There’s a nine race card on tap at Keeneland this afternoon, anchored by some strong allowance races. The featured 8th race drew an overflow field of three year olds, with many familiar names going nine furlongs on the main track. As per usual, the first race goes to post at 1:00 (ET) and the Late Pick-5 will begin at 3:08 (ET) with the 5th race today.
Best Bet: Race 6: #2 Ethical Judgement (4-1, ML)
Best Price Stab: Race 5: #8 Atras (12-1 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|
|5||6||6,9||8||PK5, PK3, DBL|
|6||2||2||3||PK4, PK3, DBL|
This sequence gets underway with a $50K starter allowance race for horses that also must still be eligible for the N1X allowance condition. Pledgeofallegiance (#3) feels like a bad favorite to me in this spot, and I’ll be trying to beat this one here. He’s only 1 for 19 in his career, and despite hitting the board in his last two starts at this level, both of those races came at longer distances. I really don’t like the cutback in distance for him, so taking a short price on this one is not an option for me. I’ll play Mount Athos (#6) on top, trying to break through after three straight second place finishes. He was claimed for $30K by Norm Casse last out and is moved to a protected spot today. He was good at this level three back at Churchill, finishing a game second to Mr. Sippi, who went on to clear the N1X allowance condition in his next start. I think the six furlong distance is a liability for some of the others in this race, but he does his best running at this trip. He has two wins and two second place finishes in four career tries at ¾ of a mile. Constitutional Law (#9) is another horse that should be at home at this distance. He’s got an interesting backstory, being a full brother to the 2014 Florida Derby winner, Constitution. Clearly something was amiss with him, as he only sold for $45K at the Keeneland November Sale in 2021 after running three times. Chris Hartman took over and brought him to Arkansas. He struggled there, but has come back a different horse after a six month layoff. He crushed a $50K maiden claiming field at Churchill two back, then ran a strong second at this level nine days later. Both of those races came at this six furlong distance, which might be a new home for this one. Atras (#8) is a longer priced runner that has a shot at this level today. He was claimed for $20K last out after crushing a N2L field that day, getting back on the dirt for the first time in ten months. Being forwardly placed on both courses at this meet has been a plus, so I do see him sitting a nice trip with this group.
The first of three strong allowance races in the sequence is an optional $100K claiming/N3X contest for three year olds and up going 1 mile and 1/16 on the main track. While this is an evenly matched field, I don’t see a ton of early speed in here, which should set the table nicely for Ethical Judgement (#2) and Luis Saez. He was 5th at this level when going 1 mile and 1/8 last month at Churchill, finishing about a length and half behind Cupid’s Claws (#4), who was third that day. Ethical Judgement had the outside post and was wide going into the first turn. He moved early, but flattened out when beaten by West Will Power, who is a better horse at this point in their careers. Ethical Judgement showed some potential as a three year old, before going to the sidelines after running a dull 6th in the Dueling Grounds Derby Prevue Stakes at Ellis Park on the turf. He came back to finish 5th in a good N2X allowance race at Churchill and cleared that condition in his next start at Ellis. He adds blinkers today and, barring any unforeseen circumstances, should be the pacesetter. I think Saez can get away with setting slow to moderate fractions, leaving plenty left in the tank for the short stretch of the 1 Mile and 1/16 journey today. Meister (#3) would be where I’d back up in this race, even though I think the 8-5 morning line figure offers little value with this group. He comes in after two consecutive allowance wins, clearing the N1X and N2X conditions. He needs to prove that he can run those same powerful races at Keeneland as he was running at Churchill. It’ll be up to Leparoux to keep Ethical Judgement from getting off too easy on the front end.
The last Pick-3 of the afternoon begins with a N2X allowance race for fillies and mares going about 1 mile and 1/16 on the turf. I’m making Sister Lou Ann (#2) the top pick here. I thought her 6th place finish in the Grade 3 Lake George at Saratoga was better than it looks on paper. She was trending up with her Beyer Speed Figure progression prior to her last start in the Music City Stakes at Kentucky Downs. That race was at 6 and ½ furlongs on the turf, which I see as being too short for her. She goes back to a two turn turf race, which is what she’s bred to do best. Her dam, Granny Mc’s Kitten was a stakes winner at this distance on the turf. She’s a stakes winning three year old filly that has a significant post advantage over some of the other serious contenders in this race. Bipartisanship (#12) is returning from a six month hiatus for Graham Motion today. This barn has been on fire at the meet, winning four of eight races so far and hitting the board with two others. This filly has a definitive class edge over the others in the field, winning the Tropical Park Oaks at Gulfstream in December and facing some top notch turf fillies and mares in graded stakes company there over the winter. Post 12 is no picnic, so it will be up to Saez to try to work out a winning trip. She is the one to beat though. Justify My Love (#9) is a group 2 winner in Argentina and was also Group 1 placed there. Paulo Lobo took over the training and chose the One Dreamer Stakes at Kentucky Downs for her North American debut. She was very wide that day, but ran well enough to be 6th against a salty field. I think she’ll benefit from going back to two turns on a more traditional course, and I see her as a logical candidate to improve here. On deeper tickets, I’m not sure if she’s good enough, but from a visual standpoint, I really liked all three career turf races from Woohoo Jackie Blue (#7) when she was racing at Monmouth this summer. She was claimed for $50K by Lindsay Schultz at Oaklawn over the winter. She ran well on the main track there, but her pedigree leans to the turf. She faced some tough fields in two sprints in New Jersey, but she looked very good when stretching out to two turns. This is a significant step up in class for this three year old filly, but at long odds, I’d be willing to take a chance with her, seeing as how she’s never run a poor race on grass. Charges Dropped (#13) is on the outside looking in here, but she is the first to get into this race if someone in the body of the field defects. Her California form is solid and certainly could transfer here for McCarthy. If she does draw in, she will have to overcome a difficult post, but she’s definitely live.
Three year olds are going 1 mile and ⅛ in this optional claiming/N2X allowance race. There are many familiar names among this deep field, and I’ll call on one of them to hopefully finish on top. Actuator (#7) was the winner of the Indiana Derby two starts back while making his first start at two turns on the main track. He was overmatched in the Grade 1 H. Allen Jerkens at Saratoga when cutting back to seven furlongs and facing the ultra-talented Jack Christopher. I think he’s going to be better when routing and I think he fits very nicely among this group. Warrior Johny (#11) is an interesting runner that has a few huge efforts on his resume. He was a dominating winner at Churchill when breaking his maiden in June. He had a bit of a tough trip when he finished 6th at this distance in his next start. He came right back and crushed a field at the N1X level at Saratoga this summer. He tried stakes company last out when racing in the Bourbon Trail Stakes at Churchill. He ended up chasing a strong pace when finishing 6th behind Home Brew. He faces many of the rivals he saw last out, but I’m expecting a better effort from him today. Creative Minister (#12) was a close second in that same stakes race, running his best race since his third place finish in the Preakness back in May. He was dull in his three starts after that, but he looked more like the horse that we saw win impressively at the Spring meet here. He’s another runner in this sequence that will have to overcome a challenging draw, but I do think he’s good enough on his best day. Pioneer of Medina (#15) is unlikely to draw into this race, needing three to defect to get into this race, however, I do think he’s playable if he does get to compete. The Derby was a disaster for him and I’m willing to forgive his dull effort in the Smarty Jones when making his first start since the Kentucky Derby. The dirt course at Parx can be a tricky surface, and some horses just don’t run well there. He showed enough in New Orleans in the spring to suggest that he can compete at this level, and adding Lasix for the first time since January (the last time he won a race), is a plus.
This maiden special weight for two year old fillies going 1 mile and 1/16 on the main track is a wide open race where many of the horses have a similar look to them. I ended up making Comparative (#5) the top choice for the potent duo of Brad Cox and Florent Geroux. She’s a full sister to the multiple Grade 3 winner, Shared Sense, so I’m thinking that stretching out to two two turns after debuting in a one turn mile, will be to her benefit. Brad Cox has great numbers with maidens making their second career start, winning 30% of the time. Blinkers come off for her second try today, which is another plus angle for Cox. There’s an interesting pedigree anomaly with Pure Pauline (#3) and Grand Entrance (#9), both running for Pletcher in this spot. Grand Entrance was foaled by Grand Pauline, who foaled the 2015 Black-Eyed Susan winner, Keen Pauline. Pure Pauline is the second foal to run from Keen Pauline. Both fillies debuted in New York and are coming to Kentucky to make their second career start. Pure Pauline debuted at seven furlongs at Saratoga. She ranged up with a four wide bid, but flattened out when Take Charge Briana came flying from out of the clouds that afternoon. Grand Entrance was away slow at Aqueduct when going a one turn mile there. She recovered and came running late with a solid bid to be third. Visually, I slightly preferred the effort from Grand Entrance, but it’s splitting hairs. Even though they are owned by different groups, I do think if Pletcher thought that one of these fillies was going to be special, they wouldn’t be facing each other. It’s not to say that either of these fillies can’t win this race, but if they do, I don’t see either one running off the screen. On deeper tickets, I’ll look to another McPeek first time starter, Defining Purpose (#12). I noted in yesterday’s write up that McPeek’s numbers with first time starters improve when he sends them out in route races. He sent out Seeking Unity yesterday to an off the board finish behind a runaway winner with race day experience. LIke her stablemate, Defining Purpose has been working well in the morning. Her assignment is more difficult though, breaking from the outside stall. If she is overlooked and her odds go up over her 8-1 morning line figure, I’d be more inclined to take a shot with her.
Pick-5, $72 Ticket
I do like this sequence quite a bit today, and this ticket will be centered around Ethical Judgement (#2, R6), who is the 4-1 third choice on the morning line in that race. I think he’s trending in the right direction and has a distinct pace advantage in a compact field. I think the last three races are absolutely wide open, so I’ll be looking for coverage in those spots.