Fair Grounds Racing Preview – 2/11/21 – By Eric Solomon

It’s a big week in New Orleans, with the Risen Star card on Saturday, and special Monday and Tuesday cards later in the week. The weather forecast isn’t the greatest at the moment, so I’ll handicap for both surfaces. Today’s nine race card features a strong optional claiming/allowance feature which will be run as Race 7.

Best Bet: Race 7: Olliemyboy (#6, 9-2 ML)

Most Likely Winner: Race 5: Flags Up (#1, 5-2 ML)

Best Price Stab: Race 8: Fortheloveoflydia (#2, 20-1 ML, Turf Only)

Race 1: 1-2-5

I’m not in love with the favorites in the opener, so I’m siding with two 8-1 shots on top, in hopes they’ll be able to rebound off poor efforts in their latest starts. Chambliss (1) faltered in the mud last out, and while there is a chance he could have to deal with the mud again today, I still think he can do better. He drew near the outside and was forced four wide in the first turn, which is never ideal on this track. He draws the rail today and should be more forwardly placed in the early stages of this one. Eatorbeeaten (2) exits the same race and also ran poorly. He had to contest with a superior horse in Available Star that day, who had rail position and the same front running style. He was hard pressed, chasing him around the course, after taking a hard bump in the first few strides. He should face less competition for early position today, which should help him rebound and last longer in the stretch. Silver King (5) plummets to the $5,000 claiming level after being beaten double digits in his three attempts. If he can find he form that he showed at Evangeline this summer, he’ll be very tough to deal with today.

Race 2: 3-5-4 (Turf) / 6-10-7 (Dirt)

It’s hard to look past Alliaceous (3) dropping out of stakes company and into the optional claiming/N2X allowance ranks. She’s been a game 4th in her last two stakes tries on the grass and is in better current form than the majority of the field. Marywood (5) cleared this condition last March and is back at this level for the tag today. She was claimed by Ron Faucheux, who’s right in the thick of the race for the trainer title, against national trainers Cox and Amoss. She’ll be the pacesetter in this race and will be hard to pass if she isn’t pressed too hard on the lead. Fort Polk (4) has had trouble finding a race that will stay on the turf, and she might have that problem again today. Her grass efforts are generally better than her dirt races. Removing the blinkers suggests she’s comfortable rating of the lead. On the main track, Money Well Spent (6) has been good in her last two, one on turf and one on dirt. I think she’s capable on the grass, but I think she’ll be more of a threat on the dirt. Bellamy Cay (10), the lone MTO entrant here, made her first start in five months here last month. She was dull in a sprint, but should move forward at two turns in her second try off the layoff. Delta invader Storied Trip (7) has been good in her last three dirt races, and has never been off the board on a wet track.

Race 3: 2-4-6

There’s a lot of recent turf form in this race, despite it going on the main track. Bonita Springs (2) has raced on the lawn in her last four tries, and in 30 of 45 career starts. However, she is capable on the main track, and I don’t think she’d be disappointed with a course that’s less than fast. She’s in the best overall form of anyone in this race. Big Red Rose (4) closed well to get third at this level last out when she made her first start since August. She’s a player if she’s able to duplicate her last effort. Limeage (6) is making her third start off the layoff today, after running two of her slower races in her first two tries at the track. She improved last time, and could sit a good trip if she’s able to sit just off As Fast as You Can (5), who might be better suited to sprinting to the dirt.

Race 4: 2-1-5 (Turf) / 5-9-2 (Dirt)

On the grass, if you believe Uncapped (2) can get back to his better turf form that he showed this summer, he’s probably the horse that will offer the best value here. His two dirt starts have been dull this meet, but his turf efforts with better horses this summer put him in the hunt at this level. Doodle Time (1) showed improvement in his first local start in similar conditions and has been in the hunt in his last three starts on the grass. I think he’s a sneaky horse in this race, who will likely go off at or over his 8-1 morning line odds. Justinthenickoftime (5) has been very good on the main track in his last two tries, but he also has shown turf ability in the past. He just missed at this level on the grass back in December. I’ll move him to the top of the ticket if this race gets moved to the main track. Spycraft (9) will take money on the grass, coming from the Brad Cox barn and finishing a close second at this level in his turf debut last time. However, he had a very easy trip that day, and now draws outside. I’ll try to beat him on turf, but his dirt form is better than most in here.

Race 5: 1-7-5

Flags Up (1) finished first with $25,000-$20,000 maiden claimers a few weeks ago, but was disqualified for a bumping incident the stretch that day. His three sprints are decent enough with his only awful race coming at two turns. He’s got the best early speed and a rail draw, which only helps his cause. Filippo (7) is the new face here, making his second career start for a new barn after a dull effort with maiden special weight foes at Churchill. His last few works have been decent, signaling that he might be ready to run well off the layoff today. Saint Goar (5) put up a big figure in his second career start with $15,000-$10,000 maiden claimers last out. He moves up in class and the Duhon/Riquelme connection has been hot over the last week or so. If he can duplicate his last, he will be tough.

Race 6: 10-6-1 (Turf) / 6-13-9 (Dirt)

This is a pretty wide open race on either surface. I’m not in love with favorites on the grass, so I’ll go price hunting. There’s not a ton of early speed in here and Biarritz (10) showed a lot of ability in his lone turf sprint, where he broke his maiden at Arlington. Since that race, he ran in two off the turf races and a route on the grass, where he faded late. He’s back sprinting and looks like he’ll offer decent value today. Takafumi (6) is an interesting candidate on either surface. He has some good synthetic efforts, but has never been on the main track. He was claimed after running a decent second on the dirt last out, and makes the move the turf, which based on his pedigree, could be an agreeable decision. His last three dirt tries have been good enough to play him if the race comes off the turf. O’L Red (1) had trouble at the start last time out and never got to run his race. He likes to be forwardly placed, and showed a lot of ability this summer at Evangeline, when sprinting on the grass. I think he’s a rebound candidate, especially if he’s overlooked in the wagering. On the main track, Laddie Boy (13) is the one that want from the MTO list here. He was 7th, beaten less than 4 lengths last out with a significant trouble line. He’s been in the money in 6 of his last 8 tries. Picasso (9) doesn’t strike me as turf sprinter, but his sprinting form on dirt is good enough to contend at this level, if he’s ready to fire off the layoff.

Race 7: 6-4-2

This $40,000 Optional claiming/N2X allowance level of competition has been very competitive at this meet this year. Brad Cox sends out the ML favorite, Cowboy Diplomacy (3), who I’m trying to beat as he’s struggled to put two big efforts together in a row. Olliemyboy (6) takes a big step up in class after clearing the N1X condition in an off the turf race here last time out. However, that was an impressive performance in only his second career start on dirt. He sat off a slow pace, and powered away in the stretch to win by over four lengths. He was running well enough on synthetic, and was regarded enough to take a run in the Queen’s Plate this fall. He may have found a home on dirt though, and will be very tough if he can run back to his last try, Locally Owned (4) cleared this condition three starts ago at Churchill, so he enters this spot, in the for the $40,000 tag. His last two haven’t been great, but they were against strong fields. If he can run back to his summer form, he will be a tough customer in this spot. Plus Que Parfait (2) hasn’t won a North American race since October of 2018 and hasn’t won since winning in Dubai almost two whole years ago. He’s been in decent form of late, but was no match for Enforceable, who was absolutely dominating last out (and entered in the G3 Mineshaft on Saturday). He’s tough to take on top anywhere near his 7-2 odds, but he’s a likely exotics candidate.

Race 8: 11-2-12 (Turf) / 13-10-3 (Dirt)

This is quite the puzzle of a race on either surface. Do note than all four first time starters on the AE list are intriguing and should be worth paying attention to if they draw in. Of all the first timers though, I like Ursulina (11) if the race stays on the grass. She has some decent works that make me think she’ll be quick away from the gate in this turf sprint. More Than Ready is a great turf sire and the Stall barn is capable of winning with horses in their debut. Fortheloveoflydia (2) is an intriguing 20-1 longshot that should definitely move forward on the grass. She debuted in a strong maiden special weight on the dirt at Delaware Park in September, and faded after going 6 wide on the turn. The Robertson barn is good off the layoff, so l’m looking forward to playing her on grass either today or in the near future. Arbitrary (12) showed a little zip and then faded in a very fast maiden special weight contest on Lecomte Day (The winner earned an 89 Beyer figure). I like the move to the grass for this one, along with the addition of blinkers and the outward draw. On the main track, I think first time starter, Shockingly (13) has the advantage. She has good works and looks to be better suited to a dirt sprint. Both Paysonatheplate (10) and Sparkle Of Hope (3) debuted on dirt in their first starts, beaten double digits. They both improved on the grass in their second start, but looking at their pedigrees, I think both should be able to factor in here on dirt. Paysonattheplate, being sired by Exaggerator, would probably move up in the mud or slop.

Race 9: 7-9-6

It’s tough to love anyone in the nightcap, as the recent form is tough to take. I’ll try a pair of sons of Court Vision on top. Joeboy (7) debuted with better last out in a sprint, and faded badly. I’ll hope for improvement in his second start, while stretching out. Bassett (9) stretches out, but comes with two turn experience, coming in from Delta. Deville wins at a 20% clip with horses joining his barn for the first time. Mucho Macho (6) debuted at this level and was hard to handle in that start. His pedigree suggests that two turns will be in play, so there is a chance he could improve.

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