There are races today in Maryland, South Florida, and New Orleans. For some Thursday action, we've cherry-picked a race apiece at Laurel and the Fair Grounds, and a pair of races at Gulfstream Park. We expect fast and firm at all of them; let's go.
Laurel Park, Race 4, 1:50 pm ET
$12,500 Claiming, 6 furlongs, dirt, 3-year-olds
This claiming race drew a field of eight. We like the horse on the outside, 8-Mucho Macho Danny. He ran two good races in a row, both in sprints, in November, then came back from a layoff 11 days ago, finishing far back in a two-turn race. The mile distance in that one was probably farther than he wants to go, so we will excuse his dull effort, and expect a better one today when he returns to sprinting. We will bet him to win at 3-1. The bet: Laurel Park, Race 4, $30 to win on 8-Mucho Macho Danny.
Gulfstream Park, Race 5, 2:30 pm ET
$32,000 Maiden Claiming, 1 1/16 miles, turf, 4 & Up
This maiden claimer for older horses drew a field of eight. It's a good race to handicap, as the field lacks a clear standout, a horse who appears overwhelmingly superior to the rest.
We like 4-Dermot in this spot. This 4-year-old son of top turf sire Kitten's Joy made his career debut in a grass race at Churchill Downs in August. He showed some ability, stalking the pace before fading in the stretch; that was a good effort, especially first time out. Today he cuts back a bit in distance, from a mile and an eighth to a mile and a sixteenth, and he also drops from straight maiden to maiden claiming company, which, as we have noted here before, is the biggest class drop in horse racing. An added bonus: Brendan Walsh, who trains him, is hot, with a 33% win rate at the current Gulfstream meeting. We will bet Dermot to win at 3-1. The bet: Gulfstream Park, Race 5, $35 to win on 4-Dermot.
Gulfstream Park, Race 9, 4:30 pm ET
Allowance/Optional Claiming, 1 mile, dirt, 3-year-old Fillies
This race has only six entrants, and while we usually pass on races like this, looking for the better odds that come with larger fields, we have picked this one because there's a runner in here we like quite a bit: it's 5-Global Ambition, a regally-bred filly (by Ghostzapper, out of a Medaglia d'Oro mare) who starts for trainer Michael Matz, of Barbaro fame. She ran twice as a juvenile, winning a maiden race at Parx in October and finishing second in an allowance at Laurel a few weeks later, but what catches our eye in her past performances is not her placing, but rather how she ran: she showed flashes of very impressive ability in both races. She's coming off a brief freshening, and we are expecting a big improvement today: she should have matured physically since the fall, and we think she is primed to run big. This mile race, which at Gulfstream Park is run around only one turn, looks like the absolutely perfect distance for her. We think she wins today, and does so somewhere between comfortably and impressively, and that merits a bet at her 2-1 morning line price. Remember her name, because you will likely see it in stakes races down the road. We will bet her to win. The bet: Gulfstream Park, Race 9, $40 to win on 5-Global Ambition.
Fair Grounds, Race 10, 5:51 pm ET
Allowance, 1 1/8 miles, turf, 4 & Up
This second-level turf allowance drew a full field of ten. It's a wide open, terrific betting race. A field this big would normally have us looking for a hot pace, as horses run fast early to try to gain position, and avoid losing ground around the turns, but this field is curiously devoid of any runners with early foot. We are consequently expecting a moderate or even a slow pace, which will put the deep closers at a tactical disadvantage that will be insuperable. We are not expecting a winner on the front end, as the field lacks a runner with the ability to win a race this contentious on the front end, but we are looking for a horse who will be more forwardly placed than we usually like in grass races at this distance.
In light of the expected pace scenario, 9-Keep Quiet is a strong play. This 6-year-old Steve Asmussen trainee is a grinder, with high cruising speed and an adequate finishing kick. On the turf, we normally look to a runner with a stronger turn of foot down the lane, but we think this guy's pace-pressing style will fit today's race to a tee. He's an amazingly consistent horse who seems to fire every time, and we think he will benefit from a brief layoff, as his last race was at the end of November. We expect him to be fresh today, and to run a top effort. We will bet him to win at 3-1. The bet: Fair Grounds, Race 10, $40 to win on 9-Keep Quiet.
That's all for today. We will be back on Saturday for a look at the national stakes action. Until then, as always, good luck at the windows.