Key Races & Bets for Saturday May 14th, 2022

Man o’War Stakes – Race 8 at Belmont Park – Post Time 4:46 PM Eastern

In and of itself, this race may not offer value but as the start to the double and pick 3 there is a lot of value because the horses which I think can win the next two legs are not favorites.

When Gufo ran in the 2021 Man o’War, he was returning from a five and one-half month layoff. Nevertheless, he rallied from 14 lengths back to miss by a nose to Channel Cat, earning a then career-best 114 Equibase Speed Figure. Three races later, he won the Sword Dancer Stakes at Saratoga with a new career-best 116 figure. His form faded a bit after that as he only managed third in the Turf Classic Stakes, before a 10th place effort in the Breeders’ Cup Turf, won by Yibir (GB). However, the 2022 Man o’War may have a different ending for Gufo, as this time around he has a race in the books. Last month in the Pan American Stakes, Gufo was visually impressive when rallying from fourth with an eighth of a mile to run before inhaling the leader, Abaan (who had rallied earlier in the race), before drawing off easily to win by two lengths. Gufo earned a 113 figure with that win, and so in his second start off the layoff it is highly likely he will run even better and can earn his ninth career win in his 16th start, particularly as jockey Joel Rosario has been aboard for his last seven races including three wins.

Yibir (GB) brings a six for 14 record into this race, the most important of those wins coming when he posted the slight upset at 8 to 1 odds in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf Stakes. Prior to that, Yibir (GB) imported to the U.S. and won the Jockey Club Derby on the Belmont Turf, after winning a Group 2 stakes race in England. He is on the same pattern coming into the Man o’War, having just finished second in the Group 2 Jockey Club Stakes in England, and he brings along William Buick to ride, who was aboard in his most recent race and in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf. In the Jockey Club Derby Yibir (GB) earned a 116 figure, followed up by a 118 figure in the Breeders’ Cup. Considering those match up with the 116 figure Gufo earned last year in the Turf Classic here at Belmont and that Gufo is likely to improve off his 113 figure effort last month, the stretch battle between these two horses could be of epic proportions.

Abaan is a very consistent horse who is not without a chance, but who appears just a cut below the top two. He’s won four of eight races on turf in his career and finished second in three others, only missing finishing in-the-money when fourth after suffering from traffic trouble in the Mac Diarmida Stakes in March. Rebounding off that effort, Abaan moved up nicely from third to lead in the stretch by a length in the Pan American Stakes last month, before being run down by Gufo in the final eighth of a mile. Nevertheless, Abaan earned a career-best 111 figure with that effort and might be able to improve off that and make this a more exciting race than it already appears to be.

Handicapper Picks

Win bets: “IF” Gufo is 3 to 2 or higher near post time, he is a low odds overlay win bet.

 

Exactas:

The only profitable exacta play is one where we don’t play Gufo and Yibir to finish first and second. The only other horse which is playable is Abaan, so the exacta play is Gufo and Yibir over Abaan.

 

Daily Doubles:

Race 8: Gufo, Yibir

Race 9: Set Sail, Western River

 

Race 8: Gufo, Yibir

Race 9: Set Sail, Western River, Electability, We the People

 

Pick 3s:

Race 8: Gufo, Yibir

Race 9: Set Sail, Western River

Race 10: Stolen Holiday, Plum Ali

 

Race 8: Gufo, Yibir

Race 9: Set Sail, Western River, Electability, We the People

Race 10: Stolen Holiday, Plum Ali

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Peter Pan Stakes – Race 9 at Belmont Park – Post Time 5:19 PM Eastern

I’m torn between two very strong contenders, Set Sail and Western River, but I’ll start with Western River as he offers twice the value as Set Sail, opening at 6 to 1 odds compared to 3 to 1. MANY of the horses in this year’s Peter Pan were late on the scene in 2022, and three of the eight are entering the race off maiden wins. That’s not a big deal in my opinion, as this race is a stepping stone for big three year old races later in the year, not just the Belmont Stakes next month, but also the Haskell and Travers. Although it took Western River five tries to break his maiden, it is ONLY his last two races which are of interest, as the other three were last year and two were on turf. He’s improved MARKEDLY as a three year old since adding blinkers, first rallying from 10 lengths back to miss by just three-quarters of a length in a two-turn race at Oaklawn, without a prep first, then when making up 18 lengths to win last month, before drawing off to win by almost four lengths. The 98 Equibase figure is the BEST last race figure in the field, is as good as We the People earned in his five length win (also at Oaklawn like Western River) in March which made We the People the 2 to 1 second choice in the Arkansas Derby (where he finished seventh). Better still, that 98 figure is bound to be improved upon in Western River’s third start of the year. He’s a FULL BROTHER to Creator, winner of the 2016 Arkansas Derby and Belmont Stakes, so there’s no problem with him running as well at nine furlongs as he did at eight and one-half, and Saez gets aboard. All signs point to a HUGE effort by Western River and the potential for the slight upset win here.

 

That being said, Set Sail is another very talented colt. Dick Mandella RARELY ships out of California but did so with this son of Malibu Moon who won his second start and first route last month by seven lengths in “ridden out” fashion. He gets the rail and the pattern of figures from 80 to 92 suggests a 100 or better figure here which is good enough to win. Mandella knows what he’s doing putting three year old maidens in stakes as he has a three for seven record over the last few years and Rosario rides so all signs are “GO” for a big race.

 

Electability and We the People has lesser chances to win than either of the top two contenders but can’t be entirely ruled out so can be used on exacta, double and pick 3 tickets. Electability also just broke his maiden and got a decent 90 figure in doing so. Brown wins nearly 1/3 of the time with last out maiden winners but doesn’t do nearly as well in stakes, and the horse’s win came in a one turn mile race so he lacks the two-turn experience of either Western River or Set Sail. We the People had no excuse in the Arkansas Derby but before that broke his maiden in a two turn race with a 99 figure, after a similar maiden win in another two turn race. If the Arkansas Derby didn’t mess with his head he has a shot but I still think both Western River and Set Sail have a lot more upside in terms of improving off their most recent races to run well enough to win at this level.

Handicapper Picks

 

Win bets: Western River and Set Sail at 2 to 1 or higher.

 

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Exactas:

Western River and Set Sail over Western River, Set Sail, Electability and We the People

Western River, Set Sail, Electability and We the People over Western River and Set Sail

 

Doubles:

Race 9: Set Sail, Western River

Race 10: Stolen Holiday, Plum Ali

 

Race 9: Set Sail, Western River, Electability, We the People

Race 10: Stolen Holiday, Plum Ali

 

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Beaugay Stakes – Race 10 at Belmont Park – Post Time 5:50 PM Eastern


I think both morning line favorites, Rougir and Lemista, are vulnerable but I can see why they’re favored, as both are trained by Chad Brown. Rougir was a group 1 winner in France last fall and was so highly regarded she ran in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf in her U.S. debut. She was a non-threatening seventh in that race at 14 to 1 and is now making her first start off a six month rest. As a group 1 winner, this grade 3 race is just a starting point so not only may she not be 100% ready for her best (which could be good enough to win), she may not be fully intended to win as well. Lemista is winless in three starts in the U.S. including her U.S. debut one year ago when second and beaten a half-length in the 2021 Beaugay, where she was not favored. Her other two efforts, although in grade 1 races, were mediocre and she’s another I think has two things working against her – the layoff and the fact this is just a comeback starter race in which she’s no standout.

Instead, Stolen Holiday and Plum Ali are the top contenders, opening at quite fair odds of 8 to 1 and 6 to 1, respectively. Stolen Holiday is a lightly raced mare with a 3-2-1 record in eight races. She returned from three months off in February to win easily in a mile turf race at Tampa Bay Downs then she improved to finish second in a non-graded stakes race at Gulfstream, where she had TREMENDOUS traffic trouble and could not be fully ridden until near the finish, when she spurted through to go from fourth to second. With Castellano staying aboard and any racing luck, this mare can absolutely post the upset, noting she won on the Inner Turf at Belmont under Castellano last October as well.

Plum Ali has a great record of five for 12 in her career, all on grass, including a perfect three-for-three record at this distance. She returned from five months off last month to win a non-graded stakes on the turf and like Stolen Holiday, Plum Ali has won on the inner turf at Belmont, taking the Grade 2 Miss Grillo Stakes as a two year old. Franco has ridden her twice, in her last two races, both wins, and rides back, which are two more reasons to love her chances here.

Handicapper Picks

Win Bets: Stolen Holiday AND Plum Ali at odds of 5 to 2 or more.

This is another race where using a dutching tool, like the one which is free and easy to use at Amwager.com, can really help maximize our profit.

Exactas:

Box Stolen Holiday and Plum Ali

Optionally, Stolen Holiday and Plum Ali over ALL

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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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