Laurel Park: Picks and ponderings Feb. 15, 2019
by Frank Vespe
In which we pick the races from Laurel Park each day…
Post time: 12:30 p.m.
Carryovers: Rainbow 6 — $1,129; Super Hi 5 — $1,168
Stat of the day: Trainer Graham Motion has a 22 percent strike rate with horses who a) are making their first start in his barn and b) are returning from 180 day-plus layoffs. Such is the case in the nightcap with #2 Autostrade (5-2).
The favorite in the opener, a maiden claiming event, is #3 Honor Run (2-1), the Chuck Lawrence trainee who has the best figs in the group and just missed last out against similar. The bad news with this runner, though, is he’s lost at this level three straight, and while he’s certainly a threat to get it done here (and you won’t want to leave him completely off the ticket), those short odds seem daunting. We land instead on the Horacio DePaz trainee #2 Le Gros Bill (5-1); this runner makes his second start in the DePaz barn, and though he didn’t show much last out, that was against $50,000 maiden claimers, a level higher than these. The runner-up from that event returned to graduate against maiden allowance foes, and an improved effort from Le Gros Bill, at inviting odds, would be no surprise.
As a general rule of thumb, betting horses who not only are running against winners for the first time but also are moving up the claiming ladder is a losing proposition. But that’s what we’ll try to do here with #1 Citi Party (5-2). This Mary Eppler trainee was absolutely a mile the best on debut, winning by four despite a troubled trip, and four of seven to run back from that event have finished one-two-three in their follow-ups. Also of note: Eppler, who also owns the horse, sees fit to protect her in this spot, rather than exposing her to being claimed, which suggests she likes what she saw on debut. Jorge Ruiz will again have the mount.
Dropped into claiming company last out, #8 Incorporate (9-5) gave a pretty good account of himself, running third, beaten a couple, in a race that’s produced two next-out winners. He figures tough in a race in which our top choice — #2 E J’s Revenge (8-1) — was scratched. Another runner worth a look at a price in here is #3 Huyana (10-1). This guy has made his last three starts against better, without much to show for it, and here drops back into the kind of company where he stacks up.
- RACE 1
- SCR: 1, 3, 4
- RACE 2
- RACE 3
- SCR: 1, 2
Leading local rider Trevor McCarthy piloted #1 You’ll Like It (7-5) to a fifth-place finish last out against slightly better, and that’s good enough to make this runner a solid favorite in this group. So, where’s McCarthy? He lands instead on #6 Perfect Heir (5-1). That Ham Smith trainee is dropping from $25,000 company to the bottom here, and three back ran a race good that would have been plenty against this group, finishing fourth, beaten two, against $25,000 maidens. His pilot that day? Trevor McCarthy. Also worthy of consideration in this spot: #3 New Stones (5-2). The Claudio Gonzalez trainee ran an even third at this level last out, but note that the track that day was extremely speed-favoring; catching a fairer racing strip would greatly aid his cause.
What happened to #6 Sacred Walk (9-5) last out? The answer to that question is a critical component to handicapping this otherwise wide-open first-level allowance. Maybe it was the muddy strip; perhaps the company was too rough. Whatever the answer, this runner, sporting a four-race win streak, was buried, finishing a well beaten sixth at even-money. If he gets back to his earlier form in here, he’ll be tough, but it feels like it’s worth trying to beat him in this spot. One horse who seems to offer value is #7 Nicholas and Me (6-1), the Dale Capuano trainee. This guy made his first start in nearly a year last out and ran an OK race, setting a solid early pace and staying on until the furlong grounds, when he ran out of gas. Making his second start off the break here, he can improve, and the seven-furlong distance might hit him right between the eyes. Trainer Dale Capuano has a solid record second time off long breaks.
The favorite in here, #3 Lucky Bull (5-2), ran evenly last out against better in his first sprint in seven races. He can improve here in his second straight sprint, and any improvement would likely get him the money. One horse we’re intrigued to see in here is #5 Elevated Forever (6-1). The Phil Schoenthal trainee is a homebred for D Hatman Thoroughbreds, and though he has a modest work tab, he’s bred to be better than this: by Jump Start, he’s out of the multiple stakes winner Staged Affair, by Not for Love.
- RACE 4
- RACE 5
- RACE 6
There are plenty of ways to go in this wide-open claiming event for sophomores, and we landed — albeit somewhat reluctantly — on #7 Glad Dad (5-2). He makes his second start off a bit of a break here, and last out he rallied willingly at 50-1 odds against better. He gets another half-furlong to play with in here and can take a step forward. Looking for a live longshot? How about #6 Ricardito (12-1)? This Parx-based Rich Vega trainee’s speed figs don’t stack up, but in his last start — in December — he won at this level, besting two runners here (#4 Ice Docket and #5 Candy Wompus), both of whom have lower odds.
Trainer Gerry Brooks has two horses entered in this spot in an uncoupled entry: #3 Greasedlightning (7-2) and #5 Springtime Wind (8-1). Is the latter entered to ensure the race goes for the former? It feels that way, doesn’t it? Wes Hamilton will ride.
Man, that was a disastrous trip that #1 Calvi (7-2) endured last out against $25,000 claimers — a level probably a bit tougher than this first allowance. He broke slowly, was steadied multiple times, and still stuck with it to the end in a willing try. A cleaner trip — which is almost inevitable here — could put him right in the mix in this intriguing group. Trevor McCarthy will ride. Notable stat: Trainer Graham Motion has a 22 percent strike rate with horses who a) are making their first start in his barn and b) are returning from 180 day-plus layoffs. Such is the case with #2 Autostrade (5-2).
- RACE 7
- RACE 8
- RACE 9