The Matt Winn Stakes

The Churchill Downs Spring Meet is in full swing.  The Kentucky Derby trail continues Saturday with the Grade 3, $150,000 dollar Matt Winn Stakes run at 1 1/16 miles.  The race attracted a full field of 12 horses led by the 2-year-old star MAXFIELD.

The Matt Winn is Race 10 on a card of 11 with a scheduled Post Time of 5:45.  Here then is a look at the field along with Morning Line odds.

1. MYSTIC GUIDE  [ML 15-1]  Trainer: Michael Stidham.  Jockey: Brian Hernandez Jr.  He is a son of GHOSTZAPPER so he has a good stamina blood line.  Broke his Maiden by five lengths at Fair Grounds on March 21st.  But that field was so-so at best.  He could develop into a top 3-year-old horse.        

2. PNEUMATIC  [ML 4-1]  Trainer: Steven Asmussen.  Jockey: Ricardo Santana Jr.  He has Won both his starts- a Maiden and Allowance optional claiming, both at Oaklawn Park. He possesses enough speed to be positioned around mid-pack.  If room opens up on the far turn, expect PNEUMATIC to move forward in his third start with another strong rally.              

3. INFORMATIVE  [ML 20-1]  Trainer: Uriah St. Lewis.  Jockey: John Bisono.  Given that he could only manage a 7th place finish in the Gotham Stakes (G3) against a moderate group, the Derby Trail is probably not the right path for him.  He only broke his Maiden by a neck at Aqueduct against a very weak field.  If this horse Wins, it will go down as a HUGE upset.

4. CELTIC STRIKER  [ML 20-1]  Trainer: Raymond Handal.  Jockey: Manuel Franco.  Like the #3 here’s another horse that makes you wonder why his connections feel he can factor here.  After flashing early speed in the Gotham Stakes he dropped anchor, and finished last of 11.  He may at the least, provide some pace for the stalkers and closers.             

5. FLAP JACK  [ML 20-1]  Trainer: Jack Sisterson.  Jockey: Rafael Bejarano.  What the hay, it’s a crazy mixed up season, why not shoot for the moon, or chase Derby points.  After showing early speed, this horse faded to 12th in the Oaklawn Stakes, 33 ¼ lengths back.  His 6th place finish in the Gotham is not a big positive either.  He would need a HUGE turnaround.

6. NY TRAFFIC  [ML 10-1]  Trainer: Saffie Joseph Jr.  Jockey: Paco Lopez.  He ran well as the runner-up in the Louisiana Derby (G2).  The Winner, WELLS BAYOU, ran alone up front through a moderate pace, making him hard to mow down in the stretch run.  Even with some minor concerns, in a race that lacks a moderate pace type runner, his early speed is an asset.      

7. NECKER ISLAND  [ML 15-1]  Trainer: Stanley Hough.  Jockey: Tyler Gaffalione.  In this colt’s last three starts, he has been exposed as average.  After a 5th place finish in the Swale Stakes (G3), he went on to finish 5th in the Gotham Stakes (G3) and 4th in the Unbridled Stakes with absolutely no punch down the stretch.  He needs to turn his form around.

8. CRYPTO CASH  [ML 20-1]  Trainer: Kenneth McPeek.  Jockey: Corey Lanerie.  Not for nothing- this long-shot did do some minor running late to close for 6th in the first division of the Arkansas Derby (G1).  Here, he gets to cut back in distance and could pick off some horses again late for a minor placing.  If the pace is faster than expected and he does fire late, throw him into the 3rd or 4th slots.

9. SHAKE SOME ACTION  [ML 12-1]  Trainer: Brad Cox.  Jockey: Javier Castellano.  His effort in the Louisiana Derby wasn’t terrible.  He was steadied early and still passed some notable horses late to pick up 6th place.  Regardless, his lack of speed in this large field is a concern.  He does not look fast enough on speed figures to Win.  But he too could pick off enough horses late to earn a minor place- 3rd or 4th.

10. MAXFIELD  [ML 5-2]  Trainer: Brendan Walsh.  Jockey: Jose Ortiz.  A lot of 2-year-old stars fail to move forward in their 3-year-old seasons, so it is difficult not to exhibit some caution with this guy.  Here is a popular colt coming off a long layoff in a Derby prep race.  He hasn’t raced since last October, when he Won the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) at Keeneland.  Will he will return in that same dominate fashion?  From a betting standpoint, what upside is there to relying on him?  Only use this chalky favorite defensively in multi-race wagers and watch how he performs for future consideration.

11. ATTACHMENT RATE  [ML 4-1]  Trainer: Dale Romans.  Jockey: John Velazquez.  Betting on horses that cannot switch leads is always troubling.  This closer failed to switch in the Unbridled Stakes at Gulfstream Park and it cost him the Victory.  He did lose to a nice horse with a future and still held on for 2nd.  But unless he corrects this mechanical flaw, failing to switch leads will probably cause him to hang once again.  If he fires, expect a wide, menacing move before he stalls once more in the lane for a minor share.  

12. MAJOR FED  [ML 5-1]  Trainer: Gregory Foley.  Jockey: Joel Rosario.  He closed from last of 14 in the Louisiana Derby to 4th, only 4 ¾ lengths behind WELLS BAYOU.  In other words, he made up significant ground in that race.  But choosing a late closer in a large field is always a risky proposition because of traffic.  If he reverts back to his style in the second division of the Risen Star, where he ran as a stalker, he could Win.  The mystery of his style along with the outside post position make him hard to bet on top.

Conclusion:  PNEUMATIC lacks stakes experience.  But, he did defeat a decent horse with stakes experience in his Allowance Win.  He also sports trustworthy connections in Trainer Steve Asmussen , the Winchell Thoroughbreds barn, and Jockey Ricardo Santana Jr.

With MAXFIELD coming off a layoff, it makes sense to play against the favorite.  He could Win, but there is no upside to betting a popular horse like him without firm evidence that he has progressed from his 2-year-old form.

The Play:  DRB will do a Trifecta Key using the #2 on top with the #6-9-10-11-12 underneath.  If the #2 gets bet down to 2-1 odds or less we will take him out of the top spot and instead use #6 NY TRAFFIC as our Key horse.  That ticket would read: #6 with 2-9-10-11-12.

In terms of multi-race wagers, (Pick 3’s, 4’s and 5’s) PNEUMATIC is usable alongside MAXFIELD and NY TRAFFIC.

Best of luck no matter how you play it.

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