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Bernier's Best

Weekend Stakes Previews for Jan. 22

by Matt Bernier
Updated On: January 21, 2022, 3:53 pm ET

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The road to the Kentucky Derby rolls on Saturday, with the G3 Lecomte from the Fair Grounds offering 10 Derby qualifying points to the winner.

Along with the Lecomte, Saturday’s Fair Grounds card features the return of Brad Cox’s Mandaloun, a horse who finished second in last year’s Kentucky Derby behind the ill-fated Medina Spirit, in the G3 Louisiana.

Below you will find what I would consider to be fair win odds for each runner, along with a wager, in Saturday’s Louisiana, Lecomte, and the American Beauty from Oaklawn Park.

After two weeks, here is the results tally (records reflective of $2 WIN / $2 WPS):
WIN: 0-7 (0%, -$14.00)
WPS: 4-7 (57.1%, -$19.60)

 

 

4:46 ET – OAKLAWN R8 – THE AMERICAN BEAUTY – 6 FURLONGS – DIRT

1 – Li’l Tootsie 5/1
2 – Joy’s Rocket 4/1
3 – Ain’t No Elmers 10/1
4 – Perfect Happiness 10/1
5 – Abrogate 13/1
6 – Sarah Harper 4/1
7 – Candura 15/1
8 – Wildwood’s Beauty 13/1
9 – Miss Mosaic 20/1

 

This is a competitive group of filly and mare sprinters, and it would be no surprise to see any one of four or five of them cross the wire first. Assuming the track is fast, JOY’S ROCKET is the most appealing option in my eyes. One of two trained by Steve Asmussen, the four-year-old daughter by Anthony’s Cross has done exceptionally well sprinting on dry, fast ground. In her three lifetime starts on a fast-track sprinting, she has earned two victories and was beaten by a desperate nose in the G2 Raven Run at Keeneland last fall. Her return to the races earlier this month may not look like much, but she is not a filly that produces her best when racing on an off-track. Her tactical speed should have her in a lovely position, meaning she will likely have every opportunity to succeed if good enough.

THE PLAY: 2 – Joy’s Rocket to win at odds of 4/1 or greater

 

 

 

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6:49 ET – FAIR GROUNDS R13 – G3 LOUISIANA – 1 1/16th MILES – DIRT 

1 – Chess Chief 12/1
2 – Mandaloun 9/5
3 – Midnight Bourbon 9/5
4 – Sprawl 30/1
5 – Pirate’s Punch 50/1
6 – Warrant 6/1
7 – Spa City 30/1

 

This has the look of a two-horse race on paper between MANDALOUN and MIDNIGHT BOURBON, however when viewed in a macro sense, there may be reasons to take shots against each of them. Mandaloun is making his first start since finishing first via disqualification in last July’s Haskell Stakes at Monmouth Park, and Saturday’s Louisiana is intended to be nothing more than a means to an end, as he is prepping for next month’s $20 million Saudi Cup in Riyadh. As far as Midnight Bourbon goes, his pace advantage in Saturday’s race may be too much for the rest of the competition to overcome, however he had a similarly advantageous setup in November’s Clark Stakes at Churchill Downs and toiled late. Neither are particularly appealing at short prices despite the fact they are by far the likeliest winners of this race. A speculative play worth considering is the other Brad Cox entrant, WARRANT. Warrant is a newly turned four-year-old that did little wrong last year when taking on slightly lesser company, and he has given the impression that he could be a horse that improves with age. Far from the most fleet of foot, Warrant may have too much work to do given the possible pace scenario, however he is likely to go off at a price that exceeds his chances of victory.

THE PLAY: 6 – Warrant to win at odds of 6/1 or greater

 

 

7:20 ET – FAIR GROUNDS R14 – G3 LECOMTE – 1 1/16 MILES – DIRT

1 – Surfer Dude 50/1
2 – Unified Report 30/1
3 – Pappacap 5/2
4 – Trafalgar 15/1
5 – Epicenter 7/5
6 – Cyberknife 12/1
7 – Blue Kentucky 30/1
8 – Call Me Midnight 50/1
9 – Presidential 10/1

 

If the Kentucky Derby were run tomorrow, I would likely be looking to bet EPICENTER for trainer Steve Asmussen. Asmussen has won essentially all there is to win in this sport – apart from the Kentucky Derby. Epicenter could very well be the colt that gets him his first Derby win, as the son of Not This Time has shown the perfect blend of speed, stamina, and professionalism that suggests he is going to be a major threat the first Saturday in May. PAPPACAP deserves consideration based on his overall body of work, however Epicenter is strictly the horse to beat in my eyes. Look for Joel Rosario to have Epicenter forwardly placed throughout, commencing his bid as the field rounds the far turn. If you are interested in a speculative play at a giant price, perhaps PRESIDENTIAL can get involved breaking from the far outside.

THE PLAY: 5 – Epicenter to win at odds of 7/5 or greater

 

 

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Matt Bernier

Matt Bernier is a betting analyst for NBC Sports and host of "The Matt Bernier Show" podcast. His work has been showcased in the Daily Racing Form, on ESPN, as well as on TVG. Matt can be followed on Twitter @bernier_matt.