The Jury: Bets and fades for April 23
What is your best bet?
James Scully: Beaten only 1 3/4 lengths by United when third in the 2020 John Henry Turf Championship (G2) at Santa Anita, #9 Another Mystery (6-1) won a couple of stakes after being transferred to Chris Block last year, but the confirmed closer always needs the right set-up to fire big. He capitalized when opening this season with a fast-closing upset in the John B. Connally Turf Cup (G3) at Sam Houston, and Another Mystery will take advantage of a contested pace in Saturday's Elkhorn S. (G2). Keeneland's course plays favorably to run his style — no turf routes have been won wire-to-wire this meet — and the top two contenders on the morning line, Channel Maker and Two Emmys, do their best running on the front end. Four of the nine entrants are early types, and Another Mystery has something going for him, registering triple-digit Brisnet Late Pace ratings in his last two outings.
Kellie Reilly: #1A Momentous (4-1) is poised to build upon his strong Fair Grounds debut in Saturday's 10th race at Keeneland. The Todd Pletcher trainee marked himself as a three-year-old to watch when outdueling the well-regarded Marsalis, who came back to win smartly on Louisiana Derby Day. Momentous takes an incremental step up to a seven-furlong allowance, and he keeps Luis Saez aboard from the same draw as his maiden, post 10. The Speightstown colt from the immediate family of Saint Liam and Gun Runner looks bound for bigger and better things.
Vance Hanson: In a race where several of the other leading contenders appear to be need-the-lead types and rarely win without everything in their favor, #1 Bemma's Boy (5-1) might work out an ideal trip from just off the pace in the Elkhorn at Keeneland. Trainer Mike Maker has been hot at Keeneland this week, and this former Pan American (G2) winner enters off a couple tough reversals against optional claiming company at Fair Grounds going shorter.
.@keenelandracing will offer a pair of graded stakes on Saturday’s 10-race program.#ChannelMaker and #TwoEmmys take on the Elkhorn and #Scalding and #Warrant take on the Ben Ali.@James_Scully111 previews both fields ⤵️ https://t.co/E32NlEn0Dd pic.twitter.com/TQpTmFyvZ3— TwinSpires Racing 🏇 (@TwinSpires) April 21, 2022
Who is the horse to fade?
JS: #2 Stellar Tap has been installed as the 5-2 favorite in the Oaklawn S. following a disappointing effort at odds-on, belatedly grinding his way to be a non-threatening versus a suspect group of allowance foes. The gray colt lacks any tactical speed, and his recent Brisnet Speed ratings are lower than his main rivals Saturday.
KR: #3 Two Emmys (7-2) excels when he gets to have his own way up front, but that scenario is implausible in the Elkhorn. Although he nearly wired last fall's course-and-distance Sycamore (G3) in his prior try at 1 1/2 miles, he was still run down late by Spooky Channel. With a complex pace picture here, the English Channel gelding either has to withstand all comers or prove more effective as a stalker. The race shape could end up playing into the hands of Another Mystery, who reunites with Flavien Prat for the first time since their Arlington score last summer.
VH: #5 Warrant (2-1) was a terrific second last out in the Santa Anita H. (G1), losing by a head to Express Train, which netted him a 104 Brisnet Speed rating. That was the best of his career, and one that might be hard to replicate right away. In other words, Warrant might be a candidate to "bounce" at lower odds in the Ben Ali (G3). He's a solid, improving colt, but perhaps not the standout the tote board might suggest.
What else is worth noting?
JS: Excited to see Momentous make his second start in the 10th race at Keeneland Saturday. The three-year-old colt recorded an outstanding win at first asking on the Feb. 19 Risen Star undercard at Fair Grounds, edging favored Marsalis, who came back to break his maiden by open lengths in his next outing, and both runners have the makings of quality stakes types. Todd Pletcher has given Momentous plenty of time between starts, and the speedy colt appears to be training forwardly.
KS: Turf sophomores are in the spotlight at Aqueduct this weekend. I'm interested to see if #4 Fort Washington (7-2) can move forward in Saturday's $100,000 Woodhaven S. The Shug McGaughey pupil was an up-in-time maiden winner here last fall, and his closing third from a poor position in Tampa's Columbia S. might put him spot-on for this. Of course, the ubiquitous Chad Brown has a potentially useful favorite in the undefeated #6 Unanimous Consent (2-1).
The companion stakes for fillies, the $100,000 Memories of Silver S. on Sunday, features Christophe Clement's returning Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1) heroine #6 Pizza Bianca (3-5). Her form has been upheld on both sides of the Atlantic, and even advertised on the Kentucky Oaks (G1) trail. Of greater relevance here is that the Breeders' Cup runner-up and fourth, Malavath and Cachet, have won classic trials in France and England, respectively, this month. Brown's #7 Consumer Spending (5-2) is likely better than her Breeders' Cup sixth, and McGaughey's #1 On Alert (10-1) was a fast-finishing third in the Florida Oaks (G3).
VH: The Apple Blossom H. (G1) is, of course, the signature event of the weekend, although with only five horses. It'll answer a lot of questions: Is Letruska as good as she was last year? Is Ce Ce a major threat in future two-turn races this season? Will Clairiere come to the fore as one of the division's best? It's perhaps not a great betting race, but from a sporting perspective it's the undisputed highlight.