Only three days remain in the Keeneland Spring Meet before the Kentucky racing scene switches to Churchill Downs. Wesley Ward has several training titles in the Spring Meet under his belt already and he could run away with this year’s title on today’s card. He has five runners, all of which are likely to go off at odds of 2-1 or less. It’s certainly feasible that he makes four or five trips to the Winner’s Circle today. I’ll try to beat him in a few of those spots, but his runners are definitely live today. 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||2||2||5||PK5, PK3, DBL|
|2||8||5,8,11||12||PK4, PK3, DBL|
|3||1||1,3,6||4||PK6, PK3, DBL|
|4||2||2,7||3||PK5, PK3, DBL,
|5||2||2||1||PK4, PK3, DBL|
This sequence gets started with a N1X allowance race at one mile for four year olds and up. With the meet coming to end this week, there are some horses that are entered in this race, which might not be the ideal distance for them. I think Gamer (#2) is an interesting runner that will be trying the turf for the first time today. His Turfway form is solid, breaking his last out in his third career start. He’s finished in the money in all three starts, and he’s done it while rating near the pace and coming from off the pace. I like his versatility and Brendan Walsh has had a very good meet thus far. Exact Estimate (#7) is the heavy morning line favorite after a huge effort to break his maiden for Chad Brown at Gulfstream last month when making his turf debut. He started his career with two solid races on the main track, but after his last race, it might be a while before he competes on dirt again. Ian Wilkes is another trainer that has had an excellent meet, and he’ll send out Reward Night (#3) off the layoff today. He ended last year with a strong second place effort at this level on this course. He has more of a foundation than the top two runners, which could be beneficial, especially if this race comes down to a stretch battle.
This is the only time this meet that a two year old race has been a part of the Late Pick-5. Two year old fillies will dash 4 and ½ furlongs here, which is the second two year old race on the card. Whenever Wesley Ward shows up in a race like this with a horse that is listed at 4-5 on the morning line, it’s a pretty good indication that the horse can run. Barbtourage (#2) is an Into Mischief first time starter, who cost Stonestreet Stables $425K at the Fasig-Tipton October Sales in 2022. This is an outfit that works with Ward to pick out horses that could contend at Royal Ascot. Many of those horses debut at this Keeneland meet. They sent out a homebred, American Rascal, who was a dominating winner in his race last week. Her works are solid and her dam won her first three races as a two year old, including a stakes win on the synthetic at Woodbine. I really don’t see any red flags nor do I see a logical horse on paper that looks like they could play spoiler. Anything can happen at the break in these two year old races so I will cover with Brightwork (#1) for John Ortiz. She drilled a very snappy bullet work back on 4-16 at four furlongs. This unraced dam has foaled two other runners to make it to the track. One debuted for Todd Pletcher last year and finished 4th, but hasn’t been seen on track again. The other did her best work at two turns. Regardless, this barn can get a horse ready to win on debut and if the favorite falters, I see her as the one most likely to pick up the pieces.
Another race and another heavy Wesley Ward favorite to navigate. The nine year old, Bound for Nowhere (#9) is listed at 2-5 on the morning line in this conditioned allowance contest. He’s been very useful in his 20 race career, winning nine times, three of which came on this course. At nine years old, I don’t think he’s as explosive as he used to be, however, Ward is the owner, and if something weren’t right, he wouldn’t be running him. The question that you’ll have to ask yourself is about how much regression you’re expecting from him compared to how much another runner will have to step up to beat him. Using that formula, the only other logical contender to me is Our Shot (#4). I’ll play him on top, looking his two turf races going five furlongs. He was very good when winning on the Preakness undercard. He came from off the pace after drawing Post 13 in a 14 horse field, to nail the leaders on the wire. He employed similar tactics at Gulfstream when he returned in January, only to finish 4th in a four horse photo. He cleared the N2X condition on the dirt at Tampa last out, but I think the 5 and ½ furlong distance here should hot him right between the eyes. He;s in his third start off the layoff as a four year old, so I can make the case for a decent amount of improvement for this race. He feels like the value play here.
Three year olds and up sprint six furlongs in this $50K N2L claiming race. Wesley Ward has another big favorite here with One Giant Leap (#5). Everything that this barn has brought to this meet has been dangerous, and he’s put himself in position to put another training title on ice today. His race on the dirt with $150K maiden claimers here last fall was solid and better than most have run on the main track. He broke his maiden last time out with a strong effort on synthetic at Turfway. Like the other Ward horses on the card, he makes a ton of sense. He’ll be on the A line, but I’ll try my luck with Gold Luck (#2) in his first start off the claim for Jonathan Wong. This barn has three winners with eight starters thus far at this meet, and they have very good numbers first off the claim. He’s one of only two runners in this field that broke their maiden on a dirt track. Blinkers go on and Irad Ortiz sees fit to take the mount. I think his 6-1 morning line feels like the right value on him. On deeper tickets, Seven Flat (#1) is the only true dirt horse in the field. He’s been off since finishing up the track in a salty starter allowance race at Churchill back in June. His maiden score in the slop was strong two starts back. He may need this one and six furlongs might be a little short for him, however, most of this field is unproven on dirt, so he feels like a logical backup play.
Fillies and mares will go 12 furlongs on turf in the nightcap, which is a N2X allowance. Jimmy Toner doesn’t train many horses at this point in his career, but the ones that he does work with deserve respect. Broadway Boogie (#7) was a dominating winner at this distance two starts back when clearing the N1X condition at Gulfstream in February. She was a strong 5th, less than two lengths behind the winner when facing graded stakes foes in the The Very One Stakes in March. Toner opted to give her a little more instead of trying another stakes field again in the Orchid at Gulfstream or in the Bewitch on Friday afternoon here. I respect his patience and see this Uncle Mo filly as the one to beat. Miss Yearwood (#2) feels like the most logical alternative to me. She was excellent in the Jockey Club Oaks Invitational at Aqueduct last fall when wrapping up her three old campaign. She struggled in both starts with graded stakes company at Gulfstream this spring, however that may have been a function of struggling with the course there. She’s making her third race off the layoff, so I’m expecting her to be sharper this afternoon.
One and Done Late Pick-5 Play, $36 Wager:
I see this as a sequence that could get very chalky, so I don’t want to invest in much more than this. The All A/B ticket costs $36 and I feel it covers a lot of bases for the cost. Wesley Ward has three short prices in the middle three legs, and while all three runners look very tough, I would like an alternative to them, as that is where there could be some value.
With deeper pockets, comes different ways to attack a wager like this. My All-A play would be $8 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 $76 investment.
$5.00 All A Ticket: 2-7/2/4-9/2-5/7 ($40.00)
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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