09/13/2011 11:54AM

Fairplex: Value exists for exotic bettors in all-claiming card

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POMONA, Calif. – The racing program Thursday at Fairplex Park epitomizes the fair circuit – nine claiming races on a nine-race card with relevance limited to winning connections and clever horseplayers.

All 82 entrants Thursday are in for a tag, and represent a cross-section of the lower levels. Races include older $20,000 maiden claimers at a half-mile, $32,000 maiden claiming 2-year-olds, and older winners entered for claiming prices ranging from $5,000 to $25,000.

It is a meat-and-potatoes card with big fields and overlay potential in three popular exotic wagers – the pick five (races 3-7), the pick six (races 4-9), and late pick four (races 6-9).

Race 4, second leg of the pick five and first leg of the pick six, gives bettors a chance to knock off the chalk. Though favorites historically dominate four-furlong races at Fairplex (winning 50 percent last year), favorites lost the first six half-mile races of the 2011 meet.

If the trend continues, second choice Warren’s Baby Walk can upset likely favorite Schuylkill Punch in race 4. Warren’s Baby Walk showed speed and tired both starts at Del Mar, a pattern that often produces a Fairplex victory turning back to a half-mile.

Schuylkill Punch is inherently quicker, but he has not raced since January, drops severely in class, and has worked slow. While Schuylkill Punch might win anyway, the value in the $20,000 maiden-claimer is second choice Warren’s Baby Walk.

Race-5 favorite Locksley Hall is solid, and seeking his fifth straight in the $12,500 claimer at six furlongs. His recent Beyer Figures top the field, and his trainer-jockey combination is among the most productive in the state. John Martin and Aaron Gryder are 21-for-40 (53 percent) since February while racing in Northern California.

Race-7 favorite Fortunate Appeal is the high-figure horse in the $25,000 claimer, for nonwinners of two races. He scored his only victory last September at Fairplex, and will be ridden by all-time leading Fairplex jockey Martin Pedroza. However, the six-furlong race offers a potential theft play.

Double D’s Diamond, listed at 5-1 on the preliminary line, is the speed of the field and making his second start back from a layoff. Mike Mitchell trains the front-runner, who could be long gone under Edwin Maldonado.

Contention is deep in race 8, a $10,000 claimer at 1 1/16 miles for $10,000 claimers. North Fork is the tepid 7-2 preliminary favorite, yet a reasonable case can be made for all nine runners.