The Jury: Bets and fades for Feb. 4
A lot of graded stakes are on tap Saturday at Gulfstream, Santa Anita, and Tampa Bay Downs, but the TwinSpires Jury has characteristically cast a wide net in search of their best plays of the weekend.
What is your best bet?
James Scully: #9 Patrolman (5-1) in Saturday’s third race at Oaklawn Park. The four-year-old colt showed improved speed stretching out in his second start last time, and Patrolman looks poised to receive a favorable trip on the front end in a field lacking speed. Rafael Bejarano picks up the mount on the son of Empire Maker, and John Ortiz’s barn may be warming up, sending out a nice winner Sunday. I’ll tab Patrolman for a frontrunning win.
Vance Hanson: #8 Heavenly Sunday (5-1) offers value in the Sweetest Chant (G3) for three-year-old turf fillies at Gulfstream Park. The Brad Cox-trained daughter of Candy Ride is undefeated from two starts and both were achieved comfortably, beginning with a seven-length maiden score at Horseshoe Indianapolis last September. In an allowance at Keeneland in late October, Heavenly Sunday waited patiently for room in upper stretch and, when it appeared, she kicked away from the field to win by 2 3/4 lengths while signaling her stakes potential. With limited grass offerings at her Fair Grounds base, it's encouraging to see connections shipping and taking a shot against a group which doesn't appear that much faster on paper and against whom she can be competitive with mild progression.
Ashley Anderson: #7 Lovely Ride (3-1) can upset slight morning line favorite #1 A Mo Reay, a Brad Cox pupil coming off a three-length win in the $100,000 Pago Hop S., when the two face off in the Bayakoa S. (G3) at Oaklawn on Saturday. Back-to-back winner of the one-mile Mistletoe and 1 1/16-mile Pippin at Oaklawn, Lovely Ride will go for her third straight win here and re-opposes a number of rivals from the Pippin, which she wired in 1:44.04. Trainer Robertino Diodoro is an impressive 23-for-80 at Oaklawn this meet and strikes at a 27% clip with horses that won their last race. Jockey Cristian Torres will stay in the saddle and has won 32% of his last 53 races paired with Diodoro.
Who is the horse to fade?
JS: Cyclone Mischief (2-1) promises to be bet down in the 1 1/16-mile Holy Bull (G3) following a sharp entry-level allowance win at Gulfstream, netting a 99 Brisnet Speed rating for the 5 3/4-length win, but it came at a one-turn mile. His slowest races have come at two turns, generating only a 77 figure in a Keeneland maiden win and finishing seventh in a low-rated Kentucky Jockey Club (G2). I will try to beat the favorite on the stretch back out to two turns.
VH: #6 Super Chow (6-5) has been virtually invincible in sprint stakes the past several months, but I'll take a stand against him in the Swale (G3) at Gulfstream. Although clearly fastest on the figures, this will mark the colt's first try at seven furlongs, which could prove troublesome if any sort of serious pressure is applied to him early, in particular from Two of a Kind, who is likely to strip fitter after getting left behind by Super Chow last time following an extended layoff. General Jim is the most likely beneficiary if both come back to the field.
AA: #3 Late September (2-1) in the LA Bred Premier Prince S., part of Louisiana Premier Night, was listed as the morning line favorite in the one-mile event but has yet to stretch out beyond seven furlongs, a distance from which he won by a length over today’s race rival King’s Lute. The Munnings colt has since raced in a trio of sprints between 5 1/2 and six furlongs, winning the Louisiana Champions Day Juvenile S. two back at Fair Grounds, before finishing 11 lengths in fourth in the Sugar Bowl S. at the same track. Late September’s recent Late Pace Speed figures give cause for concern in his first try at a mile, and with his morning line price, I will look elsewhere. I’ll instead back #7 Marks Promise (4-1), who is undefeated in two starts, winning 5 1/2- and six-furlong sprints by a combined 12 3/4 lengths at Delta Downs. Trainer Karl Broberg (21% winner this meet) is an 18% winner with horses making their first start at a route, while regular rider C.J. McMahon wins at a 19% rate at route distances and is 5-for-17 paired with Broberg over the last 14 days.
What else is worth noting?
JS: Following a spectacular Keeneland allowance win, Le Da Vida (7-2) has been favored in both stakes appearances at Oaklawn. She didn’t fire over a sloppy track in the Mistletoe S., but ran better finishing third in the Pippin S. last out. And the Ignacio Correas-trained mare may receive a more favorable setup in Saturday’s Bayakoa (G3). Lovely Ride, who led wire-to-wire in the Mistletoe and Pippin, is eligible to face more pressure, and I give the edge to Le Da Vida.
VH: Although greatly disappointed when he went to the sidelines after an eye-catching win in the Henry Clark S. at Laurel last April, I'm excited for the return to action of #10 Chez Pierre (3-1) in the Tampa Bay (G3) on Saturday. The undefeated French-bred gelding looked a potential star taking the Henry Clark by 5 1/2 lengths in his stakes debut, and probably would have landed a Grade 2 on Preakness Day if he had not been removed from consideration. Chez Pierre took his U.S. debut over the Tampa turf last March and I'm expecting trainer Arnaud Delacour to have him in solid shape despite the long spell.
AA: Todd Pletcher three-year-olds Tapit Trice and Shesterkin — both on the radar for the 2023 Kentucky Derby (G1) — will race in a first-level allowance at Gulfstream on Saturday. Tapit Trice, who graduated in his second career race in a one-mile maiden special weight at Aqueduct, will make his third start here and will get the services of hot jockey Luis Saez. The Tapit colt closed at 45-1 odds in Pool 3 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager. His stablemate did not draw the same support in the pool, closing at 103-1 odds, but Shesterkin was named the 8-5 morning line favorite here. The son of Violence won by 2 1/4 lengths in his only career start, a seven-furlong maiden special weight at Gulfstream. Irad Ortiz Jr. will stick with the dark bay in his first try at a route distance, and Shesterkin will break from the outside, from post 7, while Tapit Trice drew the rail and is listed at 9-5 on the morning line. Both will be competitive but if you're looking for value, #3 Classic Car Wash (7-2) is intriguing for trainer Mark Casse. The three-year-old gelding romped to an 8 1/2-length win in a seven-furlong maiden optional claimer in December at this track, then stretched out to a mile and 70 yards on Gulfstream’s Tapeta to score a 2 1/2-length tally in an allowance on Jan. 6. The Birdstone grandson moves up in class here and posted a pair of bullet, four-furlong workouts in January, suggesting he's sharp and ready.