Keeneland kicks off their fall meeting with a 10 race program, headlined by three stakes races, all of which are Win and You’re In Races for the Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita next month. Two year old fillies are featured on this card with five of the 10 races today hitting that demographic. There are some light showers forecasted to be in the area in the morning, but the remainder of the weekend looks very seasonable. First post for the first card of the meet 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||5,11||DBL, PK3, PK5|
|2||4||4,9,10||11||DBL, PK3, PK4|
|5||4||4,8||5||6,11||DBL, PK3, PK6, All-Turf PK3|
|6||11||3,11,14||8,9||DBL, PK3, PK5|
|7||8||8||3,7||DBL, PK3, PK4|
The meet begins with a $100K maiden claiming race for three year olds and up, going 1 mile and 1/16 on the main track. This race drew an overflow field of 16, with 12 in the body of the field and four on the AE list. There are a lot of one-paced plodders in this field, so I’m looking for a few runners that want to be forwardly placed in this one. Archie the Giza (#5) is the pick in this race with the red hot Cristian Torres in the saddle. Torres had a monster Oaklawn meet this past winter and spring and he used that to springboard himself into a full time rider on the Kentucky Circuit. He’s coming off solid meets at Ellis Park, Kentucky Downs and Churchill where he finished 4th, 2nd and 2nd, respectively, in the standings. This four year old gelding is a half to Harvey’s Lil Goil, who was a Grade 1 winner on the turf, but also a stakes winner on dirt. His first three career starts came on the turf, finishing off the board each time. He showed some early energy in a one turn mile maiden allowance race last month at Churchill. After pushing an aggressive tempo, he faded to 5th in a salty race with a fast final time. He drops in for a tag and gets a field where he should be able to make the lead with relative ease. I think the pace will be much more reasonable, which should give him an edge. J J’s Joker (#11) ran well for Hartman at Oaklawn over the winter, before going to the sidelines after a narrow defeat in February. He returned with a dull effort in a one turn race at Ellis on August 19th. While I am usually a bit hesitant to play Practical Joke runners on the stretch out, it is worth noting that his best career effort came in his lone two turn try in Hot Springs. Despite his wide post, he has enough early speed to put himself in a favorable position going into the first turn today.
29 two year old fillies passed through the entry box in this six furlong maiden special weight race. The racing office divided the field into two divisions with 15 entered in this race and 14 entered in Race 6. 12 fillies will be able to start in both races. The two fillies that have run have showed little, including the $1 million dollar baby, Charlottesapproval (#6), who is the first foal to race from the multiple graded stakes winning mare, Curlin’s Approval. While I respect this filly, she didn’t offer much of anything last time. Improvement is likely, but I’m not convinced that will be enough to defeat some well-meant first time starters. I’ll spread in the first leg of the Early Pick-4 and make Twirl Around (#4) my top pick. She’s been working like a filly that has some ability for Greg Foley in the mornings. She’s sired by Twirling Candy who gets 17% winners from his debut runners and 21% from his debut runners in dirt sprint races. Her dam was a winner of her first three starts and one of the three foals that she produced won at first asking. Tyler Gaffalione, who was the leading rider in the spring, accepts the mount, signaling to me that this filly means business. There’s plenty of win early pedigree with Loveland (#9) as well in this spot. She’s sired by Munnings, who hits at a 17% clip with his first time starters. The dam’s only foal to race was a daylight winner in both of his career starts. Ricardo Santana has enjoyed ample success when riding for Norm Casse, winning 35% of their starts together since the beginning of 2022. Chilled (#10) has been working up a storm in the mornings, ripping off a four furlong bullet work on this course last week. She’s the first foal to race for the mare Snuck Out, but she does get Frosted as a sire that is hitting with 15% of his runners to race. On deeper tickets, I’ll include Tanya Showers (#11), who is a Runhappy first time starter for Chris Hartman. Her last two drills seemed to have more of a stamina focus as opposed to a speed drill. This barn does well with debuting runners, and the works are solid. The dam has had several foals to race, one of which was a debut winner.
On paper, Bandita (#5) looks awfully tough to beat in this N1X allowance race for fillies and mares, going a little farther than seven furlongs on the Beard Course here. She’s a Gun Runner filly that was very impressive this winter when she debuted at Gulfstream, drawing off by over eight lengths to break her maiden. She earned a flashy 91 Beyer Speed Figure for her effort, but she went to the sidelines shortly thereafter. Her dam won her debut race as a two year old on dirt and her only other career victory came on the grass. She’s sired by Gun Runner, so there is reason to believe that she could improve off that strong effort. On one hand, all four fillies that she finished in front of in that race have gone to break their maidens. However, none of them are standouts and all of them would be longshots in this field. I also worry about the distance, while coming back off the layoff, especially when facing a talented filly like Mariah’s Appeal (#6), who is my top pick in this spot. She was an impressive debut winner at the Fair Grounds this winter, breaking her maiden in a race on the Lecomte undercard. She nearly took a field gate to wire in the slop at Saratoga in an off the turf allowance race at one mile out of the Wilton Chute there, when making her first start in six months. She came back to finish a beaten third behind two very nice fillies on closing day at the Spa when going nine furlongs. Both of those fillies were better suited for the distance and both fillies were stakes placed going into that race. I think the cutback in distance and her recency gives her an edge over the favorite and some of others that are coming here off of a break. Tyler Gaffalione rides this course very well, winning another riding title here in the spring. He gets the call this afternoon for Phil Bauer.
This is a tricky optional $100K claiming/N1X allowance race for two year old fillies going six furlongs. There’s a lot of early speed in this race and a lot of horses that broke their maidens in gate to wire fashion. I’m going to spread with some longer prices in this race, making Kenwick (#6) the top pick. She’ll be competing on the main track for the first time, after a respectable try on turf on debut and a win on the Tapeta at Presque Isle in her second start. She’s sired by Bernardini out of a Street Sense mare who only raced twice in her career. Both of those efforts came on the main track. Street Sense ran okay on synthetics, but he ran his best races on dirt. This filly was visually impressive in her last start, breaking from the rail and waiting patiently in behind horses throughout the first half mile of the six furlong race. Gallardo opted to try to push through the rail and even though things got tight, she asserted herself and advanced willingly, drawing off to win by over two lengths. While she didn’t beat much that day, the filly that was second came back to easily beat the boys at Presque Isle in maiden allowance company. Flavien Prat taking the mount for Eoin Harty is a positive sign for me. Xtreme Smoke Show (#7) used her outside post to her advantage to break her maiden at Canterbury in August. McLean Robertson has good numbers with two year olds and she’s bred to get better with some added distance. She was a little green, but that felt like an educational outing for her. Gaffalione, who has several live mounts throughout the day, gets the call on this Frosted filly. Dorothy Crowfoot (#9) drops to allowance company after faltering in the Prairie Meadows Debutante Stakes at the end of August. Larry Rivelli is another barn that wins a ton of races, in part because his horses are typically well-spotted. I would have liked to have seen a little bit of a better effort from her last out, however, the filly that beat her, Kant Resist It, looks like a very nice sprinter. She’s from the first crop of the sire, Audible, and the first foal from an unraced Midnight Lute dam. She clearly looked the part when she sold for $500K at the OBS March Sale this year. I think we’ll see a bounce back effort from her here. I’;ll cover with the morning liner favorite, Done Enough (#4), who comes here off a monstrous maiden score in a sea of slop at Monmouth on closing day there last month. She’s from a talented first crop of the freshman sire, Flameaway. I think she’ll be overbet off that big effort, and the possibility of a bounce definitely exists. She could be an upgrade if the main track is less than fast, and she might just be faster than many of her rivals. Irad Ortiz takes the mount for Kent Sweezey, who is set to start his first runner here since he saddled Phat Man to a 6th place finish in the Lafayette Stakes back in 2020.
This is a strong conditioned allowance race for three year old fillies that have not won a graded stakes race on turf. They’ll travel 5 and ½ furlongs on the turf in the first leg of the $3 All-Turf Pick 3 (Races 5, 8, and 10). Both Sassy Nature (#6) and Stone Silent (#11) should take some money at the windows in this race, but I think if both fillies run, they’re going to make things difficult for each other. Both are one run horses that want to get out to the front end and take them as far as they can. I’ll put both on the C line as deep backups in case one misses the break or opts to concede the lead. I’d consider upgrading the other if one defects, however, I think if they both go, the most likely scenario is that they cancel each other out. The table should be set for L J’s Emma (#4), who was the winner of the Galway Stakes two starts back on a good course at Saratoga. There is a little rain in the forecast in the early hours, so I’m thinking the course might be on the softer side. She gobbled up ground late that afternoon to finish in front of both Stone Silent and Isabel Alexandra (#2). I think she’ll get a better set up today. She ran well here in the spring when making her first career start on the turf. She went on to win her next three starts, all at this 5 and ½ furlong distance, before having that streak snapped in a 6 and ½ furlong stakes race at Kentucky Downs. One angle that I like at this meet is betting back horses that may have struggled a bit at Kentucky Downs. That is a unique track and some of the distances and the style of racing don’t always suit some of the better turf horses in this country. I expect this filly to rebound nicely in this spot. Daring Do (#8) is one of two runners that Wesley Ward is sending out in this race, and his runners always merit attention in turf sprints at Keeneland. This Into Mischief filly cleared the N1X condition on this course at this distance in the spring. She went on to win the Pea Patch Stakes at Ellis in her last start in July. Ward opted to skip some of the Saratoga and Kentucky Downs races with her, which he often does. He has a bullseye on these Keeneland meets year in and year out. She might be able to get first run on the closers in this spot which could give her a tactical edge as well. Bling (#5) is a deep closer that may be wishing for a pace meltdown in this spot. While I don’t think this will be her best distance, she is likely going to get the right scenario with a lively pace to close into. She was a runner up in the Grade 3 Pucker Up two back at nine furlongs and she ran well to hit the board in the Grade 3 Music City at Kentucky Downs. She is getting better and if she’s overlooked in the wagering, she might be worth entertaining.
The second division of this maiden special weight race for two year old fillies features a filly with a big effort in her debut on the turf at Saratoga. Tammy Lynn (#9) ran very well to be second when going 5 and ½ furlongs on the lawn at the Spa on closing weekend. Albert Stall brings her here and curiously puts her on the dirt for her second career start. He’s had 13 horses in the last five years go from turf to dirt in their second career start, and two of them were winners. Neither of those runners ran very well on the grass at first asking though. He did have a runner follow a similar pattern last year. Mo Saturdays was very good when finishing second in a similar sprint race at Saratoga. Stall brought him here for a seven furlong maiden special weight race on the dirt where he finished 3rd behind Hit Show. There’s not a ton of horses jumping off the page in this heat, but I do think this filly is going to be too short of a price for me. I’ll include her on some deeper plays since her pedigree does appear to favor the main track, but I think there’s a few first time starters that are interesting at long odds on the morning line. Mark Casse sends out Easy Street (#11) for her career debut. She’s sired by one of the better first out sires in the game right now, Munnings. Her dam, City Sister, was sired by Carson City and she’s produced two first out winners. I think the six furlong trip on the dirt should suit her well and breaking near the outside is also a plus. Carolina Candy (#3) enters this race at 20-1 for John Ennis. Her full brother, Casa de Goat, was a 12 length winner on debut here last year. That one has yet to win again, but Brad Cox had him ready to go. Ennis doesn’t have the numbers that Cox does with firsters, so she’ll certainly be overlooked in the wagering. Her works at the Thoroughbred Training Center are solid enough to suggest that this filly can run a little bit. Makeup (#14) will need some help to draw in, but she ran well enough at first asking to think that she’ll improve in her second career start. Steve Asmussen has good numbers with second time starters and her dam was a winner of her first two career starts. The outside post would likely be a relief after being down on the inside for the better part of her debut. On deeper tickets, I’ll also include Circling (#8) for Graham Motion. He usually sends his better runners here from their Fair Hill base. The works are solid and like the top pick, she’s also sired by Munnings. The dam’s only other foal to race has finished in the money in five of six dirt sprints.
Race 7, The Grade 2 Stoll Keenon Ogden Phoenix Stakes:
Five of the top six finishers from the 2022 running of this historic race are back this year, facing six fresh faces. Manny Wah (#2) upset the field when the pace absolutely collapsed in this race last year. He came back to finish 4th in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, but has been a nonfactor in his last four starts. There should be another aggressive pace in this year’s running, and I think that will set the table for Nakatomi (#8) to take home his first graded stakes victory. He’s probably a little bit better at 6 and ½ or 7 furlongs, however, his lone win at this distance came in stakes company on this course. He scored in the Bowman Mill Stakes in the slop as a two year old. He has three wins in four starts on this oval, with his only off the board finish came in a troubled trip effort when breaking near the inside in the Grade 3 Commonwealth Stakes in the spring. He comes in fresh for Wesley Ward and he should get the right kind of setup here. Sibelius (#3) was the upset winner of the Group 1 Dubai Golden Shaheen Stakes at Meydan in March. He came back to the States in June, and finished off the board in both the Aristides at Churchill and the Bing Crosby at Del Mar. Jeremiah O’Dwyer gave him a little more time off and he brings him back to the site of one of his more forgettable efforts. He was not in this race last fall, finishing a disappointing 4th as the 8-5 favorite. Bango (#7) comes into this race as the 5-2 favorite. He’s a six year old gelding that is in the best form of his career for Greg Foley. He is a distance specialist, winning 9 of 16 career starts at this six furlong trip. He’s done most of his damage in his career at Churchill and while I don’t love his 0-2 record on this oval, he was not the same caliber of horse that is coming into this race today.
Race 8, The Grade 2 Jessamine Presented by Keeneland November:
I’m interested in a price in this race, which is a Win and You’re In contest for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf. I doubt we’re going to get 20-1 on Toupie (#5) when all is said and done, but I think this Uncle Mo filly has a decent chance this afternoon for Graham Motion. She was a dominating eight length winner in her debut on the main track at Laurel. Motion brought her to Colonial where she faced the boys in the Rosie’s Stakes. She faced a very nice turf sprinter, No Nay Mets that day, and she came within three lengths of him. Her dam was a nice filly that ran well in stakes company in her short career. She makes her third career start after pairing her Beyer figures in her first two starts. I think this is a logical spot for her to take a decent step forward, which is what she’s likely going to have to do to defeat the talented maiden winner, Time to Dazzle (#2) for Mark Casse. She was excellent when winning her first start at Woodbine a few weeks ago when going a one turn mile. She handled a course with a little give to it with ease. The two turns will be the question that she’ll have to answer and some of her foes in this race have a few of those races under their belts. She’s the morning line favorite and the one to beat in this race, but she’s no shoo-in with this group. Crown Imperial (#4) has progressed nicely in her five career starts for John Ortiz. She’s the first foal to race from the mare Mi Fiori, who did most of her work sprinting on the turf. Her lone two turn try came on this course and it was not a good effort. She ran her best race to date when stretching out to 6 and ½ furlongs at Kentucky Downs. That and the fact that she’s sired by Classic Empire suggests to me that she could continue to progress when going longer distances. Smooth Waves (#1) is a runner that has no shortage of turf stamina influences in her pedigree, being sired by English Channel out of a Kitten’s Joy mare. She put it all together last out at Kentucky Downs after finishing 5th in her previous start at the Spa. That was a big effort that should provide some confidence moving forward for this filly.
Race 9, The Grade 1 Darley Alcibiades:
The signature race of the meet for two year old fillies is also a Win and You’re In race for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies. While there are some very promising maiden winners in this race, I’m not going to get cute here. I think both V V’s Dream (#5) and Brightwork (#8) are two very impressive fillies that figure to be a handful in this race. They hooked up in July in the Debutante Stakes at Ellis with the undefeated Brightwork getting the narrow victory. Brightwork would go on to win the Adirondack with ease in August and then beat the highly touted Ways and Means in a dogfight in the Grade 1 Spinaway. V V’s Dream sat out the Saratoga meet and returned in the Grade 3 Pocahontas at Churchill last month, where she put on a show, drawing off to win by an easy 8+ lengths. Ken McPeek is looking for his 6th career win in this race, and I think she might have a narrow edge on the stretch out, while having inside position on her rival. Brightwork is unblemished, winning in each of her four starts. She can win in multiple ways and has been handled confidently by Irad Ortiz in her last two starts. She is more accomplished than any other runner in this field and looks like a major player in this spot.
I like Beuys (#5) quite a bit in the nightcap, which is a N2X allowance race for three year olds and up, going one mile on the turf course. He appeared in the US after racing in France for the first four starts in his career. He came to Chad Brown’s barn where he struggled on the very firm going at Gulfstream, when facing some respectable fields. He was transferred to Brendan Walsh who brought him to Saratoga where he just missed at the N1X level in a very contentious race on the Whitney undercard. He came back in an optional claiming/N2X allowance race at Kentucky Downs where he was a decisive winner when going seven furlongs. It’s worth noting that he was eligible for the N1X condition at Saratoga, but not at Kentucky Downs due to the differences in the way they write those races. He remains eligible for the N2X condition here, facing some of the other runners that he beat last month. He’s a much better horse on a course where the ground has some give to it, so I think he’s going to be quite comfortable with this group today. I think Underdressed(#2) is a live longshot in this race, reuniting with Orlando Mojica today. He had a strong summer at Horseshoe Indianapolis, coming within a nose of winning the JB Schuster Memorial Stake there. He shipped to Ellis where he drew poorly in the Kentucky Downs Turf Mile Prevue Stakes, where he lost a decent amount of ground on both turns that day. He rebounded nicely to finish third behind both Beuys and Chasing the Crown (#9) at this level last month at Kentucky Downs. There’s not a ton of early speed signed on for this race and Mojica has ridden him aggressively in the past. Couple that with his inside draw and he may find himself on the right side of a slower early pace. This distance is where he does his best work and he’s proven that he can hang with some of the better runners in this field. At 12-1 or better, I think he’;s definitely worth including on a variety of tickets. Chasing the Crown is a tricky read for me in the multi-race wagers. On one hand, he always shows up, which makes him a logical horse to use in the vertical exotics. However, he’s only won twice, with both of those races coming at Churchill. Both of those efforts were open length victories whereas his losses elsewhere have been narrow defeats. Beuys was just a little better last time out and my concern for him at this level is that there are going to be some horses that might often be just a little bit better than him on a given day, especially when he’s racing outside of Louisville. I’ll use him, but most of my money on him will come underneath in the vertical exotics. Golden Alchemist (#10) is the morning line favorite for Chad Brown. He was third in a salty race at this distance and condition at Kentucky Downs. Kentucky Ghost and Fort Washington, both runners that finished in front of him that day, are stakes quality runners, so his effort that day certainly holds up. I think between his post and his connections, he’s going to be a shorter price than what his fair market value should be. Another concern for me is how he’ll respond if the course comes up good or yielding today. He’s only competed on firm turf with his best efforts coming on some very hard and fast courses. He’s more of a backup for me in this race.
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.