The quality never stops at Keeneland this weekend, with Sunday’s action featuring two of last year’s Eclipse Award winners – Malathaat and Letruska – in opposition in the marquee G1 Juddmonte Spinster. The supporting stakes are full of two-year-olds looking to seal a place at the Breeders’ Cup, with a full field of promising colts in the G2 Bourbon and the speedy filly Love Reigns a heavy favorite in the ungraded Indian Summer.
Grade 1, $600,000, 1m 1f, 3yo+ fillies/mares
Two of the game’s big heavyweights meet for the fourth time in the Spinster, the highlight at Keeneland on Sunday and a win-and-in for the Breeders’ Cup Distaff back here on November 5, but one of them is well ahead on points and the other is looking as though she might be out for the count.
Last year’s champion three-year-old filly Malathaat and last year’s champion older mare Letruska do battle again, with the score 3-0 to the younger horse amid fears that Letruska’s time at the top may be over. Malathaat is possibly at her peak right now and ran arguably a career-best in the mile-eighth G1 Personal Ensign at Saratoga last time, doing her best work late, as usual, to get up close home and win by a half-length. Letruska was third, two lengths further back, having adopted her usual front-running role but unable to fend off challengers as she did so brilliantly last year.
Malathaat had previously finished ahead of Letruska in last year’s G1 BC Distaff at Del Mar, when the older horse had run herself into the dirt in a suicidal speed duel, and in the G1 Ogden Phipps at Belmont Park in June, when Malathaat was a narrowly beaten runner-up and Letruska a weary last of five. Today’s heavy favorite – never off the board in her life – is unbeaten in two at Keeneland, both over a mile-sixteenth, and she will be suited by a pace set-up that should allow her to close late and fast and pick off the front-runners.
Letruska won this race 12 months ago, going gate-to-wire in powerful style, but appears to have lost gear and has certainly lost her aura of invincibility. She did beat the high-class Clairiere in the G1 Apple Blossom at Oaklawn Park in April, but on the evidence of her last two starts, she has begun to decline. She can’t be written off, but she really has to turn things around now.
She probably won’t be helped by the presence of fellow pace angle Played Hard, who is in the form of her life right now, finishing in the first two on her last six starts and making her stakes breakthrough last time in the G3 Locust Grove at Churchill Downs over a mile-sixteenth. She pressed the pace there before clearing right away for an easy victory, and will likely harry Letruska from the gate. Played Hard needs another career-best here but the way the race will be run could move her up.
In last year’s G1 Alabama at Saratoga, Army Wife turned in a good performance to be third behind Malathaat, beaten two lengths, with Played Hard seven lengths back in fifth. She has struggled for form in 2022, though, and threw in a clunker last time when fifth in a stakes back at the Spa, beaten almost seven lengths. This looks a tough spot for her, while Princess Of Cairo, who works the beat at third-tier tracks, is likely to be outclassed.
Juddmonte Spinster Betting Pick
This race should set up perfectly for an in-form and top-class MALATHAAT, unbeaten at this track, to utilize her powerful stretch surge.
|HORSE||JOCKEY||HORSE RACING ODDS BY JAZZSPORTS|
|Malathaat||John R. Velazquez||-167|
|Army Wife||Luis Saez||+1500|
|Played Hard||Joel Rosario||+300|
|Princess of Cairo||Geovanni Franco||+3000|
Castle & Key Bourbon Stakes
Grade 2, $350,000, 1m 1/16 turf, 2yo
A full field for the Bourbon, a win-and-in for the G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf back here on November 4, and the race offers an opportunity to play off Kentucky Downs performances against form from the more conventional ovals.
Form from Kentucky Downs, an idiosyncratic European-style circuit with a very long stretch and undulations, doesn’t always translate to standard US tracks. Three of today’s better-fancied runners will put that notion to the test, with the trifecta from a mile stakes at the Downs renewing rivalry here.
It was an exciting finish, with Reckoning Force getting the better of longshot Deer District by a neck, with the hopefully-named Really Good doing fairly good in third, beaten a further three and a half lengths. That was Reckoning Force’s first victory after three defeats in the US and in Ireland, and he makes his first start for trainer Brendan Walsh today. His pedigree doesn’t scream that he wants to go further, but Keeneland is less of a stamina test than the Downs.
Deer District was battling all the way to the wire and could appreciate the extra yardage, while Really Good, favorite at the Downs after winning a Saratoga mile-sixteenth maiden, gets blinkers for the first time.
British import Panama, a winner in his native land, also got the job done at Kentucky Downs in a sprint allowance optional claimer but needs plenty more today over a distance that he may not want on pedigree.
Graded-stakes form comes from Boppy O, a half-brother to G2 winner Pappacap, who scored a 23-1 upset when grinding out a neck victory in the G3 With Anticipation at Saratoga over a mile-sixteenth, with the favoured Andthewinneris a length and a half away in third and the fancied Our Dream Rye’d a very disappointing sixth.
That was Boppy O’s first time on the lawn and the first time stretching out, so he’s clearly a major player today. Andthewinneris won a sprint here on debut, while Our Dream Rye’d had come off a Saratoga score over a mile-sixteenth and should be capable of better.
Gigante leaves Colonial Downs for the first time after making his stakes breakthrough last time, opening up through the stretch over a mile-sixteenth and clearing right away to beat hot favorite Rarified Flair by six and three-quarter lengths, making a big move up from his previous start and hinting that there could be more to come. However, he is now without Lasix for the first time.
Saratoga maiden winner Rarified Flair hails from the Kenny McPeek barn successful in this last year with Tiz The Bomb and could rebound a little; barn mate B Minor broke his maiden on the main track at Churchill Downs over a mile after a dull debut on turf, and may not want the lawn.
Bourbon Stakes Betting Pick
The lack of Lasix is a concern, but GIGANTE looked a very progressive type when winning a stakes last time and is the choice to move up.
|HORSE||JOCKEY||HORSE RACING ODDS BY JAZZSPORTS|
|B Minor||Brian Joseph Hernandez, Jr.||+2000|
|Panama (GB)||Luis Saez||+1500|
|Reckoning Force||Joel Rosario||+350|
|Deer District||Martin Garcia||+800|
|Rarified Flair||Corey J. Lanerie||+1000|
|Boppy O||Dylan Davis||+450|
|Really Good||Tyler Gaffalione||+600|
|Our Dream Rye’d||Julien R. Leparoux||+2000|
|Mendel’s Secret||Gerardo Corrales||+450|
|General Jim||Luis Saez||+400|
|Oscar Award||Reylu Gutierrez||+1500|
Ungraded, $250,000, 5 1/2f turf, 2yo
Hometown hero Wesley Ward is a maestro with fast horses and sends out the overwhelming favorite for the Indian Summer, a race he won last year and a win-and-in for the G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint.
His standard-bearer this time is the filly Love Reigns, who has put in a lot of mileage in just three starts. She romped by nine and three-quarter lengths on debut over course and distance, shipped to Britain to run fourth in the G2 Queen Mary at Royal Ascot, a race that hasn’t worked out well, and regained the winning thread in a stakes at Saratoga when quickening clear to beat Danse Macabre – a subsequent stakes winner when accounting for Numero Seis by three lengths – with some comfort.
It’s tough to fault her; barn mate No Nay Hudson won by four lengths here on the main track on debut and last time was outrun in Saratoga stakes over today’s distance, runner-up beaten a length and a quarter but three-quarters of a length ahead of longshot Private Creed in third.
Private Creed then made the form look good when winning a stakes at Kentucky Downs over six and a half furlongs, digging in gamely when sporting blinkers for the first time, with Bourbon Therapy six and a quarter lengths back in fourth and Revere Note last of five, beaten another seven lengths. The cutback may not be an issue.
Mounsieur Coco was impressive when taking a stakes at Gulfstream Park over five and a half furlongs by four and a half lengths; that was on the synthetic surface and now he tries the weeds for the first time.
The rest of the field are making their stakes debuts today and need to find major improvement to figure. Mo Stash won on debut at Ellis Park and was then comfortably beaten in a Kentucky Downs allowance – Saratoga maiden winner Kbcya Later last of eight – but this cutback might help; Ghent went all the way at Horseshoe Indianapolis when getting the job done at the fifth attempt and could be a pace factor; Castelmola got it the right first time at the ‘Horseshoe’, also going gate-to-wire.
Indian Summer Betting Prediction
The stand-out choice is LOVE REIGNS, who looked a hot ticket when winning a stakes last time and hails from the barn that won this race last year.
|HORSE||JOCKEY||HORSE RACING ODDS BY JAZZSPORTS|
|Revere Note||Fernando De La Cruz||+5000|
|Bourbon Therapy||Luis Saez||+3000|
|Kbcya Later||Dylan Davis||+3000|
|Love Reigns (IRE)||Paco Lopez||-125|
|Numero Seis||Brian Joseph Hernandez, Jr.||+2000|
|No Nay Hudson (IRE)||John R. Velazquez||+8000|
|Mounsieur Coco||Tyler Gaffalione||+6000|
|Mo Stash||Rafael Bejarano||+1500|
|Private Creed||Joel Rosario||+450|
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