The second weekend of Keeneland’s spring meet features 5 stakes races beginning with Friday’s Maker’s 46 Mile. Saturday’s action includes the Grade 3 Stonestreet Lexington Stakes, which rewards the winner with 20 valuable Kentucky Derby qualifying points. Unfortunately it looks like the weather may again play a prominent role in the weekend’s racing action. Keeneland’s track maintenance crew did a phenomenal job last weekend to have the track in excellent shape and labeled “fast” for Saturday’s most important stakes races. Hopefully KSR readers were able to cash some tickets and build a nice bankroll for the rest of the meet as we suggested Analyze It (Transylvania), Bound for Nowhere (Shakertown), Monomoy Girl (Ashland), Good Magic (Bluegrass), and Rushing Fall (Appalachian) as likely winners in this space last week.
Friday, April 13th – Race 9, the Grade 1 Maker’s 46 Mile
The presence of both Heart to Heart and Om insures a tepid pace up front which will make it quite difficult for either one to find the winner’s circle. Forge is one that could capitalize on a fast pace. He appears mired in a good race, bad race, good race, bad race pattern that he cannot escape. The good news for his connections is that he is due for a good race after finishing 7th, beaten 9 lengths in the Mervin Muniz at the Fairgrounds last out. His best effort puts him in the mix. Mr. Misunderstood won 7 of 8 last year for Brad Cox, but he’s off to a slow start thus far in 2018. He could move forward in his 3rd start off the layoff. Hogy is an old war horse with 50 lifetime starts. Stretched to a mile in his most recent outing after spending most of his career as a sprinter, the Offlee Wild gelding rewarded trainer Mike Maker and owner Michael Hui with an impressive victory in the Grade 3 Canadian Turf at Gulfstream Park. He is another that will benefit from the fast pace scenario, and a repeat of that last effort could certainly make him 2 for 2 at the mile distance. Next Shares just ran a valiant second in the Grade 1 Kilroe Mile at Santa Anita last month and is dangerous shipping in for Richard Baltas. Frostmourne is very interesting in this spot. He was one of the best 3yo turf horses in the country last year and won his comeback race at Gulfstream handily enough. He should sit a decent trip stalking just behind the leaders, getting first run on all the deep closers. Ballagh Rocks has run some very fine races at Keeneland in the past, coming just a combined length short of winning each of Keeneland’s Grade 1 turf events for older males last year. His running style will suit the pace perfectly, but this is his first start since the Breeders’ Cup and Frostmourne will likely offer better value.
Saturday, April 14th – Race 7, the Grade 3 Ben Ali
Chip Leader is the 5/2 morning-line favorite in here and owns a decided pace advantage over the rest of the field as he appears to be the only horse interested in taking control early. While that tactical advantage may prove too difficult for others to overcome, the horse is 0 for 3 lifetime on traditional dirt surfaces and thus a vulnerable favorite. The question then becomes who is most likely to beat him. The answer will come from either Guest Suite, Rafting, or Hollywood Handsome. Any of the 3 could beat the rest to the wire, but Hollywood Handsome looks best suited in this spot. He has shown considerable improvement in his first two starts as a 4yo and is eligible to improve once again while adding blinkers for trainer Dallas Stewart.
Race 8, the Giant’s Causeway
Lady Aurelia will be a very deserving heavy favorite in this 5 1/2 furlong turf sprint. She won this race last year defeating her elders as a 3yo. She went on to take the Group 1 King’s Stand at Royal Ascot and just missed taking her 3rd Group 1 by a nose in the Nunthorpe at York. The daughter of Scat Daddy did disappoint as the favorite in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint, but she has been training well for her return and won in this spot last year off an even longer layoff. If anyone is capable of an upset, her name is likely to be Morticia. She won the Grade 3 Franklin County over the Lexington lawn last fall and her stalking style should allow her to get first run on the leaders ahead of Lady Aurelia.
Race 9, the Grade 3 Stonestreet Lexington
My Boy Jack leaps off the page in this race. His average speed figures top most of the field by a wide margin, and he has three in the money finishes in graded stakes races this year, including a win in the Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park over a muddy surface. If the predicted rains emerge, his chances increase even further. Telekinesis looks like the best chance of an upset. He is definitely eligible to improve in just his 3rd lifetime start and his pedigree suggests he will relish an off-track.
Race 10, the Grade 1 Jenny Wiley
La Coronel is a perfect 3 for 3 over the Keeneland green, and with 2 solid prep races under her belt she will be ready to defend her turf. Off Limits reeled off 4 straight wins culminating in the Grade 1 Matriarch last fall. Given the forecasted precipitation, her affinity for give in the ground, and the recent sharpener she received at Tampa, the Irish-bred daughter of Mastercraftsman rates as the top choice here. Kitten’s Roar is another who appreciates softer ground and she may offer good value for Mike Maker. Cambodia, Dona Bruja, Sistercharlie, Fourstar Crook, Proctor’s Ledge, and Ultra Brat are all certainly capable of winning this with their best effort.
Best of luck this weekend! For more racing coverage and analysis you can follow me on Twitter @chadlashbrook.