The nine race Thursday card at Keeneland gets underway at 1:00 (ET) this afternoon. The feature race is a competitive N2X allowance race on the turf. Yesterday’s Late PIck-5 proved to be on the chalky side, and that potential is there once again today. However, I do think there are some vulnerable favorites, especially in the 7th race. This wager begins with the 5th race race, which is scheduled to go off at 3:08 (ET).
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||10||9,10||3||5||PK5, PK3, DBL|
|6||4||4,7||6,11||PK4, PK3, DBL|
$100K maiden claimers start the Late Pick-5 this afternoon. Lupo’s Legacy (#10) will be the top pick in this race, making his second start of a layoff. He ran a pair of quality races on this oval last fall when racing for Jeremiah Englehart. He moved to Darien Rodriguez’s barn when he shipped south for the winter. He returned to run 4th after a rocky start, facing maiden allowance foes at Gulfstream. Rodriguez, who has won with 31% of his runners so far in 2023, brings him here where he drops in class, but runs for essentially the same purse as he did in Florida. A slick move like that is an example of why Rodriguez is so productive. I don’t think the connections Tim Tal (#9) were sure about what this Fast Anna gelding was going to do best on the racetrack. However, since Michelle Lovell has taken over his training, he has had him focused on sprint races on the dirt, which appeared to suit him well at the Fair Grounds. He’s hit the board in his last three starts where he was running for a $50K purse. He now runs for a $69K purse, but like the top pick, he’s dropping in class. Sidekick (#3) is the morning line favorite, but he feels a bit puzzling to me. He’s finished in the money in all four starts in career , all coming at NYRA tracks. He was a beaten favorite in his last two races, which were nine furlong maiden allowance races at Saratoga last summer. However, he changes barns and returns in what feels like an odd sport for him. I get he’s been away since August, so starting his campaign with a sprint feels like a conservative move. I’m surprised to see this Honor Code homebred offered for a tag at the start of his four year old season though. I’ll cover with him, because of his class, but I have enough doubts to be a little more aggressive with how I’ll play my top two picks.
There’s a heavy favorite in this N1X allowance race for fillies and mares going nine furlongs on the turf. Diamond Hearts (#11) has a definitive edge on speed figures, plus she runs for Pletcher and Irad Ortiz. She’ll likely be less than her 7-5 morning line figure when they load. She’s second off a layoff and has several good turf races on her resume, so she is a deserving favorite. However, I don’t see her as a horse that is crying out to run the mile and ⅛ she’s being asked to get today. There’s a few other runners that might be better suited to this distance. I’ll use her on the B line, but I’ll make the Turfway invader, Quality Star (#4) my top pick. She was an impressive winner here in the fall. She would go on to run 5th in the Mrs. Revere before most recently finishing 3rd in a 10 furlong allowance race on the synthetic course at Turfway. Trainer Paulo Lobo gave her a brief freshening before bringing her back to the site of her maiden score. She likes the course and should be rolling late. Texas Shuffle (#7) and Luis Saez would also be logical in this race. Shug McGaughey sends out this War front mare out for the second time off a brief layoff. She looked like she needed that race at Tampa when going one mile. She was very comfortable going this distance here last season, so I’d expect a better effort from her returning to Lexington. Precursory (#6) is a Fair Grounds shipper that has a live look here. Her two races on the turf are both solid efforts that have produced faster speed figures than most of her tries on the main track. I thought her effort in New Orleans last out was sharp. With this being her third start off the layoff, I’m hoping that she can build off that race and take another step forward in this spot.
I’m going to take a stand in this race and use Princess Cairo (#4) as a single on most tickets here, despite her 15-1 morning line figure. She ships here from Laurel for Horacio De Paz after a pair of third place finishes in two-turn maiden special weight races there. She’ll want to be forwardly placed and she should appreciate getting a dryer course to race over this afternoon. She appeared to struggle to finish on the sloppy and sealed course that day, fading late to be third. She just missed in her debut on a fast track. She’s paired her Beyers, so there’s reason to believe that she has a forward move in her this afternoon. I think there’s a good chance that she gets an uncontested lead and is able to hold off the late comers in the stretch. I’ll back up with the second time starter, K’antheia (#2). She missed the break in her debut when going six furlongs at the Fair Grounds, but she still finished with interest, closing well to finish 4th. She’s posted well for her first start at two turns, and her trainer, Ken McPeek, has good numbers with horses stretching out from sprints to routes. I do worry that her dam has had horses start 42 times in their career with 0 wins in that span. I also don’t love that her sire, Kantharos, hits with only 8% of his runners that are routing for the first time. However, I trust McPeek enough that I won’t eliminate her from my tickets. I think she’s a much better alternative to the morning line favorite, Curl Girl (#10), who I will be trying to beat. She’ll likely be the heavy favorite based off a big figure last out when finishing third at Santa Anita. While she is bred to stretch out, I didn’t think her last race was as impressive as it may look on paper.
The feature today is a competitive N2X allowance race for four year olds and upward, going 1 mile and 1/16 on the turf course. I’ll make Strong Quality (#7) the top pick here after a gate to wire win to clear the N1X condition in his first career start on the turf. There’s not a whole lot of speed signed on this race, so I do think Florent Geroux could get him to the front and slow things down. He had competitive races on the dirt at nine and ten furlongs, so I have no worries about him being able to find more energy in the extra furlong that he’s adding from his last race. Chad Brown had some live runners over the first two days of racing last week, and he brings Verbal (#1) back to town, fresh off a 4th place finish behind Emmanuel, who is now a three-time graded stakes winner on the turf. I like the more conservative approach with this graded stakes winning gelding, who is coming off a big effort. He looks like a horse that has improved considerably since his off the board finish in the Transylvania Stakes here last year. I think he’s going to the one they’ll have to beat. Graham Motion always seems to bring some of his better runners to this meet year in and year out and he’s sending out Script (#5) to make his first start since finishing 5th at this level at Santa Anita back in February. After clearing this N1X condition on this course in October when making his turf debut, he went on a four race West Coast road trip. He came close in the Let It Ride Stakes at Del Mar, but struggled a bit in his next few starts. He’s been gelded since his last race and is an improving four year old that could be able to make an impact in this field.
The nightcap is a $20K N2L claiming race going 1 mile and ⅛ on the main track. I think there are two runners, Caballo Feliz (#1) and River Boy (#6), that stand out in this field. River Boy will get the slight nod, while getting back on a fast dirt course today. He struggled against a much sharper group on the Tapeta last month in a starter allowance race at Turfway. Prior to that, he showed up at Oaklawn, where he finished a distant third in a starter allowance race in the mud. The winner of that race, Air Time, would go on to beat Shopper’s Revenge in allowance company in his next start. Both of those runners are far superior to anything that he’s facing in this race today. He’s a bit of a plodder, and while he’s sired by Sharp Azteca, has seems to be a horse that would be very comfortable at this distance. Caballo Feliz is coming here after a three length stint at Oaklawn. He had a few moments of trouble in a similar race last month in Arkansas, but he still ran a credible second that day. He has good speed, and figures to be on or near the lead from his rail draw. He may prove to be too tough to catch in this spot. On deeper tickets, I see Nordic Light (#9) as an interesting longshot. He has a few tries at this distance, including a second place finish here at nine furlongs in the fall. He’s been racing at Turfway on the synthetic, but I see him as a horse that is gradually improving. I think he can continue his progression while getting back on the main track.
Pick-5: $36 Ticket
I’m going to be a little conservative with how I play this ticket. I do like Princess Cairo (#4, R7) enough to use her as a single in the 7th race. She’s 15-1 on the morning line, so there should be some value built in if we can get her home. There are some other shorter prices that feel vulnerable throughout this sequence today, so if we’re able to beat them with the right runners, there should be a handsome reward.