The Turf Pick 3 appears with a rare Wednesday offering which signals to me that it will be available all five racing days of the penultimate week here at Keeneland. The sequence contains three fields that have drawn twelve runners apiece with the first leg even containing a full compliment of also eligibles.
- Leg 1 (R4): 7-6-12-8
- Leg 2 (R6): 2-9-1-5
- Leg 3 (R8): 9-2-5-8
Leg 1 (2:36pm): Keeneland Race 4 – Maiden Special Wt 100k Purse
It will be worth noting scratches and changes as both of the first two on the also eligible list rate a puncher’s chance off their respectable two-year-old form if they happen draw in. Since it remains to be seen if they’ll get the needed defections, let’s handicap the race just looking at the body of the field. This is a race where it’s certainly tempting to make cases for some of the longer prices on the morning line, but the principles look tough to oppose in my mind. I’ve landed on Up and Down (#7) as my top pick as she makes her seasonal debut for the potent combination of Chad Brown and Irad Ortiz Jr. While she was cold on the board in her debut and didn’t do too much running I think that could be a signal of the fact she was always destined to be better going further than the 5.5 panels she received in her first start. Even going a distance short of her best, she was able to run a figure competitive with these in late summer of her juvenile season and will likely take a step forward with maturity and added ground. My confidence that she’ll appreciate two turns is bolstered by the fact that she’s a half sister to graded stakes winning turf router Fluffy Socks. While I actually believe my top pick might end up the post time favorite, that distinction fell to Make the Boys Wink (#8) in terms of the morning line. While she can certainly win, I’m concerned that she might be over-bet based off the modicum of trouble she encountered heading into the first turn of her prior start. While she did steady a touch, being far back in a race containing a suicidal pace wasn’t the worst place to be and she’ll likely have a lot of work to do in the lane. The other horse I want to use prominently is one that’s likely to be heard from at the outset. Fancy Caber Neigh (#6) has shown speed in all three of her starts to date and now gets a chance to run over the grass for the first time. Her pedigree suggests she’s likely to move up on this surface as her dam and all her siblings did their best work over the lawn. If the post draw hadn’t done Morethananyone (#12) dirty, I’d be making her a larger part of my play. She’s another one that gets to the green stuff for the first time, in her case, off a synthetic sprint start and also has the pedigree to move up as her half brother Argonne won six figures racing on the lawn. Furthermore, she has Mike Maker and Flavien Prat in her corner.
Leg 2 (3:40pm): Keeneland Race 6 – AllowanceN1X 110k Purse
While I’ll be leaning on the shorter prices in the opener of this sequence, the middle leg provides an opportunity to take them on. Evan Harlan (#3) is the morning line favorite and has built a bit of a reputation through his close relation to G1 winner Miss Temple City. However, there’s not much from her run lines or his recent races that suggests he’s supposed to take this massive step forward getting out to 12 furlongs and its not like he was finishing strongly in his last try which was his farthest race to date. Plus he likely will have to deal with the speed of C Falls (#5) who based on his last two starts at Fair Grounds isn’t an impossible option to wire this field. Master of the Ring (#11) makes more sense as Mike Maker has a propensity to get to the winners’ circle in turf marathons, but he’s likely to be over-bet. Always Above (#10) will take some play at the windows, but I actually much prefer Michelle Nihei’s other runner Mount Rundle (#9). I thought it was this colt that ran a better race than his more fancied stablemate in the Dueling Grounds Derby forced to launch a wide, sustained bid before flattening out. In his final turf start of last year, he was given no chance caught wide behind a pace that completely held together. I see his last start as merely a prep and like the fact that he showed some positional speed off the bench. Foreign Relations (#1) is the type of longshot I have to be willing to try. He hasn’t been seen on turf since his debut which came in the summer of 2021, but that was an impressive effort to finish 2nd at 61-1 going 10 furlongs in the first start of his career. While that runner hasn’t seen the turf in 511 days, my top pick raced over this exact course just seven days ago. Solid Country Gold (#2) ran exceptionally well to rally from 10th to 4th when the top three finishers ran 1-2-3 around the track. He has grinding running style that might play well to these marathon distances and while he’s never gone this far, I’d much rather take a chance when the horse is going to be a long price.
Leg 3 (4:44pm): Keeneland Race 8 – Maiden Special Wt 100k Purse
The sequence closes as it began with another division of a one mile maiden race for three-year-old fillies. Frontal Attack (#8) has all the makings of an overbet favorite as the same owner-trainer-jockey combination as G1-Jenny Wiley winner In Italian debuts this War Front filly. While Peter Brant is a perennial contender for the Eclipse Award for top owner, I don’t recall much of his success in the states coming from horses produced through his personal breeding operation of White Birch Farm. I’ve landed on her main adversary Reconsider Me (Ire) (#9) as my top pick. While she only recorded the one start at two overseas in England, I’m thinking that experience can do her wonders. She’s bred to be a good one as her half brother Harlem banked over $1M and Graham Motion has had success in the past with foreign shippers. The other horse I want to use is Callie’s Grit (#2) and not just due to the sentimental factor of her being named after the late exercise rider Callie Witt. This filly’s debut was promising as she raced without cover chasing eventual Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf participant Be Your Best. I’m willing to forgive her last effort at Kentucky Downs as that race was run in a torrential downpour that ultimately led to the cancellation of the remainder of that racing card. The fuzzy longshot that I want to use somewhere is Bel Rosso (#5). She was only narrowly beaten by eventual stakes winner Chop Chop in her debut and received a wide trip in her second effort at Kentucky Downs. She’s been given time off and likely matured looks to follow in the footsteps of her millionaire half brother Tiz the Bomb.