Catching My Eye: Keeneland racing Sunday, April 16

April 19th, 2023

I’ve been enjoying this Keeneland meet: the fields, the performances, and the payouts have all been strong. Similar to the fall meet, I have been marking the majority of the days as favoring outside posts at sprint distances on the main track, and the turf has been playing very fast with front runners having their say on the top and underneath. 

When I find favorites drawn inside, I have been fading them in my bets. On the turf, if not keying on top, I’m peppering front runners throughout my verticals. 

I’ll play it to continue like that and I’ll be marking down these runners below, awaiting their next race.

Race 1

American Pure had every reason to lose. He drew the rail, raced out of his typical position, got stuck behind a wall of horses, made an aggressive move to split horses but was denied when the lane closed up. His racing heart on full display, he finally shifted inside to rally up the rail and win. Trained by Lindsay Schultz, American Pure was claimed by Jeremiah O'Dwyer, so look east for the useful four-year-old colt’s next start.

If you want to know (or remember) why Joel Rosario is an ace rider, watch this race back. The way he uses the reins to get American Pure into a full run will get your blood pumping.

Race 4

Gam’s Mission needs to find more and find it quickly,” was how announcer Kurt Becker called the one mile turf conditional allowance with one furlong to go. Bubble Rock had looped along on the lead from the onset but in the stretch the Brad Cox trainee had set down her run, and Gam’s Mission would need to come from last to first across a turf course that has been generous to front-runners. Bubble Rock had plenty left in the tanks, but Gam’s Mission responded to Becker’s call and ran her down. The five-year-old mare trained by Cherie DeVaux won her fifth race in 12 starts.

Cheers to Lazy F Ranch with the 1980s Pittsburgh Pirates style yellow and black cap; it definitely caught my eye. We need more owners to put something signature that pops on the backs and heads of the jockeys. 

Race 5

Peaceful Waters did it again. He ran a very impressive race on the lead beating a front-running field to the front and flying through the fractions with just enough left to hang on. If you follow this column, you know I was interested in him at Keeneland in the fall after his big race at Saratoga, but Peaceful Waters bounced in that one. Can he string together two big races? The long layoff and the maturity of making his first start as a four-year-old could reverse the previous form pattern for this Al Stall trainee, but tread lightly in his next race because he will probably be bet to smithereens.

Yes, there was a lot of speed signed on and the leader and eventual winner Peaceful Waters went fast (1/2 in :44.71), but still, how impressive was Minnesota Ready? Neil Pessin’s four-year-old showed his tenacity in his two races at Fair Grounds, winning and placing while dealing with traffic in both.

On Sunday he broke widest of 10, losing four-wide ground throughout much of the race. After breaking sharply and stalking, Corey Lanerie was able to relax Minnesota Ready and get him a nice breather, dropping down to the two path in the turn. He was in fifth at the top of the stretch and all but one ahead of him still had legs to the wire, but Minnesota Ready was able to run them all down.

If the race was two yards further he would have won. Starting and stopping once or twice in the stretch, he didn’t demonstrate an all out blitz, so I see this four-year-old as still having an upside.

Race 6

Sent off as the fourth choice by the bettors, Saudi Crown took on a field of 10 three-year-olds in the feature maiden race on Sunday’s card. Going six furlongs, the gray son of Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming drew alongside the 2-1 favorite near the eighth pole, and as soon as Florent Geroux asked him, Saudi Crown blew on by to win his debut race by over four lengths. And with this, the Cox barn adds yet another three-year-old to the top of the charts. 

Earning a 101 Brisnet Speed figure, not only is Saudi Crown just the third Always Dreaming to win at first asking, he has now posted the fastest speed figure of any of Always Dreaming’s 112 offspring who have run in 267 races.