Opening day is in the books and Francisco Arrieta was the star of the day, winning the last four races on the card. For the most part, you wanted to be close to the front end in sprint races yesterday. There are some chances for a little bit of overnight rain which could change the complexion of the track today. This is a tough card today, but there are definitely some competitive races worth taking a look at.
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||2||DBL, PK3, PK4|
|6||7||7||10||4||DBL, PK3, PK5|
|7||10||3,10,12||4,8,9||DBL, PK3, PK4|
$20K maiden claimers start the Saturday card. I’m on My Coralena (#6) here. Toss her debacle at Churchill two starts back and her two turn race at Colonial three back, and you’re left with two decent efforts when going one turn. She was caught wide last out at Keeneland, but she was still fighting on while most of the others were going the wrong way. Vance puts blinkers on, which, with her tactical early foot, should help her be in good position down the backstretch. It’s Bitsy Betty (#7) is a candidate to wire this group with the potent combo of Cohen and Diodoro. However, I’m a little weary of the claim and drop gambit here with this one. Candywrapper Crazy (#5) returns off an extended layoff after facing some tough foes with maiden special weight company at the Fair Grounds. I don’t love that she’s in for the tag here, but this will definitely be softer competition than what she saw in New Orleans.
Home Brew (#5) looks very imposing in this optional claiming/allowance race for two year olds at one mile. He debuted for Kelly Breen at Laurel in September with a strong off the pace performance. The second and third place finishers from that race both came back to break their maidens in their subsequent starts. The West’s moved him to Brad Cox, who ran him last month in a N2L allowance at Churchill. He had some traffic issues in the stretch, but kept grinding, coming within less than a length of the winner in that race. He’s bred to be better at longer distances, and I’m expecting him to beat this group today. I’ll cover with Wicked Genius (#2) on some deeper tickets, as unlike my top pick, he is a proven commodity at two turns. He woke up when dropping to maiden claiming company for the first time last month at Churchill. He certainly had the run of the race that day, but I do like the way he drew off from the field that day. Kenny McPeek had a monster weekend last week with his two year olds, so this barn is red hot right now.
This is one of many tough races on this first Saturday card of the season at Oaklawn. Six of the nine horses are coming off layoffs of 60 days or longer and horses are coming in from five different racetracks. Horse for course is an angle that I’m always mindful at Oaklawn, and no one in this field loves this track more than Red Again (#1). He’s won 7 times in 15 tries on this oval, including a 20-1 win last season with optional claiming/starter allowance company. He was unable to overcome a very wide journey in his last race at Delaware. Aaron Shorter gave him a little time off and now brings him back home to face many horses that feel vulnerable in this race. Coal Truth (#8) is another Delaware invader that has a live look in this race. He’s fired a big race off the layoff before, although that was when he was in another barn. He was facing some fields in the Mid-Atlantic region this summer and was a dominating winner at this class level in the slop last year on this oval. Perhaps my Mid-Atlantic bias is showing here, but I think both of these are live in this spot. I’ll cover with the two shorter prices, Hunka Burning Love (#4) and Knight’s Cross (#6), both of whom have ashot, but there are a few concerns as well. Hunka Burning Love has been an exceptional claim for Karl Broberg and End Zone Athletics Inc, winning nine times including several stakes victories. His last few efforts have been far from his best though and it’s fair to wonder if this seven year old gelding is losing a step. That being said, this is significant class relief for this horse, and he’s facing several horses coming off the bench, many who might need a start before they fire their best effort. Knight’s Cross fired a big effort in his first start off the Diodoro claim last out at Churchill. He’s another one that has had success on this track before, winning with $16K claimers last winter. He’s struggled to put two big speed figures back to back though.
Ego (#6) feels like the most consistent runner in this optional claiming/allowance race. He’s coming off a very successful meet at Indiana Grand where he ran nine times, winning three of them and finishing second another five times. He was a winner at this meet last year, albeit at a much lower level than this. He was claimed for $12,500 in April, and he’s proven to have been a very shrewd claim. Indimaaj (#4) was claimed for $40K at Churchill two starts back. He was last of five in a very salty one turn mile allowance there last month. He is getting class relief, while being protected. I like him better at two turns, and I think he’ll improve in his second start for Diodoro. He’s never been worse than second in five starts at this 1 MIle and 1/16 distance. I’m not high of Prodigious Boy (#3) or Defender (#7) as both historically have needed a race off the layoff before running their best. I’m also out on Taishan (#2) in terms of the multi-race sequences. He has solid figures, but seems to have lost his winning edge. He has lost a few races that I think he should have won. I will add Warrior’s Map (#1) on deeper tickets and in the vertical exotics. He’s coming off a big effort at Delta last out. He’s only one for nine on this course, but Broberg seems to have him in good current form. He has shown the ability to put big races back to back as well.
This is a beaten $10K claiming race that I don’t love. The presence of a horse like American Dubai (#12) makes this race complicated. He’s been away since finishing a decent second with Virginia breds on the turf at Colonial Downs in the Edward Evans Stakes. He was claimed for $40K at this meet last year and was good enough when dominating an allowance race here in April that he was entered in the Blame Stakes in May at Churchill, where he finished a very respectable 4th. He comes back three months later in restricted $10K claimer with a $26K purse. He might win this on class alone, so I can’t leave him off the multi-race bets, but I’ll try to beat him in the vertical wagers, and I’ll try a price with Zenucci (#11) at 15-1 on the morning line for Karl Broberg. Broberg has reclaimed this horse twice and now moves him up in class in his second race off the layoff. He ran two turns at Delta last out, but only going 6 and ½ Furlongs. I think he’s better suited for a little longer race, and I expect a better effort in his second start off the freshening. Slick Silver (#4) is one of four cross entered in a similar race with less rivals tomorrow. I suspect he’ll scratch out of this race in favor of that one, but I do think he’s formidable with this group if he does opt to run today. He gets some class relief while returning to a route race after cutting back to a sprint in the slop at Indiana Grand last out. Ike (#8) hasn’t run since July at Ellis Park, but is another one that is capable at this level of competition today. He’s fired well off the bench for Moquett in the past.
The late Pick-5 is a tough sequence today where I think you’ll need coverage in a few legs. I think this starter allowance is the worst place to pare down your ticket. I don’t think anyone can go with Sir Michael (#7) in the early stages of this sprint. Speed was good in the one turn races yesterday, and he’s typically no worse than second after the first quarter. He ran a big race in the slop with open $10K claimers last out at Churchill. He’s now third off the layoff and moving into a protected spot that isn’t very deep for this level of competition. Smart Time (#10) got back to his winning ways last out when racing at the restricted $10K claiming level. He’s clearly had some physical ailments over the years and he doesn’t seem nearly as sharp as he was early in his career. However, I think for him to be entered in a starter allowance race, while being protected from being claimed is a positive sign that John Ortiz thinks he’s going to put forth a strong effort in his third start off the layoff. News Box (#4) is one to think about on deeper tickets and maybe underneath in the exotics. His come from behind style didn’t fare well yesterday on this course, which is something to keep in mind. He’s been popular at the claim box, being taken out of his last three races. His Churchill form was not good, however, he was very sharp in Iowa at Prairie Meadows this summer. He could be a price threat if he can get back to those races.
This maiden special weight contest feels like an absolute spread race to me. You have to love the pedigree for Life on the Nile (#10) who will be my top pick. He’s sired by Pioneerof the Nile out of the Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic (Distaff) winning mare, Life is Sweet. His debut was okay on a muddy course at Delaware, but he seems to be working much better since shipping South. I do think he may want more than the 6 Furlong distance of this race, and he could be even better on a synthetic course as most of the major victories for both sire and dam came at Santa Anita when they had a synthetic main track. That being said, I like the addition of Lasix and think he can build upon his last race. Scotch No Rocks (#12) draws the outside post for his debut for Chris Hartman. His recent drills at Churchill seem to indicate that he’s ready for his first start. Switzer (#3) will likely be short odds, but is the one to beat after running a close up fourth in a contentious maiden special weight race at Keeneland. The third place finisher, Classic Moment came back to win in his next start, and the runner up, OP Firecracker, broke his maiden last week at two turns. Switzer is by Maclean’s Music, so there’s reason to believe that he’ll do his best work at one turn and he should benefit from having that race under his belt. On deeper tickets, I’ll look for added coverage and use Matts Fire N Nice (#8) coming in from Delta after a pair of nice efforts with maiden special weight company there at five furlongs. He goes longer today in his third start and he does boast the highest Beyer figure in the field to date. Pressure (#9) was dull in the mud in his debut at Churchill for Asmussen last month, but he’s certainly eligible to improve while adding Lasix for his second career start. He’s second choice at 4-1, which feels light for me in this field, so better value may lie elsewhere, but he’s not without a shot. Slim Man (#4) is 8-1 on the morning line for Brad Cox and Florent Geroux. It’ll be interesting to see if that number comes down any based on connections alone. We saw Cox run another horse yesterday that had been primarily working at Turfway prior to shipping here (that one finished 6th behind a much the best winner). He definitely brings his better stock to Oaklawn and tends to run his second tier dirt horses at the Fair Grounds this time of year. He may be better next out, but he’s another one that I’d try to cover if it could be afforded.
There are some pretty tricky horses to figure out, but ultimately, I’m riding with the most consistent horse with hot connections that got off to a strong start yesterday. Edge to Edge (#4) was third at this level on closing day on this course in May. With the exception of his two races at Ellis, he was very solid in Kentucky over the summer and fall. He’s been off a little more than two months and gets the services of Francisco Arrieta, who swept the late Pick-4 yesterday. One of those four wins was for trainer Chris Hartman, who is the conditioner for this one. On deeper plays, Lamutanaaty (#5) could be any kind. He was a winner in his lone start with maiden special weight company last winter at Gulfstream. He was racing for Chad Brown then. Since then, he’s been moved to the Ronald Moquett barn for owner Louis Cella. I’m not sure if this was a private purchase, as this one was originally purchased for $700K in 2019. I don’t love the work pattern though for him. Maybe there will be clues on the tote, and he’s certainly capable of winning this race, but I’ll be cautious with how I use him. Navy Seal (#6) is a little interesting after coming out of a big effort when getting back on dirt at Hawthorne last out. That was the first race he ran on dirt with Lasix, so there’s reason to believe that he could duplicate that big improvement from his dirt form in the spring.
Race 9: The $150K Mistletoe Stakes
There are many chances in this stakes route for three year old fillies. I think the filly with the most upside in here is Mariah’s Princess (#8). She’s a $350K purchase that has had to stop and start a few times in her young career. Her only race here wasn’t very good, but it came on a very sloppy course in the Dixie Belle back in February. Her last start at Churchill was an impressive win at 7 Furlongs on the main track, where she took off in the stretch to win by over six lengths. Two turns will definitely be a question mark for this daughter of Ghostzapper, however, she should be able to create a good trip Amendment Nineteen (#9) is one of two live runners that Brad Cox is slated to send out in this stakes contest. She’s been on the board in all five career tries, running third in the Grade 3 Remington Park Oaks two back. The winner and runner up of that race ran one two in the Zia Park Oaks a week and a half ago. She’s third off the layoff and coming in off a one turn mile score with allowance foes at Churchill. Marion Francis (#1) is the other Cox, who isn’t as flashy, but she’s a hard trier that should sit a very good trip from her rail draw. She won last out in an allowance at Keeneland which was a little slow. She was competitive in stakes races at Parx and Indiana Grand prior to that effort. Lovely Ride (#10) beat Marion Francis two back when winning the Cathryn Sophia Stakes at Parx, but she misfired in her subsequent start in the Remington Park Oaks. She’ll need to workout a trip from her wide draw, but if she’s able to catch a flyer and draw clear early, she might be able to keep finding.
Forsaken (#13) will need some help to get in the body of the field, but I think he’s a major player if he does get to compete today. If he does draw in, he’ll be making his first start since joining the Hartman barn. He was very good last year debuting in an off the turf maiden special weight race at the Fair Grounds, beaten by a nice Godolphin colt that day (Gershwin). He came here and ran a distant third at this level when facing a much tougher group that he finds here. He tried the turf last out and was a nonfactor with open maiden special weight foes at Churchill back in June. Arrieta is scheduled to get the mount on this one that is unlikely to be 20-1 (ML) if he does run. Bellamys Roan (#1) with speed along the rail would become the top choice if Forsaken is scratched. He was strong on debut last year, so he can fire fresh. He’s been away since May, but was a solid second at this level on closing day in May. You Vee Cee (#6) joins the Carl Deville barn after finishing a distant third in his debut with open maiden special weight foes at Delta in his debut. Florent Geroux taking the mount is a positive sign. Big Success (#10) is another second time starter, coming here while dropping in class from open maiden special weight to state bred maiden special weight company. He was slow into stride in that race, but he was moving well late.
Favorite Bet Today:
I like the Late Pick-4 sequence today, although, how I specifically play the sequence will depend on what happens with Forsaken in the nightcap. I would be comfortable using Edge to Edge as a single in the 8th race. I’ll post a ticket tomorrow on Twitter after scratches are out.