Key Races & Bets for Saturday August 8, 2020

Ballerina Stakes - Race 7 at Saratoga - Post Time 3:42 PM Eastern

This race needs to go as drawn (no scratches) for this to work out because if both Serengeti Empress and Letruska both run, there’s little chance Serengeti Empress gets the early lead to herself she needs to win. So, I’m labeling Serengeti Empress as vulnerable and that makes the race very playable.

Pink Sands won the Inside Information Stakes in January, a seven furlong graded stakes just like this one and that was her second graded stakes win in a row. She was then off for five months and returned in the Phipps, also around one turn but at a mile and one-sixteenth. She ran poorly in that race without a “visible” excuse. I say “visible” because when a top trainer like McGaughey enters a horse in a grade 1 race off an effort like that, we have to toss it out. She came back to work exceptionally well six days ago at Saratoga, gets Irad Ortiz, Jr. and gets a pace to set up her late k ick beautifully so opening at 10/1 she’s a KEY bet on the day.

Also worth betting to win is Victim of Love, opening at 15/1, because if her last effort on 6/27 wasn’t a fluke she can win. She won the Vagrancy Handicap at Belmont at 27/1 with a 108 Equibase figure as good as the 108 Bellafina (who opens at 9/5) earned winning the Desert Stormer Stakes (also a grade 3 like the Vagrancy) in May. Lezcano was up for the first time and rides back and Victim of Love is very likely to be third or fourth early so she can get first run if the pace battle takes its toll on Serengeti Empress and Letruska as I think it will. This is a lightly raced four year old who is 5-for-15 and definitely will be underrated and underbet here.

Come Dancing and Bellafina have some shot to win so we’ll play them on some Pick 3 tickets and on some exactas but neither are standouts here.

Bets:
Win: Bet Pinks Sands AND Victim of Love at odds of 2 to 1 or more.

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:
Pink Sands and Victim of Love over Pink Sands, Victim of Love, Cookie Dough, Bellafina and Come Dancing
Bellafina and Come Dancing over Pink Sands and Victim of Love

Doubles:
Race 7: Victim of Love, Bellafina, Pink Sands, Come Dancing
Race 8: Pulsate, Chewing Gum

Pick 3:
Race 7: Victim of Love, Bellafina, Pink Sands, Come Dancing
Race 8: Pulsate, Chewing Gum
Race 9: Mrs. Sippy, My Sister Nat, Olympic Games, Fools Gold

Troy Stakes - Race 8 at Saratoga - Post Time 4:22 PM Eastern

The pace scenario in this five and one-half furlong turf sprint is likely to be as hot, or hotter, than that in the Ballerina. American Sailor has had the lead after a quarter mile in every one of his last nine races. Pure Sensation has been first or second in his last 11 races and only has won when leading from the start. Pure Sensation opens at 3 to 1 and is vulnerable because of the likelihood he won’t get the lead he needs to win. Then there’s the 8 to 5 morning line favorite Imprimis. He’s finished sixth, fourth, third and sixth in his last four races and hasn’t run in nine months. He has been working well but is facing horses in the same form as he is when having raced who have raced much more recently, and he doesn’t have a class edge. The 5/2 second favorite Shekky Shebaz similarly has finished third, sixth and fourth in his last three races and I just don’t see him being a strong contender here.

That leaves a couple of closers who have run recently to get top honors. Chewing Gum opens at 5 to 1 and, gets a great outside post and Rosario rides, who rode him to a win from next to last one before last in a six furlong turf sprint. He managed third last out but had brushed the gate at the start and has every right to run back to his 6/12 winning effort.

Then there’s Pulsate, who opens at 15/1. He won a six furlong sprint in his last race of 2019, as strong of an effort as Chewing Gum put in on June 12. Then, following seven months off Pulsate finished fine for fourth in the same race Chewing Gum finished third. He was JUST A NOSE behind Chewing Gum but his odds are THREE TIMES higher and that doesn’t make sense.

Bets:
Win Bets: Bet Chewing Gum and Pulsate to win at 5 to 2 or higher.

This is the kind of race where a “Dutching” tool like the free one at Amwager really comes in handy as it proportions your bets based on the odds so you don’t have to do the math for yourself.

Exactas:
Pulsate and Chewing Gum over Pulsate, Chewing Gum, American Sailor and Lohntwist
Box Pulsate and Chewing Gum

Trifecta:
Pulsate and Chewing Gum and Pulsate and Chewing Gum over ALL
Pulsate and Chewing Gum over ALL over Pulsate and Chewing Gum

Pick 3:
Race 8: Pulsate, Chewing Gum
Race 9: Mrs. Sippy, My Sister Nat, Olympic Games, Fools Gold
Race 10: Gamine

Double:
Race 8: Pulsate, Chewing Gum
Race 9: Mrs. Sippy, My Sister Nat, Olympic Games, Fools Gold

Waya Stakes - Race 9 at Saratoga - Post Time 5:02 PM Eastern

Test Stakes - Race 10 at Saratoga - Post Time 5:37 PM Eastern

There’s not much to discuss about these two races. Four horses can win the Waya Stakes, but Fools Gold may be a good win bet opening at 5/1 as she’s part of an uncoupled Chad Brown entry with My Sister Nat (who opens at 2 to 1). Fools Gold won this race last year off a runner-up effort one month earlier in a non-graded stakes. This year she was off from November 3 until June 27, returning in the Grade 2 New York Stakes, a much tougher ask off the layoff. She finished fifth in the race and I think got enough out of it to repeat last year’s win, particularly as Castellano gets back on and rode her to the win in last year’s Waya. The other contenders are Mrs. Sippy and Olympic Games.

My Play in the Waya Stakes is a win bet on Fools Gold at 2 to 1 or more.

In the Test Stakes, likely prohibitive favorite Gamine has a big advantage in terms of how fast she’s run and in terms of being the fastest horse early in the race. In my opinion there’s no point in trying to beat her but by using her as the only horse in multi-race sequences cuts down the tickets and offers us a bigger profit than we might get betting her to win.

There’s also some profit potential in the exacta because I feel second betting choice Venetian Harbor is going to get tired chasing Gamine and can be passed late. Up in Smoke is the horse I feel can get up for second.

My play in the Test Stakes is an exacta of Gamine over Up in Smoke.

Travers Stakes - Race 11 at Saratoga - Post Time 6:15 PM Eastern

In terms of how fast he’s run, Tiz the Law stands out in this year’s Runhappy Travers Field. In his first start as a three year old in February, Tiz the Law earned a spectacular 117 Equibase Speed Figure which is unheard of for that time of year. Nearly two months later when dominating in the Florida Derby by four and one-quarter lengths, Tiz the Law earned a 112 figure, then following nearly three more months off he earned a 113 figure winning the Belmont Stakes. Not only did Tiz the Law dominate and beat a total of 23 other horses in those three races by an average of three and one-half lengths, he never gave any other horse a chance to win in the last eighth of a mile. Putting those figures in perspective, they amount to a “triple advantage,” as the lowest of the three figures is higher than the best figure of any of the other seven horses in this race. With the ability to relax in second or third in the early stages of his races then find another gear to drive by the field and coast home, Tiz the Law is likely to win the Travers Stakes as easily as he has won his other three races this year and enter the gate for the Kentucky Derby as the first prohibitive favorite in many years.

That being said, it is not totally out of the realm of possibility either Caracaro or Country Grammer could post the upset to win the Travers. Three weeks ago in the Peter Pan Stakes run at the slightly shorter distance of one mile and one-eighth at Saratoga, Country Grammer and Caracaro engaged in a stirring stretch battle, with Caracaro securing the advantage by a head with an eighth of a mile to go and Country Grammer asserting himself on the finish line by that same margin. They both earned 95 figures for the race, which isn’t even in the same area code as the 113 figure Tiz the Law earned a few weeks earlier winning the Belmont Stakes. Still, both colts had run better prior to that and have the breeding to run even better at this mile and one-quarter distance. Caracaro improved to a 103 figure in January in only the second start of his career, an 11 point improvement off his debut. As such, having been off from January until the Peter Pan six months later, improving another 11 points off the 95 figure effort puts him in line with the 117 figure effort Tiz the Law put forth in his best this year. Country Grammer had been off for three months before his June 4 prep for the Peter Pan in which he finished third with a 98 figure and he too could leap frog past that previous best to have a big say in the outcome of the Travers.

Although I would make a WIN BET on Caracaro or Country Grammer at odds of 4 to 1 or more, that’s not the main play to make money in this race.

The key to making any money at all in this race is trying to make more wagering exactas or trifectas using Tiz the Law on top compared to betting him to win.

Here are my plays to do just that, using Tiz the Law on top then using both Caracaro and Country Grammer in either second, or third, with a few others in the open slot:

Trifectas:
Tiz the Law over Country Grammer and Caracaro over Country Grammer, Uncle Chuck, Shivaree, Caracaro and South Bend.

Tiz the Law over Country Grammer, Uncle Chuck, Shivaree, Caracaro and South Bend over Country Grammer and Caracaro.

Tiz the Law over Country Grammer and Caracaro over ALL.

Tiz the Law over ALL over Country Grammer and Caracaro.



Key Races & Bets for Saturday August 1, 2020

H. Allen Jerkens Stakes - Race 10 at Saratoga - Post Time 6:18 PM Eastern

H. Allen Jerkens Stakes - Race 10 at Saratoga - Post Time 6:18 PM Eastern

The morning line favorite, No Parole (9/5 starting odds), has a problem because although he’s five-for-six, all five wins have been earned leading from start to finish. Although he’s very fast in the early stages, so is Eight Rings and also Mischevious Alex. I just can’t see him getting his way on the front end as he did in the Woody Stephens on June 20.

Of the horses proven to come from off the pace and win, three deserve top billing – Captain Bombastic (15/1), Tap It to Win (5/1) and Echo Town (9/2). Captain Bombastic just ran the best race of his career and at this seven furlong trip on June 14. That win came in the Mike Lee Stakes and he stalked a pace as fast as he’ll get today before rallying from fourth to draw off. Putting in a strong 47.8 third best of 28 half-mile workout last week and with a great post to watch the pace battle in front under Castellano, with that 108 figure AS GOOD AS the one No Parole earned in an allowance race before winning the Woody Stephens (with a 93 figure), Captain Bombastic deserves our attention when wagering in this race as he could legitimately post the upset if he repeats that last race.

Tap It to Win cuts back from the nine furlong Belmont Stakes to this seven furlong trip, having won his last two one-turn races. In the Belmont he led from the start and through the seven furlong mark this race ends before tiring, because he went WAY TOO FAST (46 flat, 1:09.8) early. He doesn’t need the lead, however, having stalked in fourth three back in a sprint. He also earned a 108 figure one before last, and the cut back from nine furlongs to seven helps him to have some extra energy in the late stages enabling him to be finishing well and potentially get back into the winner’s circle.

Echo Town finished second behind No Parole in the Woody Stephens, closing from fourth in the stretch into a horse who had an easy lead from the start he is unlikely to get today. Two before that when battling head and head for the last quarter mile and coming up that head short on the wire, Echo Town earned a 112 figure which wins if neither Captain Bombastic or Tap it To Win improves off their best efforts.

Even if they do get passed in the stretch, No Parole and Mischevious Alex can run second so we will use them in that position on exacta tickets.

Bets:
Win: Bet Captain Bombastic and Tap It to Win at odds of 3/1 or more.
In the unlikely event Echo Town goes to post at 3 to 1 or more, he can be considered for a win bet but I’d rather play exactas with him in the top spot as below.

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:
(Exacta as a place bet): ALL over Captain Bombastic
Tap It to Win and Echo Town over Echo Town, Mischevious Alex, No Parole, Captain Bombastic and Tap It To Win.

Captain Bombastic, Tap It to Win and Echo Town over Echo Town, Mischevious Alex, No Parole, Captain Bombastic and Tap It To Win.

Doubles:
Race 10: Captain Bombastic, Tap It to Win and Echo Town
Race 11: Marzo, Cross Border, Dot Matrix, Pillar Mountain

Pick 3:
Race 10: Captain Bombastic, Tap It to Win and Echo Town
Race 11: Marzo, Cross Border, Dot Matrix, Pillar Mountain
Race 12: I’llhandalthecash, Dalika

Bowling Green Stakes - Race 11 at Saratoga - Post Time 6:50 PM Eastern

Cross Border is one of two from the strong Mike Maker barn, the other being Marzo. Maker once again proved his prowess with turf stakes runners last Saturday when running one-two in the Bernard Baruch Stakes over the course and has a big shot to do the same thing or similar, with only Dot Matrix the other horse I could see winning.

Cross Border is four-for-four on the Saratoga Turf including a win on July 22 which is probably why Maker wheels him back on 10 days rest as that six length win in the Lubash Stakes (for New York breds) took little out of him. Jose Ortiz rides back and the stretch out from a mile and one-sixteenth is not an issue as he just missed by a neck in the McKnight Stakes at 12 furlongs in January as well as won an 11 furlong race last November on the turf at Aqueduct. Jose Ortiz rode him in both those top efforts as well and since this hard knocking horse has been first or second in eight of his last 11 this year and last and only beaten two lengths or less in the other three he’s going to be pretty tough to beat.

Dot Matrix is another who likes the course and likes the distance. He won the John B. Connally Stakes at 12 furlongs in January then missed by a head of catching Paret in the Tiller Stakes at 11 furlongs in June when the winner was allowed to coast on a snail-like pace (114.6 six furlong split). He was overmatched in the Manhattan Stakes last month and has every right to run back to his Connally effort and win.

Marzo won the Sycamore Stakes last fall at Keeneland at 12 furlongs two races after Maker claimed him, another example of the trainer’s acumen at turning ordinary horses into marathon turf stakes winners. He hasn’t won since but ran fine behind Dot Matrix in the Connally when just a half-length from the runner-up and another three-quarters of a length form the winner. His two recent nine furlong races were too short but back at a marathon distance he loves, Marzo can rebound to competitive form.

I’m going to toss in Pillar Mountain for some exacta and trifecta as she opens at 12/1 for Pletcher and John Velazquez. The horse won two 11 furlong races in a row about a year ago, one at Saratoga and had to need his last start on 6/20 following eight months off so can improve and potentially get a piece.

Bets:
Win Bet: Cross Border to win at 9 to 5 or higher.
Dot Matrix to win at 3 to 1 or higher.
Marzo to win at 7 to 2 or higher.

This is the kind of race where a “Dutching” tool like the free one at Amwager really comes in handy as it proportions your bets based on the odds so you don’t have to do the math for yourself.

Exactas:
Box Cross Border, Dot Matrix and Marzo
Box Cross Border, Dot Matrix and Pillar Mountain

Trifecta:
Box Cross Border, Dot Matrix, Marzo and Pillar Mountain

Doubles:
Race 11: Marzo, Cross Border, Dot Matrix, Pillar Mountain
Race 12: I’llhandalthecash, Dalika

Caress Stakes - Race 12 at Saratoga - Post Time 7:22 PM Eastern

I’ll Handalthecash and Dalika stick out even in this 10 horse field in my option. This isn’t a graded stakes but carries a $200K purse so has attracted some very good filly and mare turf sprinters. Just the same, I’ll Handalthecash proved herself at the level just one month ago when winning the License Fee Stakes at Belmont for a career best 107 Equibase figure. She had trouble in three straight before that, no fault of her own, and with Jose Ortiz riding back after being up for the first time in victory last month, and with the filly not being a need-the-lead type, she could be very tough to beat.

Similarly tough is Dalika who closed like a shot from eighth to second as the even money favorite behind I’llhandalthecash last month. She had won five weeks earlier off a five month layoff and Rosario was up for both “A” races as well as today. Rosario rode Cariba to a sharp win at the end of June for Clement, who he’s winning a lot of races for, but he and his agent are sending a strong signal picking Dalika here, who has earned 106 and 108 figures in her last two, on par with I’ll Handalthecash and far better than any of the others in this field.


Bets:
Win: Bet either (or both) I’llhandalthecash and Dalika to win at 9 to 5 or higher, both low odds overlay win bets.

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: Box I’llhandalthecash and Dalika
We can also play some exactas and trifectas for profit because of the high probability of one of the two contenders winning.

Exacta: I’llhandalthecash and Dalika over ALL

Trifectas:
I’llhandalthecash and Dalika over I’llhandalthecash and Dalika over ALL
I’llhandalthecash and Dalika over ALL over I’llhandalthecash and Dalika
I’llhandalthecash and Dalika over I’llhandalthecash and Dalika over Jakarta, Saratoga Treasure and Cariba
I’llhandalthecash and Dalika over Jakarta, Saratoga Treasure and Cariba over I’llhandalthecash and Dalika

It is no secret I am not a fan of smaller minimum amounts for wagers on horse races. I’m of the opinion the 50-cent minimum hurts the pick 4 payouts, the 20-cent jackpot pick 6 killed the “real pick 6” and the 10 cent superfecta is not doing the serious bettors any favors either.

I have heard all the arguments about these minimums increasing pool size and thus leading to bigger payouts. I don’t buy it. I think they create more winning combinations, and they dilute the value of price horses in the sequences because more people spread and fish as opposed to handicapping. It is what it is.

When we have these small minimums and then add the small fields we are seeing of late, it makes the multi race sequences so many of us love to attack less appealing. Add the syndicates going into these pools more and more and you really have to ask yourself if these are the wagers you should be putting the bulk of your bankroll in. All the analysts, most of which I think don’t bet, or bet very little push these multi race wagers all day long.

If you like and are intent on playing these horizontal bets, the small fields added to the small minimums will really force your hand or at least it should. There is no wide spreading if you want to make any money.

The Whitney came up a short but quality field. The Personal Ensign only has six with Midnight Bisou odds on. Last week The Vanderbilt only went with four after a late scratch, and also had an odds-on favorite.


Most people complain when these scenarios occur but go ahead and play into them anyway. I play them, but I don’t complain. They play right into my style of play. That is not to say I don’t prefer large fields and different scenarios, but we play the cards we are dealt.

What you have to do in these sequences is form an opinion and then don’t be afraid to back it. You want one or even two singles, and you want to go narrow and not fish in the other legs.

Using the late pick 4 on Whitney day as an example, the sequence begins with the 5-horse main event. I believe if you are going after this wager you almost have to single in the Whitney. Sure, it is a tough race with quality horses, but you have a one in five chance of being right and giving yourself a bit of leeway going forward. You will also live or die with a quality well meant racehorse.

I’d play it short going forward also. Maybe a race with two and then two with three the most. That’s part one of how I would attack it.

Part two is I would play it as much above the 50-cent minimum as I could afford. You want to maximize your win if you are right. Hitting the sequence for 50-cents won’t really do that and if you structure your ticket similar to mine, it won’t be all that expensive of a bet.

The Bowling Green which is part of the sequence came up light on pace. Cross Border who is four for four at Saratoga and in sharp form off a win looks to be in a position to control things. He’s a must use for me and possibly the other single in the sequence.

Pace scenarios are trickier than ever, and involve more intangibles than they should, but if Cross Border isn’t on the front end early something is really wrong around here.

Key Races & Bets for Saturday July 25, 2020

Race 7 at Saratoga - Post Time 4:32 PM Eastern

This is a very interesting allowance race worthy of our attention, and our wagering dollars. The two top contenders are Montauk Daddy (15/1 morning line) and Kingmeister (8/1 morning line). The reason they offer value is because the favorite Proven Strategies is not a strong win contender although he certainly can win, or finish second. His career record is 2-3-1 in nine turf races and he’s being bet off a second place finish in a pair of stakes BUT he’s only beaten Florida-breds for his two wins. On the other hand, Montauk Daddy makes his second start off a race he badly needed following more than seven months off last month. It was a great prep in which his running line was 6-6-5-4 and in which he was pretty much the same distance behind the leaders from start to finish. For a horse prepping to go long off a sprint, that’s a great running line. He’s bred to adore routing on turf as a son of Daddy Long Legs (by Scat Daddy) and Linda Race, who is already off to a big start (4 for 9) at the Saratoga meeting is using jockey Cardenas a lot, hence the long odds as he’s not known as her go-to rider (not yet). I expect big improvement second off the layoff and an odds-beating effort.

Kingmeister comes back from six months off and improved nicely in both starts off his debut, missing by three-quarters of a length in December then winning pretty smartly in January. Now in the McGaughey barn, this is another colt bred to love the turf and routing by Bodemeister (who is by Empire Maker) out of a Medaglia d’Oro mare. Lezcano rides and this colt may pick up where he left off in January, with a win.

Bets:
Win: Bet BOTH Montauk Daddy and Kingmeister at odds of 7 to 2 or more.

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: Box Montauk Daddy, Kingmeister and Proven Strategies.

Also, instead of a place bet my strategy will be exactas of ALL over Montauk Daddy and Proven Strategies.

Doubles:
Race 7: Montauk Daddy, Kingmeister and Proven Strategies.
Race 8: I Love Jaxson, Prioritize, Leitone

Selene Stakes - Race 8 at Woodbine - Post Time 4:53 PM Eastern

Livin in the Six is a great horse to key on all exotic tickets and a good win bet opening at 15/1. The obvious contenders, Owlette and Merveilleux must be used on double tickets as well on exacta and trifecta tickets but we need to separate them because if they run one-two there will be no value. More on that in the “Bets” section below.

Livin in the Six debuted in June on the main track and was fifth, beaten under two length while suffering from HORRIBLE traffic trouble as she was blocked the enter last 110 yards. With no trouble next out on June 27, she won easily by three lengths in a field of 10, then was flattered when the third horse came right back to win. The key to her taking to the two-turns here is her breeding, as she’s by Society’s Chairman, who was the sire of Caren, who earned nearly $900K and who ran second in the 2016 Selene. Stretching out off that six furlong race, Livin in the Six may be faster than Owlette, who takes blinkers off, but she’s not likely faster than need-the-lead type Two Sixty. That’s fine, as Stein can rate her off the pace as he did in her sprint win last month. She may need to improve to beat the two favorites, but since this is only her third career start that may be exactly what she’s going to do.

Owlette gets the rail which may force Contreras’ hand. She is a need-the-lead type but blinkers come off so maybe not today. She shipped up from Ward’s Kentucky base last month to win the Star Shoot Stakes sprinting and she nearly won the South Ocean Stakes last fall in her only two-turn try so she should be there from start to finish. Merveilleux rated off the pace in second when breaking her maiden last September in a two-turn race over the track and did the same thing winning the Ontario Lassie to end her two year old campaign in December. She returned in June as if she’d not been off for six months to win a two-turn allowance race and she looks very tough in here, particularly if Owlette and Two Sixty mix it up early. Still, she opens at 8/5 so we have to find ways to make money if she wins other than with win bets.

Bets:
Win Bet: Livin in the Six to win at 4 to 1 or higher.
Exacta as a place bet: ALL over Livin in the Six
Also play Owlette and Merveilleux over Livin in the Six

Optionally, if you want to press (which I’ll be doing): Box Livin in the Six and Owlette and Box Livin in the Six and Merveilleux

Trifecta: (this is where we try to split the favorites)
Livin in the Six over Owlette, American Tap and Merveilleux over ALL
Owlette and Merveilleux over Livin in the Six over ALL
Owlette and Merveilleux over ALL over Livin in the Six
Owlette and Merveilleux over Livin in the Six over Owlette, Merveilleux and American Tap

Doubles:
Race 8: Owlette, Merveilleux, Livin in the Six
Race 9: Millennium Force

Race 9 at Saratoga - Post Time 5:07 PM Eastern

I Love Jaxson won a pair of races last August and September by a total of 15 lengths. The first of the two as at this nine furlong trip at Saratoga. He also won in October, December and February. In short, he loves to win, can handle the trip and should run big particularly as he needed his last race on June 18 after four months off. As I mentioned earlier, Linda Rice is using Cardenas a lot since the jockey colony is locked down at Saratoga and I have no problem with that. I Love Jaxson has won from off the pace and while on the lead from start to finish and just needs to run back to his one level lower allowance win before the layoff or his win last year over the track at the trip to post the mild upset here opening at 6/1.

Prioritize isn’t a standout but opens at 3 to 1 like he might be. I think that’s because this isn’t a very strong second level allowance field. He won at the one lower NW1X level in the summer of 2018 at Saratoga but on the turf. He tried dirt for the first time last December and won, finishing second twice since. Cancel rode him well last out to a career-best effort although no match for the winner and that effort repeated here could be good enough to win if I Love Jaxson doesn’t fire.

Leitone, like I Love Jaxson, opens at 8/1, which is odd since his post time odds in his last seven races have been three to one or less. He was in the Servis barn most of the time, then was moved to the Atras barn and claimed from that trainer in June. Claimed once again out of his July 11 race, he’s in the sharp Oscar Barrera barn which is low profile but wins about 20% of the time. Junior Alvarado, up for the win in the race last month, stays aboard and like I Love Jaxson, Leitone is a winner at this nine furlong trip at Saratoga, the win coming last August in a big effort. He likes to run first or second early and that is one of Alvarado’s strengths. As the horse has eight wins including at this allowance level he’s in for the optional $62,500 claiming price which is fine with me because the purse is $101K so the trainer has potential to make a profit if Leitone wins ($63K to the winner) or is claimed ($63K) and even more if both things happen.

Bets:
Win: Bet both I Love Jaxson and Leitone to win at 5 to 2 or more.

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:
Box I Love Jaxson, Prioritize and Leitone.

Race 9 at Woodbine - Post Time 5:26 PM Eastern

Millennium Force is the 3/1 starting favorite and a legitimate one at that. I’m hopeful for at least 2/1 because this is a 12 horse field but if not there are exacta options to capitalize on this low odds overlay win contender. Millennium Force showed his hand when second in his debut in March in a turf sprint, then tried dirt and ran badly in April to end up fourth of 11. He really came around after two months off back on turf last month at Churchill Downs when dominating in a 12 horse field and he’s worked sensationally since coming to Woodbine, with a best of 85 half-mile drill just last week. He’s now in the hot Drexler barn and should improve solidly off his win last month to move right through this first allowance level.

Bets:
Win bets: Millennium Force to win at odds of 9 to 5.

Exactas:
Millennium Force over Fairywren, Coach Lori, Peace Seeker, Grey Seal, Perfection Cat, Enchanted Lady and Vespolina.

Trifectas: (Because the Trifecta at Woodbine has a base of $0.20 we can play the same ticket as a trifecta for a low cost:
Millennium Force over Fairywren, Coach Lori, Peace Seeker, Grey Seal, Perfection Cat, Enchanted Lady and Vespolina over Fairywren, Coach Lori, Peace Seeker, Grey Seal, Perfection Cat, Enchanted Lady and Vespolina.

There have always been intangibles in the Sport of Kings. Today there are more than ever before.

There has been a lot of social media chatter lately about rides and rider intentions. This is certainly an intangible. We all get frustrated when we see one horse on a lonely lead in a race that looked to have a fair amount of speed signed on. It seems to happen on the turf more than the dirt, but the frustration is pretty much equal regardless of the surface.

The class or significance of the race does not seem to matter either. Just look at this year’s Group 1 Investec Epsom Derby. Serpentine was allowed to open up a big lonely lead at generous odds and help on for the win. What were all the other riders thinking? I mean, they all want to win this prestigious race.

As a handicapper, we can decipher which of the horses have the speed and ability to make or press the pace. The problem lies in our not knowing what the riders will do, or what trainer instructions might be. We can factor in rider styles as we generally know the ones who like the lead and those who don’t.

In an age where many call for more transparency in horse racing, there is a relatively simple fix for this handicapping dilemma. It is already employed in some other jurisdictions, so the “that won’t work argument” is null and void. Is it perfect? No, but it is a step in the right direction.

Believe it or not in Hong Kong, where the fields are large and the pools are even larger, you can’t take a speed horse back without clearing it with the stewards first and letting them know in advance about any change in tactics. If you don’t let them know, and then do it, you can be fined or suspended. The stewards will also revue any excuse like the horse didn’t break today. Many times you can tell whether it was the break, the jockey, intentional, or just one of those things.

I am not really a fan of empowering stewards more than they already are. That said, we need to correct and improve some of the low hanging fruit driving our existing players away and preventing us from bringing in new ones.

If the fines and suspensions are legit, we have taken steps to eradicate an issue for the customer.

Key Races & Bets for Saturday July 18, 2020

Trillium Stakes - Race 8 at Woodbine - Post Time 4:55 PM Eastern

Painting is on the verge of her first stakes win in this situation, having put in a fantastic prep on 6/21 when coming back from seven months off. That effort came in the similar (except for the distance) Grade 3 Whimsical Stakes, in which she rallied from eighth of 10 to get second, beaten a length. She was 13 to 1 then but still opens at 6 to 1 here in spite of having earned the best last race Equibase Speed Figure (101) in the field. She was second in the Grade 2 Bessarabian Stakes (at seven furlongs) before the layoff so the only question is whether she can handle two turns, and that is easily answered looking at her pedigree as she’s by Distorted Humor out of an A.P. Indy mare who has produced all-weather route winners.

Another Time opens as the 2 to 1 favorite on the strength of a runner-up finish (beaten a neck) in the Grade 2 Nassau Stakes last month, at a mile on turf. She won her comeback around two turns on grass in an allowance race before that and fits on class, as well as has won on the main track, but she’s yet to have run on the main track around two turns. She’s ALSO entered in the next race (9), the Royal North, so may not run here.

Art of Almost has been first or second in 6 of 13 races including a win around two turns on grass last month, and she won two races routing on the main track last year. Wilson rode her for the first time last out and she battled gamely head and head the entire length of the stretch, then was flattered when the third horse came back to win, more signs she can hold her form and have a big say in the outcome.

If Another Time opts for the Royal North, we’ll use Amalfi Coast as she closed for fourth in the same race Another Time finished second in and makes her third start off a layoff. She won a pair of Ontario bred restricted stakes on grass last summer and fall and has run well on the main track too.

Bets:
Win: Painting is a key bet to win at odds of 2 to 1 or more.

Exactas: Box Painting, Another Time, Art of Almost
“IF” Another Time does not run, then the exacta box is Painting, Art of Almost, Amalfi Coast

Doubles: (These tickets may cost less than it appears because Another Time will run in only one of the two races she’s entered in)
Race 8: Painting, Another Time, Art of Almost, Amalfi Coast
Race 9: Summer Sunday, Another Time, Sister Peacock, Lady Grace

Race 8: Painting
Race 9: Summer Sunday, Another Time, Sister Peacock, Lady Grace

Race 8: Painting, Another Time, Art of Almost, Amalfi Coast
Race 9: Lady Grace

Royal North Stakes - Race 9 at Woodbine - Post Time 5:28 PM Eastern

Lady Grace won at this six furlong turf trip very easily three weeks ago and put together back-to-back wins in turf sprints at Gulfstream Park this winter. She continues to get better as a four year old, can win on the lead or from off the pace, and Kimura stays with her for the strong Casse barn so opening at 6/1 she’s a great play.

Another Time is a contender for all the reasons stated in my analysis of her chances in race 9. She won two two-turn races in a row and she’s won sprinting so fits no matter which race trainer Minshall chooses.

Summer Sunday opens at 3/1 because she likes to win, with a 7 for 12 record. HOWEVER, she’s earned six of those wins on the main track. She’s 1 for 1 on turf, that win coming in THIS RACE last year, which she led from start to finish. She can sit just off the pace but with Sister Peacock, a need-the-lead type, in the race she may have to take a stalking position otherwise she’ll be vulnerable to the closers.

Bets:
Win Bet: Lady Grace to win at 2 to 1 or higher.

Exactas:
Box Lady Grace, Another Time and Summer Sunday
“If” Another Time opts for the eighth race, the exact box is Lady Grace, Summer Sunday and Sister Peacock

Trifecta:
Box Lady Grace, Another Time, Summer Sunday and Sister Peacock

Wolf Hill Stakes - Race 13 at Monmouth - Post Time 6:20 PM Eastern

This race follows the Haskell, which is the Equibase Race of the Week. Simply put the contenders are Dr Post and Authentic but they are the favorites. I will use Ancient Warrior on some double and pick 3 tickets as well but the race didn’t need to be a part of this blog because it’s very predictable.

In the Wolf Hill Stakes, there are two contenders to win – American Sailor and Archidust, and a suspect favorite at low odds in Shekky Shebaz we should use on pick 3 and double tickets from the Haskell and to the next race.

American Sailor LOVES to win races. He has a 14 for 43 record and won his comeback last month after seven months off as an eight year old who loves sprinting on grass. When allowed the early lead, as he should be here lest any horse wants to compromise their own chances, he’s tough as nails and he fits on figures as well, having finished second or third in two stakes on grass in late 2018 and 2019 before finding a home in the starter allowance ranks on the Maryland circuit. Of the two contenders to win he’s the better play opening at 5/1 but I could easily be persuaded to bet Archidust to win as well.

Archidust is one of the horses who left the barn of Navarro when that trainer was indicted earlier this year. He won five of 12 including 2 of 4 on grass. He won a pair of stakes last summer, one of them identical to this over the track (the My Frenchman) in July and he fires big off layoffs. He’s now in the Asmussen barn and should be right there particularly if American Sailor goes a bit too fast early.

Shekky Shebaz is another horse who changed trainers after the indictments, form Servis to Clement. He’s been off four months and has a fine record of 6-5-3 in 20 races, including a 3 for 7 record in turf sprints. He won a stakes in December at the trip and last summer at Saratoga and put in a big four furlong turf workout in June in preparation for his comeback but compared to the to the other two, the first having just won last month and the other having proven to fire big off a layoff, and considering he opens at 5/2, I’m just going to use him in the exacta.

Bets:
Win bet: American Sailor to win at 2 to 1 or more.
“IF” Archidust is anywhere near 2 to 1 near post time, he can be bet to win as well.

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:
Box American Sailor, Archidust and Shekky Shebaz


Molly Pitcher Stakes - Race 14 at Monmouth - Post Time 6:51 PM Eastern

Royal Flag looks very strong here and although it is possible she’s going to be bet down from her 3/1 starting odds it may hold up. After a third place sprint debut effort last summer, she’s won three in a row, moving right through the maiden, first allowance and second allowance level. Her win in February by nine lengths at Gulfstream was visually impressive and she may have become a bit tired last time out on 5/31 at Churchill when only winning by a half-length after opening up by two but she will be much stronger here. If she’s overbet as is often the case with Brown starters she’s still a key in the exacta and trifecta. Lopez rides and when he gets on for Brown shippers he’s 5 for 11 over the past couple of years. Brown also knows when to go from allowance to stakes off a win, with a very strong record of 13 wins and 13 seconds from 52 starters going back five years.

Gotham Gala should NOT be 12/1 and I hope she helps us to make a profit even if the top pick is the heavy favorite She ran absolutely horrible when seventh of eight in the Obeah Stakes last month but she had been off for seven and one-half month. She was up close in second early and tired badly but she’s done that before, like last year before winning the 2019 Obeah and before missing by a nose in the Lady Jacqueline stakes last August. The fact Centeno climbs on is significant, as is the addition of blinkers, which may mean the plan is to send her to the lead where she could prove quite elusive.

She’s a Julie opens as the 5/2 favorite off a win in the G1 Phipps Stakes last month and the drop to this grade 3 level. She’s only put wins back-to-back once in the past couple of years, when winning the Bayakoa in February 2019 then the La Troienne, but there was a two and one-half month gap between the two races, not five weeks as she’s coming back from today. Nevertheless if she repeats that last effort with a 106 figure she’s going to be right there with Royal Flag (107 best) and Gotham Gal (104 best).

For some exactas and trifectas I’m going to throw in Vault and Horologist. Vault finished second in the Obeah last month and is trained by Cox while Horologist makes her first start since moving to the Mott barn and won the Monmouth Oaks last August at this trip over the track.

Bets:
Win bets: Royal Flag to win at odds of 9 to 5.
For a smaller amount, Gotham Gala to win at 3 to 1 or more.

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.

If you use a dutching tool like the free one at Amwager, you will automatically be betting a smaller amount on Gotham Gala because the bets will be proportioned based on the odds.

Exactas:
She’s a Julie, Royal Flag and Gotham Gala over She’s a Julie, Royal Flag, Gotham Gala, Vault and Horologist.
She’s a Julie, Royal Flag, Gotham Gala, Vault and Horologist over She’s a Julie, Royal Flag and Gotham Gala.

Trifectas
Royal Flag over She’s a Julie, Gotham Gala, Vault and Horologist over She’s a Julie, Gotham Gala, Vault and Horologist
She’s a Julie, Gotham Gala, Vault and Horologist over Royal Flag over She’s a Julie, Gotham Gala, Vault and Horologist


I thought the Coaching Club came up interesting this year, and I think I’ll be taking a nice swing in it. With that in mind, I’ll offer my thoughts on the race and how I plan to go after it. 

It is very early in the Saratoga meet, and we have a brand-new surface. Thus far, it seems relatively honest, but that can change with a twitch of the wind or the outburst of a cloud. What is encouraging to me is that horses seem to be able to close ad make up ground. I like level playing fields. 

Tonalist’s Shape is a pretty fast horse for Saffie Joseph. She’s a Gulfstream Park specialist and got walloped when she ran into a serious racehorse in Swiss Skydiver. Adding blinkers likely puts her right up on the pace from the rail, but I think she will get pressure and also think the mile and an eighth will get to her. 

Antoinette is interesting. She can stalk the pace under Johnny Velazquez and be ready to pounce when the real running starts. She is steadily improving, and Mott keeps her on the dirt, which tells me he thinks she belongs here. I’d call her a serious contender. 

Altaf will really have to step up here off the sharp maiden score, but I think she can and will. She got a really nice set up last out and capitalized on it. Regardless she drew off like a nice one, and I suspect she is. She covered a lot of ground and looked like there was still gas in the tank. I’ll land here betting on her possibly being a real nice filly. Hopefully, there will be lots of people saying how Chad Brown doesn’t win on the dirt. I believe he does. 

Velvet Crush looks overmatched to me, but does land Jose Ortiz, always a consideration. That said, not enough of a consideration for me to get here. 

Bob Baffert sends Crystal Ball in, and she has enough speed to keep Tonalist’s Shape honest. Bob comes to run and always merits respect, but I think this one gets compromised by the pace scenario. 

Paris Lights is scary. This filly has gotten really good and is getting even better. Tyler Gaffalione is riding excellent and coming off a Keeneland riding title. He will make the most of his chances this meet, and this is one of them. 

I am going to take Altaf to win it. I’ll take her over Antoinette and Paris Lights in the exacta. I think the value will be there and be fair given the small field. 

I will use all three in any multi-race wagers, but double or triple up on Altaf depending on how the sequences stack up. 

Enjoy the races, everyone! And let’s do some damage this meet!

Key Horse Races & Free Expert Picks For July 11, 2020

Appalachian Stakes - Race 4 at Keeneland - Post Time 2:45 PM Eastern

Mariafoot imported from France just recently (June) after running there in February and not only is she fit, with six workouts since June 1, she won her last race. That was a stakes race in a field of 10 on an all-weather surface. It was also on a counter-clockwise (left-handed) course just like in this country and it was at this mile trip. In the race she was close up early and surged at the end in a five horse blanket finish, showing a very nice will to win. Her sire has only had one horse run in the U.S. prior to her but it was a multiple stakes winning filly on the grass, Sandiva. The 96 Equibase figure from that race in France indicates she fits at the level as it’s the third best in the field.

Evil Lyn won by almost five lengths when last seen and is now a perfect three-for-three on turf. She beat three year olds and upward in that last race and faces three year olds only, a hidden drop in class although she is moving into stakes for the first time. Trainer Maker claimed (purchased) her for $40,000 and stands to make $90,000 if she wins and Maker is very good at claiming horses and turning them into stakes runners.

Alms is the likely favorite. She won the first four starts of her career but ran fifth of 13 with no excuse in her fifth career start. She may rebound to form good enough for a first or second place finish but there’s no guarantee. Still, she should be used in the exacta.

On the other hand, the other likely favorite, Walk In Marrakesh, is a horse I will be taking a stand against and not using on exacta tickets. Although she finished second in her first two North American starts after importing from Europe, those were in September and in March. In her two subsequent starts she ran poorly and even though it appears she had trouble in both races which cost her a better placing, my opinion after watching the replays of those race is she had no excuse.

Bets:
Win: Mariafoot and Evil Lyn win at odds of 5 to 2 or more.

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: Box Mariafoot, Evil Lyn and Alms

Pick 3: (Two Tickets – Ticket One)
Race 4: Mariafoot, Evil Lyn, Alms
Race 5: Guarana, Mia Mischief, Bell’s the One
Race 6: ALL except leave off Smart Remark, Corruze & Shared Legacy (to save money and because they have very little chance to win)

Pick 3: (Two Tickets – Ticket Two – This one only uses Guarana in race 5 as she will be the prohibitive favorite so playing this ticket helps insure a profit if she wins)
Race 4: Mariafoot, Evil Lyn, Alms
Race 5: Guarana
Race 6: ALL except leave off Smart Remark, Corruze & Shared Legacy (to save money and because they have very little chance to win)

Madison Stakes - Race 5 at Keeneland - Post Time 3:18 PM Eastern

There’s only a little to write about regarding this race. Guarana, who opens at even money, is a legitimate favorite. She is already a grade 1 winner, having won the one-turn (mile) Acorn Stakes 13 months ago, and she returned off an eight month layoff in stellar fashion at this seven furlong trip, obviously a prep for this race for her second start back. She improved markedly in her second career start (the Acorn) and similar improvement second off the layoff makes her the one to beat, and everyone knows it.

Mia Mischief and Bell’s the One are the likely winners if Guarana fails. Mia Mischief is also a grade 1 winner, having taken the Humana Distaff last May. She’s two-for-three this year and although beaten at 3 to 5 last time out by Bell’s the One, she moves up a furlong and that could help her turn the tables on that on and possibly win as well. Bell’s the One won the Raven Run Stakes at this distance last fall as a three year old and came back after three months off following two poor efforts last month and surpassed the Raven Run effort taking the Winning Colors Stakes. She too is likely to improve second off a layoff, and, unlike Mia Mischief (who opens at 3 to 1 odds not good enough for a win bet), Bell’s the One opens at good odds of 8/1.

Every horse except Diamond Crazy may be used on exacta and trifecta tickets but the only way to really make a profit on those tickets is “If” Guarana doesn’t win of “If” longshots Wildwood Beauty, Princess Causeway or Unique Factor fill the second and/or third slots.

Bets:
Win Bet: Bell’s the One to win at 3 to 1 or higher.

Exactas:
Guarana, Mia Mischief and Bell’s the One over Guarana, Mia Mischief, Bell’s the One, Wildwood Beauty, Sally’s Curlin, Princess Causeway, Unique Factor and Amy’s Challenge.

Trifecta:
Guarana, Mia Mischief and Bell’s the One over Guarana, Mia Mischief and Bell’s the One over Guarana, Mia Mischief, Bell’s the One, Wildwood Beauty, Sally’s Curlin, Princess Causeway, Unique Factor and Amy’s Challenge.

Pick 3: (Two tickets – ticket one)
Race 5: Guarana, Mia Mischief, Bell’s the One
Race 6: ALL except leave off Smart Remark, Corruze & Shared Legacy (to save money and because they have very little chance to win)
Race 7: Venetian Harbor, Bonny South, Envoutante

Pick 3: (Two tickets – ticket two, only using Guarana in race 5)
Race 5: Guarana
Race 6: ALL except leave off Smart Remark, Corruze & Shared Legacy (to save money and because they have very little chance to win)
Race 7: Venetian Harbor, Bonny South, Envoutante

Shakertown Stakes - Race 6 at Keeneland - Post Time 3:51 PM Eastern

Although the “ALL” button is used on pick 3 tickets involving this race, for intra-race play there are a few horses to key on. Two of them – Bound for Nowhere and Wildman Jack, open as co-favorites at 5 to 2. The other three are Just Might, Fast Boat and Totally Boss.

Wildman Jack won the Daytona Stakes in California at this trip and has won four of eight so fits on all counts. Bound for Nowhere shows up every time and won this race in 2018, then missed by a neck last year. Fast Boat, like Wildman Jack, just ran the best race of his career, as fast as Wildman Jack (115 figure to Fast Boat’s 116) and loves to win (7 for 17 on turf). Totally Boss won at the trip on the course last April when in top form (four wins and a nose loss in five races) then was VERY well regarded in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint but had significant traffic issues. He returned to the races off a seven month layoff and again had big trouble. We have to draw a line through those two races and he put in a sparkling workout two weeks ago so he’s fit and ready. Just Might opens at a RIDICULOUS 50/1. He won a stakes at this trip on turf in February then finished second to a streaking multiple winner in Wellabled which NO horse was going to beat last month. I say ridiculous because he’s got at least a 15% chance of winning and even if I said 10% he should be 11/1 not 50/1.

Bets:
We’re not going to get fair odds (based on probability) on either Wildman Jack or Bound for Nowhere, so we can only profit if they win on exacta tickets and pick 3 tickets.

Win bets are warranted on Fast Boat and Totally Boss at 3/1 or more.
A win, place (and show if you like) bet should be made on Just Might at 6/1 or more.

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:
Wildman Jack and Bound for Nowhere over ALL (these substitute for win bets) (Note: just like in the pick 3 you can leave out Smart Remark, Corruze & Shared Legacy (to save money and because they have very little chance to win)

Box Wildman Jack, Bound for Nowhere, Just Might, Fast Boat and Totally Boss.

Ashland Stakes - Race 7 at Keeneland - Post Time 4:24 PM Eastern

In spite of the morning line, making Venetian Harbor the 6/5 favorites, there are NO STANDOUTS in this race. The only horse with little chance is Alta’s Award. The other five all can win BUT I question the will to win of Speech, who is also entered to run in Friday’s Beaumont Stakes. Speech has finished second in four straight, two to division leaders Swiss Skydiver and Gamine, BUT perhaps it was a case of “somebody had to run second” in those races and she’s a poor bet at 2/1. Venetian Harbor is potentially a “lone front runner” and that makes her very dangerous, but she was caught last out by Swiss Skydiver and although Prat is riding at Keeneland today, he loses the mount to Rosario. Joel rode her to her win in her second start when sprinting so knows her.

So obviously Venetian Harbor is a fairly legitimate favorite, but just like with the male division, there are horses who are still improving and it’s very possible one can take enough of a step forward today to win. Foremost among those is Envoutante, from the McPeek barn. It appears she’s been working in company with the queen of the barn, Swiss Skydiver, who runs later against males in the Blue Grass Stakes, and her last two workouts have been spectacular, first a 59.2 which was the third best of 48 then a 47.6 half mile which was the second best of 97. On form, Envoutante fits as well, having won easily at the distance last time out with a 96 figure, up from 91 the race before, but not as good as the 99 she earned around two turns for the first time. Jose Ortiz stays aboard and considering Venetian Harbor earned a 100 figure last out it won’t take much improvement for Envoutante to run well enough to post the upset.

Bonny South won the Fair Grounds Oaks when last seen with a 100 figure in a career-best effort. The concern is she hasn’t raced in three and one-half months compared to Envoutante and Venetian Harbor, who ran on 5/29 and 5/1, respectively. On the other hand, the trainer is Brad Cox, who does very well with horses in routes not needing preps off layoffs, so she must be considered a win contender.

Bets:
Win bets: Envoutante to win at odds of 5/2
“IF” Bonny South is about 7/2 or more at post time she can be bet to win as well.

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:
Bonny South and Envoutante over Bonny South, Envoutante, Venetian Harbor and Speech
Venetian Harbor over Bonny South and Envoutante (there’s no value in an exacta of Venetian Harbor over Speech).

Trifecta:
Bonny South and Envoutante over Bonny South, Envoutante, Venetian Harbor and Speech over Bonny South, Envoutante, Venetian Harbor and Speech.



Those who play the horses today generally fall into one of five groups:

Fans- these are the ones who play the Kentucky Derby, names, birthdates, and any other hunches that come to mind.

Syndicates- These are groups of people who invest together in a system of wagering that often employs one or both of the next two categories.

Bettors- These are players who are smart gamblers. They find and identify angles or something that works for them at a good value and go after it. They know how to bet smart.

Handicappers- These are the ones who back their opinion. They calculate the probable outcome and wager they will be right. They do not always bet smart.

Gamblers- These are the ones who would and do bet on anything. I’d include those who play someone else’s choices in this group whether they pay for those opinions or not.

Obviously, you can belong to more than one group.

Yes, you can be a bettor and a handicapper, but it isn’t easy. These last two groups make up most of the handle and odds are if you are reading this you make up one of them. The majority of players fall into one of these groups and which one you are in goes a long way towards how successful you are going to be.

Years ago, the sharp handicapper had the edge. That playing field has been leveled and even tilted towards the smart bettor. Of course, if you are a good handicapper who also knows how to bet, then you are in the best position. Unfortunately, many handicappers do not bet well, and many good bettors can’t handicap a walkover.

To survive and have a chance at being profitable, you need to know how to bet smart. You don’t necessarily need to know how to handicap. It feels odd for me to say that but in today’s game it is true. I’ll explain.

I know a very successful player who looks at the past performances of a race for all of five minutes. If you’re a handicapper you know there is not a lot you can figure out in a 10 or 12 horse field, or any field for that matter in five minutes. At best you are getting a slight glimpse into what the probable outcome is. This gentleman looks for angles he has had success with. Sprinters stretching out to a distance first time. Closers cutting back in distance. Speed in a race without a lot of front runners. Closers in a race with a lot of speed. This all sounds simple enough. Here is where he separates himself. He knows how to bet.

When he spots one of these angles and decides he is going to go after it he understands something I have written about and spoken about for years. He is willing to lose but wants to make it count when he wins. He only goes after these angles when the odds are long. The longer the better. He’ll play the horse in exacta boxes. He will single the horse on multiple tickets in the pick 3’s, 4’s, and 5’s. The ticket may look like this, 5x5x1x5x5. Remember the single is a big price horse. They could be 20-1, 30-1, who knows. He is more than willing to tear up a thousand dollars’ worth of these type plays on any one horse. Can you imagine what types of hits he makes when he connects? How about the times he connects when the single is not the only longshot in the bet who comes in! He does not have to be right nearly as many times as most handicapper do, let alone the other groups. He has his edge. We will all be wrong a lot more than right in this game. It has to count when you are right, or you have no chance.

This is where the smart bettor has the advantage over the good handicapper. We all want to feel smart. We inherently want to be right and cash tickets. Betting takes more. It takes a certain discipline and understanding of how this game works. It is not for everybody.

There are many sharks in the water. There is a ton of both good and bad information out there. Drugs, legal, illegal, and therapeutic all are out there and affecting races daily. This reduces the significance of good old-fashioned handicapping. Prices are down on many horses due to the sharks and information overload. Drugs are moving horses up. Sure, you can factor these things in, and most of us do but at the end of the day you have to know how to bet.

The way I discussed here is just one example. Different things work for different players. My advice is find what works for you and hone it to perfection.


Key Horse Races & Free Expert Picks For July 4, 2020

Poker Stakes - Race 8 at Belmont - Post Time 5:13 PM Eastern

Dream Friend returned from seven months off five weeks ago and tired to third after leading from the start, at this mile turf trip at Belmont. That was nothing more than a PREP for this mile stakes race and I think the horse is going to run much better and turn the tables on Value Proposition, who won that day. Terranova is really good with horses second off the layoff in turf routes (5 for 14 in the past two years) and that’s why I sense the 6/3 race was to tighten Dream Friend up for this race. From the rail he could easily be the “Lone frontrunner” and take the field all the way and as such he offers tons of value opening at 8 to 1.

The mare Got Stormy does very well tackling males and she too makes her second start off a rest, while moving back to her best trip. She’s 8-for-15 at a mile and nearly all of the $1.5 million she’s banked has come at the trip. One before last she led late and came up a neck short in the Grade 1 Kilroe Mile vs males and two before that against her own gender she won the G1 Matriarch Stakes powerfully. Those efforts earned 115 and 117 Equibase figures no horse can match as efforts representative of what she can do today and she’s anywhere near her 7/2 starting odds around post time she should be bet to win as well.

Valid Point, Seismic Wave and Value Proposition will be used on exacta tickets as well as in double and the pick 3 and pick 4. The pick 4 sequence ends with the Suburban Stakes (Race 11), which is on a different blog, but I’ve included the contenders here in the multi-race bets below.

Bets:
Win: Dream Friend and Got Stormy to win at odds of 3 to 1 or more.

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: Dream Friend and Got Stormy over Dream Friend, Got Stormy, Valid Point, Seismic Wave and Value Proposition.

Optionally, play the reverse of that exacta, which is Dream Friend, Got Stormy, Valid Point, Seismic Wave and Value Proposition over Dream Friend and Got Stormy.

Pick 3:
Race 8: Dream Friend, Got Stormy, Valid Point, Seismic Wave and Value Proposition.
Race 9: Vekoma, Mr Freeze
Race 10: Instilled Regard, Rockemperor, Devamani, Spooky Channel
Optionally, in race 9 also use McKinzie, Code of Honor and Endorsed (I would use these on the pick 4 for sure because that wager has a $0.50 minimum)

For the Pick 4:
Race 11: Mr Buff, Moretti

Double:
Race 8: Dream Friend, Got Stormy, Valid Point, Seismic Wave and Value Proposition
Race 9: Vekoma, Mr Freeze

Race 8: Dream Friend, Got Stormy
Race 9: Vekoma, Mr Freeze, McKinzie, Code of Honor and Endorsed

Metropolitan Handicap - Race 9 at Belmont - Post Time 5:47 PM Eastern

Mr Freeze and Vekoma are my two top contenders to win this year’s Runhappy Metropolitan Handicap, but of the pair I will give Mr Freeze preference. The reason is he’s a true dirt miler. Last September, Mr Freeze won the Ack Ack Stakes for a then career-best 115 Equibase figure and he hasn’t really run a bad race since then. Stretching out to two-turns and a mile and one-eighth for the Fayette Stakes in October and the Clark Stakes in November, Mr Freeze finished respectably to the top horse in the handicap division in North America, Tom’s d’Etat, winner of the Stephen Foster Stakes last weekend. After another big effort when second in the Pegasus World Cup Invitational in January, Mr Freeze cut back to a one turn mile and won the Gulfstream Park Mile in impressive fashion, duplicating the 115 figure earned in the Ack Ack. Once again Mr Freeze stretched out to nine furlongs for the Oaklawn Handicap when last seen in May, finishing third of 13. Incidentally, the winner of that race (By My Standards) came back to run second to Tom’s d’Etat in the Foster. For this race, Mr Freeze is once again cutting back from a mile and one-eighth to a mile and if his last two efforts at a mile are any indication, he’s going to be very tough to beat. On another positive note, jockey Manny Franco rode Mr Freeze just once previously, when victorious in the Gulfstream Park Mile.

Vekoma, although running just twice in 2018, was a top two-year-old as he won the Nashua Stakes in November in only the second start of his career. Similarly, he won the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes in his second start as a three year old, before disappointing badly when 13th in the Kentucky Derby. Given nearly 11 months to mature after that, Vekoma made a very sharp debut as a four year old in March with a stirring victory in the Sir Shackleton Stakes with a career-best 109 figure. Improving sensationally in his second start of the year, Vekoma put to shame a good field in the Carter Handicap last month at Belmont when drawing off to a seven and one-quarter length win. The 116 figure earned in that race is the second best last race figure in the field, just one point shy of the 117 McKinzie earned last month at the same seven furlong trip. However, what Vekoma has going for him which McKinzie does not is being a four year old, Vekoma is still physically maturing and can improve. A perfect four-for-four in one-turn races in his career and with a perfect two-for-two record at Belmont, Vekoma is another strong contender to win this year’s Metropolitan Handicap.

Code of Honor, like Vekoma, was a top three-year-old last year, winning the Fountain of Youth Stakes in March. After third place finishes in the Florida Derby and Kentucky Derby, placed second in the latter race after the disqualification of Maximum Security, Code of Honor proved himself once again when winning the Dwyer Stakes at this one-turn mile trip at Belmont last July. Stretching out to a mile and one-quarter, Code of Honor won the Travers Stakes before a career-best effort and 114 figure when coming up a nose short in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, then was moved up to first after bumped by the original winner. The long campaign apparently took its toll as he finished seventh in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. However, after seven months off, Code of Honor came back strongly to win the Westchester Stakes last month over the track with a 113 figure effort that bears improvement in his second start off that long layoff.

Endorsed led into the stretch in the Westchester but had no answer for Code of Honor in the late stages. The 112 figure was a career-best and he certainly could be a factor once more. McKinzie earned a 117 figure winning the Triple Bend Stakes last month in California and earned back-to-back 121 figures in two-turn races, winning the Whitney Stakes last summer at Saratoga then second in the Awesome Again Stakes. He finished second in the Breeders’ Cup Classic to end his 2019 campaign. McKinzie, along with Hog Creek Hustle has mostly a deep closing style when he runs into a very hot pace as evidenced by his eighth to second place effort in last year’s Metropolitan Handicap. Hog Creek Hustle earned a career best 106 figure when coming up a nose short in the H. Allen Jerkens Stakes last summer but has not come close to running that kind of race since. With only one “early” pace type in this race, Warrior’s Charge (with a career-best 104 figure), I think the late charges of both McKinzie and Hog Creek Hustle may be a bit muted. Network Effect earned a career-best 111 figure winning the restricted Big Drama Stakes in May but was no match for Vekoma in the Carter and is another who may be held to a minor award.


Bets:
Win Bets: Vekoma and Mr Freeze at odds of 5 to 2 or more.

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:
Vekoma and Mr Freeze over Vekoma, Mr Freeze, McKinzie, Code of Honor and Endorsed
Vekoma, Mr Freeze, McKinzie, Code of Honor and Endorsed over Vekoma and Mr Freeze

Pick 3:
Race 9: Vekoma, Mr Freeze, McKinzie, Code of Honor and Endorsed
Race 10: Instilled Regard, Rockemperor, Devamani, Spooky Channel
Race 11: Mr Buff, Moretti

Doubles:
Race 9: Vekoma, Mr Freeze, McKinzie, Code of Honor and Endorsed
Race 10: Instilled Regard, Rockemperor, Devamani, Spooky Channel

Manhattan Stakes - Race 10 at Belmont - Post Time 6:20 PM Eastern

Chad Brown has a quartet, or half the field, in this year’s Manhattan, and one of those (Instilled Regard) is going to go favored as his 2 to 1 morning line suggests. Still, ANY of Brown’s quartet can win, and one of them, even though bet down from a 5/1 morning line, is actually the one to beat. That is Rockemperor, who did everything but win the nearly identical Charles Whittingham Stakes at the end of May in California. He ran into a buzzsaw in United, who would just not let him by. Rockemperor was disqualified from second as Ortiz, as is his want, didn’t think it was a big deal to drift into another horse, but with a jockey change to John Velazquez today and a repeat of that last effort with a field high 120 Equibase figure, Rockemperor should get his first North American win in his fifth start since importing from Europe.

Devamani is another Brown charts and he too lost a heartbreaker last out. In the Fort Marcy run one month ago over the track, Rosario got cheeky and kept the horse inside too late. When he got clear he was gobbling up the ground and came up a neck short of beating Instilled Regard. There’s no doubt in my mind Rosario won’t make the same mistake this time and at the least will turn the tables on Instilled Regard because since moving to the Brown barn, this gelding has run the two best races of his career. He’s also a winner at 10 furlongs on turf, a feat only Rockemperor and Sadler’s Joy can claim as well, but Sadler’s Joy hasn’t run a good race but once in his last 15 starts.

Spooky Channel CAN NOT be ignored here, opening at 15/1. Victorious at 36 to 1 for our benefit in the McKnight Stakes in January, he rebounded off two poor efforts to post the 8/1 upset last time out at the end of May. Leparoux was up for both. This gelding is bred to run all day and has won at distances ranging from a mile to a mile and seven-eighths. With eight wins in 15 starts he may be ignored compared to others as he ships in from Kentucky and that may be a mistake we can capitalize on.

Instilled Regard, the 2/1 starting favorite, rounds out the contenders for any and all wagers we make involving this race. Certainly he can win, but the profit from him doing so is much less than any of the other three. His best effort came when third in the Pegasus World Cup Invitational Turf in January when he got within a length of the lead at the top of the stretch before being out finished, but his last race was very good when holding off Devamani by a neck on the wire at nine furlongs on the grass. Making his second start off a short rest, the same or better could be forthcoming.

Bets:
Win: Rockemperor and Devamani at 2 to 1 or more.
For a smaller amount, there’s no doubt in my mind Spooky Channel can be bet to win at 4 to 1 or more.

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:
Rockemperor and Devamani over Rockemperor, Devamani, Instilled Regard and Spooky Channel
Rockemperor, Devamani, Instilled Regard and Spooky Channel over Rockemperor and Devamani

Trifectas:
Rockemperor and Devamani over Rockemperor, Devamani, Instilled Regard and Spooky Channel over Rockemperor, Devamani, Instilled Regard and Spooky Channel.

Rockemperor and Devamani over Rockemperor, Devamani, Instilled Regard and Spooky Channel over ALL.