Updated on 09/17/2011 10:44PM

Speed the way to go on Churchill turf


LEXINGTON, Ky. - The turf courses at Keeneland and Churchill usually favor different running styles.

At the fall meet at Keeneland, just 11 percent of the first-call leaders in turf routes won. At Churchill, the win rate of the early leaders has been noticeably stronger, at 17 percent through Nov. 10. Just one horse who was second during the early going won on the grass at Keeneland, for a 3 percent win rate. Horses who were second early at Churchill have won 11 percent of their races going long on the turf. Horses who were among the first three to the first call in those races at Keeneland won 20 percent of the time, compared with 47 percent at Churchill.

Handicappers who plan on betting on the 1 1/16-mile Commonwealth Turf at Churchill on Sunday would be well advised to look for a horse with early or tactical speed. T.D. Vance took his field all the way when he won the Bryan Station at Keeneland in his return from a two-month break. That running style will be more effective at Churchill than it was at Keeneland, and a good trip while leading through a moderate pace is likely here. Factor in the possibility of improvement in the second race of his form cycle, and T.D. Vance is my pick to win the race.

I will also be looking for a horse to use beneath him in the exacta.

Spring House just won a stakes at Laurel as a deep closer. He has the wrong running style, and will have to improve to be effective in this stronger field.

Sky Conqueror was up close to a slow pace when he finished second of six in a stakes at Woodbine. He is typically a deep closer when he faces faster fractions. He will need to surpass his best form to win this.

Drum Major rallied into contention behind T.D. Vance in the Bryan Station and weakened late. He deserves to be considered a contender, but if you are looking to give a horse from off the pace the benefit of the doubt, you might want to find one who displayed a stronger late kick than he did last time.

Greater Good comes out of four straight graded stakes races. He won the Grade 3 Rebel, finished fifth of 10 in the Grade 2 Arkansas Derby, and was 13th of 20 in the Kentucky Derby. It is a concern, however, that he finished seventh of nine in the Grade 2 Indiana Derby last time in his comeback Oct. 1. He is interesting from a class perspective, and he can move forward second time back from the sidelines, but I would need an attractive price before using a deep closer on a course that favors early and tactical speed.

Cosmic Kris just finished a close second in the Grade 3 Hawthorne Derby and is capable of continuing to improve in the third race of his form cycle. The catch is that he was last of five early and will be giving away an advantage to those in this field who have more tactical speed.

Cosmonaut is a major player, with two wins from his last three starts. Although he only beat maidens and an allowance field in those races, his 91 and 95 Beyer Speed Figures suggest that he fits well here. Unfortunately, he also is likely to be in the back half of the pack during the early going.

Rebel Rebel finished third behind English Channel in the Grade 3 Virginia Derby on the grass at Colonial in his first U.S. start. He was a convincing winner over $75,000 optional claimers at Belmont, with a 97 Beyer in his return from a two-month break. A little improvement second time back would make him formidable, but Rebel Rebel was a closer in that race, so he might be fighting the pace profile here.

Therecomesatiger ran a nice race in the Bryan Station. He is a good fit for this course, as he will not have to be pushed early, since he has enough natural speed to stay within striking distance of T.D. Vance. Therecomesatiger had a wide trip behind that rival last time because of his outside draw; he broke from post 8 and raced in the five path entering the first turn. He continued wide on the backstretch and was five wide on the far turn. He looked as if he were going to challenge T.D. Vance when he rallied to within a length of that rival in midstretch, but Therecomesatiger was outkicked and finished third, beaten by 1 3/4 lengths. He should save ground from post 2 today and will be my choice to complete the exacta with help from the better trip.