TimeformUS Weekend Plays: The Juddmonte Spinster, The Champagne and the Shadwell Turf Mile

Keeneland, Race 8, Local Post Time 4:49 pm ET
The G1 Juddmonte Spinster, 1 1/8 Mile, F/M, 3+, Polytrack

By Douglas Salvatore

The Keeneland Polytrack has been notorious for upsets in stakes races. Yesterday, Wise Dan and Groupie Doll were its two latest victims, even though they've had success over the surface in the past. It's always tempting to hunt for value, especially when the statistics for post time favorites have been so poor. However, the two horses expected to vie for favoritism in the Spinster, Emollient and Byrama, are the only two viable options we see in this race.

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Byrama (4/1 morning line) owns a ten-point edge in last-out speed figures over her opposition. She earned a 113 in the Pacific Classic last time out, a race where she was crushed by Game On Dude but beaten less than two lengths for second place. She is very much the most likely winner with a repeat of that performance.

Morning line favorite Emollient is the only viable alternative, and that is solely on the basis of her 9-length win at 6/1 odds in her only start over this surface, in the Grade 1 Ashland in the spring. The problem with Emollient is that the TimeformUS Pace Projector indicates she has essentially no chance to get the early lead today.

The bottom line is that Byrama is the most likely winner of the Spinster. Our hope is that her morning line price will hold up.

Belmont, Race 10, Local Post Time 5:46 pm ET
The G1 Champagne Stakes, 1 Mile, 2YO, Dirt

By Douglas Salvatore

The Champagne Stakes at Belmont Saturday is unquestionably the most exciting two-year-old race we have handicapped all year, as it features a trio of very interesting prospects. "The Big Three" are made up of the sensationally speedy Havana, the regally bred but sluggish stretch runner Honor Code, and the royally bred and far more proven Strong Mandate.

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The pace dynamics look horrible for Havana as he gets set to make the second start of his career. He is facing so many horses who have had a great deal of success sprinting on the front end that it's almost certain to be a viciously fast and contested pace for the distance. It will take a sensationally brilliant and game performance for any horse to win this race on the front end. Indeed, the pace complexion is so dire that jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. might have to resort to rating tactics with Havana.

Pace Projector for the Champagne Stakes

The other extremely exciting second-time starter in the Champagne is Honor Code. This horse displayed a dramatically opposite running style from Havana's when he won his debut, sprinting at Saratoga, from more than 22 lengths off the pace.
TimeformUS past performances have a cool feature that allows you to display the incremental splits for each horse. In the case of Honor Code, in his debut (at seven furlongs), he crawled his opening quarter in 24.89 seconds. His second quarter was a snail-like 24.36 seconds. Horses normally start to decelerate sharply in the third quarter of seven furlong races, but not Honor Code. He turned on the rockets and unleashed a 22.29-second third quarter, part of it run around the far turn. After that freakish third quarter, he powered home with a final furlong in 11.94 seconds over the gooey going, and easily drew off to win by more than four lengths, with a pair of next-out winners finishing second and third behind him.

TimeformUS PPs for Honor Code

Honor Code was assigned a TimeformUS speed figure of only 79 for that effort. However, it is almost impossible for a two-year-old first-time starter to run as fast as he did in the final three furlongs of a race.

I am convinced that Honor Code has the brightest future of any horse in this field. He is sired by the living legend A. P. Indy. His third dam was the Hall of Famer Serena's Song. His trainer, Shug McGaughey, brings horses along slowly and has an absolutely brutal record with both two-year-olds and second-time starters. Shug's TimeformUS trainer rating with two-year-olds is just 45, and his trainer rating with second-time starters is just 50.

The bottom line is that bettors generally need to avoid betting on Shug's two-year-olds. Bettors should also generally avoid the dopey trap of taking short prices on horses with inferior speed figures. However, the pace complexion of this specific race favors a stretch-running closer to such an extreme that I am selecting Honor Code to win this race. He might not have the speed figures, and the relevant trainer ratings are also a turn off, but he will benefit from a pace that is certain to collapse dramatically.

The final member of the Big Three is the D. Wayne Lukas-trained Strong Mandate. He's the most proven one of the bunch, having won the Grade 1 Hopeful Stakes by a stunning nine and three quarter lengths. That was the largest margin of victory by a Hopeful winner in recent memory. Strong Mandate was assigned an excellent 106 speed figure for his heroics.

I love Strong Mandate's pedigree almost as much as Honor Code's. Strong Mandate is sired by two-time Breeders' Cup Classic winner Tiznow. His dam is three-time Grade 1 winning millionaire Clear Mandate, who won a 1 1/4 mile Grade 1 race by five lengths at age five. Clear Mandate is also the dam of Full Mandate, the sire of Ron The Greek. Bottom line: Strong Mandate has both a great pedigree and a great distance pedigree.

On a weekend that features the reigning Horse of the Year, Wise Dan, and the glorious opening weekend of the Keeneland fall meet, the match-up of the Big Three in the Champagne might be the most intoxicating event of all.
Betting Strategy: Bet Honor Code to win. Exacta Box of Honor Code and Strong Mandate.

Keeneland, Race 9, Local Post Time 5:30 pm ET
The G1 Shadwell Turf Mile, 1 Mile, 3+, Turf

By Douglas Salvatore

After putting together a string of wins despite making weight concessions to his opposition, reigning Horse of the Year Wise Dan finally finds himself in a race in which he faces his opposition at level weights. Sure, he's marooned out in post position number ten with numerous other speed horses inside of him, which would be an extremely difficult projected trip for your average horse, but that just won't matter to him. John Velazquez has restrained a headstrong Wise Dan in recent races. This time the stout early restraint will not be necessary. Instead, he'll have to use that natural speed to ensure a decent tactical position.

Get Free TimeformUS PPs for the Shadwell Turf Mile | Full Keeneland PPs

There is simply no beating Wise Dan, but there is a high likelihood that Wise Dan will destroy the chances of all the other speed and stalking types of horses. The TimeformUS Pace Projector shows four different closers in this race, and bettors should favor the horse they like most of those four as their underneath exotic key.

Shadwell Mile Pace Projector

Summer Front and Willcox Inn are the two closers we want. Summer Front is a lightly raced four-year-old who was an impressive winner of a Grade 3 at Monmouth Park in his most recent start. He was assigned a career-top speed figure of 110 for that performance, and his projected trip today is markedly better than the one he received last time out, when he was forced to close wide against a moderate pace in a race with a small field.

Willcox Inn has played the part of bridesmaid in this race before. He finished a clear second to Wise Dan at 48/1 odds in this race last year. It was almost three lengths back to the third-place finisher. Amazingly, Willcox Inn has been involved in only one fast-pace race in his career, and that resulted in a four-length win in the American Derby.

The other exotic throw in is last-out Presque Isle Mile winner Hogy, who is a crazy 30/1 on the morning line. The Presque Isle Mile was a race that launched Wise Dan, and Hogy won in similar fashion, carrying 124lbs and having to rate, while conceding a lot of weight to his defeated opposition.

Betting Strategy: Key Wise Dan on top. Use Summer Front, Willcox Inn, and Hogy underneath in the exotics.

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