The Fall Meeting at Keeneland kicks off today with a 10 race program highlighted by the Grade 2 Stoll Keenon Ogden Phoenix and the Grade 1 Darley Alcibiades. The graded stakes action is front loaded during this meet, where nine of the sixteen graded stakes races are run in the next three days. On Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Sundays, I’ll be highlighting the races that make up the late Pick-5 sequence, along with any spot plays that might stand out on the Keeneland card. Each Saturday of this meet, I’ll be sharing my thoughts on the Early Pick-5 on the blog, and then teaming up with Michael Domabyl to share our game plan for the late Pick-5 for the ITM Plus subscribers. If you haven’t signed up, the $15 fee this month gets you a lot of great content, including everything that’s being planned for the Breeders’ Cup.
Best Bet: Race 8: #5 Aloha West (3-1 ML)
Best Price Stab: Race 6: #10 Maresias (20-1 ML)
|6||6,12||5,8||10||DBL, PK3, PK5|
|7||4,5,13 (AE)||6||DBL, PK3, PK4|
Race 6: Top Pick: 12
I prefer two of the first time starters in this maiden special weight for two year old fillies that kicks off the late Pick-5. Gun Runner has had tremendous success with this year’s two old crop, and he has sired Funny Business (12), who has been working well for Brendan Walsh in the AM. Walsh has a great ROI with first time starters, and this filly looks like she could be fast. Social Matrix (6) is a pricy, Jimmy Creed first time starter making her debut for Brad Cox this afternoon. Larry Best and OXO Equine paid $500K for her at the 2020 Fasig-Tipton Select Sale, which is notable, as that figure is 50 times the stud fee for Jimmy Creed. That tells me that this horse will certainly look the part on the track and should have some ability. Halo of Fire (5) is a second time starter for Wesley Ward and Joel Rosario. This duo has won 43% of their races together at Keeneland since 2020. He’s worked well on the main track since her debut on grass at Saratoga at the end of August. Ward always points his horses to this meet, but there’s a part of me that thinks moving to the dirt is more of a “Plan B” for this daughter of Munnings. Fannie and Freddie (8) is coming off a respectable debut at Saratoga where she was defeated by Gerrymander, who finished second to Echo Zulu last week in the Grade 1 Frizette. Second place finisher, Distinctlypossible, runs later on the Alcibiades and third place finisher, A Mo Reay, was third in the Frizette, so that maiden race was absolutely live. Her dam, Connie and Michael, broke her maiden as a two year old during the fall meet here when racing on synthetic in 2009 and was Grade 1 placed in her three year old season when she finished second to Devil May Care in the Mother Goose back in 2010. On deeper tickets and underneath, perhaps give a look to Maresias (10). She didn’t run much in her debut on the turf at Ellis last month, however, there are some positives to consider for this 20-1 outsider. She adds blinkers for the first time, while also moving to the main track. Trainer Paulo Lobo has a positive ROI with both of these angles. Her pedigree suggests she should handle the main track and she lands in a wide open race where there’s not really any standouts on paper. Her dirt works at the Thoroughbred Training Center look sharp enough to take a swing with her, especially if her odds climb over the her morning line figure.
Race 7: Top Pick: 13 (AE) / 5
The horse that I like the best in this N3X allowance at 1 Mile and 1/16, will need some help to get in the race. Fighting Seabee (13) is on the outside looking in here, but he’s definitely a player if he gets to compete. He was ultra-impressive when clearing the N2X condition against a very good field back here in April. He struggled in his next three starts at Churchill, which might be attributed to simply not liking that course. He went on to run faster races when leaving Louisville, finishing 7th in stakes company at Saratoga behind Flavius and finishing 4th at Kentucky Downs when coming wide. He’s run two excellent races here and will be dangerous if he can work out a trip from his outside draw. Dynadrive (5) would be the top pick if Fighting Seabee doesn’t go. He’s coming off a dismal performance in stakes company when going 12 Furlongs at Kentucky Downs. However, he ran terribly there last year as well, so I can draw a line through that effort. He ran well in New York this spring and summer, clearing the N2X condition in an off the turf race at Saratoga where he showed a little more tactical speed than usual. I really liked his race three back at Belmont when closing well into a slow pace to be second at 10 Furlongs on the turf. If Rosario can keep him a little closer than usual in the early stages, I think he’s very live here. Kentucky Ghost (4) is the morning line favorite and likely is going to be the favorite when the starting gate opens. He certainly is deserving of that mark as he’s been second in his last two starts in stakes company at Kentucky Downs and Colonial. He’s a hard trying four year old gelding, that is usually close, but he’s only won three times in 17 starts. The value will likely be less than ideal, but his accomplishments make him tough to leave off your tickets. Beacon Hill (6) is one that I’ll add to some deeper tickets to make sure I’m covered with a horse that has a little more early speed than my top three picks. He likes to be close to the lead, but he sat a little further off a strong pace last out at Laurel. He took the lead at the top of the stretch and powered home as a much the best winner when clearing the N2X condition last out. He ran a competitive 4th at Saratoga two back and could be dangerous if the early pace is soft.
Race 8: The Grade 2 Stoll Keenon Odgen Phoenix Stakes: Top Pick: 5
My success (or lack thereof) this afternoon will be tied to Aloha West (5) in the first graded stakes race of the meet. He finds a compact, but speed laden field for his graded stakes debut, which should give him the ideal pace set up in this spot. Quick Tempo (1) and Just Might (4), drawn inside of him, along with Special Reserve (6) and Sir Alfred James (7) on the outside, all want the early lead. Aloha West will be plenty content to sit near the back of the field in the early stages and wait to launch from behind on the far turn. He won twice with stakes quality allowance foes at Saratoga this summer, including a win at 6 Furlongs, which is the distance here. He’s a better horse than he was when he tried stakes company for the first time this summer at Churchill. He was bumped pretty hard that day at the start, and was forced to go very wide on the far turn. He leveled off to finish 4th that day, beaten by Mucho (2) who he must face again. I think this four year old son of Hard Spun has more upside than any of his competitors and can get the job done here.
Race 9: The Grade 1 Darley Alcibiades: Top Pick: 8
This year’s Alcibiades Stakes features a full field of 12 fillies, many of who have shown some serious potential. I’m going to go with the only maiden in the group, Distinctlypossible (8) to graduate in her first start at two turns today. I thought her debut was a strong effort at Saratoga going six furlongs. She rallied from off the pace to be second to her stablemate, Gerrymander, who is better suited to one turn racing. Distinctlypossible is a beautifully bred daughter of Curlin, whose dam, Funny Proposition, is best known for defeating the champion mare, Royal Delta, in the 2013 Fleur De Lis at Churchill. Irad Ortiz is staying at Belmont, so Chad Brown has enlisted Tyler Gaffalione, the leading rider here last fall and the leading rider at the recently concluded Churchill Downs meet, to ride. Juju’s Map (1) for Brad Cox is the main danger, coming off a pair of strong races with maiden special weight foes at Ellis. She was a winner when stretching out to a mile last out when breaking her maiden. Her sire, Liam’s Map, won the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile on this course back in 2015. Geroux had his choice between this one and Matareya (7), who was also a maiden breaker at Ellis for Brad Cox, and he opted for Juju’s Map. Matareya is still worth using in this spot though, as she gets Joel Rosario to ride her for the first time. She couldn’t have had a smoother debut, winning handily in gate to wire fashion, without being tested. She’ll likely have to handle some type of adversity today, so we’ll see how she fares. I’ll save her for some deeper tickets, as I think 4-1 is a little light for her. Both horses that were beaten double digit lengths in the Spinaway at Saratoga last month are also a little bit interesting. Sequist (3) was slow into stride when going off at long odds when facing winners for the first time. She made a respectable move on the turn to get a little closer before Echo Zulu re-broke and powered home. That one came back to win the Grade 1 Frizette last weekend at Belmont. This one should be better suited to two turns and could be gaining late, especially if there’s a lively pace on the front end. Dream Lith (4) was inexplicably brought six wide on the turn in the same race when making her run, which is rarely a winning formula at Saratoga. She certainly would have been better suited staying closer to the rail and following Echo Zulu. I seriously doubt she was good enough to win, however, she definitely would have finished closer with a better ride. She won her debut impressively at the Spa when going off at 36-1, and she’s another one that is bred to be better at two turns.
Race 10: Top Pick: 8
The nightcap is also the final leg of the inaugural all-turf Pick 3 wager. I thought News Break (8) was very good when he won on this course in starter allowance company back in April, and I think he can clear the N1X allowance condition this afternoon. He reunites with Tyler Gaffalione, who was able to get him to relax very kindly when he rode him to victory in April. Since then, he has had four tries to clear the N1X condition. Two of those races where very sharp, hitting the board at Churchill and Ellis when going 1 Mile and 1/16. I can forgive both of his subpar efforts, as one came when he tried 12 Furlongs on the turf back in June and the other came when he was cooked in a speed duel at the one turn mile at Kentucky Downs last month. Modern Science (2) broke his maiden at Churchill back in May, going gate to wire in his three year old debut. He ran competitive races in three straight Derby races on the grass at Canterbury, Ellis, and Kentucky Downs. He got a little bit tired in the stretch when going 1 Mile and 5/16 in the Dueling Grounds Derby last month, so the cutback in distance to nine furlongs should be advantageous. Camp Hope (1) is another Kentucky Downs invader that is coming off a race at 1 Mile and 5/16. His race came at this N1X allowance level, where he took the short end of a three horse photo. He showed promise on the main track as a two year old, but he’s been held winless since winning his debut last October. He’s sired by Summer Front, so it’s not surprising that he’s ran two of his strongest races in his career since trying the grass back in August.
How I’m playing this wager:
I like this sequence a lot this afternoon, and I think there’s potential for this to payout very well. I made two sets of tickets, and which one I use depends on whether or not Fighting Seabee draws in off the also-eligible list in Race 7.
Main Ticket: If Fighting Seabee runs (#13, R7) this will be my ticket before scratches:
Back Up Tickets:
If that one is scratched, my ticket will look like this
Back up Ticket: