06/21/2012 3:42PM

King: Vulnerable favorites lend value to Churchill pick three

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The key factor in scoring a nice-sized payoff in the exotic wager isn’t complicated: beyond selecting the correct horses, it’s a matter of beating at least one or two favorites. Do that and payoffs return handsomely.

That’s precisely the angle I plan to put in play at Churchill Downs Saturday in a pick three that encompasses races 8-10, a series of races that includes the Kelly’s Landing and Grade 3 Debutante Stakes, plus a high-level allowance.

Here’s a look at the sequence, and the three-horse strategy I plan to employ in each leg of the wager.

◗ Race 8: Third-level allowance

Making this race appealing is that the favorite, 2-1 morning-line choice Karlovy Vary, looks beatable. Although she won the Grade 1 Ashland in April, that race was down in quality this year, and Karlovy Vary has never run nearly as fast on turf as she did that day with a perfect front-running trip on the Polytrack at Keeneland.

She is a multiple winner on the grass, but none of her wins on turf have been particularly quick, or come against competition as challenging as those she faces in race 8.

Rated on top is Artemus Kitten (#9), who beat graded stakes winner Upperline earlier this year at Fair Grounds in the Bayou Handicap. And though a poor performance followed on the Polytrack at Keeneland, she rebounded somewhat with a close fifth in the Grade 3 Mint Julep recently

To a lesser degree Vivo Per Lei (#10) is also interesting, having just won a second-level allowance narrowly May 19, completing 1 1/16 miles in a swift 1:42.72.

So I’ll use Artemus Kitten (#9), Vivo Per Lei (#10), and Karlovy Vary (#3) – with Karlovy Vary ’s inclusion serving strictly as a backup.

◗ Race 9: The Kelly’s Landing

A seven-furlong overnight handicap, this race drew a competitive field of nine, with Golden Frontier (#1) favored at 2-1 after winning an allowance with a 106 Beyer Speed Figure in winning a May 24 allowance race.

He was spectacular in winning by more than 11 lengths, but bear in mind that it was just a first-level allowance, with a perfect trip in the

Now he gives up seasoning, and he could not have drawn worse along the fence. Jockey Jon Court will likely have to send him from this position, and if he takes heat on his outside, regression seems likely. He’s a horse to use, but not to love.

My choice on value is 10-1 outsider Delaunay (#7), an overachieving horse with 15 exacta finishes from 31 starts and one who joins the Maggi Moss stable off the claim for $40,000.

A seven-furlong specialist, he is well drawn in post 7, perfectly situated to get a nice trip pressing or stalking the pace on the outside.

Lastly, I’ll toss in millionaire Noble’s Promise (#6), whose has been off his game this year but who won the Grade 3 Aristides over this track last year, and also took the Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity three years ago at Keeneland as a juvenile.

◗ Race 10: The Debutante

A six-furlong dash filled with inexperienced juvenile fillies, this race is not the kind of race to go singling. All these are being stretched out in distance, and they will likely have to deal with a faster pace than what they experienced in their short careers.

Blueeyesintherein (#3) is the most likely winner, but forget about her starting her 5-2 morning line. She’s going to get hammered in the wagering off a debut win in which she won in fast time under minimal urging.

She could repeat, but stretching out from 4 1/2 furlongs to six, accepting a short price on her in the win pool, or singling her is risky business.

Interesting as the speed of the speed is the outside-drawn Richie’slilcowgirl (#10), a quick-breaking filly who was purchased privately after wiring a good maiden field at Arlington last month.

As for the move from Poly to dirt, she has the pedigree to handle the switch, and because she’s drawn outside, she’s unlikely to have any dirt in her face early – provided she busts out of the gate like she did first time out.

Also worth including is Floral Sky (#5), who overcame a slow start to win a five-furlong race May 17, while launching an eye-catching turn move.

◗ Using three horses in each leg of the wager, those outlined above, a $0.50 Pick Three can be played for $13.50. The ticket, in numerical order, looks like this: a fifth-cent pick three – 3,9,10 with 1,6,7 with 3,5,10.