The penultimate Saturday of the Keeneland meet is upon us and it features another fun Turf Pick 3 sequence culminating with an extremely competitive edition of the G2-Elkhorn. Good luck to all those handicappers competing in the Grade One Gamble.
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- Leg 1 (R5): 3-9-5-7
- Leg 2 (R7): 5-8-6-9
- Leg 3 (R9): 3-8-9-1
Leg 1 (3:08pm): Keeneland Race 5 – AllowanceN1X 110k Purse
The all-turf pick 3 kicks off with a turf mile allowance that features two main competitors that shape to take the majority of action. Nevisian Sunrise (#5) may go off favored for Chad Brown and Irad Ortiz Jr, but she has some questions to answer returning from a 10-month layoff. He last race is okay as she completed a Chad Brown trifecta in the Wild Applause Stakes, but she’ll need to take a significant step forward to deserve to be as short of a price as she projects. I much prefer the main alternative in Seasons (#3). This filly is also coming off a bit of a break and shows up in a new barn with Josie Carroll now managing her campaign. I’ve always been a big fan of this chestnut daughter of G1 winner Winter Memories and thought all of her first three races were fantastic efforts. The running line that makes me willing to back her with the majority of my play is her run in the Hilltop Stakes last May. She had a horrific stumble at the start in that race where it was surprising that Jose Ortiz even stayed aboard. She then proceeded to get a fantastic ride and unleased a furious rally down the lane before just missing all the money. I think the one mile distance is perfect for her and expect her to use this race as a springboard to stakes races north of the boarder later this year. The interesting wild card in the race is Ensemble (Ire) (#9) who races first time in the United States for Brendan Walsh. Digging a bit deeper into that move for this barn exposes some pretty strong numbers. Walsh is 5/31 (16%, $2.37 ROI) with horses first time in North America off layoffs of > 120 days. There isn’t really a piece of form from overseas that would make her super competitive with this field, but she appears to have been holding her own in workouts with Ocean Road (Ire) from the same barn. That filly competed in the Breeders’ Cup F&M Turf last fall and won an allowance at this Keeneland meet.
Leg 2 (4:12pm): Keeneland Race 7 – AllowanceN3X 130k Purse
I believe the second race of the sequence features a very likely winner in Gam’s Mission (#5) who takes a drop out of stakes company for the first time in almost a year. Her speed figures on TimeFormUS tower over the balance of her rivals and she’s even had reasons why each of the last four stakes tries didn’t result in victories. Trainer Cherie DeVaux mentioned before her last that she wasn’t 100% fit, but she still almost ran down the eventual winner despite being caught behind a slow pace. The fields she was facing at the end of last year were vastly superior to what she faces today and it would be cool to see those famous Lazy F Ranch silks in the Keeneland winner’s circle. Market Rumor (#8) is a bit interesting off her improved form on turf as she was arguably best last time out when against the flow of the race while wide. Although, this barn and rider have been cold at the Keeneland meet so far. As of now it appears both halves of the Brendan Walsh entry are going to go and while I’m not too fond of their chances individually, they’d be pretty formidable as a duo. If one of them ultimately does not run (Gaffalione is named on both), I’d be willing to toss. On the deepest of tickets I want to include both Take Charge Ro (#6) and Saranya (#9). The former is a big price on the morning line, keeps Luis Saez, and has some races from last summer that put her in line with the shorter prices. The latter is simply very logical for strong connections.
Leg 3 (5:16pm): Keeneland Race 9 – G2-Elkhorn Stakes 350k Purse
The shape of this race really changed with the recently announced scratch of Phantom Currency (#4). That makes the job of Two Emmys (#3) much easier as he could be able to secure the early lead. His claim to fame is a victory in the race formerly known as the Arlington Million, albeit with a significant pace advantage. However, he’s proven since then that that effort was no fluke. He ran a very good second in the Sycamore Stakes over this course and distance last fall and has already taken down a G2 at the Fair Grounds this year. Once he gets to the front, he’s difficult to get by no matter the length of the race. The biggest question mark in the race happens to be the morning line favorite Channel Maker (#5). If the Channel Maker of the summer and fall of 2020 shows up, he’ll likely dominate this field, but he’s now an eight-year-old and I don’t want to put too much money through him at a short price hoping he’s the same horse. I wonder if Mike Maker will employ team tactics with his two runners and send Tiberius Mercurius (#6) to set things up for Bemma’s Boy (#1) who quietly has been rounding back into his best form. If the pace does somehow heat up, I would want to have both Bama Breeze (#8) and Another Mystery (#9) on my tickets. Bama Breeze has a license to have hated the Gulfstream Park turf course and actually had a sneaky tough trip in the Sycamore last year. Another Mystery is in career form at age six and his G3 win at Sam Houston was a fantastic effort while wide. He gets a significant rider upgrade to Flavien Prat as well.