The fourth day of the 2012 Keeneland Fall Meet is one of the few that doesn't have a stakes races anywhere on the card but there is still plenty of good racing to handicap and wager on.
Normally, I have to buy the AM edition of the Racing Form out here in Seattle to get the Keeneland PPs (if I'm buying the newsstand/print copy). Yesterday I went into my local 7-11 to pick up a Form and all they had was the PM edition but it wasn't the usual PM as this one had Keeneland and Calder in it, along with Hawthorne, Portland Meadows, Hoosier and Woodbine. I prefer the combined Form and on mid-week days it certainly makes sense to combine all of those tracks instead of making us buy two different editions.
What does this have to do with Keeneland? Well, not too much except that as I was handicapping the Keeneland card I was able to thumb through a few races at Portland Meadows and Hoosier. Got to love Wednesday handicapping in the fall!
Okay, let's get to today's Keeneland card with a look at the entries and changes (via Equibase) and some handicapping.
Race 1 - $20k Claiming, 1 1/8, Polytrack, 3yo
The opener on the Wednesday card looks pretty chalky with a field of just 7 and 4-Sound Effect (8/5) taking a pretty big price cut off that last effort over the lawn at Arlington Park. [UPDATE: Sound Effect is a morning scratch]
3-Vee One Rotate (2/1) also makes sense in this race coming out of a $30k event at Belmont and switching back to the plastics for the fist time since this spring when he finished 2nd by a neck versus $50k company at Keeneland. Vee One Rotate is a solid 3-2-1-0 over the Keeneland poly in his career.
Race 2 - $30k Maiden Claimer, 6 1/2 Furlongs, Polytrack, 2yo
The second race on the card looks extremely tough for a couple of reasons. First, we've got a couple of well-intentioned first time starters with good synthetic pedigrees. Second, there are several colts dropping in from Maiden Special Weight company, typically a very effective move.
7-Captain Cook draws morning line favorite status at odds of 5/2 but I've got a couple of reservations with this colt despite the strong connections (Maker/Ramsey). This colt was working like a freight train at Monmouth in mid-to-late August and then he sat on the bench for a couple of weeks before popping up at the Churchill Downs training track followed by two recent works at Keeneland. The August 24th to September 12th gap concerns me especially considering the back-to-back bullets on the Jersey Shore and I'm willing to take a shot to try and beat this colt. [UPDATE: Captain Cook is a morning scratch.]
2-Speedstein (12/1) is an attractive price play in his debut start for trainer Randy Morse. By Bernstein out of a Meadowlake mare, the pedigree suggests Speedstein should take to the synthetics just fine in his debut and the trainer has been effective with first timers over the last year. Finally, I love the work patter for this colt. He's been working steadily since July 19th with a nice bullet effort at Churchill on August 19th. Since that bullet, Morse has put this colt through a series of steady and slow breezes that look like they are intended to build some fitness heading into the first start.
12-Kiwi Notion (5/1) is a first time starter by Great Notion, one of the better all-weather sires you'll find right now, as well as producing a bunch of debut winners. Darrin Miller is typically a good bet with first timers.
Race 3 - Maiden Special Weight, 1 Mile, Turf, 2yo
I'm normally a pretty big fan of MdSpWt races on the lawn (especially for juveniles) but I couldn't find much to love in this third race. The couple entry from Ken & Sarah Ramsey looks pretty strong, especially 1-Gentlemen's Kitten (2/1) with Leparoux and a legit excuse from the debut at Arlington Park. [UPDATE: Gentlemen's Kitten is no longer a coupled entry as 1a-Kitten's Gift is a scratch.]
Race 4 - $16k Claiming, 6 Furlongs, Polytrack, 3up
One of the things I always like about Keeneland is the carding of a lot of open company claiming races, as opposed to the conditional claimers that tend to dot the landscape at most tracks.
4-Truly Amazing (9/2) is a nice looking Presque Isle Downs shipper that has run well at this class level in his last five starts but has a so-so record at Keeneland in prior starts (6-1-0-0). If he's going to turn in a strong performance in Lexington, this is probably the right class spot to make that happen.
I love the look of 6-Enclosure (5/1) in this spot, despite the couple of bad efforts in his recent starts. I'll toss the Kentucky Downs race over turf as that track plays much different than others around the country. Similarly, the race over the slop at Saratoga doesn't factor into how I judge his chances in this spot.
One of the big issues with Enclosure in past races is his difficulty just exiting the starting gate. Leparoux climbs back aboard and the return to the Keeneland Poly where he's a solid 3-2-0-0 could put him in-line for a much improved performance. I have enough reservation with this horse that I won't take anything lower than 9/2.
Race 7 - $30k Claiming/N2L, 6 1/2 Furlongs, Polytrack, 3up f&m
Speaking of conditioned claiming races... the seventh at Keeneland is a tough race to get a read on with a 3/1 morning line favorite in 2-Brew Blessings. And while the price cut from $50k to $30k makes the Catalno filly attractive in this spot (as does her win over the surface in her only Keeneland try), her recent form is inconsistent enough to make me look elsewhere for value.
I hate playing money burners but in a race like this it's hard not to land on a horse with some issues but I'm leaning towards 7-Cocktails At Seven (6/1). The speed figures are not up to par and she loves to run second (9-1-6-0 on synthetics) but I'm willing to take given her closing running style and the presence of quite a bit of early speed in this race. I'd like to see those odds drift up from the morning line to somewhere in the 7/1 to 8/1 range but I'd take an offer of 6/1 at post time.
Race 8 - Allowance N1X, 1 1/16 Miles, Turf, 3up f&m
The rail is set at 15 feet from the rail for Wednesday's turf races and this race has very little in the way of early speed, something that I think plays perfectly for the Irish import: 11-Absolute Crackers (IRE) (8/1).
Normally, the big selling point of the European shippers is their class edge; most come over to the US after running against deeper and more talented turf runners. With Absolute Crackers, it's not the class that I'm focusing on but the running style. Check out the trip comments from her last few races and we are presented with a filly that likes to sit on or near the lead. In her last race, a Group 3 stakes at the Curragh in Ireland, she chased a clear leader over "Good" ground in a race at a mile and a quarter. That's a tough way to win races in Europe despite the fact that the Curragh isn't as testing of a course as Ascot or Epsom.
With the lack of speed in this race, and the less testing conditions, Absolute Crackers should find herself in running conditions much more suited to her style. At 8/1 on the morning line, I think she's worth a shot in this spot.
Race 9 - $5k Starter Allowance, 1 1/4 Miles, Polytrack, 3up
Yep, you read those race conditions correctly - the nightcap is a race at a mile and a quarter. I'll take a chance with one of the two horses in this race to actually win at 10 furlongs in their career - 12-Out Drinkin' (10/1).