Bold Predictions: New Shooters Take the Spotlight

March 21, 2024

Louisiana Derby contender Hall of Fame (Hodges Photography)

By Laura Pugh

It’s that time of year! Spring is starting to flower, and not only does that mean time to get serious for the 3-year-old colts and fillies of the sport, but also for the older horse division too. This weekend features four total preps for the Kentucky Oaks and Derby, but it also features two stakes for Older Males, races that have often led to Met Mile entries and even wins. 

Will they in 2024? Let’s get to looking!

Magic in the Springs, Stars in New Orleans

The Older Male division seems to be in complete tatters. National Treasure, Arabian Knight, and White Abarrio are all on “holiday” until further notice and that leaves a wide open division, ripe for the taking this weekend. 

The Hot Springs at Oaklawn has the Essex Handicap, and a couple states over in Louisiana, the Fair Grounds is running the New Orleans Handicap. While neither is considered “top tier” both have been used as springboards to Met Mile success. Recently, Palace Malice, Mor Spirit, and Silver State used these respective races before racing to the winners circle in the Met Mile. 

This year, I think both races could produce some talented horses capable of seizing control of the division.

Magic Tap, in the Essex, ran a big race in defeat last out in the Razorback. That day he was defeated by Octane, but by less than one length. Saturday, he won’t be running against Octane, and if produces the same type of effort, or improves, he should have no trouble getting the win and setting himself up for a productive spring. 

A horse I’m really excited to see this week is Touchuponastar. He’s been kept to state breds for most of his career, but his numbers look impressive. His last start, he received 6.5 on the Sheets and a 117 TimeformUS Figure. By comparison, the Mineshaft Stakes winner, Money Supply ran a 9 and a 119, respectively for that race. While the Timeform Figure was slightly faster for Money Supply, he was fully extended to beat Best Actor by a head. Touchuponastar was coasting home, 6 ¾ lengths the best. 

This weekend represents a big step up for the son of Star Guitar, but he’s shown all the promise in the world, and I think it is likely that we could see a big performance from him. 

Our Pretty Woman Splashes Home

The Fair Grounds Oaks reads quite a bit like it’s Derby prep counterpart, with many of the the entrants coming in from the prior prep off subpar performances, likely due to the sloppy (sealed) going that was encountered in the Rachel Alexandra Stakes. 

The Fair Grounds Oaks is likely to take place over an off track, which means those that didn’t enjoy the going previously are at a disadvantage once again. Horses that we know like an off track are Tarifa, the Rachel Alexandra winner, and Our Pretty Woman. The former has more experience, but Our Pretty Woman has looked nothing short of dominant in both her starts and both of those came on sloppy (sealed tracks). 

Our Pretty Woman might wind up with some company up front from Alpine Princess, but that one also seemed to struggle to get a hold of the muck in the Rachel Alexandra Stakes. She chased the pace that day, but seemed like she was spinning her wheels and wound up beaten by nine lengths. So, if the track winds up sloppy, I don’t see much pressure being applied to Our Pretty Woman, which would enable her to have a similar setup to her last start, which she won by 4 ½ lengths.

A disclaimer*** If the track, by some miracle comes up dry, I’m thinking V V’s Dream and Intricate have great chances to rebound. The early pressure should be hotter for Our Pretty Woman, which could soften her up from stalking types like V V’s Dream and Intricate. Both of whom perform much better on fast tracks than wet ones. 

Time To Toss Hall of Fame

I know I’m going to catch some for this, but this horse is a toss for me. Like many coming out of the Risen Star Stakes, Hall of Fame could have just disliked the surface, but as I just said, that excuse could be said of several… including my Top Four

In the case of Hall of Fame, I don’t think he took issue with the track. He sat in a good stalking spot early on, very similar to his big maiden victory. He made a move with about five furlongs left, again, very similar to what he did in his maiden victory, only this time, he didn’t get to stay on the inside. Instead, he had to switch outside to make the bid. He advanced four wide, looking like he was about to make a winning move, but flattened out.

I believe that Hall of Fame’s move was dampened less by the track, and more by his lack of foundation and wider trip. He very well could improve with a dry track, but he’ll need to go even farther this time around, and could wind up in a very similar position, needing to switch outside to find running room, as he did last out. Several others who regressed on the off track and still outfinished him, are also eligible to improve with a dry track.

With this all in mind, I would advise against using Hall of Fame. He could show improvement later in the season, but in this spot, I just don’t see him making the superfecta. 

Contributing Authors

Laura Pugh

Laura Pugh

Laura Pugh got her first taste of Thoroughbred racing when she watched War Emblem take the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes in 2002. At that...

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Nice score King! @jonathanstettin Well played with the 4 singled on one ticket. 2 times! Big congrats.

Michael R. Snow (@theWynnDough) View testimonials

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