Photo: Hodges Photography/Lou Hodges, Jr.
Even though the Saturday “Sunshine Millions” card at Gulfstream Park offers the most stakes races of any track on this day, a 2014 Kentucky Derby prep race takes place in New Orleans at Fair Grounds Race Course.
Nine (9) potential Triple Crown nominees will run in the $200k Grade 3 Lecomte Stakes at Fair Grounds. Run at a distance of 1 mile and 70 yards, scheduled Post Time for this Derby point system event, race 9 on the card is 5:23pm (EST).
The 3-1 Morning Line (M/L) favorite is #4 – Gold Hawk. The Steve Asmussen trainee is 2 for 2. In both career outings for this son of Empire Maker rallied from well off the pace. The first was going 6 furlongs in his debut followed by an Allowance N1X travelling 1 mile and 70 yards.
This group of 9 appears to be a notch below the early top Derby contenders, has only 3 have run in a graded stakes race. They are...
#1 - Roman Unbridled (8-1), ships in from Delta Downs off an 8½ length gate-to-wire score in a 7 furlong minor stakes on Jan. 4, which was preceded by a 4th place finish in the G3 Delta Jackpot two back.
#3 – Got Shades (8-1), 5th in G1 BC Juvenile Turf; makes dirt and 3 y.o. debut in 6th career start.
#5 – Smarty's Echo (8-1) had a troubled trip when 10th in G1 BC Juvenile and runner-up in G1 Breeders’ Futurity @ Keeneland in October).
Assessing the chances of the other runners…
#2 - Rainbow Trip (12-1) been turfing at Retama Park in most recent 3 (2-0-1) after failing to break his maiden in 4 dirt sprints.
#6 - Albano (7-2) will help dictate the early fractions as he took down the 6 furlong $60k Sugar Bowl when last seen in the afternoon; stretches out for first time after 3 sprints; 2 for 2 over the FG dirt oval, but was 3rdin his debut behind Son of a Preacher who got dusted by Gold Hawk.
#7 - Vicar’s in Trouble (9-2) will match strides early with Albano based on his front-running 13 length maiden win versus state breds going 6f @ FG. This LA-bred appears to be a strange choice for owner Ken Ramsey to ride on the Derby Trail.
#8 - Silent Ruler (15-1) is still a maiden thanks to being DQ’d to 5th when a 3 length winner two back. On the bright side, at Santa Anita in October he was 3rd by 11 to Kristo who was runner-up last week in the Sham Stakes.
#9 - Plug Catcher (6-1) took the overland route throughout his last effort with first-time blinkers when 3rd by 3½ to Gold Hawk; sheds blinkers and gets “Miggy” Mena in the irons as Rosie jumps ship for the Ramsey runner.
HOW I SEE IT: There’s a good mix of early speed, tactical speed (i.e. Stalkers) and Closers. That is, no one will steal this race on the front end, unless Albano or Vicar’s in Trouble miss the break or stumble at the start, leaving the other on a lone lead, unless Roman Unbridled guns from the #1 hole. Otherwise, with the FG dirt oval playing fair this past week, the race should step it up nicely for one of the off-the-pace runners.
Expect Smarty’s Echo (first-time blinkers and back on Lasix) and Plug Catcher to be in the second flight with the foursome of Rainbow Trip, Got Shades, Gold Hawk and Silent Ruler biding their time in the rear until the leaders turn for home.
The early leaders will wilt in the final furlong, giving way to Smarty’s Echo under a smart rider from James Graham but will not be able to hold off the duo of Got Shades and Gold Hawk as they match strides in the final yards.
THE PLAY: $10 WPS #3 and $2 Exacta Box 3-4-5
For the entire list of Derby “point system” races, click HERE.
Recapping my previous blog posted selections at Laurel Park selections from Saturday, January 4th had 7 winners from 9 races (2 Top Selections; payoffs in BOLD) having $2 WIN pay-offs of $10.40 (1st race), $14.80 (2nd), $4.40 (3rd), $3.00 (4th), $8.00 (5th), $5.80 (6th) and $20.80 (7th).
The BEST BET of the Day (1: 0-0-1) Jonesin for Jerry (4th race: 9-2 M/L; 5-2 PT) didn’t get the quickest of breaks and was rushed up to engage the eventual winner (1-2 PT favorite; Gracer) in a speed duel. The slow start did her in as she weakened in the final sixteenth, only good enough for a SHOW returning $2.20.
The LONGSHOT PICK (1: 1-0-0) Germaniac (2nd race: 10-1 M/L; 6-1 PT) was quick from the gate, unchallenged by rivals in the early going and had plenty left in the tank when entering the stretch, easily pulling away to score a gate to wire victory by 6½ lengths, returning $14.80 to WIN, $3.60 to PLACE and $3.00 to SHOW.
FYI – the BEST BET of the Day selection will never be a M/L favorite and the LONGSHOT PICK will simply be the runner having the highest M/L odds among my top picks for an entire card.
PLEASE NOTE: Statistics provided for the BEST BET and LONGSHOT PICK in parentheses represent the Number of Picks: Wins-Places-Shows. For example, the BEST BET (10: 1-2-3) was picked 10 times resulting in 1 winner, 2 places and 3 shows. In the past, I would reset these numbers at the start of each meet. For 2014, I reset these numbers on Jan. 1st in order to chart results on a yearly basis.
Selections for Saturday, Jan. 18th at Laurel Park posted below are based on a FAST dirt track as the forecast calls for sunny skies with no chance of precipitation. Selections posted were handicapped based on making multi-race wagers such as DOUBLE’s, Pick-3’s and Pick-4’s using all three (3) listed for each race in each leg.
1st race – $5,000 Claiming for 4 y.o. and up – 7 furlongs
#4 – Spicy Salsa (5-1) $$$ LONGSHOT PLAY $$$
#8 – Oilton (6-1)
#1 – Moonlight Gin (5-2)
2nd race – $7,500 Claiming N2L for F&M 4 y.o. & up – 7 furlongs
#4 – Exhilarate (8-5)
#7 – Charmed by Danger (10-1)
#6 – Tropical Treasure (2-1)
3rd race – $5,000 Claiming F&M for 4 y.o. and up – 5½ furlongs
#5 – Prairie Trip (4-1)
#8 – Willow Creek (15-1)
#1 – Do It With Honor (6-1)
4th race – $15,000 Claiming for 4 y.o. and up – 5½ furlongs
#1 – Curlamorous (5-1)
#5 – Jennie Says So (12-1)
#7 – Flashy Eyed Pearl (6-1)
5th race – $8,000 Claiming for F&M 4 y.o. and up – 1 mile
#1/1A – Political Miss / Michelle’s Trip (7-5)
#6 – My Unbridled Storm (5-2)
#2 – Silentiary(10-1)
6th race – $35,000 Claiming for 4 y.o. or N3L 5 y.o. and up – 6 furlongs
#6 – Speightful Kiss (4-1) *** BEST BET ***
#4 – Hurler (2-1)
#1 – Avarice (5-1)
7th race – $5,000 Claiming for F&M 4 y.o. or N3L 5 y.o. and up – 6 furlongs
#6 – Cherylwithans (3-1)
#4 – Oxford Lass (4-1)
#11 – Reachfortheclouds (20-1)
8th race – $25,000 Optional Claiming N2X for 4 y.o. and up – 6 furlongs
#3 – Irish Lion (4-1)
#1 – Dawly (4-5)
#6 – Marilyn’s Guy (6-1)
9th race – $5,000 Claiming for 4 y.o. OR N3L 5 y.o. and up – 6 furlongs
#3 – Freud’s Debut (5-1)
#4 – Scofield (15-1)
#1/1A – Debonair Lad / Hard Drive (7-2)