Sometimes no matter how many times you look at a race you can't see the reality of the situation...that was the case for me with my pick of Spectacular Kid in yesterday's third race as he ran up the track to finish a well-beaten dead last. I wanted to believe this horse would finally run a big race but "wanted" had nothing to do with it.
The flip side of the race you don't really have a clue about (and don't want to admit it) is the race that seems clear as day and you wonder why other players don't view it in the same light that you do. That was the case for me with Check the Label in race 8, the Grade 2 Appalachian Stakes. Rose Catherine was sent off as the heavy, heavy favorite (3/5) for some unknown, god-awful reason. Yeah, I know, she put up some big figures out in California prior to shipping into Keeneland, but she's never run her best at a mile. Furthermore, even if players believed she was the likely winner she was nowhere near 3/5 in true odds. I could see her going off at even money....maybe. I had her in the neighborhood of 8/5 to 2/1 on my odds line.
The absolute key to this race was Go Ask Alex, a recent maiden winner that broke well from the gate and didn't let Rose Catherine grab an uncontested lead. That pace pressure ensured that Check the Label was going to get the perfect stalking trip and, sure enough, when they came off the far turn, Rose Catherine didn't have enough in the tank.
So after middling through an afternoon of near misses and up the track horses, I loaded up on Leparoux and Check the Label and was rewarded with a solid $11.20 winner. Playing the horses is a lot like poker, you have to wait for that hand where everything is in your favor and you have to play it hard. The rest of the time you are just trying to grind out profits.
On to day 10...
Race 3: $30K Maiden Claiming, 6 furlongs, 3 & up, Fillies & Mares
This is one of those spots where we are likely to see a "dirt only" horse perform well over the Polytrack. 3-Thank Heaven (7/2) has shown good early pace in her last two efforts at Tampa and finds herself drawn into a field that isn't the deepest around. A minimal amount of improvement off of her Tampa races probably puts her into the winners circle.
Race 6: Allowance NC, 5 ½ furlongs (Turf), 3 yo
There was a time when I couldn't stand these turf spring races but now I don't find them all that bad of a prospect. The key to these races, in my opinion, is to find the horse that fits at this distance rather than just to find the fastest runner. In other words, I sort of play a "horse for course" angle similar to races run on the downhill course at Santa Anita. My theory for this angle is that a turf dash is a specialty race and, therefore, will generally be won by a horse that has shown an ability to succeed at that specialty. The best thing about this angle is that it tends to produce selections going off at decent odds. The crowd will gravitate to the high Beyer horse, regardless of whether that horse is suited for the distance or the surface.
The ML favorite in this race is Wayne Catalano's Dixie Bird (5/2), a horse that has never run on turf and hasn't run less than seven furlongs since his baby race last June at Arlington. He's a nice looking gelding and he may get it done in this spot but he's got too many question marks for my tastes.
The two outside horses caught my eye as offering the value and the turf sprint experience that I'm looking for in a race of this kind. The filly, 6-Autumn Eyes (5/1), will take on the boys after posting a very solid win over the Gulfstream turf in mid-February. The only knock on that race was the "GOOD" turf that day. Still, it's obvious that she took to turf sprinting very nicely.
The 7-Flamin' Hot (5/1) has tried sprinting on the lawn twice and has brought home top honors each time. This gelding has raced five times in his career and this two turf sprint races are by far the best races that he has run. Like Autumn Eyes, Flamin' Hot's turf success has come over courses rated "GOOD", but I'm willing to let that slide so long as his odds hover around his 5/1 ML.
Race 8: Allowance N$X, 1 1/16 Miles (Turf), 4 up, Fillies & Mares
After dabbling in a couple races not really suited to her running style, the connections of 5-Rainbow View (7/5) are finally getting this filly back to doing what she wants to do, and that is run in races at about a mile on the lawn. A two-time Group 1 winner in Europe, Rainbow View will face a small field of overmatched fillies and mares in this spot won't offer a lick of value. The real question with this race is "how do you play it in the Pick 4?" Is Rainbow View enough of a lock to single, or is there the chance she'll be off her game in her comeback?
If this was a larger field, I think Rainbow View would be much more vulnerable to an upset, but I'm not sure there's a strong challenger here to stop her from winning.
Race 9: Grade 3 Doubledogdare, 1 1/16 Miles, 4 & up, Fillies & Mares
If this race were run over a traditional dirt surface I would run to the windows to bet the 2-Funny Moon (3/1) with both hands. But since it's a Polytrack race, I'll steer well clear of this Christophe Clement filly.
4-No Use Denying (10/1) has tried this distance at Keeneland twice in her career and finished a solid second both times, she's got a bunch of tactical speed in her corner, and she draws into a race that figures to be a little light on pace. There certainly is some class issues with this filly when compared to her rivals, but I'm willing to give her the chance to get the jump on this field as they come into the stretch off of what should be middling fractions. Trainer Malcolm Pierce can be sneaky good in graded stakes races (22% over the last five years on synthetic surfaces with a $2.53 ROI), so it pays to notice when he's got a horse with a shot.