By Al Cimaglia
The headliner at the Meadowlands rolls in Race 2, a Preferred Pace with a $21,000 purse. The main event for horizontal bettors is the 0.50 Pick 4. That sequence begins in Race 8, it has a $50,000 guaranteed pool with a 15% takeout, and it will be my focus. Last night at the Big M the driver with the hottest hands was Yannick Gingras with two wins. The leading conditioner on the card was Ron Burke with two pictures. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Race 8 5-Mindtrip-Has held his own in Preferreds and looks to be a major player versus this crew. 8-Bell I No-3rd start for new connections, post could pose an issue but has enough gate speed to gain a good seat. Race 9 5-Pretty Boy Hill-Drops and can improve, McCarthy takes a spin and should be in the hunt. 6-Avatartist-9-year-old makes 3rd start for Eaton and appears to be in better form, will use Gingras at 8-1 in the ML. 7-Soho Wallstreet A-Another making 3rd start for new barn, A. Miller sticks and has beaten tougher here 6 weeks ago. Race 10 1-Incredible Shark-Dropper and fits better, slow starts have hurt but driver change could mean a better trip. 2-Alotbetter N-Raced well versus NW$15K a couple of starts back and now gets major post relief on a drop. 7-Dull Roar-54.1 back half at this level on 2/9 and looks like a top contender tonight but won't be 31-1. 10-Archangel Three-Raced well in 1st start off the bench for Burke-Gingras, post could hurt but best to respect connections. Race 11 2-Urban Renewal-Trying hard and steps up, still fits and could pop at a square price. 3-Valrhona-Moves up 2 classes and not off a win, would usually pass but gets Gingras and this is a soft field. 8-Bruce's Magic-McCarthy gets the call, has struggled this year but best to not overlook versus this bunch. My Ticket Race 8) 5,8 Race 9) 5,6,7 Race 10) 1,2,7,10 Race 11) 2,3,8 Total Ticket Cost) $36 for $0.50Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia
By Jerry Shottenkirk
Few horses carry the intrigue that War of Will brings to the Triple Crown trail, and it only gets more interesting today as he rolls into the Grade 2 $400,000 Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds. His four-length win the Grade 3 LeComte Stakes has to rank as one of the more impressive performances by a 3-year-old this season. He was a moderately talented 2-year-old, but he could be a dynamite sophomore. He’s by War Front and was purchased at an Arqana sale at Deauville, France. He was bought for just under $300,000 by Gary Barber, and trainer Mark Casse chose Woodbine as the place he would begin his career. He was 2nd in the Grade 1 Summer Stakes and then went to Keeneland and was 4th in the Grade 3 Bourbon. Then his life changed. War of Will made his 1st non-turf start at Churchill Downs and the result was an impressive scamper through the slop going two turf. He won by five to end the year. So, in bringing him out for the 2019 campaign, it wasn’t shocking that he began on the dirt in the Le Comte. What may have been more of a surprise, even though he was favorite, was his dominance. He ran off by four at the end and because of it is the 5-2 morning line choice today. Now the biggest question: Can he win from the No. 14 post? He drew the far outside, and if he continues his front-running style should be able to overcome at least some of ground lost from the end of the gate. It’s a chance for Tyler Gaffalione, who was aboard both wins, to carve out a better trip than most would get from that post. Still, a single on War of Will in the $200,000-guaranteed Pick 4 isn’t an easy thing to do, so we won’t. Mr. Money comes out of the No. 3 post and makes his 1st of the year. The Bret Calhoun-trained Goldencents colt has trained exceptionally well in New Orleans. He broke his maiden at Churchill in September and five weeks later ran a credible 4th in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. The Pick 4 begins with 9th race and the Risen Star tops it off as the 12th. Here’s the suggested ticket for the $200,000-guaranteed all-stakes Pick 4 at Fair Grounds:Race 9) #2 Harlan Punch, #5 Lone Sailor, #9 Flameaway, #13 Quip.Race 10) #1 Tiz a Slam, #6 First Premio, #7 Combatant, #9 Synchrony.Race 11) #3 Serengeti Empress, #8 Eres Tu, #9 Needs Supervision, #10 Chasing Yesterday.Race 12) #3 Mr. Money, #14 War of Will.50-cent Pick 4: 2-5-9-13 with 1-6-7-9 with 3-8-9-10 with 3-14 ($64). Plus, bet the Risen Star today, and you could get your Money-Back! Check out the Money-Back Guarantee on the Preps and register today.
By Al Cimaglia
The Friday night feature at Cal Expo rolls in Race 5, an Open Pace with a $6,500 purse. The popular 0.20 Pick 4 with a $30,000 guaranteed pool and 16% takeout begins in Race 8, it will be my focus. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Race 8 2-To The Limit-Svendsen's choice drops out of Opens and is in a good spot to compete for 3rd win in last 5 starts. 3-Pancetta-Nice effort in 2nd start off the bench, looks like 2nd program chalk is primed for a big effort. 5-I’m An Athlete-ML favorite woke up on a drop and pop last week and fits here in a competitive affair. Race 9 1-Cenalta Glory-Skimmed the rail for a nice win and now faces similar, came the last 1/2 in 57.3, will use again. 3-Damoricdalesino-Got on the engine and went too fast, Sobey will look to ration speed this time. 4-Brigitte Bordeaux-4-year-old mare has been sharp in last 3, looks like a player once again. Race 10 2-Whatchamacallum-Took 2018 off, this is the 5th start after an improved effort in last, best to respect. 3-Deweydiddonegood-Only 1-32 at CalX but Longo trainee has been used aggressively in last 2 on a sloppy track. 5-Winonefordoug-Steps down a couple of levels, and should be better, camera shy but should be in play versus these. 6-Ulysses Blue Chip-Another dropper looking to pose, Wiseman sticks and thinking a dry track will help. Race 11 1-Uringoodhands-Drops after drawing off as odd-on favorite in the slop, Kennedy's choice fits and can repeat. 2-Blue Star Jet-Has raced well in last 2 on an off-track, could trip out and pop at a price for Team Goulet. 6-Twomickeytrip-Using Longo trainee instead of ML chalk #4, drops and could surprise at a square price. My Ticket Race 8) 2,3,5 Race 9) 1,3,4 Race 10) 2,3,5,6 Race 11) 1,2,6 Total Ticket Cost) $21.60 for $0.20Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia.
By Johnny D
Have no fear. That deafening sound you heard around 3:17 pm Saturday wasn’t an alien invasion. It was, instead, a collective howl emanating from throats of investors financially involved in 22 million Gulfstream Park Rainbow Six combinations. An $8.2 million mandatory payout pool--juiced by good weather and a deep, challenging card--attracted hordes of wagering hopefuls. Most didn’t last long. A first-round knockout punch by 58-1 Pappa Y and jockey Marcos Meneses for trainer Juan Avila sent horseplayers scurrying to scrounge up sufficient funds to submit Pick 5 wagers before the next race. Those that succeeded in locating additional capital and selecting 5 consecutive winners received $1,086.40 each. That payoff may have comforted some—like salve to a wound—but, in comparison to a hefty $100,919.88 6-for-6 Rainbow payoff, it had to feel like a frustratingly meager consolation prize. What a difference a winner makes! This writer enjoyed no such close-calls. His adventurous Rainbow ticket was pronounced DOA after the first leg, and his desperate Pick 5 sheet met a similarly rapid demise. Deceased Rainbow Six and Pick 5 sheets included the next 4 winners, but were about as worthless as Rams/Over Super Bowl parlay wagers. Long ago, this writer was given the following advice from a veteran Pick 6 player seated in a Hollywood Park box, “The ‘All’ button never loses.” Since then, through decades of wagering, I’ve come to understand two things: First, that the ‘All’ button may never lose, but it sure declaws a ticket when the favorite wins. Second, whenever I use the ‘All’ button, the favorite always wins! Full disclosure: That last part’s not completely true. I once hit a $30k Rainbow Six by using ‘All’ in the first leg--a Gulfstream Park maiden turf race--and catching a $60 winner! So, it can happen. At least once, anyway. There are successful horseplayers that disdain the ‘All’ button because the practice ‘wastes’ bullets on ‘dead’ players--horses you don’t think can win. It makes perfect sense as a solid wagering tenet, however, sometimes the only way to have certain horses is by hitting the ‘All’ button. If a bomb should explode it will significantly thin the competition. There’s no way I’m going to have the winner of the first leg of the Rainbow Six Saturday unless I use ‘All.’ Even after the race I couldn’t have soberly included Papa Y in the Rainbow Six without using everyone else, too. The colt was 0-for-4 and had been beaten by more than 21, 5, 18 and 8 lengths, respectively. His highest Beyer Speed Figure had been a 23 in August. He was being ridden by a 6% jockey for a 10% trainer. On the bright side, he had shown some speed in three of his races. The 0-3 favorite also had shown speed, against better competition, but had been beaten by more than 10, 8 and 5 lengths. He had posted Beyer Speed Figures of 40, 47, 51. He certainly was no single. The race required ‘spread’ tactics. Unfortunately, this writer and many others didn’t cast a wide enough net. ‘The ‘All’ button never loses!’ Playing the Rainbow Six is similar to a horserace. There’s only one way to win, but thousands of ways to lose. We’ve all experienced it. It’s an unforgiving wager. Make a mistake along the way and it’s ‘curtains’ for your investment. Ticket construction, therefore, is as important as handicapping…maybe more so. A player can make any number of errors while building a ticket—those of commission (wasting too many ‘empty’ combinations) and omission (not including enough ‘live’ runners), so the practice demands attention. Saturday, my Rainbow Six play included a ‘spread’ in race 12--the final leg--where winner Café Americano ($4.80) was a Chad Brown first-time starter. That colt easily could have qualified as a ‘single.’ Of course, he was on my ticket, but so were too many empty wagers wasted on other runners. These poor strategical decisions make it nearly impossible to beat a difficult game. My winning single came in the tenth race, Global Campaign ($3.40). Chad Brown trained Clause ($8.40), another first-time starter on turf, took the ninth. Add in the Mike Maker-trained Hembree ($7) as winner of the eleventh and, in hindsight, you’ve got the final four legs of a $100k Rainbow Six payoff that look fairly uncomplicated. Leg B of the wager was a bit tricky—before and after the fact. Winner Trilby ($26.60) was haveable, but only if a player went about 6 or 7 runners deep. Combos on my sheet that were wasted in the final race would have come in handy there, instead. A reasonable rumor suggests that one Rainbow Six player, at Treasure Island in Las Vegas competing in the National Horseplayer’s Championship, had a winning sheet with the final three winners singled. Now, that’s a well-constructed ticket! Three singles at 20-cents a throw make it financially palatable to go ‘All’ in 1 or even 2 legs, if needed. It’s critical for players to accurately assess the overall personality of a race. In other words, players must ask: Is this race Steve Martin or Queen Elizabeth? In other words, is the result liable to be ‘Wild and Crazy’ or as traditional as the Royal Family? If a player incorrectly identifies a ‘Steve Martin’ as a ‘Queen Elizabeth,’ his chances of cashing a significant Rainbow Six ticket are significantly damaged. Cashing lucrative multi-leg wagers is difficult. Don’t ever believe otherwise. Wasted combinations almost always mean insufficient coverage elsewhere. It’s going to take some time for the Gulfstream Park Rainbow Six carryover to grow into a similarly juicy mandatory payout pot--possibly March 30, Florida Derby day? A week ago, on the left coast, Santa Anita featured a nearly $2 million Rainbow Six carryover into a mandatory payout that was expected to reach a total of $10 million. Unfortunately, due to inclement weather, that card was disfigured by surface changes and scratches. The total pool for the wager stopped short at $5.2 million. Winning tickets were as plentiful as raingear and returned just $296.30 each—minus a deafening sound. Race On!
By Dustin Fabian
No mandatory payouts this Saturday? No problem! The stakes action is more than enough to make up for it. Between Gulfstream, Santa Anita, Fair Grounds, Tampa Bay, Golden Gate and Laurel there are nearly 20 top stakes races to choose from.If you’re in the mood to play a Triple Crown prep race, we recommend Golden Gate’s El Camino Real Derby (a Preakness ‘Win and You’re In’ race) and the Risen Star Stakes from the Fair Grounds (50 Points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby to the winner). If top sprinters are of interest, check out the Pelican Stakes at Tampa Bay, starring Imperial Hint, or the Santa Monica at Santa Anita, showcasing Marley’s Freedom, Dream Tree and Selcourt. And if older horses are your style, Jockey Club Gold Cup winner Discreet Lover returns in the John Campbell at Laurel and Lone Sailor, Quip, Flameaway and Harlan Punch square off in the Mineshaft Handicap. Here's a look at this weekend’s top stakes races, following by some Xpressbet promotions and my picks for six of the top stakes this Saturday. SATURDAY STAKES SCHEDULE Colonel Power Stakes (75K) | Fair Grounds (R2) | 1:58PM ETMiracle Wood Stakes (100K) | Laurel (R5) | 2:30PM ETAl Stall Memorial Stakes (75K) | Fair Grounds (R4) | 2:54PM ETWide Country Stakes (100K) | Laurel (R6) | 3:00PM ETJohn Campbell Stakes (100K) | Laurel (R7) | 3:30PM ETPelican Stakes (100K) | Tampa Bay (R7) | 3:46PM ET General George Stakes (Gr III, 250K) | Laurel (R8) | 4:00PM ETBarbara Fritchie Stakes (Gr III, 250K) | Laurel (R9) | 4:30PM ET Broadway Stakes (100K) | Aqueduct (R8) | 4:40PM ETMinaret Stakes (50K) | Tampa Bay (R9) | 4:50PM ET Royal Delta Stakes (Gr III, 150K) | Gulfstream (R11) | 5:12PM ETMineshaft Handicap (Gr III, 150K) | Fair Grounds (R9) | 5:25PM ET Dixie Belle Stakes (100K) | Oaklawn (R8) | 5:38PM ET Fair Grounds Handicap (Gr III, 150K) | Fair Grounds (R10) | 5:57PM ETRachel Alexandra Stakes (Gr II, 200K) | Fair Grounds (R11) | 6:29PM ETWishing Well Stakes (75K) | Santa Anita (R8) | 6:30PM ET El Camino Real Derby (100K) | Golden Gate (R7) | 6:45PM ET Santa Monica Stakes (Gr II, 250K) | Santa Anita (R9) | 7:00PM ET Risen Star Stakes (Gr II, 400K) | Fair Grounds (R12) | 7:02PM ET ON THE PROMO FRONT Money-Back Guarantee on the Preps - Get your cash back on the Risen Star Stakes or El Camino Real Derby if the horse you bet to Win ($10 maximum) finishes 2nd or 3rd. Golden Gate 1 Million Point Split – Hit Golden Gate’s Late Pick 4, which includes the El Camino Real Derby, to Split 1 Million XB Rewards Points. 10X Points Saturday Night at Hong Kong – Bet Saturday night’s Sha Tin card, featuring the Group 1 Hong Kong Gold Cup and Group 1 Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup. $2,500 Beat the Host Tournament – Out handicap our host, Tom Quigley, to win $2,500 in weekly prizes and qualify for the Beat the Host Championship Round on March 2. SATURDAY STAKES SIX PACK El Camino Real DerbyBob Baffert makes a rare trip north to San Francisco with #9 KINGLY, who most recently finished second in an allowance race on January 31. He’s going to be overbet because he’s a Baffert horse so I’m going to bet against. Of the So Cal shippers, I actually prefer #7 EAGLE SONG. He won two races on the polytrack at Dundalk in Ireland (against fields of 12 and 14) and performed well on the lawn at Santa Anita in two tries. The best of the locals is #4 ANOTHERTWISTAFATE. He’s 2-for-2 at Golden Gate and will try to take this field wire-to-wire. My ‘Money-Back Guarantee’ bet will be on EAGLE SONG, but my likeliest winner is ANOTHERTWISTAFATE.The Play: Win bets on EAGLE SONG and ANOTHERTWISTAFATE and Exactas and Trifectas with those two over KING OF SPEED, KINGLY, MAYOR COBB and MORE ICE. Royal Delta Stakes #1 TEQUILITA (8/5) is 5-for-19 in her career, but two of those wins came in three starts at Gulfstream Park. She loves her surroundings in South Florida and should run big. #7 BLAMED (5/2) can take this field a long way. She didn’t get over the slop well in the G3 Hurricane Bertie on Pegasus Day but that’s alright. The weather in Florida is supposed to clear up before Saturday. If she finds herself alone on the lead, look out. #5 JALA JALA (12/1) would be a great story. She’s a two time winner on Caribbean Classic Day and her connections decided to hang out in South Florida this time around. Hope it works out.The Play: Keep it simple. Exacta Box JALA JALA, BERNED and TEQUILITA. Barbara Fritchie StakesSeveral inches of snow are expected in Maryland on Saturday, so keep an eye out for scratches and changes. #2 LATE NIGHT POW WOW is a remarkable 10-for-11 in her career with the only defeat coming in a 4 1/2-furlong dash at Charles Town in April 2018. The WV-bred daughter of little-known stallion Fiber Sonde is a perfect 2-for-2 at Laurel and, in most years, a race like this would go through her. But not so fast this time around. #1 SPICED PERFECTION ships in from Southern California off a win in the G1 La Brea Stakes on Santa Anita Opening Day. She has won her last three dirt races and brings a ton of class in for this race. #8 MS LOCUST POINT has the most early speed and they’ll need to catch her. She won this last year by more than 4-lengths. I think the streak ends now for LATE NIGHT POW WOW and will bet accordingly.The Play: Exacta Box SPICED PERFECTION, DAWN THE DESTROYER and MS LOCUST POINT. Rachel Alexandra Stakes With #10 CHASING YESTERDAY (5/2) expected to scratch per trainer Bob Baffert, this year’s Rachel Alexandra is anyone’s best guess. You can make a case for most of them. #3 SERENGETI EMPRESS (6/1) is probably the quickest of these and she won the G2 Pocahontas by a ridiculous 19-lengths in September. She didn’t show up in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, though, and note that her regular jock (Corey Lanerie) is in town but not listed to ride. #4 POSITIVE SPIRIT won the G2 Demoiselle by 10-lengths, but she’s tough to love. They crawled around the track that day (1 1/8 miles in 1:56.01) and that may have just been a bad race (the Remsen, run two hours later, went in 1:51.34). #6 OXY LADY (6/1) has an outside shot. She ran well in the G1 Starlet at Los Alamitos and would appreciate a quick pace, which is expected. Two of the fillies she raced against at Los Al (Enaya Alrabb, Mother Mother) ran very well since against the divisional leader Bellafina. The Play: Win/Place bet on OXY LADY and box her up in an Exacta with SERENGETI EMPRESS and ERES TU.Risen Star StakesAs the first 85 Point Race on the Road to the Kentucky Derby, the Risen Star Stakes is essentially a ‘Win & You’re In’ prep for the Run for the Roses. The winner receives 50 Points, which is more than enough to safely claim a spot in the gate on the First Saturday in May. The favorite for the Risen Star is WAR OF WILL (5/2). He’s been incredible since switching from turf-to-dirt and if he can overcome a far outside post (he’ll likely break from Post #13 as #13 KINGLY is expected to scratch. That’ll still make for a wide trip, but WAR OF WILL should overcome it. I expect a big run out of #10 LIMONITE (10/1) and both #1 PLUS QUE PARFAIT (10/1) and #3 MR. MONEY (12/1) drew well and will get involved late. The Play: Play an Exacta with WAR OF WILL over PLUS QUE PARFAIT, MR. MONEY and LIMONITE. Santa Monica StakesProbably the weekend’s best race. You’ve got three G1 winners (#1 PARADISE WOODS, #3 MARLEY’S FREEDOM - pictured above - and #4 DREAM TREE), two G2 winners (#2 SELCOURT, #5 MOPOTISM) and a G3 winner (#6 ESCAPE CLAUSE)…talk about a full house! With SELCOURT, PARADISE WOODS and DREAM TREE in the field, the pace is going to be hot. That plays incredibly well for MARLEY’S FREEDOM, the beaten favorite in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint. That’s OK though. She sandwiched that race with five victories, including a G1 Ballerina win at Saratoga. This race has the potential to fall into her lap and she’s well suited to run 7-furlongs.My colleague, Jeremy Plonk, made this his Xpressbet Race of the Week. Check out his analysis and $100 wagering strategy. The Play: Exactas and Trifectas with MARLEY’S FREEDOM over SELCOURT, DREAM TREE and ESCAPE CLAUSE.
By Brian Nadeau
Last week’s Stronach 5, which had an increased guaranteed pool of $100,000, easily blew past it and reached almost $200,000, so obviously word is out and interest is building. To refresh, the Stronach 5 is a Pk5 wager spread across as many as four tracks and three surfaces (dirt, Tapeta and turf), inside of 45 minutes, with a $1 minimum and ridiculously low 12% takeout. I’ll be putting together some prospective tickets in this space each week for a wager that is undoubtedly as good as it gets for the bettors. *** Please take note that this analysis is done upwards of 48 hours in advance, so obviously weather, track conditions and especially late scratches can and will have an effect. Please check back around 4pm Friday for an update, as well as on Twitter. *** Leg 1: Gulfstream Park R8 (4:10 ET) – 4upfm Florida-bred AOC at 6 furlongs The opener is filled with speed (take note of the track condition as well, as there’s been heavy rains in the area all week), so I’ll look for the stalkers who have shown they can pass horses late. An alert beginning would help the chances of #7 R TRUE TALENT (6-1), who blew the start last time and didn’t fire off the long break but should improve mightily off that tightener, and this outside attack post will help too. An outside stalking trip seems in line for #6 QUEEN NEKIA (6-1) as well, and she showed she fits on the local circuit when 2nd to a rousing winner last time, while well clear of a next-out winner too. Lastly, I’ll go inside to #1 HELLO JULIET (7-2), who is a bit tougher to trust but really woke up in the mud when 2nd last time and has run well on dry land before, so she too is in the mix from close range. Pk5 A horses (listed in order of preference): 7,6,1 It’s important to check the scratches, since if one of the two B’s scratches it will really elevate the chances of the other, and move them to the A-line. The fact that #5 THERE GOES BELLA (3-1) is drawn outside #3 THREAT (4-1) gives her a big edge, as both gals want to go early, and the former wired by the length of the stretch last time, while the latter set a hot pace and held 3rd. I’m also tossing in #8 FLORA FANTASY (8-1), who has been nibbling of late and has no speed, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing in here. Pk5 B horses: 5,3,8 Leg 2: Laurel Park R9 (4:35 ET) – 4up allowance at 7 furlongs The prospect of an honest pace would set up #7 COUSIN JIMMY (6-1), who rises in class off a restricted local win last time but fits nicely on figures and will enjoy the race flow. The same can be said with the wildcard, #2 AUTOSTRADE (5-2), who hasn’t been out since July, returns as a first-time gelding, and makes his first start for Motion, but showed high promise in four starts last year and wins this if he’s ready for a barn that is a big 25% off this kind of extended layoff. Pk5 A horses: 7,2 It would be a bit too bold to toss #4 WON AND DONE (3-1), since he brings big form from Parx for Gonzalez, who is 25% on the year, but the gut says he’ll face some other pace pressure, so wiring this tougher group might be a bit much to ask, hence his spot on the second rung. Pk5 B horses: 4 Leg 3: Santa Anita R4 (5:00 ET) – 4upfm 16k MCL at 5 � furlongs The ML doesn’t make sense in this race, so I’m not sure how “bold” my single of #6 SECRET OFFER is, since she can’t possibly be 5-1 off her return from 361 days on the shelf, when a close 6th in her dirt debut, against much better than she meets here, especially since she should only improve off that and meets an extremely weak crew. Pk5 A horses: 6 Not only am I quite confident in my single, I can’t justify using anyone else in here, especially since I like to keep these tickets on a relatively modest budget. Case in point, #1 Sweetener (3-1) will have to run hard every step of the way and meets speed to her outside, so she looks vulnerable at short odds (though she’d be my first B); #4 Crackling Bread (7-2) could be sitting just off the pace with the blinkers going on, but why would today be the day for a breakthrough after 14 losses and seven underneath finishes; #5 Factorize (5-2) hasn’t been out since 8/17, has a high of a 33 Beyer in two dirt starts, and Miller rides 7-pound apprentice Diaz, who has not ridden in the afternoon all year; lastly, #7 Gio Pronto (7-2), who cost 2k way back in 2015, debuts for 16k for Baltas, who is a somewhat unbelievable 1-for-41 with firsters. So yeah, suddenly Secret Offer is looking a lot better (albeit at half of that 5-1 ML). Pk5 B horses: NONE Leg 4: Gulfstream Park R11 (5:42 ET) – 4up 12.5k MCL at 5 furlongs The second single in the sequence is #11 ACCOUNTANT Q (4-1), who got run off his feet when 6th on the turf last time but wins this with either of is last two dirt races, drew perfectly, and meets a crew filled with question marks and lifetime refusers. Pk5 A horses: 11 I don’t like using an abundance of B’s when I have a single, as they can make the ticket go up exponentially, so I’m only going with #2 STARSHIP TAXI (9-2), since he chased and tired behind ‘Q last time, in what was his first start since April, when he ran twice against MSW fields on the dirt. If you want more food for thought, then #1 Vaughan (5-1) will close late, though he’s never tried the dirt and is 0-for-18 lifetime and #8 Dr Dudley (8-1) was a much-improved 2nd last time and would be a player if he doesn’t regress. Pk5 B horses: 2 Leg 5: Golden Gate Fields R5 (5:53 ET) – 4upfm allowance at 1-mile Tough sledding in the finale, as it’s wide open with no clear-cut favorite, but it does have pace, which is why I’m looking for this to fall into the lap of the stalker/closers late. My top pick is #1 ZIARAH (8-1), who drew perfectly, has been 3rd sprinting in both US starts, and should save all the ground on the stretchout for Badilla, who is 4-for-11 sprint-to-route. A more energetic pace will help #2 GETTING SIDEWAYS (6-1), who closed late to get 3rd behind a slow pace when returning to two turns, as well as #9 RENNY’S LADY (8-1), who was just a half-length back in 4th, in what was her US debut, first start since June, and first start for Badilla as well. We round out the quartet with #5 MUSIC BABE (4-1), who doubled up in very fast time over 12.5k starter-allowance gals last time and doesn’t seem outgunned on the rise. Pk5 A horses: 1,2,9,5 If someone is going to survive a pace battle it might be #6 OF NOTE (7-2), an easy winner for 20k last time who now goes off the claim for Rivelli, but improving off Herbertson (27%) isn’t easy, and this is a rise in class for a gal who catches speed on both sides. Pk5 B horses: 6 The tickets: Main Ticket: 7,6,1 with 7,2 with 6 with 11 with 1,2,9,5 = $24Leg 1 B Backup: 5,3,8 with 7,2 with 6 with 11 with 1,2,9,5 = $24Leg 2 B Backup: 7,6,1 with 4 with 6 with 11 with 1,2,9,5 = $12Leg 4 B Backup: 7,6,1 with 7,2 with 6 with 2 with 1,2,9,5 = $24Leg 5 B Backup: 7,6,1 with 7,2 with 6 with 11 with 6 = $6
By Jon White
War of Will, coming off a sparkling four-length victory in the Grade III Lecomte Stakes, heads a field of 15, including one horse on the also-eligible list, entered in this Saturday’s Grade II Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots. Trained by Mark Casse, War of Will drew the disadvantageous 14 post. “Obviously the post is outside,” Casse said. “But we’d rather be outside than inside. He’s got enough speed so he’ll get over. And if he’s as good as we think he is, it shouldn’t matter.” When Casse said “it shouldn’t matter,” it brought to mind what happened when Hall of Fame trainer John Nerud sent Dr. Fager from New York to California for Hollywood Park’s 1968 Californian Stakes. The conditions for the Californian that year were so complicated that even an MIT graduate would have had difficulty determining how much weight a horse was supposed to carry. At the time, Bob Benoit was Hollywood Park’s director of publicity. “When Dr. Fager was entered in the Californian,” Benoit told me years later, “he was entered with the wrong weight.” According to Bob Hebert’s recap of the Californian in the BloodHorse magazine, Nerud had entered Dr. Fager with 124 pounds. “When the racing office re-checked the weights,” Benoit said, “they found a mistake had been made. Dr. Fager was going to have to carry 130.” Benoit said he was given the unenviable task of having to phone Nerud to tell him that Dr. Fager would be carrying 130 instead of 124. Years later, Benoit told me the phone conversation with Nerud went like this: Benoit: “I have some bad news regarding Dr. Fager.” Nerud: “What? Did something happen to the horse on the plane?” Benoit: “No, no. As far as I know, the horse is fine.” Nerud: “Then what’s the bad news?” Benoit: “Well, there was a mistake made regarding the weight Dr. Fager has to carry.” Nerud: “Is that right? How much does he have to carry?” Benoit: “130.” After a few seconds of silence, Nerud said: “It won’t matter.” Click. Nerud was right. It didn’t matter. Despite being burdened with 130 pounds, Dr. Fager won the Californian with authority by three lengths as one of his victories during one of the greatest single seasons by a Thoroughbred in American racing history. In 1968, Dr. Fager was voted champion sprinter, champion handicap horse, co-champion grass horse and Horse of the Year. He is the only horse to win four titles in a single year. “Dr. Fager set and tied records from seven furlongs to 1 1/4 miles, slashing the mile mark to 1:32 1/5 en route,” Charles Hatton wrote of Dr. Fager’s 1968 campaign in the American Racing Manual. “He did everything with flair, though he was not tested at cup routes and his stamina was not incorruptible by the iconoclasts. His prodigal wire to wire speed, his impartiality concerning track conditions, his bravery under fire and his ability to make light of enervating weights, elicited widespread acclaim.” Dr. Fager ranks No. 7 on my list of the Top 100 Racehorses of the 20th and 21st Centuries to have raced in North America, behind only No. 1 Man o’ War, No. 2 Secretariat, No. 3 Citation, No. 4 Kelso, No. 5 Spectacular Bid and No. 6 Native Dancer. Getting back to the 1 1/16-mile Risen Star, there was some good news for War of Will last Sunday. Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert tweeted that Kingly, who had drawn post 13, would not be shipped from California to Louisiana for the Risen Star. Kingly, a Kentucky-bred Tapit colt, now is to compete in this Saturday’s Grade III El Camino Real Derby. Thirteen have been entered in this 1 1/8-mile race, which will be contested on Golden Gate’s synthetic surface. In Kingly’s two lifetime starts, he won a maiden special weight race at Del Mar on Dec. 1 before finishing second in an allowance/optional claiming affair on a sloppy track Jan. 31 at Santa Anita. He is a half-brother to New Year’s Day, who won the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Juvenile in 2013 for Baffert. Kingly also is a full brother to multiple Grade II winner Moyahmen. With Kingly out of the Risen Star, the worst it will be for War of Will is post 13. And if there are any additional defections, War of Will will get to move even further inside. War of Will’s first four races all were on the grass. Three of those four starts came in graded stakes races while he still was a maiden. He finished second in the Grade I Summer at Woodbine, fourth in the Grade III Bourbon at Keeneland and fifth in the Grade I BC Juvenile Turf at Churchill Downs. Casse has said he believes War of Will might have won the BC Juvenile Turf if not for his extremely wide trip. After the BC Juvenile Turf, the decision was made to find out what War of Will could do in a race on the dirt. In his final start at 2, the Kentucky-bred War Front colt splashed his way to a five-length win in a 1 1/16-mile maiden special weight race on a sloppy track Nov. 24 at Churchill. He posted a final time of 1:45.45. On that same track that same day, Signalman won the Grade II Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at the same distance in 1:45.29. In War of Will’s first start at 3, he won the Lecomte by completing one mile and seventy yards in 1:43.44, proving he could excel on a fast track. Earlier on that card, Needs Supervision won the Silverbulletday Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at the same distance in 1:45.43. Casse has gone so far as to say he believes War of Will “is an absolute superstar.” After the Lecomte, Casse recalled that he had told some friends about a month ago that he felt he had “a big chance” to win the Kentucky Derby this year with War of Will. The veteran trainer added that he doesn’t usually “say things like that, so that tells you what I think of him.” War of Will is the Risen Star morning-line favorite at 5-2. The 6-1 second choice is Owendale. Trained by Brad Cox, Owendale won an allowance/optional claiming race by 1 1/2 lengths at the Fair Grounds on Jan. 17 on a wet track rated as good. That Jan. 27 race was run at the same distance as the Lecomte. Owendale, a Kentucky-bred Into Mischief colt, recorded a 91 Beyer Speed Figure in his Jan. 17 triumph. War of Will was credited with a 94 Beyer in the Lecomte. Country House, listed at 20-1 on the Risen Star morning line, intrigues me as someone who looks capable of making his presence felt. Hall of Famer Bill Mott trains the Kentucky-bred Lookin At Lucky colt. In Country House’s third career start, he was hammered down to 3-5 favoritism in a 1 1/16-mile maiden special weight race at Gulfstream Park. Well behind early after swerving inward sharply in the initial strides from the inside post, he rallied to win going away by 3 1/2 lengths. While he recorded only a 70 Beyer Speed Figure, it nevertheless was an impressive effort considering the poor start. In fact, the comment in Country House’s past performance line is “slow early, impressive.” As for War of Will, he ranks No. 5 on my Kentucky Derby list going into this Saturday’s Risen Star. This is my current Top 10: 1. Game Winner2. Improbable3. Instagrand4. Hidden Scroll5. War of Will6. Mucho7. Signalman8. Mucho Gusto9. Omaha Beach10. Vekoma GAME WINNER 5-1 IN FUTURE WAGER As expected, the “All Others” option ended up being the favorite in Pool Two of the 2019 Kentucky Derby Future Wager (KDFW) that was conducted last week. “All Others” closed at 5-2. Also as expected, in terms of individual horses, Game Winner wound up being the favorite, closing at 5-1. Here were the final odds for Pool Two of the KDFW: 5-2 All Others5-1 Game Winner7-1 Hidden Scroll7-1 Improbable10-1 Instagrand17-1 War of Will22-1 Coliseum22-1 Global Campaign23-1 Mucho Gusto28-1 Harvey Wallbanger28-1 Signalman31-1 Bourbon War34-1 Gunmetal Gray35-1 Win Win Win38-1 Maximus Mischief40-1 Network Effect41-1 Vekoma60-1 Limonite63-1 Tax78-1 Knicks Go96-1 Tacitus104-1 Gray Attempt111-1 Owendale118-1 Walking Thunder War of Will is one of three individual horses in Pool Two of the KDFW who are entered in this Saturday’s Risen Star. The other two are Limonite and Owendale. There is bad news for anyone who bet Coliseum, who closed at 22-1 in Pool Two. Coliseum, trained by Baffert, finished third as the 3-5 favorite in last Saturday’s Grade II San Vicente Stakes at Santa Anita. Baffert announced Tuesday that Coliseum now is off the Kentucky Derby trail. “I’m going to reboot him, kick him out for 30 days,” Baffert told Daily Racing Form’s Brad Free. “We know he’s good, but he doesn’t want to train. He’s sour.” When Coliseum was unveiled at Santa Anita last Nov. 17, he won a maiden race by 6 3/4 lengths as a 1-2 favorite. But the Kentucky-bred Tapit colt then ran sixth as a 3-5 favorite in Santa Anita’s Grade III Sham Stakes on Jan. 5. In the San Vicente, he finished 6 1/2 lengths behind the victorious Sparky Ville. Coliseum certainly was hyped prior to his Nov. 17 debut. In John Cherwa’s Los Angeles Times horse racing newsletter last Nov. 11, he listed the Kentucky Derby odds at that time put out by the betting website Bovada. Game Winner was the 8-1 favorite, with Instagrand next at 16-1. Even though Coliseum had not raced yet, he was 20-1. Also at 20-1 were Improbable, Knicks Go and Rowayton. Knicks Go disappointed in his 2019 debut last Saturday at Tampa Bay Downs. He finished fifth as the 9-5 favorite in the Grade III Sam F. Davis Stakes at 1 1/16 miles. Well Defined led all the way and prevailed by 2 3/4 lengths for trainer Kathleen O’Connell. A Florida-bred With Distinction gelding, Well Defined recorded a career-best 93 Beyer Speed Figure. It is interesting to compare the odds in Pool One of the KDFW that closed last Nov. 25 with Pool Two. In Pool One, the “All Other 3-Year-Old Males” option was the 6-5 favorite and Game Winner was the 5-2 favorite among the individual horses. Coliseum, who earlier in November had won at first asking, and Instagrand were each 10-1. 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 WILL RAGS TO RICHES GET ON THE BALLOT? The National Museum of Racing will announce the 2019 contemporary Hall of Fame finalists via press release Thursday at 11 a.m. Eastern Time. These finalists will be presented to the nationwide voting panel for Hall of Fame consideration. Will this be the year that Rags to Riches finally is put on the ballot by the Hall of Fame’s nominating committee? I sure hope so. Rags to Riches is one of only four fillies to have won a Triple Crown race in the last 95 years. The four are Genuine Risk (who won the 1980 Kentucky Derby), Winning Colors (1988 Kentucky Derby), Rags to Riches (2007 Belmont Stakes) and Rachel Alexandra (2009 Preakness). Genuine Risk, Winning Colors and Rachel Alexandra are in the Hall of Fame. All three certainly deserve it. Is Rags to Riches in the Hall of Fame? Nope. Rags to Riches first became eligible for Hall of Fame induction in 2013. But not only did the nominating committee fail to put Rags to Riches on the ballot in 2013, she also has not appeared on the ballot in 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018. This is absurd. Will Rags to Riches again be a no-show on the 2019 Hall of Fame ballot? Or will the nominating committee at long last get it right this year? WINX LOOKS TO EXTEND LONG WINNING STREAK Australia’s mighty Winx bids for her 30th consecutive victory when she runs in Saturday’s Group II Apollo Stakes at Royal Randwick. The word from Down Under is Winx will race three more times this year before being retired. After the Apollo, Winx is expected to start in the Group I Chipping Norton Stakes on March 2, the Group I George Ryder Stakes on March 23, then then Group I Queen Elizabeth Stakes on April 13. Winx won the prestigious Group I Cox Plate for an unprecedented fourth time last year. Will her extraordinary winning streak continue in Saturday’s Apollo? If she does get beat, it really can’t be attributed to an Apollo curse. That’s because Winx already has won the Apollo twice, first in 2016 and again in 2017. The renowned mare did not start in the Apollo last year because her regular rider, Hugh Bowman, was suspended at the time. THIS WEEK’S NTRA POLLS Here is the Top 10 for this week’s NTRA Top Thoroughbred Poll: Rank Horse (First-Place Votes) 1. City of Light (27)2. Monomoy Girl (4)3. Roy H4. Battle of Midway5. Bricks and Mortar6. Accelerate7. McKinzie8. Seeking the Soul9. Sistercharlie10. Game Winner Here is the Top 10 for this week’s NTRA Top 3-Year-Old Poll: Rank Horse (First-Place Votes) 1. Game Winner (28)2. Improbable (3)3. War of Will4. Mucho Gusto (1)5. Instagrand6. Hidden Scroll7. Signalman7. Gunmetal Gray9. Tax10. Harvey Wallbanger
By Frank Carulli
Abra Kadabra, a magic wand cast a spell on the 2018 O’Brien Awards. Kadabra, who stands at Tara Hills Stud in Ontario, sired five of Canada’s 12 divisional champions in 2018. His offspring earned $7.4 million and excelled in trotting races throughout North America. The winners were: Emoticon Hanover (Older Trotting Mare), who won her second Breeders Crown title; Will Take Charge (Older Trotting Horse), who topped $1 million in career earnings; Ontario Sire Stakes Super Final winners Forbidden Trade (2yo Trotting Colt) and Run Director (3yo Trotting Colt); and $241,000 earner Illusioneesta (3yo Trotting Filly). Trainer Casie Coleman trained two O’Brien Award Winners, including McWicked, a runaway winner as the Somebeachsomewhere Horse of the Year. McWicked won the Breeders Crown Open Pace, scored his most lucrative of several major stakes victories in the $600,000 Canadian Pacing Derby and topped $4 million in lifetime earnings with 12 wins in 19 starts. Coleman also trained Stag Party, winner of the $890,000 Metro Pace and 2-Year-Old Pacing Colt honors. Tall Drink Hanover swept the Whenuwishuponastar and Shes A Great Lady series’ and the The Ice Dutchess did the same in the Peaceful Way series to earn top 2-year-old filly pacing and trotting trophies, respectively. Trainer of the Year Richard Moreau (315 wins, $4.6 million in earnings) and Driver of the Year Louis-Phillipe Roy (416 wins, $7.4 million in earnings) had a big hand in the success of $834,000 earner, Ontario Sire Stakes stalwart and champion 3-Year-Old Pacing Colt Jimmy Freight. Shower Play paced 1:50.2 in the Fan Hanover finals en route to becoming 3-Year-Old Pacing Filly champion, while Exhilarated won 11 times in a taxing 44-race season to be named top Older Pacing Mare. Conspicuous by her absence in the O’Brien Awards voting was Hambletonian winner Atlanta. She was disqualified from consideration because her trainer, Rick Zeron, was serving 1 180-day suspension. Standardbred Canada’s O’Brien Award eligibility policy states: “An O’Brien Award will not be presented to any individual or entity who has served, or is currently serving a penalty for a continued period of 180 days or more.”