I hope you’re ready! The Kentucky Derby is barely more than a week away, and the Churchill Downs meet will begin tomorrow with an eleven-race card that includes the $100,000 William Walker Stakes for three-year-olds.
The six-furlong sprint has attracted just six starters, with the standout favorite being #1 Syndergaard at 4-5 on the morning line. Trained by Todd Pletcher, Syndergaard was among the most accomplished two-year-olds in the nation last year, winning his first two starts at Saratoga (including the Funny Cide Stakes) by a combined 13 lengths before finishing second by a nose in the Champagne Stakes (gr. I) behind Kentucky Derby contender Practical Joke. Syndergaard wrapped up the season with a solid fifth-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I), for which he earned his fourth straight BRIS speed figure of 90 or higher.
Although Syndergaard hasn’t run since then, Pletcher has a fantastic record with horses returning from long layoffs—according to statistics from Brisnet, Pletcher wins at a 30% rate with horses returning from layoffs of 90 days or more. Furthermore, Syndergaard’s early speed could give him a significant advantage in the William Walker—he’s never been beaten to the early lead and has posted BRIS E1 speed figures of 105, 109, and 103 and E2 figures of 113, 113, and 115 in his last three starts. These numbers pretty much tower of the figures posted by his William Walker rivals.
It’s also hard to look past the fact that Syndergaard is 2-for-2 sprinting, with his ten-length win in the Funny Cide Stakes coming over a muddy, sealed track. With a strong possibility of a wet track at Churchill tomorrow, it’s nice to know that Syndergaard is already proven in wet going. Under the circumstances, it’s hard to envision Syndergaard getting beaten tomorrow.
Therefore, we’ll try to add some value to the race by playing him in a straight exacta with #6 Conquest Wildcat. This son of Wildcat Heir has never finished out of the trifecta in five sprint starts, including a runner-up effort in a fast renewal of the six-furlong Bachelor Stakes earlier this month at Oaklawn Park. While his BRIS speed and pace figures aren’t quite as high as those earned by Syndergaard, Conquest Wildcat has posted a pair of 90+ speed figures and has the versatility to settle just behind the leaders if the speedy En Hanse chooses to challenge Syndergaard early on. I expect to see Conquest Wildcat come running in the homestretch to round out the exacta.
One longer shot to consider for the exotics is #4 The Money Monster, who won his first two starts sprinting (including the Pasco Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs) before being pulled up in the Tampa Bay Derby (gr. II). A sharp four-furlong workout in :46 4/5 on April 19th suggests that he’s back in good form, and a return to sprinting could bring about a rebound for this Bill Mott-trained runner.
Now it’s your turn! Who do you like in the William Walker Stakes?
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