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Nothing beats a snap of cold weather better than an excellent card of racing. This week we will turn our attention to New Orleans where Fair Grounds will host a full afternoon of racing which includes six stakes races. On the Kentucky Derby trail, Track Phantom and Nash will renew acquaintances in the Lecomte Stakes.
In the female counterpart, West Omaha tops the field in the Silverbulletday Stakes, a prep for the 2024 Kentucky Oaks. Also, classy older males Saudi Crown and Smile Happy will be making their first starts of a new season as the headliners in an intriguing edition of the Louisiana Stakes. Without further ado, let’s get to my best bets in four of the biggest races from the excellent afternoon of racing.
Second and third respectively in last month’s Untapable Stakes, West Omaha, and Sistina Chapel return to headline a field of eight Kentucky Oaks hopefuls in the $150,000 Silverbulletday Stakes on Saturday at Fair Grounds.
Trained by Brad Cox, West Omaha is the likely favorite in the 1-mile and 70-yard test. A daughter of West Coast, she was a stylish four-length winner while going seven furlongs at Churchill Downs two starts back. Last out in both her stakes and two-turn debut, she finished a clear second behind the impressive winner Alpine Princess.
Also a maiden winner at Churchill Downs, Sistina Chapel was bumped early and never changed leads down the lane in the Untapable. Still, the daughter of Liam’s Map rallied for third. Trained by Kenny McPeek, she has been beaten by Alpine Princess in the last two and should appreciate the absence of that one on Saturday.
Perfect Shot, a good-looking maiden winner last time for trainer Steve Asmussen, and Miss Code West, an undefeated stakes winner from Oklahoma, should also get plenty of support from bettors in the Silverbulletday. I’ll look for Sistina Chapel to turn the tables on the favorite here if she can work out a better trip. She is the top pick.
$10 Exacta Part Wheel - Sistina Chapel over West Omaha, Perfect Shot, and Miss Code West = $30
$10 Exacta Part Wheel - West Omaha, Perfect Shot, and Miss Code West over Sistina Chapel = $30
In a wide-open field of nine older males, Beatbox and Strong Quality should vie for favoritism in Saturday’s Colonel E.R. Bradley Stakes. The $100,000 affair will be run over 1 1/16 miles on the Fair Grounds turf course.
Close without winning in each of his last three starts, Beatbox was an unlucky second last time out in the Buddy Diliberto Memorial Stakes at Fair Grounds. The son of Pioneerof the Nile found plenty of trouble along the way, but was still able to come running at the classy Two Emmys late. A similar performance here could certainly get the job done.
While Beatbox likes to come from off the pace, Strong Quality is almost certain to be out on the early lead. He’s run well on dirt in his two most recent races, but the Mark Casse-trained runner had a series of solid turf efforts before that. If given an uncontested lead on Saturday, the son of Quality Road could prove impossible to catch.
An interesting value play in the Bradley is Rising Empire. He faded in between horses last time in the Diliberto, but I really like his races over the turf course before that for trainer Brendan Walsh. He had four very good efforts locally in as many starts, and I am willing to give the son of Empire Maker another try here. Two starts back, he was a decisive winner over Beatbox. He is the top pick.
$10 Exacta Box - Rising Empire, Beatbox, and Strong Quality = $60
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A Grade 1 winner of the Pennsylvania Derby two starts back, Saudi Crown looks to return to his winning ways as the headliner among seven older males in Saturday’s Grade 3 Louisiana Stakes at Fair Grounds.
The 4-year-old son of Always Dreaming will be making his first since fading out of contention in the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic last time out. Before that, the Brad Cox-trained gray had finished first or second in five career starts. Besides his Grade 1 victory, he was a game second by a nose in both the Dwyer Stakes and Jim Dandy Stakes in New York.
The favorite’s top competition in the 1 1/16-mile test will likely come from the multiple graded stakes winner Smile Happy. The son of Runhappy has been away since the summer but has been working well for trainer Kenny McPeek. Two starts back, he impressively defeated a strong field at Churchill Downs in the Grade 2 Alysheba Stakes.
Another strong contender in Louisiana will be Five Star General. The veteran, multiple stakes winning son of Distorted Humor comes off one his best races ever when he easily defeated a solid field over the Fair Grounds track in the Tenacious Stakes. Like Saudi Crown, though, he has plenty of early speed. Given a favorable pace set-up, I like Smile Happy’s chances to come back as a winner. He will be the top pick.
$5 Trifecta Key - Smile Happy over Saudi Crown, Red Route One, and Five Star General = $30
$10 Exacta Box - Smile Happy and Saudi Crown = $20
$5 Exacta Box - Smile Happy and Red Route One = $10
The Kentucky Derby trail at Fair Grounds heats up on Saturday as Track Phantom looks to validate his recent score in the Gun Runner when he headlines a field of eight sophomore males in Saturday’s Grade 3 Lecomte Stakes.
Getting better with each start, the front-running son of Quality Road has faced solid competition in each of his first four career starts for trainer Steve Asmussen. Third and then second in his first two, he was an impressive winner over a next-out winner in a Churchill Downs maiden race two starts back. In his first race at Fair Grounds, he contested the pace before taking over to convincingly win the Gun Runner Stakes.
Chief among his rivals in the 1 1/16-mile Lecomte will be the Brad Cox-trained Nash. The 3-year-old son of Medaglia d’Oro was a heavy favorite last time in the Gun Runner but could manage no better than third four weeks ago. Before that, he looked like a budding star at Churchill Downs when going gate to wire in a maiden race, winning off by better than ten lengths in fast time.
Another from the Brad Cox barn, Ethan Energy looked very good in his second career start last time. The son of Uncle Mo ran away from a maiden field to win by better than five lengths on the same afternoon as the Gun Runner. I cannot ignore the impressive win over the Fair Grounds track last time by Track Phantom, however. He is the top pick.
$50 Win - Track Phantom = $50
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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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