05/31/2012 3:39PM

King: $12 may be all it takes to hit Churchill's all-stakes pick three


After a month of rather ordinary post-Kentucky Derby racing, Saturday’s 11-race card, featuring three graded stakes races and contested under the lights at Churchill Downs, provides a much needed infusion of excitement.

Now the aim is to have it provide of infusion of capital. Here’s a look at Saturday night’s all-graded-stakes pick three at Churchill Downs, and my wagering strategy.

◗ First up in the Winning Colors, a six-furlong race for female sprinters that drew a speed-laden field, and seemingly an evenly matched group.

Speedacious (No. 8) and Beat the Blues (3) – two of three Bret Calhoun-trained horses that are uncoupled in the race – have the right style for how the race sets up. They are proven from off the pace, yet speedy enough to gain position.

Based largely on value, Speedacious is my top selection, based on the feeling she will drift up from her 7-2 morning line, perhaps to 5-1 or so. The guess is that some will abandon her after what might be described as an “ugly win” April 28 in which she drifted out despite repeated corrections from her rider.

But that’s her. She has a history of drifting in the stretch, normally a poor sign, except she still manages to win, making it a forgivable nasty habit.

Drawn on the outside in post 8, Speedacious is well situated for how she likes to run, and Brian Hernandez ought to be able to place her in a stalking position behind the leaders before coming after them leaving the turn.

Beat the Blues will also likely be racing in that second flight of runners, though more toward the inside than Speedacious. She is also coming off a win, having taken the Carousel Stakes at Oaklawn on April 28. She runs well fresh and was second in this race last year behind Sassy Image.

Although not as likely a winner, I will also include longshot Island Bound (6) on my tickets. She comes off a deceptively good second in the $200,000 Sugar Maple Stakes at Charles Town in which she lost to Magical Feeling, a 12-time winner who took the Grade 2 Barbara Fritchie earlier in the year.

◗ The boys are up next in the six-furlong Aristides – a race Cash Refund (8) looks likely to win. He is blessed with speed and heart, and ran almost too well to lose in a couple races at Fair Grounds over the winter when beaten a nose twice by the classy Gantry.

Cash Refund has trained swiftly in recent weeks in leading up to this race, his first start in two months, and this has always been a horse that does his best running when fresh and racing toward the outside.

Jockey Shaun Bridgmohan, who was aboard for Cash Refund’s last win here in May of last year, should be able to let his speedy mount gain position without hustling him, likely resulting in Cash Refund being in a pressing position on the outside.

I will use just one other horse on my pick three tickets – Rothko (1). He ran second in the Grade 1 Malibu behind The Factor late last year before going off form in the San Carlos and being freshened.

He seemingly took the worst of the draw, landing on the inside, however. All three of the his wins have come on the outside.

◗ Last up in the Mint Julep, a race in which Tapitsfly is a single – if she starts. But trainer Dale Romans told Churchill Downs publicity she may be scratched in favor of running in the Grade 1 Just a Game on Belmont Day.

Under that scenario the horses to use are Ravi’s Song (6) and Bizzy Caroline (1). Both are graded quality mares capable of running Beyer Speed Figures in the 90s on the grass.

Ravi’s Song, at 5-1 on the morning line, might be a little overlooked, not having won since March 2011, but she has thrown in four strong runner-up finishes over that stretch, including twice in graded stakes races over this course.

A recent fourth-place finish in an allowance at Keeneland was also deceptively strong, as evidenced by the fact that the third-place finisher, Hungry Island, returned to win the Grade 2 Churchill Downs Turf Mile on Derby Day.

As for Bizzy Caroline, she has also shown an affinity for the Churchill Downs grass, winning the Regret last year and finishing her 3-year-old season with a runner-up finish in the Mrs. Revere.

She ran third on Polytrack in her one start as a 4-year-old April 28, a race that served the purpose of advancing her fitness and readying her for the return to stakes competition.

◗ Using the horses outlined above, a $1 pick three ticket in post position order of 3,6,8 with 1,8 with 1,6 costs a mere $12.