Spring is officially here as Keeneland opens for their spring meeting on Friday for 15 days of top class racing, and the ladies take center stage on Saturday as Testa Rossi headlines a field of 13 in the $500,000 Central Bank Ashland (G1).
The race traditionally is a prep for the Kentucky Oaks (G1), but the likely favorite Testa Rossi does her best work on turf, and after a trip on poly will likely head back to the green according to her trainer Chad Brown.
The Ashland’s importance toward the Oaks will increase next year as Keeneland announced this week that they will replace the synthetic polytrack surface with conventional dirt in time for the fall meeting.
There are 15 graded stakes on tap during the meet, including next Saturday’s $750,000 Toyota Blue Grass (G1), which is a Derby points race with 100-40-20-10 points up for grabs for entry into the Run for the Roses.
Horse of the Year Wise Dan will make another appearance at Keeneland on April 12 in the $300,000 Maker’s 46 Mile (G1), a race he won last year.
In addition to a great card at Keeneland, it is Wood Memorial Day at Aqueduct, with four graded stakes including the $1 million Wood Memorial (G1). The supporting features are the $300,000 Bay Shore (G3), the $300,000 Gazelle (G2) and the $500,000 Carter Handicap (G1).
The Wood drew a field of 11 and the pressure is on 2-1 morning line favorite Social Inclusion, who has no Derby points. The colt trounced Honor Code by 10 lengths to win an allowance race at Gulfstream Park in his last outing. That win sent his price at Bovada in Derby future betting down to 14-1.
The colt faces a solid field that includes the undefeated Samraat, who is coming in off a win in the Gotham (G3) in his last outing. The colt has 60 Derby points and is assured a spot in the starting gate on the first Saturday of May.
The Santa Anita Derby drew eight led by San Felipe (G2) winner California Chrome, who is the 6-5 morning line favorite. The colt is currently listed at 7-1 in Derby future betting at Bovada.
The pressure is on Robert B. Lewis (G2) winner Candy Boy, who is the 9-5 second choice in the Santa Anita Derby. The colt only has 10 Derby points and needs a top two finish to lock in a spot in the Kentucky Derby. A third or fourth place finish could still earn him a spot, but there is no guarantee.
My Best Plays Report for Saturday will also include the $400,000 Santa Anita Oaks (G1) and the $1 million Santa Anita Derby (G1).
The Wood and Santa Anita Derby will be televised live on NBC Sports Network at 5:30 pm (ET).
Let’s head out to Keeneland for Saturday’s featured race of the day:
Keeneland Race 9 The Ashland G1 Post time 5:22 ET
8 Rosalind 15-1
6 Testa Rossi 3-1
9 Candy Kitty 9-2
2 Rom Service 9-2
Rosalind is making her second start off a 2 ½-month break here and looks as if she should show more than she did last out when she was third versus Alw-1 optional claimers on the main track at Gulfstream Park. The winner of that race was in Tune, who came back to win the Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2) in her next outing on March 29. Our top pick has run well on the fake stuff, a runner up finish over the poly here in last year’s Alcibiades (G1) and a decent fourth in the Hollywood Starlet (G1) over Cushion Track.
She was beaten just a nose by Untapable, who has come back to win the Rachel Alexandra (G3) and the Fair Grounds Oaks (G2) in her next two starts by a combined 17 ¼ lengths and is the favorite for the Kentucky Oaks (G1). The McPeek barn won this race back in 2002 with Take Charge Lady. Rosario stick and the filly put in a bullet drill over the poly here on April 1. Decent value if this gal geos off near her 15-1 morning line.
Testa Rossi is the one to beat and I doubt she goes off near her 3-1 morning line. She is not using this race as a prep for the Kentucky Oaks; instead, she likely will head back to the grass. This is her first go on polytrack as she has made all eight of her starts on turf with five wins. She won the Mrs. Grillo (G3) in her U.S. debut with a last to first run, and then had a tough trip in a runner up finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1).
Last out she overcame a tough post to run by the field and win the Florida Oaks (G3) in a good-looking outing off a four-month layoff. She is going to get a great pace set up here as there is plenty of early speed signed up to flatter her late running style. She just needs to work out a trip and take to the new surface.
Candy Kitty was the beaten favorite last out in the Herecomethebride (G3) on turf. She racked the early pace, took over the lead and could not hold off Room Service late, beaten two lengths for the top spot. The cut back in distance here should suit this gal and she has the pedigree to handle poly. She is by Lemon Drop Kid out of a Tale of the Cat mare. Trainer Todd Pletcher is looking for his first win in this race.
Room Service is yet another who will be making her first start on poly. The Wayne Catalano trainee came with a good four wide run and drew off late to win the Herecomesthebride at nine furlongs on turf. The filly sports a couple of quick works over the ply including a bullet drill on March 27. The Catalano barn is 30% winners (with a +ROI) moving runners from turf to synth.
WIN: Rosalind to win at 6-1 or better.
EXACTA: 6,8 / 2,6,8,9
TRIFECTA: 6,8 / 2,6,8,9 / 2,6,7,8,9
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