The only five day racing week at Keeneland starts today with an eight race, Wednesday afternoon program. This is the first time a 4 and ½ furlong baby race has been a part of the Late Pick-5, as a full field maiden special weight for two year olds kicks the sequence. The feature race is a strong N3X allowance race on the grass in Race 7. Last Wednesday, the Late Pick-5 paid a life-changing $326K. First post is 1:00 ET and this sequence is scheduled to go off at 2:36.
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|
|4||6||3,6,9,13||1,7||PK5, PK3, DBL|
|5||2||2,8||9||PK4, PK3, DBL|
This is the 5th two year old race of the meet so far, and each race has been won by a different trainer. A stat like this normally isn’t big news, however, these are races that are typically dominated by Wesley Ward. I do feel past trainer success in these races means something. Ward has two entered in this full field, Talkin Pharoah (#6) and Tastefor the King (#13). Luis Mendez, who won the opening race at the meet for, which was for two year olds, sends out Abinadi (#3). With the two coupled entries here, that one draws the rail in a full field. Paul McEntee, who won a baby race already this year and was a winner here with a two year old last season (Baytown Frosty), sends out, Baytown Get It On (#7), who is making his second career start. He was second beaten five lengths behind Luis Mendez’s King Adrock in the first race of the meet. John Ennis typically sends out competitive horses in these races, and he had a few winners last year (Shesgotattitude and Bohemian Frost). He has two entered in a coupled entry, Bourbon Therapy (#1) and Hill of Tara (#1A), the latter being on the AE list. William Walden, son of Elliot Walden, sends out his first career starter this after with a Bolt d’Oro first time starter, Sergeant Countzler (#9). Luis Saez picking up the mount seems to be a good sign. Sometimes these races feel like the easiest thing to do is single the Ward horse and look elsewhere, however, I think other trainers have caught up to him somewhat in this division. Talkin Pharoah will likely be the favorite, as Irad Ortiz gets the call. He’s probably the one to beat, but anything can happen in these races, so coverage is going to be important for me. I’ll put Tastefor the King on the A line despite the wide draw. Corrales has been riding very well for Ward the meet so far. Both Abinadi and Sergeant Countzler look like they could be quick, and both get sharp riders. On the B line, I’ll use Baytown Get It On, who I think is facing a deeper group today, but he does benefit from having the race under his belt. McEntee’s winner last year was making his second start when he broke his maiden. Bourbon Therapy doesn’t have the snappy works of some of the winners that Ennis sent out last year, but his horses ran well enough last year to consider his runners in these races this year.
From a class standpoint, Viburnum (#9) definitely stands out in this $50K starter allowance for fillies and mares on the grass. She was the runner up in the Dueling Grounds Oaks two starts ago at Kentucky Downs, and ran well in defeat in the Dowager at 12 furlongs on the grass here in October. She’s been off since, and Kelsey Danner picks this modest spot to make her four year old debut. She was a horse that improved with each start on the track last season, so I’m thinking she might need a race or two before she’s at her best. I was a little surprised to see her set at 8-1 on the morning line though. I prefer two others, but at those odds, I’d be tempted to take a shot. Youens (#2) is drawn well for her first local start. She’s leaving the Fair Grounds after some solid efforts, just missing with N1X allowance types there. She drops in class, but is running for a higher purse in this starter allowance race. She’s an Ontario bred that was claimed last season at Churchill with the intent of shipping her up North to run in some of the big races there for Ontario bred fillies. She was off the board in the Woodbine Oaks, The Bison City, and Wonder Where as a maiden before dropping back to the maiden allowance level. She graduated at the end of the Woodbine meet in November and was transferred to Joe Sharp who campaigned her in Louisiana this winter. She was a nonfactor in a race taken off the turf, but was very strong in her last two on turf. I think he’s coming into this race in great form and could be very tough with Irad Ortiz getting the assignment. Brad Cox sends out Dreamful (#8) after three on the board finishes at the N1X level at Turfway on synthetic. She ran credible races on the grass last season when she was trained by Conor Murphy, including a game second place finish at this condition in October on this course. I believe she can improve off her winter form when getting back on the grass.
There’s got to be somewhere in this sequence where we can pare down this ticket, and I’m going to try to do that in this time restricted $30K claimers. Beep Beep (#2) drops in class, running with a tag for the first time for Norm Casse. He won his debut at this distance at Churchill in November of 2020, with a front end score in a maiden allowance. He tried two turns twice at the Fair Grounds, finishing a wide 4th in January, and then finishing last of 11 in the Risen Star, behind Mandaloun. He was off for 13 months, and returned in a six furlong, N1X allowance In New Orleans. He was away slow, but did continue to run on, passing some horses to get into 6th. He’s better when he’s more involved early, and I’m expecting him to run a better race with the class relief and the stretch out to seven furlongs. Norm Casse knows the significance of sending out a winner with Marylou Whitney’s silks at a meet like this, so I think the drop in class is logical here. I think he’ll be very tough in this race. On deeper tickets, Notable Exception (#6) would be where I would back up. I think he’s one of a few that fit nicely at the distance. Trainer Robert Pincins has a very small stable, and he claimed him at the end of the Churchill meet last December. He tried him in allowance company at Turfway, where he was overmatched. He’s been gelded since his last start and has been working well for his return.
This is a brutally tough N3X allowance race on the turf. You could probably make a case for just about everyone in this field. There’s a pair of four year olds that I think are going to be very tough in this race. Camp Hope (#4) was incredibly good at this meet last year, crushing a strong field of N1X allowance runners at the beginning of the meet, and then dominating three year olds in the Bryan Station Stakes at the end of the meet. Both races were won on the front end, and I think there’s going to be more pace signed on here than he saw in either of those two races last year. He showed at Kentucky Downs that he can be effective coming from off the pace, narrowly losing in a three horse photo there. Brian Hernandez rides this course very well, and I think he’ll make the right decisions with him in his first start of the year. T D Dance (#6) for Brad Cox has been a close 4th at this level in his first two starts of the year at the Fair Grounds. He was a stakes winner at three and he paired his Beyers to start his four year old season. He’s in his third race off the layoff now and could be sitting on a career top effort. Irad Ortiz getting the mount for the first time can’t hurt his chances. Greyes Creek (#7) is six year old making his first start for Paulo Lobo since June, when he was off the board in the Jaipur Stakes on the Belmont undercard. I think he’s more effective at two turns, and Lobo has strong numbers off the layoff. It’s been a tough meet for his barn so far, going 0-7 and having to scratch Ivar out of the Makers Mark Mile last week. However, he typically sends out competitive runners and I think we’ll see a strong performance from him.
Lapis Lazuli (#4) looks tough to beat in the nightcap, which is a $20K maiden claiming race. He is dropping from maiden special weight company at the Fair Grounds, however, he was facing off the turf company in his last two. He ran respectable races, breaking from the rail in both dirt starts. This is probably the right level of competition for him, as he doesn’t seem to fit with maiden allowance types on either surface. Art Heist (#8) is the likely post time favorite after showing a lot of promise at the start of his career. He was a strong second in his debut at Churchill in the slop, closing well to be second, when bet down to 3-1 in a full field of maiden allowance types. He tried two turns in his next start, losing to eventual Arkansas Derby winner, Cyberknife, in December, and finishing a non-threatening 4th in another maiden race on the Lecomte undercard. He had a brutal start when cutting back to a sprint and getting crushed in a maiden special weight race on the Risen Star undercard. He tried the turf last out, which was a failed experiment as well. This is a steep drop, and he has enough excuses to think he can fire at this level. Hearns (#11) is an interesting runner that outran his odds to be second with $15K-$10K maiden claimers at Turfway in his February debut. He might turn out to be a horse that is more productive on synthetics or turf, however, he showed enough interest at first asking to take a shot with him on deeper plays in this race.
The Tickets ($24 Ticket, $0.50 Base Wager)
Prior to seeing any scratches, my plan is to fire the All-A ticket to start, and then see if there are clues coming from the tote board in the maiden special weight which starts the wager. Beep Beep (#2, R6) feels like the most logical single in the sequence for me. I’ll likely make some backup tickets to get some coverage with some of the other runners that I previewed.
Race 4: 3,6,9,13
Race 5: 2,8
Race 6: 2
Race 7: 4,6,7
Race 8: 4,8