Three allowance races highlight the Friday afternoon card at Oaklawn Park. King Ottoman, whose only career win came in the Texas Derby at Lone Star Park last spring, makes his four year old debut in the 4th race, which is a N2L allowance contest. Grade 3 Iowa Oaks winner, Butterbean, makes her four year old debut in the 8th race, which is an optional claiming/conditioned allowance race. The 9th race is an optional claiming/N2X allowance race that drew an overflow field of 14 runners, which could be the best betting race on the card. First post for the St. Patrick’s Day Friday card is 12:35 (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||7||5,6,7||DBL, PK3, PK4|
|5||8||1,8||6||DBL, PK3, PK5|
|6||7||1,7||DBL, PK3, PK4|
A half dozen runners start the day in this $20K claiming race. I think the winner is starting from the outer half of the starting gate in this race. Mystery Mo (#6) ran very well despite a wide journey with similar last out. He was making her first start for Scott Becker that afternoon, and was flying late despite being fanned out into the middle of the course. He came to Arkansas after a strong late summer and early fall run in the Mid-Atlantic region. He needed his first local race from a fitness standpoint and looked much better last time out. Diodoro trains both Alvaaro (#4) and Black Storm (#5) and both look live in this race. Torres typically rides the first string, but I think the ceiling is higher for Alvaaro, who gets Ramsey Zimmerman aboard. He typically runs in two turns races, but he’s never finished off the board in five tries at this distance. His effort two back would likely get him in the Winner’s Circle today. Black Storm has been 4th in both local starts in starter allowance company. This is a bit of class relief, but I do think he might be overbet.
If Relentless Rocket (#7) can break clean in her third try at this, she might be able to get this job done in this $20K state bred maiden claimer. She wasn’t terrible in her debut with $30K maiden claimers, but nothing went right for her in the slop last out. She stays at this level and should get a better surface to run over. Expect a better effort from her here. Both Tiz a Strategy (#5) and Iconic Bonnet (#6) make some sense in this spot. Both are dropping in for a tag and both have shown enough in maiden allowance company to make me think that this is the right level for them. Both are going to be short prices with jockeys that have struggled to get live mounts at this mount.
State bred runners fillies and mares that have started at least one time for a tag and have not won in four months are eligible for this one mile contest. The table will be set for the morning klein line favorite, Too Pretty (#5) in this race. She appears to be the controlling speed, coming out of some of the best races. She often hits the board, but has only two wins to her credit. She ran well against a competitive open starter allowance field last month and this group is significantly less talented. I’ll cover with My Dams Attitude (#3) who has struggled in her first two starts of the meet while facing better runners. While both of her career wins have been in sprints, she may move up while stretching out to two turns again.
A trio of three year olds takes on a quartet of four year olds in this N2L allowance race at 1 mile and 1/16. I think the older horses in this spot have a definitive edge over their sophomore counterparts. I loved Cawkab (#7) in his last start, but he was flat that day, finishing 5th at this level, possibly bouncing from his strong maiden score three weeks prior. The winner of that race, Speed Bias, came back to run a strong second to Smile Happy yesterday against a much deeper field. Brad Cox gave him two months off and brings him back today in a race where his primary opposition may be compromised, making his first start since September. King Ottoman (#6) was the runner up in the Grade 3 Oklahoma Derby in his last start, beaten by Rattle N Roll that evening. His lone win was in stakes company when winning the Texas Derby at Lone Star back in May. He’s been working well at the Fair Grounds for his return, but it is worth noting that Asmussen’s runners are generally underperforming at this meet. Showers and storms rolled through the back end of the card yesterday and continued into the evening. The forecast calls for dryer weather over the next several days, but there could be enough moisture left over in the course for Ten Gauge (#4) to have an impact. He is definitely a better runner on off tracks, running two strong races in a row against similar. His lone win came in the slop and he’s hit the board in 4 of 5 starts on off tracks.
There’s a red flag favorite in this $7,500 N2L claiming race which ends the Early Pick-5 and kicks off the Late Pick-5. Peter Miller does the deep drop for Pittsburgh (#2) in this race after a dull effort with $40K N2L claimers in his local debut. He was claimed for $20K two back and has been gelded since his last start. This drop suggests to me that he’s not showing the same energy that he showed in California last fall. Mystifier (#8) figures to be tough in this spot. He didn’t run well in the slop last out and was beaten by a sharp field for the $20K N2L condition two starts ago. His effort with $12,500-$10,000 claimers three back is the blueprint for the kind of race I think he’ll run against this group. Namesake (#1) draws the rail for his 5th start of the meet He was 3rd, beaten nine against a better group for this condition last out. He broke his maiden in gate to wire fashion on this course back in December of 2021, and he might try to work out the same trip once again. On deeper tickets, Skyline (#6) is an interesting longshot. She runs for low percentage connections and is ridden by an apprentice who was winless in 89 starts last season. The horse is definitely a better animal at two turns, and while he might not be quite as good as the top two, he could be a horse that could spice up the vertical exotics.
Papa Rocket (#7) figures to be tough in this conditioned $30K claimer. He’s 2-2 when racing with a tag and 0-8, never hitting the board with tougher company. Despite his high price tag at the sales, this is probably the right level of competition for him. He’s been competitive in his last two starts in starter allowance company, but he simply ran into better horses. I’m not sure that is going to be a problem today. Best of Greeley (#1) was claimed by Diodoro when making his first start since May last month. He was stakes placed at Will Rogers Downs last year, and has a few improving works for this barn since the claim. Diodoro also sends out City Rage (#3), who does get his first call rider, Cristian Torres, however, I think there’s more upside with Best of Greeley, and potentially better value to boot.
While all of the attention will be on the daughter of Songbird, Magical Song (#2), I’m going to try to beat her with Exponential Star (#1), who I think will go off at odds longer than her 12-1 morning line figure. She ran 8th, beaten 10 in her debut at six furlongs. The top three finishers from that race came back to win in their next start, including the winner, Punchbowl, who dominated an allowance field and may have her eyes set on stakes company soon. The horses that finished off the board came back to run competitive races in their next outing, so she was beaten by a quality group. The dam has produced some useful runners, and I expect her to move forward in a route, being sired by Accelerate. D’oro Street (#5) may appreciate a dryer track, which she should get today. Her debut on a fast track at Churchill was solid, but her speed figures regressed over off tracks in her next two tries. The pace was aggressive last out when she finished behind both No Guilt (#6) and Unstable Princess (#3), both of whom are back today. She may offer some value if she gets a track that better suits her. I’ll still use Magical Song on the A line, but I’ll do so with a bit of caution after her dull effort on New Year’s Eve. Brad Cox gave her a little time off after that wide journey, which resulted in a 6th place finish. That race was another useful contest, which produced a pair of next out winners.
A field of six will go one mile in this optional claiming/conditioned allowance race. I think Lil Kings Princess (#3) has an upset chance in this spot. There’s no way to sugarcoat that she has been bad in her last two in New Orleans and Louisville. She was very good on this oval last year though, winning twice by wide margins. She might still need this race, since there have been decent gaps in between her last several starts. However, if Ortiz has her right, she’s on her favorite course and facing a small field. Butterbean (#2) is a Grade 3 winner that was last season walking home in the Grade 1 CCA Oaks. She was very good for a two race stretch last year, and if that is who she is, she’ll probably win this race with ease. McPeek had success yesterday with Smile Happy making his first start off a similar layoff. Traverse (#5) is the horse that;s in the best current form. She has won three of her last four starts, with her only loss being the Pippin Stakes two starts ago. I think the top two might have a little more upside, but since she’s so good at the moment, I feel the need to back up with her, in case the other two aren’t fully cranked.
The race of the day is an optional $50K/N2X allowance sprint that drew a field of 14. Only 12 will go, and the three shorter prices are lined up along the rail. Each of them are coming off a race where they earned a 90+ Beyer Speed Figure, a number that would likely be good enough to get them into the Winner’s Circle today. I have some doubts if some of them can repeat that feat though. I landed on Albizu (#7) in this spot. He was a winner at this level back in December while in for the tag. He came back in his next start against a very sharp group, while running without the tag. He was floated wide, but closed well to be third in the slop in his most recent effort. He should get another favorable pace scenario today, and I think he’s one of the more consistent runners in here. Tampa invader, Doctor Oscar (#1) is coming off a game second place finish in the Pelican Stakes last month. His last two races have been sharp and the purse structure here makes this a more desirable place to be for a talented horse. The purse of this race is $30K better than the purse of the stakes race he’s coming out of. The rail is not ideal though and he’ll have to prove that he can be as effective over this surface. Mrs. Beans (#4) is a hard trying Arkansas bred who has run into a state bred monster in his last two tries. He cleared this condition at Remington, but remains eligible to run without the tag due to the purse structure of this race. He might rely on the regression of some of the others, but he always shows up. Primarily underneath in the vertical exotics, don’t discount Ram (#10) at 30-1 on the morning line. He made his first start in almost a year last out, and he may have come back a little sooner than Lukas may have wanted to due to the HISA regulations. He’s been working well since that last start and he’s cutting back to one turn, which I think is key for this horse. Despite his pedigree, he seems to be a better horse in one turn races. The six furlongs might be a little too short, as I think seven furlongs is his sweet spot. However, I think he has a better chance than some of the other horses that are shorter odds on the morning line.