Friday is closing day at Keeneland, and we’ll look to end the 2021 spring meet on a winning note by analyzing the late Pick Four sequence. It starts in the seventh of 10 races on the program, and I’ll look to hit it with an $18 ticket that takes a stand in the last leg. Here’s how I’ll play it.
We’ll start the sequence with an allowance race that’s drawn a stakes-quality group. Nine runners will go long on the grass, and I’m using a third of the field.
While I’m including morning line favorite #5 OCEAN ATLANTIQUE, my top selection is actually #7 CONVICTION TRADE, and I think that one may go favored. His run in the Grade 2 Muniz Memorial at Fair Grounds was too bad to be true, and it came after a series of strong outings (including a pair of in-the-money finishes against stakes foes). The distance won’t get him beat, and I’m expecting a step forward.
I’ll also include #2 BAKERS BAY, who almost certainly needed his last-out effort earlier in the meet. He was one-paced in his first outing since November, but trainer Shug McGaughey’s horses usually move forward second off the bench and that clunker might inflate the price a bit.
This maiden race for 3-year-olds is a real puzzle. Nine of the 12 runners in the body of the field will make their career debuts here, and I see fit to go four-deep while including several prices.
#11 CASUAL AFFAIR is one I’m looking forward to seeing run. He’s bred to be any kind, as he’s by Into Mischief and out of Hall of Famer Ashado, who’s proven to be no slouch as a broodmare. This colt is a half-brother to six winners and has worked well for Brendan Walsh, and I think he could have plenty of talent.
I’ll also use #1 TALL TIMBER, #5 SIBELIUS, and #9 BUFFALO SHUFFLE. Tall Timber is 15-1 on the morning line, but he sports several very fast workouts despite a pedigree that leans more to longer races. At his likely price, that one has to be on my tickets, and we may get an entrymate as well, as #1A KOLSCH could run if two or more horses scratch.
The closing day feature is the Grade 3 Bewitch for older fillies and mares going a mile and a half on the lawn. It drew a 12-horse field, and I’m using three of them.
I think #6 KALIFORNIA QUEEN is in line to take a big step forward. She showed plenty of form overseas winning a Group 2 in Germany and finishing sixth of 12 in a Group 1 in France. She was one-paced in her U.S. debut, but that was her first race since February, and I think she needed it. I’ll happily give her one more shot.
#7 DALIKA and #8 WAR LIKE GODDESS are on my ticket as well. The former stretches out and has a pedigree that should embrace this marathon distance, while the latter has taken steps forward in all four starts to date and has two wins at similar distances.
The final race of the meet is a maiden claiming event for older horses going seven furlongs, and this is where I become a contrarian. I don’t want #6 TALLAJ, who debuts for Wesley Ward and may take significant money. It’s tough to debut going seven furlongs, and his pedigree screams turf, not dirt. Add in that he fetched $140,000 at auction and is running for a $50,000 tag at first asking, and I think there are red flags here.
Instead, give me #5 TITLE SHOT, who has a race under his belt and drops in for a tag. Wayne Catalano rarely has his first-time starters fully cranked, so I’m not holding that effort against him. He’s worked very well multiple times since that performance and attracts John Velazquez, who has enjoyed a stellar meet. Title Shot is 5-1 on the morning line, and I think he’ll play bigger than that in the multi-race exotics given the presence of a chalk I don’t like. I’m singling him here, and I hope that provides some value.
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