11/17/2016 4:46PM

King: Our Stormin Norman's big fig no fluke

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Due to the popularity of Beyer Speed Figures, one is usually betting with the crowd when backing a high-figure horse. But some exceptions can arise, creating value on a fast horse when the public views a big figure as a fluke or as a result of favorable circumstances.

I’m hopeful such an occasion presents itself Saturday when Our Stormin Norman races in the Delta Jackpot with by far the top last-race Beyer Speed Figure, an 88; he earned the figure winning a maiden race on the lead at Keeneland on Oct. 23.

Our Stormin Norman is an 8-1 outsider on the morning line and, coming out of a maiden race to face horses with stakes experience, he figures to stick to that price.

He fits the profile of a horse bettors will view with skepticism, having run his flashy Beyer when clear on the lead against maidens, and not having run anywhere close to that figure in his four prior starts.

I will take a contrarian view, hoping that the addition of blinkers resulted in a more-focused performance from him last out. Plus, I like that although Our Stormin Norman had not run all that quickly in earlier starts, he was at least well regarded.

Bear in mind this is a horse that was purchased for $250,000 by Live Oak Plantation earlier this year at Fasig-Tipton, and who was well backed early in his career – so much so that he was favored against eventual Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf winner Oscar Performance in a grass maiden race at Saratoga over the summer.

With the benefit of hindsight, obviously that favoritism wasn’t justified – he faded to ninth and Oscar Performance ran away with the race – but the support he took suggests the public viewed him as a horse with potential.

My hope is that Our Stormin Norman, who by the way has raced only twice on dirt and has three turf races clouding his form, is just now getting his act together.

If he were 5-2 in the Jackpot or even 5-1, I’d be reluctant to support him. But at 8-1, that’s enough value to justify the risk of regression with the step up in class.

◗ Another horse likely to slip past bettors Saturday is Lady Fog Horn in the Grade 3 Cardinal on the grass at Churchill. She is coming from Indiana, where she has raced mostly against statebred opposition, and the suspicion is that many will view her 12-for-21 record as a product of facing easier.

She certainly took advantage of racing against Indiana-bred opposition, but I think it’s important to realize another factor, too – she racked up most of her wins on dirt, not turf, even though the grass is her preferred surface.

It is important to take note of her form from last year, when she entered this race with similar preparation. Shifted back to turf for the Cardinal, she ran second, losing by 1 1/2 lengths even with a troubled trip. With better racing luck she might have won.

As she showed last year in the Cardinal, she can handle a wet course – a key since rain is in the Friday night forecast and cold conditions are expected at Churchill Saturday. That could leave the course something less than firm – conditions that won’t hamper her.

◗ Not to be forgotten Saturday is a fine card from Laurel, where the City of Laurel is one of the more appealing stakes races. I like 8-1 shot Awesome Speed, who stepped up his game with a close fourth in the Grade 3 Gallant Bob at Parx Racing on Sept. 24, earning career-best 94 Beyer.

Now he returns to a Laurel surface over which he is perfect in three starts, and he looks versatile enough to sit just off what should be a fast pace for a seven-furlong race.

This is a colt that some thought could develop into a Derby prospect after he won the Mucho Macho Man Stakes at Gulfstream in January, but tougher company and longer distances proved too much.

What is encouraging is that even if you put aside the 94 Beyer he ran last out in the Gallant Bob, from a class perspective it was a fine race. He lost by only a few lengths to classy runners such as King’s Bishop third-place finisher Noholdingbackbear, and Mind Your Biscuits, who just a couple weeks ago rallied to be third in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint.