Piassek’s Plays: Focus on Fair Grounds

Secret Message, shown winning the Old Forester Mint Julep Stakes last summer, is one of John Piassek’s top picks on Saturday’s card at Fair Grounds. (Coady Photography)

In his regular gambling blog, John Piassek presents his top picks for the upcoming weekend in horse racing, offering betting options at different budget levels.

Piassek has contributed to the horse racing sites The Racing Biz and Danonymous Racing and worked at Tioga Downs, Monmouth Park, and Saratoga Race Course. He joined America’s Best Racing in January 2021.

Fair Grounds, Race 9, $100,000 Marie Krantz Memorial Stakes, post time 4:54 p.m. ET

#3 Secret Message: Many of these are coming out of the Blushing K.D. Stakes on Dec. 19. Secret Message, making her first start for trainer Brad Cox, was sent off as the 1.70-1 favorite in that race. However, she was hung wide on both turns, and flattened out to finish third. In the Blushing K.D., she was drawn towards the outside, breaking from post position eight in a field of 10. Now, she’s drawn toward the inside, which should enable her to save more ground. She showed a strong closing punch when in the care of Graham Motion last year, including a win in the Grade 3 Old Forester Mint Julep Stakes at Churchill Downs, and a third-place finish in the Grade 1 E. P. Taylor Stakes at Woodbine. With a better trip this time, she should be in good shape.

Strategy on a $10 Budget

$4 to win on 3

$3 exacta: 3 with 2, 5 ($6 total)

Strategy on a $25 Budget

$5 to win on 3

$5 exacta key box: 3 with 2, 5 ($20 total)

Strategy on a $50 Budget

$15 to win on 3

$5 exacta key box: 3 with 2, 5 ($20 total)

$1 trifecta: 3, with 2, 3, 5 with 2, 3, 5, 8, 9 ($15 total)

Fair Grounds, Race 11, $125,000 Colonel E. R. Bradley Stakes, post time 5:52 p.m. ET

#10 Sailing Solo: Although his post-position draw isn’t ideal, his early speed makes him a serious contender. His last start was his first in 3 1/2 months, which means he might have been a bit rusty going into that race. In fact, he was coming off the third-longest break of anyone in the field. He ran a big race in spite of that, encountering serious pace pressure all the way from Spectacular Gem (#8 in the E. R. Bradley). He never surrendered and clung the lead until the last eighth of a mile, losing by just half a length while outfinishing his primary pace challenger. He comes in here with a race under his belt, and trainer Louis Roussel III is a sharp 27% with horses making their second start off the layoff. It will be tougher to clear to the lead from the outside post, but he’s the fastest horse early on, and he’s shown the tenacity needed to withstand challenges.

Strategy on a $10 Budget

$5 to win on 10

$5 exacta: 10 with 1

Strategy on a $25 Budget

$10 to win on 10

$5 exacta: 10 with 1, 7, 11 ($15 total)

Strategy on a $50 Budget

$11 to win on 10

$5 exacta: 10 with 1, 7, 11 ($15 total)

$3 exacta: 1, 7, 11 with 10 ($9 total)

$1 trifecta: 10 with 1, 7,11 with 1, 4, 7, 8, 11 ($15 total)

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