The last Saturday of the Spring Meet offers a 10 race card, highlighted by a competitive renewal of the Grade 2 Elkhorn, traveling 1 Mile and ½ on the turf course. There are also some nice allowance races at a variety of conditions, supporting a great card. I think there are some decent chances to bring home some prices today.
EDIT: Race 4 has been adjusted to reflect the scratch of favorite and top pick, Jail House Code.
Race 1: Top Pick: 6
The opener is one of two starter allowance races on today’s card, this one for horses that have started for a claiming tag of $20K or less at least one time since January 1st, 2020. The morning line favorite is Super Sol (6) who was a four length winner on the Beard Course here in October, while running with a $20K tag. He was claimed that day and subsequently claimed for $25K in his next start at Churchill. He now runs for trainer Juan Cano, who has run him five times at Turfway over the winter, and kept him protected each time. He ran credible races on synthetic, clearing the N2X allowance condition two back. He tried facing stakes foes in the Kentucky Cup Classic last out and finished 6th, beaten 8 lengths. He’s very consistent, and strictly the one to beat, while dropping in class here. Based on recent speed figures, the only one that looks to have a shot is second choice, Hold Me Black (2). He has the best early speed in the field, and could easily be the lone speed threat here. He was running some very quick races in the summer and fall last year, before tailing off a bit. He’s now third off the layoff and may be rounding back into better form. However, he’s never tackled the 7 Furlong distance, so whether or not he’ll be able to stay on is a valid question. I believe these are the two that will decide this race.
Race 2: Top Pick: 5
There’s not a lot of value to be had in this race either, as there are two heavy favorites, both from the Pletcher barn, in the 9 Furlong N1X allowance contest. Both Ashaar (3) and Portos (5) look to have a decided advantage over the other three players in this race. I’m going to go with Portos to have the slightest advantage over his stablemate. He was a winner at the distance on New Year’s Eve in 2019, and he followed that effort up with a decent third place finish in the Withers, beaten by Max Player last year. The Louisiana Derby was a disaster, and his May trip to Churchill didn’t go much better. He took the rest of 2020 off and returned in a tough allowance race on the Fountain of Youth undercard, going a one turn mile. He finished an even 5th that day, earning a respectable speed figure. He should be ready to return to two turn racing, and I prefer his pedigree for the distance a little more than his stablemate’s. Ashaar (3) is the 4-5 morning line favorite, and deservedly so after a strong performance at Oaklawn last out on the Rebel undercard. He was making his first career start at two turns that day and finished second, while putting a big Beyer number. I’m a little concerned about him regressing a little bit, while adding another a half furlong to his journey. That being said, he has a definitive pace advantage over these and should be tough to run down late.
Race 3: Top Pick: 10
This is not the strongest maiden special weight turf sprint, so I’m thinking this is a good spot for Wesley Ward to send out Six Feet Apart (10) for her career debut. She’s bred for speed and versatility, sired by The Factor out of an Elusive Quality mare, who had some turf experience. Her works aren’t eye catching, but Ward knows how to get a horse ready for their first start. I like the outside draw and I like Johnny V. taking the mount. I think the main contender is Differentbutok (5) making her second career start this afternoon. She made the lead before fading late on a good course at the Fair Grounds last out. She’s been working at Indiana Grand, getting ready for this start, and she should be more fit for this race. Of the horses that have had more starts, the one I prefer is Megan’s Clara (8). She’s had only two starts on grass, as the other three were transferred to the main track. Her sprint last out was her best race to date, closing well to finish third. Saez picks up the mount for Joe Sharp, and this duo teamed up to win with Midnight Tea Time on Thursday’s card.
Race 4: Top Pick: 7
The maiden claiming races at this meet have produced some of the bigger win payoffs, but I’m struggling to make a coherent case for some of the longshots in here. Jail House Code (7) is the most likely winner taking another drop from $50K maiden claiming to $20K maiden claiming. I don’t love that she was claimed two back for $50K and is entered here, however, her competition is very soft today, and there’s legitimate questions about the other shorter priced horses at the distance. First time starter My Dior (5) has a bit of a live look for the red hot Ben Colebrook barn. She has a decent amount of drills in preparation for this start. I don’t love that she’s debuting at 7 Furlongs, which is never an easy task for a first time starter. She is sired by Data Link, who was a successful miler on the grass, winning the Grade 1 Makers 46 Mile here in 2012, and her dam was sired by the speedy Gilded Time. Turf or synthetic could be in her future, and I would definitely prefer her at 6 Furlongs. However, she’s not facing much and wouldn’t have to special to win this race. Bless Em (4) is logical based off her one dirt start last May at Churchill with $50K maiden claimers. She’s been off since and has a few workouts for Drury to prepare for her return. I’m not crazy about her prospects of getting the 7 Furlong distance off the bench either, but I think she has a better chance than many of the others.
EDIT: With Jail House Code now scratched, I’ll upgrade War Empress (1) to maker her a third A horse. She’s never been on dirt, and will be the likely favorite in this contest, which is a leading candidate for the weakest field of the meet. She’s been close with better fields on the turf. I’m not sure about how she’ll handle the main track, but she won’t have to love it to be a factor here. I’ll also upgrade Graciana (8) from an X to a C. She debuted in the summer at Arlington on the synthetic surface there. She didn’t run much, and returns with Lasix and in for a tag. Luis Saez taking the mount is a plus.
Race 5: Top Pick: 10
The final leg of the Early Pick 4 and Pick 5 is a full field on the grass under starter allowance conditions, for horses that have started for a $50K tag or less and are eligible for the N1X condition. A trio of three year olds are taking on their elders in this wide open puzzle, where coverage will be important. I made Casanova Kitten (10) my top pick after a strong run with $35K starter allowance company at Gulfstream last out. He traveled well off a slower pace, angled out and was steadied late in that one, finishing third, but a length and a half that day. I don’t think he was getting to the leader that day, but I think he could benefit from being off the rail here. I think he’ll also get more of an honest pace to sit off. News Break (9) is the deserving morning line favorite after finishing a decent third to the highly touted Darain last out with better horses at the Fair Grounds. He’s eligible for this spot as he won a $30K maiden claimer two back at the Fair Grounds, and was claimed out of that spot by Mike Maker. I think this is a clever spot for him where he’s getting considerable class relief. Fieldstone (2) is one of two horses that look live for Joe Sharp. He is one of the three year olds taking on older horses and this race is definitely a step up in class. However, he has run three very good races on the grass that should get him close with this group. I think his post and the pace scenario work in his favor and there will be value with him here. Exult (5) final broke through two starts back when he beat a field of $50K maiden claimers while dropping in for a tag for the first time. He followed up that effort with a strong outing at this level at Gulfstream in February, coming within less than a length of the winner. He showed a lot of promise in 2019 when racing for Chad Brown before switching barns after a lengthy layoff. It looks like Brisset is getting him back pretty close to his best form. Summer Palace (4) is the other horse from the Sharp barn, and he was personally claimed by Sharp in his maiden breaking score last out. That race was a big effort and Luis Saez is riding with a tremendous amount of confidence. I’m hoping for better value than 7-2 (ML) though as this is his first start against winners and a decent step up in class.
Race 6: Top Pick:
This is a tricky maiden special weight race as I feel both favorites are vulnerable. Pledgeofallegiance (5) is 2-1 on the morning line and has three respectable one turn races. However, he’s making his first start in almost 5 months and I think 6 Furlongs is a little short for him. I’ll use him as a saver, but I think his next start is where he’ll be more effective. Jerry’s Secret (6) is the fastest in the early stages of the horses with experience. He may be good enough to carry this field gate to wire. However, he’s making his first start on the main track after three straight sprints on the Tapeta at Turfway. He’s sired by Secret Circle out of a Big Brown mare, so dirt racing shouldn’t be an issue, however, you’ll have to take a short price on a horse that is doing something new. Ian Wilkes doesn’t have a great track record with first time starters, but Captain Hook (8), drawn on the outside, looks like he could be a runner. This son of Medaglia d’Oro was a $635,000 purchase at the Fasig-Tipton sale in August on 2018. They’ve taken their time getting this four year old to the races, but he’s been sharper and quicker in his AM drills, with three solid workouts in a row over at Churchill. I like him better than the other three first timers. Diamond State (1) has a live look off the three month layoff here. He debuted with a solid showing at Tampa in December, than faltered on the turf when facing Oceanic, who was an allowance winner on the grass here earlier in the week. Gerrardo Corrales got his first win of the meet in the opener yesterday and he rides this son of Gemologist for Tim Hamm.
Race 7: Top Pick: 7
The late Pick 4 starts with a N2X turf sprint for fillies and mares. I’m taking a price here with More (7) for Bret Calhoun, shipping in off a solid effort at this level at Sam Houston last out. This will be a tougher field, but not by much, as that was a talented field for the condition in Texas last month. She’s gradually improved with each start and makes her second race off the layoff. She has good tactical speed and should be in good striking position. Adam Beschizza, has been cold at the meet, but he has a 19% win percentage in grass races so far this year. Ready for Change (5) looks like a good one for Neil Pessin, as he’s tried twice to get this daughter of More Than Ready on the grass, only to have rain damper his plans. She’s been impressive winning on debut and then again while facing winners for the first time. She looks to be the quickest from the gate and should have the best early position. Just like in the last race though, you’ll be getting short price on a horse trying something new. She is bred to like the turf, but do take notice that Pessin’s horses are 0-18 in turf sprints since the start of 2020 and 0-8 in their first turf start. Brooke Marie (2) makes her second start after an 18 month layoff today. She tried synthetic for the first time at Turfway in her return and she looked like she needed that race from a fitness standpoint. Johnathan Thomas will definitely have her more fit for this start, and gaining leading rider, Luis Saez, is a definite plus. Prior to her absence, she seemed to find a home as a turf sprinter, finishing a close 4th in stakes company at Saratoga, and losing a photo for win in the Christiecat Stakes at Belmont. Her last work was much better than the one before that, so I think she’ll run a much better race. Notorious R B G (6) makes her second start as a four year old after beating a N1X field on the grass at Tampa. She showed some potential at three last year and will need to move forward a little bit to win again here.
Race 8: Top Pick: 6
Queen’s Plate and Prince of Wales winner, Mighty Heart (6) makes his four year old debut in this optional $80K claiming/N3X allowance race. He debuted on the dirt in an off the turf race at the Fair Grounds last February, and ran okay before lugging out through the stretch, showing his greenness. He followed that effort up with some more bad behavior on the turf on the Louisiana Derby undercard. Josie Carroll gave him some time off and brought him back in the summer and he was much more focused on business, eventually pulling the 13-1 upset in the Queen’s Plate. His only other dirt effort came in the Prince of Wales at Fort Erie, and he aced that test. Top Seed (7) had a productive four year old campaign last year, winning three of five races for Shug McGaughey. He cleared the N2X condition in June before going on the shelf. He’s been working well at Payson Park for his return and Shug has good numbers off the layoff. We could see him in stakes company soon if he continues to progress well. I prefer both of these over the morning line favorite, South Bend (3) who is also making his seasonal debut. He was competitive in stakes company last year before going off form in the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Derby. He was often close but hasn’t won a race since winning the Street Sense Stakes at Churchill in October 2019.
Race 9: The Grade 3 Elkhorn: Top Pick: 7
This 12 Furlong contest feels absolutely wide open, as I can make a case for the majority of the field in this race. I ended up making North Dakota (7) my tepid top choice. He was 10th beaten only 4 lengths behind Colonel Liam in the Pegasus World Cup Turf in January. I think that race was a little too short for him, as he showed an affinity for longer races when he won the Grade 3 Red Smith at 11 Furlongs at Aqueduct in November. He was also competitive on this course at this distance in the Sycamore last fall. I think he will continue to progress throughout his campaign this year for Shug McGaughey. 10-1 feels like a good value point for him, as he beat the morning line favorite two starts ago. Say The Word (2) comes in from Southern California after just missing to the classy United in the San Luis Rey last month. He finished in front of another talented horse in Master Of Foxhounds that day. Like North Dakota, he found the Pegasus a little too short, while also being wide on both turns and not getting a great trip. He won the Grade 1 Northern Dancer at the distance at Woodbine last year and his three starts at the distance have all been strong, earning triple digit Beyers in each one. Red Knight (10) won the Sycamore on this course with an impressive late surge in October. He left himself a little too much work to do in the Red Smith, when North Dakota turned the tables on him. He makes his seasonal debut for Mott with James Graham getting the return call after his heads up ride in the Sycamore. Tide of the Sea (6) has battled gamely in his last two, winning the G3 McKnight and just missing in the G2 Mac Diarmida. It’s interesting that Gaffalione chose Cross Border (1) over this one, as he’s been riding both. I think that one is a slight notch below some of these, and he hasn’t won a race against open company since winning a N1X allowance at Aqueduct in 2019. Corrales has ridden a lot of winners for Maker, so it’s nice to see him get a chance in a Grade 2. Maker, also sends out Monarchs Glen (5) and it’s interesting to see Joel Rosario show up on him. He was claimed by Maker last out for $62,500. He has a knack of finding these horses via the claim box, and getting them to run big efforts when trying them at these longer distances. I’ll use him on deeper tickets, and maybe take a flier on him to win if his odds go over his 12-1 morning line figure.
Race 10: Top Pick: 11
An overflow field is entered in the nightcap which is an optional $10K claiming/starter allowance contest at 6 Furlongs. State Treasurer (11) tries open company after some good efforts in some pretty salty Louisiana Bred optional claiming/allowance races at the Fair Grounds. He was a winner three back at this open level in New Orleans when defeating an off the turf field that day. Loopallu (3) is another invader coming up from New Orleans who is in good current form. He’s a winner at the track and distance, winning gate to wire here in October with multi-conditioned $15K claimers. He scored at this level against off the turf foes last out. Katie’s Golden Dude (10) has form that is a bit all over the place. He’s coming out four consecutive races at Turfway on synthetic, winning one of them impressively three starts ago. He’s hit the board in 9 out 13 career starts on a fast dirt track, winning four of them, so there’s reason to believe he can rebound here. High Five Cotton (8) was a beaten favorite here with a softer field at the condition on 4/7. He has strong form at Tampa that would likely get the job done if he can get back to that. His last three have been far from his best though. I’ll cover with him, but I prefer others.