The first offering of the popular Turf Pick 3 for this week at Keeneland is upon us and it is a sequence that doesn’t have any overwhelming favorites. That presents a tough challenge of finding a horse or two to lean on in the wager, but ensures we will get paid if we can piece the three winners together.
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- Leg 1 (R4): 7-6-8-5
- Leg 2 (R6): 3-10-13-4
- Leg 3 (R8): 8-4-3-6
Leg 1 (2:36pm): Keeneland Race 4 – AllowanceN1X 110k Purse
The all-turf pick 3 kicks off with a competitive turf sprint. As is often the case at the Keeneland Spring meet, Wesley Ward holds a strong hand in this race. Of his two, I prefer Lyrical Poet (#7) who looks like he could sprint clear on the front end. He was a winner the only other time he was able to go the 5.5f distance he sees today and while the layoff is not ideal, Ward is 5/8 (63%) with a $7.32 ROI with horses returning from >120 layoffs in turf sprints at the current Keeneland meet with 2 of those losses coming in races where he won the race, but had multiple entrants. I’m willing to side against Super Design (#9) who is the other Ward entrant. While he was an impressive debut winner with a fast speed figure, that came at the unique configuration at Kentucky Downs and he was vastly outfooted in his only try at 5.5f. I want to also use Foliage (#6) who goes out for Al Stall Jr and the Claiborne operation. Like many runners from that farm, he sports an impeccable pedigree as a half brother to the G1 winner Lea. He has also shown to have taken a step forward once switched over to turf. While he got a good trip in his maiden breaking score and takes a step up in class today, his utter domination of that field and subsequent gallop-out lead me to believe there is more upside available. On deeper tickets, I want to include Lomu (#8) and Rockstar Ro (#5). The former gets a fresh set of blinkers which I think will help him improve on his positional speed. His last trip was a nightmare and he has some back class and a dirtied up page. Rockstar Ro also had some issues in his return race and I actually like the turnback to 5.5f for this runner. His maiden win and most of his best races have come at this short sprint distance and he gets a bit of a rider upgrade as well.
Leg 2 (3:40pm): Keeneland Race 6 – Starter Allowance (50k) 55k Purse
The second race of the sequence features a very wide-open affair with 12 runners signed on. There is a notable lack of pace in the race that could benefit whichever horse’s jockey decides to be aggressive early on. I’m hoping that will be Luis Saez on my top pick Hawk of War (#3). While his synthetic races this year have not been spectacular, he’s found a new dimension with some early speed that I’m hoping will translate back to the grass. He’s making his first turf start since being claimed by Mike Maker four starts back and almost all of his turf races last year for Wayne Catalano will make him tough in here. The other horse I want to use prominently on my tickets is Our Country (#10). This runner showed significant promise in his two-year-old year even going off a heavy favorite in the G2-With Anticipation at Saratoga. Since then, he hasn’t really taken any step forward, but I do believe his latest turf race is more than good enough to win here. He came off almost a year layoff and was wide around both turns, but still closed down a field of 50k claimers at Gulfstream. His last race was taken off the grass and he didn’t run poorly when caught wide behind a slow pace and ultimately I think he prefers the turf to the synthetic. Eyes on Target (#2) might be overbet first off the claim for Mike Maker, but couldn’t pull the trigger to leave him completely off my tickets. Fieldstone (#4) and Optimus Kat (#8) ran competitively with my top selection on multiple occasions last year, so I’ll include them on my deeper tickets as well. Finally, it’s worth noting that Of the Moment (#13) draws into the field. While the post does him no favors, his last race makes him very competitive with this group and also-eligible are often overlays. I do worry however, that the improvement in his last was just due to being sucked up in a better field.
Leg 3 (4:44pm): Keeneland Race 8 – AllowanceN1X 110k Purse
The sequence concludes with a fun marathon turf race for fillies and mares. It appears a lot of the play will be going through Go Big Blue Nation (#6) on the trainer switch to Graham Motion. While I acknowledge she has some good efforts at this elongated distance, I fear she will be too far back in a race that lacks significant pace and wonder how cranked up she’ll be off the layoff. If I’m going to take a horse shipping east, I’d prefer to back Disappearing Act (#3). Her last race came at this distance albeit in a short field, but she never had any cover and still came within a length of one of the better turf marathoners on that coast. I have concerns taking a Baltas runner east of the Mississippi, but it is encouraging to see her reunited with Flavien Prat who is sure to give her a positive ride. Another one worth mentioning is Flanigan’s Cove (#4). It appears the more distance the better for this grinding daughter of Kitten’s Joy out of the G2 winning mare Hungry Island for these same connections. I like that she has a win over the course and gets a rider upgrade to Joel Rosario. She’s not fast enough based on her races last year, but could take a step forward in her first start as a four-year-old. However, my top pick is going to be Gladys (#8) who holds a distinct pace advantage over this field. While speed has not been holding on the Keeneland turf course so far this meet, I’m hoping Julien Leparoux can let this filly open up on the front end similar to her allowance win two back and kick clear late. She set a quick tempo in her last and it took a good horse in Bleeker Street to run her down. The stretch-out to 12f is a question mark, but as a full sister to Rachel Alexandra and other routers, she’s likely to see it out.