It has been a most wonderful week, what with beautiful weather and great racing at the historic Keeneland Race Course in Central Kentucky. And, today figures to be another day of wonderment in and around one of the most scenic ovals in all of Thoroughbred racing.  If you get a chance, take your opportunity to see the greatest sport in action.  Here is a closer look at today’s races:

1st: 2-3-6-5-4…Volodina (2) moves up to face winners for the first time after a spectacular closing kick to win her career debut at Belmont Park on Sept. 17.  Goes for a trainer who normally does NOT crank them up for their first out, but this one overcame a host of serious problems leaving the gate and then later in the stretch to still grab an eye-impressive victory.  Stretches out to a mile after that 6.5-furlong effort and she should love the added distance. This is one of the toughest jumps in racing, to face winners for the first time, but she looks to be the part. Harbor Lights (3) had an impressive debut, winning by 3 lengths at Ellis Park back in August.  Didn’t get the break or fare as well on the move to 11/16-miles and the jump right into a G2 event. Drops back to allowance company and back to a mile today, and she should be a forward presence with a clean break. Gets a switch to the barn’s “go-to” rider.  Look out for much improvement. Julia’s Kitty (6) has run two solid races sprinting, but now stretches out for the first time.  Barn does well with the switch to longer distances, and this one has demonstrated some talent. I bet the 2 to win/place/show and then box with the 3 in a solid Exacta.  I key those two numbers over/under the other three listed in a smaller version.

2nd: 2-5-3-12-9-4…Nautia (2) is a lukewarm choice in this contest, but this one gets a huge jock improvement and will be closing fast in this 11/16-mile event.  The finish line doesn’t give one much time once they spin out of the final turn, but she is getting back on her preferred surface. Blue Ridge Girl (5) figures to be the PT favorite with the drop from MC30 to MC 15 today, which is the lowest level she has seen to date.  This one was the beaten favorite last time out, when she tried to take them wire to wire, but tired badly about halfway into a 7-furlong event. Extends farther today, and that is a concern. Spearette (3) and Greeley and Ariana (12) both are deep closers in a race that doesn’t seem to have an abundance of speed types.  But they have to be considered at this level.  I tread lightly in this space, but bet the 2 to win/place/show and then box the 2-5-3 in one Exacta and then the 2-5-12 in another.

3rd: 3-2-1-5-6….Manhattan Mischief (3) is really good right now, having hit the board in 9 of the last 10 races.  He has 12 ITM finishes out of 17 tries and is 1-for-1 at Keeneland, too. The last race was not good, but Dark Arden ran third in that one and he went in a Stakes event here earlier this week. Sharp Act (2) whipped the preferred choice by 2 easy lengths at Oaklawn Park in February, but the former is doing better right now.  Still will have to contend with this pesky stalker. Bourbon Cowboy (1) picks up one of the hottest riders around for this one and has hit the board in 5 of the last 7 tries, too. I bet the 3 to win/place/show and then box the top 3 numbers in one Exacta and then key the 3 over all the numbers listed in another.

4th: 1-5-6-3-7-11-9-10…Keep an eye out to see if the #14 draws in from the AE list.  If not…The top two numbers here stand out in this fracas, in my opinion.  Like a Haint (1) has won 4 of his last 6 races, and gets the same rider who booted her home first the last time out.  Dixie Lover (5) picks up a huge rider switch to a savvy veteran, and she figures to be tough from a nice stalking position. Gets back to the level she is comfortable with and at. District Attorney (6) drops back down to the same level that she ran nicely at here last October.  Her one start this year, at Canterbury, was not bad at all.  If she improves off that effort, she could be a contender.  I bet the 1 to win/place/show and then box the top 2 solidly in one Exacta and then key those 2 over the rest of the numbers in a smaller version.

5th: 2-10-8-6-3-9-11…Watch if the 14 and 15 draw in from the AE list here, particularly the #15. If not…Quail Hunt (2) made a nice run closing into contention late of a 11/16-mile event in his debut to finish a game third.  Trainer not known for cranking them up for a first out, and is known to take his time with 2YOs, as well.  Winner of that race has already come back to win.  With any improvement at all, this one could be tough here. Up the Ante (10) figures to be the PT favorite and should be off a nice closing effort, despite going 4-wide out of the turn.  Trainer does well with second-time starters (.19). Jacktastic (8) gets the saddle from trainer Ian Wilkes and this colt should be ready to make a nice run.  I bet the 2 to win/place/show and then box the top 3 choices in the Exacta.

6th: 2-5-3-7-6…A nice event that has some promising 3YO colts. I go with Commandeering (2), who ships in from NY for trainer Todd Pletcher. Picks up the services of HOF jock John Velasquez today, and this one did finish a game second to eventual Belmont Stakes winner Tapwrit in a MSW event last fall.  This is his third race in this cycle and he should be very tough in this spot today. Fireball Shot (5) has hit the board in three of his last four tries, and was beaten just a length in his last try. Gets a nice jock switch for this run. Total Cooperation (3) and Big Dollar Bill (7) both have really good chances to crack the top 3 in here, too.  The latter gets back to dirt today and that appears to be his preferred surface. I bet the 2 to win/place/show and then key the 2 over/under all the other numbers listed.  My first Best Bet of the Day — 2.

7th: 8-12-1-11-4-5…Keep an eye out to see if either the 14-13 draw into this spot…If not…I like Fair Point (8), who gets the saddle from Shug McGaughey, who is having a very nice week here. This one has been running in a steady diet of Stakes events. Gets back to allowance company today after a nice fourth against Lull and Morticia, who just won a grass sprint Stakes event here. Exaggerated (12) has 5 wins and 1 third in 9 career starts at this sprint distance and has a win in 2 starts here over this grass. This Virginia-bred is coming off a nice win at Laurel — which was her first start since April.  Will be stalking the pace and have the first shot at closing the deal. Watch This Cat (1) goes for trainer Graham Motion for the first time after being switched here from California and the barn of Richard Baltas.  Motion wins with .21% of newcomers to the barn. I bet the 8 to win/place/show and then box the top 3 numbers in the Exacta.

8th: 6-2-4-1-5-3-7-9…The top three choices here are much preferred over the rest, but it will be hotly contested. I go with Uncle Mojo (6), who gets the blinkers off for this 11/16-mile event. Since getting the glasses three starts back, he has a win and two seconds. Gets Johnny V back in the saddle and will be gunning it from the get-go. Cedartown (2) is 7-2 ML and might drift up the odds ladder.  He can run, with a win and 3 seconds in 4 starts. His win came over a horse by the name of Watch Your Words, who came right back to win the next out and has been on our HTW list all season. Blueridge Traveler (4) has not been out since March 25.  Is a nice colt, but may need one to gear back up.  I bet the 6-2 across the board and then box the top 3 choices in one Exacta and then key the 6-2 over the rest of the numbers in another.

9th: 7-9-1-11-2-5-10-14-12-8…The G3 Valley View Stakes…A jumbled mess of really talented runners make this one a handicapping tangle, but fun, at the same time.  I love Fault (7), who is 6-1 ML.  She ran third to Unio and La Coronel in the G2 Sands Point in her last.  La Coronel, who just nipped this one, came right back to wire the field in the G1 QE II Challenge Cup here last weekend.  This one has hit the board in the last 6 outs with 2 wins.  I hit her hard. Journey Home (9) is also 6-1 ML, but may drift up the odds ladder.  She got a little freshener after a tough-beat second in the G3 Pucker Up at Arlington Park in August. She loves this distance with 2 wins in 3 starts at the 11/16-mile on the grass. Lovely Bernadette (1) has hit the board in each of her last four starts, with 2 wins. Will be stalking from the rail and should get a nice garden trip from there. I bet the 7 to win/place/show and then box the top 3 choices in one Exacta and then key the 7 over/under all the numbers in two more.

10th: 9-12-8-2-11-5-4…A nice MSW event closes the day’s card.  I go with Karen’s Cove (9), who made a serious run before tiring late in his only start to date. Has worked well leading up to that event and the trainer does real well with second time starters (.21%). Pryor (12) is a first timer for a trainer that can get them ready off the bench. This one has been training lights out and cost $200,000 this Spring. Secret Speed (8) is another first timer for the connections of owner John Oxley and trainer Mark Casse. This son of Flat Out cost $400,000 at the 2YO sales this March, but has been training very smartly for this one.  I bet the 9 to win/place/show and box the top 3 choices in one Exacta and then key the 9 over/under all the numbers in two more.

Good Luck &

All the Best/Gene