The last day of racing in January at Oaklawn brings a nine race card to the table, highlighted by an optional $62,500 claiming/N2X allowance race. A contentious field of nine has been assembled for that contest, which is the 8th race of the day.
Cristian Torres continues to lead the way in the jockey standings, holding an eight race lead over Rafael Bejarano and Francisco Arrieta. Keep an eye on Ricardo Santana Jr. who is coming off a three win day yesterday and has been riding well after missing the first few weeks of racing. He’s on some live mounts again this afternoon. Robertino Diodoro continues to hold a strong lead over Chris Hartman in the trainer standings. Hartman picked up a winner yesterday to move within seven wins of Diodoro. Diodoro is represented in four races today, whereas Hartman has only one starter, so the odds of extending that lead are in his favor today.
The rains that came yesterday provided more rain than expected throughout the afternoon, causing the track to be sealed after the second race and labeled sloppy for the last six races on the day. More rain came through overnight and there are some showers still in the forecast for today, so expect there to be some level of moisture in the track. First post this afternoon is 12:30 (CT) with the featured race scheduled to go off at 3:53 (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!
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The two shortest prices in this $12,500 N2L claiming race for fillies and mares have struggled to get their second win over the last several races. As a result, I’ll try Ain’tnosweetie (#4) on top, while dropping in class after finishing 6th with $25K N2L claimers at the beginning of the month. She was a big longshot with that group, when making her first start off the Nevada Litfin claim. She finished third behind a runaway winner two back that was disqualified from purse money for that race. She’s been competitive in each of her four starts, even if her speed figures are a shade light. Dream Streak (#3) has hit the board in her last four starts against similar kinds of fields at the Fair Grounds and Horseshoe Indianapolis. Matt Shirer claimed her two back and moved her up the ladder to conditioned $30K claiming company in New Orleans. She’s a threat to wire this field, but she hasn’t finished her last few races in the strongest fashion. She’s a player in this race, but at short odds, I’m not seeing a ton of value. Bad Outlook (#8) was claimed by Diodoro for $10K last out when she finished a distant 4th, four lengths behind the top pick. She was a winner here last year and is making her second start off the layoff. She;s been installed at 4-1 on the morning line, which is a bit of steep tax to pay for gaining the leading connections. I don’t love the price as others look better on paper, but there’s not a ton of depth to this field and this barn has been winning at 32% at this meet, which 11 percentage pints higher than Diodoro’s 2022 average. Essential Bella (#1) earned her only career victory on a synthetic course. She was second at this level last out and now makes her third start off the layoff. I’ll save her for the deepest tickets.
An overflow field of 14 are entered in this $20K maiden claiming event for Arkansas bred fillies and mares. Aseel (#4) ran against a strong maiden special weight field on New Year’s Eve, when making her first start since June. The second and third place finishers were both strong winners on yesterday’s program. She drops in class and makes her second start off the layoff while facing a soft group. Ricardo Santana hopes to stay hot as he picks up the mount for the first time today. Bootlegging Girl (#6) has caught muddy tracks in her last three starts and might have to face the same fate again today. She needed her first start off the layoff when she ran on 12/9 in maiden special weight company. She dropped to this level last out and ran a credible third. She was in better form last season, so I could see her taking another step forward here. Valentine Angel (#8) had a tough trip when she made her first start in almost a full year last month. She was claimed by Jerry Hollendorfer, who has had decent numbers first off the claim of late. Blinkers will come off for the first time today, which may or may not help. However, she’s lightly raced enough to have some upside at this level.
If the track comes up muddy or sloppy, I think North Side (#7) is a horse that I’d definitely upgrade in this $6,250 claiming sprint. He’s all about early speed and his rider, Rocco Bowen had a gate to wire winner in yesterday’s opener. His effort at Ellis in the slop three back was excellent. He’s caught wet tracks four times in his career and his only poor effort came with state bred maiden special weight types in his debut at Aqueduct in 2019. He’s third off the layoff today so I think he could be sitting on a bigger effort as well. Dr. Forman (#11) was claimed for $8K at Churchill in November. He shipped here and was a winner with conditioned $10K claimers in the slop in December. He was overmatched in his last start with starter allowance types, so the class relief should be welcomed. Karl Broberg trains my top choice and he also sends out Bravo Bravo (#6) who is the shorter price on the morning line and attracted the services of leading rider, Cristian Torres. He struggled in the same starter allowance that Dr. Forman is coming out of, while making his first local start. He’s another one that moves up on an off track and should show more with a better start.
A full gate of 12 with 11 betting interests are set to go in this $12,500-$10,000 N2L claiming race. Jim and Jim (#9) was ambitiously spotted in his first two starts at the meet. He shipped here after breaking his maiden with $15K maiden claimers at Hawthorne three starts back. He was beaten by double digit lengths in his last two tries, both while facing tough fields. He ran speed figures that he typically runs and this is a major drop in class from the $16K starter allowance field he saw at the beginning of the month. Liars Club (#5) ended the meet at Woodbine on a sour note, running two poor races in a row at a similar level of competition. He wasn’t helped by drawing post 14 in a race at this 1 mile and 1/16 distance last time out though. He draws a better post today, starting from the four-hole. He’s sired by Broken Vow, who gets 13% winners in dirt routes over the past five years. He’s worth including, especially at or around his 10-1 morning line favorite. Thomas Van Berg sends out a coupled entry of City Legend (#1) and Jacks Fire Balls (#1A). Both runners have a shot, but if they were separate betting entities, they;d likely both be longer odds than the 5-2 morning line price. I’d use either on deeper tickets if the other scratched, and I’m happy to get the two for one coverage, but I think there’s better value elsewhere on the board.
The three year old fillies will go six furlongs in this maiden special weight race that will end the Early Pick-5 and kick off the Late Pick-5. Flyin Bessie (#9) gave Klassy Bridgette all she could handle last out when faced off in a maiden special weight race going 5 and ½ furlongs in the mud. That filly went on to win her next start in allowance company. She draws an outside post on a day where the track is likely to be wet once again. This is a sneaky good field, but I see her being tough to beat in this spot. Effortlesslyelegant (#7) is the morning line favorite, coming off a tough luck 4th place finish in her debut at Churchill in November. She bobbled a bit at the break, then rushed up on the heels of others. She had to tap on the brakes two separate times and looked like she was going to wilt toward the back of the pack. She re-rallied though once switching to the outside, and was closing well late to get up for 4th as the beaten favorite. All in all, she ran well, but she’ll have to stay out of her own way to beat this group. A potential wet track would be another variable to consider if taking a short price on her. Mary’s Boon (#4) is an interesting first time starter for McLean Robertson. He won with 24% of his first time starters in 2022, including a 45-1 upset win with Sisaway Now on this course in March. Her sire Central Banker gets 11% winners with debut runners on the dirt. This is the first foal to race from the Flatter mare, Glaze. I’m intrigued that her purchase price of $135K in May of 2022 is significantly higher than the $7,500 stud fee for Central Banker (18X higher). She’s been working well locally and is a viable longshot in this spot.
I see Dixie Fury (#5) as being very tough to beat in this optional $50K claiming/$50K starter allowance race. He crushed a field at this level when sprinting on a good track last month. That was after crushing a $20K maiden claiming field in the slop two starts back at Churchill. She took a big step forward for Norm Casse, who claimed her in Kentucky that afternoon. She handled her business very well in her local debut, and while her dam never went longer than seven furlongs in her three career starts, this colt is bred to get two turns. I think he’ll be tough to catch once again, in a race where he’d be a logical single. My saver in this race will be River Boy (#6), coming off a third palace effort at this mile distance at the Fair Grounds. He does have a two turn win, so I could see those that could make a case for him here. While Dixie Fury is trying something new, I have a feeling that River Boy and the other eight runners might be running into a buzzsaw.
$30K-$25K claiming fillies and mares will dash 5 and ½ furlongs here. Empire Pass (#7) was inexplicably entered in a $12,500 claiming race on Friday, but she scratched and ends up here, which seems like a more appropriate spot. She’s been a highly successful claim already for Diodoro, winning three straight times after being claimed for $40K in August at Del Mar. She faded to third in N1X company in her local debut last month. Perhaps she isn’t doing quite as well as she was during the late summer and early fall, but I do see her being a force at this level and distance. There are some other runners that could be vying with her for the lead though, which could help Storming Lady (#3). She’s the second choice on the morning line for Peter Miller, and I do have some concerns. 32 of her 35 career starts have come on the grass. Her three dirt starts were much earlier in her career. Overall, Miller has good numbers with horses going from turf to dirt, winning 21% of the time with those runners over the last five years. However, he is 0 for 7 with his turf to dirt runners that have shown up here during that span, including a beaten 4-5 two weeks ago (Bizzy Gal). She’s finished in the money in her last five starts, winning two of them. If closers are getting home, she definitely has a shot, but a wet track would be another variable that could cause uncertainty. While I truly have mixed feelings, I’d need to get better than the 5-2 morning line to play her to win. I will be using her some of the horizontal wagers though because she does feel like a horse that can run on any surface. She might need a total pace collapse to win, however I do see La Morena (#5) as a runner that could add some spice to the vertical exotics on the bottom. She was no match for N1X allowance fillies and mares in her last start at the beginning of the month. She ran well two starts back to be second with $20K claimers here. Her Remington form from the fall would likely get her close and she does like this distance.
The feature race this afternoon is an optional $62,500 claiming/N2X allowance race for four year olds and up, traveling one mile and 1/16. This is a very interesting race where there are many viable options. I think Tiz Rye Time (#5) could be overlooked in this spot. He’s coming out of a stronger race at this condition on January 7th. He’s been beaten by Keystone Field in his last two starts. That runner has been dominant lately and appears to be destined for stakes company when he’ll make his next start. Bejarano has ridden him three times and has had hom a little further off the pace in each of those starts. That worked out at Keeneland when he cleared the N1X condition when the pace fell part in a nine furlong contest and he skimmed the rail with a well-timed ride. He didn’t seem comfortable on a very slippy course two starts back in the Claiming Crown Jewel Stakes at Churchill. He was moving well late last time, but was no match for a more talented runner. Francisco Arrieta gets the call today and he has ridden this son of Tiznow three times, winning both local starts with him last season and finishing second when he rode him at Churchill in July. I think there’s a lot of positives, and if he stays at or around his 8-1 morning line figures, I’d definitely be on board with that. Number One Dude (#7) is one of the best Oklahoma breds in training right now. He was a narrow second in the Hawk Memorial Stakes at Remington last month, losing to Rated R Superstar, who was second in the Fifth Season Stakes here a few weeks ago. He has started 17 times, winning eight of them and finishing second in another six races. He has enough tactical speed to make his own trip and he should fit very nicely in this spot. Winterwood (#1) and Disc Jockey (#3) battled each other in a very strong N1X allowance race on 12/17. Winterwood took the lead at the top of the stretch, but he couldn’t hold off Disc Jockey who battled back for the win after giving up the lead. The two horses put up big speed figures for that effort. That was the 4th consecutive win for Disc Jockey and his 3rd straight since he was claimed by Diodoro. Winterwood may have bounced a bit off that race when he came back on January 8th. He was farther off the early pace than usual, while breaking slow from the ten hole. Bejarano was very patient though, and he came with a strong four wide bid to win from off the pace and clear the N1X condition. He was claimed by Terry Brennan for $50K a year ago yesterday. His first two starts for this barn weren’t very good, but since coming back in September, he’s reeled off four straight efforts that were very good, winning twice and finishing second in the other two tries. He should get a decent trip from the rail and should be tough while moving up the class ladder. I like the 6-1 price on him better than the 5-2 on Disc Jockey, as I don’t think the talent gap is nearly as large as the odds discrepancy on the morning line. I’d use both, but I’ll be watching to see how this race is wagered to see if there winds up being significantly better value on Winterwood or if the public will close that gap.
The week will conclude with a N1X allowance race for fillies and mares, four year olds and up, sprinting six furlongs. The morning line favorite is Secret Fix (#8) for Diodoro and Torres. She ran a monster race two back at Del Mar to destroy a $50K starter allowance field. She was no match for Yuugiri and Hot and Sultry last out when running in N3L company. Yuugiri is a Grade 3 winner and Hot and Sultry came back to win the American Beauty Stakes last weekend. However, the other starts for Secret Fix aren’t that great, so I’m not willing to pay the hefty tax for the top connections on a horse that has one big effort to go with several average races. I’m going to take the Arkansas bred filly, Summer Shoes (#11) to get the job done while racing with open company for the first time since her debut at Hawthorne in October 2021. She beat a very nice horse, Connie K, in her last start, which was her first race since March. She appears destined to make an appearance in some state bred stakes races later in the meet, but this feels like a good time to try open company. Ken McPeek brings Gunning (#5) back to the races for the first time since losing to Echo Zulu in the Dogwood Stakes back in September. She was a strong maiden winner three back at Churchill and that effort was good enough to make her the public’s choice in the Audubon Oaks at Ellis in August. She had some trouble that afternoon and faded to be third in that seven furlong contest. This feels like a good spot to launch her 2023 campaign. On deeper plays, I’ll look to Lady Goldstart (#3) shipping in from Turfway. She appeared to want nothing to do with the synthetic course there last month. She was overmatched with optional $80K claiming/N2X allowance types when dashing five furlongs two back at Churchill. Juan Cano has not started a horse here yet this season, but shipping her here for the $104K purse in the allowance spot seems like a wise choice, as she remains eligible for the N1X condition here because of her wins at Canterbury and the purse structure there.
Meet Statistics: Top Pick 39/176 (22.2%), $277.20 $1.58 ROI
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