The second Saturday of the 2019 Keeneland spring meet features another action-packed afternoon of high-class racing, including the Jenny Wiley Stakes (G1) and the Lexington Stakes (G3).
Those much-anticipated events comprise the last two legs of an all-stakes Pick 4 that has the potential to yield a nice payoff, but only if you can identify the winners of the Ben Ali Stakes (G3) and the Giant’s Causeway Stakes, two challenging races that kick off the sequence.
Let’s go through each race with an eye on constructing a budget-friendly Pick 4 play….
Race 7: Ben Ali Stakes (G3)
This 1 1/8-mile race is shaping up to be a competitive event without a clear standout, so for Pick 4 purposes I’ll spread deep. My main interest is in #1 Just Whistle, a well-bred colt who broke his maiden at Keeneland last year. He’s kept good company throughout his brief career and recently returned from a long layoff to win a 1 1/16-mile optional-claiming allowance race at Gulfstream Park in late-running fashion.
I think Just Whistle still has room for improvement and will be a factor Saturday, but I’ll back him up with #3 Third Day, who finished third in a slow-paced Mineshaft Handicap (G3) in February; #6 Solomini, a classy colt shipping in off an allowance victory at Santa Anita Park for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert; #8 Bonus Points, a deep closer with an affinity for running 1 1/8 miles; #10 Nun the Less, a consistent gelding with two recent stakes wins under his belt; and #11 First Mondays, a graded stakes-placed 4-year-old who will stretch out to a more ideal distance after he stumbled at the start of a six-furlong prep run at Laurel Park last month.
Race 10: Giant’s Causeway Stakes
#8 Morticia hasn’t won since June of 2018, but the daughter of Twirling Candy is consistent, with 16 trifecta finishes from 19 starts, a commendable record for a turf sprinter. With a prep run at Gulfstream under her belt, Morticia should be ready to roll Saturday and looms as the mare to beat.
Still, turf sprints are turf sprints, and it’s hard to have much confidence in any given outcome. For the Pick 4, I’ll spread deep with #4 Surrender Now (2-for-2 in turf sprints at Del Mar last summer) and #7 Factorofwon (an improving filly from the barn of Christophe Clement), along with #5 Student Body, #6 La Dame Blanche and #10 Excessivespending, the top three finishers in the Mardi Gras Stakes at Fair Grounds last month.
Race 9: Lexington Stakes (G3)
As I outlined in my separate preview of the Lexington, I believe #4 Anothertwistafate is a special colt with a shot to win the Kentucky Derby, so I’m counting on him to get the job done in the Lexington. For the Pick 4, he’ll be a clear single on my ticket.
Race 10: Jenny Wiley Stakes (G1)
#2 Rushing Fall is a neck away from being undefeated in six starts for leading trainer Chad Brown, and she is versatile in terms of running style. As a 2-year-old, she won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1) with a big rally from off the pace, and at the end of her 3-year-old season, she won the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (G1) in gate-to-wire fashion.
Rushing Fall is 3-for-3 over the Keeneland turf course and is a logical choice to win the Jenny Wiley, but it’s worth noting this race will mark her first start outside of age-restricted company. The waters could get a bit deeper now, and her stablemate #4 Rymska has shown exceptional talent too. A four-time graded winner, Rymska was compromised by a dramatically slow pace when she came in second in the Suwannee River Stakes (G3) to kick off 2019, but quickly rebounded to win the Hillsborough Stakes (G2) by two lengths over a quality field. For the purpose of a win bet, I’d side with Rymska, but for the Pick 4, I’ll use both and call it a day.
I’ll play all of the horses listed above on a straight $0.50 ticket costing $36, but I’ll also add another $0.50 ticket singling Morticia and scaling back a little in the Ben Ali Stakes. This way, if my preferred runners go 4-for-4, I’ll cash the Pick 4 for $1 rather than $0.50.
$0.50 Pick 4: 1,3,10,11 with 8 with 4 with 2,4 ($4)
$0.50 Pick 4: 1,3,6,8,10,11 with 4,5,6,7,8,10 with 4 with 2,4 ($36)