There are not that many Grade 1 one-mile races for older horses on the calendar before the Breeders’ Cup Mile. The $300,000 Makers 46 Mile at Keeneland is undoubtedly one of the most important stops on the journey towards that late-season goal for any top class miler. Therefore, it’s not at all surprising that this race has drawn as deep and talented a field as you will find in any turf race run this early in the season.
Pace and race flow figure to have a major influence on this race. The three shortest prices on the morning line are Heart to Heart (#3), Tourist (#4), and Shining Copper (#7), and the Pace Projector is predicting that they will all be placed right up on the lead, ensuring a fast pace. While Tourist has shown the ability to rate, Heart to Heart and Shining Copper are one-dimensional need-the-lead types, so an early duel may be unavoidable.
Can either one survive a hotly contested pace and still be around at the finish? Or will this race set up for one of the less-accomplished late runners?
Let’s go through the field:
#1, Are You Kidding Me (12/1): Cross-entered in Saturday’s Ben Ali Stakes on dirt, he’s better suited to the surface over which this race is contested, but not necessarily the class level. He hasn’t contested a Grade 1 race since his three-year-old season, but he ran some competitive speed figures over both turf and synthetic surfaces last year. Roger Attfield gets a solid 87 trainer rating with horses coming off this type of layoff, but we get the feeling that he may be a cut below the top contenders. That said, he may be worth throwing into the exotics underneath if he’s going off at 15/1 or higher.
#2, Miss Temple City (12/1): The lone filly in the field won just a single race in 2015, but that fact does not do her campaign justice. Three of her losses came at the hands of Lady Eli and Sentiero Italia, two of the most talented turf females in the country. She traveled to compete at Royal Ascot in June and finished a strong fourth at 50/1 in the prestigious Coronation Stakes, far outperforming your typical American horse contesting a European race of that caliber. She then concluded her season with a heartbreaking defeat in the Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup after having to steady in upper stretch. The 128 speed figure that she earned that day puts her right on par with the best older males in this cast. Graham Motion has no problem bringing horses back off layoffs of this type, getting an 88 trainer rating in that category, and this filly has certainly been working forwardly for the return. We would not want to take much shorter than 8/1 odds in this deep field, but we nevertheless cannot count her out.
#3, Heart to Heart (3/1): This horse is pretty straightforward. He’s been allowed to make a clear early lead 11 times in his career, and he’s won 9 of those starts—accounting for all of his lifetime wins. In other words, he’s never won in 9 starts where he has not been able to make a clear lead in the early going. Will he be able to get his preferred trip today with Shining Copper in the race? While we respect Heart to Heart’s winning streak, he has enjoyed slow paces (color-coded in blue) in his two most recent victories. Given that his main rival is ridden by an aggressive pilot like Paco Lopez, it looks doubtful that Heart to Heart will be able to outrun him without setting a very fast pace. Unfortunately, that could seal his fate against a field of this caliber. He won’t be on our tickets.
#4, Tourist (7/2): With the exception of two failed Breeders’ Cup Mile attempts, this horse has never run a bad race on turf. While he’s done some of his best work while racing on the lead, he did show the ability to close into a swift pace in last year’s Shadwell Turf Mile over this very course. A repeat of that effort would make him awfully tough in this race. He does have to deal with a layoff, having not raced since last year’s Breeders’ Cup. While Bill Mott gets just a 61 trainer rating in these situations, the horse has successfully run well off long breaks in the past, so we don’t want to hold it against him today. He’s a major player.
#5, Dac (30/1): He’s been overmatched against Grade 3 company in recent starts and appears to be in over his head against this top class group.
#6, Conquest Typhoon (10/1):
This runner made quite a splash at age two, but then had his three-year-old campaign aborted in early May after a poor showing at Churchill Downs. He returned as a more mature horse at Gulfstream this winter and it seems that patience is finally paying off. He needed his first couple of starts back off the layoff, but he put it all together last time. Taken back to last behind a strong pace set by his stablemate, Commute, Conquest Typhoon went on to make a sustained middle move down the backstretch, rocketing from 11th to 4th in the blink of an eye. He continued his advance around the far turn and then mowed down his stablemate when tipped out for the stretch drive. According to Trakus, he ran his third quarter-mile, when in the midst of that early move, in 22.51 seconds and then threw in another eighth in 11.28 seconds as the field turned into the stretch. Those are some impressive splits in the middle of a race. While that was just a N2X optional claiming race, the horse he defeated, Commute, finished nearly six lengths clear of the rest of the field. That runner then returned to finish a strong third in last weekend’s Grade 2 Shakertown Stakes. Conquest Typhoon put in a strong workout at Churchill Downs last week and appears to be coming into this race in great form for Mark Casse, who gets an excellent 98 trainer rating at Keeneland.
#7, Shining Copper (7/2): Of the two speed horses, we slightly prefer this one. Unlike Hear to Heart, he has not won a race in quite some time. However, with Paco Lopez aboard, the tactics should not be a mystery. This horse’s weapon is his speed and he waits on no one. He will run as fast as he can for as far as he can. Even his best performance may not be good enough to beat this field, but we don’t want to dismiss his chances completely. We also think we’ll get much better than his morning line price of 7/2, which could entice us into using him underneath.
#8, Itsaknockout (6/1): One of the true wild cards in this field, this Todd Pletcher trainee makes his turf debut following a string of solid if unspectacular performances on dirt. He obviously has talent, but he’s not quite Grade 1 quality on the main track. Perhaps turf will be the key to waking him up, but it’s not as if his pedigree is so strongly geared towards that surface as to suggest that major improvement is forthcoming. His closing style figures to suit the projected race shape, but there’s some buzz around this horse making the surface switch. We would not want to take anything lower than 10/1 odds, which we highly doubt we’ll get.
#9, Reload (6/1): This seven-year-old has been fragile at times, but he’s rarely shown up with a poor effort on turf. That said, he’s only ventured into graded stakes company on a couple of occasions. While he won both of those starts, they came in softer Grade 3 events. His ability to settle and come with a late run should serve him well in a race predicted to feature a contested pace, but we wonder whether his best days are behind him at this point. After all, his recent speed figures are a distinct cut below what the top contenders have been achieving. On the other hand, should we really be doubting Shug McGaughey, who has kept him in training and is only just now starting him in the toughest race of his career? We’re getting mixed signals form this one.
The horse that we believe will offer the best value is CONQUEST TYPHOON (#6), so we’ll focus our wagers on him. Fair win odds on this selection would be between 8/1 and 10/1. Miss Temple City (#2) and Tourist (#4) are the two runners that scare us most, so we’ll push them most heavily in exotic wagers centering around our top pick.
Win: #6, Conquest Typhoon
Exacta Key Box (Primary): 6 with 2,4
Exacta Key Box (Backup): 6 with 1,7,8,9