The 22nd running of the Grade 3 JPMorgan Chase Jessamine Stakes highlights the 5th day of the 2012 Keeneland Fall Meet. The Polytrack is FAST, the turf course is FIRM and the turf rail is set at 15 feet from the inside lane (the same as on Wednesday). Let's take a look at the entries and changes (from Equibase), and handicap some of today's best races.
Race 1 - $30k Maiden Claimer, 6 1/2 Furlongs, Polytrack, 2yo f
The day kicks off with a tricky Maiden Claiming event jammed full with a field of 12 juveniles. 6-Minnie Bear (9/5), a dropper from $40k last time out. She's going to be pretty short on the board, something I'm not willing to get behind given the Poly questions mark.
I'm heading all the way to the outside to find my selection: 12-Ju Ju Judy (10/1), a Turfway shipper that displayed some early foot in her last race at the $30k price tag.
Race 5 - Allowance N1X, 1 1/16 Miles, Turf, 3up
I won a good amount of money betting on 7-Kris Royal (4/1) in his last race at Saratoga and I'm curious to see him take on winners for the first time. This is a pretty tough spot to jump out of the maiden ranks into and I'd like to get better than 4/1 if I'm going to play him again. Something in the range of 6/1 would get me involved.
Race 7 - Allowance N2X, 7 Furlongs, Polytrack, 3up
In keeping with the theme of the day of very competitive fields on the fifth day, the seventh race is a full field of non-winners of two other-than going the tricky seven furlongs on the Poly. There's not much to find if you're looking for some seven furlong form in this group.
I like the 9-Ballyclough (5/1) coming back after a bit of a break for Ken McPeek. I'll toss that last race from consideration as it came over a sloppy and sealed main track at Churchill Downs; Ballyclough is clearly better on synthetics/turf. His two prior tries over the Keeneland Poly have been quite good including a win at the N1X level last spring. The one big concern are the jockey/trainer numbers at the fall meet; McPeek and Cohen are struggling mightily. [UPDATE: And Ballyclough scratches... ugh. I hate scratches!]
Race 8 - G3-Jessamine, 1 1/16 Miles, Turf, 2yo
We could possibly re-name the Jessamine the "Kitten Stakes" this year with three daughters of Kitten's Joy in the field, two of which are owned by Ken & Sarah Ramsey (8-Always Kitten (7/2) and 12-Go Kitten Go (10/1)).
Always Kitten comes into the Jessamine after breaking her maiden in the ungraded Happy Ticket at Louisiana Downs after missing by a length and a quarter in his debut at Saratoga.
5-Kitten's Point (5/1), the non-Ramsey Kitten's Joy in the field, broke her maiden in her debut race at Presque Isle Downs and now stretches out and moves over to the turf course. Both of those changes should be positive moves given her pedigree. In that debut race she raced very wide coming off the far turn, losing tons of ground in the process. Her #5 post position today should allow for a much cleaning trip, as does the switch to Johnny V.
These juvenile turf races can be a tough nut to crack when most of the field sports limited and similar resumes. I think there might be some value in 7-Summer of Fun (6/1). This George Weaver trainee didn't run much at all in the Grade 2 Natalma last time out but she got stuck down inside that day on a "Yielding" course and I'm willing to give her another shot with a better trip. She's got a bit of gate speed in the arsenal and over firmer ground she should be able to press the early fractions.
Always Kitten has the resume and the connections necessary to win this race but I'll be watching the numbers on Summer of Fun as we near post time.