Analysis & Selections By: Dean Keppler @Keppskorner
BEST BET:6-Big Beauty (Race 4)
Race #1: Recent Maiden winner 6-Paulliac (Ire) has run two sharp efforts since arriving stateside for D’Amato last November, and projects to potentially sit an ideal trip behind the frontrunners. The speedy 4-Zookeeper quickly opened a commanding 7-length lead before seeing it diminish late but was still able to hold on for the win nearly 8 weeks ago. He earned a field’s best (75) grass Beyer and is expected to utilize similar racing tactics today. 3-Kolomio returns off the mini-freshening for Cerin and was overmatched when last seen December 4 in the G3 Cecil B. Demille when finishing last of eight. He was a Maiden winner over this trip two-back at SA; adds Lasix this afternoon and has trained well.
Race #2: Beaten favorite 2-Impossible Task flashed speed before tiring in most recent try against slightly better and deserves another chance to make amends this afternoon as a strong wire-to-wire threat. Kimura and Sadler have teamed up for a couple wins this current meet. 1-Salto de Tigre moves up in sharp form and figures to work out another favorable trip with back-to-back rail breaks. 4-Club Aspen returns to the main track after a series of unsuccessful grass attempts and has run some competitive main track figures facing better albeit some time ago.
Race #3: 5-Bajan Bashert is the logical choice to break through in career start number three (unless one of the firsters comes out running) after two decent runner-up finishes for trainer Mark Glatt. She goes 2nd time Lasix and Pratt remains aboard. 2-Nene Diamond is by Stanford who is 13 for 79 (16%) with his first-time starting prodigy. The filly debuts with Lasix and Hernandez sees fit to take the riding assignment. Trainer Phil D’Amato has a pair of debuting fillies and is an average 5 for 34 (15%) with a $2.62 ROI with first time starters on dirt. 1-Ashleys Sandcastle is by multiple G1 winner West Coast who is 0 for 6 with 3-year-old & up debuting prodigy. Her stablemate 6-Idessia is by multiple G1 winner Smiling Tiger who is somewhat better 11% with older debuting runners. They both show average looking a.m. drills.
Race #4: She’s been a beaten favorite in last pair, but 6-Big Beauty looks like a standout over this weak field taking a significant class drop from an allowance 1x into a $32k claiming tag combined with recent dominating grass Beyers. She’ll need some pace to close into but should get just that today. 5-Majestic Steps (Ire) makes second start off the layoff today and can improve for Eurton on the class drop. This mare was crowded at the start on January 13 and then raced amongst traffic most of the sprint trip while never actually looking comfortable or having clear sailing. 2-Blossoming returns off a 5-month layoff but has proven she can fire fresh for trainer Paddy Gallagher.
Race #5: 1-American Cat just missed at 18/1 when facing winners for the first time after carving out some snappy fractions on the front end. The 4-year-old gelding cuts back from 7 to 6 panels with speed and the rail. 2-Katonah returned off a two-year hiatus to score a 10/1 Maiden breaking upset for Mullins defeating next-out winner El Potente who came back with a dominating grass victory and (86) turf Beyer. He’ll be a handful if he can avoid a potential bounce. 4-Indulge returns off a 7-month freshening and this lucrative jockey/trainer combo are 3 for 7 (43%) with horses returning off >180 days while sprinting on dirt. This gelding scored his Maiden victory off similar layoff.
Race #6: 3-Ballet Dancing made a strong looking sweep to the lead and defeated a robust field in second start off the bench on December 26 with new pilot Dettori while going today’s 1 1/8-mile trip. This hefty $800k Keeneland purchase takes next logical step up in class and might be mature and fit enough to start paying dividends with likely repeat score this afternoon. Trainer Phil D’Amato has a strong one-two punch consisting of 5-Buzz of New York (Ire) and 8-Macadamia (Brz). Buzz has hit the board in six consecutive grass tries missing by a neck in most recent start and narrowly finishing in front of her stablemate on December 3. They’ve both trained equally well for today’s rematch and can easily find winner’s circle if top choice doesn’t fire best effort.
Race #7: 1-Rose Harbor goes sprint to route today and makes second start off the bench after a tardy start in most recent effort. This 5-year-old mare shows a pair of sub :48 4-furlong drills since that last try and can improve enough to notch second career victory today. 2-Tecumseh Caroline returns off the mini-freshening off impressive Maiden sprint score at DMR on December 3 where she earned the field’s best last out main track Beyer (78). She’s bred to handle two turns. 7-La Deuxieme Etoile only has one main track start which was 12 races ago back in June 2021 debut when finishing a non-threatening 4th. She’s by Nyquist (who gets 18% dirt route runners) and obviously handled dirt well himself. She’s has trained well over the main track.
Race #8: 1-Star Prospect made a strong wide middle move into contention before flattening out in the stretch drive when making first start around two turns for trainer Carla Gaines. The gelding moves to the rail today; goes 2nd time Lasix and deserves another chance to break through this afternoon with go-to turf pilot back aboard. 3-Bronko Nagurski is bred to handle a route of ground and comes off a decent wide 3rd place finish when making initial sprint grass try. 9-Workday finished a game 3rd when flashing good speed in initial turf route try only to be passed in the late stages. The lightly raced 3-year-old colt is the one to beat off that encouraging effort but must negotiate another outside draw.