There’s no stakes races, but there are some very promising horses on this last Sunday card of the Spring Meet at Keeneland. It’s likely going to be a bit chilly in Lexington today, with only a high temperature of 52 degrees. First post this afternoon is 1:00 (ET) as we move to the final week of this wonderful meet.
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||1||1||4,5||DBL, PK3, PK5|
|2||12||12||2,5||DBL, PK3, PK4,|
|4||2||2||3||DBL, PK3, PK6|
|5||8||1,8,11||12||DBL, PK3, PK5,
|6||1||1,5||3,10||DBL, PK3, PK4|
Races in Focus, Race 7 and Race 8:
The two co-featured races are linked with a common theme today. There is very little early speed signed on for either race, so the possibility of a lone speed horse exists. When there’s a capable horse that has a chance to get loose on the lead in a race where there is a little pace, those horses generally are “must use” runners for me.
Encourage (#2, R7) makes his four year old debut today after finishing last at this level in the fall. He might offer some decent value because he had a lousy trip that day. He broke on top, but was allowed to relax behind the leaders. Unless someone gets uncharacteristically aggressive, I expect him to be leading the field once they hit the first turn.
King’s Glory (#2) faces a young phenom, Scotland (#5), who was an impressive winner in his debut. King’s Glory led all the way to break his maiden at the Fair Grounds last out. Scotland got away a bit slow last time out, but he seemed like a horse that took a while to hit his best stride. I don’t see anyone in the field that will be able to apply even token pressure on King’s Glory. He’s stretching out, which is a question mark in his third start, however, he’ll likely have every opportunity to get the job done.
Both horses are win candidates to me, and the price is almost certain to be better on Encourage, than it is on King’s Glory. This seems like a good race to play a double, as both horses should be well-positioned to win. They are facing horses that might have a higher ceiling than they do, but they have a distinct pace advantage.
The Play, Race 7, $10 Double 2/2
Late Pick-5 Analysis
Fillies and mares go one mile on the turf in this N1X allowance race that will start off the Late Pick-5 today. Breaker of Chains (#8) showed a lot of promise when she shipped to the states from Europe back in 2021. After a big effort in December of that year, she went to the sidelines for 13 months before resurfacing at Gulfstream with a respectable effort to close into 4th at this level. She tried 11 furlongs in her last start but wasn’t quite up to the task. I like the cutback in distance and think that she’ll benefit from a lively pace, which is certainly possible with this group. Pioneers Edge (#11) was going well enough on the synthetic last year at Woodbine that she ran in top quality races like the Woodbine Oaks and the Grade 3 Selene Stakes. I imagine Josie Carroll has been wanting to get her on the turf, so this feels like a logical spot to do so. The post isn’t great, but if Prat is able to tuck in just a bit, she’ll be well spotted to pounce if she takes to the course. Fast and Flirty (#1) was very good in her only turf start back at the end of January. Walsh brought her to Turfway, where struggled in a sprint on the Tapeta there. I think the distance suits her well and Gafflaione continues to ride with supreme confidence in Lexington. I think she gets first run on the pacesetters. Lakota Spirit (#12) gets the worst of the draw while making her first start since June. She started her career on the main track for three starts, but she moved forward in her first start on grass, winning easily at Belmont that day. She struggled in stakes company in her most recent start, which preceded her layoff. This will be her first start at two turns, so Post 12 might be a little harsher for her than some of the others. However with her talent and connections, she’s worth covering, especially if her odds float over her 8-1 mourning line figure.
The Late Pick-4 will kick off with a $30K maiden claiming race for fillies and mares going seven furlongs. I landed on Jubilant Joanie (#1) who makes her third career start and her first on the main track. John Ortiz hits at 20% with horses going from synthetic to dirt over the last five years. She came within a length of breaking her maiden at this level in her debut at Turfway. She tried moving up the class ladder, but she got cooked in a speed duel and faded to 6th. Reylu Gutierrez picks up the mount for her local debut. Her half brother is a ten time winner on dirt, so I believe that the surface switch will serve her well. Teshima (#5) is the morning line favorite after shipping in from Mahoning Valley, coming off a second place effort in maiden allowance company there. She runs for Johnathan Wong, who got his third win of the meet yesterday. Her last speed figure on dirt is stronger than any of the other runners with dirt racing experience. Melinoe (#10) will be one of the two runners on the B line for me. She makes her third career start today after a pair of dull efforts on the turf and dirt at Gulfstream. She’s cutting back to a dirt sprint after faltering at two turns last out. Ian Wilkes’ horses have been running well all meet long, even when they’re not winning. She lands in a soft spot and could be possibly overlooked here. Little Dixie (#3) running for Tyler Gaffalione and Ron Moquett, will be my other backup here. She drops out of maiden special weight company after a pair of double digit losses at Oaklawn. She met solid fields in both of those races, so she might be getting more class relief than anyone else in this field. However, she has been beaten a combined 44 lengths in her first two starts, so taking too short of a price on her is not very desirable.
There’s only seven runners in the N2X allowance race at nine furlongs on the turf, but it’s a solid group, with many possibilities. Encourage (#2) draws inside in a race with very little pace signed on. He was very good when breaking his maiden at Ellis and clearing the N1X condition at Kentucky Downs in consecutive races in August and September. He struggled in the Hawthorne Derby and had a traffic-filled last place finish when running at this level in his last start here in October. There was more speed signed on that day with the winner, Dominican Partner going gate to wire. He broke very well, but as others were hustled up from the outside, Corey Lanerie allowed him to settle off the pace. He was midpack most of the race, stacked up behind horses. Lanerie tried to start a run with him a few times, but he had to tap on the brakes as there was nowhere to go. I don’t see a rush of horses challenging him for the lead here, so he could be dangerous if left alone. Alex Joon (#3) was flying late to get up for third in that race, looking like a horse that would be very comfortable going the nine furlongs he’s getting today. He returned from a layoff to finish third in a strong starter allowance race on the dirt at Oaklawn in his last start. He might need to sit a little bit closer to the pace than he’s accustomed to, but I see him as a major player in this spot regardless. Limited Liability (#6) was graded stakes placed as a two year old and three year old, finishing third in the With Anticipation and Pilgrim Stakes in 2021 and third Pennine Ridge and the Virginia Derby last year. He did clear the N1X condition on this course when making his first start off the layoff last spring. He came from last to first to beat a full field there, where the pace was honest for the good course. I trust his ability, but at short odds, the pace scenario is less than ideal. On deeper tickets, I’ll back with up with the longest shot on the board, Bawkena (#7). He’s going back to turf after a pair of 10 furlong races on synthetic at Turfway. He was a winner to clear the N1X condition two back and was third last time at this level . He’s probably a better candidate for the bottom of the vertical exotics, however he might have an edge from a fitness standpoint over many of these.
Only five are entered in this N2L allowance race for three year olds going seven furlongs. Ithink the pace edge goes to King’s Glory (#2) for Steve Asmussen. He made his first start at Saratoga this summer and then went to the sidelines. He resurfaced on the Louisiana Derby undercard last month at the Fair Grounds where he won under wraps. He is the only bona fide early speed in this race and he’ll be the target that they’re chasing. Scotland (#5) who was a very impressive debut winner on the Fountain of Youth undercard at Gullstream is the main danger. The second, fourth, and fifth place finishers of his maiden allowance heat came back to graduate in their next starts. He came with a long sustained bid after breaking at the back of a ten horse field. The ceiling is certainly sky high after a debut like that, but he’ll have to overcome what is likely to be a slow to moderate pace, where he’ll have to run down a more than capable opponent. At 3-5, I’ll try to beat him.
The week ends with a maiden special weight going one mile on the turf course. I like Boltoro (#9) quite a bit in this race, making her 7th career start today. She’s been steadily improving, despite running in races that were washed off the turf at the Fair Grounds. She’s struggled to draw into races, as she’s been scratched from the AE list three times in the last three months. Her two turf races here and at Kentucky Downs were strong last season and I see her as a better horse now than she was back then. After Eight (#2) is an interesting runner for Arnaud Delacour and Flavien Prat. She was a heavily backed favorite in her lone start on dirt at Delaware in August. She didn’t fire that day, fading to 4th. Her dam never did much in her two turf starts, but she’s sired by Blame, who has been a very good turf sire. One of the reasons that Into Mischief carries such a high stud fee is his versatility. He gets 16% winners from his runners on turf when routing for the first time. I trust Delacour’s judgment as he has hit with a 30% win rate with horses trying turf for the first time since 2022. The Archangel (#16) needs a ton of help to participate, but I see her as a player if she gets in. She had a miserable trip in her first try at Gulfstream, breaking slow and then being forced to steady later on. Luis Saez is named to ride if she does get in, I think she’s a sneaky play. Rosy Tomorrows (#12) is a deeper backup for me, and she’ll have to overcome a wide post. However, her debut was solid at Gulfstream. She engaged the leaders at the top of the stretch, but was outfinished late. Look for her to be more fit for her second try, but I’m completely convinced she can overcome her wide draw.
Late Pick-5, One and Done Ticket, $36 Wager
The All A/B Caveman Play gets us to $72, which is a little more than I’d like to spend on this kind of ticket, especially with shorter fields in the 7th and 8th race. I’ll structure this by using only the two A plays in Race 6, which I do see as a wide open race. I’ll pare down here for this ticket because I have liked Jubilant Joanie (#1) more and more each time I look at that race. I’ll have a backup ticket to cover the two horses on the B line. If The Archangel (#16) does draw into the 9th race, I may add her or restructure this ticket a bit.
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 maximum $94 investment.
$2.00 Base Wager, All A: 1-8-11/1-5/2-3/2/9 ($24)
$0.50 Base Wager,: AxBxAxABxA: 1-8-11/3-10/2-3/2-5/9 ($12)
$0.50 Base Wager: AxAxAxABxB: 1-8-11/1-5/2-3/2-5/16 ($12, only if 16 draws into R9)
$0.50 Base Wager, CxAxAxAxA: 12/1-5/2-3/2-5/9 ($4)
$0.50 Base Wager, AxAxAxAxC: 1-8-11/1-5/2-3/2/9 ($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.