Friday, 01 March 2019 11:36

Key Races & Bets for Saturday, March 2


Very One Stakes - Race 7 at Gulfstream Park - Post Time 2:30 PM Eastern


The Tulip had a decent 2018 campaign in which she earned 100K while winning a pair of races including a minor stakes in Northern California. She’s not nearly as accomplished as morning line favorite Holy Helena, who earned $300K last year, but her best effort is certainly as good as Semper Sententiae, who opens at 7/2, so her 10/1 starting odds are to be noted. She cuts back from 11 furlongs to 9 1/2 which doesn’t seem like much but she ran well twice at nine furlongs last spring before winning the minor stakes, and she ships in all the way from California (where there aren’t ample opportunities because of recurring rain), getting current Santa Anita leading jockey Joel Rosario, and giving us enough reasons to take a shot betting her to win and keying her on exacta tickets.



Similarly, Lafta, who also opens at 10/1, must be noted as she won her first two starts after importing to the U.S. last summer and fall before a fifth of 14 finish in December. She earned one of those wins leading from start to finish in a little stakes over this course and in the other win she closed from fourth won going away. Leparoux rides for the first time and the mare appears to be capable of winning this pretty wide open race.



Holy Helena won this race last year at 7 to 2 off an allowance win one month earlier then won in May before a six race losing streak, including as the 7 to 5 favorite in a non-graded stakes in December. She can run well but is no lock. Danceland has a couple of efforts (last June and August) which, if repeated, may have her in the picture late, as does Tricky Escape and Semper Sententiae, so we’ll use them with the pair of 10/1 shots in exactas.



Win Bets: The Tulip and Lafta to win at odds of 7 to 2 or more.


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



Exactas: The Tulip and Lafta over The Tulip, Lafta, Danceland, Holy Helena, Semper Sententiae and Tricky Escape.



Also The Tulip, Lafta, Danceland, Holy Helena, Semper Sententiae and Tricky Escape over The Tulip and Lafta.



Doubles: The Tulip and Lafta in Race 7 with ALL in Race 8

The Tulip, Lafta, Danceland, Holy Helena, Semper Sententiae and Tricky Escape in Race 7 with Cambier Parc and Connectivity in Race 8.



Herecomesthebride Stakes - Race 8 at Gulfstream Park - Post Time 3 PM Eastern


Cambier Parc appears to be a legitimate favorite, with Connectivity next most probable, in this field. Both are trained by Chad Brown and both won on the Gulfstream Park turf in their most recent starts, Cambier Parc powerfully by four under Jose Ortiz (who rides back), Connectivity with a rally from ninth under Irad Ortiz, Jr., who rides back. There’s not much to do in this race unless the odds are right to for the most part that’s why the doubles started in the seventh race are the preferred way to profit from this race.



Win Bets: Cambier Parc to win at odds of 3 to 2.

Connectivity to win at odds of 5 to 2.



Honey Fox Stakes - Race 11 at Gulfstream Park - Post Time 4:30 PM Eastern


Precieuse is a standout in this race and that’s great because we can play a pretty small pick 3 and pick 4 and really spread in the last two legs. Precieuse won a significant group 1 stakes in France in the spring of 2017 as a three year old, before a poor effort in June of that year at Ascot where she may have bled. Taking a while to get acclimated to U.S. racing, she made her stateside debut last August at Saratoga in the non-graded De La Rose Stakes, rallying furiously on the turn to go from sixth to first then battling the last eighth of a mile and coming up a head short to Uni, who went on to win the Noble Damsel and Grade 1 Matriarch Stakes. The 112 Equibase figure from the De La Rose pretty much towers over these as it is, as does the quality of her competition in that race and her European races, and as she nearly won at a mile following 13 months off and considering Brown’s superb 28% win rate off long layoffs, she should win here. Although I’m hopeful her 7/2 morning line will hold up I’m not holding my breath.



For second and third, a trio of horses who ran well in the recently run South Beach Stakes are noted. Dolce Lili won the race by a half-length and opens at 4 to 1, but the horse she beat by a half-length for the win, Conquest Hardcandy, opens at ridiculous 15/1 odds, as does Fire Key, who was just another half-length back. Valedictorian just won a grade 3 stakes over the track and could be part of the exotics, as could Bellavais, another recent grade 3 stakes winner over the course.



Win Bets: Precieuse to win at odds of 6 to 5 or more, a true low odds overlay.



Exacta: Precieuse over Valedictorian, Fire Key, Conquest Hardcandy, Bellavais and Dolce Lili.

We can play the same ticket as a trifecta, using the same five horses in both second and third under Precieuse.



Pick 4:

Race 11 – Precieuse

Race 12 – Jaywalk

Race 13 – Bourbon War, Vekoma, Hidden Scroll, Global Campaign, Everfast

Race 14 – Village King, Hunter O’Riley, Vettori Kin, Zulu Alpha, Highland Sky, Kulin Rock, Montclair, Channel Maker



Pick 3 (two tickets)

Race 11 – Precieuse

Race 12 – Jaywalk

Race 13 – All



Pick 3

Race 11 – Precieuse

Race 12 – Jaywalk

Race 13 – Bourbon War, Vekoma, Hidden Scroll, Global Campaign, Everfast



Davona Dale Stakes - Race 12 at Gulfstream Park - Post Time 5:01 PM Eastern


Jaywalk is a standout here but opens as the odds-on favorite so the best way to profit around her winning is from Pick three and four tickets started in race 11 and started here as well, although the pick 3 started here is doubling up on the last three legs of the pick 4, unless Precieuse did not win.



In lieu of a win bet, trying to turn 1 to 5 into 2 to 1, we can play an exacta of Jaywalk over Champagne Anyone and Bold Script, who I think are pretty probable to run second.




Pick 3:

Race 12 – Jaywalk

Race 13 – Bourbon War, Vekoma, Hidden Scroll, Global Campaign, Everfast

Race 14 – Village King, Hunter O’Riley, Vettori Kin, Zulu Alpha, Highland Sky, Kulin Rock, Montclair, Channel Maker



Fountain of Youth Stakes - Race 13 at Gulfstream Park – Post Time 5:32 PM Eastern


Looking at all the factors which suggest how much some horses will improve from race to race as well as their pedigree to become one of the top three year olds this winter and spring, I've landed on Global Campaign. Not only do the chart caller's comments "wrapped up" describe his two authoritative wins in two starts to date (the most recent at the distance of the Fountain of Youth), the colt is bred to be a star. He's by Curlin, not only the sire of last year's Toyota Blue Grass Stakes and Haskell Invitational Stakes winner Good Magic but also winner of three important graded stakes (Rebel Stakes, Arkansas Derby and Preakness) as a three year old. Perhaps just as important, Global Campaign is out of the mare Globe Trot, who has produced two stakes winning horses to date, including one of last year's other top three year olds, Bolt d'Oro. In trying to validate whether the "wrapped up" comments did justice to how easily he won both starts to date, I watched the videos and indeed, Global Campaign was in a league of his own in the last three-eighths of a mile in both races, giving no other horse a chance. His Equibase figures of 98 then 99 are lower than other horses in the race, most notably likely favorite Hidden Scroll, but when considering how much more Global Campaign may have in the tank based on not having been asked to run hard in both races as well as based on his tremendous breeding, I expect a graded stakes-winning effort from the colt in the Fountain of Youth.



Bourbon War was also pretty impressive winning at Gulfstream at the distance of the Fountain of Youth in his most recent race, boldly rallying between horses on the turn to go from fifth to first by the time the field hit the eighth pole. Drawing off under his own power, Bourbon War earned a very strong 107 figure, which might be one of the best at this time of year if not for the 115 figure Hidden Scroll earned eight days later. However, Hidden Scroll earned his big figure on a sloppy track and in a one-turn mile race and has yet to run two-turns, whereas Bourbon War has three races under his belt and is making his second start following seven weeks off, and so has lots of room to improve. 2018 Eclipse Award winning jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr. rode Bourbon War in victory in January and rides again. As a son of Tapit, who has sired many three year old graded stakes winners over the last few years, including 2016 Fountain of Youth winner Mohayman, there's little doubt Bourbon War has what it takes to perform well enough to win this race.



Hidden Scroll absolutely dominated in a 13 horse field in his debut in late January. He took the lead shortly after the start and widened until geared down to a 14 length victory. The 115 figure he earned is the best figure I've ever noted a three year old earning in the first half of the year. As a son of Hard Spun, the added distance and two-turn nature of the Fountain of Youth should not pose a problem. However, Hidden Scroll has only raced once and he has never raced around two-turns as he is being asked to do in this race. Trainer Bill Mott is not known for winning with a high percentage of horses in their racing debuts, so the win by Hidden Scroll in his debut bodes well for another top effort. Additionally, Mott had good success with Hofburg last year when he entered the maiden winner to run second in the Florida Derby. As such, we should not discount the chances of Hidden Scroll dominating once again.



Everfast is a horse likely coming in under the radar who must be respected, in my opinion. After winning his debut last August in a seven furlong sprint, Everfast didn't do much in five races including three stakes. However, in his second race as a three year old, Everfast finished second of nine in the Holy Bull Stakes at odds of 128 to 1. The 102 figure was decent enough compared to most of the main contenders in the Fountain of Youth and it is reasonable to project he will run better in his third start off the layoff.



Notes about others: Vekoma (110 best figure winning the Nashua Stakes) and Signalman (95 best figure when third in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, before winning the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes with a 92 figure) both return from layoffs significant enough I think they are at a disadvantage to the four contenders above. According to a STATS Race Lens query I ran, trainer McPeek (Signalman) has a one-for-27 record with horses coming back in routes from this type of layoff over the last two years, while trainer Weaver (Vekoma) has a 0 for 8 record. It is certainly conceivable Signalman and Vekoma can run well and be in the top four to earn "Road to the Derby" points, but I do not believe either will win. Code of Honor was disappointing as the odds-on favorite in the Mucho Macho Man in January, his three year old debut, but must be respected off his runner-up effort in the Champagne Stakes last fall so I’ll consider him for a minor award as well.



Win bets: Global Campaign and Bourbon War to win at odds of 7/2 or more, adding a place bet at 5 to 1 or more.

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



Also consider at least a minimum win and place bet on Everfast at odds of 6 to 1 or more (considering he opens at 20/1).



Exacta: Bourbon War, Hidden Scroll and Global Campaign over Bourbon War, Hidden Scroll, Global Campaign, Code of Honor, Vekoma, Signalman and Everfast.

Friday, 22 February 2019 18:13

Get Out of The Way

Past the Wire     Tracking Tips Logo


February 22, 2019

Get Out of the Way

By: Jonathan Stettin


Race callers have always had their trademark calls. Some we like, some we don’t, and track announcers are a matter of personal choice. That said, the trademark calls become almost a part of the racetrack experience. We learn to accept the ones we don’t like as they are part of the venue’s branding.


One of the more famous calls was Dave Johnson’s “and down the stretch they come.” Just about every racing fan recognized those words and knew the horses were in the stretch. Trevor Denman’s “and they’d need to sprout wings” was a personal favorite of mine especially if I had the horse on the lead.


I grew up listening to Fred Caposella, one of the greatest race callers of all time. He called the races at the New York tracks for a long time. Like Harry Henson from the Southern California circuit, Fred had the right voice for a race caller. Some of his calls were, “and they race down the backstretch that way.” Of course, “It is now Post Time,” and “they’re off. “


Luke Kruytbosch also had a race callers voice. It is an art, and a difficult one at that. There have been many great track announcers, and some not so good ones as well. The best of the bunch either had great signature lines or the classic race-trackers voice. Some were fortunate enough to have both.


The current Gulfstream Park announcer recently introduced a signature line into his calls. "Easy money," he’d say when a horse appeared home, often at a short price. Trust me when I say like it or hate it, the call has no impact on the outcome. Yes, some found it annoying, especially I’d imagine if they went against the chalk as many of us so often do. However, to complain about it to the point good ole Pete had to scrap it, well that is just plain silly.


I am not sure whether the powers that be at Gulfstream ordered the scrap, or Pete caved to the social media pressure. Either way, he caved, and no lion concerns themselves with the opinion of sheep. If that was a signature call, he should have owned it in my opinion. Easy for me to say, sure, but I have walked that walk my entire life.


While the whole race call thing is not that important and really doesn’t warrant much discussion or attention, I bring it up for another reason. It shows the lack of a fan connection and the inability of tracks to focus on keeping their people coming to the races. Branding, and creating a unique experience is a part, albeit not the biggest part, in keeping people coming and identifying with the venue. Nobody is going to stop going to Gulfstream or listening to calls because Pete occasionally says, “easy money.” People will sour however when management shows a disconnect with bettors and fans alike. I mean Gulfstream recently promoted the Pegasus World Cup by highlighting Snoop Dog would perform. I am the only one I saw mention we had two same year Breeders’ Cup winners squaring off. That is a disconnect.

Apparently, the disconnect is not limited to the US. Edgar Prado recently returned from Saudi Arabia where he was denied a license because of his age. Nobody looked into this before he came? Edgar is still a capable rider and younger than a Kentucky Derby winner I believe. Seriously?


Hoping tracks work together to improve the game seems futile at this juncture. Maybe we can hope they somehow just stop getting in the way.


Friday, 22 February 2019 13:02

Key Races & Bets for Saturday, February 23


Hal’s Hope Stakes - Race 11 at Gulfstream Park - Post Time 4:58 PM Eastern


You’re never supposed to fall in love with horses when handicapping a race and deciding on wagering opportunities. You are only supposed to fall in love with bets, or to put it more succinctly, with wagering opportunity. However, in this race I have to do both as Sir Anthony isn’t a stab at 20/1 on the morning line, he’s got a strong probability to win in a race with a number of suspect low odds horses. Fortunately or unfortunately, morning line favorite Breaking Lucky isn’t one of them, but other horse with low morning line odds such as Quip (4/1) and Copper Town (6/1) certainly are suspect, as might be Tale of Silence (5/1), who will be bet from 8/1 starting odds owing to the Pletcher/Velazquez combination in the same manner Copper Town will be bet owing to the Pletcher/Castellano combination. HOWEVER, they have significant knocks – Prince Lucky coming back from eight plus months off with a career best 99 Equibase figure earned in a three year old restricted race before the layoff that isn’t close to what it’s going to take to win here, and with Copper Town having finished 8th, beaten 10 on 12/1 albeit in a grade 1 but running just as badly over the track on 1/26 in a similar grade 3 race when 7th of 8 and beaten 14 lengths. Quip comes back from 9 months off, facing four year olds for the first time, and there’s no telling how he will run.



On the other hand, Sir Anthony is in the best form of his life and the reason why is easily identifiable. He took blinkers off for the non-graded Bruce D Stakes at this one turn mile trip in August and won by 2 lengths, winning three in a row since including the nearly identical Harlan’s Holiday Stakes on 12/15. His last two efforts earned 107 figures so the first of the two was no fluke, neither the second, and he’s come back to work a strong five furlongs so he’s fit. Hernandez rode him in the Harlan’s Holiday and rides back and there is NOT A HORSE in this race with a recent figure good enough to beat Sir Anthony, save Breaking Lucky, if Sir Anthony repeats either of his last two efforts.



Breaking Lucky changed trainers last summer, finished third in a highly rated classified allowance at Saratoga then ran HORRIBLY in the Lukas Classic. The difference between the two was obvious as the first was around one turn and the latter around two. Kept around one turn, Breaking Lucky won a classified allowance at this mile trip here at GP by eight lengths in December then finished nicely from 6th to 2nd in the Fred Hooper Stakes last month. The first of the two efforts earned him a 112 figure and the latter only 98 but Saez was up for both and rides back and in my opinion, Breaking Lucky is the other horse with the VAST bulk of the probability to win this race (in addition to Sir Anthony).



Bets: Sir Anthony to win at odds of 5 to 2 or higher, adding a place bet at 4 to 1 or more.

Breaking Lucky to win at odds of 9 to 5 or more.



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



Exacta: Box Sir Anthony and Breaking Lucky.



Trifecta: Sir Anthony and Breaking Lucky with ALL with Sir Anthony and Breaking Lucky. (This covers the contenders if they finish first and third).



Doubles: Sir Anthony and Breaking Lucky in Race 11 with R Boy Bode, Jackson, Standup and Gladiator King in race 12.

Optionally, play Sir Anthony in race 11 with the other five horses not mentioned above in race 12. This covers the field so we’re not left kicking ourselves if Sir Anthony wins race 11 at a nice price.



Texas Glitter Stakes - Race 12 at Gulfstream Park - Post Time 5:28 PM Eastern


Gladiator King gets the slightest of preference among four pretty equal win contenders in this five furlong turf sprint stakes for three year olds. His 9th place finish in the Holy Bull three weeks ago only proved her hates two turns, having finished a badly beaten 6th in his only other two-turn race. At under a mile, Gladiator King has a record of 3-1-0 in five races and he’s a perfect 2-for-2 at this five furlong turf sprint trip. He gets a good outside post which is not of concern because three of the horses inside have no early speed at all so he can get to the rail or close to it before the turn while stalking likely sizzling early leaders Running for Riz and Yes I Am Free. As such, opening at 6/1, Gladiator King can make us some money here running back to his last sprint, on 12/15, a win in a stakes (on dirt) in which he earned a 96 Equibase figure.



Standup broke 8th of 10 in his debut on 1/17 at this trip in a maiden race, showed no early speed whatsoever, then kicked in the afterburners in the last 8th of a mile to go from 7th, nine lengths back, to be beaten ¾ of a length on the wire when 2nd. I’m not concerned about him being a maiden in a stakes as these are all lightly raced, newly turned three year olds, and considering improvement many Pletcher starters show from start #1 to start #2 (with a 31% win rate) this colt getting up in time to win would be no surprise particularly if he logically improves off the 87 figure earned in the debut..



Jackson broke 11th and last in the Swale three weeks ago and I am drawing a line through that race as he lost all position. Jaramillo gets back on and was up for this first four starts including two wins, the second in a stakes I which he finished very well from 6th in the early stages. Jackson finished 2nd to a seven length winner in his only turf try, rallying from 7th in the early stages and earning a competitive 85 figure. Opening at 8/1 he must be respected for any and all wagers we make involving this race.



R Boy Bode rounds out the quartet of win contenders. He won his only turf sprint, in November, then after nearly three months off returned to finish 2nd to a six length winner who came back to win again. Jose Ortiz rides, a very intriguing move as it’s for a trainer he’s only ridden for twice in the past year, winning once. The 88 Equibase figure in that turf sprint is as good as most of the main contenders here and opening at 12/1 this is another horse we must take seriously as a contender.



Bets: Gladiator King and Standup to win at odds of 3 to 1 or more.

Consider smaller win bets on Jackson and R Boy Bode at odds of 5 to 1 or more.



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


Exacta: Box Gladiator King, Standup, Jackson and R Boy Bode.


Race 13 at Gulfstream Park – Post Time 5:58 PM Eastern


This is a wide open straight maiden race at a mile on turf for three year old fillies, with eight of the 12 in the main body (not including also-eligibles) of the race first time starters There really isn’t a horse I can toss out as a contender, BUT there are two horses I will point out that I personally will be using on pick 3, 4 and double tickets as well as wagering on if the odds are 5/2 or more.

The first is logical – Comic City, a first time starter owned and bred by Juddmonte Farm and trained by Chad Brown, who has his first time starters mentally ready for turf routes first out, resulting in 22 wins in his last 100 races. Sire City Zip’s foals also run very well first out going long on turf, with a 5 for 23 record debuting in turf routes. With Castellano riding, the filly appears well meant and talented.

The second is not so logical – Passing Out, who opens at 15/1. She’s a first time starter by Orb with good turf breeding but the key here is trainer intent. Shug McGaughey wins once in a while with first timers but usually give his horses the experience of a race. The signal here is first time Lasix, suggesting this gal is talented and needs no such experience. Jose Ortiz is engaged to ride, and the most recent workout is on turf. This IDENTICAL pattern was in play a couple of weeks ago and the debuting colt ran on big time just missing to a Chad Brown first timer at 14/1.

Personally, I will be playing Comic City to win at odds of 5 to 2 or ore and betting Passing Out to win and place at odds of 5 to 2 or more.


Buena Vista Stakes - Race 8 at Santa Anita - Post Time 7 PM Eastern

Although Vasilika loves the Santa Anita turf course, evidenced by eight wins in nine races including a perfect four-for-four record at the mile trip of the Buena Vista, I think Zaffinah has an upset chance. Looking at just her two-turn turf races since importing to the U.S. in the winter of 2017, Zaffinah has done little wrong either, winning three of seven and finishing second in two others. Her best effort came in her most recent start, on January 21 in the Megahertz Stakes, won by Vasilika, but one in which she was on the rail at a critical point in the stretch with no room to stretch her legs. While Vasilika was in the three path passing leader Ms Bad Behavior, Zaffinah continued to wait then spurted through the inside to miss second by a head at the finish. That effort earned her a career-best 110 Equibase Speed Figure. Considering Vasilika earned 113 figures in her last three winning efforts, with Zaffinah likely to improve in her second start following two months off, if she can secure a path in the stretch to allow her to begin her kick earlier than in the Megahertz, she may be able to turn the tables on Vasilika and post the upset win.



There's not much to say about Vasilika which isn't apparent from her past performances or tremendous record of 2018 when winning nine of 11 including eight in a row, three of those being graded stakes. It was a testament to the work done by trainer Jerry Hollendorfer to help the mare to hold top form from February through November, particularly in the fall when she earned 111, 113 and 113 figures while winning the John C. Mabee Stakes, Rodeo Drive Stakes and Goldikova Stakes in succession. Following her fourth place finish in the Matriarch Stakes in December, Vasilika took 49 days off and returned in top form, once again earning a 113 figure when winning the Megahertz Stakes at the distance of the Buena Vista. Jockey Flavien Prat rode Vasilika in her last nine wins and continues to know just where to place the mare for her best effort. As such, there's no denying Vasilika is the one the other nine entrants have to beat to win this race.



Ms Bad Behavior, Fahan Mura and Compelled all have some degree of probability to be in the top four in the Buena Vista, and if neither Zaffinah or Vasilika runs their best, to win, but I’ll use them in second on exacta tickets only.



Bets: Zaffinah to win at odds of 3 to1 or higher, adding a place bet at 5 to 1 or more.

Exactas: Box Zaffinah and Vasilika.

Zaffinah and Vasilika over Zaffinah, Vasilika, Ms Bad Behavior, Fahan Mura and Compelled.

Doubles: Zaffinah and Vasilika in Race 8 with Kenzou’s Rhythm and Bedeviled in Race 9


Race 9 at Santa Anita - Post Time 7:30 Eastern


This may be a lowly 20K claiming race but two horses stick out in my opinion, and neither are favorites. Kenzou’s Rhythm has run three “A” races in a row, a pair of runner-up efforts then a big four and one-half length win last month. All came at this mile dirt trip and the last two earned 111 and 106 Equibase figure, excellent for this level. Apprentice Figueroa was up for all 3 races and all 3 races came following the Morey claim. There are no knocks and the gelding gets a good inside post and has the tactical speed to sit third early off need-the-lead types Impression and Little Scotty to win his 2nd race in a row.

Bedeviled is the other main contender, losing Figueroa to Kenzou’s Rhythm but picking up leading jockey Rosario. He returned from 10 months off on 1/19 and was in need of a race. It was a sprint anyway and he’s not a sprinter. Stretched out to this mile trip next out he finished 4th of 7, beaten less than a length for 3rd, and now he’s ready to run back to his big effort under nearly identical conditions last January (2018) over the track when he stalked in 4th and rallied to get up by a nose.



Bets: Kenzou’s Rhythm and Bedeviled to win at odds of 2 to 1 or more.



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


Friday, 15 February 2019 19:38

Uncertain Futures

Past the Wire     Tracking Tips Logo


February 15, 2019

Uncertain Futures

By: Jonathan Stettin

To a large extent, the future is always uncertain. You can escalate that when you talk horse racing. Today, more than ever, the future of the Sport of Kings faces serious questions about how it will survive.

Let’s look at what we know. Saratoga has become a watered down meet not even closely reminiscent of the boutique high-quality August place to be it once was. NYRA has extended it to be a summer-long event and the fields you see on the large majority of days could be run at Aqueduct in the winter.

Aqueduct faces closure. The inner track for winter racing is gone. The casino is the focal point of the plant with racing a mere backdrop. The grandstand and clubhouse are dated and falling apart.

Belmont is undergoing renovations, maybe as no ground has been broken yet, but a hockey arena is apparently moving in. The old Belmont will be another Paradise Lost soon.

Hollywood Park is barely a memory.

Calder is not even a memory.

Pimlico is so run down it is in danger of losing the Preakness. If it does they will be a memory also.

Suffolk Downs. Gone.

Hialeah is like it never existed.

Santa Anita despite being home of one of the games powerhouse stables, Bob Baffert’s, struggles to find entries for their races.

Illegal drugs are seemingly prevalent. Legal drugs are overused and misused. Stewards are inconsistent at best. Super trainers are driving small barns into the ground.

Slaughter and aftercare are a serious issue. Perception of the sport is more negative than positive.

You can fire a cannon at most tracks during the week, and on plenty of weekends and not hit a soul.

Tracks can’t work together to the point of staggering post times, let alone any uniformity on significant matters.

Some of the things we don’t know can have even more ramifications.

Nobody really knows how sports wagering is going to impact or interact with horse racing. Many of the scenarios are not looking that good for our game. Why do any books need to share any revenue with horseman and or racetracks? I don’t know but if they don’t have to a good bet is they won’t. Hardcore horseplayers who feel alienated by the tracks are likely to be exposed to sports wagering. Even if sports wagering is not promoted, sports get mainstream coverage, and that will attract some players. I am not sold on us attracting any hardcore sports bettors. They have already been exposed to our game and landed where they did for a reason.

One of the most interesting things developing is the Stronach Trust lawsuit. While there have been reports on it, nobody I have seen is really looking at the scenarios that may unfold.

Stronach owns Santa Anita, Gulfstream and Pimlico amongst other tracks and assets. They own Adena Springs. These are major players in the thoroughbred industry. We know from the preliminary discovery all these tracks and the farm are losing money. Belinda, Franks daughter is claiming it is the result of Frank’s poor management and expensive whims.

Back when Gulfstream transitioned from the old facility to the new one I was still attending the races daily. I was there every day at the tent meet and the first few years in the new facility. I remember shortly after the new venue opened there was talk of a Magna bankruptcy. The 10 Palms staff, many who were my friends were worried about paychecks bouncing. It seemed that all went away, but now it seems that possibly it didn’t or may return.

I don’t know the financial situation of the Stronach holdings nor does it matter from where I sit. I do know that none of us know how this litigation will play out and what a settlement, verdict, or court order will do to the game.

What if Belinda wins and decides to sell off the racing assets? What is the court or Judge orders some type of asset dispersal? What is a settlement is reached which gives Frank the racing operations and they can’t sustain themselves? A lot of what ifs in that lawsuit and they almost all create uncertainty for the sport we love.

I think the potential is there for this lawsuit to have some major impact on horse racing. Maybe not tomorrow but down the road. Most of the scenarios look iffy at best.



Friday, 15 February 2019 14:39

Key Races & Bets for Saturday, February 16

John B. Campbell Stakes - Race 7 at Laurel - Post Time 3:30 PM Eastern


Unbridled Juan returns to his home base of the last year in the Northeast off a decent fourth place finish in the Hooper at Gulfstream, a one-turn mile which is not his best trip. Before that, he put in three superb efforts in a row, the best of which came in the Grover Delp Memorial last October with a 114 Equibase figure. Although earning a lower 106 figure next month, Unbridled Juan was very game winning the identical Richard W. Small Stakes in November. Cintron rode him in both those races and it appears in this field if he repeats either effort he can win.



Johnny Jump Up is the other horse I’d be willing to bet to win. He likes to win, with an 11 for 43 career mark including three wins in his last five races. One of those was in the Swatara Stakes in November with a 107 figure. He earned a 108 figure in victory last July, with both wins coming since joining the Graci barn and with Hernandez in the saddle as today. My main concern is his last four wins were earned when leading from start to finish but as he opens at 8/1 I would be willing to take a shot he gets the early lead he likes from the two post.



Discreet Lover opens at 3/1 odds which are based on the fact he won the Jockey Club Gold Cup last fall. That was a 10 furlong race and he has a 1 for 15 record at this 9 furlong trip. He has been facing much better so could run well on class and as such I’ll use him on some tickets but will be honest I’m trying to beat him with win bets on others. J



Monongahela finished second to Johnny Jump Up in the Swatara and third to Unbridled Juan prior to that in the Delp so is another not to be left out of exacta or trifecta tickets.



Bets: Unbridled Juan to win at odds of 9 to 5 or higher.

Johnny Jump Up at odds of 4 to 1 or more.



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



Exacta: Box Unbridled Juan and Johnny Jump Up.



Trifecta: Unbridled Juan over Johnny Jump Up, Discreet Lover and Monongahela over ALL.

Optionally, play another trifecta with ALL in the second position and Johnny Jump Up, Discreet Lover and Monongahela in third. That way if two of the three finish 2nd and 3rd, provided Unbridled Juan wins, we win twice.



Pick 3: (three tickets)

Race 7 – Unbridled Juan

Race 8 – All

Race 9 – Late Night Pow Wow, Dawn the Destroyer, Ms Locust Point



Race 7 – Unbridled Juan, Johnny Jump Up, Discreet Lover, Monongahela

Race 8 – Uncontested, Colonel Sharp, Laki

Race 9 – Late Night Pow Wow, Dawn the Destroyer, Ms Locust Point



Race 7 – Unbridled Juan, Johnny Jump Up, Discreet Lover, Monongahela

Race 8 – All

Race 9 – Dawn the Destroyer


Optionally, play the first two legs of either or both of the top two pick 3 tickets above as doubles.



General George Stakes - Race 8 at Laurel - Post Time 4 PM Eastern


Laki has won seven of 15 career dirt races, every one of the wins coming at Laurel including a couple of stakes. Last summer he won the Polynesian by virtue of the winner getting disqualified after missing by a nose and he fired to win in December off a two month layoff like the one he’s coming back from today With very consistent figures ranging from 107 to 110 last summer and fall and a competitive spirit, I’ll give him slight preference here particularly as he could be in a great stalking position off some speedy types in the early stages.



Uncontested was pretty highly regarded as a three year old in the winter of 2017 when taking the Smarty Jones at Oaklawn then went four races in a row before running well again, winning in September. He’s had a couple of stops and starts since then but his comeback from nine months off in December, after having joined the Patterson barn, was a BREAKOUT effort with a 115 figure. He led from start to finish in that race so the figure could be inflated but he proved earlier in his career he didn’t need the led to win and McCarthy rides back all signs for an effort good enough to win if he can run back to that last race.



Colonel Sharp won two races in a row including the Dave’s Friend Stakes, both at Laurel, before a fifth place when venturing to New York last month, which we can dismiss as that grade 3 stakes was made up of a different field than this grade 3 race. Acosta was up for both wins, which earned strong 108 and 110 figures so he must be respected as a contender for all the marbles here.



I was thinking of messing around with exactas in this 14 horse field but would rather concentrate on getting the pick 3’s home started in race 7, or pressing with Doubles, which would consist of the last two legs of the pick 3 tickets recommended at the end of race 7.



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

Uncontested to win at odds of 3 to 1 or more.

Colonel Sharp to win at odds of 4 to 1 or more.  



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



Barbara Fritchie Stakes - Race 9 at Laurel - Post Time 4:30 PM Eastern


Three horses stick out by a country mile against the other eight, and of the three even one of them sticks out a bit against the other two. That one is Dawn the Destroyer, who turned into a top sprinter somewhere between her pair of horrible races in the fall of 2017 and her last two sprints. Returning from seven months off in November, she ran the best race of her life, by far, when winning by four lengths to earn a 112 Equibase figure in a decent field, then was flattered when the runner-up came out of the race to win. Two months later on 1/25, she won the Interborough Stakes with a 110 figure effort in a field of eight, powerfully mowing down three rivals in the stretch to draw off. Junior Alvarado rode her for the first time in that race and travels from New York for a stakes race at the same distance and even though the other two contenders, Late Night Pow Wow and Ms Locust Point, are multiple stakes winners, the latter having won this race last year, their best E Figures have not exceeded 102 so their work may be cut out for them if Dawn the Destroyer repeats either of her last two efforts.



Between Late Night Pow Wow and Ms Locust Point come 17 wins and nearly $1 million in earnings. Late Night Pow Wow has won eight races in a row including the only time she faced Ms Locust Point, in the Willa on the Move Stakes at Laurel (albeit in the mud) in November. There’s no doubt both have tremendous physical and mental ability and since “there’s no such thing as a sure thing” I will consider them both for my plays.



Bets:  Dawn the Destroyer to win at odds of 6 to 5 or higher, a true low odds overlay win bet.

Exacta: Box Dawn the Destroyer and Late Night Pow Wow. Box Dawn the Destroyer and Ms Locust Point.

Trifectas: Dawn the Destroyer over Late Night Pow Wow and Ms Locust Point over ALL.


El Camino Real Derby - Race 7 at Golden Gate - Post Time 6:54 Eastern


Eagle Song made his first eight career starts in Europe, three on all-weather surfaces like the Tapeta track at Golden Gate. Before importing to the U.S., Eagle Song won two in a row on the surface, both on left handed tracks like U.S. tracks. He was off three months before his U.S. debut on 1/11 and finished 4th in a turf sprint before improving nicely when stretched out to a mile and adding blinkers on 2/1, finishing second with a solid (for this field) 95 Equibase figure. As a grandson of Danehill, he should have no issues with the nine-furlong trip and the pattern for enough improvement to post the mild upset (opening at 5/1) in this race looks solid.

Kingly was entered in the Risen Star at Fair Grounds but it appears Baffert will opt for this spot, which is a bit odd as he’s never run on turf or all-weather in two starts. Still, in terms of his figure, he’s the fastest in the field, first earning a 99 figure winning a sprint in December then a 100 figure when second to exciting early Derby prospect Extra Hope. That was his first start around two turns and it appears Kingly has the style to either go to the lead or come from off the pace. Baffert won his share at Del Mar when it was all-weather so that’s not an issue either but he does open at 2 to 1 and jockey Roman is likely unfamiliar with riding at Golden Gate, both possible issues.

More Ice rounds out a trio I could see winning, having run on dirt once (in his debut) then on turf in his last five races, including two wins. The last two were decent enough, a win in November around two turns than an eighth to third finish in the Eddie Logan Stakes at the end of December. Both efforts earned the same 93 figure so it is possible this colt could jump up to a new best good enough to post the upset here, particularly since Jerry Hollendorfer is his trainer.

Two horses from the O’Neill barn intrigue me enough to use on exacta tickets. Both have raced in claiming races but have efforts good enough to get into the top three. They are The Creep and Weekly Call.



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

Kingly has minimum odds of 5/2 so it is highly unlikely he will be playable to win as he opens at 2/1.

Consider a smaller win bet (than on Eagle Song) on More Ice at odds of 7 to 2 or more.  



Exactas: Eagle Song, Kingly and More Ice over Eagle Song, Kingly, More Ice, The Creep and Weekly Call

Friday, 08 February 2019 12:06

Key Races & Bets for Saturday, February 9

Suncoast Stakes - Race 9 at Tampa Bay Downs - Post Time 4:15 PM Eastern


Her Royal Highness gets the rail for this two-turn race while in search of her third straight win. She shipped down from Motion’s Fair Hills base for a work over the track on 2/1 and has the right stalking style to be in a great spot and get up in time. Vargas has been aboard for all three races and rides back. The other two foals of the dam are both route winners on dirt as well and she is a two-turn winner likely to continue to improve in her 2nd start as a three year old.



Lady Kate lacks two-turn experience the top pick has but that’s really the only difference between the two. Lady L

Kate rallied from 7th of 8 early to win and Jose Ortiz rides back as she ships in from Gulfstream. She’s by a great mare in Princess Haya, whose only other foal to race won around two turns both on dirt and on turf. The 82 Equibase figure she earned is as good as the 83 and 80 figures Her Royal Highness has earned in two of three career starts and so she must be respected as a contender.



Tapit’s Princess didn’t run much in her sprint debut on 12/22 but improved a ton in her first route, second start, as a daughter of Tapit is bound to do, on 1/17 when dominating by nine lengths. The 94 figure is likely inflated as the effort was earned leading from start to finish but otherwise she’s a fit on all counts and rounds out the trio I think as a group has the best probability to win.



I’m taking a stand (insofar as win bets are concerned) against morning line second choice Winning Envelope, whose last win came on turf and whose other win came on an all-weather track, neither as relevant for this dirt race as the previous form of Tapit’s Princess, Her Royal Highness or Lady Kate. Similarly, morning line favorite Sweet Diane gets a potentially disadvantageous outside post although she won one of her three starts by 13 lengths and lost her other two by inches.



Bets: Her Royal Highness and Lady Kate to win at odds of 5/2

Consider a smaller win bet on Tapit’s Princess at 3/1



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



Exacta: Her Royal Highness, Lady Kate and Tapit’s Princess over Her Royal Highness, Lady Kate, Tapit’s Princess, Winning Envelope and Sweet Diane.



Pick 3: (two tickets)

Race 9 – Her Royal Highness, Lady Kate and Tapit’s Princess

Race 10 – Get Explicit, Bonnie Arch, Conquest Hardcandy, Hawksmoor, Viva Vegas and Rymska

Race 11 – Knicks Go, Cave Run, Kentucky Wildcat



Endeavour Stakes - Race 10 at Tampa Bay Downs - Post Time 4:45 PM Eastern


Viva Vegas, who opens at 12/1, appears to be the key to profit here as a win/place bet or in exactas with five other horses who have a shot. The 12/1 odds are impossible to ignore as she’s earned all 3 of her career wins at Tampa on turf. Following nearly three months off on January 6 Viva Vegas ran exceptionally well in a classified allowance (just shy of stakes level) when making the lead in the stretch and coming up ¾ of a length shy at the wire, just a nose from the runner-up, as the 4 to 5 favorite. Castanon stays on and was up for her strong win on the Tampa turf last January (2018) in her 2nd start back from a similar layoff and it won’t take much more than logical 2nd off the layoff improvement for this gal to post the upset in this grade 3 stakes, already having proven capable at the level when 2nd in the Violet Stakes last summer.



Get Explicit has been 1st or 2nd in three of her last four, but three of those were runner-up efforts, so she’s no lock. Neither is Hawksmoor, who finished 2nd and 4th, respectively, in her last two grade 3 turf stakes. Morning line favorite Rymska won the grade 3 Athenia in August, off a layoff like the one she’s coming back from today and that was her last grade 3 try, so she must be respected but doesn’t offer nearly the value as Viva Vegas as she opens at 5 to 2 and is likely to go to post at even lower odds. Bonnie Arch and Conquest Hardcandy are two more that have run well enough on occasion to be first or second in the exacta.



Bets: Viva Vegas to win and to place at odds of 3/1, and/or exactas (which I actually prefer) as follows: Viva Vegas over Get Explicit, Bonnie Arch, Conquest Hardcandy, Hawksmoor and Rymska, THEN ALSO the opposite which is Get Explicit, Bonnie Arch, Conquest Hardcandy, Hawksmoor and Rymska over Viva Vegas



If you didn’t play the pick 3 in race 9, or if the contenders in race 9 didn’t win, play a double consisting of Get Explicit, Bonnie Arch, Conquest Hardcandy, Hawksmoor, Viva Vegas and Rymska in race 10 with Knicks Go, Cave Run, Kentucky Wildcat in Race 11.


Sam F. Davis Stakes - Race 11 at Tampa Bay Downs - Post Time 5:15 PM Eastern


Early pace scenario: With Going for Gold already having shown a need-the-lead running style in two sprint races to date and adding blinkers, there is little doubt his intentions are to go to the front, perhaps on a much stronger than average pace. Also adding blinkers for the Sam F. Davis is Well Defined, who could be a pace factor as well. Still Dreaming has raced in second in the early stages of both races to date, around one turn, and from the outside it is likely he will have to use some early energy to gain a similar position which may only serve to heighten the nature of a fast early pace scenario. Add to the mix Five Star General, who won the Central Park Stakes leading from start to finish in his most recent race, and there is every reason to believe all the horses with an “early” or “presser” pace style will be vulnerable to the stalkers and closers in the field.



Cave Run appears well suited to earn his first stakes win in that he closed from third to win his debut by six lengths before rallying from fifth to third in the Pasco Stakes last month. The Pasco was run at Tampa Bay Downs and the experience of a race over the track should help the colt improve, not to mention tremendous breeding for two turns as his sire is 2007 Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense and he is out of a mare by Bernardini. In his debut, Cave Run earned a 98 Equibase Figure which is tied with the figure Knicks Go earned in the Breeders’ Futurity for the best figure in the field. Although Cave Run earned a slightly lower figure (94) in the Pasco, I believe the colt will move forward nicely and improve with the added distance to win the Sam F. Davis Stakes.



Kentucky Wildcat appears to be sitting on a career-best effort and although he is just a maiden winner to date could post the slight upset in the Sam F. Davis. Following a sixth place finish in his debut sprinting in August, Kentucky Wildcat improved markedly when sent around two turns in October, going from a 59 figure to an 86 figure with a third place finish. Two months later he returned to win at a mile with a 95 figure. Flattered when the runner-up returned to win, Kentucky Wildcat has perhaps the best breeding for the Kentucky Derby trail in the field, being a son of Tapit, sire of 2017 Tampa Bay Derby winner Tapwrit. If able to improve off his last effort as he did from the one previous, Kentucky Wildcat could be a tough competitor in this race.



Knicks Go burst onto the scene last October when posting the 70 to 1 upset in the Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland, leading from start to finish in a field of 13 and giving no other horse a chance while earning a 98 figure in the process. Pretty much proving that to be no fluke, one month later Knicks Go finished second to Game Winner in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at 40 to 1 odds with a respectable 96 figure. Off those two big efforts, Knicks Go was sent to post as the 3 to 1 favorite in the 14 horse Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes in December, but disappointed when checking in 11th with no excuse. Given two months off to mature, Knicks Go has put in three workouts at Tampa Bay Downs in the last month in preparation for this race. On January 19, his half-mile workout was the best of 72 on the day and he followed that up with a best of 39 workout on January 26 and a fourth best of 64 drill on February 2. Considering those three workouts as a group suggests Knicks Go is in top physical condition. As such, he could be able to run back to either of his top efforts last fall and if that occurs he would have a say in the outcome of the Sam F. Davis.



Bets:  Cave Run and Kentucky Wildcat to win at odds of 5 to 2 or more.

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

Exacta: Cave Run, Kentucky Wildcat and Knicks Go.


San Marcos Stakes - Race 9 at Santa Anita - Post Time 6:42 Eastern


There are lots of ways to go in this race, because 13 are entered for the 10 furlong turf trip, and because two of the four lowest odds horses on the morning line are suspect. Those are Beach View and Dabster. Beach View earned his most recent win last July on dirt and before that in an allowance race in March, 2017, with many of his other turf races nothing to write home about.  Dabster has been in-the-money in six straight, all stakes, but all on dirt, and no matter how good Baffert is overall and on dirt his turf record is truly awful – 1 for 16 in Turf Route stakes the last five years.


With two of the four entrants which open at 5/1 or less highly suspect, there are some good price possibilities here, starting with Unapologetic. The horse has earned $252K in his career, $231K of that on grass. He’s only run in two turf stakes race in his entire career, once three years ago (irrelevant) and the other in the Del Mar Handicap last August, a COMPLETE toss-out as he broke in the air at the start to lose all chance and if that weren’t bad enough he was steadied in traffic with 5/8 of a mile to go. His last two races, well-spaced on 10/12 and 11/22, were two of the best of his career, first a loss by a neck on the wire at nine furlongs on the SA turf and the other a win with a big rally from 7th last November. The latter effort earned a 111 figure and was the first race in which Franco rode. Franco rides back and trainer Spawr now the gelding needs space between races. With the ground saving rail and a kick that will benefit from a likely early pace battle between Indian Mantuana, Epical and possibly Roman Rosso, maybe Dabster as well, Unopologetic gets top billing here, opening at 10/1.


If that weren’t enough, Prince of Arabia opens at 30/1, with a late running style and moving back to turf after four races on dirt, three graded stakes including one in which he rallied for 2nd. Before that runner-up stakes effort, Prince of Arabia closed from last of seven to win at 35 to 1, and on the grass last March and April he finished 1st or 2nd in three straight turf races on this course, the best of which earned a 114 figure good enough to get a big piece here if not to post the massive upset.


Flamboyant rounds out the trio of double digit morning line horses, having won this race in 2016 with a decent 105 figure and although not winning many races since, popping up with big ones once in a while like when victorious with a 10th to 1st rally in the San Francisco Mile Stakes last March at 11 to 1. Blanc rides him well and since we never know when he’s going to run an “A” race and as he opens at 12/1, I feel it would be a mistake to not at least bet a few bucks to win and to include him on our exotic tickets.


Both Chicago Style and Epical have credentials to win. Chicago Style won the Grade 2 Hollywood Turf Cup on the Del Mar sod in November but we must note that was at a mile and one-half. He won at 1 3/8 miles in the summer of 2016 and so this 1 ¼ mile trip he’s trying for the first time is likely within his range. He earned a 116 figure in that 11 furlong win in 2017 and a 117 figure when fourth, beaten just over a length, in the San Gabriel Stakes in January, so he has to be respected when we consider our wagers in the race. Likewise, Epical wired the field in two straight races, in November and at the end of December. Neither were stakes but the best of the two earned him a 114 figure and as one win came at 11 furlongs and the other at 9 furlongs it appears this 10 furlong trip is not an issue.



Bets: Unapologetic to win at 7/2 or higher, adding a place bet at 5/1 or more.

For a slightly lesser amount, Prince of Arabia and Flamobyant to win at 5 to 1 or more, adding a place bet at 7 to 1 or more.



Exactas: Box Unapologetic, Prince of Arabia, Flamboyant, Chicago Style and Epical.


Friday, 08 February 2019 12:03

First Things First

Past the Wire     Tracking Tips Logo


February 8, 2019

First Things First

By: Jonathan Stettin

Following an article released by the newly formed Thoroughbred Idea Foundation, I found myself engaged in a conversation on social media with some fellow racing people. While I do not always agree with the Thoroughbred Idea Foundation, I do support them and appreciate their efforts.

The article that prompted the conversation was about improving and growing the sport, keeping up with the recent sports wagering legislation by embracing fixed odds wagering amongst other things. Most would agree it is probably a good idea for our industry to stay ahead of this curve.

The Thoroughbred Idea Foundation also promotes lowering take out, reducing the cost of handicapping data and embracing technology. All good ideas any horseplayer would welcome, myself included. Despite that, I see it as more of a chicken or the egg scenario, and frankly I think the answer is obvious.

I have written several articles about the disconnect between people who run racing and those who actually wager on it, their customers. I have written about embracing fixed odds wagering and exchange wagering well before sports wagering was for the most part legalized. All of this ties into many of us wanting to improve and grow the game, or maybe more accurately restore it to when it was the most popular spectator sport and truly the Sport of Kings.

It is my experience and opinion the perception of horse racing amongst those who play it, and even those who don’t is that the playing field is not level. There is a good reason for this. As much as I agree with all the good points to improve, restore, and grow the game, first things first. Level the field. Get rid of the drugs, cheating, and take care of the horses who can no longer compete or who never could or we continue down the steep hill. I see no way around that. Racing execs are satisfied to remain in their respective bubbles without working with other venues, jurisdictions or groups attempting to bring uniformity. To have a level field with minimal cheating, as it can never be eradicated, you need cooperation and uniformity.

During the aforementioned conversation some interesting points were brought up, but to my surprise eliminating cheating was not the number 1 across the board priority. Interestingly, simultaneous to this conversation Jason Servis won the second race at Gulfstream Park’s Championship meet with an off the claim runner who found some new speed to annihilate a field including one horse who had whipped him twice before. The Servis horse was odds on. As the conversation continued Jorge Navarro won the third race at the very same meet with a barb change to him for the first time. This horse also went wire to wire at odds on. Maybe they were both just the best horse, but perception is everything.

Also at the same time you can rest assured there were many ex racehorses, and horses who were never fast enough to compete awaiting horrendous fates at kill pens and slaughterhouses. In a game played by billionaires, multi-millionaires, millionaires, comfortable people, working-class people, struggling people and brokesters you’d think we’d want and insist on a fair game, level playing field and take care of our own. We don’t.

In reality, whatever we do to try and improve the game will not restore it or grow it unless we minimize cheating. Cheating is killing the sport on many levels.

It increases injuries and breakdowns thus sending more horses to slaughter and stressing the rescue organizations.

It decreases handle by driving bettors away and leaving a sour taste in their mouths.

It forces gamblers to seek other options.

It drives both small and honest barns out of business.

It allows for super trainers and barns that attract owners who will feed them horses and starve honest outfits.

It kills owners who employ honest trainers who do not cheat and robs them of purse opportunities.

I can go on and on but if you don’t get it by now, nothing I say is going to change that.

I can’t prove or accuse any trainer of cheating but I know plenty are and if you are a true student and lover of this game so do you. Cheating is not only done with illegal drugs, but also with the misuse, overuse, and not used as intended with legal drugs. There are many ways to push that envelope. Much less to get caught under our current systems. A week or so ago a top Australian trainer was caught with batteries in his barn used for shocking horses to run faster. Don’t all these other improvements regarding take out, technology, wagering options, free forms and programs, staggering post times take a serious back seat to the hardcore issues plaguing what once was the top spectator sport in the land?  

Everybody wants to go to Heaven, but nobody wants to die. Everybody wants to grow the game, but nobody wants to step up and handle first things first.

Friday, 01 February 2019 14:01

Key Races & Bets for Saturday, February 2

Forward Gal Stakes - Race 9 at Gulfstream Park - Post Time 4:07 PM Eastern


Frond and Feedback stick out against the other seven in this race, with Frond the much better win bet opening at 12/1 compared to 6 to 5 for Feedback. Feedback won impressively in her debut but that was back in August and she hasn’t been seen since so perhaps there were issues. Chad Brown wins at an above average rate off these kinds of layoffs but it’s a big jump from a maiden field to stakes so when the five and one-half months is added it’s tough to consider a win bet on Feedback at prohibitively low odds. The win came at 6 ½ furlongs so she should handle the seven furlong trip and she should be physically stronger as a three year old. On the other hand, Frond won at seven furlongs in her debut and it was just last month. Not only is it difficult to run well, let alone win, at seven furlongs first time out, she showed a lot of maturity when rallying from fifth, seven lengths back, in the early stages. The 82 figure wasn’t much compared to Feedback but Frond adds Lasix, gets a great outside post, and has speed to close into again as Fashion Faux Pas will go very fast from the opening bell. With Leading jockey Saez taking over we have a lot to get excited about.



Bets: Frond to win at odds of 3 to 1 or more.



Exacta: Box Frond and Feedback.



Trifecta: Frond and Feedback over ALL over Frond and Feedback.

Note: The strategy in playing both the exacta and trifecta is to cover the two contenders if they finish first and second, or first and third.



Pick 3: (two tickets)

Race 9 – Frond, Feedback

Race 10 – Frosted Grace, High Crime, Call Paul, Seismic Jolt, Zenden, Country Singer

Race 11 – Mihos, Federal Case, Maximum Mischief



Race 9 – Frond, Feedback

Race 10 – High Crime, Call Paul, Seismic Jolt

Race 11 – Mihos, Federal Case, Maximum Mischief



Swale Stakes - Race 10 at Gulfstream Park - Post Time 4:40 PM Eastern


Seismic Jolt really improved off his only race as a two year old last summer, returning in the fall to finish second before winning two in a row. The latter of the two came in the Limehouse Stakes over the track, an easy three length win with a 99 Equibase figure just a bit lower than the 101 figures High Crime and Call Paul earned in their most recent races. In the Limehouse, Seismic Jolt relaxed in fourth during the opening quarter mile before taking over and that may give him an edge because there is potential Country Singer, Hard Belle, Take Command, Frosted Grace, Jackson, or any of that group, may all want the lead from the start and any cost.



Call Paul and High Crime are just as logical, and as probable, as Seismic Jolt but appear likely to go to post at lower odds. Call Paul won at this seven furlong trip when taking the Pennsylvania Nursery Stakes and won the Saratoga Special at 6 ½ furlongs last summer, while High Crime was ridden out to a 7 ¾ length win last month over the track, albeit at six furlongs. He led from start to finish in that race but closed from sixth to second in his debut and does not wear blinkers so likely relax early and be coming on strongly late.



I can’t completely rule out any number of other scenarios so on one pick 3 ticket started in the ninth race, and on some exacta tickets, we should also use Frosted Grace, Zenden and Country Singer.



Bets: Seismic Jolt to win at odds of 5 to 2 or higher.

Consider win bets on Call Paul at odds of 3 to 1 or more, and on High Crime at odds of 3 to 1 or more.



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



Exacta: Seismic Jolt, Call Paul and High Crime over Seismic Jolt, Call Paul and High Crime, Frosted Grace, Zenden and Country Singer.



Also consider the reverse of that exacta, perhaps for a smaller amount. That exacta is Seismic Jolt, Call Paul and High Crime, Frosted Grace, Zenden and Country Singer over Seismic Jolt, Call Paul and High Crime.



Holy Bull Stakes - Race 11 at Gulfstream Park - Post Time 5:13 PM Eastern


Mihos will be my top choice to win this year's Holy Bull Stakes. I would say he is also trying to get on the radar as a top three year old but he has already done that, winning the Mucho Macho Man Stakes at Gulfstream Park last month. Showing a lot of maturity when rallying from fifth on the far turn, Mihos was still second, two and one-half lengths behind the leader with an eighth of a mile to go in the Mucho Macho Man, before grinding down the leader to emerge victorious by a neck. Improving from an 80 Equibase figure in his debut last fall, to 99 in his second start, then to a field high 105 figure in the Mucho Macho Man, Mihos appears to have all the tools to win the Holy Bull. His sire, Cairo Prince, had his first crop of foals hit the track in 2018 and to date they have fared very well. Six of Cairo Prince's progeny have run in stakes at a mile or more to date, with two of the six winning and another finishing second. With improving to do and already a stakes winner over the track, Mihos looks tough to beat in this situation.



Federal Case may not yet be a stakes winner but has similar credentials to Mihos in that he won at a mile over the Gulfstream main track in his most recent start. That was near the end of December and in that race Federal Case improved considerably to a 92 figure after earning an 85 in his debut, also a winning effort. Although he has one less race under his belt compared to Mihos, three year olds can improve markedly from one race to the next early in the year.  As such, Federal Case could jump up and be competitive in the Holy Bull. Additionally, a STATS Race Lens angle shows when trainer Todd Pletcher makes a jockey change to jockey Javier Castellano, as is the case here, it is a change worth noting. Over the past five years, this has occurred 372 times, with a strong 26% of those starters winning. Wagering every time this happens yields a 7% profit, which is quite positive given a sample size of that nature. In both starts to date, Federal Case has relaxed in second in the early stages. It’s likely there will be a contested early pace as both Going For Gold and Gladiator King are stretching out and have led in the early stages in recent races.  In this scenario, Federal Case could find himself in the catbird seat and ready to pounce in the stretch for the win.



Maximus Mischief is a perfect three-for-three in his career. All three victories were powerful efforts in which he led by two or more lengths at the top of the stretch and continued on to win by wide margins. Starting with an 87 figure effort last September, Maximus Mischief improved to a 97 figure effort in October before proving to be one of the top two-year-olds in training last fall when easily winning the Remsen Stakes and earning a 104 figure. The Remsen has turned out to be a "KEY RACE" as two horses behind Maximus Mischief both won their subsequent starts and improved their Equibase figures in doing so. If there is one concern, it is Maximus Mischief hasn't run for nine weeks, whereas eight of the other nine, particularly Mihos and Federal Case, have had the benefit of more recent races. On the other hand, Maximus Mischief's morning workouts since coming to Gulfstream last month have been superb and indicate a horse in top physical condition, as his workout of five furlongs in 58 seconds on January 19 was the best of 57 on the day. As such, Maximus Mischief could pick up in the Holy Bull where he left off last fall, with a graded stakes win.



Bets:  Mihos to win at odds of 8 to 5 or more.

For a smaller amount, Federal Case to win at 3 to 1 or more.

Exacta: Box Mihos and Federal Case.


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



Robert B. Lewis Stakes - Race 6 at Santa Anita - Post Time 5:53 Eastern



Nolo Contesto looks to be a “low odds overlay” because in this short field I think if you ran the race 100 times he would win around 35 to 40 times. That makes him very playable at 8 to 5 or more but his morning line odds are 5 to 2 because Gunmetal Gray opens as the 9 to 5 second choice and Mucho Gusto opens as the 8 to 5 favorite. There’s nothing wrong with either, the former having won the Sham Stakes last month with a visually impressive rally from sixth with an eighth of a mile to go, the latter  coming off a second place finish to five length winner Improbable in the Los Alamitos Futurity in December. Still, NEITHER effort was as good as the effort Nolo Contesto put in, as that earned a 104 figure, in only his second career start, first route, compared to 101 for Gunmetal Gray and 95 for Mucho Gusto. With any improvement at all, even if all three improve at about the same rate, Nolo Contesto is the one to beat in spite of being the third choice on the morning line.



Bets: Nolo Contesto to win at odds of 3 to 2.



San Pasqual Stakes - Race 9 at Santa Anita - Post Time 7:23 Eastern


Dabster rallied up into second with a quarter mile to go in the San Antonio Stakes last month, a neck behind the leader, then faded to third as Talamo dropped the stick at the 3/16 pole. One race before that in the Native Diver, Dabster missed by a neck to Battle of Midway so a case could be made Dabster had every right to beat Battle of Midway, as well as winner Gift Box (who was a half-length in front of Battle of Midway) if not for the trouble. With three straight 115 Equibase figure efforts coming into this race, which stand up exceptionally well against the 115, 116 and 117 figure efforts Battle of Midway earned in his last three starts, and the 115 figure McKinzie earned winning the Malibu Stakes on opening day of the meeting (12/26), Dabster appears well worth the risk as a win bet, opening at 5 to 1 compared to 5 to 2 and 4 to 5 for Battle of Midway and McKinzie, respectively. For exactas, I’ll also toss in Dalmore, who opens at ridiculously high odds of 20/1 considering he’s lost by less than a length in two straight stakes and is reunited with Desormeaux, who guided him to his best two efforts last year when second in the Cornhusker Stakes (at this distance) and when winning over the track last February.



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

For a few bucks, Dalmore to win and place at odds of 5 to 1 or more.



Exactas: Dabster over Dalmore, McKinzie and Battle of Midway.

Also, play the opposite of that exacta, which is Dalmore, McKinzie and Battle of Midway over Dabster.




Thursday, 31 January 2019 18:15

Things Do Happen

Past the Wire     Tracking Tips Logo


January 31, 2019

Things Do Happen

By: Jonathan Stettin

I always get a laugh when I see someone make what seems to be an outrageous or bold claim or accusation on social media regarding horse racing, and some expert talking head dismisses it as preposterous. If history has taught us anything, it is things do happen, and often the worst is true. At times the reality is even worse than what we imagine. Add money, lots of it, into the equation and you have a scenario where nothing alleged is really that preposterous at all.

Forgive the redundancy from previous articles, but if I were to ask you to believe that not that long ago people were betting pick 6’s after say four of the six races were run, and doing this on the Breeders’ Cup, you would probably have laughed at me. Can you imagine the expert industry talking heads response? I’d be dismissed as a crazy no doubt and put on the pay no mind list. They would be right about the crazy part, but I have never claimed sanity as a defense of anything. They would have been dead wrong about the pick 6 though, wouldn’t they?

Some years back a good jockey friend of mine, who I was with up at Saratoga, rode a horse in the last race who went off at 30-1. He went to the lead and by about two lengths and held that until deep stretch. At that point the favorite at 8-5 changed leads and kicked in. He was being ridden by one of the leading riders. He nailed the longshot on the wire. A nose separated them.

The next day was a Tuesday which was a dark day. The other rider came over to my friend who was barbecuing a steak on the grill. He said;
“Why didn’t you tell me that horse was live yesterday? I could have got in trouble, and we all make money.” It seemed like half a joke and was laughed off as such. It likely was.

Just last week a top Australian trainer who is a Melbourne Cup winner had their barn raided by law enforcement. The Melbourne Cup is one of the most famous and difficult races in the world to win. It has prestige on a par with a Kentucky Derby, and the same level of scrutiny. Darren Weir and two other “licensees” were taken into custody by the Victorian Police’s Sporting Intelligence Integrity Unit after four buzzers or batteries were found in the barn. A sporting intelligence integrity unit. Can you imagine if we had one of those in the states? Weir won the Melbourne Cup in 2015 with Prince of Penzance. Weir has two training locations, and both were raided. He was released and no charges have been filed yet. While the absolute rule may or may not apply to a licensee, in a criminal case possession would likely have to be established. Nevertheless, it would appear on the surface the batteries were present.

If you asked industry insiders if they thought a Melbourne Cup winning outfit was using batteries, I’d wager most would say no way. Maybe they are right, and maybe they are wrong, but the question is not ridiculous at all, is it?

I wonder how people in the industry would respond today if they had to live and work through the race fixing scandals of the ’70s. Pretty much the entire list of leading jockeys on the NYRA circuit was involved on one level or another even if it was just being subject to questioning. One rider, Mike Hole, committed suicide under what was considered questionable circumstances back then. Another rider was asked on the stand if he ever heard the expression “to hold or pull a horse?” He said simply, no, he never heard that and didn’t know what it meant. Con Errico in another scandal went to prison. In Europe, a top rider was actually put on trial for race fixing not long ago and was acquitted. Things happen. Questions are not crazy nor are those who ask them when money is at stake.

Most of us know how difficult it is to detect some of the illegal performance-enhancing substances in professional sports. Athletes get caught in major mainstream sports with at least some degree of regularity. Our game is not mainstream. Nor does it have mainstream resources. Does this mean every 40% trainer is using “something?” Probably not. It also means asking those tough questions is far from unwarranted. Having some skepticism in many cases is not foolish. Pretending it is preposterous or the thought of a crazy is, well is just plain crazy. Things happen.