Catching My Eye: Closing Day at Keeneland

October 30th, 2023

That’s a wrap on Keeneland’s fall meet, as Kentucky racing moves back to its homebase of Churchill Downs, where they’ll be through Nov. 26. 

Tyler Gaffalione stood tallest in the colony, with 25 wins. Scoring 13 times in 57 starts, Brad Cox headlined the trainer’s side of things, nearly doubling second-place finisher Chad Brown’s total. Some of the best equine athletes from the meet have headed west to race next in the Breeders' Cup, but before we turn the page here are three more who caught my eye.

Closing Day: Saturday, Oct. 28, 2023

Race 4 on Saturday at Keeneland was a maiden special weight going six furlongs on the dirt for three-year-olds and up. A full field of 12 with a heavy favorite in Howl. Trained by Brad Cox and making her debut at age three, they made her 6-5 even though assigned the far outside gate. 

She broke well enough and was stuck outside while tending to an honest pace in third. With Flavien Prat aboard, the daughter of Practical Joke made a move to press the leader ahead of the turn and then demonstrated the validity of the maxim good things take time, powering away from the field to win by over seven lengths.

A giant filly out of the Indian Charlie mare How, Howl was purchased at the Keeneland September yearling sale in 2021 for $190,000 but didn’t post her first breeze until the month prior to turning three. Stopped on soon after, Cox got her fit for this beginning in July. She has the bulk of a router but the caboose and corresponding pedigree of a sprinter. According to Brisnet, she earned early pace figures of 92 and 95 with a 90 late pace figure. In her debut win, she firmly established her talent with a 91 Brisnet Speed figure, asserting herself as one of many for Cox you absolutely want to watch going forward.

What do we do with Dubyuhnell? The winner of the 2022 Remsen (G2) over a sloppy track triggered Kentucky Derby dreams for his connections before trying, but failing, to run anywhere near as well in the 2023 Sam F. Davis (G3) and Florida Derby (G1), getting beaten by 54 lengths in his previous two sophomore starts.

Returning to the afternoon gates on Saturday at Keeneland in a second-level allowance, the Danny Gargan trainee attracted Tyler Gaffalione and lined up against several three-year-olds with a similar story in Denington, Promise Me a Ride, Bromley, and Curly Jack.

Breaking well on a fast track, the son of Good Magic was able to get a clean pressing trip going two-wide outside Promise Me a Ride, then out-hustled that foe to the 1 1/8-mile finish line, while holding off Denington’s signature late bid.

Dubyuhnell was able to run a 100 Brisnet Speed figure in the Remsen, and on Saturday he earned a 95. The pace was soft, the trip was perfect, and the questions will no doubt continue for horseplayers as they wonder what to do with this three-year-old who now has three wins, and I imagine will be looking to continue running through his conditions before considering stakes company. 

If connections spot him aggressively next out, I would likely fade him based on this effort, but with that Remsen in his back pocket, who knows? Dubyuhnell could be a nine-panel player going forward.

It’s true, Buffoon (FR) couldn’t beat the Breeders’ Cup-bound Agate Road on debut, who got the best of him by three lengths when going two turns on the turf at Saratoga. Second-time out and keeping to the same 1 1/16-mile distance, the Lope de Vega two-year-old stepped forward nicely to win Race 2 at Keeneland.

Keeping with special weight company, the first battle to be won was drawing in from the also-eligibles list. Firing from the far outside with Joel Rosario aboard, Buffoon stalked three-wide tending to a relatively fast pace, although set by two longshots who finished up the track.

At the top of the stretch, the turn of foot wasn’t there on the course rated good, but with first run at the soon-to-fold leaders, he had clear running to do what undoubtedly we will continue to see this Mike Maker trainee do going forward: build rhythm and run in the stretch while covering more ground. 

Out of the Invincible Spirit dam After Dawn, Buffoon has a champion’s pedigree and a conditioner who excels with long-distance specialists. Definitely one to keep your eye on.