Les Bois Park enters its third week of the season this weekend, featuring the Preakness Stakes (Saturday, simulcast wagering) and the Bitterroot Futurity trials (both days, live racing). Post time on both Saturday and Sunday is 2 p.m.
For the Preakness, Smarty Jones, the gutsy, Pennsylvania-bred colt, can finally lay claim to being the real deal, thanks to his Kentucky Derby win. His odds will be lower than low, though, so don't give up on those great Derby picks you made a couple of weeks ago. A fast track at Pimlico might help The Cliff's Edge to turn the tables. Watch out for Rock Hard Ten, too.
The Bitterroot Futurity, to be run on Memorial Day, is the richest horse race in Idaho. To qualify for the race, the two-year-old quarter horses must run in trial races, which take place this weekend. The quarter horse days are difficult to handicap, because most of the horses are racing for the first time in their lives. It's rare to see one of these quarter horses with as many as two races on the record.
How should you handicap these mysteries? Here are a few things to look for:
Workout times. Workouts are listed in the program and announced over the loudspeaker. Less than 17 seconds is a good workout time for 300 yards, and less than 18 seconds is good for 330-yard workouts.
Track bias. If you notice, after a few trials, that the 1, 2 and 3 horses are taking the top prizes, there might be a bias toward the inside of the track. A lot of 4s and 5s—the middle. Or 6, 7 and 8—the outside. Look twice at horses coming out of the faster slots.
Breeding. Give extra attention to horses by the following sires: Dash Ta Fame, Takin On the Cash, anything with "Beduino" in the name (especially Chicks Beduino), and anything with "Strawfly." These sires consistently pass on "the right stuff" to their babies.
Two names. Two horses who made last year's Bitterroot Futurity final are out of the same dams as this year's nominees Chuichupa and Easy Kipa Dash. We won't know until the weekend whether or not they'll run—let's hope so.
The Wednesday night race card for May 12 has barely enough horses entered to make eight races. The lowlights are the five races with five-horse fields. If you stick to the quinella-box-rule of not boxing more than half of the field, you have five races out of eight in which it doesn't make sense to bet quinella boxes.
The money-race is the 7th race, for $6,250 claimers, at 6-1/2 furlongs. Nine will go to post, among them Arctic Prize, winner of $126K in 42 lifetime starts, and Aer Afrik, winner of $110K in 48 races. By far, these two geldings have the highest earnings-per-start ratios, which indicates that they are competitive horses in higher-purse races.
But both horses have been out-of-action for more than 35 days, and face stiff competition from recently raced horses Sir Bay Sky, Regal Dr. Stuart, and Kalolo, all of whom raced on Les Bois Park's Opening Day, and Dear John, a winner at Portland Meadows in his last start.
Faster, classier horses vs. horses with recent races. What do you do? Don't rhyme, don't reason, just go for odds. Arctic Prize is 20-to-1 on the morning line, and if he's anywhere near that at post time, then he's my guy, 256-day layoff be damned. I like a quinella box, Arctic Prize with the three Boise starters (3-4-5-9).