Week 2 of racing at Oaklawn begins with a nine race Friday program that gets underway at 12:30 (CT). Om paper, this looks like it could be a formful day, as I see many logical favorites throughout the program. I do think there are some spots later on in the day where you might be able to take a stand against some of the shorter prices.
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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We’ll start the week with a $10K N2L claiming race for fillies and mares going six furlongs. This is not the sharpest field, so there’s definitely some warts that you’ll have to get past when playing a horse in this race. Mi Crescendo (#7) comes in from Indiana after being claimed in a time restricted $12,500 claimer. She didn’t run a great race, but she was defeated by a pair of next out winners. I see her as a rebound candidate today. Dare Me (#2) continues to fall down the class ladder after being claimed for $50K about a year ago. She’s been winless since breaking her maiden here that day, however, her last two races on fast tracks weren’t bad. Her current form has been muddied up a bit with a turf race and two races in the slop in her last three starts. After a wet opening week, a dry stretch should give her the fast track she desires. On deeper tickets, I’ll include Ain’tnosweetie (#3) after breaking her maiden in her first start on the main track. She was well backed in that race at Remington after a solid debut on the turf, and she ran the way you’d want an even money favorite to perform. Her figures are a little light for this field, but the lack of consistency of her rivals and the hot start from her rider and trainer will keep her as a viable option with this group.
Open $6,250 claimers dash 5 and ½ furlongs here. This is always a competitive condition at Oaklawn, and this race is no different. Half of the field is running for the first time for a new trainer. This race runs through Town Champ (#2), who has a strong record over this oval. He’s running for the lowest tag yet in his 28 race career after winning with open $10K claimers two back at Remington. He had a win and three second palace finisheshere last season, all of which came against stronger fields. He’s definitely the most consistent runner in the field and is worthy of being the short priced favorite in this race. If someone is going to beat him here, I’d presume it would be Released (#8) making his first start of the Robertino Diodoro claim at Churchill last month. He was claimed for $8K, so I don’t love the immediate drop. However, this is probably the right level of competition for him. He’s at his best when he’s on the front end, and his outside post could help him get there in the first quarter mile in this race.
There’s only six running in this maiden special weight going 1 mile and 1/16. The one to beat here is going to be Cawkab (#3) was a strong 4th in a solid maiden allowance race at Churchill last month when making his debut going one mile. He advances to a two turn race, which is what his pedigree says he wants to do. He’s a half to Girvin, Midnight Bourbon, Pirate’s Punch, and Cocked and Loaded, all of which were graded stakes winners in two turn races. He’s sired by Curlin, which is arguably the most accomplished sire that the mare Catch the Moon was bred to. He was late to make it to the races, making his debut at the end of his three year old season. However, his first race was solid enough to think that he could be yet another talented runner from this star-studded blood line. Plausible Denile (#1) will be where I’ll back up, in the event that he’s able to control things on the front end here. He’s run a few strong races with a few duds sprinkled in, so I’m going to have to get some respectable value before committing to him. No one really wants the lead in this race, but he does have enough speed to grab it from his rail post. He might find himself getting brave in his second start off the layoff.
Fillies and mares go 1 mile and 1/16 in this open $30K claiming contest. This is another race on the program where the shorter prices feel like they have a significant edge over the horses with longer odds. Both Good Penny (#5) and Gianna’s Gift (#8) are coming out of a common race at Churchill last month, going a one turn mile with open $40K claimers there. Both horses are better at two turns, and I’d argue that Good Penny, who was making her first start since July, needed that race more than her rival. In fact, she finished a head in front of Gianna’s Gift in their previous meeting back in July at Belterra. Francisco Arreita, who finished second in the rider standings here last year, is off to a quick start, winning four races in the first week, gets the assignment for Matt Shirer. I think she’ll offer more value than her rival here. Gianna’s Gift may wind up being the lone speed in this race, and if Orlando Mojica doesn’t have to use her too hard to get the lead from her outside post, she could wind up with the easier trip. She was claimed for $20K two starts ago by Diodoro. I think these are the two that will decide this contest.
Two year old fillies go six furlongs in this $30K maiden claiming race. I’m not seeing enough from morning line favorite, Frostalicious (#1) to back her in this spot. I’ll try Her Name Was Lola (#6) making her second career start this afternoon. She debuted at a similar level last month at Delaware. She was away slow that day, but I appreciate the fact that she stayed in contact with the field, despite finishing last. She was gaining ground late, which indicates to me that she has more ability than she showed in that start. I’m expecting her to improve in a race where she won’t have to get much better to win. Happy Hollow (#2) is one of two first time starters in here that have a live look to them. John Ortiz has done well with horses that have debuted in maiden claiming races, winning at a 21% clip over the last five years. Although horses sired by Runhappy have only won 6% of their debut races at the maiden claiming level, I expect that she’ll show some of his early foot with this group. Jane Bond (#3) is an Ontario bred filly sired by Tiznow, who commands a $40K stud fee. He’s owned by the breeder, so I don’t love that she’s making her debut for a $30K tag. She’ll be the first foal to run from the Giant Gizmo mare, Some Right Nice. Diodoro and Mojica team up again in this race, so she’ll likely be overbet from a connections standpoint. I’ll use her, but I’ll be looking for other options in the vertical wagers. Old School Flash (#4) makes her 9th career start in this race, so you have to wonder how high her ceiling truly is. However, she has made progress in her main track races, with her most recent being one of better efforts. She’ll likely need to take a small step forward to compete with these, but she’s not impossible, especially if the debut runners don’t offer much.
There’s a few promising horses in this maiden special weight contest for two year olds going one mile. The two standouts on paper are the two runners that are sired by Bolt d’Oro. I prefer Rocket and Roll (#2) in this spot, making his second start. He had the misfortune of running into Arabian Knight in his debut on the Breeders’ Cup Saturday undercard last out at Keeneland. He was jostled around a bit at the break, before settling in midpack during that seven furlong contest. He came with a wide move going into the turn, but the heavy favorite had another gear, and powered away to win by over seven lengths. Rocket and Roll faded that day and finished second. The runner up that day was a winner a few weeks ago at Churchill, so that may prove to be one of the key maiden races of this calendar year. Spendthrift and Frank Fletcher partnered to go in for a combined $675K for him, which is about 34 times the stud fee of the freshman sire. The dam has produced six runners on the racetrack, with the most successful being The Grass is Blue who won the Busanda Stakes last January. Communication Memo (#4) is the morning line favorite and the main danger to the top pick here. He’s started three times in Kentucky, running in maiden special weight races going 6 and ½ furlongs each time. Like Rocket and Roll, he’s faced some tough runners in his first few starts. He lost to Loggins, who went on to be the runner up in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity, in his first start. He was third behind a pair of next out winners in his second start at Keeneland. In his last start, he was a game second behind a game Bolt d’Oro colt trained by Brad Cox (Corona Bolt), which, ironically, is what he’s up against once again today.
The last Pick-3 of the afternoon gets underway with a $50K starter allowance for horses that are also eligible for N1X allowance company. I’m going to try the recent maiden breaker, Rewire (#3) in the top spot here. He makes his sixth career start and his third start off the layoff today. His only poor try came two back at Keeneland, while making his first start in ten months. The trouble line says he face planted at the start, which is a fairly accurate description of his break. He dropped in for a $50K tag at Churchill where he earned his first career victory. I liked his effort in this course last season when running a hard fought second to next out stakes winner, Dash Attack. Joe Sharp claimed him last out, and his runners tend to perform well in their first start for him. Miacomet (#1) had nine career starts, two of which came in claiming races. He was claimed both times, most recently in his last start at Churchill where he was purchased for $40K. He ran well here last season after his race at Churchill and I expect him to do so again. He stretches back out to a two turn route and he makes his first start for Matt Shirer, who also has good numbers first of the claim. Mac Daddy Too (#2) is another live runner for Diodoro on today’s card. He ships in from Southern California after a third place finish in a speedy turf sprint race there. He’s going to be favored after a big effort in an off the turf race two back at Del Mar. he might be faster than these, but I do worry about his ability to finish a race at this distance. I’ll cover with him, and I’ll do the same with Quick to Blame (#5). He ran well in some salty maiden allowance races here last season. He stretches out after four straight one turn races. He might need this race, Making good first start in three months, however, I do think he has the ability to contend at this level.
This is a contentious N2L allowance race going one mile on the main track. I do think Grantham (#7) is the one to beat here. He has a distinct class edge over the rest of the field, running solid efforts in two graded stakes races on the Derby Trail earlier in the year. He was 4th in February behind eventual Preakness winner Early Voting in the Withers Stakes. Un Ojo, who went on to win the Rebel in his next start, was second that afternoon. He followed up that performance with a strong second place finish behind Classic Causeway in the Tampa Bay Derby. He went to the sidelines and didn’t return until last month in a one turn contest at Churchill. He was flat that afternoon, finishing a well-beaten 7th. I do think he’s a better horse at two turns and I think he probably needed that last race. I’m expecting a strong stalking performance from him today. Both Fair Dinkum (#5) and Film Star (#6) likely have their eyes set on the early lead while breaking in the middle of the pack. Fair Dinkum makes his third career start after a pair of sharp one turn mile contests at Churchill. Joe Sharp’s runners have been well-meant at this meet so far as two of his three were winners with his other runner finishing second. His pedigree suggests two turns won’t be an issue, but it will be a new raceday experience for him today. Film Star is trying to rebound off a rough trip in allowance company at Keeneland last out. His prior efforts at Ellis and Churchill say that he can compete at this level. Breaking outside of Fair Dinkum is not ideal, since he was most effective carving out the fractions in those earlier races. Talamo will ride him for the first time today, so it’ll be interesting to see how aggressive he’ll be with him. Speed Bias (#4) is the morning line favorite for Ron Moquett. This is another barn that was red hot over the first three days of racing. He started eight runners with four winners and another three that finished in the money. He crossed the wire first here in April in maiden special weight company, but he was disqualified when he lugged in during the stretch run. He officially broke his maiden last out at Keeneland, coming from off the pace when facing a solid, but compact group for that condition. Anything from this barn needs to be respected right now, but after Moquett’s first week, I suspect his runners will cost a premium price this week.
While I think there are some very logical shorter priced horses on this card, I do think this state bred maiden special weight that will wrap up the day, is a place to take a stand against the favorites. Allo Enry (#10) makes his 12th career start in search of his first score. He was 0-8 here last season, and never really looked like a winner in any of his races. He’d be worth using underneath in the vertical exotics, but he won’t be on my horizontal wagers. The same could be said for Street Commander (#13) if he were able to draw into the body of this field. He’ll take money off a big effort in his last at Delta, but I want to see him duplicate that effort on the big track here before taking him at odds anywhere near his 3-1 morning line figure. I landed on Devlish Hour (#1) as the top pick, while breaking from the rail. He ran two respectable races with open maiden special weight company at Canterbury. He was a decent second in his last start, back in September for McLean Robertson. He’s bred to be quick and Robertson has good numbers off layoffs like this. I think he ‘s getting slight class relief for his third career start. Sir Peel (#2) is a Delaware shipper for Chelsey Moysey. She’s off to a slow start at this meet, finishing off the board with her first five runners last week. However, he was showing growth, finishing a solid second in his most recent start. Jockey John Hiraldo has decent numbers when riding for Moysey, with both winning at a higher percentage together than when on their own. Classy Socks (#6) tries the dirt for the first time after a speedy effort in a five furlong dash on grass at Remington. It was interesting to see him make his debut on the turf, as both his dam and sire did their best work on the main track. While horses sired by Northern Afleet can win on the grass, they have a higher winning percentage and a higher in the money percentage on dirt. While I don’t love that he was moved from a higher percentage barn to a lower percentage barn, I do think he fits at this class level today.
Favorite Bet Today: Late Daily Double ($30 Ticket, $10 Base Wager)
I’m not in love with the Pick-4’s or Pick 5’s on this card today. I see the early half of the program being on the chalky side, and while I do like Grantham (#7, R8) a decent amount in the 8th, that race is contentious enough for me to want to seek coverage in the multi-race bets. I will use him prominently in the Late Daily Double though, hoping he’ll be the third or 4th choice in the wagering. I don’t like Allo Enry (#10, R9) or Street Commander (#13, R9) in the nightcap, and I’m hoping the latter does draw in to hopefully boost the prices of the trio of runners I’ll be siding with. Devlish Hour (#1, R9), Sir Peel (#2, R9) and Classy Socks (#6, R9) have done enough on the track to make me think they could win this race.
Meet Statistics: Top Pick 6/25 (24%), $65.40, $2.62 ROI