Saturday, 14 September 2019 05:46

Woodbine Mile Thoughts 2019

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September 14, 2019

Woodbine Mile Thoughts 2019

By: Jonathan Stettin

The Woodbine Mike is always an interesting and competitive race and this year is no exception. Here are my thoughts and how I’ll play it.

#1 El Tormenta- Looks overmatched I’m here. Handles Woodbine and should appreciate some added ground over his most recent starts but looks up against it to win this.
#2 Lucullan- Has come back like a new horse. Always had some ability but is better than ever right now. If he handles Woodbine, and I suspect he will, I think he is your winner. The price won’t be 8-1 like the morning line but should be OK.
#3 Silent Poet- He is my second choice and the other horse I would use in any multi race wagers. He is game and improving and loves this course. Dangerous.
#4 Synchrony- Will have plenty of support here. Not mine. He is capable for sure but I don’t think he is peaking or sitting on a top race, two things I look for. Also a likely underlay.
5- Got Stormy- Coming off two monster efforts, I am looking for some regression in here. Taking a swing against the obvious favorite. Will be no surprise but I think he can be beaten.
6- Awesometank- A filly, albeit a good one against the boys, not my favorite angle. I’d need to see more from her. Not impossible but not for me in here.
7- Raging Bull- Is there such a thing as a third choice? Not really for me but if there was he would be mine in here. He has always had ability and class, and I think he is coming up to an A race or effort. That could be good enough if some of the others I lean to don’t fire. I’d use in multi race wagers on a spread ticket.
8- American Guru- Will be a price and should be, looks overmatched and would need a surprise career race to win this. I don’t see it.
9- Made You Look- Always tough to toss Chad Brown in any grass stake, but if it was easy everybody would be doing it, I can’t get here, he just does not look as good as some of the others regardless of connections.
10- Emmaus- May not win but I think he is sitting on one of his better or A races and that can put him close. I will use in exactas, triples, and superfectas in the second, third and fourth slots. Should be a big price.
11- Admiralty Pier- Another big price that can probably not win but can maybe sneak into the exotics. Another I would use in the back slots looking to make something happen.
The ones I think are the win contenders are Lucullan, Silent Poet, and Raging Bull. I will use those three in multi race wagers leaning on Lucullan heaviest. Emmaus and Admiralty Pier will be in my rear slots in vertical wagers as they are both long odds horses I think can hit the board. Enjoy the Woodbine Mile.

Friday, 13 September 2019 12:25

Key Races & Bets for Saturday, September 14

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Canadian Stakes -Race 7 at Woodbine-Post Time 4:30 Eastern

Magnetic Charm is a lightly raced three year old filly, the only three year old in the seven horse field. She faced older for the first time in a stakes race at Ascot at the end of July and finished third as the odds on favorite. Prior to that she ran huge when beaten a neck in a 27 horse field at Royal Ascot in June and prior to that she won by a neck in an 11 horse field in a stakes, that win following eight months on the bench and her ONLY start on a left handed course. Those three efforts this year show what she’s made of and trainer William Haggas doesn’t ship to North America unless he has the goods. He’s only shipped five horses in the last few years, including Call to Mind, who won the Belmont Gold Cup Invitational last year for Her Majesty The Queen, who also owns this filly. Haggas also shipped Awesometank (who is running in the Ricoh Woodbine Mile later on the day) to finish second in the Beverly D. Stakes. In short, I don’t think Magnetic Charm was brought over to keep her stablemate company and is a legitimate contender to win this race and to post the mild upset, opening at 8 to 1.

Starship Jubilee won this race last year at 11/1 following a win five weeks earlier over the course. She won the Sunshine Millions Filly & Mare Turf this past winter at Gulfstream as she had in 2018 and although winless in three since, they have all been solid efforts as she finished third (beaten three-quarters of a length), second and third (beaten a half-length). Those three all came after four months off so she’s certainly not over raced. Best of all, she’s reunited with Contreras, up for last year’s win, and she put in a very sharp half-mile work on grass one week ago so certainly could repeat as the winner of this race.

Touriga was coming back from nine months off on 7/20, and making her U.S. debut, when third of three in the weather delayed Matchmaker Stakes on that 100 degree day at Monmouth. It wasn’t really a race in a normal respect but I think she got a lot out of it and for Graham Motion to enter her in this grade 2 off that race tells me she is rounding back to the kind of top form which saw her win a group 1 and a group 2 race in her native Brazil last year, both on turf. The favorites in this race are a bit suspect so opening at 6/1 she offers value as well.

As to one of those favorites, second morning line (5/2) favorite Holy Helena, she’s okay but no standout. She won the similar G2 Dance Smartly Stakes when last seen on June 29 at 10 furlongs and she’s won a pair of stakes at 1 3/16 miles so this nine furlong trip should suit her. The 103 figure earned in the Dance Smartly was the same as when winning the Very One Stakes in March and it’s good, but to be fair and to put it in perspective, Touriga earned a pair of identical figures in her wins in Brazil, Magnetic Charm earned three 98 figures in her last three races which can be improved upon as she’s just three years old, and Starship Jubilee earned 100 and 101 figures in all three races this year. As such, Holy Helena is just as likely, not any more so, to win than many of the others here.

On the other hand, Competition of Ideas is MUCH LESS likely to win than is suggested by her 8/5 staring odds, but I sure hope the public bets her heavily. She won three of seven races last year including the American Oaks, but that was in December and it was restricted to three year olds. She’s winless in four since, with NO excuses, although beaten a neck in two of those races. The only reason the morning linemaker made her such short odds is she’s trained by Brown, but with the filly having a 3-4-3 record I’ll be happy to take a stand against her except for some exotic wagers.

Win bets: Magnetic Charm to win at 3 to 1 or more, Starship Jubilee if 3 to 1 or higher.
A smaller win bet on Touriga at 4 to 1 or more is acceptable 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: Magnetic Charm over Touriga, Holy Helena, Competition of Ideas and Starship Jubilee.
Starship Jubilee over Magnetic Charm, Touriga, Holy Helena and Competition of Ideas.
Touriga over Magnetic Charm, Holy Helena, Competition of Ideas and Starship Jubilee.

Ricoh Woodbine Mile – Race 9 at Woodbine - Post Time 5:42 Eastern

As impressive as Got Stormy was beating males in the Fourstardave Handicap last month at Saratoga, Synchrony was equally impressive when winning the King Edward Stakes at Woodbine in late June. Synchrony earned a 109 Equibase figure in that race, not nearly the 114 career-best earned winning the Red Bank Stakes last summer at the distance of the Woodbine Mile, but the manner in which he won suggests he hasn't yet run his best race this year. Lagging back in seventh of eight with a quarter mile to go, Synchrony wheeled out while losing a lot of ground and made up four lengths in less than an eighth of a mile to win in "ridden out" fashion. He had shipped up from trainer Stidham's base at the Fair Hills training center in Maryland for the race and right after that he returned to that location, putting in a series of strong workouts including a "bullet" best of the day workout seven days ago. Now he’s shipping in again and it’s a winning pattern. Synchrony should get a strong pace to run at once again as it appears both Admiralty Pier and American Guru will have to show early speed from outside posts to get good inside position going into the first turn. As a multiple grade two stakes winner and likely to fire a big shot fresh off a two and one-half month layoff as he did in February when winning the Fair Grounds Handicap, Synchrony could be moving fastest of all in the final stages to win this year's Ricoh Woodbine Mile.

Got Stormy has run the two best races of her career in her two most recent starts. That shouldn't come as a surprise as she's still a maturing four year old. Returning from two months off on August 3, Got Stormy won the De La Rose Stakes with a 110 figure, bettering that seven days later with a 118 figure earned in the Fourstardave Handicap. In that race, Got Stormy was 14 lengths back early off a very strong pace and when asked to pick up the tempo she responded very well to draw off by two and one-half lengths at the end. Like Synchrony and unlike some of the other entrants in this race, Got Stormy has familiarity with the Woodbine Turf, having captured the Ontario Colleen Stakes last July in her only previous start on this track. Just the same, trainer Mark Casse is taking no chances, so he gave the filly a strong half-mile workout on the course just one week ago to ensure she is ready to run her best in this race. With her seven career wins at this mile turf trip the best in the field by far, Got Stormy has every right to win her second grade one stakes in a row.

Although I feel Synchrony and Got Stormy are a cut above the rest, there are a few others I would consider as contenders in the race, particularly for exacta wagers. Silent Poet earned a career-best 112 figure when winning the Play the King Stakes at seven furlongs on the course last month. The Woodbine Mile is a one turn race as well and the horse is making his third start off a seven month layoff so he has potential to improve. Lucullan is also making his third start off a layoff and won his two most recent races, including a 113 figure effort in his comeback race in July. The competition he faced in the Lure Stakes last month wasn't nearly as tough as he faces in this race but having won five of nine career races on grass he's shown a lot of competitive spirit to date which can't be taken for granted. Raging Bull (FR) was four lengths behind Got Stormy in the Fourstardave when he began his rally and two and one-half back at the finish. He won the Hollywood Derby last December but is winless in four races since then. However, he could be passing many of these in the stretch.

Win Bets: Synchrony and Got Stormy to win at odds of 2/1 or more, noting it's unlikely Got Stormy will make those minimum odds for a win bet. IF Got Stormy goes to post at less than those odds, play an additional exacta as noted below instead of a win bet.

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: Synchrony and Got Stormy over Synchrony, Got Stormy, Silent Poet, Lucullan and Raging Bull.
The exacta as a win bet (if Got Stormy is less than 2/1) is Got Stormy over Synchrony, Silent Poet, Lucullan and Raging Bull.

Exacta box: Synchrony, Got Stormy, Silent Poet, Lucullan and Raging Bull.

Trifecta: Box Synchrony, Got Stormy, Silent Poet, Lucullan and Raging Bull.

Pebbles Stakes – Race 10 at Belmont - Post Time 5:57 Eastern

I am completely taking a stand against East, the likely second or third betting choice near post time. She finished second in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf but that was a year ago and her last two races, in May then two months later in July, weren’t much. Yes, I know she’s dropping from group 1 to this non-graded stakes level but not only could she need a race but her form is far different to that before the Breeders’ Cup where she had won a group 3 stakes as this time she ran really badly. There’s also a question of how Blowout deserves to be the 2/1 favorite, although the case can be made that when Chad Brown’s name appears, horses are always a point lower than they should be. She has a 2-3-1 record in six races and since she lost two of those by narrow margins a case can be made she could have five wins, BUT a case can also be made she could still have just two wins BECAUSE she had absolutely NO excuse for losing last out in the Lake Placid after leading through a pokey half-mile and six furlongs and she lost ground in the stretch in the Lake George before that.

The fact Blowout is suspect, although she could easily be part of the exacta, means we have to very playable horses in Eyeinthesky and Feel Glorious, the former much more preferred. Eyeinthesky has won three of eight this year, two of those stakes like this one. Although she hasn’t won past six furlongs, the fact is she’s only run farther three times on turf and I can make the case all three are irrelevant here and MORE IMPORTANTLY she’s a different filly now after two big efforts at Saratoga. She’s bred for the mile and her and 95 figure efforts in her last two starts are ABSOLUTELY as good as the 99 and 98 efforts Blowout put forth in her last two races, yet Eyeinthesky opens at three times the odds (6/1).

Feel Glorious ran very well when coming to the U.S. this winter, with two wins and a runner-up effort, the latter in a grade 3 stakes. She tailed off to finish fourth behind Blowout in a stakes in June then sixth in the Lake Placid, but was only two lengths behind favorite Blowout in that race. Since then she put in a strong half-mile workout, likely in company with East as they both worked the same distance on the same day, and there’s more than a decent shot Feel Glorious can rebound to her form of just a few months ago at a price.

Win bets: Eyeinthesky to win at odds of 5/2 or more.
For a smaller amount, Feel Glorious to win at odds of 4/1 or higher.

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: Eyeinthesky and Feel Glorious over Eyeinthesky, Feel Glorious, Blowout and Seek and Destroy (the other Brown trainee).

Woodbine Cares Stakes - Race 11 at Woodbine - Post Time 6:49 Eastern

Capping off a fantastic pair of racing days at Woodbine, this five furlong sprint stakes for two year olds is very interesting. Even with a few scratches, there are enough lightly raced horses who have ONLY shown a need-the-lead style to toss them all out as contenders and land on the four which are left. Those four are Miss Lucy, Foolish Humor, Quality Heat and Lady Fatima.

Perhaps unfortunately, the first pair of Miss Lucy and Foolish Humor call the barn of top trainer Ward home and may go off as the favorites. Ward won another two year olds stakes last weekend and continues to hum along at nearly a 30% clip in these types of races and both his fillies have shown a lot of talent. Miss Lucy rallied from mid-pack to get up with 50 yards to go in her last start, in England, has been working fantastically for her U.S. debut at Keeneland, adds Lasix and gets Irad Ortiz, Jr. to ride. Foolish Humor won a turf sprint at this trip at Belmont in May and recently finished second in the Colleen Stakes but was placed first after being bumped hard at the eighth pole. Miss Lucy looks like the fastest of the pair with a field high 94 last race Equibase figure but I’m confident both can run and if both go they could run first and second.

Quality Heat won in her second career start, first on turf, at seven furlongs here at Woodbine last month, surging late after stalking the pacesetter for the first six furlongs. She has improving to do off a 77 figure effort and is a half-brother to stakes winner Frank Conversation, who won in his turf debut and then won the El Camino Real Derby shortly thereafter. Lady Fatima is one for three but that win came in her only turf start, in May, and it was a fine effort when she made up five lengths from the halfway mark to win. She’s in the Casse barn and must be respected.

Bets: Miss Lucy and Foolish Humor to win at 2 to 1 or more. If one should scratch, the other has minimum odds of 3 to 2.

Exacta and Trifecta: Box Quality Heat, Lady Fatima, Miss Lucy and Foolish Humor.

Friday, 06 September 2019 02:02

Key Races & Bets for Saturday, September 7

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Kentucky Downs Juvenile Turf Sprint Stakes -Race 6 at Kentucky Downs-Post Time 4:05 Eastern / 3:05 Central

I like the incentive involved in purchasing a horse privately, or claiming it, with a stakes race in mind and in this stakes there are TWO which fit that criteria, both owned by the same connections of Barber, Wachtel and others. They don’t race coupled because of the big purse so if we bet one we must strongly consider the other. They are Alcools and Scocciatore, both opening at 6/1 and both coming off impressive wins. Alcools earned that win in his career debut last month at Woodbine on all-weather for Wayne Rice and Arienne Cox. This is not a disparagement on either but for this horse to win for those connections first out, and as impressively as he did, particularly with Cox aboard, SCREAMS he has talent. Since the win and private purchase he worked a strong half-mile and the trainer is Peter Miller, who won a stakes at double digit odds at Churchill Downs in July off a high priced claim so this is not much different. In the win, Alcools showed maturity rallying from third to draw off to a “ridden out” win and then was flattered when the third finisher came back to win. I expect improvement off the effort and he’s bred to adore the grass.

Scocciatore ran huge when second in his debut at the end of June, regressed to finish fourth in his turf debut, then won as he pleased last month. Purchased since then, he gets Joel Rosario and is a half-brother to multiple winners including one who made over $1.5 million. Although Scocciatore won wire-to-wire he doesn’t appear to be a need-the-lead type and the win came at 7 furlongs, making him one of just a few to have run farther than this 6 ½ furlong trip.

Souper Dormy got up by a nose to win his debut in stylish fashion in July at Ellis Park and that race has turned out to be an ULTRA-KEY race as the second horse won in his next start, the third horse finished second next out and BOTH the fourth and sixth finishers won. This one could be something special as well.

Likely worth small win bets at high odds and definitely worth considering for exacta and trifecta tickets, Cambria and Invader both open at double digit odds and both hail from the strong barn of Wesley Ward, the TOP trainer of two year olds in the field and one of the top trainers in North America. Over the last few years, Ward has won with eight of 30 runners in two year old turf sprint stakes, better than 25%. Cambria is two-for-two and put in a huge half-mile work coming into the race. The only reason she opens at high odds is both wins came on all-weather. Invader didn’t do much when sixth of 10 in his career debut in July BUT he was the 2 to 1 favorite that day, is bred to adore the grass a son of War Front out of a Galileo mare and gets Ward’s go-to Veteran Jockey Julio Garcia, to which I say “BEWARE.”

Win Bets: Alcools and Scocciatore 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.

I would also consider a small ($2 to $5) win, place and possibly show bet on Cambria and on Invader at odds of 7/1 or more.

Exacta: Box Alcools, Scocciatore, Souper Dormy, Cambria and Invader.

Consider a $0.50 trifecta box as well on those five, for a cost of $30.

Ladies Turf Stakes – Race 8 at Kentucky Downs - Post Time 5:28 Eastern / 4:28 Central

Simply Breathless has been superbly handled by veteran Neil Drysdale since coming to the U.S. and making her North American debut in April following seven months. She had won a handicap at Ascot last summer in a field of 10 then took time to acclimate, returning as if she’d never been away when victorious in a little $75K stakes at Golden Gate. Returning less than one month later she made short work of a 10 horse field in the Grade 3 Wilshire Handicap, at a mile, then found the 1 3/16 mile trip of the Modesty Handicap in July just bit too far, fading to third after being second from the start until near the wire. The 109 Equibase figure earned in the Wilshire is one of the best figures in the field and she’s the best in the field at this mile trip, with four wins in eight starts Geroux takes the call and has been riding the course very well so back at the mile this filly may be the one to beat.

The other with the bulk of the probability to win is Mitchell Road, who I absolutely loved as a legitimate favorite in Preakness weekend in the Gallorette Stakes. She did not disappoint as she wired the eight horse field with ease to earn a 107 figure. That was her fourth straight win and to that point she had not been worse than second in seven races. Similar to Simply Breathless finding the distance of her last race too far, Mitchell Road found the grade 1 level too steep, finishing fifth to the likes of Sistercharlie and Rushing Fall, the former having come back to win a grade 1 stakes again since that race. Back at a level where she will be very tough as well as reunited with Rosario, up for the Gallorette when aboard for the first time, Mitchell Road should be very tough in this race as well.

Kallio, Viva Vegas and Storm The Hill are three to use for exactas and trifectas, all having a decent shot to split the two contenders and finish second, but likely a cut below Simply Breathless and Mitchell Road. Kallio ran the best race of her career last month in the prep stakes for this race at Ellis Park. Gaffalione rides back and the 106 figure was decent. Viva Vegas also ran the best race of her career last time out, in July, winning the Indiana Grand General Assembly Distaff, but before that beaten pretty easily when third behind Mitchell Road. Storm The Hill missed by a nose after leading to near the wire in the Yellow Ribbon Handicap last month but was no match for Simply Breathless prior to that.

Then, for some exacta and trifecta tickets, we’ll toss in Sensitive and Ms Bad Behavior, both horses who don’t have a lot of fight when headed late but still who are very competitive, with a combined record of 5-11-3 in 25 combined races on grass.

Win Bets: Either or both Simply Breathless and Mitchell Road 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: Simply Breathless and Mitchell Road over Simply Breathless, Mitchell Road, Kallio, Viva Vegas and Storm the Hill.

Trifecta: Simply Breathless and Mitchell Road over Simply Breathless, Mitchell Road, Kallio, Viva Vegas, Storm the Hill, Sensitive and Ms Bad Behavior over Simply Breathless, Mitchell Road, Kallio, Viva Vegas, Storm the Hill, Sensitive and Ms Bad Behavior.

Ladies Sprint Stakes – Race 9 at Kentucky Downs - Post Time 6:01 Eastern / 5:01 Central

Oleksandra appears to be a legitimate favorite, opening at 3/1, but as we know about these exceptionally big field races at Kentucky Downs anything can happen to there are three others I will consider almost as likely to win, and definitely likely to hit the board, ALL three at higher odds than Oleksandra. Oleksandra is five for seven in turf sprints since coming to the U.S. last fall, including the Smart N Fancy Stakes at Saratoga last month under Rosario, who is three-for-three aboard the mare. She’s won at the distance and her last race 106 Equibase Figure may not be the top in the field but is one point below the horse with the best figure in the field (Tiny Tina) and tied with Coexistence for the second best. Oleksandra has a mean late kick and is very likely to be in the thick of the action at the finish.

Tiny Tina opens at a fairly ridiculous 10/1 particularly considering she’s won three in a row and gets Jose Ortiz, fresh off winning the Saratoga title in the toughest jockey colony in the world. She cuts back from routes so should have no problem with the trip and the 107 last race figure she earned in a tough allowance field is the best in this race.

Painting Corners, like Tiny Tina, was last seen running very well in California. She won the Daisycutter Handicap in July at Del Mar with a 101 figure and last year put in a 108 figure effort winning at this six and one-half furlong turf trip. Although third in her most recent race, she ran well to a couple of very tough turf sprinters and I expect another top effort good enough to win.

Ruby Notion won this race last year as the 3 to 1 second choice, gamely by a neck in a three horse blanket finish. She hasn’t won in five since but appears to be turning a corner as she finished fast from sixth to third behind Oleksandra last month in the Smart N Fancy Stakes at Saratoga. The connections of Silverton Hill Farm and Darrin Miller won a race on opening day and their horses appear in top shape.

Win bets: Oleksandra to win at odds of 5/2 or more, then consider up to TWO more win bets on the two of these three at the highest odds, with minimum odds of 7 to 2 – Tiny Tina, Painting Corners, Ruby Notion.

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: Oleksandra, Tiny Tina, Painting Corners and Ruby Notion over Oleksandra, Tiny Tina, Painting Corners, Ruby Notion, Coexistence, May Lily and Cool Beans.
Note: In a 12 horse field with lots of profit potential, I feel this exacta, although not cheap, has potential to be well worth the risk.

Kentucky Turf Cup Stakes - Race 10 at Kentucky Downs - Post Time 6:35 Eastern /5:35 Central

Although Arklow deserves tremendous respect for his body of work, which includes five first place finishes and four runner-up finishes in 16 career races on grass, his stablemate Factor This is a bit more intriguing from a betting perspective as he is likely to go to post at higher odds than Arklow. Both are trained by Brad Cox, who has proven himself one of the top trainers in the country. Currently fifth in the Trainer Division on the North American Racing Leaders list, Cox's stakes stats this year are as good as those of division leader Chad Brown. Cox has started 121 horses in stakes races this year, winning 27% of those races. I think those statistics show Cox is a trainer who knows when his horses is ready for top levels of competition and in this case Factor This has a good shot to compete although he's never raced at this level. When returning from five months off between last September and March, Factor This ran on dirt, finishing seventh. Moved back to turf on April 24, Factor This controlled the pace to win easily and earned a career-best 105 Equibase figure. He bettered this figure two races later winning the Kentucky Downs Preview Kentucky Turf Cup Stakes last month at Ellis Park with a 109 figure. In 2018, Arklow won that same race with a 111 figure, so the 109 figure Factor This earned looks very similar on paper and can be bettered just like his stablemate did last year when earning a 114 figure in the Turf Cup. Jockey Florent Geroux was aboard Factor This for all three victories this year and has decided to ride Arklow in this race but I'm not concerned one bit about the jockey change to Shaun Bridgmohan. Bridgmohan has been another of the trainer's #1 riders over the past year, teaming up to win 49 of 132 races (37%) together. Another reason I think Factor This can run as well or better in the Turf Cup is based on a STATS Race Lens statistic which shows trainer Cox has kept his charges in top form to win back-to-back in Turf Route races in 34% of 151 starts over the last two years. Even if Factor This doesn't get the early lead as he did in his first two wins of 2019, he proved capable of coming from just off the pace to win the Preview so he could be tough in this situation and post the upset to win over Arklow, who earned a 118 figure in the Bowling Green Stakes at the end of July and who will be closing very fast in the stretch in this year's Kentucky Turf Cup.

Similar to Arklow and Factor This calling the top barn of Brad Cox home, Zulu Alpha and Bigger Picture call the barn of excellent trainer Mike Maker their home. Maker also trains Noble Thought. Zulu Alpha joined the Maker barn last summer and immediately won the Sycamore Stakes at this marathon trip in October. Two races later he won the similar McKnight Stakes and Mac Diarmida Stakes in January and March. In two of four races since, Zulu Alpha has come very close, missing to stablemate Bigger Picture in the Elkhorn Stakes in April and missing by a neck in the United Nations Stakes in June. Even though finishing further back in the Bowling Green Stakes in his most recent race, Zulu Alpha earned a career-best 117 figure and was just a half-length behind third place finisher Arklow. Recent Saratoga riding title winner Jose Ortiz takes the call and rode Zulu Alpha in the Elkhorn, a race in which Ortiz moved the horse mid-race from seventh to take the lead before being passed and ending up third. If Ortiz can help Zulu Alpha save that kind of kick for the stretch drive in the Turf Cup, he could be right there at the finish. Bigger Picture rallied from seventh to miss winning by a half-length in last year's Turf Cup behind Arklow and could run as well or better this year. Since that race he has won the John B. Connally Stakes and Elkhorn Stakes at this 12 furlong distance on grass and was fourth of eight in the United Nations, albeit one and one-half lengths behind stablemate Zulu Alpha. With 12 career wins and $1.6 million in earnings on turf in his career and with top form not far away, Bigger Picture rounds out a quartet I feel has the bulk of the probability to win this race.

For exactas and the like, there are a quartet of horses to consider who may be just a cut below the top four. Botswana earned a career-best 109 figure when beaten a head by Factor This in the Preview, while My Boy Jack was just another head back in third. Although neither is proven at this level on grass yet, considering those figures and how last year's Preview winner Arklow also won this race, I think it would be a mistake to totally ignore their chances to be in-the-money. Similarly, Pillar Mountain won two in a row at 11 furlongs on turf earlier this year, the best with a 106 figure, before trying stakes competition for the first time and finishing sixth in the Sword Dancer Stakes last month. In 2018, Bigger Picture finished eighth in the Sword Dancer before nearly winning this race so this colt may have a look at a minor award as well. Campaign has won five of 11 starts in his career including a race at this 12 furlong distance on both turf and on dirt. He was overmatched in the Pacific Classic in his most recent start but won the Cougar II Handicap on dirt just prior to that with a 111 figure which stacks up nicely with the main contenders in this race if repeated.

Bets: Factor This and Arklow to win at odds of 5/2 or more, adding a place bet on Factor This at 5/1 or more.

Exactas: Box Factor This, Arklow, Zulu Alpha and Bigger Picture.

Factor This, Arklow, Zulu Alpha and Bigger Picture over Factor This, Arklow, Zulu Alpha, Bigger Picture, Botswana, My Boy Jack, Pillar Mountain and Campaign

Past the Wire    Tracking Tips Logo


September 5, 2019

It All Comes Together; Looking in the Crystal Ball

By: Jonathan Stettin

It is interesting to look back at some of our opinions on races and horses from a few weeks or months back and see how they aged. You get a real good window into your focus and grasp of this challenging game we play. This is a good time of year to do it as we are approaching the fourth quarter so to speak and if we don’t have a clear picture now something is wrong.

A few weeks ago, I wrote right here Shancelot was a bet against in his next start after the monster win first time at the Spa. He lost at a short price. A week or two before that I wrote right here Code of Honor was most likely to be the one to assert himself into the top three-year-old of 2019 picture. I think he accomplished that with his Travers win. We pretty much called that one. If you play this game long enough you get a feel for certain things. Let’s examine some things ahead and see how they age.

As the horses of 2019 race towards their championships, and we have some really good horses this year in Bricks and Mortar, Sistercharlie, McKinzie, Mitole and more, we can get ready to capitalize on the upsets, and get down on the strong plays. That is what it is all about.

The Pennsylvania Derby should give us a very clear leader for the top three-year-old. It looks like Maximum Security, the current leader will face War of Will for sure. Mucho Gusto and Improbable are possible. Code of Honor may sneak in as may Tacitus. If that happens you have the three-year-old championship on the line as I do not think any of them are good enough to go to Santa Anita and beat older horses. Well at least one in particular. The spoiler to that whole party may be Omaha Beach who is working his way back to the races and hopefully the picture. We may see Omaha Beach at Parx, but not in the Pennsylvania Derby. Don’t be surprised if Mandella opts for the two-turn mile race instead.

It is true we do not know what type of surface we will see at Santa Anita this fall, but it will be McKinzie’s home track whatever it is. He is blossoming at just the right time.

Mitole is back, and the loss from the rail is totally forgivable at this point. It will take something very fast to handle him at his best. It probably isn’t Imperial Hint away from Saratoga.

Bricks and Mortar has put together some season. He has been on a tear. There is some European horse out there that just may have him in their or should I say her sights. The Breeders’ Cup Turf may be the race of that weekend.

If Elate couldn’t beat Midnight Bisou on the square when she was supposed to at Saratoga, how will she at Santa Anita where Bisou is familiar?

Sistercharlie probably still has not run her peak race of the year of yet. That should be pretty discouraging for any of the horses looking to take her down in the filly and mare turf. Good luck with that one.

Moving on to another subject, when will they run out of ways to disrespect bettors and make this already difficult game more difficult? Never. The deck is stacked against us. Now it is definitely wrong and bad to move a race from one turf course to another with 8 minutes or thereabouts to post time. It crushes the multi-race wager players in pick 4’s, 5’s, and 6’s. This day involved a mandatory jackpot payout as well. Ouch. It would have been worse if they changed surfaces altogether as the race would become an all. But even the course change can affect the race. Personally, I do not believe it did in this case. Quarbaan, the best horse that day won, and decisively. That said it still leaves a bad taste and with no explanation it is disrespectful. For safety we can all understand it, but we deserve to know not guess. Unfortunately, this discretion lies with the stewards and track management. There is no argument. They have the right to switch surfaces with little or no notice. We agree to play by those rules.

Friday, 30 August 2019 11:38

Key Races & Bets for Saturday, August 31

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Exacta Systems Juvenile Fillies Stakes-Race 9 at Kentucky Downs-Post Time 5:47 Eastern/4:47 Central

This race, and race 10, the Gainesway Farm Juvenile Stakes, are fantastic betting races. With horses shipping in from everywhere, most only with a maiden win, whoever is the favorite near post time will likely be as high as 4 to 1. As such, multiple win bets and some exactas bets we wouldn’t normally make are called for because the investment is worth the potential return. In this race I’ll start with Fly So Pretty, who has two starts under her belt. The first was a turf sprint at Churchill in June and the second was a turf sprint last month at Saratoga. In that race Fly So Pretty rallied from eighth after encountering enough trouble to cover a couple of paragraphs. Since then, she was flattered when the third horse won and since that effort earned Fly So Pretty the BEST last race Equibase in the field, she should improve as the third horse did and run even better so it would take a BIG jump up by any of the others to beat her if she doesn’t get in traffic trouble she can’t overcome this time. Sire Sky Mesa is the sire of the 2017 One Dreamer Stakes (the seventh race on today’s card) so there’s no question this filly can get the added distance either.

Lemon Scat and Jezebel’s Kitten both broke their maidens at a mile on turf at Ellis Park in their most recent starts and both appear very talented as it’s very tough to win a turf route first time out. Lemon Scat rallied from seventh of nine early and won going away then was flattered when the third horse won right back. Her 74 figure was a nice improvement off her 69 debut figure and she’s moving in the right direction. We all know Kitten’s Joy is a tremendous turf sire but seeing the record of his progeny over the last five years at Kentucky Downs really makes the point. They are 16 for 73 over the track including a 5 for 18 record in stakes. I mention that because Jezebel’s Kitten could add to that number. Since breaking her maiden three weeks ago at first asking, she put in a 47.2 half-mile workout to show she’s getting better every day and the high percentage Cox/Geroux combo gives us more reasons to consider her a contender for all the marbles.

Weekend Fun has sprinted on dirt twice to date so is trying a route and turf for the first time. I’m not concerned about the changes as she’s a daughter of More Than Ready, who had a winner in the More Than Ready Mile (oddly enough) over the course in 2014, trained by Asmussen the same as this gal. She put in a nice work on turf before leaving Saratoga and Leparoux is one of the top jockeys year after year on this unique course so those are more reasons to consider her as well. We’ll round out a quintet with Ask Bailey¸ because when I see the chart caller comments “Drove Past” it means the effort is very impressive. That’s just what Ask Bailey did on 8/11 breaking her maiden at this mile trip, also at Ellis Park, and as a horse with a good deal of improvement possible in her third career start and second route she’s got a shot to be there at the end.

Win Bets: Fly So Pretty is the KEY BET to win at 2 to 1 or higher.
Consider a smaller win bet on Lemon Scat at 3 to 1 or more, and perhaps minimum win bets on Weekend Fun at 4/1, on Jezebel’s Kitten at 5 to 1 and on Ask Bailey at 5 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.

Exacta: Fly So Pretty over ALL
Box: Ask Bailey, Weekend Fun, Jezebel’s Kitten, Lemon Scat and Fly So Pretty.

Woodward Stakes – Race 11 at Saratoga - Post Time 6 PM Eastern

Wooderson and Tom’s d’Etat finished second and first, respectively, in the Alydar Stakes over the track at the same nine furlong trip of the Woodward. Tom’s d’Etat was the even money favorite that day while Wooderson was 13 to 1 and although they were separated by a length there’s an odds disparity here as well because Tom’s d’Etat opens at 4 to 1 while Wooderson opens at 12/1. Certainly Wooderson is not as accomplished as Tom’s d’Etat, BUT NOT BY MUCH. Wooderson has a 3-3-0 record in nine races with three of those stakes and only one decent, that being the Alydar. Tom’s d’Etat has a 7-2-1 record in 13 races with five of those stakes, BUT his only stakes win came in the Alydar. In terms of Equibase figures they both earned career-best figures in the Alydar (118 and 116). Leading jockey Jose Ortiz rides Wooderson for the first time, which I think provides more reasons he can turn the tables on Tom’s d’Etat and post the upset here.

Mr. Buff and Bal Harbour are two more with out of line starting odds, particularly as I am not enamored of either morning line favorite Vino Rosso or second choice Yoshida. Vino Rosso has no excuse for the Whitney and has just two third place finishes to show for three races at Saratoga, while last year’s winner Yoshida ran okay, but not fantastic, in the Whitney. Their figures were 108 and 115 so not superior to Wooderson or Tom’s d’Etat by any means. Mr. Buff loves to win and doesn’t really know as a NY bred he may not be that good in open company. He adores this nine furlong trip where he’s six-for-eight with two of those wins at Saratoga including August 7 earning a 111 figure. He earned a 114 figure winning at the trip in January and has the ability to set the pace or stalk the pacesetter so could be in the thick of the action start to finish. Bal Harbour is a lightly raced four year old with a great 5-4-2 record in 16 starts. His best race ever came last month at the trip when a head shy of winning the Monmouth Cup. Castellano gets on and has ridden him to victory previously so opening at 15/1 he can’t be ignored.

For some exactas I’ll also use Preservationist, who ran badly with no excuse at 2 to 1 in the Whitney but who ran sparklers in the Suburban and in an allowance race prior to that. He could rebound to top form but with a 111 best figure that top form may not be good enough to win.

Win Bets: Wooderson and Tom’s d’Etat 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.

Definitely consider win bets on Mr. Buff and on Bal Harbour at odds of 9 to 2 or more. Place bets can be made on any of the contenders at odds of 7 to 1 or higher.

Exactas: Tom’s d’Etat over Mr. Buff, Bal Harbour, Vino Rosso, Preservationist, Yoshida and Wooderson.

Mr. Buff, Bal Harbour, Wooderson and Tom’s d’Etat over Mr. Buff, Bal Harbour, Vino Rosso, Preservationist, Yoshida, Wooderson and Tom’s d’Etat.

Mr. Buff, Bal Harbour, Vino Rosso, Preservationist, Yoshida, Wooderson and Tom’s d’Etat over Mr. Buff, Bal Harbour, Wooderson and Tom’s d’Etat. (Note the reason for the first exacta in addition to the other two is we have more combinations if Tom’s d’Etat wins owing to his lower odds and lower exacta payoffs than if any of the other three win).

Gainesway Farm Juvenile Stakes – Race 10 at Kentucky Downs - Post Time 6:22 PM Eastern/ 5:22 Central

Automate gets slight preference in another wide open stakes for two year olds, because he opens at 15/1. He broke his maiden four weeks ago at a mile on dirt at Ellis Park and the fact that race was on dirt is the ONLY reason he’s not 4 to 1 to 6 to 1 as some of the horses are who broke their maidens on grass. Automate was stretching out from a sprint and ran that race the way a horse runs on grass, rallying from fifth early and powering off late. The 75 Equibase figure is the second best route figure in the field, with only Peace Achieved having run faster, but his 80 figure, although earned on turf, was earned leading from start to finish. That’s going to be very difficult to repeat here because both Night Time and City Front are stretching out from sprints on dirt and appear to be very fast early. That brings us back to Automate, who was flattered when the runner-up improved nicely to win his next race, as did the SEVENTH place finisher. He’s got the breeding to run big on grass and his trainer, Keith Desormeaux, is one of the most underrated big race trainers in North America, in my opinion.

Are You Kitten Me is a son of Kitten’s Joy, whose progeny stats at Kentucky Downs over the last five years I extolled when discussing the race before this one. He broke his maiden at first asking in a route, at Saratoga, in a 10 horse field, so he could be any kind and win this race for fun with any kind of improvement. Doc Boy broke his maiden at a mile on grass at Laurel and although he beat only three horses it was a very impressive effort with a 74 figure on par with the figure Automate earned. He rallied early from four back then continued to draw off and for a top trainer in Mike Stidham this colt is another we must take very seriously in this race. The Gray Blur added blinkers for his second career start and off a seventh of 12 debut, trying turf and two turns or the first time three weeks ago, and was a different horse as he controlled the pace from start to finish. He does not appear to be a need-the-lead types at Night Time and City Front do because his pace/speed figure combination of 48/68 suggest he put in a nice kick in the last quarter mile. He opens at 15/1 and although a bit less probable than some of the others those odds still appear out of line and warrant including this colt in our wagers. Memorable was highly regarded after breaking his maiden on dirt at first asking in May, running in the Tremont and Sanford Stakes, also on dirt, but running badly. He ran in a stakes for two year olds at Saratoga off those two efforts and ran a lot better, finishing fourth of eight. He gets the rail and Leparoux here and opens at 10/1 as a horse who could move up considerably around two turns for the first time.

Bets: Win bets on two of these three depending on odds, choosing the two at the highest odds of the threeAutomate, Are You Kitten Me and Doc Boy at odds of 7 to 2 or more.

A small win bet is not out of the question on The Gray Blur and on Memorable at odds of 6 to 1 or higher.

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: Memorable, The Gray Blur, Are You Kitten Me, Automate and Doc Boy over Memorable, The Gray Blur, Are You Kitten Me, Automate, Doc Boy, Night Time, Peace Achieved and Longclaw.

John C. Mabee Stakes - Race 7 at Del Mar - Post Time 8:15 PM Eastern/5:15 Pacific

With Vasilika, queen of the Southern California female stakes division, having her bubble burst four weeks ago in the Yellow Ribbon Stakes when third at four to five odds with no excuse, there’s a horse here to get it done, or at least finish second, at likely double digit odds. That horse is La Force, getting a huge jockey change to Smith (no disparagement to Van Dyke intended). La Force opens at 12/1 mostly because she’s 1 for 12 on grass in her career. However, she does fit at the level, having finished second to Unique Bella on dirt in the Beholder Mile and Clement Hirsch Stakes last spring and summer. Then she was second, beaten less than a length in the G1 Zenyatta before a poor eighth in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff, followed by a layoff. She came back and ran a respectable second to 10 length winner Paradise Woods, then won the G2 Santa Maria before a third place effort in this year’s Hirsch. Aside from Vasilika, there are no monsters here and her stakes credentials match any of the others so with a trio of turf works since the Hirsch showing us she’s pointing to this race, with efforts on dirt which would win this kind of race if transferred to turf, with prior turf form and with Smith riding, I think La Force is a great bet in this race.

Aside from Vasilika, Toinette, Ahimsa and Juliet Foxtrot are horses I’ll use with La Force on exacta tickets as all three come off nice wins on the grass.

Bets: La Force to win and place at 3 to 1 or more.

Exactas: Box La Force and Vasilika, then play La Force over Vasilika, Toinette, Ahimsa and Juliet Foxtrot.
Play the reverse of that exacta as well, which is Vasilika, Toinette, Ahimsa and Juliet Foxtrot over La Force.

Monday, 26 August 2019 20:03

Inside the Mind of a Bet

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August 26, 2019

Inside the Mind of a Bet

By: Jonathan Stettin

They may have put an aftermarket spoiler on a vintage red Ferrari, but when you crank it up, you can still feel and hear the engines rumble.
There are some racetracks that just have a magically electric atmosphere to them as soon as you enter the gates. Saratoga has that as soon as you approach the town from the South and pass the Mohawk River Bridge. It amplifies as you approach the grounds and see the familiar grand mansions, barns, and racetrack itself. I have yet to visit a racetrack that has the feel of Saratoga, and I have been to most all over the world.
Whether it is the history, the epic performances, the legendary upsets, the champions of our game, both human and equine who have competed there, or the big scores doesn’t really matter. Maybe it’s a combination of all of that, or even something else.
When NYRA announced the Saratoga meet was again being extended I saw it as a problem as the racing has already been watered down some from what it was in the past. That’s really a racing problem and not an isolated Saratoga problem you just feel it more at the Spa. That’s because longtime Saratoga bettors, horsemen, and fans have become spoiled. The 24 racing days of the “August” place to be was unrivaled even by meets like Royal Ascot. Those days are forever gone, but the desire for almost anyone in the Sport of Kings to win at Saratoga turns even a maiden claiming race into a competitive all-out affair. Everyone, including bettors, seem to try just a little bit harder at Saratoga. It brings out our best.
Having cashed a pick 6 for over half a mil at Saratoga, and two others for 146k and 108k respectfully, I can’t help being optimistic about the meet and even more thrilled to be on the grounds. I spent the first 30 plus years of my life summering there, and it feels like home. It doesn’t hurt that the only horse I ever ran there as an owner, Ima Halo, won under Johnny V for trainer Peter Walder. The place is special.
It all comes down to making the right decisions when betting. Regardless of who you like, and what bets you are going to make you’ll face handicapping decisions, and wagering decisions. Which way you go, or whether you zig or zag will determine how things turn out for you.
On Travers day, my killer instinct was roaring. I knew there would be at least one real shot to take. I intended to take it. I liked Code of Honor in the Travers. How to bet him was the question. Since there is no longer a $2 pick 6, that was not an option. Regrettably for me. I will miss that bet, perhaps most of all.
I decided the Pick 5 was the way to go. I was concerned about the sequence starting with a 1-5 favorite, but at 7 furlongs I saw a chink in his armor. At 1-5 we want no chinks. I’d use him to make sure if he wins I am alive, but he was no single in my book. Not even close. When I discussed the race with my Brother John John, yes I have a brother John, and he saw the chink as well my confidence grew. He’s one of maybe two people on the planet whose opinion I value — the others mine.
My plan was to have the ticket multiple times. Anybody can hit a Pick 5 for 50 cents. I wanted to have it for $5 or $10 at least. When I structured my play, I decided to also single Elate. Obviously, I knew only two horses could win that race, Elate or Midnight Bisou. I do not think a realistic chance could have been made for any other horse in that race. I was “sure” Elate was sitting on a big race and forward move. I “thought” Midnight Bisou was possibly as well, but with money on the line, I’ll go with sure over thought as many times as I can.
I briefly thought about using both horses and splitting the ticket and have it for $5 instead of $10. I decided against that. Ah decisions, they will make or break you every time. It didn’t make sense at that point to use both horses even though that would lock up or buy the race. I thought if the 1-5 shot wins the first leg, and we get another short price in another leg, and Midnight Bisou and Elate will both be short, I’ll have no shot at a score. I had to go with one and Elate was the better option according to my handicapping.
I was concerned about Jose Ortiz over thinking the Abel Tasman race and Mike Smith incident from last year. I also thought the race at Oaklawn earlier this year might also be in his head. Hopefully, if that were the case, it would motivate him and not get him antsy or anything like that. As they were running and Jose was laying third in what most would view as a golden spot, I became worried when I saw him look back approaching the half-mile pole to see where Mike and Midnight Bisou were. Don’t worry about them, just ride your race, I thought. Jose was set on race riding however, and sometimes that works out, and sometimes it doesn’t. Against Mike Smith, the odds go against you drastically.
Yeah, I knew I was going to get nailed about mid-stretch. I also knew Code of Honor would win the Travers. You see enough of these things; sometimes you just know how the movie ends. The agony of defeat set in about the sixteenth pole although most who had Elate were still thinking she would make it. Man, that Midnight Bisou is relentless. John John structured his ticket very similar to mine. That photo cost us over 200k collectively.
Dinner and the company were excellent that night. Just about everyone who is anyone in racing was at the same restaurant. Many winners from the day, and past winners as well. Even Derby winners. Sure it stung but you’d never know it sitting next to me. See here is the key, once you take down some of these type of scores you learn you CAN do it. Then you learn you can do it again. At this point you know hey, it’s just a matter of time until you make the right decision.
Yes. Of course, I bet the Travers winner. Win. Exacta. Superfecta. This is one of those unenviable days where you win but walk out feeling like you lost. Only a true Racetracker can understand that..

Friday, 23 August 2019 12:34

Key Races & Bets for Saturday, August 24

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Personal Ensign Stakes - Race 9 at Saratoga- Post Time 4:12 PM Eastern

There’s a time to play favorites, particularly when they help turn multi-race bets like the pick three into the equivalent of a daily double, and that’s the case here as Midnight Bisou should not lose if she runs as she did in either the Ogden Phipps in June or in the Molly Pitcher last month. In both cases, Mike Smith was sitting on a powder keg in the last quarter mile and barely needed to give her a cue before she accelerated and won. Perhaps there were lesser quality horses in those two races compared to what she faces here but right now, Midnight Bisou is an “alpha” horse and refuses to lose. If she’s in form she wins.

I’ve been a big fan of Elate before she missed by a head in the C.C.A. Oaks over the track two summers ago then crushing the Alabama and Beldame. In the C.C.A. Oaks she probably would have won but Mike Smith, aboard Abel Tasman, kept her inside and intimidated on the rail. The next time she met Abel Tasman was in last year’s running of this race, and once again Smith “race rode” Ortiz enough to win by a neck. Then Elate finished second to Midnight Bisou twice this year in her first and second starts as a five year old and even though she won the Fleur de Lis and Delaware Handicap since then, the fact Midnight Bisou has her number and just as importantly the fact Smith is one of the best at knowing what to do during a race, Elate is unlikely to win in my opinion.

There’s some value in a couple of others under Midnight Bisou for exactas and the trifecta, most notably Coach Rocks, who finished second to Midnight Bisou in the Molly Pitcher at six to one but who opens at 20 to 1 here, and also Golden Award, who has run two big races in a row at this nine furlong trip including the Shuvee last month over the track.

Bets: The most important bet in this race is the pick 3, because it’s the bet to make instead of a win bet on a prohibitive favorite like Midnight Bisou. I like two tickets in this sequence:

Race 9 Midnight Bisou
Race 10 Channel Cat, Ya Primo, Annals of Time, Channel Maker
Race 11 Mucho Gusto, Tax

Race 9 Midnight Bisou
Race 10 Channel Cat, Ya Primo, Annals of Time, Channel Maker
Race 11 Mucho Gusto, Tax, Owendale, Code of Honor, Highest Honors, Tacitus

Exacta: Midnight Bisou over Coach Rocks and Golden Award.
Trifecta: Midnight Bisou over Elate, Coach Rocks and Golden Award over Elate, Coach Rocks and Golden Award.

Sword Dancer Stakes – Race 10 at Saratoga - Post Time 4:49 PM Eastern

As usual, or as it seems is always the case, Chad Brown has a bunch of horses in this race, three to be exact. Two of them – Proven Reserves and Annals of Time, are both owned by Klaravich Stables and for the life of me I couldn’t figure out why Proven Reserves was entered as he’s still eligible for the first allowance level. Then I realized there’s NO Early Pace in this race so it’s highly likely Proven Reserves is entered as a “Rabbit” to insure a decent pace for his stablemate. However, rabbits often assist other horses, and that’s why I am giving Ya Primo slight preference here because, unlike Annals of Time, Ya Primo has won at this marathon 12 furlong trip. Winner of three straight graded stakes races in his native Chile, Ya Primo took four months to acclimate before making his U.S. debut in the Bowling Green Stakes over the course at 11 furlongs last month. After some early trouble, Ya Primo rallied but could not hold off Channel Cat, who had led from the start. Trying to keep that scenario from occurring again is EXACTLY the reason Brown entered Proven Reserves here, to go with Channel Cat from the start and keep him honest so he isn’t allowed to crawl on the lead as he did in the Bowling Green. Likely to improve nicely second off the layoff and tied for the best last Equibase figure (118) in the field, Ya Primo could earn his first grade 1 win in the Northern Hemisphere to go along with his Group 1 win in Chile last March.

Annals of Time made his second start off a long 21 month layoff a winning one last month, over the course, three days before Ya Primo ran, earning a 108 figure which can be improved upon again. As a three year old in the fall of 2016, Annals of Time won the Grade 1 Hollywood Derby in only the fourth start of his career, then took nine months off and won again before the long layoff he came back from in June. He’s a supremely talented horse and it must be noted BOTH he and Ya Primo put in the same TWO workouts coming into this race, both on the Saratoga turf, on August 9 and 16 so they could come together at the wire here.

Channel Cat and Channel Maker round out a quartet of contenders for bets we make involving this race. Channel Cat may not need the lead to win as he did last time out, because he won the Bald Eagle Derby last September when second for the first six furlongs, four lengths behind the leader. However, since this race looks devoid of early speed on paper, unless Brown tips his hand or Pletcher (who trains Channel Cat) figures it out, they will use the same tactics which worked last month in the Bowling Green. However, if Proven Reserves is sent to the lead, Channel Cat is capable of repeating his Bald Eagle Derby effort and can stalk the pacesetter and perhaps hold off the pair of Brown runners. Channel Maker was beaten less than a length in a blanket finish in the Bowling Green, which he won last year before a runner-up effort in this race. Rosario rides him well and he too can lay close up early so has a shot to make the last run and win.

Bets: Ya Primo to win at odds of 2 to 1 or more.

Exactas: Box Ya Primo, Annals of Time, Channel Cat and Channel Maker.

Play the King Stakes – Race 9 at Woodbine - Post Time 5:28 PM Eastern

Admiralty Pier NEVER HAD A CHANCE to run in the stretch in his last race, a $100K classified allowance which two of the other five come out of. Winner Silent Poet was ridden marvelously by Boulanger as he protected the rail the entire lane and El Tormenta closed outside for second while Admiralty Pier was hopelessly trapped. He gets a jockey change to Contreras and although leading rider Da Silva gets off, Contreras knows how to ride the colt as he was aboard for an eighth to first rallying win in the Display Stakes aboard the horse in the fall of 2017. With two nice workouts coming into this race and making his second start after five months off, Admiralty Pier can spring the slight upset and make us money as he opens at 6 to 1.

Bets: Admiralty Pier to win at odds of 2 to 1 or more.

Travers Stakes - Race 10 at Saratoga - Post Time 5:44 PM Eastern

I've been lucky enough to catch a couple of upset winners in the Travers Stakes in two of the past five years in Catholic Boy and V. E. Day and I'm hopeful to have the same success with Tax or Mucho Gusto this year, as the pair look to have the bulk of the probability to succeed even in this deep and talented field. I'll give Tax the slightest preference of the two, given that he won the Jim Dandy Stakes at Saratoga last month. Earning a career-best 106 Equibase Speed Figure in that race, Tax showed excellent tactical speed while stalking the pacesetter in second during the early stages. Taking the lead with about a quarter mile to run, Tax then dug in to hold off Tacitus by three-quarters of a length in very good fashion. Earlier this year, Tax proved himself at the level with a win in the Withers Stakes before finishing second behind Tacitus in the Wood Memorial. After a no-excuse 15th place effort in the Kentucky Derby, Tax stalked the pacesetter in second in the Belmont Stakes from the start before tiring to fourth. Since the Jim Dandy, Tax has shown he is in even better physical condition, with a sensational half-mile workout at Saratoga eight days ago which was the best of 64 that day at the distance. The mile and one-quarter distance is of no concern either as Tax is a son of Arch, whose sons and daughters (according to a STATS Race Lens query) have won or placed in three of six races at the classic distance to date, including 2019 Suburban Stakes winner Preservationist. As such, and with the second leading jockey at the Saratoga meet, Irad Ortiz, Jr. in the saddle, I think we will see Tax running the best race of his career to win the Travers.

Mucho Gusto shipped cross-country from trainer Bob Baffert's base at Del Mar following a strong five furlong workout on August 19 in 59.2 which was the best of 46 on the day and impressed Baffert enough to make the trip. Having won the Travers back-to-back in 2016 with Arrogate and 2017 with West Coast, Baffert certainly knows when a horse in his care is good enough for this race. Mucho Gusto has never finished worse than third in eight races. His most recent effort, when second in the Haskell Invitational on July 20, was his best yet as he earned a 107 figure and was eight lengths clear of the third horse while beaten a length and one-quarter by Maximum Security. That being his fourth straight race in which he improved his figure, Mucho Gusto also appears likely to run even better in the Travers than he did in the Haskell, setting up what could be a memorable battle with Tax in the stretch.

About some of the others:
Tacitus has run very consistently all year, with 105, 106, 107, 103 and 105 figures. In two of those races, the Jim Dandy and the Wood Memorial, Tacitus had significant trouble at the start. He overcame the trouble to win the Wood Memorial but only managed second in the Jim Dandy and some people feel he might have won without stumbling at the start in that race. Blinkers go on for the Travers and although Bill Mott is undoubtedly one of the best trainers around, I have concerns about an equipment change for a big race such as this one, particularly as a STATS Race Lens query tells us Mott's record with adding blinkers for the first time is 4-for-78 in the past two years. As such, I will consider Tacitus a contender to finish second or third but not as a win contender in this race.

Similarly, Code of Honor appears to be a cut below Tax and Mucho Gusto in that he earned a 101 figure winning the Dwyer Stakes in early July. Prior to that, Code of Honor finished third in the Derby then was moved up to second via the disqualification of Maximum Security, earning a 108 figure. He's certainly proven competitive at the top level in the division but even a repeat of his effort in the Dwyer doesn't appear good enough to beat either Tax or Mucho Gusto if they repeat their most recent efforts, and certainly not if they improve upon them.

Owendale earned a 114 figure winning the Ohio Derby in June, which is the best figure earned by any horse in the Travers field. However, the time off between that race and the Travers is a concern in that physical condition is a key to running well at this mile and one-quarter distance. However, with his late running style, Owendale is likely to be last or nearly so in the early stages of the Travers and could pass many tired horses in the last quarter mile to get in the money.

Highest Honors is one more who may have a say in the minor awards. He has finished first or second in all three races including winning the Curlin Stakes at Saratoga last month. The 102, 96 and 101 figures he has earned are decent enough but there's no pattern suggesting improvement and no suggestion he can jump up to the level needed to win the race.

Bets: Mucho Gusto and Tax to win at 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: Mucho Gusto and Tax over Mucho Gusto, Tax, Owendale, Highest Honors, Code of Honor and Tacitus.

Mucho Gusto, Tax, Owendale, Highest Honors, Code of Honor and Tacitus over Mucho Gusto and Tax.

Trifectas: Mucho Gusto and Tax over Mucho Gusto and Tax over ALL.
Mucho Gusto and Tax over ALL over Mucho Gusto and Tax.

Friday, 16 August 2019 14:06

Free, Pay, Play or Go Away

Past the Wire    Tracking Tips Logo


August 16, 2019

Free, Pay, Play or Go Away

By: Jonathan Stettin

There has been a lot of talk recently about the cost of past performances and all the handicapping information available to bettors. Most of the information is based on past performances, which are usually provided by Equibase. Equibase is owned by the Jockey Club. There is a hint of a conflict here, in my opinion. One of the functions of the Jockey Club should be to promote the sport of horse racing. It would be a tough sell to try and say promoting the sport should not include at the least basic past performances being made available to bettors free of charge.
In sports betting basic statistics are readily available and free. In poker, there are all kinds of free information available on any type of hand you may draw. The basic information needed to make a somewhat informed decision differs from more tailored and pinpoint type of information. For example, basic past performances from the Daily Racing Form are one thing. Formulator is something entirely different. Formulator provides a lot of customizable options, and that is something even a bettor can expect to pay for.
The issue goes even deeper. Entries and results being dissimulated have been restricted at times to entities paying for that information which is readily available. I think any reasonable person would want to see any company that serves their industry make a profit, but there comes the point where bettors and the good and growth of the game should come into play. If we continue to alienate and drive both bettor/customers away in addition to entities trying to promote or break into the game, there eventually will be no game. Everybody loses in that scenario. Well almost everybody, maybe not PETA.
At some point racing shot callers are going to have to quit the seminars and round tables and get on the same page. Without a central governing body and a Commissioner that seems next to impossible. Implementing an organization and finding individuals to fill the roles will be harder than staggering post times of stake races. It’s a huge long-shot we could ever get that done.
Racing likes to boost on just about every big day and following every “big” meet that the all sources handle was broken. As far as I know, these figures are thrown out there and not subject to any audit I have ever heard or read about. Assuming they are accurate, it doesn’t paint a true picture. Inflation is growing faster than any handle increase we can boast about, and any article or figures I have ever reviewed on the subject shows our numbers are down considerably when inflation is factored. Who are we misleading and why?
Racing has operated as if they are the only game in town for so long, and have taken not only the bettors their customers, but all participants for granted so long I am not even sure they realize it anymore. Look at the recent case of Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer. He was banned by four racetracks without even being given a hearing or any due process whatsoever. I am not sure a form reason has ever been provided to anyone, Hollendorfer included. We were told he had a number of breakdowns at a specific meet. Nobody mentioned for a few years prior to that he had none. Now I am not saying or opining on his situation beyond stating the obvious. Why he was banned is a mystery to the masses, and there was no due process. The Hall of Famer filed for an injunction in an outside court, and it was granted. That should tell the industry something.
These issues, while all problematic along with inconsistencies, takeout, and drugs both illegal and otherwise, pale in comparison to our slaughter and aftercare issues. We are an industry plagued with problems and operating like a ship in the ocean with no rudder. This falls on all the shot callers who want more than their current paychecks but the guaranteed continuance of the Sport of Kings and maybe even a return to its glorious history. I know, it’s is a bet against.
If in the near future we do not develop a systematic way to identify, and more importantly correct, all the issues the game faces what we see now as a crossroads is going to look like the good old days when we still had racing.

Friday, 16 August 2019 12:49

Key Races & Bets for Saturday, August 17

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Del Mar Handicap - Race 7 at Saratoga- Post Time 8 PM Eastern, 5 PM Pacific

Oscar Dominguez was 5 to 2 at post time in his most recent start, in June in the Grade 2 San Juan Capistrano Stakes at one mile and three-quarters on turf. He ran very well as he was three paths wide at multiple points in the race and he closed creditably from eight back early to be beaten a half-length at the wire when second. Oscar Dominguez won at nine furlongs on grass prior to that, that race his second following nearly three months off and second since Baltas claimed him, with none of the three races since the claim races in which the horse could be claimed. This goes to how this top trainer feels about the gelding, which is important because he has a MUCH bigger chance to win then is suggested by his 12/1 opening odds here. Nearly one year ago to the day, Oscar Dominguez made a big move from seventh to lead in the stretch at this 11 furlong grass trip at Del Mar, run down late by Marckie’s Water but clearly second at 3 to 1 odds. Marckie’s Water went on to win the Grade 2 Charles Whittingham in May for Baltas, who apparently remembered how well Oscar Dominguez ran when deciding to claim in February. Now with two “A” races in a row under his belt, reunited with Talamo, who rode him to a win last October, and with the ground saving rail, Oscar Dominguez is a top contender in this race.

Ritzy A.P. also opens at high 12/1 odds and has something in common with Oscar Dominguez in that he was a head behind Marckie’s Water when third in the Grade 2 Eddie Read Stakes over the course last month. He missed by a half-length off a long nine month layoff before that and his third off the layoff effort could be a big effort.

Marckie’s Water has no knocks as he’s one-for-one at this 11 furlong turf trip and a Grade 2 stakes winner on turf. Pereira has ridden in three straight to two wins and the runner-up effort last month in the Eddie Read and the horse could easily win for the seventh time in his 18th career turf race.

We have value trying multiple exacta combinations because two of the three main contenders open at double digit odds so we will include United, The Great Day and Itsinthepost on some exacta tickets as well as on pick 3 tickets we play.

Bets: Both Oscar Dominguez and Ritzy A.P. to win at odds of 3 to 1 or more. “IF” Marckie’s Water is near 3 to 1 at post time I wouldn’t hesitate making a win bet on him 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.

Exacta Boxes:
Oscar Dominguez, Ritzy A.P., Marckie’s Water and The Great Day.
Oscar Dominguez, Ritzy A.P., Marckie’s Water and Itsinthepost.
Oscar Dominguez, Ritzy A.P., Marckie’s Water and United

Doubles: Oscar Dominguez, Ritzy A.P. and Marckie’s Water in Race 7 with Into Chocolate, Classic Fit and Hollywood Hills in Race 8.

Torrey Pines Stakes – Race 8 at Del Mar - Post Time 8:30 PM Eastern, 5:30 Pacific

With a hot early pace expected courtesy of Kim K, Colonel Creed, Sneaking Out and Fighting Mad, all who have only shown a tendency to want to be in front and all who are drawn outside and will have to go fast to clear each other as well as the inside horses, Into Chocolate can get it done even if she is bet down below a ridiculous 12/1 morning line. She has improved in each of her last two starts, both at this mile trip, following her sprint debut, from 77 to 86 to a 99 Equibase figure and even though second last out that figure is second only to Fighting Mad as the best in the field, with that one’s figure earned in a sprint. Smith stays on and blinkers go on because in the stretch last out Into Chocolate didn’t pass after rallying on the turn. Those changes and the rail which allows her to sit tight in fourth early as the speedballs duel should help get her home on top here.

Classic Fit has done little wrong in five races, winning three times in a row before a runner-up effort in the Mother Goose Stakes at Belmont. That was a ONE TURN race but she did win around two turns twice before that. The problem is the Mother Goose was a low rated race which only earned Classic Fit a 79 figure which gets her nothing here if repeated. However she had been off for six months before that so I expect her to improve.

Hollywood Hills won the seven furlong Fleet Treet Stakes for Cal-breds over the track last month, a career-best effort. She can get the extra furlong and loves to win, leading the field with a 6-for-12 career mark. Leparoux is in to ride other stakes and takes the call and the jock fits her closing style so opening at 12/1 we must consider her a contender.

Bets: Into Chocolate to win at odds of 3/1, adding a place bet at 5 to 1 or more.
For a slightly smaller amount, Hollywood Hills to win at 5 to 1, adding a place bet at 7 to 1 or more.

Exactas: Box Into Chocolate, Classic Fit and Hollywood Hills.
Into Chocolate, Classic Fit and Hollywood Hills over ALL (because one of the pacesetters could hold on for second).

Del Mar Oaks - Race 9 at Del Mar - Post Time 9 PM Eastern, 6 Pacific

Hidden Message gets the slightest preference in a race in which nearly every one of the can win. Leading jockey Prat picks this filly making her U.S. debut and for good reason as she may have a class edge on these. She finished fourth, beaten a neck for third in the Group 3 Prix de Sandringham Stakes in June then she won a stakes race last month. She gets Lasix and has a mean kick and appears ready to run as well here as she did in Europe, which means she is likely better than any of these as those European fillies are much further along at this time of year.

Cambier Parc is the best of the rest as she’s one of two shipping in from New York for Brown with the other being Dogtag. Cambier Parc has won ALL three turf races she’s been in when the top three year old turf filly in the country, Concrete Rose, hasn’t been in the race. She got the last eighth of a mile in the Wonder Again Stakes on June 6 in 11 seconds, which is flying, so expect a big finish from this gal.

Both Hard Legacy and Maxim Rate have starting odds completely out of line with their probability to win in my opinion, with Mucho Unusual about the right odds (5/1) for her chances of success. Hard Legacy won a graded stakes at this nine furlong trip, the Regret Stakes, when last seen two months ago and Leparoux comes in to ride, giving up a whole day of mounts in New York. Hard Legacy won the first two starts of her career as well, both turf routes, so getting back into winning form after a couple of defeats following those first wins signals another big race could be forthcoming. Maxim Rate won the Senorita Stakes in May after coming up a nose shy at this nine furlong trip in the Providencia Stakes in April. She didn’t run as well in the Honeymoon (won by Lady Prancealot) but rallied pretty nicely at a mile in the San Clemente Stakes last month and could be putting in a nice late run at double digit odds. Mucho Unusual rallied from last of 10 under Smith to win the San Clemente, her third straight victory, and figures to be a factor once again.

Apache Princess, Dogtag, Lady Prancealot and Out of Balance have a look at the outcome as well in a wide open race.

Bets: This is where paying attention to the odds, and using a dutching tool, can come in especially handy. Hidden Message gets first preference for win bets at 5 to 2 or higher, with Cambier Parc playable to win at the same level but that’s unlikely as she may be bet heavily.

Hard Legacy, Maxim Rate and Mucho Unusual can be played for lesser amounts if 9 to 2 or higher, adding a place bet on any of them at 7 to 1 or more.

Exacta: Probably just for $1, Box Hidden Message, Cambier Parc, Hard Legacy, Maxim Rate and Mucho Unusual.

Doubles: ALL in race 9 with Campaign in race 10.
Hidden Message, Cambier Parc, Hard Legacy, Maxim Rate and Mucho Unusual in race 9 with Quip and Seeking the Soul in race 10.

Pacific Classic - Race 10 at Del Mar - Post Time 9:30 PM Eastern, 6:30 Pacific

Campaign is a lightly raced four year old who knows how to win, with five victories in 10 starts. Having shifted to the barn of top trainer John Sadler prior to his first start of 2019 in February, Campaign won that race with a stirring rally from ninth. He then stepped up in class to compete in the Santa Anita Handicap where he was not disgraced checking in fourth. Just eight days later on April 14, Campaign won the Tokyo City Stakes before shipping to New York to miss by a total of three-quarters of a length in a four horse blanket finish in the Brooklyn Handicap. Returning to his home base in southern California, Campaign won the Cougar II Handicap over the track last month in his most recent race. Those last four efforts earned strong Equibase figures of 110, 112, 109 and 111 which are as good as the 109 figure Seeking the Soul earned winning the Stephen Foster Stakes in June which will likely be one of the reasons Seeking the Soul is favored by the public to win this race. Cutting back from 12 furlongs to 10 furlongs is one factor in Campaign running as well or better in the Pacific Classic as he did in the Cougar. Another is the fact that John Sadler is one of the best trainers on the circuit, if not in North America, in graded stakes dirt routes. A STATS Race Lens query yields over the last five years Sadler has won 28 of 117 starts in these types of races, with 49% of those runners finishing in the money as well. As such, Campaign gets top billing to win this year's Classic.

Quip is another lightly raced horse with tremendous upside potential as we move towards the Breeders' Cup Classic in November. Not only has he won four of nine career starts, we can make cases two of the five he did not win are irrelevant as one was his only try on a sloppy track he did not care for and the other came in a race where he had significant traffic issues. Consistently improving this year from a 100 figure when third in the Hal's Hope Stakes in February, to a 105 figure in the Oaklawn Handicap in April, Quip took another big step forward in the Stephen Foster. Facing the much more accomplished Seeking the Soul, Quip battled head and head for the lead with Tom's d'Etat for most of the early portions of the race then with Seeking the Soul for the length of the stretch before yielding by a neck on the wire. That effort earned a 108 figure and with another logical step forward Quip could turn the tables on Seeking the Soul at the least and very possibly run well enough to win.

Seeking the Soul makes his third start since traveling half way across the world to compete in the Dubai World Cup in March so he could run even better than when winning the Foster in June with a 109 figure. He earned the same figure in January when well beaten but clearly second in the Pegasus World Cup and his best effort came in the fall of 2017 when winning the Clark Handicap with a 117 figure. The one question regarding Seeking the Soul winning the Classic¸ however, is the same one facing nine of the 10 entrants in the race, as only Tenfold has won at the distance.

Honorable mention and consideration for use on exacta tickets must go to Tenfold, Mongolian Groom and Draft Pick. Tenfold won the 2018 Jim Dandy Stakes at nine furlongs with a 108 figure. What followed was a three race losing streak before he won the Pimlico Special at the distance of the Classic in May with a 102 figure. He was ninth in the Foster while never showing a bit of interest but if he rebounds to his Pimlico Special form he can run well. Mongolian Groom and Draft Pick ran well over the track last month in the San Diego Stakes, with winner Catalina Cruiser passing the Classic. Earning 114 and 112 figures, respectively, I can see either or both of these two horses being in the money in the Classic to complete the exacta or trifecta.

Bets: Campaign to win at 2 to 1 or more.
For a slightly smaller amount, Quip 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.

Exacta: Campaign, Quip and Seeking the Soul over Campaign, Quip, Seeking the Soul, Tenfold, Mongolian Groom and Draft Pick.

For half to two-thirds the amount of the exacta above (for example $1 if you play $2 on the combinations above):
Campaign, Quip, Seeking the Soul, Tenfold, Mongolian Groom and Draft Pick over Campaign, Quip and Seeking the Soul.

Friday, 09 August 2019 17:39

Sucker or Skill Game

Past the Wire    Tracking Tips Logo


August 9, 2019

Sucker or Skill Game

By: Jonathan Stettin

When it comes to horse racing I have known for quite sometime, the answer is a skill game. I was surprised to learn through a recent conversation on social media that many play the races who do not really feel as I do. More bettors then I'd imagine actually expect to lose annually and continue to play. I really can't get my arms around that. Even if you are playing for fun per se, is the fun not the expectation of winning or at least the possibility of your study and handicapping turning you a profit?
There are two groups in my educated opinion who beat the races. The first would be the player who grinds out a small profit from meet to meet or annually. The second would be the player who actually makes a living playing the races. The latter means their sole or primary income is derived from playing the races, and if they don't win or have a large bankroll to fall back on they are in trouble. Two groups, each a little different but both beating the game in their own respective way.
A point of contention in the aforementioned conversation was what percentage of active bettors actually beat the game by falling into one of the two categories I explained. My best estimation is somewhere between 5 and 10% collectively. To my surprise, there were quite a few people who thought I was outright nuts, which I very well may be but not because of this opinion. These people felt the percentage was 1 or even less than 1 percent. On one hand that's discouraging on many levels; on the other, a personal one, I'm fine with the majority of people playing believing that and I welcome them all into the pools.
What is discouraging about that opinion, and mind you these are opinions as nobody truly knows the percentage of winning players, is that so many people play thinking they will likely not win. I usually feel I have a pretty good chance of winning every bet I make or frankly I won't make it. Do I win them all, of course not, but if I thought I had a 1 percent chance or less I'd stay home.
For many years I played the races for a living. The game was different then but not really a whole lot easier. During that time, I was going to the track daily. I knew the few other players there who also beat the game and played for a living. I do not know all the grinders as they were a bit more under the radar. There were maybe three or four making a living at my home track back then. Maybe one or two, I did not know. Today I still know three or four people making a living betting the races. This makes me comfortable with my 5-10% estimate.
What a lot of people do not realize about playing professionally, and I think you truly must grasp this before opining on any percentage is that it is a full-time job. It takes as many hours per week as owning a business and more than a 9-5. Most don't have that discipline or dedication. It is an unconventional lifestyle — no car loans. Cash only. Try putting down professional gambler on an auto loan application and see how that goes. Mortgage, not a conventional one anyway. Relationships, good luck when Friday night is your study night and Saturday you are exhausted after the California races end. Oh yeah, Sunday is a race day.
These types of sacrifices are necessary to have a shot at playing for a living — every week. A day away is a possible missed opportunity you can't afford. Bad runs will leave you stressed about the life you have chosen and how you are going to cover this month's expenses. It is not for the faint of heart. It is however, doable if you have the talent to go with the discipline and dedication. Will everyone who tries, make it? No. But 5-10% just might.
I think we can all agree there are times when the results of a race convince you that it is possible to use those past performances to your benefit. There are probably at least a few races a day on your card of choice that fall into that category. Sure there are always head-scratchers, but on at least some of them, if you dig in enough afterwards, you can at least make sense of them. This equals a skill game to me.
Takeout is a problem. We have to deal with it, and it certainly makes our task tougher. This is where the other talent to go along with your handicapping comes in. You have to find value and structure your wagers properly. These are not the elements of a sucker's game, and if less than 1% are winning, that is exactly what it would be. Glad I don't have to hang up my tack just yet.