By Al Cimaglia
The Meadowlands wraps-up the weekend's harness action with an 11-race card. The feature rolls in Race 8, a non-winners of $15,000 in the last five starts with an $18,500 purse. The 0.50 Pick 4 begins in Race 8, it has a $50,000 guaranteed pool and will be my focus. Last night at the Big M, Andrew McCarthy led the pilots with three wins. No trainer on the 9-race card had more than one trip to the winner's circle. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Race 8 1-Terror Of The Night-Drops to a spot to shine, 9-time winner could surprise at a nice price. 3-Ballerat Boomerang-Can get a good trip from this post and should be in the mix versus this crew. 4-Awesomeness-Just missed in last and now faces better but will give one more chance in an open affair. 8-Bushwacker-In fine form and gets some post relief, has missed a start but is a player if ready. Race 9 1-Solo Story-D. Miller sticks and gets a rare consecutive start at the Big M, looking for a big effort at a fair price. 5-Threeofthebest A-Winner of 3 straight steps up again and it may not matter. 6-Century Churchill-Needs a trip and may get to follow #5, could be rolling late and will take a swing. Race 10 1-Quality Bud-Raced on an-off track in last 2, draws well and looking for a better effort on a dry track. 2-Dubious Claim-Canadian invader deserves respect and if ready can top this group. 6-Heavenly Sound-ML chalk races well at Big M, has been facing tough foes and 3-yr-old may beat older. Race 11 1-Still Friskie-Should stay in striking range and a fast track would help, using at 8-1 in the ML. 5-McThriller-Big try last week at the same class, prime time player tonight. 0.50 Pick 4 1,3,4,8/1,5,6/1,2,6/1,5 Total Bet=$36 Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia
By Jerry Shottenkirk
If you like playing the 2-year-olds, it’s your day at Gulfstream Park. The first six races on the 11-race card are devoted to 2-year-old stakes runners and the final four are in the Caribbean Cup races, which brings some of the best runners from nations in the Caribbean and Latin America. Pick 5 players can jump in right off the bat and it promises to be a challenging journey into exotic wagering.Here’s a look at the Early Pick 5 races: Race 1 – House Party Stakes Sprint fillies are in the House Party, and Iva, Horologist and Calinas Song are the plays on the ticket. Iva’s record is unblemished after two, but after wins at Indiana Grand and Belterra, she will has a tough task.. Don’t be surprised if this Scat Daddy filly answers the call. Horologist (John Mazza) is the 3-1 morning line favorite. She was magnificent in a 20-length maiden score over the Monmouth strip and then lost her next two. Clearly she’s a filly of talent. Calinas Song won her only start and Luis Saez picks up the mount, which is never a bad thing over this strip as he does extremely well over it. Race 2 – Hut Hut Stakes Fillies will go a mile in the Hut Hut, and the trio of Sweet Diane, Bella Ciao and Classic Fit are the hopes on this ticket. Sweet Diane crushed maidens at Penn National by 13 lengths in her last start, which came on Sept. 28. She’s trained at Tampa Bay Downs over the past month and has already won at the distance. It’s likely she can run well against much better than what she’s faced. Here’s her opportunity. Bella Ciao ran a bang-up 4th in the Spinaway and then was outrun in the Alcibiades – a pair of races that are worlds apart from the $75,000 stakes purse level, such as this. She’ll likely get a close-up trip and can hang in tough going the one-turn trek. Classic Fit has run well on three different tracks on three different types of surfaces and has gone two turns in all three races. Staying at a mile but turning to the one-turn variety could make her a huge threat. Race 3 – Buffalo Man StakesJackson has battled in stakes races and has shifted to a come-from-behind style in last two. He’s been in fast events and can also be very close to the lead, if needed. He has the class edge against his lighter-on-experience foes here. Zenden was impressive in his only start despite having a rough-and-tumble start. He recovers over this strip and finished very well, lending one to believe he has a lot of ability, not just for the win but in the fashion in which he pulled it off. Race 4 – Smooth Air StakesMaddy’s Last Dance looks like a colt that’s been begging for more distance. After battling and weakening late in his debut, he has finished with gusto in three since and won of those. He should enjoy the mile of the Smooth Air. Union’s Destiny already has improved with distance and adds some more here. He just missed off the pace in his debut and then wore down his front-running rivals and drew off for an easy score. He should be taken very seriously in this spot. Garter and Tie has stakes experience against restricted company and already has bankrolled nearly a quarter-million. He turns back from a 2nd in the Florida Stallion In Reality Stakes and has a strong player in his last four. No reason to believe he can’t be right there again. Race 5 – Pulpit StakesHenley’s Joy has been a young turf star and looks like a solid player in the Pulpit at a mile on the grass. He tried the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, never really got involved and was not persevered when hopelessly beaten. Until that point, he was two of three, including in a maiden race at Ellis Park and a victory in the Kentucky Downs Juvenile. He closed well and lost by a nose in the Bourbon at Keeneland. He’s kept stout company and mostly has been very good. Louder Than Bombs bring a lot of local experience into this one. He was unplaced on the Breeders’ Cup undercard at Churchill last time but won two of three here. His Churchill attempt was on the main track and his others were on the Gulfstream turf. He broke his maiden and won the Armed Forces Stakes. Here’s the complete suggested ticket for the Pick 5 at Gulfstream Park:Race 1) #1 Iva, #4 Horologist, #5 Calinas Song.Race 2) #3 Sweet Diane, #4 Bella Ciao, #7 Classic Fit.Race 3) #6 Jackson, #7 Zenden.Race 4) #2 Maddy’s Last Dance, #3 Union’s Destiny, #5 Garter and Tie.Race 5) #2 Henley’s Joy, #9 Louder Than Bombs.50-cent Pick 5: 1-4-5 with 3-4-7 with 6-7 with 2-3-5 with 2-9 ($54).
By Al Cimaglia
The feature tonight at Cal Expo rolls in Race 8, the Annette Funicello-Glen Holt Pace which has an $8,500 purse. The 0.20 Pick 4 sequence also begins in Race 8, it has a $20,000 guaranteed pool with a 16% takeout and will be my focus. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Race 8 2-Glad To Meet Ya-Was bet in last but had a tough journey, will use with Plano from the inside at a square price. 4-Dancer's Fancy-2-1 ML chalk was nipped in last, figures to be in the hunt but should be bet hard. 5-Lookslikewemadeit-Intersting play at 9-1 ML, probably needed last start, should be tighter now and has won here. 8-Lickcreek Speedway-Beat these last week, post draw makes this a bigger challenge but will respect chances. Race 9 2-Getter Queen Flush-Makes 3rd CalX start at this level, gets post relief and Plano takes a seat. 5-Misspanderosajones-2-1 ML chalk comes off a win and moves up but should be in the hunt again. 7-Fancy Little Girl-Camera shy Wiseman-Plested entry, has come close and will respect connections. 8-Totally Racy-57.3 back half and was able to get the win. Looks like a player tonight and post helps the price. Race 10 2-Cantholdmebackmack-Was off 20 days before last start, Plano sticks and this is a spot for an aggressive try. 3-Timetoplaythegame-Steps up after a sharp win from 9-hole, best to respect chances for an encore. 4-Almost Cut My Hair-Beaten chalk was also off 20 days and like #2, this might be "go" time. Race 11 3-Silent Rescue-Doesn't win often but usually tries hard. This is a spot to get sucked around and roll by at a price. 5-Rocket Power-Drew off in 1st start in Smith barn, moves up but this isn't a crew of all-stars, can win again. 8-Camita B And E-Even effort in 1st CalX start, now drops + positive driver change and could blast out and follow #5. My Ticket Race 8) 2,4,5,8 Race 9) 2,5,7,8 Race 10) 2,3,4 Race 11) 3,5,8 Total Ticket Cost) $28.80 for $0.20Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia
By Dustin Fabian
The Caribbean Classic returns to Gulfstream Park for the second consecutive year on Saturday, December 8. Here are free picks for each of the five big international races. Race 7 (2:46PM ET) Invitational Cup Stakes ($77,500) 3YO + - 1 1/4 Miles (Dirt)Last Year: Coltimus Prime ($9.60), who had previously won the Prince of Wales Stakes at Fort Erie, closed strongly to win by 2 1/2-lengths going away, giving Irad Ortiz Jr. his second win of the Classic. Heavily favored Mishegas struggled to finish third for Edgard Zayas.Key Contenders: Coltimus Prime (Velazquez) – 3/1 – Defending champion returns to the scene of last year’s win. He is 0-for-5 in stakes races in Panama since last year’s Invitational. Note that last year’s winning rider, Irad Ortiz Jr., opted for another mount. Mishegas (Ortiz Jr.) – 4/1 – Deep closer was shocked at 4/5 odds in this race last year and not sure we can blame the slop as he’s 2-for-3 on wet ground. He’s a deep closer and leaves himself a lot to do, so that’s always tough. California Music (Saez) – 9/5 – Is 9-for-17 in his native Panama and has finished ahead of Coltimus Prime on three separate occasions this year. He’s 2-for-4 at the distance but it’s hard to envision this being his best trip. My Prediction: Mishegas appears to be catching Coltimus Prime at the right time and I think he puts last year’s shocking upset behind him. Going Strong (10/1) is an interesting longshot as he adds blinkers and breaks from the rail, so curious if he tries to steal this race. If you can figure out who’s going to the lead, you’ve got a horse to have in your Exactas and Trifectas. Race 8 (3:16PM ET) Lady Caribbean Cup ($89,000)3YO Fillies & Mare – 1 1/16 Miles (Dirt) Last Year: Mexico’s Jaguaryu ($12.40) kicked off the festivities with an authoritative 7 3/4-length victory beneath Irad Ortiz Jr. Venezuela’s Gladiadora closed to finish second as the 5/2 favorite. Key Contenders: Kutzamala (MEX) (Ortiz Jr.) – 7/2 – Daughter of Point Determined has won 8-of-10 but was shocked in the That’s Life Stakes in Mexico City on October 27. She was 1/10 odds that day and finished off the board. Is a 4-time G1 winner in Mexico. Etruska (MEX) (Gonzalez) – 5/1 – She upset Kutzamala in the That’s Life, breaking a streak of three career defeats to that rival. She has always raced Kutzamala well, though and it’s hard to claim a big gap between the two right now. Rosa Salvaje (PAN) (Castellano) – 4/1 – Won a Group 2 race in Panama in July but has been off since August, which isn’t a great thing. The addition of Castellano is, however. My Prediction: Etruska and Kutzamala sweep the Exacta and Salmiana comes close to producing an All-Mexico Trifecta. Panama’s Rosa Salvaje and Puerto Rico’s Regalada (8/1) factor into the results late. Race 9 (3:46PM ET) Caribbean Cup Speed Stakes ($105,800)3YO - 6 Furlongs (Dirt) Last Year: Venezuela’s Master Supreme ($24.40) and John Velazquez took the field gate-to-wire as heavily-favored Crotone broke slowly and finished last. Venezuela’s Forze Mau, the second choice, finished second with Javier Castellano aboard. Key Contenders: Big Boris One (VEN) (Lopez) – 8/1 – Is 2-for-2 in his career, but flashed a nice bullet workout – best of 109 horses – at Gulfstream on December 1. He drew a nice outside post and is ridden by a capable ‘send’ jockey in Paco Lopez. La Polla (PAN) (Rodriguez) – 3/1 – She won a Group 2 race in Panama last out over Candy Power and overall she’s 4-for-12 with seven Trifecta finishes. Being a filly she gets in very light (110 lbs) but not sure if the jockey can make that impost. Tati (MEX) (Ortiz Jr.) – 5/1 – Mexican representative blew the doors off an allowance field on October 27 to win by 13 1/4-lengths. Overall she’s 5-for-14 with four seconds. Looks like Irad Ortiz had many choices in each race so hard to argue with his choices. My Prediction: Not a lot to go off but La Polla has the best class and could be tough with the right trip. Tati could easily finish right up there, along with Big Boris One, who could be any type with just two races to his name. Race 10 (4:16PM ET) Confraternity Caribbean Cup Stakes ($100,000)3YO+ - 1 1/4 Miles (Dirt) Last Year: Panama’s El Tigre Mono ($18.20), ridden by John Velazquez, caught Puerto Rico’s Arquitecto in the shadow of the wire as the race’s favorites, Gran Will (2.20/1) and Igor (2.30/1) struggled in the slop. Key Contenders: Jala Jala (MEX) (Ortiz Jr.) – 9/5 – She shocked ‘em at 10/1 in the ‘Classic last year but that price will be shorter this time around. Has won four straight in Mexico and note the public’s belief in her – sub even-money each time. She gets an 8lb break from the boys. Exclusivo (PR) (Diaz) – 2/1 – Is 15-for-17 in his career and he’s been absolutely untouchable in his last two racing years – 8-for-8 in ’18, 5-for-5 in ’16. The closest anyone has got to him this year is 3-lengths and that was in January. Since May, they haven’t been within 5 1/2-lenghts of him. Fray Angelico (PAN) (Saez) – 9/2 – Was burdened with an impossible outside post in last year’s Classic but raced admirably to finish second. Unfortunately, he’s stuck wide again but it’s only Post 9 and he has more time to drop in. According to Trackus he conceded 53 feet to Jala Jala in last year’s Classic. My Prediction: Jala Jala can’t pull off the Classic/Confraternity Double as either Exclusivo or Fray Angelico get the job done. Fray Angelico should be a popular choice and he has already run well locally.Race 11 (4:50PM ET) Caribbean Classic Stakes ($300,000) 3YO – 1 1/8 Miles (Dirt) Last Year: Mexican filly JALA JALA ($22.40) capped a big day for Irad Ortiz Jr. as she trounced the field in the ‘Classic by 9-lengths. Panama’s FRAY ANGELICO finished second and Mexico’s JOYME rounded out a $2,298 Trifecta at odds of 44/1. Key Contenders: Kukulkan (MEX) (Ortiz Jr.) – 3/5 – Is undefeated in 13 starts, including 6 G1 races. His last five wins all came at odds of 1/5 or lower. Not impossible to envision a scenario that gets him beat – he’s never been away from Mexico City – but he’s definitely the one to catch. Bukowski (VEN) (Jaramillo) – 6/1 – Venezuelan import has won 5-of-8 including back-to-back G1 events. He’s won 4-of-5 since April and continues to look strong in his races. Sol De Orion (PAN) (Lezcano) – 6/1 – Won a G2 last out in Panama and appears the best suited of that contingent for the 1 1/8-mile trip. Senor Ben Hur, who is always fancied at the windows, has been beaten in two straight at this trip. My Prediction: Hard to stop the train as Kukulkan makes it 14-for-14 with relative ease. The Panamanian contingent of Sol De Orion, Dario Ruth (20/1) and Senor Ben Hur (10/1) will come with decent efforts and Bukowski is possibly the only logical upsetter.
By Al Cimaglia
Tonight, the Meadowlands begins Thursday racing in December with a 9-race card. The feature rolls in Race 5 a non-winners of $5,000 in last five starts with a purse of $8,500. The 0.50 Pick 4 sequence beings in Race 6, it has a $35,000 guaranteed pool and will be my focus. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Race 6 2-Deepfave Hanover-3rd Big M start for Auciello, should like the company, finally draws inside plus D. Miller sticks. 5-Marty Monkhouser A-Last was better, also making 3rd Big M start and should be in the hunt. 9-Dash Of Danger-Would like to see on a fast track and looks like a price shot who fits with a decent trip. Race 7 2-Pumped Up Kicks-Drops again and has been racing in quick miles, trainer is seeking 1st win after 10-20 claim. 3-A And C Artist-Drops after fading in last, this is a better spot to shine. 7-Abbeylara-3rd start in Surick barn and has improved in last 2, major player if upswing continues. Race 8 1-Freespin-One of a few who can win with best effort, McCarthy needs to work a good trip for this 10-year-old. 2-Ideal Candidate-Game old-timer deserves respect, best to put him in the mix but hasn't been sharp since claim. 4-Medoland Jate-Likes the track and fits with this bunch, could be sitting on a big try. 9-Terrors Prince-55.4 last 1/2 in 1st Big M start and may get a more aggressive steer tonight. Race 9 1-Ideal Romance-Winner of 3 straight should be tough and many will single, but 9-year-old isn't a mortal lock. 7-My Dad Rocks-1st Big M start was fine as D. Miller sticks, should be put into play and be in the mix at the wire. 8-Spanish Art-Will take a swing after a 56.1 back half, if #1 gets challenged and pace is hot could pop at a price. 0.50 Pick 4 2,5,9/2,3,7/1,2,4,9/1,7,8 Total Bet=$54 Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia
By Johnny D
Are you ready for 2019? You’d better be. It’s coming. Like it or not. And, as they say, ‘Time, like the subway, waits for no one.’ This past season was a good one. We had Justify, a Triple Crown winner, only the 13th in history. What’s that you say? Not a big deal? OK. Perhaps, the second such sweep in the last three years has muted the thrill. To this writer, however, who suffered through the 37-year Affirmed-American Pharoah drought, a Triple Crown winner remains a cherished gift. Particularly incredible is that in just 111 days Justify went from being an un-raced 2-year-old colt to a Triple Crown winner! It’s doubtful any of us will see that again. That trainer Bob Baffert was at the helm for the last two TC winners truly is amazing. What’s scary is that heading into 2019 the trainer seems loaded with even more potential sophomore talent than ever before. Among veteran performers, Accelerate dominated Grade 1 events like no other—winning six. He even took his SoCal blockbuster show on the road to Kentucky and gifted trainer John Sadler a Breeders’ Cup-race victory…finally—the trainer’s first in more than 40-plus starts. That Sadler broke the ice by winning the Classic seems poetic justice. The 2018 Horse of the Year debate between Justify and Accelerate backers will escalate from now until after sunset and a cocktail hour Jan. 24 at Gulfstream Park when the golden trophy is presented. Both horses sport worthy credentials and legitimate cases will be advanced vigorously by supporters. (More on where we stand on the issue at a later date in this space.) Monomoy Girl, the 3-year-old filly that won 6 of 7 soph starts, including the BC Distaff against older foes, surely is the queen of 2018. In fact, she quietly has compiled an impressive career resume that shows her actually finishing second just once in 11 career starts by a mere neck at age 2 in the Golden Rod at Churchill Downs. Her lone defeat this year came via disqualification in the Cotillion Stakes at Parx when she dipsy-doodled her way home and may (or may not) have hampered the chances of runner-up Midnight Bisou. The final month of 2018 began Saturday with Gulfstream Park opening for its 80th racing season. Claiming Crown, a day that honors daily performers in the majority of races at nationwide tracks, again delivered a rich, entertaining and challenging sequence of puzzles. That trainer Jorge Navarro won three Claiming Crown heats is unsurprising. That two of the winners--Salsa’s Return ($35.60) in the Iron Horse, and Mischief Maas in the Glass Slipper ($30.20) paid over $30--is astounding. Navarro wins races about as often as some trainers brush their teeth. Apparently, before the afternoon was complete, horseplayers had learned a lesson. Navarro’s Aztec Sense, winner of the day’s richest race and finale, returned just $5 for every $2. Chris Landeros was the day’s saddle star with three victories. That’s a fantastic start for a rider that had won just 7 of 122 races at Gulfstream a year earlier. Claiming Crown handle jumped 14% over last year’s record number, totaling $13.6 million. Gulfstream has hosted Claiming Crown for seven consecutive years and is committed to presenting the event through 2021. Saturday, on my laptop via the magic of Xpressbet, I witnessed an unusual sports coincidence: A father and son each winning a major league sporting event within minutes of each other. Off at 4:53 pm ET in the ninth race at Tampa Bay Downs, jockey Brian Pedroza rode Trophy Doll to a wire-to-wire score in a mile and one-sixteenth turf race. Mere minutes later, off at 5pm ET, on the opposite coast in the fourth race at Del Mar, Brian’s father Martin Pedroza booted Placido gate-to-wire in a six-furlong dirt race! Saturday, north on 95, about 1,300 miles and 50 degrees Fahrenheit from Gulfstream, Aqueduct hosted four graded stakes races: Grade 2 Demoiselle, for 2-year-old fillies; Grade 3 Go For Wand, for fillies and mares; Grade 2 Remsen for 2-year-olds; and Grade 1 Cigar Mile. A Positive Spirit, from the rising Rudy Brisset barn, absolutely dominated six foes at a mile and one-eighth in the Demoiselle. She entered the race with improved Beyer speed ratings in each of three starts at Saratoga, Keeneland and Churchill--a third, second and first, respectively. Despite that resume, she paid a surprising $24.40 to win. Marley’s Freedom rebounded from her close fourth-place finish as 4/5 favorite in the BC Filly & Mare Sprint to win the one-mile Go For Wand over a game Come Dancing. ‘Marley, under Mike Smith for Bob Baffert, proved best at odds-on, but was less than dominating. It was her eighth start of the year and she doesn’t appear to be as sharp as she was in May when Baffert first assumed training duties for the 4-year-old filly. Two-year-old glamor boys tangled in the mile and one-eighth Remsen and Maximus Mischief proved clearly best for his third win in as many starts. He’s trained by Robert Reid out of Parx and had won both previous starts there by open lengths. He’s got a high cruising speed, relaxes for jockey Frankie Pennington and, in the Remsen, delivered a turn of foot in early stretch when asked. This one will take some beating any time he’s in a race. However, there are two points of concern: First, he’s already run extremely fast, perhaps too fast for a 2-year-old. Therefore, he may already be as good as he’s ever going to be and running so fast, so early may set him back a bit. Second, his breeding suggests he may be distance limited. At the conclusion of the Remsen he switched back to his left lead and appeared to be slowing down. That might be nothing, or something. It’s difficult to tell. But that he didn’t finish straight and strong is a negative. In the Cigar Mile, Chad Brown-trained Patternrecognition popped the gate from the far outside eight-hole under Jose Ortiz, gained the lead, immediately crossed over to the rail and backed up the field. Runner-up True Timber loomed in the stretch, but no one passed ‘Pattern to the wire. This certainly was not a memorable Cigar Mile congregation but the victory extended a few streaks for the winning 5-year-old horse. It was his third consecutive tally—an allowance at Saratoga; Grade 2 Kelso at Belmont; Grade 1 Cigar Mile at Aqueduct—his third score in as many starts at the Big A and his third win out of three attempts at the one-mile distance. Del Mar offered a pair of strong Grade 1 turf races Saturday and Sunday--the Hollywood Derby and Matriarch, respectively. Trainer Chad Brown and jockey Joel Rosario had their fingerprints on both winners—Raging Bull, who rallied off the pace to collar soph California turf star River Boyne in the stretch. Instilled Regard, fourth in the Kentucky Derby when trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, finished third in his first turf start and second outing for Chad Brown. In the Matriarch, Uni scored her fourth in a row when she closed like an absolute freight train from out of the clouds to snatch victory from Daddy Is a Legend. Quidura, also trained by Chad Brown, finished third. Fourth was Vasilika, a superb story, as she was claimed by Jerry Hollendorfer for 40k out of a winning effort in February and subsequently won seven in a row for her new owners, including a Grade 1 and a pair of Grade 2 races and roughly $600k! The past weekend’s Del Mar results were another indication (not that we needed one) that East Coast turf runners are far superior to their West Coast counterparts. This does not apply to dirt racing, where the best on the left coast continues to dominate nationwide. That rumbling sound you hear is an approaching subway. Train number 2019. Better get ready to board. It waits for no one. Race On!
By Dustin Fabian
At Xpressbet, we’re excited to announce that Hong Kong racing is back…and just in time for the prestigious Hong Kong International Races! You can once again bet every card from Sha Tin and Happy Valley from the comfort and convenience of your Xpressbet account. The Hong Kong International Races are one of the most anticipated evenings of racing in Hong Kong. International raiders take on top local horses for more than HK$90 million in purses across four top races. If you’ll be betting the HKIR with Xpressbet, here are some things you should know – You’ll note the HKIR races take place December 9, but you’re betting them December 8. We didn’t invent time travel…there’s just a time zone change involved. First post is 11:25PM ET on Saturday night. That’s 12:25PM the next day in Hong Kong. Post times for the big races are – Hong Kong Vase (Race 4, 1:00AM ET), Hong Kong Sprint (Race 5, 1:40AM ET), Hong Kong Mile (Race 7, 2:50AM ET) and Hong Kong Cup (Race 8, 3:30AM ET). Zac Purton is the leading jockey in Hong Kong this season, with 35 wins from 192 starters (18%). Joao Moreira returns to ride at Sha Tin after shockingly moving his tack to Japan earlier this year. With that out of the way, here are some picks and previews!Race 4 (1:00AM ET) - Hong Kong Vase (Group 1 - HK$20 Million)1 1/2 Miles (Turf) – Right-Handed Course Best Bet: EAGLE WAY (HK)This isn’t the best ‘Vase field ever so let’s take a shot with a local horse who is in top form. EAGLE WAY won the Group 2 BOCHK Jockey Club Cup on November 18 and he’ll be flying late. A solid pace is a must, however. Other Top Contenders: LYS GRACIEUX (JPN), PAKISTAN STAR (HK), EXULTANT (HK) LYS GRACIEUX is an improving filly and just notched her first Group 1 win in the Queen Elizabeth II Cup at Kyoto in November. That big effort should set her up for another one Saturday night. Both PAKISTAN STAR and EXULTANT have been unable to find their top form this meet and will need to turn things around to factor. European Appeal: WALDGEIST (FR), SALOUEN (GB), MIRAGE DANCER (GB), RED VERDON (GB), PRINCE OF ARRAN (GB), EZIYRA (IRE), LATROBE (IRE), ROSTROPOVICH (IRE) Europe has performed phenomenally in this race, having won 19-of-24 with the likes of Flintshire, Ouija Board, Highland Reel and Doctor Dino. Unfortunately, none of this year’s entrants appears to be on that level. WALDGEIST won the Group 2 Prix Foy at Longchamp against Talismanic, but disappointing efforts in the Group 1 Prix de l’Arc De Triomphe (4th) and Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Turf (5th) leave more questions than answers and he’s going to be hard to trust. EZIYRA won the Group 2 Blandford Stakes in September but was a non-factor when 6th in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf. LATROBE and ROSTOPOVICH were the 1-2 finishers in the Group 1 Irish Derby in June but they’re a combined 1-for-7 since.Race 5 (1:40AM ET) - Hong Kong Sprint (Group 1 – HK$20 Million) 6 Furlongs (Turf) – Right-Handed Course Best Bet: HOT KING PRAWN (HK)I have a soft spot for in-form sprinters and that’s exactly what you get with HOT KING PRAWN. He’s 9-for-10 in his career and he’s rocketing through the ranks, with a pair of Group 2 victories since late-October. He beat MR STUNNING in the Jockey Club Sprint last out.Other Top Contenders: MR STUNNING (HK), IVICTORY (HK), D B PIN (HK), FINE NEEDLE (JPN) Local horses have won the last four editions (and 14-of-19 overall) and the ‘home team’ is stacked in 2018. IVICTORY was Hong Kong’s Champion Sprinter last year and MR STUNNING won this race last December. Of the two, MR STUNNING seems to be rounding back into form better. D B PIN was runner upu in 2017 but has raced just once since January. Japan, which won this race in 2012 & 2013 with Lord Kanaloa, is represented by FINE NEEDLE, who won the Group 1 Sprinters Stakes last out. He would not be a shock. European Appeal: SIR DANCEALOT (GB)Europe has never won this race and the lone European entrant, SIR DANCELAOT, appears unlikely to reverse that trend. He’s had a long campaign (11 starts) and he hasn’t finished in the top three since August. Race 7 (2:50AM ET) - Hong Kong Mile (Group 1 - HK$25 Million)1 Mile (Turf) – Right-Handed Course Best Bet: BEAUTY GENERATION (HK)Forget just this race – to many of us betting the races, the likeliest winner of the entire HKIR will be BEAUTY GENERATION in the Mile. He won this race last year by a length and I think he’s better now. He’s won three races this season, and he set a new track record in the Group 2 BOCHK Wealth Management Jockey Club Mile on November 18. If he runs his race, he’ll be tough to deny. Worth noting, however, that favorites are just 2-for-17 since 2001. Other Top Contenders: PERSIAN KNIGHT (JPN), SINGAPORE SLING (HK), SOUTHERN LEGEND (HK), MOZU ASCOT (JPN) Japan is well-represented with PERSIAN KNIGHT and MOZU ASCOT. MOZU ASCOT finished 13th as the beaten favorite in the Group 1 Mile Championship last out, but he did win the prestigious Group 1 Yasuda Kinen in June. PERIAN KNIGHT nearly won the Mile Championship. Hong Kong has won this race in 12-of-13 years, so the ‘other’ locals deserve a long look. SINGAPORE SLING is well-backed each time out but isn’t on BEAUTY GENERATION’s level. SOUTHERN LEGEND won a Group 1 race in Singapore in May and is 5-for-15 in Hong Kong. He was second to BEAUTY GENERATION in the Jockey Club Mile last out. European Appeal: BEAT THE BANK, INNS OF COURT, ONE MASTER Europe hasn’t claimed this race since 1999 and that streak should continue in 2018. ONE MASTER was a shocking 43/1 winner in the Group 1 Prix de la Foret at Longchamp in October and was an OK fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Mile. Andre Fabre’s INNS OF COURT was second to ONE MASTER in the ‘Foret but he has never won above a Group 3 level. Britain’s BEAT THE BANK is the top ranked European. He won the Group 2 Summer Mile at Ascot in July and also the Group 2 Celebration Mile at Goodwood in August. Race 8 (3:30AM ET) - Hong Kong Cup (Group 1 – HK$28 Million) 1 1/4 Miles (Turf) – Right-Handed Course Best Bet: Deidre (JPN)‘Cup winners have come from all over. Since 2000, this race has won in equal parts by horses representing Hong Kong (7 times), Japan (3 times), Great Britain (2 times), France (2 times), the UAE (2 times), Ireland (once) and South Africa (once). Why not take a shot with the 4YO Japanese filly, Deidre? She raced admirably in Dubai in March and has won a Group 2 and Group 3 in Japan since coming back off the layoff. She should be ready to run a big race here against a field that isn’t formidable.Other Top Contenders: SUNGRAZER (JPN), TIME WARP (HK)Defending champ TIME WARP isn’t in the same form he brought into this race last year so there are plenty of questions there. Last out he tired to finish 9th in the Group 2 Jockey Club Cup, a race he was barely beaten in last year. Japan’s SUNGRAZER has been in solid form in Japan and is 7-for-13 European Appeal: STORMY ANTARCTIC (GB)He has actually maintained a strong campaign and he would not be a shock here, despite his lack of marquee wins. He took the Group 2 Badener Mile in Germany in May and finished 3rd in the Grade 1 Woodbine Mile in September. His last race, a close-up 4th behind Roaring Lion in the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot, sets him up well.
By Jon White
Is Maximus Mischief another Smarty Jones? Smarty Jones won his first two career starts as a 2-year-old in 2003, both at Philadelphia Park, the track now known as Parx Racing. He won those races by 7 3/4 and 15 lengths. Smarty Jones then made it three for three with a victory at Aqueduct. He took the Count Fleet Stakes at the Big A early in 2004 on Jan. 3. Maximus Mischief won his first two career starts as a 2-year-old in 2018, both at Parx Racing. He won those races 8 3/4 and six lengths. Maximus Mischief then made it three for three with a victory at Aqueduct. He took the Grade II Remsen Stakes at the Big A last Saturday. After Maximus Mischief’s maiden victory at 5 1/2 furlongs on Sept. 29 at Parx, Dick Jerardi told Daily Racing Form’s Jay Privman that this was the best horse from Parx since Smarty Jones. Jerardi knows his stuff. An award-winning turf writer, Jerardi is a member of the team that calculates Beyer Speed Figures. After the 2003 Count Fleet, Smarty Jones kept his unbeaten record intact by reeling off three consecutive wins at Oaklawn Park. He took the Southwest Stakes, Rebel Stakes and Grade II Arkansas Derby. Smarty Jones then stayed unbeaten by capturing the Grade I Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs and Grade I Preakness Stakes at Pimlico. He finally lost for the first -- and only -- time when thwarted in his bid for a Triple Crown sweep. He finished second, one length behind Birdstone, in the Grade I Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park. The “Smarty party,” as it became to be known, came to an end after the June 5 Belmont Stakes, which turned out to be the colt’s final race. On Aug. 2, Smarty Jones’ retirement was announced. It was reported that the Kentucky-bred son of Elusive Quality would not race again and go to stud due to chronic bruising of his ankle bones. Trained by John Servis, Smarty Jones was voted a 2014 Eclipse Award as champion 3-year-old male. Will Maximus Mischief be like Smarty Jones and go on to win the Kentucky Derby and/or Preakness? As they say, time will tell. The bad news for Maximus Mischief vis-a-vis the Kentucky Derby is that it’s been a long time since a Remsen winner also has won the Run for the Roses. The last horse to win both races was Thunder Gulch, who took the Remsen in 1994 and Kentucky Derby in 1995. Catholic Boy this year made it 23 consecutive Remsen winners who did not subsequently succeed in the Kentucky Derby. However, Catholic Boy did have a fine 2018 campaign, highlighted by victories in the Grade I Belmont Derby on the grass and Grade I Travers Stakes on the dirt at Saratoga. Regardless of what the future holds for Maximus Mischief, he did prove a lot in the Remsen. The bay colt demonstrated that he: --Can win on a surface other than Parx’s main track. --Has the class to win at the Grade II level. This was his stakes debut. --Possesses the stamina to win a 1 1/8-mile contest around two turns. His two races at Parx were going seven furlongs or shorter around one turn. Ridden by Frankie Pennington and trained by Butch Reid, Maximus Mischief balked at going into the gate for the Remsen, but he then started “beautifully,” as noted by track announcer Frank Mirahmadi. “For a big horse, he’s light on his feet and springs out of the gate well,” Reid said Monday morning to Steve Byk on his radio program At The Races. Reid added that the Kentucky-bred colt “is a good athlete.” After Maximus Mischief’s alert start, he raced on or just off the lead the entire way. The fractions through the first six furlongs were :25.12, :50.67 and 1:14.60. Coming into the stretch, Maximus Mischief found himself battling for command with Tax. Maximus Mischief put away Tax to have a 2 1/2-length lead at the furlong marker, then kept to his task in the final furlong to prevail by 2 3/4 lengths as the 7-5 second favorite. Network Effect, the betting choice at a bit over even money, came home willingly to finish second in the field of seven. Tax ended up third, a half-length behind Network Effect. Completing his journey in 1:51.34, Maximus Mischief was credited with a 97 Beyer Speed Figure. It should be noted that whether or not he does come anywhere close to accomplishing what Smarty Jones did at 3, Maximus Mischief’s 97 Beyer in the Remsen is the best figure by a Remsen winner in the last six years. These are the Beyers for winners of the Remsen going back to 1991: 2018 Maximus Mischief (97)2017 Catholic Boy (91)2016 Mo Town (86)2015 Mohaymen (95)2014 Leave the Light On (90)2013 Honor Code (88)2012 Overanalyze (99)2011 O’Prado Again (80)2010 To Honor and Serve (102)2009 Buddy’s Saint (82)2008 Old Fashioned (100)2007 Court Vision (76)2006 Nobiz Like Shobiz (97)2005 Bluegrass Cat (95)2004 Rockport Harbor (102)2003 Read the Footnotes (105)2002 Toccet (101)2001 Saarland (87)2000 Windsor Castle (92)1999 Greenwood Lake (91)1998 Comeonmom (94)1997 Coronado’s Quest (91)1996 The Silver Move (91)1995 Tropicool (94)1994 Thunder Gulch (89)1993 Go for Gin (95)1992 Silver of Silver (96)1991 Pine Bluff (93) Following Maximus Mischief’s Remsen victory, he returned to Parx Saturday evening. According to Reid, the colt emerged from the race “perfectly.” In NYRA communications’ Aqueduct notes, Reid said Sunday that Maximus Mischief was a little tired after the race, “but he’s on his toes this morning.” Reid especially liked Maximus Mischief’s demeanor before the race. “The most impressive part was how he acted in the paddock and all the prerace stuff,” Reid said, “because he can be a handful in the paddock. In his new surroundings, he handled it very well. He stood perfectly in the paddock, which at Aqueduct can be a little foreboding. He handled it great and was cool as a cucumber. He stood there perfectly when we put the tack on him. I was pretty confident with the way things were going after that.” Whereas Smarty Jones went the Arkansas route to the Kentucky Derby, Maximus Mischief is scheduled to race probably twice at Gulfstream Park prior to the big race at Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May. “We’re going to give him a little break, but then we’ll be heading down to Florida in the next few weeks,” Reid said. “We’ll get him used to the weather down there and get him ready to start his 3-year-old campaign.” Reid told the DRF’s David Grening that the plan is for Maximus Mischief to likely run in either the Grade II Holy Bull Stakes Feb. 2 or Grade II Fountain of Youth Stakes on March 2 prior to the Grade I Florida Derby on March 30. A REMSEN WIN MAKES 26-1 PRICE LOOK GOOD Despite the Kentucky Derby drought by Remsen winners, those who bet on Maximus Mischief at 26-1 in Pool One of the 2019 Kentucky Derby Future Wager (KDFW) on Nov. 25 no doubt were pleased to see the colt run so well last Saturday. Here were the final odds for Pool One of the 2019 KDFW: 6-5 All Other 3-Year-Old Males5-1 Game Winner10-1 Coliseum10-1 Instagrand17-1 Improbable18-1 Code of Honor26-1 Maximus Mischief30-1 Signalman32-1 Roadster36-1 Vekoma43-1 Magic On Tap44-1 Knicks Go44-1 Mucho46-1 Tale of the Union47-1 Mucho Gusto53-1 King for a Day53-1 Uncle Benny59-1 Cairo Cat59-1 Network Effect66-1 All 3-Year-Old Fillies72-1 Dunph76-1 Gunmetal Gray88-1 Epic Dreamer117-1 Preamble Meanwhile, another consequence of Maximus Mischief’s Remsen triumph is it likely brought a smile to those who bet on his sire at 7-1 in the 2019 Kentucky Derby Sire Future Wager. Maximus Mischief is by Into Mischief. Into Mischief also is the sire of Instagrand, who won both of his starts impressively during the summer in Southern California. He cruised to a 10-length victory in a five-furlong maiden special weight race at Los Alamitos on June 29 in his debut. He then won Del Mar’s Grade II Best Pal Stakes by 10 1/4 lengths at six furlongs on Aug. 11. After the Best Pal, it was decided that Instagrand would not race again in 2018. He was sent to Kentucky to take it easy for the rest of the year. The Kentucky-bred Into Mischief colt, who sold for $1.2 million at public auction last March, now is back in training with Hall of Famer Jerry Hollendorfer at Santa Anita. When Justify took the 2018 Kentucky Derby as the favorite, he paid $7.80 for a $2 win ticket. Justify returned just $4.40 as part of the “All Other 3-Year-Olds” option in Pool One of the 2018 KDFW. But a bet on Justify’s sire, Scat Daddy, paid $54.80 in the Kentucky Derby Sire Future Wager. Here were the final odds on Nov. 25 for the 2019 Kentucky Derby Sire Future Wager: 9-2 All Other Sires6-1 Tapit7-1 Candy Ride7-1 Into Mischief13-1 Curlin17-1 City Zip20-1 Quality Road21-1 Medaglia d’Oro23-1 Uncle Mo24-1 Bernardini24-1 Pioneerof the Nile27-1 Ghostzapper27-1 Scat Daddy28-1 Orb29-1 Union Rags30-1 Cairo Prince40-1 Will Take Charge41-1 War Front47-1 Violence47-1 Giant’s Causeway48-1 More Than Ready49-1 Malibu Moon50-1 Tiznow59-1 Speightstown Tapit is the sire of Coliseum and Magic On Tap, a pair of youngsters trained by Bob Baffert. Coliseum raised eyebrows when he won a seven-furlong maiden special weight race by 6 3/4 lengths on Nov. 17 at Del Mar in his only start so far. He had a splendid workout Tuesday morning at Santa Anita, a bullet four furlongs in :47.00, fastest of 82 at the distance. Magic On Tap won a 6 1/2-furlong maiden special weight race by 2 1/2 lengths on Sept. 1 at Del Mar. That has been his lone start to date. Candy Ride is the sire of undefeated Game Winner. Also conditioned by Baffert, Game Winner is a three-time Grade I winner this year (Del Mar Futurity, American Pharoah Stakes at Santa Anita, Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs). Game Winner is odds-on to be voted a 2018 Eclipse Award as champion 2-year-old male. Vekoma, two for two, is another prominent Candy Ride colt. He won Aqueduct’s Grade III Nashua Stakes by 1 3/4 lengths at one mile on Nov. 4 for trainer George Weaver. The runner-up in the Nashua was Network Effect, who then also finished second in last Saturday’s Remsen. BAFFERT DUO TOPS LOS AL CASHCALL FUTURITY Hall of Famer Baffert appears to have an excellent chance to win yet another Los Alamitos CashCall Futurity this Saturday. He sends out Improbable, who is two for two, and Mucho Gusto, likewise two for two, in the Grade I race that will be contested at 1 1/16 miles. Improbable, a Kentucky-bred City Zip colt, is coming off a sparkling 7 1/4-length win in the one-mile Street Sense Stakes at Churchill Downs on Nov. 7. He recorded a sharp workout Monday at Santa Anita, five furlongs in a bullet :59.80, fastest of 67 at the distance. Mucho Gusto, a Kentucky-bred Mucho Macho Man colt, recently won Del Mar’s seven-furlong Bob Hope Stakes by 1 1/2 lengths on Nov. 17. The Los Alamitos CashCall Futurity, formerly the Hollywood Futurity, was run at Hollywood Park from 1981 through 2013. Baffert has won this race a record 10 times, including all editions at Los Alamitos from 2014 through 2017. Here is the list of Baffert’s 10 Los Al Futurity winners: 1997 Real Quiet1999 Captain Steve2000 Point Given2008 Pioneerof the Nile2009 Lookin At Lucky2011 Liaison2014 Dortmund2015 Mor Spirit2016 Mastery2017 McKinzie I will be surprised if someone other than Improbable wins Saturday.