The Jury: Expert Picks, Bets and Fades for Feb. 24 [Video]

February 22nd, 2024

Racing analysts Ashley Anderson, James Scully, and Darin Zoccali look ahead to the Rebel (G2) at Oaklawn Park, plus racing at Gulfstream, Turfway, Saudi Arabia, and Dubai. Ashley and James give their thoughts in the written portion below. Be sure to check out Darin's opinions in our on-camera portion as well!

Best Bet for Weekend Racing

James Scully:

#5 Peppers Girlfriend (8-1), who will contest the fifth race at Oaklawn Park Saturday, is my best bet. After missing the break and rallying belatedly in debut, the three-year-old filly stretched to two turns and launched a strong move past rivals on the far turn last time. I expect further improvement from the Donnie Von Hemel-trained Candy Ride filly, and Peppers Girlfriend does not appear to be facing a fast group. She rates top billing with Luis Fuentes.

Ashley Anderson:

#1 Carbone (15-1) in the Rebel S., Race 11 at Oaklawn on Saturday. The Mitole colt will return off a distant seventh in the Southwest (G3), where he was sent off as the favorite, and will face a formidable Brad Cox runner in Timberlake, who's 6-5 on the morning line. While Timberlake has posted back-to-back triple-digit Brisnet Speed figures, he's unproven at two turns. He won the Champagne (G1) at a one-turn mile on a sloppy track, then finished an eight-length fourth in his next start, the 1 1/16-mile Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1). The winner of the Juvenile, Fierceness, put in a dud in his ensuing start, the Holy Bull (G3), where he came home third, and Timberlake's price is way too short for me heading into his second two-turn start. I'll look to beat him with early pacesetter Carbone, who has the second-highest Brisnet Prime Power rating and won by four lengths at a mile at Oaklawn two back.

The sloppy track for the Southwest may have affected Carbone, and he should get a fast track on Saturday. He's also picking up Isaac Castillo, who's winning at a 28% rate at Oaklawn, and trainer Steve Asmussen is a 23% winner with horses that were beaten as the favorite in their last start. He's also won the Rebel four times, most recently in 2019 with a longshot, Long Range Toddy.

Top Fade for Weekend Racing


#6 West Omaha (7-5), the prohibitive favorite over nine rivals in the Honeybee (G3) at Oaklawn, rates as my fade. A non-threatening second to Alpine Princess in the Untapable S. two back, West Omaha avoided that rival and other top three-year-old fillies at Fair Grounds, when defeating a small field in the Silverbulletday S., and her Brisnet Speed rating decreased in the second two-turn attempt. I will look to beat West Omaha in the 1 1/16-mile race, tabbing #1 Alys Beach (10-1) in her comebacker for Tom Amoss.


#4 Ain't Life Grand (7-2) in the Razorback H., R10 at Oaklawn. The five-year-old by Uncle Mo is coming off a seven-month layoff for trainer Kelly Von Hemel, who's an 11% winner with horses returning off a layoff of 90 days or more. Ain't Life Grand is also 0-for-2 facing graded stakes company, with a third in the Cornhusker H. (G3) last out and a seventh in the Travers (G1) in 2022. The Iowa-bred has put in sharp workouts and has one win at Oaklawn, but off the long rest, I'll stand against him and look to a few price horses, like #2 Frosted Departure (15-1), #3 Speed Bias (6-1), and #11 Notary (10-1).

What Else Is Worth Noting


Saturday’s 14-horse, $20 million Saudi Cup (G1) will feature a strong American contingent, including Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) hero White Abarrio, Pegasus World Cup (G1) winner National Treasure, and Grade 1 scorer Saudi Crown, and Derma Sotogake and Ushba Tesoro highlight a formidable quintet from Japan, which will look to win the 1 1/8-mile race for the second consecutive year. I liked Saudi Crown’s comeback performance, a romping win in January’s Louisiana (G3) at Fair Grounds, and the late-blooming colt has always appeared to be the type who would be better at age four in my estimation. The one-turn Saudi Cup configuration and post draw (5) look favorable, and I will tab Saudi Crown for top honors.


The Group 3 UAE Oaks will take place Friday in Dubai and will award 50 points to the winner on the Road to the Kentucky Oaks. The about 1 3/16-mile race drew a field of six, including Star Guitar filly Manama Gold, who's a full sister to stakes winner Ova Charged. Last out, Manama Gold won by more than nine lengths in the Cocoa Beach S. while facing a few of today's rivals and should be tough to beat for trainer Fawzi Nass, who won this race in 2022 with Shahama, the eventual winner of the Monmouth Oaks (G3) after transferring to Todd Pletcher's barn. The last two winners of the UAE Oaks went on to race in the Kentucky Oaks, with Shahama sixth in the premier Churchill Downs race and last year's victress Mimi Kakushi an eighth-place also-ran under the Twin Spires.