Today is normally one of the 10 or 12 best days of the year in the racing world: the day after Christmas is the traditional opener for the marathon Santa Anita winter-spring meeting, which will run this year, and next year, through June 21. Opening day at the Great Race Place has been a Boxing Day fixture for decades, and it's a damn fine one. This year, however, bad weather in Southern California forced the postponement of today's Santa Anita card. Opening Day will now be on Saturday. There was a goodly amount of hand-wringing among racing fans over the decision, especially since it was made many days in advance, when the weather forecast was still somewhat iffy, but a look at the radar maps this morning shows that the call was the correct one. This is too important a day to be run in slop, and with the increased scrutiny under which Santa Anita operates these days with regard to animal safety, the results would have been dreadful had they tried to run in a monsoon, and something bad happened. The forecast for the San Gabriel Valley on Saturday is terrific, so rather than dwelling on what we don't have today, we will look at what we will have two days hence, which is a day of racing that should be pretty exceptional.
We considered using the postponement as an excuse to extend our layoff for an extra two days, but we actually like a race today, the lone stakes on the national simulcasting slate. And we're raring to go anyway, with our December freshening having done exactly what it was supposed to do, which is recharge our handicapping batteries. We will head, then, to the venerable old Fair Grounds Race Course in New Orleans, where the 11th race today is the $75,000 Bob Fortus Memorial Stakes. It's for fillies and mares 3 and up, at a mile and 70 yards on the main track, and post time is a cocktail-friendly 6:20 pm Eastern. A good field of eight is entered, and though the forecast in Louisiana is iffy, with clouds and a few showers expected, we are counting on a fast track, as any rain that may happen should not be heavy enough to affect the going. Let's go.
We think the 2019 Fortus Memorial is a tremendous betting opportunity. The field is noteworthy for its lack of early speed: seven of the eight are confirmed stretch-runners. This practically screams to us to look for a speed horse, for a runner who can get out to a comfortable early lead, set moderate fractions, and win the race in wire-to-wire fashion. We'd probably be tempted to bet a $5,000 claimer in this race, if it looked like she had some speed and could get to the front.
But we are not going to have to settle on a $5,000 claimer, because the only entrant with early zip is a very high-quality filly: it's the 3-year-old 3-Out for a Spin, a daughter of top sire Hard Spun. Her last two races look dull, too slow to have a shot here, but a deeper look at her form is intriguing: her next-to-last start was in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks on May 3 at Churchill Downs, where she was completely outrun, finishing 11th in a field of 14. But the Kentucky Oaks is merely the top race of the year for 3-year-old fillies, the best of the best, and failing to hit the board in it is certainly no disgrace.
After the race, she was given a few months off, and returned to the races on November 9 in an allowance race, also at Churchill Downs, where she finished 3rd. She did not run a particularly fast or otherwise exciting race, but with hindsight, there's no way to look at that effort as anything other than an attempt to blow off some rust. Since that race, she has worked steadily and well, suggesting she is fit, and she should improve significantly today.
We have a filly here who is very high quality: she won the Grade 1 Ashland Stakes in her race before the Kentucky Oaks, earning a speed figure that blows away the rest of the field in today's race. We think she'd be worth a very serious look based on this alone, but the spot is even better for her, as she's the lone horse in the field with a forwardly-placed running style. We think she's going to go right to the front, and stay there all the way around the track. When you have a horse who appears to be the most talented, and who has a tactical advantage in the way we expect the race to be run, it's time to head to the windows.
The best part about this setup is that Out for a Spin is an almost incomprehensible 12-1 on the morning line. If she goes off at that price, it will be one of the best betting opportunities of the year. We do not think we'll get 12-1 -- we think that she will be much shorter by post time -- but we still think she merits a very strong win play, even at a fraction of those odds.
It will be our lone play of the day: a win bet on Out for a Spin to win the Bob Fortus Memorial Stakes at the Fair Grounds. The bet: Fair Grounds, Race 11, $75 to win on 3-Out for a Spin.
We'll be back on Saturday for opening day at Santa Anita, plus a few other stakes from around the country. Until then, happy Boxing Day, and, as always, good luck at the windows.