(Ryan Dickey, a man on a mission and a man with a dream, handicaps the Pick 4s at the Fair Grounds on Saturday)
Editor’s Note / Gene McLean:
(I first made my introduction to Ryan Dickey over Twitter about a year ago. At the time, he was a full-time fireman in Dearborn, Michigan and a full-time horse lover, as well. His love for the sport was contagious. His love for the horse was infectious. And, his passion to someday move to the mecca of the racing/breeding industry in Kentucky was apparent. That day has come. Over the holidays, Ryan took early retirement from the fire department; picked up his belongings and moved to Northern Kentucky — hell bent on finding a spot in the industry he loves best. I contacted Ryan via direct mail on his Twitter account and met him in person for the first time at the recent Keeneland January Sales. I found just the man who I had met over the internet. Kind. Personable. Intelligent. And, on a mission. I am lucky that Ryan has agreed to help us here at “The Pressbox.” He will do all kinds of things, like sell advertising; recruit sponsors; write; handicap; take photos. The man can do it all. And, we are happy that he will bring his ready smile and love for the game to you all, as well. The thing that I think speaks most about Ryan is this quote that he told me at Keeneland: “For the longest time, in my life, I chose to do the safe thing. I did what I thought was the right thing. Crazy, but being a fireman was ‘safe’ for me. Over the holidays, I decided it was time for me to do the ‘right’ thing for me. It was time I followed my heart and my dreams. So, I moved to Kentucky and started looking for something to do in the horse business. Can’t wait to get started.” We can’t wait for him to get started, either. So here we go. I think you will enjoy Ryan. He’s the kind of people we need more of in this business. He is a fan.)
Two Pick-4 Options to Choose From Saturday at Fair Grounds
By RYAN DICKEY
Saturday at the Fair Grounds features the Grade 3 Lecomte Stakes for three year olds going one mile and 70 yards on the dirt for a share of the $200,000 purse as well as points in the Road to the Kentucky Derby series.
The Fair Grounds card for Saturday consists of 14 races, with the Lecomte slated as race 12 (approximately 6:49 ET). Race 11 on the card is the Silverbulletday Stakes for three year old fillies going the same distance on the dirt. Both of these races are part of two late pick-4 sequences on the card–horseplayers need to ask themselves if they’d rather play the $100,000 guaranteed all-stakes pick-4 (races 9 through 12), or the late pick-4 (races 11 through 14).
Of course, there’s always the option to play BOTH, and that’s what I’ll examine here:
Races in both sequences (race 11 and race 12)
The Silverbulletday (race 11) features a field of seven fillies making either their third, fourth, fifth, or seventh career starts. Only #7 Mandy Blue is undefeated, at 2-for-2 lifetime. #6 Cowgirls Like Us has the most victories, with three (6-3-1-0 lifetime).
There are the three fillies I will use in the pick-4’s in this race:
#4 Liora, the 5/2 morning line favorite for trainer Wayne Catalano won in the slop beating a really talented filly in Restless Rider last time out. The forecast calls for rain on Saturday, and if the track is sloppy this one could be bet as a single. Jockey Channing Hill retains the mount aboard this Candy Ride filly, looking to win for the third time in a row following the victory in the Grade 2 Golden Rod at Churchill Downs last out after breaking her maiden at Churchill two back. This is her first try at Fair Grounds.
#5 Needs Supervision also won in the slop last out at Churchill Downs in allowance company where she won by five lengths. At 3-1 on the morning line, she will offer more value come post time than Liora, who will most likely be the odds-on favorite—especially if the track comes up sloppy.
#2 Grandaria has a win on a sloppy track as well and has won at Fair Grounds at this distance. She retains jockey Corie Lanerie who won aboard this Curlin filly for trainer Brendan Walsh last out.
The Lecomte has a full field of 14 runners, and looks to be a wide-open affair, as indicated by the morning line sporting #12 Plus Que Parfait 9/2 favoritism. Seven of the 14 runners in the field (there is one also-eligible) are making their Fair Grounds debut. Five entries have won here in New Orleans, with #3 Tackett having two wins (both at this distance) on this strip.
The following are my (yes, eight!) selections in order of preference for the pick-4 wagers. Readers may feel free to use as many or as few of the selections as they see fit, but the “ALL BUTTON” could be in play:
#7 Roiland (12-1 morning line) is my top choice in the Lecomte. I’m expecting a fast pace in this race–and it’s by necessity as the outside horses (11-14) need to hustle to the quick first turn to get into any kind of race position. Roiland should be able to allow faster horses on the outside to get in front of him while jockey James Graham maneuvers him in front of some, and slightly behind other, quicker horses nearer to the rail–in an effort to save ground. This Tom Amoss-trained son of Successful Appeal adds blinkers which looks like the move that may give him the edge here. With the very distinct possibility of a contested early pace by many horses, a pace meltdown is likely to occur, and Roiland should be positioned to pass tiring foes late and win at a very nice price–likely higher than 8-1.
#11 Tight Ten (8-1) WAS my top-choice in this race before taking another look at pace dynamics. I feel Tight Ten will be involved in the early pace battle since he’s to the outside, but he has the tactical speed to get there. His last race in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile should be forgotten, because he never had a chance to run his race. This Asmussen-trained Tapit colt is classy, but has found trouble in each of his last two starts. The distance isn’t the problem, but his mental state may be. Still a major contender if the “light went on” but we won’t know until we see it–which is the case with many Tapits.
#13 Manny Wah (10-1) could be the upset winner that exotic bettors love in races with large fields. He’s not as classy as others in this race, but if he can get clear early, and the pace isn’t as brisk as projected, he could possibly make some big noise. His speed figures from his last race put him near the top of these runners, and he could easily be 15-1 or higher at post time–making him intriguing. A hunch.
#3 Tackett (6-1) is very logical, as he’s won twice here–both races at today’s distance. He looks well-polished as a runner and the question remains if he’s classy enough. I also like him because I’m friends with “The Mayor of Louisville” Jason Tackett (not actually the mayor, FYIW). Can’t leave him off tickets.
#12 Plus Que Parfait (9/2) deserves favoritism based on the form, but his outside post prevents him from being shorter on the morning line. He looks like the most complete runner based on the past performances, but he’ll come at the lightest price. The Walsh-trained Point of Entry ridgling performed well in the sloppy Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill Downs last out. Should be the post-time favorite if it’s not Tackett.
#4 Mr. Money (5-1) is by Goldencents and this distance should be perfect for the Bret Calhoun trainee. He got off to a bad start in the B.C. Juvenile, had to expend lot of energy to make up for the ground loss, and subsequently tired. If we can look past that race for Tight Ten, then we can certainly excuse Mr. Money’s performance as well. He has looked well in the mornings, recently.
#8 War of Will (6-1) will be a sneaky play if the track is indeed sloppy. While he looks for all intents and purposes a turf horse, he broke his maiden last out in the slop. His speed figures puts him right in the mix, and the War Front colt won going a mile and sixteenth at last asking. May be 10-1 at post-time.
#6 Hog Creek Hustle (12-1) will be on my tickets if I go eight deep (or hit the “all button”) solely because of jockey Florent Geroux who knows how to ride at Fair Grounds, and could absolutely shock this field at real juicy odds. The Overanalyze colt did poorly in his only route in the Grade 3 Iroquois in September, but that was a long time ago. An outside shot, to say the least.
All stakes pick-4 (races 9 through 12)
The first two legs of the $100,000 guaranteed pick-4 are the $75,000 Louisiana Stakes and the $125,000 Colonel E.R. Bradley Handicap. Horseplayers wagering on the all stakes pick-4 have to be careful of two things, which may or may not be correlated: first, there’s a chance the Colonel Bradley may come off the turf due to rain. Also, two runners in the Louisiana Stakes (on dirt) are cross-entered in the Bradley–#4 Pioneer Spirit and #5 Silver Dust.
The Louisiana Stakes sports a field of seven horses four years old and up looking to go a mile and a sixteenth on the dirt. Should either or both of the aforementioned horses opt to run in the Bradley, there could be a very short field in race 9–the first leg of the all stakes pick-4.
I like two horses in the race regardless of where the two cross-entered horses race:
#3 Phat Man is my choice to win the Louisiana Stakes. He finished a game second to Pegasus World Cup contender Tom’s d’Etat last out here at Fair Grounds, where the now five year old Munnings gelding has a win and a place in three career starts. He’s 8-3-3-0 at the distance, and has looked great in the morning for trainer Joe Sharp. He will offer much more value than the favorite.
#7 Honorable Duty is the 5/2 morning line favorite and most-likely to be the post-time favorite in the Louisiana Stakes. He’s a perfect 3-for-3 at Fair Grounds and has won 5-of-6 (with one place) at the distance. He was last seen finishing 27 lengths back at Churchill Downs in the Grade 2 Marathon Stakes during Breeders’ Cup weekend. The seven year old Distorted Humor gelding has six published workouts since then, and none of them look good on paper. He is the epitome of a “beatable favorite”.
If #4 Pioneer Spirit runs in this race, I will use him as my third choice in the Louisiana Stakes. The Brad Cox/Florent Geroux combo is formidable at Fair Grounds, and I think this race offers the best chance for the six year old Malibu Moon horse to hit the board.
If that one scratches, I’ll look to #2 Harlan Punch as my third choice. Brad Cox also trains this six year old Harlan’s Holiday gelding. Backing this trainer at Fair Grounds is wise.
The Colonel Bradley Handicap has nine entries aged four years old and upward slated to go a mile and a sixteenth on the turf course, with two of those entries being cross-entered in the Louisiana Stakes.
If the race stays on the turf, #8 Great Wide Open (IRE) should be the heavy favorite to win. Having won at Fair Grounds three times in six tries (with one place) on the grass, he’s also 3-2-1-0 at the distance. The seven year old gelding trained by Conor Murphy has won on less-than-firm turf on many occasions. He’s 2-1 on the morning line, and may be less than that when the gates open.
#2 Big Changes (9/2) finished second to Great Wide Open last out in a stakes race at Fair Grounds going the same distance on the turf. There’s a good chance this Brad Cox trainee could turn the tables with Joe Bravo aboard. Bravo is an excellent turf rider, and he and Cox have gone 4-6-1 the last 19 times they’ve teamed-up for an average win payoff of $12.10. He has won of less-than-firm turf as well.
#4 First Premio is coming off a long layoff, but is useable in this race. He’s dropping in class, has looked great in the mornings, and may be forgotten at the windows, since his record at Fair Grounds in particular and on the turf in general are not stellar. He would definitely be a surprise winner, but that is what horizontal bettors look for in sequences like this. If he wins, the payouts will be very much worth the risk of adding him to the ticket.
Late pick-4 (races 11 through 14)
The Duncan F. Kenner Stakes is race 13 on the Fair Grounds card, and it provides us with the opportunity to single a horse, as #6 Wynn Time looks much the best, and could very well be the easiest winner on the entire card. At 3-5 on the morning line of a six horse race, he should win wire-to-wire with no real traffic concerns in this six furlong sprint. He’s 5-4-1-0 at Fair Grounds, 9-6-2-1 at the distance, and 4-3-1-0 on a wet track. A free square.
Race 14 is a six furlong maiden special weight sprint for three year old Louisiana breds. While it looks as though #7 Inspector Eddie (9/5) is another possible single, I’m throwing #9 Boston Bind in the mix, as he ran well here last out in an off-the-turf sprint, and has looked well in the mornings. There’s no shame in singling Inspector Eddie, but for me, I’m ending the card 7,9.
Proposed Pick-4 tickets:
I will provide two tickets for each pick-4–one “skinny” for smaller players, and one “deeper” ticket for each sequence:
$100,000 guaranteed pick-4 (races 9-12)
Skinny: $0.50 pick-4: 3,4,7 -or- 2,3,7 (depending on scratches) WITH 8 WITH 2,4,5 WITH 3,4,6,7,8,11,12,13 ($36)
Deep: $0.50 pick-4: 2,3,4,7 WITH 2,8 WITH 2,4,5 WITH 3,4,6,7,8,11,12,13 ($96)
Late pick-4 (races 11-14)
Skinny: $0.50 pick-4: 4 WITH (all) WITH 6 WITH 7,9 ($14)
Deep: $0.50 pick-4: 2,4,5 WITH (all) WITH 6 WITH 7,9 ($42)