Los Alamitos (Saturday-9/16/23) By Dean Keppler

Analysis & Selections By: Dean Keppler @Keppskorner

BEST BET: 1-Frost Alert (Race 5)

Race #1: 4-Mr. Big Bucks was a better-than-looks sixth when wide on Sept. 2 unveiling and now drops in for a tag in the second start for conditioner Luis Mendez. This barn is 9 for 27 (33%) the past 4 years with MDSW to Maiden Claiming dropdowns. 2-Halo Uncle was a much-improved second in his most recent start Aug. 25 when finishing second in front of next-out winner Havoc. The gelding owns the field’s best last-out Beyer for trainer Jeff Bonde. 3-Ballymun attracted decent tote support on July 23 debut when flashing solid early zip before getting out and being forced to check out of contention. He can rebound in career start number two for Miller.

Selections: 4-2-3

Race #2: 3-Paid in Gold goes turf to dirt while removing the blinkers this afternoon combined with the class drop for trainer Sergio Morfin. This 3-year-old filly’s best race came over this surface three-back when finishing second with a (71) Beyer. Her stablemate 5-Turquoise Bikini is 0 for 10 but comes off a career-best Beyer against better when finishing fourth Aug. 13. The filly shows a sharp 4-furlong drill Sept. 8 in preparation for this. 6-Casia hasn’t been seen since the voided claim in May but has trained steadily the last several weeks for a top barn and projects to trip out nicely with this favorable outside draw.

Selections: 3-5-6

Race #3: 2Code Ribbon returns off a three-month freshening after finishing a tiring sixth when last seen over the Golden Gate tapeta surface in June. The 4-year-old filly has some solid back class, has trained well for today’s return, and Vazquez is enticed to take the riding assignment. Improvement likely. 5-Tropicana Girl defeated similar two back at Del Mar and came up only a neck short in the race prior over this Los Al strip July 1 when runner-up. This gal is a front-running threat this afternoon. 1-Love U Mean It slices her claiming tag in half off back-to-back subpar efforts at DMR and is eligible to bounce back in this softer spot for Knapp.

Selections: 2-5-1

Race #4: The traditional old-school $2 Pick Six begins here. 6-Ardtrea returns to the afternoon course where he was a sharp winner two-back with a top Beyer (62) at this same level and now makes the all-important 3rd start off the bench today. This mare is likely to bounce back off a non-threatening third-place finish July 23. 4-Dallas Alice was never involved when wide and outrun going two turns at DMR Aug. 10 but returns to a sprint this afternoon with significant class relief. This filly was a 21-1 upset winner over this course three-back. 1-Wrong Turn Cupid flashed good speed and dueled through some taxing fractions before tiring to finish a well-beaten sixth Aug. 24. The 5-year-old mare cuts back to 5 furlongs, is offered for a career-low claiming tag, and can hold on for a piece of this with another alert break from advantageous inside draw.

Selections: 6-4-1

Race #5: 1-Frost Alert finished under the wire third (but was elevated to second via DQ) when last seen Sept. 2 against similar rivals. The 4-year-old gelding has good speed from the rail, makes a second start off the bench, and projects to be a strong gate-to-wire threat with Vazquez. 6Tiz Tok returns off a four-month freshening at this reduced level for Sadler and has trained well the last several weeks in preparation for today’s comeback effort. The main threat to the top pick. 2-Take Charge Curly was outrun while no threat in both seaside starts this summer but returns to the surface and circuit of his maiden-breaking win from three-back.

Selections: 1-6-2

Race #6: 4-Borntostaythirsty has shown ability for trainer Steve Knapp having hit the board in three of four career starts including a good second to stakes-winning filly Pushiness two-back. This filly has the most experience in this field and looks like she’s finally found a group she has a considerable edge over. 6-Tobacco Honey adds blinkers and is wheeled back on a week’s rest for conditioner Craig Dollase coming off an even fifth on debut. This barn is a strong 2 for 5 (40%) with a $3.04 ROI with second-time starters at Los Al. 5-Smooth Over adds blinkers and moves back to the main track.

Selections: 4-6-5

Race #7: 3-Rose Dawson was a decisive 4-length maiden winner over this course on debut and now returns to her maiden-winning strip while making a second start off the layoff for D’Amato. She finished an even fourth Aug. 31, but adds blinkers today, and has worked well in the interim. Improvement likely. 2-Essential Business should be on or close to the front this afternoon with Maldonado climbing aboard for Team O’Neil and this filly was a sharp winner over this strip three-back. Turf to dirt 4-Belle Cherie shortens up this afternoon while returning off an extended layoff, and the appearance of Vazquez aboard indicates she’s ready to fire off the bench.

Selections: 3-2-4

Race #8: 4-Mastermind takes a substantial class plunge this afternoon for the new barn after flashing sharp speed and tiring badly over the turf when last seen at Santa Anita May 29. The gelding gets in light, figures to be able to clear this inferior group early and will likely be tough to reel in late. 7-Mentirosa returns to a surface he’s run well over in both local tries while making the third start of the form cycle today for conditioner Jorge Periban. 5-Mongolian Kingdom hasn’t shown much in two starts this year but shortens up to a sprint this afternoon, removes the blinkers, and switches to top pilot. The 6-year-old gelding just missed in his lone start over this course last July.

Selections: 4-7-5

Race #9: The $75k E.B. Johnston Stakes closes out the Saturday afternoon Thoroughbred card. Multiple stakes-winning 5-Kings River Knight scored an impressive victory in the Bertrando Stakes two-back over this course earning a (96) Beyer and will be tough to overhaul if able to run back to that figure. The gelding figures to sit a cozy pocket trip behind front-runner Hail Freedom. 7-Hail Freedom hasn’t been out in 11 months but has solid early zip for Team O’Neil and should be able to dictate things on the front end this afternoon despite the layoff. The 5-time winning 5-year-old won 4 of his last 5 starts before hitting the sidelines and has worked well for today’s stake’s action. The stakes-winning 2-Fast Draw Munnings comes off a strong gate-to-wire score Aug. 12 when returning off a long layoff earning the field’s best last-out main track Beyer.

Selections: 5-7-2

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