Cal-Expo, the harness racing theater in Sacramento, California, is the focus of this special TwinSpires harness blog all-program coverage.
The current social climate behavior in North America forced by the COVID-19 pandemic ensues and even though only essential personnel are on the grounds, the mile track in the capital of the Golden State will present pari-mutuels harness racing activity available to bettors.
As a special service to quarantined harness bettors across the rugged globe, here is our analysis of the March 21 harness racing program which will be broadcast for wagering on TwinSpires and hosted by our friend and industry comrade, Gary Seibel.
The six pacers in this conditioned event can be addressed by finding the valuable offering that defies the big favorite, Magnifique. In a short field, the Luke Plano-trained mare looks very obviously the most likely winner. Yet, she dropped to this level last week and was second. The early duel was a poor excuse, considering she burned money as the top choice the week before.
Up for the upset, as well as important exotic elements, are Hi Fidelity and Velocity Layla. Hi Fidelity was in a dead heat for third last week with an easy trip, though her speed-favoring style is a benefit here. Two back, before she stepped into this class, she won wire to wire as the favorite. Still, at this level she is dangerous.
As well, Velocity Layla—who we backed in her 12-1 victory on March 13—steps up deservingly. Conditioner/driver Jacob Cutting must be aware that she is thriving these days. She sits in the catbird seat here, where she is most threatening.
There appears no reason why Rocket Power can’t take this field wire to wire. From the outside two back, he showed some spark but no sustaining power in the next level after a trainer-change win. Last week he scratched and now he returns after the brief rest, leaving in a spot that can place him in the best path down the stretch to come from behind.
California Sires Stakes-winner Hi Ho Julio won’t be the biggest favorite of the evening but should be considered for exotics, especially in league with those offered for this race.
The pair any crowd would focus upon in this, another six-horse field, are on the outside. Predicted the strongest favorite, Lookslikewemadeit plunges into this field—which we spin as more competitive than is displayed. Lookslikewemadeit might, however, have more than her share of trouble from Noisy Nora.
Quentin Schneider’s mare was well on her way to victory last week as the favorite when she jumped while driving from the outside. The run found her in the back of the field at the wire but cannot be ignored as the sole reason she lost. She is from the Custard The Dragon family, the sire that has roots to Camluck and many Canadian earners, and she is on the precipice of her first 2020 win.
Giggle Monster is the morning line (ML) choice with obvious comeback intentions. It was, however, a cover drive, the kind that he usually performs but rarely turns into a win, no less as the public choice.
We have been watching Five Card Draw N, supporting his across-the-board finishes of late and recognize his overland journey against “Giggle” last week as a flair for that one to see clearly. In the handicap, top tagged Its A Great White will get good support, enough to place more value on Five Card Draw N, arguably the most competitive in this kind of mix.
The Open Trot is not always a mind-bending challenge and this one certainly follows that theory. Stepping up into the Open or taking a second shot at it are four of the six going, but to find an outsider that can topple Its A Horse, Pridecrest and Mandeville, you will have to pay attention to them.
Most alluring to us is Windsun Galaxie. The Kadabra 13-year-old has decent credentials that include a win in an Open Trot—at 7-2, a well-supported mile. Early lick has burned him in other miles, dueling with the likes of the top two but here he has little excuse to not be in the mix when hitting the wire (barring a jump). A good upset chance lay in the wake of how the three ML favorites care to joust and/or shuffle one another early.
A whopping 10-horse field is involved in this conditioned pace and yet a strong ML badge goes to Blue Star Maverick as the Western Canada-bred looks for a third-straight win at the track where he has thrived while trained by Kathleen Plested and Steve Wiseman.
On the other hand, the ML for Bunkerhill Bill may be a mis-measuring, as George Reider’s horse is as capable a foe as “Maverick” may meet on the West Coast. The obvious mishap last week from post 9 was merely enough to delay a win, giving that opportunity to Some Playa (in this race) and still finishing second at 5-1.
The 10 hole and series of seconds and thirds may well predict the 10-1 ML but that’s fine with us, who will back an even shorter price as an overlay, since “Bill” is far better than most of these and good enough to ignore however and if the post position affects his mile.
All systems are go to defeat the obvious California Rock in this 10-horse field. It is something we will endure targeting the public’s choice with outsider Reys N A Ruckus.
His recent effort might be described as Edgar Nye said of Wagner’s classical pieces: “Wagner’s music is better than it sounds.” So, stretching the comparison as far as it might go but strongly meaning as much, we say, “Reys N A Ruckus’s performances are much better than they look.”
On March 6, “Reys” finished seventh along with the others finishing very close to the winner, and at 5-1. In the race before that he was 3-1 against California Rock and finished fifth due to the strenuous early duel, which he won to maintain the lead for a good part of the mile. Here, with a ML of 12-1, he becomes our win bet and certainly a strong element for the single- and multi-race exotics.
Gerald Longo’s Place At The Beach is dropped into the near-same level where he last won at about 6-1, which here is his ML. After years of shouting, “Oh no, not again,” when Longo steers an outside contender (for us, at least, not always for the public), there is no way to dismiss this kind of a move or the bulk of talent that Longo has for rolling home first on mounts like this. A win here is a great way to start a Pick 4, if not as a single, and a strong exacta with the obvious Sing Along.
Simply, we employ a second-time entry from our horses-to-watch list (H2W), Sin Machqueen, as our main selection. Here’s Jacob Cutting again conditioning and driving, getting our confidence. This is only the cleverly named Mach Three pacer’s third race this season, a good sign added to other good signs.
Herecomesthethundr figures strongly in the mix for exotics.
The penultimate race in the program brings together seven pacers with a probable-strong favorite, Lodi East My Dust. The trainer change did him good, so to speak, and you don’t have to be a sharp handicapper to measure his worth here.
Still, two others nudge us and may develop into a strong-paying trifecta. Those two are Custards Dungeon and Fox Valley B Gump. The latter, of course, falls into the Cutter Crew that we have been watching and profiting from this meet. The Illinois-bred goes his third try at this level, with the two losses smeared with excuses.
Custards Dungeon just makes sense, showing some nifty trips and reasonable excuses for losing.
Let us not say this is one of the last races we saw during a long quarantine hiatus. Instead, we should approach it as we do all races—with courage.
Dismissing Fear Factor’s dull March 7 effort (hard to find an excuse), Richard Bertrand’s son of Always A Virgin drops from levels above this one into fields where he is far more competitive than his last three at Cal Expo. This may account for a 5-1 ML, addressing some prowess from the line-maker, because Fear Factor’s class rating to the naked eye if not to the calculated figure may still be high.