After the big day yesterday, we have a nine race program today that is highlighted by a rare Sunday Stakes race. The Temperence Hill Stakes is a 12 furlong contest on the dirt featuring Lone Rock, who is a multiple graded stakes winner in dirt marathons, and Strong Tide, and up and coming five year old in this division. We’re back to the tradition 2:00 (ET)/1:00 (CT) post to end the racing week in Hot Springs, Arkansas.
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||3||3,7||8||DBL, PK3, PK4|
|5||1||1||7||DBL, PK3, PK5|
|6||8||2,7,8||6||DBL, PK3, PK4|
The day starts off with $16K maiden claimers go six furlongs. Good luck to ten pound apprentice, Jeremy Alicea, who appears to be making his professional debut, riding Elusive Freud (#4) in this race for Frederico Villafranco. He’s a first time gelding that is 7-2 on the morning line, but he’s been beaten by double digit lengths in all four career starts to this point. I’m siding with Smokeymountainrain (#2) in this race, making his first start off the Aidan Green claim. He showed some decent speed last out, before fading late with a better field. I think he has more upside than others here. Justin Speight (#5) will likely be the heavy favorite, on the big drop, making his first start since September. This is a suspect field and he’s a suspect dropper, but he won’t have to be much to graduate with these.
Open $6,250 claimers go here, where three runners, Dr. Forman (#3), Alex’s Strike (#5), and Pull My Chain (#6) were soundly defeated by Can Imagine and American Dubai in a strong open $8K claiming race last month. Dr. Forman had some traffic issues that day, hindering his chances. He was an open lengths winner at this level two starts ago, and now he goes for Diodoro off the claim here. I think this is a logical rebound spot for him. I’m not as convinced that we’re going to see the best effort from Alex’s Strike though. He feels like he’s trending in the wrong direction, after a pair of races where he was claimed and dropped. He’s been leaving himself way too much work to do by falling too far back in the early stages, and I’m not sure he’s going to get the race shape he might need to pull this one off. Capture the Glory (#7) is up and down in form, so it’s never certain which version of him is going to show up. However, when he’s on, he’s very good, and this is a spot where he could offer some value. Honorary Degree (#8) was claimed two back for $12,500 when clearing the N3L condition here. He struggled with optional claiming/starter allowance types last out, and now drops to a race for half the claiming price. He’s drawn well and certainly could rebound, but I’d like to get better than 3-1 on him, and I’m not sure I see that happening.
The third race is a pretty thin $20K N2L claiming race for fillies and mares. I imagine a lot of the public money is going to go on the morning line favorite, Aidanike (#3), making her first start off the Steve Asmussen claim. She is coming out of a very good $20K maiden claiming race where the runner up and the third place finisher graduated from the maiden ranks in their subsequent starts. That win came in her 13th career try though and the speed figure she put up was 15 points higher than her career top. She moves to face winners for the first time and she draws a very weak group. I’m thinking that she’s a bounce candidate that will offer very little value at the windows. I’ll cover her simply because there’s not a lot of talent here, however, I’m on Dixie Penny (#4) to rebound here and beat this group. She broke her maiden in her 9th career race at the beginning of the meet here in December. She ran twice at long odds with $30K-$25K N2L claimers, finishing off the board each time. Kenny Smith drops her in class, and while the class relief she’s getting looks small on paper, it’s fairly significant. David Cabrera returns to ride, and while I don’t think we’re going to get the 5-1 morning line figure, I’d be comfortable using her prominently at 3-1 or better.
We continue to slide down the class ladder here, as this race is for $10K N2L filly and mare claimers, also at six furlongs. Despite the lower class level, I would have played the top three in this race on top in the previous race for a $20K tag. Rattaprante (#3) was beaten by Aidanike from Race 3 two starts back .She dropped to the $10K maiden claiming level to graduate in her second try on this oval. She’s been fairly consistent for a horse at this lower level, and I think she’s a gate to wire threat in her third race off the layoff for Jerry Hollendorfer. Fortuna Adiuvat (#6) faltered at two turns last out, and now drops in class and returns to a sprint. It’s been a while since she’s won a race, and she herself has continued to slide down the class ladder since breaking her maiden last spring at Churchill. While her races at this meet haven’t been great, she faces a field in which she appears she could be competitive with. Flashy Biz (#7) was narrowly defeated at this level last out when she was rolling late. She’s only won once in 27 career tries, and she often leaves herself too much work to do. I believe she’s the type of horse that would be better suited to a 6 and ½ or 7 furlong race, which isn’t an option on this oval. However, she figures to be close with this group today.
I’m not sure there’s a bigger purse disparity in the country than the difference between that of an allowance race and a starter allowance race at Oaklawn. This particular starter allowance race is also restricted to horses that would qualify for a N1X allowance. I bring that up because Eastside Cool (#1) finished first in a $106K allowance race two weeks ago, however, was disqualified for interference in the stretch and placed second. He runs back in two weeks, in a protected $30K starter allowance race where the purse is $36K, a whopping $70K less than he was running for two weeks ago. On the flip side, there were some races yesterday that he could have qualified for if Asmussen wanted to run him back quickly, however, Asmussen sent out Alejandro who finished third in that race, who is probably a better horse than he is. (He also sent out the second place finisher Caerus). I think he is absolutely the one to beat in this race. If anyone can beat him in here, give a look to Summer in Malibu (#7) on the outside. Apprentice Chel-C Bailey has been very good when riding front runners at this meet, and I think this one has the speed to clear from his wide draw. If she can slow the pace down, he might have enough left to hold off the favorite in the stretch.
Time restricted $10K claimers go six furlongs in the first leg of the Late Pick-4. This eight horse field as a whole has only one win in 50 career starts on this oval, so the horse for course angle is out the window here. I’m going to try a price on the outside and take Lover Boy (#8) in his first start of the Thomas Vance claim. He was a winner at Keeneland in October and was generally competitive in his Delta races. Chris Richard brought him here and found a very salty $8K claiming race, where he ended up 5th, beaten 10+ lengths after getting cooked in an early pace battle with better horses. I see much less pace pressure in this race for David Cabrera to contend with, and I’m expecting the horse to be more fit and better acclimated with the course after a race over this track. Replete (#2) was in the same race and he rebounded from a poor effort prior to that start to get into third, about six lengths better than my top pick. He typically runs his race, but he was aided by a hot early tempo that day, which feels unlikely today. He still makes sense with this field though, especially if Reylu Gutierrez can get him a little closer to the front end early on. Stormin Hongkong (#7) ran a big race with better last out, narrowly losing to Secretary at War. that was his first start since he was claimed by Asmussen. Rosario replaces Gaffalione, who was in town that afternoon for the Rebel. If he can duplicate the effort, I expect he’ll win. However, that race was a career top, so there will likely be little value on a $10K claimer. Trappe Valley (#6) is a live longshot in this race as well. He likely needed his last race which was his first over this oval, and his first start since October at Hawthorne. Wesley Hawley claimed him out of that race, and if he can run back to his Illinois and Indiana form from last year, he can certainly compete here.
Both Mrs. Beans (#1) and Topf Road Rules (#6) scratched out of the state bred optional claiming/allowance sprint yesterday in favor of this spot. Mrs. Beans didn’t have a choice, as he was second on the AE list and there was only one defection at scratch time. I prefer both as sprinters, but I will cover with both in this race as it feels wide open, and there are some places in this sequence where we get a little skinny. I made a case for Buddy Reaux (#8) last time at 30-1, and he gave me a thrill when almost making the lead with a wide sweep, before leveling off in the stretch. That was his first time on this oval, and going that far, so I think he may benefit from the shorter stretch of the mile race here. He was improving at Delta and ran a race that was good enough to make me think that he can compete at this level as he progresses. If he’s double digit odds again, I’m willing to take another shot. Big Success (#5) is coming out of the same race, finishing a tough luck third while in traffic for a chunk of time. He was making his first start around two turns that day, so I’m thinking he’ll be more fit to do it again this time. Topf Road Rules seems to be in a good race, bad race pattern. His last was a disaster from the second they sprung the latch. He can win this on his best day. Mrs. Beans was overmatched in state bred stakes company when sprinting last out, but he was very good two back. I wonder about his effectiveness at this distance, but he’s in good form and drawn well for this effort.
Race 8: The $150K Temperence Hill Stakes:
A rare Sunday Stakes features a showdown between Lone Rock (#1), who narrowly lost this race last year, and Strong Tide (#4) who absolutely crushed an allowance field in the local prep for this race last month. Both horses love this course and they’re both very good in three marathon races. I’m going to give the slight edge to Lone Rock who excelled in these races last year and has been facing tougher foes of late. He was off the board for the first time in a long time last out when he struggled to go with the top runners in the Grade 3 Razorback. I don’t think he’s as effective in shorter races though. He won the Grade 2 Brooklyn and the Grade 2 Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance race at 12 and 13 furlongs, respectively. He’ll appreciate going longer here. Strong Tide may be the up and comer in this division, so it wouldn’t be shocking if these two faced off many more times this year. He might be better if there’s a little moisture in the ground, as his last two races on dirt were good on muddy and good tracks. If he can duplicate his last, he’ll likely get the better of Lone Rock. However, he’ll have to do that on a track that will likely be fast, and likely without having such an uncontested lead.
Arkansas bred maiden special weight runners close out the week. I’m not feeling the nineteen time maiden, Traffic Control (#5) who was installed as the morning line favorite here. He’s been improving, but after 19 failures, I’ll take my chances against him. Skyped (#8) is the top pick after running a decent 4th last out, while running in a snowstorm. He’s been fairly consistent despite some breaks in his races. He faces a soft group in his third race off the layoff. Malintent (#3) was slow in to stride last out when making his debut with $30K state bred maiden claimers. However, he finished with enough interest to make me think that he’s got a better race inside of him. I don’t typically love the jump to maiden allowance races from maiden claiming races, but this is a weak field for the condition. More Than Hamazing (#4) makes his debut for Richard Jackson this afternoon. His most recent work was solid enough to think he could contend with these. There’s not a ton of depth to this field, so he might be worth considering, especially if he draws a little public attention.
Favorite Bet Today: Early Pick-4 ($36 Ticket, $2 Base Wager)
There are some short fields in this sequence, however, I see the key to finding some value in this sequence is to beat Aidanike (#3, R3) in the third. I’ll single Dixie Penny (#4, R3) from that leg, and also include Summer in Malibu (#7, R5) on the ticket in the last leg. Eastside Cool (#1, R5) is going to be tough to beat, but he’ll be a very short price. Summer in Malibu offers an alternative with more value and a chance to go gate to wire.
Race 2: 3,7,8
Race 3: 4
Race 4: 3,6,7
Race 5: 1,7