Friday, 17 January 2020 12:21

Key Horse Races & Free Expert Picks for Saturday, January 18

Written by Ellis Starr

Sunshine Millions Turf Stakes - Race 10 at Gulfstream Park - Post Time 4:06 PM Eastern

I think four horses combined have the bulk of the probability to win this race. Put another way if this race was run 100 times, one of these four would win about 90 times in 100 in my opinion. The four are Muggsmatic, Second Mate, Curlin’s Honor and March to the Arch. Of the quartet, preference should go to Muggsmatic because he’s the only one of the group to have run in December, the rest coming back from two or three month layoffs. Muggsmatic won that last start, the Claiming Crown Emerald Stakes, at this distance on this course, and he not only did so with a career best 108 Equibase figure and Lopez up then as now, but he also earned the win right off the claim by Jason Servis. The gelding has now won three in a row, all on turf, bringing his career turf record to 8 for 21. He closed from 16 lengths back to win one before last and from a few lengths back last out. If both Max K.O. and Class and Cash both run, they are very likely to get into a hefty pace duel which benefits Muggsmatic even more, so he gets top billing among the four win contenders.

Second Mate finished second in this race last year, with Jose Ortiz in the saddle and earning a 113 figure. Ortiz has only ridden him once since in nine races (a poor eighth place effort at Kentucky Downs going seven furlongs) but gets back on today and the gelding ran very well when last seen, missing the win in the Sunshine Millions Preview Stakes by a head and a neck on the wire. He too will benefit from the early pace scenario and as he opens at the highest odds of the group, at 10/1, he deserves a good deal of respect.

Next we have two of the three entrants in the race trained by Mark Casse, the other being Souper Scat Daddy. Curlin’s Honor won the Artie Schiller stakes with a nearly last-to-first rally when last seen in November, his second straight win, and fits on all counts off that 116 figure effort. March to the Arch won the somewhat similar Turf Classic for statebreds last March at Tampa off a four and one-half month layoff so there’s little concern about his running well off the four and one-half month layoff today. He lost four straight graded stakes after winning the Wise Dan Stakes last June but he’s facing much easier and has won over the course previously.

Bets

Win: Muggsmatic to win at odds of 5/2 or higher.
A second win bet is warranted on Second Mate at odds of 7 to 2 or higher.
Rounding out the group of contenders, Curlin’s Honor and March to the Arch have 7 to 2 minimum odds for win bets as well but I would only consider win bets if they are significantly higher odds than those minimums.

.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: Box Muggsmatic, Second Mate, Curlin’s Honor and March to the Arch.


Trifecta: Box Muggsmatic, Second Mate, Curlin’s Honor and March to the Arch.


Unusual Heat Turf Classic Stakes - Race 6 at Santa Anita - Post Time 6:07 PM Eastern

Wound Tight appears to be the “Lone Frontrunner” in this nine furlong turf race, having proven very game in his most recent race at a mile when leading from the start, relinquishing the lead at the top of the stretch by a head, then reengaging to win by a nose on the wire. The key was Abel Cedillo, red hot since moving his tack to Southern California last year and riding the horse for the first time. Prior to that, Wound Tight ran two big races as well, losing by a nose and a neck, respectively. Those three races earned very strong, and consistent, Equibase figures of 114, 106 and 108 which, for perspective, are right there with the 114 figure Ward n’ Jerry earned when missing by a neck and a head in the much tougher Grade 2 Hollywood Turf Cup on the same day as Wound Tight won.

The Hunted, and the aforementioned Ward n’ Jerry, both are strong contenders but don’t offer the same value for win bets as Wound Tight, who opens at 5 to 1, as they open at 9 to 5 and 5 to 2, respectively. Ward N Jerry won last August before the three month layoff he was coming back from when nearly posting the 23 to 1 upset in the Turf Cup, and he gets the rail as well. The Hunted won his most recent start, on turf, as well as won a Cal-Bred stakes (The Crystal Water) last April so he fits fine here as well for any and all exotic wagers we make involving this race.

Bets

Win: Wound Tight to win at 9 to 5 or more.

Exacta: There’s no value in playing an exacta involving the favorites to run first and second so we’ll split them with Wound Tight and play these two exactas: Box Wound Tight and Ward n’ Jerry, and, Box Wound Tight and The Hunted.

Pick 3
Race 6: Wound Tight, Ward n’ Jerry, The Hunted
Race 7: Summer Fire, Club Aspen, Indian Peak
Race 8: Almost a Factor, Wise Rachel, Bulletproof One, Warren’s Showtime, California Kook

Double:
Race 6: Wound Tight, Ward n’ Jerry, The Hunted
Race 7: Summer Fire, Club Aspen, Indian Peak

California Cup Derby – Race 7 at Santa Anita - Post Time 6:37 PM Eastern

Indian Peak ships in from Golden Gate off a win at a mile on the all-weather surface and two before that notched a win at a mile on turf. The versatile colt didn't run well in the Gold Rush Stakes in between the two wins but turned a corner last out with a 92 Equibase figure just one point shy of the 93 figure Club Aspen earned winning the nearly identical King Glorious Stakes last month at Los Alamitos at a mile against Cal-Breds. Northern Cal leading jockey Juan Hernandez was up for the first time in Indian Peak's win on 12/27 and takes the trip south today for a return engagement. Both his maiden win and the win last out in allowance company came against "Open" (not restricted) foes so this move to Cal-bred stakes isn't really a step up in class. With Bettor Trip Nick being a need-the-lead types (last three wins wire to wire) and with Fast Enough coming back from eight months and stretching out to a route, as well as with Rookie Mistake and Sacred Rider two more horses which could want the lead from the start, the hot and contested early pace scenario really benefits Indian Peak nicely so he gets slight preference among three which stand out against the rest.

Club Aspen won the similar King Glorious Stakes after stalking in second early and in spite of the jockey losing the crop at the top of the stretch. That was his first dirt route so we can expect the same or better off the experience of a race. He rallied from fifth to second sprinting before that so may be able to drop back to mid-pack early off the hot pace and come on strongly for the win or to complete the exacta.

Summer Fire also has the right style for the pace of this race, having rallied for second one before last with a 92 figure then rallying from fifth of 12 to win going away last out with a 90 figure. Flattered when the runner-up came right back to win, he's bred to handle the stretch out to two turns and Smith takes the call which is a big sign considering how sparingly the jockey rides these days, making the most of his mounts with the same or better overall win percentage as jockeys with four to five times the number of rides in 2019.

Bets

Win Bets: Bet two of these three horses at odds of 2 to 1 or more, opting for the two at the highest odds near post time: Indian Peak, Club Aspen, Summer Fire.

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:
Box Summer Fire, Club Aspen and Indian Peak

Optional Double: (not necessary if the first leg of the pick 3 won in race 6)
Race 7: Summer Fire, Club Aspen, Indian Peak
Race 8: Almost a Factor, Wise Rachel, Bulletproof One, Warren’s Showtime, California Kook

California Cup Oaks – Race 8 at Santa Anita - Post Time 7:07 PM Eastern

I’ll give Bulletproof One slight preference but will be clear in saying this race is so wide open five horses have some decent chance to win. Bulletproof One opens at 8 to 1 although she’s won at Cal-Bred stakes like this one, albeit a sprint. Actually, she won twice, first by nine in the Nevin Stakes last July then by six in the CTBA Stakes in July. She ran badly in her next start at the end of August then ran BIG when trying turf for the first time, again in a sprint, but an OPEN (not restricted to statebreds) stakes, the Speakeasy, rallying from fifth of 10 early to miss by a head on the wire. After a poor effort in November, Bulletproof One took some time off and she’s been working great for her return. She’s one of two from the SIZZLING hot Miller barn (10 for 24 since the meeting started) and with an inside post and stretching out I believe the instructions given to Fuentes will be to get the lead and the rail after the start, which should be easy as the two horses inside her in the gate have no early speed.

“IF” Bulletproof One goes too fast, the other half of the uncoupled Miller entry, California Kook, can get up in time. She only ran well in one of three races to date, but the first was her debut, at a mile on grass, a very tough question, and her last was just an odd effort where she didn’t engage at all and was beaten 33 lengths. Miller takes blinkers off and gets Van Dyke to ride, with Van Dyke as hot as Miller at the meeting (10 for 28) and a dynamo on grass. Considering California Kook closed from last to win at a mile on dirt in her best effort, if that form is transferred to turf she can outrun her high odds, staring at 10/1. She is bred for turf by the way as her dam has produced a turf route winner and her sire is by Distorted Humor.

Warren’s Showtime is already proven at the level, having won the Surfer Girl Stakes, an “Open” stakes at this mile turf trip, the last time she raced on grass. Similarly, Wise Rachel won the Pike Place Dancer Stakes, an open stakes, one before last and before being overmatched in the G3 Jimmy Durante. Almost a Factor broke her maiden with a very mature rally in her second career start, first on turf, at this mile trip. Her two tries on dirt after that aren’t really relevant and with Prat and the rail she’s got a look as well.

I’m going to use Smiling Shirlee in the second spot on exacta tickets as she’s got the right running style to pass many of these in the stretch.

Bets

Win: Bulletproof One is the one I’ll look to make a win bet on before considering any others, and at 3 to 1 or more.
Wise Rachel (who opens at 10/1) and Warren’s Showtime are the two I’ll consider next, at odds of 7/2 or more.
Almost a Factor has fair odds of 9/2 and California Kook has minimum odds for a win bet at 9/2.

Note: After betting Bulletproof One, I’ll most likely make a win bet on California Kook in addition to one of the other three because of the uncoupled entry (both Miller trainees) and pace one-two punch angle.

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: Almost a Factor, Wise Rachel, Bulletproof One, Warren’s Showtime and California Kook over Almost a Factor, Wise Rachel, Bulletproof One, Warren’s Showtime, California Kook and Smiling Shirlee.