Before we start on our preview, let’s take a quick look back at last Saturday’s racing and it was good to read the races correctly with comfortable wins for Royal Posse and Lightstream.
Now on to this Saturday and, as befits the week before the Breeders’ Cup, graded racing is quite thin on the ground. However, Keeneland’s end of meeting has a fine grade 2 event and Belmont has a couple of valuable grade 3s.
We start with Belmont and 13 runners face the starter in the Bold Ruler Handicap, a $200,000 grade 3 event over 7 furlongs for 3 year olds and above. The Morning line goes 3/1 the field and, indeed, this does look a very open race.
The ML makes Economic Model the favourite at 3/1. He has had a short lay-off due to a temperature but, if he can recapture the form of his second in the King’s Bishop, he has an excellent chance. The problem for him is the trip as he may get outpaced over the seven furlongs. However, the likely strong pace and the long Belmont straight should help.
Top weight on 121 pounds is second favourite (at 7/2) Stallwalkin’ Dude. He is a very consistent horse who recorded a Beyer of 103 last time out. He has some excellent grade 1 placed form to his name but the problem is that, after nine attempts, he has yet to win a graded race.
Maybe Touchofstarquality is the answer to this tough conundrum of a race. He is in great form having posted Beyers of 100, 99 and 104 in his last three races and he also runs Belmont very well. Again this race may be on the short side for him but if the front runners do go off too quick (which is quite possible) he could well be picking up the pieces when the others cry enough.
The other grade 3 on the card is the Turnback The Alarm Handicap for 3 year old and above fillies and mares over a mile and a sixteenth and worth $200,000.
Lewis Bay is the 6/5 ML favourite and she could well go off at a shorter price as the opposition does not look too strong in a race where she is taking on her elders for the first time. Her third in the Kentucky Oaks looks head and shoulders above her rivals and, while she was a slightly disappointing fourth in the Test, she did get caught up in a very hot pace.
Innovative Idea will most likely put the pace to the race and will no doubt make sure this is a true test but it will be disappointing if Lewis bay is not able to stalk her and make her class tell at the business end.
Keeneland signs off its present meeting with the Fayette Stakes, a $200,000 grade 2 event for three year olds and above over a mile and an eighth. Once again we have another short price ML favourite in Noble Bird, who is priced up at 6/5.
If Noble Bird is on his best behaviour, he will win this race as he is up against inferior horses. However, if is the key word as he can run some very moderate races in amongst some top class efforts. He may get taken on for the lead (possibly by Mr Z) which may result in a speed duel and/or a modest run.
The interesting horse amongst the seven opposing Noble Bird is Kasaqui. The Argentinian bred horse is very classy but his best form has been on turf to date. If he can transfer that ability to dirt, he could well give the favourite a fright.