Andrew Champagne previews the early pick four at Fair Grounds on Tuesday.
Tuesday is Fat Tuesday, which marks the traditional Mardi Gras celebration. With the pandemic, that will be anything but traditional, but Fair Grounds will be running a special Tuesday program with a strong wagering menu.
There is, however, an obstacle to address. The weather has not been kind lately, and unseasonably-cold temperatures are on tap. The late Pick Four contains two turf races, and I have no idea if those will stay on the grass. As such, I’m switching to the early Pick Four and assuming the fourth race (not a stakes event) will be moved to the main track. If it isn’t, adjust your tickets accordingly.
Anyway, with all of that in mind, I’ve got a $16 ticket, and here’s how I’ll play it!
RACE #2: A field of 11 runners and 10 betting interests will go into the gate for this maiden claiming event. I found this race pretty wide-open, and I’m going four-deep.
#2 HONG KONG STRONG drops in for a tag for the first time after showing some early speed in two starts against state-bred maiden special weight foes. This seems like a far weaker group than the ones she’s been facing, and she may not have to work hard to hit the front out of the gate. If she gets comfortable, I think she could get brave.
I’m also using #3 MISS LAUGHALOT, #4 CUSTOM FOR ALY, and #6 G’S A LOOKER. My guess is Miss Laughalot will go favored in her second career start for Tom Amoss, and she didn’t run badly when fourth of 10 in her debut. She’d benefit from a faster-than-expected early pace, and her most recent workout indicates she’s doing pretty well.
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RACE #3: My strongest stance comes here, in an optional claiming race that drew a field of six. My top selection has shown he likes Fair Grounds, and I like him enough to single him.
#6 HOLD ME BLACK has eight top-three finishes in 10 local outings and has a series of strong four-furlong drills ahead of his first start off the bench. I like the outside draw, and while he has tactical speed, he doesn’t necessarily need the lead in order to win. I think he’ll sit a perfect stalking trip, and that he’ll be the one the pace-setters have to hold off.
RACE #4: OK, this is where things get tricky. If the race runs as we see it in the program, it’ll be at a mile on turf. However, I’m thinking it’ll get moved, and if it does, I could be using as many as four horses (depending on scratches).
#12 IMINDYCATBIRDSEAT won an off-the-turf race last time out and has done strong work on dirt in the past. All but two of his career wins have come over main tracks, and he’s run well twice over this one over the past few months. I think he’s live on both surfaces, but if the turf course is unusable, I think he’ll stand to benefit more than any of his rivals.
#10 LOUISIANA MOON, #11 GUITAR TRIBUTE, and #15 CITY PARK are on my ticket as well. City Park is a main-track-only entrant, and it wouldn’t be surprising if he went off the favorite. His dirt efforts are fine, and he’ll almost certainly be moving in the right direction late. If there’s any hesitation here, it’s only because I think he might need more pace than he’ll get.
RACE #5: The payoff leg is a sprint for 3-year-old fillies, and several of these runners have stakes experience. I’m going two-deep, and while I wish I could be adventurous, the horses that hit me as logical winners will probably be the two favorites.
I do, however, prefer #2 MALIBU BIRD, the second choice on the morning line. I have no problem tossing her run in the Rags to Riches, where it’s safe to assume something went wrong since we haven’t seen her run in nearly four months. She’s been working up a storm at Fair Grounds, and while she may be able to go longer than this six-furlong trip, she ran a good second to graded stakes winner Girl Daddy in her debut at this distance last summer.
#5 SAVE makes a lot of sense, too. She was professional in taking her debut on New Year’s Day and tries winners for the first time, but her last-out Beyer Speed Figure of 79 is by far the best of any runner in this field. If she moves forward, she’s a likely winner, and when Tom Amoss gets horses on the right track, they tend to stay there.
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