Week number five comes to a close at Colonial Downs on Wednesday. While the hope that we’ll salvage some turf racing this week took a hit when a strong storm came through before Tuesday’s eighth race and caused a weather delay, we’ll be on the optimistic side and handicap for grass while also giving picks for dirt.
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- Race 1: 6-5-3-2; DIRT (3-6-5-4)
- Race 2: 4-5-2-6
- Race 3: 2-5-4-1; DIRT (2-4-1-5)
- Race 4: 1-2-7-8
- Race 5: 11-4-9-12; DIRT (9-7-2-11)
- Race 6: 6-3-7-8; DIRT (6-3-7-8)
- Race 7: 3-1-8-6; DIRT (6-10-9-4)
- Race 8: 3-4-7-6; DIRT (4-6-3-5)
- Race 9: 9-7-5-8; DIRT (8-9-7-6)
Colonial Downs Race 2: Plea Bargain (#4)
The start of the early pick four is a bit of a head scratcher in that it’s a rare case where the connections of a few of these runners should be wishing they take the races off the dirt and move them to the grass after inclement weather instead of the other way around. That seems to especially be the case with morning line favorite Shackled (#6) whose last two starts would be good enough to drown this field but they came over the lawn. Circle Away (#5) actually ran better than it looks on paper in each of his last two starts over the grass having significant trouble at the break two back and getting caught behind a moderate pace last time. He has some established dirt form to rely on, but as a runner void of all early speed I think the six furlong trip he gets here might prove too sharp for him. Finally, many may land on Big Dave (#2) who evidenced by his last effort is certainly not a turf horse. His sprint races at Penn National last winter would make him tough, but he also is a deep closer and I wouldn’t want to take a short price on a runner from this winless barn. By process of elimination, I landed on Plea Bargain (#4) to hopefully spring a major upset in a race ripe for one. At 15-1 on the ML and off since 2019, there are plenty of question marks with this gelding, but I like the switch to a higher percentage barn in Michael Lecesse and his latest work signals that he might fire off the bench. Unlike most of this field, six furlongs on the dirt is actually what this runner wants to do and his win at Tampa three back puts him right in the mix with the top recent dirt speed figures in this race.
Colonial Downs Race 3: What Does It Take (#2)
Maidens turf routing is next up on the docket and you have to begin the conversation in this race with Ballyhoo Prince (#5). On paper, he’s simply faster than these runners and was part of quick early paces in each of his last two races leading to runner-up finishes. The excuses are piling up, however, and at 0/13 I think its worth looking to someone else for the top pick. I landed on a runner that would prove to be my top pick on either surface in What Does It Take (#2). If the race gets taken off the turf, I don’t think he would have to improve much to handle this field as his last race represents the highest dirt Beyer in the field and that came as a two-year-old so with routine improvement from two to three that could easily get 10 points higher. I actually think he will take an extra step forward if able to run over the grass today. Munnings is a solid turf influence on the top as evidenced by the fact he’s sired two winners over the Colonial lawn this meet. I normally don’t think a Fairbanks dam would bolster a horse’s turf pedigree, but that mare actually preferred the grass and finished second in the G3-Gallorette Handicap on Preakness Day 2016. Furthermore, Michael Trombetta has very good numbers switching for the dirt to the grass and this colt gets Lasix for the first time.
Colonial Downs Race 4: Black V. K. (#1)
I think this $16k N2L really boils down to the two runners drawn to the inside and I prefer the one who I believe will be a longer price on the day. Black V. K. (#1) ran at this level last time out and was in contention coming down the lane before the eventual winner came over on him just after the 1/8th pole. I don’t think he was going to be any better than third that day, but that maneuver probably exaggerated the margin of his defeat. He obviously didn’t care for the Gulfstream surface and to me it looked like he got back to his better efforts from Tampa in the most recent try. The Ochoa barn has surpassed my expectations this meet and this runner likely won’t face the same type of pace pressure he did in his last. The stretch out to seven furlongs doesn’t bother me too much as his maiden win came routing. As for the runner to his outside that’s likely to be the favorite, Ballinonabudjet (#2), he can win, but I don’t want to find out at a short price. Michelle Lovell hasn’t entered this colt on dirt since his dreadful debut and while his two 2021 dirt starts looks fine at first glance, those Louisiana bred off the turf fields might not have been very strong in retrospect.
Colonial Downs Race 9: Broker’s Reward (#3)
The feature on the Wednesday card is a compact field of seven runners turf routing in this open N2X event with a $70k purse on the line. Two Monmouth imports look to get a bulk of the play led by Reconvene (#7) who goes first time out in the Jerry Hollendorfer barn. With the presence of the two inside runners, there’s likely to be enough pace to set up this gelding and he certainly holds the class edge on the field. However, he was scratched out of a stakes on opening day that I thought he looked pretty tough in and shows up in this softer spot so I’m not a fan of that hesitancy by the connections. Kitten’s Spa (#4) ran well in an off-the-turf race at Monmouth last out which is why he would be the top pick if the surface changes and he was in some tough spots on the grass prior to that. He goes out for a high percentage barn in Jose Sanchez and I’d use him prominently, but I prefer a runner who already has a run over the Colonial lawn. Broker’s Reward (#3) took on a bulky field at this level last time and lost all chance shortly after the start with trouble that doesn’t show up in the short comment line. Usually a runner that likes to stalk and pounce, he did well to rally into third from well back while navigating through some traffic trouble in the lane while today’s rival McCain (#6) got a perfect trip. I think he can turn the tables on that foe and be well-positioned by Feargal Lynch right behind the dueling leaders to get first run on the aforementioned deep closers.