Rain could be an issue this afternoon after showers came through the area yesterday. They were forecasted to persist throughout the morning hours. I’ll monitor that situation throughout the afternoon as I’m playing this 10 race Friday card, highlighted by a strong N3X allowance race for three year olds and up going one mile on the turf in the 9th race of the day. First post this afternoon is the usual 1:00 (ET) starting time.
I’ll be covering this exciting meet on the ITM Blog, along with posting some updates and thoughts from time to time on Twitter @EricSolomon718. Feel free to reach out!
|Race||Top Pick||A||B||C||Exotics Menu|
|1||6||6,7||4||DBL, PK3, PK5|
|2||1||1,6||DBL, PK3, PK4|
|5||11||11,12||8||DBL, PK3, PK6, All-Turf PK3|
|6||3||3||7||DBL, PK3, PK5|
|7||3||3,10||2||DBL, PK3, PK4|
Seven fillies and mares will sprint 6 and ½ furlongs in this $16K claiming race that will get the ball rolling today. I thought the effort from Priddis (#6) last out was better than it looks on paper. She broke from the rail and was away slow in a $10K claiming race at Churchill at this distance. She was running from the back of the pack , which was a brand new experience for her, seeing as how she typically likes to be on or near the front end. She came with a strong late rally, while closing into a moderate pace. She was claimed by Juan Cano, who has good numbers first off the claim. I think she’s going to take a step forward in this race. The Gulfstream invader, Ghostly Night (#7) feels like the main danger. She’s the most consistent runner in the group, making her first start for trainer Greg Begley. She’s run well in these middle distance sprint races in South Florida, winning at 7 furlongs four starts ago. I think others might have a higher ceiling, but she has the lowest floor. Caltha (#4) is a little bit of a wild card in this spot. She ran very well to be second in an optional $16K claiming/N1X allowance race at Belterra last out when going this distance. That effort was on the heels of a near miss in a two turn turf race back in August. Both of those efforts were career tops for speed figures, so she could be a late developing mare that is starting to get good in her five year old campaign. This will be a decent test for her though in terms of class.
This is not a particularly strong $20K N2L claiming race for fillies and mares. I’ll hope that the two turf races in her last two starts will set up Hot Summer Dream (#1) for a big effort in her return to the main track. She ran very well three back when easily breaking her maiden with $30K maiden claimers at Prairie Meadows when going six furlongs. She didn’t run particularly well on the grass at Remington in her last two tries. She’s been transferred to Helen Pitts for her local debut. She was improving when racing on the dirt, so there’s reason to believe that she could improve enough to be a factor with this group. Ball Gown (#6) feels like the runner they’ll have to beat in this race. When you draw a line through the race where she was eased two back at Ellis, the rest of her dirt efforts are likely good enough to get her close in this field. She drops in class and finds a field of vulnerable runners, several of which are moving up in class.
The morning line favorite in this $30K maiden claiming race is a Chad Brown first time starter, In the Numbers (#11). He was purchased for $360K at the Keeneland September Sale in 2022, and I think it’s a reasonable guess that he hasn’t developed the way the barn had hoped he would. Not even getting a sniff at a maiden allowance race is concerning to me, along with the fact that Chad Brown hasn’t had a debut runner winner in maiden claiming on the dirt since 2019, will have me leaving this one off my tickets. Notorious Sixohtwo (#2) improved from start one to start two. He finished 6th, beaten 9 lengths with $50K maiden claimers last out. He did show some early speed, and being forward on this course continues to be a good thing, especially in sprint races. Christ Hartman had a winner yesterday and he looks to keep on rolling into the weekend. One Red Cent (#1) has put up consistent figures in his five starts, all against maiden claiming company. He moved to the dirt for the first time last out and finished 7th of 9 in a one mile maiden allowance race at Churchill, matching his career top Beyer Speed Figure though. He gets significant class relief while cutting back in distance. Horses that stayed close along the rail and swung out wide in the stretch performed very well yesterday. If Walter Rodriguez can work out that kind of trip, he figures to be in the mix. Yuletide Group (#12) was claimed by Joe Sharp at this $30K level last month. He improved from start one to start two, while moving on the main track for the first time. Luis Saez is in a tie with Tyler Gaffalione for leading jockey at the moment, so this feels like a good pick up mount for him, breaking just to the outside of Gaffalione aboard In the Numbers. Capo (#15) will need some help to get into the body of this field, but if he goes, I think he’s a sneaky play in this race for Rivelli. He debuted in a maiden special weight on synthetic at Presque Isle Downs in August. While those Presque Isle Downs races aren’t the deepest races, the winner and the third place finisher of that race came back to win in their next starts, with the winner scoring in stakes company at Parx. Rivelli likes to give his horses a little time off, and his numbers with runners off 61-180 layoffs are very strong, winning at a 39% clip since the start of 2022. He moves to the dirt, while also dropping a bit in class. On deeper tickets, the first time starter that I’m most interested in is Broadway Red (#6). He’s sired by Flameaway, who has hit with 11% of his first time starters thus far in his stud career. He’ll be flying under the radar, as he’s ridden by CJ Ulloa for trainer Ben Delong. However, he’s been working well enough to be a threat in here, assuming that his AM form carries over to dirt.
Seven are entered in this $30K starter allowance which is also restricted to runners that have never won three times. While some of the runners have shown some glimpses of running big races, many of them are generally too inconsistent to get behind in this spot. I’m not going to get cute in this race. I’ll take the two shorter prices and try to move on. Goodasiwonswas (#2) has more tactical speed than Camp Daddy (#6), which is the deciding factor as to making that one the top pick. He comes in after a pair of strong races at Belterra and Churchill, crushing N1X foes in Ohio and running a big race to be third in an off the turf N2X race in Kentucky. He comes from a smaller operation, so it’s always nice to see barns like this find themselves in the Winner’s Circle at Keeneland. Camp Daddy has been a popular face at the claim box in his last few three starts. Armando Hernandez, who has hit with 33% (9-27) of his runners first off the claim since 2022, opts to keep him in a protected spot today. Tyler Gaffalione has ridden this gelded son of Distorted Humor in the past and he’ll get back in the saddle aboard him today. I’d like him better at 6 and ½ or 7 furlongs, but if some of the cheaper speed horses in this race are winging it on the front end, look for him to get rolling in the late stages on this one.
The popular All-Turf Pick-3 gets started with a maiden special weight race for two year olds, sprinting 5 and ½ furlongs. Wesley Ward has been a force in races like this over the last several years. He has a second time starter in this race that figures to be tough. Spirit’s Mischief (#11) is the first foal to race from the mare Stave. She was a winner on this course and she liked running on softer ground, both of which are appealing with him today. He showed speed and faded to third when going five furlongs at Churchill in his first try. Ward hasn’t run a ton of horses at this meet this year, winning three times from only 16 starters. However, he sits just two races back for the lead in a crowded field for the leading trainer. Oy Vey (#12) makes a lot of sense in this race as well. He debuts for Brad Cox, while drawing the outside post here. The dam was a stakes winning sprinter on turf and dirt. She has foaled a pair of runners to win in turf sprints, including Goin’ Good, who also won on debut. These two feel like they are a cut above the rest in this one. The price play underneath in this race for me is Runnin’ Rocket (#8). He ran well in an off the turf maiden allowance race at Ellis back in July. He ran well enough to try him back on the dirt in start number, where he struggled after battling for the lead. He’s bred for the turf, sired by War Front, and out of a Speightstown mare that had a few wins on the downhill turf at Santa Anita. I think we’ll see a better showing from him while getting back on the lawn.
The Late Pick-5 begins with a $10K starter allowance, going nine furlongs on the main track. Tiger Moon (#3) has developed into a nice runner in these longer distance starter allowance races, while under the care of Lindsay Schultz. He;s won two straight contests, dominating at Delaware two starts ago and narrowly beating Nepal Up (#4) at Churchill last month. There’s a lot of cheap speed signed on in this race, so between Call Me Gusto (#2), Commander Carl (#5), and Golden Text (#8), there should be an honest pace for him to close into. I He has inside position on Bear Oak (#7), who is the morning line favorite, and I see that as a positive for this race. That runner can run on the dirt, but I think his best races have been on turf and synthetic. Bear Oak, who did have a good race here with high priced claimers in the spring, is the logical backup, but I see this race as Tiger Moon’s to lose.
I wrote a little bit about the trainer Mary Lightner in yesterday’s blog when she debuted a longshot in a turf sprint. Her filly broke slow and never really had an impact in that race, going off at 43-1. Her best horse is likely Sol Hope (#3), who has made a killing at Colonial Downs the past two summers. She was very good two starts ago, when clearing the N1X condition in a full field, when going this 5 and ½ furlong distance, which is her specialty. She has four starts and four wins, all in Virginia, at this distance on the grass. She has run a few races on synthetic at Gulfstream which have been subpar, however, I thought her effort in a $60K handicap last month was her best yet, telling me that she’s in very good form right now. She’s best on the grass, and the five furlong races on the turf at Gulfstream, when they’re carded, are tough for her running style. I think she can upset the favorite, which is Shootoutthelights (#10) for Wesley Ward. She was very good when clearing the N1X condition on a good course at Saratoga last time out. That course definitely had some give in it that day and she handled it like a pro, taking that field gate to wire. She seems to have fixed whatever was not working for her in the spring when she was dull in her two starts at Churchill and Belmont. She’ll be tough to catch, but she’s likely going to be under pressure most of the way around the track. Redefined (#2) might find this 5 and ½ furlong distance a shade too short for her. She has run very well when going six furlongs in New York, narrowly missing in a graded stakes there at that distance last fall. She was 5th in the Galway Stakes last out, but they noted in the form that she bled in that race when she was not eligible to be treated with race day Lasix. She will have that option this afternoon.
The last Pick-3 of the afternoon begins with another nine furlong race on the dirt, this one a N1X allowance contest for fillies and mares. It’s hard to build a case against Raging Sea (#8) in this one. She crossed the wire third, in a three horse photo in the Grade 1 Darley Alcibiades last fall. She followed up that effort with a third palace finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies race, when she had the misfortune of drawing Post 13. She’s run two solid races since coming back as a three year old, but I think her last was very notable. She ran at Saratoga at this distance and finished second to a filly, Just Katherine, who was second in stakes company in her prior start. That filly would go on to have a tough trip in the very muddy Cotillion Stakes. Raging Sea has been patiently campaigned by Brown, looking like a horse that could be a player in the distaff division next year. Being a daughter of Curlin, she looked very comfortable at this longer distance, while also having the opportunity to race on Lasix for the first time. If she runs her race, on this course which she clearly likes, the other fillies are running for second place.
The featured race is a stakes quality N3X allowance race for three year olds and up, going one mile over the turf course. While I think both of the favorites are going to be tough in this race, I’m very interested in seeing what Kingmax (#10) can do at this level. He was one of the more impressive turf horses that ran at Monmouth Park over the summer. He was a strong winner of a deep N1X allowance race back in June, while making his first North American start for Jorge Delgado. Isaac Castillo rode him like he was much the best when he squared off against N2X company a few weeks later, winning by a length and a half, despite a less than ideal trip. I predicted we’d see him in stakes company, but I was surprised to see the stakes race be a Grade 2 route on synthetic at Woodbine. He was a winner on a synthetic course overseas, but he was pace compromised while also racing wide in the Seagram Cup. I like seeing him back on the grass, in a race where I think he’ll get a proper setup for the race he wants to run. I knew he relished the firm going in the summer in New Jersey, so a softer course could be a little bit of a concern. However, at or around his 8-1 morning line price, I’ll be very interested in him here. Easter (#7) is the morning line favorite and the one to beat for Graham Motion. He was very good when finishing 4th in the Man O’War at Belmont last year on a course that was labeled firm, but had a little give to it. He can handle a variety of distances, but the mile is probably his best trip. Like the top pick, I think he’ll get a good setup with a solid tempo to close into. Strong Quality (#8) is one that I like a lot, but I think the presence of Tatanka (#1) on the rail could make his life very difficult. Strong Quality wants to be on or near the lead, but so does his rival. There’s a few other runners inside of him that could force him wide or cause him to get a trip that isn’t to his liking. He’s been burned in fast paces in stakes company in the Tapit at Kentucky Downs and in the Grade 1 Arlington Million two back. He was excellent here in the spring when clearing the N2X condition on a good course, so that is what’s going to make me use him as a backup for sure. If for some reason, Tatanka defects, I’d upgrade Strong Quality to the A line.
The Friday nightcap is a $20K N2L claiming race for three year olds and up, going 6 and ½ furlongs on the main track. This race feels like a race that could be ripe for a longshot, so I’m going to roll the dice on Pistol or Shotgun (#5) here at 20-1 on the morning line. There’s a lot of speed signed on in the outer lanes, and while this race should set up beautifully for the morning line favorite, Dual Monarchy (#4), I’m not sure he can get the job done. That one has struggled to pair bigger efforts and his lone race on this course was poor. I’ll use him as a saver on the deeper tickets, but I think the best value is elsewhere. Pistol or Shotgun has been on the sidelines since the end of the Oaklawn meet, so there is a chance that this race is merely a prep race to be ready for the start of that meet in 49 days. Thomas Vance doesn’t have good numbers off the layoff. However, the last time he had a new trainee in his barn, off this kind of layoff was 2019, and that horse was a longshot winner at Oaklawn. I think he can sit just off the dueling leaders and make a run at them in the stretch. I think many of them could be struggling to find their best stride in the final furlong of this one. Mahoney Road (#9) is going to have to deal with the early pace pressure in this one, but unlike some of the other runners, he’s at least proven that he can rate off the early leaders. His best races on dirt have been at Churchill, so you do have to hope that his best form can carry over to this course. Libertango (#7) scratched out of a tougher spot at this level last week in favor of this race. I did like his last race, while closing with a flourish on the turf. He’s going to have to have that kind of kick, while coming from a little bit off the pace, if he wants to win this one. He ran a credible race on this course after carving out the early fractions back in the spring.
How to Read the Picks-Grid:
This grid has become my favorite tool for helping to handicap a race card in advance. Keep in mind that these designations for me are flexible and may change depending on how the value in the betting market shifts leading up to post time.
The “Top Pick” Column is fairly self-explanatory, meaning that it’s the horse that I think will win the race.
The “A” Column is reserved for the horses that I feel have the best chances of winning. The more horses that are in this column per race, the more wide open I think the race might be. For multi-race wagers, these horses will be on the bulk of my tickets. If I’m betting on the vertical wagers (exactas, trifectas, superfectas), these horses would likely be candidates to be keyed on top.
The “B” Column are horses that I think have a chance of winning, but I don’t like them as much as the runners on the A line. If I put a morning line favorite in this column, I’m trying to find ways to beat them. For me, favorites on the B line typically will either be used underneath in the vertical exotics, or perhaps not at all. They’ll typically be used on some back up tickets in the multi-race wagers, especially in races where the other options aren’t as strong. I might also relegate a horse to the B line if I don’t think there’s good value on that horse with their morning line odds or how I think the race will be bet. For example, If I think a horse should be closer to 5-1, and their morning line odds are 3-1, he might start on the B line for me. If the betting public moves the line closer to the odds that I feel are fair, and I like the horse’s chances, I could move them up when I’m playing the race.
The “C” Column is reserved as a deep backup for me. Again, if a favorite is on the C line, that’s me telling you that I don’t like them that much in this race. I definitely won’t be using them on top in any vertical wager, as I’ll be trying to beat them with most of my tickets. Sometimes this spot will be reserved for a crazy longshot that checks one of the boxes I might be looking for when playing horses at long odds.