Today is the final day of live racing at Keeneland for 2017.  What a year it has been.  Irap wins the Blue Grass Stakes — as a maiden! He wrote his name into the record books as the first horse to ever win the Graded Stakes and break his maiden at the same time. Sadly, he lost his life to laminitis only a few weeks ago after sustaining an injury. La Coronel captures a Stakes here in the Spring and the Fall, winning the QE II Challenge Cup for owners John and Debbie Oxley just a few weeks ago.  And, there has been excitement jammed in between.

We have one final chance to celebrate.  And, here is a closer look at today’s card:

1st: 4-2-3-6…Charity Stripe (4) didn’t like the grass in her last try and stumbled and lost the rider the race before that, but she drops into the claiming ranks for only the third time in her 11 race career and has run well at this level in the two previous attempts. Figures to enjoy this competition again today. Sizzle Factor (2) gets the blinkers after a tough trip in the last.  This one will go right to the front and try to hold off the rest.  Gets the class drop to this level for the first time. Chasing the Buck (3) has won 2 straight and figures to be the favorite. This one has been a different horses since getting the glasses, but will face tougher today.  I bet the 4 to win/place/show and then box the top 3 choices in the exacta.

2nd: 8-6-4-1-5…Dingdingdingding (8) has hit the board only once in 5 tries this year, but gets the class drop to near the bottom today.  Has been facing much tougher, and should relish this chance.  Will be forwardly placed and gets a rider that has held his own against the best this meet. More Than Shirl (6) won his third straight last time out at Churchill Downs and was claimed by a trainer that does very well with first outs after the purchase.  He has been impressive visually and his speed numbers continue to climb. But he steps up in class for this one and may find the hill a little steeper today. Ambidextrous Alex (4) has three starts at Keeneland in his career, with a win and a third. Likes this distance, too. This true closer will be making a run at the end. I bet the 8 to win/place/show and then box the top 3 choices.

3rd: 3-9-10-8…Pray for Kitten (3) gets another shot at this level for trainer Wesley Ward. He’s got 2 seconds and 1 third in the first three races, and comes into this one off two straight near misses. This one will gas it from the get-go and try to hold off the rest, and the son of Kitten’s Joy just may do it today. Surprise Prize (9) will try to close from mid-pack for a trainer that does very well with his pupil’s second try off a layoff (.20). Jockey is suspect (0-for-42), but he is the regular rider for this barn. Par Play (10) gets the blinkers for the first time after making a nice run at Mountaineer. While he gets a considerable class drop from MSW there to MC15 here, the competition is likely to be better. Still, I like this one. I bet the 3-10 across the board and then box the top 3 choices in the exacta.

4th 2-7-9-1-1A-4….Gretouki (2) gets my top nod in this high-end maiden claiming event. She has hooked two good ones in her first two tries and seems to be getting better for a trainer that normally takes his time with babies. She will be closing nicely and if she gets a clean trip from the rail, she could be tough in this spot. Merry Mesa (7) ships in from Illinois for a trainer that knows how to win races. This one made a huge move in the debut and should be plenty fit enough for 7F on the dirt after a mile try on the grass in the debut. Alteration (9) nearly pulled off the win at a lower level here in her last try.  Have to consider. The entry will be well supported and should not be dismissed, either.  I bet the 2 to win/place/show and then key over/under all the rest of the numbers in the exactas.

5th: 9-2-5-8-12-11-6…Bandito (9) was sent off as the 2-to-1 favorite in his career debut at Churchill Downs in September. Made a nice middle move before tiring in that one. Trainer is having a super meet and gets his No. 1 rider in the saddle for this try. The bullet work 4 days before the debut last time out may have been too much to overcome in the race.  He has worked well since the debut and looks to be ready for the switch to the grass — which he is bred to love.  The third place horse in that first time out has already come back to win.  Watch out for this one. Blue Lute (2) gets the Lasix for the second out from a trainer that knows how to train. Hooked a real good one in the first try, and that winner has already come back to win again. Should move way up today on the stretch out. Solar Warming (5) goes for a top notch grass trainer, who wins with .15% of debut runners. This is a tough spot, but could show up here. I bet the 9-2 across the board and box those 2 in one exacta and then key them over/under the rest of the numbers in two more.

6th: 4-9-3-5-1-6…A nice allowance here that attracts a solid field led by Awesome Boss (4).  This true closer should make a solid run at the leaders in the deep stretch and gets his preferred dirt surface for this one. Has hit the board in 5 of 6 starts this year and has a win and a second in three starts at this distance. Miss Gracer (9) picks up Corey Lanerie, who is starting to heat up again. This one will be prominently placed from the get go for a trainer that does well with the switch from turf to dirt (.23). Has lost the last two by a total of 11/2 lengths.  May find the circle today. Dance Proposal (3) goes for a hot trainer and gets the meet’s leading rider. Has not fared well since trying the G2 Golden Rod last fall at Churchill, but seems capable of much, much better. I bet the 4 to win/place/show and then key the 4 over/under all the rest of the numbers in two exactas.

7th: 5-1-1A-8-2-9…Mr Cub (5) has had three super runs in a row, despite losing the last one by 5 lengths.  That race was won by Mr. Misunderstood, a good one, and Mr. Cub nearly took them wire-to-wire before fading in that one. Now, he shortens up to a 1-mile event for a solid trainer — who may have a huge day. My first Best Bet of the Day. Bingo Kitten (1) and Gorgeous Kitten (1A) are both solid contenders, and Zulu Alpha (8) has to be considered off his last performance, too. The latter has 2 wins and a third in 4 tries this year, with the only poor performance coming on the hills of KY Downs (which some horses simply do not like). I bet the 5 to win/place/show and then key the 5 over/under all the other numbers listed.

8th: 5-2-3-1-9…Fun (5) is another from the barn of Ian Wilkes, and this deep closer will be hugging the rail for rider Calvin Borel. If she can get a clean run, she could make a huge effort at ML odds of 10-1. She has tried the Keeneland dirt once, with a third and this distance once with a second.  She ran third in the G1 Alcibiades here against Dancing Rags and Daddys Lil Darling last fall. Anything close to that, and she wins here. Shar Ran (2) ran huge to break her maiden at Churchill Downs in late April. Has not been seen in the afternoons since. Has trained well of late, though. May need one? Waves of Bue (3) is converting from turf sprints to the dirt. Has shown a blast of speed before, and this one cost $210,000 as a yearling. I bet the 5 to win/place/show and then key over/under the rest of the numbers listed.

9th: 6-5-1-4-2-7…The Grade 2 Hagyard Fayette Stakes…A tremendous Stakes event to close out the meet, led by the ultra-talented McCraken (6). This one began his career with 4 impressive victories in a row and was considered to be a prime contender for this year’s Triple Crown series before he sustained one tough bit of luck after another. Came back to nearly win the G1 Haskell Invitational two back. Has been training very well after a freshener and trainer Ian Wilkes deserves a good day with this celebrated pupil. Will face older ones for the first time today, but I think he is primed and ready to go, and if you read these pages — then you know I am a big fan of his son of Ghostzapper. My Best Bet of the Day. Honorable Duty (5) has 3 wins and 2 seconds in 5 starts this year and ran second to Gun Runner two back. The only horse in the field to post 3 Beyer Speed figures in the 100s. Is the 9-to-5 ML favorite, and will be a tough out in this spot after a super performance in the G3 Lukas Classic in the last. Giuseppe the Great (1) will try older ones for the first time today, as well. This one has over-achieved all year and may just do so again today. And, please do yourself a favor — and don’t leave out The Player (4). This one has great talent, and is expertly trainer by my good friend Buff Bradley. I never miss a chance to root for Buff, a true gentleman and a top trainer. The industry needs more people like him and Ian Wilkes. They would make a very nice exacta, too. I bet the 6-4 across the board and then box those two solidly in one exacta and then key them over/under all the other numbers.

10) 5-9-2-7-10-12 … Into Summer (5) is a deep closer who made a huge run at KY Downs in the last. Has a win and 2 seconds in 5 starts this year. This daughter of Into Mischief looks to be in a prime spot to win here for jock Chris Landeros — son in law of Ian Wilkes. Defrock (9) is another deep closer with a shot in the deep lane. Well Humored (2) comes in off a super impressive MSW win at Delaware Park — but only faced 4 others that day. I bet the 5 to win/place/show and then box the top 3 choices in the exacta.

Good luck &

All the Best/Gene