The Friday card is a nine race program where the featured optional claiming/N1X allowance race for fillies and mares has been split into two divisions. Race 5 and Race 8 will be the co-features this afternoon. Jockey Ramon Vazquez, who is shifting his tack to Santa Anita and is anmed on mounts there today, started the week off strong with a three win day yesterday. Florent Geroux and Joel Rosario are riding at Keeneland, and Francisco Arrieta was off mounts yesterday, so the rider colony is a little thin. Arrieta is named to ride again today, and Gabriel Saez and Isaac Castillo are in town on some horses this week in their absence.
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||4||4||5||DBL, PK3, PK4|
|5||5||2,5||1||4,7||DBL, PK3, PK5|
|6||3||3,4,10||12||DBL, PK3, PK4|
Persisto (#7) caught my eye in the opener, which is an $8K claiming race for fillies and mares going 1 mile and 1/16. She drew post 10 in her last race, which was an open $6,250 claiming race back in February. She was five wide into the first turn, and was ridden aggressively, making a middle move to try to find some way to save ground going into the far turn. She was still four wide on the second turn, and, understandably, faded to 4th day. Her previous six starts at two turns would likely be enough for her to win or come very close to winning with this group today. She makes her first start off the Timothy Martin claim, and while she’s moving up in class, I think the field she faced last out for a lower tag was deeper. Swanage (#1) would be the one that I’d cover my bases with, dropping in class and going from turf to dirt in her local debut. She is clearly better on the grass, winning all three of her career starts on turf and finishing on the board in 10 of 17 career turf races. She’s never won on the main track, but she has hit the board in four of five career dirt starts. She is going to be the controlling speed in this race, and her rail post should aid in that running style. Chris Hartman has great numbers going from turf to dirt. This would typically be the kind of horse I’d try to beat, but she has enough plusses on her side to use her in this race. I’ll use this pair to try to beat the morning line favorite, Close to Me (#5). She’s a consistent type that came here from Hawthorne on a three race win streak. She hasn’t had the same good fortune here, so 5-2 feels crazy low to me. At 5-1 or 6-1 is about the point where I’d start to consider using her.
A half dozen horses were entered in this N2L allowance contest at 5 and ½ furlongs, restricted to three and four year olds only. This race seems to run through the morning line favorite, Stratofortress (#4). He’s been involved in three straight headbob finishes at the wire, winning one and being on the wrong side for the other two. He just missed against more seasoned rivals last out when facing winners for the first time. He’s in good form, he likes the track, and his recent battles should give him a definite edge over the horses that graduated from the maiden ranks. Asmussen sends out a pair, and the one that had the most upside is Stayed in for Half (#5). He broke his maiden here on Rebel day in a six furlong sprint, handily beating that maiden allowance group in gate to wire fashion. He debuted in a very strong maiden special weight race in January, narrowly losing to Zozos, who went on to crush allowance rivals in his next start, and went on to finish second to Epicenter in the Louisiana Derby, earning a spot in the gate for the Kentucky Derby. I imagine they’ll be going hard for the lead, and he might be the quickest of the group in the early part. It’ll be a big accomplishment if he’s able to hold off the more seasoned Stratofortress in this race.
It’s interesting to me that two three year olds would enter this $50K-$40K maiden claiming race for three year olds and up, knowing that there were two high priced maiden claiming routes exclusively for three year olds run yesterday. I would have rather seen Words of Wisdom (#7) in the $62,500 maiden claimer at this one mile distance instead of this race, where he’ll be facing older rivals for the first time. He’s as blue-blooded as they come, sired by Tapit, out of the multiple Grade 1 stakes winner mare, Wedding Toast. However, he has not flashed that kind of ability yet, and for him to be offered for a $50K tag in his fourth career start, tells me to be looking elsewhere in this race. Taxit (#5) looms as the one to beat in this race. Joe Sharp claimed this son of Constitution from Steve Asmussen for $40K last month. He was a clear second that afternoon behind a runaway winner. He’s the morning line favorite in this race, and he’s being asked to do something that he’s never done, so I will certainly be cautious if his odds dip below 5-2 (ML). Centurion (#1) makes the most sense as the alternative. He’s coming out of a pair of salty maiden special weight races here at two turns. He drops back in for a tag, which is the right decision. He’s winless in 13 career tries, which is definitely a concern, however, he does appear to fit well amongst this group. Two long time maidens broke their maidens yesterday, so perhaps that’ll be a theme for the maiden races this week. Pizza Charlie (#6) is a bit of a head scratcher in here, but he’s worth covering, especially if his odds float upward off his 7-2 morning line. He’s another one that has had a plethora of chances to graduate from the maiden ranks (11 to be exact). He made his first start of the year last month with a career top effort with $30K maiden claimers. He struggled to make headway on synthetic during his time at Presque Isle last season. This will only be his third career start on dirt at two turns, so even though he could be a bounce candidate, there is enough upside to consider using him.
This race has the largest field in the Early Pick-5 sequence, drawing a field of nine $10K N2L claimers. Road Bible (#7) was my top pick with a deeper $12,500 N2L claiming group two weeks ago. He ran his race, but wasn’t as good as Abdan that afternoon. I still think he’s trending in the right direction while facing a field where many seem to be headed the wrong way. Fallen Empire (#4) is an interesting runner at 20-1. While I think those odds are too high, I’d be willing to take a chance on him in the 10-1 neighborhood. There’s no denying he’s been bad in his three races here this meet. However, he’s faced deeper fields than this in all three starts, including one at this level. There’s no one in this field is nowhere near as good as the top two from the 1/7 race at this condition. He was away from the races for two months and he showed some late interest in his most recent outing, which was missing in his first two starts at the meet. Jon Court takes over this one who is better when he is more engaged early on. On deeper tickets, Sonnyisnotsofunny (#9) has never run back to his big debut effort at Ellis Park this summer. He shown up on occasion, and now makes his first start for Coty Rosin off the claim. He has speed from the outside and did run a sharp bullet work here last week, which was the fastest four furlong drill of the 69 workers at that distance that morning. He’s a three year old, getting a 5-10 pound weight break on the majority of the field. He’s another one that has been bad on the track in the afternoons lately, but he’s not an awful longshot stab at this level.
The middle race on the card is an optional claiming/allowance race for fillies and mares at one mile where all seven runners qualified under the N1X allowance condition. This is the co-feature, as this race oversubscribed and has been carded in two divisions. The second heat will go off as the 8th race on the program. While I’m not confident that she’ll go into the starting gate as the favorite, Sunny Isle Beach (#3) seems like a bad bet in this race, at least on top. She started off her career winning her first three dirt starts, winning at Churchill, Keeneland, and Gulfstream. (She did finish off the board in a stakes race on turf at Saratoga in between her Kentucky wins). Since then, she’s 0-17 with her best finish coming in a sprint with $40K claimers during that span. All of her career wins have been at one turn, and though her two turn races here aren’t bad, I’d be surprised to see her win this race. She’s strictly an underneath horse for me. The struggle for me in here is that there are some serious questions about several other runners here, as the recent form is not very good. I’d go as many as five deep here, also eliminating longshot Cupid’s Music (#6). I’d make the tepid top choice Trouville (#5) who was favored at this level, but ran a very poor race last time out. Her Southern California form is strong enough to hope she can rebound off that. I think 8-1 is a pipe dream on her though. Ava’s Grace (#2) is easily coming out of the toughest spot of anyone in here. She was well beaten in the Grade 2 Azeri Stakes last month, finishing behind the likes of Ce Ce, Pauline’s Pearl, and Shedaresthedevil. She was very good in the Fantasy last year and it’s easy to think that she has a forward move in this race in her third race off the layoff. I predict she is the favorite at post time. I haven’t completely given up on Sundial (#1) who wasn’t very good last out. She’s making her second start since June, and she was improving with additional starts last year at this meet. Too Pretty (#4) and Drinksatthecreek (#7) both have an outside chance if some of the others falter in this spot. Since the current form for many of these is spotty at best, they are worth throwing in the C line and covering on some deeper tickets.
An overflow field of $12,500 state bred maiden claimers starts the Late Pick-4. This is definitely a spread race for me as there are many that have a shot here. Hightail Cowboy (#3) was racing with open $7,500 maiden claimers recently at Sam Houston, hitting the board in both starts. I think this was a savvy move to claim him and bring him here where he’s running for a $29K purse and a higher claiming tag, despite facing similar foes. David Cabrera taking the mount for Shea Stuart who has only started 17 runners at the meet this year is a positive sign in my book. Max’s Heart (#4) was second in both of his sprint races when running with a claiming tag. He had a miserably wide trip in his first attempt at two turns and he was done early. While his trainer, Kenny Smith, hasn’t done well with horses turning back from a route to a sprint, I think it’s the right call with this three year old gelding. Ucantmakethistufup (#10) is a definite pace factor in here while getting blinkers added. He came up empty last out in his first start off the claim, but his form has been up and down, so I can see him running better on the drop. On deeper tickets, Mo Vodka (#12) is the morning line favorite taking the plunge from state bred maiden special weight company to this state bred maiden claimer. He’s gotten a little closer to the winner each time, but he’s never been close. Milligan is also 0-4 with horses making this drop since 2021. He’s a player, but I don’t want to take a short price in this wide open spot.
The last Pick-3 of the afternoon starts off with a $10K starter allowance race going 1 mile and 3/16. Go For Sherrie (#2) was second beaten four to a nice horse, Brice, at this level going 1 mile and ⅛ last month. He comes back at the same level in a race that seems completely devoid of any early speed. He was in the second flight last time, but barring any unforeseen events, he should be carving out the fractions. He had a few rough races in the middle of the meet, but that seems to be in the rear view mirror at this point. I think he takes them all the way in this race. Venture Forth (#6) was 4th in the same race after some issues at the break. If he can get away without any problems today, he should be closer than he was last out. He’s generally a consistent type that runs well on this oval. The same could be said for Hardly a Secret (#7) who also makes sense in this race after dominating a $12,500 starter allowance in his last start two weeks ago. He’s a 15 time winner that is going longer than he ever has gone before on race day. Despite all of his wins, he hasn’t paired victories since 2019, which is a bit of a concern if he’s too short of a price.
The second division of the featured optional claiming/N1X allowance race for fillies and mares going one mile goes as the 8th race today. If the daughter of Groupie Doll, Tap for Me (#7) runs back to her maiden score when trying two turns for the first time, this race might be over before it starts. She towers over this field from a pedigree perspective, as she was sired by Tapit. Groupie Doll was very good up to a mile, so it’s not surprising the product of this pairing has the ability to handle two turns. She rebounded nicely from a miserable trip in her local debut and now makes her third start of the current meet for Asmussen. With Rosario out of town, David Cabrera picks up the mount. My saver horse in this race will be Kaboom Baby (#8) making her first start at two turns this afternoon. She was competitive with open company this winter when sprinting in open allowance company. She struggled in state bred stakes company in her last start, but she is talented enough to rebound here. My guess is that she’s best suited for underneath though, as the favorite looks mighty tough here.
A field of ten fillies and mares go one mile in this $30K starter allowance race that finishes the card today. Fifth Risk (#5) closed well to get into third when sprinting at this level last out. She’s never gone longer than two turns on the dirt, so this will be a new experience. Asmussen takes the blinkers off for this race, which is an interesting move. Duplicitous (#3) was second at this level in a two turn race back in February. She jumped up to open allowance company last month and was 5th, finishing behind A Real Jewel (#6). The latter was a 22-1 longshot in that race, but she outran her long odds to be second. Both horses are a good form and are logical plays at this level of competition.
Favorite Bet Today: Race 5 Pick 3: ($40 Ticket, $5 Base Wager)
After some tough races in yesterday’s Pick-5 sequence where some long time maidens that I tried to beat finally graduated, I’m looking to hit a smaller wager today. I like Go For Sherrie (#2, R7) to go gate to wire in the 7th, so I want to put a few horses on this ticket that might help push the value. While I think a price is possible in the 5th, I think Ava’s Grace (#2, R5) and Trouville (#5)are the two best suited to win that race.
Race 5: 2,5
Race 6: 3,4,10,12
Race 7: 2