The Jury: Bets and fades for Dec. 17

December 16th, 2022

With most tracks dark next weekend for the Christmas holiday, bettors looking for a little extra spending money had better take advantage of the action available over the next few days. The TwinSpires Jury of James Scully, Vance Hanson, and Ashley Anderson are back this week with thoughts on the action at Oaklawn, Remington Park, and Los Alamitos.

What is your best bet?

James Scully: #7 Winterwood (8-1) in Saturday’s eighth race at Oaklawn Park. After receiving a freshening and making his comeback on turf, Winterwood rolled to a convincing win over $50,000 starter allowance foes at Churchill Downs, netting a fine 94 Brisnet Speed rating. But he was too far back after breaking poorly in his last outing at this level, rallying commendably for second. The three-year-old showed an affinity for the track and 1 1/16-mile distance earlier this season, breaking his maiden by open lengths at Oaklawn, and he'll look to race close to a projected moderate pace before proving best.

Vance Hanson: The fourth race at Oaklawn on Saturday, a six-furlong maiden, features the return to action of #4 Sinner's Sin (9-2), who was knocking on the door at this level last winter and spring while just falling short a couple of times. He hasn't seen action since finishing up the track in a key maiden at Churchill Downs on May 28, but returns for Oaklawn owner Lou Cella newly gelded and with a positive worktab, including a bullet half-mile last month. The Moquett barn is off fast, too, having won with four of its first eight starters at the meet.

Ashley Anderson: #1 Ari Oakley (5-1) in the Poinsettia S., Saturday's seventh race at Oaklawn. The three-year-old will go for her third straight win after wiring a five-furlong allowance at Churchill Downs last out. The Gun Runner filly won by a neck two back when going gate-to-wire in a $127,000 allowance at the same track and will ship to Oaklawn Park, where she is 3-1-1-1 lifetime. The Steve Asmussen pupil posted the highest last race speed rating among the field (92 Brisnet Speed figure) in her most recent outing and drew the rail post, which is winning at a 23% clip.

Who is the horse to fade?

JS: #3 Run Classic (8-5) in Saturday’s 1 1/8-mile Tinsel S. at Oaklawn. Sidelined 18 months, Run Classic returned this fall with a pair of sharp wins over allowance rivals at Churchill Downs and Keeneland, establishing himself as a one-turn horse to watch in my estimation. Connections decided to try Run Classic again at two turns in a 1 1/16-mile allowance at Churchill on Nov. 13, and 35-1 outsider Farmington Road, who was off form and on his third trainer after failing to reach a winner’s circle outside of Colonial Downs and Tampa Bay Downs over four seasons of racing, got up to defeat the odds-on favorite. Run Classic now stretches to 1 1/8 miles, and I will try to beat him at short odds.

VH: #1 Echo Again (9-5) had no visible excuse when fading badly in the Sept. 17 Iroquois (G3) as as an approximate 3-5 favorite, and while he's certainly better than he showed that day, he's unlikely to offer much value in Saturday night's Remington Springboard Mile. Although regally bred and a blowout maiden winner at Saratoga first out, the Gun Runner colt has something to prove here based on his last start and faces a competitive cast.

AA: In Oaklawn Park's third race on Saturday, a 1 1/16-mile starter allowance for three-year-olds and up, #4 Leader of Men (5-2) is a vulnerable favorite coming off a nearly two-month layoff after finishing third in a similar spot at Keeneland. The War Front six-year-old won at today's distance three back in an off-the-turf starter optional claimer at Horseshoe Indianapolis, but the gelding has not performed well at Oaklawn, going 5-0-1-0 lifetime at the track. I will instead take a chance with #6 Fredonian (9-2), who posted an 84 Brisnet Speed rating when finishing a neck second in a one-mile, 70-yard optional claimer two back at Remington Park. A switch to hot jockey Cristian Torres (35% winner at Oaklawn) can help the War Front grandson get to the winner's circle. #7 Flowers for Lisa (4-1) also has a chance in his second start since returning to the barn of Jerry Hollendorfer and showed good speed at today's distance when finishing third against similar last out at Delaware Park. Francisco Arrieta will pick up the mount and is winning at a 21% rate at Oaklawn this meet and a 19% rate with route distances.

What else is worth noting?

JS: #1 In Love (4-1) will look to transfer his turf form to Tapeta in Saturday’s $125,000 Prairie Bayou S. at Turfway Park, and the six-year-old Grade 1 winner appears to be rounding back into condition for Paulo Lobo. A close second in a stakes-quality turf allowance at Keeneland two back, In Love offered a good middle move for third in the River City H. on Churchill Downs’ main track last time. Once the gelding gets in form, In Love will string together performances. He reeled off three consecutive wins last year, and he should be rolling late in the Prairie Bayou.

VH: Going back to the Remington Springboard Mile, #6 American Outlaw (15-1) appears overvalued on the morning line. Although he wouldn't necessarily be our top selection, he does look an interesting candidate for those diving into the exacta and trifecta pools. An easy debut winner over the track going five furlongs, he ran quite well in a track-and-distance allowance prep, missing by a length after setting the pace. American Outlaw might rate more kindly with blinkers off here, and trainer Todd Fincher has won with five of his first 11 starters at the meet plus trained Senor Buscador to a win in this race two years ago.

AA: The 1 1/16-mile Los Alamitos Futurity (G2), a Kentucky Derby prep race, will feature a small but competitive field of five, highlighted by Bob Baffert trainee #5 Arabian Lion (4-5), who was outdueled by unbeaten Giant Mischief last out in an allowance at Keeneland on the Breeders' Cup Friday undercard. The Justify colt will try a route for the first time on Saturday while facing stablemate #3 Fort Bragg (4-1), who may be the best Baffert play among the field after he wired a 1 1/16-mile maiden special weight at Santa Anita while posting a 93 Brisnet Speed rating. Baffert has also entered #2 Carmel Road (2-1), who placed 13th of 14 in the Breeders' Futurity (G1) last out but romped to an 8 3/4-length win in a one-mile maiden special weight two back.