Keeneland Keys for Friday, April 19, 2013
What to Watch for Today: Canadian royalty, 2011 Queen’s Plate-winning mare Inglorius, meets 2012 Grade 1 Spinster runner-up Mystical Star in what promises to be a fantastic edition of the Grade 3 Doubledogdare Stakes.
Follow me on raceday two ways, either in the live RaceChat at the Keeneland website (http://www.keeneland.com/racing/racing-live-coverage) – also available on your mobile devices – or on Twitter @Keeenelandracing, where I provide up-to-the-minute picks and analysis.
Weather: Overnight and a.m. rains for the whopping US storm are expecting to roll through Lexington. Turf racing could be in jeopardy on Friday, so watch the conditions. For up-to-the-minute weather updates for Keeneland, including the track surface temperature and today’s maintenance, click: http://www.keeneland.com/racing/track-conditions.
Polycapping 101: We go race-by-race with handicapping angles and trends to help point you toward the winners. All information is gleaned from the free Polycapping database (http://apps.keeneland.com/awstats/Default.asp).
Race 1 offers a unique situation of a short distance, 5-1/2 furlongs, and short field size, 7 horses, at Keeneland. We’ve had only six such instances in the Polytrack era and the average winner in those races was on the lead after the opening half-mile. This rarely happens at Keeneland in any situation, so the emphasis on speed here should not be understated. And in the only race at the distance so far this meet, Costly opened up a 6-length lead early and never looked back. Zingwella finished second here last Spring Meet in easily the fastest 6-furlong claimer of that season. Her outide draw and excellent speed make her formidable, even with a 10-pound apprentice in the saddle.
Horses running back second time at the meet can be pretty effective at the middle-tier claiming levels, and in Race 2, The Sixties gets a great pace set-up in front of him to try and close the deal. We’ve already seen Gentleman One back on 9 days’ rest to win a $25,000 claiming sprint at this meet, and The Sixties will have 13 days between bids for Dan Blacker, a Keeneland newcomer via California. He is exiting one of the slowest 6-furlong races of the meet, however (15th fastest of 18). Skylander also wheels back on short rest, but takes a huge class plunge and adds the apprentice rider. That’s a red flag for me in that situation, and the race is loaded with cheaper early speed types. I’m counting on this race to fall apart and times not matter with closers like The Sixties and Siva having every chance.
Maiden claiming sprinters match up in Race 3 and we’ve only had 1 closer of significance win an MCL sprint this season through the first 7 offered – at that came at the tougher 7-furlong distance, not 6 furlongs like this event. The average winner has been about neck off the lead after the opening half-mile. Think forwardly placed horses, and give horses with some racing experience the edge. First-time starters win about 1-in-5 of these maiden claiming Spring Meet sprints. Justice Lady has the most early foot on paper and Alex’s Gold could show speed today with blinkers on for the first time. I’d start the handicapping process with that duo.
Six of the 13 turf allowances so far this Spring Meet have been won by horses making their first starts of the year, a point we’ve emphasized a bunch here. In Race 4, don’t be afraid of a come-backer from a layoff. Brilliant Future and Noble Charlotte are well-placed for return bids. Heavily favored Distorted Legacy comes in similarly fresh with only one start since May 2012 and appears that her best race simply may be better than these. Interestingly, sire Include, who has Class Included and Noble Charlotte here, has not sired a Keeneland turf winner since our database began in Fall 2006. They will need to run big to beat Distorted Legacy.
In Race 5, only Hollywood Talent, Bourbon Therapy and Hurricane Pass have a local Keeneland workout for the baby race debut, a stat that’s proven more than 90 percent telling all-time on the Polytrack in these Spring Meet dashes. The Wesley Ward domination has been noticeable at the meet as well so Hollywood Talent probably rates the most dangerous of that trio. Ward notched his third 2YO win of the meet on Thursday’s card with Mary at the Cove. But Bourbon Therapy has a good pedigree to win early and be ready to go, so beware. Welcome back Steve Asmussen to these baby dashes with Big Gator. He won 11 Spring Meet baby races at Keeneland from 2007-2010, but has been mostly absent since.
We stick to maiden sprints in Race 6, but move to the 3-year-olds. Gulfstream shippers tend to control these races and half of the 10 offered so far this meet have gone to the GP invaders (3 first-time starters). Olympic Avenue and Defoe Street are the Floridians here, while the pedigree of Glitteronthehiway makes you consider any Tale of the Cat offspring sprinting on the Polytrack. Unbridled Destiny also is a rookie worth a look on pedigree, as is First Romance, whose trainer Jonathan Sheppard has been unleashing beasts at the meet.
Trainer Mike Maker hasn’t won a turf sprint at Keeneland in our database going back to Fall 2006, but I like both his horses in Race 7 at 5-1/2 furlongs on the turf. I Do Believe and Animal Style caught my eye this winter in my Countdown to the Crown studies as 3-year-olds with some talent. Sometimes even a trends guy throws the numbers to the wind. And, yes I know only 4 of 49 turf sprints here during that span have been won by horses shortening up from a prep longer than 7 furlongs. The emphasis should be on Rip Roarin Ritchie and Amarish, but I’m thinking outside of my own box here with the Maker players.
Entry-level allowance routers go 1-1/16 miles on Polytrack in Race 8. Nearly half of these contests (15-of-32) have been won by Gulfstream Park preppers all-time. And 10 of those 15 GP runners were making a turf-to-Poly surface change. When you look at all of the 32 winners, 16 of them were turf-prepped. Arc Above and Rapacious fit very well in this spot off of GP turf allowance races where both had excuses March 6. Winter’s Fury comes out of the same GP race, but had no excused with a slow pace and fade that day. It’s amazing James Graham remained winless after more than 40 mounts to open this meet, but Rapacious could get him goig the right way. Joel Rosario has been white-hot, so the rider of Arc Above in contrast to the rider of Rapacious would give Arc Above the nod.
“Run-backs,” or horses running back the second time at the meet as I call them, have been very effective in maiden claiming 7 furlong races here in the past Spring Meets, winning such late season distance/class tilts in 2007, 2009 and 2011. Distortionist ought to be extremely tough on paper and that angle in the Race 10 finale after a good second here 12 days ago. Horses shortening distance own 13 of the 21 Spring Meet wins at 7 furlongs in the MCL ranks all-time, and among those in this race on that angle worth a look include Rapid Ranger, Afleet Bandit and On the Key.
Feature Race Play: The Race 9 Grade Doubledogdare Stakes has been a place for front-running fillies to showcase their skills. The last 5 winners all raced within 2 lengths of the lead after the opening half-mile, including Pachattack a year ago. Favorites are 3-for-6 in the Polytrack era in this stakes and the average winner has been just 4-1 odds.
Inglorious rates a big-time chance in her Polytrack debut at Keeneland. She won Canada’s biggest race, against the colts no less, when taking Woodbine’s 2011 Queens Plate on the northern Polytrack surface. She’s typically in a stalking position and last time dropped farther back in the Suwanee River at Gulfstream in a race with a terribly slow pace. Look for Julien Leparoux to keep her closer to what figures a fairly easy place likely set by Ice Cream Silence and Artemus Kitten just to her inside.
Three times in the last 6 years the winner of this race was making her first start of the year, so don’t sleep completely on the French import Minakshi. The Michael Matz trainee is bred to like the surface and ran well on synthetics in her homeland.
As uninspired as Old Tune ran here in the Jenny Wiley a week ago, I’m inclined to stand against her Tampa Bay Downs rivals Alaura Michele and Mystical Star based on company lines, even though the latter loves this track and looks highly competitive on paper.
Give me straight money on Inglorious to win.
Feel free to drop me an E-mail anytime at Jeremy@Horseplayernow.com.