Across the country, the major tracks typically run four or five day weeks, starting either Wednesday or Thursday, and running through the weekend. That leaves the start of the week, Monday and Tuesday, as days when there is less action, and there are tracks who make these days the focus of their entire week, as it is easier for them to attract simulcast players without having to compete with the major circuits in New York, Florida, Kentucky, and California.
Parx Racing in suburban Philadelphia and Mahoning Valley in northeastern Ohio are two of these, but they've had buzzard's luck this winter: it seems like every Tuesday this year has been rainy. Today is no exception; Parx is 1/9 to be running in slop, and Mahoning Vally looks wet too. We were looking forward to making a couple of plays at both tracks, but will have to skip them because of the rain, and because of the uncertainty about the racing surface that comes with it.
It is fortunate that today is Fat Tuesday, because the Fair Grounds in New Orleans celebrates that big day down in the Big Easy with a special, 9-race Tuesday card that is pretty good, and which even features a minor stakes, which is of course called the Mardi Gras. We will focus our play exclusively on Louisiana today, where, despite cloudy skies, the dirt should be fast and the turf should be firm. Lent starts tomorrow, and we'll try to give ourselves something to atone for by enjoying some sinful behavior today. Let's go.
Fair Grounds, Race 3, 2:28 pm ET
$5,000 Claiming, 1 mile, Dirt, Fillies & Mares 3 & Up
Eight females line up for this bottom-level claimer. Horses very frequently lack consistency at this level; they run one good race, one bad race, another good one, two bad ones, and so on, with the difference in results usually being due to physical problems. Handicapping these races is typically more a task of guessing which entrants are fit and ready to run, than it is picking apart past running lines, or trying to figure out how the race will be run.
We mention that because there's a runner in here who has been amazingly consistent: it's 5-Dragon Dragon, a 4-year-old filly trained by Danny Pish. Her last seven races, going all the way back to last July, have been very similar, and we think a similar effort will be enough to win this race. She has a pace-pressing style that should work here, and she likes the Fair Grounds dirt, as she's finished in the money in all three of her career starts in New Orleans. We will bet her to win at 7/2. The bet: Fair Grounds, Race 3, $30 to win on 5-Dragon Dragon.
Fair Grounds, Race 5, 3:26 pm ET
Allowance, 6 furlongs, Dirt, Lousiana-breds 4 & Up
The 5th today at the Fair Grounds is a good state-bred allowance that drew eight entrants. We like 1-Laughinsaintsong, and we like him very much: he's been running in stakes races at Delta Downs, and he's been running very well in them: each of his last four starts have been in stakes; he won two of them, and finished third in the other two. He earned good figures in all those starts, and has the most early speed in the field. Breaking from the rail, he really has no choice but to try to go for the front; with three slower horses immediately outside him, we think he gets the lead, and stays there all the way around the track. We're hoping he gets underbet because he's coming from Delta Downs: he's 5/2 on the morning line, and we are guessing, or maybe hoping, that he stays right there at post time. Plus, there has to be some kind of cosmic reason that a horse named for a song of the saints will win on Mardi Gras. We will bet him to win ,and we will also (see below) play him in the Daily Double comprising Races 5 and 6. The bets: Fair Grounds, Race 5, $30 to win on 1-Laughingsaintsong; $20 double 1-Laughingsaintsong with 2-Emmaus.
Fair Grounds, Race 6, 3:55 pm ET
Allowance/Optional Claiming, 1 /16 miles, Turf, 4 & Up
This is another tough allowance race, a third-level contest at a mile and a sixteenth on the turf. It drew eight runners.
We like 2-Emmaus in this spot. We have been following this Irish-bred, who's trained by Conor Murphy, since last winter, and he's had almost unbelievably bad luck: he seems to be the kind of horse who very much prefers firmer turf, but he's caught soft going, anywhere from good to yielding, in each of his last five races. This has made his form look worse than it really is.
Emmaus is 6 years old now, and it's possible that he may have lost a step. But we think it's more likely that his form is obscured from running over racing surfaces he does not like. We think on firm grass, which he should get today, he will deliver a maximum effort, and he's shown in the past that his best is good enough to beat this field. We will bet him to win at 5/2. The bet: Fair Grounds, Race 6, $35 to win on 2-Emmaus.
Fair Grounds, Race 8, 4:53 pm ET
$75,000 Mardi Gras Stakes, 5 1/2 furlongs, Turf, Fillies & Mares 4 & Up
A full field of twelve drew into the Mardi Gras, which should be run over a firm turf course. It's a good race to handicap, and it should be a good race to watch -- these turf sprints usually are. 3-Break Even, a Brad Cox trainee, is the 5/2 morning line favorite, primarily because of her high speed: she is the quickest horse in the race and is a virtual cinch to get the early lead.
But there are a few other runners entered who can run early, and we do not think that Break Even is going to have it easy up front. We think the pace looks fast, maybe even wickedly fast, which has us looking for a runner coming from off the pace. We have found one we like, and she's an enormous price: it's 2-Spectralight, an Irish-bred, 4-year-old filly who runs for trainer Brian House. She began her career in Italy, where she did well in turf sprints, winning a race at today's distance, plus a couple at 7 1/2 furlongs. She made her North American debut in July at Canterbury Park in Minnesota, where she finished a close fourth in a $200,000 stakes race. She comes in here off a layoff but has several recent speedy workouts, which suggest that she is fit, and that she is being conditioned to be ready to run in a sprint.
Because of the layoff, she may need this race, but irrespective of that, we think she is absolutely going to be flying late, which fits how we expect the race to be run. Even better is that she is 20-1 on the morning line, and because House is not a household name with Fair Grounds bettors, she may get overlooked at the windows, and go off even higher. We will try to blow up the tote board and will bet her to win and to place. The bets: Fair Grounds, Race 8, $30 to win/$15 to place on 2-Spectralight.
That's all for today. Enjoy the racing, and the Mardi Gras festivities, and, as always, good luck at the windows.