There is plenty of horse racing action on Thursday, as we go into Kentucky Derby weekend very soon. The stakes racing is beginning to get going already, with a couple of stakes races at Churchill Downs. The $150,000 Kentucky Juvenile Stakes got Derby Week started on Wednesday on a sloppy and muddy track. It didn’t matter to Averly Jane, who caught up in the stretch and pulled away at the 16th pole. We could see Wesley Ward point Averly Jane to Ascot overseas following that impressive performance. Ward has a powerhouse in his barn and Averly Jane showed off yesterday at Churchill Downs.
The running of the $130,000 Opening Verse Stakes and $150,000 Unbridled Sydney Stakes will take place Thursday afternoon at Churchill Downs. This is the warm up for the $1,250,000 Kentucky Oaks (Gr. 1) on Friday and $3,000,000 Kentucky Derby (Gr. 1) on Saturday at Churchill Downs. We’re in Hallandale Beach to begin the day at Gulfstream Park in Florida. Gulfstream has eight races with a total of $202,000 in prize money available. Head below for our free Gulfstream Park picks for April 29, 2021.
Post Time: 12:50 p.m. EST
Race 1 is a 7-furlong event on the main track for a $21,000 purse. Kathern’s Joy is coming along nicely and should provide a bold bid on these terms. Grand Wiser is likely going to be his biggest threat in this one.
Both are shortlisted going into Thursday. Kathern’s Joy hasn’t shown much on paper, but could find this assignment a lot easier. He has gone 2nd, 8th, 6th, 6th in his career, so hasn’t been near the front since his debut on November 12. Kathern’s Joy placed 2nd behind Gods Blessing by 3 ¼ lengths in a $23,000 event.
That was an encouraging start, but he hasn’t been in that form since going up the class scale. In his most recent outing, he finished 6th in a $29,000 race. Back down to around $20,000, expect a better performance and finish.
Grand Wiser is a two-time runner going 5th and 2nd. In his most recent showing, Grand Wiser placed 2nd behind Dark Timber by 6 lengths for a $32,000 purse. He and Dark Timber were near each other for most of the race before his foe pulled away. After two performances at the $32,000, look for a lot more from Grand Wiser in a $21,000 event.
Post Time: 2:15 p.m. EST
Distance:7 ½ Furlongs
Race 4 covers 7 ½ furlongs on the turf for a $29,000 purse. I’m looking at Starry Hope and Garner State Park to get the win in this event. Starry Hope has gone 7th, 8th, 3rd, 3rd, 7th, 2nd in her career. She most recently placed 2nd behind Kahiko by 4 ½ lengths for a $29,000 purse.
That was a nice effort and puts her into contention for this assignment. Note that Starry Hope has finished in the top-3 in three of her previous four performances. She is getting closer and will likely strike with a win soon. Starry Hope isn’t a horse to ignore on Thursday afternoon in Florida. Garner State Park should threaten for a win as well.
Garner State Park is a four-time runner and has gone 3rd, 2nd, 2nd, 2nd in her career. She has placed 2nd in three straight performances, most recently on April 3 in a $21,000 event. Garner State Park placed 2nd behind Caribbean Kitten by a neck prior to that outing in a $19,000 race. She is up in class this afternoon, but should be able to run well against this competition. If you are looking for a good value play, Starry Hope has to be the horse. There is no reason she should be 8/1 on the morning-line.
Post Time: 3:17 p.m. EST
Distance:6 ½ Furlongs
Race 6 is a $17,000 race covering 6 ½ furlongs on the main track. Nimble Beast and Handsome Prince should have strong standing in this race. Handsome Prince is a two-time winner through 17 performances. He was a winner on November 20 in a $19,000 event.
Handsome Prince beat El Zeus by 1 ¾ lengths in that race. However, Handsome Prince has gone winless in five straight events since then. In his most recent showing, he finished 5th in a $26,000 event on April 23. This was after going 7th in a $22,000 showing. Handsome Prince is cutting down to a $17,000 race on Thursday afternoon. Nimble Beast is coming off a win March 17 in a $19,000 event.
He beat Rack Gin by 6 lengths in the race. It was an easy win for Nimble Beast as he cleared that field with ease. Overall, Nimble Beast is 2 for 19 in his career, and has finished 4th, 4th, 1st in his previous three attempts. Before winning, Nimble Beast was 4th on March 3 in a $19,000 race. He weakened in that 1 1/16 mile event, but showed no sign of it at 6 ½ furlongs. I like his chances to repeat.