Tampa Bay Stakes – Race 8 at Tampa Bay Downs – Post Time 3:30 PM Eastern

There’s a LOT of value in this race, with Delaware opening at 12/1 for Chad Brown (although we can reasonably expect 4/1 near post time), Talk or Listen at 15/1, Eons at 8/1 and Atone at 15/1. The reason for the value is a couple of VULNERABLE low odds horses in Fancy Liquor (3/1) and Greyes Creek (4/1), the former a disappointing fifth when last seen at 5/2 under identical conditions with NO EXCUSE and the latter with a really poor post.

Delaware put in an effort one before last ABSOLUTELY good enough to win this race when beaten a neck and a head in a three horse photo in the Artie Schiller Stakes at Aqueduct. His only race since then, in the much tougher Grade 2 Ft. Lauderdale Stakes, can be ignored as they tried taking blinkers off worn for his Artie Schiller effort. Blinkers go back on and he gets Gallardo so with a 107 Equibase figure effort, BEST in the field, to run back to from the Artie Schiller, he gets top billing.

Then there’s the uncoupled entry of Talk or Listen and Eons (both trained by Delacour), who finished first and second, respectively, in a stakes quality classified allowance race over the course at the distance three weeks ago. There is ABSOLUTELY nothing wrong with those efforts and both can improve second off layoffs, with 105 figures right there with Delaware’s stakes effort giving them as much of a chance to succeed as the slight top pick above.

Atoned opens at 12/1 and cements this as a KEY BETTING race. A Godolphin homebred, the newly turned four year old stretched out to two turns and tried turf for the first time two back in late November over the course, easily winning then did the same thing last month at the second allowance level. Improving from a 90 figure effort to 99, he’s got more room to improve and SHOULD not be 15/1 on the morning line but I won’t complain.

Handicapper Picks

Win: This is where we must let the public help us in deciding who to bet and for how much. I think the fair odds on all four (Delaware, Talk or Listen, Eons and Atone) of the above are 7 to 2 and will bet up to THREE of them (the three at the highest odds) near post time. Considering I feel the favorites are suspect, there is every reason to bet two or three horses to win in this race to capitalize on the mistakes the public might make betting those favorites.

When making multiple win bets, use a “Dutching” tool to do the work of allocating your wagering dollars for the best edge. A Dutching tool lets you set the amount you want to bet or the amount you want to win, then based on the odds your bets are proportioned accordingly. Amwager has a great dutching tool available, among many other great features.

Exacta: Box Delaware, Talk or Listen, Eons and Atone

Trifecta: (this compliments the exacta by covering any two of the four finishing first and third):

Delaware, Talk or Listen, Eons and Atone over ALL over Delaware, Talk or Listen, Eons and Atone

Double

Race 8: Delaware, Talk or Listen, Eons and Atone

Race 9: Feeling Mischief, Jade Empress, Honorifique, Gulf Coast

Pick 3:

Race 8: Delaware, Talk or Listen, Eons and Atone

Race 9: Feeling Mischief, Jade Empress, Honorifique, Gulf Coast

Race 10: Counterparty Risk, Irony of Reality

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Suncoast Stakes – Race 9 at Tampa Bay Downs – Post Time 4:02 PM Eastern

This race isn’t as playable as the Tampa Bay Stakes (Race 8) but it’s great to include as part of doubles or pick 3 tickets, and there might be value in exotics. The three main contenders, Honorifique, Gulf Coast and Feeling Mischief open as the three favorites between 5 to 2 and 9 to 2. Jade Empress opens at 8/1 and can’t be ignored.

Honorifique and Gulf Coast finished second and first, respectively, in the Cash Run Stakes at Gulfstream Park last month and both figure to be tough right back but I just can’t get excited at their likely low odds. Feeling Mischief finished third in the Gasparilla Stakes when close up throughout and should run even better, perhaps having an easy lead on slow fractions, on the stretch out. Jade Empress just broke her maiden last month, at seven furlongs at Gulfstream, but none of these have a lot of stakes experience and so she could run well again. She showed a lot of maturity winning late month and Mott is an EXCELLENT judge of when his young horses can make the step up from maiden winner to stakes, having saddled 10 of 20 first or second place finishers in the past few years with the move.

Handicapper Picks

Win: If any of the four above (Honorifique, Gulf Coast, Feeling Mischief, Jade Empress) go to post at 4 to 1 or more, I would consider a win bet. If two or more meet that threshold, bet them both.

This too is the perfect race for using a “Dutching” tool like the free one at Amwager, because it will allocate the win bets based on odds, putting more on the lower odds horse automatically. That is just one of many other great features and perks at Amwager.com

Exacta and Trifecta box: Honorifique, Gulf Coast, Feeling Mischief, Jade Empress

Doubles:

Race 9: Feeling Mischief, Jade Empress, Honorifique, Gulf Coast

Race 10: Counterparty Risk, Irony of Reality

Pick 3:

Race 9: Feeling Mischief, Jade Empress, Honorifique, Gulf Coast

Race 10: Counterparty Risk, Irony of Reality

Race 11: Nova Rags, Candy Man Rocket, Ricochet

For the pick 3 above in race 11 I could also see going deeper and adding Hidden Stash, Known Agenda, Smiley Sobotka and Lucky Law

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Endeavour Stakes – Race 10 at Tampa Bay Downs – Post Time 4:32 PM Eastern

Irony of Reality and Counterparty Risk are the win contenders, and based on morning line odds, Irony of Reality is the win bet (opening at 8/1). Irony of Reality won a handicap over the Tampa Bay turf course at this distance one before last, rallying from last of six and about eight lengths back to win by a head on the wire. She finished fast for second two before that in a stakes on the all-weather at Presque Isle and she’s now 8 for 22 in her career. She found 12 furlongs too far last month at Gulfstream Park and the cut back to a mile and one-sixteenth as well as the return to Tampa should be what she needs to return to “A” form good enough to win.

Counterparty Risk should go favored not only because she’s trained by Chad Brown but because her last two races, both turf routes, were both very good. She stretched out to two turns for the first time one before last at the end of November at Aqueduct and rallied from eighth to win going away then just missed with a 10th to 2nd rally in the Lady Shamrock Stakes when shipping cross-country to Santa Anita. She is still improving and could be a top turf distaffer this year.

Handicapper Picks

Win: Irony of Reality to win at odds of 3 to 1 or more.

“IF” Counterparty Risk is 3 to 1 near post time, perhaps even 5 to 2, she could be bet to win as well.

Exactas:

Irony of Reality and Counterparty Risk over ALL

Box Irony of Reality and Counterparty Risk

Double:

Race 10: Counterparty Risk, Irony of Reality

Race 11: Nova Rags, Candy Man Rocket, Ricochet

Sam F. Davis Stakes – Race 11 at Tampa Bay Downs – Post Time 5:02 PM Eastern

Candy Man Rocket gets slight preference among three main win contenders in this year’s Sam F. Davis Stakes, although he has never raced around two turns and has only a maiden win to his credit. I think this colt has tremendous upside based on earning a field high 98 Equibase speed figure in his nine length maiden win last month sprinting at Gulfstream Park. Considering this will be only his third career start, Candy Man Rocket has every right to continue to improve and that means his opponents would have to improve doubly in order to beat him even if he simply repeats the effort. There is little doubt Candy Man Rocket can do just that around two-turns as a son of Candy Ride, whose has had 12 of his 34 foals win stakes races for three year olds over the last five years. Some of those are big names such as Vekoma and Gun Runner. Then there’s the prowess his Hall-of-Fame trainer has in recognizing talent. Over the last five years, when trainer Bill Mott raises a horse off a maiden win to a stakes race his charges have finished first or second in 10 of 20 tries. All those factors lead me to believe Candy Man Rocket can pull off the upset in this race, opening at 10/1.

Mott also saddles Nova Rags, one of just two stakes winners in the field. Nova Rags returned from two months off last month and won the Pasco Stakes at seven furlongs. Although the 85 is well behind the 98 figure his stablemate earned one week earlier, Nova Rags has every right to improve second off the layoff and around two turns. Sired by 2012 Belmont Stakes winner Union Rags, Nova Rags is out of the Smart Strike mare Wishful Splendor, whose sons and daughters have won 17 of 73 dirt route races, including 2011 Indiana Oaks winner Juanita. To be ridden by Tampa Bay Downs leading jockey Sammy Camacho, Nova Rags can take a big step forward in the Sam F. Davis Stakes and toss his name into the ring as a top three year old on the Road to the Kentucky Derby.

Ricochet is a two-turn winner at Tampa, a claim none of the other 12 horses in this race can make. Stretched out to two-turns for the first time at the end of November, Ricochet opened up by two and one-half lengths in the stretch only to be nailed right on the wire by a head. Improving to a career-best 94 figure which is the second best in the field by far, Ricochet made short work of the field in December when winning by eight lengths. On a pattern for another step forward, if Candy Man Rocket does not improve as expected, Ricochet would be no surprise winning this race but opens at 15/1 so is definitely playable.

After that group of three, there are four more which deserve honorable mention – Hidden Stash, Known Agenda, Lucky Law and Smiley Sobotka, each having good reasons to consider them as contenders but each also with slight question marks. Hidden Stash improved to a career best 89 figure when last seen at the end of November, bringing his record around two-turns to a perfect two-for-two. However, coming back from two months off he would need to be in tip-top shape to pick up where he left off. Known Agenda won a nine furlong race in November, the second start of his career, earning an 86 figure in the process. He improved to 88 although a well-beaten third in the Remsen Stakes in December and if this was his second start off a layoff, not his first, I think he would be a top contender. Similarly, Smiley Sobotka improved nicely in his first route and second career start in October to win then finished second of nine in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (with a 90 figure) after opening up by a couple of lengths with an eighth of a mile to go. He’s been working fast but there is always the concern about needing a race before running well enough to win around two turns off a layoff. Lucky Law stretched out to two turns off a runner-up effort and won nicely last month. Both races were on turf so he would need to transfer that form to dirt and improve off the 83 figure earned in that last start. However, trainer Patrick Biancone successfully transitioned horses to dirt on the Road to the Derby last year with both Ete Indien and Sole Volante.

Handicapper Picks

Win: Fair odds on the three contenders above – Candy Man Rocket, Nova Rags and Ricochet, are 7 to 2 so I would bet the two of the three at the highest odds and use a dutching tool to automatically allocate the total amount I want to bet based on their odds.

Exactas:

Candy Man Rocket, Nova Rags and Ricochet over Candy Man Rocket, Nova Rags and Ricochet, Hidden Stash, Known Agenda, Smiley Sobotka and Lucky Law.

Candy Man Rocket, Nova Rags and Ricochet, Hidden Stash, Known Agenda, Smiley Sobotka and Lucky Law over Candy Man Rocket, Nova Rags and Ricochet.