The Grade 3, $150,000 Matt Winn Stakes at Churchill Downs on Saturday is a newly minted points race on the Road to the Kentucky Derby, which takes place on September 5 this year. A field of 12 aspiring 3-year-old colts signed up to run, led by the winner of the Grade 1 Breeders' Futurity last fall at Keeneland in Maxfield. The colt is undefeated in two races but had a number of setbacks on the comeback trail and runs in this two-turn race following seven and one-half months on the bench.
Another with stakes credentials, although not a stakes win, is Ny Traffic, who was runner up in the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby in March when last seen. Attachment Rate showed he belongs at the level, having finished third in the Grade 3 Gotham Stakes in March then second in the Unbridled Stakes last month. Major Fed is another potential contender, having finished second in the Grade 2 Risen Star Stakes in February before a troubled fourth of 14 in the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby the following month.
Of the horses trying stakes for the first time, a pair of colts in Mystic Guide and Pneumatic deserve a good deal of respect as both won convincingly in their most recent races. Informative finished second in the James F. Lewis III Stakes last fall as a maiden but his most recent effort resulted in a seventh place finish in the Gotham. Necker Island enters the race off a fifth place effort in the Gotham followed by a fourth place effort in the Unbridled and was never a threat in either. Celtic Striker, Crypto Cash, Flap Jack and Shake Some Action round out the field.
Although he is trying stakes company for the first time, Pneumatic has a very good shot to run well enough to win the Matt Winn Stakes. Having won a six furlong sprint at first asking by a neck in February, Pneumatic improved substantially to win around two-turns in his second career start last month, earning a 96 Equibase Speed Figure. For a first level allowance win that was an excellent figure and the colt is bound to run even better in this race. To put that 96 figure in perspective, Louisiana Derby runner-up Ny Traffic earned a 97 figure, and Maxfield earned a 97 figure winning the Breeders' Futurity last fall. In that allowance win last month, Pneumatic ran four paths wide on the entire far turn and powered away nicely like a colt with a bright future. As a son of excellent sire Uncle Mo, who (according to STATS Race Lens) has sired the winners of 18 of 69 (26%) dirt route stakes races for three year old males over the past five years, for a big 129% profit on every $1 wagered, if Pneumatic takes a logical step forward in his third career start he can win the Matt Winn.
Major Fed draws the extreme outside in this 12 horse field but as he has a late running style that position in the gate should not hurt his chances as he can drop back and save ground before the first turn. Drawing the rail in the 14 horse Louisiana Derby field in March, Major Fed broke slowly and was last for the first mile then moved six paths, then eight paths wide, into the stretch, ending up just a half-length from the third horse. Having earned 96, 92 and 93 figures in his last three starts including when second in the Risen Star Stakes, Major Fed is on the threshold of being a big player in this race with just slight improvement. Considering Joel Rosario, who rode Major Fed for the first time in the Louisiana Derby, has chosen to ride him back suggests one of the top jockeys in the country has some confidence in this colt's ability to succeed with a better trip.
Maxfield deserves honorable mention, not only because he's undefeated in two starts but because he has a grade 1 win to his credit. After breaking his maiden his first time out at Churchill Downs last September, Maxfield was visually impressive winning the Breeders' Futurity by five lengths in October with a 97 figure. He's had setbacks since then and it is quite the task to return from seven and one-half months away and not only win a two-turn race, but to do it in a field of horses which have all run much more recently. Attachment Rate deserves to be mentioned as a contender as well, with 98 and 99 figures in his last two races, most recently in the Unbridled Stakes at the distance of the Matt Winn.
Ny Traffic is one more I might consider, along with Maxfield and Attachment Rate, for minor awards and using on exacta tickets in the second position. Since moving to the barn of Saffie Joseph, Jr. before his January 20 start, Ny Traffic has run three very good races in a row. Starting with a six and three-quarter length win in that race, Ny Traffic was beaten a neck by Major Fed for second in the Risen Star. Then in the Louisiana Derby he raced in second from start to finish behind winner Wells Bayou. He may be a need-the-lead type, as is Celtic Striker, but if the two of them don't battle hard for the early lead Ny Traffic could be in the thick of the action down to the wire.
The rest of the field, with their best Equibase Speed Figures, is Celtic Striker (88), Crypto Cash (93), Flap Jack (79), Informative (87), Necker Island (99) and Shake Some Action (89).
Matt Winn Stakes – Grade 3
Race 10 at Churchill Downs
Saturday, May 23 – Post Time 5:44 PM E.T.
One Mile and One Sixteenth
Three Year Olds
New to the Paulick Report? Click here to sign up for our daily email newsletter to keep up on this and other stories happening in the Thoroughbred industry.
Copyright © 2020 Paulick Report.