Scully: Keeneland opening-day plays

Profile Picture: James Scully

October 5th, 2018

The sprint division has plenty of heavy-hitters and three of them will be contesting today’s Phoenix (G2) on the opening-day program at Keeneland. I take nothing away from Promises Fulfilled and Limousine Liberal, but Whitmore (#2) is a strong play for me.

A nose winner of last year’s Phoenix, Whitmore has improved significantly over the past four months, beginning with a neck second to Imperial Hint in the June 8 True North (G2) at Belmont. He followed with a troubled neck second to Limousine Liberal in the July 7 Belmont Sprint (G2) and I loved how the five-year-old gelding cornered each time, rallying up the inside into contention on the far turn and accelerating into the stretch full of run.

His BRIS Speed ratings were increasing and Whitmore continued to step forward with a strong tally in the August 25 Forego (G1) at Saratoga, netting a 102 BRIS Speed rating for the 1 ½-length decision. After making his last three outings at 6 ½ of seven furlongs (twice), the razor-sharp sprinter cuts back to his favorite trip here (nine-for-12 mark at six furlongs).

Whitmore drew well in post 2 and look for him to settle behind the speed before launching a winning move on the far turn.

The $400,000 Alcibiades (G1) features a full field of 14 juvenile fillies and I will give the edge to Lady T N T (#8), who looks poised to take her rivals as far as she can on the front end. After missing the break in her career debut, the Joe Sharp trainee came back to crush maiden special weight rivals at Saratoga on August 5 and followed with another sparkling wire-to-wire performance over entry-level allowance foes at Churchill Downs on September 20, registering a respectable 93 BRIS Speed rating for the 6 ½-length score.

Lady T N T shows a five-furlong bullet drill in preparation and while I don’t know about her chances at longer distances next year, the Justin Phillip may be able to stretch her speed 8 ½ furlongs today.

Restless Rider (#3) is the one to beat and can’t be dismissed from consideration. Into Trouble (#6) figures to be rolling from off the pace and is certainly a candidate to outperform her 15-1 morning line odds. Reflect (#1) is a longshot to consider as well; she’s eligible to receive a good trip behind the speed from her inside post and willing to draw a line through her last effort after a slow start.

Her are a couple of other thoughts on the opener:

In Race 6, Mineyerownmalone (#8) could prove to be a savvy claim by owner Frank Vozel and trainer David Vance for $10,000 from a neck second at Churchill Downs. Vance excels at this move, winning three starter allowance races in recent months with Altito, who was haltered for a $20,000 tag at Oaklawn Park in April, and Mineyerownmalone adds blinkers and Corey Lanerie today. Look for the in-form gelding to sit just off the speed before offering his best.

In Race 10, Scat Maggie (#6) will make her second start after contesting a key race at Ellis Park, with the second- and third-place finishers winning their next start and the winner coming back with a third in the Kentucky Downs Juvenile Fillies Turf. Trainer Ian Wilkes likes to give his horses a race and Scat Maggie lost all chance after a poor beginning. She adds Lasix and blinkers and is intriguing at a price in this spot (12-1 morning line). The Scat Daddy filly hails from a Medaglia d’Oro mare who counts Grade 3-winning turf sprinter Gaff as a half-sibling.