It didn't really seem like it to me at the time, but three of Saturday's nine races were won by favorites. It felt like fewer than that somehow, probably because some of the winners produced fairly large payoffs. Still, three-of-nine, which is average, is a deviation from a two-year trend that has seen favorites winning just a hair shy of half the races at Kentucky Downs.
While it was a beautiful afternoon, overnight and morning rains produced a yielding track that tired horses out. A multiple track-record holder in top form, Good Lord, ran six furlongs in 1:18 and change. Monday should see a little firmer track, and perhaps more horses running to form.
On opening day, I somehow picked seven exactas from my Top 4 selections. It's hard to believe I could duplicate that on Monday.
Scratches are shown.
Race 1: 3YO/up F& M, Maiden Claiming $25,000 - $30,000, Purse $26,000, One Mile 70 Yards
1. Cat Girl #10, 5-2 ML -- Class dropper brought in by Neil Howard for Dogwood Stable looks to have the best class and best speed. Could lead all the way.
2. Floating Cloud #2, 8-1 ML -- Hard to believe a Bill Mott trainee on the turf is 8-1. Jockey switch to Lebron has coincided with better form. 3YO $80K filly in for $25K finishes well but needs to be closer in early going. Mott good at placing his runners.
3. Bourbonesque #6, 7-2 ML -- Owned by former KD owner Brad Kelley, who now owns Calumet Farm. D. Wayne runner can win with best turf figs showing on her PP's, and this horse at least has shown ability/desire to overtake others, like the other picks.
Here's Fat #3, 10-1 ML -- First-time turf and first-time two turns after numerous dirt races, but a return to debut figure on Polytrack could translate to board hit.
Left out at my risk: Finishing Touch #7, 4-1 ML -- Calvin Borel; filly has a race over the track at a higher level and finished seventh of 10, beaten 6 1/2 lengths.
Hate not to use Big Debbie 'cause I like that name.
Race 2: 3YO/up, Starter allowance $23,000, started in $8,000 claiming or less 2011-2012, 1 1/2 mile
1 1/2 mile is the only two-turn distance that's been run at Kentucky Downs. You want a horse that can run the same pace most of the race.
1. Forever Sure #5, 5-2 ML -- He usually stays in touch with the field and has a good running style and pace for this distance. It's his first time at 12 furlongs, though. Aldo Canchano has his number and wins on him. Second off the layoff.
Lead the Way #4, 8-1 ML -- His name belies his running style, which is from off the pace, and you don't want to be too far back at this distance. But I like the even pace he can sustain. Now the question is whether he can go this long.
3. Olympic Danz #1, 2-1 ML -- He looks like he can win, but only if he can set very easy, uncontested fractions. He has a win at the distance, though, unlike the others. Trainer has impressive win percentage this year.
4. Jeff's Kitten #3, 7-2 ML -- Capable of a strong finish but seems a cut below the top three.
Sept.10 NOTE: With Lead the Way scratched, let's pour some good old Cornwhiskey (#6, 10-1 ML) in the fourth spot.
Sept. 10 NOTE: With Cornwhiskey a late scratch, Niederzel is now the fourth choice.
Race 3: 3YO/up F & M, N2X Allowance $62,000, One Mile
Starsilhouette #6, 9-5 -- Ken and Sarah Ramsey team up with Mike Maker, and this horse is a bear with five wins in seven starts this year, usually in tougher conditions.
2. Eye Candy Annie #1, 5-2 ML -- She broke her maiden at Keeneland and last raced at Saratoga. These are credentials enough to use her. Jockey Vasquez had three board hits in five rides on opening day.
3. Soft Whisper #8, 4-1 ML -- Corey Lanerie had eight starts with no wins, a second and a third on opening day. He is too good to be winless for long and gets off last-race winner Sunshineandsilence for this one. As for Soft Whisper, he comes in from an off-the-board outing in the West Virginia Senate President's Cup Stakes.
4. Goodnessgraciousme #3, 15-1 ML -- Good ownership and Michael Lauer in charge of plans translates to better performance than the morning line would indicate. Going longer on turf after numerous dirt sprint starts.
Sept.10 NOTE: Our top pick is out, leaving Eye Candy Annie as the choice. I'll leave this alone since only five are left in the field. Please forgive an error earlier today -- I erroneously thought Goodgraciousme was also a scratch.
Race 4: 2YO, Maiden Special Weight $60,000, 6 1/2 Furlongs
Royal Dehere #13, 2-1 ML -- Often I look for a horse that could improve in its second start in a race such as this, but Royal Dehere looks likely to win in this, his third start. I'm not sure why this gelding is an also-eligible.
2. Redwood Kitten #12, 5-2 ML -- Has had a couple of tough trips, most recently one at Saratoga, and he looks likely to run well here in the hands of Wesley Ward for Ken and Sarah Ramsey.
3. English Pound #1, 3-1 ML -- Chalky series of picks continues with this son of English Channel. Note that Brad Kelley's Bluegrass Hall is not using D. Wayne with this one; Jeff Thornbury trains the second-time homebred starter.
4. Strike the Note #9, 6-1 ML -- Debuts on turf in his second start, and he is certainly bred for grass running. It's hard to ever count out trainer Bret Calhoun.
Sept.10 NOTE: Royal Dehere, an also-eligible, is out. So let's put in the fourth spot Counting Days (#5, 7-2 ML).
Race 5: 3YO/up, N2L Claiming $10,000, Purse $20,000, Six Furlongs
1. Prospect Road #5, 7-2 ML -- Sometimes-closing type cuts back in distance and could run past some of these in the stretch to get the lead.
2. Baltersan #9, 4-1 ML -- Best figs have come on turf; drops in class.
3. Terubcheh #11, 15-1 ML -- Looks like he's rounding back to form and could run one like he did against tougher at Gulfstream Park in February.
4. Wee Alex #1, 5-2 ML -- First start since November, 2011, but fired well in his debut.
Race 6: 3YO/up, Maiden Special Weight $60,000, Six Furlongs
Loud Pipes #14, 8-5 ML -- Also-eligible looks the best after two placings at Saratoga. To round out selections, we'll put "one to fear" at the bottom in case he doesn't get in.
2. Suman Khar #6, 10-1 ML -- Could run very well here with improvement from his third-of-12 debut.
3. Pisgah Station #9, 7-2 ML -- Will Rusty Arnold continue his hot hand at KD? This one needs to make a late run.
4. Jesse Stone #1, 12-1 ML -- Son of Aragorn should enjoy the switch to his preferred surface in this, his second start.
One to Fear Dept.: Starter #3, 3-1 ML -- Connections have tried every other surface, and now he has a new trainer and tries turf for the first time. Al, Jr. certainly capable of recognizing what Starter needs after 12 blanks, but he may be merely along for the ride with Shun.
Race 7: 3YO/up, N1X-N2L Allowance $62,000, One Mile
1. Holdin Bullets #7, 3-1 ML -- Off since a third-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Sprint. Would be surprised if we get 3-1.
2. Shun #5, 7-2 ML -- Debut winner a year ago runs for second time for powerful connections Claiborne, Dilschneider, Stall. Brian Hernandez, two-time winner on opening day, is aboard.
3. Ol Army #9, 8-1 -- Pace factor, and looks fast enough to win.
4. Paroled #12, 6-1 -- Bridgmohan aboard stalker/closer; will he duplicate Miz Ida's trip on opening day?
Horse That I Fear:
Hand I Was Dealt #10, 12-1 ML -- Six board hits in 11 starts, including four on synthetic surfaces; either second or fourth in four of last six.
Second Horse I Fear: Nicklaus Way (#8, 10-1 ML) broke through last time out under Calvin, Goncalves recruited for this one.
Race 8: 3YO/up F & M, N2L Claiming $20,000, Purse $24,000, 6 1/2 Furlongs
1. Harlan Light #3, 3-1 -- Finished second at KD this time last year; was among his best efforts; gets Calvin.
2. Smarty Party #9, 12-1 -- Class-dropper has been first, second or fourth in four of six turf races.
Water Ice #5, 5-1 ML -- Five straight second-place finishes. Brings his rider with him.
Prettygood and You #7, ML 30-1 -- Because I kind of wonder why he's entered in this race. It's a counter-intuitive pick.
Sept.10 NOTE: Two of my selections are out of the race, so for the third and fourth spots, I'll fall back on Angel of Music second off the layoff (#4, 6-1 ML) and Megnog (#6, 9-2 ML) with Corey Lanerie up.
Link to Dick's Picks, Saturday, Sept. 8