Friday, 18 October 2019 19:32

Now More Than Ever

Past the Wire    Tracking Tips Logo


October 18, 2019

Now More Than Ever

By: Jonathan Stettin

For about four years I have been writing about and calling for the industry’s need for two things: a central governing body, and some sort of commissioner. It’s funny that when I first started campaigning for this it was met with a lot of skepticism and even some laughter and ridicule. Since then many have jumped on the bandwagon and are calling for the same.
In a recent conversation I had with trainer Bob Baffert, he expressed to me he has long been in favor of a commissioner type of scenario for our sport. As most of you are aware, he is often cast into an ambassador type of role along with other key participants of the game as we really have nobody designated to be out there front and center.
With a centralized governing body would come a standard set of rules for all tracks. This would be medication rules and racing rules. Hopefully applies equally and fairly. We’d also presumably have some accountability.
With a commissioner, we’d have a spokesperson who would be charged with not only answering inquiries about misfortunes which occur but improving awareness, and both growing and restoring the Sport of Kings in this evolved and different works we now live and play in.
It will be difficult to achieve the above, but the time is right, and it is likely essential for long term prosperous survival of the sport we love. The difficulty will arise from the industry’s inability to agree on much and the long-standing attitude of every man and entity for themselves.
Those who supply information want to keep control of that and not share it without charge.
The tracks can’t even stagger post times.
The reporters and publications can’t say anything they wish due to fear of boycotts in advertising, credentials, access, and sponsors.
Bettors are taken for granted and even outright shunned despite their being the customer and fueling the game.
Our best defense to atrocities that occur is not to acknowledge some reform is immediately imperative but instead to shoot the messenger and point out how lousy an organization PETA is. They may be, but that does not prevent them from occasionally being on the right side of an argument, nor does the fact they happen to have an agenda. An equally inept defense is that many of us love our horses and treat them well. That is true but you are only as strong as your weakest link. We have too many weak links, and we are giving too much ammunition to our game's enemies. Long term that will not play out well. We need to get in front of that as an industry and not play Nero. “Nero fiddled while Rome burned.”
Our weak links lie in drugs, legal and otherwise, testing, enforcement, slaughter, aftercare, cruelty, rules, stewardship, and of course safety. Yes, we are making progress. Yes, there are improvements but perception is everything and without an organized educational program, much of it goes unnoticed by our foes.
We have park benches advertising to squash our sport outside the venue of one of our biggest events. We have a state governor calling for the abolishment of racing. We have a website pointing out fatalities and we now have the mainstream media coverage back that we lost for a while. If something bad happens they are all over it. I have seen zero about the Breeders’ Cup or the incredible grand competition and show we are about to witness in two weeks.
While we are making improvements, we can do better. Most if not all our issues can be solved. We need a bit less greed, a bit less reluctance to share some control, some cooperation, and a governing body and commissioner.
I have lobbied for a governing body, and an elected commissioner for a long time. I think it is needed now more than ever. If we wait much longer we might just need a trustee. A bankruptcy trustee. Remember, we have to save ourselves while there is something to save.

Friday, 18 October 2019 03:28

Key Races & Bets for Saturday, October 19

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Race 5 at Keeneland -Post Time 3:18 pm Eastern

There are a couple of things to note about the maiden race for two year olds, most just starting their careers and some which may continue to improve to the point they may be mentioned as Kentucky Derby contenders next year. The first factor is of those which have run, it appears up to five of them may want the lead from the start. It may only take two or three all bent on having the lead early to make them all tire late and that helps the horses which can sit in mid-pack in the early stages. However, with some first time starters we have no idea where they like to run during a race.

Tranquility Base is a first time starter who is working every 6 to 8 days over the last six weeks for fitness. He’s by one of the top sires of the past few years in Tapit and he cost $400,000 at Auction so is thought of highly. His dam (mother) has produced two horses to race before him, and BOTH were runners, one winning at first asking. For a trainer (Jones) who wins with more than an average share of first time starters, I’ll give Tranquility Base first look for wagering as he offers value for the risk to be sure, opening at 12/1.

Numidian is another first time starter who opens at high odds, 15/1 to be exact. The reason both he and Tranquility Base open at high odds is the public nearly always gravitates towards horses with experience but there is no problem backing a first time starter. Numidian put in a pretty strong fifth best of 30 workout to cap a nice series of workouts, on 10/11 here at Keeneland, and like Tranquility Base, Numidian’s dam produced a first out winner and that kind of “Precociousness” can be passed along to this colt Trainer Catalano wins with 20% of his first timers and excellent jockey Channing Hill (who happens to be the trainer’s son-in-law) rides a lot of winners for this stable.

Elusive d’Oro has run second in all three career starts to date and is not a horse which appears to need the lead to win. He rallied from eighth to second in his debut then in his other two starts went to the lead and faded just a bit but held second. He gets a key jockey change to Ricardo Santana, who is having a tremendous Keeneland meeting, such as when riding the $31 winner to victory in the Sycamore Stakes on Thursday.

Win Bets: Tranquility Base, Numidian, Elusive d’Oro at odds of 4/1. Bet two of the three going to post at the highest odds if at or above that level.

When making multiple win bets, use a "Dutching" tool to do the work of allocating your wagering dollars for the best edge. Amwager has a great dutching tool available, among many other great features.

Race 5: Tranquility Base, Numidian, Elusive d’Oro
Race 6: Boss of Bourbon St, Extra Medium, Smile Bryan and Echo Alpha Six

Race 6 at Keeneland - Post Time 3:51 PM Eastern

This is a race open to horses with just one career win and all of these have more than a few losses to go along with that one win. Most just haven’t been able to repeat their maiden wins so the key may be to look to horses which won their most recent race as they figured it out and haven’t regressed yet. Boss of Bourbon St is one of those who won his most recent race, easily by six lengths. What’s significant is the win came at the same seven furlong (seven-eighths of a mile) distance as this race, and it came in his second start after coming bac from eight months off, so he should improve physically off the effort as well as that win came the first time he was placed in a claiming race, this being a claiming race as well.

Extra Medium also won his most recent race, also at this seven furlong trip. The win came on all-weather in Illinois and horses shipping from Arlington Park to Keeneland have repeated their efforts to another “A” race good enough to win may be forthcoming.

Smile Bryan ran poorly in his most recent race, on 8/28, following a big effort where he led in the stretch and was beaten a neck on the finish, at this seven furlong distance. He also finished second in April in his only previous start at Keeneland and he could return to that kind of form because since he last race he became a gelding.

Echo Alpha Six returns from nine months off and has been working well. He won in his career debut so we now he can fire fresh and he looks to be overlooked in the wagering as he opens at 10/1.

Win Bets: Boss of Bourbon St
and Extra Medium at odds of 3 to 1 or more.
When making multiple win bets, use a "Dutching" tool to do the work of allocating your wagering dollars for the best edge. Amwager has a great dutching tool available, among many other great features.

Exactas: Box Boss of Bourbon St, Extra Medium, Smile Bryan and Echo Alpha Six.

Race 6: Boss of Bourbon St
, Extra Medium, Smile Bryan and Echo Alpha Six.
Race 7: Marvin, Gran Hombre, Bunch and High Holy.

Race 7 at Keeneland - Post Time 4:24 PM Eastern

In another wide open maiden race for two year old males, the equivalent of 12 to 15 year old boys, we have a field in which most have never run at all. Marvin put in a strong workout at Keeneland in his most recent full speed drill, the third best of 31 on the day at the distance, and most of the other 30 were likely older horses who have won races. The dam has produced a first out winner and the trainer wins at an above average 22% rate with first timers. The outside post is good too.

Gran Hombre comes from the barn of Al Stall, known for having his first timers ready to run as evidenced by a 25% win rate. This one is also a half-brother to a first out winner and his sire, Fed Biz, produces a strong 21% win rate with his first time starters so this cold is bred to run well early in his career on both sides of his family tree.

Bunch is another first time starter and likely to be one of the highest odds horses at post time. We must remind ourselves to be contrarians and not be scared of high odds horse so perhaps this horse deserves a few bucks to win and place so we won’t be kicking ourselves late. Bunch comes from the barn of Joan Scott, very competent for many years and actually having won with 4 of her last 16 first timers, a very good record. Sire Race day has his foals on the track for the first time this year and five of 20 have won first time out to date, which is a pretty good record so the colt could post the upset.

High Holy is one more first time starter opening at high odds, in this case 12/1. Owner/breeder Silverton Hills farm really takes their time with their young horses so I expect this colt to be well-prepared for his first race. In between a bunch of average morning drills, High Holy put in a sharp 47.8 half mile workout which shows he’s fit and the trainer doesn’t start many first timers but fired with one under the radar at Keeneland last year at 11/1 so beware.

Win Bets: Pick two of these four as win bets at 4 to 1 or higher odds: Marvin, Gran Hombre, Bunch and High Holy.
Add place bets on any of them at 6 to 1 or more.

Exactas: Box Marvin, Gran Hombre, Bunch and High Holy.

Friday, 11 October 2019 17:14

Pick Sixing

Past the Wire    Tracking Tips Logo


October 11, 2019

Pick Sixing

By: Jonathan Stettin

 As someone who focused on the $2 pick 6 for many years, with a good amount of success, I was extremely disappointed when the wager all but disappeared. The 20 cent jackpot wagers are a completely different animal and don’t have the day to day opportunities the conventional pick 6 offered. A big part of my success wagering over literally decades was that I could count on a nice pick 6 or two or maybe even three over the course of a year. Those days are gone.
I don’t really play in tournaments although I did dominate the inaugural Handicap for Horses contest played over the course of the Saratoga meet. I really didn’t think anyone could beat me in a tournament that runs the course of an entire meet. You need that competitive attitude in this game. Remember we are playing against each other.
I have always felt there was a Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge with my name on it. I am not a fan of the format of the NHC tournament so I have not thought much about that. I don’t play in qualifying contests so I will have to buy in if and when I decide to take that swing. I almost bought in last year. Then I read the rules. I didn’t like the mandatory wager requirements. Let me bet the $7500 bankroll anyway I want and I’m in. No problem.
I thought about buying in this year, and who knows I still may but I doubt it. In pondering the scenario I thought ok, a 10k buy in, and $2500 goes to the pot. I play with $7500. Then I thought I could take that same 10k, and put it into one of the only conventional pick 6’a left on the menu. It was a no brainer for me. I’ll dance with the lady I brought.
That got me thinking about two past Breeders’ Cup pick 6’s. One I won, but felt like I lost. The other I lost, but it could have easily swung my way and the ticket structure was something to Behold. No pun intended but Beholder was a single. One of two. The other was Dancing House on the turf at about 20-1. A 20-1 single who ran a close 4th if memory serves correct. That meant the whole pool on BC Friday. 1.2 mil on a 196 ticket. Not bad.
The one I won and lost is another story. I was alive gong into the Classic with the Awesome Again entry and Swain. Swain was paying considerably more. I also had nice pick 4’s with both. I don’t mind the shorter price getting home. The thing is if you watch Swain through the stretch and have any doubt as to who was best, I suggest another hobby or profession.
Had I played, or if I play in the BCBC I would also play some wagers outside the tournament. That seems difficult and even disadvantageous. I look for an edge, not an obstacle. The one with my name on it does tempt however.
The demise of the Pick 6 began with the Pick 4. It hastened when the Pick 4 became a 50 cent wager as opposed to $2. It almost became obsolete with the introduction of the 50 cent Pick 5. The evolutionary to jackpots put the final nail in the coffin.
I always thought the Pick 6 separated the men from the boys so to speak. It was a tough bet to cash, but awfully rewarding in its day.
For all the pick Sixers out there, and I am not sure how many of us are left. See you all in the Breeders’ Cup pool.

Friday, 11 October 2019 12:28

Key Races & Bets for Saturday, October 12

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Nearctic Stakes -Race 7 at Woodbine -Post Time 4:30 pm Eastern

Blind Ambition is a fairly legitimate favorite, opening at 5/2, but there is value in another trio of contenders who would not be a surprise if winning and especially if completing the exacta at decent odds. Blind Ambition won on 9/6 following nine months off and even though the win came in a classified allowance (Not a stakes) it was a top effort with a low level stakes quality Equibase Figure (106) he can improve upon second off the layoff. The horse earned a 115 figure last April (2018) wining the Elusive Quality Stakes on the Belmont turf and in that prep last month Blind Ambition showed a nice kick rallying from fourth which could be the winning move here as Yorkton, Boreal Spirit and Richiesinthehouse are ALL need-the-lead types bound to contest a hot early pace.

Woody Creek is a filly against boys, making her U.S. debut off a fifth of 16 finish in a stakes in England which was pretty good. She adds Lasix which gives credence to the thought she may have bled in that race so we should look back to races before last to assess her form. Doing so we find three straight big efforts beaten a neck or less in a group three stakes about as tough as this one. With Kimura getting on, likely to make the 110 pound assignment which is NINE pounds less than most of the field, Woody Creek cannot be ignored as she opens at 8/1.

Reconfigure has a 5-3-1 record in 9 races so it’s hard to ignore him either as he opens at 10/1. Since the claim by Tiller out of a three length win at this six furlong trip on turf in July, he’s run better and better, including when beaten by just three-quarters of a length to Blind Ambition one before last. The 105 figure earned in that race is rock solid here if Blind Ambition doesn’t run back to his 2018 form and that makes Reconfigure a strong contender in this current top form.

Lookin to Strike has a five for 13 record in his career, almost all on the main track, but he ran on to miss by a nose to Boreal Spirit one before last in a 100K allowance race when that one had an easy lead. This time, with pace to run into, and moving back to a turf sprint off an irrelevant route, Lookin to Strike is another at high odds (10/1 morning line) to consider.

We’ll also add City Boy, for second on exacta and trifecta tickets, who opens at 20/1, as he possesses a 2-6-2 record and likes to finish second a lot.

Win Bets: Blind Ambition to win at 2/1, a low odds overlay win bet.
Woody Creek to win at 3 to 1 or more.
Consider smaller win bets on Reconfigure and on Lookin to Strike at 9 to 2 or higher.

When making multiple win bets, use a "Dutching" tool to do the work of allocating your wagering dollars for the best edge. Amwager has a great dutching tool available, among many other great features.

Exactas: Blind Ambition and Woody Creek over Blind Ambition, Woody Creek, Reconfigure, City Boy and Lookin to Strike.

Exacta Box: Blind Ambition, Woody Creek, Reconfigure and Lookin to Strike.

Trifecta: Blind Ambition, Woody Creek, Reconfigure and Lookin to Strike over Blind Ambition, Woody Creek, Reconfigure, City Boy and Lookin to Strike over Blind Ambition, Woody Creek, Reconfigure, City Boy and Lookin to Strike.

Pick 3:
Race 7 - Blind Ambition, Woody Creek, Reconfigure and Lookin to Strike.
Race 8 – Red Tea, Durance, Imperial Charm and Starship Jubilee
Race 9 – Ziyad and Desert Encounter

E.P. Taylor Stakes – Race 8 at Woodbine - Post Time 5:05 PM Eastern

Durance is one of three horses making their North American debuts and one of a trio of three year olds facing older. Both she and Imperial Charm faced older in their most recent races, with Durance finishing the better of the two when second in a group 2 stakes in Germany run at 12 furlongs on a left handed course like those in North America. Prior to that came the filly’s best effort yet, when third of 13 in the Grade 1 German Oaks. That effort, if repeated, is more than good enough to win and as she opens at 6/1 she gets top billing because of that.

Imperial Charm finished third in a Group 1 stakes in France in May, her best career effort, then after another third place effort took a couple of months off and ran third of seven in a non-graded race in France on 9/5. The grade 1 placing came at this 10 furlong trip on turf and like Durance, Imperial Charm adds Lasix for the first time, so although she enters the race off a poorer effort in easier company she has the potential to rebound to top form good enough to win.

Red Tea and Starship Jubilee open as the two morning line choices at 3/1 and 7/2, respectively. Both have a shot but don’t appear to offer the win betting opportunity as either of the previously two mentioned horses. Red Tea won a Group 1 stakes in Ireland in July but didn’t run as well in a Group 1 at 10 furlongs one month later. Those were tougher horses to be sure so if she can repeat her 7/21 effort she can win, but with a two for six record this year she may be as good as some of the others, but no better.

Starship Jubilee is the favorite of the locals, having just won the Canadian Stakes last month at 9 furlong on the course. She can win on the lead or from behind so Contreras will have the opportunity to see what transpires in the opening quarter mile before deciding on a strategy. Just the same, although a 13 time winner, Starship Jubilee’s best Equibase figures have been 105, compared to 114 and 109 for Durance, 116 and 110 for Imperial Charm and 114 and 118 for Red Tea, so she may have her work cut out for her.

Win Bets: Durance to win at odds of 5 to 2 or higher. Consider a second win bet, on Imperial Charm, at odds of 7 to 2 or more.

When making multiple win bets, use a "Dutching" tool to do the work of allocating your wagering dollars for the best edge. Amwager has a great dutching tool available, among many other great features.

Exacta and Trifecta: Box Durance, Imperial Charm, Red Tea and Starship Jubilee

Sands Point Stakes – Race 9 at Belmont Park - Post Time 5:13 PM Eastern

Not only are horses trained by Chad Brown routinely over bet (bet more heavily than they should be based on probability to win), sometimes they have less probability than others and those others offer excellent value. Such is the case here with Souper Escape, who opens at 8/1 while Brown’s New and Improved opens at 5/2. Souper Escape just won the La Lorgnette Stakes at Woodbine, albeit on the main all-weather surface, but that effort translates to the Belmont turf just fine. She had won a race on dirt but scheduled for turf two before that and she won at a mile on turf in April following three months off. As a daughter of Medaglia d’Oro she will have no problem handling the trip and the 92 last race Equibase Speed Figure is the BEST last race figure in the field, making her, not New and Improved, the one to beat.

Also worth considering is Ledecka, who opens at 12/1. This filly broke her maiden AT THIS 9 FURLONG TRIP the first time she tried it, one before last on 8/24, then won a 100K stakes on all-weather at Presque Isle Downs. That has turned out to be a KEY RACE, with the fourth and fifth finishers having run better to be second in subsequent starts and with the sixth and eighth horse both winning their next starts. Although the 84 and 83 figures from her last two races are below the 92 Souper Escape earned in her last race, Ledecka is still improving and has potential to outrun her double digit odds.

Bets: Souper Escape to win at odds of 5 to 2 or more.
For about one-third to one-fourth of the amount you bet on Souper Escape, Ledecka to win at odds of 5 to 1 or more.

Pattison Canadian International Stakes - Race 9 at Woodbine - Post Time 5:42 PM Eastern

There’s really no play in this race so that’s why the pick three ticket started in race seven at Woodbine is the way to profit. There are six entered here and I would be extremely surprised if any horse other than Ziyad or Desert Encounter won the race. Unfortunately, Ziyad opens at even money and Desert Encounter the second choice at 2 to 1. Ziyad, who makes his North American debut, nearly beat Coronet in the Group 1 Grand Prix de Saint Cloud at the end of June then dropped just a hair to win the Group 2 Grand Prix de Deauville and therefore has the best credentials of any of these by far. Guyon comes in from France to ride this gelding who has been extremely consistent throughout his career at this marathon distance amassing a 3-4-2 record from 10 races. Desert Encounter has run in North America previously, shipping in from Newbury in England to win last year’s Canadian at odds of 8/1. He prepped in the same race he finished third in last year, this year winning that race last month, and Atzeni, who rode him to victory last year and who has not ridden since in seven races, travels to Woodbine to ride again. Certainly if his 2/1 morning line holds up, Desert Encounter may be worth a win bet even if Ziyad is a bit more likely because he’s been this route before.

Friday, 04 October 2019 12:49

Speed on the Rail

Past the Wire    Tracking Tips Logo


October 4, 2019

Speed on the Rail

By: Jonathan Stettin

If you like playing the races with “their money” now is the time to pad that bankroll for the soon to be here Breeders’ Cup. With the fall Keeneland meet starting, Belmont finishing with some big days, and even some great European races like the Arc coming up, there should be something on the menu for every type of player.
Going into an event like the Breeders’ Cup hot, and on a roll, is just what the Doctor ordered. When you’re going good, and confident, you should be the most dangerous. By nature, we all have a tendency to play aggressively under those circumstances. If you are a reader or follower of mine you already know I am of the opinion aggressive play is the only way to beat this most challenging game.
With so many opportunities coming up we must choose wisely. As good as it is to head to the Breeders’ Cup smoking hot, it is equally as bad to head in cold. This is the time to start clicking.
Keeneland is such a tough meet. It always has been. Shippers pointing for wins at a short meet with big fields makes for competitive racing. While tough, that spells some nice payoffs. A player's dream.
The exception being the Polytrack period, Keeneland’s main track has historically been kind to speed. Especially inside speed. I remember responding to my Dad when he would ask me who I liked at Keeneland simply saying “speed on the rail.” That still holds true today. While it is not always easy to find the speed on the rail, if and when you do leaving it out or betting against it can be perilous. I don’t have many rules in Handicapping or betting, but I am always cognizant of speed on the rail or inside speed at Keeneland.
When playing Keeneland price or odds should never be a deterrent. This is generally true at any meet, but much more so at certain meets and Keeneland is one of those. Rarely will I let odds sway me, but at Keeneland they just don’t seem to matter at all, with the exception of the baby races in the spring. In the fall, players are all over the board, and recreational money is abundant in the pools. If you are right you will get paid. This is the ideal scenario for aggressive play.
As kind to speed as the main track at Keeneland can be, I’ve always favored late runners on the turf in Lexington. The first day or two when the grass is fresh can be an exception, but overall I feel closers fare better. California horses who are used to short grass and firm turf don’t seem to me to do as well as the east coast and NY turf horses who get different courses thrown at them more often. All these little nuances can lead to a score making decision.
Keeneland is so close to Breeders’ Cup time the win and you’re in races are vital. There are always a few outsiders looking to punch a late ticket to the big dance. You can often find some at more than fair odds. These are great opportunities. I love betting a quality horse when I know the connections are all 110% in. It’s a little different scenario then say when one trainer has three runners in the same 6 horse field and you are guessing who needs the race, who is pointing for another spot etc. etc.
A lot of US players overlook betting European races. Not me. I love it and find great value and success there. I’ll be playing the Arc card with enthusiasm. While the European Past Performances are shall we say lacking in comparison to ours, replay work which I love is critical. The field sizes are ridiculously large and the prices are crazy good especially if you get beyond the first two choices. There is no better place to bet a little to win a lot. There is damage to be done on those cards.
After the next two weeks, which takes us to two weeks out for the Breeders’ Cup, I’ll go into an ultra-conservative approach to betting. I like to start studying for the big event early and keep my focus there. Those two days are loaded, and there is much to absorb, and also much to miss if you don’t put in the work. We don’t want to beat ourselves by not being prepared.
Good luck these next few weeks. Let’s pad those bankrolls and head to Cali on a roll.

Thursday, 03 October 2019 19:46

Key Races & Bets for Saturday, October 5

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Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes - Race 7 at Keeneland - Post Time 4:29 PM Eastern

When a horse comes back from a layoff as Spiced Perfection is doing, I look to insure the workouts in the last month are consistent, about every five to seven days, and then if they are I feel comfortable assuming the race which led to the layoff can be ignored and to look starting at the second before the layoff to assess form. In the case of this filly, that's great as she won the Grade 1 Madison Stakes at Keeneland, her fourth "A" race in a row which also included victory in the Grade 1 La Brea at the end of December. Both those wins came at seven furlongs but she's two-for-two at six furlongs so I have no doubt she can win here particularly with Castellano aboard as he was for the Madison.

Ours to Run has won 11 of 17 career dirt races, six at the basic six furlong trip. She was only beaten a head by Chalon for second in the Grade 2 Honorable Miss Stakes when last seen in July and she's won from the rail so that's not a problem. Ours to Run, as well as Spiced Perfection and Chalon, have a stalking style which should benefit nicely from the likely early pace battle between Razorback Lady and Danuska's My Girl, that pair pressed by Mia Mischief and Talk Veuve to Me. Ours to Run shipped in last week to put in a strong five furlong drill over the track and appears ready to add to her fine record today. Chalon won a non-graded stakes off the runner-up effort in the Honorable Miss then was flattered when the third horse came back to win. She's five for nine at the trip and missed by a head in last year's edition of this race at Keeneland so rounds out a trio which in my mind have the bulk of the probability to win.

That being said, there's not a SINGLE HORSE I'd count out being capable of finishing second. You can call it a cop-out if you want, but I went over the field multiple times and even the supposed need-the-lead types have some chance to hang on for second.

Spiced Perfection to win at 2 to 1 odds or higher. a true KEY BET on the day.
Consider slightly smaller win bets on either Ours to Run or Chalon if they should be about 3 to 1 or higher near post time.

When making multiple win bets, use a "Dutching" tool to do the work of allocating your wagering dollars for the best edge. Amwager has a great dutching tool available, among many other great features.

Exactas (just for $1 in my opinion): Spiced Perfection, Ours to Run and Chalon over ALL.

Double and Pick 3 tickets:
Race 7 – Spiced Perfection, Ours to Run and Chalon
Race 8 – Juliet Foxtrot, Uni, Vasilika, Indian Blessing, Rushing Fall and Just Wonderful
Race 9 – Tap It to Win, Enforceable, Maxfield, Ajaaweed and Gouverneur Morris
The Double, at the $1 minimum threshold, between races 7 and 8, has a cost of $18
The Pick 3, at the $0.50 minimum threshold, has a cost of $45

First Lady Stakes - Race 8 at Keeneland - Post Time 5:04 PM Eastern

This race not only has Breeders' Cup quality, it has Breeders' Cup field size, with 14 entered to run a mile on grass, and with many already grade 1 winners on the surface. I started my analysis looking at the early pace scenario and in doing so slightly discounted the chances of five horses who have shown an "early" or "early presser" style only in their best efforts, or those which have not proven themselves in grade 2 or grade 1 company. Although many of those can finish second or third, I'm barely considering them for exacta as well. That group consists of Conquest Hardcandy, Marina's Legacy, Mitchell Road, Ms Bad Behavior and Awesometank.

I'm left with SIX quality fillies and mares which can win, some at odds we may never see again because of the depth of the field. I'll start with Indian Blessing who shipped over from Europe to run in the Ballston Spa Stakes at Saratoga in August and who ran the race of her life then in a four horse blanket finish. She missed by a neck to Significant Form, who came back to win the Noble Damsel, and she was a neck in front of Starship Jubilee, who won the Northern Dancer Stakes next time out. With Jamie Spencer in to ride this gal who appears to be ignored at 12/1 on the morning line has a legitimate shot to win.

Just Wonderful is another European shipper, for Coolmore and Aiden O'Brien. She hipped over in 2018 to finish fourth of 14 in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies then in July to finish second in the $1 million Belmont Oaks and she missed winning by less than a length in a very tough mile stakes in Ireland last month to set her up for another top effort. She too opens at 12/1.

Rushing Fall is, well, Rushing Fall, one of the best distaff turf stars to come along in years. With eight wins and two defeats in 10 career starts, all but one a graded stakes, and with a perfect four-for-four record at Keeneland, the ONLY knock I can find is her starting odds of 9/5, which make it impossible to even consider her for a win bet. Thank goodness we can use here with a few horses at higher odds in exacta and multiple race bets.

Uni was not disgraced one bit when third of 10 in the Fourstardave Handicap last time out against Males, beaten a head for second by Raging Bull as the filly Got Stormy drew off by a couple of lengths. She had won FIVE in a row prior to that including the Grade 1 Matriarch at this mile trip and Rosario was responsible for all but one of the win so riding her today we can expect a top effort.

Vasilika and Juliet Foxtrot finished first and second, respectively, when separated by a nose in the Grade 2 John C. Mabee Stakes at the end of August. Vasilika was the queen of the division in California before that with seven graded stakes wins in the past year while Juliet Foxtrot won her first three starts since coming to the U.S. before that narrow defeat. Vasilika has NEVER gone to post at odds under 2/1 for over a year but opens at 5/1 here as a testament to how tough this field is while Juliet Foxtrot opens at 8/1.

Bets: Win bets on BOTH Indian Blessing and Just Wonderful are warranted at 7 to 2 or higher

When making multiple win bets, use a "Dutching" tool to do the work of allocating your wagering dollars for the best edge. Amwager has a great dutching tool available, among many other great features.

I would not talk ANYONE out of win bets on win bets on Uni, Vasilika or Juliet Foxtrot at 9 to 2 odds or higher (maybe even 4 to 1 or more). If you really like Rushing Fall, instead of a win bet my recommendation is an exacta over the other five, so for the same $5 (at $1) you get more back then betting to win at 9 to 5.

If you played the pick 3 starting in race 7 and none of the contenders won that leg, you can consider doubles using the contenders from that pick 3 in this race and the next race as follows:

Race 8 – Juliet Foxtrot, Uni, Vasilika, Indian Blessing, Rushing Fall and Just Wonderful
Race 9 – Tap It to Win, Enforceable, Maxfield, Ajaaweed and Gouverneur Morris

I can't even come close to recommending any exacta bets in this race with so many horses which can finish first or second.

Breeders' Futurity - Race 9 at Keeneland - Post Time 5:39 PM Eastern

This is another exceptionally deep field, particularly as almost none of these have run two turns and as two year olds always have a shot to take a big step forward from one race to the next.

That being said, I think one horse has a slight edge, and four others offer the rest of the bulk of the probability to win this year's Breeders' Futurity. Ajaaweed is the one with the edge, as he improved a lot off a fifth place finish at six furlongs to win at a mile second time out. As a son of Curlin, one would expect improvement as the distances increased, so that was no surprise but the manner in which he won suggest he is a very smart and talented horse. Stalking in third with a quarter mile to run, Ajaaweed advanced to get his head in front with an eighth of a mile to go then drew off by four lengths. At the point he moved into contention, Ajaaweed was in traffic and he acted as a battle worn horse with a lot of maturity as he not only went between horses in tight quarters but increased his stride significantly when asked without the crop. Rosario rides back and the extra sixteenth of a mile poses little problem for this colt running well enough to win this race.

Maxfield looks to be ignored by bettors if they abide by his 12/1 morning line. He too won at a mile around one turn the same as Ajaaweed and he did that in his debut. He broke a bit slowly so I'm hopeful that was an aberration and he's been well-schooled since because a horse can't get away with those tactics and still win at this level. After breaking 10th of 11, Maxfield bided his time then moved up eight paths wide on the turn to sweep by in the last 1/16 of a mile. Jose Ortiz rides back and the breeding on this colt is as good as the breeding on Ajaaweed, who don't share the same ownership but the ownership is similar as Ajaaweed is owned by Shadwell and Maxfield is owned by Godolphin.

Tap It to Win opens at 3/1 the same as Ajaaweed based on his easy three length win at Saratoga about two weeks after Ajaaweed won. However, Tap It to Win broke his maiden at six furlongs so he's stretching out a quarter mile further than both Maxfield and Ajaaweed. Still, he gets the rail, has tactical speed as he sat third in the early stages of the last race, has come back to work well, and was flattered by the runner-up, who came back to win. On the other hand, it must be noted in that winning effort on 8/24, Tap It to Win got a dream run on the rail with nary a straw in his patch so the race may not be as good as it looks on paper.

Gouverneur Morris similarly won easily in his one and only start and that's why he's the 5 to 2 favorite. He stalked in third and drew off professionally with a big 101 Equibase figure, the best in the field, BUT the race was at 5 1/2 furlongs to there are three more eighths in his way today. Sire Constitution (also the sire of By Your Side) has his first crop on the track and is highly regarded but NONE of his foals have run two turns yet so although this colt ran fast first I'm a bit skeptical of his chances, particularly at low odds with an outside post. Just the same I respect the connections (Pletcher and Castellano) and will use him on pick 3 and double tickets I play involving this race.

Enforceable opens at 15/1 and that is just not right in my opinion. He added blinkers for career start #5 so I will ignore one through four. He won that race, on 8/22 at Saratoga, running nearly as fast at Tap It to Win (84 figure vs 89) and actually faster than Ajaaweed (78) and he's the ONLY horse in the field to have run two turns to date. He's a FULL brother to Mohayman, who many remember as an in-and-out type who when "IN" was tough at top levels, and he's a half-brother to Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner New Year's Day, whose career was cut short by injury. As such, there's little doubt Enforceable can run well and at the least I plan to bet him to win and place at likely high odds.

Win Bets: Ajaaweed to win at 5 to 2 or more, a low odds overlay win bet.
For smaller amounts: Maxfield and Enforceable to win at 4 to 1 or more, adding place bets at 8 to 1 or more.

Exacta & Trifecta: Box Ajaaweed, Maxfield, Tap It to Win, Enforceable and Gouverneur Morris.

Friday, 27 September 2019 18:43

Small Field Strategies

Past the Wire    Tracking Tips Logo


September 27, 2019

Small Field Strategies

By: Jonathan Stettin

Of course, most of us were looking forward to the Jockey Club Gold Cup card at Belmont only to be disappointed in the field sizes, especially in the stake races. The Gold Cup drew just 5 horses. Sure we all prefer big fields laden with value and competitive runners. More often than not in today’s game that just is not the case. We need strategies and adjustments to deal with small fields from a betting standpoint.
Depending on your style on betting this may or may not significantly alter how you approach a wager. For me it doesn’t change how I play, it just impacts payouts. I adjust more based on that than field size.
In multi race wagers, I look for a single or two. With small fields that does not change and at times even makes isolating a horse or two to single easier. It certainly takes away from the time of work one needs to put in. As they say, time can be money. Regardless of field size, I will look for my singles. I’ll also try and avoid them being the favorite or everybody’s single. A small field won’t change this approach for me.
My exacta strategy will also stay intact in a small field. I’ll play one way, cold and not reverse. I might play a second exacta with the same horse on top, usually for a lesser amount, but I do this the same way no matter how many horses are going to post. The payoffs take a hit, but my approach stays the same.
I’ll discuss how I compensate for the payoffs.
What I do change in small fields is triple and superfecta play. I just say no. I don’t find it pays. That leaves some extra money to go into the bets I do make. I can increase the amount I play multi race wagers for, as well as the exactas. Hopefully, or at least some of the time this is enough to offset or absorb the difference in payouts. We have to play the hand we are dealt. Short fields must be reckoned with.
If you have a fair share of short fields in a sequence you can try and go short in the races you don’t single. This will also allow you to increase your wagers. Fewer horses to cover means more money to place on the ones you feel you need.
Money management and ticket structure are so crucial. If dealing with small fields is something you’ll face often you need a strategy that applies to that scenario. A lot of players will pass a card of small fields in favor of a card someplace else with larger fields. That may work for them. I don’t do it. I like to stick to the meets and circuits I play and where I’m comfortable. In the long run, I find that works better, at least for me.
A lot of times I find if you get away from the favorite in a small field the win price is not that bad. Sure you may not get that 15 or 20-1 we all love, but you can surely find a solid horse at 3,4,5 to 1 or more. There is nothing wrong with that.
If you like to stick to certain meets as I do you have to be prepared to make lemonade out of lemons. We don’t like small fields, but we have to deal with them.
I don’t view the Jockey Club Gold Cup as a bad betting affair. To the contrary, I am looking forward to it. I think there will be some talented runners going off in the 3 and 4-1 range. I can live with that. A win bet and cold exacta at that price are fine. There are fewer horses to beat you. Lemonade.
A single at that price can work out just fine as well. You can make money and create value in any field size. You may have to play it smart and be right. On the bright side, I don’t think we will have this issue to deal with on Breeders’ Cup weekend. Stay tuned.

Friday, 27 September 2019 11:36

Key Races & Bets for Saturday, September 28

Brought to you by, a great legal online wagering website.

This week’s blog is going to concentrate on making money in Pick – 3 wagers by taking advantage of some horses which have a very high probability to win but along with some suspect favorites as well. In addition there are a couple of races which are very playable in and of themselves. Good Luck

Beldame Stakes -Race 8 at Belmont -Post Time 4:43 pm Eastern

We start with a race with one of those very high probability horses, Midnight Bisou, whose next stop will be the Breeders’ Cup Distaff. With Smith in California to ride McKinzie in the prep for the Classic, the Awesome Again Stakes, John Velazquez takes over and his job will mostly be to not mess up in this six horse field in which the others, including bad 5/2 morning line second choice Wow Cat (who has not gotten close to her form of last year when winning this race and finishing second in the Distaff), are running for second.

So we will try to turn likely 1 to 5 odds into a 2/1 or perhaps 3/1 return on our investment. We might get that considering the middle leg is pretty wide open. We can definitely get 3/1 or more if we play the pick 4 because the last leg (race 11) is also wide open.


Pick 3
Race 8 – Midnight Bisou
Race 9 – No Word, Maxwell Esquire, Our Country, Structor, Famished
Race 10 – Code of Honor, Preservationist
The cost of this bet at $1 is $10 so we could play it a couple of times.

Pick 4
Race 8 – Midnight Bisou
Race 9 – No Word, Maxwell Esquire, Our Country, Structor, Famished
Race 10 – Code of Honor, Preservationist
Race 11 – ALL (except for Going For Gold)
The cost of this bet at the $0.50 level is $45

Pilgrim Stakes – Race 9 at Belmont - Post Time 5:16 PM Eastern

Maxwell Esquire opens at 8/1 in a deep nine horse field in which five can win. The reason he opens at 8/1 is because he’s a New York bred and there’s a perceived bias in an open (not restricted) stakes like this one. Considering Clement trainers and the dam has produced a slew of multiple turf route winners, in open as well as state-bred company, I think he’s a good bet. He debuted at Saratoga in a turf route and finished 2nd of 10 then improved to win in a hand ride second time out. He could take a big step forward here and is no less likely to win than any number of others here but has higher odds. No Word won in his career debut at the end of August, in a turf route at Saratoga, rallying nicely from third to draw off like a horse who had already run once or twice. He’s a FULL brother to multiple turf route stakes winner Silentio, who earned over $700K and could be any kind for Pletcher. Our Country broke his maiden in a route at Saratoga by an impressive six length margin then had traffic trouble in the With Anticipation Stakes last month, ending up fourth of six. He was scratched out of a stakes at Kentucky Downs to stay in New York for underrated trainer Weaver and if he improves off the debut as I think he can, and if he doesn’t stumble at the start like last time, he may be playable for profit, opening at 4/1. Famished is trying turf and two-turns for the first time which could put him at a disadvantage to the other contenders. Still, he’s my “scare horse” as Rosario rides back and he’s bred to run as well on turf as he did on dirt last out when rallying from fifth with a nice kick which would play well on turf today. Structor was the 6/5 favorite in his debut in a turf route at Saratoga last month, owing to the name Brown on his pps. He ran well to be sure but the figure was nothing special. Ortiz rides back and the colt fits on all counts but I don’t think he’s playable as a win bet opening at 5/2.

Win Bets: Maxwell Esquire at odds of 3 to 1 or higher.
Consider a second win bet on either No Word or Our Country at 3 to 1 or more as well.

When making multiple win bets, use a "Dutching" tool to do the work of allocating your wagering dollars for the best edge. Amwager has a great dutching tool available, among many other great features.

Exactas: Maxwell Esquire and No Word over Maxwell Esquire, No Word, Our Country, Famished and Structor.

Also Maxwell Esquire, No Word, Our Country, Famished and Structor over Maxwell Esquire and No Word.

Jockey Club Gold Cup – Race 10 at Belmont Park - Post Time 5:49 PM Eastern

Preservationist and Code of Honor stand out over Tacitus and Vino Rosso. Olympic Village is likely running for fourth or fifth. Preservationist has a big tactical edge as the only “early” speed horse in the field and with a late kick as well shown when rallying from fourth in the Woodward. Code of Honor has won two in a row for the first time in his career and his only slight knocks are facing older for the first time and the potential to have a fresh horse in front of him in the stretch who is not going to stop. Code of Honor earned a 108 figure, tying his previous career-best, in the Travers while Preservationist earned a 110 figure under identical conditions winning the Suburban in July and again last month winning the Woodward.

There’s little value in betting this race but hopefully we cash a Pick 3 ticket and are alive to finish in the wide open 11th race. Also, this will be a good race to watch and help decide either of these two have a shot in the Breeders’ Cup Classic in five weeks.

Rodeo Drive Stakes - Race 9 at Santa Anita - Post Time 7:41 PM Eastern/4:41 Pacific

Time to start another pick 3 here and treat is like a daily double with a pair of horses in the second leg to cut down the cost of the ticket. However, instead of picking chalk here I think we have a nice shot to start without either of the two favorites – Beau Recall and Paved, who I have ABSOLUTELY no interest in and feel both are VULNERABLE. Beau Recall won the Yellow Ribbon last month and is a multiple graded stakes winner BUT she has NEVER hit the board at 10 furlongs on turf and only managed fourth the last time she ran farther than a mile and one-sixteenth. She was scratched from this race in 2017 and finished fourth at 24/1 last year. She can win on figures but I don’t think she can win at the distance. Similarly, Paved is a poor second choice (5/2) on the morning line as she’s just OFF FORM. Her last win came 15 months ago, at nine furlongs, and although she did run second once in three tries at 10 furlongs on turf she wasn’t even close in the other two. I can’t make excuses for either of her two races since returning from seven months off either.

Siberian Iris and Mirth are the two we’ll use on pick 3 tickets AND bet to win, and key on exacta tickets. Siberian Iris cuts back an eighth of a mile off a win at 11 furlongs last month and ran huge two other times she ran 10 or 11 furlongs. That last effort earned a career-best 114 figure which is ACTUALLY better than Beau Recall earned (107) winning the Yellow Ribbon. I looked at Mirth over and over here trying to figure out why a superb trainer like D’Amato is entering this filly who is still eligible for the second allowance level. After a minute it became very obvious on two counts – She can get the 10 furlong trip and she could be a “lone front runner.” Mirth gets Smith and the rail and was second, only a head behind Siberian Iris, at the top of the stretch in that 11 furlong race last month then tired. The reason she tired was she ran the opening half mile in a ridiculous 46.8. The jock change and rail will really help her and she nearly won at 10 furlongs on turf at SA two before that in June.

Beau Recall could get a piece, as could Excellent Sunset, so I’ll use both on exacta tickets.

Win Bets: Siberian Iris and Mirth to win at odds of 3 to 1 or more.

When making multiple win bets, use a "Dutching" tool to do the work of allocating your wagering dollars for the best edge. Amwager has a great dutching tool available, among many other great features.

Exacta: Box Siberian Iris and Mirth.
Siberian Iris and Mirth over Siberian Iris, Mirth, Beau Recall and Excellent Sunset.

Pick 3
Race 9 – Siberian Iris, Mirth
Race 10 – Mckinzie, Higher Power
Race 11 – Apache Princess, Don’t Sell, Fantasy Heat, Holly Hundy, Mischiffie
The cost at $1 is $20

Awesome Again Stakes - Race 10 at Santa Anita - Post Time 8:13 PM Eastern/5:13 Pacific

Similar to the Jockey Club Gold Cup, the race in and of itself is not playable. We will get a sense if the win by Higher Power in the Pacific Classic was legitimate or not, as well as if McKinzie can actually win two races in a row which he’s failed to do except before and after his layoff from March to September of last year when winning the San Felipe (although DQ’d to second) in the spring and Pennsylvania Derby in the fall. He didn’t have the winning instinct in the Santa Anita Handicap nor in the Met Mile but repeating any of his last five efforts, with 115 to 121 figures, is good enough to win if Higher Power doesn’t improve off his 112 Pacific Classic effort. I don’t think the other four have much of a chance to win.

Unzip Me Stakes - Race 11 at Santa Anita - Post Time 8:46 PM Eastern/5:46 Pacific

There’s going to be a sizzling hot and contest pace here with FIVE need-the-lead types. When the dust settles, Don’t Sell, Mischiffie, Fantasy Heat and Holly Hundy should be in the picture, and I give a slight chance to Apache Princess, although she’s facing older for the first time and has never run at this distance (her only two previous turf sprints were down the hillside course which isn’t being used right now).

This is also my free race of the day on the Santa Anita site so although I won’t send you there for the “Betting” portion of this analysis, if you want to read why I like the four horse above in more detail, you can click on this link. The analysis is free. 

Bets: Bet Don’t Sell and Mischiffie to win at odds of 5 to 2 or more.
Consider smaller win bets on Fantasy Heat and on Holly Hundy at odds of 4 to 1 or more.

When making multiple win bets, use a "Dutching" tool to do the work of allocating your wagering dollars for the best edge. Amwager has a great dutching tool available, among many other great features.

Exactas: Box Don’t Sell, Mischiffie, Fantasy Heat and Holly Hundy.
Box Don’t Sell, Mischiffie, Apache Princess, Fantasy Heat and Holly Hundy.
Play Don’t Sell, Mischiffie, Fantasy Heat and Holly Hundy over Don’t Sell, Mischiffie, Fantasy Heat, Holly Hundy, Miss Hot Legs and Stealthediamonds.

Friday, 20 September 2019 12:36

Lots of Options

Past the Wire    Tracking Tips Logo


September 20, 2019

Lots of Options

By: Jonathan Stettin

Today more than ever the bettor has many options on where, when, and how to gamble or invest their money. Whether it is racing (my game of choice) sports, table or casino games, poker, backgammon, chess (my second favorite) or whatever, there are an abundance of choices. Within the racing game alone we choose from many tracks, and also different wagers.
We all have wagers at the track or through an ADW like our AmWager that we favor or gravitate towards. Like anything else, things become comfortable and routine like. For some reason, just about all the talking heads promote the pick 4 or pick 5 wager. It is almost all they talk about when it comes to promoting a wager. I guess their bosses, who likely mandate this, miss the fact many other wagers are much better for the churn of handle they seek. Those bets can be great, and they are fun. However, they are far from the only option and in today’s market often not the best value or chance for a nice hit. Of course, there are exceptions and if you luck out or well play one you can really take it down, but if you are a sharp player you realize there are other opportunities to explore.
When you think about the nature of pari-mutual wagering and that we are all playing against one another. You have to realize that sometimes going after something where the waters aren’t filled with both sharks and guppies can give you an advantage.
I love exactas. They often offer great value, and if you play them aggressively, as I do, you can make some nice hits. If you like a horse that is say 6 or 8-1 and you single him in a multi-race bet and he wins but you lose another leg that is one of the most frustrating ways to get beat. If you key him on top of exactas, sure you can lose even if he wins but I’d argue the chances are less likely. If your key horse wins you probably have a nice handle on the race and will nail the exacta. As a single in a multi race wager, he may win and you may have that good handle on that race but there are three or four others to get by. I love the exacta. I play them even when I single a horse in a multi race bet.
Usually, I will just take one or two exactas. For example, if I like the 5 I may bet the 5 to win, single the 5 in a multi race wager and take a cold 5-7 exacta. If I think second place is more side open I may take $100 exacta 5-7, then $50 exacta 5-2 5-4. That gives me three shots for second and if I can’t get that home if the 5 wins, it was just not my day. I will still have the win and maybe even the multi going for me. Options. I think it is important to explore them when deciding where to invest your money.
Triples and more so superfectas can also offer great value and opportunities. You will also find fewer sharks in these waters even though the pools are often healthy. A lot of recreational players go in these pools playing names and numbers. This is a dream scenario for some of us and you can often capitalize on it. 
While we may gravitate to where we are comfortable and get led there by talking heads, that may not always be where the best opportunities are. Depending on the price of your top or key horses you just have to look at all the items on the menu. This game is about maximizing when you are right and sometimes you have to go outside of the comfort zone to do that.
Another almost forgotten bet is the double. While I personally do not find as much value here as I do in exactas, triples, and superfectas, it can be another option for many players.
You have to get out of the routine and comfort zone to improve. That’s where we make progress and progress can mean scores. That’s why we play.