On Standard, #4 SOUTHERNER could present a pace advantage clear in Quad I with separation above the Par Line. He is also shown as the lone EP RunStyle horse on OptixRPM in a lower 12 SpeedRate race. That said, there are some potential “red” flags looking at the Past 3 Runlines. Southerner does show the Red Keywords, including the REGRESS? Projection from his most recent race, the Feb. 11 win. While another LONE trip is possible according to Standard, the Surface/Distance Plot draws in more Quad I Contention (Fire) which could in addition to the REGRESS create a tougher trip as he steps up in class on the 28-day turnaround. While capable, the overall picture suggests some vulnerability today and noted as he is listed as the 8-5 morning line favorite and projects to hold that role at post time.
Diving into the race shape, the Surface/Distance Quad I Contention draws in #1 RIVER FINN (Circle above the Par Line) and #8 KAT’S HITMAN (Circle with first call positional speed), two runners that are capable to keeping pace with Southerner in the early and middle stages of the race at today’s class and 1 1/16-mile distance. Their lack of finish is documented and should have them vulnerable late as the Larger Circles – the larger the Circle the weaker the finish. The lower SpeedRate could also find #5 FOXY ACE (Quad II Square) closer to the pace today keying off his effort and ride from Jan. 30 under similar lower SpeedRate. By contrast, he found himself off-the-pace last month with the faster early and middle pace figures. His C+/B- OptixGRADES recorded at this level are average for class and suggest more for underneath.
#9 JUSTIN’S QUEST should be able to stalk that trio from the outside post and could fall into the ideal trip with first run and closing (Square) ability. Justin’s Quest also fits on current form as he returns to this $10k N3L claiming level, earning an improved 78 OptixFIG and B- OptixGRADE.
#2 STOCK DEAL has some upside returning to this condition and preferred route distance noting the STRETCH? Keyword Projection from Feb. 21. That race in the context of placement at the sprint distance could be considered a prep as he was reclaimed by Diodoro on Jan. 30. Diodoro had Stock Deal back on Dec. 17 where he was claimed for $30k on a fifth place finish, though did post an 82 OptixFIG for that effort, a number that sits on the higher side of today’s 82-76 OptixFIGRANGE (OFR).
#6 GAINER does not look to have any class strong edge in this field from his Past 3 Runlines as well as his Plot position as a Quad II/IV Circle. The intention today as he returns to the route distance, second off the claim for Villafranco, could be to try and show more tactical, early speed, something he has been able to show in the past, granted at a lower class level.
The lower SpeedRate again looks to be problematic for #7 REVENIO with his Quad IV off-the-pace RunStyle. That trip will be key once again, though to his credit, he has been holding his form by the lack of “Red” in the Past 3 Runlines and does find a softer level today with the lower OFR in play to move him up this afternoon. #3 EGOMANIC does show a Larger Square, the Larger the Square, the stronger the finish, than Revenio, however his position “deeper” in Quad IV, could have Egomanic further off-the-pace early on and a tougher trip as that confirmed C/Closer OptixRPM.
#3 LOVING LUCKY has a look in this spot as an Oaklawn Park contender based on his races this season. He had an EX – EXCUSE back on Jan. 2, a race that has been productive (KEY) including a move forward for this maiden finishing second with the fast CLOSE for second on Jan. 30 earning the B OptixGRADE. Loving Lucky fits on class (GRADE) and speed (OptixFIG in OFR) his gate issues (SLOG, TROUBLE_S) can often create those trips that have created issues and coming up short in the past and should be compensated for on the board.
The public will naturally gravitate toward #1 MY FAVORITE UNCLE one that has finished in-the-money in his two most recent starts and has the top connections of Asmussen/Rosario that feel “safer” in this type of event. My Favorite Uncle has yet to run that “winning” type B OptixGRADE and has lacked any excuses at this level. He has some gate issues in his own right breaking slow (SLOG) and lacking early speed and a bit on the “ploddy” side is tougher to trust on the win end while sticking around for a minor award tends to be his patten.
Trainer Von Hemel will send out #6 TANGO KILO to make his second start of the meet with upside given that return race and change in distance this afternoon. Hidden value could also be present as far as Standard showing up with a similar position and shape to rival, My Favorite Uncle. Back on Feb. 13 Tango Kilo was given a Circles and Squares mention based on hidden 2021 Oaklawn Park where he was facing off against a heavy favorite called Abdan, that ultimately went on to win. Tango Kilo also had the challenge making his 372-day layoff return at the sprint distance and returning from that break wearing front wraps for the first time (look for a removal today) the visuals and placement sprinting suggested he would need the start. With that race under his belt, he is capable of taking the step forward given PREP? Keyword gaining fitness from the WIDE trip and GALLOP+ out after the wire as he returns to the preferred route distance. In terms of numbers, Tango Kilo must improve to compete here, though on that front, he still has some projection available as this will be his second start as a four-year-old and has that 66 OptixFIG from his sophomore season where the necessary 10-point improvement is not an unreasonable projection.
The Dream Walkin Farms ownership group, will also be represented here by #8 QUARANTINE WHISKEY as he makes his second career start. His debut last month was a contentious Special Weight event for the older horses giving up experience on the day to others in the field including the race winner, Stratofortress. That Feb. 13 race has already produced a next out winner as the place finisher, Life Is Hard, came back to break his maiden on March 4 (MSW 8f) earning a 97 OptixFIG with the third place finisher, Invariably finishing fourth with an 82 OptixFIG in that same event. Quarantine Whiskey’s presence in this race with the class and distance change could have him showing early speed, Quad I, and setting the pace in a dynamic that lacks any true E or EP RunStyle horses from the runners with more established form.
#4 PIZZA CHARLIE looks to take up that pacesetting role by default on the Plot as a Quad I Square. Though is not one that has shown much stamina in his prior route, two-turn races and could find this distance a challenge returning from the layoff. The connections had him entered back on Jan. 28 at the $20,000 maiden claiming level sprinting and scratched with reason unknown from that event and was assigned the 3-1 morning line favorite for that race. Class wise this change from the Special Weight races at Presque Isle Downs is more of a lateral move to today’s maiden claiming level, lacking a real class edge. That same consideration for #2 DREAMER’S DELIGHT exiting the Special Weight races at Delta Downs where this change could be a step up in class with the circuit switch and higher OFR today.
Class is also on the lighter side for #7 CHISHOLM TRAIL on that has been racing at this maiden claiming level, surface, and distance this season and just recording the average C+ OptixGRADES. His OptixFIG stack up with the OFR, however must step forward and find more than he has to date for the top spot. The class (C OptixGRADE) is also light for #5 MOONSHINE SURFER though a newer face at this level transitioning from the statebred conditioned races, a lateral move on class to race here. He has the documented gate issues (SLOG) from those first two races both at the sprint distance and will make his route debut here.
The Plot suggest the race shape could create some value with the top three morning line favorites, #1 JOY’S ROCKET, #2 LI’L TOOTSIE, and #6 NOVEL SQUALL all positioned in Quad IV with a lower 17 SpeedRate. While each are capable, the race shape scenario could present an opportunity for the other three to take advantage on the front end or with a first run trip.
#5 ACTING OUT could hold a pace advantage on Standard shown clear above the Par Line as Circle with visual separation in Quad I. That Standard position does represent “current form” and in this case her most recent races, those races prior to the 225-day layoff she will return from here. That extended layoff is also in play for #4 RING LEADER as she makes her 246-day return this afternoon. Value, the number on the board, could be lacking given her Plot position in relationship to others as well as the shorter morning line than Acting Out in this case. #3 HEADLAND has some recency as she will make her second start of the meet for Steve Hobby, looking to find this barn their first win of the season. Headland has form here at Oaklawn Park and some of her stronger races run over today’s course and distance. She has that form and class (OptixGRADES) at this type of allowance level with OptixFIG in today’s OFR. She has shown the ability to run well off this type of two month freshening and all around could find herself in the right place and time (and at the right number) this afternoon.