HALLANDALE BEACH, FL, March 18, 2022 – A quiet weekend for the major players in the Derby class of 2022 but enough graded and listed stakes action providing some interesting puzzles which can lead to payoff value.
We’ll start with two listed events, one from New York, the other from South Florida, as appetizers. We’ll return from with more from Gulfstream Park, two lucrative graded stakes from Oaklawn Park, and a maiden allowances from Tampa Bay Downs for 3-year-olds at one mile on turf.
CICADA STAKES Race 9
A tough little scramble featuring a field of six with several coming off big wins, layups of varying degrees, a gaggle of speed horses in which the search is for one that can finish, especially one with upside.
Monshun (3-1) fits that bill as she is a second-time starter that won her debut with authority. Is she the same, or better than the one on display at Saratoga last summer over a damp surface? That’s right, a 213-day layup.
Fast away from the chute, she came back to the rider quickly enough, rated nicely, separated herself without exertion and had reserves after being confidently ridden out to victory. Working sharply for her 3-year-old debut, Ray Handel is reaching out for reliable partner Dylan Davis.
Taking Monshun to win at 5-2 or greater, key-boxing exactas with Exaltress (9-2), making her return for Chad Brown since JAN 28, a scopey filly who successfully ran down a loose leader, and Lady Milagro (5-1), who absolutely freaked last out and breezed very sharply for this.
SILKS RUN STAKES Race 10
Turf sprints at 5 furlongs are always testing. We left four older males open and narrowed the choices to two; Arrest Me Red (5-2) and Chess Master (7-2).
Clearly, Wesley Ward has found the proper spot for ‘Red’s’ 4-year-old debut, seeking his fourth win without defeat since taking over the colt’s training after his juvenile season. A graded winner, he’s working rapidly for his return and is 2-for-2 in abbreviated turf sprints.
But gelded 6-year-old Chess Master (7-2) is coming off his career best and could not have won his last up north any easier, gate to wire with speed in reserve late. Kerri Raven is having a career season, one that began in 2021, and Chess Master is a 10-time distance winner in 19 tries.
Taking Chess Master to win at 3-1 or greater, an exacta box with most probable winner Arrest Me Red, and keying ‘Chess’ and ‘Red’ first in trifectas with each other and G3 Gulfstream Turf Sprint winner Yes I Am Free (4-1), and first-time gelding Old Chestnut (8-1).
HUTCHESON STAKES Race 11
Four of the seven have an edge over the remaining three. In the case of Provocateur (3-1) and Cattin (7-2) each are turning back to their optimal distance as they return to the home base for up north.
Nitrous Channel (7-5) ran a hole in the wind in a rapidly run debut and American Sanctuary (9-2) gets his season started for the very live Christopher Davis barn.
After breaking maiden in Tampa Bay, Provocateur returned on short rest for the Pletcher program and was a good second despite the move up in class and distance.
Today the spacing is much better, as is the shorter trip, Pletcher gives the call to Irad and the Into Mischief colt is training quickly at his deepish Palm Beach Downs base.
Taking Provocateur to win at 5-2 or greater and key-boxing first and second in exactas and trifectas with the three rivals named above.
TAMPA BAY TODAY
MAIDEN ALLOWANCES Race 6
As stated in the Tampa Bay Today section, seeking 3-1 or more on Baileys Run (7-2), and key boxing exactas and trifectas first and second with favorite Jimmy the Boot (2-1), wide-trip throughout Bet (10-1), green-turf-debut runner Azure Sky (8-1), and Barrzley (12-1) who got his education at Gulfstream Park now ships in for Graham Motion with his deserved reputation for second-time starter success. Picking up Hector Diaz doesn’t hurt, either.
G3 WHITMORE STAKES Race 7
Sure wish the champion for which this race was re-named were back because this is a big-time scramble. We left five of the nine, including in post order, the super sharp Bob’s Edge (5-2), win-machine track-lover Greeley and Ben (9-2), the Mike Maker-improved Kneedeepinsnow (8-1), nicely develoiping 4-year-old Tulane Tryst (9-2) and speed merchant Hollis (3-1).
We settled on Tulane Tryst for several reasons. As a newly turned 4-year-old who moved forward with maturity, he has the most upside.
What the Fair Grounds ship-in lacks in OP experience he makes up for in talent. A perfect trip winner last out, the win was comprehensive with more left in the tank, he’s worked rapidly since, the spacing is perfect, is nicely drawn outside and he gets along very well with Brian Hernandez.
The price should be fair in this open scramble. Would be willing to take 5-2 or more on the Cherie DeVaux charge, key-box exactas with his four rivals above and key him first in trifectas with same.
G3 ESSEX HANDICAP Race 9
At first blush, it appeared that three horses layover the field; Brad Cox’s pair of highweight Plainsman (2-1) and trip-loving Warrior’s Charge (7-2), and Thomas Shelby (7-2) who gave Plainsman all he wanted in the Razorback prep for today. Upon further review, how about a potential price shot in Popular Kid (6-1)?
After all, he rallied well for third behind the dueling leaders, finishing third, beaten two lengths. While the others pick up a few pounds here, Popular Kid is in with the same impost of 116 pounds, he too loves the trip (8-for-17) and handles the Hot Springs oval very nicely, given his (5) 2-1-1 slate.
Francis Arrieta fit him very well in the Razorback and gets the return call but of greater consequence is that trainer Shawn Davis, whose horses have been outrunning their odds since last year, is a very worthy 30% in LAY-2 scenarios.
Popular Kid won’t be 42-1 in this spot but his early line seems assured and if you’re going up against Cox and Diodoro, you want all the price you can get.
Taking Popular Kid to win at 5-1, at minimum, and key-boxing exactas and trifectas with his rivals above.
this is a live column that will be updated throughout the weekend
Look out for Arrest Me Red in the turf sprint stakes the rest of the year. He lost all chance at start, getting boxed in until the top of the stretch. I don’t think 5 furlongs is his best distance either. 6 furlongs may be ideal for him. Nice to see the old guys still winning stakes races, Rated R Superstar was rolling late to win the Essex Stakes. Love these tough old hickory race horses.
How impressive was Bob’s Edge winning the sprint stakes at OP. Last to first, another masterful training job my Larry Jones. Look for him to be a major player in the dirt sprint stakes all year as well.
Bb’s Edge certainly got good at the right time, didn’t he. Will be writing bout ‘Superstar’ and the Essex later today. And I’m with you on Arrest Me Red. The problem is between the trip and the connections, making amends will not make either of us rich, but thanks for sharing with the HRI Faithful!