The first of four cards in the month of May at Oaklawn is a nine race, Sunday special. There are a few nice allowance races on the card, including an optional claiming/N1X allowance for three year old fillies in the 7th race. There’s also a stakes caliber optional claiming/conditional allowance in the 8th race, featuring multiple graded stakes placed horses.
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||5||5,9||7,10||DBL, PK3, PK4|
|5||4||4,6,7||2||DBL, PK3, PK5|
|6||7||7,11||4||DBL, PK3, PK4|
$12,500 maiden claimers kickoff the Sunday program. Lake Tahoe (#4) may be trending back in the right direction after some rough efforts against better fields. He dropped to the $10K maiden claiming level last out and ran third, gaining late on the leaders. He was entered at Churchill yesterday, but didn’t make it into the body of the field and was scratched. I think getting him back to one turn was the right call last out, and I’m looking for him to improve today. Tenth of Gold (#6) is likely going to go to post at odds much shorter than his 3-1 morning line. He rebounded nicely from a pair of subpar races in his most recent start when facing $30K maiden claimers three weeks ago. I don’t love the drop in class, especially with a $30K maiden claiming race carded on Friday at the same distance, but he looks very tough at this level. Front end speed was good yesterday, so that could benefit the professional maiden, Freer (#5), if that trend continues today. He’s been knocking on the door, sometimes with better horses. He’s making his 12th career start, so the value will have to be there for me to get too invested. On deeper tickets, Elusive Freud (#9) draws the outside post, while dropping in class. This is the third professional ride for 10 pound apprentice Jeremy Alicea, who has ridden this horse in both his other rides. He seems to get along with him, and he’s given the horse a chance in those starts. The horse is gradually improving and could be a factor if some of the stronger runners run clunkers, which is a possibility at this level.
Fillies and mares go six furlongs under $12,500 starter allowance conditions. The form is up and down for many of these fillies and mares. Two major contenders were claimed off higher percentage barns and into lower percentage ones, which certainly makes me wonder if we might not see the best races from those shorter priced horses. Right now, Chakra (#7) is in the best current form, and I don’t see anyone taking it to her early in this race. That was the case in her last start when she had a fairly easy lead when facing time restricted $10K claimers. However, Milligan does not have great numbers with horses first off the claim and she has some bad races not too long ago the muddy up her form lines. John Haran also has struggled with horses first off the claim and he took Invaluable (#10) off the hands of Robertino Diodoro for the bargain basement price of $8K last time out. She was a winner that day when she was dropping heavily in class after being claimed for $30K in her prior start. On one hand, that race makes her eligible for a protected spot such as this. On the other hand, My Boss Lady (#5) and Summer Storm (#9) have been claimed into sharper barns whose horses typically perform better right after the claim. My Boss Lady is an improving four year old that has tied her career Beyer top in her last two races. She moves into Greg Compton’s barn, which is smaller, but still hits with 17% of its runners first off the claim and 21% of its runners at the meet. Summer Shoes is another horse that won on the Diodoro claim and drop move this meet, being claimed for $25K in November and running back for a $6,250 tag in her first start after that. She was claimed again, and won again when running with $10K claimers. Chris Hartman now trains her and opts to run her back in a protected spot. She’s a deserving favorite in this spot. I’ll use this duo on the A line and the other two on the C line as backups.
Three year old fillies running with a $50K claiming tag here. Five of the eight fillies are coming out of a race where they faced older horses for the first time, and the two that ran the best races were Canada’s Customs (#6) and Woohoo Jackie Blue (#2). I think Woohoo Jackie Blue has more upside in her third career start, and more early foot than many in here. She ran well two back to win on debut with $30K maiden claimers. She moved to starter allowance company and showed some early foot and battled hard in the lane to finish 4th. She showed improvement and should fit with this group today. Canada’s Customs has only faced Louisiana breds in seven career starts. She’s won two out of three, including a win with state bred N2L allowance foes last time out. Asmussen finds an open claiming spot here that she could be competitive in before the Louisiana Downs opens, which is where she’ll likely be headed, assuming she isn’t claimed from this spot.
It’s not very creative, but Signofthecross (#2) certainly checks a lot of the boxes in this $25K-$20K claiming race. He’s been in very good form for Diodoro when facing starter allowance foes. He was a winner two back and was narrowly defeated by Kershaw, who was a recent allowance winner in his next start. He’s drawn well and his running style should fit the track profile very nicely based on yesterday’s results. I see him being very tough to beat in this spot. A longer price that might be an interesting horse to use underneath or cover with some deeper tickets is Catholic Guilt (#9). (It also makes for a good hunch play exacta on a Sunday afternoon). His last two races against better fields haven’t been good enough, but he was sharp in his two prior starts with restricted claiming company here back in December and January. He was wide all the way around last out, so avoiding that fate from the outside stall in this route race will be the challenge for Geovanni Franco, who rides him for the first time. If he can run back to those better races, he’s going to be competitive with this group.
Repasado (#4) is an interesting first time starter sent out by Robertino Diodoro that could make some noise in this maiden special weight race for fillies and mares. She’s a homebred for BG Stables and Selman Shaby that is sired by Munnings, who has a good track record with debut runners. The dam won some smaller stakes races in her career and this filly has been working well. Diodoro is better known for his work in the claiming game, but he’s won with 24% of his first time starters, getting a $3.80 ROI since the start of 2021. Chartreuse (#7) is a well bred four year old filly making her second career start today. She showed some interest late, finishing 4th in her debut two weeks ago. She made a bit of a middle move before flattening out, so perhaps that racing experience will serve her well in this spot. Ari Oakley (#6) is the deserving morning line favorite, who has been steadily improving over her first four starts. She just missed in her most recent effort last month, battling most of the way, but finishing second in a photo finish. She’s bred to be a quality horse, as her dam has produced multiple stakes winners and quality runners. She may be better than these, but the price will likely be in the even money neighborhood. On deeper tickets, Insignia (#2) is another first time starter that has a solid pedigree and could turn into a very useful horse. She’s sired by Curlin out of a Touch Gold mare, so I’m thinking this might be a starting point for her, as she might want to go longer distances. I’d cover with her on deeper tickets and consider using her underneath, especially if her odds float up.
A full field of 12 Arkansas bred maiden fillies and mares sprint six furlongs while racing with a $20K tag. Three of the runners in this race debuted two weeks ago in this condition. Two of them make a lot of sense today. I think the price will be better on Bootlegging Girl (#7) and the way the track played yesterday might suit her better than Early Dismissal (#4). Early Dismissal was third in that race, making up decent ground, while rallying in between horses and then shifting in to continue her rally along the rail. She ran a bit of an odd race, as she looked like she was backing up and losing interest, before making that late move. Meanwhile, Bootlegging Girl was closer to the early pace, but was covered up essentially for the whole race. Her trainer, Lynn Chleborad, has good numbers with second time starters, and breaking a few gates further out might help her cause. I’m expecting a forward move from her today. I’ll cover with Early DIsmissal, who is likely to go off as the favorite, but I don’t love taking a short price on her. I respect the tenacity it took to run on after falling back to last place on the turn, but I’m worried she might be used too hard to keep pace to avoid the same fate as last time. If she does settle farther back, that kind of runner was struggling to win yesterday. Blow Sum Smoke (#11) is worth considering, while making her first start as a three year old today. She showed some interest as a two year old at Lone Star and Remington, running with open maiden special weight and open maiden claiming fields. She’s been working well for her return, and is facing a softer field than what she saw in her last few starts. Her trainer, Brett Creighton, and her jockey, three time Kentucky Derby winner, Calvin Borel, are both looking for their first trip to the Winner’s Circle in 2022. Perhaps that fact will create a little more value, maybe boosting her odds over the 6-1 morning line, which would be fine with me.
The first of two nice optional claiming allowances that highlight this card is a sprint for fillies and mares who are either running for a $100K tag or trying to clear the N1X allowance condition. The morning line favorite is Hypersport (#6) who was a brilliant winner with maiden special weight company here on opening day back in December. She had the misfortune of running into Secret Oath in her next two starts, both in two turn races, where she didn’t fire. She turned back to a sprint and finished third behind Happy Soul in the Dixie Belle and was a very competitive second, when hitting a career top figure behind Pretty Birdie in the Purple Mountain Stakes. That was a big effort last out, beaten by a nice filly. However, even on the drop in class, she hasn’t been the most consistent runner, and I’m worried that she might bounce off that effort. I’ll cover with her, but I’ll look to a few other fillies to possibly pull off the upset. Pinky Toe (#3) showed a lot of heart and tenacity when dueling with her stablemate, Ari Oakley (R5), all the way around the track, and pulling off the 12-1 upset in her debut. This is a big step up in class, but she looked a seasoned runner in the eye and wouldn’t let her pass in her first ever start. Isaac Castillo will be replacing Ramon Vazquez, who is back in Southern California this weekend after returning here during their week off at Santa Anita last week. I do worry about Missyneedsacocktail (#4) being ridden more aggressively in this spot in her second race off the layoff. That could create another duel for the top pick, which might not be the best scenario at this level. If that happens, Com’ On Sweet Luv (#5) could be the beneficiary. She struggled in her local debut, but was done in by taking a hard bump while trying to establish position after the break. She was handily defeated two back by her more talented stablemate, Matareya, who went on to crush her rivals in the Grade 3 Beaumont Stakes at Keeneland a few weeks ago. If she’s able to rate off the early leaders and make her run on the turn, like she did when finishing second in stakes company at the Fair Grounds back in December, she’ll be tough to deal with here.
This stakes quality optional $80K claiming/conditioned allowance drew a very sharp field of seven. I feel this race runs through Thomas Shelby (#5) on the front end. There are other runners here who have run solid races on the lead, but in those races, many of them wound up on the front end by default, and were able to set moderate paces before drawing away. You could argue that was the case for Santos Dumont (#1) and Bold Thirst (#2) in their last starts, and also for Silver Prospector (#6) in the Mineshaft Stakes two starts ago. Thomas Shelby is a dedicated front runner that runs best when he’s setting the pace. He has a higher cruising speed than some of the others he’s facing, and he can be a tenacious horse in the later stages of a race. He was under pressure all the way in the Essex Stakes in his last race when faded late to be 4th, and I liked him to pull the upset in the Oaklawn Handicap last week, but was scratched out of that race. He’s been close in stakes company in his last several, and this drop in class could be what it takes to get him back to his winning ways. Silver Prospector (#6) is the logical alternative, that certainly would be appreciative if one of the others in here applied the pressure to Thomas Shelby in the early stages of this one. The last time he dropped out of stakes company, he was a winner at Churchill back in October of 2020. He was no match for Fulsome, who is headed to the Alysheba Stakes on Derby Day, in the Oaklawn Mile last month. However, I think the short stretch of the mile race is not for him, and the added 1/16 of a mile will be to his benefit. After being thrown into the wolves as a three year old, Brad Cox has been more patient with Caddo River (#7) this season, and he was rewarded with a strong, open lengths victory in allowance company last out. He matched his career high Beyer Speed Figure that day, and looking at his progression, he could certainly improve off that effort today. I don’t love him as the favorite, because I think Thomas Shelby is more accomplished and has a tactical advantage. I’ll cover with him on the deeper tickets, because he has to prove to me that he can handle this level of competition. Right now, I think the top two are better than he is, and if the pari-mutuel odds favor him, I just don’t see any value there.
The final race of the week at Oaklawn is a state bred $16K N2L claiming race at six furlongs. I’ve been trying to connect with Buddy Reaux (#11) at long odds in his last two starts at this meet, when facing stiffer company. He gave me a thrill at 30-1 two back when he made a wide bid, almost hitting the front, before leveling off in the final furlong. He has some selling points in this race, as he’s dropping in class, and racing in a one turn race for the first time. His sire, Five Iron, was best known for winning some graded stakes on turf and synthetic at two turns, but his grand sire, Sharp Humor, was solid at one turn on the main track. I also like the rider switch to Martin Garcia. There are not many in this race that want to be forwardly placed, which should give an edge to Kilgore (#1), making his first start off the Rob Atras claim. He graduated from $12,500 state bred maiden claiming company in his last start, and gets Ricardo Santana, who is trying to catch the sidelined David Cabrera for the lead in the jockey standings, to ride for the first time. Vision of Elias (#8) is another horse that is making his first start against winners in this race. He moved forward in his third career start after pairing his first two Beyers. Santana opts to ride Kilgore, which isn’t the best sign, but apprentice Kylee Jordan continues to ride hard, and is certainly capable. On deeper tickets, I still think Depart (#12), who has become a habitual bad breaker, could still improve with a clean start. I wouldn’t cover with him if he was breaking in between horses, but perhaps being in the outside stall will help him overcome whatever issues have been plaguing him at the start. His maiden score at Lone Star on debut and his effort three back with open N2L claimers are good enough to make him competitive if he can run a clean race. At 20-1+, I’d be willing to roll the dice for a few bucks.