The Saturday card is highlighted by the Grade 2 Lexus Raven Run Stakes for three year old fillies. This is always one of the better betting races of the season at Keeneland, as there always seems to be a large field of talented and well-bred horses coming together to run seven furlongs. The Early Pick-5 features three short fields on the dirt and two full fields on the grass. This feels like a sequence that could be very chalky, as there are some very logical favorites that will attract a lot of public action. My analysis with Michael Domabyl for the Late Pick-5 sequence can be found over at ITM Plus.
|1||7||1||DBL, PK3, PK5|
|2||6,9||2,7,11||DBL, PK3, PK4|
|5||5,7,10,12||DBL, PK3, PK6,
Race 1: Top Pick: 7
The day opens with two year old maiden fillies running with a $30K tag. Wesley Ward’s record with first time starters in maiden claiming races over the past two years is unreal, winning with 45% of his starters (26 of 58). He had a winner last Saturday with a maiden claimer (Just Say When) and he sends out Distorted View (7) in this race today. Her works look better than what her counterparts in this race have shown in the AM, and Johnny Velasquez taking the mount at this level is a positive sign. Of the horses with experience, Slushy (1) is the other one I’ll put on my ticket. She ran okay with $50K maiden claimers on debut last month at Churchill, finishing 4th beaten nine lengths. William Morey has a good record with his babies and a positive ROI with horses making their second career starts. I imagine the Ward horse will be crushed at the windows, so there could be some fair value with her.
Race 2: Top Pick: 6
It’s going to be an ongoing theme in this sequence, but the heavy favorite looks very tough to play against in this maiden special weight turf sprint for two year old fillies. Wesley Ward sends out Top Gun Girl (6) to make her second start after an impressive debut. I tabbed her as a horse to watch after watching her debut at Saratoga. She locked into a speed duel with the favorite and put her away at the top of the stretch. The race winner, The Club, sat the perfect trip and appeared ready to blow by her in the stretch. However, Top Gun Girl dug in gamely, fought back and was gaining on the winner again late, only to lose by a narrow margin. The favorite, Lady Scarlett, who lost the duel, faded to finish in last place, further highlighting that effort from Top Gun Girl. I don’t love the price on this Air Force Blue filly (Even money on the ML), but I think she’s very likely to win this race. She’ll likely be stepping on a course with a little more give in it than what she saw at Saratoga in August, so I’ll sign up for a little insurance in this big field. On the A line, I’m going to try Omaha Red (9) after a respectable effort on the polytrack at Arlington in a live maiden special weight race. She finished 3rd, beaten 8 lengths by a pair of next out winners. Her pedigree doesn’t strike me as a horse that will love the turf, but her trainer, McLean Robertson has brought some well-intentioned horses to this meet. I’ll cover with a trio of fillies on the C line, using Sutherland (2), Sovereign of Speed (7), and Faithful Ruler (11). I’m not sure either Sovereign of Speed or Faithful Ruler can survive a duel with Top Gun Girl if she runs the same kind of race that she did at the Spa. However, if for some reason, the favorite misses the break or doesn’t love the softer course, both of these fillies could be right there, especially with the way the course has been playing this week. Sovereign of Speed improved when going to turf in her second career start at Arlington last out, fading late to finish 5th in a fairly quick race. Faithful Ruler looked better in her debut at Ellis, but she threw in a total clunker at Kentucky Downs. Some horses don’t love it there, so I’ll give her another shot. Sutherland was wide in her debut on the dirt at Churchill last month, fading to 8th that day. She’s sired by Twirling Candy, out of a Smart Strike mare, so there’s reason to believe that she’ll take to the turf.
Race 3: Top Pick: 2
It’s not very sexy, but two horses feel very logical among this sextet of $30K restricted claimers going 6 Furlongs. Quick Return (2) ran a strong race off the Fausto Gutierrez claim last out to the clear the state bred N1X allowance level at Belmont. This four year old already paid dividends on the $25K claim that his owners made on him back at Saratoga two starts ago. He’s been right in the thick of every sprint race that he’s ever been in and every indication seems to say that he’ll be there again with this group. Brother Aaron (5) looked like a different horse when dropping to the $30K N2L level at Ellis. Perhaps he’s a horse that simply doesn’t run his best races at Churchill, as he ran two clunkers in a row with starter allowance company there. He drops back in for a tag and gets a field where I’m finding it hard to make a legitimate case for the other four runners.
Race 4: Top Pick: 1
I’m not sure what went wrong with Microcap (1) last out, but I’m willing to believe that race was a total aberration for her. She came into the Shawnee Stakes at Churchill this May after winning three straight dirt starts. She was no match for Envoutante that day, but she ran a credible race in defeat. She ran well in stakes company at Indiana Grand before finishing a troubled trip 4th at Ellis two back. Her last was an utter disaster as she never was able to get involved. I suspect that whatever was the issue that day, it’s been resolved. She should be able sit in the garden spot, tracking some cheaper speed in this race before making her move. Beach Flower (6) ran a big effort this March at Oaklawn coming off a similar layoff. She closed a ton of ground that day to win coming from way out of it. More recently, she’s comes out of a race in July where she led gate to wire on the grass at Canterbury. She can run on any surface, and she likes to run fresh. I believe this eight year old mare still has something left in the tank.
Race 5: Top Pick: 10
After taking four straight favorites, which is not usually my style, I have a price horse that I really like in this N1X allowance race at 1 Mile and 1/16 on the turf. Tom Amoss sends out Hot Stove League (10) here at 15-1 on the morning line, making his second start off the layoff. He debuted at the Fair Grounds last December, finishing 3rd in an above average maiden claiming race there at one mile on the turf. I really liked the effort he turned in against a very good field in January, when running in a 14 horse scramble in a race on the Lecomte undercard. He narrowly lost on the wire to Fulsome, who has gone on to be a multiple graded stakes winner on the dirt. He beat next out maiden special weight winner, Hidden Enemy, who went on to finish 4th in some graded stakes races on the grass. Hot Stove League won his next start in a race taken off the turf, and went on the shelf after that. He made his return in a one turn sprint at Kentucky Downs last month, where he finished a dull 9th. He’s worked four times since that race and is proven to be better at two turns. He likes to be forwardly placed, which hasn’t been a bad thing on this turf course this week. Seven Channels (12) was 4th at this level when facing a stronger field two weeks ago. Camp Hope, who won that race, put forth a monster effort to dominate that field by over five lengths. He’s second off a layoff, which is a profitable angle for J. Reeve McGaughey’s horses. We saw an English Channel sired exacta in the feature yesterday, and like those horses (Spooky Channel and Two Emmys), I expect this one to continue to improve as he ages. War Machine (7) shipped to Del Mar this summer after breaking his maiden in a two-turn seven and a half furlong turf contest at Woodbine back in July. He ran very well at two turns again in Southern California, running hard, but getting outkicked late to finish 4th, beaten less than a length in a wild finish. He is another one that has some tactical speed that should put him on or near the front end, and he’ll benefit from getting Tyler Gaffalione aboard. The morning line favorite is Caveat Emptor (5) for Jimmy Toner with John Velasquez aboard. He’s coming off a dominating effort at Kentucky Downs, breaking his maiden, winning by over five lengths. He earned a monster speed figure for that race, which is why he comes in here as the 8-5 morning line favorite. I wouldn’t be surprised to see that number dip a little lower come post time. While horses that have run at Kentucky Downs have been live all meet long, I’m always a little weary of horses with big figure jumps on that course, when they make their next start somewhere else. He ran a one turn mile there, which I believe is a very different race at one turn as opposed to two turns. He’s run well enough in two turn races elsewhere to believe that he can win this race, however, I don’t think the odds disparity between him and some of the others in here is that large, thus making him not a very good value play. I’ll keep him on the A line, because I respect him, but I think there’s value in trying to beat him, especially in a multi-race sequence that figures to have at least a few short priced favorites.
Early Pick-5 Tickets:
All A’s ($2 Base Wager – $32)
All A’s / B’s ($0.50 Base Wager – $32)
4 A’s / 1 C ($0.50 Base Wager – $12)
Total Wagered: $76