Some of the earliest memories of my life prominently involve Keeneland. When I was in elementary school, they just started to have an announcer--Kurt Becker--at the track after not having had one at all before the mid-1990s. I have some vague memories of being there before he started calling the races there. Family and Keeneland are intertwined for me, and since I started undergraduate work at college, my peers have started to catch the racing bug, and often turn to me for advice on how to read the program and what bets make sense, given who they like. I try to stick to straight bets or two horse exacta boxes when giving out picks, as I don't like to have people bet themselves out of something they'd like by trying to over-think the race (something I should take into consideration a bit more).
This will be my ninth College Scholarship Day that I've attended at Keeneland (also went to 3 at Churchill Downs and 1 at Turfway Park). I went in the Fall of '08, '09, '10, and '11 as well as Spring '09, '10, and '11 while at the University of Louisville. I also went to Spring's College Day this year. I had to miss 2012's College Days because of student teaching in the Spring and work in the Fall. There's a lot more to it than just free t-shirts and possible drawings for prizes, usually on the same day as the University of Kentucky's Big Blue Madness, so a lot of the prizes are UK themed. It feels like half the student body is on site at Keeneland that day. Some professors even cancel class because they know most people won't show that particular day, especially since UK doesn't get a Fall Break. Luckily, my academic studies never got all that much in the way of Keeneland, nor did Keeneland get in the way of studies. You don't graduate Magna Cum Laude by mistake. Time to take it in as a college student one last time tomorrow with fraternity brothers from across the state.
Now to the picks for tomorrow's card, which is decent, but isn't anywhere near as good as Fall 2008 College Day's card where they ran the First Lady, Phoenix and Alcibiades.
The weather should be nice tomorrow, with a high of 67 degrees and a low of 46 degrees. Couldn't ask for better weather. Expect the track to play fast if the sun stays hidden and a little slower (but not 2007 Del Mar slow) if the sun stays visible.
Short version of picks for those who TL;DR the commentary:
Race 1: 10-6-4-3
Race 2: 8-5-4-12
Race 3: 10-1-5-2
Race 4: 3-2-10-5
Race 5: 3-2-10-6
Race 6: 2-7-8-9
Race 7: 5-4-9-1
Race 8: 4-6-8-12
Race 9 (Valley View): 12-11-8-7
Race 10: 7-11-6-1-8 (picked 5 in here in case people are nuts and want to bet super high five tickets)
And the commentary for those that want to know why I picked the horses listed above:
Race 1: 6 furlongs (poly), Maiden Claimers, $15K tag, $13K purse, fillies/mares, 3yo+
On levels of terribad rating from -10 (Secretariat 1973 Belmont) to +10 (a turf sprint maiden claimer for Matt), this pulls about an 8.5. Pretty darn bad race, actually. If I didn't have access to what track this was, I'd think it was a weeknight card at Turfway Park. Honestly, I wouldn't bet more than $5 on the race. But if I had to use the $5, I'd likely bet #10 Alex's Gold to win since she has finished second at Turfway and has a top Poly Beyer of 62, I'd bet #6 Damascene to place since she just finished second cutting back in distance, and I'd bet a $1 show flyer on #4 Littlebitcranky, since the runner with the most starts in here has 6 placings to her name. A fourth place horse, if you must, could be anybody. Seriously, bet on a name, they might get fourth for a superfecta. If I had to pick a fourth place horse, #3 Hong Kong Nights could get there since Alan Garcia was on fire during the Thursday card.
Race 2: 1 1/8 miles (poly), Starter Allowance (started for 5K claiming price or lower since 2012), $17K purse, 3yo+
At least this race has winners in it, even if it's a bit cheap. I'm leaning towards #8 Spartan King as a win play since he has 4 wins on the year, including at Keeneland at the distance back in April. I guess at peak form, #5 Brother Bird towers over this bunch, but I find it strange that a Claiming Crown winner would keep running here, not to mention that Maker/Ramsey isn't hitting at video game numbers like back in the Spring meet. The longshot to look at here may be #4 Lovesmelovesmenot, considering he has a win on the surface against similar horses, though you have to dig back over a year to find said win. Might be a better play for place, show, or underneath in exactas considering the 8 starts with 3 seconds/4 thirds record this year. #12 Practice Tee is dangerous if he can handle synthetic, though I have doubts with anyone trying this surface for the first time, even 11-race winners.
Race 3: 6 furlongs (poly), Maiden Claimers, $30K tag, $19K purse, 2yo (open)
This is basically the first race, but with 2 year old males rather than older fillies and mares. I'm going to take a shot with #10 Marty the Monster to take this race, as running for Maiden Claiming $25K is deceptive coming from Kentucky Downs' Japan-lite purses for their cheaper races back in September. Also, their turf tended to be Mountaineer South when it came to speed when he tried to close and he still split the field in 4th; such an effort can translate to Polytrack and Flores has some wins at Keeneland already. While Ramsey and Ward won ALL THE THINGS in the Spring meet, #1 Kitchen Police is in a precarious post position among other speed horses and you question why they didn't debut earlier if the connections thought more of this horse. His dad had the dirt 4 1/2 furlong track record from a 2 year old victory and later won the Risen Star at 3 to go with a stakes placing in the 2006 Breeders' Cup Mile. As a longer priced option for show, why not #5 Danzig Gold? The connections got General Quarters to win the 2009 Blue Grass there, and the trainer won his lone Maiden Claiming Start off first claim that DRF shows. A fourth horse to see could be #2 Gumper, as he ran against open maidens his last start.
Race 4: 6 furlongs (poly), Claimers, $40K tag, $29K purse, 3yo fillies
Yay, winners for open claiming! Getting back to normal with the Keeneland cards after three Turfway Park-esque races to start. It's hard to look past the favorite of Ramsey and Maker in this race, since #3 Regal Joanne appears to lay over this field coming out of mostly open races, save for her most recent victory at Saratoga where she was claimed for $35,000. If she replicates her turf form, the rest are running for second. Some options to try and beat the #3 may include #2 Chinchero (won on opening day) or a super longshot in #10 Flying Rapunzel who saw action in stakes company at 2 that has an underrated trainer and jockey. #5 Wilhemina likes to win with 3 wins on the year and 4 for her career as a price as well.
Race 5: Beard Course (7 furlongs and 184 feet, or a little over 7 1/4 furlongs; poly), Open 2yo Maidens, $56K purse, Split #1
I have a feeling that the favorites will be #2 Bro Rodrigeaux (ran against Honor Code and two last-out winners) and #6 Baby Titan (the first timer of Pletcher's out of Colonel John). While either could easily win, the Beard Course is a tricky animal. Those that like 6.5-7 furlongs might come up just short, and 2 turn horses might lag too far behind in the running. This is why I like #3 Night League to win the race, as Amoss is "Rosario in April/May" hot with second-time starters. The victor in #3's last start was one of the ones that came out of #2's maiden race. Though they're two year olds, so even the seemingly overmatched #10 Jaz N Tap could get a piece, as Larry Demeritte has an ROI of $16.34 from 2/7 starters resting for 6+ months.
Race 6: Beard Course (7 furlongs and 184 feet, or a little over 7 1/4 furlongs; poly), Open 2yo Maidens, $56K purse, Split #2
The 5th and 6th are 2 divisions of the same race. It seems that neither edition is lacking in quality. However, I think race 6 isn't as top-heavy and could find more value. I'm a big fan of playing for an upset with #2 Brilliant Dan, who's out of tri-surface graded stakes winner Einstein. Kentucky Downs turf horses that were off the pace should like the Beard Course at Keeneland better, especially with the pace that #1, #5, #6, and #12 are all likely to show in here. Some others to look at may include #7 Camp Meeting (23% first time trainer, 3/10 with Hernandez as jockey) and #8 Long Station (ran against Strong Mandate, may want synthetic after getting rained off of turf past two starts). #9 General Rod could spring a mild upset with a rare good price from Maker (trainer)/Napravnik (jockey).
Race 7: 1 mile (turf), Allowance (non winners of two open turf races since 2012), 3yo+, $64K purse
I call this race the "Perfect Drift" condition, as he often ran in races like this as prep races when he ran in the early 2000s. It drew a field that seems like a consolation Shadwell Mile/Maker's Mark Mile type of race. With speed coming from the likes of #2, #3, and #11, I prefer closers in a race like this. My top pick is #5 Turallure. Sure, he has a bit of hanger in him, but just about everyone does on grass in the 7th race, otherwise they couldn't run in this race. He likes sand-based turf; even if his best days were in 2011, he won the Woodbine Mile, the Shadwell Mile, and was irritatingly close to winning the BC Mile at Churchill that year. My second pick is #4 Trend, who has been unlucky not to win his last three starts. Then again, 13 second-place finishes in 25 starts (vs. 3 wins) is alarming, even if Coalport has improved quite a bit lately. #9 Rogue Romance looked like Kitten's Joy on the lawn as a 2 year old in 2010, but has had two long layoffs since then. If he revisits old form, he's worth a price if 10-1 or above on the tote board. #1 Regally Ready might need a change of scenery going 2 turns, though I doubt his value will be great. He could get there as his old self.
Race 8: 1 1/16 miles (poly), Allowance (non winners of two open races OR two lifetime), 3 yo+, $58K purse, fillies/mares
I like #4 Spring Reason to win this heat, as Sheppard/Napravnik win 25% of the time together as trainer and jockey with a $3.45 ROI; her win was at 1 mile at Presque Isle Downs, a track whose form tends to overlap with Keeneland's. As a runner-up, the favorite #6 Liberated seems likely to finish in the top 3, but 7 seconds/thirds of 9 starts is startling. Her mile win wasn't as impressive as the #4's, I thought. As a mega-bomb, why not #8 Baltoro to light up the board? Presque Isle horses run well there, and she likes to win (4 wins overall; 3 in 2013), which most of the favorites can't really say convincingly. #12 Cloud Scapes would rate higher for me if she weren't drawn to the extreme outside at 1 1/16 miles, though she's still live, as Joe Rocco likes to win there.
Race 9: 1 1/16 miles (turf), Valley View/Grade 3, 3 yo fillies, $150K purse
This is basically a consolation QE II race on paper, which makes it very wide open for betting. I wonder why #2 Summer of Fun opted for this race rather than the QE II or the Pebbles. She's 0/2 on sand-based turf, so I'm leaning towards horses with better form on the lawn with sand. Though their posts could be an impediment, I like the far outside two horses, #11 I O Ireland and #12 Unbelievable Dream about equally in here. Both have wins at Keeneland, though #12 gets the slight nod since she won a stakes race on the grounds. Granted, Joel Rosario wins at April should be taken with nuclear silos filled with salt, but she still won there. Others to consider include #8 Overheard (all turf starts on sand-based turf with good marks, second to #12 in Spring here) and #7 Every Way (ran second to #11 at Arlington, won on sand-based turf in December). Three year old fillies on the lawn could produce darn near anything. But 12-11-8-7 seems like a good box combination for exactas/trifectas/superfectas.
Race 10: 7 furlongs (poly), Claiming, $10K tag, $17K purse, 3yo+, fillies/mares
Not trying to get too fancy with the last race. The favorite likely should win in #7 Glamour Galore since her record show a win and runner-up effort in two starts at Keeneland. Nobody has won a 7 furlong main track race in the field, so the lack of 7 furlong form doesn't scare me. She's also 6-3-3-0 (3 wins, 3 seconds) on synthetic surfaces. #11 Safe Word is a viable longshot option in here, as she has 5 synthetic wins and could show the ability to rate coming off of 2-turn races. I'll forgive #6 Blue Cliff's horribad effort at Keeneland, as that was at 1 1/16 miles, and this race is 1.5 furlongs shorter. She has won at 7 furlongs, albeit on grass, in her last start. Were this the dirt, I'd like that her daddy won the 2004 Blue Grass, but Polytrack shouldn't hurt her. It's not like this field is the Breeders Cup Filly & Mare Sprint by any stretch of the imagination. On that vein, why not a shot-in-the-dark for fourth? As Mr. Siva's #3 Rose (my dad) says, "You can't handicap for third...or fourth." So why not be off the wall? #1 One Wild Kitty could rate if she runs her June 17th race where she won from 4th at Presque Isle Downs, and she's 20-1 on the morning line. If you're crazy and like betting the super high five (top 5 bet), #8 Devious Sister is a logical contender, though I think she may not have enough pace to run at in this race.
Good luck to all, especially any college students that might win scholarships or prizes that probably won't be me (at least for the drawings). No such thing as a bad day at Keeneland, that's for sure. Tomorrow should be awesome, too.