Oaklawn Park Racing Preview -1/23/22 – By Eric Solomon

As racing continues over the next few weeks, keep an eye out for some horses that have excelled over this track when the weather was less than ideal. Many of these horses are well-backed in their next start, decreasing their value. As a result, there have been some decent prices on some talented, but overlooked horses over the last few days. Joel Rosario and Florent Geroux are expected to return today after successful business trips to New Orleans. However, Ricardo Santana Jr. might be the hottest rider on track right now, coming off a three win Saturday to secure the lead in the local jockey standings. There are several wide open races that should produce some solid payouts again today if you’re able to connect.

 

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 1 1,5 4 DBL, PK5
2 6 6 1 4 DBL, PK3, PK4
3 6 3,6,8 10,11 DBL, PK3
4 10 4,10 3,6 DBL, PK3
5 4 4 2,10 DBL, PK3, PK5
6 4 3,4 5,8 DBL, PK3, PK4
7 7 2,6,7 DBL, PK3
8 5 2,5 DBL
9 5 3,5,9 7,10

 

 

Race 1:

Arkansas bred fillies and mares, three and up go one mile and one-sixteenth in this $20K maiden claiming contest. War Music (#1) feels like the one to beat on the stretch out for John Ortiz. She’s run two respectable races with state bred maiden special weight company when sprinting. Ortiz does well with horses making this drop, winning with 6 of 14 horses in 2021 that dropped into the maiden claiming ranks for the first time. Lasix and blinkers are added, so I’d expect to see her forwardly placed from her rail post. Gold Strategy (#5) feels like the logical alternative, coming out of the same two races as War Music. She’s been able to secure better early position than her rival, but has faded late in both tries. Her grand sire and dam sire are both Derby winners, so two turns might be a better trip for her. Wales may try to put her on the lead, where she could start to get brave. On deeper tickets, Milliganmikeandme (#4) didn’t show much in her debut last month, but she’s worked well three times since for Broberg. She was relegated to the back of the field in her only start when they ran a swift opening quarter of 21:3. I would have liked to have seen a little more from her that day, but she could take a step forward if she’s able to get into the race early on. 

 

Race 2:

The early pick-4 starts with a $30K-$25K N2L claiming race for fillies and mares at six furlongs. There’s a lot of horses that are not in the best current form in this spot. Fifth Risk (#6) makes a lot of sense in this race in her first start off the claim. She looked like a good fit at this level when she was a fast closing fourth on the synthetic at Turfway. Soundness has been an issue since breaking her maiden on debut at Saratoga in August 2020, however, she’s made three straight starts and has worked well since joining Norman Cash’s barn. Little Bird Flash (#1) makes her first start since July for Kim Puhl. She has three starts when sprinting on the main track and has not finished worse than 2nd in those tries. Her only sprint on the dirt was a dominating win with $12,500 maiden claimers at Thistledown in June. On deeper tickets, Verklempt (#4) is a three year old filly taking on older horses. She takes a significant drop in class after running 7th with optional claiming/starter allowance foes two weeks ago. She improved enough in that race to consider taking a flier on her at long odds here, in a race where there are several that seem to have forgotten how to win. 

 

Race 3:

I think this state bred multi-conditioned $16K claiming race is a wide open contest, where I’ll be looking for value. Proud Victoria (#6) gets the top call after running 9th when facing a considerably better field in her first start since June. She looked a little rusty that day, but they were also flying up front, running 21:2 and 44:3 fractions, leaving her much farther back than usual. Her only other start in her career when she faced state bred claimers, was a dominating victory last April on this oval. I think she improves on the class drop today. Tiger Bait (#3) and Dutch Treat (#8) squared off in an optional $16K claiming/starter allowance race for state bred fillies and mares last month, with Dutch Treat finishing a length better. Dutch Treat came back with open optional $15K/starter allowance company last week and closed well to be 5th despite being bumped out 7 wide when she was accelerating. She still finished with interest, but I think she’ll be overbet in this race based on her connections. Meanwhile, I think there’s less early pace signed on here, which might give a slight edge back to Tiger Bait, who battled gamely to hold third after dueling with Princess Lilli Bug in the early stages of that race on 12-19. She’s won three of her last eight starts and has hit the board in four other tries during that span. I’ll look to the wider posts for my deeper tickets here and use both Euro Me (#10) and Mocha Kiss (#11). Mocha Kiss was beaten by Lady Ave last out at Remington. That horse has been a win machine, winning again two weeks ago to win for the 10th time in 21 career starts. I think Mocha Kiss is better at two turns, and might be one to think about next time if they can stretch her out. However, she’s still capable of sprinting at this level if she can get the right trip. Euro Me was claimed out of the same 12-19 race that Tiger Bait and Dutch Treat are coming out of. Her speed figures have been declining over the last several starts, which is never a great sign. Perhaps the barn change will be the remedy for this seven year old mare who ran several races earlier in 2021 that would be good enough to beat this field. 

 

Race 4: 

I’m not sure how I feel about the favorite, W W Fitzy (#6) in this optional claiming/starter allowance race for fillies and mares. She had the misfortune of facing Coach in her last two starts on this oval, finishing about five lengths behind her both times. She was very sharp here last season, winning once, and putting forth several quality tries when facing better. However, I don’t like that this now six year old mare has been showing some bad habits out of the gate in her last two starts, missing the break both times. She’s at her best when she’s on or near the lead, and that positioning is not usually possible when you spot the field a few lengths in the early stages. She may just be classier than this group, so I will cover with her, but I’m going to try to beat her with a few others. Miss Imperial (#10) showed up here last month, shipping South from Assiniboia Downs in Canada. She was a fan favorite there, winning several small stakes races on that oval. She’s a win machine, winning 14 times in 28 career starts. She made her return to Hot Springs in a six furlong sprint, against a strong allowance field last month. The third place finisher of that race, Sarah Harper, went on to win her next start and run 7th, beaten 2 and ¼ lengths in the American Beauty Stakes yesterday. Miss Imperial was claimed for $50K by Jerry Hollendorfer, who stretches her out to a two turn race, which suited her very well in Canada. She’s eligible to be entered under the starter allowance condition, as she was a winner in a $25K claiming race on this oval back in 2020. I have no idea what kind of odds she’ll be, but the 20-1 on the morning line feels high. I’m comfortable taking a decent shot with her anywhere around 10-1 here. Bobbin Tail (#4) is an interesting four year old filly in this race. She has tried stakes company twice, where she finished off the board, but put up some some solid speed figures. She has three wins in three tries in her only other two turn dirt starts, while running at Remington and Prairie Meadows. She gets class relief off a 5th place finish when going off at 74-1 in the Mistletoe Stakes here last month, where she definitely outran her odds. Sunny Isle Beach (#3) is making her 4th start this meet and getting some class relief after going off at long odds in her last three. She closed well to get up for second with open allowance company last week. If she’s able to run back to her two route races on this course, she could be competitive with these.

 

Race 5: 

I like Dr. Forman (#4) quite a bit in this $6,250 claiming race in the middle of the card. I’ll forgive his last when sprinting 5 and ½ furlongs. They went fast early on and he broke outward from his outside post. He was wide the entire trip, but still ran on late. He drops from starter allowance company to an open claiming race where he has a post advantage over some of the other contenders. He’s had four starts at this distance, winning twice and finishing second in the other two tries. Coach Adams (#10) drops slightly after struggling with open $8K claimers. He was claimed out of that race by Diodoro, so I expect him to take some money here. He didn’t get away from the gate well last out, and as a result, wasn’t able to overcome a wide trip as the 3-2 favorite. He starts from a wide gate today and faces a much larger field than he’s seen over his last several races. He’s a player in here, because there’s not a lot of depth to this field, however, I do think he’s vulnerable. I feel the same way about Love Nest (#2) who ran a big race last out when making his first start on the local oval. He’s a horse that does know how to win, finding the Winner’s Circle 12 times in 38 career tries. He was claimed out of his last race here, which was the same race that Coach Adams is coming out of. He ran his best Beyer figure that day since July of 2020, so I think the concern for a bounce is legitimate. However, his post, and the competition he’s facing are enough to make sure he’s covered on some tickets as well.  

 

Race 6:

This is a brutally tough maiden special weight race for three year old fillies, sprinting six furlongs. This race oversubscribed and will be run in two divisions (Race 6 and Race 9). There are four second time starters, all of which feel live, along with some well-meant first time starters from barns that are more than capable of producing a debut winner. Peace Peddler (#3) and Firewolves (#4) are coming out of the fastest maiden special weight races, and both hit the board in their respective heats. We were supposed to see the winners of both of those races face off on Friday, however, that card was canceled due to extreme cold temperatures. Both fillies are definitely live. Firewolves has more of a one turn pedigree, but will also likely be a shorter price, running for Brad Cox and Florent Geroux. Peace Peddler is by Gun Runner, out of an Unbridled’s Song mare, so I think win or lose, we’ll see her progress to two turns soon. Tasha (#5) is another second time starter who is a bit intriguing, despite being one of two horses listed at 20-1 on the morning line. She drew the rail in a full field in her debut two weeks ago when facing a field of mostly four year old fillies. She ran a credible 5th that day, going off at 54-1. While she is moving back to a race exclusively for three year old fillies, she may be facing a tougher group today. However, I think she can move forward off that effort for a barn that does well with second time starters. She might be better suited for underneath in the vertical exotics, but if she gets overlooked in the wagering again, and her odds float over the 20-1 threshold, I’d be willing to take a shot with her to win. Of the first time starters, Decade of Dreams (#8) is the one that interests me the most. She has been working steadily in the mornings for Diodoro, showing six consecutive five furlong drills, including a bullet work on 12/28. Diodoro is mostly a claiming trainer, but he has fared well with his firsters in 2021, winning 24% of the time with 29 runners. She has a pedigree that suggests she might want a little more than the six furlong distance here, but that may help her in the event of a pace meltdown situation that could present itself. 

 

Race 7:

The last pick-3 of the week starts with a full field of $20K claimers, going 1 Mile and 1/16. This is another tricky handicapping puzzle because six of the twelve runners in the body of the field are coming off subpar efforts on a wet track on this course. There’s no rain in the forecast, so the track should be fast today. I’m against the two favorites on the morning line, First Line (#9) and Knight’s Cross (#5). First Line was claimed for $35K and drops in his first start for Amescua to the $20K level. I can’t imagine that he loves what he’s seeing from this gelding in the morning to run him at this level. He’s had most of his success on wet tracks, so I’m thinking that the wide post, fast track, and drop in class are all indications to take a solid stand against him. Knight’s Cross should improve off his last, but he showed absolutely no interest at all in the slop, retreating every step of the way. Despite the course condition, that’s not the type of effort I want to see from a horse in his first start off a claim. There’s no doubt he has the back class to win here, but unless his odds significantly rise, I’ll be watching him as well. I’m on Roaming Union (#7) here, making his first start since winning at this level in September at Saratoga. Norm Casse claimed him that day, and now he makes his first start since. While I don’t love that he hasn’t run in over four months, Casse has brought live horses to this meet, winning twice and hitting the board with all five starters. His runners typically run well off the layoff and this horse has run well off the layoff in the past. He has been working well in the mornings, so I’m thinking he’s ready to roll. Eskenforit (#6) gets some post and class relief while returning to this level. He was a winner three back at this condition at Churchill, where he was claimed by Chris Hartman. He ran well enough to be 5th with a significantly better field two starts back. He was wide and flat last out in the slop with $30K-$25K claimers. He drops back to this level where I think he’ll be able to rebound with a better trip on a fast surface. Canadian Game (#2) was very good in 2020, winning 7 of 13 starts that year. However, his 2021 was forgettable, going 0-8, and only hitting the board twice. He did run a credible race off the layoff here in the slop last month, and he drops to a claiming level where he should be able to be a factor. If he can run back to his last race, he can make an impact with this group. 

 

Race 8: 

The featured race today is absolutely wide open, where you could probably make a case for at least half the field. I do think there’s a few short prices that could regress a bit off their last starts, so I’m going to roll this dice and try to get away with using only two here. Chipofftheoldblock (#5) has a pair of sharp efforts at this meet, including a strong closing second place finish two back on a track where closers struggled. He should get a fast track for the first time this season, which should help him continue to stay in sharp form. There’s a ton of early speed here and I think he could be rolling late over a course that seemed very fair yesterday. Full Authority (#2) just seems to run better races when he runs over this oval. He was nipped at the wire in the mud three weeks ago when he was sent to post at 28-1. Prior to his last start, his efforts in Kentucky and Ohio were average at best. His last looked more like the efforts he was showing consistently last season at this meet and I’ll be betting that he can keep it going. I’m going to pass on Edge to Edge (#1) and One Fast Cat (#7). Both ran huge races here in their last starts. Edge to Edge did it in gate to wire fashion, but I suspect he will be under much more pressure today. One Fast Cat was flattered by Macron’s solid win yesterday, but that was a big effort and he’s struggled to pair those huge tries in back to back races. I’m also against Happymac (#3) off the layoff here. I think there’s too much speed signed on for him to be able to run his best race while coming off the bench. He might be better next time.

 

 Race 9: 

This second division of the maiden special weight for three year old fillies might be more wide open than the first. Perhaps the 6th race will give us some clues as to which prior races at this condition were stronger. I made Little Mombo (#5) the top pick, looking for a little value as she was installed at 10-1 on the morning line. I’m not sure we’ll get that price, but she showed interest while competing in a fast heat on debut last out. She’s a $500K Into Mischief filly running for Philip Bauer, who hasn’t brought many horses to Oaklawn, but the few runners that did compete here have been live. I expect a better effort from her this afternoon after getting race experience under her belt. Hot and Sultry (#3) is the likely post time favorite, who might just be too good for these. This daughter of Speighster was closing well Late in a quick heat in the mud last out, finishing second to Icy Stare Down. She’s obviously a player, but you’ll be paying a premium on a horse that had a big number on a wet track. Santana is red hot right now, coming off a three win afternoon to take sole possession of the lead in the jockey standings. Beguine (#9) debuted earlier in the month, finishing third against older fillies in a maiden special weight. She took money that day, signaling she’s well regarded. Her dam, Shananie’s Song was a useful sprinter in the mid-Atlantic region who has since foaled a few other winners on the track. Threave’s Company (#10) is the most interesting firster in the group. She’s worked well in the morning and Larry Jones certainly can get a horse ready for their debut. On deeper tickets, I’d consider adding Bicameral (#7) while coming back to a sprint in her second start off the layoff. Her debut was good enough for her connections to roll the dice and send her to the Grade 1 Del Mar Debutante. She didn’t run much there and was bad at two turns in her return to the races last month. However, I’ll give her a pass, as she never looked comfortable on the muddy/sealed course that day. This is a solid group, but if her odds float up, she’d be worth a shot.

 

Favorite Bet Today: Pick 3 – Race 5 ($24 – $2 Base Wager)

Favorites won only two races yesterday (Races 4 and 5). There were some vulnerable favorites later on in the day, and when they lost, the Pick-3’s starting in Race 6 and Race 7 paide very well, both paying over $500 for a dollar. I like this wager today because I’ll be against some shorter prices in the 5th and 7th races, which should allow this wager to pay well if we can connect. Dr. Forman (#4, Race 5) will be a single for me on this ticket, and I’m reasonably certain that he’ll be no better than the 3rd choice in the wagering in that race. Even if we hit chalk in the 6th, I think that race is wide open enough to make sure this wager pays a respectable ROI if we connect. 

 

Race 5: 4

Race 6: 3,4,5,8

Race 7: 2,6,7

 

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