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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


With Friday’s Keeneland opener in the books, a look at Saturday’s immense program in Lexington featuring an All-Graded Stakes Pick 5, three of them Grade 1. The latter triad will be our focus:

G1 FIRST LADY:  An extremely competitive turf mile for fillies and mares with obvious Breeders’ Cup connotations and some of these fillies can go any which way; sprint, mile or legitimate longer route.

We’re taking a closer look at three of them, or should I say four, since Chad Brown has two in here, Uni and early line favorite Rushing Fall, and Aidan O’Brien is shipping over three-year-old Just Wonderful, who is seeking her first G1 after notching a G2 and G3.

Rushing Fall (9-5) will be a tough out, not only because her figures are superior but because a defeat at Keeneland and/or at one mile would be her first in five lifetime starts. In company with Uni (4-1) recently, she has worked steadily for her first start since her runnerup finish in the G1 Diana. But she is not the only mile specialist.

Vasilika (5-1) has had an amazing 20 starts at a mile and just as amazingly has won half of them, with five in-money finishes. She turning back after winning the 9F G2 Mabee, an angle that has worked before for Jerry Hollendorfer, who also is profitable in LAY-3 scenarios. Regular pilot Flavien Prat is aloft.

The horse Vasilika defeated by a nose in the Mabee, Juliet Foxtrot (8-1), is back. She is not as accomplished as many of her rivals but she has been marching forward as she comes into her own at 4.

G1 BREEDERS’ FUTURITY:  Like the Alcibiades, the opening day feature for juvenile fillies, the Breeders’ Futurity is a feast or famine affair; either a strong, widely regarded favorite or a price shot handicappers would find impossible after the official sign is posted.

The top three early line choices, Gouverneur Morris (5-2), Ajaaweed (3-1) and Tip It to Win (3-1) are three colts that could be anything. The latter two have an experience edge over the early line favorite who is poorly drawn.

Gouverneur Morris–a well-named son of Constitution for the man who wrote the preamble of a document that’s presently under siege–was extremely impressive visually. However, that was in slop going 5-1/2 furlongs. A very tough ask from the extreme outside but goes for Todd Pletcher, WinStar Farm et al.

Ajaaweed (3-1) improved big time in his second start, a Belmont Park maiden breaker going a mile, finishing very strongly. Eddie Kenneally (By Your Side, 6-1) is having a big year with his young horses; Maxfield (12-1) earned a good figure breaking maiden on debut at one mile and Enforceable (15-1) has already won going a mile and an eighth.

G1 SHADWELL TURF MILE: It is no accident that the early line favorite for this race that has drawn 16 entrants—only 14 may go—is 5-1. This may be the most vexing mile turf race that has been offered all year and it’s impossible to know how it will play out.

From the inside out we know that Valid Point (5-1) is 3-for-3 at the trip but with no Keeneland experience. Bowies Hero (8-1) is 6-for-14 going a mile but also a Keeneland virgin and developing four year old Admission Office (8-1) is perfect, albeit only 1-for-1 at a mile and at Keeneland.

The wildcard is Euro ship-in Vintager (10-1) via Godolphin, going first-Lasix for Charles Appleby with James Doyle in the boot, aboard for her victory two back. She won her last two in graded company but both were non-wagering events. Ergo, we have no idea about the quality of the rivals he defeated.

TOMORROW: Stakes Spot Plays from NY, KY and SoCal

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