Keeneland Select Pick of the Day | March 2, 2019
Race 14 at Gulfstream Park on Saturday, March 2 | Post Time 6:06 PM Eastern Time
Mac Diarmida Stakes | Purse $200,000 | One and Three Eighth Miles on Turf | Four Year Olds and Upward
Montclair (10) has gone to post at odds of 7 to 5 or less in five of his last six races, winning four of those. The fact those races appear to be cheap starter allowance races and claiming races is lost on me, as he was PROTECTED (not able to be claimed) in all but one. The only time he was able to be claimed, on February 2, he was claimed, for a measly $16K, in spite of having won $80K last year and over $400K in his career, ALL ON GRASS. The gelding was a group 3 winner in Europe and ran second in a group 2, all marathons from a mile and one-half to a mile and 11/16. He can run all day and although his best Equibase figure of late (104) may be shy of the two best horses in the field (Channel Maker (11) – 117 last year and Zulu Alpha (6) – 114 in January), this nine year old can still run and run well. With Leparoux getting on and stretching out to a distance he's not run in some time but which he's very good at, Montclair can help make us a nice profit here even if he finishes second, but I think he has a legitimate shot to win.
Zula Alpha (6) and Kulin Rock (9) have a lot in common, except their morning line odds. Zulu Alpha (3 to 1) was claimed by Mike Maker for $80K back in September, out of a third level allowance on grass which he won by nearly 10 lengths. Off the claim, Zulu Alpha won the Grade 3 Sycamore Stakes at Keeneland at 12 furlongs, then after cutting back to nine furlongs and running poorly, he returned to the mile and one-half trip and won the Grade 3 McKnight Stakes over the course on January 26. Irad Ortiz, Jr. rides back and the most recent win earned the best last race figure in the field, 114, so Zulu Alpha could take some beating. That being said, Kulin Rock could turn out to be another Zulu Alpha for Maker. He was claimed for $40K three back in October in New York, off a big effort in which he closed from 11th to be beaten in a photo on the wire. After a poor effort, Kulin Rock returned to run well when rallying from eighth and battling the length of the stretch before coming up a nose shy of victory on January 21. He's much more lightly raced than most of these, particularly the main contenders, having only run 12 times, and he's only won once, hence his 20/1 starting odds. However, knowing Maker's success with former claimers, knowing Maker's success in turf marathon stakes – having won seven in the past year, and knowing when Maker uses Jose Ortiz they win at a 20% clip (on over 150 races in the past year), I can't possibly ignore the potential for Kulin Rock to run like his stablemate Zulu Alpha did when stretched out to a marathon distance in the Sycamore, winning at 7 to 1.
Channel Maker (11) opens as the 9 to 5 favorite based on the strength of two graded stakes wins last year, in the Bowling Green (Grade 2) and in the Turf Classic Invitational (Grade 1). He was distanced in the Breeders' Cup Turf after that, and his comeback on 1/26, albeit in the $7 million Pegasus Turf, was another poor effort in which he checked in fifth of 10. Rosario, up for the Bowling Green win, gets back after three races with other jockeys, and although the 9/5 starting odds make Channel Maker a pretty poor win bet, he has to be used on any and all exacta and trifecta tickets played, particularly because two of the other horses we are using are likely to go to post at 10/1 or higher.
I'll also modestly use Village King (2) and Hunter O'Riley (4) on exacta and trifecta tickets, in the second and third positions. Village King didn't run well when seventh behind Zulu Alpha last time out but that was on a soggy course. Two before that, he won the off-turf Red Smith (usually a grade 3) so has potential to be competitive. Hunter O'Riley posted the 16 to 1 upset winning the 2017 Bowling Green (the same race Channel Maker won in 2018). He tried to come back in April from five months off and ran badly so was given another nine months off, finishing fourth in the McKnight while rallying from 10th in the last quarter mile, so he has a shot to improve and be in the money late.
Montclair (10) to win and place at odds of 7 to 2 or higher.
Zulu Alpha (6) to win at odds of 5 to 1 or higher.
For a smaller amount than on either of the two above, at least a minimum bet to win and place on Kulin Rock (9) at 9 to 2 or higher.
Exacta: Zulu Alpha (6), Kulin Rock (9), Montclair (10) and Channel Maker (11) over Zulu Alpha (6), Kulin Rock (9), Montclair (10), Channel Maker (11), Village King (2) and Hunter O'Riley (4).
Consider playing the exacta above as a trifecta, using the same six horses in the second and third positions.