I know all eyes are focused on Louisville and the Kentucky Derby but i Just wanted to give a shout out to Kentucky Downs. The European style all turf track just announced their schedule for the fall and its a doozy. Daily purses will average $1.56 million with maiden races running for $130,000 and allowances for $145,000, unheard of numbers in this day and age. They will run 12 stakes for 3.95 million as well. All that equals big quality fields and competitive racing. Its a great little niche meet, that has gotten progesively better year after year. Well done!
The friday feature at Keeneland is the Grade 1 Makers 46 Mile on the turf. The hot horse is Heart to Heart for Brian lynch but as a speed horse he might be up against it today. Lately hes had things his own way on the front end without much pace pressure. Today he gets Shinning Copper who is a speedball coming off a near wire to wire victory at Gulfstream in a Grde 1. With those 2 need the meas types the wise guy horse seems to be Tourist who i do like, but off his long layoff he could be hard to rate, as he has shown runoff speed in the past. My selection is Reload for Shug/Castellano. A closer, he should get some pace to run at here and should be tighter 2nd time off last years layoff.
Some picks for todays keeneland Aqueduct cards…
Keeneland race 5- A 1 1/2 mile race on the turf, looks to be a race you can go in any direction. I ended up leaning towards AL KHAZAALIYA, for Plethcher/Velazquez. Its a very evenly matched field but she has the recency edge on these after running down at Gulfstream, and running well. Should be able to stalk and pounce. 3-1-8
Bonus late pick 4 play 1-3-8/3/1-2-4-6-12/4-7
Keeneland race 7- The feature is also on the turf and is also wide open. The favorite Cite on the rail looks to be tough but I am going to go way outside to the 12 TASIT. Loved his maiden score and he ran a great race against Azar last out at Gulfstream. Wants to be on turf and finally gets back there. If he can negotiate a trip from out there, he should be hard to handle and should get the jump on the deep closers.
Aqueuct race 9- Nothing special about this 40k claimer on turf but #7 D.S. Boyd looks like a live longshot going onto the grass for the first time. This closer got a slow pace to run at last time and his closing kick should work well on the grass. George Weaver is a great grass trainer that wouldnt put him on there if he didnt think he would like it.
Another week closer to the derby and another installment of Steve Haskin’s derby dozen. I think hes spot on here as usual, Exaggerator ran huge, I think Nyquist is starting to seperate himself, and I dont think Shagaf ran as terrible as other seems to think…
Unbelievable weekend of racing just passed with a few horses stamping their tickets to the Derby while other contenders failed to impress. While the derby preps get all the attention, some of the undercard stakes really stole the show. Of course weather had to play a factor in 2 of the derby preps which might have made for more questions then answers. Lets dive in….
At Aqueduct Saturday we saw a very slow running of the Wood Memorial won by the immensely talented in only his 4th career start over 80-1 maiden Trojan Nation. Final time was the slowest of any Wood in history and no one came home particularly fast. Some may not have cared for the muddy track (shagaf?) or maybe it was just a weak group to begin with. Everyone klnows ive been on Shagaf’s band wagon for a long time and I am still driving that wagon. I don’t think he liked the mud and I really didn’t care for his trip to much. Fell to far back, made an eye catching move to get into contention on the turn, but ran up on heels instead of goiong around the tiring speed, and could never really re-rally. I still love his chances going to the derby, as I do with Outwork as well, who has worlds of talent. If I am right about Shagaf I will be rewarded handsomely as his odds are surely to rise.
In the undercard races, Salutos Amigos finally got his Grade 1 win in the Carter, which he rallied widest of all to wear down a stubborn Calculator and Dad’s Caps. A great win for the old veteran and he might be rounding back into form. Lewis Bay won the Gazelle for 3yr old fillies but not gets rewarded with a match up against the dominant Songbird in the Kentucky Oaks.
In Kentucky, The Blue Grass had a big field, but not much quality in my opinion, and to no surprise, besides favorite Zulu running out, it was very form full with Brodys Cause making a wide run and exploding down the lane to win his second Grade 1 on this Lexington track. My Man Sam and Cherry wine also rallied from well back to get the minor awards, all but assuring themselves into the derby. It didn’t receive a high beyer speed number, but Brody’s Cause couldn’t have looked any better running off like that.
In the Madison stakes, we saw 3 horses who last started in the Breeders Cup last fall and all 3 ran to their class. Sheer Drama, who was running at a not ideal distance was gritty down the stretch under Joe Bravo and wore down Stopcharginmaria late. It was a great race from start to finish. I really thought Clothes Fall Off would run better but really showed no energy at any point in the race. The Ashland was a 3 horse race on paper. but someone forgot to tell Weep No More who ran by the heavy favorites late in the stretch at 30-1. It looked like favorite Cathryn Sophia didn’t want to go that long, while Rachel’s Valentina ran unbelievable off the layoff to just miss, she might be a play back in the Oaks, if there was no Songbird running there.
Out west, Exaggerator blew his rivals off their feet in the Santa Anita Derby with a last to first sweeping move on the far turn. Mor spirit and Danzing Candy had no answers at the top of the stretch with Mor Spirit finishing second by default, with Danzing Candy fading badly down the lane after possibly running off with Mike Smith through very quick fractions on the sloppy track. I don’t know what to make out of this horse, after last race I thought he didn’t want to go this far and he proved me wrong, but was it the slop that moved him up so much? Mor Spirit didn’t handle it at all and might be live on Derby Day. In the co-feature Songbird did her usual thing and toyed with a bunch of overmatched fillies in the Santa Anita oaks, no doubt she will be a heavy heavy favorite in the Kentucky Oaks come May, she’s just unreal!
What a day of racing we have from across the country. Something like 14 graded stakes with 6 of them being grade 1’s, and then out of those, 3 being major final Kentucky Derby preps. There is a multi track pick 4 between Keeneland and Aqueduct as well as a guaranteed 300,000$ all stakes pick 4 at Keeneland. Lots of opportunities to make some money out there, lets just hope the weather cooperates. All of these picks are before scratches and assuming grass race stay on the grass. So lets begin at Aqueduct…..
Aqu Race 3-The Excelsior has a short field and wont be much of a betting race. No-one really wants to show much pave here but I’m going to pick KID CRUZ hoping he can sit on the lead or right off of it like he did in his last. He also likes the main track at Aqueduct.
Aqu Race 6 is a OC62k/N2X on the turf that looks pretty deep. I’m leaning towards the Clement horse, IROMEA, coming off a slight layoff. Last 2 races were very good and should come running for Johnny V. OFF LIMITS should also be tough with a clean trip.7-6-4
Aqu Race 8-The Gazelle. LEWIS BAY probably needed her last race while making a solid move to come up to superstar Cathryn Sophia who would be 1-9 here. With some speed signed on, she should get a suitable pace to run at and will be tough to deny 2nd off the layoff. ROYAL OBSESSION is a longer shot that looks interesting.2-5-1
Aqu Race 9-The Bay shore. I think Cocked and Loaded will be over bet here and that will make the price on my top choice, AWESOME GENT, creep up. Love that he was able to sit second in his last and with the same trip should be able to wear down UNIFIED as he tries winners for the first time off a great debut race. 4-5-6
Aqu Race 10- The Wood Memorial. New York’s big derby prep worth 100 derby starter points and 1 Million dollars. Doesn’t get much bigger then this. Really competitive field here but I have to lean on the favorite and my early derby choice, SHAGAF. I think you might get better then 2-1 because I think MATT KING COAL and OUTWORK will both take some money. I also feel they might get hooked early and set it up for a horse who can sit right off, and that horse is SHAGAF. At a price I would also look at FLEXIBILITY and TALE OF S’AVALL, to round out the exotics. 1-5-4
Aqu Race 11- The Carter. Another Grade 1 here and a great field has lined up for it with all the usual cast of NY sprint characters. I think SALUTOS AMIGOS is back to his old form and if that’s the case he will be dangerous tomorrow. 7F isn’t his ideal distance but he should have enough pace upfront to run at. Look for him to mow them all down late. Same can be said for CALCULATOR who ships in from California. Should be rolling late. A horse who might get overlooked in the wagering is ANCHOR DOWN and that might be a mistake, I love the cutback from a mile to this 7F and should be tight, third off the lay off. 5-7-6
Kee Race 5 – This Allowance race on the turf looks pretty good so lets take a look. I’m looking for DEA to turn the tables on SYMPATHY for Mark Casse. Last 2 races have been really good for this filly and should be able to get the jump on her main rival today. 5-9-2
Kee Race 6- The Ashland. A grade 1 for fillies aiming at the Kentucky Oaks, this short 5 horse field has 3 standouts and from those only one has raced this year and that is Cathryn Sophia. She looks to over power these but I will take a shot with RACHELS VALENTINA for the upset. Todd knows how to get them ready off a layoff, and this might be a prep for the oaks, but I cant take low odds on SOPHIA. 4-3-5
Kee Race 7 _ The Commonwealth for sprinters going 7F is a deep race with no clear standout. I am leaning towards comebacker HOLY BOSS here for Asmussen, who has put a steady diet of works into this stakes winner. Didn’t get beat much in the Breeders Cup sprint on this track in his last and has fired fresh in the past. BARBADOS on the outside looked good in his first start of the year, and should sit a good trip also. 9-10-8
Kee Race 8- The Shakertown. Always a fun race, this turf sprint looks like a great rendition. POWER ALERT is such an honest horse. Almost always runs his race and knows how to win. Back to back super races at Gulfstream, he should be able to sit right off the pace, and if he can swing out should be tough in the stretch. SUMMATION TIME is a closer for Christophe Clement and Castellano who should get a good pace to run into, just needs to stay clear of traffic. 1-3-8
Kee Race 9- The Madison. A great Grade 1 race every spring, this years field will not disappoint as you have multiple grade 1 winners in the field. I am going to go with 2 longshots on top here as they have the recency edge over the 2 favorites. They are CLOTHES FALL OFF and DANCING HOUSE. Both trained by Kiaran Mclaughlin, and both coming off impressive wins. Both can sit close and make a run and should get the jump on probable favorite Wavell Avenue. 8-7-3
Kee Race 10-The Blue Grass. Another Grade 1, million dollar derby prep and this one got a field of 16 to sign up (with only 14 being allowed to run). I am going with a price and that horse is STAR HILL for Rusty Arnold. Loved his maiden breaker and I’m going to excuse his Tampa race. Ran good, but didn’t have the kick I thought he would. He also was running into a slow pace and that track can be funny. Shows 2 great works for this race, breeding says he will love the distance, and just needs to get over to save some ground from the 13 post. Same for MY MAN SAM who ran a great second in an Aqu allowance race last month. Should drop down easily as he comes from behind. 13-14-3
SA Race 5- The Providencia With the weather possibly being an issue and the chance for a wet turf course very much in play, I ended up on MIRAGE here, last 2 wins have been great and both come over a good turf course. Can sit and make a run which looks like the perfect set up here. 2-5-9
SA Race 7 The Santa Anita Oaks. Theres really nothing to say here, Songbird should dominate here.
SA Race 8-The Santa Anita Derby. The last Derby prep of the day and Santa Anitas biggest race of the meet. A great field here as the top 3 return from the San Felipe. Im going MOR SPIRIT here. Had a weird trip last out and those last 2 works make you think Baffert is tightening the screws now as the big derby is approaching. Should get some pace to run at as DANZING CANDY should have more pressure up front with Iron Rob and Uncle Lino. 4-2-3
SA Race 9-The Thunder Road is a great race full of comebackers and grade 1 winners. Not bad for a ungraded 100k stakes. It looks to me like a 2 horse race between possible lone speed WHAT A VIEW and comebacker TWENTYTWENTYVISION with me leaning towards the latter. I think he will be close to the soft pace and should be able to quick home a head. Mandella 21% with this type of layoff horse. Dangerous. 7-12-9
Good luck everyone, any questions or comments feel free to ask me on twitter and ill get right back to you.
So yesterday the New England HBPA released an article pretty much saying they have made a coalition with horsemen to go forward with a plan to create a equestrian center somewhere in mass that will be owned by the horseman and not a private company. This plan would create a racetrack, polo grounds, indoor/outdoor areans for all types of equine competition and access to public trails. I personally feel like its a great idea and could be the future for New England horsemen who have felt like there is no light at the end of the tunnel lately. Of course a lot of approvals need to be put in place and the funding has to be there but this is a great step to bring back full time racing back, not just a 6 day Suffolk Downs meet.