We’re down to nine days of live racing left in the Oaklawn Park Meet. After a mid-meet slump, Ricardo Santana Jr. had a strong week last week to move within eight wins of David Cabrera, who will be sidelined through the end of the meet. Steve Asmussen has saddled over a hundred more horses than anyone else at this meet, and he holds a comfortable nine race lead over Robertino Diodoro in the trainer standings.
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||DBL, PK3, PK4|
|5||9||2,4,9||DBL, PK3, PK5|
|6||4||4,7||2||DBL, PK3, PK4|
$12,500 conditioned claimers go in the Friday opener, however, all seven runners are entered under the N3L condition. Hoping for a Ring (#2) hasn’t been the most consistent horse on the grounds, but she’s dropping in class in her first start since being claimed by Coty Rosin. She was good enough to beat starter allowance company earlier in the meet, and this level of competition seems to suit her better. I think she’s sitting on an improved effort. Flashy Biz (#1) makes sense for leading trainer, Steve Asmussen in her first start since she was claimed. She cleared the N2L condition last out after three straight on the board finishes prior to that. Isaac Castillo was riding very well here over the weekend, and he’s won with three of ten mounts for Asmussen thus far at this meet. Simona’s Choice (#5) is also moving up in class after a win with $10K N2L claimers. Like Flashy Biz, she was also claimed out of that race and making her first start for a new trainer. Both of her career wins have come on this course.
$12,500 maiden claimers go a mile in the back end of the early daily double. Bon Deux (#2) has a two turn pedigree, so stretching out from a sprint in his debut seems like a logical next step. He was away slow and allowed to lope along at the back of the pack two weeks ago. He finished with interest in that race, suggesting that he’ll improve at two turns. Loving Lucky (#8) is the morning line favorite in spite of a dull effort at nine furlongs in his last start. Diodoro claimed him for $10K, so the expectation for improvement is there. He’s run some solid races, alongside his clunkers. He makes sense at this level, but I don’t know if we’re going to get the right value here.
Fillies and mares run with a $17,500-$15,000 tag in this open claiming race run at six furlongs. There’s a lot of early speed signed on, which could set the table for Catania (#1) cutting back from two turns to six furlongs. She was a winner in the mud here two starts back with optional $15K claiming/$10K starter allowance foes, using her rail position to go gate to wire that day. She moved up in class and finished an even 4th while racing on a fast surface last out. While she’s been more forwardly placed in her last two route races, she’s proven she can be effective as a closing sprinter, winning three of her first five starts at this distance and hitting the board in the other two. She makes a lot of sense in this race, and I’d be very happy to take 9-2 or better on this Illinois bred. Kasserine Pass (#6) is also very logical in this race while dropping in class. She’s faced tougher fields in her two local starts at this current meet, finishing 3rd two starts back and second in her most recent effort. She likes to be forwardly placed, but she rated very kindly in her last start, when she came up just short on the wire. I think 5-2 is a very fair price, but I suspect we’re not going to be getting those odds.
My hope in this race is that the fact that Best Bet (#4) is trained by Brad Cox, will drop his number a bit from the 5-2 morning line, and thus creating a little added value with the favorite, Greatheart (#8). I feel he’s worthy of being a single in this maiden special weight. While figures from some of the others, including Best Bet, are close, none of them have looked like winners in their past races on the racetrack. Best Bet has folded up in his last two, and Hellman (#5) has never been within three lengths of the winner in any of his three starts. Greatheart on the other hand, was very strong in his last start, finishing a solid second to Go West at this maiden allowance level. He’s third off the layoff, and John Ortiz gives the call to Ry Eikleberry, who won his first race of the meet last weekend. On deeper tickets, I’ll opt to cover with the other horse that Gary and Mary West are sending out, Stand Proud. He’s a four year old Flashback colt that is finally getting to the races for Ron Moquett. He’s worked well enough and the fact that they entered him in this race when they own Best Bet as well, tells me that their either high on him or down on the other horse.
State bred $16K N2L claimers go six furlongs in this mid-card contest. Forsaken (#9) was cooked in a speed duel last out when facing winners for the first time two weeks ago. He drew the rail in that race and My Little Tipsy (#10) was in the stall next door. With both having that inside position, they were forced to be ridden aggressively in that race. Forsaken was sent off as the 9-5 favorite in that race and he finished second to last. I think with a wider draw, Francisco Arrieta has more options, as he isn’t a “need the lead” type. He’s 8-1 on the morning line and could offer better value in this race if he can rebound. Holding Pattern (#4) returns to state bred racing after three straight tries with open, N2L claimers. Tom Swearingen brought him here from Illinois in December to face fellow Arkansas breds in a $10K maiden claiming race. He graduated that day, but was claimed away. He was claimed a few times before Swearingen re-claimed him last month. He tried him with $30K-$25K N2L claimers last out where he was in too deep. This is a significant drop in class, while still racing for a tag that is higher than what he was claimed for. Super Geek (#2) is another one getting class relief in this race. He’s been beaten in a pair of sprints with state bred optional claiming/allowance types. He was awful two back when trying two turns, but his sprint figures would make him competitive at this level of competition.
The late Pick-4 starts with a $50K starter allowance race for fillies and mares, three and up. Epicurean (#4) is the top pick after a pair of narrow defeats on the local oval. She was excellent three starts back breaking her maiden at Sam Houston with maiden special weight foes there. Diodoro put her in a $20K N2L claimer in her local debut, where she lost in a photo and was claimed by Bentley Combs. He moved her to a protected $30K stater allowance where she finished a game second a 9-1. Geovanni Franco has ridden her well, and I think she can get the job done with this group. Stanley Market (#7) makes a lot of sense in this race. She ran a big race when getting Lasix for the first time two starts back, bearing a nice field of $30K N2L claimers. She moved up the class ladder to face optional claiming/N2L allowance foes, and finished second to Parlance, who is a nice filly. If she can maintain her strong form of late, she figures to be tough. On deeper tickets, Dare Me (#2) is an interesting longshot that is cutting back to a sprint for Greg Compton. She broke her maiden on debut with a full field of $50K maiden claimers when she was trained by Brad Cox. Compton claimed her for $50K that day and has run her twice in protected spots, where she was beaten by a pair of very nice former stablemates. She drops in class after losing to Interstatedaydream, who was recently third in the Grade 1 Ashland at Keeneland. Facing older horses may be a tall order, but I think she could have a forward move in this race at long odds.
I don’t like the short prices on Public Record (#3) and Lookinforexcitemen (#4) on the morning line. I feel that 7-2 and 3-1 are too low for this $20K maiden claiming race for three years, where I’m not sure anyone should be that low. I ended up looking to the outside and making Drag Malibu (#12) my top pick in hopes that he can get back to his debut effort while dropping in class. He just missed that afternoon, going off at 43-1 with $50K maiden claimers. That effort was good enough to take a few shots with maiden special weight types, especially with the gaudy purses here at that level. He struggled there and struggled again most recent when facing a strong group of $50K maiden claimers than he saw in his debut. This is a considerably softer field for him today. Wesleyan (#7) is also dropping in class after facing $40K and $50K maiden claimers in his last two. He was brought here by Rodolphe Brisset, who took over the training of him from Bob Baffert. He’s bred to go long, but he’s been more competitive in sprints so far in his career. Public Record will be on the A line in my tickets after pairing his Beyers in his first two starts when facing $50K maiden claimers. Isaac Castillo had a very good week here last week and he gets the call for Asmussen on the drop. Lookinforexcitemen is worth covering on deeper tickets, even if the price isn’t what I hope it will be. He runs for Chris Hartman who has been sending out live runners all meet long. His two sprints have been two of his better races, so I imagine we’ll be seeing him compete in one turn races for the foreseeable future.
The featured race on the program is a state bred optional $20K claiming/N1X allowance race at 1 mile and 1/16. I think Bellamys Roan (#7) is very dangerous in this race. He’s been mostly a sprinter, but his lone two turn effort three starts back was strong, finishing second despite breaking from post 12. He came back to dominate a maiden special weight field on a snowy afternoon. He faced winners for the first time and had a traffic filled trip, splitting the field at this level three weeks ago. I think he can move forward while stretching back out in distance, and I think his price (5-1) is very fair. Smarty Grimes (#1) draws the rail after a decent 4th place finish with state bred allowance types last out. He was claimed for $8K by Broberg two back and I liked his effort last out for his new connections. That was a much deeper field than what he;s up against here, while in for the $20K tag. Dinner at Crumpies (#6) is the morning line favorite after a pair of runner-up finishes at this level in his last two starts. He ran a career top speed figure last out, but historical trends are not great for him. He regressed in his next start when coming off his previous career top last summer at Louisiana Downs. 5-2 is a tough pill to swallow, but at longer odds, I’d be more willing to roll the dice with him.
The day ends with a $40K starter allowance race at 1 mile and 1/16. This is a loaded field for this condition, and Spa City (#6) leads the way. He’s a stakes winner that has won 33% of his career starts. He was claimed for $40K by Tom Amoss back in August and he hasn’t been offered up for a tag since. He’s won twice in six starts for Amoss, and finished third two more times. He struggled in stakes company last out in Delta, but I think he’ll return to his best form while getting class relief. Truculent (#3) was trounced by the top pick in a stakes race back in November at Indiana Grand. Since then, he’s run four times at this meet, winning once, and hitting the board in his last two at this level. There isn’t a ton of speed signed on and he appears to be the controlling pace in here. I think he’ll be much closer to Spa City today.