Keeneland Late Pick-5 Preview – 4/20/23 – By Eric Solomon

The nine race Thursday program is headed by a pair of strong allowance races. The 7th race in a N3X allowance race on the turf where the 8th race is an optional claiming/N2X allowance race going nine furlongs on the main track. First post this afternoon is 1:00 (ET).


I’ll be covering 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 Exotics Menu
1 1 1,2 DBL, PK3, PK5
2 8 4,8 1,5 DBL, PK3, PK4,
3 8 8 1,11 7 DBL, PK3
4 9 9 8 DBL, PK3, PK6
5 16 (AE)/

16 9,11 7 DBL, PK3, PK5,

All-Turf PK3

6 2 2,4 8 DBL, PK3, PK4
7 5 5,7 1,2 DBL, PK3
8 1 1 7 DBL
9 4 4,6,9 8


Race 5:

The Late Pick-5 starts with a N1X allowance race for fillies and mares, sprinting on the turf. I think Georgees Spirit (#16) is a standout, but she’s going to need a lot of help to get in. She was third in the Steward Manor when making her last start as a two year old. Her two sprint races were very good last season. Jorge Abreu knows how to get a horse ready off the bench, but it’s most likely that she’s going to need to wait for another day. Peach Cobbler (#9) seems like a filly that will appreciate the added distance. Her two turf sprints at Gulfstream this spring were very good, beating claimers two back and then narrowly kissing at this level last month. She should have a solid pace in front of her and she has enough tactical speed to avoid falling too far back. Daring Do (#11) is a part of the speed equation, and she may prove to be the fastest of the fast, as is the case with many of Wesley Ward’s runners. She’s coming off a maiden score on synthetic at Turfway, and there’s reason to believe that she’ll take to the turf. She’ll have to work hard on the front end though, as I see as many as three others in the body of the field that want to go for the lead. I might downgrade her chances if either Manorelli (#13) and/or Whatchamacall (#14) get in, because they’d likely add to the pace pressure. An interesting longshot to me is the Remington Park invader, Massard (#7) for Ron Moquett. She ran on the turf for the first time in November in her last start as a three year old. She swung way wide and was gobbling up ground late. She finished sixth, but less than two lengths behind the winner. Moquett could’ve started her at Oaklawn, but he waited for Keeneland to open to get her on the turf, telling me he thinks that she has some upside. This will be a class test for her, but I think she gets the right set up. I’ll upgrade her to the B line, assuming Georgees Spirit is excluded. 


Race 6:

This $30K starter allowance race starts with the heavy favorite Devil’s Tower (#4). He comes to town, riding high from a three race win streak in races like this at Oaklawn Park. He’s won 10 of 21 starts, so obviously, he’s a horse that should be reckoned with in races at this level. However, at 7-5, it’s worth noting that 7 of his 10 wins came at Oaklawn in 11 tries there. That means he’s 3 for 10 outside of Arkansas. He was a winner in his local start on this oval, which was his first win in maiden claiming company. You can’t knock his current form, but I do wonder if he’s going to be the same horse away from home. He’s an A line play for me, but that leads me to trying Summer Splash (#2) on top in this race. He was claimed by Andrew McKeever when beating $30K conditioned claimers at the Fair Grounds in his last start. He has some strong efforts at seven furlongs in one turn races, so I think the cutback to 6 and ½ furlongs for this race is logical. Tilted Towers (#8) got back on the main track for the first ti9me in a long time last out, when dashing five furlongs on the dirt at Hawthorne. I think he’s quicker than the other speed in this race and his outside post should work to his advantage. He’s shown the ability to stretch out to this distance when racing on other surfaces, so I don’t mind the added distance for him today.


Race 7: 

This is a tough N3X allowance race going 1 mile and 1/16 on the turf course. I landed on the Grade 2 winner, Ready to Purrform (#5) to rebound in this spot after a few tough races. He showed a lot of promise for Brad Cox as a three year old, with the pinnacle of his season coming with a win in the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame Stakes at Saratoga this past summer. After that big effort, his form tailed off a bit. His first and only start of the year came in the Colonel Bradley Stakes on the turf at the Fair Grounds, where he struggled. He didn’t break well and met some salty rivals on that course which was not in the best shape this year. I’m willing to forgive that effort while using him here today, where he will be getting a bit of class relief. There is a decent amount of speed committed to this race, at least on paper, so Good Governance (#7) should have every opportunity to run them down late. He was privately purchased after a strong second place finish at Aqueduct this fall. Since then, he’s run three credible efforts, all coming in graded stakes company at Gulfstream. He was very wide last out while they went relatively slow on the front end. The pace scenario made it hard for him to gain ground late. I think that won’t be the case in this large field today. On deeper tickets, I’ll backup with both Dominican Pioneer (#1) and Kupuna (#2). I see both as interesting runners in this race. Dominican Pioneer was last seen clearing the N2X condition on this course in the fall. Wesley Ward has really been able to get this horse to fire big races since moving him to the grass at Kentucky Downs last fall. This is a step up in class and I think he’s going to be under pressure for the lead here. However, he’s undefeated on grass for connections that win a ton of races year in and year out at this meet. At 12-1 or better, I think he’s worth considering. I don’t care for Kupuna at 5-1, but I do think it’s interesting that he shows up in this spot to make his turf debut. There aren’t a ton of N3X allowance races out there, so perhaps Calhoun wants to try this before maybe looking for a stakes spot for him. Hard Spun gets 13% winners in turf routes as a sire. His dam only sprinted on the dirt and doesn’t have another runner to race. He’s been very good on dirt this year, and if his odds float up, I’d be more inclined to give him a shot. 


Race 8: 

The co-featured race is an optional claiming/N2X allowance race at nine furlongs on the main track. There doesn’t appear to be any true pacesetter in this race, which should give the favorite, Vittorio (#1) a significant advantage here. He;s drawn the rail, so I think that this feels like a logical spot for Irad Ortiz to put him on the lead and let the others chase him. He showed some promise in Southern California when racing for Simon Callaghan, however, his last two races since joining Bill Mott’s stable have been very impressive. He gave the talented colt, Charge It, all he could handle when he returned from a layoff in a conditioned allowance at Gulfstream in February. His effort was good enough for Mott to take a swing with him in the Essex Handicap there last month. He ran a solid 4th place that day behind three strong runners. He was a $750K purchase for Kaleem Shah, so the expectations have always been there. I think he clears this condition today. If this turns into one of those races where four or five horses decide they want the lead because there’s not early speed on paper, I think Ken McPeek’s Creative Minister (#7) will be the one to benefit. He made his return from a layoff last month in a salty race at this level at Oaklawn, where his stablemate, Smile Happy defeated him on a sloppy course. He’s not the most consistent runner, but he’s turned in big efforts to finish 3rd in the Preakness and second by a desperate nose in the Bourbon Trail Stakes last fall. I’d like him more if there were more committed frontrunners, but  I’ll back up with him in the event this field unexpectedly turns in a lively opening half mile. 


Race 9:

I’m not sold on Cyber Ninja (#10) as the 5-2 morning line favorite at all in this one mile turf maiden special weight that will wrap up the afternoon. He ran well behind a pair of promising three year olds in his debut on the dirt at Gulfstream. Even though the dam was a winner on turf, her only other foal to run has yet to win a race. I’d prefer to look for value in this race instead. I think Forge in Fire (#4) is worth playing at half the price of his 15-1 morning line. He ran well to be a wide 4th in his debut at Gulfstream last month. Brian Lynch has good numbers with runners in their second career starts, so that tells me that he’s likely to move forward off his maiden voyage. Flavien Prat will ride Royal Sandrin (#6) in his first turf start today. He’s improved in his first three career tries on the Tapeta at Turfway, narrowly missing in his last try. Blinkers go on for the first time today, which has been a profitable angle for Rodolphe Brisset’s runners over the past year. Balthazar (#9) ships in from Southern California for Neil Drysdale after just missing in his last start on a good course in March at Santa Anita. He certainly handled going two turns for the first time well after starting his career in a pair of sprint races. He figures to be another runner that’s in the mix in this wide open race. On deeper tickets, Just So (#8) is a beautifully bred horse that deserves a look. He’s the first foal of the multiple Grade 1 winning mare, Turbulent Descent, to make it to the races. She was a Grade 1 winner at 1 mile and 1/16 and seven furlongs, both on dirt. She was also a graded winner in her two stakes races on synthetic, both in sprints. I do find it odd that Brown intended to debut him at two turns on the turf, in a race that was moved to the Tapeta track at Gulfstream. He ran well to be second that day and now gets a go on the turf. I’ll cover with him, but at 7-2, I do suspect he’s not quite the horse that they were hoping for from the mating of his dam and the Triple Crown winner, Justify. 


Late Pick-5, One and Done Ticket, $48 Ticket:

I’ll start this ticket at $48, but I could make a few adjustments, especially since it seems likely that Georgees Spirit (#16, R5) will scratch out of the first leg in this sequence. I think Vittorio (#1, R8) despite starting at odds that are a little lower than I would like to see, is the one to beat in the 8th race. I think he’ll use his draw to establish a relatively easy lead, letting his more dangerous rivals chase him. 


How to Read the Picks-Grid:

This grid has become my favorite tool for helping to handicap a race card in advance. Keep in mind that these designations for me are flexible and may change depending on how the value in the betting market shifts leading up to post time. 


The “Top Pick” Column is fairly self-explanatory, meaning that it’s the horse that I think will win the race. 


The “A” Column is reserved for the horses that I feel have the best chances of winning. The more horses that are in this column per race, the more wide open I think the race might be. For multi-race wagers, these horses will be on the bulk of my tickets. If I’m betting on the vertical wagers (exactas, trifectas, superfectas), these horses would likely be candidates to be keyed on top.


The “B” Column are horses that I think have a chance of winning, but I don’t like them as much as the runners on the A line. If I put a morning line favorite in this column, I’m trying to find ways to beat them. For me, favorites on the B line typically will either be used underneath in the vertical exotics, or perhaps not at all. They’ll typically be used on some back up tickets in the multi-race wagers, especially in races where the other options aren’t as strong. I might also relegate a horse to the B line if I don’t think there’s good value on that horse with their morning line odds or how I think the race will be bet. For example, If I think a horse should be closer to 5-1, and their morning line odds are 3-1, he might start on the B line for me. If the betting public moves the line closer to the odds that I feel are fair, and I like the horse’s chances, I could move them up when I’m playing the race. 


The “C” Column is reserved as a deep backup for me. Again, if a favorite is on the C line, that’s me telling you that I don’t like them that much in this race. I definitely won’t be using them on top in any vertical wager, as I’ll be trying to beat them with most of my tickets. Sometimes this spot will be reserved for a crazy longshot that checks one of the boxes I might be looking for when playing horses at long odds. 

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