The second week of racing ends with a very nice nine race program. The end of the card is very strong today with a decent maiden special weight race in Race 6 and three strong allowance races to close the card. Some popular Arkansas breds, Tempt Fate and Man in the Can, square off in the 7th and Sarah Harper could be stakes bound with a strong performance in the 8th.
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||5,6||DBL, PK3, PK4|
|5||2||2,8||3,4,9||DBL, PK3, PK5|
|6||3||3||1,9||DBL, PK3, PK4|
This is an uninspiring field of six fillies and mares looking for their second win, while running with a $10K tag. From a speed figure standpoint, My Boss Lady (#3) looks to be the boss, while coming in from Hawthorne. She’s been competitive with better horses in Illinois and now drops in class to face five foes that have not been consistently running figures that would get the job done. Baby Cloud (#2) ran two races here last season that would get her close here. Her Delaware form was not nearly as good. She ran there seven times, breaking her maiden in July, which was her lone bright spot of that meet. The other six tries were forgettable at best, but with a soft group, a return here might be enough of a boost for her. Unherdof (#4) has a little more early speed than the other two, which should give her a better early position. She was overmatched last time out at Keeneland. Her form at Prairie Meadows this summer wasn’t bad, and if she can get back to that, she’d be competitive here.
Here we have nine, Arkansas bred two year olds, running with a $50K-$40K tag. I liked Mo Choctaw (#5) yesterday when he was on the also eligible list with state bred maiden special weight company. I’m not sure about the timing of the scratches in that race and if he could have made it in or not, but he ends up here as he looks ready to make his debut. His works in the AM are better than the other eight in here. I think he’s the one to beat. I’d also include Degray (#6) on the multi-race tickets, coming in for John Ortiz. His runners have been strong at the meet, winning three times and hitting the board three more times. He had a third place finisher, Whelen Springs, who ran well in defeat yesterday in the maiden special weight race for Arkansas breds. His workouts were similar to that of Degray in here. Since this is the first leg of the early Pick-4, keep an eye on the tote board, as horses that have taken money in these state bred two year old races have run very well thus far. If there’s a horse that is getting bet or is going off at odds significantly lower than their morning line, I’d definitely include them on the multi-race tickets.
There’s only six entered in this $10K starter allowance, but this is an excellent race with some very honest horses. Brice (#6) was so good this summer at Monmouth, winning four straight races there before finishing 4th behind Code of Honor in the Grade 3 Philip H. Iselin Stakes. He’s been off since, and has been working well for Hollendorfer for his return. However, he wasn’t his best in his last race when running for first time off the layoff, and Hollendorfer’s runners tend to need a start or two before they’re at their best. I’ll put him on the B line, as I refuse to let one of my favorite horses from the summer completely beat me, but I think he’ll be better next time out. Speed was good in route races yesterday, and Go For Sherrie (#1) has the easiest trip to the front end here with the rail draw. He’s won 13 times in 42 career tries. He’s run 17 times this year and you have to go back 15 starts to find a time when he was off the board in a two turn race, if you draw a line through the race two back where he stumbled badly at the break and was eased. Exulting (#3) was very good here earlier in the year, winning twice in April by open lengths. He was second in stakes company at Indiana Grand in July and 4th in Grade 3 company in August at Mountaineer. He went off form for a bit after a failed turf try at Kentucky Downs, but his latest suggests he’s trending in the right direction. Diodoro and Cohen popped with a pair of longshots yesterday in two turn races, and they team up with Hardly a Secret (#4), who makes his first start off the claim today. He was wide and closing well late with open claimers last week, on a track that was very kind to frontrunners. Early speed had an advantage in route races yesterday, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Cohen ride him a little more aggressively today than what we saw from Quinonez last Saturday.
I’ll be three deep in this $40K maiden claiming race for two year olds. Lookin’ Good So Far (#2) ships in after being claimed for $15K at Woodbine in his debut.He didn’t show much on the Tapeta, but he’s worked well in the mornings for Norman McKnight. I’m expecting a livelier effort with this group in start number two today. Drifter (#5) is the morning line favorite after being claimed here last week when running against $30K maiden claimers. He was stretching out to six furlongs for the first time, so it’s reasonable that he was a little leg weary late. I think he’ll be stronger in the stretch today. Can’t Beat Me (#4) ships in from Remington after fading to 6th in maiden special weight company at one mile last month. He comes to Arkansas while dropping in for a tag for the first time and making his first start for Ronald Westerman. I think he makes sense on the cutback in distance here.
$20K N2L claimers go in the most important race of the day for the Pick-5 players. I’d definitely want some coverage in this race, as this is a tricky field to read. There is not a lot of early pace signed on, and I’m thinking that Chase Tracker (#2) might be able to use his inside draw to get the early lead with Francisco Arrieta aboard for the first time. His record is not very good, but he does fit better at this level. He was trounced by open $25K claimers last month at Churchill. Prior to that, he ran four straight 9 Furlong races at a similar class level at Keeneland and Saratoga. Looking back at those fields, I’d argue that all four of those fields were deeper than this group. In those races, the final furlong was a struggle for him, so I think the 1 Mile and 1/16 on a track that has been kind to front end runners in two turn races might be favorable. 15-1 (ML) to me is fair market value for him. Wherever He Is (#8) comes in from Delta in pretty good form, breaking his maiden in a two-turn 7 Furlong contest last month. He was claimed for $10K at this meet last spring and has been steadily improving for Timothy Martin, since returning to the races in September. He’ll face winners for the first time, but Cabrera should be able to put him in a good striking position if he’s good enough. Speightstown Again (#4) is the morning line favorite coming off a 5th place finish with $30K N2L claimers at Churchill, where he was claimed. I never love the claim and drop in this situation, because a win and claim leaves very little, if any profit margin. Diodoro and Cohen scored with a pair of longshots in two turn races yesterday, and they are very good overall in route races, especially on this track. I’ll use him with some caution here. Assumption (#9) ships here for Kim Puhl after a pair of second place finishes in N2L company in Ohio. He’s another horse that has improved since being claimed here in the spring. He’s had favorable trips in his last two starts, but will likely have to work a little harder today breaking from an outside post. Bold Minister (#3) didn’t run a step with $10K N2L claimers in the slop at Churchill last month. Chris Hartman claimed him out of that spot and brings him to Oaklawn for the first time. He’s been up and down in terms of form, but he is in his third race off the layoff and has efforts over the summer that would likely get him close with this group.
It’s hard to look past Back to Normal (#3) for Mike Maker in this maiden special contest at 6 Furlongs. He’s had four career starts, and was beaten by next out stakes winners in his first three (Roger McQueen – Ellis Park Juvenile, Jack Christopher – Grade 1 Champagne, Howling Time – Street Sense). He did not fire in a 5 and ½ Furlong sprint in the slop last month at Churchill, but I’m willing to chalk that effort up to not liking the wet track, as visually, he never looked comfortable that day. I think his experience and class will give him a significant advantage in this race. As backups on the C line, I’ll use Maasai Warrior (#1) for Brad Cox, who draws the rail and will likely take some money. His works are decent, and I might like him more had he not drawn the rail in this spot. Cox certainly wins his share with firsters, but I think his horses really pop in their second career starts. I’ll also look to the outside and include Bet He’s Ready (#9) from the Asmussen barn. He debuted in a tough spot, going 7 Furlongs at Churchill. He showed some early interest before fading badly. He adds Lasix and draws well for second start, so there’s reason to believe we’ll see an improved effort.
The last Pick-3 of the day kicks off with a full field of Arkansas bred optional $40K claiming/N2Y allowance race. Some of the better Arkansas breds in training are in this race, including Tempt Fate (#4), who won both the Nodouble Breeders Stakes and the Arkansas Breeders Championship last season, while going a perfect 4-4 on this course in 2021. Man in the Can (#6) was good enough as three year old in 2020, that he was entered in the Grade 2 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland. Both are quality runners, and both are very popular locally, however, this may be a spot to try to beat them, as there are several live runners here that are in good form. I will keep Tempt Fate on the A line, as he beat Man in the Can three times last season, but I’ll also include Young Bull (#3) and Five O One (#11) on that line. Young Bull is the top pick after running two very good races with open company at Delta. He has dramatically improved since winning his last three races here in the spring, while facing state bred claiming company in all three races. He has really blossomed since being claimed by Dale White Sr. this summer. Five O One beat Tempt Fate on the square at Delta last out in open optional claiming/allowance company. He’s another one that has improved significantly since competing here last meet. I’ll throw in Souixper Charger (#2) on the C line with Man in the Can, as he is coming in from Indiana Grand in very good form, winning two of his last four with open company there, and hitting the board in the other two starts. This will definitely be a class test for this son of Portobello Road, but I think he’s in much better shape than he was last season when he went way off form here.
Sarah Harper (#3) will be a short priced favorite in this co-featured allowance race. She has been dominant in her last two starts in big fields at Churchill. All three of her career races have been live races that have produced next out winners. Ron Moquett’s barn had a good day yesterday, winning two times, and this might be one of the better horses in his barn for this meet. A decent effort sets her up very nicely to compete in the American Beauty Stakes here on January 22nd. On deeper tickets, it’s hard to completely ignore a horse that has won over half of her races, and that’s the case with Assiniboia Downs invader, Miss Imperial (#6). She comes in on a four race win streak there, winning four straight stakes races. Her Beyer figures are definitely light, but Assiniboia can be a tricky track with it’s smaller configuration, and she was never all out in any of those races. She has faster races on this course in the past, winning once here back in 2020. I think she might be running into a buzzsaw here, but I can’t completely toss her. Break Curfew (#4) may be the one to come running late, as the pace on the front end could be lively. She hit the trifecta in two of her last three at long odds in Kentucky, and underneath in the vertical exotics may be her best shot in this group. However, putting her on the C line does give a bit of insurance for the pace meltdown scenario.
I think there’s two very logical singles in the Late Pick-4 and Pick-5, so that should afford us some coverage in this wide open allowance race. I think Joe Sharp is holding a strong hand with his duo, Sense You Left (#1) and Absolute Love (#2). Sense You Left will be the tepid top pick after running a strong, and much improved race last out in his first start off the Sharp claim. She’s now won two straight and should get a good, forwardly placed trip along the rail. Absolute Love has won four of her last five and is a perfect 2-2 since Sharp claimed her at Saratoga this summer. Her last two wins have been with starter allowance foes going one turn at Churchill, but she’s proven that she can handle two turns just fine. Misty Veil (#9) has been a bit of a money burner of alte, failing to score at short odds in her last four. She stumbled at the start last out, which took her out of her game, as she likes to be on the front end. There’s other speed signed on here, so she’ll have to work to get the lead. Her last win was a dominating score at Saratoga this summer with starter allowance company, so she definitely has some class. Flipping Fast (#10) invades from Southern California and gets back on the main track for Phil D’Amato. She ran well two back to break her maiden at Los Alamitos. She lost all chance at the break three back at Del Mar when she stumbled badly at the start. She was a $370K purchase, and she’s bred to be a good two turn horse. I expect her to continue to improve at longer distances on the main track. Lil Kings Princess (#7) has made significant progress since routing on dirt. This will be an acid test for her, especially because she’ll likely have to deal with some adversity and not have the same easy trip she got last out. However, she’s been very good on dirt and could move forward again. Ship It (#3) was seven lengths behind Sense You Left last out, but the pace scenario did not play to her strengths that day. There could be a strong early pace here and she may be one that could be flying late in her third race off the layoff.
Favorite Bet Today: Pick 3 – Race 5, $30 Play
I like this Pick-3 today because I think Back to Normal (#3, R6) has a huge shot to win a race where I think the Brad Cox first time starter on the rail is going to take more money than he should. I’m going to try to beat the favorite in the 5th, and I think this bet will pay nicely if we can beat Tempt Fate (#4, R7). However, based on the success that one had here last season, I’ll keep him on the ticket.
Race 5: 2,8
Race 6: 3
Race 7: 3,4,11