It looks like another beautiful afternoon in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Over 37,000 people were on hand on a beautiful Saturday to see the promising four year old sprinter, Bob’s Edge, take down the Grade 3 Whitmore Stakes on Whitmore Day. They also saw another fan favorite win his second stakes race of the meet, when the nine year old gelding, Rated R Superstar, won the Grade 3 Essex Stakes. The featured allowance on today’s card goes as Race 8 where I like an Arkansas bred horse to hopefully defeat open company.
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||1||1,8||6||DBL, PK3, PK4|
|5||1||1,2,6||DBL, PK3, PK5|
|6||6||6||7||DBL, PK3, PK4|
If I’m being completely honest, the opener today at Oaklawn is the kind of race that, as a handicapper, I avoid like the plague. There’s a six horse field signed on this open $25K-$20K claiming race for fillies and mares. The morning line favorite is Alberta Sun (#5), and she’s the reason I really dislike this race. She’s been a useful filly, winning half of her career races She shipped here and has finished 3rd in both starts, while facing significantly better competition. She was re-claimed by Maker on behalf of Paradise Farm and David Staudache last out for $62,500. They had her back in November and she was a winner for them when facing open $50K claimers at Churchill. I hate seeing her entered in a race like this because it becomes obvious that the new connections see no value in keeping her in their stable. They’re essentially willing to lose a minimum of $20K to have this filly, that they just claimed, out of the barn. She may be good enough to win based on class alone, so if you’re playing this early sequence, I see her as a C line runner. I ended up making Playin in the Dark (#4) the top selection after running a big time effort in her first start off the Chris Hartman claim. She moves into open claiming after beating $30K-$25K N3L claimers last out. She is definitely a bounce candidate, but I’m not seeing much in the way of real competition in here, especially if Alberta Sun is not herself. Northern Diamond (#2) is a more consistent runner, also running for Hartman. She was 4th at this level against a saltier group last out. She has some decent early foot when she’s at her best, so she should find herself in a good striking position today. On deeper plays, I’ll toss in Catechism (#6) alongside Alberta Sun. She has been very bad in her two races, but prior to that she was running races that would be useful at this level. She’s worth thinking about on deeper tickets.
Fillies and mares go 1 mile and 1/16 in this $16K multi-conditioned claiming race. Horses that have never won three races or horses that have not won an $8K race or higher in six months are eligible to compete. Many other circuits write a lot of races like this, but we haven’t seen many here this season here. Big Base (#1) and Descente (#8) dueled for the final ⅛ of a mile in an open $6,250 claiming race last month, with Big Base pulling off the huge upset at 71-1 by the narrowest of margins. They are both back today, and both on paper, are moving up the class ladder, but they both feel like the primary contenders here. I’ll give the narrow advantage again to Big Base. She was overlooked by most, including myself, in her last race, most likely because her previous three starts after being claimed by Scott Corderman were poor. Prior to that though, she was running respectable efforts. She won 4 of 11 races in 2021 and has won 10 of 38 career starts overall. She broke in the outside gate and was part of a decent pace battle in that race where the other front runners all finished toward the back of the field. She gets a better draw today and could likely be back on the front end with less pressure. Descente was jostled around a bit into the first turn, but she came with a sustained bid that got underway from about the 7/16 pole, all the way home. She had a decent pace to close into, but Big Base was ultra game that day. I’m not convinced that she’ll have the same kind of race setup today though. While her form has dropped off a bit from her best days, she’s still consistently better than the majority in this group. On deeper plays, I’ll cover with Right Trappe (#6) who should feel some class relief after struggling with starter allowance company in her first two starts at this meet. She left Kentucky at the end of 2021 in her best career form while running in claiming races, so perhaps the class drop can get her back to where she was.
$10K N2L claimers go 1 mile and 1/16 in this race. Loch Garman (#1) makes a lot of sense after giving up the lead late at this level last out in the mud. He had an outside draw that day and draws the rail here, which should only help his cause. He makes his third race off the layoff and second straight race at two turns, which should be good from a fitness perspective. He’ll be on the A line for me, but as a short price, he’s not the most consistent type, so I made Rift Valley (#2) the top pick here. He faltered two weeks ago in a starter allowance sprint in his first start off the Timothy Martin claim. He was closing with interest and just narrowly missed at this level two starts back. David Cabrera continues to be the hottest jockey on the grounds, moving into the lead in the jockey standings this week, and he was the rider two back and again today. I thought Seaside Boy (#11) was a longshot player in a $20K N2L claiming race on Friday, but he defected from that race in favor of this one. He doesn’t have a great post for his first start for William Martin, but he does make sense assuming he can rebound off his last effort. The last two races he’s been at this level have been against fields that are significantly better than this one, which was part of the reason that I felt he could’ve pulled the upset with a better field on Friday. He doesn’t have a ton of speed, so he’s likely going to have to pass most of the field if he‘s going to win. If he rebounds, his trip will likely tell his story.
This is a nice optional claiming/allowance sprint race for fillies and mares. I’m siding with Melting Snow (#6) to run them down at the end in this race. That off the pace style was playing well yesterday, and she could very well get a nice pace to close into again. Southern Grace (#5) seems to be a need the lead type and with Joyful Cadence (#1) drawing the rail, it probably commits her to being forwardly placed. Melting Snow beat Joyful Cadence when winning in allowance company earlier in the meet, and I think she can do it again. Joyful Cadence is the other one that interests me in here. She was narrowly defeated in a Grade 3 race last May at Pimlico. She went on the shelf after a dull race in allowance company in June at Churchill. She made her first start since June back in returned to the races in December over this oval, and she got the job done last out, winning in allowance company when holding off the tough luck mare, Pharoah’s Heart. She’s in her third race off the layoff, and she could be right there again when they cross the wire.
There’s another multi-conditioned claiming race here, this one for horses running with a $30K-$25K tag. This is an open condition for three year olds, but four year olds and upward that have never won three races are eligible as well. I usually like playing three olds in this kind of race, however, there are none entered, so this is basically just an N3L claiming race. There’s definitely some back class in this race as three of the nine runners are stakes placed in their careers. Of that group, Sittin On Go (#1) is a Grade 3 winner, as he won the Iroquois back in 2020, closing into a hot pace on the Kentucky Derby undercard that day. Things haven’t panned out the way that his connections had hoped after that effort. He’s been transferred to Kelly Von Hemel’s barn to make his first start locally. While I think he’ll be better at one turn races at 7-8 furlongs, I still like the cutback in distance here. 15-1 (ML) would be a great price to take a shot with him on this deep drop, but I don’t think that’s realistic. 5-1 or higher feels like the number where I’d be comfortable using him on top, since he hasn’t won a race since that stakes win. Molto Vivace (#2) was claimed by Maker after a good second place effort at this level in his last start in January. He was beaten by Devil’s Tower, who went on to win his next two starts in starter allowance company and is entered later on this card in Race 8. His only off the board finish on this oval came in the mud when he was making his first start in almost seven months. He’s had five steady works since the claim and should be ready to go here. While a lot of the other runners in here are trending in the wrong direction, O Dogg (#6) could be one of the few that could be continuing to improve. He was sharp at Churchill, but struggled in his first two local races. His effort in the Devil’s Tower race on 1/16 is a toss for me though. He ran an improved 5th in the mud last out at this level. He should get back to a fast track and is in his third start of this current form cycle.
The late Pick-4 kicks off with a $20K starter allowance route at 1 mile and 1/16. Many of the runners in this spot are in good form, and perhaps none better than both Kershaw (#6) and Roaming Union (#7). They’re both coming out of a very fast $20K claiming race, where Kershaw had the edge. He was claimed by Wayne Potts from that race, who moves him into a protected spot. This is a horse that was consistently running sharp races in Southern California at the end of 2020 and into 2021. He’s had some hiccups in between, but he looks like could be right back to where he was. Roaming Union was a game second in that race when Geroux had to use him pretty hard early on to secure a respectable early position. Kershaw came at him with a three wide move after he had pressed a strong pace. I liked the way that he battled back, eventually giving in, but putting up a solid fight. He may not have to work as hard on the front end here, but I do worry that only one of the ten races yesterday was won in gate to wire fashion. These feel like the main players here.
This maiden special weight sprint for fillies and mares feels like a spread race to me. However, for the purposes of the multi-race wagers, I’m not going to be using the more experienced runners, Martique Miss (#5), Church Service (#7), or Candywrapper Crazy (#9). I feel like I’ve seen enough from this trio to think that the ceiling isn’t high enough to win at this level, without a race completely falling apart. I might not eliminate them underneath in the vertical plays, however, I think others are better suited to win this race. We’ve seen several decent first time starters at this meet, and I like two of them on top in this spot. M M M My Sharoana (#4) debuts for Mike Maker after some solid drills over the local course. She’s a three year old filly taking on older horses in her first career try. Maker doesn’t have a huge string here, so the fact that he’s kept this $220K purchase on the grounds, tells me that he thinks she can run a bit. In addition, I’m sure that track announcer, Vic Stauffer, could have a lot of fun calling her name, especially if she’s in a winning position. Lac Vieux Desert (#10) debuts for Diodoro, who has hit with 22% of his first time starters since 2021, boasting a $3.81 ROI. She’s a Candy Ride filly that cost her connections $120K at auction in 2021. She’s been working steadily for her debut since December, so she has a solid foundation. Devious (#2) and Magic Mags (#11) are the two second time starters that I’ll be using here. Devious was on the lead before backing out in her debut race that was exclusive to three year olds. Moquett’s horses typically improve in their second start, so I think she can have a forward move. She’s drawn on the inside once again, so Cabrera will likely need to use her speed to secure a good trip. We’ll see if he’s able to harness it a little better than Vazquez did last month. Magic Mags took some money in her January debut, but she retreated toward the back of the field after a less than ideal beginning. Rosario picks up the mount today for Asmussen and her outside draw could be advantageous for her. She did face older foes in her debut and the runner up in her last try, Mun Luv, broke her maiden here last month in her next try.
This 5 and ½ furlong featured allowance drew an eclectic field of nine. I like the Arkansas bred, Rolling Fork (#1) to continue to roll while returning to open company. He caught a sloppy track in his first start off a six month layoff last month, handily beating a field of state bred optional claiming/allowance types. He’s developed into a nice horse for John Ortiz after beating modest state bred $20K maiden claimers early on in his career last year. He was third in the Rainbow Stakes last April and ran some good races at long odds while facing open company at Churchill and Colonial. We know he likes this course and he should be able to move forward off his last effort. Devil’s Tower (#8) is the main threat, coming in off three straight wins. Chris Hartman has had him in great form since claiming him for $20K last November at Churchill. He takes another step up in class, but certainly fits in this spot based on his recent figures. Stratofortress (#4) broke through in maiden allowance company last month when making his 7th career start. He came to this meet with more turf experience than dirt experience, but he has improved nicely for Hollendorfer while running on the main track. His connections paid $250K for him back in October of 2019, and since then, he’s never been offered for tag, despite some dull efforts at the start of his career. Patience paid off for them as he is progressing nicely. Don’t discount him while facing winners for the first time today. Mesa Moon (#9) is the morning line favorite, but I’m not sure he’ll go into the gate as the post time favorite. He’s hit the board in his last two starts at this level, running second to Saffa’s Day last out and third to Macron two back. However, four of five career wins have come against Oklahoma breds and his only win in open company was in a $22K N1X allowance race at Will Rogers Downs. That effort did come at this distance though. I really don’t like him at a short price, but if his odds go from 5-2 closer to 5-1, then I’d be more comfortable playing him.
A full field of 12 Arkansas breds end the week in this optional $20K claiming/allowance race going 1 mile and 1/16. I’m going to try to beat the morning line favorite, Topf Road Rules (#6) in here. He handled the transition from sprint to route when desperately holding on to beat state bred maiden special weight runners last month. However, he has bounced off big efforts before, and a few of the longer priced runners on the morning line have beaten him on the square. I think he’ll be overbet off his big Beyer last out. I’m going to take a shot with the Louisiana invader, Buddy Reaux (#9) on top here. He has plenty of two turn experience, running four times on the dirt at Delta and once on the turf at the Fair Grounds. He broke his maiden on debut with modest $10K maiden claimers, then outran his long odds in three straight open N2L allowance races there, finishing an improving second two back. He tried the turf in New Orleans, which didn’t go well. He gets back on the main track and faces state bred company for the first time. Many in this field are trying two turns for the first time, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see him finding late here. I’ll likely be placing a win bet on him if he’s around or above his 12-1 morning line figure. The trio of You Vee Cee (#1), Big Success (#2), and Doc Irwin (#5) are all taking the chance of stretching out to two turns for the first time. You Vee Cee was wide in the slop when losing to Rolling Fork last out. If that one runs big in the previous race, that would certainly flatter his last effort when facing winners for the first time. Big Success was no match for Gar Hole in the Nodouble Breeders Stakes two weeks ago. I liked his race two back when he nailed You Vee Cee on the wire in a sprint while coming from off the pace. Doc Irwin has only run on wet tracks in his two career starts. He finished midpack at this level in the slop last month. I could see him improving on the stretch out in distance. On deeper tickets, Super Geek (#10) wouldn’t be the worst price stab in this race. He was 5th at 82-1 in the same race that Doc Irwin came out of. He won on debut with open maiden company this past fall at Remington. He didn’t figure in the open N1X allowance races there, but he looks to be improving and if he took another step forward here, he could be right with the favorites at this level.
Favorite Bet Today: Race 6, Late Pick-4 ($60 Ticket, $0.50 Base Wager)
I think this is a sequence that could pay well and might be worth a larger investment. I think the morning line favorites are vulnerable in the last three races, so I’m going to cast a decent sized net in hopes of catching some prices at the end of the card.
Race 6: 6,7
Race 7: 2,4,10,11
Race 8: 1,4,8
Race 9: 1,2,5,9,10