Fonner Park: Best exotic bet to play in the Grasmick Stakes

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

February 19th, 2021

Remember Fonner Park? The little Nebraska racetrack rose to prominence during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, racing on even when many other tracks had cancelled. Wagering at Fonner went through the roof, and normally unheralded stakes races became events of national interest.

Now Fonner is back in the fray with a 2021 meet spanning from Feb. 19 through May 1. The track will celebrate its return with Saturday’s running of the $15,000 Grasmick S., an intriguing half-mile dash with a competitive field of seven in the entries.

Unsurprisingly, speed is dominant sprinting half a mile at Fonner. There just isn’t much time for late runners to get going over such a short distance. During the 2020 meet, 86 half-mile races were held at Fonner, and 65% were won in gate-to-wire fashion. Furthermore, horses with Brisnet "E" (Early) or "E/P" (Early/Presser) running styles won 93% of the races.

These facts bode well for the chances of #7 Warrior’s Lullaby (7-2), who looms as the "speed of the speed" in the Grasmick. Although Warrior’s Lullaby could only finish third in this race last year, he’s improved in the interim and looks tough to beat.

Consider Warrior’s Lullaby’s impressive credentials:

  • He’s consistent—he’s finished on the board in 13 consecutive races, winning half a dozen
  • He’s campaigned by hot connections—trainer Kelli Martinez went 36-for-115 (31%) at Fonner last year, while jockey Armando Martinez won at a 24% rate and led all riders with 70 victories
  • He’s been facing quality allowance and starter allowance company at Prairie Meadows and Keeneland—last time out, he finished fourth behind next-out winners Reason to Soar and Royal Commission in a six-furlong dash at Keeneland
  • He’s shown plenty of speed when necessary—two starts back, he carved out splits of :21.34 and :44.41 in a six-furlong allowance race at Prairie Meadows
  • He’s drawn the outside post, setting the stage for an unencumbered journey

In short, Warrior’s Lullaby looks like a solid win candidate at a fair price. The remainder of the field also appears straightforward to decipher, with #1 Ourbestfriend D L (5-2) the most logical runner-up. Ourbestfriend D L might not have quite as much pure speed as Warrior’s Lullaby, but his solid Brisnet Speed ratings and 5-2-2-1 record at Fonner should be sufficient to land him in the money.

With this in mind, the trifecta looks like the best exotic wager to play in the Grasmick. Let’s bet Warrior’s Lullaby on top, key Ourbestfriend D L for second and third place, and add #3 Miner Heat (3-1) and #5 Plash Drive (8-1) for the final slot.

$7.50 Trifecta: 7 with 1 with 3,5 ($15)
$7.50 Trifecta: 7 with 3,5 with 1 ($15)
Total: $30

Good luck!