I will be going to Keeneland today with my mother and sister.  It is our annual trip to Keeneland to celebrate their birthdays in the sun and the fun.  We have a table, and my sister told me tonight that she had purchased a hat to wear for the festive occasion.  We will eat some. Tell stories about my dad, who we lost in February.  And, laugh. My sister will take a few selfies.  And, we will wonder how we didn’t have a winning ticket on this race and that one, too.  That’s my job, by the way. How I do I fail my mother and sister every year and they still keep coming back for more. But, most of all, we will celebrate each other’s company. Can’t wait.

So, here are my picks for my Mom, Sis and the rest of you.  And, here’s hoping, beyond hope, that we have a couple of winners along the way.

1st: 2-7-5-3-8-4…Right off the bat, I have a horse I really like.  And, that is incredibly dangerous for us all, since the 5YO is still a maiden at 5 years old and after 14 starts.  Still, I like Encrypt (2) in this spot today.  Drops to the lowest level of his life at MC15, which is a far cry from where the one-time owners were dreaming to be when they paid the handsome sum of $1.2 million for this son of Tapit at the Keeneland September Yearling Sales in 2013.  No matter how much I lose today, I don’t have it as bad as those folks did with this one. But this may be the day for this one, who is a deep, deep closer and will be running late — if at all.  He gets a new rider for the first time, and I like this guy.  Saw him ride, for the first time, at Kentucky Downs.  And, I like the way he sits in the saddle and how horses respond for him. Today is the day, right? If not, maybe its the day for Santa Americana (7) or Kings Wish (5), another pair of deep closers in a race void of any true speed.  If that’s what you are looking for, perhaps Tsunami (4) or Ty Man (8) can steal it if they can get their respective motors going early on? The former ran a good one here last fall, but was off for nearly a year and then eased in his only start this year, and the later spit the bit halfway through his first try around two turns. Maybe that race helped? In other words, wide open.  I play the 2 to win/place/show and then key the 2 over/under all the numbers listed.  Someone has to win, right?

2nd: 1-2-3-6-5…Royal Asset (1) has good numbers on “fast dirt” tracks and is 1-for-1 over this oval. A NY-bred who has faced a lot of open company since winning two in a row against state-breds back in 2015. Gets a huge class drop and is the likely PT favorite in here. Control Stake (2) drops to his lowest sales price ever after trying tougher in a key race last time out. This one has hit the board in 16 of 22 career starts and may be back to the kind of company he prefers. Gets a nice rider switch to Corey Lanerie. Wabel (3) is a dead closer for a trainer that has hit the winner’s circle in 2 of 4 starts this year.  Not a bad win percentage, and picks up Chris Landeros for this trip. I bet the 1 to win/place/show with a rider looking for his first career victory. And, I bet a 1-2-3 Exacta box and key the 1-2-3 over the 6-5 in another.

3rd: 3-1-6-5-2…This marks the first race in the Pick 6 — which has a huge carryover going into the card today.  Racing Secretary Ben Huffman didn’t make this sequence a gimme, either.  And, it will take a lot of dough or some incredible good luck to trip the lock today. I go with Petrov (3) in this spot today, and I’m tempted to single right off the bat.  This guy started the year on fire, with a win and three straight seconds in Stakes company to open the season.  After tiring in his three tries going around two turns and in three Graded Stakes races, trainer Ron Moquett cut him back to sprinting and the son of Flatter has returned to good performances. He won an allowance at Saratoga in August and then ran a game third to Cold Front in the G3 Gallant Bob at Parx.  Should be stalking from the get-go in this one and will be a tough beat.  Excitations (1) is a bit inconsistent, but loved this track in the Spring when he won by 41/2 convincing lengths. He opened his race career with a head-bob loss to Girvin at The Fairgrounds, so he has talent. Dark Arden (6) has never been better than right now, and has hit the board in 7 of his last 8 tries — with 4 wins.  Major Munnings (2) is freakishly fast.  So…no single, but I bet the 3 to win/place then box the 3-1 in one key exacta and then wheel those 2 over the rest of the numbers in a smaller version. Here is my Pick 6 ticket: 3-1/4-6-7/3-1-7/2-1-7/1/9-1…That will cost me $108 for a try.

4th: 4-6-7-1-3-9-8…Kantastic (4) has run a couple of nice races against softer company at Arlington Park and on synthetic and turf. Gets dirt today, but this one has had some trouble in two of the first three starts. Not the toughest group in this spot, and may take advantage. Ghost Jumper (6) is a first timer for trainer Mark Hubley, and this daughter of Ghostzapper has shown some promise in the a.m. Drinks on Me (7) picks up a top rider and has a nice work or two up at Indy for Mike Maker — who is having a super good meet. I bet the 4 to win/place/show and then box the top 3 choices.

5th: 3-1-5-7-10-2…Audacious Angel (3) is a Virginia-bred is a true closer who prefers fast dirt tracks for Maker, who gets Jose Ortiz, Jr. to rider here, too. This one has had five straight poor performances, which is way too many, but drops way down in class today. Should benefit from the free fall. White Gold (1) was a beaten odds-on favorite at Belterra in her last out, but bobbled at the start of that effort. Ran OK against much tougher here this spring and may find this group to her liking.  Should be OK on the rail today. Pretty Greeley (5) goes for a trainer who has only 1 win in 63 starts this year, but I have made money with my main man Gary Thomas since Ellis Park playing him and his horses underneath in the Exactas. Will try that strategy again today.  I bet the 3 to win/place/show and then box 3-1-5 in one exacta and then key those 3 over the rest of the numbers.

6th: 2-1-7-9-4-8-10-6…Sir Sahib (2) gets his second start for trainer Ian Wilkes, who normally doesn’t crank them up for a first time. He ran a fast closing third in the initial start despite going 6-wide in that sprint, and should be ready for this one today with the stretch out to 7-furlongs. The top two finishers in the first out have both come back to win, again.  Zing Zang (1) and Steel Shot (1A) both have shown promise, and Mississippi (7) is a highly-touted first timer for Mark Casse, who gets Julien Leparoux to ride.  They have been hot together of late. I bet the 2 to win/place/show and then box the top 3 choices and key them over the rest of the numbers in a smaller version.

7th: 1-7-10-9-12-2…Light Up Our World (1) has not sniffed the winner’s circle in North America yet after four starts, but she has been close each time out.  Has hit the board in 10 of 17 lifetime starts, and has 2 seconds and a third in four starts here. Gets a nice rider switch for this spot, and may find her way to the front at the end of this one in a tough allowance feature. Bonnie Arch (7) had hit the board in four straight races prior to her last race in stakes company at Kentucky Downs. Was beaten 1/2-length by Res Ipsa, who came back to win a stakes here last week. Watch out for this one trained by Ian Wilkes. Fizzy Friday (10) is a British-bred filly with some late kick, and Sensitive (9) is trained by red hot trainer Brad Cox. I bet the 1 to win/place and key over/under all the rest of the numbers listed.

8th: 9-1-4-2-5-8-6…Belvin (9) is a 7YO who has hit the board in 22 of 41 lifetime starts, and has been good at this level over the last five starts.  A similar effort today will give this one every chance in the world to win, despite the outside post. Goes for a top young trainer. Candy My Boy (1) gets the career drop all the way to the bottom.  He ran fourth, beaten just a couple of lengths by Gun Runner,  in March 2016. Now in for C10K.  Glitnir (4) drops back down to the level that he should fit. I bet the 9 to win/place/show and then box the top 3 numbers in one Exacta and then key those 3 over/under all the rest.

Good luck &

All the Best/Gene