The second Saturday of the month of February offers a ten race card, headlined by the $150K Dixie Belle Stakes for three year old filly sprinters. Flavien Prat and Ramon Vazquez are both scheduled to ship in from Southern California to compete in that six furlong contest. There were some showers in the area yesterday and more overnight. The forecast is generally dry today, but the track could be on the wet side, especially early on. First post is 12:30 (CT) with the featured race scheduled to go off at 4:42 (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!
|Race||Top Pick||A||B||C||Exotics Menu|
|2||4||4,11||6,9||DBL, PK3, PK4|
|6||2||2||3,5||9||DBL, PK3, PK5|
|7||6||2,6||8||DBL, PK3, PK4|
The opener is a $50K starter allowance race for horses that have started for a $50K tag or less and qualify under the N1X allowance condition. It’s hard to look past Mahaamel (#6) in this one. He was favored against a stronger and larger field at this condition in his most recent start. He was three lengths better than Miacomet (#4), five lengths better than Stellar Tap (#5), and almost seven lengths better than Carnivore (#3). He was flying with a four wide bid off the turf in that race, but the front runner, who was setting an aggressive early pace, battled right back to narrowly prevail. Those two pulled away from the competition, so I don’t think Mahaamel was idling as much as the winner was just dead game. Joe Sharp takes the blinkers off today, which may help as he was a bit green in the stretch that day. Icarus (#7) will be where I’d choose to back up. His first six starts came on synthetic or turf. His first dirt race was a smashing success two back at Churchill, where he destroyed a $50K N2L claiming field by over eight lengths. He may have bounced in his next start at Keeneland when running at this same level. Van Berg gave him a little vacation in hopes of having him ready for the second part of this meet.
Eleven runners are set to go 1 mile and 1/16 in this open $8K claiming race. I think the eight year old Principe Guilherme (#4) still has some life at the right level of competition. He drops to the lowest level of his career after finishing off the board with open $20K claimers last month. He ran okay on a wet track two starts ago with $20K starter allowance company. He was a winner back in September in a short field at Prairie Meadows, and he has enough tactical speed to put himself in a good spot early. I think he could upset this group today. Twitty City (#11) breaks from the outside post in this race while making his first start off the Coty Rosin claim. He closed from off the pace to beat conditioned $7,500 claimers last month. The outside draw isn’t ideal, but he doesn’t want to be on the front end, so Bejarano should be able to drop back and tuck in. I do worry that the pace could be a little light in this race, but he is probably the most consistent runner in terms of speed figures in the group, so I think he’ll be able to overcome that, assuming someone isn’t allowed to absolutely walk up front. Jacks Spring Break (#9) feels like a horse that is being widely undervalued at 30-1 on the morning line. He ran poorly with state bred N1X company last out. Prior to that, he won two races in a row at Hawthorne with conditioned $6,250 claimers. He has only been off the board one time in nine starts at this distance, so I think he’s a rebound candidate, at least underneath at long odds in this one. The morning line favorite is Gold Buckle (#6), who was claimed by Diodoro for $6,250 last out when finishing second at that level. He ran poorly in the mud two back when facing starter allowance company, so he might be one to downgrade if the track is too wet early on. He’s another consistent type, which is always a nice commodity to wager on in races like this, but I do feel he’ll be overbet based on his connections.
David Jacobsen has brought a trio of runners in from New York to run on this card, each one with Ramon Vazquez named to ride. LIttle Demon (#2) looks like he lays over this $10K starter allowance field on paper. He’s run three strong races in a row in New York and P, winning two of them. He was a wide second place in the mud at Aqueduct. His speed figures are far superior to his rivals in this spot, so if he takes to the local track, he will likely be an easy winner. Colosi (#7) might offer the best value underneath in this race, coming off a pair of fourth place finishes at this level. He was a winner here in December with the same level of competition. His last race was better than it looks on paper, as he was in some tight spots along the rail. I think the wider draw might work out better for him.
A field of seven three year old fillies will go one mile here. Dear Lady (#3) is the morning line choice in her third start of the meet. She shipped here for the all two year old card on New Year’s Eve and ran a big race to break her maiden. She came back at this level last out and finished 3rd, perhaps moving a bit prematurely. She ran well in her first try at two turns and she is a deserving favorite, however, this could be a very chalky sequence and this might be a race where we can drum up a little value. Demi (#2) is the closer in this race, which may be a good place to be with a few stretch out sprinters breaking from the outer half of the starting gate. She ran well to be the runner up in the Trapeze Stakes at Remington two starts back. She didn’t break well in the same race that Dear Lady is coming out of. I think she can make up those two lengths with a better start. Lucky Deputy (#5) is another runner that has a live look at decent odds. She faltered on the turf last month at Sam Houston, but prior to that, she strung together two nice races on the main track at Remington. Santana opts to pick up the mount for Asmussen, which is a positive signal. On deeper tickets, U Glow Girl (#7) is stretching out to a route for the first time for Brad Cox. Florent Geroux is in town to ride today, and horses sired by Girvin are having a good amount of success in their freshman season. I don;t love the outside draw for her today though, and I suspect she might be overbet in this spot. She feels like one that I’ll use as a saver.
The Early Pick-5 wraps up with a state bred $20K N2L claiming race at six furlongs. An overflow field of 14 are entered. The one they’ll have to beat is Aspen Club (#11). He came back after 21 months away from the races last month. He went off at 4-1 in a similar race and he was a game second behind Peace Dog. Those two were in a race of their own, as it was a long way back to the third place finisher. That was a huge effort off the bench, and the fact that he’s entered at this level instead of a state bred N1X allowance race, which carries a significantly higher purse, tells me his connections aren’t sure that he’ll duplicate that effort. I’ll use him on the A line because he could regress off his last race and still beat this field, but I’ll make Atta Party (#2) the top pick, making his first start against winners today. His first two races at this meet have been strong, narrowly losing in a big effort two back and handily winner with state bred $25K maiden claimers last month. Cristian Torres, who rides a lot of horses for Diodoro, opts to stick with him instead of riding his new acquisition, Tale of Truth (#6), which is a much shorter price on the morning line. Sobriety (#10) is lightly raced and coming off a strong maiden score with state bred $20K maiden claimers on New Year’s Day. He was tough for me to come up with that afternoon, and I’m not sure about him as the second choice in this spot. However, I’d cover with him and would consider playing him more if his odds float up off that 4-1 morning line figure. Traffic Control (#4) is another one that has a bit of an unknown commodity to him. In July, he broke his maiden in his 26th career start, in an open maiden claiming race on the grass at Louisiana Downs. He’s 0-19 in his career on the dirt, including 17 losses on this oval. He returned from a layoff to finish a distant last at Delta Downs in December. He changes barns and has worked well since. Ricardo Santana takes the mount, which is a positive. He’s hard to play on top, but on figures, he might fit underneath in this one.
The top five finishers of a very slow conditioned claiming race last month are back to compete in this optional $12,500 claiming/$10K starter allowance race for fillies and mares. Horses entered under the starter allowance condition must have run for a $10K tag or less in one of their last two starts. I don’t like most of the runners from that race, but I do see Ipsum Gratis (#2) as being a logical candidate to improve out of that race. She had a wide trip, but was gaining well late to finish 3rd, beaten less than a length that afternoon. She was claimed by Norman McKnight and she had a snappy work for her new barn at the end of January. She moves to a protected spot, suggesting that her connections like her somewhat. She gets post relief and draws a soft field here. She likes racing here and I think she’ll improve off her last effort. Bid for Power (#5) is a longshot hope in this spot that is dropping in class and thus entered with the $12,500 tag. She was winner at Remington two starts back, but came up empty here with $20K claimers last month. She’s been up and down in form, but she runs well when the class level is right, and if she can get back to some of her efforts last season, I think she’s a player in this spot at long odds. Truly a Rocket (#3) is the morning line favorite, coming off a career top effort in state bred N1X company. Those races aren’t super deep, so the only difference in this spot in terms of class is that the purse is significantly less. The state bred N2X condition can get very salty, so this is a logical spot to get a race in, while remaining protected from being claimed. However, I do see her as a bounce candidate, so taking a short price on her doesn’t seem like the best value play for me. On deeper tickets and on the bottom of the vertical exotics, I’ll look to use Xylophone (#9) as another runner that may move forward while getting some class relief. She’s been facing strong fields of open claimers on this oval. She’ll likely find herself in the back half of the field in the early stages, especially with her post. She often leaves herself too much work to do, but she may be able to pass many of these late.
I’m going to try to beat Thomas Shelby (#5) in this optional claiming/conditioned allowance race. He feels like he has lost a step from last season when he was finishing in the money in some of the local stakes races. David Jacobsen has taken over the training after privately purchasing this Curlin gelding. He needs the lead and I think there’s going to be competition for that spot. Soy Tapatio (#6) gets the nod from me for Diodoro and Torres. He’s not the most consistent runner, but when his head is in the game, he’s awfully tough to beat. He won stakes races at Zia Park, Assiniboia Downs, and the Century Mile last season. He’ll likely be in a good striking position, just off the pacesetters in this race. Torres will look to pounce on the turf. Background (#2) is an interesting longshot possibility in this race. He’s always been a horse that has needed a race or two before he’s at his best. He might need one more, but I do think that his last race was a strong prep for this spot. In 2021, Super Stock (#8) was the winner of the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby. Later on that year he won the Zia Park Derby, He ran four times in 2022, all time stakes race and all were off the board finishes. He drops in class for his 2023 unveiling. Keith Asmussen is going to have to keep him under control, because he was definitely aggressive in his start back in June.
Many of these runners are coming out of a pair of contentious heats at this level on January 6th, when the racing office split a race like this into two divisions. The only keeping me from making Ultimate (#3) the top pick in this race is the possible track condition. Afternoon showers yesterday caused the track to be sealed and labeled good toward the back half of the card. There were more showers overnight, but the track here doesn’t dry out as quickly as other tracks do. I think this race sets up beautifully for a closer like Ultimate, who came within a neck of winning one of the heats here last month. He tried the King Cotton Stakes in the slop last time where he was never comfortable, while also outclassed. He is 0-3 on wet tracks. If the track is dry, I’d definitely move him up. However, on a wet track, in a race that is loaded with speed, I have to eat chalk and make Knocker Down (#10) the pick. He couldn’t go with Golden Hornet, who ran a huge race, in the other heat last month. He’s the class of the field, nearly winning a contentious running of the Steel Valley Sprint in November. His race in the slop three back was a personal best. Cox should have him more fit for the second start since joining his barn. On deeper tickets, the mid-Atlantic shipper, Uncle Buddy (#5) is worth a look. He looked very comfortable rating off the pace, when clearing the N2X condition at Penn National last month. He remains eligible for this race with the way the N1X is carded here. He’s won six times in 15 starts and ran a decent 5th in stakes company two back at Laurel. He may sit the right trip for this kind of race.
Race 9, The $150K Dixie Belle Stakes:
There’s no real option for three year old fillies to sprint in stakes races in California, so it’s not surprising to see two horses that last ran in the Golden State join the field. There’s a pair of speedy fillies, both making their first starts of 2023 in this race. Stone Silent (#4) was purchased for $410K at the OBS Sale in March of 2022. She paid almost instant dividends when she debuted in the Fasig-Tipton Debutante at Santa Anita in June. She’s been on the sidelines since, but she’s been working well in the morning for John Sadler. Ramon Vazquez is missing a day at Santa Anita to come back to his old stomping grounds. I think she takes it to them early and holds on late. Key of Life (#3) went on a nice roll in the fall, winning three straight races by open lengths, including a score in the Myrtlewood Stakes. She had a tough trip when faltering in the Fern Creek Stakes in November as the heavy favorite. Cox gave her a little time off and now gears her up for a three year old campaign. These two seem to have a distinct class advantage over the rest. There could be a very lively pace on the front end, so I’ll be covering with Klassy Bridgette (#2), who may be the best of the local contenders. She’s a perfect 2-2 at this meet, coming from off the pace to break her maiden with an inside trip in a full field in December. She wheeled back to dominate an allowance field last month, stalking a slower pace and then pulling away as much the best. If there is a pace meltdown, she’d be my pick to run them down late.
The Saturday nightcap is a maiden special weight for three year old fillies going six furlongs. I’m going to try to use four in this wide open race to try to beat the morning line favorite, Into Love (#7). She’s a speedy horse that has been well backed but has faded in her last two starts. I think there are some well-meant first timers in this race that could make her life tough. My top pick will be a second time starter, Barstool Babe (#12) slotted in the far outside. She finished well to be about four lengths behind Into Love when making her debut on New Year’s Eve. I like betting back second time starters that look like they are struggling early in their debut, but start to figure things out as the race goes on. Bolt d’Oro is an excellent freshman sire and I think she’ll be more comfortable, not having another horse outside of her at the break. Brad Cox unveils Punchbowl (#2) who is a half to a nice horse, Slumber Party. That one went on to win on debut in a salty maiden allowance race two years ago at Gulfstream. She would go on to be second in the Beaumont before suffering a career ending injury in the Eight Belles Stakes on the Kentucky Oaks undercard. The dam won her debut and her four horses that have made it to the track broke their maidens in their first or second start. Flavien Prat taking the mount is a plus here. Allymisslove (#5) debuts for Rodolphe Brisset after a series of solid works. She’s a half to graded stakes winner, Hebmree, who is a winner on both turf and dirt. Her sire is Practical Joke who has a 20% strike rate with first time starters that sprint on the dirt. Montastical (#9) debuts for Asmussen after only a few works at Louisiana Downs. Typically, his first time starters have more of a foundation in the mornings before starting, so I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or not. Santana takes the mount on this Uncle Mo filly who fetched $425K at the OBS Sale in April 2022. She’s the first foal to run from the dam Birdy Num, who was 0-2 in her career. However, the grand dam is the Kentucky Oaks winner, Believe You Can. I’ll look for clues with her on the track to see how fit she looks.
Meet Statistics: Top Pick 50/222 (22.5%), $372.60 $1.68 ROI