This is the biggest day of racing yet at this meet as this eleven race program is headed by three strong stakes races. The Martha Washington for three year old fillies goes as Race 4, kicking off the local road to the Kentucky Oaks. The Grade 3 Southwest Stakes in Race 9 features the winner of the Smarty Jones Stakes, Dash Attack, taking on Southern California shipper, Newgrange. That race offers 10 points toward entry in the Kentucky Derby for the winner. The 10th race on the program is the King Cotton Stakes, which is a competitive six furlong sprint featuring the highly touted Nashville facing off against Grade 1 winner, Collusion Illusion. . Multi-race exotic players may want to take note that with the 11 race card, there is a mid-card Pick-4 wager starting in the 5th race this afternoon.
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||5||5,8,12||1,10||DBL, PK3, PK4|
|5||9||9||3,7,11||DBL, PK3, PK4|
|7||10||10||2,5||DBL, PK3, PK5|
|8||9||9||6,8||DBL, PK3, PK4|
This excellent card gets under way with a $30K starter allowance at six furlongs, where Long Term Thinking (#1) is the morning line favorite off the claim for Steve Asmussen. He’s an interesting six year old ridgling who was a winner with open claimers on January 1st, making up for a rare flop two starts ago. That race two back was only the second time in his 19 race career he finished off the board. He has four wins and twelve second place finishes, so he almost always runs a solid race. It certainly makes sense why Asmussen would want to claim him for himself and keep him in protected company, since he is such a useful runner. However, I’m using him on the B line in here because three of his four wins have come at two turn races. He has only one win and seven second place finishes in eleven tries at this six furlong distance. He’ll definitely take money at the windows in this eight horse field, so he may go to post at lower odds than his 2-1 morning line figure, so the value will be less than ideal as well. On top, I’m using Ultimate (#4) who might be able to get the run of the race, sitting just off the early speed. He also was claimed in a $30K-$25K open claiming race last out, a race where he came up just a neck short of winning. He’s been claimed in his last four starts, so that streak will be broken today. He has been improving of late and enters here in very good form. Flat Lucky (#8) might offer the best value in the race, as he is 8-1 on the morning line. He likely needed his last race, making his first start since June. That was a solid field that he faced in his return and he was moving well in the later stages of that race to get into third. He was very sharp at this meet last season and I expect him to build off his last performance. Substantial (#2) is another horse that is in good form and likely worth covering in the early Pick-5. He beat Long Term Thinking in his last start. If you draw a line through his Delaware form, he’s been very sharp. He doesn’t usually have a ton of early speed, but he ran a monster race on this course last season going gate to wire while setting legitimate fractions. Apprentice John Hiraldo seems to have a very good relationship with this horse, getting the most out of him since getting aboard him for the first time four starts ago.
The claiming game has been thriving at this meet with over $4 million in claims going through the claiming box in the first two months of racing. However, this open $20K claiming race is the only race on the program where horses can be claimed today, speaking to the depth and quality of this card. This race is a definite spread race and there’s plenty of opportunity for value. I think some of the bigger prices are definitely live here, so I’m going to use a 30-1 longshot as a top pick here with Skyscanner (#5). He cuts back to six furlongs and drops in class after catching sloppy tracks in three straight starts. His last start on a fast track at this distance was a strong win at Delaware in October, beating $10K starter allowance foes. In fact, he is a perfect 2-2 at this six furlong distance, and his one turn races just look better than his two turn efforts (which is surprising when you look at his pedigree). I think he’ll be overlooked since there are many in here in better form, but he’s never won on a wet track, so I’m willing to excuse his last three, especially if he’s anywhere near his 30-1 price in the wagering. Archiemyboy (#12) is better than what he showed in his local debut, where he faded to last with $30K-$25K claimers. He’s a very consistent horse, hitting the board in 26 of 33 career starts, and winning seven of them. I think his outside draw will allow him to stalk the pace a little easier today. His trainer, Scott Becker, won 33% of his races in 2021, so getting 20-1 on a horse trained by him is also value that I’m here for. California Swing (#8) left himself too much work to do last time, closing fast, but coming up just a neck short with $16K claimers last out. He was claimed out of that race by Frederico Villafranco, who has good numbers and strong ROI with runners first off the claim. He’s yet another one at long odds that has a legitimate shot here. I’ll be looking for as much coverage as possible here, so I’ll also include The Queen Jules (#10) and Riverboat Gambler (#1) on the B line. The Queen Jules has been freshened a bit after being claimed for $20K at Churchill in November. He’s able to be entered with the waiver. His recent form wasn’t great, but his local works have been sharp, signaling that he could be able to return to his form from earlier in 2021. Riverboat Gambler was claimed for $30K and drops here for $20K, which is not an angle that I love. On top of it, the rail draw with the big and contentious field makes him a tough play here at 4-1. However, he’s very consistent, running several races in a row that would put him right there with this field.
Since the first two races feel like spread races, the next two races feel like spots where you can pare down some multi-race wagers. Horse Greedy (#5) ran a clunker in his local debut, but was claimed by Diodoro from that spot. He brought him back in a restricted $10K claimer, where he fought gamely to win by a neck at 7-1. He has a ton of back class, and has improved since the barn change. I think he’ll sit a good trip, stalking the morning line favorite, Wobberjod (#5). That one is the other logical player here and he enters this $10K starter allowance in his third career start. He’s undefeated, beating a modest group of $7,500 maiden claimers at Remington back in October. He entered a $10K N2L claiming race, where he was eligible for the waiver. He drew off to win by three that day, in a very fast race for that level. He’s faced some soft company and has never been tested, but this five year old gelding definitely has some ability.
Race 4: The $200K Martha Washington Stakes:
This is the first local race of the year that offers points toward entry in the Kentucky Oaks. How you bet this race depends upon how you feel about the monster performance from Secret Oath (#6) last time out. She made her local debut in allowance company on New Year’s Eve after running a dull 5th in the Golden Rod in November. She absolutely decimated her eight rivals that afternoon, winning by over eight lengths. She fired a 46:4 bullet Work signaling that she’s ready to go again. I believe she can run another strong race, but I think the advantage here goes to Optionality (#4). She has absolutely dominated her last three races, including stakes wins in New Mexico and Oklahoma. She passed the two turn test with flying colors when winning the Trapeze Stakes by 8+ lengths. She faces a tougher group today, but outside of Secret Oath, there’s no one that I’d consider scary. I think she has the tactical edge here today and will continue her winning streak.
State bred maiden special weight runners end the Early Pick-5 and start the mid-card Pick-4 on this eleven race card. Whelen Springs (#9) just missed at this level last out in his second career start. He was buried on the rail last out in the mud, so Santana was left with little choice but to go hard for the early lead. He almost lasted, but was caught in the final strides. His wider draw should give him more flexibility here in his third career start. I think he’s the one to beat here. Both Chaleco (#3) and Mo Vodka (#11) are first time starters from barns that have sent out some strong first timers at decent prices in these state bred races at this meet so far. Chaleco runs for Ernie Witt after some solid AM drills. He’s sired by Hamazing Destiny who has become a useful an affordable sire for Arkansas bred runners. Mo Vodka debuts for Allen Milligan who sent out a 40-1 winner on debut in state bred maiden company a few weeks ago. He draws outward and has a similar work pattern to some of Milligan’s other debut winners. Where’s Randy (#7) ran a big race in his debut, where he looked loaded, but never really had a clear path to run. He improved in his second career start, finishing 4th, beaten just under three lengths. He’s had trouble at the break in both starts, so a rider switch has been made. 3-1 feels a little short for a horse that has yet to prove he can break clean. However, if those odds float up, he’d be more enticing to me.
This is another starter allowance race, this one for horses that have run for a $30K tag or less in 21-22 and horses that haven’t won twice in the last three months. Lastchanceatglory (#10) was claimed for $40K at Turfway last out, when struggling over the Tapeta surface there. His dirt form is much better than what he’s shown on turf or synthetic. He’s been right there in his last five dirt starts winning twice and finishing a close second in the other race races. There’s not a ton of early pace in here, so he’d benefit from an aggressive ride from Contreras to put him close to the front end. Lord Dragon (#3) has been rolling in his last two starts, dominating a race in the slop last out under these conditions. He went off at 9-10 odds that day and will likely be bet down again off his 3-1 morning line figure. He’s won his last two starts, but is eligible to run here since his win two back came at the $25K claiming level. Ego (#12) was a 7-2 winner with lesser last on in the mud here three weeks ago. He takes a step up in class and draws a tricky post here. However, his game is coming from off the pace, so he has the ability to tuck in early and make one run late. He’s been very consistent, but will need to prove that he can compete at this level. On deeper plays, I’m not willing to toss Pat’s Property (#4) who will likely be bet down off the 30-1 morning line figure. He ran a monster race last month, going fast early and continuing to find late when beating a $40K starter allowance field off the layoff. He’ll need to prove that he can duplicate that effort, but again, there’s not a ton of early speed, so Kelsi Harr should be able to make the lead with him if she wants to. That was a good field that he beat when scoring at 45-1 last time, so I’d be willing to play him at 15-1 or better here, as well as covering him on some deeper plays.
Both Insolito (#2) and Favorite Outlaw (#5) debuted in a very fast maiden special weight race here on December 31st, both finishing less than a length behind California shipper, Apprehend, who had a few races under his belt. Both flashed a lot of potential, and neither should be a maiden for much longer. However, I think Slim Man (#10) is an interesting alternative to them here. This son of Kantharos debuted for Brad Cox back in December, on a day where it was very hard to make up ground from off the pace. He was gaining on the race winner, Pressure, gobbling up ground to clearly secure second place. Florent Geroux rides first call for Cox. He was named on Insolito (also trained by Cox) in his debut, however, he had first preference on Apprehend, who drew in off the AE list that day. I would think that Geroux would have had the choice of which horse he’d want to ride here, and he ends up on Slim Man. I think he could get a good set up here, with the two others likely going for the early lead. 3-1 feels a little light, but I do like his prospects here today. If he’s bet down off the figure, obviously the value drops, but that tells me that he’s a well-regarded horse. Insolito ends up with John Velazquez aboard, and he’s worked well in his two works following his strong first start. Favorite Outlaw makes his second start for Asmussen after narrowly missing last out. He’s a son of Maclean’s Music who was purchased for $350K, so there are clearly expectations. These two clearly are live in this race, and I’ll want coverage with both, but they may wind up being each other’s undoing again.
The final Pick-4 of the day starts here with a money allowance for three year olds and up going 1 Mile and 1/16. Calibrate (#9) makes his first start since October and his first start since being gelded. You have to go back to his debut at Saratoga in August of 2020 to find his last and only victory, however, he has faced some solid fields in a variety of races since then. He’s been working well at Louisiana Downs for Asmussen, and I like the fact that they’re running this $340K purchase in a protected allowance race despite having the horse gelded. It’s not uncommon to see horses like this show up in $50K claiming type races after being gelded, so I believe the connections still feel he can be a valuable contributor on the racetrack to a crowded stable. I love the way Santana has been riding lately and I think he can sit off the early speed and work out a good trip today. Fan Club (#8) finally broke through and graduated from the maiden ranks in the mud four weeks ago when making his 6th career start. He won going away, suggesting there’s definitely more in the tank for this $325K son of Street Sense. He overcame a wide draw to score last out and will have to do so again here. Divine Armor (#6) certainly fits on figures while shipping in from Southern California. He’s hit the board in five of his last starts, winning once in that span. He has a few decent works over the local track since joining Jerry Hollendorfer’s barn. He might be a better horse to use underneath than on top, but he does fit with this group today.
Race 9: The $750K Grade 3 Southwest Stakes:
I wrote about this race in depth as a part of the Kentucky Derby Preview Series on the Kentucky Derby Blog at In The Money, which is linked below. Dash Attack (#2) feels like the one to beat. We know he likes the local course and he should get another favorable pace scenario. I’m totally playing against the Baffert shipper, Newgrange (#10) as I think he’s untested and unproven against a large, quality field, especially at short odds. I think Vivar (#12) could step forward for Brad Cox after making a strong move when finally getting a hold of the sloppy course last out. He’s apt to try to work out a similar trip, hopefully without being forced to the middle of the course when making his move this time. Osbourne (#6) has run three strong races while gradually adding distance. This should offer a good picture as to how deep of a race the Springboard Mile at Remington was last month. Barber Road (#8) might not be the best value horse, but he’s as honest as they come, never running a bad race. On deeper tickets, consider using both Costa Terra (#5) and Ignitis (#7). They are both more enticing at odds longer than their respective morning line figures.
Race 10: The $150K King Cotton:
Hollis (#1) and Nashville (#6) met up earlier in the meet, with Hollis running a monster race, and blowing by his rival in the stretch. He earned a career best 109 Beyer for that effort. However, I’m not sold that this seven year old can duplicate that effort here. He had the advantage of having outside position on Nashville, who was making his first start in almost a year. Today those positions are reversed, and I think that tilts the advantage back to Nashville. He showed he could be a potentially brilliant sprinter in his brief three year old campaign in 2020. He was no match for Charlatan in the Malibu and after that race he went to the sidelines. He never really had a four year old campaign, so this could be the start of a big season for him. Steve Asmussen has campaigned some very talented sprinters lately including Mitole, who loved racing here. I think we’ll see the real Nashville show up today. On deeper tickets, I’ll cover with the California invader, Collusion Illusion (#4). John Velazquez takes the mount for his five year old debut. He finished in front of Nashville in the Malibu in 2020, and like Nashville, he really didn’t have much of a four year old campaign. His two starts last year were disasters, so he’s been given a little time. He’s been working well for Glatt, who ships him east for this spot. I think he’ll get a decent pace to set up his closing kick. I suspect he’ll need this race, and 3-1 feels very short. However, he is a Grade 1 winner and outside of Nashville, there’s not a ton of depth in this field.
The nightcap is a maiden special weight for three year olds going 1 Mile and 1/16. Goin to the Show (#1) debuted here last month at this level, and finished third, a little more than two lengths behind Dash Attack. He had a wide journey that afternoon, but will get some definite post relief while drawing the rail for his second career try. He definitely looks like a colt that has some upside here. Life On the Nile (#5) is certainly regally bred, sired by Pioneerof the Nile and foaled by Breeders’ Cup Distaff winner, Life is Sweet. He improved from start one to start two and now switches to two turns for the first time off two sprints. He’s bred to be able to handle the distance and could be a player with this group. Quick to Blame (#4) is the morning line favorite and another logical horse to include on your tickets. He lost in a photo to Call Me Jamal (who goes in the Southwest Stakes today). He was beaten two back in his debut by Lecomte winner, Call Me Midnight, so he’s kept good company. He’ll definitely take some play at the windows, so the value might not be there, but nonetheless, he makes a lot of sense in here.
Favorite Bet Today: Exacta Box Race 2: ($12 Ticket, $2 Base Wager)
I’m going old school and throwing it back to a simple three horse exacta box for my favorite bet of the day. Race 2 is a full field and a wide open race for $20K claimers. I can make a solid case for three prices, and when I can do that, I always like to try to put them together. I like Skyscanner (#5, 30-1 ML), California Swing (#8, 12-1 ML), and Archiemyboy (#12, 20-1 ML) in this spot, while not really loving some of the shorter prices here. I’ll hope that two of them can get the right trip to run one-two.
$2 Exacta box 5-8-12