The Jury: Expert Picks, Bets and Fades for March 9 [Video]

March 7th, 2024

Racing analysts Ashley Anderson, James Scully, and Darin Zoccali argue their best bets and fades for Tampa Bay Derby Day, as well as action at Fair Grounds, Oaklawn, Turfway Park, and more. Ashley and James provide 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:

#12 Witwatersrand (8-1), who will make her turf debut in the Florida Oaks (G3), is my best bet. I loved her Tapeta form last fall and expect her to shine on turf for Mark Casse. A front-running winner at Woodbine the first time out last September, Witwatersrand recorded a sharp 2 3/4-length score in the Mazarine (G3) two starts later, easily defeating odds-on Tripolina, who was exiting a convincing win over next-out Grey (G3) winner Two Ghosts in the Display S. Witwatersrand earned a field-best 93 Brisnet Speed rating last time, she’s the lone graded winner in the Florida Oaks, and the Connect filly is bred to be a good one on turf. Throw out the last start on dirt - Witwatersrand owns the tactical speed to make her own trip from an outside post and I will look for a strong showing.

Ashley Anderson:

#7 Pursuit of Liberty (8-1) in Race 9, the Allen "Black Cat" LaCombe Memorial S. for three-year-old fillies. TwinSpires is offering a Winter Money Back promo for the race, where you can get up to $10 back on your win bet if your horse finishes second or third, and Pursuit of Liberty is a price horse that I see as a legitimate win contender. The Brad Cox runner was last seen winning a one-mile allowance optional claimer at Fair Grounds in her fourth career start and first try on turf. She's returning off a more than two-month layoff and has put in solid workouts in the interim. She'll also keep hot jockey Florent Geroux, a 26% winner this meet who's 3-for-5 the past week with two third-place finishes as well. Pursuit of Liberty's stablemate #1 Ms Quality Control (5-1) is actually a shorter price despite going 0-for-3 on turf, and Pursuit of Liberty's 82 Brisnet Speed figure last out is the best speed at the distance among the field.

#10 Pink Polkadots (9-5) is a heavy morning line favorite and is unbeaten from two starts, but she drew the far outside, and Pursuit of Liberty has the late kick to sit right off of Pink Polkadots' early pace and close late to get up for the win.

Top Fade for Weekend Racing


#7 No More Time (7-5), who took advantage of favorable circumstances in the Sam F. Davis (G3), will be faded in the Tampa Bay Derby (G3). The colt broke on top in the Davis and received token pressure from a pair of rivals who were through by the top of the stretch, leaving him on a clear lead. His main foe that day, runner-up Agate Road, was too far back to catch him after a poor start, but he was gaining on the tiring winner in the latter stages. No More Time registered only a 93 Brisnet Speed rating for the 1 1/4-length score, and I don’t expect such a plum trip on Saturday. In fact, it will be no surprise to see No More Time revert to rating tactics given the other speed entered, and he looks vulnerable at short odds in my estimation.


#6 Hot and Sultry (2-1) in the 1 1/16-mile Azeri (G2), the ninth race at Oaklawn on Saturday. The five-year-old mare failed as the favorite last out when fifth to today's race rival Comparative in the Bayakoa (G3) at today's distance, and the Norm Casse trainee is 0-for-3 at today's distance with one in-the-money finish. Hot and Sultry has two victories from seven starts at Oaklawn, but both came at six furlongs, back in January 2022 when she broke her maiden and in January 2023 in a non-graded stakes.

Casse is also just an 8% winner this meet, and Hot and Sultry will be pushed early by #4 Comparative (3-1) and multiple stakes winner #5 Saddle Up Jessie (4-1), who's 3-for-4 from today's distance, with her lone loss coming by less than a length. Comparative is 3-for-7 from 1 1/16 miles and rides a three-win streak, but recent Houston Ladies Classic (G3) winner #2 Bellamore (5-1) may benefit from a hot pace to close late here. The competition should be a lot to handle for Hot and Sultry, who has never won beyond eight furlongs.

What Else Is Worth Noting


Nine females are entered for Saturday’s $300,000 Beholder Mile (G1) at Santa Anita, including Adare Manor, a four-time graded winner last year, but the presumptive favorite will need to rebound against a nice field following a disappointing seventh in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1). Todd Pletcher will send a pair west, including multiple graded winner Interstatedaydream, who will make her first start for the barn after selling for $1.4 million last November, but I’m intrigued by Pletcher’s other runner, #3 Green Up

A late-starting filly, Green Up returned from a layoff in strong form last year, reeling off four consecutive romping wins, including a pair of stakes, before recording a fourth in the Cotillion (G1) and a third in the Doubledogdare (G3). Those setbacks provided valuable seasoning, and Green Up rebounded with a 4 1/4-length score in the Pumpkin Pie S. to close out 2023. Her triple-digit Brisnet Speed ratings compare favorably to her main rivals, she runs well fresh, and Green Up has the potential to develop into a top-class filly.


The Tampa Bay Derby undercard will feature the Grade 2 Hillsborough S. for fillies and mares racing 1 1/8 miles on the turf. Among the field are a pair of Chad Brown trainees, #1 Fluffy Socks (3-1) and #2 Marketsegmentation (5-2), both graded stakes winners, with Marketsegmentation winning most recently in gate-to-wire fashion in the New York S. (G1) at Belmont. The American Pharoah mare would be my choice among Brown's contingent, but two European shippers look like viable win contenders here too. French-bred #7 Elusive Princess (9-2) triumphed in her U.S. debut back in August in the 1 3/16-mile Saratoga Oaks (G3) before finishing fourth by 2 1/2 lengths to Breeders' Cup Mile (G1) runner-up Mawj in the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (G1) at Keeneland last out. She's returning off a more than four-month layoff for Arnaud Delacour, a 21% winner this meet who also strikes at a 27% rate with horses coming off layoffs of more than 90 days.

The other interesting European-bred runner is #8 Star Fortress (7-2), who made a splash at Churchill Downs in November when romping to a 10-length victory in the Cardinal S. (G3) in her U.S. debut. She disappointed when finishing a five-length 11th in the Pegasus World Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1) after getting checked going into the first turn and bumped turning into the stretch. She has a chance to rebound here for Cherie DeVaux while picking up rider Tyler Gaffalione, who's 3-for-7 to start the meet and a 16% winner on turf.