Rain is in the forecast for New Orleans this weekend, so I’ll handicap for both surfaces. As of posting this, the track is still fast and firm. However, my gut tells me that if rain does fall, the track will transfer the turf races to the main track, especially with the big races carded for the following weekend. Nine races make up the Friday afternoon program. As we’ve moved past the halfway point of the meet, the jockey and trainer races have tightened. Adam Beschizza and Mitchell Murrill gained one spot on the leader James Graham yesterday, who still leads by four wins. On the trainer side, both Ron Faucheux and Brad Cox picked up a win yesterday to get within two wins of Tom Amoss. All parties are represented on the card today.
Most Likely Winner: Race 1 – Mariposa d’Oro (#5, 5-2 ML)
Best Bet: Race 3 – Dancin’ All Alone (#1, 4-1 ML)
Race 1: 5-1-2
Mariposa d’Oro (5) is a deserving favorite in the opener, as she’s been reasonably consistent facing a field that, for the most part, is anything but that. She was roughed a bit in her last in this level and rallied well to be second. She’ll take a lot of money again today, but should be able to deliver this time with a clean trip. Brightmorningstar (1) jumped up to get third at almost 99-1, a few lengths behind Mariposa d’Oro last out. Jose Riquelme, who has been riding very well over the last few weeks, picks up the mount. Linda Got Lucky (2) was 4th in the same race, about ten lengths off the favorite. She’s capable of a better effort when she’s more involved in the early stages of the race.
Race 2: 5-8-4 (Turf) / 5-1-2 (Dirt)
Five of the eight in this race are coming out of a common race (1/15 R4). Reluctant Warrior (6) had the best trip of the five and still came up short, which is not something I love to see in a favorite. If the race stays on the grass, I’ll go with Oh My Aching Arch (5) on top. He was wide on both turns and flattened out at this level in his first race in four plus months. He’s been competitive with better fields and is eligible to improve with inside position on the favorite. He ran well enough in the slop in June to keep on top on the main track if this race is taken off the turf. Love That Warrior (8) was bumped and shut out of the position he wanted at the break last out, and then got out a bit on the turn. The outside post is a bit tricky to navigate, but, unless Britt’s A Closer (7) takes a right hand turn at the start, he should get a better start. Special Bingo (4) has the look of a horse that could also improve in his second start of the year. He was widest of all last out, but stayed on well enough to be beaten seven lengths at 57-1. He, too, draws inside of others that had better trips last out. He might not be ready to beat these yet, but I think he’ll outrun his odds, and could hit the board at a big number. If this race goes to the main track, I think there will be a decent amount of defections. Upgrade A Little Risky (1) and Loveu and Proudofu (2) on the dirt, as their main track form is slightly better than some of the others.
Race 3: 1-6-9
Dancin’ All Alone (1) was claimed by Chris Hartman at this level last out while running a dullish fifth that day. She’s better than what she showed last time and should rebound. Murrill and Hartman have been winning at 35% with a positive ROI when they’ve teamed up here since the start of 2020. She looks awfully tough in this post, especially with the defection of the nine horse. Lucky Linz (6) stays at the same tag, but moves up in class as she exits state bred company. She’s won two straight, clearing two different conditions, but she qualifies for this race as state bred races don’t count towards the non-winners of two condition of this race. Custom For Carlita (8) has been knocking on the door at this level, finishing third in her last two starts. She makes sense underneath as she’s in decent form of late.
Race 4: 2-6-4 (Turf) / 4-3-6 (Dirt)
I’m disappointed to see my top pick, Awesummer (1), scratched out of this contest. No Obligation (2) ships in from Turfway and runs for the first time for Tom Amoss, who is the leader trainer at the meet. He showed some ability this fall, and drops into the maiden claiming ranks for the first time. Brad Cox sends out two first time starters, Wherever He Is (3) and Air Force Angel (6). On grass, I prefer Air Force Angel, by the solid young sire Air Force Blue. Bridgmohan, who has been getting the better Brad Cox mounts since Florent Geroux left for Arkansas, ends up on Wherever He Is (3) who has a more dirt friendly pedigree. Big Easy Empire (4) who did nothing on debut, could improve in his second try. Stidham seems to want to get him on the grass, but I think there could be improvement on either surface.
Race 5: 3-1-8
Dixie Street (3) has been close in his last two tries, where he was a beaten short price favorite both times. He ran into a little trouble two back and was rolling with a six wide charge to miss by less than a half-length last out. If he runs back to either effort, he should beat this group. Callinginthenight (1) invades from Delta after a dull effort at 7 Furlongs with state bred allowance company. He drops in class and returns to a one turn race, where he has been much more competitive. G Don’t Know (8) put it all together to beat maiden claimers last out. He’s got decent early foot from an outward draw, and has a nice effort in the mud if that track comes up wet.
Race 6: 3-7-6 (Turf)/ 7-9-3 (Dirt)
Arm Candy (3) was scratched a few weeks ago when her race came off the turf. She draws well and is a prime candidate to rebound after a miserable trip on the grass two back. Three back she was beaten six lengths by future Breeders’ Cup champ Aunt Pearl. She tried the dirt last out and didn’t embarrass herself. I think she’ll get a great set up on the grass, but she’s playable on the main track, as Asmussen might keep her in to get a race into here. Xtrema (7) is an allowance winner in her one career turf try. She’s been overmatched with stakes foes on the main track, but would certainly be a big player on either surface. Montpelier (6) keeps trying to find a turf race, as she’s never gone two turns on the turf. She broke her maiden at two turns in an off the turf race here in November, but I’d prefer to use her on the grass. Saranya (9) will likely be the favorite on either surface, as she’s been competitive on both. I’ll try to beat her on the grass, as I think there’s a decent amount of speed to go with her from her outside draw. On the main track, I think she’ll be right there, as some of that speed is likely to defect.
Race 7: 8-2-5
Antietam Road (8) showed a little zip and then faded in his debut with a strong field for this level. The second place finisher from that race came back to win next out. Faucheux’s horses tend to improve in their second starts, so he’s worth a look at a price. Candy Shopper (2) was dull in his local debut after showing ability in California. He produced one of his better efforts, finishing second to Roux Ga Roux, who has beaten many in here. The Camejo barn has been cold this meet, but they won the nightcap yesterday with a $15 winner, so that could lead to the barn heating up. Rare Strain (5) keeps improving, and ran a solid third last out, a few lengths behind Candy Shopper. He was far back early, but rallied well at 5 and ½ furlongs. He should benefit from a little added distance.
Race 8: 7-3-10 (Turf) / 14-10-3 (Dirt)
The featured allowance has fifteen entered, with only eleven running on the grass. Looking at the form lines, I don’t envision many sticking around if this race is taken off the turf. I thought Empress Eleanor (7) was one of the better maiden winners of the meet, as she powered home impressively here in December. She’s lightly raced, but getting better, and could be tough to deal with in the late stages of this one. Fate Factor (3) can rate or close, and she draws better than many of the contenders in this race. She’s better on the grass, and I think she can improve at two turns on the main track against what would be a soft group. Offspring (10) has run very well with Louisiana breds, but moves into open company here. She loves the Stall Wilson turf course here, winning two of three starts and finishing a game third against state bred stakes foes in her other try. She can compete on the main track as well. On the dirt, Lucky Find (14) is the only horse in here with consistent dirt form. I know Proctor is trying to get her into a turf race, but I think this would be easy pickings for her if this race comes off the grass.
Race 9: 8-6-7
There’s no speed in the one mile night cap. Perhaps adding blinkers, and coming off the layoff, Dad’s Star Cat (8) can clear them early, and walk the dog on the lead here. She’s tried the turf in her last two, but has been more successful in her dirt starts. Blue Ridge Moon (6) invades from Delta and stretches out to the mile. She does have the two turn experience though, and closed well to get third. In a wide open contest, the weight break from with apprentice Kody Kellenberger, may prove to be a difference maker, especially with many stretching out to two turns for the first time. Mad Tabby (7) tried two turns last out and was an even fourth. This is a weaker group, and she gets leading rider, James Graham aboard today.