Key Races & Bets for Saturday May 7th, 2022

Fort Marcy Stakes – Race 8 at Belmont Park – Post Time 4:19 PM Eastern

Doswell has won three of 12 races on the grass but he’s shown up nearly every time as he’s finished in-the-money in 11 of those 12 races. His BEST two efforts came at this nine furlong trip, first in the December, 2020 Fort Lauderdale Stakes even though he ran second, earning a 112 Equibase Speed Figure, and the other came in the same race in 2021, when he won very strongly in a field of 12 with a 110 figure. He was a bit overmatched in the Pegasus World Cup Turf one month later and now rested and working well for his return, as well as never having missed the board in three career starts on the Belmont turf, he could lead these on a merry chase and win.

City Man is another who shows up most of the time. He’s been in-the-money in his last five races, four of them stakes, and first or second in nine of 19 career starts. He returned from four months off to win the 100K Danger’s Hour Stakes at Aqueduct last month with a 110 figure effort and should run even better second off the layoff.

King Cause rounds out the win contenders and may get away at a bit of a price as his last win, on April 2 (in his most recent race) came on all-weather at Turfway Park. He beat 10 horses in that race, the Kentucky Cup Classic (with a $250K purse) and he’s earned half of his six career wins on grass may have no issue transferring that form (with a competitive 107 figure) to the turf for his second stakes win in a row.

Handicapper Picks

Win bets: Consider Doswell and City Man at odds of 5 to 2 or higher.

I would consider King Cause for a win bet at odds of 7 to 2 or higher as well.

The odds on two or all three of these contenders may offer us a good profit opportunity and the best way to capitalize on betting horses at high odds to win is and to maximize our profit is to “Dutch” the bet, which means to prorate it based on the odds. Amwager.com has a free and easy to use Dutching Tool available where you can set the amount you want to bet, or the amount you want to win, and the math is done for you. This is just one of many tools, and perks, available to the bettor at Amwager.com 

Exactas: Box Doswell, City Man and King Cause

 

Daily Double:

Race 8: Doswell, City Man and King Cause

Race 9: Secret Time, Aziza, To a T (entered for dirt only)

 

Pick 3:

Race 8: Doswell, City Man and King Cause

Race 9: Secret Time, Aziza, To a T (entered for dirt only)

Race 10: Cody’s Wish  

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Race 9 at Belmont Park – Post Time 4:56 PM Eastern

This is a very interesting allowance race scheduled for six furlongs on turf. Many of these are NY breds who have had many chances at this open allowance level. In addition, there appears to be more than a few “Early” pace types, such as Charlee O, Sweet Solare , Stony Point, Baby Man and Mac the Pee H D so if only two or three run there’s still going to be a hot pace to set up the stalkers and closers.

 

Secret Time cuts back a bit from a two-turn, seven and one-half furlong race, to six furlongs and I think that’s going to hit her right between the eyes in terms of setting up her late kick. In that longer race last time out, Secret Time rallied from six lengths back after a half-mile (when fifth) to make the lead in the stretch, then was passed by four horses. With Castellano getting on and with so many top riders out of town at Churchill Downs suggesting the jockey had a choice of many mounts today, this mare may be able to get up in time today and win.

 

Aziza is the other stalker I think has a big shot. She was away from the races for an entire year until last month so the fact she ran third or fourth throughout the race and had no kick is of no concern. Her only win came at that seven and one-half furlong two-turn distance at Gulfstream and that was a race in which she rallied from fourth of seven to get up by a neck. With Lezcano getting on this gal may come in under the radar of most bettors and offer good value.

 

To a T may be a standout if the race is moved to dirt. She has a 3-2-4  record in 13 dirt races but her best effort came in her most recent race when she rallied strongly four to five paths wide into the stretch to win pretty easily. Considering many entered here will scratch if the race comes off the turf, she won’t have that many horses to pass late to earn her second straight win.

Handicapper Picks

To a T may be a standout if the race is moved to dirt. She has a 3-2-4  record in 13 dirt races but her best effort came in her most recent race when she rallied strongly four to five paths wide into the stretch to win pretty easily. Considering many entered here will scratch if the race comes off the turf, she won’t have that many horses to pass late to earn her second straight win.

 

Win bets: Consider Secret Time and Aziza to at 5 to 2 or higher.

If the race is run on dirt, bet To a T at odds of 2 to 1 or more.

 

This is another great betting race so if on turf and if both horses are above fair odds near post time this is another opportunity to dutch the win bet using the free tool at Amwager.com

Doubles:

Race 9: Secret Time, Aziza, To a T (entered for dirt only)

Race 10: Cody’s Wish

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Westchester Stakes – Race 10 at Belmont Park – Post Time 5:37 PM Eastern

In this short field (five entered), Cody’s Wish sticks out by a long way in terms of probability, and even if he’s a low odds overlay he could be a good win bet. Hopefully we can cash the double and pick 3 as well which we started in earlier races. Cody’s Wish would be going for his fifth straight win if not for a neck defeat in the Challenger Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs on March 12. The horse that beat him that day, Scalding, demolished a decent field to win the Ben Ali Stakes last month at Keeneland and improved markedly in terms of his speed figure. Considering Cody’s Wish had earned a 102 figure in his final start of 2021 then even after three and one-half months off earned a 109 figure, and that he’s a four year old with more improving to do in his second start off the layoff, it’s his race to lose and then some.

Handicapper Picks

Win Bets: Cody’s Wish at odds of even money or more, hopefully a true low odds overlay win bet.

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Kentucky Derby – Race 12 at Churchill Downs – Post Time 6:57 PM Eastern

Top contenders in preference order:

 

Zandon is an improving horse who is set to peak at the right time in this year’s Kentucky Derby. In the Blue Grass Stakes four weeks ago, Zandon sat relaxed in the early stages in a field of 11 when ninth after a quarter mile, 10th after a half-mile and 11th after three-quarters of a mile. Closing under his own power into a moderate pace, Zandon advanced to second with an eighth of a mile to go before drawing off to win by two and one-half lengths. Not only did Zandon put himself into contention without much urging by his jockey at the critical stage of the race, the way he did it suggests he will be in the same position at the top of the stretch in the Derby, which historically is significant. Zandon had demonstrated his ability last December in the Remsen Stakes, when in only the second start of his career and at the distance of one mile and one-eight (just an eighth of a mile shorter than the Derby) Zandon battled head-and-head the length of the stretch, eventually missing by a nose to Mo Donegal. Returning for this three year old debut in mid-February, Zandon finished third in the Risen Star Stakes without benefit of a sprint prep first as he had in the fall. Then in the Blue Grass Zandon improved markedly, not only running the fastest race of his career, evidenced by a 107 Equibase Speed Figure (a number which allows us to compare times from horses running at different tracks), but also the fastest last race of any horse in this year’s Derby. Likely to continue to improve physically and mentally in his third start as a three year old, and having run the last quarter mile of the Blue Grass in a manner to suggest he will love the long stretch at Churchill Downs, Zandon appears to be the one to beat in the “Greatest Two Minutes in Sports” this year.

 

Until fully analyzing this field, I had not considered Tiz the Bomb as a contender in this year’s Kentucky Derby. However, that all changed after watching a replay of his last two races. In March and in his second start off a three month layoff, Tiz the Bomb won the John Battaglia Memorial Stakes, earning a 98 speed figure. One month later in the Jeff Ruby Steaks, Tiz the Bomb ran even better when winning by two and one-quarter lengths, improving to a 105 figure. Not only can Tiz the Bomb improve in the same way I think Zandon can improve, his Jeff Ruby effort and figure wasn’t the fastest he had run in his career. Last year Tiz the Bomb went from a 98 figure effort when second in the Bourbon Stakes to a 109 figure when rallying determinedly from 12th to second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf. All four of those aforementioned stakes efforts were either on turf or on an all-weather surface. In his only race on conventional dirt this year, Tiz the Bomb finished a poor seventh in the Holy Bull Stakes. However, he was returning from three months off in that race and I believe that race can be ignored as an aberration from every one of his other six two-turn races, in which he has finished either first or second. Last summer in only the second start of his career, Tiz the Bomb won a two-turn race on conventional dirt by 14 lengths and that is why I think he can run as well on the main track at Churchill Downs as he has run on turf and all-weather since that win last July. A horse winning the Derby off a win in the Jeff Ruby (formerly the Spiral Stakes) is not unheard of, as Animal Kingdom won the 2011 Kentucky Derby following a win on all-weather just as Tiz the Bomb is attempting to do.

 

Cyberknife is named for a non-invasive treatment for tumors, and he has proven himself on the track by winning or finishing second in five of six races. Similar to Tiz the Bomb having run poorly in a Derby prep race (the Holy Bull), Cyberknife finished a poor sixth in the Lecomte Stakes in January. Returning to form one month later, Cyberknife earned a career-best 100 figure easily winning around-two turns, before winning the Arkansas Derby on the first Saturday in April. Although earning a slightly lower figure (95) in the Arkansas Derby as compared to his previous victory, Cyberknife won in spite of running farther than most horse in that race as he was four to five paths wide for much of the race. When asked to pick up the tempo, Cyberknife accelerated without really being asked and was in front with an eight of a mile to go, before coasting home by nearly three lengths. Remembering that most of the time in the Kentucky Derby, having one of the top three positions in the stretch is a key to success, the kind of tactical speed and ability to respond and accelerate when asked by his jockey may be a key to Cyberknife being a top contender in this year’s Kentucky Derby.

 

Epicenter is another who has done little wrong to date in his career and who enters the Derby off a strong win. After a lackluster sixth place debut in a sprint last summer, Epicenter has found longer distances to his liking and if not for a head defeat in the Lecomte Stakes in January might be entering the Derby seeking his sixth straight win. Most importantly, in his most recent start at the end of March in the Louisiana Derby, Epicenter showed a new dimension when relaxing in third in the early stages before passing the top two to be in front with an eighth of a mile to run and then coasting home to an easy win. The Louisiana Derby was run at the distance of one mile and three-sixteenths, which is only 110 yards short of the distance of the Derby. With the exception of U.A.E. Derby winner Crown Pride, no other horse has won at a distance as close to the distance of the Derby and that could be an important factor. There is only one potential issue, however, and that is in his last four races Epicenter has earned the exact same 97 figure. Normally we expect horses to run faster throughout their three year old campaign, which suggests a peak effort when it counts in the Derby. On the other hand, considering the fact Epicenter ran so well when stalking the pacesetter in the Louisiana Derby I think he can run well enough to contend for top honors in this race.

 

Smile Happy is one of those horses who will be mostly ignored by bettors in the Derby by virtue of the fact he did not win a prep race. On the other hand, this colt has finished first or second in all four career starts and cannot be ignored as a contender. Smile Happy did something rare last year when winning a two-turn race in his career debut, earning a 95 figure. Four weeks later he proved that first win was no fluke when defeating 10 rivals in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes, improving to a 100 figure. Not only that, but he beat a number of other horse which won their next starts, including Classic Causeway and White Abarrio. Given time off to mature, Smile Happy returned from nearly three months off and finished second behind Epicenter in the Risen Star Stakes while giving away recency to the winner, who had run one month earlier. Six weeks later, Smile Happy ran in the Blue Grass Stakes and after stalking the pace in third early, made a nice move to lead with an eighth of a mile to run. Although Zandon ran by him in the late stages, Smile Happy still finished nearly four lengths in front of the third horse. More importantly, he improved to a 104 figure and like most of the other top contenders in this year’s Derby, Smile Happy is on a very identifiable pattern for further improvement. As such, he should not be taken lightly when considering our wagers in this race.

 

Mo Donegal won the Remsen Stakes at a mile and one-eighth as a two year old and in only the third start of his career, which is no easy feat. Like others in this year’s Derby, the plan was for him to grow up and begin his road to the Derby preparation in January or February, which he did when finishing third in the Holy Bull Stakes. For whatever reason, Mo Donegal did not run in any of the Derby prep races in March, but he was certainly ready when returning to nine furlongs for the Wood Memorial Stakes in April, where he rallied from last of eight to win by a neck on the wire. I am not concerned about the narrow margin of victory given he had not raced for more than two months, and the fact he improved to a career best 103 figure in that race suggests he’s moving in the right direction. As such, Mo Donegal rounds out the top group which I feel has the best chance to win this year’s Kentucky Derby.

Handicapper Picks

NOTE: The Kentucky Derby is a race on which to remove the rubber band from your bankroll to some extent. Given there will be 20 horses, there will be more than a few which may have odds of 20 to 1 or more which is normally not the case in smaller fields. Therefore there a number of strategies with which we will try to cash a winning bet or two.

 

First, win bets (or win and place or win, place and show) can be considered on at least two, possibly three of the main contenders.

 

Next to each horse is the minimum odds to consider for making a win bet, which is based on getting the best return for the risk:

Zandon – 5 to 2 (2.5 to 1) or more

Tiz the Bomb – 5 to 1 or more

Cyberknife  – 5 to 1 or more

Epicenter – 7 to 1 or more

Smile Happy – 10 to 1 or more

Mo Donegal – 10 to 1 or more

                                                                        

Now, when looking at the list above, there may be some horses which I feel have a fairly decent probability to win but whose odds are too low for a win bet. Those are horses we can play in the exacta (trying to pick which horses will finish 1st & 2nd) or trifecta (trying to pick which horses will finish 1st, 2nd and 3rd).

 

Exactas (two plays):

Box Zandon, Tiz the Bomb, Cyberknife, Epicenter, Smile Happy and Mo Donegal

 

Zandon, Tiz the Bomb, Cyberknife over Zandon, Tiz the Bomb, Cyberknife, Epicenter, Smile Happy, Mo Donegal, Summer is Tomorrow, Messier, Crown Pride, Charge It, Taiba, White Abarrio, Tawny Port, Zozos.

At the $1 level this is a $39 bet with a lot of upside.

 

Trifecta: Box Zandon, Tiz the Bomb, Cyberknife, Epicenter, Smile Happy and Mo Donegal

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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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