The second Friday card of the meet is highlighted by the return of Nashville, who is an exciting sprinter from the Steve Asmussen barn. Being near the lead was where you wanted to be for the majority of opening weekend. 26 of 29 winners in the first three days of racing, were on or near the lead. We will see if that trend continues going into the second week of racing in Hot Springs, Arkansas.
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||1,4,5||DBL, PK3, PK4|
|5||11||1,5,11||8,9,12||DBL, PK3, PK5|
|6||3||3||5||DBL, PK3, PK4|
I think the favorite is going to be tough in the opener, which is an open $20K claimer. Robertino Diodoro had a strong opening weekend, winning with two of eight starters, and finishing 2nd with four others. He brings in Storm Advisory (#3) from Belmont in his first start off the claim. He dominated a field of open $12,500 claimers in New York for Rob Atras last out. There’s not a ton of early speed, and he figures to sit the perfect stalking trip, just off War Detonator (#1). I’ll use that one on deeper tickets, but I suspect he’ll be better next out, as he’s been on the shelf since July. While he might need the race, the early lead should be his for the taking, which certainly wasn’t a bad thing on this course last week.
Five of the seven entered in this $10K maiden claimer are entered for a tag that is below their purchase or claiming price. Abdan (#4) is clearly the one to beat, as it’s very likely that this will be a chalky daily double for Diodoro and Cohen. He drops after being a voided claim when finishing third in a $30K maiden claiming race at CD. He’s got to be on the ticket, but there’s enough warning signs to make sure there’s some coverage. Mountain Time (#1) drops again after two career races with slow starts in the slop in Kentucky. Cipriano Contreras brought a few live runners here last week, and if apprentice Albert Lopez is a little bit aggressive with him here, he certainly could have some upside. Mo Hawk (#5) is another one to think about while trying 6 Furlongs for the first time. He’s a gelded son of Outwork and his dam is the 6 Furlong specialist, Xtra Heat. It’s a little unusual that he’s never started at that distance in eight career starts. His last two haven’t been good, but perhaps the drop and cutback will help his cause.
Fillies and mares go six furlongs in this open $32K claimer. Catechism (#2) will likely go to post at lower odds than her 10-1 morning line figure. However, she is dropping in class after facing some very tough $20K starter allowance foes in Kentucky. She’s never been off the board in six starts on this course, and she figures to sit the right kind of trip to win this race. Chakra (#3) was claimed for $25K last out by Norman Cash, who had a pair of winners on opening weekend. She had a few sharp races at Indiana Grand that would make her very tough with this group. Invaluable (#5) makes her third start off the layoff and her second start for Ron Moquett, who claimed her at Saratoga this summer. Her form last year was very good and she may be fast enough to clear this field early. I’m not a fan of the Woodbine invader, Sav (#6), who makes her first start on dirt. She seems to have lost a step from her better 2020 form. I’m also not a fan of Gurl Your Fine (#1), who put up a huge figure last out at Remington. She feels like a bounce candidate in this spot to me.
I’m not sold on the California shipper, Horse Greedy (#9) in this spot. He’s not the same horse he used to be, and the trainer switch to Rene Amescua from Peter Miller is a bit of a concern. Past Post (#3) is likely going to be on a front running mission after four straight sharp races. His new trainer, John Haran, only hits 8% of the time, but he is 15% with horses making their first start off the claim. Fort Ridge (#2) shipping in from Illinois is a little interesting to me. He has some dull tries ast Arlington this summer, but his recent dirt form at Hawthorne is solid. He likes this six furlong distance, which should help as he moves up in class. Stormin Hongkong (#1) ships in from Remington while getting some class relief. He hasn’t won in awhile, but David Cabrera, who rides this course very well, takes the mount.
The 5th race on a nine race card here is the last leg of the early Pick-5 and the first leg of the late Pick-5. While I like the full field, having a two year old, Arkansas bred maiden special weight race, where twelve of the thirteen entered are making their first start, is not the greatest scenario from a handicapping standpoint. There are plenty of reasonable outcomes in here, so I’d look for as much coverage as possible. Lightning Hart (#11) enters here after a bullet drill over the course ten days ago. Trainer Tim Dixon has won at an 11% clip this year, but he has a nice ROI with firsters and two year olds. Derby Day Lassie (#5) has been working well in the morning for Allen Milligan. She’s sired by Double Irish, and the dam sire is Ready’s Image, so there is some precocity in the pedigree. Deronda (#1) is the only starter in the field with a race under her belt. She was squeezed back early in a $150K maiden claiming race at Churchill in the slop. The rail is less than ideal for this race, but the experience factor means something in a field of unknowns. On deeper tickets, Milliganmikeandme (#8), Punchy Girl (#9), and War Music (#12) all look like they could have some potential, and could be worth covering if your budget allows.
I think the two favorites, Abrogate (#3) and Lil Tootsie (#5) have a definite advantage over the other four runners in this allowance contest. From a pace and track standpoint, I’ll give the edge to Abrogate. She earned a few chances to face graded stakes foes this spring after winning the Purple Martin Stakes here in April. She moved early into a wicked fast pace in the Eight Belles on Oaks Day, ultimately finishing 5th behind Obligatory. She wheeled back two weeks later and acted up before the Miss Preakness Stakes at Pimlico, and never really ran her race. She took the summer off before returning a winner in allowance company at Churchill. I expect her to be on or near the lead, and in a better early position than her rival, Li’l Tootsie. I’ve been a big fan of this filly since she looked so good over the winter at the Fair Grounds. She tried tougher company at a variety of distances, but she has excelled at the six furlongs she gets again today. She was also a winner in allowance company last out at Churchill, running a huge race to win going away, while coming from off the pace. I’m not sure she’ll get the same set up here, but she’s a very nice horse, who will certainly be live.
I’m fascinated by Prioritization (#6) in this $40K starter allowance. He was a $350K purchase at the Keeneland November Sale back in 2018. He was sent to Chad Brown, who clearly didn’t think much of this son of Quality Road, as he debuted in a $30K maiden claiming race at Ellis Park this summer. He was a distant third in an unspectacular race, where he was claimed by Scott Becker. He ran twice in September, both in maiden special weight races, one on the turf at Indiana Grand and the other on the dirt at Churchill. Both races showed improvement, despite not hitting the board in either. He broke his maiden in his last start at Hawthorne, when he was aggressively sent to the front, and he crushed that maiden allowance field, winning by over seven lengths, putting up a big Beyer figure. The race held its form, as the second and third place finishers came back to win in their next starts. I don’t love betting back maidens off their wins in circumstances where they have a huge figure jump, but, I’m willing to make an exception here, as his pedigree suggests that he could have some real talent. He’ll be on my multi-race tickets, and I’ll need him at 5-1 or better to use prominently in the vertical exotics. (He’s 8-1 on the ML). I do want some coverage in this spot though, which will come from both Leading West (#4) and Outlier (#5). Leading West was claimed by Diodoro for $30K two back at Keeneland. He brought him back last month at Churchill in a $50K starter allowance race in the slop. That was a stronger group that day, but he didn’t run awful under the circumstances. I think he’ll sit a good trip today while likely getting a drier track. Outlier was a winner in the slop last out at Churchill, beating a restricted $50K claiming field while sprinting. He stretches out in his first try off the Norman Cash claim. His two turn efforts at Indiana Grand were good enough to compete with these.
The featured allowance today boasts the return of the existing sprinter, Nashville (#1). He debuted like a good thing in the slop at Saratoga last season, and followed that race up with a pair of scintillating efforts at Keeneland. He couldn’t go with Charlatan in the Grade 1 Malibu at Santa Anita when he was last seen. He returns here with a rail draw and looks so be the speed of the speed. At this distance with the way the track played last week, it certainly feels like the stars are aligning for a comeback win. If he does go down, Hollis (#7) would likely be the benefactor. He ran sharp here twice last season and has been freshened up for this spot. If he’s able to rebound off the layoff, he’ll be tough. He’ll be my backup if the favorite misfires.
A full field of open maiden special weight fillies close the Friday card. High Con (#2) might be a good value play in this spot if she’s able to rebound off a poor effort at Churchill last month. She broke slow and never was able to get involved in that race, which was her first in four months. Watching her California races, I think her one turn efforts are a bit sharper than her two turn races. I’m expecting a better effort from her today, especially if she can be put into the race from the beginning. Salute The Flag (#5) is a very logical morning line favorite. She debuted well at Churchill in the same race that High Con is coming out of. She ran third that day, going only 5 and ½ Furlongs. I think she’ll definitely continue to improve at longer distances, but she’s talented enough to win today at 6 Furlongs. Upandcomingstar (#12) draws wide while cutting back from a flat one turn mile last time out. She caught sloppy tracks in her last two races where she faced some pretty solid fillies. Shen is certainly eligible to improve in this spot. Hot Topic (#10) is a first time starter for Ron Moquett. This barn has gotten off to a bit of a slow start at the meet, but this filly has some nice AM drills. She’s well bred and owned by Gary and Mary West, who send horses to many different trainers. She might be better next out, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see this homebred run a strong race in her debut.
Favorite Bet Today: Race 6 Double
I probably will be sitting out the Pick-5’s today, as the full field of Arkansas bred maiden two year olds could go in any direction. I’m not sure there’s a ton of value in either Pick-4 as well. I do think Prioritization in Race 7 is interesting at 8-1 on the morning line, and I think the Double in Race 6 could be a decent bet. The presence of Li’l Tootsie in the 6th race should split some of the money in the pool, and as long as the track continues to be kind to frontrunners, Abrogate should have a definitive advantage in that spot.
My Play: $20 Double
Race 6: 3
Race 7: 6