Keeneland Opening Day Juveniles With Doug Salvatore

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TwinSpires Staff

October 3rd, 2014

Opening day has finally arrived for the fall meet at Keeneland, and the Polytrack is gone. Indeed, racing will be conducted on a dirt surface at Keeneland for the first time since the 2006 Spring meet. You can certainly expect that a great deal of attention will be payed to how the new dirt surface plays, as the old dirt track at Keeneland was often notoriously inside-speed favoring.

There are four different two-year-old races on Friday's card to preview, including the Grade 1 Alcibiades. Unfortunately, they're all skullbuster events from a handicapping standpoint, but I will try to do my best.

Race 4 is off the turf, so we’ll skip that one.

Race 5: Maiden Special Weight for 2-year-olds going six furlongs on the dirt:

I struggled tremendously handicapping this race. It's the type of baby race where you have one impressive pedigree horse, one debuter who is drawing rave workout reviews, and just one experienced runner with good form...and each of these three aforementioned horses don't interest me enough from a betting standpoint.

The first of the three horses we must discuss is Etruscan. By Bernardini out of Kentucky Oaks winner Proud Spell, this horse has an exciting pedigree and debuts for good connections, as Larry Jones trains for former Kentucky Governor Brereton Jones. The past performances for both Bernardini and Proud Spell are posted below. While both were outstanding racers, note that neither one was lights out in their career debut, though Proud Spell did run a good speed figure.


From a morning workout standpoint, Hidden Danger (5/1 Morning Line) is the horse who has earned the most acclaim. However, progeny of sire Tiznow have performed absolutely horrible in their career debuts. Indeed, check out these stats:

Offspring of Tiznow in their career debut:

2014: 2-for-49 (4% wins) $0.35 ROI

2013: 4-for-77 (5% wins) $0.27 ROI

2012: 2-for-57 (4% wins) $0.41 ROI

2011: 6-for-102 (6% wins) $0.63 ROI

2010: 4-for-69 (6% wins) $0.37 ROI

Those statistics are absolutely cancerous to bettors. And yes, those ROI's are based on $2.00 as being break even, not $1.00!

What's more, Hidden Danger is trained by Wayne Catalano, and he doesn't usually crank them up in their debut. While the workout reports are promising, I'm not touching Hidden Danger today, but he could be one to follow down the line.

Finally, the 5/2 Morning Line favorite in this race is Joe Franklin. He debuted at Laurel and ran a respectable race, but the only horse who has come back to run out of that race absolutely bombed at a short price. It's hard to endorse taking a short price on Joe Franklin, even in a field where none of the debuters do anything much for me.

If a gun was held to my head, and I was forced to make a selection in this race, it would be Dancing Moon. He's working fairly well, bred fairly well for a debut sprint, and his connections are pretty decent first-time out. There's nothing too exciting about him, but he would be my personal lean.

Race 7: Maiden Special Weight going six furlongs on the dirt.

This is another brutal handicapping race. You have several debuters who have reportedly been training very well. Revelation is one of them. Polo Art has reportedly crushed every workmate he's faced in the morning, but when you study the different workmates he's been crushing in team drills, your pulse doesn't exactly start to race. Moonlight Bandit is yet another debuter who has been getting rave reviews for his recent works. Even the Ken McPeek debuter Magic Of Believing (15/1 morning line) has been training impressively. In fact, he reportedly toyed with McPeek's debuter in today's 5th race Jumpin Frac Flash, in their most recent workout. So, if Jumpin Frac Flash runs well in the fifth, that will flatter this guy.

The debuter with the most attractive pedigree is once again a Larry Jones trained runner. Exodus is a half sibling to the speedy Whitney winner Cross Traffic.

This race also has a couple of respectable second time starters in Tapit Wicked and Tale of Beaucette.

This will be a fascinating race to watch, but it has no appeal to me, from a betting standpoint. The only way I'd make a bet in this race is if the McPeek debuter in the fifth race happens to run very well. If that happens, I will take a shot with Magic of Believing considering he bested him in a recent team drill.

Race 9: Grade 1 Alcibiades for two-year-old fillies going 8.5 furlongs on dirt

This race attracted a big field and is absolutely overflowing with speedy fillies. The early pace should be sensationally fast. The race should setup tremendously well for a closer. The two horses who best fit this profile are Pangburn (scratched) and Milehigh Butterfly. Indeed, they finished second and third behind wire-to-wire winner Christina's Journey in the Grade 2 Pocahontas last time out. Both of them have the foundation of two-turn route experience, and that is a big deal in a race that is sure to be run at a scorching early pace. Both also figure to be a square price, as Pangburn is 5/1 on the morning line, and Milehigh Butterfly is 12/1.

There are several other fascinating horses with a great deal of upside potential in this race. However, each one of them lacks the foundation and experience they'll need in order to handle an 8.5 furlong race run at a blisteringly fast early pace, at this stage of their career. If the expected hot pace materializes, look for stretch runners Pangburn and Milehigh Butterfly to mop up their more brilliant counterparts in the stretch.

Since Pangburn scratched, that leaves us with Milehigh Butterfly.