Fall Stars Weekend has come and gone and now we’ll move into the first full week of racing for this fall meeting at Keeneland. As per usual, two year olds tend to be a focal point at this meet and that trend will continue with four baby races on the eight race Wed program. There’s a full field for the featured race today, which is a N1X allowance race for fillies and mares going one mile on the turf in the 6th race. 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||2||2,5||6||DBL, PK3, PK5|
|2||5||2,5||11||DBL, PK3, PK4|
|3||2||2||3||11||DBL, PK3, PK6|
|4||1||1,7,8,13||DBL, PK3, PK5,
|5||6||1,3,6||2||DBL, PK3, PK4|
Most of the runners in this beaten $20K claiming race qualified under the N3L condition with the exception of Vintage (#5). The morning lion favorite is Sicilian Grandma (#1), who gets the rail for Maker and Gaffalione. She’s a three year old Army Mule filly that cleared the N2L condition in August at Saratoga. She misfired in starter allowance company last month at Kentucky Downs, thus explaining the drop in class. While her effort at Saratoga was nice, that race was an off the turf race late in the day. She sat a picture perfect trip and beat two okay horses in a race that was decimated by scratches. If she can run back to that effort, she’ll be tough in this race. However, I’m not convinced that she can, especially when looking at her previous races. I think she’s a horse for course at Saratoga and figures to be overbet in this race. She’s listed at 6-5, and I’d need her closer to 5-1 before I could be talked into using her. I think both Lady With a Cause (#2) and Vintage are more consistent and should offer better value as the third and second choices, respectively. I give the slight edge to Lady With a Cause. She broke her maiden on this oval in the spring, handily beating $50K maiden claimers. She was claimed for $30K at Ellis in June and came back to clear the N2L condition. She struggled last out when facing $30K N3L claimers at Churchill. She drops and finds a field where the pace scenario shouldn’t be as contested. She has inside position and appears to be faster than Sicilian Grandma. I think she set a leisurely pace, with Vintage tracking her from the outside. I’m expecting her to move forward slightly while getting back on a course where she has found previous success. I trust her at the distance more so than the favorite. Vintage ships in from Finger Lakes for Jeremiah Englehart after winning with N3L allowance types up there. She also was a winner at the Spa two starts back, easily defeating an overmatched field of $16K N2L claimers there. Englehart has her in very good form since moving from Eric Reed’s barn in June. She only has three races on the dirt, and each one has gotten better, finishing second the first time and winning the last two. This will undoubtedly be a bigger test, but I like the confidence the barn is showing to make the trip here. While I don’t see an aggressive pace battle, Big Java (#6) might be the one that would benefit the most from that scenario playing out. She also likes this course, finishing second here in both of her starts last fall. In her most recent start, she was claimed by Asmussen, who is off to a much better start at this meet than last fall. I like her better underneath in the vertical exotics, but I see her with an outside chance to get there late under the right circumstances. She’s starting off at 8-1 on the morning linen which feels right, but if her odds float up, I might take a bigger shot.
The first of three races for two year olds on the card is a challenging restricted maiden special weight race for horses that sold or were RNA for $50K or less in their most recent maiden auction. The seven furlong distance is a challenging one for horses to debut at, so I do prefer horses that have a race or more under their belts. I made Head Lad (#5) the top pick for Mark Casse. He was based at Del Mar this summer where he finished off the board in both starts when facing open maiden allowance types there. He faced a good field that day when his then stablemate, Heartland, was an impressive winner. The runner-up, Slider, broke his maiden next out and went on to win the Speakeasy Stakes in his third career start. Head Lad tried the turf at one mile, which was a failed experiment that day. He ships East and moves into Mark Casse’s barn. He’ll get class relief and I do think that race on the grass will help with the needed stamina to win at this distance. He’s from the freshman crop of St. Patrick’s Day, who didn’t do much on the race course, but is a full brother to American Pharoah. The horse that has the most impressive race on their resume is Wecallemfuncoupons (#2), who will make his second career start today. He only sold for $3,500 in October of 2022, but he was working well enough in the AM at Finger Lakes for Jeremiah Englehart to ship him to Churchill to run in a $50K maiden claiming race there. He does not typically run horses in Kentucky, having only saddled four horses on this circuit in the last five years. It was unusual to see him show up with this one in Louisville, but he was rewarded with hard fought second place, narrowly beating Brad Cox’s second time starter. He’ll make the trip again while moving into protected company. I don’t love the inside post for him in this full field, so that will be a new challenge for him to overcome. However, he showed a lot of toughness with a three wide trip and he fought back in the stretch once he moved to the inside and the 1-2 favorite came alongside himThere enough there for me to make sure that he is represented on my tickets. Of the first timers in this spot, Mr. Faversham (#11) is the one that strikes me as the most interesting. He’s a half to Bayerness who was a multiple stakes winner for Cherie DeVaux. That filly won here in her debut and now she’ll send out this son of Tonalist for the first time. Tonalist gets 10% debut winners in dirt sprints, so it’s not crazy to think that this one will be up to the task. The outside draw should be a plus as well.
We have another full field in a seven furlong race, this one for horses that qualify for the $10K starter allowance condition. Caramel Chip (#4) was an eight length winner at this condition in the spring when facing a field that wasn’t quite as deep as this one. That was part of a four race streak where he won races at Gulfstream, Keeneland, Churchill, and Monmouth. He would go one to lose his next three starts, one in an off the turf starter handicap race at Monmouth where he was going 1 mile and 1/16, and two at Saratoga, including a loss to a next out stakes winner in open N1X allowance company. He got back on the winning track when winning at Parx in a sea of slop on the PA Derby undercard. He beat a local runner that had won his last four starts by a combined 33 lengths. I think the distance of this race suits him much better than it does the morning line favorite, I’m a Saltshaker (#2). He’s been facing tougher fields and he should be able to sit the right trip under Irad Ortiz. 3-1 (ML) feels like great value, but I’m comfortable playing him at closer to 2-1. I think he’s worthy of being a single in the multi-race wagers. There are a lot of runners in here that might be struggling to find their best stride in the final furlong. That makes a horse like Caseys Memory (#3) interesting underneath in the vertical exotics. He has won or finished second in 13 of 19 career starts, all at lower tiered tracks. His figures should make him competitive for a piece of this one. He’s been solid in two turn races, but he’s never run in a middle distance sprint race going one turn. He’s sired by Honor Code who had one of the more memorable debut wins at Saratoga in the last several years, winning in the slop when closing from over 20 lengths out of it to win going away. His sire also one the Met Mile when going one turn. I think when other runners start to fade, he’ll be hanging around. Startdfromdabottom (#11)comes into this race in good form, winning his last two races. John Ennis re-claimed for $25K after losing him for $10K two starts back. He has won 7 of 21 career starts and should be forwardly placed from his outside draw. I worry about the distance for him, but he’ll be tough to catch if he can duplicate his last effort.
The All-Turf Pick-3 and the Late Pick-5 starts with this race, which is a maiden special weight contest for two year old fillies going one mile on the turf. 32 horses passed through the entry box for this one, so the racing office split the race into two divisions, with the second heat bookending both of these multi-race sequences (Race 8). I made I’m a Mess (#1) the top pick in her second try today. She ran well in her debut at Kentucky Downs to be 4th at this one mile distance there last month. Ken McPeek has worked her twice since then and he switches riders to Brian Hernandez. The dam was a stakes winner on the turf, and while she’s best known for foaling Tom’s d’Etat, she has also produced some useful grass runners. She draws inside, so she should get a ground saving trip here. Purr Factor (#7) makes her career debut this afternoon for Cherie DeVaux. She’s a filly sired by The Factor, who gets 8% winners with debut runners on the grass. Her dam was a stakes winner and graded stakes placed on the turf. Her first foal to race won on debut and was a stakes winner at two. DeVaux has only won with 6% of her firsters since 2022, but overall, she’s won 16% with her debuting two year olds in the last five years. I think this is a filly that could be overlooked, but she could be a runner. Pendulum (#8) came through along the rail with a smart bid when making her debut gouging seven furlongs at Kentucky Downs last month. There’s not a ton of two year olds that would comfortably make a run like that, so there are definitely some encouraging intangibles in play here. This race changes greatly if Sea Dancer (#13) draws in off the AE List. She was 5th beaten seven lengths in stakes company last out, but she was really good when narrowly missing at this distance and level at Saratoga in August. I don’t love the fact that she’ll likely be breaking from the far outside stall if she does go.
Ten two year old fillies sprint 6 furlongs in this $40K N2L claiming contest. This is a wide open race where horses are coming from a variety of places and class levels. Further complicating the matter, four of the ten runners in this race broke their maidens on the turf. Back on Track (#3) is the top pick for me. Every year, we see some smaller barns shoot their shot at Keeneland, and a few of them find their way to the Winner’s Circle each year. John Jazdzeswki only has started 31 horses up to this point in 2023. He typically trains at lower level tracks, starting most of his horses at Belterra in the summer and Turfway in the winter. He has started 6 horses here, with a third place finishers being his best local outcome. He did saddle a winner last season at Churchill though. This filly ran okay in her first two starts, but she put it all together when crushing a field of $25K maiden claimers last month at Horseshoe Indianapolis. While others are coming here off poor efforts in stakes races, she’s one that is moving up the class ladder. However, those runners that have faced better ran poorly in those races. She has shown the ability to close from off the pace, which could be a valuable skill as many are likely going to be backing up in the final furlong. I think she’s a sneaky longshot in this wide open race. Go Margie Go (#6) racing for Larry RIvelli, feels like another live runner in this spot. She broke her maiden in a five furlong slugfest at Hawthorne back in August. Rivelli tried to stretch her out to a two turn allowance race on the turf at Churchill, where she faded badly. She’s back on the dirt and dropping in class. I think the turf route will serve as a stamina building, even though she was eased up late. I think she can withstand some of the likely pace pressure in this spot and find her way to the front. Wild About Hilary (#1) had success in her debut when breaking from the rail in a maiden allowance race at Prairie Meadows. She struggled in stakes company in her most recent and now drops in class for her third career start. Her inside position may prove to be beneficial if there is a scramble for the early lead. Francisco Arrieta won a lot of races in Arkansas over the winter and he’s made the most of the limited opportunities that he’s had at this meet so far. I’ll back up with Shy Shy (#2), who is one of the runners whose lone victory came on the grass. She is making her 4th career start as she moves back to dirt. She showed a decent amount of improvement in her second start, where she was caught late. I do like that she showed that she could be effective while stalking the pace when winning on the grass last out. That is the kind of trip that I think will be effective in this race, and while her inside draw might make that a little more of a challenge for Gaffalione, I think she’s another one with a reasonable chance in this race.
The featured race this afternoon is for fillies and mares that are looking to clear the N1X allowance condition while going one mile on the turf. There were a pair of contentious races at Kentucky Downs on 9/9 and 9/10. Two horses, Make the Boys Wink (#1) and Lilac Girl (#5) had rough trips, but showed enough in those races to be considered here. I thought Lilac Girl ran very well in defeat when finishing 5th in her race at this one mile distance last time out. She was making her first start since narrowly missing at this level on this course in April. She was a little keen in the early stages, but she moved to the front, while setting a moderate pace. She’s not really a horse that wants to be on the lead, so as she slowed the pace down, horses came through on her inside and outside and forced her to steady off heels. She was shuffled to 4th, but regrouped to put herself in striking position off the turn. She came with a wide bid and hit the front again. However, fresh challengers came through and went by as they climbed the hill up toward the wire. She was in tight late which may have cost her third or fourth. She should be able to build off that effort while getting back to a more traditional American turf course. She showed she was able to have several different gears and if she’s able to get a clean trip, I think she’ll prove to be better than these. Make the Boys Wink tried to get into the 9/9 race at one mile, but failed to draw into the body of the field. She drew the rail when going seven furlongs, which is probably not the ideal distance for her. She was slow to get into stride as the frontrunners clicked off a 21:4 opening quarter. Gaffalione kept her on the rail when they went into the turn to avoid going 7-8 wide. She advanced well, but had nowhere to go. She had to slam on the brakes and ended up crossing the wire in 11th place. Her effort was better than it looks on paper, and she’s shown a lot of growth leading up to her maiden breaking score two starts ago Ellis. Up and Down (#3) just missed in that same seven furlong contest. She was dropping out of stakes company for that race. She broke her maiden on this course at this distance in the spring. Her efforts in middle distance sprints have been very good, so the mile might be at the edge of her best distances. She’s a lukewarm morning line favorite in this race, but 7-2 (ML) is about as low as I’m willing to go on her. Both Clever Joke (#4) and Sake (#10) are both live longshots that could bolster the exotics in this race. Clever Joke has some gaps in between starts, but she is cutting back from three straight nine furlong races. She faltered last out, but her effort at this level two back when facing straight three year olds, stacks up well against this field. Sake seems to save her best efforts for this course. There’s enough speed signed on to set things up for a closer. She’s moved early in both of her starts here, but she’s leveled off late. Cheminaud rode her in both of those local starts and he’s proven capable of popping with some bombs on this course. I prefer both of these fillies underneath in the vertical exotics, but I might back up with them on some of the deeper multi-race tickets.
Three year olds and up will go 1 mile and 1/16 on the main track in this $30K starter allowance, which is also restricted to horses that have never won three times. I’m not sold on either Fightertown (#2) or Inexorable (#5) here. Both are coming off career top efforts in races where they were both claimed. Ingrid Mason claimed Fightertown after his second straight win two weeks ago at Churchill. This is a quick turnaround off that big effort and her numbers with runners first off the claim aren’t good. Inexorable was living in the mid-60’s Beyer range before Diodoro claimed him two back after his number was put up via DQ in a $30K maiden claimer. His next race came 6 weeks after the claim and he ran a 92 Beyer Speed Figure out of nowhere. Asmussen claimed him out of that race, and while he keeps him protected, I’ll need to see another big effort before I’m willing to take a short price on him. I’ll look to the rail and make Hurry Hurry (#1) the top pick. He ran a huge race at Ellis in his first career try on dirt in June, crushing a field of $75K claimers by over five lengths. He took a big swing with N1X allowance types 19 days later and likely bounced while also being overmatched by better runners that day. He dropped to a similar $50K starter allowance level at Ellis where he had a lot of trouble at the break when going one mile there. He was relegated to last, which is not really his running style, but I respect the effort he put forth to get up for 4th in that race. His rail post should play to his strengths, giving Luan Machado every opportunity to put him on or near the lead. Seven Flat (#3) also misfired in that same race where he was parked very wide throughout. He started from the outside stall in the one mile chute, which is less than ideal. He was parked throughout and didn’t have his best stuff. The two turns is still a bit of a question mark for him, but I think he can rebound from that last race where the pace scenario really didn’t fit the race he had to run. Sant’ Antimo (#8)is a lightly raced runner, making his 5th career start. Draw a line through his debut and he’s been right there in his last three starts, including a race at this condition last month at Churchill. I think this field is a little deeper and he’ll have to work out a trip from post 8, but I think there’s more upside with him than most.
The nightcap is the second division of the maiden special weight for two year old fillies going one mile on the turf. The runners with raceday experience are more accomplished than the runners in the first heat. I think Cherie DedVaux has an interesting first time starter in the first leg and here she’ll send out Auraculous (#8), who is the top pick for me. She was rolling late in her second career start at Kentucky Downs last out., getting into second place when going 6 and ½ furlongs. She stretches out to a ile after two sprints, which should give her the foundation to get the added distance. Luz Divina (#6) figures to be well-backed after finishing second to Buchu last out at Churchill. That one came back to win the Jessamine on Opening Day last week. She paired her Beyers in her first two starts, and figures to be ready to take another step forward today. There’s not much to go off from the dam’s other foals, so I’m not sure how high her ceiling is going to be. However, she looks very tough in this group today. Joyful Image (#5) is a Kitten’s Joy first time starter with a steady series of works for Brendan Walsh. Her dam was unraced and she’s her first foal to make it to the races. She’ll probably be a longer price than the other notable first timer, Mishka (#2), who is trained by Brad Cox. While Cox has very good numbers with firsters going long on the turf, I think Joyful Image has the more interesting pedigree.
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.