By Sean Morris

Keeneland Horse Racing Analysis for April 3

By Sean Morris
The G2 Blue Grass highlights a spectacular day of racing on Saturday at Keeneland
The G2 Blue Grass highlights a spectacular day of racing on Saturday at Keeneland

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Always a favorite of bettors, G2 Blue Grass Day at Keeneland is upon us, with 11 races and a total of six graded stakes on the program, which accounts for more than half the card. As usual, our in-house handicapper is on the scene to break down the day's action, providing picks for every race and a detailed breakdown of his best value plays of the day.

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

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Race 2

On a card with so many quality stakes races, albeit a few of them with short fields, I feel a little guilty spending time on the second race, a starter allowance event for 3-year-olds on the main track, but you have to go where the value lies. In this case, I believe it’s Perfect Cut (#5) that’s going to be a significant overlay.

With the scratch of Chasing Artie (#8), who I would’ve loved to bet against in this race but am relieved that his connections opted for the more sensible spot on Friday, the horse to beat is no doubt A C Expressway (#7). This guy has been a little erratic to date, however I think he’s a better sprinter and is coming off a field-best 77 Beyer Speed Figure earned in a quality allowance race at Fair Grounds. I’m a little torn as to how to evaluate that race. On one hand, the horses that finished ahead of and just behind him are legitimately talented sprinters, however A C Expressway got a very good trip behind a rapid pace and TimeForm US has the race as being on the slow side.

With those question marks surrounding the likely favorite, I’m happy to side with Perfect Cut, who should be a far more attractive price. His PP’s don’t exactly bowl you over, but I believe he showed huge improvement in his last race when he beat a decent group of maiden special weights at Gulfstream. Perfect Cut did not have an ideal trip in that race, but he was able to overcome a bit of adversity to prevail and that win is particularly notable due to his trainer Ken McPeek’s woes at Gulfstream’s Championship Meet. I think this horse is really heading in the right direction, and I’m expecting the Kentucky-based McPeek to have far more success at Keeneland.


Race 7 (G3 Commonwealth)

What good fortune that two of the biggest money burners in the country have both lined up for the G3 Commonwealth! Hidden Scroll (#2) needs no introduction. Since a runaway maiden win in the slop at Gulfstream in early 2019 that earned him a whopping 104 Beyer, this horse has been one of the most polarizing runners in the sport, and until his last start, his first with trainer Brad Cox, his detractors had been proven right time and again. However, although he won last time and even overcame a bit of trouble to do so, I don’t think the light bulb has all of a sudden gone on for him and he’ll need to get faster to have a chance here. That’s certainly possible with Keeneland monster Cox at the helm, but I’m not counting on it at a short price.

The other half of the uncoupled, underachieving entry is Flagstaff (#1). Admittedly this guy is a far more consistent performer than Hidden Scroll, and I’m not entirely against him in this spot given the strength of this field, however he’s no superstar and has a long history of burning money. He’s also running without Lasix on Saturday and could regress further off his mediocre recent races.

This really feels like a race where you almost have to look for a price, and I believe I found a live one with Special Reserve (#4). He’s no faster than his competition in the Commonwealth, but he’s also no slower, either, and he’s responded very well to the removal of blinkers two starts ago. He did get to set a rather comfortable pace in his last start, but there isn’t a tremendous amount of speed signed on here, and I trust his trainer Mike Maker to have him ready to negotiate an additional furlong. At double-digit odds I think he’s a strong play.


Race 10 (G1 Madison)

Like the other seven-furlong sprint stake on the card, the G1 Madison feels ripe for an upset with a couple top contenders coming off layoffs and another that’s unproven on dry dirt. Bell’s the One (#4) is probably the horse to beat as she exits a third-place finish in last year’s G1 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint over this track, however I’m a little skeptical of her chances coming off a lengthy break. This 5-year-old mare certainly turned a corner in 2020 and even became a G1 winner, but she could be vulnerable in this spot given the lack of early speed. In fact, the same fate befell her in last year’s Madison, when she could do no better than a well-beaten third on July 11. I think she’s poised to have another strong campaign, but I don’t think this is the spot to play her.

The same goes for Sconsin (#6), who I view as a lesser version of Bell’s the One, and I’m also against Kimari (#5), who was on the better part of the racetrack last out in the Spring Fever at Oaklawn and is probably better on a wet track anyway.

With all the uncertainty surrounding these runners, I’m going in a different direction with Sanenus (#1) and Mundaye Call (#3). The latter, who is listed at a shockingly high 8-1 on the morning line, is my top pick in this race. Her form tailed off at the end of her sophomore year, but she had flashed brilliance at points in 2020 and is coming back in a spot that should be very conducive to her running style. If Mundaye Call gets bet down off her morning line, however, I could see Sanenus offering even more value. This mare has made steady strides since shipping to the U.S. in the middle of last year, and despite a six-length win going two turns last out in the G3 La Canada, I think this trip is perfect for her. She should be able to sit a perfect, ground-saving journey just off the speed of Mundaye Call, and I’m hoping these two can put some distance between them in the rest of the field in the stretch.


Race 11 (G2 Blue Grass)

At first glance, the G2 Blue Grass appears to be another coronation for last year’s 2-Year-Old Champion Essential Quality (#4). This horse is a perfect 4-for-4 in his career after picking up right where he left off as a juvenile in his 3-year-old debut in the G3 Southwest at Oaklawn Park, which he won easily by 4 ¼ lengths. Indeed everything appears to be smooth sailing for Essential Quality, who is meeting a less-than-imposing bunch in the Blue Grass, however I do have some concerns. For one, Essential Quality isn’t all that much faster than his competition, and he’s coming off very good trips in his recent races. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him take a step forward in his second start of 2021, however he’s going to be an awfully short price and I don’t believe he’s a lock.

I actually prefer Highly Motivated (#3) in this race. This horse has earned speed figures that can rival Essential Quality, and I thought he ran better than it looks in his seasonal bow when he stumbled at the start of the G3 Gotham at Aqueduct but ran on well to get third. This horse exploded in one start at Keeneland last year, an effort that was vastly better than anything else he showed as a juvenile, and if he shows similar improvement here he can absolutely give the favorite a run for his money. Also consider the complete lack of early speed in the Blue Grass, which Highly Motivated should be able to take full advantage of. It may seem as though he’s more of an off-the-pace type, but with a clean break I’m expecting him to be on the front end setting comfortable splits. If that scenario unfolds he’s going to be a very likely winner at two or three times the price of Essential Quality.

  • Keeneland Picks
  • Picks (Sean)
  • Picks (J.N.)
  • Picks (Neil)

Keeneland Picks

  • Race 1:
  • Race 2:
  • Race 3:
  • Race 4:
  • Race 5:
  • Race 6:
  • Race 7:
  • Race 8:
  • Race 9:
  • Race 10:
  • Race 11:
  • Most Likely Winner:
  • Best Value Play:

Picks (Sean)

  • 4-5-1-3
  • 5-7-3-2
  • 2-6-10-3
  • 11-1-4-7
  • 8-9-1A-7
  • 1-4-2-6
  • 4-7-1-2
  • 7-2-13-9
  • 5-3-6-2
  • 3-1-4-5
  • 3-4-1-2
  • Jouster (Race 6)
  • Special Reserve (Race 7)

Picks (J.N.)

  • 1-5-4-3
  • 8-5-7-1
  • 2-7-11-5
  • 8-4-2-3
  • 8-7-6-9
  • 4-1-2-6
  • 1-6-2-5
  • 9-7-11-2
  • 4-6-5-3
  • 1-5-4-6
  • 4-1-3-9
  • Essential Quality (Race 11)
  • I Hear You (Race 4)

Picks (Neil)

  • 5-1-4-3
  • 7-8-5-4
  • 7-10-11-5
  • 1-4-2-11
  • 7-2-5-10
  • 2-1-4-5
  • 1-7-6-2
  • 5-2-9-11
  • 5-3-2-1
  • 3-4-5-7
  • 4-3-9-7
  • Essential Quality (Race 11)
  • King's Mischief (Race 3)
Keeneland Picks, Entries & Results

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