The weekend will conclude with a nine race program at Oaklawn Park, which will get underway at 12:30 (CT). While there’s no stakes action this afternoon, the card will conclude with a pair of very nice optional $62,500 claiming/N2X allowance races with some runners to keep an eye out for as the meet goes on. The weather forecast, which is always tricky here this time of year, calls for a cool but dry afternoon. After some rain over the past few days, it is worth paying attention to see if there’s any trends with the track as it dries throughout the day.
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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|2||5||2,5,8||DBL, PK3, PK4|
|5||5||5||1,3||DBL, PK3, PK5|
|6||7||1,7||11||DBL, PK3, PK4|
The day starts with a field of nine Arkansas bred fillies and mares that have never won twice, running with a $20K tag. It’s hard to look past the favorite, Blow Sum Smoke (#9) in this spot. She’ll face fellow state bred rivals for the first time this afternoon for Karl Broberg. He claimed her for $15K at Lone Star back in June, She came back to run two credible races in first level allowance company there and at Remington. She returned in an open $25K N2L race at Remington last month, where she came up two lengths short as the heavy favorite. I see this as a weaker field where she should have every opportunity for a trainer that works the conditions books as well as any trainer out there. We are dealing with conditioned claimers, so I will use a backup here, looking at She’s Hamazing (#8) to have an impact in her first start against winners and her first start since breaking her maiden at the end of the meet in April. She likes to run from off the pace and with the number of horses returning from a layoff, there might wind up being a decent pace for her close into, in spite of the fact that there doesn’t appear to be much speed signed on.
$12,500-$10,000 maiden claimers sprint six furlongs here. There’s not a lot of quality form to go off here. The morning line favorite is Cunning (#2) who draws the rail while dropping out of maiden special weight company for Steve Asmussen. He was a $17K purchase that ran twice at Lone Star and twice at Remington. I don’t see this as an alarming drop in class, but I do worry about the distance at short odds for him. His two better speed figures came in two turn races, which will keep me from using him as the top pick. However, with this weak field, I can’t ignore the class and connections edge that he has. I don’t trust either half of the 2-1 entry of Drag Malibu (#1) or Joe Bill (#1A). Both are better suited for underneath in the exotics, but they each are 0-13, which is hard to inspire any confidence at a discounted two for one price. I ended up making Calipari (#5) my top pick. He ran his best two races in the slop, and with the amount of rain that was scheduled to come through yesterday, there is likely to be some moisture in the track early on in the program today. He races at six furlongs, which will be the shortest race of his career. His dam was a very useful sprinter who was graded stakes placed in one turn sprints in her career. She hasn’t produced much as a broodmare there, having only one winner with five horses to make it to the track. However, I do see enough upside at this level to consider this one. Strickland (#8) has never been close to the winner in his three career tries on the racetrack. He’s had gaps in his starts though, and he’ll be making his second start off a layoff for the first time without a considerable break. His speed figures are trending up, and they won’t have to go up too much more to contend at this level.
Starter allowance conditions are important to note as the meet goes on and this is one of those races that has an interesting condition. This is a $20K starter allowance restricted to horses that have run for a $20K tag or less in their last three starts. Restrictions like this typically restrict the kind of horse that frequently wins in starter allowance races after running once for the specified tag. As a result, the competition may not be as fierce in races like this as opposed to a traditional starter allowance. These are also conditions that don’t show up in the standard PP’s, so keeping track of them can be helpful as the meet rolls on. This race does feature a mix of runners that have most of their success at one turn facing off against horses that have done their best work at two turns. I’m going to try to get away with using only two here, making Ego (#4) my top pick. He was a winner on this course last season in starter allowance company. He’s been on the sidelines since July when Broberg claimed him for $20K at Ellis. I liked that Broberg brings him back in a protected spot on a course where he has had some success. Runway Magic (#1) might be in the best consistent form of the bunch. He’s handled the distance before, but that was in one turn races at Churchill. Jason Barkley claimed him for $30K two back and he just missed with open $40K claimers last out in Louisville. He showed some potential as a three year old, and he could be headed back in the right direction. His two starts at two turns were poor, but one was in graded stakes company and the other was on the grass. I can try him here, with the hope that his odds don’t dip below his 5-2 morning line figure.
A race at this state bred maiden special weight condition oversubscribed on Saturday, so the racing office brought it back Sunday where a field of 11 are set to go six furlongs. Both Time Andbeyond (#5) and Westheimer Street (#9) were on the outside looking in yesterday, but they’re both entered in the body of this field. Time Andbeyond is the top pick for the red hot combination of Rafael Bejarano and Ron Moquett. They teamed up to bookend the Opening Day card on Friday. On Saturday, they connected with a 23-1 first time starter (Spurrier). They’re looking for another winner with this second time starter that is getting class relief after debuting with open maiden allowance types at Keeneland. Not This Time is the most accomplished sire in the group. Westheimer Street is the morning line favorite, making his debut for Chris Hartman. The works in Kentucky are solid and Hartman is certainly capable of winning with a first time starter. The odds are a little short for me in a race like this, so I’d likely look elsewhere in some of the vertical exotics, but I’ll cover with him in the horizontal wagers. Ridgepoint Road (#6) has not been very good in his first two career tries, both of which came at Churchill. He does get class relief while moving into state bred company and he has some ability in his bloodlines. His full brother, Hoonani Road, was a three time stakes winner on this course when facing fellow Arkansas breds. Most of the dams runners did show more ability early than what he has. However, with this group, I’d be willing to try one more time. Campisi (#8) is a second time starter, coming off a respectable third place finish with open maiden allowance foes last month at Remington. He ran well enough to think that he’d be competitive at this level.
This is another starter allowance contest with a slightly unusual provision. Horses that are entered in this race must have run for a $12,500 tag or less in one of their last two starts to be eligible for this 1 mile and 1/16 race. As a result, there’s a pretty significant class edge for Twitty City (#5) in this race. He finished third in an optional $12,500 claiming/$8K starter allowance race at Delaware. He was the only one entered for the tag, so for the other five runners to be eligible, all had to run one time since 2020 for an $8K tag or less. As a result, there were several hard knocking horses there, all of which had been protected from being claimed in their last several starts. Twitty City was third behind a next out winner in that race. He was claimed by Jerry Hollendorfer, who wisely finds this spot for him, where he became eligible since running with the tag last out. My only concern is that there is absolutely no speed signed on in this race, and he doesn’t have much. However, as long as he’s closer to the pace than he was last out, I think his class can carry him. Smokin’ Boots (#1) would have been my top pick if he had drawn into a state bred allowance field yesterday. No one defected, so his connections want to give him a race where he is protected from being claimed. The purse structure is significantly lower for this race, which has to be a bit of a disappointment for his connections. On top of that, I think this field is better than the group he would have faced yesterday. He is very consistent though, and his rail draw should keep him close to a pedestrian pace. Guard (#3) feels a little light to me at 5-1, but he could be the pacesetter while stretching back out to two turns. He ran very well with Indiana bred N2L claimers two starts ago, winning at one mile. I’m not sure he’s fast enough to beat the top two, but he’ll likely have the right trip with leading rider, Rafael Bejarano aboard.
The last Pick-4 of the week starts off with a $30K maiden claimer for two year olds going six furlongs. I tend to shy away from first time starters in races like at this time of year. Yacht Rock (#7) just missed at this level when going seven furlongs last out at Churchill. He fired a bullet last week there, suggesting he’s ready to run back to that effort here. Atkins (#1) is the morning line favorite off a pair of respectable tries with restricted maiden special weight company at Churchill. Moquett and Bejarano have started this meet on an absolute tear, so I don’t think anything from their barn can be discounted. I don’t love the rail for him, but I’ll play him in this spot. Uptown Social (#11) is one of the longer priced horses that I find a little interesting here. He showed some early speed, but faded badly in his first two starts back in April and June. He’s been given some time off and now runs for Jason Barkley as a first time gelding. I would think that at some point, they’d be thinking of trying a turf sprint with him, however, with the turf course struggles at the Fair Grounds and there being no local course here, that isn’t an option at the moment for Barkley. I still see him as a runner that could take a step forward at this level.
We have another two year old maiden race, this one a maiden allowance for two year old fillies going 5 and ½ furlongs. On paper, this looks like a solid group with many possibilities to get their first win. I think this race starts with D’oro Street (#5) for Robertino Diodoro and Cristian Torres. Torres had a magnificent Saturday here, winning four races, including both stakes races. She’s coming out of a very speedy debut race where Ruthless Rua, making her second start, was much the best. D’oro Street was clearly second best that afternoon, well in front of the third place finisher. Her connections purchased her for $400K, which tells me that she had to have looked the part and shown some ability at the Keeneland September Sale in 2021. I do wonder about the distance as she’s sired by Medaglia d’Oro. The mare’s only other foal to race is nothing special, but all of his three wins have come at two turns on turf or synthetic. I’ll use her on the A line because I think she’s coming out of the best race, but I have enough concerns to make sure that I’ve covered my bases. I’m willing to give Flying Bessie (#8) another shot, making her my top pick in her third career start. She debuted for Asmussen at Colonial Downs in September where she finished a solid second in a maiden race on the Virginia Derby undercard. She returned last month at Churchill. She met a very nice filly there, Dazzling Blue, who was debuting for Brad Cox. She broke slow, spotting her rivals a few lengths out of the gate. Gaffalione had her moving well into the turn, but she flattened out a bit as a nice filly pulled clear. Roman Goddess (#12) has kept some good company in her first few starts. She was beaten by Hoosier Philly, who went on to win the Goldenrod last month, in her debut. She ran into Julia Shining, next out winner of the Demoiselle, two back. She cut back to 6 and ½ furlongs in her last start at Churchill, where she was defeated by Positano Sunset, who finished in front of her two starts ago as well. Maker ships her South and tries her at this 5 and ½ furlong distance. She does have enough tactical speed to make the best of her wide draw. Pate (#9) figures to be overlooked coming in from Remington Park, but her first two races suggest that she can hang with this group. She’s been second in both starts, narrowly missing last out and losing to a next out winner in her debut. On deeper tickets, I’ll use both Army Mule runners, Klassy Bridgette (#2) and Army Kitten (#11). Klassy Bridgette likes to come from off the pace, and I do have a concern about the cutback in distance for this one in her third start. She’s run two sharp races though,so I can’t completely eliminate her. Tom Amoss sends out Army Kitten, a horse that sold for almost 15X his sire’s stud fee back at the Keeneland September Sale in 2021. The works are respectable from a barn that can get their horses ready on debut. This is a salty spot for a first time starter though.
Three year olds and upward are going 1 mile and 1/16 in the first of two optional $62,500 claiming/N2X allowance races that anchor this card. I like Tiz Rye Time (#4) quite a bit in this spot. Thomas Van Berg claimed him in March for $50K when he dominated a field of N2L claimers on this track. Since the claim, he’s run several sharp races for his new connections, including a win in starter allowance company here and an impressive score in N1X allowance company in October at Keeneland. He came back in the Claiming Crown Jewel last month at Churchill where he struggled to get a hold of a very sloppy course. He was beaten 10 lengths by Keystone Field (#9) that day. He can handle a course with some moisture in it, and I’m not expecting a sloppy track today. I think with dryer ground and a better post, he can make up those lengths on the favorite today. I think he’s where the value will be today. On deeper tickets, I’ll back up with both Keystone Field and My Sixth Sense (#7). Keystone Field is coming in, trying to win his 3rd straight race. He’s been very good on the main track this year after running most of his career races on the turf. Arrieta is going to have to work out a trip from his outside draw today. I think he’s definitely live, but 7-5 feels too short with this group. My Sixth Sense is one that could be a longshot hope in this race. He was claimed by Diodoro back in September and given a few months off. This has been a very sharp angle for Diodoro, as he’s won with 27% (36-131) over the last five years. Nine of those horses went off at odds of 10-1 or greater and three of them found themselves in the Winner’s Circle. I see him as a horse that Diodoro could get some improvement out of first off the claim. He’s shown the ability to win at this level, as he is entered with the $62,500 tag. He hasn’t won a race in over two years, but his last win was on this oval. A wet track should boost his chances of returning to better form.
The second optional $62,500 claiming/N2X allowance race drew an overflow field of 14 for sprinters going six furlongs. John Ortiz is holding a pair of aces in this race. We saw Mrs. Beans, an Arkansas bred, draw in off the also-eligible ist yesterday and win against open allowance company. Gar Hole (#14) will be trying to do the same things here. He was one of my favorite horses from last year’s meet, winning his first four starts and then finishing a game third after blowing the break at this level. Ortiz gave him some time off and brought him back at Horseshoe Indiana, where he probably didn’t have him fully cranked. He’s run out of many of the state bred conditions, so the logical play is to try him in open allowance company. He’s technically eligible for open N1X allowance company, but he fits at this N2X level. We know he loves the course and will be dangerous if he gets a chance to run today. If he doesn’t, Ortiz also has the morning line favorite, Air Combat (#12). This is a horse that could be destined to run in some of the sprint stakes races later on in the meet, assuming he continues to progress. He;s been very good since joining Ortiz’s barn back in July, winning twice and hitting the board the other two times. He just missed in a five furlong dash at this level in the slop at Churchill. He’s a very logical player in his local debut today. On deeper tickets, don’t rule out Spankster (#3) for D. Wayne Lukas. He’s been stuck in a good race/down race pattern with his speed figures over the several starts. He ran 4th, beaten 9+ lengths in the slop on the same day Air Combat ran at Churchill. His previous effort was much better, finishing second to a very nice horse (Run Classic). I do worry that this distance will be a little short for him, however, I’m expecting the better version of him to show up today. I really liked Cairama (#6) at this level in a straight three year old stakes race in his last start back in April. He was no match for Whelen Springs and Cogburn though as that duo was in a race of their own that day. Asmussen has him working well for his return, while facing older foes for the first time today. He might need this race, but the talent is there for me to cover with him.
Favorite Bet Today: Late Pick-5, ($54 Ticket, $0.50 Base Wager)
I’m going to build this ticket around Tiz Rye Time (#4, R8), thinking that the circumstances are right for him to turn the tables on Keystone Field (#9, R8), while doing so at a much better price. Once scratches and track conditions come in, I’ll decide how my back up tickets will look for this wide open sequence.
Meet Statistics: Top Pick 4/17 (23.5%), $54.00, $3.18 ROI