Race of the Week: Shadwell Turf Mile
by Joe Wulffe
Saturday October 6th: Race 10 at Keeneland. The $1,000,000 Grade 1 Shadwell Turf Mile Stakes run at one mile on the turf for three year olds and upward. (Post Time: 5:49 PM EDT)
(A note to all readers: The Keeneland turf course received a significant amount of rain over the course of Thursday night and into Friday morning. As such the turf was rated as soft going into Friday’s opening day of racing. However, with the sun and warm temperatures that occurred on Friday and are likely to occur again on Saturday, it can be expected that the turf course should dry up a bit prior to the start of this race. Thus the selections for the Shadwell Turf Mile will be made for a GOOD rated turf course. However, should turf conditions remain the same and stay as SOFT or drastically improve and allow the turf to be rated as FIRM, please use your discretion when considering and analyzing these selections for this race. In any event alternative selections for either scenario will be posted via Twitter, so please keep that in mind. Best of luck to all the horseplayers betting Keeneland tomorrow.)
(11) Almanaar: The barn of trainer Chad Brown ships in this six year old son of Dubawi in search of his first graded stakes victory this year after finishing second in a solid effort behind stablemate Robert Bruce in the Arlington Million (G1T) back in August. In that race, although Almanaar ran fine after being a bit rank at the start, it was fairly apparent that ten furlongs was too far him; rather it seems that he should appreciate the cutback in distance to eight furlongs. In fact he has managed to win twice and finish second once in five career tries at the distance, although all of those efforts came whilst running in France and he has yet to contest the distance here in the U.S. While the speed figures that he has posted this year are not among the fastest in the field, he has been fairly consistent in posting Bris Speed Ratings (BSRs) in the mid to high 90s since coming over to the U.S. to race and at the very least this reliability should provide some confidence that he will turn in another solid performance today. How exactly he will handle ground with some give in it appears to be a slight question for him as though he won over good rated turf against Group 3 company in France, he struggled over there racing over soft going and has yet to contest a race over anything less than firm ground since coming to the United States. However, there is no doubt that should he encounter turf today that is rated as good, he will be able to rely upon his prior experience over such going and relish the trip.
It is quite possible that amongst the bevy of closers in the field for this year’s edition of the Shadwell Turf Mile, Almanaar might very be the best of all of them. There is a good amount of early speed entered into this race which should allow him to get a good trip. Furthermore, as he has been somewhat difficult to settle at the start and early on after breaking, a fast initial pace in this race might allow him to relax and get into the proper mindset as the field could get away from him early on. If he can find a way to settle and then get down to business before unleashing his powerful closing kick, he will be especially dangerous here against this field. Moreover, Chad Brown has done exceptionally well over the past three years not only when shipping in runners to compete but also when returning his trainees to racing after layoffs of 46-90 days away as he boasts a 27% win rate for both conditions. Javier Castellano will get the call to ride today as primary rider Joel Rosario elects to stay in New York to ride at Belmont. Castellano has done well this year not only when riding in turf races (20% win rate) but also when riding for Brown over the past 60 days (26% win rate and 63% in the money). Provided Almanaar can adapt to a softer going than he’s previously experienced here in the U.S., he appears to be the one to beat today.
(9) Analyze It: This three year old son of Point of Entry appears to have developed a nasty case of seconditis as over the course of his last three graded stakes races, he’s simply folded when challenged down the stretch in each race. However, a cutback in distance to a mile and a return to the site of one of his more impressive stakes victories could be the necessary remedy to cure what’s troubling this colt. Over the course of his career, Analyze It has yet to finish out of the exacta in six lifetime starts; moreover, he has won both of his tries at eight furlongs. Additionally, Analyze It does have valuable experience over turf courses with some give in the ground as he won here at Keeneland in April in the Transylvania Stakes (G3T) over yielding turf and then finished second over a good rated turf course in the Secretariat Stakes (G1T) at Arlington Park in August. Although today marks the first time in his career that he has taken on older rivals, the speed figures that he has posted not only at this distance but throughout his career have been quite good and should make him a legitimate contender against this field.
Furthermore it appears that Analyze It possesses an ideal running style that, given the projected pace scenario for this race, should allow him to find success today. Although this colt had previously demonstrated a desire to play the role of a pace-setter in both of his races as a two year old, as he developed into a three year he developed a more tactical approach to racing and as such began to display a more pace-stalking running style. It is extremely likely that he will need to employ such tactics again today and sit back and rate just behind the initial pace-setters as it would be near suicidal for him to try and be forwardly placed early on contesting the opening fractions against more experienced foes. Moreover such positioning should allow him to get the jump on the closers and give him the opportunity to try and make the first run at the leaders as the field turns for home. Chad Brown was forced to make a jockey switch for this young colt as his primary rider, Irad Ortiz, elected to stay back in New York to ride at Belmont. However, this opened up the spot for veteran jockey Johnny Velazquez to hop aboard. Velazquez has done well this year as he has been winning 20% of his turf starts and additionally wins with 19% of the E/P type horses that he has mounts on. Analyze It may be one of the main threats to Almanaar in this race especially if he can get back on track and solve his issue of folding down the stretch. While it would not be a massive surprise to see Analyze It win today, especially considering he is one of the classier horses in this field, his lack of experience against older turf runners may get the best of him and perhaps he will have to settle for a minor award instead.
(6) Synchrony: The barn of trainer Michael Stidham ships in this five year old son of Tapit looking to take a step up in class and compete against Grade 1 rivals after handily defeating Grade 3 competition in his last two races at Monmouth earlier this year. Throughout his career, Synchrony appears to have been well placed in confidence building races that Stidham knew he could win and today may be one more example of that strategy. Since making the surface switch over to turf in early 2017, Synchrony has yet to miss hitting the board in all nine of his career starts on grass. Moreover, he has managed to fill out the exacta in all three tries at one mile with his lone victory coming in the Red Bank Stakes (G3T) at Monmouth where he posted a 97 BSR. Although he has yet to try the Keeneland turf, he should not mind a little give in the ground as he has managed to finish in the money in all three tries over softer ground. Moreover, he comes into today’s race in fine form having fired off a bullet of a workout on September 30th over four furlongs.
As one of the numerous closers drawn into this field, Synchrony has shown time and time again that he does his best running late and from well back in the field; although over the course of his last three races he has been a bit more forwardly placed and has been content instead to race just several lengths back of the leaders. The TimeForm Pace Projector has indicated that it is very likely that there should be a fast pace for this race today, even over a less than firm turf course, and this bodes well for Synchrony’s chances at success as he has a huge late closing kick that he will likely try to employ to devastating effect. Over the past three years, Michael Stidham has done well with returning last out winners back to the winner’s circle as he has been winning races under those conditions at a 21% rate and moreover has had his runners finish in the money 49% of the time. While Joe Bravo will not be aboard Synchrony today, his replacement is the more than capable Keeneland veteran Corey Lanerie who has been hot over the past seven days boasting a record of 27-7-5-4 and is currently winning 14% of the turf races he rides in. Although it would be very surprising to see Synchrony outkick all of his rivals and win today, an on the board finish for him would not be outside of the realm of possibilities.
As the field for this year’s edition of the Shadwell Turf Mile is absolutely loaded with talented, classy runners it was incredibly hard to settle on just one horse to use as an underneath play for this race and as a result both (7) Qurbaan and (14) Bound for Nowhere were chosen. As one of the multitude of closers in this race, Qurbaan should be able to benefit from a fast pace scenario and will likely be trying to close late as the field turns for home. Additionally, as prior to his only start this year in the Bernard Baruch Handicap (G2T) at Saratoga in September, Qurbaan had raced exclusively in Europe and as such has a good deal of experience racing over turf courses with some give in the ground. Such prior experience could come into play today given the fact that it is likely the turf will be rated as good at the best. Mike Smith gets the call to ride today for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin who has been winning at a 23% rate with runners making their second start off of a layoff. Meanwhile on the opposite end of the pace-scenario spectrum is Bound for Nowhere. The Wesley Ward trainee put to rest any lingering doubts that he could not handle the stretchout in distance to a mile in his last race, the $750K Tourist Mile (Listed) at Kentucky Downs in early September. He loves racing at Keeneland as he has won both of his starts over the turf course at this track. Moreover, he will once again have jockey Julio Garcia aboard with whom he has yet to lose a race in five career starts. There are two concerns for him in this race though. The first deals with the post position as he is marooned on the far outside in post position 14 and will likely have to break very well and be sent early on in order to avoid being caught up in traffic. Secondly, the pace scenario of this race could cause issues for him as a fast pace may compromise his pace-stalking abilities and cause him to fade towards the end of the race. Despite all of this, he still is an incredibly classy horse and certainly does deserve consideration, along with Qurbaan, for use in all exotic wagering in this race.