There are nine races on the Friday afternoon card, with a tremendous feature race in the nightcap for three year old fillies. There are a few that might have their eyes on the Fair Grounds Oaks here next month. The skies opened up yesterday, dumping a lot of rain in the area, enough to cancel the card before any racing action commenced. I’d be surprised if they were back on the turf today, but I’ll still handicap for both surfaces.
Best Bet: Race 7: Mucho Macho Momma (#5, 6-1 ML)
Most Likely Winner: Race 2: Laddie Boy (#11, 7-2 ML, Dirt Only)
Rae 1: 1-4-6
The opener starts the same way yesterday’s card ended, with state bred $10,000 maiden claimers, this one for fillies and mares. Kittenofthecourt (1) drops to maiden claiming after a dull effort with maiden special weight company last time out. Perhaps she didn’t appreciate the slop that day, as her debut showed that she’s better than that effort. Lil Bad Lil Boujee (4) had trouble at the break last out and was forced wide before retreating badly in a sprint. She showed enough at this level to think that she might be competitive at two turns. Looking Hot (6) is one of a few that have two turn experience. Her last was definitely her best start to date.
Race 2: 3-1-2 (Turf) / 11-5-4 (Dirt)
On the grass, I’m looking for distance specialist, Just Blaze (3) to turn the tables on Channel Won (2), who held on to win in a narrow photo last out. Just Blaze is 8-21 at the distance on turf, and looks to be rounding back in to the better form that he showed last winter. Leading riding James Graham had the mount when he was 26-1 last time and keeps the mount today. Freedom Factor (1) exits the same race where he took the short end of the three horse photo at the wire. He was overlooked as he was trying sprinting for the first time on the grass that day. He ran well and may have found his new niche. Channel Won (2) was a bit of a suspect drop and was claimed while winning last out. He’ll be well backed at the windows again, but there’s value elsewhere. On the main track, there should be a good battle between Laddie Boy (11), who is the lone MTO entrant in the field, and Rock Me (5) who has two straight wins on the course against lesser foes. I’ll give the edge to Laddie Boy as he has been in the money 12 of 13 times on an off track. Warrior’s Gem (4) could be the most likely benefactor if the top two picks duel themselves into submission.
Race 3: 5-10-9
Our Starlet (5) broke her maiden here last out and has shown improvement in her last two starts. She moves up to face winners, but isn’t facing the saltiest bunch for the condition. Crypto Brave (10) faced winners for the first time last time after an open length win two starts ago, with $10,000 maiden claimers. She drops in class and should benefit from the outside post here. Beautifulandwild (9) is the only horse that has shown an ability to come from off the pace. She should get a lively pace as many of these are speed and fade types. She’ll have to step up from her last, but she does have two decent works in between starts.
Race 4: 1a-6-8 (Turf) / 1-3-8 (Dirt)
Regardless of surface, Winalot Racing seems to have the advantage here. On turf, Ripittotheright (1A) has easily cleared the first two conditions, and seems to have a dramatic advantage over the rest of the field. I’d prefer to see him in a N1X allowance, but he’s still moving up a condition in N3L with the same $20,000 tag. Richie Gary (6) is better on the grass than on the dirt, and drops to easier state bred competition after facing open claimers the last several tries on turf. His dirt form is weak, so he may be undervalued here. Standing Man (8) is an underneath play on either surface. He was good enough this summer on the grass to contend for a minor award here. He was a decent third in the slop last out when his last race was taken off the turf. On dirt, I prefer Bayou Jam (1) on top as he has run well here with state bred company after spending the summer in the Mid-Atlantic region. Heza Priority (3) ships in from Delta. While his form is good sprinting, he’s a bit of a question stretching out to the mile. However, I still think he’s playable.
Race 5: 5-2-3
I think both favorites are vulnerable in this spot, as they come with enough question marks to make me look elsewhere. I’ll try Mister K (5) who was second at this level last month. He was sharp this fall in Kentucky, and he looks like he’s rounding back into his best form. Wandering West (2) came out of the same race and finished 8th, but only 5 lengths from the front. He had some issues at the start and was forced to go pretty wide that day. He’s now is second off the layoff, and always runs a competitive race. On Your Mark (3) has earned the bump up in class after soundly beating $30,000 N2L claimers last time out. His last three efforts have been the best of his 8 race career thus far.
Race 6: 2-5-3 (Turf) / 9-10-8 (Dirt)
Lookin for Loki (2) had rail positon, and outgamed Field Day (5) at this level last time out and I think he can do it again if this race stays on the grass. His three turf starts have been very good, and he handled the rise in class last time like a pro. Since he was in for the tag last time, he can be entered back the same level, but protected under the N1X allowance condition. Field Day is all about the early speed, falling just short last time out. I imagine he’ll be there until the end again this time. Game Day Play (3) is a bit intriguing if he does get to try the grass. He was a stakes winner at Remington this fall and he took his shot on the Derby Trail in the Lecomte. He cuts back to sprinting after failing last out, and progeny of Violence have held their own on the grass. He’ll have to be faster than he’s been, but I think he’s a playable longshot on grass. On dirt, morning line favorite Unitedandresolute (9) stands a better chance in my opinion. He’s never been off the board in 8 tries, but he finally broke through to get that elusive maiden score. I think that’s a big confidence builder for him. AC Expressway (10) has one really good race sprinting, sandwiched in between two lousy efforts at two turns. I think it’s safe to say that one racing will be his game for now, despite a pedigree that suggests otherwise. Crime Spree (8) was a decent 4th in the Sugar Bowl two back, but flattened out with allowance company last time. If this race goes off the turf, it will seem like class relief for him.
Race 7: 5-7-6
I love the progression I’m seeing from Mucho Macho Momma (5) in her first four races while sprinting. I liked her effort finishing third here on New Year’s Day. She comes back and stretches out to a route after being given a nice foundation by Stewart. I think she’ll continue to improve at longer distances and she will graduate today. Closet Shopper (7) exits a maiden special weight race where Li’l Tootsie (See Race 9) dominated the field on Lecomte Day last month. She was a beaten third that day, but as a daughter of Tapit, she, too, should appreciate the stretch out this time. Pauline’s Pearl (6) makes her third start and her second at two turns. She was a little flat, despite finishing third that day. I’m not sure if Asmussen considers her in his top flight, as she didn’t join his Arkansas string. However, she is beautifully bred and coming off a decent try.
Race 8: 9-14-6 (Turf) / 9-12-8 (Dirt)
When the rail is at 0 feet, Fair Grounds cards these 14 horse turf races that are great for bettors if you can connect. Irish Bayou (9) is my play on either surface as he’s had two solid starts on each surface. His debut came on grass and was beaten by a few of these that day, but I thought it was a useful debut, where he proved he can run on grass. He just missed last out this level in an off the turf contest in the slop. I think he’s a steady Louisiana bred that has a post edge over the some of the favorites here. Musta Got Lost (14) starts near the parking lot here, but he carved out a decent trip from a wide post last time in his turf debut. Florent Geroux, who has won with 28% of his mounts at the meet, is back in town for the weekend to pick up the mount for Cox. Bitsy’s Other Half (6) wants to be forwardly placed, which is probably a decent strategy among a large field. He has some gaps in his starts, which is a bit concerning, but I like both of his turf efforts. On the main track, I’ll upgrade Your Time’s Coming (12) who will take money if this race goes on the turf, as his last two turf efforts have been decent. His pedigree suggests that dirt should be where he runs better, but his only start on dirt in his debut was a bit dull. I’ll gamble that’s he’s improved since his debut and can run a solid dirt race here. Kamara Vision (8) is a notch below the top horses here on the turf, but he’s been improving for the red hot Faucheux barn. I think he can compete with whatever is left of this field on the main track.
Race 9: 7-5-11
This is a really good optional $50,000 claiming/N1X allowance race that could easily produce a starter or two for the Fair Grounds Oaks next month. I landed on Sister Annie (7) from the Brad Cox barn after a strong maiden victory last month at this distance. She took a big step forward that day and handily beat a decent maiden field. If Pauline’s Pearl runs well in the 7th, I think that only upgrades her today. Big Time (5) is an undefeated Louisiana bred taking deserved swing against open company. All three starts have come sprinting, including two wins against state bred stakes company. The distance is a question mark, but I liked the tenacity she showed last out. We also know she can handle an off track. Li’l Tootsie (11) may have been the most impressive three year old that ran on the Lecomte Day card, decimating a good maiden field while sprinting. Her pedigree definitely suggests she can improve with added distance, but this is a tough post for her first two turn journey. I’m excitied to see her run, but she’ll be a short priced horse that has a lot to prove.