. Ahh Chocolate is a multiple graded stakes winner, but the 8/5 morning line has me looking elsewhere as she doesn’t inspire the confidence to make me single her in multi-race exotics.

Race 8 | Grade III Iroquois Stakes | 1 1/16 miles

1. Thirstforlife
2. Recruiting Ready
3. Lookin At Lee
4. Honor Thy Father

Comment: Thirstforlife was my favorite horse during Kentucky Derby week (non-Tepin division), running an impressive third in the Kentucky Juvenile in his first start where he lingered at the gate and narrowly missed getting second. He won next out and made a respectable showing in the Grade II Best Pal at Del Mar. Gets a route of ground for the first time here and is the pick. Recruiting Ready is graded stakes placed over the track and would not surprise if he runs straighter than in the Grade II Saratoga Special.

Race 9 | Open Mind Stakes | 6 furlongs

1. Spelling Again
2. Kathballu
3. I’m a Looker
4. Mayla

Comment: The speedy Spelling Again narrowly missed in a third-place finish here in the spring at the distance in the Grade III Winning Colors and is a logical favorite. Kathballu just might put it all together here with the help of Corey Lanerie and has the most favorable post of the other main contenders. I’m a Looker may have to overcome the outside post but is always in the thick of it at Churchill and would be no surprise.

Race 10 | Grade II Pocahontas Stakes | 1 1/16 miles

1. Dream Dancing
2. Bling On the Music
3. Daddys Lil Darling
4. Sully’s Dream

Comment: Dream Dancing tries the dirt for the first time and is as logical as any other. Bling On the Music has done nothing wrong, but likely is facing stiffer competition. Daddy Lil Darling gets furosemide for the first time, Lanerie and is working well. Will use at least those three in multi-race exotics.

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