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Use these 4 in Maker’s Mark Mile in Keeneland

Photo: Susie Raisher/NYRA

Four horses look usable in Grade 1, $600,000 Maker’s Mark Mile at Keeneland on Friday. This is a race to be broadcast in multi-race betting.

The first preference is Public sector, who leaves for coach Chad Brown. Brown is usually a wizard at winning graduated turf stakes races, and he brings a developing 4-year-old colt into this entry.

Public Sector beat a good turf runner in Never Surprised twice last season while winning the Saranac Stakes (G3) and Hill Prince Stakes (G2). Public Sector ended its season with a fourth-place finish in the Hollywood Derby (G1) in Del Mar, but the effort is forgivable. He lost by 1 1/2 lengths and still matched his typical TimeformUS numbers.

Shirl’s Speight and Atone are next to consider.

The former is riding a two-fight winning streak in this race, including an impressive victory in the Tampa Bay Stakes (G3) in early February.

Defending champion Get Smokin held an undisputed lead with reasonable splits throughout the race. But Shirl’s Speight caught him and even widened the gap to 1 1/2 lengths to win.

On grass, the final margins are usually compressed due to the nature of most grass racing. Shirl’s Speight victory by 1 1/2 lengths is a dominating performance, especially when Get Smokin led the pack unchallenged.

Atone has lost its last two races. On his last start in January, he hung on in the Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational (G1) stretch for a fourth-place finish while losing by just 1 3/4 length to Colonel Liam. Even though Atone lost, it was a tough race to win.

Atone could take advantage of the one-mile reduction when he returns, as he won an optional one-mile Aqueduct claiming race in November and a one-mile allowance in Saratoga. Overall, he is posting a 4:3-0-1 record at a mile.

Also, trainer Michael Maker puts blinders on Atone. In a race that is not certain to go fast, the blinkers should bring him closer to the front.

Masen is the final runner to consider. This gelding makes his first start for Chad Brown after starting six times in Europe in his first two seasons. Masen hasn’t started since last October at Leopardstown, where he won the Knockaire Stakes by 2 1/4 lengths under pressure. The aggressive placement of the layoff is a positive sign.

Brown thinks Masen is good enough to make his North American debut in a Tier 1 race, and he puts Flavien Prat on him. Both are positives to consider, even if Masen’s form doesn’t stand out.

The four horses described above could be an exact box if the odds on Shirl’s Speight, Atone or even Masen are in the double digit range. Otherwise, three or four single-digit horses in an exact box probably won’t pay out a significant amount of money if the ticket is played.

In terms of multi-race betting, Public Sector, Shirl’s Speight, Atone and Masen are all usable in that order of preference. If the ticket gets too expensive, consider cutting the untested Masen first, even if Brown drags him along.

Smooth Like Strait and Somelikeithotbrown are also consistent turf horses with early speed, but they can go just fast enough to weaken each other late without causing a pace crash. Move one of them up only if the other speed horse scratches.

The Maker’s Mark Mile is not an easy race to identify a horse. The best strategy is to spread out in tickets and try to find a better single somewhere else.