By Dick Downey
Ground condition updated Sept. 4 @ 7:40 p.m. ET
Updated with scratches and a couple of extra picks in races 7 and 9 on Sept. 5 @ 11: 24 a.m. ET
Dick's Picks focus mainly on exacta boxes. Four-horse exacta boxes are recommended except where indicated. Kentucky Downs has the lowest takeout on exacta wagers in the nation.
Scratched horses =
strike through. Any additional selections after scratches are announced will be shown in red.
Sept. 4 NOTE 7:40 p.m. ET. I inspected the track Friday afternoon. The track has been watered and looks like it will play pretty fairly. The one path is on the good side. Otherwise it's firm.
A firm course at Kentucky Downs can favor horses with good early speed. In addition, under these circumstances those breaking from the inner half of the starting gate can win at a higher rate than their counterparts. While the area has received above average rain so far this year, as of Sept. 5 there has been virtually no rain for three weeks. At the weather station in nearby Bowling Green, only 1 1/2 inch of rain fell in August, and one spotty shower has fallen in September. In August, there were clear skies 24 days, and there were five more days with partly cloudy skies. Skies have been clear in September.
Race 1. Maiden Special Weight, 3YO & up, $120,000, 1 1/2 Mile
1. MALIBU PREACHER (#3) hit the board twice at Saratoga, and both efforts came at long distances like this race. He runs without Lasix.
2. NATE THE NATURAL (#11) shows a sharp workout for this and has been on the board six of eight starts.
3. AMERICAN ROAD (#1) gets the services of last year's leading rider, Julien Leparoux, after running second four straight times.
4. NILEATOR (#4), a Zayat homebred, is brought in by Dale Romans and was regarded well enough to have been entered in a grade III two races back.
If one of the above is scratched, consider WILDLIFE ARTIST (#7). This gelding is unpredictable, but he ran second at this distance in a MSW at Kentucky Downs last year.
Race 2. Starter Allowance $10,000, Fillies and Mares 3YO & up, $42,000, 6 1/2 Furlongs
1. FRANK'S OFFICER GAL (#5) has won at a higher level than the others in the recent past, $25K optional claiming, and she ran well on synthetic at a little shorter distance last time out.
2. MS. ZENERGY (#3) adds blinkers and could be the pacesetter.
3. CONGRATS HONEY (#6) has won at $20K claiming level and won easily last time out.
4. LITTLEBITOFSENSE (#2) may bounce off big effort last race in a $30K claimer but has been facing relatively tough company since April. There is a concern about lack of turf experience.
Race 3. Claiming $17,500, 3YO & up, $33,000, 1 Mile
There are five selections listed, but I won't play more than the top four who reach the starting gate.
1. ABOVE THE BAR (#7) has the right running style for this race and nearly scored at a much higher level two races back.
2. BEL AIR BULLET(#5) in only his third start this year could steal this race with a good break from the gate and a good ride from Brian Hernandez. Note that top choice beat him soundly two back, but his trainer has a high win percentage.
3. ARONEY (#11), often in the mix, is a closer that could make an impact.
4. BLEU BRAVE (#14) has been competitive at a higher level this year.
5. BIG KICK (#12) is the morning line favorite. He hasn't raced since March and hasn't worked since July 24, but if he shows up, he's worth a second look. Two board hits from three starts at Santa Anita this year.
Note that BATTEN THE HATCHES (#6) has finished third twice from three starts at Kentucky Downs.
Race 4. Maiden Special Weight, 2YO, $120,000, 6 Furlongs
I'm only going three deep with the top selections left after scratches. If only two are left, I'll go with those two. Most of these are first-time starters. Two of the horses that look good on paper are also-eligibles.
1. SUNSHINE LIFE (#14) is the most experienced of the group and has a forward running style.
2. I'M READY TO ROLL (#15), if he moves forward in his second start, is a contender.
3. SURGICAL STRIKE (#5) broke poorly in his debut and should improve with a better break from the gate. Two works in five days signals readiness.
4. ENTRANCING (#2) is a first-timer for Mike Maker, who has the best debut win percentage in the field.
Race 5. Allowance N1X/N2L, Fillies and Mares 3YO & up, $125,000, 1 Mile
Tough race. There are six selections but I won't play more than the top four of them that reach the starting gate.
1. ONE MORE STRIKE (#4) looks like she's definitely been pointed to this meet. Stalk-and-pounce type likes to pass horses and gets Florent Geroux.
2. MIO ME (#10) has run in stakes races four of her last five outings.
3. LOVELY MOON (#16), if she gets in, runs second off the layoff after pressing the pace and fading at Saratoga.
4. KITETA (#3) finished two lengths behind Lovely Moon at Saratoga and has credible Brisnet figs in all of her turf starts.
5. LITTLE ARIEL (#8) has consistent early speed but has been running against lesser company than she sees today.
6. NICKY'S BROWN MISS (#9), who won the Kentucky Downs Juvenile Fillies last year at 8-1 odds, has not met her owner/trainer's expectations since then, but with another top effort she could hit the board.
Race 6. Allowance N1X/N2L, 3YO & up, $125,000, 1 Mile
1. WAYWARD KITTEN (#4) is the first horse of the meet entered for Ken and Sarah Ramsey, who are often successful at Kentucky Downs. Expect to see his red and white silks prominent throughout.
2. FLASHY CHELSEY(#5) and the top choice appear to be much the best of the 12 who are not on the also-eligible list.
3. ONE STEP SALSA (#14) is two-for-two with completely different styles in those races; he comes in off a long layoff under Julien Leparoux.
4. DAC (#3) gets first-time Lasix and should be part of the early pace.
Sept 5 NOTE: Equibase reported early today that HOTTAP is "first start since reported as gelding."
Race 7. Encore Juvenile Fillies Stakes, Fillies 2YO, $300,000, 7 Furlongs
1. SEASIDE SCHILLER (#4) has two bullets from three workouts since she debuted with a win on turf at Belmont Park with a prominent running style. She finished strongly in that debut.
2. SIMPLE SURPRISE (#7) is the horse to beat off his win of a $100K stake at Saratoga. She should also be prominent and probably will be outside the top choice.
3. ANDREYA'S REWARD (#5) is a longshot selection with Julien Leparoux up. Connections see fit to bring her up from south Florida. May close strongly.
4. MOMENT IS RIGHT (#8) was speed, fade in the Grade III Schuylerville; tries turf for the first time but has turf influences in her pedigree. One of two horses Joel Rosario is riding today; the other is Undrafted in the More Than Ready Mile for the same trainer.
5. Also look at PRECIOUS LOVE (#6), who comes in off a debut closing win on turf after going six wide.
Race 8. Calumet Farm Juvenile Stakes, 2YO, $300,000, 7 Furlongs
I'm only going three deep and hoping for a nice score.
1. CAJUN SCHILL (#8) ships up from south Florida after improving with each start, the most recent of which was a dominant win his first time on turf. Good early speed. Cannot believe this horse is a 10-1 morning line.
2. AT THE READY (#5) ran very fast to win his debut race, which was on turf.
3. AXTELL (#6) is a maiden shipper from Woodbine that may be able to carry his stalking speed to an on-the-board finish.
Race 9. More Than Ready Mile Stakes, 3YO & up, $200,000, 1 Mile
1. UNDRAFTED (#4) was a very close third in the Kentucky Downs Turf Sprint last year after leaving himself a little too much to do. The extra distance today should help; he's two-for-three at a mile. Joel Rosario shows up for Wesley Ward, who was the meet-leading trainer last year.
2. TOURIST (#1) ran the 2014 Breeders' Cup Mile in 1:34 3/5 and finished 13th. This is his first race since then. I'm looking for Florent Geroux to send him to the lead. Skyring, who's been off form for a good while, may go with him.
3. GREEN MASK (#7) is Ward's other horse. He's run worse than fouth only once and is capable of a terrific turn of foot late.
4. KNIGHT'S NATION (#9) has been on the board five of six times this year. Back in 2013, he ran second by neck to Believe in Kitten in a Kentucky Downs mile allowance that was timed in 1:36.58. He's been second all three times he's tried this distance.
5. REGALLY READY (#8) won this race last year, and he may win again this year, but the 8-year-old he doesn't seem to be quite as fast as he was then.
Race 10. Maiden Special Weight, 2YO, $120,000, 6 Furlongs
1. DISCREETLY FIRM (#9) has a series of sharp works for a trainer who is 38% with debut turf runners, per Brisnet stats. This son of Discreetly Mine may be precocious and speedy.
2. DEEP IN A DREAM (#12) should show early speed and may carry it for six furlongs on a firm turf course.
3. MINES AND MAGIC (#8) is regally bred, and his trainer, who's had success at this track, is 24% with debut turf starters.
4. AFLEET JAY (#11) is a longshot with good early speed.