Fall Stars Saturday Picks and Ponderings

Here in Chicago, it’s almost time for racing to resume; Hawthorne’s meet gets underway on October 10, with entries drawing October 7.  But, it’s as lively in Lexington as it is calm in Chicago, with Keeneland’s fall meet getting underway this weekend.

Saturday’s card at Keeneland is a suitably excellent one: eleven races total, including five graded stakes.  Those include four Win and You’re In races for the Breeders’ Cup: the Shadwell Turf Mile (G1) for the Mile (G1), the Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity (G1) for the Juvenile (G1), the First Lady (G1) for the Filly and Mare Turf (G1), and the Thoroughbred Club of America (G2) for the Filly and Mare Sprint (G1).  The other graded stakes on the card is the Woodford (G2), which is not a Win and You’re In for the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint, though it often produces contenders for that race, and would make more sense than some of the early-season races as a Win and You’re In for that race.

The rest of the card features a trio of juvenile maidens and another trio of allowance optional claiming races, two for the older set and one for the two-year-olds.  It’s good, so let’s dive in from start to finish!

Selections for the Woodford, the First Lady, and the Shadwell Turf Mile are for turf only.

Race 1: Maiden special weight, two-year-old fillies, six furlongs on the dirt, post time 1:05pm EDT

Selections:  #2 HAI BOBBY (2/1) has shown talent in both starts, one from on the pace and one from off the pace; if she is as good on fast dirt as on slop she’ll be tough.  #10 SPECIALLY (5/1) debuts for Mark Casse, who comes loaded to Keeneland. Being a Tapiture half to debut 2yo winner Joevia, there’s plenty of pedigree appeal. #5 HALLAJOORI (5/1) has shown good early speed in both starts and should be better if she doesn’t stumble out of the gate.

Longshot: #8 LUCREZIA (15/1) debuts for Delacour, who is solid with first-start juveniles. The pedigree has win-early appeal: she is by Into Mischief, her dam won on debut at 2, and so did her full brother Rogueish.

Race 2: Allowance optional claiming, three-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, non-winners of $8,995 three times other than maiden, claiming, starter, restricted, or state-bred OR N4L OR non-winners of two races other than maiden, claiming, starter, or restricted over a mile since December 25 OR claiming price $80,000, one mile on the dirt, post time 1:39pm

Selections: #5 ALBEROBELLO (5/2) is already a winner over the course, and is fast enough early to jump to the lead and never look back.  #8 GOTHAM GALA (2/1) is tactically versatile enough to handle the outside gate, and comes off a good race in which she went toe-to-toe with Mylady Curlin.  #4 SHE’S PRETTY LUCKY (6/1) has been running on turf in recent times, but has some back dirt form and a history of running well off the bench.

Longshot:  No one is sadder than #3 RED DANE (12/1) that Keeneland doesn’t run all year long.  She comes up flat almost everywhere else, but always seems to blossom at Keeneland in races that look too tough for her on paper. She’s the horse-for-course that should make the exotics pay.

Race 3: Allowance optional claiming, three-year-olds and up, non-winners of $7,500 twice other than maiden, claiming, or starter OR N3L OR claiming price $62,500, one and one sixteenth miles on the dirt, post time 2:12pm

Selections:  Without a lot of speed in this race, let’s take a shot with #6 MAJOR CABBIE (10/1) and aggressive rider Paco Lopez to go to the front and take them around. #1 GUEST SUITE (4/1) can improve on the step up to two turns; the lack of pace is a question but he can sit in closer range at a route. #2 KURILOV (7/2) makes his second start off an extended layoff, and is versatile enough to carve out a good trip.

Longshot:  The longshot writer is hoping MAJOR CABBIE can help pay for their next few taxi rides.

Race 4: Maiden special weight, two-year-olds, one and one sixteenth miles on the dirt, post time 2:46pm EDT

Selections: #7 GHOSTLORE (3/1) took a smart step up lat time, sitting near the pace and keeping on for a good 2nd despite not having the best trip in the lane. Can improve further with more ground. #3 PORTOS (4/1) handled the tough task of a 9f debut with aplomb and should be finishing well again. #4 SPRAWL (9/2) hasn’t been bad going short, but the underside of his pedigree suggests he belongs at two turns. #13 LUCKY CURLIN (4/1) is relegated to the also-eligible list, but improved well enough when trying 9f last time to be worth a long look if a scratch gets him into the main field.

Longshot:  #11 WHISKY MAN (8/1) rallied well for third on debut; being a half to Pangburn and Ain’t Got Time, out of a dam who also preferred a route of ground, he has plenty of upside stepping up in distance.

Race 5: Allowance optional claiming, two-year-olds, non-winners of two races OR claiming price $75,000, about seven furlongs on the dirt, post time 3:20pm EDT

Selections:   #11 SOUTH BEND (7/2) benefited from a hot pace on debut, but looks like he’s going to get the same sweet setup this time. #2 SHANGHAI MOON (12/1) woke up last time when adding blinkers and trying seven furlongs; he can finish well into a lively pace again, and may get the jump on the true closers down the short stretch. #7 PERUVIAN BOY (8/1) tries dirt at a more reasonable level than that G2 he tried, reunites with Florent Geroux, and will also benefit from all the pace.

Longshot:  #5 MISTER NOT FUNNY (15/1) woke up when trying seven furlongs at Arlington; being by Distorted Humor out of a Benchmark mare who has produced a 5-time dirt winner already, he has a right to handle conventional dirt.

Race 6: Woodford Stakes Presented by Keeneland Select (G2), three-year-olds and up, five and a half furlongs on the turf, post time 3:54pm EDT

Selections:  #3 IMPRIMIS (2/1) comes second off the layoff, and his effort earlier this year at Keeneland in the Shakertown (G2) was as impressive a turf sprint as has been run in the States this year. #9 LEINSTER (5/1) is a course and distance winner and his last two starts prove he has successfully advanced to the graded stakes level. #2 EXTRAVAGANT KID (3/1) ran a big race last out at Colonial, but he is the type who has been able to string together top-quality efforts, as he has in his current streak of ten straight money finishes. That includes a 3rd-place finish in the 2018 edition of this race.

Longshot:  #8 SATELLITE STORM (15/1) has never been in such deep water, but he has improved this year since he has been switched to the turf, and he looks like the gutsiest of the speed brigade. He could fight on for a piece at long odds.

Race 7: Thoroughbred Club of American Stakes (G2), three-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, six furlongs on the dirt, post time 4:29pm EDT

Selections:  #8 CHALON (3/1) hasn’t missed the exacta in two years, including running second in the last two runnings of this race. She’s fast, she’s versatile, and without a Covfefe or a Come Dancing she is the one to beat. #6 MIA MISCHIEF (9/2) never runs her best at Saratoga; the move to Keeneland and the cutback to six furlongs should do her good. #1 OURS TO RUN (7/2) snapped a six-win streak last out, but was hardly embarrassed; the freshening and the cutback to six furlongs should have her sharp again.

Longshot:  The longshot writer struggles to make a case for any of the bigger price horses on top; #5 DAWN THE DESTROYER (8/1) could run late for a piece underneath, though six furlongs is short for her, and she is far more intriguing going seven furlongs, perhaps in a month at Santa Anita?

Race 8: First Lady Stakes (G1), three-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, one mile on the turf, post time 5:04pm EDT

Selections: #11 RUSHING FALL (9/5) has ruled over the Keeneland grass these last two years, and she cuts back to her best trip, the flat mile. Most of her recent races have had her forward, but she can close as well, positive since this race drew a lot of pace. #6 VASILIKA (5/1) steps out of her West Coast comfort zone, but she is excellent at a mile and has a devastating closing kick. #4 UNI (4/1) wasn’t disgraced against males (and Get Stormy) last out; she is another crack miler who will be flying in the lane.

Longshot: #12 JUST WONDERFUL (12/1) may only be three years old, but this Ballydoyle raider ran a good third in the Matron (G1) at Leopardstown, a turf mile open to ages three and up. Her second-place effort in the Belmont Oaks (G1) earlier in the year also speaks well of her ability to ship.

Race 9: Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity (G1), two-year-olds, one and one sixteenth miles on the dirt, post time 5:39pm EDT

Selections: #8 AJAAWEED (3/1) woke up when stretched out to a mile; being a son of Curlin out of a route-producing dam, he can find even more on the stretch to two turns.  #1 TAP IT TO WIN (3/1) moved forward trying dirt, and has run good races from both on and off the pace.  #10 GOUVERNEUR MORRIS (5/2) won easily in his sprint debut; the waters get deeper in this, but he is tactical enough to handle the outside gate, and being a Constitution half to Final Jeopardy, two turns should be no trouble.

Longshot:  #6 MAXFIELD (12/1) keeps rider Jose Ortiz from his impressive debut, in which he made a wide outside rally and sustained it to win. He has the pedigree for the step up in trip, too, being by Street Sense out of a half-sister to Sky Mesa.

Race 10: Shadwell Turf Mile (G1), three-year-olds and up, one mile on the turf, post time 6:15pm EDT

Selections:  #11 MARCH TO THE ARCH (12/1) is pace-versatile, gets the firmer footing he prefers, and comes to Keeneland for trainer Mark Casse, who always storms into Lexington ready to fire. In a closely contested race, he gets the slim nod. #4 VALID POINT (5/1) is a lightly-raced three-year-old who hasn’t found an easy spot to face older for the first time, but he has yet to do anything wrong. If this Chad Brown trainee takes a reasonable step forward from his last-out win in the Secretariat (G1), he’ll be heard from late.  There isn’t a lot of pace in this race apart from REAL STORY; #3 BANDUA (6/1) probably sits in closest range of the speed.  He’ll have to prove he can cut back effectively to a mile, but he has been consistent enough against classy horses and the pace plays in his favour.

Longshot:  With the lack of pace in this race, #14 REAL STORY (15/1) can outrun his odds.  Expect him to shoot to the lead and take them around as long as he can. Whether he is good enough to hold off the charge of the classy cavalry is the million-dollar question, but especially for spread tickets and exotics, he is the bomber with the best argument behind him.

Race 11: Maiden special weight, two-year-old fillies, six furlongs on the dirt, post time 6:50pm EDT

Selections:  First-time starter #3 RISING SEAS (6/1) is by First Defence, a sneaky-good two-year-old sire, and trainer Ben Colebrook has a positive ROI with debut juveniles over the last five years.  #4 MOM’S PASS (9/2) switches to dirt for the first time; though she’s by Point of Entry, her dam preferred dirt, and her early speed should have her involved start to finish. #12 MOTU (9/2) got a tough wide draw, but ran a useful debut and trainer Ken McPeek is an excellent 23% with juvenile second-time starters in the last five years.

Longshot: #1 PYTHONESS (15/1) was a well-beaten third on debut at Colonial. She can improve second-time out, and the underside of her pedigree suggests that this cut back from seven furlongs to six could help her along. A win may be a lot to ask, but saving ground and running in for exotics would be no surprise.

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