Churchill Downs: Selections and Analysis for Closing Day

Chris Adams

The Churchill Downs meet will come to a close Saturday, June 26. The final card features the Grade 2 Stephen Foster Stakes.

Churchill Downs Saturday Racing Card

Saturday’s final race card from Churchill for the season is a marathon 12 race card. The first post is scheduled for 12:45 pm ET. The Tepin Stakes is scheduled to close out the card at 6:27 pm ET.

Seven of the 12 races on the card will be stakes races including a couple of graded events. The highlight of the card will be race 11 where Maxfield has the potential to give Godolphin Stables a stranglehold on the handicap division. With a win, Maxfield would join stablemates Essential Quality and Mystic Guide as heavy contenders for the Breeder’s Cup Classic in the fall.

The card presents a number of great betting opportunities for players. With an average field size over 10 horses there should be plenty of value to go around.

Seven of the 12 races will be contested at route distance. Most of the card will be on the dirt with the exception of the War Chant, The Wise Dan, and the Tepin Stakes.

Watch and Wager on Churchill Downs

The Churchill card will be broadcast on the family of Fox Sports networks throughout the day. Check local listings for more details. The coverage is also available via livestream on NYRA’s youtube channel.

Several wagering options are available to players including the ability to wager from the comfort of your own living room. TVG,NYRA Bets, and Twinspires offer the ability to bet on the races from desktop or mobile devices as well as a number of their own handicapping tools to help make your wagers.

Analysis of the Churchill Card

Most Wide Open Race

Race 2 from Churchill will be run at 6 furlongs on the dirt and is a maiden special weight for $100,000. The race has 16 entries, but a maximum field size of 12 meaning at least four of these will be scratched prior to post time.

The field of 16 has a combined 11 starts to their name with 11 of the horses making their first career start. In this situation it is extremely hard to figure out who will likely take the prize.

When handicapping these races there are a couple of hints that can point you in the right direction.


There are a couple of hints to how the horse might do based on their bloodline. If you are familiar with sires, you can look at the name and have a pretty good idea as to whether or not the horse fits here. Otherwise look at the purchase prices of the horse and any breeding ratings that may be available in your past performances. These can be great indicators as to whether or not the horse has a chance today.


Look for trainers who have stats above 10% with first or second time starters, or 2 year olds. This can suggest the trainer is getting the horse out of the gate quickly which can be a huge advantage.


First time starters can win, but horses tend to learn a lot in their first race. Don’t ignore a horse who had a seemingly unimpressive first start as it may have just been a learning experience.


Horses are creatures of habit. For first time starters look for the last three workouts to be evenly spaced out (usually 7-10 days between each). This suggests the horse has been training regularly. If there are bigger gaps or inconsistencies, it may suggest there were interruptions to the training schedule and the horse may not be ready today.

Smart Money

Watch the tote board on race day. In these races with no data to go on, money that comes in can often be from people on the backside who are “in the know”. They are not always correct, but if you see a horse drifting way up or down it may be a signal that the horse is ready to run or perhaps just the opposite.

Best Bet of the Day

Race 10: #1 Set Piece (8-5) is coming off a convincing win over the Churchill turf course at this distance. The horse is trained by Brad Cox and ridden by Florent Geroux, both of whom carry a win percentage over 20 this meet.

Live Long Shots

The early part of the card appears to be the most chaotic. Here are some long shots that could help you get on house money before a seemingly more formful end of the card.

  • Race 2: #3 Call Me Gusto (30-1) is definitely not the most likely winner, but at 30-1 the risk is being compensated with price. The horse gets Gabe Saez aboard and is out of a dam who has produced a winner out of only 2 starters including 12% at first asking. He’s definitely worth a use underneath in vertical exotics.
  • Race 3: #11 Rocking the Boat (5-1) has been in the money 5 out of 7 times at Churchill Downs. The horse gets top connections and has been a hot commodity in the claim box which suggests a lot of trainers really like the horse.
  • Race 4: #7 Moliere (8-1) ran a stinker in the slop last out, but before that was 3 for 3 in the exacta. The horse has done his best work on the front and new jockey Jose Ortiz has not been shy about getting horses to the front lately.
  • Race 5: #3 Vault (10-1) will have Tyler Gafflione aboard. He is one of Churchill’s top jockeys. Although this group is tough, the mare is coming off a Grade 2 victory in the Ruffian.

Churchill Downs Expert Selections

Horses are listed in order of preference

  • *Indicates best bet of the day
  • (LS) Indicates live long shot


  1. 8-6-10-3
  2. 1-11-9-3 (LS)
  3. 11 (LS)-12-2-5
  4. 2-7 (LS)-9-3
  5. 6-4-3 (LS)-1
  6. 6-4-10-5
  7. 7-5-2-4
  8. 3-1-7-6
  9. 9-2-8-1
  10. 1*-3-5-7
  11. 8-3-2-6
  12. 8-1-7-5-12

Churchill Downs Wagering Strategy

When using the picks above, a quick and easy way to put together wagers is to play the picks in exacta boxes. I recommend using the top pick and boxing it with each of the other picks. For a $1 wager most of the races will cost you no more than $6.

If you want to take your game to the next level you can use weighted boxes. In this strategy you apply the most money to the combinations you are most confident in. This will allow you to hit the winner multiple times.

Wagering Example Race 1: Boxes

  • $1 Exacta Box 8-6 ($2)
  • $1 Exacta Box 8-10 ($2)
  • $1 Exacta Box 8-3 ($2)

Total Wager: $6

Wagering Example Race 1: Weighted Boxes

  • $3 Exacta Box 8-6 ($6)
  • $2 Exacta Box 8-10 ($4)
  • $1 Exacta Box 8-3 ($2)

Total Wager: $12

Probable Payoffs

When playing exactas, players have the advantage of seeing probable payoffs for each combination. Make sure that any bet you play is going to make the risk worth it.

For example, if in race 1 the $1 exacta combination of 8-6 is paying $5 it may be worth not playing that ticket. Even if that combination comes in and you have it 3 times in the weighted box strategy, you will earn $15. Not great value when you had to put up $12 just to hit it.

The successful horseplayer must see these low return scenarios and be comfortable passing on the winner.

Good luck on all of your wagers throughout the weekend!

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