Saturday is the first big day of the season at Fair Grounds. Kentucky Derby points are on the line in the Lecomte, which has drawn a full field of horses from across the country. Additionally, I also found the Saturday card at Santa Anita to be an interesting puzzle, and I’ve got my fair share of action there as well.
Without further ado, let’s get to it!
$0.50 Pick Four: Race #2
72 Bets, $36
In both of these Pick Four sequences, I’m hoping to bolster value on shorter-priced singles by finding some prices early. This is especially so in the early Pick Four, where my single may be the shortest price on this entire card.
The second race is an allowance event on turf that drew a full field. #12 MAGIC JOAN would’ve probably been a single for me with a better post. Her debut was very good, and she followed that up with a strong second in a swiftly-run race over Aqueduct’s fairly-slow turf course. However, I’m also throwing in a big price. #8 NUTCRACKER SUITE makes her North American debut and adds Lasix, which is often a huge addition. The works two and three back hint at talent, and it wouldn’t be the biggest shock in the world if she was ready to run in her North American unveiling.
The third is a maiden race for 3-year-olds, and while I respect #3 FASCILITATOR and am using him, my top pick is an 8-1 shot. #7 NOLA WIN was second in his debut, and trainer Dallas Stewart’s horses aren’t usually fully cranked at first asking. The winner that day is an exciting prospect, and the most recent workout (third-fastest of 144 at the distance that day) says he’s taken a step forward since that race. I’ll also throw in #1 NEW COLOSSUS despite the rail draw. His workouts are sharp, and he’s got the pedigree to be very good (his second dam is a full sister to General Challenge).
Singling late in the sequence means I can buy coverage in the fourth, which I found to be the toughest race of the day. This is a 12-horse field, and I need to use all of them. The morning line favorite is 4-1, which should tell you all you need to know about this group. Not much would surprise me, and hopefully we’ll get a price home.
The fifth race is the Duncan Kenner, and my single is 4/5 favorite #4 YOCKEY’S WARRIOR, who’s simply a different horse at Fair Grounds. He’s won five of his last six races, with the lone loss coming in a Grade 3 at Keeneland. This isn’t a bad field, but a repeat of his last-out victory would make him extremely difficult to beat.
$0.50 Pick Four: Race #7
72 Bets, $36
This late Pick Four features four stakes races, including the Grade 3 Lecomte. As mentioned, my strategy is to get to my best bet of the sequence, which I’ve singled in the payoff leg.
The seventh is the Silverbulletday for 3-year-old fillies, and for an ungraded stakes race, it came up VERY tough. Three horses ran in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, and I’m using them all. However, I also need to throw in #5 STELLAR MOON. She’s bred up and down for two turns, and she finally gets such a route here. At her price, and with her breeding, I need to have her on my ticket.
The eighth is the Colonel E.R. Bradley on turf, and like most of the grass races on the card, I thought this was wide-open. My top pick is #5 TOWER OF TEXAS, who didn’t have a great trip when third in the Grade 3 Tropical Turf. With more racing luck, he may have won that day, and I need to use him. However, with such a big field, I also wouldn’t be shocked with another troubled trip, so I need to spread.
The ninth is the Lecomte, and I’m using the two likely favorites plus a middle-priced horse. #10 INSTILLED REGARD ran well in the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Futurity, and #12 PRINCIPE GUILHERME is 2-for-2 and has yet to be tested. In addition to those two, #5 KOWBOY KARMA also merits respect. His longer races are fine, and the Larry Jones barn must be respected in these spots.
All of this leads up to the Louisiana Stakes, where I’m singling a horse that could have a big year. That’s #5 THE PLAYER, who won the Grade 2 Fayette two back before a misfire in the Grade 1 Clark. He’s run up against better horses recently, and the work tab is very impressive. He’s definitely the horse to beat, and with his tactical speed, he could sit a dream trip just off the speed and get first run when the real running starts.
$0.50 Pick Four: Race #2
54 Bets, $27
Usually, I give out an early Pick Five ticket. However, I simply can’t give one out that’s within a budget I feel comfortable with. With that in mind, I’ve opted to focus on the early Pick Four instead.
The second race is a maiden claiming event. #2 SOUL SOUND may go off favored, but I have my doubts. She’s not the only class-dropper in this field. #4 TOPAZ TIME has back races that make her competitive, and #5 DEL MAR DIVA gets a positive rider switch and sports a flashy recent workout over this track.
I think Bob Baffert wins the third race. The question is, with which one of his three runners? I’m using all of them, and this ticket may come down in cost a bit, as Baffert tends to scratch some runners of his in this sort of situation. Of the three I used, I’m most intrigued by #1 CURLY’S ROCKET, who has worked well following a disappointing debut. The rail draw doesn’t help, but he may be mature enough to overcome it.
The fourth race is a fun turf event with several stakes-quality runners. My top pick is #7 UNAPOLOGETIC, who gets Mike Smith in this spot. He generally runs the same race every time out, and he was beaten two lengths last time out by Editore, who won his next start after that before finishing third in the Grade 2 San Gabriel. I’m also using #6 A RED TIE DAY, who loves this turf course. He’s won just once since October of 2016, but several of his starts in that timespan have come against much better competition.
The fifth is a $12,500 claimer, and it’s drawn a lot of familiar faces from the circuit. I’m three-deep, and I’m using three logical horses. #3 MR. SHOOK drops way down in class, #4 DUKES UP makes his first start for new trainer Doug O’Neill, and #7 CITY STEEL returns to his favorite track and will run for his lowest tag since at least 2016.
$0.50 Pick Four: Race #6
16 Bets, $8
My strategy here is pretty simple, as I’m attempting to extract some value from a horse that will likely be an odds-on favorite. I am, however, using some prices elsewhere, so there’s a chance we get a solid return on investment.
The sixth is a sprint down the hill, and I like a 6-1 shot on top. #2 DOC CURLIN has never run a bad race at this route, and the addition of Evin Roman is a big plus. I’ll also use #7 MOONLIGHT DRIVE, a horse I’ve always liked since his flashy win in his North American debut. He’s hit the board in a pair of graded stakes races, and the horses he’s lost to are high-class thoroughbreds. While Doc Curlin is my top pick, and a horse I was admittedly tempted to single based on the price, I couldn’t go forward without using this Bob Baffert trainee as well.
The seventh is a bottom-level claiming event for older horses going six furlongs. #10 LAMBO LUXX may be favored, but I don’t think he’s a cinch. He didn’t beat much last time out at Los Alamitos, and his most recent race here at Santa Anita (which came over a track considerably slower than the Santa Anita strip he’s won over in the past) was not good. I’ll use him, but I want some coverage elsewhere. #1 PAT THE BEAR has tons of early speed, #5 CHROMIUM has improved since dropping to this level two back, and #7 PRIVATE PROSPECT takes a big drop off of a controversial race Sunday.
My single will be a popular one. #2 MAJESTIC HEAT looms large in the Grade 2 La Canada, and she’s emerged as a high-quality dirt horse since trying the surface two back. At some point, she’ll face the heavyweights of this division, but this group seems a cut below those. If she doesn’t win, I lose, and I imagine many tickets go up in smoke.
We finish the card with another race down the hill. This one is for $25,000 claimers, and my top pick takes a steep drop in class. #8 COASTLINE was beaten less than two lengths two back in the Grade 3 Eddie D, and some of his best races have come at this route. His best race wins this, but just in case he’s tailing off, I’m also using #9 GENERAL IKE, who did everything but win in his lone downhill race to date, which came for a $40,000 tag. He didn’t break well last time out at Del Mar, and the outside post position is a big plus.