Saturday Stakes Preview: In Keeneland’s G1 Madison, we like a 15-1 shot cutting back to her best distance


>>Go to the PPs for The G1 Madison, Post Time 5:20 EDT Saturday

The Grade 1, $300,000 Madison has a field of 13 fillies and mares going seven furlongs on the main track. The theme of this race is layoffs, as seven of these horses will be making their first start of 2016. The favorite on the morning line is Stopchargingmaria at 7-2, and only two horses have morning line odds above 15-1.

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According to the TimeformUS Pace Projector, the pace of the Madison will be neither fast nor slow, and the early leader will be #11 Thirteen Arrows. The CA shipper Sunday Rules is shown forcing the pace to her inside. Then there’s a gap back to Dancing House and Super Majesty.

The fastest TimeformUS Late Pace rating, a 116, belongs to the freshly blinkered plodder Birdatthewire. Sheer Drama’s 112 stamps her as second fastest late in our book.

Here is the field in post position order, with morning line odds in parentheses:

Cavorting (6-1): 5 for 7 lifetime in sprints, she is 1 for 3 at 7F, that win coming in a Grade 1. She was last seen running third to Birdatthewire in the Grade 1 La Brea at Santa Anita. She had a hint of trouble at the start in that race, but she did not get away all that poorly, and after that, she saved almost all of the ground before coming out two-wide into the lane and proving no match for the winner. Her lone Keeneland start came in the 2015 BC Filly/Mare Sprint. In that race she broke last, was sluggish early, and then came with a pretty nice run that was nowhere near as wide around the turn as one might infer from the chart call. Her trainer gets a 92 rating off layoffs of this sort, and she is certainly a contender, but her rider figures to have a tall task coming from well behind and working off the rail. Several of these are a little bit faster than she on our numbers, and we do not find the ML odds all that enticing.

Sheer Drama (12-1): Confirmed router is 0 for 2 lifetime in sprints, though she did nothing to disgrace herself in either try. Ran a very respectable fourth to Stopchargingmaria in the 2015 Distaff, run at Keeneland, though she did not lose as much ground around the 2nd turn as one might infer from the chart comment. We are fond of this mare. However, her trainer is weak off layoffs. We look forward to seeing the six-year-old version of Sheer Drama around two turns.

Wavell Avenue (9-2):

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She won the BC Filly/Mare Sprint after receiving a nice pace setup. (Note pace figures color-coded in red). Five-year-old has all the gaudy Chad Brown trainer stats in her favor off the layoff. However, we choose to focus primarily on one fact: Her fastest speed figure from 13 starts is a 111, and a 111 is almost certainly too slow to win this race. Therefore, although we respect this mare for her considerable accomplishments and her outstanding trainer, we believe she is a bad bet at ML odds.

Sunday Rules (8-1): Super-sharp trainer Phil D’Amato (former top assistant to Mike Mitchell) sends this mare out of California for the first time. Her top figure on dirt is a 119, which she earned as a spring four-year-old. Her lone try in a graded stake did not go well. She enters on a three-race win streak vs. cheaper. Certainly she will be flaunting her California early speed, which may allow her to outrun the Pace Projector projection, which has her forcing the pace. D’Amato gets a 77 rating off this sort of layoff. We’ll see how his formidable skills play in a Keeneland Grade 1.Sunday Rules is a strong contender.

Birdatthewire (15-1):

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Proctor filly has done most of her running in routes, but we prefer to see her at 7F. She was a rank mess in the Grade 2 Santa Maria in February, essentially ordering her rider around early and carving out a ridiculous trip for herself. She also received a difficult trip in the La Canada. We believe that she is considerably better at the moment than she looks on paper. We believe she is at her best distance today. In two tries at this distance, she has won a Grade 2 and a Grade 1. We are encouraged that Proctor chooses to ship for this race. Birdatthewire is a little light on speed figures, but the price will be there, and the requisite pace very well might be. We would need big odds to buck all this talent, but we figure to get them. We will take our chances with Birdatthewire.

Floretti (30-1): In none of her 24 starts has she run well enough to threaten these.

Dancing House (8-1): Finally won a graded stake, and did so despite not receiving the easiest trip. Ran a  lifetime top speed figure of 119. Pace Projector shows her coming from off the pace today. She has employed that style with success in the past. We’re not sure she’s up to tackling the very best of these, but she certainly belongs in here, and a repeat of her last would leave her a contender.

Clothes Fall Off (10-1): One of three for Kiaran McLaughlin, she ran a lifetime top figure of 114 in her four-year-old debut and has since paired it twice. These are solid numbers, but it figures to take more to win this Grade 1. She ran poorly in her first attempt at the Grade 2 level and ran second in her second try—at Laurel two months ago. She has a pleasing running style and Pace Projector has her setting up in striking distance, but our feeling is that right now she lacks the punch to deal with the best of these late.

Enchanting Lady (8-1): Baffert filly was cut out to be special, and the crowd has been in love with her since she took the track for her debut. She is capable of some flashy performances, but she has yet to win a graded stake, and her speed figures are a tad soft vs. these. Moreover, Pace Projector has her coming from well off the pace today. We see this talented filly as an underlay at ML odds.

Super Majesty (15-1): The most lightly raced horse in the field, she worked her way up to a speed figure of 120 while winning a Churchill Grade 3 wire to wire. Sent to the sidelines after a dull effort in the BC Filly/Mare sprint, she now goes from Jerry Hollendorfer to Steve Asmussen. Asmussen gets a 68 rating at Keeneland, a 69 off layoffs of this length, and an 80 with horses making their first start after switching to him. She projects to receive an outside stalking trip. She won from just off the pace (after a bad start) in her second start, but coming from off the pace in this stacked field figures to be quite a bit more burdensome. Still, there is plainly talent here. Tough call.

Thirteen Arrows (30-1):

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She has run one race that could threaten these. That was her victory in December in a minor stake at  Fair Grounds. She beat only two horses that day, and she did it in the mud. A less inspiring speed figure of 120 one will not often encounter. In her lone attempt in a graded stake, she broke poorly, got taken out of her game, and ran poorly. Trainer Larry Jones is more effective elsewhere than he is at Keeneland, where he gets a rating of only 67. She projects to have the early lead today, and if (against the most recent weather forecast) the track ends up muddy, one could possibly do worse than having a rooting interest in this mare—in the event that she clears off early at a big price and again relishes the mud.

Stopchargingmaria (7-2):

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Multiple Grade 1-winning mare is the best, most accomplished horse in this race. This is her first start since she won the BC Distaff at 9F. Before the layoff, she had been running the best speed figures of her career: three straight 119s. Pletcher is superb off this sort of layoff (98 rating) and superb at Keeneland (100 rating). On the other hand, he gets a mere 70 going route to sprint. She has sprinted three times in her career. She is 1 for 3 with two second-place finishes, and her sprint speed figures fit just fine with her surrounding routes. She is a worthy favorite, but the layoff adds some uncertainty and the distance adds some more. And her odds will be unexciting.

Spelling Again (12-1): She had done all her running on grass and synthetic until Brad Cox claimed her for $40,000 out of a SA grass route in May of last year. Nice claim. He immediately put her on grass and eventually turned her into a Grade 2 winner. Her speed figures are a little slow. She is facing tougher horses than she has ever faced. She set a gentle pace at Aqueduct last time, over a speed-friendly track to boot, and still tired to finish third in a Grade 3. Pace Projector shows her coming from well behind today. We are looking elsewhere.

The Play:

Win bet on Birdatthewire at anything like the 15-1 ML odds. And we would make some use of Thirteen Arrows at a massive price.


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