By Al Cimaglia
The Sunday night feature at Hawthorne comes in Race 2, and Open Trot with a $10,000 purse. The 0.50 Late Pick 4 rolls in Race 7. The sequence will be my focus and it has a $30,000 guaranteed pool. The Pick 4 at Woodbine on Saturday connected but was very chalky and showed a mere $6 profit on the $16.20 wager. Last night at Hawthorne, drivers Ridge Warren, Kyle Husted, Juan Franco and Robert Smolin all had two trips to the winner's circle. Trainers Kimberly Roth and Mitch MacKenzie led the conditioners with two pictures. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Race 7 1-Among The Elite-Steps up after a .57 back half from the 7 hole. Will respect chances with the move to the rail. 5-Frontier Elsa-In form and goes to the Adams barn. Missed a start but won off 2 weeks rest on 7/19. 7-Shooting Cool-Has beaten these recently and now Oosting steers and he should work a trip. Race 8 2-Et Tu Brute-Looks like an interesting price shot and with a good drive should be in the mix. 4-Skyway Spider-1st start for Roberts off a claim. Winner of 2 straight could continue to roll. 8-One More Trick-Oosting steers tonight, looking for an aggressive steer, fits and should be a player. Race 9 2-Dance To The Wire-Got the top and was in control, this may not be as easy but an encore is a possibility. 4-Ten High-Toss last at HoP in the slop, previous start here merits a swing tonight as a win possibility. 8-Mi Bullet-Faded off a quick pace in Spr, now makes first Haw start with Oosting, may look to rally down the lane. Race 10 2-Breathtaking Sky-Should be forwardly placed, if pace is dull can find a way to beat this crew at a square price. 3-Don't Forget-Last wasn't special but showed a brush to the front and had missed a start. This is a spot to shine. 4-Frontier Red-In better form and went a quick last half but fell short, wiil respect chances for another step up. 9-Ideal's Nicole-Has been too good to leave out, but from this post after winning 2 straight, will try to beat. 0.50 Late Pick 4 1,5,7/2,4,8/2,4,8/2,3,4,9 Total Bet=$54 Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia
By Al Cimaglia
The feature at Mohawk Park this evening rolls in Race 9, a Preferred Pace with a $34,000 purse. The 0.20 Early Pick 4 sequence begins in Race 4, it has a $50,000 guaranteed pool and will be my focus. On Friday driver Trevor Henry led the pilots with two pictures. Trainer Tom Durand was the top conditioner with two trips to the winner's circle. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Race 4 1-Hot Spot Hanover-Back to a level where it's best to respect chances, was Filion's pick over #9. 4-Barockey-Gets class and post relief, major player looking for 8th picture of the year. 10-Party Beach-Drops and has gate speed to get a good early seat, can win at a square price. Race 5 4-Talbotcreekwhiskey-Looking for 3rd straight and has won 6 of 8, faces older but may not matter. 5-Hidden Delight-Even effort in last but was off over a month, 3rd start on Lasix, could be sitting on a big try. 6-Backstreet Shadow-Program chalk chased Jimmy Freight around and came 2nd, should be tough to beat. Race 6 3-Gold Rush-Comes off an even effort after missing a start, price shot starts inside of main foes. 4-Casimir Richie P-Should be closer to the leaders tonight and could surprise at 10-1 in the ML. 7-Yacht Seelster-Pace was slower in last, after closing in .54 came 2nd, should be in better striking range tonight. Race 7 4-Beyond Delight-Can't fault last effort but couldn't catch sub 1:50 winner, should like this crew better. 5-Tuxedo Bay-2nd in 3 straight and should be tracking #4 to capture 3rd win of the year. 8-Shades Of Bay-Dropped and popped in last, steps up but still fits nicely with this group. 0.20 Early Pick 4 1,4,10/4,5,6/3,4,7/4,5,8 Total Bet=$16.20 Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia
By Jerry Shottenkirk
The Barely Even is one of those solid summertime stakes races for fillies and mares that will prepare them nicely for the fall and winter seasons at Gulfstream Park. It’s a good test, and those that run well will stamp themselves as quality runners, as this one is a nice spot at a mile on the main track. Sprinters will stretch out and distaffers that have been on turf will try to transfer talents to the dirt. All in all, it’s one worth watching and is part of a highly playable late Pick 4. The 12th and final race is the most difficult as maiden claimers go long on the turf. The first three in the sequence, however, are good ones, especially the feature. The Pick 4 starts off with optional claimers of the female variety in a good mile turf race, and Aquemini and Vendita likely will get most of the support, but La Vie Ross is also included on this suggested Pick 4 ticket and has a legit upset chance. Aquemini rallied for 2nd off slow fractions last out and makes her 2nd start after a claim. Vendita has a class edge as she won at this level two race and ran a credible 5th in a stakes race last out. La Vie Ross stretches out from five furlongs and should be in close attendance of the pace for her 2nd start after a 10-month layoff. She could be stronger in her return and the distance probably won’t hurt. Florida Two Step and Homeboy look like the two to contend with in a good Florida-bred maiden race for 2-year-olds. Florida Two Step has had the lead in all three of his starts and was 2nd two races backs. He has speed and experience and likely will be strong today. Homeboy makes his 4th start and has been 3rd once. All three of his races were against open company and he moves over to a restricted race today. Heading into the Barely Even, Weekend Mischief seems to have found her niche in one-turn dirt mile races and goes for her 3rd straight win. She was unsuccessful in a pair of stakes races last year and looks ready to make the step back up. Oola Gal is in good form with wins in two of her last three and stretches after winning at six furlongs last time. Spanish Harlem has been in tougher races than any of these and is the morning line favorite. She fits well here and will have to overcome the outside post. The last race is the maiden-claiming event and a half-dozen are in play on this ticket. Here’s the suggested ticket for the late pick 4 at Gulfstream Park: 9) #8 Aquemini, #10 La Vie Ross, #11 Vendita. 10) #1 Florida Two Step, #6 Homeboy. 11) #6 Oola Gal, #7 Weekend Mischief, #9 Spanish Harlem. 12) #4 Peggity, #5 Rigel’s Halo, #6 Three Questions, #7 Winnie, #10 Not Nice, #11 Rate of Return. 50-cent Late Pick 4: 8-10-11 with 1-6 with 6-7-9 with 4-5-6-7-10-11. ($54).
By Al Cimaglia
Hawthorne has a 10-race card set to start the weekend. The headliner from a wagering perspective is the 0.50 Pick 4 that begins in Race 7. There will be a $20,000 guaranteed pool for the Late Pick 4 sequence and it will be my focus. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Race 7 2-Crystal Hotspur-Wasn't Leonard's choice, has trouble passing foes, but has speed and this is a soft bunch. 6-Rockin Roxine-This is the 2nd start for MacKenzie, found a spark at the end of the last mile and Leonard sticks. Race 8 2-CJ's Real Deal-Should hang around from this post and look to use one move to sweep by. 3-Between Me And You-Taking a swing in an open race with new trainer who also drives, has shown speed. 5-Memory King-Drew off to win by 4 to get 1st win in 2 years, an encore could be in the cards. 7-Caviart Spencer-Has been in decent form but needs the right trip, at 10-1 in the ML is worth a play. 8-Wildcat Bobby-Slow starter likes to roll late, get a ++ driver change as Leonard takes a seat. Race 9 4-Sir Mammo-Makes 4th local start, does step up but last was an improvement with a sizzling back half. 5-He Gone Jack-Drops out of Opens and should appreciate the company. 6-Parklane Official-Leonard's back and now drops to a better level to shine. 8-Fox Valley Reggie-Beat some of these at Spr now Wilfong steers and that shouldn't hurt, can pop at a price. Race 10 1-Feelnlikearockstar-Recent form has been dull, 9/5 chalk drops and has no excuse from here to get an overdue win. 5-Ideal Candidate-Likely the biggest threat to #1, also drops, needs a trip but if so could surprise at 7-1 in the ML. 0.50 Late Pick 4 2,6/2,3,5,7,8/4,5,6,8/1,5 Total Bet=$40 Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia.
By Johnny D
One definition of ‘showstopper’ is: A performance receiving prolonged applause from the audience. Saturday, we clapped so often and for so long our palms ached. At Arlington Park, in the Grade 1 Beverly D. Stakes, Chad Brown-trained horses finished first, second and third. Sistercharlie (Ire), Fourstar Crook and Thais (Fr), came home less than two lengths apart, respectively. However, the amazing 1-2-3 stablemate finish was more ‘no-hitter’ than ‘perfect game,’ because Inflexibility, also saddled in the race by Brown, missed fourth by a nose. A cold, ‘All-Brown’ super would have brought down the house. A clean sweep of win, place and show dough in a nationally televised Grade 1 event would be considered a career moment for just about any trainer. To Brown it merely was a good day at the office. He’s done it before. Probably more than once. Each January, Brown must assume that come August he will win the Beverly D. Stakes. In fact, his stable’s annual budget projection must include the winner’s share of the Bev. D. purse. Taking second, third and fifth-place cash is all gravy. How can Brown not anticipate success in that race? Saturday was his fifth victory in the event and fourth-in-a-row! Obviously, he requires a bigger challenge than merely winning the Grade 1 turf extravaganza for fillies and mares. This year his aim was a superfecta sweep. Next season’s plans may be to hijack the Hi-5! In the afternoon’s very next race, the Grade 1 Arlington Million, a prestigious worldwide event, Brown pupils didn’t fare quite as well. They only managed to finish first, second and fifth. A Brown exacta instead of a trifecta. Robert Bruce, a Chilean-bred 4-year-old making his third start in the United States, won for the eighth time in nine lifetime appearances. His only defeat accompanied a troubled trip in the Manhattan Stakes at Belmont. Saturday, Robert Bruce’s stablemate Almanaar, bred in Great Britain and going for his third consecutive U.S. win, finished a clear second after some traffic issues. The victory was Brown’s third Million triumph. He joins Hall-of-Fame residents the late Charlie Whittingham and 86-years-young Ron McAnally as the only trainers to have won the Million three times. Domination is familiar to Chad Brown-- especially on turf and notably with fillies and mares. The 39-year-old conditioner has accomplished more on grass than anyone since Snoop Dogg. Now, he’s also winning on dirt, as evidenced by Good Magic’s achievements. So far this year, that colt’s been the best 3-year-old in the nation not named Justify. A native of nearby Mechanicville, NY, in 2016 Brown won the Spa training title with 40 tallies, a new record immediately matched in 2017 by perennial leading conditioner Todd Pletcher. That trainer’s race came down to the meet’s final day and Pletcher went one better than Brown. Although Brown lost that particular battle, he won the war and was named North America’s top trainer in 2017. He also garnered the honor in 2016, mostly on the strength of turf triumphs. This summer, despite the fact that the 2018 Saratoga turf experience has been a wash-out, Brown is well ahead in the standings--25 to 13 over Pletcher. The margin illustrates how deep and versatile is Brown’s current roster. He no longer is, merely, an exceptional ‘turf trainer.’ Brown’s education under Hall-of-Fame trainer Bobby Frankel is well documented. But Brooklyn Bobby wasn’t Brown’s only tutor. In fact, Frankel isn’t even the only Hall-of-Fame conditioner to influence Brown. While an animal science major at Cornell, Brown began his racetrack career with Shug McGaughey--who owns a plaque in the ‘Hall. Brown also later interned with veterinarian Steven Allday. Don’t know how a guy could get a more substantial head start than that, but the father of two girls has made the most of the opportunity. Like Napoleon Dynamite, he has skills. Another dude with mad skills is jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr. He and brother Jose now dominate the NYRA riding colony. No wonder. They’re both young, talented, hard workers and they benefit from shared access to live mounts—'if Irad can’t ride this one, maybe Jose can’ or vice-versa. They should be around and on top for a long time. Saturday was Irad’s 26th birthday. 26! I’ve got ties older than that. And, get this, Jose is two years younger than that! Irad celebrated his big day about the best way a jockey can…by winning a legendary Grade 1 race for the nation’s top trainer. It was the Arlington Million aboard Robert Bruce, for Chad Brown. Irad also finished second in the Beverly D. aboard Fourstar Crook, again for Brown. Jose didn’t ride the Beverly D. and was forced to ease favored Oscar Performance in the Million. Not a banner afternoon for him. That’s OK, it wasn’t his birthday. In the afternoon’s final race, the Grade 3 Pucker Up Stakes, big brother got the better of Jose by a length and one-quarter. An Ortiz brothers’ exacta—a familiar angle to NYRA and Gulfstream horseplayers--returned $35.80 for a buck. Not to permit the ‘under 40’ crowd to depart Arlington Heights, IL with all the loot, veteran jockey John Velazquez piloted Sistercharlie home for Brown in the Beverly D. At 46, Johnny V is closer to fellow Hall of Fame residents Mike Smith and Gary Stevens in experience than he is to the Ortiz brothers in age. And that’s a good thing. A very good thing. Old-timers like yours truly need guys like Johnny, Mike and Gary to root for. When they win, we win. Even if we don’t have a ticket on them. They say, ‘youth is wasted on the young!’ And the older one gets, the more that rings true. Anyway, I’ll take a cagey vet in a big-money pinch anytime! On the left-coast, a real ‘baby’ validated a previous powerful performance. Instagrand, a 2-year-old Into Mischief colt, won the Grade 2 Best Pal Stakes at Del Mar. ‘Won’ doesn’t seem a fitting description. Under another twenty-something riding phenom, Drayden Van Dyke (24), the Jerry Hollendorfer-trained juvenile absolutely breezed home first. There…that’s better. Instagrand glides along effortlessly, like he’s about to rise from the earth on a cushion of air ala Marty McFly on a hoverboard. You might crack, “What do you expect for $1.2 million?” That’s what owner Larry Best Instagrand paid for him in March. Unfortunately, (or fortunately) a high-price tag doesn’t directly correlate with success on the racetrack. The future still hinges on several dice tosses. Each year, many horses sell for over $1 million. Label them expensive. Ones that move like Instagrand? They’re priceless! Does all this mean you should immediately rush out and plunk your hard-earned cash on him to win the Kentucky Derby? No! First of all, he’s 8-1 in the future book, which is absurd. It’s August, people. Last I checked the Derby is in May. Nine months out I wouldn’t take 8-1 on Instagrand starting in the Kentucky Derby, let alone that price on him winning the race! It’s a handy criticism to argue that racing needs stars and I get that. I miss Justify as much as you do. But, truth is, we have stars. Human and equine. Some young and some ‘experienced.’ They’re all capable of delivering a showstopper. Race On!
By Jon White
Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer sent out Kentucky Derby starters in 2017 and 2018 who both outran their odds. In 2017, Hollendorfer was represented by 40-1 Battle of Midway, who finished third behind Always Dreaming and Lookin At Lee. In 2018, Hollendorfer-trained Instilled Regard, virtually ignored in the wagering at 85-1, finished fourth behind Justify, Good Magic and Audible. Considering how Instagrand has made a mockery of his foes in his two starts thus far, it is not far-fetched to envision him running for the roses next year. If the exciting 2-year-old does indeed start in the 2019 Kentucky Derby for Hollendorfer, you can bet that the colt’s odds will not be anywhere close to 85-1 or 40-1. Instagrand won a five-furlong maiden special weight race with ridiculous ease by 10 lengths as a 2-5 favorite at Los Alamitos on June 29 in his career debut. He received an 88 Beyer Speed Figure. Last Saturday, Del Mar presented the Grade II Best Pal Stakes. The six-furlong race pays tribute to the popular California-bred gelding of the 1990s who earned $5,668,245 and the admiration of a great many racing fans. Keep in mind Best Pal managed to earn that sum of money despite not winning a Triple Crown race, a Breeders’ Cup race, a Dubai World Cup or a Pegasus World Cup. Best Pal did finish second to Strike the Gold in the 1991 Kentucky Derby. Later in 1991, Best Pal won Del Mar’s inaugural Pacific Classic. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2010. Instagrand broke from the inside post in the Best Pal. When a couple of rivals – Mason Dixon and Synthesis -- delayed the race by not wanting to go into the starting gate, Instagrand had to stand in the gate longer than Hollendorfer would have preferred, especially since Instagrand didn’t exactly blast out of the gate in his debut at Los Al. But Instagrand did come away alertly in the Best Pal. He vied for the early lead with Owning through fractions of :23.00 for the quarter and :46.54 for the half. Instagrand then drew away to again win by a big margin, this time by 10 1/4 lengths. Sparky Ville finished second at 14-1 in the field of five, while Synthesis ended up third at 19-1. After 7-1 Owning vied for the early advantage, he faltered and finished fourth, 13 1/2 lengths behind Instagrand. Hall of Famer Gary Stevens rode runner-up Sparky Ville. “Don’t even ask me if I could see the winner,” Stevens quipped. Stevens’ remark was similar to what Ray Sibille said after he rode Bold Out Line when she finished a distant second to Landaluce in the six-furlong Hollywood Lassie Stakes at Hollywood Park in 1982. Landaluce won by an astounding 21 lengths. Sibille joked that he thought he had won the race because he couldn’t see anyone in front of him. Instagrand paid $2.20 to win, $2.10 to place and $2.10 to show last Saturday. There was a minus place pool of $572 and large minus show pool of $76,911. Of the $478,544 wagered to show on the race, $424,353 was on Instagrand. After stepping five furlongs in :58.17, Instagrand cruised home and completed six furlongs in 1:10.27 as an overwhelming 1-10 favorite. He recorded a 92 Beyer, which is the top figure by a 2-year-old male so far in 2018. The next-best Beyer in this category is Mucho’s 90 in his 9 3/4-length maiden special weight win at Saratoga on Aug. 4. This year’s highest Beyer to date by a 2-year-old filly is Bellafina’s 94 in her 4 1/4-length win in Del Mar’s Grade II Sorrento Stakes at six furlongs on Aug. 5. Drayden Van Dyke has been aboard Instagrand in both of his dazzling victories. The Kentucky-bred Into Mischief colt, a $1.2 million auction purchase, is owned by Larry Best, who races as OXO Equine. Next for Instagrand, according to Hollendorfer, is the Grade I Del Mar Futurity at seven furlongs on Sept. 3, closing day of the track’s summer meeting. Also eyeing that race is Roadster, the highly regarded colt who resides in Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert’s barn. A Kentucky-bred Quality Road colt, Roadster registered an impressive 4 1/4-length debut win in a six-furlong maiden special weight race at Del Mar on July 29 (81 Beyer). Baffert has won the Del Mar Futurity a record 13 times (Silver Charm in 1996, Souvenir Copy in 1997, Worldly Manner in 1998, Forest Camp in 1999, Flame Thrower in 2000, Officer in 2001, Icecoldbeeeratreds in 2002, Midshipman in 2008, Lookin At Lucky in 2009, Drill in 2011, Rolling Fog in 2012, American Pharoah in 2014 and Klimt in 2016). After American Pharoah won the Del Mar Futurity and was voted an Eclipse Award as champion 2-year-old male, he would go on to sweep the Triple Crown in 2015. Hollendorfer has won the Del Mar Futurity once (Tamarando in 2013). Not only are Instagrand and Roadster scheduled to clash in this year’s Del Mar Futurity, both also no doubt are candidates for the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at 1 1/16 miles at Churchill Downs in early November. And don’t be surprised if Instagrand and Roadster are back in action at that same Louisville track on the first Saturday in May next year. PACIFIC CLASSIC SELECTIONS Eight are entered in this Saturday’s $1 million Pacific Classic at Del Mar. The 8-5 morning-line favorite in the Grade I event is Accelerate, winner of this year’s Grade I Santa Anita Handicap and Grade I Gold Cup at Santa Anita. I’m picking Pavel (7-2 morning line) to win. Yes, Accelerate has defeated Pavel both times they have met this year. When Accelerate won Santa Anita’s Grade II San Pasqual Stakes on Feb. 3, Pavel finished fourth. Both had troubled trips that day, the difference being that Accelerate won despite his adversity. When Accelerate won the Gold Cup on May 26, Pavel finished a well-beaten fourth. But after Pavel’s defeat in the Gold Cup, he put it all together and won the Grade I Stephen Foster Handicap by 3 3/4 lengths at Churchill Downs on June 16. I’m going with Pavel to win the Pacific Classic because (a) I think he might have turned the corner and (b) his price this Saturday will be better than Accelerate’s. Doug O’Neill trains Pavel. The Lieutenant (6-1) is a half-brother to Triple Crown winner Justify. A son of Street Sense, The Lieutenant is coming off a second in the Grade II Suburban at Belmont Park when dismissed at 34-1 on July 7. Diversify won the Suburban, then also took the Grade I Whitney at Saratoga on Aug. 4. Conditioned by Michael McCarthy, The Lieutenant won the Grade III All American on a synthetic surface May 28 at Golden Gate. Earlier this year, he ran seventh behind Accelerate and Pavel in the aforementioned San Pasqual. Baffert has entered Roman Rosso (5-1) and Dr. Dorr (6-1) in the Pacific Classic. Roman Rosso is the wild card. He makes his United States debut after winning five of eight starts in Argentina, including three Group I races. He is a son of Roman Ruler. Baffert trained Roman Ruler, who won the Grade I Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park in 2005. Dr. Dorr most recently ran second to Catalina Cruiser in Del Mar’s Grade II San Diego Handicap on July 21. Dr. Dorr won the Grade II Californian at Santa Anita on April 28 and Santana Mile on March 31. My Pacific Classic selections: 1. Pavel 2. Accelerate 3. The Lieutenant HUGE DAY FOR BROWN AT ARLINGTON Chad Brown, voted Eclipse Awards in 2016 and 2017 as outstanding trainer, put on quite a show at Arlington Park last Saturday. Brown finished 1-2-3 in the Grade I, $600,000 Beverly D. Stakes with Sistercharlie (the 8-5 favorite), Fourstar Crook (9-2) and Thais ($47-1). The $1 Chad Brown exacta paid $9.80. The 50-cent Chad Brown trifecta paid $97.87. Sistercharlie won the 1 3/16-mile grass affair by a half-length in 1:56.77 with Hall of Fame rider John Velazquez aboard. The 4-year-old Irish-bred Myboycharlie filly was assigned a 102 Beyer Speed Figure for her Beverly D. win. This was Brown’s fourth straight Beverly D. victory. He has won it a record five times. Brown won the Beverly D. with Stacelita in 2011, Watsdachances in 2015, Sea Calisi in 2016 and Dacita in 2017 prior to this year. Brown finished 1-2 in last Saturday’s Grade I, $1 million Arlington Million with Robert Bruce (the 5-2 second favorite) and Almanaar (7-2). The $1 Chad Brown exacta paid $18.60. Robert Bruce, like Sistercharlie, won by a half-length. Ridden by Irad Ortiz Jr., Robert Bruce posted a final time of 2:02.29. The 4-year-old Chilean-bred Fast Company colt recorded a 104 Beyer Speed Figure. This was Brown’s third win in the Million, tying the record held by Hall of Famers Ron McAnally and Charlie Whittingham. McAnally won the Million with John Henry in both 1981 and 1984, then with Tight Spot in 1991. Whittingham’s Million victories came with Perrault in 1982, Estrapade in 1986 and Golden Pheasant in 1990. Brown won the Million with Real Solution in 2013 and Beach Patrol in 2017 prior to this year. The biggest disappointment in this year’s Million was 9-5 favorite Oscar Performance, who was pulled up near the finish, then vanned off. His rider, Jose Ortiz, said that he felt the 4-year-old colt take a couple of bad steps. Ortiz said he pulled him up out of an abundance of caution. Trainer Brian Lynch reported Sunday that Oscar Performance, a multiple Grade I stakes winner, appeared fine. “No lameness, no swelling or anything like that,” Lynch was quoted as saying in Sunday’s Arlington Park barn notes. “He wasn’t a bit off anywhere.” Lynch went on to say that Oscar Performance was sent to the Rood and Riddle clinic in Kentucky “to have Dr. Larry Bramlage take a look at him.” BELVOIR GETS ANOTHER LONGACRES MILE WIN Back in the 1970s, Howard Belvoir trained Red Eye Express, a fan favorite at Longacres near Seattle. Red Eye Express won a flock of stakes, but he never was able to capture the Pacific Northwest’s premier race, the Longacres Mile. Red Eye Express finished last in the 1973 Longacres Mile, second to Times Rush in the 1974 renewal and fourth when Jim won the race in 1975. With Longacres long gone, the Longacres Mile has been run at Emerald Downs since 1996. Trainer Blaine Wright recently articulated how much winning this race means in that part of the country. “The goal of a Northwest horseman is to win the Longacres Mile, no matter if you’re an owner, trainer, jockey, groom, whatever,” Wright said. “If you are involved in Northwest racing, you want the Longacres Mile.” Wright was hoping to get his first Longacres Mile this year with millionaire Alert Bay, the 9-5 favorite, or 8-1 Oh Marvelous Me. But they finished second and third, respectively, while Belvoir won the race with 5-2 second favorite Barkley. Barkley, ridden by Javier Matias, prevailed by 1 1/2 lengths. It was Belvoir’s third Longacres Mile triumph. The trainer previously had won the race in 2008 with 10-1 Wasserman, then again in 2009 with 7-1 Assessment. Belvoir was so thrilled to win a third Longacres Mile that he said after the race that he “might need a parachute to get down.” Not only is Belvoir now a three-time winner of the race, he has sired a Longacres Mile-winning trainer. Vann Belvoir won the 2017 edition with Gold Rush Dancer, becoming the first person to both trainer and ride a Longacres Mile winner. Vann was the winning rider in 1994 on Want a Winner. My pick to win the Longacres Mile was Conquest Windycity. I thought he might get a dream trip racing just off the expected pacesetter, Kaabraaj. I felt that Conquest Windycity might find these rivals to his liking after beating Mind Your Biscuits at Gulfstream Park in February and later facing the likes of Limousine Liberal, Warrior’s Club and Awesome Slew in Kentucky. But a stalking trip for Conquest Windycity in the Longacres Mile went down the drain when he did not break well and stumbled shortly after the start. He found himself trailing through the early stages instead of sitting just off the pace. Conquest Windycity never threatened and finished last in the field of six at 5-1. Conquest Windycity landed at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport from Kentucky not long before a stunt by Richard Russell made national headlines. Russell stole an empty airplane valued in the neighborhood of $32 million Friday evening at Sea-Tac. After Russell reportedly cut off a Delta jet that was taxiing, he took off in an empty Horizon Air turboprop passenger plane that seats 76 and proceeded to go on a joyride in the sky above Puget Sound that lasted for about 75 minutes. After Russell conducted barrel rolls and conversed with air traffic controllers, the plane crashed on an island in Puget Sound. Russell, 29, was killed in the crash. Not long after Conquest Windycity landed at Sea-Tac for the Longacres Mile, the airport was closed. The Los Angeles Times reported that Michael Ehl, Sea-Tac’s director of operations, said 75 flights were delayed, nine flights were diverted to other airports and five flights were canceled due to the incident. As for Barkley, he did not have to travel in order to compete in the Longacres Mile. He makes his summer home at Emerald Downs. In fact, Barkley has never raced anywhere else. All 17 of his career starts have come at Emerald, where he has won nine times. Barkley now joins Washington Racing Hall of Famer Noosa Beach as the only horses in Emerald’s history to win stakes races at ages 2, 3, 4 and 5. Barkley’s final time was 1:34.93. The blazed-faced 5-year-old Kentucky-bred son of Munnings was assigned a 94 Beyer Speed Figure. The Longacres Mile was run at Longacres from 1935-1992, then at Yakima Meadows from 1993-95, then at Emerald Downs from 1996 to 2018. Here are the Beyer Speed Figures recorded by Longacres Mile winners going back to 1992: 2018 Barkley (94) 2017 Gold Rush Dancer (97) 2016 Point Piper (103) 2015 Stryker Phd (99) 2014 Stryker Phd (97) 2013 Herbie D (100) 2012 Taylor Said (98) 2011 Awesome Gem (96) 2010 Noosa Beach (99) 2009 Assessment (94) 2008 Wasserman (90) 2007 The Great Face (91) 2006 Flamethrowintexan (101) 2005 No Giveaway (93) 2004 Adreamisborn (99) 2003 Sky Jack (105) 2002 Sabertooth (96) 2001 Irisheyesareflying (100) 2000 Edneator (104) 1999 Budroyale (106) 1998 Wild Wonder (111) 1997 Kid Katabatic (105) 1996 Isitingood (105) 1995 L.J. Express (94) 1994 Want a Winner (87) 1993 Adventuresome Love (93) 1992 Bolulight (106) THIS WEEK’S NTRA TOP THOROUGHBRED POLL Sistercharlie moved into the Top 10 this week after taking the Beverly D. She now is a three-time Grade I winner in 2018. Rank Points Horse (First-Place Votes) 1. 350 Justify (35) 2. 308 Accelerate (2) 3. 285 Diversify (3) 4. 277 Monomoy Girl 5. 226 Unique Bella 6. 142 Good Magic 7. 135 Mind Your Biscuits 8. 81 Sistercharlie 9. 78 West Coast (1) 10. 63 Bee Jersey
By Al Cimaglia
Back in my days on the exchange floor, traders would make comments after a stock went down an unhealthy 5% or even more. The sarcastic remarks suggested if that type of decline kept up, it wouldn't be long before the shares went to zero. In reality that seldom happened. Although in the corporate world, declining share prices often find a level and bounce but if the selling doesn't relent the end of the company could be near. I'm not saying the ultimate demise for harness racing is coming in the near future, and handle totals are not share prices. But lately with the disturbing reports about declining handles there is an ominous similarity. In Canada, which in my view has the best year-round racing in North America, the handle is down 5.53% between August 14, 2017 and August 14, 2018. There's consolidation in Canada as well as in the U.S. so, some of the decline can be justified because of fewer race dates. But what is most disturbing is the average handle per race is also down 1.84% from last year at this time. Obviously fewer race dates and less money bet per race is not a good combination. It has been reported the Meadowlands handle for 2018 took a nose dive. The card couldn't have been more competitive on Hambletonian Day, yet the on-track handle was down 3%. Including thoroughbreds, the on-track handle was down 9% at the Big M for 2018. There was also a decline on the handle for imported and exported signals. Maybe this down turn says more about the condition of racing in New Jersey rather than the entire United States. Through August 14, the year to year handle in the U.S. according to the USTA is down only fractionally, .29% and the average wagered per race rose 3.8%. Those numbers are a ray of sunshine but the issues at the Meadowlands and in Canada shouldn't be brushed off. Much of the problem centers around politics in New Jersey which may or may not be rectified in the next couple of months. Other jurisdictions nearby have subsidies, larger purses and more horses. Smaller purses lead to less breeding and ultimately a shortage of horses. The lack of horses has led to short fields and many times the races at the Big M aren't competitive. When this happens the betting public in general stays away, and especially the more serious players. What seems to be the case is the poor state of racing at the Meadowlands has led gamblers to go elsewhere with their betting dollars. The numbers in Canada could also be indicating gambling dollars are not finding their way to the track. If that's the case harness racing may not have reached a level low enough to bounce. Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia.
By Brian Nadeau
Friday’s sequence looks like a real bear, which means a potentially big payoff is in the cards, so let’s take a look and get aggressive, especially since the weather might actually cooperate for once. Whereas in the past I’ve put together one caveman ticket on a small-scale budget, I’m now 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. *** Please take note that this analysis is done upwards of 36 hours in advance, so obviously weather, track conditions and especially late scratches can and will have an effect. Please check back around 12pm Friday for an update. *** Race 1: 3up 50k starter-allowance at 5 ½ furlongs on the Mellon turf The opener seems impossible, especially because several in here want to be involved early, and while they are only going 5 ½ furlongs, a meltdown could ensue. The Toscano barn has been very live at the meet and #5 LA MAQUINA GRIS (6-1) should be stalking after running two turns earlier in the meet, and the closing sprint 2nd two-back was sharp, so that gives him a edge here and gets him a very tepid top billing. From there it’s a total guess, as I don’t really know who is going, who is capable of settling and who is going to like the turf, since a few contenders are trying it for the first time. Hopefully the blinkers won’t have #4 WET YOUR WHISTLE (5-2) too keen early, as he stalked and ran a good 4th at the level last time in his turf debut, and with just two starts he has a ton of upside too, which is more than most of these can say, though that ML makes him a big underlay. If he can work out a trip from the rail then #1 SHEKKY SHEBAZ (4-1) makes sense in his turf debut, and Adam Rice isn’t 38% on the year by running horses where they can’t win, so you have to think those PID Tapeta runs have him thinking he fits here. Pk5 A horses (listed in order of preference): 5,4,2 Contention runs deep, so we’ll also use #6 HUBBADAHUBBADABOOM (7-2), who drew a nice outside attack post for Kenneally, who is 32% in turf sprints, though this runner has yet to try turf in seven starts, which leaves me a bit leery. A lack of AM inactivity has me worried about #8 ALL CLEAR (3-1), since he shows just two works since a sharp 2nd in his turf debut 5/26 at Belmont, though he was close to a repeat winner that day and will be pressing throughout. If I was going to the C-level I would include #9 Hello Holiday (8-1), since he has some good back form and Lauer is 4-for-12 off the claim, which helps to alleviate the concerns of the complete no-show last time when in for 40k. Pk5 B horses (listed in order of preference): 6,8 Race 2: 3upfm NYB 100k Saratoga Dew at 1 1/8 miles Is it possible that in a six-horse field going 1 1/8 miles we have a speed duel, and potentially even an intense one? It kind of looks that way, as #1 Frostie Anne (7-5), #3 Verdant Pastures (4-1) and #4 Frosty Margarita (7-2) all want to get involved early, especially the former two. It’s also worth noting that four of the six entered come back on less than 10 days rest, so anything could happen. The gal who doesn’t come off short rest, and got the perfect tightener out of the way last time off a seven-month layoff is #5 LAND MINE (3-1), who was good 2nd over a track and distance she has won at in the past, and her stalking gear should be flattered by all the pace to her inside. I’m getting aggressive and singling her, which is going to allow for a lot more coverage in the other legs. Pk5 A horses: 5 Even though #4 FROSTY MARGARITA is back on 4 days rest after wiring a minor stakes at Finger Lakes Monday, she hits hard since she doesn’t need the lead and this post is perfect, with the two speeds to her inside. It’s impossible to toss her stablemate #1 FROSTIE ANNE, though she looks like she’ll take the worst of it as the inside speed and does come back on 5 days rest after winning an off-the-turfer Sunday. If Verdant Pastures feels like winning she can do so without me, since her recent form has been awful, she’s run just once since December, and though she’s worked huge for this and has 14 ¾-length win over the track and distance, note it was when she walked on the lead in 51 3/5, a half-mile fraction they may beat by 20 lengths today. You could also squeeze #6 Pink Twist (6-1) in, but she’s slow on paper, didn’t look great beating tons lesser last Thursday and will be wide and on the chase the entire way. Pk5 B horses: 4,1 Race 3: 3up NYB 25k MCL at 6 furlongs In what looks like a match race between #5 GIANT BOO BOO (4-5) and #7 WHERESTHEBARBER (5-2), I’m siding with the latter due to post position and price, as he’s the one who will be pressing the favorite the entire way from the outside, and I’m apt to believe the big 2nd last time, as it was his first start with blinkers on a fast track. The former is obviously the horse to beat, but it is worth noting he blew a clear late lead last time and could bounce off such a big figure, though it was his first start off the Jeremiah claim. It’s also worth nothing that anyone on a budget will be singling the 5, as he is the shortest priced favorite in the sequence (even though the tote odds and actual winning chances are a lot closer), which means a win by ‘Barber will play a lot longer than his potential $6.20 win price. Pk5 A horses: 7,5 I’m not using anyone else in here, as not only are they a decided cut below the top-2, but there’s also really no reason to think today will be the day they jump up with a lifetime best. If you are more creative then me, then obviously you’ll be looking at #1 The I Man (8-1) and #3 Shuffling Madness (6-1), but they are fringe C’s at best. Pk5 B horses: NONE Race 4: 3upfm 50k starter-allowance at 1 1/6 miles on the inner turf The last two legs of today’s sequence seem impossible to narrow down, which bodes well for the payoff, though they will obviously be tough to navigate through. In a race that is clearly there for the taking, siding with a longshot who, if nothing else, will be in front as far as she can go isn’t a terrible idea, so I’m putting #1 LA FEE VERTE (15-1) on top off a gate-to-wire win in a sloppy off-the-turfer earlier in the meet (and note she was entered on the grass). Also, it’s not a big sample, but Lukas has two wins first-turf from 15 starters, so it’s not an impossible move for this HOF barn. Obviously I’m spreading deep if I’m taking a 15-1 on top and hoping for chaos, so #3 HOPONTHEBUSGUS (4-1) is a must-use on the stretch back out from this good draw; as is #4 FAST TRACK KATHERN (9-5), who is a huge underlay on the rise at this ML but sure comes in the right way off a fast win against lesser and could even improve off the Nevin claim. I’m also using (maybe reaching?) with #6 CODRINGTON (6-1) and #9 HOPE’S ROAR (7-2), since they didn’t fire over yielding ground last time when 7th and 6th, respectively, but have solid prior form on firm ground that puts them in the mix here. The former is especially appealing since he will (hopefully) make his first start off the claim for Maker on firm turf. Pk5 A horses: 1,3,4,6,9 There will be no B’s here, since I either have the winner in my 5-pack or I don’t. If the turf comes up yielding then #8 Questeq (8-1) comes into play, as she was 2nd, ahead of Hope’s Roar and Codrington two-back, but her form on firmer turf won’t get her a sniff with these. The wildcard is #7 Diamond Jen Brady (6-1), who could press ‘Verte on the stretchout from dirt sprints, but Hennig is 0-for-27 first-turf, so in that stat we trust. Pk5 B horses: NONE Race 5: 2yof NYB MSW at 6 furlongs The real fun begins in the last leg, as you could make a legitimate case for most, if not all, of the 10 entered. That’s not happening in this space here, at least on the A-line, so we will need to simply hope to survive what looks like a real crapshoot. Where to start? There is a lot of pedigree players here, with #1 COZZY’S POSSE (8-1), who is a half to stakes-placed Cozzy Spring; #4 KADENS COURAGE (5-1), a full to multiple stakes winner Loki’s Vengeance; and #8 Awesome Adversary (20-1), a half to stakes winner Carameaway. I’ll use the two former runners, as well as #6 THE GRAND CANAL (7-2), who was a distant 2nd on debut for Rice, who is 29% with second-out maidens. The last of the A’s is #10 BUSTIN HOFFMAN (8-1), who invades from Laurel for Figgins, who is 18% with firsters and one of the sharper Midatlantic barns out there. Pk5 A horses: 4,1,6,10 Awesome Adversary gets the first B slot and is followed by #3 KOSCIUSZKO (10-1), who has a slew of bullets for a crafty Quick barn, and #9 STEAM ENGINE (9-2), a Cox firster with modest works, though that 7/7 bullet at Ellis may be the one to concentrate on. The last two are #5 FROSTED ICE (6-1), who took a hint of money on debut then ran evenly after a slow start, and #2 ICEY CASH (6-1), who lures Castellano for a low-percentage Schettino barn with a bullet 5F work showing, from the gate too, so that’s enough to include him as well. Pk5 B horses: 8,3,9,5,2 We’ll take a big swing here on a sequence I like a lot; the main A ticket is 3x1x2x5x4 for $60, 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 allow for some added coverage without breaking the bank; if we played both the A’s and the B’s together, the ticket (5x3x2x5x9) would cost a robust $675, which essentially makes the stronger opinions the same as the weaker ones, whereas this is a much more reasonable $295. I’m also an advocate of playing you’re A ticket for $1 (or more), so you capitalize if you handicap it out of the park. My Tickets Main Ticket: 5,4,2 with 5 with 7,5 with 1,3,4,6,9 with 4,1,6,10 = $60 R1 B Backup: 6,8 with 5 with 7,5 with 1,3,4,6,9 with 4,1,6,10 = $40 R2 B Backup: 5,4,2 with 4,1 with 7,5 with 1,3,4,6,9 with 4,1,6,10 = $120 R5 B Backup: 5,4,2 with 5 with 7,5 with 1,3,4,6,9 with 8,3,9,5,2 = $75