February gets started with a nine race card that is headlined by the 8th race, which is state bred optional $30K claiming/N2X allowance race for fillies and mares going six furlongs. Rafael Bejarano is coming in off a three win day on Sunday to pull within five wins of the lead for top jockey. First post for is the usual 12:30 (CT) time, with the feature race going off at 3:53 (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!
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|2||2||2,5,8||6||DBL, PK3, PK4|
|5||7||2,7||1,13||DBL, PK3, PK5|
|6||2||2,5||4||DBL, PK3, PK4|
Fillies and mares sprint six furlongs in this conditioned $10K claiming race that will get the month started. This doesn’t feel like a spot to get cute with. Lady Shaman (#3) and Legendary Gift (#6) finished second and third, separated by less than a length with conditioned $12,500-$10,000 claimers last month. Lady Shaman was making her first start since March that afternoon and she looked no worse for wear in her return to the races. She was winner on this course last season and should be more fit for her second start of the year. Legendary Gift ran a much better race at this level after faltering badly with allowance runners back in December. She has finished in the money in five of her last starts though, winning one in August in Iowa. I think she has less upside than Lady Shaman, but I could be convinced to use her more prominently if the odds disparity widens a bit from the morning line figures.
A full field of 12 is entered in this Arkansas bred $16K maiden claiming contest. This 1 mile and 1/16 feels like a race where anything is possible. Fetchs Brahm (#2) is an interesting contender that breaks from the rail here. His lone two turn race last season came at a level similar to this, and it was his best effort in terms of speed figures. He was on the shelf from May to December, and he came back running off the board in a pair of sprint races for state bred maiden claimers. He had wide draws in both and was wide on turn both times. I can see him taking a step forward to have an impact in this race. I don’t love playing 0-12 maidens, but Mr. Wully Bully (#5) usually runs an honest effort when going two turns. He ran in a sprint in a similar race here last month and finished midpack that afternoon. Pish gets him in a route today, while maintaining the services of Rafael Bejarano. Storm Strategy (#8) drops in for a tag for the first time after a pair of losses by double digit lengths in maiden allowance company. He’s another one that came with a wide bid in both of his races and was unable to go with top horses at that level. He should be more comfortable with this field. On deeper tickets, Diesel Fuel (#6) is worth including. However, at 2-1, he feels like a bad favorite. He finished in the middle of the pack in his first start since April last month. He’ll be routing for the first time today, while running for a lower percentage barn. 2-1 (ML) feels way too short. I’d be more inclined to use him at 5-1 or better with this group.
A field of eight will travel ¾ of a mile in this $12,500 claiming race. There’s a lot of questions about current form in this race, so I’ll look for some value. Rock N June Bug (#3) clearly wasn’t himself last month when jogging hom as the last place finishers in a $6,250 claiming race where the betting public installed him as the 2-1 favorite. He finished off the board with $16,000 claimers in the slop two back at Churchill. If you are willing to draw a line through those two races, his dirt form at Horseshoe Indianapolis was very good throughout their meet last season. He makes his fourth consecutive start for his fourth different trainer, but I think he can improve enough to be right there with this group. Colton’s Dream (#2) made his dirt track debut after 16 starts on turf and synthetic at Woodbine. I thought his effort with $10K starter allowance company was strong enough to compete with this group, assuming he can duplicate his last effort. Both Alex’s Strike (#5) and Press Snooze (#6) are making their first starts since summertime today. Both horses like to run from off the pace, and they should get an honest pace to close into, with the first four runners drawn inside of them likely to show early speed. Press Snooze was a three time winner here last season, but wasn’t great when running at Presque Isle over the summer. Alex’s Strike won here last January and was very good this summer at Prairie Meadows. Both have a shot here, but I’d be looking for some clues with both as they’re warming up.
An overflow field of 13 are entered for this $20K maiden claiming contest. Trainer Danny Pish is off a tough start at this meet, going 0-15 so far, with none of those runners finishing in the money. I thought he had a live runner in the 2nd race though, and I like Kentucky Bourbon (#4) quite a bit in this $20K maiden claiming race. I’ll swallow the fact that this runner is 0-9 to start his career. He has finished in the money in five of those races, nearly sealing the deal with maiden allowance runners last July at Lone Star. He was competitive at that level at Remington, but he was unable to get the job done. He dropped in for a tag for the first time here last month when facing a better group of $30K maiden claimers. He was away slow that day and was never really able to run his race. He is better when he’s forwardly placed, and I think he’ll be better situated today. Uncle Ray (#7) might be a little light on figures, but he’s been competitive in his three career dirt races, which were run at Prairie Meadows and Remington. His other six races were on the grass, many coming against better fields. I like him on the drop in class to this level and the return to dirt today, and I think he has the potential to be an under the radar type horse in this spot. Infiltrator (#1) is the wild card in this race. You don’t see too many horses that debut at this level after three consecutive bullet works. Lukas has him humming in the AM, working four furlongs faster than 35, 141, and 41 other runners in his last three local drills. Those efforts will likely bring the price down to a level that might be too low for me, especially with his rail draw in this big field. However, his morning success makes him a runner that I’d want to use as a saver to avoid getting knocked out of a multi-race bet by a first time starter facing a field of mostly professional maidens.
An overflow field of conditioned claimers are set for this six furlong sprint. There are some suspect droppers in this race, so I’ll side with Crimson Zip (#7), who appears to be the speed of the speed for Karl Broberg. He just missed at long odds with $6,250 claimers last month. He was two straight at Delta prior to shipping here in December. His first start appeared to be a race day workout, so I won’t put any credence into that effort. One of my favorite horses from last year’s meet was Wobberjod (#2) and he resurfaces in this race with a $10K tag. If he’s his old self, I think he’ll probably be too good for these. He’s owned by track owner Louis Cella, so if he wanted a starter allowance race for him to run in, I think he has enough sway with the racing office to make that happen. The fact that he’s content to run him with the $10K tag is a bit concerning. However, he was too good last year to ignore, so I’ll proceed with some caution here. Bank (#13) is another suspect dropper that was a close third in a stakes quality allowance race here last season. He’s been off since July and has now moved into Chris Hartman’s barn. He’s done very well at this meet, but I’m not sure how high he is on this son of Bernardini. I’ll use him if he draws in because this race is significant class relief, but I wouldn’t be shocked to see a dull effort. There’s a decent amount of early pace in this spot, so Belfast Boy (#1) could find himself as the benefactor of that. He has only two wins, but is dropping in class. He likes to run from the back of the pack, so he could be dangerous with a decent trip.
The Late Pick-4 gets underway with a $30K-$25K N2L claiming race for three year olds going six furlongs. Three of the eight runners are coming off their maiden victory, while the other five were also rams, finishing 4th-8th in an optional claiming/starter allowance race here on New Year’s Eve. Yacht Rock (#2) figures to be tough in this spot, while making his first start against winners. He broke his maiden in his first start off the claim last out when racing for Brad Cox. Robertino Diodoro claimed him for $20K that afternoon and now moves him up in class here. Consistency has been an issue for him, but I trust that his new connections will have him ready. Color Field (#5) is the other recent maiden breaker that has a live look in this race. He rebounded off a pair of poor efforts to get his first victory when facing $30K maiden claimers here last month. He had a few nice races in Indiana before faltering in a two turn race three starts back. He struggled two back in the slop at Churchill against a much sharper group. If you draw a line through those races, his form looks a lot better. I prefer Yacht Rock because I think he has more early speed and will be better positioned to pounce on the cheap speed, however, if the odds disparity widens, I’d have no problem playing him to win. The horses that are coming out of the common race all finished within less than three lengths of each other. However on the morning line, the odds disparity would suggest these are runners are much farther apart in ability. I can’t play Atkins (#1) at 5-2, but at 10-1, I could be talked into taking a shot with Mean Tweets (#4). He was last away in that race and never fired when making his local debut. He struggled two back in a stakes race at one mile at Delaware when he was defeated by Tuskegee Airmen, who is a nice horse. He was making steady progress at Delaware when sprinting and is probably better than his last place finish last time out.
This maiden special weight race for three year old fillies is another example of a race where the talent level feels a lot closer than the morning line odds might indicate. I think the longest shot on the board (according to the morning line) has a real shot in this race. Tough Legacy (#4) makes her 4th career start for Norm Casse this afternoon. She ran on New Year’s Eve at this level in her local debut, going one mile. The trouble line in the Form says she “lost footing start”, but that feels like it’s underselling how poor of a break that she had. David Cabrera was nearly unseated after she stumbled hard once the gates opened. She spotted a decent field several lengths, while the eventual race winner was allowed to set soft early fractions. She ran on well to finish 6th, slightly in front of the 3-2 post time favorite. She’s making steady progress and should be able to move forward with a clean start today. She’s a full sister to a graded stakes winner going two turns on the turf, so grass racing could be on her radar soon. I think she can contend with this group though. D’oro Street (#8) is the 8-5 morning line favorite, which is a short number for a runner that is going two turns for the first time. She ran a gutsy race while carving out solid fractions in a 5 and ½ sprint last out. She was caught late by Klassy Bridgette, who came back to win in allowance company in her subsequent start. She’s sired by Medaglia d’Oro, so I’m too worried about the added distance. Her owner’s paid $400K for her at the Keeneland September Sale in 2021, which is a decent price for the second foal of a horse that had one career start and finished a distant last place. The dam’s other runner has won a few races, but against soft competition. I’ll use her because I do think she has a lot of upside, but I don’t love the price. I think Peace Cruiser (#6) is better than what we’ve seen from her in her first two local tries. She was over aggressive when going two turns in the mud for the first time on Opening Day. Riley Mott cut her back to a sprint where she broke out from her outside stall. She ran on to be third that day, but I think six furlongs is just too short for her. Her best races were when she was on the front end and I think she has a reasonable chance of setting the tempo in this one. No Guilt (#9) is probably better suited for the bottom of the vertical exotics after finishing in the money in her first two starts at the meet. She’ll likely be near the back of the pack early on. She has run on well late in those races, but never threatened the winners. Perhaps if the stretch-out sprinters push the tempo, she’ll get a solid pace to run into late. I’d consider using her as a saver on the deeper plays.
State bred fillies and mares sprint six furlongs in the feature this afternoon. Richness (#7) is a mare that I see as being tough in this race. She was a winner with $10K claimers in her first start of the season. She was a voided claim that day, but has worked well since that race. She’s won four times on this course in her career, and three of her last four races. Her only loss in that span was in state bred stakes company. Kaboom Baby (#2) is making her second start of the season after a 5th place finish in the mud against a stakes quality field at the end of December. This is not the strongest group for the condition and she has historically been a horse that needs a start off the layoff before she’s at her best. Too Pretty (#11) is coming out of the same race where she finished midpack. She might be better suited for a longer race, but she’s still capable at this distance if she gets the right set up.
The nightcap is a restricted maiden special weight race for horses that were sold for $75K or less at auction. NYRA started carding these races a few years back and they’ve started popping up more frequently at other tracks such as Churchill, Keeneland, and Monmouth to name a few. This condition is slightly different as $45K is usually the cutoff price for auction prices at those tracks. However, these are now three year olds, as this is a condition that has typically been reserved for two year olds. I think the morning line choice, Tivy (#11) makes a lot of sense in this race. He ran twice in the spring as a two year old and was competitive with open maiden allowance horses at Churchill in those races. Asmussen has had him working for his return and he’ll find a spot where he’s getting class relief without being offered for a tag. Blinkers go on and Lasix is added for his three year old debut. The other two runners foaled by this dam, which made it to the track, were both winners. Woody’s Choice (#10) is an interesting longshot in this race, making his second start for Ernie Witt. He took some money at the windows in his debut when facing a field of 12 here on New Year’s Eve. He showed some brief speed before fading badly that day. The winner of that race, Eyeing Clover, came back to crush an allowance field in a sprint last weekend at the Fair Grounds. The second and third place finishers of that race came back to break their maidens in their subsequent starts. He faced decent runners and he now knows what the game is about. I’m expecting a better effort today. The two first time starters, Northwind (#3) and Blues Admiral (#8) comes from barns that know how to win at first asking. Both runners have worked well enough over the local oval to contend at this level. However, both are sired by horses that have been bad first time out sires. Shaman Ghost, the sire of Northwind, is 1-68 with debut runners, with his lone winner coming at the Century Mile in Canada. Midnight Storm, who sired Blues Admiral, is 3-84 with debut runners, one of which came on turf. The good news is that these sires have an overall winning percentage of 15% and 14%, respectively, so these names might be horses to watch next time out.
Meet Statistics: Top Pick 39/185 (21.1%), $277.20 $1.50 ROI
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