I skipped the Florida Derby to look at the Orchid, and Hit It Rich got it done. She held her morning line at 3/1 and paid a nice $7.20 for her effort. I was also pleased to Aqsaam do well, holding place to a hard charging Keertana. It was a thrilling race! Today, we are going to the Fair Grounds, and will ignore the Louisiana Derby fora really difficult race, the New Orleans Handicap(G2). It's for 4YO+ going a mile and an eighth over the main course. The nine entrants are gunning for a $400,000 purse, and we see a lot of familiar faces. Right off the bat, I see six of them winning this race, it's that contentious. I'm going to write this one up differently, going to list my three contenders, then the next three possibles.
#3 Nates Mineshaft ML 10/1
Call it a horse for course angle, but this 5YO does have four wins in four starts here at the Fair Grounds. He has won three in a row, his last outing was the G3 Mineshaft Handicap, were he posted a 98 Beyer. He has been a different horse since Austin Smith took over and don't see that trend ending. His speed has improved nicely, workouts are solid and don't see the added distance being a problem. He won't break from the gate at 10/1, but I feel he has a great shot at winning this race.
#1 Nehro ML 6/1
He has proven he can run with the big names, three seconds in marquee races. He won his first out as a 4YO, while not a big time race, he showed he can find the winners circle. I see no problem with him finding that 98 -99 Beyer and you can't ignore Steve Asmussen here. He has a knack of finding the right conditions and surprising us and he keeps a hot Bridgmohan in the irons. If holds at 6/1 he would be real tempting.
#4 Toby's Corner ML 6/1
Graham Motion ships in his Wood Memorial(G1) winner for this one. This lightly raced 4YO is four of seven lifetime and has hit the board in every race. Past winner at this distance and last out hit a 100 Beyer in the General George(G2) at Laurel. Like Asmussen, you don't ignore Motion entered horses, and this one looks ready to fire. He should split the money with Mission Impazible, and has the tactical racing style to win it.
#2 Mission Impazible ML 5/2
He is the defending champion of this event and that was the last time he won a race. He is the logical contender with Toby's Corner, but I don't see it today for this Pletcher entry. My issue is he has shown himself to be a "bouncer". It's easy to see, since this race last year. He started on a high note this season, so we would expect to see a drop off today. I'm not taking anything away from his abilities to win this race, and he can. But I'm going with his form, and it says not today.
#5 Redeemed ML 4/1
He had an outstanding 3YO season winning five of seven, including the Discovery Handicap(G3) at Aqueduct. He certainly has the speed and Prado has him dialed in, so why am I so cool on him not being in the top three? I get leery of a horse, not so much because of the horse, but when I see the connections moving the horse around to different trainers so much. This is not a rap on McGee, but this horse has had four trainers in six months. I know sometimes a change of scenery helps, like Nates Mineshaft, but this doesn't make sense to me. I'm a big trainer/jockey handicapper, so I will wait and see on him today.
#9 Pants On Fire ML 9/2
He is back at a track he likes, and would be my dangerous play in this one. We know he can he can win at this level, has the speed to do it and has the tactical wherewithal to be there at the end. Kelly Breen has been quiet lately and is ready to break out again, and I like that he is keeping Napravnik on board. Don't be surprised to see him return to his Louisiana Derby form.
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