Semi Super Saturday
Real Writing on Racing 💯
Keeneland isn’t an easy place to figure out I remembered, looking over the results and considering how little happened on opening day that I anticipated. I only made a few token wagers but there were a couple performances that surprised, both in who showed up and who didn’t. Alas we will review the stakes races and preview a bunch more for today.
🤔 Race 3 had half the field scratched and all were listed as Veterinarian. We deserve to know if the scratches were made by private vets or regulatory vets because it matters and there really isn’t any reason why we aren’t given this info.
🏅 Johnny V still has it! He expertly guided Hoist the Gold off the rail into a stalking postion on the turn, pounced on the dueling leaders turning for home and held Nakatomi and Bango safe to win the Phoenix (Gr II). None of these horses are in the same league with top sprinters like Elite Power, Gunite (if he goes) or Echo Zulu (if she goes) but few are. It was also the third win on the card for the Hall of Fame rider.
🥇 Buchu was tremendous in the Jessamine (Gr II), rallying from way back to score an easy close to 4 length win. Favored Toupie (off of a 20-1 ML) was rank early, never truly settled and had nothing. Time to Dazzle had an ideal trip yet faded badly, Abeyonce had a good trip, loomed in early stretch and stopped, Appellate showed little, Bella Haze actually hung in there well after setting a pretty solid pace, Crown Imperial was likely second best, encountering trouble in deep stretch and missing second by a nose. Martin Chaun gave Pharoah’s Wine an excellent ride and should spend more time on a horses back in races than sitting in the room while inferior riders ride.
🏆 Candied showed that switching leads is overrated as she motored past both of the favorites at the top of the stretch while on the wrong lead, eventually switching after she had the Alcibiades (Gr I) wrapped up. Slight second choice at 9-5, Brightwork broke alertly from the gate but inexplicably Irad took a hold of her and let longshot Alys Beach have the lead, while Brightwork stalked her under a hard hold. The two set tepid fractions and when V V’s Dream moved up outside of Brightwork on the final turn, the previously undefeated filly didn’t respond inbetween horses and weakened in the stretch. Not sure why the plan wasn’t to dictate the tempo, especially coming out of sprints and running to the first wire and perhaps she just doesn’t want to go long but it seemed like a missed opportunity considering how she outbroke the field. V V’s Dream put in a good run, losing ground on both turns and just getting a little leg weary late. Take nothing away from the winner though as she rated nicely, showed a quick burst when Saez set her down and might have more left in the tank if she ever gets her leads straight.
🆓 DRF Formulator PP’s for the Coolmore Turf Mile from Keeneland Here.
🌅 Secret Oath is retiring and will be available at auction at Fasig Tipton on Nov 7
⚖️ Who regulates the regulators? Nobody it seems.
💰Saturday’s Going in Circles Video Play of the Day for Keeneland from ‘The Sniper’ Barry Spears
TCA (Gr II) $350,000 3&up F/M 6 furlongs BC WAYI - FM Sprint
Wicked Halo - uncharacteristic dull effort in the Open Mind at Churchill at 2-5 over a surface that she’d handled well in prior starts. Drawing the inside post isn’t ideal here and she must avoid getting shuffled back in a race with a lot of early pace types. If you draw a line through her last, she is a major player here and you might get a slightly better price than you’d normally would on a filly that may be BC FM sprint bound with a fighting chance on her best, which isn’t something you can say about anyone else in here.
Fire on Time - blazed through fast fractions before proving to be no match for Yuugiri in the Open Mind. Figures to be on the lead once again unless one of the turf to dirt fillies beats her there. Keeneland has been known to be an intense inside speed track on occasion so upgrade if that is the case otherwise she seems like a step behind the best in here.
Last Leaf - she runs with the pack these days, not making up ground but not losing it either. Should get a decent set up behind what looks to be quick pace and is a potential upsetter if she can put it together here today and the top two don’t fire.
Static Fire - goes back to the dirt off of a wire to wire allowance win at Kentucky Downs last month. Is actually two for two on the dirt lifetime with one of those wins at Keeneland last Fall. You’d have to give her a chance with improvement, Lynch is excellent and Torres more than capable but the 7-2 morning line is no bargain.
Happy Soul - ran a decent second in this race last year and for some reason hasn’t raced on the dirt since. Been running moderately well in turf sprints this year but hasn’t been all that close to winning. Another question mark in a confusing race.
Yuugiri - in excellent form if you toss the grass and synthetic races but her worst race is over this surface at Keeneland this past Spring. She does train at Keeneland so perhaps the Madison no-show was just a clunker. Still not sure that I’d be willing to bet her with confidence at a short price here as she has negatively reacted every time she runs a really big race.
Be Like Water - tough spot for her as she has gotten soundly beaten in previous stakes tries and is 4-0-0-0 this year. Would need massive nuclear pace meltdown to have a prayer.
First Lady (Gr I) $750,000 3&up F/M 1 mile turf
Gina Romantica - the least heralded of the three Brownies in the First Lady (Gr I) yet she should sit a great trip, is good at the distance and one for one at Keeneland as she took down the QE II Cup (Gr I) last Fall but can she improve one more time? . Amazing stat that has nothing to do with this race - Peter Brant was 0 for the Saratoga meet.
Whitebeam (GB) - ran lights out when upsetting the Diana (Gr I) in her last and seems to be training great heading into the rematch with her barnmate In Italian (GB). Should get nice trip once again and honestly there is no reason to believe that she can’t do it again albeit at a shorter price.
In Italian (GB) - really had no excuse in the Diana (Gr I) simply getting outfinished by Whitebeam (GB) after setting moderate fractions while unchallenged on the lead. Has to contend with Thisnameisok early in here which may prove to be an interesting subplot as to how Irad deals with that one. She has been pretty spectacular in her three Keeneland starts with two dominant wins to go along with an ultra-game performance when second in last years F/M BC Turf to Tuesday (Ire) at a distance that might be a touch further than she is best at. Is she vulnerable again?
Jumbly (GB) - took the overland route in the Ballston Spa before taking it on the chin 17 days later back in Ireland in the Matron (Gr I). If this field holds together pace-wise, you’d have to move her up though her cross the pond miles are adding up.
Gam’s Mission - often a victim of slow tempo’s, Cherie had to be pleased to see Thisnameisok in the entires as her presence should ensure at worst a moderate early pace and apply a little pressure to In Italian (GB). Loses Gafflione to the rail horse but him losing his whip might have cost her in the Ballston Spa (Gr II) when she was 4th beaten less than a length. If she is ever gonna win one of these big races, this might be the one
Thisnameisok - her presence makes In Italian (GB)’s life a little tougher as you’d expect if they are putting up their $6500 to run, Joe Rocco will send to the lead and let the cards fall where they may. She’d need to run the race of her life, a performance that hasn’t happened as of yet in her 18 race career but her impact might just be important to the outcome if she sets a solid pace.
New Year’s Eve - when she swept by the field in the Edgewood(Gr II) last Spring I thought that she might wind up among the division leaders and be a force to reckon with in the filly turf division. Well it didn’t quite work out that way as her next win wasn’t till this August in a listed prep for the Kentucky Downs Ladies Turf mile at Ellis Park. The the Ladies itself, she made zero impact, content to sit 7th throughout though to be fair the surface wasn’t conducive to her style this season. Minor spoils seems like her ceiling
Evvie Jets - Going into the 1st turn of the Ballston Spa (Gr I) I was surprised that jockey Manny Franco was in the process of taking this mare back further than she generally sits when she isn’t on the lead. However he definitely knew what he was doing as he squeezed his way up the inside in the stretch and just got up to score the huge upset win. I don’t know what plan the new rider Jose Ortiz plans to attempt with her though you’d imagine that from the outside post he may look to try to loop some of her rivals inside using her tactical speed and take up a stalking position behind In Italian (GB) and Thisnameisok. The risk is getting caught wide into the turn but most of the others want to settle and make a run so that trip is likely available if they want to try it. Is she good enough to beat this group without an easy lead or perfect trip and can she get either? Seems unlikely.
Breeders Futurity (Gr I) $600,000 2yo 1 1/16 dirt BC WAYI - Juvenile
The Wine Steward - no this horse was not named after racing stewards after a particularly egregious mistake that seem to be more common than ever. The NY bred Vino Rossi colt has been perfect in three starts, the latest a narrow win in a state bred stakes at Saratoga over El Grande O, who sports a 6-2-3-1 record after dominating the Bongard Stakes at Aqueduct 2 weeks ago. Before taking down the Funny Cide at the Spa, he cruised home in the Ellis Park version of the Bashford Manor over an unspectacular group. Saez is back, Vino Rossi’s should be better going long and the inside post in short stretch races at Keeneland are a good place to be. Big chance here.
Timberlake - really had no excuse in a roughly run Hopeful as he got rail skimming trip behind a hot pace after a bit of a tardy beginning, splitting horses mid-stretch and looking like a winner but didn’t finish up the last 100 yards and was fortunate to hold second. The fig came back a huge regression from his maiden score where he left subsequent Iroquois (Gr III) winner West Saratoga in his wake. His pedigree on the dam side suggests that he should be much better going longer, Cox takes the blinkers off and we will say this again (expect to hear it a lot the next few weeks)…ignore this barn in Kentucky at your own risk.
Awesome Road - sharp first time out for barn that usually has them ready, the runner up came back to break maiden next out at 1-2. Most of the dams successful foals that went long and sire Quality Road adds to the stamina package. Prat sees fit to take the call and once again…ignore this barn in Kentucky…
Baytown Chatterbox - I don’t know where Baytown is but if they have a racetrack I’m sure there is a race there that suits this guy better than this one does
West Saratoga - makes start six here after capturing the Iroquois (Gr III) with a good inside trip for veteran conditioner Larry Demeritte. The distance should be within his scope and his tractability is a plus but does he have more improvement coming or is he ripe for regression?
Generous Tipper - improved in each of his starts after a fair try first time out on the grass. He was handled by West Saratoga two back but going forward is he more likely to have more room to get better?
Just Steel - melted like tinfoil after setting super fast pace in Hopeful (Gr I) then stopping in the lane. Not sure what the plan here would be but dam was a turf sprinter and most of the success of her foals has been on the grass so mixed signals here though I have to say I’m have already taken up a fade position here.
Northern Flame - does have a win at the distance, achieved last out when breaking his maiden at CD though he moved up quite a bit from his previous efforts and returns on short rest
Locked - was away in a tangle first time out in a solid MSW at the Spa going 6f, bumped by two different rivals before he had taken ten strides. Still rallied nicely and when he returned going a mile out of the Wilson chute, the public and CAW teams were ready, pounding the son of Gun Runner down to 3-5. He broke better, was brushed by a horse inside him but hustled to stalk from second, put the early leader away on the final turn, opening up a long lead while being kept to the task in the lane, registering a huge TG fig of 2 and running the last 1/4 in sub 24 (23.94) which is impressive for a two year old going a mile for the first time. He isn’t a secret but barring some unforeseen traffic trouble, he is firmly the one to beat.
Coolmore Turf Mile (Gr I) $1,000,000 3&up 1 mile Turf BC WAYI T Mile
Master of the Seas (Ire) - Chuck Appleby has terrorized North American grass stakes so much the last few years that him being 4-15 (27% with a couple of races having two entries) in 2023 is a down year! This is a legit European grade 1 performer in good form that drew well in a race full of mostly non-grade 1 types…do I need to say more?
Indestructible (Ire) - well let’s hope he is. Three year old Kodiac (GB) colt ships across the Atlantic to take on elders with spotty Euro-form after a strong race to start the year off. Delgado has been under fire since the untimely demise of his trainee New York Thunder and a damning news story this week in the Bloodhorse turned up the heat to inferno-like levels. The colt has shown some early foot in his last few though obviously American races are run in a far different manner. Hard to see him beating these
Stitched - in career best form, just missing to Euro-shipper Ancient Rome (who returned to action last weekend finishing a distant 4th in the Prix Dollar at Longchamp) in the Mint Million at Kentucky Downs after upsetting the Wise Dan (Gr II) at Churchill before that. Figures to set the pace in here but Indestructible and Atone figure to keep him honest and the track played fair on Friday, I’d fade him before he does it himself.
Set Piece (GB) - 7 year old gelding finally won a grade 1 when he took down the Arlington Million at Colonial last out going 10 furlongs. Cuts back to a mile and will require a rapid pace which may or may not happen though…ignore this barn in Kentucky…
Up to the Mark - we hardly knew ya Mark…who has been announced as going to Lane’s End at the conclusion of his racing career which feels soon considering he has been battling issues since his authoritative win in the Manhattan (Gr I) back on Belmont Day. His only defeat on the grass was on this course at this distance in the Makers Mark (Gr I) in April though to be fair, Chez Pierre (Fr) was unbelievable that day. This IS a prep for the BC Mile and Pletcher hasn’t exactly turned the screws tight in his training for this, no Irad and I have to admit that he isn’t for me at a short price though I respect his ability.
English Bee - his last stakes win was in 2019…over the lush sod in the Greater Philadelphia suburb of Parx-ville. You don’t have to worry about this bee stinging.
Atone - hard knocker got drilled in this race last year and while he is the kind you’d love to own, he is also the type to make the Euros (and Japanese soon) salivate when they realize he is a US grade 1 winner.
Harlan Estate - on the Atone career path where you just hang around, dance a lot of dances and once in a while find a race that sets up perfectly like the Tapit did last out. Love to see him win, can’t see it happening.
Annapolis - won this race last year, just outrunning them in the lane before a bad post coupled with a bad start gave him an impossible task in the Breeders Cup Mile. Started off the year in shaky though winning fashion in the Opening Verse before being proven about a half length slower than Casa Creed in two Spa stakes. I’m willing to toss the Kentucky Downs race which was filled with him looking uncomfortable most of the way before encountering traffic running up a hill. If new rider Prat can leave the gate running, tuck in behind the speed, move strongly at the quarter pole getting the jump on the deep closers… he has a chance to pull off the minor upset.
Frizette (Gr I) $400,000 2yo fillies 1 mile BC WAYI - Juv Filly (BAQ)
Irish Maxima - mid-Atlantic shipper has two wire to wire wins under her belt and drawing inside means that jock Rendon will be sending to the lead from there. Tested for class here but a repeat of her last puts her in the mix here.
Life Talk - crushed maidens going a mile last out after an eventful first outing. Paired 11 TG which is a nice pattern to build off of but she needs to improve and you are taking a shorter price than the figures dictate that you should.
Princess Indy - won the Sorority at Monmouth but that was a very slow race, runner up Wine on Tap got beat 38 in the Alcibedes (Gr I) Friday. Not today.
Central Avenue - rallied from way back in her debut at Colonial. She needs to improve a lot (TG 20) to even come close to hitting the board in a short field
Just F Y I - took steady money first time out, going off 7-2 and outgaming another well meant firster by Into Mischief named Shop Lifter. Daughter of Justify has plenty of stamina in her pedigree and the mile should be well within her range. She ran an 8.5 TG and you’d have to believe she can move up enough off of that to take this race down too.
Emery - scratched from Alcibedes (Gr I) for this which appears to have been a wise move. Was sharp breaking maiden in mud at the Spa (TG 6.5) as part of entry with Malathaat’s sister, Justice Julia who didn’t pick up her feet at all that day. The outside post helps the cause as Manny Franco can ride the race as it unfolds. Big chance.
Other Aqueduct stakes: We like Romagna Mia (GB) to pull off the upset in the Waya (Gr III) in her second stateside try. Rebels Romance (Ire) is clearly the one to beat in the Turf Classic (Gr I) and I’m gonna try to hook him up with Soldier’s Rising (GB) go fadesville on the filly War Like Goddess. The Champagne (Gr I) is inscrutable but in a good way with Fierceness, General Partner and El Grande O all having an argument to make but it’s a tough race to wager on. The Jockey Club Derby (Gr III) seems to boil down to a two horse affair for me with the obvious Appleby/Buick Measured Time (GB) tangling with Webslinger.
📽️ It’s hard to believe this was thirteen years ago…