A string of four straight stakes race days at Keeneland begins today with the 25th running of the $150,000 Grade 3 Sycamore Stakes for 3 year olds and up going three turns over 1 ½ miles on the turf. The field of 11 will go to gate for race 8 of the 9-race card with an approximate post time of 4:57 p.m. ET.
#4, Nakamura, Javier Castellano, 7-2
In all four starts this year, Nakamura has been in the money (3-0-1) and is 4-2-2 in 12 career starts. He saw his three-race win streak snapped in his last where he finished third by a disqualification by Postulation (also in today’s race) behind Lemon Zip and winner O Dionysus in the $100,000 Japan Turf Cup at Laurel Park on Sept. 28. The finishes of those four horses - head, head, neck, ¾ - so Nakamura was right there and could have made it four straight. Trainer H. Graham Motionwho has won this race three times (2011, 2014, 2015) gets the services of Javier Castellano in the saddle for Nakamura’s first start over the Keeneland turf. Entering today’s card, Castellano has a one win lead over Jose Ortiz in the meet’s jockey standings. The pick.
#5, Focus Group, Jose Ortiz, 8-5
Focus Group will be making his seventh straight graded stakes start (1-0-2) for trainer Chad Brown. He captured the G2 Pan American Stakes by a nose over Melmich at Gulfstream Park on March 30 and in his last, finished third as the third choice in the $300,000 G3 Northern Dancer Turf Stakes behind Nessy (by a nose) and 2 ½ length winner Old Persian (GB) at Woodbine on Sept. 14. Jose Ortiz, who is one win behind Javier Castellano (my pick) in the current meet’s jockey standings, is aboard. There is a reason why he is the morning line favorite with all of that experience, but why only one win? Runner-up.
#12, Space Mountain, Corey Lanerie, 12-1
Space Mountain, who will be making his 31st career start (6-3-2) and 10th this year (2-0-2), is one of two horses in an uncoupled entry for trainer Michael Maker. He is coming off a ½ length win in his last over Mr. Misunderstood in the $100,000 Remington Green Stakes at Remington Park on Sept. 29. This will be his first graded stakes race since Feb. 27, 2016, where he finished seventh in the G3 Palm Beach Stakes at Gulfstream Park. In four career starts at Keeneland, he has one win in an allowance race back on Oct. 14, a winner by ¾ of a length in which he showed a late kick. Corey Lanerie is aboard and that will certainly help the cause to get Space Mountain a different vibe. We shall see. Contender.
#6, Postulation, Jorge Vargas, 7-2
Lightly raced this year (1-0-0) in just two starts for trainer Michael Matz, Postulation is coming off a disqualification from third to fifth in the Japan Turf Cup Stakes (see Nakamura analysis above). Prior to that however, he pulled away for a 2 ¾ length triumph over Surprise Twist and Saratoga Jack to win the $75,000 Presious Passion Stakes at Monmouth Park on Aug. 31. This will be his 28th career start (6-6-3) and 9th graded stakes, with his lone win in the G3 American St. Leger Stakes at Arlington on Aug. 12, 2017. In the mix.