Gulfstream Park, the Fair Grounds, and Oaklawn Park are on the simulcast roster today. We're going to play all three.
Gulfstream and the Fair Grounds should be dry, but we're expecting a sloppy track at Oaklawn, where it is supposed to rain most of the day. Let's go.
Fair Grounds, Race 5, 3:26 pm ET
Allowance/Optional Claiming, 6 furlongs, Dirt, 4 & Up
This first-level allowance/optional claimer drew a field of eight. Two of them are coupled in the betting, which leaves seven disparate betting interests. 4-There and Back is a strong play: he's a 5-year-old trained by Tom Amoss, and while he lost last time as the favorite, that was on a sloppy track, and at a shorter distance, 5 1/2 furlongs, than today's race. On the fast dirt that he seems to prefer, and on a track that is playing perfectly for his pace-pressing style, we think he is going to take this one easily. We expect him to stalk the leaders and take this one with a move at the top of the stretch. We will bet him to win at 3-1. The bet: Fair Grounds, Race 5, $30 to win on 4-There and Back.
Oaklawn Park, Race 4, 3:54 pm ET
Allowance, 1 1/16 miles, Dirt, Arkansas-breds 3 & Up
This state-bred allowance race drew a good field of nine. One of them is 3-Whendovescry, who has good recent form, good past form on off tracks, an inside post position, and the most natural early speed. On a track that figures to be sloppy, and therefore speed-favoring, this is pretty close to the embodiment of handicapping perfection: we think that Whendovescry is going to go right to the front out of the gate, and not look back. He's 2-1 on the morning line, and while we won't get that -- he will be shorter -- we will bet him to win anyway, as he is overwhelmingly the likeliest winner. The bet: Oaklawn Park, Race 4, $40 to win on 3-Whendovescry.
Fair Grounds, Race 7, 4:24 pm ET
Allowance, 6 furlongs, Dirt, Louisiana-bred 3-Year-Old Fillies
This first-level allowance for state-bred 3-year-old fillies drew a big field of ten, and the first pass through the past performances of the group leaves the impression that it's a pretty nondescript group, and a pretty wide open race to handicap.
But a closer look reveals an exciting betting opportunity: 7-Lady Hopper has started twice, both in $20,000 maiden claiming races. She did a speed-and-fade in her debut, finishing last of ten, and then in her last race, she went wire-to-wire to break her maiden, winning by 5 1/2 lengths.
Based solely on her last race, she might be worth a play today. But we think the opportunity is better than that: both of her starts were run on dirt surfaces that were biased against speed, and in favor of closers. That she ran well both times, especially in her last race, while running against the grain of the track, suggests that she's even better than she looks on paper. Another plus is the fact that she has the most natural early speed in the field, and even better than that is the fact that the dirt at the Fair Grounds has flipped: rather than being biased in favor of closers, yesterday it was pretty speed-favoring, and we expect that to be the case again today.
Add it all up, and Lady Hopper is a terrific betting opportunity: we think she will be able to get the early lead, probably quite comfortably, and from there, we don't think any other runner in the field will be able to catch her. And because she's coming from maiden claiming races, her morning line price is 8-1.
We do not think we will get 8-1, but we do think we'll get a square price on her, so we will bet her to win. And we will remove the rubber band on the bankroll: we will play her enthusiastically and aggressively. The bet: Fair Grounds, Race 7, $60 to win on 7-Lady Hopper.
Gulfstream Park, Race 8, 4:36 pm ET
$16,000 Claiming, 1 mile, Turf, 4 & Up
Nine older horses drew into this mid-level claimer at a mile on the grass. With the way the Gulfstream Park turf course is playing, and with the way it is laid out today, speed is the only thing to play, and that makes this race a pretty straightforward one to handicap: the play is 3-Sir Seamus, a stretch-out sprinter who is almost certain to get the early lead from his inside post. Over a normal turf course, we would be eager to play against him, because his stamina at a mile is suspect, but we learned a long time ago that when there's a bias like the current one favoring speed on the Gulfstream park turf, it is useless to fight it. We'll pick the jackrabbit, because we think he can stay in front all the way around the track. We will bet Sir Seamus to win at 7/2. The bet: Gulfstream Park, Race 8, $25 to win on 3-Sir Seamus.
Fair Grounds, Race 8, 4:53 pm ET
Allowance/Optional Claiming, 1 mile, Turf, Fillies & Mares 4 & Up
This allowance/optional claimer on the Fair Grounds turf drew a full field of twelve. There are two entries, two pairs of horses coupled due to common ownership, leaving ten betting interests. It's a good race, and a good race to handicap.
There's a lot of speed in the race, and while forwardly-placed runners did well in the grass races at the Fair Grounds yesterday, we think that was more a function of the individual races themselves, and was not a function of any kind of track bias. We think the track is fair, and with all the speed in the field, we think the race will set up for a stalker or closer. And that makes a 8-Clara Peeters, a 4-year-old filly making her North American debut for Brad Cox, the pick. She has run in twelve races in her career, all in England, and she is the kind of European import we like to bet: she ran competitively over there, but did better on firmer, rather than softer, going. We think she will like American turf, which is much firmer than they usually ever get over in Europe. And while she did not run at the highest level in England, she did run against some decent mid-level company, which was probably superior to the field she will face today. She has ability, a stalking running style that should fit the expected race shape, and as an added bonus, Cox is hot right now, both in general (25% win rate at the current Fair Grounds meeting), and with first-time Euro imports (he's won with two of his last four in this spot). At a very square price of 6-1, Clara Peeters merits a play, so we will bet her to win. Look for her to sit mid-pack early, and to be moving late. The bet: Fair Grounds, Race 8, $35 to win on 8-Clara Peeters.
Oaklawn Park, Race 7, 5:21 pm ET
Allowance, 1 1/6 miles, Dirt, 4 & Up
There are nine runners here, and eight betting interests, as two of the horses are coupled in the wagering. We he entry, 1-Aqwaam and 1A-Starship Zeus. The latter has the best wet-track form, with four top-three finishes in five career off-track starts, but the former has more speed, and should be right there if the track turns into a speed-favoring conveyor belt, as it sometimes does in the slop. Both are trained by Robertino Diodoro, who has been white-hot at Oaklawn Park in the past week or two. We get two good horses for the price of one, so we will bet the entry to win. The bet: Oaklawn Park, Race 7, $40 to win on the entry of 1-Aqwaam and 1A-Starship Zeus.
Oaklawn Park, Race 8, 5.51 pm ET
Allowance/Optional Claiming, 1 1/16 mile, Dirt, 4 & Up
This is a good race, with a field of 11 tough older horses going a mile on the Oaklawn dirt. On a wet track, it's hard to find fault with the form of 3-Home Run Trick: his last two races on off going, he won by 11 1/2 and 12 1/2 lengths. In the slop today, we think he is clearly the horse to beat.
There are three other runners in here who have done well on wet going: 6-My Sixth Sense, 7-Rotation, and 10-Cashanova. We are going to bet Home Run Trick to win, but we are also going to swing for the fences, in our last race of the day, by putting these horses together in some trifecta and superfecta plays. Here are the bets:
$30 to win on 3-Home Run Trick
Trifecta part wheel: 3 with 6,7,10 with 6,7,10
Superfecta part wheel: 3 with 6,7,10 with 6,7,10 with 6,7,10
The trifecta and superfecta plays each contain six combinations, meaning they cost $6 for a $1 wager. These can be played for a base wager of 50 cents in the trifecta, or 10 cents in the superfecta. We are really going for a big score here, so we are going to play a $5 base wager for each ($60 total), but the play can be reduced or increased to fit virtually any size budget.
That's all for today. Enjoy the racing, stay safe, and, as always, good luck at the windows.