With so many tracks that are normally dark on Mondays putting racing yesterday for the President's Day holiday, the simulcasting slate today is very light, lighter even than a normal Tuesday in February. Because of that, and because of uncertainty about the weather on the East Coast -- the forecast at two Eastern tracks running today, Parx in suburban Philadelphia and Mahoning Valley in Ohio, is iffy -- we will head to Sunland Park in New Mexico, just across the Rio Grande from El Paso, for a quartet of quick plays. The forecast today in Eastern New Mexico is just about perfect, low 70s and sunny, for an ideal afternoon of racing. We expect fast dirt, and a fair, bias-free surface, so let's go.
Sunland Park, Race 1, 3:00 pm ET
Allowance/Optional Claiming, 5 1/2 furlongs, Dirt, Fillies & Mares 4 & Up
We expect a duel on the front end here: 4-Mulberry and 6-Merlin's Jewel are both speed horses, and they are equally fast. That means they'll both go too fast trying to get the early lead, and this pace battle will leave them both out of gas down the stretch.
The horse who is going to pick up the pieces is in the middle of the two, 5-Singing Alli, who does her best running from just off the pace. That suits the expected shape of this race perfectly, and as an added bonus, she has the best last-race speed figure. When the horse with the best figure also figures to benefit from the way the race is going to be run, there's only one thing to do: go to the windows. We will bet her to win at 7/2. The bet: Sunland Park, Race 1, $35 to win on 5-Singing Alli.
Sunland Park, Race 3, 3:53 pm ET
Optional Claiming/Starter Allowance, 6 1/2 furlongs, Dirt, 4 & Up
There's a short field of six in this one, but we're playing it anyway, because there's a horse we like quite a bit. It's 1-Tanzanite, who starts for trainer Dick Cappelucci. He was earning very good speed figures at Zia Park, but then shipped to Sunland for his last start, where he did a speed-and-fade in a race whose conditions were virtually identical to today's. We like him in spite of that effort, which looks bad on paper, for two reasons: one is that his previous race was at a mile, which is probably farther than he wants to go, and the other reason, which to us is more important, is that he was running against a track bias: the Sunland dirt was slanted toward closers that day. Considering that he was going longer than he wants, and that the bias probably made it seem like was running uphill, it's no surprise that he threw in the towel after five furlongs.
But today, on what we expect to be a fair track, we expect a much improved effort. He's not the fastest horse in the race, but he should get a good stalking position from his rail post, and from there, we think he has a big shot to win. Running a mile in his last race will help him, as winning at 6 1/2 furlongs requires much more stamina than at 6, and the fitness from his taxing mile race will be an asset for him today. And because of his superficially dull effort last out, we get very nice odds of 6-1. We will bet him to win. The bet: Sunland Park, Race 3, $30 to win on 1-Tanzanite.
Sunland Park, Race 6, 5:14 pm ET
$6,250 Maiden Claiming, 5 1/2 furlongs, Dirt, Fillies & Mares 3 & Up
This is about as cheap a group of maiden claimers as one will find at any track across the country. But that's OK: a winning ticket in a bottom-level race cashes just as well as one in a Grade 1 race.
The entrants who have run before in this race have not shown much, so we're looking to a first time starter, and one at a price: it's 3-Brass County, who is 12-1 on the morning line. This is a bit of a stab: Brass County is a 4-year-old filly who starts for a low-percentage barn, and will be ridden by a low-percentage jockey (trainer Paul Smith and rider JC Villanueva had 6% and 5% win rates, respectively, in 2019). But she's shown a bit of promise in the morning, and we think she has a chance to beat a slow group at a big price. We will bet her to win and to place. An added bonus for music fans: Brass County is owned by Dream Walkin' Farms, which is the racing stable of country star Toby Keith. So put on your cowboy hat and root for the longshot. The bets: Sunland Park, Race 6, $10 to win/place on 3-Brass County.
Sunland Park, Race 9, 6:36 pm ET
Allowance/Optional Claiming, 6 furlongs, Dirt, 4 & Up
Seven go in this allowance/optional claimer, and it's a good race to handicap. There are two very, very speedy horses in here: 2-Forger and 4-Mr. Mooch are both wickedly fast, but we don't think either will be able to outrun the other early, and this will lead to another race with a too-fast early pace, and speedsters backing up down the stretch. That makes 5-Perty Dirty Dude a strong play: he's an 8-year-old veteran who has done his best running, including a win in a $175,000 state-bred stakes race at Zia Park three back, coming from off the pace. We expect him to be midpack during the early part of today's heat, and to run them all down late. We will bet him to win at 7/2. The bet: Sunland Park, Race 9, $35 to win on 5-Perty Dirty Dude.
That's all for today. As always, good luck at the windows.