04/18/2008 8:52PM

Keeneland Part Deux


The Keeneland backyard area is a tiny gem.  Subtle ivy strands lazily creep towards the roof of the attractive brick grandstand.  A huge Saratoga-like paddock, where horses are saddled around trees, is adjoined by a nice walking ring.  Here, fans can get up close and personal with their favorite equine athletes as well as their favorite jockeys.  At Keeneland, the riders don't need security to lead them to and from the paddock.  Although the Jockeys Quarters are less than a stone's throw from the walking ring, they walk among us, giants among men.  It wasn't uncommon to see Javier Castellano posing for pictures in between races, and Robbie Albarado and other riders people-watched from nearby benches when they didn't have mounts.  An artist put oils to canvas outside of the walking ring in between chats with delighted racegoers.

The polytrack is, well, artificial.  I noticed the sponginess of the surface when I walked the Woodbine main track last year.  You could tell by looking at the Keeneland surface that there's some bounce to the polytrack.

It was a pleasant crowd on a perfect day in the Blue Grass.  If you're going to go to Keeneland, you must get there early.  Hours before post time, the enthusiastic throng situated on the track apron eagerly pulled their benches closer to the action.  It is necessary to do so as the apron is jam-packed during racing, and a late arrival has virtually no chance of getting a good view.  Bringing a lawn chair might be a good idea as seating is somewhat limited around the walking ring and paddock, and nonexistent on the apron once the racing day begins.

Santa Anita is shadowed by the majestic San Gabriel Mountains, but Keeneland boasts gentle sloping hills on its horizon. 

Horseplayers unaccustomed to being treated like humans will be pleasantly surprised by the friendly and accommodating staff.  The grounds are pristine, and the lack of litter reminded me of my trip to Sandown last year.

The fans love their racing.  Huge cheers emanate from the crowd during the middle of a claiming event.  Everyone was having fun, win or lose.

Now, to the day's racing:

Race 1:  A starter allowance race, and I immediately thought of Steve T. and the gang when Siphon the Kitty, away from the races for almost a year since winning her maiden at Hollywood, got up in the last strides under Edgar Prado.  Favored Campsis, a debut winner at Fair Grounds for Steve Asmussen, hung badly in the stretch.  Horses like Campsis, recent big-figure maiden graduates, are among the worst bets in racing when they try winners for the first time as the favorite. 

Race 2:  I sat this one out as well as you guys know my dislike for playing claiming races. Prado swept the double with Oaklawn invader Ifonlyjohnny, and this one paid a solid $17.40.  Interestingly enough, Ifonlyjohnny was only one of three horses in the race that weren't dropping in claiming price, or out of allowance and stakes competition.

Race 3:  My first bet of the day, and it couldn't have turned out any worse.  Northern Kraze looked strong while chasing the pace under a rating hold, but packed it in quickly on the far turn.  Prado attacked with Gulfstream invader Cherokee Queen, and the homebred outgamed a tough Equally in the stretch.  Even though I lost, I had to give Edgar his due when he came back to the walking ring.  I held up three fingers, and congratulated him.

Race 4:  One of my favorite bet-againsts, Madame Brillon, was in here.  She's a funny gray filly, and every chance I see her, her tongue is lolling out of her head. She has some ability, but doesn't want to beat you, and those kind of horses are always worth trying to beat.  Unfortunately, the likeliest winner on paper, Ochre, was the heavy favorite.  I sat out, Ochre dominated, and Madame Brillon made it six seconds in twelve lifetime starts.  I've always liked Ochre, but the Red Ransom filly has been plagued by physical problems throughout her career.  This was only her second start since November 25, 2006, but if Mr. Pletcher has her right, she can visit the winner's circle again soon.

Race 5:  The baby races this meet have been competitive, and I've been shut out thus far.  This seemed like one of the toughest races of the bunch.  I liked Pletcher's Silent Valor, the first runner my Kentucky Derby pick, Lion Heart.  I wasn't as bullish on the uncoupled Asmussen pair, Tiger Rules (Peace Rules), and Broadway Al (Alke).  Early money is often so indicative of success in these races, and Ronny Werner's Run Away and Hide opened up at 3-1 off a 10-1 morning line.  The son of City Zip lived up to his name despite breaking from the far outside post position.  Silent Valor ran well to be second, but that wasn't good enough for me to win my wager on the race.
Pletcher has sent out several "close, but no cigar" juveniles at this meet, and they all (Laver, Iberian Gate, Silent Valor) should do well next time.
I've touted the "Clocker Comment" section of the Keeneland website on several occasions, and they've been dead-on concerning their analysis of this year's baby crop:

April 9:  Run Away and Hide - "continues to improve, was the better of Tripp to Hedo."
April 2:  Run Away and Hide - "impressed onlookers with the sharp effort from the gate."

Race 6:  Meh, a claimer.  Time for lunch.  Again, there isn't a lot of room to spread out, but I'd suggest the roast beef sandwich.  Just the right amount.

Race 7:  Tried to get Pletchasquez home with Alachua although I was really intrigued by the beautifully-bred Acoma (Empire Maker - Aurora, by Danzig).  Alachua made the top, but Acoma roared past in the final furlong.  Don't be surprised if this is a stakes filly in the making.

Race 8:  Okay, time to get hot.  Unfortunately for me, that means receiving my usual RRS (Racetrack Roadtrip Sunburn).  My face hurts!  Anytime, I can play against an overrated horse like Dominican, I'll jump at the chance.  Self Made Man looked like an old-school Keeneland pace play, and the Dust Commander winner got me off the schneid at $11.20 as well as kicking off my late Pick Three.

Race 9:  "Shug McGaughey!"  No, I didn't just happen to see Easy Goer's trainer walking by the hotel.  Carriage Trail, a McGaughey-trained mare by Giant's Causeway, received an absolutely wonderful ride by Kent Desormeaux.  There wasn't much pace signed on in the Doubledogdare so Kent took the bull by the horns, slowed the pace down, and had plenty left in the stretch.  I hated to play against johnny z's favorite, Panty Raid, but the price just wasn't there.  Carriage Trail paid $21.20, and I was still alive.

Race 10:  Now, the dilemma.  I was prepared to make my biggest win bet of the Gulfstream meet on Giant Deputy, but he showed up off the layoff in front wraps, was dead on the board, and looked lethargic on the track.  I wimped out, and it paid off.  Now, he was back.  What to do?  I had to get my Pick Three bet in way before I could get a look at him.  He was so good without the bandages in New York last year, and so horrible at Gulfstream. I took a deep sigh, and drew a line through him. I went with Rock Gold, William Tell, and Written in Stone, and my heart sank to the pit of my stomach when Giant Deputy showed up in the paddock bandage-free.  Still, there was no turning back now, and I felt very fortunate when William Tell got it done for Leparoux. 

How's the best way to celebrate a winning day at the track?  Nice dinner?  Nah,  I've got Keeneland Babies to finish up for tomorrow.

Speaking of tomorrow, I was thinking that we should meet under the giant Keeneland Rolex Clock just before the first race, but that area gets awfully crowded.  Instead, if any FormBloggers are at the track, let's meet outside the Jockeys Quarters near the walking ring.

The Lexington looks like a very tough race. I'll be rooting for our FormBlog connections (Tomcito, Riley Tucker), but from a wagering standpoint, I'm leaning towards St. Joe, Samba Rooster, Atoned, and Riley Tucker.  I don't have a lot of confidence in this one so I'll probably just go deep in multi-races. 

More importantly, who do you like this weekend?  I'd like to know.

Talk to you tomorrow night.




stewballs More than 1 year ago
Jimmy Turano More than 1 year ago
Dan, I appreciate all that you do to inform the race fans all the time. Your performances are consistent and the DRF should give you high weight for your High Fan Beyer figures you deserve. I also want to note that Laura Stitch is appreciated and deemed brilliant with her articles. JIMMY T.
Maggie Mc Anany More than 1 year ago
for trainer Larry Jones THE RAINBOW BRIDGE Because of its many colors, connecting Heaven and Earth has come to be nown as the Rainbow Bridge. Just this side of the Bridge,there is a land of Meadows,hills and lush green valleys. When a Beloved horse dies this place serves as their new home.There is one thing missing though,Companionship of there loving Trainer,time passes and soon another day comes when one of them are distracted by a familiar scent.Mr.Jones you have been seen!.Once more you look into the eyes of your beloved EIGHT Bells,you cross the RAINBOW BRIDGE together never again to be seperated.
Josh More than 1 year ago
You people who support the beating of horses for entertainment are barbaric. I watched the Kentucky derby for the first time today and I was appalled at how these horses are treated. Pushed to the limits so much so that he/she collapses and breaks his/her own ankles. I just cannot believe that this is legal and people enjoy this atrocity. Are you people heartless? How would you like someone to run you until you collapse. THINK ABOUT IT. And then continue your job with a clear conscience.
kevin dew More than 1 year ago
sorry dan , some may not know the induction comm. i was refering to is the one in at saratoga n.m of racing & hall of fame if you postmy comments please add that if i left it out . thank you kd
kevin dew More than 1 year ago
great write up on keeneland dan, i hear keeneland is looking in to starting their own national hall of fame, because their are vertually no horsemen on the induction comm.sounds crazy but its true, mosly writers on the comm. true they sure know the sport but there should fair balance between horsemen & turf writers . go keeneland, i really enjoy your articals dan keep em coming
Calvin Carter More than 1 year ago
Dan, In the Lexington Coolmore I like Tomcito (8), Felon (6) and Atoned (1). I hope Tomcito gets the win but at 20-1 morning line, I’ll have a small w/p wager on Felon. W/P: 6. Exacta Box: 6-8. Trifecta: 6-8/6-8/1-6. Stephen Taylor, Sometimes your gut feeling is the best one to go with. Z Humor could be a good long shot bet in the Kentucky Derby. He appears to be coming around now with his recent work of 47 and change at Churchill Downs. In addition, he’s a descendent of the Mr. Prospector bloodline which has produced 8 of the past 13 (62%) Kentucky Derby winners. His sire, Distorted Humor, is also the same sire of 2003 Kentucky Derby winner Funny Cide and I won a lot of money on him that day. On the bottom of the pedigree, Z Humor and Funny Cide’s damsires are both out of the Bold Ruler line. However, Z Humor’s damsire, A.P. Indy, is much better than Funny Cide’s damsire, Slewacide. So, I’ll be using Z Humor – not sure how just yet. Good Luck!
Van Savant More than 1 year ago
Santa Anita – (4-19-2008) Race 1 – Improvising Gal, Snooty Gal, Molitta, Fabuloso Race 2 – Mananan McLir, Held Up, Chadlington (Ire) Race 3 – El Martillo, Kilderry, Isla Hombres Race 4 – Topaz Moon, Synnin and Grinnin, Judge in the West Race 5 – Farleigh House, Propaganda, Cedar Mountain (Ire), Parko (Fr) Race 6 – C R Caper, Bayngen Bartok, Casting Crowns, Arnone Race 7 – Unusual Suspect, Carrilero (Arg), Night Chapter (GB), Don’t Ya Lovett (NZ) Race 8 – Zilla, Look Deep, Twix (Arg) Race 9 – Foxysox (GB), Double Trouble (Brz), Lavender Sky, Persian Express Race 10 – Dancewiththedevil, Lardog, Sword Legend, Bear Mountain Good luck to all today, have fun, and please be safe out there! Van Savant
Steve T More than 1 year ago
PGM, I am not sure what happened, I even went to my e-mail server to rummage through the spam bin - unless you are trying to sell me a Rolex for $40 or Viagra... Give it another try: wildcat@wirelessmail.us
chicago gerry More than 1 year ago
Steve V I am sure I am one of those bloggers whom you have gotten a kick out of when I opined about some of this years crop going on to the Met Mile. Please know that I have seen the light, and agree with you wholeheartedly. My guess is that BS would make short work of them, although to be honest, if War Pass would run a decent race and come up short in the Derby, I wouldn't mind seeing him point to the Met Mile, just for the fun of it. I think you stated the problem pretty well. This year's crop in general is a little slow, and also, if a three year doesn't point to the Met Mile to begin with, it is going to be a hard task for them any way you look at it. I guess there is never going to be a time that most of the better 3 yr olds are going to pass over an opportunity to get into the Kentucky Derby, even if they are not suited for the Derby distance. I guess the thinking is, the Derby is a great thing, maybe my colt/filly can outrun it's pedigree, and hey , if I get in the Derby, anything can happen; ala Giacomo-Settled Argument. Good luck on the sale of BS. I hope things work out for everybody concerned any everyone ends up happy over the deal. Who ever gets BS will be getting a beautifully owned and trained, running machine. You are right it is a business. Perhaps money earned from the sale of BS can go toward purchasing a worthy replacement. I think there is some truth to the old adage that it takes money make money. Thanks/