Here we Go. Big weekend of racing, featuring several key races on the “Pavement to Churchill Downs” for both the 2018 KY Derby, and it’s sister race, the KY Oaks. And, a bunch of other good races around the country to spice up the life of horse racing.

Let’s get to it. Here is a closer look at today’s card at the Fair Grounds and our selections for the Derby/Oaks preps:

Fair Grounds:

1st: 1-6-3-5-2…Saints’ Girl (1) gets the nod in the lid opener. She will be shorting up after a brilliant 13-length victory to break her maiden her on Jan. 28. Now, will face winners for the first time, but if she runs anywhere close to the same level that she put on display in the last go, she should have no issue today. Although she is the 8-5 ML favorite and is likely to go lower in the odds by post time, this daughter of Overanalyze had a super nice work here on Feb. 23; gets a red hot jockey who has put up a record of 4-2-2 in 16 mounts over the last week; and the trainer hits with .26% of the cut back in distance. Adds up. Andthebandplayedon (6) is more experienced than the favorite, and has faced tougher competition. Ran second in a small Stakes event for open company down at Evangeline Downs last year. But the last two have been a little shaky, although one was against Stakes company and the other was a poor try over turf for the first time. One could toss both those. Gets the meet’s top rider. Meter (3) is 1-for-1 lifetime, with a 5-length win on debut last June. Has not been seen since in the afternoons, but has been training quite nicely for the return. Goes for a super good barn and the connections of Adele Dilschneider and Claiborne Farm. Wow. They own a LA-bred? Have to consider. Right? I bet the 1 to win/place/show and then key the 1 over/under all the other numbers listed.

2nd: 7-8-1-6-2-3-5…Findley Isle (7) gets a nice class drop from one of the hottest barns here all meet. And, the blinkers will come off today. Both are very good angles for this barn (.39% with blinkers off). This one did run a nice second against MSW company two back and has been knocking on the door against tougher. Class drop should shove this one right to the front. My Man Jax (8) is another dropping from the MSW ranks all the way to MC25K. This one comes from the Brad Cox barn, and he is the meet’s leading trainer for a reason. Florent Geroux — red hot these days — takes the mount. This one has 3 seconds and a third in 6 career starts — but will make his first gate appearance as a gelding today. Nice work at Evangeline on Feb 24. Take note. Pain in the Arch (1) is a third dropping from the MSW level. This one ran against the preferred choice two back and was just behind that one. Gets a huge jockey change for today. I bet the 7-8 across the board and then box those two in a solid exacta. I key the 7-8 over/under all the numbers listed in two smaller versions.

3rd: 3-1-8-6-4…I Hope You Dance (3) gets a huge class drop for this one today, and the trainer scores with .24% of those getting this type of plunge. Will move from the turf to the dirt, where she has made only two previous starts. But seems to be working over it OK. Ran second against much tougher on the grass in the last, and gets a nice rider switch for this one. Grandma’s Princess (1) was claimed out of the last race and now gets a drop down one level. The trainer hits with .46% of those that he has done this with in the past. Sharp claiming trainer, who scores with .30% of first timers off the purchase, and this one had a real nice work here on Feb. 21. Worth watching. Tessa’s Treat (8) has been facing better, as well, and gets bumped to the basement today for the first time. Trainer has won two in a row over the last two weeks, and if this one reverts back to her race two back, she could be right there at the wire. Should push the pace early on. I bet the 3 to win/place/show and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta.

4th: 4-6-8-5-1-9…Extra Credit (4) is my first Best Bet of the Day. This 5YO gelding by Proud Citizen has won two in a row, including a nice LA-bred Stakes event two back. The jockey and this guy have won four times over the last couple of years and he looks as sharp as a tack room right now. Comes from the Brad Cox barn, and that’s about as good as it gets. Trust Factor (6) will be a tough customer to pass late in this one, though. Shortens up to a mile today and that should help this fast son of Paddy O’Prado. He has scored 5 times in 9 tries at this distance and loves this track, where he has a record of 3-2-2 in 7 starts. Lost to the preferred choice in his last try back in December and has been away since. Trainer is very good with this type of layoff, though, (.21%) and should be ready to roll from the gate spring. Grande Basin (8) ran second to the preferred choice two back and was beaten less than a length. Will be stalking and rallying from midpack. If the top choice has traffic issues, he will have the first chance to nail the front runners. I bet the 4 to win/place/show and then box the 4-6 solidly in one exacta. I key the 4-6 over the rest of the numbers in one more smaller version.

5th: 6-5-1-8-7-4…Biblical Strength (6) drops in class for this LA-bred only event today. Ran in Stakes company three back and held his own. Now, he finds himself against $12,500 company. Should be tough with these customers. Double Barrel Man (5) goes for a trainer who is 0-for-23 this meet. Claimed this one two races back at this level, and now comes back. Trainer hits with .35% on the second try after a claim. I’ll take those odds in this one. Who Talkin Now (1) goes for a trainer who is 0-for-22 this meet and has a win % of 0.00 on the second after a claim. Not good. But this one did run second very similar types last time out. Gets a nice rider switch and here’s hoping that and the “golden rail” can help. I bet the 6 to win/place/show and then key the 6 over/under all the numbers listed.

6th: 7-11-13-8-3-2-1-9-10…A wide open MSW event over the grass here. I go with Stave (7), who rallied strong on debut to only lose by 43/4 lengths in a tough field. Trainer hits with .20% of those making the second career race, and this daughter of Ghostzapper has trained very well since the first try. She was extremely wide into the turn in the last, and now stretches out to a route of ground more to her liking, it would seem. Love the 6-1 ML odds. My Longshot Play of the Day. Skipped (11) is parked way outside and that will compromise this one chances, but she gets the blinkers today and retains the services of a red-hot jock. Nice work here on Feb. 25, and she has faced two really good ones in the first two races. Both of those have already come back to win again. Watch out. Cape Time (13) is even farther on the outside, but this one ran a huge race at a sprint distance in the last. Gets Lasix for the first time today and should be rolling late, in this one. Love the 12-1 odds here, too. I bet the 7 to win/place/show and then box the top 3 numbers in one exacta. I key the 7 over/under all the numbers in two more, trying to hit a good number here.

7th: 5-6-3-8-7…Royal Reed (5) is a filly owned in part by the Asmussen family and trained by son Steve. Gets a huge class drop from MC50 all the way to the MC15 ranks. Trainer hits with .26% on this type of class drop, and a hot rider jumps aboard. Should be tough at this level. Tiz de Lovely (6) has a couple of thirds and a second in 7 previous starts. Hasn’t been real close at the end of them, though. Gets the blinkers back on today, and the trainer does OK with that change (.17%). Best of the rest? Atlantis (3) is a speedster who will try to take them the entire way. Has tired in each of the first three races. Got Lasix for the first time last out. Maybe that helps? Searching. I bet the 5 to win/place/show and then key the 5 over/under all the numbers. I tread lightly in this spot.

8th: 10-3-9-4-11-7-5-8…A nice grass Stakes event here with some interesting plot scenarios. I land on Tap Daddy (10), who I loved in the Smarty Jones Stakes at Oaklawn back on Jan. 15. He ran a distant third to Mourinho that day, but now gets back to the grass where he is a perfect 2-for-2. This son of Scat Daddy will be stalking from just off the pace and should absolutely love this 1 mile distance. If you can get the 3-1 ML odds? Hammer time. Fascilitator (3) will be making his grass debut, and he comes from the same barn of Steve Asmussen as the preferred choice. This guy has faced some tough customers in the first 4 tries, including a neck loss to Curlin’s Honor in the debut effort at Keeneland in October. This guy is very talented and will give the stablemate a run for his money. Stretch out? Will be interesting. Surface switch? May be compromising. Ride a Comet (9) comes from the barn of Mark Casse. Has won two in a row here, including a nice one over the grass in the last out. Forged to the front late in that 1-mile try and just kept running in debut on the grass. Son of Candy Ride may be any kind on this surface. And…bonus coverage here…If you like a live longshot, don’t dismiss Dragon Drew (11) — a speedster from the barn of Buff Bradley. This one could be tough to mow down late. I’m using. This guy knows how to train. Believe me. I bet the 10-11 to win/place/show and then key the 10 over/under all the numbers listed in the exactas. 

9th: 1-7-4-3-6…Sir Wedgeanola (1) ran a solid race before tiring late on debut back in July of 2017. Returns to the races today, but drops considerably in the class ranks and faces only LA-breds this time. Working regularly for the return, and gets a rider than can put him on the lead. The rail has been nice all meet, and they bet this guy the first time out. Watch the tote board today. Bitsy’s Carlos (7) gets the drop from the MSW ranks to the MC25 today. Trainer hits with .40% of these kind of droppers. Has a couple of thirds to show for the first 3 tries. Needs to pick it up better in the late going. Tensas’s Boy (4) is a first timer for a barn that does OK. Dam of this one has 2 winners from 2 starters to date, and this one had a sharp workout on Feb. 25. Meet’s top rider aboard. Can’t dismiss. I bet the 1-4 across the board, and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta.

Stakes Races From Across The Country:

Fountain of Youth: With the departure of Free Drop Billy, who was scratched this morning by trainer Dale Romans and now may be pointed to the Gotham Stakes in New York, things got a whole lot easier for the return of Good Magic, the winner of the 2017 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. That guy has never run a bad race in his life, with two seconds before breaking his maiden in the G1 event. Trained by Chad Brown, who certainly knows how to get one ready off the bench. But…I just think that he may not be entirely cranked up for this firs performance of 2018 — especially against some guys who have already run this year. So…I am going to key several horses over & under the prohibitive favorite. I am going to bet Strike Power (4), Storm Runner (5), Gotta Go (7) and Marconi (8) with Good Magic (6) in the exactas. I am going to bet Gotta Go (7) across the board. Love the way this horse ran last fall in the Street Sense Stakes at Churchill and the closing run in the Swale in 2018 debut. I look for a big effort from him today.

Davona Dale Stakes: A huge prep for the Kentucky Oaks today, and I will go right back to Take Charge Paula in this one. She was so dominant in the G3 Forward Gal here on Feb. 3, and I love the way she finished the race for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. She was a steamroller. Stretches out today, but I don’t think that should be an issue. Love her look right now. The horse to beat, though, is Shug McGaughey’s Fly So High. This Malibu Moon filly has back to back wins going a mile at Gulfstream Park, and she has done them both in convincing style. She could be tough. And, watch for an inexperienced, but talented filly by the name of Cache, who comes from the Mark Hennig barn. She may be pretty good. Still, I think it best to bet Take Cahrge Paulua to win/place/show and key her over/under several others.

Santa Isabel Statkes: Another key prep for the KY Oaks, and this one will be held on the Left Coast at Santa Anita. One thing to remember here: Dream Tree. The “Speed Figs” types like to shoot holes in her form to date. How? I don’t know. She is a perfect 4-for-4 and has throttled down in each of them. In fact, if things don’t get better soon with the colts, I think Baffert should consider running her in the Derby — against this group of boys who still may turn out to be men; or little boys. This filly can run. Period. Not much in the odds department, but I love her.