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After witnessing history at Belmont Park last Saturday when American Pharoah became the twelfth horse to win thoroughbred’s Triple Crown, racing has received a needed shot in the arm within the industry and with the mainstream public. Now it is up to race tracks around the country to take advantage of this opportunity and showcase their best races to the general public.
On Saturday, Churchill Downs will present a racing card that may not be as deep as what we saw on Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby Day, but will have four quality graded stakes on the evening card. Headlining the evening is the Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap for older horses at a mile and an eighth.
The first four horses on the morning line for the Stephen Forster come from trainers that are not normally based at Churchill Downs for the whole meet. The 7-5 morning line favorite is Lea from the Bill Mott barn. Next at 5-2 is Hoppertunity from the Bob Baffert barn. Then we have 3-1 Commissioner from the Todd Pletcher barn and another Bob Baffert trainee, 8-1 Cat Burglar.
A comparison of Baffert, Mott and Pletcher using the Class Analysis comparison report show us some interesting stats with them at Churchill Downs. In the last 36 months, Baffert is 4 for 23 (17.4%) in stakes at Churchill Downs, while Mott is 5 for 35 (14.3%) and Pletcher 7 for 63 (11.1%). Numbers are close with Baffert having a slightly better winning percentage. If you look at the in the money record for stakes at Churchill Downs, Mott is 12 for 35 (34.3%) and Pletcher is 22 for 63 (34.9%). But Baffert pulls away from those two with an in the money record of 12 for 23 (52.2%)
A comparison of their jockeys produced interesting numbers as well. Using the jockey Class Analysis comparison report for stakes races at Churchill Downs shows Javier Castellano (Commissioner) at 5 for 35 (14.3%), Joel Rosario (Lea) at 6 for 41 (14.6%) , Mike Smith (Hoppertunity) 3 for 22 (13.6%) and Victor Espinoza (Cat Burglar) at 4 for 11 (36.4%). Espinoza’s in the money percentage is 6 for 11 (54.5%) and the only other jockey from this list at over fifty percent in stakes is Castellano at 19 for 35 (54.3%).
Espinoza overall the past 36 months at Churchill is 5 for 14, with a 3 for 9 record on dirt and 2 for 5 on turf. His three dirt victories were California Chrome and American Pharoah in the Kentucky Derby and controversial maiden winner Masochistic in 2014.
Looking at the numbers, the Baffert trained Cat Burglar at 8-1 should be an overlay with Espinoza aboard. Commissioner won Grade 3 stakes as the favorite in last two starts and could give us value, especially with Lea in the race and the dangerous Castellano/Pletcher combo associated with Commissioner. Those would be the two horses I would key in the race with win bets and in the exotics.
Running the Jockey Summary Report for all tracks covered by Equibase for the past month gave us some interesting numbers. The jockey with the most wins the past month in sprints is John Davila Jr. The Finger Lakes based jockey is 28 for 69 (40.6%) and in the money 50 for 69 (72.5%). He is the only jockey with a winning percentage sprinting above 40 percent the past month and the only jockey with a better in the money percentage sprinting is the Charles Town based Arnaldo Bocachica at 73.8% (45 for 61).
At a route, Midwest based Albin Jimenez leads a tight pack with wins with 18 route victories from 53 starts (34%). The best winning percentage goes to Lone Star based Bryan McNeil at 40 percent (10 for 25). The best in the money percentage the past month at a route is Hall of Fame jockey Russell Baze at 75 percent (42 for 56). Charles Town based Jose Montano is at 80 percent but he only has ten mounts at a route the past month.
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