Horse-for-the-course play at Keeneland highlights Saturday’s action

Profile Picture: James Scully

April 14th, 2018

Saturday’s Keeneland program features four stakes including a Kentucky Derby prep in the Lexington (G2). The lone Grade 1 offering, the $350,000 Jenny Wiley for turf distaffers, drew a deep field of 11 and I like #8 La Coronel, who is lengths better on Keeneland’s turf course.

She’s won all three local appearances in graded stakes, scoring initially in the Jessamine (G3) at age 2. Last spring, La Coronel arrived at Keeneland off a disappointing second at 4-5 in the Florida Oaks (G3) at Tampa and crushed rivals in the Appalachian (G3). Last fall, the dark bay was exiting a fourth in the Lake Placid (G2) and a second to Uni in the Sands Point (G3) before dominating the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (G1) from start to finish, scoring by a comfortable half-length margin.

Her reputation as a horse for the course figures to grow after Saturday. The Jenny Wiley lacks pace and La Coronel projects to enjoy a favorable trip, either showing the way or racing up close. She makes the third start off the layoff in good form for Mark Case, running second in the Endeavour (G3) and a close third most recently in the Hillsborough (G2), and we’ve seen how she improves when shipping from Tampa’s turf to Keeneland.

Jose Lezcano know the classy 4-year-old well and La Coronel offers appeal at anything close to her 9-2 morning line price. I will play her straight and single in multi-race wagers.

Here are some other observations in Saturday’s stakes:

Ben Ali (G3), 7th race, Keeneland: Morning line favorite Chip Leader is unplaced in three dirt starts and vulnerable at the 9-furlong distance and co-second choice Rafting will make his first start at the distance after a second in the Challenger at Tampa. #3 Hollywood Handsome displayed good tactical speed in the New Orleans (G2) and made Good Samaritan (who could be the top older horse on the East Coast this year) work to get by in midstretch, finishing a clear second. That effort towers over recent performances from rivals and I like the progress the 4-year-old colt has shown in a pair of starts this year for Dallas Stewart.  

Lexington, 9th race, Keeneland: #2 Telekinesis proved to be a sharp debut winner two back and looks poised to move forward off a solid effort against winners. I’m expecting a favorable inside stalking trip from the improving son of Ghostzapper. #12 My Boy Jack remains the one to beat but only needs a second to likely qualify for the Kentucky Derby. These are the only two I want for Pick 4 or 5 wagers.

Oaklawn H. (G2), 10th race, Oaklawn Park: Hedge Fund received a dream trip on the front end and rolled home a convincing winner of the Essex last time, but the other riders won’t let him steal it today and I’m expecting a contested pace that will set up for a late runner. #5 Hawaakom concluded last year on a dull note but has turned things around this year for Wes Hawley, recording a rallying third in the Louisiana at Fair Grounds prior to a convincing win in the Razorback (G3), and the in-form gelding brings century-topping BRIS numbers and plenty of upside to this affair. He’s an attractive 10-1 on the morning line with Corey Lanerie.