The first of five straight Thursday cards at Oaklawn begins with this nine program, scheduled to get underway at 12:35 (CT) today. The featured race is the 8th, where seven talented filly and mare sprinters will compete in an optional claiming/conditional allowance race. There could be some severe weather in the afternoon, as the storm that was originally forecasted for Friday appears to be on track to roll into town earlier. Definitely keep an eye on that if you’re playing tomorrow.
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||2,8,10||3||DBL, PK3, PK4|
|5||1||1||6||DBL, PK3, PK5|
|6||2||1,2,5||DBL, PK3, PK4|
The first race in the month of March at Oaklawn is a $7,500 N2L claiming race at six furlongs. There really isn’t much speed signed on at all for this race, so I have to think that Nik Juarez will look at the 12/29 $20K maiden claiming race at Delta as a blueprint for the kind of race that he wants to run with The Five B’s (#4) today. He jumped out to the early lead and was never challenged that day when winning by three lengths on the wire. He tried similar tactics against a much sharper group two back and was collared quickly. He dropped in class two weeks ago, but never went for the lead while running very wide. I think there’s a notable rider upgrade to coincide with the drop in class and favorable race shape. Back Beat (#2) is the morning line favorite shipping in from the Fair Grounds for Steve Asmussen. After a very slow start, wins for this barn have slowly started to pick up over the last few weeks. He’s a three year old taking on older runners for the first time today as he drops in class.
I think this state bred $10K claiming race is a wide open affair, so I’ll be looking for a few prices. Orbital Star (#2) is an interesting runner in his second start as a four year old. He was starting to figure some things out last year, winning his last two races as a three year old at Louisiana Downs. He was away from August until January where he resurfaced in a softer field for this condition. He closed well to be third that day. While this is a somewhat stronger group, Iexpect him to be more fit for this race. At 12-1 (ML), I see him as decent value on a horse that has some upside against some older runners that might be trending downwards. The Heat Is On (#8) ran two big races this fall at Remington, winning them both. He was off for three months when he returned against a salty field of state bred N1X runners. He didn’t run a step that afternoon, but he faces much more realistic competition here. He hasn’t been great at six furlongs, which is a legitimate concern. However, at 20-1 (ML), I can overlook that wart. J.E.’s Handmedown (#10) is a familiar nine year old gelding, getting set to make his 29th start over this oval. He’s making his third start off the layoff and dropping in class after two dismal efforts against better competition. This is probably about where he belongs at this point in his career, so he figures to be tough with this group. Heritage Park (#3) is the morning line favorite in this race, taking a decent drop in class for his second start off a layoff. He has four wins in 16 starts on this track. He makes a ton of sense, but it’s hard to take a short price on a horse with a jockey that is winless over this oval this season. Alberto Pusac hasn’t had great mounts at this meet, but he’ll be on some shorter priced horses early on in the card today.
Maiden three year old fillies sprint six furlongs while running with $50K-$45K tag in this race. Jumpin Judy (#6) jumped out of the gate and led a field at this level for the first five furlongs before tiring late. She finished third that afternoon, beaten a length and a half. Karl Broberg claimed her for End Zone Athletics and brings her back at the same level. She’s had three sharp barns for her new connections, so I’m expecting to see a more fit version of her hit the track here. Biogenic Babe (#3) is the 8-5 favorite on the morning line after three straight second place finishes to start her career. He dropped to this level three weeks ago in a race where she hit the front at the top of the stretch, but was collared late. Blinkers go on for the first time, which isn’t a great angle for Diodoro trained horses. Regardless, she’s established herself as a contender at this level.
We have identical conditions to the first race, making this the second division of a $7,500 N2L claimer. There’s some recently claimed horses running for a lower tag then they were claimed for in this race and there’s also some horses that are coming into this contest in poor form. As a result, this is a race I’d likely avoid. Uncle Ray (#9) just broke his maiden with $12,500 maiden claimers two weeks ago. He was making his third start off a short break and ran his best career race on dirt last time. I think this a reasonable follow up spot for a generally consistent horse. I hate taking 8-5 on Yacht Rock (#4), especially after he was just claimed two starts back for $20K. He’s a three year old taking on older foes, while likely getting back on a fast track. I’ll use him in the multi-race wagers purely on connections and lack of serious competition, but I don’t love seeing him entered at this level. Freer (#2) is 0-6 on this track, but he finished second three times here. He’s on his third race of his current form cycle, and historically, that has been when he’s fired one of his better efforts. He’s worth considering in this race as well.
I like Mount Craig (#1) quite a bit in this maiden special weight for three year olds and upward. He makes his 5th career start and his second off a layoff. He ran well in his local debut last month, coming with a strong late rally after a bit of a tardy beginning. The added sixteenth of a mile and the rail post should only help his cause today. He’s well bred, sired by Arrogate out of the graded stakes placed mare, Flash Forward. Her other two runners to make it to the track have been useful horses, and he might be the best of the three. He’s facing several professional maidens in this race that try hard, but seem to come up short on a fairly regular basis. I’d feel comfortable using this one as a single at the start or end of either Pick-5. Bolzy (#6) would be my backup play here, and a horse that would make some sense underneath. He’s a four year old Gun Runner colt making his second career start after a solid debut against a strong field when sprinting last out. Like his sire, his dam, She’s All In, did her best work at two turns on the dirt, winning 16 of 38 times in her career. She was a Grade 3 winner and Grade 1 placed, plus she ran several good races on this oval. She’s had three of her foals make it to the track, with She’s All Wolfe being the best. Donnie Von Hemel doesn’t have good numbers with second time starters, but I do think his colt has a lot of potential.
The Late Pick-4 gets started with a N2L allowance race for three year old fillies. Secret Statement (#2) might be overlooked in this race. She ran very well to break her maiden in restricted maiden special weight company at Churchill back in November. She faced winners for the time in the Gowell Stakes at Turfway on New Year’s Eve, where she ran 4th. She was given a little time off and now makes her three year old debut back on traditional dirt. She ran well on the lead two starts ago, but she’s also able to come from off the pace like she did in her debut. I think she has some upside in this spot. Pate (#5) is the deserving favorite after narrowly losing in the Dixie Belle Stakes three weeks ago. She’s never run a bad race in her five career starts. Gaining Rafael Bejarano two starts ago seemed to push her over the top, as he was aboard for her maiden victory as well as her last effort in stakes company. He’s back aboard this afternoon as well. Royal Spa (#1) makes her three year old debut after a fourth place finish in the Demoiselle Stakes back in December. She’s bred to better at one turn though, as her dam was a Grade 3 placed sprinter who ran her best races at this distance. Rodolphe Brisset has five winners with fifteen starters at this meet, and he has another live runner with this Violence filly.
$10K maiden claiming fillies and mares sprint six furlongs here. Truebluegirl (#3) made her first start off the layoff with $15K maiden claimers last month, while eligible for the waiver. She didn’t run a step that day, but that race felt like a raceday workout. Her last two races of 2022 at this level weren’t bad, and she might be one of the horses that could be closing here. Lunch Lady (#10) tired late in her first start off a seven month layoff last month. She might have the best early foot in this field, which isn’t a bad thing when facing a lot of horses that don’t like to pass other horses. Quality Chrome (#6) feels like an awful bet at 2-1, since she’s 0-13 in her career, while never really getting close to winning a race. I will cover with her though since this is a weak group, even for this modest condition. Her two turn speed figures are superior to this group, but her sprint figures are not as strong. They still match up favorably with this group though.
All seven fillies and mares in the featured race have a very similar running style, where they all want to be out front. American Lily (#2) is an interesting player in this race, because she can win on the front end, but she proved she can stalk and pounce when clearing the N1X condition at Santa Anita last month. This is a step up in class, but this Bayern filly is a neck short of being undefeated in four career dirt starts. Her versatility and consistency are definite selling points for me. Lastchanceforlove (#3) ended 2022 with a bang, winning her last three starts by a combined 20+ lengths, including a dominating score in the Flashy Lady Stakes at Remington. She’s been on the shelf since September, but Calhoun finds a smart spot for her to make her six year old debut. On deeper tickets, Sarah Harper (#5) is more attractive from a price standpoint than the morning line favorite, I’m the Boss of Me (#6). They’ve met in stakes company in their last two starts, with Sarah Harper finishing ahead of her two back and I’m the Boss of Me turning the tables last out. I’m the Boss of Me has struggled to pair big efforts though, so at shorter odds, I’ll try to beat her. Sarah Harper doesn’t win a ton, but she’s usually competitive, especially on this oval.
The day ends with conditioned $10K claimers going 1 mile and 1/16. I think Karl Broberg has two live mounts in this race, both making their first starts for him off the claim. Catholic Guilt (#3) has some consistent form to go off if you’re willing to draw a line through the awful efforts at Delta Downs. He was seven lengths behind Ego (#11) last time out when going nine furlongs. He’s drawn inside and wants to be forwardly placed. There is some other speed signed on, but he’s versatile enough to press the pace if needed. Cristian Torres has been riding first call for Broberg, and he’s on his other runner, First Line (#2), who will be closing late. He left himself with too much work to do last time out when he was ridden by a bug boy. He gets a rider and barn upgrade, which figures to serve him well. Primer Dimer (#9) was wide and moved early last time at this level. Isaac Castillo takes over, and he’ll have to work out a trip from his wide post. However, I do think he’s capable when he’s at his best. Ego will be rolling late, but he’s going to have to overcome post 11 to get the job done here. He’s another one that may have moved early last time. He’s been facing some tougher fields, so this may prove to be a bit of class relief, despite slightly moving up in class on paper.
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