Friday, 07 June 2019 12:18

Belmont Action

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June 7th, 2019

Belmont Action

By: Jonathan Stettin


Between Friday and Saturday at Belmont, there will be an abundance of opportunities to go after a score. While this is great and what most of us wait for, it helps to have a solid plan of attack. All those opportunities and alluring races can prompt many to spread their bankrolls out to keep them in action, but if you are looking to take down a big score that might not be the best way to go. It’s not how I play it. These two days are when your money management skills get out to the test. If you don’t have them your bankroll can be put to rest.

Whether your bankroll for the weekend is $100, $1000, or $10,000 it doesn’t matter. You have to apply it in the best way to capitalize on your strongest opinion. Of course, you have to be right.

I play more aggressively than most. Using a $100 bankroll, I will take 80% of that and put that into my best spot for the weekend. I may spread the 80% across different types of wagers keying on the horse I like the best, but I won’t use any of that 80% on other horses or sequences. This puts me in position to maximize my investment on the horse I feel best about. If I am right, I will have a good majority of my bankroll on my horse, and that is how you set yourself up to score.

Many people will spread thin and want action in every race and sequence. Can they catch a big number and score? Of course. That said, in the long run, if your handicapping is solid, you will get much farther into the black column attacking who you really like best. Does it really make sense just for the sake of action to spread around and use as much of your bankroll on a horse or sequence you like a little as opposed to one you feel strongly about? I say no all day to that.

When finished handicapping I will look at the two or maybe three horses I like best. It is my nature to go after the longest prices one, and I will have to like a shorter priced one a lot more to pull me in that direction.

Using 80% of my bankroll allows me to go after every type of bet I want keying my horse. If things work out, I can hit all the exotics. If not I can hit some. Nobody and I mean nobody bets too much on a winner. It’s a sinking feeling to be right on a key horse on a big weekend like this and not capitalize. 80% of your bankroll minimizes that risk.

The other 20% is what I will use for fishing, stabs, and some lighter action. Does that at times save the day. Absolutely. It keeps one in a spot to catch that longer priced play or sequence but also leaves you strong for the major wager.

On days like these, there is always a lot more recreational and uninformed money in the pools. This is a tremendous help to us. Beat a favorite or two which should always be a goal, and your value increases significantly than what it would on say a regular day or even weekend. Use that. It can’t hurt and can only help.

We are all usually locked and loaded by now. I try and hold off final opinions as long as possible. Will the weather change? Will there be a real bias? Will someone get white hot or maybe ice cold? These intangibles can give you an edge over players who lock in early and surely over the recreational money. Take whatever edges you can get.

Log into your AmWager accounts and attack! All the best and enjoy these great cards.

#PBK

 

 

Connaught Cup Stakes - Race 8 at Woodbine - Post Time 5:00 PM Eastern

 

Savage Battle is a lightly raced five year old with just 15 races under his belt, nine of those turf sprints. He has a fantastic record of 4-1-2 in those nine races, including a runner-up effort in the Colonel Power Stakes at Fair Grounds in February and he may be coming in under the radar opening at 8 to 1 here. It’s a big sign he’s live as Patrick Husbands gets on and the horse earned a strong 108 Equibase figure winning a turf sprint in January before earning a 106 figure in the stakes in February, with those figures competitive with the best in here. He comes from mid-pack and in this race with there likely to be a sizzling early pace battle he could get first run on the tiring pacesetters and come home on top. Shakhimat, who has done all his winning when leading from the start, has to go hard for the lead from the rail, but with need-the-lead types Yorkton and El Tormenta in the field there’s little chance any of the three “early” pace types gets the lead they need to succeed and a big chance they set up the stalkers and closers, foremost among them Savage Battle.

 

Eminent Force won’t go to post anywhere near his 20/1 starting odds with DaSilva named to ride but anything above 4/1 would be betting odds for me because this nine year old with 15 career wins proved he still has what it takes when rallying for second in April following three months off. He won in his third start of the 2018 meeting and this is only his second but the debut was at this seven furlong trip (on the main track) and he’s earned 10 wins from 32 starts on turf in his career. In short, I feel it would be a mistake to leave Eminent Force off any tickets we play involving this race particularly as he too may be up close with Savage Battle early and in a position to be in the exacta at the least down to the wire.

 

Curlin’s Honor and Emmaus both are win contenders and horses we must use on exacta and trifecta tickets, but opening at odds of 5 to 2 and 2 to 1, respectively, it’s tough to make a case to wager on either two win as neither is a standout. Curlin’s Honor rallied from 10th to third in the Cartier Stakes on the main track last month and last year missed by a neck in the Paradise Creek Stakes at this distance on turf in New York, but both were against three year olds only so he’s not yet proven at this level, or even on turf (where his record is 0-1-0 in three races). Emmaus lost by a neck in his U.S. debut in late April in a stakes at Belmont, which followed six months off, so he’s likely to improve, but to be honest with Moran riding so cold (1 for 62 at the meeting) it’s hard to bet this talented horse to win. Moran has 10 second place finishes at the meeting, and there’s nothing to suggest anything more than his current cold streak is just that, but it must be taken into account when considering a win bet at low odds.

 

Bets:

Win Bets: Savage Battle to win at odds of 3 to 1 or more.

Consider an additional win bet on Eminent Force at 4 to 1 or more, for a smaller amount than on Savage Battle, adding a place bet at 7 to 1 or higher.

 

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

 

Exactas:

Instead of a win bet on Savage Battle and/or a win/place bet on Eminent Force we can consider these exactas: Savage Battle and Eminent Force over ALL (for $1) and then ALSO, the opposite, which is ALL over Savage Battle and Eminent Force.

 

Exactas: Box Savage Battle, Eminent Force and Curlin’s Honor.

Box Savage Battle, Eminent Force and Emmaus. (The strategy with these two exactas is twofold, to split the favorites as the exacta between Curlin’s Honor and Emmaus will be the lowest paying of all the possible combinations, and to maximize profit, hoping that Savage Battle and Eminent Force finish first and second, in which case we cash the bet twice).

 

Trifecta: Box Savage Battle, Eminent Force, Curlin’s Honor and Emmaus.

 

Race 6 at Santa Anita - Post Time 6:30 PM Eastern

 

This is a wide open maiden race which leads into a good betting stakes race so we can take some shots here as well as in doubles to race 7. King Jack appears to be a live first time starter because Smith is riding for Hollendorfer and Smith doesn’t need to ride maidens at this stage of his phenomenal career. Smith and Hollendorfer are 9 for 25 together in the last year and sire Jimmy Creed’s first time starters have won nearly 25% of the time. Best of all the colt put in a very sharp 58.2 five furlong workout, from the gate, on May 10, followed by a pair of six furlong “maintenance” workouts. On Easy Street ran on from fifth and last to second into a runaway seven length winner no horse was going to beat last month. The effort earned a 92 Equibase figure better than it usually takes to win at this level so he must be respected. Music to My Ears finished second in a big effort last month BUT that was at five furlongs on turf and so there’s no guarantee he can run as well on dirt, particularly as the effort only earned a 76 figure. Baffert’s Morning Snow is likely to go favorited because Baffert continues to win at an astronomical level with first time starters. Over the last two years, Baffert has saddled 97 first time starters in straight maiden races, and 48 (effectively 50%) of those have won. The rail can be intimidating so I don’t think he’s a standout and the works, although okay, aren’t that fast, but we can’t ignore that percentage Baffert has put forth. Last but not least, Moana Luna is a first time starter from the barn of veteran Headley, who also bred the gelding and owns him. Although he’s a Cal-Bred in open company, he fits as he’s a FULL BROTHER to $477K winner Cyclometer, who won stakes in open company. One of the dam’s first time starters won and another finished second. Canadian Luck doesn’t have flashy works but they’re consistent and although his sire (Distorted Humor) is known for producing two-turn runners, believe it or not he has sired 18% first out winners in sprints over the last five years.

 

Bets:

Win Bets: King Jack and Moana Luna to win at odds of 5 to 2 or higher. Add a place bet on Moana Luna at odds of 5 to 1 or more.  

 

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

 

Doubles: Morning Snow, Moana Luna, Music to My Ears, King Jack, Canadian Luck and On Easy Street in Race 6 with Seranitsa and Hostess in Race 7.

 

Honeymoon Stakes – Race 7 at Santa Anita - Post Time 7 PM Eastern

 

Seranitsa makes her first start in California after being privately purchased. She has only run three times on turf and all were good efforts, first beaten a neck in January, then winning on March 2 before a third of six finish in a stakes on turf at the end of March. She’s now in the Drysdale barn and the veteran trainer has been sneakily good the past few months, shipping horses all over for wins in stakes. The fact Prat takes the call is a BIG sign in my opinion, because Drysdale and Prat are 10 for 50 in stakes the past five years and Drysdale is very good at getting horses to run well off these kinds of 60-90 day layoffs. The race Seranitsa finished third in on March 30 has become a very productive race, as the winner won a stakes two races later, the runner-up won a stakes two races later and the fourth and fifth finishers finished second in stakes out of that race. The 98 Equibase figure Seranitsa earned is AS GOOD or better than every other horse’s last race figure and she’s moving up a lot off a 6% winning trainer as well.

 

Hostess won the Providencia Stakes at this nine furlong trip in her U.S. debut in April and following six months off, no easy task. Then, when shortening up to a mile, her late kick may have been dulled as she only managed fourth. It may also have been the jockey change as Van Dyke rode her to victory and Blanc rode her last month. Van Dyke gets back on and the filly gets the same outside post she got when winning so that effort appears very repeatable. The Providencia earned her a 106 figure which is the highest figure earned by any horse in the race, period, so she deserves a ton of respect as a win contender.

 

Maxim Rate finished a nose behind Hostess in the Providencia then won the shorter Senorita in which Hostess finished fourth so she has a shot as she is proven at the distance. Lady Prancealot was a pair of noses shy of winning in the Providencia and a half-length behind Maxim Rate in the Senorita so can’t be ignored either. Over Emphasize is the new face and ran well when second at this nine furlong turf trip last out against allowance company, with a competitive 97 figure.

 

Bets:

Win bets: Seranitsa and Hostess to win at odds of 5 to 2 or more.

 

Exactas:

Seranitsa over Lady Prancealot, Over Emphasize, Maxim Rate and Hostess, THEN ALSO the opposite, which is Lady Prancealot, Over Emphasize, Maxim Rate and Hostess over Seranitsa.

 

Seranitsa and Hostess over Seranitsa, Lady Prancealot, Over Emphasize, Maxim Rate and Hostess.

Seranitsa, Lady Prancealot, Over Emphasize, Maxim Rate and Hostess over Seranitsa and Hostess.

 

Penn Mile Stakes – Race 11 at Penn National - Post Time 7:50 PM Eastern

 

The Black Album will be my choice to post the upset in this year's Penn Mile Stakes, if he can break with the field as he failed to do in the American Turf Stakes last month, and if he can run down likely lone front runner A Thread of Blue. The Black Album won the Prix la Rochette Stakes at Longchamp in France last September and did so gamely by a nose to earn a 104 Equibase Figure which would be very competitive with horses likely to go to the post at much lower odds in this race if repeated. Highly regarded when imported to the U.S. last fall, The Black Album was entered in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf then took the winter off. When he returned to the races, the colt ran very well when third and beaten just a length in the Transylvania Stakes in April in spite of likely being in need of a race off the long layoff. Following that, The Black Album ran in the 13 horse American Turf Stakes on Kentucky Derby day. In that race, he hopped at the start and was away 12th in the field. After lagging nearly last for the first six furlongs, The Black Album rallied boldly on the turn and was within two lengths of the lead with less than an eighth of a mile to go. At that point, the energy he had expended during the rally caused him to make no further progress although he fought to the wire, finishing seventh but beaten the same two and one-half lengths by the winner he was behind the leader at the eighth pole. In the Penn Mile, if The Black Album can break better to race mid-pack in the early stages, and if he can put in the late kick he showed last year in France, he has a good chance to post the upset.

 

A Thread of Blue earned his first three wins leading from start to finish, including when taking the 11 horse Dania Beach Stakes field to task in February with a then career-best 99 figure. Then, for the first time in his career, A Thread of Blue showed a new dimension when stalking in third position for the first half-mile in the Palm Beach Stakes in March, taking over on the turn and winning by three-quarters of a length. The 102 figure earned in the Palm Beach was a new career-best effort, which he nearly duplicated in the tougher American Turf Stakes last month. In that race, A Thread of Blue established the pace easily in a field of 13 and was very game to the wire even when passed, beaten three-quarters of a length at the end and finishing a head in front of the third place finisher to earn a 101 figure. Jockey Luis Saez has been aboard for the colt's last four races including three wins and from an inside post, horse and rider are likely to take advantage of that position to go for the lead from the start. As such, A Thread of Blue has every right to return to stakes winning form in the Penn Mile.

 

Forty Under won his first two races around two-turns on turf last year, the second and third starts of his career, including the Pilgrim Stakes in September. After a sixth place effort in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf, Forty Under took the winter off. Returning off more than five months off rest, his second place effort in the Woodhaven Stakes in April was a good effort and one he can improve upon, perhaps back to graded stakes winning form.

 

Bets:

The Black Album to win at odds of 4 to 1 or higher, adding a place bet at odds of 7 to 1 or more.

 

Exactas: Box The Black Album, A Thread of Blue and Forty Under.

Friday, 31 May 2019 12:27

A Winning Angle

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May 31st, 2019

A Winning Angle

By: Jonathan Stettin


Last week I saw an interesting conversation on social media between a few good handicappers. What I found interesting was that they seemed to do an awful lot of work and research to come up with an angle I have been following since the early 90’s and have made some really nice hits. At the end of the day, you get paid the same no matter how you arrived at the winner, but it seemed to me they were complicating something I learned long ago was relatively simple.

It’s no secret horses mature. They are athletes. A two year old might be the equivalent of say an early teenager if we compare equine to human. An early teenage athlete will get stronger and faster as they arch upward towards their prime. A horse is no different.

Regardless of which speed figures you use, Beyers, Brisnet, Ragozins, Timeform, whatever, a newly turned three year old will usually surpass their better two year old figure early on. Many times as a first time three year old. They are getting stronger and faster. It will show on race day.

To the astute bettor this can mean opportunities.

You will find times when a newly turned three year old has what appear to be slower numbers than the bulk of the field. Many may dismiss the horse based on those slower figures. One must remain aware that those numbers were run at two, not three. If you are comparing them to numbers run at three, which often happens right through this time of year and even beyond, it can be very misleading and create value and opportunities for sharp players.

If you know a horse is going to surpass their two year old figure, and you can see that progression will put them at the head of the class, you’re betting on what’s not all that obvious to many players. That gives you an edge.

Of course, trainers, lay-off ability, and other handicapping principals come into play, but the premise is a strong one.

I have keyed several nice price winners using this theory over the years. Often after a race, I was asked what did you like about that horse? Many others seemed faster. You already know the answer.

Finding angles or anything that gives you an edge is an advantage you need to beat the other players. There are several, this is only one. There are more, and we intend to keep bringing them to you.

Hopefully now when you peruse your past performances, you won’t be so fast to dismiss younger horses with numbers that at first glance might look like they don’t measure up. There is a curve. Things may not be as they appear. Betting on things that can or may happen is far more rewarding and lucrative than betting on what has already happened to happen again.

 

Friday, 24 May 2019 16:25

Focus

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May 24th, 2019

Focus

By: Jonathan Stettin


I have talked about many aspects of your game and the tools needed in your arsenal to be successful betting on the Sport of Kings. Today seems like s good day to discuss one thing you need that often gets overlooked. Focus.

Even if you know what to do and how to approach beating this very hard skill game, if you lose focus, you will almost certainly fail.

So many players today get caught up in social media while they are gambling. People go to the races and behave like it is a social event. That’s fine if this is recreational to you. However, if you are playing to win and think you can spend hours on social media, or like you are at a catered affair, then I wanna bet that in the long run you are losing, donating, depositing or whatever you’d like to call it. Focus.

Today, more than ever, there are so many things going on in the sport that can distract you. Most, you can’t change. Regardless there is a time to chat, and a time to have your game face on. I can be very active on social media. Once it gets close to post time, and through the last race, I’m pretty scarce.

When I used to go to the track every day, many people thought I was unfriendly and unapproachable. I would sit at my table with my Dad and Brother, or a few select friends. If they were not with me, I’d sit alone. I preferred it that way and had my best days that way. I still do. I didn’t want to be asked who I liked, who I was alive with, what I was betting or anything. It took away from my focus.

I guess maybe 5 to 10% of players beat the game without rebates. That is very low for a skill game, but it should get anyone who wants to very motivated and make them see there is a way.

Sound handicapping, good ticket structure, smart money management, patience, discipline, and focus. These are all things you can learn, improve, or control. If you are not putting in the effort, and are treating the game nonchalantly, the game will devour you.

Despite all the distractions we have the Belmont Stakes and the supporting card coming up. The Metropolitan Mile is looking like the race of the year to date. The Haskell just may pit Maximum Security against War of Will. They might meet again in the Travers with Code of Honor and Tacitus joining the party. Monomoy Girl should be coming back soon as should Omaha Beach. There are going to be a lot of good races and cards, and that means opportunities. Focus. Don’t let the distractions derail you.

The large majority of people will not have the fortitude or discipline to stay at this game the way it needs to be played to beat it. That helps motivate me, and it should you if you want to be in that 5-10%. Remember you are playing people not playing for keeps. Play for keeps and let that be your edge. Focus.

 

 

Greenwood Stakes - Race 9 at Woodbine - Post Time 5:30 PM Eastern

 

Although Pink Lloyd loves to win races, more importantly races at this basic six furlong trip at Woodbine, being as he’s 13 for 14 at the distance, I feel he’s not the lock his likely 1 to 5 favoritism suggests he is. At the end of last season, Pink Lloyd lost two in a row at prohibitively low odds and he has a bad habit of hopping in the air at the start, or breaking inward or outward, basically anything other than straight. His last three stakes wins earned him 106, 103 and 105 Equibase figures, not standouts by any means compared to a few others in here. As such, I think we must use him on exacta and trifecta tickets although it might be best to try to beat him entirely for the best value (which I won’t do).

 

The horses with as much probability to win as Pink Lloyd, if they repeat their best efforts, are Marten Lake and Sable Island, both opening at 20/1 odds. Those high odds are more related to Pink Lloyd’s low odds than the chances either of the two horses has to run well, and that’s why this race is highly playable. Marten Lake is a veteran of 43 races, 35 on all-weather, finishing first or second in 15 of those 35 races and earning over $400K. Marten Lake has been first or second in his last seven races, from last August 26 through his last race of the year on December 8. His last race before the layoff earned him a 108 Equibase figure, better than any of Pink Lloyd’s best last year, and I think Marten Lake can pick up where he left off as he’s been working every seven days for his comeback and particularly as his most recent workout six days ago was an exceptional one where he ran a half-mile in 47.4 which was the third best of 54 at the distance on the day. If the work is indicative of his form then he can repeat his 12/8/18 effort and post the upset.

 

Just as likely is Sable Island, a much more lightly raced gelding than Marten Lake but a winner of three of eight career starts on the all-weather main track at Woodbine. Like Marten Lake, Sable Island put in a big half-mile workout in preparation for this race, his first following six months off, and like Marten Lake, Sable Island won his last start before the layoff earning a strong 108 Equibase figure. He’s a four year old who may have improving to do and deserves to be bet in the same way Marten Lake does.

 

Because Marten Lake and Sable Island both offer so much value, for exactas we should play them with a number of horses then come back and play them multiple times with the heavy favorite. Some of the others we’ll use are Blueblood and Circle of Friends, both who have winning races this year.

 

Bets:

Win Bets: Marten Lake and Sable Island to win at odds of 7 to 2 or higher. Add place bets at 6 to 1 or more.

 

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

 

Exactas: Marten Lake and Sable Island over Pink Lloyd, Marten Lake, Sable Island, Blueblood and Circle of Friends.

Pink Lloyd, Marten Lake, Sable Island, Blueblood and Circle of Friends over Marten Lake and Sable Island.

Pink Lloyd over Marten Lake and Sable Island.

Marten Lake and Sable Island over Pink Lloyd.

 

Trifecta: Marten Lake, Sable Island and Pink Lloyd over Pink Lloyd, Marten Lake, Sable Island, Blueblood and Circle of Friends over Pink Lloyd, Marten Lake, Sable Island, Blueblood and Circle of Friends.

 

Doubles: Marten Lake, Sable Island and Pink Lloyd in Race 9 with Holyanna, Baby Driver and Super Patriotic in Race 10.

Optionally add Meg Fitz, Kitten’s Finest and Marwoods War in race 10 as well.

 

Note: Race 10 is my daily free race for Woodbine available by clicking on this link.

 

Paradise Creek Stakes – Race 9 at Belmont - Post Time 5:51 PM Eastern

 

Uncapped comes out of the highly rated William Walker Stakes on opening night at Churchill Downs (4/27) in which he rallied from far back and last of seven to miss by three-quarters of a length. The winner (Jo Jo Air) ran a big race right back on Preakness day when barely beaten in a turf sprint stakes and with John Velazquez getting on Uncapped, who enters the race with the second best last race Equibase figure in the field (104), this lightly raced three year old appears to have a big shot to win and to make us a profit as he opens at 8 to 1.

 

Pole Setter has probably as good or better a probability to win but opens at 9/2 and may be bet lower as he comes from the sizzling hot Brad Cox barn. Pole Setter was making his third start of the year and his first after nearly two months off last month at Keeneland on a sloppy main track and ran hard from start to finish to win by a nose with a graded stakes quality 113 Equibase figure. He broke his maiden last summer at a mile on grass, no easy task, so I think he’s got what it takes to transfer top form from the dirt last month to the turf, and the race he won on April 7 has since become a KEY race from which two horses behind him have come back from to win.

 

Fog of War opens as the 8 to 5 favorite based on a perfect two-for-two record but both wins were earned as a two year old, the most recent eight months ago. Brown wins at a high percentage with his comebackers but the colt is no lock as his best effort yielded at 100 figure. Mucho opens as the second betting choice at 3 to 1 although he has never run on grass in five races. He’s been working on turf recently and he’s bred to like it, as well as Mott trains, but we must also be wary of horse at low odds trying something for the first time. As such, I’ll use him in the same way I’ll use Fog of War, in exactas only.

 

Bets:

Win Bets: Uncapped and Pole Setter to win at odds of 5 to 2 or higher.  

 

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

 

Exactas: Box Uncapped, Pole Setter and Fog of War.

Box Uncapped, Pole Setter and Mucho.

 

Daytona Stakes – Race 5 at Santa Anita - Post Time 6:03 PM Eastern

 

Horse Greedy has run at this five furlong turf trip just once, back in the fall of 2016, but it was a big effort when rallying for second and beaten a half-length. He’s had his stops and starts since then and he returns from nearly eight months off, but he’s very confidently placed by a top trainer in Sadler, in this grade 3 stakes, the first sign for a big effort. The second is a pair of six furlong workouts, substituting for prep races, and the third is Victor Espinoza riding, on fire with an 11 for 44 record since returning from his injury. Horse Greedy ran well enough to beat the favorites (Eddie Haskell and Brandothebartender) in this race when winning last July at Del Mar and Sadler has become extremely adept at getting his horses coming back off layoffs to win, with a 25% win rate going back over 18 months. As such, opening at 8/1, Horse Greedy gets top billing.

 

Eddie Haskell has no knocks really, except he’s likely to be the heavy favorite. He’s won seven of 19 races, 6 of 16 on grass and most at this five furlong sprint. Just the same, he’s ZERO-for-THREE in stakes, and all those stakes were for Cal-Breds only, so he’s no lock at all. Kanthaka tries turf for the first time off a pair of so-so efforts to tougher and may be in the exacta, as might Brandothebartender, who has finished third in both starts this year.

 

Bets:

Win bets: Horse Greedy to win at 5/2 or more.

 

Exactas: Box Horse Greedy and Eddie Haskell at least a few times, then for a smaller amount box Horse Greedy and Brandothebartender and box Horse Greedy and Kanthaka.

 

Charles Whittingham Stakes – Race 7 at Santa Anita - Post Time 7 PM Eastern

 

Prime Attraction drops in class off a 12th of 13 finish three weeks ago in the Turf Classic Stakes on Kentucky Derby day. Prior to that, he faded to fifth after leading early in the Santa Anita Handicap in April following four and one-half months off. In the Turf Classic, Prime Attraction pressed the pacesetters in third while three paths wide for nearly the first mile before tiring. Since returning to California, Prime Attraction put in a sparkling half-mile morning workout (47.4 seconds) which was the best of 59 on the day and which I'm taking as a sign he's in top shape. If that is the case, looking at his most recent turf effort prior to the Turf Classic, Prime Attraction earned a career-best 119 Equibase Speed Figure last July when missing by a neck in a desperate photo finish in the Eddie Read Stakes. Jockey Kent Desormeaux, who was in the saddle for the Eddie Read, returns to ride in the Whittingham. The last time Prime Attraction raced on turf prior to the Eddie Read was in the fall of 2017 when, once again, he missed by a head in the photo, this time in the John Henry Turf Cup Stakes earning a 116 figure in the process. Both the 119 figure effort put forth last July in the Eddie Read and the 116 figure from the John Henry are better than any horse in the field has ever earned except for the 125 figure effort put in by Ashleyluvssugar when winning this race in 2017. As such, with the ground saving rail and perhaps more importantly, as the likely early leader all by himself, Prime Attraction could be tough to catch and beat in this year's Whittingham Stakes.

 

Marckie's Water rallied smartly from sixth of eight on the far turn to win by a half-length over the Santa Anita turf course last month, earning a 108 figure in the process. He had been off from near the end of November until near the end of January and ran poorly, so was given another two months rest. That time off did him a lot of good as Marckie's Water returned to finish third in the San Luis Rey Stakes at the distance of one mile and one-half on the turf. Cutting back to a mile and one-eighth last month, Marckie's Water improved to that 108 figure and has potential to improve in his third start off the layoff and back to the form he showed last summer at Del Mar when earning a career-best 114 figure winning at the distance of one mile and three-eighths on grass. Marckie's Water has also won at this 10 furlong distance on grass and jockey Pereira, who rode him for the first time last month, is in the saddle again, which are more signs for a top effort.

 

United is an improving four year old that has only raced six times, winning twice. He was away from the races from last July until February when he moved from Canada to California and into the Mandella barn. In his local debut, United ran poorly when eighth of 10. However, not only may he have needed a race following seven months off, it also appears United needed an equipment change because when blinkers were added for his next start on April 6, the gelding improved markedly to rally from seventh to win going away. In his next start, on May 4, although finishing fourth, United may have actually been more impressive as he launched a rally from last of 10 on the turn while four paths wide and was beaten just a length for the win in a blanket finish. Earning a career-best 104 figure for the effort, United has room to improve and as a son of Giant's Causeway should have no issue with the mile and one-quarter distance he is trying for the first time. As a footnote, if you watched the races last Friday at Pimlico on Black Eyed Susan Stakes day, you might have noticed the Royal and Gold colors of LNJ Foxwoods winning both stakes races they entered, with Covfefe and with Dogtag, so perhaps the owners will continue their hot streak with a win by United in the Whittingham Stakes.

 

We’ll include Ashleyluvssugar in the second and third position on exacta and trifecta tickets because even though I think he is not good enough to win at this level at the age of eight, he’s still competitive enough to be in the money.

 

Bets:

Win Bets: Prime Attraction to win at odds of 2 to 1 or more. Marckie’s Water to win at odds of 3 to 1 or more. United to win at odds of 3 to 1 or more.

 

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

 

Exactas: Box Prime Attraction, Marckie’s Water and United.

Prime Attraction, Marckie’s Water and United over Prime Attraction, Marckie’s Water, United and Ashleyluvssugar.

 

Trifecta: Prime Attraction, Marckie’s Water and United over Prime Attraction, Marckie’s Water, United and Ashleyluvssugar over Prime Attraction, Marckie’s Water, United and Ashleyluvssugar.

 

 

Race 2 at Pimlico - Post Time 11:05 AM Eastern

 

Although race two on the Preakness day card isn’t one of the many great stakes races, it’s a KEY BETTING Race in my opinion owing to the fact He’s One Wild Dude opens at 12/1 and Sir Brahms opens at 6 to 1. He’s One Wild Dude returned from four months off last month and ran very well in spite of likely being a little less than 100% fit. He battled for the lead early before tiring to third but should run a lot better second off the layoff, particularly as his current trainer claimed him in December before giving him time off and had the horse in his care previously, with He’s One Wild Dude winning three times for the trainer, all on turf and all with jockey Russell riding as he’s doing today. Considering the trainer knows the horse, as does the jockey, I think those previous winning efforts are repeatable today.

 

Sir Brahms won his most recent race, last month, jockey Centeno aboard as today and also for the horse’s two most recent wins, which came last June. The trainer (Sillaman) is the same who saddles He’s One Wild Dude and considering Sir Brahms won back-to-back last June he could put in his second winning effort in a row in this situation.

 

Liquid Aloha has won two of his last three races and has earned all five career wins on grass. He fits on all counts and gets North American leading jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr., for the first time. That’s a positive sign because in the past 18 months, when Ortiz, Jr. has teamed up with this trainer (Cibelli), they have won 9 of 33 times, which is a pretty good 27% percentage.

 

 

Bets:

Win Bets: He’s One Wild Dude and Sir Brahms to win at odds of 7 to 2 or higher.

 

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

 

Exacta: He’s One Wild Dude, Sir Brahms and Liquid Aloha over He’s One Wild Dude, Sir Brahms, Liquid Aloha, Front Line Paige and Ministers Strike.

 

Trifecta: He’s One Wild Dude, Sir Brahms and Liquid Aloha over He’s One Wild Dude, Sir Brahms, Liquid Aloha, Front Line Paige and Ministers Strike over He’s One Wild Dude, Sir Brahms, Liquid Aloha, Front Line Paige and Ministers Strike.

 

James W. Murphy Stakes – Race 5 at Pimlico - Post Time 12:51 PM Eastern

 

Real News has done little wrong in three races to date, winning his first two starts then finishing second last month in his third career start. His last two races were on grass like today’s race, but were sprints at five and one-half furlongs. However, he is bred to run as well or better at this longer distance and, as a horse who comes on strongly in the latter stages of the race, won’t have to expend any energy as likely pacesetter Thomas Shelby, who is also stretching out from a sprint to a route and who has led in the early stages of his last two routes, goes fast from the start. Although Real News only managed second last time out, the winner was Bulletin, who won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint last fall and who is a superstar in the making. With a very sharp workout coming into the race showing great physical condition, Real News is one of two who appear to have the bulk of the probability to win this race.

 

Current is the other main win contender, although he is winless in five races since last October when victorious in the Grade 3 Bourbon Stakes on turf. However, four of those five efforts can be ignored. After the Bourbon win, Current had trouble at the start in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf when starting last of 14 and although he lost his shot to win he did pass half the field to end up seventh. The connections wanted to see if he was “Derby” material after that and his dirt effort last November in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes is irrelevant, as was his effort in March in the Florida Derby. In between those two, Current ran okay when rallying from ninth to third in the Dania Beach Stakes on turf in February, so essentially this is his second turf route start of the year and that gives him a decent shot to improve off his Dania Beach effort and back to the form shown winning the Bourbon Stakes on grass last fall.

 

Bets:

Win Bets: Real News and Current to win at odds of 2 to 1 or higher.  

 

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

 

Exacta: Real News and Current over ALL.

 

Gallorette Stakes – Race 10 at Pimlico - Post Time 4:05 PM Eastern

 

Mitchell Road has never been worse than second in six races, winning four times. The last win came in a stakes and the horse she beat came back to win the Distaff Turf Mile on Derby day, a higher level race than this one. Her last effort earned a 111 Equibase figure which is significantly better than any of the other eight horses entered here and she’s in the more than capable hands of Hall-of-Fame trainer Bill Mott, so all signs are GO for another big race.

 

I’m So Fancy makes her first start in the U.S., having run 20 times in Europe previously, the most recent last September. She was second to a very good horse (Magical) in a group two race last July and won a group 3 race last September in Ireland. When comparing European form to U.S. races, group three stakes are actually a bit tougher than grade 3 races so essentially I’m So Fancy won against tougher horses than she faces here. The big question is whether she’s ready to run her best off an eight month layoff but she’s been putting in consistent workouts and perhaps even if she’s only 80% fit she can run well enough to be right there at the finish with Mitchell Road.

 

Inflexibility is also making her first start since last fall. She finished second in a pair of important turf stakes in New York and Canada in May and June and ran third in September in another top level race before a sixth place effort which led to the layoff she’s coming back from today. Considering Inflexibility won in April, 2018, following six months off I don’t think she’s going to be anything less than 100% fit to run and run well so she rounds out a trio of win contenders.

 

Bets:

Win bets: Mitchell Road to win at 5/2 or more.

 

Exactas: Mitchell Road over I’m So Fancy, Inflexibility, Dynatail, Viva Vegas and ThewayIam, THEN ALSO play the reverse of that which is I’m So Fancy, Inflexibility, Dynatail, Viva Vegas and ThewayIam over Mitchell Road.

 

Trifectas: We will play Mitchell Road to finish either first or second along with the same horses in the exacta above as follows: Mitchell Road over I’m So Fancy, Inflexibility, Dynatail, Viva Vegas and ThewayIam over I’m So Fancy, Inflexibility, Dynatail, Viva Vegas and ThewayIam.

 

Then also I’m So Fancy, Inflexibility, Dynatail, Viva Vegas and ThewayIam over Mitchell Road over I’m So Fancy, Inflexibility, Dynatail, Viva Vegas and ThewayIam.

 

Preakness Stakes – Race 13 at Pimlico - Post Time 6:48 PM Eastern

 

In recent history, the Preakness Stakes has been won predominantly by horses which are on the lead, or a couple of lengths at most from the pacesetter, in the early stages. The recent exception was Exaggerator in 2016, but in that race there was a hotly contested pace which affected the chances of the early leaders and those in close pursuit. With that in mind, Warrior’s Charge is the horse I give slight preference to among three who I feel have the largest probability to win this year’s Preakness. After third place finishes in the first three starts of his career from last November through February, all when Warrior’s Charge was fifth or further back in the early stages, trainer Cox decided to switch tactics and since then Warrior’s Charge is a perfect two-for-two. After finishing third at a mile in February, when allowed to cruise to the lead of his own accord in his next race, Warrior’s Charge earned a then career-best 103 Equibase Speed Figure, which was a huge improvement off the 87 figure one race prior. Four weeks later when again allowed to set the pace, Warrior’s Charge improved to earn a 108 figure. Putting those efforts and figures into perspective, likely favorite Improbable earned 109 and 108 figures when second in the Rebel Stakes and Arkansas Derby, respectively, and a 107 figure when fifth in the Derby. Watching a replay of the Warrior’s Charge most recent victory on April 12, it appears he has more improving to do. Some people might be concerned that jockey Florent Geroux, who rode both Warrior’s Charge and Owendale (both trained by Brad Cox), chose to ride Owendale in the Preakness, but since the jockey who rides Warrior’s Charge in the Preakness is Javier Castellano, currently the second leading jockey in North America, I think those concerns can be put to rest. Having put in a strong workout one week ago in preparation for the race and with a good inside post to take full use of his early speed but without getting into a pace battle with any other horses which may want to run on or near the front, I think Warrior’s Charge can successfully play “come catch me” with the field in this year’s Preakness.

 

If the scenario whereby Warrior’s Charge doesn’t lead from start to finish, by virtue of getting into an early battle with another horse, Brad Cox has Owendale to charge home and win. Owendale won two of his first three races around two turns, in September and again in January, before a poor eighth place finish in the Risen Star Stakes in February. Given two months off Owendale returned in the Lexington Stakes last month and put in a powerful and visually impressive rally when going from eighth to first on the far turn and from three and one-half lengths back to two lengths in ahead before continuing in front to the wire. That was a breakout effort which earned Owendale a career best 106 figure, 11 points better than any previous race. With a very sharp five furlong workout in 59.2 last week to show he is in good physical shape, if Owendale can repeat or improve off his last race, he might give trainer Cox the first and second place finishers in this year’s Preakness.

 

War of Will once again gets the rail post just as he did in the Derby but that is not nearly as disadvantageous in the Preakness as it was two weeks ago. In spite of the poor draw in the Derby (which requires a horse to use a lot of early energy to gain position and not get forced to take back as many horses move towards the rail for the first turn), War of Will was in a great position, fourth and one and one-half lengths behind the leader with about a quarter mile to run. It’s debatable whether he would have gotten through the space between Maximum Security and Long Range Toddy had Maximum Security kept a straight course, but after the incident and losing a length or two, War of Will re-engaged with Maximum Security for a number of strides before tiring back to eighth. It must be noted that War of Will does pull his jockey in the early stages which suggests he resents not being allowed to run the way he wants to run, but whereas many horses don’t respond when asked following fighting the jockey, War of Will has enough competitive spirit that he still does respond, and does so well. That spirit, and his athletic ability, resulted in strong wins earlier this year in the LeComte Stakes and the Risen Star Stakes, the first of the two earning the colt a career-best 107 figure. Following the Risen Star, War of Will was sent to post as the prohibitive favorite in the Louisiana Derby, but shortly after the start had something go amiss as he lost his action and was running erratically, resulting in a ninth-place effort. Considering he rebounded from that to run as he did in the Derby, War of Will certainly must be considered a contender to run well enough to contend in this race.

 

Others:

This next group consists of five horses that can run well but who I believe are a cut below the top three. They are Alwaysmining, Anothertwistafate, Bodexpress, Bourbon War and Improbable. Alwaysmining earned 109 and 104 figures in his last two races which fit nicely with the top three contenders. He is going for his seventh win in a row, the first six earned leading from start to finish and the most recent when third in the early stages, showing he may not be a need-the-lead type. Just the same, no horse who has won some of the stakes races he has won on the Maryland circuit has performed well in the Preakness because it is a big step up from those non-graded stakes races to this caliber of race. Anothertwistafate finished second to Owendale in the Lexington Stakes, earning a 103 figure and although I believe he can finish second or third here there is no reason to believe he can turn the tables on Owendale or beat War of Will or Warrior’s Charge if they run their best. The reason for this belief is when watching the Lexington, Anothertwistafate was on the inside and well ahead of Owendale with about three-eighths of a mile to run, but was out finished by Owendale, who had to go wide on the turn. Bodexpress has a lot of heart, as evidenced when second in the Florida Derby (with a 97 figure) then when in contention in the Kentucky Derby with about five-sixteenths of a mile to run before checking hard when the path he was running in was closed. There is no way to know if he would have continued to run competitively or not, but considering his Florida Derby effort and the fact his sire, Bodemeister, finished second in the 2012 Preakness (after finishing second in the Derby), I must respect Bodexpress as having a chance to be in the top three. Bourbon War was a non-threatening fourth in the Florida Derby but proved competitive at the level with a 110 figure earned when second in the Fountain of Youth Stakes prior to that. He comes from far back but his trainer is changing to a short cup blinker for the Preakness to help him focus and perhaps that may help him return to the form shown in the Fountain of Youth. Improbable has run the same race in all three 2019 starts, running virtually evenly for the last quarter mile. He lost a one length lead in the Rebel and lost by a neck then he was second the entire length of the stretch in the Arkansas Derby, before being virtually the same distance from the leader in the Kentucky Derby for the last half-mile. His last three figures of 109, 108 and 107 appear competitive with the top contenders in this race, but his running style is “one paced,” which is fine for a mile and one-half distance like the Belmont Stakes, but unless Mike Smith can get Improbable motivated to pass a horse in the stretch, he is likely to get a minor award once again.

 

Bets:

Win Bets: Warrior’s Charge and Owendale to win at odds of 3 to 1 or higher.

 

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

 

Exactas: Warrior’s Charge, Owendale and War of Will over Warrior’s Charge, Owendale, War of Will, Bourbon War, Improbable, Alwaysmining, Bodexpress and Anothertwistafate.

 

Trifecta: Warrior’s Charge, Owendale and War of Will over Warrior’s Charge, Owendale, War of Will, Bourbon War, Improbable, Alwaysmining, Bodexpress and Anothertwistafate over Warrior’s Charge, Owendale, War of Will, Bourbon War, Improbable, Alwaysmining, Bodexpress and Anothertwistafate.

Thursday, 16 May 2019 20:06

Nobody Knows

Past the Wire    Tracking Tips Logo

 

May 16th, 2019

Nobody Knows

By: Jonathan Stettin


 

It is easy to use Maximum Security as an example, and I am going to take the low hanging fruit. First off, when people refer to Maximum Security as a claimer that is just not correct. He ran for a tag once, only once and it was in his debut. That does not make him a claimer. A claimer runs for tags often, or surely more than just once.

 

When Maximum Security ran and won first out, nobody knew what he was, or could be. Nobody. Had anyone had an inkling, he would have been claimed. I have heard but not confirmed that trainer Saffie Joseph had a claim form filled out for him but didn’t like what he saw in the paddock or just changed his mind. If true Maximum Security will forever by the one that got away.

 

Whatever your opinion of Jason Servis is, he is an excellent horseman. He gives his horses time and runs them where they belong. He wins first out and off layoffs, both signs someone can train. You can rest assured Jason did not know Maximum Security’s potential when he debuted for 16K. How can that be?

 

We have all heard the term “morning glory.” Some horses work fast, exceptionally so at times but can’t reproduce that effort in the afternoon under race conditions and pressure. Some are the opposite. They don’t work well or particularly fast, but show up to race. Horses fool everyone. Gamblers, Breeders, owners, trainers, jockeys, Bloodstock Agents, Jockey Agents, you name it, if you are in this game at any level you have been fooled. Horses humble all of us. Some more than others but if you play in the Sport of Kings you have been humbled or you will be humbled.

 

You see it in the past performances every day. Horses with high price tags dropping and running for sale in maiden claimers. Some of the wealthiest and most influential people in the world go to the sales. They spend millions. They write checks with plenty of zeroes often after a complicated vetting process. They check heart and lung capacity, blood flow, you name it. Bloodlines, speed figures, whatever can be quantified will be quantified. All that and they still couldn’t beat Mine That Bird or Dumb Ass partners and California Chrome when it counted. You gotta love a level playing field.

 

One of the beauties of the sport is how our calculations and insight is right just often enough to keep us assured it is indeed science and talent. There are maybe 10-12 times a year I feel I absolutely know who will win a race. In my mind I am just so sure, barring some unforeseen fluke, this horse will win. 95% of those do win. If I only bet those, it’s a win-win, but that would get boring. Funny it is the few that you don’t remember a la A Raving Beauty at Saratoga.

 

The game gives hope to those who spend less than the mega outfits and buyers when on any given race day you can open the form and like a 50K auction maiden purchase more than one that cost half a million or more. And when you realize that even when we know, we really don’t, you know they don’t either. That levels the field and we can beat em all.

Friday, 10 May 2019 11:44

Pace Makes the Race: Past Tense

Past the Wire    Tracking Tips Logo

 

May 10th, 2019

Pace Makes the Race: Past Tense

By: Jonathan Stettin


 

We have all heard the saying:

“Pace Makes the Race.”

For years pace has proven to be a deciding factor in the outcome of horse races. Fast contested paces lead to closers having an advantage and often winning. Slow walk the dog and uncontested paces often lead to wire to wire, or front end wins. Handicapping books have been written in this though I personally have never read one. Most Past Performances now include a pace projector. The pace is thought of be that important, and I myself have been a long believer in this. My school of thought is changing. Not entirely but somewhat.

I don’t use any type of pace projectors. I calculate that myself. If I can’t figure out the projected pace more accurate than a computer program that can’t factor nuances and intangibles, I need to find something else to do. I certainly would not want to wager on a race I could not accurately, actually very accurately, project the pace and who would be setting it, contesting it, stalking it, and trying to close into it.

In the recently run Kentucky Oaks, there were about 5-6 pace horses. I felt Serengeti Empress would indeed get the early lead, but that she would be challenged often and hard. She wasn’t, and Jose Ortiz was able to keep her in front the whole way. He seized the race, and the other riders let him do it. No pace projector can anticipate one speed horse going while all the others take back. We can, knowing certain rider tendencies, but it was hard to fathom in advance that in the Oaks everyone but Jose would sit back.

In looking back at the Oaks, lack of a hot or contested pace may have made the race. However, seeing that play out that way in advance, and landing on Serengeti Empress because of it, probably has close to lottery winning likelihood.

The Derby was a little different. I was at a loss in understanding how any handicapper could not clearly see Maximum Security would be on the lead. I’d have gone all in on that bet. More perplexing were the people who were saying their “pace projectors” were telling them Maximum Security would not be on the lead, and or his splits were not fast enough. Frankly, I was more interested in if anyone could keep him company early. I did not like him to win but was sure he’d set the pace. He went 46 and change and won the Derby on the front. Justify went 45 and change and won it also. Bodemeister went that fast and almost won it. I started thinking and looking at a lot of charts. A lot.

I did not compile statistics. I did make an observation though. Speed seems to hold better now than say some years back. Horses tend to keep going, and we see many re-break in the stretch. We saw them come to Maximum Security and also saw him pull back away.

I have said for a long time the good handicappers evolve continually and change with the game. The game is changing. Pace is not as guaranteed an influence on the outcomes as it used to be. How many of these full of speed turf sprints do we see where one horse goes out and just doesn’t quit or stop?

We train for speed. We emphasize it at the sales and in many of our stallions. Is this contributory if you agree with my observations? I think yes, at least in part.

We have the large majority of our horses on Lasix. Is this part of the equation? I’d bet yes. If it helps them keep going just a bit, it’s a factor.

We play today in an environment that is laden with cheating allegations, innuendos, positive tests, super trainers, high percentages, and more and more drugs, both therapeutic and otherwise available. Do you really think any pace projector can piece together that puzzle based on some splits? All of the above comes into play.

As a betting man if you ask me regardless of pace will the speed hold much of the time! You bet.

#P6K

 

 

Ballade Stakes - Race 8 at Woodbine - Post Time 4:59 PM Eastern

 

Blurricane appears set to post an upset in this race she won in 2017 off the same long layoff since the previous year she’s coming back from today. She didn’t run in this race last year but again fired nicely off the bench, finishing second following six months off last June. She put in two very sharp four furlong workouts coming into the race and trainer Drexler has a strong nearly 25% win rate with horses coming back from layoffs over the past five years. There really are no knocks on this hard-knocking mare who has finished first or second in 20 of 33 career races on the Woodbine main track so opening at 10/1 we need to consider her strongly as a contender in this race.

 

Summer Sunday opens at 6 to 1 and those odds may hold up even though she has won four of six career starts, including a perfect four-for-four record at Woodbine on all-weather. The reason she may be a bit ignored in the wagering compared to others is she finished sixth of six, beaten 14 lengths, in her comeback from a year on the bench last month. However, trainer Simon has done this before, with a FOUR for EIGHT record with horses at Woodbine the past few years making their second starts off layoffs, with two of those having run just as poorly at Keeneland prior to winning. Apparently he uses conventional dirt prep as a way to get his horses fit enough to win. Since that effort last month, Summer Sunday put in two exceptional workouts at Woodbine and with a jockey change to Hernandez, up for her win in the Fury Stakes over the track a year ago, Summer Sunday is another who has every right to win at more than fair odds.

 

Scotty’s Model, who won this race last year, makes her second start of the year. Last year she ran in March on dirt at Oaklawn then missed by a half-length in the Grade 3 Whimsical Stakes at Woodbine before dropping in class to this restricted stakes level and winning the Ballade. This year she finished ninth in the Grade 3 Honey Fox Stakes at Gulfstream so even though she is taking the same drop, her effort coming into the race isn’t nearly as good. Just the same, McKnight is winning at better than a 33% clip and the mare’s best effort is good enough to win.

 

Without a Doubt, who opens at 20/1, and Zestina, who opens at 9/2, are two more contenders to consider for exacta wagers although I think they are a cut below the top three listed contenders. Without a Doubt finished a poor sixth in her first start of the year in 2018 but may be a bit more fit this year. Last year she had some workouts on a farm before one four furlong workout at Woodbine which apparently wasn’t enough. This year she’s been in training at Woodbine since March, with two very solid four furlong workouts in April and a three furlong blowout coming into the race. She finished second in the similar Passing Mood Stakes last summer and the Victorian Queen Stakes in the fall of 2017 so she could help us profit by another similar effort. Zestina has never missed the board in 10 career starts, winning four times, but only once on the main track (the rest were on turf). She can improve off her third place finish in the Whimsical, the prep Scotty’s Model used last year when winning this race, but as it appears she likes turf better than all-weather it’s tough to give her a big endorsement as a win contender.

 

Silent Sonnet, who opens as the 2 to 1 favorite, appears vulnerable. She won five of 13 in 2017 and 2018 but hasn’t shown the same spirit in three races this year. As an exacta strategy, we should not play the two favorites Silent Sonnet and Scotty’s Model, but because the top two choices open at decent odds of 10/1 and 6/1 we should play some exactas keying them with Silent Sonnet as well and those are listed below.

 

 

Bets:

Win Bets: Blurricane and Summer Sunday to win at odds of 7 to 2 or higher.

 

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

 

Exactas: Blurricane, Summer Sunday and Scotty’s Model over Blurricane, Summer Sunday, Scotty’s Model, Without a Doubt and Zestina.

 

Then also play the reverse of that exacta, which is Blurricane, Summer Sunday, Scotty’s Model, Without a Doubt and Zestina over Blurricane, Summer Sunday and Scotty’s Model.

 

Box Silent Sonnet and Blurricane and Box Silent Sonnet and Summer Sunday.

 

 

Big Drama Stakes – Race 10 at Gulfstream Park - Post Time 5:34 PM Eastern

 

Front Loaded returned to the races last month following six months off and won like a good thing in a classified allowance race over the track at six furlongs. He’s won at the one-turn mile trip at Gulfstream and at this seven furlong trip so the extra distance is no issue and he should improve nicely in his second start off a layoff, also his second since joining the Nicks barn. With Nicks winning at a strong 25% clip and with Zayas riding right back, and with a hot pace to set up his late kick courtesy of Kroy and Royal Squeeze both being need-the-lead types, that pair perhaps pressed by Sarasota County from the start, Front Loaded can win his second in a row and post the mild upset opening at 10/1.

 

Garter and Tie has run big in his last five one-turn races including a nose loss month. He’s a three year old facing older for the first time and it may be a bit early in the year to take on elders but he is very talented and could easily add to his five for 10 first or second career record.

 

Royal Squeeze could get into a battle with Kroy and possibly Sarasota County from the start but he’s coming off the two best efforts of his life, both following the Dobles claim. The last was a five length win at the distance with Camacho up for the first time, who rides back. On occasion the gelding has relaxed a bit early so if Camacho lets Kroy go but sits close he could go by to make the lead, perhaps holding off the closers Front Loaded and Garter and Tie for the win.

 

Another potential for the pace battle is Driven by Thunder, who returns to the main track after a pair of turf races. He proved only to be a need-the-lead type last winter and spring but two races back on April 6, with Berrios in the saddle as today, he rallied from fourth, three lengths back. Considering he opens at 20/1 I’d hate to not use him on exacta tickets just in case he gets a stalking position again and gets into the picture. One horse I’m leaving out entirely is Mr. Jordan, who in spite of having won 10 times in his career and over $800K, is just 1 for 20 on the main track at Gulfstream and whose last three races have been abysmal.

 

Bets:

Win Bets: Front Loaded to win at 3 to 1 or more.

Although it’s unlikely Garter and Tie will go to post at 3 to 1 or higher, he can be bet to win at those odds.

For a smaller amount, Royal Squeeze to win at 4 to 1 or higher.

 

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

 

Exacta: Front Loaded, Garter and Tie and Royal Squeeze over Front Loaded, Garter and Tie, Royal Squeeze, Sarasota County, Driven by Thunder and Kroy.

 

Then, turn that around and play Front Loaded, Garter and Tie, Royal Squeeze, Sarasota County, Driven by Thunder and Kroy over Front Loaded, Garter and Tie and Royal Squeeze.

 

Runhappy Stakes – Race 9 at Belmont Park - Post Time 5:51 PM Eastern

 

Bon Raison, who opens at 8 to 1, has as much chance to win in my opinion as lower odds horses Skyler’s Scramjet (2/1) and Recruiting Ready (8/5). He gets a good outside post in a six horse field, just like he got three back on March 30 in the Peeping Tom Stakes at Aqueduct, a race in which he sat third early, six lengths back, before launching a bold bid to draw off by four lengths at the end. He’s won seven of 18 races on dirt and I like the jockey change to Rosario, who hasn’t ridden him since October, when over the track the horse rallied from fourth to draw off late, just as he may do today.

 

Killybegs Captain has never missed the board in 10 races, with five wins and four runner-up finishes. He won his 2019 debut in a little stakes at Tampa then missed by a half-length to Flameaway in another stakes, from which the third finisher came back to win the Grade 3 Ben Ali Stakes at Keeneland. Castellano gets on and another competitive effort should be forthcoming.

 

Of the two favorites Recruiting Ready and Skyler’s Scramjet, Recruiting Ready is the one I think can win but his starting 8 to 5 odds are too low to consider for a win bet. Skyler’s Scramjet can finish second but as happened last year when he ended up second, he’s a little too susceptible to being passed in the last eighth for my tastes. Recruiting Ready had some traffic trouble in the Commonwealth Stakes last month which cost him tactical position and he can win, but he’s no standout on any level.

 

Bets:

Win bets: Bon Raison to win at 2 to 1 or more.

For a smaller amount (half to two-thirds of what we bet on Bon Raison), Killybegs Captain to win at odds of 5 to 2 or more.

 

Exactas: We need to split the favorites here and will not be combining them on any exacta ticket to maximize profit, as follows:

Box Bon Raison, Killybegs Captain and Recruiting Ready.

Box Bon Raison, Killybegs Captain and Skyler’s Scramjet

 

Doubles: Bon Raison, Killybegs Captain, Recruiting Ready and Skyler’s Scramjet in Race 10 with Zulu Alpha, Arklow, Focus Group and Epical in Race 11.

 

 

Man o’War Stakes – Race 10 at Belmont Park - Post Time 6:24 PM Eastern

 

Epical appears to be a lone frontrunner in this 11 furlong turf race and he fits on all counts, having just won the Grade 2 San Luis Rey Stakes at Santa Anita in wire-to-wire fashion. He won in November and December in the same manner so although he was just one for seven before his 11/15 race he’s three for four since and on a tear. As an improving four year old he may have not run his best and he can control the tempo here and post the upset, opening at 10/1. Even if that scenario doesn’t play out I’m not concerned, because Epical has shown he can relax early and finish late, as when second in the San Marcos Stakes right before the San Luis Rey.

 

Arklow’s last race can be ignored, as he lost the jockey at the start. There’s some reason to believe he wasn’t completely prepared and as a horse with a five for 12 record on grass (ignoring that race) including two big races at 12 furlongs last year, he must be respected. He was 7 to 2 in that tough allowance field and 2/1 last fall in the Sycamore Stakes, won by Zulu Alpha, with Arklow just a couple lengths back, so the fact he opens at 8 to 1 here compared to 4/1 for Zulu Alpha compels us to take advantage and bet Arklow as well as Epical because if any other horse does take on Epical, or if Arklow stays within range, he could out finish that one for the win.

 

Focus Group opens at 5 to 2 and may go lower given Chad Brown is his trainer and he won the similar Pan American Stakes last time out at the end of March. He has won five of 12 but when he doesn’t win he’s off the board most of the time and his 0 for four record on the Belmont turf (with just one third place finish) does raise a small red flag so he’s not a good win bet, but leaving him off of double, exacta and trifecta tickets is not a good idea.

 

Similarly, Zulu Alpha has turned into a marathon pro over the last seven months, winning three graded stakes at distances ranging from this 11 furlong trip to a mile and one half. Although he made the lead and was out finished, ending up third, in the Elkhorn Stakes last month, he still ran his race, and so his chances can’t be discounted for a second.

 

For exactas and trifectas we should also consider the filly Magic Wand, one of two from the O’Brien barn (the other Hunting Horn). Magic Wand ran pretty well when fourth of 14 last fall racing in the U.S. for the first time, in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf, then second this January in the Pegasus Turf Cup behind Bricks and Mortar, who won again last weekend. She has no problem competing against males and jockey Lordan follows her from Europe to ride.

 

Channel Maker won a pair of graded stakes on the circuit last summer and fall and can improve off a fourth place finish behind Zulu Alpha last time out in March, while Kulin Rock is trained by Mike Maker the same as Zulu Alpha, and it must be noted since the claim by Maker last fall the gelding has run extremely well, for example when beaten one length at 44 to 1 in the Mac Diarmida Stakes in March. Considering Maker’s ability to turn these types of horses he claims into multiple winners at marathon distances on turf, leaving Kulin Rock off exacta tickets at double digit odds may prove costly. Village King isn’t as fast early as Epical in my opinion, but if he gets a stalking trip he could be part of the exacta or trifecta and considering he opens at 15/1 for Pletcher and Velazquez, he’s another to use on exacta tickets with the top two contenders at fairly high odds.

 

Bets:

Win bets: Epical to win at odds of 2 to 1 or more.

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

 

Exacta: Epical and Arklow over ALL, then the reverse as well, which is ALL over Epical and Arklow.

Optionally: Focus Group over ALL (this is instead of a win bet on Focus Group at low odds).