The feature event on the card at Keeneland on Saturday is The Grade 2 Dixiana Elkhorn. It is a turf contest run over a mile and a half. In terms of number of entrants and victories, two trainers dominate these long distance turf races. Surprisingly one of them, Chad Brown doesn't have a representative. The other Mike Maker has no less than four entered. He is on record that in the event of rain softened ground, two of them are likely to scratch. The much improved Taghleeb is reportedly better on fast ground. Like barn mate Bigger Picture, he has thrived since a claim by his trainer who has a knack of improving these stayers.
Team Maker have plenty of opposition in The Elkhorn including Red Rifle who could be rounding back into his best 2015 for Todd Pletcher. The trainer has runner in both stakes at Aqueduct on Saturday. He'll need some help with the weather in The Woodhaven, a stake on grass as both his entrants are 'main track only. His runner in The New York Stallion, Toni Tools seems only a place chance. The stake is likely to be fought out by established filly Bluegrass Flag and the once race Noble Freud.
As well as the trio of stakes, there are an additional half a dozen races previewed from the undercards in Kentucky and New York.
PAUL'S ANALYSIS FROM Aqueduct and Keeneland
Saturday 22 April 2017
Keeneland Race 3 (7.12pm)
Allowance Optional Claiming - 4 year olds and upwards - 6 Furlongs - Dirt
Limousine Liberal (4) has had a diet of graded stakes, many against the best sprinters around since an allowance victory at this meet a year ago. In most of those races, he's equipped himself really well. He made a fine reappearance when third in a Grade 3 here at the start of the month. He looks the one to beat getting significant class relief. The selection is likely to get a stalking trip just off No Hiding Place (1) and Tizmatized (2). The first named hasn't raced since a poor effort at Saratoga last summer. He is proven fresh and has ran big on both his starts at Keeneland.
If Limousine Liberal gets involved in a costly speed duel, Big Squeeze (5) and Silver Ride (6) may be able to nail him late on. The former has been running well at Oaklawn. Silver Ride has slightly better form. He won first time back after his last lay off and has form locally.
Three time turf winner Wyeth (3) is The X Factor here making his dirt debut. He has worked well on dirt. His trainer Tom Amoss doesn't win at a healthy rate by running them on the wrong surface.
Limousine Liberal (4)
Reversed Exacta (2 bets): Limousine Liberal (4) and Big Squeeze (5)
Reversed Exacta (2 bets): Limousine Liberal (4) and Silver Ride (6)
Aqueduct Race 3 (7.29pm)
The Woodhaven - A Stake for 3 year olds - 1 1/16 Miles - Turf
Frostmourne (5) is a standard setter at this level. He won a stake on career start number three at Belmont last October. He was three and a half lengths ahead of Louisiana Downs stakes winner Royal by Nature (6) with main track only entrant Bonus Points (2) back in third. Frostmourne races with lasix for the first time. He is making his three year old debut here but sports an extensive work tab at Payson Park in Florida. It is worth bearing in mind, he won on his career debut.
Secretary At War (4) has a speed figure and recency edge over Frostmourne. Both may be immaterial but what is not is the progression he's shown in a trio of career races at Gulfstream. He was a convincing maiden breaker last month. Jockey Junior Alvarado may get him on a soft lead here. If that is the case, he'll be tough to reel in.
Bird's Eye View (3) showed plenty of ability as a juvenile including a pair of graded stakes places. He made an encouraging return in March. A month later, he failed to build on that but he was parked behind slow fractions.
Secretary At War (4)
Keeneland Race 5 (8.18pm)
Allowance (multiple conditions) - Fillies and Mares - 4 year olds and upwards - 1 1/16 Miles - Turf
Many chances here in an event full of fillies and mares who have been tackling stakes and even graded stakes company. Belle Hill (4) rattled up a hat-trick of stakes victories on the dirt at Emerald Downs before upsetting a Grade 3 at Santa Anita no less. That was in 2015 and she faded badly in her one start (on dirt) last year. She has a long lay off to overcome. So too does the former Marco Botti trained Kyllachy Queen (2). She hasn't raced since July. The five year old has had some US experience running creditably behind classy mare Dacita in a Grade 2 at Belmont last June. She won first time back last year and won't mind a less than firm turf course.
Flipcup (1) did win a Grade 3 almost a year ago. Her form has been inconsistent since. She did make a fine return at Gulfstream but didn't build on that when admittedly up against in a Grade 3. Susie Bee (7) is in form. Like barn mates Bitty Kitty (5) and Shelbysmile (6), she is a come from behinder in a race without an established frontrunner.
Kyllachy Queen (2)
Aqueduct Race 5 (8.38pm)
Claiming $32,000 - 4 year olds and upwards - 6 ½ Furlongs - Dirt
All of these hard knockers can win this on a going day. That includes Sir Bond (1) who ran a poor one when fancied for a similar event last month. The eight year old now runs for trainer Rudy Rodriguez. The trainer has a fantastic record with first time claims. In February he nosed out Rockford (2) on the inner track here. The booking of Irad Ortiz and a fine record on the outer track here are angles in that horses favour.
Gentrify (5) has set the pace and been reeled in late in two starts since returning. The possibility of being on the lead on his own makes him playable today. The rider of Roll Tide Roll (4) is likely to sit in stalk mode and get first run on Sir Bond and Rockford.
Brewing (3) took a big step forward second time back after a long absence. A repeat of his Saratoga victory last summer will make him tough to beat.
Sir Bond (1)
Reversed Exacta (2 bets): Sir Bond (1) and Gentrify (5)
Keeneland Race 7 (9.24pm)
Claiming $50,000 - 3 year olds and upwards - Non winners of 2 races lifetime - 7 Furlongs - Dirt
Most of this field have tackling allowance events and their connections are holding up the white flag and running them for sale. Westfest (6) is one of them. He ran a lot better than his beaten lengths suggests on his reappearance at Oaklawn last month. That was his first run since July. If he improves off that, he may make the most of the class drop.
Town Classic (7) has a very similar profile to Westfest although a bit more exposed. He ran evenly on his 2017 return earlier in this meet. His trainer Brian Lynch has a fine record second time back after a lay off. Entertainer (1) and Stone (3) make the same drop and will have their supporters.
The lone three year old in here is Enchantera (5). He drops in class and is back at the venue he broke his maiden at.
Aqueduct Race 7 (9.44pm)
Allowance (entry level) - New York bred 3 year olds and upwards - 1 1/16 Miles - Turf
Many of these are entered 'main track only' so this is likely to be a lot smaller field if this event stays on the turf. A recency advantage means Jacala (3) gets the nod over fellow prime contender Mr Harlan (10). The selection is working his way up the class ladder after running in cheap races. He won a mid range claimer for one time winners at Gulfstream last month. That form stacks up well now facing New York breds, particularly at this time of year.
Mr Harlan (10) hasn't raced since October. He rounded out 2016 with a trio of runner up tries. His trainer Linda Rice can bring them back fit and the booking of Irad Ortiz is a positive. His habit of being the bridesmaid is a worry. It is with the in form Prophet's Cat (7). It is a year since he last put his head in front.
The returning Dearie (8) has place claims. The lightly raced Clutch Cargo (1) is of more interest. He's only had two starts on turf, winning one of them. He looks a staying type who may need pace to chase down to be seen to best effect.
Keeneland Race 8 (9.57pm)
Allowance (entry level) - 3 year olds - 6 Furlongs - Dirt
All of these runners seem best when on the lead on their own. At least Aquamarine (6) has shown some stalking ability. Being drawn towards the outside gives Joel Rosario tactical options. His form at Santa Anita seems as good as the best of these. The one worry is the move from Bob Baffert to D. Wayne Lukas whose star has waned in his latter years.
Jersey Street (7) faded in a stake on turf last time out at Gulfstream in February. Prior to that, he ran a fine second on dirt at today's level at the same venue. He is one of a quartet in here that will head the market. Another is Lenstar (3). He has been freshened up since a fine maiden breaker in Florida. Bam Bam Bryan (5) is a tougher read. He went to the lead and ran away from a field of Louisiana breds on his only start to date.
Reversed Exacta (2 bets): Aquamarine (6) and Jersey Street (7)
Aqueduct Race 8 (10.17pm)
The New York Stallion - A stake for New York bred 3 year old fillies - 6 ½ Furlongs - Dirt
Just like the earlier stake on the card, this looks a match up between an established stakes filly and an up and comer. Bluegrass Flag (6) on form is the gal to beat here. On career start number three, she was a fine runner up in a New York bred stake at Aqueduct in February. She went one better and in style a month later. She wired an open stakes field by half a dozen lengths, running a fine speed figure in the process.
Noble Freud (4) must have be an ugly looker. She was only a $30,000 sales purchase despite being a half sister to graded stakes performers La Verdad and Hot City Girl. She has had only one start, slamming a field of maidens at Oaklawn by six lengths. Since then, she has been the subject of a private purchase and now runs for trainer Chad Brown. It will be no surprise if she improves off that run and for the barn switch. A series of nice workouts since moving to New York seem to confirm that.
Bluegrass Flag is one of a trio of fillies that have 6lb penalties to carry for stakes victories. The other two, Toni Tools (1) and Dublin Girl (5) need to improve and seem to be fighting it out for minor awards.
Noble Freud (4)
Keeneland Race 9 (10.30pm)
The Dixiana Elkhorn (Grade 2) - 4 year olds and upwards - 1 ½ Miles - Turf
Bigger Picture (5) has been a steady improver since Mike Maker claimed him in November 2015. A Grade 3 victory over Danish Dynaformer (2) last November was followed by another two starts later at Sam Houston in January. He lost a Grade 2 at Gulfstream by half a length after that and may have been unlucky as Jose Ortiz lost his whip at the top of the stretch. Off that run, he holds barn mare Charming Kitten (9) who was making his second start back after a long lay off.
Maker also runs Roman Approval (10) and Taghleeb (8). The latter is another who has been turned around since a claim by his trainer. He had Danish Dynaformer behind him when winning a Grade 3 at Gulfstream in January. He ran a close up fourth in a deep Grade 2 subsequently. His best form has come on firm ground whereas barn mate Bigger Picture will handle any easing in underfoot conditions. So will the former French trained Itsinthepost (4). He comes off a victory in a Grade 2 at Santa Anita last month. The five year old has tactical speed. Tyler Baze should be able to stalk likely frontrunner Chocolate Ride (11). He is an accomplished stakes performer over shorter who gets a stamina test today.
Red Rifle (3) ran some fine races in the best staying company in 2015. He had an abbreviated campaign last year before going to the sidelines. Todd Pletcher's patience seems to have paid off. He made an encouraging return under allowance conditions, looking most unlucky. He could easily take a step forward and beat this field. Interpol (1) has a bigger jump to make second time back after an 18 month absence. He has back class winning Woodbine's Grade 1 Northern Dancer as a four year old.
Bigger Picture (5)