How to Bet the Fair Grounds Handicap

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

February 14th, 2018

Good luck finding the winner of the $150,000 Fair Grounds Handicap (gr. III) on Saturday at Fair Grounds!

Bettors that correctly identify the winner will surely be rewarded, for the nine-furlong turf race has drawn a huge and competitive field of twelve horses.

The horse to beat is surely #6 Mr. Misunderstood, who boasts a perfect 8-for-8 record on grass, including five consecutive stakes victories. A versatile gelding that likes to settle just off the pace and come with a big run, Mr. Misunderstood is 3-for-3 over the Fair Grounds turf course, with his most impressive performance being a decisive victory in the one-mile Woodchopper Stakes on December 30th, in which he sprinted the final quarter-mile in a quick :22.51 seconds. Racing for the powerful team of trainer Brad Cox and jockey Florent Geroux, who have teamed up to win at a 28% rate over the last sixty days, Mr. Misunderstood looks poised for another big effort on Saturday.

The only concern in my mind is that Mr. Misunderstood will be stepping outside his age group for the first time and facing older horses; only time will tell if he can step up his game against this level of competition. Among his key rivals is #3 Galton, a seven-year-old that has improved significantly since being claimed by trainer Mike Maker last summer. Two starts back, Galton was beaten less than a length while rallying into a slow pace in the Tropical Turf Stakes (gr. III) at Gulfstream Park, and on January 13th he again rallied into an unfavorable pace to finish second against a quality field in the 8.5-furlong Colonel E. R. Bradley Handicap at Fair Grounds.

There’s no guarantee that Galton will get a better setup in the Fair Grounds Handicap, which doesn’t contain much speed on paper, but with top jockey Javier Castellano in the saddle he could be a threat to upset the race if he gets the right trip.

A major wildcard is #8 Synchrony, who turned in three sharp efforts on turf last spring. After overcoming a slow pace to win an allowance race at Fair Grounds, Synchrony was beaten just a neck by the next-out Grade 1 winner Ascend in a strong renewal of the one-mile Henry Clark Stakes, then finished second in the Red Bank Stakes (gr. III) on May 27th at Monmouth while again facing a slow pace.

Unfortunately, Synchrony was sidelined after the Red Bank and hasn’t run since, but trainer Michael Stidham wins at a respectable 19% rate with horses coming off a layoff of 90 days or more, and Synchrony has posted a sharp series of workouts in preparation for his return.

I’ll focus on these three in the exacta while adding #9 High Noon Rider to a trifecta:

$3 exacta: 3 with 6,8 ($6) $3 exacta: 6,8 with 3 ($6) $1 trifecta: 3,6,8 with 3,6,8,9 with 3,6,8,9 ($18)

Good luck!