Will Forty Under Rebound in the Penn Mile?

By J. Keeler Johnson ("Keelerman") Twitter: @J_Keelerman

There's no shortage of high-class racing action scheduled across the world this weekend. There's the Investec Derby (Eng-I) in England, the Yasuda Kinen (Jpn-I) in Japan, plus 35 assorted stakes races throughout North America... we won't run out of entertaining races to watch and wager on!

Let's take a look at two races this week, starting with the Penn Mile Stakes (gr. II) at Penn National.

Penn Mile Stakes (gr. II)

Nine accomplished three-year-olds have been entered in this one-mile turf test, including five stakes winners and two runners that have placed at the stakes level. Yet despite the quality of the field, in my opinion one horse stands out as the most likely winner, and that horse is Forty Under.

Trained by Jeremiah Englehart, Forty Under showed a lot of promise as a two-year-old, winning his turf debut at Saratoga with a pace-pressing trip before rallying from mid-pack to score a determined victory against a quality field in the Pilgrim Stakes (gr. III) at Belmont Park. The runner-up was the future graded stakes winner Somelikeithotbrown.

Forty Under was subsequently beaten in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf (gr. I), but he didn't run badly by any means, pressing the pace before weakening only slightly down the lane to finish sixth by 4 ¼ lengths. He actually finished less than a length behind the future Preakness Stakes (gr. I) winner War of Will.

After taking a couple of months off, Forty Under returned to serious training in January and breezed steadily leading up to the April 20th Woodhaven Stakes going 1 1/16 miles at Aqueduct. At first glance, Forty Under's runner-up effort appears uninspiring—he was beaten four lengths—but the pace of the race tell a different story. Over a yielding turf course, the front-running Clint Maroon was able to secure an uncontested lead through very slow fractions of :25.69, :51.17, and 1:15.98. Just as Forty Under was trying to rally from off the pace, Clint Maroon accelerated the final five-sixteenths of a mile in :29.81 seconds, a move Forty Under simply couldn't match, though give Forty Under credit for leaving the pace-tracking Empire of War 5 ¾ lengths behind in third place.

So extreme was the slow early/fast late race shape that RacingFlow.com assigned the Woodhaven a Closer Favorability Ratio (CFR) of 1 on their 1-to-100 scale, ranking the Woodhaven among the top 1% of speed-favoring races.

Forty Under almost can't help but get a better setup in the Penn Mile, especially with A Thread of Blue, Real News, and even Empire of War expected to vie for the early lead. An honest pace might be all Forty Under needs to rebound, and if you also figure he'll take a step forward in his second start of the season, his 7-2 morning line odds start to look quite enticing. He'll be my pick to win on Saturday.

Yasuda Kinen (Jpn-I)

You'll be in for a treat if you can convince yourself to wake up at 2:40 a.m. EDT on the morning of June 2nd. That's when the Yasuda Kinen (Jpn-I) will be run at Tokyo Racecourse in Japan, with super filly Almond Eye looming as the favorite in a large field.

Almond Eye has been nothing less than sensational dating back to her maiden victory in October 2017. The daughter of Lord Kanaloa has won seven straight races and five straight Group 1 events, sweeping the Japan Filly Triple Crown before dominating the 2,400-meter Japan Cup (Jpn-I) in the world-record time of 2:20.60. In her 2019 debut, she traveled to Dubai for the 1,800-meter Dubai Turf (UAE-I) and unleashed a sweeping rally from off the pace to win in decisive fashion.

As a big fan of Almond Eye, I'll be rooting for her continued success in the Yasuda Kinen. But could she possibly be vulnerable to an upset? Although Almond Eye is 3-for-3 over the 1,600-meter distance of the Yasuda Kinen, she's been most impressive running longer distances and hasn't contested a race this short since winning the Oka Sho (Jpn-I) in April 2018.

There were also some concerns about Almond Eye's condition following the Dubai Turf; apparently, the trip took enough out of Almond Eye that her connections scrapped plans to contest the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (Fr-I) in France this fall.

Almond Eye's abundant talent might still be enough to get the job done in the Yasuda Kinen, but in Danon Premium, she'll be facing a formidable challenger. The son of Deep Impact is 6-for-7, with his lone defeat coming in the 2018 Tokyo Yushun (Japan Derby, Jpn-I) after he missed his prep run with a bruised hoof.

Like Almond Eye, Danon Premium is 3-for-3 going 1,600 meters, and on April 21st he had little difficulty prevailing in the Milers Cup (Jpn-II) at Kyoto, tracking the pace before accelerating through the final 600 meters in :32.20 (and the final 400 meters in :21.40) to prevail by 1 ¼ lengths.

That's not the first time Danon Premium has shown a strong turn-of-foot—as a two-year-old, he won the 1,600 meter Asahi Hai Futurity (Jpn-I) by 3 ½ lengths over the future Group 1 winner Stelvio while sprinting the final 600 meters in :33.60. With his early speed, Danon Premium might secure a tactical advantage over Almond Eye during the early stages of the Yasuda Kinen and get the jump on the super filly turning for home. From there, we should be in for a thrilling finish.

Now it's your turn! Who do you like in the major races this weekend?


Want to test your handicapping skills against fellow Unlocking Winners readers? Check out the Unlocking Winners contests page—there's a new challenge every week!


J. Keeler Johnson (also known as "Keelerman") is a writer, blogger, videographer, handicapper, and all-around horse racing enthusiast. A great fan of racing history, he considers Dr. Fager to be the greatest racehorse ever produced in America, but counts Zenyatta as his all-time favorite. He is the founder of the horse racing website www.theturfboard.com.

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