Keeneland Racing Preview – 4/22/23 – By Eric Solomon

The final Saturday of racing at the Fall Meet will offer a pair of graded stakes races to highlight the ten race card. The Grade 2 Elkhorn Stakes is a twelve furlong contest on the turf for older horses. The Grade 3 Ben Ali Stakes will see some of the runners look to establish themselves in the older handicap division, go 1 mile and 3/16 on the main track. Post time for the Saturday afternoon card 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 3 1,3 DBL, PK3, PK5
2 4 4 1 DBL, PK3, PK4
3 11 7,11 1,9 DBL, PK3
4 3 3 2 DBL, PK3
5 3 3 7 DBL, PK3, PK6

All-Turf PK3

6 6 6 4,5,7 1 DBL, PK3, PK5
7 4 4,7 DBL, PK3, PK4
8 7 2,5,7 DBL, PK3
9 5 4,5 1 DBL
10 8 8 5 6



Race in Focus – Race 2:

As a handicapper, do you ever break any of your own rules? One of the things I rarely do is take a short price on a horse that is trying a new thing. Even though she’s not the morning line favorite, I am going to try Deck of Cards (#4) on top in Race 2 today, which is a $50K N1X starter allowance race. She’s raced six times in her career with five of those starts coming on synthetic and Turfway and his debut coming on the turf at Kentucky Downs. Jonathan Wong, who has two winners already at this meet, claimed her in February, when she won her second straight start, and brings her here to try dirt for the first time. Wong has done very well claiming horses, and giving them a little rest before their next start. He is 7-21 (33%) with those kinds of horses over the last five years. He’s also 13-51 (25%) with runners switching to dirt from synthetic after he claimed them. I think there’s enough positive angles in this instance to consider using this one on top at her 2-1 ML or better. 


Longshot Alert – Race 3:

I see this as a race that is ripe for a longshot winner. I’m going to try Bluegrass Lute (#11, 20-1 ML) on top in this $30K maiden claimer. His two dirt sprints aren’t too far off the par for this race, and he’s making his third start of his current form cycle, so it’s conceivable that he could improve in this race, while also getting some class relief. He needs to make up about 3 and ½ lengths on Big Popper (#9), who is listed at 9-2 on the morning line. Draw a line through the one mile race at Los Alamitos and the turf race at Santa Anita. This will be his second start outside of Southern California. She’s a win candidate at 15-1 or higher for me. I’ll also recommend looking at a daily double starting in Race 2, using Deck of Cards on top.


The Plays: – $25 wager

Race 2: $5 Double 4/7-9-11

Race 3: $10 Win 11


Late Pick-5 Analysis:


Race 6: 

The Late Pick-5 starts off with a maiden special weight race going 6 and ½ furlongs on the main track. Several first time starters are entered in this spot today.  I see this as a race where I’ll want some coverage. I’ll make the second time starter, Billy Jack (#6), the pick here. He’s coming in from the Fair Grounds where he was upgraded to second after a rough run in the stretch. He’s a half to the runner-up in the 2016 Preakness, Cherry Wine, who also ran a very good third in the Blue Grass on this course. I think having the solid race he did under his belt, gives him the edge here. Moreau (#5) draws inside of the top pick for his first start. He’s been doing everything the right way in the mornings leading up to his debut. He’s one of a few first time starters that have a live look. Mr. Keating (#4) is by Carpe Diem, who hits with 11% of his first time starters. He’s out of an unraced dam for the Estate of Marylou Whitney. Norm Casse was able to book Irad Ortiz to ride him at first asking. Class Actor (#7) is the morning line favorite for Brad Cox, making his first start this afternoon. He was a $230K purchase at the Keeneland September Sale in 2021. He’s been working well in the AM and should be another live runner in this race. Cartographer (#1) might be a crazy longshot to include, in the event you have the budget. He’s worked well in the mornings, but and Violence the sire does very well at first asking. The dam, Frost Bite, struggled in her first few races for breaking through, If he is completely overlooked, he could be worth a chance in a deeper maiden field. 


Race 7: 

Socially Selective (#7) is the heavy favorite on the morning lion, while dropping in class to this N2L allowance race for three year old fillies going six furlongs. She was one of the more impressive maiden breakers at the Saratoga meet this past summer, dominating her heat by over seven lengths. She went to the sidelines for the rest of the year and recently at Oaklawn, when Bill Mott, in an uncharacteristically aggressive move, entered her in the Purple Martin Stakes off the layoff. She ran well that day to finish second to Key of Life, who came back to win the Grade 3 Beaumont Stakes here last weekend. She is clearly the one to beat, but at short odds, I’ll look to add a little value to the ticket by taking Wesley Ward’s Devious Stares (#4) on top. She debuted at Turfway as a five length winner after stalking the pace and drawing clear in the stretch. She’s never run on the dirt, but she is sired by Practical Joke out of an Elusive Quality mare, so I don’t have a ton of concerns about that. She’s the third choice on the morning line in a race where most of the attention is going to be on the Mott runner. If that one is tiring late, don’t be surprised to see this filly gaining ground in the stretch. 


Race 8, The Grade 2 Elkhorn Stakes:

In Maker we trust is usually a good strategy when wagering on these 12 furlong stakes races on the turf, and he has the primary contenders, Value Engineering (#2) and Red Knight (#5). Both are absolutely live, but I’m excited to see what kind of performance that is going to come out Howe Street (#7). He’s lightly raced, making only his 4th career start today. He’ll stretch out to 12 furlongs for the first time while also facing stake company for the first time. He was excellent when clearing the N1X condition in an 11 furlong race last month at Gulfstream. He put up a respectable speed figure while having plenty left in the tank. This is a logical next step for an exciting new face in this division. Value Engineering has been very sharp since be privately purchased by Mike Maker on behalf of Michael Hui and Phil Forte. He was last seen winning the Grade 2 Mac Diarmida at Gulfstream when going 11 furlongs on the grass. Two back, his stablemate, Red Knight was a length better than he was in the William McKnight Stakes. He’s one to watch in the late stages here. Red Knight has three wins in five starts since joining the Maker barn.The two losses weren’t great, but one was a narrow loss when finishing 8th in a wild finish in the Sycamore Stakes here last fall. He had a rough trip that day and was likely significantly better than his 8th place finish looks on paper. The other race was the Breeders’ Cup Turf, where he was simply outclassed. He fits well here for a barn that knows how to win these longer turf races.

November 5, 2022: The start of the Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf on Breeders’ Cup Championship Saturday at Keeneland on November 5, 2022: in Lexington, Kentucky. Channel Maker (#6) and Red Knight (#10) would go on to finish off the board in this race, but both veterans are back today at the same 12 furlong distance. Matt Wooley/Eclipse Sportswire/Breeders Cup /CSM


Race 9, The Grade 3 Ben Ali Stakes:

I’ll try Rattle N Roll (#5) in the co-featured stakes race today. He won the Grade 1 Breeders Futurity on this course back in 2021. His three year old season didn’t pan out quite the way his trainer, Ken McPeek, had hoped. He started getting back on track in the summer, winning the American Derby, the St. Louis Derby, and then the Grade 3 Oklahoma Derby. He ended his campaign with an off the board finish in the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance Stakes race on the Breeders’ Cup undercard. He returned at the Fair Grounds last month, where he was 4th behind West Will Power, who ran an absolutely huge race that day. I think he’ll move forward here, which could stamp him as a player in the older handicap division this season. Skippylongstocking (#4)is the morning line favorite after winning the Grade 3 Challenger Stakes at Tampa last out. He’s won the last three Grade 3 races that he’s competed in, losing only Grade 1 races sandwiched in between. He was the third place finish in the Belmont Stakes last year, so the 1 mile and 3/16 distance of this race should suit him well. I don’t love the price, but I do have a lot of respect for this four year old son of Exaggerator. On deeper tickets, I’ll use Pioneer of Medina (#1). He seems to have worked his way out of a three race funk that started with last year’s Kentucky Derby. He didn’t run a step in the Smarty Jones at Parx or an allowance race here. However, after that, he started showing up like the horse many thought he could be going into the Derby last season. Like Rattle N Roll, he’s coming out of a strong edition of the New Orleans Classic Stakes, so I see this race as getting some class relief. 

November 4, 2022: The start of the the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance Stakes on Breeders’ Cup on Breeders’ Cup Championship Friday at Keeneland Race Course in Lexington, Kentucky on November 4, 2022. Rattle N Roll (#1) gets away well from the rail. Matt Wooley/Eclipse Sportswire/Breeders Cup


Race 10: 

A money allowance field that will sprint 5 and ½ furlongs on the turf will close out the Saturday card. Mark of the Z (#8) ran in the Shakertown two weeks ago and finished 5th, and now Jose Rodriguez will wheel him back in this race today. He loves this course, winning twice and finishing second in his other three starts here. He’s good when he’s pressing the early pace, but I do think he can come from a little further back if the pace does get ambitious. Nobals (#6) could help fuel that ambitious pace, making his second start off the layoff today. He returned on the synthetic at Turfway and just got tired in the final strides. He wants to be out front and he’s the quickest of the quick if he can get himself out of the gate. He was very good in his first start at this distance on turf last year, but he struggled in stakes company next time out. It’s always a question of which version of himself is going to show up. However, if he’s able to secure a loose lead, he might be too good to catch. Front Run The Fed (#5) is a former Chad Brown/Klaravich runner that is having success for Caio Caramori. He won the Van Clief from off the pace at this distance at Colonial last summer. He’ll make his first start of the year today, where he lands as a longshot hope. 


The One and Done Ticket, $36 Wager:

On the main ticket, I’ll be singled to Mark of the Z (#8, R10) in the nightcap. Her efforts on this course are sharp enough to compete with this group. Billy Jack (#8, R6) in the opening leg is another runner that you could some tickets.

Multiple Plays:

With deeper pockets, comes different ways to attack a wager like this. My All-A play would be $12 with $1.00 as the base wager. I’d typically try to have that covered a few times. In addition to the All A/B ticket above, I’d look at playing the following, which adds up to a $84 investment. 


$2.00 Base Wager, All A: 6/4-7/2-5-7/4-5/8 ($24)


$1.00 Base Wager,: AxAxAxAxB: 6/4-7/2-5-7/4-5/5 ($12)


$0.50 Base Wager, CxAxAxAxA: 1/4-7/2-5-7/4-5/8 ($6)


$0.50 Base Wager, AxAxAxAxC: 6/4-7/2-5-7/4-5/6 ($6)


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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