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Slim Pickins is a new column from RacingDudes.com focusing on how to approach wagering on the biggest races during the weekend. We won’t just handicap the races, but look to provide you an approach where to focus your money, whether it be in multi-race or in-race wagers.
We’ll try to keep the total wagers in the $50 range in the article and you can adjust to your budget accordingly. We’ll also provide YouTube links to key race replays for your quick review all in one place. Let’s jump right into the big Fair Grounds stakes this Saturday!
Saturday, January 21 at Fair Grounds
Even though Fair Grounds has been dealing with an Equine Herpes Virus (EHV) quarantine for the past few weeks, the racing office has done an awesome job with the horses stabled on the grounds to put together large competitive fields for their “Road to the Derby Kickoff Day” card this Saturday.
The kick-off to the Derby starts with Race #11, the Grade-3 Lecomte Stakes, with important Kentucky Derby points on the line. The goal in this week’s Slim Pickins is to get alive to a key horse at 12/1 morning line odds that I have a strong opinion about in the Lecomte in the final leg of a Pick-3 sequence. Here’s how we’ll approach this Pick-3:
Fair Grounds Race #9 (Post Time: 5:06 p.m. EDT): Silverbulletday Stakes, 3 year old fillies, 1 mile & 70 yards (Dirt), $150K purse
The Road to the Kentucky Oaks in Louisiana starts here with two fillies with regal pedigrees going head-to-head. #3 FARRELL (2/1 morning line) is a half-sister to 2015 Bluegrass Stakes winner Carpe Diem and Grade-1 winner J.B.’s Thunder. Trained by Wayne Catalano, Farrell may have the best early speed in this field, as she’s coming off a gate-to-wire win in the Grade-2 Golden Rod at Churchill at 1 & 1/16 miles. This slight cut-back in distance here should only help her to hold on in the deep stretch at Fair Grounds.
All eyes have been on #5 UNTAPPED (9/5) since her first race, since she is the full sister to 2014 Kentucky Oaks winner and Eclipse champion Untapable. Expectations are high for her as she is coming off two wins for the same connections as her older sister with Winchell Thoroughbreds as her owner and trainer Steve Asmussen. Top jockey Florent Geroux gets the call, as he has in her previous three career races. Coming off a December 23 optional claimer win at Fair Grounds at this same distance, she’ll need to step up in class. The Tapit filly also will need to run faster and progress off her Brisnet speed figures of 85 that she’s received in all three of her lifetime races.
Farrell and Untapped are the main two fillies to use in this race, even though they will be heavy favorites as the top two choices. I’ll try to hit some price plays in the next two legs of this Pick-3, since it’s tough to try to get creative here.
As back-up plays just in case Farrell and Untapped get into a speed duel up-front, closers #2 GRIS GRIS (8/1) and #4 SUMMERTIME SKY (4/1) will be played.
Gris Gris wasn’t able to track down Farrell two back in the Golden Rod, but showed decent late kick in her last at Remington Park. Summertime Sky comes out of a turf sprint in her debut maiden win and makes the move to dirt for dangerous connections in trainer Mark Casse and owner John Oxley.
Wagering Strategy: Use Farrell and Untapped as prime plays in the Pick-3 and back-up with a very small ticket using Gris Gris and Summertime Sky.
TOP CHOICE: #3 FARRELL
2nd CHOICE: #5 UNTAPPED
Back-up Plays: #2 GRIS GRIS and #4 SUMMERTIME SKY
Farrell’s win in the Grade-2 Golden Rod:
Untapped’s optional claimer win at Fair Grounds:
Fair Grounds Race #10 (Post Time: 5:33 p.m. EDT): Marie G. Krantz Memorial Stakes, 4 year olds and up fillies & mares, 1 & 16 miles (Turf), $75K purse
The headline star of the day, #10 I’M A CHATTERBOX (8/5), will SCRATCH from this race and her trainer Larry Jones is planning to ship her to Sam Houston Park to contest the Grade-3 Houston Ladies Classic next weekend.
Two seasoned turf females, #7 CASH CONTROL (7/2) and #8 KITTEN’S ROAR (5/1), are the key players now. For some reason Cash Control’s win over Kitten’s Roar is marked down as a head on the charts of the Blushing KD Stakes at Fair Grounds last month, but the stretch run and finish were much closer (must see replay below). Since the decision could’ve went either way, they both need to be used in this spot.
Additionally, Cash Control was not disgraced last year in two races against top female turf star Tepin. In the Grade-2 Distaff Turf Mile at Churchill in May, she ran a respectable third only beaten 4½ lengths. In the “weirdly” run Grade-1 First Lady, she finished sixth behind Photo Call, Tepin and Celestine, so Cash Control’s back class is nothing to sneeze at on the turf.
#3 CAMBODIA (8/1) has an upset shot as she’s an undefeated 3-for-3 since moving to turf, but loses jockey Geroux from her impressive optional claimer win last out over the Fair Grounds grass. Instead Geroux will retain his mount on one of the top horses he’s ridden in his career in I’m A Chatterbox.
Wagering Strategy: Will lean heaviest on Cash Control and Kitten’s Roar in Pick-3, but will mix Cambodia in a ticket with my top choices looking to hit a longshot.
TOP CHOICE: #7 CASH CONTROL
2nd CHOICE: #8 KITTEN’S ROAR
Longshot Play: #3 CAMBODIA
Cash Control wins over Kitten’s Roar in Blushing KD:
Fair Grounds Race #11 (Post Time: 6:00 p.m. EDT): Grade-3 Lecomte, 3 year olds, 1 mile & 70 yards (Dirt), $200K purse
A full gate of 12 make this Derby prep a wide-open race and the perfect spot to try to land a nice Pick-3.
#3 TOTALITY (12/1) made a strong move up the rail late in the Remington Springboard Mile last month after Cool Arrow set a turtle slow pace taking them gate-to-wire. He received a monster 106 Brisnet late speed figure in the Springboard Mile (highest last out in this group), so his visually impressive closing kick is backed up by the numbers. Sired by Tapit and out of a Giant’s Causeway mare, the Asmussen charge should have pedigree to run all day and stretching out another 70 yards should only help him with the long Fair Grounds stretch to close. Totality is the key horse to use in this race.
When trying to decipher if the pace will be hot enough for Totality to close into, the discussion begins with #9 RUNNING MATE. The Larry Jones trainee came into the Sugar Bowl Stakes with a ton of hype and disappointed as Proforma swept by him at the top of the stretch to win by 3 lengths. Running Mate even lugged in on the third place finisher after Proforma went by him, so he’ll have to run straight this time in the stretch if he wants to progress off that sprint try. Running Mate should be the lone speed here and may set a swift pace. Sired by Creative Cause, though, there are major distance questions stretching out from 6-furlong sprints for the first time in his career, so he’s only a back-up play in this sequence for me.
The horse to watch that may stalk Running Mate early and get the first jump on the closers is #5 UNTRAPPED, also for Asmussen. He lost to Uncontested in his debut and Uncontested just came back to throttle the Smarty Jones field this week at Oaklawn to get 10 Derby points. After losing to Uncontested by 6 lengths on debut, Untrapped came back at Churchill in late November to break his maiden impressively.
#10 TAKEOFF is another to watch here that may press the pace coming off a gate-to-wire maiden breaker at Fair Grounds at this distance. Running for Oxley and Casse, he’ll be forwardly placed coming off two bullet workouts over the Fair Grounds strip.
Since the Grade-2 Kentucky Jockey Club may be looking like a key Derby race after Uncontested’s win early this week, it has to be mentioned that #4 SHAREHOLDER VALUE ran sixth there and returned a winner late December at Fair Grounds at this distance. Trainer Tom Amoss won the Lecomte last year with Mo Tom, so he’s looking for the repeat.
NOTE: #12 SAINT’S FAN (5/1) looked like a top pick here, but trainer Dallas Stewart has decided to scratch after drawing the 12 post.
Wagering Strategy: Lots of ways to go here, but I’ll lean heaviest on Totality. The back-up plays will spread with Untrapped, Takeoff, Shareholder Value and Running Mate.
TOP CHOICE: #3 TOTALITY
Back-up Plays: #5 UNTRAPPED, #10 TAKEOFF, #4 SHAREHOLDER VALUE & #9 RUNNING MATE
I’ll play my top plays for a $3 Pick-3 and weigh my bets with my back-ups based on my opinion strength and expected payouts. Here’s how I’ll weigh out the Pick-3 for a total $40 wager:
Totality’s late closing second in the Remington Springboard Mile:
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