The Saturday card features a pair of Grade 3 races that both drew ten runners. The Grade 3 Whitmore is a contentious sprint race where the pace should be lively. The Grade 3 Essex Stakes is for older horses going two turns on the main track. Expect a fast track with some dry days ahead. The first post is 12:35 (CT) with the Whitmore (R8), going off at 4:22 (CT) and the Essex (R9) going off at 4:54 (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||5||4,5,7||DBL, PK3, PK4|
|6||5||5,6,8||7||DBL, PK3, PK5|
|7||6||4,6||DBL, PK3, PK4|
The day starts off with a maiden special weight contest for three year olds sprinting six furlongs. Soybean Man (#2) is coming out of a very salty maiden special weight race in his career debut. The top three runners from that race came back to win in their subsequent starts. He was a respectable 4th in that race, finishing in front of eight other maidens. He missed a few weeks of training, but appears to be ready to go today. I’m interested in the fact that Cox brought Patton’s War (#3) here from Churchill, where he is based. Keeneland opens in about a month and there was a maiden special weight last night at Turfway he could have gone in. Cox has two running in the Essex today, but both of those runners are based at the Fair Grounds. Perhaps they think this son of West Coast is a runner and the added $20K in purse money that’s offered here will make the trip worthwhile. Commerce Comet (#4) is the morning line favorite for Asmussen off a pair of solid efforts to start his career. He wilted late in the slop in his local debut at the end of January. He has a shot, but as a heavy favorite, he’s not as appealing.
State bred fillies and mares run in this $12,500-$10,000 N2L claiming contest. I’ll try She’s Hamazing (#5) on top in a wide open race. The angle for me here is that she’s back under the care of Jaime Gonzalez, who campaigned her last season. She was more consistent then, breaking her maiden in this oval in April. She’s struggled to find that level of consistency while running for Michael Hewitt in her first four tries at this meet. Perhaps that change can make the difference here. K J’s Pistol Annie (#4) is lightly raced, making her 7th career start today. She was flying home late two starts ago, when she came up just short. Look for her to rebound off a dull performance in allowance company last time. Sweetness To (#7) has some of the best speed figures in the group, but consistency is a major issue. This might be the softest group that she’s seen yet, so she’s worth including, especially at or around that 5-1 morning line figure.
I’m not sure what to make of Go On (#4) in this $10,000-$7,500 N3L claiming race. He was last seen running 13+ lengths behind Newgrange in the Grade 2 San Pasqual at the end of January. This is about as steep of a drop in class as you’ll see between starts, and I’m sure he’ll go into the gate at shorter odds than that. I’ll try to beat him, using Mulberry Street (#5) on top. He’s caught some tough opponents of late. He’s been very steady in his last several races. He was very sharp early last out when breaking near the rail in a full field. He backed off a strong pace, moved a bit early, but was no match for Iberville that day. I think he’ll be tough at this level. Hanks (#7) stretched back out to a route last time and crushed a N2L field. Outside of the top two, there’s not a ton of depth here, however, I do wonder if he can duplicate that effort. Ultimately, I don’t think there’s much talent in this race outside of the main three contenders.
Time restricted $10K claimers will sprint six furlongs here. Ocelot (#9) feels like a bad favorite in this spot. I’ll try to beat him with Cost Basis (#7), who was claimed by Tim Martin last time out when facing a very salty field at the conditioned $10K level. Martin hasn’t had a great meet, but he does have good numbers first off the claim. This race is definitely class relief for him, despite racing at the same tag. This is likely the softest field that he’s ever seen. I think he’s a sneaky play in this race at 15-1 on the morning line. Great Faces (#3) is coming in from Sam Houston after four strong races in a row. The 0-9 record on this course and the fact that he has almost 4 times as many second place finishes as wins does worry me a little bit. However, at 8-1 or better, I think that represents fair value here. Espionage (#6) is the other Broberg runner in this race. He returned from a layoff in the slop while entered with a waiver with $16K claimers. He drops in class and should get back on a fast track today.
Despite their recent struggles, I think this race will come down to will come down to either Legendary Gift (#2) or Lady Shaman (#3). I prefer Legendary Gift, while cutting back to a sprint. She’s hit the board in five straight one turn efforts, winning one of them. Her two awful races in that span were two turn routes. She beat a comparable bunch two starts back and she might offer a bit of value after her dull try with better last out. Lady Shaman is one that should appreciate getting a fast track this afternoon. Her off track efforts have been less than stellar. She was solid in her two prior efforts before struggling in the mud last out with conditioned $10K claimers. Look for a rebound effort today.
The Late Pick-5 gets started with a $40K maiden claiming race for three year old fillies. This feels like a spread spot to me. I’ll try Pink Ace (#5) on top in her debut for McPeek. He doesn’t have great numbers with firsters debuting for a tag, but this $5K daughter of Aikenite feels like a bit of an overachiever. Her works have been solid and this seems like a soft field for the condition. There could be enough speed to set things up for Collected Glory (#8) to run them down late in this race. She opted out of a more competitive two turn race here on Thursday in favor of this spot. On paper, that feels like a good decision, as there are a few horses that could be gunning for the early lead. While she’s yet to get the job done, she has proven she is comfortable running on from the back of the field. Jumpin Judy (#6) might be the kind of speed and fade runner that could create a vibrant pace battle. However, she’s worth thinking about if speed is doing well in the first half of the card. There’s also no guarantee that the first time starters are going to try to push the tempo here. She’s run well enough in her first two tries to make sure that she’s covered today. Danke Fuer Alles (#7) is the other firster that’s worth a look in this spot. She is trained by Norm Casse, who was blazing hot at the start of this meet, but has cooled off a bit since. Ricardo Santana has ridden several of his winners at this meet and he’ll take the call on this daughter of Union Rags.
There’s a decent amount of speed signed on this optional claiming/conditioned allowance route. Ain’t Life Grand (#6) could get the run of the race if he’s good enough in his first start as a four year old. He was a winner of the Iowa Derby last season, and really blossomed into a much different horse at two turns. Elvin Gonzalez is going to have to be patient and let them go early, while trying to slide in and save a little ground. As long as this comebacker isn’t too eager, I think he can get the run of the race. Frosted Grace (#4) has four strong races in his last five starts, with the only clunker being his run in the Claiming Crown Jewel on a very wet afternoon at Churchill. He just missed behind Caddo River in the slop at this level last month, and I think he’s better on a fast surface.
Race 8, The Grade 3 Whitmore Stakes:
There’s no Gunite in this race, as one of the best six furlong horses in training has eyes set on Dubai. Meanwhile, a contentious field of ten has been assembled for the first of two graded stakes sprints at this meet. There’s a lot of speed signed on, so I expect a fast and furious pace. Flash of Mischief (#7) is on a good race/bad race pattern, but I think he is going to be the one to beat in this spot. Toss his last where he was no match for Gunite in the King Cotton on a cold and wet day here. He was brilliant two back in the mud in the Ring the Bell Stakes and he was brilliant this fall in the DM Vance Stakes at Remington. That race sets up like this one on paper. Four year old Tejano Twist (#2) had a three race win streak snapped by Gunite last out in that same race. He closed a ton of ground to win the Steel Valley Sprint with a strong pace in front of him. He’s found a home as a closing sprinter and this is the kind of race where he should excel. Spankster (#1) will try stakes company for the first time after an off the pace victory in the slop with allowance company last month. He’s been in good form of late and could have upset potential with the right kind of trip.
Race 9, The Grade 3 Essex Stakes:
The local prep for the Oaklawn Handicap drew a field of ten runners, going 1 mile and 1/16. Tawny Port (#8) makes his second start of the year after a wide effort when finishing 5th in the Grade 3 Mineshaft Stakes last month at the Fair Grounds. Brad Cox brings him here, as perhaps he doesn’t love the course in New Orleans. He won both the Lexington and the Ohio Derby last season, and he looked very promising when pushing Epicenter and Zandon to the max in the Jim Dandy. He hits the reset button and could get a nice trip in his local debut. I’m a sucker for horses with a strong progression in speed figures, and while his smashing score in the Razorback last month could be the apex of this form cycle, I have to use Last Samurai (#10) on my tickets. His races on this oval have been excellent, winning three of eight times with a pair of runner up efforts. He was 4th best in the Pegasus World Cup two back, and that effort looks better after Stiletto Boy, who was 3rd that day, won the Big Cap a few weeks ago. Forza Di Oro (#7)has struggled to win since going on the shelf after his victory in the Grade 3 Discovery back in 2020. Brad Cox took over his training and he has been competitive, but hasn’t closed the deal in a while. Like Tawny Port, he’s leaving New Orleans in favor of the big purses in these races here.
The day will conclude with an overflow field of state bred maiden special weight fillies and mares, sprinting six furlongs. Trying to decipher value in this race is hard with the morning line favorite, Street Painter (#13), stuck on the AE list. If she makes it into the body of the field, I’ll use her, but I don’t think there’s much value there. Delta Moon (#10) is interesting at 20-1 on the morning line. She ran okay two back at this level, but was not on her best behavior last time out. The runner up of that race came back to win last out. I don’t think she’s that far off from the shorter prices here. Ngala (#9) finds a reasonably soft field to make her career debut for Ron Moquett. Jimmy Creed gets 13% winner with debut runners in dirt sprints and the dam won four of her five career races on this oval. Her works are respectable enough to make sure she’s covered. Wild Rosey (#6) has met a pair of runaway winners in her last two starts. Her speed figures are going in the right direction though, and the addition of blinkers may help her cause today.
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