Friday, 28 December 2018 13:11

Key Races & Bets for Saturday, December 29


Thirty Eight Go Go Stakes – Race 7 at Laurel - Post Time 3 PM Eastern


Forever Liesl shows up nearly every time, this year off the board just once in seven races. She ships in from New York for Nevin and the last time she came to Maryland she won, in August, at this one turn mile trip here at Laurel. Carrasco rode her then as well as to a six length win two starts later in September and the filly wasn't disgraced a bit when second to a six length winner in the Grade 3 Turnback the Alarm Handicap, herself six clear of the next horse. Carrasco rode Lady Vicky to a win three weeks ago over the track and chooses this filly which is another sign for a big effort. With the favorite, Sower, a contender but not a standout, but opening at 2/1 and likely going to post at those odds or lower, we may get around the 5/1 morning line on this gal and that would make her a good bet.



Lake Ponchatrain may be underbet as well, opening at 6/1, as she ships in from Mahoning Valley. She ran 2nd in a similar stakes at Laurel in July and was 5 to 2 that day and she won her last start nicely. Like Forever Liesl, Lake Ponchatrain shows up nearly every time, evidenced by 11 first or second place finishes in 13 races this year. Rosado rode her beautifully the last three times he was in the saddle, winning twice and missing a nose in the other race.



Sower is 4 for 8 in her career and ships in from Belmont for Rice, who does very well with shippers to Maryland, particularly with Karamanos aboard as here. The jockey rode the filly to her first two wins this spring in Maryland, before she went to New York and won a stakes. She may not be as good now as then as she's only 1 for 5 since and her mediocre effort earlier this month when third in a non-graded stakes similar to this one would see her beaten here if repeated, so she's going to need to run the race she ran before that but that was in the mud and she's going to need to prove she can win at a mile as she's trying the distance for the first time, whereas Forever Liesl has won at the trip. I'm defensively using her but mostly trying to beat her.



Bets: Forever Liesl to win at odds of 5 to 2 or higher, AND Lake Ponchatrain at odds of 5 to 2 or higher.



When making multiple win bets, use a "Dutching" tool with which you can enter the amount you want to spend or the amount you want to win and the calculation of how much to bet will be done for you. Amwager provides a free "Dutching" tool, among other great benefits for the handicapper and bettor.




Forever Liesl and Lake Ponchatrain over ALL.

Box Forever Liesl, Lake Ponchatrain and Sower.



Doubles: Forever Liesl, Lake Ponchatrain and Sower in race 7 with Cautious Giant, Midtowncharlybrown, Laki and Colonel Sharp in Race 8.



Dave's Friend Stakes – Race 8 at Laurel - Post Time 3:30 PM Eastern


Colonel Sharp is 4-for-8 this year and in my mind has won two in a row. He won his most recent race, at Laurel on 11/16 and he won on 9/1 at Timonium. Before the last win he ran on turf and before that he was overmatched badly in the DeFrancis Stakes. The 9/1 race was a stakes like this one and last out he beat a classified allowance field easily. He can win on the lead or from off the pace and Acosta, who was up for both recent wins, rides back. The cut back from seven furlongs to six doesn't hurt and he's earned four of his seven career wins at the basic six furlong trip as well. Opening at 5 to 1, he could definitely be a great bet.


Midtowncharlybrown just posted the 10/1 upset in the $200K Fabulous Strike Stakes at the trip, beating a solid group of sprinters. He won back to back last fall and is 8 for 16 in his career. Like Colonel Sharp, Midtowncharlybrown has the capacity to win on the lead or from off the pace. I think morning line second choice Altissimo is vulnerable because even though he's 13 for 32 the wins have been earned in Ohio versus Ohio Breds and his trainer is just 3 for 38 with shippers the past two years, none in Maryland. With a potentially overbet second choice in the race, Midtowncharlybrown, who opens at 9/2, gives us a decent return for the risk with a horse who has every right to earn his 9th career win.


Cautious Giant is a must use on any exacta tickets because he's been first or second in 13 of 19 races this year and last. He ships in from Gulfstream where he won at 75K stakes one before last so he fits, while Laki is another must use off his win three weeks ago over the track. However, that win came in a stakes for Maryland breds only and his other two wins this year came when moved up to first via a disqualification and in an allowance race.  We'll throw in a nice longshot for 2nd in Team Tim, who opens at 20/1. He's not much for winning but he puts in a late kick to pass many horses a lot.


Bets: Colonel Sharp and Midtowncharlybrown to win at 5 to 2 or higher. Consider a win bet, for a lesser amount, on Cautious Giant at 3 to 1 or more.


Always try to use a "Dutching" tool when making multiple win bets as it provides help with maximizing profit. Amwager offers you one for free along with many other perks.


Exacta: Colonel Sharp, Midtowncharlybrown, Cautious Giant and Laki over Colonel Sharp, Midtowncharlybrown, Cautious Giant, Laki and Team Tim.



Alex M. Robb Stakes – Race 8 at Aqueduct - Post Time 3:47 PM Eastern


I usually forego statebred stakes, unless there's value to be had, and I think Winston's Chance offers superb value in this race, opening at 8/1. Favorites Mr. Buff (2/1 morning line) and Control Group (9/5 morning line) are just two of FOUR horses who appear incapable of rating off the pace as all I see are "1s" in their pp lines in the early stages. Mr. Buff draws the two hole and will go, but Black Tide will have to go from his outside post and Control Group just doesn't have anything but a need-the-lead style as well. Hit It Once More has shown speed on occasion and considering his trainer (Sciacca) also has deep closer Testosterone in the race, the early pace, no matter how slow, should be hotly contested. Winston's Chance rallied from fifth to win a sprint for NY breds only (like this one) in October and finished second to nine length winner Gold for The King (a very good horse) last out at seven furlongs over the track. He won his ONLY nine furlong race, in the summer of 2017 at Saratoga, and the stretchout from seven to nine furlongs is a pattern I really like, therefore I expect Winston's Chance to be gaining with every stride in the stretch and post the mild upset.


I'll also consider a win bet on Testosterone, who finished well from seventh of 11 last out to win at a mile and who is likely to benefit from the pace, as well as has won at this distance and has earned nearly half a million dollars so he's no slouch but just was off form for a long time before his win 13 days ago. He opens at 20/1, which makes him hard to ignore.


Bets: Winston's Chance to win at 2 to 1 or more, adding a place bet at 3 to 1 or higher, a true KEY BET on the day.

Make a smaller win and place bet on Testosterone at 5 to 1 or higher.



Robert J. Frankel Stakes - Race 4 at Santa Anita - Post Time 4:34 PM Eastern (1:34 Pacific)


Excellent Sunset should be a low odds overlay, opening at 7/2, with every right to win this Grade 3 race just as she won the non-graded Crosby Stakes last month at Del Mar. Although overmatched off that win in the Grade 1 Matriarch, she managed to rally nicely from 13th to be beaten four lengths at the end. She's run very well in all four U.S. starts after importing from England in July, winning two and missing by a neck in the other. She gets a good post to sit in second early off the speedy Fahan Mura and can return to winning form in this situation.



Fahan Mura, as usual, is the one to catch as she likes to lead from the start. She too was overmatched in the Matriarch and faded to 12th of 13 BUT she was 2nd in the tougher G2 Goldikova Stakes one month earlier, here at SA, and won the Swingtime Stakes which was the same level as the Crosby so she has the same probability to win as Excellent Sunset here and would be no surprise.



Amboseli shipped from Cassidy's home base at SA in October to run in a pair of races in Kentucky, the first a 5th of 9 finish but the 2nd much better when rallying from 10th to 2nd to miss by a half-length at this 9 furlong trip. That was just about the best race of her career and she could run as well BUT she really doesn't like to win, evidenced by a 2-4-8 career record, so although she must be used on exacta and pick 3 tickets we must get decent odds before betting her to win. Escape Clause has won 9 of 12 this year, all on dirt except her last two on turf. She was moved up to 1st in the Crosby after Excellent Sunset was disqualified and the was beaten a pair of half-lengths in the G3 Red Carpet Stakes last month at the longer distance of 11 furlongs. Cutting back to 9 furlongs she could be rallying strongly once again and be in the thick of the action on the wire.



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

Consider a second win bet, for a smaller amount, on Amboseli at 4 to 1 or more.



Trifecta: With three of the four contenders also being the lowest odds on the morning line, I prefer playing the trifecta over playing the exacta, as follows (two tickets):

Excellent Sunset over Escape Clause, Fahan Mura and Amboseli over Escape Clause, Fahan Mura and Amboseli.



Fahan Mura and Amboseli over Excellent Sunset over Escape Clause, Fahan Mura and Amboseli.


Wednesday, 26 December 2018 15:17

Success of Failure

Past the Wire     Tracking Tips Logo


December 27, 2018

Success or Failure

By: Jonathan Stettin


The Pegasus and the unique purse structure it carries with it have only been around a few years. Thus far, I have been to all the runnings, and I intend to go again this year. The race has received some criticism about the depth of quality in the fields, and the buy-in slot system of the purse. The cost of attending has also come under criticism. While I think the current purse system may at some point have to change, overall I have to call the race and concept a success.

Any big money race with a decent size field is good for the game. Racing is built around gambling and having to put up a nice chunk of cash to buy a slot in a race is a gamble on a whole different level for owner/investors. It allows for wheeling and dealing including sponsoring a horse and competing for the big prize. You can do this without actually having a horse of your own if you are willing to take a shot, buy a slot and then sell or share it with an owner who actually has a horse. Most who have tried this approach have lost some money thus far, but the race and concept are still in their very early stages or infancy.

One of the many goals of the race was to keep some of the top horses around a tad longer. I think most in the sport are in favor of that. The timing of the race allows horses to compete and still hurry off to make the breeding season. It worked for California Chrome, Gun Runner, and appears it will for Accelerate as well. City of Light is also scheduled to run giving us two Breeders’ Cup winners competing against each other. I find that tough to knock.

Despite the hefty purse the race never garnered much international interest. Being run on dirt in late January likely has a lot to do with that, but this year Mexican Triple Crown winner and champion Kukulcan is scheduled to run. The addition of a turf race to go with the dirt edition will be unveiled this year. If it continues, the Europeans and others will start looking at it as an option. Big money will bring big horses even with this unique structure. For the Stronach Group it is a win as long as it lasts, as they are hosting a major purse race and not footing the whole bill.

Gulfstream is a beautiful venue. Unfortunately, it is just too small to host a Breeders’ Cup although it would be an ideal location. The high prices of the Pegasus have kept crowd size very comfortable so far. You can pretty much wager late and move comfortably around the facility taking in the horses without being too cramped. This is good but they do have to figure out a way to get the every day two dollar bettors in the door also. Maybe free entry vouchers or something to regulate Gulfstream attendees. That would be a nice and welcomed thank you.

The Pegasus is the last race on the card laden with supporting stakes. It anchors the late pick 4,5, and of course the Rainbow Pick 6. Last year Gun Runner won as the favorite, but the multi-race wagers paid well. There will be a lot of great wagering opportunities on the card, and you can count on decent field sizes and generous pools.

In the inaugural running Arrogate in the midst of his powerful string of races beat California Chrome so in only two years the race has quickly developed a little history. With two Breeders’ Cup winners squaring off with a Mexican champ thrown in we should have an interesting running again.

Gulfstream is and has been a speed favoring racetrack. Because of that mile and an eighth horses can get the Pegasus distance of a mile and a quarter over it. That will help City of Light the Breeders’ Cup Mile winner against Classic winner Accelerate. He might not have as good a chance over some other racing strips.

Remaining cognizant the whole purse system may change, thus far I have to call the Pegasus a win or success for the sport. I am looking forward to another strong running. I think we will see one.

HIGH FIVE: Racing is finally going to digital tattooing. Better late than never. Luis Contreras a nice 1000 win milestone.

LOW FIVE: It is the Holidays. Everyone gets a pass. I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all!

Sunday, 23 December 2018 19:53

Key Races & Bets for Wednesday, December 26

La Brea Stakes - Race 6 at Santa Anita - Post Time 5 PM Eastern/ 2 PM Pacific


Spiced Perfection gets slight preference among a quartet of fillies which can win, with a great outside post to avoid any potential traffic trouble early and coming off a CAREER BEST effort at this 7 furlong trip in the Betty Grable Stakes last month. Although that was a statebred race, the 111 Equibase figure earned lines up favorably here compared to likely favorite Dream Tree, who earned a 106 winning the Grade 2 Prioress Stakes in her most recent start. Since adding blinkers, Spiced Perfection is 2-for-2 in dirt sprints and Prat, who rode her to victory last month when aboard for the first time, ride back. That last race has already become a KEY RACE as both the runner-up and third finishers came back to win and as a filly who has been ultra-consistent in her career, evidenced by a 5-4-1 record in 11 dirt races, Spiced Perfection could help us profit nicely in the race.



Mo See Call is another "NOW" horse, having won three in row, two in a row since moving from turf to dirt. She may not have beaten much in her two recent allowance wins by earned 103 and 111 figures, the most recent with Smith aboard, who rides back. Smith rode Dream Tree to victory in the Prioress when she traveled to New York and although Van Dyke has become Baffert's #1 rider of late it still is intriguing Smith and his agent take this mount. With three wins and a narrow defeat since adding blinkers in August and in the best form of her life, Mo See Cal is as strong a win contender as Spiced Perfection in my opinion.



Happy Like a Fool has one knock and that's the rail as she has good early speed but she's shown the ability to sit as far back as third early and still run big so she could be okay. She comes in off a sharp win with a 105 figure and won the Miss Preakness Stakes in May with a 111 figure. Trainer Ward shipped her in to train over the track over a month ago, a big sign he's been pointing her to this race and wants her ready on all counts. Ward is just so good at this level (32% wins on over 150 dirt sprints in the last year) we must respect this filly's chances to earn her 5th career win.



Dream Tree is going to be used defensively as she's likely to be the prohibitive favorite but I can't discount her as a win contender. She's undefeated in five start including three graded stakes and she won her only start at the trip.  She does have question marks as she was off from February to September then off until now, so she must have some issues. On the other hand she put in a stellar five furlong work on 12/9 followed by a pair of maintenance works and Baffert continues to win at a solid 25% clip with horses off layoffs, whether 2 to 6 months or 6 months or more.



Bets: Spiced Perfection and Mo See Cal to win at 5 to 2 or more. (Add a place bet if 5 to 1 or higher).

Minimum odds on Happy Like a Fool are 7 to 2.



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.




1. Spiced Perfection and Mo See Cal

2. Box Spiced Perfection, Mo See Cal, Happy Like a Fool and Dream Tree.


Doubles and Pick 3's: Use ALL four horses.


Mathis Brothers Mile Stakes – Race7 at Santa Anita - Post Time 5:30 PM Eastern/ 2:30 Pacific


Shivermetimbers finds a field lacking in proven milers on grass and can win this race in his turf debut, particularly if likely favorite River Boyne doesn't cut back successfully from 9 furlongs to 8 furlongs. Shivermetimbers is bred to handle grass just fine as Shanghai Bobby has sired a number of turf winners and he has the right style to take advantage of what should be a very hot early pace. Snazzy Dresser, an absolute need-the-lead types, gets the extreme outside post and has to go fast to get to the rail, but Gemonteer and possibly Gidu will also be on or near the font early. Shivermetimbers rallied from 4th in his last two wins, BOTH under Smith, who rides back and who was also up for the colt's other win. His last two efforts yielded 113 and 114 Equibase figures which match up nicely with the 115 likely favorite River Boyne earned in the Twilight Derby so Shivermetimbers has every much of a chance to win as the favorite but will go to post at better odds.



River Boyne has no real knocks as he shows up every time. After making the lead by a length and one-half in the Hollywood Derby on 12/1, he was beaten near the wire by Raging Bull but was nearly three lengths clear of the next horse. He hasn't run a mile in nine months but won the non-graded Pasadena Stakes the last time he did and in terms of turf and stakes experience he is the one to beat.



Choo Choo forms an uncoupled Hollendorfer entry with Shivermetimbers and has a slight chance to win but a big chance to be in the exacta or trifecta. His two wins to date have come on turf and all-weather and his most recent effort when second and beaten under a length in the restricted Let It Ride Stakes last month earned him a career best 112 figure. That was his first start after six months off, second since adding blinkers, and better can be expected here particularly as Rosario fits his late running style nicely.



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

"IF" Choo Choo should go to post anywhere near 7 to 2 or higher, make a smaller win bet on him as well.




1.Shivermetimbers and River Boyne

2. Box Shivermetimbers, River Boyne and Choo Choo.

3. Shivermetimbers, River Boyne and Choo ChooShivermetimbers, River Boyne, Choo Choo, Sejo, Gidu, Desert Stone, Gemonteer and Snazzy Dancer.


Doubles and Pick 3's: Use Shivermetimbers, River Boyne and Choo Choo.



San Antonio Stakes - Race 8 at Santa Anita - Post Time 6 PM Eastern/ 3 Pacific


Beach View has a decent upset shot here and gets slight preference in a race where four horses (of 9) have almost all the probability to win in my opinion. Of his 11 career starts, 8 were on turf and of the other three, only two were routes. However, both those efforts were exceptional. Both were at 12 furlongs but he's run well at a mile on turf so I'm not concerned about his ability to handle the trip. He returned from four months off last month and rallied decently enough for 3rd in the G2 Hollywood Turf Cup at 12 furlongs. He might have run even better but was blocked during a critical portion of the stretch run. Even though that trouble may be enough to back him here, it's his effort prior to that which, if repeated, could help him earn the upset as when winning the G3 Cougar II Handicap by five lengths in dominating fashion he not only earned a career best tying 112 figure which isn't far from the best in the field, he beat multi-millionaire Hoppertunity with ease. Bejarano was up for both efforts, the only two times he's ridden the horse, and rides back, which provides me with enough reasons to take a big swing with Beach View.


Gift Box is very interesting here as he shipped west sometime in the past few months after being privately purchased (from Farish, with Chad Brown as his trainer) by Hronis racing and sent to the Sadler barn. Considering Sadler's success with dirt stakes stars the past year, this five year old could turn into something special. Even though it took him six tries to move through the 2nd allowance level, he was very competitive, missing twice by inches before an eight length win in March with a career best 114 figure. The only knock is coming back from 9 months off around two turns and in a graded stakes BUT the works are excellent, Rosario rides, and if Sadler is confident I won't argue.


Battle of Midway and Dabster are likely to be the two favorite and both are logical contenders, but not standouts. Battle of Midway has yet to run as well as when winning the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile in the fall of 2017 but got close in his last two efforts, particularly his win in the G3 Native Diver at this trip last month with a 117 figure. Dabster was neck shy of his foe in the race, BUT we must note it was essentially a match race, a three horse field in which the other horse was never involved.



Bets: Beach View to win at odds of 5/2 or more, adding a place bet at 5 to 1 or higher.

For a slightly smaller amount, Gift Box to win at 3 to 1 or more, adding a place bet at 5 to 1 or higher.



Exacta and Trifecta: Box Beach View, Gift Box, Battle of Midway and Dabster.



Doubles: Use all four horses.


Malibu Stakes - Race 9 at Santa Anita - Post Time 6:30 PM Eastern/ 3:30 Pacific


Bobby's Wicked One ships in from Louisiana by way of Ohio, having just missed by a nose in a $250K sprint for three year olds. It was his second start after coming back from six month off and he's on a pattern for an even better effort here. Based on the barn of top trainer Al Stall, the well bred colt is bred to handle 7 furlongs just fine although to date he has a runner-up and third place finish at the trip and the previously mentioned pattern off 101 and 109 Equibase figures, with a great post and a lot of early pace to stalk, Bobby's Wicked One could post the upset in this year's Malibu.

Copper Bullet was thought to be a Derby prospect last summer (2017) after winning the Saratoga Special but had issues which kept him on the shelf for 15 months. He returned last month at Churchill Downs as if he had never been away, winning easily by 3 1/2 lengths in a new career best effort (110 figure) and has every right to take a big step forward 2nd off the layoff. Asmussen has been pointing him to this race as he shipped the colt in right after the last win for three works over the track and getting Jose Ortiz (2nd in the jockey race for 2018 and just behind his brother  Irad Ortiz, Jr.) the colt would be no surprise if winning this race.

McKinzie and Kanthaka are very likely to go to post as the first and second betting choices here based on their performances in graded stakes this year and both can win or be part of the exacta but they are not standouts. McKinzie moves back to three year olds only after finishing 12th of 14 in the Breeders' Cup Classic. He won the San Felipe Stakes over the track in March with a 118 figure then had issues and was off for nine months, returning to win the Pennsylvania Derby. The 114 figure in the PA Derby was fine and he broke his maiden at this distance. He's been working fine but this year's Malibu drew a very strong field compared to what he faced in the PA Derby and he has his work cut out for him although he could be up to the task and that's why I'm not completely taking a stand against him. Kanthaka is a ONE-TURN horse, proven by winning the San Vicente Stakes over the track at the distance in February with a 113 figure, then by running not nearly as well around two turns in the San Felipe and Blue Grass, then by winning the Barrera Stakes in May when turned back to this trip. Rested since then, he's working like he can pick up where he left off and must be respected as a contender as well.



Bets: Bobby's Wicked One to win and place at 7 to 2 or more.

Copper Bullet to win at 7 to 2 odder or more.



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




Copper Bullet and Bobby's Wicked One

Copper Bullet, Bobby's Wicked One, Kanthaka and McKinzieCopper Bullet, Bobby's Wicked One, Kanthaka, McKinzie, Axelrod and Nero

Friday, 14 December 2018 14:30

The Feature Race

Past the Wire     Tracking Tips Logo


December 14, 2018

The Feature Race

Plus my take on the Horse of the Year debate and Santa Anita’s new wager

By: Jonathan Stettin

At the very least, on just about every weekend day of racing the “major” racetracks had a feature race. This was almost always a stake, often a graded stake, and was carded towards the end of the program. In New York, way back when, it was the seventh race of nine but later on moved to the eighth of nine, or customarily the next to last race. This gave the racing fans, and bettors alike, something to look forward to.

Horse racing is a fantastic sport to view live. It is exciting, competitive and features both phenomenal equine and human athletes. The top horses and riders who competed at these high level meets developed strong followings and people came not only to wager but to see them compete.

Along with a changing and evolving world, the Sport of Kings has changed. The history and traditions of the game are evaporating or being brushed aside. I’m all for change for the better. For the worse not so much.

Today the feature races, for the most part, have been combined into what we now call super Saturdays. I was middle of the road on this concept as it developed. I was initially against moving the Metropolitan Mile from Memorial Day to Belmont Stakes Saturday. I’ll admit on the first Saturday they ran it that way I loved the card and thought I saw the light. I was wrong.

While these super days are great when we run them, they leave a sour wake for days and even weeks to follow. The Sunday feature, often a stake, is now usually an optional claiming race if we are lucky. For example, last Sunday three major tracks ran the following feature races:

Aqueduct, a starter allowance race for horses who previously ran for a claiming price of $16,000.

Gulfstream Park- Claiming $16,000 and have never won three races.

Los Alamitos- California breds which have never won three races other than maiden, claiming, or starter, or which have never won two races or a claiming price of $20,000.

Obviously, racing secretaries have to get creative to fill races. Back in the day conditioned allowance races would fill without all these innovations to the condition book. Today we have to accept these newer types of races, but do we really have to cram the stakes into the big days and leave a void for up to weeks following? Is this the way to get people coming to the races, or have tracks folded their hands? Many may not mind the lack of a stake most days. However, I think history shows the interest and excitement they generate, and that spacing out as opposed to cramming it in looks more like a recipe for growth. The competition and athletes are our strengths, we need to show them off more not less, and stakes do that.

So there is a horse of the year debate. I think the Eclipse awards have lost luster and significance due to some shall we say, weak voting. Nonetheless, people are talking and voicing their opinions. It comes down to Justify and Accelerate. I found it on the border of silly when Bob Baffert and John Sadler were interviewed about whom they thought deserved it. Seriously. Bob likes Justify, and John likes Accelerate. What a surprise. Did we really have to ask that?

I am with Bob on this one. John Sadler brought out a great point in that Accelerate was good enough to get him his first Breeders’ Cup in over 40 tries, but that isn’t enough. Accelerate had a great year, a championship year for sure. I’m not arguing who I think would handle who on the racetrack. That’s a different discussion and will always be subjective. The Triple Crown is one of the toughest things in all sports to accomplish, not just the Sport of Kings but all of sports. Add doing so without racing at two, which broke a very old streak that goes back to Apollo, and you have to give the nod to Justify. Historically, there are so few Triple Crown winners for a very good reason. Sadler did a fantastic job and plotted a great course, and they executed beautifully. They just did it in a Triple Crown year. History is history. Sure Justify retired sooner than we would have liked. He still won the Triple Crown. It was but a few years back when all the talk was to change the sequence, it is too hard. We won’t see another one. It is hard indeed. Horse of the Year hard.

Santa Anita has come up with a new Roulette wager. Kudos for trying but this sounds like a silly bet to me. Apparently, they will group horses into three color categories, red, black, and green. You bet a separate win pool on the color and thus the horses in that group, and if one of those wins so do you. We’ll see I guess.


Friday, 14 December 2018 14:14

Key Races & Bets for Saturday, December 15


Race 7 at Gulfstream - Post Time 3:03 PM Eastern


Gran Causeway will likely go to post favored depending on how heavily bet the two Pletcher first time starters (Bebeau and French Revolution) get, BUT Thetrashmanscoming is the best bet (to win at least) of four contenders to win this race. Thetrashmanscoming is finally coming around after running his best race yet last month in his fifth career start. At the same one-turn mile trip as today's race, he broke slowly, REALLY slowly, to be last of 12 and 17 lengths back, but by the end he was third and moving nicely. He is bred exceptionally well as six of the other seven foals of his dam broke their maidens in straight maiden races on dirt like this one and the 88 last race Equibase figure is the best in the field so if he improves upon it he can post the mild upset, opening at 10/1. Gran Causeway ran on from 11 lengths back early when 5th to get second at the end into a five length winner and can improve, but will need to as the effort earned only a 66 figure. The other two foals of his dam have run well, with 7 wins and 7 runner-up finishes in 26 races. There's nothing special to report about the Pletcher pair but Todd continues to win with 25% of his first time starters in straight maiden races at Gulfstream so they are mostly ready to run and spotted right.



Bets: Thetrashmanscoming to win at 3 to 1 or more, adding a place bet at 5 to 1 or more.



Double (Races 7 and 8) and Pick 3 (Races 7, 8 and 9):

Race 7 – Thetrashmanscoming, Gran Causeway, Bebeau, French Revolution

Race 8 – Electric Forest, Tweeting

Race 9 – Bellavais, La Moneda



Rampart Stakes – Race 8 at Gulfstream Park - Post Time 3:38 PM Eastern


Electric Forest can be any kind of filly sprinter as she makes her 2nd start after 6 1/2 months off to end her three year old campaign and began her four year old campaign. She won impressively first out in April then ran poorly before taking the six month break she returned from last month, repeating the 94 Equibase figure effort in a romp and with a lot of improving she can do here 2nd off the layoff for Brown, with Ortiz riding. We all know how Brown has had a career best year but looking at a subset of that, which applies to this filly, really tells a story. Moving horses up from allowance to stakes off a win in the last five years, Brown is 17 for 87 including a 6 for 19 record in the last 12 months.



Tweeting was claimed for a pretty paltry 40K in April then sent to Casse at Woodbine where she finished 2nd in an all-weather route. Moved to Navarro for her next start, first on dirt in 14 months, she destroyed the field by 12 before leading late and coming up a half-length short on the wire in a little stakes at Laurel near the end of September. Given a couple more months off, if she runs as well as she did off the layoff in August she can win, given that effort earned her a 96 Equibase figure. However, as stated previously a lot will depend on how big a step forward Electric Forest takes off her comeback win last month.



Bets: Electric Forest to win at 3 to 2 or more, a true low odds overlay.


Double (Races 8 and 9), Pick 3 (Races 8, 9 and 10), Pick 4 (Races 8, 9, 10 and 11):


Race 8 – Electric Forest, Tweeting

Race 9 – Bellavais, La Moneda

Race 10 – Awestruck, Stormy Embrace, Dream Pauline, Surprise Wedding

Race 11 – Glorious Empire, Projected, Qurbaan, Hi Happy, Mr Havercamp



My Charmer Stakes  - Race 9 at Gulfstream Park- Post Time 4:05 PM Eastern


La Moneda shows up EVERY TIME, with four wins and a runner-up effort in her last five races, all on grass, the last two in stakes. Even though those last two were against statebred company in New York, the 105 and 107 Equibase figures are as good as any in here who have run well recently in "open" (not restricted) company. Those five "A" efforts all came when Morley was the named trainer, and the trainer saddled her to a win and a runner-up effort last year in two races under his care as well, so we can expect a top effort and I just hope her 5/1 starting odds hold up.


Bellavais took 11 months off from November to October and returned in the Pletcher barn to win at a mile on grass at Belmont, in a decent classified allowance field. She was no slouch before that, with 3 wins in 10 career tries on turf and a stakes win so moving into this grade 3 level is no issue, particularly as Castellano (up for the first time last out) rides back and she gets the rail. Off the 11 month layoff, Bellavais earned a 105 figure and so with logical 2nd off the layoff physical improvement looming she is the other gal with the bulk of the probability to win this race.


For exactas and trifectas I'll also use Conquest Hardcandy, possibly a lone front runner and a filly who has been first or second in six of 11 career turf races.


Bets: La Moneda and Bellavais to win at odds of 2 to1 or more.


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


Exacta: La Moneda and Bellavais over La Moneda, Bellavais and Conquest Hardcandy.


Trifectas (two tickets):

La Moneda and Bellavais over La Moneda, Bellavais and Conquest Hardcandy over ALL.

La Moneda and Bellavais over ALL over La Moneda, Bellavais and Conquest Hardcandy.


Sugar Swirl Stakes - Race 10 at Gulfstream Park - Post Time 4:36 PM ET


Stormy Embrace was completely over her head in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf Sprint last month but before that she was top notch, winning four of her six races this year including the tougher Grade 2 Princess Rooney Stakes in June over the track. That effort earned a 110 Equibase figure, no fluke as she had earned a 107 figure three months earlier winning a handicap at Tampa Bay Downs easily. She can win on the lead or from off the pace and is the one to beat.


In spite of Stormy Embrace being the one to beat, Awestruck opens lower at 2/1 (compared to 3/1 for Stormy Embrace). I suppose it's because she finished a troubled second behind solid sprinter Vertical Oak in a stakes last month at Churchill but she wasn't going to beat the other filly in spite of traffic issues on the backstretch and the effort earned her a 99 figure, the third time this year she's earned that figure and it's not good enough to beat Stormy Embrace if she repeats her 6/30, 3/10 or 1/21 efforts in this situation. Just the same, Awestruck does have a shot if the top pick doesn't fire.


Also worth a look, particularly for pick 3 and 4 tickets, are Dream Pauline and Surprise Wedding. Dream Pauline is a lightly raced filly with a two-for-three record. She was third and three lengths behind Awestruck in that stakes won by Vertical Oak last month but she had trouble as well. She earned a 96 figure winning before that and has a nice shot to step up and run a career best race today. Surprise Wedding gets Jose Ortiz and a good outside post as she moves back to dirt off an irrelevant try on turf. She won her last dirt start handily with a 99 figure and was a stakes winner (vs Florida breds only) a year ago so can't be ruled out opening at 8/1.



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



Exacta: Stormy Embrace and Awestruck over Stormy Embrace, Awestruck, Dream Pauline and Surprise Wedding. For about half the above wager, play the reverse as well, which is Stormy Embrace, Awestruck, Dream Pauline and Surprise Wedding over Stormy Embrace and Awestruck.



Monday, 10 December 2018 14:35

Nobody is Listening

Past the Wire     Tracking Tips Logo


December 10, 2018

Nobody is Listening

By: Jonathan Stettin


We have all heard that old silly question about if a tree falls in the forest and nobody is there to hear it, does it make a sound? That is what the recently concluded Global Symposium on Racing reminds me of. Salud to Pat Cummings, Steve Byk, and some others for accurately pointing out some of the issues plaguing the Sport of Kings but all due respect given, identifying the problems has never been the issue. Dealing with and eradicating them has. I don’t see where having even a thousand symposiums will help if nobody is listening — nobody who calls any shots anyway.

Several issues are hurting the game that can literally be fixed by post time today if we had the right shot callers. For example, how difficult is it to stagger post times between racetracks? It is not hard, I assure you but you need people who care enough about their customer to do something more than check the direct deposit of their paychecks. Unfortunately, we have way too many of those just galloping out to the finish not even knowing where the finish may be. Remember objects in the mirror may be closer than you think. Although I did not attend the symposium, I did follow what was discussed as best I could and also tried to gauge who was listening, and more importantly who was responding. It would appear nobody is listening.

One of the obstacles not related to blatant mismanagement and a lack of caring about and knowing your customer is racetrack ownership and governing bodies. Racetracks are owned for the most part by different entities and operate in different states. This enables multiple jurisdictions and sets of laws and rules that govern the game. It is difficult to get people on the same page, especially when they have different goals and interests. Somehow all the racetracks must be brought under the same umbrella to see meaningful changes.

Today, we have racetracks scrambling to posture themselves to the reality of having to find other revenue sources to survive. Slots or “racinos” are the low hanging fruit. Sports bettors are also a focus. Looking past that what do you think happens when tracks tap into those streams to the point where they support a diluted weakening product. Everyone has read that book and knows the ending.

D. Wayne Lukas made a statement recently validating what many of us know. Far too many people in the game don’t know, or worse don’t even care who butters their bread. Wayne stated that racing is not fueled by gambling. That is just plain wrong. Without betting they would run for blue ribbons. How long do you think that would last?

Racing has operated for years like they were the only game in town, and in some cases they were. Not so today. The gambler has many options. Many of those options are games of skill and not chance. Poker, blackjack, chess, backgammon, and others are as much, if not more, games of skill than horse racing and are played for big money with a far more equal and controlled playing field. There are many other options as well. Craps, roulette, slots, and of course sports to name a few. More and more bettors are literally being driven to these options by the very racetracks they have frequented. Shun your gambler customers enough they will go elsewhere.

Look at it like this. The game cannot survive without the bettor, but the bettor can indeed survive and continue to bet without the game. It is simple really. Who needs who more?

Wayne’s comment is consistent with what seems to be the thought process of most of the racetrack management, with a few welcome exceptions. Oaklawn Park despite their growing casino operation applauds the bettor and racing alike. Keeneland does it, and so do a select few other venues. The problem is more and more focus strictly on the off-track handle and other revenue sources and cringe at the thought the gambler is their core customer and driving force of the sport. Once, or rather, if these tracks are successful in transitioning to multiple option gambling houses, things will become much worse for both the horse and horseplayers.

If you think the added revenue will go towards improving the game, I’d suggest looking at past performances. This is horse racing and you are a bettor so you will have to buy them.


Friday, 07 December 2018 14:29

Key Races & Bets for Saturday, December 8


Race 4 at Aqueduct - Post Time 1:47 PM Eastern


In a one-turn mile maiden race for New York breds, I'm going to take a shot with Overland, who opens at 10/1. When I see a horse in the top four in a previous race with a huge margin of defeat such as the 13 3/4 length margin behind the winner Overland was first time out, I take a quick look at the company line because once in a while that margin is deceiving if the winner or winner and runner-up dominated by many lengths. That is the case with Overland's debut on 10/20 at Belmont at the level, because the winner won by almost seven lengths and there was another four length gap to the third horse. In reality, Overland actually ran okay, passing horses from 10th to 4th over the course of the race. He's been gelded since then, gets a good outside post to stalk the pacesetters, and best of all the race has turned out to be a KEY RACE from which the 2nd and 3rd horses both came back from to win. Overland is the 4th foal of his dam and the other three all turned out very nicely as one was a first out winner and the other two won 2nd time out. Brad Cox is having a career best year and has won with 25% of over 100 2nd time starters in the past two years so there is a lot of improving this gelding can do.



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



Double: Overland in Race 4 with Yorkiepoo Princess, Sower and Vertical Oak in Race 5.


Optionally play Overland in Race 4 with ALL (five horses) in Race 5.


Maryland Juvenile Futurity – Race 4 at Laurel - Post Time 2 PM Eastern


Alwaysmining ran a "Breakout" kind of race in his most recent start on 10/27 at Laurel, dominating by 10 lengths. That was his first dirt start since changing trainers to Rubley and changing jockeys to Centeno and I feel strongly the same "go to the front and widen" tactics will be used here. That last race was a one-turn mile and this is seven furlongs so there are no issues regarding the distance and he may actually have a little more to give in the stretch running a furlong less.



Our Braintrust is undefeated in two starts including the Tremont Stakes in June and therein lies the main concern. He won his debut on May 3 then the Tremont and something put him on the sidelines since then. He's worked very well and could come back running but may be tough to bet (to win at least) at low odds with the question of what happened this summer over his head. Scrap Copper ran badly just once, in the similar Maryland Millions Nursery Stakes, but we can completely draw a line through the race as he stumbled badly at the start. Otherwise, he's nearly perfect, with two wins and a nose defeat. Scrap Copper is working well, comes off a stakes win with a 91 figure three points better than the 88 Alwaysmining earned in recent win, and McCarthy rides him back. Scrap Copper is a strong contender but like Our Braintrust not nearly as good a win bet as he opens at 2 to 1 compared to 5/1 for Alwaysmining.



V.I.P Ticket and Sky Magician just finished 2nd and 1st, respectively, in a maiden race run much more slowly than the most recent efforts of Alwaysmining and Our Braintrust as they Sky Magician earned a 79 figure, V.I.P. Ticket as 73 figure. However, two year olds can improve a lot from one race to the next so I will consider them for 2nd on exacta tickets and for 3rd on trifecta tickets.



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


Exacta: Alwaysmining over Our Braintrust, Scrap Copper, V.I.P. Ticket and Sky Magician.


Trifecta: Alwaysmining over Our Braintrust, Scrap Copper, V.I.P. Ticket and Sky Magician over Our Braintrust, Scrap Copper, V.I.P. Ticket and Sky Magician.


Garland of Roses Stakes  - Race 5 at Aqueduct - Post Time 2:17 PM Eastern


Sower is very likely to be the "lone front runner" in this short field and that gives her an edge. Winner of the similar Pumpkin Pie Stakes when last seen on 10/28, she was entered in the tougher Grade 3 Go For Wand Stakes last weekend then scratched to run here by Rice. Sower also won the Jersey Girl Stakes by almost five lengths in June. Rice has a very nice record with horses coming off a win over the past two years, winning nearly 25% of the time and with those starters finishing 1st or 2nd 46% of the time.



Yorkiepoo Princess had a "breakout" effort last out on 11/25 over the track in the Autumn Days Stakes, dominating seven other horses by nearly six lengths. That was the margin of victory in her previous race and she improved to a career best 107 Equibase figure, as good as any winning figure earned by even money favorite Vertical Oak, who is running at Aqueduct for the first time with Cancel riding for the first time as well, making her tough to be to win as the prohibitive favorite. On the other hand, Yorkiepoo Princess opens at 5/1 and is very playable with a 2 for 3 career record over the track.



Bets: Sower and Yorkiepoo Princess to win at odds of 2 to1 or more.


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


Howard and Sondra Bender Memorial Stakes - Race 7 at Laurel Park - Post Time 3:30 PM ET


Rockinn On Bye opens at 7/2 even though he just beat the 8/5 morning line favorite Lewisfield when Rockinn On Bye was 2nd and Lewisfield 3rd in the Fabulous Strike Stakes last month. Lewisfield had no excuse for being out finished by Rockinn On Bye, who we can expect to run even better 2nd off the sharp claim by Gonzalez and sharp placement here as the horse moves from "open" (non-restricted) stakes to this stakes for Maryland breds or sired only. Carrasco, who wins nearly 1/3 of the time for the trainer, gets back on after getting familiar with the gelding, whose 100 last race figure is tied with Laki (out of a similar runner-up effort in a stakes) for the best last figure in the field. Rockinn On Bye may have three times as many runner-up finishes (21) as wins in his career but that could start to turn around in his new trainer's care.


Lewisfield, Laki and Sonny Inspired all have a shot to run second behind the top pick.


Bets: Rockinn On Bye to win at odds of 2 to 1 or more.



Exacta: Rockinn On Bye over Lewisfield, Laki and Sonny Inspired.

For about half the amount you play the above exacta, play the reverse, which is Lewisfield, Laki and Sonny Inspired over Rockinn On Bye.



Trifecta: Rockinn On Bye over Lewisfield, Laki and Sonny Inspired over Lewisfield, Laki and Sonny Inspired.



Los Alamitos Cash Call Futurity  - Race 5 at Los Alamitos - Post Time 5:28 PM Eastern


Extra Hope took four races to finally break through but he did so in a big way when blinkers were added, coasting home to nearly a nine length win in October when trying the distance of the Cash Call Futurity for the first time. That effort earned a 101 Equibase Speed Figure, the best figure earned by any horse in the field. Cutting back to seven furlongs for the Bob Hope Stakes last month, Extra Hope ran pretty evenly around the track when fifth after a quarter mile and fourth at the wire, proving no match for winner Mucho Gusto and runner-up Savagery. However, the return to two-turns, particularly as only one other horse in the field (Dueling) has run two-turns on dirt, could signal a return to the form shown in October.  That effort is better than the rest of the field and as such if Extra Hope can repeat it, he should win.



Dueling is the other horse to have won a two-turn race on dirt. He did so in his third career start, first route, at the end of September, earning a 100 figure in the process under jockey Mike Smith. Smith did not ride Dueling in his next start when a well beaten sixth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile but returns to the saddle for this race. Although the Juvenile and this Cash Call Futurity both carry a grade 1 ranking, this is an easier spot compared to the Juvenile. Dueling has a very nice chance to repeat, or improve upon, his route effort one before last and if he does either he would be very competitive in this field.



Improbable and Mucho Gusto are saddled by Baffert, who continues to dominate this race. Baffert has trained the winner of this race four years in a row and, perhaps even more impressively, in seven of the last 10 editions of the race. Improbable broke his maiden at the end of September in his debut at the distance of six furlongs with a strong 94 figure then ventured to Kentucky to win the non-graded Street Sense Stakes by seven lengths with a 100 figure. Improbable is an improving type but is trying two-turns for the first time so is giving experience away to both Dueling and Extra Hope in that regard. Mucho Gusto won the Bob Hope Stakes last month with a 100 figure after a 96 figure effort in his debut. He made that improvement going from six furlongs to seven furlongs and can certainly improve once again, but like his stablemate, Mucho Gusto is trying two-turns for the first time. Of the pair, I might give a slight probability edge to Improbable based on his rail draw but overall both should be counted as contenders to win this race.



Bets: Extra Hope to win at odds of 2 to 1 or higher. For a smaller amount, Dueling to win at odds of 3 to 1 or higher.


Don't forget, 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: Extra Hope and Dueling over Extra Hope, Dueling, Improbable and Mucho Gusto.



Starlet Stakes  - Race 7 at Los Alamitos - Post Time 6:28 PM Eastern


Oxy Lady might be four-for-four if not for a neck defeat first out in August and a head defeat one before last in October. She shipped from Kentucky to New York for the Grade 3 Tempted Stakes and added blinkers to post a career-best 96 Equibase figure and the 36 to 1 upset last month and has been working fantastically since. She ships from trainer Sisterson's Kentucky base to California and brings along jockey Cannon, up for her dominating win last month. Sisterson was a former O'Neill assistant before going out on his own and has many of the fine Calumet Farm runners like this filly by Oxbow who could be any kind and who has a big shot to post the mild upset, opening at 5/1 particularly as she has run two-turns twice, winning once, whereas the heavy favorite is trying two turns for the first time.



Chasing Yesterday is that heavy favorite, with a 3 for 4 career record including two stakes wins, both in listed stakes and short fields of 5 and 3. She's a half-sister to Triple Crown winner American Pharoah and much is expected of her but the hype is big and she will be the odds-on favorite again so offers no value for a win bet. On the other hand, besides Oxy Lady, Chasing Yesterday is really the only other horse with the bulk of the probability to win.



Bets: Oxy Lady to win at odds of 2 to 1 or higher.



Exacta: Oxy Lady and Chasing Yesterday over Oxy Lady, Chasing Yesterday, Vibrance, Mother Mother and Sold It.



Friday, 30 November 2018 13:04

Key Races & Bets for Saturday, December 1

Remsen Stakes - Race 8 at Aqueduct - Post Time 3:12 PM Eastern


Jungle Warrior, Network Effect and Maximus Mischief comprise the bulk of the probability to win this year's Remsen, but only one of the three is a good win bet and that is Jungle Warrior, who opens at 8/1 compared to 7/5 for Network Effect and 6/5 for Maximus Mischief. The key to those decent odds holding up is this colt is running on dirt for the first time after two turf races to start his career. He debuted in August with a big effort when rallying from last of 11 to win by a head then he ran okay when finishing 5th after being 12th early in the Grade 2 Natalma Stakes on the turf at a mile. He did improve his Equibase figure even though 5th in the Natalma, to 87, a far cry from the 99 to 106 figures the two favorites have earned in their four starts combined to date, BUT this colt could be a whole different horse not only on dirt but also now in the care of Jimmy Jerkens, who is having a banner year. Jose Ortiz getting on is the first sign the colt can do and although sire Animal Kingdom is known for turf and all-weather, the dam (Harissa) won 6 of 13 on dirt INCLUDING the Barbara Fritchie around one turn and the Sunland Park Oaks around two turns. With Maximus Mischief having earned both wins leading from start to finish and with Chinomado, Gladiator King and Tax all likely to  be close up early pushing the pacesetter, and PARTICULARLY with NONE having run this far, there is every reason to believe Jungle Warrior may be able to get a perfect trip and post the upset.



For multi-race tickets like the pick 3 (with a recommendation below), I will use both Network Effect and Maximus Mischief. Network Effect should get a great trip like Jungle Warrior and although beaten nearly two lengths last out in the Nashua he was seven clear of the third horse in a big effort with a field high 106 Equibase Figure. Its possible Maximus Mischief clears early and never looks back and I like the stretch out from seven to nine furlongs but he did regress from a 102 debut figure to 99 and it was at Parx so he's got a few hurdles to overcome.



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



Pick 3 (two tickets):

Race 8 – Jungle Warrior, Network Effect and Maximus Mischief

Race 9 – Sunny Ridge, Pat On the Back, Copper Town and Patternrecognition

Race 10 – Quest for Fire



Race 8 – Jungle Warrior

Race 9 – ALL

Race 10 – Quest for Fire



Cigar Mile Handicap – Race 9 at Aqueduct - Post Time 3:45 PM Eastern


Copper Town has tremendous upside and that's why he appears to have the highest probability to win this year's Cigar Mile Handicap. Making his career debut in a five and one-half furlong sprint in February 2017, Copper Town got the experience of a race out of the way then blew away his competition following six months off last September with a three and three-quarter length win in easy fashion. Bettering that effort less than one month later, Copper Town won by six lengths, beating favored Patternrecognition easily to earn a then career-best 103Equibase Speed Figure. Put on the sidelines after that race, Copper Town came back after a year off and ran as if he had never been away, easily winning by five lengths and earning a new career-best 108 figure. Todd Pletcher has had excellent success with back-to-back winners in dirt routes when the horse's last start was a sprint, as the STATS Race Lens statistic reveals a 15 for 50 (30%) win rate over the last two years in this situation.  With his two prior wins coming in one-turn route races like the Cigar Mile and with a lot of improving to do physically in his second start back from a year on the bench, Copper Town could put his name in the hat to be one of the premier handicap division horses for 2019 with a win in this race.



Sunny Ridge entered the stretch one and one-half lengths behind Patternrecognition in the Kelso Handicap in September and crossed the wire one length behind so was no match for Patternrecognition that day. However, Patternrecognition was allowed to lead easily by a length from the start and to establish a steady rhythm, which is unlikely to happen in the Cigar because of Mendelssohn's predisposition to lead from the start. As it appears likely Mendelssohn will once again lead from the start, with Patternrecognition pressing the pacesetter in second, Sunny Ridge may be in a great stalking spot in third in the early stages, much like he was three races back in July when rallying to win the State Dinner Stakes by three lengths with a career-best 114 figure, an effort which if repeated here may help him to gain the upset win.



Patternrecognition earned a 111 figure in the Kelso, which followed a career-best 113 figure effort in August following two months away. Patternrecognition shows up every time, as evidenced by a first or second place finish in nine of his 10 career races. Likely to be in the second position early if Mendelssohn goes to the lead as expected, Patternrecognition has the ability to take over before the other stalkers and closers get into high gear and therefore could win his second graded stakes race in a row.



Pat On the Back has been very competitive versus NY Breds of late, winning two of his last four starts and losing by inches in the other two. The best of the four was a one-turn route like this race, on July 13, in which he earned a 113 figure which if repeated gives him a shot to be very competitive at high odds, opening at 15/1.



Bets: Copper Town to win at 9 to 5 or higher. Sunny Ridge to win at 3 to 1 or higher. Patternrecognition at odds of 3 to 1 or more (although I don't anticipate him going post at those odds).


Don't forget, 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: Box Copper Town, Sunny Ridge and Pattern Recognition, then also box Copper Town, Sunny Ridge, Pat On The Back and Pattern Recognition


Trifectas: Copper Town over Sunny Ridge, Pat On The Back and Pattern Recognition over ALL.


"IF" the pick 3 bet started in race 8 is dead (meaning neither Jungle Warrior, Network Effect or Maximus Mischief won), then play a double of Sunny Ridge, Pat On the Back, Copper Town and Patternrecognition in Race 8 with Quest for Fire in Race 9.


Race 10 at Aqueduct - Post Time 4:16 PM Eastern


Quest for Fire has only run once, winning his debut in March over the track at six furlongs. He  fired big fresh that day and appears capable of firing fresh again to move through this first allowance level for NY Breds in a field of 12 with a good post and Franco (up for the debut) riding back for the strong Baker Barn.


Wrong Ben is 4 for 11 but is still eligible for the level because although he broke his maiden at the same NY Bred straight maiden level as Quest For Fire, his other three wins came in claiming races. He does appear to be a need-the-lead type and there is other early speed in the race but he could be in the money at the least. Smokin Platinum lost by a nose and a head at the level over the track last month after breaking his maiden and is the other with a slight shot to win and a big shot to hit the board.


Bets: Quest for Fire to win at odds of 8 to 5 or more. (Note: If alive in the pick 3 to Quest For Fire, a win bet may not be necessary).


Trifecta: Quest for Fire over Wrong Ben and Smokin Platinum over ALL.

Exacta (to cover Quest for Fire finishing second): Wrong Ben and Smokin Platinum over Quest For Fire.


Hollywood Derby - Race 7 at Del Mar - Post Time 6:30 PM Eastern / 3:30 Pacific


Raging Bull is one of two horses shipped from the east coast base of Chad Brown, the other being Instilled Regard who is trying turf for the first time and who is not a win contender in my opinion. Raging Bull brings along Joel Rosario, taking off a full day at Aqueduct where four graded stakes are being run, a big sign about how the jockey and his agent feel about this colt. Raging Bull won four of his first five races, all on turf, including the very similar Hall of Fame and Saranac Stakes this summer at Saratoga, in the latter finishing fast from 6th with a quarter mile to go and racing the last eighth of a mile in 11.5 seconds which is fast by any standards. He was beaten when a no-excuse fifth as the favorite in the Hill Prince Stakes two months ago but Brown didn't ship just for the San Diego weather and if the colt is back in his summer form he's going to be tough to beat.


River Boyne is the top three year old turf star, having won both the La Jolla in August and the Twilight Derby last month. Like Raging Bull, River Boyne also ran poorly as the favorite in one of his last three races, this one when third in the Del Mar Derby in September. His best is good enough to be there at the wire but he's no standout.

Have At It beat Raging Bull when victorious in the Hill Prince in October then shipped west and missed by a half-length to River Boyne in the Twilight Derby. Shipped back to trainer Clement's east coast base, Have At It is back in California and reunited with David Cohen, who was in the saddle for the Hill Prince win in his only start with the colt. Kazan ran poorly in the Twilight Derby but we can ignore the effort as the jockey lost the whip. He ran 2nd in the Del Mar Derby at 50/1 before that, finishing in front of River Boyne, and that may not have been a fluke as he won two in a row prior to that. Risky Proposition and Desert Stone round out the contenders for either win bets or inclusion on exacta tickets. Risky Proposition won the restricted Let It Ride stakes a few weeks back so has to improve to run as well at this grade 1 level BUT the win came over the course and the 113 figure is in range of the effort it's going to take to run competitively here. Desert Stone was a nose behind Have At It and another half-length shy of River Boyne in the Twilight derby and can't be ruled out with a similar effort.



Bets: Raging Bull to win at odds of 8 to 5 or more. River Boyne to win at odds of 2 to 1 or more Have At It to win at odds of 3 to 1 or more.



Don't forget, 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: Have At It, Kazan, River Boyne and Raging Bull over Have At It, Kazan, River Boyne, Raging Bull, Risky Proposition and Desert Stone.




Also turn that exacta above around as follows: Have At It, Kazan, River Boyne, Raging Bull, Risky Proposition and Desert Stone over Have At It, Kazan, River Boyne and Raging Bull.


Monday, 26 November 2018 23:43

Paradise Lost

Past the Wire     Tracking Tips Logo


November 26, 2018

Paradise Lost

An end of the year look at the Sport of Kings from Past the Wire

By: Jonathan Stettin


As the end of the year approaches, you’d think racing fans and bettors would be focused on the positives we’ve seen on the racetrack the past 11 months. We’ve definitely had our share of performances that would be considered outstanding in any era. Enable takes the Arc and Breeders’ Cup Turf. Justify takes the coveted Triple Crown. Accelerate has a championship caliber older horse year. Monomoy Girl almost runs the table capped by a win verse older in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff. Obviously, the game can still produce. Maybe not on a Wednesday afternoon but all in all we have had some good racing.

While some are appreciative and focused on these performances, the majority of fans, as reflected by my observations primarily on social media and when I go to the track and talk to people, is consumed with negativity. Most of it is well founded and unfortunately, it invades the space of the equine stars and achievements this game was built on.

Let’s start with something I have been talking about and writing about for about for four years now. Stewards and their lack of accountability to bettors, owners, and trainers. Stewards make decisions that affect our money. We have no input in those decisions and they are made at times without even the courtesy of an explanation. Case in point this past weekend at Churchill Downs. We all saw the double disqualification resulting in a large carryover in the jackpot pick 6 wager. Right or wrong call is not the issue for me. That’s way too subjective and we will come back to that. The issue at least for me is twofold. First, it is not a consistent call with other similar occurrences. We have all seen horses stay up for more of a foul and come down for less of a foul. That’s a problem. Second, there is no clear-cut reasoning and explanation provided to the people whose bank accounts were affected. No accountability whatsoever. No review process. No appeal or at least true appeal process. Nothing. Just take it on the chin. That doesn’t work for me and it shouldn’t for you either.

An underlying problem to these types of calls is perception, and we already have enough of a problem with that. We all know history repeats. If history has taught us anything it is where there can be corruption there likely will be corruption. Does anything corrupt more than money? I don’t know. Maybe sex. Maybe power. Perhaps something else, but money is on any worthwhile top ten list of corruption factors. There was a decent amount of money at stake based on that iffy call. The first two finishers both of whom would have triggered the pool being paid out were disqualified. The third finisher who was declared the official winner carried the pool over, which generated a whole new day of revenue fueled by jackpot chasing. Perception. This is why a clear transparent explanation immediately following the call was an absolute necessity. No ands, ifs, or buts. I have yet to see one of it was provided.

Now I don’t believe, nor am I suggesting, the carryover came into play in this decision. I’d like to think that was no factor at all. However, we know anything is possible and if some years ago I told you people were betting pick 6’s after three or four races had been run even on days like the Breeders’ Cup you’d have probably called me crazy. If you care about your customer, which like it or not is the bettor, or gambler, provide them what you owe them. A clear, understandable transparent explanation of what you decided because it affects their money as much as your employers. You owe them that, every single one of them.

The steward problem is ongoing with no real end in sight. The Thoroughbred Idea Foundation, which I think is a benefit and great concept, tried to bring some light on this issue. I think they missed the boat. I suspect, but admittedly have not confirmed, the majority of their feedback and “ideas” come from industry people and not necessarily bettors. Too many people in this game lose sight of who stops the horses from running for blue ribbons which would end the sport. Too many people forget the customer is the bettor. The gambler. The bettors and owners are the only two groups putting money in the game while everyone else takes it out. The owners have a small voice sporting an agenda which benefit them. The bettors have no voice. None. Most of the people who decide what they want, or what’s best for them probably don’t bet or are maybe two dollar bettors. A long-term recipe for failure.

The Thoroughbred Idea Foundation proposes going from one system governing stewards decisions to another they think will make things easier, clearer and fairer. Respectfully, I disagree. Currently, the US and Canada use the category 2 system to adjudicate races. The Thoroughbred Idea Foundation suggests switching to category 1. Sounds like an old Chinese restaurant menu to me.

Category 2, our current system:

Rules provide that if the interferer is guilty of causing interference and such interference has affected the result of the race, then the interferer is placed behind the sufferer irrespective of whether the sufferer would have finished in front of the interferer had the incident(s) not occurred.

Category 1 which they propose switching to:

If in the opinion of the Staging Authority’s relevant judicial body, a horse or its rider causes interference and finishes in front of the horse interfered with but irrespective of the incident(s) the sufferer would not have finished ahead of the horse causing the interference, the judge’s placings will remain unaltered.

While the proposed change would likely cut down on disqualifications it would not change perception when results are changed, and more importantly, it would not get rid of subjectivity amongst stewards, and that is where the problem lies most times. We can argue whether a horse would have finished better if not for an incident all day long. We can debate about a placing being affected forever. These talks have led nowhere and caused the current dissension. We can’t agree on what if’s. We can agree on what constitutes a foul and what doesn’t.

There was a time in racing when a foul was a foul, and it resulted in a disqualification. Too many people started arguing but it didn’t affect the outcome, and that led to the subjective rules being implemented almost across the board. This put discretion into the hands of stewards with no accountability. It sounded great but doesn’t really work, does it? Today, herding out of the gate is practically allowed if not confined. Back before the subjective rules were put in place you came down if you fouled another horse out of the gate even if you won by 10. When the inquiry light went on, and you saw the head on you knew what was coming. Today, it is anyone’s guess and would remain anyone’s guess under the Foundations proposed change. Guess what, there was also way less herding back then.

Basically, there are two solutions fair to bettors. One is to have a clearly defined set of rules for s racetracks that explain precisely what constitutes a foul. If you commit one, you are down. Simple as that. All fouls affect outcomes or have the potential too. It’s just too subjective to leave that in the hands of people who can’t agree and see the same thing differently. If you think Bayern didn’t knock the wind out of Shared Belief and that having your wind knocked out before immediately running a mile and a quarter didn’t impact the race…….never mind. Some things are better left unsaid.

The other option which is used successfully in other jurisdictions is to harshly penalize the riders and connections with steep fines and suspensions and purse revocations but not alter the finish penalizing innocent bettors who got it right. If the fines and penalties are stiff enough fouls are indeed minimized and the opportunities for cheating are mitigated. Nothing, and I do mean nothing eliminates all cheating when money is at stake.

From a humanitarian standpoint, aftercare and horse slaughter are the two most troublesome issues the industry faces — both equally problematic. We have made great strides in aftercare. We have rehoming efforts, second careers and adoption programs. All of these things mean we are moving in the right direction. The problem here is, as is in any animal rescue situation, there are just too many to save. We can never get them all, and there is never enough money or people to help every horse. This fuels slaughter. Most accept this as the natural order of things. I don’t. Not in our game. Remember this is the Sport of Kings or so we are called. The richest and most influential people in the world play this game predicated on yes gambling. Why should there be any money problem? We have owners spending millions on horses who may not be able to out run a Shetland Pony and gamblers betting thousands and even millions in some cases every year.

I for one have no issue and am all for a piece of every dollar I wager, or anyone wagers going towards aftercare. I extend that sentiment to a piece of every dollar spent at the sales going towards aftercare. If we care more, it will cut into the horrendous slaughter numbers we don’t talk about at victory parties. We don’t talk about it, but most of us know that salespeople make commissions buying, selling and every which way they can. A piece of those dollars should go in the pot as well. While many of us love and revere these fine animals it is overdue the industry as a whole begins to.

Slaughter is a deeper rooted and more complex problem. The injured horses and those whose only crime was not being fast or brave enough to compete have become a depended upon food source, which in turn is an ugly convenience for our industry. Never mind the greed and heartlessness of the kill pen operations, this is a real problem. It can only be addressed from within. We need strict regulations on breeding or should I say over-breeding and stricter regulations that are enforced when horses are retired. Owners must be held accountable for where their horses wind up, but the industry must also provide a road that is attainable to prevent these horses going to kill pens. Even humane euthanasia would be better than what we have, as much as that pains me to say but that’s not the answer. It comes down to properly funded programs regulated by the industry. Takeout has to do more than pay lofty salaries and put on the show. The show does NOT end after the last race.

With the end of greyhound racing in Florida, people fear horse racing could be next. If that happens the industry has no one to blame but those who run it. Not PETA, not politicians, not the changing times. Just themselves. Change perception and clean up the yard or your neighbor's will, and they’ll just throw everything away.

It is kind of comical when some media member writes how everything is great, "just look at the handle." That makes me chuckle. You hear every meet the handle broke the record, but you can fire a cannon in most tracks on a weekday and not hit a soul. Now I get most action comes from ADW’s and off-track, but we are a spectator sport. Racing is exciting to watch and exhilarating to watch live. Tracks used to be a fun place to go where you saw the same people for years. I don’t know where these handle figures come from, but they are on the internet so they must be accurate. Racetracks have to get people to come back out. Not all these new people they can’t find or even identify, the old people, their customers. The bettors. The gamblers. That’s where your bread is buttered, not by the fan who overpays for a ticket, parking space and cup of coffee once a year and maybe bets $20. They don’t matter in the long run. The bettor does. Take care of them with a seat, racing form, and a cup of coffee. They’ll repay you tenfold.

I am against raceday medication — all of it. That said, I see the true benefits for horses who truly need therapeutic medications like Lasix. The problem becomes, do 98% of horses bleed and need Lasix? We have trainers saying, on the one hand, you can’t compete without it, and on the other hand it doesn’t enhance performance, mask any other drugs or speed up and clean out a horses metabolism. Which is it? If you really want to know, pick up a form and read the past performances. The answer is there. You can also look at the careers and longevity of horses who ran in New York prior to Lasix being allowed.

Getting a horse on Lasix is as easy as telling your Vet hey he worked a little slower today, I think he might have bled a little. Done, he’s on Lasix. We ruin things for ourselves. Illegal drugs are a whole different and worse story. We penalize people like Bill Mott, and allow what we see to go on daily like it is not even happening. Remember that yard thing, if you let it get bad enough your neighbor decides to do it everything gets tossed. Including you.

While we talk about attracting new fans and retaining ones we already have, we have front people for major circuits that have not been explained the concept of a thick skin while in a spotlighted position. They are fast to block people who simply disagree on social media, or even worse attack and condescend toward anyone who criticizes. That’s eroded to a threat of having people banned from racetracks we are trying to attract them to. Seriously, how is that ok? A prerequisite should be these front people have to be engaging towards people. They need to be easy to like. I can’t even watch without muting some track feeds anymore.

So yes indeed the racing has been great on most of the big days. I don’t think we could ask for more there. The other days despite over breeding we have field shortages. We have tracks closing. We have more problems than solutions. Horses being abandoned and slaughtered. Drugs rampant. We have management totally disconnected from their core customers. But, everything is great. I read it on the internet.

“You either understand, or you don’t understand.”

HIGH FIVE: Tell me who deserves it.

LOW FIVE: NYRA, why are you carding all these grass races now? Stronach Group. Holiday firings always get a low five. Timing is everything.