Free Picks & Analysis — Who Do Ya Like?
Saturday, November 14, 2015
On Saturday, we’re headed back out to Laurel Park, where we’ve got FREE PICKS & ANALYSIS for the entire card from John Piassek (@theyreoff) on De Francis Dash day!
We thank John for taking the time to put together these selections for us today. His picks at Laurel Park will be 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…
It’s one of the biggest days of the Laurel Park fall meet today: Frank J. De Francis Dash day! Named after the former owner of Laurel and Pimlico, the Dash drew a strong field of nine sprinters. The race is supported by an undercard of ten races, including five other stakes races. Let’s get started.
Keep in mind that the first race on Saturday will be at 12:05 PM EST: a half-hour earlier than normal.
Race 1: Claiming $35,000 (n/w3L), 3yo and up, 7 Furlongs
A wide-open field of thirteen claimers begins the action on the Saturday card. My pick, despite his not-so-great post position, will be the 10, Readyheartandsoul. He exits a race against tougher foes at Penn National, where he finished a sharp third despite traffic trouble. In his race before that, he dominated a n/w1x allowance field here at Laurel, winning by 2 ½ lengths after making a wide sweep on the turn. In his three races since returning from a long layoff, he’s earned better speed figures than anyone else in the race, and figures to have the most closing speed out of all the major contenders. Expect him to rate off the leaders early on, then make a big, winning move on the turn.
The 3, Tribal Honour, spent his summer at Monmouth Park, where he finished second or third six times out of eight, while never winning. It remains to be seen if the cutback in distance to seven furlongs will help him out. On paper, he’s fast enough to win it, but his severe second-itis is a black mark against him. We’ll see what happens. The 6, Regal Soldier, was outclassed in his last race, the Maryland Million Sprint, but easily handled a field of claimers two starts back. He’s run races fast enough to win this one, so he must be respected.
3- Tribal Honour
6- Regal Soldier
Race 2: Maiden Special Weight, 2yo, 5 ½ Furlongs (Grass)
He will need to draw off a long also-eligible list to get in, but if he runs, the 13, Wild Impulse looks dangerous. He ran a good race in his grass debut at Belmont, finishing fourth, earning a brisnet figure of 85. Only four others in the race have run on grass before, and none of them earned a figure anywhere close to that. Trainer Linda Rice hits at a sharp 21% with shippers, and a respectable 13% with horses making their second career start. None of the others with experience have been awe-inspiring—only one other has earned a figure as good as 75—and horses who have run before always have an edge over first-timers, in my experience.
However, if Wild Impulse does not go, my top pick will wind up being a first-time-starter. The 9, Not a Chance, turned in a strong grass work in preparation for this race: going four furlongs in :49.0 last Saturday. Trainer Alan Goldberg has been having a great season at Laurel, going 35% with his horses. In a wide-open maiden race such as this one, this one is a good bet to click. Also worth mentioning is the 10, English Ruler. His trainer, Dale Capuano, is 2-6 with horses making their grass debuts on the year. He also gets the riding of top jockey Trevor McCarthy.
13- Wild Impulse
9- Not a Chance
10- English Ruler
1- Search Warrant
5- Terp Love
12- True Arch
Race 3: Smart Halo Stakes, 2yo, Fillies, 6 Furlongs
Seven two-year-old fillies will do battle in the first stakes race of the day, the Smart Halo Stakes.
On paper, the winner looks obvious: the 7, Lost Raven, blew away her rivals in her debut at Belmont Park last out. Her figure in that race was a 91, six points better than anyone else in the field has earned. The Repole-Pletcher combination is always a dangerous one with two-year-olds, plus, jockey Manny Franco ships in for the ride. What’s to see here?
Well, as much of a standout as she appears to be, I can’t justify selecting an odds-on favorite in a race for two-year-olds like this. After all, this is only her second career race: a lot can change between her debut and now. Not to mention, there’s a few horses in here who look like interesting longshots.
The most notable of those is the 4, Twirl Girl. She made a big, wide rally to break her maiden at Keeneland in her last race, improving her figure from an 82 to an 84. Her late pace figures look better than Lost Raven’s, so should that one tire out, Twirl Girl is a likely candidate to run her down. The 3, Crystal Rosario, also has good form: she missed by a neck in the Sorority Stakes at Monmouth, and won her other two races by a combined total of more than 14 lengths.
Now, does that mean that Lost Raven is not the most likely winner? No. But don’t bet the mortgage on odds-on here.
4- Twirl Girl
7- Lost Raven
3- Crystal Rosario
Race 4: Maiden Claiming $25,000, 3yo and up, Fillies and Mares, 1 1/16 Miles (Grass)
It’s a difficult field to dissect here: most of the runners here have either never run on grass before, or were not very good on it in the past. Nevertheless, I will take a shot with the 10, Rail Stop. Her last race, on the grass at Delaware, was a step up from previous efforts, as she circled the field from the back of the pack to miss by only half a length. All of her numbers improved in that spot, and there’s no apparent reason that she cannot duplicate that race. She’ll be my chance in here.
The 7, Procula, ran an improved race in her most recent start: although it looks dull on the surface, she has strong late pace figures, an improved speed figure, and drops down to maiden claiming from maiden special weight. Don’t discount her chances. The 6, Leoness, ran a strong race at this level two races back. She made up twelve lengths in that spot, while being fanned nine-wide on the turn. Although she was dull in her last race, perhaps a return to the maiden claiming level will be a spark plug.
10- Rail Stop
11- Max’s Warrior
10- Rail Stop
Race 5: Richard Small Stakes, 3yo and up, 1 1/8 Miles
This year, the 8, Page McKenney, has done everything right, except win. He’s been a mainstay of these listed route stakes races on the east coast, coming in second or third almost every time. However, his only two wins on dirt his year came at Laurel, and he’s been close against much better, hitting the board in the Pimlico Special, Charles Town Classic, and Cornhusker Handicap. Not to mention, he’s run above a 100 speed figure in each of his last four dirt races, which should be enough to win this race. Page McKenney is running against a beatable field on a track he loves, and that should get him to the winner’s circle.
The 4, Catholic Cowboy, has figures a tick below those of Page McKenney, but has been working very well for this race, and can pull off a win should Page McKenney go off-form. The 1, Crackerjack Jones, has been working up a storm for this race, and has been running great races at his home base of Finger Lakes. However, he has not run on dirt outside of Finger Lakes in recent times. Still, he is worth a look as a bit of a longshot.
8- Page McKenney
4- Catholic Cowboy
1- Crackerjack Jones
Race 6: City of Laurel Stakes, 3yo, 7 Furlongs
Nine sophomore sprinters have been signed up to run in this one. My pick will be a once highly-touted three-year-old on the comeback trail: but not the one that you may be thinking of. The 1, Savoy Stomp, ran a strong race in his first start off a long layoff. He won a n/w1x allowance at Belmont on September 12, earning a respectable figure of 92. He has not raced for more than two months since that race, but he has been working well, and trainer Todd Pletcher is a strong 25% with horses off a six-week or more layoff. It’s a wide-open race, and Savoy Stomp looks like he has the potential to run a big one.
The 4, Always Sunshine, has run three big races in a row at Parx, but has fallen short every time. On paper, he’s fast enough to win this race, but will he be able to duplicate those efforts versus tougher foes? That remains to be seen.
The 2, El Kabeir, won the Gotham Stakes and the Jerome Stakes at Aqueduct earlier in the year. He was flat in his last start, which was his first in almost seven months. He certainly has a chance to return to his form from earlier in the year, which would probably win this race. However, off of his lame debut race, and his likely low price, why bother betting him? There’s better value to be found elsewhere.
1- Savoy Stomp
4- Always Sunshine
2- El Kabeir
Race 7: Allowance Optional Claiming (n/w2x), 3yo and up, 5 ½ Furlongs (Grass)
I will look to the extreme outside for my pick, and go with the 14, Cinder Block. He was thrown off of his game in his last race, where he was bumped at the start and cost precious ground. Despite that trouble, he showed more late pace than he ever had before, and ran a year-best figure of 88. When kept closer to the pace, he won two races in a row earlier in the year at Laurel and Parx. Assuming he breaks cleanly this time, I figure that he will be able to sit outside of the leaders, and make a winning move on the turn to win it.
The 5, Sandy’z Slew, is the fastest horse in the field by far, running figures above a 90 consistently. However, he has not won all year, while finishing second four times in six races. While he is certainly one to respect in here, and should be used in any multi-race bets, I can’t pick him to win at low odds. The 9, Grandiflora, is known for rating far behind the leaders, and making a big move on the turn. He has fallen short in his last few, but his kick is strong enough that he should not be discounted in exotic wagers.
14- Cinder Block
5- Sandy’z Slew
1- Larry Le Roi
7- Jackson P
Race 8: James Lewis Stakes, 2yo, 6 Furlongs
My pick in this one is a horse who hasn’t raced in a while, but showed great form when he was running: the 8, Never Gone South. He’s two-for-two lifetime, with his most recent win coming in the Strike Your Colors Stakes at Delaware Park in August. He earned figures of 87 and 84 in those two wins, strong numbers for a two-year-old at that time of the year. Even though he hasn’t raced since that stakes win, he’s been working exceptionally well for this race, most recently going four furlongs in :48.3 at Parx last Saturday. He looks like he’s sitting on an improved effort, and an improved effort would put him in the winner’s circle.
The 7, Voluntario, demolished a field of maiden claimers in his last race at Belmont, earning a field-best figure of 91. However, not unlike Lost Raven earlier in the card, I feel that he’ll be overbet. The 1, King Kranz, is coming off a second place finish in the Futurity Stakes last out. He certainly merits respect in here, but he too may get more money than he deserves. Watch the board.
8- Never Gone South
1- King Kranz
Race 9: Safely Kept Stakes, 3yo, Fillies, 7 Furlongs
A full field of twelve has lined up for this one. Clearly, the horse to beat here is the 5, Hot City Girl. She won the Charles Town Oaks two starts back in gate-to-wire style. In her last race, she blew away a field of older allowance horses by four lengths. If she’s allowed to exercise it, she’s got the most early speed in the field, and can easily wire this field. Her only knock is a jockey downgrade, from Jose Ortiz to Cornelio Velazquez. Hopefully, that won’t matter too much.
The 12, Stroke Play, is almost the polar opposite of Hot City Girl as far as running style is concerned. She struggled in the Cotillion Stakes last out, but rallied from the back of the pack to win three races in a row before that. However, she may need more ground than seven furlongs. The 7, Tricky Zippy, was blown away by La Verdad in her last race, but still finished 1 ¼ lengths ahead of a field of solid NY-bred sprinters. Two races before that, she beat a similar group in the Union Avenue Stakes at Saratoga. If nothing else, she’ll be close at the end.
5- Hot City Girl
12- Stroke Play
7- Tricky Zippy
Race 10: Frank deFrancis Memorial Dash, 3yo and up, 6 Furlongs
The biggest race of the fall season at Laurel appears to be a two-horse race on paper. The 2, Stallwalkin’ Dude, is exiting the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, where he was a non-threatening eighth. The 3, Palace, is coming off a victory in the Hudson Handicap against NY-breds. On paper, they appear to be evenly matched. Where to turn?
I give the edge to Palace here. For one, he’s coming off figures of 102 and 103 in his most recent start, as opposed to a 99 and a 104, respectively, for Stallwalkin’ Dude. Secondly, Palace is coming off a 21-day layoff, while Stallwalkin’ Dude’s last start was only 14 days ago. Granted, Stallwalkin’ Dude won the Diablo Stakes off a nine-day layoff back in May, but there wasn’t anyone in that field as good as Palace is right now. Stallwalkin’ Dude also has not had a workout since the Sprint.
Both horses have a shot, and they tower over their rivals. However, as far as win betting is concerned, I will go with Palace.
2- Stallwalkin’ Dude
9- Trouble Kid
Race 11: Maiden Claiming $25,000, 3yo and up, Fillies and Mares, 5 ½ Furlongs (Grass)
It’s not every day that you encounter a British Columbia-bred running at Laurel, but the 10, Azia Brown, fits the bill in this race. She had great form in grass sprints in Northern California earlier in the year, finishing second against maiden company twice. Now, she’s making her second start off the layoff for the dangerous Jamie Ness barn. That stable is a strong 21% with horses making their second start for them. Should Azia Brown return to her form from the spring, she’ll be tough to beat.
The 7, Amen Joy, cuts back to a sprint after five mediocre efforts at routes. She ran relatively decent speed figures at those routes, however, so there may be hope for her against this bunch. The 2, Bay Eleven, was close against maiden claiming competition a few starts back. She’s facing a similar field as those times here.
10- Azia Brown
7- Amen Joy
2- Bay Eleven
11- Airlie’s Diamond
16- Stormy Allison
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