The Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup tops the seventh day of the 2012 Keeneland Fall Meet. After Sunday's card, the fall meet will be half-way to completion leaving us with another five months to wait until the spring meet.
Let's take a look at the entries and changes for Saturday's card (via Equibase), as well as handicap several of the races.
Race 1 - Allowance N1X, 1 1/16 Miles, Polytrack, 2yo f
One of the weaker fields you'll see at Keeneland this fall as a field of seven stretches out to eight and a half panels on the Poly. 7-Daar Zayed (3/1) won a one mile event at Presque isle Downs in his last race and seems well suited to picking up a second consecutive win in this spot.
Race 2 - $8,000 Starter Allowance, 7 Furlongs, Polytrack, 3up
A tricky little starter allowance race at the $8k level in which two horses stood out to me in the Form. 12-King of Lourdes (3/1) comes into the race off a couple of strong efforts at Arlington and Hoosier and grabs Johnny V. for the ride in this spot. I don't like the lack of seven furlong races but this is a colt that looks to be sharp.
7-Distorted Dave (6/1) faced optional $40k company last time out at Turfway but ran well in a couple of softer events at Presque Isle in July and August. Some decent synthetic form on the resume (15-4-1-0) and the trainer is having himself a good year.
Race 3 - Allowance N2L, 7 Furlongs, Polytrack, 2yo
4-Mac the Man (6/1) is another Presque Isle shipper (I'm sensing a theme today) and comes into the race of a fourth place finish in an ungraded stakes race on Sept. 29th. The trip should suit him and he's got enough tactical speed to put himself in the race early without getting caught up in potential speed duel.
8-Midas Dancer (7/2) looks pretty strong on paper and sports a pedigree that suggests he'll love the plastic stuff. The wide draw should allow Cohen to get a good read on the pace but I'd be lying if I said that I wasn't troubled by the really poor numbers from both the rider and the barn; leaning towards #4 based on the poor hit rate of the connections at the meet.
Race 4 - Maiden Special Weight, 1 1/16 Miles, Turf, 3up f&m
I've got a couple of decent prices that I really love in this spot. 7-Pavla (12/1) is a first time starter by Badge of Silver out of a Dynaformer mare. The pedigree suggests this filly should love the lawn and she could be ready to run big at first asking. Trainer Alex Clarkson has done well with firsters and first time turf runners in a limited sample. The works are steady and the price is nice.
11-Single (6/1) gets Leparoux after a runner-up finish on the lawn at Arlington last time out. Julien has been hot during the fall meet; this could be just a rider play for me (although I'm much more enamored with #7).
Race 5 - Allowance N2X, 1 1/16 Miles, Polytrack, 3up
Lots of two-turn races today on the card including this second level allowance event that features 1-Gung Ho (8/5), a Michael Maker trainee dropping down after running in a bunch of stakes races over the last year. The drop should help this colt but I'm looking elsewhere for a price.
9-Majestic Harbor (6/1) is my top pick in this spot after shipping in from the West Coast for this race. I'll toss that last effort at the Fairplex bullring and focus on the 3rd place finish on the lawn at Del Mar on August 5th. That was this colt's first and only try on a non-dirt surface and it was one of the better performances of his career. The pedigree suggests that he should take to the Poly just as well as he did the lawn and he gets the top rider at the meet for his Keeneland debut. There isn't a ton of speed in this race and this colt displayed some early foot in that turf effort; he might be able to control this race from the gate.
5-Photo Shoot (5/1) is ANOTHER Presque Isle shipper that comes to Keeneland sports some very good form. HE ran pretty well in the PID Mile last time out and has handled the Keeneland surface well in the past. Could be worth a play in an exacta or trifecta with #9.
Race 6 - Allowance N3X, 1 1/16 Miles, Turf, 3up f&m
I think this race sets up well for 8-Lode Lady (9/2) to sit just off the early speed in the early stakes and pounce on the lead at the top of the stretch. Johnny V. climbs on board a filly that's shown a good late kick in prior races at this distance.
Race 7 - Maiden Special Weight, 1 1/16 Miles, Polytrack, 2yo f
It's tough to debut going two turns but I'm really intrigued by the pedigree of 9-Bow Bells (7/2), a first time starter for Todd Pletcher and owned by Michael Tabor. This filly sports a wonderfully consistent work patter and should be ready to run at first asking. Sadly, I don't know if the value will be there to mitigate the risk and difficulty of winning a route in her debut.
Race 9 - Grade 1 QEII Challenge Cup, 1 1/8 Miles, Turf, 3yo f
I've gone round and round and round with this race and finally settled on 8-Dayatthespa (3/1) as my pick. Quite simply, I think Castellano is going to have every opportunity to control this race right from the gate and I think this filly might get overlooked just a tad at the windows. I'm looking for 7/2 or 4/1, at a minimum, to jump on board.
Race 10 - $30k Claiming N2L, 6 ½ Furlongs, Polytrack, 3yo
The day ends with a conditioned claimer and one of the uglier races on the card. I'm looking for a light play on the 9-Catlepost (6/1) shipping from Turfway after finally breaking his maiden in his most recent start. His form improved dramatically once he got on the Polytrack and I'm looking for that to continue in this race.