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Friday, February 9, 2018

Sixty-four greyhounds will compete over eight races on the twilight program on Friday, February 9th in opening round action of the $25,000 River Course Classic at Southland Park Gaming & Racing. Races 3, 5, 7, 9, 11, 13, 15 and 17 will highlight a distance heavy performance that will feature only seven out of the 20 races on the sprint course (583 yards). Below is a race by race preview of the first of four qualifying rounds.

Race 3 – Rightfully so, attention automatically turns to COOL IT NOW (Legg Kennel) who has won three of his past six starts on this course and is one of only two legitimate “AA” greyhounds in the field. The #7 post historically has been good to him as well, as two of those past three wins came from this exact same post position. The “wildcard” in the group should be the Tri-State invader SLATEX SHENZHEN (Robert Thorne, LLC) as she has had only three lifetime official starts near this distance, winning a mixed “TC” grade event at the West Virginia facility back in early January. That 15 length win in schooling should be met with mild criticism as it was just a four dog schooling race at Southland Park over the 660-yard course, but if you extrapolate that time to another 43 yards, that black female just may have what it takes here.

Race 5 – Fresh off a disappointing last place finish in the $25,000 Delta Course Derby, FLY JESSICA BIEL (T and T Kennel) returns to a shorter distance run this time where she seems more comfortable running. She should be the class of this race, but trying to figure out who else may contend for a superfecta finish is much more difficult. FINAL ATTACK (Magic City Kennel) could do something but it is predicated on having the lead early which is a crapshoot at best. One to watch may be on the far outside with #8 K’S BARNEY (Legg Kennel) who has shown flashes of dominance on this course, but would much rather be starting closer to the rail than this spot.

Race 7 – PJ’S DARK ANGEL (Charter Kennel) was rolling along as the top points qualifier and the money betting favorite in the Delta Course Classic before a huge letdown in the championship race happened last week. There is no doubt about this greyhound’s talent though, and he has plenty of speed and closing ability for distances much greater than the River Course and should be a big favorite again in this event. RAIDERS BACARDI (Magic City Kennel) hasn’t been performing well as late, but also steps down in distance here and has been competitive the past two starts at this distance. The sneaky play in this race might be #8 SE’S SOLID CASH (Lester Raines) who loves the outside part of the track and has encountered a lot of trouble trips lately. However, in the races she “got loose” in she blew a field away by 7 ½ lengths and nearly won last start out.

Race 9 – This race appears on paper to be one of the more balanced races of the opening round, with Delta Course Derby Consolation winner ARKANS MAGPIE (Darren Henry Kennel) leading the way from the #7 post, but that spot hasn’t been too kind in the past for the black female. Another out of position greyhound, but with the talent to win, is JON BON JOVI (Steve Sarras Kennel) who will rely on early speed to try and steal this race from the #6 post. There is a lot of early foot in this race, meaning if there was a spot for some good payouts and maybe a big upset, this race might just be the one to play.

Race 11 – It is hard not to notice IMARK OCTANE (Steve Sarras Kennel) in the #2 box here and think he doesn’t have a good shot in the race to pull out an opening round win. He possesses one of the best rushing speeds to the short turn in the game at this distance, but at times seems to run out of gas right at the end of a race. This leads to a lot of “board finishes” and at times wins are at a premium. But he does drop back from the 820-yard course another 100 yards approximately so that will make a difference. Watch KL’S DENZEL (Legg Kennel) from the coveted #1 box who breaks sharply most of the time, and if there is a starting box where the #1 box needs a quick starting dog, this River Course is it. And don’t look now, but the ageless stakes veteran BRASKA DALE plays the role as Tom Brady in a way here as the nearly four year old competes in yet another stakes event. He will step up in distance this time though, but has been running hot on the Razorback Course lately coming into the race with two straight victories.

Race 13 – If race 9 is the most balanced race of the group, this one here is a close second. FINAL EMPEROR (Magic City Kennel) has two consecutive wins on this course, but if you look back not that long ago, also ran two consecutive “duds” here as well. The key to his game is having the lead early, and that just may happen here as the #1 (FLY L SENSATION) and the #3 (BS HAMMER) basically walk out of the starting box. Someone he will have to compete with for the lead likely will come in the neon green blanket as FGF SMILIN DRAGO (Charter Kennel) nearly pulled off a championship victory in the Delta Course Derby last week but just ran out of gas in the last turn. He should have enough gas at this distance though and will likely be a favorite to make the championship in this event too.

Race 15 – The “chalk” of the race is definitely #7 PJ DEPOSIT NOW (Charter Kennel) now rolling at five consecutive victories and six out of seven starts this season. Those wins have been from a variety of post positions and by a variety of lengths, but one thing is consistent with this greyhound, and that is a good start to his races. If there is any challenge from someone other than him, it might be right next door with #6 CC’S KACIE (Legg Kennel) who has been breaking well lately, but has struggled at times holding the lead at this distance. Although it will be hard for #1 SAWGUS (Northshore Kennel) to pull off an upset here, that prime post position will likely result in a nice “in the money” finish at a decent price potentially.

Race 17 – The last race of the opening round is a good one on paper with recent Delta Course Derby Champ DUTCH BREW (Lester Raines) headlining the swan song race. The only fly in the ointment here is “BREW” really gets to cranking the closing speed up late in the race, which at 820 yards is less of a problem. But at only 703 yards long, there have been plenty of times where his closing speed kicks in too late and he ends up missing out on victories and settles for board hits instead. That may leave the door open for a high price win dog here to lead off those trifecta and superfecta plays. FAST FORTUNE (Magic City) might be a consideration here, although his running style is similar to DUTCH BREW except he gets the motor running a little earlier. MAGNETIC DRIVE (Legg Kennel) has a good starting spot, but what he is capable of at this distance is a bit of a mystery since he has had only one start over on the River Course. That leaves a greyhound called LINGERING MEMORY (Ryan Farms Kennel) who will need to break sharply, but if she can do that, might enjoy the lead much of the race and if that happens, maybe she can just hold off the rushers in time.

Keep in mind that other qualifying rounds for the $25,000 River Course Classic include:

2nd Round – Thursday, February 15

3rd Round – Wednesday, February 21

4th Round – Monday, February 26

Championship – Sunday, March 4

Shane Bolender