We’re two weeks away from the Breeders’ Cup, and Saturday’s cards at Belmont and Keeneland provide ample opportunities to build one’s bankroll. Belmont has a showcase day for New York-breds, while Keeneland’s slate is headlined by the Grade 2 Raven Run. I’ve got a pair of multi-race exotics tickets at each track, and I’ll analyze them below!
$0.50 Pick Five: Race #1
72 Bets, $36
We start off with what I think is the most wide-open race of the sequence. #7 APPEALING BRIEFS will probably be favored, but he’s 0-for-9 and has had many chances. I want coverage, and I’ll get it with three horses towards the inside. I’m most intrigued by #3 GRAND VALOUR, who never had a chance last time out given the early fractions and should improve with a faster pace.
My single comes in the second, which doubles as the first stakes race of the day. This is the Maid of the Mist, and I think #4 PURE SILVER will be very difficult to beat. She was 3-for-3 before getting into a suicidal speed duel with eventual Grade 1 Frizette winner Separationofpowers in the Spinaway. She’s clearly the fastest horse out of the gate, and if she gets an easy lead, she’ll be tough to run down.
I’m using the three logical horses in the Iroquois. #6 COZZY SPRING was the last horse I threw into the wager, simply because I needed to be covered in case she proves quickest out of the gate. I’m also going to use the two likely betting favorites in the Ticonderoga. #5 FIFTY FIVE gets significant class relief, and #8 TIZZELLE has never run a bad race, but I also want to make sure I use #3 BROKEN BORDER. She’s won four of her last five starts, all at Belmont, and her lone defeat came in a two-turn race against open company that did not set up for her late kick. 12-1 is way too big a price, especially if there’s a pace meltdown.
I’ll hope to close this out by going two-deep in the payoff leg, the Empire Classic. #3 TWISTED TOM will likely be favored and should probably win, but #4 CONTROL GROUP has won three in a row and will be prominent early in a race that doesn’t appear to have much early speed.
$0.50 Pick Four: Race #8
90 Bets, $45
To say this sequence isn’t easy would be an understatement. I usually don’t like to put $45 tickets out there, and this ticket doesn’t have a single, but if you’re playing it, this is how I’d advise doing so.
I’ll kick it off by using the two likely choices in the Hudson. #8 T LOVES A FIGHT and #3 WEEKEND HIDEAWAY ran 1-2 in an allowance two back in Saratoga, and those two appear toughest in this spot. If you’ve got deeper pockets, you may want to throw in #5 CELTIC CHAOS, but I didn’t have the budget to do so.
I’ll go three-deep in the Mohawk. #5 OFFERING PLAN and #7 BLACK TIDE will take money, but I also need to use #2 NEVISIAN SKY, a stablemate of Offering Plan who should be flying late. He’ll be a much bigger price compared to that one, and Black Tide’s presence assures a legitimate pace.
I’m five-deep in the Empire Distaff, and this is the most puzzling race in a very puzzling sequence. Two longshots intrigue me in a race where I’m not sold on any of the favorites. #5 NO HAYNE NO GAYNE took a big step forward in her first start off a layoff earlier this month, while #6 BONITA BIANCA loves Belmont and has never run a bad race. Both are 10-1 and provide real value.
Finally, I’ll go three-deep to finish it out. #9 LULU’S POM POM was the victim of, shall we say, a questionable DQ last time out at Saratoga. She likely wins with a similar effort, but two intriguing prices merit consideration. #3 COSMOISELLE is a first-time starter bred up and down for the turf, while #8 SPA TREATMENT has run OK in two turf sprints and maintains rider Javier Castellano.
$0.50 Pick Four: Race #2
60 Bets, $30
I found this sequence pretty challenging, especially given the payoff leg. With a little luck, we’ll get a price home along the way to make this pay a bit.
I’m going two-deep in the kickoff leg. #1 JEANNE’S SPEIGHT makes her first start for new trainer Robertino Diodoro, while #8 HONOR’S PARADE was claimed last out by Tom Amoss, who cuts this daughter of Parading back to a sprint (which should be a more agreeable route).
The third is a tough optional claimer with several stakes-quality horses. My top pick is #7 CONQUEST WINDYCITY due to his affinity for Keeneland, but his recent form indicates he may be headed the wrong way. As such, I’ll also use likely favorite #5 SEEKING THE SOUL and #1 SOCIETY BEAU, who returns to dirt and was an impressive allowance winner here in the spring.
The fourth features the shortest price in the sequence. #7 KIRBY’S PENNY has won four of her last five and will be a heavy favorite. I’m using her, but this spot represents a sizable step up in class, and I don’t think she’s a cinch. #5 CHINA GROVE, meanwhile, drops in class after spending most of her career knocking heads with stakes-quality opposition. She won a stakes race at this distance earlier in the year, and trainer Ben Colebrook has enjoyed a strong meet to this point.
We finish things off with a grass grab bag, and I needed to spread here. The most intriguing price of the five I used (to me, at least) is #2 MOUNTAIN MOMMA, who’s shown ample early speed in three starts at Arlington. Keeneland’s turf course is kind to early speed in route races, and Florent Geroux’s ridden very well here this fall. Having said that, while I think she’s a must-use at her 8-1 price, she’s certainly not a standout, and my advice is to go as deep as you can.
$0.50 Pick Four: Race #7
R7: 2,7 (9)
80 Bets, $40*
See that asterisk? That’s because my ticket, as constructed, uses two also-eligibles in the second leg. If one or both fails to draw in, or if they draw in because one or two of my other three horses in that leg scratches, add #9 AMERICA’S TALE in the first leg.
That first leg is a confounding maiden race. I took a bit of a stand by going two-deep, and one horse I used is a big price. #7 ELUSIVE TRUTH ran well in her debut and should step forward, but #2 PRINCESSOF THE NYL outran her odds when third at 45-1 in her unveiling last month. Jack Van Berg has saddled a few winners this meet, and 15-1 seems like too big a price on a well-meant second-time starter from that barn.
The eighth is a turf sprint, and the key to this ticket’s construction is if the AE’s draw in. I think both #13 EILA and #14 MONAVISTA CROSSING are contenders, and if they get into the race, I need to have them on my ticket. I’ll also use three logical contenders. #2 CHERRY LODGE has speed, #3 SPELLKER won at this route in the spring, and #9 SMILING CAUSEWAY has never finished out of the exacta in five career starts.
The third leg is the Grade 2 Raven Run, and I’m four-deep, with my top pick being a big price. That’s #3 PINCH HIT, who has shown versatility in a strong 2017 campaign. She won the Dogwood last time out at this distance, and it’s a plus that she can win while rating or while being on or close to the lead. I’ll also use #4 NONNA MELA, #7 TEQUILITA, and #9 CLASSY TUNE, all of whom will take some play at the windows.
I’ll go two-deep to finish off the ticket. #4 FREEDOM seems like the lone speed on paper, and over a course that’s kind to such a running style, that’s a big plus. I’ll also use #5 HALLIE BELLE, who came off the bench running last time out at Laurel. She’s run pretty well in two career starts, and Saturday could be graduation day with another step forward.