Day 6 of the 17 day Keeneland Fall Meet is a ten race card, highlighted by the Grade 3 Sycamore Stakes. There’s an overflow field of 16 entered in that 1 Mile ½ contest on the turf, but only 12 will run. It’s a deep group featuring the top two finishers of the Grade 2 Elkhorn, run at this distance in the spring. Three Grade 1 winners are set to go, post time favoritism is likely to fall outside of that trio. As usual, racing will start at 1:00 (ET) and the Late Pick-5, which starts in Race 6, will start around 3:40 (ET).
Best Bet: Race 9: #7 Mira Mission (7-2, ML)
Best Price Stab: Race 10: #4 Rikio (30-1 ML)
I’ll typically be covering the Late Pick-5 sequence from this exciting meet on the ITM Blog, along with posting some updates and thoughts from time to time on Twitter @EricSolomon718. Feel free to reach out!
|Race||Top Pick||A||B||C||Wagering Menu|
|6||5||5,8||4||PK5, PK3, DBL|
|7||5||2,5,9||PK4, PK3, DBL|
This is an interesting optional $125K claiming/N2X allowance race for three year olds going six furlongs. Several runners in this contest tested the waters on the Derby Trail either late last year or earlier this year. The heavy favorite on the morning line is Peaceful Waters (#4), who has earned that moniker based on a monstrous effort with N1X foes at Saratoga. This is a solid group and he is moving up in class. I also think there’s a potential for him to bounce off that effort. On the other hand, he should be able to dictate the terms of this race on the front end. Coppola (#6), coming off a win with N1X company at Monmouth in the mud, seems to be the main competition for the early lead. That one tracked the leader early in his last and that may be the goal again. Peaceful Waters certainly has the potential and does seem to be a good fit for the six furlong distance, which is a question mark for some of the others. I‘ll cover him, but I’ll look elsewhere for the top pick. Dallas Stewart sends out both Strava (#5) and Surfer Dude (#8) and I think both of those runners have a decent shot in this race. Strava is the top pick, coming off a third place finish in the Harrods Creek Stakes at seven furlongs last month at Churchill. He broke his maiden on this course on debut last fall. He resurfaced in the winter at the Fair Grounds where he faced horses like Cyberknife and Tawny Port. He showed at Churchill in the spring that he’s more effective when going one turn, when he dominated a N1X allowance field going one mile there. He cuts back in distance while also moving out of stakes company. Surfer Dude was overmatched in the Amsterdam Stakes at Saratoga in his last start, but prior to that, he ran three quality races at one turn against some solid fields. He was second behind Old Homestead in the Lafayette Stakes here in the spring. He beat a solid field when going 6 and ½ furlongs in N1X allowance company on Derby Day at Churchill. He was no match for Conagher and Gunite in allowance company, but he was still competitive when finishing third. He’s been away since the end of July and he likes this course. I do think he could be overlooked in this race, where he could sit a very cozy trip, just off the early leaders.
I’ll go three deep in this maiden special weight contest for two year old fillies, going 1 mile and 1/16 on the turf course. Most of the 12 runners that make up the body of the field have a bit of racing experience. Sun Bee (#5) is another live runner that Graham Motion is bringing into Lexington for this meet. She makes her third career start after a pair of second place finishes in Virginia and Maryland. She’s bred to be a good one as both of her full siblings were quality runners. Spooky Channel was a multiple Grade 3 winner on the turf and Margaret’s Joy was Grade 3 placed and broke her maiden on the grass. Added distance is likely in her future, but I think John Velazquez can sit a nice stalking trip in this race and make her run late. Boltoro (#9) debuted on drift at Churchill in July and showed little, but she looked much better on the grass last month when finishing second at Kentucky Downs. She’s sired by Bolt d’Oro, whose offspring have won five times in 31 tries thus far on grass. Two of those wins came with horses making their second start in a turf route race, which is the case for this filly today. Self Confident (#2) closed a lot of ground to narrowly miss the win in her debut last month at Kentucky Downs. Her dam, Sabbatical, cleared the N1X condition on the turf, and she has two foals to have won at two turns on grass. McGaughey’s horses tend to improve with added experience, so I could see her taking a step forward here.
There’s an interesting name that resurfaced in this N2L allowance sprint for three year olds and upward going six furlongs. Strobe (#12) made his debut two races after the Derby and while all of the attention was still on Rich Strike at that time, he ran a monster race in his debut, dominating a very good maiden field by 4+ lengths and earning a 99 Beyer Speed Figure. The dam, Flashing, was a two time Grade 1 winner, winning the Test at seven furlongs and the Gazelle at 9 furlongs back in 2009. She’s only had three other runners to make it to the track in North America, and they haven’t done much. However, the word was out on this one in the spring, after tearing up the racetrack in the morning. If he runs close to that last race in his return, he wins this race easily, possibly earning him consideration for a race like the Malibu at Santa Anita at the end of the year. Mahaamel (#6) is another flashy runner that is on the comeback trail. He matched the 99 Beyer Speed Figure when breaking his maiden in the mud in his second career start last June at Belmont. He finished in the money in his next four tries in N1X allowance company on the NYRA circuit, losing to horses like Beau Liam and Speaker’s Corner in that span. He just missed when shortening to 6 and ½ furlongs, so perhaps races like this will be where he’ll flourish. He’s been gelded since his last start, almost one year ago from today. With the new HISA regulations, I wonder about horses coming back to the races in just under 365 days, like he’s doing. There’s more scrutiny and hurdles to jump over for connections to bring runners back after a layoff of a year or more. I do wonder if horses like this might not be fully cranked yet, but trainers are trying to get that race in to avoid the added hassle. He’s taking on many three year olds here and I do trust Pletcher to have his horses ready to fire off the bench. If it’s not these two runners, who definitely have a major edge, I’d think Appeal Denied (#11) would be where I’d land. I’m willing to draw a line through his seven furlong effort two starts back, where nothing seemed to go right. That was a hot day on the Arlington Million card at Churchill for that one day of racing. I’m willing to forgive some lackluster performances that day. Foley got him on the right track, breaking his maiden with ease, going this distance at Churchill last month. Geroux opts to ride Strobe, which makes sense, however, Johnny V. taking over is certainly a capable replacement.
Race 9, The $300K G3 Sycamore Stakes:
The Friday feature is a good one, giving us a 12 furlong marathon on the turf course here. Arklow (#1), Highland Chief (#4), and Channel Maker (#6) are all Grade 1 winners, are are certainly capable on their best day. However, at eight years old, I’m not sure we’ll see the best days from Arklow or Channel Maker again. Highland Chief beat a very nice field of four horses to win the Man O’War in May, however, he was able to walk on the front end that day and I’m not sure he can get away with those tactics in a field of this size. I love Mira Mission (#7) today, and I hope we can get close to his 7-2 (ML) figure. He’s a four year old turfer that is starting to get very good. He just missed in both the Grade 1 Turf Classic at Churchill and the Grade 1 Sword Dancer at Saratoga. He answered the distance question that day, suggesting that he might be even better at longer distances than he was at the middle distances. He has a Grade 3 win under his belt in the Canadian Turf Stakes at Gulfstream earlier this year and he was competitive in the Makers Mark Mile on this course this spring in what was a wild finish. I think these longer distances are what he wants to do, and with a big effort in this race, I wouldn’t rule out a trip to the Breeders’ Cup Turf next month on this course and distance.
The racing office brought this $20K maiden claiming race at 6 and ½ furlongs back after the same race on Wednesday oversubscribed. As a result, the four also-eligibles that scratched that day are back today in the body of this field, which drew 15 runners (12 + 3 AEs). Some of the shorter prices in this race are horses that sold for six figures that are plummeting in class, like Master Game (#1) or Impenetrable (#11). There’s also a few homebreds, whose owners paid six figures for the stud fee, like Cooper Time (#6) and Almanzo (#8). All four of these runners are guaranteed a loss on investment, even with a win and claim. Of the four in this group, Master Game and Almanzo are the two that I’ll cover with. Both have shown ability on the main track and both are working well for outfits that love to win races at Keeneland. Master Game was gelded prior to his last start and tried the turf at Kentucky Downs. That was a failed experiment, as he didn’t run a step that day. He didn’t draw into the race on Wednesday, but he made it into the body of the field as the morning line favorite today. Almanzo was also gelded prior to his last start at Kentucky Downs, where he competed against Master Game. The Don Alberto Stable moved him to Wesley Ward’s over the summer after failing to win with Brad Cox. Ward brings this son of Tapit back to the dirt after four turf tries. He hit the board in three of four career races on the main track, all in maiden special weight company. The top pick for me though is Pudge Boy Palace (#12) making his second start off the layoff today. He finished third in his first two career starts at Oaklawn in March and April, both of which came with maiden claiming company. He tried a maiden special weight race at the end of the meet there where something clearly went amiss, and he jogged home. He returned at this level at Churchill last month where he just missed, going off at nearly 20-1. His morning figure is half of that number today and I think he could be overlooked again today. I’m also going to use a big longshot in here, trying Rikio (#4) for Robert Cline. I’m going to use the assumption that this guy just doesn’t like the surface at Churchill. When you take those two races out of the equation, he has three races, here and at Ellis, with an improving speed figure pattern. He hit the board both times at Ellis over the summer, racing in maiden claiming company. He faded late in both of those races after setting the pace. There are some others that might want to be forwardly placed in here, but form for those runners is a question. He ran with $10K maiden claimers last month at Churchill and didn’t do much. Cline claimed him that day and moves him up in class. He has good numbers first off the claim, and when you draw a line through the two races in Louisville, he’s not that far apart from the others in this race. At 30-1 or better, I’d give him a shot of getting brave on the front end.
Pick-5, $54 Ticket:
Mira Mission (#7, R9) in the featured race is going to be the centerpiece of this $54 play. I think he’s the most likely winner in the sequence, coming here off a strong effort when going 12 furlongs for the first time in his last start. I’ll seek coverage in the other races, which are typical, wide open, Keeneland contests.