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September 5, 2019

It All Comes Together; Looking in the Crystal Ball

By: Jonathan Stettin

It is interesting to look back at some of our opinions on races and horses from a few weeks or months back and see how they aged. You get a real good window into your focus and grasp of this challenging game we play. This is a good time of year to do it as we are approaching the fourth quarter so to speak and if we don’t have a clear picture now something is wrong.

A few weeks ago, I wrote right here Shancelot was a bet against in his next start after the monster win first time at the Spa. He lost at a short price. A week or two before that I wrote right here Code of Honor was most likely to be the one to assert himself into the top three-year-old of 2019 picture. I think he accomplished that with his Travers win. We pretty much called that one. If you play this game long enough you get a feel for certain things. Let’s examine some things ahead and see how they age.

As the horses of 2019 race towards their championships, and we have some really good horses this year in Bricks and Mortar, Sistercharlie, McKinzie, Mitole and more, we can get ready to capitalize on the upsets, and get down on the strong plays. That is what it is all about.

The Pennsylvania Derby should give us a very clear leader for the top three-year-old. It looks like Maximum Security, the current leader will face War of Will for sure. Mucho Gusto and Improbable are possible. Code of Honor may sneak in as may Tacitus. If that happens you have the three-year-old championship on the line as I do not think any of them are good enough to go to Santa Anita and beat older horses. Well at least one in particular. The spoiler to that whole party may be Omaha Beach who is working his way back to the races and hopefully the picture. We may see Omaha Beach at Parx, but not in the Pennsylvania Derby. Don’t be surprised if Mandella opts for the two-turn mile race instead.

It is true we do not know what type of surface we will see at Santa Anita this fall, but it will be McKinzie’s home track whatever it is. He is blossoming at just the right time.

Mitole is back, and the loss from the rail is totally forgivable at this point. It will take something very fast to handle him at his best. It probably isn’t Imperial Hint away from Saratoga.

Bricks and Mortar has put together some season. He has been on a tear. There is some European horse out there that just may have him in their or should I say her sights. The Breeders’ Cup Turf may be the race of that weekend.

If Elate couldn’t beat Midnight Bisou on the square when she was supposed to at Saratoga, how will she at Santa Anita where Bisou is familiar?

Sistercharlie probably still has not run her peak race of the year of yet. That should be pretty discouraging for any of the horses looking to take her down in the filly and mare turf. Good luck with that one.

Moving on to another subject, when will they run out of ways to disrespect bettors and make this already difficult game more difficult? Never. The deck is stacked against us. Now it is definitely wrong and bad to move a race from one turf course to another with 8 minutes or thereabouts to post time. It crushes the multi-race wager players in pick 4’s, 5’s, and 6’s. This day involved a mandatory jackpot payout as well. Ouch. It would have been worse if they changed surfaces altogether as the race would become an all. But even the course change can affect the race. Personally, I do not believe it did in this case. Quarbaan, the best horse that day won, and decisively. That said it still leaves a bad taste and with no explanation it is disrespectful. For safety we can all understand it, but we deserve to know not guess. Unfortunately, this discretion lies with the stewards and track management. There is no argument. They have the right to switch surfaces with little or no notice. We agree to play by those rules.

Friday, 30 August 2019 11:38

Key Races & Bets for Saturday, August 31

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Exacta Systems Juvenile Fillies Stakes-Race 9 at Kentucky Downs-Post Time 5:47 Eastern/4:47 Central

This race, and race 10, the Gainesway Farm Juvenile Stakes, are fantastic betting races. With horses shipping in from everywhere, most only with a maiden win, whoever is the favorite near post time will likely be as high as 4 to 1. As such, multiple win bets and some exactas bets we wouldn’t normally make are called for because the investment is worth the potential return. In this race I’ll start with Fly So Pretty, who has two starts under her belt. The first was a turf sprint at Churchill in June and the second was a turf sprint last month at Saratoga. In that race Fly So Pretty rallied from eighth after encountering enough trouble to cover a couple of paragraphs. Since then, she was flattered when the third horse won and since that effort earned Fly So Pretty the BEST last race Equibase in the field, she should improve as the third horse did and run even better so it would take a BIG jump up by any of the others to beat her if she doesn’t get in traffic trouble she can’t overcome this time. Sire Sky Mesa is the sire of the 2017 One Dreamer Stakes (the seventh race on today’s card) so there’s no question this filly can get the added distance either.

Lemon Scat and Jezebel’s Kitten both broke their maidens at a mile on turf at Ellis Park in their most recent starts and both appear very talented as it’s very tough to win a turf route first time out. Lemon Scat rallied from seventh of nine early and won going away then was flattered when the third horse won right back. Her 74 figure was a nice improvement off her 69 debut figure and she’s moving in the right direction. We all know Kitten’s Joy is a tremendous turf sire but seeing the record of his progeny over the last five years at Kentucky Downs really makes the point. They are 16 for 73 over the track including a 5 for 18 record in stakes. I mention that because Jezebel’s Kitten could add to that number. Since breaking her maiden three weeks ago at first asking, she put in a 47.2 half-mile workout to show she’s getting better every day and the high percentage Cox/Geroux combo gives us more reasons to consider her a contender for all the marbles.

Weekend Fun has sprinted on dirt twice to date so is trying a route and turf for the first time. I’m not concerned about the changes as she’s a daughter of More Than Ready, who had a winner in the More Than Ready Mile (oddly enough) over the course in 2014, trained by Asmussen the same as this gal. She put in a nice work on turf before leaving Saratoga and Leparoux is one of the top jockeys year after year on this unique course so those are more reasons to consider her as well. We’ll round out a quintet with Ask Bailey¸ because when I see the chart caller comments “Drove Past” it means the effort is very impressive. That’s just what Ask Bailey did on 8/11 breaking her maiden at this mile trip, also at Ellis Park, and as a horse with a good deal of improvement possible in her third career start and second route she’s got a shot to be there at the end.

Win Bets: Fly So Pretty is the KEY BET to win at 2 to 1 or higher.
Consider a smaller win bet on Lemon Scat at 3 to 1 or more, and perhaps minimum win bets on Weekend Fun at 4/1, on Jezebel’s Kitten at 5 to 1 and on Ask Bailey at 5 to 1 or more.
When making multiple win bets, use a "Dutching" tool to do the work of allocating your wagering dollars for the best edge. Amwager has a great dutching tool available, among many other great features.

Exacta: Fly So Pretty over ALL
Box: Ask Bailey, Weekend Fun, Jezebel’s Kitten, Lemon Scat and Fly So Pretty.

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

Wooderson and Tom’s d’Etat finished second and first, respectively, in the Alydar Stakes over the track at the same nine furlong trip of the Woodward. Tom’s d’Etat was the even money favorite that day while Wooderson was 13 to 1 and although they were separated by a length there’s an odds disparity here as well because Tom’s d’Etat opens at 4 to 1 while Wooderson opens at 12/1. Certainly Wooderson is not as accomplished as Tom’s d’Etat, BUT NOT BY MUCH. Wooderson has a 3-3-0 record in nine races with three of those stakes and only one decent, that being the Alydar. Tom’s d’Etat has a 7-2-1 record in 13 races with five of those stakes, BUT his only stakes win came in the Alydar. In terms of Equibase figures they both earned career-best figures in the Alydar (118 and 116). Leading jockey Jose Ortiz rides Wooderson for the first time, which I think provides more reasons he can turn the tables on Tom’s d’Etat and post the upset here.

Mr. Buff and Bal Harbour are two more with out of line starting odds, particularly as I am not enamored of either morning line favorite Vino Rosso or second choice Yoshida. Vino Rosso has no excuse for the Whitney and has just two third place finishes to show for three races at Saratoga, while last year’s winner Yoshida ran okay, but not fantastic, in the Whitney. Their figures were 108 and 115 so not superior to Wooderson or Tom’s d’Etat by any means. Mr. Buff loves to win and doesn’t really know as a NY bred he may not be that good in open company. He adores this nine furlong trip where he’s six-for-eight with two of those wins at Saratoga including August 7 earning a 111 figure. He earned a 114 figure winning at the trip in January and has the ability to set the pace or stalk the pacesetter so could be in the thick of the action start to finish. Bal Harbour is a lightly raced four year old with a great 5-4-2 record in 16 starts. His best race ever came last month at the trip when a head shy of winning the Monmouth Cup. Castellano gets on and has ridden him to victory previously so opening at 15/1 he can’t be ignored.

For some exactas I’ll also use Preservationist, who ran badly with no excuse at 2 to 1 in the Whitney but who ran sparklers in the Suburban and in an allowance race prior to that. He could rebound to top form but with a 111 best figure that top form may not be good enough to win.

Win Bets: Wooderson and Tom’s d’Etat to win at odds of 3 to 1 or more.
When making multiple win bets, use a "Dutching" tool to do the work of allocating your wagering dollars for the best edge. Amwager has a great dutching tool available, among many other great features.

Definitely consider win bets on Mr. Buff and on Bal Harbour at odds of 9 to 2 or more. Place bets can be made on any of the contenders at odds of 7 to 1 or higher.

Exactas: Tom’s d’Etat over Mr. Buff, Bal Harbour, Vino Rosso, Preservationist, Yoshida and Wooderson.

Mr. Buff, Bal Harbour, Wooderson and Tom’s d’Etat over Mr. Buff, Bal Harbour, Vino Rosso, Preservationist, Yoshida, Wooderson and Tom’s d’Etat.

Mr. Buff, Bal Harbour, Vino Rosso, Preservationist, Yoshida, Wooderson and Tom’s d’Etat over Mr. Buff, Bal Harbour, Wooderson and Tom’s d’Etat. (Note the reason for the first exacta in addition to the other two is we have more combinations if Tom’s d’Etat wins owing to his lower odds and lower exacta payoffs than if any of the other three win).

Gainesway Farm Juvenile Stakes – Race 10 at Kentucky Downs - Post Time 6:22 PM Eastern/ 5:22 Central

Automate gets slight preference in another wide open stakes for two year olds, because he opens at 15/1. He broke his maiden four weeks ago at a mile on dirt at Ellis Park and the fact that race was on dirt is the ONLY reason he’s not 4 to 1 to 6 to 1 as some of the horses are who broke their maidens on grass. Automate was stretching out from a sprint and ran that race the way a horse runs on grass, rallying from fifth early and powering off late. The 75 Equibase figure is the second best route figure in the field, with only Peace Achieved having run faster, but his 80 figure, although earned on turf, was earned leading from start to finish. That’s going to be very difficult to repeat here because both Night Time and City Front are stretching out from sprints on dirt and appear to be very fast early. That brings us back to Automate, who was flattered when the runner-up improved nicely to win his next race, as did the SEVENTH place finisher. He’s got the breeding to run big on grass and his trainer, Keith Desormeaux, is one of the most underrated big race trainers in North America, in my opinion.

Are You Kitten Me is a son of Kitten’s Joy, whose progeny stats at Kentucky Downs over the last five years I extolled when discussing the race before this one. He broke his maiden at first asking in a route, at Saratoga, in a 10 horse field, so he could be any kind and win this race for fun with any kind of improvement. Doc Boy broke his maiden at a mile on grass at Laurel and although he beat only three horses it was a very impressive effort with a 74 figure on par with the figure Automate earned. He rallied early from four back then continued to draw off and for a top trainer in Mike Stidham this colt is another we must take very seriously in this race. The Gray Blur added blinkers for his second career start and off a seventh of 12 debut, trying turf and two turns or the first time three weeks ago, and was a different horse as he controlled the pace from start to finish. He does not appear to be a need-the-lead types at Night Time and City Front do because his pace/speed figure combination of 48/68 suggest he put in a nice kick in the last quarter mile. He opens at 15/1 and although a bit less probable than some of the others those odds still appear out of line and warrant including this colt in our wagers. Memorable was highly regarded after breaking his maiden on dirt at first asking in May, running in the Tremont and Sanford Stakes, also on dirt, but running badly. He ran in a stakes for two year olds at Saratoga off those two efforts and ran a lot better, finishing fourth of eight. He gets the rail and Leparoux here and opens at 10/1 as a horse who could move up considerably around two turns for the first time.

Bets: Win bets on two of these three depending on odds, choosing the two at the highest odds of the threeAutomate, Are You Kitten Me and Doc Boy at odds of 7 to 2 or more.

A small win bet is not out of the question on The Gray Blur and on Memorable at odds of 6 to 1 or higher.

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

Exactas: Memorable, The Gray Blur, Are You Kitten Me, Automate and Doc Boy over Memorable, The Gray Blur, Are You Kitten Me, Automate, Doc Boy, Night Time, Peace Achieved and Longclaw.

John C. Mabee Stakes - Race 7 at Del Mar - Post Time 8:15 PM Eastern/5:15 Pacific

With Vasilika, queen of the Southern California female stakes division, having her bubble burst four weeks ago in the Yellow Ribbon Stakes when third at four to five odds with no excuse, there’s a horse here to get it done, or at least finish second, at likely double digit odds. That horse is La Force, getting a huge jockey change to Smith (no disparagement to Van Dyke intended). La Force opens at 12/1 mostly because she’s 1 for 12 on grass in her career. However, she does fit at the level, having finished second to Unique Bella on dirt in the Beholder Mile and Clement Hirsch Stakes last spring and summer. Then she was second, beaten less than a length in the G1 Zenyatta before a poor eighth in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff, followed by a layoff. She came back and ran a respectable second to 10 length winner Paradise Woods, then won the G2 Santa Maria before a third place effort in this year’s Hirsch. Aside from Vasilika, there are no monsters here and her stakes credentials match any of the others so with a trio of turf works since the Hirsch showing us she’s pointing to this race, with efforts on dirt which would win this kind of race if transferred to turf, with prior turf form and with Smith riding, I think La Force is a great bet in this race.

Aside from Vasilika, Toinette, Ahimsa and Juliet Foxtrot are horses I’ll use with La Force on exacta tickets as all three come off nice wins on the grass.

Bets: La Force to win and place at 3 to 1 or more.

Exactas: Box La Force and Vasilika, then play La Force over Vasilika, Toinette, Ahimsa and Juliet Foxtrot.
Play the reverse of that exacta as well, which is Vasilika, Toinette, Ahimsa and Juliet Foxtrot over La Force.

Monday, 26 August 2019 20:03

Inside the Mind of a Bet

Past the Wire    Tracking Tips Logo


August 26, 2019

Inside the Mind of a Bet

By: Jonathan Stettin

They may have put an aftermarket spoiler on a vintage red Ferrari, but when you crank it up, you can still feel and hear the engines rumble.
There are some racetracks that just have a magically electric atmosphere to them as soon as you enter the gates. Saratoga has that as soon as you approach the town from the South and pass the Mohawk River Bridge. It amplifies as you approach the grounds and see the familiar grand mansions, barns, and racetrack itself. I have yet to visit a racetrack that has the feel of Saratoga, and I have been to most all over the world.
Whether it is the history, the epic performances, the legendary upsets, the champions of our game, both human and equine who have competed there, or the big scores doesn’t really matter. Maybe it’s a combination of all of that, or even something else.
When NYRA announced the Saratoga meet was again being extended I saw it as a problem as the racing has already been watered down some from what it was in the past. That’s really a racing problem and not an isolated Saratoga problem you just feel it more at the Spa. That’s because longtime Saratoga bettors, horsemen, and fans have become spoiled. The 24 racing days of the “August” place to be was unrivaled even by meets like Royal Ascot. Those days are forever gone, but the desire for almost anyone in the Sport of Kings to win at Saratoga turns even a maiden claiming race into a competitive all-out affair. Everyone, including bettors, seem to try just a little bit harder at Saratoga. It brings out our best.
Having cashed a pick 6 for over half a mil at Saratoga, and two others for 146k and 108k respectfully, I can’t help being optimistic about the meet and even more thrilled to be on the grounds. I spent the first 30 plus years of my life summering there, and it feels like home. It doesn’t hurt that the only horse I ever ran there as an owner, Ima Halo, won under Johnny V for trainer Peter Walder. The place is special.
It all comes down to making the right decisions when betting. Regardless of who you like, and what bets you are going to make you’ll face handicapping decisions, and wagering decisions. Which way you go, or whether you zig or zag will determine how things turn out for you.
On Travers day, my killer instinct was roaring. I knew there would be at least one real shot to take. I intended to take it. I liked Code of Honor in the Travers. How to bet him was the question. Since there is no longer a $2 pick 6, that was not an option. Regrettably for me. I will miss that bet, perhaps most of all.
I decided the Pick 5 was the way to go. I was concerned about the sequence starting with a 1-5 favorite, but at 7 furlongs I saw a chink in his armor. At 1-5 we want no chinks. I’d use him to make sure if he wins I am alive, but he was no single in my book. Not even close. When I discussed the race with my Brother John John, yes I have a brother John, and he saw the chink as well my confidence grew. He’s one of maybe two people on the planet whose opinion I value — the others mine.
My plan was to have the ticket multiple times. Anybody can hit a Pick 5 for 50 cents. I wanted to have it for $5 or $10 at least. When I structured my play, I decided to also single Elate. Obviously, I knew only two horses could win that race, Elate or Midnight Bisou. I do not think a realistic chance could have been made for any other horse in that race. I was “sure” Elate was sitting on a big race and forward move. I “thought” Midnight Bisou was possibly as well, but with money on the line, I’ll go with sure over thought as many times as I can.
I briefly thought about using both horses and splitting the ticket and have it for $5 instead of $10. I decided against that. Ah decisions, they will make or break you every time. It didn’t make sense at that point to use both horses even though that would lock up or buy the race. I thought if the 1-5 shot wins the first leg, and we get another short price in another leg, and Midnight Bisou and Elate will both be short, I’ll have no shot at a score. I had to go with one and Elate was the better option according to my handicapping.
I was concerned about Jose Ortiz over thinking the Abel Tasman race and Mike Smith incident from last year. I also thought the race at Oaklawn earlier this year might also be in his head. Hopefully, if that were the case, it would motivate him and not get him antsy or anything like that. As they were running and Jose was laying third in what most would view as a golden spot, I became worried when I saw him look back approaching the half-mile pole to see where Mike and Midnight Bisou were. Don’t worry about them, just ride your race, I thought. Jose was set on race riding however, and sometimes that works out, and sometimes it doesn’t. Against Mike Smith, the odds go against you drastically.
Yeah, I knew I was going to get nailed about mid-stretch. I also knew Code of Honor would win the Travers. You see enough of these things; sometimes you just know how the movie ends. The agony of defeat set in about the sixteenth pole although most who had Elate were still thinking she would make it. Man, that Midnight Bisou is relentless. John John structured his ticket very similar to mine. That photo cost us over 200k collectively.
Dinner and the company were excellent that night. Just about everyone who is anyone in racing was at the same restaurant. Many winners from the day, and past winners as well. Even Derby winners. Sure it stung but you’d never know it sitting next to me. See here is the key, once you take down some of these type of scores you learn you CAN do it. Then you learn you can do it again. At this point you know hey, it’s just a matter of time until you make the right decision.
Yes. Of course, I bet the Travers winner. Win. Exacta. Superfecta. This is one of those unenviable days where you win but walk out feeling like you lost. Only a true Racetracker can understand that..

Friday, 23 August 2019 12:34

Key Races & Bets for Saturday, August 24

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Personal Ensign Stakes - Race 9 at Saratoga- Post Time 4:12 PM Eastern

There’s a time to play favorites, particularly when they help turn multi-race bets like the pick three into the equivalent of a daily double, and that’s the case here as Midnight Bisou should not lose if she runs as she did in either the Ogden Phipps in June or in the Molly Pitcher last month. In both cases, Mike Smith was sitting on a powder keg in the last quarter mile and barely needed to give her a cue before she accelerated and won. Perhaps there were lesser quality horses in those two races compared to what she faces here but right now, Midnight Bisou is an “alpha” horse and refuses to lose. If she’s in form she wins.

I’ve been a big fan of Elate before she missed by a head in the C.C.A. Oaks over the track two summers ago then crushing the Alabama and Beldame. In the C.C.A. Oaks she probably would have won but Mike Smith, aboard Abel Tasman, kept her inside and intimidated on the rail. The next time she met Abel Tasman was in last year’s running of this race, and once again Smith “race rode” Ortiz enough to win by a neck. Then Elate finished second to Midnight Bisou twice this year in her first and second starts as a five year old and even though she won the Fleur de Lis and Delaware Handicap since then, the fact Midnight Bisou has her number and just as importantly the fact Smith is one of the best at knowing what to do during a race, Elate is unlikely to win in my opinion.

There’s some value in a couple of others under Midnight Bisou for exactas and the trifecta, most notably Coach Rocks, who finished second to Midnight Bisou in the Molly Pitcher at six to one but who opens at 20 to 1 here, and also Golden Award, who has run two big races in a row at this nine furlong trip including the Shuvee last month over the track.

Bets: The most important bet in this race is the pick 3, because it’s the bet to make instead of a win bet on a prohibitive favorite like Midnight Bisou. I like two tickets in this sequence:

Race 9 Midnight Bisou
Race 10 Channel Cat, Ya Primo, Annals of Time, Channel Maker
Race 11 Mucho Gusto, Tax

Race 9 Midnight Bisou
Race 10 Channel Cat, Ya Primo, Annals of Time, Channel Maker
Race 11 Mucho Gusto, Tax, Owendale, Code of Honor, Highest Honors, Tacitus

Exacta: Midnight Bisou over Coach Rocks and Golden Award.
Trifecta: Midnight Bisou over Elate, Coach Rocks and Golden Award over Elate, Coach Rocks and Golden Award.

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

As usual, or as it seems is always the case, Chad Brown has a bunch of horses in this race, three to be exact. Two of them – Proven Reserves and Annals of Time, are both owned by Klaravich Stables and for the life of me I couldn’t figure out why Proven Reserves was entered as he’s still eligible for the first allowance level. Then I realized there’s NO Early Pace in this race so it’s highly likely Proven Reserves is entered as a “Rabbit” to insure a decent pace for his stablemate. However, rabbits often assist other horses, and that’s why I am giving Ya Primo slight preference here because, unlike Annals of Time, Ya Primo has won at this marathon 12 furlong trip. Winner of three straight graded stakes races in his native Chile, Ya Primo took four months to acclimate before making his U.S. debut in the Bowling Green Stakes over the course at 11 furlongs last month. After some early trouble, Ya Primo rallied but could not hold off Channel Cat, who had led from the start. Trying to keep that scenario from occurring again is EXACTLY the reason Brown entered Proven Reserves here, to go with Channel Cat from the start and keep him honest so he isn’t allowed to crawl on the lead as he did in the Bowling Green. Likely to improve nicely second off the layoff and tied for the best last Equibase figure (118) in the field, Ya Primo could earn his first grade 1 win in the Northern Hemisphere to go along with his Group 1 win in Chile last March.

Annals of Time made his second start off a long 21 month layoff a winning one last month, over the course, three days before Ya Primo ran, earning a 108 figure which can be improved upon again. As a three year old in the fall of 2016, Annals of Time won the Grade 1 Hollywood Derby in only the fourth start of his career, then took nine months off and won again before the long layoff he came back from in June. He’s a supremely talented horse and it must be noted BOTH he and Ya Primo put in the same TWO workouts coming into this race, both on the Saratoga turf, on August 9 and 16 so they could come together at the wire here.

Channel Cat and Channel Maker round out a quartet of contenders for bets we make involving this race. Channel Cat may not need the lead to win as he did last time out, because he won the Bald Eagle Derby last September when second for the first six furlongs, four lengths behind the leader. However, since this race looks devoid of early speed on paper, unless Brown tips his hand or Pletcher (who trains Channel Cat) figures it out, they will use the same tactics which worked last month in the Bowling Green. However, if Proven Reserves is sent to the lead, Channel Cat is capable of repeating his Bald Eagle Derby effort and can stalk the pacesetter and perhaps hold off the pair of Brown runners. Channel Maker was beaten less than a length in a blanket finish in the Bowling Green, which he won last year before a runner-up effort in this race. Rosario rides him well and he too can lay close up early so has a shot to make the last run and win.

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

Exactas: Box Ya Primo, Annals of Time, Channel Cat and Channel Maker.

Play the King Stakes – Race 9 at Woodbine - Post Time 5:28 PM Eastern

Admiralty Pier NEVER HAD A CHANCE to run in the stretch in his last race, a $100K classified allowance which two of the other five come out of. Winner Silent Poet was ridden marvelously by Boulanger as he protected the rail the entire lane and El Tormenta closed outside for second while Admiralty Pier was hopelessly trapped. He gets a jockey change to Contreras and although leading rider Da Silva gets off, Contreras knows how to ride the colt as he was aboard for an eighth to first rallying win in the Display Stakes aboard the horse in the fall of 2017. With two nice workouts coming into this race and making his second start after five months off, Admiralty Pier can spring the slight upset and make us money as he opens at 6 to 1.

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

Travers Stakes - Race 10 at Saratoga - Post Time 5:44 PM Eastern

I've been lucky enough to catch a couple of upset winners in the Travers Stakes in two of the past five years in Catholic Boy and V. E. Day and I'm hopeful to have the same success with Tax or Mucho Gusto this year, as the pair look to have the bulk of the probability to succeed even in this deep and talented field. I'll give Tax the slightest preference of the two, given that he won the Jim Dandy Stakes at Saratoga last month. Earning a career-best 106 Equibase Speed Figure in that race, Tax showed excellent tactical speed while stalking the pacesetter in second during the early stages. Taking the lead with about a quarter mile to run, Tax then dug in to hold off Tacitus by three-quarters of a length in very good fashion. Earlier this year, Tax proved himself at the level with a win in the Withers Stakes before finishing second behind Tacitus in the Wood Memorial. After a no-excuse 15th place effort in the Kentucky Derby, Tax stalked the pacesetter in second in the Belmont Stakes from the start before tiring to fourth. Since the Jim Dandy, Tax has shown he is in even better physical condition, with a sensational half-mile workout at Saratoga eight days ago which was the best of 64 that day at the distance. The mile and one-quarter distance is of no concern either as Tax is a son of Arch, whose sons and daughters (according to a STATS Race Lens query) have won or placed in three of six races at the classic distance to date, including 2019 Suburban Stakes winner Preservationist. As such, and with the second leading jockey at the Saratoga meet, Irad Ortiz, Jr. in the saddle, I think we will see Tax running the best race of his career to win the Travers.

Mucho Gusto shipped cross-country from trainer Bob Baffert's base at Del Mar following a strong five furlong workout on August 19 in 59.2 which was the best of 46 on the day and impressed Baffert enough to make the trip. Having won the Travers back-to-back in 2016 with Arrogate and 2017 with West Coast, Baffert certainly knows when a horse in his care is good enough for this race. Mucho Gusto has never finished worse than third in eight races. His most recent effort, when second in the Haskell Invitational on July 20, was his best yet as he earned a 107 figure and was eight lengths clear of the third horse while beaten a length and one-quarter by Maximum Security. That being his fourth straight race in which he improved his figure, Mucho Gusto also appears likely to run even better in the Travers than he did in the Haskell, setting up what could be a memorable battle with Tax in the stretch.

About some of the others:
Tacitus has run very consistently all year, with 105, 106, 107, 103 and 105 figures. In two of those races, the Jim Dandy and the Wood Memorial, Tacitus had significant trouble at the start. He overcame the trouble to win the Wood Memorial but only managed second in the Jim Dandy and some people feel he might have won without stumbling at the start in that race. Blinkers go on for the Travers and although Bill Mott is undoubtedly one of the best trainers around, I have concerns about an equipment change for a big race such as this one, particularly as a STATS Race Lens query tells us Mott's record with adding blinkers for the first time is 4-for-78 in the past two years. As such, I will consider Tacitus a contender to finish second or third but not as a win contender in this race.

Similarly, Code of Honor appears to be a cut below Tax and Mucho Gusto in that he earned a 101 figure winning the Dwyer Stakes in early July. Prior to that, Code of Honor finished third in the Derby then was moved up to second via the disqualification of Maximum Security, earning a 108 figure. He's certainly proven competitive at the top level in the division but even a repeat of his effort in the Dwyer doesn't appear good enough to beat either Tax or Mucho Gusto if they repeat their most recent efforts, and certainly not if they improve upon them.

Owendale earned a 114 figure winning the Ohio Derby in June, which is the best figure earned by any horse in the Travers field. However, the time off between that race and the Travers is a concern in that physical condition is a key to running well at this mile and one-quarter distance. However, with his late running style, Owendale is likely to be last or nearly so in the early stages of the Travers and could pass many tired horses in the last quarter mile to get in the money.

Highest Honors is one more who may have a say in the minor awards. He has finished first or second in all three races including winning the Curlin Stakes at Saratoga last month. The 102, 96 and 101 figures he has earned are decent enough but there's no pattern suggesting improvement and no suggestion he can jump up to the level needed to win the race.

Bets: Mucho Gusto and Tax to win at 2 to 1 or more.

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

Exactas: Mucho Gusto and Tax over Mucho Gusto, Tax, Owendale, Highest Honors, Code of Honor and Tacitus.

Mucho Gusto, Tax, Owendale, Highest Honors, Code of Honor and Tacitus over Mucho Gusto and Tax.

Trifectas: Mucho Gusto and Tax over Mucho Gusto and Tax over ALL.
Mucho Gusto and Tax over ALL over Mucho Gusto and Tax.

Friday, 16 August 2019 14:06

Free, Pay, Play or Go Away

Past the Wire    Tracking Tips Logo


August 16, 2019

Free, Pay, Play or Go Away

By: Jonathan Stettin

There has been a lot of talk recently about the cost of past performances and all the handicapping information available to bettors. Most of the information is based on past performances, which are usually provided by Equibase. Equibase is owned by the Jockey Club. There is a hint of a conflict here, in my opinion. One of the functions of the Jockey Club should be to promote the sport of horse racing. It would be a tough sell to try and say promoting the sport should not include at the least basic past performances being made available to bettors free of charge.
In sports betting basic statistics are readily available and free. In poker, there are all kinds of free information available on any type of hand you may draw. The basic information needed to make a somewhat informed decision differs from more tailored and pinpoint type of information. For example, basic past performances from the Daily Racing Form are one thing. Formulator is something entirely different. Formulator provides a lot of customizable options, and that is something even a bettor can expect to pay for.
The issue goes even deeper. Entries and results being dissimulated have been restricted at times to entities paying for that information which is readily available. I think any reasonable person would want to see any company that serves their industry make a profit, but there comes the point where bettors and the good and growth of the game should come into play. If we continue to alienate and drive both bettor/customers away in addition to entities trying to promote or break into the game, there eventually will be no game. Everybody loses in that scenario. Well almost everybody, maybe not PETA.
At some point racing shot callers are going to have to quit the seminars and round tables and get on the same page. Without a central governing body and a Commissioner that seems next to impossible. Implementing an organization and finding individuals to fill the roles will be harder than staggering post times of stake races. It’s a huge long-shot we could ever get that done.
Racing likes to boost on just about every big day and following every “big” meet that the all sources handle was broken. As far as I know, these figures are thrown out there and not subject to any audit I have ever heard or read about. Assuming they are accurate, it doesn’t paint a true picture. Inflation is growing faster than any handle increase we can boast about, and any article or figures I have ever reviewed on the subject shows our numbers are down considerably when inflation is factored. Who are we misleading and why?
Racing has operated as if they are the only game in town for so long, and have taken not only the bettors their customers, but all participants for granted so long I am not even sure they realize it anymore. Look at the recent case of Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer. He was banned by four racetracks without even being given a hearing or any due process whatsoever. I am not sure a form reason has ever been provided to anyone, Hollendorfer included. We were told he had a number of breakdowns at a specific meet. Nobody mentioned for a few years prior to that he had none. Now I am not saying or opining on his situation beyond stating the obvious. Why he was banned is a mystery to the masses, and there was no due process. The Hall of Famer filed for an injunction in an outside court, and it was granted. That should tell the industry something.
These issues, while all problematic along with inconsistencies, takeout, and drugs both illegal and otherwise, pale in comparison to our slaughter and aftercare issues. We are an industry plagued with problems and operating like a ship in the ocean with no rudder. This falls on all the shot callers who want more than their current paychecks but the guaranteed continuance of the Sport of Kings and maybe even a return to its glorious history. I know, it’s is a bet against.
If in the near future we do not develop a systematic way to identify, and more importantly correct, all the issues the game faces what we see now as a crossroads is going to look like the good old days when we still had racing.

Friday, 16 August 2019 12:49

Key Races & Bets for Saturday, August 17

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Del Mar Handicap - Race 7 at Saratoga- Post Time 8 PM Eastern, 5 PM Pacific

Oscar Dominguez was 5 to 2 at post time in his most recent start, in June in the Grade 2 San Juan Capistrano Stakes at one mile and three-quarters on turf. He ran very well as he was three paths wide at multiple points in the race and he closed creditably from eight back early to be beaten a half-length at the wire when second. Oscar Dominguez won at nine furlongs on grass prior to that, that race his second following nearly three months off and second since Baltas claimed him, with none of the three races since the claim races in which the horse could be claimed. This goes to how this top trainer feels about the gelding, which is important because he has a MUCH bigger chance to win then is suggested by his 12/1 opening odds here. Nearly one year ago to the day, Oscar Dominguez made a big move from seventh to lead in the stretch at this 11 furlong grass trip at Del Mar, run down late by Marckie’s Water but clearly second at 3 to 1 odds. Marckie’s Water went on to win the Grade 2 Charles Whittingham in May for Baltas, who apparently remembered how well Oscar Dominguez ran when deciding to claim in February. Now with two “A” races in a row under his belt, reunited with Talamo, who rode him to a win last October, and with the ground saving rail, Oscar Dominguez is a top contender in this race.

Ritzy A.P. also opens at high 12/1 odds and has something in common with Oscar Dominguez in that he was a head behind Marckie’s Water when third in the Grade 2 Eddie Read Stakes over the course last month. He missed by a half-length off a long nine month layoff before that and his third off the layoff effort could be a big effort.

Marckie’s Water has no knocks as he’s one-for-one at this 11 furlong turf trip and a Grade 2 stakes winner on turf. Pereira has ridden in three straight to two wins and the runner-up effort last month in the Eddie Read and the horse could easily win for the seventh time in his 18th career turf race.

We have value trying multiple exacta combinations because two of the three main contenders open at double digit odds so we will include United, The Great Day and Itsinthepost on some exacta tickets as well as on pick 3 tickets we play.

Bets: Both Oscar Dominguez and Ritzy A.P. to win at odds of 3 to 1 or more. “IF” Marckie’s Water is near 3 to 1 at post time I wouldn’t hesitate making a win bet on him as well.

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

Exacta Boxes:
Oscar Dominguez, Ritzy A.P., Marckie’s Water and The Great Day.
Oscar Dominguez, Ritzy A.P., Marckie’s Water and Itsinthepost.
Oscar Dominguez, Ritzy A.P., Marckie’s Water and United

Doubles: Oscar Dominguez, Ritzy A.P. and Marckie’s Water in Race 7 with Into Chocolate, Classic Fit and Hollywood Hills in Race 8.

Torrey Pines Stakes – Race 8 at Del Mar - Post Time 8:30 PM Eastern, 5:30 Pacific

With a hot early pace expected courtesy of Kim K, Colonel Creed, Sneaking Out and Fighting Mad, all who have only shown a tendency to want to be in front and all who are drawn outside and will have to go fast to clear each other as well as the inside horses, Into Chocolate can get it done even if she is bet down below a ridiculous 12/1 morning line. She has improved in each of her last two starts, both at this mile trip, following her sprint debut, from 77 to 86 to a 99 Equibase figure and even though second last out that figure is second only to Fighting Mad as the best in the field, with that one’s figure earned in a sprint. Smith stays on and blinkers go on because in the stretch last out Into Chocolate didn’t pass after rallying on the turn. Those changes and the rail which allows her to sit tight in fourth early as the speedballs duel should help get her home on top here.

Classic Fit has done little wrong in five races, winning three times in a row before a runner-up effort in the Mother Goose Stakes at Belmont. That was a ONE TURN race but she did win around two turns twice before that. The problem is the Mother Goose was a low rated race which only earned Classic Fit a 79 figure which gets her nothing here if repeated. However she had been off for six months before that so I expect her to improve.

Hollywood Hills won the seven furlong Fleet Treet Stakes for Cal-breds over the track last month, a career-best effort. She can get the extra furlong and loves to win, leading the field with a 6-for-12 career mark. Leparoux is in to ride other stakes and takes the call and the jock fits her closing style so opening at 12/1 we must consider her a contender.

Bets: Into Chocolate to win at odds of 3/1, adding a place bet at 5 to 1 or more.
For a slightly smaller amount, Hollywood Hills to win at 5 to 1, adding a place bet at 7 to 1 or more.

Exactas: Box Into Chocolate, Classic Fit and Hollywood Hills.
Into Chocolate, Classic Fit and Hollywood Hills over ALL (because one of the pacesetters could hold on for second).

Del Mar Oaks - Race 9 at Del Mar - Post Time 9 PM Eastern, 6 Pacific

Hidden Message gets the slightest preference in a race in which nearly every one of the can win. Leading jockey Prat picks this filly making her U.S. debut and for good reason as she may have a class edge on these. She finished fourth, beaten a neck for third in the Group 3 Prix de Sandringham Stakes in June then she won a stakes race last month. She gets Lasix and has a mean kick and appears ready to run as well here as she did in Europe, which means she is likely better than any of these as those European fillies are much further along at this time of year.

Cambier Parc is the best of the rest as she’s one of two shipping in from New York for Brown with the other being Dogtag. Cambier Parc has won ALL three turf races she’s been in when the top three year old turf filly in the country, Concrete Rose, hasn’t been in the race. She got the last eighth of a mile in the Wonder Again Stakes on June 6 in 11 seconds, which is flying, so expect a big finish from this gal.

Both Hard Legacy and Maxim Rate have starting odds completely out of line with their probability to win in my opinion, with Mucho Unusual about the right odds (5/1) for her chances of success. Hard Legacy won a graded stakes at this nine furlong trip, the Regret Stakes, when last seen two months ago and Leparoux comes in to ride, giving up a whole day of mounts in New York. Hard Legacy won the first two starts of her career as well, both turf routes, so getting back into winning form after a couple of defeats following those first wins signals another big race could be forthcoming. Maxim Rate won the Senorita Stakes in May after coming up a nose shy at this nine furlong trip in the Providencia Stakes in April. She didn’t run as well in the Honeymoon (won by Lady Prancealot) but rallied pretty nicely at a mile in the San Clemente Stakes last month and could be putting in a nice late run at double digit odds. Mucho Unusual rallied from last of 10 under Smith to win the San Clemente, her third straight victory, and figures to be a factor once again.

Apache Princess, Dogtag, Lady Prancealot and Out of Balance have a look at the outcome as well in a wide open race.

Bets: This is where paying attention to the odds, and using a dutching tool, can come in especially handy. Hidden Message gets first preference for win bets at 5 to 2 or higher, with Cambier Parc playable to win at the same level but that’s unlikely as she may be bet heavily.

Hard Legacy, Maxim Rate and Mucho Unusual can be played for lesser amounts if 9 to 2 or higher, adding a place bet on any of them at 7 to 1 or more.

Exacta: Probably just for $1, Box Hidden Message, Cambier Parc, Hard Legacy, Maxim Rate and Mucho Unusual.

Doubles: ALL in race 9 with Campaign in race 10.
Hidden Message, Cambier Parc, Hard Legacy, Maxim Rate and Mucho Unusual in race 9 with Quip and Seeking the Soul in race 10.

Pacific Classic - Race 10 at Del Mar - Post Time 9:30 PM Eastern, 6:30 Pacific

Campaign is a lightly raced four year old who knows how to win, with five victories in 10 starts. Having shifted to the barn of top trainer John Sadler prior to his first start of 2019 in February, Campaign won that race with a stirring rally from ninth. He then stepped up in class to compete in the Santa Anita Handicap where he was not disgraced checking in fourth. Just eight days later on April 14, Campaign won the Tokyo City Stakes before shipping to New York to miss by a total of three-quarters of a length in a four horse blanket finish in the Brooklyn Handicap. Returning to his home base in southern California, Campaign won the Cougar II Handicap over the track last month in his most recent race. Those last four efforts earned strong Equibase figures of 110, 112, 109 and 111 which are as good as the 109 figure Seeking the Soul earned winning the Stephen Foster Stakes in June which will likely be one of the reasons Seeking the Soul is favored by the public to win this race. Cutting back from 12 furlongs to 10 furlongs is one factor in Campaign running as well or better in the Pacific Classic as he did in the Cougar. Another is the fact that John Sadler is one of the best trainers on the circuit, if not in North America, in graded stakes dirt routes. A STATS Race Lens query yields over the last five years Sadler has won 28 of 117 starts in these types of races, with 49% of those runners finishing in the money as well. As such, Campaign gets top billing to win this year's Classic.

Quip is another lightly raced horse with tremendous upside potential as we move towards the Breeders' Cup Classic in November. Not only has he won four of nine career starts, we can make cases two of the five he did not win are irrelevant as one was his only try on a sloppy track he did not care for and the other came in a race where he had significant traffic issues. Consistently improving this year from a 100 figure when third in the Hal's Hope Stakes in February, to a 105 figure in the Oaklawn Handicap in April, Quip took another big step forward in the Stephen Foster. Facing the much more accomplished Seeking the Soul, Quip battled head and head for the lead with Tom's d'Etat for most of the early portions of the race then with Seeking the Soul for the length of the stretch before yielding by a neck on the wire. That effort earned a 108 figure and with another logical step forward Quip could turn the tables on Seeking the Soul at the least and very possibly run well enough to win.

Seeking the Soul makes his third start since traveling half way across the world to compete in the Dubai World Cup in March so he could run even better than when winning the Foster in June with a 109 figure. He earned the same figure in January when well beaten but clearly second in the Pegasus World Cup and his best effort came in the fall of 2017 when winning the Clark Handicap with a 117 figure. The one question regarding Seeking the Soul winning the Classic¸ however, is the same one facing nine of the 10 entrants in the race, as only Tenfold has won at the distance.

Honorable mention and consideration for use on exacta tickets must go to Tenfold, Mongolian Groom and Draft Pick. Tenfold won the 2018 Jim Dandy Stakes at nine furlongs with a 108 figure. What followed was a three race losing streak before he won the Pimlico Special at the distance of the Classic in May with a 102 figure. He was ninth in the Foster while never showing a bit of interest but if he rebounds to his Pimlico Special form he can run well. Mongolian Groom and Draft Pick ran well over the track last month in the San Diego Stakes, with winner Catalina Cruiser passing the Classic. Earning 114 and 112 figures, respectively, I can see either or both of these two horses being in the money in the Classic to complete the exacta or trifecta.

Bets: Campaign to win at 2 to 1 or more.
For a slightly smaller amount, Quip to win at 5 to 2 or more.

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

Exacta: Campaign, Quip and Seeking the Soul over Campaign, Quip, Seeking the Soul, Tenfold, Mongolian Groom and Draft Pick.

For half to two-thirds the amount of the exacta above (for example $1 if you play $2 on the combinations above):
Campaign, Quip, Seeking the Soul, Tenfold, Mongolian Groom and Draft Pick over Campaign, Quip and Seeking the Soul.

Friday, 09 August 2019 17:39

Sucker or Skill Game

Past the Wire    Tracking Tips Logo


August 9, 2019

Sucker or Skill Game

By: Jonathan Stettin

When it comes to horse racing I have known for quite sometime, the answer is a skill game. I was surprised to learn through a recent conversation on social media that many play the races who do not really feel as I do. More bettors then I'd imagine actually expect to lose annually and continue to play. I really can't get my arms around that. Even if you are playing for fun per se, is the fun not the expectation of winning or at least the possibility of your study and handicapping turning you a profit?
There are two groups in my educated opinion who beat the races. The first would be the player who grinds out a small profit from meet to meet or annually. The second would be the player who actually makes a living playing the races. The latter means their sole or primary income is derived from playing the races, and if they don't win or have a large bankroll to fall back on they are in trouble. Two groups, each a little different but both beating the game in their own respective way.
A point of contention in the aforementioned conversation was what percentage of active bettors actually beat the game by falling into one of the two categories I explained. My best estimation is somewhere between 5 and 10% collectively. To my surprise, there were quite a few people who thought I was outright nuts, which I very well may be but not because of this opinion. These people felt the percentage was 1 or even less than 1 percent. On one hand that's discouraging on many levels; on the other, a personal one, I'm fine with the majority of people playing believing that and I welcome them all into the pools.
What is discouraging about that opinion, and mind you these are opinions as nobody truly knows the percentage of winning players, is that so many people play thinking they will likely not win. I usually feel I have a pretty good chance of winning every bet I make or frankly I won't make it. Do I win them all, of course not, but if I thought I had a 1 percent chance or less I'd stay home.
For many years I played the races for a living. The game was different then but not really a whole lot easier. During that time, I was going to the track daily. I knew the few other players there who also beat the game and played for a living. I do not know all the grinders as they were a bit more under the radar. There were maybe three or four making a living at my home track back then. Maybe one or two, I did not know. Today I still know three or four people making a living betting the races. This makes me comfortable with my 5-10% estimate.
What a lot of people do not realize about playing professionally, and I think you truly must grasp this before opining on any percentage is that it is a full-time job. It takes as many hours per week as owning a business and more than a 9-5. Most don't have that discipline or dedication. It is an unconventional lifestyle — no car loans. Cash only. Try putting down professional gambler on an auto loan application and see how that goes. Mortgage, not a conventional one anyway. Relationships, good luck when Friday night is your study night and Saturday you are exhausted after the California races end. Oh yeah, Sunday is a race day.
These types of sacrifices are necessary to have a shot at playing for a living — every week. A day away is a possible missed opportunity you can't afford. Bad runs will leave you stressed about the life you have chosen and how you are going to cover this month's expenses. It is not for the faint of heart. It is however, doable if you have the talent to go with the discipline and dedication. Will everyone who tries, make it? No. But 5-10% just might.
I think we can all agree there are times when the results of a race convince you that it is possible to use those past performances to your benefit. There are probably at least a few races a day on your card of choice that fall into that category. Sure there are always head-scratchers, but on at least some of them, if you dig in enough afterwards, you can at least make sense of them. This equals a skill game to me.
Takeout is a problem. We have to deal with it, and it certainly makes our task tougher. This is where the other talent to go along with your handicapping comes in. You have to find value and structure your wagers properly. These are not the elements of a sucker's game, and if less than 1% are winning, that is exactly what it would be. Glad I don't have to hang up my tack just yet. 

Friday, 09 August 2019 11:15

Key Races & Bets for Saturday, August 10

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Saratoga Special Stakes - Race 8 at Saratoga- Post Time 5:11 PM Eastern

This is a salty group of two year olds with seven of eight having won their most recent start. However, the horse that didn’t win, King Snake, is the most interesting. He was beaten a nose on the wire by Peruvian Boy after opening up by two and one-half lengths in the stretch. That was after he made the lead in a 12 horse field, got headed then drew off. That was also on the polytrack at Arlington Park so that 22.2 first quarter fraction projects as tops in this field. He’s come back to put in a pair of sensational half-mile workouts and he gets leading rider Jose Ortiz. Another reason he may have been beaten last out was he was making his career debut while the winner had a race under his belt to this time around with improvement off the experience, King Snake can win.

Zyramid showed good maturity, also improving off his debut, coming from just off the pace in second early to win last month at Saratoga. Santana rides for Asmussen and this well bred colt has every right to improve and win again. Green Light Go opens as the favorite off a three length win in his debut at Belmont last month. He was flattered when the runner-up came back to win and he put in a sizzling half-mile workout at Saratoga four days ago. He did earn his win leading from start to finish and it appears he won’t be able to get the lead over King Snake here but if he can rate this talented colt will be there at the wire.

Bets: King Snake and Zyramid to win at odds of 3 to 1 or more.

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

Exacta Box: King Snake, Zyramid and Green Light Go

Doubles: King Snake, Zyramid and Green Light Go in race 8 with Got Stormy and Uni in race 9.

Fourstardave Handicap – Race 9 at Saratoga - Post Time 5:46 PM Eastern

The two females in this group of 10 appear to have a slight edge, not because they get a little break in the weight versus the males, but because they are the best closers in the field and they are the best MILERS in the group. Uni is a perfect 5 for 5 at the trip and Got Stormy is 6 for 10. Got Stormy comes back on six days rest after winning a restricted stakes race at this trip last Saturday. She had been off three months so I’m not concerned about the short turnaround and she won three mile turf stakes in a row last spring and summer, one on three weeks rest and the other on four weeks rest. Casse knows his fillies as trained the phenomenal Tepin so I have little concerns about this gal putting in anything other than an “A” race again and getting the last quarter mile in 22 and change like she did one week ago. She opens at 6 to 1 compared to 5 to 2 for Uni so gets slight preference from a betting perspective.

That being said, Uni ran a sub-22 last quarter in the Perfect Sting Stakes at Belmont last time out at the end of June. That was her fifth straight win, including last year’s De La Rose, the same race Got Stormy won last week. Rosario has been aboard just three times, accounting for her last three starts. One of three from the Brown barn, this mare has done little except win and may do so again in this situation.

March to the Arch proved to some extent his upset win in the Wise Dan Stakes in June was no fluke when rallying fast in the last eighth of a mile in the Forbidden Apple Stakes last month, missing by just over a length with traffic trouble to boot. Opening at 10/1 he makes a nice companion horse to use on exacta and trifecta tickets. Raging Bull does as well but opens at 3 to 1. He added blinkers for the first time when last seen in the Manhattan Stakes on Belmont day but those didn’t help much as he ran evenly in the stretch to end up third. Perhaps the mile and one-quarter was too far and he has won two of four at this mile trip so he deserves some respect. I’ll toss in Hembree and Made You Look for exotics as well, as they finished second and fourth in the Forbidden Apple Stakes last month.

Bets: Got Stormy to win at odds of 2 to 1 or more. “IF” Uni is 2 to 1 or higher near post time she can be bet as well.
I wouldn’t rule out a small win bet on March to the Arch at 5 to 1 or higher.

Exactas: Uni and Got Stormy over Uni, Got Stormy, Raging Bull and March to the Arch
Uni and Got Stormy over Uni, Got Stormy, Hembree, Made You Look, Raging Bull and March to the Arch

Best Pal Stakes - Race 8 at Del Mar - Post Time 8:30 PM Eastern

Similar to the Saratoga Special, this is a very strong group of maturing two year olds but I think one of the favorites is vulnerable if not false and that opens the race up for making profit. The vulnerable favorite is Fore Left, who opens at 5 to 2. He won the Tremont at Belmont two months ago, in wire to wire fashion, and from an outside post it’s not impossible he can do the same thing. Still, I think a few others will leap frog over him in terms of form and certainly if another horse like Thanks Mr. Eidson or We’re Still Here, both wearing blinkers, show early speed, Fore Left may be in a situation he’s not used to.

That’s why I’ll start with Collusion Illusion, who opens at 8 to 1. He showed a ton of maturity in his debut three weeks ago at Del Mar, rallying from fourth in the last eighth of a mile to win by a half-length. The 91 Equibase figure is as good as Fore Left and tied for the best in the field, and as he’s only raced once there’s a lot of room for improvement. Prat gets off him, as well as Wrecking Crew, to stay with Schrodinger, who is a win contender as well, but because of that, even though Talamo is winning at a strong 20% clip at the meeting, this colt could be ignored in the wagering for our benefit.

Wrecking Crew loses Prat but gets Smith and that’s more than fine with me. This horse also showed the maturity of a horse who had raced even though it was his debut as he won his only start, two weeks ago, rallying from third in the early stages. His 82 figure needs improvement but with red hot Miller in his corner and logical second start improvement, particularly opening at 4 to 1, Wrecking Crew must be strongly considered as a win contender.

Schrodinger opens as the 2 to 1 favorite and is fairly legitimate as he too didn’t win leading from start to finish in his maiden breaker at the end of June, his only start. Prat rode him then as now and the 87 figure was solid so he will round out a trio that can win.

Bets: Collusion Illusion and Wrecking Crew to win at odds of 3 to 1 or more.

Exacta: Box Collusion Illusion, Wrecking Crew and Schrodinger.

Doubles: Collusion Illusion, Wrecking Crew and Schrodinger in race 8 with Rockin Ready, Miss Hot Legs, Hello Bubbles and Flower Point in race 9.

Race 9 at Del Mar - Post Time 9 PM Eastern

We will wrap up this week’s blog with the second half of what could be a profitable double, but the race is playable in and of itself too as it’s a turf sprint with a fairly full field. Flower Point did what is pretty difficult to do and that is win at first asking in a turf sprint, particularly at 5 furlongs. In that debut in April at Santa Anita, she rallied from ninth of 10, still fifth at the top of the stretch, and won by a half-length. She was no secret that day as she went to post as the favorite. Stretching out to a mile, Flower Point bombed badly next time out as she finished a poor seventh, beaten nearly twenty lengths. Then, returning to this sprint trip, she rallied from 11th to miss third by a neck and the win by another length. Now, Smith gets on for the first time and this field is so heavily laden with “early” pace types she should be able to repeat her debut win.

Also likely to benefit from a speed duel between as many as five of the others, Miss Hot Legs rallied for second in her debut in a turf sprint at this distance then won at the trip one month later. At this allowance level last month off the win, she made a middle move from fifth to second then ran evenly and ended up third. With the pace hotter than in her last start, Miss Hot Legs will find herself farther back than in any of her three races to date, but that may be to her benefit as she can begin picking tiring horse off one-by-one to get into the thick of the action late.

Rockin Ready, or her connections, don’t know whether she likes two turns or one turn, as she’s raced in four routes and four sprints to date. Her sprints have been excellent although she’s winless, but she did miss by a nose in two of them and with Prat getting on for the first time she could be there at the wire with the other contenders. Hello Bubbles also has eight career starts, her best effort coming in a downhill sprint on the turf at Santa Anita in March in which she made up three lengths in the last three-sixteenths of a mile. Van Dyke gets on for the first time and the jockey is holding a sizzling hand at the meet, particularly on turf. Coming into the week Van Dyke was tied with Prat for leading jockey so this gal will round out a quartet which can win or complete the exacta.

Bets: In a race with three of four legitimate win contenders, we can let the odds decide our wagers, betting to win on two of the group which go to post at the highest odds among the four, as follows:
Flower Point and/or Miss Hot Legs at 3 to 1 or more.
Rockin Ready and/or Hello Bubbles at 7 to 2 or more.

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

Exacta Box, Optional Trifecta Box: Flower Point, Miss Hot Legs, Rockin Ready, Hello Bubbles

Friday, 02 August 2019 12:33

Key Races & Bets for Saturday, August 3

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Fasig -Tipton Lure Stakes - Race 7 at Saratoga- Post Time 4:31 PM Eastern

Lukewarm morning line favorite Lucullan (3/1) could be very tough here as he returned from a 14 month layoff last month to win a turf route as if he’d never been away, beating graded stakes winner Noble Indy pretty easily. Saez was up for the first time for the win and we can expect even better second off the layoff for this lightly raced five year old who is four for eight on grass and who missed by a neck to Yoshida (seen later today in the Whitney Stakes) in the fall of 2017 in a stakes on turf at Belmont. The 113 Equibase figure is the best ANY horse in the field has earned, ever, so repeating or improving upon the effort, particularly if no other horse improves markedly, means Lucullan is going to be tough to beat.

That doesn’t make the race unplayable, because for exactas, as well as for a small win bet at decent odds, we have Say the Word, who is an improving four year old dropping out of the Grade 2 King Edward Stakes at the end of June where he ran a respectable third behind Synchrony. Prior to that, Say the Word took blinkers off for the first time and that resulted in a very nice seventh to first rallying win on the Belmont turf. Alvarado was up for both races and rides back. The 106 figure Say the Word earned last out was a career-best and although short of the 113 effort Lucullan put forth there’s potential for it to be improved upon as the horse is in the best form of his life. Considering he opens at 12/1 he has potential to help make a profit.

Projected and Ticonderoga are horses to use on a “b” pick 3 ticket we can start here, as well as in exactas as they do have some chance to run well. Projected finished second in this race last year as the 2 to 1 favorite and drops from Grade 2 stakes. Before that he missed by a head in a stakes similar to this one. Ticonderoga won in March following seven months off then was overmatched in the Grade 1 Turf Classic. Last time out in the Poker Stakes at Belmont he lost nearly all chance at the start when he stumbled but was closing fast late and was beaten under two lengths by the winner.

Bets: Lucullan to win at odds of 2 to 1 or more.
For a smaller amount, Say the Word to win at odds of 7 to 2 or more, adding a place bet at 5 to 1 or more.

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

Lucullan over Say the Word, Projected and Ticonderoga.
For $1 box Say the Word, Projected and Ticonderoga.
For $1 also play Say the Word, Projected and Ticonderoga over Lucullan.

Pick 3: (two tickets)
Race 7 Lucullan
Race 8 ALL seven horses
Race 9 Vino Rosso, McKinzie, Yoshida

Race 7 Lucullan, Say the Word, Projected and Ticonderoga.
Race 8 Covfefe
Race 9 Vino Rosso, McKinzie, Yoshida

West Virginia Governor’s Stakes – Race 7 at Mountaineer - Post Time 4:55 PM Eastern

Although drawing 12 horses, this race quickly boils down to two win contenders in my opinion – Sir Anthony and Silver Dust. Sir Anthony opens at higher odds (5/1) so I’ll start with this tough knocking colt who won four of nine last year including the Harlan’s Holiday Stakes at this distance last December. He was zero for three this year before taking the Grade 3 Cornhusker Stakes last month in a career- best tying effort with a 107 Equibase Figure. Cotto was the key as he got back on after four races with other jockeys and had ridden Sir Anthony to a win last November, the only other time he was in the saddle. Sir Anthony does come from far back so will need to avoid trouble but Cotto took him four wide last out and in spite of that the horse did his thing, as he can again today to earn his sixth career win on conventional dirt in his 11th start on the surface.

Silver Dust battled head-and-head the entire length of the stretch last month, coming up a head short of the very tough Pioneer Spirit in a non-graded stakes at Indiana Grand. Earlier this year the gelding proved he belonged in graded stakes by winning the Grade 3 Mineshaft Handicap and coming up three-quarters of a length short when second in the Grade 2 New Orleans Handicap. He went off form for one race but the rebound last out shows he will be as tough as nails here and as he’s been first or second in 10 of 21 career races he’s almost a shoe-in for the exacta if he doesn’t win. Note also he worked four furlongs at Churchill Downs on July 26 in preparation for the race, the same date and distance West Virginia Derby favorite Mr. Money worked, who is also trained by Bret Calhoun. It’s pretty likely they worked in company and so Calhoun has potential to get a stakes double on the card.

Bets: Sir Anthony to win at odds of 2 to 1 or more. “IF” Silver Dust is 2 to 1 or higher near post time he can be bet as well.

Since Mr. Money in the West Virginia Derby (Race 8) is a free square in my opinion, we can play a very inexpensive double to make some money.

Double: Sir Anthony and Silver Dust in race 7 with Mr. Money in race 8.

Longines Test Stakes - Race 8 at Saratoga - Post Time 5:06 PM Eastern

Covfefe is the fastest horse in the field on many levels, having zipped 107.6 for six furlongs at Pimlico on Preakness weekend while destroying a good field by eight lengths with gas left in the tank. She faced OLDER fillies last time out and was beaten three-quarters of a length and now returns to her own age group ready to rumble with a scintillating 1:11 six furlong workout on 7/19 followed by a half-mile in 47.8. She has earned all three wins leading from start to finish, the same as the last four wins for Serengeti Empress, who is drawn inside, and the same for Please Flatter Me, but Please Flatter Me was the one eight lengths behind Covfefe in the Miss Preakness Stakes in May and with Serengeti Empress coming out of longer races, even with fast workouts, I think it’s pretty probable Covfefe runs the rest off their feet early and duplicates her big win.

With that in mind and with Covfefe opening at 5 to 2 the question is how to make money in the race. The morning line favorite is Bellafina, not seen since finishing fifth in the Kentucky Oaks. She has won at seven furlongs, that win coming in January with a 102 figure which wouldn’t hold a candle to Covfefe if both repeated their best efforts to date, and she may be prepping for two turns where she won the Santa Anita Oaks in April so may not be asked 100% if push comes to shove. If Bellafina ends up as the favorite, then a win bet on Covfefe at her 5 to 2 morning line odds is an overlay win bet in my opinion. Otherwise, we have the pick 3’s we started in the last race and the pick 3 we can start here to make some profit with her winning, and in case she doesn’t win, if Lucullan won the last race we can sit back and root for the longest shot on the board to win since we played “ALL” on one ticket in this leg of the pick 3.

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

Pick 3:
Race 8 Covfefe
Race 9 Vino Rosso, McKinzie, Yoshida
Race 10 Desert Isle, Got Stormy, Capla Temptress
(Optionally, use “ALL” in the 10th race)

Whitney Stakes - Race 9 at Saratoga - Post Time 5:46 PM Eastern

I think Yoshida (JPN) can post the upset win just as he did last year when victorious in the Woodward Stakes over the track. That was his first start on dirt in his 11th career start and it was a thing of beauty as he rallied from 10th of 15 to earn a career-best 116 Equibase figure. Two months later in the Breeders' Cup Classic, Yoshida put in another big rally as he was 13th of 14 with a quarter mile to go, but the rally fell just a bit short as he finished fourth, a neck from Thunder Snow and two lengths from the winner. The key here is the jockey change to Joel Rosario, who had never ridden the horse prior to the Woodward last year and who has not ridden the horse in four races since then. Mott has the horse ready to run big in my opinion and in his second start off the return from Dubai I feel Yoshida can repeat his effort at Saratoga last year and earn a trip to the Classic for the second year in a row.

McKinzie is a tough competitor who has only finished worse than second one time in 11 races, that poor effort coming in last year's Breeders' Cup Classic. Since then, McKinzie has won the Malibu Stakes and the Alysheba Stakes while placing in three other graded stakes, most recently in the Metropolitan Mile with a 117 figure. That effort in the Met Mile came in spite of traffic trouble and I believe he might have won without the issues he encountered. Smith usually doesn’t make the same mistake twice so McKinzie should be considered a very strong contender to win the Whitney, albeit at short odds.

Vino Rosso is an improving four year old who tied his career-best 114 figure winning the Gold Cup at Santa Anita at the end of May. Not seen since then, Vino Rosso has been in steady training for this race at Saratoga. Winner of the 2018 Wood Memorial Stakes at the distance of the Whitney, Vino Rosso may only need to step up his game the slightest bit to be very competitive in this race, which is certainly possible as he's a four year old and still not fully mature.

Thunder Snow does not have the probability to win, in my opinion, of the three previously mentioned horses, but he could easily run well enough to be part of the exacta or trifecta as he's been in his last five races. Thunder Snow missed by a head last fall in the Jockey Club Gold Cup and in his most recent race, following this year's World Cup win, he finished third in the Met Mile, beaten a neck by McKinzie with the same 117 figure.

For the exacta I’ll throw in Monongahela for second as an improving type coming off one of the best efforts of his career when winning the Iselin Stakes at Monmouth in June. I’ll take a stand against Preservationist, who I adored last time out, because this is a much tougher group and his career best 110 figure doesn’t figure to be improved upon and isn’t good enough to beat either of the three win contenders.

Bets: Yoshida to win at odds of 2 to 1 or more, adding a place bet at 5 to 1 or more.
A smaller win bet on Vino Rosso is warranted at 7 to 2 or more.

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

Exacta: Yoshida, McKinzie and Vino Rosso over Yoshida, McKinzie, Vino Rosso, Thunder Snow and Monongahela.