Hope springs eternal as another Keeneland meet begins in earnest on Friday afternoon. This is a fantastic time of year with Masters weekend coinciding with Derby preps raging from coast-to-coast. However, let’s see if we can’t build our bankroll a bit heading into the weekend by hitting one of my favorite bets. The popular Turf Pick 3, which debuted in the fall of 2021, looks to build on its success and notoriety. The bet has a takeout that is moderate for horse racing at 15% and the $3 minimum base wager forces players to be selective in choosing their combinations and keeps players (or computer teams) from being able to cover and weight all possible combinations. Let’s dive in and see how we can construct a ticket for the Opening Day sequence.
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- Leg 1 (R6): 2-8-6-4
- Leg 2 (R8): 8-6-2-3
- Leg 3 (R10): 6-8-3-10
Leg 1 (3:40pm): Keeneland Race 6 – Allowance N2X 120k Purse
The all-turf pick 3 kicks off with a allowance turf sprint and it is quite easy to separate this race into haves and have nots. In my opinion, only four contenders in this nine horse field stand a chance at notching a victory and unfortunately they are listed as the top four choices on the morning line. Wesley Ward will likely send forward the favorite and second choice in the wagering with Kaufymaker (#8) and Her World (Ire) (#6) respectively. Ward certainly wins with this type of layoff runner and Kaufymaker won off an even longer break over this course and distance last fall. The speed figure she ran back in October would likely get it done again today, but that effort came while waltzing alone on the front end which is something she won’t be able to do against this field. That is in part due to the presence of her stablemate Her World who looked like a potential superstar after her sparkling debut, but much of the bloom has come off her rose in recent starts. Ward doesn’t often push his top turf sprinters into running over the Tapeta at Turfway and she would have to take a leap forward off those efforts to beat this group. Plus, she is likely to have to deal with another speed horse to her inside in Laugh and Play (#4). That filly also comes out of recent Turfway Park tries, but her turf form from last fall is good enough to make her a contender here. However, my top pick is going to be Frozen Solid (#2) and I’ll try to get most of my play running through her. This Frosted filly has really taken to turf sprinting since she returned off the long layoff as a newly turned four-year-old. Both of those efforts came over the flat five furlongs at Gulfstream Park which is a course and distance that doesn’t necessarily suit her stalk and pounce running style as well as the 5.5f over the Keeneland lawn. I envision a perfect trip in store for her sitting in the second flight behind the speeds. It’s slightly concerning that those efforts came during a time when the Lynch barn was red hot this winter, but with the fact so much of the money in this race will flow to Ward duo (with Irad and Johnny V named to ride), a square price can still be had here with the lower profile rider aboard.
Leg 2 (4:44pm): Keeneland Race 8 – G3-Transylvania Stakes 400k Purse
The middle leg of the sequence is the first graded stakes of the Keeneland Spring meet and some promising three-year-old turf horses take the stage. The complextion of this race certainly changes with the announce scratch of likely favorite Carl Spackler (Ire) (#11). Originally, this looked like a race where you really need to decide whether you’re siding for or against the favorite, but now its much more of a wide open affair. My top pick becomes Candidate (#8) was well meant in the G3-Kitten’s Joy last time getting bet down to almost joint favoritism with the talented Major Dude. This Arnaud Delacour trainee looked to idle when he hit the front and might not have seen his rival go by him down the center of the track. He has the tactical speed to potentially get first run on the favorite. Another horse I want to use is the wildcard of the race Mi Hermano Ramon (#6). While traditionally, I hesitate at taking west coast turf horses shipping east, there are a few signs pointing towards this one running well. First, Mark Glatt has had some success over the years at Keeneland hitting the board with his only starter at the track in the past year. Second, this horse had a miserable journey last time out when running into a super talented horse in Johannes. Dude N Colorado (#12) will likely take a fair bit of money in this spot, but the post does him no favors and I’d argue Webslinger (#2) ran the better race last time out. Mo Stash (#7) and Nagirroc (#9) are both talented runners with solid credentials, but I worry they will be better with less distance rather than more. Finally, I’ll throw in Andthewinneris (#3) on the deepest of backup tickets as his win over the course and distance last year was solid and he was bumped hard at the break last out.
Leg 3 (5:48pm): Keeneland Race 10 – Maiden Special Wt 100k Purse
Much of the action in the nightcap is likely to flow towards two fillies from high profile barns with big pedigrees. Doral (#10) is the first foal to race from the multiple G1 winning mare Dacita and has missed by a neck in each of her two starts. She was heavily bet to 6-5 favoritism last time out, but couldn’t get past a stubborn rival in the lane. I feel as if this field is tougher overall and you’ll still have to swallow another short price. Hay Stack (#7) goes out for the potent Chad Brown barn, but it isn’t often that his well meant runners take 5+ starts to break their maiden. This half sister to the graded stakes placed Fort Washington resembles her sibling by lacking any early speed and that often puts her up against it unless there is a supersonic pace up front. The presence of those two guarantees a fair price on some others in this field, so I’ll focus my play through some of them. The first of which is the second-time starter Idle Chatter (#3). She broke slowly in her debut and raced wide for a lot of her journey and was still finishing strongly in the lane, though the race shape certainly suited a closer that day. Sisterson rarely has his charges cranked up for their debuts and I liked what I saw in her most recent workout, so I expect a step forward from her here. Lil Miss Moonlight (#8) makes a ton of sense here for an underrated conditioner in Tim Hamm. Don’t let the purse price fool you – those maiden races at Tampa Bay are just as strong as any of the ones the favorites are exiting and she gets a notable rider upgrade to Irad Ortiz Jr. However, my top pick is going to be Heckled (#6) who is another that could use the experience gained in her debut as a springboard to better things. This filly took the worst of it heading into the first turn in her first start at the Fair Grounds last time as she was rank early and then spun wide around the bend. She lacked a touch of punch in the stretch, but that could have been because she expended too much energy early on. She’s bred to be a good one as a half sister to millionare turf miler Pixelate and could get lost in the wagering.
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