With a holiday Monday card in the works, we’ll have our first four day race week at Oaklawn Park this week. The Friday card is a nine race program headlined by a stakes quality allowance sprint in the 8th race of the day. A few graded stakes winners, including the nine year old gelding, C Z Rocket, will square off in that race. Hall of Fame trainer, Steve Asmussen, enters the day only three wins shy of his 10,000th career training victory. He’ll have runners in six of the nine races today with some shorter prices early on in the card and some live longshots as the day goes on. 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!
|Race||Top Pick||A||B||C||Exotics Menu|
|2||4||1,4||DBL, PK3, PK4|
|5||9||9||1||DBL, PK3, PK5|
|6||3||1,3,10||DBL, PK3, PK4|
This conditioned $7,500 claimer for fillies and mares will start the afternoon. Hissy Missy (#6) doesn’t have a ton of early foot, but this feels like it’s her race to lose. She’s making her third start off a lengthy layoff today. Tammy Hornsby brought her back in two sprint races before bringing her back to two turns. Many of her rivals in this spot don’t seem interested in going this far, whereas she has two wins and two second place finishes in five career starts at 1 mile and 1/16. She should get a fast track today after dealing with mud in her last two starts. My backup in this spot is Mumblebee (#1) who may be able to take them a long way on the front end. She had a wide draw at this level last out and was able to work her way near the front before backing up. She’s never won on the dirt, doing her best work on synthetics, However, I think she’ll sit a better trip today and the added 1/16 of a mile should work in her favor.
I think this $30K maiden claiming race for fillies and mares will be rather chalky. Joel Rosario is named on several mounts today and tomorrow and he’s been given the assignment to ride Windy Bay (#4) in this race. She has three career races at two turns on the dirt, one of them where she lost the rider at the break. She ran well in maiden special weight company in Indiana, but was overmatched at that level at the Fair Grounds. She tried the turf last out and wasn’t terrible, but I think this drop into maiden claiming company makes a lot of sense. She has early speed and will likely play catch me if you can with this group. Legally Lucky (#1) makes her first start since November, while also dropping in class. She was sharp at two turns at Lone Star and Remington in the summer and if she can run back to those efforts, she’ll likely give the favorite a stern challenge here.
I see this $25K-$20K N2L claiming race as a wide open contest. I’m hoping that Keith Asmussen can get Ottoman Empire (#9) to rate kindly off what could be a decent pace battle today. He chased from his outside post in a large field with similar company last time out. Asmussen gave him a little time off after making his first start since May. I think he has a forward move in this one, at decent odds to boot. It’s hard to take Pistol or Shotgun (#7) as the favorite in this race, seeing as how his trainer, Chelsey Moysey, is 0-41 at the meet. She has a pair of live runners in this race, and this Tourist gelding makes a lot of sense. He was very good, breaking his maiden three starts ago at Delaware Park. He’s been 5th in his two local races, but those races were facing much better start allowance foes. This is significant class relief for another runner that figures to get a good trip. Moysey also sends out Run ‘n Tonic (#8). He’s been pace compromised in his two local starts with similar company. His last effort was probably one of his best career races on the dirt. His lone win was on the grass, which is a bit of a concern. However, Ricardo Santana was aboard that day, and he is reunited with him for the first time since that win. On deeper tickets, I don’t typically like to play horses that were claimed off Robertino Diodoro, usually because they don’t offer much value. Penetrator (#4) is 10-1 on the morning line, and could offer some value if he can move forward a touch from his last race against weaker. He was strong on this oval in 2022, so he’s capable of running the kind of race that could put him in the Winner’s Circle. He hasn’t been that horse in a while, but if his odds float up, I could be willing to roll the dice.
$12,500-$10,000 maiden claimers will sprint six furlongs in this race. Brad Cox sends out the class dropping favorite, Golden Bandit (#9). He’s plummeting in class after finishing near the back of the field with $75K maiden claimers last month. The $12,500 tag will recoup the stud fee for the mating with Midnight Lute. As long as nothing unusual happens at the break, he feels very likely to be the pacesetter, in a race where there doesn’t appear to be any other real speed threat. King Doodle (#1) will likely be drafting in behind here, making his second start since Asmussen claimed him at Churchill back in November. He’s an 0-12 maiden, which is never the kind of horse that I’d want to take a short price on. However, he’s better in sprints and he should move forward off his last race in the mud. That could be enough to finally graduate, especially if the favorite were to come up empty in the stretch. Mendelssohn Joy (#4) is the unknown commodity in the field. He was privately purchased after three turf tries in maiden allowance company in Indiana and Kentucky. He’s been working well enough for his dirt debut and will be getting significant class relief for his first start since September. Uncle Ray (#10) is the most consistent runner in the field. He may be better suited for the bottom spots of the vertical exotics. He came up a little short last time when making his first start since September. He should be more fit for this effort today.
It’s hard to look past Let’s Duet (#9) in this N1X allowance race. She was a close second in her last two tries at this level on this oval. She was rolling late in her last race to lose by a narrow margin. She was a winner with starter allowance company three starts ago and has been very good for Ken McPeek since coming back to the main track. I think she’s just better than this group. If she’s on her game, and still loses, it would likely be because Squillions (#1) on the rail, was able to sit the better trip. She blew the break in her last start in the rain. Prior to that effort she had won four of her last five starts, finishing third in the only loss in that span. She was away awkwardly last out and should be more of a threat with a better beginning.
The Late Pick-4 gets underway with a $40K-$35K claiming race for four year olds and up going one mile. I think Windcracker (#3) has a sneaky good chance in this race at long odds. He faced a significantly better group last out. He ended up chasing a solid early tempo and was eased up late when it was clear he was going to finish last. His previous efforts put him in the conversation with this field. He hasn’t been able to find the same level of success he had this summer and fall at Delaware at Oaklawn. However, Francisco Arrieta sticks around, which is a promising sign, and I think the race favorite, Red Knobs (#8) who was third in that same race, is a bounce candidate in this race. Diodoro trains the favorite but he also trains Alvaaro (#10), who could be a serious threat if Ramsey Zimmerman can work out a trip from his wide post. He was sharp last out, finishing second in a decent $30K starter allowance race. He’s hit the board in 8 of 10 career tries at this distance on the main track, winning twice. Lord Dragon (#1) was a solid winner with $20K claimers here last month. Moquett claimed him off of Diodoro and he moves him up the class ladder. He’s won 11 times in his career, seven of which have come at this distance. He’s another player in a fairly wide open event.
I think this $20K N2L claiming race is a spot to play against the Brad Cox trained favorite, Mint (#11). While drawing an undesirable post in this race, he comes back to traditional dirt after struggling on the Tapeta at Turfway last time out. His lone win was at a one turn mile, and his two turn form is okay at best. I think he’ll be overbet due to his trainer and the fact that Joel Rosario is riding. He’s a pass for me. I’ll side with a horse that was just claimed by Cox, Family Tradition (#2). He was an impressive winner against a weak group of $15K-$10K maiden claimers two weeks ago. While his competition was weak, he certainly looked good going from last to first, making up significant ground to win going away. He’s bred to be a two turn horse, so I like him going longer in this race. While it’s a decent step up in class, I still see this as a reasonable level for him. Joe Sharp, who claimed him from Cox, retains the services of Isaac Castillo, who gave him a very confident and patient ride after the dull start. Mystifier (#3) is primarily a turf horse, but he ran very well on the main track here last month, just missing with $12,500 N2L claimers. He moves to an inside post after drawing wide last time out. If he can run back to that last race, he’ll be tough once again. Asmussen sends out Schmooze (#5) for his second race off a six month layoff. He was a winner at two turns here last season, breaking his maiden on St. Patrick’s Day. He showed some early zip before tiring last out in a sprint. I think he’ll be more fit for this race and could be an under the radar runner to watch out for as Asmussen approaches another major career milestone.
The feature race this afternoon is an allowance race for horses that have not won a race in two months. Five of the seven runners are making their 2023 debut in this spot, including the 7-5 morning line favorite, C Z Rocket (#4). He’s slated to make a start here for the 5th consecutive season. He was very good here in 2021, winning the Hot Springs and the Count Fleet Stakes. However, he’s been winless here every other year. At eight years old, he almost pulled off a big upset in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Sprint last year, taking the lead at the top of the stretch, only to be passed by Elite Power. He keeps firing, but this feels like a spot where he could be the most vulnerable, and maybe not fully cranked for the start of his campaign. As a result, I’m going to look to a pair of four year olds in this race, making longshot, Rotknee (#2) my top pick. You don’t see too many horses at Oaklawn that last raced at Finger Lakes, but that’s the case here for this speedy New York bred son of Runhappy. He’s started seven career times, six of them on dirt, winning five of them by open lengths. All of those races have come with fellow New York breds, so this will be a class test at the beginning of his four year old season. However, he looks like the only legitimate speed threat in this race. He might be quick enough to run them off their feet, especially in a spot where some of the more seasoned veterans might not be in top form. Morello (#5) was a monster in the Jimmy Winfield and Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct last winter. The Wood Memorial just wasn’t his day as he broke last when slamming into the gate at the break. He has had a few trouble spots at the start from time to time, which is less than ideal for a six furlong race. I thought his race in the Gravesend last out was better than it looks on paper. He might be better suited for a little bit longer than six furlongs, and this race could set up nicely for a return trip to New York in the Grade 1 Carter at the beginning of April. Joel Rosario is scheduled to come into town to ride. He’s listed at 10-1 on the morning line, which seems crazy high. I think he’ll be bet down to the second or third choice in this race, but if he’s floating out there around 5-1 or better, I’d definitely be willing to take that.
As per usual, the state bred maiden special weight race that will be closing out the afternoon, drew an overflow field of 14 runners, where only as many as 12 will participate. Lake Hamilton (#5) might be the best value play in his second career start. He debuted in the mud on opening weekend and he took the worst of a chain reaction bumping incident at the start. He lost position and ended up taking a lot of mud to the face. However, he made a solid middle move before leveling off. Broberg gave him a little time off and he’s been working well since. Lasix is added and Crisitian Torres retains the mount. Chupapi Munyayo (#6) debuted against a runaway winner at the end of December, finishing third. He didn’t break as sharp as he could have that day, but he still ran well enough to be considered in this spot. Ready Shoes (#9) is coming off a 6th place finish with open maiden special weight company last month. He wasn’t terrible in that race which featured significantly better horses than what he’ll be seeing here. Torres, who rode him last out, opts for Lake Hamilton today, which is a bit concerning. I do think we’ll see a more competitive race from him today though. On deeper tickets, I’ll cover with the morning line favorite, Third Watch (#12). Brad Cox and Joel Roasrio will team up once again, and if one or more of them are victorious earlier in the card, I’d wager that his odds will fall below his 8-5 morning line figure. He ran okay in his debut when facing older horses. Even though he’s facing straight three year olds today, I think there was more depth to the field the Chupapi Munyayo and Ready Shoes had to deal with on 12/31. I’ll use him sparingly, but I think there’s value in trying to beat him.
Meet Statistics: Top Pick 51/241 (21.2%), $378.80 $1.57 ROI
Leave a Reply