Winter is flexing its muscles today, as there's so much precipitation across the country that our search for dry racing conditions ended in vain. Even the tracks out West, Sunland Park in New Mexico and Turf Paradise in Phoenix, are expecting rain today, so rather than trying to guess at track conditions of the races we have handicapped, we have selected a few races where we know the conditions: there will be rain at Parx in suburban Philadelphia, and there will be snow at Mahoning Valley in Ohio. We think both tracks will be able to get in their scheduled races today, but we also think the conditions will be wet at each. We've doped out a quintet of races that we expect to be run in the slop; let's go.
Parx Racing, Race 3, 1:49 pm ET
$5,000 Claiming, 5 1/2 furlongs, Dirt, Fillies & Mares 4 & Up
There's an old saying at the track: bet speed in the slop. The thinking behind it is that the kickback from horses on a wet track, the water, mud, and whatever else happens to get thown airborne by the hooves of the horses running on it, is like a wall, and horses trying to come from behind have a hard time getting through it. In dirt races, horses with early speed nearly always get bet, but this is why they get bet even more on wet tracks.
But like most old racetrack sayings, "speed in the slop" is only sometimes true: there are times when wet tracks actually favor closers. Is this going to be the case at Parx today? We are honest enough to admit that we don't know, but this race is going to be a good way to find out, because among the nine entrants there are a bunch of horses who all have the same style: they need the lead to have any chance at winning. We expect a fast early pace, with 4-Fiore, 5-Chancee, 8-Lucky Stash, and 9-Miss Lamborghini all duking it out up front, and this, we think is going to make it difficult for any of them to win. We would probably expect a similar pace on a dry track, but in the slop, it's even more likely.
We are looking for a horse to come from just off the pace. And as it so happens, the horse with the strongest late-pace figures is the horse who probably makes the most sense anyway: it's 7-Trappe Me Later, who is trained by Alexander Martinez, and who is dropping in class, from a starter allowance race to a $5k claimer. He is not what we would call a wet-track specialist, but he's run well enough on it before that he is our pick. We will bet him to win at 5/2. The bet: Parx Racing, Race 3, $35 to win on 7-Trappe Me Later.
Parx Racing, Race 5, 2:43 pm ET
$20,000 Maiden Claiming, 6 1/2 furlongs, Dirt, Fillies & Mares 4 & Up
There's an interesting wrinkle in this race: in what looks to be a fairly straightforward $20k maiden claimer, one of the conditions is that Pennsylvania-breds can enter without a tag -- that is, they cannot be claimed out of the race -- if they carry an extra three pounds. What this means is that a trainer can give a horse a chance to break her maiden -- but without taking a chance at losing the horse via the claim box. This is, if handled skillfully by a horse's human connections, a potentially huge advantage.
We mention this because among the nine entrants to this race, there are two state-bred fillies who are not in for a tag, and we like one of them quite a bit: 4-Via Avanti, a 5-year-old mare who starts for Kathleen DeMasi and who will be ridden by jockey Kyle Frey. She has run three races on wet tracks, and she has hit the board in all of them, and a couple of them were at the $40k level, a couple of rungs on the ladder above this race. We think she can and will beat this group, so we will bet her to win at 5-1. The bet: Parx Racing, Race 5, $30 to win on 4-Via Avanti.
Parx Racing, Race 6, 3:10 pm ET
Maiden Special Weight, 1 mile, Dirt, 3-Year-Old Fillies
Seven sophomore fillies line up for this one, a maiden race at a mile on the dirt. 4-Double Doink is a strong play. She has raced once, blowing the break in a sprint, and then finishing strongly; we think she should break better today. She is trained by John Servis, who wins at a very high 29% clip with second-time starters, and gets Lasix for the first time, which is another positive sign of trainer intent. And last but not least, she's by Ghostzapper, who is one of the top off-track sires around. We are expecting a big effort from Double Doink today, we will bet her to win at 5/2. The bet: Parx Racing, Race 6, $40 to win on 4-Double Doink.
Mahoning Valley, Race 4, 2:08 pm ET
Allowance, 1 mile, Dirt, 3 & Up
Eight drew into this first-level allowance race at a mile on the dirt. We like 3-Attuck: this 4-year-old has the most natural early speed, an inside post position, and an affinity for off going, having one his one career start on a wet track, which happened to be his last start, when he won a maiden race at today's distance. We think that in this one, he scoots right to the front, and stays there all the way. We will bet him to run right back to his last race, and win in wire-to-wire fashion, at 3-1. The bet: Mahoning valley, Race 4, $25 to win on 3-Attuck.
Mahoning Valley, Race 5, 2:36 pm ET
Maiden Special Weight, 6 furlongs, Dirt, Ohio-bred 3-year-old Fillies
This state-bred maiden race drew a field of eight. We like the filly on the outside, 8-Kimtastic, who burned money running a dull 6th as the 2-1 favorite in her last race, which was her career debut. She adds blinkers today, which we view as a positive, but the thing we like the most about her is that her trainer, William Cowans, wins at a ridiculous 46%
clip with second-time starters. She also gets the outside post, which will be a tactical advantage for her, especially in the slop. We will bet her to win at 5/2. The bet: Mahoning Valley, Race 5, $40 to win on 8-Kimtastic.
That's all for today. As always, good luck at the windows.