Friday, 12 April 2019 13:49

A Win is a Win


Past the Wire     Tracking Tips Logo


April 12th, 2019

A Win is A Win

By: Jonathan Stettin


In these times of most wagering being done off track through ADW’s and simulcasting, we miss a lot of the true day to day racetrack experiences. As someone who went to the track literally every racing day for decades, I can say confidently it was a world within itself with a full cast of Damon Runyon characters, and all the stories and tales that go with them.

Those experiences are hard to explain or share with the new generation of players, even those who frequent the tracks on weekends. Sure, you still have a die-hard few every day regulars, but through attrition and poor management, they are fading away fast and not being replaced.

Playing the races is one of the few experiences where winning can feel like losing. Have you ever singled a horse in a multi-race wager and have it win at a price but you were already knocked out of the sequence? If you bet that horse to win, as I likely would in that scenario, and get your money back with a small profit, it feels like a loss.

If you have ever been alive with two horses to close a pick 6, one paying 50k, the other paying 250k and the smaller one noses out the longer one, you’ll win but feel like you lost.

The Sport of Kings affords many of these scenarios. Fortunately, there is indeed a fair share that tip in our favor as well. At the end of the day however, a win is a win. Be grateful for them.

A term I grew up hearing among hardcore race trackers that I rarely hear today is “bail out.” The once frequently used term that I still personally use, as old habits do die hard, describes being down or losing a considerable amount of money on the races, then winning it back on the last race or sequence. It’s a wonderful feeling, to get your own money back as we used to say. Even if you come up a little short, say winning back $4,700 of a $5,000 deficit, it feels like a win.

Desperate times call for desperate measures. I have been a very disciplined player for a long time. Unless you're well is bottomless that is a requirement for long term survival and profitability. That said however I have at times done what was necessary to “bail out” as have many of us hardcore players. Some of these stories are true racetrack classics.

When I used to go to the races every day, most with my Dad, I would bet a lot more than he would and a lot more aggressively. On one of those days at the now gone and all but forgotten Calder, I was losing several thousand dollars on the day. I really did not like anything in the last race being simulcasted from Belmont, and I was pondering whether to hit the ATM to try and bail out. While pondering my Dad must have read my face and asked how much I was down.

"You don’t wanna know," I replied. He knew what that meant, and I followed with, "I'll be right back."

"Where are you going," he asked.

I said, "The ATM."

"How much money do you have?"

"$7," I answered, "not enough to try and bail out."

"Give it to me," he said, and I did.

My Dad, who I always called Giuseppe, looked deep into his racing form. He motioned the roving teller Christine over and bet seven $1 superfectas. I did not think there was much hope, and I was sure I should have hit the ATM and handled this myself.

The race went off, and I watched on the small TV on our regular table with a defeated feeling. To my surprise, Giuseppe nailed the super. I don’t remember the horse, though I wish I did, but Jorge Chavez rode him. The superfecta netted Giuseppe almost 8k for the $1 bet. He collected with Christine, gave her $100, took $200, and put the rest on the table and said “never forget the time I bailed you out with $7.”

I never forgot.



Important Note: There is an all stakes Pick 4 at Keeneland on Saturday which starts in Race 7, the Grade 3 Ben Ali Stakes. Because that race is my free race on the Keeneland web site, there’s no reason to duplicate it here. You can get it by clicking anywhere on this link. You can play the double from the win contenders in race 7 to the win contenders in race 8 below, as well as a pick 3 linking the win contenders in races 7, 8 and 9.


Giant’s Causeway Stakes - Race 8 at Keeneland - Post Time 4:57 PM Eastern


Excessivespending is one of four win contenders I feel will take advantage of what could be a very hot early pace scenario as Seeknthegiantpearl, Student Body, Luvin Bullies and Morticia all have getting to the lead from the start at any cost on their minds. Excessivespending won a very similar stakes at Fair Grounds in February and won a classified allowance race on the Keeneland turf at this trip last fall, Leparoux up then as now, so could be the one making the last move to win.


La Dame Blanche couldn’t pass Student Body when second in a stakes like this one last month at Fair Grounds but did beat Excessivespending home by a neck. Student Body won’t have an easy lead today and like Excessivespending, La Dame Blanche has a win at the trip on the Keenleand grass (also last October) so would be no surprise if running well enough to win. Considering she opens at 12/1, even though Excessivespending opens at 6/1, we should be making a win bet on her as well if those odds hold up.


Surrender Now ships out of California for the strong Miller barn with a perfect 2-for-2 record in turf sprints, the last a classified allowance win where she sat in fourth early and pulled off late. Her career best 100 Equibase figure from that race is a bit shy of the 109 to 111 figures Excessivespending and La Dame Blanche have earned in similar races but she’s making her first start as a four year old and could run even better than when last seen in August. As she opens at 7/2 it’s unlikely she will be a good win bet but must be used in any exactas and multiple race tickets we play such as the pick 3 and pick 4.


A Little Bit Me is another with a good closing style to benefit from the hot early pace scenario. She won off the claim by Baltas at Santa Anita in January with a rally from fifth then only managed third but wasn’t disgraced as she was beaten six length while the winner won by almost five. She hasn’t run as well in flat turf sprints compared to the downhill sprints at Santa Anita, but she’s in good form, consistent, and has the right running style to be part of the exacta at the least.



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

La Dame Blanche to win at odds of 7 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: Box Excessivespending, La Dame Blanche, Surrender Now and A Little Bit Me.


Doubles: Excessivespending, La Dame Blanche, Surrender Now and A Little Bit Me in race 8 with Anothertwistafate, Sueno and Shang race 9. Then ALSO Excessivespending, La Dame Blanche, Surrender Now and A Little Bit Me in race 8 with Anothertwistafate in race 9.


Pick 3:

Race 8 - Excessivespending, La Dame Blanche, Surrender Now and A Little Bit Me.

Race 9 - Anothertwistafate, Sueno and Shang.

Race 10 – Bellavais, Rushing Fall and Rymska



Stonestreet Lexington Stakes - Race 9 at Keeneland - Post Time 5:30 PM Eastern


In my opinion, three horses combined have the bulk of the probability to win and they are Anothertwistafate, Sueno and Shang. That being said, Anothertwistafate sticks out a bit over the other two and that’s the horse to concentrate on for most of our double, pick 3 and pick 4 tickets, particularly as he opens as the 2 to 1 favorite. Certainly we should use Sueno and Shang on some of those multi-race tickets as well.


Anothertwistafate has run two “A” races in a row (first with a career-best 102 figure then followed by a 103 figure effort) and unless another horse jumps up big time he’s going to earn enough points (combined with those he has) to punch his ticket to the Derby. He dominated in three straight in December, January and February, including a seven length win in the El Camino Real Derby, all on the all-weather surface at Golden Gate. Then he was sent to the Sunland Derby and although jockey Juan Hernandez is among the top jockeys in Northern California, he was outridden by one of the best in John Velazquez on winner Cutting Humor. Even though Cutting Humor and Velazquez slipped away in the stretch, Anothertwistafate was cutting into the margin in the last strides to come up a neck short on the wire and with the jockey change to Javier Castellano and with the colt’s last two efforts likely to be improved upon, he’s the one to beat. Another benefit Anothertwistafate will have is a likely pace battle between stretching out Hawaiian Noises and need-the-lead type Zenden, who has to go from the nine post position. This allows Castellano to get a great trip in third in the early stages and move for the lead in this race which ends at the first of two finish lines at Keeneland.


Sueno finished second in the Sham Stakes in California in January (with a career best 99 Equibase figure) then second again in the Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn in February before a disappointing third place finish in the Louisiana Derby last month. I say disappointing because he was second for most of the race and weakened late. The cut back to a mile and one-sixteenth helps his chances as does the pace scenario and if Anothertwistafate doesn’t fire he can win. The same holds true for Shang, who is going for his fifth straight win. However, the previous four were all against Louisiana Breds only. The last two were around two turns and stakes, and Irad Ortiz, Jr takes the call. One before last he earned a 102 Equibase figure, on par with the 102 and 103 Anothertwistafate earned in his two most recent races, but he regressed to a 91 figure although he won easily after that. He should be close to the pace as well and could be moving at the same time as Anothertwistafate, making the race very interesting to the wire.



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


For a smaller amount, Sueno to win at 3 to 1 or more and Shang to win at 4 to 1 or more.


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


Exacta: Box Anothertwistafate, Sueno and Shang.


Doubles: Anothertwistafate, Sueno and Shang in race 9 with Bellavais, Rushing Fall and Rymska in race 10. Then also Anothertwistafate in race 9 with Bellavais, Rushing Fall and Rymska in race 10.



Coolmore Jenny Wiley Stakes – Race 10 at Keeneland - Post Time 6:03 PM Eastern


Bellavais, who opens at 8/1, looks every bit as probable to win at Rushing Fall (6/5) and Rymska (5/2). Although a stakes winner at the age of three, she came into her own last fall when moved to the Pletcher barn, winning a classified allowance race at a mile on grass with a career-best 109 Equibase figure then two later taking the Grade 3 Marshua’s River Stakes at Gulfstream at this 1 1/16 mile turf trip when improving to a new best 112 figure. Last time out and off the Marshua’s River win and two months off, Bellavais wasn’t disgraced at all when third, beaten ¾ of a length for second with the winner another ½ length ahead in first. The runner-up came back to win the Sand Springs Stakes recently and if this gal repeats either of those three efforts cited, all in similar company, she can post the upset here.


There’s little doubt how good Rushing Fall is and how much she loves this course, as she’s 3-for-3 over it including the Grade 1 QE II Challenge Cup last fall. She fires big fresh and Brown and Castellano know how to get her happy and ready to win. She has no knocks but then again she is facing older for the first time ad her best efforts last year yielded 108 figures which are good enough to win but NOT superior to the best figures of the other two contenders.


Rymska, trained by Brown the same as Rushing Fall, is 7 for 13 in her career including four graded stakes. She won the Grade 2 Hillsborough Stakes last month with Ortiz up then as now and she has showed up in all but one of her last eight races by finishing first or second so her chances of winning can’t be discounted for even a second.



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


Exacta: Box Bellavais, Rushing Fall and Rymska.



Bonus: Arkansas Derby


Although Oaklawn Park if one of a few tracks you can’t wager on via the excellent wagering site Amwager, I thought I would include my analysis here anyway because of the implications for the Kentucky Derby.


Galilean will be my top choice to win this year’s Arkansas Derby as I’m expecting big improvement off his third place finish last month in the first division of the Rebel Stakes won by Long Range Toddy. Galilean nearly won his first four races, all stakes, including his debut, as his only defeat in those races came by a neck in the second start of his career. Galilean closed out his two year old campaign with a nine length win when tried in a route for the first time in the King Glorious Stakes. He returned off two months of rest in February and won the California Cup Derby as if he had never been away, winning by four and one-half lengths. His next start came in the Rebel, in which he stalked the pace early in third, moved up to battle neck and neck for about a half mile before settling for third behind Long Range Toddy and Improbable. Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer takes blinkers off Galilean for the Arkansas Derby and based on his last effort, that may be the ticket to big improvement off the 105 Equibase Speed Figure earned in the Rebel. The removal of blinkers will help the colt to see on all sides as well as behind him, and that could enable his competitive juices to kick in for a new top effort good enough to post the upset.


Long Range Toddy gets the extreme outside post but that’s not a concern because of the expected faster than average early pace in the race. Grey Attempt stretches out from six furlongs and has run very fast early in his previous two route races. One Flew South adds blinkers, which should cause him to show a lot of early speed, and Jersey Agenda is a need-the-lead type who has to go fast early to gain position from his 10 post. All that early pace and positioning allows Long Range Toddy to drop into a great trip possibly just a couple of paths wide going into the first turn, similar to where he was early in the Rebel, in which he rallied from fourth in the last eighth of a mile to earn a career-best 109 Figure. Prior to that, Long Range Toddy had traffic trouble with a quarter of a mile to run and still managed third. With three wins and one second place finish from his four other route races, it’s obvious Long Range Toddy shows up every time with his “A” game and as such he is a strong contender in this year’s Arkansas Derby.


Improbable was returning from three months off in the Rebel and had his schedule re-adjusted when his home base of Santa Anita was closed temporarily. A perfect three-for-three in 2018 including a sharp win in the Los Alamitos Futurity with a 103 figure, Improbable still earned a new best 109 figure in the Rebel when coming up a neck shy of Long Range Toddy on the wire in spite of the time off. Likely to improve in his second start off the layoff, Improbable certainly can run well enough to win, but he is likely to be the betting favorite because of perceived improvement in his second start of the year and because his trainer is Bob Baffert. However, it can reasonably be assumed Long Range Toddy can take another step forward as well and potentially deny his foe another win on the wire.


Omaha Beach won the second division of the Rebel last month, earning the best last race figure in the field (110), his fifth straight improvement in speed figures since his debut last summer. The Rebel was his first two-turn race on dirt and he met the challenge with flying colors as he moved up comfortable from third in the early stages to lead by two lengths in the stretch before holding off Game Winner by a nose. Game Winner returned to run in the Santa Anita Derby last weekend and was once again denied by a narrow margin by Roadster. Game Winner’s speed figure regressed to 106 in the Santa Anita Derby and so although Omaha Beach may continue his pattern of improvement that is something to note.



Win Bets: Galilean (7) to win at odds of 7 to 2, adding a place bet at odds of 5 to 1 or more.

Long Range Toddy (11) to win at odds of 7 to 2.


Exacta: Box Galilean (7), Long Range Toddy (11), Improbable (1) and Omaha Beach (3).


Trifecta: Box Galilean (7), Long Range Toddy (11), Improbable (1) and Omaha Beach (3).


Friday, 05 April 2019 14:45

Key Races & Bets for Saturday, April 6

Shakertown Stakes – Race 7 at Keeneland - Post Time 4:35 PM Eastern


Imprimis, as well as the other four listed contenders, will benefit immensely from a very hot and contested early pace duel. This is because Richard’s Boy, Shakhimat, Bay Muzik, Conquest Tsunami and Latent Revenge are ALL horses that win only if they have the lead in the early stages. It’s only going to take three of the five to go out and tear through the opening quarter and half-mile and set up the horses with a good finishing kick. Imprimis is a lightly raced five year old with a six-for-eight record, all on turf, with ALL six of the wins coming at five or five and one-half furlongs. His last effort, on 3/9, which followed six months off, was his best ever, with a 114 Equibase figure which is just shy of the 117 figure last year’s winner Bound for Nowhere earned and with improvement logical second off the layoff, Imprimis can run that kind of race to win.


Bound for Nowhere won the race last year off a prep one month earlier but this year returns from six months off. That’s not an issue as he won his career debut by six and won off three months later as well. Winner of five of nine career starts, Bound for Nowhere is a strong contender to win this race two years in a row.


Disco Partner is another “win type,” with 11 victories in 28 races, 10 on turf including an important stakes (Belmont Turf Sprint) last October off a short rest. He finished third in this race last year, run on a wet course, and prefers firm ground like he will get today so must be respected but opens at much lower odds than the top two listed contenders.


Will Call finishes fast for second, beaten just a half-length, in the fall equivalent of this race, the Woodford Stakes, in October. He was a bit overmatched in the Breeders’ Cup Turf sprint and is back at a level he can run competitively.


Jazzy Times gives us a longshot to help make a profit on exacta tickets as he opens at 20/1. He won two in a row last summer before taking a break and has fired fresh. Both wins came in his only two turf sprints and he’s been working well for his comeback. The 107 figure earned in the best of the two efforts wasn’t too bad and so he could run better than those high odds suggest.


Consider win bets on the contenders at these odds or above:

Imprimis – 2/1

Bound for Nowhere – 2/1

For smaller amounts:

Will Call - 7/2

Jazzy Times – 8/1


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



Imprimis and Bound for Nowhere over ALL

Box Imprimis, Bound for Nowhere, Disco Partner, Will Call, and Jazzy Times.


Doubles: Imprimis, Bound for Nowhere, Disco Partner, Will Call, and Jazzy Times in Race 7 with Late Night Pow Wow, Create a Star, Shamrock Rose and Spiced Perfection in race 8.



Madison Stakes – Race 8 at Keeneland - Post Time 5:10 PM Eastern


Although Kentucky is the breeding capital of the world, and at many times of the year the racing capital of the world, there are occasions when stars emerge from unusual locations, and this is just such as case as Late Night Pow Wow was bred in West Virginia while Create a Star was bred in Oklahoma.


Late Night Pow Wow doesn’t know her origins but she does know how to win, with 11 wins in 12 races and a second place finish in the other She’s reeled off nine wins in a row going back to last June and she likes racing often. She is a perfect five-for-five at this seven furlong trip and just won the Grade 3 Barbara Fritchie Stakes in Maryland with a career-best 107 figure. She’s a four year old so may not have run her best race yet, she does not need the lead, and she gets Saez, all signs for another win.


Although Create a Star doesn’t have nearly the credentials of Late Night Pow Wow, she’s very interesting and she opens at 20 to 1 odds. Her Breeder is also her owner and her trainer and while a majority of the time that means a horse is placed over its head, in the case of C.R. Trout that rule is out the window. This guy knows his stuff and is a sharp horseman who shipped in Oklahoma Bred Shotgun Gulch to win the 2011 Madison at odds of 12/1. Trout has won 13 of 36 dirt sprint stakes races in the last few years and the filly put in a sharp half-mile workout in Arkansas before coming here so I think we’d be remiss if we didn’t at least bet a few bucks to win on her and use her on exacta tickets.


Shamrock Rose won the fall version of this race, the Raven Run Stakes, which is for three year olds only, then beat her elders when taking the Breeders’ Cup Sprint at 25 to 1. She didn’t like the sloppy track in her four year old debut in January but ran tremendously well when tried around two turns and facing two of the top female dirt route stars in the division in Midnight Bisou and Elate, respectably checking in third after leading at the point TODAY’S race ends. As such, repeating that effort or either of her last two starts of 2018 make her tough to beat.


Spiced Perfection missed by a head on the wire to Late Night Pow Wow in the Fritchie stakes and won three of four before that, two at this seven furlong trip including the Grade 1 La Brea Stakes, giving her the same credentials as Shamrock Rose’s win in the Raven Run. She shows up every time and her chances can’t be discounted for an instant.


Bets: Late Night Pow Wow to win at odds of 9 to 5 or higher.

Create a Star to win and place (or win, place and show) at 6 to 1 or more.


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


Exacta: Box Late Night Pow Wow, Create a Star, Shamrock Rose and Spiced Perfection.


Doubles: Late Night Pow Wow, Create a Star, Shamrock Rose and Spiced Perfection in race 8 with Feedback, Chocolate Kisses and Lady Kate in race 9.



Wood Memorial Stakes – Race 10 at Aqueduct - Post Time 6 PM Eastern


Hoffa's Union may have won his one and only start leading from start to finish but I doubt he's a need-the-lead type because he ran slowly early (82 interior speed figure) and accelerated late to win by 15 with a 103 Equibase Figure. That was as good an effort as stakes winners Tax (103 winning the Withers) and Tacitus (105 winning the Tampa Bay Derby) earned and the gelding is likely to improve a LOT in his 2nd start and with the addition of Lasix. He was privately purchased out of the race and ships up from Keeneland to run here and not in the Blue Grass, which could be a very smart move on the part of his new trainer Mark Casse.


Tax has won at this nine furlong trip and he continues to improve with each start as his figures went from 82 last fall to100 winning the Remsen in December to 103 in February when winning the Withers gamely by a head. He's worked sensationally coming into the race, gets the ground saving rail and trainer Gargan wins nearly 1/3 of the time in dirt routes (21 for 62) so all signs are "GO" for another career-best effort.


Not that Brady SHOULD NOT open at 20/1. He didn't really finish the race in the Gotham when not persevered with for the last 1/4 mile, an aberration to be sure. However, he's worked twice since and he likes to lead early, so with it being unlikely Hoffa's Union will go, Not that Brady could be the lone front runner here. In the Withers, right before the poor effort, the gelding set a decent pace and re-rallied into Tax in the final 16th to miss by a head after losing the lead at the 1/8 pole, earning the same 103 figure as the winner. He's definitely worth a bet at high odds here.


Tacitus is another improving colt with an 86 figure in his debut in a one-turn route over the track in October when 4th then moving to a 94 with a game win in November, then to a strong 105 off the four month layoff when taking the Tampa Bay Derby. Jose Ortiz rides back and this horse is bred to be any kind as he's by Tapit out of the tremendous stakes winning mare Close Hatches.


Haikal was visually impressive in the Gotham when winning with a big late kick but was set up by a 44 second half mile and that was a one turn race. He will be coming fast but I think it will be too late at this nine furlong trip so I'm only going to use him in the second position on exacta tickets, and I'm throwing in a bunch of others as well because I don't think there will be a heavy favorite here.


Bets: Hoffa's Union AND Tax to win at odds of 3/1.

Not that Brady to win and place (or win, place and show) at odds of 5 to 1 or more.



For $1 (at least): Not that Brady over ALL and (the opposite) ALL over Not that Brady.


Box Hoffa's Union, Tax, Not that Brady and Tacitus.


Optionally, Hoffa's Union, Tax, Not that Brady and Tacitus over Hoffa's Union, Tax, Not that Brady, Tacitus, Haikal, Final Jeopardy, Math Wizard, Outshine and Joevia.



Santa Anita Derby - Race 8 at Santa Anita - Post Time 7:14 PM Eastern (4:14 Pacific)


Watching the replay of the March 1 allowance race won by Roadster, with Nolo Contesto checking in second, it was apparent Roadster won with more than a modicum of ease. Jockey Mike Smith, who has ridden Roadster in all three career starts, helped the colt to easily relax in third in the early stages and when asked to change gears at the top of the stretch, Roadster responded nicely to pull away to a two and one-half length margin of victory. Following the strong maiden win last July with a 90 Equibase Speed Figure, Roadster ran even better with a 96 figure effort when third in the Del Mar Futurity. Since the comeback effort earned a new career-best 104 figure and since the Santa Anita Derby will represent his second start following six months off and second race around two turns, another similar improvement makes Roadster the one to beat.


There is no taking away from the accomplishments Game Winner has earned in his five race career.   He won four times and missed by a nose in the other, all graded stakes except his debut. In the third start of his career last fall, Game Winner earned a 111 figure which is pretty much unheard of for a two year old at that time of year. He backed that effort up with a strong two length win in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile in November although his figure regressed to 100. However, after four months off and likely a bit short of being 100% fit because of his work schedule being interrupted by suspended training at Santa Anita, Game Winner redeemed himself with a 110 figure last month in the Rebel. Watching the replay of the Rebel, it was interesting to note that Game Winner easily passed three horses on the backstretch to go from sixth to second, but then was asked pretty hard by jockey Rosario to get to leader Omaha Beach. Making no progress for most of the last quarter mile against his rival, Game Winner really picked up the pace in the last few yards and was cutting into the eventual winner's margin with every stride, coming up a nose short on the wire. Therefore, with any improvement second off the layoff, Game Winner could be starting a new winning streak going into the Kentucky Derby next month.


Nolo Contesto stretched out to two turns for the first time in January in his second career start winning gamely to earn a 104 figure. In that race he beat Omaha Beach by a half-length, with the runner-up flattering Nolo Contesto when winning the Rebel Stakes last month. However, Nolo Contesto did not improve in the March 1 race won by Roadster, in which jockey Smith (aboard Roadster) made sure Nolo Contesto was without room to run until it was too late as Roadster had accelerated to draw off by two lengths. However, Nolo Contesto galloped out strongly after the finish to be in front of Roadster and he too can improve in his second start off a layoff, so is not without a chance to win.


Bets: Roadster to win at odds of 3 to 2 or more


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.