Expert Pick of the Week: 2023 River City Stakes

Nov 09, 2023 John Mucciolo

Grand Sonata arriving at Churchill Downs

Grand Sonata arriving at Churchill Downs (Photo by Coady Photography)

An overflow field of 15 will travel 1 1/8 miles over the Churchill Downs lawn in Saturday’s $300,000 River City S. (G3). The well-matched cast lacks a standout and could produce a blanket finish at the wire beneath the Twin Spires.

DATTT Stable’s homebred Smokin’ T has won or placed in each of his seven starts of 2023, which includes a stylish tally over this course in May. The Shug McGaughey pupil comes in fresh following a pair of third-place showings in the graded stakes ranks, and the bay has captured his last two outings when coming off of the shelf. He is the Expert Pick of the Week.

Smokin’ T put in a pair of very good stakes efforts on the local surface as a sophomore and might be better this season. The bay colt bagged the Lure S. at Saratoga three prior and is equipped with the positional speed to be well placed throughout, which is a major bonus in a field of this size. The War Front four-year-old has been training in very good fashion leading up to Saturday, and the presence of John Velazquez in the silks is a positive as he has endured good experience atop the leading selection, as well. He will be the one to run down inside the final furlong.

Grand Sonata was stakes placed in his lone previous outing at Churchill Downs and has appeal for conditioner Todd Pletcher. The four-year-old son of Medaglia d’Oro is not the most consistent runner in training, but he is capable of running big when at his best and looks to have landed in a very reasonable spot in this tilt.

The Kentucky-bred colt impressed with a sharp allowance coup at The Spa two races back and gets a pass for his latest when trying 1 1/2 miles at Keeneland over yielding going most recently. The Whisper Hill homebred has won or placed in each of his trio of runs at nine furlongs and he will be making his move approaching the turn for home with Luis Saez taking the reins.

Expert Pick

An exacta with #6 Smokin’ T on top of #8 Grand Sonata in the 2023 River City Stakes is the Best Bet of the Week.

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