It’s rare occurrence that a Thursday card at Keeneland contains four turf races, but that’s the case today and the last three of which will comprise a competitive Turf Pick 3 sequence. A total of 48 horses were entered across the three races with only 12 eligible to go postward in each leg.
- Leg 1 (R5): 12-11-5-1
- Leg 2 (R7): 11-1-4-5
- Leg 3 (R9): 4-7-8-10
Leg 1 (3:08pm): Keeneland Race 5 – AllowanceN1X 110k Purse
It’s a full field of turf sprinters to kick off the Turf Pick 3 and it sounds like a broken record in this type of race, but the conversation begins with Wesley Ward. Daring Do (#11) is the morning line favorite and deservedly so as her speed figures over the polytrack at Turfway make her the horse to beat. Her pedigree suggests she’ll be fine switching to the grass and Ward is lethal with his turf sprinters. She’ll be tough but I went looking for more value and landed on Funny Money Honey (Ire) (#12) as my top pick. This filly was speed and fade in her stateside debut at Turfway, but the pace was hot and track was playing to closers that day. When sifting through her form overseas, there are plenty of things to like. She beat more than half of a 21 horse field in a G2 at Royal Ascot last summer and was consistently running against stakes company throughout the year. In her most recent turf start she ran into the likes of The Platinum Queen and Crispy Cat with the former being one of the choices in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint last fall and the latter ran a respectable fourth in a stakes at Keeneland on Sunday. Plus, Paulo Lobo strikes with longshots at Keeneland at an inpressive clip and I like Vincent Cheminaud as an underrated turf jockey. One issue is both of the pair I’ve highlighted like to do their work on the front end and it could break the race apart in the late stages. If one was to pick off the leaders down the lane, it’s likely to be either Lost My Sock (#1) or Hideki (#5). The former was facing better last year, but had been off for 300+ days and this barn isn’t known to have them cranked up off the bench. Hideki has a blend of tactical speed and ability to finish, but this will be her first try on the grass.
Leg 2 (4:12pm): Keeneland Race 7 – AllowanceN3X 130k Purse
Another full field assembled for leg two and contention runs deep in this allowance event for older males. Keeneland is as tough a place as there is to make a morning line and this race is a microcosm of that. I don’t know if Good Governance (GB) (#7) goes off favored, but I don’t need him anywhere on my tickets if he’s going to be near that 7-2 morning line. He had a difficulty journey in the Pegasus, but did no running in his most recent start and I’m not looking to take horses like that at short prices especially from a low percentage barn. In a race where a lot of these are hard knocking veterans that have shown us who they are, I want to look toward a runner with upside as my top pick. Royal Patronage (Fr) (#11) didn’t have much in the way of success in his three starts stateside last year, but he was facing good fields and his form overseas prior to that was solid. There’s a long string of works over at Fair Hill so it appears Motion will have him ready for his seasonal debut. While there’s some other speed on paper, I don’t want to discount the chances Dominican Pioneer (#1) could blitz them from his inside post. This well bred son of Pioneerof the Nile did just that in each of his two lifetime turf starts with the last one coming over this exact course and distance last fall. Tiberius Mercurius (#4) is a reclaim for Mike Maker and it looks like he has been pointed to this spot and the conditioner reaches out to Irad Ortiz Jr to ride. I’ve never been the biggest fan of Ready to Purrform (#5), but he’s another that possesses upside making his first start as a four-year-old.
Leg 3 (5:16pm): Keeneland Race 9 – Maiden Special Wt 100k Purse
The sequence concludes with a pricey maiden event and as is often the case the race runs through Chad Brown. Just So (#8) is an impeccably bred son of Justify out of 2011 G1-Test winner Turbulent Descent. This colt had his debut washed off the grass and ran admirably over the Gulfstream polytrack. While its good to get some racing experience, I think he’ll be able to take a step forward on the surface he was intended for originally. My one cause for concern with this runner is that Chad recently has been reluctant to send his best stock to race over the Gulfstream turf course and is even less likely to leave his best prospects in on the poly. However, this is an opportunity for his barn to work with the potent Coolmore operation, so it could go either way. Balthazar (#9) and Cyber Ninja (#10) are short prices on the morning line, but can both win. The latter came out of a live maiden race that produced starters for some key Derby preps and is bred better for this surface. However, I’d rather upgrade a couple longer prices instead. Sherlock’s Jewel (#7) almost got the job done in her last start at two over at Kentucky Downs and I liked that he showed some versatility in nearly taking that field from gate-to-wire. Shug’s horses normally improve with age, so I expect this guy to move forward in his seasonal debut with a hot rider in Luis Saez on his back. However, I am going to get a bit more creative with my top pick and land on Forge in Fire (#4). This colt was beaten by a decent margin in his debut, but the top pair in that spot got the run of the race and like they could be useful in the three-year-old turf division. This Brian Lynch trainee made an eye-catching move around the far turn after experiencing a wide journey throughout that leads be to believe there’s some underlying talent here. The one worry is that the Lynch barn has cooled off since leaving Gulfstream, but I’m willing to look past that when the horse is a big price.
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