Father’s Day has always been a popular day to go to the races, and with the sun back out today, this year should be no exception. More rain fell after the races last night, so the races are pulled off the turf again today. However, at least some of the races are not as scratch-marred as they could have been.
Particularly notable is the 6th race today — though there were a few scratches, none of them affect its potential as a salty showdown between four stalwarts of the starter ranks. The field includes a trio of still-consistent nine-year-old sprinters: Uncle Jeep, Uno Pecador, and Pirates Vow. Joining the fray, as well, is four-year-old Voodoo Spell, who has not missed the board since breaking his maiden in an $8,000 claimer at Hawthorne early last year, and who has climbed up the class ladder to win against allowance company at the Fair Grounds. All four of these horses dependably run well, and this race has all the makings of a thriller.
Race 1: $16,000 claiming, three-year-olds and up, three years old OR N3L, races where entered for $12,500 or less do not count toward eligibility, six and a half furlongs on the polytrack
Selections: Purely Given (2), Top Gato (1), Smartified (4)
With the scratches of Plains Warrior and Too Tall, Purely Given has an even better shot to get the early lead. Though he does not typically set the fractions, his early pace tops everyone else in the field. He also drops down from allowance company to claimers for the first time since Tammy Domenosky claimed him last October. Top Gato should get a good inside trip, and has the 30% trainer/jockey pair of Ingrid Maison and Julio Felix behind him. They have also been 63% in the money over that two-month period. He was a close second last out against similar. Smartified is a condition-book type here — he has four wins, but two are below the $12,500 threshold. He was second two back against this level of competition, and reverts to rider Vicente Gudiel.
Race 2: $7,500 claiming, three-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, three years old OR N3L, races where entered for $4,000 or less do not count toward eligibility, six and a half furlongs on the polytrack
Selections: Queen Otaheite (8), Dennie’s Dream (7), Heather’s Rose (4)
This is an all-button sort of race, but Queen Otaheite has the most gossamer threads. On paper, she is the speed of the speed. Her recent form has shown improvement, and she finished second against similar last out. That was her first start on polytrack, and she should appreciate the extra furlong today. She also has blazing-hot rider Mitchell Murrill aboard; he rode her for the first time last out, and has been watching keenly how the track plays. Dennie’s Dream is the only other speed type in the field, but showed last out that she could sit just off as well. Both of her career wins have come over four starts on polytrack. Her speeds are a bit slow, and she notches up in class from an N2L win last out, but the surface and race shape should suit. Heather’s Rose drops from $16,000 company to the lowest level of her career. She comes in third off the lay, and gets back rider Chris Emigh. Emigh has won on Heather’s Rose before. She has a very sharp polytrack work coming into this race, and does have a win two years ago over the surface.
Race 3: $50,000-$40,000 claiming, three-year-olds and up, N2L, one and one sixteenth miles on the polytrack (originally carded for turf)
Selections: Americas Guest (1), Act of Heroism (3)
This race has scratched down to just four. Two of them, Mendota (5) and Market Rad (4), are consummate undersides types. Americas Guest is the inside speed, and a Kenny McPeek shipper. McPeek does not often ship here, so he must really like this spot. The question is whether Americas Guest stays the eight and a half furlongs, but inside speed has been playing so well this weekend that it should carry him home. Act of Heroism drops from allowance company to claiming for the first time since breaking his maiden. He stretches out from a mile in his last three, but did hit the board going nine panels on grass at Fair Grounds. He was well beaten there, but the winner of that race, Xtra Luck, has hence won in graded company. He may have too much to do late if speed is holding well, but he has at least run some decent races that weren’t from the clouds.
Race 4: $25,000 claiming, three-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, three years old OR N3L, races where entered for $20,000 or less do not count toward eligibility, one mile on the polytrack (originally carded for turf)
Selections: Keeker (9), La Reine Bourbon (8), Follow the Kitten (7)
Keeker is the main-track only entry, and the speed of the speed. The stretch out to a mile is the big question, since has never run past six furlongs, but she’s got a bit of stamina underneath on her pedigree. Between that and the fact that she may be fast enough to clear and get the rail despite her 9-gate, she looks tough. If Keeker rates instead, or Keeker can’t clear early, La Reine Bourbon has a good shot. She can run well either setting the fractions or pressing them, and she gets sharp front-end jockey E. T. Baird in the irons. Her one try at polytrack was not bad, but it was against much harder company last year. Follow the Kitten throws speeds that are consistently well in range for this crowd, and has the versatility to show early speed or come from off the pace. She steps up in class here, but has a win and two seconds in five all-weather starts, and comes from the blazing-hot Michael Stidham barn.
Race 5: Maiden special weight, three-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, six and a half furlongs on the polytrack
Selections: Flirtin N Flashin (9), Latte Da (5), Ultimate Reward (2)
I analysed this race in the latest Chicago Railbird, and it discusses my reasoning for both Flirtin N Flashin and Ultimate Reward. However, my original top selection, Coco Gia, scratched.
I typically do not like to bet Eoin Harty at Arlington — ever — but there is a lot to like about first-time starter Latte Da. She has been working well leading into this race, including two consecutive bullet workouts leading into the race. Out of ten starters out of dam Sweet Damsel, all ten won. A half by Victory Gallop won first out, and so did a half by Speightstown. She has two full siblings who won second out, one of them being stallion Colonel John. Rider Edgar Perez also has a positive ROI with “N/A” types: runners who have not yet established a running style, often maidens.
Race 6: Starter optional claiming, three-year-olds and up, starters for a claiming price of $10,000 or less since January 1, 2014 OR $18,000 claiming price, five furlongs on the polytrack (originally carded for turf)
Selections: Uno Pecador (2), Pirates Vow (7), Voodoo Spell (3)
Uno Pecador will benefit most from the track’s inside speed propensity. Though he does his best work on turf, the first win in his currently-active five-win streak was a wash off onto the poly in which he drew inside and cleared early. He comes in here third off the lay, a situation in which his trainer Manny Perez is 15% (with a +$3.12 ROI), and should have some value with as well-bet as Voodoo Spell will be. He also gets top front-end rider E. T. Baird in the irons. Pirates Vow won last out in a washed-off sprint similar to this, dictating terms and galloping home an easy winner. Things will be tougher for him with Uno Pecador in the field, but he has shown some ability to fight for the lead, and has seven wins in twelve starts on synthetic surfaces. Voodoo Spell has embodied consistency, hitting the board in his last sixteen starts. He has only started on polytrack twice, but has a win and a third to show for it. His speed figures are the best of the bunch, and if things get too feisty between Uno Pecador and Pirates Vow on the front, Voodoo Spell may well be good enough to beat the bias and mow them down late.
Race 7: $5,000 claiming, three-year-olds and up, three years old OR N3L, races where entered for a claiming price of $4,000 or less do not count toward eligibility, one mile on the polytrack (originally carded for turf)
Selections: Fiaker (1), Summer in Montana (2), Ballistic Tim (6)
Fiaker drops down from facing tougher in his last three starts. He is an off-pace type, but with the speeds in this race possible to fade, he should get a cozy inside stalking trip and be good enough to inherit the lead and get the rest of the way home against this easier set. Summer in Montana ran very poorly for a very long time, but has shown signs of life while facing harder ($7,500 beaten) in his last two starts. He has done his best work on Polytrack, and drops in class from his last two starts. He gets a rider change to Vicente Gudiel, the sort of jockey who does exactly what Summer in Montana should be doing based on how the track is playing lately. If Gudiel sends him along the rail, he has a good shot. In such a ragtag bunch, sometimes the long shots come in, and the most intriguing longshot of this bunch is good old Ballistic Tim. He has done his best work on the front end, and has shown some of the best early pace of anyone in this field. He drops down from $10,000 beaten company last out to face significantly easier here. He did won at a mile and a sixteenth over the polytrack two starts back, and both of his wins have come on the front end. If Summer in Montana does not fire, or if Gudiel inexplicably tries to rate his mount, Ballistic Tim could go wire-to-wire.
Race 8: $25,000-$20,000 maiden claiming, three-year-olds and up, five furlongs on the polytrack (originally carded for turf)
Selections: Richieswilddream (9), Gray Mensch (1), J. K.’s Dream (11)
The morning line favourite here is Grayfell, but he is a fourteen-start maiden. Though he re-drops from maiden special to maiden claiming company here, it makes better sense to look away from the Career Maiden™. Richieswilddream is a first-time starter for Larry Rivelli, whose first-timers win at 28%. The breeding (Bring the Heat out of a Wildcat Heir) mare screams hot sprint speed, so the five-furlong distance should be good. The worktab also looks encouraging — his last work was a six-furlong move, even longer than the distance of the race. Gray Mensch is a ten-start maiden, which gives a bit of pause, but drew the rail and has plenty of speed. He comes in third off the lay, and looks best set to take advantage of how the track has been playing. He also finished second two back on polytrack, showing some affinity for the surface. J. K.’s Dream hails from the Ingrid Mason barn; Mason wins at 21% with her first-timers, and 19% in the maiden claiming ranks on debut. Her first-call rider, Julio Felix, runs here. He has a long worktab leading into this, including three straight five-furlong moves. He should be fit and ready here. One of J. K.’s Dream’s half-siblings did win second out, so there may be some precocity lurking.