Opening day at Keeneland, and with it comes the realization that spring has arrived. Each race day throughout the spring meet I’ll post a preview of several of the more interesting races and horses on the card. Let’s get started with Day 1.
Race 3: 50K Maiden Claiming, 1 1/8 Miles, 3yo & up
One of those tricky, high level, maiden claimers featuring a bunch of horses dropping in from Maiden Special Weight company. The ML favorite, 7-W.W.’s Lady’s Man (3/1) improved a bunch in his second start when asked to go a mile. He’s taking a price cut and fits in well with this group but it remains to be seen whether he can take this field gate-to-wire. Just to his inside is the 6-Flying Warrior, a horse that I think fits in perfectly in this race. He’s run a bunch of races over Polytrack and his races around two turns have produced the best efforts of his career. Velazquez gets on board for the try today and he should get a nice set-up on the front end.
Flying Warrior is 5/1 on the ML and has a shot to finally breakthrough in his 13th try in the maiden ranks.
Race 4: $16K Claiming, 1 1/16 Miles, 4yo & up
Two turn races at Keeneland are tough on front runners which will make things extra difficult for the 1a-Intercoastal and 9-Another Dancer. 1-Don’twait Toolong is the morning line favorite off of three straight strong efforts over the Gulfstream Park turf course, a track that produced a ton of winners at the last spring meet. However, this gelding looks like he could be a bad bet at 9/5 on the ML given his 0-for-5 record on synthetic courses. That’s not a good record to have at Keeneland.
The 4-Mowtown Shuffle ran up the track in a couple of listed stakes events at Turfway in his last two but prior to that he won back-to-back open company claimers at the track (21K and 27.5K). He fits on class and on speed and should get a perfect pace scenario to score his seventh lifetime win over plastic.
Race 5: Maiden Special Weight, 7 furlongs, 3yo Fillies
2-Harpoon Hattie’s last two speed figures are better than all other fillies in this race with the exception of the 6-Hit It Rich. That’s a big advantage on the rest of the field, no matter how you look at it. So the question becomes: how do you separate Harpoon Hattie and Hit It Rich? Hit It Rich has raced only one time and is certainly eligible to improve off of her second place finish in her last race. The front runner got away with slow early splits in that race which made it difficult to make any progress in the lane. The top two finishers were well clear of the rest of the field that day, a field that has seen the 5th place horse come back to score in a Maiden Special Weight at next asking and saw the 8th place horse finish second in a similar race.
Hit It Rich has never touched a synthetic track in a race or a work in her career, but Maiden Special Weight races restricted to three year olds are the most likely spots for a "dirt only" horse to win on the main track at Keeneland.
If Hit It Rich isn’t on
e her game, I like Harpoon Hattie to clean it up for the win.
Race 6: Maiden Special Weight, 7 furlongs, 3yo Fillies
Another Maiden race for three year old fillies and this one features a Smarty Jones filly, 4-Smarty’s Dream, making her fourth lifetime start after three very strong races down at the Fair Grounds. All three of those races are better than anything the rest of this field has produced, with the exception of 7-Dominant Currency. Smarty’s Dream appears to be a solid play in this spot.
If you are looking for a long shot play, 3-Kantstopdancin might be the best, although unlikely, play. There is zero speed in this race except for Kantstopdancin, who led for about 80% of her last race at Turfway. She was pressured quite heavily in that effort and may just get brave if left all alone on the front end today. She’s 20/1 on the ML if you are so bold.
Race 7: N1X Allowance, 1 1/16 Miles (Turf), 4&up Fillies and Mares
6-Toocleverforwords (7/2) has showcased a stalking style and a powerful finishing kick in her last four races. That N1X race at Gulfstream back on January 7th was an extremely contentious affair that featured three next out winners, including Tottie (GB) who won the Grade 3 Suwannee River. Her effort last time was a little flat which is somewhat troubling but she may just tower over these on class alone.
2-Anna’s Soul looks like a decent price play in this spot after running the first two races of her career at Woodbine last summer. She’s had a bunch of time off but sports a sparkling work tab heading into her 2010 debut. She’ll likely be coming from well back in the stretch but there should to be plenty of pace in this race for her to run at. Anna’s Soul is 12/1 on the ML.
Race 9: Grade 3 Transylvania Stakes, 1 1/16 Miles (Turf), 3yo
The first graded stakes race of the spring meet features what should be the perfect set-up for the 2-Nordic Truce, a colt that has done all his runnin’ and winnin’ from the rear of the pack and will attempt to take home the first graded stake of his career. Julie Leparoux, last spring’s leading ride and a jockey that was winning everything in sight on the lawn, grabs the mount.
7-Macias grabs morning line favoritism at 5/2 but I think this colt is going to have a tough go of it on the front end considering that 3-Celtic New Year, 4-Strike the Tiger, and 6-Lost Aptitude all want to be up near the lead early on. He ran big at Santa Anita last time out but he also was able to grab an easy lead on that field. That won’t be so easy in this spot.
Race 10: 30K Claiming N3L, 7 furlongs, 3yo Fillies
A conditioned claimer closes out opening day with a full field of twelve three year old fillies going to the gate. The 1-Meander looks like a towering presence in this race after running three straight strong races, two of which were against starter allowance competition at the 40K and 50K levels. She’s got tactical speed and she’s running for a trainer that does well with horses off of the layoff (27%, $4.69 ROI). Take note of the fact that her maiden breaking win and her 40K starter allowance race were against the boys.
Meander is 7/2 on the ML.