Another Road to the Kentucky Derby event is in the books following a win for Authentic on Saturday. It was a close call at the wire, but Authentic was able to barely edge out Ny Traffic at the wire for the win. Authentic won by a nose to win the top prize out of a $1,000,000 purse. Bob Baffert was able to get a bit of redemption after a rough time for him the last two months.
Baffert has been marred by multiple failed drug tests to his trainees. He received what many people believe is a way too light suspension of 15 days. Baffert got the last laugh on Saturday, albeit a little too close for comfort. His heart may have skipped a beat when Ny Traffic was flying down the stretch. There is only one more race as big as the Haskell Stakes left on the Road to the Kentucky Derby. The Travers Stakes is scheduled for August 8 at Saratoga.
There will also be a couple more Grade 1 stakes races worth $300,000 each in a few weeks. The stage for the Kentucky Derby on Labor Day Weekend will pretty well be set following the Travers. There is a lot of racing between now and then, though. Hopefully we can go into Derby Day red-hot in early September. A solid day at Thistledown in Cleveland will suffice for Monday. Head below for our free Thistledown picks for July 20, 2020.
Post Time: 12:50 p.m. EST
Distance: 5 ½ Furlongs
The first race at Thistledown will feature a $21,5000 purse on the dirt over 5 ½ furlongs. This race is likely between Willoughby Gap and Luv Lyes. Willoughby Gap is 1 for 5 in her career with a stakes race on her resume. She raced in the Sandpiper Stakes (Black Type) on December 7, 2019, which was the only event that Willoughby Gap didn’t finish in the top-3.
That stakes race was for $100,000 and is by far the most difficult assignment of her career. Besides that entry, Willoughby Gap has finished 2nd, 1st, 2nd, 3rd. Her win was recorded on October 7, 2019 at Presque Isle Downs. Willoughby Gap notched the win over 4 lengths over Pepper for a $30,000 purse.
That prompted the stakes entry for Willoughby Gap. She went on a layoff after the Sandpiper Stakes in December. She was on the shelf until June 4 at Thistledown. It was a nice effort by Willoughby Gap to finish 2nd in the $21,500 event. Willoughby Gap lost by 4 ¼ lengths against Bellamy Brooke. She was a decently priced favorite in that race, but Willoughby Gap didn’t live up to expectations in early June.
Willoughby Gap followed up for 3rd on June 13 in another $21,500 race. Showing is fine, but more was expected out of Willoughby Gap once again. That brings us to Monday at Thistledown. Luv Lyes is 1 for 1 after an impressive debut on June 16. She won by 6 lengths in a nice race as a first-time runner in a $20,000 event. Luv Lyes completed a 4-furlong workout with a time of 49.80 seconds on July 13 and appears to be in good form. There should be good value on Luv Lyes on Monday afternoon. For certain, Luv Lye shouldn’t be +350 on the morning-line.
Post Time: 1:20 p.m. EST
Distance:1 1/16 Miles
We have another early race on our racecard at Thistledown on Monday. This event will go for a $31,700 purse over 1 1/16 miles on the dirt. Team Hucky and Authentic Cowtown should be competitive runners in Race 2. Team Hucky has been on a terrific roll with performances in the top-3 in 11 straight races.
He has also won 2 of his previous 3 events, so Team Hucky has been running in good form. Team Hucky has raced in just three races since winning on November 30, 2019 at Mahoning Valley. He cleared Gift of Oak by 1 ¾ lengths to get the victory. Team Hucky had the lead by a head at the top of the stretch and drove to clear the field in the stretch.
Team Hucky followed up to place 2nd on March 3. He was 6 ½ lengths slower than Dancing Willard in the $31,300 race. Back at it on June 16 following three months off and Team Hucky responded for a 5 ¼ lengths over Stone Colt Cat, back down racing below $30,000. Team Hucky is going back up to see if he can compete at this $31,700 level on Monday. The form that he was racing in on June 16 would suggest that Team Hucky is prepared for today. Authentic Cowtown is 2 for 6 in his career with three stakes races of experience running in big-ish events.
He finished 3rd in the Loyalty Stakes on September 22, 2019, 2nd in the Juvenile Stakes on October 26, 2019, and 2nd in the Joshua Radosevich Memorial Stakes on December 6, 2019. Since then, Authentic Cowtown won a $29,300 event on June 30 by 4 ½ lengths in his return race. He cleared the field with ease and had the win going away in the stretch. I’m expecting another bold run by Authentic Cowtown on Monday, with another trip to the winner’s circle a legit possibility in Race 2.
Post Time: 3:50 p.m. EST
We’ll take the next five races off and go to Race 7 at Thistledown. Sophie’s Angel, Command Strike, and Meet Me Half Way are all intriguing runners in the event. Meet Me Half Way has been in good form recently with four straight races in the top-2. After a three-month layoff, Meet Me Half Way finished 2nd on June 11 for a 1 length defeat behind Heatherfromphoenix.
I was on Heatherfromphoenix in that race, so it was a good day from my perspective. Meet Me Half Way followed up to win on June 27 to beat Fancy Pants by a head for a $23,000 purse. Overall, Meet Me Half Way is 7 for 34 in her career. She is undoubtedly going to be involved in the stretch in Race 7. If not, something went incredibly wrong or she gets caught up in traffic.
Sophie’s Angel is 5 for 35 in her career, and coming off a solid effort on July 1. She was good enough to finish in a tie to place in 2nd with Pulpit’s Purrfect. It was a good response for Sophie’s Angel after going nowhere in her first five events in 2020. Sophie’s Angel finished 10th, 5th, 6th, 6th, 5th leading up to that race, which featured a $24,300 purse.
She stays in the same class today with improved form from the start of the month possible. Command Strong, who draws the No. 7 post position from the outside, will likely be in the mix in this one as well. Command Strong is a perfect 3 for 3 in her career and looking to fourpeat. She made her debut on September 15, 2019 with an impressive win by 5 ½ lengths for a $15,500 purse.
Command Strong repeated on October 15, 2019 at Mountaineer Park for a ¾ length win in a $17,800 event. And then most recently, Command Strong won by 2 lengths up in class over Bellamy Brooke on June 18. That race proved that she can run in this class today. Anything lower has been way too easy for her. Command Strong is coming off a solid 48.20 second workout over 4 furlongs on July 9. She continues to get better, and should be a major player for the top prize in Race 7.