The first Saturday of the new meet offers a 12 race program highlighted by the $100K Mr. Prospector Stakes for older sprinters at 6 Furlongs. Racing on the weekends will get underway at an earlier 12:15 post time this meet, so plan accordingly. It will be an unseasonably cool day in Oceanport, NJ, with highs expected to remain below 60 degrees. Most of the rain for the holiday weekend is expected to fall overnight Friday into Saturday, with up to 2 inches of precipitation in the forecast. The Jersey Derby was moved to the dirt yesterday after heavy rains moved in during the middle portion of yesterday’s card. Between the amount of rain that fell yesterday and what’s still expected, it’s hard to imagine they’ll be competing on the turf this afternoon. As a result, I have handicapped the four races carded for the turf for both surfaces.
|1||6||1||DBL, PK3, PK5|
|3||1,4,6||5||DBL, PK3, PK4|
|DBL, PK3, PK6|
|7||4,5||DBL, PK3, PK6|
|2||DBL, PK3, PK5|
|9||6||4||DBL, PK3, PK4|
Race 1: Top Pick: 6
The early pick-5 kicks off with a strong N1X allowance for three year old fillies. The question that handicappers are going to have to ask themselves is what do you do with the Delta invader, Ova Charged (1), coming in off a monster debut win last month. I think she needs to be respected after that race, especially after a bullet work on the local course on Sunday. However, she’s going to have to contend with both My Beautiful Belle (3) and Liam’s Light (4) for the early lead, with both of them making their first start of the year. The race sets up nicely for Psychic Ability (6), who has closed well into fast early paces in her last two starts while facing Florida breds. She cleared the state bred N1X condition at Gulfstream two back, blowing up the tote board at 20-1 when making her second start on dirt. She traveled to Tampa to face state bred stakes company at 7 Furlongs, and she ran on well to get second that day at 14-1. The 6 Furlong distance here might be a tad short, but I can see all three pace setters getting tired late. Her running style was very successful on yesterday’s card.
Race 2: Top Pick: 5
This race is carded as a $25K maiden claiming race for fillies and mares three and up, going 6 Furlongs. However, only three year old fillies have entered. All six are coming out of maiden claiming races, but none as tough as the $30K maiden claiming race that Lets Take It Izzy (5) debuted in at Keeneland last month. She showed speed from her wide post before fading to finish 5th. While the drop in class on paper looks small, when you look at the type of horses she was up against in comparison to this group, I believe she is getting significant class relief. La Castiglione (1) is the main danger to the top pick after closing a good amount of ground at this level at Pimlico on May 1st. She circled up six wide and came within a head of breaking her maiden while going 5 and ½ Furlongs. The added distance makes sense for a horse that significantly improved in her second start off the Claudio Gonzalez claim. On deeper tickets, perhaps consider Weddinightjitters (4) making her third career start today. She showed some early interest in her debut at Parx before fading late. She stumbled badly at the break in her second start and seemed to lose interest thereafter. She adds Lasix and gets a change of scenery. I’m not sure if she’s good enough to beat the top two, but I do expect her to run a better race than she did in her debut.
Race 3: Top Pick: 4
Multi-conditioned claimers run with a $30K-$25K tag at 6 Furlongs here. Five three year olds are taking on two older horses that have never won twice. There’s a pair of horses, Banyan Breeze (2) and Service With Honor (3) that are both coming off strong maiden wins at Tampa at the $16K maiden claiming level. Both runners were very impressive, but I’m siding against both here while shipping, moving up in class, and facing winners for the first time. Three of the three year olds entered are multiple winners and I think all three are live this afternoon. I was high on Algebraic (4) at a similar level last month at Keeneland, where he faded late to be third going one mile. He was claimed by Jose Delgado that day and ships here, boasting four solid dirt efforts, with some lesser efforts on turf and synthetic sprinkled in his running lines. He cuts back to a sprint, which I think is what he prefers to do. San Antone (1) struggled with a deeper group at Parx last out, when making his first start in over two months. He showed decent form this winter at Laurel on off tracks, winning and finishing a respectable 5th against a deep N1X allowance field. I think both he and Kentucky Cool (6) are logical candidates to be running on late, especially with some questionable speed horses on the front end. Kentucky Cool is the only horse in the group to have crossed the finish line first on three occasions. He was competitive in open claiming races this winter at Aqueduct and was most recently 4th with optional claiming/starter allowance foes. He’s been off for 2 and ½ months but has making steady improvements. Dylan Davis is named on several horses today, and if he’s planning on riding here regularly, I think he will win a decent amount of races, especially with his New York connections. On deeper tickets, Christopher (5) might be worth a look if the price is right. He makes his first start of 2021, and was mostly focused on turf racing last season. He has some strong efforts on the dirt in 2019 though, and has proven to be capable when sprinting. He’ll likely be in last place after the first ¼ mile, but if this race really falls apart, he’d be the one to pick up the pieces.
Race 4: Top Pick: 7 (Turf) / 4 (Dirt)
The first race carded for the turf today is a maiden claiming contest with three year olds and upward running with a $30K-$25K tag. On the grass, I think the two favorites have the advantage. I prefer Alonzo Mosely (7) who has been close as the beaten favorite in his last two starts at Gulfstream. He has shown the ability to run a credible race on the front end or coming from off the pace. He ran well last out with similar despite being a little eager in the early stages of that race. He ran up on the heels of the pacesetter and was forced to check going in to the first turn. Perhaps he didn’t like being down on the inside after drawing the rail that day. If that was the case, post seven should suit him well. Christophe Clement sends out the morning line favorite, Stand With Mo (4) who was third most recently when dropping to the maiden $40K claiming level in New York. He’s hit the board in three of five career starts, two of them coming at the maiden special weight level. He hasn’t progressed a ton since his debut, so this level of competition is probably where he fits. He’s never run on the main track, but there are dirt influences in his pedigree and his works on the dirt look good enough to compete with whatever might be leftover if this race is transferred to the main track. If spreading is an option, perhaps a pair of longshots could have an impact on the grass here. Pathway To Victory (8) has shown nothing in two starts on the dirt, however, he flashed a nice bullet work on the turf last week at Laurel. His trainer, Mike Trombetta has won with 15% of his first time turf horses in a 54 race sample over the last 17 months. Keyboard Warrior (9) was dull on debut at Gulfstream Park with maiden special weight company last month. There’s reason to believe that he can improve in his second career try, while also dropping in class. Despite debuting on turf, there are a lot of dirt influences in his pedigree, so I can see trying him on the main track as well. Super Houdini (3) and Ral Copperhead (6) have the best dirt form of the few that have competed on the main track. I wouldn’t be surprised if both stayed in the race if the surface were switched. Both would be live on the dirt and worth including on your multi-race wager.
Race 5: Top Pick: 9
It’s hard to look past Target Tales (9) in the last leg of the Early Pick-5, which is a New Jersey Bred N1X allowance for three year olds an up. He ran four sharp races on this course last year with fellow Jersey breds, breaking his maiden emphatically in his 4th career try after three straight second place finishes to start his career. He ran three times at the Championship Meet at Gulfstream this winter, facing open company with optional $25K claimers/N1X allowance horses, running a mile in each race. His most recent effort was dull, but that was against a sharp field on the Fountain of Youth undercard. He ships north and gets immediate class relief while still being protected with the allowance condition. On paper, he looks better than these. On deeper tickets, perhaps give a look to Jingo (2) who is a candidate to take them start to finish in his first start of 2021. He definitely needed a race when he was running off a similar layoff last year, which is a concern. However, if the track appears to be playing kindly to speed, he would be a definite upgrade.
Early Pick-5 Play: $32.00
Race 1: 1, 6
Race 2: 1, 5
Race 3: 1, 4, 5, 6
Race 4: 4, 7, 8, 9 (Turf) / 3, 4, 6, 9 (Dirt)
Race 5: 9
Race 6: Top Pick: 7 (Turf) / 3 (Dirt)
If this N1X allowance races stays on the turf, we’ll have the first Todd Pletcher vs. Chad Brown event of the young meet with Coworth Park (8) and Linny Kate (6). However, don’t discount the Jerry Hollendorfer runner, Champagne Horizon (7) while getting back on the grass. I made her the top pick, as there will likely be decent value with this five year old daughter of New Years Day. She has been on the main track in her last three races at Oaklawn and Churchill, and none of them have gone well. However, she ran three strong races on this course in 2020. She’s clearly more talented on the turf and should be much more competitive today. Linny Kate is coming off a dull try in an off the turf race at Keeneland last out. Prior to that, she has three strong turf races in her four career starts. She’s was third in both of her turf races against winners, while drawing the rail both times. She had some traffic issues in both races, so getting a midpack draw might suit her better this afternoon. Coworth Park has been dabbling in stakes company in her last two starts at Gulfstream, finishing 5th both times. She gets some class relief this afternoon, while making her first start in an N1X allowance. She broke her maiden with $25K maiden claimers in December, and then beat an optional claiming/starter allowance field in her next turf start. She caught a good course last out, and didn’t run her best race, however, she had an excuse as she was steadied early on while trying to establish position. On the main track, I’d feel good about using Charge Account (3) as a single for Kelly Breen, although, I’m not sure she will run, as he also sends out Adhwaa (12) as a main track only entrant. Nik Juarez is named to ride both, but I would much prefer to put my money on Charge Account. She’s run competitive dirt figures than no one in this field, including the MTO’s, has been able to match. She’s been on the turf in her last two starts, winning two starts back. She seems to be capable on both surfaces, but I think dirt is where she matches up the best today. I prefer Omnia (11) of the two MTO’s in here, despite an awful effort last out at Gulfstream where she came up completely empty. She was a 9 length winner in her previous try on dirt before her clunker, so there’s reason to believe that her poor effort last out was fluky.
Race 7: Top Pick: 5
I’m interested in Steve Asmussen’s first time starter, Wohlgemuth (5), in this maiden special weight contest that kicks off the Jersey Shore 6 wager. He’s been working well at Louisiana Downs, and Asmussen decides to send this $150K son of Lemon Drop Kid up north, where the purse for this is $47K. That’s significantly more than what maiden special weight runners are running for at Louisiana Downs, Evangeline Downs, or Lone Star Park, all of which would be a significantly closer trip. His dam sire is More Than Ready, so we may see him transition to the turf in the near future, but for now, his works are solid on the main track. The one to beat is Clemenza (4), who is one of two horses running for Kelly Breen here. Clearly something was amiss last out at Aqueduct, as he’s been off since that poor performance on 3/14. Prior to that, he has three sharp dirt efforts, including a very strong debut here in September at today’s 6 Furlong distance.
Race 8: Top Pick: 15 (Turf) / 13 (Dirt)
This is a very hard race to put together an early opinion, as there’s 16 entered (2 AE’s and 2 MTO’s) with a maximum of 12 that can run on either surface. I like a horse on the turf that will need to some help to get in the body of the field. Jeha (15) is the only two time winner and has been running consistent races on the grass. She was claimed three back by Saffie Joseph and has since struggled to break through with better. He drops and faces older horses for the first time today. If he does get in, he’ll have to navigate a trip from the outside, but I think he’s dangerous with these. Mr. Mazza (3) has a live look on the grass, while making his second start of 2021. He has five career starts, and even though he broke his maiden on the main track last out at Gulfstream, I think his turf efforts were strong races. If this race comes off the grass, my top pick on dirt is Hachacha (13). His only start at two turns on the dirt, was an impressive win in an off the turf race at Tampa to break his maiden in February. He faced winners twice on the turf, in open claiming company, and wasn’t bad. I think he can move forward on the dirt though. On either surface, I think It’s Mandatory (2), Curlee Fox (10), and Threeninetytwo (11) are all worth using on multi-race tickets. It’s Mandatory and Threeninetytwo may be better suited for the bottom of the exotics, and both have only one win in 21 career starts. Both are trending up and both are coming off of nice turf efforts in their last starts. Curlee Fox is the morning line favorite, and has some solid, but not spectacular races on his resume. He broke his maiden on the grass two back in his seventh career start. His lone dirt effort at Tampa in an off the turf race was solid. My concern with him in that he likely won’t offer enough value in this wide open race, as I think his 3-1 morning line is a little too short.
Race 9: The Mr. Prospector Stakes; Top Pick: 6
I really like Awesome Anywhere (6) in this 6 Furlong sprint stakes, and I think this spot is a good race that could maximize the value that you’ll get on his as the third choice on the morning line. He’s probably the most consistent horse in this group, showing a strong effort in his first race of the year at Oaklawn last month, just missing at 5 and ½ Furlongs. He was second in this race last year, and has three strong efforts over this track. My only concern is the track condition for him, as his lone start in the mud is not good. Looking at the current forecast, the bulk of the rain in the area is expected overnight Friday into Saturday, so there’s reason to believe the track will have dried out some by the scheduled 3:59 post time. If there is a wet track, I will upgrade Absentee (4), who looked like he needed his last race when running in the Frank Whatley at Pimlico off a five month layoff. He also has three strong races on this course, and he was progressing nicely at the end of his four year old campaign. I am expecting a better effort today, but I’m not sure he’ll be able to beat Awesome Anywhere on a fast track at this point in his career. I am playing against the two morning favorites, Winds of Change (1) and Always Sunshine (7), both of whom who are coming off big efforts. Both horses have struggled to put two big races back to back, so I would not be surprised at all to see both horses take a step backward here. Winds of Change appears to be better suited for races a little longer than 6 Furlongs. Always Sunshine is a nine year old gelding coming off a monster effort in claiming company at Belmont last out. While he is a distance specialist, it is a big ask to duplicate his last effort while moving back up the class ladder.
Race 10: Top Pick: 4 (Turf) / 9 (Dirt)
I think there’s two logical singles for either surface in this optional $30K claiming/N2X allowance race. On grass Lohntwist (4) has been keeping much better company and makes his first start for Saffie Joseph after running for lower percentage connections for a while. He’s in for the $30K tag as he cleared this condition in December of 2019. He didn’t hit the board in four starts in 2020, but all four starts came against significantly better rivals. Joseph has great numbers with new acquisitions and horses off long layoffs, in part, because he spots his horses appropriately. If this race stays on the grass, Lohntwist definitely fits. On the dirt, it’s hard to look past Square Shooter (9) who will be a likely short priced favorite after running four straight strong efforts on the main track. He’s also capable on the grass, but he’s definitely better on the dirt. He’ll also be getting some class relief, which should work well for him. On deeper tickets on the turf, Kingpin (10) might be a good addition, as he’s been running well in some competitive races at this level at Keeneland and the Fair Grounds. He was a close third in the My Frenchman Stakes on this course last year, when catching a good course. On the main track, Ziggy Mon (8) is a very logical alternative to Square Shooter. He’s hit the board in 12 of 16 tries on the main track, and has never been off the board on a wet track. He definitely has more early speed than Square Shooter, so he’ll be the one with target on his back. Nucky (5) might have a forward move in him, as he was a Grade 1 winner at two years old (Despite that race coming under some strange conditions). He’s been gelded since his last start, and he’s one that could move forward at long odds if he gets back on the dirt.
Race 11: Top Pick: 4
Lower level multi-conditioned claimers run with a $7,500-$6,500 tag here. Everyone entered has only one career win, so this race plays more like an N2L race for three year olds and upward. I’m against the short priced, suspicious dropping, Wallypop (6). He was claimed on debut after a big effort with $16K maidens at Tampa. He moved to open $25K claiming races for three year olds and ran respectable efforts while running for Cody Axmaker. He’s been moved to the Wayne Potts barn, and has had two lethargic workouts, one at Belmont and one here, which may be the reason for the drop. His work prior to his 3/27 was sharper, so I don’t think his recent workouts are just a function of being a slow work horse in the morning. I’ll look to use longshot Victory Tour (4) on top in this spot. 15-1 is a fair number for a horse that is 1-22 with only one other one the board finish. However, he has consistently been running as a longshot with better fields. He drops in class after two months off and returns to the main track. He has some decent efforts sprinting on this course and may have found the right level where he can be more competitive. Wayne Potts also trains the second choice, Don’t Losemymoney (1), who has been away since breaking his maiden here back in October with $20K maiden claimers. He’s hit the board in all three starts where he’s run for a tag. The drop in class while facing winners for the first time isn’t as alarming for him. On deeper tickets, Chocolate Bodie (5) is one that is probably more likely to run a winning race next time out rather than this time. However, he was a winner in the slop last season, so he could be upgraded if the track remains wet.
Race 12: Top Pick: 3
$10K maiden claimers close out the first Saturday card for 2021. There’s another suspicious dropper in here, Uncle Skeets (7) that is 8-5 on the morning line. His debut with Florida Bred maiden special weight horses almost 17 months ago was solid at Gulfstream. He resurfaces as a new gelding and has some respectable works for Breen. I think there’s value in trying to beat him in this spot, however, I will cover him on some of the deeper tickets. I think Fifty Cents (3) makes a lot of sense in this race after finishing second at this level at Tampa last out. He’s second off a long layoff and his overall dirt form is better than his turf form. When Delgado and Ferrer teamed up at this meet last year, they won 7 out of 18 times, and they’re working together with this one. Super Wise (2) invades from Oaklawn for Hollendorfer after finishing 5th with $16K maiden claimers last time out. His debut on this track with maiden special weight company last October wasn’t bad, so perhaps the drop and change of scenery will do him good. Confectioner (1) is the co-second choice in this race and another one that I’ll use as a saver for deeper tickets. He is 0-14 in his career, but he is dropping to the lowest level of competition yet. His figures are definitely competitive for this level, but he has to unlearn a lot of losing habits to win this race.
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