HALLANDALE BEACH, FL, April 14, 2022 — I love mile races. All kinds; turf, dirt, harness racing on one-mile ovals, all of it. If I had to choose a favorite, it would be a one turn mile on dirt; the Metropolitan Handicap is the quintessential example.
But love top-class turf miles, too, races such as Friday’s Maker’s Mark Mile at Keeneland. Of course, the Breeders’ Cup Mile is the best of its kind run on this side of the Atlantic. But that’s for another day.
The Maker’s Mark, with its Grade 1 status and $600,000 pot, is the top draw for national-status horsemen this time of year.
What makes Saturday’s renewal so fascinating [read difficult] is that seven of the 11 entered overnight are making their seasonal debuts; two others are one-race removed, the most recent being early February.
What makes this event particularly vexing is that many of the seven have yet to demonstrate that they can win first time off an extended break, especially at the Grade 1 level.
And perhaps many are just using this as long range reconnaissance mission for November’s Breeders’ Cup Championships.
Here’s the skinny on Saturday’s field, listed in post order with early line odds:
1-IN LOVE (10-1) – A true Horse for Course, winning both starts Keeneland turf starts including the G1 Shadwell Turf Mile. Been training steadily since February but is 0-for-2 in recent seasonal debuts, albeit one was on dirt. Does like cut in the ground, something he likely will get here.
2-SHIRL’S SPEIGHT (50-1) – As the HRI Faithful know, we love Tampa Bay turf, but there is world of difference between a G3 mile and a sixteenth there here and one mile at Keeneland. Figures don’t match up.
3-ATONE (12-1) – Has gotten faster with the barn change to Maker (sound familiar?) and this gelded five-year-old might get faster still with the addition of blinkers Saturday. Competitive figures, first-time Tyler, and 3-for-4 at the trip. [good early line value]
4-MASEN (5-1) – Juddmonte import is first-time U.S. and first-time Chad. Gelded four-year-old should improve with newly found maturity. Seven furlong specialist over there fits neatly at one mile state-side. Teaming with Prat makes sense given the recent Zandon hookup. Won on debut but was drubbed in lone Group 1. [given the unknowns, early line underlay]
5-IVAR (6-1) – Uncoupled Paulo Lobo mate of In Love, 2020 G1 Shadwell Mile winner has lots of spacing gaps on his form but steadily has kept Grade 1 company since and been very competitive. Excellent third from #12 slip in BC Mile at Del Mar, but yet to win fresh on this continent. Six published works enough?
6-SMOOTH LIKE STRAIT (2-1) – Demonstrably the class given his (19) 7-7-2 slate including G1 Shoemaker. He loves the trip (10) 4-5-0, runs well fresh, but yet to finish first. In top hands in the morning and afternoons he’s a tricky choice, especially as the likely ante post favorite.
7-COUNT AGAIN (5-1) – Things to like: Already has two wins this year, including G1 Kilroe, four subsequent works since with a recent bullet. Won lone KEE start, is 4-for-6 at the trip, loses Prat but adds Rosario. [value at early line odds].
8-SOMELIKEITHOTBROWN (12-1) – Who doesn’t, especially in KY? Winless at KEE and at the trip but damn if he doesn’t try hard all the time. Probably more G2 than G1 at this trip but G1 worthy going a tad farther.
9-SET PIECE (8-1) – Win machine for the ubiquitous Brad Cox. Has won fresh, unlucky when second in G1 Fourstardave at the Spa last year, Flo in the boot, per usual. Good weight pull for this, worked a bullet and near bullets. Uncoupled Juddmonte won’t be short but is he up to this? May be worth finding out if early line holds.
10- MIRA MISSION (20-1) – Got good as a late season three-year-old and won G3 Canadian Turf going 1-1/16 miles at Gulfstream. Has worked well since, but this is a completely different ballgame.
11-PUBLIC SECTOR (8-1) – A bad fit on figures, but not so fast my handicapping friend. Chad doesn’t fire blanks and normally is not ambitious placing horses, but he must like the newly turned four-year-old. Ended 2021 winning three of last four and unlucky, beaten 1-1/2 lengths in G1 Hollywood Derby. Nine works since mid-FEB, Irad comes with the package. Puncher’s chance given four-year-old maturity.
PLENTY OF GRACE STAKES Race 4
Trainer intent a little hard to read here as Saturday’s mile marks the return of graded stakes talent getting their season underway and the trainers of the top horses can all get them ready to roll fresh. We’re going to class it out here:
MOST PROBABLE WINNER: Technical Analysis (4-5)
WIN VALUE PLAY: None
EXOTICA: Exacta key box Technical Analysis with better than last suggests Alms (3-1) and purposeful worker Plum Ali (7-2)—extra ticket with Technical Analysis first. Also, trifecta key, Technical Analysis with remaining fillies second and third.
G3 COUNT FLEET STAKES Race 11
In all likelihood, the track will be wet in Hot Springs. Ignore Jackie’s Warrior’s (6-5) sloppy track effort going long as a three year old here last year—he’s 0-for-2 rounding two turns. Refer to his sloppy sprint win at Saratoga, winning the G2 Amsterdam by 7-1/4 lengths. His Thoro-Graph figures tower over the rest.
Another newly turned four year old, late runner Bob’s Edge (2-1), is the one to fear. He has fast races on his card that puts him in this but will need the favorite to run a ‘B’ race—and that still might not do it. Mojo Man (8-1) has run himself into top form, improving for Santana in his last two.
MOST PROBABLE WINNER: Jackie’s Warrior (6-5)
WIN VALUE PLAY: None
EXOTICA: Exacta key box Jackie’s Warrior with his two rivals above, extra ticket with ‘Jackie’ first. Trifecta Key Jackie’s Warrior first with his two rivals above and adding Chipofftheoldblock (8-1) to the Tri mix.
WEBER CITY MISS Race 6
A prep for the Black-Eyed Susan on the Preakness undercard and the parade of favorites on today’s simulcast menu should continue with Luna Belle (3-5), a 4-time surface winner with figures that absolutely layover—hence the early line. No, she’s never been around two turns but has enough bottom side pedigree that will help negotiate the added trip.
But it gets interesting after that as three of the remaining five look interesting. Khuluk (9-2) is suited by nature and nurture for the stretch to two turns but exits four career runs in one-turn miles; add a sharp half-mile and a switch to Feargal Lynch, a 36% jockey-trainer hookup.
Click to Confirm (10-1) has enough pace to maintain contact early and won her lone start at the distance. Zawish (12-1) goes first-Lasix, ships in for Helen Pitts, a profitable 30% in that scenario, has been prepping on the synth for this and won her lone dirt start on debut.
MOST PROBABLE WINNER: Luna Belle (3-5)
EARLY LINE VALUE: Taking Zawish to win at 10-1 or greater
EXOTICA: Exacta key-box Luna Belle with her three rivals here. Trifecta Key Luna Belle over her three rivals here. Exacta Box Luna Belle and Zawish
FEDERICO TESIO STAKES Race 9
Of the four races we’ve researched so far, this nine furlongs clearly is the most competitive. We’ve narrowed down to three for the majors; Vine Jet (6-1), Shake Em Loose (3-1) and Joe (5-2).
While Shake Em Up beat Joe in the Private Terms, the latter benefits from a six-pound weight pull today and is the stoutest bred of the three and will appreciate the added ground. Taking him to reverse.
WIN VALUE PLAY: Betting Joe to win at 2-1 or greater
EXOTICA: Three-horse exacta box Vine Jet, Shake Em Up, and Joe. Trifecta Key-Wheel Joe first and second with Vine Jet and Shake Em Up, completing the play with Mr. Jefferson (15-1), Smarten Up (9-2) and Secret Alliance. Superfecta Key Joe over the five rivals listed above.
KEENELAND RACE COURSE
G3 LEXINGTON STAKES Race 9
Absolutely the last, final end to a very entertaining Derby Trial. And what a good group of horses they are. Like most, thus far I’m in two major camps: Epicenter or Zandon. Then, upon further review… But that’s for another day.
Today’s Lexington Stakes will either punch a ticket or enable the winner to take down the lion’s share of a $400,000 pot. Not a bad deal either way.
In today’s case, familiarity breeds confidence, not contempt. In Due Time is the most probable winner because he’s fast enough and acquitted himself very well in the roughhouse Fountain of Youth. The spacing, the draw, the rider and trainer ore all good.
VALUE WIN PLAY: In Due Time (3-1) to win at 5-2 or greater
EXOTICA: Exacta Key Box In Due Time with DWL quick turnaround Ethereal Road (10-1), improving early-line overlay Strava (20-1), and tough-tripping Dash Attack (10-1) who attracts Prat today. Extra ticket with In Due Time first.
Superfecta Key Wheel In Due Time, with his rivals above second, third and fourth, and working Cox-trained Tawny Port (5-2), graded winner Call Me Midnight (6-1) and fast working We Shall See (15-1) into the mix with the exacta horses named second, third and fourth thusly: *2 / 4.8.10 / 4.8.10 / 4.8.10. *2 / 4.8.10 /3.9.11 / 4.8.10 / 4.8.10. *2 / 4.8.10 / 4.8.10/ 3.9.11. *2 / 3.9.11 / 4.8.10 / 4.8.10.
G1 JENNY WILEY Race 10
This being a Grade 1, and this being a Grade 1 for fillies, Chad Brown has himself to beat. Regal Glory (1-1) and Shantisara (6-5) are both G1 winners, the latter a winner on this course last fall. But anyone who saw the turn of foot displayed by Regal Glory in her Gulfstream comebacker, would not dare try to beat her. I did, and I won’t
MOST PROBABLE WINNER: Regal Glory
EXOTICA: Exacta and trifecta wheel Regal Glory, Shantisara first, with each other and including Navratilova (8-1) second and third. Extra ticket with Regal Glory keyed over the other two fillies.
Per usual, all exotica wagers recommended are at minimums available. Straight wagers are $2 units
COOLEST JOCKEY CAM SHOT EVER?
(Courtesy of Amy Gregory, who shared Keeneland’s Facebook post of Friday’s dramatic Maker’s Mark Mile)