McLean’s Picks for Keeneland on Soggy Sunday, April 15

Great day at Keeneland on Saturday, with five wins and a win, exacta and trifecta in the Arkansas Derby down at Oaklawn Park. Here is a quick look at the numbers to date:

Keeneland: 67-22-25-30

Top Pick Win % at Keeneland: 32.80%

Top Pick ITM % at Keenelnad: 39 for 67 / 58.20%

Top 3 Picks ITM % at Keeneland: 38.30%

2018 Overall Picks for 552 Races: 189-202-208

Top Pick Win % in 2018: 34.20%

Top 3 Picks ITM % in 2018: 36.20%

Here is a closer look at today’s card at Keeneland. I have tried to modify on Sunday morning, with as many “mud marks” as I could:

1st: 5-6-8-1-4-3-7…Yankton (5) does have a third in one try over an “off track.” Comes into this one off a less-than-stellar effort, but the debut run — in the mud at Oaklawn — was a nice third. Will stretch out to a route for the first time today and is bred to like the increase in distance. Trained over the mud again on April 8 at Oaklawn. Experienced in this stuff. Drops to the MCL ranks for the first time, too. Terrible Day (6) ran a solid second at this level last time out. Will stretch out to two turns for the first time and the trainer scores with .22% of those making that type of adjustment in distance. Good work at Churchill Downs on April 9. Mare is a SW with a winner and a Stakes winner already. Octoberfest (8) will be dropping into the MCL ranks for the first time for a top notch Canadian-based trainer. Has not been out since last November, but working very well here over the last month. Trainer hits with .33% of those going from the plastic surface to real dirt. Could surprise. I bet the 5-6 across the board and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta.

2nd: 7-5-2-1…Iron Lilly (7) is getting a huge drop in class, and shortens back up to a sprint distance today, as well. Good work at the Lexington training center on April 3 for a trainer who has posted a couple of thirds this meet in just 3 starts. This one is a perfect 1-for-1 on an off-track, having scored at Mountaineer last October in the mud. Nice rider switch for this one. Princess Lu Lu (5) gets in here at 6-1 ML odds, and could be a nice hit early in the card. She is by Harland’s Holiday and out of a Dynaformer mare, and she should like the off going. Truly, could be a nice claim prospect. Was picked up just two starts ago and run back on the grass at the Fair Grounds. Has 10 turf runs in a row. Time for a change, right?Trainer hits with .25% on the second start after a claim. Mizzen Air (2) is another switching over from the grass to the dirt today. This was claimed last time out and the trainer hits with .28% on the first time after the purchase. Plus, this one is a perfect 1-for-1 on the slop, as evidenced by her win at Retama Park last September. I bet the 7-2 across the board and then box the top 3 in the exacta.

3rd: 7-3-5-9-4-1-6…Skeptic (7) has a third and a second in the last two outs, and has run against some real good ones in both of those. In fact, the winners of both of those races could end up in the Kentucky Oaks. Don’t see any races or works here over the slop, but this one did work very well here on April 6. Same rider who booted her home second two races ago gets back aboard today. The pick. Tequila Sunrise (3) has 2 seconds and 2 thirds in 5 lifetime starts to date. Ships in from Santa Anita for the barn of Richard Baltas. Has faced some good ones in her tenure, as well, including Mapit three races back. Picks up a top rider in win percentage here, and worked lights out over this track on April 8. Didn’t seem to like the “wet-fast” track at Santa Anita on March 2. That is a question. Agreeable (5) ran third on debut at Park last November. Sidelined since then, but working back for the return on a steady basis. This trainer doesn’t normally crank them up for a first time appearance either on debut or return. But this one surely ran well in is out of a Stakes-winning mare. Gets Lasix for the first time, and the barn hits with .12% of those. Gets a HOF rider aboard. I use. I bet the 7 to win/place/show and then box the top 3 in one exacta. I key the top 3 over the rest in a smaller version.

4th: 7-8-9-1-6-2-4…L.A. Way (7) is a horse I have to use for many reasons, but when all else fails go with the gut. My wife is Leigh Ann. I call her “L.A.” So, what is a man supposed to do, right? On a stronger handicapping note, this one looks good for her debut today at odds of 10-1, as well. Really good work here on April 10, after a really good work at Tampa Bay on March 29. The dam has 3 winners from 3 starters. The trainer hits with .17% of those making the debut in the MCL ranks. Adds up for me. Cape Time (8) drops from the MSW ranks to the MCL level for the first time today. Ran OK on debut at the Fair Grounds on the grass. Came back in a route and was nowhere to be found. Shortens back up today and converts to the dirt. Nice work in Louisville on April 11. Money Purse (9) drops back into the MCL ranks today after trying the turf last time out. Trainer scores with 31% of those dropping from the MSW level to this kind. Sharp work here on April 9, too. Will be making just the second start for this barn. I bet the 7 to win/place/show and then box the top 3 in one exacta. I key the top 3 over the rest in a smaller version, as well.

5th: 4-11-1-9-8-5-2-3-10-6…Profiteer (4) will be running over a yielding grass course if it stays on the sod. He didn’t fare that well over a “good” one here last April, but that was in the G3 Transylvania and against much tougher. This year, so far, he has run three times with a second and two thirds. Will be closing from a nice stalking position and if he can duplicate the race three back — he will win. The runner-up that day as already come back to win. My first Best Bet. Hieroglyphics (11) is stuck with a horrid post position, and horse from this far out have not fared well this meet. If not for this starting point, though, this one could possibly be the favorite in this spot. Should benefit from the race on Feb. 11, which was the first of the year. Training very well since that effort, and goes for the barn of Todd Pletcher. Here’s the kicker for me: the barn’s go-to rider opts to ride the top choice instead of this one. Take note. Tweet Kitten (1) moves way up the ladder today, for me, because he won over a yielding grass course here. But that was in 2015. Has not raced since April of 2016. A 2-year layoff. But he has been training well, and just may be ready for this one. Has run very well off layups in the past. Worth a shot at 8-1? Final Copy (9) is another possible longshot in here. Won over a “good” grass course in a Stakes event at Woodbine last summer. Like the odds. I bet the 4 to win/place/show and then key the 4 over/under the 11-1-9-8-5 in one exacta. I key over, only, the rest of the numbers — 2-3-10-6.

6th: 9-1-8-6-4-7-5-2-3…Katie’s Reward (9) is a horse that has been on my “Horses to Watch” list for quite some time. Goes for a hot barn, which captured the Trainer’s Title down at the Fair Grounds this Winter/Spring. This one shifts from the grass back to the dirt, and the trainer does very well with that surface switch. Should like the return to a sprint distance, too. And, gets a nice rider, who rode two races back. Good work at Churchill Downs over the dirt on April 11. Adds up for me. Line Drive (1) is another West Coast invader; this one for the barn of Doug O’Neill. Ran a winning race in the last one, but has never been on an off-going. Still, this one has a record of 2-1-2 in only 8 starts and one of those losses came to the very fine filly Paved in a grass try. That filly beat the boys in the El Camino Real Derby. Krissys Manicure (8) goes for the barn of Richard Baltas. Ran a game second last time out. Has hit the board in four of the last five, with the only debacle coming in a grass try. This one beat Line Drive four races back, and gets a hot jockey at this meet. I bet the 9 to win/place/show and then box the top 3 choices in one exacta.

7th: (13)-4-1-8-3-10-11-7…Another turf try, if the decision-makers leave it on the grass. If so, Evasive Storm (13) looks very “live” in this spot — despite the outside post and if she draws into the body of the race. Has run three good ones in a row at Tampa Bay this winter and has hit the board in 5 of the last 6 tries. The winner of the last race has already come back to win again, and this one worked a bullet over the track here on April 12. Looks very sharp and gets a veteran rider who knows this course very well. If she doesn’t go, though, I revert to Summer Luck (4). This one has shown that she would prefer to run second or third rather than win, with a record of 1-4-3 in the first 13 starts. But She has run against some good ones in the past, both on the grass and the dirt. She looks to be trying a different running style this year, coming from off the pace. But she has tactical speed. Worth a shot. I really like So Charming (1) in this spot, too. She just broke the maiden last time out at GP, but that was getting the blinkers for the first time. This trainer normally takes his time with his horses, especially the fillies. And, she could wheel right back today with a nice effort. Like the 6-1 odds. Pistol Packin Rose (8) didn’t run very well over a “good” surface last time out, and has been a little slow to get things going this year. But O’Neill knows what he is doing, and likes to win here. I bet the 13 to win/place/show if she gets in and use in all the exactas. If not, I bet the 4-1 across the board and then box the next 3. Keep an eye to see if the 13 draws in.

8th: 4-2-5-7-3…Eight Town (4) is my pick in today’s feature. This son of Speightstown ran a good one in the GP Sprint the last time out, losing by only 31/4 lengths to Classic Rock. Has the speed to be close throughout and should appreciate the shorter distance in this one. Has worked very well here for a solid barn operation — which hits with 19% on sprints. Recruiting Ready (2) should be the favorite in this one. Comes in off a poor performance at Tampa Bay, but against much better. Before that one, he had hit the board in 5 straight — with 3 wins in that grouping. Should go to the lead and has a win over a “good” dirt track. In three tries on an “off track,” he has a win and two thirds. The first two choices, in my book, are much better than the rest of the field. So, I bet the 4 to win/place (only) and then box the top 2 choices solidly.

9th: 7-9-1-8-4-5…Line Judge (7) will be stretching out from a 51/2-furlong grass sprint to a 11/16-mile dirt event today. Wow. But the trainer does well with a horse off this kind of layup (.21%) and this one did win in the slop at the Fair Grounds when the new connections claimed him two races back. Got a little aggressive with the move to Stakes company last time out, but gets back to his level today. Has run this distance before, against much tougher. Is a perfect 2-for-2 on “off tracks.” My second Best Bet of the Day. Hollywood Critic (9) is coming of a layoff since Dec. 17, but goes for a trainer that hits with .11% of those with this kind of down time and scores with .33% of those shifting from the plastic over to real dirt. Worth a shot at the 5-1 ML odds. Gorgeous Bird (1) has not seen the winner’s circle in a long time. Had only 1 third in 5 tries last year. But gets the plunge to the claiming ranks for the first time ever, and goes for a top trainer/jockey combo. Has a win and a third in two tries over an “off track.” Could move up today at some nice odds. I bet the 7-1 to win/place/show and then box the top 3 in the exacta.

Good Luck & All the Best/Gene

Her cruising gear is so good,” Graham said. “You watch her races from Ellis park and from Churchill, she bounces along on the front end and travels through her races beautifully. She put them to bed turning for home. She did it the right way. She’s a little aggressive but she’s fast.”

James Graham, Rode Serengeti Empress to victory in the G2 Rachel Alexandra
  • Gene McLean

    Gene McLean

    Gene McLean began his professional career in 1977 as a sportswriter and columnist for the Lexington Herald-Leader in Lexington, Ky., and was recognized as one of the state’s best writers, winning the prestigious “Sportswriter of the Year” honor in 1985. Now the President and Publisher of The Pressbox, McLean sets ...

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