The last Saturday in March offers an 11 race program, headlined by the Purple Martin Stakes for three year old fillies. Klassy Bridgette looks to win her second straight stakes race and her 4th straight race of the meet. To do that, she’ll have to dispose of Socially Selective, who was a beast in her debut at Saratoga this summer, but hasn’t been seen on track since. Nasty storms forced the cancellation of the last two races yesterday. The forecast is much kinder today, so the track should be drying out throughout the afternoon. First post today is 12:35 (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|
|1||7||5,7||2||DBL, PK3, PK5|
|2||8||8||2,6||4||DBL, PK3, PK4|
|5||1||1,3,7||DBL, PK3, PK4|
|7||5||3,4,5||DBL, PK3, PK5|
|8||1||1||4||DBL, PK3, PK4|
Fillies and mares start the day in a $30K starter allowance race for horses that have never won three times. Megan’s Clara (#1) is a short price on the morning line, but she feels like a vulnerable favorite here. She is coming off a huge effort on a muddy track here when facing conditioned $35K claimers. She feels like a bounce candidate to me in this spot. Shell Shock (#7) has been facing tougher starter allowance field over the last few weeks. She faded to 4th when going two turns last time out. She’s better when she’s sprinting and she should sit a nice trip with this group. Twirling Tigress (#5) is moving up the class ladder, after winning with a $30K, N2L starter allowance group last month. Early speed is her game and there doesn’t appear to any real threat keeping her from getting the early lead. She’s , lightly raced, but all three starts at this meet have been solid. Woohoo Jackie Blue (#2) is making her first start of the year, while moving back to the main track. Lindsay Schultz will likely have to wait for the Monmouth meet to get her back on the turf at a competitive level, however, she was a winner on debut sprinting on the dirt here last season. She had a rough trip in a salty N2X allowance race in her most recent start back in October at Keeneland. She was competitive in all of her other races though, and while she might be better next time out, I can’t completely discount this hard trying Jack Milton filly.
Fillies and mares will go six furlongs in this $12,500 maiden claiming race. Tenzing (#8) was much sharper at similar level last time out. She was dull in her debut with state bred maiden special weight runners back in December. Burl McBride gave her a little more time and dropped her in class to a more reasonable spot. She’s an Arkansas bred, so she’s able to race in this spot with a $20K tag. I think she’s quick enough to run this group off their feet. Knocknerea (#6) makes her first start of the year while facing open company for the first time. She ran three times with Indiana breds last year in maiden special weight company, finishing 4th in her last try back in November. She drops for a tag, but this feels like a jumping off point for her 2023 season with the Horseshoe Indianapolis meet starting in a few weeks. She still could be competitive at this level. Bidofhoney (#2) is the morning line favorite after finishing 4th at this level when running for Chris Hartman last month. She was making her first start off a layoff and did catch a sloppy course, so there’s reason to believe she could move forward in her first start off the Asmussen claim. I don’t love her as the 9-5 favorite though, as I think this race is much more wide open than that. Destiny’s Dream (#4) is a second time starter that’s dropping in class after a dull debut. Prather doesn’t have great numbers with second time starters, but she should improve some with the class relief. She’s a longshot that might be better suited for underneath in the vertical exotics, however, if her odds float up, she’s playable enough to take a chance with.
There’s a handful of horses that want to be forwardly placed in the early stages of this $25K-$20K N2L claiming race. That could also set up nicely for both Get Through (#3) and Mr Creed (#6) in this spot. I’ll get the slight edge to Mr Creed though. He’s a horse that could offer some sneaky value in this spot. He finished in front of Get Through three starts back. He was claimed out of that race and was placed in a pair of curious spots. He faltered two back in a sprint against $50K N2L claimers and then he moved early into a slowish pace when facing better. Isaac Castillo rode him very well three starts ago and he gets the return call here. Get Through has been a consistent type that was overmatched against a stronger allowance field in his most recent start. He ran well enough in his prior two starts when facing restricted claimers. Chris Hartman continues to pile up the wins at this meet and I think live again with this one.
The Heights (#9) is the tepid morning line favorite after running a big effort last out at this level. He drew the outside post (which he’s stuck with again), and was wide on both turns. He was still flying late to pass several rivals to be third. He should be more fit for this race, making his second start off the layoff and his second start for Lindsay Schultz. I think there’s enough cheap speed to set up his late kick. Briartown (#1) looks to be well-spotted in this race, making his second start at two turns. He struggled in his first route where he ran into Single Ruler and Baseline Beater, both of which ran well enough to be considered for the Louisiana Derby this afternoon. His one turn efforts with $50K maiden claimers at the Fair Grounds were better, but I think with the rail draw and the slight drop in class, he could contend with this group. Sir (#8) has been hanging on in maiden special weight and high priced maiden claiming races, but the reality is that he doesn’t really belong at those levels. This feels like a much more reasonable spot for him, after a pair of off the board finishes on the grass in New Orleans. Many of McPeek’s runners have been live at this meet.
With the 11 race card today, there’s a Mid-Card Pick-4 wager that gets underway in this race. I’m going to try a few prices in this $10,000-$7,500 N2L claiming contest. American Smooth (#1) was claimed by Jason Barkely for this $10K tag back in June. He went on the shelf after that effort and didn’t make his return until the end of January. Barkley entered him twice with $16K N2L claimers, in order to be able to employ the waiver for both of those starts. He faltered at two turns in the mud last time out, but returned with a respectable 4th place finish when sprinting two back. His dam was an East Coast based stakes winner when sprinting on the dirt, so I can play him on the cutback today. Touch Code (#7) has some monster efforts surrounded by several poor ones. At 15-1 (ML), I can gamble that today might be his day to run one of those big races. He likes being on the lead, and there aren’t any need the lead types in this spot. Arrieta is an aggressive rider who will put him in a good spot. Whether he’s good enough or not remains to be seen. Brad Cox takes over the training of Street Art (#3), who figures to be a heavy favorite in this spot. He’s taking a significant drop in class while shipping in from Southern California. He had some sharp efforts at the end of 2022, but dropping to this level at least makes me wonder if that same horse is going to be the one showing up on the track. He is well-spotted from a pace standpoint, so I’ll be using him despite the likely lack of value.
This state bred maiden special weight race oversubscribed and was split into two heats, with this being the first and the second coming in the 8th race. I see Chaleco (#8) as an interesting runner in this race. He has four career starts where two are very sharp and the other two, not so much. He debuted well, narrowly missing to a talented Arkansas bred, Where’s Randy, back in January of last year. He tried two turns in his second start where he was overmatched after a poor break. He lost the rider in another strong maiden special weight race where the winner would go on to win a stakes race in open company later on that meet. He went to the sidelines and returned with state bred $20K maiden claimers where he just missed after launching a five wide bid off the turn. He’s been very competitive when sprinting, and I don’t see this as the deepest field. Stuck N Snow (#2) is trying to rebound after a troubled start in the slop last time out. He was a beaten favorite when defeated by a next out winner two starts back. There’s not much other early speed signed on here, so he should have every opportunity to wire this field. Table Money (#4) is a second time starter from the Asmussen barn that went off at long odds in his debut, His race wasn’t bad, finishing 7th, while running into some traffic. He was only three lengths behind the morning line favorite, Pearcy Road (#5) that day, so I see him as a better value play in this spot.
The Late Pick-5 begins with an optional $25K claiming/$16K starter allowance race for fillies and mares. Half of the field is entered for the tag and the other half is not, making this race an interesting handicapping puzzle. I think Good Penny (#7) is a vulnerable favorite, who seems to be trending in the wrong direction. She’ll be well backed after running a huge race two back. However, she was claimed for $40K that day and now comes back two starts later, entered with a $25K tag. I’ll give Squillions (#5) the call here, dropping out of N1X allowance company. She was on fire at Remington this fall, winning four of five races in Oklahoma, including a score in open N2X company. She remained eligible for the N1X allowance level here due to the purse structure in Oklahoma, but she struggled against some nice fields in those two races. She gets class relief while remaining protected from being claimed. Karl Broberg gives the call to Ramsey Zimmerman as Cristian Torres is riding at the Fair Grounds today. Waterworks (#3) looks like she could be the pacesetter in this spot, breaking near the inside in a race where there aren’t many others that want to be forward. She couldn’t make the lead in the slop last out when Ipsum Gratus (#2) was the winner. She ran well two back at Sam Houston and she was a winner on this course last season. She’s a player if she can control the pace. Undecoded (#4) is a filly looking for her third straight win. She accomplished that feat last year, breaking her maiden here in April and then winning her next two starts at Hawthorne. When she gets good, she typically stays good, and she’s adaptable to whatever pace scenario develops here.
Debater (#1) was very good on debut last month when battling a heavy favorite all the way to the wire. His trainer, Jaime Gonzalez, doesn’t have good numbers with the limited number of second time starts that he’s sent out, winning with only one runner in 19 career second starts. However, only 15 of those 19 runners were double digit longshots, and most of them didn’t debut as well as this gelding did. Time Andbeyond (#4) will be the other runner I’ll use from this race. He broke slowly in the slop last time out and never was able to recover. His race two starts back in December was good enough to make me think that he can contend with a field like this one.
Three year old filly sprinters will have the spotlight in the next two races, This one is for horses that have either started for a claiming tag of $50K or less or are racing with a $50K claiming tag. Three of the ten runners in this race have two wins, where the other seven only have their maiden victory to their credit. I like all three of these fillies today, with Yolanda Who (#9) being the top choice. She was claimed by Tom Amoss last out when she was headstrong early in the mud. She faded late that day to finish 4th. She was a winner at Remington back in December and her effort two back with starter allowance types on this course was good enough to put her right in the thick of things here. It Takes Heart (#1) has never run a bad race, finishing out of the money only once in her six career starts. Even that effort was solid though, as she was beaten by only 2 and ½ lengths that day. She lost in a three horse photo at the Fair Grounds in her most recent try. She continues to improve for Calhoun and she should be a player in this spot today. Always Angels (#2) showed some promise at Monmouth and Delaware this summer, breaking her maiden by seven lengths in September. She was claimed in her local debut two starts back for $40K, a race in which she was a handy winner. She tried stakes company in the Dixie Belle last out and was no match for Klassy Bridgette and company. She fits better at this level, but she;s going to have to work to beat these fillies.
Race 10, The $150K Purple Martin Stakes:
Three year old filly sprinters go six furlongs in this stakes race. Three very nice fillies headline this six horse contest. I’m eager to see the encore performance from Socially Selective (#4) for Bill Mott. She looked like a beast when breaking her maiden at Saratoga in her debut this summer. She went to the sidelines after that race and hasn’t been seen on the track since. She has been working well at Payson Park in Florida, and Mott handpicked this race for her return, I’ll be using her on the A line because she could be any kind, but I’m going to lean on the horse of the meet candidate, Klassy Bridgette (#1) to get the job done for the 4th straight time. She’s been flawless here this season, breaking her maiden with a full field in December, crushing a decent field to clear the first level allowance condition, and then just getting up in time to win in stakes company last month. She can handle any track condition and any pace scenario, and appears to still be getting better. On deeper tickets, I’ll cover with the Brad Cox runner, Key of Life (#5). She was a dominating winner of the Myrtlewood Stakes at Keeneland back in October. Both of her races in Lexington were eye-popping. Her other four starts, including her local debut, were not nearly as explosive though. If she’s going to run big outside of Keeneland, I think this would be the time she would. I’m just not really convinced that she’s the same horse away from Keeneland.
The Saturday card will conclude with a maiden special weight restricted to horses that sold for $75K or less at auction. Diodoro sends out Offshore Tithe (#2), who makes a lot of sense in his career debut. Girvin first time starters are hitting at 20% and that number goes to 22% when we’re talking about horses debuting in dirt sprints. The works aren’t eye-catching, but this barn knows how to win all kinds of runners, including firsters. Ryvit (#3) was very sharp in his first start since May when he faced open maiden allowance types. He made up decent ground to finish in the middle of the pack, less than five lengths behind the winner. He makes a lot of sense, while getting some class relief here. Dario (#12) finished less than three lengths behind My Uncle Leon (#5) last out in a similar spot. Dario had to contend with being on the rail with a full field. He gets the polar opposite post, which should actually fit him better today. He represents much better value than My Uncle Leon on the morning line, with Dario at 10-1 and My Uncle Leon at 7-2. Obviously, those numbers can and will likely change, however, if the discrepancy stays that large, I’ll take the longer priced Dario, and use My Uncle Leon as a saver, since he was solid last time out.