We've reached the halfway point of the Keeneland spring meet as we head into day eight.
Day seven was a pretty empty day at the windows beginning with Diamond Son finishing second in the second race. That wasn't nearly as bad as This Way Home's last place finish in the third race (my second choice Hawaiian Sky finished 3rd). Two races, two ticket shredding results.
Race 4 finally allowed me to notch a decent score as Stan the Tap Man brought home top honors at 13/1 odds. (I swear, the one $20 horses I hit a day is saving me from total disaster.)
Jocata got it done in the eighth race, but he went off at odds of 8/5...nothing that's going to inflate your wallet.
The day was finished off with Fantasia (GB) (a filly that I would have tabbed as the "Best Bet" of the day if I actually did something like that) finishing second in the ninth race to Keertana. Keep an eye on Fantasia going forward - she broke very slow in a race that had zero pace yet still made a nice run in the lane to be the clear runner-up. A better start next time would make a huge difference.
Only one winner on the day, but it was a 13/1 shot so all in all, it wasn't a total loss.
On to day eight...
Race 1: $30K Maiden Claiming, 6 furlongs, 3yo
Keeneland starts off with the always popular maiden claimer on this Wednesday afternoon, and it's a pretty weak field of eight that will head to the post for the first race. After a couple passes of the form I was leaning towards the 3-Outlaw Country (3/1), but I have since decided that I'm going to land on the first time starter from Kiaran McLaughlin, 5-Pralltown (4/1). Firsters don't have great success in these three year old maiden races at Keeneland, but this spot really seems to be ripe for the taking by a debut horse. The trainer doesn't excel with this move but he's been going well at the meet and this colt has been working very nicely the past few weeks.
Race 2: $20K Claiming N2L, 7 furlongs, 3& up
I think there are a couple different ways you could go in this race, and it's definitely the direction I'm going to go for the early Daily Double. The 1-Whistlejacket (7/2) is jumping up straight out of a maiden breaking race, and while it's nice to play a horse that has won recently, it's the two runs over the Keeneland surface last spring against Maiden Special Weight company that makes me think this colt could put up a decent fight in this spot. His ability to sit near the early pace is a big asset, as well.
The other option I like in this race is the 3-Alicia's Prety Boy (5/1), another recent maiden winner from Turfway Park. Desormeaux is in the irons and he's had a nice meet so far at Keeneland (even if he does seem to kill me every time I pick a horse that he's riding).
If I were to play the early Pick 4 I'd probably spread to 6-Black Patch (6/1), a Turfway maiden breaker that comes into this race after a tough effort against N2L Allowance company at Mountaineer last month. With the absence of a true "need-to-lead" horse in this race, a stalker like Black Patch could get a very easy trip on the front end.
Race 3: $16K Claiming, 7 furlongs, 4 & up
I'd like to come up with something a little better than the 2/1 ML favorite in this race, but that's exactly where I landed with 4-Dumbledore (2/1). He's dropping into these ranks after facing much tougher on the dirt at Fair Grounds and it's up in the air whether his struggles have been due to class or surface. Whatever the reason, today he'll find himself on the surface and at the level that he's been most successful in the past - that makes him a tough out in this race.
If we're looking for a little bit of a price play then I think the 6-Furillo (8/1) could make some sense. He's been racing against N1X and N2L company, which is usually something I don't like to see when making the move to open claimers. I do, however, like the speed he's been displaying in most of his recent starts. I don't love this horse to win but he's probably worth some coverage in the exotics.
Race 5: N2X Allowance, 1 1/16 Miles (Turf), 3yo
This has got to be one of the tougher turf allowance events at the spring meet, with a collection of horses that have done little to nothing on the lawn in their careers with the exception of the 3-Lethal Combination (9/5) and the 5-Fantastic Roberto (IRE) (5/2). Just on pure class and ability, I lean towards Fantastic Roberto, but I'm a little apprehensive of the layoff when his top competitor has had a recent race under his belt.
Lethal Combination didn't run that great in the Palm Beach at Gulfstream, but taking on graded competition in your first North American start is a tough ask of any horse. The drop down to the N2X level should be a big boost to this colt.
Both of these horses are the "logical" contenders, but on the price play side there is the lone speed, McLard (10/1). (Did someone really name their horse "McLard"? I'm assuming they aren't a fan of McDonald's.) He could be dangerous if allowed to run free on what has been a hard and fast turf course during the meet.
Race 7: N1X Allowance, 1 1/8 Miles, 4 & up, Fillies & Mares
By this point on the card we should have a good read as to how the Polytrack surface is playing and whether or not speed is having a good day or a bad day. If speed is having a good day, then I think the 3-La Milansea (10/1) makes a fantastic long shot play as he will almost certainly be the lone speed in the race. The 2-Gold d'Oro (5/2) could end up with a perfect stalking trip in this situation but I'm hoping that the distance might be a little too much to ask of this horse off of a six+ month layoff.
Race 8: N2X Allowance, 5 ½ furlongs (Turf), 4 & up
These all-out, turf dashes are races that I really think cater to horses that have been successful at the distance on previous occasions, and in this race only one horse really fits that category: the 1-Evacuation Route (7/2). The Sam David trainee is a solid 5-2-2-1 in turf sprints at 5 ½ furlongs and he's coming into his race fresh off a N1X score at the Fair Grounds. There is a good amount of speed to his outside that might get hung a little wide heading into the turn; if James Graham can secure an easy stalking position, the race should set up very nicely for him in the stretch.
I don't like the ML favorite in this spot, 4-Affirmatif (8/5), at all due to a couple of concerns. First, we haven't seen this colt since last September and, despite the morning works, I'm not sure if he's going to be ready to show the speed necessary to take this sprint. Second, this colt has performed much better going a mile on the lawn than sprinting. Something tells me that Pletcher is using this race as a prep for a mile stakes race down the line.
My price play in this spot is the outside horse, 8-Clapham (8/1). This gelding flopped badly in his last two efforts over the Turfway Polytrack but ran very well over this same Keeneland turf course last fall. He had a "YIELDING" course that day, which he probably won't have in this spot, but I still like his familiarity with the surface.
Race 9: $20K Claiming, 6 furlongs, 3yo
Last race of the day features some lightly raced three year olds in for a $20K tag and there are a number of different directions that a player could go in. I don't know that I have a top choice in this race, as I found things that I like about the 2-Big Blue Streaker (6/1), 3-Bail Baby Bail (8/1), and 4-Canook (4/1), and I plan to spread to all three in any multi-race wagers.
Big Blue Streaker's last race got off to a bad beginning when he was jostled at the start and never really got into the race. Prior to that he ran well against $25K stock over the Gulfstream turf course at a mile. The cut-back in distance should be to his benefit and he seems to fit very nicely on class.
Bail Baby Bail is another that will take a cut in distance after five straight route races over at Turfway. This colt is a little light on the figure side but he has shown the ability to sit close to the pace against higher quality competition.
Finally, Canook is coming off of a six month layoff after finishing fourth in a $40k starter allowance race at the Keeneland fall meet. The trainer doesn't exactly light it up with this angle but with the hot Garrett Gomez in the saddle I figure this gelding is worth a play at 4/1.