The Saturday card in New Orleans features two stakes races on the grass today; The Dixie Poker Ace for Louisiana breds and the Black Gold for three year olds. The latter is a local feeder for some bigger graded stakes races this spring, such as the Transylvania at Keeneland and the American Turf on Derby Day at Churchill.
The opener for state bred $5K N3L claimers could be headed for a pace meltdown. I think the Joseph Duhon entry of Chambliss (2) and Slam’s Man (2B) are complimentary to each other. Chambliss is the one I want if they both go, as I think Slam’s Man is going right to the front as he normally does. He’ll likely be joined in the pace battle with Farewell Time (3) and Cat On the Roof (4). Chambliss has the best closing kick in the field and should get an ideal set up here. I like that he’s cutting back from a route race, despite running poorly last out in the mud. My only complaint is that I’m probably not getting great value on him as a coupled entry. Outamine (1) is the half of the Broberg entry that I prefer if he goes (Colby Hernandez is named to ride both him and Disapproval (1A)). He’s lightly raced and has never lost in two tries on this oval. He rated comfortably off the early speed last time and came home well to beat $5K N2L horses. He was claimed by Broberg and returns for the same tag, but at the N3L level.
This is a multi-conditioned claimer with a $7,500 claiming tag, for horses that have never won four times or horses that have not won twice in 6 months, however, races that were won if a horse was entered for a claiming tag of $5K or less are not considered in the eligibility for that race. As a result of that, both Zypto (4) and Rock Me (8) are eligible despite winning two times or more in the last six months and having more than 4 career wins. I think some coverage is needed in this race, as again, there’s a lot of early speed signed on. I think the race sets up beautifully for Park Ridge Benny (6) if he’s good enough. He had trouble at the break last out when Nice Work (2) got loose on the lead and held off all comers late. His form has been a little spotty recently, but he had some strong races last summer and fall against better fields that would likely put him in the Winner’s Circle here if he can get back to them. Red Clay Magic (5) is the class of this group, dropping in from optional claiming/allowance company in his most recent try. He was claimed in August after ripping off five straight wins at Louisiana Downs and Lone Star, and then went to the sidelines. He got a little tired late against better in his return last month. He drops to a level below his claiming price, which is a slight concern, but his last effort was decent and he looks to fit well at this level. Rock Me came up a little short in Starter Allowance/Optional Claiming company last out in the slop. Prior to that, he had two very sharp wins on this course. There’s a lot of other speed in here for him to contend with, but he should get a good outside stalking trip.
Maiden claimers take to the turf in the first grass contest of the day. Air Force Angel (1) had trouble settling in the early stages of his debut which caused him to be wide into the first turn. He was claimed that day by Joe Sharp, and showed enough for me to bet him back at longer odds in his second start today, while facing several that have had a lot of chances already. Another second time starter that seems to have a good shot is Turfway invader, Code Duello (10). He showed a little zip in his debut against maiden special weight foes on the Tapeta track there last month. Brad Cox has great numbers with second time starters and horses dropping into maiden claiming from maiden special weight company. Another horse that is a little intriguing to me here is Novgorod The Great (4), who ran a decent race at 30-1 in his debut, facing $15,000-$10,000 maiden claimers on the dirt at 6 Furlongs. He was claimed by a higher percentage barn, and Chris Block is moving him up in class and switching him to turf. He’s by Temple City out of a Giant’s Causeway mare, so you’d think he can move forward on the turf. Block doesn’t have great numbers with turf horses, but I think this one looks interesting.
There’s not a ton of depth in this maiden claiming contest for horses running for a $15,000-$10,000 tag. Awe Shackle (1) looks pretty tough in here after two sharp races at this condition on the dirt. He’s been beaten by an open lengths winner in the last two tries on dirt. There doesn’t appear to be anyone capable of stepping up and running that big race, at least on paper anyway. If anyone can, perhaps using firster Black Hawk Ridge (7) might not be the worst idea. Jeannsome has good numbers with first timers and even better numbers with first time starters in maiden claiming races. His works don’t jump off the page, but he won’t need to be a world beater to win or hit the board here.
This is a nice allowance race for fillies and mares that have either not won twice or have not won for more than $10K in a race other than maiden or claiming. The three that have more than one win here look a significant cut below some of the fillies and mares that only have the maiden win on their resumè. Brad Cox sends out a real nice, late developing four year old filly in More Than Unusual (4). She broke her maiden in a strong heat at Kentucky Downs in the fall. She followed up that effort with strong second place finishes in N1X allowance company at Keeneland and in the Tropical Park Oaks at Gulfstream. As a four year old, the stakes races on the grass right now, are super competitive, so it makes sense that she shows up here. She’ll likely go off at a short price, so I want to include a horse that may be overlooked in the wagering. Declarationwarrior (9) is coming off two disappointing races, but she had legitimate trouble two back in her first start off a 10 month layoff at Gulfstream, and she didn’t really pick up her feet last out in the slop when a race at this condition was washed off the turf. She showed a lot of promise on the grass at Gulfstream last winter, earning a third place in the Grade 3 Herecomesthebride stakes. I think she can get back to her better form with a clean trip and a return to the grass. On deeper tickets, Veruca (6) certainly has a live a look, as her two turf races are definitely better than her two dirt races. She rallied to finish 5th, beaten less than two lengths in her first start off an 11 month layoff last out. She has been working well for this start and should put up another solid effort.
I’m interested to see what Run Cookie Run (4) can do on the dirt in her second career start at the maiden special weight level. She showed speed on a good turf course while on debut. She was outfinished that day, but still ran a credible effort. Her pedigree leans dirt, so I’m expecting her to run a better race after getting some experience last time out. If she doesn’t take to the dirt, Love Enough (3) was clearly second best to a nice even money winner last time out. She made a solid improvement from start one to start two, and should continue to make gains in this race today. I’m trying to beat San Destin (6) who is the morning line favorite here. Calhoun adds blinkers and he has good numbers when doing so. However, I did not like her effort last time at 7-5 in the same race where Love Enough was clearly second best. There are some mild trouble lines from the chart caller, but they had no bearing on the outcome in that race. Maybe she has a better effort in store today, but unless her price floats up above 4-1, I’m going to be against her.
Race 7: The Dixie Poker Ace
This is the first of two turf stakes races on this Saturday afternoon card, this one for Louisiana Breds, four years old and upward. Ninety One Assault (2) has been extremely tough to beat when facing fellow Louisiana breds. He’s never been off the board on this course, winning 7 of 10 races. He’s coming off a win over many of these in the Louisiana Champions Day Turf for the second straight year. He won this race last year as well. He tried to go last month in an allowance race that was washed off the turf, so Morley has trained him up to this spot, which is not a concern to me. It’s hard to look past him here. If the short priced favorite has a rough trip, perhaps the one most likely to pick up the pieces is Trey’s Midnite Moon (8) who is in career best form at the moment. He was 2 and ½ lengths behind Ninety One Assault in December, since then he was second in an off the turf race and has won back to back turf starts against open starter allowance/optional claiming company. He comes back to this level, looking for his first win in state bred stakes company.
Louisiana bred, optional $20K claiming/N2X allowance horses split the two turf stakes races on the card today. Certain horses seem to love certain tracks, and that is the case with Suzie’s Dream (1) who is 5 for 6 here and has a second place finish the one time she didn’t win. Her form this summer, was not her best, but she came back to win last out at this level. She’s second off the layoff, so I think she’s capable of improving, especially getting back on a dry track, as she won last time out in spite of the mud, which isn’t her favorite. If you want to spread a little deeper, Delta invaders Have No Fear (3) and Diva’s Ransom (4) are both worth a look here. Have No Fear was a bit dull by her standards at Delta in her last two, but she has better races here and those efforts may be chalked up to not liking the track there. Diva’s Ransom has been in some of the better form in her eight year old season right now. She does run well at Delta, but she has shown that her form can transfer to the mile oval here in New Orleans. Play Unified (7) won at this level on Lecomte Day last time out, winning for the first time in over a year, despite running several solid efforts in the interim. She will likely be well backed, but recently she’s been more of a bottom of the horizontal exotics threat.
Race 9: The Black Gold Stakes
This turf stakes for three year olds drew the top three finishers from the Texas Turf Mile last month at Sam Houston, as all three hit the wire together that day. Meanwhile, Brad Cox has four entered (Kinetic Sky (8) was cross entered last night in the Battaglia at Turfway but scratched from that spot, presumably in favor of racing here) to potentially make some noise here, as many of these horses are likely looking to earn a spot in the Grade 3 Transylvania on opening day at Keeneland. I’m interested in seeing how this race will be bet as you could make a case for every runner here. I think the form coming out of the Texas Turf Mile will hold true, and I’ll look for Excess Magic (3) to turn the tables on Palazzi (6) today. Excess Magic was my pick last time at Sam Houston, as he was coming into that race with two open lengths scores on the turf, which is not common. He handled the rise in class well, taking the lead in the stretch, but just getting nipped at the wire by Palazzi. I think he’ll be able to sit off the early speed and get first run on the closers. Palazzi was purchased for $510,000, dreaming that he’d be a Derby contender. However, his first four dirt starts, were below average. He took a massive leap forward two back to break his maiden in a 14 horse field here on the turf. He followed that effort up by winning the stakes race at Sam Houston in his first shot against winners. It’s pretty clear that his future is on grass, and he should likely get better with added distance. Of the four that are running from the Brad Cox barn, Fulsome (5) is likely the one that has the higher ceiling on the turf. He was beaten three lengths by Palazzi in the same maiden special weight race on 12/19, and he followed up that performance with a win on Lecomte Day in another 14 horse maiden special weight field. Hot Stove League, who was second last out, came back to break his maiden in is subsequent start. Lookin For Loki (1) is my price stab on deeper tickets. His three turf races are sharp, but all of them have been sprinting. He draws the rail for his two turn debut, and should get a forwardly placed trip. He beat a nice turf sprinter in Field Day in his last turf start, earning a strong speed figure. I think he’ll definitely be overlooked and could have a shot at a big number.
There are several speed and fade types in the nightcap for $12,500 maiden claimers, which might set things up for Dad’s Star Cat (7). Her first two dirt races sprinting at Louisiana Downs this summer weren’t bad, before regressing at two turns in two tries on the turf. She returned off the layoff at 1 Mile with this level last out, and tired late. She makes sense coming back to a sprint, and possibly wearing down many of those getting tired in the stretch. Veteran rider Eddie Martin Jr. is looking for his first win of the meet, and Business Lady (3) may give him his best shot in a while. She faced better in an off the turf race at two turns last out, and now cuts back to a sprint, and drops in class. She’s more consistent than many of these, which isn’t a bad thing at this level.