Mardi Gras is right around the corner so it only makes sense to swing by the Fair Grounds for a bevy of stakes action. The highlight on the card is the Risen Star, but it is surrounded by a number of other graded stakes with four making up the All Stakes Pick 4. Let’s have a look at that.
The All Stakes Pick 4 kicks off with the Grade 3 $125k Mineshaft in race 8. EAGLE headlines the field but will have to try and win off of a lengthy layoff having not been seen since July. EAGLE just missed in this race last year falling short by a head. Unfortunately that set up the rest of his year, as he came close on a number of occasions, but just couldn’t break through on the big stage. He did win the Grade 3 Ben Ali at Keeneland, but just missed in the Grade 1 Stephen Foster at Churchill. Mix in another couple of 2nd place finishes and he almost turned a good year into a great one. EAGLE has done his best work at the distance with four wins from nine tries and three runner up finishes. With his record last year, and having to race off a layoff he could be vulnerable in this spot. A horse to cover in the Pick 4, but not one to single. RISE UP has speed and will contribute to the early pace, but this distance looks like a stretch for him against this caliber of field. DECEMBER SEVEN is interesting following a pair of victories with allowance foes. He jumps top try stakes horses for the first time, and catches them at a distance he is unbeaten at. He is worth a long look with his tactical speed. DALMORE ships back to Louisiana from SoCal and should appreciate the class relief. He was a Grade 3 winner last season, and should be able to get first run on the closers. MO TOM is one of those closers as he has absolutely no speed away from the gate. He faces elders for the first time in his career, and returns to the track which gave him his biggest score in the LeComte. Should be closing in late, but may run out of ground. HONORABLE DUTY is another who is unbeaten when travelling 1 1/16th miles and now jumps up to stakes company. He picked up a win in his last, which was over this same surface. ‘DUTY has done little wrong since he was switched to a dirt surface, and could continue to improve. INTERNATIONAL STAR drew the outside, and really hasn’t been himself since March 2015. He is another coming off a long layoff.
#3 DECEMBER SEVEN – #2 EAGLE – #7 HONORABLE DUTY
In the Grade 2 $200k Rachel Alexandra an extremely competitive field of seven has been pulled together. There are four horses between 2-1 and 9-2, and they all have their own merits to win. Let’s start with the favorite VALADORNA. She has never been worse than 2nd in her career and comes in off an impressive win getting up late despite sitting well off of slow fractions. VALADORNA was also 2nd in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies and has plenty of room to further improve. FARRELL has streaked to a pair of victories in her last two starts, but may face a little more pace pressure today with the presence of SHANE’S GIRLFRIEND. FARRELL was a graded stakes winner as a two year old in the G2 Golden Rod at Churchill Downs. SHANE’S GIRLFRIEND was a blowout winner in her first two trips to the track, Beyer’ing a 95 in just her second start, and has only been defeated by perhaps the top three year old filly in the country UNIQUE BELLA. UNTAPPED may not have cared for the wet track she caught last time out as she turned in the worst performance of her career. Look for a bounce back with a likely ground saving trip. WICKED LICK has finished 2nd to FARRELL and UNTAPPED in her last two and could spice up the exotics again today.
#5 VALADORNA – #3 SHANE’S GIRLFRIEND – #1 UNTAPPED
Tough race goes as the third leg of the Pick 4 in the Grade 3 $125k Fair Grounds Handicap. GRANNY’S KITTEN was installed as the morning line choice off his win in the local prep race the G3 Colonel Bradley. That as his third win since September, with only a head separating him from another. The rider knows him well, and his good tactical speed should give him every chance to win. The pair on the outside are both 7-2 – WESTERN RESERVE and OSCAR NOMINATED. Let’s start with the inner most of the two, WESTERN RESERVE who has been right there in his last eight tries. He only has two wins in those races, but has been beat a neck, length, neck, head and neck from another five victories. Definitely needs to be covered in all spots of the vertical wagers, and the horizontal ones as he could get loose on an easy lead. OSCAR NOMINATED handled the jump to older horses without much trouble finishing 2nd in his bow. The outside post shouldn’t bother him much as he likes to drop behind the field and make one run in the lane. He should be covering ground, but may need a little more distance to make an impact on top. GREENGRASSOFYOMING is another who is listed at a short price, and whom may need more ground. ONE MEAN MAN has done his best work locally, with two wins and a close 2nd from four tries. His lone try at this distance was a Grade 3 victory at Arlington, and he appears to be another who will be in the middle of the pack. Covering at a price.
#8 WESTERN RESERVE – #5 GRANNYS KITTEN – #4 ONE MEAN MAN
The anchor of the card is the 11th with the Grade 2 $400k Risen Star taking center stage. The morning line choice is MO TOWN who was purchased by Coolmore (Magnier, Tabor and Smith) after his big win in the Remsen at Aqueduct. Having been on the shelf since November is a bit of a concern although he has been training forwardly down at Payson Park. Trainer Anthony Dutrow hits at 21% with horses coming off of similar layoffs. LOCAL HERO will try and be just that after his blowout maiden score. He improved by leaps and bounds in his three year old debut, but could bounce off a big effort and jumping up in class. GUEST SUITE has won two straight including a sharp in over a sloppy track in the local prep the LeComte. After coming back to the track with a snappy half mile work, he looks to be plenty dangerous. GIRVIN switches back from the turf to the surface of his maiden score. He looks to be a wild card in here for a hot barn and a good post. At 6-1 on the morning line he may not be worth a win wager, but could be if he drifts closer to the 10-1 mark. SO CONFLATED will scratch and run in the Gotham at Aqueduct next week.
#6 GUEST SUITE – #9 MO TOWN – #1 GIRVIN
Let’s have a look at constructing a ticket now for the All Stakes Pick 4. There doesn’t appear to be any singles to lean on, but the last leg may give a chance to narrow down to two.
Race 8 – 2 , 3 , 4 , 7
Race 9 – 3 , 5
Race 10 – 4 , 5 , 8
Race 11 – 6 , 9