Red Smith Stakes – Race 9 at Aqueduct – Post Time 3:45 PM Eastern

Given there are knocks with the horses likely to be favored by bettors, such as Soldier Rising, who has yet to win in three U.S. starts, particularly when as the eight to five favorite last month in the Hill Prince Stakes, and with Tide of the Sea, who won the Japan Turf Cup takes in October but was beaten as the seven to five favorite last month in the Point of Entry Stakes, I’ll go with Price Talk to win this year’s Red Smith Stakes.

First, Price Talk is the second most lightly raced horse in the field, having run just eight times, but he’s won four of those eight races, including two in a row. Price Talk won the first three races of his career, including when breaking his maiden at first asking, then breaking his maiden again after being disqualified from the first win. Last November, in only the fourth start of his career, Price Talk finished third in the Gio Ponti Stakes on the Aqueduct Turf, but when returning this spring did not run well in two races thereafter. Dropped into a claiming race in August, Price Talk won with a career-best 108 Equibase Speed Figure which was a stakes quality effort, as compared to the 109 figure Shamrocket earned winning the Point of Entry Stakes last month, the 106 figure Corelli earned winning the Singspiel Stakes in August and the 105 figure Serve the King earned when second in the Turf Classic Invitational last month. Price Talk then bettered himself with a 113 figure winning near the end of September, in what turned out to a productive race from which Shamrocket came out of to win the Point of Entry. That 113 figure is tied for the best earned by any horse in this field in 2021 with the figure Channel Cat earned winning the Man o’ War Stakes in May. As such, just repeating it is good enough to win the Red Smith, but I feel he may even better that effort and figure as this will be his third start off a layoff.

Serve the King has done very little wrong in 10 career starts, like Price Talk having won four times in his career. After winning the John’s Call Stakes at the longer distance of one mile and five-eighths with a career-best 107 Equibase figure, Serve the King finished well from sixth to second in the tougher Turf Classic Invitational with a similar 105 figure effort. Irad Ortiz, Jr. was aboard for both of the horse’s “A” efforts and rides back in the Red Smith, giving Serve the King a strong chance for another competitive effort good enough to win.

Shamrocket has more second place finishes (6) in his 20 race career than wins (4), and even more third place finishes (7). Still, his win last month in the Point of Entry Stakes at a mile and one-half earned a career-best 109 figure competitive with the best in this field. Javier Castellano was aboard for that win, and for the colt’s last win before that in June so that is a positive sign particularly as Castellano rode Value Engineering to victory last month as well as Price Talk in his two most recent wins. As such, Shamrocket rounds out a trio of horses I think stand out against the other seven in terms of their probability to win this race.

Handicapper Picks

Win bets:

Price Talk at 9 to 5 odds or higher.

Serve the King and/or Shamrocket at odds of 5 to 2 or higher (whichever is the higher odds near post time, if any).

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Exactas:

Box Price Talk, Serve the King and Shamrocket

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Jean Lafitte Stakes – Race 9 at Delta Downs – Post Time 5:09 PM Eastern (4:09 Central)

Dancin With Angels just won a sprint at Delta Downs three weeks ago, powerfully by 10 lengths with speed to spare. He projects to lead early and the 82 Equibase figure is second only to likely favorite Kaely’s Brother (90), earned when breaking his maiden at Keeneland last month. Both colts are making the third starts of their careers and both are bred to handle this mile trip just fine. Trainer Brinkman won the 2019 Jean Lafitte with Jack the Umpire off a win at Delta a few weeks earlier and I think Dancin With Angels may be able to control the pace and continue to improve to post the mild upset in this race.

Simply Wicked just battled head and head from the start all the way to the wire in an allowance race over the track 14 days ago, coming up a head short on the wire. Prior to that he finished second in a stakes at Canterbury when rallying from sixth and it is likely McMahon (who rode him for the first time earlier this month) will let him relax back in the pack and make a strong late run for a piece at the least. Considering Simply Wicked is the ONLY horse in the field with positive experience in stakes, and that he is trained by high percentage conditioner Robertino Diodoro, he must be given a long look when considering who can run well here.

Kaely’s Brother ships in from Fair Grounds where he’s been training since breaking his maiden sprinting at Keeneland last month. He gets Lasix for the first time, which can’t hurt, and the race he won has proven quite productive as THREE horses have come out of it to win, including the runner-up and third place finishers. Trainer Brad Cox won the 2020 Jean Lafitte with a horse off a maiden win just like Kaely’s Brother and the only knocks are low odds (so not as good a win bet as the other two contenders) and not having run over the track (which the other two contenders have). On the other hand he gets leading jockey Thornton.

Handicapper Picks

Bets:

Win bets:

Dancin With Angels at 5 to 2 or more.

Simply Wicked at 3 to 1 or more.

(This is assuming Kaely’s Brother will be the heavy betting favorite).

Exactas:

Box Dancin With Angels, Simply Wicked and Kaely’s Brother.

Trifectas:

Dancin With Angels, Simply Wicked and Kaely’s Brother over Dancin With Angels, Simply Wicked, Kaely’s Brother, Ghost Cowboy, Down Cold and Vodka Gimlet over Dancin With Angels, Simply Wicked, Kaely’s Brother, Ghost Cowboy, Down Cold and Vodka Gimlet.

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Native Diver Stakes – Race 8 at Del Mar – Post Time 7 PM Eastern (4 pacific)

If you’re not familiar with Occam’s Razor, it’s a theory which boils down to “the simplest explanation is usually the best one.” Looking at this year’s Native Diver field, it’s obvious the horses with the best recent races are the ones to beat, and that means horses likely to be favored, like the Baffert pair of Eight Rings and Ax Man, or Midcourt, who finished second in this race last year and won it 2019, are to be avoided.

That’s because Eight Rings finished a poor fourth last time out in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile and even though these are much easier he has NEVER run this nine furlong trip as well as is a need-the-lead type. Similarly, Ax Man is nearly a need-the-lead type as well as is returning from seven months off running two turns without a prep and was beaten 11 lengths in his most recent race. Midcourt was eased in the Awesome Again Stakes at the distance when last seen on 10/2, while Azul Coast (another Baffert runner) was beaten 17 lengths in the Awesome Again. Kiss Today Goodbye was last of eight and beaten 14 lengths when last seen in the similar San Diego Handicap in July.

That leaves us with three horses – Established, Wicked Trick and Bal Harbour, all who finished in-the-money in their most recent races. The knock on Bal Harbour is his 0-0-6 record in nine races this year and last. He comes from mid-pack and will benefit from the likely speed duel between Eight Rings and Ax Man so must be considered a contender, but it would be tough to bet him to win.

Of the two remaining, Established gets top billing, not only because he draws the rail but because he’s only run 10 times, winning three. Two of those came in his last two starts, shortly after joining the Baltas barn, and the most recent with Victor Espinoza in the saddle. Espinoza doesn’t ride as many horses as in years past, but he’s won with four of 17 at the meeting and he was the regular rider for Midcourt for years, winning this race in 2019 and finishing second last year. Not only does Established have excellent tactical speed to sit third off the dueling leaders, as a son of Constitution (sire of Tiz the Law, among others) he is bred to ADORE this nine furlong trip. With that in mind I’ll back Established strongly to win this year’s Native Diver Stakes.

Wicked Trick was claimed in New York this summer and given two months off, showing up in the Bob Hess, Jr. barn in October for nothing more than a sprint prep. Stretched out to a mile on 11/4, Wicked Trick moved up mid-race from fourth to lead, perhaps a bit too soon, and then settled for second. This is a classic sprint-route-route pattern and making his third start off the layoff Wicked Trick could run a big race. He’s earned over $400K in his career, winning of placing in 14 of 33 races, and he finished second in the similar Westchester Stakes in May behind Dr. Post, who has earned nearly 900K in his career. With hot jockey Umberto Rispoli getting on and being a horse that can finish nicely, Wicked Trick is the other horse I feel has the bulk of the probability to win this race, and if he and Established go to post above minimum odds I will absolutely be betting them both to win.

Handicapper Picks

Win bets:

Established at odds of 5 to 2 or more.

Wicked Trick at odds of 3 to 1 or more.

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Exactas:

Box Established, Wicked Trick and Bal Harbour.

Trifectas:

Established and Wicked Trick over Established, Wicked Trick and Bal Harbour over ALL.

Established and Wicked Trick over ALL over Established, Wicked Trick and Bal Harbour.