Key Races & Bets for Saturday April 29th, 2023

Race 8 at Aqueduct – Post Time 5:06 PM Eastern

About the vulnerable favorite:
This makes mark the return of Zandon, last seen finishing fourth in the Grade 1 Cigar Mile and of course runner-up in the Jim Dandy Stakes (behind Epicenter) and also having finished behind that in the Travers Stakes last summer (when third) and in the Kentucky Derby (when third). He won the Grade 1 Blue Grass Stakes one year and three weeks ago and because everyone knows about his BIG three year old campaign where he earned $1.4 million he will be the prohibitive betting favorite.

That is EXACTLY why this race is a KEY BETTING RACE, because a grade 1 winner coming back in a non-graded race is historically a poor bet at any price. The intent is obvious, which is to get a race into him before bigger and better in 2023, and certainly in some situations a horse like Zandon can win on class alone, but THIS IS NOT one of those cases and the rule “never bet a grade 1 winner coming back from a layoff in a non-graded race” applies because he may not be 100% ready and even if he is other horses could be just as good.

The most interesting horse in the race is King Kumbalay, opening at 20 to 1. He’s got a very solid record of 5-4-1 in 16 races, including a win at Aqueduct at this one turn mile trip last April (55 weeks ago) at the NW1X allowance level. He won at the second allowance condition last May, then ran poorly before a runner-up effort in November. He returned to the races in 2023 running in an irrelevant race on all-weather then shipped back to New York ant at the HIGHER NW3X allowance level missed by a head, before a fourth place non-threatening effort last out. Now he DROPS in class to the NW2X level he’s already won at but can race here because he’s in for the optional $62,500 claiming price, and if he repeats his 2/20 runner-up effort at this mile trip he can win or at least run second, at DOUBLE DIGIT odds.

Tonal Impact is the other very interesting horse, one of two from the Rice barn (the other being Lastchanceatglory). Claimed by Rice out of a win in November at this one turn mile trip in Kentucky, he hasn’t missed the board since including a win over the track in January at the NW1X level and a miss by a head and a nose at this NW2X level. He was 9 to 5 just three weeks ago but because Zandon opens at 4 to 5, Tonal Impact opens at 8 to 1.

Another horse to consider, at least for exacta bets, is Good Skate, who has finished first or second in FIVE straight races and first or second in nine of 11 at Aqueduct, including a NW1X win in February.

Handicapper Picks

Win: With a TON of value because of the prohibitive favorite Zandon, who might be vulnerable, I will be BOTH King Kumbalay and Tonal Impact to win at odds of 4 to 1 or higher.

When betting two horses at greater than minimum odds/fair odds there is a big opportunity to get an edge by using a dutching tool, which prorates wagers for the best value. There’s a free dutching tool at, where you can set the amount you want to bet or the amount you want to win, and the math is done for you to help achieve the best edge. This is just one of many tools, and perks, for bettors at

Exactas: King Kumbalay over ALL and (the opposite) ALL over King Kumbalay. With King Kumbalay having finished first or second in nine of 16 races this appears to be a pretty good wager.

I’ll also play an exacta consisting of King Kumbalay, Good Skate and Tonal Impact over King Kumbalay, Good Skate and Tonal Impact, Uncle Moonlight, High Connection, Zandon and Lastchanceatglory.

Optionally you may want to play the opposite of that exacta, leaving Zandon off the win position on the ticket, because any of the three horses may pay well, and then if any of the three key horses finish first and second we win the bet twice.

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California Derby – Race 10 at Golden Gate – Post Time 5:53 Pacific, 8:53 PM Eastern

Prince Abu Dhabi is just the improving type of horse to win a race like this. He debuted in a sprint last September and won easily then took the winter off, returning in a sprint in February to win again. Then he stretched out to two turns for the first time last month and got up to win by a nose, improving to a career-best 93 Equibase Speed Figure which also is the BEST last race figure in the field. A Kentucky bred son of Palace Malice, besides being undefeated in three races he’s in the VERY strong barn of Blaine Wright, who has won 20% of the stakes races he’s entered in the past two years, and with some top pace to set up his late kick and improving to do in his third start of the year and second route, his starting odds of 4 to 1 are much higher than make sense.

Nauvoo is one of two potential pacesetters, the other being Phosphorescense, but Nauvoo is drawn inside the other speed horse in the gate which means he’s going to get the rail and the lead, unless the jockey of Phosphorescense wants to use his horse’s energy early and hope to find something late to hold off the stalkers and closers. Winner of 5 of 10 to date in his career including three of six routes at Golden Gate, Nauvoo calls the top and high percentage (26% wins in 2023) barn of Jonathan Wong home and opening at 20/1 can’t be ignored.

Handicapper Picks

Win: Minimum betting odds on Prince Abu Dhabi are 2 to 1. Nauvoo can be bet at 5 to 1 or more.

With it being VERY likely both will offer value over minimum odds, this is another superb race to use the dutching tool which is free and easy to use at

Race 10: Nauvoo, Prince Abu Dhabi
Race 11: Tarantino, Lamplighter Jack, Dicey Mo Chara

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San Francisco Mile – Race 11 at Golden Gate – Post Time 6:24 Pacific, 9:24 PM Eastern

Tarantino comes into this race having run the best race of his career on March 9. Prior to that Tarantino had returned from a three and one-half month layoff in January in a race on the all-weather main track, finishing last of six while beaten more than 14 lengths. Something significantly changed on the move to turf as Tarantino stalked the pacesetter in third in the early stages before rallying into a slow pace to finish second with a 106 Equibase Speed Figure which is tied with Lamplighter Jack for the best last race figure in the field, and far superior to the other seven entrants in this year’s San Francisco Mile. Earlier in his career, Tarantino was very well regarded. He finished third in the 2021 Holy Bull Stakes on dirt then, near the end of the year he was third in the Santa Anita Mathis Mile which was scheduled for turf but run on dirt. His next three races, all in 2022, were graded stakes on grass with the best of his efforts in those a third place finish in the American Stakes last June. Following two poor efforts he was rested and then returned in that all-weather third place finish before really waking up last month. With a likely contested pace courtesy of two need-the-lead types in Bob and Jackie and Lamplighter Jack and using the ground saving rail to his advantage until time to put in a strong late kick, Tarantino should improve in his third start of the year and could win this year’s San Francisco Mile.

Dicey Mo Chara (GB) also has the benefit of a good race this year that many of the others lack. Last year Dicey Mo Chara (GB) finished in-the-money in six of nine races, winning twice and earning nearly $300,000 in the process. The best of those efforts came in the San Gabriel Stakes in December at Santa Anita, where he earned a strong 110 figure rallying from fifth to win by a half-length in the end. After a better-than-looked effort in the San Marcos Stakes in February when sixth and beaten less than two lengths, Dicey Mo Chara (GB) set the pace when no other horse wanted the early lead before losing by a half-length at the end in the Charles Whittingham Stakes. Considering he cuts back in distance from a mile and one-quarter to a mile and that he led after a mile and one-eighth, on the cut back to a mile Dicey Mo Chara (GB) should have a lot of stamina in the late stages and therefore has a very good chance to succeed.

In spite of the potential to get into an early pace battle with Bob and Jackie, it is possible Lamplighter Jack could get the early lead and try to play “come catch me” with the field, as Dicey Mo Chara (GB) almost did in his most recent race. Prior to his most recent race on March 23 at Santa Anita, Lamplighter Jack had amassed a pretty good record when winning 10 of 23 races, including three on turf. He changed trainers between December and that start last month and shipped to California from Florida. Those changes really made a difference as Lamplighter Jack earned a career best 106 figure tied for the best last figure in the field with Tarantino. Being as this is his second start following three months off, an even better performance is possible particularly as that last effort was at this mile trip, and because even if Bob and Jackie gets the early lead Lamplighter Jack may be able to stalk him just as he did when winning in December. In that case, he could get the lead in the stretch and has potential to hold on to the lead to the wire.

For second on exacta tickets I’ll also use Balnikhov, who has a 3-4-1 record in 13 career races on turf. He finished a poor ninth in his 2023 debut last month but could improve, but his 9 to 5 starting odds are too low for a win bet and honestly I think he’s not as good as the three main contenders above so will only use him in second on exacta tickets played.

Handicapper Picks

Win: All three contenders – Tarantino, Dicey Mo Chara and Lamplighter Jack, have minimum odds of 4 to 1 but Dicey Mo Chara opens at 3 to 1 so won’t likely meet the threshold. The other two will and both should be bet using a dutching tool like the one which is free and easy to use at Amwager. com

Exactas: Tarantino, Dicey Mo Chara and Lamplighter Jack over Tarantino, Dicey Mo Chara, Lamplighter Jack and Balnikhov.

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Ellis Starr

Ellis is a well respected handicapper and contributor of AmWager. He has been a public handicapper for more than twenty years, educating racing fans of all skill levels with detailed commentary few other handicappers provide.

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