By Gene Kershner
We'll turn our sights on the Big Easy this weekend and the Guaranteed $125,000 all-stakes Pick Four at the Fair Grounds. Anchored by a key Kentucky Derby prep race, the Grade 2 Risen Star Stakes, this Pick Four is one of Post Time's favorite stretches of races to wager on each year.
When the Fair Grounds unveiled the 50 cent Pick Four two years ago, it became a very hittable wager if you can find the right single. Ironically, my single two years ago was the 2-year-old filly, Rachel Alexandra, for whom the first stakes race in the sequence is named.
First Leg -- Race 7 Rachel Alexandra Stakes
The Grade 3 Rachel Alexandra Stakes is named after the 2009 Horse of the Year who had great success at this New Orleans race track. We'll be employing our single in this race with the heavy favorite 3-Kathmanblu (6/5 morning line). Returning to the dirt after an impressive turf win at Gulfstream Park, the 3-year-old filly's connections are obviously shooting for the Kentucky Oaks, and look to use this race as a springboard. Her biggest challenger looks to be 4-Bouquet Booth (7-2 morning line), a Flower Alley filly who has two straight impressive wins for trainer Stephen Margolis. We'll use the Booth on a backup saver ticket in case Kathmanblu falters.
Second Leg -- Race 8 Mineshaft Stakes
The Grade 3 Mineshaft is run at 1 1/6 miles for 4-year-olds and up and features two strong 4-year-olds. Al Stall's star in the making 4-Apart (2-1 morning line favorite) should be the post time favorite and 3-Mission Impazible (3-1 morning line); a horse for the course will be the second choice. Mission Impazible won last year's Louisiana Derby here at the Fair Grounds and had a strong showing at Gulfstream and should be ready to roll here. We'll throw the Geier entry (1-Fast Alex and 1A-Country Flavor) into the mix, both horses with solid pedigrees. Fast Alex is by the 2005 Preakness/Belmont Stakes winner Afleet Alex and Country Flavor is by the 2003 Belmont Stakes winner Empire Maker.
Third Leg -- Race 9 Fair Grounds Handicap
The Grade 3 Fair Grounds H. will be run over the turf course at 1 1/8 miles for 4-year-olds and up. The next two races will be where we'll look for prices and hope that the first two legs are formful. We're going to go five deep in this 12-horse field, in what looks to be a wide open affair. We'll start with 10-Loup Breton (Ireland; 3-1 ML) as trainer Todd Pletcher is 21 percent off the layoff. We'll include 8-Workin for Hops, who has a red hot rider/trainer combination in Anna Napravnik and Michael Stidham, who is winning at a 31 percent clip at the Fair Grounds. The next horse we'll use is a price horse in 5-Sleepless Knight (8-1 ML), who ships in for trainer Kelly Breen, with Jersey Joe Bravo in the irons. He sports a nice recent workout and is second off the layoff. Next we'll add 7-Joinem (10-1), who has won over this turf course and comes in third off the layoff on the form cycle with a hot jockey/trainer combination. Lastly, we will put 4-Gran Estrano on our ticket, winner of his last two, and also can claim a couple of wins over the Fair Grounds turf course.
Fourth Leg - Race 10 Risen Star Stakes
The Risen Star features three Post Time Derby Dozen horses, 6-Machen, 1-Rogue Romance and 7-Santiva, who all find a place in our play. Machen is running in his third career race after winning two straight at Fair Grounds in impressive fashion. Rogue Romance, unraced since hitting the board in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, grabs the rail with jockey Julien Leparoux. The rail has been the place to be during the Fair Grounds meet, horses starting there have won 29 percent of the time. Mike Smith flies in from California to ride Santiva, who had a bullet workout Feb. 12 at Palm Meadows. We'll add 5-Mucho Macho Man to complete our $30 main ticket (1x3x5x4) for $0.50.
Post Time Tickets:
Main Ticket $0.50 Pick Four: 3/1,3,4/4,5,7,8,10/1,5,6,7 = $30
Backup Ticket $0.50 P4: 4/3,4/4,5,8/1,6 = $6
Good luck and let's cash some tickets!
Gene Kershner is a Buffalo-based turf writer, handicapper and member of the Thoroughbred Bloggers Alliance who blogs at equispace.blogspot.com and tweets @EquiSpace.