I’ll be doing full-card analysis and selections for every day of racing at Keeneland this spring. Simply put, I noticed a number of people I like and/or respect diving into the public handicapper pool at this meet. If I can provide quality handicapping materials for free to my readers, while also scratching my itch for friendly competition, it’s a win all the way around.
I’ll have analysis and selections up 24-36 hours before post time, and I’ll be tracking my win totals and ROI for the whole meet on Twitter (@AndrewChampagne). There may also be more fun stuff in the works, and I’m looking forward to keeping you posted on that.
Enough talk: Let’s dive into the Opening Day program!
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Best Bet: Nayibeth, Race 1
Longshot: Storm Rider, Race 3
Nurse Maggie Sue
#13 NAYIBETH: Will be very tough if she can draw in off the AE list. Wesley Ward has his 2-year-olds primed for this meet, and there’s plenty of win-early pedigree here (her dam is a half-sister to Soldat, a multiple stakes-winner who was second in the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf); #11 NURSE MAGGIE SUE: Comes in off a bullet drill from the gate on March 23rd and represents a barn that can win with debuting 2-year-olds at this meet. The presence of Jose Ortiz is another plus; #8 BAYTOWN BABE: Could have a say in the race at a price. Her most recent gate drill was the fifth-fastest of 27 at the distance that day, and her dam is a half to C P West, who was Grade 2-placed as a 2-year-old.
La Femme Royale
#3 HONEY BUNNY: Has won two of three this year (and 10 of 27 overall) and looms large as the likely favorite in this spot. She ran well when third beaten a head here last year, and this doesn’t seem like the strongest group for the level; #6 LA FEMME ROYALE: Certainly has to improve, but may inherit the early lead in what seems like a paceless race. The most recent workout here was strong, and she could be the one to catch turning for home; #2 ZENA RULES: Has a strong closing kick but seems to relish settling for minor awards. Her last start around one turn was a win, but that came against a very soft group.
Wild One Forever
#5 STORM RIDER: Makes his second start off a layoff in this wide-open maiden claimer and has a pedigree that hints he’ll love two turns. His second dam is multiple graded stakes winner Tweedside, and improvement off his late-running fourth last time out at Oaklawn would make him a factor at a big price; #14 WILD ONE FOREVER: Figures to be favored if he draws in off the AE list. He takes a big drop in class for aggressive connections, and would make his first start as a gelding if he runs; #3 WATCH CAIRO: Has also been gelded since his last effort, and is another going two turns for the first time. His race two back wasn’t bad, and Luis Saez is coming off of a stellar meet at Gulfstream.
#9 TARUCA: Takes a big drop in class after running two so-so races at Fair Grounds. He’s won over this surface before, and the only time he started for a claiming price close to this, he found the winner’s circle at Saratoga; #13 LEWYS VAPORIZER: Is a feast-or-famine type, but must be respected if he draws in off the AE list. If he goes postward, he’ll likely be the main speed, and he can get brave if left alone on the lead; #2 TURNER TIME: Has won three in a row at Fair Grounds, but is just one for five outside Louisiana. Still, it looks like he’s in strong form, and Geroux riding back is encouraging.
#5 FRANKINCENSE: Has a big shot to upset the heavy favorite given his last two outings (both wins at Fair Grounds). He’s closed well in a pair of races without much early speed, and they should be moving with some urgency out of the gate here. I doubt we’ll get the 20-1 morning line, but anything above 12-1 would be juicy; #2 INSTILLED REGARD: Makes his 2019 debut after spending most of 2018 running against Grade 1-caliber opponents. His best race almost certainly wins, but this race isn’t the goal, and he hasn’t won in a long time; #13 ADMISSION OFFICE: Merits a long look if he draws in. He hasn’t run since September, but was in good form last year, when he was first or second in all four starts.
#1 ULELE: Gets the nod in a tough optional claiming event. There isn’t a lot of true early speed, and she was close to a solid pace when third against similar at Oaklawn. She may have the most natural speed here, and I think she could wire them; #11 HIGH REGARD: Almost certainly needed her last race in the Grade 2 Davona Dale and wasn’t helped by a bad stumble. Her form late last year was quite good, and she’ll be formidable if she can work out a trip from a subpar post; #6 MO GAYLE: Rallied to win her debut before running an OK third in her first start against winners. Her pedigree says two turns shouldn’t be a problem, and she’s flashed enough talent to be a must-use in the exotics at or near her 12-1 morning line price.
Yes I Am Free
#1 YES I AM FREE: Hasn’t done anything wrong to this point, having won both of his prior outings at Gulfstream. He rated a bit last time out in the Texas Glitter, but he’s also got enough tactical speed to establish position on the rail early in a wide-open renewal of the Palisades Turf Sprint where I’m trying to beat #12 BULLETIN; #9 ABYSSINIAN: Has improved with every start and faces the boys after a convincing score against optional claimers in February. Wesley Ward tends to keep sprinters on the right track, and if she gets an easy lead, look out; #2 VIVID VERSE: Cuts back to a turf sprint, and he’s 2 for 2 in such races to this point. A mile was likely too long for him, and improvement seems logical at a big price.
#9 IPANEMA BEACH: Goes to Ben Colebrook’s barn and faces claimers for the first time. There were high hopes for this one at one point, and there’s enough back class here to hint that she’ll be formidable in the Thursday finale; #7 MISS HARRY: Was one-paced against slightly better in her first start in more than two months last time out. She may have needed that race, and she showed some talent in two Gulfstream races last December; #8 TOLLY HO: Gets Lasix for the first time following a maiden win on the synthetic at Turfway Park. There doesn’t seem to be much early speed in here, and if she can translate her synthetic speed to dirt, she could lead them a long way.