After a week off for the Christmas Holiday, Oaklawn is back with a nine race, Friday afternoon card. The featured race is a N3L allowance contest going off as Race 4. The headliner there is the winner of the 2022 Fantasy Stakes here, Yuugiri, making her first start since an off the board in the Kentucky Oaks. There is the potential for some rain, so keep an eye on the weather and track feed if you’re playing from afar. First post for this afternoon’s program is 12:30 (CT).
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||3||3||1,5,7||DBL, PK3, PK4|
|5||2||2,6||3,8||DBL, PK3, PK5|
|6||5||5,6,7||2,3||DBL, PK3, PK4|
Racing resumes with a $30K-$25K maiden claiming race for two year old fillies going one mile. Robertino Diodoro is off to a fast start at this meet, winning with 8 of his first 23 starters and he’s going to be a name that is going to have an impact on this card. Conversely, the other five trainers in this race are a combined 2 for 63 at this young meet. Diodoro sends out Tequila Empire (#4) who will likely be a heavy post time favorite here. Her effort two back at Churchill was strong, earning a speed figure that the others haven’t come close to matching. She regressed in her most recent when facing restricted maiden allowance types. That was a useful race, as the dominant winner came back to run a respectable 5th in the Golden Rod Stakes, nine days later. The third place finisher came back to beat maiden special weight runners at Turfway. She drops in class and with the current run that this barn is on, I expect her to be well-backed. Perhaps that could create some value on the second time starter, Rockabillie (#2), who will be my top choice. Her trainer, John Ortiz, had an excellent meet here last season, but is off to a slow start thus far, losing his first 12 races. Last year’s leading rider, David Cabrera, is also off to a slow start, winning only 3 of 44 starts in the first six days of action here. However, Ortiz has good numbers with second time starters and he does very well with runners dropping into maiden claiming company from maiden allowance conditions. She was also well-beaten in that same race that Tequila Empire is coming out of. She has inside position, and could find herself alone on the front end in this contest. I’m expecting that she’ll have a little more staying power after getting a race under belt.
There’s a lot of ways you can go in this $20K claiming race for three year olds and up, traveling six furlongs. I think the race that Magic Castle (#3) is coming out of was significantly tougher than any previous race that his rivals are exiting. He caught a muddy track on opening day with a strong field of $30K claimers. Flap Jack relished the mud and dominated that field, winning by over eight lengths. Magic Castle finished 3rd that day, in spite of some traffic woes where he was shuffled back to last after being in the mix for the early lead. I like that he passed horses to close with interest to finish in the money, despite never making up any real ground on the winner. His game is being on or near the lead, so I’m willing to forgive that effort. He has inside position on the other speed types and leading rider, Cristian Torres, rides this one for Broberg instead of either Diodoro runner. If Full Impact (#5) was not in this race, I would consider using Magic Castle as a single. However, I think Full Impact might be faster in the early stages, which could cause a speed duel to percolate. He’s one of two that Diodoro sends out in this race. He showed a ton of promise in his first two starts toward the end of 2020, however, he missed aloof 2021 and hasn’t been the same in his five starts so far in 2022. I do think this is the right level for him and if he proves quicker than Magic Castle early, he is a threat to wire this group. Turfy (#1) may be the one that stands to benefit the most from a speed duel. He was claimed for $20K last month at Churchill by Tom Amoss. He was 4th at long odds that afternoon when running into a red hot horse, Soaring Bird, that came back to win in starter allowance company here on opening weekend. He runs for a higher percentage barn that hits with 19% of their runners first off the claim. His best effort of the year was at this distance at Prairie Meadows when there was a pace meltdown. If he goes off near his 20-1 morning line figure, I see him as an interesting longshot that I’ll be using in the exotics. Ocelot (#7) is the wild card in this race, coming in from Woodbine for Norman McKnight. He had some success with a limited string of runners that he shipped to Arkansas last season. This one is bred top and bottom for the turf, so I’ll proceed with some caution. However, he is a perfect 2-2 at this distance and his workout on 12/22 suggests that he can handle the main track. He’s one that could be worth including on some tickets, as long as there’s decent value.
Fillies and mares sprint six furlongs in this maiden special weight contest. I’ll try one of the two first time starters, Dial Toni (#3) to get the job done. She’s a half to Toinette, who was a graded stakes winner at three, four, and five, all in two turn races on the turf. Her other foal to race, was not as successful, winning only one maiden claiming race on the turf. The dam was a state bred stakes winner on grass in New York, but also won twice on the main track. While I think that trying the grass will be on trainer Jason Barkley’s radar at some point for this filly, her dirt works aren’t bad and her sire, Dialed In, gets 12% winners with debut runners on the main track (14% winners with runners that debuted at three or older). I expect an honest effort from her in this field which is not that strong for the condition here. Wise Memories (#7) makes her third career start today for Steve Asmussen. She is a well bred daughter of Tapit who made her debut in April of 2021 on the turf at Gulfstream. She was on the sidelines until last month, when she came back to be 4th, beaten 10 lengths in her first try on the dirt at the Fair Grounds. The dam has produced some talented runners earlier on in her career as a broodmare, but her recent runners haven’t possessed the same zip as Ash Zee, Wicked Miss, and Wickedly Perfect, all who ran about ten years ago or more. I do think there is room for growth in her second start off the bench, and she’s another one that could benefit from a softer field at this condition. Adaline Julia (#2) was claimed for $75K in her debut at Keeneland, and she runs back today for Diodoro, who is represented in the first seven races on the program. She took some money in her debut and ran a solid second in that race. $75K for a three year old filly debuting in October is a decent investment for the connections, so it’s not surprising to see her run back in maiden special weight company.
This N3L allowance race marks the return of Yuugiri (#2), who was the winner of the Grade 3 Fantasy Stakes here back in April. She used that effort to try Grade 1 company in the Kentucky Oaks, where she was soundly defeated. She was an impressive winner on debut back in September of 2021 at this six furlong distance. She ran well in route races to put her on the Oaks trail, finishing in the money in three stakes races before her breakthrough effort. She’s been working well for her return and Brisset has good numbers with runners off the layoff. I’d have to think this is the jumping off point for her to try to get her to the Apple Blossom at the end of the meet. While I’m looking forward to her return, and I do see her as a contender, I think the six furlong distance better suits her neighbor in the next stall door, Hot and Sultry (#3). She was very good in her first two starts at the meet last season, closing to finish second in the mud in her debut, then beating a very good field in her second try in January. She returned to the races on July 1st, holding on to clear the N1X condition when going a one turn mile at Churchill. She’s a half to Scalding, who was a two time graded stakes winner in 2022. She was moved from Asmussen to Norm Casse, who has done very well with the few starters that he’s brought here thus far. I think she’s going to be the one to beat in this race.
The two shortest prices in this conditioned $30K claimer are Ice Blast (#3) and Huge Bigly (#8). Both are logical, but I have enough questions about both to try to beat them with some price plays. Derby Code (#2) has been on a steady diet of starter allowance races since he was claimed for $12,500 here in April of 2021. He’s run quality races on this course in the past and his connections are hoping that the drop in class will help him find some of his better form. His most recent try at Keeneland wasn’t sharp, but he was competitive against some salty fields earlier in the season. Mr. Tip (#6) is another one that has some recent form that is not as good as he’s shown in the past. Diodoro claimed him for $32K off Mike Maker two back. He brought him to Remington where he met a runaway winner in N1X allowance company. Anything that this barn is sending out right now must be respected, and if we’re able to get 12-1 (ML) or better on him, I think that he’d be worth considering. Ice Blast was claimed by Ingrid Mason last out, who has been cold with runners first of the claim. I don’t love that he’s been away since September either. However, his last two dirt starts have been very good, and his overall dirt form fits very well at this level. I don’t love him at 2-1 (ML), but I see him as a player here. Huge Bigly drops for a tag for the first time since his second career start back in August of 2020. He’s struggled to find his best form since leaving Churchill last November. There’s enough class there to make me think he could beat this field, but again, I think his morning line figure (9-5) is lower than I’m will to accept in this race.
The late Pick-4 gets started with a $30K starter allowance for horses that have started for that tag or lower in their last two starts. Four of the nine runners entered have a race under their belts at the current meet. Flap Jack (#3) is the morning line favorite after a monster win here three weeks ago in the mud. While there is a chance for rain, which could upgrade his chances, I see him as a bounce candidate in this race. I’ll cover with him on the deeper tickets, but I think there’s value in trying to beat him. Macron (#5) is the top pick for me, thinking that he can rebound from his last effort in the mud. I’ll hold my breath and hope the rain holds off, and if the track is wet going into the race, I might downgrade him a bit. There’s no doubt that Flap Jack was the better horse last time, but I think overall, Macron has more ability and this might be a time where the value will be tilted in his favor. His recent form hasn’t been great, however, two of those four races in that span came on off tracks. The other poor effort was in a stakes race at Remington where he folded up after a speed duel. Flash of Mischief, who won a stakes at this meet already, bested him that day. Other than that, his fast track form is very good, and unlike some of the others in this race, he is best suited for the six furlong distance here. Gozilla (#6) is another William McKnight horse coming in from Canada. He was graded stakes placed as a two year old on the main track. He spent all of 2022 on the Tapeta, running at Turfway and Woodbine. McKnight claimed him for $25K at the end of the Woodbine meet, likely with the intent of including him as a part of his Oaklawn contingent. He drilled a bullet work over the course and likes the distance of this race. I can see him being a player at this level. Soaring Bird (#7) is in very good form, already having notched a win under his belt at this meet. He’s won four out of his last five, winning at a mile last out. While he’s capable at six furlongs, I think he’s at his best between 6 and ½ furlongs up to a mile. He has good tactical speed and is always in good position though. He’s too good right now to ignore. In addition to Flap Jack, I’ll also use Windcracker (#2) as a saver on the deeper tickets. I think this is a starting point for him at this meet, and he might be eyeing a two turn race at this condition in a few weeks. However, like Soaring Bird, he’s been in very sharp form lately. His lone off the board finish at Delaware this season came against a significantly better field. Greg Compton is a sharp trainer, winning 20% of his races in 2022, however, his one for nine record at this distance scares me off a bit.
Fillies and mares go one mile in this $45K-$35K N2L claiming race. There’s a lot to unpack here between surface changes, trainer changes, layoffs, and class moves at a variety of circuits. I ended up on Hal’s Dream (#2) as a horse that I like a decent amount in this spot. She won her debut on the turf at Keeneland in 2021. She ran in the Golden Rod Stakes in her second start, which was way over her head. She had a miserable trip that afternoon as well. She finished up the track in stakes races on the turf and synthetic before going to the sidelines. She returned in a $30K N2L claimer at Churchill where she ran a credible 3rd. Greg Compton claimed her that day, and has her entered with a $40K tag today. He has good numbers first off the claim and I feel she’ll be more fit in her second start off the layoff. There’s not a ton of speed signed on in this contest, so perhaps the Charles Town invader, Bachelorette (#4) stands a chance to take this field gate to wire. She handled two turns when scoring with maiden allowance company in West Virginia in a seven furlong race. She’ll add an extra furlong today, which should be an issue. She was hammered down to 3-5 at the windows, so this is likely a decent step up in class. The barn is off to a cold start at the meet, so I’ll need to get the 15-1 morning line price or better to be interested. Divine Hope (#8) was claimed for $20K last out at Churchill, where she finished 3rd in the slop when going a one turn mile. She’ll go two turns on dirt for the first time for her new connections. Coty Rosin has good numbers first off the claim, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see her move forward today.
This is the first of a pair of Arkansas bred races that will close out the Friday card. Fillies and mares will go six furlongs in this optional $40K claiming/$40K starter allowance. The conditions were written to give top quality state bred fillies and mares a spot to run without risking a claim, and as a result, none of the 11 runners were entered with a tag. Connie K (#5) was a stakes winner with state bred company last season, and she’s one of the better Arkansas bred fillies in training. She returned from nearly five months away last month to easily clean the open N1X condition at Horseshoe Indiana. Randy Morse has her fit and ready to start her local campaign. She’ll likely be forward along with Summer Shoes (#4) to her inside. That could set the table for Unbridled Twister (#6) to run a big race for Al Cates. She fought Connie K tooth and nail in the Downthedustyroad Breeders’ Stakes here last year, losing by a narrow margin that afternoon. She struggled in her next two starts at two turns before going to the sidelines. She returned last month at Delta where she was asked to go two turns again, but this time at seven furlongs. She was a bit keen that day, setting the pace and fading to 4th. I think her cutting back to one turn makes her dangerous in this spot where she could be upset-minded. Summer Shoes is lightly raced, but she could be any kind. She ran a monster race off the layoff to break her maiden last March. She came back three weeks later to clear the state bred N1X condition at short odds. She’s been away since then and returns to face the strongest field in her career to date. Her recent works are on the slow side, which could have been by design though. I have mixed feelings about her in this race, but I’ll likely cover my bases.
$20K maiden claiming state bred fillies and mares go six furlongs in the nightcap. It’s hard to have a confident opinion with this group. Bootlegging Girl (#8) is better than what she showed a few weeks ago when making her first start since August. Her effort that she put in back on May 1st would likely be good enough to beat this group. I can forgive her effort on opening day with tougher, knowing that she’s better suited for this level. 20-1 (ML) feels way too high, but if she is overlooked, I’ll like her even more. Valentine Angel (#2) ran well enough in her career debut last year to earn the role of morning line favorite. Her next race wasn’t great though, perhaps explaining why we haven’t seen her on track since January. She’s one I want to see warming up prior to taking too short of a price on her. Little Rocker (#1) took some money last out with maiden allowance types. She takes what feels like a necessary drop in class for her second try off the layoff for Randy Morse.
Favorite Bet Today: Early Pick-4, $48 Ticket ($0.50 Base Wager)
I like the Early Pick-4 today because I do think there are some legs with vulnerable favorites and live longshots that could make this ticket pay well. If I were extending to the Pick-5, I’d consider either Magic Castle (#3, R2) or Hot and Sultry (#3, R4) as horses that could be potential singles in those spots. However, after having almost two weeks off from racing and seeing how training hours were frequently interrupted during those times due to some challenging weather conditions, I’d prefer to have a little more coverage.
Meet Statistics: Top Pick 11/53 (20.8%), $98.20, $1.85 ROI