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Check out our predictions and odds for the Maker's Mark Mile at Keeneland!
H G Motion
UP TO THE MARK
I Ortiz Jr
*Odds provided by author Brian Zipse.
A champion and two-time winner at the Breeders’ Cup, Modern Games returns to America to headline a field of eight older turf males in Friday’s Grade 1 Maker’s Mark Mile at Keeneland.
When last seen, the Charlie Appleby- trained runner was winning the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Mile over this turf course a little over five months ago. The victory clinched an Eclipse Award as the best turf male, despite only two races in North America.
Going into Friday’s return, Modern Games is a perfect 3-for-3 in North America. As a 2-year-old, he won the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Del Mar and last year also won the Grade 1 Woodbine Mile in Canada.
Chief among his competition in the $600,000 Maker’s Mark Mile will be a pair of streaking runners from the barn of Todd Pletcher.
Emmanuel is the more accomplished of the pair, having won three stakes races on the grass, including two straight. Most recently, he won the Grade 3 Canadian Turf at Gulfstream Park last month.
Up to the Mark, meanwhile, looks to have big potential on the grass. He was only 1-of-5 on the dirt before switching to the turf two starts back.
The 4-year-old son of More Than Ready has won both starts since switching surfaces impressively in allowance races at Gulfstream Park.
A deserving turf champion last year as a 3-year-old, it will be interesting to see whether the chestnut son of Dubawi can be even better as a more mature 4-year-old. They have picked a tricky spot for his return to the races, but he is very accustomed to running against good horses.
A winner of 7-of-13 lifetime, he has been all class for trainer Charlie Appleby since winning his second career start back in July of 2021. This one-mile trip has proven to be his ideal distance and he has already found success on the Keeneland turf course.
Clearly the horse to beat, he will likely find the winner’s circle if he comes back near his best. The odds will be low on the champion, though.
It’s time to see what this Todd Pletcher-trained son of Not This Time can do against really good horses after dominating a pair of allowance races in South Florida in his first two starts on the grass.
After only being able to win on a sloppy track on dirt, he has looked like a whole different animal since making the surface switch. Showing off a big turn of foot, he has blown by his competition in both starts and has run fast doing it.
This will obviously be a big class test, but he looks like the real deal. Given the difference in odds and the fact that the champ has not run yet this year, he will be the top pick.
The second strong runner for Todd Pletcher was on the Kentucky Derby trail at this time last year, but after finishing a well-beaten third in the Blue Grass, the decision was made to switch the son of More Than Ready to the grass.
Other than a start where he came back less than healthy in last summer’s Saratoga Derby, the transition has been a success. He has won three graded stakes races in his other three starts and has done it while showing the versatility of tactics.
Able to be on the lead if the pace is slow, his tactical speed is an advantage. This is a tough spot, but he is a threat to win his third straight this year.
It’s never a surprise to see an import from Europe do well right away for trainer Chad Brown, and this son of Dark Angel fits the bill. A winner of 3-of-9 across the pond, he was a nice horse, but clearly a level below a horse like Modern Games.
Sent to America’s top turf barn, he looked good winning his American debut five weeks ago at Gulfstream Park. If he can improve off that effort, he could be the one to challenge the champ on Friday.
His best distance seems to be 7-furlongs, so it will be interesting to see what he can do at a mile here. Clearly, a horse to watch, I give a slight advantage to Up to the Mark in upside potential.
A Grade 1 winner in California two starts back, you know this is a good race when we are talking about him as the fifth choice on Friday.
Trained by Graham Motion, the son of Mr. Speaker has plenty of experience on the grass, but seemed to develop last fall. Each of his last four starts has been very good, including a rally for third in the Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup Turf in January.
My only real knock on him here, other than the competition, is his lack of speed as he cuts back to a flat mile. He looks like a horse more likely to be coming for a share late, rather than winning this one.
Another horse with class, this 7-year-old gelding from South America has run plenty of good races since coming north for trainer Paulo Lobo.
In fact, he is a Grade 1 winner over the Keeneland turf course. That big victory did come at a mile, but it was 18 months and eight starts ago.
Since then, the late runner has had numerous chances against good competition, including in this race last year, and has been just a little less than the best. Still, he is a horse to consider in the exotics.
This French import was unbeaten in five career starts through last spring but was not seen at the races last year after April. Upon his return for trainer Arnaud Delacour, he faded late behind Emmanuel in the Grade 3 Tampa Bay.
This will be his second start back since the layoff and potentially could show serious improvement. He also has some early speed in a race without much.
I worry about how little he has run in the four years of racing, but he obviously has some talent. I can’t pick him in this field, but it would not surprise me to see him run a solid race.
Likely to be the longest shot in the field, this California-based runner has been a pretty consistent late runner. In fact, he was able to win a pair of graded stakes last year, but of course, both came against lesser competition than he will see here.
Given his lack of speed and the likely pace scenario of this field, I believe that it will be hard to out finish the quality of competition he will find at Keeneland on Friday.
The son of Pioneerof the Nile is a very nice horse to be an outsider, but that just speaks to the overall quality of the Maker’s Mark Mile.
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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