Stay Lucky Picks: Fantastic Slate for Fall Stars Weekend

Fans enjoy a fall afternoon at the races at Keeneland Race Course in Lexington. (Eclipse Sportswire)

Welcome to the 2019 Stay Lucky season with new presenting sponsor Breeders' Cup! We have several exciting new prizes plus a smoother, faster app for the new season!

If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve downloaded the app and are ready to start picking winners. If you have not yet downloaded Stay Lucky, what are you waiting for?

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Stay Lucky offers participants the opportunity to win great prizes by stringing together winners in Thoroughbred races. Unbroken streaks of five, seven, nine, 14, 17 and 20 reward the players with a prize or choice of prizes. Terms and conditions apply.

The object is simple: pick winners from North American graded stakes races that draw at least six entrants. Races will be scored in real time but streaks will be updated only once daily to make sure they are scored in the correct order.

Pick as many races each weekend as you like, but be sure to play at least one race every weekend or your streak will be reset.

This weekend’s Stay Lucky slate is highlighted by the opening of the fall meet at Keeneland Race Course, which kicks off Friday with a three-day Fall Stars weekend and will feature nine Challenge Series “Win and You’re In” qualifying races preps from Friday to Sunday. Belmont Park hosts four qualifying preps on Saturday and Sunday and Santa Anita Park, host of this year’s World Championships on Nov. 1-2, offers one “Win and You’re In” race on Saturday.

Friday, Oct. 4

Stoll Keenon Ogden Phoenix Stakes (4:57 p.m. ET): It’s tough to predict how the Keeneland main track will play on opening day, especially in a sprint like this race. There is plenty of pace in the Phoenix, but in the past it seemed like horses needed to be close to the lead to have a chance in one-turn races. With six horses between 3-1 and 8-1, I’ll pass here and wait for an easier spot later in the weekend.

Darley Alcibiades Stakes (5:30 p.m. ET): This race drew 11 2-year-old fillies and all but one will be stretching out around two turns for the first time. Perfect Alibi (#7) is 3-for-4 lifetime with a pair of graded stakes wins. Coming off a clear win in the Grade 1 Spinaway Stakes, she’s the 5-2 morning-line favorite, but I plan to try to beat her in this spot with Alandra (#4), who won her debut impressively for Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey Sept. 1 at Saratoga. I’m hoping for a decent price at the betting window, but I’ll pass for Stay Lucky purposes.

Saturday, Oct. 5

Matron Stakes (3:05 p.m. ET): I was impressed by Alms (#1) in her Sept. 19 debut, but I’m suspect of the quality of competition she faced that day and I think you have to side with the stakes experience of Karak (#5), who enters off a win in the Tyro Stakes for a trainer who is a magician with 2-year-olds.

Woodford Stakes Presented by Keeneland Select (3:54 p.m. ET): A 10-horse field for a turf sprint is the opposite of what you look for in an ideal Stay Lucky race. That said, I like Leinster (#9) in this spot. He’s in terrific form and he has a win on the turf course at Keeneland.

Greenwood Cup Stakes (4:04 p.m. ET): Marconi (#5) has struggled when challenged against elite competition, but he’s formidable at this Grade 3 level. War Story (#3) and Lemonade Thursday (#6) have the talent to beat him, but I think this is Marconi’s race to lose.

Hill Prince Stakes (4:15 p.m. ET): A Thread of Blue (#2) looks like the lone speed here and that could be especially dangerous cutting back in distance with an advantageous inside post position and a short run into the first turn. My biggest concern is that I’m always intrigued by the European shippers that owner Marty Schwartz brings over to race in the U.S. He finds European runners that thrive on the firmer ground over here. I’ll bet Taos (#3) fits that mold.

Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes (4:29 p.m. ET): From an evenly matched group of nine female sprinters, I landed on Danuska’s My Girl (#4) who has won five of her last six. Jockey Flavien Prat wins at 31% when riding for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer.

Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Stakes (4:50 p.m. ET): I like Arklow (#5) in this spot but I am concerned that there is not enough pace for him, and he’s also getting a new rider with Florent Geroux out of town. Tough to endorse for Stay Lucky as he’s winless in his last seven, but he’s finished second four times and in three times during the stretch he lost by a half-length or less.

Mazarine Stakes (4:59 p.m. ET): Skygaze (#2), Curlin’s Voyage (#3), and Roman d’Oro (#6) all enter off impressive, open-length victories in maiden races on the synthetic main track at Woodbine, while Take Charge Eh (#1) finished second in a stakes on this track. I really liked Skygaze’s seven-length runaway and I think the American Pharoah filly has serious upside.

First Lady Stakes (5:04 p.m. ET): Rushing Fall (#11) has two wins and a second in three starts this year and she’s 4-for-4 lifetime at Keeneland. I expect her to run well Saturday, but I can’t make her a top Stay Lucky play with three European invaders plus an exceptional group of accomplished U.S. runners in a full, 14-horse field.

Champagne Stakes (5:22 p.m. ET): Saratoga Special Stakes winner Green Light Go (#3) and impressive maiden winner Three Technique (#4) probably will get most of the attention, but I loved what I saw from Tiz the Law (#7) in his career debut when he drew of to win by 4 ½ lengths despite racing greenly in the stretch and being covered up late. It would be a great story, too, as he’s trained by Barclay Tagg for Sackatoga Stable, the connections of 2003 Kentucky Derby winner Funny Cide.

L.A. Woman Stakes (5:30 p.m. ET): I know it can be tough to back a horse to win in Stay Lucky who has lost five straight, but Anonymity (#4) has run second four times and third by a neck in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint during that stretch. She’s also run her best races at Santa Anita.

Claiborne Breeders' Futurity (5:39 p.m. ET): Gouverneur Morris (#10) earned a monster 101 Equibase Speed Figure for his career debut Sept. 2 at Saratoga. He’s stretching out from 5 ½ furlongs to 1 1/16 miles and drew the outside post position with a short run into the first turn. I think he could be a vulnerable favorite in this spot. I’ll try to beat him with Godolphin homebred Maxfield (#6), who overcame a troubled start to win going a mile in his career debut Sept. 14 at Churchill Downs.

Shadwell Turf Mile Stakes (6:15 p.m. ET): The Shadwell Mile drew an overflow field of 16 — 14 entrants, plus two also-eligible entrants — that includes four European group stakes winners shipping in, last year’s winner Next Shares (#1), an unbeaten 3-year-old from Chad Brown’s barn taking on older males, and several other talented North American runners. While I do like Brown’s Valid Point (#4) and think he’s capable of defeating his elders, this group presents a significant challenge.

City of Hope Mile Stakes (7 p.m. ET): Prince Earl (#9) was fantastic in his season debut, winning the Grade 2 Del Mar Mile Handicap Aug. 18 off an 8 ½-month layoff. He faces a quality field here but I think he might be a budding star, so I’m pushing my chips in on him this week.

Santa Anita Sprint Championship Stakes (7:30 p.m. ET): I’m as big a fan of Omaha Beach (#2) as you’ll find — I think he would have won this year’s Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve by open lengths had he been healthy — but this is a tough spot to return from almost five months off after having throat surgery in the spring. Shancelot (#3) earned a 122 Equibase Speed Figure for winning the Grade 2 Amsterdam Stakes in July and then finished third by a head in the Grade 1 H. Allen Jerkens Stakes in August. Shancelot is well rested and cutting back from seven furlongs to what is probably his ideal distance of six furlongs. I think Shancelot is sitting on a monster race while Omaha Beach’s Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella is using this race more as a steppingstone to the Breeders’ Cup.

Sunday, Oct. 6

Futurity Stakes (4:12 p.m. ET): I wouldn’t risk a major streak on a race with largely untested 2-year-olds sprinting on the grass, but if you just have a couple of wins and want to try to add to your streak try Four Wheel Drive (#4). The American Pharaoh colt overcame a troubled start to win his career debut impressively in a fast time.

Flower Bowl Stakes (4:47 p.m. ET): I was really encouraged by Mrs. Sippy’s (#3) U.S. debut when she closed powerfully to win the Grade 2 Glens Falls Stakes at Saratoga Aug. 31, but she runs into champion Sistercharlie (#2) here. The 2018 Maker's Mark Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf winner is 2-for-2 this year, both Grade 1s, and has been much the best in both races. Sistercharlie is the best bet of the weekend for Stay Lucky.

Dixiana Bourbon Stakes (5:10 p.m. ET): This is one of my favorite races every year during the Keeneland fall meet, but a full field of 14 2-year-olds on the turf (many of them stretching out around two turns for the first time) is a stay-away race for Stay Lucky purposes. For betting purposes, I’m hoping for a price with Ete Indien (#13).

Frizette Stakes (5:20 p.m. ET): Quality Response (#1) ships in from the West Coast for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert off a pair of dominant victories, most recently winning a stakes Sept. 19 at Los Alamitos. I think last week’s Chandelier Stakes was too quick a turnaround for her and by shipping to New York they avoided stablemate Bast, who won the Chandelier.

Mike’s Top Stay Lucky Plays

(24 winners from 37 top plays in 2019)

1. Sistercharlie (Flower Bowl Stakes)

2. Prince Earl (City of Hope Mile Stakes)

3. Anonymity (L.A. Woman Stakes)

4. Marconi (Greenwood Cup Stakes)

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