Wednesday is opening day at Tampa Bay Downs, and I have picks for five of the day’s nine races.
Best bet: Code Enforcer, race 1
Best value bet: Hollywood Closeup, race 4
No. 3 Code Enforcer, 2-1, morning-line favorite, showed decent early speed in his first two races at Monmouth vs. much tougher. Massive class drop should put the new gelding over the top for Gregory Sacco and Samy Camacho, who ran away with last year’s Tampa jockey title. No. 9 Bachman, 5-1, tries a new low after splitting the field in successive turf starts at Horseshoe Indy, and Fernando Jara sees fit to climb aboard in his latest stateside stint. No. 7 Zhu Daddy, 6-1, ran decently in his only prior turf start at Belterra and lures Pablo Morales, 23 percent in 2023.
How I’d bet it (based on a $100 budget): $10 exacta 3-7,9
Dirt picks: 3-2-1
No. 12 Hollywood Closeup, 6-1, drew poorly but looks capable of overcoming this post if he runs back to his most recent race at Delaware. His most recent work over this course was encouraging. No. 3 Chowmein, 8-1, was competitive at this level on the Kentucky circuit earlier this year, consider at this fair morning-line price. No. 5 Ray’s Gone Astray, 9-2, ran a solid race in his previous dirt sprint on July 6 at Delaware – don’t overlook.
How I’d bet it: $2 exacta box 3-5-12, $8 win 12
No. 2 He’s in Charge, 2-1, morning-line favorite, is quickest from a speed-figure standpoint and takes a slight drop while shipping in from Gulfstream. His lone knock is the 0-for-11 mark in 2023. No. 1 Litigant, 5-1, has dropped 15 straight but was a respectable second when last seen at this level, and he hit the exacta in each of his last three races at Tampa. No. 3 Sneakiness, 7-2, is tough to trust on top in the midst of a 27-race losing streak, but he does have 18 superfecta finishes in that span.
How I’d bet it: $10 exacta box 1,2
No. 2 Lady Prospect, 5-2, morning-line favorite, was an improved second on the class hike following a claim by Jamie Ness, who wins at 33 percent with a positive return on investment when dropping into the maiden claiming ranks as he is here. A repeat of that runner-up effort at Delaware looks more than good enough to earn a diploma vs. these. No. 9 Copper Bound, 4-1, boasts a similar resume to the top choice but needs to pick it up speed-figure wise. No. 4 Expecting a Winner, 9-2, attracts Camacho for her debut with strong works at Monmouth on the ledger.
How I’d bet it: $8 exacta 2-4,9
No. 9 Bring Theband Home, 9-2, was a well-rated second-time-out winner at Saratoga in 2022 before hitting the shelf and flopping in a February return, which was followed by a another layoff. This is a softer spot than that February heat, the return works are promising and he’s a new gelding. Furthermore, Antonio Gallardo gets a leg up for Mark Casse. No. 10 Yes I’m a Beast, 5-2, morning-line favorite, has run speed figures good enough to boss these, as in his most recent try vs. softer at Gulfstream. Tough to dismiss. No. 4 Mr. Penny Pincher, 6-1, has drilled well for his first start as a gelding and his Tampa debut. He should factor into the exotics based on speed figures.
How I’d bet it: $1 exacta box 4-9-10, $5 exacta box 9-10, $3 exacta 9,10-4
Robert Criscola is a free-lance handicapper based in New York.