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Heading into the first turn at Keeneland
Heading into the first turn at Keeneland|keeneland.com
Thoroughbreds

Wednesday Horse Racing: Garrity picks races at the Keeneland fall meet, including the Jessamine Stakes

His first race is 2:39 pm EDT.

Chris Garrity

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October is Keeneland time: the race course in Lexington, Kentucky runs its boutique fall meet most of this month. Every card is an event, and there is a stakes race just about every day, including today. To be young, and in love, and soaking in the autumnal splendor of the gorgeous Kentucky bluegrass... well, we are none of those things, but we will be happy to settle for betting on a few of today's races. The dirt will be fast, and the turf firm, at Keenland today, so let's go.

Keeneland Race 2, 2:39 pm ET

Maiden Special Weight, 1 mile, turf, 3 & Up

The conditions of this race allow horses three and older to enter, but it might as well be restricted to 3-year-olds, as all of the ten entrants are that age. This simplifies handicapping the race a little, as we do not have to tackle the sometimes difficult task of comparing juvenile and older horses -- this can be very tricky, especially this time of year. But the absence of more mature horses allows us to compare horses who are all born within a few months of each other.

The entrants who have run before have all run the same way, fast early and slow late, which is an effective style on dirt, but which is rarely effective on turf. On grass, we look for the opposite, a horse who can relax early and finish strongly. Since none of the runners with established form have shown this ability, we are going to look to a first-time starter. We have a few to choose from, but the one we fancy the most is a price: it's the marvelously named 8-Mungojerrie. This guy is sired by Declaration of War, a young stallion by world-class turf sire War Front, and his dam is out of another all-time great turf stallion, the Irish-bred Street Cry. He's bred top and bottom to go long on the turf, and he's handled by a trainer, Arnaud Delacour, who is skilled with both turf runners and first-time starters. He's got a very good workout pattern, with a long string of very steady works going back to June, so he should be fit enough to win this. It may not be summertime, and the weather in Lexington today may or may not be fine, but with Mungojerrie, we got winning, we got winning on our mind. We will bet him to win at 12-1. The bet: Keeneland, Race 2, $20 to win on 8-Mungojerrie.

Keeneland Race 6, 3:51 pm ET

Allowance, 6 1/2 furlongs, dirt, 3 & Up

A good field of nine goes in this first-level allowance. We need to take a moment to talk about the Keeneland main track: it historically has been one of the most speed-favoring dirt ovals in the country, but since the start of the current Keeneland meet last week, it has not been kind to speed, as stalkers and closers have won most of the dirt races. We are assuming that this trend will continue, but as always, keep an eye on how the track is playing, as conditions can change very quickly, frequently without an obvious cause, like a change in the weather.

There are two standouts in this race, even-money favorite 4-Honest Mischief, who starts for trainer Chad Brown, and 2-1 second choice 7-Airtouch, who goes for Todd Pletcher. We think the race comes down to these two, and a look at their past performances is a good illustration how a horse's running line must be viewed in the context of the racing surface over which the horse ran. In Honest Mischief's last race, he did a speed-and-fade in the Grade 2 Amsterdam Stakes at Saratoga, earning a 92 Beyer Speed Figure; Airtouch earned an identical 92 coming from off the pace to win a maiden race, also at Saratoga. Going by the figs, it would be hard to separate these two.

But a closer look at the races reveals something interesting: Honest Mischief and Airtouch both ran last at Saratoga, and the dirt at the Spa both days was biased against speed, and in favor of closers. Honest Mischief ran against this bias; Airtouch was aided by it. This means that the 92 Beyer fig that Honest Mischief ran was better than the 92 that Airtouch ran; on a fair track, which we're expecting Keeneland to be today, Honest Mischief should have a significant advantage. We expect Honest Mischief to beat Airtouch today, to outrun him so definitively that we will happily take his even-money odds. We will bet Honest Mischief to win, and we will bet them in the exacta, with Honest Mischief first, and Airtouch second. The bets: Keeneland, Race 6, $40 to win on 4-Honest Mischief; $10 exacta, 4-Honest Mischief with 7-Airtouch.

Keeneland Race 7, 4:24 pm ET

Grade 2 JP Morgan Chase Jessamine Stakes, 1 1/16 miles, turf, 2-year-old Fillies

A full field of fourteen drew into the Jessamine, a Grade 2 for juvenile fillies on the turf. There's a filly we like quite a bit in here, and it's 9-Diamond Sparkles. She's a Kentucky-bred filly by War Front, trained by top conditioner Mark Casse, who started her career in England, before coming to North America to finish 4th in the Grade 1 Natalma at Woodbine Race Course. The turf in suburban Toronto that day was yielding, which we think was softer than she likes; these European horses are frequently brought to the U.S. because their connections think they will do better on the firmer turf that horses usually get here, but rarely get in Europe. The firm sod today, and the expected fast pace of this race, will favor her strong stretch-running style. Look for her to be toward the back of the pack early,and flying late; we will bet her to win at 6-1. The bet: Keeneland, Race 7, $40 to win on 9-Diamond Sparkles.

That's all for today. Enjoy the racing, and, as always, good luck at the windows.