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.

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Ellis Starr

Ellis is a well respected handicapper and contributor of AmWager. He has been a public handicapper for more than twenty years, educating racing fans of all skill levels with detailed commentary few other handicappers provide.

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