Keeneland Analysis and Selections: 4/7/19

Best Bet: Kimari, Race 1
Longshot: Roan Like the Wind, Race 4


Palace Duchess
Secretly Wicked

#5 KIMARI: Fetched $152,000 at auction last summer and has worked well for 2-year-old maestro Wesley Ward. That gate drill, in particular, jumps off the page, and I highly doubt she’ll be as high as her 5/2 morning line; #10 PALACE DUCHESS: Is the other Ward trainee, and she runs for owner/Triple Crown-winning jockey Steve Cauthen. She’s from the first crop of Palace, and it’ll be interesting to see if his offspring can run; #7 SECRETLY WICKED: Turned in a strong four-furlong move a few days ago and gets Jose Ortiz for her unveiling. She may want a bit longer, but there’s reason to suspect this one can run a bit.


Strut the Ring

#8 UNSTABLED: Romped at Turfway last time out, but may be even better on conventional dirt. He won two in a row over that surface late last year and could sit a perfect stalking trip; #7 PEEKACHO: Has won two of his last three and may be in peak form. He may be better on synthetic surfaces, but he did run an OK second at a similar route at Churchill last year; #4 STRUT THE RING: Settled for second in an off-the-turf event last time out at Fair Grounds. He won his other dirt route start earlier this year and may go off favored.


Bar Harbor
Life Mission

#14 EXULT: Needs some luck to draw in, but merits respect if he does. He’s run well twice at Gulfstream, including a second behind a next-out winner last time out; #12 BAR HARBOR: Closed very well to be second in his debut for a barn whose debuting runners often need a race to get going. The post isn’t ideal, but a step forward will make him tough to beat; #6 LIFE MISSION: Ran well in several stakes races last year, but makes his 2019 debut off of a layoff. There’s a chance he’s simply better than this group, but if there’s a time to go against him, it’s here.


Roan Like the Wind
Grove Daddy
Musical Man

#10 ROAN LIKE THE WIND: Hasn’t run in a while, but has shown early zip against better fields than what he’ll line up against here. Speed has been good at Keeneland, and I think he could lead them a long way at a nice price; #2 GROVE DADDY: Drops in for a tag for the first time and cuts back to one turn. His debut here last fall wasn’t bad, and the class relief should be a big help; #7 MUSICAL MAN: Generally runs the same race every time out and was an OK second against state-breds last month at Fair Grounds. His one-turn efforts haven’t been bad, and his versatility is a plus.


My Sixth Sense
Mr. Ankeny

#5 COMBINATION: Adds blinkers on the ship-in from Gulfstream, where he’s run pretty well against some solid sprinters. The recent workouts are strong, and this barn is likely riding high after Imprimis’s win Saturday in the Shakertown; #7 MY SIXTH SENSE: Makes his seasonal debut off a considerable layoff, but he’s been working steadily and showed some zip as a 2-year-old. This sharp barn may have him ready to go here; #9 MR. ANKENY: Likely needed his 2019 bow and almost certainly will not be his 15-1 morning line price off of just one bad effort. His connections thought enough of him to try last year’s Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity, and this one-turn route should suit him better.


Kulin Rock
Daddy’s Cozy
Battle of Memphis

#6 KULIN ROCK: Gets a tepid nod in a very difficult turf race. It’s tough to get too excited about a 1-for-13 entrant, but he was a very good third in the Grade 2 Mac Diarmida and could be in career-best form for Mike Maker; #8 DADDY’S COZY: Stands to be forwardly-placed at a big price off of a race he likely needed. Early speed isn’t too prevalent in this field, and recent workouts indicate he’s primed for a big one second off the bench; #7 BATTLE OF MEMPHIS: Graduated last time out at Gulfstream and faces winners for the first time. He hasn’t done much wrong to this point and could be ready for a step up.


Mother Mother
Queen of Beas

#2 MOTHER MOTHER: Comes east for Bob Baffert and, in doing so, gets away from Bellafina. Her main opposition is no joke, but this seems like the perfect spot for her, especially given her win in Kentucky last fall; #8 FEEDBACK: Scratched from the Grade 1 Ashland to run here and drew a cozy outside post. She has every right to move forward off of her most recent start and certainly merits respect; #3 QUEEN OF BEAS: Has won two in a row at Gulfstream and gets a class test here. Jose Ortiz stays aboard, and her two-back Beyer Speed Figure of 92 is the highest such number in the field.


Regal Glory
Princesa Carolina

#9 REGAL GLORY: Won two in a row before finishing second in the Grade 3 Sweetest Chant at Gulfstream. That was her first route start, and she has every right to improve here for Chad Brown, who holds a very powerful hand here; #1 CLAUSE: Debuted with a smashing performance where she rallied from nine lengths back to prevail. The rail isn’t always the best post for a deep closer, but a clean trip would make her tough; #5 PRINCESA CAROLINA: Was second in the Grade 3 Herecomesthebride at Gulfstream despite rating behind a very slow pace. The faster they go early, the better this filly will like it.


Bandon Woods
Runnin’ Ray
Passion Play

#9 BANDON WOODS: Gets a tepid nod in a finale that can best be described as befuddling. He showed some speed in his debut and has every right to relish the added distance he’ll get here; #1 RUNNIN’ RAY: Debuted with a solid second in the mud at Fair Grounds and is bred to go longer. He’s by Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense, and Joe Sharp trainees tend to improve with experience; #12 PASSION PLAY: Drew a horrible post, but has every right to improve off of his recent dud at Oaklawn. That may have been a bounce off of a strong race two back, where he was a tough-luck second behind a next-out winner.

Keeneland Analysis and Selections: Blue Grass Day (4/6/19)

Best Bet: Vekoma, Race 10
Longshot: Uno Mas Modelo, Race 6


Topper T

#5 TOPPER T: Drops back into the allowance ranks after six straight starts against stakes foes. He ran well twice against much better at Gulfstream, and anything close to those efforts would make him formidable; #6 PREAMBLE: Won two in a row as a 2-year-old, including a swiftly-run heat here in October, but hasn’t been seen since that race. He’s talented, but runs for a cold barn and may need his seasonal bow; #4 WALLACE: Almost certainly needed his 2019 debut, which came last month on a synthetic track. His lone race on dirt wasn’t terrible, and the class relief could help.


Honest Mischief
Camp Randall
Island Song

#11 HONEST MISCHIEF: Settled for second in his debut after running pretty quickly early on. He’s worked well since then, and the Juddmonte homebred figures to be very tough to beat in this spot; #12 CAMP RANDALL: Fetched $240,000 as a yearling and has a series of strong five-furlong workouts under his belt. Luis Saez signs on, and while the runner to his inside could be a serious horse, there are signs this one is ready to fire right away; #5 ISLAND SONG: Ran OK in a pair of starts at Gulfstream and has shown an ability to rate. The extra furlong shouldn’t be an issue, and he could hit the board at a bit of a price.


Take Charge Angel
Free Cover

#1 COVFEFE: Was 3/5 in the Grade 1 Frizette, where she tired to finish fourth behind eventual champion Jaywalk. Maybe she bounced, or maybe it was too long for her, but she’s worked really well and looks ready; #6 TAKE CHARGE ANGEL: Is another who bounced in stakes company last time out, and in this case, she makes her first start for Ben Colebrook. She’s worked well at Tampa and merits respect; #3 FREE COVER: Returned to form on the cutback in distance last time out, when she did everything but win at Fair Grounds. Toss her dud going long in December, and her form looks considerably better.


Midnight Pleasure

#6 ALMITHMAAR: Hasn’t won in a while, but doesn’t come up against the strongest field for the level and has been chasing stakes-quality horses. It helps that he’s won here before, and he could sit an ideal stalking trip; #5 SPARTICLE: Has shown he may not like Gulfstream, so I have no problem tossing the last-out effort. Jose Ortiz rides for a consistent barn, and he’ll likely be prominent early; #8 MIDNIGHT PLEASURE: Has finished out of the money just once in his last nine starts, a stretch that includes four wins and several solid runs in stakes company. He’d benefit from a pace meltdown and should be going well late.


Amazing Audrey
Cured by Kitten

#5 AMAZING AUDREY: Could hold a pace advantage as one of only a few frontrunners in the field. Her last-out win at Gulfstream was very good, and she may not have to go much faster to make the lead out of the gate here; #3 DYNABEE: Closed well to be third in her 2019 debut after spending 2018 overseas. She ran well in stakes company as a 2-year-old, and a move forward off of her seasonal bow gives this one a big shot; #1 CURED BY KITTEN: Hasn’t had a lot of racing luck in her last two starts, when she’s rated behind slow paces at Gulfstream. She does sport a win over this turf course, though, and her recent running lines are dotted by several next-out winners.


Limousine Liberal
Uno Mas Modelo
Recruiting Ready

#6 LIMOUSINE LIBERAL: Makes his 2019 debut and is an easy horse to root for. His non-threatening fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint is one of only a few misfires on his ledger, and this seven-furlong distance fits him like a glove; #8 UNO MAS MODELO: Has always had the look of a very strong sprinter. Toss his run in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (which he never had a chance in given the distance), and you have a horse that has won seven of his last eight starts; #2 RECRUITING READY: Has won two of three since coming off a long layoff and looked great when winning the Grade 3 Gulfstream Park Sprint. If there’s hesitation here, it’s because of the seven-furlong distance and the fact that he’ll almost certainly be pushed early on.


Disco Partner
Bound for Nowhere

#11 IMPRIMIS: Will almost certainly be less than his 6-1 morning line price, and for good reason. His two losses both came with subpar trips, and he’ll be very tough if Paco Lopez can keep him out of trouble; #3 DISCO PARTNER: Has been one of the best turf sprinters in the country for several years and makes his 2019 debut in a tough spot. He should be rolling late, but does he need a race off the bench?; #9 BOUND FOR NOWHERE: Hasn’t been seen since misfiring in the Shadwell Turf Mile, but that was far too long for him. He’s a sprinter who loves this route, and he’s got a real chance to win this event for the second year in a row.


Shamrock Rose
Amy’s Challenge
America’s Tale

#9 SHAMROCK ROSE: Ran a very good third behind Midnight Bisou and Elate at Oaklawn and cuts back to her preferred route of ground here. They should go fast early, which would set up perfectly for this one’s late kick; #4 AMY’S CHALLENGE: Has emerged as a monster following two runaway wins over weaker at Oaklawn Park. She’ll certainly be contending for the lead, but is this seven-furlong distance further than she wants to run?; #8 AMERICA’S TALE: Showed a lot by winning the Inside Information after rating a few lengths off the pace. This barn is off to a scorching start in 2019, and we may get a bit of a price on a horse that likes this distance.


Restless Rider

#5 FEEDBACK: Came back running in the Grade 3 Forward Gal and has every right to continue her forward progression here. Two turns shouldn’t be a problem, and we may get a fair price given the presence of my two underneath horses; #4 JAYWALK: Laid an egg when fourth in the Grade 2 Davona Dale, but she may have needed that race off a long layoff. She’s worked well since that dud, and a repeat of her Breeders’ Cup score would make her the horse to beat; #6 RESTLESS RIDER: Did not finish worse than second in six starts as a 2-year-old, but comes in off of a long layoff for a trainer whose horses sometimes need a race to get going. She could win, but I feel she may be a slight underlay.


Market King

#2 VEKOMA: Came back running when a decent third in the Fountain of Youth, and has been working steadily ahead of his second start of the year. This field is heavy on quantity, but a bit suspect in quantity, and his best race almost certainly beats these; #4 MARKET KING: Was third behind Omaha Beach and Game Winner at a big price in a division of the Grade 2 Rebel. He’s shown plenty of early speed, which this field is actually pretty light on. If the track favors early zip leading up to the Blue Grass, he could have a say in the outcome at a nice price; #3 SIGNALMAN: Was one-paced in the Fountain of Youth but may have needed the race. McPeek’s horses tend to improve second off the layoff, and the recent bullet at Gulfstream inspires some confidence in an improved performance.


Choate Bridge
Delta’s Kingdom
Hungry Kitten

#2 CHOATE BRIDGE: Ran very well in her debut last summer and almost certainly needed the last-out effort. She should take a step forward here, and the improved post position draw is a big plus; #5 DELTA’S KINGDOM: Was a beaten favorite last time out at Gulfstream, but didn’t have much pace to run at that day. She’s an obvious contender with better racing luck, although it’s tough to take 5/2 in a 12-horse maiden race; #9 HUNGRY KITTEN: Closed well in her debut back in November and has some flashy works on the tab ahead of her return to the races. Javier Castellano signing on is another positive.

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.