Rain wreaked havoc on the Saturday card, causing a lot of talented turf horses to scratch. The Risen Star card for next Saturday was drawn yesterday, and it looks like an exceptional 13 race card, highlighted by the 13 horse Risen Star Stakes, the first of the Derby preps to offer 50 points to the winner (which all but guarantees them a spot in the starting gate for the Kentucky Derby). I’ll have a full report next week on that race along with the other five stakes that support that card. However, with such a great racing day on the horizon, I wouldn’t be shocked to see the turf races today transferred to the main track, in order to preserve the course for next week. I’ll handicap the four races carded on the grass for both surfaces once again. Only eight races are scheduled today in order to end racing in time for the big game tonight.
Most Likely Winner: Race 8: Our Bermuda (#7, ML 9-5)
Longshot Price Stab: Race 6: Muletrain (#5, ML 20-1)
Race 1: 2-4-3 (Turf) / 3-7-1 (Dirt)
The opener is pretty evenly matched, so I believe the trip will be very important if the race stays on the grass. I’m playing against the morning line favorite, Power Player (6) as he takes steep drop in class off the layoff. Copper Fiddle (2) has been steady at this level, coming close in his last two tries. He’s been posted wide in his last two tries and now moves inside, which should help his cause. Kinetic Swagger (4) is better than what he showed in his local debut last time out where he came up empty against a better group. He drops in class and is now second off the layoff. I’m expecting an improved effort this afternoon. Comedian (3) made his first twenty career starts on the main track and tried the turf for the first time after being claimed by Joe Sharp. His efforts on grass have been consistent coming close at this level two back. He had some trouble last out and gets rid of the blinkers as a result. He’s playable on the main track as well, as he’s never raced at a level this low on the dirt. The last time we was in for a $20,000 tag was his last win. On the main track, I think Holy Spirit (7) is one to upgrade after a big effort on the dirt two back with lesser foes. Ekaterinoslav (1) was claimed for $5,000 in a dirt sprint last out. He doesn’t have a ton of dirt tries, but he’s been competitive with his limited sample and is a better two turn horse.
Race 2: 4-3-7
Lagniappe (4) runs for a low percentage barn that was winless in 2020, and while I don’t love that, I think this horse is well spotted to hopefully break that trend. She’s never been off the board here in six tries. There’s no early speed in this race, so my hope is that Chester Bonnet won’t have to work hard to make the front end with her. She does fade a lot, but this has the feel of a merry-go-round race, as not many of these are good at making up ground. Rhett’s Racer (3) comes in from Delta and returns to facing state bred company. Her last effort was better than her first try off the layoff and she was a winner the last time she faced Louisiana Breds over at Evangeline. Goodnight Gracie (7) is second off the layoff after finishing third at this level last out. She should be more fit for this effort today.
Race 3: 6-7-1 (Turf) / 3-7-2 (Dirt)
This is not the deepest field for the maiden special weight condition, and the race really looks like it will fall apart on the main track. I’ll take a chance with Pink Posse (6) who showed a little late interest after a rough start two back on the grass, which was her first start in nine months. Her race in January was rained off the turf, and she was up the track. She adds blinkers and Lasix in a race devoid of any real early speed, so there’s some upside at 8-1 or better. Jim’s Bronze Star (7) hasn’t run since September, when she faced a much stronger field at this level at Kentucky Downs. She’s been 2nd or 3rd in her other five tries, but never looked like a winner in any of those. She’ll likely be the favorite on the grass, but I’ll be reluctant to use her on top. She’s never been on the main track, but her form is good enough to consider trying her, as her pedigree suggests she can handle the main track. Caroline’s Story (1) was surging late at this level last out and just missed on the wire. She might have the most upside in this field, however, she could be pace compromised and her rail draw might not be ideal for her running style. On dirt, Dynamite Gift (3) ran a big figure in her most recent try while finishing a distant third in an off the turf maiden special weight. I’m not seeing anyone here that could run the figure that the winner did that day. Ghosting Kim (2) wasn’t good in her one dirt try at Aqueduct, but she went on the shelf for six months after that effort, so something could have gone amiss there. I’d give her a look underneath.
Race 4: 7-5-3
There’s many chances in this $5,000 claiming contest. Nice Work (7) was claimed in October at Keeneland and since has two mediocre tries on the local course. However, early speed is his game, and there was way more early speed in his last race, when they went 21:4 for the opening quarter. He’s got an outside draw, and no one that should push him that hard here. He’s dangerous when he gets loose on the lead. I connected with him at 6-1 under similar circumstances this summer at Ellis, and I’m hoping for the same fate again today. Park Ridge Benny (5) hasn’t won a race in his last 15 tries, but he still has been very competitive. Some of those races have been near misses and bad luck, but for a horse that started his career winning 6 of his first 16 races, you have to wonder if he’s forgotten how to win. That being said, he’s hit the board in 6 of his last 8 tries, most of those with better company, so I think you definitely should be using him underneath. Caymans Cobra (3) has found trouble early on in both of his last two starts, but has still ran on gamely. I don’t love the 3-1 morning line, but I suspect that number might float up a little bit.
Race 5: 7-5-3 (Turf) / 5-7-2 (Dirt)
Many of these claiming fillies and mares are quite familiar with each other. I’ll give a slight edge to Apple Dapple (7) who was claimed at this level last out when she got the short end of the stick in a three horse photo. She has a versatile running style and goes from one high percentage barn to another. I chose her over Sensible Myth (5), who I like a lot in this spot, as Apple Dapple should be upgraded on a turf course that’s less than firm. Sensible Myth does prefer a firm course, but she’s a classy mare who is six months removed from winning a stakes race at Gulfstream. Her form has been a little spotty since then, but, there was an effort on a good course in stakes company and an off the turf race in the slop in that cycle. I’m not sure how much rain fell yesterday, so I’m not expecting a firm course, but I do think the main track will be good to fast if this race comes off, so she’s playable on either surface on the drop in class. Herbs Love (3) ran a dud on the grass last out, but is capable of better efforts with a clean trip if this race stays on the turf. If it comes off, upgrade North of Eden (2), whose last two efforts on dirt should put her in the conversation with this group.
Race 6: 5-3-6
You’re going to get a short price on three unproven favorites in this spot. Let’s take a wild stab with 20-1 morning line shot Muletrain (5). While he hasn’t shown much in two starts, there are a few positive signals that might make this one worth adding to your multi-race exotics tickets. His debut at this level wasn’t awful, as he was making up ground after a slow break. Last out, he got buried on the rail, and was fighting the jockey when he was in tight quarters. He stretches out to two turns, which, looking at his pedigree, should be what he wants to do. The barn doesn’t have a ton of runners, but it’s a capable outfit and the rider change to Riquelme is a plus. Kansas King (3) is the only one of the favorites with two turn experience, with two of those three races coming on the turf. He’s back to the main track, and dropping into maiden claiming, which is a solid angle for this barn. He’s probably the one they’ll have to beat. Guilty Lover (6) is the most consistent of the three that will take the bulk of money here. He’s never gone two turns, and I’m not certain he’s screaming for added distance. However, I think he’s better than many of these and is likely to hit the board.
Race 7: 4-5-10 (Turf) / 14-7-6 (Dirt)
This maiden claiming contest is wide open on the grass. I liked the effort from Danger Zone (4) in her first effort on the grass last time. She’s got a post advantage over the other main contenders in this spot. I think she’ll be more relaxed in her second try on turf and she’ll be able to build off that last try. Flatteringapplause (5) is a longshot with some upside as she’s paired her Beyers at this level in her first two career tries. She had some trouble in both starts, and now adds blinkers in hopes of correcting some of those issues. If she can get away cleanly, she may be able to step up and hit the board at a big number. Gastown (10) does not have a great post, especially with the rail out at 26 feet, however, her debut at this level was strong, just missing in a photo for the win. If she can work out a trip, she’ll be dangerous. On the main track, I’ll use Watugonnadokaren (14), who sits on the AE list, but will likely be able to draw in if this race is taken off the turf. She was claimed after a solid second place finish with lesser on the main track last out. She has two strong works for her new connections and should be tough on dirt. I’ll also include the Brad Cox horse, Hot as Blue Blazes (7) on top as she drops in class and showed more ability on dirt than on turf. Taptime (6) improved on grass last out, but her two tries on dirt came against significantly better competition.
Race 8: 7-6-2
It’s hard to look past Our Bermuda (7) in the nightcap. She’s second off the layoff and was a decent second at this level last out despite a little hiccup at the start. She lost two heartbreaking photos at this level this summer at Evangeline in her previous tries, and finds a soft group for this condition today. Hashtag Speed (6) drops back to state bred company after a dullish fifth place finish with open restricted claimers. He can build off that effort at this level. My Guitar (2) is lightly raced and returns to the main track after facing better on a yielding turf course last out. He was beaten seven lengths by Our Bermuda in his last dirt try, but he has a better post today and a pattern of improvement.