Free Picks & Analysis — Who Do Ya Like?
Saturday, January 2, 2016
On Saturday, we’re headed back out to Laurel Park where we’ve got FREE PICKS & ANALYSIS from John Piassek (@theyreoff)!
We thank John for taking the time to put together these selections for us today. His picks and analysis at Laurel Park are featured on DanonymousRacing.com every Saturday this fall and winter. We encourage you to give John a follow on Twitter – he’s one of the sharpest and hardest working young handicappers in racing.
Take it away, John…
The first Saturday card of 2016 at Laurel features nine races, including three interesting stakes races: the What a Summer Stakes, the Native Dancer Stakes, and the Nellie Morse Stakes. The first race, as always, will be 12:25 PM EST. Let’s begin.
Race 1: Claiming $5,000, 4yo and up, Fillies and Mares, 1 Mile
My play in the opener will be the 2, Saturday Blues. Her last race was not particularly inspiring: she ran a non-descript sixth against similar horses. However, that race was at six furlongs, and two races back, she easily won going seven furlongs. That suggests that more distance is what she needs; the fact that her fastest-ever race was her longest one (the aforementioned race two back) is likely not a coincidence. She looks the likeliest to improve with added distance, so I’ll try her out here.
The 1, Mandy’s Punch, has the most early speed in the field outside of Saturday Blues, and has the best last-out brisnet figure in the race: a 71. Trainer Hugh McMahon is 25% with horses first time in his barn, and she’ll be ridden by the hot hand of apprentice Lane Luzzi. The 3, Follow the Kitten, got caught up in a speed battle at 1 1/8 miles last out, but still held on for a respectable third. If all goes well for her, she’ll sit off the two inside speeds, and take advantage when/if they stop.
2- Saturday Blues
1- Mandy’s Punch
3- Follow the Kitten
Race 2: Starter Optional Claiming $16,000, 4yo and up, 6 Furlongs
This race has so many folders in it, you might mistake it for the folder section of an office store. The 8, Vicksburg Bluffs, is somewhat of an exception. He’s got early speed, but unlike many others in here, he isn’t susceptible to stopping late in the game. In his last effort, he actually held the lead late, before tiring and finishing third. He’s the only horse in here to earn a figure above 80 in his last two races (82 and 83, respectively), and has the ability to drop in and pick up the pieces once the other leaders tire out.
The 5, Stitcher, has shown improvement in each of his last three races, including a field-best figure of 87 last out after a premature move. Trainer Timothy Krieser also hits at 26% with horses shipping in to Laurel. He’s another strong contender. The 3, Holiday Touch, recovered from a bad start in his last race to win going away. In his earlier dirt races, his custom was to show early speed and then tire, but in his last one, he improved his late pace figure somewhat. He may still get caught up in the early speed, but the possibility for improvement remains.
8- Vicksburg Bluffs
3- Holiday Touch
Race 3: Claiming $5,000, 4yo and up, 6 Furlongs
This one is a race for the old-timers: the youngest horse in here is six years old, and two runners in here will make their first starts as ten-year-olds.
My pick in this spot is going to be the 4, Dixie Deputy. In his first start off a two-month layoff last out, he narrowly missed after making a four-wide move on the turn. He’ll come into here having run a figure above an 80 in every one of his ten races in his past performances, with a respectable 81 last time out. He has races in the 90s further back, which would almost certainly win here. If he continues to run back to those races, he’ll win here, or, at the very least, be right there at the end.
The 2, Classic Wildcat, ran his best race in recent memory last out, blowing away the field to win by seven lengths. However, he sat a great trip in that race, rating off a speed duel, and rolling by when the leaders softened up. He showed plenty of acceleration when unchallenged at the end, but I would still be surprised if he ran as well as he did there. The 8, English Manor, ships in from Parx, where he ran a solid third last time out, earning a figure of 85 while rallying wide from the back. He won three races back after recovering from a bad start, so the winning kick is there. It remains to be seen if he will employ it.
4- Dixie Deputy
2- Classic Wildcat
8- English Manor
Race 4: What a Summer Stakes, 4yo and up, Fillies and Mares, 6 Furlongs
A field of seven has lined up for the first of three stakes today. This one is named after the Maryland-bred Eclipse Sprint champion of 1977.
I’ll go with the 5, Raging Smoke, in here. She was a disappointing fourth in the Willa on the Move Stakes in her last race, however, she was compromised after a bad start, taking her out of her element early on. Not to mention, she ran into an absolute buzzsaw in that race, in the form of the dominant Lady Sabelia. There’s no such dominant foe here; Raging Smoke is one of the best horses in the field. In addition, she ran a figure of 90 in that race: equaling the best last-out number in the field. It was also her first start in two months; she’ll be slightly fresher for this one. Before that, she had been steadily running figures in the high 80s and low 90s, which will be good enough to score here. As long as she runs back to her Willa on the Move race, Raging Smoke should find the winner’s circle here.
The 3, Sweet on Smokey, won her last race, in a n/w2x allowance, easily, with a powerful move on the far turn. However, she lacks the same mid-race punch that Raging Smoke has: her mid-race pace figures are generally slower. Don’t discount Sweet on Smokey here, however; she’s still got a good chance. The 7, E Dubai’s Humor, has won three out of her four career dirt starts, all of them coming at Laurel. It’s clear that she likes the track; look for her to be coming from near the back of the pack.
5- Raging Smoke
3- Sweet on Smokey
7- E Dubai’s Humor
Race 5: Claiming $15,000, 3yo, 7 Furlongs
The pick 5 begins with a difficult field of newly-turned three-year-olds. I’ll look toward the inside, and go with the 1, D’Humerus. His first two races, against maiden company at Finger Lakes, were reasonably impressive, breaking his maiden at second asking by ¾ of a length. He hasn’t raced since late September, but he’s been working steadily for his comeback, and trainer Jeremiah Englehart is a strong 28% with horses off a 90+ day layoff, including a positive ROI. Notably, he doesn’t tire out at the end of his races, like his opponents: his pace figures have shown that he has a late kick at the end that keeps him around. That should come in handy here, and puts him on top of my selections.
The 9, Hot Feet, ran two strong races at Laurel, before disappointing at Parx last time out. He’s worked well since that bomb, however, so he’s got a chance of turning things around. If he does, watch out. The 10, Bookmaker, broke his maiden in his last race by running past tired rivals in the stretch. He did improve his figure sharply in that maiden win, however, so further improvement remains a possibility.
9- Hot Feet
Race 6: Claiming $5,000, 4yo and up, Fillies and Mares, 5 ½ Furlongs
The 1A, Christmas Barn, looks as close to a lock as you can find in a race like this. In her last three races, she’s earned speed figures of 74, 77, and 80. The fastest that any of her opponents have run in any of their last three races is a 72. That alone merits going to the bank, withdrawing all your savings, and putting it down on her. However, just to pile on to her already hefty merits, she possesses a ton of early speed, as she’s had the lead at first call in each of her last six races. It’s true that she’s only won one of those six races. However, she was never as much of a standout as she is here. Don’t try to think too hard about this one; she looks obvious.
1- Hereshecomesagain/1A- Christmas Barn
6- Colonel Melissa
10- Double Check
Race 7: Native Dancer Stakes, 4yo and up, 1 1/16 Miles
This race is named after one of the greatest horses of all time: were it not for a second-place finish in the 1953 Kentucky Derby, Native Dancer would have gone down as an undefeated Triple Crown winner.
This one also features the re-appearance of a local stalwart: the 1, Page McKenney. He’s coming off wins in two straight races, including a victory in the Richard Small Stakes two back here at Laurel. He’s also won his last three races at Laurel—all of them in stakes races—and has not missed the board in 21 consecutive starts. He’s a very fun horse to watch, and looks much the best in here. The 108 figure that he earned in the Swatara Stakes at Penn National is the best last-out figure in the race by three points, and he consistently runs in the triple digits. Don’t expect too much value on Page McKenney, but he’s the most likely winner, and a fun horse to root for.
The 8, Catron, is the most likely upset threat. He was third behind Page McKenney in the Swatara Stakes, running a career best figure of 105. That was his second career race at 1 1/16 miles; he won the other one, earning a figure of 99 there. Should Page McKenney, for some reason, not fire his best race, Catron has a good chance of picking up the pieces. The 6, Monkey’s Medal, is coming off two consecutive victories against allowance company, in which he made powerful moves on the turn to win them. Both of those races were going one turn, so it remains to be seen if that kick will be as effective around two turns. Nevertheless, he must be respected in this spot.
1- Page McKenney
6- Monkey’s Medal
Race 8: Nellie Morse Stakes, 4yo and up, Fillies and Mares, 1 1/16 Miles
Unlike the previous two races on the program, the Nellie Morse Stakes is a wide-open affair, with nine older fillies and mares taking a shot at this one.
Last week, I selected the 8, Miss Mischief, to win the Thirty Eight Go Go Stakes, declaring her one of the best bets of that program. She wound up scratching out of that race for this spot: an interesting move, considering I think one mile is more in her wheelhouse than 1 1/16 miles. Nonetheless, she’s got some of the best figures in the race, great late pace numbers, and plenty of back-class, having won the Bessarabian Stakes at Woodbine in her last effort. She’ll be coming from pretty far out of it, but as long as she doesn’t drop too far behind, she has an excellent chance.
The 1, Love Came to Town, has narrowly missed in each of her last three races, with her most recent victory coming four races back. In that victory, which was in a route race, she earned a 96, proving that she’s good at routing, as well as sprinting. The 3, Playful Love, was an overmatched last in the Go For Wand Stakes at Aqueduct last time out, but did win an allowance at Penn National two races back going 1 mile and 70 yards. She may be a sneaky horse in here.
8- Miss Mischief
1- Love Came to Town
3- Playful Love
Race 9: Maiden Claiming $16,000, 3yo, 6 Furlongs
I will close out the show with the 9, Search Warrant. In his lone dirt race, he ran a respectable figure of 67, finishing fifth at the $25,000 level. He’s worked twice since that start, and takes a further drop down to the $16,000 level. That debut figure already puts him in the mix as a contender, and he’s eligible to improve as a second-time-starter.
The 2, Boon Companion, has been second or third in each of his last four races. Even though he’s the fastest horse in the race, he looks like he has “second-it is”, if you will, and will almost certainly be overbet. The 8, Admiral Gianni, had the lead late last time out before being run down by Jumpin Julian, who returns in race five earlier in the card. Should Jumpin Julian run well, Admiral Gianni’s stock goes way up.
9- Search Warrant
2- Boon Companion
8- Admiral Gianni
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