It may only a last a little over three weeks, but what the Keeneland fall meet lacks for in length, it more than makes up for with quality. Any doubts on that have been put immediately to bed, as the landmark, Lexington racecourse delivers nine graded stakes over the three-day opening weekend, starting tomorrow. Kicking it all off will be the 160th edition of America’s oldest race, the Stoll Keenon and Ogden Phoenix Stakes. Let’s take a closer look at the seven graded stakes carded for Friday and Saturday.
Friday – Grade 3 Stoll Keenon and Ogden Phoenix Stakes
As one of the last preps for the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, the Phoenix gives those horses partial to Keeneland’s Polytrack surface a chance to shine before a likely foray back to dirt. While the return from retirement of Aikenite should gain much of the pre-race chatter, it is the fleet footed Doctor Chit who is the horse to beat. Coming off a strong performance in the Grade 1 King’s Bishop, the son of War Front boasts an undefeated record over synthetics, including a big win at Keeneland. If he can sit just off the blazing speed of Sum of the Parts early, he should prove tough to handle in here. One horse I will also be using in the exotics is 50-1 morning line shot, Cajun Breeze, who as a son of Congrats, may appreciate his first try on Polytrack.
Friday – Grade 1 Darley Alcibiades Stakes
Your guess is as good as mine in this race that has drawn an overflow field of 14 with 2 additional also eligible, but will be interesting to see how the bargain basement filly, Rose to Gold, does in her first start away from Calder. Purchased for a whopping $1,400 as a yearling, the daughter of Friend’s Lake has won both of her starts (a pair of two-turn stakes) by 13 lengths. The competition will move way up tomorrow, but she may just be the real deal.
Saturday – Grade 3 Woodford Stakes
Some of the best turf sprinters in North America will let the fur fly in this 5 ½ furlong grass affair. Bridgetown figures to be tough in here, but on the other hand has burned a lot of cash as a heavy favorite this year. Chief among his competition include Steve Asmussen’s Great Mills, and that grand old eight-year-old gelding, Chamberlain Bridge, who appears to be rounding back into top form and is my top pick to mow them all down late.
Saturday – Grade 2 Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes
Two words: Groupie Doll. Not only do I consider her the best female sprinter in the land, but I believe she is one of the best horses in America, period. Saturday’s race should be little more than further proof of that, and a good race to single in multi-race wagers.
Saturday – Grade 1 First Lady Stakes
This is an interesting one-mile turf affair for the fairer set that reunites three strong fillies that were defeated by Zagora last time in Hungry Island, Summer Soiree, and Tapitsfly, as well as, the multiple stakes winner Daisy Devine. The quartet looks to be evenly matched on paper, as evidenced by all four falling into the 2-1 –to- 3-1 range on the morning line. Hungry Island may hold the tactical advantage as the other three all have a fair amount of speed, but I am of the belief that Summer Soiree still has the potential to be a rather special turf horse. I’m not sure if she is going to try to lead them every step of the way, but I expect her to fire a big shot, second start off the layoff.
Saturday – Grade 1 Dixiana Breeders’ Futurity Stakes
If I thought the Alcibiades was wide-open, then what can I say about the male counterpart. Throwing anyone of them out in this overflow field is risky. Saying that I give a good chance to less than nine of them would be a short change. In the end, I will look for some value, and my favorite long shot in the field is the Dale Romans trained, Craving Carats. Owned in part by Donegal Racing, the son of Street Sense is bred to handle Polytrack, and I really liked his turf form at Saratoga, beating possible race favorite, Balance the Books, two starts back, before running into an absolute nightmare trip in the With Anticipation Stakes. At 15 or 20-1, I believe he offers some serious value.
Saturday – Grade 1 Shadwell Turf Mile Stakes
Wise Dan is the best middle distance horse we have in America. I really have little doubt of that. If he runs his race on Saturday, he will win. Having said that, this race has come up very strong as usual, and an upset is not out of the question. Besides the obvious candidates, one I really like is Doubles Partner, who I thought was better than ever this spring, but extremely unlucky. Freshened since Derby Day, this five-year-old son of Rock Hard Ten ran into tough racing luck, with zero pace in the Turf Classic at Churchill Downs, and before that, he I believe he would have won the Grade 1 Maker’s 46 Mile right here at Keeneland if had any racing room at all. If Wise Dan falters, Doubles Partner could take it all home at juicier odds than the 6-1 morning line suggests.