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Saturday Stakes: Honoring a Legend to Kick Off Churchill Downs
SATURDAY, APRIL 27, 2019
by: Rich Bieglmeier
With Triple Crown season ready to leave the gates next Saturday, May 4, 2019, it's time for the horses to get back to work at Belmont Park and Churchill Downs. The hosts for the first and last leg of the Triple Crown, the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes, re-open their doors this weekend.
The racing at Belmont started yesterday and Churchill Downs turns on the lights today. With the patrons back in the seats, both iconic horse racing tracks feature a stakes race with $125,000 in prize-money. The $125,000 ELUSIVE QUALITY STAKES in the 9th at Belmont and the $125,000 WILLIAM WALKER STAKES in the 8th at Churchill.
The pair on non-Graded stakes races are part of a Saturday Stakes Racing schedule of 10 with at least $100,000 in play. The list also includes:
Golden Gate Race 9 - $100,000 CALIFORNIA DERBY
Golden Gate Fields Race 10 - $250,000 SAN FRANCISCO MILE STAKES - GRADE III
Oaklawn Park Race 9 - $150,000 BACHELOR STAKES
Parx Race 7 - $100,000 LYMAN HANDICAP
Parx Race 8 - $100,000 FOXY J.G.S.G. STAKES
Santa Anita Race 5 - $100,000 CRYSTAL WATER STAKES
Santa Anita Race 8 - $200,000 SANTA MARGARITA STAKES - GRADE II
Woodbine Race 8 - $100,000 WOODSTOCK STAKES
The schedule isn't as busy as last Saturday and won't be as hectic as next Saturday when up to 20 run for the roses, but it does offer horseplayers plenty of opportunities to wager on quality horses. With our focus turning to the Triple Crown races, let's look at the races in New York and Louisville.
The WILLIAM WALKER STAKES is named after William "Uncle Bill" Walker, who was born a slave in Kentucky. He started racing at 11-years-old and became the top jock at six of the first 13 meets at Louisville Jockey Club/Churchill downs. He finished fourth in the inaugural Kentucky Derby and won in 1877 with Baden-Baden. In total, he rode in four Kentucky Derbies. He witnessed or rode in every Derby, 59 of them, until he died in 1933. Today, his headstone outlines his career at Louisville Cemetery, God rest his soul.
Jockey William "Uncle Bill" Walker
Wow, what an amazing story and a well-deserved honor having the first stakes race at Churchill's Spring meet named after him. The WILLIAM WALKER STAKES is 5-furlongs on Churchill grass, headlined by the unbeaten BULLETIN (PP: 1 ML 4/5).
Trainer Todd Pletcher's horse is three-for-three on turf, including one at Churchill where he posted his best speed figure. It's been speed, speed and more speed so far as BULLETIN has never trailed in a race, going wire-to-wire for his three Ws.
Ones might continue to populate BULLETIN's past-performance lines as the only entrant to consistently battle for the lead is ABYSSINIAN (PP: 7 ML 7/2). Our Pro-Subscribers' bonus commentary sees the seven as the main threat to end BULLETIN's winning ways.
"We tried to find a way to pick another ahead of BULLETIN but couldn't. ABYSSINIAN won her only race at the distance/surface by 6 3/4 lengths. JO JO AIR's trainer/jockey combo of Wesley Ward and John Velazquez have won 31% of their races together in the last 60-days. HARTEL has some strong workouts as he comes back to the track for the first time since October 6, 2018."
Seven horses, four-years-old and up, will run 7-furlongs on Belmont's Widener Turf for the $125,000 ELUSIVE QUALITY STAKES. Oddsmakers see KRAMPUS (PP: 4) as the early favorite with morning-line odds of 2-1. The five-year-old's closing style seems like a good fit at the distance on turf. The typical winner at the distance/surface raced third at the quarter and half-mile markers.
Krampus at Gulfstream Park
The William Mott trainee looks like a horse for the Belmont course as he has two wins in two tries, both on the grass. KRAMPUS will battle another undefeated at Belmont horse in THERAPIST (PP: 5), the second morning-line choice at 3-1 pre-race odds. THERAPIST is three-for-three Belmont Park, all on turf and includes a two-length victory at the distance.
Somebody's O has got to go. The way our handicapper sees it in our Pro-Subscribers' bonus commentary, the two early favorites are likely to go one, two.
"KRAMPUS has two races at Belmont, two wins. A horse for the course. THERAPIST is another that loves New York; three runs at Belmont and three Ws. FIXED POINT has raced well on the grass with three wins, a second and two thirds in seven starts. V.I.P. CODE looks as good as any of the rest; so, we'll take the longer odds."
Good luck at the races!
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