The first Saturday card of the Keeneland Spring Meet is a doozy with five graded stakes lined up to go one after another in the back half of this card. Two of those find their way into yet another intriguing Turf Pick 3 sequence that’s sure to reward handsomely any bettor that’s able to string the set of winners together.
- Follow me on Twitter: @mdomhokie
- Leg 1 (R6): 4-9-6-3
- Leg 2 (R8): 12-5-10-3
- Leg 3 (R11): 1-14-3-2-6
Leg 1 (3:25pm): Keeneland Race 6 – G2-Appalachian Stakes 400k Purse
The all-turf pick 3 kicks off with a graded stakes and to me represents the most wide open race of the sequence despite having the smallest field of the three contests. The two fillies likely vying for favoritism both contested the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf here at Keeneland last fall, but have taken different paths since. Pleasant Passage (#7) got a great trip and ride to finish a clear second behind dominant winner Meditate and begins her three-year-old campaign with this race. I wonder if she’ll be a touch over-bet based on that runner-up effort on a big stage and its worth noting the rider who guided her to that finish opts to ride her main rival. In addition to attracting Irad, Cairo Consort (#3) has done some great work since her third place finish in the Breeders’ Cup taking down two stakes races at Gulfstream and finishing a fast-closing third in another. Despite losing at 3-5, she ran a good race that day as there wasn’t much pace to set up her closing kick. It’s worth considering whether that might be the case again here today and the filly most likely to benefit from that is Well Into (#9). This filly was able to wire back-to-back races at Gulfstream Park and while this represents a significant step up in class, I think she’ll be able to clear from the outside post and back down the pace. She’ll be in my plays, but there are others I want to use prominently. My top pick is Heavenly Sunday (#4) who looked like a potential superstar in her two races as a two-year-old including a dominant allowance win over today’s course and distance albeit with a perfect trip. She was a bit disappointing in her seasonal debut getting run down by Cairo Consort despite that filly blowing the break badly. However, I think of Brad Cox’s barn as one that points to the Keeneland meet rather than the Gulfstream winter meet and with her being freshened since early February, I think they’ve had this spot in mind for a while. Another horse who exits the Breeders’ Cup that might get lost in the wagering is Be Your Best (Ire) (#6). She was given no shot in that race getting completely stymied down the lane and caught a bog when defeated by Pleasant Passage in the Miss Grillo. Her first two career starts signaled her as perhaps towards the top of her generation and its encouraging to see Saez take the mount despite likely having the option to ride a shorter price on the morning line in Papilio (Ire) (#2). That filly and Alpha Bella (#5) are ones I want to use on deep backups in a wide open affair.
Leg 2 (4:35pm): Keeneland Race 8 – G2-Shakertown Stakes 400k Purse
The middle leg of the sequence brings together quite a few top turf sprinters including last year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint winner Caravel (#8) which occurred over today’s course and distance. In that race she was able to get a comfortable early lead (in part due to the poor break from the favorite Golden Pal) and wire the field at 42-1. She’s likely to go off at under 2-1 in this spot and because she has no real figure edge on many of her rivals and got a dream setup last time, I’m willing to leave her off my tickets. My stout opposition to a horse that certainly can win this race is because I’m leaning on shorter priced horses in the other two legs of this sequence and it wouldn’t make sense to include a filly that will be such a dramatic underlay. My top pick is the most logical alternative in Arrest Me Red (#12). I have to admit that I’ve never been this colt’s biggest fan in part because he’s disappointed at short prices in a few of his races. However, he will be a fair price this afternoon and gets the services of the best turf sprint rider in the game with Joel Rosario hopping aboard. I’m wondering if he’ll drop into the second flight from the outside post and be able to run down the speeds in the lane. Speaking of those with early foot, I want to be covered to both the other horses likely to challenge Caravel on the front end in case they end up as the proverbial speed of the speed. Artemus Citylimits (#3) is an admirable sort who often finds one or two better when racing at this level, but he could get an aggressive ride from drawn inside many of the other speeds or sit in the pocket under Irad if the pace gets too quick. The wildcard in the race is Mister Mmmmm (#5) who has won his last three turf sprint tried by a combined 13.5L. The problem is those three races came in three separate years, but he finally pairs up two back-to-back. It’s worth questioning whether the quirky turf course at Fair Grounds moved him up, but this is the chance to take this runner on the come. The final horse I want to use prominently is Oceanic (#10) who was over-matched in the BC Turf Sprint last fall, but ran super well over this course and distance in the Woodford Stakes one race prior. When he’s on his game he can unleash a powerful kick in the lane which was on display when he dominated a pretty good group in a stakes race on the Virginia Derby undercard at Colonial Downs. Finally, I’ll throw a bomb on a distant backup ticket and that’s Bakers Bay (#4). There’s a non-zero chance that this race is coming apart at the end and this gelding owns the fastest late pace rating on TimeFormUS. He’s never shown to be successful going this short, but maybe those synthetic sprint tries have tuned him up to run well here at monster odds.
Leg 3 (6:25pm): Keeneland Race 11 – Maiden Special Wt 100k Purse
I am going to avoid getting too cute in the nightcap as it appears that the two shortest prices on the morning line represent the best of speed and the best closer in the field. I give slight preference and upgrade the second choice Mondego (GB) (#1) hoping Joel can blast off from the inside post and lead them on a merry chase. This Lope de Vega colt set a wicked pace in his debut and still nearly held on despite the fact that the runners that were 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th behind him early faded to finish 9th, 7th, 5th, and 6th respectively. Operation Touch (#3) was chilly on the board in his debut getting sent off at 14-1, but got a good trip and finished a very respectable second in a race where there were large gaps throughout the field. I think he might drift up a bit from the 8/5 morning line, but still think he’s worth including in combinations with my stronger opinions. The only other horse I’d want to mention is mired on the also eligible list, but if Just So (#14) draws in I’d elevate him into my plays. He was entered for turf in his debut but the race was washed off the turf and he ended up running on synthetic. Perhaps that can provide this Coolmore horse with some fitness and experience as hegets to race over the surface he was meant for. While his dam Turbulent Descent was a grade one winner sprinting on the dirt, her only foal to race so far was a turf horse and Justify has proven to be a better turf sire.