2024 William Walker Stakes 300k - analysis, picks and predictions (GRADE: MEH)

Pick Pony |April 30, 2024, 3:04 p.m.

About the William Walker Stakes

Kentucky Derby week’s second race throws down a sprint for champions.

Run, run, run as fast as you can in this fast dash for cash for three-year-olds. The William Walker Stakes are named after American jockey William Walker. Billy Walker, born a slave near Versailles, Kentucky, became the leading jockey at Churchill Downs during the fall racing season of 1875-76 and the spring campaigns of 1876 through 1878. Churchill Downs created the inaugural William Walker Stakes in 2015 at 6f. In 2018, the race was shortened to 5f before splitting the difference at 5 1/2f in 2021.

2024 William Walker Stakes entries

Mansa Musa

There’s not much difference between Mansa Musa and No Nay Mets when it comes to speed. The blistering speed he clocked back in November 2023 is where No Nay Mets has the edge. But you don’t travel across the Atlantic to lose. Mansa Musa loves the turf, and we love Mansa Musa. We think he’ll finish just behind Na Nay Mets - and maybe even give us a nice little upset.

Double Your Money

Double Your Money is not the fastest horse in this race, at least on paper. He’s a bit slow out of the gate, but once he gets rolling, it’s like a freight train leaving the station. He has the best late pace of anyone in this race. His speed is trending up slightly, as are all of his pace numbers. His works have peaked at just the right time. But here’s the problem. He needs a bit more room to get that freight train-like roar. He hasn’t faired well at this distance, and quite frankly, we’re not sure why Brian Lynch has him in anything other than a route. We’re tossing him because we think we know more than a professional trainer.

Reef Runner

Reef Runner’s last outing was a bit of a disappointment. He clocked one of his slowest speeds to date. Still, his speed is improving every race, and his early speed is skyrocketing. 

He only has a single turf race under his belt, but get this - it was on turf that he took one of his two wins and ran his fastest race ever. We think there’s a decent chance he finishes in the money, and we expect a huge overlay. This might be the one to cash in on.

Refuel

If there’s anybody who can take down No Nay Mets, it’s Refuel (or Mansa Musa). He’s one of the top three fastest horses, and his speed and E1 pace are ramping up sharply. However, we don’t think he’ll quite make it on the board. Still, it is a close call between Refuel and Reef Runner. If the overlay develops, it might make sense to drop some pennies on him.

Debt Paid

Debt Paid is likely the slowest horse in this group. His dismal speed is improving, but it really has nowhere else to go but up. It took poor Debt Paid five races before he broke his maiden, and that was after they moved him over to Fair Grounds.

He’s at the bottom of every stat except for E2 pace, where he falls somewhere around the middle. But we don’t think he will start slow, run really fast, then slow down and win this race. Toss.

No Nay Mets

Outside speed makes No Nay Mets a menace in this race. Arriving from Ireland, he will be the talk of the town in this turf sprint on the Matt Winn Turf Course. No Nay Mets, trained by George Weaver, closed out 2023 by finishing fourth as the favorite in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint (G1) at Santa Anita. In his 2024 debut, he finished fourth in the Palisades (Listed) at Keeneland on April 7.

In November 2023, No Nay Mets clocked the highest speed of any horse in the race. George Weaver put him in a G1, and No Nay Mets stepped up his performance to meet the challenge. 

His works have peaked (as expected from the Weaver, whom we consider the best trainer in this race) and his speed is improving. All pace numbers, early, mid, and late, are getting better and better and AI predicts an upswing in speed in this race. We think he’ll take the lead and keep it. As the likely favorite though, there will be an underlay chopping the feet out from under us.

Joe Shiesty

Although a lightning bolt out of the gate, Joe Shiesty has one of the lowest average speeds. His poor late pace really does him in. Eric Foster recognized this and moved him to this shorter distance, but on turf? Give him a fast dirt track and a tiny sprint, and he can really roll. Even though his pedigree hints he’ll fare better on turf than dirt, he’s still outclassed here. We’re still tossing him.

Bear River

Bear River can explode out of the gate but his declining speed and dismal works suggest that something is amiss. This ridgling’s entire career has been an enigma. He only broke his maiden after six races and that was after the first-place runner was disqualified. He’s tried routes, sprints, dirt, and turf at a variety of tracks and nothing seems to fit. 

It’s disappointing because he has the fastest E1/E2 speed in this race. There’s a good chance we could see him lead for much of the race and then flounder down the stretch. We’re pulling for him but aren’t going to throw any money his way. Toss.

Smokey Smokey

Smokey Smokey’s works have been alarmingly slow, although his last one was sharp. Red herring, maybe? Nah. His speed is trending fairly flat, with not much improvement over several races. On turf, he’s even slower. But his second-place finish in the Animal Kingdom Stakes at Turfway Park was pretty impressive. 

His penchant for giving in late in longer sprints leads us to believe he won’t be able to keep up with this group. He won’t finish in the money.

Running' Rocket

Running Rocket is improving in all areas. Speed and all pace measurements are trending up and he’s had some excellent 4f works. However, he hasn’t shown us he likes running on turf. He’s made two runs on grass against lesser competition and failed to make it on the board. He won’t make it on the board in this race, either.

Silent Heart

Silent Heart’s works have peaked, and speed is trending up slightly. All of his early (E1 and E2) pace numbers are improving. However, all of his stats are merely average for this group. 

Brian Lynch worked Silent Heart consistently at 5f to improve his stamina, then threw him into a route to test things out. He’s back to sprints now. He may finish middle of the pack but until they figure out what they will do with him, we’re keeping him on the bench.

Aspenite

There’s a lot to get excited about with Aspenite. His speed is trending up sharply, and AI predicts a bounce upward in this race. All pace numbers are improving, especially early pace. Although he’s not the fastest horse in this race, he’s demonstrated that he can produce good numbers under the right conditions.

As expected, given his pedigree, he loves the turf. But this colt needs a firm hand to keep his tendency to press beyond his limits in check. The addition of blinkers in this race may improve his attention span.

Assuming Steven Aamussen’s tactics are spot on and Cristian Torres can guide him to the finish line, he could find himself on the board. It’s not likely, but it’s possible. We’re not putting him in the money but are carefully watching the overlay.

Sketch (eligible)

Sketch might not get to run in this race, which might be for the best, given his seven-month layoff. He’s shipped from across the Atlantic and will spend some time here before running the Twin Spires Turf Sprint (G2) in May. This is a practice run for him. His heart’s not in it, and neither is ours. Toss.

This is Uscar (eligible)

Pace is trending up but speed is flat. That’s not saying much since he’s only raced twice - on dirt. Toss.

Molly's Town (eligible)

Molly’s Town’s work has been slow, but he’s barely had time to rest since his last race two weeks ago. Make no bones about it—Molly’s Town knows how to win, with five first-place finishes in seven races. Those races were on dirt, so we’d love to see him run on the grass. It wouldn’t surprise us if he came close to finishing in the money, maybe even making it on the board.