We do know that even with only three tracks running today, there's a surprising number of good betting races.
Watching the racing the news the past few days has been like watching a dinner theater production of And Then There Were None. The shoe that dropped yesterday was Turfway Park, in Florence, Kentucky, which closed its winter-spring meeting three days early as a result of Kentucky governor Andy Beshear's order for all non-essential businesses to shut down. This is not an enormous loss, as the Turfway meet was scheduled to end in three days anyway, but it's still one more track that has gone dark.
We are skeptical that racetracks will be able to operate for however long this new world of self-quarantining lasts, but the real test, we think, will be whether new meetings can start. The tracks still operating -- and today, there are cards at Gulfstream and Oaklawn Parks, as well as Golden Gate Fields in San Francisco -- were up and running when this outbreak began. When they close, will new meetings begin? We very much doubt that, but we will just have to see wait and see how it plays out.
We do know that even with only three tracks running today, there's a surprising number of good betting races. We will mostly focus on Gulfstream and Oaklawn, but we'll throw in a play at Golden Gate as well. We expect fast and fast/firm/dry going everywhere. Let's go.
Gulfstream Park, Race 5, 3:03 pm ET
Maiden Special Weight, 1 mile, Turf, Florida-bred Fillies & Mares 3 & Up
As we've mentioned previously, the turf at Gulfstream has been speed-favoring for weeks, but yesterday, that trend weakened, as the rails are down to 36 feet, which makes the stretch longer, and the longer stretch gives the come-from-behinders a better chance to make up ground in the last furlong or so.
We are expecting this trend of a fair turf course to continue today, and that will present some betting opportunities, as bettors will still be playing as though the Gulfstream grass is a speed-favoring conveyor belt, when that should no longer the case. The generals are always fighting the last war, the old saying goes, and so are horseplayers, and noticing this kind of surface change before most bettors notice it can give one a pari-mutuel edge. We are going to try to take advantage of that edge here.
This maiden race for state-bred females drew a field of nine. It's a good betting race, and there's a lot of speed here, and the speedy runners will certainly take some betting action. We're going the other way, looking for an off-the-pace runner, and that is very clearly 4-Sister Otoole. She is a 3-year-old filly trained by Graham Motion, and she made up a lot of ground in her last start, which was her first career effort on turf, to finish a close third, less than three lengths behind the winner. That was when the Gulfstream turf was favoring speed pretty severely; today, on a much fairer surface, we expect her to mow down the entire field down the stretch. Jockey Javier Castellano rode Sister Otoole last time, and we like the fact that he liked her last-out effort enough to ride her back again today. We will bet her to win, and we will do so enthusiastically. The bet: Gulfstream Park, Race 5, $40 to win on 4-Sister Otoole.
Gulfstream Park, Race 9, 5:07 pm ET
Allowance/Optional Claiming, 6 furlongs, Dirt, 4 & Up
This second-level allowance dirt sprint drew a field of ten. In contrast to the Gulfstream grass course yesterday, which was fair, speed was king on the dirt: there were four races on the main track yesterday, and three of them were won in wire-to-wire fashion. It's not a deal where the horse who gets the early lead wins automatically, but horses who are forwardly placed in the race's early stages definitely have a significant edge.
We're going with a price, here: it's 9-Harryhee, an 8-year-old gelding who's trained by Brett McLellan. The reason for the pick is very simple: on a speed-favoring dirt course, Harryhee has the most early speed in the field, and he has an outside post position, which in one-turn races is an advantage. He will either get the early lead or be right off it, in perfect stalking position, and then the only question is whether he's good enough to carry his speed the entire six-furlong distance of this race. At 20-1, we think it's worth a chance that he is. We will bet him to win and to place. The bets: Gulfstream Park, Race 9, $25 to win/$10 to place on 9-Harryhee.
Golden Gate Fields, Race 4, 5:18 pm ET
$12,500 Maiden Claiming, 1 mile, Synthetic, 3-Year-Olds
This maiden claimer for 3-year-olds drew a field of nine. We like a colt at a price: 5-Blues Rapper, a California-bred who began his career running on turf in Southern California. He made his first start on a synthetic racing surface last out, and finished a decent fourth, only 2 1/2 lengths behind the winner, but that race was at six furlongs, and his better races before that were at longer distances. He stretches out to two turns here, and we think he has a very big shot, at very nice morning line odds of 10-1. We will bet him to win. The bet: Golden Gate, Race 4, $25 to win on 5-Blues Rapper.
Oaklawn Park, Race 7, 5:21 pm ET
$6,250 Claiming, 6 furlongs, Dirt, Fillies & Mares 4 & Up
A full field of twelve older females will go to the gate in this claiming race. We've looked at the form of all of them, and we think that 4-J P's Gladys is a strong play: she won her second-to-last start, at the $8,000 level, and then jumped in class off that win, where she did a speed-and-fade in a $12,500 claimer, finishing 8th. That last race was not quite as bad as it looks on paper: she was very close to the early lead in a race where the pace was fast, and the speed horses all collapsed. At this lower level, this is less likely to happen; we think she will get an ideal stalking trip from her inside post position, a few lengths behind the pacesetters, and take over once they straighten out and turn for home. At 7/2, we think she merits a play, so we will bet her to win. The bet: Oaklawn Park, Race 7, $35 to win on 4-J P's Gladys.
Oaklawn Park, Race 8, 5:51 pm ET
Allowance/Optional Claiming, 6 furlongs, Dirt, 4 & Up
This allowance/optional claimer drew a field ten older horses, and it's a corker: the past performances make it almost look like a stakes race. There are some pretty high-quality horses in here.
We like 8-Candy Cornell. He's run three races since coming off a layoff in early February, and all of them were good, and he's got a hot trainer, Robertino Diodoro (30% win rate at the current Oaklawn meeting), and he's got high early speed and a coveted outside post position. We think he gets a good stalking trip, tracking the early leaders, and passes the pacesetters in mid-stretch. At 3-1, we will bet him to win. The bet: Oaklawn Park, Race 8, $30 to win on 8-Candy Cornell.
That's all for today. Be safe, and, as always, good luck at the windows.