We kick off another week of racing in New Orleans with a solid 10 race program. Favorites dominated the week last week, so I’m hoping to find some value in spots this week. The rail will be out at 25 feet this week on the Stall Wilson Turf Course, before going back to 0 next week to accommodate full fields for the Louisiana Derby Day card on March 20th.
$5K, state bred, multi-conditioned claimers go 1 Mile in the opener. Horses can run if they have never won four times or haven’t won a twice in six months. While some in here are non-winners of four races, none of the ten runners have won twice in the last six months. Taking Notes (4) may offer some value and definitely has a live look today. His last two have not been very good, but two back he was facing state bred N1X allowance foes and last time he caught a sloppy track and was beaten by several of these. He has a much better record on fast tracks, and he could easily wind up loose on the lead, especially if Senator Con (1) cannot revert back to his better form. I think he has a tactical advantage here, especially with the short stretch of the mile journey. Star Banjo (10) and Rifle Man (9) both come from the Justin Jeansonne barn, and both finished first and second respectively in a race at this level last out. Rifle Man is the one I prefer to bet back today. Star Banjo gets the worst of the draw and has run better races on off tracks. Rifle Man is 12-16 on the board with four wins in dirt races on fast tracks and never worse than second in six tries at the one mile distance. He’s lost in a photo in both of his last two races at this level. Impressive Student (6) is one that I’ll try beat, but I’ll likely cover him on some deeper tickets. I really don’t like playing horses that are recently claimed, and then dropped to a claiming level below their tag. Broberg has won many races with this angle though, and the horses that this one has been facing are better than the horses in here.
Louisiana bred $10K maiden claimers complete in the back end of the early double today. I like The Three K’s (10) at 10-1 to possibly spring the upset here. He has only three starts and took a decent step forward last out at this level to be beaten by 8 lengths in the slop. He looks to have the best early speed of the bunch in a rare 5 and ½ Furlong sprint that doesn’t have a lot of pace. Blinkers go on for the first time, so I’m hoping to see him clear the field early and hang on late. Antietam Road (11) is very logical here for Faucheux after rallying to be a decent third in his first try at this level last out. If he can avoid going 4 or 5 wide on the turn, he’ll likely be the one closing the fastest here. Our Last Shot (8) might deserve another shot at this level after the blowing the break in a full field of 12 last time out. His speed figures in his other races hold up here. I’m a little concerned that the 5 and ½ furlongs will be a little short for him, but I think he may offer more value off his latest effort. Flashburn (4) makes his 11th start today, and has been gradually improving over his last three starts. Riquelme gave him a great rail ride last out to finish in front of Antietam Road. While I think Antietam Road might have a higher ceiling, Flashburn still remains live today.
Fillies and mares that have never won three times, step on the turf course for the first time today, running with a $15,000-$10,000 tag. Bella Belle (1) ran a solid race with similar last out, crossing the wire second, only be to disqualified and placed last for interference at the start. She’s been close in three tries at this level since clearing the N2L condition at Ellis this summer. I think she draws well and finds a field that is lacking in early foot. I think she can get away with some dawdling fractions and outfinish this group late. Happy Sonrisa (2) is likely going to be the favorite in here after annihilating a field of N2L claimers last out with the same tag. She has three solid races on this course and the Amoss/Graham combination has been prosperous all meet, winning 24% of their races together over the last two years here. She is a well-bred four year old, so there’s reason to believe she’ll be able to duplicate her last effort while moving up in class. Cirrusly (8) gets the worst of the draw in her first try at the N3L level after winning last out, beating Happy Sonrisa that day. This will be her second start at the meet, and she lookslike she’ll be launching her run from the back of the pack. She might not get the best pace scenario to set up her late kick, but I think she deserves respect in this spot.
The kick-off leg to the mid-card Pick 4 is a multi-conditioned $15,000-$10,000 claiming race for older horses that have never won twice or three year olds. Two of the eight entered are three year olds, but no one has more than a maiden win on their resumè. Four of the eight were maiden winners last out, but I prefer some of the horses that have been facing winners. Iadanza (5) intrigues me at 12-1 on the morning line. He was claimed for the same tag last out off the layoff, when he led most of the way before tiring late at 6 Furlongs. He did run two turns in his debut and his maiden breaking effort at Churchill, going a one turn mile was strong. Both Botswana Taps (3) and Pocket Player (6) are coming out of the same race, which was an off the turf race at these conditions on 2/18. Botswana Taps got loose on the lead, setting some rapid internal fractions, before begrudgingly giving way late to finish third. Pocket Player just got up for second that day and may get a good set up again today. His last three two turn dirt races have been solid, finishing second in all three. Botswana Taps has more turf experience, but may actually prefer dirt. I didn’t love the ride last out, but I thought his effort was game. I think he’s live in here as well. Make ‘n Tracks (4) was claimed by Chris Hartman last out after beating a $12,500 maiden claiming group by open lengths. Hartman has been solid at this meet, winning 24% of his races, so it’s reasonable to think this one could improve off his maiden score.
The last leg in the early Pick-5 is the third Louisiana bred race in the sequence, this one on turf for fillies and mares either running for a $12,500 tag or entered with the N1X allowance condition. A lot of the fillies and mares here have better dirt form than turf form, so I’m going to try Blessed Anna (1) on top in her second race off the layoff. Her last on dirt wasn’t great and her previous effort against open allowance foes at Remington was also not her best. However, she has good turf races in previous tries at Evangeline and on this course. When you look her last two starts on grass at Evangeline, she was second twice with open allowance foes. She also broke her maiden here last season and was second in her only other try on the turf here. I think there’s a lot of hidden talent in her form. Freda’s Smooth Air (2) has two straight wins at this condition in two straight off the turf efforts. She is capable on the turf, even though she is probably better on dirt. She’s in the best current form of any in here. Air Guitar Star (9) might be a live longshot at long odds here. Her first two starts at the meet were against better horses, and her efforts were below par for her. She dropped to this level and ran an improved third on dirt, almost 7 lengths behind Freda’s Smooth Air. She has really good turf races in her form lines at Louisiana Downs, including a second with OC/N2X horses in September. She may just prefer that course to this one, but I like that she’s getting back on turf at this level and I liked that she improved on dirt last out, suggesting that she may be ready to run a bigger effort today. B’s Ten (7) is the morning line favorite from the Tom Amoss barn that I’m taking a stand against. She’s been away for almost a whole year and drops in class for her return. Her races last season weren’t that much better than what others in here have shown and Amoss doesn’t have the best numbers off the long layoff. I might use her at closer to 5-1, but I want no part of her anywhere near 5-2.
Three year olds who have never won twice, sprint 6 Furlongs in this allowance, which is boasting a 20% purse boost from earlier in the meet. A few in here are coming off monster efforts while some others are trying to rebound off of double digit length losses. Both He’s in Charge (3) and Shackleford Strong (4) could be stakes quality horses in the future. He’s in Charge came out of nowhere to handily beat one of the better maiden fields of the meet. Tulane Tryst, who was second that day, scratched last week from a scheduled race and Wild For Wyckliff who was third, ran a strong second in his subsequent start. His dam, Brazen Persuasion, was graded stakes sprint winner at two, and that family has produced several quality runners. Shackleford Strong (4) easily won an off the turf maiden special weight race in his first start since a decent 4th place debut at Saratoga this past summer. He has a decent looking sprinter’s pedigree as well and may prove to be too fast to catch, while facing winners for the first time. There’s a lot of money to be made for three year old sprinters, and it wouldn’t shock me to see either of these go to a race like the Woody Stephens on Belmont Day down the road. Inspector Frost (7) is a little intriguing to me as he gets back to sprinting for Cox this afternoon. His maiden breaking race at seven Furlongs at Keeneland this fall was solid. He tried two turns twice, once the in Kentucky Jockey Club stakes and again on a muddy surface at Oaklawn. He’s been gelded since his last start and could improve on the cutback at better odds today.
This is another state bred optional claiming/N1X race, this one for older horses sprinting on the grass. Drakkar (2) has never run a bad race in four tries on the turf. He returned in January off a 10 month layoff to run a strong third with open, multi-conditioned claimers. He’s is protected from being claimed in this spot, as he qualifies for the N1X state bred condition. I think he’s live in this spot. Mr. Priority (8) was away slow when facing open multi-conditioned claimers last out, and never was able to get involved, while being forced 6 wide on the turn. He has other efforts on the grass that would make him competitive at this level, despite never hitting the board in five turf tries. He’s first off the claim for Faucheux, who typically gets his horses to run an improved effort when they debut for him. State Treasurer (5) has been in decent form on the main track, winning twice already at the meet. He has some sharp turf races at Evageline over the summer, and some dull efforts on the grass at Remington this fall. If he takes to the local course, I think he makes sense at this level. O’L Red (1A) is deep on the AE list, but is one that should definitely be a player at this level. He struggled to stay on against better last out, but he drops in class and faces a notably softer bunch today. Bistraya (10) is also on the AE list, but one to consider if he does draw in. His lone start on the grass was at two turns against better, and he ran very well to be third that day. The 5 and ½ Furlong distance may prove to be a little short, but I think this one is worth a look if he does get to compete.
Three year old maiden special weight fillies go 1 Mile and 1/16 here to kick off the last Pick 3 of the afternoon. Only three of the eight fillies entered have gone two turns before, and only one of them has done so on a fast track. Three of the fillies trying two turns for the first time, are exiting very fast sprint races, won by runaway winners. I was all about Famous Attraction (2) last out, when she was second best behind the very impressive first time starter, Caribbean Caper. However, part of her intrigue for me was her pedigree, which I thought suggested, sprinting on the dirt would be where she would flourish, as her dam sire was a graded stakes winning sprinter. Her sire is Into Mischief, so perhaps she can get the distance, but I’m trying to beat her at a short price this afternoon. I’ll look to Lady Frosted (1) to get the job done, stretching out to two turns in her second race off the layoff. She was well backed, but no match for Euphoric last out, who turned in a monster effort. I think she’s one that does have the pedigree to be a decent two turn horse, being sired by Frosted, out of a Macho Uno mare. Closet Shopper (3) does have a two turn race under her belt, finishing 6th in the slop last out against a solid group. She was a $600,000 purchase, who has been facing some stiff competition. I think adding blinkers to get her more involved early will be a plus. Mucho Macho Momma (7) exits the same race, as Closet Shopper. She was 4 wide on both turns and made the lead, before fading late in her first two turn voyage. She has a wide draw again, which isn’t ideal, but I think she will run a better effort this time around.
This is a brutally tough multi-conditioned claiming race for non-winners of 4 or horses that have not won two times over a mile on the turf in the last 6 months. The claiming tag for this race is $17,500-$15,000. I would want a good amount of coverage here. I ended up with Antarctic (9) as my top pick, coming off the Faucheux claim. He’s been running well in some salty optional claiming/starter allowance races, finishing second to Trey’s Midnite Moon in his last two tries. He’s got enough tactical speed to navigate the outside draw, and has all four of his career wins on this course. Mishko (7) was claimed two back after winning a multi-conditioned claimer with a $15K tag. He just missed running against a better field for a $30K tag last out. He drops, but is still running for a tag greater than what he was claimed for. Beschizza has rode him well in his last two, and he keeps the mount again. Maraud (1) is the one that is the huge question mark here. He returned off a 10 month layoff with a dull effort in the Colonel Bradley in January. On class alone, he towers over this field, but it’s definitely a wonder how much he still has left in the tank. He’s entered for a $17,500 tag, so I don’t know how much confidence his connections have in his current ability. He is second off the layoff and Calhoun has good numbers there. I will cover with caution on the vertical tickets, but I’ll likely take a stand against in the horizontals. Youvesaiditall (3) was in very good form on the grass at Remington in the fall. His last against better at Sam Houston was a little dull. Asmussen sends him here in hopes that he’ll prefer this course. I do believe he fits with this group today.
Maiden claimers run with a $15,000-$10,000 tag in the nightcap today. Contact Tracing (10) was claimed at this level last out while tiring late in his first two turn try. The Shirer barn has had a very good meet and he takes over the training of this gelding, who has two strong efforts while facing similar horses. If he can duplicate his last two efforts, he’ll be tough to beat here. Grand Design (7) makes his first start since November, while taking a significant drop in class for Cox. He was a $260,000 purchase that doesn’t appear to be working out as planned. Cox drops him to a level where he could be successful and has won with 35% of his class droppers from maiden special to maiden claiming. Tour of the World (3) is an interesting add to deeper tickets, making his first start on dirt after several turf tries. Joe Sharp has done well with horses going turf to dirt and even though his sire, Tourist, is known for his turf prowess, his grand sire is Tiznow and dam sire is Yankee Gentlemen, so there is dirt ability there.