Previewing the Matt Winn Stakes 2021

Horse Racing Radar
Rich Bieglmeier
Rich Bieglmeier is a Staff writer for Horse Racing Radar
Saturday, May 29, 2021

Saturday is packed with a dozen races with 100 grand or more in jackpots. Churchill Downs is the centerpiece of Saturday's stakes racing, offering seven chances for players to put their handicapping skills to the test, hoping to cash.

Along with trying to collect some winning tickets online or in person, horseplayers can also try their luck with Horse Racing Radar's Matt Winn Stakes Handicapping Contest. It's FREE and the winner gets $100 cash prize. I'll be commenting live with my insights to just about every horse running on Churchill's Saturday card. Every now and then I get one right, highlight a handicapping angle that works on cue and find some live longshots.

I'll do my best right now to handicap the contest namesake race, the Matt Winn Stakes. A field of eight will run 1 1/16 miles on the main track in the ninth race for the Matt Winn hardware. Inside speed has been the way to win at the distance and surface. However, there might be another factor that outweighs track biases, Lasix.

Churchill Downs has a goofy policy, in my opinion. Lasix is not allowed on race day for Stakes races but check race 2 and all but one horse in the $102,000 Allowance race is medicated with the anti-bleeding drug. How does that make sense?

It's not as much a factor in the Matt Winn Stakes as many contestants were on the Kentucky Derby trail and were banned from using Lasix in qualifying races. However, the morning line favorite, O BESOS (PP: 3 ML 2-1) has two wins in six starts and guess what, they were the only two races where he has treated with Lasix. To be fair, his speed ratings have improved in all of the three races since his last win. In fact, his speed number has increased every race. He could be due for a negative bounce.

FULSOME (PP: 5 ML 5/2) has used Lasix in five of his six starts, winning three of them. His debut was his lone non-Lasix start, second with a mild rally. He's been working well at Churchill since winning his last at Oaklawn Park, but trainers can use Lasix for workouts, just not on Stakes racing days. If Lasix is not an issue, then FULSOME is the one to beat based on his current form.

HELIUM (PP: 2 ML 5/2) is the inside speed horse and should be close to the front all the way around the track. He won his first two races on Lasix, then won the Tampa Bay Derby in his first race off the drug before fading from the early pace in the Kentucky Derby.  Early speed and fade can be a sign the horse may have bled and had difficulty breathing. Early speed types concern me the most off of Lasix.

I've seen it so many times in past performances, speed and stop without Lasix and then far more staying power in the next start with Lasix. If HELIUM sprints to the front and fades again, expect to see him running at a track that allows race day Lasix.  

READY TO PONCE (PP: 1 ML 15-1), SOUTHERN PASSAGE (PP: 4 ML 20-1) and GAME DAY PLAY (PP: 8 ML 8-1) all ran on Lasix in their last starts. READY TO POUNCE has only two races on his resume, both with the aid of Lasix. He's been more of a stalker/closer but you just don't know how he is going to run with the L on today's race line.

SOUTHERN PASSAGE raced OK early in his career without Lasix but hasn't been if form until his last start. The last time he went off of Lasix, he finished sixth of 11, beaten by 15 lengths. GAME DAY PLAN has run all but one start with the L on his past performance card. The one, sixth of eight, crushed by 17 lengths.

HELLO HOT ROD (PP: 6 ML 20-1) and SITTING ON GO (PP: 7 ML 8-1) are the only horses in the field to run all their races without any medication. HELLO HOT ROD is an out of the gate and let's get going type. He should be close to the lead and has the late legs to stay there if others fade but he has not faced this level of competition. He could be the longshot with the best chance to win.

SITTING ON GO might not have a Lasix problem but he appears to have a two-turns problem. He's gotten smoked in each of his two-turn races. He has run his best in one turn races and looks like he should be running at 1 mile. You should fade SITTING ON GO in two turn starts until he shows he can handle turning twice.

Pick to win.

Every horse in the Matt Winn Stakes has questions marks, from Lasix to two turns to stepping up in class. I see HELLO HOT ROD and HELIUM getting to the front with READY TO POUNCE and FULSOME sitting right behind the pace. The other four tend to try to come from off the pace.

As the turn for home, FULSOME passes a tiring HELLO HOT ROD and pulls alongside HELIUM with the closers starting to make their moves. O BESOS is fastest of the late runners and finishes between FULSOME and HELIUM at the wire with GAME DAY PLAY finishing up the superfecta.

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