It looks like another beautiful day for racing in Hot Springs, Arkansas! There’s a nine race program this afternoon, highlighted by an allowance sprint for some horses that might be auditioning for the Count Fleet Sprint Handicap here next month. First post today is 2:00 ET/1:00 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||6||1,1A,6||3||DBL, PK3, PK4|
|5||9||5,9||4,6||DBL, PK3, PK5|
|6||7||7||9||DBL, PK3, PK4|
The day starts with a $10K maiden claiming race going nine furlongs. While lower level maiden claimers can be unpredictable, I feel like something weird would have to happen for Loving Lucky (#4) to lose this race. He just missed with $20K maiden claimers two back going 1 mile and 1/16. He finished in front of Knievel, who came back to dominate some of the shorter prices in here like Big Pete (#7) and Nugget of Grace (#2). He moved up to face a stronger group for $30K-$25K maiden claimers last out and ran an even 4th place. He drops in class to the lowest level yet, and if he can duplicate one of his last two efforts, he should win this race. On deeper tickets, I’ll try to cover with India Tiger (#5). He’s offered little in five starts, and was recently twelve lengths behind Big Pete at this level. However, he is second off the layoff, and he is one of the more lightly raced runners in this spot. At long odds, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him run better, especially if Contreras can keep him more engaged earlier on.
This $8,000-$6,250 claiming route is a little tricky because there isn’t a ton of speed signed. In addition, there’s a big claim and drop horse, Red Again (#1A), that appears to be the best early speed, further complicating things. I’m not sure he’ll get an ideal pace to close into, but Stock Deal (#6), coming off a win with $10K N3L claimers is still the top pick. He closed well last out, clearing the N3L condition, and giving apprentice Erick Medellin, his first local win. He comes back in two weeks for a slightly lower tag, but moving into open company. Diodoro re-claimed him a few starts back, and seems to have him back to his better form. Red Again was claimed for $20K in his last start back in January, and now shows up here entered with an $8K tag. I never love that, especially seeing as how he was a very good second last time on the track. However, he has a definite tactical advantage, and he’s coupled with the other Diodoro runner, Tiz Showbiz (#1), who is definitely better than his last race. I like the move back to two turns here. David Cohen is named on both, so I’m not sure if both will go, however, I think both runners are worth including on the ticket. If Red Again does defect from this race, I think Love Nest (#3) would inherit the early lead, thus making him a threat to rebound after a pair of dull efforts. He missed the break when sprinting last out, and he’s better when he’s forwardly placed, so I’m willing to draw a line through that race. If Red Again is out, I’d move him to the A line, but if that one is in, he’ll stay on the B line.
$40K maiden claimers take flight for six furlongs in the third race today. Wildwood Z (#8) ran a strong race going two turns with $30K maiden claimers in his debut last month. The dominating winner of that race, Clancy’s Pistol, came back to win in starter allowance company in his next start. Scott Becker decides to cut back the distance for this son of Mr. Z after carving out some solid fractions in a two turn debut. This is a step up in class as the claiming tag is higher and he’s facing older horses after facing straight three year olds in his debut. Nonetheless, I think he’s a live runner here. Wesleyan (#2) is another three year old taking on older foes for the first time here. He was a decent 5th in a solid $50K maiden claiming race at the beginning of the month. He was making his first start off the Timothy Martin claim that day. That effort was a much better try than his disastrous local debut two back. I like the bullet drill last Saturday, which signals to me that he could be ready to take a step forward here. Rare Stripe (#7) has had many chances to break his maiden, but this will be the first time he’s been offered up for a claim. He’s run eleven times before this, all with maiden allowance types, trying dirt, turf, synthetic, one turn, and two turns. He’s making his second start off the layoff, after running an even 4th when he returned to the races last week. This is a quick turnaround, so I’d want to see how he looks on the track before taking a short price on him here. On deeper plays, I’d give a look to Quarantine Whiskey (#9), making his first start off the Broberg claim. He drew off early when going two turns with $30K-$25K maiden claimers two weeks ago. He fell back sharply when passed, finishing 7th of 8 that day. If Hiraldo can harness that early energy he showed last out, I wouldn’t be shocked to see him improve in his third career try.
This is a nice mid-card optional claiming/allowance race for three year olds, sprinting six furlongs. I’m on Ignitis (#2) for D. Wayne Lukas on the cutback in distance here. He was third three starts back in the Smarty Jones, but threw in a total clunker two starts back in the Southwest. He returned in a tough six horse allowance race on the Rebel undercard, where Call Me Jamal had a definitive tactical advantage. Ignitis was caught wide early that day and ran out of steam in the stretch. The winner of that race will likely try stakes company again next week in the Arkansas Derby, while he stays at this level. There are some talented three year olds who showed potential at two, who are making their first starts of the year today. I think that benefits him, as they could be getting leg weary in the final furlong, where I expect him to be finishing strong. B Sudd (#1) and Cogburn (#3) are the returning three year olds that ran strong races to break their maidens in the final two year old start last season. B Sudd found himself in a pair of key races that produced some quality runners last year. Dallas Stewart doesn’t have good numbers off the layoff, so he may be more effective next time out, however, I do think he’s worth covering in this spot. Cogburn is one of two runners for Steve Asmussen. He was a strong maiden winner at Churchill in his last start, back in September. He’s been working well in New Orleans for his return and certainly could be a factor here. Asmussen also sends put Pressure (#4) who might have bounced a bit after a big third place effort two back with similar. He had a wide trip in a contentious race, and struggled to gain in the final stages last time out. However, his recency might give him an edge over the comebackers here.
Sulwe (#4) is the morning line favorite in this maiden special weight race for Arkansas bred fillies and mares, and I feel she’ll be the heavy favorite. While I think she’s the one to beat, I’d be awfully nervous taking a horse who’s shown no early speed whatsoever racing in a 5 and ½ furlong sprint. She does add blinkers and she should be getting back to a fast track after going two turns in the mud in her first local start. Her debut at Sam Houston was definitely strong. She showed no early speed, but came with a furious rally to narrowly miss the win. I just don’t see that kind of trip working at this distance though. I will definitely use her, but I’ll try to beat her with Prinia (#9). She broke beautifully and made the early lead in her debut three weeks ago. Once she was passed, she retreated quickly through the field that day. It didn’t help that the winner of that race won by over twelve lengths. John Ortiz typically does well with his second time starters, so I could see her wiring this group in her second career try. You see a lot of Louisiana breds sired by Star Guitar, but not too many Arkansas breds. However, he is the sire of Little Rocker (#5), who has been improving in the morning for Randy Morse. He has sent out some live runners on debut at this meet, and I think his filly has one of the better pedigrees in the field. Runnininthestreets (#6) is another first time starter that might be worth a look. Her last drill on March 11th was by far her best AM work to day. Doug Anderson doesn’t have great numbers with horses on debut, but there’s not a ton of depth to this group and she may be ready to roll here. For the Late Pick-5, you’ll at least be able to see how either of these runners are being bet to see if there’s any additional clues there.
The Late Pick-4 starts with a $30K starter allowance race for fillies and mares at six furlongs. There’s a lot of early speed signed on, especially from posts two through six in this race. This race should set up nicely for the morning line favorite, Legendary Gift (#7). She’s run four solid races at this meet, each one against a better field than she’s facing today. She got the better of many of these when finishing second to Let’s Cruise in a $50K-$45K N2L claiming race in the mud last month. If she can sit the right trip, I think she’s apt to blow by the frontrunners in the stretch. Fifth Risk (#9) sat out two months after being claimed by Steve Asmussen in January for $30K. She gets a definitive rider upgrade to Joel Rosario after having a tough trip in her local debut. 10-1 seems a little high, but I think somewhere between 6-1 and 8-1 is fair for this daughter of Outwork.
With closing day coming up on Sunday at the Fair Grounds, we’ve started to see more horses based in New Orleans, shipping to Arkansas. We saw two live Fair Grounds shippers finish third and sixth, respectively, in an allowance race yesterday, beaten by a pair of local runners. Three of the eight competitors here last raced in New Orleans. However, I prefer a pair of horses coming out of a local race. Best Bet (#4) and Invariably (#5) were soundly beaten by Life Is Hard three weeks ago when racing at this level. I think Invariably is sitting on a big race today. He’s regally bred, sired by Union Rags, out of the champion dam, Sweet Catomine. He ran a respectable 4th in his debut against a decent field while sprinting. He tired late when going two turns for the first time in his second start. I think having that experience under his belt now makes him more dangerous today. He’ll have to make up four lengths on Best Bet who was second that day. He was aggressive early on, but faded late once the winner opened up. On paper, the battle for the early lead seems less intense in this race. It was a little odd to see Go West (#7) go south to the Fair Grounds for a maiden race at two turns, since he’s based here and there was a one mile maiden special weight race run here on the same day. He ran a decent 4th, in a race that came back as one of the faster two turn maiden special weight races at the Fair Grounds meet. He’s run two solid races this year on this track after being away from the races for over a year. I don’t love him in this race, but I will cover with him.
The feature race is an optional claiming/allowance sprint at six furlongs that could produce a few starters for the signature sprint race of the meet, The Grade 3 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap, to be run on April 16th. The morning line favorite is the winner of the Grade 3 DeFrancis Dash via disqualification, Jalen Journey (#8). This seven year old gelding is making his first start since that effort back in September at Laurel Park. He hit the triple digit Beyer mark for the first time in his career in his previous start in a race like this at Saratoga. Asmussen has him working well for his seasonal debut, but there’s only three listed works off that long layoff, making me wonder if he’s really fully cranked for this race. I’ll save him for the deeper tickets. I ended up on the Gulfstream invader, Quick Tempo (#6) in here. He was ambitiously campaigned last year as a three year old, facing older horses all season despite there being plenty of opportunities to race against his own age group. In January of this year, he was claimed for $62,500 by Carlos David, who wins a lot of races in South Florida. He ran a big race last time out after joining this barn. Today, he’s making his third start off the layoff and his second off the claim, while shipping here, possibly as a tryout to see if he’s stakes worthy. He might be the speed of the speed and could take this group gate to wire. Home Base (#4) is the logical alternative after finishing second at long odds in the King Cotton Stakes here two starts back. His effort in allowance company nineteen days ago shows that stakes effort was not a fluke. He might sit the perfect trip just off the early speed here.
The nightcap is a state bred $16K-$12.5K maiden claiming race going 5 and ½ furlongs. This has the feel of a race where there could be a wacky outcome. While I don’t love the rail, I think The Bus (#1) is not impossible in this race. He made up some decent ground in his debut with $20K state bred maiden claimers two starts back. He moved up in class to try state bred maiden special weight company where he was overmatched. That race was also run in a snowstorm, so I’d be willing to simply toss that effort. He drops back to a level where he can be competitive. Travis Wales is 1-54 at this current meet, but he is a better rider than his record. If he can work out a trip, I wouldn’t be shocked if this one blew up the toteboard. Max’s Heart (#2) was awful while trying two turns for the first time in his last start. His two sprint races at similar levels were second place finishes, so this is probably where he belongs. Aux Arcs (#12) is a first time starter from Ernie Witt, who has done well with horses that have debuted for him at this meet. His works are generally quicker than the others that are making their first starts today, and the outside post should work to his advantage.
Favorite Bet Today: Race 1 Early Pick-5 ($24 Ticket, $0.50 Base Wager)
I like singling Ignitis (#2, R4) on this ticket, with the thought that he’s more than the others that are coming back off layoffs for this race. Other horses will take money in that race, so if we can connect with him, there should be value to be had. The first race seems like a spot where the favorite, Loving Lucky (#4, R1). I think there are some price plays in the other legs that could make this a decent paying ticket.
Race 1: 4
Race 2: 1,3,6
Race 3: 2,7,8,9
Race 4: 2
Race 5: 4,5,6,9