Friday, 24 May 2019 16:25


Past the Wire    Tracking Tips Logo


May 24th, 2019


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.



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.



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.



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.



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.




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.



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.



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.



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.



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.




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.




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.



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.



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.



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).



Jacques Cartier Stakes - Race 8 at Woodbine - Post Time 4:40 PM Eastern


Extravagant Kid missed by three-quarters of a length in last year’s edition of this race, to Pink Lloyd, who also returns, but Extravagant Kid has a race this year and Pink Lloyd does not and that may be how the former turns the tables on the latter. Extravagant Kid won a sprint stakes on dirt at Tampa in March when last year he was returning from 13 months off. Contreras rode him last year in this race, not before or since, and with a good post to stalk the likely dueling leaders Yorkton and Wyatt’s Town and opening at 6/1, Extravagant Kid gets top billing.


Ikerrin Road finished a well-beaten sixth in this race last year but won his last two start of the year including the Grade 2 Kennedy Road Stakes over the track before taking the five months off he’s returning from today. He put in a SPARKLING best of 70 five furlong work over the track recently and has every right to pick up where he left off in December with a top effort good enough to win, opening at 8/1.


There’s not much to say about Pink Lloyd which hasn’t been said and as evidenced by his 16-for-21 career record at Woodbine including this race last year. He has been working well for his return and won this race last year off a similar layoff. However, it must be noted he tailed off badly at the end of the year with fifth and fourth place finishes.



Win Bet: Both Extravagant Kid and Ikerrin Road should be bet 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.


Exacta: Box Extravagant Kid, Ikerrin Road and Pink Lloyd.


Honey Ryder Stakes – Race 10 at Gulfstream Park - Post Time 5:08 PM Eastern


Don’t Make Fun stretches out to two turns for the first time, in her fourth lifetime start, and as daughter of Kitten’s Joy could excel at the trip, making her 10/1 starting odds look like a gift. She finished a close-up fourth in her career debut last December in a turf sprint then won nicely in January, also in a sprint, before a poor sixth place effort on paper which actually serves as an exceptional sprint prep for this two-turn race as she was about 6 lengths behind the leader from start to finish. With veteran Prado riding and with room to improve off a sharp 93 Equibase figure from the win which is the second best figure by any horse in the field, Don’t Make Fun gets slight preference of three potential longshot worth considering for our wagering dollars.


Perspire opens at 20/1 only for the fact she’s never run on turf. She won at a mile on a sloppy track last month at 11/1 at the first allowance level and she’s never been in a claiming race. She rallied nicely in the win and earned an 87 figure she can improve on and she’s certainly bred to do just as well on turf.


Peaceful Feeling made her three year old debut in February at a mile on the course and won as she pleased by three lengths at 2 to 1 before a third place finish also at a mile, a race in which she rallied from third to lead before getting passed. The issue of getting passed may be remedied by the addition of blinkers and as a daughter of War Front there’s little doubt routing on turf may be her forte, so opening at 12/1 she’s yet another to consider.


For exactas, we can also consider Devious Charm, Vow to Recover and Itsmyluckycharm, the latter being the 3/1 morning line favorite who is in form and who has won five of 10 career starts but who is also no standout.



Win Bet: Bet two of these three to win going to post at the highest odds and at 4 to 1 or more, adding a place bet at 6 to 1 or higher: Don’t Make Fun, Perspire, Peaceful Feeling.


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: Don’t Make Fun, Perspire and Peaceful Feeling over Don’t Make Fun, Perspire, Peaceful Feeling, Devious Charm, Vow to Recover and Itsmyluckycharm.


Also (the opposite of the above exacta): Don’t Make Fun, Perspire, Peaceful Feeling, Devious Charm, Vow to Recover and Itsmyluckycharm over Don’t Make Fun, Perspire, Peaceful Feeling.


Westchester Stakes – Race 11 at Belmont Park - Post Time 5:40 PM Eastern


Hoffenheim finished third a little over a month ago in a non-graded stakes at seven furlongs, his first start back from eight months off. He’s bound to move forward and ran exceptionally well at Belmont last spring when second to stakes winners Timeline and Recruiting Ready so with second off the layoff improvement likely he’s the one we look to first for profit as he opens at 15/1.


Realm opens at even higher odds, 20/1, odd considering he lead in the stretch last time out (3/29) in the Skip Away Stakes at Gulfstream Park at 19/1 and was beaten only a half-length and neck on the wire at the end. He had been away for six months before that, has won at Belmont, and gets hot Carmouche to ride so must be respected as it’s very probable he’ll run better than his high odds suggest.


Prince Lucky opens as the prohibitive 4 to 5 favorite and although his chances can’t be discounted he’s no standout. He won the Hal’s Hope Stakes and Gulfstream Park Mile in succession this year but the 112 and 105 Equibase figures aren’t standout figures as Hoffenheim earned a 107 figure and can improve, and Realm earned a 107 figure and can improve.


Stan the Man won at this one turn mile trip at Aqueduct in February as well as at Belmont last May and has now been first or second in 10 of 16 career dirt starts. Dylan Davis rides him exceptionally well as he’s been aboard for ALL five wins so the gelding rounds out a quartet who can win and who can complete the exacta.


Sunny Ridge, who opens at 7/2, isn’t a win contender in my opinions as he appears to be happy finishing second or third. We’ll just use him on exacta tickets in the second position.



Win bets: Hoffenheim and Realm to win at 4 to 1 or more, adding a place bet at 6 to 1 or higher.

Consider a win bet on Stan the Man at odds of 5 to 1 or more.


Note: This is a race we can, and should, bet at least two of the horses above to win, and 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: Hoffenheim, Realm, Prince Lucky and Stan the Man over Hoffenheim, Realm, Prince Lucky, Stan the Man and Sunny Ridge.



Bonus Race


Kentucky Derby – Race 12 at Churchill Downs - Post Time 6:50 PM Eastern


Although the Derby can’t be bet via Amwager, here are my thoughts.


#17 Roadster - Minimum odds 3/1

#9 Plus Que Parfait - Minimum odds 6/1

#8 Tacitus - Minimum odds 6/1

#3 By My Standards - Minimum odds 6/1

#7 Maximum Security - Minimum odds 10/1

#14 Win Win Win - Minimum odds 12/1


Wagering strategy for win, win/place or win/place/show bets: I think it is a good idea to consider betting more than one contender to win, using the minimum odds as a guide and starting with the top listed contender. I would also bet to place/show at 8 to 1 odds or more.


Wagering strategy for exotic wagers are at the bottom following the analysis of the race and the main contenders. As always, I write this analysis for me and share it with everyone who wishes to read it and these wagers are ones which, as of this writing, I intend to make myself.



As I do every year, I list six win contenders, believing the winner will be among that group. I would never list six win contenders in most fields of 8 or 10 or even 12, but in the Derby even that may not be sufficient to catch the right one who becomes a man among men in the Derby. This is a race to take the rubber band off the wallet and to bet in ways we would not otherwise consider, because the return for the risk on some of the wagers warrants it. In addition there are a number of horses who I believe can finish second or third, and there are some serious lines in the sand which need to be drawn to come up with that list as well. Those horses are #2 Tax, #5 Improbable, #6 Vekoma, #10 Cutting Humor and #16 Game Winner.



Overview: The 145th running of the Grade 1, $3 million Kentucky Derby presented by Woodford Reserve is one of the more wide open editions of the race in recent memory because only one horse, Tacitus, has won two “Road to the Derby” races in succession and because many of the favorites in prep races for the Derby have failed to live up to expectations. For example, Game Winner, the Eclipse Award champion two year old of 2018, has finished second as the prohibitive favorite in both of his races this year. Similarly, Improbable, who like Game Winner was undefeated as a two year old, has also finished second in both his starts as a three year old. Bob Baffert, who has won the Derby five times including two of the last four years with Triple Crown Champions Justify and American Pharoah, trains Game Winner as well as Improbable. Baffert also trains Roadster, who has won both races this year though the first of the two was not a stakes race. Roadster made his second start of the year in the Santa Anita Derby, the same stepping stone to the Kentucky Derby which produced last year’s winner Justify, as well as 2014 Derby winner California Chrome and 2012 winner I’ll Have Another. Other major Derby prep race winners include Wood Memorial Stakes winner Tacitus, who overcame significant traffic trouble to win, as well as Toyota Blue Grass Stakes winner Vekoma, Louisiana Derby winner By My Standards, Florida Derby winner Maximum Security, United Arab Emirates Derby winner Plus Que Parfait, Sunland Derby winner Cutting Humor and a slew of horses who finished second or third in those prep races.


Main contenders:

Roadster showed me what I needed to see in the Santa Anita Derby to make be believe he has the tools to win the Kentucky Derby this year. Although jockey Mike Smith rode both Roadster in the Santa Anita Derby and Omaha Beach in the Arkansas Derby and opted for the latter (although now scratched), what Smith did in the Santa Anita Derby with Roadster is the reason I believe Roadster can win this year’s Kentucky Derby. In early stages of the Santa Anita Derby, Roadster was fifth of six on the inside of other horses and two lengths behind the leader when Smith let the colt drop back of his own accord, going to nearly five lengths behind the leader with a quarter-mile to run. Roadster was then allowed to go to the outside although there were no horses inside of him until an eighth of a mile to go, the colt continually accelerated and was head-and-head with the leaders in mid-stretch, eventually pulling away to win by a half-length. I believe what Smith was doing was educating Roadster to get ready for one of the longest stretch runs in any track in North America at 1,234 feet, and that education may serve him very well in the Kentucky Derby. Having continually improved since his debut last July when he earned a 90 Equibase Speed Figure, Roadster finished third behind Game Winner in the Del Mar Futurity with a 96 figure effort then was given six months off to mature. He certainly did mature over the winter, running two-turns for the first time and winning in March without a prep race first while earning a 104 figure, then improving to 106 in the Santa Anita Derby. Being as the Kentucky Derby will be his third start off a layoff, Roadster should peak in this race and given he’s already been educated as to how to run down the long stretch at Churchill Downs I believe he can win.


Plus Que Parfait showed talent as a two year old when beaten a neck in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill downs last November, but his first two races as a three year old were complete clunkers, first finishing fifth in the LeComte Stakes and then finishing 13th in the Risen Star Stakes. However, he was an entirely different horse in his next start on March 30 in the United Arab Emirates Derby. Adding blinkers for that race, Plus Que Parfait was in traffic until about an eighth of a mile to go when he found room to run in between horses, accelerated and got the lead. He continued to run strongly to the wire, holding off the late challenge of Gray Magician with minimal effort. When we can identify the reason for a turnaround in performance, as is the case with Plus Que Parfait adding blinkers, we can more easily assess whether the effort was a fluke or can be repeated. The effort earned a 112 Equibase figure which is even a bit better as now scratched favorite Omaha Beach earned winning the Rebel Stakes and if he can repeat the effort and if Roadster does not move forward as expected in his third start as a three year old, Plus Que Parfait could post the upset.


Tacitus also showed a lot of physical toughness, as well as heart, in his most recent race when victorious in the Wood Memorial last month. Near the start of the race, Tacitus was bumped pretty hard and caused jockey Jose Ortiz to momentarily lose his balance. Shortly after that, a horse nearly crossed in front of Tacitus going into the first turn and he clipped that horse’s heels, nearly falling. Recovering nicely but finding himself seven lengths behind the leader with about three-quarters of a mile to run, Tacitus shows a big burst of speed on the turn to get the lead by a head with an eighth of a milt to run, holding off the challenge of Tax to win by a length and one-quarter at the finish. As with others, Tacitus is on a pattern for a peak effort in the Derby as he’s making his third start of the year and Equibase figures of 105 and 106. As a son of Tapit, sire of multiple graded stakes winners such as Frosted, Cupid, Creator and Tonalist, there is little doubt Tacitus has anything but the makings of a potential Derby winner and so he’s another deserving of respect when considering who can win this year.


By My Standards doesn’t appear to be as fast as either Roadster or some of the others, as he earned just a 93 Equibase figure when winning for the first time (in his fourth career start) in February and then a 96 figure when winning the Louisiana Derby. However, By My Standards showed the mental toughness of a top level horse in the Louisiana Derby, a race in which he as stuck behind a wall of horses turning for home, slowing his momentum, before jockey Saez guided him to the inside for running room, at which point By My Standards accelerated nicely to take the lead. By all reports, By My Standards has improved both physically and mentally since the race, with a pair of exceptional workouts at Churchill Downs. Mental toughness is a key to running well in the Kentucky Derby given the 20 horse field and the likelihood for traffic trouble, and as By My Standards has excellent tactical speed to allow him to be towards the front of the pack, he may be able to spring the upset by improving off his last effort.


Maximum Security is undefeated in four races, including a dominant three and one-half length win in the Florida Derby on March 30. That was his first race around two turns and he passed the test with flying colors as he controlled the tempo on the front end from start to finish. Although he led from the start in the Florida Derby as well as prior to that (in February) in a seven furlong sprint, Maximum Security demonstrated he does not need the lead to win when rallying from third to win in January. Having earned a career-best 109 figure winning the seven furlong race on February 20, it might seem like a regression to a 102 figure effort in the Florida Derby, but considering Maximum Security had no challengers for nearly the entire race, he could have run faster. Trainer Jason Servis trains his horses rather unconventionally by working them very slowly and at longer distances than most other trainers. As such, Maximum Security has been galloping a mile nearly every day at three-quarter speed and if nothing else, he may be the most fit horse entering the Derby. Considering the winners of the Florida Derby in 2013 (Orb), 2016 (Nyquist) and 2017 (Always Dreaming) all won the Kentucky Derby, Maximum Security could add to that list with a top effort.


Win Win Win rounds out my annual sextet of main contenders and although I don’t believe he has the same probability to win as any of the other five, he has a high probability to finish second or third at the least and help us profit in the exacta or trifecta. Racing around two turns for the first time in the Tampa Bay Derby in March, Win Win Win closed from far back in seventh to finish third behind Tacitus, who improved to win the Wood Memorial the next month. Win Win Win then entered the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes and although no threat to three and one-half length winner Vekoma, Win Win Win showed a good deal of ability after being steadied in traffic and losing momentum with five-sixteenths of a mile to run, rallying from eighth to pass all but the winner in the final stages. In a recent workout at Churchill Downs, Win Win Win showed a strong competitive instinct because even though he was not in company with two other Derby entrants (Country House and Tacitus), when he saw them in front of him he insisted on accelerating past them to be in front. This competitive desire could prove very helpful in the late stages of the Derby and as Win Win Win is likely to go to post at high odds given he did not win his most recent Derby prep race, he is definitely a horse I want to use on any exacta or trifecta tickets I play.


Notes about others: Game Winner and Improbable did not move forward as three year olds as compared to their two year old campaigns, both finishing second in their two races each this year, beaten most recently by Roadster and Omaha Beach, respectively. They didn’t run badly, but in predicting which horses may peak in the Derby, it is tough to consider either more probable than a horse like Roadster or some of the others. Similarly, as Tax was beaten by Tacitus in his most recent race, I can’t envision a scenario where the finish is reversed in the Derby. Cutting Humor is included as a minor contender as I respect Todd Pletcher and the colt is improving, but he doesn’t appear to be of the caliber of the top contenders. Vekoma won the Blue Grass rather impressively, but regressed to a 97 figure off the 104 figure earned in the Fountain of Youth and I suspect it may have been due to the longer distance, so I have concerns about his running as well at 10 furlongs.


Exotic wagering options:
Exactas: (Options below are dependent on how risk averse or risk tolerant you feel, here are the options)

Box 3,7,8,9,14,17 (cost $30 at the $1 minimum level)

Key 17 over ALL (cost $19 at the $1 minimum level)

Key 17 over 3,7,8,9,14 (cost $5 at the $1 level)




17 over 14 over ALL and ALSO 17 over ALL over 14

With these bets we win if Roadster wins and then if Win Win Win finishes second or third. The cost of both bets at the $0.50 min level is $17.


Race 7 at Woodbine - Post Time 4:23 PM Eastern


Town Classic, a very consistent gelding with 11 first or second place finishes in 21 races on dirt or all-weather, opens at 12/1 odds which are impossible to ignore and so the horse becomes the key to profit in this excellent betting race. First or second in his last four races at Hawthorne and Mahoning Valley, to most of the public it’s an unknown how he’ll take to the Tapeta all-weather surface but looking at his lifetime PPs I believe it won’t be an issue, something trainer Santangelo (who wins nearly 25% of his races on all-weather) likely noticed when deciding to ship him to Woodbine from Ohio. Town Classic broke his maiden and finished second at the NW1X allowance condition at Woodbine in 2016, with the runner-up effort coming at this seven furlong trip, so the return to Woodbine helps his chances of running competitively again. Cutting back from two-turns to one-turn today off a big effort when beaten a head on the wire helps as well by giving him some extra later energy, and the gelding put in a workout on the all-weather at Presque Isle Downs before shipping up so is ready for another big effort.


Cooler Mike has been first or second in five of eight career races at Woodbine. He comes back from nine months off but finished second, beaten just a half-length, in his 2018 comeback and he broke his maiden first time out so he could fire nicely here for a piece at the least. Sweet Little Man has 16 career runner-up finishes to go along with eight wins. He too makes his 2019 debut and he ran well in his 2018 debut when winning. Fire for Effect ran poorly on conventional dirt at Oaklawn but won last November and August at Woodbine so the return to the all-weather should help him run back to competitive form as well.


For the most part, I’m taking a stand against morning line favorite Shakhimat, who has a record of 0-1-1 in 9 races this year and last and who is very fast early but has been found wanting in the late stages many times and who hasn’t won on the all-weather surface since 2015.



Win Bet: Town Classic to win at odds of 3 to 1, adding a place bet at 6 to 1 or higher.


Exacta: Town Classic over ALL and then the opposite, which is ALL over Town Classic.

Exacta: Box Town Classic, Cooler Mike, Sweet Little Man and Fire for Effect.


Note: The analysis of race 8, the Woodstock Stakes, can be found on the Woodbine web site here so I don’t want to double up. However, because there are value in both that race and the seventh race above, I feel playing doubles between the two races offers a very strong profit possibility.


Doubles: Town Classic, Cooler Mike, Sweet Little Man and Fire for Effect in Race 7 with Powell, Yes I Am Free and Tiz Breathtaking in Race 8.


Elusive Quality Stakes – Race 9 at Belmont - Post Time 5:51 PM Eastern


Big Handsome proved to be a very talented colt in his three year old season in 2017, breaking his maiden in March by four lengths at Gulfstream then winning at the first allowance level on the Belmont turf and then taking the Paradise Creek Stakes in May of 2017 at this seven furlong trip on this turf course. He missed by inches in the Manila Stakes in July then led late and was beaten under a length in the Grade 2 Hall of Fame Stakes. In both those races the horse that won, Bricks and Mortar, has become a superstar on the turf, taking the Pegasus World Cup Turf earlier this year, so the fact Big Handsome was so close to Bricks and Mortar really shows his class. After another neck defeat in a stake race, in the summer of 2017, apparently he had issues as he was away from October to April then another two months, then off from June of last year to March of this year. The comeback last month was superb as he rallied from six back to be beaten just three-quarters of a length and so in his second start bac off the rest, with red hot Franco riding, and proven capable of winning stakes races at this distance on the course, Big Handsome may be very tough to beat.


The other horse with the bulk of the probability to win appears to be Emmaus, who is making his U.S. debut after importing from Ireland and becoming acclimated to U.S. racing. He’s been in training in Kentucky and gets Jose Ortiz for the race, a very good sign, and his last effort before the rest in Ireland was a second of 11 finish, beaten a nose, at this seven furlong trip on grass. As such, if he picks up where he left off as it appears he can, he should be first or second, particularly as his late kick as well as that of Big Handsome, should benefit from a likely hot early pace battle between Abiding Star and Fixed Point, who are next to each other in the gate.



Win Bet: Big Handsome to win at odds of 8 to 5 or higher.

For a slightly smaller amount, Emmaus to win at odds of 5 to 2 or more.


Exacta: Box Big Handsome and Emmaus.

Trifecta: Big Handsome and Emmaus over ALL over Big Handsome and Emmaus.

(playing the trifecta and exacta in this way means we cash the bet if the two horses finish first and second, or first and third)


Powder Break Stakes – Race 11 at Gulfstream Park - Post Time 6:04 PM Eastern


Quebec gets slight preference among three win contenders and keys to exotic wagering profit, as she opens at 10/1 odds. The mare has won five of 20 career starts on grass, finishing second in five others, and she makes her second local start after shipping out from California and joining the Dibona barn. In her local debut, in the similar Sand Springs Stakes, Quebec ran evenly for the last three-eighths of a mile as she was two lengths behind the leader the entire time. Blinkers go on and she shows a strong blinkers on/fast workout pattern with a 46.8 half mile drill on 4/12 which was the best of 19 followed by an even better 48.2 workout which was the sixth best of 71. She has not worn blinkers for her last three races, all so-so efforts BUT she did wear blinkers for her last two wins, the best of which was last August at Del Mar when she rallied from fifth to win a second level allowance race at 3 to 1 odds with a 106 Equibase figure which is one of the best in the field. As such, if the blinkers help her to run back to that race, she can post the upset.


Supercommittee finished third in her most recent start, a stakes on the turf at Tampa, behind winner Crown and Sugar and runner-up Bitacora. I think she can turn the tables on those two back at Gulfstream, where she won two in a row prior to that, because she gets a much better post (4) than Crown and Sugar (12) and because she gets a jockey change to Jaramillo while Bitacora gets a jockey change to Rendon, who isn’t as good as Jaramillo, particularly on turf. Supercommittee has a very consistent 3-2-2 record in nine career races on grass and put in a very sharp 47.4 turf workout at Palm Meadows coming into this race which suggests she could run an “A” race good enough to win.


Crown and Sugar loves to win races, with 11 wins in 23 starts including a five for 10 record on grass. However, this is her first start on the Gulfstream Turf, while the previously mentioned horses have won five or 12 on the course combined. Still, Crown and Sugar has won five in a row and in each was in front at the eighth pole and unchallenged the rest of the way, as well as gets her regular jockey Gallardo in from Tampa to ride.



Win bets: Quebec to win at odds of 3 to 1 or more.

Supercommittee to win at 7 to 2 or more.

Crown and Sugar to win at 7 to 2 or more.


Note: This is a race we can, and should, bet at least two of the horses above to win, and 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: Quebec, Supercommittee and Crown and Sugar over ALL



Quebec, Supercommittee and Crown and Sugar over Quebec, Supercommittee and Crown and Sugar over ALL.

Quebec, Supercommittee and Crown and Sugar over ALL over Quebec, Supercommittee and Crown and Sugar.


BONUS Race- Sunday, April 28

Steve Sexton Mile Stakes – Race 7 at Lone Star Park - Post Time 6:40 PM Eastern


Minister of Soul will get slight preference among four horses I feel have the bulk of the probability to win this year's Steve Sexton Mile Stakes. Disregarding his two career starts on grass as irrelevant, Minster of Soul has a six-for11 record on dirt, including four wins last year and two in 2019 to date. Primarily based at Turf Paradise in Arizona, the gelding has won at Lone Star Park, Albuquerque Downs and Turf Paradise. Minister of Soul earned his biggest wins this year, taking the Hank Mills, Sr. Stakes in January with a career-best 114 Equibase figure effort, then following that up with an easy three length win in the Phoenix Gold Cup Stakes. Although he has never run around two turns as he is doing in the Steve Sexton Mile, Minister of Soul is bred to run as well or better at the distance as he's done sprinting, because according to a STATS Race Lens pedigree search, his dam has produced multiple dirt route winners Image of Joplin ($283K earned) and Raised a Secret ($492K earned). With a sharp five furlong workout over the track on April 21 since shipping in from Arizona, another positive factor for Minister of Soul is that he gets the services of top jockey Lindey Wade as well. Wade's record on the Texas circuit of Lone Star and Sam Houston (via a STATS Race Lens query) is excellent, with 15 wins in 58 races in the past year and a +33% profit on win bets on those starters. As such, I think Minister of Soul can post the mild upset to win this race.


Mocito Rojo loves to win races, evidenced by a 13-for-21 overall record including a 12-for-16 record on dirt. Mocito Rojo shows up and gives his best nearly every time he runs as he has won or been beaten less than a length in his last seven races including four stakes. The best of those came when winning the Delta Mile Stakes at this distance in November with a career-best 115 figure which could make him very tough to beat in this race if repeated. Jockey Filemon Rodriguez has been aboard for 12 of Mocito Rojo's 13 wins and certainly has shown an affinity for getting the horse to run his best, which makes Mocito Rojo a definite win contender in the Steve Sexton Mile.


King Abner is an excellent dirt miler, having won twice and coming up a half-length short of victory the other time. He has won five of 15 races on dirt and his most recent race was the best of his career. In the Tiznow Stakes last month at Santa Anita, King Abner pressed the pacesetter for most of the race, took over to lead by a head with an eighth of a mile to go and was beaten just a half-length on the wire, earning a 118 figure. The horse which beat him, Edwards Going Left, had earned over a half-million dollars going in and was a multiple stakes winner so King Abner's runner-up effort was no disgrace. Jockey Tyler Baze comes in from California to ride the gelding, who has excellent tactical speed and who may find himself just behind the stretching out

Minister of Soul in the early stages. From there, he has every right to run well enough to win.


Title Ready may not possess the record of success of the other three and as a matter of fact has more runner-up finishes (five) than wins (three) in his career. Still, Title Ready can win the race if he repeats or improves upon his most recent effort when second, beaten three-quarters of a length, in the Stymie Stakes at Aqueduct. That effort earned a career-best 113 figure and as a four year old Title Ready may not have run his best race yet. Likely to be sent to post as the favorite, Title Ready may not offer the return for a win bet any of the other three win contenders might offer, but as he has been first or second combined in eight of 16 races, he must be respected when considering exacta wagers in this race.



Win bets: Minister of Soul to win at odds of 3 to 1 or more

Mocito Rojo 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.


Exacta: Box Minister of Soul, Mocito Rojo, King Abner and Title Ready.


Trifecta: Box Minister of Soul, Mocito Rojo, King Abner and Title Ready.


Thursday, 25 April 2019 13:12

Troubled Trips & Value

Past the Wire    Tracking Tips Logo


April 25th, 2019

Troubled Trips & Value

By: Jonathan Stettin


Most of us watch a lot of races over the course of a week.

The normal tendency when watching races or even replays is to watch either the horse you bet on or the leader. We also tend to watch a horse making a move or one the track announcer brings to our attention. When looking for troubled trips, you have to train yourself to watch all the horses in the race and see things that might not be the focal point of most other spectators. Sure the running lines will identify some troubled trips for you, but those are the ones everyone will know about. To gain an advantage or edge it helps to see some that are

“for your eyes only.”

There are many different types of troubled trips. Some result from bad racing luck, post position, poor rider decisions, pace, and all sorts of other intangibles. Sometimes something can happen right in front of a horse that causes them to check and lose either ground, momentum or both. The troubled trips identified in past performances usually result in underlays so it is important to understand not all troubled trips are automatically a playback and actually some may offer better value betting against.

In my opinion, a troubled trip is one that prevented a horse from running better than they would have sans the trouble. It may be they checked, were blocked, were hemmed in by a rider or horse, went wide or were carried wide, lost ground or momentum, or were on the worst part of the track. Sometimes they can be prevented and sometimes they can’t. A horse can also have trouble, and it may not have been enough to have an impact on how they ran. Experience will show you the difference over time. There is no shortcut.

When a horse returns from a troubled trip, you have to handicap the race they are running back in using the troubled trip to help you gauge how the horse would have run without the trouble. Then you need to look at the new race as if the horse ran as you envision they would have. You have to look at the conditions and class as well as the pace in the new race. Just because we upgrade a horse because of trouble in their last start, doesn’t mean we like that horse in this field and under these circumstances today. Once again, there are no shortcuts.

Along those very same lines there will be times you see a horse get blocked, steadied or trapped and know they would have won that day and should win the race they are in today. Personally, I love when that happens, especially if it is a horse I spotted whose trouble does not appear in the past performances. I try and share this type of information and how to spot it for yourself through my Tracking Trips service. You can learn more about that here or on the link above.

When handicapping a race and you see a horse coming off a troubled trip, or even one that ran with or against a true bias, I would suggest handicapping the race as if you didn’t know that first. Once done, I would then factor in what you know and upgrade or downgrade the horse accordingly.

“Betting a horse off a troubled trip can be one of the best bets at the track, knowing which ones to bet and which ones to pass is key.”

In the end, it comes down to doing your homework and learning how to use the troubled trip as a tool to help you bet or bet against. If a horse off a troubled trip that should win today takes more money than normal because of the trouble, a lot of people will bet against claiming there is no value in that horse. I don’t believe that. I never have. I believe there is no value betting a loser or horse you don’t like to win because of the price. The Sport of Kings offers many wagering opportunities that allow us to create value in most circumstances.

Value can mean different things to different people. Value is not simply high or long odds. Most people believe 10-1 is great value. You win $100 from just a $10 bet. If the horse has almost no shot and only really stands about a one in 20 chance or even higher of winning the race then there’s no value in betting on it. I see this mistake often, and even when lost referred to as a good value albeit a losing wager.

Along those same lines, most will say even money is never a good value. A lot of or at least some of those people bet on sports where even money, actually a little less, is considered fair. Interesting thought process and I get there are only two teams against multiple horses. To understand value you have to look at it like this. If the horse at even money is likely to win this race 99 out of a 100 times they run it; then even money is pretty fair value isn’t it?

“Value is not all price, it’s price against the horse's probability to win that given race.”

To me the following scenarios are good value;

If a horse goes off longer than expected or they should based on their ability and probability to win. (an overlay)

If a horse offers a good or better than fair return on investment.

If a horse is getting overlooked because of another hot horse, or some streak or statistic that means little on this day in this race.

Sure there are other situations, but you should get the picture.

Betting good value is as important as anything at the races. It’s up there with money management, ticket structure, and good old handicapping. It is essential for not only beating this very tough skill game but also for survival in it without a limitless well.

We will be talking about all this and more relative to the Kentucky Derby and Derby Day’s late pick 4 on our annual Derby Webinar brought to you by AmWager. To join and “be with us” check out the link here….