Friday, 24 August 2018 08:49

Key Races & Bets for Saturday, August 25


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


Glorious Empire finished in a dead heat with Channel Maker last month in the Bowling Green Stakes over the course. Yes, the course was soft but considering the gelding won on firm turf prior to that there isn't a concern about him repeating the effort on dry ground. Leparoux was up for the 2nd time in that win, the other also a win, last July and most importantly ALSO at SARATOGA on the turf. It's just silly that Channel Maker opens at 5/1 here while Glorious Empire opens at 10/1 and with the rail Leparoux can put the Glorious Empire on the lead, go slow, and kick home for his second graded stakes win in a row.


Another horse at incorrect high odds is Highland Sky, who won a classified allowance race at Belmont in June before finishing 5th of 8 in the Bowling Green. Two summers ago, Highland Sky missed by a neck in the $1.25 million (or $1 million) Belmont Invitational, beating multiple graded stakes winner Beach Patrol in the process and proving he has the ability to compete at this level. The win in June came after eight straight defeats, and in doing so he beat Call Provision and Gold Shield, who ran in a stakes earlier this week. If we can discount the effort on soft turf he may not have liked then there is every reason to believe Highland Sky can run a lot better than his 12/1 odds suggest.


Spring Quality rounds out a trio I feel have the bulk of the probability to win. He ran huge in his 2018 debut, after six months off, when missing by a half-length in the Fort Marcy in May and the horse that beat him, Robert Bruce, recently won the Arlington Million while Spring Quality next ran the best race of his career when rallying from 11th of 13 to get up by a neck in the Manhattan on Belmont day. He was entered to run last month but was scratched and has put in two recent workouts to show he hasn't missed a beat in the 2 1/2 months he's been off. Veteran Edgar Prato has ridden him in his last six races including three wins so there are no issues and therefore Spring Quality has a shot to earn his 2nd grade 1 win of the year.


There are a number of horses who can run second and since two of the three win contenders open at double digit odds we can play a number of combinations as the return could easily be worth the risk.


Bets: Glorious Empire and Highland Sky to win at odds of 7 to 2 or more. Consider adding a place bet on either or both at odds of 6 to 1 or more. To get the best return when wagering on more than one horse to win in a race, use a "Dutching" tool like the one at Amwager.


Exacta: Glorious Empire, Spring Quality and Highland Sky over Glorious Empire, Spring Quality, Highland Sky, Funtastic, Hi Happy, Bigger Picture, Channel Maker and Sadler's Joy.


Then also play an exacta box between Glorious Empire, Spring Quality and Highland Sky.


Doubles: Glorious Empire, Highland Sky and Spring Quality in Race 10 with Wonder Gadot, Good Magic and Catholic Boy in race 11.



Play the King Stakes – Race 8 at Woodbine- Post Time 5 PM Eastern


Holding Gold is a pretty good turf sprinter who didn't find the soft turf at Saratoga to his liking one bit but who can return to top form on firm grass and more importantly reunited with the Casse barn's #1 winning jockey in Patrick Husbands. It doesn't show in most part performances, but Holding Gold was ridden by Husbands four times previously, with two wins and two second place finishes. The gelding has earned over $450K in his career and is a multiple stakes winner sprinting on turf, for example in the similar Grade 2 Shakertown Stakes in April, 2017. Having won a stakes to start his 2018 campaign in February, facing easier than in either of his last three races and reunited with Husbands, this gelding gets top billing.


White Flag is the other horse I'll consider for win bets, opening at 6/1. He's done little wrong in his career, winning four of nine on turf and finishing second or third in four more. He returned from seven months off in June with a fast closing second then won one month later. He finished third last fall in his only attempt on the Woodbine turf, a big effort as he was last early on a very soggy course, and he gets the services of leading jockey Rafael Hernandez, all signs for another "A" effort.


La Sardane and Mr Havercamp are both contenders and we will use them on exacta tickets played but considering they open at 5 to 2 and 2 tov1 odds, respectively, and are no more likely to win than either Holding Gold (4 to 1) or White Flag (6 to 1) they are unlikely to make good win bets.


Bets: Holding Gold to win at odds of 5 to 2 or higher and then consider White Flag to win at odds of 3 to 1 or more. As always, when making multiple win bets, use a "Dutching" tool with which you can enter the amount you want to spend or the amount you want to win and the calculation of how much to bet will be done for you.


Exactas: Holding Gold and White Flag over Holding Gold, White Flag, La Sardane and Mr. Havercamp.

Also play the reverse of that exacta, which is Holding Gold, White Flag, La Sardane and Mr. Havercamp over Holding Gold and White Flag.



Race 2 at Del Mar - Post Time 5:30PM Eastern


This is not a stakes race. Actually, this is a claiming race for horses that have not won a race to date in 2018. I'm sure you're wondering why it is therefore included on a KEY BETS blog and that's because I believe Broken Up is a KEY BET on the day. I have a very small "horses to watch" list on which I make notes when I find a horse who may have had hidden trouble in a race, and such is the case with Broken Up, as the comment in his pps from his last race on 7/22, "In Tight Between 1/16," does not do justice to the trip he had. Sent to post at 6 to 1 in an 8 horse field of open (not-restricted) 25K claimer, Broken Up absolutely had NO CHANCE WHATSOEVER to run in the last 16th of a mile due to traffic problems and Desormeaux could not do a thing with this horse who wanted to run. Still, he was beaten three lengths. The winner won by two lengths so he would have at least been second if not blocked. Two before that, in most recent turf race, Broken Up rallied to miss by a neck and I have no issue with Quinonez riding as he booted home a $44 winner earlier this week.


Bets: Broken Up to win at 2 to 1 or more.


Travers Stakes – Race 11 at Saratoga - Post Time 5:44 PM Eastern


Catholic Boy has done little wrong in his career to date with a five for eight record, most recently taking the Belmont Derby Invitational Stakes on the turf with a career-best 108 Equibase Figure. As the Belmont Derby a mile and one-quarter (the distance of the Travers) and as he won the Remsen Stakes at nine furlongs on dirt last fall, I have no concern about either the distance or running as well on dirt as he did last month on turf. What's the most interesting thing about Catholic Boy is the way in which he ran his last two races. In the Pennine Ridge Stakes in June, Catholic Boy led from the start but in the stretch found himself on the inside of his foe Analyze It, who had overtaken him to lead by a length. When jockey Javier Castellano brought Catholic Boy to the outside of Analyze It in mid-stretch, the horse found new life and got up to win by a head. In the Belmont Derby Catholic Boy once again led from the start then was overtaken by Analyze It in mid-stretch to find himself a half-length behind. This time, Castellano did not move Catholic Boy around his nemesis but rather just let the horse's competitive juices kick in, the result being Catholic Boy once again getting up to win, this time by a head. Watching the video replay of the Belmont Derby, I believe Catholic Boy enjoys letting another horse pass him, all the while knowing he has the ability to fight back and win. He is either an "Alpha" or he likes to play with his opponents and that shows what a smart horse he is, to go along with a world of talent.


Wonder Gadot is another who has proven capable of winning at the classic mile and one-quarter distance of the Travers, having done so when winning the Queen's Plate Stakes (against males) in June with a 102 figure before improving to the same 108 figure Catholic Boy earned recently when winning the Prince of Wales Stakes with the greatest of easy by five and three-quarter lengths. Wonder Gadot may be capable of running even better in the Travers, as her best career effort came in May when second in the Kentucky Oaks, beaten a half-length at the finish with a 113 figure. Although she has never run at Saratoga, Wonder Gadot just worked best of 67 at a half-mile at Saratoga so apparently likes the surface. As such, this filly has an opportunity to beat males for the third straight time and stamp herself as the top three year old in North America in training now that Justify is retired.


Good Magic won the Haskell Invitational Stakes rather handily by three lengths last month and in doing so tied his best career figure, 109, also earned last fall when winning the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. Except for finishing second behind Justify in the Kentucky Derby and fourth behind the Triple Crown winner in the Preakness, Good Magic has had a stellar campaign this year including winning the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes in April. Jockey Jose Ortiz has ridden Good Magic in every start since the second race of his career last October and the colt has proven capable of running well at the distance of the Travers so there is little doubt he can win in this situation. On the other hand, eight of the other 10 entrants in the Travers have earned 107 to 110 figures in top races so Good Magic will have his work cut out for him in trying to prove the likely public favoritism at the betting windows correct.


After the three main win contenders, there are three others that deserve mention for their competitiveness and who may run well enough to be in the exacta or trifecta. Gronkowski missed the Derby with a fever that required antibiotics but recovered nicely for a rallying 10th to second finish behind Justify in the Belmont Stakes with a 107 figure. Bravazo similarly ran big when second to Justify in the Preakness with a 108 figure and although no match for Good Magic when second by three lengths in the Haskell last month so has potential to run well again. Tenfold was third in the Preakness with a career-best 108 figure. He ran poorly in the Belmont, then rebounded to win the Jim Dandy over the track with a 106 figure and may be on an improving pattern.


Bets: Catholic Boy to win at 5 to 2 or more, a true KEY BET on the day.

Consider a smaller win bet on Wonder Gadot at odds of 5 to 2 or higher.


Exactas: Catholic Boy, Wonder Gadot and Good Magic over Catholic Boy, Wonder Gadot, Good Magic, Gronkowski, Bravazo and Tenfold.

Published in Ellis Starr's Blog
Friday, 17 August 2018 08:48

Key Races & Bets for Saturday, August 18


Alabama Stakes – Race 9 at Saratoga - Post Time 5:40 PM Eastern


Talk Veuve to Me finished second to Monomoy Girl by two lengths in the Acorn Stakes on 6/9, earning a 99 Equibase figure. Midnight Bisou finished second to Monomoy Girl by three lengths in the CCA Oaks on July 22 earning a figure five points lower (94). On that count, Talk Veuve to Me is the faster horse.


Midnight Bisou has been off a month, which is fine, as Talk Veuve to Me has been, but one of the big differences between the two fillies is Talk Veuve to Me improved MARKEDLY off her Acorn effort to crush the field in the Indiana Oaks by nearly five lengths on 7/14, earning a field high 102 Equibase figure in the process. On that count, Talk Veuve to Me is the faster horse.


Ridden out to that easy win with gas left in the tank and with Leparoux riding back after being up for the first time, the filly's first try around two-turns, Talk Veuve to Me at 5/2 on the morning line has more improving to do than Midnight Bisou, who opens as the 8/5 favorite. Although there is no Monomoy Girl facing Midnight Bisou here, and no Wonder Gadot (who beat her for second in the Kentucky Oaks) either, Midnight Bisou's breeding suggests 10 furlongs is beyond her limits and the horses she beat in between the Kentucky Oaks and CCA Oaks in the Mother Goose aren't anywhere near as good as Talk Veuve to Me. Last but certainly not least, Leparoux can control the pace if he chooses to let Talk Veuve to Me run to the front early, or he can sit second early if another horse goes, the same tactics that lead to the filly's easy win last month.


For the exacta we will try to keep Midnight Bisou out of second with three horses - Figarella's Queen, who finished second to Talk Veuve to Me in the Indiana Oaks and who opens at 15/1, She's a Julie (who won the Iowa Oaks with a 98 figure) and Coach Rocks (who likes to run second). We'll play a trifecta with Midnight Bisou finishing second.


Bets: Talk Veuve to Me to win at 3 to 2 or higher.


Exacta: Talk Veuve to Me over She's a Julie, Figarella's Queen and Coach Rocks.


Trifecta: Talk Veuve to Me over Midnight Bisou over She's a Julie, Figarella's Queen and Coach Rocks.


Del Mar Oaks – Race 8 at Del Mar - Post Time 8:40 PM Eastern/ 5:40 PM Pacific


Ollie's Candy would be undefeated if not for having drawn the 13 post last month in her turf debut in the San Clemente Stakes, resulting in going five paths wide into the stretch. Still, the talented filly rallied from 9th to come up a neck short on the wire. Likely to improve a ton off the experience of her first turf route and with a much better post, she's the one to beat running back to a very strong 107 Equibase figure effort in the Summertime Oaks before that.

Undefeated if not for wide trip, inexperience on turf, particularly as the winner is passing this race.


Fatale Bere and Paved were separated by a half-length when 6th and 8th, respectively, in the tougher Belmont Oaks Invitational last month, at the longer 10 furlong trip. Fatale Bere won the Providencia Stakes at this 9 furlong trip two before with a 108 figure that while Paved won the Honeymoon Stakes at the 9 furlong trip before the Belmont Oaks with a 107 figure so both fillies have a big shot to return to top form back at a much more suitable distance.


Colonia is an interesting horse to use on exacta and trifecta tickets because she won a non-graded stakes on the grass in her U.S. debut last month. That effort yielded only a 98 figure but Graham Motion ships her in from the east and has a very good record the past few years when shipping into Del Mar. Animosity has early speed and a poor post for that running style but did hold 2nd very nicely in the Honeymoon behind Paved and may hang on for a share.


Bets: Ollie's Candy to win at odds of 2 to 1 or more.

Consider win bets, for smaller amounts, on Fatale Bere and on Paved at odds of 5 to 2 or more.

To get the best return when wagering on more than one horse to win in a race, use a "Dutching" tool like the one at Amwager.


Exactas: Box Ollie's Candy, Fatale Bere and Paved.

Play another exacta of Ollie's Candy, Fatale Bere and Paved over Ollie's Candy, Fatale Bere, Paved, Colonia and Animosity.


Trifecta: Box Ollie's Candy, Fatale Bere, Paved and Colonia.

Pick 3: (Warning: Not an inexpensive ticket but worth the risk in my opinion)

Race 8 - Ollie's Candy, Fatale Bere, Paved and Colonia.

Race 9 – Street Class, Taos, Asano, Istanbul, Dueling and Game Winner

Race 10Prime Attraction, Roman Rosso and Accelerate

Cost: $72 at $1


Pacific Classic Stakes – Race 10 at Del Mar - Post Time 9:43PM Eastern/ 6:43 PM Pacific


Prime Attraction is as good, and as fast, as likely favorite Accelerate (who has finished in front of him three times previously) based on the 123 Equibase figure earned last month when beaten a neck and a head in the Eddie Read Stakes on turf. Prior to that, Prime Attraction had been rested four and one-half months so he will likely be stronger physically for the Classic and to put that 123 figure in perspective, Accelerate has earned 119 and 120 figures in his last four races whereas the next best figure of any runner in the field is 117. Prime Attraction may have an edge in the area of pace as well because Kent Desormeaux can use the horse's tactical speed to lead from the start. That tactic was the one used in the Eddie Read, in which Prime Attraction set a sensible pace then when engaged at the top of the stretch fought head-and-head down to the wire. He proved he belongs with these when second to Accelerate earlier this year and he opens at 8/1.


Accelerate has run consistently in four races at the top level since finishing second in the San Antonio Stakes in December, finishing first three times and second by a neck in the other, with 119 and 120 figures in all four races. However, it must be noted that after winning the 2017 San Diego Handicap at Del Mar last July, Accelerate finished a disappointing third in last year's Classic. Trainer Sadler took a slightly different approach this year, scratching Accelerate from the San Diego Handicap (won by Sadler trainee Catalina Cruiser) to run in this race off an 84 day rest but Sadler does okay with horses going two turns off 60 to 120 days off, so the only real knock is from a win betting perspective as he will go to post at very low odds.


Roman Rosso has won five of eight career starts including three in a row, all in South America, and now resides in the Baffert barn on the heels of six local works since July. He won three straight, the first two on the lead and the last from off the pace, and he put in a strong seven furlong workout so he's fit. With Del Mar's leading jockey Flavien Prat in the saddle, Roman Rosso (ARG) may be first or second along with Prime Attraction in the early stages and he is ready to run off a five month layoff, as his workouts suggest, he could be a very strong factor in the race.


The Lieutenant is a decent horse who is the older half-brother to Justify and who enters the race off a well beaten 2nd behind Diversify in the Suburban, with the winner coming back to dominate in the Whitney recently. The Lieutenant is a decent sort who is good for a share, as may be Dr. Dorr, who was beaten four lengths when second to Accelerate in the Gold Cup at Santa Anita in June. I'm not interested in 7/2 second morning line choice Pavel on any level as I don't think he can run this far based on breeding and because the Stephen Foster Handicap which he won in June hasn't produced a horse that has finished in the top three off that race.


Bets: Prime Attraction to win at 3 to 1 or more.

For a slightly smaller amount, bet Roman Rosso to win at 3 to 1 or more.


Exacta: Prime Attraction, Roman Rosso and Accelerate over Prime Attraction, Roman Rosso, Accelerate, The Lieutenant and Dr. Dorr.

Published in Ellis Starr's Blog
Friday, 10 August 2018 12:06

Key Races & Bets for Saturday, August 11


Flaming Page Stakes – Race 6 at Woodbine - Post Time 3:38 PM Eastern


It always nice when the reason for a turnaround in a horse's form jumps off the page, and so it is with Giovannna Blues, who took blinkers off after six clunkers wearing them and who rallied from last of nine, into a horribly slow pace, to get 2nd at 20/1 last month in a turf marathon like this one. Pino was up for the first time and follows the mare up from Maryland for Dickinson. The mare earned the BEST last race Equibase figure in the field, 99, and should improve 2nd off a two month layoff as well so opening at 6 to 1 is the key to profit here.


Bets: Giovanna Blues to win at 2 to 1 or higher.

Exactas: Giovanna Blues over Daring Duchess, Creative Thinking, Lottie and Liberty Kitten.

Also, play the reverse of that exacta in case Giovanna Blues is a bit too late and ends up second again.


Fourstardave Handicap – Race 8 at Saratoga - Post Time 5:02 PM Eastern


Made You Look was a decent horse in his nine career starts before his last start of 2017 in July, winning the With Anticipation Stakes as a two year old and the Dania Beach Stakes as a three year old, both graded stakes on turf. After four poorer efforts he was given 10 months off, returning in May in the care of Chad Brown and winning with a career best 106 Equibase figure. Improving off that race although not wining when 2nd and beaten a length in the Grade 3 Poker Stakes in June, Made You Look earned a very strong 115 figure as good as Heart to Heart earned nearly winning the similar G1 Shoemaker Mile in his most recent start and one point better than Yoshida earned winning the G1 Turf Classic Invitational in May before venturing to Ascot. Considering there are very few G1 races on the grass for two year olds, the With Anticipation win here at Saratoga two years ago was equivalent to a grade 1 effort and the colt should improve once again in his third start off a layoff so in spite of being the third choice on the morning line is the one to beat.


Delta Prince has had a lot of starts and stops in his career, running just eight times in three years. However, he's NEVER been worse than third and is a Grade 2 Stakes winner. Like Made You Look, Delta Prince should improve off his last effort in June which followed nine months off. From a tremendous family that includes champion Royal Delta ($4.8 million in earnings) and being a true miler, with a 4 for 5 record at the trip, this horse who earned 116 and 115 figures last year before going on the shelf can improve significantly back to that level off his 106 effort last out and has a very strong chance to succeed.

Favorites Heart to Heart and Yoshida can win but both have enough issues to split them in exactas and try to beat them with win bets on others.


Bets: Made You Look and Delta Prince to win at 2 to 1 or more. To bet more than one horse to win and to allocate your betting dollars for the best reward use a dutching tool, like the free one at


Exactas: Box Made You Look, Delta Prince and Yoshida.

Box Made You Look, Delta Prince and Heart to Heart.

Pick 3:

Race 8 – Made You Look, Delta Prince, Yoshida and Heart to Heart

Race 9 – Patternrecognition, Always a Suspect, Phi Beta Express, Mask and Breaking the Rules

Race 10 – Blacktype and Mr. Cub

Note: If you want to cut the cost of the ticket down, use only Patternrecognition and Always a Suspect in Race 9.


Race 9 at Saratoga - Post Time 5:40 Eastern


Since I am playing the race as part of the pick 3 started in race 8 we can also make some bets here because the two main contenders may go to post at odds worth a wager or two. Always a Suspect is a four year old with a lot of life left who was just claimed for $40K by Diodoro, an exceptionally sharp trainer off the claim and actually overall. The gelding had only been entered for a claiming price once before that last start on 7/21, on 6/17, but no one claimed him as he finished fast from 9 lengths back to 4th, beaten just under two lengths. Improving markedly last month here at Saratoga, Always a Suspect gamey fought down the lane to win by a neck over Forge, a stakes level horse, with a decent 103 figure he can improve upon and that puts him in range of the top contenders here, most who open at much lower odds than his 8/1. With Cohen riding very well when Diodoro gives him a leg up, this tough sprinter who has been first or second in 7 of 16 career main track races could run big right back.



Patternrecognition opens as the 9 to 5 favorite off a runner-up effort at the level with a strong 108 figure. However, he now has FIVE runner-up finishes in his career to go along with just two wins and has been beaten at 6 to 5 or so four times in eight races. I will have to use him as a win contender for pick 3's but otherwise let's hope Always a Suspect runs big as expected.


Bets: Always a Suspect to win at 5 to 2 or higher.


Exacta: Box Always a Suspect and Patternrecognition

Then also Always a Suspect and Patternrecognition over Always a Suspect, Patternrecognition, Breaking the Rules and Spikes Shirl.


Note: Although I am including Phi Beta Express and Mask in the pick 3 ticket recommendations in race 8 because of the value offered by most of the contenders in race 9 and 10, I am otherwise not using them on exacta tickets in this race.


Lure Stakes – Race 10 at Saratoga - Post Time 6:18 Eastern


Postponed from last week when torrential rains fell on Saratoga, the Lure Stakes offers a poor favorite and second choice in my opinion. Projected (5/2 morning line) has nine runner-up finishes to go along with six wins in his career and finished 2nd in two identical non-graded stakes this year with no excuse. Inspector Lynley also has more second place finishes (5) than wins and has lost five straight, three of those allowance races and not even stakes.

On the other hand, Mr. Cub not only has won two of his last three, including a non-graded stakes like this, he ran huge to streaking Mr. Misunderstood when last seen in the G2 Wise Dan Stakes in June, fading late to miss by a half-length. He's the lone speed here and Landeros can get him on the front end from where they can slow the pace and kick on nicely just as he did in the Opening Verse Stakes in May, making us a nice profit as he opens at 6 to 1.


Blacktype opens at ridiculous 8/1 odds considering he's 10 for 33 in his career and recently surpassed the $800K mark in career earnings. Winner of the G2 Knickerbocker Stakes last fall, he went off form for four races but won his last start and since the last time he won off a losing streak he earned two wins in a row he has to be taken very seriously in this spot.


Bets: Mr. Cub and Blacktype to win at 2 to 1 or more.

To bet more than one horse to win and to allocate your betting dollars for the best reward use a dutching tool, like the free one at


Exacta: Mr. Cub and Blacktype over Mr. Cub, Blacktype, Projected, Inspector Lynley and Conquest Panthera.


Published in Ellis Starr's Blog
Friday, 03 August 2018 12:44

Key Races & Bets for Saturday, August 4

Note: With the potential for awful weather at Saratoga which may lead to off-turf or soft-turf races, I have decided to focus on some of the wide open races on West Virginia Derby day at Mountaineer, plus one race on the dirt at Saratoga. Check the very end for a couple of bonus races picks as well.


Senator Robert C. Byrd Stakes – Race 6 at Mountaineer - Post Time 4:25 PM Eastern


Heartwood, Awesome Gent and Colonel Sharp are the three win contenders in my opinion, based on a very fast and contested early pace courtesy of Sevier and Shadow Tracer, drawn next to each other on the outside in the gate. It makes no sense whatsoever Balandeen is the morning line favorite off one win this year, at Will Rogers Downs, and the 4/1 starting odds on Line Judge, although likely correct as Amoss trains, is good because he appears overmatched as a horse whose last four wins came in claiming races and only one was fast enough to threaten any of the three win contenders if repeated. Heartwood is a stakes winner (last fall) in winning form off a strong victory last month with a 107 Equibase figure. He has put wins back-to-back before and can stalk the pace or close from far back. Awesome Gent is 8 for 16 in his career including THREE wins in a row since the Cowans claim back in July of 2017. That was the first and ONLY time he was ever risked for a tag and the race he won on 6/26 of this year was a KEY race from which the 2nd, 3rd AND 4th finishers all came back from to win. Considering he had been off for eight months, Awesome Gent should improve off the effort and run another "A" race. Colonel Sharp won 2nd off a layoff and trainer change (to his current trainer) in February, won two later in April then missed by a neck before a decent 3rd of 12 in a stakes at Presque Isle. He's at home on dirt and all-weather and his 4/27 win (3 races back) earned a 108 figure on par with Heartwood's last effort and Awesome Cat's five from last August and the one he's going to improve to today.


Bets: Bet ANY or ALL of the three contenders – Heartwood at 5 to 2 or higher, Awesome Gent and Colonel Sharp at 3 to 1 or higher, to win. To make multiple win bets for the best advantage use a "Dutching Tool" like the free one at

Exactas: Awesome Gent, Colonel Sharp and Heartwood over Awesome Gent, Colonel Sharp, Heartwood and Line Judge.


West Virginia Governor's Cup – Race 7 at Mountaineer- Post Time 4:55 PM Eastern


Secret Passage, Rated R Superstar and Leofric are the three that I feel strongly can win, and with the two starting favorites (Hawaakom and Matrooh) suspect at best this could be a very profitable race. Secret Passage changed barns in March, won 2nd off the change in April then improved mightily to a CAREER BEST effort on 6/1 at Belmont, with a field HIGH 110 Equibase figure. Trainer Diodoro, who wins at a high percentage as it is, is 3 for 6 in graded stakes in the past 18 months and David Cohen, up for the last win, rides back. You can forget every race this gelding ran before the new connections took over and from the rail Secret Passage can save every inch of ground until the far turn then go by the field for the win. Leofric is one of two from the highly potent Cox barn, the other Term of Art (who appears overmatched). Leofric gets the #1 jockey for the barn in Geroux, who ride him to a win in a classified allowance race last month which followed four months off. With a 5 for 10 record and with 107 and 109 figures in two of his last 3 races including when 2nd to Hawaakom in the G3 Razorback Handicap in February, Leofric can be counted on to be there at the wire today as he's been in six of his last seven races. Rated R Superstar shows up about half the time but when he does he's very tough as in April when taking the Ben Ali Stakes at Keeneland with a 109 figure. He didn’t like the slop in the Pimlico Special after that and has been rested two and one-half months, which is fine as he won in January off a similar layoff. Having earned over a half-million to date and with leading jockey Quinones riding, count Rated R Superstar in as another win contender.


Bets: Although I give slight preference to Secret Passage as a win contender, that won't stop me from betting ANY or ALL of the three contenders – Secret Passage, Leofric and Rated R Superstar, at 3 to 1 or higher, to win.

To make multiple win bets for the best advantage use a "Dutching Tool" like the free one at


Exacta: Although we may be making win bets on all three contenders I want to also key them on top in the exacta so the play is Secret Passage, Leofric and Rated R Superstar over ALL.


Test Stakes – Race 8 at Saratoga - Post Time 5:10 Eastern


Minit to Stardom is undefeated in three races, each better than the rest and the most recent on 5/27 off nearly six months on the bench. She's been working over the track and not only can fire big to win off a layoff but may get a dream trip in third early behind Classy Act and Mia Mischief, who should duel for the early lead exactly as they did in the Victory Ride Stakes last month. Minit to Stardom gets a great outside post to stalk the pacesetters and has a bright future in the female sprint division as her only sibling, a full sister one year older, is 4 for 10 and also a very fast sprinter. Separationofpowers won the G1 Frizette last fall on the circuit in her third career start then tried two turns and finished 4th in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies. Rested eight months, her rallying 8th to 4th effort in the Victory Ride was VERY GOOD considering she had lost ALL CHANCE at the start when she stumbled. Ortiz is the only pilot she's ever known and 2nd off the layoff, as well as with a clean start, Separationofpowers should be a contender for all the marbles. Alter Moon was privately purchased by Peter Brant following her easy win in the Azalea Stakes in Florida and sent to Chad Brown, who also saddles Separationofpowers. Alter Moon has run two superb race in a row, the last when stalking in 3rd in the early stages, and another big effort is likely forthcoming.



Bets: Minit to Stardom to win at odds of 2 to 1 or higher.

Both Separationofpowers and Alter Moon can be bet to win at 2 to 1 or more, but personally I will pick the one at the highest odds near post time for a second win bet, sticking with the exacta below to cover the possibility of the other winning.


Exacta: Any of these can finish 2nd so similar to the West Virginia Governor's Cup we can consider the exacta wheel with all three as well. The exacta is Minit to Stardom, Separationofpowers and Alter Moon over ALL. Consider a separate three horse box with the three win contenders as well.


West Virginia Derby – Race 8 at Mountaineer - Post Time 5:35 Eastern


Mr. Freeze has done nothing wrong in three starts, winning his first two then missing by a half-length to High North in the Iowa Derby last month. He's still improving, gets Albarado (who was up for all 3 races to date), gets a good outside post, and is bred to adore this 9 furlong trip. Lionite was third in the Iowa Derby from the six post but gets the rail here which helps him to save ground as he did right before that when winning the Prairie Mile Stakes. Cabrera rode him to the win in the Prairie Mile, not to eh runner-up effort last out, and gets back on and this exceptionally well bred son of Quality Road may be destined for his first graded stakes win today. Rugbyman and High North both warrant consideration for exotic tickets, the former coming out of the much tougher Dwyer Stakes in which Firenze Fire made a mockery of the field, missing by a neck in the Easy Goer Stakes before that to prove he belongs at this level, and the latter winning the Iowa Derby last out and the Northern Spur Stakes two before that.



I am going to take a stand against the two favorites, Once on Whiskey and Draft Pick, at least as win contenders, as I feel their one-two finish in the Los Alamitos Derby was not as good as it appears on paper. Ax Man isn't a two-turn horse and the others behind them may not be much plus they are coming back three weeks later and may regress.


Bets: Mr Freeze to win at 2 to 1 or more.

Lionite to win at 5 to 2 or more.


Exacta: Mr Freeze, Lionite, Rugbyman and High North over Mr Freeze, Lionite, Rugbyman, High North, Once on Whiskey and Draft Pick.



Whitney Stakes – Race 9 at Saratoga- 5:46 PM Eastern – Backyard Heaven to win at 2 to 1 or higher. Exacta: Box Backyard Heaven, Mind Your Biscuits and Diversify.

Downs at Albuquerque Handicap – Race 6 at Albuquerque – Post time 10:10 Eastern (8:10 Mountain) - Leadem in Ken to win at 9 to 5 or higher.

Published in Ellis Starr's Blog
Friday, 20 July 2018 12:15

Key Races & Bets for Saturday, July 21



Find Key Races & Bets for Friday, July 20th Below


Ontario Colleen Stakes – Race 8 at Woodbine - Post Time 4:47 PM Eastern


Trainer Graham Motion has a pair in this race, Peach of a Gal (5/2 morning line) and Armoricaine (15/1 morning line). Both are stakes winners on turf, the former last month in Delaware in an overnight stakes with a 50K purse and the latter in France last fall in a $70K purse race versus MALES. She ran poorly on heavy turf in April in a group 3 stakes following six months off then imported to the U.S where she was put in a very tough field in the Wonder Again Stakes at Belmont. Losing all chance when leaping in the air at the start she wasn't asked after that. She's apparently still highly regarded by one of the best trainers in North America who ships up from his Fair Hills base and gets Garcia to ride. These two teamed up to win the Singspiel Stakes over the course on 6/23 in a mile upset at 5 to 1. The filly will really appreciate the easier company as this field contains three last out allowance level winners and two restricted stakes winners. She ran big on firm turf in her first two races last July and August in France at a mile and the 93 Equibase figure earned in her October win is the THIRD best figure earned by any entrant in this race, ever.



Got Stormy and Peach of a Gal are the two other logical contenders, but open as the two favorites at 7 to 5 and 5 to 2. Got Stormy ships up from New York on the heels of two straight stakes wins at this mile trip, the first of the two with a 102 figure. Peach of a Gal ships up from Delaware off a career best 102 figure effort in a stakes and has really won two in a row because her race in between the wins was the Hilltop Stakes on Preakness weekend when the course was a bog. Hernandez rides, which is a good sign, but it's interesting to note that no matter how good the jockey is overall on turf (25 for 119 in turf routes over the past year), he is 0 for 9 in graded stakes turf routes over the same period.


Bets: Armoricaine to win and place at odds of 4 to 1 or more.

In the event either Got Stormy or Peach of a Gal are anywhere near 5 to 2 odds near post time, make a win bet on either or both.


Exacta: Armoricaine over ALL and (reverse) ALL over Armoricaine

Box Armoricaine and Got Stormy & Box Armoricaine and Peach of a Gal



Diana Stakes – Race 10 at Saratoga - Post Time 5:55 PM Eastern

Hawksmoor is the one to catch, and to beat. Back in the fall of 2016, Hawksmoor nearly posted the upset in her U.S. debut when coming up a head and nose short on the wire in the QE II Stakes. Following that she ran badly and took the winter off. Last May when she returned, she led from start to finish in the Beaugay Stakes before an even stronger effort winning the New York Stakes leading every step of the 10 furlong trip. Following two runner-up efforts in top company in the First Lady Stakes and Matriarch Stakes last fall including a career-best 114 Equibase Figure in the latter race, Hawksmoor took the winter off once again then ran big in her 2018 debut when stalking the pacesetter early and coming up inches short of winning. She was then sent to post as the even money favorite in the Gamely and lost all chance after a stumbling start denied her to be in front or second at the beginning of the race. In the Diana, there is no real need-the-lead type except this mare and in a seven horse field Leparoux will have the luxury of going to the lead from the start and establishing a leisurely pace or sitting in second if another horse and rider wants the lead more. As a horse that likes the lead, and considering that Hawksmoor can run the last quarter mile about as fast as any other horse in the race (22.7 seconds in the First Lady Stakes), she should be able to continue in front to the wire and win this race. A Raving Beauty has done nothing wrong since coming to North America from Europe, winning the Beaugay Stakes in May (the same race Hawksmoor won the previous year) with a 108 figure followed by a win in the Just A Game Stakes last month, improving to a 112 figure. She may have more improving to do third off the layoff as well and although both her races in the U.S. were shorter than the mile and one-eighth distance of the Diana, A Raving Beauty should have no problem with the nine furlongs which she won at last August in Germany and so she must be given a lot of respect as a contender to win this race. Sistercharlie has also done little wrong since importing to the states last summer, missing by a neck to New Money Honey in the Belmont Oaks Invitational before taking time off. When she returned this past April, Sistercharlie ran as if she had never been away from the races, rallying from eighth to win the Jenny Wiley Stakes and earning a career-best 117 figure that is the best of any entrant in this race. She ran nearly as well last time out in the New York Stakes when rallying from almost 30 lengths back to come up a nose short on the wire with a 110 figure. Shortening up from a mile and one-quarter to a mile and one-eighth for the Diana, Sistercharlie should be putting in a strong late run and it may just be a question of how much ground she has to make up on likely early leader Hawksmoor and how much gas that filly has left in the tank if allowed to lope along on an easy early lead.


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


Exacta: Hawksmoor over Sistercharlie, Proctor's Ledge and A Raving Beauty and then also the opposite, which is Sistercharlie, Proctor's Ledge and A Raving Beauty over Hawksmoor.


San Diego Handicap – Race 7 at Del Mar - Post Time 8 PM Eastern/5 PM Pacific

Harlan Punch looks very capable of posting the upset here as he ships in from Monmouth for Jacobson off a five length win in the Iselin Stakes last month. That win came when leading from start to finish but he does not need the lead to win, having won the Stymie Stakes at Aqueduct in March from 2nd in the early stages and having won a classified allowance before that when fourth for the first half-mile. Those two wins were part of a three race streak started in February and since his win last month came after a trio of losses following the last of the trio, he's set to hold his top form for a couple more races. Likely to improve 2nd off a layoff for Jacobson, who wins with a good percentage of 2nd off layoff starters in dirt routes, Harlan Punch's best two efforts this year earned 113 and 115 Equibase figures. Those don't match up with any of the last four Accelerate has earned (119 and 120) BUT Harlan Punch opens at 8/1 compared to 8/5 and he gets an eight pound break in the weights, which could help him to post the upset.



Sharp Samurai also has an upset chance, opening at 6/1. He's won 7 of 11 races, six on turf, and he may be underbet because even though he's a multiple Grade 2 stakes winner running in a grade two stakes those wins came on turf. The win on dirt was just fine so there's no reason he can't transition back to the main track and his effort on 6/17 (a win), which came following seven months off should be improved upon in his 2nd start off a layoff. His recent work on dirt was exceptional, five furlongs in 59.8 and the 4th best of 66 on the day, and Stevens, who has been aboard for his last five wins, rides him back. Last year when winning the Twilight Derby on turf he earned a 114 figure then 117 when beaten a length in the Hollywood Derby and with his comeback effort good for a 114 figure and improvement likely, he's got a shot to run as well or better than the favorite at a better price.



Accelerate doesn't have any knocks except low odds. Winner of this race last year by 8 lengths after adding blinkers, he's won or placed in five straight, all top efforts good enough to win here, so we have to use him on any and all exacta, trifecta and multi-race bets made. We don't have to bet him to win, however.



Dr. Dorr and Two Thirty Five are two to use for exactas and trifectas in the 2nd and 3rd positions. Dr. Dorr won the Californian in April with a 115 figure before a 2nd place finish behind Accelerate with a 114 figure in the Gold Cup. He may have not liked Belmont or didn't ship well when 9th in the Suburban two weeks ago, and it may be he doesn't like Del Mar either (which as Baffert's excuse for Arrogate) as he hasn't hit the board in two tries. However, if it's not the case he hates Del Mar he could be part of the exacta. Two Thirty Five has run three "A" races since moving to the Baltas barn in March and although a cheap horse for his career prior to that his last effort earned a 112 figure at the trip so he must be respected as he may not have run his best race yet.


Bets: Harlan's Punch and Sharp Samurai to win at odds of 5 to 2 or higher. To bet more than one horse to win, use a DUTCHING TOOL like the one available for free at Amwager as it helps allocate your win bets in the most efficient manner possible.


Exacta: Harlan's Punch¸Sharp Samurai and Accelerate over Harlan's Punch¸Sharp Samurai, Accelerate, Dr. Dorr and Two Thirty Five.


Harlan's Punch¸Sharp Samurai, Accelerate, Dr. Dorr and Two Thirty Five over Harlan's Punch¸Sharp Samurai and Accelerate.


Trifecta: Harlan's Punch¸Sharp Samurai and Accelerate over Harlan's Punch¸Sharp Samurai, Accelerate, Dr. Dorr and Two Thirty Five over Harlan's Punch¸Sharp Samurai, Accelerate, Dr. Dorr and Two Thirty Five.


Double: Harlan's Punch¸Sharp Samurai and Accelerate in Race 7 with Animosity, Ms Bad Behavior and Miss Sienna in Race 8.


San Clemente Stakes – Race 8 at Del Mar - Post Time 8:30 PM Eastern/5:30 PM Pacific


Animosity is one of three in here proven at this Grade 2 level, 2nd last out in the Honeymoon Stakes on the turf at Santa Anita. She won her first two races before that and with Honeymoon winner Paved not here this gal inherits top honors. She improved from a 91 figure first out, to 97, then to 102 when 2nd in the Honeymoon, her first turf route, leading from the start and coming up short late but clearly 2nd. She doesn't need the lead to win as she finished well from 5th in her debut and with it very likely War Heroine and Pursuing the Dream (plus perhaps others) will go way too fast early from outside posts for their own good, Animosity can get up in time.



Ms Bad Behavior nearly wired the field in the Grade 3 Providencia Stakes when last seen in April, beating Paved in the process, who came back to win the Honeymoon over Animosity. That puts Ms Bad Behavior squarely on the radar today with as much probability as Animosity. She earned a 105 figure in the Providencia and prior to that, in her first turf route, Ms Bad Behavior lagged five lengths back early before winning so we know she doesn't need the lead as others do, more reasons to expect a big effort.



Miss Sienna was making her U.S. debut in the Honeymoon and was decently regarded at six to one, but ran just so-so to end up fourth. Blinkers go on as does Smith, a BIG sign she could run back to either of her two efforts in France in March and April, a win and a neck defeat. As such, she is also a contender but just a bit less probable than the top two in my opinion.



Ollie's Candy is unbeaten in three starts including her first route last out, on dirt, in the Grade 2 Summertime Oaks. She is bred to adore the turf but the 14 post at this mile turf trip could be problematic. Rockin Ready and Flammetta finished 2nd and 1st, respectively, separated by a nose, in a high rated downhill turf sprint last month, each earning 100 figures. Both won at a mile on turf prior to that and are not need-the-lead types so have to be used on exacta tickets played, possibly on multi-race tickets like the double and pick 3 as well.



Bets: Animosity and Ms Bad Behavior to win at odds of 5 to 2 or more.


Exacta: Animosity and Ms Bad Behavior over ALL, and also the reverse, which is ALL over Animosity and Ms Bad Behavior.


Trifecta: Box Animosity, Ms Bad Behavior, Miss Sienna, Ollie's Candy, Rockin Ready and Flammetta.


Published in Ellis Starr's Blog