We’re at day 4 of 15 of the Spring Meet at Keeneland, and we get a strong nine race card. Despite there being no stakes on the program, we have an N2X allowance feature that could produce some stakes runners in the near future. We saw a stakes caliber performance yesterday at this level from Pocket Square, when she handily defeated a strong field in the filly and mare counterpart to today’s race. There are some chances for rain this afternoon, so I’ll be watching to see if any updates need to be made due to surface changes.
Race 1: Top Pick: 2
Three year old fillies running with a $30K claiming tag go in the opener. There are four shorter priced entrants in this field of six betting interests (seven fillies with one coupled entry). Of those, I’m trying to beat the morning line favorite Destinique (3) who was a last out winner at this level at Turfway, however, her previous dirt form doesn’t stack up with these. Her AM drills aren’t bad, but I think others have shown more on dirt, and are likely to go off at similar odds. Both It’sfiftyshadestime (2) and Artie’s Rose (1) are coming out of a common optional claiming/starter allowance spot at Oaklawn, where they finished 4th and 3rd, respectively, separated by 1 length. They traveled a two turn mile that day and now cut back to 6 and ½ Furlongs, which should suit both of them well. I prefer It’sfiftysahdetime as she has a little more tactical speed. The cutback from route to sprint is great angle for Amoss’ horses, winning 33% of the time over the last two years. She just missed at this level two back and should be tough here. Artie’s Rose has been gradually improving for Maker with her last being her best try to date. She has run well in both of her starts at this distance, breaking her maiden at Gulfstream West in October and running second behind Destinque at Turfway in January on synthetic. She has improved on dirt since in Arkansas. Her stablemate Eagle Eye (1A) is the softer half of the entry, but Wesley Ward trains this filly making her three year old debut, so there is reason to believe her slow figures can improve. She also adds Lasix and gets Rosario to ride. She won’t offer proper value being coupled with Artie’s Rose, but she is playable and certainly adds free insurance to the ticket. Ward also sends out Stylish Rags (6) who is likely better than her seasonal debut at Aqueduct in the mud. She beat maiden claimers at Saratoga in her only other try, so she likely has some ability. I think a faster track and a drop in class can help her cause here.
Race 2: Top Pick: 6
This is the third race of the meet thus far for two year old fillies. John Ennis won the first one on Friday with Bohemian Frost and he sends out the 2-1 second choice, Shesgotattitude (6) here. She had a nice work on 3/21, and a very quick 3 Furlong blowout on 3/30 in preparation for this start. Her pedigree doesn’t scream precocity nor does it scream 4 and ½ Furlong sprint, however, she’s worked quick enough to contend with this group, and is one that might get better with longer distances as well. Twilight Gleaming (7) has a European pedigree, and has two snappy works on the grass for Wesley Ward. She’s following a different training pattern than his other two year olds that have debuted thus far. He may be eyeing a run at Royal Ascot with this one and may be trying to get a race into her before some options for two year olds on the turf appear in the condition book (there is one in the condition book for later in the meet, but there’s no guarantee that race will fill). She may be quick enough regardless of surface, and there’s not many others jumping off the page here.
Race 3: Top Pick: 6
$20K claimers that have never won three races, or three year olds go 1 Mile here. I’m on Algebraic (6) making his second start off the layoff for Dane Kobiskie. He was a dominating winner on this track last October, beating $20 maiden claimers by 6+ lengths. He also beat starter allowance horses at Churchill three starts ago. His two synthetic tries at Turfway weren’t great, but I think he’s eligible to improve while getting back on his preferred surface. Franknjymme (4) is the main threat and the one to beat in here. He too is coming off some subpar efforts on the Tapeta surface at Turfway, but he has much better dirt races in his running lines. If he can get close to his Oaklawn form from last year, he should be the winner. Surf and Turf (3), like 6 of the 7 horses in here, is returning to dirt after racing on a different surface in their most recent try. He has limited dirt form, but was a maiden winner at Parx in 2019, the last time he tried a dirt course. He has improved since then and should sit a good trip in this spot.
Race 4: Top Pick: 5
This is a tricky optional $10K claiming/$5K starter allowance race at 6 and ½ Furlongs for fillies and mares. Radiantrithym (8) is definitely the one to beat in here as she has won her last three races on dirt, including a win with OC $20/$10K starter allowance in November at Churchill. She looks like the fastest horse in the race, but her trainer isn’t great off the layoff and her record at 6 and ½ Furlongs is only 1 for 9, which is significantly below her career winning percentage of 21.5% (27.5% on dirt alone). I’m using her as an A, but I’m making My Dark Secret (5) my top pick, as she may offer some value off the claim and surface switch. She wintered at Turfway, running five dullish efforts there on the new surface. Her win percentage on the main track, especially on fast tracks, is significantly higher than any other surface. She was trading punches with Trickizar (3) this summer at Belterra in starter allowance company. That one is 3-1 on the morning line and this one is 10-1, so there is value if you think she can revert to her better form. Trickizar and Diva Banker (1) are both shorter prices, and horses I’ll save for deeper tickets. Unlike her rival My Dark Secret, Trickizar is probably better on synthetic than on the main track, so switching surfaces isn’t ideal for her. She is capable on the main track though and loves this distance, never finishing worse than second in five tries. Diva Banker won’t offer great value, as she gets the services of Joel Rosario, however, she’s another one that is logical while coming back to the dirt. She’s 0-12 in her synthetic and turf races, but she’s 6-11 in her career on the main track.
Race 5: Top Pick: 8
Three year olds and up go 7 Furlongs in this $40K N2L claiming contest. A trio of three year olds are taking on older horses here and, and two of them, The Predicament (3) and Copa (7) are the first and second choices on the morning line. I’m trying to beat both here as The Predicament has only one dirt start, and it wasn’t very good and Copa has one big effort sprinkled in with many average tries. I’m going with Rye Humor (8) on top as he’s coming off a win at 1-5 at with maiden special weight company at Charles Town. He ran very sharp races in Kentucky last fall with higher priced maiden claimers, including a near miss here on the Beard Course in October. He’s second off the layoff and facing winners for the first time. Despite moving from maiden allowance to restricted claimers, this is a class hike, but I think he’ll run better second off the layoff this afternoon. Scabbard (5) was my pick in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile in 2019, when he ran a dull 4th in a race that did not live up to expectations. He cuts back to a sprint on the main track, and the last time he did that he was second as a two year old in the Saratoga Special. He’s struggled to find his best form as a three and now four year old, but his last several have been on synthetic or turf. This feels like a now or never kind of race for him. On deeper tickets and underneath, Why Why Paul Why (4) is a little interesting to me at a decent price. He ran twice at the fall meet, and both efforts with lesser N2L claimers were pretty solid. Toss his return off the bench at Turfway and he may be able to crack the exotics, while also cutting back to 7 Furlongs for the first time.
Race 6: Top Pick: 7
This is a strong maiden special weight for three year olds on the grass. Powerful connections are represented here, and it’s fair to say that no one has higher expectations than Alexander Valley (7) for Godolphin and Mott. They paid $2.15 million for him at the Keeneland September Sale in 2019. His dirt debut in December wasn’t anything special, but he did take a nice step forward when moving to the grass. He’s been second in his last two tries, pairing his Beyers in the process. I think he’ll take another step forward today. Chad Brown and Irad Ortiz teamed up to have a winner yesterday with an outside draw on the turf (Pocket Square), and they team up again with Southern District (12). He sat midpack and closed well in his first start. He looks like he has some talent, and he’ll need to in order to win here. Avenue (5) exits the same race where he was shuffled to the back of the field, after being more forwardly placed in his debut. It’s interesting to see that Irad Ortiz, who rode him last out, is riding the Chad Brown horse. However, Luis Saez takes over and he has been red hot, winning three straight on yesterday’s card, and nine times in three days of racing thus far. I think he’ll sit a better trip today. On deeper tickets, perhaps give a look to Sailor’s Return (2) who exits a maiden special weight heat at Gulfstream on 3/13, where he finished 5th. He was making his second career start and his first since his debut at Ellis is August, where he met a very salty group that day. He showed improvement off his debut and could take another step forward here. The favorites are going to be tough in here, but I think he’s a live longshot.
Race 7: Top Pick: 4
A half dozen three year olds go nine Furlongs on the main track in this optional $50K claiming/N1X allowance race. No one is in for the tag and Core Values (5) is a filly taking on the boys in the spot after an open lengths maiden win at Tampa last out. I think Warrior In Chief (4) is live in this spot making his second start off the layoff for Kenny McPeek. He ran into a buzzsaw last out when he was defeated by next out Florida Derby winner, Known Agenda. He needed that start off the layoff as he improved with each start last year. He has experience at the distance and could offer some value here. Good Culture (6) closed a ton of ground to win his debut in a one turn in the mud at Aqueduct in February. George Weaver brings him here, despite working consistently in New York, which tells me he thinks this horse can run a bit. Joel Rosario has been red hot during the first few days of the meet and he gets the call today. Kinetic Sky (2) has essentially run the same decent race three times in a row at the Fair Grounds and Oaklawn. He beat an off the turf maiden special weight field to break his maiden two back and was competitive when finishing third against winners for the first time last out. Promise Keeper (1) had a miserable journey when he was sent off at 4-1 when finishing last of twelve in the Tampa Bay Derby. His only win came in the slop, so that’s a bit of a concern here. He’s the morning line favorite, and I expect him to take a lot of money as Pletcher and Saez are also off to great starts at the meet. I’ll use him on deeper tickets, but I’d like to try to beat him.
Race 8: Top Pick: 2
The feature race is an N2X allowance for older horses on the turf. The filly and mare counterpart to this race on yesterday’s card, produced a performance that is likely to land the winner, Pocket Square, in stakes company next out. There are many different ways to go in this wide open event, but I landed on Street Ready (2) as my top pick. He’s drawn wide posts in his last several starts and finally gets an inside draw. He’s second off the layoff after running a respectable race at this level on the Fountain of Youth undercard. He lost by the slimmest of margins two back on this course in the Transylvania. I think he’ll run a stronger race while being reunited with Chris Landeros, who is his regular pilot. It’s interesting to see Irad Ortiz wind up on Ocean Atlantique (8) this afternoon, when Chad Brown is starting Vintage Print (12) in this same race. Irad won yesterday with a first time import for Chad Brown and now he lands on this first time import for Brendan Walsh. Ocean Atlantique was Group 3 placed last year in France before struggling with better on softer courses. Her best effort last season overseas came on a firm course, so it makes sense to try her luck on this side of the pond. She has worked well in the AM for Walsh in Florida and appears ready for today’s race. Irad Ortiz was also the last rider for morning line favorite, Opry (1), who was inexplicably dull at this level at Gulfstream last out, when he was the beaten favorite. Since his return from an eight month layoff, he hasn’t shown the same early foot that he showed when he was running very well in 2020. It’s been hard to bet against Pletcher and Saez at this meet thus far. His stablemate, Invader (1A) is trained by Wesley Ward and falls on the AE list. His three synthetic races are notably better than his four turf races. He has been working well in the AM for his first start in over a year. I’d need 10-1 or better on him if he draws in by himself, but I also don’t mind getting coverage with him as a part of the coupling. Silenced (9) was part of a lively pace in his last start on the Pegasus World Cup undercard at Gulfstream. His two races since been moved to the Cherie DeVaux barn have been decidedly better than what he was showing in Southern California. If he’s not challenged early, he could go a long way here.
The nightcap is a $40K maiden claimer at 6 Furlongs that has a little bit of everything. There are first time starters, second time starters, and some professional maidens with decent figures that are all coming together to make a tricky puzzle. I think Perspective (4), who is the slight morning line favorite, is the one to beat here. He was claimed for $50K at Gulfstream two starts back by Danny Gargan, who has won 32% of his races in 2021 thus far. He made a solid improvement to be a close second with similar last out. I think he has an advantage over two of the first time starters coming in from big barns. Cornbread Hill (1) debuts for Wesley Ward who has won with a whopping 42% (18-45) of his runners that debut in maiden claiming races since the start of 2020. His workouts aren’t great, his pedigree doesn’t scream 6 Furlongs on the dirt, and I don’t love the rail draw, however, it’s hard to ignore the success Ward has had with horses like this, especially at Keeneland. I usually try to beat first time starters in maiden claiming races from the Brad Cox barn, however, I think No Angel (7) is playable here, getting Irad Ortiz aboard. As a bonus, he might offer slight value as well. I like to bet against horses that are starting with a tag that is lower than the purchase price, which was a common theme at the Fair Grounds with some of Brad Cox’s maiden claiming runners. However, this one has worked well at Oaklawn and starts with a $40K tag, which is greater than his $22K purchase price. Cox took many of his better horses in each dirt division to Oaklawn, so I like that he was working well there, before debuting here. One horse that might be an interesting add on deeper tickets as a bomb is Nilsby (6) for Dane Kobiskie. He has brought some three year olds to this met that ran a few times at two, but weren’t quite ready yet. The horses that he’s brought here have outran their odds when making their three year old debut. This one showed little in two starts, but certainly could have grown up some since his last try in the mud in August at Ellis. He adds Lasix and drops in class, and horses sired by Nyquist seem to keep running big races all over the place. He’ll be a bomb, but might be worth a flyer at 30-1+.