Maybe it’s the bourbon talking, but it’s easy to confuse Friday’s Grade 1 Maker’s Mark Mile Stakes at Keeneland with May’s Grade 1 Shoemaker Mile at Santa Anita Park.
Yes, the tracks are 2,000 miles and three time zones apart. Details. The similarities go beyond the fact both are Grade 1 races for older horses along a turf mile. They go to the field.
Shoemaker Mile winner Raging Bull? He’ll be in the Keeneland starting gate Friday. So will runner-up Next Shares, third-place finisher Without Parole, and sixth-place War of Will. Four of the Shoemaker’s top-six finishers return for another crack at each other – along with stakes winners Hembree, English Bee, and Emmaus. High Crime, Parlor and Everfast, who finished second in three stakes, but hasn’t raced on turf, round out the field.
Maker’s Mark Mile
Morning Line (Jockey)
- Hembree, 12/1 (Javier Castellano)
- High Crime, 30/1 (Luis Saez)
- Parlor, 10/1 (Florent Geroux)
- Raging Bull, 9/5 (Joel Rosario)
- English Bee, 10/1 (James Graham)
- Everfast, 15/1 (Ricardo Santana Jr.)
- Emmaus, 20/1 (Brian Hernandez Jr.)
- Without Parole, 5/2 (Irad Ortiz Jr.)
- Next Shares, 8/1, (John Velazquez)
- War of Will, 6/1 (Tyler Gaffalione)
The Maker’s Mark is one of four Grade 1 stakes events on Keeneland’s abbreviated, but stakes-packed, weekend card. It joins Saturday’s Jenny Wiley for older fillies and mares routers, the Madison for older filly and mare sprinters, and the Ashland Oaks, a Kentucky Oaks prep. All, however, get overshadowed by Saturday’s Grade 2 Blue Grass Stakes, a Kentucky Derby prep that promises to take plenty of betting action.
Chad Brown Can’t Checkmark the Maker’s Mark
Regardless, the Maker’s Mark swims in turf talent, which means Chad Brown’s fingerprints can’t be far behind in a race that — to date — somehow eluded the turf maestro. The four-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer will try changing that this year with your two favorites: Raging Bull (9/5) and Without Parole (5/2).
When we last saw Raging Bull, he was ranging to a dominant, easy-tripped victory over his rivals on the Santa Anita turf. The victory came with a career-best 105 Beyer Speed Figure – Raging Bull’s third triple-digit Beyer in four starts — and an almost cartoonishly easy trip that belied its 2 ¼-length official edge.
While War of Will ran a sloppy, meandering race that began by roaming into Next Shares’ path, and Without Parole got boxed in from the final turn to midstretch, Raging Bull found a perfect seam. He had no pressure en route to his fourth graded stakes victory in 13 starts.
Without Parole is Without Recent Success
As for Without Parole, the offspring of legendary English sire Frankel, not even Irad Ortiz Jr.’s virtuosity could overcome what was essentially an unlucky trip. And luck hasn’t been riding with Without Parole. He’s winless in his last eight races, dating to the 2018 St. James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot. That covers seven tracks and four countries: the US, England, France, and Dubai, although he did finish a solid third at the Breeders’ Cup Mile last fall at Santa Anita.
“He’s better than his record shows,” Brown told the Daily Racing Form.
Fans of War of Will — starting with his trainer, Mark Casse — would say the same thing. The 2019 Preakness Stakes winner returns to the turf after his sloppy Shoemaker Mile effort, one where stewards dinged him a position for crowding Next Shares and others at the start. That was War of Will’s fifth turf start, and he has a second and a third to show for it.
War of Will Gets Gaffalione Back
In what is a constant effort to find that elusive form, Casse continues pushing buttons. He removes the blinkers and returns Tyler Gaffalione to the irons, replacing Flavien Prat.
Next Shares has that useful late kick all great turf horses possess. He does have a Grade 1 win at Keeneland, that coming in the Shadwell Turf Mile in 2018. And he does have three graded stakes victories and more than $1.7 million in earnings.
But the 7-year-old Richard Baltus trainee should have a well-rounded CV, considering this will be his 33rd career race. Next Shares is one of those horses who can compete against B-level runners, but just doesn’t quite have it against top competition.
In this field, that should be enough to hit the board — but not enough to do much else.
The pick: Raging Bull. The fastest horse in the field, great form in 2020, and Chad Brown pulling the strings. The only thing missing is the value, but it makes no sense getting cute trying to beat this favorite.