Churchill Downs runs its traditional Thanksgiving Day card on Nov. 23 with 12 races, highlighted by two graded stakes. The second of those, the $400,000, Grade 3 Falls City Stakes, brings together some of the best fillies and mares in training that did not run in the Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff 3 ½ weeks earlier.
This year’s Falls City drew a nine-horse field set to run 1 1/8 miles on dirt, with one probable early scratch in Hidden Connection (#1), who ran in the Chilukki Stakes at Churchill on Nov. 18. The standout is Xigera (#8), who has transformed into a graded stakes winner for trainer Phil Bauer since being switched from turf to dirt. The Falls City has a scheduled post time of 4:22 p.m. ET and will be broadcast on FanDuel TV.
Limited to a $30 budget, here’s my betting strategy for the Falls City, focusing on trifectas:
Xigera is a standout in this field based on recent form, as she comes in off two consecutive open-length wins in dirt stakes, the 1 1/16-mile Seneca Overnight Stakes on this Churchill track in late September and then the 1 1/8-mile, Grade 2 Mother Goose Stakes (held around one turn) on Oct. 28 at the Belmont at the Big A (Aqueduct) meet. The 3-year-old Nyquist filly also won a turf stakes earlier this year and finished third as a 2-year-old in the 2022 Grade 1 Darley Alcibiades Stakes at Keeneland on dirt. She has shown the ability to rate just off the pace before taking command in early stretch in both of her recent dirt wins, and jockey Julien Leparoux should be able to move his filly into a stalking spot from the eighth post position before the field hits the first turn. Xigera’s not facing a world-class field in the Falls City, and it would be a surprise to see her finish worse than second.
With that in mind, I’ll key Xigera on top of a $4 trifecta over three other fillies and mares, totaling $24. The first one I’ll discuss is Bellamore (#9), who stands a small chance to upset Xigera and a better one to hold on and finish second or third. The Empire Maker filly has not embarrassed herself against top-class company this year, finishing third behind probable Eclipse Award winner Idiomatic two starts back in the Grade 1 Juddmonte Spinster Stakes at Keeneland. She also nearly won the Grade 2 Fleur de Lis Stakes in July but was disqualified from second to third in a three-horse field for drifting and bumping a rival late. Bellamore also finished second in last year’s Falls City by a length to Phil Bauer-trained Played Hard. Martin Garcia was aboard Bellamore in all three of these races and will ride her on Thanksgiving. I expect him to be aggressive with this filly and have her positioned no worse than third through the backstretch and possibly on the lead.
The other two fillies-mares I’ll use in the trifecta are longshots who will hopefully spice up the payout even if favored Xigera wins. Skratch Kat (#2) is Phil Bauer’s second starter in this race along with Xigera, and the Arrogate filly comes in off back-to-back wins at Keeneland and Churchill, both in 1 1/16-mile allowance-optional claiming races. She’s also tussled with the likes of Nest, Clariere, and Secret Oath earlier in her career. Misty Veil (#4) is a Mike Maker trainee who finished third behind Search Results and Hidden Connection in the Locust Grove Stakes on this track in September. She has won just six times in 31 starts but has finished second 10 times and third four times, and she is experienced racing both at Churchill (nine starts) and at 1 1/8 miles (six starts). Look for her to pick off a few stragglers late and hopefully get up in time to hit the board.
With the remaining $6 in my budget, I’ll place Xigera second in a $1 trifecta with these three opponents just in case she takes a sizable dip in the form cycle Thursday afternoon and an upset occurs.
Here’s how to call out the bets at the mutuel window or key them in online:
Churchill Downs, Race 11, $4 trifecta, 8 over 2,4,9 over 2,4,9 ($24)
Churchill Downs, Race 11, $1 trifecta, 2,4,9 with 8 with 2,4,9 ($6)