The racing week concludes in New Orleans with a card that looks like it could be on the chalky side especially in the early sequences. I think the late Pick 4 and Pick 5 have the chance to be a little more lucrative because some of favorites might be a little vulnerable there. After today, there are only 16 more days of racing left on the calendar, as the meet will conclude one month from today.
Louisiana bred maiden claimers run for a $12,500-$10,000 tag in the Sunday opener. Shakin’ Silver (4) feels almost too obvious in this spot. He’s been second in his last three, just giving up the lead in the final strides in his last two. He does move up to face older horses today as a three year old, but I think at this level, that is a plus as the three year olds seem to have more upside. He’ll probably be a much shorter price than his 7-2 morning line, and anything is possible with lower level maiden claimers, but no one else is jumping off the page as a serious win candidate.
Outkickthecoverage (6) has just missed in her last two starts at this $30,000-$25,000 maiden claiming level. She improved in her first try on synthetic at Turfway, when she was narrowly beaten by a next out winner that day. She shipped here two weeks later and went to the turf for the first time and took the short end of a three horse photo, where the second place finisher, Gastown, went on to win on 2/7. Many of these, including the second and third place finishers, Danger Zone (10) and Tap Time (4), ran in that race. Gastown, who beat Outkickthecoverage by a head, beat the other two by 2 and ¾ and 3 and ½ lengths respectively. I think Outkickthecoverage will graduate today. Of the others, Tap Time, who had a wide journey, and still ran a big race, could sit a better trip with a better draw today. She clearly likes the turf as she’s made significant forward strides since switching surfaces.
State bred maiden special weight three year olds go two turns here. Martinized (6) and Everlovinghand (4) were second and third respectively at this level last time and they seem to be the principal threats again in what feels like a chalky start to the afternoon. Martinized definitely ran the more impressive race, starting from an outside post and being wide on both turns, while still grinding away to miss by less than a length. Everlovinghand had a rail draw that day, sat a good trip, but couldn’t go with the top two in the stretch. There’s reason to think that he can improve in this start while getting a fast track and going two turns for the second time in his career. A Star Is Born Now (1) might be a good longshot to throw in as he outran in his long odds in his debut back in December. He tried turf and didn’t run awful while drawing post 13 that day. Pedroza opts to ride Martinized, which is no surprise, but Antonio Trujillo, who won only won race in all of 2020, getting the mount is a bit concerning.
We’re back on the turf with an optional $30K claiming/starter allowance race for three year olds. Only one horse is using the optional claiming tag, which is Assumption (5), and he’s never raced for a tag for $30K or less. In addition he’s making his turf debut today. This is a wide open race where I think coverage will be important. Many of these are familiar with each other and many of these started their careers on the main track only to have more success on turf. I landed on Fieldstone (6) as my lukewarm top choice. He sat off a ridiculously slow pace last time out in the 2/3 starter allowance race, and he was gaining on others that were closer to the pace in Bryce Canyon (1), O Dogg (3), and Ultimate Irony (4). He finished less than a length off a nice horse in Wentru, who was setting those soft fractions and has beaten many of these. I think he was the better horse that day and should get a slightly stronger pace in front of him today. Smokey Harbor (2) is interesting to me as well, facing winners for the first time. I liked his turn of foot in his last race, pulling off to win by three. Brian Hernandez gets the call today and he has been a difference maker in many evenly matched turf races over the past few weeks. Cane Creek Road (7) also faces winners for the first time today after decimating a maiden claiming field on 2/4. The race was split into two divisions, where Smokey Harbor won the other heat. I think he definitely had the easier trip, setting some soft fractions and then finishing well in the final quarter to run a faster final time than Smokey Harbor. However, I think there’s a chance for a little more pace pressure here with Bryce Canyon on the rail. At the 7 and ½ furlong distance, Bridgmohan might have to use him a little harder than he’ll want to early, which could help the horses that sit off the pace. Bryce Canyon is another one that has to be considered, as he was a close third to Wentru and Fieldstone last out. He had the lead late, but Wentru fought back and Fieldstone was gaining. I thought he had a pretty easy trip that day up on the slow pace. Again, I think there’s potential for things to be a little bit quicker in the early stages. One longshot that is interesting, that you may want to throw on deeper tickets, especially with the first three legs of the early Pick 5 feeling chalky, is Gulfstream invader Kartano (9). He beat a maiden claiming field there for a $25K in his debut on 2/5. He was far back early and stormed home to pass everyone late. I don’t think there are a ton of spots for him to run in South Florida where he would be protected, other than the N1X allowance spots, which are very salty during the Championship Meet there. It’s hard to tell who he beat, and I’m not sure that deep closing style is playing well on this course at the moment, but his lone effort was visually impressive for a first time starter. If he stays around his 12-1 morning line or his odds float up, he may be worth a win wager.
The end of the early pick 5 and start of the late pick 5 is a multi-conditioned claiming contest carrying a $30,000-$25,000 tag, for older horses that have never won twice or three year olds. There are no three year olds entered, so this is essentially a N2L race. Verified (2) figures to be very tough at this level. Ignore his last where he wanted no parts of two turns, which isn’t a shock based on his pedigree. His maiden win three back on this course in December was strong, and while he bounced a bit on 1/21, facing optional claiming/N1X allowance foes, he didn’t break super sharp and got buried on the rail. He looked uncomfortable in that spot, but still earned a respectable figure. He drops in class now and should be able to make the early lead here. There are other horses that want to be forwardly placed here, so Dagger’s Arch (5) might be a good price play to add on to deeper tickets. He’s been away since September, but he looks ready to go off his last two workouts. He’s been competitive facing similar types of horses, and he may be the only one gaining ground while others are backing out.
Today’s featured allowance is an optional $40K claiming/N2X allowance turf sprint for fillies and mares. Many of these competed on 1/30 at this condition, and I think Whimsical Muse (4) who had a rough trip that day, will improve today, while starting for the first time for the Mike Maker barn off the claim. She’s run well over the course in previous tries, and she should get a lively pace to close into today. Millennium Force (8) has early foot, but has also shown she’s comfortable rating. She cleared the N1X condition last out in a slowish heat, while making her first start in four months. She steps up, but I think she’s capable of running faster. James Graham has ridden this filly twice and those two races are her two career wins. He opts to ride this one over Whimsical Muse, which isn’t shocking, as he has ridden pretty frequently for Tom Amoss. The entry of Yes It’s Ginger (2B) and Dance Rhythms (2) finished second and third respectively when they ran as an entry in the 1/30 race. They were 9-5 favorites that day and are that number on the morning line today. Yes It’s Ginger won the break and was clear before being caught by a real nice turf horse, In Good Spirits, last out. She went off form a bit this fall but looks to be getting back to running her best races. I think this course is not her favorite though, as it might be a little more demanding than the ultra-firm summer turf course at a track like Ellis Park where she ripped off two straight wins this summer. Dance Rhythms (2) has won at this condition before, but she was in for the tag that day, so she’s able to run here without the tag. She’s often close at this level and she has been beaten by talented turf sprinters like Elle Z, Into Mystic, and Jakarta. There doesn’t seem to be anyone of that caliber in here, but she has come up short enough times to make me want to look for a little value, as she’ll likely go off at a short number again.
Maiden claiming sprinters go 6 Furlongs while running with a $12,500 price tag here. Again, this race appears to be very formful on paper as the 2/6 race at this condition looks stronger than most of the other races horses in here are coming out of. Hawk Trail (2) debuted in that race, went wide on the turn, and closed well to be third, beaten less than 2 lengths. This looks like the right level of competition for him and I believe he can improve in his second career try. Vehement (9) is the class of this field, and has run three steady dirt races in his nine race career. All three of those efforts would put him close again in this spot. I think he’s better on turf, but there’s not many maiden claiming options for him on turf right now at tracks where Tom Drury runs his horses. He’ll be a short price again here after losing in a photo last out. Windchill Zar (5) also exits the same race. He, too, has had many chances, although many of them have come at Woodbine on the Tapeta. He has been improving in three starts on dirt, running his best race yet after being claimed two back and moving to the Karl Broberg barn.
This is a decent maiden special weight race where some three year olds are facing older foes for the first time. Defied (2) will be my lone A horse in this race after running a sharp race two back in his turf debut. His last was washed on the turf, and he didn’t run awful, but I think grass racing is where he will be where he excels. I liked that he got the race in last month, even though the weather didn’t cooperate. I think he’ll be sitting on a stronger effort today. Summer Palace (3) has been a bit of a money burner, failing to score as the odds on favorite in his last two. He’ll be a short price based on his strong figures and the company he’s kept. I think he’ll need to be covered, but I think trying to beat him is wise here. I think both three year olds have a live look here and could offer some value in this sequence. Freddy Flintshire (8) faced 14 horses in his last two races, and has come home strong, leaving himself with too much work to do. Walsh adds blinkers here in an effort to get him a little closer to early pace. I think he could dangerous if he can figure some things out. I also think there is a chance that Weather Prayer (6) takes a big step forward. He was last of 14 is his debut on Lecomte Day before rallying to finish 8th against a good field. He tried to follow up on the grass on Risen Star Day, but that race was taken off the turf. He ran anyway and finished a troubled trip 6th that afternoon. His pedigree definitely leans turf, and I think he could offer value getting back on the lawn today.
The racing week will wrap up with Louisiana bred maiden special weight fillies and mares, going 6 Furlongs. The 1/17 heat at this level was on the slower side, and while four horses hit the wire together that day, and American Rebel, who was one of them, was a next out winner, I think that heat was on the slow side, and I don’t think Our Mardi Gras (1) and Spellbinding (4) have a ton of upside. While they could certainly win and prove to be better than this group, I’m leaning on the upside of two three year olds here. Fasthappy (7) invades from Delta for Chris Richard after meeting a double digit winner at two turns going seven furlongs last out. I think cutting back to a one turn six furlong race will be beneficial for her, and it certainly helps getting leading rider James Graham to pilot. Speedy Dudette (8) is also cutting back from two turns, as she finished third while beaten double digits last time out in an off the turf race at 1 Mile and 70 yards on a muddy course. I think she’s capable of improving while coming back to a fast track and shortening in distance.