The name of the game at Keeneland on day eleven was speed at two turns; all four of the routes run over the Polytrack yesterday were won by horses leading after a half mile. On Friday, only one of the five two turn races were won by the pacesetters. It almost seems like every day speed plays well but never in the same situation. Some days the routes see the speed, other days the sprints are all front-runner, and sometimes it's on the turf.
There are three routes races on the main track today, beginning with the first race of the day and concluding with the feature race of the day, the Grade 3 Ben Ali. We'll have to wait and see how the track shapes up.
Saturday was just a brutal day for me, starting with Trying Brian getting into a speed duel in the first race of the day and throwing in the towel before the field had even come off the far turn. Lisa's Kitten and Lucky Lass ran 2-3 in the next race, and both turf sprints saw a whole lott a nothing in terms of pari-mutuel success. Gridiron helped ease a little suffering by winning the fourth race of the day but when Call Shot spit the bit in the Lexington the day became one to forget.
On to day twelve...
Race 1: $30K Maiden Claiming, 1 1/16 Miles, 3 & up, Fillies and Mares
Good luck trying to figure out which of these maidens is going to grab the lead in this race as there is very little success on the front-end in the careers of these fillies and mares. 2-Belle Breeze (4/1) stayed relatively close to the pace in her last effort over the dirt at Tampa and she showed a glimmer of interest in a Maiden Special event over the turf two back. A quick work on 4/7 may signal increased interest on the front.
4-Bk's Sis' Birthday (7/2) ran big at long odds in her first start at the spring meet on April 8th and will try to finally get that maiden score here today. Don't like the 0-for-10 jockey or the 0-for-21 trainer, and the odds seems a little low for a mare that's hasn't won a race in twelve tries...don't know about this one.
3-Jalal (3/1) was asked to go a long ways in just her second start (1 3/8 miles) and should love the cut back today.
Leparoux is 4-for-15 at the meet on the lawn....since this is a race on the Poly that stat matters little.
Race 2: $40K Claiming, 6 furlongs, 3 yo, Fillies
2-Miss Thanksgiving (2/1) is the standout on paper and a deserving favorite but I'm going to be extremely forgiving and let 6-Delightfully Wild (4/1) have another chance after a poor performance in her first start at the spring meet. If she's able to show any of the speed that she displayed at Turfway she should find herself sitting just to the outside of the favorite.
I'd like to see a little more than 4/1 given the poor form in the last race and the fact that Theriot is an atrocious 0-for-29 at the spring meet...ugly.
Race 4: N1X Allowance, 1 1/8 Miles (Turf), 3 yo
This race is a complete pedigree play for me - nothing more, nothing less. For some unknown reason, 2-Patti's Kitten (6/1) has never set foot on the lawn in his brief career (four races). A Ken and Sarah Ramsey homebred son of Kitten's Joy out of a Chimes Band mare, Patti's Kitten has run a bunch of so-so races over the Poly at Keeneland and Turfway. The bottom side of the pedigree hasn't had a whole lot of turf success, but at some point you've got to put a Kitten's Joy colt on the lawn, don't you?
Michael Maker has hit at 17% with first time turfers over the last five years ($1.93 ROI) but those numbers go up to a 21% hit rate and a $2.84 ROI when sending out first time turf runners with jockey Julien Leparoux in the saddle. At 6/1 on the ML, this colt is worth a stab in this spot.
Race 6: N1X Allowance, 6 furlongs, 4 & up, Fillies & Mares
I really want to like the 4-Ushuaia (6/1) in this spot after running three excellent races up at Woodbine last summer. She finished right behind Indian Apple Is in both of those Canadian allowance races, a filly that went on to take a listed stake at Woodbine later on. Those two allowance races were filled with quality competition, suggesting that Ushuaia should fit in very well in this race.
The primary concern with Ushuaia is the lay-off as she hasn't raced since August 15th. Trainer Philip Sims is just 3-for-27 with horses coming off of that type of vacation over the last five years but he hits at 19% with a $2.98 ROI in second starts off the bench.
I don't know that this filly is going to fire big today but if she runs credibly I'll eagerly be waiting for her next start.
Race 8: Grade 3 Ben Ali Stakes, 1 1/8 Miles, 4 & up
Unless I see something in the earlier races to suggest that speed is going to suffer going two turns, I'll likely play the 4-Dubious Miss (5/2) in this spot. The Ben Ali field doesn't have a ton of speed and I'm not sure the pace is going to be quick enough for the favorite, 3-Just As Well (9/5), to take advantage of. Dubiious Miss, however, should find himself either in the lead or just off it, depending on what Castellano wants to do with 8-Timber Reserve. Either way, I think Borel and Dubious Miss will get the perfect trip and should have every opportunity to take the top prize.
7-Kiss The Kid (8/1) is a hard trying horse that can run a big race against good competition but he just doesn't win races. The last time this horse finished first in a race was way back on March 29th of 2009 in the Grade 3 Appleton. Since then he's had a bunch of near misses along with a couple of flops. His odds might be enticing but the "close-but-no-cigar" performances won't have me running to the windows.
Race 9: N2X Allowance, 1 ½ Miles (Turf), 4 & up, Fillies & Mares
The final race of the afternoon provides us with a tasty mile and a half allowance race on the lawn. I don't know that her odds will stay this good, but I like the looks of the Clement-Leparoux horse, 4-Beauty O'Gwaun (IRE) (4/1), making her second start in North America. This filly has done nothing but run over soft and heavy courses in her brief career, something she won't have to put up with today. A lot of horses are sent from Europe to the United States precisely so they can run over firmer ground, since the courses tend to be much softer in Europe even when rated "FIRM".
This filly hasn't run too poorly in her soft going races but it's entirely possible that she will be at her best with something other than "SOFT" or "YIELDING" ground beneath her feet. Notice that her best race in Europe was run over a going of "GOOD to SOFT", which the other races were "HEAVY" and "SOFT". She even got a soft course when asked to run at Belmont in her North American debut.
The Grade 1 Flower Bowl was probably too much to ask of her first time off the boat but this group is certainly within her talent range. Leparoux should have no trouble tucking her inside after the break and getting her covered up until she needs to kick it into gear.
I'd love to get 4/1 on this filly.