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Best Horse Racing Bets Today | Fair Grounds, March 23

Written by: Brian Zipse
Published March 23, 2024
8 min read

The 2024 trail to the Kentucky Derby reaches a fever pitch over the next three weekends, and it starts with the $1 million Louisiana Derby on Saturday. Track Phantom will be in search of his third stakes win at Fair Grounds, but the Steve Asmussen-trained colt will need to work for it when he breaks from the far outside post as the favorite in a field of 12.

The New Orleans oval has a strong supporting card to the big one with three other Grade 2 stakes during the afternoon. Leading the way will be top Kentucky Oaks contenders Tarifa and Intricate, as they meet again in the $400,000 Fair Grounds Oaks Without further ado, let’s get to my best bets in the four graded stakes races from the excellent afternoon of racing.

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Race #9 New Orleans Classic (Grade 2) $500,000 1 1/8-Miles Dirt - 5:04pm EST

A winner in 11-of-14 career starts, Touchuponastar will be in search of his most important career victory on Saturday, when he headlines a field of ten older males set to vie for the top prize in the $500,000 New Orleans Classic at Fair Grounds.

Trained by Jeff Delhomme, the 5-year-old son of Star Guitar has been a dominant figure in Louisiana racing the past few years, but most of wins have come against state-breds. Having said that, he has proven himself with a pair of good efforts in open company recently. Coming in with four straight wins, the speedy gelding should be tested on the front end early.

Chief among the competition to the morning line favorite will be the one-two finishers in last month’s Grade 3 Mineshaft. The speedy Best Actor was a big favorite in that one, but was narrowly beaten by the progressive Money Supply. Both 5-year-olds come into this 9-furlong test in sharp form and merit serious respect.

A possible upsetter on Saturday will be the late running Red Route One. The graded stakes winner has finished second and fourth in the two preps for this one, but may now get the distance and pace scenario which sets up his rally perfectly. He will also have odds which make him an attractive play here. He is the top pick.

My Play

  • $20 Win & Place - Red Route One = $40

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Race #10 Muniz Memorial Classic (Grade 2) $300,000 1 1/8-Miles Turf - 5:36pm EST

Fresh off a strong second-place finish in the Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup Turf, I’m Very Busy rates top billing among a deep field of 13 older males entered in Saturday’s Grade 2 Muniz Memorial Classic. The $300,000 affair will be contested over 1 1/8-miles on the Fair Grounds turf course.

A lightly raced son of Cloud Computing, I’m Very Busy was an impressive allowance winner at Aqueduct three starts back for trainer Chad Brown. Since then he was second best in the Grade 2 Hill Prince before uncorking a strong late run to finish only a half-length behind the classy Warm Heart in the $1 million Pegasus World Cup Turf at Gulfstream Park.

Another horse exiting the Pegasus World Cup Turf is Webslinger. Twice a stakes winner last year at Churchill Downs, the 4-year-old son of Constitution found trouble last time at Gulfstream effectively ending his chances. Before that the Mark Casse-trainee just missed in a pair of strong graded stakes races in Southern California.

Two others of interest in the deep field are Strong Quality and Beatbox. The two have exchanged one-two finishes in a pair of stakes races at Fair Grounds already this year. Beatbox won the last one, but Strong Quality is the speed of the race. With good value and picking up John Velazquez to ride, Strong Quality will be the top pick in this one.

My Play

  • $10 Exacta Part Wheel - Strong Quality over I’m Very Busy, Webslinger, and Beatbox = $30

  • $10 Exacta Part Wheel - I’m Very Busy, Webslinger, and Beatbox over Strong Quality = $30

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Race #11 Fair Grounds Oaks (Grade 2) $400,000 1 1/16-Miles Dirt - 6:08pm EST

An impressive winner of her stakes debut last time in the Grade 2 Rachel Alexandra, Tarifa looks to validate her standing as an early favorite for the Kentucky Oaks when she tops a field of eight sophomore fillies entered in the Grade 2 Fair Grounds Oaks on Saturday.

A homebred for the powerhouse Godolphin stable, the daughter of Bernardini has won three of four starts overall. A romping winner in her career debut at Keeneland, Tarifa has won both of her starts this year. Before her win in the Rachel Alexandra, she also won an allowance race at Fair Grounds in January.

Chief among her opposition in the 8 1/2-furlong test will be the filly who rallied for second in the Rachel Alexandra. Intricate, trained by Brendan Walsh, had her winning streak snapped when she could not make up the necessary ground on Tarifa on the sloppy track. Before that she was an easy winner of a Keeneland maiden race, as well as the Grade 2 Golden Rod Stakes at Churchill Downs.

Another filly who merits respect in the Fair Grounds Oaks in Our Pretty Woman. Unbeaten in two career starts, the Medaglia d’Oro filly has easily won a maiden and an allowance race on sloppy racing surfaces in New Orleans. Trained by Steve Asmussen, she will be making her stakes debut on Saturday. Tarifa, should sit a good trip right behind the early leader and looks like the one to beat, however. She will be the top pick.

My Plays 

  • $10 Trifecta Key - Tarifa over Intricate, Our Pretty Woman, and V V’s Dream = $60

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Race #12 Louisiana Derby (Grade 2) $1,000,000 1 3/16-Miles Dirt - 6:42pm EST

The biggest race of the year in New Orleans closes out the sequence of four consecutive graded stakes races on Saturday. Already a two-time stakes winner at the meeting, Track Phantom looks like a legitimate favorite in a full field of twelve sophomore males in the $1 million Louisiana Derby. 

Trained by Steve Asmussen, the front-running son of Quality Road has only been beaten by one horse in four strong races at two-turns. That came last time when passed late by the highly regarded Sierra Leone in the Grade 2 Risen Star Stakes. Before that, he was a convincing winner of both the Gun Runner and Lecomte Stakes at Fair Grounds. The far outside post, however, could make life more difficult for the likely favorite.

There are several in here who could defeat Track Phantom on Saturday. The one I like the best of the bunch is Catching Freedom. An improving son of Constitution, he won the Smarty Jones at Oaklawn Park two starts back with a strong finish. Last out, he finished well to be third behind Sierra Leone and Track Phantom in the Risen Star. The 1 3/16-mile distance of the Louisiana Derby should benefit him.

Third choice on the morning line is Common Defense. A disappointing fifth in the Southwest Stakes on a muddy track two starts back, the Karakontie colt rebounded nicely last time to finish second behind Timberlake in the Grade 2 Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park. Still, I think Catching Freedom has the best chance to run by Track Phantom on Saturday. He is the top pick.

My Play

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

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AUTHOR

Brian Zipse

288 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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