What a great day of racing all over these great “not so” United States of America. We will have some picks at Gulfstream a bit later, but for now here is a closer look at today’s card at the Fair Grounds — which is having one great meet in the Big Easy.

1st: 2-6-1A-5-4…Candy Striper (2) was claimed back in November for $50,000. Goes today for half that price. That is normally not a good sign, but this daughter of Twirling Candy has been training quite nicely and goes for a top barn, that hits with .26% of first timers after the claim. Gets the barn’s top rider aboard. Looks to be the one to beat here. Dauville Mist (6) has proven not to like the grass, and may not truly prefer the “good” dirt, either. But if you dig a little deeper, she has some past races on the dirt and going short that could put her in this race. Picks up a solid rider switch for this one, too. Both parts of the entry have the same rider named, so it is likely that one may scratch. If Moonlighting Majic (1A) stays in this one, then I think she can compete for the top spot. If she scratches out and the other part of the entry stays in, then I think Hard Headed Woman (1) can compete for the minor awards. I bet the 2 to win/place/show and then box the top 3 numbers in one exacta and then key the 2 over/under all the numbers listed above in two more.

2nd: 4-2-7-6-5…Hold Me Black (4) has hit the board in 5 of 7 tries over this track, and comes into this one with a nice drop in class. The trainer is solid in these parts, and does well with this kind of drop, too. Gets reunited with his regular rider today and should be a forward presence from the get-go. Working well for this one, too. Line Judge (2) was claimed last time out by a top trainer/owner combo. Trainer hits with .26% of first timers after the purchase, and this one had a nice work here on Jan. 15. Won the last out, which was a huge drop in class. Looks like he belongs close to this level today. Quiet Dude (7) won the last time out down at Delta Downs in an allowance race. Now bounces back to the state’s flagship racetrack, and faces a good field. Trained by a top conditioner, too, and gets the barn’s top rider aboard. No surprise here if this one lands on top. I bet the 4-7 to win/place/show and then box the top 3 in one exacta.

3rd: 6-2-10-3-7-9…Ninety One Assault (6) has been ridden expertly by the red-hot Joe Bravo in each of the last two turf tries here. The only thing that Jersey Joe didn’t do was pick this 5YO gelding up and carry him over the wire first. But he was 2nd by a length and 3rd by 1/2-length in those two tries after a lengthy layoff. The third try may be the sharp and the trainer hits with .23% of those that return after losing as the favorite. Gets only LA-breds again, and I am looking for a big score in this one. My first Best Bet of the Day right here. Marco Mischief (2) is by Into Mischief and probably one of the best bred horses in this race. Has not been close in the last 3, but has been facing much tougher Gets a nice rider aboard today after shipping back to the Fair Grounds from Gulfstream Park, and, more importantly, lands against state-bred only. In the Navy (10) figures to have a shot, but is stuck way wide and with a rider who is off to a very cold start here this meet. Has hit the board in 4 of the last 5 and was fourth in the only miss. Solid and consistent. I bet the 6 to win/place/show and then key the 6 over/under all the numbers listed.

4th: 2-8-6-7-9…D’Kingfish (2) gets a huge drop in class to the bottom of the claiming ranks for the first time ever. Moves from the turf back to the dirt, and the trainer hits with .19% of those making this surface switch, and this one was a close fourth and a solid second in the two dirt tries before going on the sod. Trainer having a solid meet here. Classic Brahms (8) won his last time out, but loses that condition. Still, it indicates that he is dong well right now and likes racing against State-bred only. If he can duplicate the last effort, he may figure in this bunch — especially pushing the pace. Il Est Vite (6) was claimed last time out and this barn doesn’t overwhelm with those that pick up on the first try. But the trainer is plucking the blinkers off and he does do well with that equipment change — winning with 25% of his 8 starters that have that switch. Has posted a second and a third in just 4 tries over this dirt track. I bet the 2 to win/place/show and then box the top 3 numbers in one exacta, and then key those 3 over the next 2 numbers in another.

5th: 6-2-1-7-8-3-5…Belgian (6) is the top pick here after nearly clearing this condition in the last try here on Dec. 31, when he lost by a nose. Comes right back at the same level and the same distance with the same red-hot rider aboard. If he gets the same situation, I got to think he gets the job done in this spot today, and this one has been on the board in 5 of 7 lifetime tries. My second Best Bet. Banana Thief (2) ran just behind the preferred choice in the last try, and was making a big run late. This one figures to come with a late run and the rider is one of the top 2 jockeys this meet. Came back to post a super work here on Jan. 15, and looks sharp. The one to beat. Main Road (1) was 6th last time out after pressing the pace up at Aqueduct and giving way late. Picks up a solid rider for the debut here, and posted a nice work here on Jan. 13. Looks ready to get back to running, and the last two show that he likes the grass. Post is really good for those that like to leave the gate running. And, he does. I bet the 6 to win/place/show and then box the top 3 numbers in one exacta, and then key the top 3 over the rest in one more.

6th: 1-4-9-6-8-7-10…Bourbon Candy (1) makes his third start off a layoff today, and that is normally a good angle But this trainer only hits with .03% of those with this situation, and that’s out of 32 previous runners. Alert and alarm. But this one looks to be the best, especially considering that he is plummeting all the way to the basement for this try. Trainer does do well with the switch from turf to dirt (19%) and is OK with the plunge in class (.09%). Rider has not made the winner’s circle here this meet after 16 tries. So today? Stihl Harbor (4) has better connections across the board, and nearly won at this level the last time out — losing only by a nose. Same rider returns for this effort and the pace-pusher will try to gun all the way in this spot. Likes this distance a lot, with 2 wins and a second in 4 starts previously. The one to beat. Wildwood Dejavu (9) is another getting a big class drop for this one. Throw out the last try on the turf, and he has been in the money four in a row and 5 of the last 6. Definitely has a shot in here. I bet the 1-4 across the board and then box the top 3 numbers in one exacta.

7th: (13)-1-2-10-7-5-4…If the #13 draws into this one, I have to use. But, if not, I go directly to Dot Notation (1), who gets the saddle from the meet’s top trainer — Brad Cox. She clipped heels and dumped jockey James Graham in the last try. Now, gets one of the meet’s top riders to replace, and the work here on Jan 14 suggests that she is OK to try again. Will need to improve today, but the rail has been golden all meet (.20%) and she figures to get a much better trip than in the previous two tries. Splashing (2) goes for a trainer who wins with .22% of those trying the grass for the second time. This daughter of Tapizar is out of a winning mare, who has 5 starters and 4 winners already. I’m going to take a long look and use first time starter Windy City Girl (5) in this spot. This filly is trained by a solid veteran, who knows how to get them ready off the bench and for the grass, in particular (.20%). This one is out of a winning mare who has already thrown a turf winner who has 2 wins and a Stakes victory. My Longshot play of the day, at 10-1 ML odds. I bet the 1-5 across the board and then key the 1-5 over/under all the numbers listed.

8th: 5-8-6-7-3…Silver Dust (5) is my final Best Bet on the card. This one is coming off an extended vacation, but has been training super and comes from a barn that does extremely well with his layoff return (.21%). This guy has run against some really good ones before — like Hence, McCraken, and Classic Empire. He figures to air this group today if he is ready, and the practices in the a.m. suggests that he is. Look for really good things from this guy all spring. I bet the 5 to win/place and then key over/under all the numbers listed. I also key this one in all of the horizontal plays today, too.

9th: 8-1-5-10-11…Aspening (8) will be making her second career start for a top trainer in Tom Proctor, who is overdue for a big win here at FG. This one close nicely to finish 3rd on debut here Dec. 31, and was way wide in that event and just got a bit aired at the end. Was made the favorite on debut, and has worked well since that effort. I think this daughter of Candy Ride, who cost $150,000 as a weanling, is ready to rumble. Smart Response (1) is making her debut for the red-hot barn/jockey combo of Joe Sharp and Adam Beschizza. She has trained super coming into this first real run, and she cost $525,000 as a 2YO in training last year. She is out of a Stakes-winning mare, who has thrown 2 winners from 2 starters. She breaks from PP 10, which may not be a bad thing for this youngster. Watch out here. Drift Away (5) ran second and nipped the preferred choice at odds of nearly 30-1 last time out. Figures to be better bet today. I bet the 8-1 across the board and then box the top 3 numbers in one exacta and key the 8-1 over/under the rest of the numbers in two more.

10th: 2-1-3-8-9…Wide open affair to conclude today’s races. I land on Helen Wheels (2), who is dropping out of the $20,000 claiming ranks all the way to the basement, and still will face only LA-breds. She has hit the board in each of the last three tries and the trainer is having a super good meet here. Will get a new rider today, what with the injury to Chantal Sutherland (we wish her all the best in her recovery). But figures on top. I bet the 2 to win/place/show and then key the 2 over/under all the other numbers listed above.

Gulfstream Park:

5th: #13 Sir Sahib

6th: 12-2-3…Blue Bahia, Just Talking, Justa Lady

7th: 10-7-6-8…Beasley, Moves Like Ali, Giuseppe the Great, Tommy Macho

8th: 7-4-3-8…Oscar Nominated, Nessy, Gold Shield, Mr. Cub

9th: 7-10-8…Curlin’s Approval, Nonna Mela, Spicy Lady

10th: 7-6-5-8…Richard’s Boy, Rainbow Heir, Sir Navigator, Pay Any Price

11th: 11-2-9…Celestine, I’m Betty G, Stormy Victoria

12: 10-2-5-12-6…Gun Runner, West Coast, Collected, Great Expectations, Gunnevera