by Jo Talbot
Jo’s stakes double yesterday went awry when her top choice in the Monmouth Beach, Cash for Clunkers, turned out to be a bit of a clunker herself; the stewards scratched her after she dumped her rider and ran off (she is reportedly fine). That opened the door for Zucchini Flower to get the money. In the Miss Liberty, bettors agreed with Jo that Ruthenia was the horse to beat, pounding her down to 3-2 off a 3-1 morning line, and she was much the best in winning that race. In fact, Jo gave out the exacta in the Miss Liberty, as Namaskara rallied into the place for a $34 exacta.
Today’s feature race is the seventh at Pimlico, a $25,000 claiming race at five furlongs on the turf for fillies and mares three years old and up who have never won two races. In restricted races such as this one, I try to find value in lightly raced entrants who are still eligible to improve.
The morning line favorite at 5-2 is Street Surprise, a four year old filly who has a win and a third in four outings on the main track. This will be her first try on the lawn and her pedigree–Street Sense out of an A.P. Indy dam — suggests that she should like the turf. She has been working well and could win, but I’m looking elsewhere for my top selection. Street Surprise’s last race was nine months ago when she was claimed for $25,000 and immediately disappeared from the racing scene. The August claim was her second claim in her short career, probably because her pedigree makes attractive as a broodmare, but the gaps in her races suggest that she may have soundness issues.
Heavy Favorite, the second favorite at 3-1, is a six year old mare with one win out of ten outings on the turf, most of them in the non-claiming ranks. This is her first start in 2013 and she has recorded solid workouts that suggest she is ready to run. Heavy Favorite also has the best lifetime Beyer on the turf, 75, which is well above par for the race. Although Heavy Favorite is a logical contender to win, I am going to take a shot with Avie, a three year old filly trying turf for the first time and 8-1 in the morning line. Avie meets both my conditions for restricted races. She’s lightly raced, posting a win, a second and two thirds in seven starts. She is eligible to improve as her Tomlinson ratings suggest that she should like the surface. Her trainer, Mary Eppler, also has had some success moving from dirt to turf, sporting a 22% win rate with an ROI of $3.46. Horacio Karamanos, one of the local colony’s best turf riders, has the mount. When paired with Eppler, he wins at a 21% clip with a positive ROI of $2.24.
Another horse that’s interesting is Backyard Boogie, a three year old filly lined at 6-1. She is also lightly raced — one win and two seconds in seven starts — and is dropping into the claiming ranks for the first time. Her last outing was in Pimlico’s Stormy Blue stakes, a five furlong event on the main track where she was steadied and then eased. That race is an easy toss as she clearly prefers turf, and with the class relief she is certainly eligible to improve. Had she drawn a post position other than the rail, I might have made her my top selection, but I think the rail will compromise her chances, so I will use her underneath in my exotics.
Phyllis Ann, a three year old filly with one win in seven starts, rounds out my superfecta.
The weather forecast for Pimlico is dry and sunny, so I expect the race to stay on the turf. My selections are Avie, Backyard Boogie, Heavy Favorite and Phyllis Ann. Post time for the seventh at Pimlico is 4:19. Good luck!