Siz­ing up the all-turf pick four from Keeneland and Wood­bine

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The three Grade 1 races in North Amer­ica on Satur­day – the Queen El­iz­a­beth II Chal­lenge Cup at Keeneland and the Cana­dian In­ter­na­tional and E.P. Tay­lor at Wood­bine – are in­trigu­ing con­tests on their own, of­fer­ing qual­ity and spiced with for­eign fla­vor. Yet linked to­gether in a two-track, all-turf pick four that also in­cludes a 10th-race al­lowance at Keeneland, they hold even more wa­ger­ing prom­ise.

The four-race se­quence, con­tested over roughly a 50-minute pe­riod, be­gins with the QE II at 5:30 p.m. East­ern. The Cana­dian In­ter­na­tional comes next at 5:41, fol­lowed by Keeneland’s 10th race at 6:03 and the E.P. Tay­lor at 6:18.

Here is how I view the races, along with a pro­posed ticket.

Queen El­iz­a­beth II

Any dis­cus­sion of this race nat­u­rally must be­gin with Rush­ing Fall (8), a must-use in any pick four. The win­ner of the Breed­ers’ Cup Ju­ve­nile Fil­lies Turf last fall, along with three oth­ers stakes, she brings a 2-for-2 record on the Keeneland course into the QE II and ap­pears to be at a tac­ti­cal ad­van­tage in a race short of early speed.

Drawn in post 8 with a long run to the first of two turns, Rush­ing Fall, un­der reg­u­lar jockey Javier Castel­lano, fig­ures to ei­ther dic­tate terms or be lay­ing in a fa­vor­able out­side press­ing po­si­tion in what shapes up as a slow-paced race. She used a press­ing style to win her most re­cent race, the Grade 2 Lake Placid at Saratoga on Aug. 18.

As much as I view her as a likely win­ner, I am re­serv­ing a spot for an­other: Daddy Is a Le­gend (4). Though she has fallen short of Rush­ing Fall in four head-to-head meet­ings, she has come closer than most, and some­times with bad luck.

For ex­am­ple, in the Ap­palachian over the Keeneland course in the spring, she ran fourth to Rush­ing Fall, beaten 2 3/4 lengths, af­ter a poor start even by her cus­tom­ary slow-begin­ning ways and a pre­ma­ture bid into con­tention. She also strikes me as a filly who might be a lit­tle more ef­fec­tive on firmer ground, which she ought to catch with dry weather fore­casted for Lex­ing­ton from Thurs­day through Satur­day.

Cana­dian In­ter­na­tional

The Euro­pean in­vader Thun­der­ing Blue (2) finds an at­trac­tive spot to make his North Amer­i­can de­but, and the Wood­bine course has a long stretch that looks tai­lor­made for his late-run­ning style.

Although he is com­ing off a vic­tory in a modest Group 3 in Swe­den, his class should not be un­der­es­ti­mated. In fin­ish­ing third two starts ago in the Jud­dmonte In­ter­na­tional, he raced with Europe’s elite, run­ning be­hind Roar­ing Lion and Poet’s Word in a race in which ev­ery one of his seven ri­vals was al­ready a Group 1 win­ner.

If he does not fire off the plane, the un­cou­pled Chad Brown-trained pair of Fo­cus Group (11) and Fun­tas­tic (4) are the ones I view most pos­i­tively. Both are proven stay­ers, with Fo­cus Group be­ing an up-and-comer and Fun­tas­tic al­ready hav­ing notched a Grade 1 win this year in the United Na­tions.

Keeneland Race 10

The sharpest horse needs a lit­tle help to start, that be­ing the also-el­i­gi­ble Last Prom­ise Kept (13). If a horse is scratched from the body of the race, al­low­ing her to gain en­try, she be­comes a sin­gle.

Oth­er­wise, this seems like a race to spread a bit, fo­cus­ing on fil­lies who can rate, at least some­what, in what seems like a speed-laden race for 1 1/16 miles on turf. Vagabond Princess (8) and You Cheated (6) are the two I pre­fer in the body of the race, though not by much. Dy­natail (3) and Smart Emma (10) also are in the mix, hav­ing run well at times from off the pace, though re­cently they have been front-run­ners.

E.P. Tay­lor

El­y­sea’s World (8), a fre­quent bridesmaid last year, has turned the cor­ner in 2018 by win­ning three Grade 3 races, of­ten in quick time. She looks ready for the jump to the Grade 1 level, as well as for the stretch-out to 1 1/4 miles.

If she holds an ad­van­tage, it is not by much. Sta­ble­mate Santa Mon­ica (2) is al­ready a course-and-dis­tance win­ner, con­di­tions un­der which she ran a 100 Beyer Speed Fig­ure in June, and the French raider Golden Le­gend (5) boasts the high­est last-race Time­form rat­ings of the ship­pers from over­seas. All three merit play.

The tick­ets

Pro­vided Last Prom­ise Kept does not draw into the last race at Keeneland, the third race of the se­quence, a 50-cent pick­four play listed in nu­mer­i­cal order is: 4, 8 with 2, 4, 11 with 3, 6, 8, 10 with 2, 5, 8. The cost is $36.

If Last Prom­ise Kept runs, she be­comes a sin­gle, and the pick four be­comes: 4, 8 with 2, 4, 11 with 13 with 2, 5, 8, for $9.


Rush­ing Fall (left) beats Daddy Is a Le­gend (far right) in the Ap­palachian last spring.

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