Keeneland Horse Racing Analysis for April 18

Keeneland closes out the week with an intriguing nine-race card on Sunday
Keeneland closes out the week with an intriguing nine-race card on Sunday

Another week of racing at Keeneland comes to a close on Sunday, with just one more to go before racing in Kentucky shifts to Churchill Downs. As usual, our in-house handicapper has highlighted his best value plays in great detail and has made picks for the whole card.

If you're looking for picks elsewhere around the country on Sunday, be sure to check out our Free Horse Racing Picks via the gold button below.

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Race 1

A diverse group of 3-year-old fillies has signed on for the opener, a one-mile turf race for maiden special weights, led by Spieghtstown Shirl (#5), who makes her long-awaited second start following a strong runner-up finish in her debut on September 26 at Woodbine. A daughter of G1 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf heroine Perfect Shirl, Speightstown Shirl ran to her robust pedigree in her first start when she finished a clear second behind Souper Sensational, who dominated a stake at Woodbine in her next start and finished third in the G2 Fair Grounds Oaks in her most recent outing. Speightstown Shirl won’t be meeting anyone of that kind of quality in this spot, and it’s possible that after running on a synthetic track in her first start she’s getting on her preferred surface here. This filly is clearly a major player, however there’s another second-time starter I like even better. 

Flatter Me Silly (#7) earned an identical 71 Beyer Speed Figure to Speightstown Shirl for her debut effort on March 4 at Fair Grounds when she closed strongly going 5 ½ furlongs on turf, and that race has received a big boost during this meet as the winner came back to score in an allowance race earlier in the week. Perhaps even more telling, however, is that Flatter Me Silly’s stablemate, who was well beaten in the race, returned to win a two-turn maiden special weight on grass at Keeneland making this very same move. That’s no surprise considering Flatter Me Silly’s trainer Neil Pessin really excels with second-time starters, and if anything is to be gleaned from the worktab it’s that she’s really picked things up in the morning as her connections are getting serious with her. If she shows the same kind of improvement as her barnmate Mischevious Mel did it’s doubtful even Speightstown Shirl can beat her.

Race 5

This is a confounding starter allowance race on turf in which it’s probably a good idea to shop around for a price. I was tempted to pick Hat Tip (#8) based on her last race when she had legitimate trouble against straight allowance foes earlier in the meet, however that wasn’t a particularly strong field for the level and it’s unclear how much better this mare could’ve done with a clean trip. Given her relatively weak prior races I’m inclined to take a somewhat negative stance, though she does appear to be at her best over this turf course.

I’m even less interested in Camellia Gal (#6), who will probably go off favored in this spot due to being trained by Mike Maker. While two back she earned a 79 Beyer Speed Figure that makes her look formidable, that number appears to be something of an outlier for her, and in her latest outing at Gulfstream Park she got a very good trip and finished a mild third against a comparable group. 

With these two at a short price I think you have to look elsewhere, which is why I landed on Hey Kitten (#4) as my top pick. It feels like eons ago now, but at one point early in 2020 this filly was a promising young turf runner. Things have obviously gone awry since that time, but she was claimed back by trainer Rodolphe Brisset late last summer and finally showed signs of life in her latest start at Turfway Park. That race still leaves her with a handful of lengths to make up on this field, however it’s not as though synth to turf is a one-for-one comparison, and if she were to move forward on this surface, which has always been where she’s at her best, then she can compete with this group. I’m also encouraged that despite claiming her for just 10k last August her connections are putting her in a protected spot here, which is perhaps a signal that she’s ready to fully round back into form.

Race 7

I’m not too interested in any of the horses exiting that March 14 Fair Grounds race in this wide-open turf sprint. They all earned respectable speed figures for their efforts, however the winner from that race came back to flop at this meet and I just don’t think it was a good race on the whole. If I’m taking anyone out of that spot it’s Oak Hill (#6), who was compromised by a rough beginning and looked a bit uncomfortable rallying on the inside in the stretch, though I’m still not sure he’s really cut out to be a turf sprinter.

I understand that people are going to be skeptical of The Connector (#3), who goes out for the obscure Mark Hoffman, but this horse is coming out of vastly better races. And if you thought his efforts at Tampa Bay Downs were a fluke, especially his race two back when he finished third behind top turf sprinters The Critical Way and Imprimis in the Turf Dash, he followed it up with a surprisingly good third in the Silks Run at Gulfstream. The speed figures he earned in those races don’t make him a standout, but it cannot be understated just how much tougher those spots were. Along with substantial class relief, The Connector is going to be aided by facing a group with very little early speed, and he could conceivably have the lead all to himself. If people are going to dramatically underestimate him, which the morning line seems to suggest, then he’s going to be a strong play.

I like The Connector quite a bit, but I think you also have to take Verb (#5) very seriously as he switches to turf. He doesn’t have an overwhelming amount of pedigree for this surface, but he’s in razor sharp form at the moment and if he does handle the transition to grass racing then he’s going to be a major player. I could envision him getting overlooked a bit in the wagering, as well, and that would be a mistake given what a suspect bunch he’s facing.

Sean's Keeneland 2021 Results
  • Date
  • Daily Winners / Places
  • Daily Biggest Winner / Place
  • Daily $
  • Overall $


  • April 2
  • April 3
  • April 7
  • April 8
  • April 9
  • April 10
  • April 11
  • April 14
  • April 15
  • April 16
  • April 17
  • April 18
  • April 22
  • April 23
  • April 24

Daily Winners / Places

  • 3 Win / 6 Place
  • 3 Win / 5 Place
  • 4 Win / 5 Place
  • 4 Win / 6 Place
  • 2 Win / 5 Place
  • 4 Win / 5 Place
  • 3 Win / 3 Place
  • 3 Win / 4 Place
  • 0 Win / 3 Place
  • 2 Win / 4 Place
  • 4 Win / 4 Place
  • 2 Win / 7 Place
  • 2 Win / 3 Place
  • 4 Win / 6 Place
  • 1 Win / 6 Place

Daily Biggest Winner / Place

  • $10.20 (Win - R7)
  • $8.60 (Place - R7)
  • $13.00 (Win - R8)
  • $38 (Win R8)
  • $18.20 (Place - R5)
  • $14.40 (Win - R1)
  • $6.80 (Win - R8)
  • $13.00 (Win - R5)
  • $16.20 (Place - R1)
  • $6.80 (Win - R5)
  • $9.40 (Win - R10)
  • $30.60 (Win - R5)
  • $7.20 (Win - R2)
  • $9.60 (Win - R5)
  • $7.00 (Place - R1)

Daily $

  • $35.80
  • $39.60
  • $46.00
  • $77.40
  • $44.20
  • $55.80
  • $21.80
  • $38.20
  • $21.80
  • $22.00
  • $45.40
  • $72.30
  • $24.60
  • $45.10
  • $30.20

Overall $

  • $35.80
  • $75.40
  • $121.40
  • $198.80
  • $243.00
  • $298.80
  • $320.60
  • $358.80
  • $379.60
  • $401.60
  • $447.00
  • $519.30
  • $543.90
  • $589.00
  • $619.20
Keeneland Picks, Entries & Results
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