I met Grant LaGrange a few years ago was he was barely out of his teens. A passionate racing fan and sharp handicapper, he wrote me a letter when I worked at that other place and he ended up sleeping on my couch for a week at Saratoga. Kind of like a degenerate summer camp. He’s since started working in racing, and has been helping out in the Fair Grounds press office these last two seasons. He was kind enough to share his wagering thoughts on the La Derby card below. You can follow him on Twitter at @grant_lagrange
While you’re here, make sure to check out the two previous posts on the site. Frank McGoey joined us on the pod yesterday to mark your card, and Benny Southstreet shared his trip notes for today’s FG graded stakes.
Take it away, Grant!
It’s the final Saturday of the meet at Fair Grounds and the fields are set for a terrific 13-race card in New Orleans.
After spending the past two years at the Fair Grounds, I have finally begun to get a handle on the way things work around here. After what looks to be another profitable meet for me here in New Orleans (all things going well today and Sunday), we’ll see if I can finish it off strong and go into summer racing with some authority.
Here’s how I plan Louisiana Derby Day:
R2 – R5
$10 Pick 3
Crescent City Oaks
RACE 2: The early part of this card is a little difficult to get a handle on,it will either be very predictable, or, the favorites are going to get beat and leave the door open for a higher-priced horse to get the money. The problem is, in the second case, I’m not sure who those prices will be.
I’m going to take what the race give me here and try to find a bit of a price later.
My top selection and SINGLE is going to be #7 Midnight Fantasy (7-5 ML). The Joe Sharp trained filly was undefeated going into her last start at Delta where she just barely got beaten. Leaving the bullring track of Delta and coming back to Fair Grounds should suite her very well and I expect her to be a very short-priced winner.
New Orleans Ladies Stakes
RACE 3: A solid group of nine older fillies will go one-mile-and-a-sixteenth in this year’s edition of the New Orleans Ladies.
I’m going to single #2 Beau Recall (2-1 ML) here hoping to not get beat by second choice #5 Flower Party.
#2 Beau Recall is coming off of two back to back solid performances with a win two back in the Blushing K.D Stakes and a close second last time out both going one-mile-and-a-sixteenth. She looks to be coming back into form, and when she is in form she has proven that she can compete in graded stakes company. That makes her tough to beat in this one.
RACE 4: A good group of twelve line up in this allowance optional claimer and I’m going to try to beat the ML favorite here with three horses.
#2 Big Bella Brown (9-2 ML) is coming off of a solid 3rdplace effort against similar competition in his first start over the Fair Grounds oval. My numbers look good on him, and he will be making his second start over the track which is important here.
#5 Queeten (8-1 ML) wired a field two starts back and that’s the race im going to go off of. If he can get the lead in this race and settle for a quarter, he may be able to steal this one on the front end.
#11 Where Y’at Joe Joe (5-1 ML) is just a hard knocking 7-year old who has hit the board 9 of his last 10 starts. The 5-1 of the ML may be a little short but if he can stalk just behind the leaders and the race falls apart, he could be the first one in line to take advantage.
$10 WIN #8
$20 EXACTA 2 / 5,8
$10 EXACTA 8 / 2,5
$5 EXACTA 5 / 2,8
$5 EXACTA 2,5,8 / 9
CRESCENT CITY DERBY
RACE 6: This looks to be a pretty straight-forward race. Morning line favorite Shang (9-5 ML) for Asmussen looks to be the one to beat in this field. At that price, and with him probably going shorter I see no value in a win bet. However, I am going to try to link him up with #5 Jimi’s a Star (8/1 ML) #8 Sharp Witted (4-1 ML), and an outsider who has a shot at second I believe #9 Crocodile Jacques(12-1 ML).
I will also put in a win bet on #8 Sharp Witted as long as he stays above 5-2 or 3-1 which I absolutely think he will. He will be making his third lifetime start for trainer Tom Amoss and has yet to be beaten. He matches up with Shang fine on my numbers and if he can hover around the 5-2 and up price I think he is a very solid win bet.
R8 – R10
Race 8: This Maiden Special Weight event is wide open and can very well be a great spot to find a good price.
I’m going four deep in here and leave out the morning line favorite #8 Awesome Wok N Roll (7-2 ML) hoping to get a price here and kick off my pick 3.
I’m going to use #1 Tapit Wise (9-2 ML), #3 Copper King (5-1 ML) , #6 Parade Field (12-1 ML) , #12 Tony Small (6-1 ML).
If I can catch a price with one of those four here and beat the favorite, I ‘ll put myself in a good position the rest of the way.
$5 WIN #5 Wonder Run
$20 Win #9 Monte Man
COSTA RISING STAKES
RACE 9: Here’s where things start to get really interesting for me, as I love the last five races of this card.
To go along with my Pick 3 I will also be playing to win bets being that they both stay above the 9-5 level.
If Monte Man (3/1 ML) is not bet down to heavily and can stay above 9-5, I see him as a very logical and valuable win bet. The horse is just a winner and always seems to put his best foot forward. He will be looking to repeat here after winning this race last year and after that very impressive prep last time out I don’t see why he wouldn’t be able to get the job done.
My other win bet if above 5-1 will be #5 Wonder Run (8-1 ML)who is coming off of two straight victories. His last being a stakes win at Delta, my numbers show that he matches up enough with these and at that price I think he stands a chance with this group. He has some early speed and he may take a liking to this grass course. I’m giving him a shot at the right price.
$20 Daily Double
G II New Orleans Handicap
Race 10: This looks to be my final play of the day and is my strongest opinion on the card.
I’m going to play a Daily Double here, hoping to beat the favorite in this first leg.
#3 Souper Tapit (6-1 ML) has worked his way up the class ladder and has hit the board in 8 of his last 10 starts. His race two back puts him right in the mix with these numbers wise, and if he can just take one small step forward he may get a graded stakes win here.
#10 Copper Bullet (4/1 ML) will be the other one I use here. Last time out in the Razorback he just barely missed and looked impressive throughout the race chasing a fast pace and still having some left in the tank late. He has proven he belongs with horses of this caliber, and is already a Graded Stakes winner. He looks like a prime contender in today’s field. Hoping he doesn’t get slammed down in the win pool; 5-2 or higher looks tasty for a win bet.
Muniz Memorial Handicap
Race 11: To close out my double I’ll go with two here; podcast legend #2 Divisidero (5-1 ML), and # 7 Bricks and Mortar (2-1 ML).
#2 Divisidero is no stranger to big days. He’s a 6-time winner overall and a multiple graded stakes winner. He put in a solid performance at Tampa last out where he relaxed at the back of the pack of 7 that ran a moderate pace before blasting home to only get beat ½ a length. His numbers are at the top of this field, and I believe he can run down any horse in the field in the final 16th. A solid 5-1on the ML.
#7 Bricks and Mortar has done next to nothing wrong his whole career. Chad Brown has done a phenomenal job with the now 5-year old. He’s coming off of a dominant victory in the Pegasus Turf, where he proved that he is indeed a Grade I horse. He has best figure in the field, has shown that he can run a quick pace, and also gets Irad Ortiz back aboard. He will likely be a short price, and the only way I see him getting beat is if he regresses off of that last effort.
Race 13: I won’t be betting the Louisiana Derby, however I think #4 Sueno (8-1 ML), and #8 Country House (9-2 ML)both have a good shot to possibly upset #6 War of Will who is the 6-5 ML favorite.
Sueno has the numbers to compete with War of Will, and will offer a much better price. Coming off of a narrow defeat in the Southwest at Oaklawn where he got shuffled back to 8that the half mile pole, and then made another move 4 wide into the stretch to close to within 1 length of the winner. His late pace figures look great compared to this field, and I expect him to put in a good effort here.
Country House will come into play late if the race falls apart. I don’t see him beating War of Will by sitting just off the pace, rather sitting way back and making one run at him late. His first start against winners was in the Risen Star where he put in a solid effort, and he improves and shows the same turn of foot, he can get a piece of this.
It’s been a great winter for me as well as lots of other horseplayers here at Fair Grounds. Hoping to go out with a bang and carry some momentum into the Arlington meet where you will find me writing barn notes on the backside and possibly some pre-race analyst.
Saturday is going to be jam packed with action, let’s make a profit while we enjoy it.