There’s a pair of seven furlong stakes race for three year olds and three year old fillies on this strong Saturday afternoon card at Keeneland. The Perryville Stakes features Grade 3 winners Verifying and Raise Cain, facing off against an up and coming California based runner, Dr. Venkman. The Grade 2 Lexus Raven Run is the 9th race, drawing a competitive field of nine, headed by the winner of the Grade 2 Prioress, Alva Starr. First post for the Saturday program 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||5||5||7||DBL, PK3, PK5|
|2||9||5,9||DBL, PK3, PK4|
|5||6||6||8,10||7||DBL, PK3, PK6|
|6||4||4||1||DBL, PK3, PK5|
|7||2||2,3,5||8||6,9||DBL, PK3, PK4|
The day begins with a seven horse field in an open $62,500 claiming race for three year olds and up, going six furlongs. I have concerns about many of these runners here, which is why I’m leaning toward taking the favorite, Mac Daddy Too (#5) as the top pick. He’s dropping in class after a solid effort with an optional $80K claiming/N2X allowance field at Churchill last month. He ran a strong race to clear the N1X condition at Ellis two starts ago. Norm Casse has this son of Maclean’s Music in good form after claiming him for $30K in the spring. I do think the Minnesota bred, Thealligatorhunter (#7) is an impressive horse. He boasts an 11-25 record, with four wins in ten tries at this distance. I do worry about the amount of pace pressure that he is likely going to have to deal with in this race. His outside post may be beneficial in that regard. This will be his first trip to Kentucky and he hasn’t been as consistent as he was last season. I respect his body of work enough to make sure I cover my bases with him though.
Two year old fillies will go six furlongs in this $30K maiden claiming contest. Chad Brown has the heavy favorite, Dancing Nancy (#5) in this race. She makes her third career start, dropping in for a tag for the first time. She found herself in chase mode when making her first start on the dirt at Saratoga last time out. She was never really a factor in that race after showing some early speed. This is a much softer group, so I do respect her, and the drop in class isn’t nearly as much of a red flag as it was the runner that Brown sent out yesterday in the male version on this race. Her tactical speed should give her an edge at this level. I’ll use her on the A line, but I’ll try to beat her with Lindsey (#9) making her first start on dirt. She debuted in a turf sprint at Ellis where she was away slow and never got involved. She stretched out to a mile in her next start where she got a little closer in the early stages, but was still a non-factor. She drops in class and cuts back to a dirt sprint for Ian Wilkes, who is having a strong meet. The dam was a graded stakes winner on the turf, but she was okay on the dirt. She foaled a horse that improved for Wilkes in his first start on the dirt, finishing second that day. She feels like the longer priced horse that could pull off the upset.
There’s an overflow field in this $20K maiden claiming race, where the heavy favorite on the morning line is Kingmaker (#2) for Ron Moquett. He drops in class while making his first start since January. Prior to that, his previous start came back in August of 2022, so soundness has been an issue for this newly gelded son of Sky Kingdom. His lone start here was a disaster, and there other horses in this race with upside. I’m going to be siding against him here. Instead, I’ll use Back to Reality (#12) for Chris Hartman on top. He ran a nice race last out with $16K maiden claimers at Churchill, closing to get within less than a length of the winner while making his second career start. This barn is heating up at this meet and the outside draw should suit his running style nicely. Bourbon Fever (#7) was third in a $30K maiden claiming race two days before Back to Reality ran. He was claimed for $50K two back, so I’m not loving the drop into $20K maiden claiming company, however, outside of his clunker effort at Ellis, the effort he put forth in his three other starts would make him competitive with this group. Solevo (#5) came up empty with $16K maiden claimers last out when making his first start since his April debut. He likely needed that race and now he runs back for Steve Asmussen off the claim. I like the cutback to a sprint for him as well. The X factor in this race feels like it’s Shockwave (#11), making his 6th career start and his first race in either a sprint or on the dirt. All of the angles are positive trainer moves for Saffie Joseph, and Luis Saez taking the mount is another plus. He’s the kind of horse that wouldn’t surprise if he won by pole or finished last of 12. I’ll cover my bases with him as well.
This is an interesting turf allowance race that will start the All-Turf Pick-3 this afternoon. After the races came off the turf yesterday, I think they should be back on the grass today. When you read the conditions, it seems like this race was written for a horse like Oeuvre (#2). She is a multiple stakes winner, who had a five race win streak snapped when she came here to race in the Giant’s Causeway Stakes back in the spring. She acted up prior to the race and had a rough trip in general that day. She rebounded to finish 5th, beaten only three lengths behind the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint Champion, Caravel. Chris Block brought her back to Hawthorne where she won twice in stakes company on dirt, then won her third straight race, winning a 6 and ½ furlong race at Kentucky Downs. The mile is going to be the big question mark. She only has gone that far once, and that came in the third start of her career back at Arlington in 2021. Her pedigree suggests that she can get the distance and she’s a proven winner, getting her picture taken in 13 of 21 career starts. She can handle a softer course and might prove to be tough to catch this afternoon. The two European runners are logical players in this race as well. Viareggio (#8) has less question marks about distance, but I do think she prefers a former course. She ran very well here in N3X allowance company in the spring when making her North American debut. She went on to be a competitive 4th in the Grade 1 Gamely Stakes out in Southern California. Her last two starts in the Robert G. Dick Stakes and the One Dreamer Stakes came on courses that were softer than firm at Delaware and Kentucky Downs. Neither of those efforts were her best. She was a winner on a good course in Ireland when facing Group 3 competition last summer. The drop in class also makes her a threat. Adday In Asia (#4) is coming off a strong effort to be a narrow second when going one mile at Aqueduct last month. She ran very well in handicaps overseas where the ground was a little softer. There’s reason to believe this four year old filly that proved she can get the mile in her last start, may improve when getting on ground with a little more give to it.
The Early Pick-5 ends with a maiden special weight race for two year old fillies going 6 and ½ furlongs on the main track. Horses trained by Ian Wilkes don’t typically win at first asking, however, the horses that the mare Ivory Empress has foaled have been different horses for Wilkes. Milliken and Four Graces dominated their maiden allowance wins going seven furlongs for Wilkes. With Dignity and McCracken dominated their maiden wins at today’s 6 and ½ furlong distance. Aunt Fannie (#6) is the next in line for Wilkes. She’s sired by Uncle Mo, whose runners are very good at first asking. Hernandez will take the mount for Wilkes, whose barn has been on a roll at this meet. She makes a lot of sense in this big field. Shezthefactor (#12)looked good when debuting in a restricted maiden special weight race at Churchill last month, This is a deeper field, but I saw a filly that was very game, despite giving up the lead in the late stages to lose by a neck. She’s another runner from a smaller barn, so there’s a good chance that her odds will float above her 10-1 morning line figure. Denim and Heels (#8) is a half to graded stakes winner, Newgate, who was also a winner on debut. She runs for Brad Cox who always seems to have his horses ready to fire big races. Her connections paid a half-million dollars for her last August at the Fasig-Tipton Sale. She’s worked well over this local oval, so there’s reason to believe she’s for real. Marco Sunset (#7) debuts for McPeek in this spot after some solid AM drills. One of the dams foals, Paid Informant, was a debut winner with high priced maiden claimers in Southern California. This barn doesn’t win often with debut runners, but they’re typically well-priced when they do connect. He feels like one that Id want as a backup.
Race 6, The $250K Perryville Stakes:
Only six runners are entered in this $250K stakes race for three year olds, sprinting seven furlongs. Most of the wagering attention is going to go to Brad Cox’s colt, Verifying (#1), coming off a runner-up finish in the Grade 1 H. Allen Jerkens Stakes at Saratoga. However, I’m not convinced that this horse is going to be better at one turn than he is at two turns. He was excellent here in the Toyota Blue Grass, and again in the Matt Winn at Churchill, losing narrowly both times to Tapit Trice and Disarm. He narrowly defeated Raise Cain (#4) in July in the Indiana Derby before his Grade 1 try in New York, Do keep in mind, he was soundly defeated in that race, as New York Thunder was pulling away before his fatal breakdown. He shifted lanes and was rallying to be second to One in Vermillion, who was a big longshot in that race. At this seven furlong distance. I trust Raise Cain much more. His Gotham performance back in March was electric, dominating that race at 23-1. He was excellent at this distance when breaking his maiden on this course last fall. I always thought that he would be a better horse at one turn, and now he’ll finally get to cut back in distance after a steady diet of two turn races. He was competitive in many of those races, but I think this one turn, seven or eight furlong kind of race is where we are going to see his best work. A big effort here could have Ben Colebrook thinking about the Cigar Mile on a course where he has already had graded stakes success. He was about even with the big favorite in the summer at two turns, and I think there’s a good chance that he can flip the script here, while offering better value in the process (4-1 ML).
An overflow field of three and four year old maidens are going 1 mile and 1/16 here, in the race that will begin the Late Pick-4. Every runner in this race has racing experience but some are stretching out to two turns for the first time. Both Ben Franklin (#6) and Furious Anger (#9) are coming off big efforts in a six furlong sprint last month at Churchill, both finishing less than a length behind the race winner. They’ll both be stretching out to two turns for the first time today, but both pedigrees favor one turn racing. Ben Franklin is a half to Klimt, who hit the board in some important two turn races, but his best work came at one turn. I think both will take money, and they both ran well enough to be considered, but they’re both savers at best for me in this race.Dissolved (#3) showed some speed before fading badly in his debut when going seven furlongs. He stretched out to the one and half turn mile at Ellis for his second start where he was a wide 5th. That race would definitely fit under the key race category. The runner up and third place finishers were dominant winners in their next starts in maiden special weight company. The 4th place finisher ran off the screen in his last start when destroying a $75K maiden claiming field. The winner was a good third in a strong N1X race when facing winners for the first time. He gets a much better post draw today when going a little farther for his third career start. He was unable to draw into a race at this condition on opening day, but he’s worked well at Churchill in the interim and may find himself flying under the radar here. Single Dot Yaht (#2) is the lukewarm top choice, making his 5th career start today. He draws well after getting shuffled around a bit in both of his last two starts. Even though he encountered trouble, he did keep running, which tells me that moving to a full two turn race should be favorable for him. His dam, Rote, produced the mare Royal Obsession, who ran well in both the Rachel Alexandra and Gazelle Stakes. Malibu Springs (#5) ran a much better race when facing an off the turf maiden allowance field at Aqueduct last month. He was dull two back at Monmouth when making his first start for Kent Sweezy. However, he was coming back off a five month layoff and making his first start at two turns that day. I thought he would be vulnerable in that spot, which was the case. His rival was much the best last time, but he was clearly second best. He’s now third off the layoff and could be sitting on his best effort yet. Mount Craig (#8) is a professional maiden that keeps running big figures, but keeps coming up short. He is cutting back in distance after four straight dirt races going longer distances than the 8.5 furlongs asked of him today. My guess is that he might need to drop in for a tag to get that elusive first win, but he always seems to run his race. He’s more of a backup for me.
Fillies and mares will go 1 mile and 1/16 on the turf in this absolutely wide open N3X allowance race. It’s interesting to see what the decision with Lovely Princess (#1) will be. She is cross-entered in the 12 furlong Dowager Stakes tomorrow, where she’ll be 8-1 in a nine horse field. Here she’s 5-1 in a full field after three straight second place finishes in stakes races. She has a perfect record on this course and she can handle a course that has some give to it. There’s a lot to like here, but I’d prefer to see her tomorrow, and if I see her today, I think the thought creeps into your mind that she might not be doing as good as she was going into some of those other stakes races. Ultimately, if she runs, I’ll still use her on top because I think she can sit the right trip in this race. There are some good horses that want to be forward in this race, and I’m looking for someone that can get rolling late. Seisai (#6) may be that horse after winning with N2X company at Kentucky Downs last month. She’s typically a little farther off the pace than what she showed last time out. She was moving well late while getting some moderate fractions to close into in California. This may be the first time that she’ll get an honest pace in front of her. If Lovely Princess defects, she’s the one I want on top. Both Sinfiltre (#7) and Haughty (#9) are promising fillies from the Pletcher and Brown barns. With the expectation of a dull effort in the 12 furlong Keertana, Sinfiltre has been right there in every one of her grass races. She was third in the Grade 3 Ladies Marathon at Kentucky Downs in her most recent start. She cleared the N2X condition three back, so this race becomes mild class relief for her after two decent tries in stakes company. Haughty won the Grade 2 Lake Placid Stakes last year when she cleared the N2X condition. She hasn’t had the same level of success as a four year old, only hitting the board once in four starts, all in stakes company in New York and Kentucky. The drop feels like the right move for her, but this race came up very competitive.
Race 9, The Grade 2 Lexus Raven Run Stakes:
There is a ton of early speed signed for this competitive Grade 2 contest for three year old fillies. Vahva (#4) figures to get a sweet trip as the front runners jockey for position. She was a winner in the Charles Town Oaks in her last start, which is a two-turn race at this distance. She ran well to be third in the Victory Ride Stakes behind the late Maple Leaf Mel two back. I envision her getting a trip similar to the one that she got last year when breaking her maiden at this distance at Churchill. She’s in very good form, and she continues to improve. Lady Radler (#8) might be the one that gets first run on the frontrunners, assuming that she’s able to work out a stalking trip like she did in the Grade 3 Dogwood last month. That wasn’t necessarily the design, as she was forced to check out of a spot while trying to battle for the lead. She was absolutely loaded as she muscled her way through a hole that opened up at the top of the stretch. Her dirt form continues to get better and better. I think the outside post gives her the flexibility to stalk and pounce, assuming that she’ll let Castanon give her that kind of trip. Alva Starr (#7) is the morning line favorite after a dominant score in the Grade 2 Prioress on closing weekend at Saratoga. Her game is speed, and she’s almost guaranteed to have competition for the early lead. She might simply be quicker than these. Her dam was a very good Louisiana bred who has produced three very good stakes winning sprinters. Seven furlongs is a question mark for sure, but I can’t ignore the talent that this filly has shown.
The nightcap is a N2X allowance race for three year olds and upward, sprinting 5 and ½ furlongs on the turf. The morning line favorite is Fauci (#11), who has a win and a second on this course, but hasn’t won a race in over two years. He feels like he’s going to be pace-compromised in this spot, which makes the outside draw undesirable. I really like Axthelm (#5) in this spot, making his second start off the layoff. He ran a few good races on this course last fall, including a third place finish in the Grade 3 Bryan Station Stakes, finishing less than a length behind the winner. He was a winner in the spring when going five furlongs at Gulfstream, but then he went on the shelf. He returned in a race at this level, going seven furlongs at Kentucky Downs, getting a little big leg weary in the final furlong. I think that race was a good race to get him fit for this spot. He finds a race where there is a serious dearth of early speed. He should be able to sit a good trip right off the leaders. He’s never competed at this 5 and ½ furlong distance, but I think it will suit him just fine. I see him as the most likely winner on the day. Willtorun (#1) is the backup for me on some deeper tickets. He was transferred to Tom Amoss after an off the board finish in allowance company on the dirt. He’s run well at this distance on the turf in the past, including a strong runner-up finish at this level in the spring. He’s another one that could be pace-compromised, but there’s enough positive signs to use him as the backup as opposed to Fauci, seeing as how the value seems to be significantly better with 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.