The nine race Thursday program is highlighted by a trio of strong allowance races and a trio of interesting maiden special weight races. While the weather has been cooperative for the most part throughout this spring meet, there are some showers in the forecast as the day goes on. Keep an eye on the hourly forecast to see if the weather will be disrupting this card or not. First post this afternoon is 1:00 (ET).
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||5||3,4,5||DBL, PK3, PK5|
|2||10||8,10||4||DBL, PK3, PK4,|
|4||1||1,7,11||2||DBL, PK3, PK6|
|5||4||4||9||8||DBL, PK3, PK5,
|6||1||1,4||6||DBL, PK3, PK4|
|7||13 (AE)/6||13||5,6||3,9||DBL, PK3|
Race In Focus, Race 6:
One of the things I’ll try to figure out, especially in claiming races, is the intent of a trainer with their horse in a given race. I think this race highlights some interesting positive and negative examples of intent.
Both Yo Puedo (#1) and Silverleaf (#4) are coming out of races that appeared to be definitive prep races. Clearly the connections weren’t actively trying to lose their races, but both were entered under less than ideal circumstances for what they like to do. Yo Puedo was entered in a five furlong sprint race at Hawthorne, under N1X allowance conditions. That was her first start since July. Silverleaf ran a mile at Turfway, while making her first start since October. Both horses have shown that they are best at two turns on the dirt, and both are technically dropping in class for this race. I think both horses were preparing for a spot like this at this meet.
Conversely, De Joria (#8) for Mark Casse, is a shorter price on the morning line than the duo mentioned above. She’s trying the dirt for the first time after four synthetic races and one turf start in her five career races. She’s sired by California Chrome, out of a More Than Ready mare, so there’s a chance that she could run on anything. However, she was based at Turfway when Casse could have brought him to Gulfstream this winter. Woodbine usually starts their meet with a barrage of sprint races, so I’m guessing there aren’t many opportunities for this for her in Canada until later next month. This feels like a chance to run her for a tag that is 2.5x greater than her purchase price, while giving her a race in between her last start at Turfway and a potential next start at her home base at Woodbine.
My strategy for this race would be to pair the top two with the favorite, Pentagon (#6) in an exacta or trifecta box, while watching the tote to see if there’s a win bet at an acceptable price on either Yo Puedo or Silverleaf.
The Play, $2 Exacta Box 1-4-6 ($12.00 Wager)
The Late Pick-5 gets started with a N2X allowance race for older horses traveling 1 mile and ½ on the turf course. I think the class of the field is the favorite, The Grey Wizard (#4) for Graham Motion. He’s been on a steady diet of longer turf races since coming over from Ireland last spring. He was a close second in the Hollywood Turf Cup at this distance at Del Mar back in November. Motion let him winter in Southern California, clearing the first level allowance two back and running out of real estate after closing well to be 5th in the 10 furlong San Marcos Stakes in February. There’s not a lot of early speed signed on, and he’s definitely a plodder that likes to be closer to the back of the field. However, Motion targets this meet with certain horses and I believe he is well-spotted to clear this condition today. Sir for Sure (#9) is the main opposition, making his first start since winning the Breeders’ Stakes at Woodbine at this distance on turf. With the lack of pace in this field, I do see him being more forwardly placed, which may work to his advantage. Casse’s horses tend to need a race off the layoff before they’re at their best, so this could be a purposeful prep race for some races at Woodbine this spring and summer. On deeper tickets, Microphone (#8) is a bit of an intriguing longshot. He might be better suited for underneath in the vertical exotics at 20-1 or better, however, he could land on the lead in this race and try to play catch me if you can. Ethan West has good numbers with turf horses, winning 20% of his races since 2022. However, he has only started three horses at 10 furlongs or longer on the turf in the last five years and all three finished up the track. The sire Siyouni hasn’t sired too many horses that have traveled this far, but the dam did foal Serve the King. That one won the Red Smith at 11 furlongs and the John’s Call at 13 furlongs on grass. He was second to Rockemperor in the Grade 1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic at this distance at Belmont in 2021. I don’t love that he was privately purchased from Peter Brandt (who employed Chad Brown as the trainer), however, his last race at the Fair Grounds was solid enough to think that he could possibly move forward today.
As mentioned above, I like both Yo Puedo (#1) and Silverleaf (#4) in this $50K N2L claiming route for fillies and mares. I’ll give the preference to Yo Puedo for Robert Medina and Florent Geroux. She followed a similar pattern last year when debuting here at six furlongs then going to Churchill where she was a handy winner with $50K maiden claimers at two turns. She wasn’t bad in her return at Hawthorne when sprinting five furlongs, however, that isn’t her game. I look for her to run much better in this spot today. Silverleaf has shown that she doesn’t love the synthetic, but that was the spot that McPeek picked for her at Turfway for her return. Everyone loves winning races at Keeneland, so that race was likely all about fitness for her, as she drops to a level that feels right for this Speightster filly. Pentagon (#6) is the favorite on the morning line but she seems to prefer racing on turf. Her two dirt efforts came on a wet track in off the turf efforts, and neither race was bad. She is dropping in class, and Shug’s horses have been red hot at this meet (5 for 13 with three more hitting the board). She feels like a backup here, where others may offer better value.
This is one of those races where I like a horse on the AE list a decent amount. I think Silver Stripes (#13) has a big chance in what would be her third career start if she makes it into the body of the field. She’s beautifully bred, sired by Tapit, out of a graded stakes winner mare, Madame Stripes. She won her debut in an off the turf race at Gulfstream which was run on the Tapeta. She came back with a wide trip where she had some issues in the first two furlongs. The winner of that race was the favorite who sat a very soft, front running trip. She’ll likely have to concede a bit of ground, as she’ll have an outside post if she competes, however, I do see her moving forward after pairing her first two Beyer figures. I don’t think there’s much separating top to bottom in this race and Cherie DeVaux has done well with her limited opportunities at this meet. If she fails to draw in, I’ll take Desert Tempest (#6) as the next best option.She broke her maiden in an off the turf start last out at the Fair Grounds. She’s been steadily improving and her turf efforts weren’t too shabby. Jareth Loveberry has struggled at this meet, but Brendan Walsh has sent out many live runners, winning with seven so fat. Saffie Joseph is looking for his first winner of the meet, and he’ll send out Be My Sunshine (#5) with Tyler Gaffalione. Gaffalione is upgrading most of his mounts at this point, and she’s coming off a second place in the same race that Silver Stripes is coming out of. She had a better trip than my top pick, and finished about two lengths ahead of her. She figures to be in the mix with this group. I do think that race was live, so Cloudy Bay (#9), who was 4th at long odds, is worth a look here at 20-1 or better. She’s been gradually improving as well, and she might be starting to put some things together. Brian Hernandez had a strong week here last week, so I think that’s a good pickup for Christoper Davis, who is looking to get off the duck for this meet. Chad Brown sends out the favorite, Venencia (#3), making her first start stateside today. She won her only career start at 1 mile and 3/16 on synthetic overseas. The mile might be a shade short for her, as was the case with Gromantine (#4) last out, who came in with a similar running line for Graham Motion. Brown has good numbers with first time imports and he tends to find quality imports all the time. She’s worth covering, but I think there’s value in trying to beat her.
A field of seven four year old fillies will go seven furlongs in the N2L allowance race. I think Ain’t Broke (#1) has a decent shot to rebound in this race. I always like playing horses that cut back from two turn races on turf to a one turn seven furlong race, especially a race like this where there is no clear-cut favorite. Three of her six rivals are stretching out from their last start, so I do see her having a fitness advantage. I’m not sure she liked being down on the rail in her last start, which was her second career try on turf. She broke awkwardly, appearing to brush the rail on the tight course, and she found herself having to come from well off the pace for the first time in her career. She made a middle move to gain position, but never threatened the winner that day. She was much better two back, and her previous dirt form would make her competitive with this group. Her lone try at this distance came on a sloppy course. I see her finishing stronger than some of the others in this race. Send for Me (#3) runs for Augustin Stables and Jonathan Thomas. She faltered on the synthetic going six furlongs at Turfway last month. Her effort two back at Tampa, when going this distance was stronger. There are several that want to be forwardly placed in this race, but not many that want to be on the lead. Her best race was her maiden score where she went gate to wire, so perhaps that will be the strategy for Geroux here. Non Violence (#7) is cutting back in distance from a pair of two turn dirt routes in New Orleans. Her first two starts were much better than her last race where she had a less than ideal journey as the even money choice. Calhoun’s horses perform well when cutting back from routes to sprints, so she’d be a logical horse to use in this race.
The nightcap is a maiden special weight race for three year olds and up, going 1 mile and 3/16 on the turf. I landed on Border War (#12), who will have the entire length of the stretch to try to figure out how to save some ground in this race. His last two two starts at Gulfstream showed massive improvements, so I see him as a horse trending in the right direction. He’s cutting back from a 12 furlong marathon where he finished a strong second at this level. I think the cutback is beneficial for him and the connections have been rolling at this meet. Seeing a name like Gettleman (#1) might make some Giants fans cringe, however, I see this Godolphin runner as an interesting entrant. I thought his debut in an off the turf race on dirt was strong at the Fair Grounds last month. It was a good enough race that I would have expected him to come back on the dirt. He;s sired by Hard Spun, so I have no qualms about him switching to the grass, and clearly Walsh believes that will be where he runs his best races. Caroom (#9) is 12-1 on the morning line, but he fits with the top flight in this race.I thought he ran a strong second at the Fair Grounds in what felt like career best effort last time out. The water gets a little deeper, but when you ignore the two synthetic races, you see a horse that is continuing to improve on grass. Missionaire (#10) is the morning line favorite after a significantly better second career start for Christophe Clement. This barn had their first winner at the meet yesterday. He tried new tactics where he was on the lead, and I’m not so sure that kind of trip is going to get him home first with this field. He’s a backup for me in this spot.
Late Pick-5, One and Done Ticket, $54 Wager
Depending on what happens with the weather and my AE top choice, Silver Stripes (#13, R7), this ticket may need to be adjusted. It’s also hard for me to lay out a multiple ticket strategy until scratches and changes are announced.
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.
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