The live racing season is off to an exciting start and it will only get better as the first stakes race of the year, the Hazel Wright Sire Stakes, takes place on Saturday night. That’s a good reason in itself to come out to the races, but there’s also more to look forward to.
The Golden Boy and La Verendrye Stakes are coming up next weekend. The Golden Boy is expected to feature both Balooga Bull and the horse he defeated by a head in his opener, Pleasant Closing. I’m guessing a couple more horses will challenge those two, especially impressive recent allowance winner So Shiny. Other nominated horses include Runaway Lion, who is listed as questionable at the moment along with most of the field from Wednesday’s sixth race. I wouldn’t expect many of them to jump back in.
The La Verendrye for older fillies and mares will feature a competitive bunch including Golden Stripe, Honorable Lady, Cell Line Forever and Finally Flying. Finally Flying worked an impressive six furlongs the other day in 1:12 4/5 and that should have her on her toes for trainer Clint Wilson, who has won numerous stakes races here over the years with horses like Kalfaari and Preservata.
Mr Exspeedient is another former stakes winner trained by Clint Wilson, and he will make his first appearance of the year in Friday night’s featured seventh race, which is very tough to pick in my opinion.
Mr Exspeedient runs well fresh, as he has proven over the past few years. Pulgarcito was a favorite for the Manitoba Derby last year and ran a good race in his last to win a conditioned claiming event before being taken down for interference out of the gate. Dandy’s Legacy is a multiple stakes-placed horse who has been running on the grass in Louisiana. Do not let his turf form fool you however, as he has some solid back form on the dirt. The bigger question for me is whether Dandy’s Legacy can win sprinting.
Seven Tuff and Major Hurricane finished third and sixth in this same condition two weeks ago and they both have every right to improve as they gain fitness. Vindgari is a former stakes-placed horse with tactical speed making his second start off the layoff. Gotatigerbythetail and Waronthehomefront are both closers hailing from the Ardell Sayler barn. If the pace is fast these two could be coming together late and the extra furlong is right up their alley. Fresh Ice on the outside is coming back off a short rest after cruising by to win a N1X allowance race in his last. Make a pick in here and cross your fingers, it’s a wide open affair.
Friday’s fifth is a $5,000 claiming race for non-winners-of-two lifetime for Manitoba breds. On paper it appears to be wide open, but I’m leaning towards the two Lise Pruitt-trained horses Charley Waffles and Justlikeacowboy. Charley Waffles has some early speed and Justlikeacowboy is a stretch runner who always gives his best to finish in the money a high percentage of the time. Maintenance Man is my longshot. Listed at 15-1, he gets the services of leading rider Paul Nolan. Maintenance Man broke his maiden at Chippewa Downs but was training at Canterbury before shipping here to trainer Rob Atras, and Atras can certainly have a horse ready.
On Saturday’s card She’s Regal looks to be a prohibitive favorite in the third race and rightfully so. The two other contenders in the third are Bunny Said Dance and Regal and Lovely. Both made their career debuts in their last starts and it is said that horses improve 6-12 points second time out. Corner Pocket in the fifth race should also improve and could be very tough, albeit at a short price.
Try to find horses rounding into form that are now starting to enter races at distances that are more suitable to them based on their previous races. Money is there to be made, especially if the handle trend from Wednesday continues. The large betting pools this past Wednesday were something to be proud of and they provide us with hope for big payoffs on future cards.
Good luck everyone and good racing!