The highlight at Keeneland on Friday would be the highlight of most afternoons, such is the quality on display in the 2022 Maker’s Mark Mile. Grade 1 winners Smooth Like Strait, In Love, Count Again, and Ivar take on the improving four-year-olds Masen and Public Sector in an absorbing contest to kick off the Easter weekend.
2022 Maker’s Mark Mile
Some G1 races aren’t really worth the label, but the Maker’s Mark Mile at Keeneland on Friday is almost a super-G1, a very deep, very strong contest that has drawn just about all the best turf milers in the country. It’s a fascinating race.
Rewind five months to the Breeders’ Cup Mile, in which Smooth Like Strait (2-1) was his usual uber-consistent self, a horse who has hit the board in 13 of his last 14 starts, doing the same at Del Mar when boldly bidding to make all but caught in the last sixteenth and beaten a half-length. Finishing fastest of all for third was Ivar (6-1), a length further back, with his barnmate In Love (10-1) never close enough to challenge in seventh.
This is the first start back for all three, all previous G1 winners, and that may be a factor, especially as Smooth Like Strait will no doubt be out on the lead and could be vulnerable to the late rush of a race-fit rival.
That describes Count Again (5-1), who made his breakthrough at the top level last time when swooping fast and very late to take the G1 Frank E Kilroe Mile at Santa Anita by a head. He has finished behind Smooth Like Strait on their last four encounters but seems to have raised his game after a winless 2021.
Chad Brown seems ever-present in G1s on the weeds and sends two to the gate, with the odds favouring ex-Irish Masen (5-1), making his debut Stateside. He has never won at a mile but was impressive in a seven-furlong stakes at Leopardstown on his final start in the old country, and should still be improving after just six runs.
His barnmate Public Sector (8-1) made considerable progress through 2021, winning two G2s and a G3 before signing off in the G1 Hollywood Derby at Del Mar, nearest at the finish in fourth. He takes on tough-cookie older horses now and this is a pretty stern test.
Juddmonte Farms, the owner of Masen, also have Set Piece (8-1) in the mix. He notched his first Graded win when beating Somelikeithotbrown (12-1) by half a length in the G2 Wise Dan at Churchill Downs, but needs to bounce back from a seven-month layoff after a dull effort in the G1 Woodbine Mile.
G2 winner Somelikeithotbrown split In Love and Ivar when they ran 1-3-4, two lengths covering the trio, in the G1 Keeneland Turf Mile in October, and is preferred to his barnmate Atone (12-1), who may not appreciate the cut back in distance after turning in a strong effort to be fourth in the G1 Pegasus World Cup Turf over a mile-eighth at Gulfstream Park.
Maker’s Mark Mile Odds & Prediction
A hugely competitive race in which Smooth Like Strait is sure to make another bold bid, but the race-fitness of recent Grade 1 winner COUNT AGAIN can give him the edge over his old rival.
|Horse||Jockey||Odds by JazzSports|
|In Love||Alex Achard||+1000|
|Shirl’s Speight||Luis Saez||+5000|
|Smooth Like Strait||Umberto Rispoli||+150|
|Count Again||Joel Rosario||+500|
|Somelikeithotbrown||Jose L. Ortiz||+1200|
|Set Piece||Florent Geroux||+800|
|Mira Mission||Julien R. Leparoux||+2000|
|Public Sector||Irad Ortiz, Jr.||+800|
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