Another day closer to the magical date when the fastest sleigh team in the world takes aim on the Greatest Race — Christmas Day. Santa and Rudy got their last work in this morning at North Pole Training Center, going a half mile in .01 seconds. And, they had time to eat a bag of carrots along the way.

Back here in the continental United States, let’s turn our attention to The Fair Grounds. Here’s a closer look at today’s card:

1st: 6-3-4-5…Something Bird (6) has not done better than 3rd in his first 6 starts. But he has done that 3 times already. Gets a nice class drop for today and has trained over the track since the ship down from Churchill Downs. Shadow Sphinx (3) is another class dropper in here, coming out of two races in Kentucky. This one appears to be a deep closer by trade, and may benefit from the rider switch, as well. Nice work here on Dec. 13. Ready to go? Kikinboy (4) is a first timer starter for the hottest trainer on the grounds. And, he has the credentials to be plenty tough in here. Sire is the great Curlin, and the dam has 1 winner from 1 starter — thanks to the guys over at Brisnet.com. But you have to wonder why one that cost $220,000 as a yearling is making the career but for MC$30.  Can’t dismiss the trainer/jockey combo, though. I bet the 6 to win/place/show and then key the 6 over/under the other numbers.

2nd: 6-3-8-10-1-9…Million Dollar Day (6) would not appear to be a real lover of the grass. She is by Five Star Day, by Carson City — which is really tilted toward dirt runners. But this one has a second and a third in 3 previous grass races — all here. And, this one is a perfect 3-for-3 this year (all on dirt at Evangeline Downs). But she gets the meet’s top rider and goes for a top barn. Lukewarm choice. Reine des Animaux (3) is a Louisiana-bred who has been experimenting in the Stakes field of study. Ran 4th in a nice Stakes event here two back and ran a very credible 4th. Gets some class relief in here off that effort and the trainer hits with .19% of grass runners. Jus Kevin (8) didn’t fire in the last two, but gets a huge class drop for this one — which is the second start off a long layoff. The trainer is good for .17% with these types, but the Hall of Famer is starting to heat up in the Big Easy. Jockey/Trainer combo has hit for .33% over the last 12 starters. I bet the 6 to win/place/show and then box the 6-3-8 in one exacta. I key those 3 over the rest in a much smaller version.

3rd: 7-4-3-2-8…Pea Shooter Pro (7) is a horse I touted on Dec. 14, when he rolled to a win late — at very short odds. He was plucked out of that race by a top barn who hits with .30% of those making their debut for the trainer after the claim. Don’t see any reason at all why this one can’t win right back today. Snapper Bite (4) gets a nice power drop for this one. Should take advantage of these. Has won 3 of 6 starts this year and this is the third start off a layoff. Take note. Royal Mocha (3) picked up a win in his last out and the 7YO gelding now has put together a record of 10-16-14 out of 63 career starts. I have to use this vet. I bet the 7 to win/place/show and then box the top 3 in the exacta. I am tepid in this spot, though.

4th: 10-9-6-7-8…Alaskan Son (10) gets a poor post position and that may be enough to completely compromise his chances. But this late closer could be rolling late with a top trainer/rider combo. Will be making his first start outside of California after being shipped there from across the pond in 2016. Looks to fit in this spot perfectly. Billy Bag (9) goes for a top barn and is another one that has been shipped East from the barn of the California-based trainer Phil D’amato. (Same as the preferred choice.) Joe Bravo, who is on fire here, gets on board today. Will be a contender late. Difference in the top 2 may be the trip. I bet the 10 to win/place/show and then box the top 3 numbers in one exacta and then key the top 3 over the rest in a small saver.

5th: 7-1-2-4…Sacred Storm (7) goes for a top trainer who has been known to take his time with all horses — but especially the 2YOs. This will be the third career start for this filly by the versatile sire City Zip and has trained OK over this track since shipping down from Kentucky. Gets a nice class drop today and the addition of blinkers. Looks like the barn is all in for this one. Honor Bar (11) was steady throughout the debut run at Churchill Downs on Nov. 26. Gets a drop down today and a top rider sticks for the second out. Roussalka (2) ran 3rd in her last try at Churchill Downs on Nov. 19, but that was against cheaper. Was claimed out of that event by a trainer who is 2-for-2 with first timers after the purchase. I bet the 7 to win/place/show and then box the top 3 numbers in one exacta. Tread lightly here, too.

6th: 10-1-11-5-8-3-4…ninety One Assault (10) was the beaten favorite in the last out, and the trainer does well with the first time starters after that. Looked to have the perfect trip and made the lead late, only to get caught at the wire. Joe Bravo gets back up and that has to help. Look out here. Don’t dismiss the #1 in this spot. Mardi Gras Mask (1) spit the bit in the last, coming off a layoff and gets the grass for the first time today. The trainer excels when he has one in this spot — winning with .23% of firsters on the lawn. In the previous 5 before the last start, he had not been worse than 2nd. Gets the blinkers off, too, and trainer does well with that condition, as well. Zarb’s Gift and Valse (5) both have a shot in here, too. I bet the 10 to win/place/show and then key the 10 over/under all the numbers listed. I bet a little across the board on the 1, as well.

7th: 6-5-8-2-1…Cutter Helm won his only race to date, but gets another try against maidens in here due to being disqualified in his last race. Same rider gets another try after the foul, which is very puzzling, but top barn and this one has worked very nicely since that effort. My first Best Bet of the Day. Stuart Hall (5) goes for a trainer who does much better on the second start than the initial one. Training well since a 4th place finish behind what looks to be a good one. The pedigree screams for more ground than the initial try, and he gets it today. My Longshot Play of the Day at 6-1 ML. Enjoy the Journey (8) is a stalker who is still looking to close well enough to get by horses at the end of a race. Trainer has hit with only .04% of his saddle jobs this year. Like the significant jock change in here, but it may take more than that to encourage him to run past the front runners. Training good. I bet the 6-5 across the board and then box those 2 in the exacta. I then key those 2 over the rest of them listed in another.

8th: 2-9-11-5…Gagaoveryou (2) is a speedball and has hit the board in 12 of 15 tries at this specialty race. Has never been off the board in three starts here, and picks up Joe Bravo. Enough credential for me to make this one my Best Bet of the Day. Maluku (9) gets stuck a bit wide in this one, but ran very well closing off the pace here on Dec. 2. This one has faced some real good ones in the past, like Lull and Lovely Bernadette. All she needs to do is improve a tad off the last one and she could be right there at odds of 12-1. Thirteen Songs (11) has never hit the board on the grass, but she has been there only once before. Poor post doesn’t help, either, but She ran a huge one in the last try at Churchill Downs on Nov. 12 for good connections. Broke her maiden by 83/4 lengths before. I like the ML odds of 10-1, too. I bet the 2 to win/place/show solidly and then key the 2 over/under the “all button” in two exactas and then I key the 2 over (only) the numbers listed behind her.

9th: 2-3-7-5-9…Custom Paint Job (2) broke her maiden on Sept. 26 at Louisiana Downs, and her first time against winners she ran her shoes off for about 5 furlongs. Too bad for her the race was 6 furlongs. She faded in that one, but figures to be the best of the speedsters in this spot, too, and she may be able to carry it farther this time at the same level. Helen Wheels (3) broke her maiden in the slop here on Nov. 30. She pulled away easily that day when the drop into claiming ranks. She now faces winners for the first time and that is normally quite a test. Lady Lorettta (7) and Lurey An (5) both have a shot in this one, as well. The longshot to watch is the #5, who is getting much needed class relief in this spot. And, gets back to the dirt and the trainer is top notch with this surface switch. I bet the 2-5 to win/place/show and then box those two in one exacta and then key the 2-5 over/under all the rest.

Good Luck &

All the Best/Gene