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Best Horse Racing Bets Today | Keeneland, April 6

Written by: Brian Zipse
Published April 6, 2024
8 min read

With the Kentucky Derby looming less than a month away, several top contenders will get in their final prep for America’s most prestigious race when they face off in Saturday’s Grade 1 Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland. Sierra Leone and Dornoch, who have already produced a memorable battle together, will be the two to beat among a solid field of 11 in the $1 million race.

Keeneland’s opening Saturday also offers a number of other graded stakes, including the Grade 1 Madison, where Vahva and Alva Star meet for a second time. Other highlights from a big afternoon of racing sees Pounce attempting to remain perfect on the lawn in the Grade 2 Appalachian, while Minnesota Ready and Raise Cain top the Grade 3 Commonwealth. Without further ado, let’s get to my best bets from this excellent card of racing.

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Race #6 Commonwealth Stakes (Grade 3) $300,000 7-Furlongs Dirt - 3:40pm EST

A big winner of the off-the-turf Colonel Power Stakes last time at Fair Grounds, Minnesota Ready looks to make it two in a row when he tops a wide-open field of nine older male sprinters in Saturday’s Grade 3 Commonwealth Stakes. 

Trained by Tom Amoss, the 5-year-old son of More Than Ready has proven himself a stakes caliber sprinter on any surface of late and comes into his biggest test yet in sharp form. Before winning the Colonel Power, he was right there in a pair of turf sprint stakes in New Orleans in December and January. Making his graded stakes debut here, the gelding is anything but a sure thing, however.

Raise Cain not only won the Grade 3 Gotham Stakes last season, but he also just missed in the Grade 3 Indiana Derby before accounting for the Perryville Stakes at Keeneland last October. A graded stakes veteran, the late-running 4-year-old son of Violence has two wins over the track in three tries.

The defending champion of the 7-furlong Commonwealth in Here Mi Song. The 6-year-old Cross Traffic gelding should be ready for another good effort after getting in a recent prep at Turfway Park. The same can be said for the Wesley Ward-trained Wico, who was an impressive allowance winner at Keeneland last fall. Overall, though, I cannot overlook the class of Raise Cain. He is my top pick.

My Play

  • $20 Exacta Box - Raise Cain and Here Mi Song = $40

  • $10 Exacta Box - Raise Cain and Wico = $20

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Race #7 Appalachian Stakes (Grade 2) $400,000 1-Mile Turf- 4:14pm EST

A graded stakes winner in her most recent start, Pounce will look to remain perfect on the turf when she headlines a deep field of a dozen 3-year-old turf fillies set for the Grade 2 Appalachian Stakes on Saturday at Keeneland.

A Kentucky-bred daughter of Lookin at Lucky, she was an easy winner of her first try on the grass two starts back for trainer Mark Casse, going gate to wire. That victory at Gulfstream Park was validated three weeks later over the same course when she surged late to victory in the Grade 3 Herecomesthebride Stakes. The versatile filly has won 3-of-4 starts overall.

Chief among her opposition in the one-mile affair will be the Phil Bauer-trained Buchu. She strung together a pair of impressive turf wins last fall in Kentucky, which include a 3 3/4-length score in the Grade 2 Jessamine Stakes at Keeneland. When last seen, the Justify filly was beaten less than three lengths in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf last November at Santa Anita.

An interesting filly to keep an eye on in this deep field is the Chad Brown-trained Grecian Goddess. She ran a bang up effort in her career debut when getting by a stubborn foe on the Tampa Bay turf in January. I look for improvement off that effort, giving her a big shot here. At 10-1 on the morning line, the daughter of Constitution will be the top pick.

My Play

  • $20 Win & Place - Grecian Goddess = $40

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Race #8 Madison Stakes (Grade 1) $600,000 7-Furlongs Dirt - 4:48pm EST

First and second in last fall’s Grade 2 Raven Run at Keeneland, Vahva and Alva Star meet again when they top a strong field of eight older female sprinters in Saturday’s $600,000 Madison Stakes.

Vahva was the winner that afternoon, rallying by her speedy rival late for trainer Cherie DeVaux. A daughter of Gun Runner, she has won each of her last three tries at the 7-furlong distance of the Madison impressively. This will be her first start in more than five months, however, not having raced since winning the Raven Run in October. This Grade 1 test will also be the toughest field the 4-year-old filly has faced yet.

The beaten favorite in the Raven Run, Alva Star returned to the races this year with a sharp win in the American Beauty Stakes nine weeks ago at Oaklawn Park. Never worse than second in seven career starts, the three-time stakes winner will look to go right to the lead again and see if she can take the field gate to wire.

With every horse in the field being a stakes winner, there are numerous potential winners here. Red Carpet Ready is one who should garner plenty of attention. The three-time graded stakes winner returned to the races last month at Gulfstream Park with a sharp win in the Grade 3 Hurricane Bertie for trainer Rusty Arnold. In a tough call, she will be the top pick.

My Plays 

  • $5 Exacta Part Box - Red Carpet Ready, Maryquitecontrary, and Vahva = $30

  • $5 Exacta Part Box - Red Carpet Ready, Maryquitecontrary, and Alva Star = $30

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Race #10 Blue Grass Stakes (Grade 1) $1,000,000 1 1/8-Miles Dirt - 5:52pm EST

Two races back, Dornoch outdueled Sierra Leone in a thrilling battle to the wire in Aqueduct’s Grade 2 Remsen Stakes. The pair will renew acquaintances on Saturday as the headliners among a field of 11 Kentucky Derby hopefuls in the $1 million Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland.

Despite the narrow defeat to his rival, the Chad Brown-trained Sierra Leone is the morning line favorite in the 9-furlong, Grade 1 affair. The Remsen was only his second career start, and the son of Gun Runner has since validated the strong effort by rallying nicely to win the Grade 2 Risen Star Stakes in his only start this year.  

Having come back again on the rail to win the Remsen by a nose, Dornoch clearly rates as the top challenger to the favorite. Trained by Danny Gargan, the well-bred son of Good Magic has won three in a row. Most recently, he scored a facile win in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream Park in his sophomore debut.

The biggest threat to the top two could come from the Brad Cox-trained Just a Touch. After an impressive debut victory sprinting in New Orleans, the Justify colt proved he belongs in graded stakes racing with a solid second in the Grade 3 Gotham Stakes five weeks ago in New York. I cannot look past Sierra Leone in this spot, however, as he is currently my top rated Kentucky Derby contender. He is the top pick.

My Play

  • $10 Trifecta Key - Sierra Leone over Dornoch, Just a Touch, and Encino = $60

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AUTHOR

Brian Zipse

293 Articles

Taken to the races at a very young age, Brian has been a passionate fan of horse racing his entire life. Professionally, his work has been published on several leading industry sites. Brian served as the Editor of Horse Racing Nation from 2010-2017, where he still writes a regular column and hosts the popular weekly webcast HorseCenter.

Email: [email protected]

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