Racing as it was meant to be returns to the historic oval at Keeneland Racecourse in beautiful Central Kentucky this afternoon, with an 8-race card headlined by the G3 Jessamine Stakes — on the grass for 2YO fillies.  There definitely is still some moisture in the soil after all the rains here lately, but here’s hoping that the grass races can stay on course.

Here’s a closer look at today’s card:

1st: 5-4-2-1-3…La Manta Gris (5) ran a game third to Daddy’s Lil Darling in the Dueling Grounds Oaks last time out.  She didn’t have enough to fight past that Graded-stakes placed mare, but she was just a couple of feet behind runner-up Summer Luck.  The race before, this daughter of Lemon Drop Kid got up at the end of 13/8-mile event at Saratoga.  Has a second over a “good” course at both Keeneland and Churchill Downs in the past.  Should like the soft going. Downton Kitten (4) was impressive in her North American debut on Sept. 7 at Kentucky Downs for trainer / soccer coach Eduardo Caramori.  Will be moving up after winning at that condition, and will be facing tougher in this spot.  But this daughter of Kitten’s Joy could be the real deal, with 2 wins in 2 starts now.  Eqho (2) is a personal favorite for a top young man and a very good trainer, too.  She finally got back on the turf in her last go and nearly came running enough to catch the winner.  Very impressive off a 3-month layoff.  Now, will stretch out to a career-long distance run today.  Corey Lanerie is back in the saddle and they should make a late run.  I bet the 5 to win/place/show and then box the top three choices in one exacta and then key the 5-4-2 over the rest of the numbers in another.

2nd: 5-7-4-6…Nuclear Option (5) didn’t like the mud at Saratoga in his last out try, spitting the bit after tiring early fractions of :214/5 and :462/5. A little more moderation on the lead should help this lead-foot gas machine, who gets the drop from Stakes company to the claiming ranks and gets to run as a gelding for the first time.  All the changes should help here today. Fields of Dreams (7) is another one who likes the front end and will be pushing the top choice from the get-go.  This one likes the grass, but must now try the dirt again. Should appreciate the class drop, as well. Stonewall Boy (4) and Just Blaze (6) both have a legitimate chance to hit the board in here, too.  I bet the 5 to win/place/show and then key the 5 over/under in the exactas.

3rd: 9-3-2-5-6-1-8….Gambler’s Choice (9) nearly won at this level on Sept. 15 at Churchill Downs, with a nice stalking run in the career debut. Found himself in tight and steadied in that initial effort, as well, or may have been more gun-ho at the wire.  Could be in the circle with a similar effort today. Timeisnotourfriend (3) is a first time starter for Wesley Ward, who hits with .29% of debut runners. This one has been training very well at Keeneland and looks prepared for the initial going. Picks up top jock in Joel Rosario. Burton (2) never ran a step in the career debut at Kentucky Downs back in September.  But that is a tough course to make a first out, and he will be equipped with blinkers today after showing no speed at no time in his initial out.  I like the drop in class here and the fact that the trainer does quite well with second time starters (.23) and with the drop to the MCL ranks for the first time (.21). First blinkers is worth it, too (.25). Adds up a contender. Monteleone (5) is another pupil from the Ward barn and has two starts under his belt.  First time gelding, too.  I bet the 9 to win/place/show and then box the 9-3-2 in one exacta and then key the 9-3-2 over all the rest in another.

4th: 9-3-12-8-1…I got right back to the same two numbers in here with the 9 & 3…One Sock Mauk (9) gets a class drop for a trainer that knows how to win races. He won his last out on the grass at Arlington Park. Now, stretches out and switches back to the dirt — where he won at the $16,000 level at Churchill Downs in his last try on that surface. Looks to be a pace-setter in this spot and picks up a rider who has 2 wins and 2 thirds in his first 7 starts this meet. Como Se Liama (3) was claimed last time out by a trainer who does well in the claiming box and game. This is another one who likes the front end, and she caught a good one in his last out at Churchill Downs, where he ran a solid second. Fearless Majesty (12) is 6-1 ML in this spot and may drift up the odds board some, too.  Has 3 wins, 1 second and 1 third in 7 tries this year.  Had a spell this spring where he won 4 in a row.  May be getting back to that level. I bet the 9 to win/place/show and then box the top 3 choices in one exacta and then key those 3 over the 8-1 in another.

5th: 12-7-4-5-11-1-3-10…Love Bridaled Temper (12) in this spot and if you can hold the 4-1 ML odds, then she becomes even more attractive. She has run 2 seconds in as many races and was a strong second on a yielding course at Kentucky Downs in the last out. This daughter of War Front is a closer type, and should appreciate the stretch out to two turns and the 1-mile distance for the first time today. Daddy Is a Legend (7) is a Pennsylvania-bred filly by Scat Daddy, who has been running some good ones in New York (at both Saratoga and Belmont Park). This one got the blinkers for the first time in her last outing, and she nearly pulled off the upset win that day. The horse that beat her is in the G3 Jessamine Stakes this afternoon, so you know the connections love that.  The one to beat.  Watch the odds board.  If the 12 is lower odds than the 7, then I have to consider a flip-flop. Classy Act (4) and Going Out (5) both look to improve on nice debuts.  Would not be surprising to see either of these well-bred fillies hit the board.  Watch out.  I bet the 12 to win/place/show and then box the 12-7-4 in one exacta and the 12-7-5 in another.  I take one 12 over all the numbers in a third.

6th: 1-8-7-4-12-11-9-5…C Z Rocket (1) gets to try winners for the first time today after a convincing victory at Saratoga for trainer Al Stall. In that career debut, this son of City Zip came from near the back of the pack to whiz to an easy 2-length victory, in one of the more eye-popping races of the entire meet. I’ve been watching for this one’s return to the afternoon business, and he has drawn the rail in a tough 7-furlong event.  This is a tough hole to break from at this distance, but if he can navigate past the gap and veer away from the inside traffic jam that is sure to happen in front of him, then he may have a shot — again. Speedmeister (8) gets back on the dirt after an ill-fated try on the grass at Kentucky Downs. Never seemed comfortable in that one and ran a stagnant fourth.  Has trained well since that race and has faced some very good ones in the past. Watch out. My first Upset Special today may be Totality (7) in this spot.  This one was previously trained by Steve Asmussen, but was switched to the barn of Ron Moquett after a dismal effort in the slop at Churchill Downs on June 23.  Has been training quite nicely for his new conditioner, and gets a big change of equipment to blinkers for the first time. At 20-1 odds, he also picks up Rosario.  May slide down the odds board, but I have to take a peak here.  I bet the 1-7 to win/place/show and then box the top three choices in one exacta and then key the top 3 picks over the rest of the numbers in another.

7th: 12-2-4-1-8-9-11-10-13…The G3 Jessamine Stakes…Here’s hoping that the rains cease long enough and the footing firms a bit to allow the 2YO fillies to run this one over the grass course.  If it stays, I love Thewayiam (12), the French-bred filly who will be making her North American debut for new trainer Graham Motion and with the addition of Lasix. This filly has been training lights out at Fair Hill, and picks up Rosario in the saddle. Motion is .29% with with NA starters and .22 with first timers in his barn. Figures to come roaring from the back of the pack and should love, love, love this added distance. Has been on “good” grass before, so the lay of the land should be no issue. My first Best Bet of the Day. Rushing Fall (2) is the 2YO filly by More Than Ready, who will be saddled by Chad Brown.  She ran a huge one in her career debut at Belmont, going a mile on firm grass. She closed with a real purpose that day, going from near the back of the pack all the way to the front and win going away.  Picks up JJ Castellano and will, undoubtedly, take some beating today. Miss Mo Mentum (4) broke her maiden last out at Churchill Downs, when swung 6 wide and made a huge late run. Chris Landeros stays on board for this first try against winners, which will be much tougher. Lady O’Toole (1) has won 3 of 4 lifetime starts already for Brad Cox and can’t be left off any ticket. I bet the 12 to win/place/show and then box the 12-2-4 in one exacta and the 12-2-1 in another.  I then key the top 4 picks over the rest of the numbers in a small “saver” exacta, as well.

8th: 8-12-10-4-2-1-3…If the #13 draws into this one, then he will get the top pick.  If not, then I revert to Neapolitan (8) who is a first timer for trainer Eddie Kenneally, who can get one ready off the bench.  Training well for this level and gets Corey Lanerie in the saddle. Worthy (12) was off for nearly two months and surely needed his last race at Churchill Downs, where he tired very late.  Should improve off that outing and be fitter for this try today. Crenshaw (10) has 2 thirds in 2 starts and was claimed last out by Tom Amoss, who wins with .27% of first timers off the claim.  Wouldn’t take much improvement to put this one in the hunt today.  I bet the 8 to win/place/show and then box the top 3 choices in the exacta.  I key the top 3 over the rest in another.

Good luck &

All the Best/Gene