Keeler Johnson’s Graded Stakes Preview–May 29, 2015

Keeler Johnson’s Graded Stakes Preview–May 29, 2015

For those that can hardly wait for the massive day of racing on June 6th at Belmont Park, I’ve got good news! A terrific series of stakes races are scheduled to be held this weekend at tracks across the country, with big-name racehorses like Work All Week, Lady Eli, Divisidero, Ben’s Cat, Moreno, and Ocho Ocho Ocho among the entries. I’ve already handicapped four of Saturday’s best races on the blog Unlocking Winners (read my analysis here), but as an added bonus, here are my thoughts on two of the other graded stakes races that will be held tomorrow!

Penn Mile Stakes (gr. III)
8 furlongs on turf at Penn National

With a large number of speedy front-running/pace-pressing colts entered in this race, a solid pace is likely to unfold, which should favor horses coming from mid-pack or closing from behind. Two horses that fit this profile are the morning line favorites Night Prowler (3-1) and Papacoolpapacool (4-1). The first-mentioned colt is a two-time graded stakes winner, having rallied to score narrow victories in the Dania Beach Stakes (gr. III) in January and Transylvania Stakes (gr. III) in April, and his strong and consistent stretch kick should be an asset in this race. However, I narrowly prefer the chances of Papacoolpapacool, who has won three straight turf races at Santa Anita–including two stakes–with very strong bursts of acceleration. Two starts back, he ran the final quarter-mile of the Pasadena Stakes in about :23 flat, and last time out, he flew home the final furlong of the La Puente Stakes in about :11 2/5.

One horse that could be a live longshot is High Noon Rider (15-1), who finished strongly two starts back to run second by a neck in the Cutler’s Bay Stakes at Gulfstream before winning a 7 1/2-furlong turf allowance race at Gulfstream by 2 1/2 lengths. Disappointing efforts on dirt in the Holy Bull Stakes (gr. III) and Islamorada Handicap have muddled his form a bit, but his efforts on turf must be respected, and at 15-1 on the morning line, he’s definitely worth a look for the exotics.

Aristides Stakes (gr. III)
6 furlongs at Churchill Downs

It’s hard to look past Work All Week, who has won 12 of his 15 career starts, including the 2014 Breeders’ Cup Sprint (gr. I). Even coming off a seven-month layoff, the son of City Zip figures to be difficult to defeat, as he has turned in a long series of impressive workouts at Oaklawn Park and the Churchill Training Track that suggest he will be ready to roll on Saturday. Although he is likely to be favored–probably at a very short price–he is my selection to win.

For second place, I’ll take a shot with Gentlemen’s Bet, a 7-2 shot on the morning line that will hopefully go off at a higher price. His last two efforts have been disappointing, but three starts back, he posted a massive 108 Beyer while winning the Hot Springs Stakes at Oaklawn Park. We know he has talent–he ran third in the 2013 Breeders’ Cup Sprint–and if he runs his best race on Saturday, he should be right in the mix for victory. At 5-1 or higher, he might be worth a win wager.

Now it’s your turn! Who do you like in the graded stakes races on Saturday?

Follow J. Keeler Johnson ("Keelerman"):

J. Keeler Johnson is a writer, blogger, videographer, and all-around horse racing enthusiast who was drawn to the sport by Curlin's quest to become North America's richest racehorse. A great fan of racing history, he considers Dr. Fager to be the greatest racehorse ever produced in America, but counts Zenyatta as his all-time favorite. He lives in Wisconsin and also writes for the blog Unlocking Winners.

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