Sixty-two total entries (60 runners + 2 also-eligibles) will line up to contest 5 graded stakes (4 of them Win and You’re In events for next month’s Breeders’ Cup) on Fall Stars Saturday at Keeneland. While deep and contentious fields are generally par for the course at the central Kentucky oval, this particular pick 5 sequence offers even the most seasoned handicapper a particularly stern test. The main track played fair enough on opening day, and the turf was listed as soft. It’s hard to imagine the lawn being upgraded to anything better than yielding on day 2 given all the rain it has taken recently.
Friday Wagering Recap: Net profit $1.50
Promises Fulfilled went straight to the front as expected and was able to withstand valiant efforts from Whitmore and Limousine Liberal to capture the Phoenix Stakes, returning $3.40 to win and $2.40 to place. Our $35 win-place wager returned $101.50.
Restless Rider came from just off the pace to capture trainer Kenny McPeek’s 4th Alcibiades and complete a graded stakes sweep by the two favorites on opening day. Unfortunately the rest of our trifecta selections didn’t cooperate, and the $30 play was a loss.
Saturday, October 6th – Race 5 Maiden Special Weight
We’ll take a stab at building a bankroll prior to the stakes action getting underway with an across the board play in this juvenile maiden event. Many of these two-year old fillies are attempting two turns for the first time, and others are making their first start on dirt. Positive Spirit is a daughter of Pioneerof the Nile and Above Perfection, making her a 3/4 sister to Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming. She ran very respectably in her first start when making up a ton of ground late in a 7 furlong sprint at Saratoga. Trainer Rodolphe Brisset strikes at a 32% clip with horses extending from a sprint to a route, and clearly this lass is bred to relish the added ground.
Wager: $5 WPS on Positive Spirit
Race 6 – the Grade 2 Woodford
This 5 1/2 furlong dash on the grass is a tune-up for the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint. Two of today’s competitors competed in that championship event last year, with Bucchero finishing 4th beaten a length and Holding Gold another 3/4 of a length back in 7th. Most turf sprints are laden with early speed, but that is simply not the case in this edition of the Woodford. Best guess is that Extravagant Kid will make the early running from post 4, and he’s entirely capable of taking this field pillar to post. Rocket Heat was bumped hard and lost all chance at the break of the Lucky Coin when 4 lengths adrift of Extravagant Kid. He will likely challenge for the early lead with a better break today. Will Call would almost certainly be the top choice in this spot were it not for the condition of the course. He ran the worst race of his life over soft ground on this course in the Shakertown back in the spring. The track condition will likely be the determining factor as many of these have put forth subpar efforts over yielding and soft courses in the past. Bucchero and Kid Perfect are probably most adept at handling the current course condition.
Wager: $1 Exacta Box with Bucchero, Kid Perfect, and Extravagant Kid
Race 7 – the Grade 2 Thoroughbred Club of America
Miss Sunset will be a deserving favorite in this 3/4 mile sprint for fillies and mares. She won the Raven Run over this track last fall and in the spring meet finished 2nd by a nose to Grade 1 winner Finleysluckycharm in the Madison. The daughter of Into Mischief is 4 for 5 lifetime at the 6 furlong distance, and her tactical speed will allow Mike Smith to place her wherever he sees fit. Golden Mischief has improved markedly this year under the care of first rate conditioner Brad Cox. Lately she’s been feasting on inferior competition at second tier tracks, but she appears capable of finding the winner’s enclosure here with her best effort. Vertical Oak has also run some very fine races in her career and boasts a very impressive 7 for 14 record at the distance.
Wager: $5 WPS on Golden Mischief and $1 trifecta box with Golden Mischief, Miss Sunset, and Vertical Oak
Race 8 – the Grade 1 First Lady
Nine older fillies and mares will enter the gate against a lone three-year old filly in this one mile race on the lawn. This is a very evenly matched group on paper, and how they handle the give in the ground will ultimately determine which one crosses the wire in front. The Chad Brown trio of A Raving Beauty, Quidura, and Off Limits all have solid credentials, as does the South American import Dona Bruja. Crown Walk, the lone 3yo in the field, has vast experience running over the softer grass courses in Europe where she has represented herself quite well. She was most recently second in the Group 1 Prix Rothschild at Deauville in her first try against elders. Not being overly enamored with the home team, I’ll give the daughter of Dubawi a shot in here.
Wager: $5 WPS on Crown Walk
Race 9 – the Breeders’ Futurity
The 14 stall starting gate will be full when they spring the latches for this mile and a sixteenth prep for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Unionizer is 2 for 2 since transferring to the barn of Bill Mott, has a two turn stakes victory to his credit, and hails from a sire that has been very successful with juveniles as they begin stretching out in distance. Tobacco Road had a rough trip when 4th in the Iroquois at Churchill, and Steve Asmussen elects to give him another chance to prove he is worthy of a shot in the Breeders’ Cup. Mr. Ankeny put up real race horse time to break his maiden at 3rd asking going 7 furlongs at Ellis, and he has been training extremely well at Churchill. He looks the best of the Dale Romans triumvirate. Mind Control won the Grade 1 Hopeful at Saratoga, but may be challenged by the added ground and the difficult outside post. Standard Deviation looks very promising for Chad Brown, but will also be hindered by his wide draw.
Wager: $0.50 trifecta box with Unionizer, Tobacco Road, Mr. Ankeny, Mind Control, and Standard Deviation
Race 10 – the Grade 1 Shadwell Turf Mile
Another incredible betting race, this is the deepest edition of the Shadwell I can ever remember. Heart to Heart and Voodoo Song are both admirable race horses with lofty credentials, but the presence of both in here will make it quite difficult for either one to persevere. Almanaar might end up my top choice in here if it were not for the jockey change. Javier Castellano is extremely accomplished and will no doubt go down as one of the greatest riders of all time, but he’s often much too cute for my taste as I’ve seen him make things too difficult for the best horse in a given race just a few too many times. Bound for Nowhere stretched out to a mile successfully at Kentucky Downs in his most recent effort. He is 2 for 2 at Keeneland and posted a career high Beyer figure over soft ground in the Shakertown last spring. He certainly has enough early lick to gain a decent position and minimize the negative effects of his wide draw. Qurbaan won his first North American start in the Bernard Baruch at Saratoga. A repeat performance here would make him quite tough to beat.
Wager: $0.50 trifecta box with Qurbaan, Analyze It, Almanaar, and Bound for Nowhere
Best of luck on an incredible day of racing at Keeneland.