Key Races & Bets for Saturday November 26th, 2022
Central Park Stakes – Race 5 at Aqueduct – Post Time 1:46 PM Eastern
Top win contenders:
Let’s Go Big Blue won in a two turn turf race in his career debut this summer, showing a lot of talent when rallying from last of 10. Moved up significantly in class into a stakes, the Nownownow in September, he had traffic trouble at a critical stage and managed to get third of nine. Entered in the Awad Stakes at Aqueduct last month, Let’s Go Big Blue once again had trouble, forced to steady when a horse angled out in front of him then regaining his composure and closing strongly for third. He may not have beaten the winner but he definitely would have been second without that trouble. He adds blinkers today and if he can stay out of trouble in the late stages he can get up in time to win.
General Jim has yet to run in a stakes but he won in September in his second start, first on turf, then came right back to win an allowance race powerfully four weeks ago at Keeneland. The 91 Equibase Figure he earned is very close to the 94 figure Let’s Go Big Blue earned in his stakes try and General Jim is on a similar pattern for improvement. It must be noted Junior Alvarado rode Bill Mott’s Dr. Settle’s Dream to victory in his one and only start and opts for General Jim, also in the care of a Hall-of-Fame trainer in Shug McGaughey.
Dandy Handyman almost wired the field in the Awad Stakes, opening up by two lengths in mid-stretch then run down by the winner and hanging on to second gamely by a neck. He had closed from eighth and 11 lengths back to win in his debut, also a turf sprint, so he’s not a need-the-lead type and the 95 figure he earned in the Awad is also one he can improve upon in his third career start so he rounds out the top contenders in this field.
Win: Minimum odds to consider for win bets on all three contenders – Let’s Go Big Blue, General Jim and Dandy Handyman, are 5 to 2 and I would bet TWO of the three at or above those odds near post time.
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Box Dandy Handyman, Let’s Go Big Blue and General Jim
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Red Smith Stakes – Race 9 at Aqueduct – Post Time 3:43 PM Eastern
Balthus, Highest Honors and Temple all exit the similar Sycamore Stakes at Keeneland run on 10/14, and among the trio Balthus had the worst trip. He stumbled at the start to begin ninth of 12, which is much farther back than he’d been in his previous four races, which consisted of three wins and a neck defeat. After that awkward start Balthus raced eighth/ninth and was in a lot of traffic in the stretch, eventually finding a place to run with yards to go and moving up quickly from four behind the leader to a length and one-half and ending up in a four horse photo for second. Considering he had improved in four straight leading to that race and even though he finished fifth improving his speed figure again, today getting a much better post compared to last out, Balthus can get back to his winning ways and add to Brown’s big numbers this year.
Highest Honors is the other Brown trainee here, and he too broke slowly in the Sycamore, starting 10th of 12. He moved up to eighth with a quarter mile to go, only four lengths back, and continually closed up the rail to get third at the end. That was a career best effort and now with the jockey change to Brown’s #1 rider Irad Ortiz Jr, Highest Honors has a big shot to run even better.
Temple didn’t have the traffic trouble the other two had in the Sycamore and rallied for second. He won the similar Mac Diarmada Stakes in March and has the credentials to win again, but it must be noted his overall turf record of 7-9-8 is great for exactas and trifectas but may suggest he doesn’t often feel like winning.
Soldier Rising had some traffic trouble in the higher level Turf Classic last month, checking in fourth and just a nose from third. He has yet to win a stakes in the U.S. but his 4-5-3 record in 14 turf races makes him another we must strongly consider for exacta and trifecta bets we make in this race. Similarly, Reigning Spirit has been first or second in six of 12 turf races, including the most representative to this one, the Louisville Stakes in May where he was beaten a head and finished a length in front of Highest Honors. If I feel Highest Honors is a strong contender here I would be remiss if not including Reigning Spirit on that list as well.
Win: Minimum odds to consider for win bets on all three contenders – Balthus, Highest Honors and Temple, are 5 to 2 and I would bet TWO of the three at or above those odds near post time. I do feel a bit stronger about Balthus as compared to the other two so may lower my minimum on him to 2 to 1.
This is another race where prorating our wagers based on the odds, using a dutching tool like the one which is free and easy to use at Amwager, is a great idea.
Exacta and Trifecta: Box Highest Honors, Balthus, Reigning Spirit, Temple, Soldier Rising
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Seabiscuit Stakes – Race 7 at Del Mar – Post Time 6:30 PM Eastern
Hong Kong Harry has run five “A” races in five starts since importing to the U.S. this past March, consisting of four wins and a runner-up effort. Two of those wins and the one runner-up finish came in stakes, most recently on the Del Mar turf in September when winning the Del Mar Mile in visually impressive fashion. He was seven back at the top of the stretch and blasted past the field to win by two lengths under Prat, who rides back. The 111 Equibase Speed Figure is the best last race figure in the field and he’s on a pattern to run even better in this race so is definitely the one to beat.
Santin ships in from trainer Walsh’s base in Kentucky off a poor effort when the 3 to 1 favorite last month in the tougher Grade 1 Turf Mile. He won the Arlington Million prior to that, with a 113 figure good enough to win here if repeated, and he won the Turf Classic at Churchill Downs on Derby Day with a 115 figure. He has shipped into California before, at this time last year when missing by a neck in the Hollywood Derby at Del Mar, so that is nothing new, and Rispoli rode him that day, not since, but gets back on today where from the rail this colt can put in another big effort.
Set Piece has won 11 of 24 overall and six of eighteen on the turf. He also ships in from Kentucky, for one of the top trainers in the country in Brad Cox. In the same Turf Mile Santin comes out of, Set Piece rallied from last of 11 to get fourth, just a nose and a neck from the runner-up in a very talented field. He won the Baltimore-Washington Turf Cup before that and won the Dinner Party Stakes at this distance on Preakness Day so he fits with these on all counts.
Win: Hong Kong Harry at odds of 3 to 2 or more
I might consider win bets on Santin at odds of 3 to 1 or more and on Set Piece at 7 to 2 or more because I’m looking for value if I want to beat Hong Kong Harry.
Hong Kong Harry over Santin and Set Piece
Box Hong Kong Harry and Santin
Box Hong Kong Harry and Set Piece
Hong Kong Harry over Santin, Smooth Like Strait, Beyond Brilliant, Irideo, Set Piece and Kentucky Ghost
I’ve included likely early pacesetters Smooth Like Strait and Beyond Brilliant in second as they may hang on. Irideo closed fast for second behind Hong Kong Harry in the Del Mar Mile and may get up for second again, while Kentucky Ghost ran very well last month when rallying from ninth to win and may get second with the same effort.