by Jo Talbot

In yesterday’s feature, Jo liked Bryan’s Jewel and Onepointhreekarats in her exacta, and those two filled out the top two spots, with Onepointhreekarats controlling throughout to get the money.  She also called Twice a Lady a “vulnerable favorite,” and that one plodded home last at 7-5 odds.  Now, that’s handicapping!

Today’s feature race is the second at Penn National, a maiden special weight on the turf going a mile and 1/16 for four year olds and up.  Four of the nine entrants have made double digit starts — almost always an automatic toss in maiden races.  One of these four is Lawyer Dave, the morning line favorite at 5-2 and winless in 13 attempts.  Only four of these races were on the lawn, however, and he sports a gaudy 77 Beyer in his last turf outing, well above par for this race.  It is likely that at post time, bettors will send him off at less than 5-2.  Although he is the probable winner, he’s an underlay at those odds and I’ll try to beat him with one of the lightly raced entrants, if for no other reason than the fact that he is a bridesmaid, having finished second seven times.

The second favorite, Mixed Blessing at 3-1, has only made four starts, all in maiden claiming company, with a career best Beyer on the turf of 54.  He’s a logical contender trained by Elizabeth Merryman, a respectable turf conditioner who is having a bit of a tough year with only one win to date.  Between that and the jump in class, I’m passing on Mixed Blessing.


Razzle Jazil is 6-1 and trained by Hall of Famer Jonathan Sheppard.  Razzle’s previous two races were in maiden claiming company on dirt and synthetic tracks.  There is nothing in his pedigree that suggests that he will like the surface change; an opinion supported by the fact that Sheppard, one of the best turf trainers in the business, started him elsewhere.  That said, he could be in the mix for a minor award.

Of the remaining horses, the one I find most interesting is Southern Prize, at 15-1.  Trained by Flint Stites, Southern Prize has raced just once previously in the maiden claiming ranks. That was a dismal outing going 5 ½ furlongs on a fast track at Penn in which he trailed throughout.  Given that showing, it’s likely that the bettors will send him off at close to his morning line.  I’m inclined to take a shot on him for four reasons: 1) he’s the most lightly raced horse in the field, an angle that has proved profitable in maiden races; 2) his Tomlinson ratings suggest that he should like the turf; 3)  Stites is adding blinkers for the first time, which translates to a 21% win rate and a $2.95 ROI; and 4) Matt Rispoli stays aboard for the ride, and the trainer/jockey combo wins at a 20% clip with an ROI of $2.64.

It’s probable that when the race is run, Lawyer Dave will be a maiden no more, but my selections are Southern Prize, Lawyer Dave, Razzle Jazil and Relentless Rush, another lightly raced gelding trying turf for the first time.

Post time for the second race at Penn National is 6:27 pm.  Good luck!