Opening weekend at Keeneland, with its stakes-laden Fall Stars cards, takes place this weekend.
It offers a host of final Breeders' Cup tune-ups -- nine of the ten races are Breeders' Cup Win and You're In preps.
Both of Friday's stakes races have Breeders' Cup berths on the line; the Stoll Keenon Ogden Phoenix Stakes (G2) winner earns a berth to the Sprint, and the Darley Alcibiades Stakes (G1) winner goes to the Juvenile Fillies.
On Saturday, the First Lady Stakes (G1) winner earns a berth to the Filly and Mare Turf, the Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes (G2) winner gets a bid to the Filly and Mare Sprint, the Shadwell Turf Mile (G1) winner earns a bid to the Mile, and the Claiborne Breeders' Futurity winner punches their ticket to the Juvenile. The Woodford (G2) is the only stakes on Saturday that doesn't carry Win and You're In status, but even that often provides several contenders for the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint.
Sunday's card features a trio of Win and You're In races: the Juddmonte Spinster Stakes (G1) awards a bid to the Distaff, the Dixiana Bourbon (G3) winner gets a free ticket to the Juvenile Turf, and the newly christened Indian Summer Stakes offers a bid to the newest Breeders' Cup race, the Juvenile Turf Sprint.
We will have picks for all ten stakes races at Keeneland Friday through Sunday, and detailed analysis of the Grade 1 Shadwell Turf Mile. The Shadwell Turf Mile features several familiar faces from local stakes races: 2018 Arlington Handicap (G3) winner and third-place finisher Divisidero and Synchrony, 2017 Illinois Derby (G3) winner Multiplier, 2018 Arlington Million (G1) second-place finisher Almanaar, and 2018 Secretariat Stakes (G1) second-place finisher Analyze It all passed the entry box. Zulu Alpha, who traded blows with Cammack in the allowance ranks at Arlington this summer, is first on the also-eligible list.
A few other familiar faces dot the rest of the card. 2017 Modesty Handicap (G3) winner Dona Bruja and Illinois-bred stakes winner One Liz will contest the First Lady (G1), and Arlington-Washington Futurity third-place finisher Knicks Go makes a tilt at the Claiborne Breeders' Futurity.
NBC will broadcast live from 4:30pm-6:00pm EDT on Saturday; this broadcast will feature the Shadwell Turf Mile and Claiborne Breeders' Futurity from Keeneland. NBC returns with a broadcast from 4:30pm-6:00pm EDT on Sunday to cover the Juddmonte Spinster Stakes and the Dixiana Bourbon Stakes.
Free live streams of all races at Keeneland run both on the Keeneland website as well as on the Horse Races Now mobile app. Horse Racing Radio Network will broadcast Keeneland's stakes action on their website on Friday from 4:30-5:30pm EDT, Saturday from 4:00pm-6:00pm EDT, and Sunday from 5:00pm-6:00pm EDT. This programming will also be broadcast on Sirius 219/XM 201 on Friday and Saturday, and on Sirius 93/XM 93 on Sunday.
Selections for the Woodford, Shadwell Turf Mile, First Lady, Bourbon, and Indian Summer are for turf only. Updated Friday, October 5 to add morning lines for the Shadwell Turf Mile.
Race 10: Shadwell Turf Mile (G1), three-year-olds and up, one mile on the turf, post time 5:49pm CST
The richest race of the Keeneland meet is the $1,000,000 Shadwell Turf Mile. The race began its life in 1986 as the Keeneland Breeders' Cup Stakes, at a mile and an eighth on the grass; it was shortened to a mile in 1994. It has been carded at a mile on grass ever since, though in 2013 it was famously washed off the grass and run at a mile and a sixteenth on the all-weather. Graded since 1988, this race has held Grade 1 designation since 2002.
The 2013 wash-off was famous, of course, because that was when Silver Max beat the seemingly unbeatable Wise Dan. However, the two-time Horse of the Year won the Shadwell Turf Mile twice during his illustrious career, in 2012 and 2014. He would go on to win the Breeders' Cup Mile, as well, in both 2012 and 2013. Only one other horse has won both this race and the Breeders' Cup Mile in the same year: Steinlen (1989), who also won the Arlington Million that year. Court Vision won this race in 2009, though it would be another two years before he wold win the Breeders' Cup Mile.
Wise Dan wins the 2014 Shadwell Turf Mile, in what would be his final career start.
Steinlen is not the only Chicago link to this race. In 1987, local stalwart Harvey Vanier won this race with a horse he trained, Storm on the Loose. 2009 Arlington Million winner Gio Ponti may have had to settle for second in that race in 2010 and 2011, but he won the Shadwell Turf Mile both of those years.
The pace in the Shadwell Turf Mile should be an honest one: HEART TO HEART and VOODOO SONG will be forward, and GREAT WIDE OPEN probably has to be forward (but probably will not outgun those two). BOUND FOR NOWHERE doesn't typically sit too far away, and even ANALYZE IT often stalks relatively close to the pace.
It has been a while since ALMANAAR has gone a flat mile, but earlier in his career, he showed talent at the distance, even winning a Group 3 in France. He has been a difficult horse to keep in training, with long layoffs peppered through his form lines -- but when ALMANAAR is right, he is good. Last-up he finished second behind Robert Bruce in the Arlington Million. Robert Bruce's defeat last weekend in the Joe Hirsch takes nothing away from his Million performance -- a mile and a half was too long, but a mile and a quarter is great for Robert Bruce, and it took that to beat ALMANAAR. Now, ALMANAAR cuts back in trip to a flat mile -- and if he can conjure the kind of kick he found late in his seasonal bow at Belmont, he has every chance to mow down the speed.
BOUND FOR NOWHERE has taken an interesting career trajectory, with so many of his American races just preps for visits to Europe. He is undefeated in those five starts in the US -- and though he has never won abroad, his gritty, close third-place finish in the Diamond Jubilee (G1) this June suggests he has class to spare. The wide draw is less than ideal, but he has overcome them before.
QURBAAN found almost a year's layoff no problem when he showed up at Saratoga this summer, and now comes second off a lay for trainer Kieran McLaughlin, a 23% winner and 54% in the money with horses second from a spell. QURBAAN resumed as well as he possibly could have: in the Bernard Baruch (G2) he closed from near the rear of a field of five, took advantage of an honest enough pace in front of him, and mowed everyone down. Here, he should chase fractions even more lively, and more hotly contested, than he got that day. Though QURBAAN loses Irad Ortiz from that outing (Ortiz is riding at Belmont instead), he does get another jockey who knows how to win on racing's biggest stages: Mike Smith.
ANALYZE IT belongs underneath, but not on top. It's possible he takes a step forward with the stretch back out to a mile. But, this is also his first try against older, and his last three starts suggest that he can't close the deal in a close race. He doesn't tower over this field -- he fits, but it's hard to see him galloping five lengths clear like he seems to need to do to close the deal. He is fast enough and consistent enough to run in the frame if he brings his best, but unless ANALYZE IT is ignored completely on the board (unlikely, for a Chad Brown trainee!), it's hard to like the price you'll get on top.
#11 ALMANAAR (9/2)
#14 BOUND FOR NOWHERE (15/1)
#7 QURBAAN (5/1)
Longshot: #6 SYNCHRONY (8/1) hasn't quite emerged at this Grade 1 level yet. But, with this distance and setup, this could be his day to shine. SYNCHRONY, when at his best, has a wicked late kick -- something he used to good effect his his last pair of victories at Monmouth Park, including in the Red Bank Stakes (G3) at a flat mile last month. In fact, he has never been out of the exacta at a mile -- and even though one of those was a second-place finish in a listed stakes at Laurel last year, the horse who beat him was Ascend, winner of the Manhattan (G1) in his next start. Though SYNCHRONY loses Jersey Joe Bravo -- Bravo will be riding another Stidham stablemate, Proforma, in the Belmont Turf Sprint Invitational -- he does get a solid Kentucky rider in Corey Lanerie. SYNCHRONY will do his best running late, and at his best, that may be enough to spring the upset.
Below is a spreadsheet with all of Nicolle Neulist's picks for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday's graded stakes at Keeneland; for any browsers that have difficulty with embedded Google spreadsheets, a web link is available here.
This will be updated as they finish handicapping the card. If you have questions about the logic behind any of these picks, please leave a comment, or tweet us at @picksponderings!
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