|2018 Overall 1461||543-533-638|
|Win % of Top Pick||37.17%|
|Payoff % of Top 3 Picks Overall||39.11%|
|Top Selection ITM / KEE: 4-10||40.00%|
|Top Selection Win / KEE 7-10||70.00%|
What a wonderful Opening Day at Keeneland on Friday. Great thanks to my college roommate, Dave Welch, who joined me on location. It was great to catch up on so many memories and great times. It took all of one race for him to show me that he, still, remains the best handicapper of the twosome.
Got to catch Promises Fulfilled’s gutty performance to win the Phoenix. Tough as nails over the gritty Whitmore and Limousine Liberal. All three of those figure to show up next in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint.
Got to watch Restless Rider. What a nice filly. And, we had her trainer, Ken McPeek, on the “Podcast Show” earlier this week. What a race is shaping up on paper for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies. Serengeti Empress vs. Restless Rider. One for the ages, perhaps.
Got to see a lot of great friends.
On the day, he won. On the day, I picked 4 winners and lost. Have the 32-1 shot in the pick 3, but lost the last leg on the wire. But it is like your golf score. That matters to only one person in the world. And, it isn’t anyone else but you.
Today promises to be as exciting and drama-filled. So, here we go:
1st: 8-1/3-7/5-4…Tipazar (8) should improve off her 3rd place finish on debut at Saratoga. Ran a bit green in that one when she got hit with a little kickback early on. Has returned to work well at Churchill Downs. Ipanema Beach (1) has raced 7 times with no trips to the winner’s circle yet. But she has 3 seconds and a third. Has faced some good ones in the past — having faced Monomoy Girl on two previous occasions. Trainer hits with .29% of those returning to the races as a beaten favorite. This one was odds-on last time out, and the favorite before that, as well. Both of these look to come from off the pace, so far, and speed was carrying on Friday. One that could fit that bill is Hey Good Lookin (3), who was pulled up and vanned off in her only previous start. That was at Saratoga on Aug. 16. But she was flashing some early lick in that one and has come back to throw up a :47 half mile at the Churchill Downs training center on Sept. 18. Possible. I bet the 8 to win/place/show and then box the top 2 solidly in the exacta. I key the 8-1 over/under the 3-7 in two more.
2nd: 7-3/6/1-2-4…Pinch Hit (7) is a filly who has run in three straight Stakes events — two of which were G3s. Has faced some real tough ones throughout that ordeal. Was last by many in the last, but I will throw that one out and hope that she can rebound today. The work on Sept. 29 suggests that she is OK. If so, she could simply air this field for a barn that has been hot all year long. Mannerly (3) is the 9-5 ML favorite, and comes into this one off a nice 3rd in the G3 Locust Grove. Was way ahead of our top pick in that one, and this one won here at Keeneland this past April. In 4 starts at the distance, she has 2 wins and 1 third. I bet the 7 to win/place/show and then box the top 2 solidly in one exacta. I will key the top 2 numbers over/under the 6 in two more.
3rd: 3-1-6/4-2-5/8-7…I will focus my betting attention on the top 3 numbers here, led by Land Battle (3). This one had been running down South in Louisiana and out West in Oklahoma, but the win at Churchill Downs on Sept. 15 was very impressive at long odds. There’s an old rule: if you don’t go to the wedding, then don’t go to the funeral. But this one has since returned to work a bullet over at the Churchill Downs training center, too. Looks real good right now at this level. Ruler of the Nile (1) will be making his first start for the Steve Asmussen barn after being claimed last time out at Saratoga for about half of this price tag today. Won that one easily, though, and may have been undervalued by the ownership team just to win a race there. Has some speed and the rail is normally very good here. Jacktastic (6) gets a big class drop from the Ian Wilkes connections. Won at Ellis Park three back, and I can excuse the last two — one in a Stakes event against much tougher; and the other an experiment on the grass again. If he shows that speed again, he may be tough here. I bet the 3-6 across the board and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta.
4th: 8-7-5/4-9/6…El Cucuy (8) was claimed by trainer Tom Amoss two races back for $20,000 at Saratoga. Paid immediate dividends when moved to the $30,000 level and cruised to an easy win at Churchill Downs on Sept. 16. Now, he moves up to face winners for the first time, which is normally a tough adjustment. But this trainer hits with .25% of those kind and this one was so impressive. Son of Ghostzapper back in for $30,000. I’m betting he gets a new owner again today. Soul of Discretion (7) is trained by a top young trainer and a better young man. Does things the right way. And, it will pay off soon. This one is dropping from allowance company into the claiming ranks, and the trainer hits with .21% of those making this appearance for the first time. Training very well right now. Bourbon Country (5) is dropping in class today, as well, and goes for a barn that got a win on Friday. Picks up Javier Castellano in the saddle, and this one has a win and a second at this distance. Threat, too. I bet the 8-7 across the board and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta.
5th: 3-6-9/8-1/2-7…Again, I will focus on the top 3 numbers in this sequence. Tiz Ella (3) is 8-1 in the ML and could light up the scoreboard a bit in this one. Trained by a top barn on the Illinois circuit, and this one ran huge on debut July 26 over the grass at Arlington Park. Closed from way off the pace that day. Now, moves to the dirt. but bred for that, as well. Son of Tiznow and out of a Stakes-placed mar, who has already gotten a 2YO winner and has 2 winners and 2 Stakes winners from the first 4 starters. Now, there’s a good mare. Threat. Positive Spirit (6) ran very well on debut for a young trainer who has not experience much luck (yet) with debut types. But he does hit with .30% of those making the 2nd career start, and with .42% of those making the route race for the first time. Now, that is some kind of impressive. This one should love the extra distance, as well. Serious here. Web o’ Gold (9) has three straight second place finishes to start the career. Will get Lasix for the second time today, after nearly winning over the sod at KY Downs last time out. Can’t dismiss this one for a barn that had a huge win on Friday. I bet the 3-6 across the board and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta.
6th: 5-2-8-10/1-11-4/3-9…G2 Woodford Reserve Stakes…This 5.5-furlong sprint over the grass will kick off a string of impressive Stakes events at Keeneland today. And, this one, per usual, is a tough one to predict. I will focus the attention on the top 3 numbers, led by Holding Gold (5). This one comes from the Mark Casse barn, which appears to be heating up quite nicely for the Fall campaign. This one has a win over this track and is 3-1-0 at the distance in 9 starts. Last two starts, he caught a yielding track and a soft one I think he prefers a more firm course, which he may get today. Love the recent work pattern. Bucchero (2) won this race a year ago, but the Indiana-bred was in superb form then. Has raced only once since going to Royal Ascot. Ran well over there, but didn’t fire the best shot last out. Had some issues in the far turn in that one, though, and may love a return to Keeneland, where he has a win and a second in 3 starts. Wonderful work at Churchill Downs on Sept. 27. Trainer won one on Friday and hits with .12% on second tries off the layup. Undrafted (8) has not won or run second this year in 3 starts, but he does love this sod. Has 2 wins and a third in 5 tries over it, and he appeared to wake up a bit in the last out at KY Downs. Will have to unleash his big late kick where there’s an opening. Always tough to find the right spot with these kind. I bet the 5 across the board and then box the top 3 numbers in one exacta. I key the top 3 over/under the #10, as well, in a smaller version.
7th: 3-4-9/7-6/8-5…G2 Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes…Another well-balanced field and tough to separate the top contenders. I will go with Miss Sunset (3) — the California-bred daughter of Into Mischief — on top. She has hit the board in all 6 starts this year, including a tough nose-beat second here in the G1 Madison Stakes this Spring. Looked great in her last start at Del Mar. Training well since then. Vertical Oak (4) was as game as they come when she won the Open Mind Stakes over Astrollinthepark at Churchill Downs on Sept. 15. That was her first start since July. If she doesn’t bounce out of the gut-wrenching win, she will be tough again. Has hit the board in 12 of 15 starts at this distance. Chalon (9) will be moving up to face tougher today, but the trainer knows how and where to spot them. He has won with .24% of 204 starters this year, and this one is coming off a 4-length romp in her last out at Monmouth Park. Looks really good and has speed to burn or use. I bet the 3 to win/place/show and then key the 3 over/under all the other numbers in the exacta.
8th: 2-3-4/5-7-10/9-8-1…G1 First Lady Stakes…This 1-mile event on the grass for fillies and mares has drawn an expert crowd. I will lean on A Raving Beauty (2), who comes in for the Chad Brown barn. This one lost a Grade 2 event last out as the odds-on favorite, and the time before that she ran a game third to perhaps the best grass filly in the world right now in Sistercharlie. Had back-to-back wins to start her NA career, and she has talent. Quidura (3) is our top choice’s roommate and this one won the last time out going 11/16-miles over our top pick. She rolled wire-to-wire in that event, and speed was carrying over the grass on Friday — in impressive and eye-popping style. Hard to rally from off the pace on Friday. This one is really good right now and a serious danger. Crown Walk (4) will be making her NA debut today after running a game second in a Group 1 event in France back in July. Mike Smith shows up to ride this one, too. Gets Lasix for the first time, and at 4-1 odds — I’ll be betting, for sure. I bet the 2-4 across the board and then box the top 3 numbers in one exacta. I will key the 2-4 over (only) the 5-7-10, as well. I definitely include the #10.
9th: 5-14-13/2-12-8/4-9-10…G1 Breeders’ Futurity…One of the top 2YO Stakes event every year. And, a major step towards both the Breeders’ Cup and the KY Derby Trail. This one has drawn a full field, and it is as impressive as it is complete. My top pick is Dream Maker (5), who is 5-1 in the ML and could drift up the odds board before kickoff. This one was super impressive in winning the debut at Churchill Downs in early June. Super impressive. As in as impressive a 2YO as I’ve seen in a long time. He was off until Sept. 3, when he ran in the G1 Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga. Never got unwrapped in that one, and showed a few signs of being green. The sons of Tapit can do that. They have a tendency to need a few races to learn the tricks of the trade. Make no mistake, though, that the Tapit’s are talented, and this one looks to fit that form perfectly. If he can break a little cleaner, he may be awfully tough in the late going. Short stretch may be a concern, but I love the last work. My pick. Standard Deviation (14) drew a near-impossible post position. But this son of Curlin is trained by Chad Brown, and he won so impressively on debut at Saratoga. That was originally scheduled for the grass, though, and it is interesting that he shows up here. Won that one — which was moved to the main track — as a huge favorite. Dangerous. Mind Control (13) was an impressive winner of the Hopeful from gate to wire. Has huge amounts of speed. But can he carry it this far? And, from this post? Two huge questions. I am betting the 5 to win/place/show and then boxing the top 3 numbers in the exacta. I will key the 5-14 over/under the 2-12-8 in a smaller version.
10th: 7-9-5/11-6-14-10/12-2-13…G1 Shadwell Turf Mile…Qurbaan (7) was super impressive in winning the G2 Bernard Baruch Handicap off a layoff that nearly equalled a year. Came rolling in that one to catch a good group at the wire. Mike Smith — the HOFer — travels in to pick up the mount, too. The shorter distance is a bit of a concern, and speed was playing strong on this grass on Friday. Neither of those things are in this one’s favor. But I love the works since the win, and this one may be the class of the field at some really good odds. Analyze It (9) will be moving up to face older horses for the first time, but this one — despite the 3 seconds in a row — is all class. Look to be a winner in all three of those Stakes events, but got a little short in the late going. Now, he will shorten up to a mile distance, where he is a prefect 2-for-2. Watch out here. This one may just find his real niche today. Heart to Heart (5) is a speedster who just loves this sod. In 6 previous races over it, he has 2 wins and 3 seconds. Never looked comfortable in the last out, but the works since are better. Does the 7YO have one last good run left in those legs? I bet the 7-9 across the board and then box the top 3 numbers in one exacta. I will key the 7-5 over the 11-6-14-10 in a smaller version.
11th: 4-12-8/(13)-1-2/9-10/3-5-7…Today’s finale is a nice MSW event for the 2YOs. I will go with Limonite (4), who hails from the Steve Asmussen barn. Ran super on debut at Saratoga before tiring late in a 7-furlong event. Trained well since then. Ready and Rich (12) has been out 5 times before, and has 4 seconds and a third. May get the job done today. Love the second against Dream Maker earlier this year. If Dream Maker runs well in the Breeders’ Futurity — take note. Somes Sound (8) is a hard name to sneak past spell check, I’ll tell you. but this one is a first timer for Brad Cox and has been training lights out in the a.m. Don’t dismiss this one completely. I bet the 4 to win/place/show and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta.
Good Luck & All the Best/Gene