Picks and Plays for Saturday Stakes Races at Fair Grounds

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

January 17th, 2019

Fair Grounds racetrack in New Orleans certainly knows how to put together a fun day of racing!

The upcoming Saturday card features six stakes races worth a combined $700,000, and the best part is that they’re arranged in consecutive fashion without any maiden, allowance, or claiming races to interrupt the action. That makes the card very appealing from the standpoint of multi-race wagers, so let’s dig in and come up with some picks and plays.

Please note: Due to scratches, some of these plays have been updated as of 1:43 pm Eastern.

Race 8: Marie G. Krantz Memorial Stakes

Top trainer Brad Cox has been campaigning #3 Lion in Wait against tough allowance company in New York, so even with the rise to stakes company on Saturday I think she’ll find the opposition at Fair Grounds a bit easier. She’s won four of her last six starts, three of them going the same 8.5-furlong distance as the Marie G. Krantz, and she has the tactical speed to work out a perfect trip in a race that is generally lacking in early speed.

I’ll play Lion in Wait on top of an exacta with her similarly speedy stablemate #10 Hachi, the stakes-winning California shipper #5 Miss Southern Miss, and the capable morning line favorite #8 Dubara underneath:

$5 exacta: 3 with 5,8,10 ($15)

Race 9: Louisiana Stakes

#7 Honorable Duty is unbeaten in three starts at Fair Grounds and is a two-time runner-up in the Stephen Foster Handicap (gr. I), but he was pulled up in the 1 ¾-mile Marathon Stakes (gr. II) last time out and taken away in a van—definitely not the ideal conclusion to a race. Can he rebound on Saturday?

I’m inclined to say “yes,” if only because separating the remaining contenders could be a task easier said than done. It’s encouraging to note that Honorable Duty failed to finish the 2017 Clark Handicap (gr. I), but won his next start (an allowance race at Churchill Downs) by five lengths. Honorable Duty was actually back on the work tab just three weeks after the Marathon, so evidently he’s none the worse for wear. If he brings his A-game, his affinity for Fair Ground should be enough to get the job done on Saturday.

However, I’ll resist the temptation to get involved in the exacta, trifecta, or superfecta. Instead, I’ll play him and #3 Phat Man in the first leg of an all-stakes Pick 4 ending with the Lecomte Stakes:

$2 Pick 4: 3,7 with 8 with 5,7 with 2,3,8 ($24)

Race 10: Colonel E. R. Bradley Handicap

#8 Great Wide Open has rounded into form quite nicely since returning from a brief summer freshening with a game runner-up effort in the Tourist Mile at Kentucky Downs. He followed that effort with a second-place finish in the Shadwell Turf Mile (gr. I) and back-to-back blowout wins in an allowance race and the Buddy Diliberto Memorial Stakes here at Fair Grounds. Great Wide Open has excellent tactical speed and figures to be tough to reel in on Saturday, looming as a logical single for multi-race wagers.

$10 exacta: 8 with 4 ($10) $10 double: 8 with 5,7 ($20) $2 Pick 3: 8 with 5,7 with 2,3,8 ($12)

Race 11: Silverbulletday Stakes

I’m willing to take a shot against expected favorite #4 Liora, since her victory in the Golden Rod Stakes (gr. II) at Churchill Downs was achieved by setting a slow pace over a sloppy, sealed track. She might not get such a favorable setup this time around, so I’ll try to beat her with #5 Needs Supervision. This daughter of Paynter beat a couple of next-out winners in a maiden race at Laurel Park, then shipped to Churchill Downs and won a one-mile allowance race by five lengths with a sharp move from just off the pace, posting a solid 94 BRIS speed figure. She’ll add Lasix for the Silverbulletday and has drawn well in post five—I think she can track the pace and pull away to win.

Also worth including is #7 Mandy Blue, who is unbeaten in two starts for Brad Cox. Last time out, Mandy Blue won an 8.5-furlong turf allowance race at Fair Grounds, but as a son of Smart Strike out of an A.P. Indy mare she’s bred for dirt and won her debut on the main track at Indiana Grand, so the switch back to dirt on Saturday shouldn’t be a concern.

$10 to win on #5 Needs Supervision $5 exacta: 5,7 with 5,7 ($10) $2 Pick 3: 5 with 2,3,8 with 6 ($6) $1 Pick 3: 7 with 2,3,8 with 6 ($3)

Race 12: Lecomte Stakes (gr. III)

I’ve already outlined my plays for the Lecomte in a separate handicapping preview, but for the purpose of multi-race wagers, I’ll go three-deep with #2 Malpais, #3 Tackett, and #8 War of Will.

Race 13: Duncan F. Kenner Stakes

The card ends with a standout runner in #6 Wynn Time, a consistent gelding with a 7-for-10 record. He’s never been beaten more than a length in any race and recently returned from a layoff to win the Thanksgiving Handicap over this track and distance with a 100 Beyer; for good measure, he switched to turf for the Bonapaw Stakes and overcome a  speed-favoring setup per the figures from RacingFlow.com to get up and win by a neck.

I’ll single him in the Pick 3 outlined above and also play him in an exacta with the consistent but often pace-compromised #3 Control Stake underneath:

$10 exacta: 6 with 3

Good luck!