There are special President's Day holiday cards today at most of the major tracks, including at Oaklawn Park, which runs a card with three graded stakes, with the feature being the Grade 3 Southwest Stakes, a Kentucky Derby prep. We will play all three stakes at Oaklawn, with one at Aqueduct thrown in as well. It's an all-dirt lineup today, and we expect fast dirt both in New York and Arkansas. Let's go.
Oaklawn Park, Race 6, 3:08 pm ET
Grade 3 Bayakoa Stakes, 1 1/6 miles, Dirt, Fillies & Mares 4 & Up
The Bayakoa drew just six runner,s and though it's a small field, it's a good betting race, as it's a pretty evenly matched group. We're expecting a legitimate pace, as 4-Motion Emotion and 5-Lady Suebee are very fast, and that has us looking for a stalker, a horse who will be just behind the frontrunners. That makes us like 2-Go Google Yourself, a 5-year-old mare trained by Paul McGee. She likes running just off the pace, which is the right style for the way we expect this race to be run, and she also is a specialist at this distance, finishing first or second in six of her eight career starts at a mile and a sixteenth (and she was third in the other two). We think she will get a perfect trip, a few lengths behind the speed, and collar the leaders in the stretch. We also like 6-Whoa Nellie, who is trained by Larry Jones and who is a deep closer, but we give the edge to Go Google Yourself, as she will be closer to the pace, will get first jump on Whoa Nellie, and that will be the difference. We will bet Go Google Yourself to win, and will play the two of them in the exacta. The bets: Oaklawn Park, Race 6, $30 to win on 2-Go Google Yourself, $15 exacta, 2 (Go Google Yourself) with 6 (Whoa Nellie).
Aqueduct, Race 8, 4:25 pm ET
$100,000 Hollie Hughes Stakes, 6 furlongs, Dirt, New York-breds 4 & Up
The Hollie Hughes drew a field of eight state-bred older horses. The main track at Aqueduct was fair over the weekend, with horses winning from all over, on the front, just off the pace, and coming from far behind; we are expecting it to remain fair today. That is making us look for a horse coming off the pace in this one, because there is a lot of early speed, four or so horses who seem to want to go to the front, and who will, in vying for early lead, set a pace that will leave all them gasping for air in the races's late stages. That makes 6-Cerratalto the pick. This 6-year-old gelding, who runs for New York-based trainer Jimmy Bond, is in razor-sharp form, having won his last two, both allowance races, by stalking the pace, and we think he's going to get a very similar trip today. He should be able to stalk the speedsters from his outside position, and make his move at the top of the stretch. We will bet him to win at 9/2. The bet: Aqueduct, Race 8, $40 to win on 6-Cerratalto.
Oaklawn Park, Race 8, 5:09 pm ET
Grade 3 Razorback Handicap, 1 1/6 miles, Dirt, 4 & Up
The Razorback drew 11 entrants, a good field that makes it a good betting race. It's an interesting group. We like 4-Joevia, who casual racing fans may recognize as the third-place finisher in last year's Belmont Stakes. He seemed poised off that effort to make some noise the second half of last year, but a series of minor physical issues kept him on the shelf until January 17, when he made his debut as a 4-year-old, winning an Aqueduct allowance race at 6 1/2 furlongs. In comparison to some of the other runners in here, who seem to want more ground, Joevia likes a mile and a sixteenth, with a win and a second two career starts at the distance. He has been working strongly in the morning, appears to have a lot of upside, and looks primed for a top effort today. We will bet him to win at 8-1. The bet: Oaklawn Park, Race 8, $30 to win on 4-Joevia.
Oaklawn Park, Race 10, 5:43 pm ET
Grade 3 Southwest Stakes, 1 1/6 miles, Dirt, 3-Year-Olds
The Southwest is a prep race for the Rebel Stakes, which is itself a prep for the Arkansas Derby, which is a prep for the big one, the Kentucky Derby. No horse will run in of these races this year -- though horses used to; Smarty Jones, for example, won all four -- and the fact that horses these days run in fewer races is shown pretty clearly in the entries to the Southwest: the field is made up of a nine of second- and third-string 3-year-olds, colts who appear on nobody's Derby top 25 list. It is possible, we guess, that a Derby contender could emerge from this race, but that would surprise us.
But just because it's not a premier Derby prep does not mean it's a stinker: it's a pretty evenly matched group, and a good betting race. We like 4-Gold Street, a Steve Asmussen trainee who is the one horse who has run a really good Beyer Speed Figure: he earned a 95 in his last start, a win in the Smarty Jones Stakes at Oaklawn on January 24. That was over a muddy track, and he won that race in wire-to-wire fashion, and while those speed-in-the-slop conditions can often produce fluky results, we do not see Gold Street's win as an aberration: he has run well before on fast dirt, and has won before by coming from just off the pace. The 95 Beyer makes him roughly 10-15 points faster than the rest of the field; at today's distance, that translates to a 5-7 length advantage. Put bluntly: if Gold Street runs back to his effort in the Smarty Jones, he will win today, probably by a big margin. We are used to getting 3/5 on horses with this kind of speed-figure advantage, so we're excited to get 6-1 on Gold Street in the Southwest this afternoon. We will bet him to win. The bet: Oaklawn Park, Race 10, $40 to win on 4-Gold Street.
That's all for today. As always, enjoy the racing, and good luck at the windows.