At the time that I’m typing this, the forecast is for rain overnight Thursday into Friday, and periods of rain throughout the day Friday. It’s never easy to handicap a card in advance when there’s uncertainty in the conditions, but I will give my thoughts for both surfaces for the races that have been scheduled for the turf on the card.
Best Bet on the Card: Race 1: #1 Jaci’s Royalty (5-1, TURF ONLY)
Most Likely Winner: Race 3: #1A Distractor Factor (5-2)
Race 1: 1-4-2 (Turf) / 2-4-7 (Dirt)
The Friday card kicks off on the grass, and if the race stays on, I really like Jaci’s Royalty (1) making her first start since August, and coming off two straight grass wins. She’s fired fresh before, and I think she can run down the expected favorite, Mr. Four Sevens (4). Mr. Four Sevens is the one to beat on grass, and I think is also a player in this race on the main track as well. His speed figures are trending up, and he’s second off the layoff, so there’s reason to believe he can improve more. However, he hasn’t visited the Winner’s Circle since 2018, and I never love fully backing a favorite that hasn’t won in a while. Bayou Jam (2) is capable on either surface, but probably is upgraded on the main track. He fanned seven wide and just missed catching the winner in his last start. If this race is taken off the grass, the competition will likely be a little softer than he faced last out. I don’t like either Jaci’s Royalty or stablemate Inca Warrior (1A) if this race is transferred to the main track, so I’d upgrade J C’s In Town (7) who was a gate to wire winner last out at Delta.
Race 2: 3-1-5
There’s not a ton of depth to this maiden claiming contest. I’ll take Devil’s Fire (3) on top regardless of track condition, but I like him more if the track is muddy or sloppy. His best effort came in the slop on debut, where he faded late. His last two races have shown regression, but he’s the fastest gate horse in this race, and I doubt he’ll be pressed to go 21:3 in the opening quarter, like he did last out. He was beaten by two next out winners and drops to maiden claiming company for the first time. Eastside Cool (1) was seventh beaten 19 in his debut, beaten by a solid field that stopped the clock at 1:10 flat, which is a pretty sharp time for that level at this course. He probably belongs at this level, but MSW to Maiden Claiming is not a good trainer angle for Al Stall, who’s off to a slow start at the meet. This one still has more upside than anyone here. Flags Up (5) returns to sprinting after a debacle at two turns. He drops in class, which will be helpful. If the route race can help him learn to rate a little bit, he will be dangerous here.
Race 3: 1A-6-3
It’s hard to look past Distractor Factor (1A) here, especially on a wet track. She’s in good current form and looks to be the only serious speed horse in the race. I think she’ll get to set an easy tempo on the front end, and be able to hold them off late. Bridgmohan is named on both parts of the entry, but I’m only betting the 1 if the 1A starts. For Real Alice (6) was buried on the rail while cutting back to a sprint last time, then, was impeded by a fallen rival. She was bumped pretty hard in that race, where she was well bet, and lost all chance after the incident, but she still finished with interest. She’s better a two turn horse and should be able to rebound with a clean trip. Theboyzgalaxy (3) was five lengths behind Distractor Factor last time out after expending some energy at the gate before the start of the race. If he’s less agitated, I’ll expect him to give a better effort.
Race 4: 9-3-5 (Turf)/ 6-9-2 (Dirt)
There’s not a ton of grass form or two turn form to go off in this race. World War (9) has the pedigree for the grass, and would likely appreciate the added distance. Her lone start wasn’t great, but Faucheux’s horses tend to improve in their second start. She’s playable on the main track as well. Platinum Queen (3) is the only horse in the field to have gone two turns on the grass and one of only two who have gone two turns on any surface. Her turf races are better than her dirt races. Kittenofthe Court (5) is the rare Kitten horse with no connection to Kitten’s Joy. There does seem to be some grass pedigree, and her barn has a higher percentage of winners on grass than on dirt over the last year. On the main track, my top choice would be Strummer (6) who has two decent efforts and should be able to get the 1 Mile trip. I’d also give a look to Lucky Linda (2) who hasn’t had a clean trip yet, and her last race was extra rough. She could improve in her third career try and may benefit from a rail trip.
Race 5: 4-8-2
Maiden claimers in the all-important fifth race. I like Hoodwink (4) to get the job done while dropping from maiden special weight company and returning to the main track. She actually improved on the grass, but wasn’t spectacular. This looks like the right level of competition and she looks like the fastest horse in the early stages of the race. Makeajoyfulnoise (8) improved in her second career start at Churchill, but has been sitting on the bench since October. If she can duplicate her last race, she’ll be right in the mix. Golden Sweets (2) makes her second career start after a dull debut at Churchill. I’d like her more if they weren’t making so many changes after her first start (Lasix, blinkers, drop in class).
Race 6: 1-5-9 Turf/4-10-8
I’m not loving the favorites in here, so I’ll look for value in this spot. On grass, I’ll guess that Irish Bayou (1) can take a step forward off a decent enough debut. Good Old Charlie (5) comes out of the same race. His dirt form has been weak, but he showed some interest on grass. Bitsy’s Other Half (9) has good tactical speed and the best speed figures, however, he struggles to finish at the end of races. On the main track, the race should run through Grand Priority (4). He was 8 lengths in front of Good Old Charlie in similar circumstances last time out when the race they were in was taken off the turf. Delta invader Miller’s Pointe (10) has been sprinting, but due to the configuration of the track there, he has two turn experience. He was dull last time out, but his debut was good enough to give him a look if this race is on the main track. Crown Me Jackson (8) has a sprinters pedigree and two ok efforts on the main track in sprints. I’m not certain about the distance for this one, but there will be little depth to this field if the race comes off the grass.
Race 7: 1-7-6
This optional claiming/allowance looks evenly matched and there are several question marks about many of the horses in here. I’m siding with Goulding (1) in hopes that turning back from two route races to a sprint will be the answer for this year four year old filly. Her lone win came in the slop at Indiana Grand, so I’ll upgrade her if the track is wet. If she can run back to any of her last three one turn races, that would likely get her pretty close. Gianna’s Gift (7) gave up the lead late last out in the slop at this level, and finished third beaten almost 2 lengths. The track has been more kind to front end horses over the last few weeks, and she’s been in good form, winning her two previous starts. Quikfast N Ahurry (6) has been primarily facing Louisiana bred foes, but she’s proven that she’s a good off the pace sprinter. She was second most recently in a state bred stakes race at Delta and ships here for her second start off a layoff.
Race 8: 1-7-2 Turf/1-6-4 Dirt
On either surface, I’m going with Off We Go (1) to return a winner for Tom Amoss. She showed some ability when she beat a decent maiden special weight field on opening day of the Keeneland Fall Meet. In her next start, she was beaten by Joy’s Rocket in the Songbird Stakes on the Breeders’ Cup undercard. That filly came back to win the Letellier Memorial here last month. She’s by Air Force Blue, so I don’t think the turf will be an issue, and she’s already proven on the main track. Rocket Reload (7) is the main danger on the grass, as this Woodbine invader has already been a close third is stakes company in Canada. She moves to the Brad Cox barn for her local debut. Like Off We Go, Lady Edith (2) last competed in the Songbird on the main track at Keeneland. Two back she faded late against a solid field in the Untapable Stakes at Kentucky Downs, going 6 and ½ Furlongs. I like playing horses that struggle late in races at Kentucky Downs when they come back to a flat course, and this one may offer some value if this race stays on the turf. On dirt, I’ll upgrade Montpelier (6) who will be going from two turns to a sprint, which is a great angle for Stidham’s horses. This one doesn’t necessarily strike me a horse that will love the 5 and ½ Furlong distance, but there won’t be a ton of depth here if this race is rained off the turf. I’ll also use Blossom Road (4) who, in three starts, seems much more comfortable on dirt than on turf.
Race 9: 8-9-7
Monarchos Prayer (8) has had a fair amount of success on this oval, hitting the board in four of her last five starts here. Her only off the board finish was her first race off a nine month layoff. She now is in the third race off that layoff, so I expect her to run a solid race. I see her as the most likely winner of the race. I’ll also use Flash Hands (9) who returns to this level after being claimed last out by Lee Thomas. I don’t love that she struggled here last out, with no visible excuse, but I think she’s better than effort, and stands a chance if she can return to her late summer form. D’wild Muffin (7) tries to win her third straight as she ships in from Delta. I worry about her on top, trying to get the extra furlong, as she’s never won a race going longer than 5 and ½ furlongs. However, she’s playable underneath in the exotics.