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6.24.2019:

Harness Highlights: 'Classic' Trot Brewing at Northfield

What do you get when a Triple Crown winner, Hambletonian champion, two-time Breeders Crown winner, 4-year-old millionaire mare and two others riding multiple-race winning streaks unite? A ‘Classic’ for sure, or to be specific the $175,000 Cleveland Trotting Classic this Saturday at Northfield Park. Defending champ Marion Marauder, with a $3.1 million bankroll and 2016 Triple Crown on his resume, headlines the list of probable entries at the Tuesday draw. But he will need his A-game to fend off: Pinkman, the 2015 Hambletonian winner and $2.5 million earner; Emoticon Hanover, who trotted to back-to-back Crown victories in 2017-18; Homicide Hunter, who blazed to a world-record 1:48.4 victory last year; Musical Rhythm, a winner of six consecutive races; and multiple stakes winner Guardian Angel AS, fresh off a three-peat in the $100,000 Maxie Lee Invitational at Harrah’s Philadelphia. First race post time Saturday is 6 p.m. The under-card features multiple divisions of the Ohio Sires Stakes for 3-year-old colt pacers and the finals of Northfield Park’s Spring Late Closers series. SUN STAKES SATURDAY AT POCONO More than $2 million will be on the line when the starting gate swings open on Sun Stakes Saturday at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. If last weekend’s eliminations are an indication, it could prove one of the most memorable racing nights of the year. Western Fame carried his blinding speed to a 1:48.1 victory in the Ben Franklin prelims but, not to be outdone, Lather Up upset reigning Horse of the Year McWicked in 1:50.1 in the other elimination at the 5/8-mile oval. Trainer Marcus Melander sent out Greenshoe and Green Manalish S to victories in the Earl Beal Memorial Trot eliminations, and trainer Tony Alagna did the same with Tall Drink Hanover and Odds On St Lucie in the James Lynch Memorial prelims. Proof paced in 1:48.1, slightly faster than fellow Max Hempt Memorial elimination winners Captain Victorious and American 

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6.24.2019:

Monday, June 24: Woodbine Mohawk Park Early Pick 4 Analysis

The featured players on the 10-race Woodbine Mohawk Park card are 3-year-old colts and gelding trotters competing in two divisions of OSS-Gold action. The 0.20 Early Pick 4 sequence with a $50,000 guaranteed pool starts as usual in Race 4 and will be my focus. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Race 4 1-Officer Jones-Regular pilot is back and that could help if slow starter can avoid gaping at the start. 2-Racemup-3-1 chalk in a race most don't like to win, will include and spread out in this leg. 4-My Sterling Mafia-3rd start for new barn, draws better and should be in the mix at a square price. 5-Kwik Talkin-Beaten chalk drops and has no excuses in this spot but is only 2 for 22. 8-Pro Beach-Steps-up and is also camera shy. Does have the gate speed to get on the engine and not look back. Race 5 4-Dunbar Hall-Comes off 2nd win of a rough year, steps-up but the upswing could continue versus this crew. 7-PL Jill-Musical Rythm and other tough customers aren't around, and this is a spot to shine with a top effort. Race 6 2-Southwind Avenger-Did well in the Good Times, and 8/5 ML chalk should handle these. 7-Only For Justice-Should also like the company and could be forwardly placed, will use just in case chalk falters. Race 7 2-Foot Soldier-Inside post draw should keep beaten favorite in the hunt to the wire. 3-Sports Teen-Comes off a good try, now makes 4th start for new barn, Filion should keep close and try to roll by late. 4-Shades Of Bay-1-16 isn't inspiring but finds a soft spot, ML chalk should have no excuse with a clean trip. 5-Osiris Blue Chip-5-year-old has won 5 times in '19, versus this bunch that puts him in the mix for Drury-Auciello. My Ticket Race 4) 1,2,4,5,8 Race 5) 4,7 Race 6) 2,7 Race 7) 2,3,4,5 Total Ticket Cost) $16 for $0.20Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia

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6.24.2019:

Patience Can Be a Player's Best Friend

I spent a week away from work in the past seven days, something called a ‘vacation.’ What a rare and interesting concept this vacation. Zero racing peeks online, on social media or television … couldn’t tell you a single horse from Royal Ascot and didn’t read about the Jerry Hollendorfer situation until Monday morning. I also avoided all email (500-plus to sort, yippee) as well as watching or reading an ounce of national news, going on a cable news cleanse of sorts. What happened since last Monday? I had not an inkling.  Turns out, you miss a lot being out a week. But you gain a lot, too.  I highly recommend disconnecting from the world for at least a little while. Jump in the pool. Take a long walk or hike. Play some tennis or shoot some hoops. Shop and dine until the wallet screams “mercy!” Whatever takes you away, go there and stay for a bit. Don’t give in to the temptation of who’s hot at Belmont, or what some knucklehead is boasting about on Twitter. Push away and know that it will all come back to you … in a hurry.  It took less than an hour Monday morning for the sobering reality to hit. Jerry Hollendorfer has been ruled off at Santa Anita and Golden Gate, but welcomed by NYRA. John Velazquez was suspended 9 days for whip infractions at Royal Ascot that will be enforced by NYRA. Trainer Steve Asmussen now faces repeat New York state charges for labor violations.  And these were just the current Hall of Famers making negative news ... much less the fact I read we almost went to war with Iran during my respite.  Yes, a lot happens in a week. It obviously doesn’t take much to get back into the swing of what you missed in the headlines. They can quickly dampen your enthusiasm.  As for getting back to the business (or pleasure) of betting, that’s also like riding a bicycle. You didn’t lose your skills in a week’s time. In fact, you might come back to the action a more patient player and see things from a more relaxed perspective.  Nothing stops a horseplayer like impatience. Over-doing it when you’re winning. Over-doing it when you’re chasing. Over-doing it when you’re simply bored and wanting action. Your first best friend at the track is a mentor who can teach you the handicapping and wagering ropes. Your best friend from that point forward is patience.  Getting away for a week … and truly staying away … takes discipline and patience, and trust in others when in a position of leadership. But I’m very glad that I did it. The rewards you get from that are obvious in the moment, a clearer mind and happiness, and perhaps they can project forward upon your return to the bustle.  Enjoy your summer at the races and beyond! 

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6.23.2019:

Al Cimaglia, June 23: Hawthorne Late Pick 4 Analysis

Hawthorne Racecourse has an 11-race card scheduled to wrap-up the weekend. The headliner for betting purposes is the 0.50 Late Pick 4. That sequence begins in Race 8, it has a $30,000 guaranteed pool and will be my focus. The driver with the hottest hands on Saturday night was Kyle Wilfong with five wins on the 14-race card. Terry Leonard led conditioners with two trips to the winner's circle. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Race 8 2-Heidi High-Driver change helps and could get the pocket trip behind #9, should benefit from a cleaner trip. 9-Louzotic-Has ruled this class but hasn't had a bad post draw in a long time, have to respect but won't single. Race 9 5-Are You Terry-Better post draw, drops and I like the driver change to Wilfong, will take a swing at 9-1 in the ML. 7-Over Speeding-Comes off an easy win, steps-up and trip may not be as good, but still will respect Team Leonard. 8-Unbroken Circle-Won 1st off a claim like a good horse, loses Leonard but gets Bates, using, looks like a player. Race 10 4-Frontier Ginger-Sheds the 9-hole, drops to a better spot, Husted's choice over the #2 could be posing. 8-My Uptowne Girl-Won at this class last week after skipping a start, loses the rail but offers value at 25-1 in the ML. 9-Finleys Filly-ML chalk came off the bench with a good effort and Leonard trainee should be tighter tonight. Race 11 2-Sports Analyst-Can beat this field with the right trip, needs to avoid a very sluggish start. 7-Waymore-Razor sharp winner of 2 straight deserves respect, but from this post will play but use 2 others as well. 8-Youmakemyheartsing-Tries hard, fits but needs the right trip, can take a picture with live cover and a good steer. My Ticket Race 8) 2,9 Race 9) 5,7,8 Race 10) 4,8,9 Race 11) 2,7,8 Total Ticket Cost) $27 for $0.50Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia

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6.22.2019:

Saturday, June 22: Meadowlands Pick 4 Analysis

There is a 13-race card scheduled to roll at the Meadowlands this evening. The feature comes in Race 10, a condition pace with a $25,000 purse. The 0.50 Pick 4 sequence starts in Race 8, it has a $50,000 guaranteed pool and it will be my focus. On Friday, the drivers with the hottest hands at the Big M were Dave Miller and Yanick Gingras with two pictures each. The trainers with the most wins were Ake Svanstedt and Ron Burke, both with two trips to the winner's circle. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Race 8 3-Bravo Tex N-Positive driver change, Miller should keep in striking range, and that could trigger 1st win of 2019. 8-JK Parlay-Big try in last and had missed a start, could be better tonight and take a picture with a good steer. 10-Shneonucrzydiamnd A-Post is a concern but drops and is 2nd time Lasix, last was better, upswing may continue. Race 9 5-Tie Your Shoe Ed-Needs to find some live cover, if so, should be right there at the wire. 6-Tact Tate N-Similar to #5 and loses A. Miller, gets class relief and fits better with this group. 7-Mike's Powerhouse-Needs to finish off a mile but may blast out and get on the engine without much strain. 10-Sams A Champ A-Has some gate speed to get a good seat, this is a soft spot for hot barn. Race 10 4-Sweet Rock-Really has no excuse versus this crew but is trip dependent, so will use and look to beat the chalk. 5-Sagebrush Kid-Loses Callahan but Kirby knows well, steps-up but is in sharp form. 6-Incredible Shark-Should be able to leave and find a close-up trip, in the hunt with a good drive. Race 11 1-Super Feeekeh-A hodgepodge race and from the inside this guy should be put in play. 3-Byby Landon-Having a tough year but with this post draw could get on the engine and not look back. 4-David The Saint-Fresh horse, qualified well, if ready in 1st start since 4/20 will be in the mix with a suspect field. My Ticket Race 8) 3,8,10 Race 9) 5,6,7,10 Race 10) 4,5,6 Race 11) 1,3,4 Total Ticket Cost) $54 for $0.50Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia

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6.22.2019:

Dream of Summer Highlights Enticing Santa Anita Pick 5

The Dream of Summer Stakes is the highlight of the Saturday card on closing weekend at Santa Anita and is right in the center of good-looking Pick Five to start the day. With the 50-cent increments, you can add a lot of numbers, but if get carried away, you will realize how quickly math can work against you. They add up in a hurry, so it helps to have a couple of races you can whittle down to a single or a pair. The first two and fourth races appear to require the most numbers, while the Dream of Summer (third race) and the fifth look more attractive with fewer checkmarks. Starr of Quality is the odds-on favorite in the Dream of Summer, a mile challenge for California-breds. She backed out of the Grade 2 Santa Margarita. She’s mostly in open races against optional allowance company and rarely hasn’t jumped into the state waters much. In May 2018 she throttled restricted allowance fillies and mares and hasn’t seen them since. A drop back to Cal-breds will make her the one to beat. Coco Kisses also is worthy of inclusion. She failed in open company and a pair of bad efforts on turf her only blemishes. Posterize and Wild Bean are strong entrants in the fifth and final of the sequence. Posterize is favorably placed in a state-bred sprint. It took him six times to break his maiden but his victory was in such easy fashion that a repeat effort would be plenty of enough for the win this time around. Wild Bean beat open company and is a big player in this restricted test. My Ticket Race 1) #2 D K’s Crown, #4 Bobs Blues Man, #5 Clear to Close.  Race 2) #1 Believe Indeed, #5 Zuzanna, #7 An Eddie Surprise.  Race 3) #2 Starr of Quality, #4 Coco Kisses.  Race 4) #1 Holy Ghost, #8 Fortune of War, #9 Mr. Magico.  Race 5) #2 Posterize, #5 Wild Bean. Total Ticket Cost) = $54 for $0.50

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6.21.2019:

Friday, June 21: Can-Am Pick 4 Analysis

It's another Friday night Can-Am Pick 4, and a competitive sequence it is. The opening leg rolls at Woodbine Mohawk Park in Race 10 and it concludes in Race 11 at the Meadowlands. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Race 10-Mohawk Park-Leg 1 3-Shower Play-May need a start but some in this group are reaching too high in this class, that's not the case here. 6-Alexis Faith-Loses McClure but should like the company, if JMac works a trip it could be picture time. 8-American Sara-Racing well since joining the Boyd barn, Filion can work a trip and fly down the lane. Race 10-Meadowlands-Legs 2 4-Ice Attraction-Gets class relief and could be sitting on a big try in 4th start of year, best to respect at 8-1 in the ML. 5-Two AM-Been off since 5/31, but is a player at this class if dialed on high for team Buter. 6-Pappy Go Go-Another facing easier, ML chalk looks the part and Tetrick should have in striking range. 7-Yes Mickey-Has been facing tough customers and Dunn is back, last time aboard almost won a Pref Hcp on 5/24. Race 11-Mohawk Park-Leg 3 3-Sandbetweenurtoes-Classy mare doesn't win as often, but draws well, gets McNair and this is a spot to shine. 7-Sunday Afternoon-May blast out and if crosses over behind #3 chances for success at a square price go up. Race 11-Meadowlands-Leg 4 2-Givemeyourheart-Camera shy, has trouble finishing but this is a soft spot and may have found a beatable field. 3-Fox Valley Hermia-Comes off a flat effort after starting slow, McCarthy can provide a more aggressive steer tonight. 4-Our Els Dream N-Blasted out from 9-hole on a dead track last time here, this post draw may make a big difference. 5-Anotherprettyface-Will need best but barn has been going well, if Zeron keeps close can roll by late. My Ticket Race 10 Mohawk) 3,6,8 Race 10 Meadowlands) 4,5,6,7 Race 11 Mohawk) 3,7 Race 11 Meadowlands) 2,3,4,5 Total Ticket Cost) $19.20 for $0.20Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia

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6.20.2019:

When Sophs Tumble

Both 2019 Kentucky Derby winners—Country House and Maximum Security--and the 151st Belmont Stakes victor—Sir Winston--hit rough patches this week. Country House, who originally finished second in the Derby but was elevated to first via disqualification, has been shelved for the rest of the year. Sidelined by an illness following the Derby, he hasn’t raced since and won’t for a while. The son of Lookin At Lucky had just returned to serious training when conditioner Bill Mott decided to pull the plug on the remainder of a 2019 campaign. No detailed explanation was given except that, according to Mott, the colt required a vacation. And not just your usual summer, two-week, pack-the-kids-in-the-car-and-head-for-the-beach kind. ‘House will get at least six months of R &R. Sunday, Maximum Security returned from a post-Derby vacation and competed at Monmouth Park. He was a 1-20 favorite against five foes and figured an absolute cinch to win. Then something funny happened: the gates opened, and Maximum Security stumbled to his knees. He quickly recovered, however, and by the first turn had assumed his usual position in front of the field. He was dogged outside by King for a Day and, early on the far turn when jockey Luis Saez began to scrub on the favorite like a washerwoman would a stubborn stain, those 1-20 odds looked as though the numbers should be reversed. Determinedly, Maximum Security kept trying, but King for a Day wore him down to earn the win. The name of that race was Pegasus, contested in Oceanport, NJ. That’s not to be confused with the event of a similar appellation renewed annually in Hallandale Beach, FL. The latter boasts several more zeroes in purse value and features a nearby iconic icon statue. Sunday’s spot was chosen to serve as a Haskell Stakes tune-up for Maximum Security; as a sparring session of sorts. A paid workout. A day at the beach. Apparently, one competitor didn’t receive the email; didn’t hear that he wasn’t supposed to win. King for a Day emerged a tiger instead of a tomato can. He took Maximum Security’s punch in mid-stretch, shook it off like a sneeze, and countered with a knockout blow to win by a length. Of course, once Pegasus dust had settled, it quickly was replaced airborne by alibis. Many of those blamed the stumbling start as catalyst for defeat. It wasn’t the only culprit. While the slip certainly didn’t help the asterisk-wearing Kentucky Derby winner, it wasn’t the main reason he lost Sunday. What really kept Maximum Security from finishing first for the sixth consecutive time in as many starts was a combination of factors. Mainly, give credit for that to King for a Day. After winning the Sir Barton at Pimlico on the Preakness undercard he was ‘ready for his closeup,’ Mr. Pletcher. The Pegasus is the second stakes win and third triumph out of five starts for the developing son of Uncle Mo. He’s steadily improved for owners Red Oak Stable and presumably has more in the tank. On the other hand, Maximum Security clearly was not at his best for the race. Sidelined since the Kentucky Derby, where he gave all in repelling a wave of challengers in the final quarter, he had registered just two works since May 4—a May 22, four-furlong leg-stretcher in :53 4/5 and a three-furlong blowout in 37, both at Monmouth. Do the math. That’s 24 days between breezes and just two works in 43 days! Plus, about a week before the race, trainer Jason Servis, who wins races like Babe Ruth hit home runs, was so concerned about Maximum Security’s health that he sent a sample of the colt’s blood to a lab for analysis. Now, for my money, before a race it’s never good to have your blood outside of your body unless, of course, you’re Lance Armstrong. Don’t know exactly what the immediate future holds for Maximum Security, but connections didn’t seem overly concerned with the results. “It stinks getting beat,” said trainer Jason Servis, while philosophically waxing, “but that’s horse racing.” Servis added, “I think the stumble cost me the race. I think his next race will be better.” That ‘next race’ probably will be the Haskell at Monmouth. Wednesday of this week, according to a report originally released by Daily Racing Form, Belmont Stakes hero Sir Winston was ruled out of action because of a slight ankle injury. Ironically, trainer Mark Casse suggested that the Pegasus—the one in Florida, not the one in New Jersey—could be a suitable long-range target. Out west, another sophomore favorite took it on the chin in the Grade 3 Affirmed at Santa Anita. Named after the 1978 Triple Crown winner, the mile and one-sixteenth event for 3-year-olds attracted a small field of just six runners. Morning-line and starting favorite was Santa Anita Derby winner and Kentucky Derby also-ran Roadster. Second choice was Mucho Gusto, a multiple Grade 3-winning colt who eats and sleeps just down the shedrow from Roadster in the Bob Baffert barn. Fresh off a wire-to-wire score in the recent seven-furlong Laz Barrera stakes, Mucho Gusto had a recency edge over Roadster and an early-speed advantage, too. While wide he stalked the Affirmed pace, moved to the lead in the lane and won comfortably. Fittingly, Mucho Gusto completed the Laz Barrera/Affirmed Stakes parlay—Barrera famously trained Affirmed. Roadster, also a bit wide while finishing second in the race, again proved he’s a grinder that probably needs more ground for his best. Off since the Kentucky Derby, the race ought to serve him well in the conditioning department. Perhaps the Travers is in his future. There’s a good chance that several sophomores mentioned above—at least the ones still racing--will clash in the Haskell Stakes at Monmouth. Seems a logical spot for Maximum Security and King for a Day. Baffert already has suggested that ‘The Shore’s Greatest Stretch’ is a likely late-July destination for Mucho Gusto. Overall, the 3-year-old picture seems as muddled as it was in March. The divisional crown is up for grabs and two out of four Triple Crown race winners won’t be around to dispute it. So, where does that leave us? Disappointed? Frustrated? Unimpressed? Maybe. If so, hang in there. Usually, when sophs stumble, one soon emerges to save the day. Stay tuned! Race On! 

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6.20.2019:

Royal Ascot Continues Through Saturday – Free Picks + 10% Exacta Bonus

Xpressbet customers have spent the last three days enjoying the pageantry and quality racing of Royal Ascot and we’ve tuned in at 9:30AM ET to watch the world’s best horses compete in races named for kings and queens.  If you’ve been playing along, you know exactly what we’re talking about.  There’s nothing like having money on a 20-plus horse cavalcade down the straight at Ascot.  Payouts have been strong and winning performances by horses like Crystal Ocean, Arizona and others are the types of efforts the racing world won’t soon forget. If you haven’t played Royal Ascot yet, we’ve got good news for you – there are two more days to do so.  Friday and Saturday’s cards are loaded with group stakes races and recognizable horses like Bound for Nowhere, Ten Sovereigns, Blue Point, Japan, Masar and Southern France. And at Xpressbet, we’ve got an offer going on that we’re pretty excited about.  We’re giving our customers a 10% Bonus on their Exacta winnings, up to $100 a day.  That means, if you play your cards right, you can earn up to $200 in cash over the next two days at Royal Ascot.  Not too shabby, right?  And the best part is all you have to do to play is Log In to your account and register for free for the promotion. Here are four horses I’ll be betting over the next two days.  Who do you like?  Be sure to follow Xpressbet on Twitter for Royal Ascot updates every morning.  Friday, June 21 If you’re looking for the ‘smart’ bets on Friday, look no further than the combination of trainer Aidan O’Brien and jockey Ryan Moore, as they represent the favorites in Race 2 with Japan (6/5), Race 3 with Ten Sovereigns (6/5) and Race 4 with Hermosa (1/1).  All three horses stand a massive chance to win their respective races.  The only downside…value will be very difficult to find if those horses deliver.  Here are a few other horses I’m focused on: Race 1 (9:30AM ET) – Albany Stakes (Group 3) - #25 Silent Wave (20/1) Wesley Ward was denied his Royal Ascot glory on Tuesday as Kimari was beaten a head in the Group 2 Queen Mary Stakes and, despite having two representatives here, I think his run of near misses will continue.  Ward sends out a pair of Keeneland maiden winners, Chili Petin (5/1) and Nayibeth (4/1) but both fillies are making their turf debuts and have been forced to acclimate to a new environment.  Godolphin’s Silent Wave (12/1) was well backed and impressive when she broke her maiden at Goodwood at short odds and she’s a daughter of one of the world’s premier stallions, War Front.   It’s always tough to handicap races with a bunch of inexperienced horses but you’ve got to trust Charlie Appleby and James Doyle…they know how to win events at racing’s highest level.  Race 6 (12:35PM ET) – Duke of Edinburgh Stakes - #3 Baghdad (5/1) There’s always value to be found in a 19-horse field, so I’m not ashamed to pick the favorite.  Baghdad won the King George V Stakes last summer at the Royal Ascot meet and is in strong form, entering off a victory at Newmarket last out.  Plus, he’s ridden by Ryan Moore – always a positive – and he has not lost a turf race in three tries dating back to October 2017.  Saturday, June 22 The biggest storyline for Saturday’s Closing Day card is Blue Point’s attempt at a Royal Ascot Group 1 Double.  He won the King’s Stand Stakes on Tuesday and comes back in today’s Diamond Jubilee on just four days’ rest.  That’s a lot to ask, but he clearly likes Ascot and is in peak form.  Race 4 (11:20AM ET) – Diamond Jubilee Stakes (Group 1) - #3 City Light (7/1) As a racing fan, you’d love to see Blue Point win this race – but as a bettor, you have to stand against him.  I was going to bet Inns of Court in here but he was declared out. That lands me on City Light, who was beaten just 1/2-length by Inns of Court last out in France.  City Light came within a head of winning this race in 2018 and seems poised to get his revenge this time around.  US invader Bound for Nowhere was done no favors by the result of the King’s Stand, with Imprimis being a non-factor.  Race 6 (12:35PM ET) – Queen Alexandra Stakes – #2 Corelli (5/1) This has been an extraordinary meet for Frankie Dettori and his last chance for victory comes with Corelli in the Queen Alexandra.  He was beaten just 1/2-length by my Duke of Edinburgh choice Baghdad in his latest race at Newmarket and I guess I’m keying on that to be a key event.  Corelli, a son of Point of Entry, has won 3-of-6 career starts and should relish the extended trip.  And for as well as Frankie is riding, any choice against him would almost be a mistake. 

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6.19.2019:

Weekly Bankroll Builder: June 21 Stronach 5 Play

We’re back to battle with the Stronach 5, while hoping the weather cooperates after hitting all the turf races last week, only to see one of the other legs get washed off. 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: Laurel Park R9 (5:22 ET) – 3up 16k Starter Handicap at 1-mile (turf) Don’t be surprised if, in this space next week, we’re talking about a big carryover, as this is a sequence that looks next to impossible, as it’s full of depth and evenly matched fields. And because of that, we’ll have to be aggressive in a few races, since the bankroll simply won’t be able to cover everyone I’d like (which is also a ringing endorsement for the A/B type of play). Speaking of being aggressive, I’ll waste little time doing so in the opener, as #1 FLOWMOTION looks like a standout in a field where everyone else looks the same, and any of those GP runs would win this, and do so relatively comfortably. Pk5 A horses: 1 We could use any number of backups, and that makes the ticket expensive, so we’ll have to cut down later in the sequence with a few of the A-level contenders, since I do want some coverage here. It starts with the outside runners, #10 HIGH NOON RIDER and #11 SIR BRAHMS, since they have been in solid form of late, and if ‘Flow regresses for whatever reason, they’ll be there to take advantage. I don’t really know what to make of #5 DOTHAT DANCE, who upset ‘Rider last time for fun off the Schoenthal claim at 30-1 but was way behind him and ‘Sir two-back, but that win was so powerful, and he could again get a soft turf course, so I’ll use him, while admittedly not expecting much. Pk5 B horses: 10,11,5 Leg 2: Gulfstream Park R9 (5:28 ET) – 3upfm 40k MCL at 1-mile (turf) Things get more difficult here, so I’ll spread and go four-deep, with #2 RASBERRY BALLET, who figures to hit hard on the MSW drop; #6 SISTER GEMA, the best of the proven runners at the level; #9 ANUMATI, another MSW dropper, though this terrible draw won’t help; and also #3 UNCOMMON FACTOR, who really improved off the Kurtinecz claim last time, with a bunch of trouble to boot. (Also, if #13 SHE FLED THE SCENE draws in, she’s a must-use A, horrific draw and all.) Pk5 A horses (listed in order of preference): 2,6,9,3 (Please note that to keep the cost of the backup tickets down involving the 10,11,5 in Leg 1, I’m only using the 2 and 6 in this leg and the 1 in the final leg.) There’s a lot going on with #11 LA INCONDICIONAL, since she drops from the MSW ranks, adds blinkers and Lasix, and that turf debut might win this, though this poor draw makes it impossible to put her on the A-line. Pk5 B horses: 11 Leg 3: Laurel Park R10 (5:55 ET) –3upfm 16k MCL at 5 1/2 furlongs (turf) When I’m taking an 0-for-10 runner on top you know the field is weak, and that’s the case here, as #3 KITTEN’S FRIEND, who has had her fair of chances, simply looks a lot better than a field where there are several who simply can’t win, and it’s also worth nothing she’s only 0-for-4 on turf, and that April 4th against better is going to win this. I’ll also use #7 BURAK, who seems like the only other with any hope, and the drop and cutback off a very troubled 7th last time should agree with her. (If #11 THAT’STHEWAYTODOIT draws in she goes to the top of the list, since her turf runs make her the filly to beat, wide post and all.) Pk5 A horses: 3,7 It’s tough to really get interested in anyone else here, so I’m going to go it alone with the top pair and hope to get through. If you’re looking for more coverage then #4 Broadway Trouper, #6 Queens or Better, and #10 Bodhicitta all have a bit of form and aren’t impossible with some improvement. Pk5 B horses: Leg 4: Santa Anita R5 (6:12 ET) – 3up AOC (40k/N1X) at 5 furlongs (turf) I’ve been relatively condensed early, which was the plan since this is one of the more inscrutable legs, and I want as much coverage as possible. I think we can split the field a bit into those who want to be involved early and those who can settle and come from somewhat off the pace, and there’s enough of the former to think the speed comes back here and lands in the lap of the latter. I’ll go outside the box with my top pick, #1 VERY VERY STELLA, who hasn’t been on the turf in ages but immediately goes there off the O’Neill claim, and that’s a 35% angle, so the fact he’s on the grass is significant, especially since he can stalk and has some recent two-turn dirt foundation. Both #8 NORTH COUNTRY GUY and #9 ERI THE TROJAN also have stalking gears and proven recent turf form, so they make the top line too, as does #3 THE RULE OF KING’S, who should offer some value since he’s been running on dirt of late, but has a fast-figure turf stakes 7th last summer at Del Mar. Pk5 A horses: 1,8,9,3 I’m going to use who I think is the best of the speed, and that’s #7 MORGAN S., as he’s drawn outside his two main pace rivals, and enters off a win, though dueling and lasting won’t be easy. Lastly, I’ll toss in #5 REGAL BORN, since he fits the race flow profile and had some solid turf form from last summer to fall back on. Pk5 B horses: 7,5 (Please note that to keep the cost of the backup tickets down, I’m only using the 1 in the last leg.) Leg 5: Gulfstream Park R9 (6:34 ET) – 3upfm 20k MCL at 5 furlongs (turf) The rail is no bargin but #1 HANNAH’S STORM’S two turf races—against MSW foes—would beat this field handily, so she’s going to hit hard on the drop, and if you’re on a very slim budget, you could do worse than singling her in the finale. However, I’d like at least a bit more coverage, especially since #5 RUN TIZ RUN really outran her odds (67-1) on debut, when she chased early and held to finish a lose 6th, and off that tightener she should be able to improve and potentially surprise at overlaid odds. The one who could attract the most upset speculation is #6 PEACEFULLY, since she was bet down to 8-5 on debut but had a rough go of it on the rail and didn’t fire when 9th behind ‘Run, though now she goes off the Vitali claim (18%) and drew much better. Pk5 A horses: 1,5,6 (Please note that for the backup tickets involving the 10,11,5 in Leg 1, I’m only using the 1 in this leg.) I guess I have to use #9 NY BETH GETSITDONE, since she was a close 2nd last time, while ahead of ‘Run and Peacefully, but she’s also 0-for-10 with no upside and a wide draw, so let’s limit her use to underneath only. You can use others here, most notably #4 Little Bella and #8 Chaos Rising, but the former goes for an ice-cold Vaccarreza barn that is 0-for-25 with firsters, and the latter didn’t fire off the trainer switch, so neither seems worthy of making the cut. Pk5 B horses: 9 The tickets: Main Ticket: 1 with 2,6,9,3 with 3,7 with 1,8,9,3 with 1,5,6 = $64Leg 1 B Backup: 10,11,5 with 2,6 with 3,7 with 1,8,9,3 with 1 = $48Leg 2 B Backup: 1 with 11 with 3,7 with 1,8,9,3 with 1,5,6 = $24Leg 4 B Backup: 1 with 2,6,9,3 with 3,7 with 7,5 with 1,5,6 = $48Leg 5 B Backup: 1 with 2,6,9,3 with 3,7 with 1,8,9, with 1 = $24

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6.19.2019:

Maximum Security Ambushed at Jersey Shore

King for a Day ruled the day when he managed to topple overwhelming 1-20 favorite Maximum Security in last Sunday’s 1 1/16-mile Pegasus Stakes at Monmouth Park. When I was a guest with Joe Withee and Rob Rao last Sunday morning on the Win Place Show, a radio program heard on Seattle’s KJR-AM, I issued a warning to the listening audience. I said to watch out for King for a Day in the Pegasus. I had heard through the grapevine last fall that trainer Todd Pletcher was very high on King for a Day. That was just before the Kentucky-bred Uncle Mo colt ran in the Grade II Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill Downs on Nov. 24. A reliable source told me back then that Pletcher considered King for a Day to be one of his best 2-year-old colts, maybe even his best chance for the Kentucky Derby. King for a Day finished fourth in the 1 1/16-mile Kentucky Jockey Club. He lost by two lengths at odds of 9-2. He then went on the shelf. He didn’t race again until May 18. On May 18, King for a Day came off the bench and won the 1 1/16-mile Sir Barton Stakes by 2 1/2 lengths as a 2-5 favorite. He employed the Sir Barton as a useful springboard to last Sunday’s Pegasus. Trained by Jason Servis, Maximum Security went into the Pegasus having crossed the finish line first in all five of his career starts. The colt’s only defeat had come at the hands of the stewards in a controversial renewal of the Grade I Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on May 4. After Maximum Security prevailed by 1 3/4 lengths in the 1 1/4-mile classic, he was disqualified and placed 17th for committing a foul when he veered out sharply nearing the five-sixteenths marker to cause interference to War of Will, Bodexpress and Long Range Toddy. It was the first time in the 145-year history of the Kentucky Derby that a winner was disqualified for an incident during the running of the race. Prior to the Run for the Roses, Maximum Security had reeled off four straight victories at Gulfstream Park by a combined 38 lengths from Dec. 20 to March 30. When Maximum Security won the Grade I Xpressbet Florida Derby by 3 1/2 lengths at 1 1/8 miles on March 30, it served notice that he might prove a tough customer next time out in the Kentucky Derby. Though Maximum Security stumbled at the start in the Pegasus, he recovered quickly to seize the early lead. However, he never could shake away from King for a Day. Indeed, King for a Day continually hounded Maximum Security all the way to the top of the lane. For a moment in upper stretch, it appeared that Maximum Security was going to edge away from King for a Day. But King for a Day just would not go away. When asked in the final furlong, King for a Day flexed his muscles to get the job done by one length at 5-1 in the wagering. Maximum Security had to settle for second while finishing well clear of the others in the field of six. Direct Order, a 33-1 longshot, ended up third, nearly six lengths behind Maximum Security. Ridden by Joe Bravo, King for a Day clocked in at 1:42.59. He was credited with a career-best 102 Beyer Speed Figure. His previous top Beyer was the 85 he recorded in the Sir Barton. Maximum Security emerged from the Pegasus none the worse for wear. “He scoped good and cleaned up his feed tub last night,” Servis said to the BloodHorse’s Bob Ehalt the day after the race. “The [stumble at the] break definitely compromised us. I saw that he got a 100 Beyer Speed Figure, which means he has triple-digit Beyers in his last four races, which is pretty good for a 3-year-old.” Monmouth’s Grade I Haskell Invitational on July 20 is next up for Maximum Security. MUCHO GUSTO COULD HAVE BIG SAY IN HASKELL In light of Mucho Gusto’s sparkling victory in last Sunday’s Grade III Affirmed Stakes at Santa Anita, he might prove a very tough customer in the 1 1/8-mile Haskell, which is likely to be his next race, according to Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert. With Joe Talamo in the saddle, Mucho Gusto rated beautifully when fourth early in the Affirmed while racing wide. The Kentucky-bred colt moved up readily to take command entering the stretch and went on to win by 2 1/4 lengths at 9-5. Even-money favorite Roadster, also conditioned by Baffert, finished second among the six Affirmed starters. Earlier this year, Roadster won the Grade I Santa Anita Derby. He then finished 16th and was moved up to 15th through Maximum Security’s disqualification in the Kentucky Derby. Despite all that Mucho Gusto already has accomplished, I think he might still have plenty of upside inasmuch as his sire is Mucho Macho Man. Though Mucho Macho Man was good enough at 3 to finish third in the Kentucky Derby, he did his best running at 4 and 5. In his final start at 5, Mucho Macho Man won the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Classic at 1 1/4 miles. BIG DAY FOR UNCLE MO Uncle Mo was voted a 2010 Eclipse Award as champion 2-year-old male. He not only sired Pegasus winner King for a Day, he also was represented last Sunday by Miss Mo Mentum, who captured Woodbine’s Grade III Trillium Stakes at 7-1. She had finished seventh as the 5-2 favorite in the 2018 Trillium. By the way, keep an eye out for a 2-year-old son of Uncle Mo by the name of Mo Hawk. He seems to be on the verge of making his debut. It is my understanding this could be a special colt. He currently resides in the Baffert barn at Santa Anita. Baffert trained Mo Hawk’s dam, Princess Arabella, who was undefeated and untested in three lifetime starts. Princess Arabella won twice at Santa Anita by the same margin, 3 1/2 lengths, then annihilated her opponents when she took the 2012 Sunland Park Oaks by eight lengths. MR. MONEY AND BAJA SUR SCORE STAKES VICTORIES While the favorite failed to win both the Pegasus and Affirmed last Sunday, two 3-year-olds who did succeed as the chalk in stakes races were Mr. Money at Churchill Downs and Baja Sur at Emerald Downs. After finishing fifth in the Grade II Louisiana Derby on March 23, Mr. Money has put together back-to-back impressive wins at Churchill. Mr. Money won the Grade III Pat Day Mile by 5 1/4 lengths at one mile on May 4 (96 Beyer Speed Figure). And then last Saturday night, the 3-year-old Kentucky-bred colt rolled to a 6 1/2-length triumph in the Grade III Matt Winn Stakes at 1 1/16 miles (98 Beyer). He was 7-1 in the Pat Day Mile, a 3-5 favorite in the Matt Winn. Brett Calhoun trains Mr. Money, who has lots of Breeders’ Cup blood flowing through his veins, so to speak. Mr. Money is a son of Goldencents and the Tiznow mare Plenty O’Toole. Goldencents won the Grade I BC Dirt Mile in 2013 and 2014. Tiznow won the BC Classic in 2000 and 2001. A race worth a lot of money probably is next for Mr. Money, according to Calhoun. That race is the $500,000 Indiana Derby, a Grade III event at Indiana Grand on July 13. Baja Sur was backed down to 1-5 favoritism in the 6 1/2-furlong Coca-Cola Stakes at Emerald. Off alertly, he set the pace and appeared on his way to another victory by a big margin when he opened a three-length advantage at the eighth pole. He had won his previous three career starts by 5 1/4, 10 1/2 and five lengths. But this time Baja Sur’s margin of victory was “only” 1 3/4 lengths, though it should be noted that he was far from all out. Franklin Ceballos rode Baja Sur. The final time was 1:15.60. Blaine Wright trains the Washington-bred Smiling Tiger gelding, who paid $2.60 for each $2 win ticket. That broke the record for the smallest $2 win payoff in the history of the race. The previous smallest $2 win payoff had been $3.20 when Name for Norm was victorious in the 1997 renewal. RICH OHIO DERBY ATTRACTS FIELD OF SEVEN This Saturday’s Grade III, $500,000 Ohio Derby at Thistledown has drawn a field of seven 3-year-olds. I felt that Global Campaign, trained by Stan Hough, was going to be tough to beat at 3-1 on the morning line. But Daily Racing Form’s Nicole Russo reported that Global Campaign “will be scratched due to a nagging foot problem, Thistledown director of racing Patrick Ellsworth confirmed Wednesday.” Owendale, conditioned by Brad Cox, is the 9-5 favorite on the Ohio Derby morning line. He made an electrifying move on the far turn while on his way to a 1 3/4-length victory in Keeneland’s Grade III Lexington Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on April 13. He then finished third in the Preakness. But even though Owendale did not win the Preakness, keep in mind he actually did record the best Thoro-Graph figure of everyone who ran in that race. COUNTRY HOUSE, SIR WINSTON ON THE SHELF Kentucky Derby winner Country House is not going to race again this year, while Belmont Stakes victor Sir Winston has been sidelined by an ankle injury. Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott announced last Saturday that he was not satisfied with how Country House had been training and will turn the Kentucky-bred Lookin At Lucky colt out for 60 days, if not longer, Daily Racing Form’s Marty McGee reported. Three days after the Run for the Roses, Country House exhibited signs that all was not well with him in what now is being characterized as a minor illness. He spent a week to undergo a thorough checkup at the Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital in Lexington, Ky. After getting cleared at the clinic, Country House resumed training. But now the plug has been pulled on his 2019 campaign. “I think we just need to give him a rest,” Mott said. At 65-1, Country House registered the second-biggest upset in the history of the Kentucky Derby, topped only by Donerail’s 91-1 shocker in 1913. According to trainer Mark Casse, Sir Winston “is dealing with an injury to his left front ankle and will be out of training for a little while,” the DRF’s David Grening reported. “I’m not going to rush him,” Casse said of the Kentucky-bred Awesome Again colt. “It will keep us out of the Travers for sure. My plan is to have him ready for the fall with the Pegasus in mind.” Gulfstream Park’s lucrative Pegasus World Cup (not to be confused with the Pegasus Stakes that was run last Sunday at Monmouth) is expected to be held again early in 2020. Gulfstream’s Pegasus World Cup had a purse of $9 million this year. Sir Winston won the Belmont Stakes at 10-1 on June 8. Casse also gave an update on Preakness winner War of Will, who finished ninth in the Belmont. Casse told Grening that the Kentucky-bred War Front colt “could run in the Jim Dandy on July 27 or simply train up to the Travers on Aug. 24.” TRIPLE CROWN RACES OF 2019 LACKED CLARITY Justify swept the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes last year to become only the 13th winner of this nation’s coveted Triple Crown. I think it’s safe to say that almost everyone would agree that Justify gave the best performance in each of the three races. But there was no such clarity this year regarding those three races. Far from it. Interestingly, according to Thoro-Graph, the horse who finished first in all three of this year’s Triple Crown events did not run the best race. As I have stated many times, I think Beyer Speed Figures do have value, which is why I often refer to them. But in my opinion, the figures calculated by Thoro-Graph are vastly superior to the Beyers. Regarding Thoro-Graph, the lower the number the faster the race, which is the opposite of the Beyers. In terms of the Beyers, the winner of a race will never get a smaller figure than the horse who finished second, the horse who finished second will never get a smaller figure than the horse who finished third, and so on and so forth down through the order of finish. In the case of the Thoro-Graph Figures, a horse who finishes second, or even lower, can get a better figure than the winner. This, I believe, is a much more realistic evaluation of a horse’s performance. Thoro-Graph takes many more factors into account than the Beyers. According to Thoro-Graph, “each number on a sheet represents a performance rating arrived at by using time of the race, beaten lengths, ground lost or saved on the turns, weight carried, and any effects wind conditions had on the time of the race.” As far as Thoro-Graph is concerned, the best figure (and thus the best performance) in each of the three Triple Crown races this year was posted by Game Winner in the Kentucky Derby, Owendale in the Preakness and Tacitus in the Belmont. Game Winner finished sixth in the Kentucky Derby. As mentioned earlier, Owendale ran third in the Preakness. Tacitus (who traveled 65 feet farther than the victorious Sir Winston, according to Trakus) finished second in the Belmont. Let’s take a look at the various Thoro-Graph and Beyer figures for the three Triple Crown events this year. Below are the 10 best Thoro-Graph figures in this year’s Kentucky Derby, followed by the 10 best Beyers: T-G Fig Horse 1/4 Game Winner1/2 Country House1 Tacitus1 1/4 Maximum Security2 1/4 Master Fencer2 1/2 Improbable2 3/4 Code of Honor3 1/4 Cutting Humor3 1/2 War of Will3 3/4 Plus Que Parfait Beyer Horse 101 Maximum Security99 Country House97 Code of Honor96 Tacitus96 Improbable96 Game Winner96 Master Fencer95 War of Will94 Plus Que Parfait89 Win Win Win Below are the 10 best Thoro-Graph figures in this year’s Preakness, followed by the best 10 Beyers: T-G Fig Horse 3/4 Owendale1 Improbable1 Win Win Win1 1/2 War of Will1 1/2 Everfast2 1/2 Laughing Fox2 3/4 Warrior’s Charge4 1/2 Bourbon War5 1/4 Anothertwistafate5 1/2 Signalman Beyer Horse 99 War of Will96 Everfast96 Owendale94 Warrior’s Charge93 Laughing Fox93 Improbable90 Win Win Win85 Bourbon War83 Anothertwistafate83 Signalman Below are the 10 Thoro-Graph figures in this year’s Belmont, followed by the 10 Beyers: T-G Fig Horse 1 Tacitus2 3/4 War of Will3 Sir Winston3 1/4 Tax3 1/2 Intrepid Heart3 1/2 Master Fencer3 1/2 War of Will3 3/4 Joevia4 Everfast6 1/2 Bourbon War Beyer Horse 95 Sir Winston94 Tacitus93 Joevia92 Everfast92 Master Fencer92 Spinoff92 Tax90 Intrepid Heart87 War of Will82 Bourbon War THIS WEEK’S NTRA POLL Here is the Top 10 for this week’s NTRA Top Thoroughbred Poll: Rank Points Horse (First-Place Votes) 1. 371 Bricks and Mortar (30)2. 335 Mitole (6)3. 256 Midnight Bisou (2)4. 229 McKinzie5. 195 World of Trouble6. 121 Catholic Boy7. 113 Seeking the Soul8. 105 Rushing Fall9. 77 Vino Rosso10. 81 Thunder Snow

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6.17.2019:

Harness Highlights: Captain' Sails to Cup Record

The ‘Captain’ came ready to crunch some record numbers at Woodbine-Mohawk Park last Saturday. Namely, Captain Crunch set a track and Canadian record when he paced to a pulsating 1:47.2 victory in the 36th running of the C$1 million Pepsi North America Cup for 3-year-olds. The champion freshman pacer from last year bounced back from a near disastrous elimination run the previous week, when he broke stride on the first turn and recovered to finish fifth, earning a spot on the starting gate in the 10-horse Cup final. “I knew that the horse raced really well just to make it to the final so I really wasn’t worried,” said trainer Nancy Johansson. “I don’t want to sound cocky or anything but I knew he was the best horse going into it and it was just up to him to show everybody.” Montreal native Scott Zeron is a believer after his first-hand view from the driver’s bike. Captain Crunch hustled to the lead from post 8, settled into third behind pace setter Workin Ona Mystery and came out to challenge the favorite nearing the final turn. He drew even as they reached the quarter pole in 1:20, powered clear in mid-stretch, then held off a late charge from pocket-sitting Bettors Wish (Dexter Dunn) to win by � of a length in what Harness Racing Update called “a race for the ages.”. “It feels unbelievable,” said Zeron. “This has been the end-all, be-all for me. It’s completed my entire bucket list.” “I didn’t want to be in that spot I was in, but … he overcame it with just his greatness.” Captain Crunch paid $10.30 to win and keyed a $41.90 exacta and $59.70 trifecta with Workin Ona Mystery holding third. The 2018 Breeders Crown winner topped C$1 million in earnings with his ninth win in 14 starts for Brothers Stable, Christina Takter, Rojan Stables and Caviart Farms. His 1:47.2 clocking was 2/5 of a second faster than the previous record shared by Cup winners Thinking Out Loud (2012) and Betting Line (2016). Captain Crunch likely will return to the U.S. to prepare for the July 13 Meadowlands Pace. How fast he will get there is anyone’s guess. 

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6.17.2019:

Monday, June 17: Woodbine Mohawk Park Late Pick 4 Analysis

The Monday night feature at Woodbine Mohawk Park rolls in Race 3, a Preferred Trot with a $34,000 purse. My focus will be on the Late Pick 4 sequence which begins in Race 7. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Race 7 5-Galagher Seelster-Drops from $12k claimers and should be a player if Jamieson works a good trip. 7-Casimir Overdrive-Tossing 1st start after claim, was too far back, could leave here, not much other gate speed. 8-Outlaw Gunpowder-Gets a new pilot, who can grind his way around and pop at a square price. 9-Who Said Not To-Form has been dull but might be a wake-up spot, will use but look to beat the lukewarm favorite. Race 8 3-Superlative-Came off the bench with a win, this is a stiffer challenge, but competitive mare should be respected. 4-Dr Spengler-Raced well but was handled carefully, must mind manners but could be dialed up in 3rd start of '19. 6-Kadabra Queen-Rolled home in 55.4 and short field shouldn't hurt chances for another picture. Race 9 1-Exemplar-This is a comfortable spot and should be in the hunt if minds manners for Roy-Moreau. 4-Wild And Crazy-Won at this level on 4/29, McNair is back for a spin and he could work a nice trip from this post. Race 10 1-Cruise Captain-Has faced tough foes, fits better here, gets post relief, will consider at 10-1, main foes are outside. 9-Priceless Beach-Has fired hot off the bench, it will take a big effort to make it 4 straight but will respect. 10-Quatrain Blue Chip-Coleman trainee comes off a nice try on a sloppy track, post is a challenge but helps price. My Ticket Race 7) 5,7,8,9 Race 8) 3,4,6 Race 9) 1,4 Race 10) 1,9,10 Total Ticket Cost) $14.40 for $0.20Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia

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6.17.2019:

Father's Day Lesson for Racing

Millions celebrated Father’s Day on Sunday across this great country, and thousands of them joined for camaraderie at the racetrack. Perhaps no other pastime has been as dependent on mentorship as developing a love for the horse races. It’s a passion that can be self-acquired, but a process that almost begs of someone showing the next generation the ropes. Secretariat captivated many to the races in the 1970s; John Henry and Cigar followed suit in the 1980s and ‘90s; and the likes of Smarty Jones, Zenyatta and American Pharoah did their part in more recent decades. But for every 31-length memory, or ageless wonder pulling victory from the jaws of defeat, or 16-race winning streak, or horse from the wrong side of the tracks, or even Triple Crown realizations, there has been a need for what’s next. The curious need nurtured, and they need a person or persons willing to put in the time to develop them from an interested party into a pari-mutuel participant.  For many of us, myself included, Dads filled such a role. Or perhaps it was Mom, or an Uncle or Grandparent. The gender and title don’t matter as much as the mentor’s mere presence. Regardless of who delivered the guidance, the vast majority of eventual horseplayers began with a guiding hand from another. Someone taught you the daily double from the pick three, a filly from a mare, or the nuances of reading the toteboard for overlays.  But today’s society is far different. The internet and social media age has devoted us to screen time, not face-to-face interactions. We don’t learn plumbing from a neighbor or grandparent, but rather by Googling a Youtube video on clogged drains. If we don’t understand the intricacies of ice hockey during Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals, we need not be next to our friends rinkside or in a sports bar to explain it. We use our thumbs for 30 seconds on our phone and become instantly informed. We don’t learn everything and every nuance, to be sure, but we learn enough to get by and quench a quick thirst. Soon after, we forget about it until the next time we need it; then we just look it up again. Thirty seconds with our thumbs has taught us it’s that easy.  We don’t learn information in today’s world, but rather learn how to find it on-demand. Don’t believe me? How many phone numbers do you know today vs. 10 years ago? When is the last time you read a map vs. trusting an app to get you to a new city? Handicapping and betting horse races is memorizing phone numbers and learning where things are on maps. That is, unless you have an app for that …  Technology isn’t alone in the world of change. Families also aren’t what they once were. The decline of the American family has left fewer authority figures, on average, in our households. This isn’t some sort of statement of machismo or sexist-leaning commentary. It’s mathematics. Fewer family units mean fewer extended families, grandparents and the like. There are fewer Moms, Dads, Aunts, Uncles, Grandmas and Grandpas in our lives to pass along anything requiring mentorship, not the least of which is horse racing. My guess is those close to hunting, fishing and baking could tell you the same thing. These are rites once passed along by adults to the next generation, male or female.  So as horse racing battles itself in how to position for the future, especially in this toxic environment of 2019, we must realize that a major void exists in our once built-in developmental process. Father’s Day reminds us that we were lucky to have such influential forces working for free in this industry for so many generations. Now we have to fill the voids at what figures to be a very expensive cost ... and pitch it to an audience that has been taught to find it and forget it. 

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6.16.2019:

Sunday, June 16: Hawthorne Late Pick 4 Analysis

Hawthorne Racecourse has 11-races set to roll tonight. The 0.50 Late Pick 4 begins in Race 8 and it has a $30,000 guaranteed pool. Two-year-old trotters will be featured on the card in Night of Champions-Leg 1 action. Last night at Hawthorne the driver with the hottest hands was Casey Leonard with six trips to the winner's circle on the 13-race card. The top trainer on the night was Terry Leonard with three pictures. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Race 8 2-Valar Morghulis-2nd time Lasix for beaten chalk and now Leonard takes a seat, could be set for a better effort. 8-Winter Gram-Tried hard off a tough trip in last, should be rolling late and could surprise with a trip. Race 9 2-Waymore-Scorched the 2nd half in 55.1 for an easy win. This field shouldn't pose a problem if races back to last. 4-Storming D Odds-Longshot makes 4th local start, fits better with this post draw and will take a swing at 25-1 in ML. Race 10 1-Susan Sage-Rolled home off a nice trip but now gets a positive driver change and post relief versus similar. 5-Red Hot Packerette-Faded in 1st start off the bench but Leonard sticks and should be tighter. 8-Fox Valley Zola-Beaten chalk has been facing better, in the hunt with a good steer. Race 11 1-Shes First Class-Needs to avoid a slow start and finally draws inside, tries hard and should be a player. 7-Swaneelou-Has had excuses and fits better in 4th start off the bench but Wilfong needs to work a good trip. My Ticket Race 8) 2,8 Race 9) 2,4 Race 10) 1,5,8 Race 11) 1,7 Total Ticket Cost) $12 for $0.50Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia

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6.15.2019:

Saturday, June 15: Woodbine Mohawk Park-All Stakes Pick 4 Analysis

Tonight, all eyes will be on Woodbine Mohawk Park as their signature race, the $1,000,000 Pepsi North America Cup rolls in Race 11. It's a star-studded card with over $2.5 million in purses up for grabs and $250,000 in guaranteed pools. The All Stakes 0.20 Pick 4 begins in Race 9 and it has a $100,000 guaranteed pool. Xpressbet customers who register for the contest and connect on the $100,000 guaranteed All-Stakes Pick 4 will win a split of one million XB Rewards Points. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Race 9-Mohawk Gold Cup $100,000-Purse 2-McWicked (7/5)-World-class pacer should have things his own way despite being off close to a month. 8-Thinkbig Dreambig (5-1)-Got caught 1st over in a .54 2nd half, can fly late if the champ falters. Race 10-Fan Hanover Final-$454,000 Purse 1-Tall Drink Hanover (4-1)-Followed #4 last week, makes 3rd start off the bench, looks to have best shot at an upset. 4-Warrawee Ubeaut (9/5)--Winner over $600k last year could be even better as a sophomore, the one to beat. Race 11-North America Cup-$1,000,000 Purse 2-De Los Cielos Deo(4-1)-Turned heads in last when blistered 2nd half in 51.2, will respect but not sure on the trip. 4-Workin Ona Mystery (2-1)-Hard to find a fault, has been razor sharp, should get the lead or a 2-hole trip. 5-Captain Victorious (12-1)-Might surprise with some luck and could be overlooked at windows, using in gimmicks. 8-Captain Crunch (5/2)-Will excuse break in last, a main player despite drawing 8-hole and price will be better. Race 12-Roses are Red Final-$330,000 Purse 4-Shartin N (4/5)-Winner of 7 of 8 this year and makes it look easy, barring an awful trip it should be 8 of 9 in 2019. My Ticket Race 9) 2,8 Race 10) 1,4 Race 11) 2,4,5,8 Race 12) 4 Total Ticket Cost) $16 for a $1 wager Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia

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6.14.2019:

Friday, June 14: Can-Am Pick 4 Analysis

First off, an early shoutout about this weekend's North American Cup at Woodbine Mohawk Park. Comments and selections for the $100,000 Guaranteed All-Stakes Pick 4 will be posted on Saturday. Xpressbet customers who register for the contest and hit the Pick 4 will win a split of one million XB Reward Points. Comments and selections below for tonight's Can-Am Pick 4 are based on a fast track. Race 10-Mohawk Park-Leg 1 4-Sunday Afternoon-Fits with these and now draws inside at this class, worth a swing at 10-1 in the ML. 5-Artistic Madision-8-year-old hasn't been the same horse but makes 4th start for Aucielo and last was better. 6-Black Jack Pat-Steps-up after and easy win in 1st start of 2019 and could be up to this challenge too. 7-Witch Dali-Fell just short in season debut but was used hard in 1st quarter, knows how to win and McNair sticks. Race 10-Meadowlands-Leg 2 3-Pinkman-This guy is camera shy last 2 years, but this is a spot for a suck around trip and he can scoot home. 4-Trolley-Will toss last, is 10 of 19 at the Big M, looking for a square price while trying to beat the ML chalk #5. 6-Cruzado Dela Noche-Another who should fare better here than in last at Phl, could be sitting on a big try. 7-Pappy Go Go-Price shot at 12-1 in ML looks to be worth a play, will need best but tries hard and could blast out. 9-Marion Marauder-Here's the wild card, qualifiers were fine, can take a picture if dialed on high in season debut. Race 11-Mohawk Park-Leg 3 7-Foot Soldier-Drops and makes 2nd start for hot Gallucci barn, should like the company and is McNair's choice. 8-Phantom Seelster-Having issues and drops, was bet down in last, will need more but will respect chances. Race 11-Meadowlands-Leg 4 3-Inverse Hanover-Missed a start before last start and finished 2nd, expecting an aggressive steer and big effort. 7-Percy Bluechip-Gingras returns and that should help, like #3 comes right back, expecting a big try. 8-Catch An Ace-Raced big in 2nd start off bench and took a picture at this class, will respect an encore possibility. My Ticket Race 10 Mohawk) 4,5,6,7 Race 10 Meadowlands) 3,4,6,7,9 Race 11 Mohawk) 7,8 Race 11 Meadowlands) 3,7,8 Total Ticket Cost) $24 for $0.20Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia

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6.14.2019:

Santa Anita Sunday Rainbow 6 Mandatory Payout Picks

Sunday is Rainbow 6 Mandatory Payout Day at Santa Anita, and the Pick 6 marks the return of highly regarded 3-year-old Roadster, who has been away from the races since a troubled 16th-place finish in the Kentucky Derby six weeks ago. Roadster resurfaces Sunday in the Grade 3 Affirmed Stakes, and it looks like Bob Baffert wants to get this one in a big way. Only six horses are in the 1 1-16th-mile race on the main track, and half are trained by the Hall of Famer. It’s a reunion of Roadster and jockey Mike Smith, who rode the Quality Road colt in his first four starts and then opted out when he committed to Omaha Beach, who was withdrawn. Smith finished 11th on Cutting Humor. Florent Geroux was aboard Roadster, who was clearly didn’t enjoy the ‘off’ conditions and was very ride throughout. The Derby is an absolute toss-out for Roadster and a return to good form is probable. He won the Santa Anita Derby over Game Winner and Instagrand and is back to much friendlier environs. Roadster is joined by stablemates Kingly and Mucho Gusto. Kingly hasn’t seen this level of competition and his success has come at Golden Gate Fields. Meanwhile, Mucho Gusto is a three-time graded winner and will give fits to any rival bent on getting the lead. Mucho Gusto is a gate-to-wire threat but Roadster looks like the classier model and can recover from the Derby doldrums. Despite the 20-cent minimum on the Pick Six, it’s easy to run up the cost. A single on Roadster is the choice here, and that opens a lot of other races in which to spread out. That looks like a necessity as the early races are highly competitive. The suggested ticket here follows a 5x3x4x3x1x2 approach. Here’s a suggested ticket for the mandatory payout Rainbow 6 at Santa Anita on Sunday: Race 4: #2 Top Brass, #3 American Currency, #4 Tough But Nice, #6 Giddymeister, #7 Puriano Race 5: #3 Mucho Unusual, #5 All Star Cast, #8 Ladymidtown Race 6: #1 Smiling Rose, #3 Rather Nosy, #5 Tapitha Bonita, #7 Convince Race 7: #1 Zaffinah, #2 Pantsonfire, #5 Lynne’s Legacy Race 8: #5 Roadster Race 9: #8 Boru, #10 Zorich 20-cent Rainbow 6: 2-3-4-6-7 with 3-5-8 with 1-3-5-7 with 1-2-5 with 5 with 8-10 ($72)  

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6.13.2019:

Triple Crown Recap: Parity Prevails

Following the conclusion of a wagering endeavor, horseplayers should review previous handicapping opinions. Please note: Cursing and aggressively mutilating losing tickets is not considered an acceptable debriefing. Turning the page to the next race encourages short-term memory development—a requisite for gambling survival--but contributes nothing toward long-term edification. Effort spent in single post-race review—win or lose--serves as a valuable learning experience. Rehashing an entire card functions as the equivalent of a semester spent learning The Art of Wagering.  Posting of the ‘official’ for the Belmont Stakes marks the unofficial end to the first half of the racing season. At least it does for us, and we’ve currently got control of the keyboard, so…  In the rear-view is nearly six months of results. The most recently retired winner of the Pegasus World Cup already has satisfied his initial harem and fresh frosh faces are a staple on nearly every nationwide card. To us, the Stephan Foster, presented this Saturday evening at Churchill, kicks off the season’s second half. Haskell, Travers and Breeders’ Cup await down the road.  At this seasonal mid-point, it serves us well to review previous handicapping opinions in major races--where we went right, wrong or completely wrong. Even though visiting the past sometimes smarts like a stick to the eye, as we stated earlier, lessons worth learning await.  This year’s Triple Crown season failed to feature a particularly outstanding performance; however, it was entertaining. The broohaha caused by Maximum Security’s illegal lane change in the Kentucky Derby won’t soon be forgotten. In a prep season where a different horse seemed to win each Kentucky Derby prep race, it was fitting that the first on-track disqualification in 145 renewals produced two winners! Country House resides in record books as the official 2019 Derby victor, but doubts surrounding the legitimacy of that title will linger as long as disputes survive regarding the victor in the Civil War.  2019 produced three (or four) different winners of Triple Crown races: Country House (or Maximum Security) in the Kentucky Derby; War of Will in the Preakness and Sir Winston in the Belmont.  Beforehand, there were plenty of warning signs that there’d be no dominant 3-year-old this year. In 34 Road to the Kentucky Derby point races--Sept. 15, 2018 through April 13, 2019--just five horses won more than one of them. None won three. Parity prevails.  Game Winner had a flying start in 2018 and took the American Pharoah at Santa Anita Sept. 29 and the BC Juvenile at Churchill Nov. 2. He’s winless since. War of Will appeared unbeatable in Louisiana and annexed the Lecomte (Jan. 19) and Risen Star (Feb. 16) at Fair Grounds. A freakish moment out of the gate in the Louisiana Derby ended his bid at short odds for a third prep-race tally. Long Range Toddy staggered his pair of triumphs over two years, first by taking the Springboard Mile at Remington Dec. 16, 2018 and then by winning a division of the Rebel at Oaklawn March 16, 2019. Tacitus got hot late and parlayed the March 9 Tampa Bay Derby into the April 6 Wood Memorial at Aqueduct. Omaha Beach found his best stride in a division of the Rebel and extended it in the Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn. He was the morning-line Kentucky Derby favorite but was forced to scratch due to a throat issue. Following simple surgery, complications forced him to remain in Kentucky until recently when he returned to trainer Richard Mandella’s California string.  Below are this player’s Bottom Line analyses as they appeared in this space Thursdays before each Triple Crown race, followed by a recap of where they hit or missed.    Kentucky Derby Bottom Line  Ones to Beat: 7. Maximum Security, 16. Game Winner Next in Line: 5. Improbable 17. Roadster Favorite Price ITM Chance: 19. Spinoff Most Likely Exotic Fillers: 2. Tax 3. By My Standards, 8. Tacitus, 13 Code of Honor  We had the Kentucky Derby winner pretty well sniffed out. Sort of. We didn’t see Country House posing for pictures but went strongly in favor of Maximum Security. The first on-track win disqualification in Derby history cost us a nice Pick 5 score and extended a personal season-long wagering slump.  Those listed as ‘Ones to Beat’ both ran well: Maximum Security clearly committed a foul but wasn’t about to lose the race. Game Winner raced very wide throughout to finish sixth (moved to fifth), beaten less than four lengths. Improbable, among those listed as ‘Next in Line,’ finished fifth (moved to fourth), just in front of Game Winner.  Roadster and Spinoff were obvious disappointments in 16th and 18th, respectively. Interesting that this player bought into the ‘wide trip/sloppy track excuse for Spinoff and took the bait with the Todd Pletcher-trained runner in the Belmont Stakes where he again disappointed.    Preakness Bottom Line Should Run Well: 12. Anothertwistafate  Vulnerable Favorite: 4. Improbable  Can’t Ignore: 1. War of Will  Exotic Add: 3. Warrior’s Charge For Superfecta Lovers Only: 2. Bourbon War, 5. Owendale, 7. Alwaysmining, 8. Signalman Not on Tickets: 6. Market King, 9. Bodexpress, 10. Everfast, 11. Laughing Fox, 13. Win Win Win  Was flat-out wrong about Anothertwistafate in the Preakness. Apparently we overestimated his ability on a dirt surface. He’s a terror on the synthetic and had raced well twice on dirt but couldn’t handle Preakness competition on natural footing.  We definitely earned props, though, for naming Improbable as a ‘Vulnerable Favorite.’ He finished sixth. Winner War of Will wasn’t ignored in the ‘Can’t Ignore’ category. In hindsight, he probably was the best ‘value’ of any winner of a TC winner this year. 6-1 was an incredibly solid price off his strong winter form, rest and troubled Derby trip!  ‘Exotic Add’ Warrior’s Charge ran well enough to complete the Superfecta at a solid 13-1. Third-place finisher Owendale was mentioned in the ‘For Superfecta Only’ section. Unfortunately, Bourbon War, Alwaysmining and Signalman are still running. That was too many Superfecta add-ons and, in review, suggests I had no clue about how that wager might conclude.  Everfast, a 29-1 shot, closed inside for second and obliterated every ticket of ours. Didn’t see that train coming and we left Pimlico quite a bit lighter than when we arrived.    Belmont Bottom Line  Clearly One to Beat: #10 Tacitus  Price Exotic Chances: #5 Bourbon War, #6 Spinoff, #7 Sir Winston, #8 Intrepid Heart  Reasons to Doubt: #9 War of Will  We had this one nearly perfect. Our top choice and key horse Tacitus didn’t come home on top but ran well to be second. A wide trip combined with a rail-skimming, perfect journey for winner Sir Winston did Tacitus in. One Belmont positive was the identification ‘Reasons to Doubt’ Preakness winner War of Will. The colt didn’t work between the Preakness and Belmont even though his connections had planned to. A change in plans seldom is a good thing with healthy 3-year-olds.  Sir Winston’s 10-1 score as a ‘B’ horse in a successful Pick 4 wager combined with several earlier multiple Pick 3 tallies to provide this horseplayer with a winning afternoon and an end to life in the handicapping doldrums.  Currently, the race for top 3-year-old is as wide open as the field in pursuit of the Democratic presidential nomination. Like Joe Biden, Maximum Security is the favorite. However, if War of Will, Tacitus, Omaha Beach, Sir Winston, etc. should get hot in the coming months the crown could be theirs. Remember, just three few years ago at this half-way point most of us hadn’t even heard of eventual Saratoga track-record setter, Travers and Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Arrogate.  Race On! 

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6.13.2019:

Five Horses I’m Betting on Stephen Foster Night at Churchill Downs

There’s no such thing as a Triple Crown hangover in horse racing as we get right back at it this Saturday with five graded stakes races at Churchill Downs, headlined by the G2 Stephen Foster Handicap, starring Yoshida, Gift Box, Seeking the Soul, Tom’s d’Etat and others.  The ‘Foster is a Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series ‘Win and You’re In’ race for the Breeders’ Cup Classic and the card also includes the Fleur de Lis, featuring an automatic pass to the Breeders’ Cup Distaff.  Xpressbet customers who bet Churchill Downs on Saturday are advised to check out the All-Stakes Pick 4 (Races 6 – 9) that includes the ‘Foster, Fleur de Lis, Wise Dan and Regret.  Hit it and you’ll Split 1 Million XB Rewards Points.  Please note, you do have to register for that promotion.  But hey, registration is free and takes just a click or two.  We’re also offering the same 1 Million Point Pick 4 Split promotion Saturday night at Woodbine Mohawk Park.  I won’t try to handicap that card, but our Harness Racing Guru, Al Cimaglia, will you have covered for that.  Check out our News Section on Saturday for his picks.  As for Churchill on Saturday, here’s a horse I’m going to be betting in each of the five stakes races on the card, as well as my recommended All-Stakes Pick 4 ticket.  Race 5 – Matt Winn (Gr 3, $150K)The Pick: #6 Mr. MoneyMR. MONEY was 7/1 when he upset Instagrand in the G3 Pat Day Mile on the Kentucky Derby understand.  He won’t be near that price this time around but that was a major effort to build on, especially considering the Pay Day runner-up, Hog Creek Hustle, went on to win the G1 Woody Stephens at Belmont in his next start.  Nolo Contesto is interesting in that he has raced against the likes of Roadster, Omaha Beach and Game Winner this year and has held his own.  He even beat Omaha Beach in a maiden race in January.  Signalman reportedly bled in the Preakness and we should expect a solid effort from him.  Race 6 – Wise Dan Stakes (Gr 2, $250K)The Pick: #1 Get Western In a full field on the turf, I’m as worried about finding a horse that projects to have a good trip as much as anything else.  Horses drawn outside and deep closers are running against it in my view.  So I’m going to pass on Admission Office, March to the Arch and some others.  I’ll assume Siem Riep and Noble Commander send, which would open up a great stalking trip for GET WESTERN, who ran a really nice race last out for Charles Lopresti.  And you know he’d love to win this race, named after the beloved Wise Dan, whom Lopresti trained to 23 victories and Horse of the Year honors in 2012 and 2013.  I’m curious to see how El Picaro performs, but willing to pass on betting him in his first race since November and his first race outside of Chile.   Race 7 – Fleur de Lis (Gr 2, $250K)The Pick: #5 Blue Prize (ARG)Look, if Elate comes out and wins this thing, nobody will be surprised.  She’s an impressive mare, a two-time Grade 1 winner, and her Saratoga battles against Abel Tasman are two of the most memorable performances in the Distaff division this decade.  Unfortunately, she hasn’t shown me as much this year.  The Speed Figures are still solid (98 and 96) but she just hasn’t shown that killer instinct down the stretch.  That’s why I’m going with BLUE PRIZE at a better price.  She was moving like a winner in my eyes in the G1 La Troienne last out before she hit a wall.  First race in six months will do that to you.  I’ll trust that she’s a little sharper this time around.Race 8 – Stephen Foster (Gr 2, $600K)The Pick: #6 Gift Box Talk about a phenomenal field. Yoshida, Seeking the Soul, Tom’s d’Etat, Gift Box…these are all superior performers and this has the makings of a great race.  I’ve chased Yoshida far too many times to throw my support into that corner, but I don’t blame anyone who bets him.  Seeking the Soul was not sharp in his first race back from Dubai, but at least he has that under his belt.  He doesn’t strike me as a horse that is capable of winning something like this right now, though.  Tom’s d’Etar is a favorite of mine but not sure he’ll work out a great trip from the 9-hole.  The inclusion of GIFT BOX really intrigues me.  He just ran 1 1/4-miles at Santa Anita on May 27 and the fact that he’s back here tells me John Sadler things this horse is doing really well.  He’s already defeated McKinzie this year and drew midpack, which seems perfect for him.  I’d like to see him stalk the early pace a little more than he has in recent starts, but he should be ready to roll off that last start.Race 9 – Regret (Gr 3, $150K)The Pick: #4 VarenkaI’m not often impressed by the maiden-breaking performances of horses that need five tries to find the winner’s circle, but VARENKA couldn’t have been more impressive in her seasonal debut at Belmont last month.  And, in fairness to her, she spent 2018 chasing fillies like Newspaperofrecord and Dogtag, so it’s not like she was in against inferior competition.  In that Belmont race, she stayed on the rail, saved ground and just exploded down the stretch to an effortless ‘under wraps’ victory.  A similar run would find her making it 2-for-2 this year.   Recommended All-Stakes Pick 4 TicketRace 6 #1 Get Western #3 First Pemio #6 Siem Riep #9 Inspector Lynley #11 March to the Arch #12 Admission Office Race 7 #2 She's a Julie #3 Elate #5 Blue Prize (ARG) Race 8 #6 Gift Box #7 Tenfold #9 Tom's d'Etat #10 Quip Race 9 #4 Varenka Total Ticket Cost = $36 for 50-cents

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6.13.2019:

A Second Jewel for Casse

The gas tank situation was considerably different for the horse I picked to win last Saturday’s Belmont Stakes (War of Will) than it was for my selection to take the 2018 renewal (Justify). After Justify won the 1 1/4-mile Kentucky Derby and 1 3/16-mile Preakness Stakes for trainer Bob Baffert and jockey Mike Smith, the undefeated colt was seeking a Triple Crown sweep in the 1 1/2-mile Belmont. Many wondered just how much gas Justify would have in the tank for the stretch run of the Belmont. That’s why when Baffert said these three words to Smith before last year’s Belmont, it pretty much spelled doom for Justify’s nine foes: “The tank’s full.” Bet down to 4-5 favoritism, Justify led through the early stages of the race they call The Test of the Champion. In my Belmont Stakes recap for Xpressbet, I wrote: “With a quarter of a mile remaining, the answer as to whether there was enough fuel in Justify’s tank was answered emphatically in the affirmative.” Justify prevailed by 1 3/4 lengths and thus became a Triple Crown winner. He would never race again. My picks for Xpressbet in last Saturday’s 151st running of the Belmont were 1. War of Will, 2. Tacitus, 3. Sir Winston, 4. Spinoff. Tacitus was sent away as the 9-5 favorite. War of Will was the 7-2 second choice in the wagering. Sir Winston and Spinoff each were 10-1 when they exited the starting gate. War of Will raced in contention through the early furlongs. But in the final quarter of mile, the needle on War of Will’s gas gauge was near E. He retreated in the stretch and finished next-to-last in the field of 10. Many had taken a stand against War of Will in the Belmont due to the fact that he was the only horse this year to go through the grind of running in all three Triple Crown races. That approach seemed to be validated when War of Will ran out of steam in the lane. However, Mark Casse, War of Will’s trainer, does not agree with those who say running in all three Triple Crown races was the reason for the colt’s disappointing Belmont performance. On Steve Byk’s radio program At the Races, Casse said Monday it’s his belief that War of Will just did not handle the Belmont Park main track, an oval that is nicknamed “Big Sandy.” Whether War of Will lost because running in all three legs of the Triple Crown took a toll and/or the colt struggled on that particular surface, Casse nevertheless managed to still win the race with Sir Winston, who rallied from eighth to get the job done. As I noted in the Los Angeles Times racing newsletter last Friday, of the 10 horses to run in this year’s Belmont, not one of them had ever won on the Belmont Park main track. Sir Winston was the only one of the 10 to have even finished second. That was one of the reasons I did pick Sir Winston third. Sir Winston’s breeding was another reason I felt he had a license to do well in the Belmont. “His pedigree suggests he might relish lone-distance races,” I wrote in the newsletter. “His sire is Awesome Again, who won the 1 1/4-mile Breeders’ Cup Classic in 1998. Sir Winston’s maternal grandsire is 2005 Belmont winner Afleet Alex.” I also noted that Sir Winston would be ridden by Joel Rosario, who won the 2014 Belmont on Tonalist. It turned out that Rosario played a major role in Sir Winston’s victory. Rosario’s ride was a masterpiece. Exiting the gate from post 7, Rosario deftly moved Sir Winston down to the inside rail shortly after the start. This proved to be a key maneuver, especially vis-a-vis both War of Will, who raced wide throughout after breaking from post 9, and Tacitus, who raced even wider throughout after starting from post 10. MAKING ALL THE RIGHT MOVES Sir Winston and Rosario continued their rail-skimming journey all the way until they approached the top of the stretch. They briefly had to bide their time in heavy traffic turning for home. Just before reaching the top of the stretch, Rosario moved slightly away from the rail into the two path, then quickly angled further out into the four path for the stretch run. Charging to the front just inside the eighth pole, Sir Winston went on to win by one length in 2:28.30. Tacitus came on willingly to finish second in an admirable effort in light of his wide trip. Pacesetter Joevia held on well enough in the final furlong to finish third at 21-1. In my view, if Jose Ortiz had somehow been able to avoid racing wide throughout, Tacitus quite possibly would have won. But I don’t feel it was a bad ride. I think it was just bad racing luck after having to break from post 10. Owned by Tracy Farmer, Sir Winston lost the first two races of his career by 13 3/4 and 11 3/4 lengths. The Kentucky-bred colt finished sixth on the dirt at Churchill Downs last year on June 14, then ran ninth on the turf July 21 at Saratoga. Sir Winston made his next three starts on synthetic footing at Woodbine. He finished in a dead heat for first in a maiden race on Sept. 12, ran third in the Grade III Grey Stakes on Oct. 21, then won the Display Stakes on Dec. 8. In Sir Winston’s 2019 debut, he ran fourth in Aqueduct’s Grade III Withers Stakes on Feb. 2. Tax, who won the Withers, finished fourth in last Saturday’s Belmont. After the Withers, Sir Winston was disrespected by the betters to the tune of 46-1 in the Grade II Tampa Bay Derby at 1 1/16 miles on March 9. With Julien Leparoux in the saddle, Sir Winston finished fifth, four lengths behind the victorious Tacitus. Two days later, Byk said on his radio program during an interview with Casse that Sir Winston had run “a sneaky good race in the Tampa Bay Derby that nobody’s talking about.” Casse then said something very interesting: “Sir Winston’s my little secret weapon.” Thirteen weeks after Casse said that, the trainer’s “secret weapon” captured the Belmont Stakes. In Casse’s March 11 interview with Byk, the veteran conditioner talked about how “extremely proud” he was of Sir Winston. I remind you that Sir Winston had just finished fifth at odds of 46-1. Yet, Casse was “extremely proud” of the progress Sir Winston had made up to that point. Sir Winston “showed absolutely nothing early on, but I kept saying to Mr. Farmer that this horse is better than he gets credit for,” Casse said to Byk. “The problem is he has no speed. “I have to say,” Casse continued, “Julien Leparoux has ridden many, many horses for me. And he seldom gets excited. He got off of Sir Winston [after the Tampa Bay Derby] and was as excited as I’ve ever seen him. He told me that if he’d known him better, we probably would have won. He said he couldn’t get him to run at all [early]. He said that when he finally got him outside, he just took off with him. “There obviously was a lot of pace in the race. So it did collapse some. But he was running over the top of some serious horses [late]. I always told Tracy that a mile and a sixteenth was too short for him.” At that time, Casse said there would be “only one shot” for Sir Winston to earn enough points to get into the Kentucky Derby. That one shot would be Keeneland’s Grade II Blue Grass Stakes at 1 1/8 miles on April 6. “If he gets to the [Kentucky] Derby, he will be running at the end of the mile and a quarter,” Casse said. But there would be no Kentucky Derby for Sir Winston. He failed to threaten in the Blue Grass and finished seventh. Considering Sir Winston’s Belmont trip in which he had dirt kicked back at him for furlong after furlong until the top of the stretch, it is a sign he has matured a lot since early March. After the Tampa Bay Derby, Casse said dirt being kicked back at Sir Winston was something the colt did not like one bit. It was a primary reason why Casse opted to run Sir Winston in the Blue Grass instead of Aqueduct’s Grade II Wood Memorial at the same distance and on the same day. “There’s a little more kickback at Aqueduct than there is at Keeneland,” Casse said on March 11. “And the kickback is what gets him in trouble. It’s why he doesn’t show more [early speed]. Dylan Davis rode him in the Withers. He said the kickback got him in big trouble. And even Julien [after the Tampa Bay Derby] said he doesn’t react well to the kickback. Keeneland’s probably the best track in North America [for that].” Casse then again said something very interesting: “Distance will not be an issue whatsoever for Sir Winston.” And what happened when Sir Winston got the chance to go a long distance, 1 1/2 miles, in the Belmont? He appreciated the longer trip and registered his third victory in 10 career starts. HE’S COME A LONG WAY BEYER-WISE When Sir Winston lacked the points necessary to get into the May 4 Kentucky Derby, Casse decided to run him in Belmont’s Grade III Peter Pan Stakes at 1 1/8 miles on May 11. Sir Winston finished second to Global Campaign. Sir Winston was credited with a career-best 100 Beyer Speed Figure in the Peter Pan. In addition to being the only Belmont Stakes starter to have finished in the exacta on the Belmont Park main track, he was the lone Belmont Stakes starter to have ever recorded a triple-digit Beyer. Yet, despite those attributes, he somehow paid $22.40 for each $2 win ticket following his Belmont Stakes triumph. These are the Beyer Speed Figures for the Belmont Stakes winners going back to 1990: 2019 Sir Winston (95)2018 Justify (101)2017 Tapwrit (103)2016 Creator (99)2015 American Pharoah (105)2014 Tonalist (100)2013 Palace Malice (98)2012 Union Rags (96)2011 Ruler On Ice (100)2010 Drosselmeyer (94)2009 Summer Bird (100)2008 Da’ Tara (99)2007 Rags to Riches (107)2006 Jazil (102)2005 Afleet Alex (106)2004 Birdstone (101)2003 Empire Maker (110)2002 Sarava (105)2001 Point Given (114)2000 Commendable (101)1999 Lemon Drop Kid (109)1998 Victory Gallop (110)1997 Touch Gold (110)1996 Editor’s Note (106)1995 Thunder Gulch (101)1994 Tabasco Cat (106)1993 Colonial Affair (104)1992 A.P. Indy (111)1991 Hansel (111)1990 Go and Go (111) REST OF YEAR SHOULD BE FUN FOR SOPHS Now that the Belmont Stakes has been decided, the national 3-year-old male division could be quite entertaining during the rest of 2019. This division is wide open in terms of who will get the Eclipse Award. I still rank Omaha Beach as the best 3-year-old male that I have seen so far this year. We will just have to wait and see if he does or does not eventually prove to be the best of this group. After Omaha Beach won the Grade I Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park on April 13, he was installed as the 4-1 morning-line favorite in the Kentucky Derby. But Omaha Beach was scratched from the Run for the Roses due to an entrapped epiglottis. Omaha Beach underwent throat surgery on May 3 at the Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital in Lexington, Ky. After the operation, he was sent to WinStar Farm in Kentucky. Omaha Beach originally was scheduled to return to trainer Richard Mandella’s Santa Anita barn on May 18, but it was decided to keep the War Front colt in Kentucky for a longer time. Dr. Rolf Embertson, who performed the surgery, felt Omaha Beach’s swelling was subsiding slower than the veterinarian had hoped, according to BloodHorse’s Christine Oser. Omaha Beach finally returned to Mandella in California earlier this week. However, Omaha Beach is scheduled to undergo further testing before the colt resumes training, according to Daily Racing Form’s Steve Andersen. “Mandella said he wants to make sure Omaha Beach’s throat has recovered from a procedure to aid his breathing conducted in early May,” Andersen reported. Omaha Beach “will not resume racetrack training” until the inspection is completed, Andersen added. “We’ll take him to get a video scope to see it,” Andersen quoted Mandella as saying. “It needs to be good enough to get the swelling out of the tissue. It’s down 80%, at best. We don’t want to go too quick and get it to come back.” The calendar simply is not on Omaha Beach’s side with respect to his prospects to get the Eclipse Award as champion 3-year-old male of 2019. There is no possible way he can run in Monmouth Park’s Grade I Haskell Invitational at 1 1/8 miles on July 20. It also appears to me that as far as Omaha Beach making a start in Saratoga’s Grade I Travers Stakes at 1 1/4 miles on Aug. 24, that race also probably is out of the question. It seems to me the most likely possible scenario for Omaha Beach is for him to target Parx Racing’s Grade I Pennsylvania Derby at 1 1/8 miles on Sept. 21. I think the date and distance of the Penn Derby make it the most realistic goal for him at this point, with possibly some sort of prep race beforehand. If Omaha Beach were to win a prep race and the Pennsylvania Derby, then also win or at least run the best of any 3-year-olds in the Breeders’ Cup Classic on Nov. 2, he would seem to have a good chance to be voted the Eclipse Award as champion 3-year-old male. But maybe it’s just wishful thinking on the part of this Omaha Beach fan to think that he can possibly even make the Penn Derby. If he does not resume training pretty soon, the race they might say they are aiming Omaha Beach for is the Grade I Malibu Stakes at Santa Anita on Dec. 26. The NTRA’s final Top Three-Year-Old Poll of 2019, which appears at the end of this column/blog/article, tells us who the current leaders are to get the Eclipse Award as champion 3-year-old male. That title, right now, certainly is up for grabs, thanks mainly to a different horse winning each of the three Triple Crown races this year: Country House (Kentucky Derby), War of Will (Preakness) and Sir Winston (Belmont). Topping the final Top Three-Year-Old Poll is Maximum Security, who finished first in the Kentucky Derby but was disqualified and placed 17th for veering out sharply approaching the five-sixteenths pole and causing interference. Prior to that, he had won the Grade I Xpressbet Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park. THIS WEEK’S NTRA POLLS Here is the Top 10 for this week’s NTRA Top Thoroughbred Poll: Rank Points Horse (First-Place Votes) 1. 446 Bricks and Mortar (35)2. 408 Mitole (8)3. 296 Midnight Bisou (2)4. 290 McKinzie5. 233 World of Trouble6. 138 Catholic Boy7. 134 Gift Box8. 116 Thunder Snow (1)9. 108 Rushing Fall10. 75 Vino Rosso Here is the final NTRA Top Three-Year-Old Poll for 2019: Rank Points Horse (First-Place Votes) 1. 425 Maximum Security (24)2. 347 War of Will (8)3. 342 Tacitus (8)4. 312 Omaha Beach (6)5. 279 Sir Winston6. 262 Country House7. 169 Code of Honor8. 121 Game Winner9. 82 Guarana10. 37 Owendale

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6.13.2019:

Weekly Bankroll Builder: June 14 Stronach 5 Play

With the Triple Crown behind us, let’s refocus our attention to the extremely popular Stronach 5, which has routine seen pools well in excess of 150k. To refresh, the Stronach 5 is a Pk5 wager spread across as many as four tracks and three surfaces (dirt, Tapeta and turf), 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: Laurel Park R9 (5:20 ET) – 3up St/AOC (25k/16k) at 1-mile (turf) Tough sledding in the opener, though we may be able to split the field in two, as there are several here who are deep, deep closers, which means they’ll be at the mercy of the pace, which seems on the modest side. The outside posts aren’t ideal, but both #8 NATE’S TIZZY (7-2) and #7 DONE ACTING (8-1) have some tactical speed, which not only could help negate their poor posts, but also allow them to really get an advantage based on the race flow, and both have been in fine form of late. Let’s use the best of the closers, in #5 MINISTER’S STRIKE (4-1) on the class rise, and #3 ENOUGH IS ENOUGH (5-1), who was really in deep with his style down at GP. Pk5 A horses: 8,7,5,3 Let’s lean on the A’s here, since anyone else would be a real reach, though #2 Barin (12-1) and #9 Sir Brahms (6-1) would top the list of the rest. Pk5 B horses: NONE Leg 2: Gulfstream Park R9 (5:28 ET) – 3up 12.5k N3L* at 5 furlongs (turf) In a race loaded with speed this one could fall apart late, which is why #9 EARTH (5-2) could be a potential single, especially since he’s been a good 2nd in his last pair at the level and meets a crew that just doesn’t match up to his recent form. However, going second-off the layoff and drawing outside the heat is a big coup for #6 FLIPSHOT (6-1), who has a hint of a rating gear, which will get him first run on the pick, at a nice price too. Pk5 A horses (listed in order of preference): 9,6 *** Please note that to keep the price of the Leg 4 backup down, we’ll use #9 Earth as a single *** There’s a good race-bad race pattern working with #8 FUZZY IRISH RACHEL (20-1), and that close 4th to Earth last time says we’re getting the bad race today, but he also had some trouble that day and would have been closer with a clean run, so with all the speed signed on, let’s toss him in at a big, big price. There’s a chance #1 Another Softball (4-1) is the speed of the speed, which would make him scary, but there’s so much of it to his outside, let’s make him prove it on the rise while going for three in a row. Pk5 B horses: 8 Leg 3: Laurel Park R10 (5:51 ET) –3up 16k N3L* 1 1/16 miles (turf) At the risk of being a bit too overconfident, I think we can narrow this one down relatively nicely, as #1 ELECTRO (5-2) and #6 UHWARRIE SKY (7-2) are clearly the two to beat, especially since they just ran 2-3 at the level and meet a very weak field right back. However, we can get a ton of value with #4 NICK PAPAGIORGIO (10-1), who had no chance behind a crawling pace on yielding ground against tons better in his turf debut, yet he tries again, which suggests Keefe, who does a very good job in these parts, thinks he’s going to handle the surface, should it be on the firm side. Pk5 A horses: 1,6,4 This is another race where we’ll go it alone with the A’s, since I think we have the right two, as well as a live longshot, and there’s just no one else who you can trust. If you are looking, then #7 Kid Jeter (9-2) is next up on the totem pole, followed by #5 Affluential (6-1), but the former rises in class off slow figures and the latter has no speed and was just eased (albeit on the dirt), so we should be comfortable making them beat us. Pk5 B horses: NONE Leg 4: Santa Anita R5 (6:12 ET) – 3upfm AOC (80k/N1X) at 5 furlongs (turf) It’s tough to go against #7 YES I AM FREE (2-1), since he’s a turf stakes sprint winner and his grass races lay over this field, so he’s our Lone A, and the only reason he’s not a single is that he’s gone from Casse to Miyadi and is now dangled for 80k, which is very odd, based on his resume. Pk5 A horses: 7 There’s plenty of pace here, and #2 TOOTHLESS WONDER (10-1), who is bred for the turf, should be stalking, so at a nice price he could surprise in his grass bow. The more logical upset candidate is #8 UNBRIDLED’S SKYE (5-2), who impressed running 2nd over the course/distance in his turf debut and fits the race profile, and can improve off that trial run too. Pk5 B horses: 2,8 Leg 5: Gulfstream Park R9 (6:34 ET) – 3upfm 6.25k N2L at 6  furlongs It’s pretty obvious we have a two-horse race here, with heavy favorites #11 ABACO DREAM (5-2) and #6 PRINCESS LATINA (9-5) laying over the field on class and figures. There’s really no reason to get cute, so let’s use them both and move on, with the former getting the edge based on her outside attack post and the fact she’s dropping stiffly in class and is proven against winners, which is still a question the former, a fleet MCL winner has to answer. Pk5 A horses: 11,6 Anyone else would be not only a big reach, but a big surprise, so there’s no need to use any backups, though #1 Bird of Peace (6-1) looks third-best off two recent in-the-money runs. Pk5 B horses: NONE The tickets: Main Ticket: 8,7,5,3 with 9,6 with 1,6,4 with 7 with 11,6 = $48Leg 2 B Backup: 8,7,5,3 with 8 with 1,6,4 with 7 with 11,6 = $24Leg 4 B Backup: 8,7,5,3 with 9 with 1,6,4 with 2,8 with 11,6 = $48

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6.10.2019:

Belmont Bettors Swam Upstream

Saturday’s Belmont Stakes Day card almost had to deliver on its promise of starpower. Nearly every division of older horses was represented at the Grade 1 level, and the stars came out to play. And while it proved a treat to watch, betting it was another matter. Races that looked like $3 or $30 prospects on paper pretty much proved as such. But with $101 million bet, most ever on a non-Triple Crown-at-stake day at Belmont, the wagering public either didn’t care or didn’t believe it. They went all in on races that played out with short prices or head-scratchers, the toughest environment in which to find success at the windows. Rushing Fall started it out with the Just A Game and paid just $3.40 as a lone-speed situation already in the camp of the race’s best horse. She led a tap-in putt exacta at $5.60 to Beau Recall. A veritable 2-horse race in the Ogden Phipps was next as lone-speed Come Dancing failed to cash in her key chip at 4-5 when the classy and simply much-better Midnight Bisou rolled by her at $5.40. The exacta was worth just $5. Business didn’t pick up much in the Jaipur as 2-5 shot World of Trouble was never in any trouble en route to a $2.80 wire job. The exacta to Om returned just $7.40. The Acorn was fourth in line and on paper this one seemed to be the chance to break out a price horse. Favorite Guarana came off a sloppy-track Keeneland maiden win in which all 7 returnees from the race had lost, including some in maiden claiming races and others off-Broadway in Ohio. Second choice, Kentucky Oaks upsetter Serengeti Empress, had all-or-nothing form in 8 previous starts. Despite all that, the public had them pegged 1-2 and they ran to order at 9-5 and 3-1, returning $5.80 to win and $11.70 on the exacta. Through 4 Grade 1s, you couldn’t muster a 2-1 shot or a $12 exacta for a buck. If you were gasping for air on price patrol, you weren’t alone. The back 4, if you will, turned the corner but in a very abrupt way. After being lulled to sleep with chalk, the Woody Stephens went bonkers with a superfecta dotting the tote at 18-1, 17-1, 15-1 and 31-1. If you were hip to the Hog Creek Hustle, congratulations. The $39.80 win and $328 exacta could have salvaged an account balance. The super returned $3,445 for a dime and could have went all-Clint Eastwood on you and made your day. After being hit with a hammer about a speed and rail bias from anyone on the simulcast, national TV or Twitter feed, the Woody Stephens top trio rallied from 10th, 11th and 8th…and wide at that. A silver lining to the Woody Stephens was that my confidence in Honest Mischief was sky high off his Keeneland maiden breaker. In fact, he was my best bet on the card. But the public crushed him to 2-1, far too low to accept in this 11-horse field, and he became a pass. He wound up sixth and I wound up fortunate to have stayed on the bench. The only oasis among the lineup of Grade 1s came in the highly anticipated Met Mile. Perhaps the race of the year, it was sensational sprinter Mitole who offered a more-than-fair $9 return that horseplayers could sink their balances into. Of course, you had to like him to beat $14 million earner Thunder Snow, Belmont beast Firenze Fire and horrible-tripped 8-5 favorite McKinzie to do so. But the Met Mile at least delivered a solid win price on a solid horse. The exacta came back just $11.70 with hard-luck McKinzie in the runner-up. The tri was about $55 for a buck. You weren’t breaking the bank here, especially if you were chasing after a day of difficult price connections. Any respite from chalk was short-lived as Bricks and Mortar delivered another brickhouse performance in the Manhattan. America’s leading grass performer scored at $3.30 and led an all-Chad Brown exacta ($9.60) and trifecta ($46 for $1). For those of us who thought it might be the ‘other-Chad’ at 8-1 on either Robert Bruce or my tab Raging Bull, this wasn’t to be our day. And finally, the main event in the Belmont Stakes proved to be as much of a cluster at the wire as it was on the tote. Not a single horse was above 20-1 for most of the betting, and only Joevia topped that mark at 21-1 in the final odds. Favorite Tacitus settled for second at 9-5 as Sir Winston rallied as the fifth wagering choice and one of 4 runners who were either 10-1 or 11-1 prices. The top 9 (of 10) finishers in the Belmont Stakes were within 7 lengths at the wire. Sir Winston was about as bettable as any, I suppose, and congrats if you had him at $22.40 or the exacta at $48. Those potentially could get you out of trouble on the day and into the black if weighted properly and if the bankroll remained to back up a correct opinion. The tris and supers using speed horses Joevia and Tax ballooned. I absolutely enjoyed watching Saturday’s races from start to finish. But betting them was an exercise that looked unattractive on paper and turned out to be an equally difficult task. But like I always say in such times, “That’s why they invented ‘the next race.’ 

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6.9.2019:

Sunday, June 9: Hawthorne Late Pick 4 Analysis

Hawthorne Racecourse has a 10-race card scheduled with the feature coming in Race 5, a Fillies and Mares Open with a $12,000 purse. The 0.50 Late Pick 4 begins in Race 7, it has a $20,000 guaranteed pool and will be my focus. The driver with the hottest hands on Saturday at the Stickney oval was Casey Leonard with three trips to the winner's circle. No trainer on the card had more than one win. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Race 7 1-Fox Valley Halsey-Leonard takes a spin, that doesn't hurt and either does the post draw, 9/5 chalk looks the part. 4-Ideal's Nicole-Will need a big try but this is the 4th start since arriving in town, could bring a top effort. 8-Lilly Von Shtupp-Not a bad try in last coming off a sick scratch, thinking this effort could be even better. Race 8 3-Winter Gram-Trip dependent but last was better and could get sucked around for 1st win of the year. 6-Brienne The Beauty-Has had excuses but 3-year-old can contend with best effort. 10-Fox Valley Lolo-Flew down the stretch in the Violet and fell short, a player from this post with a good start. Race 9 5-Youmakemyheartsing-.56 last half to roll by these last week and an encore could be in the cards. 8-Mykonos-Knocked-out of action with broken equipment as an odds-on chalk, can take a picture tonight. Race 10 2-Valar Morghulis-9/5 ML chalk drops from stakes competition should be a major player. 7-Pretty Iris-Steps-up after a sharp win from the 10-hole and will be tough to beat with a similar effort. 9-Jazzie Babe-7-year-old is still sharp as a tack and will continue to respect chances for a picture. My Ticket Race 7) 1,4,8 Race 8) 3,6,10 Race 9) 5,8 Race 10) 2,7,9  Total Ticket Cost) $27 for $0.50Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia 

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6.8.2019:

Saturday, June 8th: Battle of Lake Erie and Pick 3 Analysis

Northfield Park is the home of Grand Circuit action this evening. The headliner is the $200,000 Battle of Lake Erie for older pacers and it is scheduled to roll in Race 12. The talented 4-year-old Jimmy Freight, who leaves from post #7 can surpass the $1,000,000 mark in career earnings with a first or second place finish. Filibuster Hanover tops this group with over $1.5 million in earnings. The Ron Burke trainee is 10-1 in the morning line and has drawn the 8-hole. The program chalk, Rodeo Rock leaves from the rail and has banked $289,400 this season which leads the field. My $1 Pick 3 ticket is posted below. Comments and selections are based on a fast track. Race 12 1-Rodeo Rock (3-1)-1st start at Nfld but has 1/2-mile experience, likes to win and should be in the hunt. 2-Bully Pulpit (12-1)-Local entry is sharp, Merriman might get the top or a 2-hole ride, price shot at 12-1 in the ML. 5-Southwind Amazon (15-1)-9-year-old is another Nfld regular, similar to #2 and can compete with a trip. 7-Jimmy Freight (4-1)-Jimmy hasn't brought his "A" game this year, maybe tonight, can win with a top effort. Race 13 2-Godiva Seelster (3-1)-ML chalk can be a player with this post draw, should be forwardly placed throughout. 4-Tiger's Sue (6-1)-Page should be able to work a nice trip and this mare fits, best to respect. 7-Camera Lady (4-1)-Burke trainee with Wrenn between the pipes, can win from an outside post versus this crew. Race 14 1-RHP (4-1)-Has been racing well, now steps up but gets a favorable post draw, could get the pocket behind #2. 2-Arthur Pendragon (2-1)-Best effort can top this field, form is so-so since barn change, will respect but not a lock. My Ticket Race 12) 1,2,5,7 Race 13) 2,4,7 Race 14) 1,2 Total Ticket Cost) $24 for $1.00Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia 

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6.7.2019:

Friday, June 7: Can-Am Pick 4 Analysis

Tonight's Can-Am Pick 4 appears to be an opportunity for some nice prices to take top honors. My $28.80 ticket is posted below and is based on a fast track. Race 10-Mohawk Park-Leg 1 2-Mighty Mach-Can roll late and if Waples works a close-up trip could surprise at a juicy price. 4-Better Moonon Over-Got through to win last at a 20-1, closed in 54.3 and will respect for an encore. 5-Battle Strong-ML favorite has been sharp and looks to be a major player tonight. 8-Sugartown-Too far back to a slow pace and had to tip out wide, Roy returns and may bring a better effort. Race 10-Meadowlands-Leg 2 1-Prophet Blue Chip-Back to the Big M, draws the rail, in a spot to shine, and has won at this class. 2-Mcclinchie N-Camera shy but has won 20% of Big M starts, best in this field, ML chalk should like the company. 9-Bettor Spirits N-1st start at Big M and 3rd in JenBo barn, could fire out and not look back. Race 11-Mohawk Park-Leg 3 1-Circle The Page-Competitive mare drops and fits with this crew, Henry should put in play. 3-Quebec Blue Chip-3-year-old makes 3rd start on Lasix, will take a swing for a price from this post. 7-Machnhope-ML chalk is looking for an encore, likes to win, could take another picture tonight with a good trip. 8-Buttermilk Hanover-Having a rough year but drops to a soft spot, could pop with a good steer from McClure. Race 11-Meadowlands-Leg 4 2-Explosive Ridge-Makes 1st start for a hot barn, a dry track helps, with this post could trip out at a square price. 3-Checkmate Time-Price shot for a trainer who has been winning, could fire hot off the bench and likes the Big M. 8-Zlatan-Has had issues but has faced better here, also needs to come out swinging in 1st start since 5/17. My Ticket Race 10 Mohawk) 2,4,5,8 Race 10 Meadowlands) 1,2,9 Race 11 Mohawk) 1,3,7,8 Race 11 Meadowlands) 2,3,8Total Ticket Cost) $28.80 for $0.20Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia

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6.6.2019:

Pick 4 Analysis: War of Will Has Another Go At It

War of Will has a good chance to join the list of horses that have won of the three Triple Crown races, and he’s the choice here. But he’s not alone on this Pick 4 ticket that ends with this running of the Belmont Stakes.  War of Will is deserving of a rest after this one, which completes his participation in the full series. That’s not easy to do; neither is getting the 1.5 miles. There’s no doubt in my mind that War of Will is the best horse in this one, but stablemate Sir Winston will be rolling at him, as will Tacitus.  War of Will’s chance for a Triple Crown ended early when he was chopped off at the knees in the Kentucky Derby. A splendid recovery occurred in the Preakness when got a perfect trip and held on with something left.  War of Will clearly is an upper-echelon talent, but consistency has not been his forte. And that gives you hope if you’re trying to beat him.  Sir Winston has a good kick and was second in the Peter Pan Stakes, and Tacitus was the Wood Memorial winner. Sir Winston was meant to run all day and Tacitus bypassed the Preakness for this. Here’s a look at the other Pick 4 races on the Belmont card:  Race 8 (Woody Stephens S.): Complexity gets back to the races for the first time since the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, when he went off at 5-2 and faltered to 10th. He has no shortage of good works for his return and is back to the track on which he won the Champagne Stakes.  Nitrous and Mind Control will keep Complexity from thinking this is a morning drill. Nitrous coasted to victory in the Bachelor Stakes and is a quality sprinter, while Mind Control looks to won the Bay Shore Stakes.  Race 9 (Met Mile): Mitole is the best six- or seven-furlong runner in the nation. Can he gets EIGHT furlongs? We’ll find out in what looks like a memorable dash.  Mitole has won six in a row dating back to April 2018 at Oaklawn. He will be the one to catch once they turn for home.  McKinzie has come on nicely since missing the Triple Crown races last year. Gift Box beat him by a nose in the Big Cap and he came back for an easy score in the Alysheba at Churchill.  Prince Lucky is the price horse in the mix. His poor finish in the Westchester can’t really be explained, but he’s reunited with John Velazquez and seeks a return to running as he did in outstanding victories at Gulfstream. Prince Lucky is hard to beat when he fires, and Todd Pletcher’s horse often fire over the Belmont strip.  Race 10 (Manhattan): Bricks and Mortar has won all four of his races since taking more than a year off and he escaped with narrow tallies in his last two. He’s been workmanlike and is a much use, but it won’t be a great shock here if he loses. Qurbaan lost to Bricks and Mortar by a half-length and Mike Smith keeps the mount, which is never a bad sign. Two other interesting runners are on the ticket as well: The longshot Epical and Channel Maker. Epical is troublesome on the front end and Channel Maker was up in time to win the Man O’ War last out.  Here’s a suggested ticket for the Pick 4 at Belmont Park on Saturday:  8) #4 Complexity, #6 Nitrous, #9 Mind Control. 9) #2 McKinzie, #3 Mitole, #9 Prince Lucky. 10) #4 Qurbaan, #8 Bricks and Mortar, #9 Epical, #10 Channel Maker. 11) #7 Sir Winston, #9 War of Will, #10 Tacitus. Late Pick 4: 4-6-9 with 2-3-9 with 4-8-9-10 with 7-9-10 ($54 for 50 cents) 

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6.6.2019:

Eddie Olczyk's 2019 Belmont Stakes Thoughts

Tacitus, Bourbon War Stand Out in Belmont StakesBy Eddie Olczyk, NBC Sports We have a good field for this year’s Belmont Stakes, but not a great lineup by any stretch of the imagination. You can eliminate 4-5 horses right off the top and go from there. TACITUS is the slight morning line favorite, but don’t be surprised if the public settles on Preakness winner WAR OF WILL. They will be close in the wagering, but I solidly prefer TACITUS of the leading pair. As for WAR OF WILL, it’s his third race in five weeks and he appears the more vulnerable of the two favorites. The way the track was playing at Pimlico, he was the horse whom you had to change your pick to that day as post-time approached. Everything played out perfectly for him. As for TACITUS, I love the run he made in the Kentucky Derby and I don’t think he liked the off track. He’s trained very well since then and is fresher than WAR OF WILL. I’m not thrilled about post position 10 for TACITUS, but it’s a mile and one-half and there’s plenty of time to get position and make his run. There’s some speed in the Belmont that will try to get free and they could go a little quick for the distance. That’s good news for TACITUS and his rally, and I’m hoping to get somewhere right around 2-1. The other finisher to watch will be BOURBON WAR. I liked him in the Preakness, but did not care for the ride Irad Ortiz, Jr. gave him in Baltimore. He had a chance to get to the best part of the track and didn’t. The move to Mike Smith and blinkers off could really change the outlook for BOURBON WAR. I will be using him up and down my tickets. He should be a pretty decent price and I’d take 8-1 as fair odds. The wise guy horse in the Belmont might be MASTER FENCER, who could take more money than perhaps he should. His huge rally at Churchill Downs was enhanced by being on the perfect part of the track when flying up the rail to post the fastest final quarter-mile in the Derby. I’ll be playing exactas and trifectas in the Belmont, focused heavily on TACITUS and BOURBON WAR. That’s where I stand right now. Be sure to tune into the NBC Sports telecast where I’ll have my final thoughts after seeing how the track plays throughout the outstanding card of racing on Saturday. Making race-day adjustments is an important element of my handicapping. Eddie's Picks 1. Tacitus2. Bourbon War

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6.6.2019:

Johnny D's Belmont Stakes Analysis & Selections

There’s no Triple Crown on the line Saturday in what appears to be a lackluster Belmont Stakes. However, don’t sleep on this race. There’s a chance we could witness a breakout performance from a developing star. Tacitus has many positives going for him both in the Belmont Stakes and for the future. He could emerge as a top colt, not only in the 3-year-old division, but as an older horse, too. Below is one man’s opinion of the runners in the 2019 Belmont Stakes, including a suggested wagering strategy.  1. Joevia (Gregory Sacco/Jose Lezcano) - 30/1 He’s got speed and the rail, so he could set the pace in the Belmont Stakes…at least for a while. In his last start Joevia won the Long Branch at Monmouth, but that’s a ‘long branch’ from winning the Belmont Stakes. He faded late in the Wood Memorial behind Tacitus and Tax. That’s more in line with what we expect in here.  2. Everfast (Dale Romans/Luis Saez) - 12/1 This son of Take Charge Indy finished second in the Preakness Stakes behind War of Will. He closed from far back that afternoon, which is his style. He also finished second in the Grade 2 Holy Bull at Gulfstream. Unfortunately, between the ‘Bull Feb. 2 and Preakness May 18 he ran three other times and never was within 10-lengths of the winners. That’s Everfast. Hit and miss. Think Belmont will be a ‘miss.’  3. Master Fencer (Koichi Tsunoda/Julien Leparoux) - 8/1 He’s a Japanese-bred colt ridden by a French-bred jockey. Now, there’s a combo you don’t see every day. Master Fencer ran well in the Kentucky Derby to be seventh, originally, beaten only four lengths—that’s one position better than Preakness winner and Belmont morning-line second choice War of Will! However, before that Master Fencer was not much in his native land. Nearly 57-1 starting Derby odds reflect that. His next to last workout had connections holding their collective breath as he stumbled suddenly near the finish. Subsequent examinations have found no injury, so Master Fencer will race in the Belmont. He can be located near the back of the pack early and probably late, too.  4. Tax (Danny Gargan/Irad Ortiz Jr.) - 15/1 At 35-1 in the Kentucky Derby, Tax originally finished 15th with no real excuse. Just before Belmont week, based on the gelding’s training, there was reservation in the Tax camp about running in the race. Finally, connections decided to enter and see if their $50,000 claim can hit the jackpot! Since claimed he’s won the Grade 3 Withers and been second in the Grade 2 Wood and third in the Grade 2 Remsen. He’s usually just off the early pace so he’ll be around for a while after Joevia gives up. Bottom level exotics would be the best guess for this guy.  5. Bourbon War (Mark Hennig/Mike Smith) - 12/1 He turned heads when a close second in the Xpressbet Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream in March. Unfortunately, since then he’s finished no closer than within seven and one-half lengths of winners in the Xpressbet Florida Derby and Preakness Stakes. He has no speed and requires a hot early pace for his best. Pace in this race ought to be ‘honest’ but not torrid. Blinkers that went on for Preakness come off for the Belmont. If he fires his best shot he’s got a chance to hit the board, so he can’t be totally dismissed.  6. Spinoff (Todd Pletcher/Javier Castellano) - 15/1 This son of Hard Spun is one of two Todd Pletcher-trained runners in the race (also #8 Intrepid Heart). That’s notable because Pletcher has a knack for saddling horses that outrun their odds in the Belmont Stakes. Since 2006, Pletcher’s Belmont record is 23: 3-5-4. Spinoff was well-beaten in the Kentucky Derby and a sloppy track is the apparent culprit. Before that he had never been worse than third in four previous starts. A ‘fast’ track is expected Saturday. He has some pace that ought to put him in contention from the start. With respect to Pletcher’s record in this race Spinoff (and #8 Intrepid Heart) should at least appear in lower legs of exotics.  7. Sir Winston (Mark Casse/Joel Rosario) - 12/1 He’s by Awesome Again and should appreciate the mile and one-half Belmont distance. He finished second in the Peter Pan May 11, so he’s one of three in here that have raced at Belmont before (#8 Intrepid Heart, #10 Tacitus). He’s been a real longshot in his last four races-- all Grade 3 or Grade 2 Stakes (14-1, 19-1, 46-1, 33-1)--and has started at single-digit odds just twice in a nine-race career--the Display, which he won at 4-1 and his first-out maiden at two (7-1). So, what’s he doing in here? Breeding, distance and current form are the answers. He hasn’t shown much speed before, so he’ll need to close, but he shouldn’t be as far back as some of the others. That helps his case. As presented, he’s got some positives and should be big price. Worth using in exotics.  8. Intrepid Heart (Todd Pletcher/John Velazquez) - 10/1 He’s by Tapit and that’s enough right there to keep him in the mix. According to info in Xpressbet’s Free Belmont Stakes Wagering Guide: In the Belmont Stakes since 2014, Tapit has sired three winners, a second and a third. This year he’s represented by three sons: #5 Bourbon War, #8 Intrepid Heart & #10 Tacitus. Last out Intrepid Heart finished third behind Peter Pan runner-up #7 Sir Winston. However, Intrepid Heart, who was the Peter Pan favorite, stumbled at the start. He’s got enough pace to be close early and that’s a positive. Blinkers go ‘on’ for this at the direction of trainer Todd Pletcher who’s been very successful in this race (see #6 Spinoff). Intrepid Heart is lightly-raced, with two wins in three starts, so upside is there. Consider him an important inclusion in Belmont wagering endeavors.  9. War of Will (Mark Casse/Tyler Gaffalione) - 2/1 Probably the most notable pre-Belmont news is that War of Will did not draw the #1 post position. That’s where he was for the Kentucky Derby and Preakness. Now, he begins one slot from the far outside. While this colt enters off a troubled eighth-place Derby finish (moved up to seventh) and a rail-skimming Preakness triumph, there are reasons to question him in the Belmont. His sire-side breeding suggests the Belmont distance may be a bit more than he wants. However, his dam is by Sadler’s Wells and that’s pure distance. War of Will ‘pulls’ in his races. He fought against jockey Tyler Gaffalione throughout in the Derby and then was better behaved in the Preakness. He must completely relax in the Belmont and that might not happen. He’s got enough speed to be in the mix early and that’s a good thing. Trouble might surface if jockey Gaffalione is forced to ‘ask’ War of Will out of the gate to get good position into the first turn. Once ‘asked,’ the colt may not turn completely ‘off.’ He’ll need all of his energy to last the entire mile and one-half. War of Will did not work out since his Preakness triumph. That’s three weeks without a breeze. Yes, he’s the only Belmont entrant that ran in both the Derby and Preakness, so he should be fit, if not tired. Do you want to wager at a short price on a tired horse going a mile and one-half over Big Sandy? No thanks. While none of these handicapping angles are locks pointing toward a poor performance from War of Will, they’re not encouraging either. They are enough, however, to encourage us to pause on this morning-line second choice even though he’s a very good colt.  10. Tacitus (Bill Mott/Jose Ortiz) - 9/5 Everything about this colt feels right: He’s by Tapit—a sterling Belmont sire (see #8 Intrepid Heart) and out of Close Hatches—Champion Older Female in 2014; trained by Hall-of-Famer Bill Mott; owned by Juddmonte Farms--one of the world’s top racing and breeding operations; a multiple Grade 2 stakes winner; clearly training better than any other Belmont Stakes horse-- including a bullet five-eighths in 1:00 2/5; has a mid-race closing style; is ridden by two-time Eclipse Award winner and Belmont Stakes-winning jockey Jose Ortiz (Tapwrit 2017); comes off a fourth-place finish (moved up to third) in the Kentucky Derby—best of anyone in the field. These positives add up to a very short price on Tacitus in the Belmont Stakes. That’s good and bad news: Belmont favorites bat 42% all-time but are just 2 for the last 13! If Tacitus’ price should plunge precipitously, note that odds-on Belmont choices are just 2 for the last 10. Based on numerous positives, Tacitus clearly is the one to beat in the Belmont Stakes.  Bottom Line  Clearly One to Beat: #10 Tacitus  Price Exotic Chances: #5 Bourbon War, #6 Spinoff, #7 Sir Winston, #8 Intrepid Heart  Reasons to Doubt: #9 War of Will  Betting Strategy Belmont Park - 11th Race  $1 Superfecta ($96 Wager)  1st --10  2nd --5, 6, 7, 8  3rd --5, 6, 7, 8, 9  4th --2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9  Race On! 

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6.6.2019:

Jon White's Belmont Stakes Selections

Do you have a pen nearby? Go ahead and grab it. Next, get yourself a set of past performances for Saturday’s 151st running of the Grade I Belmont Stakes, the demanding 1 1/2-mile event that has drawn a field of 10. Okay, now take a look at the past performances for those 10 horses. Focus on War of Will. Take your pen and draw a line through War of Will’s March 23 race, the Grade II Louisiana Derby. Also draw a line through his May 4 race, the Grade I Kentucky Derby. Now take a fresh look at War of Will’s past performances. His record when racing on dirt looks a whole lot better, doesn’t it? By drawing a line through the March 23 Louisiana Derby and May 4 Kentucky Derby, as if they never happened, you will see War of Will showing four victories in all four of his starts on dirt. You also will see that War of Will would be going into the Belmont with a four-race winning streak. If that were the case, his Belmont odds undoubtedly would be shorter than they are going to be Saturday. Is it fair to draw a line through those two races on War of Will’s record? I think so. War of Will’s Louisiana Derby was a non-race as far as he was concerned. As you probably know, he took an awkward step shortly after the start. His Louisiana Derby essentially was over right then and there. He finished ninth. He emerged from the race with a strained patellar ligament, according to his trainer, Mark Casse. In light of what happened in the Louisiana Derby, it appeared doubtful that War of Will would be able to run in the Kentucky Derby. But War of Will did compete in the Run for the Roses. Casse and assistant David Carroll did an outstanding job to have War of Will ready to run on the first Saturday in May as well as he did. In the 1 1/4-mile Kentucky Derby, War of Will was full of run approaching the five-sixteenths marker. But he was impeded when pacesetter Maximum Security veered out sharply. Maximum Security went on to prevail by 1 3/4 lengths, but he was disqualified by the stewards and placed 17th for causing interference to War of Will, Bodexpress and Long Range Toddy. Country House was declared the official winner. Gary and Mary West, owners of Maximum Security, have filed a federal lawsuit that seeks to overturn the stewards’ decision to disqualify Maximum Security. Maximum Security did not run in the Grade I Preakness Stakes at Pimlico on May 18. He also is absent from the Belmont field. According to trainer Jason Servis, the goal now for Maximum Security is the Grade I Haskell Invitational at Monmouth on July 20, possibly preceded by a start in the Pegasus Stakes at Monmouth on June 16. After War of Will’s troubled trip in the Kentucky Derby, he won the 1 3/16-mile Preakness by 1 1/4 lengths. He will be trying to snag a second Triple Crown jewel in Saturday’s Belmont. Sweeping the Triple Crown is widely recognized as an extremely difficult feat. A horse must run in three races at three difficult distances at three different tracks in the span of five weeks. When Justify registered a 1 3/4-length victory in last year’s Belmont, he became just the 13th Triple Crown winner. Because horses don’t race as much these days and tend to need plenty of time between starts, it has become an anomaly to simply start in all three Triple Crown events. War of Will, to his credit, has the distinction of being the only horse this year to start in all three Triple Crown races. But when a horse like War of Will has gone through the entire Triple Crown grind, it does make his task somewhat harder in the Belmont because of having to run against fresher foes. John Cherwa put it well when he wrote in the Los Angeles Times: “Winning the 1 1/2-mile race, the longest of the Triple Crown, comes at a toll if you’ve run in all three. In this case only War of Will has to carry that burden.” Does Tacitus have an advantage against War of Will because Tacitus skipped the Preakness? Yes. It’s one of the many reasons so many people are picking Tacitus to win the Belmont. Tacitus also regularly trains at Belmont. That means he also has a home-court advantage vis-a-vis War of Will. “Over the years, one of the things that’s made the Belmont so tough is when the Derby and Preakness winners are here and get beat, it’s usually by a Belmont-based horse,” Casse was quoted as saying by Cherwa. “There’s an advantage to it.” Tacitus’s breeding also is recognized as a big plus for him in the Belmont. He is a son of Tapit, who has emerged as a prolific sire of Belmont victors. Tapit has sired three of the last five winners: Tonalist in 2014, Creator in 2016 and Tapwrit in 2017. In fact, the only two Belmont winners in the last five years not by Tapit were the two Triple Crown winners trained by Bob Baffert: American Pharoah in 2015 and Justify in 2018. Tapit also is the sire of 2019 Belmont Stakes entrants Intrepid Heart (10-1 morning line) and Bourbon War (12-1). Close Hatches, Tacitus’ dam, was a champion who earned $2,707,300. She was voted a 2014 Eclipse Award as champion older female. Hall of Famer Bill Mott trains Tacitus for the colt’s owner and breeder, Juddmonte Farms. Jose Ortiz is the jockey. Mott won the 2010 Belmont with Drosselmeyer. Juddmonte won the 2003 Belmont with Empire Maker. Ortiz won the 2017 Belmont aboard Tapwrit and finished second in last year’s renewal on Gronkowski. I wrote in the Los Angeles Times’ racing newsletter last week: “In terms of Belmont Stakes betting, it will be interesting to see whether Tacitus or War of Will is the favorite. I think it will be Tacitus, but not by a lot over War of Will.” Belmont Park oddsmaker David Aragona obviously sees it the same way. He has pegged Tacitus as the 9-5 morning-line favorite, with War of Will a close second choice at 2-1. The only other entrant under 10-1 is Japan’s Master Fencer at 8-1. Here are my Belmont Stakes selections: 1. War of Will2. Tacitus3. Sir Winston4. Spinoff Look, I certainly understand why Tacitus is such a popular pick to win the Belmont. But I don’t get why so many people seem to be avoiding War of Will as if he has the plague. For instance, other than yours truly, nobody picked War of Will to win the Belmont in the Xpressbet Wager Guide. Millie Ball, Jeff Siegel and Dick Jerardi have selected Tacitus. Bob Neumeier and Steve Byk both have gone with Intrepid Heart. SADLER’S WELLS IN FAMILY TREE SHOULD HELP Some have expressed a concern about how War of Will is going to do at the Belmont’s 1 1/2-mile distance (it is this country’s only Grade I race on the dirt longer than 1 1/4 miles). Perhaps 1 1/2 miles will prove to be farther than War of Will wants to go. I admit that from a pure pedigree standpoint, I had much more confidence that Point Given, Empire Maker, Afleet Alex, Rags to Riches, American Pharoah and Justify would win the 1 1/2-mile Belmont than I do with War of Will. But I do think there is sufficient stamina in War of Will’s bloodlines to get the job done Saturday. He’s a son of War Front and the Sadler’s Wells mare Visions of Clarity. War Front is by Danzig, who sired 1986 Belmont winner Danzig Connection. Is it good to see Sadler’s Wells in a pedigree for a 1 1/2-mile race? You bet. This year’s Group I Epsom Derby serves as an excellent example. Anthony Van Dyck, like War of Will, is a grandson of Sadler’s Wells. Just last Saturday, Anthony Van Dyck had the stamina to capture the 1 1/2-mile Epsom Derby. It says a lot about Sadler’s Wells being a source of stamina that you will find his name somewhere in the pedigree of all 13 starters in this year’s Epsom Derby. The primary reason for his influence on the 2019 Epsom Derby is the phenomenally successful sire Galileo, a son of Sadler’s Wells. Remarkably, 12 of the 13 runners in last Saturday’s Epsom Derby descend from Galileo as a son, grandson or great-grandson. Galileo won the Epsom Derby in 2001. Anthony Van Dyck became the record-tying fourth son of Galileo to win the Epsom Derby. Additionally, Anthony Van Dyck became trainer Aidan O’Brien’s record-tying seventh triumph in that historic event. All seven of O’Brien’s seven Epsom Derby winners, starting with Galileo, are descendants of Sadler’s Wells. Okay, now go back to those War of Will’s past performances that you earlier had taken a pen and drawn a line through two of his races. After drawing a line through War of Will’s Louisiana Derby and Kentucky Derby, you then will see that the last time that he lost was when he finished fifth in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Churchill Downs last Nov. 2. Casse has said he believes War of Will might have won the BC Juvenile Turf if not for a very wide trip that day. Despite War of Will’s wide trip in the BC Juvenile Turf, he still managed to outrun none other than the future winner of the Epsom Derby. That’s right. In the BC Juvenile Turf, War of Will outran 3-1 favorite Anthony Van Dyck, who finished ninth. My belief that Sadler’s Wells’ presence in War of Will’s pedigree could possibly enable him to succeed in a 1 1/2-mile race is similar to how Princequillo played a major role in providing Secretariat with a considerable dose of stamina that blended so beautifully with the sheer speed and class that he no doubt got to a large degree from his sire, Bold Ruler. In his book “Big Red of Meadow Stable: Secretariat, the Making of a Champion,” William Nack pointed out that as a racehorse Princequillo “won at the longest of American distances -- the longer the better.” After Princequillo’s racing days were over, he became tremendously influential as a sire and particularly as a broodmare sire by providing much stamina in a pedigree. Prior to the 1973 Kentucky Derby, a huge knock on Secretariat was the refrain that a son of Bold Ruler could not possibly win that classic because 1 1/4 miles was too far for anyone by that sire. But thanks in large measure to Princequillo, Secretariat thumbed his nose at such a notion by winning the Derby in 1:59 2/5 to set a track record that still stands 46 years later. Of course, again thanks in large measure to Princequillo, Secretariat possessed the stamina to win the even longer 1 1/2-mile Belmont Stakes by 31 stupendous lengths in 2:24 flat to obliterate Gallant Man’s track record by 2 3/5 seconds. I seriously doubt anybody is going to ever get close to that track record of Secretariat’s. It remains the fastest 1 1/2 miles run by a horse on dirt in history. TRAINING TODAY IS VERY DIFFERENT Speaking of Secretariat, in terms of workouts, consider how differently he was trained than War of Will in preparation for the Belmont. How many workouts will War of Will have had between the Preakness and Belmont? None. Secretariat had not one, not two, but three workouts between the two races. All three drills took place on the Belmont Park main track under the supervision of trainer Lucien Laurin. Secretariat won the Preakness on May 19. On May 27, he worked six furlongs in 1:12 1/5. On June 1, he worked one mile in 1:34 4/5. Nack wrote that Laurin had wanted jockey Ron Turcotte to work Secretariat a mile in 1:36. “He went faster than I really wanted,” Nack quoted Laurin as saying. “But he did it so easily that I am very pleased.” According to Nack, “there were murmurs from other trainers that Laurin had worked his horse too fast.” But the 1:34 4/5 workout “hardly bothered Secretariat,” Nack noted. On June 6, “Secretariat was ready for the third and final workout [between the Preakness and Belmont], one of those zingers to open his eyes and bring him to his toes,” Nack wrote. “Laurin told Turcotte to let the colt roll for a half-mile, and the red horse took off with him around the turn. It was one of those gray, melancholy mornings at Belmont Park -- a chill was in the air -- and when the colt appeared turning for home he seemed to emerge through the mists, grabbing at the ground and folding it under him. You could hear him breathing through all of the upper straight. For those who sought to beat him in the Belmont Stakes, that move was an omen. As Secretariat flashed past the wire, the clockers caught him in a fiery :46 3/5.” Three days after that :46 3/5 “zinger,” Secretariat won the Belmont Stakes in what many believe to be the greatest performance in the history of American racing. WAR OF WILL’S PREAKNESS UNDERAPPRECIATED? Some have expressed the notion that they are going against War of Will in the Belmont because he had such a perfect trip in the Preakness. Did War of Will have a perfect trip in Baltimore? Yes. But because he is a talented equine athlete who is blessed with tactical speed, another ideal trip in the Belmont could be in the cards. I also don’t think War of Will is getting the credit he probably deserves for his final time of 1:54.34 in the Preakness. Granted, the track seemed faster than normal. The day before the Preakness, the 3-year-old filly Covfefe won the Grade III Miss Preakness Stakes by stepping six furlongs in a record-smashing 1:07.70. Covfefe broke the track record of 1:09.00 set by Northern Wolf back in 1990. But even though the main track appeared to be faster than usual for this year’s Preakness, War of Will’s 1:54.34 clocking still was pretty impressive when compared to recent editions of the race. It was the fastest Preakness since Curlin won it in 1:53.46 in 2007. In fact, War of Will’s final time of 1:54.34 made it the second-fastest Preakness since Louis Quatorze won the race in 1:53.40 in 1996. The Preakness record is 1:53.00, a clocking credited to Secretariat for his 1973 victory that probably is remembered the most for the electrifying early move he made on the first turn to go from last to first. Below are the final times for the last 20 Preaknesses: Time (Year) Winner 1:53.46 (2007) Curlin1:54.34 (2019) War of Will1:54.65 (2006) Bernardini1:54.84 (2014) California Chrome1:54.86 (2008) Big Brown1:55.04 (2005) Afleet Alex1:55.08 (2009) Rachel Alexandra1:55.40 (2001) Point Given1:55.47 (2010) Lookin At Lucky1:55.59 (2004) Smarty Jones1:55.61 (2003) Funny Cide**1:55.93 (2018) Justify*1:55.94 (2012) I’ll Have Another1:55.98 (2017) Cloud Computing1:56.00 (2000) Red Bullet**1:56.40 (2002) War Emblem1:56.47 (2011) Shackleford*1:57.54 (2013) Oxbow1:58.31 (2016) Exaggerator*1:58.46 (2015) American Pharoah* *sloppy track**good track Regarding War of Will’s Preakness performance, also keep this in mind: Daily Racing Form’s Matt Bernier makes the point that War of Will “was relatively close to a hot pace, yet still ended up with the fourth-fastest come-home time in the race.” I think Bernier hit the nail on the head when he also wrote: “War of Will was the beneficiary of a perfect stalking trip at Pimlico three weeks ago, sitting the pocket before shooting up the rail and prevailing. Most handicappers would immediately downgrade War of Will’s effort because of the excellent trip he earned in Baltimore, but I think his effort may be better than it appears at face value.” Even though I am picking War of Will to win the Belmont, am I concerned that he might get beat due to the grind of running in all three Triple Crown races? Yes, I am. But I think the unusual circumstances stemming from his hiccup in the Louisiana Derby might actually help him Saturday. Don’t forget, the Preakness really was only War of Will’s second meaningful race since the Risen Star on Feb. 16 because he certainly did not get much out of the March 23 Louisiana Derby. Consequently, he might have more gas in his tank for the Belmont than most horses do if they have run in all three Triple Crown races. War of Will was headstrong early in the Kentucky Derby. It was good that he was not so keen early in the Preakness. Casse is cognizant that it is important for War of Will to relax early as much as possible when having to go 1 1/2 miles in the Belmont. “The key to it all is having a horse that will relax, because the horse that’s going to fight you early is going to be tiring in the end,” Casse said Tuesday after the draw for post positions at New York’s Citi Field. War of Will is a striking individual physically. Earlier this year, Casse went so far as to call him a superstar. Maybe War of Will is a superstar, maybe he isn’t. But if it does turn out that Casse is right about that, War of Will might not only win Saturday’s Belmont, he just might put on quite a show. THIS WEEK’S NTRA POLLS Here is the Top 10 for this week’s NTRA Top Thoroughbred Poll: Rank Points Horse (First-Place Votes) 1. 373 Bricks and Mortar (31)2. 302 McKinzie (5)3. 198 Mitole4. 188 Midnight Bisou5. 171 Gift Box6. 157 World of Trouble7. 155 Catholic Boy (1)8. 107 Vino Rosso9. 75 Monomoy Girl9. 75 Thunder Snow9 75 Vasilika Here is the Top 10 for this week’s NTRA Top 3-Year-Old Poll: Rank Points Horse (First-Place Votes) 1. 359 War of Will (18)2. 358 Maximum Security (15)3. 291 Omaha Beach (6)4. 255 Country House5. 222 Tacitus6. 206 Code of Honor7. 128 Game Winner8. 81 Serengeti Empress9. 55 Owendale10. 45 Improbable

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6.6.2019:

Weekly Bankroll Builder: June 7 Belmont Park $500K Guaranteed Late Pick 4

We’ll take a break from the Stronach 5 this week to go back to the Triple Crown and play Belmont Park’s guaranteed $500,000 Pk4 Friday (R8-11), which consists of a trio of pricey graded stakes and figures to blow by the guaranteed pool and get closer to $1 million. *** 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. *** R8: The Grade II, $250,000 True North for 4yo&up at 6 furlongs If you’ve followed me in this space in the past you know I’m a big fan of singling a heavy favorite (that I love) in the opening leg of a Pk4 or Pk5 sequence, since the betting public is usually adverse to this move, as they are scared mentally because they don’t want to be out after just one race. The True North was made for this way of thinking, as #3 CATALINA CRUISER (5-2), who I assume will be closer to even-money than his morning line, looks to have this field over a barrel, as he’s not only by far the most talented horse in the race, but he’s full of upside, has been training well, and I find it hard to believe Sadler would ship here off a November layoff if he wasn’t ready to fire his A race. Sure, that absolute no show in the BC Dirt Mile when last seen is a concern, and it’s also the only time he’s been outside of California, but a look at his four wins leading up to that, and you know why he was 9-10 against City of Light. Pk5 A horses: 3 If the chalk should come up short, then I’ll also use #4 NICODEMUS (8-1), who has a stalking gear in a race loaded with speed and enters off a breakthrough win in the local GIII Westchester, and the hard-knocking #7 WHITMORE (7-2), as he always fires, and therefore should be able to bounce back off a rare meek effort in the GI Churchill Downs last time, over a very speedy track that didn’t suit his running style. If you’re searching for one more then #8 Do Share (5-1) would be logical, as he to was up against it in the Churchill Downs, though it’s also fair to wonder if he’s this kind. Pk5 B horses: 4,7 R9: – The Grade II, $600,000 New York for 4upfm at 1 miles (turf) It’s Chad Brown’s world and we’re all just living in it, so I’m not siding against either #8 HOMERIQUE (6-5) or #6 COMPETITIONOFIDEAS (5-2), who ran 1-2 last time in the local GIII Beaugay and figure to do so again here. The latter could reverse that decision, as the former was more likely to appreciate the shorter trip, but she too was off a long layoff, and might be ready to move forward again in her second US start. ‘Competition won the GI American Oaks at Santa Anita in December in her 2018 finale when she flew home at this trip, so she may bridge the gap, but the gut still says Homerique is a true star in the making and will prove best again. Pk5 A horses (listed in order of preference): 8,6 No one else here appears in the league of the top-2, and would also need a lifetime best to win, so we’ll just take what the race gives us and move on. If you’re looking outside the box, then #7 Semper Sententiae (8-1) has had solid graded stakes form and is knocking at the door, and #1 Holy Helena (9-2) is a multiple graded stakes winner, but neither looks to have a gear that the Brown gals do, or the upside. Pk5 B horses: NONE R10: The $400,000 Belmont Gold Cup for 4yos&up at 2 miles (turf) This is always a tricky race, as it’s rare an American wants to go this far (against good foreign company) and you don’t know what the Europeans are sending over, so using more than a few seems like the right idea. I’ll take the easy way out and go with #3 AMADE (8-1) and #8 RAA ATOLL (6-1), a pair of marathon-loving Euros who have some solid form and both add Lasix. I can’t possibly believe they’ll hold their morning lines, but this is also the third race in the sequence, so those overlaid prices may scare a few people away, even though Amade has won 5-of-6, with two of them at this trip, and Raa Atoll enters off a GII win going 2 miles at Hoppegarten in his seasonal bow last month, in what was his first start since July. There’s little doubt #6 ARKLOW (5-2) is the best of the Americans, as he just missed in the GI Man O’ War here last time, but this distance is a guess and he’s not usually one for putting big efforts together back-to-back. Pk5 A horses: 3,8,6 I’m going to toss in #4 RED KNIGHT (7-2) as a backup, since it’s Mott and this guy did win going 2 miles in the Allen Jerkens at Gulfstream Park in December, but he’s really meeting tougher here and has to run better to get unsaddled, and taking this 7-2 ML price would be a huge risk. Pk5 B horses: 4 R11: 3upfm 40k starter-allowance at 6 furlongs (turf) First off, no, I don’t know why this isn’t an all-stakes Pk4 starting in R7 with the ultra-tough Tremont for 2yos. Though, this heat came up tough too, and it contains a lot of inside speed, which is why I’m looking for slightly off-the-pace types, who should get all the best of it in the lane. My top pick is #8 QUEEN KAHEN (10-1), an impressive MCL winner from midpack who immediately switches to the dirt off the Rice claim (30%), which is a very confident sign. The horse to beat looks like #3 FUNNY MONEY HONEY (5-2), who was a dreadful 7th on the dirt on debut then freaked when switched to turf after settling early, though facing winners at a short price makes her an underlay. I’ll also include #11 AILISH (8-1), since she drops in class and will be stalking, and going second-off a seven-month layoff says she’s going to be primed here. Pk5 A horses: 8,3,11 Wiring this won’t be easy, but both #2 LILA RUTH (5-1) and #1 SMOKEN DEB (3-1) have talent for big name connections, so I’m not tossing them completely, though I wouldn’t want to use them on the top line either, since they figure to be dueling with each other throughout. Pk5 B horses: 2,1 The tickets: Main Ticket: 3 with 8,6 with 3,8,6 with 8,3,11 = $9R8 B Backup: 4,7 with 8,6 with 3,8,6 with 8,3,11 = $18R10 B Backup: 3 with 8,6 with 4 with 8,3,11 = $3R11 B Backup: 3 with 8,6 with 3,8,6 with 2,1 = $6

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6.4.2019:

Belmont Stakes Post Draw Reaction

Preakness winner War of Will was installed the 2-1 morning line second choice for Saturday’s Belmont Stakes, despite being the headliner in a field of 10 drawn Tuesday night at Citi Field in Queens. War of Will starts from post 9, while 9-5 morning line favorite Tacitus will begin from the 10-hole in the final jewel of the Triple Crown. The outside posts for the race’s key favorites will be the topic of some discussion in the coming days. With a 1-1/2 miles circumference, there’s an 843-foot run to the first turn of the Belmont. Compare that with 1,433 feet in the Kentucky Derby where the race begins on an elongated straight. Post 10 has had just 2 Belmont winners, most recently Derby champ Thunder Gulch doubling-down in 1995. But note Creator won from the 13-hole in 2016; Tonalist from post 11 in 2014; and Palace Malice from the 12 in 2013. The outside draws should not be a big deal for the leading contenders. The Belmont Stakes pace is expected to be provided by Joevia, who starts from 1-post. Justify won last year’s Belmont from the rail, the 24th horse to do so since 1905, easily the most of any post position. But few expect Joevia to follow suit, though he should take the field as far as he can. Todd Pletcher-trained stablemates Spinoff (post 6) and Intrepid Heart (post 8) could provide the pace pressure, along with War of Will and Tax (4). As for post draw winners and losers, no one seems obviously compromised negatively. Spinoff, Sir Winston and Intrepid Heart all have had some issues at the start of their races and break together in posts 6-8, which could be a spot to watch. Intrepid Heart may have gotten some break in the 8-hole and a chance to stalk outside some of the other speed. Bourbon War will race with blinkers off in the Belmont, while Intrepid Heart races with blinkers on. Prior to the post position draw ceremony, Xpressbet.com blogger and Xpressbet Belmont Stakes Wager Guide handicapper Jon White was honored by the New York Racing Association with the Joe Hirsch Award for his 2018 Belmont Stakes coverage. Here’s the full field for the 151st Belmont Stakes: 1. Joevia (Jose Lezcano) 30-1 2. Everfast (Luis Saez) 12-1 3. Master Fencer (Julien Leparoux) 8-1 4. Tax (Irad Ortiz, Jr.) 15-1 5. Bourbon War (Mike Smith) 12-1 6. Spinoff (Javier Castellano) 15-1 7. Sir Winston (Joel Rosario) 12-1 8. Intrepid Heart (John Velazquez) 10-1 9. War of Will (Tyler Gaffalione) 2-1 10. Tacitus (Jose Ortiz) 9-5

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6.4.2019:

Harness Highlights: Gingras Second In World Championships

Yannick Gingras, the top money-earning driver in the U.S. in four of the last five years, put his talent on display for the whole world to see last month.  Gingras finished second in the World Driving Championships that spanned five racetracks across Sweden. He had three wins, three second and three thirds in 24 races to out-score all but one of 12 drivers in the competition. Rick Ebbinge of the Netherlands accumulated 199.3 points and held a big enough lead to prevail when Gingras (193.5) won the last race. Gingras, trying to become the first U.S. representative to win since Dave Magee in 1995, settled for second, ahead of Sweden’s Ulf Ohlsson (191.5) for that spot. “It was a blast,” Gingras told Ken Weingartner of the U.S. Trotting Association. “I couldn’t win (the championship) going into the last race, so finishing second was actually a home run for me. Of course, I’m a little disappointed because you start looking back at the competition and you wonder what might have happened if you’d done things differently in some of the races. On the other hand, I won with longshots that maybe other drivers are thinking the same thing too; that if they had done something different, they could have beat me.” BREEDERS CROWN TICKETS ON SALE Tickets for the $6 million Breeders’ Crown Oct. 25-26 at Woodbine-Mohawk Park are now on sale. Visit the track’s website for more info. Fans got a sneak preview of some serious contenders in last weekend’s Graduate stakes series. Atlanta, the 2018 Hambletonian winner, romped in the Graduate for 4-year-old trotters and Lather Up held off a fast-charging Thinkbig Dreambig in the Graduate for 4-year-old pacers. Atlanta moved into second in the weekly Hambletonian Society/Breeders Crown poll and Lather Up moved into the Top 10. Shartin N held the No. 1 spot. Entries for C$1 million Pepsi North America Cup, scheduled June 15 at Woodbine-Mohawk Park, closed with 18 entries. The 3-year-olds, in alphabetical order, are: Aflame Hanover (trainer: Linda Schadel), Air Force Hanover (Brian Brown), Best In Show (Linda Toscano), Bettor’s Wish (Chris Ryder), Bronx Seelster (Wayne McGean), Captain Crunch (Nancy Johansson), Captain Victorious (Ron Burke), Caviart Rockland ( Nancy Johansson), Century Farroh (Dr. Ian Moore), De Los Cielos Deo (Ron Burke), Fixed Idea (Todd Clements), Hurrikane Emperor (John McDermott), Lyons Night Hawk (Gareth Dowse), Semi Tough (Ron Burke), Shake That House (Chris Oakes), Stag Party (Casie Coleman), Tyga Hanover (Ben Baillargeon) and Workin Ona Mystery (Brian Brown). 

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6.3.2019:

Monday, June 3: Mohawk Park Pick 5 Analysis

Tonight, the headliners at Woodbine Mohawk Park are 3-year-old fillies competing in two divisions of Ontario Sires Stakes-Gold action. The popular 0.20 Pick 5 with a $50,000 guaranteed pool kicks-off the card and will be my focus. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Race 1 7-What Chapter-Just missed in last from same post, has minded manners in last 2, could be dialed on high tonight. 8-Cruising In Style-Qualified well versus tough 4-year-olds, faced better than this but needs a trip in season debut. 9-Y C Broadway-In fine form and Filion could leave or grind it out, should be in the mix. Race 2 1-Stolen Art-Flew home in 54.1 from the 7-hole on a "good" track, ML chalk should be a major player. 2-Sportsline-3-year-old has won 4 straight at "b" tracks, last was impressive, best to not overlook. 5-Alta Shelby N-Just caught near the wire by #1 in 1st try off the bench, might be tighter and even the score. Race 3 6-Teddys Littleangel-Gets post relief, makes 4th start of the year and with a top effort can challenge #8. 8-Haveoneforme-Winner of 2 straight and 5 of 7 lifetime is probably a clean trip away from another picture. Race 4 1-Dreamy Fella-Stepped up to this level and didn't have a smooth journey, can surprise with a better a start. 3-Kwik Talkin-Was bet in last when facing better, post draw should help and is in the hunt. 5-A Boy Named Suuzz-Drops, draws well and McNair takes a spin, can win at a square price if brings "A" game. 7-Mongolian Hero N-ML chalk has had some dull efforts but takes a good drop and this is a spot to shine. Race 5 1-Strength Ofa Woman-Camera shy mare has struggled against better, could be a drop and pop scenario. 2-Cabertoss-Will toss last when broke from the 8-hole, McNair sticks and was bet last time, will respect tonight. 3-Miss Jubilee Hill-0-4 this year, hasn't been close but drops and should like the company, using at a square price. My Ticket Race 1) 7,8,9 Race 2) 1,2,5 Race 3) 6,8 Race 4) 1,3,5,7 Race 5) 1,2,3 Total Ticket Cost) $43.20 for $0.20Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia 

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6.3.2019:

Should You Bet Closers in the Belmont Stakes?

Conventional wisdom, which often in this handicapping game isn’t as wise as believed, says that you don’t want deep closers in the Belmont Stakes. So instead of accepting that at face value, let’s go through the last 10 results in this mile and one-half test to learn for ourselves. 2018: Justify wired the Belmont as the best horse. But Gronkowski rallied from 14 lengths last to be second, and Hofburg was eighth of 10 early and wound up third. 2017: Very little change occurred as the top 4 pulled the carousel and presser Tapwrit wore down pacemaker Irish War Cry to complete the exacta. Deep closer Lookin At Lee didn’t fire, nor did Senior Investment, after that pair hit the board to start the Triple Crown series at prices. 2016: Deep closer Creator won from 11th of 13, making up about 10 lengths. Lani came from a dozen or more back to finish third while pace player Destin held to split the closers in the exacta. 2015: American Pharoah wired en route to history. Each in the top 4 was within about 2-3 lengths the entire way, including third-place Keen Ice, who changed tactics and was much closer up than usual. 2014: Tonalist pressed the pace of Commissioner and just got past him in the final yards. The top 5 all were within about 5 lengths the entire way, including third-place Medal Count who stayed much closer to the pace than his previous bids. Rallying Derby runner-up Commanding Curve never fired from the back, while favorite California Chrome was a flat fourth throughout. 2013: Top 2 Palace Malice and Oxbow were into the pace mix from the outset within a few lengths. Favorite Orb rallied from a dozen lengths back, 13th of 14, to secure third money. 2012: Union Rags pressed the pace set by Paynter and eventually nailed that one nearing the wire. Deep closers Atigun and Street Life rounded out the bottom of the superfecta. Favorite Dullahan was unable to rally from ninth and wound up seventh. 2011: The Top 5 all were within about 5 lengths most of the trip as pressers Ruler On Ice and Stay Thirsty led the charge in the slop with pacemaker Shackleford tiring to fifth. Favorite Animal Kingdom was last early and managed only to split the field in sixth. 2010: The top 5 once again all were within about 5 lengths as stalkers Drosselmeyer and Fly Down ran 1-2 and edged past front-running First Dude, who wound up third. Deep closing favorite Ice Box never fired. 2009: Summer Bird made up 6 lengths over the last half-mile to win, rallying from 9th of 10 to storm past pace-making runner-up Dunkirk. Favored Mine That Bird rallied from last by 11 lengths to be third. In summary, the last decade of Belmont winners has produced a single deep closer to win, Creator (2016), and another who made up significant ground in Summer Bird (2009). That means 8 in 10 were into the pace discussion early, up a bit from what we see as a national norm where two-thirds to 70% of races are won by speed/press types. On the win end, the past decade shows that deep closers aren’t your best option in the Belmont. As for your exotics plays, the deep closers have accounted for 7 or 8 of the trifecta placings among 30 available slots (depending if you consider Summer Bird a deep closer because of his position in the race or the margin). And that drops to either 2 or 3 of the exacta placings among 20 available (Creator, Gronkowski and debatably Summer Bird). So conventional wisdom that you don’t want deep closers in the Belmont Stakes turns out to be true, based on the last decade of results. But they did thwart you cashing anything in the exotics in 2016 and 2018 most recently. Might that trend be turning, or do you rely on the full decade of results in your decision-making? That’s where you earn your ‘wisdom.’

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6.2.2019:

Sunday, June 2nd - Hawthorne Late Pick 4 Analysis

Hawthorne has an 11-race card set to roll but the biggest news on Sunday in Illinois is the expected passage of a bill to expand legalized gambling and to allow sports betting. The two remaining race tracks, Arlington and Hawthorne, plus horsemen should benefit and finally be rewarded for decades of waiting for this day to come. The feature at Hawthorne comes in Race 9, the Violet Trot for 3-year-old fillies with a $45,900 purse. My focus will be on the 0.50 Late Pick 4 sequence which has a $20,000 guaranteed pool. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Race 8 1-Savatore-Has been coming up short but this is a better spot and could be ready for a top effort in 5th local start. 3-Major Attribute-Sharp effort off a sick scratch but slow pace hurt, a player at 10-1 in the ML with a good trip. 5-Heza Real Diamond-Fell short after being used twice, should be in the hunt and barn has been hot. 6-Cruising Home-Comes off even efforts but new driver may put in striking range for one big move at a square price. Race 9 6-Louzotic-As long as the track is dry and the trip isn't brutal, this gal should be taking another picture. 10-Heidi High-Post compromises chances but best to not overlook in a 3-year-old trot. Race 10 2-Beamer N Bud-Leonard should keep in play and will be bet but doesn't always put forth a top effort. 3-Princess Oshie-HoP invader is 0-14 this year but drops into comfortable spot in 3rd start off a sick scratch. 4-Final Gift-Mare isn't a frequent picture taker but barn has heated up and versus this crew will use at 12-1 in ML. 5-Just A Friend-Hasn't done well since arriving from Ohio but drops to bottom class and it could be wake-up time. 8-Fox Valley Sierra-Raced the back half in 55.4 in 1st start off the bench, will take a swing at boxcar odds. Race 11 6-Fox Valley Minka-3-year-old has been very sharp, steps-up and faces older but 2nd ML favorite deserves respect. 10-Jazzie Babe-7-year-old mare makes 5th LT start and is looking for 4 straight, 9/5 chalk looks the part. My Ticket Race 8) 1,3,5,6 Race 9) 6,10 Race 10) 2,3,4,5,8 Race 11) 6,10  Total Ticket Cost) $40 for $0.50Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia

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6.1.2019:

Friday, June 1: Woodbine Mohawk Park Early Pick 4 Analysis

There's a big card set to roll at Woodbine Mohawk Park this evening. Grand Circuit action returns to Milton Ontario with the Somebeachsomewhere Stakes for 3-year-olds, and 4-year-olds will be featured in the Graduate Pace. Not to be ovelooked is Ontario Sires Stake-Gold action for 3-year-old fillies taking place in Race 2, Race 8 and Race 10. My focus will be on the 0.20 Early Pick 4 sequence which has a $50,000 guaranteed pool. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Race 4 1-Indigo Art-Filion's choice over #10 makes 2nd local start, could benefit from the rail after a tough 8-hole trip in last. 2-Fashiononthebeach-Has faced better and now drops to a spot to shine, should be on the engine or in the pocket. 5-Torrin Hanover-Racing well but McClure needs to find the right route to seal the deal. 10-Yacht Seelster-Has gate speed, Gingras picks up the drive and may provide an aggressive steer. Race 5 2-Custom Cantab-David Miller takes a spin and could get a pocket ride behind #4, likes to win and offers some value. 4-Atlanta-7/5 ML choice looks like a cut above if ready, but comes off a sick scratch and is looking for 1st Wbsb win. 6-Run Director-Season debut after a nice qualifier, will respect connections, could be ready to fire off the bench. Race 6 5-Captain Ahab-Nice effort in season debut at the Big M, best to respect, raced huge at Mohawk in 2018. 6-Bronx Seelster-Ontario bred is 8 out of 10 in the money here, in the mix in 2nd start of year if Henry works a trip. 8-Stag Part-Coleman trainee likes the track, should be tighter in 2nd start and can win despite the post draw. Race 7 1-Lather Up-5 for 5 at Mohawk and is a major player as long as minds manners. 5-Jimmy Freight-Hometown boy draws well, should be dialed on high in 4th start of year and it could be picture time. 0.20 Pick 4 Race 4) 1,2,5,10 Race 5) 2,4,6 Race 6) 5,6,8 Race 7) 1,5 Total Ticket Cost) = $14.40 Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia. 

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5.31.2019:

Friday, May 31: Can-Am Pick 4 Analysis

The Can-Am 0.20 Pick 4 begins in Race 10 at Woodbine Mohawk Park and as usual the last leg will be held at the Meadowlands in Race 11. If the weather forecast holds true in Milton Ontario and East Rutherford New Jersey both surfaces will be rated fast. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Race 10-Mohawk Park-Leg 1 2-Tequila Party-McClure's choice over #8 draws inside for only 2nd time this season, looks to be in the hunt. 3-Westbeach-Gets post relief in 4th start off the bench, likes the track and could trip out. 8-Beach Bar-Fired hot off the bench, loses JMac and trainer is listed as the pilot, but I'm thinking that will change. Race 10-Meadowlands-Leg 2 2-Buen Camino-Has been facing better, post draw should help and shows a 1.53.1 win here last year. 5-Mississippi Storm-Comes off a sick scratch and having a rough year, this is a better spot if ready for a top effort. 7-Di Oggi-ML chalk tries hard, comes off a win for hot barn, will respect but will need a top effort at this class. Race 11-Mohawk Park-Leg 3 1-Ramblingamblinman-Closes well but needs to be in striking range, regular pilot back, could surprise with a trip. 3-Nickel Bag-Needs best for a picture but last was good after skipping a start, draws well and will look for a price. 6-Humboldt-Takes a big drop and this is the level to shine, major player with a clean trip. 10-Thor De Vie-Steps-up after a sharp score on the engine, barn is hot and not much gate speed inside. Race 11-Meadowlands-Leg 4 2-Diamondtoothgertie-Barn has won 5 out of 14 last 30 days and McCarthy takes a spin, starts inside of main foes. 6-Traffic Jam-ML chalk comes off a win at this class last week, usually in the mix and can get a good early seat. 8-Rockin The Boys A-Just missed off a rough trip as chalk, steps-up but Tetrick sticks and post makes the price. 10-Kimberlee-Can beat this crew, offers some value at 10-1 in the ML, could leave and get in the mix early. My Ticket Race 10 Mohawk) 2,3,8 Race 10 Meadowlands) 2,5,7 Race 11 Mohawk) 1,3,6,10 Race 11 Meadowlands) 2,6,8,10 Total Ticket Cost) $28.80 for $0.20Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia

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5.30.2019:

Meet the 2019 Investec Epsom Derby Runners

Who wins the 240th running of the Investec Derby at Epsom on Saturday? Aidan O’Brien is seeking to emulate Robert Robson, Fred Darling and John Porter by recording his seventh victory in the premier Classic. The 21-time Irish champion trainer has dominated the Derby trials this season and has an enviable hand. He is represented by seven of the 13 declared runners. Betting the Investec Derby? Get a $5 Bonus for Every $50 You Bet on the Card Sir Dragonet heads the betting and on Monday was supplemented for £85,000 along with Telecaster who has been towards the head of the betting since his victory in the Dante. Below you can read positives and negatives of each of this year’s candidates, with each runner being given a mark out of ten. (Guide to the marks: 10: most likely winner. 9: a leading player. 8: shortlist material. 7: worth a second look. 6: a run for your money. 5: up against it. 4: others much stronger. 3 or under: mountain to climb) 1. ANTHONY VAN DYCK (6/1)Marks out of ten: 7Trainer: Aidan O'BrienJockey: Seamie Heffernan Positives: Produced some good performances over seven furlongs and a mile in Group contests last season - including when second in the National Stakes at the Curragh – and proved this trip was in reach when a cosy winner of the Derby Trial at Lingfield on his seasonal debut. Was expected to come on bundles for the run beforehand and quicker ground will suit.Negatives: Didn’t need to improve to win last time out and his best form falls just short of what some of the other contenders have achieved.Verdict: Has more experience than most and has shown a good level of form, although he probably needs to improve again to be in with a chance of winning. 2. BANGKOK (8/1)Marks out of ten: 6Trainer: Andrew BaldingJockey: Silvestre de SousaPositives: Appreciated a step up to ten furlongs when getting off the mark in good style at Doncaster on his seasonal debut, where he defeated Telecaster, before landing the Group Three Classic Trial at Sandown in impressive style. Twelve furlongs should not be a problem for him and has improved with every run so far.Negatives: Telecaster was having his racecourse debut at Doncaster when he got the better of him and that rival has probably improved past him now. Got warm and on his toes before winning latest.Verdict: Clearly useful but will need to progress again to go close and is likely to find a few too good. 3. BROOME (4/1)Marks out of ten: 10Trainer: Aidan O'BrienJockey: Donnacha O'BrienPositives: Showed a decent level of form last season but has looked an improved horse this year winning two Group Threes on his last two starts. Achieved the best speed figure in the field when landing the Ballysax at Leopardstown in April and it would be a surprise if he does not relish the extra two furlongs.Negatives: Wasn’t as impressive when winning the Derby Trial at Leopardstown this month where he was pushed out to beat his 86-rated pacemaker, although was well on top at the finish.Verdict: Looks the pick of Aidan O'Brien's strong team and the one they all have to beat. Certain to relish this step up in trip like his sire, Australia, the Derby winner in 2014. 4. CIRCUS MAXIMUS (15/1)Marks out of ten: 7Trainer: Aidan O'BrienJockey: Frankie DettoriPositives: Produced a career best to finish fourth in the Vertem Futurity Trophy Stakes behind 2000 Guineas winner Magna Grecia and Irish 2000 Guineas winner Phoenix Of Spain plus was also not beaten far behind Persian King in the Autumn Stakes. He also remains unexposed over trips further than a mile.Negatives: Did not travel with great fluency at Chester and his main market rival was unlucky not to finish closer.Verdict: Should improve for his run at Chester and a case can certainly be made for him. 5. HIROSHIMA (99/1)Marks out of ten: 1Trainer: John RyanJockey: Brett Doyle Positives: Improved considerably from his debut run when landing a 1m4f maiden by six lengths at Southwell where he relished the trip. Negatives: Struggled when finishing down the field in the Lingfield Derby Trial behind Anthony Van Dyck and this is another big step up in class.Verdict: Thrown in at the deep end here and is again likely to be outclassed. 6. HUMANITARIAN (30/1)Marks out of ten: 2Trainer: John GosdenJockey: Robert HavlinPositives: Has won two of his three starts and was impressive when winning a novice stakes at Lingfield before making the most of a good opportunity at Salisbury on his first start this season. His trainer has also scooped this race twice in the past.Negatives: Has not achieved anything near what the majority of his rivals have and was not that impressive last time out in a race he should have won with plenty to spare. Verdict: Clearly has ability but it would be a surprise if he was good enough to land a blow. 7. JAPAN (10/1)Marks out of ten: 7Trainer: Aidan O'BrienJockey: Wayne LordanPositives: Improved considerably in a short space of time last season and ended his campaign with a game success in the Beresford Stakes. Suffered an interrupted preparation ahead of the Dante where he finished a never-nearer fourth on his seasonal debut. That run should have blown the cobwebs away and his breeding, plus the way he has shaped, suggest middle distances are certain to suit.Negatives: Others have stronger form and he will need to improve again to be in the mix, plus he needs to leave his Dante run well behind.Verdict: An improved performance is expected here with a run under his belt and he holds each-way claims. 8. LINE OF DUTY (30/1) Marks out of ten: 5Trainer: Charlie ApplebyJockey: James DoylePositives: Progressed nicely last season and landed a Group Three at Chantilly before completing a hat-trick of wins in the Grade One Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf. Represents last year’s winning connections and is bred to be an even better three-year-old.Negatives: Disappointed in the Dante last time out and needs to bounce back to form plus the form of his two Group wins last season were nothing out of the ordinary. Verdict: No obvious excuse has emerged from his run in the Dante and, although he is surely capable of better, he has a bit to prove. 9. MADHMOON (10/1) Marks out of ten: 6Trainer: Kevin PrendergastJockey: Chris HayesPositives: Looked a horse with a big future when winning his first two starts last season, which included a Group Two at Leopardstown where he defeated Broome over a mile. Ran a respectable race in the 2000 Guineas, where he got outpaced before staying on again to finish fourth.Negatives: He has a miler’s pedigree, so the step up to 12 furlongs is not certain to suit despite the fact he looked like he may stay a bit further at Newmarket.Verdict: Should have more to offer but this trip poses a big question mark. 10. NORWAY (20/1) Marks out of ten: 4Trainer: Aidan O'BrienJockey: Jamie Spencer Positives: Won two of his five starts last season and was successful at Listed level on his first start over 1m2f at Newmarket. Did not get the clearest run when second behind Sir Dragonet in the Chester Vase on his first start of the season and shaped like a future stayer.Negatives: Can race quite keenly and has work to do to reverse form with stablemate Sir Dragonet plus he can also get worked up in the preliminaries.Verdict: Another that should be suited over this extra distance but it is hard to see him reversing form with his stablemate here. 11. SIR DRAGONET (5/2)Marks out of ten: 8Trainer: Aidan O'BrienJockey: Ryan MoorePositives: Created a big impression when winning an extended 1m4f maiden at Tipperary on his debut in April and trounced his rivals in the Chester Vase 13 days later. Connections have paid £85,000 to supplement him and that looks a wise move considering he ticks plenty of boxes.Negatives: Fast ground would be a question mark as it is arguable his rivals at Chester were not suited by the going, whereas this son of Camelot seemed to relish it. He also lacks experience which is a potential minus in a race of this calibre.Verdict: Looked very good at Chester and, although there are a couple of question marks, he has to enter calculations with further progress likely. 12. SOVEREIGN (50/1) Marks out of ten: 3Trainer: Aidan O'BrienJockey: Padraig Beggy Positives: Has shown consistent form in Group Two and Three contests since getting off the mark at Galway last year. Has been no match for Broome in his last two runs but an extra two furlongs should help him.Negatives: Hard to see him troubling Broome even if he does progress again and may act as a pacemaker, having led in the majority of his starts.Verdict: Should have more to give but his stablemates hold stronger claims. 13. TELECASTER (9/2)Marks out of ten: 9Trainer: Hugh MorrisonJockey: Oisin MurphyPositives: Shaped with lots of promise behind Bangkok on his debut before bursting onto the scene with an emphatic win at Windsor. Proved that was no fluke when winning the Dante last time out, where he kept finding for pressure. The Derby trip should be no issue and he enjoyed the fast ground at York. Beat a useful field in that contest and still more to come.Negatives: Has only had three starts and it will only be 16 days since his victory at York, where he had a hard race. Also needs to prove he stays an extra two furlongs.Verdict: There was a lot to like about his Dante victory and has a huge chance if this race does not come too soon.    

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5.30.2019:

Gulfstream Park Pick 4 Has Challenging Blend

Late spring is here, we are in that gap between the Preakness and Belmont, and it’s a chance to focus on the tracks you know the best. And with Gulfstream Park racing over a vast majority of the year, you have handle on everything, right? Not so fast. The 2-year-olds just began running, the Championship Meet is long gone, and there’s a blend of horses that have made several starts this season, some that are coming off a shelf after a long vacation, and those that have established if they’ve liked (or not liked) the south Florida environs. Regardless of the time of the year, there’s always the issue of the late Pick 4, and that’s our target again. Gulfstream’s late Pick 4 on Saturday runs from races 9 through 12, starts with solid turf horses and ends with a promising group of freshmen in the last. In between, there’s an dirt sprint and another turf test. Here’s a look at the four races, along with suggested ticket for $36: Race 9: Right off the bat, the two-turn turf event for conditioned claimers presents a challenge. Eliminating horses off your list is easy for some races and difficult for others. This is the latter. Shidoshi, fresh off a narrow loss while 2nd in a similar race, looks like the one to beat. He’s been away from the winner’s circle since Sept. 22 of last year and is long overdue. He may have found his bunch to beat, but others should be seriously considered as well. Included on the ticket are Spa Jazz, Too Stormy and Manhattan Project. Race 10: Gnarly and Glory of Florida are included from this group of Florida-bred sprinters. Gnarly has been knocking at the door and was an even 3rd last time. From an inside post he’ll likely get a good trip and has the speed to save position. There’s plenty of pace here and a stalking run would probably make him very tough. Glory of Florida makes his 1st start vs. winners after getting a maiden score in his 5th score. He’s been in some very good races and this step up in class is not a real stretch. Race 11: Turf distaffers get together for this one, and a trio of good ones rate the edge over the others. Cha Cha Heels is the most eligible to improve. She’s been with tough allowance and graded stakes company and last time failed in a race that came off the turf. Staying on the turf is a big thing for her and hopefully she’ll get to show that today. Subsidiary scored nicely against claimers last time out and gets her 1st attempt at turf after races on fast dirt, slop and all-weather. She’s ready to try the two turns on grass and should like this change. Yako finished 3rd in her last three and hasn’t run any bad ones lately. She won a starter stakes and was 3rd in a similar event and looks like she has the class to be a strong player for these conditions. Race 12: Only one of the eight entrants has started. Poe ran 3rd in his only start, which came in a quick race. That experience should help, and is also helps that he has speed – always a factor going five furlongs. Several others have shown promise through good workouts. Chance It and Smash Factor look like they’ve excelled during training and can be in the mix in their debut. Here’s a suggested ticket for the Pick 4 at Gulfstream Park on Saturday: 9) #4 Shidoshi, #5 Spa Jazz, #7 Too Stormy, #9 Manhattan Project. 10) #1 Gnarly, #6 Glory of Florida. 11) #3 Cha Cha Heels, #4 Subsidiary, #7 Yako. 12) #3 Poe, #5 Chance It, #6 Smash Factor. Late Pick 4: 4-5-7-9 with 1-6 with 3-4-7 with 3-5-6 ($36 for 50 cents) 

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5.30.2019:

Penn National has Eight Saturday Stakes + 15% Takeout Pick 4’s

All of the big boys, including Belmont, Santa Anita, Churchill, Gulfstream and Woodbine are in action this Saturday but my attention is on Penn National, where a eight-pack of stakes races headline a 12-race card that features a trio of 15% Takeout All-Stakes Pick 4’s.  You read that right.  For this day only, Penn National has slashed the takeout of their Pick 4’s down to just 15%, making them an incredibly appealing betting option this Saturday.  By the way, if you’re used to Penn National being a ‘night’ track you’re going to have to tweak your approach on Saturday as special first post is 2:45PM ET.  Here’s a look at the stakes races on the card and where you can play those All-Stakes Pick 4’s: Race 4 (4:06PM ET) - New Start S. *Start of All-Stakes Pick 4 (Races 4 - 7)* Race 5 (4:34PM ET) - Danzig S. Race 6 (5:02PM ET) - Penn Ladies Dash *Start of All-Stakes Pick 4 (Races 6 - 9)* Race 7 (5:30PM ET) - Chocolate Town Sprint Race 8 (6:05PM ET) - Susquehanna S. *Start of All-Stakes Pick 4 (Races 8 - 11)* Race 9 (6:40PM ET) - PA Governor's Cup Race 10 (7:15PM ET) - Penn Oaks Race 11 (7:50PM ET) - Grade 2 Penn Mile On top of everything else, Penn National and Belmont have combined for an All Turf Stakes Cross Country Pick 5 this Saturday, consisting of Races 8 – 11 at Penn National and the G3 Pennine Ridge Stakes at Belmont.  To bet that, look for ‘Cross Country Pick 5’ on the Tracklist.  Here’s how I’m betting the All-Stakes Pick 4 that covers Races 8 – 11 and wraps up with the Penn Mile.   For the Cross-Country Pick 5, I would use Value Proposition, Demarchelier, Social Paranoia and Clint Maroon in the Pennine Ridge.  Race 8 – Susquehanna Stakes DYNATAIL (5/2) was no match for a much stronger field in the G3 Gallorette Stakes at Pimlico two weeks ago, but she’s a winner over this Penn National course and she’s the one they’re going to have to run down in order to win.  There is enough other speed signed on in the form of UNBRIDLED ESCAPE (9/2), SMOKINPADDYLASSIE (6/1) and SOUPER STRIKING (7/2) that there could be some pace on, which would create some intrigue in ENCHANTED GHOST (4/1) and the TANDA’S JOY/IT’S A JOURNEY (8/1) entry.  Race 9 – PA Governor’s Cup The chess game in this race will be interesting to watch as PURE SENSATION (7/5) and COMPLETED PASS (8/5) are drawn inside and both have one way of going – on the front-end.  Each has great tactical speed and they could well duel themselves into submission.  If that’s the case, SQUARE SHOOTER (7/2) will be flying late.  He finished a close-up sixth behind Imprimis and Bound for Nowhere in the G2 Shakertown in April at Keeneland.  You can even make a case for SIRALFREDTHEGREAT (6/1) if he sits third and tries to pick them off late.  His trainer, Kathleen DeMasi, is hitting at a 33% rate at Penn National this year.    Race 10 – Penn Oaks Chad Brown is North America’s premier turf trainer and his Penn Oaks entrant, REGAL GLORY (6/5), looks like a standout in here.  She finished second in the G2 Appalachian last time out and the only real concern I have is she may get caught too far (or wide) behind an expected slow pace and not be able to make up the ground late.  Both ALASAAYIL (7/2) and IONIC (3/1) have more tactical speed and will likely get the jump.  I can’t advocate using all three horses at a short price, but IONIC and ALASAAYIL are worth considering.  Race 11 – Grade 2 Penn Mile A THREAD OF BLUE (5/2) nearly stole the G2 American Turf last out at Churchill and that race was significantly deeper than this one.  What I like most about A THREAD OF BLUE is he doesn’t ‘need’ the lead (as evidenced by his stalking victory in the G3 Palm Beach), he’s quick enough to take a field gate-to-wire.  The one-mile distance here should hit him right between the eyes.  His rider, Luis Saez, will play a bit of a chess match early with Ty Kennedy aboard REAL NEWS (5/1) and Trevor McCarthy on EMPIRE OF WAR (9/2) as all three have shown forward speed.  A pace duel would benefit FORTY UNDER (7/2).  He won the G3 Pilgrim Stakes last fall at Belmont and was 6th in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf.  THE BLACK ALBUM (15/1) isn’t a horse that I love here but his ML price is way too high and could make him usable in multi-race exotics.  My Late Pick 4 Ticket Race 8: 1, 2, 7Race 9: 1, 2, 3, 4Race 10: 7Race 11: 2, 5Ticket Cost ($1): $24.00  

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5.30.2019:

A Most Trying Season

To say that this has been one of the most trying seasons in the history of beautiful Santa Anita Park would be accurate. This winter, beneath a persistent dark cloud, the place I fell in love with as a teenager and where I spent early mornings, afternoons and evenings for 30 years, has struggled.  Friends, acquaintances and families employed at The Great Race Place wondered what the future might hold. Drowned by Ark-worthy rain, rocked by an extraordinary series of equine injury and death, picketed by animal rights groups, threatened by politicians and investigated by the Los Angeles district attorney, the Arcadia, California gem, positioned at the base of the San Gabriel Mountains and regarded as one of the most majestic racing emporiums worldwide, operated under a pall of sadness and uncertainty.  The magnificent lady has known sorrow before. During World War II, Santa Anita Park served as a major internment camp for those of Japanese descent that had been rounded up following the attack on Pearl Harbor. According to Stephanie K. Baer in the San Gabriel Valley Tribune, Santa Anita Park, or as it was then known Santa Anita Assembly Center, “…housed more than 19,000 people from across Southern California and as far north as Salinas for several months in 1942 while more permanent camps were being built. The temporary camp was the largest and longest-occupied of all the assembly centers and was the only center to run a camouflage net factory, according to Densho, a nonprofit organization documenting Japanese-American history.” Just over two years ago, more than 200 Japanese-American men, women and children gathered at the Japanese American National Museum in Little Tokyo in downtown Los Angeles for a 75-year reunion of, “…those who were temporarily detained at Santa Anita Park before being shipped to War Relocation Authority camps in Heart Mountain, Wyoming; Manzanar, California; Poston, Arizona; Rohwer, Arkansas and other desolate areas of the country.”  According to Baer, sitting around tables in the central hall at the museum, which sits on the site of one of the pickup points where Japanese-Americans were ordered to report to be bused to the camps, old friends shared stories of their camp time and sang 1940s songs over bento boxes and manju.  “It’s about being part of a community,” said June Aochi Berk, one of the organizers of what may have been the last reunion of those who were forced to live in horse stalls and barracks at the Arcadia racetrack. “We all shared an experience together and we like to remember friends who are no longer with us and reconnect with old friends.”  One of those ‘old friends’ was Toshi Ito, then 92, mother of Judge Lance Ito who famously presided over the O.J. Simpson murder case. She was interned along with her mother and father and donated a pair of wooden geta or Japanese clogs that were manufactured and used at Santa Anita to the Smithsonian museum.  The war years were difficult for everyone and Santa Anita, obviously, was closed for racing from 1942 through 1945. This year the track was shut down from March 5 until March 29 as experts investigated everything from racetrack maintenance to medication and veterinarian procedures for answers. No single culprit was located. Most likely, from this chair, a ‘perfect storm’ of factors, triggered by torrential rains, combined to cause an inordinate number of equine injuries and deaths.  Monday’s Santa Anita Memorial Day holiday racing card was one of the season’s best. It offered quality as well as quantity and challenged horseplayers to find winners in competitive fields. The heart of the card included three Grade 1 races worth $500,000 each: Gamely, for fillies and mares at a mile and one-eighth on turf; Gold Cup at Santa Anita, at a mile and one-quarter and Shoemaker Mile at one mile on turf.  Vasilika, who apparently loves Santa Anita as much as I do, registered her 11th victory in 12 starts over the Arcadia green to take the Gamely! She’s now also won 6 out of 8 at the mile and one-eighth distance. Amazingly, she was claimed by trainer Jerry Hollendorfer for just $40,000 a little over a year ago. Chad Brown-trained Rymska, winner of 7 of 14 and over $708k before Monday, invaded from New York and chased Vasilika home.  In the Gold Cup at Santa Anita, tables were turned as east topped west. Todd Pletcher-trained Vino Rosso outlasted heavily-favored local Gift Box. The latter was on a 3-race winning streak that included the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap and was unbeaten at Santa Anita in two outings. Vino Rosso appears to be living up to 3-year-old promise that saw him win the Grade 2 Wood Memorial and finish a close third in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy. He’s a welcome addition to the older male dirt division.  The Shoemaker Mile, which included a notable roster of accomplished and formful runners, produced a shocking upset when Bolo went wire to wire to win convincingly at 30-1 odds. Always highly regarded, Bolo previously won the Grade 2 Arcadia and was second in the Kilroe Mile…in 2016! A year later, Bolo successfully defended his Arcadia title for his last win until Monday’s Shoemaker. Off nearly two years, Bolo had raced just once this year, setting the pace in a mile and one-eighth allowance/optional claiming race before fading to fifth.  That Breeders’ Cup is scheduled to be run at Santa Anita in November is encouraging to connections of these three stakes winners--although Vasilika is not nominated and would need to be supplemented at a large number.  That Bolo, at age 7, could return off one race in two years to win one of the nation’s most coveted Grade 1 grass events is remarkable and a tribute to everyone involved—owners, trainer, grooms, farmhands, veterinarians, etc. In a season where horse care, health and safety has been front and center, particularly at this track, Bolo delivered a shining moment that stands in juxtaposition to previous tragedy. That he did it on Memorial Day—when we traditionally honor fallen military—at a place so meaningfully touched by war is notable. Cynics will argue that Bolo is an exception, a singular example of a horse who survived where some others didn’t. I suggest a different view. Exceptional? Yes, Bolo’s achievement absolutely is that. Singular example? Not at all. He’s just the other side of the coin. The part you never hear about where Thoroughbred racehorses are treated very well. HBO’s Real Sports won’t produce that piece. A blatant ‘hit job’ they’ll do. ‘Fluff’ they avoid. After all, who wants to see horses being bathed, groomed, fed, bedded, shod, petted, walked, etc? Boring! But that’s what really goes on ‘behind the scenes’ at a racetrack. Trust me, I’ve seen it. Daily. For decades.  Yes, this has been one of the most trying seasons in the history of beautiful Santa Anita Park. But the grand dam has cried before. Monday, beneath the bright sunshine of a clear Southern California spring afternoon, as Bolo galloped freely, wire-to-wire across her fresh green lawn, she again cried. This time tears of joy. And she was not alone.  Race On! 

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5.30.2019:

Vasilika Continues Her Winning Ways in Gamely Stakes

Showing once again that she truly was a fantastic claim, the equine ATM named Vasilika surged to a one-length victory in the Grade I Gamely Stakes at Santa Anita this past Monday. Sent off as the 11-10 favorite, Vasilika raced fifth early in the 1 1/8-mile grass affair. When the 5-year-old mare still was fifth with a furlong to go, it appeared she just might not get the job done this time. But when the race was over, there she was, posing for pictures yet again in the winner’s circle after prevailing by one length. As Vasilika charged to the front in deep stretch, track announcer Frank Mirahmadi hit the nail on the head when he said during his call of the race: “Vasilika, this is her house! Vasilika wins the Gamely!” Vasilika’s record on the Santa Anita lawn is nothing short of outstanding: 12 starts, 11 wins, 1 second. The only time Vasilika has lost when racing on Santa Anita’s grass course came when she finished second, a neck behind Causeforcommotion, in an allowance/optional claiming race at 1 1/8 miles on March 4, 2018. Not only did Vasilika take care of business this past Monday, she gained a measure of revenge. Who finished last among the eight Gamely starters? It was none other than Causeforcommotion. New York invader Rymska, who at 9-5 certainly was respected by the bettors, finished second in the Gamely. Ahimsa, who led until deep stretch at 29-1, ended up third, a half-length behind Rymska. Hall of Famer Jerry Hollendorfer owns Vasilika in partnership with All Schlaich Stables, Gatto Racing and George Todaro. They claimed the Kentucky-bred daughter of Skipshot at Santa Anita on Feb. 11, 2018. Since moving to the Hollendorfer barn after being claimed for $40,000, Vasilika has earned $1,209,528 while winning 12 of 14 starts. A granddaughter of 1998 Horse of the Year Skip Away, Vasilika did give everyone a hint that some stakes wins and perhaps even some graded stakes victories might be in her future when she packed 129 pounds to a 4 3/4-length triumph in a starter handicap race at one mile on Santa Anita’s turf course last year on June 24. Since Vasilika’s win in that 2018 starter allowance contest, she has won twice at the Grade I level, four times at the Grade II level and once at the Grade III level. What a mare. What a claim. SOI PHET’S LONG CAREER NEARS THE END? While super-claim Vasilika continues to pile up victories, it looks like the racing career of another claimer-turned-stakes winner might be nearing its conclusion. Daily Racing Form’s Steve Andersen reported that 11-year-old Soi Phet “is on the verge of being retired.” Soi Phet won twice last year at the age of 10. Both victories came in stakes races. He won Santa Anita’s Crystal Water at odds of 47-1 and Los Alamitos’ Bertrando at 7-2. Thanks to his performance in the 2018 Crystal Water, the California-bred Tizbud gelding became the oldest stakes winner in the history of Santa Anita. However, Soi Phet has been unable to finish better than sixth in two starts this year. Soi Phet kicked off his racing career on Jan. 28, 2012. He finished eighth in a six-furlong maiden special weight race for Cal-breds at Santa Anita. At Hollywood Park on May 23, 2013, Soi Phet was claimed by his current connections for $16,000. Leonard Powell has trained him ever since. Since Powell has taken over the training duties, Soi Phet has earned $986,486 while racing for The Benowitz Family Trust, Paul Viskovich and Mathilde Powell (the trainer’s wife). Leonard Powell told Andersen that Soi Phet “may have” one more start, in the $100,000 Bertrando Stakes for California-breds at Los Alamitos, depending on how the Tizbud gelding trains. If it turns out that Soi Phet does make one more start in the Bertrando before he’s retired, it would be rather apropos. The first stakes win of Soi Phet’s career came in the 2014 edition of the Bertrando. TURBULATOR SIGN IS NEW AT EMERALD DOWNS Memories of Pacific Northwest racing legend Turbulator recently were rekindled at Emerald Downs. The track located south of Seattle is the new home for a piece of Turbulator memorabilia. Emerald’s Quarter Chute Cafe is frequented by trainers, jockeys, owners, breeders, exercise riders, grooms and fans. And now, in the northwest corner of the cafe, there is a sign prominently displayed beneath a row of betting machines that says: THE TURBULATOR ROOM. The Steiner family has owned and operated the Quarter Chute Cafe ever since Emerald Downs’ grand opening in 1996. The new Turbulator sign that can be seen there “fits in so perfectly,” Sally Steiner said recently to Joe Withee on his radio program The Win Place Show, which can be heard on Seattle’s KJR-AM. Pete Puhich, one of trainer Mike Puhich’s cousins, gave the Turbulator sign to Sally as a present. The Turbulator sign originally was displayed at another track near Seattle, Longacres, which ceased racing in 1992. “The Turbulator Room” in the Longacres grandstand was named in honor of one of the best and most popular Thoroughbreds to ever race there. “Turbulator is the only horse to have a Longacres lounge named after him,” Bob Schwarzmann wrote in the 1986 Seattle Times. Longacres also had an Eddie Arcaro Room and a John Longden Room, named after two of the sport’s all-time great jockeys. Arcaro and Longden both won the Longacres Mile, the richest race in the Pacific Northwest. Arcaro guided Two and Twenty home first in the 1950 Longacres Mile. Longden won it in 1962 on Harpie and in 1964 on Viking Spirit. As a trainer, Mike Puhich also has won the Longacres Mile. He sent out Taylor Said to capture the 2012 renewal. Mike’s father, Nick Puhich, was jockey Larry Pierce’s agent when Turbulator took Longacres by storm in 1970. “My dad was a trainer and a jockey’s agent for years,” Puhich once told me. “I’ve been around racing my whole life. What really got me hooked was Turbulator. He was my favorite horse when I was growing up. I know Secretariat inspired a lot of people to become involved in racing. For me, it was Turbulator. That horse is the only reason I’m a trainer.” That’s the kind of impact Turbulator had on people all those years ago. In 1970, Turbulator and Pierce collaborated for these three record-breaking performances: --A 3 1/2-length win in the Yakima Mile at Yakima Meadows on May 17. The final time of 1:35 1/5 obliterated the track record for one mile by four-fifths of a second. This track record would stand for 23 years. It finally was broken by Slew of Damascus in 1993. Slew of Damascus went on to win the Grade I Hollywood Gold Cup in 1994. --A half-length win in the Governor’s Handicap at Longacres on Aug. 16. The final time of 1:14 flat lowered the world record for 6 1/2 furlongs by two-fifths. --A four-length win while carrying 128 pounds in the Washington Championship at Longacres on Sept. 14. The final time of 1:41 flat shaved two-fifths of a second off the longstanding track record for 1 1/16 miles. The previous mark of 1:41 2/5 had been set 16 years earlier. Turbulator broke another record in 1970 that still stands all these years later. He set the record in a race he didn’t even win. He carried a staggering 138 pounds in the 1970 Playfair Mile at Playfair Race Course in Spokane, Wash. To this day it’s the record for the most weight ever carried in an open stakes race at a Washington track. Burdened with “having to carry the grandstand,” Turbulator finished second. He lost by just a neck while spotting 21 pounds to the victorious Ruler’s Whirl. When’s the last time you saw a horse spot another horse 21 pounds? Thousands of Thoroughbreds raced at Longacres, Playfair and Yakima Meadows in the 1960s, 1970, 1980s and 1990s. No one else other than Turbulator was ever acclaimed Horse of the Meeting at all three of those Washington tracks in the same year, a feat he achieved during his signature year in 1970. A head bust of Turbulator can be found these days at the Washington Racing Hall of Fame exhibit located in the Emerald grandstand. It’s the same head bust that for many years greeted horses, horsemen and visitors to the Playfair paddock. When I found out Marguerite Crawford had plans to donate that head bust to the Spokane Interstate Fair, I lobbied her to instead send it to Emerald Downs. “Please, Mrs. Crawford,” I pleaded. “Most people who visit the Spokane Interstate Fair won’t have any idea who Turbulator was. His head bust belongs someplace where racing people can see it. That place should be a racetrack. That place should be Emerald Downs.” Fortunately, Marguerite Crawford agreed. ANNIVERSARY OF FIRST RACE NEARS The 50-year anniversary of Turbulator’s first race is coming up soon. It happened on June 7, 1969, at a little track in Northern Idaho by the name of Coeur d’Alene Turf Club. At that time, the races at that track were not covered by the Daily Racing Form. That made it what sometimes is referred to as a “bush track.” Turbulator’s Coeur d’Alene race would not appear on Turbulator’s official record. I happened to be at Coeur d’Alene with my father the day Turbulator raced for the first time. Little did we know that we were witnessing the beginning of a racing career that would take Northwest fans on such an enjoyable ride. Turbulator, who would become one of the earliest members of the Washington Racing Hall of Fame when inducted in 2004, was a son of Cold Command and the By Zeus mare Fur Piece. Two Triple Crown winners appear in Turbulator’s pedigree. He was a grandson of 1937 Triple Crown winner War Admiral and a great-grandson of 1943 Triple Crown winner Count Fleet. Cold Command, who finished ninth in the 1952 Kentucky Derby, was a son of War Admiral. War Admiral’s sire was the immortal Man o’ War. Turbulator’s maternal grandsire, By Zeus, won the world’s first $100,000 grass race, the 1954 San Juan Capistrano Handicap at Santa Anita. By Zeus was a son of Count Fleet. Turbulator did not race as a 2-year-old. He became gravely ill and nearly died that year. He also didn’t race as a 3-year-old after he wrecked a knee when it collided with a sprinkler head on a farm in Montana. Tom Crawford and his wife, Marguerite, bred Turbulator. The Crawfords raced the gelding in partnership with a family friend, J.M. (Marvin) Farnsworth. “Turbulator was doing really good [in the spring of 1968] at our ranch in Montana,” Marguerite recalled when I interviewed her at her Spokane home in 2011. “Tom was looking forward to putting him back in training. But that’s when Turbulator ran into a buried sprinkler head. Those sprinkler heads were wicked things sticking up, with grass growing up around them. While he was running, he hit his knee on the sprinkler head.” With a bum knee, it looked like Turbulator would never make it to the races. Tom Crawford once was the mayor of Hope, Ark., known as the watermelon capital of the world. Later, Hope would become best known as the birthplace of President Bill Clinton. In addition to breeding, owning and training Thoroughbreds, Crawford did well for many years as a car salesman. Considering Crawford’s experience in dealing with trade-ins as a car salesman, it really should not be all that surprising that after Turbulator hurt his knee at 3, Crawford thought maybe he could unload the horse in a trade. Crawford offered to swap Turbulator to a Montana neighbor for two cows. Understandably, the neighbor declined to take ownership of a horse with a bad wheel. In time, Turbulator’s knee healed. Crawford put him into training as a 4-year-old in 1969. Because of Turbulator’s knee injury, though, expectations were very low. Crawford conceded that Turbulator probably would be relegated to competing in cheap claiming races. When Turbulator started for the very first time at Coeur d’Alene in 1969, even though he was an unraced maiden, he was asked to compete against multiple winners in a 5 1/2-furlong allowance race. Under the circumstances, Turbulator didn’t disgrace himself by finishing third behind a couple of hard-hitting veteran runners in Stout Me and Testify. While the victory that day at Coeur d’Alene by Stout Me would not officially count as far as he was concerned because it occurred at a “bush track,” he was good enough to officially win a total of 39 races during his career, according to Equibase. Following Turbulator’s defeat at Coeur d’Alene, he ran in a pair of six-furlong maiden claiming races at Portland Meadows during that same month of June. He finished second both times as a 4-5 favorite. Someone could have claimed him for $1,500 on June 16, then for $2,000 on June 23. But there were no takers. Nobody would ever get the chance to claim Turbulator after that. Turbulator showed up at Playfair as a 4-year-old maiden in 1969. He won seven straight races at that track. Not only that, he won those seven races in just nine weeks. When do you ever see a horse do that? The skein started with a victory in a six-furlong sprint and concluded with a three-length triumph under 128 pounds in a two-mile marathon. How many horses have you ever seen win races ranging from six furlongs to two miles? On top of Turbulator’s racing prowess, he had unmistakable charisma, no doubt stemming to some extent from his humble beginnings. Another reason that Turbulator became such a huge fan favorite was his come-from-way-back, Silky Sullivan-ish, running style. In 1972, Turbulator even managed to win a race by coming from farther behind at the eighth pole than Silky Sullivan ever did in any of his victories. Turbulator was eight lengths behind at the eighth pole in the 1972 Washington Championship at Longacres. Grey Papa had a two-length lead at that point. Grey Papa was at the top of his game. He was coming off a win eight days earlier in which he ran six furlongs in a scorching 1:07 1/5 to break the world record for six furlongs, the most commonly run distance in American racing. Closing with a rush in the final furlong in that 1972 Washington Championship, Turbulator somehow ran down Grey Papa. Turbulator and Pierce prevailed by a half-length. “He had such an explosive move,” Pierce told me years ago when reminiscing about his old equine friend. “And he had that move whenever you asked for it. You could ask him for it anytime in a race and it’d be there. It’d be there instantly. He’d go full steam. There was no halfway about it. His move was awesome. I just had so much confidence in him. He could make up 10 lengths, easy, in a quarter of a mile. Horses just don’t do that. He’d go by horses so fast, it’d take your breath away.” Just last month, Turbulator was the subject of a lengthy feature story written by Jim Price (former announcer and publicity director at Playfair) that appeared in a Spokane newspaper, The Spokesman-Review. Heck, they don’t even have a racetrack in Spokane anymore. The final race at Playfair was run on Dec. 17, 2000. The track was torn down in 2004. Yet, in a city where horses have not raced for almost 20 years, the morning newspaper ran a story this year on April 28 about a horse last seen competing in that city in 1973. When Turbulator was racing in the 1970s, his popularity was immense. There were Turbulator T-shirts, coffee mugs and campaign buttons. “If there ever was a horse that brought sheer joy and hysteria to a track and thrived on that crowd response it would be Turbulator,” it was written in The Washington Horse magazine in 1973. Keep in mind that Turbulator managed to accomplish all that he did without racing at ages 2, 3 or 6. After Turbulator was retired at the age of 9, he made public appearances at Longacres and Playfair for many years. The public saw him for the final time at Playfair on Sept. 30, 1989. As usual, he “thoroughly enjoyed the applause,” it was reported in the Spokesman-Review. Turbulator died at the age of 24 on Nov. 7, 1989. According to the obituary in the Spokesman-Review, the cause of death was a heart attack. Yes, coming up on June 7, it will have been half a century since Turbulator raced for the first time at Coeur d’Alene. And if you were one of those who ever saw him unleash that extraordinary burst of speed that produced a total of 21 victories, odds are that you will never, ever forget him. THIS WEEK’S NTRA POLLS Here is the Top 10 for this week’s NTRA Top Thoroughbred Poll: Rank Points Horse (First-Place Votes) 1. 332 Bricks and Mortar (27) 2. 260 McKinzie (5) 3. 180 Mitole 4. 175 Midnight Bisou 5. 179 Gift Box 6. 143 World of Trouble 7. 131 Catholic Boy (1) 8. 84 Vino Rosso 9. 71 Monomoy Girl 10 67 Thunder Snow (1) Here is the Top 10 for this week’s NTRA Top 3-Year-Old Poll: Rank Points Horse (First-Place Votes) 1. 322 War of Will (16) 2. 321 Maximum Security (14) 3. 261 Omaha Beach (5) 4. 225 Country House 5. 195 Tacitus 6. 188 Code of Honor 7. 116 Game Winner 8. 71 Serengeti Empress 9. 46 Improbable 9. 46 Owendale

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5.30.2019:

Weekly Bankroll Builder: May 31 Stronach 5 Picks

We’ll take a break between Triple Crown races and get back to the Stronach 5 this week. 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 90 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, likely on Twitter only, as I'm be on a UK vacation this week with minimal computer access. *** Leg 1: Santa Anita R3 (5:08 ET) – 2yo Cal-breds at 4 1/2 furlongs The good news is you can tab the toteboard here to see who’s live and taking money, in the hopes of getting a better feel on what looks like a scramble. I’m going to go with #3 FAST ENOUGH and #5 INCLUDE THE TAX, since the former goes for a Becerra barn that is 2-for-4 with firsters and has worked well for this, and the latter starts for McCarthy, who reaches for Prat, which is a great sign in a race where most of the other big name jockeys aren’t riding. Pk5 A horses: 3,5 The rest seem like a mixed bag, so again, give the tote a look to see what you can unearth, while on paper #2 NEXT FLIGHT looks well-meant, and would seem a contender for Miyadi, who is a solid enough 11% with firsters. Pk5 B horses: 2 Leg 2: Laurel Park R9 (5:22 ET) – 3upfm SAOC 25k at 5 1/2 furlongs (turf) While not necessarily a match race there’s little doubt that #6 LUNAR RILLE and #5 FLYINGONTHEGROUND lay over this field, so I’ll use them both on the A-line, since their form is simply better than a mixed bag, and neither would have to improve off their recent (turf) runs to beat this field. Pk5 A horses (listed in order of preference): 6,5 If there’s an upsetter in the group I’ll go with #12 WORDS OF A FEATHER, since her turf runs have been OK, she’s not too far behind the top pair on figures, and lures McCarthy, which is never a bad thing in these parts. Pk5 B horses: 12 Leg 3: Gulfstream Park R7 (5:28 ET) –3upfm 35k N2L at 7 1/2 furlongs (turf) A stiff drop in class out of the stakes ranks might be all #3 VIOLENT TRICK needs, since she was thrown to the wolves last time but was a sharp MCL winner two-back for Lynch and now makes her second start off the Avila (28%) claim, and could be poised to breakthrough now that she’s back with friends. The main danger looks like #2 ISADORABLE AIDA, who was going good this winter then stubbed her toe when last seen, but the brief respite should help, and any of her priors runs put her right on the line here. Pk5 A horses: 3,2 While the top-2 are tough, they are far from locks, so I’ll also use #4 NILESTAR, who makes her first start on turf for Nicks and could be a major place player, and #6 NIGHT WATCH, a stretch runner that has been rallying late and isn’t far behind on paper, especially if she can reproduce that close 2nd at the level last time. Pk5 B horses: 4,6 Leg 4: Golden Gate Fields Park R5 (5:55 ET) – 3upfm 4k N2L at 6 furlongs I have no strong opinion here so I’m simply going to blanket who I like and hope to get through, and the list starts with #6 BADGER, as he’s been facing better here on the Tapeta, #2 CARRIBEAN COLOURS, off the drop against better at SA, #8 LU CAT, since he could be the controlling speed or will sit a perfect outside pressing trip, and #7 STYLE DADDY, who has had his chances and keeps burning money, but could have found a group that he’ll finally be able to handle. Pk5 A horses: 6,2,8,7 I’d like to think the winner is up above, and if he’s not, then I have no clue who could surprise, so I’ll leave it at the A-line only and move on. Pk5 B horses: NONE Leg 5: Gulfstream Park R9 (6:33 ET) – 3upfm AOC (40k/N1X) at 1 1/8 miles (turf) A perfect post and plenty of upside make #2 SHE FLED THE SCENE a huge player, and she may be poised for a lifetime best in what is the third start of her career. Speed and second-time blinkers say #8 SUNNIVA could finally graduate in start number 11, and the price will be better than it was last time when she was 3rd against similar. A terrible draw makes #9 PRICKLY KITTEN a bit tough to trust, so while her debut 2nd was solid, it was also very slow, so she’s a little tough to stand alone on. Pk5 A horses: 2,8,9 If #3 NOBLE MARIA breaks running she could get brave, as she won’t have to go as fast early as she did last time to clear, so I’ll use her defensively, much like I’ll do with #5 SMIRKOTCH, since she’s going to like the MSW drop and has shown a strong closing kick on the grass against eons better.Pk5 B horses: 3,5 The Tickets: Main Ticket: 3,5 with 6,5 with 3,2 with 6,2,8,7 with 2,8,9 =$96Leg 1 B Backup: 2 with 6,5 with 3,2 with 6,2,8,7 with 2,8,9 = $48Leg 2 B Backup: 3,5 with 12 with 3,2 with 6,2,8,7 with 2,8,9 = $48Leg 3 B Backup: 3,5 with 6,5 with 4,6 with 6,2,8,7 with 2,8,9 = $96Leg 5 B Backup: 3,5 with 6,5 with 3,2 with 6,2,8,7 with 3,5 = $64

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5.28.2019:

Harness Highlights: It’s Shartin N — Again

Shartin N usually makes winning look easy, but the reigning older female Pacer of the Year belied her 32-for-44 record with a gut-wrenching victory in the $100,000 Betsy Ross Stakes at Harrah’s Philadelphia Sunday. She needed every ounce of class to defeat millionaire Caviart Ally by a quarter length in 1:49.2 in the first of three six-figures stakes on the card. Caviart Ally driver Andrew McCarthy was determined to take the lead role at the 5/8-mile oval, even if it meant doing it through a :25.2 opening quarter mile. The pace slowed through a :30 second quarter, forcing the hand of Shartin N driver Tim Tetrick. Shartin N pulled out of the pocket for a 3/8-mile battle to the finish, pulling even for the stretch drive and proving best near the wire. “I had a good barrier draw and I wanted to make the most of it,” said McCarthy. “Shartin N was just too good.” Shartin N paid $4.40 to win as the favorite in the 8-horse field. Caviart Ally completed an $8.40 exacta and finished a quarter length in front of trip-sitting Apple Bottom Jeans, who ran third. “Once she was head-and-head turning for home, I was pretty confident,” said Jim King Jr., who trains Shartin N for Richard Poillucci, JoAnn Looney-King, and Tim Tetrick LLC. “She’s just overcome everything that’s been thrown at her.” Tetrick had little time to relish the moment. He got back in the bike for a winning ride behind Guardian Angel As ($5.80) in the $100,000 Maxie Lee Invitational Trot. Guardian Angel As brushed to the lead early, while 2015 Hambletonian winner Pinkman (Dexter Dunn) was content to track in the pocket. Trolley (Marcus Miller) emerged with a first-over challenge on the final turn, but Guardian Angel As shrugged it off and pulled away from Pinkman for a 2-3/4-length win in 1:51. Guardian Angel As improved to 18-43 for trainer Anette Lorentzon and owners ACL Stuteri AB and Kjell Johansson. Not to be outdone, last year’s Meadowlands Pace and Little Brown Jug winner, Courtly Choice, rallied to win in the $100,000 Commodore Barry Invitational Pace to surpass $1 million in earnings. Courtly Choice ($5.80), positioned third-over in a lively outer flow by Hall of Fame driver David Miller, out-kicked runner-up Rodeo Rock (McCarthy) by 2 lengths in 1:49.1. Courtly Choice is trained by Blake MacIntosh and owned by the Hutt Racing Stable, Mac and Heim Stables, Danielle Plouffe and Touchstone Farms Inc. BETTOR’S WISH HOLDS TRUE IN ROONEY PACE Bettor’s Wish fulfilled a 3-to-5 promise with a runaway victory in the $380,000 Art Rooney Pace at Yonkers Raceway Saturday. Bettor’s Wish (Dexter Dunn) emerged from an action-packed opening quarter mile in the pocket He followed Blood Money (Scott Zeron) through a :55.4 half and vacated the pocket near the ¾ pole after Rollwithpapajoe (Joe Bongiorno) broke stride while launching a first-over bid. By the time the field of 3-year-olds circled the turn, Bettor’s Wish was 3 lengths in front and on his way to a 6-length win in 1:51.4. Longshots Bramquinho (Tyler Buter) and Air Force Hanover (David Miller) rallied from far back in mid-track to complete a $242 trifecta. “I thought if I stayed in here I could get stuck in a two-hole trip,” Dunn said. “It was pretty intense going in the first turn. We’d done a bit of work, but he travelled really good past the half. I decided to pop (before the three-quarters). It could’ve been a bad move, but the horse pulled through.” Chris Ryder trains and co-owns Bettor’s Wish along with Bella Racing, Fair Island Farm and Kenneth Solomon. “I knew tonight was a real test,” said Ryder. “He didn’t have the best of posts, but I figured if he’s the best he’ll get there one way or the other. I’m very thankful of the way Dexter drove him.”

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5.27.2019:

Monday, May 27: Woodbine Mohawk Park Early Pick 4 Analysis

Tonight's feature at Woodbine Mohawk Park rolls in Race 7, it's a competitive condition trot with a $25,000 purse. The 0.20 Early Pick 4 starts as usual in Race 4. It has a $50,000 guaranteed pool and will be my focus. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Race 4 2-Catch The Dream-11-year old drops into a better condition and draws well, that means best to respect. 5-Pink Pistol-Risky play due to breaking issues but is in the mix if minds manners. 8-Mister Magic-Tossing last when off 14-days, likes the track and offers some value. Race 5 2-Prince Adair-Post draw gives this 3-year-old a big shot to race up close and stay in the hunt at a square price. 5-Bronsons Delight-Thinking Filion leaves and puts in play early, comes back in sequence, needs to finish. 6-The First Step-Hudon instead of JMac but he knows well and should like the company, looks like a major player. Race 6 1-Royal Esteem-56.2 last half in local return, Roy takes a seat, looking for an aggressive try, it could be "go" time. 2-Mercedes Talma-Drops to a good spot, will toss last break, trainer steers and could take a picture with top effort. 4-Knight Angel-Drops out of Gold series and fits here, can beat this field if minds manners and gets a good steer. Race 7 1-Free Willy Hanover-Should like company, starts inside, can stay close and could shake loose late and sweep by. 5-B Yoyo-Drops and gets a nice post draw, should be in better position in the lane to rally for a picture. 9-Dream Together-Positive driver change, McClure should make a difference plus this is 3rd start off the bench. 10-Dunbar Hall-Classy mare could be much better tonight, comes right back in 2nd start off the bench, will respect. My Ticket Race 4) 2,5,8 Race 5) 2,5,6 Race 6) 1,2,4 Race 7) 1,5,9,10Total Ticket Cost) $21.60 $0.20Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia

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5.27.2019:

Triple Crown Is Wired for Weird

A realtor friend from Saratoga with token knowledge of horse racing emailed the other day and wondered if the Belmont Stakes could possibly provide a ‘crazier outcome than the Derby and Preakness – wow!?’ I replied to her that we’ve probably used up all our insanity with the first disqualification in 145 years and a loose maiden running footloose and fancy-free on his own regard.  But if the Triple Crown has taught us anything, it’s that the unexpected often comes with the territory. True, we may not get lawsuits and outriders involved in the annual excursions. But stick around this game long enough – say a year or three – and you’re bound to be baffled. We live in a clickbait and argumentative world, so loose horses and loose lips have turned out to be additional publicity that wasn’t part of the research packet. We can thank Bodexpress, Maximum Security, Gary West and Mark Casse for their various levels of participation.  But before there was Maximum Security, there was Codex, the villain of a 1980 Preakness mugging of Genuine Risk, the filly who won the Kentucky Derby. You want to talk about rage? Every woman in America, my late mother included, cursed out Angel Cordero for his ride. Had there been Twitter in 1980, who knows what sort of #Metoo movement might have sprung. Heck, CNN was still a month away from its network launch. That incident could have had serious legs today. And Codex wasn’t even the worst fistfight we’ve seen at a Preakness. How about Lee Cheng Ferrell in 1999 stepping from the infield to the main track and trying to sucker punch Artax in the Maryland Sprint? Again, that predated social media unless you were hearing the screeches of AOL dial-up connections.  True, last week Bodexpress succeeded in tossing John Velazquez at the start of the Preakness, getting some sort of historical nod, if you will, over Afleet Alex and Alysheba. Those two failed to eject Jeremy Rose and Chris McCarron, respectively, in the 2005 Preakness and 1987 Derby in the upper stretch, after taking shots from Scrappy T and Bet Twice. But this wasn’t our first ‘rodeo,’ as they say.  And John Velazquez, hey, he was involved in his own Derby weirdness in 2011. He was supposed to ride the favorite Uncle Mo, who got sick. Then jockey Robby Albarado had his schnoz broken in a post parade incident on Wednesday, giving the owners of Animal Kingdom pause. They opted for Johnny V, upset the roses and the rest was unexpected history. In a way, Johnny V won the Kentucky Derby on Animal Kingdom with an assist from Smok’em Al, a $10K maiden claimer who threw the haymaker that took down Albarado. Smoke’em Al was scratched, incidentally, and didn’t make his debut until the following January. Albarado still hasn’t won a Derby.  How soon we forget the zaniness of a 2009 Kentucky Derby winner being hauled on the back of a pick-up truck from New Mexico, driven by a guy who only met the eventual Derby winner’s owner because he got cold-cocked in a bar room brawl. Yes, there will never be another Mine That Bird, or Chip Woolley for that matter.  We thought we saw it all in 2008, when the ill-fated filly Eight Belles left us all sickened. Then we endured weeks talking Winstrol, and eventually watched Rick Dutrow sweat through his blue shirt at Belmont as an odds-on Triple Crown prospect Big Brown was pulled up in distress (or not distress, depending on your tolerance for conspiracy theories). And who’s to say that Big Brown’s tender tootsie was any more shocking than the safety pin that supposedly derailed Spectacular Bid in 1979? And it certainly didn’t invoke the same sort of sympathetic emotions we saw with Chris Antley dismounted and steadying the leg of Triple Crown hopeful Charismatic at the wire of the 1999 Belmont.  Big Brown was just the next shocker in a series at Belmont. That seemed outrageous for ‘08, topping the 2004 outrage shown to Jerry Bailey and Alex Solis for their defensive tackling of Smarty Jones on the backstretch of his race toward history at Belmont. Every school teacher and horseplayer in America thought that was the one. That time, we had folks at which to place blame. The regal Marylou Whitney even apologized for winning with Birdstone upon receiving the trophy, crashing the Smarty Party.  What about War Emblem, who was purchased April 12, 2002 and won the Kentucky Derby 22 days later for Bob Baffert? That seemed historically odd at the time, and if nothing else made many claim that the future of the Derby would never be the same. Big oil money would just buy a Derby winner from here out, they claimed. Funny Cide came along a year later and smashed that complaint to smithereens as a bunch of high school buddies and their pastor rode in a yellow school bus from western New York and damn near won the Triple Crown with a gelding of all things. Odd times, indeed.  Then there was the heartbreak of Barbaro in 2006 that we would never forget; but the game recovered nonetheless from what many said it wouldn’t. Less tragic, but nearly as disappointing, was the career-ending injury to I’ll Have Another just 24 hours before his potentially historic run at a Triple Crown at the 2012 Belmont. We’ve had so many oddities and downers that we almost forget about what was “thissss” close. A couple years later, we’d have California Chrome’s Steve Coburn give Kenny Rice an intoxicated interview that would burn in our mind’s eye and give the general public mistaken reason to think the premise of the Triple Crown itself was unfair. Even racing folk like Randy Moss on TV questioned if it was finally time to tweak the dates. Almost on cue, American Pharoah came along 365 days later to dismiss Coburn’s finger-wagging theories and remind everyone that we’re not nearly as smart (or surprised) as we think we are when it comes to horse racing.  Yeah, 2019 has been weird. But all you have to do is think back even a little bit and you’ll rediscover that weird is what makes this thing go ‘round.

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5.26.2019:

Sunday, May 26: Hawthorne Late Pick 4 Analysis

Hawthorne Racecourse has 11-races scheduled tonight to conclude the weekends harness action at the Stickney oval. The 0.50 Late Pick 4 sequence begins in Race 8. It has a $20,000 guaranteed pool and will be my focus. On Saturday the drivers with the hottest hands were Kyle Wilfong and Kyle Husted both with three wins. No trainer had more than one win on the card. It was a chalky night with only one horse paying more than 4-1. That came in the last race when #6-Virgin Eyes paid $29.20 to win. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Race 8 3-Captain Mulzac-Draws well and has been dominant in 1st two career starts, looks solid with a smooth journey. 5-Rockin Around-Passed foes in the lane last week, needs best to knock off chalk but appears to be next choice. Race 9 4-Perfectly Dunne-Camera shy mare makes 2nd start on Lasix, last was better and looking for upswing to continue. 5-Rockin Vanessa-Even effort in 1st start off the bench, in the mix if dials it up and if Lasix can make a difference. 8-Flying Shekel-Qualifier was good, 56.4 last 1/2, can contend but will need a good steer. Race 10 2-Straight Munro-8/5 chalk is 1-15 and that says a lot about this field. Should be tighter, in the hunt with a trip. 6-My Muddy Buddy-Picked up a win off a perfect trip, same set-up could be in the cards tonight. Race 11 5-Rockin Eddie-Drops to a soft spot, Leonard takes a seat to pick-up 1st Haw win, no excuses allowed. $1.00 Pick 4  Race 8) 3,5 Race 9) 4,5,8 Race 10) 2,6 Race 11) 5Total Ticket Cost) $12 for $1.00Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia

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5.25.2019:

Gulfstream Pick 4 Features Ana T Stakes, Brings Stout Challenge

Pick 4 ticket construction varies from player to player and day to day. This player likes to keep the ticket in the neighborhood of $50 (and preferably less, unless it’s Triple Crown or Breeders’ Cup card). That’s the case for Gulfstream Park’s late Pick 4 on Saturday, and this one lacks its usual symmetry. It’s bottom heavy, which means that if you get past the first two with light numbers, you have terrific coverage in the last two. Race 9 (Ana T Stakes): It looks like it’s either Tiz Possible Dear and Razorback Lady. Tiz Possible Dear won her last two after discovering that professionally stalking a pace war is the way to go. She’s won three of seven over the strip and the 6.5 furlongs is right in her wheel house. Razorback Lady, as the name suggests, is an Arkansas-bred that has run exclusively at Gulfstream. Her last two have been outstanding, first with a sharp optional claiming score and then followed by a runner-up finish in the Grade 2 Inside Information.Race 10: Art G is Back lost the English Channel by a nose last time out and had become a regular in stakes races. He takes a class drop to optional claiming and that class should come to the fore. Unlockthepotential should be feared as he appears to be coming into his own. Trainer Fernando Abreu claimed him when Chad Brown dropped him in for $16,000 and while winless since then has stepped it up with a second and a pair of thirds against company much better than those he’d fast earlier in the year. Race 11: Lots of horses in good form and several class droppers make this $6,250 claiming events a spread race. Awesome Thought, It’s a New Year, Prince Tito and W W Concerto all are worthy of inclusion. It wouldn’t be over the top to flirt with the “all” button in this one, but in the interest of keeping down the price, this foursome is suitable for this ticket. Race 12: It’s even more of challenge in the finale. There are five on the this ticket, including Temo Had Enough, Taranto, Fortunickle, Maturin and Eric the Salesman. It’s a two-turn turf race for $12,500 maiden claiming, which makes it a free-for-all. My TicketRace 9) #1 Tiz Possible Dear, #6 Razorback Lady. Race 10) #6 Art G Is Back, #8 Unlockthepotential. Race 11) #1 Awesome Thought, #2 It’s a New Year, #7 Prince Tito, #10 W W Concerto. Race 12) #3 Temo Had Enough, #6 Taranto, #7 Fortunickle, #10 Maturin, #11 Eric the Salesman. Total Ticket Cost)  4,1,6/6,8/1,2,7,10/3,6,7,10,11 $45 for $0.50

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5.25.2019:

Saturday, May 25: Meadowlands Pick 4 Analysis

The Meadowlands has a big 13-race card on tap tonight. The feature comes in Race 2, a 4-year-old Preferred Pace with a $30,000 purse. The 0.50 Pick 4 has a $50,000 guaranteed pool, it begins in Race 8 and will be my focus. The Friday Pick 4 pool was over $100,000. Last night at the Big M, Dave Miller led all pilots with four wins. Vincent Fusco, Nifty Norman and Tony Alagna led the conditioners with two trips to the winner's circle. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Race 8 1-K Ryan Bluechip,1a-Backstreet Lawyer-#1 draws post #1, has high end speed and worth a swing at 10-1. 3-Jk Parlay-Comes off a nice effort in a fast mile, now makes 2nd start for new barn. 4-New Talent-Having a rough year but usually faces better, could make the most of a soft spot at a square price. 6-Billy Badger N-In fine form and loves to roll late, will respect but needs a quick pace to pick up the pieces. Race 9 3-Quality Bud-Steps-up but can be in the hunt with the right trip, loses Gingras and that adds to the price. 6-Outkast Blue Chip-Interesting price shot off a win at Fhld in 4th start for new barn, could pop with the right trip. 7-McThriller-3-1 ML chalk comes off a nice try from 9-hole in a fast mile, looks like a major player at this class. 10-Ocean Colony-Barn is batting 33% last 30 days so will respect but will need a big effort from out here. Race 10 3-Burning Midnight-1st start at Big M, but has a 150.4 mark at Wbsb. Looks the best of this crew for Jen Bongiorno barn. Race 11 1-Johnny Q-Drops, positive driver change, likes to race near lead and draws the wood, looks like a spot to shine. 5-Smileansaycheese-Form has been flat but has been facing better, wake-up call could lead to a picture. 6-Duckies Dynasty-Barn is cold but last was better and now steps-up, tries hard, can close, using at a price. 8-Halusky-Another searching for an overdue picture, best can win but Callahan needs to work a trip. My Ticket Race 8) 1,3,4,6 Race 9) 3,6,7,10 Race 10) 3 Race 11) 1,5,6,8  Total Ticket Cost) $32 for $0.50Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia. 

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5.24.2019:

Friday, May 24: Can-Am Pick 4 Analysis

The Can-Am Pick 4 will be rolling at Woodbine Mohawk Park and the Meadowlands this evening. It is a 0.20 wager, the first leg goes in Race 10 at Mohawk and the sequence finishes with the fourth leg in Race 11 at the Big M. My $24 ticket is posted below. Comments and selections are based on a fast track. Race 10-Mohawk Park-Leg 1 1-Lady Maya-Sharp win, last 1/2 in 56.2 and now steps-up. No standouts in this bunch, will respect connections. 3-Manhattan Night-In the hunt at the wire in all 4 starts, could be ready for 1st win of 2019 with a good steer. 4-Red River Jane-Filion takes a seat and he might be more aggressive versus a group that can be beat. 7-Lady Driver-Broke in last but will toss, should like the company and can take a picture with a smooth trip. Race 10-Meadowlands-Leg 2 7-U Need Stones-Too far back in a slow pace in last, missed a start but if ready McCarthy should put in play. 9-Henderson Seelster-Steps-up after beating NW of $9,000L5 on the engine, has the gate speed to try it again. 10-My Lindy Winner-Takes on better but likes the track and if pace is hot should roll late at a square price. Race 11-Mohawk Park-Leg 3 1-Artistic Madison-1st start in Aucielo barn for 8-year-old, needs a top effort but worth using from rail at a price. 5-This Dragon Rocks-Camera shy but Jamieson returns and should be in the mix, chances go up with a quick pace. 6-Kloof Street-Last was better, at this level will need upswing to continue but can take a picture versus this crew. 7-Circle The Page-Had a big 2018 and showing signs of waking up, could be sitting on a big try at 10-1 in the ML. 8-Alexis Faith-Coleman trainee is class of the field, will use in 2nd start of season but will try to beat from this post. Race 11-Meadowlands-Leg 4 1-Best Of Jenna-Yonkers invader fits, likes to race close to the lead, will take a swing D. Miller makes most of rail. 5-Taffic Jam-Missed a start before last but has been in the hunt in every Big M race, using instead of ML chalk #7. My Ticket Race 10 Mohawk) 1,3,4,7 Race 10 Meadowlands) 7,9,10 Race 11 Mohawk) 1,5,6,7,8 Race 11 Meadowlands) 1,5 Total Ticket Cost) $24 for $0.20Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia. 

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5.23.2019:

Redemption – 144th Preakness Recap

Redemption. That’s what winning the 144th Preakness meant to War of Will’s trainer Mark Casse. Forget that in a post-race interview Casse said he wouldn’t use that word to describe his feelings. It sure seemed that way to me. And not just redemption for the trainer. Young jockey Tyler Gaffalione and colt War of Will also experienced a revitalization in Baltimore. Two weeks ago, for most of the journey around the Louisville layout, Preakness winner War of Will raced behind originally Derby winner Maximum Security. ‘Will saved ground throughout but didn’t seem comfortable and pulled against his rider for much of the journey. As the field completed the turn into the Derby stretch, hoping to give War of Will room to run, Gaffalione angled his mount outside and around leader Maximum Security. Unfortunately for everyone concerned, nearly simultaneously Maximum Security and jockey Luis Saez drifted several lanes out from the rail and directly into War of Will’s path. War of Will became the meat in a Kentucky Derby hoagie that also included Bodexpress and Long Range Toddy flanked by Country House. As we know, Maximum Security was disqualified from first and placed 17th--behind Long Range Toddy—the most severely affected in the incident, according to stewards. Country House, original runner-up and the one least bothered, was declared the Derby winner. How much the incident actually affected War of Will’s performance became a point of much debate. Alarming photos emerged showing War of Will’s front legs extended between Maximum Security’s hind legs and it was evident that all in the field—equine and human—had escaped near disaster. Still, some believed that War of Will had not been severely compromised by the incident; that after Saez and Maximum Security had forced him to check he still had about a quarter of a mile to earn a better placing. Instead he offered little fight in the stretch and faded from third to eighth. In the aftermath of the first Kentucky Derby on-track win disqualification in history and amid a flurry of discussion and video analysis usually reserved for serial killer manhunts, some critics pointed fingers at jockey Gaffalione and blamed him for adding to the seriousness of the incident by foolishly shifting War of Will into a tight spot. Casse immediately rushed to his rider’s defense. In a segment that aired during the At the Races with Steve Byk show May 7, the trainer vociferously defended both horse and rider. He referenced frame-by-frame video analysis that conclusively proved his rider blameless and his horse clearly hampered by the incident. Obviously, Casse believed his horse hadn’t had a fair shot in the Kentucky Derby. That was all he wanted in the Preakness. Redemption. That’s what winning the 144th Preakness meant to War of Will’s trainer Mark Casse. No matter what he says. Earlier this year in New Orleans, before War of Will blew away foes like pollen in the wind, Casse went on record proclaiming him a special colt. War of Will provided proof of concept when he romped in the Lecomte by 4 lengths and then coasted home in the Risen Star by 2 ¼. Favored at 3-5 in the Louisiana Derby, a few strides out of the gate, War of Will suffered a hind-end injury and finished 9th out of 11. The road to the Triple Crown is as demanding a journey as there is in sport. It’s a race against the calendar as much as it is against fellow sophomores. No pit stops. No tire changes. One tank of gas per customer. Derby is the first Saturday in May; Preakness two weeks later and Belmont just three weeks after that. No wiggle room. Coughs, sneezes, even hiccups not allowed. Not long after the March 23 Louisiana Derby disappointment, Casse proclaimed War of Will fit and ready to continue the Louisville quest. The son of War Front already had enough points to qualify for a spot in the Kentucky Derby starting gate, so he didn’t need to race again. Casse aimed him at the Kentucky Derby with a series of works that included three at Keeneland: a half-mile in 48 4/5 April 6; 5-furlongs in 59 flat—best of 44 at the distance—seven days later; and another 5-furlong, muddy, best-of-nine bullet in 100 1/5. Derby week at Churchill Downs, 8 days later, Casse tightened the screws with an aggressive :47 3/5 best-of-79, half-mile breeze. Clockers were impressed with War of Will’s training. He was eager. Willing. His breeding suggested distance would not be an issue. However, sharp handicappers wondered, would he have the stamina to go a mile and one-quarter? That was a fair question because even though the colt had trained well enough, he hadn’t had a meaningful race since galloping home easily in the Risen Star at a mile and one-sixteenth Feb. 16. On top of that War of Will drew the dreaded rail post position in the Kentucky Derby. If winning the Kentucky Derby is equivalent to winning the equine lottery, then breaking from the rail and doing it must be like holding the only winning Powerball ticket. Usually, right out of the Derby gate, the entire field compresses toward the rail like an accordion. Inside horses that aren’t fast enough to outrun the tsunami or slow enough to trail behind get crushed like grapes in Napa. War of Will managed to be the exception and avoided it all. He found a cozy position behind the leaders and stayed there until off the final turn when angled out by Gaffalione. Amazingly, for Preakness War of Will again drew the number 1 post position--a 260-to-1 shot parlay. Breaking from the rail in the Preakness isn’t normally as treacherous as it is in the Derby, but it’s still no picnic. In this case, however, both horse and jockey knew exactly how to handle things. After all, they’d just had a practice run in Kentucky; while eating mud, no less. This time, over a fast track, life riding the rail would be much easier. Plus, with the added experience, War of Will was more likely to relax and not ‘pull’ against his rider. Gaffalione, too, would be more confident in his mount’s ability to rate and wait until the perfect time to move. And no matter how much one believed that the Kentucky Derby incident had affected War of Will’s finish, he was sure to be more fit in the Preakness. The mile and one-quarter was just what was needed to boost his wind to at least a pre-Louisiana Derby level. Redemption. That’s what winning the 144th Preakness meant to War of Will’s trainer Mark Casse. After the race, in the winner’s circle the Indianapolis, IN native and member of the Canadian Hall of Fame breathed a sigh of relief and reiterated what he’s believed all along about War of Will. “It was so important to win it,” Casse said. “I just wanted him to get his chance to show everyone how good he is, because he is a super horse.” Now, there’s little reason to doubt it. Race On!

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5.23.2019:

War of Will Comes Through in Preakness

A number of Preakness Stakes traditions continued last Saturday. Keeping with tradition, when the horses came onto the track for the Preakness Stakes post parade, the folks on hand at Pimlico Race Course sang “Maryland, My Maryland.” Also in keeping with tradition, after the 1 3/16-mile Preakness was declared official, the silks of the winning owner were painted on a weather vane. In this case, it meant the pink and black colors of Gary Barber, who races the victorious War of Will. And I continued a Preakness tradition of my own. When the time came for me to try and forecast the winner, I began, as I almost always do, by tossing out any entrant who did not run in the Kentucky Derby. I generally take this approach because, according to history, it is very likely that the Preakness winner will be someone who started in the Kentucky Derby. Going into this year, only four of the last 35 Preakness winners -- Red Bullet in 2000, Bernardini in 2006, Rachel Alexandra in 2009 and Cloud Computing in 2017 -- did not run in the Kentucky Derby. And keep in mind there is a possibility that Bernardini would not have won the 2006 Preakness if the overwhelming favorite, Barbaro, had not been pulled up soon after the start due to an injury. Barbaro had won the Kentucky Derby by a resounding 6 1/2 lengths. It is not at all a stretch to say that Barbaro might have also been victorious in the Preakness. If that had happened, then just three of the last 35 Preakness winners would have not run in the Kentucky Derby prior to this year. In terms of picking someone to win the 2019 Preakness, I quickly whittled my list of possibilities all the way down to four from the 13 entrants by determining that I would not be selecting anyone who had not started in the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on May 4. That left me with just Improbable, War of Will, Win Win Win or Bodexpress. I cut my list down further to two by dismissing longshots Win Win Win and Bodexpress. So, for me, in short order, it came down to either Improbable or War of Will. When Omaha Beach was scratched from the Kentucky Derby, I had to call an audible. I opted to go with War of Will as my pick to win. I decided to stick with War of Will in the Preakness. In the 1 1/4-mile Kentucky Derby, War of Will was impeded while full of run when involved in a traffic jam approaching the five-sixteenths pole. In spite of that trouble, War of Will still was “right there” until about the sixteenth pole. But then he weakened a bit and finished eighth. War of Will was elevated to seventh after the stewards disqualified Maximum Security from first and placed him 17th for causing interference to War of Will, Bodexpress and Long Range Toddy. I felt that War of Will had every right to weaken a bit late in the Kentucky Derby not only because he had been impeded on the far turn, but also because it was his first race in six weeks and first meaningful race in 11 weeks. War of Will undoubtedly did not get much out of the Louisiana Derby on March 23. The Kentucky-bred War Front colt abruptly took an awkward step shortly after leaving the gate. He ended up ninth and emerged from the race with a strained patellar ligament, according to his trainer, Mark Casse. Not long after War of Will’s Louisiana Derby debacle, he underwent a thorough physical examination in Kentucky. War of Will passed the physical. War of Will trained splendidly up to the Kentucky Derby. After his physical, he recorded three stellar workouts at Keeneland, then elicited rave reviews at Churchill for his four-furlong drill in :47.60 on April 27. Under the circumstances, Casse and his outstanding assistant, David Carroll, did a tremendous job to have War of Will as ready as he was for the Kentucky Derby. Yes, it turned out that War of Will finished eighth. But it was far from a disgrace for him to lose by 4 1/2 lengths despite being impeded nearing the five-sixteenths pole and despite not having had a meaningful race since winning the Grade II Risen Star Stakes on Feb. 16. War of Will had to deal with the dreaded inside post position in the Kentucky Derby. I certainly was not thrilled to see him again get post 1 for the Preakness. But I took some solace in that at least there had not been a long drought in the Preakness from post 1. American Pharoah broke from post 1 when he won the 2015 Preakness en route to a Triple Crown sweep. In this year’s Preakness, Warrior’s Charge showed the way through the early going while clicking off fractions of :22.50, :46.16 and 1:10.56. The maiden, Bodexpress, reared at the start and unseated Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez. War of Will, once again ridden by Tyler Gaffalione, had an alert start and then lurked in fourth while racing along the inside rail through the early stages. This time, War of Will was not nearly as headstrong early as he had been in the Kentucky Derby. Entering the far turn in the Preakness, War of Will was boxed in while full of run when racing directly behind the leading Warrior’s Charge. It was a classic case of deja vu. War of Will and Gaffalione had found themselves in the same predicament going into the far turn in the Kentucky Derby. As Casse watched War of Will again boxed in, the trainer understandably became concerned. “About maybe the three-eighths pole, I started thinking, ‘Oh, dear, not again,’ because he was wanting to go somewhere and he had nowhere to go,” Casse said the next morning. On the far turn in the Kentucky Derby, Gaffalione moved War of Will away from the inside rail shortly after passing the three-eighths pole. Hindsight is 20/20, but if Gaffalione had been more patient and continued racing next to the inner rail, he would have been able to capitalize on a huge hole that opened when Maximum Security veered out sharply approaching the five-sixteenths pole. Look, I totally understand why Gaffalione did what he did on the far turn in the Kentucky Derby. War of Will was “all dressed up with nowhere to go,” as they say. The 24-year-old rider was eager to find somewhere for War of Will to go. But I also can’t help but wonder if perhaps a more veteran rider, someone from the past like a Chris McCarron, Gary Stevens or Eddie Delahoussaye, would have waited longer before leaving the rail. Calvin Borel? I have to think he never, ever would have left the rail. Because Gaffalione and War of Will did not remain next to the rail, they were not able to take advantage of the golden opportunity that occurred when Maximum Security veered out sharply. To make matters worse, after Gaffalione and War of Will left the rail, they then were impeded in a traffic jam. It was Code of Honor who got the dream rail-skimming trip instead of War of Will. When Maximum Security veered out sharply, Code of Honor came on next to the inside rail to get a short lead at the quarter pole. Code of Honor would go on to finish third, then was moved up to second behind Country House due to Maximum Security being DQ’d. In contrast to the Kentucky Derby, Gaffalione did remain next to the inside rail with War of Will all the way around the far turn. And this time they were able to come through a narrow hole between Warrior’s Charge and the rail that materialized at the top of the stretch. War of Will unhesitatingly scooted on through to take the lead in the stretch just inside the three-sixteenths pole. He increased his advantage to a length at the eighth pole, then went on to prevail by 1 1/4 lengths at odds of 6-1. Everfast, who sported the biggest odds in the race at 29-1, rallied from 11th to nose out 7-1 Owendale for second. Warrior’s Charge held on for fourth at 12-1. Laughing Fox, 25 lengths behind early, rallied to finish fifth, 3 3/4 lengths behind War of Will. Improbable, the 5-2 favorite, lacked early speed. He never threatened and came in sixth. Improbable was followed across the finish line in order by Win Win Win, Bourbon War, Signalman, Anothertwistafate, Alwaysmining and Market King. Bodexpress took a complete tour of the oval sans Velazquez. War of Will’s final time was 1:54.34. That was quite good, though the main track at Pimlico both Friday and Saturday admittedly seemed to be lightning fast. On Friday, the 3-year-old filly Covfefe completed six furlongs in a sizzling 1:07.70 to obliterate the track record of 1:09.00 set by Northern Wolf all the way back in 1990. Still, even for allowing that the surface was faster than normal, it seems only fair that War of Will should get at least some credit for his 1:54.34 clocking vis-a-vis recent editions of the Preakness. Indeed, his final time of 1:54.34 was the second-fastest in the race since Louis Quatorze’s 1:53.40 in 1996. Curlin won the 2007 renewal in 1:53.46, the only faster Preakness than War of Will’s since Louis Quatorze. The great Secretariat holds the Preakness record of 1:53.00. Below are the final times for the last 20 Preaknesses: Time (Year) Winner 1:53.46 (2007) Curlin1:54.34 (2019) War of Will1:54.65 (2006) Bernardini1:54.84 (2014) California Chrome1:54.86 (2008) Big Brown1:55.04 (2005) Afleet Alex1:55.08 (2009) Rachel Alexandra1:55.40 (2001) Point Given1:55.47 (2010) Lookin At Lucky1:55.59 (2004) Smarty Jones1:55.61 (2003) Funny Cide**1:55.93 (2018) Justify*1:55.94 (2012) I’ll Have Another1:55.98 (2017) Cloud Computing1:56.00 (2000) Red Bullet**1:56.40 (2002) War Emblem1:56.47 (2011) Shackleford*1:57.54 (2013) Oxbow1:58.31 (2016) Exaggerator*1:58.46 (2015) American Pharoah* *sloppy track**good track WAR OF WILL POSTS CAREER-BEST BEYER Prior to last Saturday’s race, War of Will’s top Beyer Speed Figure had been a 94 when he won the Lecomte Stakes at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots on Jan. 19. He was credited with a 90 for his Risen Star triumph on Feb 16. War of Will was assigned a career-best 99 Beyer for his Preakness performance. Below are the Beyer Speed Figures for the Preakness winners going back to 1991: 2019 War of Will (99)2018 Justify (97)2017 Cloud Computing (102)2016 Exaggerator (101)2015 American Pharoah (102)2014 California Chrome (105)2013 Oxbow (106)2012 I’ll Have Another (109)2011 Shackleford (104)2010 Lookin At Lucky (102)2009 Rachel Alexandra (108)2008 Big Brown (100)2007 Curlin (111)2006 Bernardini (113)2005 Afleet Alex (112)2004 Smarty Jones (118)2003 Funny Cide (114)2002 War Emblem (109)2001 Point Given (111)2000 Red Bullet (109)1999 Charismatic (107)1998 Real Quiet (111)1997 Silver Charm (118)1996 Louis Quatorze (112)1995 Timber Country (106)1994 Tabasco Cat (112)1993 Prairie Bayou (98)1992 Pine Bluff (104)1991 Hansel (117) LIST OF PREAKNESS WINNERS WHO EXITED THE DERBY As mentioned earlier, the vast majority of Preakness winners did run in the Kentucky Derby. Below is an updated list showing the most recent race for the last 40 Preakness winners: 2019 War of Will (8th in the Kentucky Derby)2018 Justify (WON THE KENTUCKY DERBY)2017 Cloud Computing (3rd in the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct)2016 Exaggerator (2nd in the Kentucky Derby)2015 American Pharoah (WON THE KENTUCKY DERBY)2014 California Chrome (WON THE KENTUCKY DERBY)2013 Oxbow (6th in the Kentucky Derby)2012 I’ll Have Another (WON THE KENTUCKY DERBY)2011 Shackleford (4th in the Kentucky Derby)2010 Lookin At Lucky (6th in the Kentucky Derby)2009 Rachel Alexandra (WON THE KENTUCKY OAKS)2008 Big Brown (WON THE KENTUCKY DERBY)2007 Curlin (3rd in the Kentucky Derby)2006 Bernardini (won the Withers at Aqueduct)2005 Afleet Alex (3rd in the Kentucky Derby)2004 Smarty Jones (WON THE KENTUCKY DERBY)2003 Funny Cide (WON THE KENTUCKY DERBY)2002 War Emblem (WON THE KENTUCKY DERBY)2001 Point Given (5th in the Kentucky Derby)2000 Red Bullet (2nd in the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct)1999 Charismatic (WON THE KENTUCKY DERBY)1998 Real Quiet (WON THE KENTUCKY DERBY)1997 Silver Charm (WON THE KENTUCKY DERBY)1996 Louis Quatorze (16th in the Kentucky Derby)1995 Timber Country (3rd in the Kentucky Derby)1994 Tabasco Cat (6th in the Kentucky Derby)1993 Prairie Bayou (2nd in the Kentucky Derby)1992 Pine Bluff (5th in the Kentucky Derby)1991 Hansel (10th in the Kentucky Derby)1990 Summer Squall (2nd in the Kentucky Derby)1989 Sunday Silence (WON THE KENTUCKY DERBY)1988 Risen Star (3rd in the Kentucky Derby)1987 Alysheba (WON THE KENTUCKY DERBY)1986 Snow Chief (11th in the Kentucky Derby)1985 Tank’s Prospect (7th in the Kentucky Derby)1984 Gate Dancer (DQ’d to 5th from 4th in the Kentucky Derby)1983 Deputed Testamony (won the Keystone Stakes at Keystone)1982 Aloma’s Ruler (won the Withers Stakes at Aqueduct)1981 Pleasant Colony (WON THE KENTUCKY DERBY)1980 Codex (won the Hollywood Derby at Hollywood Park)1979 Spectacular Bid (WON THE KENTUCKY DERBY)1978 Affirmed (WON THE KENTUCKY DERBY)1977 Seattle Slew (WON THE KENTUCKY DERBY)1976 Elocutionist (3rd in the Kentucky Derby)1975 Master Derby (won the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland)1974 Little Current (5th in the Kentucky Derby)1973 Secretariat (WON THE KENTUCKY DERBY)1972 Bee Bee Bee (won the Survivor Stakes at Pimlico)1971 Canonero II (WON THE KENTUCKY DERBY)1970 Personality (8th in the Kentucky Derby)1969 Majestic Prince (WON THE KENTUCKY DERBY) MAXIMUM SECURITY UPDATE On Wednesday (May 22) at Monmouth Park, Maximum Security had what was described as his first serious exercise since the May 4 Kentucky Derby, Daily Racing Form’s Jim Dunleavy reported. Jason Servis trains the colt. “Servis said Maximum Security went the mile in almost exactly two minutes -- 2:00.02 -- with his final seven furlongs in 1:47,” Dunleavy wrote. “Servis said he galloped out 1 1/8 miles in 2:13 under exercise rider Edelberto Rivas. “Monmouth clockers credited Maximum Security with a half-mile breeze in :53.80.” Maximum Security’s only defeat in five career starts came when he was disqualified from first and placed 17th for causing interference to three opponents in the Kentucky Derby. Owners Gary and Mary West have filed a federal lawsuit in Kentucky in an attempt to overturn the disqualification. Looking ahead, the Grade I Haskell Invitational at Monmouth on July 20, Grade I Travers Stakes at Saratoga on Aug. 24 and Grade I Pennsylvania Derby at Parx on Sept. 21 are under consideration for Maximum Security. The Pegasus Stakes at Monmouth on June 16 “has not been ruled out as a return race” before the Haskell, according to Dunleavy. Servis said that, after the Kentucky Derby, he trained Maximum Security “for one day and then realized the New Year’s Day colt needed more time to recover from the race and that he backed off him for a week.” Added Servis: “He got beat up, cut up in the Derby. Now, he’s starting to come back to himself.” That certainly contradicts what Servis reportedly stated in a text message to Churchill Downs media the morning after the Kentucky Derby. According to Churchill’s “day after” Kentucky Derby notes, “trainer Jason Servis reported via text message Sunday morning that Gary and Mary West’s Maximum Security exited his eventful run in Saturday’s Kentucky Derby in good order.” “In good order,” eh? THIS WEEK’S NTRA POLLS Here is the Top 10 for this week’s NTRA Top Thoroughbred Poll: Rank Points Horse (First-Place Votes) 1. 416 Bricks and Mortar (32)2. 352 McKinzie (6)3. 286 Gift Box (3)4. 225 Midnight Bisou5. 221 Mitole6. 186 World of Trouble7. 162 Catholic Boy8. 112 Monomoy Girl (2)9. 84 Thunder Snow (1)10 69 Roy H Here is the Top 10 for this week’s NTRA Top 3-Year-Old Poll: Rank Points Horse (First-Place Votes) 1. 418 Maximum Security (21)2. 411 War of Will (18)3. 340 Omaha Beach (6)4. 295 Country House5. 254 Tacitus6. 244 Code of Honor7. 159 Game Winner8. 78 Serengeti Empress9. 54 Owendale10. 53 Improbable

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5.22.2019:

Weekly Bankroll Builder: May 24 Stronach 5 Picks

We’ll take a break between Triple Crown races and get back to the Stronach 5 this week. 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 (5:00 ET) – 3up 12.5k N3L* 6 furlongs We’ve got a compact field of eight here, but most, if not all, have a winning chance, so this could knock out a lot of tickets if a mid-priced contenders wins. There’s not a lot of speed signed on, which should flatter the chances of #5 MR. KISSES (5-2), who doesn’t need the lead, but should be on or just off of the pace that #6 Forman the Foreman (4-1) is going to set, and while the barn change and November layoff is a worry, Baxter is a sharp 20% with newcomers to her barn, and a big 29% overall on the year. The pace needs to be hot for #7 I IDOLIZE YOU (3-1) and #8 DOC KANE (6-1) to get there, but with ‘Forman going off the Navarro claim, it might be, which means either of these, who themselves go off the claim for Joseph (32%) and Delgado (46%), respectively, have a big chance. Pk5 A horses: 5,7,8 Others here have some solid form, but I’m not going any deeper because their’s is also proven form, and even that hasn’t been good enough, and with the top-3 either being better already, and/or likely to improve, it’s tough to think anyone like #2 Resident (12-1) or #4 Dunk (6-1) can bridge the gap. Pk5 B horses: NONE Leg 2: Pimlico R9 (5:25 ET) – 3upfm 16k a 5 furlongs (turf) This one really comes down to what you want to do with #4 YOU MADE IT (5-2), who was 3rd to much better last time and has run faster in her two turf starts than the rest of her rivals, and still has some upside off just seven starts—and only two on turf. Yes, she’s never been on the Pimlico sod, but she just looks too good for these, and singling her will allow for a lot more leverage in the other more difficult legs. Pk5 A horses (listed in order of preference): 4 The other reason I like singling You Made It is that you could use several others against her and there’s still no guarantee you’ll have the winner, since the rest of them are the definition of a mixed bag. The two most intriguing have never tried turf, so what you get from #2 Neverenoughkandi (8-1) and #5 Cool Alley (7-2) is a guess, but they do appear to have talent and upside, so if you are looking for more coverage, I’d start there. The obvious would be #7 Weekend Flyer (6-1), who wasn’t far behind the favorite two-back, but regressed mightily when she was drubbed by her last time and seems tough to trust. Pk5 B horses: NONE Leg 3: Gulfstream Park R9 (5:30 ET) –3upfm 12.5k MCL at 7  furlongs (turf) A second turn is a wildcard but there’s little doubt #4 SHANGHAISWEETHEART (5-1) hits hard off the Avila claim after a solid turf debut 3rd that was eons better than her two dirt starts. You also have to use #5 JUDGE KITTEN (4-1) for a hot Quiroz barn, as she fits nicely on figures, even though improving off Maker is not an easy task. The post is brutal for #11 MAKE NO MISTAKE (15-1), but she does have a lot of speed, and she too really improved in her turf bow, so she’s on the short list. Pk5 A horses: 4,5,11 I’m not sold on firsters #7 QUEEN SOLDAT (12-1) and #8 RAPID TRANSIT (6-1), for Abreu and Maker, respectively, since they are obviously second tier, as they would be in NY and Kentucky if they could run, so I’m not expecting much, though they also don’t have to be much to play with a group like this. I’m not using lifetime maidens #6 Kindhearted Kota (8-1) and #10 Better Vibes (30-1), even though they fit on figures, as they just don’t seem like legitimate winning threats, at least on an A/B type of ticket. Pk5 B horses: 7,8 Leg 4: Golden Gate Fields Park R5 (5:55 ET) – 3upfm 4k N2L at 6 furlongs A stiff drop in class from the starter 50k ranks sure woke up #1 BABY’S GOT CLASS (3-1), a s she was 2nd behind a romping winner at the level last time, and she needs only to negotiate a trip from this tricky draw to have a big say here, and in a race without a ton of speed, she may simply get sent to the front and try to wire them. A return to the Tapeta, a cutback to one-turn, and a drop in class could all mean that #5 DUZLE WORPZ (2-1) will be too tough for this modest crew, and she drew perfectly as well, so it’s tough to fault anyone if you need a single and don’t trust the rail. Pk5 A horses: 1,5 The 1-for-19 lifetime mark means I can’t possibly put #3 GEE STREET (5-2) on the top line, even though she fits nicely with these on paper and was just a close 2nd at the level on drop, but these types are easy ways to lose money at the track, so let’s limit her to a supporting role. Pk5 B horses: 3 Leg 5: Santa Anita R6 (6:41 ET) – 3upfm AOC (40k/N1X) at 1 1/8 miles (turf) The finale is a toughie, as most of these look the same on paper, which means trip and racing luck will be paramount to success, and with a relatively tight ticket leading up to this, I’m spreading in the hopes of catching a price (and bettering my chances). Oddly enough, for a field of seven, there appears to be plenty of pace, so I’ll side with the stalker/closers, a list that starts with #3 CONFIDENTIALLY (4-1), who seemed a bit one-paced facing winners last time, but has some upside and can improve off that run. Her turf form is a question, but #5 PRIDE’S GOLD (5-1) won on the synthetic at Chelmsford carrying 136 pounds in March and doesn’t meet any world beaters for her US bow, and you have to think she’s going to settle a bit early, so the gut says she’s live for Harty. There’s some hit-or-miss form with #4 CATOCA (3-1), so I wouldn’t want a short price in the win pool, but she too fits the race flow profile and makes the third start of her form cycle too. Pk5 A horses: 3,5,4 The good race-bad race pattern says #2 MONGOLIAN WINDOW (7-2) is firing today, and her best wins this, but there’s speed to her outside and she’s just too tough to trust to put on the A-line, though she’s also too good on her day to leave out. It looks like #6 ZUZANNA (5-1) has a hint of a rating gear, and she drew a nice outside attack post too, so I’ll use her as well, though this is a solid step up in class off that win for 25k last time. I’m playing against #8 Charmingslew (8-1) from a wide draw after she wired Cal breds last time, especially since both her wins have come in wire-to-wire fashion, and it’s unlikely she’s getting the lead from out here.Pk5 B horses: 2,6 The tickets: Main Ticket: 5,7,8 with 4 with 4,5,11 with 1,5 with 3,5,4 = $54Leg 3 B Backup: 5,7,8 with 4 with 7,8 with 1,5 with 3,5,4 = $36Leg 4 B Backup: 5,7,8 with 4 with 4,5,11 with 3 with 3,5,4 = $27Leg 5 B Backup: 5,7,8 with 4 with 4,5,11 with 1,5 with 2,6 = $36

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5.21.2019:

Xpressbet SELECT Player Profile: John Guarnere

When you race under the name Imaginary Stables and have had the immediate success that John Guarnere has enjoyed as a Thoroughbred owner, it’s understandable that you need to pinch yourself every once in a while to make sure it’s real. The Philly-born snowbird started with a pair of claims in partnership in 2016 and has blossomed his stable to 48 active runners. Guarnere and partners claimed Beaukati for $35,000 on February 3, 2016 off trainer Barclay Tagg; a day later, it was Quiet Force for $35,000 from trainer Mike Maker. And like that, a 2-horse stable was born. Five weeks later, they’d also debut on back-to-back cards at Gulfstream Park. Beautaki again was up first, winning for $30,000 as the 6-5 favorite under the care of Peter Walder. Just 24 hours later, Quiet Force stepped up to score at the $50,000 claiming level as the even-money favorite, also for Walder. Two claims. Two wins. Two days. Almost as easy as printing money. Guarnere can’t quite lay claim to that, though he made his business mark in the paper and printing business. He’s president and CEO of a paper Company, where he works with, among others, his wife of 38 years, Mary Ann. But since going into semi-retirement, Guarnere admitted, “I tried the fishing, golf, beach thing in Florida. I got bored and needed something more.” That something more was turning a passion for playing the horses into owning them. Guarnere grew up in Philadelphia among 10 children. His father owned a few horses that raced at Keystone, and young John took an early interest in the track and betting the horses. As his businesses grew, so did his involvement in betting the races. Guarnere now is an Xpressbet Select member, a group of high-volume horseplayers. “I’m kind of an over-doer with everything,” Guarnere said. “I reinvest my purses back into the game either with more horses or playing the horses. I love betting…but not a lot on my horses. I bet way less than my normal amount on my horses. I can’t handle the double-anxiety.  “I love Xpressbet; it has totally enhanced my betting experience, and being a Select player and watching the races in style has been an incredible experience.”Guarnere said his process for evaluating potential claims includes consultation with other good handicappers that he’s become friends with over the years. Some include advice via algorithms and data. But mainly it’s a job interview, per se. “I ask more questions than any owner in the industry,” Guarnere said with a chuckle. “I use analytics to claim, but any horse we claim has to pass the trainers’ eye test. Everyone has a job to do. The trainers talk me off of some, reinforce me on others.” Imaginary Stables currently has horses with trainers Jorge Navarro and Elizabeth Dobles. He’s diversified his stable from the early claims, now developing more young horses through the yearling and 2-year-old sales. “I have no desire to have 200 horses,” he said. “Just 50 good ones.” Good ones? He’s had a few. Guarnere partnered to privately purchase Conquest Enforcer prior to him winning the Grade 2 Mathis Brothers Mile at Santa Anita late in 2016. He and Ron Paolucci joined forces to privately purchase Imperative a month later in January 2017. Imperative immediately won the Poseidon Stakes at Gulfstream and soon after the $1.5 million Charles Town Classic. The quick returns have continued. When we sat down with Guarnere last weekend at the Preakness, his barn was in the midst of quite a hot streak. “I’m a realist, this roll can’t continue,” he said. “I’ve won with 7 of my last 11, including 3 stakes in the past 2 weeks. Two of the stakes wins (May 11) came a few minutes apart, Breaking Bread at Monmouth (Serena’s Song Stakes at 5:27 pm) and Royal Squeeze at Gulfstream (Big Drama Stakes at 5:40 pm).” Like his business, racing is a family affair for the Guarneres. The purple silks with green hearts of Imaginary Stables were designed by granddaughter Alliya, who was just 8 at the time. “She loves the races,” her proud grandfather says. And Mary Ann also shares in the excitement. “My wife screams louder at the races than me,” Guarnere said. “She was hooked. She’s at the barn feeding the horses treats and loving it.”  In-between races and handicapping the next winner, Guarnere has time to dream. Like most Thoroughbred racehorse owners, Guarnere said, “I’d love to get a Derby horse someday…or at least one into the prep races and see where it goes.” 

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5.20.2019:

Monday, May 20: Woodbine Mohawk Park Early Pick 4 Analysis

Tonight's feature at Woodbine Mohawk Park goes in Race 2, it's the opening leg of the Miss Versatility series for filly and mare trotters with a $52,800 purse. The popular 0.20 Pick 4 begins in Race 4, it has a $50,000 guaranteed pool and will be my focus. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Race 4 5-YC Broadway-In fine form and now draws well, should be a major player. 7-What Chapter-Nice qualifier in the slop after breaking, can beat this bunch if minds manners. 8-Alexus EH-First 2 starts off the bench were sharp, in the hunt if Byron works a trip. Race 5 2-Clearly Better-Drops to a comfortable spot and draws well, rolls late but must avoid being too far back. 3-Fiery Beauty-Gets needed post relief, could get on the engine and not look back. 5-Kylie Seelster-Faced tougher in 1st start off the bench, should like the company and has a chance for a picture. 6-Boadicea-Another who drops into a more favorable spot, likes to win and best to respect. Race 6 1-Severus Hanover-Makes 2nd start for Moreau and Roy should keep in play but needs to mind manners. 2-Constantino-0-10 at Wbsb is a concern, should race near the top and could surprise with the right trip. 9-Wiki Hanover-Henry's choice over the #8, took a meaningful drop and can win from the outside versus this crew. Race 7 1-Sunshineatthebeach-0-13 LT because she can't seal the deal but will respect chances in a wide-open affair. 3-Mrs Major Hill-Finally draws well and looking for a big try with an aggressive start to be in striking range. 6-Aumydarlin-Gets post relief but comes off a sick scratch, if ready should be in the battle with a suspect group. 9-Blackcheddar-Comes off an impressive win in 1st career start at FlmD, will use and hope Jamieson works a trip. My Ticket Race 4) 5,7,8 Race 5) 2,3,5,6 Race 6) 1,2,9 Race 7) 1,3,6,9 Total Ticket Cost) $28.80 for $0.20Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia

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5.20.2019:

Preakness Proves to be Unstoppable Force

Absolute opinions have become the norm in this social media age. But Saturday’s Preakness Stakes once again proved that you can’t believe everything you read, hear and see. Those promising that the 2019 middle jewel of the Triple Crown would suffer from public perception of the Santa Anita horse deaths, threats to move the race to Laurel Park, crumbling conditions of the Pimlico plant, distrust of the disqualification process from the Kentucky Derby – or even a lack of a Derby winner (or two) – missed the mark. By most metrics, Saturday at Old Hilltop proved a rousing success. Attendance topped 130,000 – only 10,000 less than the Kentucky Derby – and more money was bet on this 144th Preakness Stakes Day racing card than any other in its history. Mother Nature offered her Friday and Saturday best, and Sal Sinatra’s racing crew offered excellent cards. No doubt the customer experience suffered from a sub-standard physical plant whose plumbing issues have been well-documented for many years. And overnight TV ratings were record lows with new competition from the PGA Championship and a difficult storyline to sell without Country House and Maximum Security. The NBC numbers from Louisville showed viewership as strong as any the last quarter-century, dispelling a national narrative that everyone hates horse racing right now. So the naysayers did had something to tout, and they did in spades. Reading Twitter and news accounts of the Preakness on Sunday and Monday morning almost made me forget what a great experience I had at the event, and how absolutely warm and inviting the staff at Pimlico made customers feel. Instead, the angry reminded us why they’re angry, and reinforced the decades-long stance that Pimlico needs an aesthetics and structural overhaul. They were right then; they’re still right. I’ve been going to Pimlico since the early 1980s, then under the Cohen family, and it needed a facelift in the Reagan Administration. That was passed along to the DeFrancis family and eventually the Stronachs. The blemishes are real. But the Preakness continues to grow in spite of the supposed promises of its demise. Consider the explosion for the race since 2000, when attendance hit 100,000 only once prior. Handle was up this year about 20% compared to just 2013. It’s happened in the face of a declining foal crop, declining national handle, declining facility, a safer and much tamer infield environment, and trainers who claim 5-6 weeks between starts is part of their new norm of horsemanship. Maybe the Preakness is like a zombie movie. No matter what forces work against it (internal and external), you can’t bring it to its knees. It may crash through a collapsing building at Pimlico, or even rise out of the lake in the Laurel Park infield soon enough, but something tells me the Preakness will keep marching on a successful series of sequels. 

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5.18.2019:

Saturday, May 18: Meadowlands Pick 4 Analysis

Tonight's co-features at the Meadowlands are Open Trots that roll in Race 5 and Race 9 each with a $50,000 purse. The 0.50 Pick 4 sequence begins in Race 8, it has a $50,000 guaranteed pool and will be my focus. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Race 8 1-Whittaker N-Fits and gets post relief, barn has been cold, but this is a spot to shine. 4-All It Takes-Likes the track and Tetrick is back, which should make a difference, using at 8-1 in the ML. 5-No Easy Day-Took long way around in last and still flew home, 2nd time McCarthy, price shot could be leaving. Race 9 1-Crystal Fashion-Had one tune-up at Phl, regular pilot returns and should be forwardly placed for 1st win of 2019. 7-Mission Accepted-Faces toughest test of the year, but Burke-Gingras should keep ML chalk in play. Race 10 1-Billy Badger N-In good form, steps-up off last win, will need best but post draw should help chances. 5-JK Parlay-Tripped out in last and was claimed, similar foes tonight and has the gate speed to follow same script. 6-Incredible Shark-Gets class relief and Tetrick returns, looks like a threat for top honors. Race 11 2-Joe Joe Joe-Drops to a good spot, gets post relief and a positive driver change, looks like a major player. 3-JM Jack Of Hearts-Been camera shy this year but fits well here, gets Tetrick and a good post draw at 8-1 in ML. 4-Bravo Tex N-Gets needed post relief and should be there at the wire looking for 1st win of this campaign. 5-Rather Swell- Should like the company and Dave Miller takes a seat, looking for an aggressive steer. 7-Quality Bud-Will respect ML chalk but will try to beat, in the hunt with a decent trip. My Ticket Race 8) 1,4,5 Race 9) 1,7 Race 10) 1,5,6 Race 11) 2,3,4,5,7 Total Ticket Cost) $45 for $0.50Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia 

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5.17.2019:

Tackling the Preakness Day Pick 4: Go Deep

The $2 million Pick 4 at Pimlico on Preakness Day is about what you’d expect in degree of difficulty. In a word: High. And it’s not only because of the suggested unpredictability of the Preakness, which is the 13th race and last of the sequence. Also included are the Gallorette, Chick Lang and Dixie Stakes. The Gallorette and Preakness probably require the most entrants on the Pick 4 card, while the Chick Lang seems to require the least. The Dixie is far from a gimme as well. There’s a half-dozen on the ticket for the Preakness, including: War of Will: It was remarkable he lost the Derby by 4.5 lengths. Will has already been through a War, so what’s a little thing like drawing the No. 1 post going to affect him? There is no doubt he can improve his standing in this one. Bourbon War: Not good enough to unload the wallet upon, but certainly qualified for inclusion in this free-for-all. The 4th in the Florida Derby was actually a decent run and while he has only a maiden win and a optional claiming triumph to his credit, he probably will benefit from having skipped the Derby. Improbable: Hasn’t run a bad one yet, and while he had nothing go in his favor in the Derby, his fifth-place finish was actually admirable. He hasn’t had much go his way this year and is due. He has the talent; he needs some luck. Alwaysmining: Seeks his seventh straight win and is as good a local hope as there’s been in a while. While he’s never seen a spot this difficult, it would be foolish not to take him seriously. Very dangerous front-runner. Anothertwistafate: Has tactical speed and shouldn’t have a big problem with the No. 12 post. His only failure came in a sprint in his debut, and everything else on his form has been sharp. Should be able to make the distance in good shape. Win Win Win: Was runner-up to Alwaysmining going seven furlongs at Laurel but has become a classy model as he’s added distance. Was lost in the sloppy shuffle of the Derby. Throw out that effort; he’ll be coming on late. Adds blinkers, which could help him stay within range. Here’s my suggested ticket for the $2 Million Guaranteed Pick 4 at Pimlico: Race 10) #1 I’m So Fancy, #2 Inflexibility, #8 Viva Vegas, #9 Barkaa. Race 11) #7 Pyron, #8 Preamble. Race 12) #6 Flameaway, #11 Inspector Lindley, #12 Catholic Boy. Race 13) #1 War of Will, #2 Bourbon War, #4 Improbable, #7 Alwaysmining, #12 Anothertwistafate, #13 Win Win Win.    Total Ticket Cost) 1,2,8,9/7,8/6,11,12/1,2,4,7,12,13 = $72 for $0.50

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5.17.2019:

Friday, May 17: Can-Am Pick 4 Analysis

Tonight, the weather should cooperate at Woodbine Mohawk Park, but there is a chance of rain at the Meadowlands. Regardless, the Can-Am Pick 4 should have a strong mutual pool. The sequence begins in Race 10 at Mohawk and finishes at the Big M in Race 11. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track.   Race 10-Mohawk Park-Leg 1 2-Dragon Lady Art-ML chalk will be bet hard again, using but will look to beat. 5-The Girls of Image-Draws well, may get on engine without using a lot of gas, looks like a threat. 7-Miss Mady-Having a tough year but drops into a spot to shine, could pop at a square price. 9-Shezarealdeal-8-1 in the ML, takes a big drop in 3rd start off the bench, best to not overlook.   Race 10-Meadowlands-Leg 2 2-The Ice Dutchess-Tune-ups without hopples were good, could be ready to fire hot in 3 year-old debut. 4-My Lindy Winner-PcD invader raced well here last week, knows how to win and best to respect.   Race 11-Mohawk Park-Leg 3 3-Roll With Sparky-Moves up after a nice effort, Jamieson takes a seat and draws well, should be in the hunt. 4-Hello Love-Was bet and came up flat in 1st start off the bench, looking for more tonight. 7-Barockey-Should be a nice price, likes to race up-front and could get there without much effort. 8-Watch My Luck-Drops down a few classes and makes 3rd start on Lasix, looks like a player.   Race 11-Meadowlands-Leg 4 3-Whiskersonkittens-Moves up going for 3 in a row, not my favorite set-up but will use again versus this crew. 4-Park In Heaven-Fits well and flew home with a 55.1 last half, can pop at a square price. 7-Traffic Jam-Like to compete, can fly late, misses a start but could be ready for a win at this class, will swing for a price.   My Ticket Race 10 Mohawk Park) 2,5,7,9 Race 10 Meadowlands) 2,4 Race 11 Mohawk Park) 3,4,7,8 Race 11 Meadowlands) 3,4,7   Total Ticket Cost) $19.20 for $0.20 Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia.

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5.16.2019:

Jon White's Preakness Selections

It is a Preakness Stakes tradition that when the horses come onto the track for the post parade, the folks on hand at Pimlico Race Course are invited to sing “Maryland, My Maryland,” the official state song.  It’s also a Preakness tradition that after the 1 3/16-mile race is declared official, the colors of the victorious owner’s silks are painted on a weather vane.  I’ve developed a Preakness tradition of my own. When the time comes to try and forecast the winner, I begin by tossing out any entrant who did not run in the Kentucky Derby. That’s because there is a very good chance that the Preakness winner will be someone who started in the 1 1/4-mile Derby at Churchill Downs. Only four of the last 35 Preakness winners (Red Bullet in 2000, Bernardini in 2006, Rachel Alexandra in 2009 and Cloud Computing in 2017) did not run in the Derby.  This will be the first time since 1951 that none of the first four finishers across the finish line in the Kentucky Derby (Maximum Security, Country House, Code of Honor and Tacitis) are running in the Preakness.  The only four Kentucky Derby alums among the 13 horses entered in this Saturday’s 154th running of the Grade I Preakness are Improbable, War of Will, Win Win Win and Bodexpress.  Improbable is the 5-2 favorite on Pimlico oddsmaker Keith Feustle’s Preakness morning line. War of Will is next at 4-1. As for the other two Derby starters entered in the Preakness, Win Win Win is 15-1 and Bodexpress is 20-1.  These are my Preakness selections:  1. War of Will (4-1 morning line)  2. Improbable (5-2)  3. Alwaysmining (8-1)  4. Owendale (10-1)  Here is a look at the most recent race for the last 40 Preakness winners:  2018 Justify (WON THE KENTUCKY DERBY)  2017 Cloud Computing (3rd in the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct)  2016 Exaggerator (2nd in the Kentucky Derby)  2015 American Pharoah (WON THE KENTUCKY DERBY)  2014 California Chrome (WON THE KENTUCKY DERBY)  2013 Oxbow (6th in the Kentucky Derby)  2012 I’ll Have Another (WON THE KENTUCKY DERBY)  2011 Shackleford (4th in the Kentucky Derby)  2010 Lookin At Lucky (6th in the Kentucky Derby)  2009 Rachel Alexandra (WON THE KENTUCKY OAKS)  2008 Big Brown (WON THE KENTUCKY DERBY)  2007 Curlin (3rd in the Kentucky Derby)  2006 Bernardini (won the Withers at Aqueduct)  2005 Afleet Alex (3rd in the Kentucky Derby)  2004 Smarty Jones (WON THE KENTUCKY DERBY)  2003 Funny Cide (WON THE KENTUCKY DERBY)  2002 War Emblem (WON THE KENTUCKY DERBY)  2001 Point Given (5th in the Kentucky Derby)  2000 Red Bullet (2nd in the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct)  1999 Charismatic (WON THE KENTUCKY DERBY)  1998 Real Quiet (WON THE KENTUCKY DERBY)  1997 Silver Charm (WON THE KENTUCKY DERBY)  1996 Louis Quatorze (16th in the Kentucky Derby)  1995 Timber Country (3rd in the Kentucky Derby)  1994 Tabasco Cat (6th in the Kentucky Derby)  1993 Prairie Bayou (2nd in the Kentucky Derby)  1992 Pine Bluff (5th in the Kentucky Derby)  1991 Hansel (10th in the Kentucky Derby)  1990 Summer Squall (2nd in the Kentucky Derby)  1989 Sunday Silence (WON THE KENTUCKY DERBY)  1988 Risen Star (3rd in the Kentucky Derby)  1987 Alysheba (WON THE KENTUCKY DERBY)  1986 Snow Chief (11th in the Kentucky Derby)  1985 Tank’s Prospect (7th in the Kentucky Derby)  1984 Gate Dancer (DQ’d to 5th from 4th in the Kentucky Derby)  1983 Deputed Testamony (won the Keystone Stakes at Keystone)  1982 Aloma’s Ruler (won the Withers Stakes at Aqueduct)  1981 Pleasant Colony (WON THE KENTUCKY DERBY)  1980 Codex (won the Hollywood Derby at Hollywood Park)  1979 Spectacular Bid (WON THE KENTUCKY DERBY)  1978 Affirmed (WON THE KENTUCKY DERBY)  1977 Seattle Slew (WON THE KENTUCKY DERBY)  1976 Elocutionist (3rd in the Kentucky Derby)  1975 Master Derby (won the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland)  1974 Little Current (5th in the Kentucky Derby)  1973 Secretariat (WON THE KENTUCKY DERBY)  1972 Bee Bee Bee (won the Survivor Stakes at Pimlico)  1971 Canonero II (WON THE KENTUCKY DERBY)  1970 Personality (8th in the Kentucky Derby)  1969 Majestic Prince (WON THE KENTUCKY DERBY)  WAR OF WILL’S DERBY MISFORTUNE  My guess is you probably are aware that War of Will did not have the best of trips in the Kentucky Derby. To begin with, he was rank while full of run when boxed in behind pacesetting Maximum Security on the first turn and early on the backstretch.  War of Will and jockey Tyler Gaffalione remained bottled up until shortly after leaving the three-eighths pole on the far turn. Gaffalione angled out at that point, appearing to make contact with Long Range Toddy.  Shortly after War of Will moved out from the inside rail, Maximum Security still was in front. Just when it appeared War of Will was going to take on the leader, Maximum Security veered out sharply. In the unanimous opinion of the stewards, when Maximum Security veered out sharply, he caused interference to War of Will, Bodexpress and Long Range Toddy.  Maximum Security would go on to reach the finish line 1 3/4 lengths in front.  War of Will’s trainer, Mark Casse, and Gaffalione discussed a possible claim of foul immediately after the race. They decided not to lodge an objection against Maximum Security. Casse later explained that the thinking at the time was War of Will finished eighth, which meant he would only get moved up to seventh even if the claim of foul was allowed. According to Casse, if War of Will possibly could been moved up to fifth to get a piece of the $3 million purse, an objection definitely would have been lodged. Flavian Prat and Jon Court did lodge objections for alleged interference approaching the five-sixteenth pole. Prat rode Country House, who finished second. Court rode Long Range Toddy, who finished 17th. The stewards deliberated for 22 minutes, then it was announced that they had decided to disqualify Maximum Security and place him 17th. Maximum Security was placed below Long Range Toddy, who in the judgment of the stewards was the horse to finish the lowest of those interfered with nearing the five-sixteenths pole.  It was the first time in the 145-year history of the Kentucky Derby that a winner had been disqualified for an incident during the running of the race. Ever since Maximum Security’s disqualification, debate has raged as to whether or not it was the correct call. In my opinion, the disqualification of Maximum Security was warranted. However, many others, including Andrew Beyer, have expressed their disagreement with the DQ.  “NBC’s slow-motion coverage showed Maximum Security moving in front of War of Will, forcing Tyler Gaffalione to steady his mount,” Beyer wrote for Daily Racing Form. “This was a foul -- no doubt about it. The incident could have resulted in a bad accident -- but it didn’t. It probably cost War of Will a length, but he recovered quickly. He had a clear path ahead of him and a quarter of a mile in which to catch Maximum Security, and he drew within a length of the leader, but he faded badly at the end and finished eighth. He never was going to win the Derby, or even finish in the money.”  Beyer actually contradicts himself by saying the incident “probably cost War of Will a length” but War of Will “never was going to win the Derby, or even finish in the money.”  Let’s assume Beyer is correct in his assumption that the incident “probably cost War of Will a length.” If that’s true, then it is reasonable to infer that the incident probably did cost War of Will from finishing in the money -- i.e., fifth or higher.  Of the $3 million Kentucky Derby purse, the winner receives $1,860,000, with $600,000 going to second, $300,000 to third, $150,000 to fourth and $90,000 to fifth.  War of Will was beaten less than a length for fifth. If the incident probably cost War of Will “a length,” as Beyer believes, then the incident also probably cost War of Will from finishing fifth and receiving a $90,000 check.  Consider what the DRF’s Mike Watchmaker wrote this week.  “War of Will wound up being beaten only two lengths by the Derby’s third-place finisher, and to say that Maximum Security gave him at least two lengths worth of trouble would be an exercise in massive understatement.”  Watchmaker therefore seemingly believes that Maximum Security cost War of Will the opportunity to possibly finish third and collect $300,000.  The way I saw it, War of Will was not going to beat Maximum Security. I agree with Beyer and many others on that. However, I also think that when Maximum Security committed a foul by impeding War of Will, it denied War of Will the opportunity to finish at least fifth and perhaps even higher. Maximum Security ran a terrific race. He went fast early, slow in the middle portion, then fast late. Not many horses can do that. When Maximum Security slowed down the pace during the middle part of the Derby, it played a major role as to why the field became so bunched on the far turn. The clocking for each quarter was :22.31, :24.31, :25.88, :26.13, :25.30.  WAR OF WILL MIGHT RUN A BIGGIE IN PREAKNESS  One of the reasons War of Will is my choice to win the Preakness is he had a right to weaken a bit late in the Kentucky Derby inasmuch as it was his first race in six weeks and first meaningful race in 11 weeks. He most assuredly did not get much out of the Louisiana Derby on March 23, a race in which he finished ninth after abruptly taking an awkward step behind in the initial strides.  According to Casse, War of Will emerged from the Louisiana Derby with a strained patellar ligament. But the colt recovered from that setback and trained splendidly up to the May 4 Kentucky Derby. And now, with that May 4 race under his belt, War of Will just might be primed to run a biggie this Saturday.  On the other hand, there is the possibility that the rough Kentucky Derby took a mental and/or physical toll on War of Will. If that’s the case, I almost certainly am barking up the wrong tree by pick him to win the Preakness.  I also had some concern when I learned this week that War of Will had a foot issue three days after the Kentucky Derby. Casse said that on the morning of May 7, “we thought he had a fair amount of heat in his [right front] foot and a pulse and he was a little tender on it. We pulled the shoe right away, soaked his foot and put the shoe back on. He hasn’t missed a beat since…That’s not an issue [for the Preakness].”  Additionally, after War of Will had to deal with the dreaded inside post position in the Kentucky Derby, I was not thrilled to see him again get post 1 for the Preakness. But at least it’s not as if there has been a long drought from post 1. American Pharoah broke from post 1 and won the Preakness in 2015 en route to a Triple Crown sweep.  A Preakness victory by Improbable is quite possible. He found himself racing in heavy traffic and bottled up through the early stages of the Kentucky Derby as the 4-1 favorite. Improbable did not have any kick in the lane and finished fifth before being moved up to fourth through the disqualification of Maximum Security.  I have the impression that Improbable did not particularly like the sloppy track at Churchill despite having run quite well on a sloppy surface at Oaklawn Park when he was the runner-up to Omaha Beach in the Arkansas Derby. Improbable recorded a 99 Beyer Speed Figure in the Arkansas Derby, a 96 in the Kentucky Derby. Remarkably, Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert has never lost the Preakness with any of his five Kentucky Derby winners (Silver Charm in 1997, Real Quiet in 1998, War Emblem in 2002, American Pharoah in 2015 and Justify in 2018). But Baffert is not running a Kentucky Derby winner in the Preakness this year.  Baffert also has managed to win the Preakness twice with horses who did not win the Kentucky Derby (Point Given in 2001 and Lookin At Lucky in 2010).  If Improbable does get the job done this Saturday, Baffert will break the record for most Preakness wins by a trainer. Baffert and Robert Wyndham Walden currently share the record with seven Preakness victories each.  All seven of Walden’s Preakness wins came in the 1880s (Tom Ochiltree in 1875, Duke of Magenta in 1878, Harold in 1879, Grenada in 1880, Saunterer in 1881, Vanguard in 1882 and Refund in 1888).  Baffert has a theory as to why he has had so much success running a horse in the Preakness just two weeks after the Kentucky Derby. He believes one of the reasons is what he usually had to do when running horses in futurities and derbies back during his Quarter Horse days.  During Baffert’s time as a Quarter Horse conditioner, qualifying time trials generally would be held one week prior to a futurity or derby. Baffert learned to deal with what he called “the quick turnaround in the Quarter Horse world” by having a horse “run well enough” to qualify for the futurity or derby, but “not too well.” The goal was for the horse to come back a week after the trial and be able to take a serious run at winning the futurity or derby.  OTHER PREAKNESS ENTRANTS TO RESPECT  Beyond War of Will and Improbable, I would not be surprised if Alwaysmining, Owendale, Anothertwistafate, Bourbon War and/or Win Win Win have a big say in Saturday’s big race in Baltimore.  Alwaysmining has reeled off six straight victories at Laurel. In his most recent start, he sat just off the early pace and then annihilated his foes to win the Federico Tesio Stakes by 11 1/2 lengths on April 20. He recorded a 92 Beyer Speed Figure in that race after posting a 96 when he won the Private Terms Stakes by 6 3/4 lengths on March 16. Those Beyers give him a license to do well Saturday. He’s trying to become the first Maryland-bred to win the Preakness since Deputed Testamony in 1983. He would be the first gelding to win the Preakness since Funny Cide in 2003.  I was impressed by Owendale’s triumph in the Grade III Lexington Stakes at Keeneland on April 13. As far back as ninth early, he zoomed past rivals on the far turn. After sporting a two-length lead at the eighth pole, he won by 1 3/4 lengths. Again from a Beyer Speed Figure perspective, by recording a 98 in the Lexington, Owendale should be taken very seriously in the Preakness.  Anothertwistafate was on my Kentucky Derby Top 10 for many weeks until it looked like he would not have sufficient points to get into the race. He has finished first or second in all five of his starts around two turns. Anothertwistafate has put together Beyer Speed Figures of 94, 94 and 95 going into the Preakness. That puts him right in the mix.  Scat Daddy is the sire of Anothertwistafate. Justify, also a son of Scat Daddy, won the Preakness last year while on his way to sweeping the Triple Crown. While I am not all that keen on Bourbon War as a candidate to win the Preakness, as a lot of people seem to be, I recognize that he certainly could hit the board Saturday. When he finished fourth in the Grade I Florida Derby on March 30, his chances were compromised by a slow pace. That slow Florida Derby pace was set by the victorious Maximum Security, who subsequently finished first in the Kentucky Derby.  Drawing post 13 for the Preakness did not do Win Win Win any favors. I just have a feeling that he is going to pop up and do what his name says in an important race one of these days.  THORO-GRAPH’S KENTUCKY DERBY FIGS  While I do concur with those of the opinion that nobody was going to beat Maximum Security in the Kentucky Derby, I can’t help but find the post-race Thoro-Graph figures to be very interesting. They tell a different story.  I have stated many times that I believe Beyer Speed Figures do have value (which is why I often list them). But I consider the Thoro-Graph figures to be vastly superior.  In terms of the Beyers, the winner of a race will never get a smaller figure than the horse who finished second, the horse who finished second will never get a smaller figure than the horse who finished third, and so on and so forth down through the order of finish.  Thoro-Graph figures take many more factors (feet traveled, weight, etc.) into account than the Beyers. In the case of the Thoro-Graph Figures, a horse who finishes second, or even lower, can get a better figure than the winner. This really is a much more realistic evaluation of a horse’s performance.  According to Thoro-Graph, Maximum Security did not run the best race in the Kentucky Derby. In fact, according to Thoro-Graph, three horses ran a better race than Maximum Security.  The higher a figure is, the better it is, when it comes to Beyers. The opposite is true for Thoro-Graph figures.  Below were the 10 best Beyers in this year’s Kentucky Derby, followed by the 10 best Thoro-Graph figures:  Beyer Horse 101 Maximum Security 99 Country House 97 Code of Honor 96 Tacitus 96 Improbable 96 Game Winner 96 Master Fencer  95 War of Will  94 Plus Que Parfait 89 Win Win Win T-G Fig Horse 1/4 Game Winner 1/2 Country House 1 Tacitus 1 1/4 Maximum Security 2 1/4 Master Fencer 2 1/2 Improbable 2 3/4 Code of Honor 3 1/4 Cutting Humor 3 1/2 War of Will 3 3/4 Plus Que Parfait  PREAKNESS HAS NOTABLE ABSENTEES  If Omaha Beach had run in the Kentucky Derby, I believe there’s a good chance that he would have won it. I don’t think the sloppy track would have stopped him. It probably would have helped him. He was two for two on sloppy tracks. But the 4-1 morning-line favorite was scratched from the Derby due to an entrapped epiglottis.  Had Omaha Beach won the Kentucky Derby, I believe he would have been extremely tough to beat in the Preakness. He certainly would have been my pick to win it. I think he might have taken a very serious run at becoming the third Triple Crown winner in this decade.  With Omaha Beach out of the picture, if Maximum Security had been entered in the Preakness, he definitely would have been my pick to win. But instead of running in the Preakness, Maximum Security is scheduled to make a public appearance this Saturday at Monmouth Park. He will be brought over to the paddock before the fifth race.  Also conspicuous by his absence in this Saturday’s Preakness is Country House, the official winner of the 2019 Kentucky Derby. Three days after the Run for the Roses, Country House “developed a little bit of a cough,” his trainer, Bill Mott, revealed to Daily Racing Form’s Jay Privman. Mott added that with Country House acting like he was going to get sick, he would not be running in the Preakness.  As for Maximum Security, his trainer, Jason Servis, said he has been “amazed” by the outpouring of support for the colt following his Kentucky Derby disqualification. Many cards and letters and lots of flowers (most notably roses) have been sent to Maximum Security at Monmouth.  “I don’t know what it is, if it’s the disqualification and people feel he was treated unfairly, but he seems to have touched a lot of people,” Servis was quoted as saying in a Monmouth press release announcing the colt’s appearance between races Saturday. “You never know when or why a horse will touch people the way he has. I’m amazed at all the cards and flowers people have sent. It’s a neat thing to see.”  The DRF’s David Grening reports that, according to Servis, Monmouth’s Pegasus Stakes on June 16 is under consideration for Maximum Security as a possible springboard to the Grade I Haskell Invitational there on July 20.  WESTS FILE FEDERAL LAWSUIT OVER DQ  As expected by many, Maximum Security’s owners, Gary and Mary West, have filed a lawsuit in federal court in an attempt to overturn the decision to disqualify Maximum Security in the Kentucky Derby.  According to the Lexington Herald-Leader, the Wests filed suit on Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Frankfort, Ky. The Wests are suing the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission (KHRC) and its members, staff and the stewards who disqualified Maximum Security.  The lawsuit alleges that the disqualification process was “bizarre and unconstitutional.” It seeks to have the stewards’ decision reversed and the original order of finish reinstated “confirming that Maximum Security is the official winner of the Derby who remains undefeated.”  The lawsuit claims that “as a result of the disqualification, plaintiffs, the trainer and jockey (Luis Saez) of Maximim Security were denied any part of the $1,860,000 share of the Derby purse as well as a professional accomplishment that any horseman would cherish for life, plus very substantial value that a Kentucky Derby winner has a stallion.”  The Wests originally had appealed Maximum Security’s disqualification to the KHRC. However, according to a KHRC rule, “stewards’ finding of fact and rulings on matters occurring and incident to the running of the race shall be final and not subject to appeal.” Citing that rule, the Wests’ appeal was summarily denied by the KHRC. The KHRC’s general counsel, John L. Forgy, sent a letter to representatives of the Wests to inform the owners of Maximum Security that their appeal had been denied.  “Because stewards’ disqualification determination is not subject to appeal and for the reasons set forth below, your request for appeal is denied,” the letter from Forgy said, according to a BloodHorse story written by Frank Angst. “Consequently, your request for stay pending appeal is moot because the law does not provide for an appeal.”  Angst added that the appeal denial letter also noted that as a license condition for racing in Kentucky, every licensee agrees to abide by the KHRC’s rules and regulations.  According to the Herald-Leader, the Wests’ lawsuit alleges that the lack of an appeals process for the stewards’ ruling denies Maximum Security’s owners their due process rights. The owners also claim that the stewards’ decision to disqualify Maximum Security was not supported by “substantial evidence on the whole record.”  The way I see it, there is substantial video evidence to support the stewards’ decision to disqualify Maximum Security. However, the part of the Wests’ lawsuit that might conceivably have merit is their claim that they have been denied due process by virtue of the KHRC rule stating that a stewards’ disqualification “for matters occurring and incident to the running of the race shall be final and not subject to appeal.”  Personally, I think that KHRC rule is a good one. It is my belief that after the stewards have made their call as to whether or not disqualify a horse for an incident during a race, it is then in the best interest of racing to move on without any appeals. As I have said many times, when someone can appeal a stewards’ decision to disqualify or not disqualify a horse for an incident during the running of a race, the appeal typically goes before a hearing officer or commissioners who do not have anywhere close to as much videotape expertise as stewards do in terms of analyzing what has occurred during a race.  If the KHRC rule stating that the stewards’ disqualification determination is not subject to appeal -- or any similarly worded rule in another state – has ever been challenged on constitutional grounds, I am not aware of it. Due to the fundamental unfairness stemming from the finality that is specified in the KHRC rule that a disqualification “shall be final and not subject to appeal,” I don’t think it’s out of the question that KHRC rule could be declared unconstitutional by a federal judge.  If that KHRC rule were to be deemed to be unconstitutional, I don’t believe that, in itself, would cause a federal judge to rule that the original order of finish in the Kentucky Derby be reinstated. However, if that particular KHRC rule was declared to be unconstitutional, I could envision the case possibly being sent back to the KHRC for the purpose of the racing commission being mandated to hear the appeal. Of course, under those circumstances, the odds of the KHRC upholding the Wests’ appeal would be tremendously bigger than even Country House’s 65-1 odds in the Kentucky Derby. And if the KHRC, as expected, did not rule in favor of the Wests in their appeal, it most likely would send the owners back into federal court to continue their attempt to have the stewards’ decision to disqualify Maximum Security overturned.  SAEZ RECEIVES 15-DAY SUSPENSION  While I regard the stewards’ decision to disqualify Maximum Security in the Kentucky Derby as being correct, I strongly disagree with their ruling to suspend the colt’s jockey, Luis Saez, for 15 days “for failure to control his mount and make the proper effort to maintain a straight course thereby causing interference with several rivals that resulted in the disqualification of his mount.”  The stewards’ ruling calls for Saez to be suspended from May 23-27 and from June 6-9, plus on June 13 and 14.  In my view, the 15-day penalty is egregious, punitive and ridiculous. From what I have seen on the videotape, I do not believe Saez was reckless or careless. Maximum Security appeared to get spooked from something, be it from the crowd noise, reflection of light on the wet track or something in the infield. After Maximum Security veered out sharply from whatever evidently spooked him, Saez quickly guided Maximum Security back down toward the inside rail. When Saez took Maximum Security back down toward the inside rail, it did appear Maximum Security nearly make contact with Code of Honor. Perhaps those two even did make light contact. Code of Honor had slipped through along the inner rail into the clear path that materialized when Maximum Security veered out sharply. I don’t think Maximum Security bothered Code of Honor nearing the top of the stretch. But it appeared to me that Maximum Security did come close to doing so. The harshest sanction for Saez’s ride that I would consider not to be excessive would be a five-day suspension. A three-day suspension would be even more appropriate. But from the numerous times I have viewed the videotape, I honestly don’t think Saez deserved to be suspended at all for his ride. Maximum Security, in my opinion, was at fault, not Saez. This was not a case of “rider error.” Saez’s attorney, Ann Oldfather, reportedly plans to file an appeal of the 15-day suspension to the KHRC on behalf of her client. An appeal of a jockey’s suspension is permitted by the KHRC rules. RACING MOURNS THE DEATH OF TIM CONWAY Tim Conway, referred to as a comic genius by many and a longtime supporter of horse racing, died Tuesday morning in Los Angeles. He was 85. In the Los Angeles Times’ obituary, Conway’s representative, Howard Bragman, said the comedian died in a long-term-care facility after suffering complications of hydrocephalus. Conway, Bragman said, also had dementia. My late father became a big Tim Conway fan when watching him on “McHale’s Navy” on the black and white television in our living room. During Conway’s career, he won six Emmy Awards, four of them for his work on “The Carol Burnett Show.” He also starred in a number of movies. Conway was a devout racing fan. He even raced a few horses through the years. In the 1980s, he appeared a number of times as the hapless jockey Lyle Dorf on “The Tonight Show” with Johnny Carson. In what probably was Conway’s most significant contribution to horse racing, he helped launch the Don MacBeth Memorial Jockey Fund in 1987. It provided financial aid and assistance to injured jockeys and exercise riders. Conway had a soft spot in his heart for those who rode racehorses in the mornings and afternoons. In his youth, Conway exercised Thoroughbreds for a time in his native Ohio. The Don MacBeth Fund assisted more than 2,000 riders before ceasing operations at the end of 2011. The Turf Publicists of America honored Conway with the Big Sport of Turfdom Award in 1989. I crossed paths with Conway on a number of occasions through the years. He was always friendly…and, of course, always funny. As example of Conway’s sense of humor, in the BloodHorse’s obit, Hall of Fame jockey Chris McCarron recalled the only two words on the back of Conway’s silks: No Passing. TRAINER DON WARREN PASSES AWAY  There also was sad news for many members of the racing fraternity when the Santa Anita publicity department announced last Friday that retired trainer Don Warren had died early Thursday after having been in declining health in recent years. He was 67. Born in Covina, Calif., Warren began his training career in 1974. He trained for the Johnston family’s Old English Rancho until his retirement in 2015. He was not the only person in his family involved in racing. His brother, Ron Warren Jr., is a retired jockey who has worked as a racing official for the California Horse Racing Board. Warren trained Acclamation, who was victorious in 11 of 30 lifetime starts and earned $1,958,048. Acclamation won six Grade I races, including the 2011 Pacific Classic at Del Mar. He was voted a 2011 Eclipse Award as champion older male. I visited Warren at his barn many times in the 1980s during my years as a reporter/columnist for the Daily Racing Form. I always enjoyed my morning chats with Warren.  THIS WEEK’S NTRA POLLS  Here is the Top 10 for this week’s NTRA Top Thoroughbred Poll: Rank Points Horse (First-Place Votes) 1. 403 Bricks and Mortar (29) 2. 333 McKinzie (5) 3. 274 Gift Box (3) 4. 229 Midnight Bisou 5. 212 Mitole 6. 197 World of Trouble 7. 140 Monomoy Girl (3) 8. 99 Roy H 9. 85 Thunder Snow (1) 10 69 City of Light (1) Here is the Top 10 for this week’s NTRA Top 3-Year-Old Poll: Rank Points Horse (First-Place Votes) 1. 412 Maximum Security (28) 2. 366 Omaha Beach (13) 3. 320 Country House (2) 4. 270 Code of Honor 5. 260 Tacitus 6. 193 Improbable 7. 166 Game Winner 8. 142 War of Will 9. 68 Serengeti Empress 10. 40 Roadster

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5.16.2019:

Johnny D’s Preakness Stakes Analysis and Selections

The dust has settled on Kentucky Derby 145. The lawsuits haven’t. If you’re either a Country House or Maximum Security fan there hasn’t been much time to celebrate or to cry over spilled milk. Two weeks between first and second legs of the Triple Crown provide little recovery time for man and beast. The ship already has sailed and, in fact, now is docked at Baltimore’s inner harbor. Maximum Security ran his bay rear-end off in Louisville. No surprise he’s not in Baltimore. Country House originally was scheduled to appear but is sidelined with an illness. Connections of original third-place finisher Code of Honor immediately passed on Preakness. Tacitus, originally fourth in the Derby, will point for the Belmont Stakes. So, who’s in Charm City for the Preakness party? Anyone? Anyone at all? You bet. 13 of them will fill the gate. Few are familiar faces. The Derby favorite Improbable will be here representing pretty much the same folks that owned Justify last year’s Triple Crown winner. Trainer Bob Baffert rides along, too, hoping for a record-setting 8th Preakness victory. War of Will, mugged near the top of the stretch in the Derby, is back for more, and so is the ambitiously-named Win Win Win and maiden Bodexpress, originally 10th and 14th in Louisville, respectively. A fierce group of new faces awaits. Local sensation Alwaysmining, Camino Real Derby winner Anothertwistafate, Derby also-eligible Signalman and Lexington hero Owendale are more than ready to meet the challenge. Below is one man’s analysis of this 144th Preakness Stakes, including a suggested wagering strategy. 1. War of Will (Casse/Gaffalione) - 4/1 He rode the rail throughout in the Kentucky Derby—perfect-tripping after breaking from the dreaded #1 hole. Then the field turned into the stretch… That’s where War of Will briefly became meat in a Derby sandwich. How much you estimate that incident affected War of Will is key to your opinion regarding his chances in the Preakness Stakes. If you think he was terribly compromised by the now famous Derby incident, then you probably love him in the Preakness. On the other hand, if you think his bumper car-moment was no more than a minor hip-check and that he had plenty of time to recover, then you’ve might look in another direction. Yours truly feels strongly both ways. I don’t believe the Derby incident severely harmed War of Will’s chances in the Derby. He had ample time to recover after the bump and to finish in the money. He didn’t. He faded to 8th. But here’s the tricky part: War of Will is a decent horse; at least he was until he was slightly injured out of the gate in the Louisiana Derby. Draw a line through that effort and War of Will’s last meaningful race before the Kentucky Derby came 2 ½ months earlier in the Risen Star, which he easily won. That means this son of War Front probably needed the Kentucky Derby to build his wind. He should be much fitter in Maryland. That he drew the rail again is a statistical anomaly, but it shouldn’t be a hindrance and he might enjoy a similar ground-saving trip like he had in the Derby, minus the collision, of course. He’s got to be around on tickets somewhere. 2. Bourbon War (Hennig/Ortiz Jr.) - 12/1 This son of Tapit made his graded-stakes bones when runner-up to Kentucky Derby original show horse Code of Honor in the Xpressbet Fountain of Youth Stakes. The duo also was less than one-length apart next out in the Xpressbet Florida Derby. Before that Bourbon War registered an Aqueduct maiden and Gulfstream allowance tally. This colt has no speed and is at the mercy of the early pace. If it’s slow, he’s got no chance. However, the pace of the Preakness figures at least energetic, so he may have a shot at an exotics position. Reportedly, thin blinkers will be added in an effort to keep him a bit more focused. 3. Warrior's Charge (Cox/Castellano) - 12/1 Here’s a sharp knife that enters Preakness off a pair dominating performances at Oaklawn Park. He was supplemented to the race at a cost of $150,000 in a calculated gamble by an ownership group that understands risk versus reward. Watch him use his speed from the inside to play come and catch me early. An intriguing early matchup will involve this guy, War of Will from the inside and Alwaysmining from the outside. If they get silly up front the closers will be licking chops. It’s the race within the race and worth the price of admission. Since both most recent wins came in wire-to-wire fashion, it’s hard to imagine Hall-of-Fame jockey Castellano surrendering the early lead unless absolutely forced to. He could hang around long enough to juice exotics. 4. Improbable (Baffert/Smith) - 5/2 The Kentucky Derby favorite didn’t have the best of trips in Louisville, but it wasn’t a horror show either. He was blocked and between horses for nearly the entire Derby distance. Once clear in the stretch, he really didn’t kick it in. He didn’t back up in the lane like War of Will did, but he wasn’t closing much ground on the leaders. He’s faced the best foes of any of these Preakness runners and has attained the best speed figures. Those are undeniable positives. He deserves to be the Preakness favorite and should run his race, especially for Baffert-Smith connections. However, this will be his fourth race and a short amount of time and he’s not really that dominant in here. While we expect him to appreciate a cut-back in distance from the Derby, he’s far from unbeatable. Baffert’s a late arrival to the Baltimore experience this year and his comments on the race have been less than encouraging. Expect to find Improbable racing off the early pace and in front of the dead closers. How much he can gain in the lane is the real question. At a short price he’s no bargain. 5. Owendale (Cox/Geroux) - 10/1 Following an 8th-place finish in the Risen Star the son of Into Mischief’s connections had to be dejected. Then came a rousing win in the Lexington Stakes and a longshot chance to start in the Kentucky Derby. Unfortunately, (or perhaps fortunately) Owendale didn’t have enough points to run for the roses. That seems to have been OK with trainer Brad Cox who says this one has finally put it all together. Directly behind him in Lexington was Anothertwistafate, a foe he will re-engage in Baltimore. With 8 career starts Owendale’s got plenty of experience and only one race to suggest he might good enough to win this. Good news for backers is that his best race came in his most recent start. The bad news is that the water gets deeper Saturday. He requires some early pace to set up his closing charge. 6. Market King (Lukas/Court) - 30/1 Trainer D. Wayne Lukas has won more Triple Crown events than anyone except Bob Baffert. Therefore, it’s difficult to count a horse he saddles out of the mix. However, a big run from Market King would be a surprise. He did finish third to Omaha Beach and Game Winner in the Rebel Stakes, but this son of Into Mischief’s front-running/pressing style really doesn’t fit in here. He figures to have lots of company early. 7. Alwaysmining (Rubley/Centeno) - 8/1 This local Laurel star and gelded son of Stay Thirsty is going for his 7th consecutive win by a combined margin of more than 27 lengths! He’s got speed or can sit just off the pace. Visually, his races have been breathtaking, dominating. Who has he been beating? Ah, there’s the rub! Marquee names in company lines include Win Win Win—10th in the Derby and also entered in the Preakness; Gray Magician--2nd in the UAE Derby and 19th in Kentucky version; and Joevia—winner of the ungraded Long Branch at Belmont last out and unplaced in the Grade 2 Wood. That’s far from Murderer’s Row. Overall, this gelding has made 12 starts and won 7—all at Laurel. He’s never raced at Pimlico, but the Preakness is in Maryland. Does that count? He’s certainly good at the right time and his last two outings have produced competitive figures. He’s a wild card in here that has to be respected, but is difficult to totally embrace. 8. Signalman (McPeek/Hernandez Jr.) - 30/1 This son of General Quarters never has run fast enough to win this race and hasn’t improved much since his 2-year-old successes—2nd in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity; 3rd in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile; and winner of the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club. He’s got no speed but did race much closer to the pace last out in the Blue Grass at Keeneland when third behind Vekoma. Those tactics took him out of his game, and he had little for the finish. Trainer Ken McPeek was upset that this charge didn’t make the Derby starting lineup. Now, his horse will have a chance to show he belonged. He’ll need to really jump forward but we’ve seen worse 30-1 shots as inclusions in exotic bottom rungs. 9. Bodexpress (Delgado/Velazquez) - 20/1 Second to original Kentucky Derby winner Maximum Security in the Xpressbet Florida Derby, this son of Bodemeister has yet to win a race. He’s 0-for-6 with 3 seconds and has been in the ring with some heavyweights--the aforementioned ‘Security, and the then-streaking Hidden Scroll. And Bode’s recent Kentucky Derby experience has to count for something. We don’t see him making too much noise in the Preakness. 10. Everfast (Romans/Rosario) - 50/1 A really last-minute addition to the Preakness lineup he would be a huge surprise. In 4 recent graded stakes he’s been 2nd in the Holy Bull; 8th in the Fountain of Youth; 9th in the Florida Derby and 5th in the Pat Day Mile. He was 128-1 in the Holy Bull. History will need to repeat in Baltimore and that’s not likely to happen. 11. Laughing Fox (Asmussen/Santana Jr.) - 20/1 This son of Union Rags won the Oaklawn Park Invitational Stakes on Derby Day in Arkansas and earned a scholarship into the Preakness Stakes. Based on his record, it’s a good thing he didn’t have to pay to get into the race because he’s got to step up in a big way in here. On the plus side, he also accounted for Oaklawn allowance and maiden victories this winter.  12. Anothertwistafate (Wright/Ortiz) - 6/1 This guy ripped off three consecutive wins at Golden Gate this winter over a synthetic surface. The last of those wins came in the El Camino Real Derby where he demolished a field of 11 challengers. While the verdict was unanimously positive on this one’s synthetic track ability, the jury remained in deliberation regarding the colt’s ability to handle dirt. In the Grade 3 Sunland Derby, the son of Scat Daddy waited behind horses until the stretch. It took him several strides to find clear running room, but when he did, he came flying late with bad intentions. Unfortunately, his charge fell a neck short. In his last race, the Lexington at Keeneland, he again waited inside in an uneasy position until very late. A final push couldn’t match the sweeping, wide move of Owendale at the wire. With 3 wins and 5 of 6 in-the-money efforts, this guy hasn’t run a poor race since his first start in a Santa Anita maiden race. He ought to be strategically-placed in the Preakness under 2017 Eclipse Award-winning jockey Jose Ortiz. Unfortunately, two things happened Wednesday to diminish our enthusiasm for this colt: First, he drew the 12-hole. While that’s not a death sentence it’s not parole either. Second, he’s listed at 6-1 on the morning line, no real bargain and at least 4 points lower than we expected. Still, this colt will be a major factor in our Preakness wagers. 13. Win Win Win (Trombetta/Pimentel) - 15/1 A late addition to this year’s Preakness, this son of Hat Trick finished 10th in the Kentucky Derby. Before then he finished 2nd to fellow Derby starter Vekoma in the Blue Grass. Add a 3rd in the Tampa Bay Derby to Tacitus and a win in the Pasco Stakes and you get a pretty accurate picture of this guy’s ability. He’s consistent—7-3-2-1—and usually races from off the pace. Expect to see him trying to drop back and save ground from the 13-hole. He has the rapid seven-furlong Pasco to his credit, but he’ll need to improve off his most recent efforts to threaten. Blinkers go on for local trainer Michael Trombetta. Bottom Line: This is a difficult race to handicap because the early pace is unclear. #3 Warrior’s Charge must go for the lead. How determined to set the pace will #1 War of Will be from the inside? He pulled at his rider while just behind the pace in the Kentucky Derby. Joining that pair in the vanguard should be #6 Market King and #7 Alwaysmining. ‘King is more likely to force matters while ‘Mining should rate outside. #12 Anothertwistafate under jockey Jose Ortiz must find a place to duck in behind the speed without losing too much ground into the first turn. How this struggle for the early lead unfolds will have a great deal to do with the final outcome. If there’s no real hurry, #3 Warrior’s Charge could become dangerous. #1 War of Will will be in a good spot, too. If frontrunners get in too much of a hurry #4 Improbable would benefit from mid-pack, but closers like #2 Bourbon War, #5 Owendale and #8 Signalman come into play. We’re estimating that the early pace will be solid but not outlandish. If we’re wrong about that, we easily could be wrong about the finish, too. Should Run Well: #12 Anothertwistafate Vulnerable Favorite: #4 Improbable Can’t Ignore: #1 War of Will Exotic Add: #3 Warrior’s Charge, For Superfecta Lovers Only: #2 Bourbon War, #5 Owendale,  #7 Alwaysmining, #8 Signalman,   Not on Tickets: 6 Market King, 9 Bodexpress, 10 Everfast, 11 Laughing Fox, 13 Win Win Win Suggested Wagers ($96): $1 Trifecta ($72) 1, 3, 4, 12 1, 3, 4, 12 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 12   $1 Trifecta Box ($24) 1, 3, 4, 12   Race On!    

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5.16.2019:

Eddie Olczyk's 2019 Preakness Picks

Pour the BourbonBy Eddie Olczyk, NBC Sports Handicapper Analysis: Flat-out, it’s disappointing that the Kentucky Derby top-3 (plus Maximum Security) are not here for the Preakness. But that’s horse racing, and we horseplayers know that you play the hand you’re dealt. What we got was a race that’s highly interesting to bet and a favorite, IMPROBABLE, who is not a lock like we see many years at Pimlico. Expect a quick pace as this does not look like a Preakness that will be won wire-to-wire. It sets up for a closer so long as we have a fast track. Main Contenders: IMPROBABLE has had many opportunities to win this year and simply has not. As much as I respect Bob Baffert and Mike Smith, if IMPROBABLE wins, I lose. He’s slotted underneath for the exotics and can be expected to run his race. But he’ll have to prove to me that’s good enough. WAR OF WILL, stuck on the rail again, almost has to go early now. That’s going to quicken the pace that already looked quick enough. I expect IMPROBABLE to take money, WAR OF WILL to take money, and the local horse ALWAYSMINING probably will get bet, too, off his win streak. Value Plays: The closers get the right set-up and should be the right price. I played BOURBON WAR and front-running BODEXPRESS in the Xpressbet Florida Derby and I’m still backing BOURBON WAR as the closer to beat in the Preakness. I like that BOURBON WAR now has had some time off, adds blinkers and his last work at XBTV.com impressed me. He’s got a great post to save ground with speed to his inside and outside. He’s the horse they all have to hold off at the end. His morning line may be too high at 12-1; I’d go in with both feet if he’s 12-1. But I’ll be happy with something between 6-1 and 8-1. The other closer to help the ticket would be WIN WIN WIN. He didn’t care for the slop at Churchill, but his Blue Grass showed off a big middle-move before hitting traffic and having to restart his rally. $100 Wagering Strategy: $45 Win and Place: BOURBON WAR ($90) $5 Exacta Box: BOURBON WAR and WIN WIN WIN ($10) Eddie's Picks BOURBON WAR WIN WIN WIN IMPROBABLE WAR OF WILL

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5.16.2019:

Weekly Bankroll Builder: Friday's Pimlico Black-Eyed Susan Pick 4 Ticket

Let’s take our second of three planned breaks from the Stronach 5 to take a shot at Friday’s big 300k guaranteed all-stakes Pk4 (R8-11) at Pimlico, in what is undoubtedly a doozy of a sequence. *** 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. *** R8: The GIII Miss Preakness (3:13 ET) – 3yo fillies at 6 furlongs We kick off the sequence with nothing short of an impossible sprint, which figures to stretch a bankroll mighty thin, especially since the race is loaded with speed, and the majority of the favorites want to be on or just off the early lead. So, it likely comes as little surprise that I’m going to look to the stalker/closers who have shown the ability to pass horses in the lane, as this one just looks destined to side their way, with all the quality speed signed on. I don’t think you’ll see 15-1 on #8 TOMLIN, but that’s where I’ll go on top (in a deep spread), since she can close, gets the best finishing rider there is in Rosario, and fits on paper off her last, when 3rd to a repeat winner. It’s a positive sign Lynch starts #5 CONGRATS GAL (8-1) in this spot off a November layoff, and she’s another who can stalk and pounce, while getting first run on the pick too. A hint of a rating gear will also serve #7 MISS IMPERIAL (8-1) and #4 PLEASE FLATTER ME (8-1) well, and with the Ortiz brothers riding, you would think they can elevate the form of a pair of fillies who are just a cut below the favorites on paper. The biggest reach on the A-line is #10 BYE BYE J (12-1), who won a state-bred stakes in painfully slow time at OP but showed when she romped there three-back (albeit in a state-bred AOC) that she can run fast too, and she’s another who will be midpack and ready to roll off the far turn. Pk5 A horses (listed in order of preference): 8,5,7,4,10 The speed is good enough that it has to be used in some regard, though I think the B-line is a more logical spot for it, so let’s toss in #11 FIGHTING MAD (4-1), #2 COVFEFE (7-2), #6 NEVER ENOUGH TIME (6-1), and #12 MIDNIGHT FANTASY (12-1), who all have an abundant of talent, but seem to take all the worst of it at the same time. Pk5 B horses: 11,2,6,12 R9: The 100k Hilltop – 3yo fillies at 1-mile (turf) One of the reasons I went so deep in the first leg is that I think you can lock this one up with either #2 NOVA SOL (7-2) or #5 DOGTAG (9-2), who figure decided favorites for Brown. The former makes her US debut and adds Lasix off a European 2yo campaign that ended with a close 3rd in a GIII at Deauville in October, and the fact she’s since been privately purchased by Dubb (among others), and will wear his yellow and pink silks today, says huge improvement may be forthcoming. The latter is proven stateside and returns off a 4th to 2yo freak Newspaperofrecord in the GIII Miss Grillo at Belmont in September, and the fact she broke her maiden in her turf debut in Saratoga’s PG Johnson before that says she’s got a ton of talent too. Pk5 A horses: 2,5 I’ll go it alone with the Brown duo, as they just look better than this group and give the impression they’re going places, while the rest look a cut below. If you do want some additional coverage, then #6 Makeme Dream (8-1) and #7 Ebullient (10-1) have a recency edge and ran well trying winners for the first time, suggesting they can improve today. Pk5 B horses: NONE R10: GIII Pimlico Special – 3up at 1 1/4 miles It may be simply coincidence, but the decision to move the Special out to 1 1/4 miles blew the field up to 14, and good luck picking a winner, as you could likely use upwards of eight of them and still won’t be guaranteed to have the winner. I’ll tackle the race from a flow perspective, since I think there’s a decent amount of speed, which may tilt it to the stalkers who will (conceivably) be in the right spot off the far turn. It looks like #2 RALLY CRY (9-2) got the perfect tightener out of the way last time, when a middling 4th in the GII Charles Town Classic, and he drew perfectly here, and figures to be placed just off the speed. Stablemate #13 YOU’RE TO BLAME (5-1) also got his comeback out of the way last time, winning an AOC at GP, and shows plenty of form last year good enough to be a player with a group like this. Getting back to Pimlico might help #8 TENFOLD (8-1), who was a slow 3yo but did run a close 3rd to Justify in the Preakness and makes his third start of the year, which could mean a career-best is coming, especially since he seemed to regress off his seasonal bow in the GII Oaklawn Handicap last time. Pk5 A horses: 2,13,8 I don’t love his seven-race losing streak, but #1 WAR STORY (6-1) has a lot of class to him, also got his comeback out of the way last time, drew best, and Castellano is the top long-distance dirt jockey there is, so this may be now or never time. Don’t sleep on # 6 CORDMAKER (12-1), as he’s won two straight for ace Maryland trainer Jenkins, who is a stout 6-for-14 going sprint-to-route. Pk5 B horses: 1,6 R11: GII Xpressbet Black Eyed Susan – 3yo fillies at 1 1/8 miles Another race with some speed, and a slew of gals who might not appreciate the testing 1 1/8 miles, so I want to see proven stretch form, which #8 POINT OF HONOR (5-2) has, and I thought she ran better than it looks when 4th in her acid test in the GII GP Oaks last time. I’m also using #6 ALWAYS SHOPPING (4-1), since she’s the only one in here with a win at the distance (she’s actually 2-for-2), and figures to be off the speed, as she was tracking pedestrian splits when 2nd early in last month’s GII Gazelle at Aqueduct. Pk5 A horses: 8,6 I’m not sold on the overall quality of #7 BRILL (5-1), since she’s disappointed in four stakes tries, but she does make her third start of the year and will be pressing the speed from the outside, so if she kicks off the far turn and gets brave, I want to be there, at a decent price too. I’ll play against #4 Cookie Dough (3-1), who beat ‘Honor last time when 3rd, but it seems like she’s pulling a tough trip as the inside speed today, with Brill glued to her flank the entire way. Pk5 B horses: 7 The tickets ($0.50): Main Ticket: 8,5,7,4,10 with 2,5 with 2,13,8 with 8,6 = $30 Race 8 B Backup: 11,2,6,12 with 2,5 with 2,13,8 with 8,6 = $24 Race 10 B Backup: 8,5,7,4,10 with 2,5 with 1,6 with 8,6 = $20 Race 11 B Backup: 8,5,7,4,10 with 2,5 with 2,13,8 with 7 = $15

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5.15.2019:

2019 Preakness Field Set + Post-Draw Reaction

Pimlico officials drew a field of 13 for Saturday’s 144th running of the Preakness Stakes, making for potentially the largest lineup in the middle jewel of the Triple Crown since 14 started in 2011. The spike from last year’s 8-horse field that included Justify can be attributed in large part to a 65-1 Kentucky Derby upset and subsequent absence of Country House due to a cough. When 50-1 shots Giacomo (2005) and Mine That Bird (2009) rocked the toteboard in the Kentucky Derby, similar crowds gathered in the Preakness entry box. Mine That Bird was among 13 entries at Old Hilltop, while Giacomo anchored 14 entries. From a gambler’s standpoint, field size will be attractive in exotic wagers and Maryland Jockey Club morning line maker Keith Feustle could only install Derby fourth Improbable a mild 5-2 favorite. The early pace figures to come from local star Alwaysmining, Xpressbet Florida Derby and Kentucky Derby presser Bodexpress, Rebel front-runner Market King and Oaklawn class riser Warrior’s Charge. Bodexpress is maybe the most aggressive and trouble-prone early among that group, so drawing in his neighborhood may not be the best place to be; but Hall of Fame rider John Velazquez takes the call and may right some of that. Alwaysmining appears well-drawn in post 7 among those pace players, outside of Market King and Warrior’s Charge. War of Will, who also drew the rail in the Kentucky Derby, projects prominently in the early going, as does wide-drawn Anotherwistafate, whose 3 career wins all have come wire-to-wire. Both of their draws could quicken the pace, perhaps now having to be used earlier than if drawn less extreme. Improbable could get a great trip as one of the few mid-pack performers on paper in this Preakness. He will likely get first run on the speed horses over a lengthy list of confirmed, come-from-behind contenders. Post 4 allows Improbable to find his space and save ground under Mike Smith. Here’s the complete field for Preakness 144: 1-War of Will (Tyler Gaffalione) 4-12-Bourbon War (Irad Ortiz Jr.) 12-13-Warrior’s Charge (Javier Castellano) 12-14-Improbable (Mike Smith) 5-25-Owendale (Florent Geroux) 10-16-Market King (Jon Court) 30-17-Alwaysmining (Daniel Centeno) 8-18-Signalman (Brian Hernandez Jr.) 30-19-Bodexpress (John Velazquez) 20-110-Everfast (Joel Rosario) 50-111-Laughing Fox (Ricardo Santana, Jr.) 20-112-Anothertwistafate (Jose Ortiz) 6-113-Win Win Win (Julian Pimentel) 15-1

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5.13.2019:

Monday, May 13: Mohawk Park Early Pick 4 Analysis

Woodbine Mohawk Park has a competitive Monday night card set to roll at 7:10 EST. The feature comes in Race 7, a condition trot with a $25,000 purse. The very popular 0.20 Early Pick 4, with a $50,000 guaranteed pool begins in Race 4 and will be my focus. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Race 4 2-Laneside Sportsgrl-Flew home with a 54.4 last half, draws better, could be sitting on a big try and break maiden. 3-Shesonehotwriter-Staked last year and has the speed to beat this bunch at 8-1 in ML if dials it up in 2nd start. 9-Sugar Shadow-Qualified with a 1.54.4 mile and finished well, could be ready in season debut for Team McNair. Race 5 4-Marquis Volo-Was in too tough last week, JMac returns and can put in play if not too far back at the start. 6-Eyes Cool-Will excuse last break versus better and Drury returns tonight, best to respect, knows how to win. 8-Ramas Last Son-Steps-up after 3 sharp efforts, needs some breaks from this post but could pop at a nice price. Race 6 1-Lyons Coppertop-Qualifier was too good to ignore, can take a picture if fires hot in season debut. 4-Big Bully-Roy takes a seat and that should help, should be in the hunt at a square price if finds live cover. 7-Windsun Ricky-Will toss last after an awful start, expecting a better steer from McNair. 8-Machpaperscissors-54.4 last half wasn't enough for slow starter, expecting Jamieson to be closer at top of stretch. Race 7 4-Dream Together-May need a race and be driven conservatively but doesn't have to be at very best to win this. 5-PL Jill-Skipped a start but might be beneficial, may leave, get on the engine and Musical Rhythm isn't a worry. 6-Cue Hall-Might get a pocket trip again and that almost worked perfectly last week. 7-B Yoyo-Not sure Roy steps on the gas off the gate, but regardless 9-year-old battles and best to respect. My Ticket Race 4) 2,3,9 Race 5) 4,6,8 Race 6) 1,4,7,8 Race 7) 4,5,6,7  Total Ticket Cost) $28.80 for $0.20Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia.

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5.13.2019:

Preakness Offers Opportunity, Not Panic

The world didn’t end in 1982, nor did the final nail hammer home in the horse racing coffin. Heck, we hadn’t even discovered trifectas or simulcasting by that point. But when Eddie Gregson announced longshot Kentucky Derby winner Gato Del Sol would skip the Preakness, and only 7 horses showed up to compete at Old Hilltop, imagine the potential social media outrage had that even existed back then. But, alas, Twitter founder Jack Dorsey was only 5. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg wouldn’t be born for another 2 years nearly to the day. Saturday’s 144th running of the Preakness won’t have Kentucky Derby winner Country House due to a cough. It won’t have Kentucky Derby winner Maximum Security due to a swerve. And it won’t be the end of the world, of racing, or the Preakness itself. Since Gato Del Sol’s connections opted not to run in the middle jewel of 1982, the race soon after lost 1985 Kentucky Derby winner Spend A Buck to a competing purse bonus in the Jersey Derby. And in 1996, Derby winner Grindstone was injured in victory, retired and never raced again. We’ve been there, done that, when it comes to a Preakness without the Kentucky Derby victor. Nobody wants it; make no mistake. But events are bigger than horses, trainers and owners. Just because it hasn’t happened in 23 years, doesn’t mean the reaction to it warrants hysteria. A year after Gato Del Sol said no thanks to the Preakness, the race featured a dozen runners in 1983 including Kentucky Derby one-two finishers Sunny’s Halo and Desert Wine. The nose-thumbing given by the connections of Spend A Buck was followed up in 1986 by the likes of Derby champ Ferdinand against Louisville third Broad Brush and even-money beaten favorite Snow Chief, who would exact revenge. And if Grindstone’s 1996 injury-induced absence had any hangover whatsoever, you’d be hard-pressed to find a single person who doesn’t think the ’97 Preakness was one of the race’s all-time greatest editions with Silver Charm, Captain Bodgit and Free House all back for a rematch with newcomer Touch Gold added to the mix. So while this may be a Preakness lacking the Kentucky Derby carryover we crave, it’s going to make up for it, if not this year, then probably next… or very, very soon. Without Gato Del Sol, the ’82 Preakness allowed 16-year-old jockey “Cowboy” Jack Kaenel to transcend generations when he outrode and snookered the legendary Bill Shoemaker aboard runner-up Linkage, the odds-on favorite. It left a mark in the history book even in the absence of the Derby winner. The 1985 Preakness lacked the bombastic Cam Gambolati and his Spend A Buck, but it opened the door for soft-spoken Pat Day to win his first of 9 career Triple Crown victories aboard Tank’s Prospect, who was D. Wayne Lukas’ second of 14 career jewel earners. And without Grindstone in 1996, a media-friendly newbie to the Triple Crown trail seemed poised to win his first Triple Crown race with Cavonnier, the 8-5 favorite. But the Derby’s nose-decision runner-up mustered only a fourth-place finish at Old Hilltop for Bob Baffert as veterans Nick Zito (Louis Quatorze), Sonny Hine (Skip Away) and D. Wayne Lukas (Editor’s Note) ran 1-2-3 in a Preakness that certainly did not lack starpower. I’m not cocky enough to walk around this horse racing game and act like I know what we’re in store for at the 2019 Preakness, much less future years. Maybe trainer Kelly Rubley (Alwaysmining) becomes the first woman to win the event and this Preakness gets its forever-moment. Perhaps War of Will rebounds from his ‘wronging’ in Louisville and it’s a memorable act of redemption. We don’t know who or what may emerge; that’s why we’re drawn to the game and the Triple Crown series. But one or two decisions by the stewards or in the shedrow in a two-week span do not make a trend or a looming disaster. There are 144 years of this race to defend against that short-sightedness.

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5.12.2019:

Sunday, May 12: Hawthorne Late Pick 4 Analysis

Hawthorne Racecourse wraps up the weekend's action with a 10-race card. The betting feature will be the 0.50 Late Pick 4. That sequence begins in Race 7, it has a $20,000 guaranteed pool and will be my focus. The driver with the hottest hands last night at the Stickney oval was Casey Leonard with four wins. Trainers Steve Searle, Loralee Johnson, Mike Brink and Terry Leonard had two wins each to lead conditioners. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Race 7 2-Waymore-2nd start in Johnson barn after a troubled trip last week, a threat with a clean journey. 6-Fox Valley Triton-Driven conservatively in last, now Leonard takes a seat, could be all systems go tonight. 8-Jamaican Me Crazy-Another from the Leonard barn, post could an issue but if pace is lively should roll late. Race 8 4-One R Two-Gets needed post relief after a nice try in season debut, looking for more tonight. 9-Thunder Dome-Should be tighter in 2nd start, has speed and with live cover could pop at a square price. 11-Mykindanight-Odds on chalk won Haw debut. 2nd tier hurts but could take another picture with a good trip. Race 9 4-Ole Swamp Master-Smoked the last 1/2 in .56 to win at box car odds from the 9-hole, will string along. 5-Perky Pipsqueak-1st start in town was fine and was off 5-weeks. Finished the mile well and should be a price. 9-Cruiser-Moves up after easy win. 6-year-old faces younger and has won 2 of 4 at Haw, post makes the price. Race 10 2-Char N Marg-Draws well, and 2-1 ML chalk should be tough to beat if dialed on high. 6-Are You Terry-Handled conservatively in season debut, did beat #2 and will respect chances at 10-1 in ML. 7-Model-2nd ML chalk drops out of Opens and has won 3 of 7 in '19, can top this bunch with best effort. My Ticket Race 7) 2,6,8 Race 8) 4,9,11 Race 9) 4,5,9 Race 10) 2,6,7 Total Ticket Cost) $40.50 for $0.50Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia. 

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5.11.2019:

Friday, May 11: Meadowlands Pick 4 Analysis

The Meadowlands has a big card with 13-races ready to roll and the feature comes in Race 9, a condition pace with a $25,000 purse. The popular 0.50 Pick 4 begins in Race 8, the sequence has a 15% takeout plus a $50,000 guaranteed pool and will be my focus. Last night at the Big M, Tim Tetrick was the leading driver with three wins. Trainer Julie Miller led the conditioners with two trips to the winner's circle. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Race 8 1-Always At My Place-Should be forwardly placed and has had success at the Big M, using at a square price. 4-Sweet Rock-Nice try versus Pref company in last, should be on the lead or close to it as I try to beat the chalk. 5-Dealt A Winner-Has had excuses in first 2 starts off the bench, loses Gingras but expecting an aggressive effort. Race 9 1-Trump Nation-Nice win in last start, smoked the 2nd half in 53.2 and should be a major player again. 6-Lyons Steel-Huge try in the Graduate last week, has only 1 LT win here, but draws well and best to respect. 7-Wheels On Fire-Tossing last from the 10-hole, may try to blast out and make every call a winning one. Race 10 1-Backstreet Lawyer & 1a-K Ryan Bluechip-ML 5/2 entry starts from the outside, #1 is sharp but moves up, #1a drops to a more comfortable spot. 3-I'm A Big Deal-Will excuse last from 11-hole, fits here and expect a big try at 6-1 in the ML. 6-Heavenly Sound-Last 2 have been fine after a sick scratch, 2nd time McCarthy and could be sitting on a big try. Race 11 2-Albergo Hanover-Came off the bench hot for Jen-Bo barn, will stick with in 1st lifetime start at the Big M. 4-All It Takes-Comes off a win, could get a good seat from this post and use one big brush to sweep by. 5-Lyons King-Just makes it in under the $130k LT mark, should like the company, taking a swing at 8-1 in ML. 7-Larry Karr-ML chalk makes 2nd start off bench, does well at the Big M, will respect connections but try to beat. My Ticket Race 8) 1,4,5 Race 9) 1,6,7 Race 10) 1,3,6 Race 11) 2,4,5,7 Total Ticket Cost) $54 for $0.50Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia

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5.10.2019:

Big Drama Stakes Likely to Live Up to Its Name at Gulfstream

The $100,000 Big Drama Stakes for older Florida-breds is the main offering and the second leg of a tough Pick 4 on Saturday, and coming up with a winner in the headliner is anything but a simple task. Four horses are considered for this suggested Pick 4, and there are a couple that didn’t make the cut that at least warranted attention. Here’s a look at the contenders: Royal Squeeze: Looks like a tremendous $25,000 claim by the Elizabeth Dobles barn three races back. She took him out of a turf races and promptly won an optional claimer in 1:10 2-5 for six furlongs and came back three weeks later with a sharp five-length tally in 1:22 2-5 for seven furlongs. That too came against optional claimers and this 7-year-old clearly has found a second wind his career. Front Loaded: Came off the bench after a six-month vacation and all he did was run down the speedy Harryhee in an optional claimer in 1:10 4-5 for six furlongs. It was his 1st start for trainer Ralph Nicks and there’s no doubt he belongs with these. Garter and Tie: Also from the Nicks barn, Garter and Tie comes off a heartbreaking nose loss to Gladiator King in the open Roar Stakes. Efforts in the Holy Bull and Florida Derby didn’t pan out, but a return to Florida-bred company should make him a strong player. A fast pace likely will set him up for a big late move. Kroy: Here’s another who has tried open company and has been very salty vs. state-breds. Georgina Baxter took over his training and he was 5th in a five-furlong turf race in his only start of the year. He has excellent early foot and held on for 2nd behind Mr Jordan in last year’s edition of this race. Others of note include defending champ Mr Jordan and Three Rules. Mr Jordan has not been his mostly reliable self this year and was badly beaten in al three starts. He turns back from two-turn races and could turn around his form in this sprint. Three Rules never got involved in his only start of the year and races on three times last year. He was a successful 2-year-old in 2016 as he earned a trip to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and hit the board in the Swale and Fountain of Youth the following year. His last win came in the Carry Back here in July 2017. He started only twice in 2018 with no good results and was badly outrun in his comeback three weeks ago.  Here’s the suggested late Pick 4 ticket for Gulfstream Park on Saturday: Race 9) #7 Masterofintention, #8 Run Rite, #10 Chandler’s Drama. Race 10) #1 Royal Squeeze, #6 Front Loaded, #8 Garter and Tie, #10 Kroy. Race 11) #5 Colormepompom, #6 Polar Jet, #7 Gnarly. Race 12) #3 Drill Down Dude, #10 Buttonhook, #11 Friend Plaintaine.  Total Ticket Cost) 7,8,10/1,6,8,10/5,6,7/3,10,11 = $54 for $0.50

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5.10.2019:

Friday, May 10: Can-Am Pick 4 Analysis

It's Friday and that usually means another competitive Can-Am Pick 4. The sequence starts at Woodbine Mohawk Park with a scheduled post time of 10:10 EST. Comments and selections below for my $28.80 ticket are based on a fast track. Race 10-Mohawk Leg 1 5-Machnhope-Likes the track, draws well, drops and should be in the hunt at a square price with a clean trip. 6-Aint Three Ok-Steps up after a .55 last half but can compete here with a good steer by Henry, should be a price. 7-Jan-Nice win on the engine from 10-hole last week, has the gate speed to make same strategy work versus better. Race 10-Meadowlands Leg 2 1-Crazshana-Makes 2nd consecutive Big M start and gets Dunn, chance to wake-up for 1st win of the year. 3-DW's Revenge-Beaten chalk was used hard early, gets some post relief and could make amends tonight. 5-Life Well Lived-Camera shy this year but drops to lowest level in a while and can snag 2nd win of the year 8-If Not Why Not-Another looking to take a picture, barn is cold but drops into a soft spot and a fast track helps. Race 11-Mohawk Leg 3 1-Barn One-Makes 4th start off the bench and fits, Wallace barn has been hot, and this is a spot to shine. 6-L Weather B-ML chalk should be a player but not a lock, will use and look to others as well. 9-Family Sports-In good form, makes 1st start for new barn, post makes the price and Drury can work a trip. 10-Brandon Hanover-Not much gate speed inside and that helps this 4-year-old, will respect a bounce back effort. Race 11-Meadowlands Leg 4 1-Keystone Nikki-Drops, makes 3rd start on Lasix + 3rd start for new barn, should like the company at 15-1 in the ML. 5-Betterthanbrie-Another who drops and has had success at this level, Dunn should be able to work a good trip. 9-Whiskersonkittens-Won last off a jewel of a trip, post makes the price, knows how to win and so does Tetrick. My Ticket Race 10 Mohawk) 5,6,7 Race 10 Meadowlands) 1,3,5,8 Race 11 Mohawk) 1,6,9,10 Race 11 Meadowlands) 1,5,9 Total Ticket Cost) $28.80 for $0.20Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia

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5.9.2019:

Brady to Maximum Security

Maximum Security--starting as the 9/2 second choice to favored Improbable at 4-1--had the lead turning into the stretch of the 145th running of our nation’s most important horse race. He then drifted out suddenly into the path of…  What am I doing? You don’t need a blow-by-blow rehashing of the event.  Unless you’ve been training with ISIS for the past week you saw what happened, probably again and again. It appeared on all the major news and sports networks, repeatedly. Maximum Security’s owner Gary West also was on the Today Show. Even if you’re a devout cord-cutter, there’s still no way to have avoided online replays of the incident. Hi-def video at full, half, and three-quarter speed, still shots, pan and head-on views. There even are Abraham Zapruder-like frames highlighting a mysterious glare and culpable cameramen stationed surreptitiously along the inside rail. After the incident, at least one and probably two jockeys claimed ‘foul.’ We’re not entirely sure about that because the stewards have been about as communicative to the public about this as Bill Barr has been to congress on the Mueller Report. Three stewards charged with officiating proceedings observed the race through binoculars and via an assortment of television monitors and angles. They either missed the incident entirely live or wished to ignore it because they never announced that they were conducting an ‘Inquiry’—a formal investigation into the race. Had one or two jockeys not lodged appeals it’s reasonable to assume Maximum Security would be the 145th Kentucky Derby winner instead of Country House. (Full disclosure, yours truly also would be $5,400 richer from a successful Pick 5 investment.) Often the best policy for horseplayers who suffer slings and arrows of bad beats and disqualifications is to ‘turn the page’ to the next race. Fuhgeddaboudit. It all evens out in the end. Racing gods giveth and they taketh away. Lately, though, they’ve been a bit delinquent in the ‘giveth’ part. In the aftermath of the first on-track ‘win’ disqualification in the 145-year history of the Kentucky Derby, ‘turn the page’ just isn’t enough. Not yet. This unique moment demands more examination than a mere passing glance. This ain’t a mere ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ occurrence. It’s more like a ‘once-in-3-lifetimes’ deal. Do you know what happened just five days before the initial running of the Kentucky Derby in 1875? The first shutout in pro baseball—Chicago 1, St Louis 0! After the Derby, I rushed to join former high school classmates to celebrate our 45th reunion. Besides noticing how old these guys looked, I was struck by how many of them were interested in what had transpired in Louisville. Since I was the only racing ‘expert’ in the group, I was asked to explain. I figured a sports analogy would work best. Here’s what I told them: Imagine Tom Brady throws a walk-off, Super Bowl-winning TD pass. Following the play, a defensive lineman, who was far from sacking Brady, complains to an official that he was held. Simultaneously, another defensive lineman, located even further from Brady, claims he was dangerously chop-blocked. Despite vehement protests that they were fouled, both players readily admitted that no defensive player was going to get within yelling distance of Brady.  Of course, NFL fans know that under current rules those particular foul claims are not subject to review. Therefore, the play stands! New England wins the Super Bowl…again. However, what if those infractions were reviewable like they are in racing? And, what if, based on enhance coverage and extensive video analysis, they were proved valid? Would the referee then remove a yellow flag from his pocket, ceremoniously drop it and wipe out Tom Terrific’s Super Bowl-winning touchdown pass? Would zebras summon players back from the locker room? Herd photographers and other media back behind the sidelines? Command that celebratory confetti be stuffed back into the rafters? Interrupt another Brady ‘I’m Going to Disneyland’ moment? Probably not. But under the letter of the law the referee has every right to call a penalty on the play…two, in fact…and wipe out the result. I learned a long time ago that just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. Racing officials have wide latitude and discretion in enforcement and punishment. Fouls that have little or no effect on the outcome can be disciplined in other ways—fines and supspensions. You may believe that ‘a foul is a foul is a foul’. However, that’s not how racing stewards are supposed to adjudicate. By statute they can consider if the incident affected the outcome of the race, if so and how much and what to do about it.   For example, how would you feel if you were pulled over and ticketed for doing 55 in a 50 mile-per-hour zone? Thought so. But you broke the law…didn’t you? Exceeded the speed limit by 5 miles per-hour! A foul is a foul, right?   Smell what I’m cooking here? Jockey Luis Saez and Maximum Security committed a foul in the 145th Kentucky Derby. No argument there. They drifted out and interfered with at least two other foes. However, in my humble opinion, the incident did not affect the eventual order of finish. The best horse crossed the finish first in the Kentucky Derby. How do I know? I don’t, really.  But I do know that I’m uncomfortable when a sentence proves way more severe than the corresponding crime. This is not a cut and dried decision. Many intelligent, experienced racing folks feel justice was done. And, you know what? I can’t say they’re wrong. To my way of thinking, though, if an official is going to erase a Super Bowl-winning play or a Kentucky Derby victory, then the offense ought to be just short of armed robbery. But that’s just me. I could be wrong. Race On!

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5.9.2019:

Man O' War this Saturday at Belmont; Here's My Late Pick 4 Ticket

Big Saturday at Belmont? That’s not supposed to happen for a few weeks, right? Well, someone forgot to tell the fine folks at the New York Racing Association that, because their Saturday, May 11 card could practically double as the Belmont Stakes undercard. Here’s a look at the stakes races on the card: Race 1 (1:30PM ET) Vagrancy Handicap (Grade 3, $200,000) Race 4 (3:08PM ET) Peter Pan Stakes (Grade 3, $300,000) Race 7 (4:45PM ET) Beaugay Stakes (Grade 3, $200,000) Race 9 (5:51PM ET) Runhappy Stakes ($150,000) Race 10 (6:24PM ET) Man O’ War Stakes (Grade 1, $700,000) At Xpressbet, we’re getting in on the action by offering a 1 Million Point Split on the Late Pick 4! Hit the Late Pick 4, which consists of Race 8 – 11. Please note there is another Pick 4 on the card (Races 7 – 10), but the promo wager is the one that spans Races 8 – 11. Plus, to help get you started, my colleague Jeremy Plonk handicapped the Man O’ War as his Xpressbet Race of the Week. Follow that link to get his horse-by-horse analysis and $100 Betting Strategy. Here’s my Late Pick 4 approach and ticket. Race 8 (5:18PM ET) – Maiden Special Weight – 1 1/16 Miles Turf The sequence kicks off with a big-field turf maiden race and all of the usual suspects you’d expect to see in a race like this – Chad Brown, Graham Motion, Bill Mott, Shug McGaughey, Christophe Clement and Kiaran McLaughlin – are accounted for. Graham Motion’s VARENKA competed in three stakes races as a maiden last fall and she even finished fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf at Churchill. She’s obviously the class of the field but it’s hard to trust a filly that’s 0-for-4, seems one-paced and is coming off a 6+ month layoff. Chad Brown’s STRUCTURAL DEFICIT checks every box and, as is the case with Chad Brown horses in races like this, you just kind of have to use her. Larger tickets may look to Bill Mott’s SAN SARIA, who adds blinkers after she kind of just loped behind the field in her debut at Gulfstream, John Terranova’s PALLAS ATHENE and Godolphin’s ROMANTIC PURSUIT. Race 9 (5:51PM ET) – Runhappy Stakes – 6 Furlongs Dirt SKYLER’S SCRAMJET nearly won the Grade 1 Carter Handicap last month and the horse that beat him that day – World of Trouble – is one of the best sprinters in the world. Problem with ‘SKYLER’ is he hasn’t slammed the door on a field since March 2018 and he always just seems to come up a bit short late. FIRENZE FIRE was a dud in his seasonal debut at Tampa in March, but not every horse likes that track and maybe he was a bit short. He’s 2-for-2 at Belmont. KILLYBEGS CAPTAIN is a top not sprinter and should be on your ticket as well, as well as RECRUITING READY. Race 10 (6:24PM ET) – Man O’ War Stakes – 1 3/8 Miles Turf The day’s feature is the Grade 1 Man O’ War and I see this as a two horse racing. Representing Ireland you’ve got MAGIC WAND and representing the US it’s FOCUS GROUP. Aidan O’Brien sent over two horses for this race, but MAGIC WAND seems to be the preferred horse from that barn. She’s just 2-for-12 lifetime but O’Brien’s ‘better’ rider (Wayne Lordan) landed on her over HUNTING HORN and she seems to be the best horse in the race. FOCUS GROUP overcame a pedestrian pace to close up the rail to win the Grade 2 Pan American Stakes at Gulfstream in March and he has been getting better with every start for Chad Brown. He should get a pace this time around. ZULU ALPHA nestles into a better inside post after being marooned outside in the Grade 2 Elkhorn and he’s a horse worth adding if you have the bankroll. Race 11 (6:57PM ET) – Maiden Special Weight – 6 Furlongs Turf The Belmont finale is a solid maiden race for statebreds and this strikes me as a wide-open event. Linda Rice horses generally excel in their second start, so ELEKTRONIC has to be on the ticket. He ran well in his debut on April 18. QIAN B C ran the best race of his life in his first start off the layoff in ELECTRONIC’s debut, so you should use him too, and WICKED GRIN exists that race as well. So we’re using the 2-3-4 finishers from that day and let’s also use DOVE SHOOT, who gets John Velazquez to stay around late in the card. My Ticket Race 8 – 3, 4Race 9 – 2, 3, 4, 5 Race 10 – 2, 5, 6 Race 11 – 4, 6, 8, 10Ticket Cost - $48 for 50-cents

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5.9.2019:

Weekly Bankroll Builder: May 10 Stronach 5 Picks

We’ll take a break between Triple Crown races and get back to the Stronach 5 this week. 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 R9 (5:30 ET) – 3upfm 35k at 1 1/16 miles (turf)  The opening leg has little to no early speed, which makes #1 MESA MADEIRA (5-1) dangerous with her tactical speed from a ground-saving draw, and winning two straight and now meeting a group like this isn’t a bad thing either. The drop in class might negate a lack of early speed for #2 SAND DRIFT (4-1), who has been facing better and is clearly the one to fear in the lane.  Pk5 A horses (listed in order of preference): 1,2 The wide draw won’t help #11 EARLY TIME (7-2), though she’s another who has been facing better and, while improving off Motion won’t be easy, Joseph could pull it off. You won’t see that 20-1 ML on #7 BRITESIDEOFTHEROAD (10-1), but half that seems fair on a gal with the figures to play here, and who could improve on the drop as well.  Pk5 B horses: 11,7  Leg 2: Pimlico R9 (5:40 ET) – 3up N1X Md-bred/sired at 6 furlongs  This is a deep field, and one in which the betting public might want to spread deep, but I do think the two favorites are a cut above, and I also think they’ll be lower than their ML’s come post-time, so I’m going to use both and call it a day. We start with #9 THATWOULDBEGRAND (7-2), who has run against open foes in 8-of-9 lifetime starts, with the lone state-bred run coming in a 4th-place finish behind Preakness-bound Alwaysmining in the Md. Juvenile Futurity at Laurel in December. There’s no one remotely like that star in here, and there’s plenty of pace as well, so he’s going to relish the drop from just off the pace. The other favorite, #2 TORCH OF TRUTH, has been snake-bit in last three, as he’s run 2nd, but he’s also a cut above the rest on paper and will get first run on ‘Grand, which may be enough to get him over the hump.  Pk5 A horses: 9,2  There will be no backups, since I’d like to maximize my opinions on the two (what I think will be) heavy favorites, and if I spread any deeper their leverage goes out the window. However, if you are looking for some added backups, then #10 Royal Hussar (10-1) looks ready off the long break, while #1 Odds On (15-1) could be the speed of the speed and try to run this field off its feet.  Pk5 B horses: NONE  Leg 3: Golden Gate Fields R5 (6:00 ET) –3upfm N1X* at 1-mile (turf)  Run to the hills if #10 PARTY DANCER is anywhere near her 8-1 ML, as it would be a terrible sign, since she looks more like 3-1 on paper off her SA return and drop in class now that she’s up north. There’s turf form to fall back on for both #7 THE SPIRAL JETTER (7-2) and #5 HAL’S BUDDY (4-1), and a return to the green stuff could bring out their best, which would put them right on the line here. Pk5 A horses: 10,7,5  The speed of #2 MISS SUPER SAINT (8-1) could come in handy here, and while she’s never been on the grass, she’s bred for it and could get brave if they let her alone early. Pk5 B horses: 2  Leg 4: Gulfstream Park R10 (6:07 ET) – 3upfm 12.5k MCL at 7 1/2 (furlongs)  Being a first-time starter here can’t be a bad thing, as this is a field littered with lifetime maidens, so it’s no surprise top billing goes to #8 PRICKLY KITTEN (5-1), a Ramsey homebred who debuts with a slew of works for Maker, and she won’t have to be a star to have a big impact here. lifetime maidens are impossible to trust but #9 KINDHEARTED KOTA (7-2) does have the best form, and she might have finally found a group she can handle.  Pk5 A horses: 8,9 Fellow lifetime maiden #7 RECONSIDER IT (4-1) is twice as bad as ‘Kota, since she’s 0-for-24, though she too has enough form to win this, so let’s use her, though only in a backup role.  Pk5 B horses: 7  Leg 5: Santa Anita R6 (6:50 ET) – 3upfm Cal-bred AOC (20k/N1X) at 1-mile (turf)  I’m a sucker for a potential Lone F, and it looks like #1 SMOOVIE (4-1) might be one, as she drew perfectly and has the best gate speed here, and the GII drop won’t hurt either, so here’s hoping she gets brave. If she gives it up late then #8 LOSTINTRANZLATION (5-2) will be there to take over, and she won’t have to improve an inch off that nose 2nd to open foes last time to beat there. Let’s also go with the upside of #6 SEDAMAR (5-1), since she’s run just four time and really work up off the layoff last time, and a move forward here makes her a serious player.  Pk5 A horses: 1,8,6  We’ll stand alone with the A’s here, as they not only seem better than the rest, but they also seem to won a race flow edge and should trip out best too. If you are looking outside the box, then #2 Drop the Mic (8-1) and #9 Marjorie E (9-2) seem best of the rest.  Pk5 B horses: NONE  The tickets: Main Ticket: 1,2 with 9,2 with 10,7,5 with 8,9 with 1,8,6 = $72 Leg 1 B Backup: 11,7 with 9,2 with 10,7,5 with 8,9 with 1,8,6 = $72 Leg 3 B Backup: 1,2 with 9,2 with 2 with 8,9 with 1,8,6 = $24 Leg 4 B Backup: 1,2 with 9,2 with 10,7,5 with 7 with 1,8,6 = $36 

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5.9.2019:

A Kentucky Derby Embroiled in Controversy

There is no question that the 2019 Kentucky Derby is going to be discussed and debated for a very long time. I had hoped this week to be writing about Omaha Beach heading to the Preakness Stakes following his victory in the 1 1/4-mile Kentucky Derby. But after Omaha Beach had been installed as the 4-1 morning-line favorite, he was scratched from the Run for the Roses due to an entrapped epiglottis. Instead of participating in last Saturday’s $3 million Kentucky Derby, Omaha Beach underwent surgery Friday. Dr. Rolf Embertson performed the operation at Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital in Lexington, Ky. Omaha Beach, who currently is at WinStar Farm in Kentucky, could return to Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella’s Santa Anita barn as soon as this weekend, according to Daily Racing Form’s Steve Andersen. With Omaha Beach out of the Kentucky Derby, I had to call a last-minute audible in terms of my pick to win. I decided to go with War of Will. As far as Maximum Security was concerned, I wrote last week that “I could see him either winning or finishing way back.” Little did I know that he would do both. Maximum Security was the only horse in this year’s Kentucky Derby to have recorded Beyer Speed Figures of 100 or higher, something he had done twice. “How good is Maximum Security?” I wrote. “We really don’t know. What if he’s a freak? His average margin of victory in four career starts is 9 1/2 lengths! Considering he has an unblemished record and sports the only two triple-digit Beyer Speed Figures in the field, if Maximum Security does outrun them all on Saturday, I am going to feel pretty dumb for not picking him to win.” When Maximum Security reached the finish line 1 3/4 lengths in front with an ecstatic Luis Saez in the saddle, I did indeed feel pretty dumb for not picking him to win. But shortly after the race was over, the objection sign was posted. Flavian Prat, the rider of Country House, who had finished second, claimed foul against Maximum Security, alleging interference nearing the five-sixteenths pole. The inquiry sign was never posted. Because War of Will had been my pick to win, I focused on him while watching the race as it was being run. As I observed the Derby runners going into the far turn, I could see that War of Will, with Tyler Gafflione aboard, was bottled up along the inside rail while full of run when racing directly behind the leading Maximum Security. I was hoping that Gaffalione somehow would find a way to extricate War of Will from being boxed in, especially since it appeared the colt was so full of run. I had hoped that War of Will might be able to slip through between Maximum Security and the inside rail. But as they made their way around the far turn, no hole between Maximum Security and the rail ever opened. Shortly after passing the three-eighths pole on the bend, Gaffalione finally did angle War of Will outward to get to the outside of Maximum Security. But then an incident occurred that turned this 145th running of the Kentucky Derby into one of the most controversial races in the history of the sport. While leading the way on the far turn, Maximum Security suddenly veered out sharply approaching the five-sixteenths pole. “Veered out sharply” is what’s stated in the official Equibase chart. After the race, Saez said Maximum Security had “shied away from the noise of the crowd.” Perhaps Maximum Security reacted from something like shiny light reflecting off the wet track or from something or someone in the infield. Whatever the reason, the point is Maximum Security did leave his path or lane. When Maximum Security veered out sharply nearing the five-sixteenths pole, he impeded War of Will, who very nearly clipped heels. In racing parlance, War of Will almost got dropped. In a chain reaction triggered by Maximum Security when he veered out sharply, Long Range Toddy and Master Fencer also were impacted. Flavian Prat, who rode Country House, said afterward that he felt his mount, as a consequence of Maximum Security veering out, was pushed sideways, as he described it. I am unable to see that in many viewings of the videotape replay. I saw it more like how the Equibase chart puts it, that Country House “was brushed by Long Range Toddy while largely unaffected by the incident five-sixteenths out.” It did appear to me that there was one other horse minimally affected by the incident in the vicinity of the five-sixteenths pole due to the chain reaction triggered by Maximum Security. Cutting Humor was rallying wide at the time, then had to swing even wider to avoid the congestion that suddenly had materialized to his inside. The original order of finish in terms of the superfecta was Maximum Security first, County House second, Code of Honor third and Tacitus fourth. But after the objection sign was posted, the stewards deliberated for approximately 22 minutes, then disqualified Maximum Security from first and placed him 17th for “veering out and stacking up War of Will, Long Range Toddy and Bodexpress,” as stated in the Equibase chart. The official order of finish for the 2019 edition of the Grade I Kentucky Derby in terms of the superfecta now is Country House first, Code of Honor second, Tacitus third and Improbable fourth. It was the first time in the 145-year history of the Kentucky Derby that a winner has been disqualified for an incident during the running of the race. But Maximum Security is not the first Kentucky Derby starter to be disqualified. Gate Dancer, who became known for racing with earmuffs and who was infamous for lugging in, finished fourth in the 1984 Kentucky Derby. But he was disqualified and placed fifth for causing interference to Fali Time. Gate Dancer lugged in during the stretch run and bumped poor little Fali Time “several times,” as chronicled in the official Daily Racing Form chart. Later in 1984, Gate Dancer finished second to Wild Again in the inaugural Breeders’ Cup Classic at Hollywood Park. Battling for the lead in the final sixteenth, from the inside rail out, were Wild Again, Slew o’ Gold and Gate Dancer. Wild Again won by a head. Gate Dancer finished second, a half-length in front of Slew o’ Gold in third. Many thought Wild Again had drifted out and impeded Slew o’ Gold. But Gate Dancer lugged in and bumped Slew o’ Gold. Gate Dancer pushed Slew o’ Gold into the hindquarters of Wild Again. That caused the front part of Wild Again’s body to be at an angle toward the grandstand, giving the illusion that he was drifting out. But Wild Again stayed on his path or in his lane. The stewards disqualified Gate Dancer and placed him third, behind Slew o’ Gold. Prior to this year, Dancer’s Image had been the only Kentucky Derby winner ever to be disqualified. When the post-race urinalysis of Dancer’s Image showed the presence of Butazolidin, which at the time was a prohibited medication in Kentucky, Forward Pass was declared to be the winner of the 1968 Kentucky Derby except for pari-mutuel payoffs. First purse money and the winning trophy were awarded to Forward Pass’ owner, Calumet Farm, by order of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission (KHRC). Peter Fuller, owner of Dancer’s Image, fought the disqualification in court for years, but to no avail. I think it’s fair to say the 2019 Kentucky Derby is the most controversial Triple Crown race since the 1980 Preakness Stakes. That 1980 Preakness is famous for an incident between Codex and the filly Genuine Risk turning into the stretch. Like the 2019 Kentucky Derby, the inquiry sign was not posted after the 1980 Preakness. Just before they straightened away in the stretch during the 1980 Preakness, Codex and jockey Angel Cordero Jr. had a narrow lead while racing to the inside of Genuine Risk. Jacinto Vasquez rode Genuine Risk. Two weeks earlier Vasquez and Genuine Risk had won the Kentucky Derby. In Richard Sowers’ book “The Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes,” he wrote of the 1980 Preakness incident turning for home when Codex already was racing wide: “When Angel Cordero glanced over and saw Genuine Risk coming, he guided Codex even wider toward the center of the track. Vasquez had no choice but to take Genuine Risk even wider, momentarily checking his mount, then pointing her almost at the grandstand. Depending on the source, Codex never actually touched Genuine Risk, violently slammed into her, or lightly brushed her -- the most likely scenario. Regardless, the filly lost all momentum. “Codex reached the furlong pole a length ahead of Genuine Risk with the rest of the field nowhere in sight, then coasted home 4 3/4 lengths in front.” “Vasquez quickly filed a foul claim against Cordero, who was greeted by vociferous boos by the record crowd of 83,455 and by two agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation when he returned to the jockeys’ quarters. While those who bet on Genuine Risk no doubt would love to have seen Cordero arrested, the FBI agents actually were on hand to protect Cordero after the FBI had received threats that the jockey’s home was going to be bombed. “The stewards disallowed the foul claim, and Genuine Risk’s owner, Diana Johnson Firestone, filed a formal complaint with the Maryland Racing Commission, which like the stewards, upheld Codex’s triumph.” As for Maximum Security’s disqualification in the 2019 Kentucky Derby, here are some of my thoughts: --The stewards have been criticized for not posting the inquiry sign. I do think that criticism is merited. But whether or not an inquiry sign is posted in any race, it is incumbent for stewards to adjudicate what had occurred during the running of the race vis-a-vis the rules in that particular jurisdiction. --I often have heard people say that there if there is a claim of foul and no inquiry, there is virtually no chance the stewards will make a change to the original order of finish. One thing this year’s Kentucky Derby once again proves is that stewards generally keep an open mind in determining whether or not a foul had been committed and/or a disqualification is warranted. --Flavian Prat, the rider of Country House, who originally finished second, lodged an objection again Maximum Security. It was not known publicly until after Saturday’s Churchill Downs card had been completed that Jon Court, the rider of Long Range Toddy, who originally finished 17th, also lodged an objection against Maximum Security. Prat and Court both alleged interference nearing the five-sixteenths pole. Court’s foul claim was not known publicly until it was mentioned by Barbara Borden, the KHRC’s chief steward, during a statement she read to the media after the final race of the day at Churchill Downs. In my opinion, the stewards dropped the ball by not making the public aware that Court, in addition to Prat, had lodged a claim of foul. Whereas Prat’s objection was noted in the original Equibase chart, there was no mention that Court also lodged an objection. The chart eventually was corrected to also include Court’s objection. --After watching the race live and a replay or two, I did not expect there would be a disqualification, especially considering Gaffalione had not claimed foul. I figured that if Gaffalione did not think it was worth claiming foul, then Maximum Security’s number probably would stay up. But as I saw more replays of the incident near the five-sixteenths pole, it became more evident to me that there might be a disqualification. It became clear that Maximum Security did not stay on his path or in his lane. By not doing so, he triggered a chain reaction that impacted multiple horses. War of Will, Bodexpress and Long Range Toddy were most egregiously impacted. Country House and/or Cutting Humor also possibly were minimally impacted. --The applicable KHRC rule states in part, “A leading horse, if clear, is entitled to any part of the track. If a leading horse or any other horse in a race swerves or is ridden to either side so as to interfere with, intimidate, or impede any other horse or jockey, or to cause the same result, this action shall be deemed a foul.” Stewards Borden, Butch Becraft and Tyler Picklesimer thus had to determine, in their judgment, did Maximum Security swerve? Their conclusion was, yes, he did. I agree. I think virtually everyone agrees on that point. Even Maximum Security’s rider said immediately after the race that Maximum Security had ducked out. --The applicable KHRC rule further states in part, “If in the opinion of the stewards a foul alters the finish of a race, an offending horse may be disqualified by the stewards.” A key phrase in that sentence is “may be disqualified” as opposed to “shall be disqualified.” This means the stewards have discretion in how they adjudicate a race. Even if they conclude a horse has committed a foul, they may or may not disqualify said horse. If they deem that the foul altered the finish of the race in question, then the horse should be disqualified in accordance with KHRC rules. On the other hand, if they deem that the foul did not alter the finish of the race, then they are permitted, under KHRC rules, to rule that there will be no disqualification of the horse in question. If it is concluded that Maximum Security swerved, did he then commit a foul? The stewards must address the second component of the applicable rule by also determining whether or not Maximum Security did “interfere with, intimidate, or impede any other horse or jockey.” Also, in the opinion of the stewards, if they conclude that by virtue of his actions Maximum Security did commit a foul, did it alter the finish of the race? If so, the offending horse “may” be disqualified by the stewards. The way I saw it: 1. Maximum Security did not stay on his path. He veered out sharply approaching the five-sixteenths pole. 2. As I said earlier, Maximum Security triggered an incident causing interference to War of Will, Bodexpress and Long Range Toddy, with possibly Country House and/or Cutting Humor also minimally impacted. 3. War of Will finished eighth, beaten by only a half-length for fifth. Fifth pays $90,000. I believe that when Maximum Security impeded War of Will, it cost War of Will the opportunity to finish fifth or possibly higher. Therefore, in my opinion, Maximum Security should have been disqualified. The stewards did disqualify Maximum Security and placed him behind the horse involved in the incident who finished the lowest, that being Long Range Toddy. That’s why the stewards placed Maximum Security 17th. --For those who are of the opinion that Maximum Security should not have been disqualified, what if his actions had caused War of Will to clip heels and fall? That came dangerously close to happening. Some photos show just how scary a predicament it was for War of Will, whose front legs amazingly did not clip or get tangled up with Maximum Security’s hind legs. If there had been a big wreck involving War of Will and/or a number of other horses, not only would Maximum Security most assuredly have been disqualified for causing the accident, I doubt very few people then would have disagreed with that decision. If Maximum Security’s actions warranted a disqualification had there been a spill, then why should he not be disqualified just because, luckily, there was not a spill? If War of Will had tripped and fallen to unseat Gaffalione, it would have occurred with a large number of horses racing behind them. In all likelihood, there would have been a multi-horse spill similar to a horrific pile-up on a freeway. Multiple horses and jockeys could have been severely injured, or possibly even worse. No doubt such a grisly scene would have been shown over and over and over on television and depicted on social media. It would have given horse racing the blackest of black eyes in what already has been an extremely difficult year for the sport. In the statement read by Borden explaining the stewards’ decision to disqualify Maximum Security, she said: “The rider of the 18 (Long Range Toddy) and 20 (Country House) horses in the Kentucky Derby lodged objections against the 7 horse (Maximum Security), the winner, due to interference turning for home, leaving the quarter pole. “We had a lengthy review of the race. We interviewed affected riders. We determined that the 7 horse drifted out and impacted the progress of No. 1 (War of Will), in turn interfering with the 18 and 21 (Bodexpress). Those horses were all affected, we thought, by the interference. “Therefore, we unanimously determined to disqualify No. 7 and place him behind the 18, the 18 being the lowest-placed horse that he bothered, which is our typical procedure.” --Borden called it “a lengthy review” on their part. Many have criticized the stewards for taking so long -- approximately 22 minutes -- to announce their decision. Normally, I believe that if it takes more than about five minutes for stewards to make a decision, that in itself is saying that nothing is clear-cut enough to warrant a disqualification. But I said that I normally believe that. That’s when stewards are looking at an incident involving two or maybe three horses rather than Saturday’s 19-horse Kentucky Derby. The stewards had much to consider during their video review of the bunched-up field on the far turn of the Kentucky Derby, even after deciding Maximum Security had drifted out and committed a foul that warranted a disqualification. The stewards had to take a look at those horses anywhere near the incident in question. The stewards had to go through it, horse by horse, to ascertain whether that particular horse had been involved in the incident, and if so, to what extent. Another factor that can play into the length of an inquiry is the stewards getting in contact with and talking to the riders. Also, once the stewards decide there is going to be a disqualification, they will be in communication with the mutuel department. The mutuel department needs sufficient time with a new order of finish before they are good to go with posting the payouts. Sometimes the mutuel department will need time to deal with the new order of finish. --After Borden read the statement explaining the disqualification of Maximum Security to the media approximately two hours after the Kentucky Derby, the stewards took no questions from the media. That, I believe, was inadvisable. They could have said “no comment” to any questions they did not to want to go the record by answering at that time. But at least the stewards would not have look as bad as they did by not taking a single question. When similar circumstances have occurred in California following a controversy in a big race (such as when Bayern was not disqualified for causing interference leaving the starting gate in the 2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic), a steward or stewards for the California Horse Racing Board have been available that same day to take questions from the media. Gary West owns Maximum Security in partnership with his wife, Mary. Jason Servis trains the colt. According to a Daily Racing Form story written by David Grening, West said Sunday that after the disqualification had been made, he instructed the colt’s trainer to request a meeting with the stewards to go over video replays of the race, but the request was denied. West said he was told the earliest the stewards would go over the video of the race with him would be Thursday, which would be the next live racing day at Churchill Downs. The Bloodhorse’s Frank Angst quoted Gary West as saying of the stewards Sunday: “I can’t believe their total lack of transparency on a matter of this magnitude.” Angst wrote that Borden “said Sunday evening the stewards would be willing to meet with West, or other license holders involved, when they sit down Thursday with jockeys involved in the incident. She also said the meeting could happen before Thursday.” Borden, Angst wrote, “said she was not able to review the video with West or trainer Jason Servis because there were two races remaining on the card and, typically, reviews are not conducted on the same day stewards’ decisions are made.” In my opinion, due to the circumstances that this was a historic disqualification in the nation’s signature race, the stewards probably would have been better served to not treat this like a “typical” situation and meet with West and Servis, either after Saturday’s racing at Churchill Downs had been completed or the following day. Perhaps by explaining their decision to West and Servis, the stewards could have mollified them and defused the situation to some extent. I am thinking that probably would not have happened, but it was worth a shot. There really would have been no downside that I can see for the stewards if they had gone ahead and met with West and Servis on Saturday. Karen Murphy, a New York attorney, and Barry Stilz, a Kentucky attorney, filed an appeal Monday morning with the KHRC. According to Angst, the appeal filed on behalf of the Wests requested their appeal be heard by the full commission because the stewards’ actions were “arbitrary and capricious and did not comply with applicable administrative regulations. Their determination to disqualify Maximum Security is not supported by substantial evidence.” However, the applicable KHRC rule regarding an appeal as to the judgment call made by the stewards to disqualify Maximum Security is quite clear. According to the KHRC rules, “stewards’ findings of fact and rulings on matters occurring and incident to the running of the race shall be final and not subject to appeal.” In light of that KHRC rule, it came as no surprise that the appeal filed Monday morning with the KHRC was denied later in the day. The KHRC, in a letter sent by its general counsel, John L. Forgy, to representatives of the Wests on Monday, informed the owners of Maximum Security that their appeal had been denied. “Because stewards’ disqualification determination is not subject to appeal and for the reasons set forth below, your request for appeal is denied,” the letter from Forgy said, according to Angst. “Consequently, your request for stay pending appeal is moot because the law does not provide for an appeal.” Angst reported that the appeal denial letter noted that as a license condition for racing in Kentucky, every licensee agrees to abide by the KHRC’s rules and regulations. --Many have expressed their displeasure that Country House is the official 2019 Kentucky Derby winner when many, including the stewards and yours truly, believe that he was not interfered with in the incident near the five-sixteenths pole. It understandably leaves a sour taste in many mouths that Country House got “kissed in” to a Kentucky Derby victory after Maximum Security had reached the finish line in front, just as he had done in all four of his previous career starts. Andrew Beyer wrote in the Daily Racing Form: “NBC’s slow-motion coverage clearly showed Maximum Security moving [over] in front of War of Will, forcing jockey Tyler Gaffalione to steady his mount. This was a foul -- no doubt about it. The incident could have resulted in a bad accident -- but it didn’t. It probably cost War of Will a length, but he recovered quickly. He had a clear path ahead of him and a quarter of a mile in which to catch Maximum Security, and he drew within a length of the leader, but he faded badly at the end and finished eighth. He was never going to win the Derby, or even finish in the money. Nor were the two longshots who were behind War of Will on the turn and were also hampered by the incident.” Beyer makes the point that “the incident could have resulted in a bad accident -- but it didn’t,” the implication being that if the incident had resulted in a bad accident, then Maximum Security should have been disqualified. As I said earlier, if there had been a bad accident, I don’t think anybody -- including obviously Beyer -- would have disagreed with disqualifying Maximum Security. In my opinion, Maximum Security was lucky he did not cause a bad accident. But being lucky in that regard does not, in my view, absolve Maximum Security from being held accountable for the interference that even Beyer concedes he caused. “I don’t see how justice was served in any way by disqualifying the best horse,” Beyer also wrote. “And it certainly was not served by elevating Country House, who had a relatively easy trip, and had every chance to catch Maximum Security in the stretch, but couldn’t do it.” As I have said to many participants during the times in which I have worked as a steward in California, Washington and Idaho, whenever a horse does not stay on his or her path, there is an increased risk that the horse could be disqualified and the rider sanctioned. If Maximum Security had simply stayed on his path or in his lane, he would have been the 2019 Kentucky Derby winner. I do concur with those who say it’s unfortunate that Country House was awarded the 2019 Kentucky Derby victory via Maximum Security’s DQ rather than any of the horses who were interfered with on the far turn. But that’s just not how it works. I will say that Country House does deserve to get some credit for running a race that was good enough to finish second in the field of 19, which is what enabled him to be the major beneficiary of Maximum Security’s disqualification. MORE FALLOUT FROM DISQUALIFICATION On Tuesday, Bob Ehalt wrote for the BloodHorse that West “now believes it was Maximum Security who was fouled by War of Will, instead of how stewards at Churchill Downs viewed the race.” West made reference to his viewing of a slow-motion video of that portion of the Kentucky Derby that had been posted on May 6 on the Horse Racing Nation website. “I started out trying to make a case for my horse coming down,” West said. “I watched what we did to [War of Will] in one video and if anyone is halfway intellectually honest and looks at that video, they would never claim our horse did anything to War of Will. You will see that every bit of the interference was caused by War of Will against Maximum Security. “Watch how many times War of Will’s legs go up under our horse. Our horse gets cut up like crazy. At some point his nose touches the back of our horse. He actually bumps our horse. Our horse almost falls down. And if not for our rider there might have been 10 dead riders and horses this morning.” Gary Barber and Mark Casse have a much different view of what happened on the far turn in the Kentucky Derby. Barber owns and Casse trains War of Will. “He must have been watching a different race,” Casse is quoted as saying in Ehalt’s story. “I’ve seen 10 different views and if anything, it was worse than I originally thought. [Maximum Security] didn’t bump us once, he bumped us twice. In my mind, the only reason it took so long to take him down was because they didn’t know where to place him.” Barber released a statement that said in part: “It has recently been brought to my attention that Mr. Gary West stated on Fox News that my horse War of Will caused the infraction in the Derby. I categorically deny this false accusation. The video evidence irrefutably shows that his horse, Maximum Security, caused a major infraction that almost led to a catastrophe and in doing so, denied my horse and others of a better placing.” I viewed the video posted on Horse Racing Nation numerous times. When the video begins, apparently past the five-sixteenths pole, Maximum Security was leading whenracing along the inside rail while staying in his path, with War of Will racing directly behind Maximum Security. Approaching the three-eighths pole, War of Will angled to the outside. When he did that, it appears he made contact with Long Range Toddy. But from there to near the five-sixteenths pole, when West alleges that War of Will causes interference to Maximum Security, I do not see that on the video. West said to watch how many times “War of Will’s legs go up under our horse.” I do see that, but in my opinion, when that occurred, I believe it was because Maximum Security had veered out sharply into War of Will’s path. On the videotape, I do not see War of Will bump Maximum Security, as West alleged. I do see War of Will nearly get dropped by Maximum Security. I am not buying the hypothesis that the incident was caused by War of Will running up and somehow impeding Maximum Security from behind. Gaffalione on Tuesday via Twitter also responded to West’s allegations. In his tweet, Gaffalione displayed four photos showing the field on the far turn. In Gaffalione’s tweet, MS is Maximum Security, LRT is Long Range Toddy and BE is Bodexpress. Gaffalione said in his tweet: “…In the first picture MS is inside. Second picture MS comes out herding LRT and BE. Third and fourth photo show that MS comes back in and I took the spot he vacated. Never did I bump or brush anyone.” As I noted earlier, it does appear to me that Gaffalione and War of Will did make contact with Long Range Toddy approaching the three-eighths pole. But keep in mind that Court, the rider of Long Range Toddy, evidently did not feel that contact, if it did occur, was of consequence in that he claimed foul only against Maximum Security for the incident nearing the five-sixteenths pole. Court did not claim foul against War of Will for anything he did. Meanwhile, West said Maximum Security “got cut up like crazy.” I don’t doubt that. But in my opinion, Maximum Security likely would not have sustained cuts allegedly inflicted by War of Will if Maximum Security had stayed on his path rather than veering out into War of Will’s path. Ben Glass, racing manager for the Wests, said in a Tuesday story written by Jonathan Lintner for Horse Racing Nation that Maximum Security exited the Kentucky Derby with abrasions on his hind legs. Glass said that’s the reason the connections had not thought any further about entering Maximum Security in the May 18 Pimlico Stakes at Pimlico. According to Lintner, after Maximum Security arrived Tuesday at Monmouth Park, Servis had a professional photographer “document the wounds.” A state vet also signed an affidavit confirming they were fresh from the race. “This is why Jason said we can’t go -- because he’s got abrasions and [is] swollen a little bit,” Glass said. “Mr. West and I, we were leaning toward the Preakness if we got this overturned. We were going to go for the Triple Crown.” This revelation of Maximum Security’s abrasions is interesting inasmuch as the morning after the Kentucky Derby, Churchill Downs reported in its “day after” notes for the race that “trainer Jason Servis reported via text message Sunday morning that Gary and Mary West’s Maximum Security exited his eventful run in Saturday’s Kentucky Derby in good order.” Servis said Maximum Security exited the race “in good order,” but now the racing manager for the Wests says that Servis said they can’t go to the Preakness because the colt’s “got abrasions and [is] swollen a little bit.” Like I said, the 2019 Kentucky Derby is a race that is going to be discussed and debated for a very long time. COUNTRY HOUSE VIRTUALLY IGNORED IN THE BETTING From a wagering perspective, this year’s Kentucky Derby went from being won by Maximum Security, the 9-2 second choice, to Country House, who was the second-longest priced winner in the history of the race at 65-1. Country House, a Kentucky-bred son of Lookin At Lucky and the War Chant mare Quake Lake, paid a whopping $132.40 for each $2 win ticket. He returned $56.60 to place and $24.60 to show. That meant my pick to win the 2005 Kentucky Derby, Closing Argument, still holds the record for the highest place payoff in the history of the race. Closing Argument, dismissed at 71-1, paid $70 to place after finishing second to 50-1 longshot Giacomo. The win by Country House ended the streak of six straight Kentucky Derby winning favorites. TRIPLE-DIGIT BEYER POSTED BY MAXIMUM SECURITY As I wrote last week, being able to produce a Beyer Speed Figure of 100 or higher in the Kentucky Derby is important. It almost always takes a Beyer of 100 or higher to win the race. As mentioned earlier, the only starter in this year’s Kentucky Derby to have ever recorded a Beyer Speed Figure of 100 or higher was Maximum Security, something he had done twice. The Kentucky-bred New Year’s Day colt was credited with a 102 Beyer when he won a seven-furlong allowance/optional claiming race by 18 1/4 lengths at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 20. Maximum Security then recorded a 101 when victorious by 3 1/2 lengths in Gulfstream’s Grade I Xpressbet.com Florida Derby at 1 1/8 miles on March 30. In terms of Maximum Security’s performance to finish first in the Kentucky Derby, he was assigned a 101 Beyer Speed Figure. He completed 1 1/4 miles on a sloppy track in 2:03.93. Other than Maximum Security, everyone else, including Country House, failed to get a triple-digit Beyer Speed Figure in this year’s Kentucky Derby. Country House recorded a career-best 99 Beyer Speed Figure for his Kentucky Derby effort. His previous top had been a 91 when he finished third behind Omaha Beach and Improbable in the Arkansas Derby. Below are the Beyer Speed Figures for each Kentucky Derby winner going back to 1989: 2019 Country House (99)+ 2018 Justify (103) 2017 Always Dreaming (102) 2016 Nyquist (103) 2015 American Pharoah (105) 2014 California Chrome (97) 2013 Orb (104) 2012 I’ll Have Another (101) 2011 Animal Kingdom (103) 2010 Super Saver (104) 2009 Mine That Bird (105) 2008 Big Brown (109) 2007 Street Sense (110) 2006 Barbaro (111) 2005 Giacomo (100) 2004 Smarty Jones (107) 2003 Funny Cide (109) 2002 War Emblem (114) 2001 Monarchos (116) 2000 Fusaichi Pegasus (108) 1999 Charismatic (108) 1998 Real Quiet (107) 1997 Silver Charm (115) 1996 Grindstone (112) 1995 Thunder Gulch (108) 1994 Go for Gin (112) 1993 Sea Hero (105) 1992 Lil E. Tee (107) 1991 Strike the Gold* 1990 Unbridled* 1989 Sunday Silence (102) +Country House finished second but was placed first through the disqualification of Maximum Security *No Beyer Speed Figure listed PRAT AND MOTT TEAM UP FOR THE VICTORY Congratulations to Flavian Prat and his agent, Derek Lawson, for winning the 2019 Kentucky Derby with Country House. Prat, 26, has emerged as a riding star on the Southern California circuit and now can put a Kentucky Derby victory on his list of accomplishments. Prat rode Omaha Beach in his first five races. But when Prat opted to ride Galilean the Grade II Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park on March 16, Hall of Famer Mike Smith was given the call to ride Omaha Beach in the Rebel. Smith retained the mount on Omaha Beach for the Grade I Arkansas Derby, which they won on April 13. One can’t blame Prat and Lawson for feeling down when it had appeared that they had missed out on riding Omaha Beach in the Kentucky Derby. But all’s well that ends well. It turned out great for Prat in the end as he won the Kentucky Derby with Country House, while Omaha Beach was scratched from the race. If Mott was going to win the Kentucky Derby this year, most people figured it would be with Tacitus, who was sent away at 5-1 compared to Country House’s 65-1. Though Tacitus did not win, after being as far back as 16th, he rallied to finish fourth and was moved up to third via Maximum Security’s DQ. This was Mott’s first Kentucky Derby victory. Following the DQ of Maximum Security, it turned out that Mott sent out the official first- and third-place finishers in this year’s Run for the Roses, which was quite a feat. The 65-year-old Hall of Famer has conditioned fellow Hall of Famers Cigar and Royal Delta, plus such other champions as Ajina, Escena, Favorite Trick, Paradise Creek and Theatrical. STRIKES FOR MAXIMUM SECURITY AND COUNTRY HOUSE In 1999, I developed my Derby Strikes System. The system consists of nine key factors that attempt to determine the chances a horse has to win the Kentucky Derby from both tactical and historical perspectives. When a horse does not qualify in one of the nine categories, the horse gets a strike. The nine key factors (or categories) are explained at the end of this column. Maximum Security, who finished first in this year’s Kentucky Derby, had one strike. Like so many horses these days, he got a strike in Category 6 for having made fewer than six lifetime starts prior to the Kentucky Derby. Country House, now the official winner of this year’s Kentucky Derby, had two strikes. He got one strike in Category 2 for not having won a graded stakes race prior to the Kentucky Derby, plus another strike in Category 3 for not having been first or second at the eighth pole in either of his two most recent starts before the Kentucky Derby. Including this year, 38 of the last 47 Kentucky Derby winners have had zero strikes or just one strike. If Maximum Security had not been disqualified, it would be 39 of the last 47. After this year’s Run for the Roses, seven of the last 46 Kentucky Derby winners have had two strikes: Cannonade (1974), Ferdinand (1986), Sea Hero (1993), Funny Cide (2003), Giacomo (2005), Always Dreaming (2017) and Country House (2019). Of the last 47 horses to win the Kentucky Derby, only two, Mine That Bird and Justify, have done so with more than two strikes. Mine That Bird had four strikes, one more than Justify. WINNER’S STRIKES FROM 1973 THROUGH 2019 The Derby Strikes System can’t go back any further than 1973 due to the fact that two of my nine key factors deal with graded stakes races. Races in the United States were first graded in 1973. Here are the strikes for each Kentucky Derby winner going back to 1973: 2019 Country House (2 strikes) Categories 2 and 3* 2018 Justify (3 strikes) Categories 1, 6 and 8 2017 Always Dreaming (2 strikes) Categories 1 and 6 2016 Nyquist (0 strikes) 2015 American Pharoah (1 strike) Category 6 2014 California Chrome (0 strikes) 2013 Orb (0 strikes) 2012 I’ll Have Another (1 strike) Category 6 2011 Animal Kingdom (1 strike) Category 6 2010 Super Saver (1 strike) Category 4 2009 Mine That Bird (4 strikes) Categories 1, 4, 5 and 9 2008 Big Brown (1 strike) Category 6 2007 Street Sense (0 strikes) 2006 Barbaro (1 strike) Category 6 2005 Giacomo (2 strikes) Categories 2 and 5 2004 Smarty Jones (0 strikes) 2003 Funny Cide (2 strikes) Categories 2 and 9 2002 War Emblem (0 strikes) 2001 Monarchos (0 strikes) 2000 Fusaichi Pegasus (1 strike) Category 6 1999 Charismatic (1 strike) Category 5 1998 Real Quiet (0 strikes) 1997 Silver Charm (1 strike) Category 4 1996 Grindstone (0 strikes) 1995 Thunder Gulch (0 strikes) 1994 Go for Gin (0 strikes) 1993 Sea Hero (2 strikes) Categories 3 and 5 1992 Lil E. Tee (0 strikes) 1991 Strike the Gold (0 strikes) 1990 Unbridled (1 strike) Category 3 1989 Sunday Silence (0 strikes) 1988 Winning Colors (0 strikes) 1987 Alysheba (1 strike) Category 2 1986 Ferdinand (2 strikes) Categories 2 and 4 1985 Spend a Buck (0 strikes) 1984 Swale (0 strikes) 1983 Sunny’s Halo (1 strike) Category 1 1982 Gato Del Sol (1 strike) Category 3 1981 Genuine Risk (1 strike) Category 1 1980 Pleasant Colony (0 strikes) 1979 Spectacular Bid (0 strikes) 1978 Affirmed (0 strikes) 1977 Seattle Slew (0 strikes) 1976 Bold Forbes (0 strikes) 1975 Foolish Pleasure (0 strikes) 1974 Cannonade (2 strikes) Categories 3 and 4 1973 Secretariat (0 strikes) *Maximum Security, with one strike in Category 6, finished first in 2019 but was disqualified and placed 17th “EIGHTH POLE FACTOR” COMES THROUGH AGAIN One of the most important factors that I consider when trying to predict the winner of the Kentucky Derby is figuring out who has a very good chance to be either first or second with a furlong to go. Including this year’s Kentucky Derby, 54 of the last 57 winners have been first or second with a furlong left to run. Last Saturday, with a furlong to go, Maximum Security was first, while Country House was second. THIS WEEK’S NTRA POLLS Here is the Top 10 for this week’s NTRA Top Thoroughbred Poll: Rank Points Horse (First-Place Votes) 1. 378 Bricks and Mortar (26) 2. 313 McKinzie (7) 3. 275 Gift Box (3) 4. 201 Midnight Bisou (201) 5. 196 Mitole 6. 193 World of Trouble 7. 149 Monomoy Girl (3) 8. 90 Roy H 9. 89 Thunder Snow (2) 10 77 City of Light (2) Here is the Top 10 for this week’s NTRA Top 3-Year-Old Poll: Rank Points Horse (First-Place Votes) 1. 378 Maximum Security (25) 2. 344 Omaha Beach (13) 3. 318 Country House (6) 4. 258 Code of Honor 5. 253 Tacitus 6. 178 Game Winner 7. 175 Improbable 8. 156 War of Will 9. 55 Serengeti Empress 10. 33 Roadster DERBY STRIKES SYSTEM’S CATEGORIES These are the nine key factors (or categories) in my Derby Strikes System (updated through 2019): 1. THE GRADED STAKES FACTOR. (The horse ran in a graded stakes race as a 3-year-old before March 31.) This points out horses who have competed against tough competition at 3 prior to March 31 rather than at the last minute in April, enabling the horse to be properly battle-tested. (Exceptions: Since the introduction of graded stakes races in the U.S. in 1973, only Genuine Risk in 1980, Sunny’s Halo in 1983, Mine That Bird in 2009, Always Dreaming in 2017 and Justify in 2018 have won the Kentucky Derby without running in a graded stakes race at 3 before March 31.) 2. THE WIN IN A GRADED STAKES FACTOR. (The horse has won a graded stakes race.) This points out horses who have shown they have the class to win a graded stakes race. (Exceptions: Ferdinand in 1986, Alysheba in 1987, Funny Cide in 2003, Giacomo in 2005 and Country House in 2019 are the only exceptions since the introduction of U.S. graded stakes races in 1973; Alysheba in 1987 did finish first in the Blue Grass, only to be disqualified and placed third.) 3. THE EIGHTH POLE FACTOR. (In either of his or her last two starts before the Kentucky Derby, the horse was either first or second with a furlong to go.) This points out horses who were running strongly at the eighth pole, usually in races at 1 1/16 or 1 1/8 miles. By running strongly at the same point in the Kentucky Derby, a horse would be in a prime position to win the roses. Keep in mind that 54 of the last 57 Kentucky Derby winners have been first or second with a furlong to run. Since Decidedly won the Derby in 1962 when he was third with a furlong to go, the only three Kentucky Derby winners who were not first or second with a furlong to run were Animal Kingdom, third with a furlong remaining in 2011 when only a half-length from being second; Giacomo, sixth with a furlong to go in 2005; and Grindstone, fourth with a furlong to run in 1996. (Exceptions: Since 1955, the Kentucky Derby winners who weren’t either first or second at the eighth pole in his or her most recent two starts have been Tim Tam in 1958, Carry Back in 1961, Cannonade in 1974, Gato Del Sol in 1982, Unbridled in 1990, Sea Hero in 1993 and Country House in 2019, with Canonero II in 1971 unknown.) 4. THE GAMENESS FACTOR. (The horse’s finish position in both of his or her last two races before the Kentucky Derby was no worse than his or her running position at the eighth pole.) This points out horses who don’t like to get passed in the final furlong. (Exceptions: Since 1955, the exceptions have been Venetian Way in 1960, Cannonade in 1974, Foolish Pleasure in 1975, Ferdinand in 1986, Silver Charm in 1997, Mine That Bird in 2009 and Super Saver in 2010, with Canonero II in 1971 unknown.) 5. THE DISTANCE FOUNDATION FACTOR. (The horse has finished at least third in a 1 1/8-mile race or longer before the Kentucky Derby.) This points out horses who have the proper foundation and/or stamina for the Kentucky Derby distance. (Exceptions: Since 1955, the only exceptions have been Kauai King in 1966, Sea Hero in 1993, Charismatic in 1999, Giacomo in 2005 and Mine That Bird in 2009.) 6. THE SUFFICIENT RACING EXPERIENCE FACTOR. (The horse has had at least six lifetime starts before the Kentucky Derby.) This points out horses who have the needed experience. (Exceptions: Since 1955, the exceptions have been Grindstone in 1996, Fusaichi Pegasus in 2000, Barbaro in 2006, Big Brown in 2008, Animal Kingdom in 2011, I’ll Have Another in 2012, American Pharoah in 2015, Always Dreaming in 2017 and Justify in 2018. Grindstone, Fusaichi Pegasus, Barbaro, I’ll Have Another, American Pharoah and Always Dreaming each had made five starts before the Kentucky Derby. Animal Kingdom had made four starts before the Kentucky Derby. Big Brown and Justify had made three starts before the Kentucky Derby.) 7. THE NO ADDING OR REMOVING BLINKERS FACTOR. (The horse has not added blinkers or had blinkers removed in his or her final start at 3 before the Kentucky Derby.) This seems to point out that, if a horse is good enough to win the Kentucky Derby, the trainer is not searching for answers so late in the game. (Since Daily Racing Form began including blinkers in its past performances in 1987, no horse has added blinkers or had blinkers removed in his or her last start at 3 before winning the Kentucky Derby.) 8. THE RACED AS A 2-YEAR-OLD FACTOR. (The horse made at least one start as a 2-year-old.) (Exceptions: Apollo in 1882 and Justify in 2018 are the only Kentucky Derby winners who didn’t race as a 2-year-old. Through 2018, the score is 142-2 in terms of Kentucky Derby winners who raced at 2. Since 1937, horses unraced as a 2-year-old are a combined 1 for 63 in the Kentucky Derby. During this period, the only horses to win, place or show were Hampden, who finished third in 1946; Coaltown, second in 1948; Agitate, third in 1974; Reinvested, third in 1982; Strodes Creek, second in 1994; Curlin, third in 2007; Bodemeister, second in 2012; Battle of Midway, third in 2017; and Justify, first in 2018.) 9. THE NOT A GELDING FACTOR. (The horse is not a gelding.) (Exceptions: Funny Cide in 2003 and Mine That Bird in 2009 are the only geldings to win the Kentucky Derby since Clyde Van Dusen in 1929.) 

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5.7.2019:

Osterc Powers To Dexter Cup Victory

Trainer Per Engblom celebrated his first stakes victory Saturday at Freehold Raceway. Now he hopes the 3-year-old trotter that brought him there leaves a lasting impression. Engblom prepped 3-to-5 favorite Osterc for a winning rally in the $118,950 Dexter Cup, the first Grand Circuit stakes race on the road to the $1 million Hambletonian in August. His mentor, retired Hall of Famer Jimmy Takter, won the Hambletonian, the world’s most prestigious race, four times.  “That was nice, very nice,” Engblom told Ken Weingartner of the U.S. Trotting Association. “I was sure he had enough power. It was just a question of keeping him flat.” Yannick Gingras, the second-leading driver in North America last year with $11 million in earnings, took care of his end of the deal. Osterc, now 6-for-8 lifetime, picked up live cover in the second quarter behind elimination winner Whirl Wind K (George Brennan). He exploded 3-wide near the ¾-mile mark, cleared leader Cavill Hanover (Ake Svanstedt) on the final turn and won geared down by 1-1/4 lengths in 1:57 in his seasonal debut. HL Revadon (Dexter Dunn), who relinquished the early lead to Cavill Hanover, re-emerged to finish second, ahead of Skyway Kon Man. “He had plenty of go,” said Gingras. “He got a little bit bumpy going around the last turn, but other than that he was perfect.” The Dexter Cup was icing on the cake for Gingras, who one race earlier guided Magical Beliefs to victory in the $66,000 Lady Suffolk for 3-year-old fillies in 1:57.4. Gingras made his way to Miami Valley in Ohio on Monday to drive last year’s Hambletonian winner, Atlanta, for new trainer Ron Burke. Atlanta didn’t disappoint, leading from start to finish in a sizzling 1:50.4 to win by 7-3/4 lengths. Atlanta’s 13th victory and $1.24 million bankroll has her connections thinking of shipping her to Sweden for the prestigious Elitlopp for her next start. “It’s an honor to welcome a Hambletonian winner into your barn,” Burke said in a post-race interview. “She has all the special characteristics of a special horse.”

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5.6.2019:

Monday, May 6: Woodbine Mohawk Park Late Pick 4 Analysis

The feature at Woodbine Mohawk Park rolls in Race 7, a condition trot with a $26,000 purse. My focus this evening will be on the Late 0.20 Pick 4 and that sequence also begins in Race 7. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Race 7 1-Cue Hall-Drops out of Preferreds and could get a pocket ride, should get top honors if #2 isn't dialed on high. 2-Emoticon Hanover-Was on a roll when 2018 ended, could come off the bench as hot and take 1st picture of year. Race 8 5-Luckslst Bluegrass-Passed a few down the lane in last, makes 2nd start for new barn and will use from this post. 7-Prince Giovanni-Caught inside in last, could be used more aggressively and start will be important for ML chalk. 9-Avalanche Hanover-Fired out in last, makes 3rd start for Andrew, is a player if Cullen provides a good steer. 10-Jimmy Be Good-May need to grind way around but that can work and best to respect connections. Race 9 3-Revenue Agent-Scratched sick in last, off since 4/8, but will respect as Moreau has found the right buttons. 4-Magic Night-Takes a good drop and has gate speed so Hensley should keep in striking range throughout. 7-Major Muscle-Drops to a better spot, JMac steers and might be overlooked at the windows, looks like a player. Race 10 2-Odds On Amethyst-Has had issues but drops to spot to shine, should be a major player if minds manners. 4-Charlie Is A Joker-Compromised by a slower pace at FlmD and did miss a start, might be sitting on a big try. 7-Kameran Hanover-5/2 chalk makes 4th start for new barn and needs to dial it up. This could be the field to do so. My Ticket Race 7) 1,2 Race 8) 5,7,9,10 Race 9) 3,4,7 Race 10) 2,4,7 Total Ticket Cost) $14.40 for $0.20Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia 

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5.6.2019:

Confessions of a Kentucky Derby Calamity

Ain’t the grapes sour? Indeed. Two days later, they taste as awful as they did after 7 p.m. Saturday when the stewards took down the number of Maximum Security for the first time in the 145-year history of the Kentucky Derby. I’m not the unbiased person to write your “DQ justification” story. I lost five figures in potential winnings when the 7-20-13 finish was switched to 20-13-8. Gone were stacks of exactas and trifectas, literally ‘stacks’ in winnings as we like to say around the track. The biggest haul of a nearly 40-year wagering career all evaporated in 22 excruciating minutes. In as much as I can find humor in it, it’s funny how the stages of grief apply here even if it’s absolutely nowhere nearly as important as the good doctor’s checkup that I just left at 8 a.m. this morning. Note to self: Don’t schedule doctor visits for the Monday morning after the Kentucky Derby ever again. Blood pressure was perfect, however … somehow?! Denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance are the well-known psychological roadmaps of grief. Over the 22-minute ordeal and the 48 hours since, I’ve traversed most of the path. Denial. Shortly after celebratory texts with friends during the gallop-out, the realization that an objection was in place set in. Multiple folks texted to tell me not to worry about it; it’s the Derby, they’re NEVER taking a horse down in this race. Until now, they hadn’t, so why would I worry? You’re right; there’s no way he’s coming down. I’m safe even if my heart is racing faster than the 2:03.93 on the teletimer. Anger. Are you *!&%$#@ kidding me? Upon seeing the disqualification, there was initial anger alright. I felt then, as I do now, that a foul had occurred, but fouls have occurred in every Kentucky Derby numbers 1 through 144. Why would this one come down? Bargaining. If this had been Bob Baffert’s horse for the Wests and not Jason Servis, the result would have stood. That I firmly believe. In fact, in my bargaining stage, I turned to Twitter and posed the same bargaining tool to followers. A convincing 69 percent of the respondents agreed. Another reason for the DQ – again not because there was or wasn’t a foul (there was), but the adjudication and penalty for the foul – is timing. Horse safety is at the fore like never before in the public eye because of the horse deaths at Santa Anita this winter. For the stewards to say “boys will be boys” and “let them play” by leaving the result stand would send the message that anything goes on the racetrack, even at the risk of the equines and jockeys. I’ve read that the stewards did the hard thing by taking down Maximum Security. Maybe so in terms of their relationship with bettors. But in the public perception, erring on the side of safety absolutely was the safest call in today’s environment. I had to bargain with myself between these two points as part of the Derby result and how it impacted me personally. Maybe they’re not even reality, but they are my perceived reality. And they might be shared by thousands of other bettors and horse racing fans. I would trade (bargain) the well-being of the thousands working in the racing industry if it’s really on the brink of disaster, as we’re being led to believe despite record handle and TV ratings, in exchange for my winning ticket. I’d be a worse person if I wouldn’t, right? Depression. Still, I’m not in a very good mood 48 hours later. It’s not about the money, though that stings. I’m fortunate to have done well from humble beginnings and am owed absolutely nothing by anyone. My dad – who incidentally cashed on the DQ by betting Country House (as did my brother…good work, fellas) – taught me a lesson years ago: “It’s not yours until you can touch it.” It’s a step up from “Don’t count your chickens…” but it has served me well. Of course, that gets trickier in this ADW world, which means you might want to make some withdraws and actually rub your cash from time to time. It’s one of the reasons why on big days I also like to make bets at my local harness track in addition to with Xpressbet. There’s a glorious feeling of seeing the stacks and being able to touch what’s yours. We’ll have to wait for another day on that one. When I say my bad mood goes beyond the money, it reflects a feeling that the Kentucky Derby once had the power to cleanse my palate of everything. No matter how much I was frustrated with the industry in which I’ve given my professional life; no matter what my mood was with things going on at home or in my personal life; the first Saturday in May had the power to make me feel above it all. I literally broke down crying on the NBC TV set where I was working when Cathryn Sophia won the 2016 Kentucky Oaks just a few weeks after my mother had passed away. She, being Catherine, and my daughter being Sophia, there was a sense that I was supposed to be there that day. I haven’t returned to Louisville since, after being there 18 times for the Kentucky Derby. I felt good about that being the last feeling I wanted to have there. Now I’m wondering how I will feel about betting the Kentucky Derby in the future, and if the Derby can cleanse my palate of how I’m feeling like it once did annually. That is a far more sobering feeling than not collecting the biggest score of your life. Acceptance. I don’t know where I’m at on that. I’ve accepted the obvious loss as reality. I’m an over-thinker often times, but I’m not an idiot. There’s no appeal; it’s a done deal. Psychologists say this stage isn’t about being okay with what’s happened, but being cognizant with the fact that we can’t preserve the past as it was and that things have changed and we must adjust. By next year’s first Saturday in May, we’ll see where I stand on the game’s grandest race. It’s given me a lot in my lifetime; this time it gave me feelings I didn’t expect or want to repeat. 

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5.4.2019:

Saturday, May 4: Pompano Park Hi-5 Mandatory Payout

It's closing night at Pompano Park and that means mandatory payouts. If you are looking for a place to go with your Kentucky Derby winnings, Race 13 might be your best stop. The 0.20 Jackpot Hi-5 has a $127,976 carryover, with an estimated pool set at $400,000. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. 1-Im An Art Major (10-1)-So far Lasix hasn't helped plus gaps in starts, needs a big improvement to hit the bottom of the ticket. 2-A Fool For Mark (15-1)-Doesn't pass horses in the lane, form has been dull, would need to get sucked around to hit the bottom of the ticket. But Ingraham could work that trip. 3-Shamderock (15-1)-Dull form and sick scratches makes this 11-year-old tough to include, would need a form reversal to pick-up anything but a small check. 4-Mittnage A Trois (12-1)-Another who will need a boost to battle for a shot at the bottom of the ticket. 5-Sea Rocky Roll (3-1)-Should be part of the Hi-5 with a good post draw versus this crew. Couldn't endorse for a picture but should be in the hunt. 6-Jimi Wind Ricks (8/5)-Drops and gets Hennessey tonight, and of course, will be bet hard. Only 3-25 the last 2 years but someone has to win. 7-Ted The Ballboy (10-1)-Can't endorse for a picture but worth using underneath in the 2-5 slots. 8-Lew's Maverick (5-1)-Here's the wildcard in 2nd start off the bench. Has a 2018 season mark at DD of 1.50.4. Obviously has issues and is not the same horse that won >$78k in 2018 but could beat the chalk if fires. 9-Bet The Moon (5-1)-Only 1-18 this year and 1-20 at PPk, so no need to write much more but might blast out and stick around for a share. 10-Tymal Vortex (12-1)-With the trainer listed between the pipes it's hard to imagine an aggressive steer. But beware of a driver change, then a case could be made to use in the Hi-5 and might hit the board with a good steer. My pick to beat the chalk would be #8 and would use with the #5 and #7 in the 2-5 slots. Many horses can hit the bottom of the ticket and will be prices. If #6 doesn't fire and isn't first or second, there could be a very nice payout. Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia

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5.4.2019:

Half-dozen Fill the Kentucky Derby Slot on Pick 4 Ticket

Most horse owners can only dream of having a Kentucky Derby participant. Had this been a dream, Gary and Mary West would probably rather not wake up. They don’t have just one contender for the blanket of roses. They have two. Game Winner and Maximum Security aren’t just a way to satisfy a Kentucky Derby itch – they are strong contenders. It’s doubtful the Wests would change places with anyone else, and with the two horses, they have two of America’s hottest barns. Game Winner has been a stalwart for Bob Baffert and Maximum Security has jumped from maiden claimer to Grade 1 winner for Jason Servis. They are important players for the connections but also key horses to watch for the millions of players who will dive in the Kentucky Derby as well as Pick 4 pools. There are no less than a half-dozen legit players in the Derby and probably more than that worthy of inclusion. We’re sticking with a $72 Pick 4 suggestion, although it would be easy to go 10 times that. But we’ll avoid jumping into a wallet-pitching free-for-all; some semblance of control is in order. Here’s a look at the what’s gets into the Kentucky Derby slot of this ticket and why: #16 Game Winner: From this corner, he’s the pick to win it. Baffert’s stable has not had its usual dominance, but he's far from being a has-been. Game Winner was unbeaten as a 2-year-old and hasn’t won (in two starts) as a 3-year-old, but he went down fighting, and in this – his third start of the year – expect the return of championship form. He'll likely be at his best. #17 Roadster: Another Baffert star and he’s perfect in his two 2019, one against Game Winner. Roadster makes his first attempt away from his California home-back and the Santa Anita Derby win was his first stakes score. He’s had four starts but acts as if he has plenty of seasoning. Another giant effort would not be surprising, although it’s a big test any from home, and when you add up the number of opponents in his last three, the total is less than what he’ll face Saturday. His current form is a good as any. #8 Tacitus: There’s nothing to dislike about Tacitus. He won the Tampa Bay Derby and Wood Memorial back-to-back and, in the latter, didn’t have the best of trips. He’s an up-and-comer, has won three of four – three since losing his debut – and must be respected. With so many choices, some players will choose to ignore this one. He deserves to be on the ticket as it would not be a major surprise if he came with another top effort. #18 Long Range Toddy: Didn’t fire over the sloppy surface of the Arkansas Derby, but there aren’t many reasons to dislike him. Perhaps you don’t think he has the class. But if you do, a win over Improbable in the Rebel Stakes, as well as a win in the Springboard Mile at Remington and good efforts in the Smarty Jones and Southwest would give you some fodder if you’re looking for some. He’s a runner and is at the very least worth inclusion in all exotic wagers. #5 Improbable: He completes the Baffert Triumvirate. He lost to Long Range Toddy in the Rebel, which was his first of the year, and held on for second behind Omaha Beach. Tactically, there may be no better. He has speed but can deal with it when he runs in traffic. His best puts him right there. #7 Maximum Security: Unbeaten in four starts and no one has been with 3.5 lengths of him at the end of any of his races. If you’ve been worried about the maiden-claiming $16,000 price of his debut, it might be time to get over it. People, even the Wests and Servis, are allowed mistakes. They got away with one in a big way. A dominant win the Florida Derby should help you put a big line through the claiming price. There is no doubt he’s facing his best opposition by far, but leaving him out of your plays could be a big mistake. Here’s the suggested late Pick 4 ticket for Churchill Downs on Saturday: Race 11) #1 Qurbaan, #6 Clyde’s Image, #12 Bricks and Mortar. Race 12) #5 Improbable, #7 Maximum Security, #8 Tacitus, #16 Game Winner, #17 Roadster, #18 Long Range Toddy. Race 13) #1 Limonite, #4 And Seek, #10 Bandon Woods, #11 Hoffa’s Union. Race 14) #1 Rotation, #2 Ranger Up.  Total Ticket Cost) $72 for $0.50

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5.3.2019:

Friday, May 3: Can-Am Pick 4 Analysis

The Can-Am Pick 4 begins at Woodbine Mohawk Park in Race 10, and the gate should be rolling at 10:10 EST. The 0.20 Pick 4 concludes with Race 11 at the Meadowlands. It's a competitive sequence and the pools have been good. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Race 10-Mohawk Park-Leg 1 2-Aint Three Ok-There are reasons to shy away but drops and this is a spot to shine plus adds McNair. 5-Windsongmagnifique-Another who should like the company but hasn't won in 2 months, Filion does return. 10-Jan-Another dropper has gate speed to get in striking range, Jamieson's choice over the #2 and #4. Race 10-Meadowlands-Leg 2 4-Perseverant-1st start for Fhld invader was good, now draws better and can take a picture with the right trip. 6-Steve Said-Nice effort to win last week from the 8-hole, can repeat with a similar performance. 9-Nameisonthehalter-Has the 9-hole for 3rd straight race, gets a positive driver change and should roll late at a price. Race 11-Mohawk Park-Leg 3 3-Kingofbrokenhearts-Will toss last when off 14 days and now gets a positive driver change, looks like a player. 4-Ill Be Back-Drops looking for a spot to wake-up, could be the time for first win of the year. 6-Fox Valley B Gump-Jamieson's choice was sluggish coming off the bench but last was much better, best to respect. 10-Leader Tonight-Another who is winless in '19, has gate speed to get a good seat, will use versus a suspect crew. Race 11-Meadowlands-Leg 4 1-Another Breath-Fits and could make the most of the rail, should be in the mix with this bunch. 5-Arrakis-Auciello dropper hasn't seen a dry tracks in weeks, gets a nice post draw, using, is only 2-34 on an off track. 7-DW'S Revenge-Burke trainee is camera shy but should be bet and can't dismiss in an open affair. 10-Resita-Tetrick takes a seat, beaten favorite will need a trip and the post makes the price. My Ticket Race 10 Mohawk) 2,5,10 Race 10 Meadowlands) 4,6,9 Race 11 Mohawk) 3,4,6,10 Race 11 Meadowlands) 1,5,7,10 Total Ticket Cost) $28.80 for $0.20Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia

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5.2.2019:

Jon White's Kentucky Derby Selections

When I found out the news via a text message from a friend, I had trouble breathing.  No, I did not have an entrapped epiglottis. But I did have trouble breathing because I felt as if somebody had just punched me in the gut really, really hard.  I was so much looking forward to Omaha Beach running in Saturday’s 145th running of the $3 million Kentucky Derby. I felt he had an excellent chance to win it. Now, instead of running in it and possibly winning it, he has to miss the Grade I event because of an entrapped epiglottis.  I will be totally honest. I am so disappointed by this shocking development that it is hard for me to even be typing these words. I can only imagine how disappointing this is for owner Rick Porter (Fox Hills Farm), Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella and Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith.  Porter, though, certainly is able to put Omaha Beach’s setback into some perspective. Considering the owner is someone who is in remission after a serious battle with cancer that had him at death’s door, it is far from the end of the world.  Smith had his choice of riding either Grade I Arkansas Derby winner Omaha Beach or Grade I Santa Anita Derby winner Roadster in the Kentucky Derby. But in a cruel twist of fate, after Smith made the difficult decision to ride Omaha Beach, that colt is now out of the race. Thanks to Smith opting for Omaha Beach, Roadster’s pilot will be Florent Geroux. After working as an assistant to trainer Lefty Nickerson, Mandella went out on his own in 1974. He said Thursday that this is his biggest disappointment in all the years he’s been a trainer.  Mandella elaborated that it was so disappointing because “the [Kentucky] Derby is what it is” and because Omaha Beach is such a special horse. Mandella said the way Omaha Beach had trained at Churchill Downs, it looked “like Muhammad Ali when he was going into the ring.” Omaha Beach “would just bounce and hardly touch the ground and float like a butterfly and sting like a bee. It just said to me, he’s really special.”  Despite Omaha Beach’s misfortune that precludes him from participating in the Kentucky Derby, Mandella somehow has managed to keep his sense of humor. He said his wife, Randi, “last night tied one of my legs down to the bed so I couldn’t jump out the hotel window.”  Mandella also said that his wife has “a little bucket. She’ll walk around. If you throw a donation in there to help us get home…”  Thursday morning at the barn, Mandella joked that Omaha Beach had wanted to talk to the media but couldn’t do so because he has a sore throat.  Omaha Beach’s exit from the Kentucky Derby field has opened the door for Bodexpress, the maiden who ran second in the Grade I Xpressbet.com Florida Derby, to get into the race from the also-eligible list.  As of Thursday morning, the status of another Kentucky Derby entrant, Haikal, was in doubt due to an abscess in his left front foot. A final determination as to whether or not Haikal runs in the race will be made Friday morning, according to an interview with trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. It had appeared to be all systems go Wednesday morning for Omaha Beach. A day after being installed as the 4-1 favorite on the Kentucky Derby morning line, Omaha Beach galloped 1 3/4 miles on the Churchill oval Wednesday with regular exercise rider Taylor Cambra in the saddle for Mandella.  After Omaha Beach’s a.m. exercise had concluded, Cambra was reported to have been beaming. Cambra said the colt had not galloped any better since arriving at Churchill following his victory in the Arkansas Derby on April 13.  As soon as Omaha Beach had completed his gallop, Mandella was asked how the colt was doing. The trainer responded by saying “good as ever.”  But later in the day it was announced that Omaha Beach would be scratched from this year’s Run for the Roses.  “After training this morning we noticed him cough a few times,” Mandella was quoted as saying Wednesday in a Churchill Downs press release. “It caused us to scope him and we found an entrapped epiglottis. We can’t fix this in a week so we’ll have to have a procedure done in a few days. We’ll have to figure out a whole new game plan.”  In a news conference Thursday morning at Churchill Downs, Mandella said Omaha Beach would be undergoing surgery later in the day to address the entrapped epiglottis. The operation would be performed by Dr. Rolf Embertson at the Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital in Lexington, KY.  At some point after the surgery, Omaha Beach will return to home at Mandella’s Santa Anita barn. I thought it was not out of the question for Omaha Beach to sweep the Triple Crown. With all three Triple Crown races now off the table for the colt, Mandella said they will look at summertime races like the Grade I Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park on July 20, Grade I Pacific Classic at Del Mar and Grade I Travers Stakes at Saratoga on Aug. 24 as possibilities.  Meanwhile, in terms of my selections for the 2019 Kentucky Derby, fate has rudely pulled the rug out from under me. Omaha Beach had been my pick to win, but the furlongs of copy I wrote explaining why he was my choice had to be tossed into the garbage can Wednesday afternoon. Forced to call an audible, my selections for the 1 1/4-mile classic now are:  1. War of Will (15-1 morning line) 2. Game Winner (9-2 morning-line favorite in Omaha Beach’s absence) 3. Improbable (5-1) 4. Roadster (5-1)  I have decided to go ahead and pick War of Will to win because I think he could possibly get the job done at a juicy price. I’m switching from one War Front colt, Omaha Beach, to another War Front colt, War of Will.  Trained by Mark Casse, War of Will was sent away as the 4-5 favorite in the Grade II Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots. He finished ninth. If War of Will had won that race, his odds this Saturday quite likely would have been around 6-1 to 10-1. Instead, he figures to be probably 15-1 or higher, possibly much higher.  A prime example of how the public can overreact to one defeat occurred in 1995. Thunder Gulch won the Grade II Fountain of Youth Stakes and Grade I Florida Derby that year, both at Gulfstream. He then finished fourth as the 6-5 favorite in the Grade II Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland.  If you had drawn a line through Thunder Gulch’s Blue Grass and bet him to win the Kentucky Derby, you would have enjoyed seeing him prevail by 2 1/4 lengths. Thunder Gulch returned $51 for each $2 win ticket.  Imagine that, a Florida Derby winner trained by D. Wayne Lukas and ridden by Gary Stevens paying $51.  Thunder Gulch went from 6-5 in the Blue Grass to an inflated 24-1 in the Kentucky Derby.  War of Will is likely to go from 4-5 in the Louisiana Derby to much higher odds than they should be in the Kentucky Derby.  I, for one, certainly am willingly to draw a line through War of Will’s Louisiana Derby. He broke alertly, then abruptly broke stride when he lost his footing behind shortly after the start. War of Will emerged from the race with a strained patellar ligament, according to Casse.  But after getting a thorough physical examination in Kentucky following his Louisiana Derby debacle, War of Will has trained marvelously. Since his hiccup in New Orleans, he has recorded four dandy workouts while firing bullets as if he were a four-footed version of Wyatt Earp or Doc Holiday. For you fans of the movie “Tombstone,” it’s as if War of Will is telling everyone, “I’m your huckleberry.” War of Will’s four workouts after the Louisiana Derby are listed below:  Distance Time Track and Date (Ranking)  4f :48.80 Keeneland on April 6 (35/111) 5f :59.00 Keeneland on April 13 from gate (1/44) 5f 1:00.20 Keeneland on April 19 (1/9) 4f :47.60 Churchill Downs on April 27 (1/78)  On Mike Willman’s radio program Thoroughbred Los Angeles, respected private clocker Gary Young said last Sunday that War of Will “worked lights out” in his :47.60 drill Saturday at Churchill. It was the fastest of 78 at the distance that morning.  Young said last Sunday that, “as of right now,” if he were to pick someone other than the Southern California-based horses that “is most likely to win the Derby, it would probably be this horse off his work yesterday,” referring to War of Will.  Except for the Louisiana Derby, War of Will has never been beaten when racing on dirt, winning by five, four and 2 1/4 lengths.  Don’t forget how well War of Will ran at Churchill Downs when making his first start on dirt. He won a 1 1/16-mile maiden special weight race on a sloppy track last Nov. 14. 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.  War of Will’s sparkling maiden win in the slop certainly could bode well for him Saturday if the Kentucky Derby is run on a wet track.  Prior to War of Will’s Louisiana Derby fiasco, he had won a pair of graded stakes on the dirt in New Orleans. He registered an emphatic four-length victory in the Grade III Lecomte Stakes on Jan. 19. That was followed by a 2 1/4-length win in the Grade II Risen Star Stakes.  Consider what a couple of War of Will’s victims in the Risen Star have done since that race.  Owendale finished eighth in the Risen Star, 10 lengths behind War of Will. Yes, that’s the same Owendale who won the Grade III Lexington Stakes at Keeneland on April 13.. Plus Que Parfait finished 13th in the Risen Star, 20 1/4 lengths behind War of Will. Yes, that’s the same Plus Que Parfait who won the Group II, $2.5 million UAE Derby in Dubai on March 30. Plus Que Parfait is entered in the Kentucky Derby.  There will be many Kentucky Derby bettors who especially will have no interest in backing War of Will because he drew the dreaded No. 1 post position. This does figure to help his price. No horse has won the Kentucky Derby from post 1 since Ferdinand in 1986.  Ferdinand was ridden by quite possibly the greatest jockey of all time, Bill Shoemaker, and was conditioned by quite possibly the greatest trainer of all time, Charlie Whittingham. After being last in the field of 16 at one point, Ferdinand and Shoemaker rallied to loom menacingly approaching the top of the stretch.  But just before straightening away in the stretch, Ferdinand found himself behind a wall of horses. Shoemaker had to make a split-second decision. He could swing toward the outside, which is what most riders would have done. But Shoemaker instead boldly took Ferdinand down to the inside rail. Ferdinand and Shoe found a narrow seam and surged to the lead as the eighth pole loomed, then kicked away to a 2 1/4-length triumph. It ranks among Shoemaker’s finest and most famous rides.  As far as War of Will having to begin from post 1, he typically breaks alertly. If he does that Saturday, he most likely will be racing in a forward position early. The pace in this particular edition of the Kentucky Derby is not expected to be all that fast. If that’s the case, it will help War of Will.  Another reason I think War of Will might win the Kentucky Derby is he has a chance to be first or second with a furlong to go. If that happens, it will put him in a prime position to win the race. History tells us that correctly foreseeing who will be first or second with a furlong left to run is a major key in correctly picking the winner.  For example, in 2005, my selection to win the Kentucky Derby was Closing Argument. One of the main reasons I picked him was my feeling that he had a good chance to be first or second with a furlong remaining. It turned out that he was in front by a half-length with a furlong to go. He remained in front until the final yards when Giacomo, with Mike Smith in the saddle, got up to win by a half-length at 50-1. Closing Argument was virtually ignored by the bettors, starting at 71-1. Even though I did not pick the winner that year, I take some solace in that Closing Argument paid $70 for each $2 place ticket. To this day it’s the biggest place payout in the history of the Kentucky Derby  Casse has called War of Will “a superstar.” If War of Will is indeed a superstar, he can win the 2019 Kentucky Derby. But I believe that no matter what happens Saturday, War of Will at the very least is a super-live longshot.  There is the possibility that War of Will isn’t going to win Saturday because he simply did not get much out of the Louisiana Derby. It’s definitely a concern. Not having had a race in the six weeks since the Louisiana Derby also is something of a concern. Additionally, War of Will almost certainly must run faster than he ever has before in order to win the roses. He has not recorded a Beyer Speed Figure higher than 94. Perhaps he just is not fast enough to win the Kentucky Derby.  But it’s not as if this group has run a whole bunch of triple-digit Beyer Speed Figures. In fact, only one entrant, Maximum Security, has ever earned a Beyer of 100 or higher, something he has done twice.  Being able to produce a Beyer of 100 or higher in the Kentucky Derby is important. It almost always takes a Beyer of 100 or higher to win the roses.  The American Racing Manual lists the Beyer for each Kentucky Derby going back to 1989, with no figure listed for 1990 and 1992. Only once during all this time has a horse won the Kentucky Derby with a sub-100 Beyer Speed Figure. That was California Chrome’s 97 in 2014.  Below are the Beyer Speed Figures for each Kentucky Derby winner going back to 1989:  2018 Justify (103) 2017 Always Dreaming (102) 2016 Nyquist (103) 2015 American Pharoah (105) 2014 California Chrome (97) 2013 Orb (104) 2012 I’ll Have Another (101) 2011 Animal Kingdom (103) 2010 Super Saver (104) 2009 Mine That Bird (105) 2008 Big Brown (109) 2007 Street Sense (110) 2006 Barbaro (111) 2005 Giacomo (100) 2004 Smarty Jones (107) 2003 Funny Cide (109) 2002 War Emblem (114) 2001 Monarchos (116) 2000 Fusaichi Pegasus (108) 1999 Charismatic (108) 1998 Real Quiet (107) 1997 Silver Charm (115) 1996 Grindstone (112) 1995 Thunder Gulch (108) 1994 Go for Gin (112) 1993 Sea Hero (105) 1992 Lil E. Tee (107) 1991 Strike the Gold* 1990 Unbridled* 1989 Sunday Silence (102)  *No Beyer Speed Figure listed  BAFFERT HOLDING A VERY STRONG HAND  Even with Omaha Beach now out of the race, many are expecting three other Southern California-based runners -- Game Winner, Improbable and Roadster -- to do well in this year’s Kentucky Derby. Hall of Famer Bob Baffert trains all three.  SoCal-based runners have won five of the last seven editions of the Kentucky Derby: I’ll Have Another (2012), California Chrome (2014), American Pharoah (2015), Nyquist (2016) and Justify (2018).  If Baffert does get another Kentucky Derby victory this year, he will equal Ben Jones’ longstanding record for most wins in this race by a trainer.  Jones has six wins to his credit: Lawrin (1938), Whirlaway (1941), Pensive (1944), Citation (1948), Ponder (1949) and Hill Gail (1952)  Baffert has won the Kentucky Derby five times: Silver Charm (1997), Real Quiet (1998), War Emblem (2002), American Pharoah (2015) and Justify (2015).  I have tremendous respect for Game Winner. He was a three-time Grade I winner last year, highlighted by a Breeders' Cup Juvenile victory over the same track as the Kentucky Derby. He was voted a 2018 Eclipse Award as champion 2-year-old male.  Keep in mind that Game Winner is only a nose and a half-length away from being a seven-for-seven champion going into the Kentucky Derby. His first 2019 defeat was by only the slimmest of margins to Omaha Beach. And when Game Winner finished second in the Santa Anita Derby, he actually acquitted himself well in defeat. Game Winner lost the Santa Anita Derby by a half-length to Roadster. However, according to Trakus info, Game Winner traveled 38 feet, or approximately four lengths, farther than Roadster.  I think they are going to have a hard time keeping Game Winner out of the exacta this Saturday.  Beyond War of Will and the Baffert-trained trio, I think Maximum Security or Tacitus could possibly win this year’s Kentucky Derby.  The way I look at Maximum Security, it really might be a case of feast or famine. I could see him either winning or finishing way back.  Undefeated and untested, Maximum Security, as mentioned earlier, is the only horse in this year’s Kentucky Derby to have recorded any Beyer Speed Figures of 100 or higher. Maximum Security recorded a 102 Beyer when he won a seven-furlong allowance/optional claiming race by 18 1/4 lengths at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 20. Maximum Security then posted a 101 when victorious by 3 1/2 lengths in Gulfstream’s Grade I Xpressbet.com Florida Derby at 1 1/8 miles on March 30.  How good is Maximum Security? We really don’t know. What if he’s a freak? His average margin of victory in four career starts is 9 1/2 lengths! Considering he has an unblemished record and sports the only two triple-digit Beyer Speed Figures in the field, if Maximum Security does outrun them all on Saturday, I am going to feel pretty dumb for not picking him to win.  If Maximum Security manages to continue his winning streak Saturday, he will become the 10th undefeated Kentucky Derby winner, joining Regret (1915), Morvich (1922), Majestic Prince (1969), Seattle Slew (1977), Smarty Jones (2004), Barbaro (2006), Big Brown (2008), Nyquist (2016) and Justify (2018).  On the other hand, it’s also possible that Maximum Security could have his bubble of invincibility popped big-time this Saturday due to facing much tougher opponents than ever before. And if he does not win, I will be surprised if Maximum Security is part of the superfecta.  There is much to like about Tacitus. There is his Hall of Fame trainer, Bill Mott, who is seeking his first Kentucky Derby victory. There also is Tacitus’ wonderful pedigree. He is a son of premier sire Tapit and the First Defence mare Close Hatches. Close Hatches was one of my favorites during her racing career in which she was voted a 2014 Eclipse Award as champion older female.  Tacitus took the Grade II Tampa Bay Derby by 1 1/4 lengths on March 9. He then won the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct by the same margin on April 13 in what was a particularly admirable effort in the context that he got knocked around early and was making only his fourth career start.  However, the fact that Tacitus goes into the Kentucky Derby having made only four lifetime starts is a concern for me. Maximum Security and Roadster likewise each have made just four career starts. I also am concerned about that with regard to those two contenders. Longshot Spinoff is another who has only four lifetime starts. Everyone else in this year’s Kentucky Derby has made five or more career starts.  There have been just six winners in the history of the Kentucky Derby who previously had made four or fewer lifetime starts. They are:  2018 Justify (3 starts) 2011 Animal Kingdom (4 starts) 2008 Big Brown (3 starts) 1918 Exterminator (4 starts) 1915 Regret (3 starts) 1902 Alan-a-Dale (4 starts)  DERBY STRIKES SITUATION  Improbable and Roadster both are extremely talented individuals. As such, they both must be taken very seriously. I would like them better, though, if they did not have as many strikes as they do. In the Derby Strikes System that I developed years ago, Improbable has three strikes, while Roadster has two strikes.  Improbable had blinkers added when he started in the Rebel. He’s having the blinkers removed for the Kentucky Derby. Improbable gets a strike in my Derby Strikes System for having blinkers added in his final start at 3 before the Kentucky Derby. Since Daily Racing Form began including blinkers in its past performances in 1987, no Kentucky Derby winner has either added blinkers or had blinkers removed in their final start at 3 prior to the Kentucky Derby.  In 1999, I developed my Derby Strikes System. The system consists of nine key factors that attempt to determine the chances a horse has to win the Kentucky Derby from both tactical and historical perspectives. When a horse does not qualify in one of the nine categories, the horse gets a strike. The nine key factors (or categories) are explained at the end of this column.  Based on past results, a horse with zero strikes or only one strike has a much better chance to win the Kentucky Derby than a horse with two strikes or more. Going back to 1973, 38 of the last 46 Kentucky Derby winners have had zero strikes or just one strike.  Six of the last 46 Kentucky Derby winners have had two strikes: Cannonade (1974), Ferdinand (1986), Sea Hero (1993), Funny Cide (2003), Giacomo (2005) and Always Dreaming (2017).  Though it’s not out of the question for a horse with more than two strikes to win the Kentucky Derby, it is improbable (pun intended). Of the last 46 horses to win the Kentucky Derby, Mine That Bird and Justify are the only two horses to do so with more than two strikes. Mine That Bird had four strikes, one more than Improbable.  Improbable, like Justify last year, has three strikes. In addition to Improbable’s strike in Category 7 for having blinkers added in the Arkansas Derby, he also gets a strike in Category 4 and Category 6. He gets a strike in Category 4 because he had the lead a furlong out in the Rebel before finishing second. His strike in Category 6 is for having made fewer than six lifetime starts.  I now consider Category 6, in which a starter gets a strike for having made fewer than six career starts, to be by far the least important of the nine categories. Horses just do not race as much these days as when I developed the Derby Strikes System in 1999. Category 6 no longer is as important as it was during the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s.  The Derby Strikes System can’t go back any further than 1973 due to the fact that two of my nine key factors deal with graded stakes races. Races in the United States were first graded in 1973.  From 1973 through 2000, Fusaichi Pegasus was the only Kentucky Derby winner to get a strike in Category 6 for making fewer than six career starts prior to the Run for the Roses.  But from 2001 through 2018, seven Kentucky Derby winners -- Barbaro, Big Brown, Animal Kingdom, I’ll Have Another, American Pharoah, Always Dreaming and Justify -- got a strike in Category 6.  Put another way, only 3.5% of the Kentucky Derby winners in the 28 years from 1973 through 2000 had a strike in Category 6. But 36.8% of the winners in the last 18 years from 2001 through 2018 had a strike in that category.  Of the 20 entrants that remain in this year’s Kentucky Derby after the defection of Omaha Beach, only Game Winner and Cutting Humor have zero strikes. I previously had listed Cutting Humor as having a strike in Category 6. But Bob Laud contacted me to point out this mistake. Inasmuch as Cutting Humor has made six lifetime starts, he does not get a strike in Category 6, which means he has zero strikes.  Seven of the 20 entrants have only one strike. According to the Derby Strikes System, there is a very good chance that the 2019 Kentucky Derby winner is going to be one of the horses with zero strikes or one strike.  Below are the strikes for each horse entered in this year’s Kentucky Derby:  ZERO STRIKES OR ONE STRIKE  By My Standards (Category 6) Code of Honor (Category 6) Cutting Humor (0 strikes) Game Winner (0 strikes) Maximum Security (Category 6) Plus Que Parfait (Category 7) Tacitus (Category 6) Vekoma (Category 6) War of Will (Category 5)  TWO STRIKES  Bodexpress (Categories 2 and 6) Country House (Categories 2 and 3) Gray Magician (Categories 2 and 3) Haikal (Categories 3 and 6) Roadster (Categories 1 and 6) Tax (Categories 6 and 9) Win Win Win (Categories 2 and 3)  THREE OR MORE STRIKES  Improbable (Categories 4, 6 and 7) Long Range Toddy (Categories 3, 4 and 5) Master Fencer (Categories 1, 2 and 3) Spinoff (Categories 2, 4 and 6)  DERBY STRIKES: WINNER’S STRIKES FROM 1973 THROUGH 2018  Here are the strikes for each Kentucky Derby winner going back to 1973:  1973 Secretariat (0 strikes) 1974 Cannonade (2 strikes) Categories 3 and 4 1975 Foolish Pleasure (0 strikes) 1976 Bold Forbes (0 strikes) 1977 Seattle Slew (0 strikes) 1978 Affirmed (0 strikes) 1979 Spectacular Bid (0 strikes) 1980 Pleasant Colony (0 strikes) 1981 Genuine Risk (1 strike) Category 1 1982 Gato Del Sol (1 strike) Category 3 1983 Sunny’s Halo (1 strike) Category 1 1984 Swale (0 strikes) 1985 Spend a Buck (0 strikes) 1986 Ferdinand (2 strikes) Categories 2 and 4 1987 Alysheba (1 strike) Category 2 1988 Winning Colors (0 strikes) 1989 Sunday Silence (0 strikes) 1990 Unbridled (1 strike) Category 3 1991 Strike the Gold (0 strikes) 1992 Lil E. Tee (0 strikes) 1993 Sea Hero (2 strikes) Categories 3 and 5 1994 Go for Gin (0 strikes) 1995 Thunder Gulch (0 strikes) 1996 Grindstone (0 strikes) 1997 Silver Charm (1 strike) Category 4 1998 Real Quiet (0 strikes) 1999 Charismatic (1 strike) Category 5 2000 Fusaichi Pegasus (1 strike) Category 6 2001 Monarchos (0 strikes) 2002 War Emblem (0 strikes) 2003 Funny Cide (2 strikes) Categories 2 and 9 2004 Smarty Jones (0 strikes) 2005 Giacomo (2 strikes) Categories 2 and 5 2006 Barbaro (1 strike) Category 6 2007 Street Sense (0 strikes) 2008 Big Brown (1 strike) Category 6 2009 Mine That Bird (4 strikes) Categories 1, 4, 5 and 9 2010 Super Saver (1 strike) Category 4 2011 Animal Kingdom (1 strike) Category 6 2012 I’ll Have Another (1 strike) Category 6 2013 Orb (0 strikes) 2014 California Chrome (0 strikes) 2015 American Pharoah (1 strike) Category 6 2016 Nyquist (0 strikes) 2017 Always Dreaming (2 strikes) Categories 1 and 6 2018 Justify (3 strikes) Categories 1, 6 and 8  JON WHITE'S DERBY STRIKES SYSTEM’S CATEGORIES  These are the nine key factors (or categories) in my Derby Strikes System:  1. THE GRADED STAKES FACTOR. (The horse ran in a graded stakes race as a 3-year-old before March 31.) This points out horses who have competed against tough competition at 3 prior to March 31 rather than at the last minute in April, enabling the horse to be properly battle-tested. (Exceptions: Since the introduction of graded stakes races in the U.S. in 1973, only Genuine Risk in 1980, Sunny’s Halo in 1983, Mine That Bird in 2009, Always Dreaming in 2017 and Justify in 2018 have won the Kentucky Derby without running in a graded stakes race at 3 before March 31.)  2. THE WIN IN A GRADED STAKES FACTOR. (The horse has won a graded stakes race.) This points out horses who have shown they have the class to win a graded stakes race. (Exceptions: Ferdinand in 1986, Alysheba in 1987, Funny Cide in 2003 and Giacomo in 2005 are the only exceptions since the introduction of U.S. graded stakes races in 1973; Alysheba in 1987 did finish first in the Blue Grass, only to be disqualified and placed third.)  3. THE EIGHTH POLE FACTOR. (In either of his or her last two starts before the Kentucky Derby, the horse was either first or second with a furlong to go.) This points out horses who were running strongly at the eighth pole, usually in races at 1 1/16 or 1 1/8 miles. By running strongly at the same point in the Kentucky Derby, a horse would be in a prime position to win the roses. Keep in mind that 53 of the last 56 Kentucky Derby winners have been first or second with a furlong to run. Since Decidedly won the Derby in 1962 when he was third with a furlong to go, the only three Kentucky Derby winners who were not first or second with a furlong to run were Animal Kingdom, third with a furlong remaining in 2011 when only a half-length from being second; Giacomo, sixth with a furlong to go in 2005; and Grindstone, fourth with a furlong to run in 1996. (Exceptions: Since 1955, the Kentucky Derby winners who weren’t either first or second at the eighth pole in his or her last two starts have been Tim Tam in 1958, Carry Back in 1961, Cannonade in 1974, Gato Del Sol in 1982, Unbridled in 1990 and Sea Hero in 1993, with Canonero II in 1971 unknown.)  4. THE GAMENESS FACTOR. (The horse’s finish position in both of his or her last two races before the Kentucky Derby was no worse than his or her running position at the eighth pole.) This points out horses who don’t like to get passed in the final furlong. (Exceptions: Since 1955, the exceptions have been Venetian Way in 1960, Cannonade in 1974, Foolish Pleasure in 1975, Ferdinand in 1986, Silver Charm in 1997, Mine That Bird in 2009 and Super Saver in 2010, with Canonero II in 1971 unknown.)  5. THE DISTANCE FOUNDATION FACTOR. (The horse has finished at least third in a 1 1/8-mile race or longer before the Kentucky Derby.) This points out horses who have the proper foundation and/or stamina for the Kentucky Derby distance. (Exceptions: Since 1955, the only exceptions have been Kauai King in 1966, Sea Hero in 1993, Charismatic in 1999, Giacomo in 2005 and Mine That Bird in 2009.)  6. THE SUFFICIENT RACING EXPERIENCE FACTOR. (The horse has had at least six lifetime starts before the Kentucky Derby.) This points out horses who have the needed experience. (Exceptions: Since 1955, the exceptions have been Grindstone in 1996, Fusaichi Pegasus in 2000, Barbaro in 2006, Big Brown in 2008, Animal Kingdom in 2011, I’ll Have Another in 2012, American Pharoah in 2015, Always Dreaming in 2017 and Justify in 2018. Grindstone, Fusaichi Pegasus, Barbaro, I’ll Have Another, American Pharoah and Always Dreaming each had made five starts before the Kentucky Derby. Animal Kingdom had made four starts before the Kentucky Derby. Big Brown and Justify had made three starts before the Kentucky Derby.)  7. THE NO ADDING OR REMOVING BLINKERS FACTOR. (The horse has not added blinkers or had blinkers removed in his or her final start at 3 before the Kentucky Derby.) This seems to point out that, if a horse is good enough to win the Kentucky Derby, the trainer is not searching for answers so late in the game. (Since Daily Racing Form began including blinkers in its past performances in 1987, no horse has added blinkers or had blinkers removed in his or her last start at 3 before winning the Kentucky Derby.)  8. THE RACED AS A 2-YEAR-OLD FACTOR. (The horse made at least one start as a 2-year-old.) (Exceptions: Apollo in 1882 and Justify in 2018 are the only Kentucky Derby winners who didn’t race as a 2-year-old. Through 2018, the score is 142-2 in terms of Kentucky Derby winners who raced at 2. Since 1937, horses unraced as a 2-year-old are a combined 1 for 63 in the Kentucky Derby. During this period, the only horses to win, place or show were Hampden, who finished third in 1946; Coaltown, second in 1948; Agitate, third in 1974; Reinvested, third in 1982; Strodes Creek, second in 1994; Curlin, third in 2007; Bodemeister, second in 2012; Battle of Midway, third in 2017; and Justify, first in 2018.)  9. THE NOT A GELDING FACTOR. (The horse is not a gelding.) (Exceptions: Funny Cide in 2003 and Mine That Bird in 2009 are the only geldings to win the Kentucky Derby since Clyde Van Dusen in 1929.) 

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5.2.2019:

Eddie Olczyk's 2019 Kentucky Derby Picks

Weather Again Muddles Kentucky Derby PictureBy Eddie Olczyk, Xpressbet HandicapperI’m spending as much time as watching the weather as I am reading the Racing Form. I’m hoping on Mother Nature to shine upon us come about 6:30PM ET on Saturday evening. You have to have two plans come Saturday – one if it rains in Louisville and the other if it stays dry.  As of Wednesday evening, there’s a 100% chance of rain on Derby Day.  Fast Track Plan: On a dry track, it’s ROADSTER for me. And it has been for some time. I got ROADSTER at 30-1 in February and 16-1 in March in future bets. That said, I’m not going to bet him to win Saturday because of the futures coverage. But I’ll use ROADSTER a lot in the gimmicks on a fast track, including longshots LONG RANGE TODDY and CODE OF HONOR as well as stablemate GAME WINNER. Wet Track Plan: If it’s an off track, things really change for me after the scratch of mud-loving Omaha Beach. I don’t know if ROADSTER can get up and down on a wet surface. CODE OF HONOR could be interesting at a price if it’s wet given his turfy pedigree. Shug McGaughey-trained Orb rallied in the slop to win here in 2013. If the conditions worsen, you’ve got to stay flexible; I know I will be. And you know where to find me – on the NBC telecast – for the last-minute thoughts.Analysis: As for handicapping the race, it starts with the question: Where is the pace coming from? I think there’s more pace in this race than a lot of people believe. Everyone has their opinion and that’s fine. But the rail draw is going to force WAR OF WILL to be sent to the front early. He has to come out looking for position. MAXIMUM SECURITY should be right there. If you watched ROADSTER’s April 20 work at XBTV.com, he looked like he sling-shotted out of the gate. He had 5-lengths on his workmate in a few jumps; he’s got some natural speed. TAX is also drawn on the inside and won’t want to get buried in there. And LONG RANGE TODDY is another horse with speed coming out of the 18 post and he’ll have to get involved early due to his outside draw. $100 Wagering Strategy (Fast Track) $40 Win: ROADSTER ($40) $20 Exacta: ROADSTER over LONG RANGE TODDY, CODE OF HONOR and GAME WINNER ($60) $100 Wagering Strategy (Wet Track) $100 Wagering Strategy (Wet Track) $40 Win: CODE OF HONOR ($40) $10 Exacta Box: CODE OF HONOR, GAME WINNER and ROADSTER ($60) Eddie's Fast Track Picks ROADSTER LONG RANGE TODDY CODE OF HONOR Eddie's Wet Track Picks CODE OF HONOR GAME WINNER ROADSTER

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5.2.2019:

Johnny D’s Kentucky Derby Analysis, Selections & Wagers

Johnny D’s Kentucky Derby Analysis, Selections & Wagers War of Will 20-1 M. Casse/Gafflione A misstep just after the start of the late-March Louisiana Derby resulted in a ninth-place finish at less than even-money. That darkened the form of this otherwise attractive runner. He was sore for a day or two after the race, but soon returned to training. Following 4 reasonable grass efforts to begin his career, this son of War Front broke maiden over a ‘sloppy’ track in November at Churchill. In January, he exercised complete domination over New Orleans-based foes in the Grade 3 Lecomte and in the Grade 2 Risen Star. He’s got enough speed to be close to the lead and exhibited a pounce and kill style all winter. He has pulled at the rider in recent works at Churchill, suggesting he may be close to the early pace. Drawing the dreaded rail Derby post position will force jockey Gaffalione’s hand and they must hit the gas out of the gate. Two questions surround this guy: First, is he be fit enough to win the Derby? The poor non-effort in the Louisiana Derby means he hasn’t had a complete race since mid-February. On the other hand, since August he has raced every month except December, including twice in February. The forced breather actually might be a welcome respite. Second, how good are the horses he was beating in New Orleans this winter? The Louisiana route recently has not been a particularly strong springboard to Kentucky Derby success. We’ll pass on War of Will from a very difficult post position.    Tax 20-1 Gargan/J. Alvarado With just 4 races to his credit, this gelded son of Arch was claimed for $50,000 out of a maiden score by his current connections. Since then he has finished third in the Grade 2 Remsen, won the Grade 3 Withers and been second in the Grade 2 Wood Memorial. Not bad. In the Wood stretch he made the lead and was gunned down late by Tacitus. That performance leaves questions about his ability to effectively get the Derby distance. His dam has had 3 previous foals that are a combined 1-64, so Tax really is the overachiever in his family. His preference is to race just off the early pace, and he will find it much more difficult to run down leaders this time. While 9 geldings have won the Derby, there’s only been 2 since 1929. We’ll pass on this guy being the third. By My Standards 20-1 Calhoun/G. Saez This upset winner (22-1) of the Louisiana Derby parlayed a maiden victory into a Grade 2 triumph. He’s made it to the gate once each month since November and has improved Beyer Speed Figures from the mid-70s to 97 last out. He’s worked splendidly for this race, so maybe he’s improved dramatically. The main question after the Louisiana Derby is: Even though By My Standards is obviously doing well, is he this good? It took this son of Goldencents 4 starts to break his maiden. That’s normally not a positive (although it took original Derby favorite Omaha Beach 5 starts to win maiden). In the Louisiana Derby, once favored War of Will encountered severe trouble out of the gate, the race became wide open. Overall, By My Standards doesn’t seem that attractive as a Derby proposition, however, his sharp recent works at Churchill Downs have made him a ‘wise guy’ choice. He’s a possible inclusion in lower levels of exotics. Gray Magician 50-1 Miller/Van Dyke Unable to muster a Beyer Speed Figure above 90 in 8 races, the last a very nice closing, runner-up try against Plus Que Parfait in Dubai—this son of Graydar seems up against it in the Derby. He hasn’t won a race at 3 and it’s been 9 years since that profile has produced a Derby winner. Plus, in the last 3 months he’s shipped round-trip from California to Maryland, round-trip California to Dubai, and then on to Kentucky. That’s a challenging schedule. Heck, I’m tired just writing about it. And, if you hadn’t guessed, Gray Magician actually is gray. In the Derby, horses of that color are 0-for-the last 25. Pass on him. Improbable 6-1 Baffert/I. Ortiz Winner of his first 3 races, including the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Futurity, this son of Carson City has a pair of runner-up finishes to his credit this year—a neck loss to Long Range Toddy in a division of the Rebel Stakes and a one-length loss to Omaha Beach in the Arkansas Derby. Both were good efforts and this colt has been at Churchill Downs for a couple of weeks and has looked well during morning work. Small-cup blinkers were added for his last race and he was uneasy in the post parade and fractious in the gate. The blinkers come off for this—a high-percentage move for Baffert in graded stakes races. Perhaps the biggest knock on Improbable is that daddy City Zip is not known for producing distance runners. This colt did negotiate a mile and one-eighth in Arkansas last out, but never was getting to Omaha Beach in the lane. He’s 1 of 3 Baffert runners in here and approaches the race with a solid pattern of improvement. Also, he’s proven over an ‘off’ surface. He figures to come from about mid-pack in the Derby and appears a solid in-the-money possibility with a shot at the top prize. Vekoma 20-1 Weaver/Castellano Winner of 3 of 4 starts, including the Grade 3 Nashua and Grade 2 Blue Grass, this son of Candy Ride figures close to the early pace. Hall-of-Famer Javier Castellano, seeking his first Kentucky Derby win, will ride. Like with Tacitus there’s some question about the quality of opponents that have chased him home. Supporting this theory is that the only time Vekoma met top-ranked foes in the Xpressbet Fountain of Youth, he finished third. Vekoma’s got some rough-looking action as he paddles his lead leg like he’s doing the breast stroke. Obviously, it doesn’t bother him, although he did drift in and out through the stretch in the Blue Grass. Add it up and Vekoma seems up against it. He will appreciate mud on Derby Day. Maximum Security 10-1 Jason Servis/Luis Saez Unbeaten, untied and unscored upon, this son of New Year’s Day figures to be around 6-1 on Derby Day. That’s right, an undefeated horse with 4 wins by margins as narrow as 3 ½ lengths to as wide as 18 ¼ lengths figures to be a decent price! That’s why you gotta love the Derby…20 runners, a possible 5-1 favorite and more value than you can shake a rolled up Daily Racing Form at. This guy has speed, won the Florida Derby and is trained by Jason Servis, a fellow that checks in at 33%! So, what’s not to like? Horseplayers are a funny lot. They put stock in something called ‘class,’ so that when a horse that broke his maiden for $16,000 shows up the Kentucky Derby, they immediately toss him. No matter that since then no foe has gotten within yelling distance of this colt. Following the Florida Derby, he pulled up on the backside looking as if he’d just breezed a half. His ears were straight up, begging to do something else. One other knock is that he galloped along on an easy pace up front in the Xpressbet Florida Derby. Detractors feel he won’t have a similar luxury in Kentucky. That’s probably true. Does he need the lead? Not according to his winter domination in Florida. How will he react when better horses come calling? Will Maximum Security have the appropriate answer? I’ll take a decent price to find out. He’s a major player in here and a wet track won’t matter. Tacitus 10-1 Mott/J. Ortiz A winner of 3-of-4 starts, this son of Tapit will have plenty of backers. He’s earned respect. Following 2 races at 2, including a maiden score, Tacitus returned in March of his 3-year-old year to win the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby. In April, he returned to win the Grade 2 Wood Memorial. He figures to race from off the pace and has shown the ability to overcome challenges. Early in the Wood, he was bumped and jostled but still managed to deliver a top effort. Still, a closer in the Derby will have to be fortunate to be successful. Hall-of-Fame trainer Bill Mott, one of the all-time leaders in wins at Churchill Downs, has never won a Derby and is a sentimental choice. What concerns this horseplayer are two points: Who has Tacitus whipped? Can he overcome the Wood Memorial alumni drought (15 years and 33 0-0-0)? He’ll be around for an in-the-money finish until my final cut. Plus Que Parfait 30-1 Walsh/Leparoux This ridgeling won the UAE Derby in Dubai last out. Trouble is that race was March 30. Asking a 3-year-old to ship halfway around the world to run a winning race and then to return to contest the Kentucky Derby, all in a bit over a month, is ambitious. Have to let this one beat me. Cutting Humor 30-1 Pletcher/Update - Smith Hall-of-Fame jockey John Velazquez bails on this mount to stay with Code of Honor. That suggests that the Sunland Derby victor may be a cut below the best in here. He was nowhere in the Southwest and mustered up a maiden win at Gulfstream Park West before that. He really hasn’t done much in his 6-race career and has been away from the races for 6 weeks. He would be the first winner of the Sunland Derby to take the Kentucky version. We’ll pass on him. SCRATCHED 11. Haikal30-1 McLaughlin/R. Maragh Never worse than third in five starts, this son of Daaher was considered by some a late-running sprinter best suited at up to a mile. Then he closed well to finish third behind Tacitus and Tax in the Wood at a mile and one-eighth. Does he have the chops to make up ground in this deep field? That’s the question with this guy. He closed from far back to win the Grade 3 Gotham and Jimmy Winkfield Stakes but these foes are much tougher than what he faced in either of those races. He’d have to overcome the 15-year-long 33 0-0-0 Wood Memorial graduate jinx to do better than fourth. SCRATCHED 12. Omaha Beach 4-1 Mandella/Smith Unfortunately, Omaha Beach has an entrapped epiglottis, a fairly minor issue, and Hall-of-Fame trainer Richard Mandella was forced to scratch him from the Kentucky Derby. Code of Honor 15-1 McGaughy/Velazquez Winner of the Xpressbet Fountain of Youth from off the pace, this slightly-built son of Noble Mission was no match for Maximum Security in the Xpressbet Florida Derby. The pace in the former was conducive to closers while the latter saw Maximum Security gallop along uncontested up front. There should be an honest-but-not-rapid pace in the Kentucky Derby, so this closer may have a tough time catching all of the frontrunners. Code of Honor’s resume is darkened by a sub-par performance in the Mucho Macho Man when, at 80 cents to the dollar, he failed to fire and finished fourth out of 6. Don’t see him as a ‘win’ contender in here, but he could pick up some pieces late. Win Win Win 15-1 Trombetta/Pimental Look for this son of Hat Trick near the back of the Derby pack. He closed well enough to be third in the Tampa Bay Derby behind Tacitus and was a late-arriving second in the Blue Grass behind Vekoma. His best race was a track-record setting performance in the Pasco Stakes going 7 furlongs at Tampa. Jocket Irad Ortiz leaves this guy to ride Improbable and Julian Pimental returns aboard the colt he has won with 3 out of 4 times he’s ridden him. Win Win Win has never been worse than third in 6 career starts. Since only the Pasco has been fast enough to make him any kind of threat in here, it’s difficult to endorse him. Master Fencer 50-1 Tsunoda/Leparoux This Japanese-bred son of Japanese-bred sire Just a Way, and Sexy Zamurai, a Deputy Minister dam, makes the long trek from the Land of the Rising Sun to contest the Kentucky Derby. Someday a horse from Japan might win or hit the superfecta in the Derby. This isn’t it. Game Winner 5-1 Baffert/Rosario The 2-year-old champ’s 4-race unbeaten streak came to a stunning conclusion as the heavy favorite in the Rebel Stakes at the hoofs of Omaha Beach. Game Winner, who hadn’t been out since November, lost by a nose to a foe that already had had two races in 2019. In the Santa Anita Derby, Game Winner did all the dirty work by disposing of Instagrand in the stretch, but then was out-finished a half-length by stablemate Roadster. Critics argue that this guy hasn’t improved much over his 2-year-old figures and that’s true, but he hasn’t gone backwards either. He’s eligible to run a big race in Louisville for Baffert and figures to be around mid-pack early without too much late-running to do. He deserves a prominent position on tickets. Roadster 6-1 Baffert/Geroux It’s unusual to go 4-deep on a final Kentucky Derby Qualifying Points list before encountering a Bob Baffert-trained runner. And Baffert’s got 3 entrants in the race? So, what gives? Is this an ‘off’ year for the white-haired conditioner? Yes, if you can call a year when a trainer gets 3 runners to the Derby an ‘off’ year.  In this son of Quality Road we find the winner of the Santa Anita Derby--an outstanding springboard to Louisville success. Roadster has had 4 starts with 3 wins, his only disappointment coming in the Del Mar Futurity when stablemate Game Winner got there first. Following that effort, a throat issue was discovered and subsequently surgically treated. The operation seems to have worked. At 3, he’s won an allowance race and the Grade 1 local Derby. His Beyer Speed Figures have improved in each career race and so have his Thoro-Graph figs. Jockey Mike Smith, who had ridden Roadster in all four starts, elects to ride Omaha Beach in the Derby instead. Capable youngster Florent Geroux will pinch hit. Expect to find Roadster off the early pace, but not too far back. Roadster will need to improve a bit to win the Derby, but he’s headed in the right direction for a trainer who already has won 5 of these Derbies, 1 short of the all-time record. Pop culture fans may recall that last summer, when asked by TMZ paparazzi for the name of his best horse, Baffert touted this guy. Also, Roadster is grey and a horse of that color is 0-for-the-last 25. Trends aside, Roadster must be respected. Long Range Toddy 30-1 Asmussen/Court He’s got one race in an 8-race career that gives him a look at a slice in this race. That’s when this son of Take Charge Indy closed to nail heavily-favored Improbable by a neck in a division of the Rebel Stakes. That afternoon, jockey Jon Court delivered a riding masterpiece for the victory. Court, at 58, will be the oldest jockey ever to ride in the Kentucky Derby. Before the Rebel, ‘Toddy won the Clever Trevor and Springboard in Hot Springs and then finished a close second in the Grade 3 Southwest. He’s a tough customer, but it doesn’t seem like he’s fast enough to compete with these. In what must be a statistical anomaly, post 17 is 0-40 in the Derby. The scratch of Omaha Beach moves Long Range Toddy into post 17. Spinoff 30-1 Pletcher/Franco His last race is his best—second by three-quarters of a length behind By My Standards in the Louisiana Derby. Before that he romped in an allowance at Tampa and finished third in the Grade 2 Saratoga Special in August. Like original probable favorite Omaha Beach and solid contender Roadster, this son of Hard Spun has improved Beyer Speed Figures in each of his races. Overall, his efforts have not been as fast as either Omaha Beach (scratched) or Roadster and he would need an additional forward move to contend. It’s been 6 weeks since his last race and he’s coming in off a loss and the last to do that was Super Saver in 2010—coincidentally, also trained by Todd Pletcher. He’s got enough speed to flee the outside post and to find a soft landing spot before the first turn. He’s lightly raced and still learning, so improvement is possible. It’s probably asking too much to expect him to win, but he’s an interesting lower-rung exotic player at a big price. Country House 30-1 Mott/Prat Early in the race, this son of Lookin At Lucky can be found near the back of the Derby pack. He has closed well on occasion to get a piece of pie in the Risen Star, second behind War of Will; in the Louisiana Derby, fourth behind By My Standards; and in the Arkansas Derby, third behind Omaha Beach. His last race in Arkansas was his best, so there’s that. His late-running style might find him passing some tired foes late, but he really doesn’t look like a trifecta threat. Perhaps  a use in the bottom rung of the superfecta for those going deep in that leg. Bodexpress 30-1 Delgado/Landeros Originally marooned on the Also-Eligible list, the Xpressbet Florida Derby runner-up at 71-1 now moves into the Derby starting gate with the scratch of Omaha Beach. He’s still a maiden but he chased Maximum Security around the Gulfstream oval through a slow pace to be second. He was well-beaten in Hidden Scroll’s ‘sloppy’ track maiden romp in January and second by a neck in a very fast seven-eighths race. He’s gotten better with each race, but he’ll need to improve again to have any chance in here.   Bottom Line: The Wednesday evening defection of Omaha Beach threw this Derby into a bit of chaos. Moving up a slot in my pecking order are Game Winner and Maximum Security. The former has trained well, looks great and owns a 2-year-old champ resume—which is nice. Although completing the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile/Kentucky Derby double is rare—Nyquist and Street Sense. Maximum Security has been training in Florida, has speed and is a real question mark on many levels. Two things are certain: He’s fast enough to be close to the lead and he should be fit. He’s an unbeaten Xpressbet Florida Derby winner, too. Not bad. Ones to Beat: 7. Maximum Security, 16. Game Winner Next in Line: 5. Improbable 17. Roadster Favorite Price ITM Chance: 19. Spinoff Most Likely Exotic Fillers: 2. Tax 3. By My Standards, 8. Tacitus, 13 Code of Honor Suggested Wagering Strategy $1 Trifecta ($28) 7 with 5, 7, 16, 17, 19 with 2, 3, 5, 7, 8, 13, 16, 17, 19 $.50 Trifecta ($56) 5, 7, 16, 17 with 5, 7, 16, 17, 19 with 2, 3, 5, 7, 8, 13, 16, 17, 19 For Superfecta Lovers Only $1 Superfecta ($108) 7, 16, with 5, 7, 16, 17 with 5, 7, 16, 17, 19 with 2, 3, 5, 7, 8, 13, 16, 17, 19 Have a great Oaks and Derby weekend! Race On!

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5.2.2019:

May 2: Hoosier Park Pick 4 Analysis

Tonight, Hoosier Park has a 13-race card with the first post scheduled at 6:30 EST. The feature will come in race 10, a Fillies and Mares Open Pace with a $20,000 purse. The 0.50 Pick 4 begins in Race 3. The sequence has a $10,000 guaranteed pool and will be my focus. The drivers with the hottest hands at Hoosier over a sloppy track on Wednesday were Doug Rideout and Trace Tetrick, both had two trips to the winner's circle. There wasn't a trainer with more than one win on the card. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Race 3 2-Camturo Rock-Was used aggressively against better, drops and best to respect a return to sharp form. 4-Cowboy Mathis-Off and on 8-yr-old is tough to figure, should be in striking range for an encore with a hot pace. 6-Holdonwe'rerolling-Slow starts have hurt, Seekman takes a spin, could be in the mix with an aggressive steer. Race 4 1-Limited Edition-5th start off the bench and last was best effort, could get sucked around and pop at a price. 3-So So Delightful-Winner of 3 straight has been impressive and needs to be included but will look to beat. 7-Hilltop Ginger-Tossing last in slop, likes to win, gets a positive driver change and can score at a square price. Race 5 4-Shes Cruising Home-Knows how to win on the fair circuit, will take a swing can break maiden on the big track. 5-Rushing Reba-Missed a start, that's a concern, but if ready has speed and a better post to be there at the wire. 7-Image Cruisingaway-Not sure the 8/5 ML is warranted, still 0-11 but does appear to be a player off last 2 tries. Race 6 1-Stelios-If Warren provides a more aggressive steer, should stay up-close and could roll by late at a price. 2-Cardiac Fashion-Got on the engine and a 54.4 half took its toll, will look for better and use at 15-1 in the ML. 10-Medieval Dragon-Drops and should like the company, Tetrick must work a trip but if so 7/5 chalk is a player. 0.50 Pick 4 2,4,6/1,3,7/4,5,7/1,2,10 Total Bet=$40.50 Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia

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5.1.2019:

Weekly Bankroll Builder: Handicapping the Kentucky Oaks Pick 4

With racing’s biggest weekend upon us, and all eyes on Louisville and the Kentucky Derby, let’s take a one-week hiatus from the Stronach 5 and give a look to the big Pk4 (R8-11) that’s on-tap Friday, ending with the Kentucky Oaks. The sequence looks like a juicy one, and a multi-million dollar pool is all but assured, so let’s have at it. *** 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 1pm Friday for an update, as well as on Twitter. *** R8 (2:53 EST): The GI La Troienne – 3upfm at 1 1/16 miles A very evenly matched group lines up here, and several want to be involved early, so this could be a spot for a stalker/closer to make a late dent. With that in mind, I’m trying for the upset with #5 MOPOTISM (15-1), who has knocked heads with some nice gals out west and held her own and now adds blinkers, which is big 26% move for O’Neill. She also gets Prat today, who is 33% riding for this barn, so expect this miss to be in the 8-1 range, not this vastly overpriced 15-1. The horse to beat, and certainly the “now” horse, is #9 SECRET SPICE (5-2), as she enters off a sharp GI win at Santa Anita in the Beholder Mile, though she has to run a bit farther here, is wide, and wants to be on the chase, so there’s a chance she comes unglued late, which is why I think she’s a bit vulnerable. The house horse is #2 BLUE PRIZE (3-1), who is 6-3-2-0 at CD, so you have to use her in some way, shape, or form, but she also hasn’t run since November and basically runs the same race every time, which gives her zero margin for error over this field, even if she is fully cranked. Pk5 A horses (listed in order of preference): 5,9,2 Contention runs deep here, and you’ll get a big price on #7 TERSA Z (15-1), who had no chance sprinting last time but will love the return to two turns, and if the pace gets hot, she’s the one who will benefit, though this is the class test, to be sure. I’m going to also include #1 SHE’S A JULIE (7-2) and #3 DIVINE MISS GREY (7-2), since they clearly have the credentials to win this, but they also want to be on or just off the early lead, which is a style that I’m playing against here, so they’re only fringe contenders at underlaid odds to me. Pk5 B horses: 7,1,3 R9: 3up Optional Claimer at 7 furlongs The stakes action is broken up by a good AOC, and the comebacking #2 RUGYMAN (6-1) seems primed off the layoff for Motion, as this newly minted gelding hinted at big things last year but never quite put it together, which means the ultimate equipment change could be what puts him over the top. Dropping out of a GII will make #7 SOLID WAGER (5-2) the one to beat, and he’s clearly best on paper, but his lack of early speed is a worry, especially since this is a track that can cater to speed Derby Weekend, so he’s second-best here, though a must-use A. The wildcard is #1 AMERICAN TATTOO (4-1), a GI winner in his native Argentina who now makes his stateside debut and first start for Pletcher off a September layoff, so what you get is a real guess, but he does add Lasix here, and he won his two back home easily. Pk5 A horses: 2,7,1 You have to dig a bit, but #8 HOME BASE (15-1) has a huge win here last May, the last time he sprinted too, and it’s probably not a coincidence Tomlinson chooses this day as his first start back, and note this is a barn that is 3-for-15 off this elongated break, so there’s reason to think this colt fires a big shot—at a big price. Pk5 B horses: 8 R10: 3up GII Twin Spire Turf Sprint at 5  furlongs (turf) Here’s where I probably lose you, and I’ll understand, since I’m trying for a big upset with #5 CHAOS THEORY (12-1), even though #6 WORLD OF TROUBLE (1-1) and #1 BOUND FOR NOWHERE (3-1) are two of the three best turf sprinters in the country. But hear me out before jumping ship, as there are a few good reasons to think just maybe the latter pair get upset. Most notably, the pace here figures to be supersonic, as ‘Nowhere will have to go from the rail, while ‘Trouble will be dueling with him from the outside the entire way. And sure, there’s a very good chance they take their battle all the way to the line, since they are eons the best here, but with expected give in the ground, there’s also a chance they get a little wobbly in the lane, which is where ‘Theory comes in. There’s no doubt he’s stepping way up, but that troubled 4th last time in the GII Shakertown at Keeneland was very promising, and he was just 2 lengths behind ‘Nowhere, and has a ton of upside off just seven starts, so add in the hellacious pace he’ll get, and just maybe he mows both of the down. Pk5 A horses: 5,6,1 Yes #7 Angaston (15-1) split ‘Nowhere and ‘Theory in the Shakertown, and #8 Undrafted (8-1) likes the course (5-3-2-0) and is another who will close late, but I’m not using any more here, as there’s a very good chance one of the two heavy favorites win, which would further negate the value of your ticket, should you go that much deeper. Pk5 B horses: NONE R11: 3yo GI Kentucky Oaks at 1 1/8 miles It’s rare that you handicap a race and, within two seconds, know how you think it’s going to play out, but that’s the case with the Oaks, as there is a ton of speed, and several who are very suspect going this far, which means a total collapse in deep stretch is in the cards. And that’s exactly how I’ll play it; quite simply, if you want to run on or near the lead, you won’t be on any of my tickets. And that includes you #4 Bellafina (2-1), who will be a stiff favorite off a trio of easy wins at Santa Anita, but bombed shipping here last year for the BC Juvenile Fillies, doesn’t look like a 9F horse to me, and figures to get fried chasing. I’m going to try and blow this up with #2 CHOCOLATE KISSES (20-1), who closed stoutly in winning the GIII Honeybee at Oaklawn Park two-back then was way too close to a hot pace in the GI Ashland at Keeneland last time, but, with Leparoux riding, will undoubtedly be well back in here. The more likely winner from off the pace is #14 RESTLESS RIDER (6-1), who lost an impossible photo in the Ashland in her first start of the year and should be midpack here, though this post isn’t ideal. I’m also using #12 STREET BAND (15-1), since she impressed settling and running off late in winning the GII Fair Grounds Oaks, and #10 CHAMPAGNE ANYONE (6-1), who looked like a new horse going two turns last time, and is another who should settle a bit and get first run on my top-2. Pk5 A horses: 2,14,12,10 I can’t imagine #3 LADY APPLE (20-1) gets a clean run up the rail again, but she did come from off the pace when winning the GIII Fantasy at OP last time, so she needs to be taken seriously, while #11 JELTRIN (15-1) has never tried two turns but is bred for it, and can close, so may she can double up on her 51-1 win in the GII Davona Dale at Gulfstream Park when last seen in March. Pk5 B horses: 3,11 The tickets ($0.50): Main Ticket: 5,9,2 with 2,7,1 with 5,6,1 with 2,14,12,10 = $54Leg 1 B Backup: 7,1,3 with 2,7,1 with 5,6,1 with 2,14,12,10 = $54Leg 2 B Backup: 5,9,2 with 8 with 5,6,1 with 2,14,12,10 = $18Leg 3 B Backup: 5,9,2 with 2,7,1 with 5,6,1 with 3,11 = $27 UPDATED tickets: Main: 5,9,2 w 15,7,1 w 6 w 2,14,12,10 = $36 Leg 1 Backup: 7,1,3 w 15,7,1 w 6 w 2,14,12,10 = $36 Leg 2 Backup: 5,9,2 w 8 w 6 w 2,14,12,10 = $6 Leg 3 Backup: 5,9,2 w 15,7,1 w 5 w 2,14,12,10 = $36 Leg 4 Backup: 5,9,2 w 15,7,1 w 6 w 3,11 = $18

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4.30.2019:

2019 Kentucky Derby Post Position Draw Reaction

A Kentucky Derby seemingly lacking pace wound up inside-heavy with what pace there was, making for an interesting assessment of today’s Kentucky Derby post-position draw. I projected 6 horses with some front designs and five of them drew in the first 7 spots. The one pace-potential outlier, favorite Omaha Beach, gets to track outside the potential melee in the 12-hole. Not only was the draw outstanding for Omaha Beach in terms of the pace being inside of him, but the horses immediately outside of him generally are devoid of speed. You have to get all the way out to the 17 (Roadster), 18 (Long Range Toddy) and 19 (Spinoff) to find horses who may be hustled and immediately start the inward dive that clogs so many horses early in so many Derby renewals. That’s why the 14-hole, where there’s a gap between runners to the auxiliary gate, absorbs almost a running of the bulls and is such a terrible post annually. Win Win Win will have to find solace from that 14-hole with an unknown Japanese raider to his outside and the trio of potential cross-over types in 17-18-19. Maximum Security should be well-positioned in the 7-hole to the outside of Vekoma, Improbable, Gray Magician and War of Will, who drew the deal-breaking rail post. Improbable’s gate antics at Oaklawn may have been induced by the blinkers that are now removed. Still, being next to him in the gate has some potential anxious moments. Everything has to go right for first-over pressers like War of Will and Vekoma on paper and they look to be in tough spots now, especially the former. Tax in post position 2 will have to be used more than expected and he’s not as fast as some of these and could get the big squeeze as Gray Magician, Improbable, Vekoma and Maximum Security all seek to secure position into the clubhouse turn. Plus, Tax has had some issues at the start, so it may be messier than usual down on the inside. Given all that 1-though-7 potential pace, what a great trip Tacitus could receive if he breaks clean from post 8. Think of all the wide open space to his inside once the pace players leave there. He could tuck inside nicely in the middle to back-third flight. After a rugged Wood trip, he’s owed some good fortune. On paper, Omaha Beach and Tacitus appear to be my post-draw winners with the Maximum Security camp having to like where they’re at. Bob Baffert’s duo of Game Winner and Roadster should be okay from 16 and 17, but they’re not widely benefitted. It’s an anomaly that 17 has never won the Derby, but if the Apollo curse can be exorcised by the white-haired one, then the 17-hole could meet its maker, too. As for the 20-hole blues, it looks inconsequential as Country House projected to be 19th or 20th early in the running anyway, taking back and trying to pick off runners. Bodexpress will be on the also-eligible list and only draw into the field in the event of a scratch before Friday at 9 a.m. ET. If he gets in, he’ll have the widest available post draw. Rain is in the forecast for Thursday, Friday and Saturday in Louisville. We’ve seen sloppy track overland closers like Orb and rail-skimming victors like Mine That Bird. And horses up on the pace like Go For Gin and Justify have scored in the goo. The safest bet is to not overinflate the importance of the conditions. Here’s the complete field with jockeys and Mike Battaglia’s morning line odds for Derby 145 at Churchill Downs: Post PositionHorseJockeyMorning Line Odds 1War of Will Tyler Gaffalione 20/1 2Tax Junior Alvarado 20/1 3By My Standards Gabriel Saez 20/1 4Gray Magician Drayden Van Dyke 50/1 5Improbable Irad Ortiz Jr.6/1 6Vekoma Javier Castellano 20/1 7Maximum Security Luis Saez 10/1 8Tacitus Jose Ortiz 10/1 9Plus Que Parfait Ricardo Santana Jr. 30/1 10Cutting Humor Corey Lanerie 30/1 11Haikal Rajiv Maragh 30/1 12Omaha Beach Mike Smith 4/1 13Code of Honor John Velazquez 15/1 14Win Win Win Julian Pimentel 15/1 15 Master Fencer Julien Leparoux 50/1 16Game Winner Joel Rosario 5/1 17Roadster Florent Geroux 6/1 18Long Range Toddy Jon Court 30/1 19Spinoff Manny Franco 30/1 20Country House Flavien Prat 30/1 AEBodexpressChris Landeros 30/1

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4.30.2019:

Harness Highlights: Slader Rallies Into Contest Record Books

The late daily double at the Meadowlands April 13 returned $328, but to Nutley, N.J., resident Russell Slader, the winning combination of Prophet Blue Chip ($13.80 win, $6 place) and Camwiser ($23 win, $11.20 place) paid a lot more. Slader won a record $43,200 grand prize in the World Harness Handicapping Challenge after he wagered $50 to win and place on both runners to catapult to the top of the 108-player field. The WHHC required contestants to wager a minimum of $30 and maximum of $100 on eight races at the Meadowlands and one mandatory race at the Big M and at Buffalo Raceway. Slader launched his winning rally with a $40 win-place bet on Sweet Rock ($51, $13.20) in the eighth race at the Meadowlands, but he still needed the late daily double to accumulate a $2,518 contest bankroll and fend off defending champion Jim Videtic of Willowick, Ohio, for the title. Videtic was leading most of the way and held the second and third spots heading into the final race. He wagered $100 place on Camwiser to lock up second place on his first entry and finished seventh with his second entry, good for $23,760 in total prize money. The top 10 finishers shared in the record $108,000 prize pool after competing in weekly qualifiers throughout North America prior to the final. Joining Slader and Videtic in the money were: Arch Glenn of Columbus, OH (3rd place, $1,735 bankroll, $16,200 prize); Rocco DiBello of Ontario, Canada (4th place, $1,619 bankroll, $10,800 prize); Tim Platt of Little Falls, N.J. (5th place, $1,496 bankroll, $5.400 prize); Scott Hall of Herkimer, N.Y. (6th place, $1,302 bankroll, $2,160 prize), Matt Minger of New Lenox, IL (8th place, $1,232 bankroll, $2,160 prize); Nick Montemurro of Bogota, N.J. (9th place, $1,191 bankroll, $2,160 prize); and Todd Cross of Seaman, OH (10th place, $1,030 bankroll, $2,160 prize). Contestants had the luxury of betting into large pools at the Meadowlands, which handled at least $2.5 million on 29 of its first 32 live racing days this year. A pair of series finals for 3-year-old colts and geldings headlined the Big M card last Saturday. Goes Down Smooth ($8.80, Tim Tetrick) seized the moment in the $54,500 Walner final for trotters when 2-to-5 stable-mate Final Claim broke stride on the lead. Then in the $58,500 Wiggle It Jiggleit pace, Goes Down Smooth ($15.60, Andy Miller) tracked a torrid pace in the pocket, got past favorite Dealer’s Table and held off a late rush by Stone Hanover to prevail. Miller ranks third in the Meadowlands driver standings with 49 wins, but Yannick Gingras entered the week as the runaway leader with 91.

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4.29.2019:

Kentucky Oaks Handicapping Primer

The lineup for Friday’s 145th running of the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks is set. And while we analyze the Kentucky Derby hopefuls for months on end leading up to the first Saturday in May, for many, the Oaks handicapping exercise becomes a much more everyday encounter. Here’s a lead-in look at the leading ladies for Oaks 145.  The Favorite Bellafina (2-1 morning line)  Unbeaten in 3 starts this year and a winner in 6 of her last 7 outings, the Churchill Downs question will loom large given her fourth-place mis-fire there in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies. Trainer Simon Callaghan’s 44% win rate in 2019 is almost too sharp to be taken seriously, but also impossible not to take into consideration. Sire Quality Road swept this year’s Santa Anita Oaks and Derby with Bellafina and Roadster, and, oh, what a weekend it could be for those two and their sire.  Mid-Range Prices Champagne Anyone (6-1)  A blinkers-on winner of the Gulfstream Park Oaks, this is a daughter of Churchill-freaking Street Sense. Trainer Ian Wilkes comes off a strong showing at Keeneland and this filly has yet to miss a superfecta in 7 starts. She didn’t show her best on a sloppy track in the Golden Rod locally, so the hope here may be for faster footing.  Restless Rider (6-1)  Drawn in post 14, the consistent, but hard-lucky filly looks to snap a 3-race losing streak that dates back to last October’s Grade 1 Alcibiades. Her runner-up tries in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, Golden Rod and Ashland haven’t tarnished her reputation, but may inflate her price some. She was 3-1 or less in each of those and hasn’t been over 3-1 since her debut. While post 14 may not seem ideal, we’ve seen the last 3 Oaks go to the 14-13-12 and another 12-hole within the last 5 years. Trainer Kenny McPeek twice has been Oaks runner-up (’02 Take Charge Lady, ’17 Daddy’s Lil Darlin) and has had superfecta finishers in this race 2 straight years.  Serengetti Empress (8-1)  Again, don’t fret the 13-hole draw given recent Oaks history. Be more worried about the highs and lows with this Tom Amoss trainee. She’s got 4 wins by more than 41 lengths, including 19 and 13-length whoppers, and then 2 losses by 67 lengths in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies and Fair Grounds Oaks. She bled through Lasix in New Orleans as the 3-10 favorite last out, so what you get Friday could be anyone’s guess. The one thing you can probably feel most sure about is not using her on the bottom of the exacta. It’s win or waylaid for this filly.  Jaywalk (8-1)  The champion 2-year-old filly of 2018 has been beaten at 1-5 and even-money odds in the Davona Dale and Ashland so far this year. But she romped by 5-plus in the Juvenile Fillies at Churchill Downs in November in what seems so long ago now. John Servis teamed with Javier Castellano in 2016 to victorious success in the Kentucky Oaks by way of Cathryn Sophia, who also came off a puzzling third in the Ashland. Servis’ talk after Jaywalk’s loss in the Ashland was among the most optimistic you’ll ever hear from a heavy favorite in defeat. He’s either got them right where he wants them, or could talk you out of a full-house with a pair of deuces.  Price Players Street Band (15-1)  Upset winner of the Fair Grounds Oaks at 10-1, she exits a key Kentucky Oaks prep of the last decade-plus. Trainer Larry Jones has been remarkable in this race, winning with Proud Spell (2008), Believe You Can (2012) and Lovely Maria (2015). She’s getting better at the right time and didn’t miss a superfecta in her 4 route tries this winter/spring at Fair Grounds.  Out for a Spin (20-1)  From the author of the greatest Kentucky Oaks upset in history, 47-1 Lemons Forever in 2006, Dallas Stewart brings a 52-1 Ashland Stakes heroine back to Churchill Downs. This daughter of Kentucky Derby runner-up Hard Spun has won 3 of her 4 starts since stretching out around 2 turns and will be happy as a mud-lark if it rains. Recent Oaks winners Lovely Maria (’15) and Cathryn Sophia (’16) and Monomoy Girl (’18) came out of the Ashland.  Flor de La Mar (20-1)  Bob Baffert knows his way around Churchill Downs with the colts and fillies this time of year, having won the Oaks 3 times (’99 Silverbulletday, ’11 Plum Pretty and ’17 Abel Tasman). This lightly raced filly has just 3 career starts and a single debut sprint victory, and she’s out of a sprint mare in Sacristy. The last Oaks winner this lightly raced was Bobby Frankel’s Flute in 2001.  Lady Apple (20-1)  Steve Asmussen’s Curlin filly swept 3 starts at Oaklawn this season, including the G3 Fantasy at 9-1 odds. This barn has had Oaks glory with Summerly (2005) and Untapable (2014), but those winners were much closer to the public vest.  The X-Factor Dunbar Road (5-1)  Stuck on the also-eligible list because she came up short on the Oaks points system, the second wagering choice in the morning line of Mike Battaglia may not make the gate. She’s had but 2 career starts and was runner-up as the 6-5 favorite in the Gulfstream Park Oaks after a smashing May 3 debut win. Chad Brown trains the daughter of Quality Road, the same sire as morning line favorite Bellafina.

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4.29.2019:

Monday, April 29: Woodbine Mohawk Park Early Pick 4 Analysis

Woodbine Mohawk Park starts the week with an 11-race card. The feature rolls in Race 8, a Preferred Trot with a $34,000 purse. The 0.20 Early Pick 4 begins in Race 4, the sequence has a $50,000 guaranteed pool and will be my focus. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Race 4 2-Kameran Hanover-Flattened out last week after coming 1st over, looking for a more in 3rd start off the bench. 3-Marquis Volo-Destroyed cheaper and steps-up but knows how to win and will use for hot barn at a square price. 5-Meadowbranch Memo-Loses McClure but should be a price, pace may be quicker and could roll late, will respect. 6-Bautista-Not sure if ML chalk is at his best, but this is a spot to shine and best can beat this group. Race 5 3-Fargo Hanover-Makes season debut after a pair of qualifiers, fits here if fires ready off the bench. 7-Swift Ally-Cruised home by 5 lengths to break maiden at PPk, will respect but has been off 5-weeks. 8-Bluewater Beach-Looks like a different horse this year, Auciello trainee could be ready to roll in 2019 debut. Race 6 1-Quadrangle-Can roll late but was too far back in last two, starting inside should help, looks like a player. 5-Mister Magic-ML chalk has been very good since claimed, winner of 4 out of 5 deserves respect. 7-Odd Ball-Will toss last when off 2-weeks, return to recent form puts 5-year-old in the hunt. 8-Derf Hanover-Sharp effort after missing a start, if steps-up off that try, can take a picture despite post draw. Race 7 2-Darcee N-Taking a swing with camera shy Cullen trainee, could trip out at a price in a race without a lot of form. 8-PL Idaho-Can leave and Roy has options to work a good trip, drops + 2nd start for Moreau could be the charm. My Ticket Race 4) 2,3,5,6 Race 5) 3,7,8 Race 6) 1,5,7,8 Race 7) 2,8 Total Ticket Cost) $19.20 for $0.20Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia.

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4.27.2019:

Saturday, April 27: Meadowlands Pick 4 Analysis

The Meadowlands has an 13-race card on tap with the feature coming in Race 10, the Wiggle It Jiggle It Final with a $58,500 purse. The very popular 0.50 Pick 4 begins in Race 8. The sequence has a $50,000 guaranteed pool and will be my focus. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Race 8 5-Sagebrush Sid-Price shot took the long way around and raced big, hot barn and could surprise with a trip. 9-Stonedust-Finds a better spot and Tetrick takes a seat, both factors help and should be in the hunt. 10-JK Parlay-In a new barn but has been razor sharp, shouldn't blush versus this bunch and will respect chances. Race 9 1-New Talent-Went a 48.3 mile in first back after a rest, Gingras should keep in play could be sitting on a big try. 7-Donttellmeagain-Classy 5-year-old makes first start of '19, tune-ups were good, a player if dialed on high. 11-Dealt A Winner-Millionaire 7-year-old makes season debut from 2nd tier, D. Miller could find a trip and roll late. Race 10 2-World On Edge-Gets post relief and it's 2nd time Lasix, 9-1 in the ML and worth a swing. 3-Dealer's Table-No doubt has speed, but rationing is an issue, rolled out to a big lead with a 53.3 half and faded. 7-Respect Our Flag-Luke warm chalk has the gate speed to get a close-up trip, sharp form and hot barn. Race 11 1-Decoy-Closed well in 1st start of the year, has won 2 of 4 at the Big M and could surprise at a square price. 3-Alotbettor N-Winner of 5 of 12 at the Big M, drops out Pref and had an excuse in last, looks like a player. 5-Captain Deo-Nice try from 9-hole at this class, positive driver change and will use at 10-1 in the ML. 7-K Ryan Bluechip-Even effort when dropped to this level, D. Miller takes a seat, beaten chalk can make amends. My Ticket Race 8) 5,9,10 Race 9) 1,7,11 Race 10) 2,3,7 Race 11) 1,3,5,7 Total Ticket Cost) $54 for $0.50Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia

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4.26.2019:

Friday, April 26: Can-Am Pick 4 Analysis

The Can-Am 0.20 Pick 4 will begin in Race 10 at Woodbine Mohawk Park. The popular sequence will start at approximately 10:10 EST and will be my focus. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Race 10-Mohawk Leg 1 1-Whistys Paradise-Should stay close throughout and could trip out for an overdue win at a square price. 3-Only One Star-Raced well on an off-track, will need best versus better, Filion sticks, worth a swing at 15-1 in ML. 5-Exhilarated-Drops and should be posing, but form has been flat, and not going to single. Race 10-Meadowlands Leg 2 5-Reclamation-9/5 chalk will be singled on many tickets and 3rd straight could be in the cards. 6-Rockin Praline-Gate to wire win in the slop was sharp, off that effort will use to beat the chalk. Race 11-Mohawk Leg 3 1-Jan-Form has tailed off but comes right back and this is the level to shine, will use at 10-1 in the ML. 3-This Dragon Rocks-Has lacked a closing punch but tries hard and a dry track could make a difference. 4-Azure Seelster-Drew off by 5 lengths in last and now steps up, still best to respect Roy-Moreau for an encore. 5-Aint Three Ok-May find a nice cover flow and be ignored at the windows, price shot could pop with a trip. 7-Ms Cheesman-Been camera shy this year, will need best but usually tries hard, looks to be a square price. Race 11-Meadowlands Leg 4 2-Uhlan Noir-Steps-up in 2nd start of '19, last in slop was fine and McCarthy may keep in striking range at a price. 3-DW's Revenge-Makes 3rd start of year for Burke, faded in last in the slop but should be tighter tonight. 6-Resita-Last 3 were in the slop, comes off a rough trip and ML chalk can take a picture with a smooth journey.  My Ticket Race 10 - Mohawk) 1,3,5 Race 10 - Meadowlands) 5,6 Race 11 - Mohawk) 1,3,4,5,7 Race 11 - Meadowlands) 2,3,6 Total Ticket Cost) $18 for $0.20Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia.

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4.26.2019:

Taking a Pop at the Golden Pick 6; Mandatory Payout Saturday

While the Grade 3 San Francisco Mile is the highlight of Golden Gate Fields card on Saturday, it’s also one of the toughest to peg in the Golden Pick Six. There’s a mandatory payout on the sequence, which is always an attention getter. The Golden Pick 6 has a 20-cent minimum wager, but in six races, those 20-centers can add up in a hurry. Here’s a brief look at each of the Golden Pick 6 races and ultimately suggestion for a $64 ticket. Race 8 You get hit with the biggest challenge right off the bat. There’s a field of eight, and five are worthy of being on this ticket, at least that’s the view from here. It’s the Lost in the Fog Stakes, named after the great Bay Area-based sprinter. Older horses will go six furlongs in this one and Anyportinastorm is the 9-to-5 favorite on the outside – and usable. Others on the ticket are Summersimage, Tough Sunday, Touched by Autism, and Sequentially. Sequentially has a good chance to start it off with a good price. At 6-to-1, he very playable, and while he’s never seen this level of competition, has success over the Tapeta surface is a huge plus. He’s won three of his four, and if there’s anyone who knows how and when to move on this track, it’s jockey Frank Alvarado. Race 9 This is one of four races with just two numbers on the ticket. It’s the California Derby, and using Sparky Ville and Kingly looks like the thing to do. Sparky Ville is the 2-to-1 favorite off his narrow score in the G2 San Vicente at Santa Anita. It’s his first over the Tapeta and first two-turn attempt over a main track. Jeff Bonde’s sprinter wore down his rivals in the San Vicente at seven furlongs and finished with vim and vigor. Kingly is Bob Baffert’s chance for the Cal Derby win. He was second here in the El Camino Real and has worked very well since then. He’s likely to be a factor from the start. Race 10 The San Francisco Mile is a crapshoot and is the blend of horses from the various California ports, and while the bookends of Bowies Hero on the inside and River Boyne from the other end of the gate are 5-to-2 and 3-to-1 on the line, but there are additional ways to go in this one. Le Ken and Wentwood are worthy of inclusion, along with the two favorites. Bowies Hero makes his first of the year and became a Grade 1 winner a year ago when he won the Frank Kilroe at Santa Anita. Phil D’Amato has had him on a weekly work ritual and the talented closer will get an adequate pace setup. River Boyne won the G2 Mathis Brothers Mile and was fourth in this year’s Frank Kilroe. He’s adjusted to pace on several occasions and was 6 of 9 in 2018 for trainer Jeff Mullins. Le Ken is a serious threat off a third at Santa Anita and Wentwood makes his first U.S. start coming off a win in Cork, Ireland. My colleague, Jeremy Plonk, made the San Francisco Mile his Race of the Week - check out his analysis.  Race 11 Rush and Jump the Tracks look like a cut above in the ‘non-winners of two’ claiming race. Rush was tremendous in his latest over this strip and likely has designs of getting to the front. Jump the Tracks was second here two back and tired in his latest. He takes a class drop and belongs on the ticket. Race 12 S Y Sky had a win and a pair of seconds in her last three – all vs. Cal-breds at Santa Anita – and will test open company here. She’s never missed the board in 11 career races and should be a strong player in the Camilla Urso Stakes. Go On Mary was third in the Mizdirection at Santa Anita and has been effective vs. upper allowance option claiming company and stakes races. Race 13 The sequence ends with a maiden-claiming event and Tiz a Dreamer and Noumea are the representatives on this ticket. Tiz a Dreamer stretches out for the first time and likely will convert to a front-runner, or close to it. She has a second to her credit and fits very well with these. Houmea also makes her first route attempt and likely will show enough speed to overcome her outside post in the short run to the first turn. She’s hit the board in three of four and could wind up as the favorite. Here’s the suggested ticket for the mandatory Golden Pick 6 payoff at Golden Gate Fields for Saturday: Race 8) #1 Summersimage, #2 Tough Sunday, #4 Touched by Autism, #6 Sequentially, #8 Anyportinastorm.Race 9) #5 Sparky Ville, #6 Kingly.Race 10) #1 Bowies Hero #4 Le Ken, #5 Wentwood, #10 River Boyne.Race 11) #3 Rush, #7 Jump the Tracks.Race 12) #3 S Y Sky, #5 Go On Mary.Race 13) #4 Tiz a Dreamer, #10 Noumea.20-cent Golden Pick 6: 1-2-4-6-8 with 5-6 with 1-4-5-10 with 3-7 with 3-5 with 4-10 ($64)

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4.25.2019:

Get the FREE Kentucky Derby Wager Guide

In case you didn’t notice, the Kentucky Derby is a bit over a week away. That means now is the time to begin searching for a winner, exacta, tri or super combination. Of course, you could wait until after post positions are drawn and final entries revealed. But, in that case, you would have waisted valuable time in analyzing the 20 prospective runners currently set to compete. A great place to begin your 2019 Kentucky Derby research is with Xpressbet’s FREE Derby Wager Guide. It’s available online at Xpressbet.com beginning Friday, April 26 and contains Analysis, Main Contenders, Value Plays, Selections and $100 Wagering Strategies from some of the top handicappers and broadcasters in the game. This year’s expert lineup includes Jeff Siegel and Millie Ball from XBTV, Santa Anita morning line maker Jon White, HorseplayerNow’s Bob Neumeier, Daily Racing Form’s Dick Jerardi and Sirius At the Races radio host Steve Byk. Also contributing for the first time is XBTV’s Zoe Cadman, who will analyze major contender workouts with links to video. Xpressbet Customer? Log In and Get the Guide Not a Customer? Download it here! Beginning Tuesday, experts will update contributions to the guide daily, based on the latest-breaking information. The post-position draw and additional workouts may influence analysis, so accessing updates is critical to developing a complete and accurate picture of how things might turn out in Louisville. An updated guide will be available Thursday, May 2, when Eddie Olcyzk and Brent Musburger join the crew. In addition to being an outstanding broadcaster, Olczyk also is an accomplished horseplayer. Musburger’s reputation among all-time great announcers now has been enhanced by his relationship with VSiN—Vegas Stats & Information Network. In just a few opportunities to contribute to previous Xpressbet’s Wager Guides, Musburger has had notable success. We’ll give you a heads up that nearly all guide experts feel that Omaha Beach is the one to beat. If he starts as favorite in the race and wins, he will become the seventh consecutive public choice to succeed. That would be rare. Between 1980-1999 zero favorites won the Derby. 56 public choices have won the Derby out of 144 renewals and the last time 6 consecutive favorites won was in 1896! Last year we said, ‘Adios’ to one of the longest-running Derby trends when Justify became the first since Apollo (1882) to win the Kentucky Derby without having raced at 2. At 63 1-3-5 that stat won’t change this year as all starters raced at 2. Useful Stats & Trends and Know This material always is a guide highlight. That’s the case again this year with several angles horseplayers may want to incorporate into handicapping. Personally, I want to know about as many Derby trends as possible. While I don’t blindly follow them, I want to know what factors are either ‘for’ or ‘against’ my Derby selections. Below are a few interesting trends, and names of 2019 Derby runners they apply to: A highly regarded Derby runner is Wood Memorial winner Tacitus. Those who like him, Tax or Haikal will buck a serious trend that shows the last 33 Wood graduates are 0-0-0 in the Kentucky Derby! The last Wood winner to take the Derby was Fusaichi Pegasus in 2000! Sharp current form is deadly on the first Saturday in May. The last 7 Derby winners arrived in Louisville with at least 2-race win streaks: Nyquist (2016) 7; California Chrome (2014), American Pharoah (2015) and Justify (2018) 6; Orb (2013) 4; Always Dreaming (2017) 3 and Animal Kingdom 2. The last 7 Derby winners also entered the race unbeaten at 3. Fitting the dual profile—at least a 2-race win streak and unbeaten at 3--are: 4 consecutive wins Maximum Security; 3 Tacitus and 2 Roadster. Probable favorite Omaha Beach failed first out this year and since has won 3 in-a-row. Overall, there have been 29 undefeated runners in the Derby. Maximum Security is the only unbeaten probable starter this year. The last horse to win the Derby off a loss is Super Saver (2010), who was second in the Arkansas Derby. Last year, 4 of the first 5 finishers entered the race off wins. 12 starters in 2018 were off a loss, the same as this year. Xpressbet Customer? Log In and Get the Guide Not a Customer? Download it here! Experience seems to count in the Derby. Only 6 runners have won the race with 4 or less previous starts. Alan-a-Dale (1902), Exterminator (1918) and Animal Kingdom (2011) had 4 pre-Derby starts. The filly Regret (1915) and Justify (2018) had just 3. Only two sophs have won both the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and Kentucky Derby: Street Sense (2007) and Nyquist (2016). This year, Game Winner attempts to join them and, if so, would become the first 2-year-old champ in 90 years to take the Derby without a win at 3. Others in the field without a win at 3 are Improbable and Gray Magician (at this writing, Bodexpress, Signalman and Sueno are on the also eligible list).  9 geldings have won the Derby—Only 2 since Clyde Van Dusen in 1929--Mine That Bird (2009) and Funny Cide (2003). There were 3 of them in the 1800s. Tax is the only gelding in this year’s race. Plus Que Parfait is a ridgeling. Times have changed…or maybe not. 8 of the last 11 Derby winners have had just 2 starts at 3. Before that Derby winner Sunny’s Halo had a pair of soph outings in 1983. However, from 1937 to 1947 there were 5 such lightly-raced 3-year-old winners. Derby runners without an April prep race are 101 5-6-6. There should be an asterisk attached to a few of this year’s runners that qualify for this trend because several of them last started March 30 and 31. Does a day or two count against a healthy 3-year-old? Probably not. War of Will and By My Standards last raced 3/23 and Cutting Humor on 3/24. According to T.D. Thornton in the Tuesday, April 23 edition of the Thoroughbred Daily News, Roadster’s chances of winning the Kentucky Derby are enhanced by the fact that in the last decade the winner of the Santa Anita Derby has won in Louisville three times—’12, ’14 & ’18. However, gray runners are 0-for-25 in the big one.  Giacomo (2005) at 50-1 is the last to be successful. Connections of Tacitus, Roadster and Gray Magician hope that streak ends this year. Also, according to Thornton, 10 known May foals have won the Derby, with just 3 born May 23 or later: Exterminator (1918), May 30; Northern Dancer (1964), May 27; Thunder Gulch (1995), May 23. May foals in this year’s Derby include: Vekoma, Country House, Maximum Security and Code of Honor. If all of the above completely confuses you, don’t worry, you’re not alone. Help clear the handicapping cobwebs with Xpressbet’s FREE Kentucky Derby Wager Guide. Get your copy today. It’s FREE and worth twice the price! Check back next week for complete horse-by-horse Kentucky Derby analysis, including selections and a suggested wager or two. Xpressbet Customer? Log In and Get the Guide Not a Customer? Download it here! Race On!

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4.25.2019:

April 25: Hoosier Park Pick 4 Analysis

Hoosier Park has 14-races scheduled tonight. The feature comes in Race 9, a Fillies and Mares Open Pace with a $20,000 purse. The 0.50 Pick 4 sequence begins in Race 3, it has a $10,000 guaranteed pool and will be my focus. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Race 3 1-Gertie's Gordy-Steps-up after a perfect trip win but the 26.4 kicker in the slop causes me to use. 2-Mr Bigly-Broke maiden last week in first start at HoP, will respect chances for an encore. 6-Skyway Ballistic-Was staked last year and now makes 4th start of '19 and 3rd on Lasix, will swing for a price. 7-Waymore-Rolled home with a 55.2 last 1/2, misses a start but barn has done well, could pop at a square price. Race 4 1-Del Rio Seelster-Drew off by 5 lengths and claimed, Widger takes a seat, steps-up but the rail can help chances. 2-Ally-Con-12-year-old started year with a win and equalled 2018 total, could stay good and take another photo. 3-Rock N Fantasy-Never been same since claimed for $15k on 10/4, but will respect Smith-Oosting combo here. 4-Nigel Tufnel-Has been leaving but in 3rd start of year, with speed inside, may duck and roll late at nice odds. Race 5 1-Shewon'tdaliaround-56.3 back half in the slop in 2nd start of year, now meets a soft bunch and best to respect. 3-Dontcloseyoureyes-Drops from $8k claimers, camera shy but could trip out, as I try to beat the ML chalk #5. Race 6 1-Sage Ivy-Came off the bench sharp as a tack with a 1.53.4 win in the slop, looks like a player if minds manners. 3-Kinda Like Kori-Came out ready to start this year too, draws well, a dry track helps, could be sitting on a big try. 6-Afraid Not Hanover-Made it look easy in the slop for 3rd win in 4 tries in 2019, looks like a major threat. 0.50 Pick 4 1,2,6,7/1,2,3,4/1,3/1,3,6 Total Bet=$48 Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia

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4.25.2019:

Big ‘Gold Rush’ Weekend at Golden Gate Fields + Free Picks

Looking for something big to play this weekend but not quite sure where to look?  If you want my advice, Golden Gate Fields is a clear frontrunner.  Why?  Well, it’s their inaugural Gold Rush Weekend and that means big things are brewing in the Bay Area.  Between Saturday and Sunday they’ve got eight stakes races, multiple guaranteed pools and a Jackpot Pick 6 Mandatory Payout on Saturday that savvy bettors won’t want to miss.  And if you’re in the Bay Area, why not make a day at the track of it?  On Saturday they’re hosting the ‘Golden Gate Get Down,’ a concert and food truck festival with a side of racing!  Tickets are just $25 ($30 at the door) and you get Clubhouse Admission and a free Golden Gate Fields hat.  Visit http://www.goldengatefields.com/events/golden-gate-get-down to learn more and to get tickets.  But back to the racing.  Here are just a few of the reasons we’re ‘all-in’ this weekend on Golden Gate. Eight Stakes Races Saturday’s card is absolutely loaded and the headline race, the Grade 3 San Francisco Mile, drew a phenomenal field of 10, including Grade 1 winner Bowies Hero, Grade 2 winner River Boyne and Irish-invader Wentwood.  Add in Blitzkrieg and his 3-race winning streak and a very sharp Le Ken and you’ve got a race that is practically ‘must see.’  In lieu of giving my picks (I’d be all-in on River Boyne and Bowies Hero), I’ll let my colleague Jeremy Plonk do the honors.  He made the San Francisco Mile his Xpressbet Race of the Week and has provided his horse-by-horse analysis and $100 Betting Strategy.  Last week ‘Plonk’s Picks’ hit for $325 at Laurel, so he’s coming in hot! The San Francisco Mile goes as Race 10 at 7:45PM ET.  The other stakes on Saturday’s card are the California Oaks (Race 4, 4:45PM ET), Golden Poppy (Race 5, 5:15PM ET), Lost in the Fog (Race 8, 6:45PM ET), California Derby (Race 9, 7:15PM ET) and Camilla Urso (Race 12, 8:45PM ET).  Sunday’s stakes are the Silky Sullivan and Campanile, both for California-breds. $100,000 Guaranteed Late Pick 4’s + 1 Million Point Splits Golden Gate is guaranteeing the pool for its Saturday and Sunday Late Pick 4’s at $100,000.  Saturday’s sequence covers Races 10 – 13 and includes the aforementioned San Francisco Mile.  We’re getting in on the action at Xpressbet by offering our popular 1 Million Point Splits on the Late Pick 4 both days.  Place a winning bet with your Xpressbet account and you’ll Split 1 Million XB Rewards Points both days.  XB Rewards Points are just like cash and you can redeem them in our Pro Shop for Wagering Credits, Past Performances, Track Experiences and more! Mandatory Payout Jackpot Pick 6 Who doesn’t love the words mandatory payout?  In this world of jackpot bets, they’re music to a horseplayer’s ears.  Take a big pool that has been growing for a few weeks (months, sometimes) and divvy it up to everyone that goes 6-for-6 on mandatory payout day.  Not a bad approach. That’s the case Saturday at Golden Gate, as their Jackpot-style ‘Golden’ Pick 6 is in ‘everything must go’ mode on Saturday.  Heading into Thursday’s card, the Carryover amount was $314,891.  My colleague, Jerry Shottenkirk, is finalizing his recommended ticket and will submit it to the Xpressbet website on Friday.  Stay tuned for how he’s playing! Saturday Late Pick 4 Picks & Ticket I’d be remiss if I wrapped up this blog without a recommended ticket, so here’s how I’m playing Saturday’s $100,000 Guaranteed Late Pick 4, which spans Races 10 – 13.  Race 10: 1, 10 Race 11: 1, 3 Race 12: 3, 5 Race 13: ALL Ticket Cost: $40 for 50-cents Santa Anita NHC Super Qualifier If punching a ticket to the National Horseplayers Championship (NHC) is on your agenda, this Saturday’s Santa Anita NHC Super Qualifier is the right tournament for you.  Along with our partners at Santa Anita, we’re giving away an NHC Seat for every 15 paid contest registrants.  That means, if we reach our goal of 150 players, we’re giving away 10 NHC Seats! This tournament includes a $1,500 Buy-In, but $1,000 of that is your live tournament bankroll.  To play, simply make $50 Win/Place bets ($100 total) on 10 different races from Golden Gate and Santa Anita this Saturday.  You must bet exactly ten races to be eligible to win an NHC Seat. Learn more at https://www.xpressbet.com/april-27-2019-santa-anita-nhc-super-qualifier. For the latest news on Golden Gate Fields, log in to your Xpressbet account and be sure to follow @GGFRacing, @GGPublicity and Matt Dinerman, Golden Gate’s announcer and racing analyst, on Twitter. 

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4.24.2019:

Weekly Bankroll Builder: April 26 Stronach 5 Picks

Back to battle with another tough Stronach 5. 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: Laurel Park R9 (5:09 ET) – 3upfm 25k MCL at 5  furlongs (turf) The opener could be a little tricky, as it’s on the turf and most of these are dirt horses, and bad dirt horses at that. At least we know #7 KITTEN’S FRIEND (4-1) can run on the grass, and her dirt runs this winter weren’t horrible, so she should take some beating. I’ll also use #9 FRIESING WATERS (3-1), who is the best horse, has been in good form of late, was a decent enough 7th in her lone start on turf, and is clearly a better horse now than she was then. Pk5 A horses (listed in order of preference): 7,9 Neither of the top pair are that imposing, so let’s also use the firster, #8 LITTLE SKIFF (8-1), who debuts for a crafty Merryman barn, along with #5 ALONG CAME MIZZY (15-1), who is bred for the grass, was a wake-up 2nd in her return 12 days ago, and has a ton of upside, and also #14 SUNDAY RED (6-1), who has speed and goes for a Salzman barn that is 2-for-4 off 61-180 day layoffs. Pk5 B horses: 8,5,14 Leg 2: Gulfstream Park R9 (5:18 ET) – 3up 12.5k claimer at 1 1/16 miles (turf) A beast of a race here, so spreading seems the way to go, and I’ll also take a line on the sand on a few too, since you could literally make a case for most of the 12 entered. The rise in class is a significant one for #9 NAUTI BUOY (8-1), but he sure looked good winning off the Natalie Fawkes claim last time, and taking a horse off a win in a race where nine of the others enter off a loss can’t be a bad thing. A better post will go a long way in helping #2 CUT TO ORDER (8-1), who had no chance breaking wide going a mile last time against better but had solid form leading up to that and may appreciate the brief freshening too. It doesn’t look it on paper, but this is a steep drop in class for #5 LEWIS VALE (4-1), who caught a stellar field Florida Derby Day and didn’t fire, but is another who has plenty of back to form to lean on. pk5 A horses: 9,2,5 A big price, drop in class, and more ground could help #8 BILLY BIG (15-1) blow this up, and he shows plenty of races this winter that would put him right in the mix here. A better draw makes #6 COULD BE (6-1) a player as well, and he wasn’t far off in his last two from brutal posts, so don’t be surprised if he wakes up here. The aforementioned line in the sand applies to #4 My Point Exactly (5-1) and #7 Grand Nenunco (9-2), who look like major underlays with more questions than answers while rising in class. Pk5 B horses: 8,6 Leg 3: Gulfstream Park R10 (5:50 ET) – 2y MSW at 4  furlongs A 2yo MSW in late-April isn’t ideal for a Pk5, but this one might be the easiest race of the sequence, as it looks like #8 ABSOLUTE GRIT (1-1) figures to be a handful off a bullet work 4/19 for Plesa, and while this is an 0-for-17 debut barn, you can’t figure he’s had too many that cost 300k less than a month before at a local 2yo in training sale, which means it’s go-time today. Pk5 A horses: 8 There will be no backups, as the rest of these look a bit behind on their development, and intent to win today, when compared to ‘Grit, though if you are looking, then #5 Let’s Rumble (6-1) would top the list for Nicks, and #4 Poe (9-2) has a solid homebred pedigree and Gold knows how to win these early dashes. Also, take note that if #9 Viper (3-1) draws in, he probably goes to the top of the list, if you’re looking for a B. Pk5 B horses: NONE Leg 4: Golden Gate Fields R5 (5:58 ET) – 3upfm 50k Starter at 1-mile (turf) I’m going to try and blow this up with #8 FLASHY HERO (15-1), who will like the expected honest pace and has some underrated turf runs here last year going two turns, which helps alleviate her bad runs sprinting here on the Tapeta in her last two. It looks like SA shipper #5 ATINA (4-1) holds the aces on the return to turf, as her nose 2nd two-back down south was better than anything anyone has done here, she drew well, and is another who will like the pace too. The price looks false, but getting back to the turf could put #9 OFFICE CHICKS (3-1) over the hump after seven straight losses, as her two turf runs here last summer were sharp, and she’ll also get first run on the top-2 as well. Pk5 A horses: 8,5,9 Getting back over the local Tapeta and stretching out to two turns for the first time woke up #6 BIG BASE (6-1), who was a good 2nd at the level last time, and while she’s never tried turf, her big move forward going long last time says this might be right up her alley, at a nice price too. Pk5 B horses: 6 Leg 5: Santa Anita R5 (6:15 ET) – 3up Cal-bred 50k MCL at 6  furlongs There’s a lot to like about #4 DON’TTEASETHETIGER (4-1), who took a hint of money when a decent 7th on debut here in February, then bombed on the Tapeta at GG last time, but now takes the steep drop, adds blinkers, and won’t have to improve a ton off his unveiling to have a say here. There’s little doubt #7 SEA’S JOURNEY (5-2) is the one to beat, but how many chances do we want to give him, after he’s run in the money without winning in his last three and is now 0-for-6 lifetime? An outside attack post makes #5 TAK’IN THE RED EYE (4-1) a huge threat, especially since he was a much-improved 4th behind ‘Journey last time and now makes the pivotal third start of his career, which means he could be in line for a career-best run. Pk5 A horses: 4,7,5 Wiring from the inside won’t be easy, especially stretching out an extra half-furlong, but #3 PIG IRON (3-1) fits, though he has lost ground going shorter in all three starts this year and ‘Journey will be pressing him the entire way. If you like MSW drop angle then #8 KING CHARLIE (10-1) is worth a look, since he was a solid 6th in his lone start when last seen in July and has worked well for this, and should be a bit closer early with blinkers going on today.Pk5 B horses: 3,8 The tickets: Main Ticket: 7,9 with 9,2,5 with 8 with 8,5,9 with 4,7,5 = $54Leg 1 B Backup: 8,5,14 with 9,2,5 with 8 with 8,5,9 with 4,7,5 = $81Leg 2 B Backup: 7,9 with 8,6 with 8 with 8,5,9 with 4,7,5 = $36Leg 4 B Backup: 7,9 with 9,2,5 with 8 with 6 with 4,7,5 = $18Leg 5 B Backup: 7,9 with 9,2,5 with 8 with 8,5,9 with 3,8 = $36

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4.24.2019:

Jon White's Projected Kentucky Derby Odds

The field for the upcoming $3 million Kentucky Derby has taken shape. With that in mind, it seemed this would be an appropriate time to calculate projected odds for the 20 horses to have earned enough points and are currently listed as intended starters in the 1 1/4-mile classic. Ever since Churchill Downs instituted the points system in 2013 to determine eligibility to start in the Kentucky Derby, six straight favorites have won: (Orb in 2013, California Chrome in 2014, American Pharoah in 2015, Nyquist in 2016, Always Dreaming in 2017 and Justify in 2018). Who will be the favorite this year? And will the favorite extend the string of punctual Kentucky Derby favorites to seven? When the 2019 Run for the Roses commences on May 4, I expect Omaha Beach to be the favorite. I am projecting his odds at 9-2. He might end up being a smidge lower or higher, but I think 9-2 certainly is in the ballpark. Omaha Beach goes into the Kentucky Derby following back-to-back wins at Oaklawn Park. He took a division of the Grade II Rebel Stakes on March 16 and then the Grade I Arkansas Derby on April 13. Hall of Famer Richard Mandella trains Omaha Beach. In Omaha Beach’s two races at Oaklawn, he beat two different talented runners conditioned by another Hall of Famer, Bob Baffert. Omaha Beach won the Rebel by a nose when the Baffert-trained Game Winner finished second. Omaha Beach subsequently prevailed by one length in the Arkansas Derby when the Baffert-trained Improbable had to settle for second. Game Winner, victorious last year in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and two other Grade I races, was voted a 2018 Eclipse Award as champion 2-year-old male. Improbable took the Grade I Los Alamitos Futurity last year. Baffert has not one, not two, but three Kentucky Derby contenders this year. In addition to Game Winner and Improbable, the white-haired horseman will be represented by Roadster. After Omaha Beach at 9-2, I have Roadster at 5-1 in my projected Kentucky Derby odds. Hall of Famer “Big Money” Mike Smith won the Santa Anita Derby aboard Roadster on April 6 and the Arkansas Derby with Omaha Beach on April 13. The fact that Smith has opted to ride Omaha Beach on May 4 instead of Roadster is one of the reasons that I envision Omaha Beach being sent away as the Kentucky Derby favorite. If Baffert does win another Kentucky Derby this year, he will equal Ben Jones’ longstanding record for most victories in this race by a trainer. Jones has six wins to his credit: Lawrin (1938), Whirlaway (1941), Pensive (1944), Citation (1948), Ponder (1949) and Hill Gail (1952). Baffert has won the Kentucky Derby five times: Silver Charm (1997), Real Quiet (1998), War Emblem (2002), American Pharoah (2015) and Justify (2015). I have a gut feeling that Wood Memorial winner Tacitus is going to get quite a lot of support in this year’s Kentucky Derby. I have pegged him at 6-1. There is a lot to like about Tacitus. He has an outstanding trainer in Hall of Famer Bill Mott. Tacitus also sports an enviable pedigree. He’s a son of premier sire Tapit and multiple Grade I winner Close Hatches. Tacitus will be taking a three-race winning streak into the Kentucky Derby. In his most recent start, he proved his mettle by registering a 1 1/4-length victory in Aqueduct’s Grade II Wood Memorial at 1 1/8 miles despite getting knocked around early. I have projected Improbable’s Kentucky Derby odds at 10-1, followed by undefeated Florida Derby winner Maximum Security at 12-1. I think Maximum Security is the trickiest horse to try and forecast what his odds will be when he leaves the starting gate in the Kentucky Derby. There are those who like Maximum Security a lot, while many others are throwing him out. I decided to put him at 12-1, but I would not be shocked if Maximum Security does start at a shorter price off his speed figures. Maximum Security is the only horse in this year’s Kentucky Derby to boast two triple-digit Beyer Speed Figures. He recorded a 102 Beyer when he won a seven-furlong allowance/optional claiming race by 18 1/4 lengths at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 20. Maximum Security then earned a 101 when victorious by 3 1/2 lengths in Gulfstream’s Grade I Xpressbet.com Florida Derby at 1 1/8 miles on March 30. Omaha Beach will be the only other starter in this year’s Kentucky Derby to have ever posted a triple-digit Beyer Speed Figure. He was credited with a 101 Beyer in the Arkansas Derby. MY PROJECTED KENTUCKY DERBY ODDS These are my projected odds for each of the 20 horses listed by Churchill Downs as one of the 20 intended starters in the 2019 Kentucky Derby: 9-2 Omaha Beach5-1 Roadster6-1 Game Winner6-1 Tacitus10-1 Improbable12-1 Maximum Security15-1 Code of Honor15-1 Vekoma20-1 By My Standards20-1 Tax20-1 War of Will20-1 Win Win Win30-1 Country House30-1 Cutting Humor30-1 Haikal30-1 Long Range Toddy30-1 Plus Que Parfait30-1 Spinoff50-1 Gray Magician50-1 Master Fencer JON WHITE'S KENTUCKY DERBY TOP 10 There are no changes to my Kentucky Derby rankings from last week: 1. Omaha Beach2. Maximum Security3. Game Winner4. War of Will5. Roadster6. Improbable7. Tacitus8. Vekoma9. Code of Honor10. Long Range Toddy CURRENT STRIKES SITUATION In 1999, I formulated my Derby Strikes System. The system consists of nine key factors that attempt to ascertain the chances a horse has to win the Kentucky Derby from both tactical and historical perspectives. When a horse does not qualify in one of the nine categories, the horse gets a strike. The nine key factors (or categories) are explained at the end of this column. Based on past results, a horse with zero strikes or only one strike has a much better chance to win the Kentucky Derby than a horse with two strikes or more. Going back to 1973, 38 of the last 46 Kentucky Derby winners have had zero strikes or just one strike. Six of the last 46 Kentucky Derby winners have had two strikes: Cannonade (1974), Ferdinand (1986), Sea Hero (1993), Funny Cide (2003), Giacomo (2005) and Always Dreaming (2017). Though it’s not out of the question for a horse with more than two strikes to win the Kentucky Derby, it is a tall order. Of the last 46 horses to win the Kentucky Derby, Mine That Bird and Justify are the only two horses to do so with more than two strikes. Horses just do not race as much these days as when I developed the Derby Strikes System in 1999. I now consider Category 6, in which a starter gets a strike for having made fewer than six career starts, to be by far the least important of the nine categories. Category 6 just isn’t as important as it was during the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. From 1973 through 2000, Fusaichi Pegasus was the only Kentucky Derby winner to get a strike in Category 6 for making fewer than six career starts prior to the Run for the Roses. But from 2001 through 2018, seven Kentucky Derby winners -- Barbaro, Big Brown, Animal Kingdom, I’ll Have Another, American Pharoah, Always Dreaming and Justify -- got a strike in Category 6. Put another way, only 3.5% of the Kentucky Derby winners in the 28 years from 1973 through 2000 had a strike in Category 6. But 36.8% of the winners in the last 18 years from 2001 through 2018 had a strike in that category. In terms of the Derby Strikes System, it’s not until a horse’s next race will be the Kentucky Derby that a horse’s number of strikes can be determined. Of the 20 horses currently listed by Churchill Downs as intended starters in this year’s Kentucky Derby, only Omaha Beach and Game Winner have zero strikes. Eight of the 20 have only one strike. According to the Derby Strikes System, there is a very good chance that the 2019 Kentucky Derby winner is going to be one of the 10 horses with zero strikes or one strike. Below are the strikes for each horse listed by Churchill Downs as one of the 20 intended starters in this year’s Kentucky Derby: ZERO STRIKES OR ONE STRIKE By My Standards (Category 6)Code of Honor (Category 6)Cutting Humor (Category 6)Game Winner (0 strikes)Maximum Security (Category 6)Omaha Beach (0 strikes)Plus Que Parfait (Category 7)Tacitus (Category 6)Vekoma (Category 6)War of Will (Category 5) TWO STRIKES Country House (Categories 2 and 3)Gray Magician (Categories 2 and 3)Haikal (Categories 3 and 6)Roadster (Categories 1 and 6)Tax (Categories 6 and 9)Win Win Win (Categories 2 and 3) THREE OR MORE STRIKES Improbable (Categories 4, 6 and 7)Long Range Toddy (Categories 3, 4 and 5)Master Fencer (Categories 1, 2 and 3)Spinoff (Categories 2, 4 and 6) KENTUCKY DERBY WINNER’S STRIKES FROM 1973 THROUGH 2018 Here are the strikes for each Kentucky Derby winner going back to 1973: 1973 Secretariat (0 strikes)1974 Cannonade (2 strikes) Categories 3 and 41975 Foolish Pleasure (0 strikes)1976 Bold Forbes (0 strikes)1977 Seattle Slew (0 strikes)1978 Affirmed (0 strikes)1979 Spectacular Bid (0 strikes)1980 Pleasant Colony (0 strikes)1981 Genuine Risk (1 strike) Category 11982 Gato Del Sol (1 strike) Category 31983 Sunny’s Halo (1 strike) Category 11984 Swale (0 strikes)1985 Spend a Buck (0 strikes)1986 Ferdinand (2 strikes) Categories 2 and 41987 Alysheba (1 strike) Category 21988 Winning Colors (0 strikes)1989 Sunday Silence (0 strikes)1990 Unbridled (1 strike) Category 31991 Strike the Gold (0 strikes)1992 Lil E. Tee (0 strikes)1993 Sea Hero (2 strikes) Categories 3 and 51994 Go for Gin (0 strikes)1995 Thunder Gulch (0 strikes)1996 Grindstone (0 strikes)1997 Silver Charm (1 strike) Category 41998 Real Quiet (0 strikes)1999 Charismatic (1 strike) Category 52000 Fusaichi Pegasus (1 strike) Category 62001 Monarchos (0 strikes)2002 War Emblem (0 strikes)2003 Funny Cide (2 strikes) Categories 2 and 92004 Smarty Jones (0 strikes)2005 Giacomo (2 strikes) Categories 2 and 52006 Barbaro (1 strike) Category 62007 Street Sense (0 strikes)2008 Big Brown (1 strike) Category 62009 Mine That Bird (4 strikes) Categories 1, 4, 5 and 92010 Super Saver (1 strike) Category 42011 Animal Kingdom (1 strike) Category 62012 I’ll Have Another (1 strike) Category 62013 Orb (0 strikes)2014 California Chrome (0 strikes)2015 American Pharoah (1 strike) Category 62016 Nyquist (0 strikes)2017 Always Dreaming (2 strikes) Categories 1 and 62018 Justify (3 strikes) Categories 1, 6 and 8 DERBY STRIKES SYSTEM’S CATEGORIES These are the nine key factors (or categories) in my Derby Strikes System: 1. THE GRADED STAKES FACTOR. (The horse ran in a graded stakes race as a 3-year-old before March 31.) This points out horses who have competed against tough competition at 3 prior to March 31 rather than at the last minute in April, enabling the horse to be properly battle-tested. (Exceptions: Since the introduction of graded stakes races in the U.S. in 1973, only Genuine Risk in 1980, Sunny’s Halo in 1983, Mine That Bird in 2009, Always Dreaming in 2017 and Justify in 2018 have won the Kentucky Derby without running in a graded stakes race at 3 before March 31.) 2. THE WIN IN A GRADED STAKES FACTOR. (The horse has won a graded stakes race.) This points out horses who have shown they have the class to win a graded stakes race. (Exceptions: Ferdinand in 1986, Alysheba in 1987, Funny Cide in 2003 and Giacomo in 2005 are the only exceptions since the introduction of U.S. graded stakes races in 1973; Alysheba in 1987 did finish first in the Blue Grass, only to be disqualified and placed third.) 3. THE EIGHTH POLE FACTOR. (In either of his or her last two starts before the Kentucky Derby, the horse was either first or second with a furlong to go.) This points out horses who were running strongly at the eighth pole, usually in races at 1 1/16 or 1 1/8 miles. By running strongly at the same point in the Kentucky Derby, a horse would be in a prime position to win the roses. Keep in mind that 53 of the last 56 Kentucky Derby winners have been first or second with a furlong to run. Since Decidedly won the Derby in 1962 when he was third with a furlong to go, the only three Kentucky Derby winners who were not first or second with a furlong to run were Animal Kingdom, third with a furlong remaining in 2011 when only a half-length from being second; Giacomo, sixth with a furlong to go in 2005; and Grindstone, fourth with a furlong to run in 1996. (Exceptions: Since 1955, the Kentucky Derby winners who weren’t either first or second at the eighth pole in his or her last two starts have been Tim Tam in 1958, Carry Back in 1961, Cannonade in 1974, Gato Del Sol in 1982, Unbridled in 1990 and Sea Hero in 1993, with Canonero II in 1971 unknown.) 4. THE GAMENESS FACTOR. (The horse’s finish position in both of his or her last two races before the Kentucky Derby was no worse than his or her running position at the eighth pole.) This points out horses who don’t like to get passed in the final furlong. (Exceptions: Since 1955, the exceptions have been Venetian Way in 1960, Cannonade in 1974, Foolish Pleasure in 1975, Ferdinand in 1986, Silver Charm in 1997, Mine That Bird in 2009 and Super Saver in 2010, with Canonero II in 1971 unknown.) 5. THE DISTANCE FOUNDATION FACTOR. (The horse has finished at least third in a 1 1/8-mile race or longer before the Kentucky Derby.) This points out horses who have the proper foundation and/or stamina for the Kentucky Derby distance. (Exceptions: Since 1955, the only exceptions have been Kauai King in 1966, Sea Hero in 1993, Charismatic in 1999, Giacomo in 2005 and Mine That Bird in 2009.) 6. THE SUFFICIENT RACING EXPERIENCE FACTOR. (The horse has had at least six lifetime starts before the Kentucky Derby.) This points out horses who have the needed experience. (Exceptions: Since 1955, the exceptions have been Grindstone in 1996, Fusaichi Pegasus in 2000, Barbaro in 2006, Big Brown in 2008, Animal Kingdom in 2011, I’ll Have Another in 2012, American Pharoah in 2015, Always Dreaming in 2017 and Justify in 2018. Grindstone, Fusaichi Pegasus, Barbaro, I’ll Have Another, American Pharoah and Always Dreaming each had made five starts before the Kentucky Derby. Animal Kingdom had made four starts before the Kentucky Derby. Big Brown and Justify had made three starts before the Kentucky Derby.) 7. THE NO ADDING OR REMOVING BLINKERS FACTOR. (The horse has not added blinkers or had blinkers removed in his or her final start at 3 before the Kentucky Derby.) This seems to point out that, if a horse is good enough to win the Kentucky Derby, the trainer is not searching for answers so late in the game. (Since Daily Racing Form began including blinkers in its past performances in 1987, no horse has added blinkers or had blinkers removed in his or her last start at 3 before winning the Kentucky Derby.) 8. THE RACED AS A 2-YEAR-OLD FACTOR. (The horse made at least one start as a 2-year-old.) (Exceptions: Apollo in 1882 and Justify in 2018 are the only Kentucky Derby winners who didn’t race as a 2-year-old. Through 2018, the score is 142-2 in terms of Kentucky Derby winners who raced at 2. Since 1937, horses unraced as a 2-year-old are a combined 1 for 63 in the Kentucky Derby. During this period, the only horses to win, place or show were Hampden, who finished third in 1946; Coaltown, second in 1948; Agitate, third in 1974; Reinvested, third in 1982; Strodes Creek, second in 1994; Curlin, third in 2007; Bodemeister, second in 2012; Battle of Midway, third in 2017; and Justify, first in 2018.) 9. THE NOT A GELDING FACTOR. (The horse is not a gelding.) (Exceptions: Funny Cide in 2003 and Mine That Bird in 2009 are the only geldings to win the Kentucky Derby since Clyde Van Dusen in 1929.) PERRET & ROYAL DELTA VOTED INTO RACING’S HALL OF FAME Jockey Craig Perret and female racehorse Royal Delta have been elected to the Hall of Fame this year, it was announced Monday. Perret, who won 4,415 races during his career, was voted a 1990 Eclipse Award as outstanding jockey. He finally received enough votes this year to get into the Hall of Fame after having coming up short as a finalist many times. Royal Delta won three Eclipse Awards. She was voted champion 3-year-old filly in 2011 and champion older female in 2012 and 2013. Perret and Royal Delta were the only two of the nine finalists on the contemporary ballot this year to receive the majority approval (50.1% or higher) from the voters required for Hall of Fame induction. The contemporary finalists this year who did not receive enough votes to get into the Hall of Fame were trainers Mark Casse, Christophe Clement and David Whiteley, along with racehorses Blind Luck, Gio Ponti, Havre de Grace and Rags to Riches. This was the first year that Rags to Riches was a Hall of Fame finalist. As I have stated many times, I believe she belongs in the Hall of Fame. Rags to Riches is one of just four fillies to have won a Triple Crown race in the last 95 years. In 2007, she became the first filly to win the Belmont Stakes in 102 years. Female racehorses My Juliet and Waya also will be inducted into the Hall of Fame this summer. They were chosen by the Historic Review Committee. Additionally, the Hall of Fame’s Pillars of the Turf Committee has chosen to honor 12 individuals this year: James E. “Ted” Bassett III, Christopher T. Chenery, Richard L. “Dick” Duchossois, William S. Farish, John Hettinger, James R. Keene, Frank E. “Jimmy” Kilore, Gladys Mills Phipps, Ogden Phipps, Helen Hay Whitney, Marylou Whitney and Warren Wright Sr. The 2019 Hall of Fame ceremony will take place on Aug. 2 at the Fasig-Tipton sales pavilion in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. THIS WEEK’S NTRA POLLS Here is the Top 10 for this week’s NTRA Top Thoroughbred Poll: Rank Points Horse (First-Place Votes) 1. 341 Bricks and Mortar (11)2. 323 Gift Box (6)3. 261 Midnight Bisou (2)4. 244 McKinzie (1)5. 239 Monomoy Girl (7)6. 168 City of Light (11)6. 168 Roy H 8. 110 Thunder Snow (5)9. 111 World of Trouble10 110 X Y Jet (1) Here is the Top 10 for this week’s NTRA Top 3-Year-Old Poll: Rank Points Horse (First-Place Votes) 1. 448 Omaha Beach (32)2. 370 Roadster (5)3. 344 Tacitus (7)4. 322 Game Winner (1)5. 271 Improbable6. 183 Vekoma7. 177 Maximum Security8. 87 Code of Honor9. 67 War of Will10. 57 By My Standards (1)

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4.23.2019:

Harness Highlights: Favorites Dominate in Levy, Matchmaker Finals

Western Fame and Shartin N emerged in the month-long George Morton Levy Memorial and Blue Chip Matchmaker pacing series’ at Yonkers Raceway as deserving favorites, but both millionaires might have saved their best for last Saturday’s finals. Western Fame left nothing to chance in the $663,260 Levy. He bid 3-wide to the lead before a 26-second opening quarter mile, held strong through a :56 middle half and widened his 2-length stretch lead to 4-1/2 lengths at the wire in a stakes-record 1:50.4, equaling Silver Almahurst’s 1993 clocking. “Those fractions maybe looked fast, for him he does it nice and easy,” said winning driver Daniel Dube. “Turning for home he gave me another run. He’s so nice to drive. He just doesn’t get tired.” Western Fame’s closest pursuer, pocket-sitting JJ Flynn (Tim Tetrick), got tired chasing the 1-to-5 favorite and finished out of the money. Rodeo Rock (Andrew McCarthy), who trailed after a half mile, rallied from fourth-over position to edge More the Better N (Scott Zeron) for second. The exacta paid $10 and the trifecta $44 as Yonkers bettors wagered more than $1 million on the card. Dube and trainer Rene Allard have owned the Levy in recent years. Domethatagain won in 2015 and Keystone Velocity went back-to-back in 2017-18 before he was retired. Western Fame, co-owned by Stephen Klunowski, Gilbert Short, Go Fast and B & I Stables, won 4 of 5 preliminary heats leading up to the 32nd running of the Levy, named in honor of the Hall of Fame founder of Roosevelt Raceway. “I think we had the best horse going into the Levy,” Allard said. “It’s a bit of a stressful thing to race them every week. We had thought about giving him the week off before the final, but he was in a good routine.” Shartin N, the even-money favorite, made it look routine when she added to her gaudy resume and won in the $402,600 Matchmaker final for older mares. She made a second-quarter brush past dueling leaders Apple Bottom Jeans (Corey Callahan) and Feelin’ Red Hot (George Brennan) and cruised to a 1-1/4-length win in 1:52.1 for driver Tim Tetrick. Her stablemate, Bettor Joy N (Dexter Dunn) launched a eye-catching 3-wide rally on the final turn but settled for second best on the back end of a $21.60 exacta. Apple Bottom Jeans, who boasted three front-end victories in the Matchmaker prelims, held third. Shartin N, the reigning Older Female Pacer of the Year, became the first repeat champion in the Matchmaker and improved to 30-for-42 for trainer Jim King Jr. and co-owners Richard Poillucci and Jo Ann Looney-King. “She’s a tough SOB,” said Tetrick. “I’ve put her in spots before where I didn’t think she would reach and she just digs down and finds something. When I saw Corey (Callahan, with Apple Bottom Jeans) had to go hard to get the lead, let George (Brennan, Feelin’ Red Hot) go and retake, I thought I’d take my chance and push the envelope.”

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4.22.2019:

Digging Alwaysmining for the Preakness

I’ve followed Maryland racing my entire life, and there hasn’t been a 3-year-old this exciting to come out of the local winter/spring scene since Private Terms in 1988. Alwaysmining won his sixth straight race Saturday in the $125,000 Xpressbet Federico Tesio Stakes by 11-1/2 lengths. The gelding picked up a fifth straight stakes win at Laurel Park without as much as a deep breath in 1:50.12 for 1-1/8 miles.  His final 3 furlongs in 37.15 were fantastic without being asked and nothing new for him. He ran a sub-:24 fourth quarter in the Private Terms in his previous start when extended around two turns for the first time. Alwaysmining will be a formidable local in the Preakness Stakes after securing Win & You’re In status in the Tesio.  It’s been a long time since Private Terms. Charlie Hadry had him quite a runner in the Spring of 1988, so much so that he was the post-time Kentucky Derby favorite over Winning Colors and Forty Niner in a memorable edition. He had won seven straight, five in Maryland before trips to New York while taking the Gotham and Wood over Seeking the Gold. The Kentucky Derby (ninth) and Preakness (fourth) didn’t work out for Private Terms, but he would underscore his quality at age four by winning the Mass Cap.  Top Maryland sophomores between Private Terms and Alwaysmining have been few, but also include 2006 Kentucky Derby post-time favorite Sweetnorthernsaint for Mike Trombetta. He raced sparingly at home, winning the Miracle Wood at Laurel before a third in the Gotham and a runaway Illinois Derby score that captivated gamblers to the point he was pegged ahead of Barbaro, the unbeaten winner of the Florida Derby. Locals like Oliver’s Twist (1995) and Magic Weisner (2002) have had Preakness placings, but weren’t horses who ran roughshod through their Maryland stakes peers to get there. Not like we’ve seen with Alwaysmining.  The class question will come to fruition on the third Saturday in May for Alwaysmining. It’s a fair one to pose. But that he already deftly handled eventual Tampa Bay Derby third and Blue Grass second Win Win Win in Laurel’s Heft Stakes to close their juvenile campaigns is significant. And this is a Maryland-bred who began his career very competitive in the Keeneland and Churchill Downs maiden special weight ranks against the likes of Signalman and Dream Maker before his change in venue. He’s developed so much since then, and wasn’t far behind from the start.  Alwaysmining began his career for Jim “Mattress Mac” McIngvale before being privately sold to Runnymede Racing of Caroline and Greg Bentley after breaking his maiden at Laurel in June. After a couple of unsuccessful trips, including the Laurel Futurity on turf, it all came to hand in October with a 10-length allowance win in the slop under the tutelage of Kelly Rubley. Since then, Alwaysmining has not been threatened late during his six-race win streak that includes four victories by more than four lengths.  Talent-wise, I’d take Alwaysmining over Sweetnorthernsaint in a heartbeat. He’s shown me that much. I would have tabbed him on top to win the Wood Memorial had they went that path vs. the Tesio. Now we’ll get to see where he stacks up for sure in the Preakness. Don’t be surprised if he fares even better than Private Terms, and perhaps becomes the state’s first true local to wear the Black-Eyed Susans since Deputed Testamony in 1983.

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4.22.2019:

Monday, April 22: Mohawk Park Early Pick 4 Analysis

Tonight's feature at Woodbine Mohawk Park is scheduled for Race 3, a Preferred Trot with a $34,000 purse. The very popular 0.20 Early Pick 4 starts as usual in Race 4. That competitive sequence has a $50,000 guaranteed pool and it will be my focus. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Race 4 1-Luckslst Bluegrass-1st race after a sick scratch was sharp, can win at square price if isn't too far back at start. 2-Prince Giovanni-Does best when races near front of the stack, gets a good post to do that tonight at 8-1 in ML. 8-Lisvinnie-$126k winner in '18 is off to a slow start this year, drops and finds a spot to shine with a good steer. 10-Jimmy Be Good-Rolled late with a 56.3 back half for Filion, will respect for an encore in 2nd start for Fellows. Race 5 3-Shes Got Pizazz-Fits well here, McClure and Fair barn are both hot, should be in the hunt. 5-Mister Magic-Should be bet and might be due to cool off but winner of 4 of last 10 is tough to leave out. 7-Quadrangle-Was raced cautiously coming off a lame scratch and closed well, could be sitting on a big try. 8-Fly Beyond-McNair can work a trip for an overdue win, should like the company. Race 6 4-Highland Top Hill-Makes 2nd start of year and finds a better spot, could pop at a nice price in an open affair. 6-Manofmanyimages-Nice effort from the 8-hole to just miss, MacDonald is off, but McClure knows well. 8-Setanta-ML chalk is camera shy but is back to level of last win, Roy takes a seat, will use but try to beat. 10-Bank Guard-1st for Boyd resulted in a picture, Nfld invader makes 2nd start at Wbsb and Filion steers again. Race 7 3-Outlaw Gunpowder-Looks like a 2-horse race for an $8k claimer, can make it 3-straight and deserves respect. 9-Casimir Overdrive-Makes 2nd start for Shepherd and could be tighter and better, might turn the tide on #3. My Ticket Race 4) 1,2,8,10 Race 5) 3,5,7,8 Race 6) 4,6,8,10 Race 7) 3,9 Total Ticket Cost) $25.60 for $0.20Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia 

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4.20.2019:

Saturday, April 20: Meadowlands Pick 4 Analysis

The Meadowlands has a 13-race card set to roll with the feature coming in Race 2, a 4-Year Old Open Pace with a $25,000 purse. The 0.50 Pick 4 begins in Race 8, it has a $50,000 guaranteed pool and will be my focus. On Friday, Dave Miller, Dexter Dunn, Andy Miller, Yannick Gingras and Corey Callahan led all drivers with two wins each. The top trainer on the card was Ron Burke with three trips to the winner's circle. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Race 8 1-Stonedust-Has held his own at this level and from the rail may have met a field that can be beat. 5-K Ryan Bluechip-Drops out of Preferreds, likes the track and should be in the hunt. 9-Capt Deo-1st start in Di Domenico barn and has had success at the Big M, should like the company. 10-Seeing Eye Single-Hung out to a sizzling pace, drops and trip should be better, best to respect even from post 10. Race 9 4-Spaghettie Eddie-Draws well and fits, Gingras back in the bike and should be kept in striking range. 6-Four Staces-1st start for Fusco, comes back in sequence and does good work at the Big M, winner of 7 of 16. Race 10 1-Mcclinchie N-In from YR and gets the rail and Gingras, will need best but can be in control from start to finish. 5-Stendahl Hanover-Makes consecutive Big M starts and draws well, last was good and could be sitting on a big try. 7-I'm A Big Deal-Drops in 2nd start of year, Dunn sticks and will respect connections. 8-Bettor's Edge-Classy 10-year-old raced well in season debut, steps-up but with a good trip can take a picture. Race 11 2-Backstreet Lawyer-Even effort at this class last week but now gets D. Miller back and will use at 10-1 in the ML. 3-Whittaker N-Usually in the hunt at this track, loses D. Miller but beaten favorite deserves respect. 6-Buschwacker-2-22 in '18-'19 but will swing for a price, leaving ML chalk out, pace could be hot and can roll late. My Ticket  Race 8) 1,5,9,10 Race 9) 4,6 Race 10) 1,5,7,8 Race 11) 2,3,6  Total Ticket Cost) $48 for $0.50Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia 

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4.19.2019:

Friday, April 19: Can-Am Pick 4 Analysis

The Can-Am 0.20 Pick 4 begins in Race 10 at Woodbine Mohawk Park, with a scheduled post time of 10:10 EST. Once again the sequence is competitive, and it will be my focus. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Race 10-Mohawk-Leg 1 1-PL Hurricane-Nothing special last week, but can beat these with a top effort, Brown barn has been hot. 5-Just Her Luck-Beaten chalk had a brutal trip into a quick pace, now Drury is back, looking for better. 7-Kloof Street-Even effort in 1st start off the bench, could get the top tonight and will respect connections. Race 10-Meadowlands-Leg 2 1-Prince Of Tides-Last was fine, but stayed inside in the slop, looking for a more aggressive steer here. 3-Rollwithpapajoe-Rolled home in 1:51.3 in the slop, must use off that effort. 6-Blacklight-Won easily in 2nd start on Lasix, gets Tetrick tonight and can take another picture. 7-Bring The Thunder-2 starts have been in slop and last was a sharp effort, worth a swing at 8-1 in ML. 9-World On Edge-Last 2 were okay, will use on a dry track and look for more, should be a square price. Race 11-Mohawk-Leg 3 3-Manhattan Night-4 out of 5 last year, qualifier was fine, and we will see if success follows to the big track. 4-Jessicas Legacy-Even efforts in first two starts of '19, but they were quick miles and now back in 7 days. 7-Twin B Tipster-Broke maiden last week in season debut, will stick with for an encore at a square price. Race 11-Meadowlands-Leg 4 2-Exposive Ridge-Good effort versus better now drops and gets Tetrick, look like a major player. 5-Roundtable Rocker-Aggressive start in slop and faded, chances go up if M. Miller works a better trip. 6-Don Dream-Makes season debut for the Holloway barn, a threat if fires hot off the bench. My Ticket Race 10 Mohawk) 1,5,7 Race 10 Meadowlands) 1,3,6,7,9 Race 11 Mohawk) 3,4,7 Race 11 Meadowlands) /2,5,6 Total Ticket Cost) $27 for $0.20Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia

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4.19.2019:

Dream pace setup for Garter and Tie in Roar Stakes

Garter and Tie is the late energy in the Roar Stakes Saturday at Gulfstream Park, and if you seek pace setups for closers, this could be right up your alley. A seven-furlong race for 3-year-olds, the Roar Stakes includes several speedy types that are limited in experience and a couple that have been through the wars. The Roar Stakes is a quality $75,000 race, but Garter and Tie has been much better. Trainer Ralph Nicks, who has hit 40 percent (4 of 10) over the past week at Gulfstream, has the Brooks ‘n Down colt ready after some good efforts during the Championship Meet. Garter and Tie was limited mostly to Florida-bred races last year and compiled a 6-2-2-1 record for $273,100. The Jacks Or Better Farm homebred took on open rivals in the Smooth Air Stakes with a neck win and then was 3rd in the Mucho Macho Man Stakes. His connections tried him against fellow Kentucky Derby hopefuls in his last year, and he tailed off in graded company. He was sixth in the G2 Holy Bull and most recently tired to 10th in the G1 Florida Derby. Garter and Tie lines up against seven other sprinters and five of those will want the lead, including Gladiator King, upset winner of the G3 Hutcheson for trainer Jaime Mejia. The Roar is the 3rd leg of the late Pick 4 and goes as the 11th of 12 races. It’s a grouping of competitive races and likely will take a sizable investment to achieve. The suggested ticket here goes the 4x3x3x4 route for a $72 investment. Here’s the suggested ticket for the late Pick 4 at Gulfstream Park for Saturday:Race 9) #4 Saint Michael, #5 Zalza, #7 K C Twostep, #12 Black Pepper.Race 10) #3 Codeseventyseven, #4 Thorpe d’Oro, #10 America’s Simmard.Race 11) #3 Garter and Tie, #4 Promo Code, #8 Bronzed.Race 12) #5 Maturin, #7 Live Like Larry, #9 Wheeler Forty Five, #12 Temple.50-cent Pick 4: 4-5-7-12 with 3-4-10 with 3-4-8 with 5-7-9-12 ($72)

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4.18.2019:

April 18: Hoosier Park Pick 4 Analysis

Tonight, Hoosier Park has a 14-race card set to roll with the feature coming in Race 10, a Fillies and Mares Open Pace with a $20,000 purse. The 0.50 Pick 4 sequence starts in Race 3, it has a $10,000 guaranteed pool and will be my focus. The drivers with the hottest hands on Wednesday in Anderson were John De Long and Trace Tetrick, both with three wins. The top conditioner on the card was Charles Stewart with two pictures. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Race 3 2-Camturo Rock-9/5 ML chalk drops in for a $6,500 tag, appears a cut above the rest and 7-year-old likes the track. If you are looking for a price underneath, the #1 is interesting at 20-1 in the ML. Race 4 1-Billy Nine Toes-Won last with Tetrick, steps up but has speed and could take another picture with a good trip. 4-So So Delightful-Winner of 2 straight faces tougher but Stewart barn has been hot and should be bet hard again. 6-Special Luke-Miller's choice raced well after a break in previous, should offer a nice price, in play if mind manners. Race 5 1-Gorgeous Ranay-Will try a few in here to shoot against chalk, Widger can keep in striking range in HoP 2019 debut. 5-Rockinbythebeach-May need a race but tune-ups were fine, likes the track and could offer a square price. 7-Dojea Rita-5/2 ML favorite is sharp and should be able to get the top without much trouble. 8-From Me To You-Money showed in 1st start at HoP but fell a length short, best to respect connections. Race 6 1-Special Sauce-Raced well from the 8-hole at 30-1, now draws the wood and Oosting should keep in play. 3-Iconic Velocity-Strapped with 9-10 hole in 1st two starts off the bench, time to wake up at 9-1 in the ML. 8-Sher's Speedyshark-ML chalk is 2-2 this year, but post doesn't help, and pace should be quicker than a 56.4 half. 0.50 Pick 4 2/1,4,6/1,5,7,8/1,3,8 Total Bet=$18 Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia 

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4.18.2019:

Johnny D.’s Early Kentucky Derby Analysis

With a prospective field of 20 starters in place it’s time for horseplayers to begin formulating serious opinions about potential Kentucky Derby 2019 wagers. Win, Place, Show, Exacta, Trifecta, Superfecta and Super Hi-5 are in play vertically with Pick Fours, Fives and Sixes available for horizontal action. If you can’t understand why so much attention is paid to handicapping the Kentucky Derby, stop reading right now. You won’t find this enlightening or entertaining. In fact, reading it actually may cost you money because you’ll be wasting time that otherwise could be spent analyzing the ???th race at Wherever Downs. After all, a mutuel payoff earned anywhere spends as well as one garnered beneath the twin spires. Right? Well, sort of. I won’t attempt to change your mind. You’re excused. For those of you still with me, thanks. The Kentucky Derby is a 20-horse field matching the world’s best 3-year-old dirt horses at one mile and one-quarter for $2 million on the first Saturday in May. Off the bat that’s an intriguing premise. That wagers on and including the Kentucky Derby attracted nearly $145 million last year suggests ‘there’s gold in them thar hills.’ Since I’m a prospector from way back who’s found a rich vein or two, I don’t mind the climb. Below is my suggested early Kentucky Derby prospecting process. First, I like to ascertain which horses are fastest according to speed figures. Personally, Thoro-Graph and Daily Racing Form’s Beyer Speed Figures do the job, although there are other creditable ratings available. Final wagering decisions aren’t based solely on speed figure rankings, but they’re a good place to start. After all, as we know, ‘The race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong; but that’s the way to bet!’ Omaha Beach and Maximum Security are fastest. Thoro-Graph has the former solidly faster than the latter, with Improbable owning the second-fastest last-race fig. BSF have Maximum Security with two races rated over 100 and ‘Beach next with just one at that level. No one else in the field has cracked the 100 Beyer mark. Improbable came close when earning a 99 BSF in the Arkansas Derby and Win Win Win registered similar in January going 7 furlongs at Tampa. However, that’s his only BSF above 90 in 6 career starts. While not quite that fast, Game Winner is steady and has earned above 90 BSF in 5 of 6 lifetime starts. Others in the field have posted BSF in the 90s and contribute to a real logjam for minor positions beneath top-ranked runners. At this point, it makes sense to analyze Derby pace. There are a variety of packaged pace projections available, but I like to use past performances (print and video) to estimate who might be where and when. Overall, this Kentucky Derby appears to lack early speed. That said, the pace in the Kentucky Derby always is solid. Don’t expect any horse to be left alone up front for very long. Of the top contenders I expect Maximum Security to be on or close to the lead. In the Florida Derby, he comfortably strolled along in front throughout, but he has speed if it’s needed. Omaha Beach breaks well and can be placed in the vanguard without becoming rank. This year’s field seems to have an abundance of horses that would prefer to sit just off the pace. That could make things crowded into the first turn as riders attempt to secure prime stalking positions. Getting through that gauntlet unscathed is critical. ‘Security and ‘Beach have the best chances of accomplishing that. It doesn’t seem that this year’s closers are fast enough or that they’ll get the kind of pace needed to win. Of course, like last year, a long-odds closer could hit the super. Post positions will affect what happens early, and the draw is Tuesday. Ability to handle one mile and one-quarter effectively is a consideration although sometimes overemphasized. No one really knows if a horse can handle a distance of ground until they try it. Breeding provides clues but good horses overachieve. And most horses in the Derby are good horses. That said, I have a few thoughts about a contender or two regarding distance: I doubt the Derby distance is Improbable’s most effective and I anticipate that Game Winner’s grinding style will work well. As far as the two fastest are concerned, Omaha Beach seems capable at the distance. We have no idea if Maximum Security can carry his best throughout or not. Part of what makes solving the Kentucky Derby puzzle fun is that 3-year-olds can improve overnight. Therefore, it’s advisable to attempt to anticipate which runners might step up their games on the first Saturday in May. These may be win contenders or price horses for superfecta consideration. Among major contenders, Omaha Beach and Roadster have improved BSF in each of their career races with the latter probably offering the biggest chance of another improvement. Since Omaha Beach posted a 101 BSF last out it’s difficult to expect additional improvement. He may not need it. A repeat performance could get the Louisville job done. According to Thoro-Graph figs Bob Baffert-trained runners--Game Winner, Roadster and Improbable—seem capable of improvement. Maybe that’s why Baffert is the master at having one ready for this race. Tax has an interesting Thoro-Graph pattern that suggests in-the-money improvement at a big price.  Finally, it’s time to break some eggs! You can’t play ‘em all. Separating Derby runners may seem overwhelming. That’s why horseplayers must make decisions. Cross ‘em off. Chuck ‘em out. For example, I’m not using Plus Que Parfait, who won the UAE Derby in Dubai. To me, it’s too much to ask a colt to fly around the world and win the Kentucky Derby in his next start. I’ll also exclude Master Fencer from Japan. Another big ask by the connections. Horses that appear too slow based on Thoro-Graph and/or BSF eventually also will be excluded. Additional thought and preparation are needed to, hopefully, unlock the door to the Kentucky Derby superfecta. Past performance videos and future workouts need to be considered. Hopefully, I’ve offered a solid step-by-step early approach to handicapping the Kentucky Derby. The usual Kentucky Derby horse-by-horse analysis will appear in this space Thursday, May 2. ‘Till then… Race On! 

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4.18.2019:

Alwaysmining Out to Punch Preakness Ticket in Xpressbet Federico Tesio + Late Pick 5 Ticket

If Alwaysmining runs his win streak to six in Saturday’s Xpressbet Federico Tesio Stakes, he’ll all but assuredly punch his ticket to the Preakness Stakes on May 18.  He’s a perfect 5-for-5 on dirt since moving to Kelly Rubley’s barn and he won the Private Terms and Miracle Wood, the two prior steps on the path to the ‘Tesio, by a combined 11-lengths. But will he win Saturday?  And if he does, how do you make money betting him?  Let’s take a look at what will make Alwaysmining a ‘cinch’ in some people’s eyes…and what his rivals bring to the table. By the way, the Xpressbet Federico Tesio is the last leg of our Money-Back Guarantee on the Preps promotion, which puts cash back in your pocket when your horse finishes 2nd or 3rd.  Maybe take a shot against Alwaysmining here and put $10 to win on one of his rivals?  And then if they run 2nd or 3rd, you get your cash back!  Alwaysmining (1/5): This isn’t a brag – more of a ‘face palm’ but I’ve actually had this horse in my stablemail since his debut at Keeneland last April.  He missed the break and came flying late in one of those 4 1/2-furlong baby races where you can’t make up much ground.  Not that I did anything with it (hence the face palm).  I bet him in his next two races at Churchill and he was up the track both times.  Then he showed up at Laurel, won 6-of-7 dirt races and the rest is history.  Now when you bet him you’re stuck with sub-even-money odds.  The speedster has turned his last three races into runaways and in the process he’s beaten horses like Win Win Win (2nd in the Blue Grass) and Gray Magician (2nd in the UAE Derby).  If he continues down the path, he’ll be a popular horse to include on tickets on Preakness Day. Tybalt (8/1): On paper he’s ‘second best’ here but the connections are so hesitant to run against Alwaysmining for the fourth time that they’ve cross-entered into a turf race on Saturday at Aqueduct.  Being that he’s a son of Kitten’s Joy that shouldn’t come as a surprise, but it also goes to show how well respected Alwaysmining is locally.  He was beaten 9 3/4-lengths in the Private Terms and 4 1/4-lengths in the Miracle Wood.  Won’t be surprised if he runs at Aqueduct.  Bozzini (10/1): He breaks from the rail and has developed into a decent three-year-old for Jeremiah Englehart after showing minimal talent as a two-year-old.  He started his career 0-for-4 but finally got his first win in a NY-bred maiden race at Finger Lakes…hardly an established path to greatness.  But he has taken big steps forward since heading to Laurel – a win and a second – and he does get the services of Trevor McCarthy, who is riding ‘lights out’ at Laurel.  He’s a secondary horse, though and would need to improve 10+ Beyer Speed Figure points to compete with Alwaysmining. Majid (20/1): Majid brings the vaunted Zayat turquoise and gold silks to Laurel for trainer Rudy Rodriguez.  They won a first-level allowance race here on March 24 at odds of 27/1 and, like Bozzini, he appears to be getting much better after a rocky start to his career.  Couple that with the fact that he’s bred to route – by Shackleford, out of a Mineshaft mare – and he’s worth a look underneath. Bottom Line: It’s hard (impossible?) to find a scenario where Alwaysmining loses and, even if you do, it’s hard to pick one horse that can do it.  Anything can happen in racing but horses like Bozzini, Majid and Tybalt are so similar on paper that any of them *could* do it…but, in the eyes of most, none of them *should*.  Alwaysmining will be 1/9 on the board and the best way to bet him will be the multi-race exotics… …which takes me to Laurel’s Late Pick 5.  Laurel’s Late Pick 5 boasts an industry-low 12% takeout and is a great bet for someone seeking to single Alwaysmining.  Here’s my ticket. All-Stakes Late Pick 5 Ticket (Races 7 – 11) Race 7 (4:12PM ET): Primonetta Stake #1 Startwithsilver (3/1): Tough rail draw but won an Aqueduct stakes race last out.  She’s only a factor if the pace is fast.  #2 Ms Locust Point (2/1): She’s dropped two straight decisions at Laurel but was beaten by Late Night Pow Wow in both and she opted for a G1 at Keeneland earlier this month. #3 Cairenn (4/1): Goes second off the layoff for Graham Motion and was runner-up in this race last year.  Race 8 (4:42PM ET): Dalhia Stakes (handicapped for ON TURF) #6 La Moneda (2/1): Is 6-for-11 in her career and is a stakes-caliber NY-bred filly who has performed well over all types of turf courses - firm and soft. #9 Secret Message (6/1): Was runner-up in the G2 Sands Point last September in New York and won the G3 Pucker Up at Arlington on the Arlington Million undercard. Race 9 (5:12PM ET) Weber City Miss Stakes #6 Las Setas (7/5): Is 3-for-3 at Laurel and won two local preps for this by a combined 10 1/2-lengths.  She’s kind of the Alwaysmining of the local three-year-old fillies.  Race 10 (5:42PM ET): Xpressbet Federico Tesio Stakes #2 Alwaysmining (1/5): For all the reasons noted above. Race 11 (6:12PM ET): Henry Clark Stakes (handicapped for ON TURF) #1 Phlash Phelps (9/2): Timeless wonder is eight-years-old and drew nicely on the rail. He's 4-for-10 on the turf at Laurel and was third in this race last year. #3 Irish Strait (2/1): Graham Motion sends out this seven-year-old son of English Channel. He was most recently 6th, beaten 1 1/2-lengths, in the G3 Tampa Bay Stakes. #4 Flatlined (15/1): Another seven-year-old, he seemed to get a little stagnant with his old barns but he moves over to trainer Michael Pino via claim and that could jumpstart his form.  Pino does well with horses off the claim. #5 Talk Show Man (8/1): He's got them all beat - he's a nine-year-old! Impressive. He won the Maryland Million Turf last October over Phlash Phelps.  My Ticket Race 7: 1, 2, 3Race 8: 6, 9Race 9: 6Race 10: 2Race 11: 1, 3, 4, 5 Ticket Cost: $24 for $1

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4.18.2019:

Saturday's Charles Town Pick 6 Mandatory Payout Selections

If you’re looking for quality races to bet this weekend, look no further than Charles Town.  Their Saturday card is loaded with nine stakes races, headlined by the $1 Million Grade 2 Charles Town Classic.  Additionally, the card features a $100,000 Guaranteed Late Pick 4 (Races 9 – 12) – hit it to Split 1 Million XB Rewards Points – and a Mandatory Payout of their 20-cent Jackpot Pick 6.  Heading into Saturday’s races, the Jackpot Pick 6 carryover was $179,963.    Here’s my take on the Rainbow Pick 6, complete with a recommended ticket.  Rain is in the forecast for Friday and Saturday, so we should keep that in mind.  But I’m writing this on Thursday for Saturday, so we’ll monitor the track conditions on Saturday.  Race 8 (3:55PM ET) – Robert Hilton Memorial Stakes I’ll kick off the Pick 6 by using a pair of runners here – Joe Sharp’s #3 MALPAIS (5/2) and Todd Pletcher’s #2 FEDERAL CASE (9/5).  On paper, MALPAIS is ‘speed of the speed’ and he should make the front.  If he can’t stay the trip, FEDERAL CASE, who was runner-up in the G2 Hutcheson Stakes last out at Gulfstream, should run a big one for Todd Pletcher.  If you’re playing a larger ticket #1 Thatwouldbegrand (6/1) and #4 Admiral Lynch (7/2) are worth considering.  Race 9 (4:29PM ET) – Russell Road Stakes This race is pretty wide open on paper and I think you’ll want to use any number of these to stay alive.  I feel like there are a handful of legs where you don’t necessarily have to go deep so I’ll take the easy – albeit more expensive – way out and press the ALL button here.  If you forced me to give a top 3, I’d use #2 COOL ARROW (4/1), #5 LINE JUDGE (9/2) and #3 DONJI (7/2).  Eight of the nine entrants have won on a wet track and several of these, including COLONEL SHARP (8/1, 5-for-10), LINE JUDGE (2-for-3), CONCORD FAST (12/1, 2-for-2) and COOL ARROW (2-for-3) have formidable records on off going.  Race 10 (5:01PM ET) – Dance to Bristol Stakes #6 LAKE PONCHATRAIN (2/1) is a warrior of a mare.  She is 18-for-45 in her career, including 12-for-23 at Charles Town.  There’s something about this oval that brings out the best in her and she’s won her last four local races including this race.  She’s a deep closer and she’ll be tasked with running down #5 TWEETING (5/2).  LAKE PONCHATRAIN will need some racing lucky to steer through the field to catch TWEETING, which puts both mares on my ticket.  LAKE PONCHATRAIN trends closer to being a single on a wet track as she’s 3-for-8 in the slop while TWEETING is 0-for-3.  Race 11 (5:37PM ET) – Charles Town Classic (G2) This year’s Charles Town Classic isn’t loaded with top end talent, but it is loaded with evenly-matched runners.  11 of them, in fact.  10 in the main body of the field and an Also Eligible in case there’s a scratch.  Among those entered are defending champion, #7 SOMETHING AWESOME (12/1), last year’s runner-up, #9 WAR STORY (7/2), Todd Pletcher’s #4 RALLY CRY (9/2), ‘Big Cap’ third-place finisher #1 MONGOLIAN GROOM (6/1), Jockey Club Gold Cup upsetter #6 DISCREET LOVER (5/1) and Charles Town stalwart #8 RUNNIN’TOLUVYA (12/1).  Frankly, you could make the case to ‘ALL’ button here and pare down the Russell Road, but I’m going to bet on a quick early pace and use MONGOLIAN GROOM, RALLY CRY, SOMETHING AWESOME, WAR STORY and UNBRIDLED JUAN (15/1). Race 12 (6:07PM ET) – Its Binn Too Long Stakes We need a single here and I’ve got mine in #5 PARISIAN DIVA (7/5), a speedy daughter of Freedom Child that is 3-for-5 lifetime at Charles Town.  I’m slightly concerned that this 4 1/2-furlong distance is too short for her but she broke her maiden going this distance and she’s only lost to one filly in her career and that gal, Battleground Star, isn’t here.  A muddy track would boost my confidence as PARISIAN DIVA is 2-for-2 in such circumstances.  Race 13 (6:36PM ET) – Allowance The last race of the sequence is the only that isn’t a stakes race and, again, we’re dealing with an overflow field.  10 will run and for the sake of this analysis, let’s assume the AE horses don’t get in.  #2 FRATHOUSE MUSIC (9/2) ran big at a massive price (25/1) in a similar race here on March 29 and if he replicates that performance, he probably wins.  Concern is that he’s never finished first in a race (lone win came via DQ) and he’s now a low price after being a $50 horse last out.  With wavering confidence in him, I’ll look at including #3 THE SEVEN FIVE (6/1) on my ticket.  I’m not sure he gets over a wet track as well as he does a fast one, though, so we’ll make that call on Saturday.  #4 RUCKER (3/1) continues to improve and will be on my ticket, while #7 WINNING SCHOLAR (4/1) is a good add for either fast or wet tracks. My Ticket Race 8: 2, 3Race 9: ALLRace 10: 5, 6Race 11: 1, 4, 7, 9, 10 Race 12: 5Race 13: 2, 3, 4, 7Ticket Cost: $144 for 20-cents

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4.18.2019:

Omaha Beach Still Atop Jon White's Kentucky Derby Rankings

It was 10 weeks ago that Omaha Beach debuted on my Kentucky Derby Top 10. All he had done at that point was win a maiden race. But his Feb. 2 maiden performance impressed me to such an extent that, even though he had not even run in a stakes race yet, I decided to go ahead and put him on my Top 10 at No. 9. This was what I wrote back in early February: “New on my Top 10 this week is Omaha Beach, who found a cure for second-itis in a big way at Santa Anita last Saturday. The War Front colt, trained by Hall of Famer Richard Mandella, registered a resounding nine-length win in a seven-furlong maiden special weight race contested on a sloppy track. Omaha Beach’s final time was an excellent 1:21.02 after he carved out fractions of :21.75, :43.74 and 1:08.24. He posted a 90 Beyer to equal the figure earned by Mucho Gusto later in the card when he won the Lewis.” Omaha Beach made his stakes debut in a division of the Grade II Rebel at Oaklawn Park on March 16. He had to face none other than Game Winner, the undefeated Eclipse Award-winning 2-year-old male of 2018. Game Winner was coming off a victory in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs on Nov. 2. Omaha Beach was coming off his maiden win. Not surprisingly, Game Winner was sent off as the strong favorite in the Rebel at 4-5. But Omaha Beach did get respect from the bettors at 4-1. Omaha Beach won a thriller, defeating Game Winner by a nose. After that race, I deliberated long and hard whether to put Game Winner or Omaha Beach at No. 1 on my Kentucky Derby Top 10. I wrote: “Despite Game Winner’s loss last Saturday, I seriously considered keeping him in the No. 1 spot this week. I questioned whether I should lower him from No. 1 after he lost by such a minuscule margin following a layoff. “But while it is true that Omaha Beach, unlike Game Winner, had raced this year prior to the Rebel, it’s to Omaha Beach’s credit that he won last Saturday despite taking a quantum leap in class. Omaha Beach went into the Rebel off a maiden victory. “At this point, Omaha Beach is my choice to win the Kentucky Derby. Hence, I have moved him to the top of my rankings this week. But let’s just say Omaha Beach is occupying the No. 1 position by only a nose over Game Winner.” Game Winner would go on to finish second in the Grade I Santa Anita Derby for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert on April 6. Roadster, also trained by Baffert, won the Santa Anita Derby by a half-length. In the April 13 Arkansas Derby, Omaha Beach again was asked to run against a talented colt from the powerful Baffert barn. This time it was Grade I winner Improbable, who had lost the other division of the Rebel by a neck to Long Range Toddy. Omaha Beach, ridden by Mike Smith, was sent away as the 8-5 Arkansas Derby favorite. Improbable, with Jose Ortiz in the saddle, was a close second choice at 9-5. Improbable was racing with blinkers for the first time. Long Range Toddy and Galilean each started at 6-1. Country House, off at 8-1, was the only other runner in the field of 11 to start at odds lower than 19-1. The track for the 1 1/8-mile Arkansas Derby this year was sloppy. Omaha Beach, as mentioned earlier, relished the slop at Santa Anita in his maiden laugher. As for Improbable, this was the first time he had ever raced on a sloppy track. Before the Arkansas Derby began, Improbable thrashed around in the gate and was backed out. He momentarily balked at going back into the gate before being reloaded. Despite his tantrum, Improbable did break alertly. Omaha Beach also was away alertly despite having to stand in the gate during all the time that Improbable delayed the start. One Flew South, a 61-1 longshot, showed the way through an opening quarter in :23.08. Omaha Beach made an early move, advancing quickly from fifth to take over soon after entering the backstretch. Omaha Beach ran the initial half in :47.50, then led by one length when completing the first six furlongs in 1:12.46. Improbable, sixth through the early stages, made a move of his own nearing the far turn. Omaha Beach remained a length or so in front of Improbable as they made their way around the far turn. Improbable then seriously tested Omaha Beach coming to the top of the lane. It appeared that Improbable briefly got to within about a neck of the Fox Hills Farm colorbearer at that point. But Omaha Beach shrugged off the challenge and increased his advantage back to one length at the eighth pole while running one mile in 1:37.54. All the way down the stretch, Improbable never, ever threw in the towel. He kept after Omaha Beach with the tenacity of a cop in hot pursuit of a fleeing criminal. But Omaha Beach staved off Improbable throughout the entire final furlong. As it turned out, the one-length margin between Omaha Beach and Improbable at the end of the race was identical to the margin between them earlier in the race at both the three-eighths pole and at the eighth pole. Country House finished third, 5 3/4 lengths behind runner-up Improbable. This was yet another masterpiece in terms of Smith’s ride on Omaha Beach. Smith even managed to float Improbable out just a bit coming into in the lane during this $1 million event, a perfectly legal tactic employed by a rider of considerable experience and guile. They don’t call him “Big Money” Mike Smith for nothing. Actually, Improbable also benefited from a terrific ride by Oritiz. They simply were second best on this particular day. While Omaha Beach did get a flawless ride by Smith, the colt himself also merits much praise for his performance. Exhibiting the admirable trait that jockeys term as being pushbutton, Omaha Beach rushed up early to take the lead soon after entering the backstretch, but he was not rank and trying to run off. And once Omaha Beach did reach the front, he settled into a nice, rhythmic stride for Smith. While this victory after making such a rapid move on the clubhouse turn was by no means as impressive as Secretariat’s Preakness, Omaha Beach also is to be commended for being able to run so strongly all the way down the stretch after expending as much energy as he did early in the race. Omaha Beach’s final time was 1:49.91. This clocking was faster Curlin’s when he won the 2007 Arkansas Derby by 10 1/2 lengths in 1:50.00 on dry land. Curlin would go on to finish third behind Street Sense and Hard Spun in Kentucky Derby. Curlin did win the Preakness Stakes before losing the Belmont Stakes by a head to the filly Rags to Riches. Voted Horse of the Year in 2007 and 2008, Curlin was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2014. Rags to Riches is a Hall of Fame finalist this year. After losing his first four career starts, Omaha Beach now has reeled off three victories in a row. In his two stakes wins, he has defeated a pair of Baffert-trained toughies in Game Winner and Improbable. Moreover, Omaha Beach’s upward trajectory in the Beyer Speed Figure department has been truly remarkable. He has earned a bigger Beyer with each successive start. Beginning with his first race, Omaha Beach’s Beyers have been 62, 78, 80, 83, 90, 96 and 101. A pattern like this is rarely seen. Omaha Beach and Maximum Security are the only two horses to have ever recorded a Beyer Speed Figure of 100 or higher among all those who currently have secured a berth in this year’s Kentucky Derby. Maximum Security has the distinction of being the lone prospective Kentucky Derby starter to have two triple-digit Beyer Speed Figures to his credit. He produced a 102 Beyer when he won a seven-furlong allowance/optional claiming race by 18 1/4 lengths at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 20. When Maximum Security took the Grade I Xpressbet.com Florida Derby by 3 1/2 lengths at Gulfstream on March 30, he recorded a 101 Beyer. MY KENTUCKY DERBY TOP 10 Following Omaha Beach’s Arkansas Derby victory, he retains the top spot on my Kentucky Derby Top 10 this week. Here are my current rankings: 1. Omaha Beach2. Maximum Security3. Game Winner4. War of Will5. Roadster6. Improbable7. Tacitus8. Vekoma9. Code of Honor10. Long Range Toddy For yours truly and anyone else now on the Omaha Beach bandwagon, it was big news when Daily Racing Form’s Jay Privman reported Monday that Smith has chosen to ride Omaha Beach in the Kentucky Derby. Seven days before Smith’s Arkansas Derby win aboard Omaha Beach, the Hall of Fame rider collaborated with Roadster to capture the Santa Anita Derby. Many expected that Smith would opt to ride Roadster for Baffert in this year’s Kentucky Derby. Smith and Baffert teamed up last year to sweep the Triple Crown with Justify. In a BloodHorse story written by Christine Oser, Smith said part of his decision to ride Omaha Beach in the Kentucky Derby stemmed from the fact that Omaha Beach has defeated both Game Winner and Improbable, two leading contenders trained by Baffert. Smith noted that Omaha Beach “hasn’t beaten Roadster yet,” but he has defeated two of Baffert’s big three, “and two out of the three is good.” Smith went on to say that Omaha Beach “just seems to be the horse that’s coming around at the right time right now.” Smith said he also picked Omaha Beach to ride on the first Saturday in May because he “probably has a little bit more speed” and he “has more races under his belt” than Roadster.” Choosing between Omaha Beach and Roadster was an “extremely difficult” decision, Smith acknowledged. “They’re both so talented,” Smith said. “It wouldn’t be surprising if either one of them won.” Meanwhile, I have moved War of Will up a notch on my Top 10 this week to No. 4 in light of his marvelous workout last Saturday at Keeneland. He was timed five furlongs in a bullet :59.00 from the gate, fastest of 44 works at the distance. Jockey Tyler Gaffalione was in the saddle. David Carroll, assistant to trainer Mark Casse, supervised the drill. After an opening quarter in :22.80, War of Will zipped three furlongs in :34.60 and a half in :46.20. He galloped out with verve, six furlongs in 1:11.60. “He broke sharp and had running on his mind,” Gaffalione was quoted as saying in the Keeneland barn notes. “He did everything very easy. Mark said he wanted a good five-eighths, so I just let him do his thing. He cruised along, pulled up great and came back happy.” Carroll expressed his delight with War of Will’s workout. “He broke very sharp, worked beautifully and the gallop-out was tremendous,” Carroll said. “He cooled out really well. We are very happy.” War of Will, who like Omaha Beach is by War Front, won the Grade III Lecomte Stakes by four lengths and Grade II Risen Star Stakes by 2 1/4 lengths at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots in his first two 2019 starts. But he then ran ninth as the 4-5 favorite in the Grade II Louisiana Derby on March 23. In the 1 1/8-mile Louisiana Derby, War of Will left the gate with alacrity. But a few strides after the start, he lost his footing behind. According to Casse, War of Will emerged from the race with a strained patellar ligament. However, all indications are that War of Will is totally back on his game as he gears up for the Kentucky Derby. Casse has called it “a small miracle.” Thanks to War of Will’s Louisiana Derby debacle, his price in the Kentucky Derby will be greatly inflated from what it should be, in my opinion. He was 23-1 in the April 7 Kentucky Derby Future Wager. If War of Will had won the Louisiana Derby, it is certain his price would have been much lower, probably no better than 10-1. Consider what a couple of War of Will’s victims in the Risen Star have done since that Feb. 16 race. Owendale finished eighth in the Risen Star, 10 lengths behind War of Will. Yes, that’s the same Owendale who won last Saturday’s Grade III Lexington Stakes at Keeneland. Plus Que Parfait finished 13th in the Risen Star, 20 1/4 lengths behind War of Will. Yes, that’s the same Plus Que Parfait who won the Group II, $2.5 million UAE Derby in Dubai on March 30. Exiting my Kentucky Derby Top 10 this week is Anothertwistafate after he finished second last Saturday to Owendale in the 1 1/16-mile Lexington. It looks iffy at this point as to whether Anothertwistafate will have enough points to get into the Kentucky Derby. In the Lexington, Anothertwistafate earned eight qualifying points toward the Kentucky Derby, raising his total to 38. Ever since the points system was introduced in 2013, 38 would have been more than enough to get into the Run for the Roses. But that’s not the case this year. Anothertwistafate’s total of 38 points currently puts him at No. 23 on the standings, meaning he needs three defections to get into the Kentucky Derby. Prior to this year, Mo Tom’s 32 points in the 2016 Kentucky Derby were the most required to snag one of the coveted 20 starting spots. Owendale, trained by Brad Cox, rallied from ninth to win the Lexington by 1 3/4 lengths. He was credited with a career-best 98 Beyer Speed Figure. For Anothertwistafate’s runner-up performance, he recorded a career-best 95 Beyer. The eight qualifying points Owendale earned in the Lexington boosted his total to only 20. That puts him way down at No. 29 on the points standings, meaning there is virtually no way he can get into the Kentucky Derby. According to Daily Racing Form’s Marty McGee, Cox plans to run Owendale in the Grade I Preakness at Pimlico on May 18. If Anothertwistafate does not run in the Kentucky Derby, he likewise will go in the Preakness. Anothertwistafate earned an automatic berth in the Preakness by virtue of his victory in Golden Gate’s El Camino Real Derby on Feb. 16. Anothertwistafate’s defection this week opened the door for Code of Honor to move back onto my Top 10. After winning Gulfstream’s Grade II Fountain of Youth Stakes on March 2, Code of Honor finished third behind Maximum Security and Bodexpress in the Florida Derby. He worked four furlongs in :49.00 at Keeneland last Friday, with his final quarter reported to be a strong :23.20. Long Range Toddy ranked No. 7 last week. He moves down to No. 10 this week after finishing sixth, nearly 15 lengths behind Omaha Beach, in the Arkansas Derby. I have kept Long Range Toddy on my Top 10 this week despite his disappointing effort last Saturday because there is a possibility that he disliked the sloppy track. He had never raced on a wet track before. Long Range Toddy did show what he’s capable of doing on a fast track when he won a division of the Rebel by a neck over Improbable. It’s also possible that Long Range Toddy regressed in the Arkansas Derby after posting a career-best 95 Beyer Speed Figure when he won the Rebel. CURRENT KENTUCKY DERBY STRIKES SITUATION I formulated my Derby Strikes System in 1999. The system consists of nine key factors that attempt to ascertain the chances a horse has to win the Kentucky Derby from both tactical and historical perspectives. When a horse does not qualify in one of the nine categories, the horse gets a strike. The nine key factors (or categories) are explained at the end of this column. According to the Derby Strikes System, a horse with zero strikes or only one strike has a much better chance to win the Kentucky Derby than a horse with two strikes or more. Going back to 1973, 38 of the last 46 Kentucky Derby winners have had zero strikes or just one strike. Six of the last 46 Kentucky Derby winners have had two strikes: Cannonade (1974), Ferdinand (1986), Sea Hero (1993), Funny Cide (2003), Giacomo (2005) and Always Dreaming (2017). Though it’s not out of the question for a horse with more than two strikes to win the Kentucky Derby, it is a tall order. Of the last 46 horses to win the Kentucky Derby, Mine That Bird and Justify are the only two horses to do so with more than two strikes. Because horses just do not race as much these days, I now view Category 6 as by far the least important of the nine categories. Category 6 no longer is as important as it was during the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. From 1973 through 2000, Fusaichi Pegasus was the only Kentucky Derby winner to get a strike in Category 6 for making fewer than six career starts prior to the Run for the Roses. But from 2001 through 2018, seven Kentucky Derby winners -- Barbaro, Big Brown, Animal Kingdom, I’ll Have Another, American Pharoah, Always Dreaming and Justify -- got a strike in Category 6. Put another way, only 3.5% of the Kentucky Derby winners in the 28 years from 1973 through 2000 had a strike in Category 6. But 36.8% of the winners in the last 18 years from 2001 through 2018 had a strike in that category. In terms of the Derby Strikes System, it’s not until a horse’s next race will be the Kentucky Derby that a horse’s number of strikes can be determined. When Churchill Downs issued the updated points standings on April 13 after the Lexington Stakes and Arkansas Derby, 30 horses were listed as not having been ruled out of the May 4 classic. Omaha Beach and Game Winner are the only two of the 30 horses who have zero strikes. Ten of the 30 have only one strike. According to the Derby Strikes System, there is a very good chance that the 2019 Kentucky Derby will be one of the 12 horses with zero strikes or one strike. The number of strikes for all 30 horses is listed below: ZERO STRIKES OR ONE STRIKE Anothertwistafate (Category 2)By My Standards (Category 6)Code of Honor (Category 6)Cutting Humor (Category 6)Game Winner (0 strikes)Maximum Security (Category 6)Omaha Beach (0 strikes)Owendale (Category 5)Plus Que Parfait (Category 7)Tacitus (Category 6)Vekoma (Category 6)War of Will (Category 5) TWO STRIKES Bodexpress (Categories 2 and 6)Country House (Categories 2 and 3)Gray Magician (Categories 2 and 3)Haikal (Categories 3 and 6)Instagrand (Categories 4 and 6)Mucho Gusto (Categories 4 and 6)Roadster (Categories 1 and 6)Signalman (Categories 3 and 4)Sueno (Categories 2 and 4)Tax (Categories 6 and 9)Win Win Win (Categories 2 and 3) THREE OR MORE STRIKES Bourbon War (Categories 2, 3, 5 and 6)Improbable (Categories 4, 6 and 7)Knicks Go (Categories 3, 4 and 5)Long Range Toddy (Categories 3, 4 and 5)Master Fencer (Categories 1, 2 and 3)Outshine (Categories 2, 5 and 6)Spinoff (Categories 2, 4 and 6) WINNER’S STRIKES FROM 1973 THROUGH 2018 Here are the strikes for each Kentucky Derby winner going back to 1973: 1973 Secretariat (0 strikes)1974 Cannonade (2 strikes) Categories 3 and 41975 Foolish Pleasure (0 strikes)1976 Bold Forbes (0 strikes)1977 Seattle Slew (0 strikes)1978 Affirmed (0 strikes)1979 Spectacular Bid (0 strikes)1980 Pleasant Colony (0 strikes)1981 Genuine Risk (1 strike) Category 11982 Gato Del Sol (1 strike) Category 31983 Sunny’s Halo (1 strike) Category 11984 Swale (0 strikes)1985 Spend a Buck (0 strikes)1986 Ferdinand (2 strikes) Categories 2 and 41987 Alysheba (1 strike) Category 21988 Winning Colors (0 strikes)1989 Sunday Silence (0 strikes)1990 Unbridled (1 strike) Category 31991 Strike the Gold (0 strikes)1992 Lil E. Tee (0 strikes)1993 Sea Hero (2 strikes) Categories 3 and 51994 Go for Gin (0 strikes)1995 Thunder Gulch (0 strikes)1996 Grindstone (0 strikes)1997 Silver Charm (1 strike) Category 41998 Real Quiet (0 strikes)1999 Charismatic (1 strike) Category 52000 Fusaichi Pegasus (1 strike) Category 62001 Monarchos (0 strikes)2002 War Emblem (0 strikes)2003 Funny Cide (2 strikes) Categories 2 and 92004 Smarty Jones (0 strikes)2005 Giacomo (2 strikes) Categories 2 and 52006 Barbaro (1 strike) Category 62007 Street Sense (0 strikes)2008 Big Brown (1 strike) Category 62009 Mine That Bird (4 strikes) Categories 1, 4, 5 and 92010 Super Saver (1 strike) Category 42011 Animal Kingdom (1 strike) Category 62012 I’ll Have Another (1 strike) Category 62013 Orb (0 strikes)2014 California Chrome (0 strikes)2015 American Pharoah (1 strike) Category 62016 Nyquist (0 strikes)2017 Always Dreaming (2 strikes) Categories 1 and 62018 Justify (3 strikes) Categories 1, 6 and 8 DERBY STRIKES SYSTEM’S CATEGORIES These are the nine key factors (or categories) in my Derby Strikes System: 1. THE GRADED STAKES FACTOR. (The horse ran in a graded stakes race as a 3-year-old before March 31.) This points out horses who have competed against tough competition at 3 prior to March 31 rather than at the last minute in April, enabling the horse to be properly battle-tested. (Exceptions: Since the introduction of graded stakes races in the U.S. in 1973, only Genuine Risk in 1980, Sunny’s Halo in 1983, Mine That Bird in 2009, Always Dreaming in 2017 and Justify in 2018 have won the Kentucky Derby without running in a graded stakes race at 3 before March 31.) 2. THE WIN IN A GRADED STAKES FACTOR. (The horse has won a graded stakes race.) This points out horses who have shown they have the class to win a graded stakes race. (Exceptions: Ferdinand in 1986, Alysheba in 1987, Funny Cide in 2003 and Giacomo in 2005 are the only exceptions since the introduction of U.S. graded stakes races in 1973; Alysheba in 1987 did finish first in the Blue Grass, only to be disqualified and placed third.) 3. THE EIGHTH POLE FACTOR. (In either of his or her last two starts before the Kentucky Derby, the horse was either first or second with a furlong to go.) This points out horses who were running strongly at the eighth pole, usually in races at 1 1/16 or 1 1/8 miles. By running strongly at the same point in the Kentucky Derby, a horse would be in a prime position to win the roses. Keep in mind that 53 of the last 56 Kentucky Derby winners have been first or second with a furlong to run. Since Decidedly won the Derby in 1962 when he was third with a furlong to go, the only three Kentucky Derby winners who were not first or second with a furlong to run were Animal Kingdom, third with a furlong remaining in 2011 when only a half-length from being second; Giacomo, sixth with a furlong to go in 2005; and Grindstone, fourth with a furlong to run in 1996. (Exceptions: Since 1955, the Kentucky Derby winners who weren’t either first or second at the eighth pole in his or her last two starts have been Tim Tam in 1958, Carry Back in 1961, Cannonade in 1974, Gato Del Sol in 1982, Unbridled in 1990 and Sea Hero in 1993, with Canonero II in 1971 unknown.) 4. THE GAMENESS FACTOR. (The horse’s finish position in both of his or her last two races before the Kentucky Derby was no worse than his or her running position at the eighth pole.) This points out horses who don’t like to get passed in the final furlong. (Exceptions: Since 1955, the exceptions have been Venetian Way in 1960, Cannonade in 1974, Foolish Pleasure in 1975, Ferdinand in 1986, Silver Charm in 1997, Mine That Bird in 2009 and Super Saver in 2010, with Canonero II in 1971 unknown.) 5. THE DISTANCE FOUNDATION FACTOR. (The horse has finished at least third in a 1 1/8-mile race or longer before the Kentucky Derby.) This points out horses who have the proper foundation and/or stamina for the Kentucky Derby distance. (Exceptions: Since 1955, the only exceptions have been Kauai King in 1966, Sea Hero in 1993, Charismatic in 1999, Giacomo in 2005 and Mine That Bird in 2009.) 6. THE SUFFICIENT RACING EXPERIENCE FACTOR. (The horse has had at least six lifetime starts before the Kentucky Derby.) This points out horses who have the needed experience. (Exceptions: Since 1955, the exceptions have been Grindstone in 1996, Fusaichi Pegasus in 2000, Barbaro in 2006, Big Brown in 2008, Animal Kingdom in 2011, I’ll Have Another in 2012, American Pharoah in 2015, Always Dreaming in 2017 and Justify in 2018. Grindstone, Fusaichi Pegasus, Barbaro, I’ll Have Another, American Pharoah and Always Dreaming each had made five starts before the Kentucky Derby. Animal Kingdom had made four starts before the Kentucky Derby. Big Brown and Justify had made three starts before the Kentucky Derby.) 7. THE NO ADDING OR REMOVING BLINKERS FACTOR. (The horse has not added blinkers or had blinkers removed in his or her final start at 3 before the Kentucky Derby.) This seems to point out that, if a horse is good enough to win the Kentucky Derby, the trainer is not searching for answers so late in the game. (Since Daily Racing Form began including blinkers in its past performances in 1987, no horse has added blinkers or had blinkers removed in his or her last start at 3 before winning the Kentucky Derby.) 8. THE RACED AS A 2-YEAR-OLD FACTOR. (The horse made at least one start as a 2-year-old.) (Exceptions: Apollo in 1882 and Justify in 2018 are the only Kentucky Derby winners who didn’t race as a 2-year-old. Through 2018, the score is 142-2 in terms of Kentucky Derby winners who raced at 2. Since 1937, horses unraced as a 2-year-old are a combined 1 for 63 in the Kentucky Derby. During this period, the only horses to win, place or show were Hampden, who finished third in 1946; Coaltown, second in 1948; Agitate, third in 1974; Reinvested, third in 1982; Strodes Creek, second in 1994; Curlin, third in 2007; Bodemeister, second in 2012; Battle of Midway, third in 2017; and Justify, first in 2018.) 9. THE NOT A GELDING FACTOR. (The horse is not a gelding.) (Exceptions: Funny Cide in 2003 and Mine That Bird in 2009 are the only geldings to win the Kentucky Derby since Clyde Van Dusen in 1929.) WINX ENDS CAREER WITH YET ANOTHER WIN Think of the long winning streaks by two daughters of Street Cry. Zenyatta won 19 straight races in the United States until she lost the final start of her career by a head to Blame in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs in 2010. At Royal Randwick last Saturday, Australia superstar Winx made it 33 consecutive victories when she got the job done in the Group I Queen Elizabeth Stakes. Her glorious racing career concluded with 37 wins from 43 lifetime starts. Australia’s great Phar Lap won 37 of 57 career starts. Now 7-year-old Winx will move on to the next chapter of her life, that of a broodmare. Among Winx’s many accomplishments under silks, she made history last year by becoming the first four-time winner of Australia’s prestigious Group I Cox Plate. Winx won a total of 25 Group/Grade I races, a world record. (I made a mistake last week when I wrote that, going into last Saturday’s Queen Elizabeth, she had 23 Group/Grade I wins, but the correct number was 24. Sorry about that, Winx.) The Irish hurdler Hurricane Fly racked up 22 Group/Grade I wins in Europe from 2008-15. America’s legendary gelding John Henry, with 16 Group/Grade I victories, ranks third on the all-time list. The job trainer Chris Waller did to keep piling up win after win with Winx for such an extended period of time was nothing less than fantastic. Winx began her 33-race victory streak on May 16, 2015. American Pharoah won the Preakness Stakes that day by seven lengths while on his way to the first American Triple Crown sweep in 37 years. On the same day that Winx ran her final race, Monarch of Egypt became American Pharoah’s first foal to race, winning a race in Ireland. The record for the longest winning streak in the history of Thoroughbred racing is held by Camarero, who won 56 straight in Puerto Rico from April 1953 to August 1955. Camarero, who became Puerto Rico’s first Triple Crown winner in 1954, was victorious in 73 of 76 career starts. Kincsem, foaled in 1874, owns the record of 54 consecutive victories by a female Thoroughbred. Kincsem raced in Austria, England, France, Germany, Poland and Romania in addition to her native Hungary. She won 10 races as a 2-year-old, 17 as a 3-year-old, 15 as a 4-year-old and 12 as a 5-year-old. Kincscem won at distances ranging from a half-mile to 2 5/8 miles. THIS WEEK’S NTRA POLLS Here is the Top 10 for this week’s NTRA Top Thoroughbred Poll: Rank Points Horse (First-Place Votes) 1. 341 Bricks and Mortar (11)2. 323 Gift Box (6)3. 261 Midnight Bisou (2)4. 244 McKinzie (1)5. 239 Monomoy Girl (7)6. 168 City of Light (11)6. 168 Roy H 8. 110 Thunder Snow (5)9. 111 World of Trouble10 110 X Y Jet (1) Here is the Top 10 for this week’s NTRA Top 3-Year-Old Poll: Rank Points Horse (First-Place Votes) 1. 448 Omaha Beach (32)2. 370 Roadster (5)3. 344 Tacitus (7)4. 322 Game Winner (1)5. 271 Improbable6. 183 Vekoma6. 177 Maximum Security8. 87 Code of Honor9. 67 War of Will10. 57 By My Standards (1) End

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4.18.2019:

Weekly Bankroll Builder: April 19 Stronach 5 Picks

Pk5’s are not made to be easy, so let’s try and shake a frustrating 4-out-of-5 streak and forge on in the Stronach 5, with the guarantee once again at 100k. 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: Laurel Park R9 (5:09 ET) – 3upfm 25k MCL at 1-mile (turf) This looks like the time to be thin, as most of these have wretched dirt form and are hoping to improve on the turf, while the ones with turf form seem to tower over the rest. It sure looks like Dickinson got the prep he wanted with #2 SHE’SLIKETHEWIND (5-2) last time, as she now goes second-off the layoff and back to the turf, where she ran well against better in a handful of spots last year; if you’re on a budget, you could do worse than singling here and not using any backups. Pk5 A horses (listed in order of preference): 2 I’m not sold on #4 BURAK (7-2), even though her best turf race wins this, simply because she’s bred to run on the main track and was just awful on it in NY last year and now returns off the break, so sure, getting back to the green may help, but she just may be damaged goods too. The same can be said for #6 AFLEET FAIRY (7-2), and maybe even more so, because she had run well on the dirt before bombing in her seasonal finale, so a return to the green may not help. If lifetime maiden #10 Wolverette (5-1) feels like making her 17th start a winning one, she can do it without me, as this post is a rough one and there’s just no reason to think she breaks through here. Pk5 B horses: 4,6 (please note that we’ll use on 5,3 in Leg 2 for this backup ticket) Leg 2: Gulfstream Park R9 (5:18 ET) – 3f Starter/OC (35k) at 6 furlongs It’s tough to get a real feel here, as several have similar form and profiles, so it looks like a spread, though I’ll lean with those who have speed, since it doesn’t look overly heated earlier. An outside attack post should work for #5 NONCENTS (6-1), who rises in class off a pressing win for 25k and will get first run on the stalkers down inside. I don’t know what to make of #3 DREAM ON JILLY (7-5), who hasn’t been out since running 2nd in a local turf stakes in September and now goes for Fisher, but she did win on works in her debut (for Nicks), could be the controlling speed here, and seeing Zayas ride is a good sign. You have to use the class, #1 DANA GRACE (8-1), as she’s been facing better of late, but she may also be at the mercy of the pace, so standing alone at an underlaid price isn’t ideal. I’m going to also toss in #6 SUBSIDIARY (8-1), since she’s been working well and won her debut, even though it came on the Tapeta at WO in June and she has never been on dirt, and hasn’t run since July, though Casse is a solid 17% off this type of extended layoff. Pk5 A horses: 5,3,1,6 Improving off Navarro isn’t easy, so while Joseph is aces in the claiming game, I’ll use #2 ELISSAS SECRET (7-2) underneath only, especially since she couldn’t get to Noncents last time and might regress here. The wildcard is #4 CHARMAINE’S MIA (9-2), who has run exclusively on turf/Tapeta in her five starts but is bred for the main and has some speed, and is another who has been facing better, so she has to be included in some way. You could also use #7 Papa’s Little Girl (12-1), but she seems like a bounce candidate off a distant 5th against better, in what was far and away better than she’s ever done on figures. Pk5 B horses: 2,4 Leg 3: Gulfstream Park R10 (5:50 ET) – 3up 20k MCL at 5 furlongs (turf) Upside and a clean beginning should do wonders for #6 ELUSIVE RO (12-1), who was a good 4th last time on the return to turf after a tough start cost him his desired stalking spot just off the early lead. Today could be the day for #4 COME ON VENEZUELA (3-1) after he just-missed last time when beating ‘Ro and has hit the board in four straight, though we’ve said that before and he’s now 0-for-10. I’m not sure #1 LUCKYTOBEINAMERICA (6-1) will have to duel on the lead through torrid splits like he did last time when 4th behind the top pair, so if he breaks running they might not catch him. Pk5 A horses: 6,4,1 There’s a lot of dirt form with #9 FRANKIE APPS (5-2), he’s bred for turf, and could improve off his return from a five-month layoff, so let’s toss him in, though this wide draw did him no favors. It’s interesting that Iwinksi immediately goes to the turf off the claim with #2 TAYLORSINITIATION (4-1) after he was a disappointing 4th at odds-on for Joseph, though improving off this barn isn’t easy. Pk5 B horses: 9,2 Leg 4: Golden Gate Fields R5 (5:58 ET) – 3up 50k Starter at 1-mile (turf) By far the trickiest race of the sequence sees a mixed bag of 11 entered, several who have been running on the local Tapeta, as opposed to the turf, which further clouds things. Looking for a price seems to be a good idea, and you’ll get it with #7 UPO (5-1), who had good turf form against better at Del Mar and SA last year and got his tightener out of the way sprinting here off the long layoff last time. Clearly #8 GEORGIE HYPHEN (5-2) hits hard off his SA 2nd last time, and a repeat makes him tough, though he’ll be overbet and doesn’t have a lot of margin for error. The bomb here is #11 UNLAWFUL ACT (15-1), who has some solid turf form showing, should trip out nicely off what looks like a moderate pace, and could get completely overlooked in the sequence. Pk5 A horses: 7,8,11 There’s only some cheap speed inside, so the speed of #6 SHIFTY DANCER (4-1) makes him a player off his turf runs at SA, but it’s a little odd to see him get dangled for 12.5k off the layoff and barn change last time. Getting back to the turf could also move up #10 ARCH ANTHEM (6-1), who ran well on the Tapeta in his local bow and faced better on the lawn in So. Cal. Pk5 B horses: 6,10 Leg 5: Santa Anita R5 (6:15 ET) – 3f MSW at 6 furlongs We’ve gone deep leading up to this, so I’m going to lean on #1 MALIBU MUSIC (8-1) on the steep drop, as he drew perfectly, and catches a field loaded with speed and a slew of favorites that could get caught up in it, and #4 ARTIE B GOOD (5-2), who also can close and should like the stretch back out to two turns, after he ran credibly against tons better going long two-back. Pk5 A horses: 1,4 There will be no backups here, as I’ve got a lot of coverage leading up to this and love the race flow for my top-2, though obviously #7 Encumbered (2-1) is a big player, but I just don’t see him pressing things early and holding them off late.Pk5 B horses: NONE The tickets: Main Ticket: 2 with 5,3,1,6 with 6,4,1 with 7,8,11 with 1,4 = $72Leg 1 B Backup: 4,6 with 5,3 with 6,4,1 with 7,8,11 with 1,4 = $72Leg 2 B Backup: 2 with 2,4 with 6,4,1 with 7,8,11 with 1,4 = $36Leg 3 B Backup: 2 with 5,3,1,6 with 9,2 with 7,8,11 with 1,4 = $48Leg 4 B Backup: 2 with 5,3,1,6 with 6,4,1 with 6,10 with 1,4 = $48

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4.16.2019:

Harness Highlights: Allard And Dube Look For Levy Three-Peat

Keystone Velocity retired as the two-time defending champion in Yonkers Raceway’s George Morton Levy Memorial Pacing Series, but trainer Rene Allard and driver Daniel Dube remain threats to three-peat in the $662,800 final of the free-for-all pace this Saturday, April 20. Western Fame carries high hopes for Team Allard after he won 4 of 5 Levy elimination heats at the half-mile oval. He controlled the pace to win in his final tune-up last Saturday in 1:51 as the 1-to-5 favorite. Western Fame drew post 5 in the Levy final, the 11th of 12 races scheduled on the card that begins at 6:50 p.m. EST. The others, from the rail out, are: Anythingforlove A (Joe Bongiorno), More the Better N (Scott Zeron), JJ Flynn (Tim Tetrick), The Downtown Bus (Tetrick on a double call), Rodeo Rock (Andrew McCarthy), The Wall (Andy Miller) and Ideal Jimmy (Brent Holland). Ideal Jimmy poses a serious threat if he can negotiate the outside post. He won three Levy eliminations, the latest in a seasonal-best 1:52 while geared down in the stretch. Bettor Memories and The Downtown Bus also arrive off victories. Bettor Memories rallied second-over and surged past favorite I’m Some Graduate to spring a mild 5-1 surprise, while The Downtown Bus, hard used in the pace two starts back, slowed it down from the rail and went the distance on the front end. The Levy will be the richest race run in North America this year. The second biggest – the $401,600 Blue Chip Matchmaker – will swing into action two races earlier at Yonkers. Shartin N, who used the Matchmaker as a springboard to the first $1 million season ever by a pacing mare last year, looms as the favorite to repeat despite bypassing last week’s prelims. She bounced back from an erratic effort with a pair of odds-on victories in 1:52.2 and 1:54.2, respectively, for regular driver Tim Tetrick. Shartin N drew post 6 in the field of eight and will be surrounded by (from the rail out): Kaitlyn N (Matt Kakaley), Apple Bottom Jeans (Corey Callahan), Feelin’ Red Hot (George Brennan), Don’t Think Twice A (Jason Bartlett), Bettor Joy N (Dexter Dunn), Ideal Lifestyle A (driver TBA) and Seaswift Joy N (Jim Marohn Jr.). Kaitlyn N has tactical speed and the rail and won in 1:52.2 in the fastest of three eliminations last weekend. Seaswift Joy N is consistent and in top form but drew post 8. Apple Bottom Jeans went wire-to-wire to win in 3 of her 4 Matchmaker eliminations, the latest in 1:53 as the odds-on choice. Saturday’s undercard features the series consolations, going for $100,000 in the Levy and $75,000 in the Matchmaker.

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4.15.2019:

Monday, April 15: Mohawk Park Pick 4 Analysis

Woodbine Mohawk Park has a 10-race card set to go this evening. The feature rolls in Race 6, a Preferred Pace with a $34,000 purse. The Early 0.20 Pick 4 starts in Race 4, its usual spot in the lineup. The sequence has a $50,000 guaranteed pool and will be my focus. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Race 4 1-Cheyenne Ford-Hasn't won since joining Gillis barn, Filion sticks and could take a picture at a square price. 4-Mister Godro-1st start for Moreau and McClure takes a seat, will respect connections and look for a slight upset. 5-Dovuto Hanover-On 2/25 was claimed from Auciello for $23k, now he claims back for $12k and I'll use here. 7-Crocadile Canyon-3-1 ML chalk was claimed back by Shepherd and is sharp, can't dismiss but will shoot against. Race 5 1-Catch The Dream-Takes a meaningful drop and is in position to be on or close to the lead throughout, no excuses allowed. Race 6 1-Musical Rhythm-ML choice should make the most of drawing the wood, but even so not easy to trust. 2-St. James Gate-Trip dependent but is sharp and shouldn't blush versus this field. 3-Free Willy Hanover-Tailed off in last 2 but this is a spot to get sucked around and sweep by late. Race 7 4-Prince Giovanni-Gets a post edge compared to top foes, fits and should be up close at a square price. 8-Avalanche Hanover-Pace could be honest and race could set-up nicely if in striking range at top of the lane. 9-Lisvinnie-Is another who could roll late as long as minds manners. 10-Jimmy Be Good-Big try from 7-hole when claimed, will need best but usually in the hunt and post helps the price. My Ticket Race 4) 1,4,5,7 Race 5) 1 Race 6) 1,2,3/ Race 7) 4,8,9,10 Total Ticket Cost) $9.60 for $0.20Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia 

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4.15.2019:

Top-Ranked Kentucky Derby Preps are Telling

Most of what happens on Twitter either informs me or infuriates me. Rarely is there any middle ground. But on Sunday I got tagged on a conversation with Countdown to the Crown reader Glenn Atkinson and he mentioned something about the scouting report I had not even realized. While this is the 14th year for Countdown, the format hasn’t changed much in that time. Maybe that’s bad in this ever-changing world. But when it comes to measuring history, consistency comes in handy.  Glenn mentioned that Countdown’s Top-5 rated stakes performances going into the Derby was one of his factors used in handicapping the Kentucky Derby and that it had been highly predictive. He Tweeted: “I think that he had the winner on that list every year since at least 2012, maybe in the top two.” While I was flattered to read the compliment, my initial reaction was that it could not have been right. Turns out, Glenn’s an awfully accurate researcher. And the Countdown Top-5 rated stakes performances has done itself (and me) proud. I went back through the archives from Horseplayerdaily to ESPN to DRF and Horse Player NOW and enjoyed the trip down memory lane. Here are the actual published Top-5s since 2012. {Curiously, in 2015, I stopped the stakes-race rankings a few weeks short and did not continue beyond the 4-week window. Dortmund was atop the charts, but American Pharoah had yet to run his Arkansas Derby. So there is no 2015 final Top-5 in official form.}  2012 Stakes Race  1. BODEMEISTER (Arkansas Derby, OP, 4/14) – SECOND DERBY  2. I’LL HAVE ANOTHER (Santa Anita Derby, SA 4/7) – WON DERBY  3. CREATIVE CAUSE (San Felipe, SA, 3/10)  4. DULLAHAN (Blue Grass, Kee, 4/14) – THIRD DERBY  5. TAKE CHARGE INDY (Florida Derby, GP, 3/31) 2013 Stakes Race  1. ORB (Florida Derby, Gulfstream, 3/30) – WON DERBY  2. ITSMYLUCKYDAY (Holy Bull, Gulfstream, 1/26)  3. VERRAZANO (Wood Memorial, Aqueduct, 4/6)  4. VYJACK (Gotham, Aqueduct, 3/2)  5. REVOLUTIONARY (Withers, Aqueduct, 2/2) – THIRD DERBY 2014 Stakes Race  1. CALIFORNIA CHROME (SA Derby, 4/5) – WON DERBY 2. CALIFORNIA CHROME (San Felipe, 3/8) – WON DERBY 3. CANDY BOY (Lewis Memorial, SA, 2/8) 4. HOPPERTUNITY (Rebel, OP 3/14) 5. CONSTITUTION (Florida Derby, GP, 3/29) 2016 Stakes Race  1. NYQUIST (Florida Derby, GP, 4/2) – WON DERBY 2. NYQUIST (San Vicente, SA, 2/15) – WON DERBY 3. MOHAYMEN (Holy Bull, GP, 1/30) 4. CUPID (Rebel, OP, 3/19) 5. DANZING CANDY (San Felipe, SA, 3/12) 2017 Stakes Race  1. ALWAYS DREAMING (Fla Derby, GP, 4/1) – WON DERBY 2. CLASSIC EMPIRE (Arkansas Derby, OP, 4/15) 3. McCRAKEN (Sam F. Davis, Tam, 2/11) 4. GIRVIN (Louisiana Derby, FG, 4/1) 5. HENCE (Sunland Derby, Sun, 3/26) 2018 Stakes Race  1. JUSTIFY (Santa Anita Derby, SA, 4/6) – WON DERBY 2. MAGNUM MOON (Arkansas Derby, OP, 4/13) 3. BOLT D’ORO (San Felipe, SA, 3/10) 4. MAGNUM MOON (Rebel, OP, 3/17) 5. MENDELSSOHN (UAE Derby, Mey, 3/31)  So who will have the top performance of 2019? Maximum Security’s Xpressbet Florida Derby sat atop the charts coming into this week. Did Omaha Beach supplant him in the Arkansas Derby? You’ll have to check out Friday’s edition this week!

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4.13.2019:

Saturday, April 13: Meadowlands Pick 4 Analysis

The Meadowlands wraps up the weekend with a 13-race card. The feature is set to roll in Race 8, a Preferred Pace with a $30,000 purse. The 0.50 Pick 4 starts in Race 8 as well. It has a $50,000 guaranteed pool and will be my focus. The driver with the hottest hands at the Big M on Friday was Yannick Gingras with three wins. The top conditioners on the card were Ake Svanstedt and Ron Burke, each with two trips to the winner's circle. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Race 8 2-New Talent-Cullipher took the gelding home for a short rest, qualified well at HoP and should be in the hunt. 4-Sunfire Blue Chip-Swinging for a square price, comes off bench with 2 nice tune-ups, 9-yr-old knows how to win. 6-Highalator-2-1 ML chalk won last 2 and is sharp as a tack, it appears should get the top without much strain. Race 9 2-Billy Badger N-New Zealand bred has been facing tougher, Dunn returns and this is softest spot since coming to U.S. 4-Mindtrip-Drops into a better spot and Callahan returns, barn has done well, could be sitting on a big try. 6-Solo Story-Price shot can compete here if finds live cover, went 55.4 in the 2nd half last week at this class. 10-Play Jet Ray-Makes 4th start of the year for Burke, not much gate speed inside so best to respect connections. Race 10 1-Lyons King-Consistent 5-yr-old should be in the hunt at the wire again. 3-Whittaker N-Just hung in last after returning from YR, D. Miller's choice has won 3 of 5 at the Big M. 6-Threeofthebest A-Should like the company and does like the track, but Dunn needs to work a trip. Race 11 3-Superior Raven-Draws well and should compete here, tough race to handicap but could win at a square price. 5-Western Redhot-Took a picture at this class last week, speedy and camera shy, but M. Miller should have in play. 7-Boogie Nights-9-yr-old needs should be rolling late, fits with these but Ginsburg needs to keep in striking range. My Ticket Race 8) 2,4,6 Race 9) 2,4,6,10 Race 10) 1,3,6 Race 11) 3,5,7 Total Ticket Cost) $54 for $0.50Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia.

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4.12.2019:

Friday, April 12: Can-Am Pick 4 Analysis

The Can-Am 0.20 Pick 4 kicks-off at Woodbine Mohawk Park with Leg 1 going to post at about 10:10 EST. My $28.80 ticket is posted below. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Race 10-Mohawk Leg 1 3-Xelene Bayama-Draws well in 3rd start for new barn, needs a trip, does show more wins at Mohawk than most. 6-LDL Gem-Trying hard and Drury takes a spin, can make presence felt with a top effort. 9-Protect Blue Chip-Looking for 3rd straight and shouldn't have much trouble being saddled with the outside post. Race 10-Meadowlands Leg 2 3-Rockin Praline-1 of 2 for Surick who is going well, will toss last in slop, should be tough to beat if brings best. 6-Better Trix N-1st time Big M starter likes to win and will respect connections. 8-Jaye's A Lady-Surick trainee and McArdle mare has some gate speed for McCarthy to be put her into play. Race 11-Mohawk Leg 3 2-Check Mach-Sharp form in last 3 in a race where wins are in short supply, can pop at a square price. 3-Twice An Angel-Gets significant post relief in 3rd start of year at Mohawk, Cullen's choice looks like a player. 4-Woodmere Ceilidh-0-15 at Wbsb and 3 for last 36 but Auciello drops mare into a soft spot, best to respect. 9-Dazzling Rockette-Slow starter tries hard and rolls late, not sure pace will be hot enough, but price should be right. Race 11-Meadowlands Leg 4 2-Warrior One-Sharp effort in 1st start off bench, Lasix has seemed to help and looking for upswing to continue. 3-Foreverhillreign-Bet hard last week in the slop and broke, can make amends tonight. 4-Lucius Vorenus-D. Miller chose the #2 but will respect, raced well in 1st start since August. 9-Goes Down Smooth-Makes 3rd start of 2019 for Burke, tossing last break in slop, will be tough if races back to 3/22 effort. Can-Am 0.20 Pick 4 Mohawk Race 10) 3,6,9 Meadowlands Race 10) 3,6,8 Mohawk Race 11) 2,3,4, Meadowlands Race 11) 2,3,4,9 Total Ticket Cost) $28.80 for $0.20Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia.

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4.11.2019:

Oaklawn Handicap a Free For All to kick off Pick 4

The Oaklawn Handicap is about as evenly matched from top to bottom as you’ll see in a Grade 2 race for older horses. And there’s no better reason to jump into the Oaklawn late Pick 4 on Saturday. While the $1 million Arkansas Derby deservedly gets the most attention, the Oaklawn Handicap will probably be the main catalyst of healthy Pick 4 payoff on this card. You can make a case for a many in the field. Here’s a look at the field: Tenfold If you liked Tenfold last year, you are probably inclined to like him at OP, despite a fourth-place finish in an optional claiming race at Fair Grounds. It was his first of the year for the Preakness runner-up and Jim Dandy winner. Bettors often tend to put too much stock in the most recent race, and that might be the case here. It’s Oaklawn, it’s Steve Asmussen, it’s Ricardo Santana, Jr.. Tough to leave him off your ticket  Pioneer Spirit Was along in time in an optional claiming race over this strip but probably doesn’t have the class of some of these. He’ll some play with the Luis Saez-Brad Cox jockey-trainer connection and his best chance here would probably to get to the front end and attempt to carve out the fractions. He’s a pass on this ticket. Chris and Dave Was claimed for $45,000 three races back, won a starter allowance two back, and then seemed overmatched when sent into the Essex Handicap. However, he gave a good effort and was fifth, beaten less than two length. He could probably be in the pace mix but it’s not that difficult to prefer others. Lookin At Lee Was second with a tremendous late run last time, but he also has some races in which he’s shown good speed. He’s probably a ‘send’ today, unless the pace is just too much, and at that, he can back off and make a run. Never a bad thing to have Mike Smith aboard and his price will not be as long as he’d be with someone other than the riding legend up. Remembering Rita His optional claiming win last time was his first since taking the Cornhusker at Prairie Meadows, where he developed last summer with a maiden and optional claiming win leading up to his big Grade 3. His best chance would be on the front end but he has his work cut out for him in this one. Giant Expectations He was upset as the 8-5 favorite in the Essex, went back to his home base at Santa Anita and had two very good drills. He has won a race since the 2017 San Antonio but has kept company with some of the game’s better veterans. With a race over the track, Giant Expectations likely will be much better this go-round and is a heavy hitter in this one. Quip He couldn’t keep up with Prince Lucky and finished third in the Hal’s Hope, which is far less than a capital offense since he’s become one of the top older runners in the country. It was Quip’s first try since finishing eighth in the Preakness. He’s had steady and moderate workouts since the Hal’s Hope and is set for his return to Oaklawn, where he was second to Magnum Moon in the 2018 Arkansas Derby. He’s definitely on the ticket. Lone Sailor You know Lone Sailor has a closing move, but you have to have lots and lots of patience with that kind of running style. He made it through his “non-winners of two” condition when he won the Grade 3 Oklahoma Derby. It’s not impossible, but a lot of things would have to happen here. Rated R Superstar Scored a 14-1 upset in the Essex in his first win since taking the 2018 Ben Ali at Keeneland. He was claimed for $62,500 and got more than three times that when he won the Essex. Steady progression and ultimately a win in the Essex should be enough to make you take this horse seriously. Here’s the suggested ticket for the Pick 4 at Oaklawn: 9) #1 Tenfold, #4 Lookin At Lee, #6 Giant Expectations, #7 Quip, #9 Rated R Superstar. 10) #2 Lighthawk, #4 Combatant, #7 Zing Zang, #10 Tiz McNamara. 11) #1 Improbable, #3 Omaha Beach, #7 Galilean, #11 Long Range Toddy. 12) #3 Rotation, #5 Flatout Winner. 50-cent Pick 4: 1-4-6-7-9 with 2-4-7-10 with 1-3-7-11 with 3-5 ($80)

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4.11.2019:

Johnny D’s Arkansas Derby Analysis and Selections

Last Saturday’s sophomore action was torrid. From coast-to-coast. Right to left. Big Apple to Hollywood with a brief Lexington layover. Wood to Blue Grass to Santa Anita Derby. Or, if you prefer, Tacitus, Vekoma to Roadster. The big gamble for starting berths in the Kentucky Derby is nearly complete—33 down, 1 cancelled and 2 to go—Lexington Stakes at Keeneland and Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn. The former is worth just 34 total points toward a coveted seat at the final table below the Twin Spires. The latter is a high-stakes affair worth 170 total points. What makes matters even more interesting is that most of those seated at the table really need the money. No 3-year-old has dominated this season. So, as dust clears, 2-year-old champ Game Winner remains the one at the table holding tall stacks. He’s called every raise, so far, but hasn’t frightened anyone into folding. He’s had some bad beats. Close calls. Where a different card here or there would have made the difference between victory or defeat. With two losses in as many tries, this time around Game Winner’s clearly not holding ‘the nuts.’ However, rest assured that he won’t back down from a fight, either. Most recent to outdraw the champ was stablemate Roadster Saturday in the Santa Anita Derby. Before that Omaha Beach, a fellow California resident trained by Hall-of-Famer Richard Mandella, successfully called his bluff in Oaklawn’s Rebel Stakes. Among leading chip-holders also is Xpressbet Florida Derby winner Maximum Security. He’s got dangerous early speed in a Kentucky Derby scenario that might find the commodity in short supply. Amazingly, Maximum Security and Game Winner share common ownership in Gary and Mary West. Since Maximum Security came out of nowhere—successful in a $16k maiden race--some feel he may be bluffing. However, those he clobbered last out in the Xpressbet Florida Derby regret calling his raise. Looking to improve his hand on the river this weekend at Oaklawn is Improbable, another colt that shares Baffert’s shedrow with Game Winner and Roadster. He may be the best player seated at this weekend’s tables. Then again, maybe not. Previously mentioned Omaha Beach, a bit of a slow learner that broke maiden in his fifth attempt, now knows how to play the game. Riveting poker hands, especially those awarding seats at the final table in the Kentucky Derby, come down to the ‘river.’ The final card. Omaha Beach and Improbable enter the Arkansas Derby with the most ‘outs.’ Fourth-best or better probably puts the former in the main event. The latter must finish first or second to join the party. In Kentucky, Anothertwistafate or Sueno must win the Lexington or they’ll watch the Kentucky Derby on television. Below is one man’s horse-by-horse analysis of the Arkansas Derby with Selections. Arkansas Derby—11th at Oaklawn 7:43 pm ET  1. Improbable (Baffert/Ortiz) - 8/5 Three wins in four starts—all at less than even-money odds--including a neck defeat last out by Long Range Toddy, make this one a legit favorite. That he’s trained by Bob Baffert, the unofficial king of Oaklawn sophomore stakes races, doesn’t hurt. Blinkers and jockey Jose Ortiz go on for this race. The blinkers hopefully will keep the colt focused in the lane, correcting an issue that may have contributed to his defeat. Drayden Van Dyke, who had ridden the colt in all four previous races, will sit this one out. Baffert’s not averse to switching to top jocks for big races, so the change isn’t a criticism of Van Dyke as much as homage to multiple Eclipse Award-winner Ortiz. Since his loss in the Rebel Improbable has worked two bullets at Santa Anita—March 30, best-of-24 1:12 4/5 and April 5, best-of-8 1:14. From the rail with blinkers on Improbable should show more speed and be in the thick of things from the start. He’s not a favorite I’m eager to attempt to beat.  2. Six Shooter (Holthus/Cohen) - 30/1 Here’s a durable son of Trappe Shot that’s raced 10 times with 3 wins and 4 thirds. He’s raced at least once a month since a September debut where he was claimed for $20k. He tries, but he appears to lack the talent to outrun these. He does have a bullet, best-of-46 in 1:00 2/5 over the Oaklawn surface. 3. Omaha Beach (Mandella/Smith) - 2/1 There’s an old racing adage that says, ‘Once the light goes on (in a horse’s head) anything can happen.’ For Omaha Beach the switch was flipped in his next-to-last race when he finally won his fifth maiden attempt by 9 lengths. Before that he had finished a close second in 3 of 4 starts. After the win he returned to take the Grade 2 Rebel Stakes over 2-year-old champ Game Winner. For a maiden winner to bag a Grade 2 next out over a champion suggests that more than a mere light went on. That’s closer to a high-beam! Can this son of War Front land another top effort? Like Improbable he’s worked two bullets at Santa Anita since the Rebel: March 29, best-of-25 :47 4/5 and April 6, best-of-45 1:00 3/5. He’s got enough speed to be in the mix from the break, and the 3-hole draw seems ideal. Hall-of-Fame rider Mike Smith returns in the saddle. The colt’s talented, doing well, no doubt, but he’ll need to keep improving to win this. 4. Tikhvin Flew (Asmussen/Baze) - 30/1 In stakes races nationwide, no trainer throws more against the wall hoping for something to stick than Steve Asmussen. It’s understandable that owners want to get to the Kentucky Derby and that funny things happen in horse races, but the Hall-of-Fame trainer sometimes really pushes the envelope. He’s entered four in here, three with little chance and contender Long Range Toddy. What’s notable is that, Asmussen’s best shot, is marooned on the far outside in the 11-hole—with better inside postings occupied by barn-mates.   5. Laughing Fox (Asmussen/Santana Jr.) - 20/1 Dispatched at 9.20-to-1 in Omaha Beach’s division of the Rebel, Laughing Fox had trouble at the start and never recovered. Before that he had won two races at Oaklawn—a maiden and first-level allowance. He boasts a muddy bullet, best-of-22, :48 1/5 at Oaklawn April 8. If things get too hot up front he’s got a closing style that might work to pick up a piece of the exotics. 6. Gray Attempt (Fires/Elliott) - 8/1 Here’s the speed of the field. He’ll go the front and dare anyone to run with him. He’s won 4 out of 6 and is 2-for-3 at Oaklawn, but that loss came in the Grade 3 Southwest Stakes at a mile and one-sixteenth. At this level there’s a question about how far he can capably run. He’s got a muddy track bullet, best-of-8, April 5 at Oaklawn in :58 3/5. 7. Galilean (Hollendorfer/Prat) - 10/1 Here’s an interesting runner. He’s won 3 of 5 races and was third beaten less than 3 lengths in Long Range Toddy’s Rebel. He was 3.60-to-1 contender’s odds in there. Before that in his first 3-year-old start he absolutely crushed fellow state-breds in the Cal Cup Derby at Santa Anita. He’s trained by Hall-of-Famer Jerry Hollendorfer and ridden by rising star Flavian Prat. Blinkers come off for this. Expect him to be near the early pace. At anywhere near morning-line price of 10-1 he’s worth a exotics look. 8. Country House (Mott/Rosario) - 12/1 Second in the Grade 2 Risen Star this son of Lookin At Lucky has no speed and will need to navigate a path home. He has only a maiden race win on his resume and was a well-beaten fourth in the Louisiana Derby last out while wide. He could pick up pieces in exotics at a price. 9. One Flew South (O'Neill/Borel) - 50/1 There’s nothing on paper to suggest that this son of Giant’s Causeway can handle these. 10. Jersey Agenda (Asmussen/Vazquez) - 30/1 At nearly 31-1 Jersey Agenda had some trouble in Omaha Beach’s Rebel. Before that he encountered some difficulty on the first turn of the Southwest Stakes at contender-odds of 5.10-to-1. Both his maiden and first-level allowance successes came on or near the lead and that position will be occupied in here. Expect an early fade for this one. 11. Long Range Toddy (Asmussen/Court) - 5/1 He was a mild surprise when defeating Improbable by a neck in the Rebel. Before that he was third in the Southwest, second by a neck in the Smarty Jones and winner of Remington Park’s Springboard Mile. Clearly, he’s durable and talented. The major question in here is can he repeat that last effort or was it a one-off? His running style and this post position suggest that he will be forced wide on the first turn. That won’t help his chances. From where we sit he’s not worth the chance at a short price. Bottom Line The One to Beat: 1. Improbable Next Best: 3. Omaha Beach Price Play: 7. Galilean For Exotic Lovers Only: 2. Six Shooter 5. Laughing Fox 8. Country House Race On!

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4.11.2019:

April 11: Hoosier Park Pick 4 Analysis

Hoosier Park has an 11-race card set to go with the first post at 6:30 EST. The Hi-5 rolls in Race 12, it has a 0.20 minimum wager with a $10,000 guaranteed pool and a 12% takeout. The 0.50 Pick 4 will be my focus. That sequence starts in Race 3 and it also has a $10,000 guaranteed pool. The drivers with the hottest hands at Hoosier last night were Andy Shetler and John De Long, each with two wins. There wasn't a trainer on the 11-race card with more than one trip to the winner's circle. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Race 3 2-Rock My Ten-Price shot knows how to win, could be handled more aggressively tonight and be kept in striking range. 4-Billy Nine Toes-1st start at HoP but Tetrick knows well, has the speed to take a picture. 5-Always A Fiji-Came from the clouds, had a 55.4 last half to snag a win as chalk, a major player again, will be bet hard. Race 4 2-Madelines Craycray-Slow starter should be tighter after a good try in season debut. Could be the time to break maiden. 3-Incredible Show-Another who was far back early but rallied, filly could get a close-up trip and be in position to rally late. 6-BB's Rockin Image-Fine try from 7-hole in HoP season debut to finish 2nd. 9/5 ML chalk looks like a major player. Race 5 2-Putnams Attack-Camera shy but some money showed in 1st HoP start, gets post relief and this isn't a winning bunch. 4-Wildcat Bobby-Drops and will look to play instead of ML chalks, this looks like a spot get 2nd picture of 2019. 5-Schwartz Bros Tony-Was too far back in last when dropped to this class, looking for better in 3rd start of the year. Race 6 2-Glorious Nite-Odds-on chalk broke in last on a sloppy track, 4-yr-old will be bet hard again and can make amends. 3-Cleo Patrick-Had 2 qualifiers on Lasix and now makes season debut for Gaskin barn, will respect lightly raced filly. 4-Always By Grace-In a better spot tonight, came the back half in 56.1, best to not overlook Team Macomber trainee. 0.50 Pick 4 2,4,5/2,3,6/2,4,5/2,3,4 Total Bet=$40.50 Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia

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4.10.2019:

Roadster Joins Prospective Kentucky Derby Field

Bob Baffert now can breathe easy regarding Roadster’s Kentucky Derby status after the colt’s victory in last Saturday’s Santa Anita Derby. It’s also a good thing for Baffert that, while he now can breathe easy, throat surgery was not required for him to do so, as was the case with Roadster. Prior to Roadster’s first appearance under silks last summer at Del Mar, he was being touted as a special colt. Hammered down to 4-5 favoritism at first asking on July 29, he raced third early and drew away in the stretch to win a six-furlong maiden special weight race by 4 1/4 lengths. Because of all the hype and his impressive debut, Roadster was sent off as the 3-5 favorite in the Grade I Del Mar Futurity on Sept. 3. But he lost that seven-furlong race by two lengths, finishing third behind 8-5 Game Winner and 7-1 Rowayton. Game Winner became Baffert’s 14th Del Mar Futurity winner. No other trainer has dominated any of this country’s current Grade I races to such an extent. After the Del Mar Futurity, Game Winner won the Grade I FrontRunner Stakes at Santa Anita and Grade I Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs. He was voted a 2018 Eclipse Award as champion 2-year-old male. As for Roadster, he was found to have had a throat obstruction when he ran in the Del Mar Futurity. Consequently, he underwent throat surgery. On March 1 at Santa Anita, Roadster returned to the races. He won a one-mile allowance/optional claiming race by 2 1/2 lengths at odds of 4-5. The runner-up in the field of five was 3-5 favorite Nolo Contesto. Roadster then turned the tables on Game Winner when they had their rematch in the Santa Anita Derby. Yes, Game Winner now has lost both of his starts this year. Nevertheless, he remains a serious win candidate for the May 4 Kentucky Derby. In Game Winner’s first 2019 start, he lost a division of Oaklawn Park’s Grade II Rebel Stakes by the slimmest of margins to Omaha Beach on March 16. That certainly was a fine effort by Game Winner in defeat from the standpoint that he had not raced since the Nov. 2 BC Juvenile. Game Winner subsequently lost the Santa Anita Derby by a half-length, but a case can be made he might well have won if not for a wide trip. Indeed, according to Trakus info, he traveled 38 feet, or approximately four lengths, farther than Roadster. Baffert now has won the Santa Anita Derby nine times. But keep in mind that two of his five Kentucky Derby winners – Silver Charm in 1997 and Real Quiet in 1998 -- ran second in the Santa Anita Derby, like Game Winner. Actually, only one of Baffert’s nine Santa Anita Derby winners has gone on to capture the Kentucky Derby. That was Justify last year. These are Baffert’s nine Santa Anita Derby winners, with their Beyer Speed figure in parentheses: 2019 Roadster (98)2018 Justify (107)2015 Dortmund (106)2011 Midnight Interlude (97)2009 Pioneerof the Nile (97)2001 Point Given (110)1999 General Challenge (108)1998 Indian Charlie (111)1996 Cavonnier (104) Roadster had zero Kentucky Derby points going into last Saturday’s Santa Anita Derby. Fortunately for him, the Santa Anita Derby essentially is a “win and you’re in” race for the Kentucky Derby due to the fact that the Santa Anita Derby winner earns 100 Kentucky Derby points. Justify was in the same boat last year. He likewise had zero Kentucky Derby points going into the Santa Anita Derby. When Justify won the Santa Anita Derby by three lengths, he punched his ticket to the Kentucky Derby. Justify then became Hall of Famer Baffert’s second Triple Crown winner, along with American Pharoah in 2015. On the backstretch during last Saturday’s 1 1/8-mile Santa Anita Derby, Roadster dropped back. It looked like maybe he was not going to fire. But it turned out that his Hall of Fame jockey, Mike Smith, simply was in no hurry. When Smith decided the time had come to ask Roadster to make his move, the Quality Road colt readily did so. Roadster produced a sustained rally in the final quarter to prevail by a half-length in 1:51.28 on a racing surface not producing anything close to fast times during the entire afternoon. Justify’s final time in last year’s Santa Anita Derby was 1:49.72. As I wrote last year, that clocking would have been faster if not for what Baffert and others described as a very deep and tiring surface, a view supported by Justify being assigned a 107 Beyer, a figure positively impacted by the slower-than-usual surface as quantified by the track variant. While the track for the 2018 Santa Anita Derby was considered by many to be very deep and tiring, it seems the surface for this year’s renewal was even slower. Roadster was credited with a 98 Beyer for his Santa Anita Derby performance. Some feel a 98 is too high vis-a-vis the 1:51.28 final time. Vekoma won Keeneland’s Grade II Blue Grass Stakes by 3 1/2 lengths at 1 1/8 miles last Saturday for trainer George Weaver. Vekoma was assigned a 94 Beyer Speed Figure, even though his 1:50.93 Blue Grass clocking was faster than Roadster’s 1:51.28. Andrew Beyer, the father of Beyer Speed Figures, explained in the Daily Racing Form why Roadster’s Santa Anita Derby 98 figure is higher than Vekoma’s 94 Blue Grass figure despite Vekoma having a faster final time. “Different tracks may have very different racing surfaces,” Beyer wrote. “And the inherent speed of a racing surface can change from day to day. That is why the most important part of making speed figures is to determine the speed of the track. “The racing surface for the Santa Anita was slower than the Keeneland track was for the Blue Grass. That’s the simple reason that Roadster earned a higher figure for running 1:51.28 than Vekoma did for running 1:50.93.” MY KENTUCKY DERBY RANKINGS Roadster moves up to No. 4 on my Kentucky Derby Top 10 this week after being No. 8 last week. I am keeping him a notch below Game Winner due mainly to the champ’s wider trip last Saturday. 1. Omaha Beach2. Maximum Security3. Game Winner4. Roadster5. War of Will6. Improbable7. Long Range Toddy8. Anothertwistafate9. Tacitus10. Vekoma No 1 Omaha Beach, No. 6 Improbable and No. 7 Long Range Toddy clash this Saturday in Oaklawn Park’s Grade I Arkansas Derby at 1 1/8 miles. They are part of a field of 10 vying for 170 qualifying points (100-40-20-10) for the Kentucky Derby. Improbable is the Arkansas Derby morning-line favorite at 8-5. He drew the inside post position in the field of 11. Omaha Beach, post 3, is 2-1. Long Range Toddy, post 11, is 5-1. No. 8 Anothertwistafate is entered in Keeneland's Grade III Lexington Stakes. The 1 1/16-mile race has 10 entered. No. 9 Tacitus overcame severe early trouble to win Aqueduct’s Grade II Wood Memorial by 1 1/4 lengths at 1 1/8 miles last Saturday. He was credited with a career-best 97 Beyer Speed Figure. Tacitus, a son of premier sire Tapit and multiple Grade I winner Close Hatches, previously won the Grade II Tampa Bay Derby on March 9 for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott. War of Will moves back onto my Top 10 this week following his four-furlong workout in :48.80 at Keeneland last Saturday morning for trainer Mark Casse. I had taken War of Will off my Top 10 after he finished ninth as the 4-5 favorite in the Grade II Louisiana Derby on March 23. In what has to be considered a quirky incident, War of Will abruptly lost his footing behind in the first few strides of the Louisiana Derby. He came out of the race with a strained patellar ligament, according to Casse. But in War of Will’s four-furlong drill last Saturday with jockey Tyler Gaffalione in the saddle, the colt suggested it might be unwise to disregard him in the Run for the Roses because of what occurred in the Louisiana Derby. “Tyler came out and said he never felt better, and that made my day,” Casse said to BloodHorse’s Claire Crosby following War of Will’s workout. “I told Tyler I wanted him to go between :48 and :49. He said about the top of the lane, he reached up and grabbed (War of Will) and he took off. He was like, ‘Whoa, big boy!’ And he galloped out strong. It’s a small miracle.” Prior to War of Will’s Louisiana Derby debacle, he had won the Grade III Lecomte Stakes by four lengths and Grade II Risen Star Stakes by 2 1/4 lengths. On more than one occasion, Casse has called War of Will “a superstar.” BETTORS FAVORED ROADSTER IN FUTURE WAGER Roadster was a slight 6-1 favorite in Pool Four of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager (KDFW) that closed last Sunday. This was the final of the four future wager pools for the 2019 Kentucky Derby. The previous three pools closed on Nov. 25, Feb. 10 and March 10. Game Winner and Grade I Florida Derby winner Maximum Security were each 7-1. Improbable and Tacitus were each 8-1. Omaha Beach was 10-1. War of Will closed at 23-1. I think that is a terrific price. No matter what happens, I see it as tremendous value. That’s because if War of Will had won the Louisiana Derby, as many had expected him to, he almost certainly would have been 10-1 or lower instead of 23-1 in the KDFW. A prime example of just how much one defeat can skew a price significantly upward occurred in 1995. Thunder Gulch won the Grade II Fountain of Youth Stakes and Grade I Florida Derby, but then finished fourth as a 6-5 favorite in the Grade II Blue Grass. If Thunder Gulch had won the Blue Grass, he probably would have been 10-1 or lower in the Kentucky Derby. But after his defeat in the Blue Grass, Thunder Gulch was allowed to get away at 24-1 in the Kentucky Derby. He paid $51 for each $2 win ticket. Interestingly, that 24-1 price for Thunder Gulch is almost identical to War of Will’s 23-1 in the KDFW. By the way, in Pool Four of the 2018 KDFW, Justify closed as the 3-1 favorite. When he succeeded in the Kentucky Derby, Justify went off at slightly under 3-1, paying $7.80 for a $2 win ticket. Here were the final odds for Pool Four of the 2019 KDFW: 6-1 Roadster7-1 Game Winner7-1 Maximum Security8-1 Improbable8-1 Tacitus10-1 Omaha Beach15-1 Vekoma19-1 All Others19-1 Anothertwistafate20-1 Code of Honor21-1 Win Win Win23-1 Long Range Toddy23-1 War of Will32-1 Bourbon War32-1 By My Standards35-1 Haikal35-1 Spinoff50-1 Cutting Humor53-1 Galilean55-1 Plus Que Parfait65-1 Bodexpress65-1 Instagrand70-1 Signalman111-1 Outshine CURRENT STRIKES SITUATION In terms of my Derby Strikes System, Wood winner Tacitus and Blue Grass victor Vekoma each have one strike. Santa Anita Derby winner Roadster has two. I introduced my Derby Strikes System in 1999. The system consists of nine key factors. When a horse does not qualify in one of the nine categories, the horse gets a strike. The nine key factors (or categories) are explained at the end of this column. According to the Derby Strikes System, a horse with zero strikes or only one strike has a much better chance to win the Kentucky Derby than a horse with two strikes or more. Going back to 1973, 38 of the last 46 Kentucky Derby winners have had zero strikes or just one strike. Six of the last 46 Kentucky Derby winners have had two strikes: Cannonade (1974), Ferdinand (1986), Sea Hero (1993), Funny Cide (2003), Giacomo (2005) and Always Dreaming (2017). It’s not impossible, but it is a tall task for a horse with more than two strikes to win the Kentucky Derby. Of the last 46 horses to win the Run for the Roses, only two horses have won with more than two strikes, Mine That Bird and Justify. Tacitus and Vekoma each get a strike in Category 6, the “racing experience” category. One of Roadster’s two strikes also comes in Category 6. I consider Category 6 to be by far the least important of the nine categories because horses just do not race as much nowadays as they did back in the day. From 1973 through 2000, Fusaichi Pegasus was the only horse to get a strike in Category 6. But from 2001 through 2018, seven horses -- Barbaro, Big Brown, Animal Kingdom, I’ll Have Another, American Pharoah, Always Dreaming and Justify -- got a strike in Category 6 for making fewer than six starts before the Kentucky Derby. Put another way, only 3.5% of the Kentucky Derby winners in the 28 years from 1973 through 2000 had a strike in Category 6. But 36.8% of the winners in the last 18 years from 2001 through 2018 had a strike in that category. In terms of the Derby Strikes System, it’s not until a horse’s next race will be the Kentucky Derby that a horse’s number of strikes can be determined. These are the strikes for a number of the leading Kentucky Derby point earners as listed by Churchill Downs when the leaderboard was updated on April 6, plus Master Fencer, who gets a spot in the field for having the most points in the Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby: ZERO STRIKES OR ONE STRIKE By My Standards (Category 6)Code of Honor (Category 6)Cutting Humor (Category 6)Game Winner (0 stikes)Maximum Security (Category 6)Plus Que Parfait (Category 7)Somelikeithotbrown (Category 4)Tacitus (Category 6)Vekoma (Category 6)War of Will (Category 5) TWO STRIKES Bodexpress (Categories 2 and 6)Gray Magician (Categories 2 and 3)Haikal (Categories 3 and 6)Roadster (Categories 1 and 6)Signalman (Categories 3 and 4)Tax (Categories 6 and 9)Win Win Win (Categories 2 and 3) THREE OR MORE STRIKES Bourbon War (Categories 2, 3, 5 and 6)Master Fencer (Categories 1, 2 and 3)Spinoff (Categories 2, 4 and 6) TO BE DETERMINED AnothertwistafateCountry HouseImprobableLong Range ToddyOmaha BeachSueno WINNER’S STRIKES FROM 1973 THROUGH 2018 Here are the strikes for each Kentucky Derby winner going back to 1973: 1973 Secretariat (0 strikes)1974 Cannonade (2 strikes) Categories 3 and 41975 Foolish Pleasure (0 strikes)1976 Bold Forbes (0 strikes)1977 Seattle Slew (0 strikes)1978 Affirmed (0 strikes)1979 Spectacular Bid (0 strikes)1980 Pleasant Colony (0 strikes)1981 Genuine Risk (1 strike) Category 11982 Gato Del Sol (1 strike) Category 31983 Sunny’s Halo (1 strike) Category 11984 Swale (0 strikes)1985 Spend a Buck (0 strikes)1986 Ferdinand (2 strikes) Categories 2 and 41987 Alysheba (1 strike) Category 21988 Winning Colors (0 strikes)1989 Sunday Silence (0 strikes)1990 Unbridled (1 strike) Category 31991 Strike the Gold (0 strikes)1992 Lil E. Tee (0 strikes)1993 Sea Hero (2 strikes) Categories 3 and 51994 Go for Gin (0 strikes)1995 Thunder Gulch (0 strikes)1996 Grindstone (0 strikes)1997 Silver Charm (1 strike) Category 41998 Real Quiet (0 strikes)1999 Charismatic (1 strike) Category 52000 Fusaichi Pegasus (1 strike) Category 62001 Monarchos (0 strikes)2002 War Emblem (0 strikes)2003 Funny Cide (2 strikes) Categories 2 and 92004 Smarty Jones (0 strikes)2005 Giacomo (2 strikes) Categories 2 and 52006 Barbaro (1 strike) Category 62007 Street Sense (0 strikes)2008 Big Brown (1 strike) Category 62009 Mine That Bird (4 strikes) Categories 1, 4, 5 and 92010 Super Saver (1 strike) Category 42011 Animal Kingdom (1 strike) Category 62012 I’ll Have Another (1 strike) Category 62013 Orb (0 strikes)2014 California Chrome (0 strikes)2015 American Pharoah (1 strike) Category 62016 Nyquist (0 strikes)2017 Always Dreaming (2 strikes) Categories 1 and 62018 Justify (3 strikes) Categories 1, 6 and 8 WINX’S RACING CAREER TO END SATURDAY Australia’s super mare Winx is scheduled to race for the final time Saturday against eight rivals in the Group I Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Royal Randwick. She will be bidding for her 33rd straight victory. The streak began on May 16, 2015. Winx holds the world record of 23 Group/Grade I wins. The Irish hurdler Hurricane Fly recorded 22 such victories in Europe from 2008-15. America’s legendary gelding John Henry ranks third in terms of all-time Group/Grade I wins with 16. THIS WEEK’S NTRA POLLS Here is the Top 10 for this week’s NTRA Top Thoroughbred Poll: Rank Points Horse (First-Place Votes) 1. 313 Bricks and Mortar (5)2. 300 Gift Box (7)3. 266 Monomoy Girl (10)4. 244 McKinzie (1)5. 202 City of Light (14)6. 187 Roy H (1)7. 164 Midnight Bisou8. 123 X Y Jet (1)9. 121 Thunder Snow (6)10 105 World of Trouble Here is the Top 10 for this week’s NTRA Top 3-Year-Old Poll: Rank Points Horse (First-Place Votes) 1. 364 Roadster (14)2. 346 Tacitus (8)3. 340 Game Winner (8)4. 327 Omaha Beach (5)5. 270 Improbable (7)6. 165 Vekoma6. 152 Maximum Security (1)8. 110 Long Range Toddy (1)9. 75 Code of Honor10. 44 War of Will DERBY STRIKES SYSTEM’S CATEGORIES These are the nine key factors (or categories) in my Derby Strikes System: 1. THE GRADED STAKES FACTOR. (The horse ran in a graded stakes race as a 3-year-old before March 31.) This points out horses who have competed against tough competition at 3 prior to March 31 rather than at the last minute in April, enabling the horse to be properly battle-tested. (Exceptions: Since the introduction of graded stakes races in the U.S. in 1973, only Genuine Risk in 1980, Sunny’s Halo in 1983, Mine That Bird in 2009, Always Dreaming in 2017 and Justify in 2018 have won the Kentucky Derby without running in a graded stakes race at 3 before March 31.) 2. THE WIN IN A GRADED STAKES FACTOR. (The horse has won a graded stakes race.) This points out horses who have shown they have the class to win a graded stakes race. (Exceptions: Ferdinand in 1986, Alysheba in 1987, Funny Cide in 2003 and Giacomo in 2005 are the only exceptions since the introduction of U.S. graded stakes races in 1973; Alysheba in 1987 did finish first in the Blue Grass, only to be disqualified and placed third.) 3. THE EIGHTH POLE FACTOR. (In either of his or her last two starts before the Kentucky Derby, the horse was either first or second with a furlong to go.) This points out horses who were running strongly at the eighth pole, usually in races at 1 1/16 or 1 1/8 miles. By running strongly at the same point in the Kentucky Derby, a horse would be in a prime position to win the roses. Keep in mind that 53 of the last 56 Kentucky Derby winners have been first or second with a furlong to run. Since Decidedly won the Derby in 1962 when he was third with a furlong to go, the only three Kentucky Derby winners who were not first or second with a furlong to run were Animal Kingdom, third with a furlong remaining in 2011 when only a half-length from being second; Giacomo, sixth with a furlong to go in 2005; and Grindstone, fourth with a furlong to run in 1996. (Exceptions: Since 1955, the Kentucky Derby winners who weren’t either first or second at the eighth pole in his or her last two starts have been Tim Tam in 1958, Carry Back in 1961, Cannonade in 1974, Gato Del Sol in 1982, Unbridled in 1990 and Sea Hero in 1993, with Canonero II in 1971 unknown.) 4. THE GAMENESS FACTOR. (The horse’s finish position in both of his or her last two races before the Kentucky Derby was no worse than his or her running position at the eighth pole.) This points out horses who don’t like to get passed in the final furlong. (Exceptions: Since 1955, the exceptions have been Venetian Way in 1960, Cannonade in 1974, Foolish Pleasure in 1975, Ferdinand in 1986, Silver Charm in 1997, Mine That Bird in 2009 and Super Saver in 2010, with Canonero II in 1971 unknown.) 5. THE DISTANCE FOUNDATION FACTOR. (The horse has finished at least third in a 1 1/8-mile race or longer before the Kentucky Derby.) This points out horses who have the proper foundation and/or stamina for the Kentucky Derby distance. (Exceptions: Since 1955, the only exceptions have been Kauai King in 1966, Sea Hero in 1993, Charismatic in 1999, Giacomo in 2005 and Mine That Bird in 2009.) 6. THE SUFFICIENT RACING EXPERIENCE FACTOR. (The horse has had at least six lifetime starts before the Kentucky Derby.) This points out horses who have the needed experience. (Exceptions: Since 1955, the exceptions have been Grindstone in 1996, Fusaichi Pegasus in 2000, Barbaro in 2006, Big Brown in 2008, Animal Kingdom in 2011, I’ll Have Another in 2012, American Pharoah in 2015, Always Dreaming in 2017 and Justify in 2018. Grindstone, Fusaichi Pegasus, Barbaro, I’ll Have Another, American Pharoah and Always Dreaming each had made five starts before the Kentucky Derby. Animal Kingdom had made four starts before the Kentucky Derby. Big Brown and Justify had made three starts before the Kentucky Derby.) 7. THE NO ADDING OR REMOVING BLINKERS FACTOR. (The horse has not added blinkers or had blinkers removed in his or her final start at 3 before the Kentucky Derby.) This seems to point out that, if a horse is good enough to win the Kentucky Derby, the trainer is not searching for answers so late in the game. (Since Daily Racing Form began including blinkers in its past performances in 1987, no horse has added blinkers or had blinkers removed in his or her last start at 3 before winning the Kentucky Derby.) 8. THE RACED AS A 2-YEAR-OLD FACTOR. (The horse made at least one start as a 2-year-old.) (Exceptions: Apollo in 1882 and Justify in 2018 are the only Kentucky Derby winners who didn’t race as a 2-year-old. Through 2018, the score is 142-2 in terms of Kentucky Derby winners who raced at 2. Since 1937, horses unraced as a 2-year-old are a combined 1 for 63 in the Kentucky Derby. During this period, the only horses to win, place or show were Hampden, who finished third in 1946; Coaltown, second in 1948; Agitate, third in 1974; Reinvested, third in 1982; Strodes Creek, second in 1994; Curlin, third in 2007; Bodemeister, second in 2012; Battle of Midway, third in 2017; and Justify, first in 2018.) 9. THE NOT A GELDING FACTOR. (The horse is not a gelding.) (Exceptions: Funny Cide in 2003 and Mine That Bird in 2009 are the only geldings to win the Kentucky Derby since Clyde Van Dusen in 1929.) End

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4.10.2019:

Weekly Bankroll Builder: April 12 Stronach 5 Picks

We’re back to battle with another Stronach 5, with the guarantee once again at 100k, in what looks like a relatively formful sequence that won’t be too taxing on the bankroll. 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: Laurel Park R9 (5:16 ET) – 3upfm 14k MCL at 6 furlongs It seems like the Laurel Stronach 5 races have been pretty formful, for the most part, so I’ll play this one that way too, as #8 TRUE TO JEANINE (7-2) will love this drop off a distant 10th on debut in a FG MSW for Brueggemann, especially since she’s now with Ness, while #1 AMERICAN STAR (5-2) is best on figures, though she’s is 0-for-9 and drew poorly. I’m also going to use MSW dropper #5 HAYLEY AGNES (6-1), since she’ll be a decent price, and that 3rd for a tag two-back puts her in the mix here. Pk5 A horses (listed in order of preference): 8,1,5 You can tab the tote on the two firsters—#2 Gemini Lil (6-1) and #3 Regal Duet (8-1)—but neither inspire and the former goes for a winless trainer while the latter is trained by Keefe, who is 0-for-24 with firsters. I’m also against #7 Variance (4-1), since her only good run in three starts off the Magill claim came in the slop, and her two fast track runs were very poor. Pk5 B horses: NONE Leg 2: Gulfstream Park R9 (5:34 ET) – 3up AOC (62.5k/N2X) at 5 furlongs (turf) The obvious single is #4 PURE SENSATION (8-5), who is one of the better turf sprinters in the country on his best day, but dig a little and you’ll see he lost this race in his comeback last year, and he’s now 8, so he could need a start or two before getting his legs back underneath him. I’ll go with the next logical, the speedy #10 MCERIN (5-2), for aired here last time for wonder trainer Jason Servis, and this outside attack post is a big coup in a race loaded with speed. Pk5 A horses: 10,4 I don’t love going three-deep here, but there’s a ton of pace and #1 SINGANDCRYINDUBAI (15-1) will be a price and was a relatively close 4th to Imprimis in a small local stakes last time, and that dude is the best turf sprinter in the US, so with a positive race flow, let’s use this veteran as well. Pk5 B horses: 1 Leg 3: Golden Gate Fields R5 (5:56 ET) – 3yof 12.5k MCL at 6 furlongs No real opinion here, other than the race looks like a spread, so I’ll use the main contenders—#4 UNUSUAL DANCER (9-2), #6 DONVERAS CAT (6-1), #2 TIZ A DREAMER (5-1), and #8 CHAMBOOZEL (4-1)—while noting that the former seems to have a huge race flow edge on the other trio, as he has plenty of tactical speed, while ‘Cat is an MSW dropper, so those two could potentially be leaned on if you’re looking to narrow down. Pk5 A horses: 4,6,2,8 The quartet above don’t really overwhelm or tower over the others, so let’s add in #5 HONG KONG FLEW (3-1) and #7 TOOLEY TUNES (8-1), as the former has a ton of speed and the latter could like the cutback to one-turn. Pk5 B horses: 5,7 Leg 4: Gulfstream Park R10 (6:04 ET) – 3yof 2ok MCL at 7  furlongs (turf) Being a firster here isn’t a bad thing, especially when drawn inside, so let’s put #5 JUDGE KITTEN (4-1) on top for Maker and the Ramseys, as she’s a daughter of Kitten’s Joy, the proven runners aren’t much, and the other two favorites drew terribly. You do get upside with #10 UPCAPTURED ANGEL (3-1), who is best of the proven runners, but this post is terrible and it’s not like she ran huge when 5th against a bit better last time. Pk5 A horses: 5,10 I’m going to use #11 CHARGE IT JENN (7-2), as this is a big drop and she has some decent form, but this post is dreadful and she goes for an ice cold Vaccarezza barn, so there’s no way I want her as an A, and she’s the type to toss if you’re look to condense your ticket. you could use others here, like #3 Tennessee Cotton (20-1) and #7 Princess Gaby (6-1), but they likely need to improve and need the top trio to regress, which seems like a big ask. Pk5 B horses: 11 Leg 5: Santa Anita R5 (6:13 ET) – 3f MSW at 6 furlongs The finale is littered with firsters from barns that don’t really excel with these types, so it looks like it’s now or never with #4 HONEYFROMTHESOUTH (9-5), who has lost but hit the board three times as an odds-on favorite for Baffert, but has no upside, though any of those three might get it done here. I do want someone else, just in case the trend on the 4 continues, and the dart has landed on #5 INTO CHOCOLATE (8-1), who did well to draw outside the favorite, has worked big for Sise (2-for-9 with firsters), and is by win-early sire Into Mischief. Pk5 A horses: 4,5 There are several of the firsters who can be used here, but, as I mentioned, none stand out and don’t really have any angles on their side. If you are looking for some added coverage, the pair of McCarthy gals—#8 Royally Bland (8-1) and #6 Ce Ce (5-1)—both have shown flashes in the morning and start for one of the sharper (and underrated) trainers around. while #9 Mind For Mischief (4-1), woke way up in the slop last time and now adds Lasix, but does need to prove it on dry land.Pk5 B horses: NONE The tickets: Main Ticket: 8,1,5 with 10,4 with 4,6,2,8 with 5,10 with 4,5 = $96Leg 2 B Backup: 8,1,5 with 1 with 4,6,2,8 with 5,10 with 4,5 = $48Leg 3 B Backup: 8,1,5 with 10,4 with 5,7 with 5,10 with 4,5 = $48Leg 4 B Backup: 8,1,5 with 10,4 with 4,6,2,8 with 11 with 4,5 = $48

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4.9.2019:

April 9: Pompano Park Pick 4 Analysis

Pompano Park has an 8-race card ready to roll with the first post at 7:20 EST. The 0.50 Pick 4 with a $15,000 guaranteed pool starts in Race 5. That sequence will be my focus and it has a low 12% takeout. The driver with the hottest hands at the Pomp on Monday night was Wally Hennessey with three wins. There wasn't a trainer with more than one win on the card. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Race 5 2-Post Time Terror-Should be in good shape by the first turn, Ingraham's choice will likely be in the hunt. 3-Watchwhatmyfeetdo-Has raced well at this level and has drawn inside again, best to respect. 5-Rollingndiamonds-Even effort after an injured scratch, looking for better and fits, barn has been hot. Race 6 5-A Plus Hanover-Has been trying hard and may have met a field that can be beat. 6-Part Time-Good try in last and 0-46 is an issue but will include versus this crew. 7-A Fool For Mark-13-year-old knows how to win and could here but needs to fire. Race 7 1-Backup A-0-29 at the Pomp but this is another very soft group, has been facing better so will use. 2-Machmemackie-Is consistent and has won 2 straight, must respect but will look to beat. 4-Crown Isle-Aggressive try in last and will take a swing for a square price off that effort. Race 8 3-Zoraze-2nd start after a rest, has the back class to beat this crew if tight enough, using at 7-1 in the ML. 5-Kegler Hanover-Last was the best effort since sick scratch on 2/20, a player if upswing continues. 10-Wesley Hanover-Can't overlook even from 10 post. Hennessy can find a way, and this is probably the best horse. 0.50 Pick 4 2,3,5/5,6,7/1,2,4/3,5,10 Total Bet=$40.50 Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia.

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4.8.2019:

Monday, April 8: Mohawk Park Early Pick 4 Analysis

Woodbine Mohawk Park has a 10-race card scheduled tonight with the feature going in Race 9, a Preferred Trot with a $34,000 purse. The popular Early 0.20 Pick 4 starts in Race 4 and will be my focus. The competitive sequence has a $50,000 guaranteed pool. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track.  Race 4  1-Outlaw Gunpowder-Draws the rail, could get sucked around and use a late brush to sweep by at nice odds.  3-Tylers Beach Boy-Woke up on 4/5, raced wide and had a 56.3 2nd half, camera shy but will respect at 10-1 in ML.  6-Brickman-ML chalk also had a tough journey, tries hard and may find the right trip tonight.  Race 5  3-Odd Ball-Beaten chalk had 2 race win streak snapped last week but should be in the hunt again.  5-Meadowbranch Memo-Steps up after a sharp drop and pop effort, taking a swing and looking for an encore.  7-So Not Cool-Faded on a sloppy track, will look for better at a square price with regular pilot between the pipes.  9-Wild And Crazy Guy-Filion's choice over #1 drops to a better spot, post makes the price and start will be key.  Race 6  1-Dovuto Hanover-Gets needed class relief and makes 3rd start for Shepherd, been off since 3/25, a player if ready.  5-Levy Taylore-Johnson claims back after training him and winning in March. Could take a picture with a good steer.  7-Crocadile Canyon-Sharp winner in 3 of last 4 shouldn't be overlooked, Auciello looking for 2 in a row since claim.  Race 7  1-O Narutac Perfetto-Last was better but slow pace hurt, drawing the wood and McClure back in bike should help.  4-Derf Hanover-McNair returns, and Moreau hasn't taken a picture since claim 6 back, that could change tonight.  6-Bautista-Drops out of Preferred ranks after 2 even efforts, Filion's choice over 2 others should be a player.  My Ticket Race 4) 1,3,6 Race 5) 3,5,7,9 Race 6) 1,5,7 Race 7) 1,4,6 Total Ticket Cost) $21.60 for $0.20 Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia.

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4.8.2019:

Kentucky Derby Points Chase Finally Matters

Give credit to the Kentucky Derby points system on a few matters, none bigger than the two main reasons it was created: One, to drum up free promotional talk months in advance of the race; and two, for the home track to control the qualifying process vs. the prep circuits’ former power with purse earnings. But what the system never really has been able to deliver was deadline excitement.  Until now.  With just the Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn and the Lexington Stakes at Keeneland left for points accumulation, we’ve got ourselves a wildcard weekend of sorts in the playoff chase. The gold standard has been 30 points for the cut-off in previous years, but even those with 40 right show should be nervous. With Japan’s Master Fencer accepted an invitation for the 20th spot that leaves 19 for the Americans and the current bubble is at 37.5 points. Who’s on the bubble? Omaha Beach, the horse I have currently ranked No. 1 in Countdown to the Crown and winner of the G2 Rebel over champion Game Winner. He’s running as scheduled in the Arkansas Derby along with a host of other horses who have a lot on the line. Should he run in the Top-4 he’ll be safely in the lineup.  Given how many points are available this weekend and who’s running for them, I’m projecting that Gray Magician at 41 points (currently No. 15) has a decent chance of remaining above the cut-off, but you’ll read below that you’re not really safe unless you’re at the 50-point line right now. The 40-point horses like Spinoff and Bodexpress, as well as Signalman at 38 could be in legitimate jeopardy. They’re all finished running and awaiting in the clubhouse, so to speak.  The Arkansas Derby offers points on a 100-40-20-10 scale. Looking at those numbers, the probable starters and what they’ve got in their points-banks, here are the potential scenarios for making the Derby field:  LONG RANGE TODDY Safe Already OMAHA BEACH Must Finish Top-4 IMPROBABLE Must Finish Top-3 COUNTRY HOUSE Must Finish Top-3 GALILEAN Must Finish Top-GRAY ATTEMPT Must Finish Top-ROILAND Must Finish Top-All Others Must Win  The Lexington Stakes appears less chaotic and in most any scenario could produce only a single starter. Its 20-8-4-2 points distribution could possibly put Anothertwistafate into the Derby with a second-place finish, but he’d be at 38 and would need attrition among the contenders 3 weeks out. That happens some years, so it’s not impossible for him at 38, but securing the winner’s share of 20 and advancing to 50 points would be what the Sunland Derby runner-up has to aim for on Saturday. The other Lexington hopeful within earshot on points is Sueno, who comes in with 28. Again, second could bring him to 36 and be close to the cut-off with some help. But, he, too, must come to Keeneland with intentions of victory. So, of all the horses running Saturday between the Arkansas Derby and Lexington, only Long Range Toddy can breathe easy. Let’s play some scenarios to show you the playoff race. Let’s say favorites prevail in Arkansas and Omaha Beach and Improbable run 1-2. They’re both in. Long Rage Toddy’s already in. Country House could be a fourth qualifier if he runs third. That would put 4 Arkansas Derby horses in with more than 50 points each. That would knock Spinoff, Bodexpress and Signalman out of the Top-20. And that’s if the Arkansas Derby runs to form.  If the Arkansas Derby result is Galilean and Gray Attempt, 1-2 in either order, which isn’t impossible, and they are followed by Improbable third and Omaha Beach fourth, we’re looking at all 4 of those qualifying along with Long Range Toddy no matter where he winds up. Now the Arkansas Derby has 5 horses above 47.5 points and you can say goodbye to Gray Magician most likely as well. Toss in a qualifier from the Lexington among one of the aforementioned favorites winning, and there’s plausibility that 6 horses could leave Saturday’s races with 47.5 points or more.  This weekend will count this time. Literally.

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4.6.2019:

April 6: Meadowlands Pick 4 Analysis

The Meadowlands has a big 13-race card set to roll tonight with the popular 0.50 Pick 4 beginning in Race 8. The sequence has a $50,000 guaranteed pool with a 15% takeout, and it will be my focus. On Friday night the drivers with the hottest hands at the Big M were Joe Bongiorno, David Miller, Andy Miller and Yannick Gingras all with two wins on the card. Trainer Ron Burke led the conditioners with three pictures. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Race 8 5-Mr Carrotts-Using because the pace could be quick if the #8 and #9 leave, Mr doesn't win often but should be rolling late. 8-Americanprimetime-7-year-old likes to win, likes the track, and looked good in last, may stay sharp for another pricture. 9-Declan Seelster-Dunn needs to work a good trip, could leave or pick-up cover, post makes it tougher but will respect. Race 9 3-JK Parlay-Sharp effort from 8-hole after suffering a break in previous start, gets a good post draw and looks like a major player. 4-Awesomeness-Gets post relief and should snag a good seat, will need a top effort but can beat this group at a square price.7-Quality Closer-Drops, Callahan steers and both should help. Could pop at a price with a quick pace, will use instead of #1 and #9. Race 10 2-Rough Odds-Fits here and and raced well against a tough winner in last, best to respect at 10-1 in the ML. 3-Lyons King-Raced well in 1st ever Big M start, was off a couple of weeks, could be better tonight with D. Miller between the pipes. 7-Dragon Time-Makes 3rd start off a layoff for Burke-Gingras, the move outside may not matter if leaves with some gusto. 8-Starznheaven-Beaten chalk was off 2 weeks before last start, can fly down the lane and this race could set-up nicely for a closer. Race 11 3-Spaghetti Eddie-Drops to a spot to shine in 1st start for Smithpeters barn and Gingras sticks, should be in the hunt throughout. 5-Ideal Son-Needs a trip in 5th start in the Ford barn, fits with this group and Callahan can keep in striking range. 9-Major Leaguer-Sharp effort from 8-hole on the engine to win Big M debut, will string along with 9-time winner in 2018. 0.50 Pick 4 5,8,9/3,4,7/2,3,7,8/3,5,9 Total Bet=$54 Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia 

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4.5.2019:

Serious Challengers for Game Winner in Santa Anita Derby

Invincibility took the last train out of Hot Springs after a division of the Oaklawn Park’s Grade 2 Rebel Stakes.  Game Winner took a different train and went home with a loss.  The unthinkable occurred: He lost in his 1st and only start of the year. He was unbeaten as a 2-year-old and is winless as a 3-year-old.  Game Winner, the champion 2-year-old male with a 4-for-4 record – the last one in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile – made up almost two lengths in the final strides but came a nose shy of Omaha Beach. You’re going to have to forgive him going into today’s Grade I Santa Anita Derby, but it doesn’t mean you’ll have to single him in the late Pick 4.  Game Winner hasn’t lost a step, and to think so is absurd. He came up an inch or two short going 1 1-16th miles. The good news is that he might never run 1 1-16th miles again. He gets better the farther he runs and is the set for today’s 1 1-8 miles. There is no question he can get a 1 1-4 miles in Louisville on the first Saturday in May.  The Santa Anita Derby has a short field of six, but half of those are worthy of attention. Roadster, a talented stablemate of Game Winner’s, has been solid in two of three races. He’s been in only one stakes race, having finished third behind Game Winner in the Del Mar Futurity.  Instagrand was terrific in his 1st two starts, each won by 10 lengths (a maiden race at Los Alamitos and the Grade 2 Best Pal) and was third in his only start of this year when he finished just behind Haikal in the Grade 3 Gotham.  If all the favorites win in the Pick 4 races, the payoff will not amount to much. But these are good enough races that these aren’t forgone conclusions. The co-featured Grade I Santa Anita Handicap is similar as the Derby, with a trio of serious candidates including McKinzie, Gift Box and the up-and-comer Campaign.  McKinzie battled throughout and lost at the end of the Grade 2 Pasqual as the late Battle of Midway got the best of him by a half-length. The winner scorched the track in 1:46 4-5 for the 1 1-8 miles.  Gift Box beat Battle of Midway in his only start on the West Coast. After running exclusively in New York for trainer Chad Brown, he was transferred to the John Sadler barn responded with a sharp win in the Grade 2 San Antonio. He’s been idle since that Dec. 26 race.  Campaign is an upset possibility for those finishing around for a price. He’s won three of his last four and also recently join the Sadler barn, this time sent from Steve Asmussen. He has not yet battled this type but has an excellent late run and should appreciate a fast pace and the 1 1-4-mile distance.  Here’s the suggested ticket for the Pick 4 at Santa Anita: Race 8: #1 Roadster, #5 Instagrand, #6 Game Winner.  Race 9: #2 Lady Prancealot, #6 Colonial Creed, #7 Maxim Rate, #9 Miss Flawless.  Race 10: #1 McKinzie, #4 Gift Box, #6 Campaign.  Race 11: #3 The Hunted, #7 Rumpus Cat.  Total Ticket Cost) 1,5,6/2,6,7,9/1,4,6/3,7 = $36 for $0.50

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4.5.2019:

Friday, April 5: Can-Am Pick 4 Analysis

The third edition of the Can-Am Pick 4 has its first leg scheduled for 10:10 EST at Woodbine Mohawk Park. It is a competitive sequence and at least two legs appear to be extra competitive. My $24 ticket is posted below, hopefully it will connect and a few prices are in the mix. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Leg 1-Mohawk Race 10 1-Manhattan Again-This mare races well at Wbsb, gets regular pilot back and post relief, will swing for a price. 2-Windsongmagnifique-Can make a case to leave this gal out, but this race is wide open, could win if fires best shot. 3-Make Mine Moca-Last was better, needs a trip and is in the hunt if McNair finds some live cover. 4-Ms Cheesman-Tries hard and a dry surface should help, loses McNair but that helps price and looks like a gimmick play too. 5-Outlaw Imahotvixen-55.1 back half wasn't good enough, slow starter will be rolling late and a quick pace helps cause. Leg 2-Meadowlands Race 10 1-If Not Why Not-Even effort in 1st start off the bench, may fit better versus this crew and gets a post edge over top foes. 3-Arrakis-Gets post relief, should compete here and get a good early seat, Auciello barn could be due to wake-up. 9-Hockey Hanover-Post makes it a bigger challenge but Burke trainee has been sharp as a tack, steps-up but will respect. Leg 3-Mohawk Race 11 2-Franschoek-Missed time before last, that was 1st time Lasix and raced well. Camera shy but looks like a major player. 3-Hurried Romance-Makes 4th start for Moreau and showed improvement last week, could be sitting on a big try. Leg 4-Meadowlands Race 11 1-Rollwithpapajoe-1st race since 9/28, sizzled the back half in 54.1 in last tune-up, looks like a player for Team Bongiorno. 3-World On Edge-Burke trainee comes off a 2 qualifiers as well, this barn can win at first asking off a lay-off. 4-JK Captain Jack-This will be a bigger test for Johansson 3-year-old but will respect chances for an encore. 5-One Corona To Go-Similar set-up to #4 and this colt smoked the last half in .55, big chance if minds manners. My Ticket Race 10 Mohawk) 1,2,3,4,5 Race 10 Meadowlands) 1,3,9 Race 11 Mohawk) 2,3 Race 11 Meadowlands) 1,3,4,5 Total Ticket Cost) $24 for 0.20Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia

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4.4.2019:

Johnny D’s Santa Anita Derby, Blue Grass and Wood Memorial Picks

Anyone get the license plate number of the truck that ran over my trifecta ticket last Saturday in the Xpressbet Florida Derby? Just before the lights went out, I thought I saw 7-8-9-4…aka Maximum Security, Bodexpress, Code of Honor and Bourbon War. That can’t be right, can it? Oh, it be right, alright. Maximum Security, stretching out around two turns for the first time at a mile and one-eighth to boot plus rising in class from starter allowance to Grade 1 company, made every pole a winning one by cantering through early fractions and then blistering home in the race’s fastest quarter. Guess it makes sense that in a season where just about every Road to Kentucky Derby Qualifying Point race has been won by a different horse a nearly 5-1 shot would enjoy a walk in the park to take the Triple Crown series’ most productive prep race. Runner-up Bodexpress, a maiden…that’s right a maiden…that unseated his rider on the way to the gate at 71.50-to-1, galloped along comfortably behind the ultimate winner and easily held off third-choice Code of Honor. Bourbon War finished fourth and, like Code of Honor, was compromised by a slow pace. Favored Hidden Scroll, trapped behind Maximum Security and inside Bodexpess early, was throttled by jockey Javier Castellano in tight quarters. Once clear, though, he had nothing to offer.   The Road to the Kentucky Derby continues in earnest Saturday with three important races—Santa Anita Derby, Wood Memorial and Blue Grass--worth a king’s ransom in Derby qualifying points. Each boasts a 100-40-20-10 structure to the first four finishers. Winners and runners-up should comfortably be ‘in’ the Derby lineup. Third and fourth-place finishers must add to points already in reserve or they likely are destined to watch the main event on the first Saturday in May from respective stalls.  Below is a horse-by-horse analysis of the Blue Grass, Wood Memorial and Santa Anita Derby.  Blue Grass Stakes – 10th Keeneland 1. Somelikeithotbrown (Maker/Gaffalione) - 10/1  He’s got to improve in here and show that he can handle dirt. He’s raced on turf 4 times, synthetic twice and once over a sloppy Saratoga strip in a race that was taken off the turf. He has some speed and jockey Gafflione will need to use it early from the inside to keep the colt from eating dirt. He’s improved with each lifetime start and can’t be totally dismissed. 2. Vekoma (Weaver/Castellano) - 9/5 He’s proven the most by winning 2 of 3 races. His only loss was a third in the Fountain of Youth. Minor issues have forced connections to be conservative with this one but he’s fast enough to get the job done and has the right running style. 3. Signalman (McPeek/Hernandez) - 5/1 He’s got 2 wins out of 6 starts and was 7th in the Fountain of Youth last out—only time he’s missed hitting the board. One of his drawbacks in this race is that he has no speed and will need to go around a large field of foes. Figure him as an exotic contender at best. 4. Market King (Lukas/Court) - 20/1 He’s got speed and will be part of what appears a light early pace. After that to threaten he’ll need to do better than he ever has. Those spreading in exotics might keep him around underneath. 5. Chess Chief (Stewart/Lopez) - 30/1 He has no speed and just broke his maiden last time out. He would be a major upset surprise. He does have a notable best-of-10 :47 flat half-mile blowout at Churchill for this and his trainer is known to rock the tote board in big races. 6. Dream Maker (Casse/Geroux) - 12/1 He has 1 race out of 5 on his resume that fits reasonably well in here. That was an 8 ½-length Fair Grounds allowance race romp. He raced close to the pace, took over and sped clear. In 3 graded stakes he’s managed to beat a total of 5 foes. Has a half-mile, best-of-46 gate workout in :46! That’s certainly a positive sign for an outfit that seldom lets them run in the morning. 7. Admire (Romans/Albarado) - 15/1 He would need to run considerably faster than he ever has before to threaten in here. 8. Win Win Win (Trombetta/I. Ortiz Jr.) - 7/2 Never worse than 3rd in 5 lifetime starts, he’s run fast enough to win, win, win this race. His only try around 2 turns came last out in the Tampa Bay Derby when third as favorite to Tacitus and Outshine (both in Saturday’s Wood). He’s got to be respected. 9. Sir Winston (Casse/Leparoux) - 15/1 He’s been steadily improving in 7 career starts but will need to step up his game another significant level to have a big say in this. He has no speed and hasn’t hit the board in 3 starts over fast dirt surfaces. 10. Lucky Lee (Jo. Servis/Landeros) - 20/1 He dominated foes at Parx in 2 races around 2 turns. However, he had no answer for the question in the Withers at Aqueduct. Those races at Parx at 2 are fast enough to threaten a bit in here, but with just 1 disappointing start this season it’s difficult to judge exactly where he’s at. 11. So Alive (Pletcher/Saez) - 15/1 In a Triple Crown race prep race, dismiss any horse trained by Todd Pletcher at your own peril. On paper this guy needs to move forward significantly to threaten in here. However, Pletcher has a knack for getting horses to fire their best right now. This son of Super Saver has won 2 of 4 races and is 1-for-1 at Keeneland where he broke maiden in the mud. Expect the best of this guy’s young career Saturday. Will that be good enough to win? Not unless he fires and a few others don’t. 12. Parsimony (O'Neill/Gutierrez) - 20/1 This colt visits from California by way of Arkansas where he ran poorly in Game Winner’s Rebel division. After 8 starts, he is still a maiden and would shock with a win here. 13. Moonster (Romans/McKee) - 30/1 With 1 win in 8 starts and 2 other in-the-money finishes wrapped around an assortment of poor races he be a major surprise. Note a :46 4/6 best-of-15 blowout at Churchill. 14. Aquadini (Stewart/Lanerie) - 30/1 He’s got a very difficult post position that will require jockey Lanerie to hustle from the break to get as close to the rail as possible by the first turn. Good news is that this colt has some early speed and ought to be able to assume decent position early. How much will that effort take out of him? There’s the rub. He will need to show another dimension because he hasn’t quite been fast enough ever before.  One to Beat: 2. Vekoma Greatest Threat: 8. Win Win Win Next Likely: 3. Signalman, 4. Market King, 11. So Alive For Exotics Lovers Only: 1. Somelikeithotbrown, 6. Dream Maker 14. Aquadini   Wood Memorial – 10th Aqueduct 1. Tax (Gargan/Alvarado) - 9/2 This son of Arch has never been off the board in 4 starts and ought to get a beneficial trip in here. He’s been off since a game victory in the 1 1/8-mile Withers at Aqueduct in February. He was claimed for $50,000 out of a maiden victory. He must improve off of his last race but his final 2-year-old effort fits. He’s a question mark and not that attractive at 9-2. 2. Tacitus (Mott/Ortiz) - 5/2 Parlayed a November maiden win into a Tampa Bay Derby victory. That was his first race with Lasix and a big forward move off his previous 2 races. He probably will need to do a bit better in here. He has little speed and will need some pace help. At 5-2 he’s a ‘fade’ for me based on the expectation that he already fired a big shot when first time Lasix. 3. Hoffa's Union (Casse/Davis) - 6/1 He romped first out in a maiden race at Laurel by more than 15 lengths. He’s had time since that race in February and will need to improve for a new trainer that scores 16% after a trainer change. I’d need more than 6-1 to invest in him. 4. Haikal (McLaughlin/Maragh) - 7/2 Can’t knock this one’s outstanding record of 3 wins in 4 starts with a close runner-up effort. It will be interesting to see how this one stretches out to 1 1/8 miles around 2 turns and if he can continue with his closing charge. He comes from off the pace so he needs some help up front. As I said, can’t knock this one. 5. Final Jeopardy (Ja. Servis/Franco) - 8/1 The answer is: Gary and Mary West. And the Final Jeopardy question is: Who might have up to 3 runners in the 2019 Kentucky Derby? Owners of 2-year-old champ Game Winner (entered Saturday in the Santa Anita Derby), the Wests added Florida Derby winner Maximum Security to their Kentucky Derby starting lineup. Will this Street Sense colt join them on the first Saturday in May? It would not be a stretch to see this one run well in the Wood. He won the second of three starts last out in a Gulfstream allowance race and should be in a good spot stalking the early pace. 6. Overdeliver (Pletcher/Carmouche) - 20/1 It’s difficult to ignore any Todd Pletcher runner in a Triple Crown prep race. However, this colt seems to have a lot on his plate in here. He’s going 2 turns for the first time with merely a maiden victory under his belt. Expect jockey Kendrick Caramouche to send him to the front—a move the jockey has perfected. How fast he’ll have to go early will tell the story. There’s other speed in here, but none of those are trained by Pletcher. 7. Not That Brady (Rodriguez/Gutierrez) - 20/1 He caught a torrid pace and was all but eased in the Gotham last out. He figures part of the early pace picture again and is drawn alongside speedy Overdeliver. He’ll take them as far as he can. 8. Grumps Little Tots (Ja. Servis/Lezcano) - 30/1 This is the ‘other’ Jason Servis in here, so be careful. He romped last out in a maiden race going a mile at Aqueduct. That race was in February, so he’s had time since then. Expect him to sit just off the pace in a great spot. He may be a real sleeper at a huge price. 9. Math Wizard (Joseph/Cancel) - 30/1 With just 2 wins in 7 starts Math Wizard won a maiden $16k and a $25k claimer in back-to-back fashion. This spot seems out of reach. 10. Outshine (Pletcher/Velazquez) - 6/1 This is trainer Todd Pletcher’s more fancied runner. After blinkers were added he won an allowance race at Gulfstream and then was second behind Tacitus in the Tampa Bay Derby. He really seems a horse that’s gotten better at 3. Expect a solid effort from him. 6-1 is a great price. 11. Joevia (Sacco/Juarez) - 30/1 Stuck in the far outside post position this guy has got to immediately go from the gate with jockey Nik Juarez. He sat in second all the way around last out in the Private Terms at Laurel. This is a deeper bunch. He has a best-of-37 :48 blowout for this race. He would need to move forward to contend. One to Beat: 10 Outshine Should Run Well: 8 Grumps Little Tots, 4 Haikal Don’t Ignore: 1 Tax, 5 Final Jeopardy Go Against: 2 Tacitus   Santa Anita Derby – 8th Santa Anita 1. Roadster (Baffert/Smith) - 5/2 This son of Quality Control drew well for this. Expect him to flee the gate briskly, save ground and do his best to upset barn-mate Game Winner. He has a best-of-19, 6-furlong 1:12 3/5 work for this. He finished third behind Game Winner in the 7-furlong Del Mar Futurity the only time they met. There is other speed in here but if Roadster breaks well, he’s going to be a handful to run down. 2. More Ice (Hollendorfer/Franco) - 30/1 Expect this guy to be at the back of the pack early. He doesn’t seem to have the ability to close enough ground to threaten for the win. He has finished third three times before and will pick up a few stragglers in the lane but probably not enough to hit the board. 3. Nolo Contesto (Sadler/Talamo) - 6/1 Last out this ridgeling chased Roadster home in an allowance race at Santa Anita. He broke a bit slowly in that effort and a good start might help him turn the tables on that foe. That pair should control matters early. 4. Synthesis (Papaprodromouo/Bejarano) - 30/1 This ridgeling makes his first start for trainer George Papaprodromou after making 9 with Keith Desormeaux. On paper it looks like he’ll need more than a trainer change to threaten. 5. Instagrand (Hollendorfer/Prat) - 3/1 Ran a big race at Aqueduct in the Gotham last out. He was unbeaten at 2, winning both starts by at least 10 lengths. In August his owner decided to put the colt away until his 3-year-old season. He certainly has ability. Big question is how he’ll react to a huge effort in New York plus shipping back and forth. He has speed and has worked bullets at Los Alamitos for this.  6. Game Winner (Baffert/Rosario) - 4/5 The 2-year-old champ suffered defeat for the first time by a nose last out in the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn. He ran well that afternoon and adds that solid race to a superb resume. He’s the most accomplished colt in the nation, no doubt. His grinding style becomes most effective as the distances increase. He’s worked well for this including a best-of-11 1:13 2/5 at Santa Anita on April 1. One to Beat: 6. Game Winner One That Might Do It: 1. Roadster Race On!

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4.4.2019:

Eddie Olczyk's Santa Anita Derby & Blue Grass Stakes Picks

Three big races in California, Kentucky and New York will help set the Kentucky Derby picture today. Among those, the Santa Anita Derby and Blue Grass at Keeneland will be where I focus my wagering. Santa Anita Derby (Santa Anita, Race 8, 6:30 pm ET) Bob Baffert has the favorite in Game Winner, last year’s 2-year-old champion. But if he’s to win Saturday, he will have to run down his stablemate. Roadster comes off a huge March allowance victory vs. lesser competition, but it was a really good race for him. Pace-wise, Instagrand figures to go to the front and Roadster can sit just off him under Mike Smith.  Roadster should get the jump on his barnmate Game Winner and should offer value as the second betting favorite in this short field. Betting Strategy: Take #1 Roadster to win with #6 Game Winner and #5 Instagrand the likely underneath runners. Blue Grass (Keeneland, Race 10, 6:23 pm ET) With a 14-horse field and modest run to the first turn, I’m hoping for a pace meltdown in the Blue Grass and shooting for some prices. I don’t like the post, but I love the price and potential for widest-drawn Aquadini.  If he can rate a bit like he did two starts back at Fair Grounds, that’s the upset recipe. At 30-1 in the morning line, we will get paid if we’re right. Dallas Stewart is a star 'longshot' trainer and his horses always seem to run well this time of the year at big odds.  The other closers to watch come out of the Tampa Bay Derby, Win Win Win (7-2 morning line) and Sir Winston (15-1 morning line). There’s not as much separating those two as the morning line odds suggest. Finally, Vekoma is a very short price (9/5 ML) but he's never run a bad race and this is his second race off a layoff, which should set him up for a big effort.  His inside post (#2) will ensure he doesn't lose a lot of ground, which can't be said for the rest of the field.  Betting Strategy: I’ll be playing #14 Aquadini to win, while boxing the Exacta with #14 Aquadini, #2 Vekoma, #8 Win Win Win and #9 Sir Winston.

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4.3.2019:

Weekly Bankroll Builder: April 5 Stronach 5 Picks

We’re back to battle with another Stronach 5, with the guarantee once again at 100k, in what looks like a relatively formful sequence that won’t be too taxing on the bankroll. 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 R7 (4:19 ET) – 3up 35k N3L* at 5 Furlongs (turf) I’m not going to try to make the opener look harder than it is, since, on paper, it looks like a toss between #2 BIG ROCK (3-1) and #5 MORNING BUZZ (7-2), as both look better than the rest and have stalking gears in a race loaded with the speed. I like the former a bit better, since he starts as a first-time gelding and has been facing better, while the latter goes away from Jason Servis, and while Delgado is one of the better claiming barns on the grounds, improving off a wizard is never easy. Pk5 A horses (listed in order of preference): 2,5 Winning this on or near the lead will be tough, but at least #8 SHOSHONE BRAVE (8-1) drew best to be outside most of the other speed, and he sure improved a bunch in his first start for Rodriguez. Pk5 B horses: 8 Leg 2: Laurel Park R9 (5:17 ET) – 3up 40k MCL at 5 furlongs There’s little doubt that #8 DAY THE MUSIC DIED (3-1) will take some beating here off that fine speedy 4th on debut, after he dueled early, especially since the winner came right back to score. I’m also using #7 KICKSTARTER (6-1), since he’ll offer value and has worked very sharply for this, for an Eppler barn that knows what to do with a good horse. Pk5 A horses: 8,7 Drawing outside ‘Died should help #12 FERNWOOD DRIVE (6-1), since he dueled to his inside on debut and paid the price late, and note he was 7-2 that day, so they seem to like him. The figures say #3 RAILMASTER (4-1) can win on the rise, but at 0-for-10 he’s also tough to trust and would be a big underlay at this ML. Pk5 B horses: 12, 2 Leg 3: Gulfstream Park R9 (5:22 ET) – 3upfm 12.5k N2L at 7  furlongs (turf) Let’s get aggressive here, for a few different reasons, most notably the tactical speed and inside draw that #3 DUBAIAN (7-2) has, as she was a good 3rd in her debut and first start on turf for Maker, and, unlike most in this weak field, has plenty of upside off just six lifetime starts, which is why she’ll be favored at post time, and nowhere near this ML. Pk5 A horses: 3 The draw really hurts #9 SECRET O’LIFE (5-2), who ran well in her first start against winners but did so against only 3yos, and will need to improve to win this, though you should get better value than this incorrect ML. You could use others here, like #11 Sunny Sonata (10-1), #5 Diamond Love (9-2), and #12 Pointedlee (12-1), but none of them inspire and have more knocks that positive signs going for them. Pk5 B horses: 9 Leg 4: Golden Gate Fields R5 (5:56 ET) – 3yo 50k starter-allowance at 5  furlongs The universal single, and most likely winner of the sequence, is #3 DRILL TIME (7-5), who has been running much faster against much better, and has a rating gear in a race full of speed. Pk5 A horses: 3 It looks like #2 Thisoneforjames (4-1) is a lesser version of ‘Time, as he too can settle early, but he may get run off his feet a bit more on the slight cutback, and even up to this point his best isn’t good enough, so we’ll play this sequence for what it is and not look for something that isn’t there. Pk5 B horses: NONE Leg 5: Santa Anita R5 (6:11 ET) – 3upfm MSW at 1 1/8 miles (turf) If nothing else, we can probably spread a bit in the finale, especially since the horse to beat drew worst of all and could be wide the entire way, and the second favorite is 0-for-6 and seemingly stuck in neutral. Still, there’s little doubt you have to use both #10 CURLIN’S JOURNEY (7-2) and #3 DECORATING (4-1), but you also don’t have to be married to them, since we’ve talked about their merits before and they are still looking for their first win after 15 lifetime starts. I’ll try for the surprise from #1 FASHION ISLAND (6-1), who ran well on debut before regressing (with some trouble) last time, now goes to Baltas, and drew best of all. Obviously #6 OUT OF BALANCE (4-1) hits hard off those two 2nd-place runs of late and her tactical speed, which will get her first run on the closers. Lastly, let’s toss in #5 COLDWATER (10-1), who should be a fair price, has an improving form pattern, and might like the added distance today too. Pk5 A horses: 1,10,6,3,5 A change of scenery might be a good thing for #4 SUNNY DALE (12-1), who didn’t show much in a pair of GP turf start for John Servis, but now goes to Hollendorfer, which is a huge upgrade on the grass, since her former barn has extremely poor turf numbers. I’ll also use #9 SURFACE (6-1), a McCarthy firster with a nice pedigree and a slew of works for a 14% debut barn.Pk5 B horses: 4,9 The tickets: Main Ticket: 2,5 with 8,7 with 3 with 3 with 1,10,6,3,5 = $20Leg 1 B Backup: 8 with 8,7 with 3 with 3 with 1,10,6,3,5 = $10Leg 2 B Backup: 2,5 with 12,2 with 3 with 3 with 1,10,6,3,5 = $20Leg 3 B Backup: 2,5 with 8,7 with 9 with 3 with 1,10,6,3,5 = $20Leg 5 B Backup: 2,5 with 8,7 with 3 with 3 with 4,9 = $8

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4.3.2019:

Maximum Security Provides Kentucky Derby Intrigue

Warning: Underestimate Maximum Security at your own peril. No doubt plenty of people are going to scoff at him in the Kentucky Derby. Many will view Maximum Security’s front-running 3 1/2-length victory at 9-2 in Gulfstream Park’s Grade I Xpressbet Florida Derby last Saturday as something of a fluke. There will be those who will believe he had it all his own way on the front end last Saturday while being permitted to set a tepid pace, a scenario that is very unlikely to be repeated in the Run for the Roses. And there will be those who subscribe to the notion that it is extremely doubtful a horse who ran in a maiden $16,000 claiming race when debuting Dec. 20 at Gulfstream is good enough to win the $3 million Kentucky Derby on May 4. But then an awful lot of people did not take Maximum Security seriously in the Florida Derby. How did that turn out? Many moons ago I learned that one should never take an undefeated horse lightly. Never. There is no way to truly know how good a horse is when the horse has never been beaten. Is Maximum Security a cinch to win the Kentucky Derby? Nope. Far from it. But is there a possibility that he will win the 1 1/4-mile classic on the first Saturday in May? There sure is. That’s why he debuts all the way up at No. 3 on my Kentucky Derby Top 10 this week. MY KENTUCKY DERBY TOP 10 1. Omaha Beach2. Game Winner3. Maximum Security4. Improbable5. Long Range Toddy6. Anothertwistafate7. Cutting Humor8. Roadster9. By My Standards10. Code of Honor What Maximum Security has done so far really is remarkable. The 1 1/8-mile Florida Derby was his first start going farther than seven furlongs. It was his first race around two turns. It was his first start in a stakes race and first in a graded stakes race. After he graduated from the maiden ranks by almost 10 lengths, he won a pair of starter allowance/optional claiming races at Gulfstream by 6 1/4 and 18 1/4 lengths. Does he need the early lead in order to win? Does he need a fast track in order to succeed? No and no. In the second start of his career on Jan. 24 at Gulfstream, he sat third early before drawing away in the stretch. The track was muddy. Nobody has come close to beating him so far. He’s won four races by a combined 38 lengths. His average margin of victory is 9 1/2 lengths. That is what you call domination. Maximum Security’s 18 1/4-length laugher going seven furlongs on Feb. 20 certainly got my attention. Granted, he was a 1-10 favorite and didn’t beat much. But not only did he win by a humongous margin, he zipped seven furlongs in 1:21.72. He posted a 102 Beyer Speed Figure in that race, a major leap from his first two figures of 81 and 83. Yes, they let Maximum Security bowl along early while on an uncontested lead. One reason that happened was 9-5 favorite Hidden Scroll did not go for the early lead. Many (not me) blasted Joel Rosario for his ride in Gulfstream’s Fountain of Youth Stakes on March 2. They said Rosario should have tried to rate Hidden Scroll early when he set a fast pace and finished fourth. Now many are criticizing Javier Castellano for rating Hidden Scroll early in the Florida Derby. When Hidden Scroll found himself boxed in through the early furlongs while getting dirt thrown back into his face, he did not seem to like it very much. It appeared that rating Hidden Scroll and essentially taking away what probably is his best weapon, his speed, backfired. As for those of you who are determined to be non-believers in Maximum Security in the Kentucky Derby due primarily to the easy time of it he had early in the Florida Derby, the fact is he came home the final three furlongs in a very strong :35 and change. It takes a serious equine athlete to come home that fast. Maximum Security completed his Florida Derby journey in 1:48.86. Before you go ahead and cavalierly dismiss him in the Kentucky Derby, keep in mind that his final time last Saturday was better than three Florida Derby winners in the last 13 years who went on to win the Kentucky Derby: Barbaro, Orb and Nyquist. Since Gulfstream enlarged the main track to 1 1/8 miles for its 2005 season, these have been the Florida Derby times, from fastest down to slowest: 1:47.47 (2017) Always Dreaming*1:47.72 (2009) Quality Road1:48.16 (2008) Big Brown*1:48.79 (2012) Take Charge Indy1:48.86 (2019) Maximum Security1:49.00 (2007) Scat Daddy1:49.01 (2006) Barbaro*1:49.11 (2016) Nyquist*1:49.17 (2014) Constitution1:49.19 (2010) Ice Box1:49.43 (2005) High Fly1:49.48 (2018) Audible1:50.74 (2011) Dialed In1:50.87 (2013) Orb*1:52.30 (2015) Materiality *Won the Kentucky Derby The fact that Maximum Security has put Beyer Speed Figures of 101 and 102 on the board this year is noteworthy, especially this year. Not any of the other 65 horses on the current Kentucky Derby points leaderboard has recorded a Beyer Speed Figure of 100 or higher this year or ever. Even if someone does receive a Beyer of 100 or higher between now and the Kentucky Derby, it is certain that Maximum Security will be the only horse in this year’s Run for the Roses to have ever recorded a Beyer Speed Figure of 100 or higher more than once. Maximum Security’s capacity to run fast enough to get a Beyer of 100 or higher also is significant when viewed in the context of what kind of figure it takes to win the Kentucky Derby. With the exception of California Chrome’s 97, it has always taken a 100 or higher to win the Kentucky Derby going back to 1989, the first year that Beyers for that race are listed in the American Racing Manual. The Beyer Speed Figures in the American Racing Manual for the Florida Derby winners go back to 1992, as listed below. 2019 Maximum Security (101)2018 Audible (99)2017 Always Dreaming (97)2016 Nyquist (92)2015 Materiality (110)2014 Constitution (98)2013 Orb (97)2012 Take Charge Indy (95)2011 Dialed In (93)2010 Ice Box (99)2009 Quality Road (111)2008 Big Brown (106)2007 Scat Daddy (99)2006 Barbaro (103)2005 High Fly (102)2004 Friends Lake (92)2003 Empire Maker (108)2002 Harlan’s Holiday (101)2001 Monarchos (105)2000 Hal’s Hope (102)1999 Vicar (102)1998 Cape Town (108)*1997 Captain Bodgit (104)1996 Unbridled’s Song (114)1995 Thunder Gulch (101)1994 Holy Bull (115)1993 Bull Inthe Heather (94)1992 Technology (101) *Lil’s Lad finished first but was disqualified and placed second IMPORTANT RACES COMING UP A total of 170 qualifying points (100-40-20-10) were up for grabs in the Florida Derby. There are four more such races left to be decided, all at 1 1/8 miles. Three of them will be run Saturday: the Grade I Santa Anita Derby, Grade II Wood Memorial at Aqueduct and Grade II Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland. A week later, Oaklawn Park will stage the Grade I Arkansas Derby. Omaha Beach, ranked No. 1 on my Top 10, is headed to the Arkansas Derby. He had a sharp four-furlong workout in :47.80 last Saturday at Santa Anita for Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella. Omaha Beach most recently won a division of Oaklawn’s Grade II Rebel Stakes by a nose over Eclipse Award winner Game Winner. Game Winner, No. 2 on my Top 10, heads Saturday’s Santa Anita Derby. I have installed him as the 4-5 morning-line favorite. Roadster is 5-2. Instagrand is 3-1. Hall of Famer Bob Baffert trains both Game Winner and Roadster. Game Winner worked six furlongs Monday in 1:13.40 at Santa Anita. Roadster stepped the same distance in 1:12.80 when he worked last Saturday, also at Santa Anita. Gary and Mary West own Game Winner. The Wests also race Maximum Security. Jason Servis conditions Maximum Security. Improbable, ranked No. 4 on my Top 10, and Long Range Toddy, who is No. 5, are scheduled to join Omaha Beach and others in the Arkansas Derby. Long Range Toddy won a division of the Rebel by a neck over Improbable. Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen trains Long Range Toddy. Baffert conditions Improbable. CURRENT STRIKES SITUATION In addition to going into the Kentucky Derby with two Beyer Speed Figures of 100 or higher, Maximum Security has just one strike in the Derby Strikes System that I developed in 1999. The system consists of nine key factors. When a horse does not qualify in one of the nine categories, the horse gets a strike. The nine key factors (or categories) are explained at the end of this column. According to the Derby Strikes System, a horse with zero strikes or only one strike has a much better chance to win the Kentucky Derby than a horse with two strikes or more. Going back to 1973, 38 of the last 46 Kentucky Derby winners have had zero strikes or just one strike. Six of the last 46 Kentucky Derby have had two strikes: Cannonade (1974), Ferdinand (1986), Sea Hero (1993), Funny Cide (2003), Giacomo (2005) and Always Dreaming (2017). It’s not impossible, but it is a tall task for a horse with more than two strikes to win the Kentucky Derby. Of the last 46 horses to win the Run for the Roses, only two horses have won with more than two strikes, Mine That Bird and Justify. Maximum Security’s only strike comes in Category 6, the “racing experience” category. He will go into the Kentucky Derby having made just four career starts. I consider Category 6 to be by far the least important of the nine categories. That’s because horses do not race as much these days. From 1973 through 2000, Fusaichi Pegasus was the only horse to get a strike in Category 6. But from 2001 through 2018, seven horses -- Barbaro, Big Brown, Animal Kingdom, I’ll Have Another, American Pharoah, Always Dreaming and Justify -- got a strike in Category 6 for making fewer than six starts before the Kentucky Derby. Put another way, only 3.5% of the Kentucky Derby winners in the 28 years from 1973 through 2000 had a strike in Category 6. But 36.8% of the winners in the last 18 years from 2001 through 2018 had a strike in that category. It is not until a horse’s next race will be the Kentucky Derby that a horse’s number of strikes can be determined. These are strikes for a number of Kentucky Derby candidates, listed alphabetically, who are not scheduled to race again before the first Saturday in May: Bodexpress (second in the Florida Derby) has two strikes (Categories 2 and 6). By My Standards (winner of the Louisiana Derby) has one strike (Category 2). Code of Honor (third in the Florida Derby) has one strike (Category 6). Country House (fourth in the Louisiana Derby) has three strikes (Categories 2, 5 and 6). Gray Magician (second in the UAE Derby) has one strike (Category 2). Maximum Security (winner of the Florida Derby) has one strike (Category 6). Plus Que Parfait (winner of the UAE Derby) has one strike (Category 7). Spinoff (runner-up in the Louisiana Derby) has three strikes (Categories 2, 4 and 6). War of Will (ninth in the Louisiana Derby) has one strike (Category 5). WINNER’S STRIKES FROM 1973 THROUGH 2018 Here are the strikes for each Kentucky Derby winner going back to 1973: 1973 Secretariat (0 strikes)1974 Cannonade (2 strikes) Categories 3 and 41975 Foolish Pleasure (0 strikes)1976 Bold Forbes (0 strikes)1977 Seattle Slew (0 strikes)1978 Affirmed (0 strikes)1979 Spectacular Bid (0 strikes)1980 Pleasant Colony (0 strikes)1981 Genuine Risk (1 strike) Category 11982 Gato Del Sol (1 strike) Category 31983 Sunny’s Halo (1 strike) Category 11984 Swale (0 strikes)1985 Spend a Buck (0 strikes)1986 Ferdinand (2 strikes) Categories 2 and 41987 Alysheba (1 strike) Category 21988 Winning Colors (0 strikes)1989 Sunday Silence (0 strikes)1990 Unbridled (1 strike) Category 31991 Strike the Gold (0 strikes)1992 Lil E. Tee (0 strikes)1993 Sea Hero (2 strikes) Categories 3 and 51994 Go for Gin (0 strikes)1995 Thunder Gulch (0 strikes)1996 Grindstone (0 strikes)1997 Silver Charm (1 strike) Category 41998 Real Quiet (0 strikes)1999 Charismatic (1 strike) Category 52000 Fusaichi Pegasus (1 strike) Category 62001 Monarchos (0 strikes)2002 War Emblem (0 strikes)2003 Funny Cide (2 strikes) Categories 2 and 92004 Smarty Jones (0 strikes)2005 Giacomo (2 strikes) Categories 2 and 52006 Barbaro (1 strike) Category 62007 Street Sense (0 strikes)2008 Big Brown (1 strike) Category 62009 Mine That Bird (4 strikes) Categories 1, 4, 5 and 92010 Super Saver (1 strike) Category 42011 Animal Kingdom (1 strike) Category 62012 I’ll Have Another (1 strike) Category 62013 Orb (0 strikes)2014 California Chrome (0 strikes)2015 American Pharoah (1 strike) Category 62016 Nyquist (0 strikes)2017 Always Dreaming (2 strikes) Categories 1 and 62018 Justify (3 strikes) Categories 1, 6 and 8 THE CLAIMING-RACE STIGMA One of the reasons a lot of people will be underestimating Maximum Security in the Kentucky Derby, just as many did in the Florida Derby, is he once ran in a maiden claiming race for a $16,000 tag. Similarly, one of the reasons lots of folks did not like Charismatic in the 1999 Kentucky Derby was he had once run in a maiden claiming race for a $62,500 tag. Charismatic won that maiden claiming race by five lengths as a 2-year-old at Hollywood Park, but then lost seven straight before his 2 1/2-length victory in Keeneland’s Lexington Stakes. And then, two weeks after the Lexington, he won the Kentucky Derby at 31-1. It is clear that many considered Charismatic’s Kentucky Derby triumph to have been a fluke, as evidenced by his 8-1 odds in the Preakness Stakes. The Kentucky Derby winner almost always is sent off as the favorite in the Preakness, yet Charismatic was a juicy 8-1. I loved Charismatic in the Preakness. The primary reason I did not consider his Kentucky Derby to be a fluke was his Beyer Speed Figure pattern. Prior to the Kentucky Derby, Charismatic’s top Beyer had been a 94. Then he jumped all the way up to a 108 in the Lexington. The way I saw it, he validated his 108 Lexington figure by likewise recording a 108 in the Kentucky Derby. I believe those who had looked at Charismatic’s Kentucky Derby performance as being a fluke missed the boat by evidently not also taking into account his effort in the Lexington. It was the back-to-back 108s, rather than just a lone 108, that put me strongly on him in the Preakness, particularly at 8-1. And Charismatic did win the Preakness, a race in which he was credited with a 107 Beyer. I regard Charismatic’s $18.80 win mutuel in the Preakness to be one of the biggest overlays of the 1990s. Again, as for Maximum Security, what makes him scary to me going into the Kentucky Derby are his back-to-back triple-digit Beyer Speed Figures, much like Charismatic’s back-to-back triple-digit figures going into the Preakness. I also am convinced that a contributing factor in terms of the lack of respect for Charismatic in both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness was the stigma attached to him for having once run in a maiden claiming race. I can cite yet another example of a racehorse who achieved considerable success after being stigmatized for a time early in his career largely because he had run in the maiden claiming ranks. Turbulator finished second in a maiden claiming race for a $1,500 tag at Portland Meadows on June 16, 1969. Seven days later, he ran second in a maiden claiming race for a $2,000 tag at that same track. After those two defeats, however, Turbulator reeled off seven consecutive victories during the 1969 meet at Spokane’s Playfair Race Course. He won those seven races in nine weeks. You read that right. He started seven times in nine weeks, winning on each occasion while competing at distances ranging from six furlongs to two miles. During Turbulator’s seven-race winning streak in 1969, there continued to be skeptics stemming from those losses in maiden claiming races at Portland Meadows. But by the end of the 1969 Playfair meet, Turbulator had turned just about all of the doubters into enthusiastic believers. Turbulator in 1970 became a huge favorite with Pacific Northwest racing fans during a campaign in which he broke the world record for 6 1/2 furlongs by two-fifths of a second. He set two other track records that season. In one of his 1970 victories, he came from 20 lengths behind to win by two despite being burdened with 134 pounds. He lost another race by only a neck when asked to “carry the grandstand,” or 138 pounds to be exact. To this day, no other horse in the history of racing in the Pacific Northwest has carried as much as 138 pounds in a non-restricted stakes race. Along with Turbulator’s considerable talent, he had unmistakable charisma. “If there ever was a horse that brought sheer joy and hysteria to a track and thrived on that crowd response it was Turbulator,” it was written in The Washington Horse magazine in 1973. To give you an idea of his immense popularity, at various times during his racing career, there were Turbulator T-shirts, coffee mugs, campaign buttons and refrigerator magnets. After his retirement from racing in 1974, he continued to make public appearances at Longacres and Playfair until he did so for the final time on Sept. 30, 1989. Turbulator died that year on Nov. 7, just three days after Sunday Silence won an epic Breeders’ Cup Classic. This Saturday, April 6, will be an important day in racing, highlighted by the Santa Anita Derby, Wood Memorial and Blue Grass Stakes. And for some fans of the sport, April 6 also was an important day in 1965, for that was the day Pacific Northwest racing legend Turbulator was born. THIS WEEK’S NTRA POLLS Here is the Top 10 for this week’s NTRA Top Thoroughbred Poll: Rank Points Horse (First-Place Votes) 1. 341 Monomoy Girl (14)2. 319 Bricks and Mortar (4)3. 234 City of Light (19)4. 213 Roy H5. 192 McKinzie6. 187 Midnight Bisou7. 125 X Y Jet (1)8. 105 Sistercharlie9. 99 Coal Front10 94 Thunder Snow (5) Here is the Top 10 for this week’s NTRA Top 3-Year-Old Poll: Rank Points Horse (First-Place Votes) 1. 388 Game Winner (24)2. 339 Omaha Beach (4)3. 331 Improbable (7)4. 197 Long Range Toddy (2)5. 195 Maximum Security (3)6. 159 Tacitus (1)6. 154 Code of Honor8. 89 War of Will9. 78 By My Standards10. 73 Cutting Humor DERBY STRIKES SYSTEM’S CATEGORIES These are the nine key factors (or categories) in my Derby Strikes System: 1. THE GRADED STAKES FACTOR. (The horse ran in a graded stakes race before March 31.) This points out horses who have competed against tough competition prior to March 31 rather than at the last minute in April, enabling the horse to be properly battle-tested. (Exceptions: Since the introduction of graded stakes races in the U.S. in 1973, only Genuine Risk in 1980, Sunny’s Halo in 1983, Mine That Bird in 2009, Always Dreaming in 2017 and Justify in 2018 have won the Kentucky Derby without running in a graded stakes race at 2 or early at 3 before March 31.) 2. THE WIN IN A GRADED STAKES FACTOR. (The horse has won a graded stakes race.) This points out horses who have shown they have the class to win a graded stakes race. (Exceptions: Ferdinand in 1986, Alysheba in 1987, Funny Cide in 2003 and Giacomo in 2005 are the only exceptions since the introduction of U.S. graded stakes races in 1973; Alysheba in 1987 did finish first in the Blue Grass, only to be disqualified and placed third.) 3. THE EIGHTH POLE FACTOR. (In either of his or her last two starts before the Kentucky Derby, the horse was either first or second with a furlong to go.) This points out horses who were running strongly at the eighth pole, usually in races at 1 1/16 or 1 1/8 miles. By running strongly at the same point in the Kentucky Derby, a horse would be in a prime position to win the roses. Keep in mind that 53 of the last 56 Kentucky Derby winners have been first or second with a furlong to run. Since Decidedly won the Derby in 1962 when he was third with a furlong to go, the only three Kentucky Derby winners who were not first or second with a furlong to run were Animal Kingdom, third with a furlong remaining in 2011 when only a half-length from being second; Giacomo, sixth with a furlong to go in 2005; and Grindstone, fourth with a furlong to run in 1996. (Exceptions: Since 1955, the Kentucky Derby winners who weren’t either first or second at the eighth pole in his or her last two starts have been Tim Tam in 1958, Carry Back in 1961, Cannonade in 1974, Gato Del Sol in 1982, Unbridled in 1990 and Sea Hero in 1993, with Canonero II in 1971 unknown.) 4. THE GAMENESS FACTOR. (The horse’s finish position in both of his or her last two races before the Kentucky Derby was no worse than his or her running position at the eighth pole.) This points out horses who don’t like to get passed in the final furlong. (Exceptions: Since 1955, the exceptions have been Venetian Way in 1960, Cannonade in 1974, Foolish Pleasure in 1975, Ferdinand in 1986, Silver Charm in 1997, Mine That Bird in 2009 and Super Saver in 2010, with Canonero II in 1971 unknown.) 5. THE DISTANCE FOUNDATION FACTOR. (The horse has finished at least third in a 1 1/8-mile race or longer before the Kentucky Derby.) This points out horses who have the proper foundation and/or stamina for the Kentucky Derby distance. (Exceptions: Since 1955, the only exceptions have been Kauai King in 1966, Sea Hero in 1993, Charismatic in 1999, Giacomo in 2005 and Mine That Bird in 2009.) 6. THE SUFFICIENT RACING EXPERIENCE FACTOR. (The horse has had at least six lifetime starts before the Kentucky Derby.) This points out horses who have the needed experience. (Exceptions: Since 1955, the exceptions have been Grindstone in 1996, Fusaichi Pegasus in 2000, Barbaro in 2006, Big Brown in 2008, Animal Kingdom in 2011, I’ll Have Another in 2012, American Pharoah in 2015, Always Dreaming in 2017 and Justify in 2018. Grindstone, Fusaichi Pegasus, Barbaro, I’ll Have Another, American Pharoah and Always Dreaming each had made five starts before the Kentucky Derby. Animal Kingdom had made four starts before the Kentucky Derby. Big Brown and Justify had made three starts before the Kentucky Derby.) 7. THE NO ADDING OR REMOVING BLINKERS FACTOR. (The horse has not added blinkers or had blinkers removed in his or her final start at 3 before the Kentucky Derby.) This seems to point out that, if a horse is good enough to win the Kentucky Derby, the trainer is not searching for answers so late in the game. (Since Daily Racing Form began including blinkers in its past performances in 1987, no horse has added blinkers or had blinkers removed in his or her last start at 3 before winning the Kentucky Derby.) 8. THE RACED AS A 2-YEAR-OLD FACTOR. (The horse made at least one start as a 2-year-old.) (Exceptions: Apollo in 1882 and Justify in 2018 are the only Kentucky Derby winners who didn’t race as a 2-year-old. Through 2018, the score is 142-2 in terms of Kentucky Derby winners who raced at 2. Since 1937, horses unraced as a 2-year-old are a combined 1 for 63 in the Kentucky Derby. During this period, the only horses to win, place or show were Hampden, who finished third in 1946; Coaltown, second in 1948; Agitate, third in 1974; Reinvested, third in 1982; Strodes Creek, second in 1994; Curlin, third in 2007; Bodemeister, second in 2012; Battle of Midway, third in 2017; and Justify, first in 2018.) 9. THE NOT A GELDING FACTOR. (The horse is not a gelding.) (Exceptions: Funny Cide in 2003 and Mine That Bird in 2009 are the only geldings to win the Kentucky Derby since Clyde Van Dusen in 1929.)

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4.2.2019:

April 2: Northfield Park Early Pick 4 Analysis

Northfield Park has a 15-race card set to roll this evening with the first post scheduled for 6:00 PM EST. The Early 1.00 Pick 4 begins in Race 7, it has a $10,000 guaranteed pool and will be my focus. On Monday at Northfield the driver with the hottest hands was Aaron Merriman with four wins. Trainer Jordan Hope was the top conditioner on the card with three trips to the winner's circle. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Race 7 1-Party's Jet-Gets needed post relief and can contend with best effort. 3-Jazzy John-8/5 chalk should be a player but needs to get back to early March form. 4-Mcwiz-Steps-up off a sharp win from the 8-hole and should be in the mix again. Race 8 1-Tartufo Lindy-Makes 4th start, drops and now with a new pilot, will use and look to beat the ML chalk. 2-Cash Bonus-3rd start off the bench and was Stahl's choice, mare shouldn't be afraid of this crew. 6-Nono Lindy-Makes 3rd start after some time off and 2nd start in new barn, has faced better but needs a trip. Race 9 1-Katkin Coke-Steps-up off a sharp win, will be tough if races back to that effort. 2-Barn Winner-ML chalk may fall into a pocket trip and have enough to sweep by in the lane. Race 10 5-Smiling Terror-9/5 ML chalk has had trouble finishing miles, but will use from this post. 8-Hard Cold Cash-A. Merriman takes lines from the trainer, has some back class and with a trip can win from out here. $1 Pick 4 1,3,4/1,2,6/1,2/5,8 Total Bet=$36 Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia 

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4.1.2019:

Super Santa Anita Derby Day Awaits

Saturday’s Santa Anita Derby Day card at the Great Race Place takes on even more sizzle than usual. March’s cancelled race dates created a shift in the stakes schedule, putting the Santa Anita Handicap on a stuffed marquee alongside the Triple Crown hopefuls. In all, 7 stakes will be offered, 5 of them graded.  Entries for the big day will be drawn Wednesday, and to get you ready for the big events, here’s your ‘Super Santa Anita Derby Day’ primer.  Providencia  Last Year: Come-backing Fatale Bere (FR) capitalized on a stalking trip behind dueling leaders to win her 2018 unveiling. The 7-1 shot had been away since disappointing November efforts in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf and Jimmy Durante. Fatale Bere (FR) would go on to win the Grade 1 Del Mar Oaks in August.  Know This: Forgiveness has been rewarded in the Providencia as 5 of the last 6 winners exited prep losses. Fatale Bere (8th) and Decked Out (5th) finished off the board in their prior starts before turning the tide in 2018 and 2016, respectively.  Know This: 9 of the last 10 winners of this race were stretching out in distance from 1-mile races and adding an additional furlong.  Know This: 6 of the last 8 Providencia winners were 3-1 or less on the toteboard. Only Spirit of Xian (16-1 in 2015) and Fatale Bere (7-1 a year ago) were larger.  Royal Heroine  Last Year: Jockey Joel Rosario brought Beau Recall (IRE) from last of nine to first at the wire with a well-timed, three-quarter-length score. The Irish-bred filly snapped an 8-race losing streak while notching her first career stakes victory. Favorite Enola Gray faded to fourth in her first start since July.  Know This: The Royal Heroine has been a great betting race in recent years with the last 4 winners going off playable prices at 4-1, 7-1, 5-1 and 4-1. Favorites during that span have finished 4th, 4th, 2nd and 2nd for the exotics.  Know This: Jockey Flavien Prat is 21: 7-3-4 in Santa Anita turf mile stakes since the start of 2018 – with victories for 5 different trainers. He’s posted a $1.28 ROI for every $1 bet on those mounts  Know This: 12 of the last 18 Royal Heroine winners were foreign-bred performers, paced by 4 via Great Britain and 3 via Ireland.  Santa Anita Oaks  Last Year: Odds-on favorite Midnight Bisou rallied from eighth of nine fillies to soar by the field and post a 3-and-one-half-length victory. It marked her third graded stakes win of the meet, following the Grade 2 Santa Ynez and Grade 2 Santa Ysabel. She went on to run third in the Kentucky Oaks and Breeders’ Cup Distaff.  Know This: The highest-priced Santa Anita Oaks favorite since 1991 has been 9-5 shot Pleasant Stage, the 1992 winner. The Oaks has featured heavy favorites at 3-5, 4-5, 1-9, 6-5, 6-5 and 3-10 the last 6 years, netting 4 wins and 2 runner-ups among them.  Know This: 4 straight Oaks editions have been clear-cut victories by 3 lengths or more. The last close have came in 2012 when Willa B Awesome pulled a nose upset at 13-1 over Reneesgotzip.  Know This: 6 straight Oaks winners exited victories at the Santa Anita meet, including 3 from the Santa Ysabel, 2 from the Las Virgenes and Paradise Woods’ rise from the maiden ranks.  Santa Anita Handicap  Last Year: Accelerate, the 5-2 favorite, dominated by 5-and-one-half lengths while starting off his eventual Eclipse Award-winning season with a second straight win at the meet. The Grade 2 San Pasqual victor would score 4 more successive Grade 1s to end the year, highlighted by the Breeders’ Cup Classic.  Know This: Favorites have accounted for the last 2 Big ‘Cap editions, Shaman Ghost and Accelerate, and 4 of the last 6.  Know This: Since 1996, only Melatonin in 2016 has pulled a double-digit odds upset of the Santa Anita Handicap. The 16-1 shot stands as the race’s biggest price since Mr. Purple shook the tote at 18-1 in 1996.  Know This: 6 straight Santa Anita Handicap winners have been within 3 lengths of the lead after the opening half-mile. Ron the Greek (2012) was the last deep closer to score.  Santa Anita Derby  Last Year: Eventual Triple Crown champion Justify made his stakes debut a 3-length triumph over Bolt d’Oro while winning for the third time at the meet. The wire-to-wire score came against a cast that included Instilled Regard, who would go on run fourth in the Kentucky Derby.  Know This: Trainer Bob Baffert has a record 8 victories in the Santa Anita Derby. Interestingly, only Point Given and Justify of those have gone on to win a race in the Triple Crown series.  Know This: 13 straight Santa Anita Derby winners have exited local preps, including 11 from stakes races at the meet.  Know This: The Santa Anita Derby has produced 11 Kentucky Derby winners overall and 9 runner-ups in the run for the roses. Since 2005, those successes include Giacomo, I’ll Have Another, California Chrome and Justify.

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4.1.2019:

Monday, April 1: Mohawk Park Early Pick 4 Analysis

The Monday night feature at Mohawk Park rolls in Race 6, a Preferred Trot with a $34,000 purse. The Early 0.20 Pick 4 is a challenging sequence which starts in Race 4, it has a $50,000 guaranteed pool and will be my focus. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Race 4 4-Sir Galahad-In from Lon off 2 good efforts, camera shy but fits with this crew. 5-Shadow Of Lindy-This might be a spot to leave and control the race, could be sitting on a big try at a square price. 6-Phil The Thrill-5/2 choice finally back in 7-days, had a 56.1 back half in last, could take a picture with best effort. Race 5 4-Capitano Italiano-Captaintreacherous colt sizzled the last 3/4's in final qualifier, looks ready to roll off the bench. 5-Beach Baby Bee-2nd start on Lasix and last was better, comes back in 7-days and will use instead of ML chalk #3. 7-Bronsons Delight-Respecting Filion's choice over #6 & #9, could know how good this colt can be after tonight. Race 6 5-Free Willy Hanover-Mare has made it look easy in last 2 so will respect, winning 3rd straight may not be as easy. 6-P L Jill-Best chance might be to blast out to get the jump on #5 and #7 and hope for best. 7-B Yoyo-Shouldn't be hurt from starting outside in a short field, a quick pace could make difference versus this crew. Race 7 2-BS Tyrrific-Has been facing tougher and this is a spot to shine, worth a swing at a square price. 4-Mister Godro-Flew down the lane when dropped to this class, thinking Jamieson will be more aggressive tonight. 5-Levy Taylore-A ++ trainer change off the Shepherd claim, should be kept in striking range from this post.  My Ticket Race 4) 4,5,6 Race 5) 4,5,7 Race 6) 5,6,7 Race 7) 2,4,5 Total Ticket Cost) $16.20 for $0.20Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia

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3.30.2019:

Saturday, March 30: Mohawk Hi-5 and Cal Expo Pick 4 Analysis

Tonight, Mohawk Park has a mandatory payout in the Jackpot Hi-5 with an estimated pool of $1.1 million. The 12-horse field goes postward in Race 10 and there is a Hi-5 ticket posted below. Cal Expo's popular 0.20 Pick 4 rolls in Race 8. The sequence has a $40,000 guaranteed pool and will be my focus. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Mohawk Race 10-Jackpot Hi-5 Total Ticket Cost) 1,3,4,7,12 = $24 for $0.20Cal Expo Pick 4 Race 8 1-Mint To Cruise-Drops to the spot of a recent win and Plano can work a very good trip with this post draw. 2-Coz And Effect-9/5 ML chalk has been in the hunt at this class but did lose to #1 on 3-2. 5-Gorgeous For Real-2nd start off a layoff and could be prepping for HoP, but if race tight, can handle these. Race 9 1-Herecomesthethunder-Has had seconditis but from the rail versus this bunch it is best to respect. 3-Kaboom Pow-Recent starts have been dull, 3rd time Lasix and Plano's choice over #2, will swing for a price. 4-Reys N A Ruckus-Has been in the hunt at this level for Team Sobey, needs the right trip but is a player. 5-TherealGoods-5/2 chalk will likely follow last week's winning script and blast out, but may not get top as easily. Race 10 4-Who Dat Love-Was doing well in $5k claimers, steps-up into this condition, will use in an upset roll at 8-1 in ML. 5-I'm An Athlete-1/2 ML favorite likes this condition and is in a spot to shine, but 9-year-old is not a lock. Race 11 1-Cenalta Eclipse-ML chalk has had a tough year, has been finding ways to lose, but starts inside tonight. 2-Mccedes-14-year-old doesn't really enjoy an off-track so will toss last, could trip out and stay in the hunt. 8-Ulysses Blue Chip-Sobey should be rolling late, if pace is decent and cover is good, this guy could take a picture. My Ticket Race 8) 1,2,5 Race 9) 1,3,4,5 Race 10) 4,5 Race 11) 1,2,8 Total Ticket Cost) $28.80 for $0.40Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia 

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3.30.2019:

Hidden Scroll Choice In Wide Open Florida Derby

I’m counting on Hidden Scroll to get the 1 1-8 miles of the Xpressbet Florida Derby Saturday at Gulfstream Park. But I’m not sure of it -- how could anyone be? Hidden Scroll is the morning line favorite, but like any horse with many interior “1s” on his running lines, the question is endurance. In only his 2nd start, he was favored in the Xpressbet Fountain of Youth, and after rapid fractions, finished 4th. He faltered but didn’t fall apart, but most inexperienced horses would have. It was a good sign. And now, in only his 3rd attempt, he’s going for the Florida Derby.  He’s the one to beat, but using multiple horses in the Florida Derby looks like the way to go in the Pick 4. Maximum Security has taken an interesting route to the race, mainly against lesser company. His races have been fast, though, and he’s romped. He just hasn’t seen rivals like these and has never been two turns. His career began for $16,000 maiden claiming and has far exceeded early expectations.  Code of Honor’s first two-turn attempt hoisted him up to a new level. He benefited from the fast pace of the Fountain of Youth and was up in time for the win. He would be extremely fortunate to get the same trip, but the same elements are there. A repeat certainly would not be impossible.  The Florida Derby is the centerpiece of a tremendous card and includes mandatory payout in the Rainbow Six.  The 11th and 12th are races at the highest level of the allowance ranks. Restoring Hope, a Triple Crown participant last year, makes is return in the 11th -- a race that has plenty of possibilities. Along with Restoring Hope, the opening leg includes Fast Pass, Articulator and So Long Chuck on the ticket. Tomberaine and Second Mate will have a strong presence in the 12th, along with price play Space Mountain.  The Pan American Stakes is the 13th, and off his closing 2nd in the MacDiarmida Stakes, Melmich is the choice here but isn’t enough of a standout to be a single on the ticket. Bigger Picture and Soglio are worthy of inclusion. Bigger Picture was an easy winner in the Connelly Stakes at Sam Houston and has several Grade 1 and 2 performances that make him a player. Soglio was a closing 2nd in the W.L. McKnight at Gulfstream in January.  My Ticket Race 11) #5 Restoring Hope, #8 Fast Pass, #9 Articulator, #10 So Long Chuck.  Race 12) #2 Tombelaine, #4 Space Mountain, #11 Second Mate.  Race 13) #2 Melmich, #8 Soglio, 9 Bigger Picture.  Race 14) #1 Hidden Scroll, #7 Maximum Security, #9 Code of Honor. Total Ticket Cost) 5,8,9,10/2,4,11/2,8,9/1,7,9 ($54) for $0.50> Don't miss out on these: Xpressbet Florida Derby Wager Guide Money-Back on the Preps, including the Xpressbet Florida Derby Xpressbet Florida Derby Day 5 Million Point Split

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3.29.2019:

Friday, March 29th: Can-Am Pick 4 Analysis

Coming back this evening for the second edition of the Can-Am 0.20 Pick 4. Both Mohawk and the Meadowlands have competitive cards scheduled to start the weekend. The Can-Am sequence begins at Mohawk in Race 10, at about 10:40 EST. The pool was over $50,000 last week and it wouldn't be a shock to see a higher total tonight. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Race 10-1st Leg-Mohawk 1-Windsongmagnifique-Not in love with last effort, will use again and hope is tighter, now comes back in 7 days. 2-Buttermilk Hanover-Steps-up after a sharp win at FlmD, winner of >$100k in 2018 can compete here. 6-P L Hurricane-Lukewarm ML chalk may blast out and get on the engine. Filion provides a new set of hands. 8-Cousin Mary-Swinging for a price and thinking the 1/2 may go in .56 and change, if so, Mary can roll late. Race 10-2nd Leg-Meadowlands 2-Slick Artist A-Got the top and didn't last, may look to get sucked around and make one big brush down the lane. 4-Newsday-Slow pace hurt, 55.3 last 1/2 wasn't enough, now D. Miller steers and he should have in striking range. 5-Believe In Me-Has trouble sealing the deal at the Big M, but best to respect honest horse. 8-Dongal Rundlscrk N-Trainer hands lines to Gingras in 2nd Big M start, drops and looking for a big try. 9-Oceania-9/5 ML chalk is a winner of 2 straight, tough to leave out but will need a trip versus this crew. Race 11-3rd Leg-Mohawk 5-Docs Sausalito-Came 2nd from 9-hole and might be able to step-up the effort for 3rd win in 10 tries this year. 7-Exhilarated-Steps-up after drawing off by 4 3/4 last week, classy mare could stay good and win another. Race 11-4th Leg-Meadowlands 2-If Not Why Not-Spagnola barn has been hot this month, winner of 4 of 7 at Big M may pop in 1st start off bench. 5-Ataboy Hanover-Makes 4th start off a rest and Dunn takes a seat, looking for a big try. 7-Resita-Makes 4 start for Cullipher and drops to a softer spot, D. Miller takes a spin and best will be tough to beat. My Ticket Race 10 Mohawk) 1,2,6,8 Race 10 Meadowlands) 2,4,5,8,9 Race 11 Mohawk) 5,7 Race 11 Meadowlands) 2,5,7 Total Ticket Cost) $24 for $0.20Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia 

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3.28.2019:

Eddie Olczyk's Florida Derby Picks & Betting Strategy

Analysis: The importance of the Xpressbet Florida Derby has been long-standing, but really in the spotlight in recent years. Kentucky Derby winners Orb, Nyquist and Always Dreaming all have come out of this race just since 2013. It’s the capper to a great, 14-race card on Saturday. Good luck to those playing in the live-money $50,000 Xpressbet Showdown online tournament. Main Contenders: The pace got to favorite HIDDEN SCROLL in the Xpressbet Fountain of Youth when he finished fourth at 6-5. I respect him, but not sure he offers any more value this time … or if the pace will be any more forgiving. That’s because unbeaten sprinter MAXIMUM SECURITY should offer a big challenge to those up front. The Xpressbet Florida Derby should come down to the best finisher. In the Fountain of Youth, that was BOURBON WAR. He ran huge in the local prep when second to CODE OF HONOR and should get the perfect set-up. The longer the better for BOURBON WAR. And keep in mind that closers have taken the Mucho Macho Man, Holy Bull and Fountain of Youth this winter on the Florida Derby path. Value Plays: BODEXPRESS will be a big price (30-1 morning line, but likely much higher as a maiden). I know he’s never been around two turns, but he’s bred to like this. Sire Bodemeister dominated the Arkansas Derby at this same 1-1/8 miles and ran huge seconds in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness. I’m looking for BODEXPRESS to be just off the speed in that second flight.  $100 Betting Strategy $43 Win: BOURBON WAR ($43) $5 Exacta Part-Wheel: BOURBON WAR over BODEXPRESS, HIDDEN SCROLL and CODE OF HONOR ($15) $3 Trifecta Key: BOURBON WAR over BODEXPRESS, HIDDEN SCROLL and CODE OF HONOR ($18) $1 Trifecta Box: BOURBON WAR, BODEXPRESS, HIDDEN SCROLL and CODE OF HONOR ($24) Eddie's Top 4 Picks BOURBON WAR BODEXPRESS HIDDEN SCROLL CODE OF HONOR

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3.28.2019:

Jon White's First 2019 Derby Strikes

The first strikes for the May 4 Kentucky Derby can now be revealed. Back in 1999, I developed my Derby Strikes System. The system consists of nine key factors. When a horse does not qualify in one of the nine categories, the horse gets a strike. The nine key factors (or categories) are explained at the end of this column. Various “rules” for the Kentucky Derby once were quite popular. A “Derby rule” meant a horse needed to have done this or that, or not done this or that, in order to win the race. However, through the years, as many of the “Derby rules” were broken, their popularity seemed to wane. As I previously have written, I think what quite possibly makes my Derby Strikes System better than any single “Derby rule” is the strikes system is more comprehensive. The Derby Strikes System is an amalgamation of factors that attempts to ascertain the chances a horse has to win the Kentucky Derby from both tactical and historical perspectives. It is the marriage of the TACTICAL with the HISTORICAL that I think distinguishes the strikes system from any “Derby rule,” per se. Many years after I came up with my Derby Strikes System in 1999, racing enthusiast Ryan Stillman suggested that I research how many strikes each Kentucky Derby winner had prior to 1999. I realized that Stillman had a good idea, though I could not go back any further than 1973 because stakes races in the United States were first graded in 1973. Two of my nine key factors deal with graded stakes races. According to the Derby Strikes System, a horse with zero strikes or only one strike has a much better chance to win the Kentucky Derby than a horse with two strikes. Going back to 1973, 38 of the last 46 Kentucky Derby winners have had zero strikes or just one strike. Six of the last 46 Kentucky Derby have had two strikes: Cannonade (1974), Ferdinand (1986), Sea Hero (1993), Funny Cide (2003), Giacomo (2005) and Always Dreaming (2017). According to the Derby Strikes System, it is a tall task for a horse with more than two strikes to win the Kentucky Derby. Of the last 46 horses to win the Run for the Roses, only two horses have won with more than two strikes, Mine That Bird and Justify. Mine That Bird pulled off a 50-1 shocker when he won the 2009 Kentucky Derby. Justify proved a punctual 5-2 favorite in the 2018 edition. While there was a huge disparity in the odds for Mine That Bird and Justify, they did have something in common. The track was sloppy when they won the roses. Was the sloppy track a contributing factor when Mine That Bird and Justify succeeded despite having more than two strikes? Maybe, or maybe not. Who really knows? I do know that even though the Derby Strikes System is important to me when trying to determine a horse’s chances to win the Kentucky Derby, Justify’s three strikes did not keep me from picking him to win last year’s renewal. Prior to the 2018 Kentucky Derby, I wrote: “Justify had stardom written all over him from the moment he took his first step out of the gate in his career debut. He has yet to taste defeat. And Justify is my pick to win this year’s Kentucky Derby. I am picking Justify even though he didn’t race at 2, even though he has just three career starts and even though he has three strikes in my Derby Strikes System. “I must confess that I feel like something of a traitor by selecting Justify. I am going against my own Derby Strikes System by picking a horse to win who has three strikes. I guess you could say that when it comes to Justify, I am drinking the Kool-Aid. I just can’t help but be swayed by what he has done at Santa Anita this year in the afternoon and the morning, fueling my belief that Justify’s sheer talent might be sufficient to trump his lack of a race at 2, his lack of overall experience and, yes, his three strikes.” Justify not only won the Kentucky Derby, he subsequently took the Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes to become this country’s 13th Triple Crown winner. After the Belmont, Justify was retired to stud with six victories from six lifetime starts. WINNER’S STRIKES GOING BACK TO 1973 Here are the strikes for each Kentucky Derby winner going back to 1973: 1973 Secretariat (0 strikes)1974 Cannonade (2 strikes) Categories 3 and 41975 Foolish Pleasure (0 strikes)1976 Bold Forbes (0 strikes)1977 Seattle Slew (0 strikes)1978 Affirmed (0 strikes)1979 Spectacular Bid (0 strikes)1980 Pleasant Colony (0 strikes)1981 Genuine Risk (1 strike) Category 11982 Gato Del Sol (1 strike) Category 31983 Sunny’s Halo (1 strike) Category 11984 Swale (0 strikes)1985 Spend a Buck (0 strikes)1986 Ferdinand (2 strikes) Categories 2 and 41987 Alysheba (1 strike) Category 21988 Winning Colors (0 strikes)1989 Sunday Silence (0 strikes)1990 Unbridled (1 strike) Category 31991 Strike the Gold (0 strikes)1992 Lil E. Tee (0 strikes)1993 Sea Hero (2 strikes) Categories 3 and 51994 Go for Gin (0 strikes)1995 Thunder Gulch (0 strikes)1996 Grindstone (0 strikes)1997 Silver Charm (1 strike) Category 41998 Real Quiet (0 strikes)1999 Charismatic (1 strike) Category 52000 Fusaichi Pegasus (1 strike) Category 62001 Monarchos (0 strikes)2002 War Emblem (0 strikes)2003 Funny Cide (2 strikes) Categories 2 and 92004 Smarty Jones (0 strikes)2005 Giacomo (2 strikes) Categories 2 and 52006 Barbaro (1 strike) Category 62007 Street Sense (0 strikes)2008 Big Brown (1 strike) Category 62009 Mine That Bird (4 strikes) Categories 1, 4, 5 and 92010 Super Saver (1 strike) Category 42011 Animal Kingdom (1 strike) Category 62012 I’ll Have Another (1 strike) Category 62013 Orb (0 strikes)2014 California Chrome (0 strikes)2015 American Pharoah (1 strike) Category 62016 Nyquist (0 strikes)2017 Always Dreaming (2 strikes) Categories 1 and 62018 Justify (3 strikes) Categories 1, 6 and 8 Justify managed to break the so-called Apollo jinx. Every Kentucky Derby winner since Apollo in 1882 had raced at 2 until Justify last year. A horse needs to have raced as a 2-year-old to avoid getting a strike in Category 8. Justify became the first horse to win the Kentucky Derby despite a strike in Category 8. BY MY STANDARDS UPSETS LOUISIANA DERBY By My Standards, coming off a maiden victory, won the Grade II Louisiana Derby by three-quarters of a length in a 22-1 upset at that venerable New Orleans venue last Saturday while making his fifth career start. Trained by Bret Calhoun, By My Standards completed 1 1/8 miles in a hand-timed 1:49.53. The Kentucky-bred Goldencents colt was credited with a career-best 97 Beyer Speed Figure. Spinoff finished second at 4-1. Sueno ended up third at 7-1 in the field of 11, five lengths behind Spinoff. War of Will, the 4-5 favorite, broke alertly before he abruptly lost his footing behind in the first few strides. He wound up ninth after having won all three of his previous starts on dirt for trainer Mark Casse. In the track’s Louisiana Derby recap, Casse said: “We think what happened was about four jumps out of the gate. He actually broke in front and if you watch, he buckles on his right hind. And we believe maybe it was a stumble of some sort. But when he did, we think he strained maybe a muscle. But he was significantly off after the race…I’ve just been on the phone with Dr. Robert McMartin. He thinks [War of Will] might have caught his stifle or something. We feel like he’ll probably be a little better tomorrow.” Casse was right in thinking War of Will probably would be better Sunday. In the track’s stable notes for Sunday, Casse said: “It’s amazing how much better he was today. I just feel fortunate that he’s okay, first and foremost. We’re fairly certain that he probably caught his patella a little bit. So what we’ll do is we’ll do some exercising and probably laser treatment to strengthen the patella muscle. But we feel optimistic that we can still make the [Kentucky] Derby. I’ve been dealing with patella ligaments since the beginning of my career, but I’ve never seen one catch like that did.” On Steve Byk’s radio program At the Races, Casse said Tuesday morning he was “very optimistic” regarding War of Will’s situation. Casse said the colt would be shipped to Kentucky and checked out thoroughly there. If all does check out well, the colt could go back to the track to train at Keeneland on Friday, Casse added. A horse’s number of strikes can’t be determined until the horse’s next race will be the Kentucky Derby. Louisiana Derby participants By My Standards, Spinoff and War of Will are not scheduled to start again before the May 4 classic, which means their strikes now can be tallied. By My Standards has only one strike. And as is the case with so many horses these days, he gets a strike in Category 6, the “sufficient racing experience category.” I have noted in recent years that I consider this to be by far the least important category because horses just do not race as much nowadays as they did when I introduced Derby Strikes System in 1999. SIGNIFICANT CHANGE IN CATEGORY 6 From 1973 through 2000, Fusaichi Pegasus was the only horse to get a strike in Category 6. He had made five starts going into the Kentucky Derby. But from 2001 through 2018, seven horses -- Barbaro, Big Brown, Animal Kingdom, I’ll Have Another, American Pharoah, Always Dreaming and Justify -- got a strike in Category 6 for making fewer than six starts before the Kentucky Derby. Put another way, only 3.5% of the Kentucky Derby winners in the 28 years from 1973 through 2000 had a strike in Category 6. But 36.8% of the winners in the last 18 years from 2001 through 2018 had a strike in that category. Ever since Animal Kingdom in 2011, I decided that a Category 6 strike in itself will not stop me from picking a horse to win the Kentucky Derby. I picked I’ll Have Another in 2012, American Pharoah in 2015 and Justify in 2018 even though they each got a strike in Category 6. And while Justify’s three strikes did worry me to some extent, the fact that one of his strikes came in Category 6 made it much easier for me to go ahead and pick him. As for the only other horse in the last 46 years to win the Kentucky Derby with more than two strikes, Mine That Bird was fine in the not-so-important-anymore Category 6. All four of his strikes came in what I consider to be more meaningful categories. Spinoff, like Justify, has three strikes. One of his strikes is in Category 6. He also gets a strike in Category 2 for not having won a graded stakes race. And he gets a third strike in Category 4 because he was in front with a furlong to go in the Louisiana Derby before finishing second. If War of Will is able to get over his physical setback and does run in the Kentucky Derby, at least he will be in good shape concerning his number of strikes. War of Will has just one strike. With eight lifetime starts, he is okay in Category 6, unlike By My Standards and Spinoff. War of Will’s only strike comes in Category 5 for not having finished at least third in a 1 1/8-mile race or longer. Todd Pletcher trains Spinoff. Pletcher also conditions Cutting Humor, victorious by a neck at 2-1 in last Sunday’s Grade III Sunland Derby at Sunland Park Racetrack & Casino. Anothertwistafate ran second in a fine try at 7-2. Mucho Gusto, who set a fast pace as the 9-10 favorite, finished third in the field of nine, nearly six lengths behind Anothertwistafate. Mucho Gusto was responsible for fractions of :22.76, :45.63 and 1:09.63. It is likely that Mucho Gusto especially paid the price for that scorching half-mile in :45.63. Cutting Humor’s final time in the 1 1/8-mile Sunland Derby was a sparkling 1:46.94 to break the track record of 1:47.21 established by Oh So Regal when he won the 2018 Sunland Park Handicap at the age of 4. It does seem that this year’s Sunland Derby was contested on a lightning-fast strip. Earlier on the card, the Southern California-based mare Escape Clause also broke a track record when she stepped one mile in 1:34.00 to win the Harry Henson Handicap by a little more than seven lengths. Before Mine That Bird captured the Kentucky Derby, he finished fourth in Kelly Leak’s 2009 Sunland Derby, which was run in 1:50.02. Mine That Bird recorded an 80 Beyer Speed Figure in the Sunland Derby before posting a 105 in the Kentucky Derby. More recently, Firing Line won the 2015 Sunland Derby by 14 1/4 lengths in 1:47.39 when he produced a 103 Beyer Speed Figure. Firing Line then ran second in the Kentucky Derby, a length behind American Pharoah, who would go on to sweep the Triple Crown. Firing Line’s Kentucky Derby figure was 104. Cutting Humor recorded a career-best 95 Beyer Speed Figure for his Sunland Derby triumph. In terms of strikes, Cutting Humor has zero. If Anothertwistafate and/or Mucho Gusto start next in the Kentucky Derby, they will do so with two strikes apiece. Blaine Wright trains Anothertwistafate, who currently has 30 points for the Kentucky Derby. Because 30 points might not be sufficient to get into the Kentucky Derby field, there is a chance that Anothertwistafate will race again before May 4 in order to try and earn more points. If Anothertwistafate does run in the Kentucky Derby without another start before May 4, one of his two strikes would come in Category 2 for not having won a graded stakes race. He also would get a strike in -- you guessed it -- Category 6 for having made only five career starts. But if Anothertwistafate does race again before May 4, it would give him six career starts, eliminating his strike in Category 6. Mucho Gusto now seems iffy for the Kentucky Derby. If he were to make his next start there, one of his two strikes would come in Category 4 for being second with a furlong left to run in the Sunland Derby before he finished third. And he would get another strike in Category 6 because he’s made just five career starts. MY CURRENT KENTUCKY DERBY TOP 10 1. Omaha Beach2. Game Winner3. Improbable4. Code of Honor5. Long Range Toddy6. Anothertwistafate7. Cutting Humor8. Bourbon War9. Roadster10. By My Standards Anothertwistafate, Cutting Humor and By My Standards are newcomers on my Top 10 this week. Even though Casse said he feels optimistic War of Will can still make the Kentucky Derby, I elected to drop the colt from my Top 10 this week and will monitor his situation going forward. He was No. 4 last week. Mucho Gusto and Instagrand also exit my Top 10 this week. Mucho Gusto was No. 7 last week before his loss in the Sunland Derby. Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer told Daily Racing Form’s Jay Privman that the “plan as of the moment” for Instagrand is to run him in the Grade I Santa Anita Derby on April 6. A good performance there probably would propel Instagrand back onto my Top 10. The Kentucky-bred Into Mischief colt ran third in Aqueduct’s Grade III Gotham Stakes on March 9 while making his first start since a 10 1/4-length victory in Del Mar’s Grade II Best Pal Stakes last Aug. 11. No. 4 Code of Honor and No. 8 Bourbon War are among 11 entered in Gulfstream Park’s Grade I Xpressbet.com Florida Derby this Saturday. The 1 1/8-mile race offers 170 qualifying points (100-40-20-10) for the Kentucky Derby. Hidden Scroll has been installed as the Florida Derby morning-line favorite at 5-2. Code of Honor is 3-1. Bourbon War is 7-2. After a scintillating 14-length debut victory Jan. 26 at Gulfstream, Hidden Scroll was backed down to 6-5 favoritism in the Fountain of Youth. He weakened a bit late after he set a scorching pace. All in all, considering how fast he ran early and it was just his second career start, he certainly didn’t disgrace himself. He gets a rider switch from Joel Rosario to Javier Castellano for the Florida Derby. WINX EXTENDS HER LONG WINNING STREAK Australia’s Winx won last Saturday’s Group I George Ryder Stakes at Rosehill in what is scheduled to be the penultimate start of the mare’s fantastic career. It extended her extraordinary winning streak to 32. This year’s George Ryder was Winx’s 24th Group/Grade I victory, a world record. The 22 such wins by the Irish hurdler Hurricane Fly in Europe from 2008-15 had stood as the world record until Winx came along. America’s legendary gelding John Henry ranks third in terms of all-time Group/Grade I wins with 16. Winx is scheduled to race for the final time in the Group I Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Randwick on April 13. THIS WEEK’S NTRA POLLS Here is the Top 10 for this week’s NTRA Top Thoroughbred Poll: Rank Points Horse (First-Place Votes) 1. 326 Monomoy Girl (13)2. 314 Roy H (1)3. 292 Bricks and Mortar (2)4. 271 City of Light (26)5. 218 McKinzie (1)6. 185 Midnight Bisou7. 148 Seeking the Soul8. 115 Sistercharlie9. 95 Accelerate10 68 Marley’s Freedom Here is the Top 10 for this week’s NTRA Top 3-Year-Old Poll: Rank Points Horse (First-Place Votes) 1. 339 Game Winner (24)2. 316 Improbable (7)3. 309 Code of Honor (8)4. 308 Omaha Beach (2)5. 182 Long Range Toddy6. 137 Tacitus6. 111 Bourban War8. 93 War of Will9. 80 Cutting Humor10. 71 By My Standards DERBY STRIKES SYSTEM’S CATEGORIES These are the nine key factors (or categories) in my Derby Strikes System: 1. THE GRADED STAKES FACTOR. (The horse ran in a graded stakes race before March 31.) This points out horses who have competed against tough competition prior to March 31 rather than at the last minute in April, enabling the horse to be properly battle-tested. (Exceptions: Since the introduction of graded stakes races in the U.S. in 1973, only Genuine Risk in 1980, Sunny’s Halo in 1983, Mine That Bird in 2009, Always Dreaming in 2017 and Justify in 2018 have won the Kentucky Derby without running in a graded stakes race at 2 or early at 3 before March 31.) 2. THE WIN IN A GRADED STAKES FACTOR. (The horse has won a graded stakes race.) This points out horses who have shown they have the class to win a graded stakes race. (Exceptions: Ferdinand in 1986, Alysheba in 1987, Funny Cide in 2003 and Giacomo in 2005 are the only exceptions since the introduction of U.S. graded stakes races in 1973; Alysheba in 1987 did finish first in the Blue Grass, only to be disqualified and placed third.) 3. THE EIGHTH POLE FACTOR. (In either of his or her last two starts before the Kentucky Derby, the horse was either first or second with a furlong to go.) This points out horses who were running strongly at the eighth pole, usually in races at 1 1/16 or 1 1/8 miles. By running strongly at the same point in the Kentucky Derby, a horse would be in a prime position to win the roses. Keep in mind that 53 of the last 56 Kentucky Derby winners have been first or second with a furlong to run. Since Decidedly won the Derby in 1962 when he was third with a furlong to go, the only three Kentucky Derby winners who were not first or second with a furlong to run were Animal Kingdom, third with a furlong remaining in 2011 when only a half-length from being second; Giacomo, sixth with a furlong to go in 2005; and Grindstone, fourth with a furlong to run in 1996. (Exceptions: Since 1955, the Kentucky Derby winners who weren’t either first or second at the eighth pole in his or her last two starts have been Tim Tam in 1958, Carry Back in 1961, Cannonade in 1974, Gato Del Sol in 1982, Unbridled in 1990 and Sea Hero in 1993, with Canonero II in 1971 unknown.) 4. THE GAMENESS FACTOR. (The horse’s finish position in both of his or her last two races before the Kentucky Derby was no worse than his or her running position at the eighth pole.) This points out horses who don’t like to get passed in the final furlong. (Exceptions: Since 1955, the exceptions have been Venetian Way in 1960, Cannonade in 1974, Foolish Pleasure in 1975, Ferdinand in 1986, Silver Charm in 1997, Mine That Bird in 2009 and Super Saver in 2010, with Canonero II in 1971 unknown.) 5. THE DISTANCE FOUNDATION FACTOR. (The horse has finished at least third in a 1 1/8-mile race or longer before the Kentucky Derby.) This points out horses who have the proper foundation and/or stamina for the Kentucky Derby distance. (Exceptions: Since 1955, the only exceptions have been Kauai King in 1966, Sea Hero in 1993, Charismatic in 1999, Giacomo in 2005 and Mine That Bird in 2009.) 6. THE SUFFICIENT RACING EXPERIENCE FACTOR. (The horse has had at least six lifetime starts before the Kentucky Derby.) This points out horses who have the needed experience. (Exceptions: Since 1955, the exceptions have been Grindstone in 1996, Fusaichi Pegasus in 2000, Barbaro in 2006, Big Brown in 2008, Animal Kingdom in 2011, I’ll Have Another in 2012, American Pharoah in 2015, Always Dreaming in 2017 and Justify in 2018. Grindstone, Fusaichi Pegasus, Barbaro, I’ll Have Another, American Pharoah and Always Dreaming each had made five starts before the Kentucky Derby. Animal Kingdom had made four starts before the Kentucky Derby. Big Brown and Justify had made three starts before the Kentucky Derby.) 7. THE NO ADDING OR REMOVING BLINKERS FACTOR. (The horse has not added blinkers or had blinkers removed in his or her final start at 3 before the Kentucky Derby.) This seems to point out that, if a horse is good enough to win the Kentucky Derby, the trainer is not searching for answers so late in the game. (Since Daily Racing Form began including blinkers in its past performances in 1987, no horse has added blinkers or had blinkers removed in his or her last start at 3 before winning the Kentucky Derby.) 8. THE RACED AS A 2-YEAR-OLD FACTOR. (The horse made at least one start as a 2-year-old.) (Exceptions: Apollo in 1882 and Justify in 2018 are the only Kentucky Derby winners who didn’t race as a 2-year-old. Through 2018, the score is 142-2 in terms of Kentucky Derby winners who raced at 2. Since 1937, horses unraced as a 2-year-old are a combined 1 for 63 in the Kentucky Derby. During this period, the only horses to win, place or show were Hampden, who finished third in 1946; Coaltown, second in 1948; Agitate, third in 1974; Reinvested, third in 1982; Strodes Creek, second in 1994; Curlin, third in 2007; Bodemeister, second in 2012; Battle of Midway, third in 2017; and Justify, first in 2018.) 9. THE NOT A GELDING FACTOR. (The horse is not a gelding.) (Exceptions: Funny Cide in 2003 and Mine That Bird in 2009 are the only geldings to win the Kentucky Derby since Clyde Van Dusen in 1929.)

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3.28.2019:

Johnny D’s Xpressbet Florida Derby Analysis & Picks

In this wild and wacky sophomore racing season what are the chances that the Xpressbet Florida Derby result adds a bit of predictability to the mix? Since January 19, there have been 16 races with Road to the Kentucky Derby qualifying points attached. Each has been won by a different 3-year-old! In that timeframe only War of Will is a Road to the Kentucky Derby repeat winner—he won the Lecomte Jan. 19 and Risen Star Feb. 16. Overall, since Sept. 15, there have been 28 US-based races awarding Derby qualifying points with just 3 repeat winners—Game Winner 9/29, 11/2; Long Range Toddy 12/16, 3/16 and War of Will. Those results challenge horseplayers inclined to back either Xpressbet Fountain of Youth winner Code of Honor or Holy Bull Stakes hero Harvey Wallbanger in respective quests to double-up. Then again, maybe this 3-year-old season finally is due for some predictability.   Below is one man’s horse-by-horse analysis and suggested Xpressbet Florida Derby wagers: 1. Hidden Scroll (Mott/Castellano) - 5/2 Winner of his initial start in rapid, wire-to-wire fashion by more than 14 lengths in the slop at Gulfstream Park, Hidden Scroll was heavily favored to return triumphantly in the Xpressbet Fountain of Youth. In that race he chased Gladiator King early--a huge longshot that returned to win a sprint stakes--and then continued to set some very fast fractions. In the lane, he understandably faded but did not totally collapse—he was touched out for third by a nose…and that’s a good thing. He’s talented but perhaps not quite as incredible as his wet track triumph originally suggested. A pair of Hall-of-Famers: trainer Bill Mott and jockey Javier Castellano will combine skills to see if they can get this talented animal to relax and save his best for the finish. He’s favored in here but unless he does something he hasn’t done before (relax) he really doesn’t rank head and shoulders above the rest. 2. Current (Pletcher/Franco) - 15/1 His entry was a last-minute audible by connections including trainer Todd Pletcher. Lately, Pletcher has had the hot hand in sophomore preps, however, this guy seems in a bit deep. All but one of his 6 lifetime starts has come on turf. He had some success last fall, winning the Grade 3 Bourbon at Keeneland on grass. He also has a bullet half-mile dirt work at Palm Beach Downs for this. He’s a toss for me. 3. Harvey Wallbanger (McPeek/Hernandez Jr.) - 15/1 It took this son of Congrats 4 starts to break his maiden. However, it wasn’t for a lack of trying. He finished second 3 times: sprinting at Saratoga; routing at Keeneland and two-turning at Churchill. When he finally did get home on top it was in another maiden route at Churchill at 4/5 odds. It’s notable that in his second start at Keeneland he blew past subsequent Sunland Derby winner Cutting Humor on the turn like breaking sticks. That afternoon ‘Harvey missed by a nose-bob to Plus Que Parfait. He doesn’t have early speed, but he’s got a steady closing gear and acts handy in a tight spot. He rode the rail to win the Fasig-Tipton Holy Bull in style at 25-1! Trainer Ken McPeek did not bring ‘Harvey back in the Xpressbet Fountain of Youth choosing to rest him for this race. A breezing 4-furlong bullet in :47 at Gulfstream on 3/23—best of 100—adds interest. Overall, there’s lots to like about this guy who may not be the most talented in this group but always tries. 4. Bourbon War (Hennig/Ortiz Jr.) - 7/2 He also exits the Xpressbet Fountain of Youth and benefitted from a fast pace to close well for second behind Code of Honor. This son of Tapit and winner of 2 of 4 starts seemed to figure things out too late in the stretch when he finally leveled out and spurted toward the winner. Sometimes he runs a bit sideways in the stretch—head cocked, lugging in. Perhaps the light went on for this son of Tapit in the Fountain of Youth stretch. He defeated eventual Sunland Derby winner Cutting Humor on the square in a Gulfstream allowance race. Since Bourbon War comes from far behind, he’s pace-dependent. Good news is that he will have extra real estate to work with Saturday. If he puts it all together again and gets a pace setup, he fits in here. If not, he’ll split the field. 5. Everfast (Romans/Landeros) - 20/1 With 1 win in 8 starts he isn’t the most reliable of this bunch. He did manage to close for second behind Harvey Wallbanger in the Fasig-Tipton Holy Bull and that shows he likes the Gulfstream surface. However, he didn’t fare nearly as well in the Xpressbet Fountain of Youth and probably won’t threaten much in here either.  6. Hard Belle (Mejia/Batista) - 50/1 Trainer Jaime Mejia is a dismal 3-for-98 at the meeting and part of the reason for the weak record is that he takes outlandish shots with many of his runners. This is one. Like the Mejia-trained Gladiator King, who hooked up with Hidden Scroll early in the Fountain of Youth, Hard Belle ought to show speed in this race. Will history repeat with Hidden Scroll stride-for-stride early with Hard Belle? Probably not. Either way, this sprinter stretching out to a mile and one-eighth is impossible to endorse. 7. Maximum Security (Ja. Servis/Saez) - 9/2 If you’re searching for an unbeaten 3-year-old with an unblemished record over today’s surface this is your guy. Does it concern you that 3 races ago he started for a maiden $16k price? That placement is called ‘taking an edge.’ An advantage to starting this one for a tag is that he became eligible to return to win two starter handicap races—one at 1-5 odds and the other at 1-9 odds. That’s 3-for-3 for this guy without ever taking a deep breath. No wonder trainer Jason Servis wins at an un-godly 37% clip. Such maneuvers also are known as ‘playing with fire.’ Someone could have dipped into the claim box first out to halter this future Xpressbet Derby starter at a bargain basement price! They didn’t, though, and Maximum Security is here to do his best for his breeders and original connections Gary and Mary West. He’s facing a tremendous challenge: better foes and a first try around two turns. He has early foot but doesn’t seem speed crazy. If the price is right—he’s worth a shot to those willing to play on the come.   8. Bodexpress (Delgado/Juarez) - 30/1 This will be Bodexpress’ first try around 2 turns. He’s made steady improvement for trainer Gustavo Delgado in four races but is being thrown to the wolves in here. He rallied nicely to miss by a neck in a 7-furlong maiden race last out, but this is another world. Pass on him. 9. Code of Honor (McGaughey/Velazquez) - 3/1 Winner of the Xpressbet Fountain of Youth, Code of Honor attempts to validate some early hype that began in August when he broke maiden at Saratoga followed by a troubled, closing second in the Grade 1 Champagne Stakes at Belmont. He was completely flat in the Mucho Macho Man early in January at Gulfstream but rebounded strongly to win the Xpressbet Fountain of Youth. He enjoyed a perfect trip in a race with a pace that was suitable to his closing style. He’s worked well since and Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey’s pre-race comments regarding the colt have been extremely positive. While he may not enjoy a similar pace setup that he got in the Fountain of Youth there’s really no reason to dismiss him. 10. Union's Destiny (Avila/Reyes) - 30/1 Last out, in his fourth career start, this son of Union Rags faced a difficult task in the Xpressbet Fountain of Youth that was made even more challenging because of a far outside 11-hole post position. Predictably, he raced very wide into the first turn but still managed to finish a respectable sixth. His lone win came at Gulfstream in a 7-furlong maiden race. At 94-1 last out against many of the same runners he’ll face Saturday he seems destined to be a huge longshot in this Grade 1. 11. Garter and Tie (Nicks/Sanchez) - 15/1 Blinkers come off of this Florida-bred son of Brooks ’n Down for this race. Likely, he’ll need more help than that. He’s made 8 starts with 2 wins, 2 seconds and 2 thirds. He’s a stakes winner at Gulfstream Park and finished sixth last out in Harvey Wallbanger’s Holy Bull. He’s steady but unspectacular and probably will lose ground early because of his outside draw. He would be a real surprise on the win end of things.    Bottom Line Ones to Beat: #1 Hidden Scroll 5/2, #9 Code of Honor 3-1 Exotics Key: #3 Harvey Wallbanger 15-1 Question Marks: #7 Maximum Security, #4 Bourbon War   Suggested Wagers $52 Total $10 Win 3 ($10) $5 Exacta 1, 9 with 3 ($30) $1 Trifecta 1, 4, 7, 9 with 1, 4, 7, 9 with 3 ($12) Race On!

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3.27.2019:

Weekly Bankroll Builder: March 29 Stronach 5 Picks

Santa Anita reopens Friday and with it comes another Stronach 5, with the guarantee once again at 100k. 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: Laurel Park R9 (5:16 ET) – 3yo 25k MCL at 6 furlongs We’ve got the typical tough opening leg of the sequence at Laurel, with seemingly all 10 pre-entries in with a shot. I’m not going to go quite that deep, but spreading seems like the right idea, so I’ll use three on top line, with the class-dropping #7 GIANT VIKING (4-1) the pick, as the cutback from two turns should give him a good foundation, he’s lightly raced, and when a good horseman like Capuano adds blinkers, it’s usually because they are needed (and note he’s only done this once over the past few years, so it’s a meaningful move in my opinion). I’m a bit intrigued by #9 LUCKY LEONARD (8-1), who seemed to be inching forward in his form before getting derailed by the rail and slop last time, but might be able to bounce back from a nice outside attack post today. I’ll also (grudgingly) use #8 HONOR RUN (3-1), who has had his fair share of chances without breaking through, but has speed and either of his last two will put him in the mix here. Pk5 A horses (listed in order of preference): 7,9,8 The B’s are a bit tougher to trust, but #4 ELIAV (5-1) might have bounced and disliked the “good” track in his first start off the Lake claim after a fast 2nd two-back, while #10 ONCE MORE EH (10-1) rises in class off the Frock claim, has speed and a few solid runs showing, and gets a huge jock upgrade to Correa. Pk5 B horses: 4,10 Leg 2: Golden Gate Fields R5 (5:45 ET) – 4up 4k at 1-mile A race that seems to lack a ton of pace tilts this towards those who want to be close early, none more so than #5 SIZZLING EDDIE (5-2), who drops stiffly in class, drew outside the main speed, and will get first run on the rest, and if he can bounce back off a no-show last time, he wins this. A lack of speed won’t help #3 THE REF (7-2), but he does give a nice alternative to ‘Eddie, especially if things do get hot up front, and he too drops in class and has some big figures to fall back on. Pk5 A horses: 5,3 An up-close style helps #2 PRESS BARON (5-1), and he’s been in good form of late, so even though he probably needs to still run better to win, the price and race flow make him worth a look. You could also give a look to #8 Special Season (4-1) and #9 Looks Good N a Tux (8-1), but both have some question marks and drew poorly, and just don’t merit consideration when working on a smaller budget. Pk5 B horses: 2 Leg 3: Santa Anita R5 (6:00 ET) – 3yo MSW at 6 furlongs Santa Anita returns to the Stronach 5 with a tough MSW where all 10 are first-time starters, so we’re in a guessing game here, but at the risk of being master of the obvious, I’ll go with the three who figure to be looking to win today; #7 RAFAL (8-5), #5 OGGONIS (8-1), and #2 STILL IN THE GAME (12-1), as all three were extremely expensive purchases, when compared to their sire’s stud fee, and Baffert, Hollendorfer, and Cecil all know how to get their firsters ready to fire on debut (which is also why I don’t expect the latter two to be as high as their ML suggest). Pk5 A horses: 7,5,2 After that trio you could literally use every one of the rest, but that’s not happening here, so I’ll limit my B’s to #3 GATE SPEED (7-2) and #4 NESBITT (10-1), as both have worked big for this, and should offer value too. I was surprised to see #10 Beleth at 10-1 on the ML, as Ellis isn’t known as a debut trainer (0-for-6), at least not recently, and, while dam Nicole H was a nice one, I’m wondering if this colt will need a bit more ground with Medaglia d’Oro on the top, not to mention the works here are extremely slow, in lieu of some of the others here. Pk5 B horses: 3,4 Leg 4: Gulfstream Park R10 (6:08 ET) – 4upfm GIII Orchid at 1 3/8 miles (turf) It’s tough not to think #9 SANTA MONICA (1-1) is the most likely winner of the sequence, as she lays over this field on class, goes for Chad Brown, and figures to like the cutback after running 2nd in the local GIII La Prevoyante, so I’ll play it that way and be quite OK if she fails, knowing I have by far the best horse. Pk5 A horses: 9 I’m not going to use any backups, as #7 Ickymasho’s (9-2) big 2nd in the GIII Very One here last time just seems fluky, and she looks poised to bounce, and it’s tough to think #5 Homeland Security (6-1) can improve for Clement, now that she’s away from Brown, while entering off an October layoff to boot. Pk5 B horses: NONE Leg 5: Gulfstream Park R11 (6:38 ET) – 3f 20k MCL at 1 1/16 miles (turf) Good luck in the finale, as this looks like the type of race where you could go six-deep and still not run in the EX. I’m going to try and take advantage of a few opinions, while playing against a few as well, and hope something sticks to the wall. My first strong opinion is #1 PATCHWORK KITTEN (5-1), a daughter of Kitten's Joy who debuts for Gargan (4-for-13 first-turf), who has had a strong meet, and this miss drew perfectly, and, the fact she's yet to prove she's not slow in the afternoon, is a good thing too. Second, I think Pino does a great job spotting his stock off the claim (23%), so I think he can move up #2 MISS ANTONELLA (8-1) from Castillo, especially since this miss was a decent enough 6th in her turf/two-turn debut, and now immediately gets blinkers and a massive jock switch to Gaffalione. I’ll also give one last chance to #8 ABJURE (4-1), who I thought couldn’t lose last time but basically ran in place, but could move up second-time blinkers and now gets Irad. Pk5 A horses: 1,2,8 You’re going to get a price on #3 GOLDEN TAP (20-1), who has been ignored at the windows but hasn’t run poorly in her last two and won’t have to improve much to threaten, while #7 MAMA LONGLEGS (20-1) didn’t fire on debut, but that against Florida MSW’s, so she’s allowed to build off that, and #9 GENERAL JUNE (9-2) was a decent 3rd from an impossible draw last time, and now goes off the Sano claim, which is a big 39% angle. If #6 Rosa Star (7-2) feels like winning today, then I won’t, but judging by her first 13 runs, which include seven underneath finishes, I’m not too concerned. Pk5 B horses: 3,7,9 The tickets: Main Ticket: 7,9,8 with 5,3 with 7,5,2 with 9 with 1,2,8 = $54 Leg 1 B Backup: 4,10 with 5,3 with 7,5,2 with 9 with 1,2,8 = $36Leg 2 B Backup: 7,9,8 with 2 with 7,5,2 with 9 with 1,2,8 = $27Leg 3 B Backup: 7,9,8 with 5,3 with 3,4 with 9 with 1,2,8 = $36Leg 5 B Backup: 7,9,8 with 5,3 with 7,5,2 with 9 with 3,7,9 = $54

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3.26.2019:

Harness Highlights: Melander Has Handful of Hambo Hopefuls

Trainer Marcus Melander was named harness racing’s “Rising Star” last year. He has plenty of star power lined up to make a run at this year’s Hambletonian. Melander, 27, handles undefeated champion Gimpanzee and four other accomplished 3-year-olds as the race toward the August 3 trotting classic at the Meadowlands begins. Gimpanzee proved more than a dominant New York Sire Stakes winner when he won the $600,000 Breeders Crown 2-Year-Old Trot to cap a 9-for-9 season and push his earnings to $591,358 for owners Courant Inc. and SRF Stable. “Gimpanzee has been training good all winter, never missed a day of training and he has grown and filled out nicely,” said Melander. Melander needs only to look down his shed row to find some of Gimpanzee’s main competition from the 199 trotters entered in the first leg of the Triple Crown. Green Manalishi S, a half-million dollar earner, finished second in the Breeders Crown and “has probably grown and filled out even more than the rest of the group,” according to Melander. Demon Onthe Hill earned most of his $144,542 with a steady performance in the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes. New Jersey Sire Stakes champion Greenshoe “is an incredibly fast horse but … needs to behave himself better at the track.” Gerry showed promise early in his 2-year-old campaign and trained well this winter. A wider view of the Hambletonian picture includes these standouts: Forbidden Trade, the O’Brien Award-winner as Canada’s top freshman trotter; Swandre The Giant, who dominated in Indiana Sire Stakes action and is now trained by North America leader Ron Burke; Don’t Let’Em, winner of the Peter Haughton Memorial at the Meadowlands; and Southwind Avenger, winner of the Valley Victory stakes. The progress of all the Hambletonian hopefuls will be reflected in the Hambletonian Future Wagering Pool that spans the next four months. The 94th running of the Hambletonian is scheduled to be shown on the CBS Sports Network, continuing its run as the sport’s longest-running live broadcast. The Hambletonian is the first leg of the Trotting Triple Crown, followed by the Yonkers Trot at Yonkers Raceway on Saturday, Aug. 31, and the Kentucky Futurity at the Red Mile on Sunday, Oct. 6.

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3.26.2019:

March 26: Pompano Park Pick 4 Analysis

Tonight, Pompano Park has an 8-race card scheduled with the first post at 7:20 EST. The 0.50 Pick 4 is set to roll in Race 5. That sequence will have a $15,000 guaranteed pool with a very low 12% takeout, and it will be my focus. On Monday night in south Florida the driver with the hottest hands was Wally Hennessey with three winners. The top conditioner on the card was Luc Loyer with two trips to the winner's circle. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Race 5 3-Eldorado Of Gold S-Sharp effort in the slop in last and if minds matter an encore could be in the cards. 4-Kabu-Should be competitive at this level and MacDonald is back and that should help. 5-Jesse Stone-Stayed on the rail after breaking in previous start, looking for a more aggressive steer tonight. Race 6 1-Groovey Kid-Steps-up but still fits with Hennessey and the rail. 3-A TC Queenie-Tossing last in slop, in a better spot at this class than in recent races, could pop at a square price. 4-Cerveza Dinero-Steps-up but draws well and should compete with this bunch. Race 7 1-Follow The Dream-Knocked out of action in the bad spill race, looks like a player here. 6-Gemalous-9/5 chalk should like the company and Simons can work a trip. Race 8 2-Deli-Craze-Camera shy but this is a soft spot, will toss last break in slop, best to use at 8-1 in the ML. 3-Lexus Rocky-Only 4 wins in last 48 but a fast track and Hennessey steering could matter a great deal. $1 Pick 4 3,4,5/1,3,4/1,6/2,3 Total Bet=$36 Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia

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3.25.2019:

Monday, March 25th: Mohawk Park Pick 4 Analysis

Tonight's feature at Woodbine Mohawk Park is set to roll in Race 6, a Preferred Trot with a $34,000 purse. The popular 0.20 Pick 4 starts in Race 4. That sequence has a $50,000 guaranteed pool which it regularly surpasses, and it will be my focus. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Race 4 2-Kwicky Kwanzaa-Back in the Shepherd barn and it's wise to respect connections. 4-Badlands Badboy-Sheds the 10-hole and trip should be better, can compete versus this bunch with best try. 5-ER Quinn-Will keep looking for another price, McClure returns, gets post relief and could get an upfront seat. 6-Brickman-Last start was probably best effort since 2-11 sick scratch, and I'll bite at 8-1 in the ML. Race 5 1-Magic Night-Should like the post draw and has done well since being bought by Team Hensley. 5-St James Gate-Sizzled the last half in .55 after being off 3 weeks, could be sitting on a big try. 6-Fly Beyond-McClure takes a seat and thinking he could work a good trip, looks like a player at this class. 7-Exemplar-Reunites with Roy and should like the company. Race 6 2-Dunbar Hall-5-yr-old likes to win, came last 1/2 in 54.3, gets post relief and should be sitting on or close to lead. 4-Free Willy Hanover-Will respect off last win, was able to pass horses in the lane unlike others. 7-Musical Rhythm-Tried the engine in last, might switch and follow cover, can take a picture with a good trip. Race 7 4-Stolen Art-Having a tough time finding the winner's circle, but this is a spot to shine and 1st time Moreau. 5-Dreamfair B J-Will toss last when off 3 weeks, may get on the engine and no excuses tonight on this drop. My Ticket Race 4) 2,4,5,6 Race 5) 1,5,6,7 Race 6) 2,4,7 Race 7) 4,5 Total Ticket Cost) $19.20 for $0.20Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia

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3.25.2019:

No Good Losses on the Kentucky Derby Trail

I’ve never met a loss that I’d take over a win. In anything. Losses are like One Direction songs. They’re all just different degrees of bad.  So while admitting defeat on the Triple Crown trail may not be the end of the world, much less the end of the line, be clear that no one involved walks away brimming with satisfaction. There are a thousand ways or more to lose a horse race. We saw another one of them Saturday.  The ninth-place finish by War of Will in the Louisiana Derby may be explained easily when his back end came out from under him a few strides from the gate. But it can’t be explained away as easily; he came out of the race with soreness. Explaining away losses is a forgiving trait that makes handicappers sometimes find prices and retribution, but also can lead you down a dead end twice. Fool me once, as they say …  We don’t expect perfection in our racehorses. That’s left for Winx if you’re able to stay up beyond midnight. But the Kentucky Derby sure hasn’t been keen on singular losses, much less chronic losers. I’ve written many times in this space and others that the last Kentucky Derby winner to lose a race at age 3 was Animal Kingdom in 2012. That’s 6 straight unbeaten Derby winners on the trail since then. And note that Animal Kingdom and I’ll Have Another before him both won their final preps. That means it’s only Super Saver’s 2010 Arkansas Derby in the L column leading into the first Saturday in May this decade.  Such are reasons why every loss is scrutinized, and likely over-scrutinized, on the Triple Crown trail. Even if you think such a trend is worthless, which it could be, it doesn’t change your job of trying to explain away losses and forgive the right ones. That’s the fundamental point here today.  The gamut of excuses for name players (and heavy favorites) this season on the sophomore trail have run the usual and unusual. Code of Honor missed time into and out of the Breeders’ Cup and was a short horse misplaced in the Mucho Man Stakes. Coliseum couldn’t handle two turns in the Sham. Hidden Scroll got chewed up in the pace of the Fountain of Youth trying to spar with a sprinter; same goes for Instagrand in the Gotham, with the additional caveat of probably needing the race off the layoff. Improbable and Game Winner both suffered wide trips upon their Rebel reappearances after training-time set-backs in Southern California. Mucho Gusto also had the weather and track issues while just running out of steam in the Sunland Derby stretch. And, of course, the world literally came out from under War of Will at Fair Grounds this past weekend.  Most all of those excuses for losing would be enough to at least consider a horse back next time on an everyday card at the right price. But the Derby trail is different for two reasons: one, the next race is always tougher; two, the calendar is fixed. Necessary adjustments or improvements must be completed in a specific timeframe at the schedule’s discretion, not the horse or trainer’s.  The funny thing about excusing a loss is that there’s only really one way to correct the outcome: Win. And so while someone will tell you winning isn’t everything and that it’s a process, that’s only true to an extent. At some point, and in the Triple Crown’s case very soon, you have to be able to complete the process better than the rest.  Great horses need to overcome wide trips by having the gears to get in and out of positions, or simply overwhelm the competition in preps because you can give away 30-40 feet and still prove best. Great horses need to relax and let fast paces run off without them, because a 20-horse Derby or any Triple Crown race in front of a massive crowd won’t get any less mentally taxing. In terms of the excuses, or reasons for losing, those are probably my least forgiving in the Triple Crown context. They are excellent handicapping angles on any Thursday, however, when the next race is often equal or less in quality to the last, and you get to pick the spot in which you’re about to re-fire. And even great horses need to stay healthy, because the rarity in which a Derby winner has overcome physical issues at age 3 is about as uncommon as it gets now that the Apollo curse has been slayed.  The Southern California training issues may be more forgivable because they weren’t any fault of the horses themselves. And strictly speaking in terms of the calendar, they were a short-term problem being ready for March, but allow enough time moving forward with 5-6 good weeks of training before the first Saturday in May. It’s also fair to say that most of the Baffert runners stayed pretty close to on schedule, however, throughout the ordeal. But when he runs second, second and third with a trio of odds-on favorites at Oaklawn and Sunland, all horses most had as Top 5 or Top-10 level prospects, there’s fair concern. One of those (Game Winner) was beaten by a fellow Santa Anita trainee, Omaha Beach, after all. So it all can’t be laid on the training situation.  All that said, I’m not wild about any of the recent losses of leading Triple Crown prospects. I do like what Bill Mott has done in the morning with Hidden Scroll, teaching him to rate, and that could pay off in this week’s Xpressbet Florida Derby. But as mentioned before, forgiveness has a very short expiration date in this process. These horses need immediate improvements.  And if you’re hung up on being undefeated at 3, that list of prospects typically shrinks to about 2-4 by Derby Day. There’s not many of those left this year even by the final week of March. Horses like Haikal, Tacitus, Somelikeithotbrown, Tax, Harvey Wallbanger and Maximum Security are among the names still unblemished in 2019. Do you want them, or are you willing to forgive someone else? 

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3.23.2019:

Saturday, March 23: Cal Expo Pick 4 Analysis

The feature at Cal Expo is carded as Race 10, a Fillies and Mares Open II Pace with a $6,000 purse. The popular 0.20 pick 4 rolls in Race 8. The sequence has a $40,000 guaranteed pool with a 15% takeout, and it will be my focus. Last night the driver with the hottest hands at Cal Expo was James Kennedy with five wins. The top conditioner on the card was Gordon Graham with two trips to the winner's circle. The Can-Am Pick 4 had a nice debut on Friday with $57,489 in the pool as the 5-7-2-5 combo paid $596.51 on a 0.20 wager. My ticket was only good in three of four races as Doug McNair won the third leg and was off my radar. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Race 8 5-Double Mystery-Was bet some early and didn't get the best of trips versus a speedy winner, using here. 6-Speak English-Camera shy but raced well and Kennedy's choice over #9 who he always drives. 7-Directing Traffic-Missed a start but now drops to lowest level of the meet, can take a picture if brings "A" game. Race 9 2-Johnny Gun-Drops, makes 2nd start for new barn and Plano makes his debut, will respect in a wide-open dash. 3-Cenalta Diesel-Steps up but comes out of 2 quick miles, will need a trip but is long shot worth a swing. 6-I'm Blue Too-Beat up on cheaper but 10-yr-old is 9 of 36 at CalX and is another who could pop versus this bunch. 7-Imma Tank-Drops and Sobey should work an up-front seat without much sweat, at a square price with a trip. 9-Hi Ho's Little Rev-Tepid 7/2 ML chalk is tough to dismiss, but not too hard to swing against and hope trip is rough. Race 10 2-Legio X Equestris-Went down the road with a 55.2 last half, steps-up but fits and can make it 2 straight. 6-Delightfully Wild-Qualified well and beat straight Open company on 1-5, could win first start off the bench. 7-Magnifique-Short field and not very deep, Plano will keep in play and could snag 2nd win of the year. Race 11 1-Hot Dandy-Not bad last week in 1st start off bench, Longo's choice needs a trip but will consider for an upset. 7-Miki's Magic Ride-3-yr-old looks like a major player with a smooth trip versus a field of mares and older geldings. My Ticket Race 8) 5,6,7 Race 9) 2,3,6,7,9 Race 10) 2,6,7 Race 11) 1,7 Total Ticket Cost) $18 for $0.20Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia 

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3.23.2019:

Serengeti Empress Packs a Punch in Fair Grounds Oaks Pick 4

Much of the time when we see large margins of victory, it’s often because of a sloppy track and one horse favors the footing over the others. And sometimes horses are just dominant. That’s the case with Serengeti Empress, whose appearance in the Grade 2 $400,000 Fair Grounds Oaks on Saturday is a nice lead-in to the Grade 2 $1 million Louisiana Derby, which follows. That pair has all the makings of an exciting late Daily Double, but as usual, we’re in this for the Pick 4, which includes four stakes races and has a $500,000 pool guarantee. Trainer Tom Amoss has seen Serengeti Empress dominate in four wins – with a total margin of 42 lengths – and has witnessed a big fade in two others. Her only start of 2019 produced a 4.5-length win in the Grade 2 Rachel Alexandra Stakes at Fair Grounds, as she set all the pace, opened up six lengths in the stretch and coasted in for the win. She had trained well over the New Orleans surface and ran up to expectations. Fillies that have an interest to setting the pace will probably pay the price. Should it not be Serengeti Empress’s day, a fast pace would probably be the reason. In the event of serious company for the favorite, Liora, who ran second to her in the Rachel Alexandra, can make a late run. War of Will is the favorite for the Louisiana Derby, but it’s a competitive spot and worthy of spreading out. Country House had a chance to get past War of Will in the stretch of the Risen Star Stakes but lugged in and just could not right the ship, although clear of Roiland in third. War of Will and Country House have the best chance of Fair Grounds-based horses, and Sueno and Bankit are Oaklawn shippers that could have a hand in the outcome. Sueno was a closing second to Super Steed in the Southwest Stakes and prior to that was Gunmetal Gray in the Sham at Santa Anita. Bankit, fifth in the Southwest, was second in Remington Park’s Springboard Mile behind stablemate and eventual Rebel Stakes winner Long Range Toddy. Here’s the suggested ticket for the $500,000-guaranteed All-Stakes Pick 4 at Fair Grounds:  Race 10) #2 Lone Sailor, #3 Souper Tapit, #6 Silver Dust, #10 Copper Bullet, #11 Ceaore Beliefs. Race 11) #1 Hot Springs, #3 Synchrony, #7 Bricks and Mortar. Race 12) #2 Serengeti Empress, #8 Liora. Race 13) #4 Sueno, #6 War of Will, #8 Country House, #9 Bankit.  50-cent Pick 4: 2-3-6-10-11 with 1-3-7 with 2-8 with 4-6-8-9 ($60). 

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3.22.2019:

Friday, March 22: Can-Am Pick 4 Analysis

Tonight, will be the first edition of the Can-Am Pick 4, a collaboration between Woodbine Mohawk Park and the Meadowlands. It is a 0.20 bet and kudos go out to the two premier harness tracks in North America for trying something different. This type of Pick 4 is not an original concept, but it is something new for these tracks and it is a wager others should try to mimic this summer. It's a fresh bet that could stir interest and the two leading harness tracks are also addressing the post-time drag issue, which is not helping to attract new fans.  Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Race 10-Mohawk Park-Leg 1 1-Lyons River Pride-Drew off on a sloppy track, steps up but still fits and could be sitting on another big try.  2-Windsongmagnifique-.56 back half wasn't good enough on 3/9 and now Roy takes a seat, should be in the hunt.  5-Request For Parole-Dropped and popped, steps-up and meets tougher but classy mare deserves respect.  Race 10-Meadowlands-Leg 2 4-Tearful Of Happy-Won 1st start for Surick in fine fashion, does like an off-track but best to not dismiss tonight.  5-Shutthefrontdoor-Raced well at this class on 3/1 and expecting the same versus this crew from a good post.  7-You Should Be Here-2nd best in a fast mile in the slop, competes well at this level as Dunn takes a spin.  10-Well Said Maria-Minded manners and took a picture, post is an issue but can't leave out in a wide-open affair. Race 11-Mohawk Park-Leg 3 1-Reis Star Cross-Looks like a player but this post may not help slow starter, better chance with a quick pace.  6-Beaches Be Crazy-Decent effort in the slop to get a 3rd place check but had missed a start, looking for better here.  9-Docs Sausalito-Excuse in last and now back to a spot to shine and post makes the price. Race 11-Meadowlands-Leg 4 2-Landonfitz-Big try last week in slop for a horse 0-25 on an off track. In the mix this week at a square price.  5-Lauderdale-Rolled in qualifier, appears ready to win at first asking and has done well in the past at the Big M.  6-Hockey Hanover-1st since 12/26 but qualifier was fine, and Burke has them ready and Gingras knows how to steer.  My Ticket Race 10 Mohawk: 1,2,5 Race 10 Meadowlands: 4,5,7,10 Race 11 Mohawk: 1,6,9 Race 11 Meadowlands: 2,5,6 Total Ticket Cost: $21.60 for $0.20 Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia.

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3.21.2019:

If There’s a ‘Will’ There’s a ‘War': Johnny D's Louisiana Derby Picks

Last week, we agreed with the masses that Bob Baffert’s dynamic duo of Improbable and Game Winner would be tough in respective divisions of the Rebel Stakes. We liked the former a bit more than the latter but figured both would win. We were a quarter--right. They were hickory, but both lost in close finishes. We gave pre-race props to Long Range Toddy, winner of the first division, but misfired in the second with fellow California invader Omaha Beach coming off a sloppy maiden score. And we definitely didn’t see second-division, third-place finisher Market King hanging on for show—sabotaging a suggested trifecta play. This week, in the Louisiana Derby, War of Will is strictly the one to beat. He likes the track (2-2), is in great form--won Lecomte and Risen Star--leaves from a solid post, has stalking speed in a race void of early pace and is trained and ridden by a successful team. However, to twist a popular term, ‘Where there’s a will there’s a war.’ Foes will need to bring the army to defeat him Saturday. If they don’t, based on facile sophomore domination, War of Will may share the local moniker as ‘The Big Easy.’ While War of Will checks all the handicapping boxes, he still will need to race a mile and one-eighth, which he’s never done before, and he’s going to be an extremely short price—6-5 to start and less at the break--to defeat improving foes. Taking a firm stand against him is not advised. Using him also in the two-hole of exotics in case he stubs his toe is. Here’s one man’s opinion of the Louisiana Derby field: 1. Roiland (Amoss/Graham) - 12/1 Really like the way this guy tries. He has no speed and that’s always going to present him with an uphill battle. He’s going to find this pace-less group particularly challenging. He’s rallied from dead last of 14, 12 and 14 in his previous three races to be 5th, 7th and 3rd. The last two efforts came in the Lecomte and Risen Star, respectively, against favored War of Will and others in here, so the chances of him turning the tables to win here are slim, but he might be able to pick up a minor award. He’s currently under early consideration as a possible superfecta bomb in the Kentucky Derby. But first he’s going to have to earn points to get in that race—he currently has 10. 2. Lemniscate (McPeek/Hernandez Jr.) - 15/1 This son of Exchange Rate is fresh off a Gulfstream wire-to-wire, mile and one-sixteenth turf victory. He had two state-bred sprints before that. Trainer McPeek is known to score at a price and this one has inside speed in a race that seems void of early pace. The colt also has a Gulfstream best-of-7 work at 5/8 of a mile since the race. He should be around for a while, just not sure how we’ll he’ll route on dirt. 3. Limonite (Asmussen/Ortiz) - 20/1 He hasn’t run a poor race yet, although he’s got just one win in five starts. The son of Lemon Drop Kid has no speed, and also will be compromised by what appears as a soft early pace in here. In November, he moved in tandem with #1 Roiland, from last and next-to-last, in the Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill Downs. Both runners made up ground along the rail until Limonite angled outside for clear stretch running and Roiland remained inside waiting behind a wall of horses. Limonite outfinished #1 Roiland through the lane—losing by two lengths to winner Signalman. #1 Roiland finished nearly 6 lengths back. The jockey-trainer combo of Jose Oritz and Steve Asmussen help the cause and a March 4 Fair Grounds bullet 5/8, plus a 1:12 2/5 breeze March 11, suggest good things are in the cards for this one. Has to be used in exotics at anywhere near his 20-1 morning line. 4. Sueno (Desormeaux/Lanerie) - 8/1 He’s made the rounds a bit this year with 3 starts—one each at Golden Gate (Gold Rush, Santa Anita (Sham) and Oaklawn (Southwest)—all stakes—with in a win and two close seconds, respectively. He’s never been worse than third in 5 starts. Last out in the Southwest, he finished second, sandwiched between winner Super Steed and eventual Rebel winner Long Range Toddy. He figures mid-pack early and has a nice finish—a handy style. He’s also improved Beyer and Thoro-Graph figures in with each race, a positive sign for a 3-year-old. Usually overlooked in the wagering, he’s never been less than 6-1 and is 8-1 on this morning line this. 5. By My Standards (Calhoun/Saez) - 12/1 Look for this guy to be racing about mid-pack early. He scored an easy maiden win last out here at the Fair Grounds. He has 2 seconds and a third from three other starts. Note that he has 2 bullet works—at FG, March 2, 4 furlongs in :47 1/5, best of 87 and March 9, :59 breezing, best of 48. He needs to go a bit faster to hit the exotics scramble in here, but he’s always around. 6. War of Will (Casse/Gaffalione) - 6/5 This son of War Front began his career on the grass—at Woodbine, Keeneland and Churchill—with a second, third, fourth and fifth. Switched to a sloppy Churchill surface, he broke his maiden by 5 lengths in November. He 2-for-2 this year—Grade 3 Lecomte and Grade 2 Risen star—both by more than 2 lengths. In each case he comfortably stalked early pacesetters, took control at will and held sway. He’s got a great style that should fit well in this race. The mile and one-eighth distance is a minor concern, but he’s fit, strong, favored and impossible to ignore. He’s so much faster than any of his foes and proved that by beating nearly all of them solidly before. Here’ the rub: has he done too much, too soon? He’s the only runner in the field to have cleared 90 on the Beyer scale and he’s done it the last two outs! According to Thoro-Graph figures, he’s also posted two last-out figures that are 3 points better than those produced by anyone else. As they say, he could fire his ‘B’ shot and still win this race, but some of these foes are improving and could be bringing new ‘A’ games to this party. 7. Mr. Money (Calhoun/Beschizza) - 20/1 This colt broke maiden routing at Churchill in his third start and then was a respectable fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. He had a nearly perfect trip in the Risen Star, just off eventual winner #6 War of Will, and faded in the lane. He was forced to check in the stretch but wasn’t moving forward at the time. It takes some further digging to like him off that effort. Jockey Gabe Saez, who’s ridden him in all five starts, is aboard #5 By My Standards (for same trainer Brett Calhoun) and Beschizza replaces him in the irons. Mr. Money will need to step up his game to cash here, but that’s not impossible. His BC Juvenile fourth off a mere maiden win was decent and he may have needed his last race. If that’s the case, he could improve and hit the exotics here at a big price. 8. Country House (Mott/Saez) - 9/2 Broke his maiden routing at Gulfstream and parlayed that score into a runner-up effort to #6 War of Will in the Risen Star. He was lugging-in through the lane then and that’s never a good sign. The son of Lookin At Lucky doesn’t have much speed, so he’s another that will have to close from behind into what seems like a ‘soft’ early pace. At less than 5-1 odds he seems a poor investment. 9. Bankit (Asmussen/Ortiz Jr.) - 20/1 This New York-bred has made the most starts of any soph in the field with 8—2 wins and 3 seconds. His past performance running lines are a bit unusual. Originally, he showed good speed against fellow 2-year-old, state-bred, stakes sprinters. However, in his last four starts he’s come from well off the pace to win the Sleepy Hollow (Aqu), finish second by a head in the Springboard Mile (RP), 6th and 5th in the Smarty Jones and Southwest, respectively, at Oaklawn. This might be an opportune moment for him to revive his speed from this outside post because there isn’t much gas in here. Of course, his best efforts have come lately when lagging early, so it’s not likely they’ll shift tactics here. 10. Spinoff (Pletcher/Velazquez) - 8/1 Trainer Todd Pletcher runners must always be respected in Kentucky Derby prep races. Spinoff returns following a massive 11 3/4-length allowance win at Tampa Bay—third start of his career and first since Saratoga. He has a bullet 1:00 2/5 at Palm Beach Downs in preparation for this. He broke maiden first out at Gulfstream over a ‘good’ surface in June. He waited until August to be third in the Saratoga Special. He’s got speed and seems to have quality. He’s also a decent price and might stay that way until post time. 11. Hog Creek Hustle (Foley/Mena) - 12/1 Solidly defeated by #6 War of Will in both the Lecomte and Risen Star, respectively, this guy would need help to reverse things and win the Louisiana Derby. He’s got a difficult outside post, has no speed in a race with no pace and hasn’t won since taking a 7-furlong Churchill allowance race in November. He made a nice, wide closing run in the Risen Star, but flattened out in the stretch and was out-finished by Country House and Roiland. While he would be a big surprise in the ‘win’ slot, an in-the-money finish isn’t impossible. Bottom Line: Make no mistake War of Will probably will win. Handicappers shouldn’t spend too much time trying to defeat him. What’s really interesting, though, is attempting to figuring out which horses might finish second, third and perhaps fourth in exotic wagers. Also, if War of Will should stumble just a bit, which horses are likely to take advantage? Several of these are compromised by closing styles but are real triers with improving patterns at big prices. They could fill underneath slots. Strictly One to Beat: #6 War of Will Improving Types: #4 Sueno, #10 Spinoff, #1 Roiland Price Exotics: #7 Mr. Money, #5 By My Standards, #2 Limonite Suggested $2 Trifecta ($30) 1st - 6 2nd - 1, 4, 10 3rd - 1, 2, 4, 5, 7, 10 Suggested $1 Trifecta ($15) 1st - 1, 4, 10 2nd - 6 3rd - 1, 2, 4, 5, 7, 10 Race On!

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3.20.2019:

Kentucky Derby Leaders Currenly Bunched

Nobody has stepped up yet to separate themselves from the pack among the leading contenders for the 2019 Kentucky Derby. This is demonstrated by the similarity in Beyer Speed Figures posted for all six stakes races decided so far in which the winner earned 36.5 or more qualifying points for the May 4 Run for the Roses. The winning Beyer for those six races ranges from a low of 92 to a high of 96, as listed below: Winner’s BSF – Winner (Race, Date, Track) 92 – War of Will (Lecomte, Feb. 16, Fair Grounds)95 – Code of Honor (Fountain of Youth, March 2, Gulfstream)95 – Haikal (Gotham, March 9, Aqueduct)93 – Tacitus (Tampa Bay Derby, March 9, Tampa Bay Downs)95 – Long Range Toddy (first division of Rebel, March 16, Oaklawn)96 – Omaha Beach (second division of Rebel, March 16, Oaklawn) Along with the six winning Beyers listed above, the runner-up in each division of the 1 1/16-mile Rebel earned a figure in the same realm when narrowly beaten. Improbable lost the first division of the Rebel by only a neck. He recorded a 95 Beyer. Game Winner lost the second division by a scant nose. His Beyer was 96. In a race last Saturday not offering qualifying points for the Kentucky Derby, Alwaysmining dominated as a 1-2 favorite when he won Laurel’s Private Terms Stakes by 6 3/4 lengths. He was credited with a 96 Beyer, equal to what Omaha Beach and Game Winner recorded in the Rebel. The original plan for Alwaysmining, who now has won five in a row, was to go on to Laurel’s Federico Tesio Stakes on April 20, then the Grade I Preakness Stakes at Pimlico on May 18. But Daily Racing Form’s Jim Dunleavy reports that Alwaysmining’s connections now are toying with the thought of foregoing the Tesio to instead try to earn Kentucky Derby points in either Keeneland’s Grade II Blue Grass Stakes or Aqueduct’s Grade II Wood Memorial. The Blue Grass and Wood both will be contested on April 6. I had Game Winner ranked No. 1 last week on my Kentucky Derby Top 10, with Improbable at No. 2. Omaha Beach was No. 8. In Game Winner’s first start since he captured the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs last Nov. 2, he lost his division of the Rebel by the slimmest of margins as a 1-2 favorite. It was the first defeat in five career starts for the Eclipse Award-winning 2-year-old male champion of 2018. Despite Game Winner’s loss last Saturday, I seriously considered keeping him in the No. 1 spot this week. I questioned whether I should lower him from No. 1 after he lost by such a minuscule margin following a layoff. But while it is true that Omaha Beach, unlike Game Winner, had raced this year prior to the Rebel, it’s to Omaha Beach’s credit that he won last Saturday despite taking a quantum leap in class. Omaha Beach went into the Rebel off a maiden victory. In my view, Omaha Beach and Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith did beat Game Winner fair and square. In fact, Omaha Beach won even though Game Winner came in and bumped Omaha Beach in deep stretch. If the photo finish had gone the other way or if it had been a dead heat, would there have been a stewards’ inquiry and/or claim of foul lodged by Smith against Game Winner and Joel Rosario? Considering the tight finish, would the stewards have disqualified Game Winner and placed him second for bumping Omaha Beach? In any case, Omaha Beach’s victory last Saturday does demonstrate to me that he belongs in the higher echelon of Kentucky Derby contenders. After finishing second or third in his first four career starts, the Kentucky-bred War Front colt has really blossomed in recent weeks for Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella. At this point, Omaha Beach is my choice to win the Kentucky Derby. Hence, I have moved him to the top of my rankings this week. But let’s just say Omaha Beach is occupying the No. 1 position by only a nose over Game Winner. MY CURRENT KENTUCKY DERBY TOP 10 1. Omaha Beach2. Game Winner3. Improbable4. War of Will5. Code of Honor6. Long Range Toddy7. Mucho Gusto8. Bourbon War9. Roadster10. Instagrand Long Range Toddy, trained by Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen, zooms up to No. 6 after I had him ranked No. 32 last week. In his best effort to date, he took the first division of the Rebel at 8-1 by running down Improbable in the final yards. It was Long Range Toddy’s fourth win from seven lifetime starts. I dropped Galilean from the Top 10 this week. He finished third in the first division of the Rebel, though it should be kept in mind that he actually did pretty well to lose by 2 1/2 lengths after failing to get away to an alert start. He was No. 9 last week. After Improbable’s narrow loss as a 2-5 favorite last Saturday, he no longer is undefeated. The Kentucky-bred City Zip colt was three for three going into the Rebel, which was his first start since a victory in the Grade I Los Alamitos Futurity last Dec. 8. Bob Baffert trains both Game Winner and Improbable. According to Baffert, Game Winner will make his next start in the Grade I Santa Anita Derby at 1 1/8 miles, while Improbable will return to Oaklawn for the Grade I Arkansas Derby at the same distance. The Santa Anita Derby is scheduled for April 6. The Arkansas Derby will be run on April 13. Mandella has indicated that either the Santa Anita Derby or Arkansas Derby is where Omaha Beach will be making his next start. The Arkansas Derby is next for Long Range Toddy. Baffert also conditions No. 5 Mucho Gusto and No. 7 Roadster. Mucho Gusto is entered in this Sunday’s Grade III Sunland Derby. Baffert has said Roadster will run next in the Santa Anita Derby. Mucho Gusto is the Sunland Derby morning-line favorite at 8-5. Nine others are entered in the 1 1/8-mile race. The Sunland Derby offers 85 qualifying points (50-20-10-5) for the Kentucky Derby. In Mucho Gusto’s lone 2019 start so far, he splashed his way to a 4 3/4-length triumph in Santa Anita’s Grade III Robert B. Lewis Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on a sloppy track Feb. 2. His only defeat in four career starts came when he finished second, five lengths behind Improbable, in the Los Al Futurity. My Sunland Derby selections: 1. Anothertwistafate (3-1 morning line), 2. Mucho Gusto (8-5), 3. Wicked Indeed (6-1), 4. Hustle Up (5-1). Anothertwistafate, trained by Blaine Wright, finished ninth on the dirt when unveiled at Santa Anita last Nov. 3. Since then, the colt has been unstoppable, reeling off three straight wins on Golden Gate’s synthetic surface. In Anothertwistafate’s most recent appearance under silks, he registered a seven-length victory in the Grade III El Camino Real Derby at 1 1/8 miles on Feb. 16. In addition that to being a visually impressive performance, particularly insofar as the way Anothertwistafate powerfully kicked away from his foes in the lane, he recorded a 94 Beyer Speed Figure. Anothertwistafate’s 94 fits with the figures produced in recent weeks by 3-year-olds Alwaysmining, Code of Honor, Game Winner, Haikal, Improbable, Long Range Toddy, Omaha Beach, Tacitus and War of Will. Mucho Gusto posted a 90 Beyer when he won the Lewis. That’s been his top fig to date. Of course, the big question for Anothertwistafate this Sunday is whether he can continue his winning ways with a switch back to dirt. Scat Daddy is the sire of Kentucky-bred Anothertwistafate. A son of Scat Daddy by the name of Justify did pretty darn well when racing on dirt last year. Justify was six for six in 2018, all while racing on dirt, highlighted by a Triple Crown sweep and a Horse of the Year title. TAKE CHARGE LADY HAS BIG DAY Long Range Toddy and Omaha Beach have something else in common besides winning their respective division of the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn. They both are grandsons of the marvelous racemare and broodmare Take Charge Lady. A multiple Grade I winner and earner of $2,480,377, Take Charge Lady made 22 career starts. The only time she raced at Oaklawn, she lost. But Take Charge Lady ran one of the finest races in defeat in the history of Oaklawn’s Grade I Apple Blossom Handicap. Take Charge Lady lost the 2003 Apple Blossom by a head when second to Azeri, a multiple Eclipse Award winner who was voted 2002 Horse of the Year. Azeri was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2010. Long Range Toddy is a Kentucky-bred son of Take Charge Indy, one of two Grade I winners produced by Take Charge Lady. Take Charge Lady also is the dam of multiple Grade I winner Will Take Charge, who in 2013 was voted an Eclipse Award as champion 3-year-old male. Omaha Beach’s dam, Charming, is a daughter of Take Charge Lady. Charming also is the dam of Take Charge Brandi, who was voted a 2014 Eclipse Award as champion 2-year-old filly. Take Charge Lady, the 2013 Broodmare of the Year, is by Dehere, who was voted a 1993 Eclipse Award as champion 2-year-old male. Dehere’s sire, Deputy Minister, was voted a 1981 Eclipse Award as champion 2-year-old male. THE NEXT 40 ON MY KENTUCKY DERBY RANKINGS 11. Hidden Scroll12. Anothertwistafate13. Vekoma14. Tacitus15. Galilean16. Country House17. Haikal18. Mind Control19. Signalman20. Win Win Win21. Maximum Security22. Tax23. Alwaysmining24. Outshine25. Sueno26. Spinoff27. Nolo Contesto28. Dream Maker29. Dessman30. Last Judgment31. Hoffa’s Union32. Harvey Wallbanger33. Sir Winston34. Gunmetal Gray35. Much Better36. Roiland37. Extra Hope38. Standard Deviation39. U S Navy Cross40. Limonite41. Rowayton42. Final Jeopardy43. So Alive44. Market King45. Intrepid Heart46. Mihos47. Well Defined48. Gray Attempt49. Kingly50. Federal Case WAR OF WILL TOPS SATURDAY’S LOUISIANA DERBY I am picking War of Will to make it four consecutive victories on dirt when he runs in this Saturday’s Grade II Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots. The 1 1/8-mile affair has attracted a field of 11. A total of 170 qualifying points (100-40-20-10) for the Kentucky Derby are up for grabs. My Louisiana Derby selections: 1. War of Will (6-5 morning-line favorite), 2. Limonite (20-1), 3. Country House (9-2), 4. Sueno (8-1). War of Will, trained by Mark Casse, lost the first four races of his career last year, all on turf. He then won a maiden special weight race by five lengths on dirt when the track was sloppy at Churchill last Nov. 24 in his final race at 2. In a pair of starts earlier this year in New Orleans, War of Will proved he could succeed on dry land as well as on a wet track. The Kentucky-bred War Front colt won the Grade III Lecomte Stakes by four lengths on Jan. 19, then took the Grade II Risen Star Stakes by 2 1/4 lengths on Feb. 16 despite breaking from post 13. WINX SEEKS TO CONTINUE LONG WINNING STREAK Australia’s great Winx attempts to make it 32 consecutive victories when she starts in Saturday’s Group I George Ryder Stakes at Rosehill. It is scheduled to be the penultimate race of the mare’s illustrious career. Winx won the George Ryder in 2016, 2017 and 2018. In her most recent start, Winx won the Chipping Norton Stakes by nearly two lengths at Randwick on March 2. It was the 23rd Group/Grade I victory of her career to break the world record of 22 such victories established by the Irish hurdler Hurricane Fly in Europe from 2008-15. America’s legendary gelding John Henry ranks third in terms of all-time Group/Grade I wins with 16. The word from Down Under is that after the George Ryder, Winx will race for the final time in the Group I Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Randwick on April 13. THIS WEEK’S NTRA POLLS Here is the Top 10 for this week’s NTRA Top Thoroughbred Poll: Rank Points Horse (First-Place Votes) 1. 339 Monomoy Girl (11)2. 317 Roy H3. 280 City of Light (28)4. 251 Bricks and Mortar (2)5. 187 McKinzie (1)6. 176 Midnight Bisou7. 143 Seeking the Soul8. 121 Sistercharlie9. 72 Accelerate9. 72 Marley’s Freedom Here is the Top 10 for this week’s NTRA Top 3-Year-Old Poll: Rank Points Horse (First-Place Votes) 1. 342 Game Winner (16)2. 336 War of Will (14)3. 277 Improbable (5)4. 259 Code of Honor (3)5. 253 Omaha Beach6. 159 Long Range Toddy6. 159 Mucho Gusto (1)8. 121 Tacitus9. 75 Bourbon War10. 49 Haikal

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3.20.2019:

Weekly Bankroll Builder: March 22 Stronach 5 Picks

Back to battle with the Stronach 5 this week, which will double up on Laurel and Gulfstream, with Golden Gate as the anchor, with the guarantee once again at $100k. 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: Laurel Park R8 (4:43 ET) – 4up AOC at 6 furlongs The opening two legs at Laurel aren’t easy, and are deeply competitive, so I’m going to choose to spread deep here, as I’m a lot narrower to end the sequence, as I am to begin it. There doesn’t appear to be a lot of speed entered, which will flatter the class-dropping favorite #2 MOE TROUBLE, but he’s also just 1-for-8 recently, so it’s not like he has to win either. And that’s why I’ll try for the upset with the well-drawn #5 COZY LOVER (5-1), who was a good 4th last time for Farro and now goes off the claim for Gonzalez, a stiff 27% move. The cutback, and the fact that #8 BRONX SANDMAN (5-1) will get faster splits to sit off of, says he might be an upset candidate, and his last three figures on a fast track put him in the mix here. Pk5 A horses (listed in order of preference): 5,2,8 I’m relegating the stretch runners, #6 TWO CHARLEY’S (7-2) and #3 SARATOGA BOB (4-1), to backups only, especially since their most recent run, when 2nd and 3rd, respectively, in the 2/24 race here, came with the benefit of an extremely hot pace, and that won’t likely unfold in this spot. Pk5 B horses: 6,3 Leg 2: Laurel Park R9 (5:16 ET) – 4up 8k at 5 furlongs Things seem even trickier in the second leg, though the race flow looks different, as there’s a ton of speed, which leads me to #8 JROCK (4-1), who will like the drop in class and the contested pace he’ll get to rally into. The rise in class might derail #9 DRIVE AT NITE (6-1), but he’s also won three straight while climbing the ladder and is another who will be rolling late. The same can be said for #10 SWING STEP (10-1), who was outclassed in a N1X last time but closed stoutly to defeat lesser two-back and will be a big price here. If someone from the early brigade lasts it might be #5 CONCORDIA’S WAY (4-1), who did well to draw outside the other speed and will love the drop in class, while hopefully running on a fast track for the first time since McMahon claimed him. Pk5 A horses: 8,9,10,5 I might be being stubborn but I’m willing to let #2 YOUNG AMERICAN (7-2) beat me (at least on the A-level), since he takes all the worst of it as the inside speed and will be overbet on the class drop, not to mention he’s now two starts removed from being claimed from a potent Magee barn. The drop will help #4 MIDNIGHT CRY (6-1) as well, and that 3rd two-back behind ‘American makes him a player here, but he’s likely going to be in a pace sandwich, which won’t help his chances late. Pk5 B horses: 2,4 Leg 3: Gulfstream Park R9 (5:38 ET) – 4up AOC at 1-mile Sometimes you have to be bold, especially when you’re spreading wide in other legs, and that’s what I’m doing here, since I’m singling #5 AVERY ISLAND (7-2) off a 13-month layoff, while facing older horses for the first time. First off, McLaughlin is a gaudy 35% off this kind of break, this multiple graded stakes winner has been working lights out in the morning, and this seems like a field there for the taking, so if he’s ready, coupled with the expected maturity he’s undergone, he might be set to deliver a race the rest of these simply won’t be able to handle. Pk5 A horses: 5 There are countless runners you can use underneath, but none really inspire, and all have question marks, so while I respect #2 Diamond King (3-1), #8 Hy Kodiak Warrior (12-1), and #3 War Giant (9-2), I’m standing firm and really trying to maximize the value of Avery Island, who can’t possibly be anywhere close to his ML. Pk5 B horses: NONE Leg 4: Gulfstream Park R10 (6:08 ET) – 3up 20k MCL at 1-mile (turf) I won’t call this a match race but it sure looks close to it, as #9 JAMMIN JIMTOWN (7-2) and #4 WINE AT THE BEACH (4-1) seem to tower over this field based on their tur form. The former should be just off the pace on the stretchout, while the latter drew tons better than last time, and, unless any of the others improve in a big way, they should get you through. However, since their form is hardly overwhelming, a first-time starter might not be in a bad spot, so I’ll also use #2 SPINNING KITTEN (5-1), who debuts for Gargan with a string of works, and note this is a barn that is 3-for-12 with first-time turfers too. Pk5 A horses: 9,4,2 The only others I would consider are #7 Temple Mount (6-1) and #8 Grampy’s Boy (6-1), a pair of firsters from John Servis and Cibelli, but the former has struggled at the meet and is just 1-for-23 first-time turf, while the latter is 0-for-11 with firsters and 1-for-19 first-time turf, so I can’t get too enthused by either’s chances. Pk5 B horses: NONE Leg 5: Golden Gate Fields R6 (6:15 ET) – 3up N1X* at 6 furlongs The finale seems pretty well defined, as #6 GOREN (2-1) and #9 SEQUENTIALLY (7-2) will both benefit from what looks like a suicidal pace, as well as getting a bit more distance to work with after running well earlier in the meet. Pk5 A horses: 6,9 A meltdown would really help #3 TOMAHAWK TUESDAY (6-1), who wasn’t far behind Goren when 4th last time, while the pace seems destined to beat #8 TANNER’S PRIDE (3-1), who has wired two straight and did well to draw outside here, but might be biting off a bit more than he can chew, especially going 6F’s.Pk5 B horses: 3,8 The tickets: Main Ticket: 5,2,8 with 8,9,10,5 with 5 with 9,4,2 with 6,9 = $72Leg 1 B Backup: 6,3 with 8,9,10,5 with 5 with 9,4,2 with 6,9 = $48Leg 2 B Backup: 5,2,8 with 2,4 with 5 with 9,4,2 with 6,9 = $36Leg 5 B Backup: 5,2,8 with 8,9,10,5 with 5 with 9,4,2 with 3,8 = $72

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3.19.2019:

March 19: Pompano Park Pick 4 Analysis

The feature at Pompano Park is carded as Race 7, a condition trot with a $7,700 purse. The 0.50 Pick 4 begins in Race 5. The sequence has a $15,000 guaranteed pool with a low 12% takeout and will be my focus. The driver with the hottest hands at the Pomp last night was Dave Ingraham with two winners. There wasn't a trainer who recorded more than one win on the eight-race card. Best wishes for a speedy recovery go out to driver Matt Krueger who was injured in a nasty spill in the first race last night. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Race 5 3-Mittnage A Trois-Using in a wide-open affair, could get an early seat and be in prime striking range late, at a price. 5-JL Joe-Similar to #3 and at this level should stay in the hunt. 6-Sea Rocky Roll-2nd ML chalk is in a spot to shine, drops and should like the company but needs a trip. 7-Drunken Desire A-Was beat at odds-on in 1st start off a rest, Hennessey is back and could be tight enough now. Race 6 5-Groovey Kid-ML chalk takes a meaningful drop and gets post relief, no excuses allowed. 6-Commentary-Has had breaking issues but last was a clean line and a good try from the 9-hole, will respect chances. Race 7 1-Cashahallic-Steps-up but knows how to win and has been sharp, can make the most out of drawing the rail. 2-A TC Queenie-Faces easier, should be forwardly placed, will use at a square price and shoot against the 6/5 chalk #5. 6-Prairie Fortune-Drops out of Open I company and probably is best chance to take a picture in 4th race of 2019. Race 8 1-Sky Crest-Has had an issue passing in the lane but can notch a win from the wood versus this bunch. 4-Stormount Dundas-Simons will need a trip and can work one from here, if so chances for success go way up. 5-Church Choir-1st time Hennessey and his hands may make a big difference if minds manners. 6-Passionate Miss-2 nice efforts after a sick scratch but can't seal the deal. Will respect 8/5 choice, but mare can be beat. 0.50 Pick 4 3,5,6,7/5,6/1,2,6/1,4,5,6 Total Bet=$48 Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia

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3.19.2019:

Harness Highlights: Can-Am Pick 4 Wager Debuts Friday

Together, the Meadowlands and Woodbine Mohawk-Park handled more than $4.3 million in bets last Friday. The two harness tracks will join forces this Friday, March 22, to launch an exciting new wager. The “Can-Am Pick 4” will require bettors to pick the winners of four races – two from the one-mile Meadowlands oval in New Jersey and two from 7/8-mile Woodbine-Mohawk Park in Ontario, Canada. The 20-cent minimum wager will feature a 15-percent takeout. The Can-Am Pick 4 will begin with the second-to-last race at Woodbine-Mohawk Park and alternate tracks until the bet concludes at the Meadowlands. “We are extremely pleased to be working with everybody at Woodbine Entertainment,” Meadowlands General Manager Jason Settlemoir said in a press release. “They have a great racing product and so do we, and to combine those products to make one wager that’s sure to create increased interest for both tracks is great for business as well as the sport.” Fans should note that the Can-Am Pick-4 pool will be separate at both tracks, though the Meadowlands and Woodbine-Mohawk Park will share equally in the revenues. "The biggest thing I’m happy about is that we have seen a proliferation of Pick-4 wagers utilizing multiple tracks on the thoroughbred side," said Klaus Ebner, Senior Manager of Simulcast Services for Woodbine. "Both teams have worked hard to make this happen and it will be great to see the harness side get some exposure on bets like this.”   GRAND CIRCUIT BEGINS ITS 2019 ROUNDS Harness racing’s 2019 Grand Circuit stakes season began with the opening legs of the Blue Chip Matchmaker and George Morton Levy Memorial pacing series’ at Yonkers Raceway last weekend. The Grand Circuit spans North America through November and features more than 100 stakes worth $200,000 or more on its lucrative schedule. Western Fame got the ball rolling in grand style in the first division of the Levy, running the fastest mile at Yonkers this year (1:51.1) and giving driver Daniel Dube his 9,000th career victory. Joe Bongiorno drove two Levy division winners, including longshot The Wall ($41.60). Favorites won 4 of the five divisions in the Matchmaker, highlighted by Shartin N, the 2018 Older Female Pacer of the Year, who ran the final quarter mile in :27.4 to win in 1:52.2. Seaswift Joy N came home in :27.3 to pace a series-best 1:52.1. The finals for both the Levy and Matchmaker are schedule April 20 at Yonkers.

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3.18.2019:

Monday, March 18: Mohawk Park Late Pick 4 Analysis

Woodbine Mohawk Park has a competitive 10-race card set to roll this evening. The feature is carded as Race 8, a Preferred Trot with a $25,000 purse. The 0.20 Pick 5 sequence starts the action and has a $50,000 guaranteed pool. It's followed in Race 4 by the Early 0.20 Pick 4 with a $50,000 guaranteed pool. The Late 0.20 Pick 4 sequence begins in Race 7 and will be my focus. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track Race 7 3-Levy Taylore-Been good since joining Johnson, didn't have enough in last but did chase a well-meant winner, #6. 6-Crocadile Canyon-Claimed by Moreau after a sharp win last week, will string along with new connections. Race 8 1-B Yoyo-8-hole compromised chances in last, will respect connections but needs to avoid a very slow start. 5-P L Jill-Zoomed home with a 54.4 2nd half, mare looks like a major player and can take another picture tonight. Race 9 1-O Narutac Perfetto-Respecting ML chalk at this class, slow starter has been camera shy, a quick half would help. 5-Head Turning Jag-Has been racing well and now faces easier, should be tough to beat. 6-Odds On Amethyst-Slow start hurt chances in last versus better, looking for a bounce back at a square price. Race 10 1-Mt Sterling Mafia-Doesn't win much but at this class from the rail versus a soft group, best to use. 2-BS Tyrrific-Looking for a wake-up call at 12-1, gets class relief and Henry can keep in the hunt versus this crew. 4-Lisvinnie-Not close to the same horse as last year. Taking a swing, drops and makes third start for Johnson. 5-Shadow of Lindy-1-24 at Wbsb brings pause, but drops to a soft spot, makes 4 start for Montini and back in 8-days.  My Ticket Race 7) 3,6/ Race 8) 1,5 Race 9) 1,5,6 Race 10) 1,2,4,5Total Ticket Cost) $48 for $1.00Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia

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3.17.2019:

Who Aced Their Mid-Terms on the Kentucky Derby Trail?

Mid-terms came to a close Saturday at Oaklawn Park for the 2019 Triple Crown trail. From here out, it’s final exam time, starting with this weekend’s Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds and Sunland Derby.  The mid-term preps get you to the big regional finals. The Xpressbet Fountain of Youth sets the table for the Xpressbet Florida Derby; the Gotham for the Wood; the Risen Star for the Louisiana Derby; the Rebel for the Arkansas Derby. Most seasons, the San Felipe would bone-up Santa Anita Derby hopefuls. But this is not like other winters in Southern California. Here’s what we know about the regions after mid-terms: Florida The $2 win parlay so far this Gulfstream Park three-race series has returned more than $2,300. There’s even buzz about a $16,000 claimer in the Xpressbet Florida Derby. The Xpressbet Fountain of Youth obviously didn’t clarify the picture with a wicked pace that left countless questions. It comes down to the Xpressbet Florida Derby on March 30 to settle the scores between Code of Honor, Hidden Scroll, Bourbon War, Vekoma, Harvey Wallbanger and class quandary Maximum Security. But at this rate, maybe it’s someone else? And across the peninsula, the Tampa Bay Derby mid-term went to a horse not seen since Saratoga, Tacitus. We expect he’d return in the Blue Grass or Wood. Arkansas The split divisions of the Rebel Stakes likely kept or projected 8 horses onto the final round of preps. The top-4 in each race did more than enough to continue on. But we learned that Bob Baffert doesn’t have the keys to the Ferrari just yet. When you lose twice at odds on – even with comebacks, training delays, wide trips – the heir of invincibility shows some cracks. Improbable and Game Winner still may be the stuff, but last Saturday Long Range Toddy and Omaha Beach weren’t intimidated and neither looked to be giving an inch as they anticipate longer travails. I expect Long Range Toddy and Improbable to be a potent pair for the Arkansas Derby, while you could see some travel among the others. California The power appeared to be in California to start the winter, and we’ve seen some mixed results since those horses have traveled the nation. Instagrand didn’t deliver in New York, while the Rebel was a split decision, but mostly positive. It still seems like the west is best, but … The April 6 Santa Anita Derby remains on schedule at this time, and it’s the likely spot we’ll see Omaha Beach and Game Winner back in a rematch. But it also could be the landing spot for Baffert’s rising ace allowance winner Roadster, and a potential return home for the fleet Instagrand. Nolo Contesto has kept strong company lines and Gunmetal Gray could stay home vs. another run to Hot Springs. New York The Gotham did not provide a launching pad for Instagrand’s rocket ship. In fact, the pace-aided victory by Haikal likely sent researchers back to the control room looking for new codes. So what will the April 6 Wood Memorial provide at a furlong farther and around an additional bend? Mind Control keeps punching locally, and Tax season should be upon us again; but you have to think someone invades from afar. This would seem like a logical place for Tacitus, or the likes of Alwaysmining or Win Win Win from Mid-Atlantic connections. Perhaps Vino Rosso’s brother So Alive is back training with intent for a family defense? Louisiana The one oasis of serenity this Triple Crown trail so far has been Fair Grounds. Mid-term ace War of Will had no issues in the Risen Star, adding that to his Lecomte score. The first of the finals comes this Saturday in the Louisiana Derby. We’ll see if form holds for War of Will, or if one of five Risen Star dispatched rivals can reverse fortunes. Todd Pletcher is sending Spinoff from the Tampa allowance ranks in hopes of an Always Dreaming sequel. Kentucky This is where they all want to end up on the first Saturday in May. Somelikeithotbrown got an early dip into the bourbon by winning Turfway Park’s John Battaglia Memorial and Jeff Ruby. He’s a quality turfer with sharp Polytrack form, but will have to prove himself on dirt. Perhaps the April 6 Blue Grass at Keeneland will provide the stage. That race will include Signalman in hopes of improvement from his Fountain of Youth, and typically a solid influence from the Tampa Bay Derby (such as Outshine) and some from the west (Galilean or Extra Hope may intrigue here). 

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3.16.2019:

Saturday, March 16: Meadowlands Pick 4 Analysis

Tonight's feature at the Meadowlands rolls in Race 8, a Preferred Pace with a $25,000 purse. The competitive 13-race card includes the popular 0.50 Pick 4 which begins in Race 8. That sequence has a $50,000 guaranteed pool with a 15% takeout and will be my focus. On Friday at the Big M the drivers with the hottest hands were Andy Miller and Yannick Gingras, each with three wins. The top trainer on the card was Nick Surick, with two trips to the winner's circle. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Race 8 2-Castle Flight-Hung out to a 53.4 half, but this time Callahan starts from the rail and could be sitting on a big try. 3-New Talent-Dropped and popped from 10-hole, now steps up but will respect chances for an encore. 5-K Ryan Bluechip-Missed a start before last race. Looking for an aggressive steer and should be in better striking range. Race 9 2-Mcerlean-Looking for 1st win of the year but has been facing tougher, a better spot for McCarthy to take a picture. 5-That's My Opinion-Back to the Big M where has had success, could surprise at a price versus this crew. 6-Mach Deja Vu-Burke trainee and 3-1 ML chalk drops and should like the company. Race 10 1-Dubious Claim-One half of the Cullipher entry should get on the engine or a pocket trip, looks like a player. 4-Threeofthebest A-2nd program chalk may seek the top and could make every call a winning one. 5-Billy Badger N-Makes third U.S. start has been in the hunt and bet, this could be a spot to shine. Race 11 1-Sunset Dreamer-Drew 5-hole, can get cover and close or stay up front and look to roll by late if pace is hot. 1A-Spaghetti Eddie-Assigned post 10 but faces easier and Gingras can figure out a trip. 7-Pop Pop Joe-Missed a start but now makes 2nd try for new barn, Callahan steers and may blast out. 8-Four Staces-8-hole makes this a bigger challenge but still fits with this group, can win with a top effort. My Ticket Race 8) 2,3,5 Race 9) 2,5,6 Race 10) 1,4,5 Race 11) 1,7,8  Total Ticket Cost) $40.50 for $0.50Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia

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3.15.2019:

Friday, March 15: Cal Expo Pick 4 Analysis

Cal Expo has a 12-race card on tap with the feature coming in Race 4, an Open Pace with a $6,500 purse. The 0.20 Pick 4 sequence rolls in Race 8, it has $30,000 guaranteed pool and will be my focus. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Race 8 1-Timetoplaythegame-Drops to a better spot and could be sitting on a big try. 3-Major Jesse-Kennedy's choice over #5 made a rare break at start in last, will toss and fits with this crew. 8-Urgointohearmeroar-Was on a terror but drifted wide in last and came 3rd, off 3 weeks but best to respect chalk. Race 9 2-Along Came Jane-Slow pace hurt in last, has been racing well and Kennedy's choice could win at a square price. 4-Burn My Villa-Went the last 1/2 in 56.3 in 1st start off the bench, looks like a player. 5-Surprisingly Sweet-11-year-old was off 3 weeks and the beaten chalk was flat, looking for better tonight. 7-Legio X Equestris-Was bet last week in 1st start since 1-5, looks primed for a big effort but has been camera shy. Race 10 1-Jenn On The Rocks-Plano's choice over 2 others can make the most of the rail, as I look to beat the ML chalk #4. 3-Miki's Magic Ride-Has been consistently in the hunt and looking for more of the same here. 7-Custards Dungeon-Will take a swing for a square price with high % trainer in 1st start at CalX after a nice qualifier. Race 11 2-Camita B And E-Can stick around from the inside and upset with a top effort, this isn't a deep field. 3-Stylemaster-3rd start off the bench and now Plano steers. He has had success with Cole Muffler gelding in past. 5-I'm Blue Too-8/5 ML chalk was bet and beat in last, can top this bunch but will need a complete effort. My Ticket Race 8) 1,3,8 Race 9) 2,4,5,7 Race 10) 1,3,7 Race 11) 2,3,5 Total Ticket Cost) $21.60 for $0.20Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia.

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3.15.2019:

Takes some courage to go against faves in Oaklawn Pick 4

Most of us, when constructing a Pick Four ticket, keep with the 50-cent variety. The All-Stakes Pick 4 Saturday at Oaklawn will be a challenge for that strategy. There are heavy favorites in all four races, and let’s face it, if all four choices win, the Pick 4 payoff will allow a winning ticket holder to buy a round of drinks and that’s about it. Midnight Bisou (6-5 in the G2 Azeri), Improbable (3-5 in the G2 Rebel, Div. 1), Great Expectations (5-2 in the Essex) and Game Winner (4-5 in the G2 Rebel, Div. 1) would make for a short payday unless you had it multiple, and I mean multiple times. Those are clearly the ones to beat, but there are options. They don’t run it on paper, and upsets, as you see many times a day, can happen. Of the favorites, champion Game Winner looks like the most likely winner.Here are the potential upsetters:Elate, Galilean:Granted, these would not be monumental upsets since they are strong second choices on the morning line of their races, but the difference between the favorite and next favorite in the Pick 4 races can exponentially more than the difference in win odds on the tote board. The difference between a 3-5 fave and a 2-1 second choice is serious when it comes to a final payoff. Elate makes her 1st start and looks like the biggest threat to Midnight Bisou in the Azeri. Clearly, wins in the G1 Alabama and Beldame as a 3-year-old stamped her as special, but she only ran twice as a 4-year-old. She was on the G2 Delaware Handicap and lost a photo to Abel Tasman in the G1 Personal Ensign. That was her last start and it came in August. Galilean’s work is cut out for him in the 1st division of the G2 Rebel, just like every opponent of Improbable. Galilean is an Uncle Mo California- bred (purchase for $600,000 early in life) and has won three of four. After taking the Barretts Juvenile in his debut, he’s won two of three against Cal-bred foes. However, his value probably spiked quite a bit when he was sent two turns in the King Glorious Stakes and then in the Cal Cup Derby. He was an even winner of each. Improbable is waiting in the wings, and Galilean will have to exceed what he’s done. Improbable won a photo in a maiden race in his debut and then followed with Street Sense and Los Al Futurity. One’s been good, one’s getting good. A Half Dozen worthy in EssexGreat Expectations is favored and a must-use in the Pick 4, but the Essex looks far more than a walkover. The invading chalk has been with the best but a good local group awaits. Great Expectations comes off a third in the G2 San Pasqual behind the late Battle of Midway and McKinzie. He has the credentials for this but of the races in the sequences, this is probably the best ‘spread’ event. Feeling the upset but not willing to leave off Great Expectations, I have the favorite and five others: Hence, Sonneteer, Chris and Dave, Heavy Roller and Snapper Sinclair. Several of the locals have front-running speed and will ensure an honest clip. Here’s the suggested ticket for the all-stakes Pick 4 at Oaklawn Park: Race 7) #2 Midnight Bisou, #5 Elate.Race 8) #8 Galilean, #9 Improbable.Race 9) #2 Hence, #3 Sonneteer, #5 Chris and Dave, #6 Heavy Roller, #7 Snapper Sinclair, #8 Giant Expectations.Race 10) #5 Game Winner.50-cent Pick 4: 2-5 with 8-9 with 2-3-5-6-7-8 with 5 ($12).

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3.14.2019:

A Rebel Yell: Johnny D's Rebel Stakes Picks & Betting Strategies

As the once popular Billy Idol song reminds, “With a rebel yell she cried, more, more, more.” Someone with ‘weight’ at Oaklawn Park must have been listening because this year we’ve got two divisions of the Grade 2 Rebel Stakes with 19 total runners, including unbeaten 2-year-old champ Game Winner and 3-for-3 stablemate Improbable. Turns out Santa Anita’s loss—a cancelled San Felipe Stakes-- is Oaklawn’s gain as no less than 8 SoCal-based 3-year-olds—4 in each division—will contest the Rebel. Each half is worth $750,000, with from 37.5 to 3.75 Kentucky Derby starting gate points to the top four finishers. For the last two weeks, in this space, we’ve taken correct stances against short-priced favorites and outlined reasons for pessimism—Hidden Scroll in the Xpressbet.com Fountain of Youth and Instagrand in the Gotham Stakes. Last week, in the latter race, we connected on a suggested $18 trifecta wager that returned $104.24 for a buck. We misfired with a $24 suggested Tampa Bay Derby trifecta play that included the first three finishers but in the incorrect order—as valuable as a wax furnace. This week appears to be a different story. Bob Baffert-trained runners own the Rebel Stakes and this year might win both divisions. Improbable is 6-5 favorite in the first half and Game Winner is the identical morning-line price to take the second. Don't forget, the Rebel Stakes is part of Xpressbet's Money Back on the Preps promotion. Both divisions of the Rebel are eligible for this offer, so definitely give it a look. Here’s one man’s opinion of Rebel runners, including several suggested Trifecta wagers: The Rebel Stakes, Grade 2 (First Division) 1. Extra Hope (Mandella/Smith) - 6/1 This son of Shanghai Bobby broke maiden in his fourth start. He was well-beaten in 2 stakes after that before rebounding with a strong effort in an allowance race at Santa Anita. That race was over a ‘sloppy’ track, so there’s a question about how well he will handle a dry Oaklawn strip. He was 8 lengths behind Improbable in the Los Alamitos Futurity. Expect him to save ground along the rail and possibly muster some late run to finish in the tri or super. He’s improving and that’s a positive 3-year-old factor but those 4 tries to break maiden are a bit bothersome. ‘Hope loses partner Flavien Prat to #8 Galilean, but Hall-of-Famer Mike Smith is a more than capable replacement. 2. Long Range Toddy (Asmussen/Court) - 10/1 This son of Take Charge Indy tries every time. That’s a fine attribute for a racehorse. He’s got enough speed to be in front of Extra Hope into the first turn and to establish position along the rail for a ground-saving trip. He’s improved in each race and another forward move puts him in the exacta or trifecta. He had trouble last out—was blocked through the lane—but finished with interest when clear. He may not be as talented as a few of the others, but he’s a gamer. 3. Corruze (Hartman/Elliott) - 30/1 This will be his first try over a ‘fast’ main track. He’s had three turf races with two wins to his credit. He also has finished sixth over a ‘sloppy’ track. He will need to move up dramatically on a ‘fast’ track to have an impact. He might, but we wouldn’t bet on it. 4. Easy Shot (Desormeaux/Eramia) - 15/1 This Trappe Shot offspring is steadily improving but will need to make another forward jump to have a say in this outcome. His lone win came for an $80k maiden tag. He was fifth and third in a pair of Grade 3 stakes at Santa Anita—with some trouble in each. Additional improvement could get him a small slice of this at a decent price. He has a pair of bullet works over the Santa Anita training track (:49 gd) and at San Luis Rey (1:12 3/5). 5. Proud Nation (Sharp/Cabrera) - 50/1 He’s a maiden and seems overmatched in his second start for trainer Joe Sharp after beginning his career in the Steve Asmussen barn. 6. Ninth Street (Asmussen/Santana) - 50/1 He has no speed and is making his ninth career start—tops in the field. He’s won two races—both at Delta Downs at just under a mile. He finished ninth in the Grade 3 Southwest. He has no speed. This is a huge step up. 7. Classy John (Stewart/Cohen) - 15/1 This Louisiana -bred has speed and finished second beaten a neck in the state-bred Premium Prince going a mile at Delta Downs last out. These are tougher. He’s a very consistent—3 wins and 2 seconds in 5 starts. There’s not a whole lot of speed in this race, so he could hang around up front for a small slice at a huge price. Trainer Dallas Stewart has a reputation for hitting the board in stakes races with huge longshots. However, those bombs usually have been detonated by closers. 8. Galilean (Hollendorfer/Prat) - 3/1 Here’s an interesting Cal-bred son of Uncle Mo. He’s won 3 of 4 starts—all against state-breds. He’s got speed and should challenge Classy John early. Patient, young jock Flavien Prat stays here instead of aboard #1 Extra Hope—both open-length winners last out. Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer seems to have this one ready to do his best. Unlike favored #9 Improbable, Galilean has had a recent race while winning the Cal Cup Derby at Santa Anita. Don’t know if he’s good enough to handle #9 Improbable but he catches the favorite off a layoff and stuck on the far outside. Those are advantages for Galilean, logical second choice in the race. 9. Improbable (Baffert/Van Dyke) - 3/5 The heavy favorite is trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert and will be ridden by up-and-coming star jock Drayden Van Dyke, partners in each of three starts—all wins. Improbable will sit second or third on the outside, a position he successfully maintained in the Los Alamitos Futurity. That day, when Van Dyke asked the question, Improbable responded emphatically. He hasn’t started since that Dec. 8 afternoon, but Baffert may be the best in the universe in getting one ready off a layoff. The son of City Zip has worked well for his return—every 5 to 7 days—with a bullet six furlongs in 1:12 at Santa Anita. The Arcadia track closure forced the cancellation of the San Felipe Stakes and sent Improbable to Los Alamitos for a :59 1/5 final work over a glib strip. He was a handful to pull up afterwards—a good sign. Solidly, he’s the one to beat. One to Beat: #9 Improbable Figures Close: #8 Galilean, #2 Long Range Toddy Could Run Well: #1 Extra Hope, #4 Easy Shot, #7 Classy Shot Suggested $2 Trifecta Wager ($16) 1st - 9 2nd - 2, 8 3rd - 1, 2, 4, 7, 8 Additional $1 Trifecta Wager ($20) 1st - 9 2nd - 1, 2, 4, 7, 8 3rd - 1, 2, 4, 7, 8 The Rebel Stakes, Grade 2 (Second Division) 1. Market King (Lukas/Velazquez) - 30/1 This colt has a maiden victory at this track and distance over a ‘good’ surface. That was his fifth start in a maiden race. He returned in an allowance sprint and finished a close third after forcing the early pace. Expect him to go to the front immediately and to ride the rail. He’s got a bullet five-furlong work 1:01 1/5 on March 8. #4 Jersey Agenda probably will force the pace outside of him. Market King jumped forward last out but needs to go faster to be a factor. 2. Laughing Fox (Asmussen/Santana) - 10/1 This son of Union Rags has won his last two starts—maiden and first-level allowance races--at this track and distance. Those are positive factors. ‘Fox comes from off the pace and there’s not much early speed in here, so he’ll be up against it from a style perspective. His last victory was a massive improvement over previous efforts, so there’s concern about if he can duplicate that off short rest. He has improved in each start and that’s always a positive sign in a developing 3-year-old. Big price and maybe worth inclusion in lower rungs of exotics. 3. Parsimony (O'Neill/Gutierrez) - 30/1 Blinkers go on for this runner and he’d really be a surprise in the winner’s circle. After 7 starts he’s still a maiden with 4 seconds. He exits a runner-up finish going a mile and one-eighth on turf at Santa Anita. He’s fit but doesn’t have much speed in an apparently pace-less race. A lot to ask. 4. Jersey Agenda (Asmussen/Ortiz) - 15/1 One of the few speed horses in this field, the son of Jersey Town—a $3,000 sire—sold for $250k at Ocala as a 2-year-old. He’s quick early but caved last out in the Grade 3 Southwest Stakes. He’ll need to rebound from that effort and move forward quite a bit to threaten. 5. Game Winner (Baffert/Rosario) - 4/5 Unbeaten, untied and unscored upon in 4 starts, the 2-year-old champ makes his sophomore debut in the Rebel as the heavy favorite. He’s trained steadily for this race—every 5 to 7 days. However, all of his works have not been sparkling. Stablemate Improbable, favored in the first division, has worked better than Game Winner on occasion. Still, Game Winner has the fastest races on Thoro-Graph sheets. Has he matured since the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile or will he become one of an illustrious group of 2-year-old champs that have failed to improve as sophs? He comes from off the pace and needs to be ridden like a bicycle—jockey Rosario must keep pedaling for him to maintain his determined run. 6. Omaha Beach (Mandella/Smith) - 7/2 This son of War Front has been extremely popular in the wagering—favored in all 5 starts. Last out, he finally broke maiden by nine lengths over a ‘sloppy’ track going 7 furlongs. Did the wet track move him up or did the light finally go on? As with Extra Hope in the first division, Mike Smith takes over for Prat in the saddle. In tit-for-tat fashion Prat replaces Smith aboard #8 Gunmetal Gray. Omaha Beach has been second 3 times with 1 third. If he converts his ‘off’ track performance to a fast track, he fits. If not, a minor award seems most likely. 7. Our Braintrust (Casse/Cohen) - 6/1 Maryland-bred Our Braintrust finished third in a 3-horse Grade 3 Withers finish, a neck behind victor Tax. That was at a mile and one-eighth, so he will cut back a sixteenth of a mile in here. He’s fit, reasonably fast and adding blinkers for his second start for Hall-of-Fame nominee Mark Casse—a 19% move for the trainer. Previously, the son of Freud raced for Cathal Lynch. ‘Braintrust is solid--5 starts, 2 wins, 2 seconds and a third. It should be noted that both of his wins came in his first two career starts at four and one-half and five and one-half furlongs! 8. Gunmetal Gray (Hollendorfer/Prat) - 10/1 The son of Exchange Rate has faced #5 Game Winner twice before and hasn’t finished within 4 lengths of that foe. What’s liable to change this time? ‘Grey is improving, and #5 Game Winner is coming off a layoff. Is that enough to close the gap? Probably not. ‘Grey has no speed in a race that lacks early pace, a negative for him. However, he has a top jock and keeps coming in the lane, so he could pass a few to get a slice. 9. Kaziranga (Asmussen/Eramia) - 50/1 Blinkers go on for this Asmussen runner—one of four from that barn in this division. Makes sense that he and others may have been entered specifically to expand field size in order to accommodate a split of the race at 19 entrants. Don’t see him threatening. 10. Captain Von Trapp (Asmussen/Vazquez) - 15/1 The hills may be alive but the ‘Captain and his family seem up against it in here. He’s been favored in 4 out of 5 starts with 2 wins and 2 seconds. He has no early speed, so he’ll need to drop back and attempt to close late. There’s not much speed in here, so those tactics might be futile. A big plus for him is that he’s 2-for-2 over the Oaklawn main. One to Beat: #5 Game Winner One That Might Do It: #7 Our Braintrust Worth Exotic Looks: #2 Laughing Fox, #6 Omaha Beach, #8 Gunmetal Gray Suggested $1 Trifecta Ticket ($24) 1st - 5, 7 2nd - 2, 5, 6, 7, 8 3rd - 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 Additional $1 Trifecta Ticket ($16) 1st - 5 2nd - 2, 6, 7, 8 3rd - 2, 4, 6, 7, 8 Race On!

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3.14.2019:

Split Rebel Entices Powerful Baffert Duo

Talk about a major detour on the Kentucky Derby trail. Game Winner, who is No. 1 on my Kentucky Derby Top 10, and Improbable, ranked No. 2, were supposed to have clashed in the Grade II San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita Park on March 9. However, Santa Anita on March 5 announced that it had pulled the plug on racing indefinitely as a result of a spike in equine fatalities since the meeting had commenced on Dec. 26. Consequently, Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, who trains both Game Winner and Improbable, suddenly had to come up with a Plan B for the two highly ranked colts. Baffert’s Plan B actually became Plan R, meaning the Rebel, as in Rebel Stakes. Game Winner and Improbable have been rerouted from the canceled San Felipe to this Saturday’s Grade II Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park. The 1 1/16-mile race was split into two divisions after attracting 19 entries. Even before the Rebel is run, it will make history. It is the first time in the history of racing in the entire world that an event with an original purse of $1 million or more will be run in two divisions. Before being split, the Rebel offered 85 qualifying points (50-20-10-50) for the May 4 Kentucky Derby. Now each division has a purse of $750,000 and 63.75 qualifying points (37.5 for first, 15 for second, 7.5 for third and 3.75 for fourth). The revised qualifying points represent 75% of the original purse. Whereas Game Winner and Improbable would have had to face each other in the San Felipe, that will not be the case in the Rebel. Baffert is happy about that inasmuch as he would just as soon not have Game Winner and Improbable meet until the Kentucky Derby. Grade I winner Improbable heads the first division of the Rebel, which has a field of nine. Eclipse Award winner Game Winner gets top billing among the 10 entered in the second division. Oaklawn and Los Alamitos both deserve kudos for stepping up to help out after Santa Anita temporarily halted racing. When six Rebel candidates stabled at Santa Anita -- Extra Hope, Galilean, Game Winner, Gunmetal Gray, Improbable and Omaha Beach -- all were in need of a final workout before the Rebel, they were unable to do so at Santa Anita. But in a classy gesture, Los Alamitos welcomed the six horses with open arms. Thus, all six had their final pre-Rebel drill at Los Al, as listed below: Extra Hope (six furlongs in 1:12.00 on March 9)Galilean (four furlongs in :48.40 on March 11)Game Winner (five furlongs in :59.80 on March 10)Gunmetal Gray (six furlongs in 1:12.60 on March 9)Improbable (five furlongs in :59.20 on March 10)Omaha Beach (six furlongs in 1:10.60 on March 9) Oaklawn announced last week that the Rebel would be split if it drew 20 or more entries. “Oaklawn stands ready to help horsemen around the country,” Louis Cella, the track’s president, said in a press release. “From a financial standpoint, splitting the race makes no sense whatsoever. If we split it, it will be strictly on the basis of sportsmanship and what is best for the sport and best for the top 3-year-olds trying to get to the Kentucky Derby.” When the Rebel drew 19 entries, Cella could have stuck to his guns and saved a whole lot of money by not splitting the race. But in a classy gesture a la Los Al fulfilling the need for workouts, Oaklawn went ahead and split the Rebel even though there were fewer than 20 entries. MY REBEL STAKES ODDS First Division 2-5 Improbable4-1 Galilean10-1 Extra Hope10-1 Long Range Toddy15-1 Classy John20-1 Easy Shot30-1 Corruze30-1 Ninth Street50-1 Proud Nation Second Division 4-5 Game Winner5-1 Omaha Beach6-1 Gunmetal Gray6-1 Our Braintrust12-1 Laughing Fox15-1 Jersey Agenda20-1 Captain Von Trapp20-1 Market King30-1 Kaziranga30-1 Parsimony REBEL STAKES SELECTIONS First Division: 1. Improbable, 2. Galilean, 3. Extra Hope, 4. Long Range Toddy Second Division: 1. Omaha Beach, 2. Game Winner, 3. Our Braintrust, Gunmetal Gray MY CURRENT KENTUCKY DERBY TOP 10 1. Game Winner2. Improbable3. War of Will4. Code of Honor5. Mucho Gusto6. Bourbon War7. Roadster8. Omaha Beach9. Galilean10. Instagrand Instagrand had been No. 4 last week. I moved him down to No. 10 this week after he finished third in Aqueduct’s Grade III Gotham Stakes at one mile last Saturday. He stayed on the Top 10, albeit just barely, because he lost the Gotham by only 1 1/2 lengths while making his first start since last Aug. 11. It also was Instagrand’s first race beyond six furlongs. He could conceivably get knocked off the Top 10 next week depending on what happens in the Rebel. THE NEXT 40 ON MY KENTUCKY DERBY RANKINGS 11. Hidden Scroll12. Anothertwistafate13. Vekoma14. Tacitus15. Country House16. Haikal17. Mind Control18. Dessman19. Signalman20. Maximum Security21. Nolo Contesto22. Spinoff23. Win Win Win24. Harvey Wallbanger25. Gunmetal Gray26. Tax27. Outshine28. Sueno29. Much Better30. Dream Maker31. Intrepid Heart32. Long Range Toddy33. Limonite34. U S Navy Cross35. Somelikeithotbrown36. Alwaysmining37. Standard Deviation38. Rowayton39. Kingly40. Mihos41. Roiland42. Extra Hope43. Well Defined44. Gray Attempt45. Our Braintrust46. Laughing Fox47. Final Jeopardy48. So Alive49. Hoffa’s Union50. Sir Winston GAME WINNER & IMPROBABLE EACH 6-1 IN FUTURE WAGER The “All Others” option ended up being the favorite when betting concluded last Sunday in Pool Three of the 2019 Kentucky Derby Future Wager (KDFW). “All Others” closed at 9-2. In terms of individual horses, Game Winner and Improbable sported the lowest odds, each at 6-1. Slightly more money was wagered on Improbable, whose total of $33,220 was just $575 more than the sum bet on Game Winner. In Pool One, which closed on Nov. 25, “All Other 3-Year-Old Males” was the 6-5 favorite, with Game Winner the individual favorite at 5-2. Coliseum and Instagrand were each 10-1. Improbable was 17-1. In Pool Two, which closed on Feb. 10, “All Others” was the 5-2 favorite, with Game Winner the individual favorite at 5-1. Hidden Scroll and Improbable were 7-1 each. Instagrand was 10-1. War of Will was 17-1. Here were the final odds for Pool Three of the KDFW: 9-2 All Others6-1 Game Winner6-1 Improbable*11-1 Hidden Scroll12-1 Bourbon War12-1 War of Will14-1 Code of Honor16-1 Roadster17-1 Instagrand22-1 Galilean27-1 Mucho Gusto29-1 Country House33-1 Harvey Wallbanger34-1 Win Win Win36-1 Spinoff37-1 Vekoma38-1 Anothertwistafate38-1 Signalman43-1 Gunmetal Gray55-1 Mind Control56-1 Dream Maker59-1 Tax63-1 Intrepid Heat216-1 Well Defined *Actual individual favorite BELLAFINA FAVORED IN KENTUCKY OAKS WAGER The Kentucky Oaks Future Wager also closed last Sunday. Bellafina, winner of Santa Anita’s Grade II Santa Ynez Stakes and Grade II Las Virgenes Stakes this year, was backed down to 9-2 favoritism. The “All Others” option closed at 5-1. This will be the only 2019 Kentucky Oaks Future Wager offered. Here were the final odds: 9-2 Bellafina5-1 All Others7-1 Jaywalk10-1 Chasing Yesterday11-1 Point of Honor11-1 Serengeti Empress12-1 Enaya Alrabb14-1 Restless Rider18-1 Dunbar Road22-1 Feedback23-1 Motion Emotion24-1 Brill30-1 Mother Mother42-1 Orra Moor49-1 Queen of Beas50-1 Champagne Anyone56-1 Violencia60-1 Jeltrin63-1 Liora81-1 Eres Tu81-1 Graceful Princess96-1 Power Gal113-1 Marathon Queen137-1 Tasting the Stars For those who bet on “All Others,” I think one of those, Godolphin’s Divine Image, will have an excellent chance to win if she shows up for the Kentucky Oaks. Trained by Charlie Appleby, Divine Image appears to be under serious consideration for the May 3 race at Churchill Downs following her scintillating 7 1/4-length victory against males in the Al Bastakiya Stakes last Saturday at Meydan Racecourse in Dubai. She won the Group III UAE Oaks to earn 50 qualifying points for the Kentucky Oaks. Divine Image is by Scat Daddy, the sire of 2018 Triple Crown winner Justify. MILK CARTON HORSE UPDATE I still have not seen any news regarding Uncle Benny, who hasn’t raced since he finished second in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Churchill Downs last Nov. 2. He has not had a recorded workout since his three furlongs in :39.80 at Palm Meadows in Florida on Jan. 19. Has Uncle Benny gone into an equine witness protection program? THIS WEEK’S NTRA POLLS Here is the Top 10 for this week’s NTRA Top Thoroughbred Poll: Rank Points Horse (First-Place Votes) 1. 339 City of Light (33)2. 326 Monomoy Girl (9)3. 315 Roy H4. 256 Bricks and Mortar (2)5. 198 McKinzie6. 152 Seeking the Soul7. 129 Sistercharlie8. 111 Accelerate9. 78 Battle of Midway10. 77 Marley’s Freedom Here is the Top 10 for this week’s NTRA Top 3-Year-Old Poll: Rank Points Horse (First-Place Votes) 1. 396 Game Winner (31)2. 362 War of Will (7)3. 315 Improbable (5)4. 295 Code of Honor5. 228 Mucho Gusto6. 150 Tacitus7. 113 Bourbon War8. 88 Haikal9. 60 Country House10. 57 Gunmetal Gray

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3.13.2019:

Weekly Bankroll Builder: March 15 Stronach 5 Picks

We’ve got the same Stronach 5 format that week, one that will double up on Gulfstream Park and Golden Gate Fields, while still be guaranteed at 100k. 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: Laurel Park R9 (5:07 ET) – 3f 40k MCL at 6 furlongs The opening leg is a toughie, in that there doesn’t really look like anyone you can tie your wagon to all that confidently. I’ll take four Maryland breds who don’t have to run for a tag, starting with MSW dropper #2 LUCKY NINEY NICE (10-1), since she took a bit of money debut but broke last, and it’s a great sign to see Trombetta reach for McCarthy too. I think you need to spread though, so I’ll also use #3 BUNTING (5-2), who has speed and has run well in both starts, #7 REIGNING FIRE (6-1), another MSW dropper who will like the company, and #4 GOLD CADILLAC (6-1), the “other” Trombetta who closed nicely on debut and isn’t entered for the tag either. Pk5 A horses (listed in order of preference): 2,3,7,4 I’m hardly confident with the above runners, so I’ll have backups too, with #5 GRACEYGAB (15-1), who goes off the claim for Gonzalez (25%), #10 UMIGHTBEANEMPRESS (6-1), who has several solid races showing, and #8 ZIRCON ZLOTY (15-1), and MSW dropper who was 7-1 on debut but was too bad to be true and should only improve off that dreadful debut. Pk5 B horses: 5,10,8 Leg 2: Gulfstream Park R9 (5:38 ET) – 4up 16k at 5 furlongs (turf) In what looks like a two-horse race, at least for top honors, I’ll go with the speed of #5 SLEEPING GIANT (7-2), who has just missed in two starts at the level and will get first run on #9 DANCE PROUDLY (9-5), who won at the level last time and shows two big figures of late, but is at the mercy of the pace and could come up just a bit short. Pk5 A horses: 5,9 It looks like #7 G Q COVERUP (12-1) might need a pace meltdown too, though he got it last time and won against lesser, impressively and in fast time, so he could be a player on the rise, albeit at about half of this ML. Lastly, I’ll also use #6 MOONWALKER (15-1), who drops in class second-off the Vaccarezza claim and has some past races that make him a player here for a solid barn long overdue for some luck. Pk5 B horses: 7,6 Leg 3: Golden Gate Fields R5 (6:00 ET) – 3f MSW at 1 1/16 miles We find our stand-alone single with #11 LADYMIDTOWN (3-1), who heads up the coast from Santa Anita and just looks better than a weak bunch off her turf races down south, which includes a close 5th-place finish in the Surfer Girl in October. Pk5 A horses: 11 There are others here you can use, most notably #1 In Her Fashion (6-1), #8 Queen Del Prado (4-1), and #6 Equal Measure (7-2), but this looks like a decided class drop for ‘Lady, and she just looks too tough for the locals. Pk5 B horses: NONE Leg 4: Gulfstream Park R10 (6:08 ET) – 3up 12.5k MCL at 6 furlongs These cheap maiden-claimers are always tough, and you leave yourself vulnerable without spreading too deep, but it does look like #5 STARSHIP TAXI (3-1) will take some beating after running 2nd by a nose at the level, and the fact he’s just 0-for-6 says he’s not yet allergic to the winner’s circle. And that’s more than we can say for #2 ROCKY STRANGE (7-2) and #6 ACCOUNANT Q (8-1), who are 0-for-14 and 0-for-11, respectively, but (sadly) have run well enough to be a player here. Pk5 A horses: 5,2,6 The only other one I want, without getting too crazy, is #14 DR DUDLEY (6-1), since he has a few decent runs showing and should be able to pass some in the lane, while being tactical enough to negate this wide draw too. Pk5 B horses: 14 Leg 5: Golden Gate Fields R6 (6:30 ET) – 3yo 50k starter-allowance at 6 furlongs The finale is predictably deep and competitive, with some speed too, so I’ll tab #6 ORACLE OF OMAHA (4-1) on top, since he has been facing better at Santa Anita and ran relatively well over the turf in the past, which suggests he may handle the local Tapeta. The best of the locals is #9 EIGHTY PROOF (3-1), who was 2nd, beaten just a neck, at the level last time, and won’t have to improve much to get there today. Pk5 A horses: 6,9 Facing winners is never easy but #5 MR. DIPLOMAT (5-2) looked good running off late in his second start and seems to have a future, so this shouldn’t be a rise that’s too much to handle. The wide draw won’t help #10 DADDY JONES (9-2), but he’s another SA invader who has been facing better, and his closing style won’t be too negated by this impost. If he can work out a trip then #2 THISONEFORJAMES (10-1) isn’t impossible, as he’s got some decent local form at the level and will get first run too.Pk5 B horses: 5,10,2 The tickets: Main Ticket: 2,3,7,4 with 5,9 with 11 with 5,2,6 with 6,9 = $48 Leg 1 B Backup: 5,10,8 with 5,9 with 11 with 5,2,6 with 6,9 = $36 Leg 2 B Backup: 2,3,7,4 with 7,6 with 11 with 5,2,6 with 6,9 = $48 Leg 4 B Backup: 2,3,7,4 with 5,9 with 11 with 14 with 6,9 = $16 Leg 5 B Backup: 2,3,7,4 with 5,9 with 11 with 5,2,6 with 5,10,2 = $72

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3.12.2019:

March 12: Pompano Park Pick 4 Analysis

Tonight, Pompano Park has an 8-race card scheduled and the popular 0.50 Pick 4 begins in Race 5. The sequence has a $15,000 guaranteed pool with a very low 12% takeout and will be my focus. On Monday at the Pomp the drivers with the hottest hands were Wally Hennessey and Joe Sanzeri, each with two wins. Joe Sanzeri was also the top conditioner with two trips to the winner's circle. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Race 5 1-Oberlin-Byron's choice is in a good spot to get the right trip and win at a square price. 3-JL Joe-Drops and can take a picture if races back to 2/26 start when Krueger was also between the pipes. 6-Joe Joe Joe-Beaten chalk gets Hennessey and will be bet hard again, will respect but needs to find more. Race 6 1-Machmemackie-Has had trouble sealing the deal but should make the most of drawing the wood. 2-Sir Globalop Z Tam-Drops, Hennessey steers and could make a difference, can be put in play from the word go. 8-Ballinrobe-Should be leaving and could get close to the top, this race might set-up nicely for 4th picture of year. Race 7 3-Expo-Will need some racing luck but might get sucked around and if chalk has a tough trip could roll by late. 7-Cashahallic-Odds on favorite woke a bit in last and now gets Hennessey in a soft field. Race 8 1-Sweet Bet-Hasn't closed the deal in last 2 but those winners aren't an issue tonight, looks like a player. 2-Machin Marley-Faces easier, should race up-close throughout, may make the most of a pocket trip behind #1. 7-Layer Cake-Usually a threat versus this kind. Did race well off a sick scratch and could be better tonight. 0.50 Pick 4 1,3,6/1,2,8/3,7/1,2,7 Total Bet=$27 Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia. 

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3.11.2019:

Kentucky Derby Future Wager Pool #3 Provides Telling Points

All the Kentucky Derby top-20 lists got put to the public test this past weekend. We learned more about the class of 2019 from $282,199 actually wagered in pool 3 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager than all the editorial ideas put together. Mine included. Here are some interesting takeaways from the actual real polling (done with more than $600,000 wagered in the win pools of the KDFW 2 and 3): Game Winner is slightly less fancied now ($14.20 return) than he was in pool 2 ($13.40) and pool 1 ($13.80). Yet, he hasn’t run since any of those wagering offerings. Meanwhile, stablemate Improbable also hasn’t run since pool 2, yet is more fancied now ($14) as the slight individual favorite than he was then ($17.60). If you’re reading the XBTV workout tea leaves, you can tell people have been paying attention to the morning drills as Improbable has earned slightly better reviews. Hidden Scroll was co-second choice at $17.60 in pool 2, but his Xpressbet Fountain of Youth loss has inflated his price to $25.40 though still third choice. In other words, they still haven’t found anyone better after the loss, but confidence has waned some on the horse himself. War of Will dropped from $36.80 in pool 2 to $27 this time around, a slight sign of increased appreciation since winning the Risen Star in-between, but not a full buy-in. He’s a 2-time graded stakes winner in the 2019 calendar year and fourth choice behind a trio of horses 1: 0-0-0 in stakes this season. Further evidence that the public hasn’t fondly treated Fair Grounds is Risen Star runner-up Country House let go as a $61 offering. Bourbon War has gone from $64.80 in Pool 2 to now a $27.80 fifth individual choice on the back of his Xpressbet Fountain of Youth runner-up. Like his running style, he’s picking up steam the farther we go. Code of Honor beat Bourbon War and Hidden Scroll in the Xpressbet Fountain of Youth, but that didn’t carry over to the KDFW confidence meter. He’s the $31.60 sixth choice in the individual ranks, circling back his reputation in some fashion. He was taken off the roll for KDFW Pool 2 after running fourth as the odds-on favorite in the Mucho Macho Man in January. Last fall, he was fifth wagering individual choice at $39.40 in Pool 1. So you can see he’s almost regained that status, but there’s not a total buy-in for the Xpressbet Fountain of Youth result. The biggest reputation restoration was Roadster. A $66.60 proposition in KDFW Pool 1 in the fall, and sort of written off out of sight, out of mind in Pool 2 when not offered as a betting interest. He’s all the way down to $35.60 now and seventh choice in Pool 3 after his March 1 allowance return win. Without a doubt, the public spoke that they liked this. At $56.40, it’s clear that Baffert stablemate Mucho Gusto, the Lewis winner headed to Sunland, hasn’t won the minds of the public as much as the flashier Roadster. A bit more surprising to me than what we saw with Hidden Scroll’s Xpressbet Fountain of Youth loss not being much of a public deal-breaker, so, too, remained their confidence in Instagrand after finishing third in Saturday’s Gotham at a short price. That Instagrand is only a $36.40 return is a sign the public will likely bet him back next time he runs with some forgiveness. It would seem the ‘needed-the-race’ and ‘pace casualty’ crowd are in greater numbers than those ready to bail. The individual favorites around $14 now are par for the course. Justify was a $14.40 favorite at this point last year (before the Santa Anita Derby) and dropped to $8.40 in pool 4 (after). McCraken, yes him, led the way 2 years ago at this stage at $15.60. You could have gotten American Pharoah as a very lukewarm favorite at $18.20 at this point in 2015. The all-others at $11.80 also is very representative and normal. It’s been $10, $12.40, $13.20 and $10.60 in most recent years. That tells us the public has the same defensive feel about this crop as any other; nothing abnormal to see here. Here’s the complete KDFW Pool 3 final odds. Horses in order of favoritism in the three-day March 8-10 KDFW Pool 3 (Odds and $2 Win Will Pays): #24 “All Other 3-Year-Olds” (9-2, $11.80) #11 Improbable (6-1, $14)#7 Game Winner (6-1, $14.20)#10 Hidden Scroll (11-1, $25.40)#21 War of Will (12-1, $27)#2 Bourbon War (12-1, $27.80)#3 Code of Honor (14-1, $31.60)#16 Roadster (16-1, $35.80)#12 Instagrand (17-1, $36.40)#6 Galilean (22-1, $47.40)#15 Mucho Gusto (27-1, $56.40)#4 Country House (29-1, $61)#9 Harvey Wallbanger (33-1, $69.40)#23 Win Win Win (34-1, $71.40)#18 Spinoff (36-1, $74.40)#20 Vekoma (37-1, $76.40)#1 Anothertwistafate (38-1, $78.80)#17 Signalman (38-1, $79.60)#8 Gunmetal Gray (43-1, $89)#14 Mind Control (55-1, $113.60)#5 Dream Maker (56-1, $114.40)#19 Tax (59-1, $120.60)#13 Intrepid Heart (63-1, $129.80)#22 Well Defined (216-1, $435.40)

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3.11.2019:

Monday, March 11: Mohawk Park Early Pick 4 Analysis

The feature at Woodbine Mohawk Park rolls in Race 9, a Preferred Trot with a $34,000 purse. The popular 0.20 Early Pick 4 sequence begins in Race 4. It has a $50,000 guaranteed pool and will be my focus. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Race 4 4-Levy Taylore-Should get a very good trip from here and has raced well for Johnson. 6-Crocadile Canyon-1st time Shepherd off the claim plus McNair's choice and he can keep in striking range. Race 5 2-Bautista-ML chalk is sharp, winner of 2 straight is a main threat. But will hope trip is an issue and use others as well. 3-So Not Cool-Has been very consistent, draws well and is too good to overlook at 8-1 in the ML. 5-Perfetto-Returned from a rest and last 4 starts for Henriksen have been much better, can pop with some live cover. 6-Head Turning Jag-Been racing well and can beat this group at a square price with the right trip. Race 6 1-Charlie Is A Joker-Does well on the engine, gets needed class and post relief, should be a major player. 3-Ole Jack Magic-8-year-old needs to be at the right class to take a picture and this is that spot. Race 7 5-Brickman-3rd start after a sick scratch and last was better. Usually in the hunt and draws better than others. 6-Real Wicked-Took the long way around and kept coming in last, could find a better route and benefit tonight. 8-ER Quinn-Will blast out as usual but best gate speed is outside-#10, may get a pocket trip and surprise at a price. 10-Kwicky Kwanzaa-Looked good last week beating same, but that was from the rail, can't ignore but will try to beat. My Ticket Race 4) 4,6 Race 5) 2,3,5,6 Race 6) 1,3 Race 7) 5,6,8,10 Total Ticket Cost) $12.80 for $0.20Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia.

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3.11.2019:

Increase In Cup, Pace Nominees

Two of North America’s premier events for 3-year-olds will remain on firm footing in 2019 if the list of nominees is an indicator. A total of 82 pacers were nominated to the C$1 million Pepsi North America Cup June 15 at Woodbine-Mohawk Park, while February payments were made for 63 hopefuls to the July 13 Meadowlands Pace. O’Brien Award winner Stag Party and Dan Patch Award winner Captain Crunch head the list of nominees to Canada’s richest race. Stag Party won 6 of 9 starts and earned more than half of his $514,368 bankroll with an easy victory in the $685,300 Metro Pace at the same track where the North America Cup will be held. Captain Crunch won 6 of 10 starts and $613,113 as a freshman, including a 3-length score in 1:51.3 in the $600,000 Breeders Crown at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. They dynamic duo could cross paths for the first time in the ‘Cup.’ Captain Crunch, one of two 2018 champions trained by Nancy Johansson, also heads a talented class nominated the Meadowlands Pace. Open stakes winners Captain Ahab and Workin On A Mystery, sire stakes champs Reigning Deo and Proof, and regional stars Bronx Seelster and Melodie’s Major are more reasons why the number increased by more than 50 percent from last year. IN THE XPRESSLANE: Beckhams Z Tam, a Breeders Crown champion last year at age 3, won the featured $25,000 preferred handicap Saturday at the Meadowlands, one of five wins on the card for driver Tim Tetrick. … Andy Ray (Elliott Deaton) trotted to victory in the $25,000 Barry Langley Memorial last Sunday at Miami Valley, a race named in honor of the trainer who passed away unexpectedly at age 33 earlier in the week. … Traylor Racing Stable’s Cash Me Out won Sunday’s featured $15,000 trot at Saratoga to become harness racing’s newest millionaire.

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3.9.2019:

Saturday, March 9: Cal Expo Pick 4 Analysis

Cal Expo rolls with an 11-race card tonight. The feature comes in Race 4, the Gary Budahn Pace for fillies and mares with a $10,000 purse. The 0.20 Pick 4 starts in Race 8, it has a $40,000 guaranteed pool with a low 16% takeout. It's a competitive sequence in which I will be looking to beat some of the program favorites. The driver with the hottest hands on Friday night was James Kennedy with five trips to the winner's circle. The top conditioner was Richard Schneider with two pictures. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Race 8 3-Surprisingly Sweet-Off 3 weeks but likes to win and drops, major player if tight enough. 4-Getter Queen Flush-Another who is at the right level to best work, should be forwardly placed throughout. 5-Totally Racy-5th start since some time-off, this could be the spot for an aggressive drive. 6-Along Came jane-Comes off a win and steps-up but has been racing well, will respect chances for an encore. Race 9 1-Johnny Gun-Likes to race up-close, rail will help. Will discount recent starts on off-track, where record is 1-19. 2-Cenalta Eclipse-Looking for an overdue win, last was better and it's now or never. 8-Camita B And E-Trip horse could pop at a price versus this soft bunch, if Grundy can find some live cover. Race 10 2-Imma Tank-Last was dull, but with a best effort can pass horses late. Taking a swing to beat #4-8/5 ML chalk. 4-Mystery Dragon-Wiseman between the pipes and that's a positive, a few could leave, and a quick pace helps cause. 7-Walker Meister-Interesting play with Plano, start will be key, if gets a favorable journey could win at a square price. Race 11 6-Fly Away-Gets some past relief and should get a good early seat, may get a pocket trip and sweep by late. 7-Who Dat Love-Winner of 3 of 4 has a big brush and should be rolling down the lane. My Ticket Race 8) 3,4,5,6 Race 9) 1,2,8 Race 10) 2,4,7 Race 11) 6,7Total Ticket Cost) $14.40 for $0.20Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia

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3.9.2019:

Win Win Win Gets Distance Challenge; Top-Flight Pick 4 at Tampa

The Tampa Bay Derby over the past few years has become more important in producing quality worthy of the Triple Crown races – even Kentucky Derby and Belmont winners – and while a Grade 2 race, it’s still an sought-after spot on the Derby trail. Connections of these are seeing if their horses are worthy of making the leap into the top Derby preps down the road. Quip and Tapwrit – the latter a Belmont winner – were the last two victors of the Tampa Bay Derby, and they join the likes of Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense and top-flight runner Verrazano, lending even more credibility. The Tampa Bay Derby resembles the Fountain of Youth, run last weekend at Gulfstream. The favorite in both races are horses that were dazzling in one-turn races leading up to the headliner. Tampa Bay Derby fave Win Win Win won the Pasco Stakes by 7 1-4 lengths after six furlongs in 1:08 3-5 and finished with a final time of 1:20 4-5 for seven furlongs. In any land, that’s racehorse time. Prior to the Fountain of Youth, Hidden Scroll was a 14-time winner at a mile. He got locked into fast fractions and finished fourth behind closers that benefited from the early activities. A couple of differences to note: Win Win Win has had four starts (three wins and a second), and one of those wins was in a stakes race. Hidden Scroll had only one start, and it was against maidens. Win Win Win is a son of Hat Trick and grandson of Sunday Silence. On the other side, he’s out of Miss Smarty Pants, a daughter of Smarty Jones. Those are some good pedigree credentials when he comes to digging in and doing some running. Win Win Win won his first two at Laurel and finished second in a stakes race there, just prior to his trip to Tampa Bay Downs. Trainer Michael Trombetta has named Irad Ortiz, Jr., as a riding replacement for Julian Pimentel. Since the Pasco win on Jan. 19, Win Win Win has been the talk of morning activities as well, with drills of :47 for four furlongs, :59 1-5 for five furlongs and 1:13 2-5 for six furlongs. The Tampa Bay Derby is part of the All Stakes Pick 4, and that particular leg of the sequence is a terrific challenge. Well Defined comes in off a front-running score, while Sir Winston and Dream Maker have an impact on the closing yards if the pace is too much for the front runners. For that, I see this is a spread, using all four of those.  Here’s the suggested ticket for the All Stakes Pick 4 at Tampa Bay Downs:  Race 8) #1 Flameaway, #5 Bourbon Resolution. Race 9) #2 Hawksmoor, #7 Rymska, #8 Onthemoonagain. Race 10) #1 La Feve, #3 Winter Sunset, #5 Concrete Rose, #9 Winning Envelope, #10 Stellar Agent. Race 11) #2 Sir Winston, #4 Dream Maker, #5 Well Defined, #7 Win Win Win.  50-cent Pick 4: 1-5/2-7-8/1-3-5-9-10/2-4-5-7 for ($60). 

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3.8.2019:

Friday, March 8: Meadowlands Pick 4 Analysis

Tonight, there's a competitive 13-race card scheduled in East Rutherford New Jersey. The feature comes in Race 7, a Preferred Trot with a $25,000 purse. The popular 0.50 Pick 4 begins in Race 8. That sequence has a $50,000 guaranteed pool which will likely be surpassed, and it will be my focus. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Race 8 3-Arrakis-Has had some excuses but recent form has been dull, now gets post relief and fits better versus this crew. 9-Battle Mage-Comes off a good try in 1st start after arriving from DD. Should be able to leave and carry speed further. 10-Nows The Moment-Post makes it more difficult but comes off a nice win after a costly break, looks like a player again. Race 9 2-Stylish Beachwhere-Gets post relief and Tetrick takes a spin. Camera shy, should be bet hard but tough to leave out. 3-Followthewind N-Steps up and doesn't like to win, but this is not a field of All-Stars and should be in the hunt. 8-Juxta Cowgirl-May blast out and get on the engine in 5th start at the Big M, will swing for a price at 15-1 in the ML. Race 10 1-Chief Justice-Has raced well with hopples and should make presence felt if minds manners. 3-Godspell Hall-It took a while to qualify but had a sharp win in last, maybe Nifty has the breaking issue solved. 7-Dover Dony-Often close but seldom takes a picture, this is a soft bunch and could notch 3rd win in 32 tries. Race 11 2-Just N Berlander-Usually rallies too late but from this spot should be in better striking range. 6-Buckeye In Charge-12-yr-old is 1 for last 32, but trainer finally gives the lines to a catch driver and should improve. 9-Abbeylara-Miller needs to work a trip for lukewarm ML chalk, can beat this bunch if finds some live cover. My Ticket Race 8) 3,9,10 Race 9) 2,3,8 Race 10) 1,3,7 Race 11) 2,6,9 Total Ticket Cost) $40.50 for $0.50Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia

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3.7.2019:

Johnny D's Gotham & Tampa Bay Derby Picks

Last week, in this space, we outlined challenges facing Hidden Scroll in the Xpressbet Fountain of Youth at a very short price. Unfortunately, it was a case of ‘right church, wrong pew.’ Our suggested superfecta didn’t use Code of Honor in the top spot. This week, in the Grade 3 Gotham at Aqueduct, there’s an even shorter-priced favorite facing challenges. While questions surrounding Instagrand are different from those of Hidden Scroll, they exist. In 2018, Instagrand was ranked as one of the top 2 freshman performers. He won both starts by at least 10 lengths—a maiden sprint in late June at Los Alamitos and the six-furlong, Grade 2 Best Pal Stakes at Del Mar in August. At that point owner Larry Best of OXO Equine LLC, contrary to the advice of Hall-of-Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, elected to ensconce his $1.2 million purchase in bubble-wrap for the remainder of the season. The move abandoned a start in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and effectively erased a chance at an Eclipse Award as the nation’s top 2-year-old—in both cases Game Winner prevailed. Best’s unorthodox theory posits that by curtailing the colt’s 2-year-old activity he will preserve Instagrand for a productive sophomore campaign and possibly even more racing at 4. Furthermore, the owner explained to Bloodhorse.com in September, even if Instagrand were to win 2 early races in 2019 the colt wouldn’t necessarily race in the Kentucky Derby! On a blackboard those Xs and Os may theoretically result in a touchdown! What actually transpires on the field following Saturday’s kick off is another matter. Here are some challenges Instagrand will face Saturday at a short price: After a prolonged vacation, he will be as fresh as a recently cut flower, raring to go out of the gate. Look for him to show his speed. Then he must prove that he’s matured physically since his August score. That’s never guaranteed. In fact, it’s almost a surprise when an outstanding 2-year-old continues to dominate at 3. Why? Because a precocious freshman is more mature than the others and, therefore, holds a distinct early physical advantage. As time passes, a young superstar’s growth spurt sometimes flattens out leaving him unable to keep pace with forging contemporaries. They ‘catch up’ and ‘pass’ him. Breeding sometimes can suggest either precocity or late development in a foal, but that’s like banking on the reliability of a four-month weather forecast. Instagrand just might need a race. His next to last workout at Santa Anita going 7 furlongs on Feb. 25 was not overly impressive. He changed leads late and held his head high and cocked to the right. None of that suggests the sky is falling, but it’s not particularly encouraging either. He did return 8 days later and looked solid in a half-mile blowout. First time back off an extended layoff Hollendorfer will have Instagrand as good as human hands can make him. Still, horses are not machines. Sometimes it takes an outing or two for a pitcher to find his best stuff.  Instagrand must prove he can carry his speed past six furlongs. A mile ought to be no issue, especially the one-turn variety. If he loses Saturday, the distance of the race likely will not be the villain. What Instagrand’s connections will miss Saturday—win or lose—is the opportunity to give their colt valuable two-turn experience. With presumably just one more race between Saturday and a possible start in the Kentucky Derby Instagrand will be behind classmates in the experience category. Then again, owner Best might decide to avoid Louisville on the first Saturday in May, altogether. Yeah, right. Snubbing one’s nose at the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile is one thing, shunning the Kentucky Derby with a ‘live’ chance is…well…certifiable! In the end, however, the owner pays the bills and can do whatever he likes.   In an apparent effort to avoid a previously-planned showdown against Game Winner and Improbable in the San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita, Instagrand’s connections decided to ship him cross-country from California to New York for the Gotham. Originally, the move appeared a well-calculated attempt to find a spot where the colt could return in a one-turn, mile race against weaker competition to garner coveted points toward starting in the Kentucky Derby. Following the cancellation of weekend racing at Santa Anita and postponement of the San Felipe, the audible seems downright prescient. Ultimately, if it’s a ‘good’ or ‘great’ move, Instagrand still must travel coast-to-coast to compete and then coast-to-coast back home to California. Horse transportation in 2019 is first class, however, connections never are certain how a horse will react to travel. Instagrand may be a legitimate superstar. A horse for the ages. Why not? We saw one last year and another two years before that. He may romp Saturday at less than even money. However, at that short of a price and facing several challenges, horseplayers are advised to approach the Gotham with eyes wide open! He’s got a better chance to win than Hidden Scroll did last week, but the price is aweful. Below is one man’s analysis of The Gotham field: Gotham Stakes 1. Family Biz (Barker/Carmouche) - 30/1 This son of Fed Biz has 1 win from 7 career starts. That came over a ‘good’ Aqueduct surface in November at 7 furlongs. He’s faced stakes company in 2 of 3 starts this year without much success. To threaten in the Gotham he’d need to run faster than ever before. One positive is that he should get a legitimate pace to close into.   2. Knicks Go (Colebrook/Lezcano) - 12/1 He pulled off a stunning 70-1 upset when racing first-time Lasix in the Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland in October. He parlayed that into an almost as surprising 40-1 runner-up finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile behind Game Winner. He ran a clunker in the Churchill slop to end 2018 and returned this year to show speed and then fade in the Sam Davis at Tampa. He figures to add speed to the early pace in here, but he’ll have plenty of company up front. Perhaps he’s already had his moments in the sun. 3. Mind Control (Sacco/Velazquez) - 9/2 He’s got speed and a solid record of 3 wins in 5 starts, including 1-for-1 over the course and at the distance. He won the Jerome Jan. 1 with a wire-to-wire effort. The only real blemish on his running line is a disastrous outing at Churchill in the BC Juvenile. He had trouble at the start, so that race can be forgiven. Expect this one to be in the fight from start to finish. His trainer suggests the son of Stay Thirsty can rate a bit if needed. Of that’s the case, then he’s got a good chance in here. 4. Much Better (Baffert/Smith) - 10/1 This is not your typical sophomore Baffert shipper. The ridgeling son of Pioneer of the Nile has started twice on turf—a runner-up finish in the Zuma Beach at Santa Anita and a failed effort in the BC Juvenile Turf over soft turf at Churchill. Blinkers were added last time out in a Santa Anita sprint over a ‘good’ surface and they did the trick as Much Better won for the first time since September. He figures to show speed but one race back blew a decent lead in the stretch of the Sham Stakes at Santa Anita, so distance is a legitimate question. Also, he figures to have plenty of early company. 5. Haikal (McLaughlin/Maragh) - 6/1 Three necks have decided Haikal’s trio of career races. Twice he’s won by a neck and once, first-time out, he lost by just a neck. He comes from off the pace and should get a favorable set up in here if…if he’s more than a late-running sprinter! This is his first try further than 7 furlongs. He’s made gradual speed-figure improvement in each start and that suggests there’s more in the tank. He’s an interesting option at a decent price, but demand value because, while his pattern suggests he will improve, he must to win. 6. Instagrand (Hollendorfer/Castellano) - 1/1 See above. 7. Not That Brady (Rodriguez/Gutierrez) - 5/1 This gelded, New York-bred son of Big Brown drops back to a mile after a game head defeat by Tax in the Withers at a mile and one-eighth. He’s fit and a repeat of his last is good enough to win. The issue with him is that he’s another with early speed. If this race develops the way it looks on paper, then there’s going to be an early logjam up front and that probably won’t help Not That Brady. 8. Tikhvin Flew (Asmussen/Davis) - 12/1 The son of Street Sense took money first-time out going seven furlongs and responded with a nearly two-length victory. He returned as favorite to finish third, two lengths behind Haikal, in the Jimmy Winkfield at seven furlongs. He’s got a great outside post position and enough speed to stalk the early pace. The real question is ‘How good is this colt?’ Figures say that, like others, with a bit of improvement he fits. Suggested $1 Gotham Trifecta Wager ($18) 1st - 3, 5 2nd - 3, 5, 6, 8 3rd - 1, 3, 5, 6, 8 Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby While this race doesn’t have as prominent a headliner as Instagrand, it’s an interesting tussle with #7 Win Win Win (5/2) entered as the 5/2 favorite. He’s trying two turns for the first time off an explosive, highly-rated sprint victory and has fired 2 strong bullet works in an attempt to gain his fourth victory out of 5 starts. He’s done very little wrong in 3 outings at Laurel and 1 at Tampa Bay. #5 Well Defined (7/2), wire-to-wire winner of the Sam Davis at 7-1 when racing first-time blinkers, is the 7-2 second choice. He was able to stretch his speed out to a mile and one-sixteenth and never was challenged on the lead. He figures to have early company this time around, so he might not be as effective. Next on the morning line at 4-1 is #4 Dream Maker (4/1), winner of his last start, an allowance race at Fair Grounds by over 8 lengths. He’s got 2 wins in 4 starts and has been favored in 3 of 4 lifetime starts. That victory was his first race since October, and it was much better than anything previous. Perhaps he’s come to life. #11 Zenden (8/1) stretches out from a runner-up effort in the Grade 3 Swale at Gulfstream Park and seems to be improving. He’s 8-1 odds in here and will need to overcome the far outside post position but he’s got the right pilot in Sammy Camacho—a 28% rider at Tampa. He could be ‘live’ in here. Another 8-1 shot that really ought to be examined closely is #6 Outshine (8/1) from the Todd Pletcher barn. Blinkers were added last out going 7 furlongs and the son of Malibu Moon responded with gusto and a two-length tally. He’s taken money in each start and has been favored twice. He could be a nice sleeper play. #10 Tacitus (12/1) is an interesting runner from the Bill Mott outfit. He’s 12-1 on the line and is going from a maiden victory around a one-turn mile at Aqueduct to a two-turn mile and one-sixteenth Grade 2 stakes test. That’s a big jump. This son of Tapit does get Lasix for the first time and has shown ability in two starts. Suggested $1 Tampa Bay Derby Trifecta Wager ($24) 1st - 4, 6 2nd - 4, 7, 6, 11 3rd - 2, 4, 7, 6, 11, 10 Race On!

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3.7.2019:

Previewing 3 Key Kentucky Derby Preps: Gotham, Tampa Bay Derby & Jeff Ruby Steaks

With three key ‘Road to the Kentucky Derby’ Points Races this weekend, more slots on the First Saturday in May will be divvied out to top three-year-olds.  Saturday’s Gotham Stakes and Tampa Bay Derby are 85 Point races (awarded in a 50-20-10-5 fashion) while the Jeff Ruby Steaks is a 34 Point race (20-8-4-2).  What’s that mean?  Well, since 20-25 Points is usually the cutoff for this year’s Derby, there’s a good chance four or five slots in the Run for the Roses will be awarded this weekend.  And with top names like Instagrand, Somelikeithotbrown, Knicks Go, Well Defined and Win Win Win in action, there’s something for everyone.  Before we get into the analysis and picks, let’s do some housecleaning. ‘MONEY BACK ON THE PREPS’ GUARANTEEHorse racing’s best promotion continues this weekend as our ‘Money Back on the Preps’ promo is offered on the Gotham, Tampa Bay Derby and Jeff Ruby Steaks.  To play, register for free and make a Win bet (up to $10) on a horse in any or each of those races.  If your horse finishes 2nd or 3rd, we’ll refund your bet!  KENTUCKY DERBY FUTURE WAGER POOL #3 We’re proud to offer the Kentucky Derby Future Pool #3 beginning at 12PM ET Friday and continuing through Sunday night.  Bet horses like Game Winner, Instagrand, War of Will, Code of Honor and Bourbon War and try to lock yourself into better odds than you’d get on May 4!A Kentucky Oaks Future Wager will also be offered this weekend.ALL-STAKES CROSS COUNTRY PICK 5Xpressbet customers can also play the All-Stakes Cross Country Pick 5 this Saturday, featuring races from Tampa Bay Downs (Florida Oaks & Tampa Bay Derby), Aqueduct (Gotham Stakes, Busher Invitational) and Oaklawn Park (Honeybee Stakes).  The wager begins at 4:57PM ET and look for Cross-Country Pick 5 on the Track List to play.  Now for the picks & analysis!   Betting Aqueduct First Post: 12:20PM ETKY Derby Prep Race: G3 Gotham (R10, 5:09PM ET)Other Key Races: G3 Tom Fool (R8, 4:06PM ET), Stymie (R9, 4:37PM ET), Busher (R11, 5:40PM ET)Key Wagers: All-Stakes Pick 4 (Races 8 – 11)Gotham Thoughts: I really think this race starts and ends with the brilliant and undefeated INSTAGRAND.  His connections put all their eggs in the Triple Crown basket when they famously skipped last fall’s Breeders’ Cup to freshen the colt for a spring campaign.  Well, here we are and it’s time to make good on that plan.  This field isn’t particularly deep, but it is loaded with speed and Instagrand will need to prove he can a) route and b) withstand legit early pressure. KNICKS GO has gone from a lovable longshot to underwhelming favorite.  He paired his longshot efforts in the BC Juvenile (2nd at 40/1) and Breeders Futurity (1st at 70/1) to favoritism in the G2 Kentucky Jockey Club and G3 Sam F. Davis and he finished 11th and 5th, respectively.  He’s trending the wrong way and showing up against other quality speed horses doesn’t help.MIND CONTROL looks like a need-the-lead type.  He dug in gamely to win the G1 Hopeful at Saratoga last fall and he won the Jerome here in January, but he never got close to the lead in the BC Juvenile after a bad start and couldn’t do much from the back.  Baffert’s MUCH BETTER makes the trek from So Cal and he’s Baffert’s 4th string, but that could be good enough for a check.  He was 3rd in the G3 Sham Stakes which, all due respect to the entrants, wasn’t a strong prep.  He’ll need to improve.The only horse, besides INSTAGRAND, that intrigues me is HAIKAL.  The Shadwell homebred son of Daaher is 2-for-3 in his career and while I question how much he wants to route, he is a quality closer in a field loaded with speed.  He closed to win the Jimmy Winkfield Stakes on February 9.  He won’t be a factor early, but he’ll be coming late.Bottom Line: Hard to pick against INSTAGRAND.  The connections left themselves little room for error in getting this horse to Louisville and, at this race’s core, he simply should beat these horses.  If he can’t, he’s not nearly as good as we thought.1. Instagrand2. Haikal3. Family Biz   Betting Tampa Bay Downs First Post: 12:12PM ETKY Derby Prep Race: Tampa Bay Derby (R11, 5:25PM ET)Other Key Races: Columbia (R7, 3:15PM ET), Challenger (R8, 3:45PM ET), G2 Hillsborough (R9, 4:19PM ET), G3 Florida Oaks (R10, 4:50PM ET)Key Wagers: All-Stakes Pick 4 (Races 8 – 11), All-Stakes Pick 5 (Races 7 – 11)Tampa Bay Derby Thoughts: WELL DEFINED was 7/1 when he won the Sam F. Davis Stakes here on February 9 and this field, from top-to-bottom, is probably similar in depth.  He lucked into an easy lead that day and if Pablo Morales is aggressive he may get a similar trip this time.  This gelding flew under the radar in the Sam F. Davis due to a pair of poor efforts in the G1 BC Juvenile (12th) and the Mucho Macho Man (5th).  Simply put, he went too fast early in those races.  The ML favorite is WIN WIN WIN.  He has lived up to his name in 3-of-4 races, including a breathtaking effort to win the Pasco Stakes here on January 19.  He scored by 7 1/4-lengths that day.  He’s never routed and that’s a huge knock on him, but he’s been closing like a monster in his last few races.  Note that Irad Ortiz Jr. makes the cross-state trek to ride him.  Todd Pletcher doesn’t have many Derby hopefuls this year, but OUTSHINE is near the top of his list.  He’s 2-for-3 and won an allowance race at Gulfstream on February 10.  Not sure how good he is, but it’s hard to envision a scenario where he shocks anyone with a big performance or two.  It’s not every day you get Todd Pletcher with Joel Rosario at 8/1 ML.Mark Casse’s DREAM MAKER was favored in the G1 Breeders Futurity (won by Knicks Go) in October and he came back at the Fair Grounds with a visually stunning 8 1/2-length allowance win on February 9.  I liked that Florent Geroux place him a little more forwardly than he had been earlier in his career and that made a huge difference.  He checks plenty of boxes.  Juddmonte’s TACITUS is a son of Tapit, out of G1 winner Close Hatches, making him the best-bred horse in the race.  He broke his maiden at Aqueduct by a neck in November and he adds Lasix here.  It’s a tough task but, again, Jose Ortiz made the trip here to ride for a reason.  Just have a feeling that the 4-month layoff may be a bit much.Bottom Line: The most wide open of these prep races and I wouldn’t be surprised by DREAM MAKER, WELL DEFINED, WIN WIN WIN, OUTSHINE or TACITUS.   ZENDEN is also a quality animal and I’m still chasing DUNPH, because I think he’s better than he’s showing.  1. Dream Maker2. Well Defined3. Outshine   Betting Turfway Park First Post: 1:10PM ETKY Derby Prep Race: G3 Jeff Ruby Steaks (R11, 6:37PM ET)Other Key Races: Animal Kingdom (R6, 3:33PM ET), Latonia (R7, 4:07PM ET), Rushaway (R8, 4:41PM ET), Kentucky Cup Classic (R9, 5:15PM ET), Bourbonette Oaks (R10, 5:51PM ET)Key Wagers: All-Stakes Pick 4 (Races 6 – 9), All-Stakes Pick 5 (Races 7 – 11), All-Stakes Pick 4 (Races 8 – 11)Jeff Ruby Thoughts: I’m the kind of person who wants to make a case for ‘outside the box’ horses but SOMELIKEITHOTBROWN is a standout and his participation in this race is a coup for Turfway.  This is a horse that came within a length of winning the G1 BC Juvenile Turf and broke his maiden by 8-lengths at Saratoga.  He’s never run a bad one on turf or synthetic and hard to think he’d do that now.  He won the local prep for this, the Battaglia Memorial, by 3 1/2-lengths on February 15.  Trainer Mike Maker has won this race four times since 2006.  Mark Casse’s SKYWIRE brings a lot to the table.  He was dominatnt in a Gulfstream Park allowance race on February 13 and he broke his maiden on the all-weather track at Woodbine in December.  He’s light on experience but there’s no reason he won’t – or can’t run big.  Bottom Line: I’ll find value elsewhere in the Pick 4 or Pick 5 and lean on the big two – Somelikeithotbrown and Skywire – here.  1. Somelikeithotbrown2. Skywire3. Dynamic Racer

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3.7.2019:

Weekly Bankroll Builder: March 8 Stronach 5 Picks

A little moving and shaking this week, with a revised Stronach 5 that will double up on Gulfstream Park and Golden Gate Fields, while still be guaranteed at 100k. 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: Laurel Park R9 (5:00 ET) – 3up 5k N3L at 1-mileWe upset the opener last week at Laurel at 9-1 and while the price won’t be that high on #1 SOUTHEAST (9-2), he looks in a good spot to surprise in his local bow for Potts after facing tons better in NY of late for Contessa. The horse to beat on figures is #3 BEST SURPRISE (5-2), but with a penchant for rounding out the tri and super, he’s a little tough to trust and the type you don’t want to stand alone with. I don’t know where #6 IN HIM WITH HIM’S (3-1) much-improved 2nd came from last time, but his speed, and good attack post, make him a big player if he doesn’t bounce.Pk5 A horses (listed in order of preference): 1,3,6There are a few that interest in the B slot, but I’ll use just #8 THROW THE DEUCE (5-1), since he was a bad actor at the gate last time and didn’t fire, but has some solid races to fall back on if he feels like running today. You could do worse than throw in in #9 Chocomount (8-1), as he looked good winning last time, but this is a solid rise in class, and that figures to be his undoing.Pk5 B horses: 8Leg 2: Gulfstream Park R10 (5:17 ET) – 3yo 20k MCL at 1 1/8 miles (turf)Stop reading and go straight to the window if you see 9-2 on #6 FINE SPIRIT, who drops out of a pair of Florida-bred MSW’s, goes from Leparoux to Irad, adds blinkers, and drew a ton better than he did last time, and looks poised to breakthrough at about 5-2. The chalk is #5 GO POKE THE BEAR (9-5), who has run well in the two times he’s been in for a tag, but you get the impression there’s not much upside left.Pk5 A horses: 6,5I’ve got no knocks on #4 JUST KITTEN YOU (2-1), other than he’s 2-1 while facing two who are tons better than those he just ran against, and is another who doesn’t have a ton of upside after four starts.Pk5 B horses: 4Leg 3: Gulfstream Park R11 (5:47 ET) – 4up 16k N3L at 1-mile (turf)A perfect post, two solid races at the level, and a weak field all point to #1 AFFLUENTIAL (5-2) as the most like winner of the sequence, so we’ll play it that way, especially since his main rivals drew terribly.Pk5 A horses: 1I won’t be using either #11 Slot Receiver (9-2) or #12 Marshall Eddy (12-1), but if you’re spreading deeper than me then they have the form to get a look, though these posts are as bad as bad can be.Pk5 B horses: NONELeg 4: Golden Gate Fields R5 (6:00 ET) – 4upfm N1X* at 1 1/16 milesIn what looks like a deep spread race, and the most wide open of the sequence, I’ll use five in the hopes of surviving, as #1 RENNY’S LADY (9-2), who drew well and makes the third start of her US career, #2 TIG TOG (9-2) has shown middling form against better on the turf at SA, #4 GOLDEN IRIS (10-1) adds blinkers and Lasix for her US debut and has some very good synthetic form in Europe, #8 THE SPIRAL JETTER (5-1), who bombed last time but had trouble, and has the best form of these, if she can find it again, and #6 WISH YOU WERE MINE (7-2) is another with solid form and usually runs her race.Pk5 A horses: 1,2,4,8,6I guess I’d be mighty hard-headed if I totally tossed #5 SHARI (10-1), as she beat ‘Mine last time, but note she was 69-1 that day, so you have to think she regresses in a big way here.Pk5 B horses: 5Leg 5: Golden Gate Fields R6 (6:28 ET) – 3yo AOC 40k/N1X* at 1 1/16 milesI’ve got to believe the winner of the finale comes from either #2 THE CREEP (2-1) and #1 OUR SILVER OAK (9-5), and I’ll go with the former, who makes his first start for Wong (25%) and drops out of several open stakes, including the local El Camino Real Derby, while the latter was facing Cal-bred stakes at SA and is unproven locally.Pk5 A horses: 2,1No one else stacks up with the top-2, so if we’re fortunate enough to be alive in the last leg, we’ll be comforted to know we have the two decisive favorites. Pk5 B horses: NONEThe tickets: Main Ticket: 1,3,6 with 6,5 with 1 with 1,2,4,8,6 with 2,1 = $60Leg 1 B Backup: 8 with 6,5 with 1 with 1,2,4,8,6 with 2,1 = $20Leg 2 B Backup: 1,3,6 with 4 with 1 with 1,2,4,8,6 with 2,1 = $30Leg 4 B Backup: 1,3,6 with 6,5 with 1 with 5 with 2,1 = $12

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3.7.2019:

Jon White's Updated Kentucky Derby List

The highly anticipated confrontation between undefeated Eclipse Award winner Game Winner and undefeated Grade I winner Improbable will not be taking place this Saturday. Game Winner, who is No. 1 on my Kentucky Derby Top 10, and Improbable, ranked No. 2, were scheduled to clash in Saturday’s Grade II San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita Park. But there will be no San Felipe this Saturday at Santa Anita. In fact, there will be no racing at all this week at Santa Anita. Daily Racing Form’s Steve Andersen on Tuesday broke the stunning news that “Santa Anita has cancelled racing indefinitely to allow track consultant Dennis Moore to inspect a surface that has been plagued by a rash of equine fatalities in recent months, according to Tim Ritvo, the chief operating officer of The Stronach Group, the track’s parent company.” In a Santa Anita press release issued Wednesday, Ritvo said: “As horse lovers first and foremost, we are deeply saddened by the losses experienced over the past several weeks. The loss of just one horse is one too many. While we can’t prevent every injury, we can’t overemphasize that the health and welfare of the horses and jockeys is our top priority. The track will be closed for live racing and training until our outside experts confirm the soundness of the track and let us know that it is safe to resume racing.” Racing this week at Santa Anita had been scheduled to be conducted on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Last Saturday an eight-race card was drawn for Thursday. But the track announced last Sunday that the Thursday program was cancelled “because of heavy rain expected the day before.” Last Sunday an 11-race card was drawn for Friday. But there not only won’t be any racing this Friday, Ritvo said racing will not be held this weekend, and declined to speculate on a date of resumption, Andersen reported. The next scheduled racing date is Thursday, March 14. But, according to Andersen, it was not clear on Tuesday whether racing would be held on March 14, Ritvo said. The San Felipe would have loomed large via-a-vis the Kentucky Derby picture due to the presence of Game Winner and Improbabl