This weekend looks a lot nicer weather wise in New Orleans, but the track was pretty wet yesterday, and that may put the turf races in peril of being transferred to the main track again. I will handicap for both surfaces again today.
Best Bet on the Card: Race 3, #4 Arm Candy (Turf)
Most Likely Winner: Race 3 #4 Arm Candy (Dirt)
Race 1: 3-7-5
I don’t make a habit of playing 0-13 maidens on top, but for a 5 and ½ furlong race, there’s very little speed on a track that has been challenging to close on, so I’ll reluctantly put G’s Mine (3) on top. She’s third off the layoff, and while her last two haven’t been spectacular, she’s probably at the right level of competition. Of the horses at a higher price, only Glitter Time (7) has offered a glimmer of hope of being able to compete at this level. She’s been off since September, but her trainer, Joe Duhon, has won with 20% of his horses coming off a 2-6 month layoff. I’m sure how deep the fields she faced over the summer were, but this is a soft field, even for the condition. Gilded Apple (5) is 0-17, but at least has been second in seven of those starts, including her last three tries at this level.
Race 2: 4-6-3
This is a very difficult state bred allowance which seems evenly matched. Five of the seven horses are coming off races on sloppy tracks against common opponents. I think Schnell (4) is better than his last race where he was hustled out of the gate and then faded. He’s been given a little time, skipping the Louisiana Futurity on New Years Eve, and hopefully can rebound here on a drying out track. Get Them Justin (6) was fifth in the same allowance race that Schnell was in. He was making his first start since beating maiden claimers on debut at Evangeline. He ran well in defeat last time, and I could see him taking another step forward. Janet’s Jay Jay (3) also competed in that same allowance race, where he broke a little slow, made a wide move to get near the front, and then leveled off. He improved in the Louisiana Champions Day Juvenile two weeks later, recovering from another slow start. He’s progressing well, and runs consistent races. He could be dangerous if he can break his bad habits at the gate.
Race 3: 4-3-6 (Turf) / 4-5-6 (Dirt)
On either surface, I’ll take Arm Candy (4) on top. She showed promise on grass when she finished 4th to Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf winner Aunt Pearl in the Jessamine. She had a miserable trip in the stretch here in her next start, where she was blocked throughout the majority of the stretch. She did finish well once she got free, albeit way too late to have an impact on the race. She showed she could be competitive on the main track as well finishing a decent third in her last outing that was taken off the grass. I’m making her my best bet if the race is on the grass, as I think she’ll go off around her morning line, and I think she’s much better than her last turf race. On the main track, I think her price will be lower (especially because I think the field will be smaller), but I think she becomes the most likely winner on the card. Killer Dress (3) is going to be the one they’ll have to catch on the front end. The blinkers are coming off Risky Reward (6) in hopes of getting her to settle, so I’m not sure she’ll be fighting for the early lead. Killer Dress paired her first two Beyers on grass, so I think a forward move can be expected. Risky Reward is stretching out from sprints, and has two turn pedigree. If she’s able to rebound from her last start, I think she can be a factor. If the race comes off, swap Spun d’Etat (5) into the second position. Her last two have been disappointing, but this will be a much softer group than she has been facing if the race comes off the turf. A little leftover moisture in the track probably isn’t a bad thing for her as well.
Race 4: 2-8-4
I didn’t catch it until I had finished handicapping the race, but I’m advocating the Star Guitar trifecta for this state bred claiming contest, as he’s the sire for my top three picks. Available Star (2) looks very tough, as he has been improving in each of his five career starts. The Broberg barn has been cold at this meet thus far, but they got a win in the nightcap yesterday, which could indicate that they’re turning things around. The only question mark will be if he can get the distance, but his pedigree and his previous efforts suggest that he’ll pass that test. Guitar King (8) was second at this level two starts ago and faded to 6th last out against better horses. He’s been in better form of late, and could benefit from a track surface that is less than fast. MVP Mookie (4) had a wide trip, but still ran well against restricted claimers last out. He returns to state bred company in decent form and should sit a better trip today.
Race 5: 4-6-10 (Turf) / 10-12-5 (Dirt)
This is the fourth of five races on the Saturday card restricted to Louisiana breds. On the grass, the favorites look pretty tough, as Mangelsen (6) got the better of Guitar Tribute (4) last time out, in a race with the same conditions. Guitar Tribute was wide the entire trip that day, and still came within less than two lengths of Mangelsen, who dictated the tempo and had the run of the race. Mangelsen is still the best speed horse in the race, but there are some horses that could definitely force the issue, potentially creating a more favorable scenario for Guitar Tribute to run them down late. Imindycatbirdseat (10) is a player on the grass or on the main track, as he’s had success on both surfaces. He’s a winner at the condition already back in September on turf and also previously on dirt at Evangeline, and he’s dropping back in for the tag again. Freedomfi (12) is the main track only entrant that will be on the outside, but I doubt he’d be in post 13 if this race does come off the grass, as I’m sure there will be some defections. He’s coming off a win for a $12,500 tag on January 2nd, and now he starts for the Faucheux barn for the first time. Also upgrade Maga Man (5) on the main track. It’s been a little while since he last found the Winner’s Circle, but that did come at this track. This race will be a significant drop in class for him, especially if it comes off the grass.
Race 6: 7-3-1
We have an interesting N2L claiming race where six of the seven horses are coming off a maiden win in their last start, and many of them took a significant step forward in their last race to get that first win. Caviar Resolution (7) is the only horse in the field that broke their maiden at first asking, and he did so after recovering from a slow start, and then drawing away in the stretch after making up double digit lengths on the pacesetters. She probably got a pretty good education in her first start, and could be more effective with a clean break. Easy To Bless (3) is the only horse in here to have faced winners, and she was overmatched doing so while trying the turf for the first time. She’s back on the main track and back against more reasonable competition for her current ability level. Diamond Lily (1) has hit the board in four of her last five starts, finally breaking through to get the maiden victory last time out. Her only dull effort in that series was in the slop, and even that start wasn’t awful.
Race 7: 7-10-5 (Turf) / 7-3-6 (Dirt)
The late Pick 4 opens with back to back maiden special weight races with some solid runners in both. If this race stays on the grass, you could build a case for many runners. I’ll try a bit of a price with Absam (7) who started 2020 in the Chad Brown barn, running two races on the grass. He moved to the Mike Maker barn and returned to the races in November with two decent efforts on the main track. I think Maker wants to try this one back on the grass, but I’ll think he’d also be okay if the weather caused this race to be run on the main track. Defied (10) moved to the Conor Murphy barn and immediately took a big step forward in his first try on the grass. He’s well bred, so there’s reason to believe he can improve off that last try. Summer Palace (5) will be the deserving favorite if this race stays on the grass. However, he’s burned win players at short odds in his last two races. It wouldn’t be a surprise if he won, but that’s not the kind of horse I love hammering on top at low odds. Upgrade Moliere (3) on the main track, as he’s only started on dirt in his three tries. His debut at Ellis was solid and I think he will appreciate returning to two turn racing. Citizen West (6) is the wild card in here on either surface. He put up a monster speed figure at Aqueduct last out on the main track. He was originally a $450,000 purchase, but he appears to be have been sold privately to Louie Roussel. The move to turf off his last is a little perplexing, but he’s playable on dirt. He’s one to watch in the paddock and on the track for any clues about how he might perform.
Race 8: 4-2-5
This race appears to be a showdown between two very well bred horses that both have high ceilings. I’ll take Gold Double (4) over Kentucky Summer (2), but I’d use both on Pick 4 and Pick 5 tickets. Gold Double was very game in his debut, finishing a strong third while earning a solid speed figure for his debut. He’s sired by Medaglia d’Oro, so two turns is probably where he will excel, but he hasn’t done it yet. Kentucky Summer (2) makes his first start in almost exactly one year after closing well in the mud at Oaklawn last time to be third. He too, has a distance pedigree, being sired by Tapit. He has clearly had some issues staying right though, as he’s only had three starts since debuting in August 2019. He was a half million dollar purchase, so there are expectations that he can run. Treasury (5) might be the best of the rest as he’s making his first start after being claimed for $40K at Churchill last out. This will be his first try at two turns as well, but he has more upside than the rest of the field.
Race 9: 6-10-2 Turf / 9-11-3 Dirt
This afternoon’s featured allowance will be all about trips, as there are several evenly matched contenders. I think Flashing Red (6) is able to adapt to multiple pace scenarios as she can win gate to wire or rate from off the pace as she did last time out to clear the N1X condition. She moves up in class, but she been much more successful since Tom Morley claimed her and turned her into a turf horse. Alfie (10) is a stakes placed seven year old mare that has won at this condition in the past, so she’s in here for the $40K tag. She didn’t have the easiest journey in the Blushing KD last time out, so the drop in class should be beneficial. Ylikedis (2) is an improving four year old filly who was beaten less than two lengths at this condition two starts ago. She was 6th, beaten less than three lengths in the Pago Hop last time out, going off at 36-1. She’s back to optional claiming/allowance company and it’s not uncommon to see four year olds start to run bigger races on grass at this time of year. On main track, Dreamalildreamofu (9), definitely moves up. She’s not without a chance on the grass either, but she’s shown more dirt ability than the majority of the field, and this would be a good spot to make her first start in five months. Singita Dreams (11) is the lone main track only entrant, and she’s playable assuming she can rebound off a dismal effort in stakes company last month. She won in an off the turf race at this condition three back at Churchill, but was disqualified, so she’s eligible to be in here without the claiming tag. West Bank Baby (3) was claimed two starts back, and she beat N1X foes in her first start for Tom Amoss. She’s been off for two months, and it looks like Amoss would like to try her on the grass. She’s never been this far, but her pedigree suggests she can get two turns.
Race 10: 9-5-8
State bred maiden claiming races bookend the Saturday card, with this one being offered at two turns. I would want as much coverage in this race as possible if I were holding a live Pick 4 or 5 ticket. I’m not in love with the two favorites, so I’ll take a swing with Justin’smemories (9). He faced open maiden claiming foes two starts ago in his second career try, and had a rough trip, but still ran a speed figure that isn’t too far off what he’ll need to win this race. He moved up in class to face state bred maiden special weight company on the grass, and he threw the rider at the break. He drops and tries a two turn race on the dirt. He’s probably the most interesting of the horses with double digit morning line odds. Nocomet (5) has speed, which has been a valuable asset on this course. He’s the lukewarm morning line favorite, as he’s been close at two turns with similar company. He struggles to finish though, and I wouldn’t be surprised if someone caught him late. Mr. Old Hat (8) is a lightly raced seven year old maiden, making only his 6th career start. He was third at this level in a sprint last out and certainly could have a shot at two turns. You just wonder how high his ceiling can be at the age of seven.