Catching My Eye: Fair Grounds Feb. 25-26

March 2nd, 2023

Racing analyst Kevin Kilroy discusses a group of three-year-olds who caught his attention at Fair Grounds during the final weekend of February.

Saturday, Feb. 25

In a competitive six-furlong sprint for three-year-olds on Saturday, Gilcrease is the one who caught my eye, though he did not win.

Making his second start, his first as a three-year-old, Gilcrease tried to come from off the pace on a day when front-runners were king. Yes, Lanerie guided this Al Stall trainee to save ground along the rail, and that was part of the day’s track bias, but chasing down the loose on the lead winner, Invulnerable, just wasn't going to happen, though he put in a game bid.

The More Than Ready colt improved to a 90 Brisnet Speed figure, so I’ll take Gilcrease out of that race.

But still Invulnerable was impressive. After flirting with Derby dreams running in the salty 1 1/16-mile allowance race on the Lecomte Day undercard, Sharp brought this son of Practical Joke back to reality and cut back to a sprint distance. Yes, Invulnerable benefited from the track bias and will likely have no value in his next race, but still, this runner was sharp early and did not seem to tire late after scorching through a sub-22 second opening fraction.

Invulnerable beat a nice field that, beyond Gilcrease, included Distorted Pro, Natural Harbor, and Toddchero, who have all threatened to be strong sophomore sprinters. For his effort he earned a 95 Brisnet Speed figure.

The Ron Faucheux barn has been hot, winning six races last week, and no performance was more impressive than Allnight Moonlight winning the Half Ours Stakes.

The barn has been talking about this 3-year-old by Ransom the Moon since before the meet began, and though he disappointed sprinting the first few times out, going two turns was always the plan. Once the blinkers were added, this runner figured it all out and has found himself on the lead in two straight races, demonstrating both his gate speed and finish.

Running an 81 Brisnet Speed figure, I am more impressed by his early pace figures as he ran a 99 early 1 and 96 early 2 from Brisnet. Faucheux says he’ll go longer and possibly turf will be his best surface.

Sunday, Feb. 26

Turf has been the plan for 3-year-old filly Camp Akeela all along. However, finding a turf race has been hard and this daughter of Laoban hasn't been on the grass since September at Saratoga. The Joel Politi-owned, Tom Amoss-trained Camp Akeela demonstrated why on Sunday in Race 7. A front-runner facing a field with promising pedigree, she was able to wire the field to break her maiden, holding off a game late effort by More Than Glory. Camp Akeela earned a 76 Brisnet Speed figure.

Also in this race were two first-time starters who I thought ran well and I’ll look to bet back.

First, the Godolphin-homebred Heckled. Running out of Mike Stidham’s barn, Heckled was bet down to 5-2 favoritism, so undoubtedly the works and pedigree are there, and the connections were confident.

She had the opportunity to learn plenty in this race. She was sandwiched out of the gate. In both turns she was in tight and tossed her head uncomfortably, losing ground and position both times. She ran aggressively early on getting right behind the front runner, and I would not be surprised to see her forwardly placed in her next race. Running a 72 Brisnet Speed figure, she has a solid first race to build upon.

A heavily-bet, first-time starter from Brendan Walsh’s barn, More Than Glory was able to manage a nice second-place finish with the rail draw A difficult task for a debut run, she handled it like a pro, and was able to tip off to charge down the outside of the track, showing off her late turn of foot. Camp Akeela was able to battle her off but More Than Glory proved her mind is there for racing.

The Walsh barn in no way looks to have their runners cranked at first asking, so when one does fire a nice debut effort, I trust she’s a runner. Seeing the 75 Brisnet Speed figure gives me confidence, too.