It must be spring if it's time for Keeneland! The Lexington, Kentucky track is home to the first elite meet of the season when it kicks of it's 2012 Spring Meet. Opening day features the G3-Transylvania Stakes for three-year-olds going a one mile and a sixteenth on the turf course, while Saturday is the first Grade 1 of the meet with the running of the Ashland Stakes. Below are links to Keeneland's stakes schedule, entries and current changes:
You can follow the Keeneland meet on TVG or through the live video feed on the Keeneland website.
Let's take a look at some of the races on Day 1 of the 2012 Keeneland Spring Meet:
Race 1 - Maiden Special Weight, 2 YO, Four and a half Furlongs
The spring meet kicks off with the first baby race of the season - two-year-olds going four and a half furlongs on the Polytrack. Trainer Wesley Ward has excelled at these races over the last five years and his coupled entry of 1-Barisoff and 1a-Skylander (6/5) will likely be tough to beat on the track and on the tote board. Over the last five years, Ward is 14-for-45 with two-year-olds in Maiden Special Weights at Keeneland on the Poly (31% Win%, 65% ITM, $1.72 $2 ROI)
Of those two Ward runner, Barisoff looks like the play given his pedigree; he is by Put It Back, an excellent synthetic sire. Of course, you're getting two for the price of one, so it's really irrelevant which Ward horse you like.
[And, of course, Barisoff scratches. As does Ballyclough in race 2.
It's hard to pre-write these previews when the horses I like scratch out in the morning. Agh!]
Race 2 - $40k Claiming/N2L, 3&up, Six Furlongs
I'm keeping it pretty simple in race #2; 6-Ballyclough (5/2) should love a return to the plastic stuff after struggling on the Churchill turf last fall. His only race at Keeneland (10/2011 vs. N1X) was solid enough to suggest that he'll run decent today. The rest of the field is fairly so-so, especially when you look at their synthetic form (or lack thereof). I wouldn't want to play Ballyclough odds much lower than his 5/2 ML, but I'm not going to be surprised if the crowd pounds him down to the 8/5 range.
Race 3 - $10k Claiming, 4&up, Fillies and Mares, Six Furlongs
Two horses interested me in this race, both of which are listed at a decent price on the morning line. 2-Mac n Mayo (15/1) has sported decent form on synthetic surfaces throuhout his career (24-7-5-7) and he should get some pace to run at. I like him as a price play in the Exacta or the Trifecta.
3-Platinum Futures (8/1) turned in a good race against $20k OC/N2Ls at Turfway in his most recent start. His record doesn't really impress you when you look at it but, like Mac n Mayo, he's one of the few that has displayed an ability to run over a synthetic surface in his career.
10-Stanford Dolly (5/2) is another of the solid synthetic horses in this field (24-8-4-2), although I expect him to get bet down pretty hard before post time.
Race 5 - Alw N1X, 4&up, One Mile Turf
11-Bowman's Causeway (5/2) is head and shoulders above this group in terms of class but he hasn't notched a victory in over a year. If you're looking to play against the chalk, the lightly raced 5-Perfect Afleet (6/1) could represent some decent value on the board come post time.
Race 6 - Maiden Special Weight, 3yo, Fillies, Seven Furlongs
7-Fast Bobbi J (6/1) hasn't didn't show much in her last two starts of 2011 but ran well enough in her only try on the Keeneland Poly to be considered a decent play in this spot. This is a fairly lackluster Maiden Special Weight; it might be enough for a win if Fast Bobbi J can simply run back to her previous Keeneland form.
Race 8 - $100k OC, 4&up, Seven Furlongs
9-Successful Dan (2/1) absolutely loves Keeneland (3-3-0-0) and synthetics (5-3-1-0) but hasn't had a race since winning the G1-Clark Handicap at Churchill in November of 2010. Tough to play a horse at odds like that off of such a long lay-off. Tread carefully.
3-Hoofit (NZ) (6/1) has shown himself to be a good synthetic runners and he might represent great value on the board if he stays near his 6/1 morning line odds.
Race 9 - G3-Transylvania Stakes, 3yo, One and One Sixteenth Miles, Turf
There looks to be plenty of speed in this race, something that should set things up perfectly for 5-Monastic (5/2) and Julien Leparoux. His only bad race in five lifetime starts was a 10th place finish in the G3-Bourbon on this turf course last fall. Monastic had an excuse that day as he got bumped around leaving the gate. With a clean trip in this race, he'll be the one to beat.
Race 10 - $10k Maiden Claiming, 3&up, One and One Sixteenth Miles
I've got a pure pedigree play in the final race of the day: 4-Sokitumi Samuri (4/1). He just missed at the distance in his last race at Gulfstream over the main track. His sire, First Samurai, has done very well with horses on synthetic tracks. In a race with as weak a field as this one (and a lack of synthetic form), I'll take the pedigree play at a little bit of a price.