There's a very light lineup of stakes running today, but rather than bemoaning that, we'll try to choose to look at the positive, which is that today is a chance to get some action at some tracks we don't play all that much. There are very serviceable cards at Mahoning Valley in Ohio and Will Rogers Downs in Oklahoma, where the it's opening day of the spring meeting. Weather should not be an issue at Mahoning, and while some rain did fall overnight at Will Rogers Downs, we're expecting it to dry out quickly, so we're expecting fast dirt at both tracks.
One thing we will mention, just in case anyone missed it: entries were posted for Turf Paradise in Phoenix today, but the track closed the other day due to the coronavirus outbreak, and will be dark for at least a few weeks. You may see past performances in different places -- they're in today's print edition of the Daily Racing Form -- but we can assure you that the racing in Arizona is cancelled. With that out of the way, let's go.
Mahoning Valley, Race 3, 1:40 pm
Allowance, 1 mile 70 yards, Dirt, 3 & Up
This allowance drew a field of nine. We like a horse at a price, 3-Our Alibi, who is coming off a long layoff, having last raced in July. He's handled by a very good trainer, Eric Reed, who's winning at a 21% clip on the year, and who has an even better 25% strike rate with horses coming off these kinds of layoffs. He has had a series of very solid workouts, with a couple of fast ones thrown in, which is exactly the kind of workout pattern that we like to see. There isn't another runner in the field who scares us, and at 10-1, we think Our Alibi has a good chance at a terrific price. We will bet him to win, with a small place bet thrown in. The bets: Mahoning Valley, Race 3, $30 to win / $10 to place on 3-Our Alibi.
Mahoning Valley, Race 5, 2:36 pm
Allowance, 1 mile 70 yards, Dirt, Fillies & Mares 3 & Up
This is another allowance at a mile and seventy yards, but it's for the girls, with eleven females going to the starting gate. Because of common ownership, two of them are coupled in the betting, which leaves ten betting interests. It's a good race to handicap.
We don't think much of the second part of the entry, 1A-Marcie's Candy; she appears to have little chance to win. But we like her stablemate, 1-Loving Moment, quite a bit: she's a well-bred 4-year-old filly who began her career in Southern California, but has since been running in Kentucky, on three different surfaces (dirt, turf, and synthetic) and at three different tracks (Turfway Park, Keeneland, and Churchill Downs). Her last two, both on synthetic at Turfway, were quite good, better than the recent efforts of any other runner in the field, and if she can transfer that form to dirt, she is going to be very, very difficult to beat. We think she will run well, which is why she is the pick. We will bet the entry to win; we get two horses for the price of one bet. The bet: Mahoning Valley, Race 5, $35 to win on the entry of 1-Loving Moment/1A-Marcie's Candy.
Will Rogers Downs, Race 7, 5:15 pm ET
Maiden Special Weight, 5 1/2 furlongs, Dirt, 3-Year-Olds
Nine colts will go to the starting gate here, a pretty good betting race for a Monday in Oklahoma. The morning line favorite is 7-Docs Lucky Jax, who's coming out of a pair of maiden races at Sam Houston. He did a speed-and-fade in both, setting the pace before finishing far back, and he will get bet, probably pretty strongly, primarily because of his superior early speed, as at 5 1/2 furlongs, this race is shorter than his two races at Sam Houston, and Will Rogers is a pretty speed-favoring track. But we are against him, partly because he threw in the towel early twice -- he really quit in those races -- and partly because we think he is going to be overbet (he's 5/2 on the morning line, and will likely be much shorter by post time). We are looking elsewhere for the winner.
We like 6-Heputtheaceinrace. He too exits a maiden race at Sam Houston, where he contested a hot pace before backing up to fifth. He is not quite as quick early as the favorite, but he showed much more determination down the lane, and we think that his stamina is going to get him to the winner's circle today. We see a good stalking trip from Heputtheaceinrace, sitting just off the pace, and a winning move to take the lead in midstretch. At 3-1, he's a much better play. We will bet him to win. The bet: Will Rogers Downs, Race 7, $30 to win on 6-Heputtheaceinrace.
Will Rogers Downs, Race 9, 6:15 pm ET
Allowance, 6 furlongs, Dirt, Fillies & Mares 3 & Up
This allowance is the featured race at Will Rogers today, and it drew a big field of eleven, which makes it a good one to bet. We like the favorite: 10-Summer Indy is a very, very strong pick. She's got superior speed figures and more early speed than the rest of the field -- in a dirt sprint, this is the absolutely ideal combination, as it means that she is faster early and faster overall than the other runners. This usually merits an automatic win bet, but add to the pluses that she drew an outside post position, which is a tactical advantage. The stars are pretty much perfectly aligned for this 5-year-old mare and Karl Broberg trainee.
Her last race was a dud: she set the pace and faded badly at Delta Downs on February 28. But that race was at a mile, which is probably farther than she wants to go, and it was on a racing surface biased against speed, and in favor of closers. She was running against the grain, as it were, and as a stretch-out sprinter, she had no chance. We are hoping that the superficially poor result inflates her odds, because not only do we not view her last race as a negative, we actually view it as a positive, as she should be dead fit as a result of it, and possess some additional stamina she might not have without that race under her belt.
Summer Indy is 3-1 on the morning line, but this looks like a bad line to us, and she will be shorter, maybe a lot shorter, by post time. We don't care, and are betting her anyway. We will play her to win. The bet: Will Rogers Downs, Race 9, $50 to win on 9-Summer Indy.
That's all for today. Enjoy the races, be safe, and, as always, good luck at the windows.