04/05/2014 8:15AM

Byron King's Keeneland handicapping notebook April 5

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Friday, April 4 review

Under windy conditions and occasional drizzle, the Keeneland meet got underway Friday with an upset in the first when English Council went from Calumet Farm to the Keeneland winner’s circle.

With little-known Jose Fernandez training him down the road at the historic farm, and with just one published workout in the past performances, the horse slipped past the public and unfortunately this horseplayer, winning off the bench at 10-1 odds following a layoff dating back to Dec. 19.

Race 2 went to first-timer Share the Sugar, who took advantage of runner-up Follow the Kitten being too keyed up in the post parade, and third-place Radiant being a filly that simply cannot finish. Share the Sugar, trained by Ken McPeek, blew past them both in the stretch under Julien Leparoux, who would ultimately win three races opening day.

Get in Line was the only favorite to win on the 10-race card, scoring at 7-10 odds in race 3. He was never threatened by late-running Dynamic Royal, who rallied wide to pass the others.

As wide as Dynamic Royal was, he wasn’t as far out in the track as Scout Leader in the following race. Breaking from post 10, Scout Leader was never able to tuck in, a sharp contrast to rail-breaking and victorious front-runner Rapscallion. This was the first of three races moved from a rain-soaked turf course to the Polytrack.

Appreciating was the second of Leparoux’s winners in race 5, scoring for trainer Mark Casse, who would saddle another winner a bit later on the card. It was a nice return effort for the winner, who was Grade 2-placed in the Natalma last year at Woodbine.

One of the most visually impressive winners came in the sixth, when Watery Moon won at first asking for trainer Graham Motion and jockey Alan Garcia, who had teamed a couple races earlier to win with Rapscallion. Watery Moon was bet down from his 8-1 morning line to 5-2 – surprising since he had been training at Fair Hill, out of sight from local clockers.

Sisterly Love led from start to finish in the seventh, benefiting from the race being moved from turf to Polytrack following two days of steady rain. A two-time stakes winner on the Poly at Woodbine, she spurted away from her foes after enjoying a trouble-free, easy lead.

Tipthetrolleygirl recorded the first win for a Fair Grounds runner in the 8th, laying just off favored Bella Castani and pulling away in the stretch as the latter backed up and closers Elusive Fate and Street Girl came on for minor awards.

Medal Count then won the off-the-turf Transylvania under a ground-saving trip from Robby Albarado, slipping through an opening on the fence to beat Picozza and Woodfield Springs.

The time of the 1 1/16-mile race was head-scratchingly fast – 1:43.35 – over two seconds faster than Sisterly Love ran in winning over the same distance an hour earlier. It earned him a 94 Beyer Speed Figure.

The track clearly sped up late in the day. This was also reflected in the relatively quick splits and final time, 1:45.61, of the 1 1/16-mile 10th race nightcap, a $40,000 nonwinners-of-two claimer won by Oaklawn invader Maserati for Ken McPeek and Leparoux.

HORSES TO WATCH

Follow the Kitten
Trainer: Mike Stidham
Last race: April 4, 2nd
Finish: 2nd by 1 3/4
Beyer: 65

Was nervous from the moment she headed out to the track and jockey James Graham did his best to sooth her by taking his feet out of the irons and stroking her mane. But she never settled down. She lost as the favorite, but still ran a little better than expected considering how high strung she was going to the gate. Worth backing if she is more settled in the post parade next time.

Saturday, April 4 preview

Although Saturday’s card at Keeneland takes a backseat to the blockbuster ones at Aqueduct and Santa Anita, it still offers top racing, headlined by the Grade 1 Ashland, which drew 13 entrants.

The day gets going with the first baby race of the meet in the opener, a race that naturally a Wesley Ward-trained horse will be favored to win. Climb in Back and Time Out of Mind are entered for him.

Also worth following is Skyway, who worked a fast half-mile from the Keeneland gate March 25 for Casse, whose horses performed well opening day.

Of course, it’s the Ashland that is the race most eagerly anticipated. This handicapper is keen in the Ashland to play Room Service, one of many in the race moving from turf to synthetic. She won the Grade 3 Herecomesthebride last out at Gulfstream on March 2, posting an 89 Beyer Speed Figure, the highest Beyer earned by a 3-year-old filly in a turf stakes race this year.

Testa Rossi, whose three U.S. turf starts have all been stellar, is a deserving favorite, and Thank You Marylou also merits attention off a very quick win on dirt when sprinting in a small stakes at Gulfstream.

For those itching to back Rosalind, don’t get too excited off her 15-1 morning line. It’s off the mark, and she will likely be half that price by post time.

SPOT PLAYS
Race 6

Boisterous (No. 7, 7-2) is better than he showed in finishing eighth in the Gulfstream Park Handicap when kicking off his year. He loves give in the ground, as he showed with wins on wet turf courses last year, including the Grade 1 Man o’ War.

Race 7
Vanity Feature (No. 1, 4-1) hasn’t raced since November, but is a Poly specialist and proven fresh. Also, trainer Tommy Drury excels with comebackers, having them ready to roll coming from his base at Skylight Training Center.