The week of racing at Oaklawn Park gets underway with a nine race program .The featured race this afternoon is a N1X allowance contest for four year olds and upward. Barber Road makes his third start of the meet and looks to clear this condition after finishing on the board in all of the major three year old stakes at this meet last season. He’s the morning line favorite in a contentious field of ten. First post for is the usual 12:30 (CT) time, with the feature race going off at 4:10 (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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|2||1||1,3||7,8||DBL, PK3, PK4|
|5||1||1,8||3||7||DBL, PK3, PK5|
|6||3||3,6,8||9||DBL, PK3, PK4|
This conditioned $7,500 claimer feels like a bit of a crapshoot as the current form for the majority of these is not good. Further complicating the matter, four of the seven that are entered will be going 1 mile and ⅛ for the first time. Make Noise (#4) was away slow with open $6,250 claimers and was never involved. He was claimed for the third straight time, and now goes for Robert Cline.His horses have struggled at this meet, but his numbers first time off the claim aren’t bad. I do feel this horse is better at longer one turn races, but he has run well enough in two turn routes for me to use him in this spot at longer odds. I wrote about the lack of turf options for a horse like Cash Rocket (#1) when he shipped here from Laurel in December. He was an open length winner two starts back when going this distance on the grass in Maryland. Chelsey Moysey shipped him here where he was claimed for $10K last out, in a race where he was absolutely empty. He has dirt races at the beginning of 2022 that would make him very competitive with this group if his new trainer, Cipriano Contreras can get the best out of him.
There’s an even money favorite with an 0-15 record that we’ll have to navigate in this $10K maiden claiming contest for fillies and mares. Keen Contender (#8) drops in class off the Diodoro claim in hopes of getting that elusive first victory. From a speed figure perspective, she’s consistently better than most in this field. She was a game third two starts ago with $20K maiden claimers. However, in addition to taking even money on a horse like this, the leading trainer (Diodoro) and rider (Torres) at the meet are on a cold streak over the last few weeks. Torres has just one win in his last 52 starts and Diodoro has just one win with his last 26 starters. That will be a stat worth watching this week, and another reason to use her as a saver and make Mrs. Macomber (#1) the top pick here. She’s a Gun Runner filly that didn’t get close to recouping the stud fee at auction. She debuted for Ken McPeek in maiden allowance company at Saratoga this summer, where she was soundly beaten. She came back to go one mile in an off the turf maiden special weight race at Horseshoe Indianapolis. Since then, she’s been privately purchased and moved to Jonas Gibson’s barn. This feels like a much more manageable start for her first start since September. At 15-1, I’d be willing to take a chance with her in this spot. Lunch Lady (#3) made her first start off a seven month layoff last month with $16K maiden claimers, falling short in the final stages. She should be more fit off that race and gets a rider upgrade to Rafael Bejarano. She appears to be controlling speed here and makes a lot of sense as a lightly raced runner with some upside. Sheza Cat (#7)is another lightly raced longshot that might have a little upside in this race. That was a very good maiden field that she met in her debut, where she didn’t break well. She was slow into stride again last out when going a mile with maiden special weight types. This is a significant drop in class, so at 20-1 (ML), I’d be inclined to at least use her underneath in the vertical exotics.
While the drop in class from $30K-$25K N2L claiming to this $12,500-$10,000 N2L claiming race feels overly aggressive, it’s hard to ignore that Sisaway Now (#1) really likes racing at Oaklawn and is probably the best horse in the race. He was a shocking 45-1 winner in his debut here back in March. Robertson brought him to Keeneland where he finished last of 12 at long odds in a N2L allowance race won by a monster longshot. His three other races were okay, but not spectacular. He came back here and was a decent third with better runners last time out. This barn started off slow, but got their first few wins of the meet last week. I don’t love the price and my only hope for value is that the public will hammer the Diodoro runner, Cole Spur (#9), who I’m going to try to beat. I’m interested in both G T Three Fifty (#2) and Uptown Hustler (#10)as longshot considerations on deeper tickets here. G T Three Fifty was a maiden breaker in a slow one mile race at Belterra two starts ago, back in September. He came here and faced better last out, finishing 6th in his first start in nearly four months. He improved from start one to start two on this course last season, so I could see him taking a step forward at this level in his second start off a break. Uptown Hustler will make the third start of his current form cycle today. His maiden score back in October at Keeneland with maiden claimers was sharp. In fact, that kind of effort would likely equate to a multi-length victory with this group. However, we haven’t seen anything close to that race in his last three starts. Isaac Castillo sticks around, so my hope is that he can get him to rebound off that last effort.
This is another maiden race with a favorite with a long losing streak. Plausible Denile (#5) is listed 8-5 and maybe today will be his day, however, even in his in the money finishes against similar maiden special weight fields, he’s never looked like a winner. I’ll try to beat him here, making Royal King (#1) the top pick. He finished about two lengths behind the favorite last out, when making his first start in nearly a year. His dam was a talented Pennsylvania bred that was a stakes winner on turf and Tapeta as well as a multiple winner on dirt. He might be better when he stretches out to two turns, but I think he can move forward while handling this six furlong trip just fine. Trainer McLean Roberston sends out him along with Runaway Jack (#2), who I also see as a live runner in this race. He debuted at this level at Hawthorne at the end of December, finishing second after a dull break. There’s reason to believe that he could find a better effort in his second career try. Tulsan (#7) is a full brother to Maximus Mischief, who looked like a horse that had some serious Kentucky Derby aspirations until an injury derailed his racing career after a third place finish in the Holy Bull Stakes. He was a dominant winner in his first three starts. Tulsan’s works aren’t necessarily jumping off the page, and it remains to be seen if this three year old colt is as physically imposing as his brother was, but the family history is there. On deeper tickets, Bolzy (#8) is worth a look. Donnie Von Hemel doesn’t have great numbers with first time starters, so he might be one to tab for his next start. He’s a half to stakes winner, She’s All Wolfe and the dam was a graded stakes winner on the main track, as well as a stakes winner on turf. Gun Runner is by far the best sire to be bred to the mare, She’s All In yet. I think she’ll improve at two turns, but she could certainly compete with this group if she’s fit enough.
Open $30K-$25K claimers sprint six furlongs here. Devil’s Tower (#1) has been a different horse when racing on this oval in his career, winning four of eight starts on this oval. He was on a roll here last season, winning all four of those races during that span. His last few starts have not been up to par by his standards, but he is second off the layoff and dropping in class for Chris Hartman, who has had a tremendous meet. I think he represents some solid value at 8-1 on the morning line. The morning line choice is Tapit’s Spirit (#8), dropping in class after a strong effort last out with allowance company when he finished a close up 7th. He’s been off the board in his first two starts on this course, but those races came against better. Matt Shirer has brought several live runners to this meet, finishing in the money with 10 of 12 starters so far with four of them getting their picture taken. Dilettante (#3) ships in from Canada for Norman McKnight. He’s been a consistent runner throughout his career, winning 15 of 59 races, and hitting the board in over 50% of his career tries. Unlike many of the McKnight horses that we’ve seen at this meet, he’s a proven commodity when racing on the dirt, On deeper plays, Emerald Express (#7) could be worth a flyer if he’s overlooked in the wagering. He’s been installed at 15-1 on the morning line after a dull effort in a two turn allowance race here last month. Six furlongs might be his best distance, so if you believe that he can rebound, the price should be right.
I see this as a fairly evenly matched field of $20K maiden claiming three year olds going one mile. Both Pier Pressure (#3) and Eight Straight (#8) met last month in a $50K-$45K maiden claiming race, where both drew outside posts and both had miserably wide trips. Pier Pressure has been stuck on the outside in both of his career starts, both in two turn races. He gets significant post relief for his third try, while also dropping in class. At 12-1 on the morning line, he feels like he could offer better value than the morning line favorite, Eight Straight. He was about four lengths better than Pier Pressure last out when he drew the unlucky post 12. He’s drawn a little better for this one mile race today. He showed some early interest two back, and his Churchill form would likely get him very close with this group. Commander Rex (#6) is another one that has struggled with better runners, losing all three career starts by double digit lengths. This feels like a more appropriate level for this son of Empire Maker. On deeper tickets, Diodoro and Torres will team up to send out Gone Again (#9) for his career debut. He was a $27K purchase, so debuting for the $20K tag suggests that he hasn’t blown anyone away in the mornings. He’s had a mix of four and five furlong drills, of varying consistency. His four furlong workout two weeks ago was fairly sharp, so perhaps he could be ridden aggressively in a race that lacks significant early speed.
I think this $40K-$35K N3L claiming contest will be on the chalky side. Prodigious Bay (#6) went off form for a few races, but it appears that he is back on the right path after a strong effort last month against a decent field of $50K N3X claimers. Look for him to go to the front early and be difficult to catch late. He saves his better efforts for this course and I’m thinking he can duplicate his race last time out. Brooklyn Diamonds (#4) has the least experience of any of the nine runners in this race, and he’s running above his eligible condition, as he could be running in N2L company. This is his first start for a tag since breaking his maiden with $75K maiden claimers on debut on this course last year. He was no match for the allowance types that are running in the next race, but he makes a lot of sense at this level.
Barber Road (#5) is the headliner in this featured N1X allowance contest, however, I see him as vulnerable in this race. He likes to come from off the pace, and there’s not much speed to set the table for him. He hasn’t shown that he can be as effective as he was last year when running in stakes company throughout this meet. I’ll be trying to beat him here, using Jerry Hollendorfer’s Efficiency (#9) on top. He showed a lot of promise in his first two starts in New York last year, while he was running for Chad Brown. He struggled at Saratoga in July and failed to hit the board when trying the turf for the first time in September at Monmouth. He was privately purchased after that start and made his first start for Hollendorfer in a sprint last month. He was third behind a runaway winner that day, but two turns is what he wants to do. There isn’t much speed signed on, at least on paper, so I think he can work out a decent trip in spite of his wide draw. Tonka Warrior (#7) has two strong efforts at this level at this meet already, finishing third two back, and then second a few weeks back. He nearly overcame breaking from post 12 that afternoon, so breaking from post seven today should be a little easier. He’s never finished off the board on the main track and he’s been in the money in eight straight races. B Sudd (#1) might be better suited for underneath in the vertical exotics, however, he’ll be making his second two turn start after a strong effort last time out when doing that for the first time. This is a sharper field that he saw that day, but I can see him taking another step forward, especially while drawing the rail post here.
$50K-$45K maiden claiming fillies close the afternoon. This is a wide open contest with several possibilities, so I see this as a spread race. I’m Beth Dutton (#3) appears to be set to make her local and seasonal debut after scratching twice earlier in the meet. She showed some zip in a maiden special weight race at Emerald in June. She was steadied in that race, but she continued to try, battling gamely to be third. This seems like a reasonable spot for her to jump out to the lead and play catch me if you can. Unsung Melody (#10) is cross-entered in a maiden special weight race tomorrow after finishing 6th in her debut at the Fair Grounds. She was a bit green and she was tired late. That was a deeper field and John Ortiz has solid numbers with second time starters. She probably has a better shit in this race if she goes. She Be Sheehan (#9) is a Shaman Ghost first time starter for John Prather. Horses sired by Shaman Ghost have not been good in their first starts, so taking 20-1 or better on this filly feels fair. The works are good though and Prather is capable of getting a longshot to pop on debut. On deeper tickets, Peter Miller drops Candy Caramel (#5) in class after a dull effort with maiden allowance types in her local debut. She had five straight turf tries before coming here to run on the dirt. Her last race stacks up with the likes of these, but taking a short price on her in a spot like this is not something I’d be crazy about doing.
Meet Statistics: Top Pick 47/213 (22.1%), $352.20 $1.65 ROI