The Jury: Bets and fades for Jan. 21

January 20th, 2023

This weekend's action is highlighted by the "Road to the Derby Day" program at Fair Grounds, featuring the Lecomte (G3). James Scully, Vance Hanson, and Ashley Anderson have their say on that card and others in this week's TwinSpires Jury discussion.

What is your best bet?

James Scully: #4 Spartan Queen (6-1) in the sixth race at Fair Grounds Saturday. In her Dec. 31 career debut, the Medaglia d’Oro filly raced in spots and traveled wide before finishing with good energy to be a clear second to Amber Cascade, who will contest the Silverbulletday later on the program. Spartan Queen netted solid Brisnet numbers in the 1 1/16-mile race and appears to be training forwardly since, recording a quick five-furlong drill for Michelle Lovell, and I expect her to move forward with a strong showing in her second outing.

Vance Hanson: Saturday's third race at Fair Grounds, a maiden event for three-year-olds going 1 1/16 miles, looks like a good spot for second-time starter #8 Mo Hope (5-1). The son of the long-winded Mo Town was doing his best running at the end of his six-furlong debut and, while though no threat to the winner, he finished a clear and promising second. The Paul McGee trainee appears as if he'll relish the additional ground here and should show natural improvement with that initial experience behind him.

Ashley Anderson: #4 Paco’s Pico (4-1) in Gulfstream’s ninth race on Saturday, a six-furlong allowance optional claimer for four-year-olds. The Candy Ride gelding finished first or second in his last four at today’s distance, most recently winning by 1 3/4 lengths in a six-furlong allowance optional claimer while posting a 99 Brisnet Speed rating, the highest speed figure at today’s distance among the field. He followed up that win by stretching out to seven furlongs at Gulfstream but was bumped at the start and ultimately evened out inside the final furlong for show. He can bounce back with the cutback to six furlongs, a distance from which he owns a 5-2-2-1 record.

Who is the horse to fade?

JS: #4 Hypersport (7-5) in the fourth race at Oaklawn Park Saturday. The four-year-old filly has not been a serious threat, finishing second in three of her last four outings, recording four seconds and a third from nine career outings, and the early/presser had everything her own way in the lone win. Hypersport has a dangerous speed rival to her inside and looks vulnerable at short odds.

VH: #2 Manny Wah (9-5) is the early choice in the Duncan F. Kenner S. at Fair Grounds, a race he won two years ago. But even with the relative modesty of the competition, he's been too inconsistent a visitor to the winner's circle for my taste to like at such a short price. However, this stand is dependent on the race staying on the turf, as scheduled. If it's rained off, Manny Wah figures to be no better than third choice if the also-eligibles Surveillance and Bango happen to draw in.

AA: #2 Charlie’s Penny (3-1) opened as a slight morning line favorite in the Marie G. Krantz Memorial S., Race 5 on Fair Grounds’ Saturday card, but the five-year-old has raced just once on turf, finishing second when sprinting 5 1/2 furlongs. The Race Day mare joined the barn of Chris Block late last year and has since run twice on dirt at seven furlongs and a mile and 70 yards, winning the former by 1 1/2 lengths and coming home third by 2 1/2 lengths when stretching out to a route. Block is just a 10% winner with horses transitioning from dirt to turf, and Charlie’s Penny has never raced as far as 1 1/16 miles. I’ll instead back #3 Lake Lucerne (7-2), who failed as the favorite last out when running near today’s distance at this track, finishing three-quarters of a length in third with a belated rally. The Dubawi mare can rebound here for Brendan Walsh, a 24% winner with beaten favorites.

What else is worth noting?

JS: The undercard of the Lecomte (G3) at Fair Grounds always features productive maiden special weight races, and six maiden events for open three-year-olds will be offered Saturday. In the second race, #4 Evergrande, a $1.1 million filly by Uncle Mo, will make her career debut for Steve Asmussen with a recent half-mile bullet workout in tow. #4 L J’s Emma, an Into Mischief filly who appears to be training forwardly for Eddie Kenneally, is listed as the 3-1 choice and will race with Luis Saez in the fourth race. In the seventh race, Asmussen will be represented by #5 City Nights and #3 First Defender, a pair of well-bred colts who figure to attract support in their first career outing. And in the 10th race, the Hall of Fame trainer will send out firster #6 Kauai Dan, a Stonestreet Stables homebred Quality Road colt who is out of multiple Grade 2-winning juvenile Kauai Katie.

VH: I'm typically not a big follower or believer in most morning lines, though I find it interesting that #4 L J's Emma (3-1) was made the lukewarm early choice for Fair Grounds' fourth race, a six-furlong maiden for three-year-old fillies, especially since trainers Brad Cox and Steve Asmussen also have first-time starters in the field. Nonetheless, L J's Emma might be a filly to keep an eye on. Not only is she by leading sire Into Mischief, she turned in a flattering five-furlong breeze on Dec. 29 (a bullet in :59.20) and hails from a barn (Eddie Kenneally) that has struck consistently from limited starters this meet (3 for its first 8). Luis Saez will be aboard, too.

AA: Kentucky Derby hopeful Instant Coffee and stablemate Tapit’s Conquest may be a primary focus at Fair Grounds on Saturday in the Lecomte, but trainer Brad Cox has a handful of other horses to watch earlier in the day who may come into play on the Derby and Kentucky Oaks trails. In Race 9 on Saturday’s Fair Grounds card, Tapit Shoes, a Tapit son by a Flower Alley mare, will race in a 1 1/16-mile allowance optional claimer, into which Tapit’s Conquest has been cross-entered. In Pool 3 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager (KDFW) (offered from noon ET on Friday until Sunday at 6 p.m.), Tapit Shoes was revealed as a 50-1 choice in the pool, while Tapit’s Conquest was listed at 99-1. Banishing (a 40-1 choice from the barn of Brendan Walsh) will also compete in Race 9. As for Kentucky Oaks candidates, Cox will race 8-5 morning line favorite Chop Chop in the Silverbulletday — which will award Oaks qualifying points — but has another hopeful in The Alys Look, second in her stakes debut in the Untapable at Fair Grounds on Dec. 26. Chop Chop will drop in class after finishing last as the favorite in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) and is likely set for a big race, but if The Alys Look manages to play spoiler here, she’ll be one to track on the road to the Oaks.