Handicapping

Pick 4 to Score: Kentucky Downs All-Stakes

My Impression winning the 2017 One Dreamer Stakes at Kentucky Downs (Credit: Reed Palmer Photography)

Welcome back, Kentucky Downs! It’s the gift that keeps on giving. You always get massive fields, massive purses, and massive payouts.

This season, Kentucky Downs stepped up its game and cut its takeout from 19% to 14% on both the Pick 4 and the Pick 5 wagers, which carry a $0.50 base wager.  If you don’t think that matters, just wait until you see these pools and payouts.

This meet is important to play for two reasons. First, as a bettor, it’s not something that you cannot pass up, especially with just five days of racing. Secondly, we vote with our dollar. It’s important that we support tracks that are doing the right things like lowering takeout and pumping money into purses.

Now, if you haven’t played Kentucky Downs before, let me give you a couple tips:

    • It’s the most “European” track in the US. The turf isn’t level; they run uphill along the backstretch, so if they are running a mile, then make sure that your horse can get a mile and 1/16.
    • Post position is less important. There’s actually a slight right turn in the backstretch, so being in the 12 hole is not nearly as big of a disadvantage here.
    • The purses are HUGE! Like, $130k maiden special weight huge, so pay close attention. The seventh race on Saturday is a great example. It’s a $250k race, which is a purse that is in line with most Grade 2 turf races. Horses coming out of Grade 3s are not dropping and horses coming out of ungraded races are taking a step up in class. Judge the class by the horses entered.

Kentucky Downs Picks

Sequence of the Weekend: Kentucky Downs 14% Takeout All-Stakes Pick 4

Base Wager: $0.50

Races: 7 thru 10

Level of Difficulty (1-10): 10

I’m so happy that this meet is back! Turf racing is my game, especially when bettors have to project improvement. There are massive fields, with 48 horses entered in this sequence, which means you will get paid if you are right. Any single is a good single here because it will allow you to go DEEP in other legs.

My general style in Kentucky Downs Pick 4s is to try to either single once and spread in the other three legs, or else try to go two-deep in two legs and spread in the other two. Let’s take a look at the sequence and then structure some tickets.

Kentucky Downs Race 7: $250,000 One Dreamer

Must Use:  We are starting off with a very Kentucky Downs race here. A full field restricted to no stakes winners in 2018. I’m going to try to kick this puppy off with a price. #3 Dubara shipped in to North America and debuted at Ellis Park, where she ran a nice first-out effort. Her sire, Dubawi, is one of the top turf sires in Europe, and she’s got every right to improve in her second start stateside. Additionally, that race was off of a nine-month layoff, which means that this is her second start as a 4-year-old, too. Her Beyer should jump up to the 93-95 range here, which puts her right in the mix with value at 12/1. #11 On Leave is the obvious use. She’s got the class and it’s her second start off of a layoff. I’m a little unsettled as to why she is adding blinkers (move that her trainer Shug McGaughey is only hitting at about 12% with) when she hasn’t had them before and was running very consistently.

Dismiss at Your Own Risk: Since I am using Dubara, if I use more than two horses, I’ve got to include #4 I Remember Mama because she’s improved in every start and finished a nose in front of Dubara last time out. Cutting back in distance, #9 Prado’s Sweet Ride should have no issues with the track and has past Beyers to make her competitive here. Her jockey, Julien Leparoux, had success here last year, which is a big plus over this unique course. Last one in here would be a “C” for me, and that is #1 Celestial Insight. Draw a line through her last race because 1 3/16 miles was too long for this daughter of Scat Daddy. If you look back to her 1 1/16-mile efforts, then she’s got a shot. Specifically, her race two back with today’s jockey (Joe Rocco, Jr.) looks dangerous.

Unused Horse That Bettors Will Like: The east coast has the class of the North American turf division, so I will be looking to play entries from Belmont and Saratoga, but #12 Last Promise Kept will not be on of them. She’s never run a 90+ Beyer and was just blown out in an $80k Optional Claiming race. Many of these horses are coming out of graded races, so this is a giant step up in class requiring mandatory improvement to compete.

Kentucky Downs Race 8: $750,000 Tourist Mile

“Wait, this isn’t graded? But it’s a $750k purse!” That’s Kentucky Downs!

Must Use: Oh #8 Bound for Nowhere. You beat me in the Grade 2 Shakertown Stakes at Keeneland, but I will not let you do so again! His sire, The Factor, is one of my favorite turf sires, but he does not get enough love. Owner/trainer Wesley Ward is very good at sending horses to the Royal Ascot meet and bringing them back ready to fire. He also only sends his best to that meet, and this one has now been sent twice. No one in this field can touch his career-best Beyer of 107. If you have to single in this sequence, then this is the spot. Note that his WORST turf Beyer is 93, and that came in his second career start (which he won).

Dismiss at Your Own Risk: Even if you don’t single this race, you don’t have to go to deep to move on. #1 Mr. Misunderstood is the class of the field and has been the most consistent, especially on the turf. He’s 10-for-13 on the turf (wow, let that sink in – he’s 10-for-13 on the turf) and 5-for-6 at this distance. That being said, he’s never even sniffed the 107 Beyer that Bound for Nowhere hit in his last stateside start.

Unused Horse That Bettors Will Like: On paper, #4 Mr Cub looks solid, especially when you cross out his last start, which came over an off-turf. The big issue that I have is his 0-for-3 record when going head-to-head with Mr. Misunderstood. I do not want to waste any of my combinations on this horse with the sequence being as difficult as it is.

Free $20 - 728x90

Kentucky Downs Race 9: $400,000 Kentucky Downs Juvenile

Must Use: Well, this is just mean, but I love it. This race is all about projecting improvement, since the winner will take a step forward. One angle that I like is when a horse originally entered for a turf race gets taken off, so the trainer scratches and then returns on turf at a higher class. It worked out well in the Grade 3 With Antication Stakes this week, which Opry won as a maiden. Here, #4 All American Hero will try to pull off the same feat. This $400k son of Hard Spun clearly wants turf, so the last race’s finish is irrelevant. I do like that he showed speed, and trainer Mark Casse knows what he is doing with top-tier turfers, plus Leparoux is picking up the mount. This one is All Systems Go. I’ve got to use #7 Dragic as well. Ward’s decision to face the boys here, especially in her first turf start, means that we should expect her to run well. She’s coming out of the Grade 2 Sorrento Stakes, won by Bellafina, who I believe is the best juvenile filly in the country. In that race, Dragic started slowly but rushed up, then just couldn’t stay with the winner. It’s important to note that she was working on the turf BEFORE the Sorrento, so turf was the goal all along.

Dismiss at Your Own Risk: I am planning on going deep here, so we will go rapid-fire mode. #11 Pole Setter should improve with the added distance and I love how professional this horse was first out, stalking and striking around the turn to win easy. Trainer Todd Pletcher’s got two in here; I prefer #5 Coral Legacy, who won nicely first out going a mile, but you’ve got to use #3 Good Good, too. He took a step forward when heading to the turf, but the 14-day turnaround keeps him from being in the Must Use category. Let’s add the #2 Henley’s Joy, who goes out for all-time Kentucky Downs leading trainer Michael Maker. He won first out at Ellis and adds blinkers here, so he’s got every right to improve, especially being by Kitten’s Joy.

Unused Horse That Bettors Will Like: If any other horse takes too much money, I would be both surprised and worried. Often, the betting trends give you insight into who can be expected to improve. If either #6 Tracksmith or #1 Jais’s Solitude get hammered at the windows, then they will be live, so I’d use them in the Double to cover a live Pick 4 ticket.

Kentucky Downs Race 10: $400,000 Exacta Systems Juvenile Fillies

Must Use: Let’s try to get into Ward’s head here. Both races for 2-year-olds are for the same distance and purse. He could have entered Dragic (his filly in the prior race) here, but he chose to enter one filly in each race. That makes me believe that they are both live and that he’s very confident in the filly entered here, so #3 Two Shakes is going to be my top pick. This daughter of Exchange Rate should improve with the added distance and was ultra-impressive in her debut win at the Spa. #7 Miss Technicality looks like a runner as well. She broke her maiden at Belmont after hitting the gate to start the race and rolled on by everyone down the lane. That turn of foot should benefit her when going a mile.

Dismiss at Your Own Risk:  If one of those two don’t fire, then this race is wide open. #10 Noble Love took a nice step forward first time out on the turf and has every right to do so once again. #12 City Diva also won first time on turf and first time wearing blinkers. I’m expecting speed again out of her, and improvement is likely based on the aforementioned factors. #1 War Ballad is going to try to blow up the tote at 20/1. She should LOVE the turf, and her sire, Declaration of War (by War Front), is another that I lean on when looking for first-out turf improvement. One of the other sprinters stretching out that interests me is #9 Sexyama, who got to the wire despite a tough trip last out. The added distance should be a plus, but she’ll need to take a big step forward in order to compete.

Unused Horse That Bettors Will Like: Even though #8 Lightscameraaction won last time out and is using Lasix for the first time, she is a play against. City Diva beat her two back, and note the fractions when Lightscameraaction won. A mile in a time of 1:38 1/5 at Ellis Park is just not good.

Mike’s Ticket

Well, I guess I’ll be rooting for Wesley Ward! I’m going to structure this by singling once and spreading in the other legs because I want to be deep in those 2-year-old stakes.

$0.50 Pick 4: 3, 11 / 8 / 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 11 / 1, 3, 7, 9, 10, 12 – $30

Best of luck at Kentucky Downs!

Kentucky Downs Picks

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. James

    September 1, 2018 at 5:25 pm

    Im in with the 3,4,11/8/2,3,7,11/1,3,5,7,9,10 good luck Mike, let’s cash a good ticket.

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