While most of the focus will be in upstate New York on Thursday with the much anticipated start of the Saratoga meet, there’s another track whose opening day is worth taking a look at. Colonial Downs has shifted their racing schedule from a Monday-Wednesday cadence and will now run Thursday-Saturday. While this does put them head-t0-head with Saratoga (and later Del Mar), it also allows for some better on-track participation. In addition to the change in days of the week, the track will also introduce two new player friendly wagers. To accompany the existing late pick five, there will now be an early pick five with the same low takeout of 12%. Furthermore, a $1 “classic” Pick 6 is being introduced at similar economics to the popular setup they have at NYRA (15% takeout). I’ll be in this space at In the Money Media to provide daily coverage to hopefully supplement readers’ bankrolls for the summer racing season.
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- Race 1: 7-6-5-4
- Race 2: 1-2-7-3
- Race 3: 4-3-2-6
- Race 4: 4-5-1-2
- Race 5: 14-13-4-1
- Race 6: 2-3-6-7
- Race 7: 3-10-1-4
- Race 8: 4-6-9-7
- Race 9: 10-6-12-11
Colonial Downs Race 3: Ahsoka (#4)
It’s a relatively compact field of maiden claimers that will go post-ward here and the vast majority of wagering action will be focused on two runners in particular. The morning line favorite is Girls House (#2) who possesses a decent edge on speed figures over her rivals. However, she’s had her chances and I don’t necessarily expect her to run a representative effort for the new barn. Of the favorites, I prefer Love Knot (#3) as she turns back in distance after contesting a suicidal pace in her last start. While I expect an improved effort going this shorter trip, I can end up seeing her be favored in here and I’m not keen on taking too short a price when these runners are hard to trust. My top pick is Ahsoka (#4) and even half of the 10-1 she is listed at on the morning line would be fair. Like the runner to her inside, she has also been a part of paces that are on the fast side and I can see her appreciating the shorter distance of this race. It’s possible this field is weaker than the ones she was facing at Laurel and while her trainer Keri Brion is known more for her prowess with steeplechase horses, she’s won at a respectable 16% clip with turf runners at Colonial the past two meets.
Colonial Downs Race 5: Streetcorner (#14)
It certainly isn’t the easiest way to kick off the inaugural late pick five of the 2023 Colonial Downs season as a field of fourteen juvenile fillies are set for this turf sprint. The likely favorite is drawn on the rail as Troubled Dreams (#1) drops out of open maiden special weights at Delaware and Parx to contest this affair limited to VA-Restricted runners. However, this early in the two-year-old racing season it’s hard to tell if those races we’re of that much more quality than the bulky field she faces today. Those races also came over the main track and she must handle the switch to turf. While her sire World of Trouble was a top class turf sprinter, there’s not much damside pedigree for the turf. Despite high percentage numbers in many categories, Brittany Russell’s barn is just 5/74 (7%, $0.86 ROI) with first time turf runners the past five years. The pair of Michael Trombetta runners make some sense in here as well. Call the Question (#4) showed speed against tougher in a maiden race over the Woodbine synthetic last time and is bred for the surface switch as her dam won over the grass and Midshipman is a decent turf influence. Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but I couldn’t pull the trigger on this filly as my top pick due to the presence of this barn’s go-to rider on her debuting stablemate Candy Doll (#13). While this barn is just 2/29 (7%, $0.81 ROI) debuting juveniles in turf sprints, this is a powerful ownership group and there’s some stakes quality runners in the first family (albeit more of a dirt pedigree). My top pick is one stall to the outside with Streetcorner (#14) and I’m hoping the less than ideal outside post dissuades some of her backers. This filly is by a strong turf sprint sire in Street Boss and a half sibling to both Tackett (88+ Beyer in both turf starts) and Aurum (debut winner at Colonial). In a race with many first time starters with trainers who have negative stats with that move, the opposite is true for this filly. Over the last five years, Michael Stidham is 10/30 (33%, $2.76 ROI) with 2YO first-time starters in turf sprints.
Colonial Downs Race 7: St. Pat’s Day (#3)
I’m not enthralled with either of the two short prices on the morning line for this 7th race. Super Renee (#4) is sure to take money based on the connections and while on paper this looks like a class drop, I’m not sure those allowance races were much tougher than the field she faces today. Sol Hope (#5) has a couple wins over the course and distance from and maybe the return to this New Kent oval will wake her up, but I’m not sure it’s worth taking a short price on that proposition given her current form. I actually think the horse to beat and the most likely winner is drawn to the far outside. Walks Like a Lady (#10) cuts back to a turf sprint for the first time in almost a year, but is proven over this trip and is well posted with tactical speed. Her trainer might have got off to a slow start this year, but this underrated barn had plenty of success at Colonial last summer. However, I went in a slightly different direction and made St. Pat’s Day (#3) my top pick. This FL-bred filly really looked like she took to the grass when dominating an over-matched field of allowance horses in her turf debut back in April. She was given no chance in her only subsequent try over today’s surface when losing position at the break in a salty handicap race at Gulfstream. It’s worth noting she was bet down to 5-1 in that race, despite that field being light years tougher than the one she meets today. I’m willing to forgive her last effort as she looked to disdain the synthetic surface. Hopefully that dirties her form even more and allows her price to float up from the 9-2 morning line.
Colonial Downs Race 8: Determined Gold (#4)
While Alexa’s Dream (#9) is the favorite on the morning line, I actually think the conversation in this race begins with Lightress (#6) who I’d project ultimately goes off favored. If this filly is able to run back to her impressive debut win, she’ll be dangerous, but her last two starts have left me wanting especially her most recent race where she was defeated by two of today’s less fancied rivals. It’s worth noting that she was rank early on in both of those two efforts and if jockey Mychel Sanchez lets her roll on the front end she could be long gone. Alexa’s Dream drops out of much tougher competition, but I wonder if her imposing speed figures are inflated by being dragged along by her more talented rivals. Whereas in her last two races she was 16-1 and 74-1 respectively, today you’ll have to swallow a much shorter price. I love Determined Gold (#4) in this spot and view her as the most likely winner in a race where she’s likely to be no shorter than the third choice. This impeccably bred filly made an eye-catching wide bid around the turn in her 4/22/22 allowance race that I’ve been waiting to see her reproduce. In each of her six subsequent tries, there was some obstacle that prevented her from running up to her potential. She was always either in over her head against tough company or running around distances not suited to her quick burst of speed. Although it was on synthetic last time out, I thought her maiden win last out was a huge step in getting back to her best race and can see her putting it all together this afternoon. The Schoenthal barn has had decent success on turf at Colonial hitting at 15% with a $3.14 ROI over the past two meets.