June 13th, 2018
It Wasn't Only the Belmont
By: Jonathan Stettin
Most of the Thoroughbred community is talking about last Saturday’s Belmont Stakes. Not me, I see little point in looking in the rear view and prefer to ponder what’s ahead.
Lost in the wake of Justify’s Belmont and Triple Crown, were four other equine performances that were quite noteworthy. We also saw a nice human performance as well. Edgar Prado showed he can still get it done, even from the 13 post, on the grass when he has the horse under him. Spring Quality has been steadily improving for a while now and seems to have finally found himself on the grass for Graham Motion. If he stays healthy he could have a say in the Saratoga grass stakes, which means we will likely see Edgar make some road trips to the Spa. Edgar first transitioned to New York when brought to the Spa by John Kimmel to ride first call for him. Richard Migliore was riding first call for Kimmel at the time, but got injured and that opened the door for Prado in New York. As they say, the rest is history.
Abel Tasman showed she’s a serious player in the filly and mare division, by bouncing back from a dull return effort at Churchill Downs, where she never looked comfortable or on her game. She took the Ogden Phipps on the Belmont undercard with a strong early move, that at this point I think we can call patented, and made mincemeat out of the rest of the field. Regardless of where she runs next, and she has plenty of options…she’s a player.
Monomoy Girl cut back from the mile and an eighth of the Kentucky Oaks to the one turn mile of the Acorn with no trouble at all. She is clearly the top of the three-year-old class for fillies. Her biggest asset seems to be her versatility. She can go on the lead, she can stalk and she can come from off the pace. Don’t forget she can also run on the grass, so she has plenty of options going forward. I am not sure how much further than a mile and an eighth she wants to go. So, the Coaching Club and more so the Alabama ,if she winds up there, may provide some interesting betting opportunities.
Bee Jersey was huge in the Metropolitan Mile. He ran fast all the way. He took heat and pressure. He shook it off. He opened up after going fast. He dug in when Mind Your Biscuits, who is no slouch, and also ran big cams to him. He’s fast and a fighter and nobody should be surprised. He ran in Graded Stakes as a maiden in Dubai without Lasix before coming to the states with Steve Asmussen. I still don’t know how we got 3 or 4-1 on him when he broke his maiden at Churchill Downs. I forget, was that Christmas Eve? This is a racehorse and if you leave him alone, he just may go a little further than expected.
Gronkowski ran a big race in the Belmont for Chad Brown who ran him for the first time. It was also his first start on dirt, and first with Lasix. He has many options going forward and also looks like he has upside in store for us. He can continue on dirt, which is obviously no issue, and he can also go on turf. Lohnro is a sire who I don’t think gets the respect or recognition he deserves, so probably doesn’t get the best of the mares either. I also don’t think his offspring are as distance limited as the experts do.
There is a lot of racing to look forward to this summer and beyond. Saratoga and Del Mar are always great meets for both racing and wagering and this year both can be really stacked. The best part is this is without even factoring in our Triple Crown winner, who will spice things up wherever he lands, if he does indeed race again. Despite all that’s been said I have my reservations about that.
The cards may suffer some leading up to the big summer meets as a result of the Triple Crown race cards, which is a problem the industry as a whole will have to address at some point unless we just evolve into a part time sport. The good news is those meets will be here soon enough and there is always a card or opportunity you can sniff out along the way.
Acorn Stakes – Race 4 at Belmont Park - Post Time 1:24 PM Eastern
Talk Veuve to Me doesn't have Mia Mischief to hold her off in the stretch this time as happened last month in the Eight Belles Stakes, but this filly who is making ONLY the 4th start of her career and 2nd of the year following 7 months off has a lot of upside out of that race. She earned a 103 figure in her 3 year old debut then 107 in the Eight Belles and those numbers match up with the figures Monomoy Girl earned in the Rachel Alexandra and Ashland Stakes before a freakishly good 114 figure in the Kentucky Oaks. With Talk Veuve to Me likely to run even better in her 3rd start off the rest I think she can put in an effort good enough to beat Monomoy Girl, who I have a lot of respect for but don't want to bet her to win as the odds on favorite instead of getting 9/2 which is the morning line on Talk Veuve to Me.
Monomoy Girl needs no talking up, because if not for the neck defeat in the Golden Rod Stakes last fall she'd be undefeated in seven starts. She MUST be considered a win contender for exactas and multi-race wagers at the least.
Spectator won the first two starts of her career last summer like a good thing in California including the G2 Sorrento Stakes then finished 3rd in the Del Mar Debutante. Given time off to mature and grow up she returned in March and won a sprint prep then stretched out to a mile and one-sixteenth around two turns and although no match for Midnight Bisou in the Santa Anita Oaks she was clearly second. She's been working regularly and her comeback win earned her a 108 figure on part with the other two so opening at 8/1 I have no issue betting her to win in addition to Talk Veuve to Me.
Win Bets: Talk Veuve to Me to win at odds of 2 to 1 or more.
Make a second win bet, on Spectator, at odds of 4 to 1 or more.
Exacta Bets: Box Talk Veuve to Me, Monomoy Girl and Spectator
Manhattan Stakes – Race 10 at Belmont - Post Time 5:40 PM Eastern
After a few minutes of looking at the entrants in this race, I quickly came to the conclusion that with a few exceptions nearly every horse in the field can win. Even those that have a small probability to win can finish second. Because this is a "Chaos" race where nearly anything can happen, I starting to ask "Why Not?" regarding the contenders, starting with those at the highest odds, rather than "Why?" The result was finding two horses at high odds I could not make a strong case against.
Those two are Manitoulin and Fashion Business.
Manitoulin has won 5 of 15 turf races and nearly $400K. He won the Grade 2 Hollywood Turf Cup in his last start as a four year old this past November, with Mike Smith in the saddle for the very first time. He was 1 for 11 before being gelded and 3 for 5 after being gelded last year. He returned to the races in May off a five and one-half month layoff, beaten three lengths while 6th of 9 in the Fort Marcy, won by Robert Bruce, with Spring Quality second. Smith did not ride in the comeback but gets back on and that is the key, as the comeback was just that, a comeback. Today is the big shot and trainer Toner wants the jockey that got the horse to run his absolute best, which he did because in the Turf Cup Manitoulin earned a 116 Equibase figures which is about as good as any horse in the field, most who open at much lower odds than 20/1 as he does.
Fashion Business opens at even higher odds, 30/1, and that makes a bit more sense as the gelding has never won a stakes. He did miss by a head last summer in the G3 La Jolla Stakes before a 5th place finish in the Del Mar Derby and 8 months off. Coming back last month at a mile, Fashion Business rallied fast from 8th to draw off with a career best 111 figure effort. Likely to improve a ton 2nd off the layoff, the gelding is a 4 year old son of world class sire Frankel and he does have a win at 10 furlongs, the 2nd start of his career, back in January 2017, so I think he is going to surprise a LOT of people with how well he runs.
Robert Bruce, One Go All Go, Hi Happy, #8 Sadler's Joy, Channel Maker, Beach Patrol, #12 Multiplier & Spring Quality all have a shot to succeed and should be used on multiple race bets like the double, pick 3 and pick 4.
Win Bets: Win & Place bets on Manitoulin at 4 to 1 or more and on Fashion Business at 5 to 1 or more.
Exacta Bets: Manitoulin and Fashion Business over ALL
Then the opposite exacta as well, which is ALL over Manitoulin and Fashion Business.
Doubles: Manitoulin and Fashion Business in Race 10 with ALL in Race 11
Then also ALL in race 10 with Hofburg in Race 11
For a smaller amount, also play ALL in race 10 with Blended Citizen and Vino Rosso in Race 11.
Honeymoon Stakes – Race 8 at Santa Anita - Post Time 6:30 PM Eastern/ 3:30 Pacific
Animosity was entered in this race as well as the Grade 3 Wonder Again Stakes on Friday at Belmont, which ended up being won by an up and coming star in La Signare, whose name we should remember. It was a good decision on the part of owners Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and trainer Gallagher, as this field isn't nearly as strong as the Wonder Again. A perfect 2-for-2 in her career, this daughter of Animal Kingdom won her debut sprinting on turf in March then stretched out to two turns on all-weather at Golden Gate to romp easily. She won the debut off the pace and led from finish on slow fractions in her 2nd start. She's improving fast, is very talented, and can post the slight upset here opening at 6/1.
Animosity's main competition will come in the form of Fatale Bere, winner of the Grade 3 Providencia Stakes when last seen two months ago. She had won the Surfer Girl Stakes in her U.S. debut last October then finished a creditable 5th of 14 in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf. After a really poor effort in the Jimmy Durante Stakes she took four and one-half months off and won the Providencia, no easy task. She put in a pair of strong half-mile workouts since the race so appears to be holding top form.
Ms Peintour, like Animosity, was a strong winner at the first allowance condition in her most recent race, earning a 95 Equibase figure on par with the 97 Animosity earned in her last win. Flattered when the runner-up improved to win her next start, Ms Peintour is the other horse in the field with a reasonable chance to win.
For second on some exacta tickets we should also use Miss Sienna, who makes her U.S. debut and may be on the lead early or just off the pace as that is how she ran her last two races, and Paved, a bit vulnerable as one of the morning line favorites off a non-threatening third place finish in the Providencia behind Fatale Bere with no excuse as the 7 to 5 favorite.
Win Bets: Animosity to win at odds of 5 to 2 or higher.
Exacta Bets: Animosity, Ms Peintour and Fatale Bere over Animosity, Ms Peintour, Fatale Bere, Miss Sienna and Paved
Belmont Stakes – Race 11 at Belmont Park - Post Time 6:46 PM Eastern
In the Kentucky Derby and when confronted by traffic and trouble he had never encountered previously, Hofburg ran creditably, rallying from 16th to seventh in spite of being bumped at the start, steadied in traffic off another horse's heels, steadied again and forced to alter his path. Since then Hofburg has been training in the quiet surroundings at Saratoga and should improve off his Florida Derby effort and 107 figure, which compares to the 108 to 110 figures Justify has earned 108 to 110 figures in his last three races. Considering how many fewer horses Hofburg will have to deal with and considering as it will not take much improvement on the part of Hofburg to run well enough to win the Belmont, he's my top choice. Additionally, any concerns about being able to successfully run the mile and one-half distance of the Belmont can quickly be put to rest looking at Hofburg's pedigree and connections. Trainer Mott won the 2010 Belmont with Drosselmeyer while sons of his sire, Tapit - Tonalist (2014), Creator (2016) and Tapwrit (2017), won three of the last four editions of the race. Belmont Stakes winners in his pedigree do not stop there, as the sire of Hofburg's dam Soothing Touch is Touch Gold, who won the race in 1997. With 10 fewer horses to deal with in the Belmont compared to the Derby and with likely improvement off his Florida Derby effort, Hofburg is my pick to win this year's Belmont Stakes.
Vino Rosso finished ninth in the Derby, skipped the Preakness, and is another poised to improve on his effort prior to the Derby, in this case when winning the Wood Memorial with a career-best 106 figure. In the Derby, Vino Rosso broke last in the field of 20 at the start but ended up ninth, so with 10 fewer horses to pass in the Belmont he should run much better. Taking a few weeks off after the Derby, Vino Rosso returned to trainer Todd Pletcher's home base in New York and put in a sparkling half-mile workout that was the best of 36 on the day to show he is in top form. In terms of pedigree, there is little doubt Vino Rosso can successfully run a mile and one-half. As a son of Curlin, whose son Palace Malice won the Belmont in 2013 (for Pletcher), and out of a mare whose sire is Tapit, Vino Rosso should have the stamina to contest the marathon distance without issue and therefore he is a strong candidate to run well enough to win.
Blended Citizen may not have the breeding for the 12 furlong Belmont trip others have but has a good number of factors in favor of running well. Since adding blinkers prior to the Jeff Ruby Steaks in March, Blended Citizen has won two of three races, including the Peter Pan Stakes four weeks ago with a career-best 110 figure that is as good as the best figure Justify has earned to date. Since shipping to Belmont Park a few weeks ago, Blended Citizen showed a strong liking for the surface with a half-mile workout that was the best of 35 on the day. Furthermore, in recent history horses coming back from running in the stakes race for three-year-olds at Belmont in the first 10 days of May have done well one month later. In 2010, that race was the Dwyer Stakes which was won by eventual Belmont winner Drosselmeyer (trained by Hofburg's trainer Bill Mott). In 2014 that race was the Peter Pan Stakes, won by eventual Belmont winner Tonalist. In the Peter Pan, Blended Citizen showed he could race much closer to the early pace than previously thought as he was under two lengths from the leader from just after the start until a quarter mile to run. Although three lengths back with an eighth of a mile to go, Blended Citizen put in a strong late run to draw off late and that running style could serve him very well in the Belmont Stakes if he races in third or fourth in the early stages.
Anytime a horse is undefeated that is a reason to respect them as it shows not only physical talent but mental toughness and an alpha quality as well. Justify has demonstrated all that and then some in winning all five of his races to date and within a span of 13 weeks. After earning a career-best 110 figure in the Derby, Justify only slightly regressed with a 109 figure effort in the Preakness on a rain-soaked track but in that race he did show evidence of racing a lot in a short period of time as Bravazo was gaining with every stride in the final yards, the word "lasted" in the chart callers comment very apropos to the end of the race. Since the Preakness, Justify put in a very fast half-mile workout that was the best of 43 on the day so evidently he is still in top shape, but running the mile and one-half of the Belmont is a whole different matter compared to the Derby and to the Preakness. The good news for Justify's chances of winning the Belmont and the Triple Crown is he may be able to dictate the tempo in the race as it is likely jockey Mike Smith will use the colt's early speed to be in front at the start or at the least, in second shortly after the gate opens. Additionally, trainer Bob Baffert is a master at getting a horse to hold his form as a query from Stats Race Lens yields a remarkable record of 43 for 93 for Baffert in dirt route races over the last few years when his horse won its previous start. On the other hand, I can find little in Justify's pedigree similar to the pedigree of either Hofburg or Vino Rosso in terms of siblings, sires or other relatives who have run well at the distance of the Belmont. Horses have won the Belmont in the past on raw talent alone and that may be the case with Justify, who I will be rooting for in my heart but betting against with my money.
Bravazo raced fairly close up when third in the early stages of the Preakness then dropped back to fifth on the turn, giving every indication he had nothing left to offer. Maybe it was the mud in his face or some other factor that caused him to lose interest or momentum, but with a sixteenth of a mile to go, Bravazo found new life and energy, surging in the final yards to miss by a half-length. As I had explained in my Preakness analysis, with 12 fewer horses in the Preakness compared to the Derby, I felt Bravazo would rebound to the form shown when winning the Risen Star Stakes in February with a career-best 110 figure and he nearly did, earning a 108 figure. Since the Preakness, four-time Belmont winning trainer D. Wayne Lukas put Bravazo through a mile workout in preparation for the race, knowing if nothing else he wanted the colt to have the stamina to contest the mile and one-half. Likely to be fairly close up to the early pacesetters in the Belmont, Bravazo should be putting in a strong late run just as others are feeling the effects of running a distance they have never run previously and that gives the colt a square shot at posting the upset win.
Tenfold, like Hofburg, has only run four times. His best effort came three weeks ago when rallying for third in the Preakness to earn a career-best 108 figure. As a son of Curlin, who not only sired 2013 Belmont winner Palace Malice but also 2017 Belmont runner-up Irish War Cry and 2016 Rags to Riches Invitational Stakes winner Theogony, and as a grandson of Tapit, there is little doubt Tenfold has the breeding to run well at the distance. There certainly is room to improve off his Preakness effort so on that count Tenfold must be considered a contender. On the other hand, with the exception of American Pharoah, recent Preakness runners who have run in the Belmont haven't fared that well, most notably 2014 Preakness winner California Chrome (fourth) and 2013 winner Oxbow (second). It just could be coming back on three weeks rest is too much to ask a young horse, but then again Tenfold could have gas left in the tank as he only ran three times prior to the Preakness and if that is the case he could certainly be in the hunt in the final stages of the Belmont.
Win Bets: Hofburg to win at 3 to 1 or more.
For a smaller amount, Blended Citizen and Vino Rosso at 5 to 1 or more.
Just to complete the contenders and the minimum odds I would consider a win bet – Bravazo 7 to 1, Tenfold 9/1.
Justify is a win contender but his likely prohibitive odds make him a poor win bet.
The strategy for exactas is mostly "go big or go home" so the tickets will be constructed to exclude Justify in the win position. However, for ANY multi-race bets started in earlier races he must be used because pick 3, 4 and similar tickets demand a different strategy.
Exacta Bets: Box Hofburg, Vino Rosso, Blended Citizen, Bravazo and Tenfold.
Also play Hofburg, Vino Rosso and Blended Citizen over Justify, Hofburg, Vino Rosso, Blended Citizen, Bravazo and Tenfold.
June 7th, 2018
By: Jonathan Stettin
I always find it curious when so called expert handicappers proclaim to know the winner of a race before it is even drawn. The Kentucky Derby is perhaps the biggest example of this, with people, including those who hold themselves out as experts with well informed and calculated opinions, lock in on a horse and proclaim them the winner. Frankly, even when they turn out to be right, is it handicapping or crystal ball magic, hence luck? I say it falls under the broken clock theory. We all know they are right twice a day.
I am not talking about people having fun, rooting for a horse, or even advance wagering. I am talking about those who hold themselves out as knowledgeable, or experts, and then make bold premature predictions prior to certain relevant things being revealed. There are some things one must simply know, and factor in, for an opinion to be well informed. It borders on gibberish or irresponsibility to publish an opinion on the outcome of a horse race before certain key points are known. If deadlines or some other pressure force you to make early public and promoted opinions, so be it. However, I would preface any such opinion with subject to change based on factors not yet known, as opposed to so and so will win or can’t lose. I know of no monetary incentive to picking the winner three days in advance.
A few years ago, I wrote a column called “Warning Shot Fired” where after watching Tonalist train in Florida and then win the Peter Pan I said I thought he was a serious threat to California Chrome in the upcoming Belmont Stakes. I did wind up betting him and he did win. I did not handicap the Belmont until the day before. You can read the article here….
Once read you will see the difference. You can spot a good one early, and you can think they fit in a race perfectly, but all this winner picking prematurely is comical. After the Florida Derby I immediately said Hofburg was the best horse in it and that everyone else would know that too by mid-year or late in the year barring injury. That’s different than picking him to win a race before you truly handicap it.
The Belmont Stakes this year is a great example. The racing community waited anxiously for the past performances to come out. Some did not even wait for that before declaring their picks and even all the so called true contenders. Once the past performances came out, expert analysis and the expert selections began to appear. I’d read a horoscope as soon as I would read any of that. Be careful what you put in your computer of a brain, you never know when it will come out or how.
We have Justify, the obvious bullseye in the race, drawing the rail. We have a fluctuating weather forecast that has taken a late turn for the worse. Even with the past performances, these factors should be cause for pause for anyone approaching this seriously and putting their money up.
The rail can play fast and good hence the golden rail, or it can be deep and heavy and be a hindrance. This is true even on a dry track let alone a wet one. Muddy, sloppy, wet fast, sealed, and fast or even good are all different and can have different effects. We see somewhat less of the super speed highways on the big days lately as well. Wouldn’t a responsible well-informed opinion want to at least observe some of these things, at least through the Friday card or even through some of the Saturday earlier races, before proclaiming the Belmont winner?
I have long known this to be a skill game and I think it should be approached, treated and tackled as such, if you have any hope of truly beating it. Yes, that can be done but not by crystal ball handicapping, even if it happens you are a broken clock and turn out right twice a day. There are no shortcuts and in the long run, and this is a marathon like the Belmont not a sprint. You get out what you put in, and that includes what you put in your head.
Enjoy the weekend everyone and the run at history. If you want to know who I like in the Belmont……..just ask me……Friday evening at the earliest.
Pennine Ridge Stakes – Race 9 at Belmont Park - Post Time 5:50 PM Eastern
Analyze It may be unbeaten but he opens at 4/5 odds. It's not that he can't win as he certainly fits all the criteria as he's a dual grade 3 stakes winner on grass and his average margin of victory in three races is five lengths. Just the same, he's only run three times and there's another horse in the race as good as he is AND more important as probable to win as he is and that horse is Untamed Domain, who opens at 5/1. Untamed Domain won the G2 Summer Stakes last September before a bang-up 2nd behind Mendelssohn in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf. Given three months off he disappointed when third in the Dania Beach and then when he otherwise would absolutely would have improved if kept on turf, the connections thought to put him on the Derby trail and try dirt for the first time in the Tampa Bay Derby, where he finished 6th. Blinkers came off for the American Turf Stakes last month and he ran HUGE, rallying from 8th at the top of the stretch to get 2nd (in a dead heat) while winner Maraud (who runs today in the Penn Mile) was already in high gear. The 110 Equibase figure Untamed Domain earned in the American Turf is likely to be improved upon today in his 2nd start without blinkers and he has every right to win and post the mild upset because of that.
Analyze It ran off a four and one-half month layoff in April as if he had never been away, capturing the G3 Transylvania Stakes the same way he took the Cecil B. DeMille Stakes in November. With 108, 109 and 111 figure in his three starts to date and never giving any horse a shot to catch him in the last 8th of a mile in any of those 3 races, Analyze It must be considered a win contender, but not a GOOD win bet as the odds-on favorite.
Hawkish is also entered in the Penn Mile and I hope he goes there because that is an easier spot. He's improved in every start and his allowance win when last seen on 4/15 earned a 105 figure good enough to be competitive if improved upon as it likely will be. The horse we MUST use for profit in exotics at the least, and for a small win bet so we don't end up kicking ourselves later is Channel Cat. Opening at a healthy 20/1, the colt ran BETTER THAN IT APPEARS when 6th in the American Turf (won by Maraud with Untamed Domain in a dead head for 2rd). In the race, Channel Cat got pinched at the start and began 12th of 13 and was still 10th at the top of the stretch but made up good ground very late to end up 6th. With ONLY seven other horses in this field, Channel Cat is likely to be closer up early, more like he was right before that when putting in a nice win on the turf with a 98 figure and the figure he earned in the American Turf, 105, was the same figure Hawkish earned so at the least Channel Cat has about the same probability to win as that one.
We will include Catholic Boy in the 2nd position on exact tickets as he moves back to turf, where he won the With Anticipation Stakes last summer at Saratoga in only the 2nd start of his career. He was flat when last seen in the Florida Derby and may need one race to get back to form good enough to win but he could hit the board.
Untamed Domain to win at 2 to 1 or more as a true KEY BET on the day.
Channel Cat to win and place at 5 to 1 or more. (For a much smaller amount than on Untamed Domain).
IF Hawkish should run here rather than the Penn Mile, he is worth considering for a win bet at odds of 3 to 1 or more.
Untamed Domain over Hawkish. Catholic Boy, Analyze It and Channel Cat
Hawkish, Catholic Boy, Analyze It and Channel Cat over Untamed Domain
Untamed Domain over ALL then also (the opposite) ALL over Untamed Domain
Hawkish, Analyze It and Untamed Domain over Hawkish, Analyze It, Untamed Domain, Catholic Boy and Channel Cat
Snow Chief Stakes – Race 7 at Santa Anita - Post Time 6:30 PM Eastern/3:30 PM Pacific
Huddle added blinkers for his last start, the 3rd of his career and 2nd turf route, and he blazed along on the lead through fractions of 22.6 and 46.2 on the way to a wire-to-wire win. Not only will the competition be tougher in this stakes race, there are two, possibly three, other horses that may want the lead early, and even if left alone on the front end, a 46.2 half-mile split is really going to set up the late kick of a couple of runners here, most notably Hardboot, who just WON a very similar stakes race for California bred horses. In that race, the Silky Sullivan Stakes at Golden Gate, Hardboot rallied from last of 10 and was still seventh with a quarter mile to go before circling the field to win going away. He had run similarly well last November at Del Mar in the 2nd start of his career and first turf route when breaking his maiden. With a career best 103 Equibase figure (that's the 2nd best last race figure in the field) to improve upon, Hardboot is going to be very tough to keep from passing them all once more.
Waya Ed tried turf for the first time when last seen on 4/15 over the track and ended up 3rd after leading from the start. He led on slow fractions and does not wear blinkers and so it may have been the case of no other horse wanting the lead. He had been off for 3 months prior and in his last start since, his 2nd career start and first route, on the all-weather at Golden Gate, Waya Ed rallied from just off the pace so as he's NOT a need-the-lead type as it appears others in here are he could get a ground saving trip and run very well at odds too high to ignore.
Take the One O One is the stablemate of Waya Ed, owned by Jay Em Ess Stable and trained by Brian Koriner. He led from the start in his most recent race, on the main track, before settling for 3rd, and it doesn't appear he has the ability to relax in the early stages so he could be tired late BUT two of his last 3 efforts resulted in 104 and 106 figures that are the best in the field and so I will use him on exotic tickets played but will prefer either or both of the other two contenders for win bets.
Hardboot to win at 2 to 1 or more
Waya Ed to win at 3 to 1 or more.
The best way to insure a profit betting two horses to win is to use a "Dutching" tool like the one at Amwager which helps allocate your total bankroll for optimal profit.
Box Hardboot, Waya Ed and Take the One O One
Box Hardboot and Waya Ed again
Pick 3: (two tickets)
Race 7 - Hardboot, Waya Ed and Take the One O One
Race 8 - Lemon Crush, Z Z Tiger, Paprika and Rocketann
Race 9 – Mopotism, La Force, Vale Dori and Unique Bella
Race 7 – Hardboot and Waya Ed
Race 8 – Lemon Crush, Z Z Tiger, Paprika and Rocketann
Race 9 – Mopotism, La Force and Unique Bella
Beholder Mile – Race 9 at Santa Anita - Post Time 7:30 PM Eastern/ 4:30 Pacific
Mopotism wheels back on six days rest off a last of 7 finish in the Gamely Stakes last weekend when trying turf for the first time. Trainer O'Neill is tossing the effort and so can we. O'Neill knows his horses and has a pretty strong record of 9 for 45 bringing horse back on a 5-10 day rest over the last few years, with a 31% flat bet profit and with 50% of the 45 horses hitting the board. Considering Mopotism opens at 20/1 in spite of having won the Grade 2 La Canada Stakes over the course in January with a 114 Equibase figure that stacks up EXCEEDINGLY well with heavy favorite Unique Bella's best efforts (with one exception), Mopotism could be a KEY longshot bet on the day.
We must also note that Vale Dori, who opens at 2/1, finished 2nd in this race last year off a win in the Adoration, the Santa Margarita, the Santa Maria and the La Canada. Mopotism won the La Canada, finished 2nd (to Unique Bella) in the Santa Maria and finished third in the Santa Margarita before the irrelevant try in the Gamely. That's pretty much the same pattern and similar form which gives us more reasons to believe Mopotism has a big shot.
Unique Bella has no knocks except for being the odds-on favorite. She was beaten when 2nd at 1 to 5 in the Apple Blossom when last seen but other than that, and her inexplicably bad effort in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint last fall, she's tough as nails and could take some beating. Just the same, her two-turn wins, except in the Santa Maria in February (128 figure) have been good but not exceptional, with 112, 112 and 100 figures, so she's not unbeatable.
La Force is the horse to use on any and all exotic and multi-race tickets played, and to make a small win/place bet on so we're not kicking ourselves later. Beaten inches by Mopotism when third in the La Canada, the filly should improve off a 4th place finish last month in the Adoration Stakes after two months off and if she can run back to her La Canada effort with a 113 figure, she could be in the picture at the end.
Except for one pick 3 ticket, I'm taking a stand against Vale Dori, who ran poorly with no excuse at 8/5 in the Adoration Stakes last month, her first start following 9 months off. I just can't imagine her improving enough to beat either Mopotism or Unique Bella. As for Paradise Woods, she's highly suspect as the 2/1 second favorite on the morning line as she didn't show a thing when fourth in the Santa Monica Stakes in March, her first start off three months off. She's going to be fresh and have the lead early but not to herself as Vale Dori and Unique Bella will be right there from the start. We don't make money in the long term using two favorites in the exotics so I'm leaving Paradise Woods off my exacta tickets, except one with La Force because that one opens at 20/1.
Mopotism to win and to place at 3 to 1 or more
Consider a small win and place bet on La Force at 6 to 1 or more
Exactas: Mopotism over ALL and (the opposite) ALL over Mopotism
Box Mopotism and Unique Bella
Penn Mile Stakes – Race 9 at Penn National - Post Time 7:45 PM Eastern
Encumbered makes his first start since finishing 13th of 14 in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf last fall and although it may be tough to return off a seven month layoff and run well enough to win a graded stakes race like the Penn Mile, I believe this colt can do just that. In the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf, Encumbered broke well to secure a good spot in third shortly after the start and held that position just outside eventual winner Mendelssohn before tiring with less than a quarter mile to go. Ignoring his poor try on dirt prior to that against Bolt d'Oro in the Frontrunner Stakes, Encumbered proved himself at the level, winning the Del Mar Juvenile Turf Stakes in September after breaking his maiden in his first turf route. Those two efforts earned 98 and 97 Equibase Figures, respectively, which are better than any of the figures likely favorite Maraud earned during his two year old campaign. Working like clockwork since his return to the track in April, Encumbered also may have the benefit of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf being a "KEY RACE" as six of the other 12 horses won their next starts, four of those in either March or April and off long layoffs like the one Encumbered is returning from. Trainer Callaghan has also shown the ability to get horses to win running turf routes off long layoffs, having done so a couple of times in the past two years, with one of those having come off a layoff to win a stakes race. Much more physically mature than when last seen in the fall, Encumbered may be tough to beat in this year's Penn Mile Stakes.
It must be noted Hawkish is also entered to run in the Pennine Ridge Stakes at Belmont the same day as the Penn Mile but if trainer Toner chooses this race, the horse must be taken very seriously. Sent to post at 3 to 1 odds in the Palm Beach Stakes in March, only the second start of his career, Hawkish finished fourth of seven and three lengths behind Maraud, who was sent to post at just slightly lower odds of 5 to 2. Given six weeks off, Hawkish returned on April 15 to dominate a field of seven at this mile trip on turf, winning in a hand ride by nearly five lengths to earn a career-best 105 figure, as good as Maraud earned winning the Palm Beach. The race Hawkish won in April turned out to be a "KEY RACE" as well, with both the runner-up and fourth finishers flattering the horse by winning their next starts. With perhaps the best closing kick in the field (22.4 for the last quarter mile in his most recent race), Hawkish is definitely a contender in this race.
Maraud has won three of four races this year including two stakes races. He won the Palm Beach in March with a 105 figure before a poor fifth place effort in the Transylvania Stakes in April. Maraud redeemed himself last month with a strong win in the American Turf Stakes with a career-best, and field high, 113 figure. That type of effort can win the Penn Mile if repeated and if none of the others improve but he is likely to the prohibitive favorite and as such may not offer good return potential for win bets.
Encumbered to win at 2 to 1 or more.
A second win bet, this one on Hawkish, appears warranted at 5 to 2 or higher.
Box Encumbered, Hawkish and Maraud
May 30, 2018
Let's Go Back
By: Jonathan Stettin
What we are going to do here is go back. Back to a time when racing was much more mainstream. Racetracks were crowded during the week and every Saturday was like a holiday. The atmosphere was almost always electric, especially on the weekends.
Why stop there? We are all thinking about the upcoming Belmont Stakes and the chance to see Justify possibly become the next Triple Crown winner. The undercard stakes are also exciting, and they include the Metropolitan Mile, long the staple of Memorial Day in the Sport of Kings, but now run on the Belmont undercard. This at first seemed foreign to me, but with the trend towards the “super cards” we might as well embrace the now. It won’t change anytime soon, and it is still The Met Mile.
I’ve seen many things in the Sport of Kings. Four Triple Crown winners, countless champions, training feats that will never be repeated, ever. I’ve seen the ones who made it and the ones who could have but didn’t. I’ve seen and experienced the highest highs, and the lowest lows. One thing I will never ever forget is a 5-day span back in 1982. Racing was in full swing. Belmont was a crowded place. History was being made and a feat for the ages was about to take place.
I was at Belmont Park that Memorial Day, like I had been many before that and after as well. I knew I was going to see a fast, and what I thought special horse, run in the Met Mile. I had been high on him since I watched him break his maiden under an old friend, jockey, Larry Saumell.
He was a 150K yearling in the barn of Woody Stephens, one of the best ever, and particularly sharp with two-year old’s. There was no Lasix permitted in New York back then, but had there been there is a good chance Woody would not have used it. He was as hay, oats, and water as it got. On this day the horse would be ridden by his trainer’s go to rider Eddie Maple. What I did not know, and maybe nobody but Woody Stephens did, was that the racing world was about to see one of the greatest Metropolitan Miles and subsequently Belmont Stakes in the history of our great game.
Both races have had their share of great and memorable editions. 1982 was special. Conquistador Cielo was a three-year old facing a full field of accomplished older horses in the Metropolitan Mile. The field lined up against him included fast older sprinters like Pass the Tab, Star Gallant, Always Run Lucky, and Maudlin. There were also accomplished older routers like Silver Buck, Thirty-Eight Paces, Globe, and Princelet. This would be no easy task on paper, but despite that, Conquistador Cielo was sent to post a 2-1 favorite.
It was a gray day that Monday, but the looming rain held off. I bet everything I had to my name on Conquistador Cielo that Memorial Day. It wasn’t that much, but being everything I was worth, it felt like a lot. It was one of those races where you just did not feel like you could lose. You know the type.
The track was not particularly fast that Monday. It did not matter to Conquistador Cielo. He broke well under Eddie Maple and after stalking the pace for a bit he simply annihilated the quality field of older horses, running the mile in 22.4, 45, 1.09, and finishing in 1.33. As we know, that is racehorse time on any track and he left the older horses far behind.
Following the race, the talk was of what a great performance everyone saw, and of course the midsummer Derby as it was called, The Travers. Woody initially said the Belmont was not under consideration. That was no surprise as coming back in just 5 days off the fastest mile ever run at Belmont at the time seemed almost unheard of. Yes, Cielo ran the fastest mile ever at Belmont to date when he ran away with the Met.
By Wednesday, just two days following the Metropolitan, something changed. Woody announced the colt had come out of his last race so good, he was going to go in the Belmont. Almost everyone was surprised.
Again, this would be no walk in the park on paper. The Belmont field included that year’s Kentucky Derby winner, Gate Del Sol, and the Preakness winner Aloma’s Ruler. The always highly regarded Linkage was also in there. You had the Derby, Preakness and Met Mile winners in the Belmont.
Conquistador Cielo was the morning line favorite off the record breaking Met at 3-1. I thought that was generous. My opinion was he was just too fast for these horses and the only question was the mile and a half. He was by Mr. Prospector, I wasn’t worried despite the distance.
“They won’t beat what they can’t catch” I thought.
The Friday before the race I was at Belmont. Eddie Maple went down on an Elliott Burch horse, maybe Snow Girl or something like that, I can’t recall. It was a nasty spill that landed Eddie in the hospital and prompted Woody to switch to Laffit Pincay for the Belmont. Laffit was one of my favorite riders to bet on.
It was the day before the race and “no shot he loses” I thought to myself.
It poured Friday night and Saturday. The track was sloppy. I still had the large part of my winnings from the Met. It wasn’t enough. I went to the second floor Clubhouse bar and found Frankie the shy. He was always there. I borrowed 5K. There was no pick 3’s or 4’s or pick 6’s back then. That resulted in a lot of money in the win pool, along with the exactas, and also made it hard to move the pool, especially on a big day like this. It still wasn’t enough.
Prior to the race the odds surprised me. Conquistador Cielo was not getting the respect I thought he deserved. Linkage was a 2-1 favorite off mostly hype in my opinion and I thought he had no chance to beat Cielo. Conquistador Cielo was what looked like a cold 4-1 second choice, but I saw it as Christmas in June. The board exhilarated me, and he was only 4-1.
My Dad was behind the mutual windows on the third floor in the Clubhouse working. He knew how I felt about the race. I went to his window and asked, “How much can we bet?”
He bet $500 and said, “We’re partners.”
I must have looked disappointed. He bet another $500 and said, “Is that better?”
I replied, “A little,” and then bet all the Frankie shy money, along with my winnings from Monday. Everything.
I let my Dad hold the tickets and said, “Now we’re partners.”
That’s how we did it right until the end. I had no money for Sunday’s Daily Racing Form if I was wrong. Why would I need it anyway?
My Dad was a Father, so he said, “Is that necessary? Hold your money, I bet for us.”
“Don’t worry about it,” I said.
He replied, “I hope we don’t need a graveyard, because if you’re wrong we’re buried.”
Same four words, “Don’t worry about it.”
I made my way down to the rail to try and watch. There was maybe 5 minutes to post. Despite the rain, I couldn’t find a good spot. I went back to the TV’s in the grandstand. I wasn’t feeling it. I walked briskly outside to the back park and the paddock mutual windows in the rain. Perfect, my own TV. Wet, but a good view. A close friend of mine, Anthony, was standing against the wall trying to keep dry until the race went off.
“Who do you like?” he asked?
“Cielo can’t lose,” I replied.
He had a $50-win ticket on Aloma’s Ruler because our mutual friend, Vinnie Cotronio, had Cowboy Jack Kaenel’s book for a while and told him he would win.
“Cancel that ticket unless you want to tear it up,” I said. He listened and put an extra $50 on Conquistador Cielo. Now he had $100 to win. The odds held at 4-1.
What a difference a turn can make. Drawn wide, as he was in the Met, Cielo had to hustle heading for the clubhouse turn and Pincay kept him wide, similar to how Angel Cordero Jr. kept Bold Forbes out in the middle of the track. Going into that Clubhouse turn I thought he would be clear and he wasn’t. The thought of what if I was wrong set in as I heard track announcer, Marshall Cassidy, say something about a pace battle. Midway on the turn I remained concerned, but hope was not yet abandoned. By the time they came out of the turn and hit the backstretch I told Anthony who had grabbed me around the shoulder and was holding me tight, “We’re home!” He pulled tighter.
Conquistador Cielo romped and splashed home in the slop running the 6th fastest Belmont, at the time, and the fastest ever over a sloppy track. He literally won off the screen. He carried 15 more pounds than he did when he won the Met Mile against older horses just 5 days earlier. He beat these horses as easily as he beat the others. He became only the 4th horse that century to win the Belmont Stakes by more than 10 lengths joining Man O War, Count Fleet, and Secretariat.
It was an incredible performance by any standard, only amplified by the record breaking performance just 5 days prior. It is arguably the best 5 days run by any horse in our great game. Woody Stephens would go on to win the next 4 Belmont Stakes, setting an unprecedented and practically unbreakable record of 5 Belmonts in a row. Even in today’s age of the super trainer, and large majorities of high priced horses going to a handful of trainers, nobody can even approach this feat.
The two races took a toll on Conquistador Cielo. They almost always do, no matter how easy they may look. He was able to win the Jim Dandy, while pointing for the Travers, but didn’t quite hold up. He was beaten in the Travers by Runaway Groom, which is another great story for another day. For now, let’s just look back on something we will likely never see repeated by another racehorse.
Ah, what a great game when you’re right.
Gold Cup at Santa Anita – Race 5 at Santa Anita - Post Time 5:30 PM Eastern/ 2:30 Pacific
Pavel can post the mild upset opening at 5/1.Rested a couple of months and back on Lasix off a 4th of 10 finish in the Dubai World Cup, the newly turned four year old may appear to be no match for either Accelerate or for City of Light, the former having beaten him (when he finished 4th) in the San Pasqual Stakes over the track in February and the latter having beaten him (when fourth as well) in the Malibu Stakes in December. HOWEVER, in the first he was prepping for longer as he isn't really a sprinter and in the latter he had HORRIBLE traffic trouble that cost him dearly as he as stopped not once, but twice. When finally clear, much too late, he finished up nicely. Last summer after a strong win in the Smarty Jones Stakes, Pavel faced older for the first time and gave multi-millionaire Keen Ice all he could handle fighting for 2nd in the Jockey Club Gold Cup as the winner easily controlled things on the front end from start to finish. That effort earned him a 117 figure and his troubled San Pasqual effort a 113 figure but Accelerate earned a 120 figure which is what Pavel is capable of with his best effort here.
Prince of Arabia finished 2nd to runaway seven length winner Dr. Dorr last month in the Californian and with Dr. Dorr opening at 5 to 2 compared to 12 to 1for Prince of Arabia, the latter is very playable. Not only that but before that race, Prince of Arabia won a highly rated dirt route, beating Soi Phet in the process, that one winning the Crystal Water Stakes on Sunday and paying $96 to win. Now having shown he can run just fine on dirt, and with the ability to rally from far back or lay close to the pace, Prince of Arabia must be given consideration as a contender here anywhere near his double digit starting odds.
Accelerate has no real knocks as he's as tough as they come, having finished first or second in 11 of 18 races. On the other hand he has nearly as many second place finishes (5) as wins (6) in his career, including a loss last month by a nose at low odds in the Oaklawn Handicap. City of Light won the Oaklawn Handicap but tries 10 furlongs for the first time. He has never finished worse than 2nd in seven races but his 9/5 odds are too low for a win bet and also appear out of line with his true probability to win given the fact he lacks experience at the trip and others don't. Dr. Dorr sports the same comment at Accelerate as he's never run 10 furlongs. His last two efforts were the best of his career but again the low morning line odds of 5/2 make him tough to consider for a win bet.
Pavel to win at 2 to 1 or more.
Prince of Arabia to win at 7 to 2 or more, adding a place bet at 5 to 1 or higher, and for a smaller amount than the win bet on Pavel.
Pavel over Accelerate, Prince of Arabia, City of Light and Dr. Dorr.
Prince of Arabia over Pavel, Accelerate, City of Light and Dr. Dorr for a smaller amount than the exactas with Pavel on top.
Pavel, Accelerate, City of Light and Dr. Dorr over Prince of Arabia for a smaller amount than the exactas with Pavel on top.
Doubles: Pavel and Prince of Arabia in race 5 with Flaboyant, Itsinthepost, Ritzy A.P. and Syntax in race 6.
Pavel, Accelerate, City of Light, Dr. Dorr and Prince of Arabia in race 5 with Syntax in race 6.
Pavel in race 5 with Flaboyant, Itsinthepost, Ritzy A.P. and Syntax in race 6.
Salvatore Mile Stakes – Race 11 at Monmouth - Post Time 5:58 PM Eastern
Sunny Ridge should really love the sizzling hot pace set by very likely early leader Shaft of Light, who is stretching out off a pair of wire-to-wire sprint wins. The last time he ran two-turns, Shaft of Light opened up fast while running the opening quarter of 22.8 and the opening half in 46.4, fractions way to fast to have any energy in the late stages. With Chip Leader also a horse that likes to have the lead from the start, although not as fast, the early pace should be hot and allow Sunny Ridge to repeat his closing wins last January (2017) and March in the Jazil Stakes and in the Stymie Stakes, particularly as this is his 2nd start back off a 10 month layoff and off a fine 2nd place finish last month.
Great Stuff stretches out as well but is NOT a need-the-lead type, having rallied for his last two wins. Bravo gets on for Jacobson and as the horse is a graded stakes winner, having won the Toboggan Stakes in January, he fits on all counts at this grade 3 stakes level.
I won't play exactas here but we should play doubles with race 12, the Monmouth Stakes. On some of those double tickets we can also use Shaft of Light in this race because we have horses in race 12 that may offer value as we are taking a stand against the likely favorite.
Bets: Sunny Ridge to win at 9 to 5 of higher.
Great Stuff to win at 3 to 1 or more.
Doubles: Sunny Ridge, Great Stuff and Shaft of Light in race 11 with Projected, Force the Pass and Doctor Mounty in race 12.
Monmouth Stakes – Race 12 at Monmouth - Post Time 6:29 PM Eastern
Doctor Mounty was scratched out of the off-turf Dixie Stakes (as was Divisidero) last weekend at Pimlico and he's a lightly raced horse who has run very well in his few turf races, winning two of his last four excluding the Tampa Bay Stakes in February when he fell. Returning two months later in the Clark Stakes o 4/21, Doctor Mounty rallied fast from 8th to 2nd and appears all set to run back to his win on 1/14 on the grass, the only time Gallardo rode him previously. Hall-of-Fame trainer McGaughey uses Gallardo occasionally but when they team up they are 5 for 10 in the past year which says a lot about the chances for Doctor Mounty to post the upset here, opening at 8/1.
Force the Pass had been away from the races for a hefty 20 months when returning on May 5 in the Cliff Hanger Stakes on this turf course. Running as if he had never been away, Force the Pass won by a nose with a huge effort. Before the layoff he earned over $1 million on the turf including a win in the 2015 Grade 1 Belmont Derby and as he's likely to run even better 2nd off the layoff than earlier this month he must be considered strongly as a contender.
Projected missed by a neck around this time last year in the Grade 3 Poker Stakes, following a runner-up finish to World Approval in the 2017 Dixie, with World Approval having won the Breeders' Cup Mile last fall. Rested after winning the Grade 2 Baltimore-Washington Turf Cup in September, Projected returned in April and ran very well when finishing fast from 9th to 2ndbehind Fire Away in the Danger's Hour Stakes, that one winning the off-turf Dixie last weekend. As such, Projected is another likely to improve 2nd off the layoff and rounds out a strong trio of contenders in this race.
Since all three contenders - Doctor Mounty, Force the Pass and Projected, have a strong probability to win, the best way to bet for profit is to bet the TWO of the THREE at the highest odds, perhaps all three, at odds of 5 to 2 or more. When betting more than one horse to win in a race it is best to use a "Dutching" tool like the one at Amwager, which helps allocate your bankroll for the best return.
Gamely Stakes – Race 8 at Santa Anita - Post Time 7 PM Eastern/ 4PM Pacific
Although having never run on the grass, Mopotism is my top choice to win this year's Gamely Stakes. Second in the field in career earnings with $649,200, Mopotism has proven very capable in being competitive with some of the best fillies and mares in training over the past two years. Starting last summer with a head defeat in the Summertime Oaks, Mopotism ran in four straight grade one stakes races facing the likes of Elate, Forever Unbridled and Unique Bella. When none of those were among the entrants, she won the La Canada Stakes in January before a second when facing Unique Bella again, this time in the Santa Maria Stakes in February. Coming into the Gamely off a third place finish behind Fault (who won again) in the Santa Margarita, the main question is whether Mopotism can transition that top form to the grass. Considering sons and daughters of her sire Uncle Mo win graded stakes races on turf as they do on dirt that is easily answered with "Yes." For example, Uncle Mo's son Motown won the Hollywood Derby last fall and his daughter Ultra Brat won the Gallorette Stakes on the grass last weekend. As such, Mopotism appears well suited to earn her first graded stakes win on the turf in this race.
Madam Dancealot won the similar Santa Ana Stakes at this distance over the Santa Anita turf in March, rallying from 14 lengths back early to win by a half-length. Two races prior to that, Madam Dancealot ran big again when finishing second in the American Oaks. If she can improve upon her 11th to seventh place effort last month at a shorter distance in the Distaff Turf Mile she could easily be in the thick of the action at the finish.
Uni ships cross country for the strong Chad Brown barn, bringing along regular rider Irad Ortiz, Jr., giving up an entire day of mounts at Belmont for this race (and three others on the day). Last month, Uni returned from six months off and won as if she had never been away from the races when victorious in the Plenty of Grace Stakes with a career-best 105 figure. Last summer, Uni ran very well in the Lake Placid Stakes when second, following that up with a win in the Sands Point Stakes. As she makes her second start as a four year old, Uni can improve off her Plenty of Grace effort and that makes her a fairly strong contender in the Gamely.
Beau Recall won the Royal Heroine Stakes over the course last month with a very strong rally from last of nine early and passing six horses in the stretch to win. Beau Recall also is a four year old with room to improve and as she proved herself at the distance of the Gamely last summer when coming up a nose shy of victory in the Del Mar Oaks she must has a good chance to succeed in this event.
Midnight Crossing has early speed and can be around for a share, as can Hawksmoor, but it is just as likely they tire each other out on the front end as one of them gets loose, in either case likely getting run down late but still capable of finishing second.
Bets: Mopotism to win at 2 to 1 or more, adding a place bet at 5 to 1 or more.
A second win bet, this one on Madam Dancealot, appears warranted at 2 to 1 or higher.
Exactas: Mopotism, Madam Dancealot, Uni and Beau Recall over Mopotism, Madam Dancealot, Uni, Beau Recall, Midnight Crossing and Hawksmoor.
May 23, 2018
The Triple Crown, The True Benchmark of Champions
By: Jonathan Stettin
The Triple Crown is truly a benchmark in all of sports. The status an equine athlete achieves by accomplishing this feat is rivaled by none in the sporting world. In every sport, every year, champions are crowned. The sport of kings is the same but different. We have our divisional champions, voted upon in a subjective format, but we have no guarantee we will have a Triple Crown winner. We will see a World Series, Super Bowl, and other winners and champions, year in and year out, but the Triple Crown remains the most elusive of prizes. We never know when we will witness a horse capable of actually getting it done. We only know if we are patient enough, we will get to see a true benchmark in the measurement of athletic greatness.
For a horse to win the Triple Crown they have to bring it, and bring it hard, three times in a short span of time and each under very different circumstances. It is a testament to the trainer and jockey, but make no mistake, it is the Thoroughbred who does the running.
The Kentucky Derby is among the most difficult horse races to win. It ranks right there with the Grand National, Melbourne Cup, and Prix De Arc Triomphe as a true test of will and stamina. It is not called the most exciting two minutes in all of sports for nothing. It is the race every horseman from every country has heard of and longs to win. It takes first place in fame and prestige, and stamps the winner as part of history. Three-year olds are asked to go a mile and a quarter, against the best of their age, for the first time. They do this in the mass confusion of a large screaming crowd, often in a larger field than they are used to. Traffic, rough riding, crowding and herding are all common place during that run for those roses.
In the Preakness, the Kentucky Derby winner is asked to come back in two short weeks following a strong effort at a new distance. This time, the distance is a sixteenth of a mile shorter, but that means little with the quick turnaround. Add some fresh horses and factor the horses who may have had trouble in the Derby, and this test is not a whole lot easier than the last one. You have to bring it again.
Ah the Belmont. The test of champions. Now one has to go a grueling mile and a half on three weeks rest, against tough battle-hardened foes, along with fresh new faces all gunning for you. Oh yeah, you’ll have to bring it again and then some. Arguably the Belmont is as tough to win as the Kentucky Derby and is truly a test of determination and stamina.
The Triple Crown was never intended to be a walk in the park. It never has been. It has survived all the changes and evolving of the sport and never has lost an ounce of its significance. It remains the crowning and most difficult achievement in sports regardless of the changes or current state of the game. In that respect, it is timeless.
I have been fortunate to see four Triple Crown winners in my lifetime thus far. Each was special, each historical, and each extremely difficult, as intended but doable. I have also seen many a fine horse step up to the plate, only to fall short for a variety of reasons, the most glaring of which and the common denominator, being how tough the series is to take down. There are many ways to not get it done up against only one way to do it; win all three races.
Sir Barton in 1919, Gallant Fox in 1930, Omaha in 1935, War Admiral in 1937, Whirlaway in 1941, Count Fleet in 1943, Assault in 1946, Citation in 1948, Secretariat in 1973, Seattle Slew in 1977, Affirmed in 1978, and American Pharoah in 2015, were the ones great enough to get it done and make their way to the most elusive list in sports.
When you look at the list you see a span of nearly a century. A lot changes in a century. We have seen changes in breeding, drug usage, training methods, and other variables, but the Triple Crown holds steadfast as the benchmark of which greatness is measured. That is no coincidence. Years ago, horses did it without Lasix and other modern drugs and remedies like lasers, acupuncture, massage, and shock wave therapy. Today you will likely never see a horse with a start in between the Derby and Preakness, or the Preakness and Belmont, but prior to Secretariat that was not rare at all. It was actually, almost if not common.
We also see a glaring and almost unexplainable pattern of cycles. Our Triple Crown winners almost come in spurts followed by long droughts. We all know racing is a cyclical game, but the way we see our Triple Crown winners group together begs the question why. Coincidence, cycles, I don’t know but have long believed coincidences are for romance novels.
I have been to Super Bowls and heavyweight championship fights ringside. I do not know of any atmosphere more electric than that of Belmont Park, as the horses near the starting gate for the Belmont Stakes, when one of those horses has a shot at earning their way on to that most precious and elusive list. The roar makes the huge facility tremble. You know the horses feel and sense it, and you can almost instinctively feel “the horse,” with so much on the line, somehow knows what is at stake. Anyone who has spent their fair share of time on the back stretch knows the really good ones know the difference between winning and losing.
While the Triple Crown is never a guarantee, and always a mystery, one certainty is when a horse has a shot at it, you will see spectacular sports drama unfold. Real Quiet pulls away at the top of the stretch under what looked like wraps, only to be nailed at the wire by a whisker by Victory Gallop. Silver Charm, as tough and game as they come, takes the lead in the stretch, only to be gobbled up by the masterfully trained Touch Gold, who just a few yards back looked beaten. Smarty Jones opens up and takes it to the final strides only to be run down by Birdstone. Spectacular Bid, picked before the Belmont Stakes, to step on a safety pin. A safety pin! He already showed he was good enough to overcome the worst of trips in the Florida Derby, so we can’t blame that and have to go with the darned pin. War Emblem chose the most inopportune time to stumble out of the gate. I’ll Have Another looked poised only to have to scratch a day out. If you open the list to horses who lost the chance prior to the Belmont like Riva Ridge, Point Given and Afleet Alex, the many ways one can fall short increases and how totally on your game every time one has to be, is even more clear. Riva Ridge saved Meadow Stable, not the great Secretariat a year later, and if not for rain in Baltimore, a lot more people would know that.
There are no excuses or second chances. There shouldn’t be for the benchmark of champions.
When people say the series should be tweaked I laugh. That’s the equivalent of buying a vintage Ferrari and putting an aftermarket spoiler on it. We don’t fix what is not broke. I remember in the 70’s, people and turf writers opining the series was too easy and it needed to be made more difficult. There was no “LOL” back then, but we can collectively give a big “LOL” now. We can do the same to those who said it was too difficult prior to American Pharoah coming along and reminding those who chose to ignore the game’s great history, that the “right horse” can do it.
If all goes right, Justify will look to add to his most impressive resume in a little over two weeks in Belmont, New York. This horse has already stamped himself in history by winning the Kentucky Derby and knocking off the almost ancient Apollo curse of no horse winning the Run for the Roses without racing at two years old. He showed it was no fluke by digging down deep and taking the Preakness to put himself in line to get his shot at going on one of two lists, both great in and of themselves, but only one the true benchmark of the best of the best. The Triple Crown.
Maryland Sprint Stakes – Race 10 at Pimlico - Post Time 4:05 PM Eastern
Lewisfield has done little wrong in his career, with five victories in 7 races including a win in a restricted stakes when last seen in March. Bocachica has been the only pilot he's known and rides back and the horse has proven capable of winning when leading from the start or if he has to sit in 2nd or 3rd in the early stages. The 114 Equibase figure put forth in his last win was a career best and tops in the field and there's every reason to believe that effort can be repeated or bettered here.
Heartwood can ALSO be bet if for no other reason than he opens at 15/1 and has a legitimate shot. He posted the 15/1 upset in a tough classified allowance field on a sloppy track one before last and he won at stakes race with a 200K purse last fall so there's no doubt he fits at the level. Geroux was up for the April upset and rides back as the colt cuts back from a mile to six furlongs, which helps his chances to be closing strongly in the final stages.
Long Haul Bay has won 3 of 4 career starts and the one he didn't win led to a layoff so can be ignored. He returned from 10 months off last month to win nicely and was flattered when the runner-up came back to win. That win earned a 103 figure that should be improved upon 2nd off the layoff but still isn't in range of the 114 effort Lewisfield put forth but considering Brown's success this year (and before that) the colt could improve enough to win.
Irish Colonel, like Heartwood, opens at double digit odds that warrant scrutiny. He missed by a neck when last seen at the end of March and won prior to that, the win earning a 111 figure similar to the 110 figure effort put forth last November at the distance. As a horse that's been 1st or 2nd in 15 of 30 career starts, he is an absolute must for inclusion on any exacta tickets we play at the very least. We should also add Fellowship to the bottom of exacta tickets played as he could run as he did in February on a sloppy track when finishing fast for second.
Bets: Lewisfield to win at 2 to 1 or more.
Heartwood to win at 7 to 2 or more, adding a place bet at 5 to 1 or higher.
Irish Colonel to win at 4 to1 or more, adding a place bet at 6 to 1 or higher.
Exacta: Lewisfield, Heartwood, Long Haul Bay and Irish Colonel over Lewisfield, Heartwood, Long Haul Bay, Irish Colonel and Fellowship.
Preakness Stakes – Race 13 at Pimlico - Post Time 6:48 PM Eastern
Bravazo will be my top choice to win the Preakness Stakes by repeating his effort when winning the Risen Star Stakes in February, posting the upset and returning $44 for $2. At the time, Bravazo was making his second start as a three year old and second following a layoff, coming off a 104 Equibase Speed Figure effort when winning one month earlier. In the Risen Star, Bravazo won gamely by a neck to earn a career best 110 figure when improving nicely in his second race off the rest. In the Louisiana Derby, I cannot say what went wrong when as the second betting choice (5 to 2) Bravazo faded badly to eighth after being up close in third in the early stages. However, his effort two weeks ago in the Kentucky Derby was pretty good as he rallied four to five paths wide while moving up from eleventh to fourth over the course of three furlongs until he flattened out in mid-stretch to end up sixth. In the Preakness Bravazo will have to deal with a lot less traffic and if jockey Luis Saez is able to get him into second or third with about a half-mile to go, as was the case in the Risen Star, this colt can post the upset because the 110 figure earned in that race is as good as the figure Justify earned winning the Kentucky Derby. Lukas is no stranger to posting the upset in this race, having done so with Oxbow a few years back, who like Bravazo was owned by Calumet Farm and was a son of Awesome Again .
Justify is unbeaten in four starts and has improved his Equibase figure in each, going from 106 in his career debut to 110 winning the Kentucky Derby. In the Derby, Justify was able to beat 18 other horses out of the gate to secure second position early, avoiding the mud and water flying everywhere over the very sloppy track and that had to have been a significant factor in his success as he held his two and one-half length margin over Good Magic the entire last eighth of a mile. With many less horses to be in front of at the start of the Preakness, Justify is as likely, or even more so, to be in front in the opening strides, but in the event Quip or Diamond King (who are drawn inside of Justify in the gate) get the lead that should not be an issue as he has raced in second or third in the early stages in two of his four victories. As such, it would come as no surprise that the Derby winner takes the Preakness, following in the footsteps of I'll Have Another (2012), California Chrome (2014) and Triple Crown winner American Pharoah (2015).
Good Magic ran his heart out in the Derby, chasing Justify for the final half-mile but making up no ground. After a poor effort in his 2018 return to the races when third in the Fountain of Youth Stakes in March, Good Magic redeemed himself nicely with victory in the Blue Grass Stakes, earning a 104 figure in the process. In spite of being no match for the Derby winner, Good Magic improved to a 106 figure in the race and is set to improve again back to the form shown when winning the Breeders' Cup Juvenile last fall with a 109 figure. Considering how close that effort would be to the one Justify put forth two weeks ago and considering Good Magic is making his fourth start of 2018 compared to Justify making his fifth start of the year, it is conceivable Good Magic may have enough improvement forthcoming to turn the tables on his nemesis in the Preakness.
Lone Sailor is not a win contender in my opinion but can certainly be second or third at the end to complete any exacta or trifecta tickets played. Lone Sailor improved markedly in the Louisiana Derby with a career best 106 figure, that being his third start of the year. He then had a trip similar to Bravazo in the Kentucky Derby in which Lone Sailor moved up from 15th to sixth with an eighth of a mile to go before flattening out and ending up eighth. With less traffic in the Preakness, Lone Sailor may be passing many of these late and could earn a big chunk of the purse.
Bets: Bravazo to win at 2 to 1 or more, adding a place bet at 5 to 1 or more.
Exacta: Bravazo, Justify and Good Magic over Lone Sailor, Bravazo, Justify and Good Magic.
Trifecta: Bravazo, Justify and Good Magic over Lone Sailor, Bravazo, Justify and Good Magic over Lone Sailor, Bravazo, Justify and Good Magic.
Doubles: Bravazo, Justify and Good Magic in Race 13 with Phil's Cocktail, Ugottahaveheart, Iredell and Appealing Future in Race 14.
Race 14 at Pimlico – Post Time 7:35 Eastern
Phil's Cocktail is a tough claiming pro, with 11 first or second place efforts in his last 21 races. He qualified for this 5K starter allowance race when he raced for 5K last December, likely something Brooks noticed when he claimed the horse for 7,500 out of a runner-up effort on 3/30. Winning two later, just SIX days ago, easily at the 15K level in the mud OVER THE TRACK, Phil's Cocktail has a big shot to win once again and make even more profit off the claim six weeks ago.
Appealing Future is 5 for 15 in his career, not bad at all, including a win in a 50K allowance race in Pennsylvania one before last on 4/7. He finished 2nd over a sloppy track prior to that and 4th since then against open allowance company so this is a DROP in class as this 5K starter level is the equivalent of a 10K claiming race. With Javier Castellano staying around for the last race on a big card, for high percentage trainer Servis, there is every reason to believe Appealing Future is live and has the talent to win the nightcap.
Ugottahaveheart and Iredell are both proven at the level, hence open as the top two betting choices at 3/1 and 5/2, respectively. Ugottahaveheart won at this level twice in January and in his most recent start on 3/30 but has never raced over the Pimlico surface, a small knock, while Iredell moves back to dirt after a poor effort on turf and won by 6 lengths, over Ugottahaveheart, on 2/15 as well as won at Pimlico last May. He has more 2nd place finishes (10) than wins (8) so although a MUST to use on exacta tickets he doesn't have to win.
Bets: Phil's Cocktail to win at 5 to 2 or more.
Appealing Future to win at 3 to 1 or higher.
Exactas: Phil's Cocktail and Appealing Future over Phil's Cocktail and Appealing Future, Ugottahaveheart and Iredell.
Then also the reverse of the above, which is Phil's Cocktail and Appealing Future, Ugottahaveheart and Iredell over Phil's Cocktail and Appealing Future.
Frans Valentine Stakes – Race 9 at Santa Anita – Post Time 8 Eastern (5 Pacific)
Shy Carmelita has mostly run on dirt throughout her 14 race career, with 3 wins in 11 races on the main track. However, she won on the turf when last seen on 4/1 in her 3rd turf try and was 2nd in another last summer before taking seven months off. With a lot of improvement to show us 3rd off the layoff, this gal who is a full sister to multiple winner Grazenette and who moves from open (not restricted) 2nd level allowance company to this statebred stakes level (a lateral class move and possibly a drop in class) has a big shot to run as well as she did when last seen on the course, earning a field high last race 112 Equibase figure that beats these on the square if repeated, for the always dangerous D'Amato barn and with Talamo riding right back.
Barbara Beatrice is another very competitive mare, with 9 first or 2nd place finishes in 18 races, a subset of which is a 7 for 10 record first or second on turf. She's won at this mile trip and she's won at Santa Anita and she was 2nd in a similar Cal-Bred stakes race (but on dirt) last November so she fits on all counts for a top effort.
Cordiality won at this mile turf trip one race before her last, in March, at the same openNW2X allowance condition Shy Carmelita won at (but sprinting) last time out. The mare is7 for 20 in her career with another six runner-up efforts for good measure but oddly enough even though a Cal-Bred hasn't run in one of these restricted stakes races. Baze rode her to her last three wins, all when leading or 2nd in the early stages, and although her outside post may not be the best for her style there's no taking away from the fact her best effort may be good enough to win.
Moonless Sky finished 2nd in an identical race last summer and was 2nd in last year's edition of this stakes. She won last fall at a mile on grass in an open NW2X level race similar to the other contenders and the only knock relative to those is she opens at the lowest odds, 7/2 on the morning line.
Longshot consideration must be given to Speakers and Lynne's Legacy, the former with the ground saving rail and coming out of a very troubled effort, before that with a win at this mile trip over the course, and the latter running first off the O'Neill claim, out of the first time she was EVER eligible to be claimed, and a decent runner-up effort at that. She's a multiple turf route winner versus Cal-Breds and her 15/1 morning line is intriguing. O'Neill also saddles How About Zero, who stretches back out to a mile off a pair of sprints and who missed by a head in that mile turf race three back after leading in the stretch.
Bets: Shy Carmelita to win at 5 to 2 or more.
Barbara Beatrice to win at 3 to 1 or more.
Cordiality to win at 7 to 2 or higher.
When making or considering multiple horses for win bets, use a "Dutching" tool like that found at Amwager, which helps allocate your betting dollars for the best return.
Exacta: Box Shy Carmelita, Barbara Beatrice, Cordiality and Moonless Sky.
Exacta: Shy Carmelita, Barbara Beatrice, Cordiality and Moonless Sky over Shy Carmelita, Barbara Beatrice, Cordiality, Moonless Sky, Speakers, Lynne's Legacy and How About Zero.
May 17, 2018
By: Jonathan Stettin
I’ve never been one to believe in free squares in horse racing. As far as I’m concerned there are no freebies and I’ve yet to see any horse race run on paper, and I have seen many.
On Saturday, if all goes according to plan, Justify will attempt to remain undefeated by winning the Preakness. For many, it is a foregone conclusion he’ll win and head to New York for the test of champions, The Belmont Stakes, trying to become a Triple Crown winner. He certainly looks the part, and while it is a pretty good possibility he handles his foes on Saturday, again they don’t run races on paper.
What few realize, is that if you can beat a horse like Justify only once in a while, you can get yourself paid handsomely and erase a lot of losses. I’m not saying bet against him, if that is where you land, but thinking any horse can’t lose is a mistake, proven time and time again by the sport’s very history.
There are all kinds of statistics about horses who won in Louisville coming back in two weeks and trying to do it again. You have stats on those who won in the slop or mud, who worked and who didn’t work between races and more. Most of you already know I throw all that out the window as every race, crop and horse are different.
We all saw Justify favor his left hind leg following his Kentucky Derby triumph. Whatever that was seems to have passed and he should be right as dodgers when he is loaded in the gate Saturday. His main rival appears to be Good Magic, who had every chance to get to him in the Derby but couldn’t. The main questions are who goes forward, or at least maintains their form, and whether any of the other horses are good enough to make serious noise in Baltimore.
With Bob Baffert and Chad Brown quarterbacking the big two, it is likely both show up and run their race. Given that scenario Good Magic will be up against it to turn the tables. The interesting new comer to the party is Tenfold. This colt is a bit more late-developing than the big two, but he is on the improve and figures to appreciate the wet track he will see on Saturday.
Obviously Tenfold will have to take a huge step forward to compete for the win. He may also need some regression from one or both of the big two. While a forward move looks very possible, the latter does not.
Regardless of what happens Saturday, it is always good for the game to have a horse shooting for the Triple Crown. Between that and the hype Justify has always carried around, his odds are likely to be even shorter than they should, and they warrant being pretty short. He probably should be 2-5 but will likely be less than that.
The race hasn’t been drawn as of this writing, so my final work is not done. What I do know is this: we’ve discussed the winner here and there are no foregone conclusions in the Sport of Kings.
Vagrancy Handicap – Race 3 at Belmont Park - Post Time 2:34 PM Eastern
Kirby's Penny is six for 11 in her career. Better still, she's 5 for 7 on dirt, all since last April. She finished second in the other two dirt starts. She's absolutely ready for grade 3 competition as she faces today with John Velazquez riding as for two big wins last summer at Saratoga and her most recent win, on April 8, came off a 6 month layoff and the effort should be improved upon 2nd off the rest. Opening at 6 to 1, she's exceptionally playable.
Swing and Sway is another very playable horse, opening at 12 to 1, having just won the Carousel Stakes at Oaklawn and two before that the American Beauty Stakes. She's now 5 for 15 in her career and could also be very competitive here. There are no real knocks on any of the other four, but Holiday Disguise, who opens at 9/5, hasn't any more probability than the rest. Sure, she won the similar G3 Distaff Stakes last month at Aqueduct, but it wasn’t any better of an effort nor was the horse she beat, Sounds Delicious (who was disqualified from 2nd to 4th) anything really special in terms of this field.
Win Bets: Kirby's Penny at odds of 2 to 1 or more and Swing and Sway at odds of 3 to 1 or more. Place bets may be warranted at 5 to 1 or higher.
The most efficient way to bet multiple horses to win is to use a "Dutching" tool like the one available at Amwager, which helps allocated your betting dollars for the best return.
Runhappy Stakes – Race 8 at Belmont Park- Post Time 5:14 PM Eastern
Always Sunshine is EVERY bit as likely to win as favorite's Skyler's Scramjet and Westwood, but opens at 12/1. He returns from a layoff since last July but won his 2017 debut by four lengths off a layoff since the previous October so that's not an issue. Winner of nearly $400,000 in his career and first or second in 10 of 18 dirt races, he will be ignored by many in this race compared to others. Back in 2016, Always Sunshine finished 2nd in the Grade 3 Tom Fool Stakes on the circuit, the same race Skyler's Scramjet won in March of this year. Later that spring he won the Grade 3 Maryland Sprint with a career best 118 Equibase Figure and in his last start of 2017 earned a 109 figure which stacks up favorably against the favorites here if repeated.
King Kranz goes for his 3rd win in a row since moving to the Rodriguez barn and Iran Ortiz, Jr. rides back after being up for the first time last month in a strong win. The comeback win in March earned a 108 figure and opening at 9/2 we cannot rule him out as a contender to win.
Skyler's Scramjet can't be labeled a vulnerable favorite as the drop from grade 1 company in the Carter Handicap last time out helps his chances to return to winning form, and Westwood is another with a shot although his first graded stakes attempt last month wasn't good as he faded to 5th in the stretch after leading.
Win Bets: Always Sunshine to win and to place at 2 to 1 or more.
Exacta: Always Sunshine and King Kranz over Always Sunshine, King Kranz, Skyler's Scramjet and Westwood (as there's no point in using the two favorites with each other for 1st & 2nd), then ALSO the opposite, which is Always Sunshine, King Kranz, Skyler's Scramjet and Westwood over Always Sunshine and King Kranz.
Peter Pan Stakes – Race 10 at Belmont Park – Post Time 6:18 Eastern
Just Whistle earned the best last race Equibase figure, 106, when winning last month at Keeneland. That was his second start of the year and a big improvement off his runner-up effort one month prior which followed six months away from the races. As a son of Pioneer of the Nile there is little doubt Just Whistle can successfully negotiate the mile and one-eighth distance of the Peter Pan. As a horse on a pattern for significant improvement in his third start off a layoff, he appears to be the one to beat in this race.
High North earned his first win last fall in his third career start, then tried stakes company and was not disgraced when fourth of 14 in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes. After taking the winter off, he was entered in the Risen Star Stakes without a prep first and ran poorly, then again in the Rebel Stakes. Adding blinkers for the Northern Spur Stakes next out, he returned to top form, earning a 105 figure when drawing off by two and one-half lengths in a field of eight. Trainer Brad Cox is still on a high from winning the Kentucky Oaks with Monomoy Girl last weekend and his 30% success rate with back-to-back winners in dirt routes over the past two years is another reason supporting High North potentially winning his second stakes race in a row.
Blended Citizen needs a hot pace in front of him to succeed, as occurred in March when rallying to win the Jeff Ruby Steaks by a neck with a 109 figure. Following that effort, Blended Citizen tried to earn enough points for a Kentucky Derby start by running in the Blue Grass Stakes but could only manage a fifth place finish. In the Peter Pan, with the prospect for a hotly contested pace unlikely, Blended Citizen may be hard pressed to pass the field to win but it is not an impossible task and so he will round out the three horses with the best chance to win this year's Peter Pan Stakes.
I'm completely taking a stand against Core Beliefs, shipping out from California and overbet off his 3rd place effort in the Santa Anita Derby behind Justify.
Win Bets: Just Whistle at 2 to 1 or more, a TRUE KEY BET on the day.
A win bet on High North is warranted at 3 to 1 or more.
Exacta: Box Just Whistle, High North and Blended Citizen.
Man O' War Stakes – Race 11 at Belmont Park – Post Time 6:50 Eastern
Postulation can post the upset in this year's Man O'War, or even finish 2nd for a big profit. He SHOULD NOT be 20/1 on the morning line considering his record in similar races, including a head loss in the Kentucky Turf Cup last summer and a win in the American St. Leger prior to that. The jockey change to Vargas, mostly unknown to local betters, helps his odds but there is no concern because Vargas was aboard for BOTH the aforementioned stakes efforts. After the Kentucky Turf Cup, Postulation finished 8th of 10 in the Canadian International (run on a very soft course) then took time off. When returning last month off a six month layoff, he ran BIG by rallying from 4th to battle down the stretch before tiring just a bit to be beaten a pair of necks on the wire. With 8 first or second place finishes in 16 turf races and nearly $400K in earnings, and proven at marathon distances, and possibly more importantly much stronger 2nd off the layoff, Postulation gets a BIG push here.
Almost as likely and certainly as playable is One Go All Go, upset winner of the similar Elkhorn Stakes last month at Keeneland. He's now run BIG in five of his last six races since Dickey took over his training. Even though in four of those he finished 2nd he was never far afield and in two of those he finished just behind Hi Happy and Sadler's Joy, who open at much lower odds than the 6/1 starting odds for One Go All Go. As with the Elkhorn, there is very little of any other early pace in the race so if Landeros gets One Go All Go to the lead easily and slows things down, he could win his 2nd graded stakes in a row.
There are no real knocks on Sadler's Joy, Hi Happy or some of the rest, but the key for profit is getting either Postulation or One Go All Go home on top, or even second.
Win Bets: Postulation to win and place at 3 to 1 or more. One Go All Go to win and place at 3 to 1 or more.
Exactas: Postulation and One Go All Go over ALL, then also the opposite, which is ALL over Postulation and One Go All Go.
May 10, 2018
Betting It Right 101
By: Jonathan Stettin
Last Saturday we saw a memorable and historic Kentucky Derby. Justify went in not only as the favorite, but also as one of the most hyped horses in recent memory. In addition to winning one of the toughest races to capture, he had to take down the dreaded Apollo curse which dated back to the 1800’s. Justify delivered on all fronts, and as I have written for the past few years, all the so-called Kentucky Derby rules and do’s and don’ts mean absolutely nothing. They all go down, and none should influence your wagering strategies.
I always say there is NO VALUE IN A LOSING bet. Despite this being a factual statement, many people claimed they liked Justify, but wouldn’t bet the favorite. I apologize for being redundant, as I have also said this for years, but there is always value to be had on the first Saturday in May, regardless of who you like and who wins. If you like the chalk or a bomb, if you are right and bet smart, you will get paid.
Betting smart, or money management, is as important to success in this game as handicapping. I know plenty of good handicappers who are terrible bettors and thus have almost no chance of beating the game. Ticket structuring falls under the smart betting or money management heading. I did see a lot of great plays and expertly structured tickets on the Derby Saturday, and even though the favorite won, all these people were handsomely rewarded. They were not scared or run off from their choice because he happened to be favored, and I’d wager most of these people would have bet a longshot had that been where they landed the same way. The fiddle is out for all the players who “liked Justify but wouldn’t take 3-1.” You don’t get paid betting against your opinion.
The superfecta in the Kentucky Derby is almost always a great bet. The large field and lack of the 10-cent minimum practically guarantee with the large pool you will get paid if you’re right. People have a tendency to get lured into the multi-race wagers, but on Derby day the superfecta is a smart play.
I have a way I approach the superfecta. I like to turn the superfecta into an exacta. Let’s say I like the #1 to win the race. I will look at the horses I think can or are likely to run second and I will play the superfecta accordingly. If the horses I like for second are the say #2, #3, and #4, I’ll play 1 with 2,3,4 with all with all. This assures me that if I am right about the exacta, I am absolutely hitting the superfecta. Additionally, it affords the opportunity of having a very high-priced bomb crash the number in the third or fourth slot. I am talking the type of horse it would be extremely difficult to get to handicapping alone. You don’t need many of these to really turn a day or meet around.
If you think about it logically, can you really handicap who will run third or fourth? Racing is difficult when everyone is all in, but in the third or fourth slots, you have riders easing up, tired horse pulling up, horses running on past tiring ones and many other intangibles making for, shall we say, some fluky results. I like to eliminate that risk and as aforementioned turn it into an exacta. As a kill-shot player, I will usually only use my horse in the win slot, and usually also play the exacta and triple the same way. If I’m right, I get it all. On occasion, when the situation warrants, I might also use my horse in the second or third slot in the supers, but generally that is when the horse is a very generous price.
On some occasions, I may take a horse or two out of the all slot. This is dangerous, and I realize it can sting once in a while, but if a horse or two just look like a waste of resources to include, I will gamble and cut them off the play.
For the sake of discussion let’s say Justify waltzes to Maryland to face a small field he seems to have overmatched. You handicap the race and you feel he is the winner. Your dilemma is he is 1-5 or thereabouts. Many, when faced with this scenario, will bet a higher priced horse just because they are a higher price. I don’t bet against my opinion. My options would be to pass, or to create some value. I might bet a cold exacta, or if the other races in any multi race sequences have vulnerable favorites, go after them with my horse singled. This all goes back to money management. I think, fundamentally you don’t bet against who you think the winner is.
Sheepshead Bay Stakes – Race 6 at Belmont Park - Post Time 3:30 PM Eastern
Santa Monica showed a ton of promise as a future stakes star in her U.S. debut last month at Keeneland. That was her 1st start after 4 1/2 months off and first on Lasix and she swept past the field from last of 8 to be in front by 2 lengths at the 8th pole, drawing off from there. This step up from 2nd level allowance to grade 2 stakes is no big deal because Santa Monica was a group 3 stakes winner in Ireland last June and European group 3 races are equivalent to grade 2 races in the states. Likely to improve markedly 2nd off the layoff, Brown wastes no time taking a shot at a nice purse and although Gaffalione has never ridden here I have no issues because the jockey is 6 for 18 riding for Brown in the last 18 months. Even opening at 5/2 odds, or a bit lower, Santa Monica is truly a KEY BET because the favorite, Holy Helena, is vulnerable on many counts in this field. She won the Grade 2 Very One Stakes in March at Gulfstream Park when last seen but only earned a 98 Equibase figure in doing so, and a 97 prior to that winning a classified allowance. Santa Monica earned a 102 figure in her allowance win and whereas Holy Helena has run the same race twice, Santa Monica has upside in her 2nd race off the layoff.
For the exacta, I'll try to keep Holy Helena out entirely and use Estrechada and Summersault, both having won at 11 furlongs or father on the grass so having no issues with this 11 furlong trip. Estrechada won the Grade 3 Waya Stakes last summer at Saratoga and her fourth place finish in her only start of the year can be improved upon, while Summersault won the non-graded Soaring Softly Stakes in March at Gulfstream Park at this trip and the last time she got into top form she held that form for three straight races including the Grade 3 Orchid Stakes at this distance on turf.
Win Bets: Bet Santa Monica to win at 6 to 5 or higher, a true low odds overlay.
Consider small win bets on Estrechada and Summersault at odds of 3 to 1 or more.
Exacta: Box Santa Monica, Estrechada and Summersault.
Then also play an exacta of Santa Monica over Estrechada and Summersault.
Fort Marcy Stakes – Race 10 at Belmont Park - Post Time 5:48 PM Eastern
Robert Bruce was a perfect six-for-six in his native Chile, winning at distances ranging from six furlongs to a mile and one-half. He won one of the biggest turf races in South America last fall, a group 1 with a purse of $160K U.S. and he's been training steadily in Florida this spring for Brown, who gave him a whirl on the Belmont training track last week. Gaffalione rides and if Santa Monica runs as expected in the Sheepshead Bay that could give Brown and Gaffalione two stakes wins on the day. Brown is exceptional with horses coming off layoffs so the return from six months off is no issue, nor is it being his first start in the U.S. because again that is something Brown is exceptional at, winning with 25% (8 for 34) of his foreign imports in the past couple of years. As such, Robert Bruce could keep his perfect record intact with a win in this year's Fort Marcy Stakes.
That being said, Lucullan SHOULD NOT BE 12/1 as he is on the morning line. With three wins in six turf races to date, the colt has shown a lot of talent and he's not overmatched at this grade 3 level as in his only stakes start last year he missed by inches to Yoshida in the Hill Prince Stakes at this trip last October. Lucullan won his 2018 debut in February nicely in allowance company then ran on late but too late, from 11th to 6th, in the Muniz Stakes at the end of March. He's another that has put in some nice works in the morning coming into the race and to ignore this exceptionally well-bred and competitive McLaughlin runner at these odds may prove to be a mistake.
Spring Quality is another tough horse, with a record nearly as good as that of Robert Bruce. Spring Quality has five wins in nine races. Only one of those was on turf BUT it was a graded stakes, the Red Smith, last November. Graham Motion, like Brown, is one of those trainers I have no qualms about when they bring a horse back from a layoff so the fact Spring Quality hasn't raced since the November win is of no concern and he may actually have a shot of picking up where he left off, with a stakes win on grass.
For the exacta, I will add Markitoff, who opens at 15/1. I am taking a stand against Blacktype (9/2 morning line) because his comeback on 4/8 just didn't indicated he could bounce up to the form necessary to win. I am also taking a stand against morning line favorite Silverwave, because I believe Robert Bruce should be the favorite. Silverwave is also trained by Brown but Chad goes to Carmouche and no matter that Kendrick is a good jockey he's just 1 for 7 for Brown in the last 18 year compared to 6 for 18 for the Brown/Gaffalione combination. Silverwave was last seen running in the Arc de Triomphe and that's the reason for his low odds but he was 87/1 in the race and ran like it when last of 18. His body of work before that includes 3 stakes wins at 12 furlongs so there is NO reason to believe he can win at this 9 furlong trip.
Win Bets: Robert Bruce at 9 to 5 or higher, other low odds overlay Key Bet.
Make a win bet on Lucullan at 3 to 1 or more, adding a place bet at 8 to 1 or higher.
Additionally, a win bet on Spring Quality may be warranted at 5 to 1 or higher, for a smaller amount than either Robert Bruce or Lucullan.
Exacta: Box Robert Bruce, Lucullan, Spring Quality and Markitoff.
Westchester Stakes - Race 11 at Belmont Park - Post Time 7:07 Eastern
This race marks the comeback of Cloud Computing, who opens at even money. Although the odds are a complete joke compared to the horse's probability to win, they are right because the public will bet him solely because he won the Preakness last year. Let's not forget, Cloud Computing was 13/1 that day, and then he ran pitifully in the Jim Dandy (5th) and Travers (8th) before going on the bench for more than a short respite, in this case eight months. Cloud Computing won his debut at six furlongs on the now gone Inner Dirt at Aqueduct and that's about as irrelevant is it can get comparing that to a start in a graded stakes at a mile around one turn. His best Equibase figure where he was even competitive was 101 in the Preakness and although he's likely stronger as a four year old even adding points to that, Cloud Computing isn't even close to how fast three others in here can run.
First, Moe Trouble opens at 30/1, the exact opposite as Cloud Computing in terms of how bad the line is compared to reality. The horse has FIVE wins and SIX runner-up finishes in 16 races and $220K in the bank. Sure, he's been beating up on Pennsylvania breds but he's still a son of top sire Uncle Moe and his trainer is TOP NOTCH. Gonzalez is 40 for 160 on the year and 10 for 33 in stakes the past two years. The trainer has shipped to New York seven times in the past five years, with two wins and three runner-up efforts. Trainer Gonzalez likely looked at who was likely to enter here and said to himself "I can win the winner's share of this 200K purse, or at least a big piece of it and that's more than my horse can earn at Parx." Carmouche takes the call and with an inside position on the only other horse that may want the lead, Conquest Big E, Moe Trouble can finish first or second here as the longest shot in the field because in his last start, a two-turn mile, he led until the top of the stretch and settled for 2nd with a field high 117 Equibase figure that is a grade 2 level figure in this grade 3 stakes. Additionally, if you look at the Hardacre Mile on 3/31 won by Conquest Big E, with Tommy Macho 3rd, or any of Tommy Macho's losses in the Kelso or Forego you have to note he was beaten by a horse who controlled the pace. The only reason Tommy Macho won the Hooper was Conquest Big E hopped at the start. Therefore I think Moe Trouble is going to do what Conquest Big E did last out and lead from start to finish at double digit odds.
If I'm right about Conquest Big E being forced to yield the early lead to Moe Trouble, he'll likely be in the second sport early. Although he's earned his last three wins leading start to finish, he did prove he could close when he hopped at the start, rallying from 6th to be beaten just 3/4 of a length. Batista comes up from Florida to ride the hard knocking gelding and his best race, with a 111 Equibase figure, is good enough to win if repeated if he can relax off the early speed of Moe Trouble and go by that one late.
If I'm wrong about the pace and Conquest Big E and Moe Trouble hook up, Tommy Macho repeats his Fred Hooper score with a 107 figure, or his 2017 Hal's Hope win at the same one turn mile trip with a 114 figure. He could offer low odds value as well anywhere near his 5/2 morning line considering how overbet Cloud Computing is likely to be.
Bets: Moe Trouble to win and place at 3 to 1 or more.
Also consider a win bet on Conquest Big E at 7 to 2 or higher
Consider a win bet on Tommy Macho at 2 to 1 or more, especially if you believe Conquest Big E and Moe Trouble are going to battle each other on the front end.
Exactas: Moe Trouble over ALL and (The opposite) ALL over Moe Trouble.
May 2, 2018
The Right Mindset
By: Jonathan Stettin
If you follow or bet on horse racing than in the weeks leading up to the Kentucky Derby, you are likely to hear a lot of opinions, rules, methods, statistics and angles. As we are now in the final days leading up to the big show, and with the assistance of social media, these comments reach a fever pitch. My suggestion would be not to pay too much attention to any of them. You’ve heard the old saying “on any given Sunday,” well you can tweak that to on any given first Saturday in May. I saw an article, I only skimmed this morning, going into fine detail on how Mendelssohn can’t win on Saturday because Arazi lost the Kentucky Derby and only Bold Forbes and Canonero won the race after prepping abroad. I guess all the people who cashed on those two runners should return their winnings.
I have said it before and will repeat it here, every year, crop, field, pace scenario, draw, trip, and horse are different. There are no rules that will land you on the winner. Good handicapping, observatory skills, and some luck, are all that can do that. Sure, some statistics are relevant, but they are merely a guideline and history. The future is what handicapping a race is about and if you’re right what is in the rearview couldn’t mean less.
You’ll also likely see there are an abundance of experts with definitive and adamant opinions. Many before the race is even drawn or even weeks ahead. Imagine if picking the winner of one of the most difficult races to handicap with probably the most intangibles in the US was that easy. Nonetheless they do it with conviction.
While I prepare for the Derby year-round, as it is always an opportunity for a major score, and that is what I look and live for, I usually don’t finalize my selection or selections until race day. That is what works for me and how I do it.
As for all the chatter out there, I try not to listen to any of it. If you have someone who has an opinion you respect, by all means I would encourage discussing the race with them. I would not encourage letting all the voices get into your head. Many of them don’t even bet, or possibly bet on only the Derby and maybe $2. There is nothing wrong with that and we welcome them and their $2 into the pool, but experts, hardly. That takes years, several of them actually, playing and not with monopoly money.
The Kentucky Derby and supporting card is one of what I call “the days” where you can really go all in and do some damage. The pools are huge, and a lot of that money is, shall we say, recreational and uneducated. That is where you can gain your edge and why “the days” are where I like to focus. This is when you fire that kill-shot, or at least I do. I try and go in with no pre-conceived bias, and ready and willing to adjust any opinion that creeped in to my actual handicapping of the race. I believe that is the right mindset to have to win.
The last thought I’ll leave you with this week is this...there is always value in the Derby. You just have to find or create it. If you like a shorter priced horse, you can always play that horse in exactas, triples or superfectas and get that value you seek. You can single the horse in a multi-race wager or wagers. Remember, there is no value whatsoever in a losing bet. That said if you like a price, that is always nice. Have no fear.