The Friday card at Oaklawn Park offers nine races, highlighted by an optional claiming/N3L allowance contest in Race 8. Temperatures have been warming up, as the official start of spring is right on the doorstep. There is a chance for some rain in the morning, but the afternoon should be dry, hopefully having little effect on the racing.
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||2||1,2,8||DBL, PK3, PK4|
|5||3||3,7||2||DBL, PK3, PK5|
|6||6||6,7||8||DBL, PK3, PK4|
Race 1: 6/4
This $16K N2L claiming race came up on the soft side. It feels like a now or never race for Bitter Vixen (#6). She ran a few decent races this fall at Churchill, but has been overmatched in her two local tries for Kenny McPeek. She drops and stretches out to two turns for the first time. She has enough speed to be on or near the front end and her pedigree suggests that she’ll be able to get the distance. Flirtatious Smile (#4) broke her maiden last out when facing $20K state bred maiden claimers. While those races aren’t usually very deep, she did run a career top when going two turns for the first time. She is moving up in class, but she lands with a soft group. David Cabrera opts for Bitter Vixen, which is not ideal, however, I still think she has a chance with this group. I’m not interested in using other short prices, Fortuna Adiuvat (#3) or Duchess Bubbles (#5). While both fit from a speed figure perspective, neither really seem to be interested in winning races. I’d prefer to roll the dice with a few of the less experienced runners.
This is another restricted claiming race for fillies and mares, this one at six furlongs for horses running with a $10K tag, searching for their second career win. Sam Houston invader, Lutescoot N Boogie (#2) looks tough in this race on the drop in class for Asmussen. She was not good when trying the grass in her last try in Texas. She was very sharp two back though when facing $25K N2L claimers. Her only career start on this oval was a maiden breaking win last January. If you draw a line through the race two starts back for Simona’s Choice (#8), she’s one of the more consistent runners in this spot. She looked like she was on her way to throwing in the towel agan when she was passed by the 4-5 favorite in her last start. However, she fought back to reclaim second place. David Cohen is named on both parts of the Diodoro entry, but the one I prefer is Flashy Biz (#1). She was claimed out of this level last out after a bit of a dull effort. She ended up getting buried along the rail as a heavy favorite, but still was finding toward the end. I think she’s a candidate to move forward here when making her first start for Diodoro.
The third straight restricted claiming race for fillies and mares is a $16K N3L contest going 5 and ½ furlongs. I’m hoping for a bit of a pace meltdown in this spot, as I don’t really care for the three horses that all seemingly want the lead, Spurwink Lane (#1), Don’t Float the Ice (#2), and Sapphire Royalty (#4). I’m looking for a solid effort from Hoping for a Ring (#3) while on the drop in class. She was 5th with better, in a $30KL-$25K N3L race last month that a few others are also exiting. Her effort wasn’t bad as she just seemed overmatched that day. Her two sprints on this oval are decent, including a win in $10K starter allowance company back in December. She benefitted from a hot pace that day and was up in time, and I’m thinking the same scenario exists for her at this level. Lady Shaman (#5) is the other one that I’ll use in this spot. She was claimed for $30K two starts, so I don’t love to see her entered for a $16K tag after just one start for Wayne Potts. She was in good form last spring and summer and she’s now making her third start of this current form cycle. I have some mixed feelings, but she’s more consistent than some of the other class droppers, and at least on the morning line (5-1), she offers better value.
This is a nice optional claiming/allowance race for fillies and mares where Jilted Bride (#3) figures to be a heavy favorite. She’s never finished off the board in 15 career starts, winning three of them. She’s run very well on this oval, most recently finished a strong third in the Grade 3 Bayakoa last month. Miss Bigly, who won that race, came back to run second in the Grade 1 Beholder Mile at Santa Anita earlier this month. She sat out of the Azeri last weekend in favor of this spot, where she fits much better. She is clearly the one to beat, but her Achilles heel in this race could be her lack of tactical speed in a race where there isn’t much early pace. I’ll definitely keep her on the A line, but I’ll make the top pick, Lavender (#2), who could be able to steal this one on the front end. She’s primarily a turf horse, but she showed three starts ago that she can handle the dirt when she dominated a N1X allowance field at Remington. She struggled to establish early position in the Jersey Lilly Stakes in her last start at Sam Houston, however, when she’s at her best, she’s setting the tempo. She might get some mild pressure from Beach Flower (#4), but I wouldn’t be surprised to see her leading after going 48 and change in the opening half mile.
The all-female Early Pick-5 concludes with a $6,250 claiming sprint at six furlongs for fillies and mares. Shackleford County (#3) feels like the one to beat in a race that I don’t particularly love. She was third in her first start since July when racing at this level last month. She didn’t have the greatest trip, but she probably needed that race. She was claimed and now moves into a lower percentage barn. I am typically a little leery of moves like this, and 6-1 (ML) feels high. I can play her on top at 4-1 or better, in a spot where there are several with questionable form. Girls a Bullet (#7) is a Diodoro claim and drop runner, running with a tag that is $10K less than what they claimed her for last out. She has been in a good enough form though, and a win and claim would still be marginally profitable. I don’t love playing horses like this, but I also have my doubts about several other runners that haven’t been running as well as she has. Could You (#2) could be worth a play at a price on some deeper tickets. She was in better form in Ohio last spring and summer. She was on the shelf for six months and she returned here with $10K claimers to run a pair of dull races. She did improve last out though and at long odds (12-1 ML) she could be interesting in her third race off the layoff.
The Late Pick-4 sequence starts with a state bred optional claiming/allowance race for three year olds going six furlongs. The allowance condition is written for non-winners of a stakes race, however, everyone in the field would qualify for a state bred first level allowance. It feels like trainer Randy Morse is in the driver’s seat in this race as I think he trains the two most likely winners. It will come down to price for me, but I think that Where’s Randy (#6) has a lot of potential if he can get out of his own way. He’s found trouble in each of his three career starts. He didn’t break cleanly in his first two tries, which led to his undoing both times. He was flying late in his debut when he looked absolutely loaded with nowhere to go. He was forced wide in the mud, which didn’t seem to be to his liking two back. He didn’t have a great trip last out when breaking his maiden, but he found a way to prevail. The rider switch to Rosario could be the key to getting a better trip. One Way Or Another (#7) is coming off a front runner maiden score last month, putting up a solid speed figure at first asking. He faces winners for the first time, so 2-1 feels like too low of a price to me. However, there really isn’t any serious speed threat in this race, so if he breaks clean, he could be loose on an easy lead. If he can run another 46 second half mile, I’m not sure they’ll be able to catch him. With two horses that are facing winners for the first time on the A line, I am looking for a little coverage. I’ll add Afleet Sky (#8) on the B line, while moving back to a straight three year old race. He’s caught sloppy tracks in his first two tries, so he could move forward on dryer footing here. He had some trouble last out when starting from the rail in a full field, while facing older rivals last out. His debut win came when he was posted near the outside, so the wide draw could very well be to his benefit.
$50K N2L claimers go one mile and one sixteenth here. The story of this race is the class droppers that haven’t won in a long time, taking on some recent winners that are moving up in class. I like Motion Picture (#5) in this race, moving up in class off the Diodoro claim last month. He broke his maiden two back with $20K maiden claimers, while running a strong race in the mud. He proved he could back that effort up when finishing 3rd last out with $40K-$35K N2L claimers. His two poor efforts came in one turn races, so I think it’s safe to say that he’s found a home in two turn races. Chris Hartman takes over the training of Tiz Rye Time (#3), who returns to the claiming ranks after several tries in allowance and starter allowance company. You have to go back to 2020 to find his lone career win, however, he’s still trying hard. He’s come close in claiming races in the past, so perhaps the barn change, coupled with the drop in class, will be what puts him over the top. On deeper tickets, Calibrate (#2) is one that I was backing last out at the allowance level, but he was an uninspiring 4th that afternoon. He drops in for a tag for the first time in his career, which is probably where he belongs at this point. I’ll cover with him, but I prefer others in this race. River Redemption (#10) took a big step forward in his first start off the claim last out for Genaro Garcia. He was going two turns for the second time in his career that day, and I think it’s safe to say that will be where he has the most success. His outside draw shouldn’t be too problematic as he wants to run from off the pace, so he’d also benefit if they go too quick early on. He’ll likely be overlooked, but he’s not without a chance here.
The Friday feature is an optional claiming/N3L allowance race going one mile and one sixteenth. While Allege (#3) is typically better at longer distances, I think he has enough tactical speed from his inside draw to sit a good trip here. He wasn’t eligible for the 12 furlong allowance race yesterday (Run only at the N3L condition), so he ends up here while entered with the $62,500 tag. He did beat a nice field at this distance in the slop back in January. This is a softer group than he’s faced in his last two starts. Harvard (#7) returned to the races last month after being off since the end of the July. He ran a big race, finishing a close second behind Runnin’ Ray in allowance company that day. He was good enough to be entered in the Curlin Stakes at Saratoga last season, which ended up being his last start of the year. He’s been a different horse since going two turns and he could be stakes bound with a strong effort in a race like this. Caddo River (#5) looked to have a bright future in front of him after dominating the Smarty Jones Stakes last year. Things haven’t gone his way since that win though. He finished first at this condition back in December, but was disqualified that afternoon. He ran poorly in his next start, but rebounded nicely in his latest effort. I prefer him over his stablemate, Fan Club (#2), but I’m not convinced that he’s going to turn into the horse that his connections had hoped he’d be. On deeper tickets, Game Day Play (#1) might be worth a look, as I think he’s much better than his last effort off the layoff. He showed some brief zip in the early stages of that contest, before fading badly in the mud. He’ll get a dryer track today and, while he’s never won a race at two turns, he was improving in his last few starts of his three year old season. He could be a sneaky price play in this race.
The nightcap is a $20K N2L claiming contest going one mile and one sixteenth. I’m not sure what went amiss with Seaside Boy (#7) last time out, but he didn’t show up at all, finishing up the track at this level. He was claimed out of that race and comes back for William Martin after a lively 48:2 work last week. I don’t think that race is indicative of what he’s capable of, but I do think that effort will drive up his price. Fay Dan (#3) has been facing tougher in his three starts at this meet so far. He’s struggled in those races, so the drop in class is welcome. His two turn efforts were competitive enough to be right there with this group. Toss his last in a sprint and he fits nicely with these. Both Knievel (#4) and Uncle Mo’s Cat (#8) are short prices coming in to this race off wins in maiden claiming company. Knievel beat a modest field of $10K claimers, but he did it impressively. He’s lightly raced and improving, so the bump in class is merited. Uncle Mo’s Cat broke through last out with a big effort in his 12th career start. He beat a better field of $30K maiden claimers last out with a career top effort. The potential to regress is there, but it could also be a case of the lightbulb going off. I’m not loving the short price on either, but both are still worthy of covering.
Favorite Bet Today: Race 8, Late Daily Double ($10 Base Wager, $40 Ticket)
I think the multi-race sequences are challenging this afternoon, with few races that I feel comfortable taking a stand in. I’ll look to the late double, as I think there’s a chance to get some value in both parts of the sequence. Allege (#3, R8) is 6-1 on the morning line and Harvard (#7, R8) is the lukewarm 3-1 morning line favorite in that race. I do think both of the Brad Cox horses are going to take money, so there could be value to be had with both of these. I’ll play against the recent maiden winners and try to connect with Fay Dan (#3, R9) and Seaside Boy (#7, R9). Both of them are coming off poor efforts and their odds could be inflated as a result.
Race 8: 3,7
Race 9: 3,7