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HALLANDALE BEACH, FL, JANUARY 20, 2023 – Kentucky Derby Futures Pool 3 is on the betting docket this weekend and it’s no coincidence as it is Lecomte weekend at CDI-owned Fair Grounds which also is offering the Silverbulletday, the first stop on the Kentucky Oaks prep trail.

The Lecomte has drawn a field of eight including two from the Brad Cox barn and a par from Paulo Lobo. Cox-trained Instant Coffee, winner of the Grade 2 Jockey Club Stakes in his juvenile finale November 28, is the 5-2 early line favorite with Luis Saez.

Stablemate Tapit’s Conquest, an impressive maiden in his two-turn debut last out is third choice at 9-2; regular stable rider Florent Geroux on a return call. Second favorite is Two Phil’s (4-1) was equally impressive taking the Street Sense in the slop while finishing on the wrong lead.

The Silverbulletday, the 12th of 14 races, begins the final Pick 3 that ends with the Grade 3 Lecomte, the pair of three-year-old events separated by the G3 Louisiana Stakes Cox, saddles early line favorite Chop Chop in the listed stake. Here’s the Tote Busters© analysis of both events:

FAIR GROUNDS                                                   

G3 LECOMTE STAKES                                                       Race 14

With a barnful of solid Derby eligibles, Cox is on the road to find out where he’s at with each of them and today is the first step. His Tapit’s Conquest broke maiden looking very much like a top prospect. The colt is also cross-entered in the day’s ninth race, an allowance event.

Tapit’s Conquest would be formidable in either spot and is the 8-5 early favorite in the two-turn allowance race. Cox adds first-Lasix to the equipment there, a 38% profitable scenario for this outfit, but goes without it in the graded event. Both are at 1-1/16 miles.

Instant Coffee won both races not named Breeders’ Cup and was far from disgraced in that event, making a strong late run through the stretch for fourth after launching from mid-big-pack on the turn. He is a deserving favorite, intent notwithstanding, vis a vis multiple entrants.

However, taking any value offered on Denington (8-1), adding blinkers for Ken McPeek. After his wet track maiden win at today’s trip, he was fifth beaten 1-1/2 lengths by the favorite after being shuffled back badly at the turn and finishing in close quarters through the lane.

Breaking from mid-gate in his last going at Oaklawn Park, he raced 3-4 wide all the way around and still finished well through the stretch, nailing down the show spot right at the line. Stretching back out and adding blinkers, coupled with his inside draw, he can surprise at a price.

Tote Busters is betting Denington to win at early line odds or greater, 6-1 should Tapit’s Conquest opt out, and will key Denington in exotics with either of the Cox horses and classy Two Phil’s, who’s won 3 of 5 in addition to his worthy try in the BC Juvenile.

SILVERBULLETDAY                                                                      Race 12

Brad Cox, Mr. 45% at Oaklawn Park through Thursday, has himself to beat in this listed 1 mile 70 yards. Uncoupled The Alys Look (3-1) was very good, running fast in her last two starts and appears forward looking with further development.

Since her runnerup finish to talented Pretty Mischievous, The Alys Look was very sharp in her work last weekend and gets Saez. One negative is the chance of a wet track, the conditions prevalent in her one poor performance.

Chop Chop (8-5) leads the Cox young distaffers, is a worthy favorite and will be a tough out. She finished last of 13 in the BC Juvenile Fillies but raced 4 to 5 to 6 to 7 wide at all points of call, and was taken care of late by Joel Rosario when obviously out of contention.

Chop Chip’s nose defeat to Wonder Wheel was a remarkable performance, coming from far back with a wide rally. Even if not fully cranked, she should handle this group given her proven class.

One intriguing entrant is Forest Chimes (4-1), a winner of her rapidly run debut while going two turns over a sealed good track. It was a subtle two-move performance in which she was dominant in deep stretch and galloped out about a sixteenth of a mile in front. We can’t say we know what finished behind her.

Our straight play will be a game-time decision based on atmospherics, any prevailing bias and, of course, price. Logic dictates an exacta key-box of Chop Chop with The Alys Look and Forest Chimes, pressing the favorite in the top slot.

G3 LOUISIANA STAKES                                                      Race 13

Our fervent wish for the middle leg of the Late Pick 3 is that the rail is not the place to be as our interest is peaked by runners in the two widest posts of this 1-1/16 miles two-turner.

It’s that man Cox again, and he will saddle two of the nine starters including the horse that will take the most beating in this matchup, Zozos (3-1).

The barn obviously has been high on the newly minted four year old, tipping their hand last year when he was entered in the Kentucky Derby following a runnerup finish to Derby favorite Epicenter in the G2 Louisiana Derby.

This son of Munnings was very good in his seasonal debut here, improving his Fair Grounds record to 2-for-2 at the trip with a (3) 2-1-0 slate over this surface.

Getting Lasix again [3-for-3 with; 0-for-2 without], he was a comprehensive winner in his return, leaving the impression he did not have to reach bottom to do so. He’s handy enough to secure position assuming a clean break but can come from out of it if need be. Corey Lanerie has a return call.

But Mr. Wireless (5-1) is just as well meant and rates to be the better price. Second with a wide-throughout trip to strong late finisher Happy American in the Tenacious Stakes, he benefits from that effort and a significant weight pull for the rematch. He has was crisply since.

Like Zozos, Mr. Wireless has tactical gas but can come running late if asked to do so by regular partner DeShawn Parker, seeking his third win since taking the controls late last year.

We’ll be betting Mr. Wireless to win at 7-2 or greater, making an exacta box with Zozos.


SUNSHINE TURF STAKES                                                 Race 6

Today’s lone added money event in South Florida has drawn seven Florida-bred elders going 1-1/16 miles on the Hallandale lawn and if pressed, handicappers could make various cases for every one of them.

We narrowed it down to two who faced each other on Tapeta Track and we’ll take the runner, Hot Blooded (9-2), who finished second to Me and Mr. C (2-1), for two reasons.

Both horses ran very well. ‘Mr. C’ made the first and longer sustained run to win it, but Hot Blooded was the stronger of the two at the finish. Given the early line and presence of Joel Rosario, it seems assured that Hot Blooded will offer value. Again, see the Going Gulfstream video on the HRI homepage.

Hot Blooded actually started again off that second placed finish, a race in which he was carefully handled over the demanding Tapeta surface in that race–originally scheduled for grass–leaving something in the tank for this outing under more suitable conditions.

Trainer David Cross is profitable for his career with turf runners, and the gelded five year old gets a favorable switch to “Mr. 2000,” Junior Alvarado.

So we’re betting Hot Blooded to win at 7-2 or greater and an exacta box with Me and Mr. C.

Per usual, suggested exotic plays are at minimums available, with straight wagers in $2 units

this live column will be updated throughout the weekend

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