Analysis: King Fury can improve with blinkers in Ky. Jockey Club

Analysis: King Fury can improve with blinkers in Ky. Jockey Club
Photo: Eclipse Sportswire

This week’s set of race analyses hopes to match last Saturday's six plays, which gave away three winners from six races including North Dakota at $19.40 in the Red Smith Stakes (G3) and Wow Brown at $9.00 as well. 

In today’s discussion, the topic is the Grade 2, $200,000 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill Downs on Saturday. The 1 1/16-mile dirt race for 2-year-old horses is part of the 2021 Kentucky Derby trail.

From a handicapping perspective, the race is interesting because it lacks major speed. Therefore, the focus is on finding the best speed or tactical speed option. According to TimeformUS, the five horses with the highest early pace ratings are Swill, Smiley Sobotka, Inspector Frost, King Fury and Ultimate Badger.

King Fury enters off a disappointing seventh-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.

According to TimeformUS, King Fury shows initial pace figures of 127 and 128 for the same 1 1/16-mile distance in the Breeders’ Cup. He ran those moderately fast pace figures despite traveling in mid-pack through the early stages in seventh. After the half-mile point, King Fury experiences traffic.

As King Fury starts to pick up steam heading into the turn, Classier backs into him, causing King Fury to lose momentum turning for home.

In mid-stretch, King Fury is too tired to make progress.

But the effort is fine, considering he did put up decent pace figures in the early stages and also dealt with traffic on the turn.

Trainer Ken McPeek opts to put blinkers on King Fury this time, which normally helps horses show more early speed. He can use extra speed to clear from Post 8 and get into a better rhythm while closer to the leader.

King Fury is not going to give up six or seven lengths as he did in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, especially when he owns the highest pace figures in the field. Expect him to track or stalk the pacesetter closely within two or three lengths, which should keep him within range of the leader if the pace ends up as moderate as it looks on paper. From there, he can strike first.

If he responds to the blinkers and gets an aggressive ride out of the gate, King Fury could even challenge for the lead. 

Also, King Fury is a two-time winner at Churchill Downs. He broke his maiden here and took the Street Sense Stakes by half a length over Super Stock with a 96 TimeformUS Speed Figure. Both wins came at the 1 1/16-mile distance, which makes him familiar with the configuration.  

With the moderate pace scenario in mind, added blinkers and successful experience over this course, King Fury is the top choice.

Swill broke his maiden locally on Sept. 24 by three lengths in a seven-furlong maiden race. Off the final TimeformUS Speed Figure of 102, some handicappers might view him a big contender, and he is capable of winning. He won in gate-to-wire style after the addition of blinkers in that maiden race and drew the rail in this race, seemingly encouraging the same tactics.

Yet, the past performances say the blinkers come off. Losing the blinkers in this pace scenario is disappointing, especially from the rail. 

Perhaps trainer Brad Cox is attempting to get him to relax in order to handle the longer distance. In Swill’s races without blinkers, he ran as a stalker on July 11 in his career debut at Keeneland and then as a mid-pack runner after gate trouble in an Aug. 15 Saratoga maiden race.

Swill’s first two TimeformUS Pace Figures in the Sept. 24 maiden breaker were only 99 and 99, and the lack of blinkers only discourages an aggressive start. But in case Swill secures the front and finds the distance agreeable enough, he deserves a spot in multi-race wagers.

King Fury and Swill are the two horses to use.

Who else can get in the early speed mix with Swill and King Fury?

Cox also trains Inspector Frost, who broke his maiden in gate-to-wire fashion on Oct. 18 at Keeneland. But he was not running very fast early on with early pace figures of 96 and 90, with the track labeled as speed biased on TimeformUS. Also, he shows only a final 89 speed figure on TimeformUS. 

Smiley Sobotka broke his maiden on Oct. 4 at Keeneland by two lengths with a final 89 speed figure on TimeformUS for trainer Dale Romans, along with low early pace figures of 88 and 87 within the race. Based on his final figure and pace figures, Smiley Sobotka is too slow to affect the race.

In four races, Ultimate Badger has shown nothing but stalking-style running lines. In his most recent start, he broke his maiden locally on Oct. 25 with a 91 figure on TimeformUS, also making him a slow entry into this race.

For what it is worth, he did show notable early pace figures of 106 and 104 before the final 91 at the end. He is not a scary pace presence, though, and not a major win threat based on his final speed figure.

In other words, Swill and King Fury should find themselves comfortable in the front half.   

As for Keepmeinmind, the expected favorite in the Kentucky Jockey Club, he did little running early in the Juvenile by lagging in 14th in the first quarter, 17 lengths off the pace. But on the turn, he had a clear path to move and tip outside before making his stretch rally towards third. While that is a respectable final position, the race completely set up for him.  

Keepmeinmind has talent, but his closing style is wrong for this race. Plus, he is still a maiden who needs a confidence booster. He is the kind of horse who the public will love because of the Breeders' Cup running line, and that makes him a likely underlay.

Although Keepmeinmind is an OK option for second or third, Sittin On Go, Arabian Prince or Oncoming Train could offer better value underneath.

In any case, at 3-1 or higher King Fury is the right play on top with a straight Win bet. A Place bet is not recommended when the odds run that low. 

In multi-race wagers, King Fury and Swill are the two best options.

Meet Reinier Macatangay

My first time at the racetrack came as a 5-year-old kid at Santa Anita Park. For most of my younger life, that was the only track I attended other the occasional visit to Hollywood Park. 

Years later, after graduating California State University, Stanislaus with an English MA, I began writing for Lady and the Track. From late 2014-2016, my articles were seen on a weekly basis and covered handicapping, interviews with well-known racing personalities, fashion and more. 

The handicapping style I use concentrates on pace analysis. Some horses are compromised by the pace. Others are helped. Handicappers just starting out cannot easily see how pace affects the finish, so with this blog, I hope to help those unsure of how to apply pace into their handicapping and post-race analysis. 

On an unrelated note, I enjoy video games and attending anime or comic-book conventions. I am currently based in Kentucky, but spend a lot of time traveling between there and California.

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