Wally’s Choice is the last Minnesota bred that carried the standard to the winners’ circle in a graded stake, winning the Grade III Oklahoma Derby in 2004 at odds of nearly 34-1. On Saturday at Churchill Downs, the Minnesota Thoroughbred Association’s 2012 Older Horse of the Year, Mack’s Blackhawk (Military-Morning Ride-Lear Fan) is going to give it try in the Grade III Louisville Handicap at Churchill Downs.
At first blush it doesn’t look like Mack stands a chance against the likes of Atigun and Hathcote. But dig a little deeper and there are reasons behind the entry and some reasons for guarded optimism.
Mack has been good going long. Very long. The Louisville is a mile and a half and Mack has been able to be competitive at a mile and a half. And 3/8. And even 2 ¼! Looking at this field, only a couple of the horses have really traveled this far regularly and several not at all. He’s a fan of the turf and several of the more favored horses have only run on it once or twice (Atigun, Prime Cut) or not at all (Heathcote – but has been on artificial).
The best reason for optimism? If you’re a fan of Brisnet – and I’m not saying I am, just that was what was available to me at the time – Mack ranks third in “Best Speed at Distance”, something you can’t ignore when going such an unfamiliar distance and ground for this field.
Best of luck to Mack’s this afternoon. I’ll be watching the Canterbury races with an eye to the Churchill feed come 4:30 this afternoon. A win would be surprising, but hitting the board would not be. And at 34-1, no one really gave ol’ Wally much of a chance either, did they?