Catching the Eye: Saturday's Giant's Causeway Stakes at Keeneland

Profile Picture: Kevin Kilroy

April 15th, 2022

Want to beat likely betting favorite #2 Campanelle (5-2) in Saturday’s Giant’s Causeway S. at Keeneland? Three rising stars and two established stunners were on full display over the winter at Fair Grounds. Whether for immediate action, or for your stable notes, check out these horses on the rise:

#11 Goin’ Good (8-1)

#10 Ghosting Kim (30-1)

#4 Risky Reward (30-1)

#5 Change of Control (4-1)

#12 Elle Z (3-1)

Sometimes a gallop out is just a gallop out. Other times, it’s the signal you need to believe that a sprinter had more in the tank and will step forward next out. Making her first start in the Mardi Gras after six-plus months on the bench, #11 Goin’ Good (8-1) was making slow gains on Elle Z at the end after sitting off her throughout, and she galloped out past that foe nicely. Seven out of nine in the money, the only two races she missed, she had excuses — specifically being bumped hard in one and steadying in another, taking her out of her pressing style. A winner at heart and trained by Brad Cox to boot, you know this filly has every reason to take that next step up.

#10 Ghosting Kim’s (30-1) last-to-first score in Fair Grounds' closing weekend $80,000 optional claimer was terrifyingly good. Ghosting Kim flies late, always making up double-digit lengths. If speed heats up chasing Elle Z, well, you know the ghost’s tale as well as I. Nacho Correas’ five-year-old is a turf sprint specialist who consistently won and continued to improve throughout her four-year-old campaign. In Ghosting Kim you have a deep closing sprinter ridden by James Graham, the most agile closing rider in the circuit, I would argue, who knows how to spot holes and weave through one (or five!) to get his horse up for a chance. In a field where certainly one of these fillies will go kamikaze against Elle Z, there should be pace to close into. Exactly one year ago on April 16, 2021, on a day very much like this day, exiting a March win at Fair Grounds, Ghosting Kim stepped up in class to win two in a row. Spooky, right?

In a large field of turf sprinters, trip is paramount. #4 Risky Reward (30-1) is valuable because tactically, she has options and a rider in Adam Beschizza, who is one of the best at responding to the race flow. Her last two wins caught my eye — she won near and on the lead when they were going slow early, and she won closing when they were burning out front. Those were first- and second-level allowances, but after going 0-for-5 for trainer Eddie Kenneally, Risky Reward is 2-for-3 in 2022 and her career-best 92 Brisnet Speed number is one step away from Change of Control’s 99 field best. Form is not a question — only if she can sprint at this class level.  

#5 Change of Control (4-1) will be dialed up in trip handicappers’ picks. Last year’s winner of the Giant’s Causeway returns to defend her title fresher than 2021 — but suffering from two bouts of tough racing luck, making her Fair Grounds lifetime record 11-2-3-3. Elsewhere she has seven wins, including two Grade 3 scores. Two back in the Aime, if jockey Colby Hernandez would have continued to ask after passing Elle Z, Change of Control could have fought on to hold the lead instead of being re-passed and losing by a nose. In the Mardi Gras, she ran the last 3 1/2 furlongs in 40.93 — the same as winner Elle Z. But CC, as trainer Michelle Lovell affectionately calls her, had her head turned to the left when the gates opened, hopped and was off slowly, losing three lengths. Needing a moment to gather herself, she quickly conceded eight lengths to Elle Z and Goin’ Good before bringing her run and beating out a rival for a four-length-back third. Lovell reported she was ready to run January 1 in the Menard, but owner Perry Harrison had every intention of saving CC’s best for Keeneland. Here she is.

#12 Elle Z (3-1) caught the eye of anyone who was looking. One head shy of sweeping Fair Grounds’ four filly turf-sprint stakes, her three victories were dramatic and impressive in different ways. In the Menard, she won by five lengths and earned a new career-best Brisnet Speed number of 95. In the Aime, she was headed in the stretch by Giant’s Causeway foe Change of Control, but responded to the whip and surged forward to re-pass and score the nose win. Defending her Mardi Gras stakes title, she again raised the roof earning a 98 Brisnet Speed number, while also posting her highest Brisnet Late Pace figure of the four races, an 88.  Everybody has hoped someone could soften her up on the front end, but Elle Z does not quit. Ever. Trainer Chris Hartman and jockey Mitchell Murrill set to work on inverting her pace lines and Elle Z responded, demonstrating the maturity one looks for in a sprint champion. She deserves a shot at graded stakes company and can 100% prove that in the Giant’s Causeway.