Fall Stars Weekend kicks off with a 10 race card on Opening Day at Keeneland. The Grade 1 Darley Alcibiades draws top billing on the card, which is also supported by the Grade 2 Stoll Keenon Ogden Phoenix Stakes and the Grade 2 JP Morgan Chase Jessamine Stakes. All three races are Win and You’re In races for the Breeders’ Cup, which will be run at Keeneland less than a month from today. I really like this late sequence today as I think there are some great opportunities for prices.
Best Bet: Race 10, #4 Federalist Papers (9-2, ML)
Best Price Stab: Race 8, #11 Knockyoursocksoff (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||11||4,6,11||1,16||PK5, PK3, DBL|
|7||6||6||2,5||PK4, PK3, DBL|
The first Late Pick-5 of the Fall Meet starts with an overflow field of 16 two year old maidens going six furlongs. As per usual, only 12 will start. I don’t typically love young horses going from turf to dirt in their second start. Typically if a horse debuts on the turf, they are either bred for the turf or aren’t training great on the main track. However, with maiden special weight races that have $157K in purse money at Kentucky Downs, I can’t fault any trainer for taking a shot on the grass there. That’s what Ken McPeek did with Sir (#11) last month, and it took him a few furlongs to figure out what he was doing there, but he did finish with interest in that 6 and ½ furlong contest. McPeek has already won twice with this angle this season, scoring with Closed Caption and B Minor in maiden special weight dirt races at Churchill. Both horses debuted and finished off the board in maiden allowance races at Kentucky Downs. Leading up to and following that race, Sir has worked well on this oval. He draws an outward post while cutting back in distance. I think that last race may give him a stamina edge over some of his rivals here. Army Mule is off to a fast start as a sire, and Liberty’s Hauler (#4) might prove to be one of his better ones. Army Mule started off with a modest $7,500 stud fee, but this one sold for $390K at the Keeneland September Sale last year. Horses sired by Army Mule have won at 20% clip on debut and have won 25% of the time in dirt sprints (18 for 73). He’s been working well in the AM for Albert Stall, who landed Joel Rosario to ride in his debut. Briterdayzahead (#6) was assigned the tall task of debuting at seven furlongs at Saratoga. He showed some decent speed before fading at the top of the stretch. The cutback in distance should be beneficial in his second time at the races and Luis Saez picking up the mount won’t hurt his chances. Brad Cox always seems to have well-meant horses debuting at Keeneland, and he’ll send out Golden Bandit (#1) in this spot. The rail is less than ideal for this son of Midnight Lute, so I’ll be a little conservative with how I’ll play him. The dam wasn’t much of a runner and her first foal wasn’t anything special. However, his works at Churchill appear to be good enough to compete at this level. It’s unlikely that he’ll get to run, but if he does draw in, Easy Action (#16) is a major player in this race. He was a distant second to Loggins, who runs in the Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity tomorrow. He’s another one that will be cutting back in distance, going from 6 and ½ furlongs to 6 furlongs. We’ll likely have to wait to see him on another day, but if he’s in, he’ll be on my tickets.
Race 7: The $350K Grade 2 Stoll Keenon Ogden Phoenix Stakes:
The winner of last year’s Breeders’ Cup Sprint, Aloha West, was narrowly defeated in this race last year by Special Reserve (#2), who is back to try to defend his title. He ran 4th in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint last year after his Grade 2 score in this spot. He has only started twice this year, drawing wet tracks both times. He finished up the track in his return, getting hooked in a duel in the DeFrancis Memorial Dash on a muddy course. There was even more rain in West Virginia when he splashed away as a much the best winner in the Senator Robert Byrd Memorial Stakes. Maker picked this spot for his next start in order to possibly secure a berth in this year’s Breeders’ Cup. On paper, the one he’ll have to beat is Sibilus (#5), who ships in after a pair of monster efforts at Saratoga and Pimlico. This four year old gelding couldn’t be in better form, earning triple digit Beyer speed figures in his last two starts. He debuted at Laurel last March, running a very green second that day. Jeremiah O’Dwyer brought him here a month later where he was an impressive maiden breaker. He fell off form, faltering in three straight stakes races before going on the shelf for a bit. He returned at Aqueduct in December and has been improving in allowance company in one turn races on the NYRA circuit. His breakthrough win was two back at Saratoga, and he followed that up with his first stakes win, scoring by open lengths in the Lite The Fuse. He will be a force if he can duplicate that effort on this track, where he already has one career victory. These two seem like the best two horses in the race, but my concern is that they both want to go for the early lead. Top Gunner (#3) and Long Range Toddy (#8) could also force the issue early. The pace in this race was scorching last year and Special Reserve had just enough left to eke out a win against a fast charging Aloha West, and I think he was in better form last year. I think Necker Island (#6) is going to get that kind of trip today, which makes him very dangerous. He was flying late to lose in a photo for third in the Louisville Thoroughbred Society Stakes. He crossed the wire first in stakes company in his two previous starts (although he was disqualified and placed third at Colonial). Chris Hartman has this five year old Hard Spun horse in the best form of his career, and he seems to have found his niche as a closing sprinter in these shorter races. He’ll be the play for me in this race.
Race 8: The $350K Grade 2 JP Morgan Chase Jessamine Stakes:
16 are entered in this Grade 2 contest for two year old fillies on the turf, however, unlike last year, only 12 will run today. I liked California Angel last year, who was 30-1 on the morning line (sent off at 17-1), and I’ll try another 30-1 longshot today, using Knockyoursocksoff (#11) as my top pick. She handily defeated Sabalenka (#1) in her debut at Colonial, and that one went on to win next out on the turf at Kentucky Downs. Knockyoursocksoff also went to Kentucky Downs where she tried stakes company in the Aristocrat Gaming Juvenile Fillies Stakes. She was installed as the morning line favorite, but she had an odd trip while competing in a driving rainstorm that ultimately forced the last few races to be canceled. She came from the back of the pack with an early and wide move before flattening out in the final furlong. She wasn’t awful that day, but I’d still be willing to forgive that effort. I suspect her odds will come down off that 30-1 number, but I would find her appealing anywhere in the neighborhood of 15-1. She’s sired by Kitten’s Joy and the dam produced Bob and Jackie, who is a multiple stakes winner at two turns on the turf in Southern California. I like the rider switch to Prat after that last race and I think we’ll see a much different filly today. If I’m backing Knockyoursocksoff, I can’t exclude Towhead (#12) who narrowly lost that race. She’s still technically a maiden, despite winning a race that was eventually declared a no-contest. Some of the back markers in that race were pulling up as there was a brief malfunction with the starting gate leaving the course. The runners on the front end kept running in that race, and she was dead game holding off a heavily favored Chad Brown runner, Idea Generation. Born Dapper, who finished 4th in that race went on to win impressively at Monmouth in her next start. She’s a very game filly that will be fighting tooth and nail throughout the stretch. Recognize (#9) is the likely pacesetter in this race, coming off a third place finish in the PG Johnson at Saratoga last month. Be Your Best was just better that day, but she ran a strong race to follow up her maiden breaking performance earlier in the meet. So far, she has run her best races on the grass and she is trending up coming into this race. Tax Implications (#13) will need a defection in order to compete, but she’s one that must be considered if she is in. She was one of the more impressive maiden two year olds at the Monmouth meet, crushing a field of well-meant rivals by over six lengths. Irad Ortiz takes the mount on this filly who was installed as the co-morning line favorite, if she does draw into the body of this field.
Race 9: The $500K Grade 1 Darley Alcibiades Stakes:
The trainers that have runners entered in this Grade 1 contest have won 17 of the last 39 runnings of this race, dating back to 1983 when D. Wayne Lukas won with Lucky Lucky Lucky. What’s even more unusual, is that Chad Brown and Todd Pletcher are represented here, but both are looking for their first Alcibiades win, a rare Grade 1 race that has eluded both of them to this point in their careers. Lukas has won this race a record six times, and I’m wagering that he’s going to get his 7th with Take Charge Briana (#12) today. She’s a filly that looks like she is starting to figure some things out, and with her pedigree, she may be one of these horses that takes a decent step forward once she gets two turns. She faced next out Frizette winner, Chocolate Gelato at Saratoga in her second career start, where she was shuffled back, but was still moving well late to be a distant third. She came back at the end of the meet and overcame a disastrous beginning where she had a significant stumble coming out of the gate. Flavien Prat allowed her to settle at the back of the field. She rallied widest of all and continued to roll down the center of the track, getting up to secure her first victory. Prat ends up on her as opposed to Chad Brown’s Raging Sea (#4), who he guided to victory in her only career start back in August. Wonder Wheel (#1) gets the rail draw for her first two turn start after finishing a decent second in the Grade 1 Spinaway in her last start. Gaffalione rides so well at this track and I assume that he’ll put this Into Mischief filly in a good spot early. Her dam was a better sprinter, winning multiple stakes races at one turn. However, I don’t think this distance will be out of reach. Her trainer, Mark Casse, is in search of his 4th win in this race. Xigera (#5) showing up in this race as opposed to the Jessamine is an interesting gambit by Philip Bauer and Rigney Racing. She was one of the more impressive maiden breakers on the turf at the Saratoga meet. Horses sired by Nyquist like racing on this oval, winning 21% of the time (6 for 29), and having 48% of those runners finish in the money. Clearly she must be showing some dirt ability in the morning to take this chance. I like everything about her except her 5-1 price, which feels a little low for a filly trying something new for the first time. Fun and Feisty (#9) is a graded stakes winner at this distance, winning the Pocohontas last month at Churchill. Like Take Charge Briana, she showed that she’s capable of winning from off the pace, Ken McPeek is looking to tie Lukas by winning this race for the 6th time in his career. She’s navigated a large field while having a wide draw, and she’ll have to do that again. Her experience at the distance is certainly a plus and she’s a deserving favorite that will be on my multi-race plays. However, at 7-2 in a 14 horse field that feels evenly matched, I’ll try to get a better price elsewhere. On deeper tickets, Just Cindy (#11) isn’t the worst play at 20-1 or better. The trouble line is a bit deceiving as her “very awkward break” wasn’t all that bad. However, she was wide all the way around the track, which didn’t help her cause. She took money that day, going off at 4-1, and she did win the Grade 3 Schuylerville back in July. She’s bred to be a runner that should appreciate two turns, being sired by Justify out of a stakes winning mare, Jenda’s Agenda. Her grand dam is the multiple graded stakes winner, Just Jenda. I could see her running a much better race today
Day 1 of 17 at Keeneland will come to an end with a 12 furlong turf test for fillies and mares, running in N2X allowance company. I like Federalist Papers (#4) quite a bit in this spot this afternoon. She was a winner on this course and distance at the spring meet, clearing the N1X allowance condition that afternoon. She was 4th at Belmont at this level against a sharp field, when going 10 furlongs. She was purchased from Klaravich Stables by the Elkstone Group after that race and is now campaigned by Brendan Walsh. She just missed at this level at Kentucky Downs in her first start for her new connections. Horses that last raced at Kentucky Downs won a ton of races at this meet last year and getting the added distance in this race is a plus for her where that might not be the case for some of the others. On deeper tickets, I’m a little interested to see if Light Stars (#6) is going to be able to behave herself today. If she does, I think she’s an interesting longshot that could be worth adding to some of the vertical exotics. Her two North American races have not been good, but she was fighting Joel Rosario for about half of the way around the track in both starts. Vincent Cheminaud made a name for himself at the spring meet, scoring with a few longshots on the turf. He earns his first ride for fellow Frenchmen, Christophe Clement. If he can get her to relax, she is a filly that showed some potential overseas earlier in her career.
Pick-5 – Main Ticket: ($0.50 Base Wager- $48 Ticket)
I like a lot of prices on this card, so I’m hopeful that it all come down to Federalist Papers (#4, R10) in the nightcap. I think there are three runners with double digit odds that have solid chances to win their respective races in this sequence. Sir (#11, R6), Knockyoursocksoff (#11, R8), and Take Charge Briana (#12, R9) are runners that I think are capable of upsetting their fields. I’ll cover with some other runners in those races, but even if we can get one of them on top, I think this sequence could pay off nicely.