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