Post time is 1:05 pm EDT and his first pick is in the first race.
We're heading back to Keeneland today, where the weather forecast is iffy: It's supposed to be cloudy with a chance of thunderstorms in the afternoon. There's a nine-race program in Lexington, with maidens taking center stage, and we'll figure that the rain will hold off, and we'll get fast and firm. Let's go.
Race 1 (post time: 1:05 pm; all times are Eastern) is a first-level allowance for 3-year-old fillies at 1 3/16 miles on the turf. The race really runs through 2-Princesa Carolina, a Three Chimneys homebred who has been facing much tougher: after hitting the board in a couple of graded stakes races, including a good third in the Appalachian at Keeneland on April 7, now drops into non-winners-of-one allowance company.
We tried pretty hard to find a way to beat this filly, but can't. Her recent races were just too good. Her speed figures are vastly superior to those earned by her rivals, and while we are not slavishly reliant on speed figures in turf races -- race shape, especially pace, is a more important factor, in our humble opinion -- they are indicative of a horse's overall ability, and in this case, the figs illustrate that Princesa Carolina is superior to the rest of the field. Moreover, she's got a good late kick: she showed in each of her last two races the ability to run the final quarter in less than 24 seconds, and this is a crucial ability on the turf. She has the combination of good tactical speed and a strong late kick, and on the turf, that pairing is deadly. We will bet her to win at 8/5. The bet: Keeneland, Race 1, $25 to win on 2-Princesa Carolina.
The 5th at Keeneland, which goes to post at 3:13 pm, is another turf race, another first-level (non-winners-of-one other than) allowance at a mile and a sixteenth on the sod. This one is for fillies and mares 4 and up. We like a closer here: it took 5-Lessons from Avery a few tries to break her maiden, but she finally did so in October, on this course, and her connections were impressed enough by that effort that they entered her in a stakes race, the Grade 2 Mrs. Revere at Churchill in November. She finished up the track that day, but now after a freshening, she drops in against much weaker competition. These kinds of late-runners are usually dependent on pace, but we think there will be enough early speed for her to run at. We think she mows them all down late and takes the money. We will bet her to win at 7/2. The bet: Keeneland, Race 5, $20 to win on 5-Lessons from Avery.
Race 6 is a 2-year-old Maiden Special at 4 1/2 furlongs on dirt. Wesley Ward has the overwhelming favorite in here, 3-Kimari, who's a first-time starter, the overwhelmingly likeliest winner, and who figures to be a short enough price, primarily because of Ward's wizardry with juveniles and first-time starters, that a win bet will not offer any real value. But we can use him as a single in a couple of multi-race bets.
We like 5-Lessons from Avery in the 5th; we like 3-Kimari in the 6th. The races before and after these two are the 4th, a $20k maiden claimer for horses 3 and up; and the And 7th, an allowance/optional claimer for older females at a mile on the turf. Both of these races appear to be utterly chaotic: any one of the runners in either race (10 in the 4th; 8 in the 7th) could win. So we are going to leverage the two horses we like in Races 5 and 6 with a couple of Pick 3 tickets, as follows. The bets:
Keeneland, Race 4: $1 Pick 3, ALL with 5 with 6. (10 combinations for a $10 ticket)
Keeneland, Race 5: $1 Pick 3, 5 with 6 with ALL. (8 combinations for an $8 ticket)
We feel this is a better betting strategy than the obvious, which would be pounding Lessons from Avery and Kimari in the double: if they both win, we will hit BOTH pick 3s. And this will almost certainly pay better than the double.
For a nightcap, we'll go to the last race at Keeneland, the 9th, a Maiden Special for horses 3 and up at 1 1/8 miles on the grass. Post time is 5:30 pm. We like 9-Trinity. This 4-year-old French-bred son of Mizzen Mast is trained by Graham Motion, and while he has just missed in his first two North American tries, both were good efforts, and we think the third time will be the charm. We see him rolling late and winning the race -- look for the gray making a big move down the lane. We will bet him to win at 5/2. The bet: Keeneland, Race 9, $20 to win on 9-Trinity.
That's all for today. We'll be back on Saturday for a look at the national stakes action. Good luck at the windows.