Welcome to Noel Michaels’ Weekend Winners, the place to go for weekend best bets and spot plays from veteran handicapper and tournament-play pioneer Noel Michaels. Check back every week for a couple of highlighted selections designed to help you cash a few bets and make some money.
Noel's selections have been featured just about everywhere horse racing picks can be found, including in print in the Daily Racing Form, The HorsePlayer Magazine and American Turf Monthly, online at DRF.com, Twinspires.com and USRacing.com, from the paddock on-track at Arlington International Racecourse, and on the air on HRTV, TVG, NYC OTB Extra, NYRA's Talking Horses, and on broadcast TV on WAVE-3 Louisville, ABC KOLO-8 in Reno, Nevada, and channel 72 Long Island Cablevision.
Keeneland’s opening week flurry of activity is in the rear-view mirror but there is lots of great racing still to come at the meet, and this Saturday is an example of that with a solid 10-race card to sink your teeth into including the final Grade 1 race of the fall season, the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup Stakes Presented by Dixiana. Here are a couple of exacta box picks on Saturday’s card that both feature overlay longshots with legitimate chances to win. Best of luck.
weekend Television schedule
Keeneland Race Course, Race 5, $140,000 allowance, post time 3:08 p.m. ET
This race is not a stakes, but it drew a mostly stakes-caliber field going 1 1/16 miles on the turf. It seems that the favorites in this race, #2 Mouillage and #4 In Love have not run their best races in several months, and there are others with better current form in this spot that can beat them. #8 Winfromwithin is one of those horses. He comes in along with his jockey from out of town off of good recent results at Monmouth Park, including a win last time in the Red Bank Stakes where he went wire-to-wire and earned a good speed figure in a fast time. He will have company up front today from the speedy #1 Megacity, but the good news for Winfromwithin is that he doesn’t need a solo lead in order to win. The big overlay in this field is #5 Current, who carries 15-1 odds on the morning line and picking up Florent Geroux for the mount. He won two starts back at Ellis Park and then ran a good effort in defeat last time at Kentucky Downs in a 1 5/16-mile race that was a tad too far. He still only lost by 1 ¼ lengths and fits much better in today’s spot. Current owns good form and has a past win on the grass here at Keeneland.
Keeneland Race Course, Race 9, $600,000 Queen Elizabeth Challenge Cup Stakes Presented by Dixiana, post time 5:16 p.m. ET
Saturday’s featured QEII Cup drew a field of seven classy 3-year-old fillies who will race 1 1/8 miles on the turf, and the reason it’s such a good race is that you can make a case for any of the seven entrants. The favorite is the even-money #6 McKulick and there are no knocks on her coming out of two wins and a second in New York’s rich Oaks Invitational series at Belmont Park, Saratoga, and Belmont at the Big A. The only knock on her is the low price in a race that appears to be wide open. Instead of opting for the low odds, go ahead and take a chance on perhaps the day’s biggest overlay, #1 California Angel who is 15-1 odds on the morning line. She looked good returning from nearly a six-month layoff last time in the Dueling Grounds Oaks at Kentucky Downs, and now has finished ahead of today’s #4 New Year’s Eve in each of her last two outings. New Year’s Eve is 9-2 on the morning line, so go ahead and take 15-1 on California Angel, who incidentally is already a graded stakes winner on the Keeneland turf, having won the Grade 2 JPMorgan Chase Jessamine Stakes at last fall’s meet. For exactas, pace could end up making the race in the QEII with seemingly no early speed entered in the field opening things up for the invading x-factor, #7 Paris Peacock, who crosses the pond following two wins in a row in Ireland. The 10-1 shot on the morning line has the tactical speed to lead, and that makes her a danger to shake loose up front vs. this field as the potential lone speed.