|Total Day Results||10 / 3-3-4|
|2021 Overall 434||434 / 145-148-175|
|Win % of Top Pick||33.41%|
|Payoff% of Top 3 Picks Overall||35.95%|
|2021 Top Pick in the Money Overall — 261-434||60.14%|
|2021 Top Selection ITM / TP 179-296||60.47%|
|2021 Top Selections Win / TP 103-296||34.80%|
|“Key Horses” @ TP 49 / 22-10-3||44.90% Win / 74.43% ITM|
|“Key Horses” in 2021 69 / 32-14-4||46.38% Win / 72.46% ITM|
It’s the opening the the annual Keeneland Spring Meet. Let the tulips bloom. Let the Bradford pears blossom. Let the spring grass grow. Let the good times roll.
We are a full year since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic onslaught, and we are still trying to dig ourselves out from the basement of doom, despair and agony on me. Hopefully, the vaccinations will continue to help reduce the number of cases and we all can get back to living our normal lives once again.
But the biggest thing that can help both body and soul of every card-carrying Kentuckian?
A spring date at Keeneland.
The horses. So beautiful. The browns and the greys. The chestnuts and the roans. The dark ones with brilliant white blazes. The nearly white ones with a speckle of black as if an ink pen had lost its’ fill on the forehead pocket.
The grounds. So green.
The flowers. So yellow and red. So brilliant, as if Peter Williams had just splashed a fresh dose of paint on the pallet.
The brisk morning air. So invigorating.
The breeze coming up and over the hill and dales. So refreshing.
The races. So full of thrills that they match the bulbs so full of life.
And, for the first time in a very long time, there will be fans — real fans — back in the seats and along the rail. There will be fans — yes, general admission fans — standing and cheering. A program in one hand. A cold brew in another. A fist full of pari-mutuel tickets in one pocket. A soul full of dreams in one soul.
The sound of cheers is our version of the “Sound of Music.” Our hills are alive, yet again.
Here we go, Kentucky.
Here we go, Keeneland.
Here we go, horse fans.
Here’s our looks on Opening Day — Friday, April 2:
1st: 2/3/4-5/8…This is the first “Baby Race” of the year and it is a 4.5-furlong event for the 2YO fillies. Who else do you go with in a 2YO race at Keeneland in the Spring? It used to be Tony Basile, and Bwamazon Farm. (It has now been remodeled into Silver Springs Training Center by my ole’ friend Steve Johnson and his son, Erik. Hope you can duplicate the feats.) Now, the mantle has been tossed to Wesley Ward. You couldn’t beat Basile and Bwamazon. You can’t beat Ward. Dream Fly (2) is a 2YO daughter of American Pharoah, and was bred and is still owned by the trainer himself. This one has been working lights out for the debut. Gets a top rider for the assignment. Clean break = clean goodbye. I bet the 2 to win/place and then key the 2 over (only) the “all button.” I will key over/under the 3 in two smaller units.
2nd: 2-6-3/1-4/5…Aunt Nadine (2) could give us the “Hard Four” in the first two races. Meaning? Back to back 2s. This 4YO daughter of Munnings comes in off a wide outing at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 10. Been off since then, but training well for the return. Has a win in only previous try here and that was on Oct. 23. Barn wins with .18% of those converting from the turf to the main track and with .20% of those returning as a beaten favorite. Gets a top rider for the assignment. My pick. Rising Seas (6) is a flash out of the gate, but the bad thing for this 4YO daughter of First Defense is that this race has a ton of speed candidates that will vie for the front. Don’t know if 6.5-furlongs is the best distance for this one, although she has a win at the distance. In 3 previous runs here, has a second and a third. Remanded (3) may be the best true “closer” in the group. If the speed battle materializes up front, as one might expect, it could set up perfectly for this one. Won the last time out, but that was last August at Ellis Park. Long time between drinks of water. I bet the 2 to win/place/show and then box the top 3 in the exacta. I will key the top 3 over/under the 1-4 in two smaller units.
3rd: 8/6-4/7/5-2…The second “Key Play of the Day” comes here with the 2nd 2YO “Baby Race,” and with the second offering of the juvenile season by trainer Wesley Ward. He will saddle another daughter of American Pharoah here, and this is another one that he bred, and still owns, too. Dam of this one has 2 winners from 2 starters and the barn has gone 7-1-1 in the last 11 starts over the past two weeks. No odds here. But no since trying to beat ’em either. I bet the 8 to win/place/show and then key the 8 over/under all the numbers listed in the exactas. More with the 6-4.
4th: 5-3-4/1-6/2…Tiz Splendid News (5) is a 3YO daughter of Maclean’s Music and yet another from the Ward barn. This one has not started since running a very game 2nd in the Trapeze Stakes at Remington Park last December. Set all the fractions in that one before giving way at the wire of that 1-mile event. Could improve immensely at today’s shorter distance. Gets a top rider for the saddle and should love the lead here. Hindsight (3) is my first “Upset Special of the Day.” This daughter of Pioneerof the Nile comes in off a rough start down at Tampa Bay on March 7. No threat in that one after sustaining a rather rude bump at the start and going wide throughout the match. Gets a regular rider back in this one and gets the blinkers for the first time, too. Barn wins with .09% when getting the shades and with .25% getting Lasix for the 2nd time. Look for more here with the return to the sprint distance. Nice works of late. Caribbean Caper (4) is 9-5 in the ML and is coming off an 8-length win in the racing debut at the Fair Grounds on Feb. 13. Daughter of Speightstown has speed and is not afraid to flash it. This one cost $250,000 at the 2019 KEE September Yearling Sale and may be a bargain before all is said and done. Looks to be a good one. Must step up here, though, against some salty ones. I bet the 5-3 across the board and then box the top 3 in the exacta. I will key the 5 over/under the 1-6 in two smaller versions.
5th: 1-7-8/10/9-6-3/12-2…Gear Jockey (1) is one of two entered here by local and accomplished trainer Rusty Arnold. This one lost his stablemate in a maiden race, but this one appears to be much the best now. Ran a very nice 3rd in the G3 Canadian Turf Stakes at GP last time out on Feb. 27. Nearly pulled the huge upset there with the step-up from the MSW win. In 7 turf runs so far, has a 1-2-4 record. Gets a top turf rider. Looks to be in a good spot right now. Threat. Falkirk (7) has run 5 times over the sod and has a win and two seconds on the resume. Loses his rider to the top pick, but gets a solid KY veteran for the run here. Training very well of late and has a 2nd in only previous try here. Looks like he could be a threat late for a great owner, who is a true friend and a gentleman. I am rooting for Jim Gladden. You would too, if you knew him. Class act. Class. Act. Briefcase Bully (8) is a late runner and should be coming in the final stages if the regular rider can negotiate a clean trip in the final furlong. In 5 previous runs over the sod, this one has 2 seconds. Last race was better than the 5th place finish would indicate. Don’t dismiss this one at 12-1 ML odds. Threat. I bet the 1-7 across the board and then box the top 3 in the exacta. I will key the top 3 over/under the 10 in two smaller versions.
6th: 3-(13)-12/6-9-8/1-5-4/11-2-10…Shoshoni Moon (3) goes for one of the best young trainers and people in the entire Thoroughbred industry. If there is any person that deserves to have a good horse under his barn roof? It is this gent. Known him since he was a lad. Known his parents longer than that. Love this guy and I will be rooting like hell for him to get a win here. This 3YO daughter of Malibu Moon was wide throughout the inaugural battle and that was against a Steve Asmussen filly who had two previous starts under her girth. Gets a top rider here. Look out. I bet the 3 to win/place/show and then key the 3 over/under all the numbers listed. More with the 13-12-6-9-8 than the rest.
7th: 8-7-2/3-4-6/1-5…Palisades Turf Sprint…This is the first Stakes event of the meet, and the first of three on the Opening Day card. They will contest this one at the 5.5-furlong distance and that means two things: 1) to contend and have any chance, you have to get a clean break and a cleaner run; 2) you have to have both talent and an ample dose of luck. Fauci (8) has raced four times so far and has a win and three seconds on the resume. Has not been out since last September at KY Downs, but was trained by well for the return. And, has been drilling over this turf course, too. Barn wins with .23% when away from the gate this long, and the rider has been up for all of his races so far. Too much to bypass. Unitedandresolute (7) comes from the barn of trainer Tom Amoss, who is having another outstanding start. In the last 689 starters, this barn has won with .22%. Coming off an outstanding meet at the Fair Grounds, too. This colt has raced 9 times so far. Has only 1 win. But does have 2 seconds and 5 thirds, too. Will give all, and has a 2nd here. Always seems to try. Bodenheimer (2) is a 3YO Washington-bred who won here last Fall in the Indian Summer Stakes for a relatively-unknown training operation. Has speed. Not afraid to use it, either. Will be making the first start since running 8th here in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint, but has been training well for the return and this one popped at first asking last year by 11 huge lengths. Don’t overlook this one. I bet the 8-2 across the board and then box the top 3 in the exacta. I will key the 8-2 over/under the 7-3-4-6-1-5 in two smaller units.
8th: 1-7-3/2-4/5/6…G3 Beaumont Stakes…This is a tough, 7-furlong sprint that will test the guts out of you. If you draw the rail, you also have to negotiate the run down the lane and onto the main track. Demands that you get a clean break and you simply cannot lose position at the first gap. It makes the race even tougher. Still? I go with the rail horse — My Girl Red (1). This 3YO daughter of Texas Red has not raced since getting run-over, molested and accosted in the G1 Del Mar Debutante last September. The winner should have been DQ’d for the interference at the gate. Was not. And, this one has not run since. But ships in here from the Fair Grounds and has been doing great in the a.m. Looks ready. Has two wins in the only two races she has been able to run without being in a stampede. Look out. Game as hell. Twenty Carat (7) is from the Ward barn and has only run two races to date — both at Turfway Park. But the first one, she was DQ’d and placed 2nd to a very nice filly by the name of Wait for Narobi, who came right back to win the next time out impressively. The last time Twenty Carat made the gate, she won by nearly 8. Has speed. Has trained well. Has a new rider with lots of skills. Look out. Farsighted (3) won her 2021 debut at GP over the slop. Ran off to a 4.5-length win on March 6. Barn wins with .24% of those making the 2nd start off a layup and this one has talent, too. Can gas it. Can stalk, too. Very versatile and could pick up the pieces at just the right time if the top 2 burn up the cord. I bet the 1-3 across the board and then box the top 3 in the exacta. I will key the top 3 over/under the 2-4 in two smaller units. I will key the 1 over/under all the numbers listed in two smaller units, as well.
9th: 4-1-6/2/3-5…G3 Transylvania Stakes…This is a 11/16-mile event over the fresh grass course, and I will go with one of the best 2YO grass runners from a year ago — Fire At Will (4). This one won over this course last November to capture the G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf. It was his 3rd straight win for the barn of Mike Maker. Came back to make the 2021 debut in the G2 Fountain of Youth over the main dirt track at GP in late February. Pushed the pace, but was jostled around in-between horses in the first turn and he bailed when the running got real serious. And, Greatest Honour is real serious. Look for more in this return to the sod. A lot more. Scarlett Sky (1) nearly won the Palm Beach Stakes at GP last time out. Came with a deep and serious late run to lose by a head. Impressive, especially when you consider that this one was some 22 lengths back of the leaders at one point in the 11/16-mile turf race. Annex, the winner that day, came back to win at GP this past weekend in Stakes company. One to beat. Earls Rock (6) has won two grass races in NA since being shipped her last year from Ireland. Added the blinkers. Has not lost since. Training lights out for a top West Coast barn operation. Gets a top rider here. I bet the 4-1 across the board and then box the top 3 in the exacta. I will key the top 3 over/under the 2 in two smaller units.
10th: 5-4-9/3-1-2-8/7-6…Illiogami (5) nearly overcame a disastrous start in the last race at Churchill Downs last November to catch the front-runners at the wire. Was last by nearly 10 lengths before losing by less than 1. Has been off since, and the barn wins with .11% on the return off this type a vacation. Gets the Lasix for the first time, and the trainer scores with .18% of those. Daughter of Tapit has real talent. Has been training OK for the return and gets a rider who has won with .25% of his last mounts for this barn. Could be an easy winner with a better break. Be Like Water (4) has run two 2nds in the first two career starts. Has rallied in both of those. Gets a new rider here and this veteran should be able to put her in a better position late. Barn wins with .25% when getting Lasix for the 2nd time. Precipitate (9) will get the third start for trainer Chad Brown, who looks poised to have another nice meet here. This 3YO daughter of Pioneerof the Nile is a homebred for Juddmonte Farm and has run two solid 3rds so far. Barn wins with .26% of those coming off this long a layup and this one is training forwardly, too. Gets a HOF rider for the trip. Threat. I bet the 5-9 across the board and then box the top 3 in the exacta. I will key the 5-9 over/under the 4-3-1-2-8 in two smaller units.
Good Luck & All the Best / Gene