04/13/2014 9:14AM

Byron King's Keeneland handicapping notebook April 13


Saturday, April 12 review

Craig Bernick of Glen Hill Farm nicely summed up Saturday’s results at Keeneland – and how racing is typically won on a synthetic surface like Polytrack – tweeting late Saturday afternoon, “Dirt horses don't like the poly. Turf horses don't like the poly. Poly horses like the poly!”

It was the theme of the day. Proven synthetic performers Dance With Fate, Judy the Beauty, and Occasional View won the three graded stakes on the Polytrack at Keeneland Saturday.

Dance With Fate won the biggest race, the Blue Grass, swooping past the rest of the field to beat fellow synthetic performer Medal Count going away. It was a powerhouse performance, but with the Kentucky Derby run on dirt and not Polytrack, his chances of reproducing that effort at Churchill Downs are dicey.

That is, if he even runs. His trainer, Peter Eurton, didn’t commit to the Derby immediately after the race, noting his horse prefers synthetic and turf to dirt, and has shown resentment to kickback on dirt.

Stay tuned. Perhaps Eurton is immune to Derby fever. But even if he is, few owners are.

Winning jockey Corey Nakatani raised a point in the post-race interview, saying Churchill Downs is a track that turf horses can often handle, even when they might not like another dirt track.

Of course, as the saying goes, “Never ask a barber if you need a haircut.”  Nakatani is looking for a Derby mount.

Dance With Fate raced 1 1/8 miles in 1:50.06, which translated to a 97 Beyer Speed Figure.

One of many that disappointed in the race was Bobby’s Kitten, who weakened to 12th after chasing the pace. His connections blamed the surface for his defeat, but his inability to relax also contributed, with him fighting jockey Javier Castellano early.

Beyond the Blue Grass, the packed house of 39,722 at Keeneland was treated to some great racing.

In the main events on the Polytrack, Judy the Beauty got a long overdue Grade 1 victory in dominating the $300,000 Madison Stakes, improving her record to 4 for 4 at Keeneland.

She circled past the leaders wide while coming under an early ride, and sustained it to the wire to defeat Better Lucky, a two-time Grade 1 winner at a mile on turf, by 2 1/2 lengths.

A versatile mare, Judy the Beauty is just as skilled on dirt – as she showed with a runner-up finish at Santa Anita last year to champion Groupie Doll in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint. She rates as the top female sprinter in the land right now.

Occasional View took the Grade 3, $175,000 Commonwealth Stakes, rewarding owner Bobby Trussell, who claimed the horse, a skilled synthetic performer, last fall for a hefty $100,000.

He had been entered for an $80,000 claiming tag in an optional-claiming race Thursday at Keeneland, but was scratched instead to go in the Commonwealth, which winning trainer Ken McPeek said was his owner’s decision.

As for the two stakes on the turf Saturday, both had thrilling finishes, particularly the Grade 1 Jenny Wiley, in which the top five runners ran within three-quarters of a length of one another.

Hard Not to Like proved victorious by a half-length in the Jenny Wiley, and it took photo finishes to separate the second through fifth finishers.

In the Shakertown at 5 1/2 furlongs on the grass, Marchman edged Positive Side by a neck. He led throughout and was game to hold off the runner-up, who appeared poised to catch him with a sixteenth remaining.

Their one-two finish created some large-priced exotics, with the exacta returning $1,202 for a $2 wager. The $2 trifecta including 6-1 Something Extra came back $11,969.60, and the superfecta with 8-1 Hogy in fourth was worth $68,356.40 for $2, although it could have been played for as little as 10 cents.

Sunday, April 13 preview

Even after running five stakes Saturday on Blue Grass Day, Keeneland on Sunday will run the Grade 2 Beaumont over the unique Beard Course distance of seven furlongs and 184 feet on the Poly.

Ready to Act is the most likely winner based on the fine form she has shown on turf, but she has created problems for herself in several of her races, and is not a recommended single for multi-race gimmicks.

Comebacker Richie’s Party Girl is a threat, having won a fast stakes race against the boys racing down the hill at Santa Anita Nov. 2. And though she is also unraced on Polytrack, trainer Wesley Ward's horses, particularly his turf runners, typically run well on the Poly.

The one with proven Poly form is Katie’s Eyes, who made a bold, wide move in the Grade 3 Bourbonette at Turfway last month before flattening out to be third.

In earlier action, the much improved Signature Seven, coming off a pair of victories at Oaklawn on dirt, could prove an upsetter in race 4. He ran a close fourth when debuting in a race on Polytrack last fall.

Signature Seven is 4-1 on the line, and could drift higher with 9-5 favorite Demander getting action off a lofty 85 Beyer Speed Figure on dirt.

Early scratches

Race 1:  #8 Wando’s Storm

Race 2:  #1 Gentle One (1A Tahoe Warrior still runs)