Mucciolo: Keeneland Horses of Interest
A great Saturday card will take place at Keeneland during its opening weekend, led by the Blue Grass (G1) for Kentucky Derby hopefuls. While most of the attention locally and across the country will be on the big trio of Derby prep races, there is plenty of other racing action to create excitement. I have tabbed a few horses that I will be playing.
#7 UP THE ANTE (8-1) lands in a well-matched field for his dirt debut. $350,000 son of Smart Strike has flashed ability on the green from a pair of tries to date, though I think he is poised to find the dirt surface to his liking.
Christophe Clement trainee gets Lasix for his seasonal debut and if he runs to his excellent :48 3/5 bullet drill at Payson Park last time, Up the Ante could be tough to deny late with Julien Leparoux in the silks. An expected fast early pace aids the late runner.
While morning-line choice #6 LIMOUSINE LIBERAL (6-5) is no secret as the horse to beat, he simply looks like a free space to me. Ben Colebrook pupil makes a first run since a dynamic score in the Bet On Sunshine at Churchill in the fall and is training in swift fashion of late. And he usually runs very well at Keeneland.
Six-year-old gelding was third in the Commonwealth (G3) last campaign and that field was infinitely stronger. Limousine Liberal will not be facing the likes of Awesome Slew or A. P. Indian today.
An excellent field of fillies and mares will contest the $300,000 Madison S. (G1) at seven furlongs. Nine of the 11 who will go postward have achieved success at the graded level, but I will side with one of the pair yet to do so.
#7 BERNED (20-1) is a one-run closer with a fine turn of foot for conditioner Graham Motion, who always has his horses cranked up for the Keeneland meeting. Daughter of Bernardini comes in fresh following a third in the Barbara Fritchie (G2) over a muddy surface. I think the filly has found her niche as a one-turn closing type and she could be the recipient of a great set-up here.
Expect the pace to be strong and contested from the break and for Berned to be gobbling up ground in the final furlong. I like her as an exotics player mostly, but a tally is not out of the question with Fergal Lynch in the irons once again.
I really like the chances of champion Good Magic to run big in the Blue Grass, though his price will not be the most enticing in a sizable field.
Grade 1 winner #2 SPORTING CHANCE (10-1) has not been all that impressive from his pair of runs in 2018, finishing third in the Southwest (G3) followed by a tiring fifth in the Rebel (G2). But he has reason for appeal today.
D. Wayne Lukas trainee gets a good draw near the rail and I fully expect pilot Luis Saez to send the son of Tiznow from the start. Sporting Chance flashed big sprint speed as a juvenile and his Hall of Fame conditioner still knows how to point a horse for a big race.
Two swift morning moves at Oaklawn should have the colt sharp for the Blue Grass, a race where there is little to no early pace on paper.