- Saturday’s Action Includes graded stakes races around the country
- Breeders Cup prep races include superstars like Life is Good and Country Grammer plus Kentucky Derby winner Rich Strike
- Where can we find betting value in the big races Saturday for your horse racing picks?
The Breeders’ Cup World Championships are five weeks away at Keeneland in Lexington, KY. That makes this the perfect time for many horses to run in their final race before the ultimate goal that effectively wraps up the year.
In New York, Kentucky, and California, there are graded stakes races on Saturday with several including expense-paid berths in the Breeders Cup. Among the Breeders’ Cup Classic odds favorites will be Life is Good, who runs in the Woodward Stakes. Kentucky Derby winner Rich Strike is back at Churchill Downs, facing older horses in the Lukas Classic. Dubai World Cup champion Country Grammer goes in the Awesome Again Stakes.
October 1 Horse Racing Picks
|Woodward Stakes||Life Is Good||-900|
|Ack Ack Stakes||Twilight Blue||+1200|
|Lukas Classic||Hot Rod Charlie||+160|
|Santa Anita Sprint Championship||Forbidden Kingdom||+180|
|Awesome Again Stakes||Royal Ship||+300|
Let’s look carefully at some of Saturday’s graded stakes action, and consider where to lean on heavy favorites, and what opportunities exist to find decent prices in our horse racing picks.
Because of upgrades being made to Belmont Park, their fall meet is being held at Aqueduct. The Grade 1 Woodward Stakes has a $500,000 purse and is a mile-and-an-eighth on the main track. Life Is Good will be tough to beat, whereas the half-million-dollar Champagne Stakes for two-year-olds is a Breeders Cup Win and You’re In event for the Juvenile that could be open to an upset.
While Churchill Downs is currently without turf racing, they have two big dirt events on Saturday. The $300,000 Grade 3 Ack Ack stake is a one-mile test with the winner earning a spot in the Breeders Cup Dirt Mile. The G2 Lukas Classic is a $500,000 mile-and-an-eighth challenge. Kentucky Derby winner Rich Strike will face his elders, including Art Collector, Happy Saver, and Hot Rod Charlie.
In California, the Grade 2 $200,000 Santa Anita Sprint Championship has a nice mix of three-year-olds and veteran runners going six furlongs on the main track. The G1 mile-and-an-eighth Awesome Again Stakes has a purse of $300,000 and a berth in the BC Classic on the line.
Life Is Good (-900) has won eight of 10 career races and earned more than $4 million.
Life is Good has only two career losses. He lost to Jackies Warrior in a sprint race and many have criticized the ride Life is Good got, and in the $12 million Dubai World Cup. If he runs something like his fifth-best race, he’s likely to win
Keepmeinmind (+600) has consistently faced top horses and held his own. That said, he has two wins in 13 starts and usually plays second fiddle to the sport’s superstars.
Pick: Life Is Good (-900)
There was all sorts of hype around Gulfport (+200), who easily won his first two races.
As a heavy favorite in the Grade 2 Saratoga Special, he finished a well-beaten second to Damon’s Mound. In the Grade 1 Hopeful, he was a clear second best against Forte.
Verifying (+180) is the son of Triple Crown winner Justify. He was bought at auction for $775,000, and his first race was dazzling at Saratoga in late August. Now he shifts from six furlongs to a mile.
Top Recruit (+500) wasn’t spectacular but won his debut at Churchill Downs in June. He followed it up with a ho-hum effort in Iowa. However, his win at Ellis Park when stretched out to seven furlongs on August 14 was very impressive. Top jockey Irad Ortiz will ride Top Recruit for the first time.
Pick: Verifying (+180)
Ack Ack Stakes
Speaker’s Corner (+100) rolled off three straight easy wins to begin 2022.
While his last three races have not been as good, two came against monsters in Flightline and Life Is Good. He likes the one-mile distance, and may be the controlling speed in this 10-horse field.
Untreated (+450) is three-for-three going a mile and has tactical speed. Though he hasn’t won in five tries this year, he has been close running further distances against quality horses.
Fulsome (+500) has earned over $1 million, and won back-to-back races, albeit against lesser competition. He likes running at Churchill Downs.
Twilight Blue (+1200) is in excellent form. He finished a nose behind Fulsome in June and came back to win a stakes at Churchill Downs in August.
If you think Speaker’s Corner goes wire-to-wire in your horse racing picks, that’s reasonable. If not, there are a lot of solid options. Untreated and Twilight Blue could be near the front, giving them the first opportunity to challenge the favorite. The value on Twilight Blue is significant.
Pick: Twilight Blue (+1200)
The last time Rich Strike ran at Churchill Downs, the Kentucky Derby saw one of the biggest upsets in race history.
While Rich Strike (+600) has not won since then, his Belmont Stake effort was ok, and he ran well finishing fourth in the Travers Stakes. Now he must face older horses for the first time.
Hot Rod Charlie (+160) won a prep race for the Dubai World Cup in the Middle East back in February but has not seen the winner’s circle since. He was second in the World Cup, returned to lose by a nose in a Grade 3 event at Monmouth Park in June, and was third, finishing a head behind Happy Saver, well behind Life is Good in August’s Whitney Stakes at Saratoga. Last year Charlie was third in the Kentucky Derby, second in the Belmont Stakes and fourth in the Breeders Cup Classic.
Happy Saver (+250) has been second in five straight starts. He has been facing the best of the best. He had better racing luck than Hot Rod Charlie last time out.
Art Collector (+200) beat two lesser fields in August following an ugly effort in the $20 million Saudi Cup. He was sixth in last year’s Breeders Cup Classic, but could be the only horse that flashes early speed on Saturday and be worth a bet in your horse racing picks.
Pick: Hot Rod Charlie (+160)
Santa Anita Sprint Championship
This is a fascinating race. The favorite, Forbidden Kingdom (+180), hasn’t run since April and is facing elders for the first time. He is cutting back in distance, which is excellent since he ran out of gas in the Santa Anita Derby. His San Felipe Stakes was top-notch.
It appears the only other early speed is fellow three-year-old Kid Corleone (+400). He beat older horses, but not top-level ones in July. He yielded against older and slightly better foes in August.
C Z Rocket (+350) has won 12 times, earned over $1.5 million, and won this race two years ago. The eight-year-old is the most accomplished horse in the field by a mile, and he wasn’t competitive against better horses in August. He beat lesser in July. How much is left in the tank?
Todo Fino (+400) won nine of 14 races in Chile before coming to Del Mar last month. At +830 against mediocre competition, he not only won, but then watched several of those horses come back to prosper in their next race.
Pick: Forbidden Kingdom (+180)
Awesome Again Stakes
Bob Baffert has won this race seven times and has four of the eight horses running this year. His top choice is Country Grammer (+160). He won the Dubai World Cup, before finishing second to Royal Ship in late July, and was the runner up, albeit nearly 20 lengths behind Flightline in the Pacific Classic.
Country Grammer was two-and-a-half lengths clear of Royal Ship (+300) in the Pacific Classic, but Royal Ship beat him in the San Diego Handicap this year, and the California Stakes last year. They have consistently run tight races against each other. Royal Ship prefers Santa Anita to Del Mar.
Express Train (+350) also really likes Santa Anita, and was a non-factor against Flightline last time out. Second off a layoff, if he runs the way he did in the February and March he will be tough.
Defunded (+600) is a Baffert option who should get sent to the lead and hopes to get brave winning in wire-to-wire fashion.
Pick: Royal Ship (+300)