By Ed McNamara
I’ve known my English pal Neil Morrice for 27 years, and we’ve had many adventures at Royal Ascot, Cheltenham, the Kentucky Derby and the Breeders’ Cup. Neil has been crossing the pond for the Cup annually since the Eighties, and he’ll be at Keeneland.
He’s a longtime racing writer and handicapper who has his own website and tons of connections, and he really knows his stuff. He’s a serious bettor who has handed me dozens of nice-priced winners over the years, so I always quiz him about the European horses. I messaged him on Facebook to find out if he “fancied anything” this weekend. His reply: “I give Lord North a great shout.”
Which means he’ll be betting significantly more than $2 to win and $2 to place on trainer John Gosden’s colt in Saturday’s 1 1/2-mile Turf, where the multiple-stakes winner is 8-1 in the morning line.
Lord North’s odds will be longer than they should be because he’s coming off his career-worst performance, last of 10 in the Group 1 Champion Stakes at Ascot. Gosden’s advice: Draw a line through it.
“Well, unfortunately his last race was run in a quagmire,” Gosden said Monday on a conference call. “We had record rain in England in October, and it was the deepest ground I’ve ever seen. It was drying-out ground, so it was sticky, and he couldn’t handle that.”
Gosden, one of the world’s best trainers, took the Turf in 2018 with superstar mare Enable. a two-time winner of the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, Europe’s most important race. Her regular rider, Frankie Dettori, will be on Lord North. So the connections are top class, and there’s no rain in the forecast for a horse who prefers firmer ground. Post 6 in the field of 10 looks like a good spot.
Lord North will have to beat 5-2 favorite Magical, the outstanding mare who finished ahead of him in his last two races. Others who look tough are the French filly Tarnawa, the Irish colt Mogul and American-based United, last year’s Turf runner-up to eventual Horse of the Year Bricks and Mortar. Nothing is simple or easy, which is why Lord North is 8-1. With risk comes reward.
Ever since I became a regular (hooked?) horseplayer 40 years ago, I’ve had my best results with grass racing. That’s been true many times at the Breeders’ Cup, especially in the Turf, where in recent years I scored with European shippers Talismanic ($30.40, 2017); Highland Reel ($9.60, 2016); Found ($14.80, 2015) and Magician ($25, 2012).
Let’s see if I can provide some useful advice on the grass races, three Friday and four Saturday. I think they’ll produce some big payoffs. I watched a lot of video and may have seen some horses who will outrun their long odds. Hit one or two and it can make your weekend.
Juvenile Turf Sprint (5 1/2 furlongs)
In a race with tons of early speed, 8-5 favorite Golden Pal looks like the fastest of the fast, but post 14 could create problems. I was impressed with two longshot closers, 20-1 Dirty Dangle, a filly, and 30-1 Windy City Red. Each is a powerful finisher who could at least inflate the exacta and trifecta.
Juvenile Turf (mile)
Todd Pletcher’s Mutasaabeq went last to first in the 1 1/16-mile Bourbon at Keeneland, and he’s the one to beat. European stakes winners New Mandate (12-1) and Battleground (6-1) are solid challengers, as is Chad Brown’s Public Sector.
Juvenile Fillies Turf (mile)
Graham Motion trains Alda (12-1), the best closer in another race filled with early-pace types. Her finishing numbers in all four races are outstanding, and she flew home in 22 4/5 seconds to be second last out in Woodbine’s Grade 1 Natalma. I’ll play her to win and place and key her in exacta boxes with Miss Amulet, Plum Ali, Aunt Pearl and Campanelle.
Turf Sprint (5 1/2 furlongs)
Here’s one of the weekend’s toughest races. I found it nearly impossible to separate Got Stormy, Leinster, Imprimis and Oleksandra, and you can’t bet them all to win. I’m interested in English filly Glass Slippers, who’s 12-1 and probably will go off at higher odds. She was a decent second to Battaash, the best English sprinter in many years, and won four of her last five when she wasn’t facing him. I’ll make a small across-the-board play on her and hope to get lucky.
Filly & Mare Turf (1 3/16 miles)
The race goes through Chad Brown’s Rushing Fall, a future Hall of Famer who’s 11-for-14 lifetime and 5-for-6 at Keeneland. She’s 5-2, a fair price, and the only question mark is she’s never been beyond 1 1/8 miles. Maybe the extra 110 yards will be no problem, but there are a lot of other standouts trying to beat her. Starship Jubilee and speedy Mean Mary could do it, as could Rushing Fall’s stablemate c, who won this race two years ago.
England-based long shots to watch are Terebellum (20-1) and Ardarya (12-1), 3-for-5 and 2-for-3, respectively, at 1 1/4 miles. I may make a small win bet on each and box them with Rushing Fall.
I’ll be on England’s Kameko (6-1), a top-class 3-year-old who’s 2-for-4 at a mile, including the Group 1 2,000 Guineas. British champion Oisin Murphy thinks post 2 will work well and that firmer ground will suit his mount. I’ll be playing Kameko win and place and keying him in exacta boxes with defending champion Uni (5-1), Aidan O’Brien’s Circus Maximus (12-1) and England’s Safe Voyage (15-1)
Turf (1 1/2 miles)
Besides win and place bets on Lord North, I’ll be using him with Magical, Mogul (12-1) and the filly Tarnawa in a four-horse exacta box.
And good luck.
|2||Tiz the Law||Manuel Franco||3-1|
|3||By My Standards||Gabriel Saez||10-1|
|4||Tom’s d’Etat||Joel Rosario||6-1|
|5||Title Ready||Corey Lanerie||30-1|
|6||Higher Power||Flavien Prat||20-1|
|7||Global Campaign||Javier Castellano||20-1|
|8||Improbable||Irad Ortiz Jr||5-2|
|10||Maximum Security||Luis Saez||7-2|
Ed McNamara is an award-winning journalist who has been writing about thoroughbred racing for 35 years. He has handicapped races for ESPN.com, Newsday and The Record of New Jersey. He is the author of “Cajun Racing: From the Bush Tracks to the Triple Crown” and co-author of “The Most Glorious Crown,” a chronicle of the first 12 Triple Crown champions.