- Keeneland has jammed three weeks worth of stakes races into three days this weekend
- The best fillies and mares in North America will run on Saturday
- With great racing many opportunities for strategic wagering are available
Along with Del Mar, which opens this weekend, and Saratoga, which begins next week, Keeneland hosts boutique horse racing. Unlike Gulfstream Park or Santa Anita, strong tracks that are open most of the year, Del Mar, Saratoga and Keeneland are open for a limited amount of time and pack in great racing during those weeks.
Keeneland, in Lexington, KY, normally has three weeks of high-end racing in the spring and three in the fall. Because of COVID-19 this year’s spring meet was postponed, and instead of three weeks of racing, it was rescheduled for five days this week. They are running virtually all of their stakes races Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
While the Blue Grass Stakes will get most of the attention on Saturday, the Ashland and Jenny Wiley Stakes have incredible fields featuring the best female runners in America. Though spectator free, it is an incredible weekend of racing, and we are happy to look at some of the big contests
Let’s analyze closely the Ashland Stakes field, a group that will send several horses to September’s Kentucky Oaks, and then discuss several of the other big races this weekend.
2020 Ashland Stakes Odds
Odds taken July 9th
Swiss Skydiver would have been the favorite in this major prep race for the Kentucky Oaks. However, she opted to run in the Blue Grass Stakes against the boys. Interestingly, only two favorites over the past 14 editions of the race have won, yet three of the last five Ashland winners captured the Oaks.
Venetian Harbor may have controlling speed in the race, and if she is allowed to set easy fractions could be long gone. Last time out she ran well in a 14 horse field, finishing second to Swiss Skydiver in Oaklawn Park’s Fantasy Stakes
It is possible that Venetian Harbor may prefer a shorter distance, and her only stakes win came against a small and not overly impressive field. If there is any pace pressure, she could be vulnerable.
Speech has just one win in six starts but she is working amazingly well after back-to-back losses against the Kentucky Oaks favorites. She nearly beat unbeaten Gamine on May 2 at Oaklawn Park and ran second to Swiss Skydiver last time out in California.
It will be interesting to see if jockey Javier Castellano has Speech in the mix early to make sure that Venetian Harbor doesn’t get away with soft fractions
You Can’t Knock Tonalist’s Shape’s Resume
Tonalist Shape has six wins in seven races and is coming off of her first two-turn victory, in a stakes race at Gulfstream Park.
The only question with Tonalist’s Shape is what happened two back? She was seventh, more than 11 lengths behind Swiss Skydiver in the Gulfstream Park Oaks. If she just wasn’t feeling well that day, or there is another valid excuse, she certainly has been excellent aside from March 28. This is her first race outside of Florida, and she adds blinkers, an indication she may be closer to the pace in this one.
Bonny South is viable too. Last time out she impressively won the Fair Grounds Oaks at 6/1.
Trainer Brad Cox knows the goal is the Kentucky Oaks, and gave Bonny South some significant time off after the win in March. She should love this distance, and if there is any pace duel upfront, she will be running late.
Keeneland’s Other Big Races:
A small but competitive field going seven furlongs, and points for the Kentucky Oaks are on the line. With Speech opting to run in the Ashland, Four Graces, Wicked Whisper, and Sconsin look like the primary candidates. Four Graces has three wins in four starts and her first try at stakes competition went well last month.
Wicked Whisper is making her 2020 debut after winning a maiden race, stakes race, and finishing fifth in the Breeders Cup Juvenile Fillies last year. Meanwhile Sconsin is stepping up in competition after handling an allowance optional claiming field at Churchill Downs June 13.
Maker’s Mark Mile
Chad Brown’s duo of Raging Bull and Without Parole ran against each other on Memorial Day and now they face off again going a mile on the turf.
In the Shoemaker Mile while Raging Bull won rather easily, Without Parole had major traffic problems. War of Will has not won since last year’s Preakness but certainly has faced strong competition. Parlor hasn’t been winning but continues to run well in solid races.
Jenny Wiley Stakes
Rushing Fall highlights this grade one race over a mile-and-a-sixteenth on the turf for fillies and mares. She might be the fastest female horse around right now, having won a Breeders Cup race in 2017, a grade one in 2018, and two top classification contests last year including this very event.
Rushing Fall has nine wins in 12 career starts, is four for five at Keeneland, and three for four at the distance. That said, Jolie Olimpica has been super impressive since arriving in the United States from Brazil. Does she want to run this long? A big longshot, Altea has had awful racing luck her last two times out, and while her resume is not of this caliber, Chad Brown, who also trains Rushing Fall, is the best turf conditioner in the country.
Fillies and mares sprinting seven furlongs on the main track and Guarana out of Brown’s barn will be tough. She has four wins in five starts, though her level of competition is suspect. Bell’s the One likes the track and distance and is coming off a convincing win at a big price.
Bell’s the One ran by Mia Mischief, who was the favorite in that race and returns today having won three of her last four.
A marathon on the sod for older horses features United, who was 50/1 when finishing second in the Breeders Cup Turf last year. After an uneven start to his career, since the Breeders Cup United has two wins in three races including back-to-back graded stakes victories.
The always tough Zulu Alpha has won two of three races this year too after a fourth-place finish in the Breeders Cup Turf. Veteran Arklow doesn’t win often, just once in almost two years, but he runs against the best of the best and often is right there.