With no racing at Aqueduct or Laurel this afternoon due to a mid-Atlantic snowstorm, this is a good day to check out the racing from Oaklawn Park. There’s nine races, with some of the better betting races happening earlier on the program today. Later on, all eyes will be on two fillies with exceptional pedigrees racing this afternoon. Tap for Me, foaled by champion female sprinter, Groupie Doll, tries to break her maiden in the 7th race. In the 8th Race, Famed, a half-sister to multiple Grade 1 winner, Essential Quality, looks to rebound in allowance company after a dull effort in the Grade 2 Golden Rod at Churchill last time out. The weather forecast is dry today, but it’ll be chilly again, with temperatures staying in the mid-30’s.
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||8||8,11||6,9,10||DBL, PK3, PK4|
|5||11||6,8,11||7||DBL, PK3, PK5|
|6||7||7,8||DBL, PK3, PK4|
Open $10K filly and mare claimers start the week in Hot Spring, Arkansas. There’s not a lot of great current form to contend with, so the favorite, Mongolian Lotus (#7) with Ricardo Santana Jr., aboard is very logical here. She ships in from Remington and joins the Federico Villafranco barn. She’ll certainly garner attention at the windows after decimating an open $7,500 claiming field there last time out. I don’t love the cutback in distance, but that has been a solid angle for this trainer. The Kim Puhl entry of Could You (#1) and Sophie’s Angel (#1A) should be formidable here. Could You ships in from Ohio and makes her first start since July. She was a winner on this course last year when she beat open $7,500 claimers. She was claimed by Puhl that day, who was able to win a N1X allowance race with her this summer at Thistledown. She has some nice works over the track and seems ready to go off the layoff. Sophie’s Angel ran third in $10K starter allowance company here last month when making her first start in two months, while shipping in from Presque Isle Downs. She’s been more consistent when racing on the synthetic courses, but she’s proven she is capable on the main track. I’d expect some improvement from her last effort here.
Six of the eleven three year old Arkansas bred fillies made their debut in the 12/10 race here, while the other five are making their first career start. The trainers of the three shortest prices in the field on the morning line, were a combined 0-43 with second time starters in 2021. That stat tells me that I’m going to want ample coverage in this race. I’ll use a pair of first timers on the A line, going with Truly A Rocket (#8) for Ernie Witt. He had strong numbers with first time starters in 2021, and I like that he’s entered her in a maiden special weight race, as he’s been well represented in the state bred maiden claiming races here thus far. Her works are respectable, firing a solid 48 and change drill at the end of December. Satet (#11) is one of two debuting for Ron Moquett. I like the outside draw for her and I like that’s he’s giving as chance to apprentice Chel-C Bailey for the first time. She has ridden very well this meet, and this filly, has the best pedigree in the field, in my opinion. She’s sired by Cairo Prince out of a Freud dam, both unusual names to see in an Arkansas bred pedigree. Of the second time starters, I’ll put the three shorter priced second timers on the B line. Valentine Angel (#6) was roughed up pretty good at the start last time out by the eventual race winner. She did hustle up to chase from third place before backing up late. She should be better with the race under her belt and a clean start. Punchy’s Girl (#9) made an eye-catching move while going wide on the turn. She kept grinding late to get into second. Perhaps she’d be more effective if she can lie a little closer in the early stages. Lightning Hart (#10) may have had the easiest trip of this trip last out, sitting just off a decent pace set by the eventual winner, Derby Day Lassie. She definitely has speed, which could be a decent weapon in here, I’m just not sure how far she can carry it.
Open $16K claimers sprint six furlongs here. I’m not in love with the favorite, Tappin Fora Dance (#4) or the second choice Alex’s Strike (#6) in this race. Tappin Fora Dance has struggled to win of late, despite running some sharp efforts. He’s been knocking on the door, but continues to come up short in the lane. He feels like an underneath horse to me, one that I’ll be trying to beat in the multi-race wagers. Alex’s Strike was claimed by Diodoro for $20K last out at Churchill. He looks like he might be tailing off a bit on form, and in this instance, I don’t love that he’s entered for a tag lower than his claiming price from his last start. I think River Ruler (#8) has a decent chance while shipping in from Remington for Scott Young. He returned off a three month layoff and faced conditioned $15K claimers there last month. He was second, beaten by Gold Crusher, who ran a monster race for that level on that day. He does move up in class, but he’s second off the layoff, so I expect him to be able to build off his last. He’s hit the board in five of his last six, winning an allowance race in that span at Will Rogers. California Swing (#7) could be the closer that is best suited to run down the frontrunners in here. He faced the ultra-consistent Beverly Park in starter allowance company last out, when making his first start of this meet. He was a winner at this meet last season and was competitive at Delaware once this meet wrapped up. Futile (#3) could be a player in this field as well. He was overmatched at the open $25K claiming level at Churchill last out. That was a two turn race though, and he runs his best races at one turn. He was sharp with starter allowance company at Keeneland three back, and again at this level going a one turn mile at Churchill two back. I think he’ll improve today.
I’m going to be betting on a pace meltdown in this optional claiming/$16K starter allowance race. Five of the eight runners are dedicated front runners that run their best races when they’re racing on the lead. Alexandros (#1) figures to get a dream run sitting off the pacesetters here. He’s an eight time winner, who won at this distance here last year. He was excellent two starts back, rallying late to get up in a $20K starter allowance field at Churchill. He was flat last time out, where he might have bounced a bit off that big effort. I expect to see a better performance in a race that looks to suit him very well. On deeper tickets, I’ll use both Flat Lucky (#3) and Baby I’m Perfect (#8). Flat Lucky makes his first start since June when he disappointed at Churchill with optional claiming/$5K starter allowance company. He ran very well at this meet last year, winning twice, including in his first start off the layoff. This is a class test for him in his first start in almost seven months, but he’s another one that could be aided by a pace meltdown. Baby I’m Perfect comes in from New York for Wayne Potts, who took the Saturday nightcap with Zitman last week. He’s been competitive in New York and should be able to prompt the pace from his wide draw. He’s the morning line favorite, and I do think he’ll take money at the windows, meaning the value might not be great here.
This $10K N2L claimer is absolutely wide open, and another race in the sequence where spreading seems logical. I’ll take the second time starter, Wobberjod (#11) on top after a dominating maiden score with $7,500 maiden claimers at Remington in his debut. The distant second place finisher in that race came back to win in his next start, so for that condition, the field wasn’t terrible. He moves up in class while being entered with the waiver, so he’s protected from being claimed here. Loch Garman (#8) has been very good in his three career sprint races, all coming at Prairie Meadows. This is the first time he’s entered for a tag, and this level should fit him well. He was defeated by Long Term Thinking, who was a winner here with claiming company last weekend, when they met up in allowance company in Iowa. Shacks Way (#6) has been solid in his last two starts on this oval. He drops in class after running with the waiver last out with $20K N2L claimers here. He was a respectable third on that day and should improve off that effort. Fallen Empire (#7) is another one that makes some sense in this race, as long as you’re willing to forgive his last effort, where he came up completely empty. His form at Indiana and Canterbury is good enough to be competitive at this level, if he can get back to those races.
The late Pick-4 has the potential to be very chalky today, with some heavy and logical favorites in the middle legs. I think the morning line is a little off for this optional claiming /starter allowance race, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see Curbs and Cones (#7), listed at 5-1, go to post as the favorite or second choice. She was an emphatic maiden winner at Keeneland two starts back, crushing $30K maiden claimers by over eleven lengths. She ran well, while likely bouncing a bit in starter allowance company when she ran two weeks later at Churchill. She’s had two months off now, and adds Lasix for her local debut. Warrior’s Battle (#8) was very professional in her first start over this course, easily defeating a $40K maiden claiming field. She’ll likely take some money and be bet down from her 4-1 morning line figure as well since she runs for Brad Cox. I am expecting her to move forward again in her second start off the layoff, and like that she is entered under the starter allowance conditions, where she’s protected from being claimed.
Most of the horses with experience feel very ordinary in this maiden special weight race. As a result, this should be a good spot for the daughter of Tapit and Groupie Doll, Tap For Me (#5), to graduate. She was bumped at the break and forced to steady early on in her debut at Churchill in November. She showed a lot of her mother’s tenacity though, when rallying to get into second that day. She finished in front of Only Kidding, who came back to break her maiden at Gulfstream last week. If she replicates her debut, she should win. If she builds off that race, I’d expect her to dominate. There’s a pair of well-meant first time starters that have a live look to them. Wings of an Angel (#6) is a Quality Road filly her owners paid $350K for. She’s worked well enough for Larry Jones in the AM and she should have some speed with Henny Hughes as the dam sire. Goldena (#12) looked ready to go in the fall after some snappy works at Monmouth. Hollendorfer trains the $300K daughter of Medaglia d’Oro, who should benefit from the wide draw. If the favorite falters, these would be the two that would be most likely to pick up the pieces.
It’s hard to look past Famed (#6) in this spot. She debuted at Churchill in September, much like her half brother, Essential Quality. She didn’t win that day, but she ran a huge race to be second at first asking. She followed that effort up with a much the best win in the last race of the Keeneland meet this fall. She was a logical play in the Grade 2 Golden Rod in November at Churchill, while making her two turn debut. However, she was absolutely flat that day, maybe not loving being buried along the rail. Cox adds Lasix and drops her in class before possibly making an Oaks run with her in the local preps. If she runs her race, I don’t see anyone in here good enough to beat her.
A wide open $50K starter allowance at 1 Mile and 1/16 ends the card today. There’s a lot of talent stuck in wide posts here, so I think the advantage swings toward Prioritization (#3) closer to the rail. His on or near the front end running style has been playing well at two turn races all meet long so far, and his post should allow him to orchestrate that type of trip. He got up to be second in a $40K starter allowance here last month, where they went quick early, and he was a little further off the lead than he prefers. He was brilliant two starts back at Hawthorne when he won gate to wire to break his maiden. Amongst Friends (#11) had a wide draw last out in the slop with at this level in a race where they set a demanding early tempo. He was shuffled back that day and never looked comfortable, taking a lot of mud in the face. He ships here and is making his third start off the layoff, while drawing wide once again. There’s definitely some other early speed to contend with here, but I think he could be dangerous if apprentice John Hiraldo can be aggressive with him from the start and secure a good position without having to concede a lot of ground on the first turn. 12-1 is the morning line, and that feels fair to me, as I think he has more upside than many of the other longer prices in here. Leading West (#9) finished 2 and 1/2 lengths behind Prioritization here last time out, after breaking a step slow. He has shown the ability to win from on the front end or from off the pace, which should serve him well in his career. I thought his last effort was solid, and I think with a better start, he can get a little closer to the top pick. Sono Gratto (#12) got the worst of the draw in this race. He ships in from Turfway after a dull effort on the Tapeta, when also drawing a wide post. His lone win came in a one turn mile race at Aqueduct back in March, but his two turn efforts in Kentucky on the main track are solid enough to be competitive at this level today. He might be one to think about next time, but he’s shown enough to consider using him today.
Favorite Bet Today: Early Pick-5 ($60)
The late sequences feel like they have the potential to be very chalky. As a result, I think the Early Pick-5 will be the most lucrative wager on the card. I think Alexandros (#1, R4) is a solid single to build a ticket around. I also think there’s value using him as a single, because I think the New York invader in that race is going to take a lot of money at the windows. I’ll hope to catch a price, and maybe beat a few favorites in the other races in the sequence.
The ticket: ($0.50 Base Wager)
Race 1: 1,7
Race 2: 6,8,9,10,11
Race 3: 3,7,8
Race 4: 1
Race 5: 6,7,8,11