The Jury: Bets and fades for Feb. 18

February 17th, 2023

James Scully, Vance Hanson, and Ashley Anderson reconvene to deliberate on an excellent day of racing from coast to coast, highlighted by Louisiana Derby Preview Day at Fair Grounds

What is your best bet?

James Scully: #2 Run Classic (10-1) in the Mineshaft (G3) at Fair Grounds. A sharp winner in a pair of one-turn starts last fall, Run Classic has dropped three consecutive efforts at two turns, including a fourth in the Jan. 21 Louisiana (G3), and he seems destined to cut back at some point this season. But the 1 1/16-mile Mineshaft lacks the pace of the Louisiana, with no true speed types entered in the nine-horse field, and that provides a tactical advantage for Run Classic, who has registered triple-digit Brisnet E1 and E2 Pace ratings in recent starts. The five-year-old is well-drawn to the inside with new rider Reylu Gutierrez, and I’ll tab Run Classic on the front end.

Vance Hanson: Provided the Colonel Power S. at Fair Grounds stays on the turf as scheduled, and the weather forecast suggests there's no reason why it shouldn't, #4 Pyron (10-1) deserves a look to repeat in the about 5 1/2-furlong turf dash at a nice price. The seven-year-old ran two solid races over this course last winter, including an upset win over odds-on favorite Just Might in the Colonel Power. While his subsequent form in Kentucky and Virginia was rather ugly, Pyron tends to run much better in New Orleans and will offer value here.

Ashley Anderson: #2 Nimitz Class (5-1) won by a half-length last out at 1 1/16 miles, the same distance from which he’ll run in the John B. Campbell S. at Laurel Park on Saturday. The Munnings colt recorded a 98 Brisnet Speed rating in the process while beating a handful of today’s rivals and earned his second win from three tries at 8 1/2 furlongs. Trainer Bruce Kravets is a 15% winner with horses that won their last race and a 20% winner this meet. Jockey Jevian Toledo will stick with the colt, opting to stay with the four-year-old over #3 Treasure Trove (6-1). Nimitz Class has also posted a pair of sharp workouts ahead of this race and can upset #5 Ournationonparade (3-1), who has failed as the favorite in his last three starts.

Who is the horse to fade?

JS: Grade 2 winners Ginobili (5-2) and West Will Power (2-1), the top two choices on the morning line in the Razorback (G3) at Oaklawn Park, are vulnerable in my estimation. The frontrunners will ensure a favorable setup for #2 Law Professor (7-2), who invades from New York off a sharp score in the Jan. 7 Queens County S. at Aqueduct. The stalker’s Brisnet numbers are top-notch, and Law Professor enters on the upswing for Rob Atras. Jose Ortiz will be in to ride the top choice.

VH: With 13 rivals to face and no guarantee of an easy lead from an outside draw, I'll take a stand against morning line favorite #13 Victory Formation (3-1) in the Risen Star (G2). Although the Brad Cox barn has been running hot all winter, including victories in the first two Kentucky Derby (G1) preps at Fair Grounds, Victory Formation's seeming one-dimensional style might encounter difficulties here, especially as he stretches out to 1 1/8 miles against a fairly salty field. He's simply unattractive at the expected price.

AA: #1 Panther Island (7-2) is a lukewarm favorite among an overflow field of 14 (with two also-eligibles) in the five-furlong Turf Dash S. at Tampa Bay Downs. The Speightstown colt finished a nose second in a five-furlong allowance optional claimer at Gulfstream Park last out while trained by Ruben Gracida, but new trainer Laura Cazares is just an 8% winner in non-graded stakes and a 4% winner with shippers. Panther Island’s most recent Speed figure (90) is also lower than the par winning Speed figure for today’s conditions, and a number of rivals appear suited for an upset here. Among them are #4 The Critical Way (5-1), who can improve with the cutback in distance, #3 Fluid Situation (6-1), for high-percentage trainer John Terranova and hot jockey Samy Camacho, and #8 County Final (6-1), who came home fifth by two lengths in the five-furlong Gulfstream Park Turf Sprint (G3) last out.

What else is worth noting?

JS: I respect the chances of #5 Harlocap and #13 Victory Formation in Saturday’s Risen Star, which anchors a $500,000 guaranteed All-Stakes Pick 5 pool at Fair Grounds, but they look like quality speed types who are eligible to set the table for a horse who can finish. #8 Tapit’s Conquest fits the bill and can’t be dismissed, but I’ve landed on an improving colt at long projected odds, #12 Crupi (15-1). The late-running son of Curlin exits a fast race, easily registering the top last-out Brisnet Speed rating (98), and was up against it pace-wise versus Slip Mahoney, who displayed outstanding courage to deny his rival by a head. Crupi will move forward off the strong showing for two-time Kentucky Derby-winning trainer Todd Pletcher.

VH: Oaklawn Park's sixth race, a 1 1/16-mile first-level allowance for three-year-olds, could yield a surprising contender in #8 Ben's Legacy (10-1). A dual starter at the meet already, Ben's Legacy bounced back from a debut third to break his maiden by 1 1/4 lengths last month going six furlongs, which netted him a competitive 92 Brisnet Speed rating. The stretch-out to two turns doesn't figure to pose a problem from a pedigree perspective as he's a More Than Ready full brother to champion turf mare Rushing Fall.

AA: Unbeaten three-year-old #2 Hoosier Philly (6-5) may be positioned for an upcoming Kentucky Derby prep depending on her performance in Saturday’s Rachel Alexandra (G2) at Fair Grounds. The Tom Amoss pupil opened as the slight morning line favorite over Brad Cox trainee #4 Chop Chop (8-5), who failed as the favorite in her last two starts, the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) and Silverbulletday S. While the spotlight is on Hoosier Philly, who closed as an 11-1 choice in Pool 4 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager, Chop Chop may see improvement with first-time blinkers, and longshot #6 Miracle (12-1) is one to keep an eye on in her first start for Todd Pletcher. The Mendelssohn daughter finished a length second in the Maid of the Mist S. at Aqueduct last out while trained by Rodolphe Brisset, but she may be a whole new filly coming off a more than three-month layoff while under the care of Pletcher, a 23% winner with horses making their first start with the trainer. The pacesetter posted a sharp four-furlong workout ahead of this event, and she’s the lone speed in this race, with a chance to gain an early lead while breaking from the outside. John Velazquez is named to ride and strikes at a 23% rate with route distances.