Keeneland Racing Preview – 4/23/21 – By Eric Solomon

The Closing Day card features the Grade 3 Bewitch, going 1 Mile and ½ on the turf course, and there’s a runner in that race who I think has star potential. I’ve tinkered around with the format of the analysis, frontloading the spreadsheet for the entire card, instead of after each race. I’ve ditched the X column in favor of the horizontal wagering menu. My hope is that it will give the reader a simpler look at how I’ll be formulating multi-race wagers. The analysis will be underneath for each race as I’ve typically done. It’s been a fun April, scouring each card at this meet. I’ll be back tomorrow on the blog, talking about the opening night card at Churchill Downs.

Race A B C Exotics Menu
1 5 6,9,10 DBL, PK3, PK5
2 2,3 DBL, PK3, PK4
3 3,4,5 7,10 DBL, PK3
4 1 5 DBL, PK3
5 5,7 4 1,1A,8 DBL, PK3, PK6
6 1,4 DBL, PK3, PK5
7 8 2,5,7 DBL, PK3, PK4
8 5,11 12 2 DBL, PK3
9 8 6 4,11 DBL
10 7 5,6


Race 1: Top Pick: 5

Ten two year olds take to the turf, going 5 and ½ Furlongs in this maiden special weight race which kicks off the closing day card. Napa Spirit (5) runs here for Stonestreet Stables and trainer Wesley Ward, and is projected as a heavy favorite, listed at even money on the morning line. He’s an Irish bred that has worked well enough in the AM to be that short of a price. In terms of pedigree, no one is close to the turf genes of this one. He looks like a solid single, but this is a first time starter among other babies, so there is always the chance of some unexpected things happening. On deeper tickets and in the bottom of the vertical exotics, I’m looking at three horses that have some possible turf interest in their bloodlines. None of the three are coming from barns that are known commodities with two year olds, but I think these horses might be better suited to turf. Jack Backed (6) is sired by the Grade 1 winning son of War Front, Jack Milton. The dam sire is City Zip, who won four graded stakes races as a two year old. His works are average, but all of them have come on dirt. On Spot (9) is sired by Run Away and Hide, who was also sired by City Zip. The dam was sired by Arc de Triomphe winner, Peintre Celebre, so there a decent mix of speed, stamina, and precocity in his pedigree. Grumpa (10) on the outside is sired by Mastery, who is a son of Candy Ride, and the dam, Facefront is sired by War Front. He’s certainly had a good foundation of workouts for this race, with ten published drills, more than anyone else.


Race 2: Top Pick: 3

The last two year old race of the meet is on the Heggarty course at 4 and ½ Furlongs, and Wesley Ward, holds, what looks to be a pair of aces here with John’s Protoege (2) and Headline Report (3). Headline Report carries high expectations as a $550,000 OBS Purchase last month. He’s worked three times for Ward, doing so quite professionally. Johnny V. takes the call on this one, while Joel Rosario winds up on John’s Protoege. That one is sired by Tapiture out of a Speightstown mare, so one turn speed is likely where he is going to excel. He also has three AM drills and has been deemed ready to go. The few that have started, have shown little, and the other first time starters in here aren’t jumping off the page with their AM drills or the pedigree, so I’m using the two obvious ones here and looking for prices later on in the early sequences.

Race 3: Top Pick: 4

The first two races seem to set up very nicely for Wesley Ward’s horses, but I’m trying to beat both of his entrants in this 5 and ½ Furlong turf sprint for maiden special weight horses, three years old and up. Three Amigos (4) is my top pick here after running a strong race on debut with $50K maiden claimers at Gulfstream. Clearly, Walsh felt he was worth protecting, and he saw enough to think that he’d be better off sprinting, as he cuts back from one mile. Both second time out and going route to sprint are positive trainer angles for him. Wild for Wycliff (5) tries grass today after a declining pattern with speed figures in his last three races at the Fair Grounds. The maiden special weight fields in dirt sprints were very strong there this winter, and he was competitive with good horses. There was a ton of early speed for him to contend with in his last start, but not nearly as much obvious speed here. I like the move to turf by Amoss, as he’s sired by Danza, who was sired by Street Boss, who has been a good producer of quality turf sprinters. The dam sire is grade 1 winning sprinter, Wildcat Heir, so there’s reason to believe he can succeed in a turf sprint. Mr. Annoying (3) debuted in a turf sprint at Gulfstream for Mike Maker in February. He had some trouble, while finishing an even third when beaten by a pair of next out winners. He may get better with added distance, being sired by Kitten’s Joy, but his last shows he can compete at this level. I’ll cover with both of Wesley Ward’s horses, After Five (7) and Modesto (10) on deeper tickets. After Five is probably a good horse for some of the 6 and 7 Furlong turf sprints at Belmont this spring. He has closed well in three starts, including a respectable 5th in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint in his try, while competing as a maiden. He makes his seasonal debut against some horses that have shown that they’re pretty sharp. I think I’ll like him more next time around. Modesto also makes his seasonal debut after one start last summer at Saratoga. He ran well enough to be 2nd that day behind a runaway winner. He has more early foot than his stablemate, but he is giving up six pounds to some of the others than have been in good form.


Race 4: Top Pick: 1

There have been quite a few five horse races carded at this meet, but, despite the small field sizes, many of them have been quite competitive. This starter allowance for fillies and mares three years old and up is no exception. There’s not a ton of solid dirt form to go off, so I’m siding with Sweet Queen Bee (1) who looks to win for the second time during this fifteen day meet. She broke her maiden last out, running a strong race while defeating $30K maiden claimers in her first race on a traditional dirt surface. The way she drew off at the end of the race leads me to believe that she can move forward here. The main threat is Aqueduct invader, Hollywood Gina (5) racing for the Danny Gargan barn. She was a different horse in her second start after a dreadful debut in October in a turf sprint. She caught a sloppy track at Aqueduct and led every step of the way against $40K maiden claimers last out. She had a pretty easy trip that day in the fog and rain, so there’s a built excuse for some others that may not have performed well. She may be pushed a little harder early today, so we’ll see how she fares.


Race 5: Top Pick: 7

This is a very contentious N1X allowance race for three year olds at 9 Furlongs on the turf. I’m looking for a little value here making Kobla Mas (7) my top pick, shipping in from the Fair Grounds for Michael Stidham. He ran respectable efforts with less than perfect trips in two tries when facing thirteen other horses both times in maiden special weight company. He shipped to Sam Houston where he was a dominating maiden special weight winner on 2/24. In his first start against winners at the Fair Grounds, he found himself further off the early pace than usual for him, but he came running with a powerful late kick, getting up for 3rd, beaten 1 and ¾ lengths. I think he’s capable of improving some more and the extra half furlong should suit him well. Crew Dragon (5) is one of two from the Bill Mott barn in this spot. He was most recently seen finishing second in the Columbia Stakes at Tampa on the Tampa Bay Derby undercard. He’s never been off the board in five career starts, and he shows a steady improvement pattern coming into this race. Catman (4) makes sense getting back on the turf after a dull effort in stakes company on the synthetic. He makes his third start of the year and should benefit from the drop in class after four straight tries in stakes company. On deeper tickets, I’ll use the Calumet entry of Cellist (1) and Blue Cat (1A). Both could have a shot here as Cellist faces winners for the first time after a front running win at Gulfstream with maiden special weight. The race was quick and if he can duplicate that here, he’ll be tough. Blue Cat was gelded since his last start, which also came in the Columbia at Tampa. He was lingering far back and came late to get up for 4th on a course that was not playing kind to closers. Both parts of the entry complement each other in terms of running style, which is a plus for me. Floriform (8) is the other horse from the Mott barn, and another live runner in a wide open affair. He regressed with his speed figures in his last when breaking his maiden on a good course, but ran a strong figure two back on a firm course. I’m expecting a course that is a little less than firm, which is why I’m downgrading him slightly here.


Race 6: Top Pick: 4

I’m going to try a bit of longshot in this $50K N2L claiming race for fillies and mares three and up. I’m on Mahoning Valley invader I’ll Make It Coach (4) to pull the upset in this spot. She has been gradually improving of late, graduating with maiden special weight company in the mud last out in Ohio. She only has four starts on the main track, but I think the three races she lost on the dirt can be forgiven. One was in her debut at 5 Furlongs, another one came on this track when she stumbled and lost the jockey at the start, and the third was a sprint race at Mahoning Valley, going 5 and 1/12 Furlongs. She’s proven that she’s more effective at longer distances on all surfaces, and I think she has a decent shot today in this wide open contest. Speightful Charge (1) is the other one I want out of this race. She is making her first start of the year after showing some ability at two turns on the dirt here and at Churchill this past fall. Sims, who has two horses in here, (My Bets (5) being the other), who has success with limited starters at the meet, winning 2 of 6 races thus far, and Gaffalione gets the return call after riding her for her two best efforts last year.


Race 7: Top Pick: 8

Older horses go 1 Mile and 3/16 in this N2X allowance race on the grass. Two of the nine entered are coming back after running at this level two weeks ago in a stronger 1 Mile and 1/16 contest. One of them is the morning line favorite, Ocean Atlantique (5), who I have some mixed feelings about. He was a close up 5th last time, but never looked like he was going to win that race in his North American debut for Brendan Walsh. He successfully wheeled back after two weeks in Europe last year, winning that race by 5 lengths, so the timing doesn’t necessarily both me. I’m curious about the addition of blinkers here, as he has been known to be a little keen in the early stages of races. He’s a threat that should appreciate the extra furlong, and I’ll use him as a B horse, but I’m making the improving Battalion (8) my top pick. He’s shipping in from South Florida for Saffie Joseph after having a two race win streak snapped last out when finishing a close third against a solid field at this level at Gulfstream, while going 11 Furlongs. This cutback should be a good distance for him, as he’s been flourishing in turf races since being claimed last year. Conviction Trade (7) drops after two failed attempts in graded stakes company. He had a tough trip in the Mervin Muniz last out when beaten by Colonel Liam, who may be the best turf horse in the country at the moment. He showed decent stamina, leading all the way in his prior two efforts in the 12 Furlong Connally at Sam Houston and the 16 Furlong H. Allen Jerkens at Gulfstream. He should be forwardly placed here and may kick on well while getting some class relief. Bakers Bay (2) is the other horse exiting the N2X race here on 4/9. He was making his first start off the layoff that day and ran an even 6th in a salty field. He should improve second time out, and I like that Shug is bringing him back quickly. He was making decent progress is Kentucky last fall, so he could have another forward move this season.


Race 8: Top Pick: 11

There are some promising three year olds with some very nice pedigrees in this 6 and ½ Furlong maiden special weight contest. Casual Affair (11) may have the best pedigree of them all, being sired by Into Mischief out of the seven time Grade 1 winner and 2 time Eclipse Award winning mare, Ashado. Her foals haven’t had nearly as much success as she did on the track, producing only one stakes winner. However, this is the first of her foals that was sired by Into Mischief, and his works are solid for Brendan Walsh. I think he’s definitely live in a full field where there are several options. Sibelius (5) seems to have the best chance from the group of horses in this race that have racing experience. His debut was sharp last month at Laurel, finishing second despite a bit of a tardy break and some prerace antics. Saez takes the mount as he ships out of Maryland and lands here in field where there are several super nice pedigrees, but not tons of experience. Never Explain (12) is another well-bred and well-meant first time starter, this one from the Shug McGaughey barn. He was working nicely at Payson Park in Florida and recently shipped North to Kentucky. He has one work over the track and looks ready to go here. On deeper tickets, longshot Bright Prospector (2) is one that could easily be overlooked in the wagering. The rail draw is not ideal, especially in a full field, however, he was a $225,000 purchase at the Keeneland September Sale in 2019, and he’s been working well in the AM for McPeek. He’s 20-1 on the morning line, so there’s a reasonable chance of getting better odds than that in the afternoon. He’s certainly not the craziest longshot to play.


Race 9: The Grade 3 Bewitch: Top Pick: 8

The closing day feature race has a full gate of 12 fillies and mares, set to travel 12 Furlongs on the turf. Two horses that are proven at the distance feel fairly logical here, and there are some other classy horses that are trying the longer distance for the first time. An interesting side note is that four of the twelve entered are sired by English Channel. My top pick is one of those four, being the lightly raced War Like Goddess (8). She’s won three of her four career starts, most recently driving hard late to get up in a tight photo to defeat Always Shopping in the Grade 3 Orchid last out. She has the look of a horse that will get better as the races get longer. I tend to pick against horses with less experience in these longer races, but she feels like a very good filly that will keep improving. There’s not a ton of glamour races at these longer distances for fillies and mares, but she could be a good one. Kalifornia Queen (6) makes her second North American start today for Chad Brown after finishing 6th in the Grade 3 The Very One. She was competitive racing in longer distance races in France before coming stateside, and Gaffalione takes the return call. On deeper tickets, English Affair (11) is one of the longshots that has been competitive at the distance in the past, although her current form isn’t the greatest. She was very rank and hard to handle last out at Guulfstream. She was freshened up and makes her first start on this course since finishing 3rd (moved up to second via DQ) in the Grade 3 Dowager in October of 2018. She is known for stepping up and running big from time to time, so taking a stab with her at large odds isn’t the worst idea. Of the horses stretching out, I think Dominga (4) might be the most live of the group. She looked vastly improved when making her four year old debut in the Tom Benson Memorial last out at the Fair Grounds. She’ll have to take another step forward while getting 3 and ½ more Furlongs, so I wouldn’t want to take any lower than her 5-1 morning line.


Race 10: Top Pick: 7

The meet ends with a $50K maiden claiming race at 7 Furlongs, with seven horses. It’s hard to have a strong opinion in this spot, as there are some horses that have experience, but have subpar efforts. In addition there are some lightly raced and unraced horses that are entered for a claiming tag that is significantly lower than their purchase price, which is a red flag for me. I’ll take a flyer on Poseidon Wrath (7) in the nightcap, after a firing a 46:3 bullet workout at 4F last week on the course for William Morey. Morey isn’t known for winning with horses at first asking, but he has a steady string of works and looks to be getting stronger. I don’t love the seven furlong trip first out, but this is an underwhelming bunch. He’s the only horse in the race that was sold at auction to be running for a tag that is greater than his purchase price ($17K). As B horses, I’ll try Title Shot (5) and Tallaj (6) both being offered for a tag lower than their purchase price. Title Shot ran a dull 10th in a reasonably fast maiden special weight contest at Oaklawn. He was purchased for $360K at the Keeneland November Sale in 2018, but ends up here. He likely fits at this level at Catalano has good numbers when going from maiden special weight to maiden claiming. Tallaj has never started, and was purchased for $140K at the Fasig Tipton October sale in 2019. Wesley Ward has great numbers with debut runners in maiden claiming races, winning the nightcap on Wednesday with another one (Fine Prospecture). This may sound silly, but I don’t love that he’s in for the tag for his debut when he’s named for the owner. However, Ward’s numbers are hard to argue with and this is not the strongest field for this condition.

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