The weather has been quite springlike the past few days here in the Northeast, which has us thinking of spring racing. But a look at the calendar reveals that it's still early February, which means we are still weeks away from a real break in the weather, and are still in Deep Winter mode. That means there is a limited simulcasting lineup, featuring our midweek winter standby tracks, Parx Racing, Mahoning Valley, Sunland Park, and Turf Paradise. We have a play at each of them. We expect fast dirt and firm turf everywhere, except as noted below. Let's go.
Parx Racing, Race 1, 12:55 pm ET
$25,000 Claiming, 7 furlongs, dirt, 4 & Up
Parx Racing, Race 2, 1:22 pm ET
$10,000 Maiden Claiming, 5 /12 furlongs, dirt, Fillies & Mares 4 & Up
The Tuesday forecast in suburban Philadelphia, where Parx is located, is iffy: intermittent rain is supposed to fall throughout the day. It is supposed to be light, not enough to produce a wet track, so we are planning on a fast track. But watch carefully, because a quick shower could change things very carefully.
We've put these races together because we have a strong opinion in both, but they are both horses who figure to win at short prices. Parx has been a chalfest lately -- on Monday, six of the ten races were won by horses at 2-1 or less, and half of the six were odds-on -- and rather than fight that trend, we are going to try to grind out a profit by leveraging a couple of favorites in a multi-race bet. In the first, a claiming dirt sprint, we like 8/5 favorite 5-Kelli's Smile, who has a speed figure edge, has recently been competitive in races at a higher level than this, and who makes his first start after being claimed by trainer Jaime Ness, who wins at a 27% clip with horses making their first start off a claim.
The 2nd is a bad bottom-level maiden claimer, with most of the eight female runners appearing incapable of running a lick. The 6/5 morning line favorite, 6-Tarallucci, can run at least a little bit, and that is going to be enough here, we think.
The first two races today at Parx will continue the parade of winning favorites, it appears, so we will bet them in the early Double. The bet: Parx Racing, Race 1, $30 Double, 5 (Kelli's Smile) with 6 (Tarallucci).
Mahoning Valley, Race 4, 2:08 pm ET
Allowance, 6 furlongs, dirt, Ohio-Bred Fillies & Mares 3 & Up
A good field of nine goes in this first-level allowance for state-bred females. 6-Cristalinda is a strong play here: this 3-year-old filly broke her maiden in her last start, getting her first career win, but her connections thought they had something special in her even before that, as she competed in a few juvenile state-bred stakes races last year. She didn't win any of them, but she did acquit herself quite well, hitting the board a couple of times. For a maiden to be that competitive against winners is impressive, and we think that coming off her maiden win, she's prepared to make another move forward. We think Cristalinda handles this field quite comfortably, and though we do not think we will get her 5/2 morning line odds -- she will be lower at post time -- we will bet her to win anyway. There is rain in the Ohio forecast for Tuesday afternoon, but this is a play we will make whether the track is wet or dry. The bet: Mahoning Valley, Race 4, $40 to win on 6-Cristalinda.
Sunland Park, Race 5, 4:05 pm ET
$10,000 Maiden Claiming, 5 furlongs, dirt, 3-year-old New Mexico-bred Fillies
We normally try to go deeper than the surface when handicapping a race, but in this race, we don't think we need to: the form of 4-Cool and Quick makes this one look pretty easy. She's got the top last-race Beyer Speed Figure, a competent trainer, J.R. Gonzalez, a competent jockey, Jimmy Ray Coates, and, most important, she's dropping from a Maiden Special Weight race into a maiden claiming race. This drop, from straight maiden to maiden claiming company, is, as we've noted many times before, the biggest class drop in racing. Add it all up and she is a strong, if obvious, pick, and for once we will go with the straightforward play, and not try to outsmart ourselves. We will bet her to win at 5/2. The bet: Sunland Park, Race 5, $40 to win on 4-Cool and Quick.
Turf Paradise, Race 4, 4:13 pm ET
$8,500 Claiming, 1 mile, turf, Fillies & Mares 4 & Up
We'll end the day with a turf race featuring eight hard-knocking female claimers. We like the favorite in here, 3-Poco Suenos. We like her high-percentage trainer, Molly Pearson, and we like her grinding running style: she doesn't have a flashy turn of foot, but she manages to finish strongly nonetheless. She just missed in a similar spot on January 14, but we don't think she will miss today. This is a pick of another favorite, which we generally try to avoid, but today, we'll embrace our inner chalk-eating weasel, and hope for another very formful result, We will bet her to win at 9/5. The bet: Turf Paradise, Race 4, $30 to win on 3-Poco Suenos.
That's all for today. As always, good luck at the windows.