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Best Horse Racing Bets Today | Fair Grounds, February 17

Written by: Brian Zipse
Published February 17, 2024
7 min read
Best Horse Racing Bets Today Fair Grounds February 17

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In what is clearly the best Kentucky Derby prep of the season so far, the $400,000 Risen Star Stakes leads a strong card of racing on Saturday at Fair Grounds. A dozen sophomore males are signed on for this one, and many of them look to have the potential to make some real noise on the first Saturday in May. 

The New Orleans oval also will host a very good Kentucky Oaks prep on Saturday, with seven talented fillies entered in the Grade 2 Rachel Alexandra Stakes. A pair of graded stakes races for the older males, one on the dirt and one on the turf, are two more reasons to dig into this card at Fair Grounds. Without further ado, let’s get to my best bets in four of the biggest races from the excellent afternoon of racing.

Race #11 Mineshaft Stakes (Grade 3) $250,000 1 1/16 Miles Dirt - 5:50 pm EST

Coming off a pair of smart allowance scores to close out his 4-year-old season, Best Actor looks to be the most likely favorite as part of an evenly matched field of nine older males in the Grade 2 Mineshaft Stakes on Saturday at Fair Grounds.

Trained by Brad Cox, the son of Flatter is still relatively lightly raced as now a 5-year-old. He’s won 5-of-9 lifetime overall, which includes a Grade 3 victory in the Smarty Jones at Parx back in the summer of 2022. In a race without much early speed, he has a good opportunity to go right to the lead in this 1 1/16-mile test.

A rallying second to the classy Saudi Crown in his 4-year-old debut four weeks ago at Fair Grounds in the Grade 3 Louisiana Stakes, Red Route One should get plenty of support on Saturday. A late-running son of Gun Runner, he won two stakes last season for trainer Steve Asmussen, including the Grade 3 West Virginia Derby.

Despite a poor race in his return, Smile Happy is another to strongly consider here. Twice a Grade 2 winner, the Kenny McPeek-trainee finished sixth in the recent Louisiana, but that was his first race in nearly seven months. With good tactical speed and plenty of back class, I look for him to bounce back in this one. He is the top pick.

My Play

  • $10 Exacta Box - Smile Happy, Best Actor, and Red Route One = $60

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Race #12 Fair Grounds Stakes (Grade 3) $175,000 1 1/8 Miles Turf - 6:19 pm EST

In a deep field of twelve older males, Strong Quality and Beatbox will renew their rivalry in Saturday’s Grade 3 Fair Grounds Stakes. The $175,000 affair will be run over 1 1/8 miles on the Fair Grounds turf course.

Strong Quality, who defeated Beatbox last time by a head in the Colonel Bradley Stakes, is almost certain to be out on the early lead. Good on dirt and turf, the speedy son of Quality Road has won half of his six-lifetime turf tries. Beatbox, meanwhile, has run well on the Fair Grounds turf in each of his last three starts, only to finish second in all of them. 

Joining the fray on Saturday will be the newly turned older horse Gigante. A son of Not This Time, he has already accounted for five stakes wins in his career, with four of them coming on the grass. Most recently, he beat fellow 3-year-olds in the local Woodchopper Stakes to close out his successful sophomore season for trainer Steve Asmussen.

Another intriguing option here is the consistent Chasing the Crown. A son of Skipshot, after a close-up fourth in his career debut, he has finished in the top three in nine straight turf races. He also comes in off a local win, having scored in an allowance race four weeks ago. As the main speed in the race, though, Strong Quality is the one to beat here. He is the top pick. 

My Play

  • $10 Exacta Part Wheel - Strong Quality over Chasing the Crown, Beatbox, and Gigante = $30

  • $10 Exacta Part Wheel - Chasing the Crown, Beatbox, and Gigante over Strong Quality = $30

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Race #13 Rachel Alexandra Stakes (Grade 2) $300,000 1 1/16 Miles Dirt - 6:48 pm EST

A major prep for the 2024 Kentucky Oaks, Saturday’s Grade 2 Rachel Alexandra Stakes should help sort out the pecking order of some of the best young fillies in the South. A field of seven is entered, and several could move to the top of the list of Oaks contenders with a win.

V V’s Dream is the morning line favorite for trainer Kenny McPeek. A daughter of Mitole, she was a romping winner in her career debut in May at Churchill Downs. After that, she finished off her first season by finishing in the top three in four consecutive stakes races. Highlighting her stakes experience is an overpowering win in the Pocahontas Stakes at Churchill Downs.

Chief among her opposition will be a pair of fillies who have won recent stakes races in New Orleans for trainer Brad Cox. Alpine Princess has won two in a row and three of five overall. Most recently, the daughter of Classic Empire defeated her stablemate West Omaha in December’s Untapable Stakes. Second in that one, West Omaha came back to romp in the Silverbulletday Stakes four weeks ago.

Another strong contender in the 1 1/16-mile Rachel Alexandra is Intricate. A daughter of Gun Runner, the chestnut filly finished off her 2-year-old season with a pair of strong wins. After easily breaking her maiden at Keeneland in her second career start, she came back to romp home in the Grade 2 Golden Rod Stakes at Churchill Downs on Thanksgiving weekend. She will be the top pick in her return.

My Play 

  • $10 Exacta Part Wheel - Intricate over V V’s Dream, Alpine Princess, and West Omaha = $30

  • $10 Exacta Part Wheel - V V’s Dream, Alpine Princess, and West Omaha over Intricate = $30

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Race #14 Risen Star Stakes (Grade 2) $400,000 1 1/8 Miles Dirt - 7:17 pm EST

The Kentucky Derby trail heats up on Saturday when trainer Steve Asmussen sends out his talented pair of Track Phantom and Hall of Fame to take on ten other promising sophomore colts in the Grade 2  Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds. 

Getting better with each start, Track Phantom comes in with three straight wins. The son of Quality Road broke his maiden nicely at Churchill Downs in his third start and has since won two straight stakes races locally, including the Grade 3 Lecomte last time. Hall of Fame, meanwhile, has only made two starts but could be any kind. After a solid second in his debut, he won a Fair Grounds maiden race by 10 1/4 lengths in fast time.

Chief among their rivals in the 9-furlong test will be Sierra Leone from the barn of Chad Brown. A ritzy yearling purchase of $2.3 million, the son of Gun Runner rallied to win his career debut two starts back at Aqueduct. Off that maiden win, he came back to make a big move only to fall a nose short in the Grade 2 Remsen Stakes at the same track in Early December. 

Another dangerous contender in the Risen Star is the Brad Cox-trained Catching Freedom. A stylish first-out winner at Churchill Downs last fall, he found serious traffic in his second career start at the same track. The rallying son of Constitution bounced back from his only loss, though, when he rolled late to win the Smarty Jones Stakes at Oaklawn Park in his most recent start. He is the top pick. 

My Play

  • $20 Win & Place - Catching Freedom = $40

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AUTHOR

Brian Zipse

287 Articles

Taken to the races at a very young age, Brian has been a passionate fan of horse racing his entire life. Professionally, his work has been published on several leading industry sites. Brian served as the Editor of Horse Racing Nation from 2010-2017, where he still writes a regular column and hosts the popular weekly webcast HorseCenter.

Email: [email protected]

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