By Horse Player NOW’s Joe Kristufek
Tonight at 8:30 p.m. ET, Horse Player NOW’s horse racing Night School offers up a Fair Grounds “Meet Preview”. I will be joined by analysts Katie Mikolay and Gary Palmisano and jockey James Graham.
A native of Dublin, Ireland, the 33-year-old Graham, who finished second in last year’s standings behind Rosie Napravnik, is perennially one of Fair Grounds’ leading jockeys.
Tonight’s panel will discuss Fair Grounds’ track trends, handicapping angles, important race dates, and we will mull over the Thanksgiving Day opening day card. All attendees will receive complimentary BRIS past performances for the Thanksgiving Day Handicap. =
Set a reminder and join in on the Fair Grounds Meet Preview here.
To give us a leg up on tonight’s chat, and the meet, I employed Brian W. Spencer, who covers the Fair Grounds meet like a army blanket for Horse Player NOW.
Spencer offers some handicapping, and wagering angles:
Tactical Pace Rules: You'll get your fair share of speed and closers winning races, but nothing is more dangerous than tactical, pressing pace. There's nowhere I'd rather be here than two lengths off the leader at the half-mile pole.
Timing is Everything: The long stretch here makes for some very long and nervous moments when your horse turns for home on the lead. The riders who pull the trigger at the exact right second give their horses a huge edge. In my opinion, there's not a track out there that is less forgiving to a horse who moved just a bit too soon. A favorite angle is to take note of runners that were beaten after hitting the top late in the race, with a running line (positions) like 5-5-2-1-3. A better-timed move next out will often get that horse home – pay extra attention when this horse gets a positive rider change.
Speaking of Timing, Rosie Rules: Rosie Napravnik has dominated the jockey standings the last two seasons, but it's not just because she gets good mounts. She has such an excellent, intuitive understanding of how this track plays, and there are going to be a handful of horses this meet who get home first for no other reason than the fact that she was in the irons.
If Not Rosie, Then Who?: James Graham is always very successful at this meet, and he must be considered in every turf race they run. Youngster C. J. McMahon made a big splash here early in the meet last year, and I think he'll be solid again this meet with a year more experience under his belt. Richard Eramia finished 6th and 7th in the rider standings the last two years, but he rides a very smart race and usually flies under the radar.
Surprisingly, the Turf Course is Fair: In years past, this turf course had a (deserved) reputation for eating speed for lunch. Horses simply could not win on the front end. In the past two meets, that has not been the case, with plenty of speed horses winning. Don't let the talk about a biased course get in your way – it's old news. Trip and talent are everything.
The Dirt is, Too: Of all the tracks I've followed in my life, this dirt track seems to almost always play very fair. There are very few days throughout the meet for which I have a strong bias note, and the track maintenance crew deserves credit for consistency on this one.
The Races to Watch: While most of the Fair Grounds 3-year old stakes runners haven't gone on to much national prominence afterward and may be bets against when they leave Louisiana, the 3-year old allowance ranks here are very strong. The horses who aren't quite stakes caliber but share behind the winners who are can often be very competitive at very nice prices when they move on to Kentucky at the end of the meet.
Check Your Conditions and Company Lines: Especially in the lower level claimers, keep an eye on all of the conditions and company lines. These events often get very competitive, but there are also going to be some really bad fields in some of them -- give yourself an edge and be familiar with which races to avoid when the horses start running back.
Katie, Gary, James and I will offer additional “Cajun food for thought” in tonight’s FREE Fair Grounds Meet Preview chat. See you at 8:30 p.m. ET!