Keeneland Pick 4 (4/9)

7- Commonwealth, 7f, 3:05 CST

This is a strange field, as old Triple Crown names such as MYLUTE, DEPARTING, and FAR RIGHT enter attempting extreme cutbacks. CLEARLY NOW seems to alternate good races with horrendous ones and would be due for the former based on that pattern, but he’s getting a bit long in the tooth and hasn’t won a 7f or a graded race since July 2014. VIVA MAJORCA, while 2/3 lifetime at the distance, is a deep closer who isn’t likely to see the type of meltdown he needs to be a factor. So, having eliminated half the field, suffice to say that the feeling here is that being near the lead should be a good place to be in this race. READY FOR RYE shows the best career Beyer and Brisnet figure at the distance from last year’s Swale win (109, 110 respectively). After spending the latter half of last year on the turf, he ran a respectable 3rd over the dirt to current division leader XY Jet in his 2016 debut at 6.5f, and is eligible to improve on that effort in his second off the lay. BARBADOS actually shows a closing win at 6f over the top choice from last year, and is the type of colt that should benefit from some added ground here. He came away with a foot abcess after the Breeders’ Cup, so toss that effort and look back at the race before that, where he finished a closing 2nd beaten just 1.75 by eventual Sprint champion Runhappy over a sloppy track. He appears the horse for the course, showing a first and second in three starts at Keeneland. HOLY BOSS enters off a long layoff since the Breeders’ Cup, where he accounted himself well enough, finishing 4th. His speed figures make him highly competitive here, but it’s worth noting that he has never won at a distance this long, and may need this race off the layoff. However, considering he’s been working like a maniac (:58.3 5f bullet on March 24th) and is the only other entrant besides the top selection to have won on the Grade II level, a defensive use here seems appropriate to start the sequence. There is a perplexing decision to be made regarding AMI’S FLATTER, who shows a field high 2016 Beyer of 105 at this distance in an allowance race win. That figure sticks out like a sore thumb on his form line, and came over a wet track, but the only other time he has ever run at this distance, he broke his maiden over polytrack. He’s never won a race above the allowance level, but spent time on the Triple Crown Trail last year racing at longer distances, so what if 7f is his wheelhouse? He doesn’t appear to hold a tactical advantage in terms of speed, but his Bris Prime Power number is competitive enough to include him at these odds to find out if that figure is to be believed, and he does enter off a sharp 4f work. Undefeated NO HIDING PLACE should be near the lead and offers upside, but takes a big step up in class stretching out off only three career starts, two of them over polytrack.

Picks:

1) Ready For Rye 7-2

2) Barbados 6-1

3) Holy Boss 3-1

4) Ami’s Flatter 10-1

8- Shakertown, 5.5f Turf, 3:42

Turf sprints are far from our forte, but this is a fine field assembled inside of a must-play Pick 4, so we have no choice but to give it a shot. As sprint races often do, this one shapes up as having a lot of speed, with 8 of the 12 entrants having shown a preference to race on or near the lead. This points directly to UNDRAFTED, who is the only legitimate closer in the field. While this distance may still be a touch short of his preference (he is 0/4 lifetime at 5.5f), he may just get the right setup against a field he holds an extreme class edge over, as his Bris Prime Power Rating is 12 points higher than the next best runner, which is the largest differential in this sequence. He ran on well to finish 3rd in last year’s edition of this race after an identical pattern, having been laid off since a hard closing 5th at this distance in the Breeders’ Cup. We’ll give him a shot to turn the tables on last year’s winner SOMETHING EXTRA, while still giving a long hard look to that one. The conclusion to his 2015 season was a disaster, as he finished 13th in the Breeders’ Cup and 10th in an off-the-turf running of the Woodford, beaten a combined 42 lengths in those races. However, he won last year’s race after a 10th place finish in the Breeders’ Cup and layoff, so maybe he is simply the type of horse that needs a break to recharge his batteries. Eight year old son of Indian Charlie has been working lights out, having posted three bullets over the last month as he prepares for this. ROCKET HEAT is intriguing from a price standpoint as his form lines arguably don’t tell the whole story. His only two off the board finishes in his last ten races have come over the dirt, and he gets the proper surface switch here. He’s also a speedy sort that has had trouble carrying it beyond 6f, so the full furlong cutback here should be beneficial. He shows the strongest Bris average E1 and Early Pace Last Race figures, so if our assessment of the pace is incorrect, he appears a logical hedge at a nice price to take them a long way on the front end. POWER ALERT is a logical contender as well, having beaten the top two choices a year ago at Churchill at a shorter distance, but gets buried on the rail here inside a lot of speed. It’s also worth noting that Australian has never won at this distance in America and has been off the board in his last two attempts at beyond 5f (he was 4th here last year). Even in his 5f races, he has given up ground in the stretch in his last three starts, and it seems to be a pretty big leap of faith to believe he can hang on for the win in this spot with an added half furlong. There’s a bit of a “wise-guy” feel for SUMMATION TIME, who just missed last time out, closing hard at 5f to lose to the classy Amelia’s Wild Ride. His speed figures are just a touch behind some of these though, and we find it hard to use him and not use BYE BYE BERNIE and THE GREAT WAR, who he split three starts back at 6f in a blanket finish, so we will avoid all three. In a race where many will spread their multi-race tickets deep, we will stick to the best closer and the best speed horse, and hope the outcome doesn’t fall in between.

Picks:

1) Undrafted 5-2

2) Rocket Heat 20-1

3) Something Extra 6-1

4) Power Alert 3-1

9- Madison, 7f, 4:20

A great field lines up for this event, including the winners of both the Breeders’ Cup Distaff and Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint last fall over this same course. The Sprint race was run at this same distance, although the hot early pace set by La Verdad and Taris in that race does not figure to materialize here, and for that reason, we will look towards runners that may be forwardly placed in this race. The only one that shows a triple digit Bris average E1 number is DANCING HOUSE, and she also shows the highest Early Pace Last Race figure as well. This five year old daughter of Tapit took a step forward in her last, winning the Grade 2 Barbara Fritchie at this distance, posting a 95 Beyer, which is equal to last year’s Breeders’ Cup winning figure in this division. She has a bit of a “now horse” feel to her, as it bears mention that she’s the only entrant to win at this distance in 2016. She also has a win over this course from last year. SUNDAY RULES is another that figures to be on or near the lead early, and she’s won 8 of her 9 career races as she now steps into graded company for the first time. She did defeat males when winning her last, the 6f California Cup Sprint Stakes, and posted a highly competitive 96 Beyer. She will stretch out to 7f for the first time, otherwise she may have been the top selection, as she has been working lights out, including a bullet :59.0 5f move at Santa Anita on March 29th that was the fastest of 28 that day. Breeders’ Cup Distaff winner STOPCHARGINGMARIA is the morning line favorite and cuts back in distance to make her season debut here, and one has to wonder whether she will be fully cranked for this. She deserves respect after finishing 2nd in last year’s edition in the same situation, but the concern is she may not have enough speed to stay in touch with the leaders at a distance a bit shorter than her preference. Sprint winner WAVELL AVENUE stands every chance to duplicate that effort over the same course, but may find the race shape less ideal and at a third of those odds, we are happy to have used her that day but will look for more value here. Another Distaffer that cuts back here is SHEER DRAMA, who was 4th at the Breeders’ Cup following a highly successful 2015 campaign, but her presence here makes even less sense than the favorite. If she wins, our tickets will be dead. With so many recognizable names running off long layoffs, this looks like a great spot to take a shot on value, and we will go only two deep here in multi-race wagers.

Picks:

1) Dancing House 8-1

2) Sunday Rules 8-1

3) Stopchargingmaria 7-2

4) Wavell Avenue 9-2

10- Blue Grass Stakes, 9f, 5:00

An overflowing field of 16 three year olds is entered for this event. Our general opinion any time that this happens is that the pace will be hotter than expected, but there’s reason to believe that here anyway, as a lot of “need the lead” types are signed on. For that reason, we will look to fill out the trifecta with closers. BRODY’S CAUSE looks most appealing. He threw in a real clunker of an effort in his 2016 debut when 7th in the Tampa Bay Derby, never improving position. However, that was his first race off a six month layoff, and it’s possible he needed the race. His recent workouts seem to indicate that he is back in form, and the connections are throwing a hail mary here by running him as he will need to have a strong showing in order to make it to the gate on the first Saturday in May. He’s run well over the Keeneland surface, winning the Breeders’ Futurity last October and then finishing a closing 3rd to Nyquist in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, so any return to that sort of form puts him right back in the mix. If you can bring yourself to throw out his race at Tampa, the pace here certainly sets up for him, and he should benefit from the added distance. MY MAN SAM drew a wide post, but since he figures to drop back anyway, shouldn’t be affected too badly by this. He was closing hard in his last, an 8.5f optional claiming race, and made up 3.5 lengths in the stretch on winner Matt King Cole and posted a 95 Beyer in only his third career start, and is actually the only horse in the field to pair 90+ Beyers. Bettors will have the advantage of weighing the form of that race, as Matt King Cole will take on a talented group in the Wood Memorial about 30 minutes prior to this race. CHERRY WINE deserves another chance after a disappointing 4th place finish last out in the Rebel. He showed flashes of brilliance when pulling away to break his maiden at 8.5f and when winning his 2016 debut at Gulfstream at that same distance. He encountered some traffic trouble in the Rebel but was still gaining ground through the finish, and with a better trip saving ground near the rail in combination with the added distance, he could surely make an impact. Jockey Corey Lanerie opted to retain his mount on Cherry Wine rather than ride Brody’s Cause, for whatever that’s worth. Favored ZULU strangely gets blinkers here, which should only add to the pace. His 2nd place finish to Mohaymen in the Fountain of Youth doesn’t look as good as it once did. While talented, his lack of experience in a field this large and speedy is cause for concern at such short odds, and while it would certainly be no surprise if he took a step forward, we will look for better value. Keeping him out of the exacta may be the key for a large payoff in verticals, and keeping him off the top line in horizontals is worth the risk. DONEGAL MOON shows the field high Beyer of 99 from an 8f allowance win at Parx. That number looks a bit fishy relative to his prior form though, and running from the rail may force him into a pace duel early as he takes a large jump in class. LAOBAN, CARDS OF STONE, PINSON and TWIZZ are all one-dimensional speed types that figure to have a say in this race’s shape but less of one in its conclusion.

Picks:

1) Brody’s Cause 4-1

2) My Man Sam 10-1

3) Cherry Wine 12-1

4) Zulu 5-2

‎PICK 4 PLAY:

Ready For Rye, Barbados, Holy Boss, Ami’s Flatter/

Undrafted, Rocket Heat/

Dancing House, Sunday Rules/

Brody’s Cause, My Man Sam, Cherry Wine

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