Free Picks: Churchill Downs Odds & Preview

Joe Freda

Friday, April 26, 2013 5:16 PM GMT

Saturday’s opening card of action at Churchill Downs features the Derby Trial Stakes, with racing under the lights at the storied venue.

Churchill Downs - Derby Trial Stakes

A field of nine three-year-old’s are slated to run one mile, with No. 3 Zee Bros (5/2) and No. 4 Forty Tales (3/1) listed as the battle’s top two choices.

Zee Bros heads east for trainer Bob Baffert, switching riders to Mike Smith after winning 1-of-2 starts at Santa Anita under Martin Garcia. The colt broke his maiden last month, leading a seven-furlong affair gate-to-wire as odds-on ‘chalk.’

Forty Tales has fallen short in his last two outings, last placing fifth in March’s Swale Stakes at Gulfstream Park. Todd Pletcher’s challenger saw a decline in speed after winning his first pair of starts, but may be helped by the extra distance stretch here.

Pletcher also brings No. 6 Capo Bastone (5/1), who switches back to dirt after a dismal ninth place finish in Turfway Park’s Spiral Stakes. Jockey Garrett Gomez gets the call here, returning aboard for the first time since guiding the colt to victory in last August’s debut at Del Mar.

No. 5 Ruble (6/1) looks for his third straight win, with the latest victory coming at one mile in Gulfstream’s slop. The colt made one trip to Churchill Downs in November, finishing second at six furlongs.

Early Kentucky Derby Odds and Predictions~

Lukas, Stevens Return to Churchill

Trainer D. Wayne Lukas has a pair of contenders, entering No. 7 Tour Guide (10/1) and No. 9 Titletown Five (5/1). Lukas is a three-time winner of the Derby Trial Stakes, while jockeys Miguel Mena and Gary Stevens have both captured the affair once each.

Tour Guide saw a streak of three wins end in this month’s Bachelor Stakes at Oaklawn Park, fading to last place in a field of eight. The colt won his only start at Churchill Downs last November, wiring nine other challengers at six furlongs.

Titletown Five is also off a subpar outing, placing ninth in March’s Louisiana Derby. The drop back to one mile should improve the challenger’s chances, while returning to his maiden-breaking venue.

No. 1 Officer Alex (8/1) came out on top in the Bachelor Stakes by a nose, picking up a second straight win at six furlongs. The son of Officer was eased in his only appearance at Churchill Downs, while failing to hit the board in his sole two outings at one mile or more.

Betting Odds Long shots No. 2 Ruler of Love (15/1) and No. 8 C.T. Tabu (50/1) round out Saturday’s field. Ruler of Love reached career-high speed at Tampa Bay Downs, three weeks ago, placing second by a nose in the seven-furlong Sophomore Stakes. C.T. Tabu is 1-for-13 lifetime, taking a hefty step up in class after finishing fifth in an allowance affair at Calder, two weeks ago.

Kentucky Derby Betting Stategies

Selections:  Ruble, Tour Guide, Titletown Five

The Derby Trial Stakes is Race No. 10 on Churchill Downs’ card, slated for an expected post time of 10:42 p.m. (ET). Louisville’s weather forecast calls for a 60-degree night, with a 50 percent chance of showers.

I am backing Ruble as my top choice free pick in the race, with win and place tickets, while saving Titletown Five and Tour Guide to use in exotics.

Ruble steps up in company here, but has had steadily increasing speed in all five of his career starts. The colt also switches riders back to Alan Garcia, who was on board for his maiden-breaking triumph, two months ago.

Titletown Five and Tour Guide both have value for Lukas here after being outmatched in their most recent outings. Titletown Five has hit the board in both of his Churchill Downs contests, while Tour Guide saw some of his best speed in Louisville last year.

Horse Picks: Ruble, Title Town Five and Tour Guide at Sports Bet