A jam-packed card including two dirt sprint stakes for three-year-olds is on tap for Saturday at Keeneland. I was lucky enough to join David Aragona and Craig Milkowski from the Daily Racing Form to handicap the entire Pick 5 sequence on their TimeFormUS Forecast Pod. You can check out our opinions at this link. Partially nestled in that sequence is another rendition of the #TurfPick3 with the wager kicking off one race prior in the 5th.
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- Leg 1 (R5): 7-10-5-1
- Leg 2 (R8): 2-6-9-4
- Leg 3 (R10): 10-6-5-3
Leg 1: Keeneland Race 5 – AllowanceN1X 86k Purse
The sequence kicks off with a competitive N1X allowance race and there seem to be a ton of ways to go. I’d be surprised if ML favorite Caveat Emptor (#5) is actually as short as 8-5 against this group and if he is I’d view that as an underlay. His blowout victory at Kentucky Downs last time was undoubtedly impressive, but I’m not sure the quality of that field and it’s always tough to take a horse first time against winners at a short price. He can win, but there are others I want to put more of my pick three bankroll through. For me, the horse to beat is War Machine (#7) shipping back east from a west coast try for Mike Stidham. The field he faced in his last was a strong one for the level with the winner Crew Dragon coming back to run 2nd in a salty allowance down the hill at Santa Anita and runner-up Hockey Dad got a G2 placing in the Del Mar Derby. This War Front colt has got some time off since that start and has trained forwardly at Fair Hill since being gelded. He gets the services of Tyler Gaffalione who is sure to give him a picture perfect ride stalking the pace. The other I want to use on the “A” line that takes a bit more creativity to identify his merits is Hot Stove League (#10) for Tom Amoss. Although this colt’s maiden win came over the dirt, he showed some promise on the turf over the winter at Fair Grounds. In his second career start, he was a part of a hot pace and just got run down by the talented Brad Cox trainee Fulsome who went on to stakes success later in the year. His last race at Kentucky Downs can be treated merely as a prep and he comes second off the layoff and appears to be training well locally. Hit It a Bomb has proven to be a productive sire at the bargain stud fee of $5000 and this horse has a sneaky look to him at a price. A couple others I’d throw in on the backup line include Leblon (#1) who gets back to the grass for Paulo Lobo whose barn has been absolutely on fire the past 60 days and has figures as an early season three-year-old that fit. Private Island (#8) was a promising two year old and was bet to 8-1 in a G2 at this track last fall. If Ian Wilkes has him ready off the bench, he could spring the upset as well.
Leg 2: Keeneland Race 8 – AllowanceN4X 93k Purse
I’m going to be honest in that I had to go through this bulky allowance field more than once to land on my selections. At first glance, Big Agenda (#4) looks like he’s going to be tough in this field off a pretty dominant score at Kentucky Downs last time. However, I fear the public will go overboard on the horse with the recent win and a potent jockey/trainer combination in his corner. The other fact I noticed was that there is a wide array of horses that want to be on or near the lead in the early stages and that could set things up for a closer. Now finding who that might be is a difficult undertaking, but I think there are a few interesting options. English Bee (#6) got back on track with a gritty win at Colonial Downs last time and has shown the ability to both compete in stakes races and close from off the pace in his prior starts. Spectacular Gem (#9) got the ultimate equipment change and was gelded after disappointing as the favorite last time. He has plenty of back races that would win this and this is his 2nd time off a layoff and second time for Brendan Walsh who does a phenomenal job with his turf horses. I don’t even think Hierarchy (#1) or Argentello (Ire) (#7) are impossible in this pace meltdown scenario and are both listed at big prices on the ML and note the former scratched out of the G3-Sycamore on Friday in favor of this spot. However, through all this confusion I’ve landed on a wild card as my top selection. Beat Le Bon (Fr) (#2) didn’t do much running in his first start in North America, but that is often the case for the charges of trainer Ignacio “Nacho” Correas. However, this trainer is no stranger to bringing along an overseas shipper to U.S. glory with graded stakes horses like Blue Prize and Dona Bruja among his success stories. His prior form in England is a bit of a mixed bag, but he ran really well at Ascot three back behind the talented Real World. That was an oddly run race in the fact that on the far side of the 30 horse field, Beat Le Bon was the only horse outside of the winner to break away from the group. On his best day, his TimeFormUS ratings stack up with this field and while he often breaks slow, that might not be too much of a detriment in a race that could fall apart late.
Leg 3: Keeneland Race 10 – AllowanceN1X 86k Purse
We close out the sequence with a full field of allowance horses going long on the grass and feel this is a place where we may only need a couple to get paid. The first of which, and my top pick, is Pine Knoll (#10) who has maintained very good form in each of his four starts since switching to the Brad Cox barn. His maiden score was over a talented Chad Brown trainee in Orchestration who has returned to do some nice things since. In his last start, Pine Knoll was part of a three-ply pace duel and was the only one who hung around at the end. The winner of that race, Newsworthy, came from dead-last to get up while Pine Knoll did all the dirty work on the front end. I like that in his win he showed the ability to stalk and pounce because that’s the type of trip he projects to get today. The other runner who I think is super dangerous in this spot is Santin (#6) who was very visually impressive in his debut at Indiana Grand. It remains to be seen the quality of field he defeated that day, but he did it the right way and is bred to be a good one out of the graded stakes winning race mare Sentiero Italia who notched the Lake Placid and Sands Point in her three-year-old campaign. The only other runner I think is worthy of including is the creatively-named Ginsburned (#5). While the race he exits was a Grade 1 by name only, he ran pretty well that day and possesses some upside as a lightly raced gelding for a barn that points to this Keeneland meet.