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HomeHorse RacingChurchill DownsLouie's Look Ahead - Stephen Foster Preview Day 6/3/23

Louie’s Look Ahead – Stephen Foster Preview Day 6/3/23

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Stephen Foster Preview Day: Louie’s Saturday Look-Ahead

Welcome to the first installment of Louie’s Saturday Look-Ahead! Come find us every Saturday morning for my most valiant attempt to give out some winners on the biggest races around the country.

Today, we head with a bittersweet heart to Churchill Downs – my home track – where racing will cease after the races on Sunday, when things head west to Ellis Park. If you’re interested in my initial reaction from yesterday, you can read that on our site, or check out the Horse Racing Happy Hour podcast.

The card today is a doozy: starting with race 3, every race will hand out a purse of at least $120,000, including six stakes each offering $225,000. Those non-slot slots sure do pay the bills around here.

We’ll go through each of the stakes today, with a most likely winner, and a value play that I think might hit the board or even pull the upset.


This race happens over my favorite route in thoroughbred racing: the 1 ⅛ mile turf course at Churchill. This is for three year-old fillies, all of which save one are going the nine furlong distance for the first time.

The 4 Mrs. Astor is my top pick here, as she showed great form at both Keeneland and Indianapolis over the turf course, both times simply running out of time while closing. With jockey John Velzquez in the irons, I think she’ll get a fair trip, and should be able to compete well in this company. Trainer Jonathan Thomas has a smaller operation, but man is he good in these types of races: 20% winner on turf, 20% winner in routes (going at least a mile). I think the 4/1 price is fair, and one I’ll be targeting.

A longer shot I like here is the 1 Miss Ridler (apparently I like the formal titles in this race), who won on first asking 10 months ago at Ellis, then popped right back off the long layoff at Keeneland against winners last time out with a rallying win. Jockey Luis Saez is aboard, and I think there’s a chance he has a huge day. Miss Ridler could be part of that.

Top selections: 4, 1, 2, 5, 3


Though a listed stakes, this one is a banger. Put up $225k, and you’ll be pleased with the field you can get together. Lots to unpack in this one, but I think there’s a clear “horse for course” (a horse who loves the surface) in 4 Bango. He’s 10 for 17 lifetime at Churchill Downs, including a win on May 4, the Thursday before Derby. He recorded his best speed figure ever at Churchill that day, and I see no reason why that should change today.

If you’re looking up and down the card looking for value, check out the 1 Sibelius, the third favorite at 5/2. Trainer Jeremiah O’Dwyer only has three wins this year, and Sibelius is two of them! Small barn, but great results with this horse. He’s coming back stateside after a win in the G1 Golden Shaheen in Dubai; my concern here is he’s dropping out of a $2M race to run in a $200k race. I think this might be a catapult to the rest of the year, rather than an earnest attempt to win a fourth straight race. But his recent form can’t be disputed!

Top selections: 4, 1, 3, 2


The Audubon is the ‘brother’ stakes to the Regret – same trip over the 1 ⅛ mile turf course, except for open three year old company, meaning either sex horse can run.

We get a horse in here that won last time at ½ a furlong shorter in the Grade 2 American Turf – on Derby Day – and that’s the 7 Webslinger. He’s either won or been within two lengths of his last four races, and at three different tracks. I love a horse whose form travels, and while I don’t love the 8/5 price, I do like him best here.

The 6 Sharar has shown great form, but trainer Todd Pletcher has only won 1 of his last 8 starts with horses starting in North America for the first time. The horse is 1-for-1 at the distance and 2-for-3 on the turf, and is obviously worthy of consideration.

If you need a price, the 5 Desert Duke might be one to watch. A bad showing on Derby Day in that American Turf, but had won two previous to that. If we toss that race, his 5/1 number is very attractive, and the team of jockey Mitch Murrill and trainer Chris Hartman hit at 19% at Churchill recently.

Top selection: 7, 6, 5


This race includes a cool mix of horses with previous good form, and those coming into their own as older mares. Many of you will remember 2 Travel Column from her terrific 3YO season, including a good run in the KY Oaks, but she’s failed to recapture that form from her 3YO campaign. The 3 Pauline’s Pearl is second favorite at 5/2, and has been consistently good her entire career. She’s already won this year as a 5YO. Then the 6 Frost Point, a 5YO mare, comes into this one in a vein for good recent form. She’s won three straight, moving from the allowance level, to the listed stakes level, to winning a graded stakes last time out in the Double Dog Dare at Keeneland. She’s a deserved 2/1 favorite.

I went with Pauline’s Pearl on top, mostly because she’s 6-for-13 lifetime at the distance, and has run good races at Churchill. For a value play, look outside to 7 Hidden Connection, who finished less than a length behind favorite Frost Point last out at Keeneland. I think the 9/2 price is more than fair for a filly of her quality.

Top selections: 3, 7, 6


We head back to the turf for this one, and we get a dynamite field, as well. The 7 Set Piece is an old two-turn turf specialist, and one that loves Churchill: he’s 4-for-7 lifetime. I think the 6 Royal Patronage has finally found his footing in North America, after a few failed attempts last year. He bounced straight off the layoff to win an allowance in April at Keeneland, and trainer Graham Motion’s horses excel at the 6 week mark, winning at 30% in a huge sample size. Simply put, this is what Motion does best.

I love a long shot here, however: 4 Tiberius Mercurius is a 7YO horse, running almost all of his races on synthetic and turf. He’s only won four times in his life, but two of those are in his last three starts. His other start? He ran third in an allowance at Keeneland in good company. I think jockey Luis Saez will give him an excellent trip, and he’ll have a super shot to win or hit the board.

Top selections: 6, 7, 4*


The favorite in here is the 1 Rattle N Roll, who won two weeks ago in the Pimlico Special (probably one of the best finishes I’ve ever seen in person). While I trust trainer Kenny McPeek that he’s ready to run a mile and an eighth this quickly, I’ll pass on him today, and eat my words if he indeed is ready to run it back.

I’ll take another flier here with the 6 Happy American, who earlier in the year showed great form around Christmas and in January at Fair Grounds. He was good not great last out in the Ben Ali at Keeneland, and the three horses who finished ahead of him are back here. Could he turn the tables? It might be worth trying at 8/1.

The absolute wild card here is 5 Santin, who is a super successful turf horse trying dirt for the first time in his career. Trainer Brendan Walsh is reasonably successful with this angle, winning at 14%. He won’t be without help in the irons, as jockey Tyler Gaffalione is Churchill’s most recent dominant jock.

Top selections: 6, 4, 1, 3

Good luck today! -Louie

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