Only two days left of the 2010 Keeneland spring meet...where did the time go?
After taking a day off on Wednesday it's time to tackle the penultimate spring card which presents me with the comeback of a one of my horses to watch in race number 3, Meander.
Let's start things off...
Race 1: $20K Maiden Claiming, 5 ½ furlongs, 3 & up
Normally, I stay away from these types of races because they tend to get a little bit chalky even when they look chaotic. The first race today, however, might the perfect spot to try and beat what will likely be a heavy favorite in the 6-Wonderboy Roy (2/1).
Wonderboy Roy is trained by Wesley Ward, who as anyone that follows Keeneland knows, pretty much dominates with first time starters. Over the last five years, Ward is hitting 31% with first time starters at Keeneland (9/29, $1.86 ROI). Just looking at firsters on synthetic tracks, Ward is hitting at 30% with a $2.33 ROI. Those are good numbers no matter how you look at them. At the same time, he's still losing 70% of these types of event, and many of those are still heavily bet, so it's not like you can tell a vulnerable Ward first simply by board action. With first time starters going off at odds of 2/1 or less, Ward hits at 46% of the time with a $2.07 ROI. Great numbers, but there are still opportunities to beat him.
The chink in the armor, so to speak, for Ward's firster in this race appears to be pedigree - Wonderboy Roy's sire, Ghostzapper, is a shocking 0-for-36 with first time starters. I'm going to take that angle and roll the dice to try and beat Wonderboy Roy with the 7-War Sky (3/1).
This race marks sort of a "hidden blinkers-on" move for War Sky. Last time out at Oaklawn, trainer Lisa Merritt put the shades on this horse for the first time but unfortunately, War Sky stumbled very badly leaving the gate, veered out into another horse, and dropped back to dead last within the first 20 yards. About the only equipment change that would have made a difference at that point would have been a jet pack tied to War Sky's rear-end.
Today, War Sky switches back to the synthetics where he's run the best races of his career, and he draws an outside position where he should be able to use speed to secure a perfect trip. If the Ward firster doesn't fire then I like this gelding to steal the win.
Race 2: $16K Claiming, 7 furlongs, 4 & up, Fillies & Mares
I really liked 4-Fortheboyasatthebar (9/5) in his last race and the connections are wheeling her right back to run in the same conditions one more time here at the spring meet. The 9/5 morning line, however, isn't as nice as the 3/1 she went off as last time out. There wasn't a whole lot of speed in that last bunch, and while today's field probably won't go crazy on the front end, I think it will be a sterner test.
5-Ash (5/2) is the mare that I think poses the best chance to beat the favorite in this spot. The two best races of her career came over the Polytrack at Arlington Park last summer/fall but she hasn't seen synthetic since that time after two main track efforts at Hawthorne and three turf tries at Tampa. Predictably, she didn't win any of those races. The switch back to the Poly should really suit her and she's got the tactical speed to put perfectly stalk the favorite down the backstretch.
Race 3: $30K Claiming N2L, 1 1/16 Miles, 3 & up, Fillies & Mares
Back on April 10th I absolutely loved Meander (2/1) in a similar conditioned claiming event...until the gate opened and this filly was absolutely wiped out by one of her rival's just yards after leaving the gate. The trouble was so bad that Meander was driven into the gap and never had a chance to even get into the race.
She's not going to offer a whole lot of value today (at least from the ML oddsmaker who recognized the throw out that the last race was), but I'm hoping that perhaps the crowd will ignore this filly just a bit. Even if they don't, Meander will be a single in my early plays.
The key to this filly's chances are those back-to-back starter allowance efforts at Delta Downs last summer. Sure, Delta doesn't see the class that Keeneland has on a day to day basis, but the fields in each of those races were full of quality allowance class horses. The rest of the field in this race is really a step below what she was facing prior to shipping to Keeneland and I think she's an easy winner with a good trip.
Race 5: N1X Allowance, 1 3/16 Miles (Turf), 4 & up, Fillies & Mares
The Clement-Leparoux first time North American starter, 5-The Gaillimh Girl (IRE) (3/1), looks awfully strong in this spot today. She broke her maiden in her last effort in France before shipping over the U.S. and she's already proven she can run the distance (which shouldn't be a surprise). She was up near the lead in that last one and it would be to her benefit to stick near the lead in this race as to not leave herself too much to do late in the game. That shouldn't be a problem with Leparoux in the irons. My only quibble with this filly is that her race in France came at Compiegne which is not one of the bigger, traditionally strong tracks. Her competition may have been a little weak.
This race has a significant amount of speed in it for being a 1 3/16 mile race and there is certainly a possibility that things could break down in the final furlongs. If that happens, I really like 3-Tocleverforwords (3/1) to possibly pick up the piece and notch the victory. This colt has been very consistent with his internal fractions from race to race, content to run along at a :23+ to :24 second clip almost every race. He's faced some pretty stiff competition down in Gulfstream and should fit right in with this group today. I also think he might go off at better than 3/1.
Race 8: Grade 3 Bewitch, 1 ½ Miles (Turf), 4 & up, Fillies & Mares
It's only a field of seven, but there are some really good fillies and mare turfers in today's feature race, the Grade 3 Bewitch. Morning line favoritism falls to the 7-Lady Shakespeare (5/2) on the strength of her second place finish in the Grade 3 Orchid at Gulfstream in late March. Two other mares in this race also are coming out of the Orchid: 1-Nehantic Kat (4/1), who was 3rd by ½ length, and 5-Magical Theater (8/1), who finished 5th by 1 ½ lengths.
I expect that 6-Changing Skies (IRE) (3/1) will go off as the post time favorite after she ran a very nice race to win the Grade 3 Very One at 1 3/8 miles on the Gulfstream Turf. Jockey Kent Desormeaux has had himself a very solid meet at Keeneland this spring (19%) but he's only 2-for-16 on the lawn.
Here's something to remember about that Orchid race that several of these were coming out of: the rail at Gulfstream that day was at 84 feet, a setting that usually enhances the chances of speed on the front end. Magical Theater closed from well back to only lose by a length and a half that day. That's a pretty solid effort into a slow. I don't know that she's going to get a lot more to run at today, but she won't have to deal with an 84 foot rail. At 8/1, she might be worth a shot.
The wild card in this race is the Californian invader, 4-Floating Heart (3/1) ridden by jockey Joe Talamo in his first Keeneland appearance. Floating Heart ran on the main track last time out in the Grade 1 Santa Margarita and finished third, a length and a quarter behind Zenyatta. This filly has won at this distance on this Keeneland grass course before (N2X Allowance, 10/18/09), although that effort came over a "YIELDING" turf.