Expect Ironicus to make up for lost oppotunities in Shadwell Turf Mile

Profile Picture: Vance Hanson

October 8th, 2016

For me, there was no bigger disappointment at least year's Breeders' Cup at Keeneland than the absence of Ironicus from the Mile (G1) after an infirmity halted his season several weeks earlier. His progression from an allowance class colt at the beginning of the year to one of the country's top turf milers was swift, and I was anxiously awaiting to see how effective his devastating stretch kick would be against the world's best, including ultimate winner Tepin.

Ironicus (#8, 4-1) is so far on course for this year's Mile at Santa Anita, and will make his final prep in Saturday's Shadwell Turf Mile (G1) at Keeneland. He flies just slightly more under the radar this time than he would have a year ago, primarily due to an abbreviated 2016 campaign of two starts thus far. He didn't have to be at peak form to win his season opener, the Fort Marcy (G3) at Belmont Park, and when last seen in June he was a commendable second to superstar Flintshire in the Manhattan (G1) in his first attempt stretching out to 1 1/4 miles.

Aside from a minor layoff concern, there's no reason for me to believe he's still not one of the best turf mile specialists around, and even though Saturday's race is an incredibly deep one, he's my best bet of the day.

Mondialiste, last year's Breeders' Cup Mile runner-up and last-out hero of the Woodbine Mile (G1), is an obvious threat for a top-two finish, but two morning-line longshots have earned places in my exotic plans underneath Ironicus. Grand Arch (#5, 10-1) was a solid second to Wise Dan in this race two years, won it in 2015, and then ran a distant third in the Breeders' Cup Mile. Despite showing modest form this year, I expect him to perk up a little on a return to one of his favorite courses (7-3-3-1). Kasaqui (#6, 20-1) fully recovered from a scary paddock incident on Kentucky Derby Day to narrowly miss in the Wise Dan (G2), win the Arlington H. (G3), and then finish a neck behind Mondialiste in the Arlington Million (G1). He's going very well now and has a win over the local sod.

In other action on Saturday:

Flower Bowl (G1): It's not much of a betting race as it seemingly may come down to stablemates Lady Eli and Sea Calisi (#6, 5-2), but I do expect the former to be heavily backed and thus the value will be on Sea Calisi, who has generally established herself as the nation's top older turf filly at 1 3/16 miles and beyond with wins in the Sheepshead Bay (G2) and Beverly D. (G1).

Belmont Turf Sprint: This race might wind up a repeat of the June 11 Jaipur (G3), when Pure Sensation (#5, 3-1) just held off fellow Patricia Generazio homebred Disco Partner (#2, 4-1) in a course-record performance. Affected by soundness issues during his career, Pure Sensation has been deftly handled by trainer Christophe Clement this season, adding the Parx Dash (G3) after the Jaipur scoring and then backing off before a likely two-race fall campaign. The possibility of less-than-firm ground might slow him down a bit, so the value play might be on the closing Disco Partner, who has a 6-3-2-0 course mark, but I'll stick with the more accomplished Pure Sensation.

Woodford (G3): He made his reputation on synthetic tracks, but Hogy (#7, 10-1), has done awfully well on turf, too, during his long career. His turf record is solid (11-5-3-0) even if his mark the Keeneland turf (2-0-0-0) is not, and he's hung effectively with the likes of Mongolian Saturday, who he faces Saturday, in the past. With a stronger pace in front of him than what he chased last time in the Kentucky Downs Turf Sprint, he can put himself in the mix late at a price.

(Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club photo)