Keeneland Racing Preview – 10/7/23 – By Eric Solomon

The frontloaded stakes schedule in this Fall Meet hits the apex with this 11 race program. There are five graded stakes races, three of which are Grade 1’s. Several of the races are Win and You’re In races for the Breeders’ Cup next month at Santa Anita. Do note the wagering menu today, as there are some slight tweaks with the loaded card today. There is also a Cross-Country Pick-6 featuring the some of the top tier races here and at Santa Anita. That kicks off in the 7th race here this afternoon and is in a separate listing on your ADW menu. 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 4 4,5 DBL, PK3, PK5
2 7 1,7,12 2,13 DBL, PK3, PK4
3 6 6 4 DBL, PK3
4 8 1,6,8 5 DBL, PK3
5 3 3,9 2,4 DBL, PK3, PK6
6 4 4,8,11 DBL, PK3, PK5,

All Turf PK3

7 1 1 6 DBL, PK3, PK4, Leg 1 KEE/SA BC PK6
8 3 3 1,2 DBL, PK3, PK4
9 9 9 1,5 2,3 DBL, PK3
10 9 1,9 DBL
11 4 4,5,12,14


Race 1:

I think the public is going to look at the first two races for A La Carte (#6) and likely hammer him in the wagering in this $40K N2L claiming race, which is understandable. His two races at Gulfstream over the winner were a very impressive way to start off his career. The trouble is that he’s been unable to run back to those prime efforts. Even though he’s a five year old gelding, I’d think they would not have him for sale if they thought the horse that ran the 96 Beyer figure is coming back. As a result, I’ll try to key in with both Captain Jack (#4) and Debate (#5), giving the narrow advantage to the Captain. He makes his third start off the layoff today while dropping in class. He faced starter allowance foes in his last two starts, finishing off the board both times. He ran well here in the spring, just missing in starter allowance company. Seven pound apprentice Yoel Navas has ridden this horse well in the past and he’ll get the return call today. Debate breaks in the stall next door. He’s also dropping in class after a 5th place finish against a solid bunch of $75K N2L claimers at Churchill last month. He was making his first start off the layoff that day, so there’s reason to believe that he’ll be more fit for this effort this afternoon. 


Race 2:

The early double ends with a wide open maiden special weight race for two year olds going six furlongs. I landed on a second time for Bret Calhoun, Honky Tonk Highway (#7)as the top pick. He finished second in his debut against the talented Alder at Ellis last out. We’ll see that one later on today in the Grade 1 Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity. His sire, City of Light, has won with 18% of his dirt sprinters early on in his stud career. He’s the first foal to run from an unraced Distorted Humor mare. This barn does well with second time starters, so that experience could prove valuable in a wide open race. Perfect Prankster (#12) draws the outside stall for Eoin Harty for his debut. He’s been working well on the Tapeta at Turfway in the mornings. His full brother was a winner in his third career start, but his dam was a dominating winner in her debut at Del mar back in 2016. Linzer (#1) paired his Beyers in his first two starts and looks like he could be a threat in this race if he can navigate the rail in a full field. He did break from the rail in a seven furlong race last time out at Colonial. I like the cutback in distance and he has siblings that have had some success. Bergen (#13) is a Liam’s Map colt for Brad Cox that is going to need a defection to draw into the body of this field. However, if he does compete in this race, he’s going to be worth using on your tickets. He’s a half to Chi Town Lady, who won her debut here at two and went on to win the Grade 1 Test at Saratoga as a three year old. I’ll also cover with Surf City (#2) making his debut for Victoria Oliver. I think this one might have a brighter future on the grass, however, he drilled a four furlong work in 46:3 about 10 days ago on this oval. Saez taking the mount won’t hurt either. 


Race 3:

I think Three Polks (#6) has a big shot in this maiden special weight for fillies and mares, three and up. He makes his second start for John Ortiz, going turf to dirt after a solid debut sprinting at Churchill. She’s a half to Benbang, who is a stakes winner on turf, but she also has a pair of wins on dirt. Her trainer John Ortiz has debuted a horse on turf and then moved them to dirt in the second start eight times in the last five years. Three of those horses were winners and another one finished second from that lot. Ricardo Santana has won 21% of the time when teaming up with Ortiz over the last two years. The backup for me is Take Time to Dream (#4). Robert Falcone is showing a lot of confidence in this third time starter, shipping her here as opposed to staying put in New York. Johnny V. had a monster Opening Day, winning three times on the afternoon. She definitely improved in her second start when getting on a fast track. She  came up empty in the mud at the Spa in her first try. I think the top pick has more upside, but if she doesn’t take to the dirt, this would be where I would land. 


Race 4:

I think this is an evenly matched N2X allowance race for fillies and mares going 1 mile and 1/16 on the turf. The course was labeled good yesterday, but the times were fairly fast, suggesting they didn’t get as much rain on Thursday as initially forecasted. Kentucky Downs runners fared well winning two of the three races on the turf yesterday, and I think Zawish (#8) is an interesting possibility to be their third winner of the young meet. She’s still looking for her first turf victory, and she hasn’t won a race since her second career start in December of 2021 at Turfway. She was on the sidelines from July of 2022 until May of 2023 though. She had another pause after that and returned last month at Kentucky Downs. She drew post 12 and was a little keen going to the front. She stayed on well to finish third that afternoon. I think that will serve as a good fitness builder for this race, where I expect her to be in the front half of the field in the early going. Quality Star (#6) finished a length and a half behind Zawish in that race last time out. She likes the local oval, winning twice in three career start here. She was impressive when clearing the N1X condition here in the spring. Like Zawish, she was on the sidelines for most of the summer before returning last month. She’s another candidate to move forward off that race. Willakia (#1) was the beaten favorite in the All Along Stakes last month at Pimlico when Full Count Felicia ran off the screen. She was very good two back when clearing the N1X condition in gate to wire fashion. However, she broke her maiden here while coming from the back of the pack. I find that versatility appealing, especially in a wide open race. The morning line favorite is Saffron Moon (#5) for Chad Brown. She was a bit of a surprise in the spring of 2022 when she ran away to win by eight lengths in maiden breaking effort in her first start on turf. She has only started twice since though, clearing the N1X condition at Tampa on Christmas Eve and finishing 4th at this level at the Spa in August. She struggled to find her best stride in a short field that day. I do think she’ll be over bet in this spot, but I respect the connections too much to ignore her. 


Race 5:

This optional $100K/N1X allowance race for two year olds might give us a glimpse into the 9th race, which is the G1 Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity. Valentine Candy (#4) comes out of that race, which was an abnormally slow running of what appeared to be a loaded Grade 1 Hopeful field last month. He finished 9th, beaten 10 lengths in that race. Timberlake, Baytown Chatterbox, and Just Steel all finished in front of him in that race and all three are entered in the stakes race today. A strong effort from Valentine’s Candy, who was very good when breaking his maiden in July at the Spa, could be a reason to upgrade their respective efforts in that race. If he’s flat once again, it would lead me to believe that the slow time was not as much an aberration as it looks to be on paper.  He was absolutely empty after getting jostled around at the break, which likely led to him losing valuable early position. I’m not convinced we’re going to see him run back to his debut, however, the class relief should be welcomed. I’ll use him on the B line in this race. The top pick for me in this race is the morning line favorite, Alder (#3). He was the most visually impressive maiden breaking in the bunch. He sat off of a solid pace and exploded by the frontrunners, drawing away to win by 6+ lengths. There’s rarely great value available when betting Brad Cox runners these days, however he appears best suited to take on this group. Haul (#9) may be one of the longer priced runners that I can get involved at this level. He was professional while breaking his maiden two back, but he ran into a buzzsaw in the Saratoga Special when Rhyme Schemes won that race for fun.  On deeper tickets, I’ll look for Baxley (#2), coming in from Illinois for Larry Rivelli. I don’t love the post, especially with early speed to his inside and . However, I did like his debut effort enough to make sure that I’ll be covered with him. 


Race 6, The G2 Woodford Stakes Presented by Fanduel: 

How you feel about the European invader, Live In The Dream (#2) will likely determine how you play this race. He’s shipping to the States after an upset score in the Group 1 Coolmore Wootton Bassett Nunthorpe Stakes at York in August. However, this is a trainer and rider that have little or no experience in North American racing. I don’t love the inside draw and I’m not convinced that he’s ready to duplicate that effort. I’ll try Wesley Ward’s three year old, Eye Witness (#4) on top. He was able to get involved late when facing straight three year olds in the Mahony Stakes in August. He didn’t have a great trip that day and he wasn’t free to run until the end. I liked the way he ran on, even when his path was impeded (which happened in two separate incidents). I don’t think we’re going to get the 20-1 morning line price, but I do think there will be value on this young sophomore. Beer Can Man (#11) ships back East after hitting the board in a pair of races at Del Mar. I can forgive his off the board finish in his local try. He;s been very good at five furlongs, but he’ll need to keep finding to get his picture taken. Our Shot (#8) has been right there in all six career turn sprint starts. He’s won three of six grasses on the grass, including a very strong performance in his lone start on this course.He’s been photoed out of the win his last two stakes tries. He’s one though be right in the thick of things. 


Race 7, The Grade 2 Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes:

The first leg of a new Cross-Country Pick-6 between Keeneland and Santa Anita, highlighting Win and You’re In races for the Breeders’ Cup kicks off with this six furlong sprint race for fillies and mares. If you’re willing to forgive the dull effort from Wicked Halo (#1) in the Open Mind Stakes last month, I think she’s the one to beat in this race. She had a six race streak on 90’s Beyer Speed Figures snapped that day. She broke near the inside and was in a tight spot down the backstretch where Tyler Gaffalione was forced to tap on the brakes. Even though it wasn’t a great trip, there really wasn’t a visible excuse for that effort. She wheels back for Asmussen, suggesting that she’s doing well in the morning and ready to get back at it. She ran two very good races on this course last fall, winning the Raven Run for fun and then running a strong third behind Goodnight Olive and Echo Zulu at long odds in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint. Seven furlongs might be her best distance, and she’ll get that if she does opt to travel to Santa Anita. Her stablemate, Echo Zulu, who would be 1-5 in this race, is likely pointing to the Breeders’ Cup Sprint. I don’t love the rail draw for her, so I’m hoping the Gaffalione can take advantage of the smaller field and get her off the rail and into a good striking position on the turf. If she is right, I think she turns the table on Yuugiri (#6). Yuugiri is the logical alternative to the top pick and the morning line favorite in this spot. She has turned into a six furlong specialist, winning all four starts this year on the dirt at that distance. Each of those races were won by open lengths, two of them on wet tracks. Her lone start here was disappointing, finishing a distant 5th behind Goodnight Olive in the Madison back in the spring. Perhaps the distance will be the equalizer for her, but I think on their best day, I’d prefer the top pick. 


Race 8, The Grade 1 First Lady Stakes Presented by UK Healthcare:

While I think this is Chad Brown’s race to lose, I think there are a few longshots that might decide which Chad Brown runner is going to find herself in the Winner’s Circle. In Italian (#3) is the heavy 4-5 favorite, coming off a narrow defeat in the Diana to her stablemate, Whitebeam (#2). There was absolutely no speed signed on in that race and In Italian her own way until Whitebeam engaged her on the turn, and they battled hard throughout the stretch. I think In Italian is better when she can actually go a little bit quicker in the early stages of that race. She was. Irad Ortiz might have been a shade too conservative in her attempt to repeat in that prestigious Grade 1 contest. I don’t think Joel Rosario will that issue with her today, but the tactics on Thisnameisokay (#6) and Evvie Jets (#8) might be what will decide this race. Both horses are proven frontrunners, albeit with lesser foes. Evvie Jets did also successfully switch tactics to score a big upset in the Ballston Spa last out. If either are sent hard to really push In Italian, I do think they could easily soften her up enough for either of her stablemates Whitebeam or Gina Romantica (#1) to make a run to catch her late. However, I suspect, both will put token pressure on her, thus allowing her to go a little faster in the early stages, and stay within her comfort zone. I think the one distance is her best trip and her effort here might decide if she tries the boys in the Breeders’ Cup Mile, as opposed to going the 10 furlongs of the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf this year. She’ll be a small price, but she’s definitely the one to beat. Whitebeam is the logical alternative, but I do wonder if the mile is just a shade short for her. Gina Romantica is the Brown horse that I’m most interesting in seeing if she’s capable of stepping up and being a player in the Grade 1 races at this stage of her career. She clearly likes this course, winning the QEII Cup last year. Her two races this season have not been great, but they’ve been in small fields where she hasn’t really had the best setups. This is her third race off the layoff so we should be seeing a step forward from her in this one. I’m not sure if it’s enough to beat In Italian, but if her odds float up into the 15-1 range, I wouldn’t mind taking a small shot with her, because I do think the course and the race flow should work more toward her benefit in this spot. 


Race 9, The Grade 1 Claiborne Breeders Futurity:

The signature race of the meet for two year olds was the race that Forte used last year to prep for his Breeders’ Cup Juvenile victory. Todd Pletcher is looking to go back to back in this race and get his 4th overall win with the morning line favorite, Locked (#9). He was a bit slow to get in stride when debuting in a strong maiden special weight on the Whitney undercard, a race that was won by Just Steel (#7). Locked closed well to get into third when racing near the back of the pack for the better part of that race. He handled the mile in his last start with ease, drawing off to win by 7+ lengths. I think that effort gives him a leg up on some of the other shorter prices in this race like Timberlake (#2) and Awesome Road (#3). He’s sired by Gun Runner out of a Malibu Moon mare, so he definitely feels like the kind of horse that will be better as the races get longer. I think he’s going to be tough to beat in this spot. West Saratoga (#5) has already proven to be a great bargain. Larry Demeritte gave him a good foundation in sprint races, but it wasn’t until the races started getting longer that we really saw what this horse is capable of. He was a strong maiden winner going one mile at Ellis and he backed up that effort with a win in the Grade 3 Iroquois going the one turn mile at Churchill. The Wine Steward (#1) is an interesting New York bred entrant for Mike Maker. He is undefeated in three starts, improving each time. He won his debut with state bred maidens, but he did beat open company in the Bashford Manor at Ellis in July. Maker opted to run him in the Funny Cide against fellow Empire Breds last out where he battled to a hard fought victory. He’s sired by Breeders’ Cup Classic winner, Vino Rosso, so there’s reason to believe that he can get the distance and the rail trip should be advantageous. I’ll use both Timberlake and Awesome Road as backups on deeper tickets. Timberlake ran better than his speed figure indicates in the Hopeful last out. He was in tight in a few spigots in that race, but he did show some grit, battling on to be second behind big longshot Nutella Fella. Awesome Road ran huge in his debut for Brad Cox. He cost $600K and should be able to handle the distance without an issue. His siblings haven’t been as successful as one would have hoped though and this is a deep field this year.


Race 10, The Grade 1 Coolmore Turf Mile: 

The final stakes race of the afternoon is a good one that will certainly set up some of these runners nicely for the Breeders’ Cup Mile next month. On paper, this race figures to be a showdown between Master of the Seas (#1) for Charles Appleby and Up to the Mark (#5)for Todd Pletcher. Both runners are coming here off impressive Grade 1 victories with Master of the Seas dominating the Woodbine Mile and Up to the Mark easily winning the Manhattan in June. Of this duo, I think Master of the Seas is the one to beat. He was exceptional last month, powering home in the long stretch at Woodbine, drawing well clear of Shirl’s Speight. However, he draws the rail in this race and gets the services of James Doyle as opposed to William Buick, who rode him last month (Buick is riding in New York today). The two turn mile is going to be a question that he’ll have to answer here as well. He’s won at two turns in the past, but he hasn’t had the same burst that she showed last time when doing so. This is also a relatively quick turnaround by today’s standards after winning in such impressive fashion. He’s run back this quickly a few times in the past, and he’s failed to win in three of those four races. He’ll definitely be on my tickets, but I think at short odds, I’ll look to try to get a better win price home. I’ll side with the other Pletcher runner, Annapolis (#9) as the top pick today.  He was an impressive winner in this race last year when he was a three year old. That effort earned him a spot in the Breeders’ Cup Mile, where he had a rough trip from a wide post. He might not have had the campaign his connections hoped for this year, winning only the listed Opening Verse Stakes at Churchill on Derby Week. He was defeated twice by Casa Creed at the Spa in the Kelso and the Fourstardave. He had a rough trip last out in the Mint Millions at Kentucky Downs, where he finished 5th as the beaten favorite. Irad Ortiz opts to ride  at Aqueduct today and Jose Ortiz gets the call on Up to the Mark. I have no issues with Flavien Prat getting the call. At 6-1 or better, I think he represents the best value in the field. For me, I think Up to the Mark is one of those “tweener” horses that will do his best running between 9 and 10 furlongs. The Breeders’ Cup Turf is likely a little too far for him at this point in his career, but the Breeders’ Cup Mile might be a bit too short. He was third in the Makers Mark Mile behind Chez Pierre and Modern Games this spring. Perhaps he just ran into a buzzsaw that day and he might have developed into a better horse since that effort this spring. However, at shorter odds, I’ll side against him here, thinking that he’ll be a perfect fit in the Pegasus World Cup Turf this winter at Gulfstream. 


Race 11:

The nightcap on this loaded card is the second division of the maiden allowance, with identical conditions to the second race of the afternoon. There are definitely some more first time starters in this heat and more of them look well-meant compared to the first division. Pletcher and Ortiz look to be very tough in the Late Double as they will unveil Rapoport (#4) here. He’s a Constitution colt for WinStar that sold for $300K at the Keeneland September Sale. WinStar bred him so I like that they retained interest as owners for this one. He’s the first foal from the stakes winning dam Tiz Breathtaking. She won her debut at 4 and ½ furlongs and was a stakes winner sprinting and routing on the Tapeta at Woodbine in her two year old season. Constitution gets 18% winners from firsters in dirt sprints. Not This Time gets 20% winners in that category and he is the sire of Miyagi (#5), who has been working well for Wayne Catalano. He drilled at 46:2 bullet work on 9/30 in preparation for his debut. He’s the first foal to race from an unraced Shanghai Bobby mare. Catalano brings his best stock to these meets and Gaffalione taking the mount is a plus. Agoo (#14) will need help to participate, but his debut definitely makes him a contender in this spot. He just missed in a solid race at Churchill last month. I liked that he worked once since that race, so he should be ready to go if he can. Corso’s Pick (#12) has been based out here  for Doug O’Neill since the spring. He’s had a few gaps in his works, but he seems to pick up right where he left off with his training. The outside draw should be a plus for a barn that is certainly capable of getting first out winners.


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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