Day Results 14 / 5-3-9
2020 Overall 329 329 / 113-110-128
Win % of Top Pick 34.35%
Payoff % of Top 3 Picks Overall 35.56%
2020 Top Pick in the Money –206-329 62.61%
Top Selection ITM / TP Winter-Sprng 180-291 61.86%
Top Selection Win / TP Winter-Spring 104-291 35.74%
“Key Horses” @ TP Winter-Spring 44-11-11-8 25.00% Win / 68.18% ITM
“Key Horses” in 2020 46-12-12-8 26.09% Win / 69.57% ITM

It has been since Saturday — Florida Derby Day at Gulfstream Park — since we handicapped a full race card. Getting withdrawals. So, we are stretching out a bit here and we will handicap the Friday-Saturday cards at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, ARK.

We were there back in February, and we loved it.

The town.

The bath houses.

The Bed & Breakfast we stayed at, and the little diners scattered throughout the historic village.

And, of course, the racetrack and casino.

We loved it. We will go back today — virtually — and watch the races.

We need the diversion.

Here’s our picks:

1st: 7/2-3/1-5-4…Undoubtedly, the fans will zero in on Defender (2) in this spot. Logical choice. The 4YO Ghostzapper colt has a nice record over this track (1-2-1 in 5 starts) and nearly won at this level here just two starts back. The numbers add up to a serious contender, and a Post Time favorite. But…(There’s always a “but”)…Look at the record that this rider has posted for this barn operation over the last 60 days. Has 23 mounts. Zero wins. Rider has only 4 wins in 111 mounts. I just go hunting in cases like these and I find my first Key Play of the Day in Praetorian (7). This 5YO Tiznow gelding has hit the board in each of the last 4 starts and will drop down the price category with the move from Houston over to Oaklawn. Moves from the turf to the dirt and the barn hits with .21% of those. Gets a rider who has won with .47% of the last 30 mounts for this barn here, too. I like the difference in those numbers. I bet the 7 to win/place/show and then key the 7 over/under the “all button.”

2nd: 6-11-5/4-1-8/9-12-(13)-7-2-3…Mark of the Z (6) moves over from the Fair Grounds to race here for the first time ever. Has been facing tougher in New Orleans and should be a pace-factor from the get-go in this spot. Gets a solid speed rider and the blinkers go on today, too, and that should help make this one even sharper. Barn hits with .10% of those getting the shades for the first time. Will have to catch this one with a good break. Fayette Warrior (11) has a win and a second in 3 tries here. Won two races ago, but didn’t fare well when moved up in class last time out. Gets back to normal ranks here and should improve with a top rider in the irons. Junior Gilliam (5) is named after a former LA Dodgers player and I sure do miss the opening of the MLB season, too. This guy didn’t run well here on Feb. 28. The 7YO California-bred backed up after posing an initial threat. But this one nearly won two races back here and after only one start in 2019, may have just needed a couple of races. A shot at some odds here. I bet the 6-5 across the board and then box the top 3 in one exacta. I will key the 6-5 over/underthe 11-4-1-8 in two smaller units.

3rd: 7/3-2-5/6-9-8…My second Key Play of the Day comes here with Second Line David (7). This 3YO Sky Mesa colt nearly won on debut at the Fair Grounds on Feb. 29. Broke poorly, but came with a huge run late — while very wide in the stretch. At one time, he was 6-wide. Gets a hot rider in these parts, and the jockey has won with .28% of the last 39 mounts for this barn, too. Looks like this one could be tough to handle with a better start. I bet the 7 to win/place/show and then key the 7 over/under the “all button.” Will try the 7 over/under the 3-2-5 in another set.

4th: 10-5/1-3/6-2-8/4-7…The first Upset Special of the Day is Potomac (10), who hails from the barn of trainer Steve Asmussen. The 5YO son of Speightstown was bet down to favoritism last time out in mid-February here. Failed miserably in that high-priced allowance event and now gets the huge class drop to a $32,000 price tag. Barn hits with .26% of those that return as a beaten favorite. Won at Saratoga last August. Has the talent. In 2019, this one ran 9 times. Had 4 wins with 2 seconds and 1 third. Enough credentials for me. I bet the 10 to win/place/show and box the 10-5 in one exacta. I will key the 10-5 over/under the 1-3-6-2-8-4-7 in two smaller units.

5th: 2-3-4/(14)-1-9/8-11…This is a MSW event for the Arkansas-breds only. Wide open affair here, with a couple of horses moving up to face tougher for the first time. I will give the slight edge to Tempt Fate (2). Jockey Joe Talamo takes the reins on this one for the first time after he was claimed off of trainer Joe Sharp. The first two finishers of the last race came right back to win next time out. This may be the third from that “key” event. Ms Sassy Attitude (3) goes for a top barn operator and has faced the best groups, to date. Gets blinkers for the first time and that is an important fact. Barn hits with .24% when adding the shades. I bet the 2-3 across the board and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta. I will key the 2-3 over/under the “all button” in a smaller unit.

6th: 8-11-9/7-1-5/3-6/12-4…Hardly a Secret (8) won the last time out and now drops in class. Interesting approach. Barn is 0-for-4 when trying that tactic. But this 6YO son of Creative Cause has hit the board in 4 of the last 5 outings and has 3 wins in that mix. Likes it here, too, with a 3-1-2 mark in 7 starts. Trainer is having an awful meet, but knows his way to the winner’s circle. Can he repeat? Altito (11) is my upset choice here. This one has been facing much, much, much tougher over at the Fair Grounds for the top notch barn of Tom Amoss. In 10 starts here, has only one win. But never offered up for this low a tag, either. Loves the distance. Key note. In 25 tries, has 6-3-4 mark. My pick. I bet the 11 across the board and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta. I will key the 8-11 over/under the 9-7-1-5-3-6-12-4 in two smaller units.

7th: 3/4-7-5/2-9-6…My next Key Play of the Day comes here with Jewell Thief (3). This 3YO Gemologist filly comes from the barn of Brad Cox and will be returning as a beaten odds-on favorite from the last time out. The barn hits with .30% of those. Was beaten over 71/4 lengths last time out, but was clear by 33/4-lengths for second. The winner last time out beat this one the time before by just 11/4. Look for much more out of this one today. I am locked. And, loaded. As Denny Crane liked to say on Boston Legal. Denny Crane. I bet the 3 to win/place/show and then key the 3 over/under all the numbers listed in the exacta.

8th: 1-5-6/9/4-8/3-2/7…Exclamation Point (1) comes into this one for trainer Steve Asmussen off a much-needed and still impressive 4th place finish here on March 2. Jostled at the start of that one and still made a nice late run in the first start since last August. Long time on the bench and still made a solid run. Should be much fitter for this one. And, look what he did on the 2nd start off a layup here last year. Impressive. Barn hits with .26% of those returning as a beaten favorite. Also, the barn scores with .20% of those making the second start off a layup. My solid choice. Pirate’s Punch (5) ran a huge one last time out in the G3 Mineshaft at the Fair Grounds and against Silver Dust. Set the pace in that one. Will likely be a forward presence in here, too. Have to run down this one. I bet the 1 to win/place/show and then box the top 3 numbers in one exacta. I will key the 1-5 over/under the 6-9-4-8-3-2 in two smaller units.

9th: 9-6-7/5-12/2-1-(13)-4-3-11-8…Shocking Fast (9) is a 4YO daughter of Distorted Humor and she just broke her maiden last time out, when making the career debut for trainer Steve Asmussen. Had previously been trained on the Left Coast by Bob Baffert. This gal did run off to a 5.5-length win and was truly impressive. Now, must face winners for the first time ever. Barn does well with the move up — winning at a .22% clip. Does stretch out to a route for the first time, too. Should handle that fine, as well. I am going here. I bet the 9 to win/place/show and then box the top 3 numbers in the exacta. I will key the top 3 over (only) the 5-12-2-1 in a smaller unit.

Good Luck & All the Best / Gene