Race 9 at Churchill Downs on Saturday, June 15 | Post Time 10:19 PM Eastern Time

Regret Stakes – Grade 3 | Purse $150,000 | One and One Eighth Miles on Turf | Fillies, Three Years Old

 

Varenka (4) was incredibly impressive visually when winning last month at Belmont on the turf. It was her first start back from six months off and she ran as if she had never been away, making a seventh-to-second move on the turn and pulling away with authority. She had begun her career in a turf sprint last July and even though only third was so highly regarded her connections including top trainer Graham Motion put her in a stakes, the P.G. Johnson, in her second career start last August at Saratoga. She showed her ability that day running second to Dogtag, who recently won a stakes at Pimlico on Preakness weekend, then Varenka finished second, again in another stakes race and this time to eventual Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf winner Newspaperofrecord, a race in which Varenka rallied from 13th to fifth. This gal could be a superstar on the turf because her dam (Dynamic Cat) has produced a number of multiple winners and stakes winners on the grass. Combined, the foals of Dynamic Cat have won 18 of 69 races including a number of wins by Varenka's full sister, Lift up. Castellano rode Varenka for the first time last month and my gut tells me trainer Motion had this race planned out before the comeback. As such, Varenka is a KEY BET on the great card of racing at Churchill Downs on Stephen Foster Stakes night.

Hungry Kitten (6) was almost as impressive as Varenka when breaking her maiden last month. That win, on May 4 on the turf here at Churchill Downs, was her second start after five months off and the main difference between Hungry Kitten and Varenka is Hungry Kitten has never raced in a stakes so takes a bigger step up then the already stakes proven Varenka. In that May 4 race, Hungry Kitten gobbled up the ground in the last eighth of a mile, going from ninth to get up by a neck on the wire. Rosario rode her for the first time that day and rides back and the filly was flattered when the third finisher came right back to win. Therefore it seems likely improvement is forthcoming and the main question is whether she can improve enough to beat Varenka because if that one also improves off her last race she can win as well.

Princess Carolina (11) might be ranked higher among the three main win contenders if not for drawing the 11 post. Although there's a big run to the first turn, allowing her to get to the rail or at least save ground before the turn, it's unlikely she will be as well positioned in the early stages as the other two contenders. Just the same, she appears to be very tractable, as noted by the fact she rallied from sixth to second in the very similar Herecomethebride Stakes in March (following four months off) and led from start to finish in her most recent start. Similar to Varenka, Princess Caroline dropped in class, from stakes to the first allowance level, for that last win, and so moving back into the stakes ranks is of no concern.

For exactas, in the second position, I will also include Winter Sunset (1) and Choate Bridge (8). Winter Sunset finished okay from seventh to third last month in the Edgewood Stakes on the course and was close at hand in the Florida Oaks before that, while Choate Bridge gamely won by a neck last month on this course at the same nine furlong trip as this race. She closed into a fast pace compared to Varenka and Hungry Kitten, who made big moves into a slow pace, so it's possible Choate Bridge may not have the same kick in a race with very few, if any, "early" pace types.

 

Betting Strategies:

Win Bets: Bet Varenka (4) to win at 9 to 5 or higher, a KEY BET on the card.

For a slightly smaller amount, Hungry Kitten (6) is playable to win at odds of 5 to 2 or higher.

To round out the win contenders, Princess Carolina (11) can be bet to win at 5 to 2 or higher, but she's much more likely to go to post at those odds or lower.

Exacta: Varenka (4), Hungry Kitten (6) and Princess Carolina (11) over Varenka (4), Hungry Kitten (6), Princess Carolina (11), Winter Sunset (1) and Choate Bridge (8).