“I refer to him as a work in progress. Today he made a big step forward, and I look for more of that in the future.” – Tom Amoss, trainer of Mo Tom who won the LeComte Stakes on Saturday at Fair Grounds.
Opening week of the Road to Kentucky contest was Saturday, and Fair Grounds was the featured track. With 17 weeks of contest action this year, the road will be long and winding for all players, including the leaders. About 14,000 points would be a strong target score to achieve, as the contest rules allow dropping the three lowest scores for each player. In other words, if you missed the opening week or were off target with your selections, there’s plenty of opportunity to make up for it in the coming weeks.
The key contest races turned out to be the first 3 races on the card, as the tote board was blown up each time with longshot runners:
In the opener, the 12 Timebobanna finished 2nd at 94-1, generating 600 contest points due to the 600-400-200 contest cap structure. Timebobanna was making her second career start, but she had been beaten 25 lengths at 53-1 in her debut at this level. Blinkers on was the only angle I could find with this runner.
The second race went to the 2 Prime Time Man at 18-1. This winner generated 670 contest points and he had a few positives in his corner that made sense (after the fact, of course!). Trainer D. Wayne Lukas had been trying to get this horse on the grass, as he had entered him in two turf races at Churchill Downs but both races were moved to the main track. He hadn’t shown anything in those main track races, but the 3 workouts since his last start were much improved. This race stayed on the grass and Lukas was proven correct as Prime Time Man got the money at 18-1.
The third race was won by the 5 Bello Amante at 33-1, a first time starter in a maiden claiming race trained by Brian House. His win generated 938 points for his contest backers. There wasn’t much on paper pointing to this one either, although House was 5/26 in maiden claiming races over the past year. Tough one to find, but you got rewarded if you liked him, a true stabber special.
After three races there were already 2,208 contest points available and things were looking extremely volatile, but it calmed down after that as logical contenders dominated the remainder of the card. The maximum contest points available for the week were 3,940, so a score around 2,000 is going to be a strong contender for the weekly high score. You would likely need at least one of those top point horses from the first three races to have a chance at the top prize this week.
Mo Tom won the featured LeComte at 2-1 for trainer Tom Amoss. Uncle Mo is his sire, and he would have been favored in the 2011 Kentucky Derby won by Animal Kingdom, but he was a late defection the day before the race. He has a promising career as a stallion the way it looks so far!
I will always remember last year’s LeComte, as champion sprinter from 2015 Runhappy was entered in his second career start and I selected him in the contest. It didn’t go well for Runhappy that day. (It remains the lone defeat of Runhappy’s career as he exited the race with an injury). This year I selected the #10 Pinnacle Peak, who did not threaten at 17-1 odds. I only managed 210 points this week as the dartboard was a moving target, but this Saturday we fire away once again at Tampa Bay Downs.
Good luck and good racing!
(The Oracle is a three-time Canterbury Park Handicapper of the Year and regular contributor to CanterburyLive.com .)
QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
(Hugh) Robertson sold off his stock and went to try his luck at the Birmingham Turf Club when it opened in 1987 but didn’t really get around to training.
“Nobody who was betting there knew anything,” he said. “If you had any idea about racing, you couldn’t gamble and not make money.”
from a Daily Racing Form story published Jan. 13, 2016.