Nine races are scheduled for the Thursday afternoon card at Keeneland, which gets underway at 1:00 (ET) this afternoon. There’s a competitive N1X allowance on the turf which is the featured 7th race. A pair of turf sprint maiden special weight races for two year old fillies will bookend both the All-Turf Pick-3 and the Late Pick-5.
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||10||10||2||8||DBL, PK3, PK5|
|2||4||3,4,6||8||DBL, PK3, PK4|
|4||3||3,9||8||DBL, PK3, PK6|
|5||4||4,11||12||DBL, PK3, PK5, All-Turf PK3|
|6||2||2||3,4||DBL, PK3, PK4|
Beaten $20K claimers start the day in a six furlong sprint. Nine of the ten runners in this race qualified under the N3L condition. What’s Up Bro (#2) is a three time winning three year old in this spot. This is a clever spot the morning line favorite, Must Be Love (#10). He was claimed by Michael Pino two starts ago when he finished second in a $16K-$14K N3L claiming race at Monmouth Prior to that, he was in very good form at Parx. He ran well at Delaware to be second in starter allowance company and he now ships to Lexington, where he’ll be up for sale for $20K, but also running for a larger purse than what he was running for in the Mid-Atlantic. In addition, he finds a field where he figures to be very competitive. I see him as the one to beat in this race. I do wonder if What’s Up Bro will go off as the post time favorite in this one. He’s coming off a strong win with $25K N3L claimers at Thistledown last out. That was his first race since being moved to Rivelli’s barn. I think he has a higher ceiling than the top pick, however, he’s struggled to string two good races together in consecutive starts. All Jokes Aside (#8) won both of his career races on the turf in five furlong sprint races. He has the kind of speed that could put him in the driver’s seat in the early stages of this race. His last wasn’t terrible in an off the turf race. The track profile is playing favorably for his style and if he can shake loose, he might get brave on the front end. I prefer him underneath, but if his odds go above 25-1, he’d be worth a few dollars to win.
A competitive field of 13 runners are entered in this $150K maiden claiming race which will be contested at six furlongs. Both Steve Asmussen and Brad Cox have very good numbers with first time starters in maiden claiming races, and they have debut runners starting in stalls right next door to each other. I’ll give the slight edge to Cox’s In Good Taste (#4). She’s the first foal to race from the dam Maho Bay, whose only career win came on debut. Horses sired by Tapiture have won 16% on their first starts in dirt sprint races, and 16% of their overall races in dirt sprints. Cox ships her in from his Indiana base where she can run for more money at this level than she can for the maiden allowance level there. Shespun (#3) has been working well for her debut for Steve Asmussen. His runners have won 13% of their debut races in the last two years, however, horses that he’s sent out in maiden claiming company for their debut have won 24% of the time. She’s the first foal to run from the Hard Spun mare, Crayon. She’s sired by Mohaymen who has clicked with 21% of his debuting runners in dirt sprint races at the maiden claiming level. Gloriette (#6) is one of the experienced runners that i find interesting here. She has made three starts, racing early in the two year old season here and the Churchill. She faced a strong field in her race in Louisville back in May. She returned to the races at Ellis in August where she did a lot of the heavy lifting on the front end and faded to third in the later stages of that race. Colebrook gave her a little extra time and drops her in class for this start. She is quick enough to set the tempo or track the leaders, both of which are favorable pace scenarios for the track profile in dirt sprints thus far at this meet. Corkage Fee (#8) is a Vino Rosso second time starter for Michael McCarthy. She debuted at this level at Churchill last month and finished 5th of 9 when going 6 and ½ furlongs. She made a mild bid before flattening out. John Velasquez picks up the mount for a filly that should improve somewhat off that initial effort.
Eight fillies and mares will go 6 and ½ furlongs in this $50K starter allowance, which is also restricted to horses that would qualify for the N1X allowance condition. I think Mischievous Girl (#1) has a big shot in this race, making her first start off the claim for Robertino Diodoro. She has a win at two turns on the turf and a win at seven furlongs on the dirt in her career. Whenever Diodoro claims a horse and finds a protected spot for them, I see that as a big plus. He primarily runs a claiming operation, so getting value on his claims is important for the stability of his operation. Whenever he keeps a horse protected first off the claim, he is telling you that this horse has shown some definite ability in the AM and around the barn. I think she’ll get the perfect set up, stalking what should be a contested lead, with three “need the lead” types entered here. I think she goes back to back in this spot. Don’t sleep on the longshot, Stormy Empire (#4) in this race. Lindsay Schultz had a winner here last weekend and brings this Illinois bred. She hasn’t been the best version of herself in 2023, but she ran well enough to be competitive at this level in 2022. She gets away from Hawthorne and starts for a barn that has done well with new acquisitions over the last year, and some of these runners have popped at decent odds. She’s the backup for me in this spot.
Open $32K claimers are going 1 mile and 1/16 on the main track here. There’s an interesting dynamic in this race with a few local trainers and a few trainers that don’t often ship here to Kentucky. Beealea (#5) is the morning line favorite, and she’s based in Illinois for trainer Eduardo Rodriguez. He has shipped horses to Kentucky 29 times over the last five years and has not won with one of them. It is worth mentioning that the shortest price at post time for any one of those 29 runners was 5-1, with most of them being double digit longshots. Today, he saddles the gelding that will start off as the favorite, coming here after winning three of his last four starts, including a win in the state bred Polar Expedition Stakes at Hawthorne on Labor Day. You can’t argue with his current form, but his closing style has not played well on this surface. I’ll be looking elsewhere in this race, saving that one for the bottom of the vertical exotics. Both Bird King (#3) and Expensive Cut (#9) are based in the Mid-Atlantic region, running for trainers that have had some success with a limited number of runners they have brought to town over the years. Michael Pino trains Bird King, who returns to Keeneland for the first time since a strong 5th place effort here in October 2020. He’s a year and a half removed from winning a stakes race at Parx, and he’s trying to get back to his better form. His last two races have been solid, clearing the beaten $25K claiming level at Parx in his most recent start. He’ll be the second starter of the meet for Pino, who had a runner misfire in starter allowance company when she was defeated by a runaway winner. I think this gelding can sit the right trip and his post gives him a narrow edge over Robert Mosco’s gelding, Expensive Cut. He was last seen in the Winner’s Circle in May at Parx, clearing the N2X allowance condition. Mosco actually claimed this runner for $50K here last April in an open $50K claimer for three year olds where he was a four length winner. He’s won four times since then and this race will be his first race since his last trip to Lexington, where he’ll be offered up for a tag. I think the outside draw is going to be challenging, but he’s proven on the course and distance, and he’s been more consistent than the top pick in 2023. Heartbreaker (#8) feels like a wild card in this race, while racing a full two turns for the first time in his career. He ran a huge effort to clear the N1X condition at Ellis when going one mile there. That race starts out of a mile chute that leads onto the first turn, so it’s closer to a turn and a half than it is to two turns. He’s your likely pacesetter as he’s led at the first point of call in 7 of his 10 career tries, He’s lost by double digit lengths in his last two tries though. He’s racing for a $32K tag despite being claimed for $50K back in May, however, he’s recouped that initial investment with a pair of wins at Churchill and Ellis in starter allowance and allowance company. When he’s right, he’s likely the fastest runner in this race and if he can get a loose lead, I suspect he’ll start to get brave on a course that has been kind to front end speed.
I’m going to try a longshot on top in the first heat of a maiden special weight turf sprint for two year old fillies. Mary Lightner is a trainer that typically has a small stable based in Florida. She has summered at Colonial Downs the last few years, while also sending a few runners to Churchill in that span. She has not started a horse here in last five years, if at all, but she’s going to try to win with Miss Taptress (#4) on debut in this race. The filly is sired by Tapwrit, who has two winners out of eight runners that have debuted in turf sprints. She’s the first foal to race from the Distorted Humor dam, Eccentric Spinster. That mare never won on the turf, but she was very good on synthetic, and her turf efforts, with solid competition, weren’t terrible. Lightner has done very well with turf sprinters in general, winning with seven of her last ten starters at this distance, all at Colonial Downs over the last two years. The works are respectable for this filly and, other than the morning line favorite, there’s not really a standout in the field. I’m banking that the public will be chilly on an unknown trainer coming to a premier track. She’s starting at 30-1 on the morning line and I think she’s playable on top anywhere around 20-1 or better. Two Sip Sally (#11) is the one to beat here. She was very good when debuting at six furlongs at Kentucky Downs last month. She finished second in that race where the Beyer Speed Figure was more impressive than the Equibase Speed Figure. She has some upside, making her second career start for Brendan Walsh. Tyler Gaffalione takes over, giving her a significant rider upgrade. I think she’s going to be a force in this one. Into Stars (#5) is the other shorter price in the field. Her Beyer Speed Figures are lower than Two Sip Sally, but her Equibase Speed Figure for her last start is slightly higher. Typically that would lead to a favorable value scenario, however, I’ll temper those expectations with Brad Cox as the trainer. Furthermore, I would like this filly much better at one mile as opposed to cutting back to 5 and ½ furlongs here. I’ll play against her and use another big price underneath. Fantastical (#12) breaks from the outside in this race. She’s trained by Joe Sharp, who has respectable numbers with debut runners. While her sire, Air Force Blue struggles to get winners at first asking (only 4% winners in turf sprints from debut runners), her dam has produced a debut winner. The dam was unraced, but the pedigree for grass is there. I think this filly has a sneaky shot in this one.
The Late Pick-4 begins with an open $50K claiming race at seven furlongs. Mailman Money (#2) makes his third start off the Chris Hartman claim and the first time that he’ll run this Goldencents gelding on the dirt. He was claimed for this $50K tag three back at Ellis (during the CD meet), when traveling this same distance. He finished off the board in his last two races on the grass while facing some fairly salty rivalsI think this race is a good fit for him and I expect to see an improved effort while back on the main track. Shooters Shoot (#4) is coming off a third place effort with $62,500 claimers when going 7 and ½ furlongs at Churchill at the beginning of the month. Other than a dull effort at Saratoga two back when he was wide while facing a better group, he’s run strong races since coming back in June off an extended layoff. Diodoro claimed him off Joe Sharp at the Spa and this gelding will be starting for him for the second time today. The Queens Jules (#3) is getting back to a one turn race on the dirt for the first time since the end of December. He was good enough to win the Claiming Crown Rapid Transit Stakes at Churchill last fall and he was a winner in his only race over the local oval. While his last two figures were on the light side in a pair of off the turf, two-turn mile races, the outcomes weren’t terrible, winning once and finishing second most recently. I like him on the cutback here, even though horses cutting back from two turn races on dirt have struggled mightily at this seven furlong distance during this meet.
Today’s featured race is a N1X allowance contest for three year olds and up, going 1 mile and 1/16 on the turf course. I thought the maiden breaking effort from Clyde’s Got a Gun (#3) was ultra-impressive at Churchill last month. He was in tight as they jockeyed for position in the stretch for the first time. He settled behind horses and was stuck in behind horses on the turn. Mojica swung him out wide at the top of the stretch where the heavy favorite got the jump on him and opened up a significant lead. Clyde’s Got a Gun was a little green, but he accelerated nicely and blew by the leader, drawing off to win the nine furlong race by two widening lengths. I’d like him even more at 1 mile 1/8 or 1 mile and 3/16, but I think he can be just as effective here. Irish Aces, who beat him on debut, came back to win at this level here last week. Ciro’s Ghost, who was eight lengths behind Clyde’s Got a Gun, won a maiden allowance race in Indiana last week as well. He’s faced solid opposition and should be tough while facing winners for the first time. Lincoln Highway (#4) was foaled by the multiple stakes winning mare, Frivolous. She has produced the multiple stakes winning mare, Flippant, so the ability from a pedigree standpoint is definitely there. He was well backed in a N1X allowance race at Churchill last month that was won by a runaway winner, Ocean Pointe. That one ran back quickly and finished 4th in stakes company two weeks later. Lincoln Highway has some trouble at the break, getting shuffled toward the back of the field. He was blocked briefly while angling out to try to make a run. By the time he was free, the winner was in full flight for the wire. I like the rider switch to Luis Saez here, who I think will have him a little closer in the early stages. Mackillop (#1) ran in that same race, and he was about a length better than Lincoln Highway. He’s making his third start since moving into Ian Wilkes’ barn. He broke his maiden in a one mile maiden allowance at Tampa in March of 2022. He was wide throughout last time, so drawing the rail should suit him well.
The Late Double will begin with a $80K N2L claiming race for three year olds and up, going 1 mile and 1/16 on the main track. I don’t typically love 1-15 horses in races like this, however Dance Some Mo (#3) makes a lot of sense here. Despite the full field, there is very little early speed signed on for this contest. He could very well be loose on a relatively easy early lead. While his poor record is tough to stomach, it is reassuring that only four of those starts came on the dirt. He has a second and third place finish in four starts on a fast dirt track, and he was eased in one of those races. His last two dirt starts at Prairie Meadows and Hawthorne are likely good enough to win this race. Princely (#1) good get a solid stalking trip off the leaders while breaking from the rail. He just missed in his last two starts at Ellis when going one mile there. He struggled in a race like this here in the spring, however that field was significantly deeper than this group. Honed (#6) doesn’t have a wealth of early foot, but he is graded stakes placed and he’s dropping in for a tag for the first time in his career. McPeek has only one win at this meet with 26 starters, so I’ll likely want to get a little bit of a price than the 6-1 morning line on this guy. However, I do think there is room to improve in his second start off a lengthy layoff.
The day will conclude with the second division of a maiden special weight race for two year old fillies sprinting 5 and ½ furlongs on the turf. This definitely feels like a race where coverage will be useful. Satin Blue (#3) is the top pick, making her second career start. She was away slowly, then made a little move before flattening out at Kentucky Downs. She’ll be cutting back in distance after what should have been an educational debut. She’s worked well for Sharp since that race and horses sired by The Factor are winning at a 14% rate in turf sprints. Saez taking the call is also a plus. Two Sip Sally is the morning line favorite in Race 5, and her performance could certainly flatter or take a little bit of the shine off of Charm of the Song (#1). The Beyer Speed Figures and Equibase Speed Figures are in disagreement as to how strong of a race that was or wasn’t at Kentucky Downs last out. I tend to upgrade runners from Kentucky Downs at this meet in general, but if the favorite falters in the 5th race and doesn’t run particularly well, I’d think that I’d be more likely to downgrade this Midshipman filly. She drew the outside post for her debut and now draws all the way to the inside here. She didn’t show a ton of early speed, so the draw could be a concern. I still think she has a decent chance in this race. Lola’s Light (#12) is the most interesting debut runner in this race. Her dam, Burg Berg, foaled a horse named Inajiffy, who was a winner in two races at this distance the Fair Grounds to start his career. Those were solid efforts from her half brother, who was sired by Street Boss, who is one of the best turf sprint sires out there. City of Light hasn’t been around for a long time as a sire, but his runners are winning 19% of the time in turf sprints so far. Wonder Wave (#4) is the morning line favorite, starting off at 5-2 for Brian Lynch. His barn is off to a slow start at this meet, going 0-6 without any runners hitting the board yet. She paired her Beyers in her first two starts, which is usually a big plus for me in races like this. Her pattern indicates a forward move is coming. However, I don’t love that she has been more of a grinder as opposed to a horse that is finishing with interest. She is worth covering, but at short odds, I’ll try to beat her,
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.