A field of eight will line up at Churchill Downs in the $100,000 River City Handicap (G3) at 1 1/8 miles led by Mr. Misunderstood, the 8-5 morning line favorite.
The Brad Cox trainee was sixth in the Shadwell Turf Mile (G1) at Keeneland in his last start but is perfect in his three starts on the turf under the Twin Spires.
Florent Geroux has the return call on the four-year-old gelding who will break from the three post and will tote 121 pounds.
Oscar Nominated is the second choice on the morning line at 4-1. The Mike Maker trainee did not fire his best in an eighth-place finish in the Sycamore (G3) at Keeneland going 1 ½ miles in his last start.
Tyler Gaffalione picks up the mount for Maker and will break from the four post carrying 120 pounds.
I am looking for a better price and landed on Master Merion (10-1) who breaks from the rail for trainer Wesley Ward. Jockey Albin Jimenez rides.
The feature at Aqueduct on Saturday is also on the turf, or is it? A full field of 10 along with three also-eligibles and three main track only entrants are signed up for the $200,000 Red Smith Handicap (G3) at 1 3/8 miles on the inner turf.
We have not seen much turf racing at the Big A recently and rain was in the forecast for Thursday night into Friday morning. The last three races on Thursday’s card were canceled due to snow.
Let’s head out to Churchill Downs for Saturday’s featured race of the day:
Churchill Downs Race 10 The River City Handicap (G3) Post time 5:36
1 Master Merion 10-1
3 Mr. Misunderstood 8-5
4 Oscar Nominated 4-1
5 Big Changes 5-1
The Wesley Ward trainee looks like decent value if this guy goes off near his 10-1 morning line. Last out the gelding was bumped coming out of the gate and made a good late run to finish third against allowance foes at Keeneland going 1 1/16 miles. Two back in the restricted Point of Entry at Kentucky Downs he stalked the early pace and did not have enough punch left late in a fifth-place finish, his first go off a 2 ½ month break.
The winner Next Shares came back to pull off the upset in the Shadwell Turf Mile (G1) at 23-1 and then was 13th in the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1). Ward thought enough of this guy to send him to Royal Ascot back in June where he was not a threat in the Royal Hunt Cup. The gelding has run well over ground with some give to it with the question mark the nine furlongs, as he has not gone this far yet. He is out of a Danehill mare and should be able to handle the extra ground.
This gelding is perfect in three trips over the Churchill Downs turf, winning the Wise Dan (G2) back in June. He had a tough post in the Shadwell Turf Mile where he made a middle move but weakened in the stretch to finish sixth. He won the Commonwealth Turf (G3) here last fall over ground labeled as good. The Brad Cox trainee is 10 for 15 in his career on turf and has won at nine furlongs. He looks tough, but his price is going to be on the short side.
The Mike Maker trainee tracked the early pace and came up short in the stretch in the Sycamore (G3) last out at Keeneland over good ground going 1 ½ miles, fading to finish eighth at 4-1. The five-year-old has won just twice in his last 18 starts, his last win coming in the William L. McKnight Handicap (G3) at Gulfstream Park back in January. He has been facing mostly tougher than he catches here but has shown he is better going longer.
WIN: Master Merion to win at 6-1 or better.
EXACTA: 1,3 / 1,3,4,5
TRIFECTA: 1,3 / 1,3,4,5 / 1,2,3,4,5