Preview Day Stakes Picks
My final picks for today's six stakes along with the thoughts I jotted down this morning while preparing for some radio segments:
Race 6—$60,000 Pan Zareta Stakes
This race scratched down to four horses. Juliet’s Sprit and Four Gifts are out. Dubai Majesty will be a short-priced favorite off her tough nose defeat in the Sunshine Millions, but maybe after that big effort and a long trip to California this might be one to play against. The other three entrants are all legit threats and I like Double Expresso, the Tom Amoss filly who won impressively up at Oaklawn earlier this month and came back to work a near bullet between races, which I like. At 6-1 she might end up the longest price on the board.
Race 7—$60,000 Colonel Power Stakes
It’s hard not to like Chamberlain Bridge, and yet, I don’t. He’ll be a deserving favorite and you have to love his versatility. He won this race last year on the lead, but in his last win in the Turf Monster at Philly Park he went six-wide and came from seventh. So Jamie Theriot can do whatever he needs to as the race unfolds with a gelding that has never missed the board on this course and has won three of five times over it. And yet, even though he’s always there, he does lose, often enough that I want to find someone to beat the short price. For me that’s going to be the Klein family’s entry of 1-COUNTRY DAY and 1A-DUE DATE. Trainer Steve Margolis has been getting the best out of his barn this season, still winning over 30-percent. He unleashed the staggeringly fast Cash Refund in the Gaudin Memorial last month. Country Day won easily in the optional claiming/allowance Dec. 17, took a short break, then posted a bullet half-mile in 47 and change nine days ago. From what I’ve seen this year Margolis doesn’t train his really hard so that time gets me excited. The entry is 8-1 on the morning line. There’s a lot of quality capable of beating the fave in here, like any of the three from December’s Bonapaw. 5-GRAND TRAVERSE, especially, has turned a corner this season for Tim Glyshaw, who said after the Bonapaw that they had finally figured this horse out. He wants to go to the lead but he needs a strong rider that can wrestle him back. They have a strong rider in Cisco Torres today. He was second in this last year and is doing better this season, so I would expect a strong effort from him, as well. This race starts the $125,000-Guaranteed All-Stakes Pick Four and I intend to skip Chamberlain Bridge and use those two and probably 9-TURFISTE to get it started right.
Race 8—Grade III, $150,000 Silverbulletday Stakes
Last month’s Tiffany Lass really clouded the picture as far as who the top Kentucky Oaks contenders are on the grounds here. When Quiet Temper won so easily in her first start of the year I really thought I had seen a filly that would be single digits on the first Friday of May, or in this year’s case the last Friday of April. Then in the Tiffany Lass she never fired, but she was close to a very fast pace and it would have been great to see her overcome that. Her fifth-place finish that day wasn’t as much of a disaster as some were making it out to be. The winner that day, Jody Slew, surprised even her connections at 23-1. The fact that even trainer Bret Calhoun couldn’t believe his luck suggested to me that we just don’t have a standout in the 3-year-old filly division here. Therefore, I can’t look past Todd Pletcher’s 8-5 morning line favorite, 6-DEVIL MAY CARE, making her first start of the year. A graded stakes is an ambitious spot to start the season but it’s not that deep a field and this Grade I winner is the class of the race. Pletcher must like how she’s come around the past few months to ship here and try this with an inexperienced filly off a layoff. I’m singling her, tentatively, knowing that 1-QUIET TEMPER could rebound. But she’s the only one that scares me and I’ll put the Big A inner-track stakes inner 3-AGE OF HUMOR in there for third.
Race 9—Grade III, $100,000 Fair Grounds Handicap
Giant Oak is scratched in favor of the dirt race so we’ll get to him later on. This is easily the most competitive of the undercard stakes and is a race you’ll want to spread out in if you’re playing our $125,000-Guaranteed All-Stakes Pick Four. I’m going for the 10-year-old gelding Silverfoot to pass the $1 million earnings mark in style. He hasn’t raced since September and I think that will help his price as a lot of handicappers will be weary of such an old horse until he gets a race under his belt. But he had his best race last year coming off a long layoff in a minor stakes at Arlington Park and trainer Dallas Stewart said earlier this week that all of his works at Fair Grounds have been great and he sees no reason why he won’t run a big one today. If Silverfoot runs his best race he can win this and at 10-1 on the morning line he offers serious value. My one concern is whether he gets pace to run at. 6-ACTING ZIPPY will be out there on the lead but who will press him? Maybe the longshot Transduction Gold; that’s what I’m hoping anyway. I respect Robby Albarado’s ability to control the pace which is why I do like Acting Zippy to hold on for second. For third I like another price, 9-GET RICH QUICK, who loves Fair Grounds and proved himself at this level last month in the Colonel Bradley, the first race in the turf series for older horses. He’s 10-1 and should be on all your tickets.
Race 10—Grade II, $300,000 Risen Star Stakes
6-DROSSELMEYER was most impressive winning a Jan. 31 first-level allowance at Gulfstream. There were other quality 3-year-olds in that race and I can remember watching that win in the press box and we all said, wouldn’t it be great if we got that one for the Risen Star? Trainer Bill Mott does have a small string stabled here this season so even thought his horse shipped in there’s already a Mott operation in place for him to settle into. That allowance race at Gulfstream was off a two-month layoff and visually was very impressive. He’s got the right style for this, coming from just off the pace in a race that looks certain to have a solid early clip. 12-HOTEP is, in my opinion, the most impressive of the Fair Grounds-based 3-year-olds, which is a pretty good group but hasn’t had a breakout star yet. The full brother to the Queen’s Plate winner closed into a very slow pace to win last time out and trainer Mark Frostad said he was short for his 3-year-old debut but obviously showed his true potential last time. Frostad also was asked to compare this colt to his Queen’s Plate winner, Eye of the Leopard, and said this one was more athletic and might be better. He’s 12-1 on the morning line and gets Robby Albarado. 2-TEMPTED TO TAPIT has made an impression with his physical appearance galloping the past few days since arriving from Florida. He’s posted three fast works since his maiden win and will be on the lead.
Race 11—Grade III, $100,000 Mineshaft Handicap
General Quarters and Friesan Fire have a real rivalry developing here. We know what they can do; we’ve seen them both twice this season already. They had shining moments as 3-year-olds but I’m not convinced either of them are going to have an impact in major stakes this year. The big question is what do you think Giant Oak is capable of off a 2 ½-month layoff? He had a nice work on Sunday and trainer Neil Pessin said he caught him finishing up the last quarter in :23 2/5 and he was really pleased. I think this race could set up well for him coming from off the pace. The Clark Handicap was a really strong field of 14 and he was rolling at the end of that one. I’m taking 5-GIANT OAK in a mild upset. Of the others I think 2-FRIESAN FIRE has shown the best effort by an older horse this season winning the Louisiana Handicap so I’ll put him second and the runner-up that day, 1-GENERAL QUARTERS, third.