After a challenging opening weekend, Keeneland returns with an eight race program to start their week of racing. There are three maiden special weight races on the card, including a two year old race to start the card. The featured allowance is a very strong N2X allowance race on the grass for older fillies and mares. NOTE: I updated my analysis for Race 4 as my top two choices were scratched out of that race.
Race 1: Top Pick: 3
Maiden two year olds go 4 and ½ Furlongs on the Heggarty Course in the opener. Wesley Ward has been automatic in these races in past years, but he was 0-2 on Friday, when Dream Fly broke a beat slow and Magniloquent never kicked on. He’s got the morning line favorite in Kaufymaker (4) here, and his work pattern looks similar to that of Dream Fly last week. He’s bred to be speedy and the Ward barn, despite not winning with either two year old last week, still had a good weekend, winning two of the graded stakes races on Saturday. He’s definitely one to use, as Irad Ortiz gets the call in his first local ride of the season, however, I think two others have just as good of a chance. I made Social Mandate (3) my top pick, debuting from the John Hancock barn. Hancock’s two first time starters last week looked well meant, (Bode By You and Jamaican Traffic) but both were bumped hard out of the starting gate, greatly hindering their chances in such a short sprint. Both horses, especially Bode by You, ran on well despite the trouble. Social Mandate has quicker drills than both of them in the morning and looks to offer the greatest value of the trio I’m recommending. John Ennis sent out one of the two debut winners on Thursday, and he has a pair in here. Vidal (6) looks quicker than Jack The Lad (7) in the AM, and James Graham, who rode both of the babies for Ennis last week, gets the call on Vidal. The only horse that worked 4 Furlongs quicker than him in the AM on 3/21 was his stablemate, Bohemian Frost, who was a speedy, front running winner of the opener on Friday. I imagine the tactics will be the same for this son of Midshipman.
Race 2: Top Pick: 5
A six-pack of $20K N2L claimers go in the second half of the early double. Hard Sting (5) is the only horse in the field with any noticeable dirt form to mention. He broke his maiden emphatically at Laurel in October, and has followed that up with three credible dirt efforts with similar company. Toss his last on synthetic at Turfway while making his first start since being moved to the Andrew McKeever barn. He should be the one to beat unless one of the unknown commodities runs a big effort. Onenightstandards (3) is a little intriguing here coming in off the layoff. He ran three times as a two year old, winning with $30K maiden claimers on the grass at Ellis in August. He’s been on the shelf since, but has been working well for Kobiskie in the AM. He’s bred to run two turns, so he might be able to pull the upset if he is fit enough.
Race 3: Top Pick: 5
This nine furlong turf maiden special weight for three year old fillies oversubscribed and was split into two divisions, with the second division going off as Race 5. This division is wide open, with three horses exiting a maiden special weight on the Tampa Bay Derby undercard, two horses exiting a maiden special weight race on the same day at Gulfstream, and another two that last ran in a maiden special weight at Gulfstream on 2/14. Of those three races, I think the Gulfstream ones were stronger than the Tampa race, so I’m going to play against Turning Point (2), Big Bee (4), and morning line favorite Ballacolla (8). It wouldn’t surprise me if any of those three won this race, but I had to pare down the ticket somewhere. There is absolutely no speed signed on and I’m thinking that The Flying Pharoah (5), who was a beat slow away from the gate and then was bumped before being able to establish any early position in her debut, will get an aggressive gate ride from Joel Rosario here. She was finishing well after settling in behind the leaders and swinging wide in the stretch. She wasn’t far behind the 4th place finisher that day, A Thing Of Beauty (7) who is also a candidate to end up on the lead here. She is only one of two horses that have two races of experience, where everyone else in the group has one. She hasn’t shown any explosiveness in either start, but she has been steady and close to the winner both times. I think anyone that can establish early position in this spot will have a decided advantage over the rest and these are the two that I feel may be the most forwardly placed. Elle Est Forte (3) is the only one in here that isn’t coming out of one of those three races. She was third in a three horse blanket photo for win in her last try at Gulfstream on 1/13. The runner up that day came back to win in her next start. Her pedigree suggests she’ll get better as the distances get farther. Laynlowmakndough (6) ran well at big odds while going wide on both turns in her debut. She joins the McPeek barn and certainly is another one that makes sense in here. Mulsanne (1) is one I’ll consider using on deeper tickets as she may offer some value at 10-1 on the morning line. There’s not much separating the top and bottom of this field, and she’s another that figures to get better with more starts and longer distances.
Race 4: Top Pick: 1
Fillies and mares, three and up, who have never won twice, go 6 Furlongs while running with a $50,000 take. I love that Jose Riquelme, who struggled mightily over the past year, but showed tremendous improvement over the last two months of the Fair Grounds meet, gets the opportunity to ride a horse at Keeneland, who should be a deserving favorite in Makeajoyfulnoise (2). She has run three sharp races in a row, most recently finishing third in optional claiming/N1X allowance company, beaten by a very nice filly in Euphoric. Two back, she was second at the same level to another nice filly, Save. There is no one in here close to the caliber of those two horses. Bentley Combs claimed her three back for $30K, when she broke her maiden, so this spot is very logical, especially at a track like this. She looks very tough to beat in here, while getting a pace scenario that should be favorable for her. I’ll use Madame Overserved (3) as a saver on deeper tickets. She gets back on dirt after two okay tries on the Tapeta at Turfway. She has only one win in eleven career starts, but she does move to straight restricted claiming for the first time. She has a few big efforts in her past, and has two very nice works on this course.
EDIT: With my top two horses scratched, I’ll make Polished Gem (1) my top pick. She was over eager last out with open claimers and ran poorly against a runaway winner. She drops in to restricted company and faces a soft group with some question marks. She was showing improvement on the main track prior to her last. I’ll make my two B horses Ununderstandable (5) and Kaely’s Sister (6). Ununderstandable makes her seasonal debut for Kobiskie. She has some decent dirt efforts if she’s fit enough off the layoff. Kaely’s Sister is the likely favorite with the two defections. She comes from the Brad Cox barn and has two solid efforts at Turfway. I do wonder if Cox isn’t sure about her dirt ability though.
Race 5: Top Pick: 5
Division two of this maiden special weight turf contest features six of nine fillies that have competed at Gulfstream on the grass at the Championship Meet. Like the first division, there’s not a lot of early speed, so I’m looking for horses that might be able to sit close to the early pace. Perhaps Tonight (5) may fit that profile as she was bumped and shut out of early position in her stateside debut for Graham Motion. She exerted a lot of energy early on, running up on the heels of her competitors. She still finished well to finish 7th, beaten less than three lengths. I think if Drayden Van Dyke is able to get her away cleanly, she’ll be much closer to the early pace and in a better position to compete at this level. Third Draft (3) should be the one to beat in here after failing as the even money favorite last month. She was making her first start off a 3+ month layoff and was shuffled to the back of a full field. She had traffic trouble, but still kicked on well once she was able to get free. I think she’ll be closer to the front today, like she was two starts ago at Aqueduct. Salit (4) is another one to consider in here, as she gets back on the turf for the first time since her debut three starts back. She closed a ton of ground that day to get third after showing no early speed whatsoever. She had more tactical speed in her two dirt tries and may improve on the surface switch today.
Race 6: Top Pick: 4
It’s not very creative, but Don’t Forget (4) just looks faster than these in this optional $20K/starter allowance race. He was claimed by Diodoro, for a second time, three starts ago, and won both starts since in convincing fashion at Oaklawn. When trained by him, this horse is undefeated in three starts. Every competitor that he’s facing is coming in from a lesser circuit (Turfway, Hawthorne, Mahoning Valley). It’s not to say that horses from those tracks can’t win, however, when you have the fastest horse, that has been beating better horses, trained by a trainer that wins 29% of his races, the case against him gets a lot harder to build.
Race 7: Top Pick: 3
The feature is today is a wide open N2X allowance for fillies and mares on the grass. Fifteen entered, plus a main track only entrant, but only 12 will go. This race runs through the Graham Motion trainee, Tuned (3) who was running solid races and getting close in three stakes races at Gulfstream this winter. She drops to the N2X level, where she looks to have a distinct class advantage over many of these. She was a winner the last time she ran on this course in October of 2019. More Than Unusual (13) will need help to draw in this race, but I’m hoping she does get to compete as she was awesome in her last effort with N1X foes at the Fair Grounds. She was 4th in her debut at Churchill last June, and since then has never been worse than second. She ran a good race on this course this past fall and has continued to improve. If she makes it in, she’ll have to navigate a trip from a wide post, but she’s in great form as she moves up in class. Walk In Marrakesh (9) had some promising efforts in her three year old season, including a strong effort where she was just nipped at the wire in the Grade 2 Appalachian on this course in July. She went off form a bit in her last two, but has been working well for her seasonal debut. Correas doesn’t have great numbers off the layoff, but this filly ran well off the bench last year at Tampa. John Velasquez taking the mount is a good sign as well. Choate Bridge (5) has found a decent amount of trouble in her last two starts at Gulfstream, which were her first two tries at this N2X condition. Her last win three back when she did have a good trip was strong. Chad Brown sends out the morning line favorite, Pocket Square (11) for Juddmonte to make her North American debut. She is a Group 3 winner in Europe, but Brown’s horses haven’t been automatic in when they make their first start stateside, winning only 11% of the time over the past two years. I’ll cover with her, but I think the key to getting value in the late multi-race sequences is trying to beat her.
Race 8: Top Pick: 3
My strategy for this optional $5K/starter allowance race is to try to beat the morning favorite, High Five Cotton (4). He comes from strong connections with Luis Saez riding for Jose Delgado, however, he seems to have gone off form in his last two starts at Tampa, after running much better races in similar races earlier in their meet. My top pick is Mahoning Valley invader, Stay Home (3). He’s cutting back from two turn races to a seven furlong race where there is a decent amount of speed. I think he could sit a great trip off that early pressure and have the stamina to finish strong. He’s 3 for 5 at the distance and in good current form. Fevola (1A) is the main danger here, as he cuts back after a bad two turn effort at Oaklawn. The start before that was a dull effort on the synthetic at Turfway. He is clearly a better animal when sprinting on the dirt, as he was a winner at Saratoga at this distance this past summer. If he’s fit enough off the brief layoff, he’ll be tough. Diddley (9) is a bit of a puzzling horse in this spot for me. His last four starts have been with open claimers at Aqueduct. He’s capable on dirt but better on synthetic. He hasn’t flashed his usual early speed of late and you have to go back to May of 2018 to find a race where he won coming from off the pace. He only has one start going this far on a dirt course and that was a successful race, so there’s reason to believe that he can improve while stretching out. I’m getting mixed messages, so he is a logical C horse to use here.