RACE TWO (click race for PPs):
Radiant (8-to-5 morning line) and Follow The Kitten (9-to-5) are expected to vie for favoritism. Both horses have obvious credentials and are dropping from the Maiden Special Weight level, where they have burnt a lot of money (no wins in five tries as the favorite between them, and neither has been worse than 5-to-1 in any of their combined 10 starts).
There are two interesting challengers to the favorites, however. The first of which is Artful Lady, a daughter of turf specialist Artie Schiller:
Artie Schiller never finished first or second in his three dirt tries. His offspring also generally prefer turf and synthetic surfaces to dirt. In fact, his offspring My Conquestadory and We Miss Artie swept the two Grade 1 stakes for two-year-olds at Keeneland on Polytrack last fall.
This is relevant to Artful Lady's chances, because she might have developed significantly from age three to age four, only to have that physical improvement concealed because she's been competing exclusively on dirt in her only two starts this year.
The first time Artful Lady ever competed on a dirt surface, she finished fourth beaten 20 lengths in a 25k maiden claiming race at Indiana Downs. Her BRIS Speed Rating was just a 53—a huge regression from her surrounding speed figures. There was no layoff line following that dirt stinker, and Artful Lady came right back in less than a month to run a career best speed figure in her next start.
It's natural for horses to improve from age three to age four. Artful Lady's only two starts at age four have come on dirt, and she's performed alarmingly better on dirt than she did in her only try as a three-year-old. Now, she returns to a surface where she ran her career best speed figure as a 3-year-old, despite suffering through a tough trip. In her race here last fall, Artful Lady was bumped at the start, steadied after that, and was forced to attempt to rally wide, into a slow pace going six furlongs. All indications point to Artful Lady running a new career top performance and that should make her very competitive in this spot.
The other interesting challenger in this race is first-time-starter Share The Sugar (8-to-1) for trainer Ken McPeek. This daughter of Heatseeker attracts the services of Julien Leparoux.
In 2013, Ken McPeek did wizardly work with his first-time-starters debuting in route races at Keeneland. Of the six McPeek first-timers who debuted on the Keeneland Poly, three of them won and another finished second. The winners were Beverage Queen ($108.60), Rankhasprivileges ($33.60), and Frazier's Pegasus ($14.20)—all fat prices!
McPeek also debuted two horses going long on the Keeneland Turf in 2013, one of them, Allegheney Angel, finished second beaten just a nose at 13-to-1 odds with Leparoux up. All in all, McPeek was 8-3-2-0 (38% wins) with debuters in route races at Keeneland last year.
If this has you excited to bet Share The Sugar, I have some bad news. Since 2010, Kenny McPeek has trained just one winner from 43 starters when debuting in a sprint at Keeneland. Those stats go against the natural inclination of bettors, but McPeek's training focus is much more geared on developing stamina than speed. Another negative factor is Share The Sugar’s sire, as Heatseeker’s progeny win at first asking just 5% of the time. The bottom line is that while Share The Sugar has an interesting look to her, I'm only interested when McPeek debuts around two turns.
Betting strategy: Bet Artful Lady to win and box her with Radiant and Follow The Kitten in the exotics.
Unfortunately, I don't see any attractive betting strategy for this race. However, I will still profile the three first-time starters.
#1 Coastal Moon (8-to-1): This debuter goes from the rail for trainer Mark Casse, and attracts the services of Leparoux. Interestingly, his March 25 workout at Keeneland caught the eye of the clocker, who notes, “Nice gate effort, held a slight edge on Moon Traveler.” It's never a bad sign when an unraced three-year-old gets the better of a stakes-placed older male, as Moon Traveler is.
Coastal Moon is sired by above average debut sire Malibu Moon. His dam Coastal Wave won her career debut. There are certainly a lot of encouraging signs. However, Casse has been much better with second time starters than debuters over this track. His debuters at Keeneland have compiled a record of 11-1-2-0 (9% wins) while his second-time starters at Keeneland have compiled a record of 17-5-4-2 (29% wins).
#4 King of Bay (10-to-1): Mike Trombetta sends out this debuter that has landed the services of Joel Rosario. This gelding has had one sibling to race, a half-brother by Giant's Causeway, who showed nothing in his debut at five furlongs, but stretched out to win a maiden race on the turf at Gulfstream, paying $41 in career start number two. The second dam of King of Bay is 1998 Breeders’ Cup Distaff winner Escena. King of Bay's dam Queenofalldiamonds sold for $2.7-million as a yearling and competed for Bobby Frankel. This gelding is certainly well bred, but he has more of a route-oriented pedigree than a debut sprint type one. Because he's so well bred, it's also a little bit discouraging that he was gelded before his debut.
#6 Watery Moon (8-to-1): Graham Motion and Alan Garcia teamed up to go 4-for-9 at last fall’s Keeneland meet, and each of those wins came over the Polytrack.
Like Coastal Moon, this is also a son of Malibu Moon. Watery Moon's dam is the very talented sprinter Sweet Nanette, who won each of her first four races so impressively, that she was bet to 7-to-2 closing odds against champion and Racing Hall of Fame nominee Xtra Heat in her fifth career start.
In 2013, Motion-trained horses compiled a record of 37-for-123 (30% wins) on synthetic tracks in North America. Not to mention, he also trained Animal Kingdom to a big win in the $10-million Dubai World Cup over the Tapeta. There's certainly quite a bit to like for this debuter, and it will be interesting to see if he gets bet down from his 8/1 morning line price.