After an unexpected day off due to frigid temperatures, racing is scheduled to resume at 1:00 (CT)/ 2:00 (ET) today. The Saturday program at Oaklawn is highlighted by Race 8, The American Beauty Stakes, which is a competitive sprint for older fillies and mares. In addition, there’s a stakes quality allowance race going in Race 7 and five races that have drawn overflow fields this afternoon. Top jockeys Florent Geroux and Joel Rosario are out of town today, traveling to New Orleans to ride in the stakes-laden 14 race card at the Fair Grounds. The race for leading jockey here is off to an exciting start as Francisco Arrieta and Ricardo Santana Jr. are tied with 20 wins a piece. Both could extend that margin today with those guys riding in Louisiana. Steve Asmussen is the leading trainer, saddling 14 winners with 95 starters. Robertino Diodoro and Brad Cox are tied for second with 12 wins, both boasting a higher winning percentage than Asmussen.
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!
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|2||7||2,6,7,10||3||DBL, PK3, PK4|
|5||7||5,7||1||DBL, PK3, PK5|
|6||10||10||1,2,8||DBL, PK3, PK4|
State bred $30K maiden claimers start the Saturday card at Oaklawn. Oneighthundredcash (#9) makes his fifth career start, and his third on the main track. He didn’t run much on the turf or synthetic, but the dirt efforts have been solid enough to make an impact at this level. He dropped to a $40K state bred maiden claiming level two back, and ran into Afleet Sky and Max’s Heart, who were clearly better horses that day. It wasn’t the best trip in the slop in that race, but he was gutsy in the stretch, narrowly losing the battle to finish 4th. I think he’s a candidate to continue to improve here. Allo Enry (#13) will need a defection to compete, but he’s definitely a player if he gets to run. He drops into maiden claiming for the first time after an improved effort in the mud with state bred maiden special weight runners last out. I’m not sure he can run back to that big figure he recorded on an off track last time, and as a result, I think he’ll be bet down from his 5-2 morning line figure. The value won’t likely be there, but I think his class makes him a must use in the multi-race wagers if he does get to play. Botany (#8) took money on debut when he ran into a buzzsaw (Mo Choctaw) last month. The winner faded late in allowance company when facing a competitive field of older state bred allowance foes. Botany was clearly third best among a strung out field in that race. Of the first time starters, morning line favorite, Northern Woods (#3) looks like the one that is best suited to compete with these. His works are decent and horses that John Ortiz has brought down south from Kentucky have been faring well at the meet thus far. On deeper tickets, Moonshine Vision (#10) ran well enough in the slop with $40K maiden claimers in his debut to consider using him in his second career try. He did run on a bit toward the end after being allowed to lope along near the back of the pack in the early going. I’d expect to see Chel-C Bailey try to put him in the race a little earlier here. If his odds go over the 10-1 morning line threshold, he would become more interesting to me.
This is a wide open field of time restricted $10K claimers, with fourteen runners entered, and as many as twelve competing. Coverage and value will be key for me in this race. Cabot (#7) is my top pick, making his second start off the layoff. He tends to run solid races on this oval, and he showed that again last month when making some decent ground to be third with starter allowance foes. He drops to the softest level in his career, where he figures to be a tough customer. In terms of value, don’t sleep on Chicory Blue (#6) at 30-1 on the morning line. He caught wet tracks in both of his last two starts when facing tougher rivals. He drops back to this level, where he finished a sharp third on a fast track three starts back. This ten year old gelding can still run, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him take a step forward in his first start off the claim. Secretary at War (#10) was claimed by Wayne Potts when handily defeating an open $6,250 claiming field. He’s eligible for this race, since the tag for that race was less than $7.5K. He’s in good form, for a sharp claiming trainer who won the training title at Monmouth this summer, winning many races like this. Bebop Shoes (#2) figures to get a fast track for the first time in his last three starts. He’s run well in two local races, while facing tougher foes. Despite facing state bred foes last time, he was beaten by a sharp runner, who ran very well last week with some of the better Arkansas breds in training. He’s another logical runner dropping to this level. On deeper tickets, I’d cover with Mine My Time (#3), who figures to take money coming in off the Diodoro claim. Despite the fact that he’s eligible to improve here, he’s 0-6 on this oval and Diodoro has trained him before. I think the price will be too short for me, but there’s enough there for me to use him as a saver on some deeper plays.
Open $30K maiden claimers run one mile here. What you do here, depends on what you think about Wesleyan (#11) making his first start being evicted from the Bob Baffert barn. Baffert trained this three year old son of Curlin for SF Racing/Starlight/Madaket, the same group that owns Newgrange, who recently won the Sham Stakes at Santa Anita. When Baffert deems a horse unable to compete in Southern California, Rodolphe Brisset has been one the trainers that has taken over the duty of training those runners on other circuits. The fact that he was purchased for $250K and he’s entered with a $30K tag, tells me everything you need to know about how this horse is regarded in this program. I’ll cover him on deeper tickets, but I’ll try to beat him with a pair of horses coming off poor efforts in a strange $40K maiden claimer in the slop last out. Lookinforexcitemen (#4) didn’t look comfortable on a very wet course two weeks ago. The winner of that race, Magoo, ran a monster race out of nowhere when making his first start off a layoff. Two starts back, he ran well, tiring late when going two turns for the first time in his short career. I think he’ll rebound with the class drop and the fast track this afternoon. Pure Rocket (#2) misfired in the same race. He’s caught off tracks in the last three starts. His last start on a fast track was a strong second place finish with maiden special weight runners at Indiana Grand. I think he can get back to a better effort at this level today.
Macron (#9) figures to be very tough to beat in this money allowance race. He caught a sloppy track when making his first start at this level back on New Years Day. He was a solid second behind One Fast Cat, who runs later on the card today. He’s been steadily improving, and looks like the class of the field here. One horse that is worth covering is Baseball Politics (#2) who was a sharp winner with a good starter allowance field here last out. He’s been a revelation since getting on the main track after starting his career with six synthetic or turf starts. He’ll definitely need to run a little faster to beat the top choice, but he definitely likes the course here and is trending in the right direction.
Seven of the ten entered in this optional claiming/starter allowance race are making their first start at two turns on the dirt this afternoon. If Warrior’s Battle (#5) can get two turns, it likely won’t be much of a race. She’s been dominant in both sprint races on this course, including a four length win at this level last out. Florent Geroux is in Louisiana this afternoon, so Ricardo Santana gets the mount for Brad Cox. Horses sired by Khozan typically are better at one turn, but this filly is a half to multiple graded stakes winner, Warrior’s Charge, who won the Razorback on this course at 1 Mile and 1/16. I do think Mumblebee (#7) making her second start at the meet is interesting on the stretch out. I made her the top pick seeing as how she ran a much better race in her second career start when she was stretching out from a sprint when racing on the Tapeta at Woodbine. She was pace compromised last out when Warrior’s Battle had everything her own way. She was eight lengths behind her that day, but I think she can make up a lot of that ground while going two turns, especially in a race where I think frontrunners could be getting a little leg weary. Cant Be Touched (#1) has rail position in her attempt to carry her speed two turns on the dirt. She is coming off three sharp races at Remington, two of which were wins on the main track. Sandwiched in between was a strong effort when going two turns on the turf in N2L allowance company. She could be dangerous if others aren’t very aggressive in the early stages while making an effort to ration energy for the stretch out trip.
Arkansas bred maiden special weight runners go six furlongs in the start of the late pick-4. The serious players in here ran in the 12/4 race at this condition that was won by Gar Hole, who came back to beat a solid state bred allowance field last week. Topf Road Rules (#8), You Vee Cee (#2), Forsaken (#1), and Big Success (#10) were second, third, fourth, and fifth in that race. It was not easy to close ground on that track that day, so I think this race could set up nicely for Big Success to run by them in the late stages of this one. Vazquez might have moved a little too early with him last out, when he was beaten by a more talented foe. Closers seemed to have less of a disadvantage last weekend, and there should be a decent tempo set here to set up his late run. You Vee See has a little more upside than the others, taking a decent step forward in his second start last out. He fought on gamely to hold third after battling with Gar Hole, who put him away at the ⅛ pole. Forsaken (#1) ran with state bred maiden claimers last out and caught a sloppy track. He faded late that day on a track that was a little tricky for some runners. He should appreciate drier footing today, but the rail post isn’t ideal. Expect him to be battling with You Vee Cee from the break. Topf Road Rules has been second in three of four career starts, finishing off the board two back before going on a lengthy break. He feels like more of an underneath horse though, as he’s never really been close to a winner in those three tries. He could sit the right trip, but I prefer the others, especially if he does go to post as the favorite.
How you bet this race depends upon what you think about Caddo River (#4) while making his second start off the layoff. He was an absolute handful for Florent Geroux last out when making his first start in six months. He broke from the rail and was sharp away from the gate, but didn’t really accelerate to take the lead like normal, in a race where they didn’t go particularly fast. When he was in behind the front runners, he wasn’t really content to be there as he was running up on heels. He was forced to swing out five wide once Atoka kept him boxed in. He surged late to cross the wire first, only to be taken down and placed second in a decision that was questionable at best. The speed figure came back slow, but that really doesn’t tell you much about that particular race, as he was probably considerably better than his rivals. On the other hand, a lot of his trouble was self-inflicted. I think that he would have been entered in the Fifth Season Stakes last week had he run a better race. Another question mark for me is that he’ll be ridden by a new rider for the first time since October 2020, as Geroux will be at the Fair Grounds today. I think Brice (#3) on his inside will have inside position to grab the early lead, and will prove to be a tough foe to pass. He was very good at Monmouth this summer, dominating the races he was in, working his way through restricted claiming conditions to eventually run 4th in the Grade 3 Philip H. Iselin Stakes. He always showed potential, but he seems to have stopped his habit of running awful races from time to time. He handled his business impressively with $10K starter allowance company in his local debut and has earned the right to race for a purse that is three times the size of his last race. He meets Candy Tycoon (#10) here, who was another horse that had a habit of running poor races. He seemed to get back on track when winning at Monmouth this summer as well. He was claimed away from Pletcher at Saratoga and has run some strong and consistent efforts since joining Norm Casse’s barn. He just missed in the slop here on New Year’s Day and should be tough while getting back to a fast track. Goalie (#9) is a horse that interests me somewhat here as well. I think there a scenario where Caddo River is ridden over aggressively to try to make the front after failing to do so last time out. If that plays out, I’d expect a contentious pace on the front end. Goalie has been primarily a horse that likes to come from off the pace on the turf in his career. He tried the dirt last out in a 1 Mile and 3/16 race at Churchill, where he ran a solid third behind Huge Bigly, who stole that race on the front end, and Farmington Road. If they go at a solid clip on the front end, he’s shown the ability to gobble up ground late, assuming that he can handle the local course.
Race 8: The $150K American Beauty Stakes
This is a very good stakes race featuring some promising four year old fillies that are taking on some talented and hard-knocking mares. Seven of the nine runners in here are coming out of three different allowance races. This feels like a time to buy low on Joy’s Rocket (#2). I thought she was going to be much the best last out in allowance company, but she seemed to really struggle to get over the muddy going. She ran a huge race two back in the Raven Run at Keeneland and she showed a lot of potential winning three different stakes races as a two year old. Two of her worst career performances came on this track, but she’s never raced on a fast track here. I’m willing to give her another shot today, especially at 5-1 (ML) or greater. Li’l Tootsie (#1) makes a lot of sense in this race, as she loves the six furlong distance and has shown the ability to pick up the pieces when the pace breaks down in front of her. I do think there will be a fast pace here if all nine runners go. The rail is probably not the best spot for her in this race, however, she’ll be dangerous if she can tip out on the turn. Geovanny Franco rides this filly, who has had several different riders in her eleven career starts, for the first time. Sarah Harper (#6) is the speed of the speed here and she may be quick enough to clear them in the early stages of this race. Since there are others that want to be forwardly placed, they may struggle if they have to chase her.
I’m using a similar wagering strategy here that I employed in the 7th race. I see Home Run Trick (#4) as a short priced favorite who could be vulnerable today. He’s making his 4th start at this meet, winning twice already at this $10K starter allowance condition. He has two strong figures in those races, which should mean that he’ll go into the starting gate at odds that are lower than his 3-1 morning line figure. However, he loves off tracks, both of his last two races came on tracks that were wet. The forecast is calling for a dry day, and on a fast track, I think he’s much closer to this field than the odds indicate. V.I.P. Who (#7) was claimed out of an open $10K claiming race two weeks ago. He was drawn wide, but ran well, finishing second that day in the slop. He was very good in the mid-Atlantic region this summer, and Matt Williams, while not necessarily a household name, is a solid claiming trainer with a 21% winning percentage in 2021. I think this four year old could pull off the upset while moving up in class. Tashkent (#5) had a three race win streak snapped last time out when catching a muddy course when facing a similar field. He faded badly that day, but he’s done most of his career damage on fast tracks. He doesn’t have a great record on this course, but I think he’s a definite rebound candidate here. Exulting (#11) had a slow start when facing a small field at this level last month. Brice, who is entered in the 7th race, was much the best that day with that group. He was in great form over the summer, finishing second in stakes company at Indiana Grand, and dominating in races here at a similar condition. The wide draw is less than ideal, but if he can run back to those races, he’ll be awfully tough. His last few tries have not been some of his best though. There’s enough class there to cover him in this race, but I’ll proceed with caution.
Favorite Bet Today: Pick-3 Race 7 ($27.00, Base Wager $1.00)
I like this wager, because I’m going to try to beat Caddo River (#4, Race 7) and Home Run Trick (#4, Race 9), both of whom I think will take a decent amount of money at the windows in their respective races. I’ll do a one dollar caveman style ticket, using three horses in each race, hoping to create some value by siding against favorites that feel vulnerable.
Race 7: 3,9,10
Race 8: 1,2,6
Race 9: 5,7,11