TimeformUS Weekend Stakes Play: The Grade 2 Raven Run at Keeneland

The Grade 2 Raven Run at Keeneland

Keeneland / October 18 / Race 9 / 5:13 EDT

by TimeformUS Analyst Mike Beer

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Saturday's feature at Keeneland is the Grade 2 Raven Run, a 7-furlong sprint for 3yo fillies on dirt. It has drawn a large field of 13 and could hardly have come up a more competitive race.  The ML favorite, Miss Behaviour, has been pegged at a tepid 7/2, with seven of her rivals sitting between 5-1 and 10-1. 

Pace Projector doesn't find much speed in the race. It places Taris up on the pace along with Miss Behaviour.  They are closely tracked by the undefeated and unexposed Pirate's Trove, with the rest of the field filtered out behind in a relatively tight pack. 

Let's go through the field in post position order.

#1 is Milam.  A winner in three of her first four dirt sprints, including a blowout stakes win at Calder back in February, she has been found wanting at the graded stakes level several times over.  She has been defeated by Thank You Marylou, Miss Behaviour, and Sweet Whiskey, all of whom she will meet up with again in this race, and it seems likely that she will need to break through with a big new top in order to win or even get a large piece of this race. 

#2 is Thank You Marylou.  A talent from day one, she earned her chance to stretch out in Grade 1 company earlier this year in both the Ashland and the Kentucky Oaks.  That didn't work out, but she has excelled since turning back to sprints, being defeated by less than 3 lengths in the Grade 1 Test, and then burying the field in the Grade 3 Dogwood last time with a new TFUS Speed Figure top of 107.  She traveled strongly throughout the running of that race, with blinkers on for the first time, and she is a major player in this race, assuming she can work out the right trip from her inside post.

#3 is Taketheodds.  Failed to handle the step up in company along with a stretch-out in distance at Saratoga, and then worked hard at a short price on the cut-back last time.  Has found a very tough edition of this race, and appears to be in over her head vs. these horses at this stage of the game.

#4 is Pirate's Trove.  Undefeated in three career starts, all of which have taken place over synthetic tracks at Arlington and Woodbine.  She has shown excellent tactical speed, was determined in the stretch when she needed to be two starts back, has earned a top speed figure, which makes her competitive, and has shipped in early to get in a couple of quick works over the surface.  There is not much to knock about this horse, but she will be racing on dirt for the first time today, and will do so while taking a big step up in class (top Race Rating for her three starts so far: 93; Race Rating for the Raven Run: 109), so you should demand a square price if you're taking her.

#5 is Taris.  Three for three sprinting in her career.  All three wins by blowout margins.  TFUS Speed Figures of 108-97-114 for those efforts.  Pace Projector places her up on the lead in a race favoring that running style.  There is no denying that she is a major player in this race, and it is hard not to be impressed with the race she ran in return from the layoff last time.  However, she is also facing a major class climb here, and she may not pull the most comfortable trip in the world with the talented Miss Behaviour breathing down her neck from the outside all the way.  We think she can win this race, but we don't want a short price on her, and she has the kind of speed figures and flashy running lines that attract attention. 

#6 is Divided Attention.  Returned to the races for a belated 3yo debut at Saratoga and ran a new top TFUS Speed Figure of 105 for the win after an easy trip.  It is encouraging to see her step right up with improvement off the layoff, and it's not as if she was embarrassed in a pair of graded stakes tries last fall despite never threatening to win either one of those races.  She's a horse we are interested in using somewhere in our play, but only underneath, and not at her ML price.

#7 is Shayjolie.  Interesting to see her step up in this race, which is clearly a tough spot for her.  She shows 2 wins and 2 seconds from four career starts on dirt and has run solid, if not spectacular, speed figures between 96 and 99 each time.  However, she is not stepping up into a weak or depleted stakes race by any stretch, and she was no match for Divided Attention at Saratoga two starts back.  We like her as a horse but think she has found too tough of a spot in this race.

#8 is Cassatt.  A winner of three straight before trying Untapable in the Cotillion to no avail last time, she is one of the few turn-backs in this race, which we will give her some extra credit for.  Earned her speed figure top of 101 for that no-factor 5th at Parx last time, and her figures of 77-87-91 prior to that, while giving the impression of an improving 3yo filly, do not make her competitive in here.  Needs to step up her game, and this is a tough spot in which to do so.

#9 is Courageous Julie.  Most experienced runner in the field turns back into a very tough spot.  She has never run a race that is close to fast enough to win a race like this, and she has proven ineffective in all three graded stakes tries to date.  Has a trainer in her corner who is unafraid to take a shot, and he has pulled off more than his share of upsets in races like this, but she is not for us.

#10 is La Madrina.  Very well-bred filly has been brought along deliberately by a master horseman, and she will get her first major test after clearing a couple of allowance conditions.  She is going to have to improve upon her top speed figures to compete with these horses, but she is eligible to do so, and we see plenty of potential in her.  On the other hand, she is very well-connected, which tends to attract support at the windows, and she has benefited from perfect trips in all three career wins.  Can she improve enough to factor here?  Sure.  But we would want a big price if we were to give her that chance, and that would mean at least double her ML price.

#11 is Miss Behaviour. 
She is the deserving ML favorite and the horse to beat off of her 112 TFUS Speed Figure demolition of the Grade 3 Charles Town Oaks.  She has consistently run fast from day one, and has drawn a perfect post toward the outside in a race without much other speed.  We have to use her in our play, but we are going to try to beat her in this race, mainly due to the distance.  We have never thought of her as a 7-furlong horse. We think this distance, in a truly run race, is too testing for her.  We say that realizing that she just won a 7-furlong race by the length of the stretch.  That was a two-turn race at Charles Town, and to say she was facing an inferior field that day would be an understatement, as a two-horse race on paper became a virtual walk-over once second choice Size failed to show up with any kind of effort in there.  We respect Miss Behaviour as the horse to beat, but will be trying to do just that. 

#12 is Sweet Whiskey.  A Grade 3 winner very early in the year, she has been keeping top company right along and was close to taking down a big prize in the Grade 1 Acorn on Belmont Stakes Day over 1 mile.  She earned a 106 TFUS Speed Figure for that effort, and while it may appear that she has failed to back up that fine effort in two subsequent starts, we have a different view of those races.  She was committed to the inside throughout the running of the Grade 1 Test, and wound up in tight all through the stretch before being outfinished late.  She was then in an impossible spot when wide throughout the running of the Prioress, which took place on a day at Saratoga when speed and the inside were dominant.  We like the fact that has adapted well to being a stalker rather than a frontrunner, and we think she has a chance to rebound here at a square price.  She is our top pick in the Raven Run.

#13 is Bajan.  A longshot to seriously consider using, Bajan has flashed plenty of potential to this point and has had her good early form dirtied up a bit by trying longer races and turf in her last three starts.  The layoff heading into this is a big concern, but we think she is talented enough to go with horses like these, and she is certainly eligible to come back an improved horse off the break. 

The Play:  We think Sweet Whiskey will offer value in this race. We will bet her at odds of 8/1 or better.  We are using her in exactas and tris with #2 Thank You Marylou, #5 Taris, #11 Miss Behaviour, and #13 Bajan.  

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