11/15/2012 4:30PM

Byron King: Look past favorites in Commonwealth, Mrs. Revere

Tom Keyser
Lea has tactical speed, which should help him gain good early position in an expected full field in the Commonwealth Turf.

A third of the way into the Oct. 13 Hawthorne Derby, bettors who placed Lea anywhere on their mutuel tickets probably considered the wagers a lost cause.

Normally a horse who is prominent early, Lea broke sluggishly and raced erratically over the soft ground at Hawthorne, falling back to 10th and then getting hung four wide into the first turn. But in the end, Lea made something out of nothing. After being angled toward the inside, he steadily advanced and rallied to be third.

Returning Saturday in the Grade 3 Commonwealth Turf under the lights at Churchill Downs, Lea should get a significantly better trip – provided he gets a little racing luck – and his chances of winning should increase along with it.

With 14 horses entered in the Commonwealth, and with two more sitting on the also-eligible list, the race will be congested, causing some horses to get hung wide and others to get buried in traffic. But Lea should be able to avoid much of these traffic issues if he shows his customary tactical speed over what is expected to be a firm course. Provided he breaks well, he should settle right behind the front-runners and get first run on the closers.

Another horse whose tactical speed makes him a player is Exfactor, who regularly races first or second in the early going. This should allow him to clear much of the traffic while those behind him are searching for running room or losing ground with wide rallies. Exfactor’s inability to deliver a knockout blow – as evidenced by five runner-up finishes in his 10-race career – makes him the second selection behind Lea.

As for King David, the tepid 4-1 morning-line favorite, he merits respect off a victory in a weak renewal of the Grade 1 Jamaica. But as a stalker drawn in post 11, King David can be expected to lose ground, perhaps enough to make him vulnerable.

Post time for the Commonwealth Turf is 7:32 p.m. Eastern

Mrs. Revere: English Class a better play

The Grade 2 Mrs. Revere follows the Commonwealth Turf two races later in race 9, with Centre Court the favorite.

The 5-2 morning-line choice, she has all the credentials. She is a two-time graded stakes winner, she is coming off a runner-up finish in the Queen Elizabeth II behind loose-on-the-lead winner Dayatthespa, and she is 2 for 2 on the Churchill turf.

If Centre Court were truly going to start at 5-2, she would be the play − but there’s no way she will. Expect odds more in the 7-5 or 8-5 range, and at that price, even with her strengths, it is probably best to seek a pricier alternative.

The value play is English Class. A 10-1 outsider on the morning line, she could drift higher by post time, being a former maiden claimer and a filly without a stakes win.

But this miss has improved dramatically since the summer, and her runner-up finish in the faster of two divisions of the Grade 3 Valley View last month at Keeneland suggests she can be a force in the Mrs. Revere. Hung three wide for much of her last race, she lost far more ground than the winner, late-running Miz Ida, who had a perfect ground-saving trip around both turns.

This time, however, it is English Class who figures to have the better chance to save ground. She is drawn in post 6, with mostly closers to her inside, suggesting she ought to be able to grab a forward position along the hedge into the first turn. Ideally, she can settle right behind the leaders from this spot and pounce turning for home.

English Class warrants a win play if she starts at 10-1 or above, and an exacta box with Centre Court is also advised.

Two more plays with value

Other selected value plays on Saturday’s “Downs After Dark” card at Churchill Downs:

◗ Charlies Swell (race 5, 5-1 morning line): He takes a class drop from $25,000 to $15,000 after failing in the mud at Hoosier, but that off-track failure is a toss out. This is a versatile gelding who has performed well on fast dirt tracks, including when second over this strip in May.

◗ Sanaaya (race 6, 9-2 morning line): Second in both of her starts, she has the pedigree to elevate her game going 1 1/16 miles; further encouraged by a half-mile breeze in 48.80 seconds Nov. 10, a nice follow-up work after her last start Oct. 28.