04/04/2014 8:12AM

Byron King's Keeneland handicapping notebook April 4


Friday, April 4 preview

The theme for Friday’s opening day at Keeneland is rain, and a lot of it. The skies unloaded in Lexington yesterday and today, resulting in the three scheduled turf races being moved to the Polytrack.

Love or loathe the Polytrack - after this meet it’s gone for good and will be replaced with a dirt track - bettors should at least appreciate it for preserving most of the fields on opening day. A dirt track would have been very sloppy, and there would have been many more scratches.

With the quick-draining Poly fast and looking in good shape most of the cast of the show remains.

Though poor weather will likely keep the crowd smaller than usual for opening day, Friday is Keeneland’s biannual College Scholarship Raffle Day, and the youth of the city will still be in attendance.

Many of the top jockeys in the country will be here today, too, including Javier Castellano, Joel Rosario, John Velazquez, Rosie Napravnik, Julien Leparoux, and Jose Lezcano.

The card itself starts slowly by Keeneland standards, with $10,000 claimers racing in the first and third races and a maiden $50,000 claimer sandwiched in between. None is particularly exciting in terms of wagering, with the first two races having 7 entries and the third 8.

A key note for bettors – Keeneland’s takeout for all exotic wagers is 19 percent, well below the industry norm and one of the reasons the Horseplayers Association of North American rates Keeneland first in its standings.

With the transfer of the scheduled turf races to Polytrack, here is a quick update to horses that could move up.

Race 4
REI (#8, 5-1) has a win and a second in two starts on the Woodbine Poly, and in addition to good turf form seems a fairly dependable runner who should fire on the main track.

Race 7
SISTERLY LOVE (#6, 4-1) would have been an unknown on the grass, but she is a dual stakes winner on Polytrack at Woodbine, and the surface switch to the main track plays to her strength. The same can also be noted of PRIMED FOR PASSION (#10, 6-1), though her best synthetic form was established on Tapeta at Presque Isle last year.

Race 9
LADDIE BOY (#7, 20-1) pulled off a 12-1 upset  on the Keeneland Poly last fall, and though he is questionable classwise in the Transylvania, he should run his race on the synthetic..


Race 6
First-timer COASTAL MOON (#1, 8-1) worked well from the gate in going a half-mile in 48 seconds March 25. Keeneland clockers noticed he outworked Moon Traveler, who is already a winner and stakes placed.

Race 9
Class-dropping SCHOOL ON A HILL (#9, 5-2), untested on Polytrack, worked five furlongs on the Keeneland main track in 1:01.60 March 29, the 15th best of 44 at the distance that morning, with the Keeneland clockers commenting his “rider was just sitting during the breeze.”