We’re going on the assumption that both will be mostly dry, and we’ve handicapped all races for fast dirt. First picked post is 5:45 pm EDT.
Until more tracks begin racing again, Monday means Fonner Park in Nebraska and Will Rogers Downs in Oklahoma. We have compiled four plays, in four races that go off in just over 30 minutes: this will be a pari-mutuel version of speed dating. The weather forecast is OK for Fonner, and iffy for Will Rogers. We’re going on the assumption that both will be mostly dry, and we’ve handicapped all races for fast dirt. Let’s go.
Starter Optional Claiming, 5 ½ furlongs, Dirt, Fillies & Mares 3 & Up
This starter allowance drew a field of nine. The two favorites, 4-Singing Alli (3-1) and 9-Alex’s Bourbon (7/2) are pretty evenly matched in terms of speed figures, and both are dropping in class, but what makes us give the edge to one over the other is early speed: Alex’s Bourbon has much more of it that Singing Alli. Speed figures measure how fast a horse ran a race’s total distance, and when two horses have similar figs, the horse who earned the fig running faster fractions early nearly always has a tactical advantage over the other (this is for dirt races -- turf racing is a completely different animal). Add to Alex’s Bourbon’s tactical speed edge the fact that she drew outside Singing Alli -- in races around one turn, outside posts are a positional advantage -- and we think that Alex’s Bourbon is headed to the winner’s circle. Look for her to get a good trip stalking two speedballs drawn to her inside, to shake off the pacesetters at the top of the stretch, and to hold off Singing Alli’s late charge. We’ll bet Alex’s Bourbon to win, and an exact with Alex’s Bourbon on top, and Singing Alli underneath. The bets: Will Rogers Downs, Race 8, $30 to win on 9-Alex’s Bourbon; $10 exacta, 9 (Alex’s Bourbon) with 4-Singing Alli.
Allowance, 6 furlongs, Dirt, Nebraska-bred Fillies & Mares 3 & Up
Seven go in this first-level allowance for state-bred females. 3-Miss Elsie is a strong play: she broke her maiden three back, at Fonner Park and at today’s distance, and ran reasonably well in her last two, which were both tries at this allowance level. We think her experience running against winners is key here, as several of the other logical contenders are coming off maiden wins in which they got very, very soft trips. Beating winners, and in allowance races all the horses are winners, is enormously more difficult than beating maidens (i.e. non-winners), and we think that the recent maiden graduates are going to find these allowance waters much deeper than they’re used to. Look for Miss Elsie to stalk the pace, save ground from her inside post position, and win going away with a strong move at the top of the stretch. We will bet her to win at 3-1. The bet: Fonner Park, Race 3, $40 to win on 3-Miss Elsie.
Handicap, 1 mile, Dirt, 3 & Up
These handicap races are a pretty clever invention of the racing director at Will Rogers Downs: they are not handicaps in the traditional sense of the word, where horses are assigned varying weights to try to even out the field -- weight “handicaps” the better horses -- but to allow entry to horses who have run through their conditions. If they carded this race as a non-winners-of-two allowance, most of these horses would not be able to run, as they’ve won more than two races; by making it a handicap, there’s no limit on how many wins an entrant can have. We treat them as higher-level allowance races.
This race drew eight runners, and there’s one we particularly fancy: 2-Hunka Burning Love. He makes his first start today for high-percentage trainer Karl Broberg, who on April 25 claimed him for $32,000 out of a race at Oaklawn Park. He has abundant speed, reasonable stamina, and should relish the company here, as he’s been facing much tougher horses in claiming and allowance races at Oaklawn Park. Broberg is also good off the claim, with a 27% win rate with horses making their first start after he claims them. Look for Hunka Burning Love to go right to the front and lead the field all the way around the track. We will bet him to win at 7/2. The bet: Will Rogers Downs, Race 9, $40 to win on 2-Hunka Burning Love.
Allowance, 6 furlongs, Dirt, 3 & Up
This is another Fonner allowance that drew seven runners. Six of them last ran at Fonner, but it is the one who did not, 1-Buster Brown Boy, that we like: he last ran on March 7 on the synthetic racing surface at Turfway Park. He makes his first start for new trainer Kelli Martinez, who is very good: she’s winning at a 33% clip on the year, 32% at the current Fonner meet, and 30% with horses making their first start in her barn. We like the switch from synth to dirt, especially since Buster Brown Boy has won on dirt before, and we think this is a drop in class for him, as the claiming races he’s been running in at Turfway are much stronger than the allowance races at Fonner. Look for him to sit in the middle of the pack, or even a bit farther back, and to pass ‘em all down the stretch. We will bet him to win at 5/2. The bet: Fonner Park, Race 4, $40 to win on 1-Buster Brown Boy.
That’s all for today. Until tomorrow, enjoy the racing, be safe, and, as always, good luck at the windows.