Racing Dudes Challenge

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A week ago, Racing Dudes offered on its Twitter feed a novel idea for weekends on its site.  They crafted a Sunday challenge with ten races from around the county, and using $2 faux win/place wagers to keep score, planned to put their picks out on public display, with take-on-all-comers policy of opponent selection.

I liked the challenge.  At Chicagonow, you get praised (comments, texts, tweets) for good picks and bringing home big scores.  You get a not-so-kind fate if your picks struggle.

Those ideas intersect as I go head-to-head with Racing Dudes this Sunday in their challenge.  The ten races were selected Thursday evening, and here’s my contest ballot of win-only selections with reasons. Contest entrants are bolded, and since the contest requires only one horse per race, "longshots to watch" are not given.  (It's also testing a new format; and feedback of all ranges is encouraged.)

All races are for Sunday March 2nd and all times given are central time. Turf races are selected “turf only”.

Gulfstream Park -- Race 3 -- $35K Maiden Claimer -- 1 1/16 miles on turf -- post time 1:05 pm CT

Todd Pletcher has tons of horses in his stable, especially those smexy three-year-olds.  But he can train a grass horse as well as anyone (see: Honey Ryder, English Channel).  He sends out #4 SCAT LEADER (5/1) who goes out in career start two.  He didn’t have much punch in the stretch but was four wide per the chartcaller.  Maybe a more inside trip helps, plus he drops from maiden special weights to maiden claimers.

If you’re the 1-2-3 type, the others I’d look at (and would be my alternates) are #5 KWACHA (8/1) (does he get to walk on the front end?) and #3 SKESTOS (12/1) (who goes first time two turns for a sneaky-good trainer and has a good regular work tab.)

Gulfstream Park -- Race 4 -- Maiden Special Weight -- 6 furlongs on dirt -- post time 1:35 pm CT

#8 LOVE YOU LOADS (5/2) gets the nod in what I felt was a tricky race to decode, as I’ll hope for a Pletcher/Pletcher double in the contest.  LOVE YOU LOADS ran behind two next out winners in career start one and was second.  That’s nice, but I like the fact this one rallied in the lane even when beaten, not the easiest thing to do at Gulfstream when the No Passing Zone signs are up and a sign this one could progress in start two.  Luis Saez gets the call, and he has two wins and seven money finishes when getting on Pletcher horses.

If you’re a fan of 1-2-3 selections, then #3 CALI STAR (4/1) from the Rosario/Mott team could make a similar second start jump.  First time starter #2 PROUD GIRL (10/1), while he does have a 7% wins first time trainer (yuck) is also bred maternally to sprint (not-so-yuck).

Tampa Bay Downs -- Race 6 -- Maiden Special Weight -- 1 Mile on turf -- post time 1:55 pm CT

A lot of big name trainers have the east and midwest have runners in this two-turn maiden event.  I’ll go with a smaller name trainer, Michael Passero, for my selection of #7 LAWYER CHARLES (8/1).  While he moved from sixth to second in the stretch, he did make up a length while losing to a winner by six lengths last time over the Tampa green.  Improvement second time is possible, and it’s helped by a trainer that has two wins and two money finishes in sixteen career second start situations.

If you’re the 1-2-3 type, another second time starter is #6 FORT COLLINS (12/1) from J. Sheppard’s barn and #3 GUTS AND GLORY (5/2) from the Graham Motion’s shedrow, who brings in three seconds in five starts as a “sooner or later, he’ll get a weak enough group” type.

Oaklawn Park -- Race 2 -- $7500 Arkansas-Bred N2L Claimer -- 6 furlongs on dirt -- post time 1:57 CST

We go from big names to a bottom level claimer for state-breds, predictably on the Racing Dudes’s home turf.  (Why couldn’t they give me the Illinois-bred N2X allowance at Hawthorne where MAGNA FORTUNA is coming back but is a play against at a distance too short?)

Enough moaning and groaning.  This is a wide-open spin on the lower level claiming wheel.  #12 MISS ADDICATE (5/2) ran, on paper, a winning race for his group last time out in an open $7500 N2L claimer, and dropping to the in-state version may get the win.  There will be pace from SNEAKY SWEET, and the outside posts in one-turn races have been more advantageous in Arkansas.

For the 1-2-3 types, #3 SNEAKY SWEET (6/1) might get left alone but this is a bulky field and her last may be an abberation.  #9 KATHLEEN (4/1) plunges to a new low on the class ladder but hasn’t won in eons.

Aqueduct -- Race 8 -- N1X/$75K Allowance Optional Claimer -- 5 ½ furlongs on dirt -- post time  2:48 CST

One move I don’t like in allowance optional claimers is when you clear the allowance condition and then run back for the claiming tag, instead of going to the next level.  Morning line favorite HENRY’S GAL won last time in the allowance condition but trainer D. Jacobson has her in for the claiming tag.  I’ll try to beat her, even though she is being ridden by the aforementioned Taylor Rice, a likable transplant from Hawthorne that's riding her way out of the Chicago colony.

Instead, I’ll take another apprentice rider, Trevor McCarthy, on #8 MY GIRL MADISON (3/1). She won at first asking at today’s 5 ½ furlong distance at Aqueduct in a $50K maiden claimer.  With his home base of Laurel Park in Maryland dark on Sundays, McCarthy goes north and takes a return call on a horse he won with at first asking at 11-1.  The other time the jockey/trainer team got together, they hit the board.  Shows a post-race bullet workout.

For 1-2-3 types, I’ll respect #5 HENRY’S GAL (5/2) for clearing the allowance condition. #10 BRIDGET MALONEY (6/1) cleared this condition two starts back but was beaten by a city block in the $100K Dearly Precious and returns to a realistic level.

Gulfstream Park -- Race 7 -- $30000 N2L Claimer -- 1 /16 mile on turf -- post time 3:08 pm CST

This looks like an affair featuring a group of average-tastic horses.  Let’s take the new face in the gang, #5 HIT SQUAD (6/1), who graduated last time for $25,000 in a maiden claimer with a four-wide sweeping move while being forwardly placed.  Maybe the light bulb is on after that effort, and on figures it compares well to the others.  Trainer has three wins in nine starts at the meet, one with Joe Bravo who climbs aboard.  Trainer all last year was near twenty percent wins on the weeds.

The horse who scares me (and would be my second choice/alternate) is #8 TIE DYE (5/1) , who might just get the lead like he did three back.  He was facing “B” claimers last year and has cashed checks at this level in the last two starts.  He could be the lone pace, but he’s one for fifteen and not something you can trust. Another possible candidate for the 1-2-3 types is #4 ALMOST AN ANGEL (4/1) for his powerful jockey/trainer combination.

Oaklawn Park -- Race 5 -- $7500 “B” claimer -- 5 ½ furlongs on dirt -- post time 3:19 CST

Back to Arkansas, back to $7500 conditioned claimers. I’m going to try for a price in this race with a sneaky-snug conditions fit in #2 JESS N NAT (15/1). This Glyshaw-trained five-year-old won for open $10K company twice during the Remington meet and was claimed two starts back.  The sneaky conditions (never won three, or have not won a race since November 2) come into play as this one last won in late October.  Although the trainer is 1-for-22 on the meet, he recuits a top local rider and shows positive financial returns in the second start off trainer change and claim.  While she appears to have the passing skills of a rooted tree, perhaps she gets clear and gets brave.

Exotic players could clue in on #11 JESSE’S GIACOMO (15/1), a closer in a field full of speed who gets a switch to a patient rider and goes third off the layoff, as well as class dropping #12 UPTOWN BABE (5/1) for the Chicago-based owner/trainer team of Midwest Throughbreds/R. Brueggemann, who astutely spot as well as anyone.

Oaklawn Park -- Race 8 -- N1X Allowance -- 6 furlongs on dirt -- post time 4:42 CST

Pretty hard to look away from a trainer hitting at better than thirty-five percent wins, and that’s the story on #7 A. P. CORSAIR (4/1). Claimed last time after a victory, the trainer is also winning at 33% with first-off claimers and hitting the board nearly two-thirds of the time.  In a field with a lot of 1-for-whatever types, it’s comforting to get a runner with two wins this meet and sandwiching a throwout race going two turns.

Exotic fans could find the first time Asmussen runner #8 JUSTA RUNNER (3/1), who was third in a similar condition last time and second two back in New Orleans to their liking.  Second time starter #3 ALI’S BIRTHDAY (12/1) is worth consideration as he’s been working steadily since Christmas at Oaklawn and was a winner on debut at Ellis Park.

Fair Grounds -- Race 9 -- N3X/$62,500 Allowance Optional Claiming -- About one mile on turf -- 5:25 CST

Selections made for a good or yielding grass course.  This multiple-conditioned allowance race could probably double as a minor stakes for $50,000 at a place like Arlington, Hawthorne, or Indiana Downs. Try as I might, I can’t get past #5 ADIOS NARDO (2/1) who turned in a credible second on turf with give last time in the G3 Bradley and went wire-to-wire to win an allowance earlier in the meet.  He’s been in form since summer at Arlington, second to a next-out IL-bred stakes winner in the final weeks of the Arlington stand.  Think that without Daddy Nose Best to run him down he gets back under the photo lens.

Exotic players will find #7 MR. VEGAS with a 6/1 morning line quote appealing, even though he might not be quick enough to get the lead but should appreciate give in the ground and cashed at this level last time. This is a field of mostly types coming off lay-offs, but #1A SAY NO MORE (10/1) has been racing through the winter and gets two turns for the first time, and there’s no disgrace losing to crack local sprinters like he did last time out.

Santa Anita Park -- Race 7 -- $25K Claiming -- One mile on dirt -- post time 5:35 CST

At publish time, Southern California was in a monsoon pattern, so there is likely to be some moisture in the dirt surface. #5 DESIGNER (4/1) has wet form, as Malibu Moon sired last year's Derby winner and the dam did win at least once in the slop.  He won two back for double the claiming price then checked in with a wide trip in a first-level allowance last time.  Rider switch to apprentice D. Van Dyke might help, but more than likely so will gettting back in the claiming ranks.

The potent Bejerano/Hollendorfer team on #3 COOK INLET (7/2) and the hard tying #8 DRESS CODE (4/1) would be the recommendations for deeper tickets from this corner.

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Special thanks to the contest host and other contestant in the contest for making this happen.

Update, March 2: Use KWARCHA in the first contest race.  And, here's the Racing Dudes' ballot.

*** Whether you're heading to the track or the not, you can take "Picks and Ponderings" with you anytime, anywhere. You can get Twitter updates (@heylaserbeam) for on-the-scene reports on major racedays at Hawthorne Race Course. And you can get "Picks and Ponderings" in your e-mail by typing your email address in the box and clicking "Create Subscription." It's a FREE service, and you'll never get any unwanted spam.

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