Friday, 27 April 2018 12:23

Key Races & Bets for Saturday, April 28

Woodbine – Race 7 - Post Time 4:27 PM Eastern


We can play two races here, making some win and exacta wagers in this race and then tying the race in doubles to the Whimsical Stakes (Race 8) for added value.



In this race, Singandcryindubai is one of two from the very high percentage McKnight barn, the other Abbaa. Although both can win, Singandcryindubai opens at 10/1 so that's where I'll start. The gelding is 3 for 6 at Woodbine, accounting for all but 1 of his career wins, and moves back to his favorite track after wintering at Oaklawn where he went 0 for 4. He's in for the optional claiming price ($60K) since he's already won at the level and the key to a BIG effort is Contreras getting on. Not only is Contreras off to a fast start with 5 wins from his first 16 races at the meeting but he was up for the horse's last two wins including one last October in which he rallied from eighth. The other was a race in which he led from start to finish so with that kind of versatility Singandcryindubai has a big shot to return to winning form.



Abbaa missed by a neck last time out just three weeks ago at Oaklawn, first off the claim by McKnight, who as of a few days ago was 4 for 6 at the meeting so far. The veteran horse has won 10 times in his career but is trying all-weather for the first time. However, the 3 furlong drill just six days ago has him familiar with it so we can expect another "A" effort good enough to win.



Circle of Friends makes his 2018 debut, for Tiller, who is pretty good with his comebackers at the start of the meeting. The horse won his 2017 debut by a head at this five furlong trip and as his last two start of 2017 were in blinkers and poor efforts, the blinkers come off for this race. With a very sharp half-mile drill on 4/9 following by a more moderate one, we can assume the horse is fit and can run as well today as he did last year at this time.



Win Bets: Bet Singandcryindubai to win at 3 to 1 or more and add a place bet at 5 to 1 or higher.


Exacta: Box Singandincrydubai, Abbaa and Circle of Friends.


Doubles: Singandcryindubai, Abbaa and Circle of Friends in Race 7 with Scotty's Model, Moonlit Promise and Sky Flower in Race 8. (You can also box those three horses in an exacta in race 8 as well).


Santa Barbara Stakes – Race 4 at Santa Anita - Post Time 4:30 PM Eastern (1:30 Pacific)


Causeforcommotion is the horse to beat here, and to bet, in spite of the 8/5 starting odds on Plein Air and the 2/1 starting odds on Pantsonfire. Causeforcommotion opens at 6/1 even though her last two efforts were the best of her short career (12 races) to date. She's never run this marathon 12 furlong trip but of the others, none has won at it except Plein Air anyway but Causeforcommotion is bred to run all day, as she's by Americain (a son of Dynaformer) and out of a mare by the late Giant's Causeway. She's just a four year old and has room to improve and jockey Franco (who replaces Roman) is underrated but has impressed with his prowess on the grass. The 107 last race Equibase figure is as good as Pantsonfire (who opens at one-third the odds) and MUCH better than the 94 figure Plein Air earned. Baltas saddled FOUR of the six here but no matter two of them (Space Cadet and Plein Air) both have the same "early" running style, those two should wear each other out mentally even on slow fractions while Causeforcommotion gets a great stalking trip for her 3rd win in a row, particularly as the race she won turned out to be strong with the runner-up coming back to win TWO in a row and the 3rd horse beaten a neck.



Lucy De, Pantsonfire and Plein Air all have races in their recent past good enough to compete here and any can win but none offer value for win bets. We can use all three plus Causeforcommotion on any multi-race tickets played like the pick 3 and 4 and key them with Causeforcommotion on exacta tickets but the main play will be Causeforcommotion to win.



Win Bets: Causeforcommotion to win at 2 to 1, a true KEY BET on the day.


Exacta: Causeforcommotion over Lucy De, Pantsonfire and Plein Air, then also turn that around and play Lucy De, Pantsonfire and Plein Air over Causeforcommotion.

Belmont - Race 8 – Post Time 5:18 Eastern


Similar to what we did at Woodbine, the eighth at Belmont is very playable and we can tie it with the Elusive Quality Stakes, Race 9.



Jewel Can Disco opens at 10/1 and is the one to catch, and beat, even though it looks like there is other early speed in the race. Davis, who rode him to a runner-up finish last out and to a win before that, jumps to Cerretalto (who is also a contender) but I love the jockey change to Rosario, who is as good as any jockey at nursing a horse on the lead. Jewel Can Disco was 5 to 1 at this level just 17 days ago but opens at 10/1 here which makes no sense at all as he was gamely second by a head after setting fast fractions and as he's won at this 7 furlong trip before, the stretch out from 6 furlongs is no issue.



Cerretalto is two for two since adding blinkers and comes off a career best effort with a 101 Equibase figure in February in statebred allowance company. He won that race off a two month rest and is coming back from a similar layoff and he could get a great trip behind Jewel Can Disco to win again.



Salute With Honor won his 4 year old debut in February at Gulfstream then missed by a half-length at this level in Florida as well with a much improved 106 figure, the 2nd best last figure in the field. He's put in a nice work over the track and fits on all counts, his only knock that he opens at 3/1 so isn't nearly as good a win bet as the other two.



Favorite Polar Jet (6/5 morning line) has finished 2nd in three straight, all at low odds, losing ground in the last 8th of a mile in the last two. He can win but I'd rather believe that when push comes to shove he is lacking the spirit to put his head down and will settle for 2nd once again and will play exactas that way. I will also use Emancipation and Professor Snape in the second slot.



Bets: Jewel Can Disco to win at 3 to 1 or more. Make a win bet on Cerretalto as well, at 3 to 1 or more. Use a "Dutching" tool like the one at Amwager when betting more than one horse to win to help allocate your bets.


Exactas: Jewel Can Disco, Cerretalto and Salute With Honor over Jewel Can Disco, Cerretalto, Salute With Honor, Emancipation, Professor Snape and Polar Jet.


Doubles: Jewel Can Disco, Cerretalto and Salute With Honor in Race 8 with Undrafted, Conquest Panthera, Commend and Commute in Race 9.


Elusive Quality Stakes – Race 9 at Belmont – Post Time 5:50 Eastern


Undrafted is an exceptional turf sprinter who comes back from nearly six months off, which is not an issue as he won last year in April following a similar layoff. That win in 2017 earned a strong 112 Equibase Speed Figure which he bettered when last seen in November, winning a turf sprint with a 115 effort. Joel Rosario gets the call and rode Undrafted in that 2017 comeback win so he knows how to get the horse to relax and makes his patented late run from far back. Although no races at the seven furlong distance of the Elusive Quality Stakes appear in his recent history, Undrafted has won a mile on the grass in his career so there are no questions about being capable of the distance. Trainer Wesley Ward is having an exceptional 2018 to date, wining more than one-quarter of his 125 races so far. With a pattern of very consistent workouts coming into the race at the trainer's home base in Kentucky, including the last two on the grass, Undrafted looks ready to earn the ninth win of his career in this year's Elusive Quality Stakes. Conquest Panthera may come in under the radar of many bettors, making his second start of 2018 and with a non-threatening fifth place finish in his comeback effort last month. However, Conquest Panthera was asked to run a mile following nearly five months off and ran very well in spite of the layoff as he moved up from eighth in a field of nine to get within a length and one-half in the stretch before tiring. Not only should he be more physically fit in his second start off the layoff, but the cut back in distance should help sharpen up his closing kick. Last summer, Conquest Panthera won the Play the King Stakes at the distance of the Elusive Quality and he earned a career best 121 Figure when third in the Turf Sprint Championship Stakes last fall so his best effort is certainly good enough to win.


Commend has finished first or second in seven of 14 career races. 13 of those have been on the turf including a runner-up effort when beaten a half-length in the Kentucky Downs Turf Sprint last summer. Freshened two months since a poor sixth place finish in the Colonel Power Stakes, Commend is reunited with Jose Ortiz, who rode him to victory last May on the Belmont turf course then two races later last summer at Saratoga. The 110 figure Commend earned in the Turf Sprint was a career best and as the horse put in a very solid workout less than two weeks ago that was the best of 37 on the day, we might expect a top effort in this race. Commute makes his second start following nine months off, having rallied from eighth to fourth in the Shakertown Stakes last month. Commend appears to run much better in his second start off a layoff, as evidenced by winning last May with a strong 108 figure on the all-weather surface at Woodbine before a 108 figure effort when coming up a nose short of victory in the Connaught Cup Stakes at the distance of the Elusive Quality. Additionally, Commute possesses a win at this seven furlong distance at Belmont, which came in the spring of 2016 so if he improves second off the layoff as he has done previously, Commute should be considered a contender to win the Elusive Quality as well.


Win Bets: Bet Undrafted to win at 2 to 1 or more. Consider a second win bet on Commend (as he opens at 12/1) at 4 to 1 or higher.


Exacta & Trifecta: Box Undrafted, Conquest Panthera, Commend and Commute.



Powder Break Stakes – Race 11 at Gulfstream – Post Time 6:13 Eastern


As her name suggests Glory to Kitten is a daughter of Kitten's Joy, bred by Ken & Sarah Ramsey. Claimed away from the Ramsey's out of her fourth career start in February, 2017, she finished in-the-money in five of six races, all on turf, including some tough allowance races in new York. Dropped in for a claiming price this January, trainer Jorge Abreu claimed her for $25K and immediately earned owner Michael Dubb the price back with a win in a $60K stakes race. She ran poorly in a grade 3 stakes after that but these are much easier and the jockey change to Jaramillo is telling. Now with a 5 for 6 record on the Gulfstream turf and in the hands of a very sharp former assistant to Chad Brown, Glory to Kitten should take some beating here with a nice pace to run at courtesy of Conquest Hardcandy, Madame Uno and the newly blinkered Sylphide.


King's Ghost is the other horse with the bulk of the probability to win. She moves to the Gargan barn and noting how Gargan's other runner, Inside Out, improved markedly when beaten a nose after moving to his care, she should run back to the form shown last fall when winning a very similar turf stakes over the course. The jockey change to Juarez certainly helps the chances of King's Ghost while the jockey change for her stablemate Inside Out to Reyes does not help that one's chances although we will use her in the 2nd spot on exacta tickets. We will also use Madame Uno and Island Reward in the second position.


Win Bets: Bet Glory to Kitten to win at 2 to 1 or more, a KEY BET to be sure. Consider a win bet on King's Ghost (who opens at 8/1) at 3 to 1 or more for a smaller amount.


Exacta: Glory to Kitten and King's Ghost over Glory to Kitten, King's Ghost, Inside Out, Madame Uno and Island Reward.

Friday, 20 April 2018 12:54

Key Races & Bets for Saturday, April 21

Primonetta Stakes – Race 6 at Laurel - Post Time 3:40 PM Eastern

The words "PACE DUEL" do not do justice to what is likely to occur in this six furlong sprint with at least THREE and as many as SEVEN horses having an "EARLY" running style. When the smoke clears the four left standing should be Anna's Bandit, Limited View, Short Kakes and Cairenn, with a slight chance favorite Chalon can hold on for second or third as she is one of the speedballs.



Anna's Bandit just won the statebred Conniver Stakes, at 7 furlongs over the track and the cut back is very good for her late kick at the distance of two of her previous five wins. Perez has been up for three wins in a row on the filly and her 12/1 starting odds are begging us to take advantage. Limited View opened up by many lengths through the first seven furlongs in a one turn mile last month, settling for 2nd of 8 at the end. Cutting back makes her a presser just like she was one before that last race when taking a nearly identical stakes to this one, except restricted to three year olds only, rallying under Prado (who rides here) from fifth to get up then flattered when the 3rd horse came back to win. Short Kakes won the Xtra Heat Stakes at Aqueduct three weeks ago from off the pace, her 3rd win in her last four starts, and is another who should really love the early pace scenario. Cairenn rallied from 6th of 9 to win by three lengths two back then won even more easily by five lengths 19 days ago and still have improving to do.


Win Bets: At 3 to 1 or better I will bet BOTH Anna's Bandit and Limited View to win, adding place bets at 6 to 1 or more. I would consider win bets on Short Kakes and Cairenn at 4 to 1 or more but that appears unlikely to happen. For playing multiple win bets use a "Dutching" tool like the one at Amwager to allocate your betting dollars for the bet profit potential.


Exacta: Box Anna's Bandit, Limited View, Short Kakes and Cairenn.

Trifecta: Box Anna's Bandit, Limited View, Short Kakes, Cairenn and Chalon.


Double: Anna's Bandit, Limited View, Short Kakes, Cairenn and Chalon in Race 6 with Hallie Belle in Race 7.

Double: Anna's Bandit, Limited View, Short Kakes and Cairenn in Race 6 with Hawksmoor in Race 7.

(There is no value in using the two favorites with each other: Chalon in Race 6 with Hawksmoor in Race 7.)


Dahlia Stakes – Race 7 at Laurel - Post Time 4:10 PM Eastern

Hallie Belle and Hawksmoor can win but only Hallie Belle is playable to win, and Hawksmoor may not even hit the board unless Leparoux can get her to relax as Tanya's Gem and I'm Betty G battle for the early lead. Hallie Belle is an exceptionally well bred filly owned by Godolphin who nearly won four in a row between last September and December, winning the Pago Hop Stakes to end the streak. She ran miserably in her 2018 debut at Fair Grounds but may have needed the race and with a very strong workout at Fair Hills on 4/14 I'm counting on that last race being an aberration and the filly rebounding to stakes winning form, opening at 15/1. Hawksmoor appears to hold a class edge dropping out of 3 straight grade 1 stakes in the summer and fall into this non-graded level and can win by repeating either of her runner-up efforts in her last two starts but she is nearly always in front from the start and unless Leparoux can wrangle her back early off the speed duel she could be a bit vulnerable late as she was in her last three races when leading with an 8th of a mile to go, settling for 2nd in the two most recent of those efforts.


Win Bets: Hallie Belle to win at 3 to 1 or more, a true KEY LONGSHOT BET. Add a place bet at 6 to 1 or higher.


Exacta: Box Hallie Belle and Hawksmoor.


Double: Hallie Belle and Hawksmoor in Race 7 with Blue Union Rags and Layla Noor in Race 8.

Weber City Miss Stakes – Race 8 at Laurel – Post Time 4:40 Eastern

Blue Union Rags went right through the first allowance condition last out on 3/3 following a strong maiden win, both routes over the track and both since Vargas took over riding. She's still improving, is in the top John Servis barn and can continue her winning ways to earn her first stakes win here in her current form and with a very mature off the pace running style. Layla Noor has only one knock compared to Blue Union Rags and that is she is coming back from nearly five months off whereas Blue Union Rags was last seen seven weeks ago. Layla Noor ran in a dirt route just twice before, winning powerfully at Laurel in November then finishing a decent third in the Demoiselle Stakes in December. Training well for Delacour, who has won with 4 of his last 8 starters coming back from 4 months or more in a dirt route, she is also reunited with Lynch, up for the win but not the defeat, and if she is ready to run as she did last fall at Laurel, she has every right to win.


Bets: Blue Union Rags to win at 3 to 1 or more, adding a place bet at 6 to 1 or more. Also bet Layla Noor if she goes to post at 3 to 1 or higher.


Exactas: Box Blue Union Rags and Layla Noor.


Doubles: Blue Union Rags and Layla Noor in Race 8 with Murad Khan, Ring Weekend, Celebration and Doctor Mounty in Race 9.


Henry S. Clark Stakes – Race 9 at Laurel – Post Time 5:10 Eastern


Murad Khan can post the upset although this is a fairly deep field. He opens at 10/1, gets the rail and makes his 3rd start in the U.S. and 3rd off a layoff, so the cycle suggests improvement. He posted the 22 to 1 upset in a tough 2nd level allowance field at Gulfstream Park last month and in Europe won at this mile turf trip three times so now that he's back in winning form he has every right to come right back with another victory. Celebration makes his U.S. debut today, last seen in October in Ireland winning at 7 furlongs on grass in a field of 13. He's never raced a mile but is training forwardly for a very good, underrated trainer in Abbott, and with Leparoux signed on if he's anywhere near his 12/1 odds at post time you can be sure I will be betting him, perhaps heavily. Doctor Mounty is another who opens at double digit odds which make him very playable. He fell on the turn in the Tampa Bay Stakes in February so that race can be ignored but before that he won a classified allowance race with a strong effort. Considering he's trained by Shug McGaughey and Boyce rode him to two of his last three wins, one at Laurel in a race scheduled for turf but moved to the main track, we don’t want to be kicking ourselves after the race for not wagering at least a few bucks on this horse with a decent 5 for 15 career record. Ring Weekend rounds out a quartet of contenders but opens at the lowest odds by far of the group, 7 to 2. He's earned over $1.5 million and has won multiple graded stakes but he is 7 now and although the last time he didn't run in a graded stakes he won prior to that he lost two non-graded stakes attempts with no excuse. He was very wide from a poor 11 post last out so will get a better trip today and could return to top form.


Win Bets: Any of the three win contenders who might go to post at high odds – Murad Khan, Celebration and Doctor Mounty, at 4 to 1 or more, adding place bets at 8 to 1 or higher.


Exacta: Box Murad Khan, Celebration, Doctor Mounty and Ring Weekend.



Doubles: Murad Khan, Celebration, Doctor Mounty and in Race 9 with ALL 11 horses in Race 10.

Doubles: Ring Weekend in Race 9 with American Lincoln, Holland Park, Split Verdict and V.I.P. Code in race 10.



Federico Tesio Stakes – Race 10 at Laurel – Post Time 5:40 Eastern

American Lincoln decimated a field, albeit only of five horses, but 18 lengths last month at Aqueduct, at this nine furlong trip. That was his 2nd start as a 3 year old and a huge improvement off his previous when 3rd behind Holland Park. Shipping down from New York for Linda Rice, American Lincoln brings Junior Alvarado to ride, up for the win and giving up a whole day of races at Aqueduct. The colt by Street Sense out of a Smart Strike mare is bred to be a good one and any improvement off that last race can get him the win and add to Rice's very high 33% win rate with starters back-to-back in the past year. Holland Park has been off since his sharp win in February before being flattered nicely by American Lincoln. He is bred to be ANY KIND by Tapit out of champion Round Pond, who has already produced a multiple stakes winner in Long River. With an exceptional 2nd best of 75 half-mile drill before leaving McLaughlin's base at Belmont and with local jockey Vargas aboard, Holland Park has every right to improve as markedly today off his last race as American Lincoln did off that same race. Split Verdict improved nicely 2nd time out last month to win at a mile around one turn at Aqueduct and is another shipper, this from the fine Violette barn and bringing New York rider Carmouche along. The colt showed good tactical speed in that win and could be close to the likely hot pace set by possible dueling leaders Not Fake News and Navy Commander so could make the lead in the stretch before the closers get into high gear and he could hang on from there. V.I.P Code is the local runner I'll consider a contender, having just won the Private Terms Stakes, only the 2nd two-turn try of his career and first of the year. The 101 Equibase figure is the BEST last race figure in the field and as Quinones rides back we must respect the colt's chances to run two "A" races in a row.

Morning line favorite Still Having Fun finished 4th at 3 to 5 with an excuse in the Private Terms so can be used on exacta tickets as he can rebound but he's no standout. Noble Commander tries two turns for the first time but is undefeated in two starts. Diamond King lost the jockey the only previous time he tried two turns but he's won 3 of the other four races in his career. Takedown rallied from far back to win an allowance race over the track and has a shot to get a piece.


Win Bets: Bet American Lincoln and Holland Park at odds of 3 to 1 or more, adding a place bet at 6 to 1 or higher. Consider a win bet on Split Verdict and V.I.P. Code at 4 to 1 or more.


Exacta: American Lincoln, Holland Park, Split Verdict and V.I.P. Code over American Lincoln, Holland Park, Split Verdict, V.I.P. Code, Still Having Fun, Noble Commander, Diamond King and Takedown.


For a smaller amount, play the reverse of the exacta above as well.





Wednesday, 18 April 2018 16:25

Preparing for the First Saturday in May

Past the Wire     Tracking Tips Logo


April 18, 2018

Preparing for the First Saturday in May

By: Jonathan Stettin

While most of us start getting ready for the Kentucky Derby the year before as we watch the two-year olds compete, it really isn’t until the final prep races are run that we can get serious and begin forming definitive opinions. I’ve always found it somewhat comical when people lock into a “Derby horse” weeks and months before the race. There is always value in the Kentucky Derby, and last I checked you do not get paid more by making your selection early. Advance wagering is fun, but rarely do I see it as a smart bet. To each their own.

I try and go into the Kentucky Derby without any bias or sentiment. I like to handicap the race after it is drawn and when I know or have at least a good idea about the weather. That said, the Kentucky Derby is part of a stakes filled card with an abundance of opportunities so being as prepared as you can be in advance is probably wise. The Derby also follows Oaks day which is similar in opportunities so that is an awful lot of handicapping crammed into two days. No complaints as this is the life I’ve chosen, but there are things I do now which help me come the big Friday and Saturday.

With all the technology and tools at our disposal it is pretty easy to get a head start on your homework. This is what I do:

I get the advance past performances.

I get the Thoro-Graph numbers for all the qualified horses.

And last but not least I begin watching replays.

There are a lot of replays to watch. I find it very beneficial to watch replays a few times, and even more importantly a few days or weeks after the race was run. When you watch a race live, or even later that day or the next day, one can have a tendency to get caught up in the hype, or even your own wagers. A week or two down the road it is easier to be more objective and have more focus and clarity.

Replays can give you a big edge, especially if you know what to look for and how to spot it. Remember almost everyone is focused on the lead horse or winner when watching a replay.

For example, in the Florida Derby Audible received all the raves and accolades. I watched the race with good friend and knowledgeable horseman, Ramiro Ramirez, who is an internal representative of Fasig Tipton. After the race while everyone was applauding Audible, he and I looked at one another and commented how impressive the runner up (Hofburg) was and how he had covered more ground while spotting a lot of experience to the winner. If you watch his race again, you’ll also see he was green and ducking in and out and still finished good and never stopped trying. Audible will be a significantly shorter price than Hofburg when they run for the roses. Your opinion of the replay will tell you if he is worth it. Again your opinion, not mine or anyone else’s. We all watch the same races but don’t see the same things. If you have a good eye and opinion use it to get an edge.

I loved Animal Kingdom the year he won the Derby at a healthy price. I singled him in all the multi-race bets, and bet him to win and on top in the triple. I still say that triple came back way too short, and although I hit the Oaks, Woodford and Derby pick 3, had St John’s River won the Oaks I would have just about finished counting the money. I hit everything and have no complaints but suspect there were some serious bettors on him along with me. How do you love and single a horse who has never run on dirt is a legit question. The answer is easy. It was his replays and pedigree. Being by Leroidesanimeaux it figured Animal Kingdom would run on anything and his pre-Derby Work on dirt confirmed that. What brought him to my eye initially was his race at Turfway Park prior to the Derby. Animal Kingdom weaved in and out of horses making left and right turns on the dime, showing a lot of agility. That kind of toughness and talent bodes well in Louisville.

For a more recent example of replays you can look at My Boy Jack. He is somewhat forgotten in this field despite people projecting a fast-contested pace and his being a closer. When I look at his replays I see a ridiculously wide trip, particularly stretch run in the Louisiana Derby that cost him a lot more ground than he was beaten. In the Lexington he was wide again but more importantly perhaps is he had to zig and zag through some traffic and was able to do so and go wide and still get up.

While I am a long way from finished with my homework for the first Saturday in May I am going in with a head start. Now you have one as well. We often see big price horses closing to get into the exotics in the Kentucky Derby. Every once in a while, they win a la Giacomo. You don’t need many like Giacomo to make a difference.

Replays, there is a lot on them.


Friday, 13 April 2018 12:26

Key Bets & Races for Saturday, April 14

Bridgetown Stakes – Race 8 at Aqueduct - Post Time 5:17 PM Eastern


Nootka Sound ships in from Kentucky for Wesley Ward and as most people know Ward is one of the sharpest turf trainers in North America if not the world, having shipped some of his runners from the U.S. across the pond to win prestigious stakes. Nootka Sound did ship to England last spring for the Windsor Castle Stakes at Ascot and although highly regarded in a field of 22, sent off at 9 to 2, she finished 17th. Honestly, the absence of Lasix which she used for her 5 length win two months earlier in her career debut may have been a factor, or just shipping to Europe, but in any event when brought back in January at Gulfstream Park in a 7 1/2 furlong turf race (and with Lasix) she again ran a huge race to win in a field of 8, then was flattered when the third horse won and the runner-up finished 2nd in her subsequent start. Ward has no problem racing a filly against males, particularly on turf where finesse matters more than size, and with two exceptional recent workouts since leaving Ward's home base in Kentucky and with veteran Pino in the saddle, the filly who can win on the lead or from off the pace may take some beating here, with coming from off-the-pace the better way to win this from her outside post with three or four others bound to want the lead from the start and possibly at any cost.



Ambassador Jim has never been worse than 3rd in four races including a win when last seen in October and returning more mature as a three year old adds Lasix for the first time. With Rosario out of town, Irad Ortiz, Jr. takes the call for excellent trainer Clement and the colt's 90 Equibase figure when last seen in the fall matches up perfectly with the 90 best figure Nootka Sound has earned so these two have just about the same chance to win in my opinion.



Barbarossa is the third horse that is not a need-the-lead type, having rallied from 5th to miss by a neck at the same 7 1/2 furlong trip Nootka Sound ran so well at in her last start. Before that, Barbarossa won by eight at 7 furlongs on turf and after that he finished 3rd in a 75K stakes race at 5 furlongs. This six furlong trip should suit him nicely and so he rounds out the trio we can wager on to win and/or in exactas for a profit.


Win Bets: Nootka Sound and Ambassador Jim to win at 2 to 1 or more. Depending on their odds near post time use a "Dutching" tool like the free one at Amwager to help allocate your wagering dollars for the best profit.


Exacta: Box Nootka Sound, Ambassador Jim and Barbarossa.


Stonestreet Lexington Stakes – Race 9 at Keeneland - Post Time 5:34 PM Eastern

In addition to the condition of the track being a factor, with rain predicted, there's likely to be very hot early pace as Battle At Sea, Telekinesis, Seven Trumpets, Magicalmeister and the newly blinkered Gracida may all want the lead from the start and if not the ones that don't get the lead will press the pace and are likely to force fast early fractions.


My Boy Jack is likely to get the sloppy or muddy track of his dreams in the Lexington Stakes as rain is predicted and considering how easily he prevailed (by four and one-half lengths) in the Southwest Stakes in February in the mud he should run as well. He earned a 106 Equibase figure in that win then followed it up with a 105 figure when beaten just under a length in the Louisiana Derby after making a visually impressive rally EIGHT paths wide on the turn while going from 10th to second before losing some of his steam and that same late kick timed better in this race which ends at the first finish line gets him the win.


Zanesville may be worth considering for many reasons, not the least of which is he opens at 20/1. His only previous try on a sloppy track came last December and he really showed a liking for the surface with a strong win. He returned to win an allowance race in February and last month in the Jeff Ruby Steaks Zanesville was flying late, ending up fourth and beaten just two lengths at the end with a career best 105 figure on par with My Boy Jack.


Pony Up finished fast from ninth to end up second in the Jeff Ruby, his best race to date with a 108 figure. John Velazquez gets on for the Pletcher barn which is dominating many of the Derby prep races and the colt has many dirt route stakes winners he calls siblings on the dam's side of his pedigree so could certainly be a factor.


Although I don't think they can win, both Honor Up and Greyvitos both could be a factor and should be considered for second and third positions on exacta and trifecta tickets.



Win Bets: My Boy Jack at 2 to 1 or more.


Also definitely consider a win bet on Zanesville at 7 to 2 or more and a place bet at 6 to 1 or higher, as well as a win bet on Pony Up at 7 to 2 or higher.


Exactas: My Boy Jack, Zanesville and Pony Up over My Boy Jack, Zanesville, Pony Up, Honor Up and Greyvitos.


Trifecta: My Boy Jack over Zanesville, Pony Up, Honor Up and Greyvitos over ALL.


Thors Echo Stakes – Race 7 at Santa Anita – Post Time 6 pm Eastern, 3 PM Pacific

Make It a Triple opens at 15/1 and is the perfect horse to either post the upset or to split the two logical favorites, Edwards Going Left and Tough Sunday. Make It a Triple was a claimer for his entire career until trainer Craigmyle claimed him for 16K in December out of a strong three length wining effort at this basic six furlong trip on dirt. Trying turf for the first time off the claim, and moving up significantly to allowance company, but against California breds only, Make It a Triple finished third, beaten only a length for the win. Improving once more next time out when moved back to six furlongs on dirt on March 17, the horse ran the best race of his career with a 110 figure. Putting that effort in perspective, when Tough Sunday won the similar Sensational Star Stakes one week earlier, he earned a 111 figure and when Edwards Going Left won the similar California Cup Sprint in January, he earned a 113 figure so it is very likely Make It a Triple fits here although his starting odds are 6 to 10 times those of the other two contenders.


Bets: Make It a Triple to win at odds of 3 to 1 or higher, adding a place bet at 5 to 1 or more.


Exactas: Box Make It a Triple and Edwards Going Left. Box Make It a Triple and Tough Sunday.


Trifecta: Edwards Going Left and Tough Sunday over Make It a Triple over Edwards Going Left and Tough Sunday.

Also Edwards Going Left and Tough Sunday over Edwards Going Left and Tough Sunday over Make It a Triple.


Also Make It a Triple over Edwards Going Left and Tough Sunday over Edwards Going Left and Tough Sunday.

Coolmore Jenny Wiley Stakes – Race 10 at Keeneland – Post Time 6:12 Eastern

In an incredibly deep edition of this grade 1 stakes on turf for fillies and mares, likely to be run on a turf course other than firm, Cambodia gets slight preference here as a mare that really likes to win, with a 6 for 12 career mark on the grass including back-to-back grade 2 stakes wins last summer. Following that she wasn't disgraced a bit when 3rd of 14 in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf then a fourth of 11 finish in the grade 1 Matriarch Stakes before taking the four and one-half months off she comes back from today. From her rail draw Leparoux will use her tactical speed to be anywhere from 3rd to 6th in his 12 horse field in the early stages and from there it's just a matter of showing the kind of kick she showed starting with a win in the Gallorette Stakes on Preakness Day last year to get the job done here.


Off Limits also put together three straight stakes wins last summer and fall, culminating with a huge effort to win the Grade 1 Matriarch in November. She wasn't 100% tight when returning last month in the Hillsborough Stakes, rallying from 9th of 10 early to be beaten a length and one-half at the end, but in her 2nd start back and with Rosario aboard today as he was for those three straight wins last season, Off Limits is another expected to be rolling in the lane to be in the picture at the end.


Dona Bruja was a multiple group stakes winner in her native Argentina and won in her U.S. debut last June in the Grade 3 Mint Julep Handicap before two more excellent efforts for a win and a half-length defeat, the latter coming in the Grade 1 Beverly D. Stakes. Not disgraced when 4th in the Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II here at Keeneland last fall, she was given four months off and came back with a roar when wiring the field in February to win the Endeavour Stakes under Jose Ortiz, who was riding her for the 1st time. Now having won off the pace and on the lead and with Ortiz riding back, Dona Bruja rounds out a trio that in my opinion has a slight edge on the rest here any of which can finish 2nd or 3rd.


Win Bets: Any of the three win contenders – Cambodia, Off Limits and Dona Bruja, can be bet to win at 5 to 2 or more, with slight preference in that order.


Trifecta: Instead of an exacta, I think a pair of trifectas are in order because I think at least two of the above mares will finish 1st and 2nd or 1st and 3rd.


Cambodia, Off Limits and Dona Bruja over Cambodia, Off Limits and Dona Bruja over ALL.

Then also Cambodia, Off Limits and Dona Bruja over ALL over Cambodia, Off Limits and Dona Bruja.

Wednesday, 11 April 2018 14:12

Make the Right Moves

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April 11, 2018

Make the Right Moves

By: Jonathan Stettin

Jockeys and their agents are faced with tough decisions every day. In a profession where, for the most part you’re rewarded for winning and blanked for losing, the pressure is always on to ride the best horse in each race that you can. Sometimes the decision is made for you by a trainer or even owner, but if you’ve worked your way up to be a top rider, it will often be your call which horse you ride.

Sometimes being on the right horse isn’t as simple as just knowing who gives you your best chance. Calls on horses are given out in advance and part of being a good agent is knowing which horses are running back in which races. Agents often have to know this before the entries are drawn. They work off the condition book and have to maintain close ties with the outfits you ride for.

This is horse racing however, and we all know things change quickly. A horse not expected to enter a race, can be entered leaving a rider with two calls or commitments. One outfit is not going to be happy with your decision. When a rider takes a call on a horse, and subsequently another horse enters the same race and he abandons the first call, it’s called spinning. The initial trainer got “spun” in favor of the perceived better mount. Agents who do this frequently get a reputation and it can come back to bite you.

Riding the best horse in a particular race, can also be compromised by not only prior commitments but also by relationships. If you are riding a lot for a barn, especially a barn who has a lot of live horses, you may at times ride a horse for that barn which may not be your best chance at a win. However, you don’t want to jeopardize future live mounts from that outfit. It is a constant balance and juggling act and it often can be difficult to keep everyone happy. That’s the top end of the spectrum. The other end is made up of new riders, or riders in less demand, who are happy to ride anything and just get their name in the program. That’s how it all usually starts.

We often see in past performances where a horse is ridden by one rider, who has had success on them or for the barn, and inexplicably they are named on another mount, or maybe not even riding in the race. Some of what I described above can lead to those situations and you can’t see that in the past performances. Accordingly, it is likely best not to read that much into it. Remain cognizant there could be many legit reasons is my suggestion.

If there is one race where all the protocols sort of go by the wayside, in my experience it is the race coveted by all jockeys, the Kentucky Derby. Riders and agents are almost always looking for that Kentucky Derby mount. International riding star Ryan Moore recently stated the Kentucky Derby is on his bucket list. He will likely ride Mendelssohn on the first Saturday in May as opposed to staying in England and riding Saxon Warrior. I wish we could wager on where Ryan will be Derby Day. The Derby is the Derby. As such loyalties and prior commitments are usually given a pass, almost everyone understands you want to take your best shot. Most trainers will forgive a rider jumping ships in the Run for the Roses.

This year’s Kentucky Derby has had a fair share of musical jockeys already. Bolt d’ Oro’s trainer Mick Ruis canned the regular rider Cory Nakatani following a post workout decision and disagreement. He was replaced by Javier Castellano, who despite all his success still seeks that first elusive Derby win. Javier rode Bolt d’ Oro to a controversial second place finish to McKinzie, in which he was awarded the win via disqualification. He came back to chase the highly regarded and much hyped Justify, but could not really make him sweat. Javier stated he was happy with how his horse ran as he was chasing the best horse in the country. After that statement, which was almost a concession, it should have come as no surprise Javier, a jockey with options took himself off Bolt d’ Oro. He opted for Audible, a popular winner of the Holy Bull and Florida Derby, for the powerhouse barn of Todd Pletcher. Audible became open after John Velazquez, his rider in both the Holy Bull and Florida Derby, made a decision to ride recent Wood Memorial winner Vino Rosso in the Kentucky Derby. This move by Johnny V surprised a lot of people, but not me. Between Audible and Vino Rosso, I would have chosen Vino Rosso myself. Being a good agent, means being a good handicapper and the Derby is at a mile and a quarter. At that distance Vino Rosso looks better in my opinion.

All that shuffling left Bolt d’ Oro open. Victor Espinoza got the call to pilot him in Louisville and it will be the first time he rides him in a race. If not for Javier’s defection, Victor would have probably watched the Derby on TV. Now he is on a horse a lot of people like.

Some people think Javier made his decision based on loyalty to Todd Pletcher and the fact he rides for him. Don’t buy it. If he thought Bolt d’ Oro was the winner, or his best option, that’s where his weight would be come Derby Day. Todd would understand. The Derby is the Derby.

Mike Smith was in the spot most riders would envy. He rode two top prospects in McKinzie and Justify. Had McKinzie not been injured, he would have had a tough choice. He made one last year when he rode Arrogate in the Breeders’ Cup Classic and gave up the mount on West Coast, knowing West Coast would be running in stakes in 2018. It’s tough to be on top and stay there.

You have to make the right moves. Sometimes that is easier said than done. The great Bill Shoemaker was offered the mount on Northern Dancer in the Kentucky Derby by the great trainer Horatio Luro. Shoe refused and rode favorite Hill Rise. The two colts battled down the stretch and Northern Dancer, under Bill Hartack, got the best of Shoemaker and Hill Rise by a long neck. We don’t always get it right. Go with your handicapping, instincts, and gut. I always do. Don’t read into the above as any tells on who I like in the Derby this year. I won’t know that until I handicap the race. If you want to know who I like come the first Saturday in May, just find me and ask. It won’t be that hard.


Friday, 06 April 2018 11:27

Key Bets & Races for Saturday, April 7


Carter Handicap – Race 8 at Aqueduct - Post Time 4:44 PM Eastern

Skyler's Scramjet and trainer Michelle Nevin are a potent pair, because if you remove the four races when the horse was in another trainer's care and look at only the races where Nevin was the conditioner, Skyler's Scramjet is five for six. His last three races were very consistent and the best of his career, with 116, 111 and 114 Equibase figures including a win last month in the Tom Fool Handicap, in which he beat four of the other 10 entrants in this race. He has won on mud so as it's likely the track will be wet there is no issue and he's won at 6 1/2 furlongs to the 7 furlong trip is of no concern either. Skyler's Scramjet can sit just off the pace of Red Dragon Tattoo and Green Gratto, who is not the same horse that won last year's Carter at 54 to 1, then draw off just as he did last month, improving off his last effort in his 3rd start off a layoff. Awesome Slew is the other horse with the bulk of the probability to win. Overmatched in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile, his 3rd of 10 finish was very good. He finished 2nd in the Forego at this trip in August and won the Commonwealth Stakes at this time last year at the distance, his best race ever with a 115 Figure that stacks up the best figure effort Skyler's Scramjet has put forth. With a good outside post to drop in behind horses early and a late running style that should benefit from any duel that develops between Green Gratto & Red Dragon Tattoo, Awesome Slew would be no surprise winning this year's Carter.


Three other good horses that are a cut below the top two can be used in second and third on exacta and trifecta tickets. They are Army Mule, Favorable Outcome and Do Share.


Win Bets: Skyler's Scramjet at 9 to 5 or higher. Bet Awesome Slew at 2 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.


Exacta: Skyler's Scramjet and Awesome Slew over Skyler's Scramjet, Awesome Slew, Army Mule, Favorable Outcome and Do Share.



Trifecta: Skyler's Scramjet over Awesome Slew, Army Mule, Favorable Outcome and Do Share (in both second and third position).



Pick 3:

Race 8 – Skyler's Scramjet, Awesome Slew

Race 9 – ALL seven runners

Race 10 – Old Time Revival, Enticed


Wood Memorial – Race 10 at Aqueduct - Post Time 5:55 PM Eastern

Old Time Revival appears to have a pace edge in this year's Wood Memorial, perhaps a significant one, as he can use his early speed to get to the rail and control the tempo from the start. Heartfullofstars showed some early speed last month in California, but that was on a sloppy track and in a highly restricted maiden race, the same kind of race Restoring Hope won in February. King Zachary also showed some speed early last month, in his two turn debut, and Catch Twenty Two adds blinkers, but Old Time Revival has a positional edge on all of them except Heartfullofstars. Last month in the one-turn Gotham Stakes, Old Time Revival had to battle head and head for the lead for the opening half-mile in 46.4 yet still was clearly second by four lengths over the next horse as Enticed drew off. There can be a significant difference in how a one-turn race is run compared to a two-turn race and that is why I think Old Time Revival can improve off his last race career best 108 Equibase Figure effort to win the Wood.




There's nothing bad I can say about Enticed, except he has 63 Road to the Derby points and doesn't need to win to go to Louisville next month. He won the two-turn Jockey Club Stakes in November, ran horribly in his three year old debut in the Holy Bull, then rebounded to win the Gotham with a career best 113 figure effort. He can sit behind the leaders and pounce just as he did last month and would be no surprise if winning, but from a betting perspective there's little profit to be made if he does.



King Zachary is an improving type who was ridden out to a near eight length win in his first route and can improve but would need more than logical improvement to go from the 96 figure effort last month to the 110 figure effort the winner of this race is likely to put in. Restoring Hope is shipped east by Baffert to avoid his stablemate Justify and he won easily in his 2nd route and last start with a 108 figure. However, he's been off since that February 2 race and one has to wonder why when others have run since. Still, the figure is the same as Old Time Revival earned and he does have tactical speed so I will use him on exacta tickets played.


Win Bets: Old Time Revival at 2 to 1 or more.


Exacta: Old Time Revival and Enticed over Old Time Revival, Enticed, King Zachary and Restoring Hope.


Play the same exacta in reverse but for half the amount.


Blue Grass Stakes – Race 10 at Keeneland – Post Time 6:23 Eastern

Kanthaka is my pick to win the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes, having only 10 points coming into the race and needing to finish second or first to go on to the Derby. He's got the talent to go with the incentive, having already won a graded stakes for three year olds, the San Vicente Stakes, in February. That wasn't a points race because it was a sprint (7 furlongs) but he proved very capable in drawing off by three lengths and earning a 114 Equibase figure which is the BEST figure of any horse in this field. Trying two turns for the first time one month later in the San Felipe Stakes, against two of the division leaders in Bolt d'Oro and McKinzie (who is likely to miss the Derby but who is pointing for the Preakness), Kanthaka broke awkwardly and immediately went down to one knee, nearly losing his jockey. From then on out the strategy would be to let the horse settle and see how he did as most horses have no chance to win after such a start. Kanthaka relaxed in fifth in the field of seven and as the top two drew off in the stretch by six lengths, he showed his interest and ability in rallying for third.


The early pace of this race could be faster than average, with California Night having earned both his wins leading from start to finish, the last when wearing blinkers for the first time. Sporting Chance, one position inside California Night, is not likely to relinquish his position in the early stages either, while Good Magic and Flameaway, both drawn far outside, will have to use some tactical speed to save ground before the first turn. Considering Kanthaka draws the four post, jockey Leparoux can drop in and watch as all the pace manifestations take place in front of him, something jockey Prat was unable to do with Kanthaka in the San Felipe because of the bad start. From there, if the pacesetters begin to tire, Kanthaka can grab the lead in the stretch and hold off the deeper closers such as Blended Citizen and Arawak. For anyone that questions why jockey Prat is not here that is not of concern, because when Leparoux rode full time in California (where trainer Hollendorfer is based) in 2013/14, Hollendorfer and Leparoux won 11 of 42 races together including 4 stakes races from 14 tries. Also, we must recall trainer Hollendorfer prepared Battle of Midway marvelously last year for his three year old campaign, with the colt finishing second in the Santa Anita Derby, third in the Kentucky Derby and winning the Breeders' Cup Mile in November.


Blended Citizen will be ignored by many bettors because his win in the Jeff Ruby Steaks last month was on an all-weather surface rather than dirt, and he ran poorly in his three dirt races. However, those were at the beginning of his career and he is a DIFFERENT HORSE now. The addition of blinkers for the Jeff Ruby was the key to a strong finish with a 109 figure and we must recall trainer O'Neill won the 2017 Blue Grass with Irap at 30 to 1 so I will believe this colt has what it takes to win. Back to the concern about the surface, not only is Blended Citizen a different horse now than when he ran on dirt in his first three starts, his breeding is as good for dirt as for all-weather on turf as he is a half-brother (same dam) to 2017 Kentucky Derby runner-up Lookin At Lee, who also finished second in the 2016 Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland. With 22 points to date, Blended Citizen needs to finish second or first to insure he has a spot in the Derby.


Good Magic will be favored by bettors as the winner of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile last fall. He had been off for four months when he finished a non-threatening third in the Fountain of Youth Stakes last month and he can improve, but there is no guarantee of it as some horses just aren't the same at three as they are at two. With 34 points to date, Good Magic also needs to finish first or second to or he may not be able to enter the Derby.


Arawak is the wild card, recently purchased privately and sent to the barn of Doug O'Neill (trainer of Blended Citizen) after finishing third in the Jeff Ruby. This will be his third start of the year, often a peak effort in a horse's form cycle, and he adds blinkers which notably helped his stablemate win the Jeff Ruby last month. With only four points to date, I believe the instructions given to jockey De La Cruz will be go get Arawak mid-pack about half way through the race then pass as many horses as you can. As such, and with starting odds of 30/1, I will be at least wagering a few bucks on him to win, place and show so I have no regrets if he pulls off an "Irap" and wins the race at 30/1 as happened last year.


Bets: Kanthaka at 5 to 2 or more. Blended Citizen at 4 to 1 or more. Arawak at 10 to 1 or more.

Add place bets at 6 to 1 or more. Show bets at 10 to 1 or more.


Exactas: Kanthaka, Blended Citizen and Good Magic over Kanthaka, Quip, Marconi, Blended Citizen, Free Drop Billy, Good Magic, Flameaway, Machismo and Arawak.

Santa Anita Derby – Race 9 at Santa Anita – Post Time 6:30 Eastern, 3:30 Pacific

I am going to pick Core Beliefs to post the upset in the Santa Anita Derby and, at the least, to run a lot better than his odds will suggest he can run. After two third place finishes in sprints in January and February, Core Beliefs stretched out to two turns and improved tremendously, drawing off by three lengths with a 109 Equibase Speed Figure. This was on par with the 108 figure Justify earned winning a two-turn race three days later. Core Beliefs was sired by Quality Road, whose progeny have proven themselves at top levels just as the sire did. Using Stats Race Lens to get a feeling for pedigrees that have produced classic talent, it is easy to find the sons and daughters of Quality Road have won 8 of 39 stakes races for three year olds on dirt over the past few years, including 2017 Kentucky Oaks winner and multiple stakes winner Abel Tasman. Although the 109 figure effort Core Beliefs put forth last month is well short of the 118 figure Bolt d'Oro earned in the San Felipe, the colt has potential to improve markedly off the effort in his second route and he will have to do just that because he needs to finish first or second to get the points required to run in the Kentucky Derby. Using his early speed as he did when victorious over the track last month and with the only other horse likely to be on or near the early lead being Justify, Core Beliefs should be in the thick of the action from start to finish.


Except for an exceptionally wide trip in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile last fall when finishing third, Bolt d'Oro has made no mistakes, winning all four of his other races. In last month's San Felipe Stakes, Bolt d'Oro showed his battle- hardened nature once again when battling head-and-head the length of the stretch with McKinzie before losing by a head. After a steward's inquiry, McKinzie (who will miss the Kentucky Derby) was placed second and Bolt d'Oro was moved up to first. Being as he had been away from the races for four months prior to that, the 118 figure earned was exceptional. With 64 points on the "Road to the Derby" leaderboard, a spot in the starting gate in the Kentucky Derby is virtually assured so Bolt d'Oro may only need a good effort to keep fit to move on to the big dance next month. However, in his current form, even his "B" level race may be good enough to win.


Justify has been impressive in both his races to date. He won his debut by almost 10 lengths and then by six and one-half lengths last month in his second career start and in spite of coming out of the gate a bit tardily. Like Core Beliefs, this will be the second two-turn start for Justify and improvement off his 108 figure last out can be expected. Justify was sired by Scat Daddy, who may have three horses in the starting gate in Louisville next month if Justify finishes first or second to gain his first points on the "Road to the Kentucky Derby" leaderboard. The other two Scat Daddy colts include Flameaway and the most impressive winner of the U.A.E. Derby last weekend, Mendelssohn. Certainly, if the hype surrounding how big, strong and fast Justify may be is warranted, he will win the Santa Anita Derby and create a lot of buzz in the weeks leading up to the Kentucky Derby.


Win Bets: Core Beliefs to win at 2 to 1 or higher.


Exacta: Core Beliefs over Bolt d'Oro and Justify then ALSO Bolt d'Oro and Justify over Core Beliefs


Pick 3:

Race 9 – Core Beliefs, Bolt d'Oro, Justify

Race 10 – Midnight Crossing, Thundering Sky

Race 11 – Spectator, Midnight Bisou


Santa Anita Oaks – Race 11 at Santa Anita – Post Time 7:30 Eastern, 4:30 Pacific

Spectator and Midnight Bisou tower over the rest in this year's Santa Anita Oaks, the only different between the two being Midnight Bisou is a stakes winner and Spectator is not. Spectator won the first two races of her career last year in easy fashion, including the Grade 2 Sorrento Stakes in August by five lengths, then finished third in the Del Mar Debutante before taking six months off to mature. She returned three weeks ago in a highly rated allowance race versus OLDER horses and gamely won by a neck with a 108 Equibase figure, higher than the 105 figure Midnight Bisou earned winning the Santa Ysabel stakes 15 days earlier. With Javier Castellano staying around for this race following the Santa Anita Derby, and with this gal having improving to do and then some in her 2nd start off the layoff, Spectator is the one to beat in this year's Santa Anita Oaks. Midnight Bisou has the rest of the probability to win the race, the other seven entrants not nearly as fast or as proven in top company. She missed by a nose in the first two starts of her career to an exceptional filly in Dream Tree then in her three year old debut she won the Santa Ynez in January before a ridden out (easy) win in the Santa Ysabel last month. Smith has been up for both wins and rides her back and she has one potential edge on Spectator in that she has run two turns and Spectator has not.


Win Bets: Spectator and Midnight Bisou (one or both) at odds of 3 to 2 or better


Exacta: Spectator and Midnight Bisou over Spectator, Midnight Bisou and Thirteen Squared (who finished a non-threatening second to Midnight Bisou last month)


Wednesday, 04 April 2018 19:49

Looking Ahead

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April 4, 2018

Looking Ahead

By: Jonathan Stettin

We have three major Kentucky Derby preps this Saturday in three different states across the country. The Wood Memorial in New York, the Santa Anita Derby in California, and the Blue Grass in Kentucky. Unfortunately, all three are in danger of being run under less than ideal conditions. Poor weather is hovering around all of those races. This really puts the connections, who have waited for these spots to get the points they need to get into the Kentucky Derby, up against it. The following Saturday we have the Arkansas Derby and Lexington Stakes that will wrap things up and set the stage for the first Saturday in May.


Since the inception of the point system in 2013 all the Derby winners were undefeated in their three-year old campaigns. I don’t believe that was by accident or coincidental. Starting back in 2013 and through last year Orb, California Chrome, American Pharoah, Nyquist, and Always Dreaming all went through their respective three- year old campaigns leading to the Derby without a hiccup on the racetrack. The obvious conclusion is the point system doesn’t really allow for pointing for a race with steady progression and not being fully cranked from the onset.


Of all the horses trying to get to the Derby this Saturday none has more hype than Justify. This fast and talented colt will get his first real class test in the Santa Anita Derby when he faces Bolt d’ Oro, who was a leading two-year old and is also considered by many to be a top three-year old. Justify is two for two in his brief career and both starts came at three-years old. That means he has to buck the long-standing Apollo curse if he is to win the Kentucky Derby. Although that dates back pretty far by any standard, all these trends and statistics eventually go the way of the dosage index and go down. In reality, how many horses who did not race at two went into the Kentucky Derby with a legit chance? Maybe Pulpit or Curlin recently, but historically probably not that many. If you are a Justify believer I wouldn’t be worried about Apollo.


Justify has gotten the hype of being Bob Baffert’s best Kentucky Derby hope since he made his debut at Santa Anita in February, winning at 7 furlongs in 1:21.4. That’s fast at any track. He came back just about a month later to win at a mile over a muddy Santa Anita track in 1:35.3. He has yet to face the quality of Bolt d’ Oro but he does have that mud win and all the hype with him. Additionally, his stablemate is McKinzie. If we are to believe the hype, he is better than McKinzie and that runner gave Bolt d’ Oro all he could handle. He also has Bob Baffert in his corner. That can only help in any big race.


Bolt d’ Oro is battle tested. He had a rough go of it in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. He literally had a war with Mckinzie last out, what resulted in McKinzie being disqualified. The two bumped turning for home and again nearing the wire but what sticks out to me is it never looked like Bolt d’ Oro was going to get by. Despite being carried out, which I remain cognizant of, I don’t believe the incident cost Bolt d’Oro the win.


Mick Ruis has done a fine job training Bolt d’ Oro thus far. He is now at the point on the Derby trail where things start to change. This is his first run and he does not have the experience that his chief rival, Bob Baffert, has in winning these types of races. I think that can play a part come Saturday.


I am a long way from handing the roses to Justify, or anyone else for that matter. There is plenty of time for that. The race on Saturday has not even been drawn yet so no detailed homework has been done. Strictly by the naked eye and experience, I will be a lot more surprised to see Bolt d’ Oro in the Santa Anita winners circle on Saturday than I will Justify. I think it is likely Justify punches his ticket to Louisville with a win and heads to town looking to bump Apollo as an undefeated three-year old with no starts at two. Getting that done is another matter altogether.


Thursday, 29 March 2018 20:21

Key Bets & Races for Saturday, March 31

Honey Fox Stakes – Race 11 at Gulfstream Park - Post Time 4:47 PM Eastern

Stormy Victoria put in an incredible late kick when winning the South Beach Stakes in late January over the course, making up 10 lengths in the last 3/16 of a mile. Before that she closed from last of nine to miss by a pair of necks in the similar Grade 3 My Charmer Stakes, won by On Leave, who also can win but who will likely go to post at lower odds. With a field high 116 Equibase figure from that win which is better than the 113 On Leave beat her right before that, Stormy Victoria gets slight preference among a quintet of contenders. On Leave has won two of her last three, the My Charmer at this mile turf trip in December and a stakes at Laurel last September. She's only run two poor efforts in the past year, both when in Grade 2 stakes, so in this Grade 3 another "A" effort looks to be forthcoming and if it is she may earn her eighth career win. Res Ipsa goes for her third straight win, the only knock being the last two came in September and October. She has only run in a stakes once before, before the two wins, and it was a poor effort but she matured a lot in the fall and both wins came with Leparoux in the saddle, who rides her again, so she must be considered a contender. Lull won the similar G3 Autumn Miss Stakes at this mile trip in October, but that was against three year olds only. She did beat older in September sprinting on the turf at Kentucky Downs and finished a fine second in the Grade 2 San Clemente Stakes in July. Overmatched when last seen in a grade 1 stakes, she should appreciate the class relief ad could rebound to top form. Glory to Kitten is another very competitive mare, with six wins and three runner-up finishes in 14 starts. What's odd is she was claimed out of a win for 30K 13 months ago over the track then took six tries to move through the first allowance condition but was narrowly defeated in two of those races. Claimed once again, on1/15 out of a win at this mile trip on the GP turf, Glory To Kitten ram the best race of her career last out to run her record on the GP turf to five-for-five and she's on a pattern to run even better here, likely at a decent price.


Win Bets: Stormy Victoria at 5 to 2 or more.

Consider smaller win bets on any of the other four contenders, at these minimum odds, with preference to whichever horses are the highest odds at post time: On Leave 5 to 2, Res Ipsa 7 to 2, Lull 7 to 2 and Glory to Kitten 4 to 1.


Exacta: Box Stormy Victoria, On Leave, Res Ipsa, Lull and Glory to Kitten

Consider a trifecta box among the same five horses.


Pick 4:

Race 11 – Stormy Victoria, On Leave, Res Ipsa, Lull and Glory to Kitten

Race 12 – Take Charge Paula, Cache, Princess Warrior

Race 13 – Hi Happy, Bigger Picture, Sadler's Joy

Race 14 – Storm Runner, Hofburg, Mississippi


Pan American Stakes – Race 13 at Gulfstream Park - Post Time 5:56 PM Eastern

Hi Happy is one of three that can win, the other two Sadler's Joy and Bigger Picture. The rest are a bit overmatched compared to these three and of the three Hi Happy is likely to offer the best value for win bets. In his native Argentina, Hi Happy crushed a field of 14 by four lengths at a mile on turf, no easy task, then finished second in a group 2 stakes before reeling of four straight group 2 or group 1 stakes wins. Given 11 months off to acclimate to the U.S. he started his career in California and was so highly regarded he made his stateside debut in a grade 2 stakes. He didn't do much in his first three U.S. starts but when stretched out to 12 furlongs for the first time in the U.S. he ran his best race in nearly 18 months, leading late and missing by a neck on the wire to grade 1 winner Hard Aces. Rested again, this time for 8 months, and sent to the Pletcher barn, Hi Happy came back in February in the Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Turf Stakes and missed by a neck and 3/4 of a length in a huge effort he is very likely to improve off 2nd off the layoff. Considering his last two efforts yielded 111 and 112 Equibase figures which compare favorably to the 111 to 115 figures Bigger Picture earned in grade 1 and 2 stakes in the last year, Hi Happy can add to his $1 million earned to date and give the Pletcher barn yet another win at the meeting. Sadler's Joy earned a 112 figure winning the Grade 1 Sword Dancer Stakes last summer at Saratoga, which is on par with Hi Happy's last two efforts. However, Sadler's Joy did run even better in his most recent effort when rallying from far back, 12th and last, to win the Mac Diarmida Stakes on the course four weeks ago with a 122 figure. Repeating that effort, the rest are running for second, but in spite of having won 6 of 15 on the turf and 2 of 3 on the grass at GP, Sadler's Joy can be beaten although we cannot for a second discount his chances so he must be used on any exotic bets we make including exactas and pick 3/pick 4 tickets. Bigger Picture is the third millionaire in the field, having gone over the mark with a win in the Grade 3 Connally Stakes when last seen at the end of January at this marathon 12 furlong trip. He has only run on the GP turf once previously, missing in a four horse photo in the 2017 Mac Diarmida, which Sadler's Joy won last month. Jose Ortiz rides Bigger Picture exceptionally well, up for three of his last four wins, and so we should expect this veteran to be in the thick of the action on the wire.


Win Bets: Hi Happy at 2 to 1 or more.

In the unlikely event Sadler's Joy or Bigger Picture is anywhere near 2 to 1 at post time, bet the one at the highest odds to win as well. Use a "dutching tool" like the one at Amwager to help allocate your wagering dollars over multiple horses for the best result in these kinds of situations.


Exacta: Box Hi Happy, Bigger Picture and Sadler's Joy


Doubles: Hi Happy, Bigger Picture and Sadler's Joy in race 13 with Storm Runner, Hofburg and Mississippi in race 14


Florida Derby – Race 14 at Gulfstream Park – Post Time 6:30 Eastern

Hofburg is making only the third start of his career and only his second start as a three year old. In spite of giving away a lot of experience to the others he has a decent shot to win this year's Florida Derby because there are some significant question marks surrounding some of the others. Storm Runner and Mississippi ran first and second, respectively, in a highly rated race over the track in February and if they repeat those efforts the can win as well. I'll make cases for all three based on other factors after I explain why I believe so many horses in this field are NOT win contenders.


First, Tip Sheet and Millionaire Runner are overmatched as they have never run well in stakes or recently. Then there's Holy Bull Stakes winner Audible. The first question mark for him is returning off a 56 day rest into a nine furlong race. That's not necessarily a big issue as his trainer is Todd Pletcher and as Mississippi and Catholic Boy also made their last starts in the first 10 days of February. The main issue is the 97 Equibase Speed Figure was a regression off his career best 99 figure in his last start as a two year old and three year olds normally run better as they are more physically mature. Also, that 97 figure doesn't hold up to the 110 or better figure it's going to take to win this race, similar to the 115 figure Promises Fulfilled earned winning the Fountain of Youth Stakes four weeks ago. With Audible having his work cut out for him, we next move to the first and second place finishers in the Fountain of Youth and I can't back either, at any price because of how that race was run. Promises Fulfilled was allowed to gallop on a lonely lead with no challengers, actually running slower in the second quarter mile as compared to the first, and slower still in the last quarter mile leading to the last 110 yards. His 24.99 fraction from the 3/16 pole to the 1/6 pole was dawdling and appears only to show me what was behind him wasn't much. Fountain of Youth runner-up Strike Power ran second from start to finish and after having run first from start to finish in his other two races, that effort only proves he's a need-the-lead type. Catholic Boy returned to finish second in his first start as a three year old in the Sam F. Davis Stakes, following two months off after a stirring victory in the Remsen Stakes last December. However, after making the lead turning for home against early leader Flameaway, Catholic Boy could not put away his foe and came up a half-length short on the wire. When Flameaway came back to run second behind Quip in the Tampa Bay Derby, with a seriously lower Equibase figure (106 in the Sam F. Davis to 96 in the Tampa Bay Derby), and with the third quarter mile split in the Sam F. Davis a pedestrian 24.81 which Catholic Boy could not make any headway, I just don't see him as the type to leap forward and win the Florida Derby.


Back to the main contenders – Hofburg is a half-brother to multiple graded stakes winner Emollient, who finished second in the Demoiselle Stakes at a mile and one-eighth in only the second start of her career and who also won the Grade 1 Ashland Stakes on conventional dirt. Bill Mott trained Emollient as he does Hofburg, a son of tremendous sire Tapit, whose foals have won nearly 20% of over 220 dirt route stakes for three year olds in the past five years. Mott knows what he has and has no problem moving Hofburg into a grade 1 stakes of his maiden win, with a 102 Equibase figure that was a 20 point improvement off his only other race and which suggests Hofburg could show us a breakout effort in the Florida Derby.


Storm Runner earned a career best 111 figure winning his second start as a three year old, first on dirt, on February 4 over the track and he did so in spite of running greenly, which means he didn't know exactly what to do. One month later in the Fountain of Youth Stakes, Storm Runner fought the jockey in the early stages then when he was let run, he went inside the early leader, only to be shut off and lose his momentum. Shut off one more time, when asked to run on the turn the colt refused to respond and ended up fading to seventh. With a change in jockey and a significant workout (best of 42) coming into the race, Storm Runner has a nice shot if he stays out of trouble.


Similarly, Mississippi can win if he can repeat or improve off that last effort. Before that he missed by three-quarters of a length to recent Louisiana Derby winner Noble Indy and then in that February 4 race, Mississippi moved up nicely to miss by a neck at the end and was nine lengths clear of the third horse. Blinkers added for the Florida Derby can help him focus on the task at hand in the late stages and if that does the trick Mississippi can stamp himself Kentucky Derby contender.


Betting Strategies:

Win Bets: Bet Hofburg to win at odds of 3 to 1 or more.

Also Consider win bets on Storm Runner and on Mississippi at odds of 7 to 2 or higher.


Exactas: Hofburg, Storm Runner and Mississippi over Hofburg, Storm Runner, Mississippi, Strike Power, Promises Fulfilled, Catholic Boy and Audible.

San Francisco Mile Stakes – Race 8 at Golden Gate – Post Time 6:45 Eastern

Full of Luck looks extra live in his U.S. debut. A Chilean bred by Lookin At Lucky out of a Fusaichi Pegasus mare, he was bred to be any kind and has turned out that way, winning 5 of 7 last year and 8 of 14 overall for $262K, a huge bankroll for a horse having run exclusively in Chile until now. Privately purchased since his last race in October, partially by Hollendorfer, he appears to have come to hand quickly with a sharp 1:12 six furlong workout a few weeks ago. The fact that Hollendorfer gets Prat to ride, taking off a whole day at Santa Anita, is very significant and if the horse is as ready to run off the rest as he appears to be, he could pick up where he left off in the fall with a stakes win. Editore ships up from Southern California as well and the last time he did that was in November, winning the Grade 3 Berkeley Handicap, the only real difference between that race and this one (also a grade 3) the Berkeley was on the main track. However, Editore won a turf route at Santa Anita before that and he hasn't been disgraced one bit in his two races since, finishing third twice in a row to the multiple stakes winner Itsinthepost, who would be the odds on favorite here. Syntax is another shipper from Southern California, dropping in class significantly from the Grade 1 Kilroe Mile three weeks ago, where in spite of being overmatched he managed to rally for fourth at 38 to 1. He missed by a half-length two races in a row to tougher before that and is another likely to move up on the change in company.



For the place position on exacta tickets, in addition to the win contenders we will also use Camino Del Paraiso and Frank Conversation, the former having just run the best race of his career when second in a stakes on the Santa Anita turf in late January and the latter a horse that doesn't have a lot of late kick but who has managed to finish second or third in two graded stakes in his last four races.


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

Consider win bets on Editore and Syntax at odds of 3 to 1 or more, for a smaller amount than on Full of Luck.


Exacta: Full of Luck, Editore and Syntax over Full of Luck, Editore, Syntax, Camino Del Paraiso and Frank Conversation.


Wednesday, 28 March 2018 16:00

Everyone in the Pool

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March 28, 2018

Everyone in the Pool

By: Jonathan Stettin

It’s an exciting time of year in the Sport of Kings. The final Kentucky Derby preps are upon us. The Run for the Roses is shaping up to be an interesting contest with possibly two horses having a chance of knocking out the Apollo curse, by winning the Derby without having raced at two-years old. The Dubai World Cup is Saturday and pits West Coast, the heir apparent to the top older horse in training in the US, against Talismanic the winner of last year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf. Saturday is also Florida Derby day at Gulfstream Park and that major Kentucky Derby prep will anchor a stakes filled card to end the Championship meet.

Something else will be happening at Gulfstream Park on Saturday. There will be a mandatory payout of the Rainbow 6 pool provided there is no single ticket winner between now and then. You can rest assured there are sharks in the water trying to spoil the big plans for the Rainbow 6 on Saturday, which if it carries could create a record Pick 6 pool. The pool has been “snaked” before leading up to a mandatory payout, but I have a feeling that won’t happen this go around, although I will admit I’d love to play the spoiler.

With the carryover between 4 and 5 million, actually closer to 5 on Saturday, we should see a pool somewhere between 20-25 million dollars. The fact it is Florida Derby day will help grow the pool, as Gulfstream will be a main focal point of horse racing across the country. I can see the pool going higher than the amount I projected, depending on the card, which has not yet been drawn.

The Rainbow 6, at a 20-cent minimum wager, has both supporters and detractors. I am a supporter, as I think any potentially life changing wager is good for the game and the players. As someone who has hit Pick 6’s from 100-500k more than my fair share of times and been alive for upward of a million dollars to one horse. I can say it is a thrilling wager that can be satisfying and obviously rewarding when you’re right. It can also be devastating when you are wrong, or worse get beat even when you zig zagged correctly. Which is why, under normal circumstances, the Pick 6 is not for everyone and certainly not for the faint of heart.

Saturday is not going to be normal circumstances, which is why everyone should be in the pool. Both regular Pick 6 players and even non-Pick 6 players should be going after this one.

A pool of 20-25 million dollars negates any argument about takeout. Takeout won’t matter regardless of one’s position on it. The 20-cent minimum, along with the massive pool and mandatory payout, levels the playing field considerably for smaller and especially medium monetary bettors. The big syndicates and robotic partnerships don’t have their normal huge edge over everyone else in the pool. This is your chance to compete with them and win with a few hundred-dollar ticket, with what may cost them thousands to win.

Saturday is like an enormous Pick 6 pool with a gracious discount for the bettor. We don’t get discounts often, so when we do, I say seize them. I look at it this way. I can buy 10k of coverage in the sequence for 2k. Or 2k coverage for $200. This is both a great equalizer and opportunity. A well-structured ticket, with a fair investment and some solid opinions, has an excellent chance of winning a more than fair return.

While the likelihood of a single ticket on Saturday is improbable, it really should not matter. Even if the day chalks out, which of course we all hope it doesn’t, you could wind up okay. There won’t be many, if any, single ticket possibilities going in, so I wouldn’t go in or approach it with that goal. I’d go in looking to beat the giants and whales at their own game and get even and then some.

Everyone in the pool. See you there.