After a one year hiatus, the Keeneland Spring Meet is back to provide racing fans 15 days of some of the best thoroughbred racing in the country. The opening day card offers three stakes races for three year olds, two on the turf, and a dirt sprint for fillies. For the first time that I’ve seen in 2021, two year olds get to compete today. The maiden special weight race carded for two year old fillies at 4 and ½ Furlongs on the main track oversubscribed and was split into two divisions, going off as Races 1 and 3.
Race 1: Top Pick: 3
The first race of the meet gives us the first glimpse of horses that were foaled in 2019. Wesley Ward is represented with Dream Fly (2) who looks live, like just about all of his two year olds do. However, I’m going to look for a bit of value with the horse directly to her outside in Bohemian Frost (3). She has two speedy drills, including a 46:2, four furlong bullet here on 3/21. Frosted keeps producing solid runners as a sire, and I’m thinking that James Graham, coming off the leading riding title at the Fair Grounds, will be aggressive early with this one. Dream Fly is by American Pharoah out of an Afleet Alex mare, so there’s some stamina and precocity on both sides of the family. She, too, has been working well in the AM and should definitely be included on any Pick-5 ticket that you’re playing. A price to think about on deeper tickets is Iggy Bigs (7). She’s 20-1 on the morning line, Her trainer, Elise Kendall, doesn’t send out many horses, but she did well with her four dirt starters last year, winning three of those four starts. Her works are okay and she does have some precocity in her bloodlines, being sired by Run Away and Hide (sired by City Zip). Colby Hernandez taking the mount is a plus for me, as he was riding very well at the end of the Fair Grounds meet. I’d use her on deeper horizontal tickets and try her underneath the in the vertical exotics.
Race 2: Top Pick: 4
The second half of the early daily double also kicks off the meet’s first Pick 4 opportunity. Older fillies and mares run in this optional $62,500 claiming/N2X allowance contest. Three of the six in here, Jeannie’s Beepbeep (1), Cause I’m Edgy (5), and Rising Seas (6) want to go early, but I’m not sure any from that trio really want to go the 6 and ½ Furlong distance of this race. Morning line favorite Aunt Nadine (2) is the one to beat here. She was very good here in an off the turf sprint in October, clearing the N1X condition. She followed that up with a strong effort at this level on the turf at Aqueduct, but her last two, one dirt and the other on turf in South Florida, were not her best. If she runs back to her 10/23 race, she should win this. I’ll use her as one of the two A horses in here, but I’m going to take a swing and make 20-1 longshot, Coldwater (4) my top pick. Her last dirt race was in November and I thought it was a strong effort to lose in a photo with $50K multi-conditioned claimers at Churchill. Since then, she’s started four times at Turfway, with strong efforts in her first two efforts, and some dull tries in her last two. She was forwardly placed in a sprint at this level last time out, which was unusual for her. She faded late to be 4th by 4+ lengths, but I think she gets a better set up today. She runs her best races coming from off the pace, and many of the horses here might be pushing it to try to get the 6 and ½ Furlongs. Se reunites with Adam Beschizza, who last rode her in the aforementioned dirt race at Churchill. I think she’s live at a price here, especially in a Pick-5 sequence that could be very chalky in some of the other legs. Remanded (3) is one I’ll use on deeper tickets, making her first start since August when she cleared her first level allowance condition at Ellis. She likes to press the pace, but she’s struggled to close when the pace in front of her is quick. However, the two races where she struggled, she was beaten by future stakes winners, Mundaye Call and Sconsin (both of who have entered in tomorrow’s Grade 1 Madison). I have mixed feelings about this one.
Race 3: Top Pick: 8
The second division of the maiden special weight for two year old fillies is a little more interesting than the first. Adding to the intrigue is that four of the nine entered are sired by first crop stallions; American Bound (2) sired by American Freedom, Royal County (4) and Marlin Quay (5) sired by Klimt, and Opalia (1A) sired by Mastery. Of those three sires, I think the horses sired by Klimt, have the best chance to excel in these early two year old races. I think Royal County is worth a look in this race after a 46:4 blowout four Furlong workout on 3/21. If the Ellis runner in the first runs well, I’d think this one would be worth a look as well, as they’re morning drills aren’t that different. Marlin Quay also may be worth a price stab on deeper tickets and underneath, as his trainer, Jason MuCutchen, has had success with limited first time starters over the last two years. Her works don’t seem as quick as some of the others, but if she looks fit in the paddock and on the track, she’d be worth a stab. My top pick is the logical choice, Magniloquent (8) from the Wesley Ward barn. I like the outside draw for her in this race, as there’s less chance for trouble. We know Ward wins a ton of these races year in and year out at Keeneland, and unless you’re seeing major red flags from his horses before the race, it’s safe to assume they’re live. Brad Cox sends out a two year old filly that clearly has moved to the front of his current crop of two year olds in terms of race readiness in Midnight Pass (6). She looks like she’s done everything the right way in the morning thus far, and should be live in this spot as well.
Race 4: Top Pick: 4
I’ve been eagerly awaiting the encore performance from Carribean Caper (4) after she demolished a solid field of maiden special weight foes in her debut on the Risen Star card at the Fair Grounds. She broke well and kept finding that day, earning impressive speed figures in the process. Stall takes the conservative approach and sends her in this optional claiming/N1X allowance, instead of the Beaumont later on in the card. She has three solid works in New Orleans before shipping here for this start. I’m expecting another strong outing from here today, especially if she can rate off the early pace. I’m expecting an honest pace duel from Tiz Splendid News (5) and Beautiful Memories (6) as both certainly could be live in their seasonal debuts. Tiz Splendid News won at second asking on this course in an off the turf allowance race. She was beaten by Oliviaofthedesert in her next two tries, including a stakes race at Remington where she got caught in the final strides. Beautiful Memories debuted in May looking like she could be the next star from the Mark Casse barn. Her next two starts at Saratoga were disasters though, both ending up with her finishing in a walk. She was been working well in preparation for her return. She could be any kind, but I’d be on the lookout for clues in the paddock and while warming up. I don’t love that they could cancel each other out in here though, so I’ll cover with them, but stick with Carribean Caper as my primary choice. Alexandria (2) is one I’d also cover with in the event of a pace meltdown. She’s been dominant with Ohio breds, but she has struggled in her two starts in open company. She adds Lasix and could be dangerous if Corrales can get her to relax behind the speed.
Race 5: Top Pick: 1 (8 if the 1A starts in favor of the 1)
When I think of wagering at Keeneland, races like this full N1X allowance on the grass are one of the things that come to mind. This race runs through Gear Jockey (1), who has never been off the board in seven career turf races. It took him nine tries to break his maiden, finally breaking through two starts ago, despite finishing third in the Grade 3 Bourbon and the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf in 2019. He flirted with trying to get to the Derby last year, before reverting back to turf. He’s coming off a monster effort in the Grade 3 Canadian Turf at Gulfstream. I’ll cautiously make him my top pick on class alone, but I am a little nervous that he often hits the board without winning. He’s owned by Calumet, who also entered King Snake (1A) with Leparoux named on both. Only one will go, and I wouldn’t be shocked if they scratched Gear Jockey here in favor of running him in the Makers 46 Mile next week, as Calumet always wants to be represented in the biggest races. If King Snake does go, I also like his chances with this group, but I’d need better than 2-1 odds, especially with him breaking from post 12. He was sharp at 1 Mile on New Year’s Day at Gulfstream, but has struggled a bit while running in sprints. I think he can be effective at the mile, but Leparoux will need to navigate a trip. Briefcase Bully (8) is one that could be rolling late at fair odds. He was sharp this fall, finishing a solid third (moved up to 2nd) in a maiden special weight at Kentucky Downs before breaking his maiden at Chruchill in an off the turf mile race. He struggled at the Fair Grounds, but ran a better race at Gulfstream last out, finishing 5th, but losing by less than 2 lengths. Falkirk (7) is another that’s worth using, especially if he can duplicate his effort here in October at this level. He’s been freshened up a bit after a respectable 4th place finish in January at Gulfstream, seemingly targeting a race like this here. On deeper tickets, I’d gamble that La La Land (4) will improve while getting back on the turf after two average efforts on the Tapeta surface at Turfway. He had two and a half years away from racing before resurfacing in January. In 2018, he had four nice turf efforts at Santa Anita. He’s now third off that lengthy layoff and getting back to turf, where he’s run his best races. I have no idea if he can get back to that better form that he showed as a three year old, however, I would think that if he is to start getting back to that level, it would be now or never. I’d like to get better than the 10-1 morning line, and if I do, I’d play a few dollars on him to win and cover with him on the deeper tickets.
Race 6: Top Pick: 5
We have another full field, this one an overflow maiden special weight for three year old fillies at 6 and ½ Furlongs. Alydiva (5) debuted in a full field last month at Turfway, where she settled midpack, and made a move along the rail before flattening out behind a well meant debut winner. She has been based at Turfway, working out over the Tapeta, but she’s sired by Quality Road, so I would think dirt should not be an issue. I’m expecting her to improve in her second career try today. As a Pennsylvania guy, I’m interested to see the Todd Beattie trained, Stand By You (2) make her debut today. She’s worked well at Penn National, and she wouldn’t be making the trip if Beattie didn’t think she was a runner. He brought Taris here in 2014 to win the Raven Run by many lengths. Beattie also trained the 2020 G3 Vagrancy winner Victim of Love, for the same owners, Tommy Town Thoroughbreds, along with multiple graded stakes winner, Fabulous Strike. Joel Rosario has picked up the mount, so there are many positive signs for this one on debut. Front Street (13) will need some help to get into the body of the field, but she is dangerous returning to Keeneland. She faded while dueling with a salty group at Gulfstream last out, beaten by Pass The Champagne, who starts in the Ashland tomorrow. She’s drawn well for her front running style. Shoshoni Moon (3) debuted at Oaklawn on Rebel Day three weeks ago, finishing second, while taking some money at the windows. She continues to work quickly in the AM for trainer Stephen Lyster. She’ll likely benefit if Front Street does not draw in, as she, too, appears to want to be part of the early pace scene here. On deeper tickets, a longshot to keep your eye on is Distorted Verve (8), making her first start since debuting at Churchill on Kentucky Oaks Day last year. She’s a half to Verve’s Tale and Tale of Verve, both of whom have raced well on this track. She ran evenly in her debut and went on the shelf until now. She may need another race before being competitive at this level, however, the Dallas Stewart barn is red hot to start 2021, winning 24% of their races thus far.
Race 7: The Palisades Turf Sprint, Top Pick: 7
The first stakes contest of the meet is for three year olds going the usual 5 and ½ furlongs on the turf here. We knew Wesley Ward would be represented, but I think many people were hoping to see the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint winner, Golden Pal, in this spot. However, that one had a minor issue, so Ward sends out both Chasing Artie (3) for the Ramsey’s and Fauci (8) making his seasonal debut for Lindy Farms and Ice Wine Stable. Chasing Artie is cross entered in a starter allowance on the dirt on tomorrow’s card, however, I would expect him to start in this spot, as it’s been a personal goal of the Ramsey’s to have a winner at Royal Ascot. I think a win in this spot, would get this homebred son of We Miss Artie (out of a Kitten’s Joy mare) one step closer to that goal. I think both horses, if they both start are live in this spot, however I’m looking to try to beat them with two price horses. I’m making my top pick Unitedandresolute (7) getting back on grass for Tom Amoss and James Graham. He broke his maiden in his 8th career try two starts back in an off the turf maiden special weight. In fact, Amoss has been trying to get him in a turf sprint for the last three starts in New Orleans, however, all three of them were rained off the turf. He’s been more forwardly placed in his dirt races, but he’s shown the ability to come from off the pace and be effective in his two turf tries here on debut in July and at Kentucky Downs in September. I think there is the potential for several to be getting tired late in this spot, and I think he’s capable of running them down., I also feel Lookin for Loki (1) is live while returning to a sprint after failing to stay on at two turns in stakes company at the Fair Grounds. His three turf sprints have been very good, especially his win on 1/18 three starts back. He should be more fit for this race cutting back to the sprint. Murrill will have to navigate a trip from the rail, perhaps just perched off the front runners, but I’m expect him to fire if he gets a decent trip. Chasing Artie showed up in a $15K maiden claiming contest at Turfway two back, flying under the radar. He had a huge a lead that day and faded late. He returned to maiden special weight company at Gulfstream in his next start, and handily defeated that field going 5 Furlongs in his turf debut. I like both of his efforts this season and I believe he can move forward off his last. Fauci put together a solid two year old campaign with three second place finishes and one win. He was second twice in stakes company, beaten by Golden Pal and Outadore. His lone won came on this course in July. Ward always has his horses ready off the layoff if, the question is if he’s good enough right now.
Race 8: The Grade 3 Beaumont Presented by Keeneland Select, Top Pick: 3
While this race does offer a few points towards the Kentucky Oaks, I’m not sure any of these fillies have serious ambitions of making that race. However, there are some talented three year old filly sprinters going about 7 Furlongs on the Beard Course here. Slumber Party (2), coming off a monster maiden score at Gulfstream, is the 2-1 morning line favorite, However, I think this race runs through Farsighted (3), breaking in the stall next door. She ran on late in her debut to get up for 4th before impressively breaking her maiden here in the fall in her next try. She came back to run a solid 2nd in the Songbird Stakes on the Breeders’ Cup undercard, when she was beaten by next out stakes winner, Joy’s Rocket. She wanted no part of the two turns in the Golden Rod to end her two year old campaign. She made her three year old debut with an impressive win in the slop in the Any Limit at Gulfstream. She is proven on this track and her pedigree suggests that the seven furlongs should not be an issue. I would be very happy to get 4-1 (ML) on her, but I’m not sure that’s a reality. I will key her on most tickets, using a few horses as savers on deeper tickets. Slumber Party is one of them. She beat a quality group handily in her debut. The runner up, Pass The Champagne, broke her maiden in her subsequent start and has been entered in the Ashland tomorrow. I don’t love the fact that she’s been away since 1/24 for this this effort though. Twenty Carat (7) finished first in both her maiden races, despite being disqualified in her debut. She has been working well for Ward on the track, despite only having started on Tapeta. If her odds float over 4-1, I think she’s worth playing, but as second choice, I don’t think there’s a ton of value as she’s never gone this far before and never raced on a dirt track. Amalfi Princess (4) may be the most likely to benefit from a pace meltdown. She is second off the layoff and has run quality races on both dirt and turf. Slumber Party and Twenty Carat look like they want the lead. Farsighted is best when she is able to track the pace. If the tempo is too hot on the front end, she has proven to be effective on the grass coming from off the pace. She was more forwardly placed in her dirt efforts, but I think that was more of a result of the pace scenario and distance.
Race 9: The Grade 3 Kentucky Utilities Transylvania, Top Pick: 6
Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner, Fire At Will (4) is back on the grass after a failed experiment on the dirt in the Fountain of Youth last out. As a two year old, he won the Pilgrim at Belmont when he was allowed to set a laughably slow pace that day. As a result, he was overlooked in the Breeders’ Cup and blew up the tote board at 30-1 after Ricardo Santana gave him a brilliant ride on this course in a full field. Tyler Gaffalione takes over today, who rode him on debut at Saratoga. He’s very logical, but he’s likely going to be a short price. I’ll look for value with Earls Rock (6) shipping in from Southern California for Phil D’Amato. I tend to try to beat turf horses shipping in from SoCal as the turf courses there are totally different than what they’ll be racing on at here. However, he debuted in Ireland on a soft turf, and ran very well that day. He joined the D’Amato barn and won impressively in maiden special weight company going one mile and followed that effort up with a stakes win at 6 and ½ Furlongs. The 1 mile and 1/16 distance shouldn’t be a problem as he looks like a horse that can run on anything. Scarlett Sky (1) is the one that I’m trying to beat here. His three best figures have all come of very firm and quick courses. His form on the fall courses in New York that are naturally a little softer, even when they’re labeled firm, wasn’t nearly as good. Annex, who narrowly defeated him in the Palm Beach last out, came back to win again in stakes company on Florida Derby Day, so you know he’s been keeping good company. He’ll likely be a short price though, and he has to prove that he can compete at a high level on a course that’s a little softer. Palazzi (2) is one that may be worth including on deeper tickets. He was flying late to get up in the shadow of the wire in stakes company at Sam Houston two starts back. He had a tougher trip in the Black Gold, and didn’t run his best race. He was purchased for $510,000, so there are expectations that he can run. Chris Landeros gets the mount for the first time and I’m interested to see if he can improve off his last.
Race 10: Top Pick: 7
The nightcap today is a maiden special weight for three year old fillies, going 1 Mile and 1/16 on the main track. My strategy for this race is to try to beat the Chad Brown filly, Precipitate (9), who gets the worst of the post position draw for her first try at two turns. She’s had two decent starts in a row, against solid horses, and I think, like many of these, she’ll be better at two turns. However, I don’t think there’s value in betting her near or below her morning line odds of 3-1, as I think she’s more likely to finish second or third than win here. I’m interested in the two fillies that are coming out of the maiden special weight race at Gulfstream on 2/27. I’ll make Gigi B. (7) the top choice here after showing some early interest in her debut, before fading against a pretty salty bunch. Her pedigree suggests she’ll be a two turn runner and Brendan Walsh’s horses typically improve a lot in their second career starts. Her first local drill for this race last week was solid. Temper Mint Twist (3) is another horse that looks like she’ll improve at two turns. Shug has given her a good foundation with three sprints, and while she ran well, she seemed like she was chasing faster horses around the track. Rosario should be able ration her speed while securing good position from an inside draw. Second time starters Queen Bourbon (1) and Chione (8) are also worth a look in this race. Queen Bourbon debuted at two turns at Tampa last month and was a competitive second against a softer group. Wilkes could have kept her at Tampa and run her at the same condition last week where she would have likely been the heavy favorite, as the winner of that race finished about seven lengths behind her last time out. However, he opted to bring her here to a take a swing for a better purse and a more prestigious win. Chione ran into a buzzsaw in Euphoric last out at the Fair Grounds, and that one came back to beat winners with an equally impressive performance in her subsequent try. Cherie DeVaux has struggled to win with her horses that stretch out from sprints to routes, but this one definitely has potential and certainly could be overlooked in the wagering in what seems like a wide open affair to end the first day of the meet.
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