Sunday plays: Betting Breeders' Cup preps at Belmont, Keeneland

Sunday plays: Betting Breeders' Cup preps at Belmont, Keeneland
Photo: Janet Garaguso/NYRA

Five “win and you’re in” Breeders’ Cup prep races remain. Four of the five races will run Sunday, with three of the four races at Keeneland and one at Belmont Park. At Keeneland, the most anticipated race is the Grade 1, $500,000 Spinster Stakes for dirt fillies and mares at nine furlongs.

Division leader Letruska highlights the Spinster, as she attempts to win her fifth race in a row dating back to the Apple Blossom Handicap (G1).

The other three qualifiers may offer more value for bettors. Here are thoughts and selections covering those four Breeders’ Cup prep races.

Belmont Race 5: $150,000 Futurity Stakes (G3)

According to TimeformUS Pace Projector, a fast pace is brewing.

On paper, Slipstream is likely to fall into a closer role and benefit from the fast pace. Even though this colt led from start to finish Sept. 18 at Belmont when breaking his maiden by 5¼ lengths at seven furlongs, he also set a slow pace at the longer distance. Slipstream is not quick enough to lead at six furlongs because the pace is usually faster.

Nevertheless, the 5¼-length winning margin shows Slipstream's talent. He only needs to carry that form with him when cutting back and converting to a stalker or mid-pack position. Slipstream did not close too well June 20 when running mildly for fifth in a six-furlong race, but he deserves a pass for the effort as a horse making his career debut.   

Plus, the excellent Joel Rosario takes the call for trainer Christophe Clement.

Slipstream looks like the best option to rally off the pace.

Longer multi-race wager players might also use the two Wesley Ward-trained fillies Chi Town Lady and Poppy Flower. The former won the Bolton Landing Stakes in her most recent start, while the latter was third in the Ainsworth Stakes over the European-style Kentucky Downs track.

Top selection: No. 4 Slipstream (4-1)

Contenders: No. 5 Chi Town Lady (2-1), No. 8 Poppy Flower (5/2)

Suggested plays

Win/place: 4

Keeneland Race 8: $200,000 Indian Summer Stakes

Difficult race.

The rail entry Sonnyisnotsofunny gets the nod due to his 8¾-length maiden win at Ellis Park. The downside is that his maiden romp came over dirt. Can he run on turf? Unfortunately, his pedigree offers little clues on grass potential. The dam Never Quicker only had one turf attempt and ran third in a claiming race at Monmouth Park, although that little note might not mean anything.

On the plus side, jockey Luis Saez is likely to put this colt in a good position out of a gate, and trainer Michael Maker knows how to spot a turf horse.

Averly Jane also lacks a turf start for trainer Wesley Ward. Regardless, this filly deserves respect based on her undefeated 3-for-3 record, including a 7¼-length win in the off-the-turf Skidmore Stakes at Saratoga on Aug. 20.

Pure Panic does show turf experience, although his most recent try shows him fading to ninth in the one-mile Nownownow Stakes at Monmouth. He broke his maiden in a 5½-furlong turf sprint though and figures to appreciate the cutback to the same distance in this spot.

Bonus Appreciation closed for fourth in the Juvenile Sprint Stakes at Kentucky Downs. If a fast pace occurs, he can pick off horses late.

Top selection: No. 1 Sonnyisnotsofunny (5-1)

Contender: No. 7 Averly Jane (4/5)

Live long shots: No. 4 Pure Panic (15-1), No. 6 Bonus Appreciation (12-1)

Suggested plays

Win: 1

Exacta wheel: 1 / 4,6

Use 1,4,6,7 in longer multi-race wagers. 

Keeneland Race 9: $500,000 Spinster Stakes (G1)

Letruska carries a four-race win streak into this race. Those wins include the Apple Blossom Handicap (G1), Ogden Phipps Stakes (G1), Fleur de Lis Stakes (G2) and Personal Ensign Stakes (G1). In the Personal Ensign, she took on multiple waves of challengers and held on.

The discussion for the win spot ends with Letruska.

Bettors can always skip this race. If it must be played though, then Dunbar Road and Crystal Ball are logical contenders for second. The former runner came to life in the Personal Ensign with a close fourth-place finish. She only lost to Letruska by ¾ of a length. The latter filly exits a second to Shedaresthedevil in the Locust Grove Stakes (G3) at Churchill Downs.

Town Avenger also might deserve a look for second or third based on her dominating win in a Sept. 19 Churchill Downs allowance race over slop. The concern is that she needs slop to perform her best on dirt. 

Top selection: No. 4 Letruska (4/5)

Use underneath: No. 1 Dunbar Road (5-1), No. 6 Crystal Ball (5-1)

Live long shot (underneath): No. 3 Town Avenger (20-1)

Keeneland Race 10: $200,000 Bourbon Stakes (G2)

Everyone loves challenging turf races.

Rocket One exits a nice maiden win at Kentucky Downs on Sept. 5, where he made up 12 lengths to win by 1½ lengths. Given the fast pace lined up and his cozy draw in Post 5, this is a top contender in a wide open betting race.

Red Danger shows an undefeated 2-for-2 record on turf, including a win in the Juvenile Sprint Stakes at Kentucky Downs. Can he route? For what it is worth, the third dam Dancinginmydreams is a full sister to Heavenly Prize, a dirt router who won $1.8 million in an epic career from 1993-96.

Play Action Pass faded to third in the Juvenile Mile Stakes at Kentucky Downs. He does show an excuse though. Watching the replay, he went wide into the lane and the lack of good cornering likely cost him a few lengths.  

Tiz the Bomb won the Juvenile Mile Stakes. He was the closer who took advantage of the inside while Play Action Pass went wide. Even with that point in mind, he still deserves consideration in case the early pace becomes heated.

Top selection: No. 5 Rocket One (8-1)

Contenders: No. 10 Red Danger (5-1), No. 12 Tiz the Bomb (3-1)

Live long shot: No. 14 Play Action Pass (10-1)

Suggested plays

Win/place: 5

Meet Reinier Macatangay

My first time at the racetrack came as a 5-year-old kid at Santa Anita Park. For most of my younger life, that was the only track I attended other the occasional visit to Hollywood Park. 

Years later, after graduating California State University, Stanislaus with an English MA, I began writing for Lady and the Track. From late 2014-2016, my articles were seen on a weekly basis and covered handicapping, interviews with well-known racing personalities, fashion and more. 

The handicapping style I use concentrates on pace analysis. Some horses are compromised by the pace. Others are helped. Handicappers just starting out cannot easily see how pace affects the finish, so with this blog, I hope to help those unsure of how to apply pace into their handicapping and post-race analysis. 

On an unrelated note, I enjoy video games and attending anime or comic-book conventions. I am currently based in Kentucky, but spend a lot of time traveling between there and California.

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