Shakertown Stakes Picks: Kanthaka the play here

Javier Castellano rides our first choice in the Shakertown - Kanthaka
Javier Castellano rides our first choice in the Shakertown - Kanthaka

The $300,000 Grade II Shakertown Stakes has attracted a field of 13 this Saturday afternoon at Keeneland.

This one has been covered by both our turf-man and in-house handicapper as they preview the race below along with our race-card...

J.N's Take...

It is time for one of my favorite races of the April Meet, and who doesn’t like a grass sprint to really get the blood pumping. You need to look for wild long shots in this spot because “thar is gold in them thar hills.” I can say from the start that I am against most of the favorites in this race. Imprimis #2 looks tired, and does not have a shine like he used to. I also do not like playing against Wesley Ward, but this is the first year after 3 Shakertowns, that I am not backing Bound for Nowhere #13. I will not be using either them in this ticket.

For my money… the best play appears to be a split between Graham Motion’s Kanthaka #7 and Michelle Lovell’s Just Might #9. Both have different advantages… Motion doesn’t possess a bevy of grass sprinters, so this one is rather an anomaly. The gelding reached a heightened class level as a dirt sprinter in SoCal before coming to Herringswell in mid-2020 from Hollendorfer’s fledgling stable. He then took on some good East Coast turf sprinters like Oleksandra, Silent Poet, and of course, Imprimis. Those 3 efforts that ended in the Nearctic (G2) proved Motion’s move was a good one. I love the addition here of Javier Castellano. His turf riding prowess, like his trainer, is geared more towards routing (where improvisation is mandatory). Still, take him… it is a gift, especially if this entry ends of 6/1 or higher.

The other choice I fancy is Lovell’s play, who was cut-off royally in last year’s edition of this race. Once again, she sends this son of Justin Phillip into the “Shaker” after a brilliant frontend score in the off-the-turf Colonial Power 100k @FG. Did you see who drew into that race—Brendan Walsh’s Extravagant Kid. Anyone recall what he did last week? … won the Al Quoz Sprint (G1) in Dubai against a massive favorite in Space Blues… among other solid burners. Lovell has prepared him for this spot, and she used to train his dam too—Dynamite Babe, who was bred well for the grass in her own right. Big chance at a great price on this 5-yr-old, if 12/1 holds…

I like both these runners and intend to use both…

Wagering Recommendation: $2 Exacta Box: 7/9


Sean's Take...

’m not fully playing against the likely favorites in this race, Imprimis (#2) and Bound for Nowhere (#13), but I do prefer a horse who’s going to be slightly better odds. Imprimis needs to bounce back after a pretty disappointing runner-up finish in the Turf Dash at Tampa Bay Downs, where he got a good trip and was simply second best, but this guy is a classy turf sprinter that has run very well over this course before, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to seem him rebound here. Bound for Nowhere is a sparingly-raced Wesley Ward trainee, but when he does show up on the racetrack he usually delivers a quality effort, especially at Keeneland.

These two are formidable foes, however I think Kanthaka (#7) is in a good spot to pull off the mild upset in his 2021 debut. This horse came off a very long layoff last year to nearly win the G1 Jaipur at Belmont, so I don’t think the time off is a concern, and there is an extraordinary amount of early speed signed on in this race to set up his late kick. If he delivers an effort similar to what we saw in the Jaipur, which featured a better field than this, then Kanthaka is going to be tough to hold off, even for sprinters of the quality of Imprimis and Bound for Nowhere.

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