Picks and Ponderings Plays Horse Hooky at Fairmount!

Every Tuesday afternoon during their racing season, Fairmount Park in Collinville, IL runs a Tuesday afternoon card: Horse Hooky.

Though both halves of Picks and Ponderings have been living in Illinois for years — and this half also used to live in St. Louis, less than twenty miles from the track — neither of us have been to Fairmount Park before.

This week, that changes, as Picks and Ponderings will be playing a little Horse Hooky.  Make sure to follow @picksponderings on Twitter for notes and pictures from Tuesday’s card at Fairmount!

Fairmount Park: Tuesday, August 2

Race 1: $3,200 claiming, three-year-olds and up, non-winners of a race in 2016 OR N4L, one mile on the dirt, post time 1:00pm CDT

Selections:  Wildwoodsbigwin (6), Rent a Cop (5), Thrifty (2)

Though horses with the lifetime condition are usually not attractive in these broader beaten races, Wildwoodsbigwin has solid enough recent form to contend with these — though he is in N4L, he has a victory against $3,200 beaten types over this same course and distance three starts back.  He also has the versatility to sit closer up or rally from a few lengths off.  This will be useful, as there are a few possible speeds, but no clearly controlling one.  He will have to turn the tables on Rent a Cop, who beat him soundly in his last start.  But, that came at a mile and seventy yards — this one is a flat mile, a distance at which Rent a Cop is winless in five starts.  Even so, Rent a Cop still demands some respect.  His speeds are among the best anyone here has to offer, and the pair of trainer Mike Durham and rider Javier Tavares has been winning a quarter of the time over the last two months.  Thrifty interests for a share underneath.  It is hard to see him winning this race, given that he has not been a win type over the last year or so, but he fires often enough to use under.  The one to take a stand against here is Gaelic Breeze.  He has some back allowance-level class on the Chicago circuit, but has been in dull form since shifting to Fairmount.  Even with excellent Fairmount rider Victor Santiago back in the irons, he will be an off-form horse at a short price.

Race 2: $3,200 claiming, three-year-olds and up, non-winners of three races since July 2, 2015 OR non-winners of two races in 2016 OR N4L, six furlongs on the dirt, post time 1:29pm CDT

Selections:  Taproot (1), Highway Fiftyfour (7), Big Man Hungate (6)

This is an ALL button race, but Taproot has the right combination of good form and solid price to get the slight nod.  His speeds are in range with what he needs to succeed here, and he will be forwardly placed but does not need the lead.  He gets 26% local rider Juan Molina in the irons, and has a strong track record with Molina already.  Trainer Kevin Wilborn and Molina have not paired up much over the last two months, but when they have, the races have been good: two wins, four money finishes.  Finally, he has sharp lines over the course (16-5-3-4) and distance (21-6-6-2).  Highway Fiftyfour has won two in a row over this course and distance, and seems to have found his place here at Fairmount.  He loses Victor Santiago, but gets high-ercentage rider Javier Tavares, who is well proven with trainer Mike Durham.  Should the front end get a bit feisty, he will be well set — but last out, he proved he does not need breakneck fractions to do well.  Big Man Hungate is one of two here for trainer Jerry Hammond, but a bit more attractive on top than stablemate Smart Alex’s Posse.  He drops in from allowance-optional company in his last three starts, and rolled the last time he faced this level of horses.  The thing that clinches Big Man Hungate’s spot over Smart Alex’s Posse is the record at the distance: Big Man Hungate’s 20-6-4-3 line marks him as a winner going six panels, whereas Smart Alex’s Posse’s 17-1-7-7 line suggests he is more useful under.

Race 3: $4,000 maiden claiming, three-year-olds and up, five and a half furlongs on the dirt, post time 1:58pm CDT

Selections:  Harry’s Last Comp (6), McGuire Road (3), I’mjustblowingsmoke (9)

Harry’s Last Comp comes in third off the lay, and took a step forward between first off and second off.  He struggled up north, but his last race suggests that he has found his level.  He should be forwardly placed in a race without too much early speed, and may get things a bit softer than that effort last out.  McGuire Road has only hit the board once in five starts, but that came at this level the only time Victor Santiago held the reins.  Santiago returns today.  If McGuire Road can save some ground and stay focused on the task at hand (watch him in the paddock and post parade for hints at that!), he could graduate today.  I’mjustblowinsmoke comes in second off a yearlong lay.  In his first start back, he was third against tougher ($7,500 maiden claimers at Fairmount), and drops to the bottom here.  The biggest question with him is the rider, as Michael James has won just 2 of 66 starts this meet.  But, James was aboard for the last start, suggesting some compatibility.

 

Race 4: $3,200 claiming, three-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, non-winners of two races in 2015-2016 OR N3L, one mile on the dirt, post time 2:27pm CDT

Selections:  B B’s Charmer (2), Queenoftheroad (1), Appleslastchance (3)

With Queenoftheroad, Beautiful Ruler, and Don’tputmeonhold all doing their best work on the front, B B’s Charmer should get plenty of pace to chase.  She also gets a class break here — she faced $7,500 company at Ellis last out, making this both a cheaper claiming price and a softer circuit.  She does have a win over the Fairmount course, a decisive victory three starts back.  Though there are several speeds in the race, Queenoftheroad is the best of them.  She has shown the ability to come from just off in addition to just sending; that pressing gear should be a plus.  She also has two wins over this course, including a victory last out in her only try at the distance.  This is a class rise — from N2L to beaten — but her recent form makes her live even against these saltier sorts.  Appleslastchance interests underneath, at least.  She faltered last out, but has a bullet work since.  Furthermore, two starts back she was second behind Ally’s Dream, a horse who could hold her own up in Chicago.  She gets a switch back to 26% rider Juan Molina, and though she has some frontrunning form from earlier in her career, her more recent off-pace style should suit this race well.

Race 5: Maiden special weight, three-year-olds and up, six furlongs on the dirt, post time 2:56pm CDT

Selections:  Seba’s Dancer (5), R Hidden Treasure (8), Wildwood Dejavu (4)

This race goes through the Gail Macari barn.  Those words may sound strange to anyone who focuses only on racing up north in Chicago, but Macari wins a lot at Fairmount, and is firing at a 23% clip there this summer.  Seba’s Dancer is her “A” entry, and makes sense here.  She has done her best going six furlongs, with three seconds and a third in four tries at the distance.  All of those came at this level.  His speeds are competitive, and he keeps rider Uriel Lopez from his last two outings. R Hidden Treasure is the Macari “B” entry, and intrigues for a price.  He has raced just once — but that try came in a turf dash at Arlington. He makes the kitchen sink of changes here: he stretches to six panels, shifts to the dirt, and moves to the softer Fairmount circuit.  Six furlongs should suit R Hidden Treasure; he is by Bright Launch, and his dam Airport Kate won at six panels.  Airport Kate also won in her first career start, a good sign for precocity.  R Hidden Treasure will have to take a step up — but the changes are good, and the odds will be better.  Wildwood Dejavu races for just the third time, and his second time off the lay.  He will have to take a big step forward to win this, as last out he was fifth, fourteen lengths behind second-place Seba’s Dancer.  But, trainer Scott Becker wins at 26% with runners second off the lay, and Wildwood Dejavu has turned in a respectable four-furlong drill since that outing.  He could wake up at a price here for the top connections on the grounds.

One other to cover, if you are going a little deeper, is Seeyalaterbye (5).  The connections give a lot of pause — a 3% rider for an 0-6 trainer.  But, the workouts are decent, and Seeyalaterbye is the only one other than R Hidden Treasure who goes first-time Fairmount after trying the Chicago circuit.

Race 6: $4,000 claiming, three-year-olds and up, N2L, one mile on the dirt, post time 3:25pm CDT

Selections:  Sweet Road (4), Bold Force (2), Big City Matt (5)

In a lower-level N2L, lightly-raced horses appeal, and Sweet Road has that going for him.  He has race just three times, and graduated last out at the maiden $4,000 level.  This will be Sweet Road’s first try at a route, which is a question, but the improving recent form and the strong recent record for the combination of rider Javier Tavares and trainer Charles Walker (two wins and two more money finishes in their last seven) gives Sweet Road upside at a price.  Bold Force has never missed the board at a flat mile, and has a 5-1-2-1 lifetime line at Fairmount.  The one time he missed the board, he had an excuse — it was his first race off a nine-and-a-half month layoff.  With Shadrach Bond, Big City Matt, and Windy City Dude showing some speed, Bold Force could get something to attack, and should be a force.  Among those speedier types, Big City Matt has some appeal.  He stretches to a route for the first time, a move with which trainer Jerry Hammond does well.  He is out of a Malibu Moon mare as well, giving some suggestion that he will stretch out.  He also gets a key rider change to Victor Santiago: 28% on the meet, and 27% on speed horses.  Finally, he drops from allowance-optional tries in his last two starts into a straight claimer here.  If any of the speed survives, it should be Big City Matt.

Race 7: $4,000 maiden claiming, three-year-olds and up, one mile and seventy yards on the dirt, post time 3:54pm CDT

Selections:  Wildwood Stroll (8), Hey Garcon (3), Valovich (4)

The 8/1 morning line is a pipe dream for Wildwood Stroll: he comes first-time Fairmount after four tries in Chicago, first-time dirt, and runs for Fairmount’s ruling triumvirate of owner William Stiritz, trainer Scott Becker, and rider Victor Santiago.  But, he should wake up here.  He comes in third off the lay.  He is bred to go two turns; being by Stroll out of a Pivotal mare who has produced a two-turn winner.  This distance should suit perfectly.  And, Becker wins at an astounding 39% when moving horses from poly to dirt.  With this being a drop to the softest company Wildwood Stroll has ever faced, he is making all the right changes.  Hey Garcon is still lightly raced, with only four starts under his belt.  Last out he tried a route for the first time, and he took a significant step forward.  He returns to the same dirt mile distance today, and drops from $5,000 company to $4,000.  He also showed some early speed last time out, typically a positive sign in low-level maiden claimers.  Finally, Valovich deserves a bit more of a look than your average 0-17 career maiden.  For one, he has crossed the wire first before, but was taken down.  That came the last time rider Argelio Velazquez rode; Velazquez returns today.  This will be his first try at the $4,000 maiden level.  And, unlike most of the field, he actually has a few races in which he has held his own against Chicago company.  Whether he is ready off the long lay is the big question, since his worktab is spotty and Steve Fridley’s charges do not typically fire first off long lays.  But, on speed and class, Valovich commands respect.

***

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