A trio of graded stakes events on the lawn will help highlight a massive opening Saturday card at Keeneland. The lucrative $1 million Shadwell Turf Mile (G1) takes top billing, and it is accompanied by fine fields in both the $400,000 First Lady (G1) and the $200,000 Woodford (G2).
The turf course at Keeneland generally plays fairly to all types of runners. I prefer horses with early presence in the turf routes, while I tend to lean to late-running contenders in the dashes on the lawn. If the course has some give to it, I give a slight edge to pace players and horses capable of saving ground throughout.
Here are my spot plays for the trio of turf events on opening Saturday:
Race 6 (Woodford)
A field of 10 will vie in the 5 1/2-furlong contest. The Rusty Arnold-trained Leinster (#9) (5-1) has morphed into a different animal since adding blinkers in February. Majestic Warrior colt ripped off four wins in succession prior to being third at Kentucky Downs last time out, and that streak started with a dominating allowance win at Keeneland. Bay zipped a bullet half-mile on the course recently.
Race 8 (First Lady)
An abundance of early tempo is signed on for the “Win and You’re In” affair which offers a berth in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf (G1). I like a pair of late runners in this deep field. The classy Uni (#4) (4-1) is five-for-six at one mile and ran well to be third in the Fourstardave (G1) at Saratoga last out. More Than Ready mare has a potent turn of foot on her best day.
Euro import Just Wonderful (#13) (12-1) has great value for Aidan O’Brien. Dansili filly was a very good third in the Matron (G1) at the trip most recently, and if she could use that as a springboard to this affair, the bay will be storming home inside the final furlong beneath Wayne Lordan.
Race 10 (Shadwell Turf Mile)
The “Win and You’re In” contest will present the winner an automatic entry to the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1). But it will not come easy with an overflow field of 16 ready to roll in the one-mile fray.
In a race without as much pace as the First Lady, I will look for a contender with an early presence. Godolphin’s Vintager (#8) (10-1) has been forwardly placed in his runs overseas and comes in with fine current form taking a pair of Group races in succession. Gelded son of Mastercraftsman from the barn of expert handler Charlie Appleby receives Lasix for his U. S. debut, and he could sit a dream trip just behind the two pace setters in the field.