Ellis Starr's Blog - AmWager

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    Key Bets & Races for Saturday, February 24-25

    Texas Glitter Stakes – Race 6 at Gulfstream Park – Post Time 2:30 PM Eastern

    This is a 5 1/2 furlong turf sprint for 3 year olds which could turn out to be an exceptionally profitable race, the reason being one of the top stakes winning turf trainers in the country, one who has shipped horses to win group 1 races in England, has a horse opening at 12/1. That trainer is Wesley Ward, and the horse is Shangroyal. Like most in the field, he's very lightly raced, in his case having run just twice previously, the same as Todd Pletcher's Salmanazar, who also opens at high odds to be taken advantage of (6/1). In the case of Shangroyal, the colt ran just okay last May in his debut then seven weeks later in July he was brilliant, breaking last of 7 and rushing up to control the pace, opening up by four lengths and coasting home. More mature now both physically and mentally, Ward has worked the colt exclusively on turf over the last couple of months, and he takes blinkers off to insure he's not too fresh as there will be other early speed in the field, particularly Reed Kan. As a son of Shanghai Bobby and a half-brother (on the dam's side) to local turf stakes winner Cali Thirty Seven and Winning Colors Stakes winner Southern Honey, Shangroyal could reward us handsomely. Salmanazar broke his maiden at first asking last April with brilliant speed, beating Copper Bullet in the process, who won next out and also won the Saratoga Special three races later. Similar to Ward, Pletcher is exceptional at bringing horses back from long layoffs, and also similar to Ward, Pletcher would not be placing a horse with a 1 for 2 record with just a maiden win in this stakes if he didn't believe he could win. Last of three overlay win contenders is Wildcat's Legacy, who won the first two starts of his career last September by an average of 5 lengths, both with maturity off the pace. With a strong series of works and bred to handle the turf, and best of all with red hot Saez getting on for the first time, this colt at 6/1 on the morning line is another we might consider for a win bet.

    Favorite Barbarossa is a nice horse but his 2/1 starting odds is a big of a joke as his 8 length maiden win in October came against NY Breds only and he was beaten a neck on the wire last out on 12/23 as the heavy favorite with no excuse. He can win and should be played on exacta/trifecta tickets however. All the others have a shot to run 2nd so with a lot of value on three contenders, we can take a shot with some exactas.

    Win bets: Shangroyal, Salmanazar and Wildcat's Legacy can ALL be bet to win at 3 to 1 or higher.

    A dutching tool, like the one at amwager.com, comes in very handy in these situations as it automatically helps allocate the amount you want to bet to win among multiple horses to help you make a nice profit.

    Exacta: Play an exacta of Shangroyal, Salmanazar and Wildcat's Legacy over ALL.

    Daytona Stakes – Race 4 at Santa Anita – Post Time 5:00 Eastern (2 PM Pacific)

    Tombelaine made his U.S. debut in the winter of 2016 after importing from Ireland, where he had run six times even though he was bred in Kentucky. After acclimating to U.S. racing in his first start, at a mile on grass, Tombelaine preceded to run six top races in a row. Tombelaine won two times and was beaten a length or less in the other four of the six races, the best of those earning him a career best 112 Equibase Speed Figure. Last October, Tombelaine was placed in a high level claiming race for the first time and risked for a hefty $100,000 price. He was claimed out of that race, which he won gamely by a half-length (111 figure) and from which he was flattered when the runner-up returned to win the Artie Schiller Stakes shortly thereafter. Following a poor try in November, on an all-weather surface he had never run over previously, Tombelaine was given a couple of months off by his new trainer, Catherine Day-Phillips, running exceptionally well in the Gulfstream Park Turf Sprint as he was 10th of 11 with a quarter mile to go, closing strongly in the last eighth of a mile to be fourth with a 108 figure. With the runner-up from that race having come back to win, Tombelaine can be expected to improve markedly on a number of counts. First, Mike Smith was in the saddle for the first time in that race and rides back. Second, Tombelaine is making his second start off a layoff. Third, and perhaps most importantly, Tombelaine should really like the about six and one-half furlong distance as three of his best career races came when he ran seven furlongs. As such, Tombelaine is my pick to post the upset win in the Daytona Stakes.

    Calculator is a perfect three-for-three down this unique downhill turf course with a right hand turn shortly after the start and was should never discount the chances of a horse that loves this trip. Last March, following seven months off, Calculator ran down the hill for the first time and earned a solid 107 figure, bettering that in July with a 111 figure in his second race at the distance on turf. After a move back to dirt for three races, Calculator returned to the downhill turf course for the Clocker’s Corner Stakes in January and nearly tied his previous best effort with a 110 figure under Flavien Prat, who rides him again in the Daytona. With the ability to win on the lead or from off the pace, and with no question of being in form or coming off a layoff as there is with Stormy Liberal, Calculator must be taken very seriously as a contender.

    Stormy Liberal has only been worse than second two times in 12 career races at this unique trip at Santa Anita. Shortly after being claimed for $40,000 in the fall of 2016, Stormy Liberal reeled off six straight “A” efforts including a win in this race last year when it was run in May. During that streak, Stormy Liberal earned 116, 112 and 109 figures. Following a poor effort in New York last June, Stormy Liberal was given nearly four months off and returned in the fall to post the 30 to 1 upset in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (with a 125 figure), which was run at five furlongs on turf. Stormy Liberal then tried some of the best turf sprinters in the world in the Hong Kong Sprint and finished finishing 11th of 13. Rested since then, Stormy Liberal began serious training in mid-January and certainly can be a contender, but the 125 figure earned in the Turf Sprint may have been an aberration given the 108-116 figure efforts in most of his 2016-17 races, or that it may have been related to that particular situation. If so, although a contender to win with his best effort, Stormy Liberal may have a number of horses who have potential to beat him in this race and whose connections would love to have the words “beat a Breeders’ Cup winner” on their resume.

    Win bet: Bet Tombelaine to win at odds of 2 to 1 or more.

    Exacta: Play an exacta box between Tombelaine and Calculator and another between Tombelaine and Stormy Liberal.

    Also, play an exacta consisting of Tombelaine over Calculator, Stormy Liberal, Conquest Tsunami and Perfectly Majestic and then also turn that around and play the reverse as well.

    Trifecta: Play a trifecta consisting of Tombelaine, Calculator and Stormy Liberal over Tombelaine, Calculator, Stormy Liberal, Conquest Tsunami and Perfectly Majestic over Tombelaine, Calculator, Stormy Liberal, Conquest Tsunami Tombelaine, Calculator, Stormy Liberal, Conquest Tsunami.

    Hal's Hope Stakes – Race 12 at Gulfstream Park – Post Time 5:35 Eastern

    Maybe the morning line maker is right and the public will bet Irish War Cry like he's a strong contender. He opens at 5 to 2 and I hope that really happens because in my opinion Irish War Cry has VERY LITTLE chance to win here. After winning the Holy Bull and Wood Memorial last winter and spring, he ran poorly in the Derby then although second in the Belmont it wasn't much of an effort. Next came disappointing efforts in the Haskell and Pennsylvania Derby and a five month layoff. He will be bet on "HOPE, NOT FACTS" in this race and even if he's fit he's giving a lot of recency to horses as good as he is, and he's totally unproven against older.

    The vulnerability of one of the betting favorites makes this an exceptionally playable race, starting with Conquest Big E, who makes his third start since coming back from a three month layoff and who woke up last month when second, beaten just three-quarters of a length, by Tommy Macho in the Fred W. Hooper Stakes. Moving back to the form that saw him win back-to-back in June and July last year over the track, both at this mile trip, Conquest Big E fits on all counts to post the upset, opening at 8/1. Send It In is another Pletcher trainee coming back from a long layoff, in this case nearly 11 months off, who is likely to fire a big shot. It is amazing to look at Pletcher's stats with horses coming back from six months off or more, as he continues to win with a full ONE-THIRD of those starters, better than 1/3 of the time in one-turn races. Likely to get a great stalking trip under Velazquez from the outside, Sent It In could easily be a low odds overlay anywhere near his 7 to 2 starting odds. Economic Model won the equivalent of a stakes when last seen on 10/12 and taking a classified allowance at Belmont. He hadn't won since June but many of the races in between were grade 1 stakes. The last win came off a 2 1/2 month layoff so coming back from a four month layoff is not an issue. However, he opens at 3/1 and although I will used him in many exotics I won't be betting him to win.

    For second and third in the exacta and trifecta, we can also use Malagacy, the other Pletcher trainee, who won the first three starts of his career last year including the Rebel before a fifth place finish in the Arkansas Derby and a layoff. This is the 2nd race back after being off for seven months and he finished second at six furlongs as the odds-on favorite last month without much excuse, but can improve.

    Win bet: Bet Conquest Big E to win and place at odds of 5/2 or more.

    Consider a second win bet, on Send It In, at odds of 5/2 or more.

    Exacta: Play an exacta consisting of Conquest Big E, Send It In and Economic Model over Conquest Big E, Send It In, Economic Model and Malagacy.

    Doubles: Great opportunities exist in doubles with the final race on the card, race 13, a maiden special weight race at a mile on grass.

    Play Conquest Big E, Send It In and Economic Model in Race 12 with Zephan, Rhode Island and Vegas Kitten in Race 13.

    Play another double of Conquest Big E, Send It In, Economic Model and Malagacy in Race 12 with Zephan, Rhode Island, Vegas Kitten, The Green Mo'ster and Musical Heart in Race 13.

    Race 13 at Gulfstream Park – Post Time 6:06 Eastern

    Rhode Island is a first time starter, at a mile on turf, and personally it's a very rare occasion I will bet a horse to win running two turns on turf first time out. The exception is warranted here for many reasons, first which is the trainer is Shug McGaughey, who has won with his share of first time starters going long in the last couple of years, two of them paying $22 or more. This is the sixth foal of the dam, who has produced some nice turf runners, and the colt debuts o Lasix which is notable because the barn normally waits a race or two to add Lasix. Being a son of Giant's Causeway and with Gaffalione riding (4 for 11 for McGaughey at Gulfstream over the last year), I'll take a shot as he opens at 6 to 1. Zephan opens high at 8/2 even though Castellano rides a horse who ran just fine in his only starts, battling head and head for the first half mile before fading a bit to 4th. Given nearly three months since to mature and saddled by a top trainer in Josie Carroll, we might expect significant improvement in this situation. Vegas Kitten is a first timer saddled by Chad Brown, with Jose Ortiz riding, and considering Brown wins with a very high 18% of his first timers in turf routes, this son of Kitten's Joy bred to love the turf could give a good account at first asking.

    Musical Heart must draw in from the also-eligible list but has a shot if he does coming off a 3/4 length defeat under similar conditions three weeks ago, while The Green Mo'ster didn't show much in his last start when sixth and beaten double digit lengths but finished 4th of 12 first out and is bred to run a lot better around two turns and on turf. Add to that Romans trains and Saez rides and I just can't completely discount the colt's chances.

    Win bet: Bet Rhode Island and Zephan to win at odds of 4 to 1 or higher.

    Don't forget to check out the Key Races & Bets Podcast, this weekend featuring a couple of very interesting betting races from Sunland Park in New Mexico, among them the Mine That Bird Derby.

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    Key Bets & Races for Saturday, February 17

    Maryland Racing Media Stakes – Race 7 at Laurel – Post Time 3:30 PM Eastern

    Not Taken started her career on dirt, winning at first asking at a mile and one-sixteenth, which is no easy task. Most of the rest of her career so far has been on grass, including 10 of her last 11 starts, including her other two wins. With little question of being able to run well on the main track, the focus switches as to whether she's good enough to win this $100K stakes race, and that answer is yes based on her last start when leading late and battling the length of the stretch before coming up a nose short in the $150K Forever Together Stakes at Aqueduct. She won before that and both "A" races came with Dylan Davis in the saddle, who accompanies her from New York today. She's got tactical speed so can follow likely early leader Bishop's Pond (the 5/2 morning line favorite) in second in the early stages and she doesn't need much improving to beat the likely favorite at Bishop's Pond earned a 101 figure winning the similar Thirty Eight Go Go Stakes last month while Not Taken earned a 99 figure almost winning the Forever Together Stakes.

    Bishop's Pond needs the lead to win, no question about it, with her last three wins coming when she led from the start, something she's done in her last six races. On grass two back she finished fifth in the same race Not Taken finished 2nd, but on dirt she's been tough, winning a classified allowance race around two turns at Delaware Park last summer with a 107 figure and with a 101 figure earned in last month's stakes win at Laurel. With the rail for this race, unless another horse and jockey want to go with her, thereby committing pace suicide, Bishop's Pond should be on the kind of early lead she likes and from there it's just a matter if she can hang on as she's done in three of her last five races, or be passed late as occurred in the other two.

    Felini led late and lost by a nose last time out just like Not Taken, in a one turn mile race at Aqueduct. It was the best route effort of her career in which she earned a 98 figure. Her last pair of two-turn efforts were excellent efforts as well, coming up a neck short of winning last September and dominating by 18 lengths in the slop last August. Even though inches short last month in defeat, Felini was four lengths clear of the next horse and based on that effort and her tactical speed she should be right there with the other two main contenders from start to finish.

    Win bet: Bet Not Taken to win and to place at 3 to 1 or more.

    Exacta: Play an exacta box consisting of Not Taken, Bishop's Pond and Felini.

    Exacta: Play an exacta of Not Taken, Bishop's Pond and Felini over ALL.


    Minaret Stakes – Race 10 at Tampa Bay Downs – Post Time 5:30 Eastern

    I can't get past Grand Prix in this race and her 8/1 starting odds are very sweet indeed. She's had been first or second in five straight, including three wins, before a third place finish in September before the freshening she's coming back from today. Now in the barn of high percentage trainer Keith Nations, the filly put in six workouts since New Year's eve, all at Tampa, and all have been very strong in terms of ranking among all the workouts on the day, for example the most recent which was 8th best of 74 for a half-mile. Ferrer rode her once previously, when in another trainer's care back in September, to a win in a $100K stakes race, so not only is the fact Ferrer rides here a good sign, the jockey and trainer win nearly 25% of the time they get together. With very consistent Equibase figure of 96 to 102 for her last four dirt sprint starts, and likely to be very fit off those works, Grand Prix appears to be the epitome of a KEY BET on the day.

    For exotics, logical contenders Stormy Embrace (3/1 morning line), R Angel Katelyn (4/1 morning line) and Just Be Kind (6/1 morning line) must be considered.

    Win bet: Bet Grand Prix to win and place at odds of 2 to 1 or more.

    Exacta: Play an exacta box consisting of Grand Prix, Stormy Embrace, R Angel Katelyn and Just Be Kind.

    Exacta: Play an exacta of Grand Prix over Stormy Embrace, R Angel Katelyn and Just Be Kind, then also play the reverse of that exacta, which is Stormy Embrace, R Angel Katelyn and Just Be Kind over Grand Prix.


    Buena Vista Stakes – Race 7 at Santa Anita – Post Time 6:00 Eastern

    Sassy Little Lila has rarely been off the board in her career, with three wins and five runner-up efforts from 11 career starts, all on turf. Six of those 11 races were stakes, two of them grade 1 stakes efforts, both in which she gamely finished second. The first came in the winter of 2016 when she missed by a nose in the G1 American Oaks to Decked Out and the other came last June when she came up just three-quarters of a length shy in the G1 Just a Game Stakes to Antonoe. She didn't like the yielding turf last summer at Saratoga but on a firm course finished second last fall at Belmont before a poor race that led to the layoff she comes back from here, making it a race to draw a line though as if it never happened. Now in the hands of Hall-of-Fame trainer Dick Mandella and with his #1 rider Flavien Prat aboard, she's apparently ready to run big, otherwise Mandella would have sought an easier spot. There's no concern about coming back from the three month rest as Sassy Little Lila returned from five months off to win last May with a career best 109 figure effort and although the best in here have been earning in the vicinity of 115-117 figures in their stakes wins this gal may still have not run the best she can. Furthermore, she likes to run on the lead early and there is only one other horse among the five drawn inside her that has any interest in being up close early so either she gets the lead and goes wire-to-wire or she sits second and rallies late for the win.

    Madam Dancealot has run in three straight grade 1 stakes so this drop to the grade 2 level, particularly after missing by a half-length last time out in the 2017 G1 American Oaks (the same race Sassy Little Lila nearly won the year before) makes her a strong contender. She does face older for the first time but she fires nearly every time she runs and Nakatani has ridden her three times, up for her win in the similar G2 San Clemente Stakes last July and for her runner-up efforts in a stakes last June and the American Oaks, in which she earned a 116 figure.

    Madame Stripes won the G3 Megahertz Stakes strongly last month in spite of hopping in the air at the start and like the relationship Nakatani has with Madam Dancealot, Kent Desormeaux really knows how to get Madame Stripes to run well. In their last five races together, the mare has won three times and finished second the other two, the best of which came last month when she earned a career best 117 figure.

    We should include Insta Erma on any exotic tickets played, because she's trained by Richard Baltas the same as madam Dancealot and because she led late in the Megahertz and was still a strong second at the wire with a 115 figure.

    Win bet: Bet Sassy Little Lila to win at odds of 2 to 1 or more.

    Win bet: Consider a second win bet, on Madam Dancealot, at odds of 5 to 2 or more.

    Exacta: Play an exacta of Sassy Little Lila over ALL then play the reverse as well, which is All over Sassy Little Lila.

    Exacta: Play an exacta box using Sassy Little Lila, Madam Dancealot, Madame Stripes and Insta Erma.

    Trifecta: Consider a trifecta box among those four horses as well.


    El Camino Real Derby – Race 7 at Golden Gate – Post Time 6:45 Eastern

    Paved gets slight preference here among four that might be good enough to win, the other five not likely to get the job done but with a couple we may consider for second and third on exacta and trifecta tickets played. Although he may be the second betting choice near post time, Paved may still be a low odds overlay considering how much he has improved in his two starts to date since his debut. His dominant five length win at 9 furlongs on grass last month in a field of 11 earned a 105 Equibase figure, BETTER than the 102 figure effort it took for Choo Choo (who opens at 9/5) to win the California Derby two weeks later. This is a FILLY against males, so she gets a five pound allowance, and she should save ground from the rail before coming around horses to launch what might be the winning move. Drayden Van Dyke takes off an entire day of mounts at Santa Anita to ride this gal, who is by Quality Road, whose son Frank Conversation won this race in 2016.

    Epical is another last out maiden winner in a stakes, having earned a comparable 104 figure winning at a mile on grass in his career debut just 20 days ago. Veteran trainer Cassidy has made this move before, winning with three of 11 horses he's placed in stakes off a maiden win, so this son of Uncle Mo can be taken very seriously here as a contender, opening at 10/1.

    Choo Choo ran great in his first all-weather surface race, moving from turf to the surface the same as Paved, Epical and a few others are doing for this race. The 102 figure he earned was just fine and his transitioning to the all-weather was no surprise as he is out of the same dam as multiple stakes winner Blueskiesandrainbows, so another top effort is to be expected although he's no standout.

    Blended Citizen ships up from Southern California for Doug O' Neill, who won this race in 2016 with Frank Conversation. Just like with Paved and Epical, Blended Citizen moves from turf to all-weather, which is really not a big deal as evidenced by the win by Choo Choo in the California Derby last month. Blended Citizen beat Choo Choo last time out when fourth in the Eddie Logan Stakes, from which Choo Choo moved forward to win the California Derby, so there is reason to expect this colt to take a big step forward as well.

    Win bet: Bet Paved to win at odds of 3/2 or higher, a low odds overlay.

    Win bet: Make a smaller win bet on Epical at 3 to 1 or more.

    Exacta: Play an exacta and trifecta box consisting of Paved, Epical, Choo Choo and Blended Citizen.

  • 09

    Key Bets & Races for Saturday, February 10

    Gulfstream Park Stakes – Race 9 at Gulfstream Park – Post 4:10 PM Eastern Time

    One Go All Go ran the best race of his career just a few weeks ago (1/13/18) when beaten a head on the wire at 30 to 1. That was his 2nd "A" effort in a row over the course as he was just a neck shy of winning before that and both efforts came shortly after the trainer change to his current conditioner. Landeros rode him in both races and is back today so with the best last race Equibase figure (120) to repeat or improve upon and opening at 6/1 odds One Go All Go gets top billing.

    There are three more horses that may also warrant win bets, both opening at double digit odds. The first is Channel Maker, who has earned in excess of $445K winning one stakes and placing in two more. Last seen finishing fast from 8th to 2nd in the Hollywood Derby last fall, a grade 1 just like this race, Channel Maker could be flying late to post the upset win. Revved Up also deserves consideration for a win bet at ridiculously high 15/1 odds. He won a 3rd level allowance in November then was beaten just a head for second in the River City Handicap, won by Shining Copper, who beat One Go All Go by a head last month. McGaughey has a very strong 25% win rate over the past two years with horses off this kind of layoff and with just slight improvement needed off a 113 figure in that 11/11/17 effort Revved Up could post the upset. The last of the quartet of contenders to win is March, who finished 2nd in the 2015 Hollywood Derby then went on the bench for 9 months, returning to miss by a head in a three horse photo as if he had never been away. After that came two poor efforts and another layoff but when returning from 11 months off at the end of December he won impressively in a classified allowance and appears to be on the upswing again so must be respected.

    The high odds on the four above are because of favorites Heart to Heart (5/2 morning line) and Money Multiplier (3/1 morning line), both who are suspect here. Heart to Heart was badly beaten with no excuse at 3 to 5 in the Fort Lauderdale Stakes last month when failing to show his usual early speed or desire to lead from the start and may have lost a step at the age of 7. Money Multiplier wo his 2017 debut in July off an 8 month layoff and at this 9 furlong trip but his last start of the year, on 11/11, was a non-threatening 4th in a similar Grade 3 Stakes at 8 to 5 and he may need a race before returning to top form.

    Win Bets: Bet One Go All Go to win at 3 to 1 or higher, a KEY BET to be sure.

    Consider win bets on Channel Maker at 4 to 1 or more, on Revved Up at 5 to 1 or higher and on March at 5 to 1 or higher. Make place bets on any of the four at 8 to 1 or more.

    Exactas: Key One Go All Go in exactas in first and in second position with Kurilov, Money Multiplier, March, Revved Up and Channel Maker. (this means to play One Go All go on top with the five horses in second then to play the reverse of that bet as well).

    Exactas Box: One Go All Go, Channel Maker, Revved Up and March.

    Exactas: One Go All Go, Channel Maker, Revved Up and March over One Go All Go, Channel Maker, Revved Up, March, Money Multiplier and Kurilov. Optionally, play the reverse of that exacta as well because the investment may be worth the risk if Heart to Hear does not finish 1st or 2nd.

    Suwannee River Stakes – Race 10 at Gulfstream Park – Post time 4:43 Eastern Time

    Midnight Crossing beat Elysea's World in both their most recent races, at 20/1, that win coming in the nearly identical Grade 3 Frankel Stakes. There is NO reason to believe their finish positions will be any different here so the fact Midnight Crossing opens at 6 to 1 compared to 7 to 2 for Elyseas's World makes Midnight Crossing a very good bet.

    Similarly, Ultra Brat beat Dream Dancing last month in the nearly identical Grade 3 Marshua's River Stakes yet Ultra Brat opens at 6 to 1 compared to 9/2 for Dream Dancing. Additionally the Frankel stakes win earned Midnight Crossing a 109 figure compared to a 102 figure for Ultra Brat, so Midnight Crossing may have an additional edge here.

    Kitten's Roar opens as the 2/1 favorite and considering she's been away for over two months and has as many 2nd place finishes (7) in her career as wins and gets a possibly poor post is a suspect favorite and a bad win bet although she should be used on exotic tickets (like the exacta) played.


    Win bets: Midnight Crossing at odds of 3 to 1 or higher, a true KEY BET on the day.

    Consider a win bet on Ultra Brat at odds of 7 to 2 or more.

    Exacta: Midnight Crossing, Ultra Brat and Dream Dancing over Midnight Crossing, Ultra Brat, Dream Dancing, Elysea's World and Kitten's Roar.

    Play the reverse of the exacta above, but do so for half the amount you played the exacta above.

    Sam F. Davis Stakes – Race 10 at Tampa Bay Downs – Post time 4:52 Eastern Time

    This is a very intriguing race from a handicapping perspective, so much so that Navy Armed Guard gets slight preference, even though he has yet to win a race in five starts. The first two were sprints, one on turf and one on dirt, and he ran poorly both times. However in his third career start (in November), Navy Armed Guard was stretched out to a route for the first time, finishing well from sixth to second to earn a career best 95 Equibase Speed Figure. Then in December, Navy Armed Guard was put back on grass (finishing third) before trying blinkers and moving back to dirt, missing by a neck on the wire. For the Sam F. Davis, Navy Armed Guard gets the rail to save ground as well as makes his second start over the track, which often results in improvement. Considering his sire Midshipman won the 2008 Breeders' Cup Juvenile and considering his dam produced 11 time winner Discreet Angel, Navy Armed Guard may not win the Sam F. Davis but sure might run better than many people expect him to.

    Catholic Boy won the first two starts of his career, both on turf, including the Grade 3 With Anticipation Stakes, before a very good fourth of 14 finish in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf, earning a field high and career best 106 Figure. One month later, Catholic Boy tried turf in the Remsen and dominated by nearly five lengths in a field of 10. Although his figure regressed off the Juvenile Turf to 100, Catholic Boy certainly can improve just as the Remsen runner-up Avery Island did when winning the Withers stakes last week.

    Vouch made his career debut around two turns at the end of October, which is no easy task as most horses need a prep race before running well enough to win at a mile or more. Vouch did not need a prep race, as he won by eight lengths and then was flattered when the runner-up came out of the race to win. Moving right into the deep end of the pool, Vouch made the second start of his career in the Remsen, finishing third behind next out Withers Stakes winner Avery Island and improving to a 91 figure. More improvement is expected, not only with experience but because Vouch is a half-brother to 2015 Delaware Oaks winner Calamity Kate. Additionally, the Stats Race Lens statistic regarding sons and daughters of sire Yes It's True reveal they have a strong record of seven wins in 16 starts in dirt route stakes races for three year olds in the past few years.

    I am taking a stand against two others here likely to be bet rather heavily, as they are question marks. Flameaway has won four of six races, the most recent being the Kitten's Joy Stakes on turf. His lone dirt route win came in the off-turf Bourbon Stakes in October, in which he earned a 104 figure that would give him a chance to win if he can repeat the effort. Whether he can run that well on a dry track is the question. Similarly, Hollywood Star finished second in the Iroquois Stakes (with a 90 figure) last September at this distance on dirt. He drew a poor post (12) for his next start, in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, so his sixth of 12 finish was probably better than it appears on paper. Still, returning from three months off in a graded stakes without a prep suggests he may not be as fit as many of the others that have run more recently.

    Win & Place Bet: Navy Armed Guard at 4 to 1 or more.

    Exacta Box: Navy Armed Guard, Catholic Boy and Vouch.

    California Oaks – Race 7 at Golden Gate – Post time 6:45 PM Eastern

    Dr. Ann is shipped north by Doug O'Neill and even though she is moving from maidens to winners and even though her win came in a maiden claimer, the trainer is SO SHARP with this move she gets top billing. O'Neill is 7 for 18 in routes on the all-weather surface at Golden Gate the last couple of years including THREE stakes races, one of them the 2017 California Oaks. If he feels the filly is stakes quality I will not argue, and her field high tying (with Sweetsongofthenile and Mapit) last race 88 Equibase figure that can be improved upon also suggests an effort good enough to win.

    Mapit also ships in off a win at Santa Anita but hers came on dirt, not turf like Dr. Ann's win, and turf is more closely related to all-weather than dirt. Still, the win came in her two-turn debut with the same 88 figure as the top pick and she's got improving to do for a top trainer and as she's a daughter of Tapit.

    Sweetsongofthenile opens at ridiculously high 15/1 odds based on her 88 figure last out in a maiden win, in a route on the all-weather here at Golden Gate. That win came after nearly four months off and in her first start for Moger, so with the rail and 2nd off the layoff improvement possible she must be given respect at her high odds and as she's related to a slew of winners in routes on the dam's side of her pedigree.

    Win Bet: Dr. Ann to win at odds of 2 to 1 or higher.

    Also consider a win and place bet on Sweetsongofthenile at 4 to 1 or more.

    Exactas: Dr. Ann over ALL, then also Dr. Ann, Mapit and Sweetsongofthenile over ALL. 

  • 02

    Key Bets & Races for Saturday, February 3

    Cross-Country Pick 4

    This bet has a $0.50 minimum. It starts with Race 9 at Aqueduct (5:05 PM ET), then continues with Race 11 at Gulfstream Park (5:16 ET), Race 5 at Santa Anita (5:30 ET) and Race 12 at Gulfstream Park (5:49 PM ET).

    Leg 1 – Daring Destiny, Tammany Giant, Catapult Jack

    Leg 2 – Speed Franco, Untamed Domain, Gidu, Renaisance Frolic, Machtree

    Leg 3 – Pepe Tono, Dark Vader, Peace

    Leg 4 – Master Manipulator, Audible, Pony Up, Mississippi

    The cost of the ticket above at the $0.50 minimum is $90

    Forward Gal Stakes – Race 10 at Gulfstream Park – Post 4:43 PM Eastern Time

    Heavenhasmynikki is perfect in two starts and although neither were stakes she did beat winners in an allowance race over the track 19 days ago, that win following two and one-half months off. She earned a 92 Equibase figure in that win, as good as the figure Sultry earned winning a three year old stakes last fall and just shy of the 96 figure favorite Take Charge Paula earned winning a stakes at Gulfstream in her most recent start on 12/9/17. Prior to that, Take Charge Paula won a stakes at Laurel with a 91 figure and earned a 92 figure when second in the similar Matron Stakes at Belmont in October. I compare Take Charge Paula's efforts and figures with Heavenhasmynikki because the latter opens at 6 to 1 compared to 3 to 1 for the former, so although both have about the same chance to win in my opinion, Heavenhasmynikki is the much better win bet of the pair. Miss Mo Mentum appears next most probable, her most recent effort an eight and three-quarter length win in a stakes over the track on the same date Take Charge Paula won in December.  Sultry tried two turns after her stakes win, ran poorly, and has been rested since, with a fast half-mile (2nd best of 64) and a shot to return to competitive form around one turn.

    Win Bets: Bet Heavenhasmynikki to win at 3 to 1 or higher.

    Exacta: Box Heavenhasmynikki and Take Charge Paula, then box Heavenhasmynikki, Take Charge Paula, Miss Mo Mentum and Sultry.

    Double: Heavenhasmynikki, Take Charge Paula, Miss Mo Mentum and Sultry in Race 10 with Speed Franco, Untamed Domain, Gidu, Renaisance Frolic and Machtree in race 11.

    Pick 3: Consider a pick 3 using the horses above in the first two legs and then using Master Manipulator, Pony Up, Audible, Enticed, Free Drop Billy, Tiz Mischief and Mississippi (11) in race 12.

    Note about the Pick 3 as opposed to the Cross-Country Pick 4: As you will see in my Holy Bull (Race 12) analysis later on the blog, I am taking a stand against Enticed, Free Drop Billy and Tiz Mischief for the most part and that's why they are not included in the Cross Country Pick 4 ticket above. However, I don't want to be left out of a decent payday if one of the longshots wins either the 10th or 11th races and one of the favorites wins the Holy Bull.

    Holy Bull  Stakes – Race 12 at Gulfstream Park – Post time 5:49 Eastern Time

    Master Manipulator is on a pattern to run the best race of his career, good enough to post the upset in this year's Holy Bull Stakes, with none of the questions of recent form shadowing some of the other entrants. After a poor effort when 11th of 12 in the Champagne Stakes last fall (while still a maiden), Master Manipulator took a little of two months off, returning as a much more mature three-year old and finishing fourth in his comeback race on December 16. 18 days later on January 3, when trying two-turns for the first time, Master Manipulator was a different horse as he led from start to finish on relatively fast fractions and was never threatened, earning a career best 98 Equibase Speed Figure. Putting that effort and figure in perspective, Enticed earned a 94 figure winning the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes last fall and the best figure among the rest of the Holy Bull entrants is 102 by Pony Up on grass. With a lot of improving to do in his third start off the layoff and second two-turn start over the track, Master Manipulator should also benefit from Eclipse Award winning jockey Jose Ortiz riding him for the second time. With Aequor likely to go for the lead from the start on the stretch out to two-turns, Ortiz can use the tactical speed of Master Manipulator to drop him to the rail and save ground from the start before taking over in the stretch and holding off the closers.


    Pony Up also makes his third start off a layoff, having finished second in both the Pulpit Stakes and Kitten's Joy Stakes on turf since being away from the races from October 22 to December 9. He improved to a career-best (and field high) 102 figure in the Kitten's Joy, missing by a neck at the finish after being seventh with an eighth of a mile to go. Pony Up can transfer that form to dirt as he continues to improve because he did finish second (beaten a half-length) in his only dirt start and because he is a half-brother to a couple of very nice horses who have won around two-turns on dirt, one being  S'maverlous, who earned nearly $700,000 in his career. With Javier Castellano moving to Audible (who may need a race before showing his best off two months away), John Velazquez takes over riding Pony Up for the first time and that is certainly fine as the team of trainer Todd Pletcher and Velazquez won nearly 30% of their races together in the last 12 months.


    Audible is the other Pletcher trainee and is another Holy Bull entrant on an improving pattern of efforts and Equibase figures. After a big finish in his September debut, from 19 lengths back early to four lengths back at the wire, Audible improved to an 89 figure when breaking his maiden in November by nearly two lengths. In his next start on December 6, Audible improved a lot when winning by nine and three-quarter lengths and earning a 99 figure. Castellano was aboard for the first time in that December 6 win and rides Audible again. While I have concerns about some of the other horses in the field returning from 60 days or longer on the bench, I don't have the same concerns with Audible because according to Stats Race Lens, Todd Pletcher's runners have won nearly one-quarter of the time over the past two years from this type of layoff.


    One more horse to mention as a possible contender, at least insofar as exotic wagers like the exacta are concerned, is Mississippi, who improved from a 98 figure effort in November when winning in his second career start to a 100 figure on January 8 finishing second and beaten less than a length at Gulfstream Park and at the distance of the Holy Bull. With the extreme outside post and having early speed, Mississippi could be forced to go quite wide or expend a lot of energy in the early stages as he and jockey Leparoux try to gain a forward position and that ground loss could be a factor late.


    Although Enticed (94 best figure), Tiz Mischief (94), and Free Drop Billy all proved themselves stakes quality as two year olds last year, I must take a wait-and-see approach in their first starts of 2018 as they attempt to run two-turns without a prep race first and against horses who appear to be capable of running as fast as they are, but who have raced in the past month.


    Win & Place bets: Master Manipulator and Pony Up at odds of 4 to 1 or higher.

    Consider a win bet on Audible at odds of 5 to 1 or more.

    Exacta: Master Manipulator, Pony Up, Audible and Mississippi over Master Manipulator, Pony Up, Audible, Mississippi, Enticed, Free Drop Billy and Tiz Mischief.

    San Marcos Stakes – Race 7 at Santa Anita – Post time 6:30 Eastern Time

    Editore was one of my KEY BETS on the day last month (January 6) in the similar San Gabriel Stakes and in my opinion he would have validated my expectations at 17 to 1 with an upset win if NOT STOPPED in traffic when rallying on the rail in the stretch. As it was, he ended up third, beaten just three-quarters of a length for second, and although we won't get double digit odds today, he is once again a KEY BET opening at 6 to 1. Having put in two sensational "A" races in a row since an August to October layoff, Editore gamely won on this course by a head with a stakes quality 113 figure then validated that when shipped to Golden Gate for a win in the Grade 3 Berkeley Handicap (on all-weather) in November with a 114 figure. In spite of traffic issues in the San Gabriel, Editore earned a 115 figure which is better than last year's San Marcos winner Isotherm (111) earned then or since and just shy of the 117 and 118 figures favorite Itsinthepost earned winning the San Gabriel and the John Henry last fall. With an outside post today, it's much less likely Brice Blanc will put Editore on the rail during the race, particularly considering his last win at Santa Anita came from the seven post, so I'm hopeful this gelding can post the mild upset in this situation.

    Itsinthepost and Flamboyant are the other two main win contenders, with Isotherm and Hayabusa One to be used in second and third on exacta and trifecta tickets, respectively. Itsinthepost is a fairly legitimate favorite off his last win, but did lead late and get passed in the final strides when second in this race last year so is no lock. Flamboyant rediscovered competitive form when second in the San Gabriel, rallying from last of 10, and he won this race in 2016.

    Win Bet: Editore at 2 to 1 or more, a TRUE KEY BET on the day.

    Exactas: Editore, Itsinthepost and Flamboyant over Editore, Itsinthepost, Flamboyant, Isotherm and Hayabusa One.

    You can also play the above exacta as a trifecta using the same horses in second and third position.

    Double: Editore in race 7 with ALL in race 8.

    Double: Editore, Itsinthepost and Flamboyant in race 7 with Pavel, The Lieutenant, Prime Attraction and Top of the Game in race 8.

    San Pasqual Stakes – Race 8 at Santa Anita – Post time 7 PM Eastern

    Pavel makes his first start as a four year old and second off a layoff, last seen finishing fourth in the opening day Malibu Stakes. He has a l of of upside and many of the others have big question marks, particularly two of the other morning line favorites in Mubtaahij and Accelerate, the former a non-threatening third as the favorite behind Prime Attraction in the lower class Grade 3 Native Diver Stakes at the end of November and the latter having finished second in the San Antonio on 12/26, that race turning out to be a dud as both winner Giant Expectations and runner-up Collected ran horribly in the Pegasus Cup last weekend. Accelerate won just one of eight last year and beat no one special when he won, and Mubtaahij may have won the Grade 1 Awesome Again over the track last September off a six month layoff but his last win before that came more than two years earlier. Pavel  proved himself as very talented when third in the Jockey Club Gold Cup last fall in only the fourth race of his career, nearly beating Keen Ice for second, before a dud in the Breeders' Cup Classic. Off the seven furlong prep, he's going to be very tough to beat here. Top of the Game inexplicably opens as the three to one favorite even though he has only run twice in graded stakes and very poorly at that. His last win came at the end of October in a non-graded stakes and the 118 figure was solid but his other two wins only earned 109 figures. He's a five year old and those are likely the best figures he can put forth, whereas Pavel earned 111 and 107 figures as a three year old and a 106 in the Malibu he's bound to move forward off. Prime Attraction posted the 7 to 1 upset in the Native Diver, after a big runner-up effort on turf in the John Henry Stakes behind Itsinthepost (running one race before the San Pasqual). He's got tactical speed and there's not much in this race so if Pereira chooses to go for the front the cold could be tough to catch, opening at 6 to 1.

    Last but certainly not least, The Lieutenant opens at 20/1 odds with one of the top jockeys (Prat) on the circuit aboard for the first time since the horse broke his maiden in May, 2016. Since then, The Lieutenant took 14 months off, winning two of three route races since the comeback, the most recent a classified allowance with a 111 figure that, if improved upon, would be good for a big piece and possibly an upset win. Trainer Mike McCarthy, a Pletcher protégé, has really got hot of late and this horse is definitely coming in under the radar.

    Win Bet: Pavel to win at odds of 3 to 1 or higher.

    Also consider a win bet on Prime Attraction at 4 to 1 or more and a win bet on The Lieutenant at 5 to 1 or more, adding a place bet at 10/1 or higher.

    Exacta: Box Pavel, Prime Attraction, Top of the Game and The Lieutenant

  • 27

    Key Bets & Races for Saturday, January 27

    Fred W. Hooper Stakes – Race 7 at Gulfstream Park – Post 2:32 PM Eastern Time

    Beasley comes back from nearly 2 months off, following the worst race of his career when 8th in the Cigar Mile. Let's face it, he was overmatched in that grade 1 race but this grade 3 field is a whole different story. Beasley won both of his starts fresh, in his debut and then again off a five month rest last summer. He worked his way through allowance conditions and wasn't disgraced last October when beaten less than a length in the similar G3 Bold Ruler Stakes, better still beaten a nose for 2nd by millionaire Stallwalkin' Dude. With a very sharp half-mile workout to cap a consistent series of works for his four year old debut, with Castellano riding for a barn (Hennig) he rarely rides for, and opening at 15/1, Beasley gets top billing. Tommy Macho is a grade 3 horse, no doubt about it. As such, after six straight grade 1 or 2 stakes, he has a big shot to run back to the form shown when winning this stakes race in 2016 or when winning the similar Hal's Hope Stakes last January at the same one turn mile distance. He won the Hal's Hope off a two month rest and although this time he's returning from five months off he still could fire nicely and his starting odds of 6/1 are out of whack with his probability to win. First Growth missed by just a half-length in the similar Mr. Prospector Stakes last month, to X Y Jet, who came back to win again. Finishing 2nd to X Y Jet is really like winning a race and as First Growth makes his third start following three months off he has improving to do and is another win contender here. Eight Town is just slightly less probable than the 3 main contenders because he's running in a stakes race for the first time. However, considering starting last September he broke his maiden and won at the first two allowance levels, he certainly could be part of the exacta or trifecta here.

    I'm taking a stand against starting favorite Tale of Silence, who comes back from 2 1/2 months off and who is facing older for the first time. His best efforts from last year don't appear to be good enough to beat any of the four listed above.

    Win Bets: Bet Beasley to win and place at 3 to 1 or higher, truly a KEY longshot bet on the day.

    Consider another win bet, this one on Tommy Macho, at 3 to 1 or higher.

    Exacta: Box Beasley, Tommy Macho and First Growth then also Box Beasley, Tommy Macho, First Growth and Eight Town.


    Hurricane Bertie Stakes – Race 9 at Gulfstream Park – Post time 3:38 Eastern Time

    There's no doubt Curlin's Approval is one tough mare who loves Gulfstream, with seven wins in 11 races here including last year's Hurricane Bertie Stakes. That being said, Marley's Freedom is a four year old with improving to do and may be just as fast as Curlin's Approval but opens at much higher odds of 10/1. Marley's Freedom didn't do much in her first two starts, as a two year old in the fall of 2016, but when given 11 months off she as a whole different horse. He won her 3 year old debut in September, missed by a neck in October, then dominated in a race on 11/19, earning a stakes quality 109 Equibase figure better than ANY Curlin's Approval has earned including winning this stakes race last year. She finished 4th of 8 in the Grade 1 La Brea Stakes one month ago, beaten a neck by Mopotism, who came back to win a stakes race since then. Mike Smith rode her just once previously, to the big win in November, did not ride her in the La Brea, but takes the call today, and with this filly's tactical speed and facing much easier than last out, I expect her to be sitting third or fourth in the early stages and in position to post the upset in the stretch.  Curlin's Approval finished 2nd in the similar Grade 3 Rampart Stakes last month as the even money favorite, proving she is beatable on occasion. She finished 2nd in the 2017 Rampart before winning this race and certainly she likes to win so we can't discount her chances, but an discount the potential for betting her to win at low odds as a poor investment. Spice Lady showed a lot of promise in her career debut last February then finished 4th in an allowance race then went on the bench. Returning on 12/15 in an allowance race she romped home by five lengths and if Pletcher thinks she can make the jump from first level allowance to this grade 3 level I will not argue. Likely to improve considerably 2nd off the long layoff and off the 102 Equibase figure earned last month, Spice Lady certainly has a shot to win here.

    For some exotic wagers like the exacta and trifecta we should include Rich Mommy and Moonlit Promise, both opening at double digit odds. Rich Mommy has won three straight including posting the 12/1 upset in the similar G3 Sugar Swirl and isn't getting any respect, while Moonlit Promise won two graded stakes in a row in Canada in October and November and the only question mark is whether she can transfer that form to the conventional dirt surface here at Gulfstream.


    Win Bet: Bet Marley's Freedom to win at 3/1, a true KEY BET on the day.

    Exactas: Marley's Freedom, Curlin's Approval and Spice Lady over Marley's Freedom, Curlin's Approval, Spice Lady, Rich Mommy and Moonlit Promise.

    For a smaller wager amount than above (for example $1 instead of $2), play the reverse of that exacta, which is Spice Lady over Marley's Freedom, Curlin's Approval, Spice Lady, Rich Mommy and Moonlit Promise over Marley's Freedom, Curlin's Approval and Spice Lady.


    Gulfstream Park Turf Sprint – Race 10 at Gulfstream Park – Post time 4:14 Eastern Time

    Rainbow Heir (3 to 1 morning line) gets slight preference in a very deep field, one in which we can take some shots as no horse stands out. Favorite Pay Any Price is a win machine, with a 6 for 8 record last year and he's a multiple stakes winner at Gulfstream Park, but he ONLY wins leading from the start and there are a number of horses to pressure him early and are capable of running just as fast. Richard's Boy (7/2 morning line) has won multiple stakes but has nearly as many 2nd place finishes (8) as wins (9) in his career and has ever run over the Gulfstream Park turf. Additionally, after a near miss in the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint, Richards Boy finished 3rd as the favorite in a non-graded stakes with no excuse whatsoever. The third morning line favorite, Tombelaine, is another stakes winner but has never raced at this distance nor over the course.

    Rainbow Heir missed by a nose in this race last year, the only time he's ever run on the Gulfstream Park turf. He enters the race in top form off a stakes win on the grass with Irad Ortiz, Jr. in the saddle for the first time, Ortiz riding back, and the 124 last race Equibase Figure is by far the best of any in the race except Richard's Boy, who earned it just once when 2nd and beaten a head in the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint last fall. Simply put, if Rainbow Heir repeats his last race he wins and opening at 6 to 1 odds he's very playable. Oak Bluffs was involved in a four horse blanket finish in the Pennsylvania Governor's Cup Stakes last June, in which Richard's Boy finished 2nd, a neck in front of Rainbow Heir, with this gelding just another half-length back in spite of being steadied in traffic on the turn. His recent form is just fine, with two runner-up finishes at this trip in a row, beaten just a half-length in each, bringing his record at the distance on the Gulfstream Park turf to 2 wins and 3 second place finishes in 6 races. As such, it would be foolish to ignore him when considering our wagers, as he opens at 20/1. Sir Navigator opens at 15/1 and adds more value to our bets, as he was the one that beat Oak Bluffs last month after finishing in the Claiming Crown Canterbury Stakes at the trip three weeks earlier. Both "A" efforts followed the claim by Maker for the Ramsey's, and with Jose Ortiz riding the horse has a shot to upset as well. Last but not least, Successful Native, opening at 15/1, is hard to drop off any contender list as he has won over a half-million, half of that at this distance here at Gulfstream Park. He's won two in a row over the course and although he led from start to finish last out he has come from off the pace (as far back as 6th) to win so he could be taken back off all the speed signed on here and run big once again under Gaffalione.

    Win Bets at these minimum odds: Rainbow Heir (5 to 2), Oak Bluffs (4/1), Sir Navigator (4/1) and Successful Native (4/1). Consider place bets on any at 10/1 or more. I think "dutching" (betting more than one horse to win) is a great tool to use in these situations where the favorites may be suspect and the dutching too at Amwager really helps determine the right bets to come out with a good profit.

    Exactas: Since we're not totally ruling out the favorites but want to beat them, we will start with exactas keying Richard's Boy and Pay Any Price over the longshots and let them beat us if by some chance they finish 1st and 2nd, as follows: Richard's Boy and Pay Any Price over Rainbow Heir, Oak Bluffs, Sir Navigator and Successful Native.

    Play the reverse of that exacta above as well, then ALSO play an exacta box between Rainbow Heir, Oak Bluffs, Sir Navigator and Successful Native, which is the bet we really want to cash for a nice return.

    South Beach Stakes – Race 11 at Gulfstream – Post time 4:50 PM Eastern

    Ghostly Presence shipped in from Woodbine for her local debut o 12/30 and promptly won the Tropical Park Oaks over 10 other horses. Regular rider Hernandez rids back and as the filly proved a liking for this turf course she has every right to win again, even facing older because not only did she beat older last summer the 108 Equibase figure she earned last month is more than good enough to win this kind of race. Better still, she's got excellent tactical speed so can sit off the very likely early pace battle between I'm Betty G, Conquest Hardcandy and Team of Teams, three absolute need-the-lead types, then go by them late as they tire from their early efforts. Miss Hollywood tried turf just once previously and ran just fine, 2nd to Stormy Victoria, who opens as the 7 to 2 favorite. Leparoux gets on Miss Hollywood, with her last race to be ignored as it was on dirt, so back on the turf we can expect a competitive effort. Stormy Victoria missed winning the Grade 3 My Charmer Stakes on the course last month by a couple of necks, Rosario up then as now, Rosario also aboard for her best race of 2017, a strong win on the turf at Belmont with a 106 figure. She ran even better in the higher level stakes last out when earning a 112 figure so although not the best win bet of the three contenders she is an absolute must to use on any exacta or trifecta tickets.

    Win Bet: Bet Ghostly Presence to win at odds of 2 to 1 or higher.

    Consider a second, smaller, win bet on Miss Hollywood at 4 to 1 or more.

    Exactas: Box Ghostly Presence, Miss Hollywood and Stormy Victoria.

    Pegasus World Cup Invitational– Race 12 at Gulfstream – Post time 5:35 PM Eastern

    In handicapping a race with the intention of wagering, there can be a significant difference between the "Best Horse," the one most probable to win, and the "Best Bet," the horse representing the wager most likely to help make a profit short term and long term. There is no doubt Gun Runner is the "Best Horse" in the Pegasus based on his body of work. Gun Runner first proved himself at this level in the fall of 2016 when winning the Clark Handicap at the distance of the Pegasus, two races later finishing second to the then streaking Arrogate in the Dubai World Cup. After a short freshening, Gun Runner was ready after a couple of months and easily won the Stephen Foster Stakes by seven lengths, with a then career-best 127 Equibase Speed Figure. What followed were two more dominating efforts winning the Whitney Stakes (127 figure) and Woodward Stakes (132 figure). In his final start of 2017, Gun Runner easily defeated 10 other horses in the Breeders' Cup Classic with a 130 figure effort to cement his standing as the best older handicap division horse in North America last year. Although there may be questions regarding coming back from nearly three months off and what some say may be a disadvantageous post position for the Pegasus owing to the quick run to the first turn, neither of those issues concern me. This is because Gun Runner returned from nearly three months off last February to win easily in his 2017 debut and because the outside post for this nine furlong trip isn't as bad as some people think it is. According to Stats Race Lens, horses breaking from post positions nine and up at this distance won four times in the last year. As such, Gun Runner is going to be very difficult to beat in this year's Pegasus.

    Now that we've gotten past the "Best Horse" we can talk about the "Best Bet" and there are two of them in my opinion, starting with Collected, who opens at 8 to 1 odds. In the Breeders' Cup Classic, Collected ran second from start to finish behind Gun Runner and prior to that he won the Pacific Classic. Those efforts earned 127 and 128 Equibase figures, respectively, which were as good as those earned by Gun Runner in two of his four victories last year. When Collected returned from a short rest on December 26 for the San Antonio Stakes, he ran nothing like he had run in his five previous starts and was a well beaten third as the prohibitive favorite. Since then, trainer Bob Baffert stated "We didn't really super-crank him for it" regarding the San Antonio, adding "We're taking the Pegasus with a different approach" and “He'll be ready." As such ,there is no doubt in my mind Collected can run back to his 2017 efforts at the least, which could lead to a top effort good enough for a second or third place finish and perhaps even the upset win.

    The other "Best Bet" might be Giant Expectations, who posted the upset at 13 to 1 in the San Antonio Stakes over Collected. Like Collected, Giant Expectations is a newly turned five year old with 13 races under his belt. He has won four of those races, including the Pat O'Brien Stakes in which he earned a career-best 118 figure. Showing versatility in winning from off the pace as well as winning while in front from start to finish, Giant Expectations has never run this far but his sire (Frost Giant) has produced horses that have, including a full brother and so I have little concern about him being able to handle the distance. With Hall-of-Fame jockey Gary Stevens in the saddle the same as for the San Antonio and Pat O'Brien, Giant Expectations can improve in his second start following nearly two months off and if he does could run a lot better than his 30/1 starting odds suggest he can.

    Seeking the Soul and Fear the Cowboy are two others that I will consider as contenders, not necessarily to win (although I won't rule their chances out entirely) but definitely to be in the top three. Seeking the Soul won his last two starts of 2017 including the Clark Handicap with a career-best 117 figure and at the distance of the Pegasus. Jockey John Velazquez rode Seeking the Soul for the first time in the Clark and rides back, another sign for the same or better as in that race. Fear the Cowboy has run well over many tracks in his career, with nine victories including four at Gulfstream Park. He won the Harlan's Holiday Stakes last month over the track with a 115 figure effort and last year he won the Skip Away Stakes at the distance of the Pegasus.

    Two other horses some handicappers and fans will be interested in are ones I don't consider as win contenders, although they might finish in the top four. West Coast finished a non-threatening third in the Breeders' Cup Classic in his most recent start. In the race he ran third pretty much from start to finish. The 125 figure he earned was more a reflection of how well Gun Runner ran than his own effort, and the horses behind him aren't anywhere near as good as Gun Runner, Collected or a few others in here. Previous to the Classic, West Coast won five stakes race in a row but all were against three year olds only and he has yet to prove he can compete at this level versus older horses. Additionally, before the Classic his figures in the Travers and in the Pennsylvania Derby were 110 and those aren't going to cut it in this field. Sharp Azteca is a brilliant racehorse with eight wins in 16 races. He finished second in the Breeder's Cup Mile with a 132 figure in November then won the Cigar Mile with a 126 figure in December. The word "mile" is the key to his success, because even though Sharp Azteca has won up to a mile and one-sixteenth, he has never raced at this mile and one-eighth distance. Based on breeding, Sharp Azteca may not be as good at this distance as he has been at shorter distances. According to Stats Race Lens, sons and daughters of his sire Freud have a combined one for twenty-eight record at nine furlongs. As such, I can Sharp Azteca finishing second or third in the Pegasus but I can't see him winning.


    Contenders' win probabilities and comparable odds. We can use these as a guide for making win, place or show bets at or above the odds listed below.

    Gun Runner 55% (4/5)

    Collected 20% (4/1)

    Giant Expectations 10% (9/1)

    Seeking the Soul 9% (10/1)

    Fear the Cowboy 6% (16/1)


    In the Money contender:

    Sharp Azteca

    Exactas: Gun Runner over Collected, Giant Expectations, Seeking the Soul, Sharp Azteca and Fear the Cowboy.

    Trifectas: Gun Runner over Collected, Giant Expectations, Seeking the Soul, Sharp Azteca and Fear the Cowboy over ALL. 

  • 19

    Key Bets & Races for Saturday, January 20

    Sunshine Millions Turf – Race 7 at Gulfstream Park – Post 3:00 PM Eastern Time

    When he won the Mecke Stakes in July over the Gulfstream Park turf, Spring Up was sent off at 7 to 2 odds and in that race he beat Galleon Mast, who won three in a row after that, all stakes on the course, before a second place finish behind Enterprising in the Millions Turf Preview Stakes. With Galleon Mast and Enterprising opening today at odds of 7 to 2 and 2 to 1, the 8 to 1 starting odds on Spring Up make him a definite play particularly as he's in excellent form following a nose defeat in a classified allowance at Tampa Bay Downs in his most recent start. Better still, Spring Up will get a great pace set up as the horse just inside of him, Charlie Mops, is a need-the-lead type who adds blinkers so if Juarez drops Spring Up in behind the leader in the early stages he can repeat his score in the Mecke Stakes here.

    Another value play is Second Mate, opening at 10/1, as he was just a nose behind Spring Up when second in that classified allowance at Tampa last month. As a three year old, Second Mate was stakes place on the grass and last spring he won gamely on the Gulfstream Park turf, the last time he raced over the surface until today. Incidentally, the only time Paco Lopez rode Second Mate was in that victory and Paco gets back on after not having ridden him since. In short, if we think Spring Up can win and offers value as well, we also have to consider Second Mate as he just as easily could have finished in front of Spring Up as behind him in their recent encounter.

    Galleon Mast rounds out my top three contenders, having won those three stakes in a row on this course before finishing second last month at Gulfstream Park West, after leading in the stretch. Back on the course accounting for five of his seven career wins and over which he's never been off the board in 12 races, and with Irad Ortiz, Jr. getting on  for the first time, Galleon Mast must be respected as a top contender here.

    As for Enterprising, sure he can win but he doesn't have a 33% probability to win as suggested by his 2 to 1 starting odds. He can and should be used on any exotic tickets and any multi-race tickets (like the pick 3), as should Swagger Jagger, trained by Maker same as Enterprising and RE-CLAIMED out of his last race when 2nd, one race after Maker lost him via the claim. He was a stakes winner as a three year old on grass and is in excellent form. Actually, there's not a horse in here we should not consider for exotics if we are using both the price horses Spring Up and Second Mate, so we will also  use the others including Our Way and Manchurian High, the latter who won this race in 2016.


    Win Bets: Bet Spring Up and Second Mate to win at odds of 3 to 1 or more, adding a place bet at 6 to 1 or higher.

    Note: The best way to bet multiple horses to win and insure the same return no matter which wins is called "Dutching" and Amwager.com has a great dutching tool for doing just that.

    Exacta: Spring Up, Second Mate and Galleon Mast over ALL

    Pasco Stakes – Race 8 at Tampa Bay Downs – Post time 3:42 Eastern Time

    There's a legitimate favorite in this race and a standout – World of Trouble. However, even at low odds there is profit to be made in exotic bets, trying to turn the same amount we might bet to win into the equivalent of a higher return. For example, if we bet $10 at even money we get $20, but if we bet the same amount in another way and gets $30 we are now getting 2 to 1 odds we couldn't possibly get on a win bet.

    World of Trouble won his debut last summer, in a maiden claiming race, by a whopping 14 lengths. Nobody claimed him which probably gave his connections some relief, particularly when in his next start three weeks later he led late and settled for second in a $200K stakes race. Sometime after that I'm sure the owner's phone started ringing, and he was purchased by owner Michael Dubb, whose colors we see a lot these days in New York and elsewhere. Sent to the barn of Jason Servis, the colt resumed serious training just recently and appears ready to pick up where he left off, with a win as even his runner-up effort when last seen, with a 103 Equibase figure, puts the rest of these to shame if repeated. Although this is just the start of his three year old campaign, World of Trouble begins in a sprint at the distance of his last race, and with top jockey Gallardo signed on, for a trainer that wins at a very high clip (nearly 30%), World of  Trouble is by far the one to beat here.

    Regarding how to make money on a legitimate favorite like World of Trouble, we will use Arazi Like Move in second and third on trifecta tickets as that one has a good closing style and just finished second in the Inaugural Stakes over the track. For multi race bets, there are two options below as well.


    Win Bet: "IF" we can get odds of 3 to 2 or higher, bet World of Trouble to win.

    Trifectas: World of Trouble over Arazi Like Move over ALL and also World of Trouble over ALL over Arazi Like Move.

    Pick 3: World of Trouble in race 8 with Alinea and Artistic Quality in race 9 with ALL in race 10.

    Double: Play World of Trouble in race 8 with ALL in race 9 (hoping for a longshot and as a means to counter the pick 3 if it our picks don't win the second half of the double.

    Wayward Lass Stakes – Race 10 at Tampa Bay Downs – Post time 4:15 Eastern Time

    Tapa Tapa Tapa won as she pleased by 12 lengths last out on 12/23, over the track around two turns and off a seven month layoff. Based on that effort she opens at 2 to 1 here, and certainly if she repeats it she can win, but what if the effort was a fluke? It could be, considering her last win came 10 months earlier in the Suncoast Stakes around this time against three year olds only, with her other two wins on turf and all-weather. Tapa Tapa Tapa did beat Folk Magic and Ms. Scarlet Fever in that race, but both of those were, and still are, allowance types, having never run in a stakes previously until today.

    Taking a look at her best efforts outside of that possibly flukish win with a 109 Equibase Figure reserved for Breeders' Cup and Kentucky Oaks winners, Tapa Tapa Tapa's best effort yielded a 97 figure, the same figure both Blue Collar and Full of Zip earned in their most recent wins. Blue Collar was privately purchased after her last win, her second win in a row, both coming since taking off blinkers, which incidentally is what Tapa Tapa Tapa did before her big recent win. Blue Collar is now in the strong Kenneally barn, with top jockey Gallardo riding, with a very sharp workout coming into the race and with a big shot to post the mild upset, opening at 9 to 2. Full of Zip offers an even better return, opening at 12/1, particularly because she's housed in the top Graham Motion barn. She won a one turn mile at Laurel last out for that career best effort and has a work over the track to boot.

    As stated previously, Tapa Tapa Tapa can win, as can Well Humored (two-for-two on dirt) and Sweet Legacy (whose trainer rarely ships to Tampa but has had success when he does). As such, we can play some exactas using those in the win spot with Blue Collar and Full of Zip in the second spot, as mentioned below.

    Win Bets: Bet Blue Collar to win at odds of 2 to 1 or more, truly a KEY BET today.

    Bet Full of Zip to win at odds of 3 to 1 and add a place bet at 6 to 1 or more

    Exactas: Blue Collar and Full of Zip over Blue Collar, Full of Zip, Tapa Tapa Tapa, Well Humored and Sweet Legacy.

    Then play the reverse of that exacta, which is Blue Collar, Full of Zip, Tapa Tapa Tapa, Well Humored and Sweet Legacy over Blue Collar and Full of Zip.

    There are really no toss outs for second so we need to finish the exacta using the other three entrants in second by playing Blue Collar and Full of Zip over Ms. Scarlet Fever, Tejana and Folk Magic.

    Sunshine Millions Filly & Mare Turf – Race 10 at Gulfstream – Post time 4:30 PM Eastern

    Daddy's Boo opens as the 5 to 2 second choice while Starship Jubilee opens as the 2 to 2 favorite, and I can see why, as between the two they won 10 of 16 races last year. However, both failed as favorites on more than one occasion and in situations just like this so they are not standouts. The best value lies with Bonita, who won back-to-back stakes on this course last summer including one for Florida-Breds only just like this race. Zayas rode her both time and in both races the mare relaxed nicely while far back (7th and 8th) then put in a strong late run to draw off late. In her most recent race, Bonita stayed in a race moved to the main track and still finished 2nd in a fine effort, but back on the sod where she does her best running she has every right to win, opening at 6 to 1.


    Win Bet: Bet Bonita to win at odds of 2 to 1 or higher.

    Exactas: Box Bonita & Starship Jubilee, Box Bonita and Daddy's Boo.

    Also play Bonita over ALL and reverse that and play ALL over Bonita as perhaps a longshot can get in the exacta for a sweet profit.

    Sunshine Millions Sprint– Race 11 at Gulfstream – Post time 5:00 PM Eastern

    X Y Jet, who opens as the even money favorite, beats these "IF" he runs as he did winning the 2016 edition of this race. Note I didn't say the 2017 edition as he was on the sidelines from November, 2016 until just last month when he came back to win the Mr. Prospector Stakes, a grade 3 stakes, here at Gulfstream. He's been rested nearly a month so may not regress, BUT as a six year old, at least based on his Mr. Prospector effort, he's not the horse he was in 2016 by any means. He only earned a 103 Equibase figure in that race and was in a drive in the stretch, compared to 119 to 123 figures in 2016. Maybe he wasn't 100% fit after 13 months off, but maybe not, and from the rail he will have to be sent hard as there are more than a couple of horses who can and likely will want to stalk in the early stages.

    With a horse likely to go to post as the odds on favorite, there will be great value on some others and this is why this race is a KEY BETTING RACE if I am right and X Y Jet can be beaten. I'll start with Quijote, who opens at 8/1. He was 7 to 2 winning the Millions Sprint Preview in November and his odds would be even lower here if not for the presence of an odds-on favorite. Quijote won the similar statebred Big Drama Stakes in May, with a career best 111 figure, one that stands up very nicely in this field. With Saez getting on and having a 9 for 26 (25%) record when riding for this trainer, Quijote is the one I'll consider first for win bets.

    Storming My Way must be considered for a bet as well, opening at 15/1 with Rosario in the saddle just as he was for a powerful win last month over the track. That was just a claiming race but the 104 figure, and the 106 figure effort when 2nd two races before that, suggests this former stakes placed runner first very nicely here. Sweetontheladies is one more to consider, opening at 20/1. He was second to Quijote in the Millions Preview and won a pair of stakes earlier in his career, one of those last June over the track. Storming My Way lost any chance he had in the Mr. Prospector when he stumbled badly at the start and we can draw a line through that race so he's got an outside shot to win and a decent shot to be part of the exacta.

    Win Bets: Bet Quijote to win at odds of 5 to 2 or higher. Consider a place bet at 8 to 1 or more.

    Consider win bets, at a smaller amount than Quijote, on Storming My Way and on Sweetontheladies at odds of 7 to 1 or more, adding place bets at 10 to 1 or higher.

    Exactas: Quijote over ALL and then the opposite as well, which is ALL over Quijote.