RACE 3: PRAIRIE FIRE (#2)
Perhaps the drop in class will wake up Chloe Rose (#4), who figures to vie for favoritism in this spot. Yet I have trouble taking a short price on a runner who has been in such dubious form. I thought she was a little interesting dropping back in for a tag last time and she failed to finish off that race after contesting the pace. This is a weaker field, but it feels like she’s just not the same horse that we saw in the first half of last year. Greatest Love (#1) has a right to improve second off the layoff for Charlton Baker. She ran a decent race last time out when running for the claiming waiver in a cheaper spot. If she could get back to the form that we saw out of her when she was previously in Baker’s barn last June, she would be tough for this field to handle. Yet obviously plenty of time has passed since then. The horse that I prefer out of that Jan. 5 race is Prairie Fire (#2). She probably should have won that day, as she got shuffled back soon after the start when Jose Lezcano was unsuccessful in attempting to hold his rail position. She still came with a strong rally to just miss in an effort that was better than the speed figure indicates. She got claimed by a low-profile barn out of that race, but didn’t run that badly first off the claim last time. Though she was only competing for a $16k tag, that was a much tougher spot than this, as winner Melting Snow earned a big speed figure for the level. We also saw runner-up Vegas Weekend return with a much improved effort in her next start out of that race. This mare is better form than it appears, and the price should be fair.
RACE 4: BIG VENEZUELA (#5)
I don’t have a major problem with likely favorite Doctor Love (#3), who looks like the horse to beat. He ran pretty well first off the claim for Tom Morley, attacking a pace that came apart while only beaten by a couple of late runners. The slight turnback in distance figures to suit him, and Tom Morley is a strong 18 for 76 (24%, $2.25 ROI) second off the claim over the past 5 years. The one issue with this horse is that his form is exposed at this point, so you’re not going to get the kind of prices that he’s been in his recent starts. I prefer him to the other likely short price, One Whirlwind Ride (#2). This gelding did improve slightly off the claim for Rob Atras, but he’s moving up in class and needs to do a bit better to beat this field. He’s never been the most reliable win candidate and there appears to be other speed in the field for him to deal with. My top pick is Big Venezuela (#5). He comes off a poor effort at this level, but I don’t want to be too hard on him for that loss going 9 furlongs. The distance is probably too far for him, and he was also setting a pace that came apart. I thought he ran pretty well in his prior start at this level going a mile. He carved out some legitimate fractions that day and just got a bit tired in the late stages, though still earned a strong 104 TimeformUS Speed Figure. He hasn’t sprinted much in his career, but I like this slight turnback for him and he’s drawn well outside of his main pace rivals. He also figures to be a fair price for an underrated trainer and jockey.
RACE 7: SENIOR INVESTMENT (#5)
This 9-furlong optional claimer seems totally wide open, as none of the 6 runners stands on particularly solid ground. I suppose the ‘now’ horse is Little Demon (#4) as he returns just 6 days after a career-best performance here last Saturday. This guy was competing in cheap claiming races last summer, but he’s turned into a different horse since getting purchased by David Jacobson. For what it’s worth, Jacobson is 6 for 21 (29%, $1.96 ROI) off 4 to 8 day layoffs on dirt over 5 years, and he’s 3 for 6 (50%, $4.08 ROI) with last-out winners in that sample. This field might not be too much tougher than the one he defeated last week, but he does have to stretch out. Locally Owned (#3) is perhaps one of the more trustworthy options given his positive experience at the distance. He got a confidence boost when dropped into some cheaper races late last year, and it seemed to work, as he’s generally been back in decent form lately. He almost got he job done going this distance last time but couldn’t quite reel in the hardy 10-year-old Rough Sea. This is a step up in class, but it’s not the strongest field for the level. Be Better (#6) is a total wild card as he tries to get back on track after a series of poor efforts. Perhaps getting back on Lasix will prove key for a horse who used that anti-bleeder medication in both victories last summer at Monmouth. Yet I’m not sure it’s quite that simple, so I would still need a pretty generous price to give him another chance. No Burn (#1) could play out as the controlling speed if he gets out of the gate, but that’s been an issue in his last couple of starts. He’s another who hasn’t been in the best form recently. In such a wide open race, I try to look for value and I think Senior Investment (#5) could offer the best opportunity as likely the biggest price in the field. While it’s a negative that he’s lost 13 races in a row, he’s nevertheless shown up with solid efforts in most of his recent starts. He ran well behind the promising Unbridled Bomber in November, which was the last time that he made use of his tactical speed. Since then he’s been cut back to one-turn races, which don’t seem to suit him as well. He also caught a sloppy track last time, and he’s never run well on that kind of going. This stretch-out should benefit him, and he would also be suited by a more aggressive ride from Lezcano given this race’s murky pace scenario.