Who doesn’t love Grade 1 action on a Friday afternoon? The Maker’s Mark Mile always draws a strong field and this year is no exception, as four Grade 1 winners come together to compete for the winner’s share of $600K. Like always at Keeneland, the Late Pick-5 is a challenging and deep sequence that can handsomely reward a sharp player.
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||6||6||3||PK5, PK3, DBL|
|7||4||2,4,6||PK4, PK3, DBL|
This is a competitive optional $80K claiming/N3X allowance race for older horses going 1 mile and 1/16 on the main track. Unless you believe Farmington Road (#5) and his newfound running style, is quick enough to go with Concert Tour (#6) in the early stages of this race, I don’t see anyone providing a serious threat to him on the front end in this race. He was a winner in the Rebel and the San Vicente last year before finishing a disappointing third in the Arkansas Derby. He ended his three year old season with a dull try in the Preakness after getting bumped around and going wide. He was moved from Baffert to Cox and his first race off the bench wasn’t good back in January in the Fifth Season Stakes at Oaklawn. He was much more competitive though when breaking on top and setting a loose lead in a similar race back in February, just getting caught late by Necker Island. Horses that were inside and near the front fared well on the dirt on Wednesday here, and while others are certainly capable of stepping up to run the big race, I think he clears this condition today. On deeper tickets, Enforceable (#3) will be who I back up with. He ran a monster race at the Fair Grounds to clear the N2X condition last year in his third race off the layoff. Today, he’s in his second race off the layoff after getting a synthetic prep last month at Turfway. I expect a better effort today in a race where he can likely be a little closer to the pace, which has served him well in the past.
Race 7: The $200K TVG Limestone Stakes:
Three year old fillies sprint 5 and ½ furlongs in an excellent renewal of this race. As expected, Wesley Ward holds a strong hand here with three runners. I’m not sure all three will go, as often is the case when he enters multiple runners, however I like two of them quite a bit here. I’ll take the longer price with Ruthin (#4) on top with John Velazquez. She was an ultra sharp winner on this course last season in her debut. She earned a trip to Royal Ascot, where she tired late to finish 7th in the Windsor Castle Stakes against the boys. She’s been away since, but she’s always been highly regarded, and I’d think Ward is thinking about a return engagement overseas with her. Her World (#2) is another Ward filly who has one start and one win. She made her debut last summer in the Tyro Stakes when facing the boys at Monmouth Park. She crushed a next out winner that day, drawing off to win by six lengths. Irad Ortiz gets the call on this filly who certainly could be a player here. Christophe Clement spoiled Ward’s efforts to sweep the turf sprint stakes races at the meet here when his three year old colt, Slipstream, beat Ward’s Twilight Gleaming in the Palisades Stakes last weekend. He sends out Derrynane (#6) who was absolutely flying in the late stages on the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint against the boys in her last start. She should get some pace to run at for her seasonal debut, and the added half furlong certainly won’t hurt.
The morning line favorite for this wide open optional $62,500 claiming/N2X allowance race is the last out winner of the Grade 3 Comely at Aqueduct, Bees and Honey (#10). While she ran huge that day in that nine furlong race and the fact that she decimated a $75K maiden claiming field here in the fall at that distance, this comeback spot feels more like a prep race for her. JR McGaughey doesn’t have good numbers off the layoff, and I’d think this would be a good race to get her ready for a race like the Allaire Dupont at Pimlico on Preakness week. I’m against her today though. Zainalarab (#9) has four career starts with some spacing in between them. She struggled on this course in the Raven Run in her last try when beaten by a nice filly in Caramel Swirl. Prior to that she was a sparkling N1X allowance winner at this distance at Saratoga in the summer. She was a million dollar purchase, so she’s obviously been handled with caution. I think she’s in a good spot here to start off 2022 the right way. Liberty M D (#11) is an interesting runner making her second start off a long layoff. She won her first two career starts for Ian Wilkes at Churchill, before trying graded stakes company in the Shuvee at Saratoga going two turns. She was flat that day and didn;t run again until March, where she had the misfortune of running into Kimari (3rd last week in the Grade 1 Madison) at Gulfstream. This is a good distance for her and I think she can work out a very nice trip for her high draw.
Race 9: The Grade 1 Maker’s Mark Mile:
This is an excellent running of this one mile turf contest, and I’m going to try to the Chad Brown European invader, Masen (#4) on top. I think we’ve seen Brown win races like this for the last several years with these imports. He’s a Juddmonte homebred who is coming off a pair of sharp wins in Ireland that ended his three year old campaign. His Timeform numbers are good enough to be competitive if he takes to racing in the States. Flavien Prat seems to be getting the best of the Brown runners at this meet so far. Smooth Like Strait (#6) is the morning line favorite coming in from Southern California, however, his game is front end speed and there’s other pace factors here as well. He’s also struggled to win outside of California, so I’ll be trying to beat him. I prefer his rival, Count Again (#7), who has been beaten by the favorite four times in a row. However, all of those races were in California. He’s making his third start off the layoff, whereas Smooth Like Strait is making his first start of the year. Count Again was a Grade 1 winner last month in the Kilroe and might have the pace advantage if Atone (#3) and Somelikeithotbrown (#8) can force the pace with the favorite. Ivar (#5) is one of two Grade 1 winners on the course for Paulo Lobo running in this race. His stablemate, In Love (#1) bested him in the Keeneland Turf Mile last fall, however Ivar has run better races off the layoff that what we’ve seen from In Love. He’s lightly raced, but he seems to run his best races on this course. On deeper tickets, Shirl’s Speight (#2) at 50-1 is a crazy high number. I think he’ll be bet down from those odds, but I think the high ML could influence the value in the multi-race sequences. His last race in the Grade 3 Tampa Bay Stakes was strong. He was well regarded by his connections as he was entered in the Grade 1 Woodbine Mile two years ago as a three year old in his third career start. He wasn’t embarrassed that day, but he was off the board. He’s only started five times since then, but seems to be headed back in the right direction after a dull effort on dirt and synthetic prior to the Tampa races. He’s worth using in this spot at a decent price.
The Friday get out race is a very tough maiden special weight contest for three year old fillies going six furlongs. Dallas Stewart sends out Super Christie (#2) for the second time today. She looks like she’s a good horse in the morning, and her debut at the Fair Grounds wasn’t bad, finishing third at this level there in her debut. Since then she fired a four furlong bullet at the Fair Grounds and another one at Churchill. I think she’s showing signs that she can move forward here. Regal Realm (#6) and Veronica Greene (#12) appear to both be well-meant and well-bred first time starters that have been working well for their unveilings. Jonathan Thomas has hit with 30% of his first time starters since 2021 (12 of 40). Luis Saez gets the mount on this daughter of Animal Kingdom. Veronica Greene debuts for Chad Brown and will be ridden by Jose Ortiz. Like Regal Realm, she has done much of her preparation for her debut at Payson Park in Florida. On deeper tickets, the cleverly named An Apple a Day (#8) makes her first start since finishing second at Ellis Park in maiden special weight company. She started five times as a two year old, gradually getting better with each start. She now is campaigned by Daniel Letich, who already has had a winner at the meet. She’s been working well and will likely continue her string of being a double digit longshot in every start. If she improves slightly off her last, she will be tough here. Dontgetabovuraisin (#5) is 5–1 on the morning line, which feels low when making her debut for a trainer that has only hit with 6% of his first time starters since 2021. In addition, Adam Beschizza has yet to win at this meet this year, so the fact that her starting odds are this low suggests that someone thinks this filly can run a bit. I’ll use her as a saver on some deeper plays.
Pick 5 Ticket: ($48 Ticket, $0.50 Base Wager)
I think Concert Tour (#6, R6) is back to running better races, and when that’s coupled with him likely having an easy lead, I think he becomes very dangerous. On my main ticket (All A’s/B’s), I’ll be singled to him, while spreading around, trying to get some decent prices in some other legs.
Race 6: 6
Race 7: 2,4,6
Race 8: 9,11
Race 9: 2,4,5,7
Race 10: 2,6,8,12