It’s a strong Saturday card this afternoon with featuring a mix of races with short priced horses that look hard to beat, and some wide open races with many options. I think there’s vulnerable favorites early in the card, and more logical favorites on the back end. There’s still no turf racing in New Orleans, so the four races scheduled for the turf have been transferred to the main track. All of the turf races have been updated to reflect the surface switch from turf to dirt.
Ready For Change (9) was the one I was trying to beat on the grass, however, on the main track, she looks very tough to beat with only four rivals in here. She absolutely dominated in her debut in an off the turf maiden special weight, posting a monster Beyer figure. She’ll have to back that up here, but no one really strikes me as scary. She could regress 15 points and still win this race. Maybe Lady Anna (4) might be worth including on deeper tickets, in case you’re getting negative signs from the favorite in the paddock or warming up on the track. She’s better than her last and should have a forward move as she gets a fast track today.
I’m suspicious of the favorite in here as well, seeing as how Laddie Boy (2) was claimed for $17,500 on January 2nd, ran poorly here in an off the turf race as the 7-10 favorite, while protected under starter allowance conditions, then shows up today, in for the $5K tag today. I’ll cover with him, as he has efforts in the not-so distant past that would dominate this group. I ended up with Good Intent (3) on top after absolutely dominating a slightly weaker group last out. He’s been a turf horse for the majority of his career, but he sure looked comfortable on this course last time out. He draws better and figures to get a better trip than he got last time, as he was wide throughout. As an eight year old, the ceiling for improving off that effort isn’t high, but he’s been very consistent, and if he’s able to run back to that effort, I think he’ll be right there again. Run Tappy (7) has a strong late kick, but was struggling to really utilize it in at Delta in his last few. He has some strong efforts on the mile ovals at Evangeline and Louisiana Downs this summer, so I’m betting he’ll improve.
It’s not often that a race comes off the turf, and you actually gain runners, plus get a much more competitive betting race, but that is the case here. All Fact (5) was strictly the one to beat on the turf, where she would have faced no more than 7 opponents. She faces 8 foes on the main track and using her here becomes tricky. She showed a massive form reversal when moving to the grass, and winning three races by open lengths. Her best Beyer figure on a dirt track is only 56. I think she’s capable of better than that, as she’s just in such good form now. However, this no longer feels close to a walkover, and I’m fascinated to see how this race will be bet. Matt’s Honey (9) becomes a logical horse to use coming in off the MTO list. She was beaten 8 lengths by All Fact on grass last out, but she’s a better horse on dirt. Mila’s Dream (4) gets a class test here, but she’s undefeated on a fast track and handled two turns nicely on the dirt for the first time last out at machining Valley. Her trainer wins at 22% clip. She’s an intriguing longshot that won’t have to improve that much off her last, which was an open length win.
It could be a good thing that there’s such a short priced, logical horse in the third, because this state bred maiden claiming contest is a 12 horse cluster. Consistency is not a hallmark of this group, so I’ll try Theos Flew (3) on top. He took some money in his debut at this level, broke slow, and didn’t run a lick in the mud. However, it’s encouraging that James Graham rides him back, and he showed a respectable 3F drill last week. I’ll also use the lightly raced Wheels Turning (10) who regressed against better at Delta last time, but was competitive with similar two back. Starvictory (1) has a pattern of improvement, despite being beaten double digits against better in his last two. I’ll use those three on top, but I’d want as much coverage in this race as I can afford. I’d go as many as seven deep in here, as the five horses in the X column feel like they don’t have a reasonable chance.
The field is a little tough smaller than the previous maiden claiming contest, but the final leg of the early Pick 4 and Pick 5 is also a tricky race. I don’t love Copa (3), the morning line favorite dropping in from maiden special weight company. My plan is to leave him off my tickets completely, as he’s had many chances and just doesn’t seem to put up much fight once he’s headed. I ended up with Flags Up (1) who was disqualified from first place against $25,000-$20,000 maiden claimers, and moves up slightly to the $30,000-$25,000 level. He has good speed from the rail, and has progressed nicely in his three sprint races. Saint Goar (7) ran a big race in a fast heat at the $15,000-$10,000 maiden claiming level. He broke sharply and sat second off the early leader before losing action going into the turn, falling back about 8 lengths off the pace. He re-rallied and was a less than a length behind the eventual winner. He moves up in class, but doesn’t find the strongest field for the condition. I think he could be gaining late. I think both Filippo (4) and Gold Incense (5) have some upside and might be worth including to add value on deeper tickets. Filippo didn’t show much in a fast maiden special weight race at Churchill in his debut. He was given a little time off, moved to a new barn, and has worked well enough for his second start. Gold Incense moved forward in the slop off his debut. He was beaten seven and a half lengths by Flags Up that day. I think may have another forward move off that race if he’s able to rate a little bit off the early pace, while also getting back to a fast track.
There’s a ton of speed in the state bred optional claiming allowance, where many of these a familiar with each other. Five of these horses are coming out of the 1/30 race at the same conditions, won by My Wise Cat (8), who was the fastest early, set strong fractions, and held everyone off late. Throw in the top two finishers from the optional claiming/starter allowance race on 1/31, Big Bella Brown (3) and C’Mon Ve (6), and I think we have the recipe for a pace meltdown. The two beneficiaries should be Double Barrel Man (1) and Charge the Line (7). Charge the Line was 6 wide and gaining on My Wise Cat last time out, getting less than a length away when the crossed the wire. He loves running here, finishing first or second in 11 of 17 tries here, most at the 6 Furlong distance. He has won at this level before, but he was in for the tag that day, so he can be protected here. I think the additional pace presences in the race, set things up nicely for him. Double Barrel Man finished 6 lengths behind Grade 1 winner No Parole at Delta in a five furlong dash. Broberg reclaimed this 9 time winning son of Musket Man two back at this level when he closed to be 4th in a heat with a more moderate early tempo. I don’t love that he’s only 1-12 here, but he has been second or third 6 other times on this course, so it’s not that he dislikes this surface. I’ll still cover with My Wise Cat (8) who I think is the best of the speed horses. He’s won his last two races at this level while winging on the front end. I think he’ll have to work harder today, as I wouldn’t be surprised to see a sub 22 first quarter. However, he’s classy and he’s a winner, winning 33% of his career tries.
Tiger Blood (4) has won 19 of 53 career races, 7 of which came at on the main track. He has gotten a lot better since primarily being a turf horse, and I think he has a class edge over his remaining four rivals. Seven Secrets (7) was claimed two back by Broberg and he took a swing in stakes company last out. He fits well at this level, and comes back to dirt, where he has been successful before. I think he should get a favorable pace scenario, with not too much competition on the front end. Irish Hokie (1) is in very good form, winning four of his last five, two of which came on the dirt. He moves to the Hartman barn, and might need to move forward to win, but he’s worth a look here as well.
I tried to beat the favorite, Cowboy Diplomacy (7) from the Brad Cox barn here, but my concern in this race is that there’s no one on paper that will keep him honest. If Hernandez gets him to the front, I think there’s a reasonable chance that he can set a half mile time somewhere between 48 and 49 seconds, which would certainly make it very hard on anyone else in here. His two, two-turn races last year were strong, and I think he’ll be one they’ll have to beat. I think Crypto Cash (3) is an interesting price horse that certainly could add value to chalky feeling sequence. I think two turns on the dirt is what he wants to do, but he’s only had two opportunities to do so. One try came against Charlatan in the Arkansas Derby last year and the other, he just missed when he was claimed for $50K at Keeneland. He came up empty on a good turf course at 9 Furlongs last out, but I think he’ll get a good inside trip, near the front end today. Olliemyboy (1) might be worth a look as he ran big in an off the turf race to clear the N1X condition in his first dirt route race of his career. This is a big step up in class, but I think he’s worth covering, as he definitely has some upside. Locally Owned (8) has several big efforts on his resumè, but despite being “locally owned” by GMB Racing (Gayle Benson, owner of the Saints), all of his biggest efforts have come on the road. Again, on class alone, he’s worth considering, but I prefer some of the others.
Race 9 :
This is a tough maiden special weight, regardless of surface. Arbitrary (3) showed interest in her debut, before backing up in the last furlong or so, when she was beaten by two really nice fillies in Li’l Tootsie (next out allowance winner), and Euphoric (Next out maiden winner). Stidham’s horses usually improve in their second start, and while I was looking forward to seeing her on turf, I think she has the best chance to win this race on the main track. The three morning line favorites are all first time starters who look live. In order of preference, I like Ursulina (2), Natalie Would (11), and Shockingly (9). Santa Rita (1) draws the rail, which isn’t ideal, but her only dirt sprint wasn’t awful, and there’s room for improvement there. Glitterary (14) draws in, and has a more turf forward pedigree, but she might be worth a look, as Declaration of War is having some success with horses running on the dirt as well.
There’s another short priced favorite in this race that looks hard to beat. No Pedigree (9) shipped here in December from Southern California to be stakes placed with state bred foes. He’s got the best early foot in this bunch, and most here haven’t shown an ability to come from off the pace. His connections paid $185,000 for him, so there are expectations, as he faces the softest group he’s faced in his three race career. In terms of value plays, maybe Gypsy’s Soulmate (2) coming out of a debut on turf can make some headway late. Dowd takes the blinkers off, so I’m wondering if trying to make one run late will be the strategy. Like No Pedigree, he’s also sired by Half Ours, who has been a good value sire. First time starter Coach Kenny (11) comes from the Scott Gelner barn, who has won with 12% of his first timers over the past year. He draws outside, and might be worth a look.