National Racing Rundown — Friday, January 12, 2018

National Racing Rundown

Friday, January 12, 2018

by John Piassek

The last of the big winter tracks opens on Friday: Oaklawn Park will get their 2018 ball rolling with a typically excellent nine-race card. The feature will be the Fifth Season Stakes, which, along with everything else going on in the racing world, will be profiled below.


TRACKS RACING FRIDAY:
AQUEDUCT: 9 races, 74 horses, first post time 12:20 PM EST
TAMPA BAY DOWNS: 9 races, 83 horses, first post time 12:25 PM EST
LAUREL PARK: 9 races, 81 horses, first post time 12:30 PM EST
GULFSTREAM PARK: 10 races, 96 horses, first post time 12:35 PM EST
OAKLAWN PARK: 9 races, 111 horses, first post time 1:35 PM EST
FAIR GROUNDS: 9 races, 81 horses, first post time 2:00 PM EST
GOLDEN GATE FIELDS: 7 races, 52 horses, first post time 3:45 PM EST
SANTA ANITA PARK: 8 races, 78 horses, first post time 4:00 PM EST
TURFWAY PARK: 10 races, 111 horses, first post time 5:15 PM EST
PENN NATIONAL: 8 races, 77 horses, first post time 6:00 PM EST
DELTA DOWNS: 10 races, 89 horses, first post time 6:40 PM EST
CHARLES TOWN: 9 races, 82 horses, first post time 7:00 PM EST

WEATHER FORECASTS:
AQUEDUCT (QUEENS, NY): 56*F, Rainy
TAMPA BAY DOWNS (OLDSMAR, FL): 73*F, Rainy
LAUREL PARK (LAUREL, MD); 63*F, Rainy
GULFSTREAM PARK (HALLANDALE BEACH, FL): 80*F, Rainy
FAIR GROUNDS (NEW ORLEANS, LA): 48*F, Cloudy
OAKLAWN PARK (HOT SPRINGS, AR): 40*F, Sunny
GOLDEN GATE FIELDS (ALBANY, CA): 60*F, Partly Cloudy
SANTA ANITA PARK (ARCADIA, CA): 75*F, Partly Cloudy
TURFWAY PARK (FLORENCE, KY): 29*F, Snowy
PENN NATIONAL (GRANTVILLE, PA): 56*F, Rainy
DELTA DOWNS (VINTON, LA): 42*F, Clear
CHARLES TOWN (CHARLES TOWN, WV): 61*F, Rainy

STORYLINES OF THE DAY:
OPENING AT OAKLAWN: One of the best meets in the country opens up on Friday: Oaklawn Park. Despite a lack of turf racing, they make up for it with tons of big and quality dirt fields. They’ll race Thursdays through Sundays, plus holidays, up until Arkansas Derby day, April 14. The first day of the season, as you can see by the above chart, features 111 horses, including a big field of 12 in the featured Fifth Season Stakes, going 1 1/16 miles. That race will be profiled more in-depth below.
RETURN OF AQUEDUCT AND CHARLES TOWN?: Both Aqueduct and Charles Town were scheduled to run on Thursday, but were forced to cancel due to poor track conditions. The tracks will seek a return to racing on Friday, with Aqueduct scheduled to host a stakes race: the La Verdad Stakes. That race drew a field of seven filly and mare sprinters going six furlongs. The headliners include the 2, Absatootly, who won the Iroquois Stakes two races back, the 4, Holiday Disguise, who makes her first start since May and has won three races in a row, and the 6, Quezon, who won the Garland of Roses Stakes in her last race. Post time is scheduled for 3:50 PM EST.

PIASSEK’S PLAYS
YTD: 24-6-6-4, $48 bet, $32.40 returned

LAUREL PARK RACE 6: 1, SKY CHAPPARAL
POST TIME: 2:53 PM EST

This is a crack field of ten starter allowance horses going six furlongs. When I did my column on the best of the Laurel fall meet, I was tempted to make Sky Chapparal the horse of the meet, based on his very impressive record this fall. He won four races at the meet, and was the runner-up three more times. His high 8/1 morning line price is likely due to his relatively disappointing try last out, when he lost against $11,000 horses at 1/5 last out. However, he didn’t lose to just any claimer: he lost to Classic Wildcat, who went on a magical run as an 11-year-old last fall. He made solid ground late, closing almost three lengths in the last eighth of a mile. Indeed, he may have been pace-compromised in that race, as he fell to a distant last in a five-horse field, not something he was used to. It’s true he’s come from last in prior races, but that was in bigger fields, where the pace is a little more honest. He should save ground near the back early, then make a big move. Some of his rivals have more class, but he’s dominated the claiming ranks, and has held his own against starter allowance horses. I have trust in him.

LAUREL PARK RACE 8: 1A, DOCTOR PETER
POST TIME: 3:53 PM EST

The 8th race on the card from Maryland is a n/w2x allowance optional claiming race for older males at one mile. While both halves of the Jamie Ness entry have their merits, Doctor Peter fits the bill the best. He jumps up from straight claimers at Parx, where he had them in his palm. He won two times in a row in the fall, and lost by a mere half-length last out. His brisnet figures were all strong, with numbers in the upper-80s and low-90s. Even better, his best racing has usually been done at a mile, which happens to be today’s distance. Not to mention, the Jamie Ness-Jevian Toledo trainer-jockey combination is usually a dangerous one.  The only ones in the field who run figures that good as often are the 4, Glenrichment, who just cleared his n/w1x allowance condition last out, and the 7, Southside Warrior, who, while classy, has been close without a cigar in his last four races, not a great sign. I look for a Parx invader to once again steal the show in the feature at Laurel.

OAKLAWN PARK RACE 8: 9, DAZZLING GEM

POST TIME: 4:49 PM EST

The feature of the day on opening day at Oaklawn — and, probably, the feature of the entire country — is the Fifth Season Stakes, which drew a field of twelve older males going 1 1/16 miles. My play, Dazzling Gem, is coming off a runner-up finish versus stakes company at Remington Park last out. He stalked the pace, and made a bold rally, but couldn’t get past victorious Dan the Go To Man, who was the beneficiary of setting a slow pace. He’s back in this race, too, but I’d be surprised if he was allowed to set very slow fractions once again. In addition, while Dan the Go To Man’s figure of 97 is way better than anything else he’s ever run, Dazzling Gem almost always runs in the high 90s, peaking at a 101 while finishing runner-up in the Louisiana Stakes last year.

Furthermore, Dazzling Gem was making his first start off a nine-month layoff when running at Remington. That he still ran a 97, in spite of the slow pace and the long layoff, is very impressive. With a race under his belt, he should be able to rate off the pace and roll by the pacesetters to victory.

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