Gabby Gaudet's analysis for Saturday's race card at Laurel Park.
Race 1, 1:10 p.m. post time
Selections: Late Caller, Zipzapzapper, Ted’s Mémoires
Several runners in here have equal early speed -- most do their best running on the lead as well. Who can stalk and still be effective? I think Late Caller can sit just behind the leaders and wait for the pace to collapse. He’s also proven locally. Zippzapzapper just notched his second career victory at Oaklawn (a much different surface than Laurel), has to ship and could be part of the contested early pace. I’ll go elsewhere as opting for top spot. Ted’s Memoires doesn’t have a lot of gate speed but that could help him today in a similar way it helped him in late November.
Race 2, 1:43 p.m.
Selections: Lorilee, Formal Class, Flyin Lion S
Lorilee will be heavily favored in this spot and looks pretty tough to beat. She’s consistently been running faster races, better numbers and has outside speed advantage. Formal Class broke her maiden last time out in the slop with an improved figure but her first race actually came up very strong for the level. The top three finishers in that race have since won, including the winner scoring a $30k N2L with a 72 Beyer Speed Figure. Flyin Lion S may be best when given a target to run behind, and that’s what she’ll get today.
Race 3, 2:14 p.m.
Selections: Queeb, Acca Larentia, Divine Confection
Queeb has the pedigree to move up on the grass, by Harlan’s Holiday and out of a mare who was best going long on the turf. She gets blinkers, Lasix and a class drop to get the job done in her second career start. Acca Larentia found a tough spot last time out facing Candida who came back to win for $75,000. Expect her to be closer today (even on the cutback) given the shallower waters. Divine Connection drops from Maiden Special Weight company to the $25,000 price - a performance similar to the last turf race makes her worthy against this group.
Race 4, 2:44 p.m.
Selections: Fleeting Hope, Flexible Mandate, Driving Me Crazy
This deep Maiden Special Weight features several well-bred first time starters for top barns, along with others who have limited experience. Fleeting Hope is one of the many making his debut, by Afleet Alex out of a mare who was good early in her career. He shows strong workouts locally for a barn that bats at 24 percent (6-25 and a $4.86 ROI) with Maiden Special Weight first time starters on the dirt. Flexible Mandate sold for a pretty penny - $235k - at the Keeneland September sale and is kin to More Than Regal, a multiple stakes winner going long on the dirt. Horses shipping in for trainer Linda Rice have been firing on all cylinders. Driving Me Crazy is a use for me who is a half brother to Glamoride, a 200k-earning turf sprinter.
Race 5, 3:14 p.m.
Selections: Arch in the Park, Pirate’s Cove, Big House
Big House has drastically improved since coming into the Claudio Gonzalez barn and seems to continue making forward strides. Today he’ll try turf for the first time, by a sire whose progeny is about 11 percent on turf. The mare was stakes placed at 7 1/2 furlongs on the turf. The pedigree is there but I still think it’s a lot to ask for at a short price. I’ll go outside to Arch in the Park who has been freshened since January. Although he’s never tried one-turn on the turf, his running style looks like this distance may be more suitable. Pirate’s Cove needs to show a little more gate speed than what he has shown in the past, but I still think this is his best distance and surface. He should get a decent pace flow with the presence of Big House and Silent Tale.
Race 6, 3:53 p.m.
Selections: Kowboy King, Golden Rings, Lifes Reward
Leading trainer Kieron Magee brings out two heavy-hitters in this spot. I opt for Kowboy King because his versatility in running style and also the turf to dirt angle. He should be very sharp now getting back to preferred surface, not to mention the barn wins at a 39 percent clip (9-23 and a $2.89 ROI) going turf to dirt with mid-level claimers. Golden Rings was protected for the waiver claiming option off of the layoff, always a good sign. However, those races came up relatively easy and he’ll have to face tougher. There’s also the possibility of him potentially getting pressured by Blue Chips Only now stretching out. Life’s Reward is capable of running a race to beat this bunch but we haven’t seen the best of him lately. He’ll also have to be well placed early in order to close on some of these front-runners.
Race 7, 4:24 p.m.
Selections: Malibu Preacher, Molasses Brown, Super Fund
Malibu Preacher was the beaten favorite last out on the dirt but overall it wasn’t a disappointing performance considering his best races have been on the turf. That race should set him up perfectly second off the layoff against this questionable group of turf runners. The presence of suspect speed will also help his late, closing running style. I like that Molasses Brown figures to be close early here. He gets to the lawn for the first time, but decently bred to handle it out of a mare who produced two other turf winners. Super Fund steps back up in class after being oddly bet down as the favorite in his turf debut last out. I still don’t know how much you can trust him, as we never really saw any late energy from his in that race. The pace will have to come back to him a bit more today.
Race 8, 4:54 p.m.
Selections: Maggie Wag, Craft Regan, Added Spice
Crafty Regan enters here as the morning line favorite because she is consistent and a constant checker-earner, however she also is starting to rack up the runner-up finishes against similar company and she’ll be undervalued. So how do you beat her? It’s not going to be easy given the fact that many in this field don’t have the will to win. Somehow I land on Maggie Wag, a horse that took 14 starts to break her maiden. Out of her maiden score, she faced the open condition which was slightly tougher than what she faces today. Looks like she gains more confidence on or near the lead, so hopefully thats the strategy once again today. Added Spice is one of the more lightly raced horses, which is a positive in this condition. If she can run anywhere near the race she ran against far tougher on the turf two starts back, she could be a danger.
Race 9, 5:24 p.m.
Selections: Don’t Make Me Cry, Tricky Lion, Tax Package
Don’t Make Me Cry experienced early trouble last time out when not only did he not break well but he was also bumped and shuffled back to last going into the first turn. From there he ran a decent race but I think we could see a bit more speed from him today with a cleaner break. Tricky Lion has run credible turf efforts back-to-back and he’s also proved to be tactical. If he runs the way he did last out, he could be the fastest early. If not, he’s also shown he can be a closing sprinter. Tax Package has only ever tried this distance on the turf and it was off a year layoff at Saratoga. He has the potential for improvement.
Race 10, 5:53 p.m.
Selections: Rose Brier, Golden Sabre, Cage Fighter
The feature race of the day is the local prep for the Grade 2 Dixie on Preakness weekend. Now is when we see many of these horses resurface after being given the winter off. I’ll play the recency instead of the class angle per say. Horses like Cage Fighter, Mister Brightside and Blacktype exit the tougher races but could be vulnerable off time away and/or the mile distance. Rose Brier on the other hand has a good recent effort in March to set him up for the cutback to the mile. I also like that he can stalk the pace and still be successful and has an unbeaten local record. Can we see Golden Sabre’s back class resurface? There’s no overlooking the clunker he put in last time out at Tampa Bay Downs but perhaps new connections have regrouped and we could see a much improved effort -- his final work at Fair Hill was strong. Cage Fighter draws the rail, is coming off a six-month layoff and probably prefers farther. He’s a talented horse but all those factors make him a bit tough to trust.
Race 11, 6:23 p.m.
Selections: Compulsive, Trusted Choice, Goodtimehadbyall
Compulsive tried the turf for the first time last time out for the new connections. He’s not necessarily bred for the surface so the subpar effort wasn’t too surprising. He was, however, caught up in a quick, contested early pace and the quickness he showed there, one would think he’ll be very sharp out of the gate now getting back to his preferred surface. Trusted Choice form is a little muddy with disappointing efforts. I do think this is the best condition for him versus the start allowance and/or open races, and he’s proven he can win at this distance. He’ll need a dry track to do his best. Goodtimehadbyall hasn’t been 7-furlongs in a while but he is a three-time winner at this tricky distance. Looks like a horse that’s continuously declining but the class relief here will help.
Best Bet: Race 11 -– No. 9. Compulsive
Price Play: Race 9 -– No. 3. Don’t Make Me Cry