Keeneland Racing Preview – 4/19/23 – By Eric Solomon

Racing picks up again as we hit the halfway point of the spring meet this afternoon. Two year olds will get the day started, featuring the first horses to run from the freshman crop of Catalina Cruiser, Coal Front, and Mitole. The featured race this afternoon is a N1X allowance at 12 furlongs on the turf in Race 6. The first post today is 1:00 (ET). 


I’ll typically be covering the Late Pick-5 sequence from 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 Wagering Menu
1 11 11 9 2,6 PK5, PK3, DBL
2 1 1 6,7 PK4, PK3, DBL
3 7 1,7,10 3,9 PK6, PK3, DBL
4 6 6,8 7,9 PK5, PK3, DBL,

All-Turf PK3

5 7 2,7 PK4, PK3, DBL
6 10 10 11 PK3, DBL
7 1 1,6 3 DBL
8 2 2 8



Early Daily Double (Races 1 and 2):

Daily doubles can be fun wagers for horseplayers of all experience levels. The idea is to pick the winner of back to back races and most North American tracks typically offer rolling daily doubles, meaning that they’re available to play in every race but the last race of the day. I think the first daily double is an interesting option today, as I do have a stronger opinion on a horse in both races. 


The first race is a maiden special weight race for two year old fillies going 4 and ½ furlongs on the main track. Wesley Ward has won a 43% clip with his first time starters at Keeneland over the last five years, with those runners finishing in the money 72% of the time. He sends out a pair of runners in this race, Baraya (#6) and Late Mite Mistress (#11). I like Late Nite Mistress better in this race, as she’s the first foal from the talented mare, Late Nite Pow Wow. That mare was an excellent West Virginia bred who won her debut by open lengths. She would go on to win 12 of 15 career starts. Pairing her with Into Mischief figures to be a hit. Baraya is certainly well-meant, but her pedigree suggests that she might prefer the turf. She’s the slight favorite on the morning line, so  I don’t think the price on my choice will be too low. 


In the second race, Tyler Gaffalione rides Call of Honor (#1) in an open $12,500 claiming race. He was an open lengths winner in his lone start on this oval. Something clearly was amiss in his last start when he misfired in allowance company at Mahoning Valley. Thomas Van Berg brings him back for his first start since the end of October. He has some decent early foot and rail position, so I think he’s a threat to wire this field. 


I’ll start the day with a $10 Daily Double 11/1 in the first race of the day.


Late Pick-5 Analysis:

Race 4:

This sequence will be bookended by a maiden special weight at one mile for the turf for three year old fillies. This race oversubscribed with 32 horses passing the entry box. This race was split into two divisions (Race 8 being the second division) with 12 runners and 4 also-eligibles in both heats. I think Fancy Caber Neight (#6)is a threat to take this field gate to wire in her first try on the turf. Joel Rosario is going to ride this filly for the first time for Joe Sharp today. She ran well enough in both career races on synthetic at Turfway over the winter. She’s sired by Mendelssohn, winner of the 2017 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf. Her dam was also a stakes winner on the lawn, so I do see her moving up on grass for the first time. Make The Boys Wink (#8) ships in from Gulfstream for Brendan Walsh. She steadied off the heels of the Chad Brown first time starter, Preliminary, who ended up getting the best of her last time out, while on the first turn. She waited patiently as a hot pace developed in front of her. She came with a wide move, but was clearly second best. She’s improved in all three starts and should be finishing well again here. Chad Brown will try to get the better of her again with Up and Down (#7), making her second career start and her first since a 4th place finish in her debut at Saratoga this past summer. She was a beat slow from the gate, but she finished well to get into 4th. That fact that she went off at 11-1 in her debut tells me that she wasn’t one of the highly regarded runners from Brown’s barn this summer. I think she’ll prefer two turns, but 7-2 feels kind of light for my liking on this one. Just Say So (#9) has met some well-meant horses in her last two tries. She looked more comfortable going two turns on the turf for the first time back in January in New Orleans. She’s bred to love this distance so I think she’ll move forward some from her last try.


Race 5:

There’s eight runners in this conditioned $50K claiming race, and this will be the first of three straight races where I’m siding against the morning line favorite. Invisible War (#1) feels more like an underneath horse as opposed to an “on top” play. I’m going to try to escape this race, using only two runners. I see Longshadow (#7) as the one to beat in this race. He made his first start of the year for Kelsey Danner at Tampa last month, finishing 4th behind a next out winner. He has only two other starts on the dirt, and both were solid. He crushed a maiden field on debut at Delaware and he was a game third at Colonial when closing from off the pace when going six furlongs. I think this distance suits him well and I think he’ll be able to build on his return effort. Raymond (#2) is the other runner that interests me today. I’m expecting that he’ll move forward in third start for Jason Barkley and his third start off the layoff. He’s sired by Into Mischief out of a Grade 2 winning mare. He was in good form for Steve Asmussen in the fall before going on the shelf. Barkley tried him at two turns in his first start off the layoff, which I found as a bit odd, seeing as how all of his prior efforts were one turn races. He ran better when returning to a sprint at Oaklawn, while facing a similar type of field. If he’s able to get back to those fall races,  he’s right there with this group.


Race 6:

The featured allowance is a 12 furlong turf marathon that should set up beautifully for Always Above (#10). He’s a deep closer that can run all day. He ran credible races against older horses at this distance as a three year old last year, including a respectable 7th place finish in the Colonial Cup Stakes. He was wide and may have moved a bit early at this level on this course back in October. There wasn’t much pace signed on that day, but I think there will be a more honest pace today. Both Evan Harlan (#3) and C Falls (#5)are horses that want to be loose on the lead, so unless one concedes the lead early, I think they’ll be pushing the tempo. The other pace wild-card is his stablemate, Mount Rundle (#9), who likes to be forwardly placed. John Velasquez is set to ride this horse who shares common owners as the top pick. I don’t think he’s entered as a true rabbit, but I do think he’ll keep those runners honest, especially if one ends up not going to the front. All of this should play very well for my top pick, who is also my best bet of the day. Master of the Ring (#11) is my backup plan here. He handled 10 furlongs comfortably when finishing second last time at Turfway. Mike Maker took over back in January and has been gradually stretching this horse out. Knowing the way Maker targets races like this, I would think that this is a race that he was pointing toward at this meet. 


Race 7:

You don’t see a ton of $75K N2L claiming races, but we’ll have one here in this 1 mile and 1/16 contest. Both Chileno (#1) and Film Star (#2)(are dropping out of allowance company at Oaklawn. I’d argue that Chileno has been racing in the deeper fields, so getting 5-1 on the morning line on him as opposed to 5-2 on the Cox horse feels like significantly better value. He ran third in the Iowa Derby last summer after breaking his maiden in his 10th career try. He struggled in the St. Louis Derby where something may have gone wrong, as he was sidelined until February. He struggled in his return and was 7th against a salty field last out in allowance company. Barber Road was the runner up that day and he came back a winner here last weekend. I know Asmussen has struggled at this meet, still searching for his first trip to the Winner’s Circle. However, I think that may further boost his value in this spot. Group Hug (#6) is the other runner that will be on the A line for me. He returned from a layoff with a strong effort going two turns on the turf at Gulfstream last month. He was competitive in 2022 on the dirt, going one turn, and Maker has good numbers with runners in their second starts off layoffs. I’ll backup with the recent maiden break, Lil Bro Coop (#3). Chris Hartman has this one in good form, breaking his maiden in his 11th career try last out. Normally, that’s not something I’m too keen on, but it’s worth noting that the first nine races where he could only hit the board twice, all came on grass in Southern California. He was a different horse at Oaklawn on the main track though. This is a tougher field, so I have some trepidation at 3-1 odds. However, his last two races were good enough to keep me from eliminating him. 


Race 8:

We’re back on the grass for the nightcap and I think Callie’s Grit (#2) has a big shot in this spot. She makes her first start as a three year old after a pair of tries at two. She debuted in one of the more productive maiden special weight races at Saratoga this summer, finishing second. Be Your Best, who beat her, would go on to win the P.G. Johnson Stakes and both her and Free Look, who Callie’s Grit beat, would finish in the money in the Miss Grillo, and both competed in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Filly and Mare Turf. Callie’s Grit made her next start in stakes company on a soggy day at Kentucky Downs. She ran in a rainstorm on a yielding course that she never seemed to have a feel for. The races after hers were canceled due to storms that day, so that race feels like a total toss to me. She’s been working well for Joe Sharp, who has good numbers with horses coming off the bench. I see her as the one to beat. Frontal Attack (#8) is a first time starter for the always dangerous Chad Brown. Chad Brown trains her only other foal to race, and that one has yet to break his maiden in seven tries. Brown has a 22% strike rate over the last five years with first time starters routing on turf. However, that number drops to 12.5% (1-8) with his runners at Keeneland. I think 3-1 is too light, but I respect the connections enough to cover with her. 


One and Done Late Pick-5 Play, $48 Wager

I’ll go without a single on this ticket today, using only two runners in three of the five races in the sequence. I do like Always Above (#10, R6) and Callie’s Grit (#2, R8) quite a bit, so I’d likely use them as key runners on some backup tickets as well. 

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