Friday, 05 April 2019 12:42

The Derby Horse

Past the Wire     Tracking Tips Logo


April 5th, 2019

The Derby Horse

By: Jonathan Stettin


On Saturday the Wood Memorial, Blue Grass, and Santa Anita Derby will be run. Kentucky Derby points will be had, and there will be a more focused picture of who the favorite will be on the first Saturday in May. We will still have the Arkansas Derby and Lexington to go, but we should have a good idea where most of the contenders are at.

Many have already zoned in on a horse or two they like in the Run for the Roses. Some may have even made an advance wager or two. While I do have three horses on my radar, Tacitus, Code of Honor, and Bourbon War, I have many more on my pretender list.

I have some things I like to see, and that I look for when scouting a Derby horse.

First I like a horse that has shown raw ability. I like to have seen a quality race around two turns, and I am not all that concerned with the competition. These three year olds fluctuate this time of year, so I look more at the race than the field depth.

I will almost always make note of a horse that showed some agility like zigging in and out and between horses. That’s a big positive for me, and Animal Kingdom became my top choice when he won because of that at Turfway Park on a synthetic track. I look at the individual race and horse.

Courage is also high on my list. Very high. I like a horse that is not afraid or hesitant to go through a hole or charge up the rail a la Tacitus in the Tampa Bay Derby.

Horses who ran decent or better against a bias is a good indicator for me. Code of Honor and Bourbon War both made up ground against a lone speed in Maximum Security who was able to set a very slow pace. He figured to draw off after a half in 48 plus; the other two had better set ups for the big dance in my opinion.

Horses I tend to downgrade are horses coming off races like Maximum Security ran. He got a lot of hype and attention, but as aforementioned he set a slow pace. He had a maiden chasing him. The race looks better than it was and will decrease his value come Derby Day. I’ll downgrade any horse who rode a true bias or pace advantage to victory.

I don’t like hiccups leading up to the Kentucky Derby. Missed races or workouts are a negative for me. I’d have to really be impressed with one to overlook that.

Steady and gradual improvement means more to me than big jumps in figures. I look for a horse who will peak, not who has peaked.

Rules were made to be broken. I pay little attention to dosage, Beyers, or Apollo curses. If the horse I land on comes from Dubai where you can’t win from so be it. I am not phased on any given Saturday, especially if the price is right. Hey, I bet Thunder Snow in the Derby knowing he had a big race in him. Wrong race but he had it in him for sure.

This is a fun time of year in the Sport of Kings. We have a lot of homework to do. The best opinion is your own. Go with it. Listen to some sharp ones but let yours be the sharpest.


Friday, 29 March 2019 12:34

As May Approaches

Past the Wire     Tracking Tips Logo


March 29, 2019

As May Approaches

By: Jonathan Stettin


This is usually the time of year racing fans, and bettors alike are filled with excitement as the first Saturday in May is approaching fast. The top three-year-olds are sorting themselves out in the Kentucky Derby preps, and we get to hone in on who we think are the contenders, pretenders, and maybe even a leading candidate. As if that was not enough, the gals are going through the same with most hoping for a shot at the Kentucky Oaks on the Friday before the Derby.

This year is a little different, but for the most part, we shall ignore that. The build-up is suffering through some distractions due to the state of racing and all the issues surrounding it magnified by what is going on in California. The racing industry is continuing to erase any hope they can govern themselves, and that different venues and jurisdictions can cooperate with one another. There was never a more desperate time for a centralized governing body led by a commission made up of people from all areas of the sport including but of course not limited to bettors. Remember the Horse Racing Integrity Act is floating around again, so we are on the government radar, and we already saw greyhound racing banned in Florida this year.

Now back to Derby season. There was a video floating around social media the other day showing Hidden Scroll being taken to the gate and then removed a few times. Most people who watched it and commented did not like what they saw and questioned what was going on. I saw comments like jittery and nervous and questions about the small amount of lather in his neck. I’d like to use this as an example of why right or wrong you have to trust your own eyes. I liked what I saw — a lot. I’m not saying he is my Florida Derby or Kentucky Derby choice, but what I saw will bolster my opinion of his chances not detract from them.

I know Bill Mott and how he trains and the type of horseman he is. I believe I know exactly what he was doing and why and have no need or desire to ask.

We all saw Hidden Scroll in the Fountain of Youth. He was green and keen and set some fast splits after rushing to the top following a less than ideal getaway. Those of us who closely follow the sport know he was being trained behind horses in the morning following that race to get him to relax and finish. What those who watched saw at the gate was more schooling. The lather was not enough for concern especially given the Florida heat and humidity. A horse equates going to the gate with charging out of it. Some, especially aggressive ones, as we know Hidden Scroll is will get anxious as they approach it. That’s what I saw. Hidden Scroll got a bit hot and keen as he neared the gate and as he was backed in and out of it a few times before being taken back to the barn.

What ideally follows is a horseless likely to get worked up going to the gate in the future as now they are not thinking automatic charge. They can take it more in stride, and gate issues become less likely. This is a young lightly raced and inexperienced horse on the Derby trail. He was being taught and schooled. Again I liked what I saw and won’t be surprised if he breaks better and is more willing to settle. He’s learning. Some can’t or just never do, but we do not know that about him yet, and it was interesting for me to watch a master like Mott at work with a colt like this.

This year is especially exciting for me. If they ran for the roses tomorrow, I do not know who the favorite would be, or if they would be less than maybe 5 or 6-1. That means we could be looking at a wide-open affair with great wagering odds and opportunities across the Derby board. This after our fair share of some easily predictable and “in form” winners over the past few years with horses like California Chrome, American Pharoah, and Justify.

In years like this, I can’t help but think one of those old Kentucky Derby rules might go down in flames. Maybe we get a winner from Dubai, Europe, Japan, or something odd like that. There is still time for someone to emerge as a solid choice, but it is shortening fast. Stay tuned.


Pan American Stakes - Race 13 at Gulfstream Park - Post Time 6 PM Eastern


Focus Group actually looks like a standout, or at the least a key in exotic wagers and a great win bet, if he goes to post anywhere near his 4 to 1 starting odds. I nearly always toss the race that led to a long layoff so although his 11th to 3rd rallying finish in the Grade 1 Canadian International in October was good, I’ll look back to his two efforts before that so she what he’s capable of, and that’s a lot. Last July at Saratoga at 11 furlongs on turf, Focus Group rallied from 7th of 8 early to win by ¾ of a length then he followed that up with a win in the 13 furlong (1 5/8 mile) John’s Call Stakes at Saratoga in August, rallying from last of nine to get up by a nose. He always cuts is close when he wins but he’s got a powerful kick and in this field he can blow by the field. He’s won three of six since adding blinkers and although he’s been away for five and one-half months, at this marathon 12 furlong trip that’s not an issue, particularly for the Brown barn which wins with a STRONG 33% of its horses coming back from layoffs like this one.


Canessar, Melmich, Soglio and Bigger Picture are the other four contenders, with some shot to win and a big shot to run 2nd or 3rd. Canessar was sent off at 3 to 1 in the McKnight in January and had a very troubled trip but he was 2nd in two straight marathons, both graded stakes, prior to that. Melmich rallied fast from 9th to 2nd in the Mac Diarmida four weeks ago and Castellano rides back so he could be putting in a big late run again. Maker trains both Soglio and Bigger Picture and Maker’s starters finished 1st and 3rd in the Mac Diarmida plus Soglio just missed in the stakes race at two miles in December on the course while Bigger Picture won a grade 3 stakes at this 12 furlong turf trip in his most recent start.


Win Bets: Focus Group to win at odds of 2 to 1 or more.


Exacta and Trifecta: Focus Group over Canessar, Melmich, Soglio and Bigger Picture.

For about half the base amount of the exacta above (for example $2 compared to $5), play an exacta consisting of Canessar, Melmich, Soglio and Bigger Picture over Focus Group.



Focus Group in Race 13 with Hidden Scroll, Harvey Wallbanger, Bourbon War, Everfast, Bodexpress and Code of Honor in Race 14.


Focus Group, Canessar, Melmich, Soglio and Bigger Picture in Race 13 with Bourbon War in Race 14.


Optionally, Focus Group, Canessar, Melmich, Soglio and Bigger Picture in Race 13 with Hidden Scroll, Harvey Wallbanger, Bourbon War, Everfast, Bodexpress and Code of Honor in Race 14.


Florida Derby - Race 14 at Gulfstream Park - Post Time 6:36 PM Eastern


Bourbon War makes his third start as a three year old and based on his pattern of improvement appears to be sitting on the best race of his career. Off an impressive maiden win last fall around one turn, Bourbon War was asked to step up his game tremendously when entered in the Remsen Stakes and checked in fourth of nine while never threatening to win. Returning in mid-January as a much more mature horse and debuting around two-turns without a prep race, Bourbon War won by the same two and one-quarter length margin as he had in his debut, but with a then career-best Equibase Speed Figure of 107. Six weeks later in the Fountain of Youth, Bourbon War improved again, this time earning a 110 figure while rallying from ninth in the opening quarter mile to second at the wire, beaten three-quarters of a length by Code of Honor and making up nearly four lengths on that rival in the last eighth of a mile. As a son of Tapit, who produced 2014 Florida Derby winner Constitution, Bourbon War should run even better at this nine furlong trip and with more improvement in his Equibase Speed Figure expected, may be very tough to beat in this race.


Code of Honor won in his debut last summer then, after stumbling at the start, rallied from 10th to second in the Champagne Stakes in the fall. Rested three months, Code of Honor returned to finish a non-threatening fourth in the Mucho Macho Man Stakes in January. Trainer McGaughey took the blame for that poor effort and stated between that race and the Fountain of Youth he worked Code of Honor very hard, resulting in a rebound of the first order when the colt won at odds of 9 to 1. Code of Honor earned a 111 figure in that race, which was not only a career-best but the highest last race figure in this field. As he is making his third start off the three month layoff, better is certainly possible. As such, Code of Honor deserves a lot of respect when considering who can win this year's Florida Derby.


Bodexpress will likely go to post at high odds, opening at 30 to 1, which in my opinion will be unjustified because he's got a decent shot to be a contender in the Florida Derby. Horses don't often earn the first wins of their careers in graded stakes as three year olds but it's not unheard of either, and in recent "Road to the Derby" races horses have won following their maiden wins. Bodexpress ran the best race of his career last month when second, beaten a neck, in a seven furlong sprint. The 103 figure was a bit shy of the 111 and 110 figures earned by the top two contenders in this race, but with improvement, his effort and figure could be in that range and so he must be given a long look as another upset possibility in a month where there have been so many in Derby prep races. Additionally, as a son of Bodemeister, who produced 2017 Florida Derby winner Always Dreaming, Bodexpress is bred to go the distance. Additionally, if (as it appears) stretching out Hard Belle and Maximum Security go for the lead and if Hidden Scroll runs as he did in the Fountain of Youth where he set a sizzling early pace, Bodexpress could be passing many, if not all of the field, in the late stages.


Harvey Wallbanger posted the 29 to 1 upset in the Holy Bull Stakes over the track in February and has waited for this race ever since, passing the Fountain of Youth while continuing to train exceptionally well in the morning. His most recent workout on March 23 was the best of 100 on the day for the distance of four furlongs, indicating he's in peak form. The Holy Bull effort earned him a career-best 104 figure which would be competitive with the main contenders if he improves on it and opening at 15 to 1 he’s very playable. Additionally, Harvey Wallbanger rallied from ninth in the Holy Bull and if a hot early pace scenario comes to pass in this race he is another who could be strongly rallying in the stretch.


As for Hidden Scroll, it may have been the case he was pushed by another horse (Gladiator King, who since won the Hutcheson Stakes) and forced to run way too fast in the early stages before fading to fourth as the favorite in the Fountain of Youth. It could be just as likely he has yet to learn to relax and is a need-the-lead type. With Hard Belle and Maximum Security both stretching out from sprints and both likely to be running faster-than-average in the early stages while on or very close to the front, I'm taking a stand Hidden Scroll will get tired from either trying to go with those two or chasing a hot pace and I therefore I don't consider him a contender to win this race.


I also want to throw in Everfast, Hidden Scroll and Maximum Security in the second position on exacta tickets particularly so not to be kicking myself later of Bodexpress or Harvey Wallbanger happens to win.



Win Bets: Bourbon War to win at odds of 2 to 1.

For a smaller amount (perhaps just a token $2 or $5) Bodexpress to win and place at 6 to 1 or higher, and Harvey Wallbanger to win and place at 6 to 1 or higher.


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


Exacta: Harvey Wallbanger, Bourbon War, Bodexpress and Code of Honor over Harvey Wallbanger, Bourbon War, Bodexpress, Code of Honor, Everfast, Hidden Scroll and Maximum Security.



San Carlos Stakes – Race 6 at Santa Anita - Post Time 6:58 PM Eastern


Solid Wager shops back into the top Miller barn after a foray to New York where he won the similar Toboggan Stakes at this seven furlong trip, beating a very good horse in Skyler’s Scramjet, followed by a fine 2nd in the mud at a mile, which is just a bit farther than he wants to run. He’s six for seven at this distance including a very sharp win in the Cary Grant Stakes last fall, with a career best 120 Equibase figure which, if repeated, puts these to shame. Miller rarely uses Pedroza but is 4 for 10 at SA this year and last when he does and the gelding fires big shots off short rests like the one he’s coming back from today, plus gets a great outside post in a field of seven to settle in third or fourth early behind likely leader Ax Man and St. Joe Bay.


Although not nearly as probable to win, Touching Rainbows has a decent shot to succeed as well, owing to a very strong 7 for 12 record on dirt including a pair of wins at this trip. Five of his seven wins came here at SA including his most recent at the end of January with a 111 figure. That effort if repeated doesn’t beat Solid Wager’s best if he repeats that, but Touching Rainbows earned a career-best 116 figure last April off a layoff and here at SA to posting the mild upset isn’t completely out of the question.


Ax Man is the only one of the three Baffert entrants who could have a say in the outcome here, with a seven furlong win in February, his most recent start, in a classified allowance which was also his first start versus older horses. He won a restricted stakes last May on Preakness weekend but there’s nothing about him, except for the barn he calls home, which truly justifies favoritism in this race as is suggested by his 5 to 2 starting odds. Similarly, Kanthaka opens at 3 to 1 and although he did win the Barrera Stakes over the track that was last May and it was against three year olds only. He ran 2nd to one of the best sprinters in the world in Roy H two months ago in the G2 Palos Verdes and he’s three-for-four at this trip so he must be respected but again he would need to run a new career best and Solid Wager would need to run poorly for Kanthaka to win. St. Joe Bay missed by a head at 42 to 1 in last year’s San Carlos off a decent effort and although he was 5th and not a threat in the Palos Verdes when last seen he’s been freshened and ran big off a layoff prior to that.



Win bets: Solid Wager to win at 7 to 5 or more.

For a smaller amount, Touching Rainbows to win at 5 to 2 or higher.

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


Exacta: Solid Wager and Touching Rainbows over Solid Wager, Touching Rainbows, Ax Man, Kanthaka and St. Joe Bay,


Santa Ana Stakes- Race 7 at Santa Anita - Post Time 7:28 PM Eastern


India Mantuana is a grade 3 stakes winner in a grade 3 stakes, having won the Red Carpet Handicap last fall on the Del Mar turf. That was a mile and three-eighths race, the same distance she won at two races prior to that last August. In both races, she led from start to finish and in this race unless Stradella Road and Franco don't go for the lead from the start or if India Mantuana and Desormeaux get to the front in the first few yards over Stradella Road, India Mantuana is likely to have the early lead all to herself. Considering those two wins at 11 furlongs earned her 106 and 104 Equibase figures, she's going to be tough to beat from there and opening at 10/1 she gets top billing.


If we're willing to excuse the fact Elysea's World needed her last start, on 2/23, following four and one-half months off, she's a strong contender here. First or second in 11 of 23 career starts, all on turf, she's also a multiple winner at this Grade 3 stakes level, most recently back-to-back last July and September. She was overmatched and that's why she finished 8th of 9 in the G1 E P Taylor Stakes in October, then was moved from Brown to Baltas, from New York to California, and given the aforementioned time off. In the comeback on 2/23 at a mile she rallied from last of nine to sixth, beaten just a length or so for 3rd. She should move forward nicely 2nd off the layoff and her six furlong workout on 3/17 shows she's fit and ready to run her best.


Tell Me More is a bit below the top two contenders both on the level of class (having never run in a stakes) and speed, as the 102 and 101 recent figures not near the 106 figures India Mantuana and Elysea's World have earned. However, she's been first or second in five of her last six races, all on turf, with the best of those coming at 9 furlongs when last seen in December. She's bred in spades to get the 10 furlong trip on both sides of her family tree and she opens at 10/1 so she has some potential to post the upset win.



Win bets: Indian Mantuana to win at odds of 5 to 2 or more.

For a smaller amount, Tell Me More to win at odds of 4 to 1 or more.

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

Exactas: India Mantuana, Elysea’s World and Tell Me More over ALL.


Friday, 22 March 2019 12:59


Past the Wire     Tracking Tips Logo


March 22, 2019


By: Jonathan Stettin


Santa Anita, and we have to at least guess other Stronach Group tracks in the future, are going to a new whip or riding crop rule. A padded crop will only be allowed for corrective measures. This is something we can live with although it goes beyond other jurisdictions that limit how many times a horse can be hit, and where on their bodies.

Let’s start with this. Riding crops, or “whips” should not hurt or cause injury. It is a slight momentary attention getter on a large and powerful animal. Have they been misused, overused and even caused an injury on occasion? Yes. Sure, but what has not been misused at some time or another.

The racing industry as a whole, cannot agree on much lately. That said, I do not know many people in the game who do not already feel stewards have way too much discretion and subjectivity already. Furthermore, it is the widespread opinion of most of whom I feel have good opinions on this sport, that more often than not stewards get it wrong. Southern California stewards probably are the front runners in the getting it wrong category, but there is a lot of competition.

Gone are the days of seeing an inquiry go up, watching the head-on view, and pretty much knowing what would happen next. Good luck with that. Today if an inquiry goes up involving me, I cringe. This is about to get worse.

Along with the new riding crop rule comes a whole new area for bettors, riders, owners, and trainers to get hosed. It is very likely that Santa Anita will adopt a policy that if the stewards feel, feel being the key word here, that a crop was used to help a horse win, as opposed to just for corrective measures they can disqualify that horse. Really! Seriously? Neither of those words was my first or second choice. There was a string of 5 other words that make up an old Brooklyn phrase I often use when I hear something like this, but that was shall we say inappropriate for here. Well not really. It would have been very appropriate.

Stewards have demonstrated on many occasions they can’t tell what did or did not affect the outcome of a race or a better placing. Remember Bayern? The Wicked North? Allemeuse? They fail even to grasp the concept that things that happen when horses leave the gate can affect the outcome of a race. Now they may be able to disqualify a horse because the jockey used the crop to help them win. Really? Doesn’t using the crop to correct a horse help them win? I guess not if you are a steward.

If this goes forward as it seems it will, it will be even more demonstrative of how dysfunctional this industry has become. I have been writing for years how we need less subjectivity and a competent central governing body. This is true now more than ever. Really.

I feel bad for the bettors and connections in the future who will get hosed by this policy. Remember there are two kinds of bettors, those who have been hosed by a bad call, and those who will be hosed by a bad call. Really.



Cicada Stakes - Race 8 at Aqueduct - Post Time 5:37 PM Eastern


Fangirl won a race that was a KEY Race among Key Races, as the second, third and fourth horses ALL won their next starts, and with the fifth horse improving to finish second in her next start. Fangirl earned a 92 Equibase figure for that maiden win, which is BETTER than six of the other seven earned breaking their maidens and which is tied with Miss Imperial for her maiden score in November, also in her 2nd career start like Fangirl. One of the differences between the two fillies is Miss Imperial opens at 5 to 2 while Fangirl opens at 6 to 1 because Miss Imperial won again following her maiden win then finished 2nd in the Ruthless Stakes at the end of January. But, if you look at it another way, Fangirl has every bit as much of a chance to win two in a row as Miss Imperial did in her 2nd start, but is better odds. Although Fangirl led every step of the way in her maiden win on 1/19, she may not be a need-the-lead type with potentially faster “early” horses Forgotten Hero (who was bumped and pinched at the start last out but who led from start to finish in one of her two wins and nearly the same way in her second win) and Stonesintheroad (who led start to finish in her last two wins). With Lezcano riding back and with improving to do in her 3rd career start, Fangirl appears a solid win contender and a key to profit.


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


Exactas: Box Fangirl and Miss Imperial.



Race 11 at Gulfstream Park - Post Time 5:40 PM Eastern


I’m tackling this race because I think there’s a standout in the 12th race, the Hutcheson Stakes (and it’s not the favorite). Apreciado and Grand Journey get slight preference in a race in which none of the eight would be much of a surprise. Apreciado was 10th with a ¼ mile to go last month at a mile on this turf course, still 8th with an eighth of a mile to go, but rallied strongly to draw off by nearly 2 lengths. Claimed out of that race by Maker, the gelding has a BIG shot to win his 2nd in a row particularly because of the strength of Maker’s claiming ability and ability to spot his new claims. Over the last 2 years, Maker has won with 17% (of a LOT) of horse first off the claim and in a turf route, and he catches Apreciado on an improving pattern to add to those numbers, getting Reylu Gutierrez in from New York to ride, with a 4 for 7 record for Maker in the last year. Grand Journey has done nothing wrong in three career turf races (from four starts), winning one and finishing 2nd in the other, moved up to first last time out at the end of January via a disqualification and likely the winner if not carried out by the original winner. He 96 Equibase figure is 2nd best in the field, best this year and the best (99) was earned by Appealing Briefs last October, and he’s suspect coming back from 5 ½ months off in a turf route without a race under his belt and for a trainer who is just 2 for 18 with horses coming back from 2 to 6 months in turf routes over the last two years. Grand Journey gets the ground saving rail and has every right to be up in time or to be batting with the fast closing Apreciado on the wire.



Win Bets: Apreciado and Grand Journey to win at 5 to 2 or more.


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


Doubles: Apreciado and Grand Journey in Race 11 with In the Loop in Race 12



Hutcheson Stakes - Race 12 at Gulfstream Park - Post Time 6:10 PM Eastern


In the Loop stands out here in spite of opening as the third choice at 3/1. Favorite Federal Case has never run six furlongs and adds blinkers, both questionable moves for a horse who was seventh of nine with no excuse in the Holy Bull last month, while Topper T is winless since last August, in a race for Iowa Breds only at Prairie Meadows. In the Loop won his only start, one month ago, over the track and at this basic six furlong trop. The 93 Equibase figure is one point above Federal Case’s winning figure from one before the Holy Bull (in December) and there are MANY reasons to expect improvement on it in the colt’s second career start.



Win bets: In the Loop to win at 3 to 2 or more.



Louisiana Derby - Race 13 at Fair Grounds - Post Time 6:13 PM Eastern


I’m including this because many people will be watching, but we must note Fair Grounds is not available for betting on Amwager. My detailed analysis of this race can be found at as it is the Weekly Feature Race.

Win contenders:


Limonite (win, place and show contender at high odds)

Country House

War of Will



Betting Strategies:

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

Limonite to win, place (and possibly show) at odds of 6 to 1 or more. (for a smaller amount than on Sueno).

Country House to win at odds of 3 to 1 or more.


Exactas: Sueno over ALL and then the opposite which is ALL over Sueno (4).

Box Sueno, Limonite, War of Will, Country House and Spinoff.



Sunday, March 24



Sunland Park Oaks - Race 9 at Sunland Park - Post Time 6:27 PM Eastern


I’d be very surprised if neither Victim of Love or Bellafina won this race, and rumor has it Bellafina will scratch so in that case Victim of Love may be a low odds overlay because Chasing Yesterday will be BADLY overbet. Victim of Love is exceptionally well bred and that is why she cost $160K at auction in the fall of 2017 as a yearling. She’s a full sister to Benner Island, a multiple stakes winner, and she’s a half-sister to High North, also a stakes winner, with those two siblings combined having earned three-quarters of a million. Victim of Love won in her 2nd career start in December but was disqualified then romped by nearly 12 lengths on 1/22 before winning the local prep for this race, the Island Fashion Stakes on 2/24. Her Equibase figure of 73 wasn’t great but she has way more in the tank to show us. As for Chasing Yesterday, there is a lot of hype based on her winning three stakes in a row to end her 2 year old campaign but she beat nothing special in all three and she’s been off nearly four months, which was part of the downfall last weekend Improbable and Game Winner.


Win bets: Victim of Love at odds of 3 to 2 or more.

If Bellafina runs, play an exacta box of Victim of Love and Bellafina.


Exactas: Victim of Love over Backflash, K P Slickem, Chasing Yesterday and Enlisting.



Sunland Park Derby - Race 11 at Sunland Park - Post Time 7:30 PM Eastern


Wicked Indeed gets preference over another overbet Baffert starter in Mucho Gusto. Wicked Indeed had a race over the track when second to Hustle Up last month in the Mine That Bird Derby, a race in which Hustle Up was allowed an easy lead and coasted around the track in front. With Anothertwistafate and Diamond Blitz in the race, Wicked Indeed can make up the length he lost by last month, PARTICULARLY at the mile and 1/8 trip he’s running for the first time as a son of Tapit. Asmussen saddled the upset winner in one of the two divisions of the Rebel last weekend and is loaded to do the same here, as Wicked Indeed is not only a son of Tapit but he’s out of the mare that produced last year’s 9 furlong Gazelle Stakes winner My Miss Lilly.


Mucho Gusto is a win contender but will go to post much lower than his 8/5 starting odds. He won the Robert B. Lewis in the slop in a five horse field and the runner-up (Gunmetal Gray) finished a bad fourth in the Rebel while third place Lewis finisher Easy Shot checked in a bad fifth in the Rebel. Before the Lewis, on a fast track, Mucho Gusto hat his had handed to him by Improbable, who won by 5, so it remains to be seen if he’s a true Derby type but in this field he must be used on any and all tickets played.


Cutting Humor ships in for Pletcher and Johnny V rides so must be given a long look opening at 8/1. The colt showed talent in his last two starts of 2018 when 3rd behind eventual stakes placed Plus Que Parfait, then he won rather easily before taking two months off. In his three year old debut he finished 2nd then in the Southwest he was four wide when rallying early from 6th to get within a neck before fading badly. I think he deserves a look here if he repeats any of his three efforts before the Southwest.



Win bets: Wicked Indeed at odds of 5 to 2 or more.

Cutting Humor at 4 to 1 or more and for a smaller amount than on Wicked Indeed.


Exactas: Box Wicked Indeed, Mucho Gusto and Cutting Humor.

Tuesday, 19 March 2019 15:01


Past the Wire     Tracking Tips Logo


March 19, 2019


By: Jonathan Stettin


There are so many factors that go into being a successful horseplayer. Handicapping is obviously a significant part and of the fundamentals but there are others. Ticket structure, money management, patience and discipline all come to mind. Each of these also has many facets to them which is why this is such a tough, but potentially rewarding game to play.

The computer models of the syndicates focus on analyzing a lot of data and coming up with horses that have what they calculate as a better chance to win then their odds will reflect. That is a good angle and a machine will almost always be able to analyze more information faster than a human. There are however angles where a human has an advantage over a computer. We can think outside the box. I have yet to see a computer capable of that.

When Code of Honor won the Fountain of Youth it rewarded me for capitalizing on an angle I have followed for years, very successfully I might add. Shug McGaughey lets his horses dictate where to run, especially at the stakes level, and backs off if they do so much as get a hiccup. When he ran Code of Honor back in the Fountain of Youth off a poor three-year-old debut, I knew the horse would go past his two-year-old races. If that were the case, he’d win. Computers would not know that, nor would many bettors, thus he went off a generous 9-1 as he drifted up in price late.

That type of angle comes with experience. It can’t be taught. There are however some angles that can be taught. The one I will discuss here today can indeed be learned.

Horses often run in form cycles. These cycles often repeat, and that results in recognizable patterns. Sheets, or more specifically Thorough-Graph, which I use, or Ragozins, which I also used for many years, make it easier to spot patterns and there is an art to reading them. If you think it is just who has the lowest number you are probably wasting your time with them.

Giant Expectations, the favorite in last Saturday’s Essex Handicap at Oaklawn was a bet against, a horse you could leave off multi-race tickets as a favorite even though the sheets, Beyers, and most any other speed figure said he was one of, if not the fastest horses in the race. He was also the class of the field. This is an advantage or edge for any player but a huge one for a player going after a pick 4, or 5, of any multi-race wager.

Before I explain why let me illustrate something about athletics that will make this easier to digest, and also to recognize going forward.

Let’s say you are a runner that can run a great 5-mile race. Now let us say you take a short or even a long break to freshen up, recover from an injury or hard race, or almost for any reason. You come back fresh and ready to go and run a strong effort. Next out will you run better with the race under your belt or will you be tired and maybe a bit stiff and sore because of it? If so then perhaps next time you won’t run as good but by your next one after that, or third since your break you will be back at full steam. If I were betting on you, I would want to know that and with horses, we often can.

Giant Expectations showed in his form that he almost surely would regress off his first race back from a layoff. He had just about every time previously in his past performances, yet he was the favorite. This shows us a flaw in many handicappers approach; they emphasize more on the last race than overall form and patterns — big mistake. Once you got into it, you could see that Giant Expectations probably could not win if he regressed. This made him a favorite you could toss. This also meant if you were right you hand a good chance of catching a nice price in the race. Rated R Superstar won the Essex, and paid $31.20. The 50-cent pick 4 was over $1,800 and the pick 5 over $4,800. Yes, you had to come up with Rated R Superstar, but no you didn’t have to use the favorite.

Some horses go forward second off the lay-off, and some go backward. Knowing and recognizing this can be a significant edge against payers not doing their homework or overemphasizing the last race. You’ll beat them almost every time if you don’t allow yourself to fall into that trap and come prepared.

Angles, know the ones that work and pay off for you. They are out there, and they are an edge.


Friday, 15 March 2019 12:09

Key Races & Bets for Saturday, March 16


Harrison E. Johnson Memorial Stakes - Race 5 at Laurel - Post Time 3:12 PM Eastern


Unbridled Juan brings his “A” game every time, even last month when third in the similar John B. Campbell Stakes. He made a big move on the turn to go from fourth to lead with an eighth of a mile to go and fought to the wire, missing the win by a pair of necks. He won back to back stakes last fall including the identical Richard W. Small Stakes with a 106 Equibase figure, the same as he earned last month, and perhaps just repeating that last effort may be good enough to win.


Cordmaker and Twisted Tom are the other two who can win, with Cordmaker the better win bet if anywhere near his 5 to 1 starting odds. Overmatched and squeezed back to 14th and last in the General George Stakes last month, Cordmaker stretches out from seven furlongs to two turns for the first time on dirt in his career but as a son of Curlin should have no problem with the distance. He won the Jennings Stakes over the track before the General George, with a career best 105 Equibase Figure, and he’s a four year old so has improving to do off that effort and dropping from graded to non-graded stakes. Twisted Tom ships in from New York for Mott and although he’s run in stakes for NY breds only for the last 18 months he did win a pair of stakes at Laurel as a three year old in the spring of 2017 including the Tesio Stakes at this nine furlong trip. His nose loss in the Alex M. Robb Stakes in December earned a career best 114 figure and then he ran well for third to earn a 107 figure around one turn, so stretching out to nine furlongs, the distance of three of his seven career wins, bodes well for his chances here.


I’m taking a stand against Pletcher’s Bonus Points, winner of last months’ John B. Campbell, as he got a 46.6 and 110.6 pace set up he will not see today, negating his late run.



Win Bets: Unbridled Juan to win at odds of 2 to 1 or more.

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


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


Exactas: Box Twisted Tom, Unbridled Juan and Cordmaker.



Pick 3:

Race 5 - Twisted Tom, Unbridled Juan and Cordmaker.

Race 6 – Bobby G and Dynamax Prime.

Race 7 – Las Setas.


Also consider using “ALL” in race 6, since we are singling in race 7, taking advantage of a potentially wide open race.



Race 6 at Laurel - Post Time 3:42 PM Eastern


In a very intriguing starter allowance race sandwiched in between two stakes, Bobby G and Dynamax Prime both get preference as win contenders at very nice odds, but this is a race in which many have a shot. Bobby G won handily by five and one-half lengths two weeks ago, first off the claim by Corrales, after a 13 length win in the race claimed out of. Both came over the track and now McCarthy gets on with the gelding bred to run all day (by Awesome Again out of a Malibu Moon mare) so there’s little concern about the 10 furlong trip all are trying for the first time. The 97 figure was a career best and the gelding should continue in top form. Dynamax Prime runs first off the claim by Gonzalez, for a very sharp owner in Robert Bone. The gelding was NOT qualified for this level until dropped by his previous trainer into a $12,500 claiming race one before last, which he won by a nose, and when he remained at the level his current connections likely saw the opportunity to run in these starter races with an exceptionally high purse ($65K, $39K to the winner). Gonzalez wins 25% off the claim and Carrasco, who gets on, is the #1 winning jockey for the barn (30% wins on 100 races in the past 15 months) so all signs are “GO” for another big effort, with his nose win one before last earning the same 97 figure as Bobby G earned in his win over the track two weeks ago.




Win bets: Bobby G and Dynamax Prime to win at odds of 3 to 1 or more.


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



Exactas: Bobby G and Dynamax Prime over all except Don’t Poke the Cat & Kopper Wired.

Play the reverse of that exacta as well, even if for $1, as it could pay very well and we win twice if they Bobby G and Dynamax Prime run one-two.


Pick 3:

Race 6 – Bobby G and Dynamax Prime.

Race 7 – Las Setas.

Race 8 – Always Mining and Joevia.



Pick 3:

Race 6 – ALL (except Don’t Poke the Cat & Kopper Wired).

Race 7 – Las Setas.

Race 8 – Always Mining and Joevia.


Beyond the Wire Stakes - Race 7 at Laurel - Post Time 4:12 PM Eastern


If we are live in the pick 3’s there is no reason to play but if not, Las Setas is a standout and playable to win at odds of 9 to 5 or more. In this eight horse field, Las Setas is the “Lone Front Runner” just as she was last month when winning the nearly identical Wide Country Stakes and when breaking her maiden in wire-to-wire fashion one month earlier. She earned a field high 92 Equibase figure for that effort, her second strong improvement off her maiden debut in December, and she should continue to improve.



Win bets: Las Setas to win at 9 to 5 or more.



Private Terms Stakes - Race 8 at Laurel- Post Time 4:43 PM Eastern


Alwaysmining is a fairly legitimate favorite but opens at 4 to 5. Hopefully we will be live for a decent profit (at least more than what the same amount to win would pay) in the pick 3. Joevia is the only other horse that can win in my opinion and opens at decent 7 to 2 odds. Alwaysmining has run 10 times, winning five, while Joevia has only run twice,, hence the latter opening at higher odds although his last effort, when beaten a neck in the Winkfield Stakes at Aqueduct, earned a nearly identical Equibase figure (98) to the 99 figure Alwaysmining earned winning the Miracle Wood Stakes last month at Laurel. Neither horse has EVER run two-turns until today and with Joevia having excellent upside in his third career start, coming out of a KEY race from which the winner (Haikal) came back from to win the Gotham last weekend, I’m really hoping he posts the mild upset to win.




Win Bets: Joevia to win at odds of 9 to 5 or more.


Exacta: Box Joevia and Alwaysmining.



Inside Information Stakes - Race 11 at Gulfstream - Post Time 5:37 PM Eastern


Jala Jala proved her stakes win against Caribbean horses on 12/8 to be no fluke when 2nd of 7 last month in the Royal Delta Stakes at a mile and the cut back to seven furlongs helps her chances of continuing to improve in her 3rd U.S. start. She beat Tequilita by a neck for 2nd but opens at 6 to 1 compared to 5 to 2 for that one, and the 105 figure is on par with Cairenn’s stakes winning figure, Pink Sand’s stakes winning figure and with only Teresa Z’s figure from November higher. Jaramillo rides back and Jala Jala has a sharp work since raced so could run well enough to win. Pink Sands ran well in a one turn mile over the track last month in an allowance race, earning a stakes quality 107 figure, her 2nd win in a row, and is ready for stakes company for the hot McGaughey barn (12 for 51 at the meeting). There are no real knocks except likely low odds on Cairenn, Tequilita and Teresa Z.



Win bets: Jala Jala and Pink Sands at odds of 3 to 1 or more.


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


Exactas: Box Jala Jala, Pink Sands and Cairenn.

Box Jala Jala, Pink Sands and Tequilita.

Box Jala Jala, Pink Sands and Teresa Z.


Rebel Stakes:

Although not available on Amwager, the Rebel Stakes is interesting and it is the Equibase weekly feature race.

Here are the win contenders in the two divisions:



Race 8:


Long Range Toddy




Race 10:

Omaha Beach

Our Braintrust

Game Winner

Friday, 08 March 2019 12:50

Key Races & Bets for Saturday, March 9

Challenger Stakes - Race 8 at Tampa Bay Downs - Post Time 3:45 PM Eastern


Killybegs Captain is drawn outside Flameaway, the 3/2 morning line favorite who is a need-the-lead type, but inside Jay's Way, who also is a need-the-lead type. However, Killybegs Captain is stretching out off a sprint while the other two have been running in routes for some time and that means Flameaway and Jay's Way have LITTLE, if ANY, chance of having the early lead if Camacho decides to let Killybegs Captain run even a little bit from the gate to the first turn. If Flameaway and Jose Ortiz want the lead, Camacho can sit in 2nd as the horse closed from 3rd to win last fall as well as last winter. Either way, considering Killybegs Captain comes out of two big efforts over the track (both wins) with 109 and 100 Equibase figures, compared to Flameaway, who ONLY earned an 84 figure in his comeback from six months off last month and who faded badly after leading through an opening 50 second half mile, Killybegs Captain can beat the favorite. As for Jay's Way, he either ran evenly or lost ground in the stretch in his last five dirt routes, something even Irad Ortiz, Jr. may be unable to change, particularly as the horse has proven to be capable of winning ONLY when on the lead. Opening at 9/2, Killybegs Captain has all the makings of a KEY WIN BET on the day.



Bourbon Resolution and Longden both warrant consideration, opening at 8/1 and 10/1, particularly if Flameaway runs like he has in a number of races, insisting on the early lead at any cost, and Jay's Way runs similarly, but if Killybegs Captain either doesn't fire or gets involved in a silly speed duel. Bourbon Resolution came back from seven months off last month with a big sixth to first rally at a mile and a career best 103 Equibase figure likely to be improved upon. He won at nine furlongs before the rest and has a lot of talent. Longden closed from last of 10 to miss by a neck on grass last month but two before that won on the Tampa main track at this distance with a rally from sixth, even after stumbling at the start. He's talented as well and if able to run as well on dirt as on grass last out when earning a 103 figure he could post the upset.




Win Bets: Killybegs Captain to win at odds of 5 to 2 or more.

For only a slightly smaller amount, Bourbon Resolution and Longden to win at 3 to 1 or more.


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



Exactas: Box Killybegs Captain, Bourbon Resolution and Longden.

Killybegs Captain, Bourbon Resolution and Longden over ALL.



Pick 4:

Race 8- Killybegs Captain, Bourbon Resolution and Longden.

Race 9- Hawksmoor, Viva Vegas, Rymska, Onthemoonagain and Goodyearforroses.

Race 10- La Feve, Mega Fortune, Winter Sunset, Elsa and Winning Envelope.
Race 11- Win Win Win

The cost of the ticket if all horses run is $37.50



NOTE: If you want to use ALL six horses in the first leg, instead of just the three above, I'm okay with that and the cost of the ticket becomes $75.



Hillsborough Stakes - Race 9 at Tampa Bay Downs - Post Time 4:19 PM Eastern


Goodyearforroses, Viva Vegas and Hawksmoor finished fourth, second and first, respectively, in the nearly identical Endeavour Stakes over the course last month, and I'll try to reverse that order here although all three can win. Goodyearforroses, who opens at 8/1, was 6 to 1 at post time for the Endeavour in spite of having been away from the races for 15 months. That's 15 months without a race, attempting to run two turns in a graded 3 stakes, and that's a very tough question to ask any horse. She ran very well in spite of that, moving up from ninth of 10 early to be beaten 3 lengths at the wire, and has a ton of improving to do. Goodyearforroses has as much class as Hawksmoor (who finished second in a pair of grade 1 stakes in the fall of 2017) as she won the Grade 2 Santa Ana Stakes (at the distance of the Hillsborough) in 2017 and finished second in the Grade 1 Gamely Stakes (115 figure), and she's going to improve a lot 2nd off the lengthy layoff and off the 104 figure effort earned last month.



Viva Vegas rallied from 9th to be beaten a half-length by Hawksmoor last month, her 2nd start off a layoff since last fall. She earned a career best 107 figure in that effort and gets a four pound break in the weights, as she was carrying two more pounds than Hawksmoor then and is carrying two pounds less today. I'm not a huge believer in weight, but if a horse was beaten a half-length one day and has four less pounds next time out than the horse which beat her, those results could be reversed.



Hawksmoor has earned over $1 million in a nice career including the win last month off a three and one-half month layoff. She's won back-to-back before and can do so again, but I wouldn't expect her odds to be anywhere near her morning line of 3 to 1 considering she was sent off as the 7 to 5 favorite in that last race.



The Chad Brown trained pair of Onthemoonagain and Rymska will be used on all pick 3, pick 4 and double tickets played, but for exactas I'm going to try to split them on exacta tickets below which key on the three main win contenders. Onthemoonagain led late and finished 2nd to tougher in the Grade 1 Flower Bowl when last seen but that was five months ago, while Rymska was second last month in the similar Grade 3 Suwanee River Stakes after two months off.




Win bets: Goodyearforroses and Viva Vegas to win at odds of 3 to 1 or more, adding a place bet at 5 to 1 or more.

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



Exactas: Goodyearforroses, Viva Vegas and Hawksmoor over Goodyearforroses, Viva Vegas, Hawksmoor, Rymska and Onthemoonagain.



Goodyearforroses, Viva Vegas, Hawksmoor, Rymska and Onthemoonagain over Goodyearforroses, Viva Vegas and Hawksmoor.



If you didn't play the pick 4 starting in race 8, or if none of the contenders won, you can start a pick 3 here:

Race 9- Hawksmoor, Viva Vegas, Rymska, Onthemoonagain and Goodyearforroses.

Race 10- La Feve, Mega Fortune, Winter Sunset, Elsa and Winning Envelope.
Race 11- Win Win Win


Florida Oaks - Race 10 at Tampa Bay Downs - Post Time 4:50 PM Eastern


Mega Fortune not only took to turf like a duck takes to water last month when trying turf for the first time, she was also trying two-turns for the first time and adding blinkers. Those are the reasons she won at 40 to 1 after two poor dirt sprints and the win was not a fluke as she's come back to work a very strong half-mile on the turf at Palm Meadows in 47.6 around the cones, which was still the second best of 52 workouts at the distance on the day. She won from the 10 post but gets the two post here and the 90 Equibase figure is the best last race winning figure in the field and the second best last race figure in the field behind Concrete Rose, who earned hers last fall.



Winning Envelope did the same thing Mega Fortune did one race before last, which was last fall, winning off two sprints in her turf and two-turn debut. She drew off nicely by almost five lengths, in an allowance race then was given more than four months off to rest and mature. Her comeback, on dirt last month in the Suncoast Stakes, was horrible, but it's meaningless as she moves back to grass.



Elsa won the Grade 3 Jimmy Durante Stakes on the grass at Del Mar in November then two and one-half months later was sent to post as the 2 to 5 favorite in the Shantel Lanerie Memorial Stakes, ending up 2nd and beaten a length and one-half by Winter Sunset. She was three wide into the first turn and 5 to 6 wide into the far turn and still ran huge, so with Bravo back aboard, up for the Durante win but not last out, she could return to stakes winning form.



La Feve and Winter Sunset will be used on pick 3, pick 4 and double tickets played.




Win bets: Mega Fortune and Winning Envelope to win at odds of 3 to 1 or more.

Consider an additional win bet, on Elsa, if she is 3 to 1 or more near post time (which I doubt she will be).

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



Optional doubles:

Mega Fortune, Winning Envelope, Elsa, La Feve and Winter Sunset in Race 10 with Win Win Win in race 11.



Tampa Bay Derby - Race 11 at Tampa Bay Downs - Post Time 5:25 PM Eastern


Win Win Win tries two turns for the first time off a strong win in the Pasco Stakes over the track in January at the distance of seven furlongs. Neither the additional turn nor the added distance should be an issue for the son of Hat Trick, whose sire was 1989 Kentucky Derby winner Sunday Silence. Showing maturity since rallying from second in the early stages to win in his debut last November, Win Win Win has steadily improved. He won his second career start by more than six lengths with a 99 Equibase Speed Figure then improved to 104 when second in the Helft Stakes at the end of December, before a career-best and field high 113 figure in the Pasco. In the Pasco, Win Win Win pulled the jockey to the lead on the turn as he easily went by three horses and was in front by two lengths with an eighth of a mile to go before continuing to extend the margin and win by seven and one-quarter lengths at the wire. 2018 Eclipse winning jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr. takes off an entire day at Gulfstream Park to ride Win Win Win for the first time as it is likely he and his agent sense the potential for this colt to go all the way to Louisville. With a very strong workout over the track coming into the race which was the best of 75 on the day for the distance of a half-mile proving a strong indication of fitness, Win Win Win appears capable of dominating in this year's Tampa Bay Derby just as he did in the Pasco.



Well Defined won the Sam F. Davis stakes last month, the local prep race for the Tampa Bay Derby, and did so rather easily by nearly three lengths. As a two-year-old, Well Defined won the In Reality Stakes for horses bred in Florida and earned a very strong 111 figure, at the distance of the Tampa Bay Derby. Following that big win, Well Defined went off form, finishing 12th, then fifth, but as Well Defined returned to top form with a 97 figure effort in the Sam F. Davis, and with possible improvement in his third start following a layoff, he should be respected as a contender to win the race.



Dream Maker won at the short distance of five and one-half furlongs in his debut last June then was out of action for three months. When he returned, he was entered in the Hopeful Stakes in New York and could only manage a fifth of eight finish. Trying two turns last fall in the Breeders' Futurity, Dream Maker ended up 12th of 13 in another disappointing effort, this one as the betting favorite. However, given four months off to grow up and to get over whatever issues resulted in those two poor efforts, Dream Maker not only returned to the races with aplomb, he did so around two turns without a sprint prep. In that race last month, Dream Maker made a quick move on the turn to go from third to four and one-half lengths in front of the next horse by the time the field reached the eighth pole, then was "ridden out" to an eight and one-half length win. Although the effort earned a 95 figure which is much lower than the 111 Well Defined earned in his best effort and the 113 Win Win Win earned in the Pasco, Dream Maker has potential to take a big step forward, particularly as he was flattered when the runner-up from his last race won and improved by six points.




Win Bets: Win Win Win to win at odds of 3 to 2 or more.



Trifectas: Win Win Win over Dream Maker and Well Defined over ALL.

Win Win Win over ALL over Dream Maker and Well Defined.



Thursday, 07 March 2019 14:20

Trap Days

Past the Wire     Tracking Tips Logo


March 7, 2019

Trap Days

By: Jonathan Stettin

Those who follow the NFL know what a trap game is. That is when a supposedly better team takes a game lightly against a team they are supposed to beat. Often this happens when the so-called better team is looking ahead to a more meaningful or tougher game the following week. Better teams get beat in trap games. In our sport, the Sport of Kings I have my own version of trap games I refer to as trap days. I’ll explain and share my best methods to overcome them.

This coming Saturday is what I call a trap day. Good cards with meaningful races will lure many of us to play tracks we do not normally follow daily. This can be dangerous. In a game that is tough enough on your home court, or shall we say your home track or meet, it gets much more challenging at a track you do not follow.

Being in the groove, knowing who is hot, who is not, the track trends, any bias, and the nuances give you an edge. Take that away and now you are playing from behind and against those who are in the groove at this circuit. You are playing into their edge. Tall task.

Now, many of us will want to play Tampa and Turfway on Saturday. They are both having their banner days and races with Kentucky Derby points on the line. Santa Anita being closed will drive the pools and attention even higher. If you are going to play, and these are not your familiar circuits I will share my approach in not giving up the edge.

I will handicap the cards in detail, taking my time as I normally do before any turf speculation. I will pay extra time and attention to the replays I watch of races over the track. This is crucial as you can pick up trends.

I will diligently review the charts for the meet with an emphasis on the last two weeks of 10 days. I am looking for any bias or noticeable trend or edge.

Next, I will look at the high percentage trainers and riders, and look at the moves or situations they excel in. These are fundamentals, but at a track you play every day, or at least often you probably already know this. On a trap day at a strange track you probably don’t.

I will look at the meet leaders to date. I will also look at who rides for who first call. While none of these stats or observations will point me to a specific horse or bet, combined with handicapping they will strengthen or dampen my opinions. My goal when done with my homework is to know the meet as if I play it every day. This won’t guarantee a win but will take away anyone having an edge on me.

Turfway is a synthetic track. They are tough to play and gauge. Generally, and I mean very generally, turf horses seem to do well on synthetic surfaces.

Tampa is a heavy track. It can play fast at times but is heavier than most dirt tracks. It is a great track to get horses legged up over and for years I have made money with horses coming from Tampa races. They are often overlooked as many consider Tampa a second tier meet. That’s a mistake. Their shippers do well.

To avoid the trap day, or at the least level the playing field you are going to have to spend more time than usual getting prepared. If you don’t, you run the risk of beating yourself with an oversight. I suggest not letting that happen. Be prepared. Take your time and do it right. Your bankroll might thank you later.