The Player’s Edge – April 12, 2013: Keeneland & Oaklawn Park

Matt Carter

April 12th, 2013

Keeneland - Blue Grass Stakes

Keeneland - Jenny Wiley Stakes

Oaklawn Park - Arkansas Derby

Oaklawn Park - Oaklawn Handicap




Keeneland – Blue Grass Stakes
Kentucky's Last Major Derby Prep

Saturday is one of Keeneland's best days of racing during its Spring meet with five graded stake races, including three Grade 1's highlighted by the Grade 1 Blue Grass Stakes for three-year-olds. It is the last major prep race in Kentucky for the Kentucky Derby and contention runs deep.

A full field of 14 with one also-eligible was drawn for the nine-furlong race and all of them will need to win or place to make the Derby. We start with Dynamic Sky, who drew the rail and has experience at Keeneland.

Dynamic Sky was second in the Breeders' Futurity last October over the track and this year has one win in three starts. He comes out of a fourth place finish in the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby, eight and one-half lengths behind race winner Verrazano. Verrazano, of course, came right back to win the Grade 1 Wood and may start as the favorite for the Kentucky Derby.

Second in the Tampa Bay Derby was Java's War, who was exactly one of the betting choices in the race. The son of War Pass, who did not like the Tampa surface, was sent off at 32.5-1 and closed well to be just three lengths behind Verrazano. With Keeneland leading rider Julien Leparoux in the irons expect a lot of wagering action.

My Name is Michael, Uncaptured and Balance the Books all come out of the Spiral Stakes at Turfway Park and all were well fancied in the Grade 3 race. All three were 9-2 or less with My Name is Michael the 3-1 favorite. My Name is Michael looked lost, Balance the Book did too, but Uncaptured ran a bang up race, especially since it was his first since the Kentucky Jockey Club in late November. If Uncaptured can win, he may be a serious player in this year's Derby.

Channel Isle, seventh, and Fear the Kitten, fifth, also exit the Spiral. With the way Mike Maker has been winning races at Keeneland, Fear the Kitten may be worth a long shot look from the outside post, 14.

The new faces to the race are Palace Malice, Footbridge and Rydilluc; all are talented three-year-olds.

Palace Malice had absolutely nowhere to run in the Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds and if he had, we may not be looking at him as a contender in the Blue Grass. He is; however, unproven on synthetic and he his sire, Curlin, did not exactly like it when he was running in his prime.

Footbridge is the upset play for trainer Eoin Harty even though the colt only has a maiden win on his resume. Two starts back Footbridge caught Governor Charlie, who won the Sunland Derby, and three starts back Footbridge was second to Curly Top, another well-bred Bob Baffert-trained horse. There are no Bafferts in the Blue Grass and while he has never run on a synthetic surface, Footbridge trains over the Cushion track at Hollywood Park. Bombs away.

Rydilluc has won three straight races, all on turf, and should be pressing the pace. He is drawn just inside of Fear the Kitten in post 13, but his trainer has already stated that 13 is his lucky number. Stranger things have happened.

Rounding out the field are Undrafted, perhaps the pace of the race going sprint to route, Tesseron, fourth in the Kentucky Jockey Club last year and West Hills Giant, second to Vyjack in the Grade 3 Gotham. Divine Ambition is on the outside looking in.

Post time for the Blue Grass on Saturday is 5:40

Keeneland – Jenny Wiley Stakes
Grade 1 Turf Fillies and Mares

The race preceding the Blue Grass at Keeneland on Saturday did not draw as many runners, but it may be just as good of a race. Nine fillies and mares will run the eight and one-half furlongs in the 25th running and four are Grade 1 winners. The others? Only two have yet to win a graded stakes race.

Headlining the field is last year's winner, Daisy Devine, who has two wins and one second in three starts over the Keeneland turf. Daisy Devine exits a second place finish in an off-the-turf stakes at Fair Grounds, but he is much better on the lawn. Look for her to once again be out winging on the front end.

Unlike last year, there does appear to be a bit more pace for Daisy Devine to contend with. One of those pace players is the five-year-old mare Old Tune. Old Tune won four Grade 1 races in her native Brazil and has been a perfect two-for-two since coming to the United States. She has back-to-back Grade 3 wins at Tampa and looks to be a top turf mare.

Better Lucky has not run since winning her Grade 1 race, the Matriarch at Hollywood Park. That was back in late November and this race may be a prep for the Distaff Turf Mile at Churchill Downs on Derby day. She is a much better filly second off the layoff.

Samitar is a Grad 1 winner on two continents with a win in the Irish 1000 Guineas at Curragh in May 2012 and a win in the Garden City at Belmont Park last September. She is the threat from off-the-pace, but must pass her nemesis, Centre Court.

Centre Court has been first or second in every one of her starts since being switched to the turf last year. That nine-race stretch includes wins in three Grade 2's, one Grade 3 and second place finishes in a Grade 1 and Grade 2. She could not have been more impressive in her last race, the Grade 2 Honey Fox at Gulfstream Park, and she is another looking to the Distaff Turf Mile next month.

The "other" two Graded stake winners in the field are Quiet Oasis and Hard Not to Like. Quiet Oasis looks to be adaptable to any pace scenario, but may actually prefer longer. She seems to bounce a touch second off-the-layoff and she may be overlooked on the board.

Hard Not to Like won the Grade 2 Marshua's River at Gulfstream Park in January then was fifth, beaten just over a length, in the Grade 3 Suwannee River in February. She is bit of a hard filly to read and may be just a cut below the top fillies in this race.

Ausus and Abaco are very good mares looking for their first graded stakes win against a very tough field. Of the two, Abaco is preferred as she is just three-quarters of a length away from having a five-race win streak. She is good, now is the time to strike.

First post on Saturday at Keeneland is 1:05 with the Jenny Wiley scheduled to break from the gate at 5:05. Also on the card are the Grade 1 Madison, Grade 3 Shakertown and Grade 3 Commonwealth.

Oaklawn Park – Arkansas Derby
Oxbow Draws Poor Again

The feature race during the Festival of the South at Oaklawn Park is the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby and this year a field of ten will contest the $1-million race.

Oxbow cannot catch a break. The son of Awesome Again has drawn post 10 or 11 now in five of his last six races, five of those races have been around two turns. The one time he drew well, post four, he won the Grade 3 LeComte at Fair Grounds by 11 and one-half lengths. The longer run into the first turn does help, but he and jockey Gary Stevens are looking at a wide trip.

The horse with perhaps the most upside is the Bob Baffert-trained War Academy, who comes out of a smashing allowance win at Santa Anita last month. By Giant's Causeway, War Academy has won two of three races and is bred to run all day long. He drew well in post two and has Mike Smith in the irons once again. Smith is looking for back-to-back Arkansas Derby wins having won the race last year with Bodemeister.

Baffert also sends Den's Legacy back to Hot Springs after running third, two lengths behind Oxbow, in the Grade 2 Rebel last out. Den's Legacy has run 11 times since he started racing last July and has finished worse than third only twice. The son of Medaglia d'Oro is a trifecta key.

The other contenders in the nine-furlong race are Carve, Divine Ambition, Falling Sky and Overanalyze.

Carve was sixth in the Rebel, his first loss in three career starts. The gelded son of First Samurai is better than that finish and could hit the board at a price.

Divine Ambition is the also-eligible in the Blue Grass and connections may want him in that race, but he has a win on the dirt and was sixth with a troubled trip in the Sam F. Davis, which was won by Falling Sky.

Falling Sky came out of the Davis with a good third place finish behind Verrazano and Java's War in the Tampa Bay Derby. Should Java's War win the Blue Grass and Falling Sky the Arkansas Derby then Verrazano just may roll on the first Saturday in May.

Overanalyze is looking to join his stable mate Verrazano in the Kentucky Derby and can do so with a good run on Saturday. By Dixie Union, Overanalyze was fifth as the post-time favorite in the Grade 3 Gotham in his last start. As a two-year-old Overanalyze won the Grade 2 Remsen by a nose over Normandy Invasion, who is on a short list of contenders to upset Verrazano in the Derby.

Whether or not Overanalyze can upset the Arkansas Derby is a whole other question. Heaven's Runway, Texas Bling and Frac Daddy complete the field.

Post time for the Arkansas Derby is 6:28.

Oaklawn Park – Oaklawn Handicap
Alternation Looks to Rebound

Two races prior to the Arkansas Derby on Saturday at Oaklawn Park is the 67th running of the Oaklawn Handicap, a nine furlong race for four-year-olds and upward. Last year’s winner Alternation is back to defend his title, but his form could use some help.

Last year Alternation came into the Handicap off of two straight wins by a combined five lengths. He was fast and fit and ready to roll, leading the whole way, winning by two and one-half lengths over Grade 1 winner Ron the Greek. This year; however, has been a different story. Alternation only has one race and that was a fifth place finish in the Grade 3 Razorback last month. He has been working well in the mornings and should be better fit in his second start off the layoff.

Of course, it won’t be easy for Alternation to repeat with the other horses in the race combining for 47 wins for earnings of over $7-million including last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Fort Larned.

Fort Larned was never really given his due last year on the board, he only started favored once and that was at almost 3-1. In the Breeders’ Cup he was just over 9-1, but ran the best race of his career, holding off Mucho Macho Man. Fort Larned came back at odds-on in the Gulfstream Park Handicap last month, but dropped the rider at the start. If you have the opportunity, go back and watch the reply. With no rider on the back, Fort Larned crossed the finish line about the length of the stretch ahead of the field. No doubt in most people’s minds who was best that day. Let’s just hope he doesn’t stumble at the start on Saturday.

Looking to upset the favorite are Cyber Secret, Unstoppable U, Sabercat, Atigun, Golden Ron, Taptowne, Win Willy and Optimizer.

Sabercat looks least likely to win in the group and Win Willy, even though he has won a third of his career starts, may be a bit long in the tooth so let’s take a look at the other five.

Cyber Secret, Golden Ron and Atigun finished one-two-three in the Razorback with Cyber Secret just out-finishing Golden Ron. Atigun was another half length back in third. Cyber Secret and Atigun look better with the added distance and Golden Ron will have to face pace pressure from Unstoppable U and Taptowne, not to mention Fort Larned.

Optimizer is another pace-setter, but from post ten jockey Gary Stevens may opt to take off the pace. The son of English Channel has been running on turf recently and is winless in nine starts on the dirt, but he has been training all winter over the dirt track at Oaklawn Park. Not to mention, trainer D. Wayne Lukas is having himself a great meet.

He’s going to need Optimizer to run a great race in order to upset the champion Fort Larned.

First post on Saturday in Hot Springs is 1:10 ET with the Handicap scheduled to break from the gate at 5:14.


Thoroughbred Racing Action

Great racing action from across the country this weekend.  Watch these races all on BetAmerica.com.

Saturday– April 13

  • Keeneland:  Blue Grass Stakes - G1, $750,000, 3yo, 9f
  • Keeneland:  Jenny Wiley Stakes - G1, $300,000, 4yo & up f&m, 8.5f  turf
  • Keeneland:  Commonwealth Staeks - G3, $175,000, 4yo & up, 7f 
  • Keeneland:  Shakertown Stakes - G3, $100,000, 4yo & up, 5.5f turf
  • Keeneland:  Madison Stakes - G1, $400,000, 4yo & up f&m, 7f
  • Oaklawn Park:  Arkansas Derby - G1, $1-million, 3yo, 9f
  • Oaklawn Park:  Oaklawn Handicap - G2, $500,000, 4yo & up, 9f
  • Oaklawn Park:  Count Fleet Sprint Handicap - G3, $250,000, 4yo & up, 6f
  • Oaklawn Park:  Northern Spur Stakes, $100,000, 8f
  • Santa Anita:  Las Cienegas Stakes - G3, $100,000, 4yo & up f&m, 6.5f turf
  • Calder Race Course:  Calder Oaks, $100,000, 3yo f, 8.5f turf
  • Parx:  Lyman Handicap, $75,000, 3yo & up, 7f
  • Parx:  Foxy J.G. Stakes, $75,000, 3yo & up f&m, 7f
  • Sunland Park:  Copper Top Futurity, $60,000, 2yo, 4.5f

Sunday – April 14

  • Keeneland:  Beaumont Stakes - G2, $150,000, 3yo f, 7f
  • Sunland Park:  Sunland Park Handicap, $85,000, 3yo & up, 9f