- With the Kentucky Derby moved to September new prep races have been created
- Saturday’s Matt Winn Stakes at Churchill Downs offers Derby qualifying points
- Unbeaten Maxfield makes his first start since October and will be the favorite
It is bizarre that there are Kentucky Derby prep races in late May. However, since the event was moved to September because of COVID-19, horses need to stay in shape and work to qualify for the Run for the Roses.
Churchill Downs opened last weekend and the Matt Winn Stakes Saturday, televised at 5:44 pm EST on Fox Sports 1 is the only Derby prep race that has qualifying points this month. The winner gets 50 points, with the second-place finisher earning 20, the show horse getting 10, and then whoever ends up fourth receiving five points.
The contenders are led by unbeaten Maxfield, but 10 other viable options are entered including another unbeaten and lightly raced three-year-old, Pneumatic. Let’s look at the full field and then seek some value.
2020 Matt Winn Stakes Odds
|Shake Some Action||+1400|
All odds taken May 22
On paper Godolphin owned Maxfield looks like a horse who was lightly bet when winning an ordinary maiden special weight in September, and then made an impressive move at 6/1 in a graded stakes race in October. Sometimes seeing is believing. Check out the huge move Maxfield makes in the Breeders Futurity as they get to the second turn.
It looks like he was shot out of a cannon. Now rested for more than half a year, he might need a little time to get going, but he should be bigger, stronger, and more mature. His workouts look great and it is possible he is just better than his competition.
There are three other prime contenders in the Matt Winn field. Pneumatic, Ny Traffic, and Major Fed all have reasonable arguments.
Pneumatic comes from the very strong Steve Asmussen barn and is ridden by his right-hand man Ricardo Santana. The owner, Winchell Thoroughbreds, is a major operation that includes Breeders Cup Distaff champ Untapable. Pneumatic is two for two including an optional claiming win last month. His speed figures are actually better than Maxfield.
Ny Traffic and Major Fed come out of the same race, the Louisiana Derby. Much like in that race, Ny Traffic should be forwardly placed and because today’s distance, a-mile-and-a-sixteenth, is shorter than their battle in March, he might just hold on in a race that doesn’t have a ton of early speed. Notice how Major Fed breaks poorly and makes a big move down the stretch.
Ny Traffic has two wins in seven starts but has been very competitive against good horses in his last two races. Major Fed finished ahead of Ny Traffic in the Risen Star Stakes, and had racing trouble last time out.
Mystic Guide is kind of an unknown. Also owned by Godolphin, who represents the ruling party of Dubai, he clearly is very well-liked. Maxfield hasn’t been bet strongly. Mystic Guide was the favorite in his debut, a second-place finish in a sprint race. He returned to be an even-money choice in a maiden special weight at the same distance they are running today and won by five lengths. He didn’t make his debut until February, but obviously is well thought of, and his speed figure from the victory put him in the mix against this field.
Maxfield may be a super horse who runs this group off the track. His last race is exceptional, but it is weird he hasn’t been backed strongly, and why was he off for such a long period of time? Sometimes you have to ask how a race will be run? Most of the prime candidates in this event want to bide their time and attack late. That means Ny Traffic, who will be close to the lead, may sit a perfect trip. If rider Paco Lopez can keep the tempo slow, he might have enough in reserve to get to the finish line first. At 6/1 the price presents value and he is our choice.
Pick: Ny Traffic (+600)
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