A bevy of race tracks returned to some form of normalcy over the weekend. Charles Town, Churchill Downs, Golden Gate Fields, and Santa Anita Park are all back to racing without fans in attendance. The next step is welcoming the public back to the track and hopefully we don’t have to go backwards.
Fans returning to tracks is all very TBD at the moment, and may differ depending on how far ahead certain states are. It goes without saying that government policies will have something to do with that as well. The number of fans allowed to attend will likely be capped to start out.
The Preakness State has been rescheduled to October 3, a month after the Kentucky Derby. The Kentucky Derby had already been rescheduled in March to Labor Day Weekend. All we were waiting for was the new date for the Preakness Stakes and Belmont. The Belmont Stakes is still up in the air, but now that an official date is set for the Preakness, organizers can begin to think about when to hold the Belmont Stakes. There will be a quick turnaround from this years Triple Crown to next year in May, so that’s a positive to find out of the situation.
Monday is the after party following an exciting weekend of racing across the country. None of the big tracks are racing, but Will Rogers Downs and Fonner Park get to do another bow in the spotlight this week. A day has been cut off the Fonner Park schedule following the departure of horses to other tracks. However, it’s quite amazing that Fonner has been able to live off the mutuel handle through this pandemic and still offer events. We’ll get to Fonner in another article. Head below for our free Will Rogers Downs selections for May 18, 2020.
Post Time: 1:15 p.m. CST
Distance: 5 Furlongs
We’ll get the day started with Race 1 at Will Rogers Downs. After a weekend of fairly big purses, Will Rogers brings things down a little for a $7,150 purse in Race 1. Ten trainers have registered for the event, with two or three of them going to be in serious consideration. Wolowitz and Therunawayrocket belongs on everybody’s shortlist, while a horse like Test the Water might make things interesting. Test the Water is coming off the best form of his career and is looking to do one better after placing on April 28. It was the first time that Test the Water finished in the top-3 in his career. He finished 4th, 9th, 9th, 5th, before grabbing 2nd at the end of April.
Test the Water placed 6 ¼ lengths behind Shawn Again, so he wasn’t closed to the front, but still managed to run faster than nine other horses, including Run Budda Run and Taggart. Neither horse is likely going to be a factor in this race. If they couldn’t keep up with Test the Water, it’s highly unlikely they can with Therunawayrocket and Wolowitz. Therunawayrocket struggled in the first three outings of his career, but has been in better form of late. He has placed in 2 of his previous 3 entries on April 7 and April 28. Sandwiched between there is 5th on April 21 for a performance to forget.
Wolowitz is expected to be the horse to beat in Race 1 at Will Rogers Downs. He’s coming off two promising outings on February 1 and March 14 in the third and fourth starts of his career. After finishing 7th and 6th, Wolowitz hit his stride in February and it carried over into an even better performance in March. Wolowitz finished 3rd in February and then was close in March to place in the best form of his career yet. He broke well out of the gate and held the lead going into the halfway mark at the ½ pole. However, Wolowitz faded with around a furlong left and lost by 3 ¼ lengths. That was at 6 furlongs, though, and this is 5 furlongs. One less furlong should benefit him greatly on Monday afternoon.
Post Time: 2:15 p.m. PST
Race 3 features the second largest purse of the day with a prize worth $26,400 on offer. Ten horses are expected to get the call for this one. Big Game Hunter, who I’ve handicapped before, and Southgate will be in the mix here. For an upset selection, Owen the Great might present the best value at +1200.
Owen the Great gets the No. 2 post position and is hoping to make the most of it. At 1-mile a prime post spot doesn’t necessarily help that much, though. Owen the Great has been running reasonably well with 2 wins in 10 races in his career. He’s finished in the top-3 in 3 of his previous 4 outings, though he was 4th in his last outing following a win on April 21.
Owen the Great won by 6 furlongs in a dominant performance in the win. He cleared the field and pulled away from Proud Moments for an easy victory. However, against tougher competition in his next performance, Owen the Great regressed to finish 4th on May 6 in his latest race. He did show a bit of kick at the top of the stretch, but there wasn’t nearly enough in him.
Big Game Hunter showed progress in his last outing to place for the first time in nine races. He has finished 11th, 4th, 3rd, 4th, 2nd in his previous five races. Dak Da Man was able to edge Big Game Hunter out for a 2 ¼ length win after driving hard in the stretch. He hit the gas pedal at the top of the stretch to go from 4th to 1st at the wire.
Southgate is a stakes racer that has only raced in only one non-stakes or futurity event in his career. He has finished in the top-3 in 5 of 9 career races, with a win back on July 12, 2019 in the Iowa Stallion Futurity. Southgate is coming off an outing in the Will Rogers Stakes and did well enough to show in 3rd. He was about a couple of lengths away from getting the win. Easier company on Monday in this one for Southgate.
Post Time: 3:45 p.m. PST
A healthy purse of $22,000 is on offer for Race 6 at Will Rogers Downs today. It’s another ten-horse field heading to the gate for this event. Taruca, Coach Adams, and Drifting West are all ones to include on the shortlist. Coach Adams at +600 on the morning-line looks pretty attractive. He is a winner in 3 of 33 career races and has been stalking since November. Coach Adams is looking for his first win since 2018, but could be involved in this event. He’s finished in the top-3 in 3 of his last 5 races, placing in two of them. He was 2nd on April 3 and 4th on April 25.
Drifting West raced in the Oklahoma Derby (Gr. 3) on September 29, 2019 at Remington Park, so he has a bit of experience in big races. However, that wasn’t an event that Drifting West could compete in, as he finished 9th. It didn’t look like a terrible run for him, but he was just up against really tough competition in that one. Since that race, Drifting West has finished 3rd, 1st, 9th, 4th. In his most recent effort, Drifting West was beaten by a length to prevent him from showing. Certainly he’s been an inconsistent horse, but there is some potential there. Overall, Drifting West is a winner in 2 of 9 races in his career.
5-year-old Taruca has the most wins with 7 career wins in 29 races. He’s also been the most consistent performer, having finished in the top-2 in five straight races, and the top-3 in nine straight events. That includes three wins on September 13, 2019, October 3, 2019, and February 29. In the win in February, Taruca beat Rocknroll Rocket by a neck at the wire. In his latest race on April 7, Taruca was 1 ¼ lengths too slow against Miltontown. If his form holds going into Monday, then Tacura is going to be a tough horse to beat in Race 6.