How to play dirt races at Fair Grounds on Fat Tuesday
by Dick Powell
Fat Tuesday is the last day of living large, at least for those drinkers out there. Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and many followers of the Catholic faith will give up many things in the next 40 days including meat.
Fair Grounds Race Course has always held a day of racing on Fat Tuesday even though it is usually a dark day. The major parades tie up traffic so why not settle in for a day of racing as Mardi Gras goes out with a bang. Or, just sit at home and play with beads that light up.
The one thing that handicappers get consistently wrong with the Fair Grounds is that they associate the long homestretch on the dirt and decide that it favors closers. But the numbers say otherwise every year.
The speed bias for 137 dirt races run at six furlongs is 68% and 29% of them were won gate to wire. Going a two-turn mile has a speed bias of 71% and 26% of them were won gate to wire and the speed bias for 47 dirt races run at 1 mile and 70 yards is 68% and 32% of them were won gate to wire.
Turf racing is usually the opposite with horses winning from far back with the exception of the 40 turf sprints run at 5 ½ furlongs – 70% speed bias and 23% were won gate to wire.
Knowing that going in, and with Sunday’s races taken off the turf, we are going to look for horses that might have a pace advantage on the main track.
Here’s how I will be playing the Fat Tuesday program at Fair Grounds:
Race 1 is a two-turn mile event for $7,500 filly and mare claimers. YOOOU DEN (3) beat this level at Keeneland going two turns then raced on the turf in her next three starts here. She rallied from just off the pace last out in a good trip from the rail post and draws well again with red-hot Adam Beschizza. I will play her over STATELY DEFENCE (1) and CANDY ROLL (7) in straight exactas.
Race 3 is a six-furlong dirt sprint for $15,000 claimers that have never won three races. MISTAKE PRESENT (8) beat similar company three starts back then showed good speed while pressing the pace on the outside in a turf sprint over a yielding course. Last out, he lost all chance when bumped at the start but if he breaks clean like he usually does, he can work out a perfect stalking trip on the outside. STAGE SHOW (7) drops down in class for Steve Flint and picks up Florent Geroux. STAND AND CHEER (4) is a huge class dropdown that does his best going longer. Win bet on #8.
Race 5 is a six-furlong dirt sprint for Louisiana-bred first-level filly and mare allowance foes. These horses tend to jump back and forth between state-bred allowance and claiming company so just go on form and not on perceived class. Very tough field to predict who will make the lead so I will go with YALISHA (3) who could get the right trip racing just off the pace. She was second against this level last time out and gets blinkers put back on. LOVELY CHARLIE (1) could be the one to catch with a sharp break from the innermost post and FASHION BID (4) is a logical choice with a maiden win two starts back at 2-to-5 and an even third last out behind the top choice. Way back she was once second to LADY AURELIA. Win bet on #3 and exactas 1, 4 over 3.
Race 7 is a six-furlong dirt sprint for Louisiana-bred 3yo maidens. Young horses making their second career start often show more improvement than anyone and TENSAS TALK (8) already ran well in his career debut despite breaking poorly when forced to race wide. The race was fast and he should get a stalking trip with Jamie Theriot back aboard. At a 6/1 morning line, he is the key to the race and has to be a strong win bet. Elsewhere, would play him in an exacta box with CHARGE THE LINE (2).
Finally, race 9 is a beaten $5,000 claimer going 1 mile and 70 yards on the dirt for Louisiana-bred four year olds and up. IDE B A CLASSIC (8) returned off a 10-week layoff with a sharp win here going gate to wire and looks to be teed up again with James Graham back aboard. He has enough gate speed to get early position and he certainly qualifies as a horse for the course. Win bet on (8).