Fair Grounds takes center stage on Saturday afternoon as the stakes laden card in Louisiana is headlined by the $400,000 Risen Star.
The mile and a sixteenth event is the first prep race that offers competitors 50 qualifying points on the “Road to the Kentucky Derby” leaderboard.
The stakes action over the twelve-race slate gets started in Race 4 with the $50,000 Colonial Power and concludes with the feature at approximately 5:03 local time.
While the racing in New Orleans offers fans a look at top-notch talent on Saturday, a majority of the stakes races appear light on price horses that have the ability to get to the wire first. For that reason, I will do little spreading in horizontal sequences. The value is just not there.
Here are my thoughts:
The $150,000 Mineshaft Stakes kicks off the graded stakes action.
#1 Cedartown is the deserving 8-5-morning line favorite for the Grade 3 event based on the career best 100 BRIS Speed Rating he posted in his win in the $75,000 Louisiana Stakes last month. He has only finished outside of the top two once in his career and appears poised for another strong performance.
I respect Cedartown, but I think his chief rival in the Mineshaft will “turn the tables” on Saturday.
#5 The Player did not get off to an ideal start in the aforementioned Louisiana Stakes, but found a comfortable spot on the backstretch before tiring late. The five-year-old son of Street Hero should move forward in his second start of the form cycle after what was likely a prep last month. Look for Calvin Borel to find a spot on or near the front end in the early going and have enough late to get to the wire first for career victory number 5.
The $75,000 Albert M. Stall is up next. The mile and a sixteenth event over the turf may be the most wide-open stakes race on the card.
Most of this field is capable on their best day, so I am going to take a shot against the morning line favorites #4 I’m Betty G and #6 Mom’s On Strike and hope to catch a price.
The Grade 2 Rachel Alexandra is unlikely to produce a price in large part due to the presence of #8 Monomoy Girl. The Brad Cox trainee was a neck away from finishing her two-year-old campaign a perfect 4 for 4 and appears to be a standout in this spot assuming she is ready to fire off a near three-month break.
The 8-5-morning line favorite comes into her first race of 2018 off a strong series of works over this racetrack, including a five-furlong bullet drill in a minute flat on January 29th and looms the clear one to beat.
If Monomoy Girl fails to perform at her best off the freshening, trainer Mark Casse appears to have the best shot to spring the upset.
#4 Wonder Gadot dueled during the early stages of the Silverbulletday Stakes and still had the energy left late to battle with eventual winner Stronger Than Ever. If jockey John Velazquez can work out a less challenging trip in the Rachel Alexandra she could give Monomoy Girl a run for her money.
#6 Heavenly Love has failed to get back to her career best 91 BRIS Speed Rating in the Grade 1 Alcibiades last October, but she is likely to improve in her second start off the layoff. She needs to rebound in a big way though on Saturday if she wants to contend with Monomoy Girl.
The Grade 3 Fair Grounds Handicap drew a field of 12 and appears to be a competitive race on paper.
The group of veteran turf runners is led by #6 Mr. Misunderstood. The son of Archarcharch has won 9 of 13 career starts, including 7 of 8 in his three-year-old campaign and is a perfect 3 for 3 over the Fair Grounds lawn. The only concern is that he takes on older horses for the initial time on Saturday.
I also give a significant look in the Fair Grounds Handicap to the lightly raced six-year-old #12 Catcho En Die. The son of Irish bred Catcher in the Rye finished second in his first start in the States at Gulfstream Park back on December 29th in a race where he lacked room and never got a clear run. I expect veteran rider John Velazquez to send from his far outside draw and try to take them all the way on the engine. If Velazquez can control the tempo on the backstretch this gelding may have enough late to spring the upset.
The featured Risen Star is the final stakes race of the day.
#5 Instilled Regard enters the weekend number 3 on my Kentucky Derby Top 10 list. The 8-5-morning line favorite has done little wrong since stretching out to two turns for Hall of Famer Jerry Hollendorfer. I expect the $1.05 million dollar purchase to move forward off of that three and three-quarter length score in last month’s Grade 3 Lecomte and stamp himself as a major player in the 2018 Triple Crown series.
If Instilled Regard loses on Saturday #2 Noble Indy appears likeliest to pull the upset. The Todd Pletcher trainee is a perfect 2 for 2 and should get the jump on my top choice. He clearly has talent and the ability to get two turns and should offer significantly better value on the tote board.
The racing office did not offer handicappers an all stakes Pick 4 or Pick 5, so I will focus on a few Pick 3 wagers.
Ticket 1: ($2 Pick 3)
Race 5: 5
Race 6: 2+3+5+8+10
Race 7: 4+8
Ticket Cost: $20
Ticket 1: ($4 Pick 3)
Race 7: 8
Race 8: 6+12
Race 9: 2+5
Ticket Cost: $16
Ticket 2: ($4 Pick 3)
Race 7: 4+6+8
Race 8: 6+12
Race 9: 5
Ticket Cost: $24
Total Budget: $60