Scully: Stakes selections at Keeneland Saturday
It’s a blockbuster Saturday card at Keeneland with five graded stakes races, none with less than 10 horses entered. Mike Smith ranks 11th all-time in stakes wins at the Lexington, Kentucky venue and I’ll lean on “Big Money” more than once this afternoon.
Here are my thoughts on the stakes action:
Woodford: My upset special comes in a 12-horse Woodford (G3) in which a case can be made for more than half the field. Done Deal (#1) may be more familiar to Thoroughbred racing fans on the main track, posting a win in the July 6 Iowa Sprint and a seventh in the July 28 Forego (G1) on dirt, but the lightly-raced gelding is proving better on the sod. A turf maiden winner at Arlington, the five-year-old returned from a lengthy layoff with a sharp turf allowance score at Churchill Downs on May 18 and received a nice prep for this start when sixth in the September 8 Kentucky Downs Turf Sprint (G3).
He didn’t break sharply last time but rushed forward to duel on the front end to upper stretch before kicking clear with less than a furlong remaining. Done Deal wound up being caught late against a nice group and finished only 1 ¾ lengths back of the winner. His turf form is improving and the Woodford didn’t come up loaded with early speed. Keeneland’s soft turf played favorably to front-running types Friday and Done Deal should be sent straight to the lead from his innermost post. I’ll tab him wire-to-wire.
TCA: A comfortable winner of the Raven Run (G2) last October, Miss Sunset (#3) proved her affinity for Keeneland’s main track when recording an excellent nose second in the Madison (G1) last spring. The competition appears softer in the Thoroughbred Club of America (G2) and the four-year-old received a good tightener, returning from a freshening with an easy win in the September 3 C.E.R.F. at Del Mar. Smith rides for Jeff Bonde and Miss Sunset may get away with soft fractions as she proves best on the front end.
First Lady: If A Raving Beauty runs back to her Just a Game (G1) win during the summer, she’ll be difficult to deny in the First Lady (G1). But I didn’t like her fourth as the favorite in the Ballston Spa (G3) last time and will try to beat her with French import Crown Walk (#4). The sophomore filly has really come on over the last five months for trainer Henri-Alex Pantall and we know she’ll handle the ground. Connections opted for the one-mile test against elders over the 1 1/8-mile Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup a week later. A good second in a Group 1 last out, Crown Walk will be forwardly-placed with her tactical speed and rates a slight edge with Smith.
Breeders’ Futurity: Hopeful (G1) winner Mind Control has scratched from post 13 in the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) but there still appears to be a fair amount of speed in the 1 1/16-mile test. Dream Maker (#5) caught a speed-favoring track and didn’t fire his best effort when returning from a three-month layoff in the Hopeful, with the top three finishers basically holding their positioning throughout, but I’m expecting much more today from the excellent debut maiden winner. By Tapit and out of Monarchos mare, the gray colt has always been more of a two-turn prospect and he’s received favorable reviews for a pair of fast works in preparation at Churchill Downs and Keeneland. Julien Leparoux will be up for Mark Casse and Dream Maker looks poised to offer a strong showing.
Shadwell Turf Mile: An extremely competitive field of 14 will square off in the $1 million Shadwell Turf Mile (G1) and Qurbaan (#7) will be poised for his best; the 5-year-old races in the colors of Shadwell Farm. A multiple listed winner in France, the chestnut son of Speightstown was transferred to Kiaran McLaughlin this year and earned his first graded win when making his 2018 bow in the September 3 Bernard Baruch (G2), rallying to prevail by a nose. The one-mile distance hits the improving chestnut between the eyes and Qurbaan will receive the right set-up in a speed-laden contest. Smith takes over the reins and Qurbaan should be rolling late.