Keeneland Analysis and Selections: 4/5/19

Best Bet: Lady Pauline, Race 2
Longshot: Homefortheweekend, Race 5


Art Buff
Promised Fame
Social Circle

#2 ART BUFF: Gets a reluctant nod in a puzzling Friday opener. It’s tough to debut going two turns, and between the drop in class and the addition of blinkers, I think there’s potential for improvement; #5 PROMISED FAME: Tries a route distance for the first time, and she’s bred to want two turns. She also drops in class after three straight tries against maiden special weight foes; #1 SOCIAL CIRCLE: Has run evenly against $50,000 maiden claiming foes and drops further down the ladder here. She may inherit the early lead by default in what seems like a paceless race.


Lady Pauline
Baytown Legend
Main Squeeze

#9 LADY PAULINE: Has several solid three-furlong works on the docket for all-world first-out trainer Wesley Ward. John Velazquez hops aboard, and when Stonestreet names a horse after Barbara Banke’s mother, look out; #2 BAYTOWN LEGEND: Merits a long look in the exotics at a big price. He’s worked well since shipping to Keeneland, and may get overlooked given that he hails from a smaller barn; #6 MAIN SQUEEZE: Has been training over the synthetic track at Turfway for Ward. It’s unclear if she’ll take to dirt, but anything this barn sends out at this meet merits a long look.


Golden Curl
Club Car

#2 GOLDEN CURL: Missed by a half-length in her debut and adds Lasix at second asking. She’s worked well since her unveiling and figures to be tough at a short price; #4 GOTTAFLATHAVEHER: Needed her unveiling, as most McPeek trainees do, and comes in off a very sharp workout at Gulfstream. It’s logical to expect a step forward here, and the $3.60 ROI with recent second-out maidens is encouraging; #3 CLUB CAR: Is worth a look despite making her debut at a tough distance. Her dam and second dam were both stakes-winners, and while Ben Colebrook is only so-so with first-time starters, the workouts hint that this one may have talent.


Abounding Joy (MTO)
Calumet entry

#5 ENVIRONS: Will be incredibly tough if this race stays on turf. She won a stakes race last summer in France, adds Lasix for her U.S. debut, and doesn’t seem to have caught a very strong field for the level; CALUMET ENTRY: I prefer #1 COCO CHANNEL, who has tried tough company in the past and makes her first start of 2019 here. She could sit a perfect stalking trip, and her back class may be an asset; #4 NANTUCKET RED: Won two back at Gulfstream in a career-best effort before taking a step back last time out. She’s worked well recently for Bill Mott, and a return to the January form gives her a shot. DIRT SELECTIONS: ABOUNDING JOY, OH MY, MISS ALTAMIRA.


Ruis entry

#13 TOOTHPIC: Could be tough if he draws in off the AE list. He showed speed at Tampa, a track he didn’t seem to like, and a return to familiar stomping grounds against a shaky field could wake him up; #10 HOMEFORTHEWEEKEND: Hasn’t done much running lately, but cuts back to a sprint, and he ran fairly well going short last fall at Woodbine. Maybe that was because of the synthetic track, but I think he’ll move up returning to a shorter distance; RUIS ENTRY: #1A TRAPPER PEAK needs two scratches to run, but he hasn’t done much wrong in his career and could come running late beneath Abel Lezcano, who’s winning at a 19% clip so far this year.


Del Mar May
Sugar Love
My Majestic Rose

#9 DEL MAR MAY: Chased the likes of Bellafina and Brill as a 2-year-old and has been working well ahead of her 2019 debut. This obviously isn’t the goal, but if she runs to her works, she figures to be tough; #5 SUGAR LOVE: Likely needed her last race off the bench, and it’s worth noting that her second career start was easily her best race. Going off of that form cycle and a recent strong work, it’s safe to assume she’ll be fully-cranked; #4 MY MAJESTIC ROSE: Came flying late to be second against similar at Fair Grounds last time out. She may want more pace than she’ll get here, but Ortiz riding back is certainly a plus.


First Premio

#12 ARKLOW: Makes his 2019 debut in a loaded allowance event that drew several other stakes-quality horses. I find it difficult to believe we’ll get 5-1, as anything close to his best shot will make him a formidable foe; #3 PROJECTED: Hasn’t won since 2017, but is another dropping in class for his seasonal bow. The faster they go early on, the more he’ll like it, but it certainly seems like he enjoys settling for minor awards; #2 FIRST PREMIO: Won a stakes race by daylight two back before running into Synchrony in a Grade 3. He loves this distance and should have enough speed to establish position from his inside post.


U S Navy Cross
Intrepid Heart
Get the Prize

#2 U S NAVY CROSS: Looked like a good one when storming home on debut at Belmont, but he hasn’t been seen since finishing a distant fourth in the Grade 3 Nashua. There’s a lot of speed in here, which should help given his late-running style; #9 INTREPID HEART: Ran to his $750,000 price tag in his debut win at Oaklawn and tries winners for the first time. He’s obviously talented, but he shouldn’t be alone on the lead in this spot, and while he may be eligible to improve, such a step forward may be mandatory, not optional; #8 GET THE PRIZE: Graduated in his debut, a swiftly-run six-furlong event, and stretches out to two turns. His pedigree hints this won’t be an issue, and he may have the most pure early zip in this field.


Henley’s Joy
The Black Album

#2 ONTHEWAYTONEVRLAND: Hasn’t done much wrong to date, with two wins and two seconds in four starts, and cruised home in a minor stakes at Turfway. He’s shown he can go two turns, and he could sit a dream stalking trip here in the Grade 3 Transylvania; #10 HENLEY’S JOY: Hated dirt in the Grade 2 Risen Star, but returns to the grass here and is a logical favorite. He was beaten just a nose in the Grade 3 Bourbon here last fall, and he’ll be tough if he can overcome the tough outside draw; #1 THE BLACK ALBUM: Hasn’t run since finishing eighth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, but hinted at significant talent in Europe earlier in the year and adds Lasix for this race. A return to form could make him a contender at a square price.


Fast Talking
Fuel the Bern

#12 FAST TALKING: Came off the bench running when graduating at Gulfstream Park and tries winners for the first time. The far outside post should give Ortiz some options, and an improvement second off the layoff would make him tough; #4 FUEL THE BERN: Won two in a row late last year for fellow Pink Sheet handicapper Dan Feiss and has been working pretty well lately in New York. Danny Gargan does strong work with a fairly small barn, and it’s notable that he ships this one here; #2 CHAPS: Has been gelded since his last start and returns to dirt. His best effort was a romp in the slop last fall at Churchill, and if expected rains show up, he’ll stand to benefit at a price.

Analysis and Selections: Keeneland Opening Day (4/4/19)

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!

– – – – –

Best Bet: Nayibeth, Race 1
Longshot: Storm Rider, Race 3


Nurse Maggie Sue
Baytown Babe

#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.


Honey Bunny
La Femme Royale
Zena Rules

#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.


Storm Rider
Wild One Forever
Watch Cairo

#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.


Lewys Vaporizer
Turner Time

#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.


Instilled Regard
Admission Office

#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.


High Regard
Mo Gayle

#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
Vivid Verse

#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.


Ipanema Beach
Miss Harry
Tolly Ho

#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.

Analysis, Selections, and Tickets: Kentucky Derby Preps and Pick Four Sequences, PLUS: A STRANGE Week

We’ll get to my analysis of the three Kentucky Derby prep races, and the Pick Four sequences that contain them, shortly. However, I first need to start out by saying…well, by saying that it’s been a REALLY weird week.

It started with a small right-wing blog picking up a letter that I wrote to WRGB, the Sinclair-owned TV station in my former hometown of Albany, N.Y., criticizing their airing of the company-wide message they were roundly panned for last week. This was not a political stance, but one coming from the point of view of a journalist with a conscience (yes, we exist). Naturally, this got contorted to their desired degree of spin, and that made for a number of interesting conversations with people.

As strange as that was, the truly bizarre stuff happened Thursday. Those of you who truly know me know the kind of person I am. However, over the past 13 months, I’ve had some fun on Twitter occasionally morphing into a character that took several forms depending on what was being discussed. Most of the time, I was puffing my ample chest out over a successful season at Saratoga, begging for Beemie Award consideration (hi, Jason), or otherwise doing my best to troll people I liked.

Some people picked up on what I was doing right away (oddly, most of them are fellow diehard professional wrestling fans who appreciate someone cutting a good promo!). However, thanks to several people I like and respect a great deal (likely much more than they want me to, in all honesty), I caught wind that my perception among certain horse racing people was that of a pompous buffoon who actually believed his own hype. That necessitated the below tweet, which you’ve likely seen by now.

If you think, for one solitary second, that I truly believe my own hype, you’re misguided. What you’ve seen over the past 13 months was a gimmick constructed thanks to a fateful conversation that I’ve mentioned before on this website. I came to the conclusion that, if certain people were going to believe I was an unbelievably strong personality (to the point of that being anything but a compliment), I was going to have as much fun with it as I could.

The “128 winners at Saratoga” stuff? That was inspired by “Married With Children” protagonist/American hero Al Bundy’s rants centering around “four touchdowns in a single game.” Since I’ve mentioned that, I feel the need to include this.

You’re welcome. Anyway, the “best to never win a Beemie Award” stuff, and all the posturing that happened there? That was entirely the result of much too much time spent watching professional wrestling with arrogant bad guys who always seemed to have the best lines at their disposal. With said “strong personality” at my disposal (and by the way, can you tell that was a REALLY bad choice of words by an unnamed person yet?), it was natural to portray this character as a rebel.

If you fell for that and thought that was a 100% accurate representation of me in real-life, that means I probably did a heck of a job with the gimmick, but it also means that I need to pull the curtain back. As I’ve told a few people over the past few days, I’m a slightly introverted nerd who has no problem with self-deprecating humor. I’m incredibly fortunate to have my job and the professional respect that I have for doing what I do, and not a day goes by where I don’t consider myself genuinely blessed to be in that position.

As the tweet above says, if what you’re reading is analysis, or my thoughts on a race, that’s me, as I am. If you think that the person pandering for Beemie consideration or doing a Santino Marella victory celebration is actually who I am, know that it isn’t. Many of you out there got the gist of what I was doing (including a few people that have done a lot for me simply by existing), but enough of you didn’t, so I needed to expound on that before we went further.

Now that we’re 700 words into this article, let’s dive into some Saturday analysis! We’ve got three Kentucky Derby prep races scheduled, and they all come within fun late Pick Four sequences at their respective tracks. I’ll take a look at all three, and we’ll go in alphabetical order of tracks, so we’ll start in New York.


$0.50 Pick Four: Race #8

R8: 2,3,4,5,6,9,11
R9: 3,4,5
R10: 5,9
R11: 2

42 Bets, $21

As a heads-up, this ticket assumes that the 11th race stays on the turf. If it doesn’t, this ticket is rendered obsolete, as I don’t have a clue who wins if it’s run on the main track. However, for now, it’s a fun sequence that I think you can play for cheap.

The Grade 1 Carter Handicap kicks things off, and I thought this was the toughest race of the sequence. If you want to buy the race, I understand, but I only went seven-deep so as to keep the cost of the ticket down (if it chalks out, it won’t pay much). #2 ARMY MULE and #11 AWESOME SLEW figure to take most of the action, but I needed to use several others as well. That includes many logical contenders, as well as 20-1 shot #6 PETROV, whose recent slate looks much better if you can bring yourself to draw a line through that clunker two back. This is a flexible runner campaigned by savvy connections, and I needed him on my ticket.

The ninth is the Grade 3 Bay Shore for 3-year-olds going seven furlongs. #4 NATIONAL FLAG and #5 ENGAGE will take much of the money, but I thought #3 JUSTAHOLIC was intriguing at his 8-1 morning line price. He’s stepped forward in every start to date and topped a decent Todd Pletcher trainee last time out at Tampa. This barn has done terrific work with a limited number of runners, and it’s interesting to see them show up in this spot far from home.

The 10th is the Grade 2 Wood Memorial (and seriously, can we begrudgingly admit that the graded stakes committee got it right with the downgrade?). #5 ENTICED will be a popular single off of his win in the Grade 3 Gotham, and he could easily make it two in a row. However, I also needed to use #9 VINO ROSSO, who wants every bit of this distance and may have bounced last time out off of a career-best effort two back. We may get a bit of a price on him today, and it’s not inconceivable to think he’s sitting on a big effort.

The 11th is the aforementioned turf race, and if it stays on the grass, I think #2 ASTOUNDING will be tough to beat. He’s been running against much better horses since going to Jason Servis’s barn in 2016, and this spot represents significant class relief. His most recent effort wasn’t good, but that came on dirt off of a layoff. This is the route he wants, and if he gets a good trip, I think he’s going to be formidable (even at a short price). If he doesn’t win, I don’t know who does.


$0.50 Pick Four: Race #7

R7: 2,5,7,10,12,13
R8: 2,8,10,11,12
R9: 1
R10: 4,10,11

90 Bets, $45

A few notes before we start: First of all, this ticket is obviously contingent on Keeneland running this card in the first place. I have no insider knowledge, nor have I ever claimed to, but if the winter storm barreling towards Kentucky is as bad as some forecasts are claiming, this could get dicey. Additionally, if the first leg comes off the turf, my ticket is irrelevant.

Good? Good. We’ll kick it off with the Grade 2 Shakertown, which has drawn a field of 14 turf sprinters. #13 DISCO PARTNER is the 5/2 morning line favorite, and I think he can win, but he’ll need to negotiate a trip from a tough post in his first start since the Breeders’ Cup to do so. I’m using many others as well, including #12 BOUND FOR NOWHERE, who’s 3-for-3 in America and was a credible fourth in last year’s Group 1 Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot. If you toss the effort two back at Deauville, he more than fits with this group, and I’ve got a tough time believing this Wesley Ward trainee will be 20-1 when the gates are sprung.

The eighth is the Grade 1 Madison, which is shaping up to be a tremendous race. It’s drawn Grade 1-quality fillies and mares and a field of 13, which makes things very tricky. I went five-deep and used most of the main contenders. My top pick is #11 AMERICAN GAL, who I think may have been the best 3-year-old filly in the country last year when healthy. She’s been off since a dominant performance in the Grade 1 Test, but she’s been working well for Simon Callaghan and has handled shipping east with aplomb in the past. If she’s right, I think she’ll be tough.

The ninth race is the Grade 1 Ashland, and it features one of the top 3-year-old fillies in the country. That’s #1 MONOMOY GIRL, who figures to be one of the favorites for next month’s Kentucky Oaks. There isn’t much other early speed in the race, and I think she’ll be able to dictate the terms all the way around. I respect #2 ESKIMO KISSES, but Monomoy Girl seems like a different kind of filly, and she’s an easy single for me.

We’ll finish with the main event, as the 10th is the Blue Grass, which doubles as the race that I analyzed for this week’s DRF Derby Countdown Weekly Guide. You can find my thoughts there (as well as my preferred single-race wagering strategy), but to summarize, I think #4 KANTHAKA is very appealing at a price. I’ll also use likely favorite #11 GOOD MAGIC, and I’ll defensively use #10 FREE DROP BILLY, just in case he returns to the form he showed last year at Keeneland when he won the Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity.


$0.50 Pick Four: Race #9

R9: 3,6
R10: 3,5,6,7,9
R11: 3
R12: 1,2,4,6,7,10

60 Bets, $30

I’ve got a gripe to address before we start. Santa Anita has three stakes races being run outside of this Pick Four sequence (not counting the Arabian race that ends the day), which ends with an optional claiming event. It’s still a juicy sequence that could pay more than it should given the possibility of several short-priced winners, but why the lack of an all-stakes Pick Four on a big day? I’m sure there’s a logical business reason for this, but from a fan’s perspective, this doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.

Anyway, onward and upward. The ninth is the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby, and I’m not getting cute. I’m using #3 BOLT D’ORO and #6 JUSTIFY, like pretty much every other ticket on the planet. Simply put, I think these are two of the top four 3-year-olds on the road to the Kentucky Derby right now, and I can’t rationalize throwing anyone else in.

I’m spreading in the 10th, the Grade 2 Royal Heroine. I would really like #6 ENOLA GRAY and #9 SASSY LITTLE LILA if it was solely one of them running, but while I think either could win, the scenario of them speeding away early and getting run down is certainly possible. As such, I’m using a number of closers, including #3 BEAU RECALL, who was the very last horse I threw onto the ticket. I don’t like that she seems to enjoy running second or third, but this race sets up for her, as it does for fellow closers #5 THUNDERING SKY and #7 MADAME STRIPES.

I wish I could give you an interesting alternative to #3 MIDNIGHT BISOU in the 11th, the Grade 1 Santa Anita Oaks. However, I can’t do that. I think she may be the best 3-year-old filly in training right now, and the way she’s moving forward with every start leads me to believe she’s sitting on a big effort. The ample early speed in here is a plus, and I will be stunned if we get 6/5 on her at post time. If we do, I think that’s a considerable overlay.

As mentioned, an optional claimer ends this sequence, and it’s a tough betting race. If you’ve got the budget to buy the race, by all means do that. I settled on going six-deep, and while I used likely favorites #1 LASEEN and #2 PANTSONFIRE, I’m not in love with either. If I had to make a top pick, it’d be #7 THE TULIP, who lost her action two back and should be rolling late at a bit of a price following her win last time out. I also have to use 15-1 shot #4 MS WAKAYA, who’s run into some sharp horses in her prior tries going long on turf. She’s got some tactical speed, which isn’t abundant in this field, and I wouldn’t be shocked if apprentice jockey Franklin Ceballos boots her to the front early and sees how long she can stay there.

Analysis, Selections, and Tickets: Belmont and Keeneland (10/21/17)

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

R1: 2,3,4,7
R2: 4
R3: 1,3,6
R4: 3,5,8
R5: 3,4

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

R8: 3,8
R9: 2,5,7
R10: 1,4,5,6,8
R11: 3,8,9

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

R2: 1,8
R3: 1,5,7
R4: 5,7
R5: 1,2,5,10,11

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)
R8: 2,3,9,13,14
R9: 3,4,7,9
R10: 4,5

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.

Keeneland Analysis, Selections, and Tickets: 10/7/17

It’s opening weekend at Keeneland, and there are plenty of reasons to be excited. Saturday’s card boasts five consecutive stakes races, as well as some compelling undercard events, and I’ll have three different multi-race tickets to go through.

One quick note before we get started. As you may know, I’ve put together a survey asking for feedback on, as well as thoughts on a few ideas I’ve got going forward to continue to make this site a resource for handicappers. If you haven’t taken it yet, it only takes a few minutes, and it’s located here.

Anyway, on with the show, starting with the early Pick Four!

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$0.50 Pick Four: Race #2

R3: 1
R4: 2,4,5,7,8
R5: 1,8

50 Bets, $25

Our first horizontal wager begins with a race where, to be honest, I did not have a clue. I think any of the five fillies and mares signed on could win, and analyzing races on the Beard course is not one of my strengths. I’m using them all, and hopefully we get a bit of a price home.

My convictions are much stronger in the third race, which features the debut of a highly-touted 2-year-old. That’s #1 CONQUISTADOR, who fetched $2.45 million at auction earlier this year and has been working lights-out for trainer Mark Casse. Casse and jockey Julien Leparoux are riding high after three wins on Friday, and I don’t think the rest of this field is any great shakes. I’ll single this son of Tiznow, and I’ll be very surprised if we get close to his 3-1 morning line odds (6/5 or 7/5 is probably more likely).

Things get tougher again in the fourth, another 2-year-old race and one that boasts a full field going two turns. I’m five-deep, and while #8 TIZ MISCHIEF merits respect, that was a pretty sizable leap forward from start one to start two, and there could be a bounce coming. I want coverage, and that includes 15-1 shot #4 MEISTERMIND, a half to Mine That Bird and Dullahan who dumped the jockey in his debut. I’m not holding that against him, and if this son of Bodemeister runs to his pedigree, that price is a major overlay.

This sequence ends with the first stakes race of the day. It’s the Grade 2 Woodford going 5 1/2 furlongs on the turf, and I’m two-deep. #8 HOGY may be better than ever, but it’s tough to back one-run closers in these events, and my top pick is #1 CONQUEST PANTHERA. He was seventh in the Grade 1 Woodbine Mile last time out, but finished just two lengths back of runner-up Lancaster Bomber. His best races have come going sprint distances, and I think he could sit an ideal trip just off the early speed.

$0.50 Pick Five: Race #5

R5: 1,3,8
R6: 4
R7: 3,4,6
R8: 2,7,9
R9: 3,10,14

81 Bets, $40.50

There’s a $250,000 guaranteed pool for this wager, so I’ve put a ticket together. It’s built around a horse that will likely be the shortest price of the day, but if we get some prices home around that one, we could score for some serious money.

I added #3 COMMEND in the first leg, which doubles as the payoff leg of the early Pick Four. I’m not sold by either of his wins this year, but he did make Hogy work at Kentucky Downs last time out, so I threw him in here for the sake of coverage. I can afford to do that because I think #4 FINLEY’SLUCKYCHARM will be exceptionally tough to beat in the sixth, the Grade 2 TCA. She’s done very little wrong around one turn, and if she doesn’t win, many tickets will go up in smoke (mine included).

The seventh is the Grade 1 First Lady, and I’m using the three logical horses. #3 DONA BRUJA has been very good since coming to the U.S., and she ran a strong second in the Grade 1 Beverly D. going longer. I think she’ll relish the cutback in distance, but in case she doesn’t, I’ve also got #4 ROCA ROJO and #6 DICKINSON on my ticket. Of those two, I prefer the latter, as the former seems to find trouble more often than I’d like.

The eighth is the Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity, and this is a tough race. I’m taking the stance that the Grade 1 Hopeful is a legitimate race, so I’m using the 2-3 finishers from that event. However, my top pick is #2 EZMOSH, who’s gotten better with each start and graduated with a pretty fast win at Churchill Downs. The inside draw should help him going into the first turn, and the presence of Javier Castellano doesn’t hurt, either.

We’ll look to finish things off in the Grade 1 Shadwell Turf Mile. I’m going deeper on my Pick Four, but I’m using my three top horses here. #10 HEART TO HEART is my top pick and will be tough if he gets loose on the lead. Having said that, I’m also using a few longshots on this ticket. #3 SUEDOIS has spent most of the last two years running against high-level European competition and gets Lasix for the first time, all of which makes him very appealing at 15-1. Add in that his jockey probably had his choice between this one and #7 MONDIALISTE, and you’ve got a genuinely live horse. Another live one is #14 AMERICAN PATRIOT, who won the Grade 1 Maker’s 46 Mile here earlier this year. His trip to Ascot didn’t go well, and his last-out effort was a clunker, but I think both races are throw-outs. Some Americans just don’t like Ascot, and the turf course at Saratoga was a bog the day of the Grade 1 Fourstardave. Despite the horrible post, I’ll give him another shot at a juicy price.

$0.50 Pick Four: Race #6

R6: 4
R7: 3,4,6
R8: 2,3,4,7,9
R9: 3,6,8,10,14

75 Bets, $37.50

The first two legs of my late Pick Four are the same as the second and third legs of the Pick Four. I opted to go deeper in the last two legs, throwing in two additional horses in the Breeders’ Futurity and Shadwell Turf Mile.

I have some reservations about #3 LONE SAILOR and #4 TEN CITY, but both figure to be prices in the third leg. Even though the race was rained off the turf, Lone Sailor ran a smashing race to graduate at Saratoga, and Ten City ran two very good races earlier in the year. His longer races have been just so-so, but there’s a chance he recaptures that form in this spot, and I need to have him on this ticket because of it.

I’ll also add in #6 BALLAGH ROCKS and #8 MISS TEMPLE CITY in the Shadwell. The former was beaten just a half-length at this route in the Maker’s 46 Mile and ran well in each of his last two starts, while the latter won this race last year and certainly has an affinity for this track (even though she may not be the same horse she was a year or two ago).