The Saturday afternoon card is strong despite not having any stakes action this weekend. There are several allowance and maiden special weight races on the card with some very well bred horses competing this afternoon. The weather forecast is still a little iffy, so again, I’ll handicap for both surfaces. There are some short priced favorites on the card that look very tough, so the late Pick 4 and Pick 5 sequences could get very chalky.
Most Likely Winner: Race 3 – More Than Unusual (#6, 9-5 ML)
Best Bet: Race 1 – Hooperdrivesthboat (#5, 5-2 ML)
Race 1: 5-4-6
Three of the seven in here have little to offer, and I’m not too interested in the Correas first timer, so the race seems to be pretty chalky on paper. Hooperdrivesthboat (5) met a rocket at this level last out and the distant second place finisher that day has already come back to graduate. He’s lightly raced, and is still figuring things out, but I like his chances here. Windchill Zar (4) was claimed by Broberg at this level last time out, when he was second as the 11-10 favorite. He showed he can be competitive on the dirt, but he still hasn’t achieved the level of success he had on synthetic. Vehement (6) nose dives from maiden special weight company to this $12,500 maiden claimer. His only dirt start was decent, but that was almost two years ago. He’s unraced since March and Drury doesn’t have great numbers off the layoff. There’s a lot of warning signs on this guy, but there’s also very little depth to this field.
Race 2: 2-7-4
Tiz Susan Ann (2) wisely scratched out of a tougher race for a lower claiming tag yesterday in favor of this spot. She looks to be the best of the early speed in here as she drops in from optional claiming/allowance company. I expect her to rebound off her debacle in the slop last time. Diamond and Silks (7) broke her maiden last out, while showing significant improvement in her three tries at the meet thus far. She led gate to wire last time, but she’s shown she can come from off the pace, where many in here don’t seem to want to do that. Hey Grace (4) moves to open company after racing exclusively with Louisiana Breds. Although her speed figures are a shade light for this field, she’s never been off the board in three career tries on this oval.
Race 3: 6-2-3 Turf) / 7-3-2 (Dirt)
More Than Unusual (6) is a stakes caliber four year old filly that was a strong second in the Tropical Park Oaks last out. Brad Cox keeps sending out winners at the meet, and she looks like another likely victor for his team, as the seven and half furlong distance looks like a perfect for her. Offspring (2) is one of a few that scratched out of an allowance race yesterday in favor of this spot. She gets a better post today, as opposed to post 10 yesterday. She’s been very game on this course, including a close up third place finish against Louisiana bred stakes foes two starts ago. She’s a feisty foe that many of the up and comers in here will have to beat. Veruca (3) is one of those up and comers, as she was beaten less than two lengths in a traffic filled stretch drive last time. Her two turf races are very sharp, but she’s also been good enough to compete on the main track if it’s rained off. Upgrade Lucky Find (7) who was on the AE list yesterday, if this race goes to the main track. Proctor wants to get her on the grass, but her dirt form is better than most of the field.
Race 4: 7-5-1
Highland Star (7) ran a strong race sprinting on the main track in his debut at Remington. He had a miserable trip in his second start here before breaking his maiden in a two turn turf try last out. I think he’s better on the main track, and will benefit from his two turn experience last time out. Gallant Star (5) is one of a few stretching out for the first time in this N2L allowance for Louisiana breds. I really liked his second career start, where he won going on away. It sure looks like the mile won’t be an issue for him. Janets Jay Jay (1) has the most experience in this group, and he’s been getting better, while catching off tracks in his last three tries. He looks like he could get the two turn trip, and a rail draw won’t hurt. I think he’s an interesting exotics player here.
Race 5: 3-5-6 (Turf) / 8-1-5 (Dirt)
We have a strong maiden special weight turf sprint, but many of the pedigrees aren’t screaming turf sprint. Majestic Summer (3) ran a pretty strong race at Kentucky Downs in his debut. He stretched out to two turns on the grass next out and faded badly on a good course. He tried the dirt in his next start and was also outrun. He returns to the grass and to a sprint, while adding Lasix, all of which look like positive signs for a horse that should go off a decent price in here. Plutonium (5) debuts for Stidham, who also trains the morning line favorite, Gershwin (8). He’s a $310,000 purchase that has speed on both sides of his pedigree. I think he’ll be a better price than his stablemate and is better suited to a turf sprint. Relevator (6) didn’t travel with Asmussen to Oaklawn with his best dirt horses, so I think they’re excited to get this son of freshman sire Exaggerator on the grass. His debut in an off the turf race was an okay starting point, but I think he’ll be better on the grass. On the main track, Gershwin is the one to beat. He’s a half to Mystic Guide, who won the Jim Dandy last year and their dam, was a five time grade 1 winner on dirt, from 7-9 Furlongs. I thought his debut at 6 Furlongs was really good, and I’m a bit puzzled by the move to try the turf. I’d also upgrade City Mischief (1) who debuted nicely in an off the turf maiden special weight. He had some gate trouble last out, so I don’t love the rail for him on either surface, but I think a smaller field on dirt will be more forgiving than a nine horse turf sprint.
Race 6: 7-2-3
Ron Faucheux trains the two morning line favorites with Strong Beauty (2) and Echoesoftime (5), but my concern is that both horses have the same front end running style. While I don’t think the stablemates will duel themselves into submission, there are some other speed horses that could turn up the pressure. Sucre (7) returns to a sprint after a dull two turn effort last out off the claim. She likes the course and has shown an ability to run from off the pace, which could help her cause today. Strong Beauty (2) has been right there in her last two tries on a fast track at this level. I think she’s more likely to sit right off the pace while keeping decent position. Hiclass Production (3) ships in from Delta off a dull try at a mile last time out. She has run her better races closing into a fast pace, which she could get today. I like her at a price underneath in this spot.
Race 7: 5-3-4 (Turf) / 9-8-2 (Dirt)
Darain (5) is a beautifully bred four year old by sired Dubawi and the dam is multiple Group 1 winner Dar Re Mi, who has already produced multiple stakes winners. Darain was a strong second, earning a big speed figure in his debut in the States. This is a salty field, but I have to imagine that Brad Cox will be thinking about trying him in the Mervin Muniz Memorial Handicap here on Louisiana Derby Day next month if he passes this test. Stanford (3) is another horse that spent time overseas, and is now scheduled to make his third North American start. He was near the back and finished 8th in traffic in the Woodchopper here on 12/26. Catalano has had a good meet with limited starters, and I suspect he’ll have this one ready to fire a stronger effort in his second try over this course. Toma Todo (4) is really the only speed threat in this race. He’s caught good courses and faded late in his last two tries, but I think he could go much slower on the front end here. I’m not sure he can hold off the likes of a horse like Darain, but I think he could hang around to hit the board. On the dirt, this race loses a lot of punch. The lone main track only entrant, Dune of Pilat (9) would have a sizeable advantage of anyone remaining, and feels like he would be very short priced free square in the rolling exotics. Upgrade Blue Jays (8) and Conative (2) underneath.
Race 8: 1-9-8
Everlovinghand (1) has better dirt form than anyone in here after two solid sprint efforts. He has a rail draw for his first two turn try, and his pedigree suggests that won’t be an issue. I don’t love taking a short price on a horse trying something new, but no one in here strikes me as a legitimate threat. Martinized (9) was dull on the dirt in his debut, but improved some on grass in his next two tries. I do expect him to be better than his first start, but he’ll have to navigate a trip from the wide post. War Savvy (8) doesn’t draw much better for his two turn debut. He was about five lengths behind Everlovinghand last time out. I think he’ll improve at two turns, but I’m not sure he can make all that ground up, while also having a wider draw.
Race 9: 6-8-3 (Turf)/ 11-12-2 (Dirt)
This is a stakes quality state bred allowance on the grass, and for the third race in a row, it’s really hard to look past the favorite, Ninety One Assault (6). This eight year old veteran won the Champions Day Turf stakes last out, and has been very tough to beat on this course. He has seven wins in ten tries and has never finished off the board here. He has some tactical speed, but is comfortable closing from further back as there should be an honest pace on the front end. Many of these have faced off before, and the only one in here to have beaten him is In The Navy (7), but his current form just isn’t that sharp. Budro Talking (8) found traffic in that same race last out and finished sixth that day, when he was making his first start in three months. The quicker they go up front, the better it is for him and his late charge. He may be the most logical threat, but he is 0-3 against the favorite thus far. Afleet Ascent (3) is one that wants to be forwardly placed here. He gave up the lead late to Ninety One Assault last time, and I do worry he might have a little more pace pressure to deal with today. However, I like his current form, and I think he makes sense underneath. On the main track, Jus Lively (11) becomes the logical short price pick, winning at this level on the dirt last out, and hitting the board in stakes company two times before that. Jax Man (12) and Mageez (2) chased him home before and will likely be doing the same again.
Race 10: 6-1-3
American Rebel (1) and Our Mardi Gras (3) are likely to take the bulk of the wagering attention here, after both finishing less than a length behind the winner last out at this level. Both ran strong races last time at double digit odds, so they both have to prove they can maintain that form. I’m looking to use, Girl In Black (6) on top. She is an interesting second time starter coming down from Delta, who showed some speed in her debut, than faded to finish third. She can certainly build off that start, and I like that the connections have the confidence to bring her here. The two favorites are still logical plays in this field, and probably should be on your tickets.