Jeff Siegel's Prime Picks for Sunday, March 15

The 1st race looks like a good spot for #4 You Is What You, who drops a notch after failing as the favorite in a $16,000 affair last month. On numbers, he looks pretty solid, but normally I won’t play a horse dropping in claiming value after winning (or in this case finishing second) for a higher claiming price in his last start. Many of them do win, but few offer wagering value. This Hollendorfer-trained colt is 2-1 on the morning line and likely will go lower. The 2nd race is a typical down-the-hill grass grab bag. For rolling exotic and exacta/trifecta purposes, I’ll consider #4 Frankelstein; #6 Steady Demand, and #7 Russian Liquor. Frankelstein is back in winning form, likes this turf course, and is a route-to-sprint play after surprising a similar field at 21- last time out. I think he’ll enjoy this trip. Steady Demand likely is better on the main track but he should be forwardly placed in a field without too much early speed, so we’ll use him at 5-1 on the morning line. Russian Liquor exits the same race as Frankelstein, switches to Bejarano and is another who should move forward shortening up. There’s some value here at 8-1 on the morning line. I’m somewhat intrigued in the 3rd race by the first time starter #7 Skinny Dip, who lands Bejarano and is 6-1 on the morning line in a bottom rung maiden claiming miler for older fillies and mares. She’s trained better than the workout times would indicate and is worth using as a stranger danger play. The one to beat despite the outside draw is #9 Keira’s Way, a good second in a similar spot despite a wide trip here two weeks ago. Her one route race wasn’t too bad and her pedigree (Monarchos) says she should enjoy stretching out again for a barn that does well with this maneuver. The 4th race is the co-featured Irish O’Brien Stakes and it’s one of those downhill sprints that has contenders top to bottom. If you’re playing the Pick-6 this is a definite spread race, but we’ll try to boil it down to just three. #2 Gambler’s Justice can sprint or route and may be the speed of the speed. She was third in the recent Valentine Dancer Handicap at 15-1 against essentially the same crew and with a slight forward move today could prove troublesome. #5 Christiana’s Heat exits the same race and seems much more comfortable sprinting than routing, so she figures to bounce back with her best effort today. And #6 Burna Dette has proven winning form over the course, fits on speed figures, and is relatively lightly raced with room to improve. At 10-1 on the morning, she’s a “must use” in the exotics at a price. The 5th race is a mess and there’s a not a horse in the race that couldn’t win. Pass for me. The 6th race is another wide open turf scramble. I could make a case for several of these and still might not find the right one. Another pass. #6 Forest Phantom looks pretty solid in the 7th race. He won off a brief vacation in late January at this extended sprint distance, has worked steadily since, retains Bejarano and looks primed for another big effort despite the one level raise in class. The Green-trained gelding should be along in time and represents a legitimate rolling exotic single at 2-1 on the morning line. The 8th race, the Pasadena Stakes for 3-year-olds going one mile on turf, is another brutally tough handicapping challenge. I’ll use #9 Rendezvous, a sharp Bay Area invader in Hollendorfer’s barn who won his only turf start in Florida last year; #10 Hype, who has been a bit of a disappointment but retains Gomez and looks very dangerous from off the pace in a field with plenty of speed; and #12 Leedstheway, who stretches out for the first time but with Red Ransom on the bottom of his pedigree should enjoy the switch to grass. These three middle priced horses could produce an outstanding exacta or trifecta payout. Sorry, but I can’t make heads or tails our of the 9th race, a maiden claiming sprint for 3-year-olds. If he were to run back to his Feb. 14 race, a good second vs. tougher, #13 Only Be Cause would likely beat this field, but he’s 2-1 on the morning line and an 8-race maiden and I’m not sure I trust him. #11 Saccente has trained pretty well for his debut but trainer Tim Yakteen isn’t known to win with first time starters (0-for-27 according to the DRF stats). Forget the 9th race and start working on your brackets.