Byron King is a freelance turf writer, publicist and handicapper based in Louisville who is creating the Kentucky Downs' morning-line odds and analyzing the stakes races as part of the RUNHAPPY Meet's publicity team. Horseplayers and racing enthusiasts across the country are well familiar with King's writing, reporting and wagering acumen from his years of work for Daily Racing Form, including covering and handicapping Kentucky Downs for the past two decades. He also brings in the knowledge of being a horse owner with extensive bloodstock experience.
A pair of $350,000 stakes for 3-year-olds at 1 5/16 miles, one for females and another for males, top Sunday's card at Kentucky Downs, both of which present intriguing puzzles for handicappers.
Up first among the stakes as the eighth race is the Fifth Third Insurance Dueling Grounds Oaks for 3-year-old fillies, where I am inclined to go price shopping and make WILDLIFE (#8, 9-2) my value-based choice over favored PRINCESA CAROLINA (#7, 5-2). WILDLIFE, dropping in class after a ninth-place finish in the Grade 1 Del Mar Oaks, looks tailor made for the lengthy distance. She rallied powerfully to win two grass races at Churchill Downs and Ellis Park in June and July, and now back in the Bluegrass State, could be ready to resume her winning ways.
PRINCESA CAROLINA is the most likely winner, a multiple graded-placed Tapit filly that has already shown the stamina to win going as far as 1 3/16 miles. She is in the midst of a three-race losing streak after winning an allowance at Keeneland in April, though her two most-recent starts resulted in fine runner-up finishes.
REPATRIATED GEM (#10, 8-1), farther off the pace than usual last out on July 28 at Saratoga, managed to make up a little ground to be a close sixth and can improve upon that race with more prominent early placement. She twice hit the board in challenging allowance races at Belmont Park in June.
INDIGO GIN (#1, 5-1) seems a bit questionable to stay the distance, but she could prove the controlling speed, and if able to set a leisurely pace, may stick around for a share of the purse.
The boys follow in the ninth race on the 10-race card, the Exacta Systems Dueling Grounds Derby. Here, favored SOCIAL PARANOIA (#1, 2-1) appears rock-solid, having been competitive with many of the top 3-year-old grass horses in the land. He was second to Henley's Joy in the Grade 1 Belmont Derby in July and fourth in the Saratoga Derby Invitational at Saratoga, earning speed figures that suggest he is the fastest of this crew.
CHANNEL ISLAND (#6, 5-1) is a rapidly improving colt, a horse that managed to run third in a well-rated allowance at Saratoga July 18. That followed a maiden win at Belmont Park, with both races coming since trainer Mike Maker claimed him for $40,000 for owner Three Diamonds Farm.
BUNDIBUNAN (#3, 12-1) is a longshot to throw into the exotics, a late runner that seems likely to relish added ground after closing to be fourth, beaten two lengths, when racing in the July 13 American Derby at Arlington Park going 1 1/16 miles. Two starts ago he was second in a Churchill Downs allowance to Tracksmith, a subsequent stakes winner.
RY'S THE GUY (#7, 6-1) failed to fire when eighth in the Grade 1 Secretariat last month, a race not indicative of his talent. He twice won at Churchill Downs in June, one of which came on the grass.
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