by Jo Talbot
Jo’s feature yesterday, the Buddy Delp Stakes at Delaware, ended up with just a four-horse field after the scratches of Michael With Us and her top selection, Deraming of Jazz. That left her second and third selections — Rienzi and Where’s Dominic, respectively — and those two finished first and third, split only by Stratocruiser. Though a short field, it proved to be a terrific race, with all four horses within a couple of lengths of each other every step of the way. Not only did she have the winner, but she also emphatically ruled out Keep the Canoli — and that one finished fourth.
Today’s feature race is handicapping Charles Town’s eighth, an allowance for three years old and up going 4 1/2 furlongs on the main track. Nine horses are entered and the lukewarm 5-2 favorite is Banner Yield, a six year-old gelding who made his first start as a five year old. His previous eight starts were in state restricted races at Charles Town where he hit the board in all but his debut. Banner Yield’s most recent speed figures are the only ones in the group that are even close to par, and if the bettors send him off at those odds, he’s probably worth a play.
The second favorite at 3-1 is Big and Bright, whose career record is four for 27; notably, however, three of those wins have been in his last three races this year, as the light bulb finally came on for this five year-old gelding. While he certainly could be in the mix, I’m looking at a few other lighter raced horses who offer better value.
One of those horses is Confucius, a three year old and the longest shot on the board at 20-1. Confucius won his only start in an open maiden special weight at Charles Town as a two year-old last September. In that race, he faced a field of nine, dueling two wide before clearing. The gap in racing may suggest that he had a physical ailment, but he’s been posting bullet workouts in advance of his 2013 debut. Bettors will probably be deterred by his Beyer speed figure of 38. However, the third place finisher in his September race, Gator Gold, is entered here at 8-1, having since posted a couple of 60 plus Beyers. Confucius is trained by Javier Contreras, a local man who is having a good year winning at a 26% clip and finishing in the money over 55% of the time. I expect Confucius to move forward and will use him in my selections. If he’s anything close to 20-1, it’s probably worth placing a small across-the-board bet on him as well.
Two other horses of interest are Mr. Lonzo, a three year-old at 5-1, and Aaron’s Way, a five year-old horse at 4-1. Big and Bright bested these two last out earlier this month, where bettors sent Aaron’s Way off at 2-5. Aaron’s Way is the only stakes winner in the field, having won three West Virginia-bred stakes at Charles Town as a three year old. However, he missed 15 months before his return in March of this year and he’s lost a step or two from his three year old form.
Mr. Lonzo has raced four times, all at 4 1/2 furlongs at Charles Town, and has never been out of the money, posting a win, a second and two thirds. He dueled with Aaron’s Way in the last race and while that one beat him by a neck, Mr. Longo has improved in every outing, a trend that may well continue in this race.
Not surprisingly in a 4 1/2 furlong event, there is a lot of pace, and Focus, Aaron’s Way, Mr. Lonzo and perhaps Confucius will probably vie for the early lead, setting it up nicely for Banner Yield.
If bettors send Banner Yield off at anything close to 5-2, he’s my top selection, followed by Confucius, Mr. Lonzo and Aaron’s Way. If Banner Yield is bet down to even money, I’d play him underneath my other selections.
Post time for the eighth race at Charles Town is 10:25 pm and the weather forecast is dry. Good luck!