Kentucky Downs Grade 3 Mint Million Analysis
As the premier summer meetings at Del Mar and Saratoga draw to a close today, the action heats up in Franklin, Tennessee at Kentucky Downs. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Kentucky Downs, it is quite possibly the most unique race track in the country. They only conduct turf racing, and their turf course is irregularly shaped with undulations on both the back stretch and the front stretch. See the below image for the course configuration.
Kentucky Downs runs a very abbreviated meet of less than two weeks, but they offer some incredibly lucrative purses in each race. Kentucky Downs is a bettor's delight, as they boast huge fields with low takeout, resulting in some huge scores. Without further delay, let's take a look at the $1,000,000 Grade 3 WinStar Mint Million Stakes.
The first thing to note is that this race is held at one mile, which at Kentucky Downs is only a one-turn race. Using some historical data, the inside posts going a mile at Kentucky Downs have not fared very well. Since 2017, horses are a combined 3/50 (6%) breaking from the rail. Additionally, this distance has proven to be very challenging to win while racing on the lead, as only 6 of 50 (12%) winners went wire to wire, significantly below the national average.
When assessing the field, one must start with the two major players shipping in from high profile barns, #11 Flavius and #9 Somelikeithotbrown. The former actually won this race last year when it was called the Tourist Mile, setting a track record in the process, while the latter is making his Kentucky Downs debut. Flavius certainly warrants favortism, as he goes out for the ever-dangerous Chad Brown barn and lures Castellano away from the closing day at Saratoga. It does feel as if Flavius has been somewhat of a disappointment since arriving from Ireland two years ago, as he's been unable to land a blow when facing graded stakes company. It's also fair to wonder if that Kentucky Downs race last year was somewhat of an abberation, as he hasn't been able to replicate that effort despite getting some very favorable trips in recent races. There are reasons to be skeptical of him winning this race at a short price. However, horse-for-course angles are incredibly strong at Kentucky Downs due to the unique track configuration, and perhaps Flavius simply does his best running on the European style courses.
Somelikeithotbrown is another story, however. The five-year-old son of Big Brown is your likely pacesetter, and he does convince Jose Ortiz to ship in for the mount. While he will attract his fair share of support, I'm more likely to play against this runner. His front-running style generally does not align with the winning track profile, and I'm not keen to take a short price on a horse who feels like he should have won his last race after being two lengths clear in the stretch but ultimately coughed up the lead late. He may also have to contend with pace pressure from #7 Bizzee Channel and #1 Betwithbothhands.
While many folks may assert that this is a two horse affair, I think there are a few other contenders with major upset chances. #4 Kentucky Ghost has really turned a corner in his four-year-old season, improving in each start and posting a career-best effort last out. He's already proven to handle this course, as he was a game 2nd place last year in an allowance race at Kentucky Downs while going a distance that is likely too far for him. Victoria Oliver does not have good numbers in Graded Stakes, but this runner is a must-use horse based on recent form. #6 Pixelate is another who has an upset chance, although I imagine he will be overbet after Rosario's five-win day yesterday. I prefer Kentucky Ghost to Pixelate, but I think they both have a chance at the upset. Lastly, #5 Monarchs Glen likely won't win this race, but the seven-year-old warrior has really rediscovered his peak form since being claimed by Mike Maker earlier this year. He does his best running late, and he could be a serviceable key in the bottom of exactas or trifectas.
The bottom line: Flavius is most likely to run his race for an in-the-money finish, but he isn't an overwhelmingly likely winner relative to the rest of the field. We'll play against Somelikeithotbrown, who seems to be against the flow of the race. Kentucky Ghost is the key longshot with the best chance at the upset, and Pixelate and Monarchs Glen are fringe players more likely to pick up minor awards.
$10 win -- #4 Kentucky Ghost
$5 Exacta Key Box -- #4 Kentucky Ghost / #6 Pixelate, #11 Flavius
$2 Trifecta -- #4 Kentucky Ghost / #6 Pixelate, #11 Flavius / #5 Monarchs Glen, #6 Pixelate, #11 Flavius
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