The Jury: Bets and fades for Dec. 26

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December 23rd, 2022

Road to the Derby Kickoff Day at Fair Grounds and the opener of the 2022-23 winter/spring meet at Santa Anita are the betting highlights Monday as racing resumes following the Christmas holiday. A slimmed down TwinSpires Jury of Kellie Reilly and Vance Hanson offer their thoughts on those cards.

What is your best bet?

Kellie Reilly: The American Oaks (G1) stacks up as an ultra-competitive affair with a substantial field, but might finally be the place for #6 Mise en Scene (4-1) to fulfill her potential. Most recently a creditable sixth in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1), the British filly now stays stateside and switches to Brendan Walsh. I've been following this blueblood daughter of Siyouni for more than a year, ever since her eye-catching score in the 2021 Prestige (G3) at Goodwood and troubled fourth in the Fillies' Mile (G1). Her sophomore campaign hasn't gone to plan, but her near-miss in the Sept. 14 John Musker Fillies' S. at Yarmouth proves that she remains capable.

Vance Hanson: #3 Banishing (5-1) looks like a juvenile set to improve second out in the seventh race at Fair Grounds. Marooned in post 12 over the one-turn mile at Churchill on debut, the Godolphin homebred showed tactical foot while racing wide, but flattened out to fourth after making a bid on the far turn. The son of Ghostzapper gets a little more distance to work with here and is much better drawn for his two-turn debut.

Who is the horse to fade?

KR: #4 Midnight Memories (5-2) enters the La Brea (G1) in career form, but her ascent coincides with stretching out to two turns. Although she won her first two sprinting, her pedigree is all about routing. That makes her an uncertain proposition on the cutback versus one-turn specialists, especially at this level. Three fellow Bob Baffert trainees pose a danger, and Ain't Easy could be rounding back to her juvenile form for Phil D'Amato. 

VH: Although he stands out on paper, we've seen #6 Country Grammer (7-5) fall short at miserly odds in races like the San Antonio (G2) at Santa Anita before. This 1 1/16-mile affair is ostensibly a prep for a return trip to the Middle East for the Saudi Cup (G1) and/or Dubai World Cup (G1), both of which are run over distances more suitable to him. He might still win this, but at no great price. I'll treat his presence here as if this were a re-run of his appearance in the San Diego H. (G2) at Del Mar last summer, in which he tuned up for the more lucrative Pacific Classic (G1).

What else is worth noting?

KR: Cherie DeVaux has contenders in a trio of stakes at Fair Grounds, led by #4 Vahva (7-2) in the Untapable S. The daughter of Gun Runner looked potentially smart in her maiden win at Churchill Downs, and the stretch-out to two turns should be within her scope. If so, her field-best 92 Brisnet Speed rating suggests that Vahva could have the measure of favorite Pretty Mischievous. In the Tenacious S., #7 Farmington Road (8-1) is a more speculative chance. The five-year-old has promised more than he's delivered, but he might have turned over a new leaf on the switch to the DeVaux barn. A veteran of the 2020 Triple Crown trail, Farmington Road was a solid fourth in a division of the Risen Star (G2) in his only prior try over this track. DeVaux also has a very logical player in the sprint stakes - over to you on that, Vance. 

VH: One of the more interesting and competitive of the many stakes at Fair Grounds is the Richard Scherer Memorial, a six-furlong dash for older horses. #3 Tulane Tryst (9-2) doesn't have the depth of accomplishment as most of the major contenders here, but he's an improving, lightly-raced colt who's run well every time he's set foot on the Fair Grounds surface. Unraced since May, when he bled while finishing second in a restricted stakes at Churchill Downs, he's back on Lasix today and has posted some fine works over the past couple of months.