Today’s nine race, President’s Day program is the only Monday card of the meet, and there are some exciting races. Race 5 is a starter allowance with a very cool horse, Greeley and Ben, that won 11 times in 2021, and already has two victories in 2022. The 8th Race is an allowance race featuring nine horses, all of which have placed in a graded stakes race in their careers.
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||3||3,7||4,10||DBL, PK3, PK4|
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|6||7||2,7||1,10||DBL, PK3, PK4|
$12,500 N3L claimers start the program this afternoon. Honorary Degree (#4) looks tough here after a big effort with $10K N2L claimers last month. He came here from Southern California and was claimed out of that race by Karl Broberg. The red hot David Cabrera gets the mount. Morning line favorite, Major Attraction (#3) is the main danger. He’s been knocking on the door lately, finishing a close second with similar last time out. There is a decent amount of early speed signed on, so he may get the right set up to be rolling late.
This is an evenly matched field of $30K claimers going 1 mile and 1/16. Clancy’s Pistol (#3) rallied into third at this level last time out, improving from a non-threatening debut effort with maiden allowance foes at six furlongs. Blinkers go on for his third career start, which should help him stay a little closer to the field in the early stages of this one. There are some possible showers in the forecast, and if they arrive, La Flecha (#7) becomes more playable. His best two efforts have come on off tracks, and he did regress when getting back on a fast course last time. However, that was against a significantly better $50K maiden claiming group. This is a notable drop in class for him this afternoon. Spend Again (#10) isn’t impossible at long odds here. He was sharp at Churchill in his second career start, but his last three tries have not been nearly as good. He was a DNF when running into Smile Happy at Keeneland. He was disappointing at short odds two starts back when making his local debut, and his last was just not very good. He was gelded after that start, so perhaps that will help him rebound after such a poor outing. Wildwood Z (#4) is the firster I’d include on my ticket here as well. The works aren’t great, but he won’t have to dazzle to defeat these. His barn is capable of producing first out winners.
We have another lower end claiming race better, this one being a $10K claimer for fillies and mares at six furlongs. I’m going to try to get through this race using only two. Simona’s Choice (#3) is an interesting alternative to the morning line favorite here at 8-1 on the morning line. She’s taking a steep drop in class after a very dull effort with $50K N2L claimers last month. She ran okay two starts back when making her first start since June. She’s now in her third race off the layoff and competing at the lowest level in her career. She showed she likes this course last year, so I’m willing to believe her last effort was an aberration. Fastest Spin (#7) is the one to beat after running a strong second behind next out winner, Richness, last month. She’s only been on the main track three times in her seven start career. However, at lower levels of competition on the dirt, she’s fit in just fine.
War Music (#3) feels like a likely rebound candidate after coming up short at even money with at this state bred $20K maiden claiming level last out. She was struggling to find late when going two turns for the first time that day. She cuts back to six furlongs where she could have a stamina edge over many of these. Miss Rita (#12) is the logical alternative here coming back to the maiden claiming level after falling short with state bred maiden special weight types last time out. She’s drawn well on the outside, and is simply faster than many of these that have competed thus far. On deeper tickets, I’ll try to throw in the first time starter, Kenkead (#6) for Ron Moquett. Her works are okay, and she won’t have to be a world beater to score here. We’ve seen many first time starters win these types of races this season.
It’s hard not to root for a horse like Greeley and Ben (#3) in this $10K starter allowance race. He has 18 wins in 29 career tries, and is 12 for 14 since being claimed for $10K by Karl Broberg at this meet last year. During that span, he has handled his business winning races Prairie Meadows, Remington, Delta, and Sam Houston. His only two losses came in a two turn race (which is not what he wants to do) and a second place finish at the Fair Grounds to Just Might, a horse that won seven stakes races in 2021. He’s dropping in class to this starter allowance condition after winning stakes races in three of his last four starts, however, there’s only so many races out there in the condition book for him to run in. Getting 5-2 (ML) feels impossible though. One for Richie (#6) is the second choice in the morning at 3–1, but if the odds disparity widens, which I expect it to, he isn’t a bad alternative. He’s had most of his success on this oval, winning 6 of 10 times here. He was a three length winner at 5-2 when making his first start in six months at this level on January 2nd. Many tickets will be singled to Greeley and Ben, and for good reason, but he’d be the one I’d use as a backup.
The Late Pick-4 starts with an open $6,250 claiming race for fillies and mares going 1 mile and 1/16. There feels like a lot of horses that are overmatched in this race on paper, but I do feel the two shorter prices are vulnerable in this race. I do like the two horses on the A line quite a bit, giving the slight edge to Ann in the Middle (#7) shipping in from Turfway Park. She ran two very sharp races there on the Tapeta. She has some good efforts on the main track as well, so the surface switch is a non-issue for me. She has always run her race when she’s at the right level of competition, so I’d expect her to fire today. Close to Me (#2) gets some serious post relief, drawing the rail today after breaking post 11 in her last start. She was wide throughout her last race, when facing better horses, finishing 7th that day. She drops back to open claiming company, a level where she won three straight at Hawthorne before shipping here. Persisto (#10), who is the second choice in the morning line, is coming from the same race, and is worth covering, as she is definitely one of the more consistent runners in this group. She was claimed for $40K three back and made her next start, running for only a $10K tag. While I tried to beat her that day, as that kind of drop is a red flag to me, she got the job done, winning and being claimed. Kenny Smith moved her to a protected optional claiming/starter allowance field where she was a wide third last time out. He brings her back here and drops her in for the $6,250 tag. While her price tag keeps dropping, she still is running competitive efforts. Descente (#1) is the more desirable half of the Hollendorfer entry, and the morning line favorite. She returned in December after seven months on the sidelines, to finish 6th in an allowance field that wasn’t the strongest group. She’s been off for another two months and now returns in this race with a modest tag. She was running well at this level in 2020, and was facing much better fields in 2021. She is getting significant class relief, but her recent gaps are concerning to me, especially at short odds. She’s another one that I’d try to cover, but I see value in trying to beat.
Three year olds go six furlongs under maiden special weight conditions here. Half of the field has run at least one time, while the other half is set to make their debut. I made the Churchill shipper, Smokin Willie (#5) my top pick for the leading trainer at the meet, Steve Asmussen. He debuted at long odds in a full field in the slop in November, finishing a respectable 5th, while facing a strong field that afternoon. He’s worked well since coming down here at the end of December and finds a field that doesn’t seem to have the depth that has slast race did. Ludwig (#13) will need a defection to get into the race, but he could have an impact if he does compete. He’s sired by Mastery, who carries a modest $10K stud fee, but was purchased in 2020 for $450K. If he runs, he’ll have the outside gate, which is never a bad thing for a first time starter in a one turn race. Sinner’s Sin (#2) adds blinkers for his second start this afternoon. He debuted on a muddy course here last month, and was tiring late, finishing 8th. Moquett’s horses usually improve with experience, and leading rider, Ricardo Santana Jr., sticks around. His four works since his last start have been solid. Coach Happy (#4) is a Runhappy first time starter for Brad Cox, who has been working steadily since November for his debut. While his drills don’t jump off the page, Brad Cox isn;t one whose horses typically set the track on fire in the AM. Value is always a concern when Cox sends out firsters, because he typically wins more with horses in their second starts. However, he’s likely worth covering in the multi-race exotics. Improbable Journey (#8) is the morning line favorite after running 4th in the fastest maiden special weight race of the meet so far. He’s definitely getting class relief, and his last race speed figure is the best in the field. However, visually, he hasn’t been impressive in any of his three races, so I’m hesitant to take a short price here.
The feature is a stakes quality allowance race featuring some horses that were once on the Kentucky Derby Trail. Four of the nine runners are graded stakes winners and all nine are graded stakes placed horses at one point in their careers. I’m interesting in seeing how both of Brad Cox’s horses, Wells Bayou (#5) and Concert Tour (#8) are bet in this race. Both are at 9-2 on the morning line and I don’t have much faith in either one at the moment. I would be surprised to see one of them go off as the favorite here. Mucho (#2) is the morning line choice after an extremely race impressive last out, just losing in the final strides in the Fifth Season Stakes. That was the first time in 30 career starts where he went two turns, and he looked good doing it. He cleared the field from his outside post and kept finding late. He draws much better and it appears on paper that he might not have to work as hard early on. The gritty veteran is as game as they come. Necker Island (#4) finished with interest in that same race after having to wait to make his run. By the time he was in the clear, it was too late. He might be better at one turn than two, but he’s been in good form and ran on well enough to try here at longer odds. Gun It (#9) makes his first start after clearing the N2X condition at Saratoga this summer. He has some tactical speed, but he’s also able to run on from the back of the pack. That might be the winning strategy for him here if he’s not too pumped up off the long layoff.
This is a fascinating optional claiming/allowance race for Arkansas bred fillies and mares to close the program. Derby Day Lassie (#6) and Truly a Rocket (#10) are two speedy three year olds taking on older horses here. Truly a Rocket came up empty when doing so last out, and with the amount of speed signed on here, I’m thinking that will be the case for both in this race. I’ll be playing against them and looking to the outside with Rose Marie B (#12) as a longshot play here. She is also speedy, so that is a concern, but if she goes off near her 15-1 morning line, I’d be willing to take that risk. She had a miserable trip last out when making her first start since August. Her dirt form at Indiana Grand last summer would be competitive at this level here. Unbridled Twister (#13) would be a big addition to this field if she is able to draw in off the AE list. She’s come up short against better fields at this level in her last two. However, this seems like a good spot for her. My Dams Attitude (#11) is the one that would benefit the most from a hot early pace. She closed well to break her maiden last out in her 11th career start. Her last two races have been significant improvements from her earlier form. She could be running by them all in the end here. On deeper tickets, Louemma (#9), coming in from Fort Erie, is a little interesting. She has some tactical speed and has won over this track in the past. She might need this race before she’s at her best, but she could be overlooked in this spot and could offer value.
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