Week three at Oaklawn wraps up with a nine race card that features the return of 2021 Smarty Jones winner and Arkansas Derby runner up, Caddo River. He’ll likely go to post as the favorite in the 8th race today. After a few days of wet weather, the track should be drying out today, however, the temperatures will be lower than they’ve been, with the high expected to stay under 50 degrees. After front end speed dominated the first two weeks of racing, the track has been very fair this week, with horses winning from any position. The next day of racing at Oaklawn is 12/31, so Happy Holidays to everyone reading!
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||3||3,7||9||DBL, PK3, PK4|
|5||11||9,11,13||6,10,14||DBL, PK3, PK5|
|6||2||2||1,6,7||DBL, PK3, PK4|
A $10K starter allowance race going 5 and ½ Furlongs kicks off the Sunday program in Hot Springs. This is an interesting field of eight that has been assembled, where many of the horses are coming in from different circuits and class levels. Both Past Post (#6) and Dr. Forman (#8) have wins at the meet, both benefitting from a track that played very kindly to front end speed. They are both moving up in class and both in very good form. I’ll use both on the B line, but I;ll try to beat them with Cabot (#4) and Seau (#7). Seau comes in from Canada for Norman McKinght. He’s held his own on the synthetic surface at Woodbine, but he is at his best when he’s racing on traditional dirt. He’s won his last three on the main track, winning them at Fort Erie and Turf Paradise. He was claimed by McKnight, likely with an eye on this meet. He’s a consistent type that can win on the front end or coming from off the pace. Cabot makes his first start since the end of May and he returns to a track where he’s had the most success in his career. He can fire fresh, although he might be stronger next time out. I think he could be bearing down on the front runners late as well.
This is a tricky Arkansas bred optional $16K claiming/starter allowance contest. Princess Lilli Bug (#6) is definitely the X factor in this race. She’s made seven career starts, winning three of them. Her three wins have been brilliant and her four losses have been abysmal. She’s been on and off again in her career, with some gaps between starts. She’s never been brilliant off the layoff though, so I’m thinking she might be one to wait and see for next time. Dutch Treat (#3) hasn’t been in the best form of late, but he was claimed from Diodoro in his last at Keeneland, so there’s reason to believe that you’ll see her take a step forward in this race. Most of her races have been at longer distances, but she might wake up on the cutback at this level. Euro Me (#7) ran against tougher Arky breds two weeks ago, and rallied belatedly to get up for 4th. It was hard to make up ground over that track My Grace (#9) might be a price that’s worth paying attention to. Chelsey Moysey has brought live runners to Arkansas after a respectable summer at Delaware Park. This filly ran well enough to break her maiden with state bred $20K maiden claimers at this meet last season. Toss her turf debacle this summer, and she could fit here with a forward move off the layoff.
I really liked Lil Miss Hot Mess (#7) in the first race of the meet, and she was closing well, but couldn’t get to Take Charge Erica (#1) on a track that was kind to front end speed. She gets an extra half furlong, and her rival gets more pace pressure with presence of Betcha (#2) in the stall next door. She was claimed by Aidan Green who has done well with horses off the claim, and she’s in her third race off the layoff. I think she can turn the tables here while going off at longer odds. Betcha is the class of the field, coming in after winning a $5K starter allowance race at Churchill in her most recent effort. She looks for her third straight win in her Hot Springs debut. Take Charge Erica saves her best efforts for this course. She’s battled hard to win her last three races on this oval.
This is a brutally tough $30K-$25K claiming race for three year old fillies or fillies and mares that have never won three races. How you bet this race depends upon how you feel about Alberta Sun (#1). This three year old filly is a win machine, winning 8 of 14 career starts, and riding a three race win streak. However, while I’m all for taking advantage of the option to face older N3L horses while she is still three, I’m not loving the drop to the $30K level. A claim and win scenario barely breaks even, and when you factor fees, it likely nets the owners a loss. Perhaps they weren’t expecting this race to come up as salty as it did, and the rail draw with the big field is likely less than ideal. Perhaps she’ll scratch out, in favor of another race. I’ll cover with her on deeper tickets, as I was burned by another claim and drop runner on Friday, but I think there’s enough of a question mark with her to take a shot against. I’ll take a chance with Chakra (#3) getting some class relief while sliding out of open claiming company. She is a three time winner who gets one more shot at this restricted condition. She beat similar at Indiana Grand this summer and is capable of running a race that could beat these. She doesn’t always show up, but her best would be enough. Lady Shaman (#6) has been solid in eight career starts on the dirt. She makes her first start since a failed turf experiment at Remington in October. If she can revert to her Lone Star form from the summer, she’ll be tough in this race. Sapphire Royalty (#2) is a three year old, but is also eligible under the N3L condition here. Her last two efforts in Kentucky have shown some growth. If she can sustain that, she’ll be formidable with these. I do think 7-2 (ML) is a little light though.
A full field of two year old maiden claiming fillies go in the all-important 5th race which ends one Pick-5 and starts another. Zmuda (#11) is the one to beat after running a respectable 4th place with a restricted maiden special weight foes on the Stars of Tomorrow card last month at Churchill. Despite the restriction (related to purchase price or RNA of the horse), this is definitely class relief for this daughter of Violence. Undecoded (#13) is one of two on that AE list that could have an impact in this race if they draw in. She debuted in the slop in a $150K maiden claiming race in Kentucky where she tired late. She acted up a bit before the race, which may have used up some of her energy before the gates opened. She gets class relief and Lasix for her second career try. Emityaaz (#9) tries to become the first two year old winner for Daniel Peitz in a few years. She outran her odds with $50K maiden claimers in her debut at the beginning of November. She met a runaway maiden winner in her next try when moving up in class to maiden special weight. This is a better level for her and I think she is eligible to improve. On deeper tickets, Purrfect Mistress (#6) ships south and moves to the Rodolphe Brisset barn,. Her last at this level wasn’t that bad, and now she gets Lasix. Keen Contender (#10) debuted on the main track at seven furlongs and finished a distant third. She was beaten by double digit lengths in a two turn turf race. She’s been given a little time and gets class relief as well. Funtimegirl (#14) is the most interesting of the first time starters set to go here. She has some decent drills in the morning where she’s shown some zip. If she gets in, she’ll be widest of all, so that early speed will be needed.
Brad Cox has been hot this week, and he has a pair of very nice fillies in this optional claiming/N1X allowance race. Big things are expected from the beautifully bred Marr Time (#2), who is the half to Beholder, Mendelssohn, and Into Mischief. She took care of business handily at 3-5 when making her debut at Keeneland. Cox’s horses tend to really take a big step forward in their second start, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see a much stronger performance from her. She’ll get play based upon her pedigree and connections, so 2-1 might be a pipe dream. That being said, overplaying her could create value on some others. Parlance (#7) was very good in her second career start for Steve Asmussen. Icy Stare Down finished third, five lengths behind her that day. That one was a winner here yesterday. If the odds disparity widens between her and the favorite, she’ll be more enticing. There’s plenty of speed signed on, which could benefit the other Cox horse, Como Square (#6). This half sister to Caddo River (Race 8) was a runaway winner at Indiana Grand on closing day there. She was a little slow into stride, but she was gobbling up ground impressively to win going away. Her speed figure was a little light and the field she beat was lackluster at best. However, closers had a fair shot yesterday and she should get the right set up if she’s good enough. Mike Maker claimed Lady Scarlet (#1) for $150K last out. She ran well in her first two dirt tries, finishing second to Echo Zulu in her second career start. The turf experiment didn’t work. She was given a little time, but I was surprised to see her entered for the tag last time, and Maker didn’t hesitate to pull the trigger. This is a field that could have some future stakes runners, so she’ll need to run her best.
This is another large and competitive field where there seems to be many ways to go. The morning line odds are going to be a bit out of whack as Thomas Shelby (#9) is all but certain to scratch from this spot having run in the Tinsel Stakes yesterday. That also dramatically changes the pace scenario of this race, losing the dedicated pace setter. I like what I’ve seen lately from Catdaddy (#1) and I think he’ll be tough in this optional $35K claiming $25K starter allowance route. He was competitive here last year, winning his last two starts on this course. He struggled against a sharp field at Lone Star before taking the summer off. He returned in October at Remington and ran two very good races, including a strong second place finish in stakes company last out. He’s third off the layoff and with his rail draw, he has the potential to sit a better trip than many of his rivals here. On the outside, Bode’s Maker (#12) makes his first start since May for Norman McKnight. He has shown that he can fire fresh, and he was very good at this meet last season, winning his last three starts here, beating many of these. Chel-C Bailey will need to work out a trip from the wide draw, but he’s going to be very tough if his early 2021 form remains. Luck of the Draw (#10) closed well to beat a solid allowance field here last week. Diodoro wheels him back eight days later to try to strike while the iron is hot. He’s 2-2 on this course now and he’ll be dangerous if he can repeat that effort. First Line (#8) is dropping in class from allowance company, after coming up short in some N1X races at longer distances. I like the cutback to 1 Mile and 1/16, as he won his last two races at that distance, albeit at one turn at Belmont. He would be eligible to be entered with the starter allowance condition, but he is entered with the $35K tag.
The featured optional claiming/N3L allowance on the card is highlighted by the return of the Caddo River (#1), who was on the Derby Trail here last season, dominating the Smarty Jones in January, and finishing second in the Arkansas Derby. He missed the Derby and faltered in his most recent try in the Woody Stephens on the Belmont undercard in June. He’s been working well over this course for his return, and his rail draw works out well for his front running style. From a class perspective, the early 2021 version of him should beat this group. However, there should be some pace pressure, and the potential for a meltdown is there, so I’ll be covering myself with the two horses that might be able to benefit in that scenario. Moliere (#3) was claimed by Diodoro last month at Churchill when beating a softer group of $30K restricted claimers. He ran some big races last winter at the Fair Grounds, and perhaps that’s just a track he loves. I don’t love the 9-2 ML odds though. Even though he really is the only proven closer, his last five efforts aren’t fast enough. He is trending up and the barn switch could accelerate the return to his better form, but I need a higher price to feel comfortable making that wager. Atoka (#7) is mildly interesting as well. Most of his best work has come at one turn lately. It took him a while to break his maiden, but once he did, he definitely was running with a newfound confidence. He ran very well two back at long odds to hit the board in the Grade 3 Ack Ack at the one turn mile at Churchill. He may have bounced a bit in the 6 Furlong Bet on Sunshine last out, however, the form from that race held up as both second and third place finishers, Mucho and Sir Alfred James, ran big races here yesterday. He ran okay races at two turns earlier in his career, when he was more forwardly placed. For him to have a shot, I’d like to see Contreras let him settle off the pace, because I think there’s a chance that he’ll be five wide if he tries to contest the lead. He ran well coming from off the pace in sprints, so perhaps he can factor here, but again, I’d need to get better than 8-1 (ML) to play him.
I think Outlier (#4) has a big chance in this $40K starter allowance race that closes the week. He was entered in a similar race last week at two turns where he was chasing the lead in between horses before backing out of the picture. He comes back on short rest and gets back to running at one turn, which I think is what he does best. There is a lot of early speed, and I think several of his rivals will be backing up late, where he has the foundation to keep finding late. He beat the ML favorite, All The Diamonds (#6) in November at Churchill when they squared off with conditioned $50K claimers. He’s been right there in his last three and now he makes his first start since being claimed by Maker. New York bred Freudian Fate (#7) brings a three race win streak into this contest. He was claimed in each of his last three starts, and is now entered in a protected spot. He had a big figure jump in his last, so the potential for regression is there. However, no one is in better form at the moment.
Favorite Bet Today: Pick 3 Race 7:
I think Caddo River (#1, Race 8) is a likely short priced winner in the 8th, but coming off the layoff and with other speed entered, I think there’s enough of a possibility for him to get tired late, and if he gets beat, the payouts should be strong. Outlier (#4, Race 9) at 6-1 is the key to the ticket.
$5 Pick-3, $45 Ticket
Race 7: 1,10,12
Race 8: 1,3,7
Race 9: 4