With rain in the forecast for Thursday, turf racing could be in serious jeopardy at Keeneland, though thankfully only two such races were carded. Rain or shine, our in-house handicapper has made picks for the whole card, with additional analysis provided of his best value plays throughout the day.
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I’m not trying to beat Radiantrithym (#8) in this race. She is going to be a heavy favorite, but she deserves to be given her strong dirt form and the questionable main-track merits of so many others in this field. Radiantrithym enters this race on a three-race win streak on dirt, and while some may not be familiar with her trainer Doug Danner, he’s a very capable horseman that has already sent this mare out to a runaway victory at Keeneland. Radiantrithym also has excellent tactical speed and from her wide draw it’s difficult to envision a scenario in which she gets beat unless her form deteriorates rapidly as a 7-year-old.
Since Radiantrithym is going to be a clear favorite, I think the value in this race lies underneath. Despite clearly boasting the second-best dirt credentials in the field, Parking Ticket (#2) is listed at 15-1 on the morning line. If that’s an accurate representation of how bettors view, then I’m all-in on her as an underneath option. Yes, she is 9-years-old now and in for a cheap tag, however this mare runs reliably well on the main track and even won a race at a higher class level during the Keeneland Fall Meet in 2020. I think she has an outside shot at upsetting Radiantrithym, but I think a more likely outcome is that she finishes second given her penchant for picking up minor awards. Either way, I’m expecting her to run well here in a race in which there are very few reliable options on this surface.
Southern District (#12) is no doubt the horse to beat in this maiden race. I’m not sure I think his debut is quite as good as the 78 Beyer Speed Figure it was assigned, however it was a useful first start and something I fully expect him to build upon in this spot. He also showed more early speed than it seems based on the running line, so I think he’ll be able to overcome his wide post. While I’ll certainly be using Southern District in any multi-race wagers, I don’t think he’s any kind of superstar based on his debut and he could go off at a very short price. He’s a much better option than Avenue (#5) and Alexander Valley (#7), who are ordinary at best and going to take money primarily because of who trains them, however this feels like a race to get creative in.
The horse I landed on is longshot Bakwena (#3), who makes his first start on turf after running four times during the winter on the synthetic track at Turfway Park with mixed results. It may not seem like it, but Bakwena has a ton of sneaky turf pedigree and I believe is going to move way forward on this surface. His sire Graydar isn’t known for his turf progeny, but Bakwena is a full-brother to Botswana, a graded stakes-placed runner on the lawn, and is a half to another five-time winner on the surface. While synth tilts more to turf than dirt, it’s not an apples-to-apples comparison, yet this guy ran well at Turfway on a couple of occasions, including a near miss two back that earned him a competitive 69 Beyer Speed Figure. I don’t think he’s as far out of it as it seems based on those races, and as I said I fully expect him to improve in this spot, especially as he adds Lasix. The best part is given his more obscure connections he should go off near his morning-line odds of 20-1, which would represent extraordinary value, in my opinion. With rain in the forecast for Thursday, I just hope this race stays on the turf.
Unfortunately, the day’s feature is also in jeopardy of coming off the turf, which would completely change the complexion of this race, though my top pick Fighting Seabee (#7) should be fine regardless. I’m taking a little stab with this guy off some lackluster recent efforts, however I don’t love any of the short-priced options in this race and at his best Fighting Seabee is a major player here. It may not look it given his overall body of work, but Fighting Seabee is a legitimately good turfer when he’s on his game, which admittedly isn’t often. However, if you isolate the race he ran off a long layoff at Keeneland last year on October 22, when he nearly won despite some trouble and earned an 89 Beyer Speed Figure, you’ll find a horse that should be very competitive against this group. There’s no guarantee he returns in the same form, but his price should be high enough to be worth the risk.
Despite some much stronger recent races, I also think Silenced (#9) could offer some value in this race. A former pupil of trainer Chad Brown, Cherie DeVaux has quietly been getting results with a small string of horses, and Silenced is a perfect example of that. Since this gelding was transferred from the West Coast-based Peter Eurton to DeVaux, he’s put together a pair of career-best performances at Gulfstream Park, earning Beyers in the low 90’s for those efforts. There isn’t terribly much early speed to go with him in this race, which is going to make him dangerous in the front end, and it’s possible he slips through the cracks a bit in the wagering as bettors gravitate to more name-brand stables. He’s one to keep an eye on, for sure.