Oaklawn Park Racing Preview – 2/18/22 – By Eric Solomon

The first of four days of racing the week starts here with a nine race, Friday afternoon program. With the President’s Day holiday weekend, Oaklawn will offer a special holiday card on Monday this week. The featured 8th race this afternoon is a $100K allowance contest, which should make for a very good betting race. I’m using a horse that’s 6-1 on the morning line as a single in that spot. After some rain on Wednesday, the forecast appears to be dry in Hot Springs, Arkansas, at least through Sunday. 

 

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
1 2 1,2 9 DBL, PK5
2 6 6,9 2,3 DBL, PK3, PK4
3 8 5,8 4,10 DBL, PK3
4 1A 1A 6 2 DBL, PK3
5 1 1,6 9 DBL, PK3, PK5
6 5 5,8 6 DBL, PK3, PK4
7 12 12 2,11,13 DBL, PK3
8 10 10 9 DBL
9 2 2,4,7 6

 

 

Race 1:

$40K maiden claiming Arkansas bred fillies start the week of racing at Oaklawn Park. I do like playing horses that run on despite adversity in this kind of maiden claiming race, and Satet (#2) fits that mold here. She was away slow, racing near the back of the pack in a maiden special weight contest last month. She did improve position with a wide move to get into 7th, beaten 8 and ½ lengths. She drops to the maiden claiming level, which is probably a decent fit. Both 2nd time starters and horses dropping into the maiden claiming ranks are good trainer angles for Ron Moquett. The same could be said for John Ortiz, who sends out Gramercy Park (#1) who was never involved when she debuted in a state bred maiden special weight race at the end of January. Lasix is added for the first time, which could be a plus. I don’t love the rail draw for her, but I think she’s another live runner in this contest. I’m struggling to find the excuse for the poor effort from Dancin N Thepulpit (#9) last time. She was moving up from this level to the state bred maiden special weight company. However, there is not a stark difference in the quality of those levels here. She went off at 9-2 that day and she turned in a poor effort in her second career try. She’s hard to get excited about as the morning line favorite (3-1), however, I’m not willing to totally eliminate her.

Race 2:

The first Pick-4 of the day starts with an open $16K claiming race at six furlongs. I’m going to go price shopping here and use Gita’s Lad (#6) on top. He didn’t run well in a two turn race in the slop last out  when facing open $30K-$25K claimers. He has many sprint races in his recent form lines that would play very well at this level. Scott Becker is a high percentage trainer that won a ton of races in Illinois in 2021, and he has brought some live runners to this meet. I’m expecting a better effort on the drop and cutback. Town Champ (#9) is the morning line favorite after finding the Winner’s Circle for the first time since 2020 last month. This is probably the right level of competition for him and he should benefit from an outside draw here. He’s in his third race of this current form cycle, so I think we’ll see another solid effort. However, I will proceed with caution at short odds. Storm Advisory (#2) and Win With Pride (#3) are two shorter priced horses that I feel are worth covering in this spot on deeper tickets, but I have some legitimate questions about both. Storm Advisory has not been as sharp in his two races since shipping here from New York. His early 2021 would be good enough to win here and his last was an improvement from his first start. However, I’m not sure if he’ll get all the way back to those races. Win With Pride makes his first start since shipping in from New York. He makes his first start since being claimed by Karl Broberg, who has not had the best meet. His runners off the layoff won at a lower percentage than his overall winning percentage, so he’s another one that might not offer the right value in this spot.

Race 3:

I don’t have a particularly strong opinion in this $30K maiden claiming contest. Skyline (#8) comes in here getting the most significant class relief. This three year old Street Sense gelding has been soundly beaten in both career starts at the maiden allowance level, but he faced two sharp fields. In his debut, he lost to Back to Normal, who came back to run a solid race against winners in his next start. Last time out, he faced Favorite Outlaw, who earned a big Beyer for his 3+ length win in what was arguably the deepest maiden special weight sprint of the meet. He is 10-1 on the morning line, which feels about right since he has shown much in either start. We do know he’s not facing anyone close to that caliber today though. Popster (#5) is the morning line favorite, who has four respectable efforts in five career starts. His only dud was two back when going a mile in the mud on this oval. He just missed at long odds at this level last out and now gets blinkers today. I think he found the right level of competition. Beeasy (#10) will likely be overbet here coming from the Asmussen barn and getting Rosario to ride. This combo had a strong week last week, so the public will likely be more bullish than usual on his runners. He dropped to this level in the mud last out and finished third beaten one length when making his first start since September. He’s worth including on the multi-race tickets, but I’d try to find better options in the vertical exotics. Uncaptured Dream (#4) is the lone first time starter in this spot, making his debut for Scott Becker. His connections paid $7K for this gelded son of Uncaptured last year. His works are okay and he’s not facing a bunch of world beaters for his debut. I’d be inclined to try to include him on my tickets as well.

Race 4:

Rubiginous (#1A) is the more desirable half of the Diodoro entry for me in this $10K N2L claiming race. He was claimed after finishing a solid second at this level back in December. He moved up to state bred optional claiming/allowance company and ran into a monster in Gar Hole that day. That horse came back to handily beat one of the best Arkansas bred sprinters in training over the last year (Tempt Fate) in his most recent start. He drops back to a level where he should be able to find success. I prefer him over his stablemate, Violent Pass (#1) who would be taking a steep drop in class after being claimed for $50K two starts ago. He’s been scratched out of a similar race before, so there aren’t many good signs from him at the moment. Cohen is named to ride both, meaning it’s likely only one half of the entry will go. Rift Valley (#6) drops in class and cuts back from a two-turn race for John Ortiz. He was overmatched with $30K-$25K N2L claimers last out, but he has been more successful in one-turn races. He might want to go a little farther than the six furlongs here, but this is a level of class where he should be competitive. On deeper tickets, My Dominator (#2) is an under the radar longshot making his first start since August at Canterbury. His three efforts on fast tracks in his career aren’t awful. His trainer, Bruce Riecken, only won four races in 2021, but two of them came with horses making their first start off a layoff of six months or longer. Even though it was for a different trainer, this one did also win on debut with Arkansas bred maiden claimers on this course. He’s not the worst horse to take a shot with at 20-1 or better.

Race 5:

Here’s another $30K maiden claimer, this one at a mile though for three year olds and up. I’m usually a little suspicious of twelve time maidens, but I can make case for playing Twice the Price (#1) in here. Nine of his twelve losses have come in races on synthetic or turf. He has finished second in all three career efforts on a main dirt track, including a decent try with $40K maiden claimers at Los Alamitos in his last start in December. He’s had some spirited works over the local course and draws the rail, which should be beneficial in his local debut. Miniconjou (#6) is interesting here, and could possibly be overlooked. He’s a three year old taking on older horses early in the season, so you’ll want to make sure there’s proper value with this one. He is dropping into the maiden claiming ranks after three consecutive tries with maiden special weight company. He had a tough trip in his first try at two turns when breaking from the ten hole last out when Ethereal Road ran a big race to break his maiden. The drop in class makes sense, and I understand why Milligan opted to run him here, as opposed to racing him against three year olds in a sprint in race 3. (Milligan sends out two other horses in that race for the same ownership group). Pregame (#9) wasn’t done any favors by the post draw, but he’s another dropping for a tag for the first time. He’s in his second race after a six month layoff, and he looked a bit rusty last out. Runner-up Stratofortress was a next out winner, so he was facing a live group. His best career effort came in his only two-turn dirt race this past spring at Keeneland. He’d be worth including as well.

Race 6:

The late Pick-4 kicks off with an open $6,250 claimer for fillies and mares at six furlongs. This is another race on this card that I really don’t have a strong opinion on. I know I’m not really interested in taking short prices on the three favorites, Shackleford County (#6), Honey Parade (#9), or Diva de Kela (#10), however, it’s not like there are great alternatives either. I ended up with Fables Love Affair (#5) on top, seeing that she is probably the most consistent runner in this field. She is making her third start off the layoff, and had some decent races this summer in Minnesota. She was overmatched in starter allowance company when making her first start after three months away from the races. She dropped to this level and was 4th, beaten 5+ lengths when facing a slightly deeper field. There are too many question marks with some of the others, so I’ll hope her steadiness gets the job done. Lady Magna (#8) beat my top pick in that same race back on 1/14. She was claimed out of that race and was not interested last out when facing conditioned $10K claimers. That was a better group than what she’s facing here, and if she can recover from that poor effort, she’ll be tough. Shackleford County definitely has some red flags, as she’s making her first start since July. She was claimed for $25K here two starts back, which was all the way back in March. However, of the three shorter prices on the morning line, I’d be more inclined to cover with her. Her last eight speed figures in dirt races would all likely be good enough to win this race. I have no idea what version of herself we’ll get in this spot, but if the drop off isn’t that big, she’ll likely be the winner. 

 

Race 7:

An overflow field of three year old fillies go six furlongs in this $50K maiden claiming contest. My thinking for this race is that the race favorite, Distorted Secrets (#12) is going to be tough to beat, assuming she can break clean from the gate. She was last to break when making her debut at this level for Norm Casse last month. She ran on well late from the back of the pack to get into third. She has an outside draw here and should show a little more zip with the addition of blinkers. Casse has strong numbers with second time starters, so this feels like her race to lose. If she does go down,  I’m thinking one of the debut runners will be the biggest threat. Big Java (#11) has shown some decent AM drills for Michael Puhich in the mornings. She’s cross-entered in a two turn race for $30K tomorrow, but I think she’s a better fit in this sprint. Sure Wasn’t Me (#13) will need a defection to make her debut, and if Big Java opts for the route tomorrow, that will allow her to go. I do think she’ll be one that runs her best races at two turns, being sired by Orb out of a Colonel John mare. However, her works are good enough to think that she could contend at this level today. Phil D’Amato has had Hartley (#2) working steadily over the last few months, getting her ready for her first run in the afternoon. She missed about two months of training between October and December, but her last few works over this course have been strong, signaling that she’s back from whatever minor ailment kept her on the sidelines. 

 

Race 8: 

The featured allowance is another race on the card where the shorter prices on the morning line feel vulnerable. In addition, four of the ten runners are making their first starts after taking some significant time off. Mesa Moon (#10) feels like the most likely winner on the card to me. He might not have the highest ceiling in the field, but he is definitely the most consistent. He’s won 5 of 14 career starts, hitting the board in 6 other tries. He was a decent third at this level in his local debut behind Macron, who runs again on Sunday. There’s no one who is that talented in this race today. He has tactical speed from his outside draw and looks to be a tough customer here. I’ll cover with Outasite (#9) on some deeper tickets. He’s one of the four coming in off the layoff, making his first start in nearly one year. He was a promising maiden breaker in his local debut last January, before going wrong in the slop in his last try. He was highly regarded, being purchased in 2020 for $380K at the OBS Sale that March. That’s a significant purchase for a horse sired by Outwork, who carries a modest $10K stud fee. Cox does well with horses off long layoffs, so he makes sense here as a saver. I’m looking to beat the morning line favorite, AC Expressway (#7). He ran a career top last out while getting a dream run along the rail in an average starter allowance race. He moves up in class and would have to prove he can duplicate that big effort.    

 

Race 9: 

A $10K starter allowance closes the Friday card. I’m thinking that there could be a bit of an aggressive battle for the early lead here. Both Go for Sherrie (#6) and Brice (#7) are both better on the front end and both are coming off uncharacteristic races where neither made the lead. In addition, stretch out sprinter Capture the Glory (#10) made a beeline for the lead last out from an outside gate, and was able to take a lesser group gate to wire. I’d assume Arrieta would be employing the same tactics. Early action up front could open the door for Derby Code (#2) in his second race after a four month layoff. He was very good on the main track this past spring and summer at Canterbury. He sat behind a pokey pace at this level last out. He’s best when he’s making one run from off the pace and he might get the right set up with this group today. Two of my favorite horses from the Monmouth Meet this past summer are in this field and figure to be live. Brice does have a class edge over this group, and he makes a lot of sense dropping back from a tough allowance race here last month. He was a bit flat-footed away from the gate that day, and as a result, found himself in a little tight, and was stuck behind a wall of horses. He never looked comfortable while taking dirt in the face that day, and he threw in a clunker of a race. A clean break would certainly help his cause, but he could be under pressure early. V.I.P Who (#4) might be the one to get first run on the front runners. He was claimed by Matt Williams for $10K last out when he couldn’t catch the loose leader, Capture the Glory. I think he can turn the tables on him today, He’s been first or second in his last six starts, all with lesser company. He’s won half of his 12 career starts, so he’s definitely getting better. On deeper tickets, Go for Sherrie is worth thinking about. He could be a part of the early scramble after an abysmal effort in the slop last out. He has recovered well from dull efforts in the past and he was a close third behind Brice two back.  

 

Favorite Bet Today: Race 6, Late Pick-4 ($0.50 Base Wager – $24 Ticket)

I don’t love the multi-race sequences on this card, because there are some tough races in the middle of the program. I did want to try to capitalize on the horse I feel like is the most likely winner on the day, Mesa Moon (#10, R8). I’ll single him on this ticket, while playing against some favorites in the 6th. I think Distorted Secrets (#12) is a good favorite in the 7th, but there’s some first timers in that race that could pop at a price. 

The Ticket:

Race 6: 5,6,8

Race 7: 2,11,12,13

Race 8: 10

Race 9: 2,4,6,7

 

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