There are a few trends worth noting in the first two days of racing at Oaklawn that are worth paying attention to. One race in the first 19 was won by a closer (Botswana, Race 6 on Friday, which may be a performance worth upgrading). The other 18 races were all won by horses either on the lead or within two lengths of the leader at the first call. There are some shorter priced horses today that like to run from off the pace, so that trend will be tested. Another trend is that horses that last competed in Kentucky, have won 14 of the first 19 races. I’ll be watching early again to see if these trends continue on this nine race card this afternoon.
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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|5||10||9,10||8||DBL, PK3, PK5|
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$10K Arkansas maiden claimers start the Sunday program. For the first two days of the meet, on or near the front end has been the place to be. Lou’s Arrow (#3) is a bit of a price that might have some upside in this spot. His first two career races at this level on this course at Oaklawn weren’t terrible. He was overmatched at two turns in his last start , which came in April. He’s been working well and Martin adds blinkers, which may serve him well in his return to the races. I’ll back up with the shorter prices, Slightly Crafty (#1), Holding Pattern (#5), and Roll Dinero Roll (#8). All three are live, but there’s definitely question marks for all three. Slightly Crafty is coupled with Braska (#1A), who doesn’t look fast enough. However, Slightly Crafty ran races that would get him close at this level last season. He might be better on the grass, which isn’t an option here, but this is only place where can run against fellow Arky breds. Holding Pattern is coming off a very sharp race at Hawthorne, and probably would be my top pick if he had a little more tactical speed. He closed well from last in Illinois, but horses like that have struggled on this surface thus far. Roll Dinero Roll has good speed and the outside draw is favorable. However, trainer Genaro Garcia is 0-20 with horses in their first races off long layoffs since 2020. That’s a tough stat to swallow for a favorite here.
The early pick-4 starts with a $40K starter allowance at a mile for fillies and mares, three year olds and up. Five of the six starters in here are recent claims, so most of these ladies are well regarded by their connections since they’re entered in a protected race. This race runs through Trumpet Lilly (#3), coming off a dominating performance with $40K claimers in the mud at Churchill last month. Although both Guana Cay (#1) and Right Trappe (#2) to her inside, want to be forwardly placed, I think she’s faster, and Cabrera will have this daughter of Carpe Diem on the lead here. She ran some very good races with tougher fields on this course last season. I think she’ll keep it going here. Italian Twin (#4) might offer some value on deeper tickets in this race, making her first start since being claimed by Ingrid Mason in October at Keeneland. She was a heavy favorite with a small field of $30K N2L claimers when she blew the turn and lost all chance that day. She was in control of that prior to that mishap and she ran a nice race at 9 Furlongs on the dirt in an off the turf race at Saratoga three back. Gonzalez will need to work out a trip, as there’s definitely speed to her inside, but I think she could be a sneaky play in this spot.
This $30K maiden claimer feels like a definite spread race to me. As I mentioned above, Kentucky shippers have absolutely dominated the first two days of racing, winning 14 of the first 19 races. Bourbon Delight (#8) was last seen at Churchill, running in a two turn race at this $30K maiden claiming level. He wanted no parts of the extra distance that day as he struggled to relax, before fading to 9th. His sprint race prior to that wasn’t great, but he showed a little more that day. The blinkers come off here and the cut back in distance while facing a dull group could help light up the tote board with this one. I expect him to go off at odds longer than his 10-1 morning line, which is where they’ll need to be for me to play him. Drifter (#3) is likely the one to beat, coming in from a five furlong dash at Delta last out, He couldn’t make the lead that day, but I do expect him to be forwardly placed while stretching out to six panels here. Florent Groux had a pair of winners at the meet thus far, but he’s riding well and putting his horses in good spots. He’ll get the call for the first time aboard him today. Rowley’s Dream (#4) met a rocket last out with maiden special weight foes when going two turns at Indiana Grand last out. He was more competitive when sprinting two back and he certainly figures here. Side Bet (#7) has been gelded since his last start at Churchill, where nothing seemed to go his way. I could give him another shot here hoping for a better trip. Peaceful Street (#9) is a short price on debut for Asmussen, who has three winners on the first two days of racing. His record is not great with horses debuting at the maiden claiming level though. I’ll look tgo beat him at 3-1 and back up on some deeper tickets.
Several horses scratched out of a similar race yesterday in favor in this restricted $10K claimer today. I made a case for Slick Silver (#4) yesterday and I think he’s got a better shot with this group today. He stretches back out after sprinting in the slop at Indiana Grand last out. He’s making his third start of the Holthus claim and looks to be able to control the pace in this race today. Paul the Waiter (#6) is part of a contingent of horses that Wayne Potts has brought down South from the mid-Atlantic region. He’s been fairly consistent and has run two solid races since Potts claimed him at Monmouth in August. His last race was at Belmont was when facing a good group of open $10K going a one turn mile. He’s been more effective at two turns and he’s getting class relief for his local debut. Major Attraction (#1) is the 5-2 favorite on the morning line. He’s very consistent, running a mid-to high 60’s Beyer figure in his last five races. He is second off the layoff, but I think others might offer better value here, as he doesn’t have a very high ceiling. He’s more of a backup and underneath type to me.
I don’t have too many creative thoughts for this $40K maiden claiming race for two year old fillies. I think the two favorites are likely to decide this, and I’ll give the advantage to Warrior’s Battle (#10) for the potent combination of Brad Cox and Florent Geroux. She made the lead in her debut on the dirt, before backing up to be third with maiden allowance foes at Indiana Grand. She was five wide when sprinting on the grass in her next start. She’s had a little time off and drops in for a tag against a weak field for the condition. Ain’t She A Pistol (#9) is the filly she’ll have to run down. She comes in after making the lead and fading in her last two starts with maiden special weight fillies at Charles Town and Delaware. She is also making her first start for a tag, and apprentice rider John Hiraldo has followed her to Arkansas. Perhaps a longshot to keep an eye on is first time starter, Rowdy Daisy (#8). Her trainer, Kenny Smith, won the opener yesterday. Her works are okay, and there aren’t any world beaters in this race. She may be worth a small win bet or an inclusion underneath.
I like Ravens Reflection (#6) quite a bit in this time restricted $10K claimer. He’s been on the bench since a 5th place finish with starter allowance company at Prairie Meadows. He’s been working well in the AM for his return and he was very good in a similar spot here last season. I think he’s the fastest early in this race and I think they’ll be struggling to catch him late. If he does falter, perhaps the one that will sit the right stalking trip will be Dr. Forman (#9) cutting back in distance and dropping in class from optional claiming/starter allowance company. He’s hit the board in five straight, so he’s in better form than many of his rivals here. He’s been on the lead in his last two routes, but tends to stalk the pace when sprinting. He can certainly handle an off track, but if the storms hold off, he’ll be on a fast track for the first time since July, which is where he’s done most of his damage in his career.
Two year old racing continues to be prominent in this new December meet at Oaklawn. I think Rewire (#8) is the one to beat in this race. He’s started twice in restricted maiden special weight races for horses that sold or RNA for $45K or less. Despite the restrictions, those races have been very competitive, with several next out winners coming out of them. He has experience at this distance, which most of them do not have. I think he sits the right trip and graduates today. Oiler (#2) improved in his second start for Asmussen when stretching out to the one turn mile with maiden allowance foes at Churchill. He gets Lasix for his first test at two turns. Seal Beach (#6) is the morning line favorite for Mike Maker. He tried the Grade 1 Breeders Futurity at Keeneland two starts back, where he was hopelessly overmatched. He ran okay at one turn, when going a mile last out with maiden special weight foes at Churchill. He looked like he was going to blow by in that race, but levelled off. I don’t care for him as the favorite here, but I’ll cover him on some deeper plays as insurance.
Most of the horses I’ve been picking have been early speed types, but if the feature could be ripe for a pace meltdown, so I’m going to roll the dice with Manhattan Up (#8) to roll by them all late. He won the Los Alamitos Special two starts back going to turns. Diodoro brings him here and cuts him back to a sprint for the first time in a while. He’s never been off the board in four tries at this distance though, winning twice. I’d be more confident if another horse or two proves they can win from off the pace earlier on in the card, but I still think he’s interesting here. Cowan (#3) will be the one to beat, coming in from Churchill after running a pair of sharp races in allowance company. He was caught in the final strides last out, and he might be better at slightly longer distances. However, he should be very tough in here. Chipofftheoldblock (#6) might get the run of the race here, sitting right off the early leaders before making his run. I thought he was up against it when facing Spa City in the Salute to Heroes Stakes at Indiana Grand on closing day, mainly because two turn racing is not his game. He’s won 5 of 10 career tries at this distance and finished 4th another 4 times. While he’s never won here, he ran two very sharp races on this oval last season. I think he’ll rebound nicely and be a factor in today’s feature race.
Several of these Arkansas breds are making their first start in several months in this optional $40K/N2Y allowance. The Mary Rose (#2) last raced in October at Indiana Grand, finishing third in an open optional claiming/N1X allowance race. She was a state Bred stakes winner at this meet last year, and is definitely the one to beat on an off track, if storms do roll through the area. I think she’ll be driving hard late in this one. Heated Argument (#10) makes her first start since April today. Her best race came in the slop in her debut, so there’s reason to believe she can fire fresh. Elvin Gonzalez will try to get her to ration her early speed today in her return. She’s been competitive in all three starts, so I feel she is dangerous today. Both Euro Me (#7) and Kaboom Baby (#9) like to come from behind, which has been a difficult task over the first two days. Only one horse that was more than two lengths off the lead came home a winner in the first nineteen races. Most winners were either first or second at the first call. That does not bode well for this duo here as win candidates, but they both fit on figures and have run solid races with similar in the past. Both are worth covering on deeper tickets, but their best shot might be on another day.
Favorite Bet Today:
Late Pick-5, Race 5: I do like the late multi-race sequences today as I think Rewire (R7, #8) is a solid single in a race where I think he’ll be one of the favorites, but not necessarily the post time favorite. I think there’s some vulnerable favorites in some of the other legs, which could trigger a solid payout here. Before scratches, this is the way I see my main ticket, which is an All A/B ticket that is a $24 play for a $0.50 base wager.
Race 5: 9,10
Race 6: 6,9
Race 7: 8
Race 8: 3,6,8
Race 9: 2,7,9.10