It’s Mardi Gras Day in New Orleans and the Fair Grounds has carded a strong, nine race holiday program today. However, it has to be one of the coldest days for Mardi Gras in recent memory, as sub-freezing temperatures rolled in overnight after another wet day yesterday. The track is listed as fast, but there will be no turf racing this afternoon. Hopefully, with a few dry days coming up, they can get back on the grass later in the week. My picks today have been adjusted for scratches and surface changes as of 11:30 Eastern Time.
Most Likely Winner: Race 5: Save (#5, 3-1 ML)
Best Bet: Race 2: Hong Kong Strong (#2, 4-1 ML)
Race 1: 6-10-8
It’s always tricky with these long distance races to guess who will and won’t get the distance. Zanesville (6) is very logical on either surface, as he’s run three sharp efforts in a row. He won at 12 Furlongs on the turf at Kentucky Downs this fall, and has won 5 of his last 7 races overall, three of which came on the main track. Cap Rock Miner (10) is one of two MTO horses, and he’s likely going to set the tempo in this spot. He’s never gone this far before, but being sired by Mineshaft, you’d think he’d be able to keep finding. Yeowzer (8) is not currently in the best form, most recently finishing 6th with lesser foes at Delta. However, he has shown the ability to stay on at longer distances, so there is a chance for a wake up as others start to back out of the picture.
Race 2: 2-6-3
Hong Kong Strong (2) drops in class and returns after a rough start at Delta, going two turns for the 6 and ½ Furlong distance there. She showed a little zip before fading in his debut on this oval. I think she’ll rebound to a beat weak group for this level. G’s A Looker (6) makes sense in here, especially with a few key scratches. She’s paired her last two Beyers at this level and seems to be headed in the right direction. Miss Laughalot (3) was one that I was trying to beat, but two of the horses I liked better scratched, so this spot gets a little easier for her. She debuted for Amoss at this $12,500 maiden claiming level, despite being purchased for $82,000 in November 2018. She may improve in this start, and that may be enough to make an impact with this group, but I’m not seeing a ton of confidence from her barn here.
Race 3: 1-5-6
The featured optional claiming allowance race is a tricky puzzle here. I ended up on Coltonator (1) who cleared the N1X condition here last month. He’ll have to prove that he can put together two big efforts in a row, but I think he’ll get a good setup here as there are three or four that want to go hard early here. Tringale (5) was beaten four at this level here in December against a significantly better field for the condition. He’s now in his third race off the layoff, so I think he’ll be ready to fire a better effort. He wasn’t won since July of 2019 though. Hold Me Black (6) was claimed at a similar level at Laurel in November and now makes his first start for the Matt Shirer barn. He likes the course, finishing on the board in 8 or 10. His last two have been subpar, so I’m not 100% sure what version of him will show today.
Race 4: 8-15-11
Despite this race being carded for turf, several in here have some solid dirt form, so I was surprised there were so many defections, as this overflow field of 16 is down to 9. I think it’s still a solid betting race with some different options to consider. Let’s try Impressive Student (8) making the first start off the Broberg claim. He was beaten by next out winner Maga Man last time out with straight state bred claimers. His last two dirt efforts fit this field nicely, and he’s scored in off the turf spots before. He has some back class, and these are the kind of horses that tend to move up when trained by a good claiming trainer like Broberg. City Park (15) is the lone MTO here and he now draws in at post 9, which is a lot better than where I thought he’d be starting. He is getting some form of class relief, facing off the turf horses at this level instead of straight dirt horses. He’s hit the board in his last two starts against some solid fields. Guitar Tribute (11) is probably a little better on the grass, but he holds his own when he’s on the main track. He’s been in the money in his last four starts that’s he competed in where the race was carded for turf but switched to the main track.
Race 5: 5-6-4
It’s hard to look past Save (5) in this spot for Tom Amoss. She was a strong maiden winner on New Year’s Day, scoring in her debut. She draws a pretty soft field for the N1X condition. If she matches her last effort, she’ll be an open lengths winner here. Taylor’s Tourist (6) was one of the more impressive maiden winners at the Evangeline meet this summer, winning her debut by 9+ on the main track. She tried turf twice and was second in the Untapable at Kentucky Downs, and 7th in the Jessamine behind Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf winner Aunt Pearl. I thought she was live in the Songbird at 12-1 on the Breeders’ Cup undercard, but she has a rough trip that day. Since then, her last two have been disastrous, where she has gone way off form. Scratches here bring this to a field of five, so perhaps she can get back on the track at this level today. Puye Timing (4) was a maiden winner ay Keeneland this summer, but has struggled to run back to her best races. She’s been off since November and cuts back to 6 Furlongs while adding Lasix for her three year old debut.
Race 6: 7-14-16
On the main track, Peace Broker (7) has run solid races against good fields in four tries, beating Pauline’s Pearl, who came back a maiden winner last week. With War Front as the sire, I see why they want to try to get her on the grass, but her dirt form is more consistent and better than her rivals here. Adventuring (14) has two starts and had both of them rained off the turf. She improved in her second try last out at this level, which was a significantly faster heat than what she was up against in her debut. D’oro Forever (16) is a Medaglia d’Oro colt foaled by Kentucky Oaks winner, Lemons Forever. Her debut was nothing special at Churchill, but she was beaten by a nice filly in Honorifique that day. She’s been off a few months and returns here. It’s hard to knock her bloodlines, and Stewart’s horses tend to improve with more experience.
Race 7: 1-6-5
Lady Of Luxury (1) has already cleared this condition, so she’s in for the $17,500 tag. She was a decent 4th with better horses last time out, where she was well backed. She drops in class, likes an off track, and faces a group where there are few likely candidates that can step up to her level. April’s No Fool (6) is an interesting Indiana bred, who may be able to move forward her last start. She followed a similar pattern in the fall when she ran on turf, then switched to the dirt to get her second win in October. She had a brief layoff and returned to face open allowance company on the turf, where she was completely overmatched. There’s another interesting footnote with this horse in that her trainer, Jerome Miller, only has two horses that ran for his barn in 2020, her and Gianna’s Gift (5), and they both show up in this spot today. Gianna’s Gift is more accomplished that her stablemate, running two solid efforts in the slop in her last two tries. She does have the best early speed in the group and she’s never been off the board in three starts here.
Race 8: The Mardi Gras: 1-7
This race definitely took the biggest hit on the card being transferred from the turf to the main track, leaving only 4 starters. It’s hard to look past the class and talent of Into Mystic (1) who is graded stakes placed and was running well enough to make the body of the field for the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint in November. To my surprise, she was setting the quick fractions that day before fading to 12th. She has recovered from that outing nicely in her last few tries, and she continues to show she’s much more effective rating off the pace. She showed that she is quite capable on the main track as well, running solid races in New Mexico last year. An interesting storyline line is that she used to be trained by Todd Fincher and her main competition now is a mare he currently trains in, She’s My Gem (7) who most recently was a widening winner in the Orleans Stakes at Delta. She’s only been worse than second once in 9 career tries. She seems to be the main threat to the likely favorite.
Race 9: 3-10-9
This is a very good maiden special weight race to close the card, and the primary contenders are horses from the Brad Cox and Tom Amoss barn, both giving solid efforts in fast heats in their respective debuts. I’ll side with Warrant (3) from the Cox barn to graduate this afternoon. He ran well to be third at first asking against the more seasoned Blameworthy and the next out maiden winner Run Classic, in his debut on Lecomte Day. Cox opts to keep him sprinting instead of trying him at two turns, and his horses usually get better after their debut. Tom Amoss seems to keep finding horses that will run big efforts for him first out, and Wild For Wycliff (10) is one of them. He wasn’t given a lot of attention at the windows in his debut, perhaps because of his small $15,000 price tag at the OBS sale. However, he set very sharp early fractions before tiring late that day, earning an 83 Beyer. Amoss has sent several second time starters out recently that have either matched or exceeded their effort on debut. There’s a few well-meant first timers in here, and while the attention will likely go to the Cox firster Koolhaus (7), I think there’s more value with Calhoun’s first timer, Continental Chaos (9). He was purchased for $400,000, and is sired by sharp sire Constitution. He has several five furlong workouts plus a six furlong drill two weeks ago, so I believe the foundation is there. I think with his pedigree he could move up on an off track as well.