If you’re like me and are shaking off the hangover that was Dubai Racing Festival, huge Florida Derby card at Gulfstream and NCAA Final Four, there’s no better time than to have a little of the dog that bit you and play any number of big games at Derby Wars today. The Fair Grounds ends their racing season with three grade II affairs, including the wide open Louisiana Derby. So let’s get after it by starting in the Big Easy…
Pants of Fire and Nehro return to the scene of their hotly contested 2011 Louisiana Derby. In that edition, Pants on Fire barely held on for the victory while Nehro found racing room and his best stride right before the wire. You’ll remember that Pants of Fire finished up the track at Churchill, while Nehro again closed well for a second place Derby finish. Nehro then went into the Thoroughbred Witness Protection Program before resurfacing six weeks ago, romping home in an allowance affair. The biggest threat to these two is Mission Impazible, a two-time stakes winner at the track (Louisiana and New Orleans), who was disregarded in the Donn Handicap where only a nose separated him and Hymn Book at the wire. The head says Mission Impazilbe, the heart says Nehro, who catches a break in the weights and has much better odds – Nehro it is.
I overhead a gambler much wiser than I once say, “If a horse likes the Fair Grounds turf – which is unusually in its length and cut – take him on the return to the Fair Grounds.”
There are three such returnees here today:
Smart Bid, a two Fair Grounds turf winner, including last year’s Muniz
Suntracer, a four-year-old, trying to bridge the gap from allowance winner to graded stakes winner
Mr. Vegas whose latest trainer, Richard Scherer, has somehow turned this recent five-year-old from a NY-bred allowance winner into graded-stakes winner
Suntracer has the juiciest odds, Mr. Vegas will have a strong say in the outcome from beginning to end and Smart Bid is your most likely winner. If Miguel Mena, aboard Mr. Vegas, is allowed to set leisurely fractions on the front end, he’ll be very tough to catch – that’s why he’s my top choice.
Fair Grounds Race 10, Louisiana Derby, 1 1/8 miles
While Cigar Street is likely to be the “wise guy horse,” I say he is more likely to bounce off such a strong maiden win three weeks ago than win here. Shared Property is the most likely candidate to improve while he breaks somewhere besides “out there” in double-digit post land. The Larry Jones entry looks to be toughest to beat. While Mark Valeski shows nice, steady progression in his speed figures (something I always like to see), Mr. Bowling may just bounce back in a big way. Problem is 2-1 or 3-1 is all you’ll probably get for your troubles. Windsurfer, a recent maiden breaker in Florida, intrigues the most and has been working well at Palm Meadows. At least he has one more win than long shot Flashy Sunrise. Zipping along in his workouts and adding the blinkers first-time, I say take a shot with Shared Property.
Gulfstream Park Race 7, Maiden Claimers, 1 1/16 miles on turf
If you love low-level claiming events in which horses are 0-for-their-last 12 than Gulfstream is the place for you today. Really can’t stomach or recommend much on the card, but let me give this race a timid pick: A Miss Named T. Why? Well, she just hasn’t lost as much as anyone else in here since she is only making her second start after a mildly interesting start, when she only finished 2 lengths behind the winner. She also gets a new trainer in Dale Romans and a new rider in Jesus Castanon, so why not?
Gulfstream Race 9, Maiden Claimers, 1 mile
This race is absolutely crying out for a first-time starter. In here we have just one, First Won, that is. The owner/trainer has not rolled out a first-tiime winner in two years, nor has he had a starter win going a mile or longer first out. All the more reason to take a shot, no one else will be and his odds promise to be high. At least First Won has put together some moderate to fast works and breaks from the outside. If he breaks well, you should have something to root for by the time the finish line creeps up.
Santa Anita Race 4, Optional Claimer, 6 ½ furlongs down the turf
My top choice in here goes against my feelings in picking a down the turf winner, mainly looking for experience in running this unusual course. My reason for changing course here is that Plenny of Henny is the only multiple winner in the field and overshadows this field in racing and winning experience. Will he take to the hill or the turf first time? Not sure, but I find him the most reasonable risk/reward bet in here.
Time for a recap from Josh Chicorelli
Scott Pulcini or better known as ‘Icelam33’ in DerbyWars took down a field of 107 to win the $1,000 prize last Saturday. Scott’s wagers totaled to $105.20 over the course of the eleven race card. Hitting six out of those eleven, Mr. Pulcini started off hot hitting three out of the first four. His largest hit on the day came in the 8th at GP when Storm Warnings paid $43.60 for the win-place. Good job Scott!
Saturday: $2,525 Saturday Big Game ($25 buy-in with 107 players) – (11 races using GP, SA, TP tracks) - Winner: Scott Pulcini (Icelam33 - $105.20)