By Frank Carulli
Keystone Velocity almost didn't have a chance to defend his title in the George Morton Levy Memorial Pacing Series at Yonkers Raceway. Given the opportunity, however, the 10-year-old didn't disappoint. By winning in the final elimination heat of the month-long series the previous week, Keystone Velocity became eligible for the $532,000 Levy final. His driver, Daniel Dube, was intent on dictating the tempo in the one-mile race. Keystone Velocity pulled out of third early and cleared rail-sitter Western Fame (Mark MacDonald) near the quarter-mile mark in :26.4. He slowed it down through a :29.3 second quarter, while Somewhere in L A (Jason Bartlett) bid first-over, followed by Mach It So (Dave Miller) and Bit of a Legend N (Jordan Stratton) in the outer flow. As Keystone Velocity reached the 3/4 mark in 1:23.4, Western Fame back-pedaled in the pocket, slowing the progress of Dr. J Hanover (Brett Miller). He held safe for a one-length victory in a season's-best 1:52. Bit of a Legend N got up for second to eclipse $2 million in lifetime earnings and complete a $39 exacta with the 5-to-2 winner. “He’s tough horse,“ Dube said. “I think he’s better when he’s racing from behind, but he drew well and we were able to get a breather, it was good.” Keystone Velocity bumped his lifetime earnings to $1.64 million and joined harness racing's richest horse, Foiled Again, as back-to-back Levy champions. Trainer Rene Allard co-owns the son of Western Hanover along with Kapildeo Singh, Earl Hill Jr. and VIP Internet Stables. "He doesn’t know he’s 10,” Allard said. “There are just so many people who work with him that deserve the credit. Me? I was more nervous last season, so I’m able to enjoy this one.” SHARTIN N REBOUNDS, WINS MATCHMAKER Shartin N established herself as the horse to beat in Yonkers Raceway's Blue Chip Matchmaker series by winning three consecutive preliminary legs. But she broke stride twice in her final tune-up, leaving some doubt heading into Saturday's $373,000 final. Carefully handled by Tim Tetrick, she erased all doubts with a 4-1/2-length victory in 1:52.2 and rewarded the loyal backers who made Shartin N the odds-on favorite. Shartin N settled in fourth off the gate, while pace setter Sell a Bit N (Jordan Stratton), Medusa (Yannick Gingras) and Lakeisha Hall (George Brennan) all left in front of her. She engaged the leader as they reached the half in :57, then assumed total command through a :27 third-quarter split. Sell A Bit N did well to hold second over 49-1 longshot Motu Moonbeam (Brett Holland). “I wasn’t racing her to win,” Tetrick said. “I was racing her to make money. If she broke again, we’d get nothing, so I wanted to be careful getting out of there. She’s been fussy at times, and she was last week, but she was very good tonight." Jim King Jr. trains the 5-year-old mare for co-owners Richrd Poillucci and Jo Anne Looney-King. Shartin N improved to 15-for-23 lifetime. “We did a lot of work with her, changed some things right up until the race and added a Murphy blind (right side),” King said. “I also warmed her up hard to get some of the sting out of her. I’m glad it worked out. It’s a better feeling than last week, I can say that.”
By Jeremy Plonk
We spend months handicapping and analyzing the Kentucky Derby. But for most, the Kentucky Oaks proves to be a few-day enterprise of research, more like the collegiate cram sessions we once knew so well. But even at that seemingly comprised timeframe, it’s more than we offer most races on the calendar. Let’s be honest: 30 minutes per race is probably somewhere around average for 90 percent of horseplayers that we consider serious. So with the Kentucky Oaks draw a week away next Monday, it’s time to get acquainted with the fillies who star on the first Friday in May. Even if you’re not digging deep on playing that card and saving up for Derby Day, the Oaks-Derby daily double can prove lucrative some years and worth consideration. Midnight Bisou: The west’s leading lady after scores in the Santa Ynez, Santa Ysabel and Santa Anita Oaks in succession this year. Jockey Mike Smith won the Oaks last year on Abel Tasman and in 2013 on longshot Princess of Sylmar. Trainer Bill Spawr is not known for his star 3-year-olds in Louisville, but his sprinter Amazombie dazzled on the Derby Day undercard in a 2012 throw-down vs. Shackleford in the Churchill Downs Handicap. The last Santa Anita Oaks winner to add the Kentucky Oaks was Rags to Riches in 2007, though Abel Tasman was second in that prep a year ago en route to the lilies. Monomoy Girl: While Midnight Bisou is 2 noses from an unbeaten mark, the star of the Midwest is a neck shy of perfection from 6 attempts. She’s won the Rachel Alexandra at Fair Grounds and Ashland at Keeneland in commanding fashion with vastly different running styles. The Ashland produced 2 of the last 3 Oaks winners via Lovely Maria and Cathryn Sophia in 2015-’16. Trainer Brad Cox is about to win his first Keeneland training title and is on a roll. Sassy Sienna: The “other” Brad Cox trainee to Monomoy Girl, she wintered at Oaklawn and won the G3 Fantasy by a nose while placing in all 3 of the circuits major sophomore filly route stakes. Jockey Gary Stevens’ Oaks victories are far-reaching, Tiffany Lass in 1986 and Silverbulletday in 1999. Oaklawn’s Fantasy produced back-to-back Oaks winners with Rachel Alexandra and Blind Luck in 2009-’10, but none since. My Miss Lilly: Aqueduct’s G3 Gazelle winner already has a score at 1-1/8 miles, albeit her only try around 2 turns in 4 starts. The Gazelle did produce 2013 Oaks winner Princess of Sylmar. Trainer Mark Hennig has had one of his best winter-spring’s ever with the sophomores, also featuring Swale winner Strike Power on the colts’ side. My Miss Lilly’s sire Tapit was responsible for 2014 Oaks winner Untapable. Chocolate Martini: Tom Amoss’ prize claim has since won twice at 27-1 and 13-1, including the G2 Fair Grounds Oaks, a historically key prep for the first Friday in May. Since 1997, 8 fillies have swept the FG Oaks and Kentucky Oaks, most recently Untapable in 2014. The FG Oaks also produced more recently 2015 Kentucky Oaks winner Lovely Maria. Coach Rocks: The lightbulb went on 2 starts ago for this Oxbow filly who lost her first 6 attempts. She’s appreciated going around 2 turns on dirt, winning the Gulfstream Park Oaks in a prolonged move that could set her up for 1-1/8 miles next. The Gulfstream Oaks hasn’t produced a Kentucky Oaks winner since 1993 when Dispute pulled the trick via the formerly named Bonnie Miss. Louisville native Dale Romans has yet to win a Kentucky Oaks. Rayya: The distant UAE Derby runner-up vs. Kentucky Derby hopeful Mendelssohn was flown to California after the World Cup card to take residence with Hall of Famer Bob Baffert – a three-time winner of the Oaks, including last year with Abel Tasman. Rayya immediately worked like a Baffert horse with a 6-furlong bullet in 1:12-4/5 from the gate on Saturday at Santa Anita. Wonder Gadot: Last year’s Demoiselle winner at 1-1/8 miles has lost all 4 starts this year, but placed in the Silverbulletday, Rachel Alexandra, Fair Grounds Oaks and Fantasy. There’s no knocking her consistency and durability. Sire Medaglia d’Oro best known for his Oaks winner Rachel Alexandra, and he also had a quite hand with star distaffer Songbird. Eskimo Kisses: Runner-up in the Fair Grounds Oaks and Ashland, she goes for a Kenny McPeek barn that has had a say in the Oaks last year with runner-up Daddys Lil Darling, who had a very similar resume. Take Charge Paula: Winner of the Forward Gal sprinting, she was runner-up in the 1-turn mile Davona Dale and lost the lead late as the favorite in the 2-turn Gulfstream Park Oaks to Coach Rocks. Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin aims for his first Oaks and has Enticed in the Derby. Blamed: She’s won 5 in a row in New Mexico, including a historically soft renewal of the Sunland Park Oaks that lacked the typical big-barn influence from Southern California. Sire Blame did his best work under these same Twin Spires. Plum Pretty won the Oaks in 2011 via a Sunland stop-off. Classy Act: Pacemaker in the Rachel Alexandra and Fair Grounds Oaks will be part of the early mix, though 1-1/8 miles will push her abilities. Trainer Bret Calhoun’s horses were on point at Keeneland and sire Into Mischief is outstanding with his offspring at Churchill Downs, albeit mostly shorter trips. Other contenders include Martha Washington winner Red Ruby for Kellyn Gorder, unraced since a disappointing fourth in the Honeybee at odds-on; Florida-based Heavenhasmynikki, yet to go around 2 turns and with plenty more speed for Anthony Quartarolo; C.S. Incharge, kid sister to Preakness-placed Cherry Wine, but coming off a poor Ashland showing; and Kelly’s Humor, late to the party at 3 with a rallying second sprinting off the layoff in the Beaumont for Brad Cox.
By Al Cimaglia
Sunday's feature at Pompano Park rolls in Race 7, an Open II Pace with a $9,500 purse. The 0.50 Pick 4 sequence with a $30,000 guaranteed pool and a 12% takeout begins in Race 5. The Pompano Sunday night Pick 4 has become a popular bet and will be my focus. At Cal Expo on Saturday night my Pick 4 ticket exploded in the opening leg when #6-To The Limit rolled home and lit the board up paying $73.00 to win. The race went in a sizzling 1.50.3, which ties the fastest time of the meet. The 0.20 winning combination of (6-5-1-1) paid $1289.12, and I will look to do better than three out of four tonight. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Race 5 2-Hurricane Howard-Steps up after a down the road score, sharp connections and best to respect. 3-Major Marcus-Doesn't win often but usually threatens at this level. 5-Web Cam-MacDonald takes a turn and may try an aggressive approach from this post in an open affair. 6-CC Big Boy Sam-Comes off a sick scratch, but will respect connections, maybe a drop and pop. Race 6 1-Rock N Row-Hennessey knows well and could trip out and upset this bunch at a square price. 6-Rockntouch-Steps up after a win, has gate speed to control the race, will use at 12-1 in the ML. 7-Rebellious-Winner of 2 straight and last was very impressive, too sharp to leave out. Race 7 2-Team Captain-A dry surface could help enough, could pop at square price. 4-Spirit Shadow-Sharp efforts on off-tracks, does best work when dry, could be sitting on a big try. 5-Doo Wop Hanover-Last 2 were on an off track, now drops to a past level of success, should be in the hunt. Race 8 1-Uncle Reimus-Misses starts and that's a concern but if ready can take a picture tonight. 3-F Twenty Two-Drops, better post draw and a fast track would help, will respect chances. 10-Blueberry Heaven-Looking for 1st win of year, will need some luck from this post but best to not sell short. 0.50 Pick 4 2,3,5,6/1,6,7/2,4,5/1,3,10 Total Bet=$54 Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia.
By Al Cimaglia
The main event at Cal Expo tonight rolls in Race 7, the Lloyd Arnold-Free For All Pace with a $10,000 purse. Race 7 also marks the start of the 0.20 Pick 4 sequence with a $50,000 guaranteed pool and a 16% takeout. It was a chalky Friday evening at the Big M. My Pick 4 ticket was on target in only three of four legs as the 0.50 combination of (7-7-6-9) paid $74.55. At Cal Expo on Friday the drivers with the hottest hands were James Kennedy, Luke Plano and Steve Wiseman who all made three trips to the winner's circle. Trainer Kathleen Plested led all conditioners with two wins on the night. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Race 7 1-Allmyx'sliventexas-Big time effort in last win and he can string a few together. 5-Bettor's Promise-Major player tonight, could be sitting on the engine or in the 2 hole. 8-I'm An Athlete-Post adds to the price and best effort could be good enough, plus Kennedy is back. Race 8 2-Nutmegs Desire-Form isn't exciting but Wiseman returns, and this is an ugly race, will consider at 7-1 in the ML. 5-Little Emma-Usually finds a way to lose and a slow pace could hurt, but best to respect versus this crew. 6-Along Came Jane-Last 2 were good efforts and Kennedy is back between the pipes and that won't hurt. Race 9 1-Oh Yeah-Almost lasted on the engine in last and now the post draw is more favorable for his style. 3-Musician-Should fall in right behind #1 and then look to out sprint to the wire, can pop at a square price. 5-Western Fortune-Took it easy after breaking in previous start, looking for a more aggressive effort from program chalk. Race 10 1-Bettor In The Bank-Drops to level of recent success, Kennedy steers and that should benefit also. 2-Blue Star Maverick-Taking a swing with 15-1 shot and hoping Goulet can find a good cover flow. 5-Mint To Cruise-Steps after a sharp win and still fits, Plano should keep in the hunt to the wire. 7-Justabitcrazy-Comes off 2 sharp efforts in fast miles, and this post should help the price. 0.20 Pick 4 1,5,8/2,5,6/1,3,5/1,2,5,7 Total Bet=$21.60 Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia.
By Jerry Shottenkirk
Half of the races in Charles Town’s $100,000-guaranteed Pick 4 on Saturday are for West Virginia-breds, and the other are for established and clearly talented open company. Those two state-bred races are some standouts, but the big-money races seem much more wide open.The state-bred races will save you some money on your ticket, while the open races are more challenging and could require a spread approach, including the featured Grade 2 $1.2 million Charles Town Classic. The Classic is the 11th race and final one of the sequence. More power to you if you can get through the Classic over even the Dance to Bristol Stakes (10th race) with just one or two horses on your ticket.Either Anna’s Bandit or Moonlit Song have the best chance to succeed in the Down Town Allen Stakes, a sprint for older West Virginia-bred distaffers. Anna’s Bandit has won three straight at Laurel and makes her 1st Charles Town start, and Moonlit Song is the local powerhouse, with wins in 10 of 13 starts over the strip.It would be a major surprise if William and Mary loses the ninth race, the Coin Collector Stakes, also for state-breds. He was most recently fourth in the Frank Whiteley at Laurel but prior to that was four of five at Charles Town, with three stakes win. His local odds have been 4-5, 5-2, 1-5, 1-5 and 1-9. A popular runner, indeed, and he’s given good reasons for that popularity. He’s the lone single in the sequence for this one.It gets considerably more difficult in the ninth and 10th races – the Dance To Bristol for fillies and mares and of course, the headliner Classic for veteran stakes horses. This ticket has five horses from the ninth race and six from the Classic.Ascertain is the 8-to-5 favorite in the Dance To Bristol but should get plenty of pressure throughout. Also in the hunt are Frosty Margarita, Lake Ponchatrain, In the Navy Now and Angel at War.Diversify is the 8-to-5 choice on the morning line for the Classic, but the race looks quite competitive. Also used on this ticket are Fear the Cowboy, You’re to Blame, Discreet Lover, War Story and Afleet Willy.Here’s the suggested ticket for the $100,000 Guaranteed Pick 4:Race 8: #4 Anna’s Bandit, #10 Moonlit Song.Race 9: #10 William and Mary.Race 10: #1 Frosty Margarita, #2 Lake Ponchatrain, #5 In the Navy Now, #6 Ascertain, #10 Angel at War. Race 11: #1 Fear the Cowboy, #2 You’re to Blame, #3 Discreet Lover, #5 War Story, #6 Diversify, #7 Afleet Willy.Ticket Cost: $30 for 50-cents
By Al Cimaglia
The Meadowlands kicks-off the weekend with a 10-race card. The feature is a trot that rolls in Race 7, the Shiaway St. Pat Final with a $52,500 purse. The 0.50 Pick 5 sequence has a $25,000 guaranteed pool and it begins in Race 2. The 0.50 Pick 4 has a $50,000 guaranteed pool with a 15% takeout, that sequence begins in Race 7 and will be my focus. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Race 7 2-LMC Mass Gem-Taking a swing with a price shot in 3rd straight at the Big M, Callahan may find a good trip. 4-Perseverance-Trip dependent but can fly home and D. Miller steers again, should be a square price. 7-Sutton-Sizzled in 1.51.3 in last score and could very well be set for another picture. 8-Opulent Yankee-Came 2nd in last 2 but did all the heavy lifting, too consistent to leave out. Race 8 1-Pembroke Joey-Comes off a nice win at Plainridge, McCarthy should have 4-yr. old in the hunt. 5-May I Cruise West-Slow starts have hurt but moves in and B. Miller may try an aggressive approach. 7-The Fire Within-Marohn gets along well and he's back tonight, fits and looks like a player. Race 9 1-Rockin Praline-Steps up after a sharp win from the 8 hole, likes the track and should be a major player. 4-Cousin Mary-In the money 5 of 6 at Big M, thinking Harris will have ready after almost 6 weeks off. 5-Keystone Riptide-Drops to a spot to shine, 2nd favorite has the speed to be dangerous tonight. Race 10 4-Majestic Sunset-Has been competitive at this class and moves inside so looking for another sharp effort. 5-Tober-Camera shy 10-yr.old may have hit a level low enough for success, worth a swing at 10-1 in the ML. 9-You're Majestic-Not crazy about the 3-1 ML, but if minds manners D. Miller can win from out here. 0.50 Pick 4 2,4,7,8/1,5,7/1,4,5/4,5,9 Total Bet=$54 Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia.
By Dustin Fabian
Saturday is a huge day of racing in the Mid-Atlantic, with both Laurel Park and Charles Town putting their best foot forward with cards loaded with stakes races. At Charles Town, a field of seven horses will tussle in the $1.2 Million Charles Town Classic, a three-turn race that has attracted Jockey Club Gold Cup winner, Diversity, Brooklyn winner, War Story, and General George winner, Something Awesome. The card also includes a $100,000 Guaranteed All-Stakes Pick 4 (Races 8 – 11) and eight supporting stakes races. At Laurel, the Xpressbet Fountain of Youth Stakes, a ‘Win and You’re In’ event for the Preakness, takes center stage. As a bettor and racing fan, it’s tough to not get a little excited for the race. This is the best ‘Tesio field in years, headlined by recent stakes winner, Noble Commander. Plus, anytime you get Julien Leparoux, Paco Lopez and Junior Alvarado in to ride, you’re doing something very right. Navigating these two marathon cards (24 races between the two tracks) won’t be easy, so here are some thoughts and horses to key your wagers on. Betting Against the Favorite in the Charles Town Classic In the brief history of the Charles Town Classic, post-time favorites are just 1-for-9. That’s a pretty low mark, especially considering the list of beaten favorites includes Game On Dude, Shared Belief, Commentator and Stanford. This year’s ML favorite is Diversity, a five-year-old NY-bred son of Bellamy Road who was last seen at Churchill Downs in November, where he finished 4th in the G1 Clark. Prior to that, he won the G1 Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont and his regular rider, Irad Ortiz Jr., will be in the irons. This is an incredibly tough race for a comeback, especially since he’s never run around a track this short before. He’s not getting my money at 8/5 odds. My pick is War Story, who goes out for Imaginary Stables and Glenn Ellis. He finished a close third in this race last year, beaten just ½-length, and I loved his race in the Challenger Stakes at Tampa last month. He’s a gritty horse that will grind you into submission and he seems to have the most upside. I’ll play him in the Exacta alongside Something Awesome and Fear the Cowboy. Fear the Cowboy just seems to run on anything, while Something Awesome is better than ever. Not often you can say that for a seven-year-old. How I’m Playing the $100,000 Guaranteed All-Stakes Charles Town Pick 4 I think the All-Stakes Pick 4 at Charles Town can be taken down with a relatively modest ticket. Here’s how I’m playing: Race 8: #7 T Rex Express, #10 Moonlit SongRace 9: #10 William and MaryRace 10: #2 Lake Ponchatrain, #6 AscertainRace 11: #1 Fear the Cowboy, #3 Discreet Lover, #4 Something Awesome, #5 War StoryTicket Cost: $16 for $1 Who’s the Best Bet in the Xpressbet Federico Tesio? This may be the deepest race of the weekend, with 11 three-year-olds squaring off in this Preakness Stakes ‘Win and You’re In’ event. Here’s a quick rundown of the field, and my off-the-cuff thoughts on each horse. #1 Takedown (Gaudet/Quinones) – 20/1 – Wheels back quickly after winning a first level allowance on April 2. The fact that Luis Garcia, who rode that day, opted for this barn’s other horse in here indicates how he feels about Takedown’s chances. Not good. #2 Still Having Fun (Keefe/Russell) – 5/2 – He ran shockingly bad last time out, finishing off the board as the 3/5 favorite in the Private Terms here on March 17. His speed figures in his prior two starts were fast – like fringe KY Derby contender fast – but you have to wonder if he was just beating up on a bad winter crop of horses in Maryland. #3 Not Fake News (Sinnefia/-) – 30/1 – Broke his maiden last out at Penn National but he’d be a shock here. #4 Noble Commander (Casse/Leparoux) – 6/1 – Anytime you get Julien Leparoux to skip a Saturday at Keeneland to ride in Maryland, you’re probably on to something. He has been no secret in either of his races in Florida (9/10 odds breaking his maiden and even-money taking the Sophomore Stakes at Tampa) and you have to think this barn has high hopes for him. I’m not in love with the pedigree, but Lepoaroux making the trip is a huge vote of confidence. He’s my pick. #5 Split Verdict (Violette/Carmouche) – 10/1 – He broke his maiden in start number two, but not sure there’s a lot to go off. This is a big step in class and he’ll need to improve a bit to run with these type of horses. Might be a better candidate later in the year. #6 Diamond King (Servis/Pennington) – 4/1 – Loved his gritty run in the G3 Swale at Gulfstream when beaten 3 ¾-lengths by Strike Power. Hard to find fault with a loss to that one, who is a buzzsaw sprinter. No clue if this one wants to route, but note Servis’ crazy 41% strike rate at Laurel during the meet. #7 Navy Commander (Reid/Lopez) – 12/1 – Needed three tries and a lower-level maiden claimer to get his first win, but then proceeded to win two straight by a combined 18-lengths at Parx. Talk about mixed signals! Paco Lopez is in to ride, which would put him on or near the lead. #8 American Lincoln (Rice/Alvarado) – 8/1 – Devoured an Aqueduct maiden field by 18 ¾-lengths on March 16 and while the track has been playing slow, it’s hard for me to see the final time that day (1:56 3/5) and have a ton of confidence. I like that Junior Alvarado is in town to ride, but he needs to show me ore. #9 Dynamic Asset (Gaudet/Garcia) – 12/1 – Have to like that Garcia shows up here instead of the rail-drawn stablemate, but overall he’s hard to endorse. He was 61/1 when third in the Private Terms on March 17 and this field is deeper than that one. #10 V.I.P. Code (Schoenthal/Quinones) – 8/1 – Shocked bettors when he won the Private Terms at 36/1, but not sure he has another one of those in him. He’s outrun his odds before, though. He finished second in the Award Stakes last October at Belmont at 71/1. #11 Holland Park (McLaughlin/Vargas) – 10/1 – Sneaky Godolphin entrant is impeccably bred, being by Tapit out of the G1 performer Round Pound. He broke his maiden on February 15 at Aqueduct, but again, like American Lincoln’s maiden breaker, the final time that day (1:57 2/5) just leaves so much to be desired, despite a slow track. Outside post can’t help his chances, either. Other Horses Worth Betting Saturday at Laurel Henry Clark Stakes – My colleague, Jeremy Plonk, handicapped this one as the Xpressbet Race of the Week. He landed on a 15/1 longshot – not the 7/2 favorite, Ring Weekend. Weber City Miss Stakes – A Black-Eyed Susan ‘Win and You’re In’ race, the Weber City Miss drew a field of nine, headlined by a pair of runners, Layla Noor (3rd) and Indy Union (th) last seen in the G2 Demoiselle on December 2. Layla Noor gets a slight edge in my book based on prior positive experience at Laurel and trainer Arnaud Delacour’s impeccable record this season. Primonetta Stakes – Chalon moves over to the Arnaud Delacour barn and this is a serious filly, having finished second in the G2 TCA Stakes (to Finleysluckycharm) and the G2 Raven Run (to Miss Sunset) last fall at Keeneland. If she runs her race, they won’t catch her. Last Call for Triple Crown Prep Promotions! Our Money-Back Guarantee and 0% Takeout offers wrap up this weekend! Bet a horse in the Xpressbet Federico Tesio and get your money back if they finish 2nd or 3rd. Plus, you’re eligible to receive 0% Takeout on ‘Tesio Exactas. Sign up for free to play.
By Brian Nadeau
With turf racing back in New York, and in influx of Gulfstream Park shippers coming north as well, things are looking up in South Ozone Park, so let’s take a look at a very competitive Pk5 Friday at Aqueduct. Whereas in the past I’ve put together one caveman ticket on a small-scale budget, going forward I’m going to try and present a bit more of an in-depth play that will utilize backup horses and tickets, while painting a broader picture of a suggested play. Race 1: 3upfm 25k N2L going 6 furlongs The opener really boils down to your thoughts on #5 RIBBONITE (2-1), who isn’t exactly the most trustworthy type, but does deserve to be favored and is clearly the best of the speed types. The problem is she never wins (1-for-14) and faces speed from the inside in #1 Mahabodhi Tree, who is a big play against off the long layoff and steep drop, and #2 Dream Fever, who will also be a play against as she meets older off a modest win and could be in a pace sandwich. Ribbonite did well to draw outside the rest of the speed, so she is an A, but is also hardly a lock at underaid odds. Top honors go to #7 OURO VERDE (3-1), as it looks like Michelle Nevin made a very crafty claim, and this miss had good back numbers for Dave Donk, should move forward in a big way for her new barn, and has a nice stalking gear too. Pk5 A horses (listed in order of preference): 7,5 It doesn’t look like anyone else should be an A, but there are several who could qualify as B’s, most notably #3 OUR WHIM (8-1) and #4 SAND CITY (8-1), who are stalkers that fit the race flow, but will have to pick up their game just a bit to win. Pk5 B horses (listed in order of preference): 3,4 Race 2: 3upfm 35k N3L going 1 1/16 miles on the outer turf I’m not going to try to get too clever here, as I think we can wrap this one up using the three favorites, #1 SAVANNAH BELLE (2-1), #3 TALKN TIL MIDNIGHT (9-5) and #5 ULTIMATE CLASS (5-2), as they appear to lay over the rest and are all basically the same horse on paper. If anyone else wins, I don’t, it’s as simple as that. Pk5 A horses: 3,1,5 The only other horse worth mentioning is #7 Edisto Island, who could be the controlling speed, but her lone turf run was dreadful and she could be damaged goods off a complete no-show on the dirt last time. If she forgets to stop, so be it, but on the drop and her lone turf run, she has to prove it to me. Race 3: 3up MSW going 1-mile The gut says that #4 PROVEN RESERVES (5-2) is another Chad Brown/Seth Klarman monster in the making, as his works are off the page and they paid a pricey 350k for a son of 40k sire Flatter. Normally he’d be the lone A in a spot like this, but #5 WEATHER WIZ (4-5) ran a very fast 2nd last time off a July layoff and could move forward, which would make him very tough. I’m apt to think he regresses instead, but there’s no way I don’t want him on my ticket at equal weigh with Proven Reserves. Pk5 A horses: 4,5 The only B is #2 BALLARD HIGH (3-1), who improved mightily in start number two when he stretched out to this one-turn mile and has a ton of upside. If #3 Crimson King wins I’ll be very surprised, as his debut for Pletcher was meek, and the fact he was here in NY, instead of down in Florida with the big boys, says they don’t think much of him. Pk5 B horses: 2 Race 4: 3up NYB 25k MCL going 6 furlongs Here’s where things get tricky, as 14 are entered and you could make a case for more than half of them, if you’re in a forgiving mood. My budget won’t allow me to go that deep, so I’ll use the main protagonists--#9 CROATIA (4-1), #11 O SHEA CAN U SEE (7-2) and #12 SUSANS FUNNYBONE, who appear a cut above the rest on paper. The former looks best, even though the December layoff is a concern, because his lone start with blinkers was a big 2nd, beaten just a neck when last seen. The latter comes next, as his form is consistent and he’s been a much better horse in his two starts with blinkers. I am not sold on ‘Shea, even though he is a must-use A, but you could make a case he’ll be an underlay and is poised to regress off the big move forward last time. Pk5 A horses: 9,12,11 The forgiving part, or maybe I should say the imaginative part, comes into play with the B’s, as none of them really inspire, but are close enough on paper where a lifetime run puts them on the line. The two I think who are potentially capable are #2 GIANT RUBIES (20-1) and #14 LEADING STORM (8-1). The former drops slightly in class after a tough trip and beginning in his debut, where he showed a bit of life late in a fast race for the level. The latter will be the underlay of the day, and is way too slow on paper, but he’s run just twice, and only once for Rodriguez, and he did have an adventurous trip last time and now gets Irad, so there’s a lot of upside here, if nothing else. Pk5 B horses: 2, 14 Race 5: 3up NYB 80k/N1X going 6 ½ furlongs There may just be six entered, but this is a tricky puzzle since four of them have legitimate chances. I’m going with the fresh new face--#6 PRESENCE OF MIND (6-1)—who has not started since running 6th in Belmont’s Tremont last June. I’m a big George Weaver fan and it looks like he’s got this guy going great guns in the AM, plus those spring races last year weren’t that far behind the best of what today’s rivals have been running this year, so with proper maturation, he’s got to have a big say at a nice price. My other A is the logical #5 ANALYZE THE ODDS (2-1), who looked good winning in fast time at the level last month and is the one to fear late on the cutback. Pk5 A horses: 6,5 I just don’t trust #4 MORNING BREEZ (9-5), who was dreadful in blinkers last time (they come off today) and has now lost six straight since his debut win. Can he win? Sure. But off that run, with some cheap speed to his inside from #1 Comeoncomeoncat, I just don’t want anything to do with him at short odds, which is why he’s just a B. The two fringe B’s are #2 Mr. Pete, who returns as a first-time gelding after a solid 2yo campaign, and #3 What a Catch, who has middling form and will be overbet for Pletcher. I’m not using either, but won’t knock anyone who does. Pk5 B horses: 4 The main A ticket would be a simple 2x3x2x3x2 for $36, and that’s our starting point. But by adding in our B horses in with the A’s in the other legs, we can get more coverage and allow for some margin for error too. As you’ll see below, the backups tickets are a more cost conducive way of getting added coverage, without breaking the bank; if we combined all the A’s and B’s, the ticket would cost $270 (4x3x3x5x3), whereas this way is a more manageable $132. I’m also an advocate of playing you’re a ticket for $1, so you capitalize if you handicap it out of the park. My Tickets Main Ticket: 7,5 with 3,1,5 with 4,5 with 9,12,11 with 6,5 = $36 R1 B Backup: 3,4 with 3,1,5 with 4,5 with 9,12,11 with 6,5 = $36 R3 B Backup: 7,5 with 3,1,5 with 2 with 9,12,11 with 6,5 = $18 R4 B Backup: 7,5 with 3,1,5 with 4,5 with 2,14 with 6,5 = $24 R5 B Backup: 7,5 with 3,1,5 with 4,5 with 9,12,11 with 4 = $18