The Jury: Bets and fades for Oct. 22

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TwinSpires Staff

October 21st, 2022

A couple of quiet weekends are on tap in advance of the Breeders' Cup, with a pair of three-year-old sprints at Keeneland, two graded turf events at Aqueduct, and the Maryland Million at Laurel highlighting this Saturday's action. The TwinSpires Jury of James Scully, Vance Hanson, and Ashley Anderson are back with their best plays.

What is your best bet?

James Scully: #9 Midnight Stroll in the Raven Run (G2) at Keeneland. A convincing stakes winner over Florida-bred rivals in her first attempt at seven furlongs in late March, Midnight Stroll came back two starts later to post a nice win in the Delaware Oaks (G3). She was too far back in the Charles Town Oaks (G3) before offering a solid rally for third behind next-out Cotillion (G1) winner Society, and the progressing Not This Time filly should continue to show more in this spot for John Terranova. I like the switch to Luis Saez and outside draw, and Midnight Stroll is listed at an attractive 10-1 on the morning line.

Vance Hanson: #5 Higginson (10-1) shouldn't be discounted in Saturday's eighth race at Keeneland, an entry-level allowance over 1 1/8 miles. Although he concedes racing experience to the other major players, the Godolphin homebred made his belated debut at Churchill last month a winning one, getting up over next-out graduate Call Me Fast. A son of Curlin and the Grade 1-winning turf mare Dickinson (herself out of Ashland [G1] winner Little Belle), Higginson figures to thrive over this added distance and probably won't have to improve considerably to do so.

Ashley Anderson: #8 Wicked Halo (4-1) will look to earn her fourth straight victory when running the seven-furlong Raven Run at Keeneland on Saturday. The Gun Runner filly flashed a 102 Brisnet Speed figure last out in the six-furlong Prioress S. (G2) at Saratoga, winning by a neck over second-place finisher Sterling Silver and another 2 3/4 lengths over Union Lake, who re-opposes here. The Steve Asmussen pupil is coming off a 50-day layoff and will make her first start at Keeneland while keeping Tyler Gaffalione — tied for most wins at Keeneland this meet — in the saddle. #2 Smash Ticket (5-2) earned a similar 102 Speed figure last out in the Weather Vane S., but Wicked Halo has been facing much tougher and should relish the extra distance stretching out to seven furlongs.

Who is the horse to fade?

JS: #6 Park Avenue (2-1) recorded a couple of wire-to-wire wins earlier this year, but the four-year-old filly did not come back from a 2 1/2-month freshening in the same form, readily giving way to finish last in a pair of stakes at Del Mar. She now ships east looking to turn things around against allowance rivals, but Saturday's fourth race at Keeneland will be no easy assignment. Five of her seven opponents are stakes winners, several in better present form, and Curly Ruth has the speed to keep the pace honest up front. At 2-1 on the morning line, Park Avenue will be a fade.

VH: I'm not convinced the speedball #2 Smash Ticket (5-2) is going to appreciate a seventh furlong in the Raven Run at Keeneland. Although a dominant winner against lesser at Lone Star and Pimlico earlier in the season, she was all out to win a six-furlong allowance at Saratoga two back after getting pressure, and there are several other pace elements in this field that figure to keep her company early. Not a fan if she hovers around that morning line price.

AA: #9 Dreaming of Drew (3-1) is a slight morning line favorite in Saturday’s Ontario Matron S. (G3) at Woodbine, but the four-year-old filly’s recent speed figures have me looking elsewhere. The Speightster daughter followed up a 1 1/4-length second in the Trillium (G3) at this track on Aug. 13 with a distant fourth in the seven-furlong Seaway (G3) on Sept. 17. Trainer Barbara Minshall is just a 2% winner in her last 50 graded stakes tries and a 4% winner with horses going from a sprint to a route distance. Dreaming of Drew can be beaten by #2 Our Flash Drive (7-2) for trainer Mark Casse, a 20% winner with horses switching from turf to all-weather. Our Flash Drive posted a 91 Brisnet Speed figure at today’s distance when running on the Saratoga grass in the Grade 2 Ballston Spa S. and will pick up hot jockey Patrick Husbands in her move back to Woodbine. The Ghostzapper filly is 2-for-2 lifetime at this track and posted a bullet, 47-second four-furlong workout in the lead-up to this event. Casse’s other runner, #1 Broadway Lady (4-1), is also transitioning from turf to all-weather and won by a half-length last out in an optional claimer on the Woodbine turf over a couple of today’s rivals.

What else is worth noting?

JS: Gunite should be an overwhelming favorite in the Perryville S. at Keeneland, and it will be interesting to see whether the multiple graded winner can carry his form outside of Churchill Downs and Saratoga. All five career wins, including multiple stakes tallies at each venue, have come at the two tracks. In his lone start elsewhere, Gunite wound up a disappointing fifth in last year's Champagne (G1) at Belmont Park. I'm intrigued by #3 Artorius (5-2), who will cut back in distance and class following a sixth in the Travers (G1). His female family (out of multiple Grade 1-winning millionaire sprinter Paulassilverlining) is slanted toward speed, and the seven-furlong Perryville distance looks like a perfect fit for Artorius, who appears to be training forwardly in preparation for Chad Brown.

VH: #6 Be Better (6-1) could be exactly that in Saturday's Hill Prince (G2) at Aqueduct after getting stuffed in his initial added-money outing in the July 29 Curlin S. at Saratoga. Running far below expectations in that Saratoga main track event after a couple of overnight wins at Monmouth Park, trainer Todd Pletcher immediately shifted gears and began preparing this colt for his turf debut. Sire Uncle Mo is a 14% winner with first-timers on the grass, and his dam is a half to a Grade 2-winner on the turf, so he fits pedigree-wise, and this is not the most stellar field he is facing. Note, too, that the Pletcher-trained Major Dude upset the Pilgrim (G2) earlier this month on his turf debut.

AA: Maryland Million Day at Laurel Park will feature a Saturday card packed with 12 stakes, including the $150,000 Maryland Million Classic in Race 11. Arguably the best horse in the field is also-eligible entry #12 Cordmaker (7-5), who will need another runner to scratch to gain a spot in the starting gate. The seven-year-old Curlin gelding is 2-for-2 this season, with a four-race win streak dating back to the Richard W. Small S. at Laurel in late November. If Cordmaker doesn’t make the field, #7 Vance Scholars (9-2) is an intriguing contender who finished a length in third in the 1 1/4-mile Japan Turf Cup S. at Laurel on Oct. 1 after holding a one-length lead at the second call. The cut back in distance could serve the three-year-old well and get him back to the winner’s circle at Laurel, where he is 5-3-0-1 for his career.