Bricks and Mortar winning the Pegasus World Cup Turf (gr. I) - Photo by Ashley Blum/Adam Coglianese Photography

Bricks and Mortar winning the Pegasus World Cup Turf (gr. I) – Photo by Ashley Blum/Adam Coglianese Photography

A marathon day of racing is scheduled for Saturday, March 23 at Fair Grounds. Thirteen races are on the card, including the $1 million Louisiana Derby (gr. II), a prominent steppingstone toward the 2019 Kentucky Derby.

That race is unquestionably the main highlight, but the undercard includes several other interesting stakes races that could offer opportunities to make nice wagering scores. Let’s go through a few of these races and look for spot plays….

Race 3: New Orleans Ladies Stakes

This is something of a hunch play, but #6 Lady Mamba has shown significant improvement since returning from a long layoff at the start of the year, breaking her maiden in a six-furlong main-track sprint at Santa Anita before stretching out to nine furlongs on turf to finish third in an allowance optional claiming race. As a daughter of War Front, Lady Mamba is bred for grass, and her front-running style could be very beneficial in this spot. The New Orleans Ladies Stakes contains very little in the way of early speed, so Lady Mamba—coming out of some fast-paced races in California—could potentially shake loose on the front end and prove tough to run down.

Let’s key her in the trifecta with the other logical contenders #2 Beau Recall, #3 Vagabond Princess, and #5 Flower Party:

$1 trifecta: 6 with 2,3,5 with 2,3,5 ($6)
$2 trifecta: 2,3,5 with 6 with 2,3,5 ($12)
$2 trifecta: 2,3,5 with 2,3,5 with 6 ($12)

Race 6: Crescent City Derby

If you’re looking for a clear standout to anchor multi-race wagers, #2 Shang looks like your horse. Trained by Steve Asmussen, this son of champion Shanghai Boboby is a neck away from being unbeaten in four starts, and in fact he’s won his last three in fine fashion, including a narrow triumph over multiple stakes winner Classy John in the LA Bred Premier Night Prince Stakes. Shang has won at Fair Grounds, has won going long, and towers over this field in terms of Beyer and BRIS speed figures. He really shouldn’t lose.

Let’s bet Shang on top of a straight exacta with #5 Jimi’s a Star, who has already won or hit the board in five stakes races for Louisiana-breds:

$20 exacta: 2 with 5

Race 10: New Orleans Handicap (gr. II)

With three wins from his last four starts, #6 Silver Dust has turned into a pretty good horse as of late. Two starts back, he just missed against the capable Harlan Punch in a slow-paced renewal of the Louisiana Handicap here at Fair Grounds, and a month later he overcame an even slower pace to turn the tables on Harlan Punch and win the Mineshaft Handicap (gr. III) by 2 1/4 lengths. Silver Dust has enough tactical speed to sit an ideal trip just behind the front-runners, making him the horse to beat in my opinion.

On the other hand, this is the kind of deep and competitive race where a case can be made for just about anyone. I’ll avoid the exotics and just bet Silver Dust to win:

$20 to win on #6 Silver Dust

Race 11: Muniz Memorial Handicap (gr. II)

#7 Bricks and Mortar has long given the impression of being a very, very good horse, and he lived up to expectations with a powerful late-running triumph in the Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational (gr. I) at Gulfstream in January. He’d be a logical single for multi-race wagers if not for the fact that he’s conceding a lot of weight to some talented horses while running at Fair Grounds for the first time, over a course that is slower than the ones he’s accustomed to in Florida and New York.

At least we know #3 Synchrony has no trouble handling the local course, given that he’s 4-for-4 at Fair Grounds and won this race last year. Maybe even #2 Divisidero is worth a look since 1 1/8 miles seems like his preferred difference and he’s shown a clear affinity for slower courses like this one at Fair Grounds.

I’ll play these three in the Pick 3 with my top choices in the Fair Grounds Oaks (gr. II, analysis here) and the Louisiana Derby (gr. II, analysis here):

$9 Pick 3: 7 with 2 with 6 ($9)
$5 Pick 3: 7 with 2 with 10 ($5)
$2 Pick 3: 2,3 with 2 with 6,10 ($8)
$2 Pick 3: 7 with 1,3 with 6,10 ($8)

Total cost of all plays: $100

Good luck!