Race 8 at Churchill Downs on Saturday, June 29 | Post Time 4:22 PM Eastern Time

Kelly's Landing Stakes | Purse $120,000 | Seven Furlongs | Three Year Olds and Upward


Line Judge (5) is one of two, along with Kowboy Karma (6), who should benefit the most from a likely hot and contested early pace battle between Contested (1) and California Night (4), with the latter two having earned their last five wins combined leading from start to finish. With Contested having the rail, his hand will be forced, as it was last December at Laurel which was the last time he got the rail in a sprint. He won that race easily by five lengths but that wasn't a stakes and he didn't have other early speed to contend with. Considering in that race last December, Uncontested ran the opening half-mile in 44.1, and considering that when winning at the same seven furlong trip on May 2, California Night ran the opening half mile in 44.4, it is expected these two will battle each other from the opening bell.

Under that scenario, Line Judge (5) gets slight preference, not only because leading jockey Lanerie is aboard, but because it is likely trainer Peter Miller had this race in mind when he claimed Line Judge out of his May 30 race for $62,500. The winner's share of his race is $72,000 so there's a tidy profit to be made in under a month if he wins and that incentive, when combined with Miller's prowess at the claim box (29% wins in the last 12 months) gives me a decent amount of confidence. Add to that Line Judge has earned over $400K in his career and is already a stakes winner, has won 11 of 22 career races on dirt, is in fine form off a runner-up effort last time out and gets a pace scenario which flatters his late kick, and the result is a potentially profitable play, particularly as he opens at 10/1.

Kowboy Karma (6) won nicely over the track on May 4 in a third  level allowance race, following nearly four months off, then completely threw in a clunker one month later in the Aristides Stakes on June 1. Sure, he broke a bit slowly but he never really wanted to run and was seventh from start to finish. For a top trainer in Larry Jones to bring him back just four weeks later tells me the horse is just fine, and in that case he's playable. In the win on May 4, Kowboy Karma rallied from sixth of seven to get up by a nose under Saez, who rides here, and he also won at this seven furlong trip at Churchill Downs last September, with a similar furious finish from sixth to draw off by two lengths. Assuming the last race was an aberration and with starting odds of 8/1, Kowboy Karma gives us a second horse we can profit on in this race.

As for the rest, Uncontested (1) and California Night (4), being "need the lead" types, are unlikely to stick around if they don't win so I'm leaving them out of exacta tickets. Warrior's Club (8) opens as the favorite on the drop from the grade 1 Churchill Downs Stakes on Derby day to this non-graded level BUT he finished sixth the last time he dropped out of grade 1 into a lower level stakes and he finished third as the 2 to 1 favorite in this race last year, with no excuse. Control Stake (3) has a preference for finishing second, which he's done 15 times in his career compared to eight wins, so he can be used on exacta tickets, as can Petrov (7), who hasn't won since last August but who did fight hard for second in the Aristides. Transatlantic Kiss (9) gets a good post to stalk the pace so if Hernandez can keep him about a length back early he could inherit the lead before the closers get into high gear, giving him a chance to hold on for a piece of the exacta.


Betting Strategies:

Win Bets: Bet both Line Judge (5) and Kowboy Karma (6) to win at odds of 3 to 1 or more, adding a place bet at 6 to 1 or higher odds.


Box Line Judge (5), Kowboy Karma (6) and Transatlantic Kiss (9).

Line Judge (5) and Kowboy Karma (6) over Control Stake (3), Line Judge (5), Kowboy Karma (6), Petrov (7), Warrior's Club (8) and Transatlantic Kiss (9).