Day seven marked another day at Keeneland where speed performed well, especially in sprints on the Polytrack. The one route of the day was won by a horse coming off the pace (Tarrip in Race 7), but all the sprint races leaned heavily towards the speed horses. For all the talk about Polytrack racing being akin to turf racing and the supposed difficulty of winning with speed, we've seen plenty of fast fractions and winning trip from the front of the pack at this meet.
Not a whole lot went right on the betting front yesterday for me. A couple of picks got pounded on the tote board and then got pounded on the track, losing my many, many lengths. Furillo was about the only idea that I had that panned out, as he won the third race at odds of 7/1.
La Milanesa got the easy lead that I was hoping for (six in 1:15+) but didn't have the class or the ability to bring it home in the stretch.
Evacuation Route couldn't catch Affirmatif and had to settle for second at 5/1.
The day finished up with Big Blue Streaker scoring at 3/1 but Canook was nosed out for the second spot spoiling my hopes of finishing the day with a nice exacta payout.
On to day nine...
Race 2: $50K Claiming, 1 1/16 Miles, 3yo, Fillies
Even with slow early fractions the route races on the Polytrack are starting to lean heavily towards runners coming from off the pace. With that in mind I like the 2-Mesa Rose (5/1) in this open company claiming event after his win in an OC $50K/N1X race over at Turfway last time out. He's a little light on speed figs compared to this group, but he's accomplished running at two turns on Polytrack and he should be able to settle in for a nice mid-pack trip all the way around.
Race 3: $25K Claiming, 6 furlongs, 4yo & up
I really like 6-Spectacular Kid (12/1) in this spot due to his value and his running style. Spectacular Kid ran in a $50K event early on at the spring meet where he set the pace and then faltered badly in the stretch. He hasn't won a race in an awfully long time but he's also dropping into lowest level that he's seen in a couple of years. The class relief should help him tremendously and his quick early pace will be an advantage against a field that is a little bit suspect. I don't like the 0-for-the-year trainers or the 11% jockey, but I'm willing to take a shot provided that his odds stay somewhere in the neighborhood of 12/1 or higher. If this colt were to get bet down to under 10//1 he's a no-play.
Race 4: $7,500 Starter Allowance, 7 furlongs, 4 up, Fillies & Mares
There is a lot to like about the 9-Executive Sweet (4/1) in this race. Her last two races saw her running against open company $20K claimer at Oaklawn Park where she performed reasonably well. She's now going to be facing a field that is primarily comprised of horses that have been battling at decidedly lower claiming levels; she should have a bit of a class edge. Secondly, this filly has displayed decent tactical speed in both her dirt and synthetic races, which should put her right in the action after breaking from her wide post position. Toss in jockey Calvin Borel, and I think Executive Sweet makes an awfully nice play if she stays near her 4/1 ML odds at post time.
Race 7: N1X Allowance, 1 1/8 Miles, 3yo
Another route on the Polytrack, this time in a race restricted to three year olds non-winner of one other than. Given the strong performance of California three year olds in most of this year's Derby prep races, it's hard not to like 5-Brave Prospect (4/1) in this spot. This colt broke his maiden going a mile at Golden Gate in late January and then had a tough time of it in his next outing where he got off to a slow start and then was in tight along the rail for most of the trip. He's got a much better spot today, breaking from the five position, and he back-to-back bullet drills over the Keeneland surface suggest that Eoin Harty has this colt tightened up for today's race. He's also going to have Garrett Gomez in the irons for the first time.
Race 8: Grade 3 Appalachian Stakes, 1 Mile (Turf), 3yo, Fillies
1-Rose Catherine (7/2) is going to get a lot of attention in this race due to her natural speed and her big effort last time out at Santa Anita in the Sweet Life Stakes. She should be able to control the pace as the only other real early speed threat is the recent maiden winner, 8-Go Ask Alex (8/1). Rose Catherine is a deserving favorite, but I'm going to hope she's a little off her game today.
7-Check the Label (4/1) should love a return to the mile distance where she ran her best races last fall at Churchill Downs. Her attempt at a mile during the Keeneland fall meet was over a soft turf course that she obviously didn't care for; that shouldn't be a problem today. Her last three races at Gulfstream have deadened her form somewhat, but you can come up with legitimate excuses for each of them (wrong distance, soft ground, surface change). With an excellent turf rider in the irons (Julien Leparoux), I like this filly to run a big race in this spot.