After a lost weekend due to a winter storm and the very cold temperatures that followed, this is the first day of racing in the month of February at Oaklawn. The three days of racing that were lost will be made up on three Thursdays in March (3/17, 3/24, and 3/31). This nine race program is highlighted by an optional claiming/allowance race at two turns for three year olds in the 8th race.
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||3||DBL, PK3, PK4|
|5||10||2,4,10||DBL, PK3, PK5|
|6||10||7,10||DBL, PK3, PK4|
The opener is a brutally tough $50K maiden claimer for three year olds going six furlongs. There’s some first time starters that look live, a pair of southern California shippers, some class droppers, and some horses cutting back to a sprint from two turns. There’s plenty of ways to go in here, so coverage is going to be important. I ended up making Little Frappucino (#9) my top pick after returning to maiden claiming company and shortening in distance. His debut in the mud here back in December was decent when finishing second to Peaceful Street, who was a next out winner in starter allowance company. His effort was good enough to take a swing with maiden special weight foes at one mile last out, where he was a dreadful last place finisher. I’m expecting a better effort today. Public Record (#6) is a first time starter for Steve Asmussen sired by Declassify, whose stud fee is only $2K. He sold at auction for $50K, which was a nice ROI for the breeder, and it shows that he might have some ability. His works at Louisiana Downs have been solid and Joel Rosario taking the mount in this spot certainly can’t be a bad thing. El Potente (#1) will likely draw some interest from the betting public in this spot after a decent 4th place finish at this level at Del Mar in November. He’s been working over the local oval since December and gets Lasix for his first start as a three year old. Humero d’Oro (#7) is another first time starter that has some solid drills. He’s one of two interesting runners that will be saddled by Rodolphe Brisset on this program. He may want to go a little longer than the six furlongs of this race, but I’d give him a look in this spot. On deeper tickets, Aristocat (#8) cuts back to a sprint at a more appropriate class level for him. His debut with $40K maiden claimers at Churchill was solid. He met a very tough field in his second start when trying maiden special weight company there. He shipped here and was claimed by Timothy Martin for $40K in a race at two turns in some bad weather on a sloppy course. I’m willing to draw a line through that effort, while hoping to get better than his 15-1 morning line odds in this spot today.
All but one of the nine entered in this open $40K-$35K claiming sprint for three year olds are taking a drop in class to be here. While three year old claimers aren’t the most reliable bunch, I don’t think there’s really a need to get cute here. Swift Tap (#5) is the logical favorite, dropping into the claiming ranks for the first time. He’s a solid horse, but it’s going to be hard for him to win allowance races at this meet, thus justifying the drop in class. He was a respectable 5th last out behind a nice horse (American Xperiment). He continues to improve and should sit the right trip with this group today. I’ll look to Aquitiana Arrival (#3) as a saver for this race. His last two have not been good, but he did catch wet tracks against sharper rivals in both starts. He cuts back to a sprint today and should be running under ideal conditions. His debut and his second place in the Zia Park Juvenile Stakes tell me that he has some ability. Rosario taking the mount for the first time is also a plus.
There’s an overflow field set to go one mile in this $10K N2L claiming contest. I think Seaside Boy (#8) is very interesting here. He was claimed two back for $30K at Churchill by Jason Barkley in November. I didn’t like seeing him make his next start at this level last month, while also cutting back to a sprint. He was a toss for me that day when facing a horse named Wobberjod, who dominated that race in a very fast time for this condition. That horse would go on to win with starter allowance company two weeks ago. I thought Seaside Boy ran a sneaky good race that day, having a lot of traffic issues while at the back of the field, but gobbling up ground late to be third. He was claimed out of that race for Danele Durham, who had three winners with 46 starters in 2021. However, one of those wins was with a $76 winner stretching out from a sprint to a route, which is what I believe this gelded son of Munnings wants to do. I’m hoping to get better than the 5-1 morning line odds on him because of his relatively unknown connections, which would make him very enticing to me. Windy Nations (#14) is a New York bred that resurfaced here last month after not racing for almost a full year. He was running as a longshot in age restricted New York bred stakes races at the end of 2020 and at the beginning of 2021, so it was a little surprising that Maker brought him here to run at this level. He didn’t well in the Wobberjod race, but I think he’ll be more fit for this race. I like him on the stretch out today to improve. He’ll need scratches to get in, and he’ll have to overcome a wide post, but I do think he’s got a shot. Southerner (#9) will certainly attract some attention at the windows running with Rosario riding for Asmussen. He was claimed for $30K when breaking his maiden three starts ago. His two starts for Asmussen have been disappointing, but he met some strong winners in both races which were fast for their respective conditions. He drops to $10K, which isn’t ideal, but I think he does fit well with this group. Graves Mill Road (#10) was a solid second at this condition when making his first start since August at Canterbury. He’s hit the board in his last four starts, which is a level of consistency that is not normally seen at this level. He’ll have to overcome the wide draw, but he certainly makes sense. Strike a Beat (#4) is also dropping in class while making his second career start over this oval. Most of his work has come at Woodbine on turf or synthetic, but he seems to run the same race on every surface. He may be able to improve a bit in here, where he also feels like a logical contender.
This feels like another race where a short priced favorite should have an edge. All In Sync (#3) took a decent amount of money at the windows in the Smarty Jones Stakes last month, when stretching out to two turns for the first time in his career. He faded that day in the slop when pressing a hot pace for the distance. Prior to that, he was sharp in Kentucky in a pair of maiden special weight races, breaking his maiden while beating a solid, 12 horse field in the slop at Churchill. Lasix is added for the first time, which has been a solid angle for Asmussen’s horses. There is a good amount of early speed in here, so Buckingham Prince (#2) is interesting to me. After being primarily a frontrunner, he showed a new dimension last out when rallying from off the pace to graduate from the maiden ranks in his 5th career try. I’m not sure that tactic was by design as he didn’t have the cleanest of starts. However, he showed that he was comfortable making ground late. He was passed on the outside in mid-stretch but was very game in fighting back to earn the win. I don’t like the 3-1 morning line price because this is a big class jump and he’s facing some horses coming out of live races. However, I do think his odds could float up, hopefully creating some value. Both Back to Normal (#6) and Pressure (#7) are exiting a common race where they finished 4th and 3rd respectively. They both want to be forwardly placed in this spot, and when the temperatures were warmer at the start of the meet, front end speed was strong. With a warmer forecast this week, that’s a trend to keep an eye on in the early races on the program. I slightly prefer Back to Normal, as I think Pressure was aided by an easier trip last out. However, there’s not much separation between the two, and I’d use both on deeper plays.
I’m willing to draw a line through the most recent race from Beer Chaser (#10) when running against $50K-$45K N2L claimers back on January 8th. It was a rainy and foggy day, and he looked to be struggling to get his footing over the wet-fast course. He typically has some decent early foot, but he was taken out of his game that day. He comes back and drops to the $30K-$25K N2L claiming level today in his second race off the layoff for Doug Anderson. He was a good second to One Fast Cat two back at Keeneland, who ran a big race here earlier in the meet with starter allowance company. Ernie Banker (#4) just missed at this level last out, while closing hard to come up a neck short of his second victory. He’s been on the wrong side of a photo in his last two races and now makes his second start over the local oval. He figures to get a decent pace to close into again. Salado (#2) faces winners for the first time after a dominating score with $40K maiden claiming company last month. He makes his third start off the layoff and may be the quickest from the gate in this field.
The late Pick-4 starts here with a state bred maiden special weight race. I’m hoping the 30-1 morning line might deter some people from playing Twentytwentyredo (#10) here, because I do think she has a decent shot. She’s raced twice and had two pretty miserable trips. She was pretty much wiped out at the break in her debut, falling almost twenty lengths off the pace at first call. She did finish with interest that day, making up some significant ground, finishing about right lengths behind the winner. She faced the boys two weeks ago, and drew the rail in a full field. She was away a bit slow, but was able to show some tactical speed, sitting just off the leaders. She tried to advance through along the rail but was checked hard, and subsequently fell back. She wheels back here and faces an easier group. I think going from the inside stall to the outside one is a definite plus for her. For me, she’s shown enough to take a chance on here at long odds. Pattern Bet (#7) is the logical alternative as the morning line favorite. She was away a little slow in her debut (the same race where Twentytwentyredo debuted). She was moving well late and just missed on the wire. She certainly could improve with a better trip here.
This $30K-$25K N2L claimer is a definite spread race to me. I ended up making Itsy Bitsy Betty (#9) my lukewarm top pick. The angle that sold me for this five year old mare is the Diodoro claim back. She’s only had five career starts after making it to the races for the first time in the middle of her four year old campaign. She dropped to maiden claiming company in her second career start, and has been popular at the claim box ever since. Diodoro claimed her at Keeneland and lost her on opening week here. She won for Asmussen at the $20K maiden claiming level last time and now starts against winners for the first time today. She’s been competitive in all four starts when running for a tag, so I feel she’ll be able to handle the jump in class. I think Little Bird Flash (#12) has some upset potential at long odds here. She made her first start off a six month layoff last month and was pretty much done in at the break, stumbling and spotting the field a few lengths early on. She ran a much improved race in her second race off the layoff in Ohio this summer, and I think the wide draw will be helpful for her in this race. I’ll take a swing at odds of 20-1 (ML) or higher. Super Wonder Girl (#7) was a tough trip third when dropping to this level last out. She certainly is eligible to improve off that race with a better trip. I don’t love the middle post for her though, as she was shuffled back last out. She has shown more tactical speed in the past and Hiraldo can employ that, I think she can definitely be a factor at this level. Megan’s Clara (#6) definitely fits from a speed figure perspective. She broke her maiden two back with $30K maiden claimers. She ran a credible 4th last out when facing allowance company at two turns. I am a little concerned about the two months off and the gaps in her works, however, it’s not a total deal breaker for me.
The feature race today is an optional claiming/allowance for three year olds at two turns. When I joined Spencer Luginbuhl on Redboard Rewind a few weeks ago, one of the things we discussed as a challenge with handicapping Oaklawn is how different their condition book is compared to most North American tracks, and this race is an example of that. Every three year old in this race qualifies under the N1X condition, however the way the condition is written, that is not always the case. I’ve found it helpful to try to take note of which allowance races come up stronger than an average N1X or N2X allowance race and which ones maybe a little weaker, but for my notes moving forward, I’m essentially slotting this race as a N1X. There are some horses exiting stakes company here, and the class relief will be noticeable. I like Ruggs (#7) a decent amount in this spot. He broke his maiden on debut three starts ago at Remington. He came back three weeks later in the Advent Stakes at 6 furlongs on opening day here and he ran a respectable 4th that day. He tried the Smarty Jones Stakes on New Year’s Day and he was a part of a hot early pace, that ultimately fell apart. He faded to 8th that afternoon in his first start around two turns. He gets Lasix again, which he could not use in the Smarty Jones as that is the case with Derby Points races, and Moquett takes the blinkers off for his second two turn journey. His dam did her best work when sprinting, but he’s sired by Gun Runner, so I do believe that the 1 Mile and 1/16 will be within his range. I think he’ll be able to take a step forward in this spot today. Barossa (#4) is one of several expensive horses owned by the conglomerate of SF Racing LLC, Starlight Racing, and Madaket Stables. He was trained for his first five starts by Bob Baffert. He broke his maiden in his third career start with a strong effort in a one mile race at Santa Anita. That effort was good enough for him to take a shot in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile three weeks later at Del Mar where he finished up the track. Baffer brought him back in December in the Grade 2 Los Alamitos Futurity where he finished third, a long way behind Slow Down Andy and stablemate, Messier, who ran huge in the Robert B. Lewis on Sunday. This group seems to pass on the horses that Baffert deems as second tier to Rodolphe Brisset to campaign in the midwest. He adds Lasix for the first time while making his three year old debut today. He is without a doubt the class of this field, and Rosario will get the call. However, you’ll likely have stomach taking a short price on a horse that was good enough to compete with several of his stablemates in California, many of which that aren’t running monstrous races at the moment. On deeper tickets, I’ll consider adding Zozos (#9) and Vodka N Water (#11). Zozos broke his maiden at six furlongs at the Fair Grounds, running a strong race on debut. He ships here and gets a high draw for his first start two turns. He’s sired by Munnings out of a Forestry mare, so there could be some distance limitations. Cox does have good numbers stretching out though, and he’s had success with offspring of Munnings at two turns. I do worry that he’ll be overbet though, so it will come down to value for me. Vodka N Water had an inside draw and ran a respectable second to Chasing Time in his first start at two turns. He’ll need to work out a trip today from post eleven, but he is improving and could offer some decent value underneath in this race.
There’s several familiar rivals knocking heads in the nightcap, which is a maiden special weight contest for three year old fillies at one mile and 1/16. I think Faith’s Reward (#3) is going to be very tough to beat in here for Steve Asmussen, despite being beaten by both Ice Orchid (#4) and Swap Shop (#6) last time out. The other fillies had racing experience that day, while Faith’s Reward was making her debut. She drew the outside post while going one mile that day. She showed some early zip, getting into the two path on the first turn, despite breaking from post ten. She tracked the early leader, Swap Shop, who shares common ownership to her. She didn’t really have a winning move that day, finishing 5th, but not really backing out either. She is sired by Uncle Mo and her dam is the 2012 Kentucky Oaks winner, Believe You Can. I think she can use her better draw to secure inside position and set the pace with Joel Rosario aboard for the first time. I’m expecting her to improve here and get the job done. Ice Orchid will be the filly I cover with, as she has two solid races on her resume. She came within less than a length of the winner in that race last out, so she’ll definitely benefit from the longer stretch run in this race. She’s a worthy favorite, but I think the Asmussen filly will offer better value.
Favorite Bet Today: Late Pick-5 ($48 ticket, $0.50 base wager):
I’ve structured all All A/B ticket here which I like quite a bit. I think we can get a little skinny on the back end of this ticket while spreading in some of the earlier races. I think we’ve got the main threats covered in the spread legs, and this ticket could get interesting if we’re able to connect with Twentytwentyredo at 30-1 in Race 6. Even if she’s bet down off that figure, I think she’ll offer better value in the multi-race sequences.
Race 5: 2,4,10
Race 6: 7,10
Race 7: 6,7,9,12
Race 8: 4,7
Race 9: 3,4