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Friday, 20 October 2017 13:37

Breeders' Cup Preparation- More than Handicapping

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With the advent of Breeders’ Cup 2017 looming, I think it’s important to remember that handicapping is only part of the process of a successful day at the races. If you are not spending much time structuring your wagers over the two days, then as a horseplayer, you are doing yourself a disservice. Here are some points to keep in mind:

1. Know your bankroll. For Breeders’ Cup, the number of betting options can be overwhelming. Appropriate and partition your bankroll for BOTH Friday and Saturday. Worst case scenario, how much are you willing to lose? We all want to win but be disciplined enough to know when NOT to run to the ATM.

2. Find your strongest opinions over the two days and work backwards from there. If you can single a horse in a race, you need to maximize that opinion. Do you hammer an exacta or trifecta?  Or play a daily double, pick 3, pick 4, etc. and single your strongest selection? By singling and then spreading in other legs you are turning pick 3’s into a daily double and pick 4’s into  pick 3’s. Not only are you putting more value on your strongest play, you are increasing your chances of a higher payout on a lower cost ticket.

 3. Don’t be hesitant to bet a horse to win. We all want the life changing score, but if you can double or triple your betting dollar in the win pool and are fairly confident in your selection, why muddle your wager by trying to build vertical wagers when any number of horses can finish in the exotics.*** This strategy is not mutually exclusive to point #2, but rather a way to analyze your potential ROI with less risk from exotic wagers.

 4. Formulate your opinions and stick to them. This time of year, a lot like Derby, you are going to see thousands of opinions on horses. If you have been playing the races all year and have done fairly well, why are you now going to start betting money on someone’s else’s selections. I am not saying you turn blindly away from their analysis, just fold in their thoughts with your own handicapping acumen. If you get beat, then you can only blame yourself.

 5. Don’t get hooked on a favorite horse. One of the best lessons you can learn is to never let your heart open your wallet. We all have favorite horses, but do not allow your giddiness to influence your analysis. Evaluate the race for what it is based on who else is entered. Your favorite horse is not running in a vacuum and the pace dynamics, post position, etc, all have to be factored in. If you lock in on one horse because it’s a favorite then you are betting with your eyes closed.

 6. Get adequate rest the day before. If you are attending the Breeders’ Cup as a social experience, then by all means hit every party and rock it out. If you are trying to pad your back account, buy a new car, or take a vacation with your winnings, then maybe you should attend one less party. If you can do both, then God bless you. Remember, this is pari-mutuel wagering, so the intoxicated money in the pools adds efficiency and liquidity to the market.

7. Enjoy the racing! For two straight days you have OUTSTANDING racing featuring all the stars of our sport at one venue. Don’t allow a losing ticket to dilute your passion for the game.

8. If you do have a great betting day(or days) take some money from your winnings and donate it to a thoroughbred aftercare organization. While most of the horses running at the Breeders’ Cup will not have any issues getting placed after their race careers are over, there are thousands of other horses out there that need our help when they come off the track. Remember, their racing career lasts a couple of years but their journey through life is just beginning. Let’s make sure we take care of our equine friends, as there would be no racing without the horses.

Friday, 13 October 2017 14:15

Papo's Picks - Saturday, Oct 14 & Sunday, Oct 15

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Saturday - October 14

Keeneland Race (9) G1 Queen Elizabeth II


A highly contentious race that is stacked with a full field of eleven three-year-olds looking to take grade one honors. While the Brown team of Uni and New Money Honey form an imposing tandem, I will try to beat them both with #2 Proctor’s Ledge(9-2). The daughter of Ghost Zapper has reeled off two graded stakes victories in row and I believe she still has room to improve. She will have to in order to beat #7 Wuheida (4-1) who ran 4th just beaten a half a length in the G1 Prix de l’Opera at Chantilly two weeks ago. Wuheida has run five times in her career, winning two, but the class is there as four of those were group one races. Of Brown’s pair I prefer #10 Uni who I believe has gotten better in each of her starts since making her stateside debut. If playing tris/supers make sure you spread in the 3rd and fourth positions as any number of the fillies in this race could get a piece of the pie. 

Top Selections #2 Proctor’s Ledge, #7 Wuheida, and #10 Uni.

****With the scratch of Wuheida, I would add Dream Dancing to your tickets******


Sunday - October 15th

Woodbine Race (9) E.P. Taylor Stakes


A field of nine fillies and mares going the classic distance of a mile and a quarter on the Woodbine turf course. In this race we have three Europeans that have shipped over the Atlantic to run here. The contingent is led by #6 Nezwah (5-2), the morning line favorite , #7 Rain Goddess (9-2) , and #8 Blond Me (6-1). Nezwah has only raced three times this year but has won two of those including the G1 Pretty Polly at the Curragh in July. While finishing fourth in her last race, she did not disgrace herself on ground that was rated soft and at a distance that may have bit beyond her scope. She is a deserving favorite but of the euro’s I am actually more interested in Blond Me. She finished 2nd, only beaten 1.5 lengths  to the world class Winter in the G1 Qatar Nassau Stakes at Goodwind. She has been as consistent as they come finishing in the exacta in 10 of 15 career starts.

#3 Quidura (3-1) for Graham Motion deserves a look as a contender. The Dubawi filly enters this race off a winning performance at Woodbine taking the G2 Canadian. She has good tactical speed and enters this race with +100 bris speed figures in her last two races. The value horse is this race however is #1 Kitten’s Roar and at the morning line price of 12-1 is worth a play for me. While she may not have the back class of some of the others in this race she is coming off her best career speed figure and this will be her third start off the layoff. I love seeing the confidence from her trainer Mike Maker, shipping her up north for this race. Maker knows a thing or two about winning this race as he won it with Al Gal’s last year. A highly competitive race with Chad Brown’s two, of which I prefer Fourstar Crook who I will use underneath in my exotics.

Top Selections #1 Kitten’s Roar, #8 Blonde Me, #6Nezwaah, #3 Quidura


For Pattison Canadian International thoughts on Sunday see my comments on twitter @papocore1

Friday, 06 October 2017 14:44

Keenland - Saturday, Oct 7

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Friday – Keeneland Race 8 – Stoll Keenon Ogden Phoenix


Solid field of 11 sprinting six furlongs on the main track. If the #11 Whitmore (3-1) of the spring shows up today, then everyone else is running for 2nd place. That being said I don’t trust him and am not one to play a short-priced favorite who is coming into this race off two subpar performances. I landed on #2 Threefiveinia (6-1) who should sit a good stalking position in a race loaded with early heat. I’ll key the Brown trainee with #4 Loose On the Town (12-1), #7 Favorite Tale (6-1), #10 It’s the Journey (12-1) and #11 Whitmore.



Saturday – Keeneland Race 7 First Lady


A salty field of seven going the flat mile on the turf is led by the morning line favorite #4 Roca Rojo (2-1). The Strategic Prince mare has won 6 of 10 in her career and looks formidable but I will try to beat her. I have always thought her best races have come when there is a bit of give in the ground, which will most not likely be the case on Saturday. #6 Dickenson (5-2) is an alternative, as she is two of three at the distance and was beaten just one and a half lengths last time out to the world class Lady Eli. That being said, I will try to beat both of them with #3 Dona Bruja (5-2). The Argentinian bred has won 10 of 13 in her career and two of three since making her stateside debut. I believe the cutback in distance will help her closing kick and this is her home course. Workout tab coming in is not too shabby either. Bruja for me.




Saturday – Keeneland Race 9 Shadwell Turf Mile


The pinnacle race on the Keeneland card is the Grade 1 Shadwell Turf Mile. #8 Miss Temple City (3-1) is the tepid morning line favorite and is the reigning champ, having taken this race last year. She loves the track and has been in the exacta in all four starts here. She is a logical contender but I believe is beatable. #10 Heart to Heart (7-2) has a tactical advantage as he looks to be controlling speed. If he can get away with comfortable fractions he can wire this field. He is as consistent as they come and has filled out the exacta in eight of his last twelve starts. He is an “A” for me in this race along with #3 Suedois (15-1). Suedois is shipping over from across the pond where he is coming out of a winning performance in a Group 2 at Leopardstown. His trainer has two in this race but notice who the jockey chose….Suedois. The price is right and he may be able to pull the upset. The last horse of mention worth having on your tickets is #6 Ballagh Rocks (10-1). The colt by Storm Atlantic is coming off a third to World Approval and he was just beaten a half-length in the Makers Mile at this track and distance in April.

Thursday, 29 June 2017 16:39

ABC Wagering for Multi-Race Bets

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ABC WageringDo you enjoy playing multi-race bets? Whether it’s a pick 3, pick 4, pick 5, or the elusive pick 6, you should be maximizing your opinion and budget every time you bet into these pools using the ABC wagering method. Now, I am not talking about learning the alphabet. The ABC method of structuring tickets should be the starting point for playing multi-race bets. Steve Crist, in his best-selling book Exotic Betting, wrote about this methodology of betting. Not only did he coin the ABC method, but he has shown that over the years if you are an astute horseplayer this is the way to maximize your opinion. So what is the ABC method you ask? Well, first let’s identify what it is not.

If you are not using the ABC wagering method then you are playing the “caveman” ticket-meaning you are assigning the same weight(chances of winning) to each horse in each race within the sequence. While that method does work, you are not taking advantage of your handicapping acumen. Do you really think that all your selections in a particular race have an equal chance of winning and carry the same amount of value? Do you have an open bankroll where the cost associated with structuring your ticket has no budgetary constraints?  If you meet that criteria, then this article is probably not for you. On the other hand, if you are looking for a way to enhance your return on investment(ROI) with a given bankroll limit, the ABC wagering method is for you.

As a horseplayer you should recognize that some horses have a better chance of winning a race than others. Why not assign a greater portion of your bankroll to those horses in order to maximize your opinions. That is what the ABC wagering method can help you do. Let’s identify what makes a horse an A, B, or C. “A” horses are those that you believe have the best shot of winning the race, or a horse whose percentage chance of winning the race(in your opinion) is better than the odds shown on the tote board(given the morning line). Your “A” horses are your most likely winners or best value horses. “B” horses are those that have a shot of winning the race, but maybe do not have the attributes of “A” horses. They can also be horses whose odds are lower than your perceived belief of their actual chances of winning(underlay). “C” horses or “bombs” are those horses that need a lot of things to go right for them to cross the wire; first but the cost associated with having them on your ticket is less than the risk of leaving them off or them winning at a huge price.

Once you go through all the legs in the sequence and assign horses as “A”, “B”, or “C” contenders you can structure your tickets in a manner that portions a greater percentage of your bankroll on “A” plays.  While you will have multiple tickets for one multi-race sequence, in the long run you are cutting down the cost of a “caveman” ticket and putting a larger portion of your bankroll on your strongest opinions.  See an example below.

In this example I am playing a pick 4 with an $48 budget. I have selected the runners as follows:



If you were to play all your selections using  “caveman” manner, you would be playing a $1.00 Pick 4 with a total ticket cost of $48.00.

Ex. 2/4,5,6,7/ 3,4,5,6/2,4,7 at $1 = $48.00

In the ABC wagering method I would instead make seperate pick 4 wagers: 

The first using all A selections:

$2.50 Pick4 2/4,5/3,4/2,4 for $20

The next two using B horses in 1 leg with all other legs A horses and lowering the base amount accordingly:

$1.50 Pick4 2/6/3,4/2,4 for $6.00
$1.50 Pick4 2/4,5/3,4/7 for $6.00

The next using 2 legs of B selections with the remainder A horses and again lowering the base amount:

$1.00 Pick4 2/6/3,4/7 for $2.00

Lastly should we choose to we can also add in our C wagers with the A horses such as:

$1.00 Pick4 2/7/3,4/2,4 for $4.00
$1.00 Pick4 2/4,5/5,6/2,4 for $8.00

That is a total of $46 with a  higher base cost  on my A and B selections therefore appropriating a larger portion of my bankroll on those selections that I feel have a better chance of winning their individual races.

The details of how to choose the proper base amount based on your budget are a bit outside of the scope of this post as its meant as an entry point. I may cover it in a later post if there is interest. 

Using the ABC method you could realistically hit the pick 4 for $4.00 and even if a “B” or “C” horse crossed the wire first, you still increased your winning as the minimum ticket put in using this method was $2.00.

The ABC system is not going to find the winners for you; that’s your job as a handicapper. However, if you are successful in navigating the sequence, the ABC methodology will help generate a higher ROI and that, my friends, is the difference between investing and gambling. 


Friday, 21 April 2017 13:35

Dixiana Elkhorn Stakes at Keeneland - Race 9

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Saturday Keeneland Race 9 Dixiana Elkhorn Stakes


Keeneland’s race of the day Saturday is the Grade 2 Dixiana Elkhorn Stakes going the marathon distance of a mile and half over the turf. The race is named after a central Kentucky stream that is 18.3 miles long and runs through several counties with its two primary forks taking the shape of antlers. The race was first run at 1 1/8th miles in 1986 and then lengthened to today’s distance in 1996. Notable winners include Manila (1987), Lure (1994), and Musketier (2010 & 2011). This year’s edition features a competitive, full field of eleven older horses although Mike Maker, who has a superfecta of runners, has already stated he may scratch Taghleeb (4-1) and Roman Approval (20-1).  The forecast for Lexington on Saturday shows several rounds of rain which means the turf might be rated “good” or “yielding.” I have handicapped the race under the assumption that the turf will be “good/yielding” and Maker scratches the previous mentioned horses.



The horse I will key on is Maker’s Bigger Picture who is the tepid morning line favorite at 7-2. While I would prefer a better price, he is in my opinion the most likely winner and the horse I will key and wheel in my vertical wagers. The Badge of Silver gelding was off-the-board in his last start in the G2 Mac Diarmida but was only beaten by half a length. Bigger Picture won four of eight races last year, but more importantly can handle rain soaked turf as he finished a strong second in the Sycamore Stakes on a course rated “good.”  He has a versatile running style and can press or stalk the pace. Note the sharp workout on April 15th and his regular rider, Jose Ortiz, is in the irons.



Makers’ other runner, Charming Kitten (6-1), is worth a look and can be used on your tickets. The son of Kitten’s Joy has failed to pick up a check in his two starts this year but has only been beaten 1 ¾ and 1 ½ lengths in those starts. Prior to two starts in Ireland in the summer of 2016, he won the two-mile H. Allen Jerkins Stakes on a Gulfstream turf course rated “good.” Maker has had success in this race winning it with Dark Cove in 2013 and Da Big Hoss last year.



Itsinthepost (4-1) is a player in this race. The five-year-old French-bred, by American Post, is shipped in from California for trainer Jeff Mullins. Itsinthepost’s form has been razor sharp as he has finished in the exacta in eight of his last nine races. He became a grade 2 winner in his last start when he won the San Luis Rey Stakes at Santa Anita. The soft ground should not hamper his cause as he is proven on turf rated “good” or “soft.” Tyler Baze gives up his mounts at Santa Anita to make the trip which adds to the appeal. Mullins rarely ships his horses East so you have to wonder if he can bring his California form to the Bluegrass State. If he does, Itsinthepost will be right there at the wire.



A live longshot in the race is Interpol (12-1) for trainer Jimmy Toner. Interpol, by English Channel, came into Jimmy’s barn in late December after being sidelined for over a year. His 2015 form was solid and I was able to cash some nice tickets on him when he won the Grade 2 Sky Classic and Grade 1 Northern Dancer at Woodbine. He too is proven on giving ground and the marathon distance is well within his scope. Toss his 2017 debut as it was simply a prep race at a distance that was less than ideal. If Toner has the screws tightened and Interpol can run back to his 2015 form, then he is a contender in this race at what should be a great price. Throw Bullard Alley (20-1) in underneath on your vertical wagers as his best races have come on “good/yielding” turf.



Wishing safe trips to all and hopefully despite the rains we won’t see any floaties.

Thursday, 13 April 2017 13:31

Race 9 at Keeneland - The G1 Maker’s 46 Mile

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Friday Keeneland Race 9 Maker’s 46 Mile

keenelandThe highlight race on Friday’s Keeneland card is the Grade 1 Maker’s 46 Mile. Unlike the bourbon Maker’s 46, which has a smooth taste with hints of both vanilla and caramel, the race came up quite salty with a highly competitive field of 12. The race could be billed as an East vs. West Coast contest as we have four shippers from California, including What a View (5-1), Bolo (5-1), Conquest Enforcer (12-1), and Calculator (10-1), taking on the East Coast challengers, including the morning line favorite Heart to Heart (3-1). The six-year-old son of English Channel has had a stellar career, winning 12 of his 27 lifetime starts with earnings exceeding $1 million. There is no secret to his success as he likes to set the pace and run his competition into the ground. He is 6 of 13 at the one mile distance and is ideally drawn in post nine, outside of the other speed in the race.

The pace dynamics of the race will make things interesting for Heart to Heart. What a View, for trainer Kenny Black, has the same style of running and is capable of being head to head with Heart to Heart through the early parts of the race. How that battle plays out on the front end will determine the outcome of the race. To add more fuel to the early heat, you have Conquest Enforcer, who likes to press the pace and gets jockey Paco Lopez in the saddle. Lopez is an aggressive gate rider and I would expect him to have Conquest Enforcer involved in the race early. With all the early pace in this race I will be looking for a horse coming off of it for the most likely winner.

Bolo for trainer Carla Gaines is a contender in the race. He wants firm turf so if the skies decide to weep Friday you can discount his chances. That being said, the forecast calls for a clear, sunny day and that’s how I’m handicapping the race. Bolo made his 2017 debut winning the Grade 2 Arcadia after sidelined for eight months. He may have regressed a bit off that effort when he finished third in his next start in the Grade 1 Frank Kilroe Mile, however. While there is some cause of concern that he has failed to produce a top effort when shipping, I love his works coming in and this will be the first time he has strung three races together without time off since 2015. You get Mr. Grade 1 himself, Mike Smith, in the saddle and I expect him to place Bolo right behind the early speed. While I doubt the morning line price will hold up you might get 3-1 on Bolo and he should be right there at the wire.

Calculator and Inspector Lynley (8-1) are interesting in this race. While I can’t see either taking the winner’s share, they are logical for exactas and trifectas. Calculator is son of In Summation who has spent most of his career racing on the dirt. He had a successful 2016 with five in-the-money finishes in six starts. His best races were when he finished second in both the Grade 1 Carter and Grade 2 Churchill Downs Stakes. He too should sit a stalking position and I find it interesting Peter Miller runs him in this grade 1 affair off only two turf starts. The Frenchman, Florent Geroux, takes the reins which adds to the appeal. Calculator will have to transfer his best dirt form over to the grass to have a chance in this race but I can see him getting a share. Inspector Lynley is an interesting horse to use underneath on your tickets. He is a two-time grade 3 winner and won the Tampa Bay Stakes in his last start. While has only one start in 2017, Shug McGaughey enters him here after three bullet works at Payson Park. The mile distance may be a bit too sharp for him as he is by Lemon Drop Kid and would likely appreciate a little more ground to work with. He should be running late and could pick up a minor share.

As for my key horse I am going to take a shot with Bondurant (10-1) for trainer Ian Wilkes. The lightly raced son of War Front just missed last time out finishing second to Heart to Heart in the Grade 3 Canadian Turf at Gulfstream Park. He is 2 for 2 at Keeneland, 3 of 4 at the one mile distance, and this will be his third start off the layoff. Should the pace setters go too fast early, look for Bondurant to be flying at the end. While he has never tasted grade 1 company, if he can improve just a bit off his last race, he can pull off the upset. He is a half-brother and stable-mate to the Derby contender, McCraken, who finished third in his final prep last week. While Ian did not get his picture taken last week in the winner’s circle, he may have just been waiting for the Maker’s 46 to flow on Friday.

Safe trips to all.