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Overflow Field Packs in for the Risen Star Stakes

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Week 5/10 of the Derby Handicap Contest: Submit your choice of horse up to 20 minutes through this link before the scheduled post time of 5:25pm CST for this race. Read the Contest tab for rules and more information.

Two graded stakes winners and a handful of challengers line up to take some Derby points in a loaded rendition of the Risen Star Stakes. As though named for the race, Rise Up will return from a 3-month layoff since winning the Delta Downs Jackpot in a romp to challenge Lecomte (III) winner Vicar’s In Trouble, who had no trouble winning that race by almost 7 lengths. #4 Bond Holder scratched, allowing also-eligible entry Emmett Park into the gate. The other also-eligible, Teniente Coronel, will not run according to his trainer.

$400,000 Risen Star Stakes (II) - 3-Year-Olds. 1 1/16 miles on dirt at Fair Grounds. Post Time: Saturday, February 22 at 5:25pm CST.

[Post Position, Horse - Jockey, Impost, Trainer - Summary, Opinion in italics]

1) Albano - Kerwin Clark, 116 lbs, Larry Jones - The son of Istan and half to Mark Valeski breaks from the rail after a somewhat unfavorable trip last out in the Lecomte (III), where he finished a respectable 2nd way behind Vicar’s In Trouble. He has won 2 and has never been off the board in 4 starts. While I expect him to run a better trip here, I think he may be out of luck here. Perhaps needs more ground like Atigun, another Istan colt.

2) Rise Up - Gerard Melancon, 120 lbs, Tom Amoss - The Rockport Harbor colt has won 4 of 6 races, including the Delta Jackpot (III) by a breezy 6 lengths over Casiguapo. He owns some of the best figures here and has a win at the distance. His workouts look good and he has enough early speed to do well at this post. Extended layoffs didn’t hurt him in the past, and he looks fresh.

3) Flat Gone - Chris Landeros, 116 lbs, Keith Desormeaux - Trainer Desormeaux took this race in a shocker last year with Ive Struck a Nerve, so can he go back-to-back with this Flatter colt? Flat Gone has been a bit of a lost cause up until his last race here at the Fair Grounds, where he rallied on the turn to break his maiden by 2 1/2 lengths to improve very significantly. Flat Gone retains 10% rider Landeros for this race and Desormeaux is nearly 20% here. While I credit that maiden win to a rapid pace, if he improves his numbers again he could be a factor.

4) Vigorish - Marcelino Pedroza, 116 lbs, D. Wayne Lukas - Lukas with another seemingly hopeless son of English Channel in the Derby preps (Optimizer!)? Vigorish has yet to snap his maiden in 6 starts, the best of which were 2 places. To his credit, he was barely beaten last out going this distance at Oaklawn, and his resume is a mix between turf, slop, and inexperience that has handicapped him. He’s a bit of a lost cause, but do you dare to doubt the Coach with a horse who is knocking at the door?

6) Gold Hawk - Corey Nakatani, 116 lbs, Steve Asmussen - Smushed as the favorite last out in the Lecomte (III), the Empire Maker colt switches to Corey Nakatani after he got going too late to catch Vicar’s In Trouble in his only career loss in 3 starts. His numbers and race trips are not that impressive. Asmussen and Nakatani are a good combo though.

7) Interchange - E.T. Baird, 116 lbs, Thomas Clark - 2-for-2 as a juvenile, the Fairbanks colt goofed in his 3-year-old debut here at Fair Grounds, being 5th by nearly 10 lengths to Quick Indian and Xtra Luck in 3rd. Interchange’s two wins aren’t very special looking at the setup he received: one a likely pace meltdown, the other an uncontested easy lead. Nope.

8) Hoppertunity - Martin Garcia, 116 lbs, Bob Baffert - The Any Given Saturday colt was a bit slow and wide while 5th in his debut race won by Bayern, then reeled them in on the rail last out to win by 3. Bob Baffert is a pro shipping to the midwest and Hops should improve. Yet to accomplish much of anything, Hops will be stretching and shipping, but ought to be a fairly decent play as his last race was really nice.

9) Intense Holiday - Mike Smith, 116 lbs, Todd Pletcher - The Harlan’s Holiday colt had a rough trip of things in the Remsen (II) last year, and got along to be 3rd last out in the Holy Bull (II) despite breaking from an outer post. He gets another outer post here and has only won once in 6 starts. He improved his figures last out and should improve again in his 2nd start off the layoff. How highly you think of Cairo Prince should factor into how you place him. Likely to get good odds again.

10) Son of a Preacher - Miguel Mena, 116 lbs, Bret Calhoun - The Pulpit colt hasn’t won since his debut going 6 furlongs at Churchill Downs last year, and hasn’t faced much class in recent starts, the best of which was a 3 1/2 length loss to Gold Hawk. He’s failed to make much ground (if any) up in the stretch, but did get a rocky race against Gold Hawk here at the Fair Grounds. He could do better with an improved trip, but how much so is the question.

11) Quick Indian - Brian Hernandez Jr, 116 lbs, Merrill Scherer - The Indian Charlie colt won his allowance race here at the Fair Grounds in January, spinning off the turn to log 2-of-3 wins at the distance. A great pedigree, with an Apple Blossom (I) winner for his dam’s mother, Quick Indian could keep improving.

12) Xtra Luck - Richard Eramia, 116 lbs, Danny Pish - The Exchange Rate colt was a well-beaten 3rd last out, more than 9 lengths behind Quick Indian. Outer post, poor figs, bred like a grass horse.

13) Commanding Curve - Robby Albarado, 116 lbs, Dallas Stewart - The Master Command colt had some cruddy races before finally snapping his maiden at Churchill Downs, running his best late and eating into a slow pace from the back of the field going this distance. An interesting new player, he won well enough last out to be a contender here if he can keep improving. The long layoff may hurt him.

14) Vicar’s In Trouble - Rosie Napravnik, 120 lbs, Mike Maker - The Into Mischief colt is 2-for-2 at Fair Grounds and is fresh off a commanding score in the Lecomte (III) last out, where he won by nearly 7 lengths despite veering out a little. The distance and contenders should be no problem for him, but the outer post is daunting as he will have to break quickly and give up some ground in the process. It’s not impossible, though, and he has plenty of talent.

AE) Emmett Park - James Graham, 116 lbs, Robert Pincins - 2-for-2 at Turfway Park on poly, the Bob and John gelding has had 3 Fair Grounds works on dirt and looks to be an improver and a closer should he keep the same strategies on dirt. His works have been good on the dirt and he can be had from an improving angle. I do not think a wide post (should he get post 14… I’m assuming he does) will hinder him.

Top 3 Picks in Order:

1) Hoppertunity

2) Rise Up

3) Commanding Curve

The horse to beat here isn’t Vicar’s In Trouble, but Rise Up, who owns top figures all around but is still in need of a test— and should he win on Saturday, he’ll probably need to be tested again as this is a pretty weak field altogether. Hoppertunity made some leaps and bounds in his last race and I’m keen on him to do well here. I liked Commanding Curve’s Churchill win a lot and he should improve. All I worry about for him is fitness level. I could go back and forth between these three all day, this is a tough race.

Value Pick: Commanding Curve (6-1 or better) can explode in that last quarter from behind if he’s still got it.

Contest Wager: Hoppertunity

Overflow Field Packs in for Risen Star

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***DERBY HANDICAP CONTEST Week 3 of 10! Please submit your top 3 picks IN ORDER OF FINISH through this submission form (easiest and quickest method), via Tumblr message, or email. You have until 1 hour before the scheduled post time noted below to submit or edit your picks. See the Contest Tab for details.

Thanks to the cantankerous Derby points system, the Risen Star (II) field is loaded and full of some scary good prospects. Why else would He’s Had Enough decide to ship further out to face Violence instead? Pletcher brings in Palace Malice from Florida, Baffert ships out Code West, Gary Stevens ships himself out for a special colt, and then we’ve got our Lecomte (III) returners and new guns to make for one awesome Saturday afternoon.

$400,000 Risen Star Stakes (II) - 3-Year-Olds. 1 1/16 miles on dirt at Fair Grounds. Post Time: Saturday, February 23 at 4:57pm CST.

[Post Position, Horse - Jockey, Impost, Trainer - Summary, Opinion in italics]

1) Proud Strike - Gary Stevens, 116 lbs, Steve Asmussen - Ranked #1 on my current Derby top 10 list is this up-and-coming Smart Strike colt, who wobbled as a juvenile but since turning 3 has coming into his own with a 7-length romp last out in a Fair Grounds maiden special weight in focused fashion. Breezed out long, getting Gary Stevens to ship out to ride is an even more chilling factor that causes me to like his chances even more.

2) Code West - Martin Garcia, 116 lbs, Bob Baffert - The Wests often have some good horses (their other Triple Crown trail colt Flashback isn’t too bad), and Bob Baffert trains this Lemon Drop Kid ridgeling for them. He ran a close second fiddle to Title Contender in September, broke his maiden at this distance in October, and followed it up with a runner-up to super-slick Super Ninety Nine, who has since won himself a G2. He ships in with quick breezes and is apt to try another stalking trip. He’ll actually be a Baffert horse with decent odds.

3) Agent - Richard Eramia, 116 lbs, Joe McAnally - The Dehere colt has 3 starts under his belt and is following up this entry with a mile win in a January allowance race at lower-tier Houston. He has won twice in stalking/closing fashion, and appears to work hardest when he is pushed to do so.

4) Golden Soul - Miguel Mena, 116 lbs, Dallas Stewart - Runner-up to Oxbow last out in the Lecomte (III), the Perfect Soul [IRE] colt has yet to be worse than second in all 3 of his races. He was 3-wide for that stakes-placed performance and worked his way through from dead last. A strong 6-panel breeze in 1:12 and a good post signifies he’s ready, but his speed figures do not suggest much. Jockey Hernandez has gone with Departing as well, which does not bode well.

5) Mylute - Shaun Bridgmohan, 116 lbs, Thomas Amoss - The Midnight Lute colt colored me impressed running 3rd in the Delta Jackpot (III) despite tanking a big stretch out and he followed up that move with a 10+ length win in a mile and 70-yard allowance about a month later. Yet to make his 3-year-old debut, he had some nice speed figures for a 2-year-old and showed back then he can stretch out. Likely to be fit under Amoss and with a good post and past performances, he’ll be value money.

6) Palace Malice - Todd Pletcher, 116 lbs, Rosie Napravnik - The Curlin colt romped in his maiden break, and from my in-person perspective he’s probably the best Curlin running. He ran a good 2nd to sprinter type/high BSF earner Majestic Hussar in his sophomore debut, which was a too-short 7-furlong race at Gulfstream. Napravnik lands in the irons in her stomping grounds so look out as he stretches back out.

7) Hardrock Eleven - James Theriot, 116 lbs, David Banks - The gray Rock Hard Ten Florida-bred has 1 win in 6 starts, but has been beaten in his two prior stakes attempts, both at a mile or less at lower-tier tracks. A rare 7-furlong breeze held back on February 9 is his only recent work, and he hasn’t done much in the way yet of trying to stretch out. Also, TURF HORSE.

8) Ive Struck a Nerve - James Graham, 116 lbs, J. Keith Desormeaux - Bred by Brereton Jones, this bay colt has sprinter Yankee Gentleman as his sire and out of a daughter of classic distancer Cryptoclearance. He broke his maiden late last year and ran 4th last out in the Lecomte (III). His best efforts have been sprinting, but at best, he is a mediocre runner at the moment.

9) Normandy Invasion - Jose Lezcano, 116 lbs, Chad Brown - I’ve strongly favored this Tapit colt since he ran a very close second in the 9-furlong Remsen (II) to Overanalyze. He’s been brought along slowly to this point and Brown has been so hyped about his works it definitely inspires some confidence. A threatening closer, he won’t need a fast pace to win and comes off his layoff with a bullet fired over Palm Meadows.

10) Oxbow - Jon Court, 120 lbs, D. Wayne Lukas - The Awesome Again colt had a career best last out romping in the Lecomte (III), subsequently giving him 4 pounds more than the rest of the field. He has put in a bullet 4 furlongs at Oaklawn to sharpen up. Both of his career wins have been wire-to-wire efforts, and the outer post and extra weight naturally puts him at a disadvantage.

11) Bethel - Iram Vargas Diego, 116 lbs, Gennadi Dorochenko - If we learned anything from Hero of Order last year, we can avoid skipping over Dorochenko’s odd chances. The Pulpit colt has some good reach pedigree, but has been running in maiden claimers at Fair Grounds up until now. Not sure how Dorochenko is with claimers, not that it would help. Slow speed figures, crazy class leap, sleeper works… typical Dorochenko longshot.

12) He’s Had Enough - Mario Gutierrez, 116 lbs, Doug O’Neill - Going to Gulfstream.

13) Circle Unbroken - Leandro Goncalves, 116 lbs, Garry Simms - “Early and fast” best describes the Broken Vow colt’s breeding, and he was dusted in his sophomore debut in the Lecomte (III), running 6th. He was wide and tired in the Lecomte, but has been breezed longer since then. Not favoring him at all though, and the outside post is the kiss of death.

14) Departing - Brian Joseph Hernandez Jr, 116 lbs, Albert Stall Jr - War Front has spawned some excellent early-trail contenders since he started his stud career, and with distance on bottom and Claiborne connections he’s probably more promising long-term than The Factor was. 2-for-2, he rallied to show speed in his 6-furlong debut then won his three-year-old debut last month the same way despite crawling fractions and an extra 2 furlongs. The outer post bugs me, but the distance should be right for this one who ought to keep on improving.

15) Sunbean - Colby Hernandez, 116 lbs, Albert Stall Jr - The Brahms colt won a stakes last year and has run 3 races all on Fair Grounds’ main. His debut was an impressive, scantly-lost duel he would have won had he not drifted, then he followed that up with the Louisiana Futurity win, then successfully stretched out to a mile and 70 yards with a clear win. Bound to be overlooked for a nearly undefeated colt with parents who both excelled at this point in their three-year-old year. He hasn’t beaten much, but he’s been game with good figures. Worthy longshot.

Top Picks in Order:

1) Normandy Invasion

2) Mylute

3) Palace Malice

Tapits are hot around now and there’s few more scary in this field than the closing drive of Normandy Invasion, who will get ample pace and looks super good despite coming off a long layoff. Mylute looks phenomenal as well and ought to break well enough to keep improving. Probably off at better odds than he has in the past is third-choice Palace Malice, who is class and gets top rider Napravnik as he stretches back out to his comfort zone. I don’t like the rail spot for Proud Strike, who is already trying to improve as he grows up, but his mature mentality paired with Gary Stevens pegs him 4th in my book here.

Value Picks: Mylute, Sunbean

Alternative Handicapping: Reverse Analysis

Like I mentioned earlier this week, I really wanted to try some methods of handicapping that were outside the realm of my hyper-detailed analysis. I have been feeling “off” lately in making selections… I will often sense when I’m not “in the zone” like I was earlier in January, so I decided to try some unconventional, fun means of picking good horses in a race. For this post, I will be letting a computer pick any three numbers (horses’ post positions) out of a given field, and then try to justify why they might win in that race. Why is this worth doing? Well, how many times have you mentally skipped over a horse without truly setting down to analyze them, only to realize AFTER they win that you really shouldn’t have overlooked them? Horse racing isn’t completely independent of luck either!

Call it reverse analysis, because it’s pretty much the same only done backwards!

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Friday February 8 - Gulfstream Race #3 - $52,500 Maiden Special Weight - 1 mile on dirt - 3-year-old fillies.

Computer Picks (in order):

2) Montana Native

1) Rockatilla

4) Fascinante

Keeping in mind this is a one-turn dirt race on Gulfstream’s oval, this is a pretty open field as is because these are all maiden fillies who haven’t won a race yet. All three of the computer’s picks are on Lasix.

#2 Montana Native is part of the Ghostzapper Alliance and a daughter of Yes It’s True and out of a Quiet American. She has raced 4 times already— all good efforts— and while beaten, she did not race too far off from some top fillies in Emollient and Frege (on turf, her last start). Her past races put her at shorter distances, with one on turf and one on a sloppy/sealed going. She had a dynamite workout and I suspect Kenny McPeek has another up his sleeve. Bonus for the risk: she’s part of a coupled entry with #3 Proud Vixen.

#1 Rockatilla makes her first start on the fast rail as a daughter of Rock Hard Ten— who did not make his first start until he was 3 either!— and out of a stakes-winning daughter of Gone West. Owner/breeder Robert S. Evans comes from a racing family, seeing as his own father bred and owned Pleasant Colony. The most interesting dynamic here is her trainer Mark Frostad, who trained top turfers Chief Bearheart and Quiet Resolve, but has only raced 7 times this year so far. Current workouts look good.

#4 Fascinante is a first-time starter by Medaglia d’Oro and out of a daughter of Pulpit. The pedigree on her is interesting, particularly since her granddam was a pretty good runner who won stakes on turf. Fascinante is trained by Wesley Ward, who is more than capable of getting speed and is often very good working with young horses. The filly looks very good in her breezes to boot and the middle-inside post is a safe spot. On the downside, her jockey hasn’t done much so far this year.

One race is not enough… let’s do another one. How about a turf race?

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Friday February 8 - Fair Grounds Race #9 - $45,000 Maiden Special Weight - 1 1/16 mile on turf - 3-year-old fillies.

Computer Picks (in order):

6) Phonybooksnrecords

7) Rate Change

4) Dance Again

#6, gotta love that name and it’s a coupled entry with Sue Me Baby with only one of them possible to race seeing as they have the same jockey. Phonybooksnrecords is a daughter of *gasp* TAPIT! and is out of a black-type Yes It’s True (ran second to the one and only Octave!). So yes, obviously some good quality parentage here and Tapit has been hot lately. She has started twice already, and was a sharp closer last out in the stretch of a 1 mile & 70 yard dirt race here, losing by just 2 1/2 despite a slow start and falling way behind early. In her debut on turf, she started going too late. Third time’s the charm? She could probably do it!

#7 Rate Change was the runner-up over Phonybooksnrecords in a prior race, though it was on dirt. Reason #1 to like this one immediately: Exchange Rate is her sire (very very talented progeny early in their careers) and she went wide in her last start on dirt so her odds will be much better here. This will be her 2nd turf start, with her first race being a mile on turf where she went 5-wide in the stretch and closed well to be 4th. Lots of potential with this one with Neil Howard of Summer Squall/Midway Road fame training and top rider Brian Hernandez Jr up.

#4 Dance Again is an Ontario-bred with some blue blood; she’s by Awesome Again and out of an A.P. Indy mare, who is out of G1 winner Dancethruthedawn. She has raced twice already with a 2nd going 7 furlongs on grass at Woodbine (winner Sky High Gal has gone on to win a small stakes) and was 3rd last out at a mile here on Fair Grounds’ grass, going wide into the first turn and managed to stay close for the show despite lacking the winning kick. Of concern: last rider Napravnik switches to second-favorite Alydorable. Dance Again is also the 5-2 morning line favorite here.

I’ll post again on Friday or Saturday with how this experiment went!

I Like Arm Force for Loaded Louisiana Derby

Call me crazy, but I like a 20-1 longshot for Louisiana’s biggest Kentucky Derby prep race.

The field reads like a rehash of past Fair Grounds preps, the Risen Star (II) and the Lecomte (III), except for a few new (and probably better) additions that make the Louisiana Derby (II) an interesting fight. There’s the highly-touted local Cigar Street, a son of Street Sense with some real nice distance pedigree to back him up. He bested fellow entry Flashy Sunrise by nearly 14 lengths last out over 1 1/16 miles where he snapped his maiden, and with Shaun Bridgmohan, he’s got a home base advantage and then some!

Of course, while we’re discussing favoritism, you have to bring up Mark Valeski. The morning line favorite will be piloted by top local rider Rosie Napravnik after his extremely close second to El Padrino in the Risen Star after helping set the pace. He’s been working like a monster and it’s been suggested we haven’t seen his best yet… can this speed horse work his magic again for a win?

Wherever WinStar goes, no matter how I ultimately think of the horse in question, I *have* to consider them. I bet against Windsurfer when the horse broke his maiden at Gulfstream over 1 1/16 miles, and for a Speightstown son, he looked really nice out there. Todd Pletcher has taken his time with this one and I think it’s going to pay off. With John Velazquez up, he’ll probably get some nice value and a decent shot here.

But, none of these are my personal favorite. The horse on my close watch is the 9, Arm Force, who has a 20-1 morning line. A full brother to Dubai World Cup (I) winner Well Armed, this Tiznow [pictured] colt was taken along slowly by Eoin Harty and really showed a lot of class in his recent maiden break at Gulfstream where he won by nearly 4 lengths despite being jostled in the stretch. It’s a bit of a stretch thinking he’ll bounce up to 1 1/8 miles right off the bat, but this is my heart bet. With the Casners as the owner and Julien Leparoux up, my chances aren’t terrible.

Ravi’s Song holds off Stage Magic in the New Orleans Ladies’ Handicap

Ravi’s Song holds off Stage Magic in the New Orleans Ladies’ Handicap

El Padrino’s the Big Easy Favorite in Risen Star

***DERBY HANDICAP CONTEST Week 5 of 12! - Email or message me your trifecta pick to earn points towards winning the Derby Handicap Contest. You have until 1 hour before post time to send/edit picks. See details in the Contest tab!*

A virtual rematch of the Lecomte Stakes (III) is spiced up by notable invaders and promising stakes maidens alike, making the Risen Star an interesting battleground for Derby contenders once again this year. The field looks like it’s going to be lacking early speed, with so many horses looking like they’ll save their soup for the stretch— probably resulting in yet another bottlenecked rush for the wire like in the Lecomte. Shipper El Padrino [pictured] is on fire while Lecomte winner Mr. Bowling looks to add another Fair Grounds win to his record.

$300,000 Risen Star Stakes (II) - 3-Year-Olds. 1 1/16 miles on dirt at Fair Grounds. Post Time: Saturday, February 25 at 4:55pm CST.

[Post Position, Horse - Jockey, Impost, Trainer - Summary, Opinion in italics]

1) Afford - Shaun Bridgmohan, 116 lbs, Greg Geier - I’ve been super high on several Street Sense hopefuls, and here’s another one to add. He’s raced twice already at Fair Grounds— third in the Sugar Bowl Stakes and a recent allowance win by a nose after a pretty tough trip. Despite drawing the rail, I don’t think it’ll be that much of a detractor seeing how well he’s handled traffic issues and late rallies in the past. However, horses in better spots will probably be too much for him to catch.

2) Optimizer - Carlos Marquez, 116 lbs, D. Wayne Lukas - A two-year-old stand-out and a horse for all surfaces, this English Channel colt has been everywhere, but will likely improve as the distances stretch out. His recent dirt starts— sixth last out in the messy Smarty Jones at Oaklawn— suggest he can’t do much on dirt, nor feels like trying too hard to impress. Strongly feel this is a fish out of water who should stick to grass.

3A) Mr. Bowling - Robby Albarado, 120 lbs, Larry Jones - The Istan colt won the Lecomte Stakes (III) last out by a head, inching forward to grab the lead away in the stretch. He sports an excellent record, has been working well at Fair Grounds since his last start— including a bullet 5 furlongs in :59 4/5— and keeps his usual jockey. I found the Lecomte too close to really establish Mr. Bowling as a serious contender, but his maturity and good standing at Fair Grounds certainly move him up the list.

4) Z Dager - Shane Sellers, 116 lbs, Steve Asmussen - A surprise last out as the close runner-up in the Lecomte, the Mizzen Mast colt gets a weight advantage over his conqueror, Mr. Bowling, and has proven he can run pretty well anywhere. Didn’t have much kick left to offer Mr. Bowling last out in a race he probably could have won as he had one of the best trips.

5) Ted’s Folly - Ramsey Zimmerman, 120 lbs, Wilson Brown - Six wins in nine starts suggests that this Wild Tale gelding either endured a bad trip or just never fired against his foes last out in the Lecomte, where he finished a sleepy, uninvolved ninth. Easy maintenance breeze of :51 1/5 over 4 furlongs. Love him, but with all the late runners here it’s hard to feasibly use him when he looks like he might be off his A game.

6B) Adena’s Chance - Richard Eramia, 116 lbs, Gennadi Dorochenko - Likely going to paceset.The Limehouse colt I said shouldn’t have been in the Lecomte finished tenth and is back for more after coming in second in a recent 6-furlong op-claimer at Fair Grounds. The race which served as his last workout leading up to this race (February 11). I wouldn’t count on a confidence improvement off of that one race.

7B) Hero of Order - James Graham, 116 lbs, Gennadi Dorochenko - Likely going to paceset. Ran a decent fifth in the Lecomte after breaking his maiden at Fair Grounds, and retains local star James Graham in the irons. However, he trailed Adena’s Chance by 4 lengths in the same op-claimer after the whip was dropped. Not really worthy of much attention.

8) El Padrino - Javier Castellano, 116 lbs, Todd Pletcher  - Never off the board, the Pulpit colt triumphed in an impressive 1 1/16 mile Gulfstream op-claimer over some classy Triple Crown competitors including Take Charge Indy and Casual Trick. A colt I’ve liked since his third in the Remsen last year; I hate to say it, but I really dig a Pletcher trainee this year for the Derby and for this particular race with his nice turn of foot, weight advantage, and connections. Pletcher seems to think this field is easy enough game to ship over while keeping the colt out of high contention in the Fountain of Youth.

9A) Mark Valeski - Rosie Napravnik, 116 lbs, Larry Jones - While this Proud Citizen colt has been away from the races since January 11 and is brand-new to stakes competition, he’s 2-for-3 in his career starts and threw in a bullet 1:00 3/5 5-furlong work a few days ago. Toting leading rider Napravnik, the coupled entry of Mark Valeski and Mr. Bowling deserves a look, but more experience is needed for this particular entry to gain ground later. Winning twice at 6 furlongs, he could just be the rabbit in the Larry Jones equation.

10) Shared Property - Leandro Goncalves, 120 lbs, Thomas Amoss - In case you’ve been living under a rock, Scat Daddy has been on fire as a freshman sire lately and that makes Shared Property even more interesting here. He had a wide trip when third in the Lecomte, and is already a G3 stakes winner. Sharpened up for this race with a good 1:01 5-furlong drill. Personally, I think this one rates above Mr. Bowling and hopefully his connections have re-strategized now that they know who they’re dealing with. I think he’ll hit the board in this field at worst.

11) Tizanexpense - Miguel Mena, 116 lbs, Michael Maker - Of the two stakes newbies, this Tiznow baby deserves your eyeballs the most. Mike Maker trained, 1:00 5-furlong bullet fired, rallies convincingly, broke his maiden despite the whip being dropped, 2-for-2 at Fair Grounds, clear outside post. He doesn’t win by much as a last-minute rusher, but I’m really interested in watching this one knowing the distance won’t inhibit him.

Predicted Trifecta: 1) El Padrino 2) Shared Property 3) Mr. Bowling

Value Picks: Shared Property, Tizanexpense

(Photo by Greater New Orleans Photographic Society)

(Photo by Greater New Orleans Photographic Society)

Weekend Stake Tip: Fog ‘N Spa

What a nutter weekend. First, Aqueduct’s card gets cancelled on account of heavy snowfall (the northeast, particularly where I dwell in Massachusetts, has had a total lack of snow since the start of winter), then on Sunday it was so foggy at Turfway, announcer Mike Battaglia just about gave up calling the first race, “I’ve lost them altogether now. Talk amongst yourselves!” I was able to cash in a $1 early Pick 3 at Gulfstream (Don Misil [ARG], Haunted, Brampton), so that set things up well for me early on. The locals reigned supreme in some of the weekend’s big races, and here are the two worth seeing.

The F.W. Gaudin Memorial Handicap boasted only five entries, but was by no means short on thrills as part of the Lecomte Stakes undercard. It was down to three entries with good odds to win: Rosie Napravnik on the pacesetter Joe Hollywood, and the two southern rivals Gantry and Cash Refund. At first glance, I felt Cash Refund had a powerful chance to win, but then realized Gantry had a knack of giving chase when he had the room. Leaving Joe Hollywood behind by some 5 lengths, it ultimately boiled down to these two geldings who fought head-to-head every step of the stretch. Gantry was the winner by a stupendous nose. Watch replay

Meanwhile on Sunday, Gulfstream Park played host to another exemplary ungraded stakes race as the Sweetest Chant Stakes drew two Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Filly entries to hash it out all over again. Despite not having the race play out in her favor, the bettors’ darling (and mine as well) Dayatthespa coasted up to the front just in time to grab the win. Wholelottashakin hung on ahead of stakes champion Frolic’s Revenge to get the place, while Slew’s Exchange, who was obviously missing her connection with injured Garrett Gomez, did not menace. Watch replay above

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Tracks visited: Calder, Saratoga, Belmont, Suffolk, Aqueduct.


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