Even though it’s closing day for the Fall Meet at Keeneland, there will be two more days of racing in Lexington, Kentucky, with the Breeders’ Cup coming back to town next Friday and Saturday. The jockey and trainer races are coming down to the wire. Tyler Gaffalione holds a one race lead over Luis Saez in the jockey standings. Todd Pletcher and Wesley Ward each have ten winners at the meet and both have interests in only one race each on this card. Brad Cox is one win behind them, but he is represented in four races today (six if you count his two MTO runners that appear likely to be scratched). Three stakes races highlight the last day of the meet. First post is at 1:00 (ET) and the Late Pick-5 gets going at 3:40 (ET).
Best Bet: Race 6: #1 Illegal Smile (8-5, ML)
Best Price Stab: Race 7: #10 Atlantic Dancer (15-1 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||2||2,3||7||PK5, PK3, DBL|
|7||4||4,10,12||16||PK4, PK3, DBL|
Race 6: The $200K Bowman Mill Stakes:
Seven two year olds sprint six furlongs in the first stakes race on the closing day card. Sir Lancelot (#2) is a stakes winner on the synthetic at Presque Isle and a maiden special weight winner on the dirt at Delaware. He is moving to a tougher circuit today for Michael Stidham, but he has looked the part on the racetrack so far. Both wins have been dominating performances, earning strong speed figures. I don’t know who he beat in those races, but he was by far the best horse on the track. I think his added experience gives him a slight edge over the Brad Cox morning line favorite, Quick Hammer (#3). He was a confident maiden winner in his debut last month at Aqueduct. Cox and Saez don’t team up often at Keeneland as Geroux typically rides first call for his barn. However, when they work together, they have connected 45% of the time. Saez was aboard this son of Mor Spirit on debut, and he gets the return call today. I’ll cover with Bourbon Bash (#7) on deeper plays, getting some class relief as he’s dropping out of Grade 1 company. He was very good in his first two sprints at Saratoga this summer. He made his third career start in the Hopeful where he didn’t seem to relish the sloppy going. He came back to face Forte again in the Breeders’ Futurity at the beginning of the meet, but he faded badly that day. He cuts back to a sprint, which is probably where this son of City of Light will be best. City of Light was very good between 7 and 9 furlongs and his dam, Buy Sell Hold, was a precocious stakes winner at two. I’ll give him one more shot here.
I’m going to play against the Chad Brown and Brad Cox first time starters, Pricing Power (#6) and Power Seeker (#9). Both look like they could be decent horses from their work tabs, but I don’t love playing first time starters at shorter odds when running at this 6 and ½ furlong, especially when facing some horses with quality racing experience. The morning line favorite, Cape Trafalgar (#11) doesn’t excite me either after a dull second place finish here going seven furlongs earlier in the meet. Perhaps he needed that race while making his first start in six months, however, it is worth noting that his best Beyer figure came on a sloppy course in his debut. I like a pair of second time starters here, making Arrogates Spirit (#4) my top pick. He’s a half to sprint champion Whitmore, making his second career start for Ron Moquett. He acted up before the race, tossing Tyler Gaffalione to the ground. He saved enough energy to finish a decent third that afternoon. Blinkers go on for his second career start today and Gaffalione was impressed enough with his on track effort to want to stick around. Iceatude (#12) debuted in the same race and finished in front of Arrogates Spirit. He was dismissed at almost 37-1 in the wagering, running for trainer Lacy Pierce. He closed a decent amount of ground that afternoon after breaking near the back of the pack. He’s the first foal to race for the dam, A Little Attitude. She was a winner on debut and lost in a photo in the Sandpiper Stakers at Tampa in her second career start. I can see him taking a step forward here. Atlantic Dancer (#10) makes some sense here for Nick Zito, who is looking for his first training win in 2022. He’s an American Pharoah horse that was gelded in the spring. His debut was average last fall at Belmont, finishing 5th, beaten 3 and ½ lengths. While that race wasn’t particularly fast, three of the top four finishers from that race have gone on to be stakes placed. He faced Smile Happy in his next start here, where something clearly went wrong. He was off for 11 months before returning in a maiden special weight race at Aqueduct. He stumbled at the break, spotting the field several lengths, but he was rolling late, getting up for third. I can see him taking a decent step forward with this group and making some noise in this field at a price. He’s 15-1 on the morning line and with Zito’s down year, I can see that number going up. I do see some serious upside though for this runner that fetched $400K at the Keeneland September Sale in 2021. One other horse to consider is Top Secret (#16), who would be making his debut in this spot for Wayne Mackey. He needs a lot of help to draw in, but his works are good and this barn is capable of popping with longshot first time starters.
Race 8: The $300K Grade 3 Bryan Station Stakes:
This G3 contest for three year olds going one mile on turf is a wide open and challenging puzzle. Ready to Purrform (#1) and Wit (#8) finished first and second in the Grade 2 National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame Stakes at the same distance this summer at Saratoga, and I see them both as primary contenders in this race. Wit went on to win the Better Talk Now Stakes at the end of Saratoga meet, making that two very nice races for him on the turf. His first act included Grade 3 wins and two placings in Grade 1 races, all in one turn races on the dirt. Pletcher put him on the grass at the Spa and he responded well. There’s no reason to think he can’t continue to improve. Ready to Purrform struggled in the Dueling Grounds Derby last out when going 1 mile and 5/16. I can forgive that dull effort as I don’t think he wants to go that far at this point in his career. He ran his best race when Rosario put him on the front end two back. He may try similar tactics today with his rail draw, although the presence of Classic Causeway (#5) may throw a wrench in that plan. Even though there’s higher odds on him as opposed to Wit (5-1 to 3-1), despite beating him on the square two starts back, I prefer Wit coming back today. I think he has more upside and I think the race shape suits him better. I’ll use Ready to Purrform on the B line though. Balnikhov (#2) has two very good efforts in his two North American races at this distance. He beat twelve well-meant rivals in the Oceanside Stakes at Del Mar, which is the traditional Opening Day Stakes race there. He closed well as the favorite to finish 4th in the Del Mar Derby, going nine furlongs last time out. I like him on the cutback in distance today. I think this California shipper has a big chance today, and I’ll make him the top pick.I think Fort Washington (#3) is an interesting player in this race. He was very good two starts back when he won the Tale of the Cat Stakes at Monmouth. He looked like he finally put it all together that day. He blew the break when going one mile at Kentucky Downs in the Gun Runner Stakes last month. He was traveling well late, but he left himself too much work to do that day. James Graham, who has been the leading rider at the Fair Grounds four separate times, has ridden very well in limited opportunities at this meet, and he’ll get the assignment for Shug McGaughey today. Rusty Arnold has had a rough meet, but winning a stakes race on closing day could certainly give his barn some momentum coming into the Churchill meet. He sends out Double Clutch (#7), who like Ready to Purrform, struggled in the Dueling Grounds Derby. He was the unlikely one to set the pace that day, which was very slow. He’s never done that before, and I’m not sure he liked being the target. He was improving steadily, finishing in front of Ready to Purrform in the Manila Stakes and then finishing behind him at Saratoga. I think he can benefit from the cutback, and could sit a cozy, midpack trip with this group today. Classic Causeway is one that I’ll use strictly as a saver. He showed some serious turf ability when winning the Grade 1 Belmont Derby when he was allowed to walk on the front end in that ten furlong contest. He was third in the final two legs of the NYRA Turf Triple before trying Grade 1 company in the Shadwell Turf Mile here on Opening Weekend. He finished midpack that day behind some quality opponents. This is class relief for him, but I think others might have a higher ceiling than he does, and I’m not sure the race shape here fits what he wants to do today.
Race 9: The $350K Grade 2 Hagyard Fayette Stakes:
The featured Grade 2 race this afternoon drew a short field of six older horses going 1 mile and 1/8 on the main track. Many of these runners could have their eyes set on the Clark Stakes at the end of November over at Churchill. The heavy morning line favorite is First Captain (#4) for Shug McGaughey. This son of Curlin was purchased for $1.5 million at the Fasig Tipton Sale in August of 2019. He was a winner in his first three career starts in 2021 before faltering in the Curlin Stakes at Saratoga. He’s started five times in 2022 with his only poor race coming the Grade 1 Carter Stakes at seven furlongs this past April. He won the Pimlico Special and was very good while hitting the board in the Suburban and the Jockey Club Gold Cup. He is the one to beat for sure, but I do worry that he could be pace compromised in this spot. I’ll use him on the A line, but I’ll make West Will Power (#1) the top pick. The West’s moved him from Kelly Breen to Brad Cox for his 2022 campaign. He just missed in stakes company at Ellis in his first start of the year and he followed that up with a strong performance at Churchill, taking a decent group of N3X allowance horses gate to wire. That’s not usually his style, but with a rail draw and limited speed in this compact group, I’d think that we’ll see similar tactics here. He can get the distance and may prove to be too good to catch in the later stages of this one.
Well, if the training title comes down to the last race of the meet, I’d be feeling good if I were in Wesley Ward’s shoes. He has the two shortest prices, Illegal Smile (#1) and Spicy Marg (#6) in this conditioned allowance at 5 and ½ furlongs on the turf. I do think Illegal Smile is going to be very hard to beat in this spot today. She’s been close behind Caravel in her last two starts in stakes company at Saratoga and Belmont. Prior to that, she won her last two starts on this course in convincing fashion. Ward continues to dominate in turf sprint races at this meet, and I think this filly is simply too good for these. I’d be comfortable using her as a short priced single. I do see Spicy Marg as being vulnerable in this spot. There’s some speed in here, but she should be the boss early on. As the meet has gone on, front end speed on the turf has become less of an asset. I think with her stablemate in this race, it’s going to be very hard for her to hold on to that lead in the final stages of this one. On deeper tickets and underneath, I think Violenza (#7) is an interesting runner to cover with. She’s a closer and with Spicy Marg in this field, she’s likely going to get some pace to close into. Her two starts at Ellis and Colonial this summer were two of her better efforts in her career, despite not winning either. Toss her last in stakes company at Kentucky Downs where she never looked comfortable. I think she could be rolling late to get a piece of the action today.
Pick-5, $45 Ticket:
I’ll build the closing day Late Pick-5 around Wesley Ward’s Illegal Smile (#1, R10). There’s not likely going to be much value with her in that race, but she feels like the most likely winner in the sequence. I do see the 6th and 9th races as potentially leaning toward shorter prices, so hopefully we can get home some prices in the 7th and 8th. Both Arrogates Spirit (#4, R7) and Atlantic Dancer (#10, R7) should go off at decent odds in the 7th. While I think the shorter prices are live in the 8th, don’t see on Balnikhov (#2, R8) and Fort Washington (#3, R8) in the Bryan Station Stakes.