It should be a beautiful day in New Orleans and there are 10 races on tap for your Saturday entertainment. There’s no stakes races this weekend, but some solid maiden and allowance races. Some of the races feel like they could be pretty chalky, but others are absolutely wide open with many potential opportunities to find great value. Good luck to everyone playing on this last weekend in January!
Best Bet on the Card: Race 1, Big Nick (#5, 7-2 ML)
Most Likely Winner: Race 2, All Fact (#3, 4-5 ML)
Race 1: 5-4-3
The Saturday opener is a maiden claiming contest with seven runners. Directional (1) from the Asmussen barn and Loving Lucky (2) from the Cox barn are given a decent amount of respect on the morning line. I can forgive Directional’s stumble, causing him to lose the rider last out, but his form before that was not good. Loving Lucky was purchased for $140,000, debuted for a $50K, and ran up the track. I’m going to play against both, and use Big Nick (5) on top after a solid effort in his debut with $30k maiden claimers. He stretches out to two turns, which, based on his pedigree, shouldn’t be an issue. Since that race, he has two sharp AM drills and looks ready to graduate. I think the presence of the horses from the top barns might keep his odds at or above fair market value. His morning line is 7-2, and I’ll play him at or above 5-2. Double Tough Tiger (4) has been improving over his five starts, while dropping in class. His lone two turn effort at Churchill wasn’t that bad in an off the turf maiden allowance. Birthday Party (3) was dull on debut at Churchill, and improved a bit while dropping to a two turn maiden claiming race. He moves to the Louie Roussel barn in what appears to be a private purchase, and has been working steadily for his return.
Race 2: 3-7-4
All Fact (3) has been dominating at the Optional Claiming/Starter Allowance condition in the last few starts, and it looks like she can do that for a while if they want to. She just missed in a sprint three starts ago, but she’s been a revelation while routing on turf. She won her last race by 4 ½ lengths and her previous race by 6 ¾ lengths. It’s hard to envision her losing at this level right now. Barbess (7) has shown some ability on the grass in the past. She was soundly defeated by All Fact last out after she encountered some trouble on the first turn. She didn’t look comfortable over the good ground, and may improve while getting on a firmer course this afternoon. Miss Brookside (4) should get an honest pace to close into here. She improved to be 5th in the same race that the top two choices came out of last time. There is less depth to this field and she is in her third race off the layoff, so she may be sitting on a better effort. I also like the she reunites with James Graham who continues to ride well at this meet.
Race 3: 3-1-6-1A
Much like the previous race, this race feels like chalky to me as all signs point to Aimara (3) who has been solid in her last three races at this distance on the main track here at the Fair Grounds. She is sired by Karakontie, so it’s no surprise that she spent her first five starts on the grass, but she has improved on the main track. She drops and finds a very soft field for the condition. Lemon Chill (1) is the main danger, and when you bet here, you also get the horse that looks like the third best horse in this race with Cold Hearted Wench (1A). Lemon Chill drops in class and was a few lengths behind Aimara last time with a few trouble lines. She’s only 1-16, with 6 more on the board finishes, so I feel she’s more apt to be in the money than in the Winner’s Circle. Bet Your Bankroll (6) appears to have the most upside of the longshots in this field. She tried the grass and two turns for the first time last out and had a very wide journey. She appears better suited for the dirt and may move forward some while moving to a two-turn route.
Race 4: 5-6-4
It’s a state bred maiden special contest on the grass with very little turf form to go off of. Fifty Protection (3) has never been off the board, but all three of those starts were on the main track. He’s the morning line favorite, but he’s never been on the grass and his pedigree doesn’t scream turf. I’ll try to beat him with Smittys Patriarch (5) making his second career start after blazing to the front in his debut on the main track and then stopping badly. His sire Custom For Carlos can throw some turf sprinters, as he was sired by More Than Ready. Both Stonecatcher (6) and Apache Tears (4) debuted on 12/28 and both had bad breaks that took them out of the race early. Stonecatcher showed a little more interest and gets blinkers for the first time to help him get into the race a little earlier. Apache Tears has the better pedigree, and could move forward after an educational debut.
Race 5: 5-8-3
This is another spot where I’m looking to beat the favorite, in hopes to add a little juice to a Pick 4/5 sequence that has some seemingly chalky legs. Make’n Tracks (9) ran well with a rail draw last out at this level, but now is slotted outside and I’m not convinced that he’s good enough to overcome that. I’ll roll the dice with Easy To Miss (5) making his second start of the layoff. He was a decent 4th in a sprint at this level on 1/15, and now he stretches out. His best career speed figure came against significantly better horses in his only two turn try. He could be overlooked in this spot. Maga Country (8) blew the break in a sprint in the slop and never recovered last time out. He’s been more competitive in his two turn races as he makes his first start off the Eduardo Rodriguez claim. Pharoah’s Kitten (3) faced a superior horse in Dreaming of Carats last out, who threw down the gauntlet early, and held clear late, winning by 7 ¼ lengths. Pharoah’s Kitten was beaten 10 that day, but was still game. He drops after showing a little more interest on dirt than turf, despite being sired by Kitten’s Joy.
Race 6: 2-7-8
Maiden claimers take to the turf in the start of the late Pick 5. Fiat Lux (2) tried the grass for the first time last out and ran a credible third while doing the dirty work on the front end on a good course. If Marcelino Pedroza is able to ration his speed on a firm course, in his second try on the grass, he could be tough to pass. Summer Tune (7) will probably never see another race on the main track after his last two debacles, losing by a combined total of almost 80 lengths. He’s been much more competitive on the grass as he drops to an easier class level. News Break (8) just missed to his stablemate, Beachcombing, last out, and finished three lengths in front of Fiat Lux. He’ll be tough to beat if he’s able to build off that effort. I do feel that he’ll be bet down under his 3-1 morning line, and I’m not sure how much value he’ll offer.
Race 7: 4-9-3
There’s a lot of expensive, well-bred horses in this maiden special weight contest, but it’s hard to look past the Godolphin second time starter, Colonel Bowman (4). He was very professional in his debut, finishing a game second to Defeater. Brad Cox’s horses usually improve after their debut, and I would expect no different from this son of Curlin, who will likely be bet way down below his 5-2 morning line. Tulane Tryst (9) is the most interesting of the first time starters to me. Cherie DeVaux has this son of Into Mischief working well and he should benefit from the outside post for his debut. Screenplay (3) is the most expensive purchase in the field, costing his owners $490,000. His dam is Miss Catomine who was a foal of Breeders Cup Juvenile Fillies winner, Sweet Catomine. He’s been working steadily for Dallas Stewart, but he might need a race or two to find his best stride.
Race 8: 3-2-9
Trident Hit (3) gets the call in an evenly matched optional claiming/N1X contest. I like him turning back to a two turn route, after racing in one turn races in his last two tries. Two starts ago, he was beaten by an up and coming stakes winner in Silver State, who just won the Fifth Season at Oaklawn last Saturday. I think he’ll be closing well in this race. Extraordinary (2) just missed at these conditions on 1/6, making the front in the stretch, just to be passed in the final stages. He’s a $750,000 purchase, so there’s always been expectations. He was well bet, going off at 9-2 in the Indiana Derby back in July, and he’s starting to round back into that top form. Glory Road (9) will need to work out a trip from post nine, but he’s shown ability, and was only three lengths behind Extraordinary last out.
Race 9: 1-4-9
Many of these fillies are mares are quite familiar with each other in the Optional Claiming/N2X allowance feature for distaff turf sprinters. Dance Rhythms (1) has been knocking on the door at the N2X level in these sprints, and I think this may be the spot where she can break through. She’s been up against seasoned foes like Into Mystic, Elle Z, and Jakarta in her recent starts and she’s held her own. She should be ensured an honest pace to close into with the presence of her stablemate, Yes It’s Ginger (1A). Originator (4) moves into the Tom Amoss barn and makes her first start since October. She’s been right there in her last four tries, winning two of them. In Good Spirits (9) has the most upside in the bunch, running solid efforts behind Sharing and Harvey’s Lil Goil earlier last year. She just missed in the Pago Hop, but now cuts back to a sprint, which I’m not sure will be her game. Others are a little quicker early, and she likes to be on the lead. I think she’s definitely live, and I’ll use her, but I have some reservations about the cut back in distance, especially at a short price.
Race 10: 6-11-7
It’s a full field finale for state bred optional claiming/N2X allowance rivals. Win Ya Win (6) was a beaten favorite at this level last out, going off at 3-5, losing in a hard fought photo. He’s shown the ability to win wire to wire or to sit off the pace and close, which may be the right strategy for this logjam. Zelig (11) took a big step forward to be third, right behind Win Ya Win last out. He’s third off the layoff and in very good form right now. Charge The Line (7) may be a bounce candidate, after posting a huge figure while decimating a state bred claiming field last out. However, he has showed ability to run some big races and back them up at this level in the past. He has hit the board in 12 of 16 times on this oval, so it’s safe to say New Orleans fits him well.