The last day of 2022 is all about two year olds at Oaklawn, as all ten races carded this afternoon are for the juveniles. There’s a pair of stakes races that will anchor this card. The $150K Renaissance Stakes is the 6th Race, which is for two year olds sprinting six furlongs. Two year old fillies will go one mile in the $150K Years End Stakes, going off as the 9th race of the afternoon. On the wet track yesterday, speed was a definite asset as eight of the nine races on the card were won by horses that were either first or second after the first call. The forecast today is dry, so it will be worth noting if that trend will continue throughout the day. First post this afternoon 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!
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The juvenile program gets underway with an optional $50K claiming/$50K starter allowance race at six furlongs. I’ll try Atkins (#1) on top to win his second race of the meet. I liked his effort in the mud on opening weekend here. He broke from the rail and took a lot of mud to the face as the 8-5 favorite that afternoon. He still rallied smartly to break his maiden by two widening lengths. Bentley Combs has been very sharp to start this meet, winning three of his first four races, and he hits with 21% of his runners in their first start off the claim. I think he’s a viable longshot here. Lord Grantham (#7) was claimed for $50K two starts back by Chris Hartman. He advanced to optional claiming/allowance company where he ran into Victory Formation, who is the morning line favorite in the Smarty Jones Stakes tomorrow. He gets class relief today while running in a protected spot with lasix for the first time. Norm Casse is another trainer off to a hot start at this meet, and he’ll send out Dixie Fury (#6) for his first start off the claim. He crushed a field of $20K maiden claimers in the slop in his last start at Churchill. He’ll likely be forwardly placed in this race, but there will likely be competition for the front end. Ricardo Santana will be aboard for the first time today.
The first special moment on this card could occur in this maiden special weight contest for two year old fillies going one mile. Magical Song (#9) is the first foal from the champion mare, Songbird, and she’ll be making her second start in this race. She debuted in a useful maiden special weight race on the Breeders’ Cup undercard. She was slow to get into stride, finding herself last of 12 early on. She advanced well from the back of the pack, but had to tap on the brakes before shifting out and closing with a strong rally to get up for third. She is sired by Tapit, so I believe that she’ll improve with added distance. While I see her as the most likely winner in this race, it won’t be a cakewalk. Both Kid’s Last Laugh (#3) and Wish It (#8) are coming out of a salty maiden special weight sprint at Churchill. Both fillies are promising, and both of the broodmares have produced successful offspring. Kid’s Last Laugh was faster in that race, but I do think that her pedigree leans toward one turn more so than Wish It. The dam Kid Silver produced stakes winners, all at six furlongs. The dam of Wish It, Graeme Six, was a stakes winning sprinter, and her stakes winners have been in longer one turn races. Wish It is sired by Tapit whereas Kid’s Last Laugh is sired by Practical Joke, so I think Wish It is more likely to have success at two turns, where Kid’s Last Laugh might be struggling to find in the final furlong of this one.
An overflow field of state bred fillies sprint six furlongs in this maiden allowance race. I’ll try Foxpass (#7) on top in her second start for John Ortiz. She ran into future graded stakes winning filly, Hoosier Philly, in her debut at Churchill in September. She was never involved that day, but she didn’t return to training until the middle of November, suggesting that she had a minor ailment following that start. She gets class relief for a barn that does well with second time starters. Her dam was stakes placed on the dirt and she foaled a nice filly, Caldee, who won in her second career start at Saratoga. She’s stakes placed in multiple races on the turf, but her sire is More Than Ready. I think she could have some quality to her, and 15-1 is a more than fair price to take a chance with her. Summorya (#11) is a half to Hardscrabble, who just missed in his debut on this course last year. Ron Moquett trains this daughter of Not This Time, who hits with 20% of his first time starters in dirt sprint races. Bejarano has been off to a hot start at this meet and he’ll get the assignment today. Sophie’s Star (#12) is another live longshot in this race. Her dam Safflower produced a pair of debut winners, Flowersforshantall and Guilty. The sire Street Strategy has won with 16% (5-32) of his first time starters in dirt sprints over the last three years. The works aren’t as flashy as some of the others, but I do like that many of her drills have been at five furlongs. On deeper tickets, I’ll throw in the morning line favorite Doughty (#1) in her third career start. She ran her first two races at Churchill, about 90 days apart. Her debut was solid on July 1st, but her last start at the end of October was poor. She ran in the slop that day, so perhaps dryer ground will be helpful. She certainly could win this, but if she goes off at or around the 5-2 morning line, I’d be inclined to look elsewhere for better value.
I’ll give King Russell (#2) another chance in this maiden special weight race for two year olds going one mile. He had a miserable trip in his second career start, which was his first try at two turns. That was a decent race at Keeneland where the winner was a game third in allowance company in his next start. The runner up came back to break his maiden in his subsequent try and Mazing Mark, who finished midpack, broke his maiden in stakes company at Delta after that race. King Russell was caught in the six path going into the first turn and was wide pretty much every step of the way, spending the majority of the race out in the four path. He draws post 2 this afternoon where Bejarano should have more options for him. He gets Lasix for the first time for a barn that continues to roll at this meet. The Heights (#8) is a first time starter for Brad Cox, from the same dam that produced Caddo River and Como Square. Nyquist is a good first time starter sire, winning 19% of the time, however, he has yet to sire a winner that has won on debut in a route race. However, I don’t see a ton of depth in this field, so I’ll be using him. Winnemac Avenue (#7) is a little interesting in his second career start. Leading rider Cristian Torres takes the call on this one as opposed to the Diodoro firster, Profound Impact (#11). The latter is a much shorter price on the morning line. Winnemac Avenue debuted in the slop at Churchill where he didn’t have a clean break. He’s sired by Belmont winner, Tapwrit, so there’s reason to believe that he’ll improve at two turns for James DiVito.
I think the shorter prices might have the edge in this state bred maiden special weight sprint. Stuck N Snow (#9) shipped here after a respectable try in open maiden special weight company at Churchill in his debut. He dropped to state bred maiden allowance company and ran a solid third that day. If he can build off those races where he essentially paired his Beyers, he’sd going to be very tough with this group today. Cadillac Cowboy (#12) is the most promising of the debut runners here. He’s a son of Commissioner who was sold for 10X his stud fee. The dam has produced a first out winner in the past and the works are good for Joe Sharp. On deeper tickets, I’ll include both Miri a Coincidence (#6) and Chupapi Munyayo (#10) in their debuts. Miri a Coincidence had a half sibling win on debut with state bred maiden company last season. Ernie Witt always seems to have a few runners that can blow up the toteboard in their first career starts. Chupapi Munyayo debuts for Ron Moquett, who has already had a two year old win on debut at this meet. The sire, Sky Kingdom, hits with 12% of his debut runners, and that number goes up to 14% with sprinters on the dirt.
Race 6: The $150K Renaissance Stakes:
The late Pick-5 begins with the second sprint stakes for two year olds of the meet. Count de Monet (#6) won his third consecutive start in the Advent Stakes here on Opening Day. He is back to try to take home another large check in this race. He proved that his wins in Indiana were certainly not flukes when he beat a solid field by open lengths that day. He’s got the outside post in this small field, but he’ll be challenged by a promising Chris Hartman runner, Two Eagles River (#4). He’s paired his Beyers in his first two starts, breaking his maiden in the slop at Churchill and just getting nipped on the wire by Victory Formation in allowance company last out. That one will be featured in the Smarty Jones tomorrow and a strong effort from Two Eagles River would certainly flatter him. Lasix is added for his third career start, which could be an interesting battle late. On deeper tickets, Spurrier (#3) is one that will make his second career start. He was overlooked in his debut, winning at 23-1 against a decent field here on opening weekend. I thought he’d be overlooked in that race as a son of an unknown sire, Tunwoo. However, the fact that his purchase price was significantly higher than his stud fee was an indicator to me that this one had some ability. I could see him moving forward in his second career try today.
It’s hard to look past Twirled (#11) in this optional $80K claiming/N2L allowance sprint at 5 and ½ furlongs. She was a strong maiden winner at 6 and ½ furlongs two starts back at Keeneland. She was a respectable second place finisher in the Fern Creek Stakes last out at CHurchill. The winner of that race, Red Carpet Ready, has two dominant performances to start her career and she finished of Key of Life, who was already a stakes winner. Isaac Castillo has two nice wins on the card yesterday and I think he’ll take this Twirling Candy filly gate to wire here. There is a decent amount of speed signed on, with most of it feeling like cheap speed. I’ll cover with Beautiful and Bold (#6) who could be finishing well in this race. She’ll need to take a sizable step forward to win, but she is trending in the right direction if you’re willing to draw a line through her stakes try in the mud. If closers are able to get home, I’ll likely upgrade her a bit. I see her as a filly that could add value underneath in this race, and if everything goes her way, she could be in line for more than just a piece.
The two favorites on the morning line in this maiden special weight sprint, Malibu Toast (#2) and Peace Cruiser (#12), have both started three times, and have finished in the money in each start. They are both logical players, however, this feels like a race where you’d want some coverage. I’m going to try one of the first time starters, Goldenshuga (#6) as the top pick. Norm Casse shipped this Goldencents filly in from Churchill after some promising works there. She looks like she’s handled the course just fine in the mornings here. She cost $400K at the OBS Sale in April of 2022. That number is about 26.5 times more than the stud fee of her sire Goldencents. I like to see horses that are relatively recent purchases take that kind of money, especially when they come from more modest connections. Goldencents is no slouch, winning the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile twice, and he gets 13% winners from his horses that debut in dirt sprints. The dam only raced three times and this is the first foal of hers to race, making that auction price more impressive. I think she has a big shot with this group today. Into Love (#7) makes her second career start after a rough debut against the graded stakes winning filly, Hoosier Philly, at Churchill in September. She didn’t get away clean and was wide throughout before fading late that day. Larry Jones gave her a little more time and adds Lasix for her second try today. She’s worked well in her two local drills, firing a pair of bullets. She could move forward today. Malibu Toast will get Lasix today for the first time after fading late in all three starts. She’s been game in each of those races, but just hasn’t had enough to hold off her competitors in the final furlong. She has inside position, which was a plus yesterday, and this isn’t the strongest group for the condition, at least on paper. She’s worth covering in this race. The same could be said for Peace Cruiser, who cuts back to a one turn sprint here. Her effort at seven furlongs in her debut was her best race to date, so the shorter trip may be what she’s looking for. The track will also be closer to fast for this race, which should also improve her chances. I would like to get a little better than 7-2 (ML) on her though.
Race 9: The $150K Years End Stakes:
The second stakes on the card is a one mile test for two year old fillies. The race is headed by Defining Purpose (#1) who struggled from her wide post in the Golden Rod last month. Her maiden score, which came nine days before her stakes debut, was very solid, drawing away to win by six lengths on the wire. She had the rail that day and had things her own way. I see some other speed in this race, but I think she’ll be able to rate kindly. She looked comfortable while running from off the pace last out, she was just very wide and unable to keep pace with Hoosier Philly late. She’ll be on the A line for me, but at 7-5 (ML) or lower, I’ve got to try to beat her. Midnight Heiress (#4) is an interesting New Jersey bred filly that will be making her first local start for Jerry Hollendorfer. She definitely has a sprint forward pedigree, but she struggled to finish her sprint races this summer at Monmouth, finishing second in her first four dirt races. She was second at the Meadowlands when stretching out to a one mile race on the turf. Hollendorfer kept her at the mile distance, but moved her back to the main track where she dominated a field of maidens at Delaware. I don’t think she beat much that day, and her last quarter mile wasn’t great. However, perhaps a two turn mile is where she’ll be at her best. I think she has sprinter’s speed that could get her to the front end going to the first turn. She appeared to relax very kindly on the front end last time, and if the track is playing like it did yesterday, I think she stands a chance to wire this group as well. On deeper tickets, Fabulous Candy (#9) is another Delaware invader that has a shot. She has similar running lines to Beautiful and Bold in the 7th race. She’s showing a nice pattern of improvement in fast track races, but like Beautiful and Bold, she really struggled in the mud in the White Clay Creek Stakes there in October. She’s rated kindly in her last two starts on fast tracks, winning both rather easily. She’ll need to avoid losing too much ground early from her wide post though. Chelsey Moysey has been very cold at the start of this meet, so I’d likely need to get better than 5-1 (ML) to play her prominently here.
The last race of 2022 in Arkansas is a maiden special weight sprint for two year olds going six furlongs. Nine of the twelve runners in the body of the field are making their first start in this race. I loved the debut from Uncle Reg (#13) Churchill last month, and he’ll be a top pick for me if he can draw into the body of this field. He was buried on the inside behind a hot pace. He had to tap on the brakes when he was steadied at the ⅜ pole. He had some traffic issues at the top of the stretch as well. While he wasn’t flying, he was still grinding and gaining on the leaders, finishing third, beaten less than a length. Any time a young horse can overcome trouble at first asking, I’ll often consider them in their next start. There were many opportunities for him to throw in the towel, but kept running. Toughness like that can’t be taught. If he gets in, I can see him benefitting from the outside draw and taking a step forward in this race. If he’s out, this race becomes wide open. I’ll use Ben’s Legacy (#1) on the rail for James DiVito. His connections paid $360K for him at this OBS Sales in March, so there is likely some ability there. He’s worked well in Illinois and on this course to consider him. The dam has produced a stakes winner several years ago. Ernie Witt typically runs Arkansas bred, but he’ll send out Woody’s Choice (#5) here. He has some nice drills as well, and leading rider, Cristian Torres accepts the assignment. His full brother, Trust Daddy just missed in his debut on the dirt at Laurel last year despite stumbling at the start. He won his second start on the turf and is stakes placed in a turf sprint. He cost 15X the stud fee of Bird Song at the OBS Sales in April 2022, likely in part because of the early success of his brother. Easy Action (#8) is the favorite on the morning line and one to use here. He was a distant second to Loggins in his debut. He came back two months later and finished fourth, beaten by a next out winner, Bromley. I do expect a better effort from him and the fact that many of his rivals have not raced, having experience should be an advantage. If Uncle Reg doesn’t draw in, I’d replace him with Eyeing Clover (#6), making his debut for Brad Cox. He only fetched $55K at auction, which is a little concerning, seeing as how the dam dropped the talented graded stakes winning filly, Heavenhasmynikki. The works are okay and anything coming from the Cox barn deserves respect.
Favorite Bet Today: Late Pick-5, $48 Ticket, ($0.50 Base Wager)
I think this is a ticket where you can get skinny early, and spread late. I think Twirled (#11, R7) is the most likely winner on the program today and worthy of a single in her race. She’ll be a short price, so I’ll be looking for value later on. I like Goldenshuga (#6, R8) and Uncle Reg (#13, R10) quite a bit in the later races. I’ll likely back up with multiple tickets, having them multiple times, especially if Uncle Reg draws in.