Ellis Starr's Blog - AmWager

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    Key Races & Bets for Saturday, September 29

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

    Vineyard Sound is impossible to ignore, opening at 12/1. Sent to post at 15/1 in his debut last month at Saratoga in a turf sprint (7 furlongs), the race was moved to dirt. Sent to the front shortly after the start, Vineyard Sound led set fast fractions on the lead into the stretch before settling for 2nd in a big effort while earning an 81 Equibase figure in the process. To put that in perspective, favorite Opry made his career debut one week earlier in an off-turf 7 furlong dirt sprint, finishing a close-up third with a 75 figure before breaking his maiden in the With Anticipation Stakes by improving markedly to a 92 figure running in his first turf route. There is every reason to believe Vineyard Sound can repeat that same feat as Opry did in the With Anticipation by breaking his maiden in the Pilgrim Stakes, particularly as he's bred to adore the turf. Vineyard Sound is a full brother to multiple turf route stakes winner Bittel Road, who won as a 2 year old, and two of his other three siblings on the dam's side are also turf route winners. Veteran jockey Edgar Prado takes the call and Vineyard Sound has put in three recent workouts on turf coming into the race so be familiar with the surface.

    Forty Under tried turf and two turns last month in his 2nd career start and showed a lot of maturity sitting off the pace in 2nd in the early stages before showing a nice kick to win. He's improving, gets a good inside post and the 93 Equibase figure earned is on par with the 92 Opry earned in winning the With Anticipation stakes, so likely to improve in his 3rd career start and 2nd route, Forty Under is another to be respected, particularly as his starting odds are 6/1.

    Opry rounds out the main trio of contenders, already a stakes winner and with improving to do in his 3rd career start. The only knocks are his 9/5 starting odds.

    There are a trio of horses who we can consider for the runner-up spot, starting with Social Paranoia, who finished 2nd to Forty Under last time out and who, like Vineyard Sound, is trying to break his maiden in a stakes race. Somelikeithotbrown finished 2nd to Opry in the With Anticipation Stakes and can improve, having broken his maiden by eight lengths before that, which helped make him the 6 to 5 favorite in the With Anticipation. Spirit Animal ran fourth in an off-turf race in his debut then improved nicely to break his maiden in a turf route in his second start. His 87 Equibase figure is lower than the other contenders and lower than the figure Vineyard Sound may improve to, but Spirit Animal has improving to do and can't be discounted as a contender.

    Win or win/place bets: Vineyard Sound to win and place at 3 to 1 or more.

    Consider a second win bet, on Forty Under, at 7 to 2 or higher, adding a place bet at 5 to 1 or more.

    As always, when making multiple win bets, use a "Dutching" tool with which you can enter the amount you want to spend or the amount you want to win and the calculation of how much to bet will be done for you. Amwager provides a free "Dutching" tool, among other great benefits for the handicapper and bettor.

    Exacta bets: Vineyard Sound, Forty Under and Opry over Vineyard Sound, Forty Under, Opry, Somelikeitbrown, Social Paranoia and Spirit Animal.

    Doubles: Vineyard Sound, Forty Under and Opry in Race 9 with Diversify and Thunder Snow in Race 10.

    Jockey Club Gold Cup – Race 10 at Belmont - Post Time 5:50 PM ET

    If Mendelssohn puts pressure on Diversify early, Thunder Snow can win. Although Thunder Snow won the Dubai World Cup on the lead from start to finish, I doubt those tactics will be used in the Jockey Club Gold Cup because Diversify is a horse with a high cruising speed and a very strong desire to lead from the start. More likely, it will Mendelssohn who will be attending the pace early to keep the Diversify honest and insure he does not control the pace as he did when winning the 2017 Jockey Club Gold Cup. The reason Thunder Snow went to the lead at the start in the World Cup was it had been shown earlier on the card that running style was beneficial compared to others, particularly as Mendelssohn had led from start to finish in winning the U.A.E. Derby by 18 lengths. Prior to the World Cup, Thunder Snow proved to be capable of tracking the pacesetter and running well, such as when winning the Al Maktoum Challenge Round 2 in February. The Al Maktoum Challenge Round 2 was the second of three successive big efforts in which Thunder Snow earned 106, 111 and then 116 Equibase Speed Figures, before a tremendous 142 figure earned winning the World Cup. Since arriving at Belmont and coming out of quarantine, Thunder Snow put in a half-mile workout over the main track and moves back to dirt after a poor effort on turf last month and that could be the key to repeating his World Cup effort and collaring Diversify in the stretch to win the Gold Cup.

    That being said, Diversify has proven time and again to be one of the toughest horses in the handicap division to pass in the late stages of a race. The first time Diversify ran the distance of one mile and one-quarter was in last year's Gold Cup, a breakout performance with a 119 figure and his second such figure in a row. After a pair of poor efforts last fall and this spring, Diversify recovered that form in April with a win in the Commentator Stakes with a 104 figure, improving to 114 winning the Suburban Stakes at the distance in July and then to a 118 figure easily winning the Whitney Stakes last month at Saratoga. Diversify has shown an incredible liking for the main track at Belmont, with six wins and two runner-up finishes in eight races, which helps make him the other horse with a high probability to win this race.

    Any of the other six can finish third. With the exception of likely early pace presser Mendelssohn five of those six likely to be coming from far back in the early stages and hoping to rally past most of the rest.

    Bets: Thunder Snow to win at odds of 2 to 1 or more.

    Exacta: Box Diversify and Thunder Snow.

    Trifecta: Diversify and Thunder Snow over Diversify and Thunder Snow over Carlino, Patch, Uno Mas Modelo and Discreet Lover.

    The reason for the strategy based on the fact I have no interest in either Mendelssohn or Gronkowski finishing second. If Diversify wins, the trifecta turns a few bucks into a higher return than a win bet on Diversify. Of course, if Thunder Snow wins then the trifecta may pay handsomely.

    Chandelier Stakes – Race 9 at Santa Anita - Post Time 7:07 ET, 4:07 PT

    Der Lu won as she pleased in her career debut last month in a sprint and as a daughter of Orb should stretch out and run even better. The 99 Figure is the best last race figure in the field and she's trained by Baffert (who also saddles Mother Mother) with Van Dyke riding back after being up in the debut, in which she ran very maturely as she stalked in 2nd early before drawing off. The only other horse with a better figure in any race is her stablemate, who regressed badly when second in the Del Mar Debutante four weeks ago, won by Bellafina, with Brill fourth. Bellafina, who opens at 9/5, regressed badly off the 101 figure earned in the Sorrento one month earlier, as did Brill and Mother Mother, which is of big concern as 2 year olds should be improving from race to race, not declining. As such, Der Lu has a big shot to post the mild upset here, opening at 4 to 1.

    Del Mar May is the other horse we can consider as a win contender and bet as such. She led late then finished 2nd in her debut in July with an 85 figure then went into the Sorrento Stakes as a maiden. Although 2nd to Bellafina, Del Mar May improved to a 92 figure but unlike Bellafina, Del Mar May did not go in the Del Mar Debutante and so enters the race fresh and on an improving pattern.

    Bets: Der Lu to win at 9 to 5 or more AND Del Mar May to win at odds of 2 to 1 or higher.

    As always, when making multiple win bets, use a "Dutching" tool with which you can enter the amount you want to spend or the amount you want to win and the calculation of how much to bet will be done for you. Amwager provides a free "Dutching" tool, among other great benefits for the handicapper and bettor.

    Doubles: Der Lu and Del Mar May in Race 9 with Queen Blossom, Vasilika and Cambodia in Race 10.

    Also, ALL in race 9 with Queen Blossom in Race 10.

    Pick 3: (Two Tickets)

    Race 9 – Der Lu and Del Mar May

    Race 10 – Queen Blossom, Vasilika and Cambodia

    Race 11 – West Coast and Accelerate

    Race 9 – Der Lu and Del Mar May

    Race 10 – Queen Blossom

    Race 11 – West Coast and Accelerate

    Rodeo Drive Stakes – Race 10 at Santa Anita - Post Time 7:41 PM ET, 4:41 PT

    Queen Blossom, who opens at 8 to 1 odds, has as much probability to win as either of the two favorites, Vasilika and Cambodia, who open at much lower odds. Better still perhaps, Queen Blossom has run this 10 furlong turf trip, and further, previously, winning the Santa Barbara Stakes in April over the course at 12 furlongs and finishing 2nd in a pair of stakes since then at 10 and 11 furlongs, respectively. Prat rode her in all three recent "A" efforts, and he moves to Vasilika, but Geroux comes in to ride to there are no issues. With a career best Equibase figure of 112 earned one before last not far from the 115 and 113 figures Vasilika and Cambodia earned when finishing first and second, respectively, in their most recent race, with out of line odds and experience at the trip the favorites lack, Queen Blossom has every right to post the upset.

    Vasilika goes for her seventh straight win, including her first graded stakes win four weeks ago in the John C Mabee Stakes. She loves to win and except for never having run this 10 furlong trip would be no surprise. Cambodia won the Yellow Ribbon Stakes in August before rallying from 9th to 2nd in the Mabee behind Vasilika. Another horse who loves to win and is immensely talented, she must be considered a win contender for any double and pick 3 tickets played but with such great value offered on Queen Blossom, Cambodia is a poor win bet.

    Bets: Queen Blossom to win and place at odds of 5 to 2 or more.

    Exactas: Box Queen Blossom and Vasilika. Box Queen Blossom and Cambodia.

    Optional Double (particularly if live in the pick 3 with one of the two contenders in the ninth race winning):

    Queen Blossom in Race 10 with West Coast and Accelerate in Race 11.

    Note about race 11, the Awesome Again Stakes: There's no reason to bet that race in and of itself because a short six horse field is assembled and it would be a shock if either West Coast or Accelerate did not win. Value on one of these two winning the race comes solely in playing the doubles or pick 3.

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    Key Races & Bets for Saturday, September 22

    PA Derby Champion Stakes – Race 8 at Parx - Post Time 3:41 PM Eastern

    Collected opens as the 6/5 favorite and is a FALSE FAVORITE, on many counts, which makes the race exceptionally playable. "Never bet a Grade 1 winner making a comeback from a layoff in a non-graded race" is an old handicapping angle in play here. A non-graded race off a layoff for a previous grade 1 winner has to be considered a throwaway race, one which of course a horse can win, but on the other hand the trainer is telegraphing this isn't important one bit. Collected needs to get in at least one race before running in this year's Breeders' Cup Classic, having finished 2nd in the race last year, and needs this kind of race but coming back from eight months off, in a decent enough field, although he can win on class, it's just as likely if there's a battle in the stretch Smith is NOT going to ask him for all he has to offer because that would hurt his chances in six weeks.

    On the other hand, there are a trio of horses with good form that can be played as overlays, starting with Exulting, shipping in from New York for McLaughlin. The five year old won just one of his first eight races but has won two in a row, the last with a career best 110 Equibase figure (the 2nd best last race figure in the field) and is on a pattern for another career best. Bravo gets the call and is a very strong rider for the barn with a 15 for 53 record going back the last two years, 3 for 9 in stakes. Opening at 10/1, Exulting is all but impossible to ignore given how easily he won his last two races.

    Aztec Sense is another very playable horse at anywhere near his 6/1 starting odds. He's won six in a row, three over the course including a pair of $100K stakes like this one, earning 106 figures in his last two. He can win on the lead or from just off the pace and he's been in front at the 8th pole in all of those recent wins, giving no horse a shot to pass late. Having won ALL five two turn races in his career, and for the super high percentage Navarro barn, Aztec Sense would be no surprise.

    Name Changer has won 7 of 15 career races including a three-for-four record this year. He won the G3 Monmouth Cup when last seen at the end of July and fired to win off a similar short layoff in May. Jose Ortiz rode him for the first time in the Monmouth Cup and rides back and repeating any of his last 3 efforts, with 116, 113 and 113 figures, if neither of the other two contenders jumps up, gets him another stakes win.

    For exotics, we'll toss in Sunny Ridge, who until a 9th place effort when overmatched in the Woodward had good form to similar, and Zanotti, who has finished second in FIVE of SEVEN races this year and who has a lot of heart.

    Bets: Exulting and Aztec Sense to win at odds of 5 to 2 or more.

    Consider a win bet on Name Changer at odds of 5 to 2 or more as well.

    When making multiple win bets, always a good idea in a race like this with a bad favorite, use a "Dutching" tool (like the free one at Amwager) which allows you to set the amount you want to win or the amount you want to spend, and allocates your wagers accordingly based on odds.

    Exacta: Exulting, Aztec Sense and Name Changer over Exulting, Aztec Sense, Name Changer, Sunny Ridge and Zanotti.

    Play the reverse of that exacta as well, because the reward is well worth the risk and if any two of the three main contenders finish 1st and 2nd, we win twice. That exacta is: Exulting, Aztec Sense, Name Changer, Sunny Ridge and Zanotti over Exulting, Aztec Sense and Name Changer.

    Doubles: ALL in Race 8 with Still Having Fun and Seven Trumpets in Race 9.

    Doubles (additional wager): Exulting, Aztec Sense and Name Changer in Race 8 with Still Having Fun, Seven Trumpets, Smooth B, Earned Success and Whereshetoldmetogo in Race 9.

    For the pick 3, use the horses above in races 8 and 9 and just single Monomoy Girl in race 10 (an otherwise unplayable race).

    Gallant Bob Stakes – Race 9 at Parx - Post Time 4:14 PM ET

    Seven Trumpets finished second last month in the Grade 1 H. Allen Jerkens Stakes at odds of 32 to 1, beating second betting choice Firenze Fire by half-length, the latter having NO EXCUSE. Still, for some reason (one I won't complain about), Seven Trumpets opens at 12/1 here while Firenze Fire opens at 2/1 and although Firenze Fire isn't a totally false favorite like Collected is in the previous race, the likely high odds offered on Seven Trumpets are notable. Now first or second in his last SIX one-turn races, Seven Trumpets came back to work a half-mile in 46.8 which was the best of 78 on the day so his form can't be questioned. Considering his off-the-pace running style and considering Forced and War Giant are BOTH need-the-lead types likely to go 22 for the 1st quarter and 44 and chance for the half mile, Seven Trumpets gets a fantastic post to run into and repeating that last effort with a strong 106 Equibase figure may get him the upset win.

    Another closer likely to benefit greatly from the early pace is Still Having Fun, who finished 5th (after being 8th early) in the Jerkens. Prior to that, he proved himself at the level with a win in the Woody Stephens on Belmont day and a 106 figure matching Seven Trumpets best effort. Rosario rides back and the colt has been first or second six or seven one turn races and therefore cannot be ignored for a second, opening at 12/1.

    Earned Success opens at 10/1, ridiculously high odds for a horse trained by Chad Brown. Brown also saddles Engage, who has run okay in four of five this year but who has finished evenly in the last eighth of a mile for 2nd in three of those. Earned Success is three-for-four in his career and is on an improving pattern with 92 then 102 figures in his last two. He's only started four times so has more to show us and therefore rounds out the three main contenders for win bets.

    That being said about the main contenders, there is really not a single horse in the field to be totally tossed out, even considering the likely pace duel, so the strategy will be to key on two or all three of the above, either with win/place bets or exactas.

    Bets: Seven Trumpets and Still Having Fun to win at odds of 3/1, adding place bets at 6 to 1 or more (and/or playing the exactas below instead of place bets). Consider a win bet on Earned Success at 4 to 1 or higher.

    Exacta: Seven Trumpets over ALL, AND the reverse which is ALL over Seven Trumpets

    Exacta option 2: Seven Trumpets and Still Having Fun over ALL and (the reverse) ALL over Seven Trumpets and Still Having Fun.

    Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash – Grade 3 - Race 10 at Laurel - Post Time 5 PM ET

    The Man loves to win races, now with 10 victories in 15 starts, better still 6 for 7 at this basic six furlong trip. He has a great stalking running style and his last three races earned Equibase figures of 109, 109 and 107 which are better than all but one of favorite Switzerland's figures (the best earned on a sloppy track) and better than or as good as the last two figures earned by Always Sunshine. The Man has excellent tactical speed and should be in the top three from the start under Vargas, the only rider he's ever known since his career debut, more reasons to suspect a big effort at a square price as he opens at 8/1.

    Always Sunshine and Switzerland are the logical win contenders for exotics but are likely to go to post at odds too low for a win bet, particularly when offered so much value on The Man. Always Sunshine won his last two races, both non-graded stakes, and has won over the track, but interestingly enough has the same number of career wins (6) at the trip as The Man. Switzerland disappointed at 3/1 last out in the Vanderbilt Handicap at Saratoga and will appreciate the class relief. He won three in a row prior to that with 103, 107 and 118 figures, the latter over a sloppy track but in a grade 3 stakes like this one.

    Bets: The Man to win at 2 to 1 or more.

    Exacta: Box The Man and Always Sunshine. Box The Man and Switzerland.

    Trifecta: Box The Man, Always Sunshine and Switzerland.

    Pennsylvania Derby – Race 11 at Parx - Post Time 5:45 PM Eastern

    Axelrod gets slight preference among four horses I feel have more of a probability to win than the rest. Since stretching out to two turns on dirt in his third start as a three-year-old in June, Axelrod has really come to hand. In his first dirt route after two turf sprints this year, Axelrod finished second at 23 to 1 odds in the Affirmed Stakes while earning a career-best 106 Equibase Speed Figure then one month later he rallied gamely from last of nine to win the Indiana Derby with a 102 figure, before tying his career-best effort with an easy four length victory in the Smarty Jones Stakes last month. Jockey Joe Bravo rode Axelrod for the first time in the Smarty Jones and got along with the colt marvelously and the familiarity with the track may be an edge as well. In the Smarty Jones both horse and jockey had to wait for a clear path on the turn and when that path never materialized, Bravo swung Axelrod out eight paths wide into the stretch from where the horse accelerated in the blink of an eye to draw off. That's the same kind of effort I'm expecting of Axelrod in the Pennsylvania Derby, one that can help him post the upset for his third stakes win in a row.

    Although away from the races for more than six months, McKinzie cannot be completely discounted as a contender when considering wagers in this race. There's little concern about racing around two turns off a long layoff insofar as trainer Bob Baffert is concerned as Stats Race Lens statistics reveal Baffert has a three-for-five record with horses returning off similar layoffs in two-turn stakes races over the past five years. With regular jockey Mike Smith aboard and with 106, 111 and 118 figures earned in his three dirt route races, McKinzie must be respected as a contender even though he's coming off an injury and a layoff.

    Hofburg just ran the best race of his career when earning a 113 figure while geared down to a five length margin of victory in the Curlin Stakes at the distance of the Pennsylvania Derby. Although winning the Curlin easily, trainer Bill Mott is putting blinkers on for this race. Considering the stature of this Hall-of-Fame trainer I will not argue with the equipment change off a win, particularly considering the colt shows a portentous blinkers on/fast workout pattern as his recent half-mile workout was the best of 60 on the day. Jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr. rides once again and if there is any improvement from that last effort, Hofburg might put on quite a show.

    Mr Freeze rounds out the quartet that I feel can win the race and opens at double digit odds. He has won three of his four races to date and missed by just a half-length in the other. He enters the Pennsylvania Derby off a career-best effort with a 102 figure in the West Virginia Derby, in which he drew off to win by eight lengths with plenty of gas left in the tank. This will be his toughest test to date, but it must be noted his sire To Honor and Serve won the 2011 running of this race. As the late bloomer in the field, having just begun his career in April, Mr Freeze may be capable of getting the job done.

    Bets: Axelrod to win at 2 to 1 or more. Mr Freeze to win at 3 to 1 or more.

    Exacta: Axelrod, Mr Freeze, Hofburg and McKinzie over Axelrod, Mr Freeze, Hofburg, McKinzie, Instilled Regard, King Zachary, Core Beliefs and Bravazo.

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    Key Races & Bets for Saturday, September 15

    Ricoh Woodbine Mile – Race 8 at Woodbine - Post Time 4:48 PM Eastern

    Lord Glitters is a classy turf horse who ran big in three straight group 1 and group 2 stakes in England this spring and summer then won a group 3 stakes last month. He's on an IDENTICAL pattern to 2015 Ricoh Woodbine Mile winner Mondialiste and that should come as no surprise as Mondialiste was trained by David O'Meara as is Lord Glitters. He gets Lasix and Jamie Spencer is in from Europe, having ridden the horse to runner-up efforts in the Queen Ann Stakes at Royal Ascot (in a field of 15) and the Summer Mile Stakes, beating his stablemate Suedois by a nose for 2nd. It must be noted Suedois came in from Europe for O'Meara to win a grade 1 race, the Shadwell Turf Mile, last year. With two of his last four efforts earning him 122 Equibase figures that are by far top in the field, Lord Glitters should take some beating.

    That being said, big changes in form are possible from Good Samaritan on the return to turf, where he started his career, winning his first two starts, on the Woodbine sod including the Summer Stakes. Rosario was up for those races, in which he ran without blinkers, which are removed today, with Rosario getting back on after a two race absence. Showing he can run on turf as a two year old and on dirt earlier this year when winning the New Orleans Handicap with a 116 figure competitive here if repeated, Good Samaritan is a second horse worth considering for a win bet, opening at 10/1.

    Delta Prince is a turf miler to be sure, with four wins and two second place finishes in six starts at the trip. Castellano has been up for the last two, the first of which came after nine months off and was a win on the Woodbine turf at this mile trip in the Grade 2 King Edward. He was the only horse to close into lone frontrunner Voodoo Song last out in the Fourstardave, improving to a career best 117 figure, and any step forward 3rd off the layoff makes him a contender as well.

    I'll consider Mr Havercamp (with inferior figures of 104 and107 compared to the top three contenders), Oscar Performance (who was pulled up last out but who won the Poker Stakes at a mile prior to that) and Stormy Antarctic (a European shipper like Lord Glitters who hasn't been facing the same quality as that one but may be good enough for a minor award) for second on exacta tickets.

    Bets: Lord Glitters to win at 3 to 2 or higher, a low odds key overlay win bet.

    For a smaller amount, consider a win bet on Good Samaritan at odds of 3 to 1 or more, adding a place bet at odds of 5 to 1 or higher.

    Exacta: Box Lord Glitters, Good Samaritan and Delta Prince.

    Exacta: Lord Glitters, Good Samaritan and Delta Prince over Lord Glitters, Good Samaritan, Delta Prince, Mr Havercamp, Oscar Performance and Stormy Antarctic.

    Pick 3 and Pick 4: (Woodbine offers $0.20 bets so we can play a decent pick 4 ticket)

    Race 8- Lord Glitters, Good Samaritan and Delta Prince

    Race 9-Starship Jubilee, Inflexibility

    Race 10- Ikerrin Road, Pink Lloyd, Kingsport

    Race 11- English Illusion, Patterson Cross, Hawkbill, Mekhtaal, Tiz a Slam, Utmost, Johnny Bear

    Canadian Stakes – Race 9 at Woodbine- Post Time 5:27 PM ET

    I only see two horses that can win this race, Starship Jubilee and Inflexibility, and with the first of the two opening at 10/1 I'll start there. Starship Jubilee is a grade 2 winner in a grade 2 race, the other two of the remaining seven that have won grade 2 or grade 1 races being New Money Honey and Niigon's Eclipse. However, New Money Honey is a FALSE 2nd betting choice opening at 5/2 as she's not the same horse as last year at three when she won a pair of graded stakes. On the other hand, Starship Jubilee, who won the Nassau and Dance Smartly over the Woodbine turf last year, got back into the winner's circle last month off a layoff and pair of defeats and as the type that loves to win, now that she's back in form she can easily run another "A" race, as she did when winning five in a row last year and when putting together two big efforts in a row in January and February. Her last start was against much cheaper but we should consider it nothing more than a paid workout as she was eligible for the starter allowance condition and it was better than a morning drill and her 113 figure from last year's Canadian when she led late before settling for 3rd would make her very competitive if repeated here.

    That being said, Inflexibility is a legitimate favorite, as she led late and settled for 2nd in the G2 Dance Smartly this year (which Starship Jubilee won last year). She didn't run nearly as well last month in the Beverly D at Arlington but winner Sistercharlie is pretty much unstoppable right now so back at the grade 2 level Inflexibility should be very tough.

    For the minor awards (which means for use in second on exacta tickets), I'll consider Daring Duchess (part of a likely pace duel with others but who hangs around for second a lot), Niigon's Eclipse (first or second in seven of her last eight), Bletchley (second in the Nassau behind Niigon's Eclipse and capable of putting in a big rally on occasion) and Hallie Belle (scratched out of the Ladies Turf at Kentucky Downs last weekend for this and getting leading jockey Da Silva).

    Bets: Starship Jubilee to win at odds of 3 to 1 or more, adding a place bet at 5 to 1 or more.

    Exacta (instead of a win bet): Inflexibility over Starship Jubilee, Daring Duchess, Niigon's Eclipse, Bletchley and Hallie Belle.

    Exacta: Starship Jubilee and Inflexibility over Starship Jubilee, Inflexibility Daring Duchess, Niigon's Eclipse, Bletchley and Hallie Belle.

    Consider double and pick 3 tickets if you did not play the pick 3 or pick 4 in race 8 or if none of the contenders won the first leg of the bet.

    Bold Venture Stakes - Race 10 at Woodbine - Post Time 6:02 PM ET

    When Pink Lloyd had his winning streak snapped by Kingsport on July 8, Kingsport was getting a six pound break in the weights. That may have been a factor, as may have been the contested pace Pink Lloyd had to deal with after a slow break and rushing up. The same thing may happen today and the beneficiary could easily be Ikerrin Road, who won this race last year with a 107 figure as good as either of Pink Lloyd's last two figures (106 and 104). Ikerrin Road gets a seven pound break from the favorite and got back into winning form last month with a big effort rallying from sixth of nine so is now on an IDENTICAL pattern to his prep before winning this race last year at 12/1. He opens at 15/1 here and is worth betting to be sure.

    There's not much to say about Pink Lloyd, winner of 16 races in 19 tries. Although many of his wins came in restricted races he has won four open (not restricted) stakes in the past 15 months and although his last loss came at this 6 1/2 furlong trip he's won at 7 furlongs so it's not an issue either. His biggest problem is his tendency to break slowly, which he overcomes most of the time. I won't discount him so will definitely use him on exacta and multi-race tickets like the pick 3 and 4 but certainly we profit a lot more if one of the other two contenders posts the upset win.

    Kingsport doesn't get a big break in weight like he got two back, today only two pounds lower than Pink Lloyd, but otherwise he could be the beneficiary once more as he cuts back from a route to a sprint just like he did for the win on July 8 and he could be closing into a fast pace. He finished fourth in the route before beating Pink Lloyd in July and this time he's cutting back in distance off a win, beating a very good horse in Melmich (who has earned nearly $1 million) so he must be respected.

    We should add Yorkton and Sweet Little Man for second and/or third on exacta and trifecta tickets played, the former having finished second in two of his last three and the latter now with 15 runner-up finishes in his career to go along with eight wins.

    Bets: Ikerrin Road to win at odds of 4 to 1 or more, adding a place bet at 7 to 1 or more.

    Exacta and Trifecta: Ikerrin Road, Pink Lloyd and Kingsport over Ikerrin Road, Pink Lloyd, Kingsport, Yorkton and Sweet Little Man.

    Consider doubles if you are not alive in any of the pick 3 or 4 tickets started in earlier races.

    Northern Dancer Stakes – Race 11 at Woodbine - Post Time 6:36 PM Eastern

    There are TWO excellent longshot opportunities in this race, English Illusion and Patterson Cross, although for the pick 4 ticket started in race 8, and any pick 3 or double tickets started since, I am going to use seven horses because the $0.20 bet size allows for spreading in this race.

    English Illusion is a true "stayer," meaning a horse that can run as far as the day is long. He won at 12 furlongs on turf last month and he won at 13 furlongs (1 5/8 miles) last fall. Last month when winning at this 12 furlong turf trip, he beat last year's Northern Dancer winner, Johnny Bear, on the square, and that win in the Halton Stakes served as the same prep Johnny Bear used for winning this race last year. The gelding was dropped in to a claiming race for the first time right before that last race, and he was immediately claimed because as a five year old he still may have a fine career on turf. Hernandez got on off the claim and rode him marvelously, and Hernandez and trainer Pion have had superb success at Woodbine the past few years. English Illusion earned a 106 Equibase figure last December at the 13F distance and that's the third best figure in the field so opening at 15/1 I think he's one of two I definitely don't want to miss if he runs big.

    The other is Patterson Cross, who proved he belonged at this level and marathon distance with three superb efforts in a row last winter (2017), starting that January when leading late and missing by a length to be third in the McKnight Handicap, then missing by a head to world class Wake Forest in the Mac Diarmida Stakes before a neck defeat in the Pan American Stakes behind multiple graded stakes winner Sadler's Joy. He bettered the best Equibase figure (113) from those three efforts two months ago when missing in a four horse blanket finish at Saratoga with a 121 figure then rallied from seventh to second in the stretch in the Johns Call Stakes when he was impeded and finished fourth before being moved up to third when the runner-up was disqualified for interference. That effort earned a 118 figure so Patterson Cross enters the race off the two best efforts of his career so another "A" effort is forecast and as he opens at 10/1 he's very playable.

    Favorite Hawkbill has run some races good enough to win and some clunkers. Last year in this race he led from the start as the 3 to 5 favorite but got nailed late by Johnny Bear. He ships in from Europe like last year and has run in three straight Group 1 Stakes against horses who would be odds on favorites to win if entered here, so he could be competitive if he's ready but he's tough to bet to win at low odds.

    Many of these have some small chance to win and a bigger chance to finish second, and so with two of the win contenders opening at double digit odds we can take a shot with some exactas using as many as possible.

    Bets: Patterson Cross and English Illusion to win at odds of 4 to 1 or more, adding a place bet at 5 to 1 or higher.

    As always, when making multiple win bets, use a "Dutching" tool with which you can enter the amount you want to spend or the amount you want to win and the calculation of how much to bet will be done for you.

    Exacta: Patterson Cross and English Illusion over Patterson Cross, English Illusion, Hawkbill, Mekhtaal, Utmost, Johnny Bear and Tiz a Slam.

    Also, play the reverse of that exacta, which is Patterson Cross, English Illusion, Hawkbill, Mekhtaal, Utmost, Johnny Bear and Tiz a Slam over Patterson Cross and Tiz a Slam.

     

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  • 07
    SEP

    Key Races & Bets for Saturday, September 8

    Allied Forces Stakes – Race 4 at Belmont Park - Post Time 3:04 PM Eastern

    Gidu is one of three to potentially get the pace scenario of his dreams, as Reed Kan (on the rail), Weather Report, Colonel Tom and World of Trouble have earned 12 of their 13 career wins combined LEADING FROM START TO FINISH. Reed Kan and Weather Report don't look as fast as the other two but drawn inside of World of Trouble and Colonel Tom, they will be sent hard, and it will only take two of the four to sizzle early to set up Gidu and the other two horses that can sit off the pace early. Gidu's last start is irrelevant as it was on dirt after seven races on grass so back on the grass and with a field high (BY FAR) 114 Equibase Figure to run back to, earned here at Belmont in May winning the similar Paradise Creek Stakes, he's the one to beat and even though low odds with a vulnerable favorite in World of Trouble, Gidu is a low odds overlay.

    That being said, Totally Boss (8/1 morning line) and Dirty (7/2) might get the job done as well. Totally Boss moves back to the care of excellent trainer Lynch, having just run so-so in his first six races (three for Lynch), all on dirt, but taking to turf like a duck takes to water in his grass debut on 7/13. Although 4th off that race in the Quick Call Stakes on the turf at Saratoga, it must be noted winner World of Trouble got an easy and uncontested lead unlikely to occur today. None of the other top six runners except one have run back, but that one, who finished just behind Totally Boss, came back to win so there is upset potential here. Dirty rallied from 5th of 6 early to win by 5 like he was shot out of a cannon in a turf sprint in June, before that winning at this trip on the Belmont grass. He's 3 for 5 on turf and comes out of the same race on very wet turf as Totally Boss with the same comment in that winner World of Trouble is unlikely to repeat his easy score based on having the lead all to himself which should not occur here.

    Bets: Gidu to win at even money (1/1) or higher, a low odds key overlay win bet.

    Consider smaller win bets on Totally Boss and on Dirty at 7 to 2 or more.

    Exacta: Box Gidu, Totally Boss and Dirty.

    Trifecta: Gidu over Totally Boss and Dirty over all. (I prefer the trifecta over the exacta in this case to try to make more money with Gidu winning at low odds).

    Kentucky Downs Ladies Sprint Stakes – Race 8 at Kentucky Downs- Post Time 5:57 PM ET

    Ruby Notion comes into the race off a win in the Caress Stakes at Saratoga at 5 1/2 furlong on turf, in a field of 9, a race in which she made a huge move on the turn to go from 2 1/2 lengths back to 2 lengths in front. Prior to that she made up 4 1/2 lengths in the stretch in another 5 1/2 furlong turf race, ending up a head shy of winning. Both those "A" efforts came in her 2nd and 3rd starts following 10 months off and both with Geroux in the saddle as today. She's won 5 of 13 overall but oddly enough has never finished 2nd, ending up 3rd three times, but her recent wins have earned 117 and 116 Equibase Figures which, except for one effort by Lull, are dominant in this field and that makes her the one to beat.

    Lull also has five career wins on grass, in 15 races and if she wins or finishes 2nd she will go over the $1 million mark in career earnings. Better still, she loves this European style course where she's perfect in two tries including last year's Ladies Sprint Stakes. She won her first start of 2018 in March after four months off then disappointed in two since but that 3/31/18 stakes win earned a 117 figure as good as Ruby Notion earned last out and is certainly repeatable so this gal has the rest of the bulk of the probability to win this race.

    Bets: Ruby Notion to win at odds of 3 to 2 or more, a low odds overlay key bet.

    Lull to win at 2 to 1 or more.

    To bet more than one horse in a race and to maximize value while doing so, use a "Dutching" tool like the free one available at Amwager.com, which enables you to enter how much you want to spend or how much you want to win and which then allocates your wagering dollars accordingly.

    With the two contenders both at low odds, we will forego the exacta in lieu of the trifecta:

    Trifecta: Ruby Notion over Lull over ALL.

    Ruby Notion and Lull over ALL over Ruby Notion and Lull.

    Doubles: Ruby Notion and Lull in Race 8 with Undrafted, Vici, Done Deal, White Flag and Blind Ambition in Race 9.

    Pick 3: Ruby Notion and Lull in Race 8 with Undrafted, Vici, Done Deal, White Flag and Blind Ambition in Race 9 with Patterson Cross, Oscar Nominated, Big Bend and Bandua in Race 10.

    Kentucky Downs Turf Sprint Stakes - Race 9 at Kentucky Downs - Post Time 6:27 PM ET

    In a wide open 12 horse field, I'll start with Undrafted, the ONLY horse trained by Wesley Ward, as Master Merion ran on Thursday in the Old Friends Stakes and will be scratched. Undrafted hasn't won in four previous tries over the course, but could just as easily won last year's running of this race as he finished third, beaten a nose and a half-length on the wire with a rousing finish. Winner of over $1.4 million, the veteran (eight year old) missed by two necks in this race back in 2014 and has won at distances up to a mile so his 0-0-3 record in five career starts at the distance is deceiving. Getting the services of veteran Julio Garcia, who only rides for Ward, mostly in the morning, but enough in the afternoon to take notice (37 for 90 for Ward in the past 20 months), the gelding has won with Garcia in the past and should be rolling from far back late as usual.

    Vici just won on 9/1 and comes back on six days rest. I won't argue with a trainer of the caliber of Mike Maker, who is usually in the top 3 in the trainer standings at Kentucky Downs each year, in knowing the easy win in a field of 12 didn't take much out of the gelding last week. The win came at the distance and the effort earned Vici a career best 110 Equibase figure, on par with the 110 figure Undrafted earned last year nearly winning this race. Similar to the Ward/Garcia tandem, jockey Jose Ortiz has a rock solid record for Maker in the past 20 months (52 for 258) and so this horse has a very good shot to earn his 2nd win at the meeting and opening at 15/1 must be played.

    Done Deal is a perfect 2-for-2 on turf, both powerful wins by an average of 4 lengths. He was overmatched last time out (7/28) on dirt in the G1 Vanderbilt Handicap but won a stakes on dirt before that and is too hard to pass up as a contender for win bets and exactas opening at 8/1 considering his last 2 wins earned him 112 and 110 figures competitive with Vici and Undrafted if repeated.

    White Flag and Blind Ambition round out the contenders, like the previous three contenders likely to benefit from a hot early pace as longshot Richiesinthehouse is likely to go for the early lead at breakneck speed, with Maniacal likely hot on his heels. White Flag won a turf sprint stakes last year on this weekend at Belmont with a 110 figure and enters the race off a strong win under Rosario, who has been aboard for his last three wins. Blind Ambition improved a lot after two poor efforts with the removal of blinkers last month at Saratoga when missing by 3/4 of a length with a 110 figure, having won the Elusive Quality Stakes three before that with a 116 figure, either effort repeated here likely to have him in the thick of the action on the wire.

    Bets: Undrafted to win at odds of 2 to 1 or more.

    Vici to win at 3 to 1 or more, adding a place bet at 5 to 1 or higher.

    Consider Done Deal for a win bet as well, at 4 to 1 or more.

    Exacta and Trifecta: Box Undrafted, Vici, Done Deal, White Flag and Blind Ambition.

    Double: Undrafted, Vici, Done Deal, White Flag and Blind Ambition in Race 9 with Patterson Cross, Oscar Nominated, Big Bend and Bandua in Race 10.

    Note: If you played the pick 3 in race 8 and are alive there is no need to play the double above.

    Kentucky Turf Cup Stakes – Race 10 at Kentucky Downs - Post Time 6:59 PM Eastern

    Although Oscar Nominated won this race last year and can win again, Patterson Cross can post the upset if he draws into the race, opening at 12/1. Patterson Cross proved he belonged at this level and marathon distance with three superb efforts in a row last winter (2017), starting that January when leading late and missing by a length to be third in the McKnight Handicap (won by Oscar Nominated this year), then missing by a head to world class Wake Forest in the Mac Diarmida Stakes before a neck defeat in the Pan American Stakes behind multiple graded stakes winner Sadler's Joy. He bettered the best Equibase figure (113) from those three efforts two months ago when missing in a four horse blanket finish at Saratoga with a 121 figure then rallied from seventh to second in the stretch in the Johns Call Stakes when he was impeded and finished fourth before being moved up to third when the runner-up was disqualified for interference. That effort earned a 118 figure so Patterson Cross enters the Turf Cup off the two best efforts of his career, with both figures better than the 114 figure Oscar Nominated earned winning this race last year.

    Oscar Nominated won last year's Kentucky Turf Cup with a 114 figure, followed by a career-best 122 figure when second in the Pattison Canadian International Stakes in October. He won the McKnight at the distance of the Turf Cup earlier this year but has run well only once in three races since, that when second (beaten under a length) in the Elkhorn Stakes in April. Still, considering he really likes the course at Kentucky Downs where he's undefeated in two races (the other being the Dueling Grounds Derby in 2016), Oscar Nominated must be given a lot of respect as a contender to win this race for the second year in a row.

    Big Bend could also be worth a wager at double digit odds in this race. He's four for 12 on grass including his only previous try at Kentucky Downs when winning the 2017 Dueling Grounds Derby (the same race Oscar Nominated won in 2016) with a 113 figure. Big Bend won that race leading from start to finish at the distance of one mile and five-sixteenth, a very difficult task on this course. In his most recent race, Big Bend rallied from eighth to fourth in the Cape Henlopen Stakes with a 106 figure that may bear improvement as the horse that finished just in front of him, Utmost, improved to win the Grade 2 Sky Classic Stakes in his next race. Jockey Drayden Van Dyke rode Big Bend to his win last year in the Derby and comes in to ride again, having just won the riding title at the recently concluded meeting at Del Mar in California. As such, we might be kicking ourselves after the race if we ignored the chances of Big Bend in this race.

    Another to consider if he draws into the race is Bandua, a Kentucky bred colt that started his career in Europe, racing four times before making his U.S. debut last month. That U.S. debut came in the Grade 1 Secretariat Stakes and he finished third of 13 in that race. The figure was just 99 but there is room to improve, and in Europe Bandua won on a turf course listed as "heavy," which is very wet. As such, if the course at Kentucky Downs is other than firm this colt has a chance to run well, perhaps even if the course is not wet based on the fact he's a three year old who has yet to fully mature physically and mentally.

    Bets: Patterson Cross to win at odds of 3 to 1 or more, adding a place bet at 5 to 1 or higher.

    Big Bend to win at odds of 4 to 1 or more, adding a place bet at 5 to 1 or higher.

    Consider a win bet on Bandua as well, at 5 to 1 or more. t

    Remember, To bet more than one horse in a race and to maximize value while doing so, use a "Dutching" tool like he free one available at Amwager.com, which enables you to enter how much you want to spend or how much you want to win and which then allocates your wagering dollars accordingly.

    Exacta and Trifecta: Box Patterson Cross, Oscar Nominated, Big Bend and Bandua.

    Note: If any of the contenders are scratched, there are no substitutes I would be comfortable using, so it just cuts down on the number of bets and cost of the bets.

     

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  • 31
    AUG

    Key Races & Bets for Saturday, September 1

    Saranac Stakes – Race 9 at Saratoga - Post Time 5:39 PM Eastern

    March to the Arch is one of three main win contenders, but as he opens at 10/1 compared to 7/2 and 2/1 for the other two we have to start with him. Winner of the Toronto Cup Stakes last out on 7/28, the gelding has now run three "A" races in a row, the last yielding a 102 Equibase figure which can be improved upon 2nd off a seven week layoff. That was a KEY race as the 2nd and 3rd finishers both came back to win stakes out of the race, one of the wins coming on the turf here at Saratoga and the other in Canada. With Jose Ortiz aboard this gelding has every right to add to his strong career record to date of 3 wins and two runner-up finishes in his six races since a poor debut in February.

    Up the Ante also comes out of a KEY race, the Manila Stakes which he won on7/4 at Belmont. Runner-up Raging Bull came back to win the Grade 2 Hall of Fame Stakes and will be favored in this race, and both the 4th and 5th finishers also came back to win their next starts. Considering Raging Bull improved from a 95 Equibase figure effort in the Manila to 113 in the Hall of Fame, there is every reason to believe Up The Ante can similarly improve (as can March to the Arch) and with Castellano riding back from the ground saving rail and the colt possibly having an early pace edge on the field, he is very strong contender here.

    Raging Bull has won 3 of 4 races, finishing 2nd in the other, so doesn't need much talking up. He won gamely by a nose in the Hall of Fame over Maraud after being soundly defeated by Up the Ante in the Manila one month earlier and his best effort should be good for an in-the-money finish at the least.

    Bets: March to the Arch AND Up the Ante at odds of 5/2 or more, adding a place bet on March to the Arch at 5 to 1 or more. As always, when making multiple win bets, use a "Dutching" tool with which you can enter the amount you want to spend or the amount you want to win and the calculation of how much to bet will be done for you.

    Exacta: March to the Arch, Up the Ante and Raging Bull over ALL.

    Box March to the Arch, Up the Ante and Raging Bull.

    Doubles: March to the Arch, Up the Ante and Raging Bull in Race 9 with Restless Rider, Catherinethegreat and Chasing Yesterday in Race 10.

    Tourist Mile Stakes – Race 8 at Kentucky Downs- Post Time 6:26 PM Eastern

    The Wesley Ward trained pair of Bound for Nowhere and Master Merion, though uncoupled for wagering purposes, hold the upper hand here even in this wide open eight horse field competing for the winner's share of $750,000. Bound for Nowhere is UNDEFEATED in all four of his starts in the U.S., the other three in Europe against some of the best turf stars in the world. Beaten just 3/4 of a length when 3rd of 12 at Royal Ascot in June, he previously won the Grade 2 Shakertown Stakes in April at Keeneland and although he's never run farther than 6 1/2 furlongs being by The Factor this mile trip is not an issue. Master Merion was (and may still be) the workmate for top turf star Lady Aurelia and was in fantastic shape at this time last September when winning the Franklin Simpson Mile Stakes over the course. He took the winter off following a win at Del Mar in November then missed by a half-length in his comeback this spring before a pair of irrelevant races, the first in his debut on All-Weather at Arlington and the most recent in the Royal Hunt Cup Stakes at Royal Ascot. Back in the U.S. and with a quintet of great turf workouts at Keeneland, most likely in company with Bound for Nowhere, this colt already proven over the tricky Kentucky Downs turf course has a big shot to win a stakes for the 2nd year in a row.

    Bets: Bound for Nowhere AND Master Merion at odds of 2 to 1 or more.

    As always, when making multiple win bets, use a "Dutching" tool with which you can enter the amount you want to spend or the amount you want to win and the calculation of how much to bet will be done for you.

    Exactas: Box Bound for Nowhere and Master Merion.

    Trifecta: Bound for Nowhere and Master Merion over ALL over Bound for Nowhere and Master Merion.

    (The point of the trifecta above is to win if the two contenders finish 1st & 3rd as the exacta gets us the win if they finish 1st & 2nd)

    Woodward Stakes - Race 11 at Saratoga - Post Time 6:47 PM Eastern

    A 14 horse field in this Grade 1 stakes should be applauded and it gives us a possible sign of how big a field and how tough the Breeders' Cup Classic will be in two months. Of the 14, three appear to have an edge over the rest, albeit a slight one, and as there will be NO heavy favorite among the 14, we can and should take a swing for a big profit.

    Term of Art opens at 30/1 but is as good as many here and is very playable on many levels. Winner of a graded stakes at the end of his two year old campaign in 2016, he lost eight races in a row through last summer, but all were graded stakes, including a 3rd place finish behind eventual Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile winner Battle of Midway in the Affirmed Stakes in June. Rested 10 months and sent to the barn of sizzling hot Brad Cox, Term of Art rediscovered winning at a mile on dirt with a 102 Equibase figure then finished 2nd, beaten a neck in the Grade 3 West Virginia Governor's Stakes last month. That was a huge effort on many levels, not only as Term of Art improved to a 110 figure within 3-4 points of the best horses in this field, but because he battled head-and-head for the last six furlongs, losing by inches on the wire. Having turned a corner and not regressing 2nd off the layoff, Term of Art should run a lot better than his 30/1 odds suggest and that could help make us a lot of money in this race.

    Seeking the Soul is another on a solid pattern for improvement off a narrow defeat last out, this one when beaten a head in the Schaeffer Memorial on 7/14. That was his first start after six months off, and he's moving forward nicely back to the form that saw him win the Grade 1 Clark Handicap at this 9 furlong trip last fall. He also won at this 9 furlong trip last summer at Saratoga, and it's a big sign that Castellano gets on for Stewart, who he rarely rides for. With a sharp five furlong workout coming into the race, expect another "A" effort from this horse who has now been1st or 2nd in 9 of 19 races for $1.4 million in earnings.

    Sunny Ridge was last seen winning the non-graded State Dinner Stakes at Belmont in July, a big effort in which he beat highly regarded Timeline and You're to Blame, who just won here at Saratoga at this distance. Sunny Ridge has earned over $1 million to date and is proven at the level with a runner-up effort in the Brooklyn Stakes last June. Irad Ortiz, Jr. rides back after being up for the last win and when riding for trainer Servis the pair have won at an amazing 33% clip (on 180 races) over the past year so another big effort from this hors can be expected.

    With a field this big, we can make money in the exacta as well and as such I'll include these horses as contenders: Patch, Kurilov, Leofric and Zanotti.

    Bets: Term of Art to win, place and show at 3 to 1 or more.

    Seeking the Soul AND Sunny Ridge to win at 3 to 1 or more.

    Exacta: Term of Art, Seeking the Soul and Sunny Ridge over Term of Art, Seeking the Soul, Sunny Ridge, Patch, Kurilov, Leofric and Zanotti.

    For half whatever amount you play the exacta above, play the opposite and that way if the three contenders finish 1st & 2nd we hit the bet twice.

    Double: Term of Art, Seeking the Soul, Sunny Ridge, Patch, Kurilov, Leofric and Zanotti in Race 11 with Lady Montdore, Summersault and Santa Monica in Race 12.

    Glens Falls Stakes – Race 12 at Saratoga - Post Time 7:17 PM Eastern

    Lady Montdore returned from 11 months away from the races and made her U.S. debut a winning one here on the Saratoga grass on 8/6, powering away by four lengths at this 11 furlong trip in an allowance race. That being a setup for this stakes at 11 furlongs is so obvious it isn't even funny, and with experience over the track, with improving to do 2nd off the layoff and as a stakes placed horse TWICE in Europe, she can post the mild upset, opening at 8/1.

    Summersault is similarly able to run well at high odds, pretty ridiculous 10/1 in my opinion, as she was beaten just two lengths to Homeland Security and Savannah Belle in their common race in July at 12 furlongs on the Belmont Turf, a 100K stakes race. Two before that, Summersault won the non-graded Soaring Softly Stakes at this 11 furlong turf trip in Florida, and last April she won the Grade 3 Orchid Stakes at the distance on grass. She has all the credentials to run well and it won't take much improvement off her last effort to be in the exacta at the least, particularly as she's won twice on the Saratoga turf in her career.

    Santa Monica opens as the 6/5 favorite and she's not suspect on any level but her low odds make her a poor win bet. She's won 2 of 3 since importing to the U.S. in April, at 10 furlongs and at 12 furlongs, the first of the two the Grade 2 Dance Smartly Stakes in June at Woodbine. Ortiz is 2 for 2 when aboard and rides here and her last race 111 Equibase figure is the best in the field so it may be tough to beat her "IF" Lady Montdore doesn't improve and "IF" Summersault can't run back to her effort this part March or the previous April.

    Additional possibilities for the exacta include Savannah Belle and Homeland Security, the one-two finishers in the River Memories Stakes on 7/8 in which Summersault finished third. Both of these fillies have ability, but the 104 and105 Equibase figures earned in that race, the best of their career, are just a bit shy of that any of the top three contenders appear capable of in my opinion.

    Bets: Lady Montdore to win at odds of 3 to 1 or more. Summersault to win at odds of 7 to 2 or more.

    Exactas: Santa Monica over Lady Montdore and Summersault, then also box Lady Montdore, Summersault and Santa Monica.

    Also play an exacta consisting of Lady Montdore, Summersault and Santa Monica over Lady Montdore, Summersault, Santa Monica, Savannah Belle and Homeland Security.

     

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  • 24
    AUG

    Key Races & Bets for Saturday, August 25

    Sword Dancer Stakes – Race 10 at Saratoga - Post Time 4:49 PM Eastern

    Glorious Empire finished in a dead heat with Channel Maker last month in the Bowling Green Stakes over the course. Yes, the course was soft but considering the gelding won on firm turf prior to that there isn't a concern about him repeating the effort on dry ground. Leparoux was up for the 2nd time in that win, the other also a win, last July and most importantly ALSO at SARATOGA on the turf. It's just silly that Channel Maker opens at 5/1 here while Glorious Empire opens at 10/1 and with the rail Leparoux can put the Glorious Empire on the lead, go slow, and kick home for his second graded stakes win in a row.

    Another horse at incorrect high odds is Highland Sky, who won a classified allowance race at Belmont in June before finishing 5th of 8 in the Bowling Green. Two summers ago, Highland Sky missed by a neck in the $1.25 million (or $1 million) Belmont Invitational, beating multiple graded stakes winner Beach Patrol in the process and proving he has the ability to compete at this level. The win in June came after eight straight defeats, and in doing so he beat Call Provision and Gold Shield, who ran in a stakes earlier this week. If we can discount the effort on soft turf he may not have liked then there is every reason to believe Highland Sky can run a lot better than his 12/1 odds suggest.

    Spring Quality rounds out a trio I feel have the bulk of the probability to win. He ran huge in his 2018 debut, after six months off, when missing by a half-length in the Fort Marcy in May and the horse that beat him, Robert Bruce, recently won the Arlington Million while Spring Quality next ran the best race of his career when rallying from 11th of 13 to get up by a neck in the Manhattan on Belmont day. He was entered to run last month but was scratched and has put in two recent workouts to show he hasn't missed a beat in the 2 1/2 months he's been off. Veteran Edgar Prato has ridden him in his last six races including three wins so there are no issues and therefore Spring Quality has a shot to earn his 2nd grade 1 win of the year.

    There are a number of horses who can run second and since two of the three win contenders open at double digit odds we can play a number of combinations as the return could easily be worth the risk.

    Bets: Glorious Empire and Highland Sky to win at odds of 7 to 2 or more. Consider adding a place bet on either or both at odds of 6 to 1 or more. To get the best return when wagering on more than one horse to win in a race, use a "Dutching" tool like the one at Amwager.

    Exacta: Glorious Empire, Spring Quality and Highland Sky over Glorious Empire, Spring Quality, Highland Sky, Funtastic, Hi Happy, Bigger Picture, Channel Maker and Sadler's Joy.

    Then also play an exacta box between Glorious Empire, Spring Quality and Highland Sky.

    Doubles: Glorious Empire, Highland Sky and Spring Quality in Race 10 with Wonder Gadot, Good Magic and Catholic Boy in race 11.

    Play the King Stakes – Race 8 at Woodbine- Post Time 5 PM Eastern

    Holding Gold is a pretty good turf sprinter who didn't find the soft turf at Saratoga to his liking one bit but who can return to top form on firm grass and more importantly reunited with the Casse barn's #1 winning jockey in Patrick Husbands. It doesn't show in most part performances, but Holding Gold was ridden by Husbands four times previously, with two wins and two second place finishes. The gelding has earned over $450K in his career and is a multiple stakes winner sprinting on turf, for example in the similar Grade 2 Shakertown Stakes in April, 2017. Having won a stakes to start his 2018 campaign in February, facing easier than in either of his last three races and reunited with Husbands, this gelding gets top billing.

    White Flag is the other horse I'll consider for win bets, opening at 6/1. He's done little wrong in his career, winning four of nine on turf and finishing second or third in four more. He returned from seven months off in June with a fast closing second then won one month later. He finished third last fall in his only attempt on the Woodbine turf, a big effort as he was last early on a very soggy course, and he gets the services of leading jockey Rafael Hernandez, all signs for another "A" effort.

    La Sardane and Mr Havercamp are both contenders and we will use them on exacta tickets played but considering they open at 5 to 2 and 2 tov1 odds, respectively, and are no more likely to win than either Holding Gold (4 to 1) or White Flag (6 to 1) they are unlikely to make good win bets.

    Bets: Holding Gold to win at odds of 5 to 2 or higher and then consider White Flag to win at odds of 3 to 1 or more. As always, when making multiple win bets, use a "Dutching" tool with which you can enter the amount you want to spend or the amount you want to win and the calculation of how much to bet will be done for you.

    Exactas: Holding Gold and White Flag over Holding Gold, White Flag, La Sardane and Mr. Havercamp.

    Also play the reverse of that exacta, which is Holding Gold, White Flag, La Sardane and Mr. Havercamp over Holding Gold and White Flag.

    Race 2 at Del Mar - Post Time 5:30PM Eastern

    This is not a stakes race. Actually, this is a claiming race for horses that have not won a race to date in 2018. I'm sure you're wondering why it is therefore included on a KEY BETS blog and that's because I believe Broken Up is a KEY BET on the day. I have a very small "horses to watch" list on which I make notes when I find a horse who may have had hidden trouble in a race, and such is the case with Broken Up, as the comment in his pps from his last race on 7/22, "In Tight Between 1/16," does not do justice to the trip he had. Sent to post at 6 to 1 in an 8 horse field of open (not-restricted) 25K claimer, Broken Up absolutely had NO CHANCE WHATSOEVER to run in the last 16th of a mile due to traffic problems and Desormeaux could not do a thing with this horse who wanted to run. Still, he was beaten three lengths. The winner won by two lengths so he would have at least been second if not blocked. Two before that, in most recent turf race, Broken Up rallied to miss by a neck and I have no issue with Quinonez riding as he booted home a $44 winner earlier this week.

    Bets: Broken Up to win at 2 to 1 or more.

    Travers Stakes – Race 11 at Saratoga - Post Time 5:44 PM Eastern

    Catholic Boy has done little wrong in his career to date with a five for eight record, most recently taking the Belmont Derby Invitational Stakes on the turf with a career-best 108 Equibase Figure. As the Belmont Derby a mile and one-quarter (the distance of the Travers) and as he won the Remsen Stakes at nine furlongs on dirt last fall, I have no concern about either the distance or running as well on dirt as he did last month on turf. What's the most interesting thing about Catholic Boy is the way in which he ran his last two races. In the Pennine Ridge Stakes in June, Catholic Boy led from the start but in the stretch found himself on the inside of his foe Analyze It, who had overtaken him to lead by a length. When jockey Javier Castellano brought Catholic Boy to the outside of Analyze It in mid-stretch, the horse found new life and got up to win by a head. In the Belmont Derby Catholic Boy once again led from the start then was overtaken by Analyze It in mid-stretch to find himself a half-length behind. This time, Castellano did not move Catholic Boy around his nemesis but rather just let the horse's competitive juices kick in, the result being Catholic Boy once again getting up to win, this time by a head. Watching the video replay of the Belmont Derby, I believe Catholic Boy enjoys letting another horse pass him, all the while knowing he has the ability to fight back and win. He is either an "Alpha" or he likes to play with his opponents and that shows what a smart horse he is, to go along with a world of talent.

    Wonder Gadot is another who has proven capable of winning at the classic mile and one-quarter distance of the Travers, having done so when winning the Queen's Plate Stakes (against males) in June with a 102 figure before improving to the same 108 figure Catholic Boy earned recently when winning the Prince of Wales Stakes with the greatest of easy by five and three-quarter lengths. Wonder Gadot may be capable of running even better in the Travers, as her best career effort came in May when second in the Kentucky Oaks, beaten a half-length at the finish with a 113 figure. Although she has never run at Saratoga, Wonder Gadot just worked best of 67 at a half-mile at Saratoga so apparently likes the surface. As such, this filly has an opportunity to beat males for the third straight time and stamp herself as the top three year old in North America in training now that Justify is retired.

    Good Magic won the Haskell Invitational Stakes rather handily by three lengths last month and in doing so tied his best career figure, 109, also earned last fall when winning the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. Except for finishing second behind Justify in the Kentucky Derby and fourth behind the Triple Crown winner in the Preakness, Good Magic has had a stellar campaign this year including winning the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes in April. Jockey Jose Ortiz has ridden Good Magic in every start since the second race of his career last October and the colt has proven capable of running well at the distance of the Travers so there is little doubt he can win in this situation. On the other hand, eight of the other 10 entrants in the Travers have earned 107 to 110 figures in top races so Good Magic will have his work cut out for him in trying to prove the likely public favoritism at the betting windows correct.

    After the three main win contenders, there are three others that deserve mention for their competitiveness and who may run well enough to be in the exacta or trifecta. Gronkowski missed the Derby with a fever that required antibiotics but recovered nicely for a rallying 10th to second finish behind Justify in the Belmont Stakes with a 107 figure. Bravazo similarly ran big when second to Justify in the Preakness with a 108 figure and although no match for Good Magic when second by three lengths in the Haskell last month so has potential to run well again. Tenfold was third in the Preakness with a career-best 108 figure. He ran poorly in the Belmont, then rebounded to win the Jim Dandy over the track with a 106 figure and may be on an improving pattern.

    Bets: Catholic Boy to win at 5 to 2 or more, a true KEY BET on the day.

    Consider a smaller win bet on Wonder Gadot at odds of 5 to 2 or higher.

    Exactas: Catholic Boy, Wonder Gadot and Good Magic over Catholic Boy, Wonder Gadot, Good Magic, Gronkowski, Bravazo and Tenfold.

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