As the rain begins to pour here in the greater Baltimore area, one of the mysteries flying somewhat under the radar at the moment is exactly how the track at Pimlico Race Course will play these next two days (especially Saturday). The forecast calls for periods of showers/heavy rains, and temperatures approaching 80 degrees. Being a common trait of the greater Mid Atlantic, it might get a bit muggy both days. While we’re still over a day away from Preakness Saturday, Old Hilltop offers an intriguing card of 13 races on Friday, highlighted by the 85th running of the Grade 2 Black Eyed Susan.
With 13 races on the card, and another full day ahead of us tomorrow, I’m going to skip past the opening 3 races on the card and kick things off with our picks beginning in race 4, which happens to be the opening leg of the early Pick 4 sequence. If you know me, you know I love to play the Pick 4 wagers on big racing days, and this weekend will be no exception on both Friday and Saturday. Without further adieu, let’s see if we can pick some winners along the way.
Race 4: 1500s Hcp (1:45 ET)
- # 1 Maria’s Golden Rose (1/1*)
- #5 Eye (5/2)
- #7 Four Karats (6/1)
We kick things off with a starter handicap for fillies and mares 3-years-old and upward going 1 1/16 miles over the main track. #1 Marias Golden Rose looks like the horse to beat here, and may even be worth taking a stand on in your “caveman” Pick 4 tickets. The daughter of Eastern Echo has picked up the services of jockey Ramon Dominguez and looks to be a cut above the rest based on her Beyer Speed Figures in the Daily Racing Form. As we all know though, you can’t go by those alone. Pace wise she should get a nice stalking trip and be able to handle this field. Trouble is, there won’t be much value on her as she’s the even money favorite on the morning line. A potential thief exists in the form of #5 Eye, for trainer King Leatherbury. Leatherbury has long been one of the top horsemen in Maryland racing, and when teamed with jockey Jeremy Rose they make a formidable battery. She’s been close in each of her last 3 races and owns 6 lifetime wins. #7 Four Karats is another interesting runner, and will be breaking from the extreme outside. #2 Celestial Quest is your likely pace setter at long odds of 30/1.
$1 Trifecta: 1/ 2,5,7/ 2,4,5,7 = $9
$1 Pick 4: 1/ 2,8,9/ 3,4,6,7/ 1,2,3,6 = $48
Race 5: OC 25k/N2X (2:15 ET)
- #8 And a Cherry Tree (4/1)
- #2 Pissarro (5/2)
- #9 Bette to Win (2/1*)
The fifth race is an N2X optional claimer for fillies and mares 3-years-old and upward going 6 furlongs over the main track. There are several directions bettors can go in this race and it might be wise to spread a bit deeper in this leg of the Pick 4. Ultimately, I sided with the Graham Motion runner, #8 And a Cherry Tree. She seems to always wind up in the Superfecta, and I like the way she fought back to finish 3rd after stumbling at the break last out. She’s been off for a very long time, but so have many of the top runners in this race. Plus, Graham Motion is hitting at 19% with runners exiting similar layoffs, so I’m not sure that should even be considered a concern. Hopefully with all of the available options we might get a better price than the 4/1 she’s listed at on the morning line. #2 Pissaro looks like a very strong player in here as well coming off a similar layoff. Her trainer, Richard Small, doesn’t have quite the same form exiting such layoffs, but if she shows up anything like she looked last summer, she’ll be tough to defeat. #9 Bette to Win is a horse you simply can’t ignore in the Pick 4. Not only does the name scream “bet me”, but she’s got the type of speed you like to see in a 6 furlong sprint. I’d also give some serious attention to the rail runner, #1 Magamoo, especially with Garrett Gomez in the irons.
$1 Trifecta: 8/1,2,9/ 1,2,3,9 = $9
Race 6: The Very One 50k (2:45 ET)
- #3 Ahvee’s Destiny (6/1)
- #4 Smart and Fancy (2/1*)
- #6 Libor Lady (10/1)
We move to the turf (weather permitting) for the 6th race of the day, the 10th running of The Very One for fillies and mares 3-years-old and upward sprinting 5 furlongs over the Pimlico grass. #3 Ahvee’s Destiny heads out for the acclaimed Linda Rice barn, widely regarded as perhaps the best when it comes to turf sprinting. She should get a great stalking trip, but will have to run down the speed in the stretch. In her last effort she matched her top Beyer figure (90) and jockey C.C. Lopez returns to the saddle where he has won in his last two attempts. #6 Smart and Fancy is the horse you’ve got to beat to cash at the windows. She should be coming from off the pace but has shown a bit of versatility before having been closer to the pace 3 races back at the allowance level. While the price is short, it would appear to be madness to leave this gal off your exotic wagers. I made her my second choice partly because of the anticipated low odds, but she’s definitely one to take very seriously. #6 Libor Lady is a bit of a price at 10/1 considering she loves to sprint over the grass and owns a victory here over the local turf. No other runner in the field can say the same. Two other runners that warrant strong consideration here are #7 Sheets, who will make her first start of the 2009 season but seems to have picked up an affinity for the turf, and #8 Canadian Ballet, who is the more speedy of the two Linda Rice runners in this contest. Really any of these guys could win, and I’m quick to point out that turf sprints are definitely not my strong suit when it comes to handicapping. In other words, I’ll be spreading here, likely quite deep.
$1 Trifecta: 3/4,6,7/ 4,6,7,8 = $9
Race 7: Alw 30000 N1X (3:15 ET)
- #1 Streetscape (2/1*)
- #3 Perpetuity (8/1)
- #6 Bright Gem (5/2)
We wind up the early Pick 4 sequence with a conditional allowance sprint going 6 furlongs over the main track. As you can see in the Pick 4 selections I gave out with race 4, I’m spread 4 deep here as well. The way I see it, if you make it this far, it would stink to get knocked out by some lightly raced horse just because you decided to go cheap. That’s my opinion at least. Four horses intrigued me here, starting with the California shipper #1 Streetscape. I don’t like the odds at 2/1, but track handicapper Frank Carulli of Pimlico is probably correct that the public will stay with this horse. I’m on record multiple times as saying that I don’t worry about horses shipping east from California, or going from synthetics to dirt, as much as I do the other way around. #3 Perpetuity might offer some value on the board. This is an improving daughter of Successful Appeal that has won both of her career starts, an obvious indication of talent under the hood. Ignore the combination of trainer Scott Lake and jockey Ramon Dominguez at your own peril. #6 Bright Gem is a good looking chestnut that will probably wind up being my “paddock pick” for a quick win bet play (since I’m such a sucker for chestnuts). Another horse I’m anxious to get a glimpse of is #2 Eyes of Erie. She seems to be a popular pick amongst the DRF handicappers in the Friday edition of the Form. She didn’t come up as one of my top 3 selections, but there’s enough here on paper to consider her worthy of coverage in the Pick 4.
$1 Trifecta: 1/2,3,6/ 2,3,6 = $6
Race 8: The Jim McKay Turf Sprint (3:45 ET)
- #2 True to Tradition (9/2)
- #6 Heroes Reward (5/2*)
- #12 Mr. Nightlinger (3/1)
The 4th running of The Jim McKay Turf Sprint is not part of a Pick 4 sequence, but it sets up as a great race nonetheless. #2 True to Tradition has defeated his top rival today, #6 Heroes Reward, the last two times they’ve faced. It was extremely difficult to separate these two, but ultimately that’s what I focused on to make True to Tradition the top pick. The Scott Lake runner has been on the shelf since August, but has fired fresh before and absolutely relishes this distance. Heroes Reward was able to defeat Chamberlain Bridge and #12 Mr. Nightlinger last out in the Grade 3 Sharktown at Keeneland. Prior to that effort he was a close 5th in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint, beaten by only 2 1/4 lengths. He’s got the recent form edge on True to Tradition, but hasn’t been able to put him away the last two times they’ve faced off. You could see this one coming down to a battle between these two quite easily. Although, I’m not so sure that the speedy #12 Mr. Nightlinger will let anyone just waltz away with this without putting up a fight. He hasn’t found the winner’s circle since before his effort out in front in the Turf Sprint, but this is a runner who rattled off 5 straight victories back in ’08. A longshot bomb I’m considering playing is #9 Crimson Sun. Considering I’ll be milling about as likely the only attendee in an Alabama Crimson Tide baseball hat, the play seems only fitting and proper.
$1 Trifecta: 2/ 6,12/ 6,9,12 = $4
Race 9: The Skipat (4:10 ET)
- #5 All Giving (1/1*)
- #3 Fancy Diamond ( 6/1)
- #4 What Time It Is (3/1)
We kick off the Late Pick 4 sequence with the17th running of The Skipat, for fillies and mares 3-years-old and upward going 6 furlongs over the main track. The likely defection of La Chica Rica changes the anticipated hot pace of the relatively small field for The Skipat. #5 All Giving should still get a very good stalking trip and have every chance to pounce on the front runner(s). She’s 1 for 1 thus far over the Pimlico main track and should be 2 for 2 by the end of the day. #3 Fancy Diamond should be part of the early pace now that La Chica Rica is gone. As such she’s got a chance to hang on here. Likewise, #4 What Time It Is should be right there early on as well and is likely the “speed of the speed.” With such a small field this will likely turn into a jockey’s race, in which case the strongest play might be longshot Mikeslittlegirl at 15/1, with Ramon Domingeuz in the saddle. That wasn’t enough for me to pull the trigger though, so I’ll take my chances with these runners, and likely single on All Giving to start the Late Pick 4. Might as well get that single out of the way early and see if I’m still alive for the grand finale here to end the day.
$1 Pick 4: 5/ 3,4,5/1,2,4,5,7/ 2,7,8 = $45
Race 10: OC 32k/N3X (4:40 ET)
- #5 Fareena (6/5*)
- #4 Ziggly (5/1)
- #3 Avie’s Tale (8/1)
We’re back on the turf witht the 10th from Pimlico, this time routing 1 1/16 Miles over the grass. #5 Fareena has been on the shelf since last October, but was a decent stakes runner over the last two years and this looks like a good spot to begin her 2009 campaign. She must return in sharp form to prevail, and the short odds might not be worth the risk, but it’s very encouraging to see jockey Garrett Gomez get the mount. #4 Ziggly has a name that sounds eerily similar to a horrific Ben Affleck/Jennifer Anniston film, but I won’t hold that against her. She may get overloked based on her recent darkened form, but if you are forgiving and draw a line through those last two races, she clearly belongs. This is a runner who rattled off 4 wins in 5 starts at one point last year, so look for a rebound this Friday. #3 Avie’s Tale is very intriguing at odds of 8/1 on the morning line. Trainer Timothy Salzman is hitting at almost 30% for the year with turf runners, and this gal has won before of a layoff. I would not leave her off the exotic tickets. If for some reason this race is moved to the main track, don’t forget about #8 Hello Poochi Pooh, who would suddenly become a serious win candidate.
$1 Trifecta: 5/3,4/2,3,4,6 = $6
Race 11: The Adena Stallions Miss Preakness (5:20 ET)
- #4 Cinderella’s Wish (10/1)
- #2 Heart Ashley (8/5*)
- #5 Gatorette (7/2)
The 24th running of the Miss Preakness has come up as a very competitive race. As you can tell from my pick 4 play mentioned in the review of race 9, I’ve spread deep here and covered 5 of the 8 runners. That’s because my top choice came up as 10/1 longshot #4 Cinderella’s Wish. The daughter of champion sprinter Speightstown has improved in each of her two lifetime races, and another move forward on Friday could show her the way to the winner’s circle yet again. She’s training well and she reatains the services of jockey Jeremy Rose. Look out! While I like her chances quite a bit, there are some other runners in here with equally good chances. Assuming she does not bounce, #2 Heart Ashley has to be considered a threat to winher third consecutive race here. She’s yet to run out of the exacta in 5 lifetime races, which speaks volumes about her talent. I’m not sure she’s ready to crack the 100 Beyer threshold again, but she doesn’t exactly need to to prevail. #4 Gatorette is an interesting runner having been sent off at 2/1 against the “other” top filly in the nation, Justwhistledixie, in the Grade 2 Bonnie Miss back in March. Her workout tab suggests that this daughter of Distorted Humor is ready to roll. #7 Mani Bhavan is a horse I’d probably advise playing against on most occassions, but I’m willing to give her one more chance here in the exotics. Lastly, don’t overlook the rail runner in here, #1 Bold Union who will likely go off at odds similar to thoe of Cinderella’s Wish.
$10 WPS #4 Cinderella’s Wish
Race 11: The Grade 2 Black Eyed Susan (5:50 ET)
- #2 Payton d’Oro (9/2)
- #7 Casanova Move (5/2*)
- #8 Don’t Forget Gil (7/2)
We wind up the day with the 85th running of The Black Eyed Susan, the feature race of the day. Hooh Why has likely scratched from this race, and would have been a major player. The result is that most of the betting action will likely be focused on #7 Casanova Move and #2 Payton d’Oro. I’ll start with Payton d’Oro, who came up as my top selection even with Hooh Why in the field. The daughter of Medaglia d’Oro has won three straight for trainer Larry Jones, who I consider to be the nation’s finest horsemen when it comes to preparing 3- year-old fillies. It’s wise to remember that another daughter of Medaglia d’Oro is favored this Saturday against the boys in the Preakness. We don’t quite know how good she is, but you get the feeling from her recent workout at Delaware Park that another move forward is not out of the question. #7 Casanova Move has had some bad luck lately, going without a win in 7 consecutive starts. It must be recognized though that 3 of those 7 starts came against Justwhistledixie, who would be a heavy favorite in my opinion if she showed up here today. Trainer James Jerkens may indeed have her in the correct spot to find her way back to the winner’s circle where she belongs. #8 Don’t Forget Gil is a hit or miss type that you don’t want to have off your tickets on the days when he hits. Of the rest of the field, I could make a case for #5 Bon Jovi Girl to wind up hitting the board, and I suppose it might be worth it to cover #4 Stone Legacy on the bottom of the exotics, considering she did run 2nd (though beaten by over 20 lengths) to Rachel Alexandra in the Kentucky Oaks two weeks ago.
$1 Trifecta: 2/ 7,8/ 4,5,7,8 = $6
I’ll be back with my Preakness picks late tomorrow, as I likely won’t even get home from Black Eyed Susan Day until late in the evening. Best of luck to everyone that is playing along.