Keeneland expert picks: Thursday, April 25, 2024

April 24th, 2024

It’s the second to last day of the Keeneland Spring Meet, and we’ve got a nine-race card on tap for Thursday.

Below we’ve got top picks for the first five races, along with a pair of Doubles to play with our TwinSpires Daily Double Down promo, in which you’ll get a 25% boost on all winning Daily Double wagers at Keeneland every Wednesday through Friday in April if you hit two Daily Doubles on a given promotional day. See Ts &Cs for more info.

$3 Double, Races 1 and 2: 6 with 4, 7, 8 ($9)

$3 Double, Races 3 and 4: 3 with 2, 4, 7 ($9)

Race 1: 1 1/16 miles, maiden claimer, 3yo and up

#6 Main Line Cipher (5-2) — Honor Code colt makes seventh career start and second since transferring to Saffie Joseph’s barn. Four-year-old raced on all-weather and turf in first two starts, then ran a mile on Churchill’s main track in an event taken off the turf and finished fourth back in November. Returned to all-weather and stretched out to 1 1/8 miles next, then cut back to a mile and was a distant second to a next-out winner at Gulfstream before moving to Joseph’s barn. Recorded an 80 Brisnet Speed rating last out at seven furlongs, good for the highest last race speed figure among the field. Joseph is a 35% winner when dropping from a maiden special weight to a maiden claimer and will add blinkers (19% winning move). Tyler Gaffalione will pick up the mount. Bullet four-furlong workout April 19 at Keeneland.

#3 Conflicted (12-1) — Collected colt was far back in both starts racing a mile for Kenny McPeek but can improve with Lasix. McPeek is a 31% winner this meet and a 19% winner at the maiden claiming level. Brian Hernandez Jr. (23% with routes and a 21% winner paired with McPeek the last two months) will pick up the mount.

#5 Surface to Air (3-1) — Midshipman colt is 0-for-11 lifetime but has tried multiple surfaces. Had the lead in the stretch but was bested by a pair of outer challengers when finishing third at 1 1/16 miles two back. Eligible to improve off a long layoff for Darrin Miller, a 21% winner off layoffs of 90 or more days and a 17% winner at the maiden claiming level. Flavien Prat (26% with routes) will pick up the mount. Career-best 87 BRIS figure (from June 2023) is tied with Main Line Cipher for the fastest dirt speed figure among today’s field.

Will stand against #4 True Faith (9-5), who finished eighth by 13 lengths on debut in a six-furlong maiden special weight at Oaklawn in February and recorded a weak 65 BRIS figure. Makes his first start at a route and picks up Irad Ortiz Jr. Workouts have looked uninspiring. Rodolphe Brisset is also 0-for-7 this meet.

Race 2: 5 1/2 furlongs (turf), maiden special weight, 2yos

#4 Cheval de Guerre (6-1) — Caravaggio colt will make first career start for Eddie Kenneally, a 12% winner with horses making their debut on turf. Sire’s progeny win at a 10% rate first time on turf, and Cheval de Guerre has looked sharp in recent works at Keeneland. Luis Saez will ride and is winning at a 12% clip on turf.

#7 Monterey Bay (6-5) — Good Magic colt is trained by Wesley Ward, a 29% winner this meet and a 28% winner with first-time starters. Sire produces winners just 6% of the time with first-time turf starters but damsire (Galileo) has a 13% win rate with first-time starters on the turf. Monterey Bay’s dam also has two turf winners from five starters, and the two-year-old has put in a couple of fast workouts at Keeneland. Jose Ortiz Jr. (19% on turf) is aboard. Breeding may be suited to longer distances.

#8 The Toner (20-1) — Maclean’s Music colt is out of a dam with three winners from four starters, including a turf winner. Caio Caramori is a 10% winner with turf starts but just a 4% winner with first-time starters. Joel Rosario will ride (18% on turf). Bullet four-furlong workout April 14. Average winning distance of sire’s progeny is right around today’s distance. 

#5 Bright Skittle (8-1) — Twirling Candy colt makes debut for Rusty Arnold, a 13% winner with turf starts but a 7% winner with first-time starters. However, Bright Skittle’s sire is producing winners 15% of the time in progeny’s first start on turf, and Flavien Prat (21% on the grass) is named to ride.

#11 Madroc (12-1) — Two-year-old is by Constitution, whose progeny win at a 12% clip first time on the turf. Trainer Mary Lightner is a 33% winner with turf starts, and Tyler Gaffalione will ride. Sharp four-furlong workout on April 9.  

AE of note #15 Johnny Come Lately (7-2) — Wesley Ward trainee is by Hootenanny, whose progeny win at an 18% rate first time on the turf, and the two-year-old gelding’s dam has four winners from six starters, including two turf winners, one which won a turf stake. Gerardo Corrales is named to ride.  

Race 3: 1 1/16 miles, claimer, 4yo and up

#3 Tres Soles (9-5) — Justify colt was beaten by a head last out in a 1 1/16-mile claimer at Churchill in September; clocked a 92 BRIS figure. Returns off a more than six-month layoff for Joe Sharp, an 18% winner second start off the claim and a 13% winner off layoffs of 90 or more days. Tyler Gaffalione will retain the mount. Bullet five-furlong workout April 14 at Keeneland.

#2 Kerouac (12-1) —Uncle Mo gelding comes off a more than five-month layoff and makes his first start for trainer Jonathan Thomas, a 21% winner with horses making their first start with him and a 19% winner off layoffs of 90 or more days. Five-year-old will remove blinkers and pick up Jose Ortiz, a 24% winner this meet. Kerouac had been racing on turf or all-weather in his last six and broke his maiden at today’s distance on Woodbine’s synthetic track. Drops in class today and has the speed to get the early lead. Sharp recent workouts at Keeneland.

#5 Sugoi (3-1) — Karakontie seven-year-old won last out first off the claim for Rick Hiles when getting up by a head at the wire in a 1 1/4-mile allowance optional claimer at Turfway; recorded a 93 BRIS figure, the highest last race speed figure among the field. Previously had won two of three starts while under the guidance of his previous trainer, with speed figures ranging from 83-88. Will return off a layoff of more than two months and picks up Luis Saez, an 18% winner with routes.

Race 4: 6 furlongs, claimer, fillies and mares 3yo and up

#7 Smart With Heart (9-2) — The Factor filly finished far back in her last two on turf but romped to a seven-length win in a six-furlong maiden claimer on Fair Grounds’ main track three back with a 69 BRIS figure. Trainer Jose Camejo is a 15% winner going from turf to dirt and a 23% winner off layoffs of 90 or more days. Axel Concepcion will pick up the mount and is winning at a 15% clip this meet.

#2 Little Sass (6-1) — Palace Malice filly will cut back slightly in distance after finishing a distant sixth of seven in a 6 1/2-furlong claimer at Churchill in November. Two back, the three-year-old posted a 70 BRIS figure when second to a next-out winner in a six-furlong claimer at Keeneland. Comes off a more than five-month layoff for Larry Demeritte and will race on Lasix for the first time while dropping down multiple class levels. Jesus Castanon, a 17% winner with sprints, will pick up the mount.

#4 Riviere (7-2) — Bolt d’Oro filly won two back when racing a mile on Turfway’s all-weather in a maiden claimer, then tried the same distance and track, and was an even third in a claiming race. Will make first start off the claim for Martin Rouck, who’s 2-for-7 with a +2.42 ROI first off the claim and 2-for-5 off layoffs of 46-90 days. Four-year-old can improve on the cutback in distance and switching back to dirt. Abel Lezcano will pick up the mount. Sharp four-furlong workout April 5. 

Will stand against #5 Frosted Diamond (8-5), who last won 10 starts back in a five-furlong maiden special weight at Delta Downs. Makes her first start for a new trainer who’s 0-for-8 off layoffs of 46-90 days and 1-for-13 with horses making their first start with the trainer. Edgar Morales will ride but is 0-for-20 this meet. Frosted mare also failed to finish in the money in her two career starts at Keeneland.

Race 5: 1 1/2 miles (turf), allowance, 4yo and up

#10 Truly Quality (6-1) — Quality Road gelding posted a 91 BRIS figure last out when rallying to finish third in a one-mile allowance optional claimer over a Santa Anita track labeled good. The four-year-old is 1-for-7 lifetime with a win at 1 1/4 miles in a maiden special weight at Belmont, and he posted a 97 BRIS figure in the effort, the best turf speed figure among the field. Trainer Jonathan Thomas is a 19% winner at the allowance level and a 25% winner off layoffs of 46-90 days. Florent Geroux, a 29% winner this meet and a 19% winner on turf, will regain the mount and finished third in his only other start with Truly Quality when racing 1 5/16 miles. Bullet four-furlong workout April 19 at Keeneland.

#5 Cyber Ninja (4-1) — Arrogate colt finished a two-length second last out at 1 1/8 miles and will stretch back out and return to turf for Bill Mott, a 24% winner this meet and a 19% winner off layoffs of 46-90 days. Closer flashed a 92 BRIS figure in his most recent turf start, at 1 3/8 miles, and he put in a bullet four-furlong workout April 14 at Payson Park. Junior Alvarado is a 24% winner this meet and 12-3-3-2 paired with Mott the last 14 days.

#6 Sgt. Pepper (7-2) — Uncle Mo gelding has a win and a second from two turf tries and won by three-quarters of a length last out at today’s distance when breaking his maiden; posted a 79 BRIS figure with a final time of 2:26 on firm turf. Todd Pletcher is a 24% winner with horses that won their last race, and Irad Ortiz Jr. will retain the mount.

#1 Brees (6-1) — Flatter colt ran on dirt in his first two career starts, then switched to turf in his next two and raced on all-weather in his last two. Most recently, he got up to win by a neck in a 1 3/16-mile maiden special weight on Gulfstream’s all-weather while recording a 93 BRIS figure, the highest last race speed figure among the field. Shug McGaughey is a 23% winner with horses coming off a maiden win, and Vincent Cheminaud will stay in the saddle (19% on turf). May improve in his third turf try. He’s one of the few early runners in the field and nearly went gate to wire two back near today’s distance on Gulfstream’s all-weather before he was caught late by Champagne Juan and beaten a half-length.

Will try to beat morning line favorite #9 Champagne Juan (5-2) — Won two back when racing 1 3/16 miles over Gulfstream’s all-weather track, then tried turf for the second time last out and was beaten a half-length by a next-out winner in a 1 1/2-mile allowance optional claimer. The early pace was slow, and with not much speed signed on today, Champagne Juan will likely get a similar setup. Justify colt’s career-best 82 BRIS figure is a bit light, but he did record a 100 Late Pace rating in the effort.