by Johnny D
January 21, 2022
Italians know how to say ‘farewell.’
The salutation virtually sings its message and renders pangs of departure mute. As I bid ‘Arrivederci’ to followers, account holders, fellow employees and this space--where thoughts and words have appeared weekly for 17 years--there are many emotions. The most palpable is gratitude.
Know how they say, if you do what you love, you’ll never work a day? It’s true. Fresh out of college, I landed a job at a track formerly on real estate that’s now home to two NFL football teams. The whole Internet wagering thing came later, of course. As part of the original Xpressbet development and launch team, we watched as the service expanded from a telephone-only operation out of The Meadows racetrack basement into one of the nation’s top ADWs. During that growth, emphasis was on satisfying horseplayers in all wagering segments. Account holders responded with wagering dollars. Through the years, I’m grateful to have shared both creative vision and a labor of love with superb collaborators. The elevating experience of productive teamwork in a familial-like environment is something I can only wish for you.
‘Arrivederci’ isn’t meant to be as definitive as a firm ‘Goodbye.’ It’s more akin to ‘until we meet again’—a more comforting parting sentiment.
Last but not least, thanks to anyone who’s ever read the drivel that has filled this space. Over the years, I’ve heard from many of you and made friendships, too. We’ve even cashed a ticket or two together. Maybe we can do that one more time on the way out the door.
Congratulations to long-time Xpressbet account holder and tournament player Mark McGuire for topping all players last Saturday in Beat the Host. His total of $165.50 earned a $1,000 prize. Steve McLaughlin was second at $161.50 and collects $750. John Fallon was third at $147.50 to bag $250. Register Free and play Beat the Host Saturday against Santa Anita morning-line maker Jon White. It’s fun and you could make a few bucks in the process.
Below is one man’s opinion on how this week’s Gulfstream Late Pick 4 might unfold. Remember that Xpressbet serves up a $2,000 bonus each Saturday and Sunday to registered Late Pick 4 winners. If you’re going to play the wager, why not register for the bonus and collect even more when you’re right. There’s no downside. If you’re wrong, you’re wrong and it’s not like that hasn’t happened before.
Analysis was done before scratches and assumes a ‘Fast’ track and ‘Firm’ turf course.
Kick the Pick 4 off with what appears to be a two-filly race as #9 Liam’s Kiss and #10 Butterbean both are talented. Players will have to decide to either single here or double up tickets. Below, we suggest a path but we’re not always correct.
#3 Rita Marga deserves some respect off a local 7-furlong debut. She’s fit, adds Lasix and the Danner/Sutherland trainer/jockey combo is 27% at a strong $3.39 ROI, so they’re not winning with chalk. This filly kept trying when second to an odds-on favorite. The Beyer Speed Figure fits and a repeat puts her around at the finish.
#4 Agraffe is the only first-time starter in the field and she’ll need to be something good to overhaul some of these with experience. A series of 5-furlong works is interesting, especially a 12/31 best of 28 1:00 1/5 at GP. Exotics only.
#6 Migration makes a second start for Mott. Blinkers, added in last, seemed to help this filly that has made steady progress since her debut at Del Mar. She adds Lasix for this and can be expected to keep plugging along. She doesn’t seem as talented as #9 Liam’s Kiss or #10 Butterbean, but she’s improving and has trained steadily for this.
#9 Liam’s Kiss was dispatched at even money first out for 43% trainer Pletcher. She ran well after a rough start and looks like she’ll appreciate more ground. Her Beyer Speed Figure was not that strong. Pletcher’s strong in just about every category and he’s 22% with second-time starters. Can’t live without her. She raced Dec. 5 and has worked every 6-7 days since. All systems ‘Go.’
#10 Butterbean makes a third start for trainer Ken McPeek, who seems ready to open his barn and make Gulfstream ’22 starts. This filly ran well first-time out going a mile at Churchill and just missed. She ran even better when just missing around two turns at Churchill. She stumbled to her knees at the start, raced wide the whole way, made the lead and, understandably, tired in the final strides at odds on. She’s been gone since late November and her work tab is a bit light but there’s no doubting her ability.
In Pletcher We Trust: #9
Exotic Chances: #3, #6
Those looking for a rock-solid single in the second leg of this wager may be tempted to hang hats on #10 Big Blue, who tumbles in class and adds Saez. You could do worse. There are some other options since these lower-level Tapeta route claimers sometimes spring surprises.
#2 Lucky as a Seven will try two turns for just the second time. He figures to show speed in a race that doesn’t have much of that commodity. He’s just 1-14 overall, but 4-1-1-0 on synthetic. Trainer Juan Avila is cold at the meeting (2-41) but is a notable 26% with jockey Meneses.
#3 Mack is a lightly raced 6-year-old with just 3 starts. He won his last against Maiden $16k foes at this distance over this surface. Trainer O’Connell is strong (21% this meeting) and jockey Vasquez combines to hit at 17% overall. In this group of chronic failures, a fresh, mature animal may not be a bad thing.
#4 Western Advantage drops a level in class and switched to 20% jock Gaffalione for a first local try. Previous 5 races came in New York against better but produced zero results except for a first out turf score against fellow Empire State breds. Blinkers were tried last out, didn’t work and come off today.
#7 Special Meister is fit off a Jan. 6 race and drops a few levels in class for his fifth career start. Unlike many in here, he’s not a proven loser and has a win from just 2 synthetic starts over the Gulfstream surface. Low-profile trainer Oscar Gonzalez and jockey Jaramillo combine to score at a notable 19%. This one deserves a second look.
#10 Big Blue tumbles in class and attracts top jock Saez for his 12th career start. His only win came when he dropped from Maiden $50k to Maiden $25k in March and he’s pretty much been over his head since—all in turf races. He did manage a close second at Kentucky Downs in a $30k non-winners of 2 at 10-1. This lowest level ever appearance should be just what the doctor ordered and Saez is just the guy to get the job done for trainer Rusty Arnold.
Most Popular: #10
Deserves a Look: #7
Other Options: #2, #3, #4
The $75k Sunshine Filly and Mare Turf at one mile on the turf appears to be a Saffie Joseph event. Seven runners are entered, and Joseph has two of them #6 Lovely Luv and #7 Sugar Fix. They also just happen to be the most likely winners.
#2 Sister Otoole starts for a powerful trainer/jockey combo in Motion/Saez. They hit at 30%. The 5-year-old mare won a one mile and one-quarter first-level allowance race at Belmont and has knocked on the door in an allowance and two Gr. 3 stakes since. She hasn’t started since Nov. 13 and has a gap in her work schedule. She has no speed and may need this race for her best.
#6 Lovely Luv is one of those that finishes second more often than first. She has just 3 wins in 38 starts with 6 seconds and 9 thirds. Her late kick always seems to put her in the action but too late for glory. Jockey Alvarado and trainer Joseph are a remarkable 30% together from 23 mounts. The 6-year-old mare’s last win was 6/28/20. It should be noted that she was fourth in a blanket finish in this race last year at 19-1 odds.
#7 Sugar Fix is a winner. She’s had her picture taken in 10 of 23 starts with 5 seconds. She’s 3 of 6 at Gulfstream and 7 of 11 at the distance. She failed as favorite in a 7-horse field in this race last year, part of a 5-horse photo finish. The jockey/trainer combo is strong with Gaffalione winning with 21% of mounts for trainer Joseph.
The Other: #6
Close out the Late Pick 4 with a challenging assortment of maiden claimers travelling one mile and 70 yards over Tapeta. The obvious play is #6 Fishing For Fun, second last out at this level and well clear of #5 Millenium Condo in a strung out parade to the finish. The obvious, however, may not be the way to go. See analysis below for more info.
#1 Macho Time makes a second start after a troubled debut at this level and distance. He’s recently gelded and has the rail. A reach but not totally out of the question.
#3 Star Shopping makes his 5th start at a 5th new track. He’s also tried turf twice, dirt once and now makes a second synthetic run. He’s been around contender’s odds in each previous start and drops to the lowest level ever. He doesn’t seem likely, but he’s not impossible at all on the drop.
#4 Birdnote stretched out to a mile last out and didn’t run a step. He tries the lowest class of his career, synthetic and two turns for the first time. One, two or all three of those changes could wake him up. Trainer O’Connell has been hot at the meet (21%) and combines with jockey Vasquez at 17%. Gotta play this one on the come line. Bonus points for fitness as he raced poorly Dec. 26 and is being rushed right back to the races, as if he just didn’t try for some reason.
#5 Millenium Condo was four and one-half lengths behind #6 Fishing For Fun last out. The race was this colt’s second start and first after being claimed at this level from top trainer Saffie Joseph. It was the seventh start for the above-mentioned foe. Paco Gonzalez takes over for Edwin Gonzalez for low-profile trainer Wilensky. The large losing margin to #6 Fishing For Fun, low profile connections and second race out of the Joseph barn might be enough to guarantee a price on this guy. If so, he’s worth attention on the assumption that with two races under his girth he’s ready to fire a better one.
#6 Fishing For Fun is the obvious play in here. However, he could be the obvious play against. He’s been close often: 7 starts and second or third 5 times. He’s burned some money, too. Less than 3-1 in 4 of 7 starts. This could be a developing 2-hole kind of runner.
#7 Beloved Warrior demands attention because he makes a first start for a tag from the potent Joseph stable (24%). Jockey Gaffalione wins at 20% and the duo is 21% together. This colt has failed as favorite twice, but the drop may heal all wounds. Can’t leave home without him.
#8 Bluto’s Daddy was claimed for $35k last out in the race common with several of these. Trainer Maragh is having a fine meet (27%) and is 17% off the claim. This one’s also been gelded and took a bit of play in his debut. He’s not impossible in just his second start and probably has value in the exotics.
#9 Toyi has lots of changes going for him. If they can add up to victory or not is another story. Gelding, two turns, first tag…all for low-profile connections.
#10 Glory and Victory showed some improvement last out and that is noted. He also takes a much-needed dip in class. That combination sometimes yields a positive result. This will be his first synthetic start. He’s got a 1:00 3/5 bullet (best of 23) work on his tab. Bombs away if you like him.
#11 Catatumbo closed well at this level and surface but moves outside and most likely will have trouble duplicating that performance. If you want to play a Sano-trained horse, try #10 Glory and Victory.
Bombs Away: #10
Most Likely: #7
Other Options: #4, #5, #8
Play Against: #6 Fishing For Fun
Race On, Forever!