There is significant weather in the forecast for this weekend at Keeneland and rather than guess which surface these races will be run over, I’ll just plan for both. The stakes race on the card is a very interesting affair on the grass, so hopefully that race is preserved.
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- Leg 1 (R4): 12-6-9-8 (DIRT: 12-5-6-7)
- Leg 2 (R7): 3-6-1-13 (DIRT: 8-3-2-9)
- Leg 3 (R9): 8-12-11-14 (DIRT: 3-7-6-9)
Leg 1: Keeneland Race 4 – Maiden Special Wt 84k Purse
On Turf: In the event this race stays on the grass, there will be a likely heavy favorite in Gooch Go Bragh (#2) for the formidable combination of Gaffalione and Pletcher. While both of his two turf races are solid enough efforts, he had the run of the race in both events, sitting off a fast pace in his debut and being on top of a slow pace in the G3-With Anticipation. I’ll keep him as a distant backup since the horses that defeated him in the last all came back to gain stakes placings, but it wasn’t as if he was in the same area code as those runners at the end of that race. Naval Aviator (#6) is very dangerous for the red hot Brad Cox barn and is out of a G3 winner going long on the grass. However, even though the Cox barn has made its way up to a tie atop the trainers’ standings only one of those wins has come on turf. Fascinating (#9) is interesting if it stays on turf as a half sibling to the good Chad Brown runner Indochine and goes second out for Tom Amoss and Encourage (#8) debuts for Kenny McPeek who already has three juvenile winners to his name at the meet. I’m going to the outside for my top selection though, one that would apply for turf or dirt. Walhalla (#12) ran well over a dirt track with some moisture in it last time and now might get to the surface he’s intended for. This colt is out of the multiple graded stakes winning mare Tizaqueena who is most famous for her win in the Distaff Turf Mile at Churchill on the undercard of Mine That Bird’s Derby. She has positional speed to get over from that outside draw and might relish some give in the ground as her dam did.
On Dirt: I’m still on Walhalla (#12) as my top pick off the fact she was able to handle the dirt in her debut and I’d still use Naval Aviator (#6) prominently as his pedigree could suit for turf or dirt. However, if this race does get moved to the dirt I’d upgrade Andy Cant (#5) going second time out for Bill Mott out of a live maiden race at Churchill where it was tough for anyone to make up ground.
Leg 2: Keeneland Race 7 – AllowanceN1X 86k Purse
On Turf: Kiss the Sky (#3) looks pretty formidable against this group coming off a solid stakes placing behind Tiz the Bomb who returned to win the Bourbon over this course on opening weekend. His maiden win wasn’t anything earth-shattering, but he’s been improving in every start for dangerous connections. As backups, I’d want to use Vivar (#6) who hasn’t run all that fast to-date, but has done so in a professional manner while overcoming some obstacles in his races that projects to have him improve further with more experience for a high-percentage barn. Dowagiac Chief (#1) was part of a fast pace in the G2-Bourbon and while that could also develop here, he’s at least well-drawn to the inside. Finally, Gingrich (#13) could be worth using if the race stays on the grass and a runner to his inside opts not to try the soft conditions. He looked good breaking his maiden over this course and distance and proved to handle some give in the ground.
On Dirt: While I don’t like his chances on the grass, Lucky Boss (#8) would move up greatly if this race is switched to the main track. Kenny McPeek has done well with his juveniles this meet and took down the G1-Breeders’ Futurity for this same ownership group with Rattle N Roll. This Street Boss colt has a win over some common opponents and a stakes placing to his name at Ellis. Kiss the Sky (#3) is still logical on dirt of the close second to the top dirt pick in his debut and has been improving. On dirt, I’d use backups like Britain’s Kitten (#2) and Speaking Scout (#9) who have proven to be able to handle this surface with some level of their other form.
Leg 3: Keeneland Race 9 – G3-Valley View Stakes 150k
On Turf: With only two days left in the Keeneland meet, I really hope they decide that it’s prudent to leave the Valley View on the grass because it came up a wonderful race. I’m not thrilled with the short prices on the morning line for the grass such as ML fav Crazy Beautiful (#3) who hasn’t run on turf since her debut and will be bet off her superior dirt form. I’m more of a fan of Tobys Heart (#4) who is a filly with a ton of raw ability, I just question stretching her out to a route of ground again as she’s proven to be such a nice turf sprinter. My top pick is going to be a filly that generated a ton of buzz off her debut in Breaker of Chains (#8). While I’m normally not a fan of Bernardini progeny on the grass, this filly took to it with aplomb in her North American debut at Kentucky Downs overcoming a horrific start to bury the field down the lane. The fourth place finisher of that event came back to win at Keeneland on Thursday and the meet’s leading rider Tyler Gaffalione opts to stick here when it appeared he had options. I doubt she’ll end up the 8-1 on the morning line, but in a blind pool like this turf pick three, we can potentially create some value. Lady Speightspeare (#11) was scratched after acting up at the gate before the G1-QE II Challenge Cup earlier this meet and it might’ve proved to be a blessing in disguise as I doubt anyone was beating Shantisara (Ire) that day. She wheels back in this spot and her speed figures fit better with today’s rivals and she has some upside potential as a lightly raced and well-bred filly. She can be forwardly placed from the outset over a course that has been carrying speed at times this meet. Queenship (Ire) (#12) is super dangerous shipping west out of some races in Ireland. Although those tracks might not represent the best Europe has to offer, Joseph O’Brien has been live when shipping in and she’s already proven to handle super soft ground. She seems like a filly with upside winning both her turf starts in comfortable fashion. Since I’m fading every horse shorter than 8-1 on the morning line, I’ll include a couple others as distant backups to my top trio. Gam’s Mission (#14) might’ve been facing the best company of anyone coming into this race and has since got a bit of a freshening and appears to be working like clockwork pointed to this spot. She rattled off a three race win streak earlier this year and is dangerous if she can work out a trip from that dreadful post. Oyster Box (#10) flashed talent early this year and I think she can get back to it in here. Her last two defeats were to really good horses and she returns to facing straight three-year-olds this time.
On Dirt: While this might be the most interesting and competitive race all meet if it stays on the grass, that certainly wouldn’t be the case if it was move to dirt. Crazy Beautiful (#3) has legitimate graded stakes form over the main track and has won each of the four non-G1’s she’s tried since March. The others in this field combine for just one 80+ Beyer over dirt whereas the McPeek trainee has six to her name alone. She would be a stone-cold single to close this pick three out if it is washed off.