Race 1: 2-3-4-1
The first race of this Friday afternoon card is a field of $100,000 Maiden Claiming fillies going 7 furlongs on the dirt. I like #2 Mine Mine Mine on top in here; I think that the cutback in distance will prove advantageous to this filly who was unable to produce a rally in her most recent race going 1 1/16th. #3 Hua Mulan is a daughter of Malibu Moon and out of an unraced half-sister to G1W Happy Ticket, which makes me believe that the 5 1/2 furlongs of her debut was far too short for her to showcase any talent she may have. Trainer Eddie Kenneally is 28% with second time starters and 42% dropping a horse from Maiden Special Weight to Maiden Claiming company, so I expect to see significant improvement going seven furlongs in this outing. #4 Agent Provocateur is the morning line favorite at 5-2 and probably the horse to beat, although her best efforts have all come on turf, which I believe makes her a difficult horse to rely on. #1 Vamp is bred for the turf, being by Artie Schiller and out of the Mr. Greeley mare Halloween Party, which makes her a half-sister to turf GSW Morticia. She has faded badly in both of her career starts. If she takes to the dirt, she could be a player, but it’s hard to gauge whether that will be the case. Two quick works over the Keeneland surface could be a positive indicator, however.
Race 2: 7-4-2
#7 Electric Avenue is the 5-2 morning line favorite and my top choice in this 6 furlong claiming race. I expect him to go to the front, perhaps stalked by the likes of #5 Twinsanity, and I think he’s simply better than most of the others in here. #4 Class Won tried turf last time out without success and today gets back to what he does best – running one turf on the dirt. This $40,000 claiming level is the lowest this gelded son of Caleb’s Posse has been at since breaking his maiden at the $30,000 level in June of 2017. I believe that dropping into claiming company will help get the best out of this horse; his third-place finish at 7 furlongs three starts back would be good enough to win this, and he has produced that kind of effort on multiple occassions. #2 Beer Pressure is dropping in from even loftier company, having been last seen in the G3 Transylvania two weeks ago for owner Loooch Racing Stables. Prior to that, this son of Silent Name was second in a stakes at Woodbine. This will be his first try on conventional dirt, and while he has shown significant talent – if one discounts his last-place effort at over 117-1 in his most recent start, where he did actually have the lead at the first two points of call before fading to be beaten 27 lengths, he has been worse than second only once, and that was a fourth-place effort, beaten under two lengths in another Woodbine stakes. I do wonder if 6 furlongs may be a bit shorter than his ideal, as his second-place finish in the restricted stake at Woodbine was over 1 1/16th miles. Nevertheless, I think this is a much more reasonable spot and the class relief should do this colt well.
Race 3: 1-2-3
Another maiden event, this one at the distance of “about 7 furlongs” (to be precise, it’s 7 furlongs and 184 feet), is restricted to three-year-olds. I like three horses in here, all of which are between 5-2 and 3-1 on the morning line. The separating factor for me, as far as which I prefer on top, will likely be their price at post time. I believe that #1 New Legend is the most likely winner in this spot. Although bred in Korea, this colt’s pedigree is all American – he is by Menifee and his dam is a half-sister to G3 winner Super Ninety Nine and multiple stakes winner Elusive Horizon. He has been third in all three of his races so far, but I like that Dale Romans is cutting this colt back from a 1 1/16th mile MSW at Gulfstream Park on March 18th, an angle that shows 20% wins from 54 starters. #2 Surely You Jest is stretching out slightly after two six furlong races to begin his career for Dallas Stewart. The addition of blinkers in his last start led to a more promising race in which he made up 3 1/4 lengths in the stretch to finish fourth, beaten just under four lengths. #3 Animus adds blinkers for Dane Kobiskie in this race. His two lifetime Beyers of 70 and 68 are the highest in the field, he is cutting back from 1 1/16th and 1 1/8th mile races. I believe that the combination of changes should lead to Animus being a bit more engaged early with jockey Calvin Borel.
Race 4: 1-5-3
Race 4 is a six furlong claiming $32k event. I will go with #1 Belgain on top in this spot. The four-year-old gelded son of Candy Ride broke his maiden in an off-the-turf maiden race at Delaware Park, and that has been his only dirt start to date. This will be his first time racing for a tag, even though he won a $40,000 allowance race just two starts back on February 9th. The drop to $32k seems reasonable after his lackluster effort against NW2/x company in his most recent start, especially if his connections are looking to get a victory at Keeneland. Trainer Michael Stidham is 26% taking a horse from turf to dirt, and Belgian’s speed figures fit with this competitive group. #5 Prime Issue is the morning line favorite and a legitimate contender. This 8-year-old was claimed off a win for $25,000 two races back by his current connections, and while he was last in the $40k starter at Oaklawn for them on March 4th, he was away awkwardly and squeezed at the start of that race. For a speed horse like this, that was an insurmountable disadvantage. I think he’s the best of the speed, even with another quick horse like #4 Tarpys Zapper just to his inside, so I’m willing to forgive his last race and give him another chance here. #3 Johnny Obvious is my third pick in here. He’s another switching from turf to dirt – an angle that Ron Moquett is 28% with – and has four wins from nine starts on the dirt in his career. He was beaten less than three lengths in his two most recent attempts in $40k optional claiming races at Fair Grounds, and prior to that was seen putting together back-to-back victories in $25k and $30k claiming races at that track. He’s coming out of the same race as my top selection, and actually outfinished Belgian in that race, beaten only three lengths in fifth. If it weren’t for the fact that he’s another horse in this spot with a lot of early speed – and that he’s breaking inside of his main pace rivals – I’d like him a lot more, but at 8-1 on the morning line I think he deserves a look in here.
Race 5: 8-2-7
I like #8 Warrior Inside on top in this 6 1/2 furlong $20k Maiden Claiming race. He’s the quickest horse in here, having set fractions of 22.56 and 46.67 in his last race, in which his rider lost the whip and he got bumped at the 8th pole but still finished less than three lengths behind the winner. He was claimed out of that race by Tim Glyshaw, who is 0-for-10 first off the claim but has a win and two second place finishes in four starters at Keeneland this meet. In his debut, he proved that he can pass horses if necessary, but I don’t think it will be in this race. #2 Catauga County showed a bit of improvement when adding blinkers in his second start at a mile on the turf, but he’s going back to sprinting on the dirt this time around. Trainer Joe Sharp wins at 23% with horses switching from turf to dirt and 27% with horses cutting back to a sprint from a route distance. #7 Just Old School showed no improvement when dropping into maiden claiming company for the first time in his third career start, and actually regressed significantly on Beyer figures, but he has shown some tactical ability in the past, and trainer Larry Jones wins at 20% with horses second off a layoff. This colt’s half-sister, Jenda’s Agenda, will be attempting to win her first graded stakes later on the card, but it seems he didn’t inherit the talent of her or his G1-winning dam, Just Jenda. Even so, I think it’s possible that he shows some improvement here, and while I think the 8 will be tough, I think he’s likely to round out the exotics.
Race 6: 4-8-7
#4 Flat Meadow is my top pick in this 1 1/16th mile turf maiden race for three year old fillies. She was second at nearly 30-1 in her debut going 5 1/2 on the turf at the Fair Grounds, and I think that she’ll love the extra ground, being by War Chant and out of a Street Cry mare. I expect to see her forwardly placed in a race that doesn’t look to have an abundance of speed, and I think she’s much more likely than the 6-1 morning line odds would suggest. #8 Victory Garden has been second in both of her lifetime starts, and this daughter of Arch is out of a Giant’s Causeway sister to Breeders Cup Mile winner Leroidesanimaux. She’s shown some ability thus far for Bill Mott and the 73 Beyer she posted in her most recent race is higher than any other horse in here except for #7 Plans to Prosper. Despite being wide on both turns, Plans to Prosper made up over 8 lengths in her debut to finish third in a 1 1/8 maiden event on the turf at Gulfstream Park on March 11th, posting a 75 Beyer figure. A repeat of that effort should put her right in the fray at the wire, and any improvement will make her very tough. She’s the horse to beat, but the two I prefer have shown more tactical speed, which I think could be the difference-maker in a close matchup. Also worth noting is #3 Screenwriter, a first-time starter for Barbara Minshall. This three-year-old daughter of Ghostzapper is out of a Smart Strike half-sister to multiple G1 winner and Canadian Horse of the Year Arravale. Minshall is 14% with first time starters, and the pedigree on this filly suggests she’ll love the trip. I’m not sure if she’ll be able to best some of the experienced contenders in here, but she could be worth taking a look at in the paddock and post parade and maybe taking a shot on if she looks the part.
Race 7: 5-3-1
#5 Operatic has won her last two races by a combined 16 lengths, and while these wins were against weaker company, this daughter of Big Drama won both emphatically enough to deserve a long look in this race. Her first four starts were uninspiring, but after a 10-month layoff last year, she was second twice before breaking through in her 7th career start with a 4 1/2 length victory against males in her Delta Downs MSW victory, and followed it up with a 11 1/2 length win against claiming $30k company at Fair Grounds. The horse to beat in this race is #3 Auntie’s The One, who was second at this track and level on April 7th. She broke her maiden at Churchill Downs two starts back, on November 15th, and the long layoff between makes me believe she will improve even off her last race. If she does, she will be a tough customer in this spot. #1 Clever Serve was second in $79k Allowance company at Oaklawn Park last time out, and prior to that posted a dominant 8 1/2 length victory over $30k claimers at Churchill Downs. She, too, should improve in her second race since last November for trainer Steve Assmussen.
Race 8: 6-8-4-2
This 1 1/2 allowance race on the turf looks like it’ll be a contentious affair. I like #6 Arch Daddy to win this race for jockey Shaun Bridgmohan and trainer Shug McGaughey. He was unable to get the job done at a mile last time out, but had won his prior two starts at 1 1/16th and 1 3/8th miles. I think he will be forwardly placed, which is advantageous in a route race like this, and should enjoy the extra distance, being by Arch and out of a mare by Seeking the Gold. #8 Deeply Undervalued is the 9-5 morning line favorite, and his name may be perfectly accurate considering how trainer Chad Brown’s runners take wagering action. He could very well win this race and win it impressively – prior to his March 24th race at Gulfstream Park, he was last seen winning the G3 Commonwealth Derby back in September of 2016. The now-five-year-old son of Kitten’s Joy was fourth in his comeback race, but has every right to improve after being bumped at the start and encountering some traffic in that race. He is absolutely the horse to beat, but I don’t think he’s invincible. Bill Mott sends out multiple graded stakes placed #4 Patterson Cross, who was disappointing in the G2 Mac Diarmida in his most recent start but was also making his first appearance in 11 months. With the exception of his latest effort, he hadn’t been defeated more than a length in his four starts since adding blinkers in December of 2016. If he can reproduce his early 2017 form, he is a major player in this race. #2 Patrick’s Day is another horse I expect to show some tactical speed, but he’s 0-for-3 at the distance and was no factor in the 1 1/2 race that shows on the form, so I’m inclined to think this may be a bit longer than this son of Harlan’s Holiday wants to run. If he can go the distance, though, I think he will get a great tactical trip.
Race 9: 11-9-7
The feature race today is the Grade 3 Hillard Lyons Doubledogdare Stakes at 1 1/16th miles for fillies and mares. My top selection will be #11 Well Humored, whose only loss in four lifetime starts came on the turf in the Winter Memories Stakes at Aqueduct last November. She was last seen winning the Wayward Lass Stakes at this distance at Tampa Bay Downs, and her 93 Beyer is the best of any horse in the field except for Tapa Tapa Tapa, who was second in that race as the favorite but posted a 102 Beyer in an optional claiming race at Tampa in the last race of her 3-year-old season. A puzzling 6th place effort in the G3 Royal Delta since makes Tapa Tapa Tapa a tough read in here. #9 Valadorna was off the board for the first time in her career when finishing 6th in the G3 Houston Ladies Classic on January 28th, but the 2016 Breeders Cup Juvenile Fillies runner-up broke her maiden at Keeneland and has been such a consistent performer that I have no problem forgiving that race and playing her here after a brief freshening. She’s coming into this race off three sharp works, including a bullet 4f in :47 at Keeneland on April 1st. I expect trainer Mark Casse to have her ready to run at her best today, and her best can absolutely win this. #7 Jenda’s Agenda was never headed in the first two races of her career, including a Laurel Park stakes race in her second start, then was off for 11 months before returning with a second-place finish at 6 furlongs on February 1st. She followed that up with a gate-to-wire score in an allowance race at Oaklawn and is set to make her graded stakes debut here. I don’t think we’ve seen the best of this Larry Jones homebred daughter of Proud Citizen, and she’s impossible to count out as a result.
Race 10: 7-11-8-4
Another 1 1/16th maiden race on the turf will close out the Friday card at Keeneland. #7 City Day is my top selection in here, as the 78 Beyer she got when adding Lasix and trying turf for the first time in her second career start is over 10 points higher than anyone else in the field. The $200k yearling purchase goes for trainer Christophe Clement and jockey Joel Rosario, who are striking at a 23% rate together over the last year. She’s the 5-2 morning line favorite. #11 Cloak of Secrecy is the horse I think has the best chance of beating her. She’s posted a 67 Beyer in both of her turf efforts, and shows an April 6th work in 48.4 over the Keeneland track, which I think suggests that she’s ready to roll for trainer Brendan Walsh. #8 Maybe Wicked is a full sister to graded stakes winner Moneysoncharlotte and multiple stakes winner Mizzcantbewrong. She also ran a 67 Beyer in her only career start, a solid runner-up effort at a mile on the turf at Fair Grounds. Brendan Walsh is 22% with second-time starters, and this filly should be forwardly placed with Florent Geroux. If you’re looking for a longshot to use in exotics, #4 Brand New Game is 15-1 on the morning line and should be the horse to get the lead in here. She hasn’t raced since August of 2017, but her two six furlong turf starts at Woodbine indicate that she has a lot of early foot,. Being by First Samurai, I think there’s a chance that, if she’s able to relax a bit more going a route of ground, she sticks around to get a piece of the purse at a big number for trainer Barbara Minshall, owner Bruce Lunsford, and jockey Brian Hernandez Jr (the same connections as first time starter Screenwriter in the 6th race). This filly is a half-sister to multiple G1 winner and Canadian Horse of the Year Arravale, as well as stakes winner Hollywood Hideaway and stakes placed Hollywood Critic, so her pedigree suggests potential talent, especially routing on the turf. I know I’ll have $2 across the board on her, just in case.