The Jury: Expert picks, bets and fades for Oct. 14 [VIDEO]
Racing analysts Ashley Anderson, James Scully, and Darin Zoccali discuss Keeneland and Maryland Million Day! Ashley and James provide their thoughts in the written portion below. Be sure to check out Darin's opinions in our on-camera portion. We have promo codes exclusively for our Jury viewers later in the show, as well!
Best bet for weekend racing
#4 Sharar (12-1) in Keeneland's seventh race on Saturday, a 1 1/2-mile allowance on turf. The Gun Runner three-year-old has yet to win in four starts since shipping to the U.S. but tried Lasix last out for the first time and finished second to a next-out Grade 2 winner, Balladeer, in a 1 5/16-mile allowance optional claimer at Kentucky Downs. Sharar will race on Lasix a second time, a winning move for trainer Todd Pletcher 26% of the time, and John Velazquez (5-for-16 to start the meet) will retain the mount.
Sharar's 100 Brisnet Speed rating last out is also the highest last race speed figure among the field. Morning line favorite #1 Nineeleventurbo looks potentially vulnerable at the distance, and I'll take a shot with the price on Sharar.
#7 Sounds of Heaven (8-1) in the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (G1) at Keeneland. The three-year-old filly caught soft turf and didn’t fire her best when finishing sixth to multiple Group 1 winner Mqse de Sevigne in the Prix de Rothschild (G1), but her effort two starts back over firmer ground in the Coronation (G1) at Royal Ascot, a close third to Tahiyra, stands out. A winner of three consecutive Group 1s, Tahiyra is a serious contender in the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1). Sounds of Heaven will make a major impact in the Queen Elizabeth if she runs back to her Coronation performance. I also like how Sounds of Heaven has shown good positional speed in both starts on firmer turf, which may benefit her in a bulky field that appears short on speed.
Top fade for weekend racing
Godolphin homebred #4 Mawj (2-1) in the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup. The filly is 5-for-8 lifetime and won her last three, including a 9-1 upset in the 1000 Guineas (G1) at Newmarket in which she beat Tahiyra, who came back to win her next three, all Group 1 events. But Mawj has never raced beyond a mile, and she'll make her first U.S. start on Saturday for trainer Saeed bin Suroor. A European-based trainer has not won the QEII Challenge Cup since 2011, when Aidan O'Brien won with Together (IRE), and Chad Brown has dominated the race, winning four of the last five. I like the chances of #2 Elusive Princess (3-1) better after she won her U.S. debut in the 1 3/16-mile Saratoga Oaks (G3) last out. She'll make her first start for Arnaud Delacour, a 27% winner with horses making their first start with the trainer, and will retain the services of Flavien Prat, who won the last two editions of this race.
#10 Accede (7-2) flashed early promise, recording a convincing maiden win and a third in the Eight Belles (G2) in her first two starts, and she’s still relatively lightly raced for Chad Brown, but her last three outings offer little encouragement for a turnaround in a salty entry-entry level allowance, the eighth race at Keeneland on Saturday. She’s guaranteed to receive support due to the connections (Brown/Irad Ortiz Jr.), but Accede’s fastest two races came in her first two races. Her form has been off since, and I like to fade runners with this pattern at short odds.
What else is worth noting?
#4 Ournationonparade (3-1) will look to make history in the Maryland Million Classic, Race 11 at Laurel on Saturday. The six-year-old gelding won the Classic last year, but went on to finish second or third in his next five starts. Trained by Jamie Ness (27% winner at Laurel), the Distorted Humor grandson has won just once from seven starts this season and failed to hit the board last out when today's race rival #2 Double Crown (9-5) won the Polynesian S. at Pimlico. If Ournationonparade can bounce back to pull off the win on Saturday, he'll become the sixth horse to win back-to-back Maryland Million Classics, and he'll earn his third career win on Maryland Million Day; in his second career start, Ournationonparade won the Maryland Million Nursery in 2019.
Scratched from the Preakness (G1), First Mission (1-1) will make his return in Saturday’s 10th race at Keeneland, a 1 1/16-mile allowance, and I will look for a sharp performance. First Mission will make his first appearance since winning the Lexington (G3) at Keeneland, and that performance is better than it looks on paper. Arabian Lion, who followed with wins in the Sir Barton and Woody Stephens (G1), ran his race as the lone speed for Bob Baffert, and there are not many three-year-olds who could have reeled in the classy rival like First Mission did. I liked his chances in the Preakness. Brad Cox will also send out a pair of flashy last-out maiden winners, #6 Lightline (4-5) in the third race and #2 Pumpkin Scone (9-2) in the eighth race. Lightline, a City of Light two-year-old who cost $600,000, exits a 13-length debut romp at Horseshoe Indianapolis. Pumpkin Scone, a $1.25 million three-year-old daughter of Into Mischief, exits a 7 1/2-length maiden tally at Ellis Park.