04/12/2014 10:31AM

Byron King's Keeneland handicapping notebook April 12


Thursday, April 11, review

For Wise Dan, the usual

There is a reason Wise Dan is a two-time Horse of the Year. He always shows up.

He did again Friday, winning the Maker's 46 Mile for the second straight year, though he wasn’t as dominant as in some of his top grass races from last year, scoring by three-quarters of a length over late-running Kaigun.

Though the latter cut into his lead late, Wise Dan was largely given only mild urging in his first start since winning the Breeders’ Cup Mile and always had the race well in hand.

His connections said the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic at 1 1/8 miles on turf on Derby Day at Churchill Downs would be next. As with the Maker's 46 Mile, he won that race last year.

Thereafter they may consider branching out into new territory.

Somewhat lost if the buzz of Wise Dan’s winning performance was the fine runner-up finish from 37-1 longshot Kaigun. Off a length or two in a race that unfolded with a slow early pace, he was finishing strongest of any horse late, and checked in four lengths ahead of Grade 1 winner Lochte in third, and 5 ½ lengths ahead of fourth-place Za Approval, who was second to Wise Dan in the Breeders’ Cup Mile last year.

“He’s become a really good horse since we gelded him” late last summer, trainer Mark Casse said of Kaigun.

Races of note

In another major race of note Friday, Cool Faith upset heavily favored Granny Mc’s Kitten in race 8, a 1 1/16-mile race on the main track.  She tracked the pace and pulled clear for a length-and-a-half victory over the favorite, who didn’t have an excuse during the running, though she did get hot in the post parade.

Catching the eye in third was Bikini Beauty, who seemed unlucky not to win. After breaking a bit awkwardly, causing jockey Julien Leparoux to bounce briefly in the saddle, she was taken back to last behind a dawdling pace. Blocked in traffic as the leaders walked up front, she didn’t secure running room until the short stretch of the 1 1/16-mile race and finished fastest down the center of the track to just miss second in a photo. She galloped out well ahead of the pack.

She is understandably the horse to watch from Friday’s card.


Bikini Beauty
Trainer: Christophe Clement
Last race: April 11, 8th
Finish: 3rd by 1 1/2
Beyer: 72
Making her seasonal debut after showing promise last year as a juvenile on turf, she returned with a fine third in a 1 1/16-mile race on the Polytrack, a surface she was trying for the first time. A deep closer, she was disadvantaged by a slow pace that left the leaders with plenty left, and with her having to pass 10 horses in traffic. Unfortunately for her, she didn’t get clear until the stretch, and there was too little time to catch the top two – though she made it close.

Saturday April 13 preview

Prices available in big Blue Grass field

Blue Grass Day is here, and the card is a good one, with 12 races, including four stakes beside the Blue Grass. Two of those – the Madison and the Jenny Wiley – are Grade 1 races, as is the Blue Grass.

The Blue Grass is the biggie, and this year will mark its last run on Keeneland’s synthetic Polytrack surface after Keeneland installs a dirt track this summer.

In a 14-horse field in which several horses were severely disadvantaged by wide draws, taking a price horse seems of importance – and this horseplayer is going with 10-1 outsider Harry’s Holiday. Second in the Spiral, beaten a nose on the wire, he is proven on the Polytrack and shows a favorable figure pattern leading up to the race. His stalking style and draw in post four are other advantages.

Bobby’s Kitten, the top 2-year-old American grass horse of last year, obviously figures to be tough – though he is trying Polytrack for the first time. Although most horses by his sire, Kitten’s Joy, like the surface – it’s not an absolute.

He won his seasonal bow in an open allowance on the Tampa Turf last month, though not by a large margin. Bear in mind it was a prep.

Of the others Dance with Fate is interesting at a price. Second to Tamarando in the El Camino Real Derby and in last year’s Del Mar Futurity on Polytrack, he excels on synthetic tracks.

Tasty undercard

Other stakes picks on Blue Grass Day include Longhunter in the Commonwealth, which goes as the first stakes race as the seventh on the card; Gantry in the Shakertown; Judy the Beauty in the Madison, and Stephanie’s Kitten in the Jenny Wiley.

Gantry is the most attractive undercard stakes play in terms of price, sitting at 5-1 on the morning line. Though his draw could have been much better – he landed in post 13 – his tactical speed and consistency make him an attractive choice.