Nine races start an exciting week of racing at Oaklawn Park. Tomorrow is one of the first really big days of racing at the meet with an excellent renewal of the Grade 3 Southwest Stakes on tap. The highlighted race on today’s card is a state bred N1X allowance for fillies and mares going 1 mile and 1/16 in the 5th race. First post is 12:30 (CT) with the featured race scheduled to go off at 2:26 (CT).
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|
|2||1||1,4,6||DBL, PK3, PK4|
|5||5||5,7,11||DBL, PK3, PK5|
|6||3||3||2||DBL, PK3, PK4|
A field of six has been assembled for the Friday opener, which is a time restricted claiming race for four year olds and up, running with a $62,500-$55,000 tag. Antigravity (#4) feels like the best value in the race. He ran well to be third behind both Eastside Cool (#1) and Zoomer (#3) last time out, while getting a wide trip. He has drawn outside of those two again, but I think Bejarano will be able to work out a better trip for him this afternoon. Both of those runners ran bigger races than normal and could be due to bounce off those efforts. While he is winless in 10 starts on this oval, he has hit the board in six of those races. Leading trainer, Robertino Diodoro has a pair of runners in this race, sending out Red Knobs (#5) and Frosted Grace (#6). For the most part, when he sends out two runners in a race, I typically give the preference to whichever entrant Cristian Torres is riding. However, I prefer the form on paper of Frosted Grace, who is ridden by Orlando Mojica. He was 7th in the Claiming Crown Jewel on a very sloppy course at Churchill last time out. This is a significantly softer field that he’s up against today. He was a winner with open $32K claimers at Keeneland two starts back when Diodoro claimed him. I think he could be a candidate to rebound in this spot. I’ll use Eastside Cool on some deeper plays here, thinking that he still could be the lone speed from the rail here. I expect at least one of the two Diodoro horses to keep him honest on the front end though.
Two weeks ago, I made a case for a big longshot, Wildwood’s Wonder (#1) in a $30-$25K N2L claiming race. I thought he had the potential to be the lone speed in that race, which turned out to have a much more aggressive pace battle than what appeared in the form lines. He chased that pace, and faded out of the picture to be 8th that day, while facing a strong field for that condition. He drops in class to a 16K N2L claiming race and cuts back to a sprint this afternoon, which may be a solid move for him. He’s sired by a Grade 1 winning sprinter (Poseidon’s Warrior), out of a Distorted Humor mare. Scott Becker won 33% of his races in 2022, so he knows how to get his horses into the Winner’s Circle. He tried the route to sprint gambit 28 times last year, and he won with 16 of those runners (57%). Shakedown Street (#4) was claimed by Steve Asmussen after breaking his maiden with $12,500 maiden claimers two weeks ago. He overcame some trouble to get the job done after losing in his first six starts. He’ll have to prove he can string some useful races together in a row, but I think he fits with this group, while facing winners for the first time. Penetrator (#6) is a Diodoro claim and drop special, running with a $16K after he was claimed for $30K in his last start. This is never a move that I love to play, however, these horses have been connecting at times at this meet, and Cristian Torres taking the mount is a plus. He had some trouble at the break and wasn’t able to run his race last time out. I’m expecting a better effort today.
We’ll have to navigate another Diodoro claim and drop in this race, with Mr. Tip (#6) being a heavy 7-5 favorite on the morning line. Torres rides this one as well, and his recent form is just better than his competition lately. He was claimed for $32K three starts back when he was beaten by Frosted Grace (See Race 1) at Keeneland. His last two against better fields haven’t been great. This is a steep drop, so there’s enough concern for me to look elsewhere for a top pick, however I’m going to include him on the A line on the horizontal wagers since there isn’t much else in this race. First Line (#5) will be my selection in this one, hoping that his last race last week was just serving as a race day workout. He was never asked for anything in that race after breaking and lingering at the back of the pack. He is clearly a better animal at two turns, winning here last season with $10K starter allowance company at this distance. He feels like the most capable alternative to the heavy favorite.
We’ll move to a $10K starter allowance for horses that have started for a $10K tag or less in the last year. The eight year old gelding, Colosi (#3), pulled off the 20-1 upset at this level two starts back and I think that he could do it again today. He was on a steady diet of turf races, but he’s been just as good on a fast dirt track. He met a tougher field going nine furlongs last out, and that appeared to be just out of range. Nik Juarez gave him a very good ride two starts back and he gets the return call today. Flatout Winner (#6) is probably the most consistent runner in the field. He’s finished in the money in his last seven races on the main track, winning two of them. He wheels back quickly as he’ll no longer be eligible for this specific condition in three days, seeing as how his last start for a $10K tag came on 1/30/22. He’s been a productive claim for Nevada Litfin, winning three of the twenty races he won overall last year. I think there’s some upside possible for Eskenforit (#1) in this race. He was claimed two back for $25K by Karl Broberg. He went on the shelf and returned for a meager $7,500 tag at the beginning of the month, in a race where he finished 4th. He makes his first start off the Timothy Martin claim and is trying to recapture the strong form that he showed at times here last season.
State bred fillies and mares will go 1 mile and 1/16 in the featured race of the afternoon at Oaklawn. I thought this race was very complicated, seeing as how there are several runners that appear to prefer sprinting in this race. I ended up on Rivercrest Girl (#5) as my top pick, making her first start since the end of October for Danny Pish. She was a winner two starts back with open maiden special weight company going two turns at Louisiana Downs on the turf. Her efforts sprinting on the main track there and at Lone Star weren’t bad. It’s possible that she could need this race, however, I figure she’s handled a comparable distance on grass and that form should translate to the main track. War Music (#7) is a longshot that appears to move up when going two turns. Her figures are a little light on the main track, but they do tend to improve when running longer distances. Her last race was a complete toss when she dwelt at the break and cost herself any chance of running a competitive race. She might be better suited for the state bred claiming ranks, however, there’s enough question marks in this field to consider using her in spite of her long odds. Truly a Rocket (#11) is the morning line favorite that is being asked to stretch out to a route from a tough post in her first start off the Jerry Hollendorfer claim. She’s handled two turns before, running credible races at Louisiana Downs and Delta Downs. She’s a two time winner on this oval who is in better form than many of these, so she’s hard to leave off the tickets.
This is not a very inspiring group of $25K-$20K maiden claiming fillies and mares. I ended up making True Emotion (#3) my top pick in her second career start for Ron Moquett. She was sent off as a lukewarm favorite with $30K maiden claimers in her debut. She was away slowly, but she was able to work her way through the pack to finish 4th. I think she has more upside than most here. American Band (#2) is the lone four year old among seven three year old fillies. Asmussen claimed her for $20K when she was narrowly defeated in her local debut. This is a relatively quick turnaround against a less than stellar group.
$50K-$45K maiden claimers are set to travel 1 mile and 1/16 in the race that begins the final Pick-3 of the afternoon. I’m not sure there’s a reasonable chance that we’ll get 8-1 on Asset Basis (#4), but I do think he makes sense as the 4th choice in the wagering in this race from a value perspective. He was claimed by Diodoro after a respectable debut with $30K maiden claimers when sprinting last time out. His pedigree suggests he’ll improve at two turns, being sired by Tiznow out of a Quality Road mare. The only other foal to race from this dam was sired by Tourist and is stakes placed on the turf. He feels like the runner with most upside in this race. Deputy Connect (#1) is dropping in for a tag for the first time for Brad Cox. Cox won 30% with that move in 2022, and this is a drop that seems to make sense. He’s making his first start since May when he ran poorly in a 10 furlong race in the slop at Churchill. His local starts were solid last year. Two of the dam’s other foals to race were winners at the maiden claiming level. Her other foal, Count de Monet, became a stakes winning sprinter at the beginning of this meet. Stand Proud (#6) was third against a decent maiden special weight field here last month. He doesn’t have a ton of early speed and has been pace compromised in his last two starts, including a game effort at this level two starts back. Blinkers are going on for the first time, which was a negative move for John Ortiz trained horses in 2022. Santana, who rode sparingly for Asmussen at Oaklawn last season, has had increased business with him at this meet. He rode Stand Proud last out and opts for Asmussen’s runner, Absolute Courage (#3), instead. There are some concerns for the morning line favorite, but I do think he fits well at this level. I will use Absolute Courage as a saver, because he could easily wind up on an uncontested lead in this race. However, he’s been caught late in his last two starts at this level, and the pace he set wasn’t particularly aggressive in either spot. I feel like he’s more likely to finish second or third than win this race, but I’d definitely upgrade him if speed appears to be holding well.
I love the nuisances of the condition book at Oaklawn, and this $30K starter allowance race is another one to keep notes about. This condition is written for three year old fillies that have started for a $30K tag or less or horses that were bred in Arkansas. Three of the fillies entered in this race were bred in Arkansas. I thought this race was one of the more challenging contests on the card. I ended up making Star Pose (#9) my top pick for D. Wayne Lukas. She was a winner with $20K maiden claimers here two weeks ago, rebounding from a dismal effort at Keeneland prior to that effort. I thought that was a strong performance that could be indicating a horse that is improving. This is a decent step up in class for her, but it’s encouraging to me that they are protecting her from being claimed by entering her in this spot. I am a bit concerned about a bounce, but at 12-1 (ML) or better, I’d be willing to take a shot. Yolanda Who (#3) drops in class for Todd Fincher after running a decent 4th with optional claiming/N2L allowance company in her most recent try. She ran very well in the mid two back to beat $25K N2L claimers at Remington, thus making her eligible for this race. She didn’t have the best trip last out, so along with the class relief, there should be reason to be;lieve that she can move forward. Summorya (#5) makes her second career start after beating a full field of state bred maiden special weight fillies in her debut. She was bet like a good thing that day, going off as the 8-5 post time favorite. Perhaps this is more of a function of Moquett working the condition book to find a protected spot for her, but first state bred level allowances go for over $100K here, whereas the purse for this race is $45K. That’s not a deal breaker for me in this spot, but it is something to think about, especially if she is bet down to the favorite.
The day’s proceedings will conclude with a $12,500-$10,000 open claiming race for fillies and mares going six furlongs. We have yet another suspect dropper from the Diodoro barn, as Empire Pass (#5), who is the heavy 7-5 favorite on the morning line, starts for a $12,500 tag after being claimed over the summer for $40K. This one is a little different than some of the other claim and drops that we’ve seen from Diodoro because she has been a very good claim for him. She won three straight races for this barn, beating $40K claimers at Del Mar in September, and then clearing the first and second level allowance conditions at Remington in September and October. She came back from two months away to run a respectable third in N1X allowance company here, which she’s still eligible for due to the purse structure at Remington. Having that condition here, which is a race that carries a $104K purse, you’d think that if she was training like the best version of herself, these connections would want to try to take advantage of, before offering her up for a tag. Torres opts to ride her over the Peter Miller runner, So It Would Seem (#3), who he rode thirteen days ago. I’ve got to use her, but I’ll try Stylin N Profilin (#1) on top. She faltered when stretching out to a mile last out when facing a nice field of $20K claimers here. She ran three strong races in the fall at Remington, all at one turn and at conditions similar to this race. Prior to her dull effort last out, she hit the board in her previous six tries, winning two of them. There could be a lively early pace in this race, which could set the table for a deep closer like Chasing Shadows (#6). I do think this five year old mare has a limited ceiling, so I’ll need every bit of the 10-1 morning line figure or better to use her. However, She is dropping in class and has been a horse that both Karl Broberg and Matin Villafranco have made a point to re-claim after losing her. If closers have a fair shot of getting home, she could be worth considering.
Meet Statistics: Top Pick 37/157 (23.6%), $260.80 $1.66 ROI