The penultimate week of the 2021 Colonial Downs meet commences on Monday and while turf racing has been the staple of the Central Virginia track since its inception in 1997, today the focus is on the expansive dirt course. Four stakes races headline the program and racing fans will recognize some familiar names among the entrants including G1-C.C.A. Oaks winner Paris Lights in the Love Sign Stakes (6th race) and G2-Prioress winner Frank’s Rockette in the Seeking the Pearl Stakes (7th race).
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- Race 1: 11-5-12-4
- Race 2: 8-1-6-3
- Race 3: 9-6-10-1
- Race 4: 3-5-7-1
- Race 5: 7-6-2-3
- Race 6: 1-8-3-6
- Race 7: 4-7-8-3
- Race 8: 8-2-5-4
- Race 9: 8-3-12-6
Colonial Downs Race 1: Torres Del Paine (#11)
The Monday card kicks off with a wide open N3L claimer featuring the return of former stakes runner Markitoff (#4) from a 13-month layoff. The sharp drop has to be a huge concern as well as going out for a new barn after being with the likes of Eddie Kenneally and Mike Maker for his better efforts. Although he used to show speed, there’s no guarantee he still possesses it after all this time and he’s surely a bet against at a short price. I landed on Torres Del Paine (#11) hoping Markitoff doesn’t show his customary early speed and this runner can take them wire to wire where early speed is quite the weapon on this inner turf course going the flat mile. He steps right up in class after wiring a N2L at Penn National last out and his form is dirtied up by four abysmal efforts over the dirt in the winter. Going way back, he was stakes placed over this course as a two year old behind eventual Breeders Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint winner Four Wheel Drive.
Colonial Downs Race 4: South Bend (#3)
I think South Bend (#3) is a very likely winner of the Victory Gallop Stakes and he might be a more generous price than he should be due to his last couple of running lines. However, I definitely think circumstances played a role in him not hitting the board in his last three starts. In the Blame Stakes, he had significant trouble in the lane that cost him any chance when it appeared he was making a strong bid. Two back he was in tough in the Stephen Foster behind Maxfield and certainly didn’t disgrace himself with a 4th place finish. He’s shown an affinity for turf throughout his career so I don’t blame the connections for trying the Lure last out, but he got absolutely no pace to run into as Flavius walked the dog on the front end. His four-year-old return race at Keeneland was a strong effort and this runner has always showed a good bit of talent competing almost exclusively in stakes races throughout his 18-race career. I think he’ll enjoy the one turn 8.5 furlong configuration he gets today as well as the class relief.
Colonial Downs Race 6: Saracosa (#1)
I’m really not enamored with the short prices in this edition of the Love Sign Stakes. I have no arguments with Paris Lights (#8) as the horse to beat in this spot as she tries to get her four-year-old campaign back on track. She was gritty in victory winning the Coaching Club American Oaks at Saratoga last year, but that was not a banner renewal of that event to say the least. Since then, her last two starts have left something to be desired, but she is undoubtedly getting significant class relief here and is well posted to the outside. The other two logical alternatives have spent the majority of their careers down at Gulfstream in Bajan Girl (#3) and Dream Marie (#6). However, for the former there is a lot of speed on paper to deal with and I question whether this distance is a bit too far. As far as the latter, there are certainly races on her page that would put her in the mix including the Obeah Stakes win two back over Del ‘Cap winner Miss Marissa, but she has a tendency to go in and out of form and I wouldn’t want to be betting her at a short-ish price. For me the interesting alternative at a square price is Saracosa (#1). On the surface it looks like this mare has gone off form, but I just think she hasn’t been placed in reasonable spots for most of her last five starts. Today she gets a turnback to a one turn configuration that I think she’ll appreciate and there’s enough speed to set it up for a midpack runner like herself. She has some efforts from last summer when second to a pair of Chad Brown runners in Dunbar Road and Royal Flag that would put her right in the mix and she’s likely to get overlooked in the wagering.
Colonial Downs Race 9: Doc Girl (#8)
Thus far this meet, the Colonial Downs programs have concluded with a low level maiden claiming or restricted claiming event, but today it’s an open optional claiming N1X. Contention runs deep with the ML favorite of the 12 horse field being at 9-2 in Odramark (#10). I’m against this mare though as she was pretty dull in her local debut even while getting a decent pace to close into. Of the short prices on the ML, I prefer 3-Tracy Ann’s Legacy (#3) who ships down from Monmouth for Kelly Breen. She’s been running into tougher foes than the ones she meets here with the likes of Caravel and Miss Auramet littering her past performances. I think she has the most talent in this field, but she might not get the best setup with so many other speeds signed on. That’s why I’ve landed on Doc Girl (#8) for top trainer Michael Stidham. I believe this three-year-old filly possesses more upside than the rest of her rivals and didn’t get the best chance to display it in her last start. She broke about a length and a half slow going a sharp five furlongs last time out at Penn National and that trouble isn’t noted in the PP’s. What is noted is that she had to pause entering the stretch before finding running room along the rail. She tried her best to rally inside, but another filly got the jump on her rallying unencumbered down the center of the lane. With a more comfortable trip and more pace to run into, I think she can take another step forward her and score at a square price.