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A preview of the second day of the 2012 fall meet at Keeneland.
The second day of the 2012 Keeneland Fall Meet features five graded stakes races including three Grade 1s: First Lady Stakes, Dixiana Breeders' Futurity and Shadwell Turf Mile. Wise Dan leads the field in the Shadwell Turf Mile as he seeks to continue his impressive run of form.
5-Will's Wildcat has scratched out of Race 5 - Woodford Stakes.
8-Dipsy Drew, 11-Balance the Books and 16-Zoloto have scratched out of Race 8 - Breeders' Futurity.
Let's take a look at the graded stakes races at Keeneland on Saturday.
Race 5 - Grade 3 Woodford Stakes, 5 Furlongs, Turf, 3up
This race, while featuring some of the better turf sprinters in the country, will likely have little bearing on the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint. Why? Well, for one, the Turf Sprint will be a 6½ furlong race at Santa Anita and will take place on the downhill turf course. Those conditions are unique to Santa Anita and, if the past is any indication of the future, tend to favor horses that have run over the course in the past. The typical five or 5½ furlong flat sprint, like the Woodford, bears little resemblance what these horses will encounter at Santa Anita in November.
2-Bridgetown (7/5) and 3-Chamberlain Bridge (2/1) have been two of the best turf sprinters in the country for the last couple of years, but Chamberlain Bridge has struggled at Keeneland in the past (6-1-0-1) and Bridgetown hasn't won a graded stakes race in quite some time. Combine some so-so form and what should be really low odds on both favorites, this looks like a race to take a shot at a small upset.
7-Great Mills (5/2) is tested at the graded stakes level, is solid at the turf dash distance (11-4-1-2) and has run well over the Keeneland grass course in past starts (3-0-2-0). Add Julien Leparoux in the irons and Great Mills should match up well with the top two and have a good shot at a minor upset.
Race 6 - Grade 2 TCA Stakes, 6 Furlongs, Polytrack, 3up f&m
Any of Saturday's races over the Keeneland Polytrack need to be taken with a grain of salt when looking ahead to the Breeders' Cup next month. Polytrack isn't dirt and it isn't turf. It's a third surface with its own quirks and biases. Some horses are able to make the transition between surfaces without any problems and others won't run a lick unless they are racing over their preferred footing.
6-Groupie Doll (4/5) is going to get all the play at the windows and, based on her recent efforts at Keeneland, she deserves the status as the heavy favorite. If we're looking for something a little more attractive from the odds board, 2-Honey Chile (6/1) might offer decent value by post time. She's not in the class of Groupie Doll but she's been running well as of late, she possesses a good deal of early speed in a race without a ton of pace and she's proven in the past she can win over Polytrack and at Keeneland. Either a light win bet or a play with Honey Chile above and below Groupie Doll might be worth a small return.
Race 7 - Grade 1 First Lady Stakes, 1 Mile, Turf, 3up f&m
The First Lady drew a small field of just six fillies and mares but those six possesses a great deal of speed. 2-Tapitsfly (5/2), 3-Brilliant Future (15/1), 5-Summer Soirée (3/1) and 6-Daisy Devine (3/1) all prefer to run on or near the lead in the early stages, leaving 1-Snow Fall (15/1) and 4-Hungry Island (2/1) as the only two closers in the field. If a speed duel develops on the front end, like it appears will happen, and one of those front-runners is able to win while putting up quick fractions, that may be a filly to watch going forward. On the downside, there is not race for filly turf milers at the Breeders' Cup, meaning a filly coming out of this race will either have to take on the boys in the Mile, or stretch out to a mile and a quarter in the Filly & Mare Turf.
This race sets up perfectly for Hungry Island: she's got a great turf jockey in the irons in Leparoux, she's in good form after finished second to Zagora in the G2-Ballston Spa at Saratoga, she's decent at the distance, the field is small which should eliminate any serious traffic trouble and she should get a perfect pace to close into in the final quarter mile. Unfortunately, she probably won't offer much value at the betting windows unless she's at 8/5 or higher at post time.
Race 8 - Grade 1 Dixiana Breeders' Futurity, 1 1/16 Miles, Polytrack, 2yo
The Breeders' Futurity is arguably the most difficult race to handicap on Keeneland's Saturday card due to the uncertainty with several of the runners on the Polytrack surface as eight of the 14 horses entered in the race have never raced over a synthetic surface. However, the lack of experience on the surface provides an opportunity to take a shot with a pedigree play and there are a few that catch the eye at first glance.
5-Tizracer (4/1) is a son of Tiznow, one of the better sires of synthetic runners in the country. His dam sire, Elusive Quality, also has a good amount of success with offspring running on synthetics.
9-Charming Kitten (5/1) has everything you want to see out of a synthetic horse at Keeneland: a son of Kitten's Joy, trained by Todd Pletcher and owned by Ken & Sarah Ramsey. Oh, and he's ran well in both of his two-turn turf races at Saratoga.
11-Balance the Books (5/1) is a son of Lemon Drop Kid out of a Seeking the Gold mare; both of those sires produce horses that win at an above-average rate on synthetics.
The large size of the Futurity field almost guarantees great odds on any of the horses in this race and you could make a strong case for probably five or six of the runners. I find it hard to ignore offspring of Kitten's Joy at Keeneland and, as a result, I'll play Charming Kitten to win at odds of 4/1 or better.
Race 9 - Grade 1 Shadwell Turf Mile, 1 Mile, Turf, 3up
5-Wise Dan (4/5) has already qualified for the Breeders' Cup Mile following his dominating victory in the Woodbine Mile last month. He's by far the best horse in this field and it would take a combination of a really bad day on Wise Dan's part combined with a career-best performance from one of his rivals for an upset to occur. For Wise Dan, this is a race to put some additional money in the bank and to fine tune his form before shipping to Southern California for the big one in November.
Wise Dan is the logical win choice in this race but there could be some money to be made in the exacta or trifecta pool if you're willing to play Wise Dan pretty hard on the top end of the ticket. 7-Data Link (8/1) ran very well over the Keeneland turf course in his only other start on the surface when he won the G1-Makers Mark Mile during the spring meet. If the exacta will pay is in the $8 to $10 range for $2, perhaps a $20 cold play would be worth the investment. Anything over $10 on the will pay would be an overlay.