What a day to be alive! A spectacularly blue sky with bright shining orb present, glorious autumn colors on the trees, no young minds to shape (or twist) via titillating lectures—and it’s opening day at Keeneland! Time for a freshly-brewed pot of hazelnut coffee and firing up the trusty old laptop (whose tab button recently stopped functioning).
One old warrior I’ll be interested to see running today is 8-year-old Santana Strings in race 4. You may ask yourself; didn’t that G2 Amsterdam Stakes winner retire to stud a few years ago? You’d be right, but apparently standing for $2,500 at Pin Oak Lane Farm in New Freedom, Pennsylvania isn’t as economically feasible as running in (and winning) a $4,000 claimer at Fort Erie last out. Today he’s in for a $7,500 tag for Steve Asmussen who also is listed as his owner.
Is this to be a new trend, an unfortunate result of the economic downturn, bringing less than successful stallions back to the track? If so, be forewarned that another may soon make an appearance—G3 Canadian Turf Stakes winner Twilight Meteor. Retired last fall, he stood at Saratoga Glen Farm earlier this year, but is no longer there. He’s recorded five 4-furlong works at Calder since September 9.
In the G3 Phoenix Stakes, G1 Carter Handicap winner Warrior’s Reward looks to get back on track by shortening up after his recent fourth-place finish in the G1 Forego. Not sure Polytrack is his thing, though, so (depending how the track is playing) looking at Hollywood Hit who’s beaten some quality sprinters (Fatal Bullet, El Brujo, Field Commission, Signature Red) at Woodbine this year. Others to watch include Ron Ellis shipping in Canonize who’s worked well since returning from a four-month break, and longshot Super Robusto for Wayne Catalano, who’s best races have been over the synthetics.
Seven 2-year-old fillies will attempt 8.5 furlongs for the first time in the G1 Alcibiades (Poof Too is scratched). Well, that’s not exactly true as Ken McPeek-trained Harlan’s Ruby has two turf races at Saratoga over the distance to sustain her chances. The gorgeous grey Wickedly Perfect—runner-up to Tell a Kelly in the G1 Darley Debutante—has to prove she can get the distance, as does Dos Lunas who threw an impressive bullet-work here recently. Both look very strong. Wonderlandbynight won the G3 Arlington-Washington Lassie, the Ontario Debutante—and her other two races (one by disqualification). To her inside is Lassie runner-up Jordy Y who could very well upset her rival today.
For all the excitement with Keeneland’s opening—and host of quality stakes field this long weekend—I must say I’m disappointed they decided to stay discontinued with the highly-engaging online contest they use to offer. Not to knock Keeneland too much because as track websites go, theirs is undoubtedly one of the best in terms of information offered to the fan and horseplayer alike, including the insightful clocker’s comments. However, free online contests are a tremendous marketing vehicle, to generate interest in their current meet and to help educate novice handicappers who will put their money into wagering for years to come. I know that Monmouth’s “Survival at the Shore” contest was the only thing that kept me interested racing there when New Jersey-bred maidens and claimers got to be too much to handle. Yea, I finished 691st out of 6270 players, but I’m damn proud of that $610 bankroll, and 27 winners!