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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 Improbable, a pair of biggies from the powerful Baffert barn. But the first 2019 start for the two 3-year-olds who rank one-two on my Kentucky Derby Top 10 now will have to take place at later date. Here is my current Kentucky Derby Top 10: 1. Game Winner2. Improbable3. War of Will4. Instagrand5. Code of Honor6. Mucho Gusto7. Bourbon War8. Roadster9. Omaha Beach10. Galilean No. 1 Game Winner and No. 2 Improbable appear headed to Oaklawn Park for the Grade II Rebel Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on March 16. As a result of the circumstances at Santa Anita, Oaklawn has announced that it will split that $1 million race if it attracts a sufficient number of entries. If the Rebel is not split, it will offer 85 total qualifying points for the May 4 Kentucky Derby. If the Rebel is split, each division will have a purse of $750,000 and 63.75 qualifying points up for grabs. “Oaklawn stands ready to help horsemen around the country,” said Louis Cella, president of that track. “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.” Both divisions of the Rebel would need to attract a minimum of 10 in order to justify the split, Cella added. If the Rebel is split, it will be the first time in racing history for a $1 million race to be run in two divisions. As for No. 3 War of Will, he makes his next start at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots in the Grade II Louisiana Derby, a 1 1/8-mile race on March 23. He’s three for three on dirt. The Kentucky-bred War Front colt has won this year’s Lecomte Stakes and Risen Star Stakes in New Orleans for trainer Mark Casse. No. 4 Instagrand, based at Santa Anita, is one of eight 3-year-olds entered in Aqueduct’s Grade III Gotham Stakes at 1 1/8 miles this Saturday. Trained by Hall of Famer Jerry Hollendorfer, the Kentucky-bred Into Mischief colt is unbeaten and untested in two career starts. Instagrand has not raced since he won Del Mar’s Grade II Best Pal Stakes by a little more than 10 lengths last Aug. 11. In his only other start, Instagrand won a maiden special weight race at Los Alamitos by 10 lengths on June 29. No. 5 Code of Honor won last Gulfstream Park’s Grade II Xpressbet.com Fountain of Youth Stakes by three-quarters of a length in a 9-1 upset last Saturday. Conditioned by Hall of Famer Shug McGaughey, the Kentucky-bred Noble Mission colt rebounded after a disappointing performance when he ran fourth as a 4-5 favorite in Gulfstream’s Mucho Macho Man Stakes on Jan. 5. No. 6 Mucho Gusto, another Baffert trainee, has won three of four career starts. His only defeat came when he finished second to Improbable in the Grade I Los Alamitos Futurity last Dec. 8. In his 2019 debut, Mucho Gusto splashed his way to a 4 3/4-length triumph in Santa Anita’s Robert B. Lewis Stakes on a sloppy track Feb. 2. The Kentucky-bred Mucho Macho Man colt might make his next start in either the Rebel or Sunland Park’s Grade III Sunland Derby at 1 1/8 miles on March 24. No. 7 Bourbon War rallied from ninth in a field of 11 to finish second at 4-1 in the Fountain of Youth. Not only did he display late energy, he galloped out in front. Mark Hennig trains the Kentucky-bred Tapit colt. Some believe that based on his Fountain of Youth rally and gallop-out, he might end up being the betting favorite when he goes farther in the Grade I Florida Derby on March 30. No. 8 Roadster debuts on my Top 10 this week. Yet another Baffert trainee, the Kentucky-bred Quality Road colt made a stylish return to the racing wars last Friday at Santa Anita. Despite a layoff, he drew away in the final furlong and won a one-mile allowance/optional claiming contest by 2 1/2 lengths. He recorded a career-best 91 Beyer Speed Figure. After the race, Baffert said Roadster is “back on the Derby trail.” The Grade I Santa Anita Derby at 1 1/8 miles on April 6 is a next possible start for him. No. 9 Omaha Beach, who is dealing with a quarter crack, looked good in a five-furlong workout that was timed in 1:00.80 last Friday at Santa Anita. According to Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella, the Kentucky-bred War Front colt is headed to the Rebel. Omaha Beach won a seven-furlong maiden special weight race by nine lengths in the slop Feb. 2 at Santa Anita. No. 10 Galilean also has designs on the Rebel for Hollendorfer. The California-bred Uncle Mo colt won the 1 1/16-mile California Cup Derby by 4 1/2-lengths on Feb. 18. THE NEXT 40 ON MY KENTUCKY DERBY RANKINGS Hidden Scroll, trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott, has dropped off my Top 10 this week after being No. 5 last week. Following his dazzling 14-length debut victory on a sloppy strip Jan. 26 at Gulfstream, he finished fourth on a fast track in the Fountain of Youth. Backed down to 6-5 Fountain of Youth favoritism, Hidden Scroll set a scorching pace and paid the price. He led through fractions of :22.80, :45.69 and 1:10.42. But keep in mind that while Hidden Scroll ran fast early in the Fountain of Youth, he ran much faster early in his 14-length debut victory. When timed in fifths, Hidden Scroll’s half-mile fraction in the Fountain of Youth was :45 3/5 and his six-furlong split was 1:10 2/5. In his debut, his half-mile fraction was :44 3/5 and his six-furlong split was 1:09 2/5. In the Fountain of Youth, it proved to be just too much to ask of Hidden Scroll to set such a sizzling pace and still win when making only his second career start, his graded stakes race debut and his first start around two turns. Joel Rosario was aboard Hidden Scroll in both races. Many have criticized Rosario for his Fountain of Youth ride. My take is that Hidden Scroll is a very talented 3-year-old who happens to be one very fast dude early, as he demonstrated in his debut. I am not so sure that Rosario could have taken the speedy colt back off the early pace in the Fountain of Youth without it turning into a wrestling match between horse and rider. That most certainly would not have been good. On the other hand, maybe the colt would have relaxed and rated beautifully if Rosario had gone ahead and tried to restrain him off the early pace. In any case, Daily Racing Form’s Jay Privman reported that Mott said Joel Rosario will not be riding Hidden Scroll in his next race. In light of how fast Hidden Scroll has run early in both of his races, I just can’t help but question whether he can succeed going 1 1/4 miles on the first Saturday in May, which is why I have moved him down in my rankings. But we should have a better idea about his chances to win the roses after he makes his next start. According to Privman, Hidden Scroll will be considered for the aforementioned Florida Derby, the Grade II Wood Memorial at Aqueduct on April 6 or the Grade II Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland, also on April 6. All three are 1 1/8-mile races. Mucho also is a Mott trainee who has dropped off my Top 10 this week. Mucho was No. 8 last week. In his first start since Sept. 3, Mucho won a six-furlong allowance/optional claiming race by 1 1/4 lengths last Friday at Gulfstream. Mott told Privman that despite that victory, it is “a fair assessment” that Mucho is off the Derby trail. Mott said Mucho will make his next start in Aqueduct’s Grade III Bay Shore Stakes at seven furlongs on April 7. I again have expanded my Kentucky Derby list to 50 this week. Here are the horses ranked from No. 11 through No. 50: 11. Vekoma12. Maximum Security13. Win Win Win14. Dream Maker15. Hidden Scroll16. Anothertwistafate17. Dessman18. Country House19. Signalman20. Nolo Contesto21. Spinoff22. Mind Control23. Gunmetal Gray24. Intrepid Heart25. Tax26. Harvey Wallbanger27. Sueno28. Well Defined29. Alwaysmining30. Limonite31. Tacitus32. Avie’s Flatter33. Long Range Toddy34. Standard Deviation35. Rowayton36. Kingly37. Mihos38. Call Paul39. U S Navy Cross40. Knicks Go41. Not That Brady42. Roiland43. Extra Hope44. Somelikeithotbrown45. Haikal46. Much Better47. Gray Attempt48. Laughing Fox49. Final Jeopardy50. So Alive MILK CARTON HORSE Uncle Benny, where have you gone? I have searched and searched, yet I have not read anywhere what is up with Uncle Benny. It’s as if he has disappeared off the face of the earth. When last seen in action, Uncle Benny finished second in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Churchill Downs last Nov. 2 for trainer Jason Servis. Among those Uncle Benny beat in the BC Juvenile Turf were Somelikeithotbrown (who finished third) and War of Will (who ended up fifth). Somelikeithotbrown won the John Battaglia Memorial at Turfway Park on Feb. 15. He is the 8-5 morning-line favorite in Saturday’s Jeff Ruby Steaks at that Kentucky track. War of Will, as noted earlier, has won this year’s Lecomte and Risen Star in New Orleans. Uncle Benny was supposed to go onto the Derby trail early this year. He recorded a :39.40 three-furlong workout in Florida at Palm Meadows on Dec. 1, then did not have another recorded workout until three furlongs in :39.80 there on Jan. 19. And now Uncle Benny has not had a recorded workout since Jan. 19. Mike Welsch wrote a Daily Racing Form story this week about Maximum Security and Final Jeopardy both eyeing the Florida Derby. Final Jeopardy won an allowance/optional claiming race at Gulfstream last Sunday. There were many Servis quotes in the story. Welsch even quoted Servis that he said “he plans to stick around” in Florida until May 1, as usual, and is excited about some unraced 3-year-olds with very good pedigrees. But was there an Uncle Benny update from Servis? Nope. Perhaps one of these days somebody will shed some light on the Uncle Benny situation. Until then, Uncle Benny is a “milk carton horse.” WINX BREAKS YET ANOTHER RECORD Charging home to take last Saturday’s Chipping Norton Stakes going away by nearly two lengths at Randwick, the iconic Australian mare Winx extended her winning streak to 31. Moreover, Winx just keeps on making his history. This was the 23rd Group/Grade I win 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. In Winx’s 2019 debut, she won the Group II Apollo Stakes by 2 1/4 lengths on Feb. 16 at Randwick. The 7-year-old superstar posted a final time of 1:20.88 to break the course record for 1,400 meters (about seven furlongs). Winx’s final time of 1:33.27 for 1,600 meters (about one mile) last Saturday broke the stakes record. She also won the Chipping Norton in 2016, 2017 and 2018. The iconic Phar Lap captured the 1930 edition of the Chipping Norton. Considering Winx’s current outstanding form, it is a shame that her racing career is nearing an end. She is expected to race twice more this year before being retired. Winx is to make her next start in the Group I George Ryder Stakes on March 23, followed by the Group I Queen Elizabeth Stakes 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. 368 City of Light (35)2. 360 Monomoy Girl (9)3. 341 Roy H4. 276 Bricks and Mortar (2)5. 207 McKinzie6. 166 Seeking the Soul7. 134 Sistercharlie8. 131 Battle of Midway (1)9. 121 Accelerate10. 66 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. 441 Game Winner (36)2. 388 War of Will (7)3. 371 Improbable (4)4. 308 Code of Honor5. 253 Mucho Gusto6. 172 Instagrand7. 135 Bourbon War8. 81 Gunmetal Gray9. 74 Tax10. 56 Country House

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3.5.2019:

March 5: Pompano Park Pick 4 Analysis

The feature at Pompano Park rolls in Race 6, a condition trot with a $5,500 purse. The 0.50 Pick 4 will be my focus. It begins in Race 5 and has a $15,000 guaranteed pool with a 12% takeout. The driver with the hottest hands at the Pomp on Monday night was once again Wally Hennessey, with four wins. Trainer Gaston Lareau led the conditioners with two pictures. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Race 5 1-Celebrity Stallone-Will toss last break in slop, risky no doubt but has been bet, can beat these if minds manners. 4-Tourist Attraction-Has been getting better and doesn't need a lot more to break maiden. 5-Jennifer-6/5 ML chalk is no lock but has been in the hunt, will look to others but not dismiss. Race 6 2-Noble Anthony-Draws well and fits but form has been dull, that said Simons should keep in play from this post. 5-Mego Moss-3/2 ML chalk makes 4th start at the Pomp for hot barn, get some class relief and Zeron takes a seat. 6-Miss Flora-Trainer hands lines to Hennessey who chose over #4, may get a trip for 1st win in 2018. Race 7 3-Zyura Bi-This is the 3rd start at PPk and Hennessey drives, bears consideration in a suspect field. 4-Kashe-Makes 3rd start off the bench for Team Henry, will take a swing 3-year-old can beat older at a square price. 6-Aquillo-Makes 1st start at PPk, hasn't raced since 9/4 but fits and is Ingraham's choice over 2/3/5, in this if ready. Race 8 1-Raile Workable-Gets needed class relief and is in the hunt if Minor keeps the 7-year-old on stride. 3-Diamond Dagger-7/5 ML chalk looks the part and also drops, this is a spot to shine and should be bet hard. 0.50 Pick 4 1,4,5/2,5,6/3,4,6/1,3 Total Bet=$27 Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia 

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3.5.2019:

Driver, Trainer Of Year Simply Know How To Win

For Aaron Merriman and Ron Burke, all those wins added up to something big in 2018. Merriman was named Driver of the Year for the first time after he won his fourth consecutive dash title with 1,141 trips to the winners’ circle, became the first driver ever with back-to-back 1,000-win seasons and scored his 10,000th career victory along the way. Burke, the winningest trainer in North America 10 years running, earned top honors by the U.S. Harness Writers Association for the third time this decade after he sent out 1,013 winners and his stabled topped $20 million in earnings for the sixth year in a row. This year’s award held added meaning for Burke, who handled iron horse Foiled Again before the sport’s all-time leading money earner was forced into retirement at age 15 to start this year. Foiled Again, who won 109 races and $7.6 million in his career, received the Stan Bergstein-Proximity Award. Burke and his primary owners, Mark Weaver and Mike Bruscemi, were named Owners of the Year. HOMECOMING MILESTONE FOR BRETT MILLER Brett Miller began his career as a harness driver in 1992 at Northfield Park in Ohio. He started the 21st century with seven, 500-win seasons in a row, mostly at the same track for trainer John Lee. He came back to his home state to drive full-time this year, just in time for another milestone. Miller, 45, won the 8,000th race of his career when Double A Goldrush won in the inaugural $25,000 Howard Beissinger Memorial Medley at Miami Valley Racing Feb. 22. Miller nursed Double A Goldrush through a one-minute half mile en route to a wire-to-wire victory in the 1-1/4-mile endurance test in 1:58.1. Miller continued hot after the milestone. He won seven races at Miami Valley Monday and closed the day ranked sixth in North America this year with 87 wins and seventh with $877,000 in purses.

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3.4.2019:

Monday, March 4: Mohawk Park Early Pick 4 Analysis

The feature at Woodbine Mohawk Park is set to go in Race 8, a Preferred Trot with a $34,000 purse. The Early 0.20 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 1-Kwicky Kwanzaa-Not my favorite horse but will respect from the rail with McNair in 4th start for the Shepherd barn. 5-Surf Report-Should relish the class drop and looks like a major player. 8-ER Quinn-Another dropper who could get the pocket behind #1 and pop at a square price. Race 5 1-LMC Mass Oak-Hung a bit in last but now draws the wood, beaten favorite can make amends. 5-Batting Stats-Comes right back after an easy win, best to respect chances for an encore. 8-Esquire-Finds a better spot versus this group, will take a swing for a price and hope Hudon works a trip. Race 6 1-JJ Powerball-Has been handled cautiously off the gate, rallied nicely in last and could be put in play sooner tonight. 2-Ill Be Back-Makes 3rd start on Lasix and this may be "go" time for Auciello and McNair. 5-Mc Pat-Last 3 have been on an off track, looking to see a better effort on a dry surface. 8-Speed To Market-4th start after a private purchase, looking for some gate speed to gain a good seat and then rally late. Race 7 5-Odds on Amethyst-Has been far back early versus better, now gets post relief and this could be a drop and pop situation. 6-Magic Night-Makes 4th start for Team Hensley and last was better, looking for the upswing to continue. 8-Bee In Charge-Claimed in last 4, had an easy win at this class on 2-23. Post could be an issue, but best to not overlook. My Ticket Race 4) 1,5,8 Race 5) 1,5,8 Race 6) 1,2,5,8 Race 7) 5,6,8 Total Ticket Cost) $21.60 for $0.20Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia

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3.4.2019:

Asmussen Masters Depth, Seeks Mr. Right

True, it only takes one to win the Kentucky Derby. In fact, barring a historic dead-heat, it will only take one each year. But even knowing that, I’m fascinated by the first two months of the year put up by Steve Asmussen’s endless bench of sophomore colts and geldings in 2019. From January 1 through the end of the weekend, Asmussen scored with 25 winners amongst the 3-year-old colt/gelding division. Mark Casse is the only other trainer in America in double-digits, and he’s far back with 11. Asmussen’s 25 totals more than Todd Pletcher (8), Doug O’Neill (7), Chad Brown (4) and Bob Baffert (4) combined. I took the fabulous database at Betmix.com for a spin to dive deeper into this incredible run for Asmussen. It’s not his first rodeo putting up big numbers for this point in the season, but it’s even sizably impressive for his operation. He had 13 such wins in 2016 through March 3; then 11 in 2017; and then improved to 19 in 2018. The gold standard for divisional January-February wins in recent times has been Todd Pletcher. He put up national-best totals 4 straight years until this one: first with 16 wins in 2015; rose to 20 in 2016; then won 16 in 2017; and peaked at 21 in 2018. Even Pletcher in recent years hasn’t really come close to the 25-mark flashed by Asmussen this year. Can Asmussen win his first Kentucky Derby in 2019? He’s come close in Louisville with superstars like Curlin, third in 2007, and longshots like Lookin At Lee, 33-1 runner-up in 2017. And we know he can win the Preakness, doing so with Curlin in ’07 and Rachel Alexandra two years later. Asmussen added a Belmont Stakes in 2016 with Creator. So the Kentucky Derby remains his one elusive jewel. He’s got the quantity in 2019, but the quality is still to be determined. You won’t find many of his horses on Top-10 lists right now. His 25 victories have come at 6 tracks: Oaklawn, Aqueduct, Fair Grounds, Sunland Park, Delta Downs and Sam Houston. Without a Gulfstream or Santa Anita on that list, you can see why some may be less impressed. His stakes winners so far include only Nitrous in the Riley Allison Derby at Sunland and Shang in the Louisiana Premier Night Prince at Delta. The Oaklawn trail appears to be for the taking with the Smarty Jones and Southwest Stakes winners both on the sidelines with injuries. Asmussen-trained Long Range Toddy has hit the board in both stakes and keeps punching. Barnmates like Captain Von Trapp and Laughing Fox seem to be improving through the local allowance ranks and could rise up. The new Oaklawn Invitational on Kentucky Derby Day will have a Preakness Win & You’re In connotation to it, so even this late, late bloomers may serve notice. At Fair Grounds, Limonite had a troubled trip in the Risen Star and would appear a legitimate contender in the Louisiana Derby. He’s widely panned as Asmussen’s A-lister right now for the Derby. Nitrous and Wicked Indeed could be Sunland players having run well in New Mexico’s pair of preps. Tikhvin Flew has been promising in New York, third in the Jimmy Winkfield and perhaps will get a trail shot at the Big A. There’s always Keeneland’s Blue Grass for any late arrivals or overflow sorts, a meet Asmussen frequents and supports. All the numbers in the world won’t assure anything. Barclay Tagg only needed one Funny Cide in 2003, and Art Sherman a single California Chrome in 2014. The Kentucky Derby cares little for quantity; history reminds us of that. But it’s hard not to be appreciative of the January-February build-up of the 2019 Asmussen brigade. Now he just needs to find a team captain.

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3.2.2019:

Saturday, March 2: Cal Expo Pick 4 Analysis

Cal Expo's feature is scheduled as Race 3, an Open Trot with a $6,500 purse. The highlight of the 11-race card comes in Race 8, the beginning of the 0.20 Pick 4. The sequence has a $40,000 guaranteed pool with a 16% takeout, and it will be my focus. The driver with the hottest hands on Friday night was Steve Wiseman with four wins. The top conditioners on the card were Kathy Plested and Luke Plano each with three trips to the winner's circle. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Race 8 2-Cantholdmebackmack-2nd start off the bench and doesn't need to improve much to win at a square price. 4-Justabitcrazy-Has had excuses, drops, likes the engine and could get the top without much effort tonight. 7-Prodigal-9-time winner in '18 drops to lowest level of the meet. Sobey's choice and looks like a player versus this group. 8-GD Rock My World-Recent form has been dull but can be in the hunt facing this field. Will respect connections. Race 9 1-Laissez Moi Passer-Recent form not great but usually wakes up at this level and Plano knows well. 6-Blue Star Jet-Versatile type tries hard but has had trouble sealing the deal, will respect versus this crew. 7-I'm Blue Too-Another dropping to a spot to shine in a competitive affair, short field should help. Race 10 1-Swagasaurusrex-Steps-up off a tripped out win but these are within reach, best when up-close, looking for same here. 2-In For The Chase-Racing well and fits nicely with this bunch, lukewarm chalk is a threat for Team Grundy. 7-Contemporay Legend-Will toss last versus better, back down to a spot to take a picture with the right trip. Race 11 2-Lookslikewemadeit-This looks like a good spot and the post draw will keep close with a shot to sweep by in the lane. 5-Lickcreek Speedway-Looking for a better effort on a dry track, if so, should be a major player. 6-Outlawintriguedbyu-Fits here and usually tries hard. Wiseman sticks, he's hot and should be able to work a trip. My Ticket Race 8) 2,4,7,8 Race 9) 1,6,7 Race 10) 1,2,7/ Race 11) 2,5,6 Total Ticket Cost) $21.60 for $0.20Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia. 

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3.1.2019:

Capable Fountain Of Youth Field A Big Challenge For Hidden Scroll

Just how good is Hidden Scroll?  Today we take step closer to the answer.  It’s difficult to imagine a debut as mind-blowing as Hidden Scroll’s was. Faced with an inside post and a mile test against 12 others that were good enough for bettors to see him postward at a non-threatening 8-1, the Bill Mott-trained son of Hard Spun gave a performance that earned him a quick trip against Triple Crown hopefuls in just his second start. After the 14-length demolition in 1:34 4-5, Hidden Scroll is the favorite for the Grade 2 Xpressbet Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream. The 1 1-16th-mile feature will be Hidden Scroll’s first vs. winners and first around two turns. There are several with quality stakes experience. The Fountain of Youth usually isn’t an easy spot and it looks like more of the same today. The Fountain of Youth is the 13th on the 14-race card and is the 3rd leg of the late Pick 4, which includes the Gr. 3 Honey Fox, the Gr. 2 Davona Dale, the Fountain of Youth and the Gr. 2 Mac Diarmida. If Hidden Scroll wins the Fountain of Youth the way he won his maiden, it will be a terrific shot across the bow of the 3-year-old scene. Among the quality runners in the way are Bourbon War, Vekoma and Signalman – all used on this suggested Pick 4 ticket. Bourbon War prepped with a win in an optional claiming race here on Jan. 18, and the Mark Hennig-trained Tapit colt is 2 of 3 with his lone loss a 4th-place finish behind Maximus Mischief. Vekoma is unbeaten in two starts and makes his 1st since Nov. 4 when he won the G3 Nashua at Aqueduct. Trained by George Weaver, the Candy Ride has a few good works to his credit leading up to this and he has the tactical speed that should keep him in it throughout. Signalman, a General Quarters colt trained by Kenny McPeek, could be the beneficiary of a speed war here. He has closed ground in most of his races, has a 2 of 5 record and can be dangerous with a strong kick. High on his resume is his 3rd behind Game Winner and Knicks Go in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Here’s the suggested ticket for the Late Pick 4 at Gulfstream Park:  Race 11) #1 Precieuse, #9 Bellavais, #10 Dolce Lili. Race 12) #1 Jayhawk, #5 Champagne Anyone. Race 13) #4 Bourbon War, #5 Vekoma, #6 Signalman, #7 Hidden Scroll. Race 14) #3 Melmich, #4 Hunter O’Riley, #6 Zulu Alpha, #11 Channel Maker.  50-cent Pick 4: 1-9-10 with 1-5 with 4-5-6-7 with 3-4-6-11 ($48).  Plus, don't forget the 3 Million Point Split on Gulfstream Park's three Pick 4's!

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3.1.2019:

Friday, March 1: Meadowlands Pick 5 Analysis

The Meadowlands has 13 races scheduled to begin the month of March with the feature rolling in Race 7, a condition trot with an $18,000 purse. The 0.50 Pick 5 starts the night, it has a $25,000 guaranteed pool and will be my focus. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Race 1 2-Justcallmeronald-Makes 3rd start for new trainer, gets class relief and McCarthy takes a seat, looks like a player. 4- Montalbano Bi-Off and on type and from this starting spot it could be all systems "go". 7-Dawson Springs-Will toss last and this is 2nd start for the Norman barn, looking for a more aggressive try. Race 2 1-Hammer Creek-Part of an entry and it won't be easy from post 8, but should be in the hunt. 2-Reilly K-1st start since July but had a good qualifier. This race is a hodgepodge, so will respect connection. 9-Storming Mist-Has gate speed, will need a trip plus also to mind manners, and some Gingras magic. Race 3 2-Juxta Cowgirl-4th start off the bench and last was better. Now gets some post relief, could be sitting on a big try. 6-You Should Be Here-Racing well and steps up, looks to be a player for a repeat trip to the winner's circle. 8-Stylish Beachwhere-Big try from 9-hole but fell short of #6, will respect chances for some revenge tonight. Race 4 4-Hammer Time-In sharp form and now draws inside of #8, barn has done well and could even the score. 8-Bizet-2-1 ML chalk will need best to repeat and must also mind manners. Will likely leave and get on the engine. Race 5 3-Magnum Mike-Beaten favorite broke and lost all chance at the start. Draws well and should be in the hunt. 7-Rather Swell-3rd different trainer in last 3 starts at the same class, needs a trip and now McCarthy steers. My Ticket Race 1) 2,4,7 Race 2) 1,2,9 Race 3) 2,6,8 Race 4) 4,8 Race 5) 3,7 Total Ticket Cost) $54 for $0.50Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia

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2.28.2019:

Xpressbet Fountain of Youth Stakes: Contenders vs Pretenders

The Road to the Kentucky Derby heats up in South Florida this Saturday with the Xpressbet Fountain of Youth Stakes, a key stepping stone on the path to the Xpressbet Florida Derby and the Triple Crown.  Among the contenders for this year’s Xpressbet Fountain of Youth are impressive maiden winner Hidden Scroll, G2 winner Signalman and recent allowance winners Bourbon War and Global Campaign.  Get to know the contenders below and find out which entrants I think are contenders…and which are just pretenders. But first, a note from the Promotions Department… Xpressbet Fountain of Youth Stakes Money-Back Guarantee We’re offering our famous Money-Back Guarantee on 23 key Kentucky Derby prep races, including the Grade 2 Xpressbet Fountain of Youth.  Bet your horse to Win and get your cash back, up to $10, if they finish 2nd or 3rd.  Xpressbet Fountain of Youth Stakes Money-Back Guarantee Xpressbet Fountain of Youth 3 Million Point Split We’re offering our popular 1 Million Point Split on the Early Pick 4 (Races 2 – 5), Middle Pick 4 (Races 7 – 10) and $750K Guaranteed Late Pick 4 (Races 11 – 14).  Hit one (or all three) to Split 1 Million XB Rewards Points for each bet.  Xpressbet Fountain of Youth 3 Million Point Split And now, back to the horses…. 1. CODE OF HONOR (6/1) Pedigree: Noble Mission (GB) x Reunited, by Dixie UnionOwner: W.S. FarishTrainer: Shug McGaugheyJockey: John Velazquez Last Race: 4th, beaten 7 3/4-lengths, in the Mucho Macho Man Stakes‘Road to the Kentucky Derby’ Points: 4 (#22 on list)Workouts: February 25 He broke his maiden going wire-to-wire at Saratoga in August and overcame a bad stumble at the start of the G1 Champagne to finish 2nd.  Despite a ‘bumped start’ designation in the Mucho Macho Man Stakes on January 5 he got away relatively well that day and was just slow into stride and came up flat down the lane.  It’s hard to find an excuse for that race, but it was his first off a 91-day layoff and Shug isn’t the type to have him fully cranked.  Getting the feeling that maybe that maiden race in New York wasn’t terribly strong (five of the eight who finished behind him are still maidens) and the depth of the Champagne can also be questioned.  Verdict: Can’t toss him completely but he doesn’t look like a major candidate here, especially on the win end.  PRETENDER.  2. EPIC DREAMER (20/1) Pedigree: Orb x Dixie Crisp, by Dixieland BandOwner: Epic Racing, LLCTrainer: Kelly BreenJockey: Tyler Gaffalione‘Road to the Kentucky Derby’ Points: 1 (#46 on list)Last Race: 4th, beaten 2 1/4-lengths in the G2 Holy Bull StakesOne of two entrants in the Xpressbet Fountain of Youth sired by another FOY winner (the other being Union’s Destiny), this son of ’13 winner Orb employs an opposite running style of his sire.  While Orb was a deep closer that burst onto the scene late in races, Epic Dreamer does his best running up front.  He took the field in the G2 Holy Bull to the head of the lane and succumbed late to a number of challengers.  Unfortunately, this race is full of speed horses and if he couldn’t hold off the late runners that day, I can’t expect him to withstand an early barrage and late barrage Saturday.Verdict: Know his name down the line but for Saturday he’s a PRETENDER.3. GLADIATOR KING (50/1) Pedigree: Curlin x Golden Dawn, by HennessyOwner: Thoroughbred Champions Training CenterTrainer: Jaime MejiaJockey: Jorge SolorzanoLast Race: 3rd, beaten 1-length, in the Texas Glitter Stakes‘Road to the Kentucky Derby’ Points: 0A late (and unusual) addition to the field, Gladiator King is blessed with one attribute – speed.  He’s made the front in a number of turf sprints and can cut sub-:22 fractions if need be.  That won’t get the job done on Saturday, but he’ll have an impact on the race.  Note the rider is winless in the US, with 11 starts combined between 2016 and 2019.Verdict: PRETENDER, but he may upset the apple cart for a few of his rivals.4. BOURBON WAR (10/1) Pedigree: Tapit x My Conquestadory, by Artie Schiller Owner: Bourbon Lane Stable & Lake Star StableTrainer: Mark HennigJockey: Irad Oritz Jr. Last Race: 1st by 2 1/4-lengths in a Gulfstream Park Allowance Race‘Road to the Kentucky Derby’ Points: 1 (#47 on list)Workouts: February 22 | February 8 He sandwiched victories around a disappointing 4th in the G2 Remsen but in his defense it’s tough to close into a race where the field goes slow early/fast late.  He’ll get a better setup in the FOY and his allowance win here on January 18 should’ve tightened the screws and knocked off any rust.  It’s a vote of confidence that Irad Ortiz picked him over Epic Dreamer.  From a weight perspective he gets in on the cheap (116 pounds, compared to 122 for Signalman and Vekoma) and the expected race shape should hit his closing kick right between the eyes.   Verdict: Major CONTENDER and very likely to finish in the Top 2 or 3.  5. VEKOMA (7/2) Pedigree: Candy Ride (ARG) x Mona de Momma, by Speightstown Owner: R.A. Hill Stable & Gatsas Stables Trainer: George Weaver Jockey: Manny Franco Last Race: 1st by 1 3/4-lengths in the G3 Nashua Stakes ‘Road to the Kentucky Derby’ Points: 0Workouts: February 16 He’s a perfect 2-for-2 in his career and I was very impressed by his stalk-and-pounce score over Network Effect and Call Paul in the G3 Nashua Stakes at Aqueduct in November.  He’s got plenty to overcome here – first two-turn race, first start in three months and first race outside of New York – but he seems to have what it takes to handle that.  He appeared to be much the best when working in company with stakes-winning older horse Breaking Lucky and you have to believe he’ll be ready to roll on Saturday if they have any hopes of racing in the Kentucky Derby.Verdict: He’s a major CONTENDER.6. SIGNALMAN (9/2) Pedigree: General Quarters x Trip South, by Trippi Owner: Magdalena Racing Stable, Tommie Lewis & David Bernsen Trainer: Ken McPeekJockey: Brian Hernandez Jr.Last Race: 1st by a neck in the G2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes ‘Road to the Kentucky Derby’ Points: 18 (#5 on list) Workouts: February 23 | February 16 | February 9He overcame an impossible post (#13) to finish 3rd in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, beaten just 3 1/2-lenths by champion Game Winner.  He came out of that race to win the G2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes by a neck.  Only cause for concern is the second place finishers that day, Plus Que Parfait, has since finished 5th and 13th in a pair of Fair Grounds preps.  Since he already has a nice basis of Kentucky Derby Points he doesn’t need to be fully cranked for this and I won’t be surprised if we see a bigger jump forward from him prior to his next race.  Verdict: He’s never run a clunker yet and hard to believe this would be his first.  He’s a CONTENDER but I’ll use him more underneath than on top.  7. HIDDEN SCROLL (9/5) Pedigree: Hard Spun x Sheba Queen, by Empire MakerOwner: Juddmonte Farms Inc.Trainer: Bill MottJockey: Joel RosarioLast Race: 1st by 14-lengths in a Gulfstream Park Maiden Race‘Road to the Kentucky Derby’ Points: 0Workouts: February 22 He looked as good as a horse can when he broke his maiden by 14-lengths in the slop on Pegasus World Cup Day and that he earned a 104 Beyer Speed Figure in the process puts him in Justify stratosphere.  It’s tough to knock a performance like that (and I certainly won’t try) but he did take advantage of what appeared to be a speed-favoring strip that day and the field he was in against may not have been strong.  Joel Rosario rides in from California to keep the mount and he looks like the type of horse that will be able to rate if needed.  And I expect that to be the plan on Saturday.  He’s going to be a short price and it’s a big step up from a one-turn MSW to a two-turn G2 but the sky appears to be the limit.Verdict: He’s not a stone cold since but he’s clearly a CONTENDER.8. GLOBAL CAMPAIGN (10/1) Pedigree: Curlin x Globe Trot, by A.P. IndyOwner: Sagamore Farm LLC & WinStar Farm LLCTrainer: Stanley HoughJockey: Luis SaezLast Race: 1st by 2 1/4-lengths in a Gulfstream Park Allowance Race‘Road to the Kentucky Derby’ Points: 0Workouts: February 24 He and Code of Honor are the toughest two horses for me to figure out in this race.  Both have serious credentials and will take money, but neither is without their questions.  Global Campaign won a first-level allowance race on February 9 under wraps in his first try around two-turns but I don’t like that his Beyer dropped eight points from his one-turn debut and visually he was slowing down late.  Was that a product of him getting tired or of him being wrapped up by Luis Saez?  And that race was only three weeks ago, so can he bounce back here?  He’s another speed horse and he’s drawn outside of Epic Dreamer, Gladiator King and Hidden Scroll so Luis Saez will have to work hard to carve out a trip.Verdict: He’s a good horse in a race loaded with good horses but I’m going to mark him as a PRETENDER this time because I don’t see him finishing in the Top 3.9. EVERFAST (20/1) Pedigree: Take Charge Indy x Awesome Surprise, by Awesome AgainOwner: Calumet FarmTrainer: Dale RomansJockey: Chris LanderosLast Race: 2nd beaten 1-length in the G2 Holy Bull Stakes‘Road to the Kentucky Derby’ Points: 4 (#25) Workouts: February 23 His last race was far and away the best of his career and he looked strong throughout the G2 Holy Bull.  He was 128/1 that day and came within a length of winning.  Kinda crazy.  He won’t be that price again but, as a handicapper, it’s tough to accept that race was the ‘new normal’ for him.  After all, he’d been beaten 12 1/2-lengths and 51 1/4-lengths in two prior starts.  His Beyer that day (83) was the first time he went above 70.  Problem is, this field just looks deeper than the Holy Bull and, even if he runs back to that race, he may not finish in the Top 4 or 5.Verdict:  I don’t think he’ll replicate his last race, making him a PRETENDER here.10. FROSTED GRACE (30/1) Pedigree: Mark Valeski x Class, by Thunder GulchOwner: Reeves Thoroughbred Racing & William BranchTrainer: Kathy RitvoJockey: Jonathan GonzalesLast Race: 5th beaten 3 3/4-lengths in the G3 Swale Stakes‘Road to the Kentucky Derby’ Points: 0He’s a nice horse, but he looks more like an allowance type than a G2 runner.  He performed decently in the G3 Swale against the likes of Call Paul and Topper T but he still finished 5th that day.  The connections couldn’t get his regular rider Paco Lopez (he’s out on suspension) and the outside draw in this two-turn race appears to be the nail in the coffin.Verdict:  Seems like everything is stacked against him.  PRETENDER.11. UNION’S DESTINY (30/1) Pedigree: Union Rags x Ms Anna Destiny, by AnabaaOwner: Los Samanes, LLCTrainer: Juan AvilaJockey: Leonel ReyesLast Race: 3rd beaten 3-lengths in the Smooth Air Stakes‘Road to the Kentucky Derby’ Points: 0Like the case with Frosted Grace, everything seems to be stacked against him.  His outside post is a difficulty that only an exceptional horse could overcome and he’s not quite that.  He ran a solid race in the Smooth Air on December 8, especially considering that was off a 4-month layoff.  You’d expect him to move forward from there but he missed some time in December and has been off nearly three months since that start.  With another post and maybe some more seasoning you could argue he belongs, but this field is too deep for that conversation.Verdict: PRETENDER.  I won’t be shocked if he goes on and wins something at some point (not necessarily a graded race) but the cards are stacked against him here.  My Top 4 Picks1. Bourbon War2. Hidden Scroll3. Vekoma4. Signalman  

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2.28.2019:

We Have Opinions: Johnny D's Xpressbet Fountain of Youth Picks

Gulfstream Park has a blockbuster Saturday card that includes 9 graded stakes races and an assortment of guaranteed wagering pools certain to make any horseplayer’s mouth water. Of course, top draw is an unusually deep, competitive Grade 2 $400,000 Xpressbet Fountain of Youth Stakes. Below, we’ve included a pair of suggested $1 Superfecta moves that total $48-worth of main event action. There are plenty of other chances to knock one out of the park-- Gulfstream Park, that is--including a possible $750,000 guaranteed Rainbow 6; a $500,000 guaranteed Late Pick 5; and a $750,000 guaranteed Late Pick 4.    How horseplayers attack Saturday’s Xpressbet Fountain of Youth Stakes depends on an honest assessment of morning-line favorite Hidden Scroll. Supporters will point to an outstanding first-out, maiden-breaking voyage on January 26. A repeat performance will win this race, answer a multitude of questions and cement him as a top-ranked Kentucky Derby prospect. Detractors counter that Hidden Scroll’s powerful performance came over a ‘sloppy’ track and that such efforts aren’t very often repeated over a dry surface. We’re not sure which camp has it right, but we have opinions. Horseplayers often are required to make difficult decisions. Budget restrictions dictate ‘you can’t use ‘em all.’ Therefore, a player’s got to separate wheat from chaff, peel from banana, husk from corn. Ultimately, he’s gotta break some eggs! How? Processes vary. The dart-against-the-program method has its moments. However, it’s best if players base final-cut decisions on a variety of factors, including price. If you’d like to wager against Hidden Scroll here are a few angles to consider: First, as previously stated, his incredibly impressive first out victory was achieved over an ‘off’ surface. He may not be able to replicate that over a fast track. Granted, he probably won’t need to run as fast to win the Xpressbet Fountain of Youth. However, the combination of him taking a backward step when others leap forward will be enough to keep him out of the winner’s circle. Second, he hasn’t been around two turns and some of his foes effectively have. ‘Scroll is bred to get the distance, no problem, so it’s only the experience he’s lacking. Third, first time out he may have run too fast for his own good. The huge effort may take some starch out of him. He has come back to work well since the race but would need to be a complete freak to move forward off that last effort. Fourth, he didn’t make his first start until late January and lacks as solid a foundation as some of his foes. Of course, last year, Justify re-wrote the record book by winning the Triple Crown despite a late February debut. Nothing like that had happened in well over 100 years. Fifth, he’s 9/5 on the morning line and could start at a lower price. That seems enough evidence to attempt to beat Hidden Scroll. With which horses? Here’s one man’s opinion of the Xpressbet Fountain of Youth: 1. Code of Honor       6-1       Velazquez       McGaughey This colt went wire-to-wire to win a maiden race first time out at Saratoga. Next out in the Champagne Stakes he stumbled at the start and was away last of 10. He closed well to finish second, just 3 lengths behind Complexity. At 80-cents to a buck in the Mucho Macho Man stakes January 5 at Gulfstream Park he disappointed in fourth. He has worked well since that race for a Hall-of-Fame trainer and is ridden by a Hall-of-Fame rider. Gulfstream’s surface doesn’t favor his closing style, but connections merit respect. This one probably will attract more attention at the windows than he actually deserves. Figure him as an in-the-money player. 2. Epic Dreamer       20-1     Gaffalione       Breen He’s got speed and set the pace in the Holy Bull. Expect him to do the same Saturday while taking advantage of an inside post position. Gaffalione takes over in the saddle for Irad Ortiz (#4 Bourbon War). He has a stout :59 4/5, best of 19 works at Palm Meadows to help his cause. There is other speed in the lineup so he shouldn’t be able to ‘steal’ the race. We’ll pass on him. 3. Gladiator King       50-1    Solorzano        Mejia He has won 3 of 10 starts but would need to elevate his game to have a say in here. Pass 4. Bourbon War       10-1     I. Ortiz             Hennig            A first-out winner at Aqueduct in November, this son of Tapit about split the field in the Remsen before scoring impressively in a Gulfstream allowance race. He’s won around two-turns in fast time and must be respected. Clearly, this is the deepest field he’s faced but Irad Ortiz has been nearly unstoppable at this meeting and the colt is sharp at the right price. He figures to come from mid-pack. We’ll keep him around. 5. Vekoma       7/2       Franco             Weaver This son of Candy Ride is unbeaten in two Aqueduct starts—a maiden sprint and the one-turn mile Grade 3 Nashua. He has enough speed to be close early and has followed through each time. He’s fast enough to fit with these and has faced acceptable competition. Lasix will be added for this race and he has a bullet :59 4/5 at Palm Beach Downs to his credit. His trainer is having an outstanding meeting, winning at 24%. Jockey Manny Franco is riding very well at Aqueduct but is 0-5 at Gulfstream this year. Much to like about this one. 6. Signalman       9/2       Hernandez       McPeek This General Quarters son broke his maiden second-time out going 7 furlongs at Saratoga. Second and third in his next two starts in Grade 1 stakes races, Signalman rallied gamely to win the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill in the slop. He’s improved in each start at 2 and this will be his first start at 3. His closing style is not a positive over the Gulfstream strip and he really would need to improve quite a bit to win this. Trainer Ken McPeek generally takes his time with horses, so this seems a prep for later. 7. Hidden Scroll       9/5       Rosario            Mott A hot rider and a Hall-of-Fame trainer contribute to make this one the favorite. See above for much more Hidden Scroll analysis. 8. Global Campaign       10-1     Saez     Hough This son of Curlin is unbeaten in 2 starts—a 7-furlong maiden and a mile and one-sixteenth allowance race—both at Gulfstream. He’s got enough speed to be on the pace and is out of an A.P. Indy mare, so distance shouldn’t be an issue. He’s added a bullet 3-furlong blowout at Palm Meadows since his last race. Trainer Stan Hough has won with 4 of 10 starters this meeting and jockey Saez is hitting at 21%. There are many things to like about Global Campaign so we’re going to key him in our wagers. Doubt he’ll be 10-1 but half that price is fair. 9. Everfast       20-1     Landeros         Romans He’s the most experienced in the field with 7 lifetime starts—all but one at a mile and one-sixteenth and all but three in graded stakes. He was dismissed at 128.70-to-1 last out in the Holy Bull and outran his odds by finishing second--one length behind upset winner Harvey Wallbanger. That race may have fallen apart late but it was the best of Everfast’s career. Still, he’ll need to improve even more to pull this one off. 10. Frosted Grace       30-1     Gonzales         Ritvo His claim to fame is a maiden win at Gulfstream Park West and a runner-up finish in a Gulfstream allowance race. He’ll need to improve quite a bit to have a say in here. Pass. 11. Union’s Destiny       30-1     Reyes  Avila This son of Union Rags has won 1 of 3 starts—at 7 furlongs at Gulfstream. He’s improved in each outing but would need to leap forward to be in the mix here. He did work an encouraging five furlongs in 1:00 4/5 at Gulfstream Park West—best of 22! He’s got a tough post, though. Suggested $1 Superfecta ($24) 8 4, 5, 7 4, 5, 7 1, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9 (For extra coverage add 1, 6, 9 to third leg-- $60 total) Suggested $1 Superfecta ($24) 4, 5, 7 8 4, 5, 7 1, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9 (For extra coverage add 1, 6, 9 to third leg-- $60 total) Race On!

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2.28.2019:

Jon White's Kentucky Derby List - February 27, 2019

Coming up later this week is the first Saturday in March. This, of course, means we are only a couple of months away from the coveted Kentucky Derby on the first Saturday in May. For the past several weeks, I have been putting together a Kentucky Derby Top 10 list. Here is my current Top 10: 1. Game Winner2. Improbable3. War of Will4. Instagrand5. Hidden Scroll6. Mucho7. Signalman8. Mucho Gusto9. Omaha Beach10. Galilean No. 5 Hidden Scroll and No. 7 Signalman are entered in this Saturday’s Grade II Xpressbet.com Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park. The 1 1/16-mile event has drawn a field of 11. The Fountain of Youth contestants are in quest of 50-20-10-5 qualifying points for the May 4 Kentucky Derby. Hall of Famer Bill Mott trains Hidden Scroll. Mott also conditions No. 6 Mucho, who makes his long-awaited return to the racing wars Friday against four rivals in a six-furlong allowance contest at Gulfstream. Mucho is an overwhelming 1-5 morning-line favorite. Mucho has not raced since he finished second as the even-money favorite in the Grade I Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga last Sept. 3. The Kentucky-bred Blame colt looked like he might be one of the best 2-year-olds in the country when he registered a 9 3/4-length victory in a six-furlong maiden special weight race at Saratoga in early August. I seriously considered dropping No. 9 Omaha Beach from my Top 10 this week because he reportedly has developed a quarter crack. The Kentucky-bred War Front colt “missed a few days” of training, Daily Racing Form’s Jay Privman reported. But I decided to keep Omaha Beach on the Top 10 for the time being because he still is on the Kentucky Derby trail. Omaha Beach, Privman noted, is “pointing to a mid-March stakes.” Omaha Beach’s next race will likely be either Oaklawn Park’s Grade II Rebel Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on March 16 or Sunland Park’s Grade III Sunland Derby at 1 1/8 miles on March 24. Hall of Famer Richard Mandella trains Omaha Beach, who splashed his way to a nine-length win in a seven-furlong maiden special weight race on a sloppy track Feb. 2 at Santa Anita. With the Run for the Roses now just a couple of months away, I have expanded my Kentucky Derby list this week to 50. Here are the horses ranked from No. 11 through No. 50: 11. Vekoma12. Maximum Security13. Win Win Win14. Dream Maker15. Roadster16. Nolo Contesto17. Dessman18. Spinoff19. Country House20. Anothertwistafate21. Code of Honor22. Mind Control23. Gunmetal Gray24. Global Campaign25. Intrepid Heart26. Tax27. Super Steed28. Harvey Wallbanger29. Bourbon War30. Sueno31. Well Defined32. Alwaysmining33. Limonite34. Tacitus35. Soldado36. Avie’s Flatter37. Long Range Toddy38. Standard Deviation39. Gray Attempt40. Rowayton41. Kingly42. Mihos43. Call Paul44. U S Navy Cross45. Knicks Go46. Not That Brady47. Roiland48. Extra Hope49. Somelikeithotbrown50. Haikal No. 15 Roadster, No. 16 Nolo Contesto and No. 17 Dessman are entered in a one-mile allowance/optional claiming race at Santa Anita this Friday. It will be interesting to see what happens when these three highly regarded colts clash. Hall of Famer Bob Baffert trains both Roadster and Dessman. John Sadler conditions Nolo Contesto. The powerful Baffert barn is represented by six horses on my Top 50. They are No. 1 Game Winner, No. 2 Improbable, No. 8 Mucho Gusto, No. 15 Roadster, No. 17 Dessman and No. 41 Kingly. In addition to No. 5 Hidden Scroll and No. 7 Signalman, the Fountain of Youth field includes three others on my Top 50: No. 21 Code of Honor, No. 24 Global Campaign and No. 29 Bourbon War. IS HIDDEN SCROLL THE REAL DEAL? Hidden Scroll kicked off his racing career with a dazzling performance at Gulfstream on Jan. 26. Displaying early zip on a sloppy strip in a one-mile maiden special weight race around one turn, Hidden Scroll drew well clear from his foes to boast a 6 1/2-length lead at the quarter pole. His advantage ballooned to 11 at the eighth pole. And then, without being hard ridden by Joel Rosario, Hidden Scroll strolled home and won in splendid isolation by 14 lengths. Hidden Scroll made 8-1 look like the overlay of the year. According to Privman, Mott tried to get four different riders for Hidden Scroll’s first race. The trainer struck out all four times. Each of those four riders had a previous commitment. That proved quite fortuitous for Rosario, who was at Gulfstream that day from Southern California to ride Catapult (who finished fourth in the $6.7 million Pegasus World Cup Turf) and Accelerate (who ran third in the $9 million Pegasus World Cup). Hidden Scroll not only won by a big margin, he recorded a 104 Beyer Speed Figure. The 104 matched the figure that Justify posted in his career debut when he burst on the scene early in 2018 at Santa Anita with a 9 1/2-length tour de force in a seven-furlong maiden special weight race. In Justify’s next start after graduating from the maiden ranks, he registered a 6 1/2-length victory in a one-mile allowance/optional claiming race on a muddy track March 11 at Santa Anita. The supremely talented Kentucky-bred Scat Daddy colt would go to win the Grade I Santa Anita Derby, Grade I Kentucky Derby, Grade I Preakness Stakes and Grade I Belmont Stakes prior to being retired in July. After exiting the racing stage, this country’s 13th Triple Crown winner was honored with 2018 Eclipse Awards as champion 3-year-old male and Horse of the Year. While Justify did not run in a stakes race until the Grade I Santa Anita Derby his third career start, Hidden Scroll is going directly into the Grade II Fountain of Youth following his maiden win. Hidden Scroll has been established as the Fountain of Youth morning-line favorite at 9-5. He is the only one entered in the Fountain of Youth who has a triple-digit Beyer Speed Figure to his credit. I am picking him to win. My Fountain of Youth selections are: 1. Hidden Scroll2. Vekoma3. Signalman4. Code of Honor Besides Hidden Scroll, the only two other Fountain of Youth entrants to have recorded a Beyer Speed Figure of 90 or higher are Vekoma (97) and Code of Honor (90). Vekoma is two for two. The Kentucky-bred Candy Ride colt, conditioned by George Weaver, is making his first start since winning Aqueduct’s Grade III Nashua Stakes last Nov. 4. Signalman likewise is making his 2019 debut. Trained by Ken McPeek, the Kentucky-bred General Quarters colt has not appeared under silks since he won the Grade II Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes on a sloppy track last Nov. 24 at Churchill Downs. Code of Honor attempts to rebound after finishing fourth as the 4-5 favorite in Gulfstream’s Mucho Macho Man Stakes on Jan. 5. Hall of Famer Shug McGaughey trains the Kentucky-bred Noble Mission colt. Bourbon War, who finished fourth in the Remsen, should not be taken lightly in the Fountain of Youth. Trained by Mark Hennig, the Kentucky-bred Tapit colt looked good winning a 1 1/16-mile allowance/optional claiming affair by 2 1/4 lengths at Gulfstream on Jan. 18. Global Campaign, like Vekoma, is two for two. The Kentucky-bred son of two-time Horse of the Year Curlin won a seven-furlong maiden special weight race by nearly six lengths Jan. 5 at Gulfstream. That was followed by a 2 1/4-length triumph in a 1 1/16-mile allowance/optional claiming race there Feb. 9 for trainer Stanley Hough. Rounding out the Fountain of Youth field are Epic Dreamer, Everfast, Frosted Grace, Gladiator King and Union’s Destiny. WINX POISED TO CONTINUE LONG WINNING STREAK Australian wonder mare Winx attempts to extend her winning streak to 31 when she faces six opponents at 1,600 meters (about one mile) in this Saturday’s Group I Chipping Norton Stakes at Royal Randwick. Chris Waller trains Winx and five of the other six Chipping Norton entrants. Winx is coming off a 2 1/4-length victory in the Group II Apollo Stakes at Randwick on Feb. 16. Her final time of 1:20.88 broke Randwick’s record for 1,400 meters (about seven furlongs), which had been held by Trapeze Artist. Winx’s 1:20.88 clocking was the fastest she has ever posted in a 1,400-meter race during her illustrious career. The legendary Phar Lap won the Chipping Norton in 1930. Phar Lap was shipped to Mexico and won the 1932 Agua Caliente Handicap in what would be the final start of his career. Iconic U.S. trainer Charlie Whittingham was at Caliente that day to see Phar Lap carry 129 pounds and win by two lengths while breaking the track record for 1 1/4 miles. Years ago one morning at Santa Anita, I asked Whittingham who was the best horse he ever saw race. “Phar Lap,” Whittingham said. “No doubt about it.” Phar Lap ranks high on my list of the Top 100 Racehorses of the 20th and 21st Centuries to have raced in North America. I have Man o’ War at No. 1, followed in order by Secretariat, Citation, Kelso, Spectacular Bid, Native Dancer, Dr. Fager, Seattle Slew, Count Fleet, Affirmed, Ruffian, Swaps and Phar Lap. Winx’s racing career is winding down. The word from Down Under is she will race twice more this year after the Chipping Norton before being retired. After the Chipping Norton, Winx is expected to run in the Group I George Ryder Stakes on March 23 and Group I Queen Elizabeth Stakes 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. 312 City of Light (26)2. 310 Monomoy Girl (7)3. 295 Roy H4. 237 Bricks and Mortar (1)5. 197 Battle of Midway (8)6. 171 McKinzie7. 139 Seeking the Soul8. 121 Accelerate9. 109 Sistercharlie10. 66 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. 394 Game Winner (31)2. 341 War of Will (6)3. 337 Improbable (4)4. 225 Mucho Gusto5. 154 Instagrand6. 149 Hidden Scroll7. 123 Signalman7. 70 Gunmetal Gray9. 70 Tax10. 57 Country House

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2.27.2019:

Weekly Bankroll Builder: March 1 Stronach 5 Picks

Another 100k guarantee in this week’s Stronach 5, which figures to generate a pool well in excess of that number. 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) – 4up 5k claimer at 1 1/16 miles We kick off the sequence with what looks like a spread race, so I’ll use more than a few in the hopes of unearthing a price. And, under that premise, let’s see if #1 SMART TWO A T (12-1) can surprise on the class drop and a perfect draw, as he was in over his head last time behind a next-out winner but looked good winning twice at Penn National, and has run relatively well here against similar in the past. Dropping out of that 2/1 race will also help #6 PROMOTE (5-2), who was well ahead of the pick when 5th, while also seeing a modest two-race winning streak get snapped. It’s a little odd to see Potts add blinkers to #8 MUCHO MAS GRANDE (4-1) after a winning run last time, but there’s some solid form here, and he fits nicely on paper too, so while this group is a bit tougher, he merits inclusion at what should be a decent price. You also have to use #5 TOP PROSPECT (2-1) in some regard, but note he was awful last time and all his recent runs have been at one-turn, so even though his best wins this, you’re allowed to wonder if he can still deliver it. Pk5 A horses (listed in order of preference): 1,6,4,5 There will be no B’s, since I’d like to think the winner is somewhere up above, but the logicals here would be #3 Flashy Jewel (8-1) and #7 Runaway Bull (6-1), though both have questions to answer and need to prove it. Pk5 B horses: NONE Leg 2: Gulfstream Park R10 (5:17 ET) – 4upfm 50k starter-allowance at 1-mile (turf) A tough race here, and it’s no surprise that post positions are paramount in this 1-mile turf race, so let’s take the well-drawn #5 BELLA’S GAME (9-2), who exploded to beat lesser last time and is in career-best form for Reynolds. When the pink and yellow silks of Mike Dubb go on you better take notice, which is what you get with #8 CLASSIC LADY (12-1), who goes off the Abreu claim after a troubled trip last time when 6th behind a few of these here, but with a clean run for a sharp new barn, and a jock switch to Saez, she looks like a major player here. Normally facing winners is a tough task, but #2 JOY OF TREASURE (6-1) is lightly raced with a ton of upside and look good winning in her first start for Kenneally last time, will offer value, and is another who got the best of the draw. There’s little doubt #12 AMAZING AUDREY (4-1) is the gal to beat after just missing when 2nd at the level last time, but she gets brutalized by this draw and will need to be sent hard not avoid losing a ton of ground into the first turn, which may make it hard on her to last late. The draw also hurts 11 SCATNAP (6-1), another who will need to be used early to get some position, but she has been in sharp form of late and rates a long look. Pk5 A horses: 5,8,2,12,11 Please note that in the Leg 5 backup ticket we’ll lop off #12 and #11. The two B’s have to step it up, but both #4 POUND NOTE (10-1) and #6 CALL ME KAYLA (5-1) are lightly raced with plenty of upside, and ran relatively well when behind some of these last time while both trying winners, so there’s reason to think both can improve today. Pk5 B horses: 4,6 Leg 3: Gulfstream Park R11 (5:47 ET) – 3f 20k MCL at 1 1/16 miles (turf) The universal single in the sequence is #7 IT’S COMPLICATED (8-5), who looks better than this extremely weak bunch, but #4 ABJURE (3-1) has run decent enough in both starts, has plenty of upside, and adds blinkers, which is an untested but solid 2-for-8 move for young trainer Norm Casse, so just maybe she can pull off the mild surprise and knock a lot of tickets out in the process. Pk5 A horses: 4,7 No one else with proven form is remotely close to the top pair, so unless firster #6 Let’s Go Baby (9-2) can run, and Kenneally has extremely poor stats with this kind, you don’t need to use anyone else. Pk5 B horses: NONE Leg 4: Golden Gate Fields R5 (6:00 ET) – 4up N1X* at 5  furlongs Arguably the deepest race of the sequence, but one with a ton of speed, so if it all stays intact this one could fall apart in the lane, which leads me to key on a pair of stalkers, #3 SEQUENTIALLY (6-1) and #1 TOMAHAWK TUESDAY (8-1), who both fit on paper, will offer plenty of value, and should love the race flow. I don’t know what to make of Southern California shipper #7 GOREN (7-2), who tries the Tapeta for the first time, but he is trained by Hollendorfer and ha rated in the past, so let’s use him. Lastly, I’m going to use a price in #9 HE’S A HABANERO (10-1), since he was visually impressive closing to beat maidens last time, in what was his first start in 370 days, and though he does step up, the pace and price make him playable. Pk5 A horses: 3,1,7,9 A hint of a rating gear will help #10 AMERICAN CURRENCY (9-2), who beat starter-allowance foes with a good figure last time, so he’s worth inclusion, though pressing/chasing and holding late won’t be easy. I’m against the ML favorite, #8 Mikes Tiznow (3-1), who just-missed when 2nd at the level last time while beating ‘Tuesday, but I just think he regresses today off such a hard run, while taking all the worst of it as a likely dueling leader. Pk5 B horses: 10 Leg 5: Santa Anita R5 (6:15 ET) – 4up Cal-bred AOC (20k/N1X*) at 6  furlongs (turf) Somehow, in a race down the hill, there’s not a ton of speed here, which means #8 LIL MILO (3-1), who won his only start over the course, gets all the best of it, especially with this perfect outside attack post to aid his speedy style. Pk5 A horses: 8 Knapp hits at a big 25% off the claim and #6 RINCE AND REPEAT (7-2) looked good rolling home against lesser down the hill last time, though his lack of early speed won’t help his chances behind the pick, so he’s relegated to the B line. The rest seem a cut below the top pair, so we’ll go it alone with just a single A and single B.Pk5 B horses: 6 The tickets: Main Ticket: 1,6,4,5 with 5,8,2,12,11 with 4,7 with 3,1,7,9 with 8 = $160 Leg 2 B Backup: 1,6,4,5 with 4,6 with 4,7 with 3,1,7,9 with 8 = $64Leg 4 B Backup: 1,6,4,5 with 5,8,2,12,11 with 4,7 with 10 with 8 = $40Leg 5 B Backup: 1,6,4,5 with 5,8,2 with 4,7 with 3,1,7,9 with 6 = $96

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2.26.2019:

Feb 26: Pompano Park Pick 4 Analysis

Tonight, Pompano Park has an 8-race card scheduled to start at 7:20 EST. The increasingly popular 0.50 Pick 4 sequence begins in Race 5, it has a $15,000 guaranteed pool with a very low 12% takeout and it will be my focus. Last night in south Florida the drivers with the hottest hands were Mike Simons and Rick Plano, both with two wins. The leading conditioner on the card was John Hallett with two pictures. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Race 5 1-Wesley Hanover-Simons choice over #3 appears to be most consistent of this group and the one to beat. 3-Stormont Dundas-From the inside should stay close and can use one brush to sweep by at 10-1 in the ML. 6-Passionate Miss-Broke in last, before then bet hard but didn't delivered, could make amends at a square price. Race 6 3-JL Joe-3rd start for new barn and was coming off a rest. Knows how to win, returns quickly and is worth a swing. 4-Casey Hanover-Camera shy, makes 5th start for new barn and last was better. Draws well and was Simons pick. 7-Totally True-Hennessey sticks and comes off a better effort, fits with this group and best to respect. Race 7 1-Tourist Attraction-Bred to be a stakes horse, was handled carefully but in 2nd start off bench that may change. 3-Celebrity Liberty-Comes off a nice qualifier and worth using in a wide-open affair. 4-Brandywine Battle-2-1 chalk is 0-23, but despite being so camera-shy best to not leave out versus this crew. Race 8 1-Expo-Comes off a nice effort from post 7 and now move inside, has been getting better and looks like a player. 6-Majestic Fire-Big try from the 9 hole to finish 2nd, ML chalk does look the part. 10-Foundonabeach-11-time winner in'18 hasn't been same, will need some luck but can take a picture with a trip. 0.50 Pick 4 1,3,6/3,4,7/1,3,4/1,6,10 Total Bet=$40.50 Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia. 

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2.25.2019:

Harness Highlights: McWicked Named Horse Of The Year

Time is still on McWicked’s side. As a 7-year-old in 2018, McWicked paced up a storm on a whirlwind North America tour that produced a 12-19 record, six stakes victories worth $250,000 or more and $1.57 million in earnings. He got a much-deserved winter break in Florida, but not before he secured a special spot in harness racing history. McWicked was named Horse of the Year by the U.S. Harness Writers Association last Sunday at the Dan Patch Awards ceremony in Orlando, FL., becoming the oldest horse ever to win the award. He also received Canada’s highest honor – the O’Brien Award – last month to become the 11th Standardbred in 30 years to win in both countries. He closed the year with four stakes victories at as many tracks, including a 4-length score in 1:49.3 in the $430,000 Breeders Crown Open Pace at the Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono and a 1:48 score in the TVG Open Pace at the Meadowlands. “He was absolutely awesome,” trainer Casie Coleman said after the TVG Open Pace. “He’s been awesome all year.” McWicked’s resume included wins in the Canadian Pacing Derby, William Haughton Memorial, Ben Franklin and Dan Rooney stakes, to name a few, and a personal-best 1:46.2 clocking in the Allerage at The Red Mile, the second fastest mile in history. Hall of Famer Brian Sears was his regular driver. The good news for harness racing fans is that owner Ed James of SSG Stables is committed to running McWicked, a $4 million lifetime earner, this year. McWicked received 86 votes, more than triple the amount of Horse of the Year runner-up Shartin N and a 2018 class that included five seasonal millionaires. But Shartin N didn’t come away empty-handed. She was named Older Female Pacer of the Year for winning 19 of 24 starts and becoming the first pacing mare ever to top $1 million in a season. Tim Tetrick guided Shartin N to victory in the $270,000 Breeders Crown for trainer Jim King Jr. and co-owners Richard Poillucci and Jo Ann Looney-King. Hambletonian winner Atlanta was named Trotter of the Year. She defeated the boys in the $1 million trotting classic August 4 at the Meadowlands and proved best in a talented 3-year-old class. Scott Zeron drove Atlanta for his father, trainer Rick Zeron, and co-owners Al and Michelle Crawford of Crawford Farms, William Holland’s Holland Racing Stable, Howard Taylor, and Brad Grant. Atlanta sold recently for a record $1.55 million. 

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2.25.2019:

Monday, February 25: Mohawk Park Pick 4 Analysis

Tonight's feature at Mohawk Park rolls in Race 8, a Preferred Trot with a $34,000 purse. The popular 0.20 Pick 5 kicks off the card, followed by the 0.20 Pick 4 sequence which begins in Race 4. Both the Pick 5 and Pick 4 will have a $50,000 guaranteed pool. Comments and selections below for the Pick 4 are based on a fast track. Race 4 1-Casimir Overdrive-1st start for Johnson and McNair takes a spin. Returns to big track at level where has won last 2. 2-Jenkins Creek-Gets post relief and makes 3rd start for Moreau, best to not overlook. 5-Lively Freddie-Gaps between starts but now comes back in 7 days, might be "go" time for Auciello at 10-1 in the ML. Race 5 1-Big Rich-Fits with this crew and Roy could end up with a pocket trip, camera shy but will respect connections. 3-Fly Beyond-Another who doesn't have to chase Cue Hall, makes 3rd start after a rest and McNair can work a trip. 5-Manofmanyimages-10-1 shot is a slow starter, but McClure steers and he could make a difference at a square price. 6-Bautista-Beaten favorite couldn't top strong winner, racing well and this is a better spot to shine. Race 6 3-Magic Night-Tossing last from 10-hole, makes 3rd start for Team Hensley, could be sitting on a big try. 6-Meadowbranch Memo-Slow starter broke worse than usual in last but rallied well, sharp and best to not overlook. Race 7 1-Cheyenne Ford-Claimed by Moreau and in fine form, looks to be a major player. 4-Reiki-Just missed in last and now joins the Gallucci barn, might be best chance for 1st win of the year. 7-Levy Taylore-In form and using despite being 1-16 at Wbsb, makes 1st start for Johnson and McNair will steer. My Ticket Race 4) 1,2,5 Race 5) 1,3,5,6 Race 6) 3,6 Race 7) 1,4,7Total Ticket Cost) $14.40 for $0.20Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia

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2.25.2019:

Seven Key Sophs Set to Return on Kentucky Derby Trail

Seven of the most promising 2-year-olds of 2018 have yet to start at age 3. But that’s about to change in a big hurry. Two are slated for returns in important bi-coastal allowance races this Friday; two more are expected in Saturday’s Xpressbet Fountain of Youth; the remaining three are on target for the San Felipe a week from Saturday. We are just 12 days away from knowing so much more about the 2019 Triple Crown chase than we know today. The Friday returnees are Roadster in a Santa Anita allowance race and Mucho in a Gulfstream Park allowance. Roadster was considered Bob Baffert’s hottest shot going into Del Mar last summer. He won his debut with ease and then was a surprising runner-up at 3-5 in the G1 Del Mar Futurity to barnmate Game Winner, who would go on to add the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and 2-year-old title. On the east coast, Mucho broke his maiden by nearly 10 lengths at Saratoga before finishing second in the G1 Hopeful and going to the sidelines. Bill Mott has had an exemplary winter already at GP with Hidden Scroll and Country House making statements. But Mucho still may be his best. The Friday tests are varying in that Mucho runs just 6 furlongs, but faces what appears to be an overmatched field and he should roll. Roadster, on the other hand, has a 1-mile assignment (his first around 2 turns), and meets respected maiden winner Nolo Contesto as well as stablemate Dessman, runner-up by a nose in the San Vicente. I won’t be shocked to see Dessman eventually scratch. Saturday’s comebacking duo in the Xpressbet Fountain of Youth is expected to be comprised of Signalman and Vekoma. Entries will be drawn Wednesday for the key tune-up for the Florida Derby. Signalman won Churchill Downs’ G2 Kentucky Jockey Club on the heels of a third-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile for Kenny McPeek. That barn already has won the Holy Bull this GP meet with Harvey Wallbanger, but (pun intended) would be happy to pour a double. Meanwhile, Vekoma has been training very well for George Weaver, easily out-working millionaire Breaking Lucky in a recent drill seen at XBTV.com. Vekoma is 2-for-2, including a victory in the G3 Nashua. He’s beaten some solid sophomores like Network Effect, Caul Paul and Mihos, but the Xpressbet Fountain of Youth would be his stiffest, and longest, test to date. And that leaves the potential trio of smashers for the March 9 San Felipe. Champion Game Winner (pictured above) has been aimed at this spot all winter by Bob Baffert. Now he’s talking about Improbable, the G1 Los Alamitos Futurity winner, also considering the San Felipe and limiting road trips early in the season. That alone would make for some March Madness. But then add in Instagrand, last seen winning Del Mar’s G2 Best Pal in August by 10 lengths; that’s the same margin he won his debut by last summer and sits a sparkling 2-for-2 by 20 lengths. Jerry Hollendorfer’s $1.2 million Into Mischief colt has worked in scintillating fashion of late as seen at XBTV.com. The San Felipe could be as compelling a mid-season Triple Crown prep as I’ve scouted in the 14 years of Countdown to the Crown. So while the calendar flips to March by week’s end, we’ve been treated to some very good performances in the sophomore class already. No one has been more impressive in 2019 than dual-Fair Grounds stakes winner War of Will. Baffert’s Mucho Gusto looked the part in the Lewis Memorial. Mind Control’s Jerome put him ahead of New York’s winter warriors. The scene in Florida and Arkansas has been more chaotic with huge upsets in the Holy Bull and Southwest. But starting this Friday, March 1, the roll call of sophomore stars will pick up in intensity at a very rapid pace. A dozen days from now things could look radically different in the division. These seven important stakes returnees from last year will have a big say in how we feel about this class. I personally can’t wait … TGIF, TGIF, TGIF ...

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2.23.2019:

Saturday, February 23: Cal Expo Pick 4 Analysis

The Shelly Goudreau Final with an $8,600 purse headlines the competitive 10-race card at Cal Expo. The co-feature is a trot which rolls in Race 4, the Joe Lighthill 1 1/2-mile Route with an $8,000 purse. The 0.20 Pick 4 with a $40,000 guaranteed pool and a 16% takeout begins in Race 8 and will be my focus. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Race 8 2-Along Came Jane-Came the back-half in .57 but slow pace hurt, will give Kennedy's choice some respect. 5-Gran Sam-Similar to #2 but raced wide and could couldn't close fast enough, 59.1 first half hurt chances. 7-Totally Racy-Drops to the softest spot this meet, looks like a major player and may get top and not look back. Race 9 1-Urgoingtohearmeroar-Winner of 7 straight gets an inside post for a change and this is his race to lose. 2-Blue Star Maverick-If #1 has an off night, Plested-Wiseman 6-year-old looks to be in line for top honors. Race 10 1-Timetoplaythegame-Makes the 3rd start for Longo, draws well to get on the engine and pop at a square price. 3-Gd Rock My World-Recent form has been dull, but this is a drop and pop situation. 5-Gravelsinmytravel-Trip dependent but now has a chance to find the cover he needs. 7-Ragin's Flight-Faded in last but gets Plano as Wiseman chose #3. Beaten chalk may ration speed tonight. Race 11 3-Western Devil-Showed some fight in last and steps up, will consider for an encore trip to the winner's circle. 4-Uringoodhands-Inconsistent but will respect versus this group, has won 11 of 29 at CalX and is Kennedy's choice. 5-Mortgage My Villa-Even effort after a judges scratch and now drops, program chalk should be a player. 7-Who Dat Love-10-year-old has won 2 straight on an off-track, steps up but best may be good enough. My Ticket Race 8) 2,5,7 Race 9) 1,2 Race 10) 1,3,5,7 Race 11) 3,4,5,7 Total Ticket Cost) $19.20 for $0.20Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia. 

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2.22.2019:

Friday, February 22: Meadowlands Pick 4 Analysis

Tonight, the Meadowlands has a big 13-race card scheduled to start at 7:15 EST. The feature takes center stage in Race 2, a Preferred Handicap Trot with a $21,000 purse. The 0.50 Pick 4 sequence rolls in Race 8, it has a $50,000 guaranteed pool with a 15% takeout and will be my focus. Comments and selections below are based on fast track. Race 8 3-Shady McCoy-Drops down to a more comfortable spot and post draw helps cause. In the hunt with a good trip. 4-Pappy Go Go-Should like the company and has beaten better here, likes the track and usually hits the board. 5-Di Oggi-Steps up after a tough trip win, will respect chances for an encore. Race 9 1-You Should Be Here-Nice effort from 9-hole and now draws the wood, can roll late and looks like a player. 2-Givemeyourheart-Does well racing close to the lead and it looks like a similar journey could be in play here. 7-Duck Duck Dragon-Tough opening 1/4 in last and was jammed up in stretch, using in gimmicks at 10-1 in ML. 8-Velocity Lana-Has had gaps between starts but comes right back and McCarthy sticks, will swing for a price. Race 10 3-Bizet-Broke at YR as favorite in last, now back to Big M where 4-year-old does best work, should be in the hunt. 9-Hammer Time-A bridesmaid in 3 straight but should like the company tonight and post helps the price. 10-Rubber Duck-Missed a start like #9 and has been facing similar, a fast pace helps and will respect connections. Race 11 3-Waltzacrossthewire-Beaten chalk is usually a player at this class and starts inside of main foes. 7-Just N Berlander-Not the fastest off the gate but if gets a good early seat chances go up, likes to roll late. 8-American Rage-Claimed and was a beaten chalk, comes right back and Gingras sticks but is 0-10 at the Big M. My Ticket Race 8) 3,4,5 Race 9) 1,2,7,8 Race 10) 3,9,10 Race 11) 3,7,8 Total Ticket Cost) $54 for $0.50Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia

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2.22.2019:

Gulfstream's Texas Glitter Draws Standup; Pick 4 Strong Challenge

It’s hard to imagine a better losing performance than the one by Standup in a Jan. 17 maiden race at Gulfstream Park. January 17: Race 7 at Gulfstream Park   Trainer Todd Pletcher thought enough of the effort that Standup faces stakes company in just his second start. Maidens occasionally win stakes events, and it certainly wouldn’t be a surprise if this one got it done. Standup is the 3-1 on the Morning Line on Saturday in the Texas Glitter Stakes for 3-year-olds going five furlongs on the turf. The Texas Glitter is the 3rd leg in the late Pick 4. The Grade 3 Hal’s Hope and goes as the 10th and the mile race on the main track is the one that will get the most attention. Standup’s debut was catchy. Going five-eighths, he lacked a lot of interest for a half-mile and turned for home ninth, still 12 lengths out of it. He improved to seventh, 9.5 lengths out of it and then uncorked a wild finish as he was flying at Yes I Am Free and was runner-up, only by three-quarters of a length. Yes I Am Free is back, but Standup has a good chance to turn the tables. Jackson is rapid and moves to the turf after never really becoming involved in the Grade 3 Swale in his latest. His only turf chance yielded a second to Bulletin, who came out of that and won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint. Jackson has only one bad start in six tries, and it was his last one. With the drop out of graded company, he can regain good form. Jackson joins Standup on this week’s suggested Pick 4 ticket. A race earlier, an evenly matched group will decide the Hal’s Hope. Breaking Lucky, Quip and Prince Lucky are worthy of a having a presence on the ticket. You could go many different ways in this one, but you’d probably want to whittle it down due to the 10th race, a sprint that is the definition of “wide open.” The ALL button isn’t often represented here, but it is in this case. Here’s the suggested ticket for the Pick 4 at Gulfstream Park:Race 10) ALL (10 horses)Race 11) #3 Breaking Lucky, #5 Quip, #9 Prince Lucky.Race 12) #2 Jackson, #5 Standup.Race 13) #6 Dearly Declared, #9 Comic City.50-cent Pick 4: ALL (10) with 3-5-9 with 2-5 with 6-9 ($60).

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2.21.2019:

Wanted to Know

Last Friday the wife wanted to know, “Are there any big races this weekend?” “Yes, honey-bunny,” I answered (we’re Pulp Fiction fans), “from now through the first weekend in November.” And that’s nearly completely true. In the roughly 2 months leading up to the Kentucky Oaks and Derby, there are ‘big’ 3-year-old races almost weekly and each provides keys to unlocking a treasure chest of first-weekend-in-May exotic wager payoffs. And what about the older runners? They’ve got some major challenges coming up, too, here and in Dubai. Since Arrogate and City of Light are gone, who will assume ‘top gun’ status? Based on that San Pasqual tussle, Battle of Midway and McKinzie seem likely, but that could change. Then there are the older fillies and mare to consider, plus grass tests for all ages and both sexes, currently offered only in California, Florida and New Orleans. Don’t look now but it’s already late February and that’s the shortest month in captivity. Soon, spring will be sprung! March will rapidly come and go, and April will accompany superb grass racing at Belmont and Keeneland. In May, after Derby there’s Preakness, then in June, Belmont and Royal Ascot. NYRA has sweetened July by adding two initial legs of new, rich, sophomore turf triples. They’ve also moved Saratoga’s launch to a week earlier on the calendar and jettisoned Monday Spa racing. That last maneuver was necessary, but unfair. Mondays already are universally despised; seven of them just got even more tedious. In a break with tradition, Monmouth’s Haskell, gem of the summer seaside stand, has been moved from a traditional July Sunday to the day before--a Saturday. It will be interesting to see how loyal fans react to the switch, but it does give trainers and owners an extra 24 hours to consider running back in the Travers. August highlights include the aforementioned Mid-Summer Derby, Pacific Classic, Arlington Million and much more. 2-year-olds--an entirely new group of manes and hooves—also contribute to serious August action. As with elders in other divisions, serious freshman begin a full-throttle drive in September and October in pre-Breeders’ Cup opportunities. Huge racing days on both coasts accompany the seasonal leaf discharge and the much-anticipated arrival of flying pigskins. So, honey bunny, there’s no need to ask, “Are there any big races this weekend?” There are. Last weekend’s racing action extended into a special holiday Monday—President’s Day—when Oaklawn Park presented a stakes-studded card highlighted by the Southwest Stakes--a Kentucky Derby prep race with 17 Louisville starting-gate qualifying points (10-4-2-1). Longshot Super Steed upended the apple cart, live NYRA National Pick 5 tickets, and the entire Arkansas sophomore picture with a sweeping, breathtaking move off the turn that carried him to the front and to victory at 62.30-to-1. Cutting Humor, a Todd Pletcher-trained invader from Gulfstream Park, was the nearly 5/2 favorite in the race, but could only manage seventh. Local Smarty Jones Stakes winner and Southwest second choice Gray Attempt finished last of 11. Super Steed’s shocking form reversal casts shade on Natural State-based sophomores. However, Oaklawn Park’s most recent Kentucky Derby winner’s circle representatives were Hot Springs invaders—Smarty Jones, from the east, and American Pharoah, from the west—so let’s see who shows up for the Rebel and Arkansas Derby. War of Will made it two-for-two in Fair Grounds 3-year-old stakes races when he parlayed a Lecomte win into an impressive Risen Star tally. He’s got the kind of high cruising speed style that’s been key to recent Kentucky Derby successes. With 60 Derby qualifying points beside his name the War Front colt already has sufficient collateral for a spot in the Kentucky Derby starting gate. All he has to do is to get there healthy—not an inconsequential feat. Trainer Mark Casse is a 2019 Hall-of-Fame candidate, so the colt’s in capable hands. War of Will is the early favorite for the Louisiana Derby, but it will be interesting to see who arrives from out of town to challenge him over a track he obviously adores. Horsemen typically avoid such razor-sharp foes like they do black cats, but the quest for Derby starting-gate points forces hands. Second in the Louisiana Derby is worth 40 points, normally enough to earn a spot in the Louisville gate. The Risen Star launched the Road to the Kentucky Derby presented by Woodford Reserve’s ‘Championship Series’ where winners can earn 50 points each—and a nearly guaranteed spot in the Derby starting gate. Gulfstream’s Xpressbet.com Fountain of Youth (March 2); Aqueduct’s Gotham, Santa Anita’s San Felipe, Tampa Bay’s Derby (March 9); Oaklawn’s Rebel (March 16) and Sunland’s Derby (March 24) all are worth 50-20-10-5 points to first four finishers. The El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate on Saturday—awarding 10-4-2-1 Derby points and an automatic Preakness berth to the winner—was dominated by 6/5 favorite Anothertwistafate. The son of Scat Daddy played hide-and-don’t-bother-to-seek as he assumed early command from Kingly, a Bob Baffert trained, SoCal-based, third-string shipper and drew away strongly in the stretch. Despite jumping back to his left lead late, Anothertwistafate was picking ‘em up and laying ‘em down with authority in the lane. Had this performance come over a dirt surface against similar foes, this one’s Derby prospects would be grand. However, Golden Gate has synthetic footing and horses usually favor either dirt or artificial, rarely both. A winner of three of four starts, Anothertwistafate hasn’t seen another runner in front of him at any point in his last three races. That’s impressive. However, in his only dirt start first time out in a maiden allowance at Santa Anita he was ninth beaten 15 lengths. Soph filly Serengetti Empress was a convincing winner of the Rachel Alexandra and moves near the top of any Kentucky Oaks discussion--if there ever is one. It’s a bit of a shame that soph colts and geldings hog the headlines, but that’s life in the big city. While Oaks Day certainly has become an established event on the racing calendar, the race still seems little more than an undercard event supporting a heavyweight title fight.   One female garnering a lion’s share of international coverage is Winx. If you don’t know of her, do yourself a favor and go online to watch her races. There’s no shortage of YouTube videos highlighting the ‘Queen from Down Under’ in her thrilling come-from-behind victories. She won her 30th consecutive race Friday (or Saturday depending on your continent) and, although I’m a huge fan, I didn’t avoid sleep to see it live. Good thing. The replay was a carbon copy of what she’s done on numerous past occasions—win under a confident ride by Hugh Bowman. Supporters believe Winx is a wonder horse. Critics agree, as in ‘wonder’ what level of competition she’s beaten for those 30 victories? Personally, I don’t care who she’s been whipping. Scoreboard! 30-for-30 is special. The stuff of DiMaggio, Chamberlain and Williams. Her streak now has extended across several seasons and horsemen will agree that makes it an even more incredible accomplishment. Critics and supporters agree that they’d like to see Winx take her show on the road to Britain or to the US to face the best in the world. If I were representing Breeders’ Cup, I’d back a Brink’s truck up to her stall and negotiate a way to get her to Santa Anita in November. She’s a legitimate international draw that will put fannies in the seats and deliver an international boost in interest and handle.   Race On! 

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2.21.2019:

War of Will: A Budding Superstar?

Did a superstar win last Saturday’s Risen Star Stakes? To be perfectly candid, I would not call Risen Star winner War of Will a superstar. Not yet. Among recent Thoroughbreds, who would I call a superstar? My list would include Zenyatta, Rachel Alexandra, Curlin, Wise Dan, California Chrome, American Pharoah, Arrogate, Beholder, Gun Runner and Justify. Do I think War of Will belongs in that group? Not at this point. But there is plenty of time for War of Will to prove to me that he is indeed a superstar. It does seem he has that kind of potential. After all, so far he has been unbeatable when racing on the dirt. He’s now three for three when competing on the dirt after going winless in the first four starts of his career when racing on the grass. There is one person who is calling War of Will a superstar. It’s the colt’s trainer, Mark Casse. And to War of Will’s credit, he certainly keeps doing his very best to live up to his trainer’s high praise. One reason I believe the day may come when I will feel that War of Will deserves to be put into the superstar category is my tremendous respect for Casse. When a trainer with such an impressive resume as Casse’s says War of Will is a superstar, it suggests to me that it just might turn out to be so. Casse, a member of the Canadian Hall of Fame, has made it onto this country’s Hall of Fame ballot again this year after appearing on it in 2017 and 2018. The 58-year-old Casse has trained Eclipse Award winners Tepin, Classic Empire, World Approval and Shamrock Rose. So this is a trainer who is quite familiar with outstanding equine athletes. Earlier this year on Jan. 29, War of Will collaborated with jockey Tyler Gaffalione to win the Grade III Lecomte Stakes at Fair Grounds Race Course and Slots. The Kentucky-bred son of War Front won by four lengths and defeated 11 opponents when racing one mile and 70 yards on that occasion. “He’s an absolute superstar,” Casse said of War of Will after the Lecomte. War of Will then took last Saturday’s Grade II Risen Star on the same track last Saturday in dominating fashion while polishing off 13 foes. After the 1 1/16-mile Risen Star, Casse said this: “I’ve been fortunate to train a lot of good horses. He’s one of the best. I think he’s a superstar.” Whether or not you agree with Casse that War of Will is a superstar, the attractive bay colt managed to win the Risen Star despite breaking from post 13. Before the race, Casse had said of the unenviable post position, “If he’s as good as we think he is, it shouldn’t matter.” It didn’t matter. Casse and Gaffalione understandably did not want War of Will to get fanned wide into the first turn. They achieved that goal. After War of Will exited the gate in fine fashion, Gaffalione utilized the colt’s tactical zip to quickly secure a forward position. War of Will entered the first turn while racing in the two path. Because War of Will began from post 13, “Tyler had to hit the gas pedal a little hard early,” Casse said, noting that it did get the colt a little cranked up. Indeed, War of Will was fairly headstrong in the early stages, though it was not as if he became rank or difficult to handle. War of Will readily wrested the lead away from pacesetter Gun It on the far turn. By the time War of Will reached the eighth pole, he had opened a 2 1/2-length advantage. He went on to prevail by 2 1/4 lengths in 1:44.59 as the even-money favorite. War of Will also galloped out strongly after the finish. The fractions were :23.71, :47.36, 1:12.20 and 1:37.87. In Jay Privman’s analysis of the race for the Daily Racing Form, he noted that War of Will “ran well in a race whose shape benefitted late runners. The second-, third- and fourth-place finishers were 12th, 13th and 14th in the 14-horse field early, and of the three leaders, War of Will finished first while the other two wound up 11th and 12th.” Country House, a Florida shipper trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott, rallied from 12th to finish second at 6-1. Roiland, last early at odds of 69-1, came in third, 1 1/2 lengths behind Country House. I wrote this last week: “Country House, listed at 20-1 on the Risen Star morning line, intrigues me as someone who looks capable of making his presence felt.” Though Country House did finish second in the Risen Star, it was far from a smooth ride for jockey Luis Saez. The Kentucky-bred Lookin At Lucky colt was lugging in during the stretch run. As I watched Country House lug in, it brought back memories of Gate Dancer. Back in the 1980s, Gate Dancer became infamous for lugging in. The Jack Van Berg-trained colt also is remembered for racing with earmuffs. During the stretch run of the 1984 Kentucky Derby, Gate Dancer lugged in and repeatedly bumped Fali Time hard. Poor little Fali Time got mugged that day. Gate Dancer finished fourth, then was disqualified and placed fifth, behind Fali Time. Gate Dancer has the dubious distinction of being the only horse ever disqualified for a race foul in the 144-year history of the Kentucky Derby. After the 1984 Kentucky Derby, Gate Dancer did go on to win the Preakness Stakes two weeks later. However, as a result of once again lugging in, Gate Dancer was disqualified in another big race the following year. After Gate Dancer finished second in the inaugural Breeders’ Cup Classic at Hollywood Park in 1984, he was disqualified and placed third for “causing severe interference in the final sixteenth,” as stated in the official Daily Racing Form chart. THIS WEEK’S KENTUCKY DERBY TOP 10 In the wake of War of Will’s Risen Star triumph, he moves up to No. 3 on my Kentucky Derby Top 10 list after being No. 5 last week. Here is my current Kentucky Derby Top 10: 1. Game Winner2. Improbable3. War of Will4. Instagrand5. Hidden Scroll6. Mucho7. Signalman8. Mucho Gusto9. Omaha Beach10. Galilean Galilean is a newcomer to my Top 10. He won Monday’s California Cup Derby comfortably by 4 1/2 lengths as an overwhelming 1-20 favorite with Flavian Prat in the saddle. “Galilean and Flavien Prat waltz home,” was how Santa Anita track announcer Frank Mirahmadi accurately put it during his race call. Trained by Hall of Famer Jerry Hollendorfer, Galilean is a California-bred Uncle Mo colt. Uncle Mo was voted a 2010 Eclipse Award as champion 2-year-old male. Can a Cal Cup Derby winner go on to capture the Kentucky Derby? Yes. California Chrome won both races in 2014 while on his way to being voted Eclipse Awards that season as champion 3-year-old male and Horse of the Year. California Chrome received two more Eclipse Awards in 2016 as older dirt male and Horse of the Year. A $600,000 auction purchase, Galilean has three wins and a second from four career starts. All four of his races have been in restricted races, but he is expected to compete in a graded stakes race next time to try and earn Kentucky Derby points. Galilean has zero points at this time. Galilean’s Cal Cup Derby win produced a Beyer Speed Figure of 84. When California Chrome won the Cal Cup Derby, he received an 88 Beyer Speed Figure. California Chrome then recorded a 108 Beyer in his next start when victorious in Santa Anita’s Grade II San Felipe Stakes before going on to win the Santa Ania Derby (107 Beyer), Kentucky Derby (97 Beyer) and Preakness Stakes (105 Beyer). To make room for Galilean on my Top 10, I reluctantly dropped Vekoma. Undefeated in two starts and winner of last year’s Grade III Nashua Stakes at Aqueduct, Vekoma is to make his first 2019 start in Gulfstream Park’s Grade II Fountain of Youth Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on March 2. Vekoma certainly has the opportunity to earn his way back onto my Top 10 if he wins or runs well in defeat in the Fountain of Youth. I nearly dropped No. 6 Mucho instead of Vekoma off my Top 10 this week. Mucho had been on a regular workout regimen for Mott at Payson Park in Florida, but then there was a gap. After recording workouts on Jan. 6, Jan. 13, Jan. 21, Jan. 29 and Feb. 4, Mucho did not work again until this week on Tuesday, Feb. 19. But not only did Mucho have a workout Tuesday, he stepped four furlongs in a brisk :48.00, a sharp drill that kept him on this week’s Top 10. Privman reported Mucho will make his 3-year-old debut “in March,” according to Mott. Mott also trains No. 5 Hidden Scroll, who registered a 14-length win at 8-1 when he kicked off his racing career vs. maidens in a one-mile race on a sloppy track Jan. 26 at Gulfstream Park. The Kentucky-bred Hard Spun colt worked four furlongs at Payson Park in :49.80 on Feb. 8 and the same distance in :50.00 on the same surface Feb. 15. Hidden Scroll makes his next start in the Fountain of Youth. Speaking of Hard Spun (runner-up to Street Sense in the 2007 Kentucky Derby), his trainer, Larry Jones, pulled off a gigantic upset with Super Steed in Oaklawn Park’s Grade III Southwest Stakes at 1 1/16 miles Monday. Ninth early in what was a roughly run race, Super Steed passed rivals with a rush while quite wide on the far turn and won by three-quarters of a length after having opened up a three-length lead with a furlong to go. Super Steed’s rider, Terry Thompson, dropped his whip in the vicinity of the eighth pole, a detail not included in the original Equibase chart. Sueno, an improving Southern California invader, came home willingly in the Southwest after being boxed in on the far turn. He finished second at 7-1. Long Range Toddy, also sent off at 7-1, ended up third in the field of 11. Cutting Humor, the 2-1 favorite, came in seventh. Gray Attempt finished last at 7-2 in the field of 11 after showing early speed. Super Steed paid a whopping $126.60 for each $2 win ticket. He is a Kentucky-bred son of 2010 Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver and the Elusive Quality mare Totally Tucker. Elusive Quality sired 2004 Kentucky Derby winner Smarty Jones. War of Will and Super Steed both were victorious on a sloppy track at Churchill Downs last Nov. 24. War of Will, racing on dirt for the first time that day, won a maiden race at 1 1/16 miles by five lengths in 1:45.45. Earlier that day, Super Steed won a 6 1/2-furlong allowance/optional claiming contest by six lengths in 1:17.34. On that same card, Signalman captured the Grade II Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes by a neck in 1:45.29 while making his final start at 2. Signalman is scheduled to make his 3-year-old debut in either the Fountain of Youth or Grade II Tampa Bay Derby on March 9. The Risen Star offered 50-20-10-5 qualifying points for the May 4 Kentucky Derby. War of Will now has accrued a total of 60 points to move to the top of the leaderboard. His 60 points has secured a berth in the Kentucky Derby field. Game Winner, ranked No. 1 on my Top 10, is second on the leaderboard with 30 Kentucky Derby points. He continues gearing up for his 2019 debut, as is No. 2 Improbable. They both reside in the powerful Bob Baffert barn at Santa Anita. Privman broke the surprising news that Baffert said Tuesday “there is a very good chance” Game Winner and Improbable could run against each other in Santa Anita’s Grade II San Felipe Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on March 9. The expectation had been that one of them would run in the San Felipe, while the other one would go to Oaklawn Park for the Rebel Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on March 16. “I have a feeling they’ll both be in there,” Baffert said of the San Felipe. “It might be Clemson versus Alabama.” Baffert explained to Privman that the main reason both Game Winner and Improbable could end up in the San Felipe is a reluctance to make one of them ship twice before going to Churchill Downs for the Kentucky Derby. “If both run in the San Felipe, one could run back in the Santa Anita Derby on April 6, and the other could go to the Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn on April 13,” Privman wrote. “But if one goes to the Rebel at Oaklawn on March 16, that horse would have to be wheeled back on short rest to run in the Santa Anita Derby and avoid a second trip to Oaklawn.” Baffert went on to say that the Rebel and the Sunland Derby on March 14 are under consideration for another of his Kentucky Derby candidates, Robert B. Lewis Stakes winner Mucho Gusto. Game Winner recorded a sharp seven-furlong workout Tuesday at Santa Anita in 1:25.00. The following day at the Great Race Place, Improbable had a six-furlong workout timed in 1:13.20, while Mucho Gusto worked four furlongs in a brisk :47.60. Monday’s Southwest had 10-4-2-1 Kentucky Derby points up for grabs, as did last Saturday’s El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate. Anothertwistafate, the 6-5 favorite, won the El Camino Real Derby with authority by seven lengths for trainer Blaine Wright. Finishing second at 9-5 was the Baffert-trained SoCal shipper Kingly. More Ice ended up third at 10-1 in the field of 11. Anothertwistafate now has three victories from four career starts. All three of his wins have come on Golden Gate’s synthetic surface by a combined 16 lengths. A $360,000 auction purchase, Anothertwistafate is a son of Scat Daddy, sire of 2018 Horse of the Year Justify. Prior to Anothertwistafate’s three-race winning streak at Golden Gate, he had finished ninth in a six-furlong maiden special weight race on the dirt at Santa Anita last Nov. 3. It will be interesting to see what Anothertwistafate does the next time he competes on the dirt. War of Will’s Risen Star performance produced a 92 Beyer Speed Figure, down from his 94 in the Lecomte. Super Steed was credited with an 87 Beyer Speed Figure for his win in the Southwest. Anothertwistafate recorded a career-best 94 Beyer for his victory in the El Camino Real Derby. RAGS TO RICHES ON HALL OF FAME BALLOT (FINALLY) Hallelujah! It has finally happened. Rags to Riches, one of just four fillies to have won a Triple Crown race in the last 95 years, is on the Hall of Fame ballot this year for the first time despite being eligible since 2013. Rags to Riches in 2007 became the first filly to win the Belmont Stakes in 102 years. She one of five racehorses, three trainers and one jockey that account for the nine finalists on the 2019 Hall of Fame ballot. The 2019 finalists are: Jockey: Craig Perret Trainers: Mark Casse, Christophe Clement and David Whiteley Racehorses: Blind Luck, Gio Ponti, Havre de Grace, Rags to Riches and Royal Delta. The 2019 finalists were selected by the Hall of Fame’s 16-member nominating committee. To get onto the ballot, a candidate had to receive support from at least 11 of the nominating committee members. This year’s nine finalists were selected from a total of 93 candidates that had been suggested to the nominating committee. Ballots will be mailed to the entire voting panel on March 1. The inductees will be announced on April 22. Also on April 22, the Hall of Fame will announce inductees chosen by the Historical Review committee and this year’s Pillars of the Turf. The Hall of Fame induction ceremony will be held on Aug. 2 in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., where the Hall of Fame is located. Hall of Fame voters this year may select as many candidates as they believe are worthy of induction into the Hall of Fame. All candidates that receive majority approval (50.1% or higher) will be elected. The former rule capping the number of inductees at four, which I had strongly criticized, was eliminated in 2018. Capping the number of inductees at four meant the candidates on the ballot had to compete against each other to secure one of the four slots. That was ridiculous. No longer capping the number of inductees at four is much better inasmuch as a candidate either belongs in the Hall of Fame or does not. Who else is on the ballot should not matter. Also for many years the Hall of Fame permitted only one male horse, one female horse, one jockey and one trainer to be inducted each year. That too was ridiculous and something I also strongly criticized. The Hall of Fame did away with that restriction beginning in 2010. Thank goodness. By doing away with that restriction, female superstars Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta both were able to enter the Hall of Fame in 2016, the first year they were eligible. Can you imagine if only one or the other, Rachel Alexandra or Zenyatta, would have been allowed to go into the Hall of Fame in 2016? It would have been preposterous to keep either of them out of the Hall of Fame that year. Now that Rags to Riches finally has made it onto the ballot, will she get enough support to enter the Hall of Fame? The biggest knock on her seems to be that she made only seven career starts. But Hall of Fame voters need to realize that racing in this country has changed dramatically in that horses generally used to make many more starts than they do these days. A lack of longevity likely is an issue Hall of Fame voters increasingly will have to grapple with in the years to come. Undefeated Triple Crown winner Justify will become eligible for the Hall of Fame in 2024. Justify made only six lifetime starts, one fewer than Rags to Riches. Even though Justify raced just six times, is he not a slam-dunk to go into the Hall of Fame in 2024? And if voters are willing put Justify into the Hall of Fame with just six lifetime starts, is it fair to hold it against Rags to Riches that she made only seven lifetime starts? When Rags to Riches won the 2007 Belmont Stakes, she did so despite stumbling at the start and racing wide. Finishing second was Curlin, who would be voted Horse of the Year in 2007 and 2008. Curlin was voted into the Hall of Fame in 2014. The four fillies to have succeeded in a Triple Crown race in the last 95 years are Genuine Risk (who won the 1980 Kentucky Derby), Winning Colors (1988 Kentucky Derby), Rags to Riches (2007 Belmont Stakes) and Rachel Alexandra (2009 Preakness). Genuine Risk, Winning Colors and Rachel Alexandra are in the Hall of Fame. All three certainly deserve it. And my belief is that Rags to Riches also richly deserves enshrinement. It has been said by some that a horse is more worthy of getting into the Hall of Fame from his or her body of work rather than a major achievement. But Hall of Fame voters who subscribe to that belief need to keep in mind that even though Rags to Riches is best known for her historic achievement of winning the Belmont Stakes, her body of work is such that in her seven lifetime starts she won more Grade I races than Hall of Fame members Genuine Risk and Winning Colors. The number of Grade I victories by the four fillies to have won a Triple Crown race in the last 95 years is listed below: 5 Rachel Alexandra4 Rags to Riches3 Winning Colors2 Genuine Risk WINX EXTENDS HER LONG WINNING STREAK Winx won again. Well, of course she did. Making her first 2019 start, the amazing Australian mare rallied to win last Saturday’s Group II Apollo Stakes at Randwick. It was her 30th consecutive victory. Showing no signs of slowing down at the age of 7, Winx won the Apollo by two lengths. Her final time of 1:20.88 broke Randwick’s record for 1,400 meters (about seven furlongs) that had been held by Trapeze Artist. In fact, Winx’s 1:20.88 clocking was the fastest she has ever posted in a 1,400-meter race. Winx reportedly will race three more times this year before being retired. She is expected to make her next start in the Group I Chipping Norton Stakes on March 2, followed by the Group I George Ryder Stakes on March 23, then the Group I Queen Elizabeth Stakes on April 13. If you are wondering if Winx’s 30 straight wins is a world record, it is not. 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, holds the record of 54 consecutive victories by a female Thoroughbred. Kincsem, who never lost, 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. Kincsem was victorious 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 Horse (First-Place Votes) 1. City of Light (33)2. Monomoy Girl (3)3. Roy H4. Battle of Midway5. Bricks and Mortar6. Accelerate7. McKinzie8. Seeking the Soul9. Sistercharlie10. Marley’s Freedom Here is the Top 10 for this week’s NTRA Top 3-Year-Old Poll: Rank Horse (First-Place Votes) 1. Game Winner (20)2. War of Will (5)3. Improbable (2)4. Mucho Gusto5. Instagrand6. Hidden Scroll7. Signalman7. Gunmetal Gray9. Tax10. Harvey Wallbanger

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2.21.2019:

Weekly Bankroll Builder: February 22 Stronach 5 Picks

Big doings in this week’s Stronach 5, as there’s a $169,000 carryover after a pair of unfathomable results to end last week’s sequence. With the pool guaranteed last week at $150,000, interest was amped up quite a bit, and seeing this week’s pool close in on $1 million is definitely a possibility, which is why the suggested tickets are bigger than normal. 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. *** Updated picks via Twitter. *** Leg 1: Laurel Park R9 (4:35 ET) – 4upfm 5k claimer at 6 furlongs I’ll admit up front that this is an extremely difficult quintet of races, and therefore I’m going to play them in somewhat of an odd fashion, since the second leg looks beyond impossible, and it’s the type where a $16 winner could play like a 20-1 in the sequence, and so I want to be able to spread as deep as I can. With that being said, I’ll use three on the A-line in the opener and call it a day, since they seem a decided cut above the rest. The potential for an energetic pace makes me think #8 TRUFFLESBERG (5-2) is going to prove a shrewd claim for Farrior (13% off the claim), since she just missed for 8k last time and seems to fit nicely with this group. The race flow will also suit #1 SPECIAL RISK (5-1), who has been in good form of late and will get first run on the pick too. The class is #3 MY CHESA CHARM (2-1), but she drops stiffly in her first start off the Ness claim (22%) after a no-show last time and catches speed to her inside and outside, so there’s a chance she quits abruptly again. Pk5 A horses (listed in order of preference): 8,1,3 It’s tough to think anyone else could spoil the party, without improving open lengths for no real reason, though #5 Bib Momma (15-1) and #7 Splendor Gal (12-1) do fit the race profile. Pk5 B horses: 5,3,8 Leg 2: Gulfstream Park R10 (5:12 ET) – 4up AOC (62.5k/N2X) at 1 1/16 miles (turf) In what is a vintage GP turf allowance for older horses, there are countless different ways you could go and the favorites are barely a length or two better than some 15-1 longshots, so I want a lot of coverage, especially since it’s a big field where racing luck will also play a big roll. A good price and much better post says #2 SPACE MOUNTAIN (15-1) could upset here, and there’s no doubt this is an easier group than the field he faced last time, as winner Bricks and Mortar came back to win the $7 million Pegasus Turf World Cup (GI). After that I’ll use logicals like #8 DR. EDGAR (4-1) and #5 BATTLE OF BLENHEIM (7-2), though neither has any margin for error and will be underlays off a bad run (the former) and a long layoff and trainer change (the latter). I’m also using #10 MEDAL OF HONOR (6-1), though he doesn’t look like the typical Brown first-time US tiger, #12 LUNAIRE, who will run on late, #11 SIDING SPRING (5-1), who would be a huge underlay at this ML, though we know not to pay any attention to the GP ML and can expect 8 or 10-1, potential Lone F #9 CEEVEE (10-1), and lastly #6 IM THE CAPTAIN NOW, who seems like he’s prepping for longer, but did end 2018 with some good form. PLEASE NOTE that for backup ticket purposes I’ll only use 2,8,5,10 as A’s. Pk5 A horses: 2,8,5,10,12,11,9,6 I’ve got eight of them listed above, so if that can’t get it done, then I’ll simply hit happy hour a little earlier. Pk5 B horses: 4 Leg 3: Gulfstream Park R11 (5:42 ET) – 3yo 20k MCL at 1-mile (turf) A weak race where the proven runners don’t inspire prompts me to look towards #4 MO’S RIDE (10-1), a Weaver firster (14%) with a slew of works and Irad named, so there figures to be some intent here; as an aside, when he’s 4-1 don’t go screaming to the window “Look how live he is on the board,” as there’s no plausible reason he’s 7-2 in a race like this or these connections. The best turf firm/numbers belongs to #10 WINE AT THE BEACH (6-1), though this is a tough post and he was 25-1 last time, so you know he’s a bit tough to trust. Pk5 A horses: 4,10 Why anyone would want 2-1 on #2 INDISPUTABLYLINKED is a mystery to me, but his turf race in September wins this and Margotta did seem fit to claim him off him out of his return and getting back to the turf may help too. Dropping out of the MSW ranks when he had an impossible post could help wake up #8 PESCECANE (9-2), so I’ll use him too, though he was 71-1 that day and was beaten a furlong, so tread lightly here. Pk5 B horses: 2,8 Leg 4: Golden Gate Fields R5 (5:54 ET) – 3f 8k MCL at 5 furlongs No strong opinion here, though I think using #9 PRINCESS RUN IT (4-1), #8 BEHOLD THE GOLD (3-1), and #6 TWICE AS WINDY (5-1), and #10 FLAT OUT FINE should get me through, as the first three just look better than an average bunch of locals and the latter makes her local debut for a sharp Lucarelli barn. Pk5 A horses: 9,8,6,10 We won’t be able to view the tote so it’s a guessing game on firster #7 CHAMBOOZEL (10-1), but Delia is 6-for-30 with firsters, so you’d think she’s ready to fire. Pk5 B horses: 7 Leg 5: Santa Anita R5 (6:07 ET) – 4upfm AOC (40k/N1X) at 6 furlongs (turf) We find our single in the finale, as #10 SPECIAL PURPOSE (4-1) drew best of all and seems primed for a big move up second-off a long layoff, especially since that close 6th in her return last time was very encouraging return. Pk5 A horses: 10 A sharp return means #1 SPY RING (7-2), who beat the pick last time, is the main danger and another who can improve in a big way, but the rail down the hill is not a good thing, so let’s relegate her to second-best. If you want some additional coverage then #5 Batiquitos (6-1) and #7 Animosity (5-1) both have their merits, though also look like underneath players, in lieu of the top pair.Pk5 B horses: 1 The tickets: Main Ticket: 8,1,3 with 2,8,5,10,12,11,9,6 with 4,10 with 9,8,6,10 with 10 = $192Leg 3 B Backup: 8,1,3 with 2,8,5,10 with 2,8 with 9,8,6,10 with 10 = $96Leg 4 B Backup: 8,1,3 with 2,8,5,10 with 4,10 with 7 with 10 = $24Leg 5 B Backup: 8,1,3 with 2,8,5,10 with 4,10 with 9,8,6,10 with 1 = $96

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2.19.2019:

Atlanta ‘Sold’ For $1.55 Million

Atlanta was the talk of the harness racing world when she became the first filly in 22 years to win the Hambletonian last July. The now 4-year-old trotter didn’t lose any of her appeal when she was put up for auction at OnGait.com last Friday. She sold for a record $1,550,000, surpassing Cameron Hall ($1.1 million in 2001) as the most expensive Standardbred ever sold at public auction. Michelle Crawford of Crawford Farms in New York, which sponsors the Hambletonian and co-owned Atlanta with Holland Racing Stable, Howard Taylor and Bradley Grant before the auction, placed the winning bid. Atlanta, 12-for-24 lifetime with $1,140,689 in earnings, spent the winter in Florida preparing for this racing season. Atlanta was disqualified from consideration for Canada’s prestigious O’Brien Awards because her trainer, Rick Zeron, was serving a 180-day suspension. Ron Burke, the perennial North America leader in wins and earnings, will be Atlanta’s new trainer. IN THE XPRESSLANE: Trainer Brian Loney sent out seven winners Monday at Northfield Park from nine starters. A $20 win bet on Loney’s nine starters produced a $280 profit. Loney won with Always’syourway ($4.60), Twin B Stingray ($14.60), Montana Pablo A ($5.20), Bully Pulpit ($5), Dante Ivy ($5.80), Man He Can Skoot ($7.60) and Hunch Man ($3). … The Dan Patch Awards banquet from Orlando, FL will be streamed live on the U.S. Harness Writers’ Association facebook page this Sunday, Feb. 24, starting at 7 p.m. … Yannick Gingras, in the midst of a torrid 27-for-61 winning run at the Meadowlands in the first half of February, guided the Ron Burke-trained Resita to a third consecutive victory in Friday’s featured $15,750 trot. … Harrah’s Philadelphia will conduct live racing four days a week, from March 29 to December 15. Post time will be 12:25 p.m. Wednesday through Friday and 12:40 on Sundays.

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2.19.2019:

Feb 19: Pompano Park Pick 4 Analysis

Pompano Park has an 8-race card set to roll tonight. The popular 0.50 Pick 4 sequence will be my focus. It begins in Race 5 and has a $15,000 guaranteed pool with an industry low 12% takeout. Last night was a bit unusual in south Florida. No driver or trainer had more than one win on the 8-race card. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Race 5:4-Glide In The Wind-Hennessey seems to have found the key to this horse since the claim on 1/29. 5-Wesley Hanover-Could upset the 3/2 ML chalk if the pace is fast enough, should be sitting in the pocket.  Race 6:2-Jays Bees Grin-12-time winner in '18 comes off a big try from the 2nd tier, a player at 2-1 in the ML. 3-Brookstone-Was claimed for $5k on 1/9 and now in for a $4k tag, could be a wake-up call if minds manners. 6-Bobcat Bound-Another without much success after a recent $5k claim, will respect chances in a soft field. Race 7:3-Iced Out-7/5 ML chalk with Hennessey takes a big drop, could get on the engine and not look back. 4-Keystone Christa-10-year-old mare is hard to predict, can win at this level at a nice price if fires best shot. 7-Mystical Bay-Simons choice, and did face a tough winner in last, could be sitting on a big try. 8-Walk Two Moons-Zeron has been quiet, but here's a price shot to use if he can light this gal up off the gate. Race 8:1-Sweet Bet-Last was better and this is 3rd time Lasix, looks to be in the hunt. 4-Layer Cake-Does best work up-close to the lead and could get that trip tonight. 6-Machin Marley-Form hasn't been great but last was better and if pace is quick could surprise at a square price. 7-Northern Dali-9/5 chalk got sucked around in 1st start since a sick scratch, has beaten better but will look to beat. 0.50 Pick 4:4,5/2,3,6/3,4,7,8/1,4,6,7 Total Bet=$48 Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia.

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2.18.2019:

Monday, February 18: Mohawk Early Pick 4 Analysis

The feature at Woodbine Mohawk Park is scheduled as Race 8, a Preferred Trot with a $34,000 purse. As usual the popular 0.20 Pick 4 begins in Race 4. The 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-Heza Big Dealer-1st time Gallucci is camera shy but draws well and should be forwardly placed, could trip out. 2-Lively Freddie-Missed a few starts before last race, thinking Auciello will have primed for an aggressive try. 8-Kwicky Kwanzaa-McNair steers for Roy, pace could be quicker and 2nd time for Shepherd shouldn't hurt either. 9-Jenkins Creek-2nd start for Moreau and comes back in 10-days this itme, will need to find a good early seat. Race 5 2-Head Turning Jag-Moves up after a sharp effort from 9-hole and was off 18 days, should be in the hunt 5-Hemi Seelster-Needs best but this is a spot to get on the engine or in the pocket, could pop at a square price. 10-Magic Night-Back from Big M and had an even effort in 1st start, will take a swing at a price with Team Hensley. Race 6 2-Surf Report-Has been in sharp form and now steps up, needs a top effort but will respect connections. 5-Reiki-Draws better after a rough trip and Roy steers tonight, looks like a major player. 8-Crocadile Canyon-Makes 2nd start for Sheperd and Henry can work a trip, likes to roll late. Race 9 1-Fly Beyond-Has needed more pop down the lane but slow pace hurt in last, best to respect tonight. 3-Cue Hall-Beaten favorite also needs a little more at the end of the mile, this is a spot to make amends. 6-Big Rich-Looks to be a player and should be rolling off the gate, this race could set-up well for Roy. My Ticket Race 4) 1,2,8,9 Race 5) 2,5,10 Race 6) 2,5,8 Race 7) 1,3,6  Total Ticket Cost) $21.60 for $0.20Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia.

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2.18.2019:

Casse, McPeek Bring Optimism, Top Horses

Optimism abounds on the Triple Crown trail, so much that it greases many parts of the industry engine. From breeders to buyers to owners to trainers to jockeys and bettors alike, there’s a real “It could be my turn” nature about each winter into spring. Optimism for the Triple Crown season alone doesn’t fuel the industry, but it has a decided impact, perhaps as much as any other moving part. So it’s not uncommon to talk optimism as the Kentucky Derby prep season rolls through mid-February. But what seems even more optimistic than usual in 2019 is the front-and-center presence of two of the game’s most positive-thinking trainers. Any list of Top 20 contenders, mine included within Countdown to the Crown, includes a significant appreciation for Mark Cassse’s War of Will and Kenny McPeek’s duo of Signalman and Harvey Wallbanger. Between Casse and McPeek you won’t find a more optimistic pair on the backstretch. Affability makes for a good salesman, and, true, a big part of being a high-level trainer is being able to sell owners on the same dreams. You must deliver to a degree on those dreams or faith gets lost. While neither Casse nor McPeek has yet to win a Kentucky Derby, the former has been highly successful in the Breeders’ Cup, while the latter has hoisted a Belmont Stakes trophy. Casse and McPeek have more than done enough to keep the dreams alive, and perhaps fuel optimism eternally. Any year could be their year, after all. Why not 2019? The Kentucky Derby has not been kind to either so far. Casse is 6: 0-0-0 in the run for the roses, topped by the fourth-place finish in 2017 by champion 2-year-old Classic Empire, who would run second in the Preakness. McPeek sports a similar 6: 0-1-0 record in the Derby, runner-up in his 1995 debut with Tejano Run and notably since seventh in 2002 with post-time favorite Harlan’s Holiday. A year after Justify smashed a lot of Derby deal-breakers for handicappers, surely no one is going to line up to bet against Casse and McPeek this year based solely on 0-for-6 records on the first Saturday in May. It will come down, rightly so, to their horses and if they’re good enough and fortunate enough to stay healthy and eventually land a good trip. The Casse-trained War of Will has done everything right in three starts on dirt. His victory Saturday in the G2 Risen Star at Fair Grounds was a highly commendable performance from a far outside draw. He pressed the pace and scored with that first-over run that has won every Kentucky Derby since California Chrome in 2014. He made his trip from that draw, vs. ‘getting’ the trip. It’s exactly what you hope to see. War of Will is a Louisiana Derby away from heading to Louisville one of the race’s strongest contenders. But there’s work left to do, and we know Bob Baffert and Jerry Hollendorfer in California won’t be shy. McPeek’s pair of charges are a bit farther behind than War of Will at this point, but he has optimism in numbers. Last fall’s Kentucky Jockey Club winner Signalman has danced the big dances and showed with his Breeders’ Cup Juvenile third that he’s in the discussion with the tops of his crop. He’ll return in the Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream Park for his 3-year-old unveiling. The ‘other’ McPeek is Holy Bull Stakes upsetter Harvey Wallbanger. His come-from-behind style was flattered in a fast-paced race Feb. 2 that produced his nearly 30-1 victory. Sure, Harvey Wallbanger will have to do it again and earn more qualifying points and substantiate his upset claim. But closers on the trail this time of year always provide optimism vs. those wondering just how 1-1/4 miles will hit their horses. Casse and McPeek aren’t strangers to the Triple Crown trail. And their optimism can sometimes seem like rose-colored glasses to some. But I’ll be rooting for them as winter turns to spring. The trail may not always beg for more optimism, but in this current social climate, we’ll take all we can get. 

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2.16.2019:

Saturday, February 16: Meadowlands Pick 4 Analysis

The headliner at the Meadowlands rolls in Race 2, a Preferred Pace with a $21,000 purse. The main event for horizontal bettors is the 0.50 Pick 4. That sequence begins in Race 8, it has a $50,000 guaranteed pool with a 15% takeout, and it will be my focus. Last night at the Big M the driver with the hottest hands was Yannick Gingras with two wins. The leading conditioner on the card was Ron Burke with two pictures. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Race 8 5-Mindtrip-Has held his own in Preferreds and looks to be a major player versus this crew. 8-Bell I No-3rd start for new connections, post could pose an issue but has enough gate speed to gain a good seat. Race 9 5-Pretty Boy Hill-Drops and can improve, McCarthy takes a spin and should be in the hunt. 6-Avatartist-9-year-old makes 3rd start for Eaton and appears to be in better form, will use Gingras at 8-1 in the ML. 7-Soho Wallstreet A-Another making 3rd start for new barn, A. Miller sticks and has beaten tougher here 6 weeks ago. Race 10 1-Incredible Shark-Dropper and fits better, slow starts have hurt but driver change could mean a better trip. 2-Alotbetter N-Raced well versus NW$15K a couple of starts back and now gets major post relief on a drop. 7-Dull Roar-54.1 back half at this level on 2/9 and looks like a top contender tonight but won't be 31-1. 10-Archangel Three-Raced well in 1st start off the bench for Burke-Gingras, post could hurt but best to respect connections. Race 11 2-Urban Renewal-Trying hard and steps up, still fits and could pop at a square price. 3-Valrhona-Moves up 2 classes and not off a win, would usually pass but gets Gingras and this is a soft field. 8-Bruce's Magic-McCarthy gets the call, has struggled this year but best to not overlook versus this bunch. My Ticket Race 8) 5,8 Race 9) 5,6,7 Race 10) 1,2,7,10 Race 11) 2,3,8 Total Ticket Cost) $36 for $0.50Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia

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2.16.2019:

War of Will, Pick 4 have intriguing qualities at FG

Few horses carry the intrigue that War of Will brings to the Triple Crown trail, and it only gets more interesting today as he rolls into the Grade 2 $400,000 Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds. His four-length win the Grade 3 LeComte Stakes has to rank as one of the more impressive performances by a 3-year-old this season. He was a moderately talented 2-year-old, but he could be a dynamite sophomore. He’s by War Front and was purchased at an Arqana sale at Deauville, France. He was bought for just under $300,000 by Gary Barber, and trainer Mark Casse chose Woodbine as the place he would begin his career. He was 2nd in the Grade 1 Summer Stakes and then went to Keeneland and was 4th in the Grade 3 Bourbon. Then his life changed. War of Will made his 1st non-turf start at Churchill Downs and the result was an impressive scamper through the slop going two turf. He won by five to end the year. So, in bringing him out for the 2019 campaign, it wasn’t shocking that he began on the dirt in the Le Comte. What may have been more of a surprise, even though he was favorite, was his dominance. He ran off by four at the end and because of it is the 5-2 morning line choice today. Now the biggest question: Can he win from the No. 14 post? He drew the far outside, and if he continues his front-running style should be able to overcome at least some of ground lost from the end of the gate. It’s a chance for Tyler Gaffalione, who was aboard both wins, to carve out a better trip than most would get from that post. Still, a single on War of Will in the $200,000-guaranteed Pick 4 isn’t an easy thing to do, so we won’t. Mr. Money comes out of the No. 3 post and makes his 1st of the year. The Bret Calhoun-trained Goldencents colt has trained exceptionally well in New Orleans. He broke his maiden at Churchill in September and five weeks later ran a credible 4th in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. The Pick 4 begins with 9th race and the Risen Star tops it off as the 12th. Here’s the suggested ticket for the $200,000-guaranteed all-stakes Pick 4 at Fair Grounds:Race 9) #2 Harlan Punch, #5 Lone Sailor, #9 Flameaway, #13 Quip.Race 10) #1 Tiz a Slam, #6 First Premio, #7 Combatant, #9 Synchrony.Race 11) #3 Serengeti Empress, #8 Eres Tu, #9 Needs Supervision, #10 Chasing Yesterday.Race 12) #3 Mr. Money, #14 War of Will.50-cent Pick 4: 2-5-9-13 with 1-6-7-9 with 3-8-9-10 with 3-14 ($64). Plus, bet the Risen Star today, and you could get your Money-Back! Check out the Money-Back Guarantee on the Preps and register today.

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2.15.2019:

Friday, February 15: Cal Expo Pick 4 Analysis

The Friday night feature at Cal Expo rolls in Race 5, an Open Pace with a $6,500 purse. The popular 0.20 Pick 4 with a $30,000 guaranteed pool and 16% takeout begins in Race 8, it will be my focus. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Race 8 2-To The Limit-Svendsen's choice drops out of Opens and is in a good spot to compete for 3rd win in last 5 starts. 3-Pancetta-Nice effort in 2nd start off the bench, looks like 2nd program chalk is primed for a big effort. 5-I’m An Athlete-ML favorite woke up on a drop and pop last week and fits here in a competitive affair. Race 9 1-Cenalta Glory-Skimmed the rail for a nice win and now faces similar, came the last 1/2 in 57.3, will use again. 3-Damoricdalesino-Got on the engine and went too fast, Sobey will look to ration speed this time. 4-Brigitte Bordeaux-4-year-old mare has been sharp in last 3, looks like a player once again. Race 10 2-Whatchamacallum-Took 2018 off, this is the 5th start after an improved effort in last, best to respect. 3-Deweydiddonegood-Only 1-32 at CalX but Longo trainee has been used aggressively in last 2 on a sloppy track. 5-Winonefordoug-Steps down a couple of levels, and should be better, camera shy but should be in play versus these. 6-Ulysses Blue Chip-Another dropper looking to pose, Wiseman sticks and thinking a dry track will help. Race 11 1-Uringoodhands-Drops after drawing off as odd-on favorite in the slop, Kennedy's choice fits and can repeat. 2-Blue Star Jet-Has raced well in last 2 on an off-track, could trip out and pop at a price for Team Goulet. 6-Twomickeytrip-Using Longo trainee instead of ML chalk #4, drops and could surprise at a square price. My Ticket Race 8) 2,3,5 Race 9) 1,3,4 Race 10) 2,3,5,6 Race 11) 1,2,6 Total Ticket Cost) $21.60 for $0.20Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia. 

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2.14.2019:

That Deafening Sound

Have no fear. That deafening sound you heard around 3:17 pm Saturday wasn’t an alien invasion. It was, instead, a collective howl emanating from throats of investors financially involved in 22 million Gulfstream Park Rainbow Six combinations. An $8.2 million mandatory payout pool--juiced by good weather and a deep, challenging card--attracted hordes of wagering hopefuls. Most didn’t last long. A first-round knockout punch by 58-1 Pappa Y and jockey Marcos Meneses for trainer Juan Avila sent horseplayers scurrying to scrounge up sufficient funds to submit Pick 5 wagers before the next race. Those that succeeded in locating additional capital and selecting 5 consecutive winners received $1,086.40 each. That payoff may have comforted some—like salve to a wound—but, in comparison to a hefty $100,919.88 6-for-6 Rainbow payoff, it had to feel like a frustratingly meager consolation prize. What a difference a winner makes! This writer enjoyed no such close-calls. His adventurous Rainbow ticket was pronounced DOA after the first leg, and his desperate Pick 5 sheet met a similarly rapid demise. Deceased Rainbow Six and Pick 5 sheets included the next 4 winners, but were about as worthless as Rams/Over Super Bowl parlay wagers. Long ago, this writer was given the following advice from a veteran Pick 6 player seated in a Hollywood Park box, “The ‘All’ button never loses.” Since then, through decades of wagering, I’ve come to understand two things: First, that the ‘All’ button may never lose, but it sure declaws a ticket when the favorite wins. Second, whenever I use the ‘All’ button, the favorite always wins! Full disclosure: That last part’s not completely true. I once hit a $30k Rainbow Six by using ‘All’ in the first leg--a Gulfstream Park maiden turf race--and catching a $60 winner! So, it can happen. At least once, anyway. There are successful horseplayers that disdain the ‘All’ button because the practice ‘wastes’ bullets on ‘dead’ players--horses you don’t think can win. It makes perfect sense as a solid wagering tenet, however, sometimes the only way to have certain horses is by hitting the ‘All’ button. If a bomb should explode it will significantly thin the competition. There’s no way I’m going to have the winner of the first leg of the Rainbow Six Saturday unless I use ‘All.’ Even after the race I couldn’t have soberly included Papa Y in the Rainbow Six without using everyone else, too. The colt was 0-for-4 and had been beaten by more than 21, 5, 18 and 8 lengths, respectively. His highest Beyer Speed Figure had been a 23 in August. He was being ridden by a 6% jockey for a 10% trainer. On the bright side, he had shown some speed in three of his races. The 0-3 favorite also had shown speed, against better competition, but had been beaten by more than 10, 8 and 5 lengths. He had posted Beyer Speed Figures of 40, 47, 51. He certainly was no single. The race required ‘spread’ tactics. Unfortunately, this writer and many others didn’t cast a wide enough net. ‘The ‘All’ button never loses!’ Playing the Rainbow Six is similar to a horserace. There’s only one way to win, but thousands of ways to lose. We’ve all experienced it. It’s an unforgiving wager. Make a mistake along the way and it’s ‘curtains’ for your investment. Ticket construction, therefore, is as important as handicapping…maybe more so. A player can make any number of errors while building a ticket—those of commission (wasting too many ‘empty’ combinations) and omission (not including enough ‘live’ runners), so the practice demands attention. Saturday, my Rainbow Six play included a ‘spread’ in race 12--the final leg--where winner Café Americano ($4.80) was a Chad Brown first-time starter. That colt easily could have qualified as a ‘single.’ Of course, he was on my ticket, but so were too many empty wagers wasted on other runners. These poor strategical decisions make it nearly impossible to beat a difficult game. My winning single came in the tenth race, Global Campaign ($3.40). Chad Brown trained Clause ($8.40), another first-time starter on turf, took the ninth. Add in the Mike Maker-trained Hembree ($7) as winner of the eleventh and, in hindsight, you’ve got the final four legs of a $100k Rainbow Six payoff that look fairly uncomplicated. Leg B of the wager was a bit tricky—before and after the fact. Winner Trilby ($26.60) was haveable, but only if a player went about 6 or 7 runners deep. Combos on my sheet that were wasted in the final race would have come in handy there, instead.    A reasonable rumor suggests that one Rainbow Six player, at Treasure Island in Las Vegas competing in the National Horseplayer’s Championship, had a winning sheet with the final three winners singled. Now, that’s a well-constructed ticket! Three singles at 20-cents a throw make it financially palatable to go ‘All’ in 1 or even 2 legs, if needed. It’s critical for players to accurately assess the overall personality of a race. In other words, players must ask: Is this race Steve Martin or Queen Elizabeth? In other words, is the result liable to be ‘Wild and Crazy’ or as traditional as the Royal Family? If a player incorrectly identifies a ‘Steve Martin’ as a ‘Queen Elizabeth,’ his chances of cashing a significant Rainbow Six ticket are significantly damaged. Cashing lucrative multi-leg wagers is difficult. Don’t ever believe otherwise. Wasted combinations almost always mean insufficient coverage elsewhere.  It’s going to take some time for the Gulfstream Park Rainbow Six carryover to grow into a similarly juicy mandatory payout pot--possibly March 30, Florida Derby day?  A week ago, on the left coast, Santa Anita featured a nearly $2 million Rainbow Six carryover into a mandatory payout that was expected to reach a total of $10 million. Unfortunately, due to inclement weather, that card was disfigured by surface changes and scratches. The total pool for the wager stopped short at $5.2 million. Winning tickets were as plentiful as raingear and returned just $296.30 each—minus a deafening sound. Race On!

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2.14.2019:

Saturday Stakes Picks: El Camino Real Derby, Risen Star Stakes & More

No mandatory payouts this Saturday? No problem! The stakes action is more than enough to make up for it.  Between Gulfstream, Santa Anita, Fair Grounds, Tampa Bay, Golden Gate and Laurel there are nearly 20 top stakes races to choose from.If you’re in the mood to play a Triple Crown prep race, we recommend Golden Gate’s El Camino Real Derby (a Preakness ‘Win and You’re In’ race) and the Risen Star Stakes from the Fair Grounds (50 Points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby to the winner).  If top sprinters are of interest, check out the Pelican Stakes at Tampa Bay, starring Imperial Hint, or the Santa Monica at Santa Anita, showcasing Marley’s Freedom, Dream Tree and Selcourt.  And if older horses are your style, Jockey Club Gold Cup winner Discreet Lover returns in the John Campbell at Laurel and Lone Sailor, Quip, Flameaway and Harlan Punch square off in the Mineshaft Handicap.  Here's a look at this weekend’s top stakes races, following by some Xpressbet promotions and my picks for six of the top stakes this Saturday.    SATURDAY STAKES SCHEDULE Colonel Power Stakes (75K) | Fair Grounds (R2) | 1:58PM ETMiracle Wood Stakes (100K) | Laurel (R5) | 2:30PM ETAl Stall Memorial Stakes (75K) | Fair Grounds (R4) | 2:54PM ETWide Country Stakes (100K) | Laurel (R6) | 3:00PM ETJohn Campbell Stakes (100K) | Laurel (R7) | 3:30PM ETPelican Stakes (100K) | Tampa Bay (R7) | 3:46PM ET General George Stakes (Gr III, 250K) | Laurel (R8) | 4:00PM ETBarbara Fritchie Stakes (Gr III, 250K) | Laurel (R9) | 4:30PM ET Broadway Stakes (100K) | Aqueduct (R8) | 4:40PM ETMinaret Stakes (50K) | Tampa Bay (R9) | 4:50PM ET Royal Delta Stakes (Gr III, 150K) | Gulfstream (R11) | 5:12PM ETMineshaft Handicap (Gr III, 150K) | Fair Grounds (R9) | 5:25PM ET Dixie Belle Stakes (100K) | Oaklawn (R8) | 5:38PM ET Fair Grounds Handicap (Gr III, 150K) | Fair Grounds (R10) | 5:57PM ETRachel Alexandra Stakes (Gr II, 200K) | Fair Grounds (R11) | 6:29PM ETWishing Well Stakes (75K) | Santa Anita (R8) | 6:30PM ET El Camino Real Derby (100K) | Golden Gate (R7) | 6:45PM ET Santa Monica Stakes (Gr II, 250K) | Santa Anita (R9) | 7:00PM ET Risen Star Stakes (Gr II, 400K) | Fair Grounds (R12) | 7:02PM ET   ON THE PROMO FRONT Money-Back Guarantee on the Preps - Get your cash back on the Risen Star Stakes or El Camino Real Derby if the horse you bet to Win ($10 maximum) finishes 2nd or 3rd.  Golden Gate 1 Million Point Split – Hit Golden Gate’s Late Pick 4, which includes the El Camino Real Derby, to Split 1 Million XB Rewards Points. 10X Points Saturday Night at Hong Kong – Bet Saturday night’s Sha Tin card, featuring the Group 1 Hong Kong Gold Cup and Group 1 Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup. $2,500 Beat the Host Tournament – Out handicap our host, Tom Quigley, to win $2,500 in weekly prizes and qualify for the Beat the Host Championship Round on March 2.    SATURDAY STAKES SIX PACK El Camino Real DerbyBob Baffert makes a rare trip north to San Francisco with #9 KINGLY, who most recently finished second in an allowance race on January 31. He’s going to be overbet because he’s a Baffert horse so I’m going to bet against.  Of the So Cal shippers, I actually prefer #7 EAGLE SONG. He won two races on the polytrack at Dundalk in Ireland (against fields of 12 and 14) and performed well on the lawn at Santa Anita in two tries. The best of the locals is #4 ANOTHERTWISTAFATE. He’s 2-for-2 at Golden Gate and will try to take this field wire-to-wire.  My ‘Money-Back Guarantee’ bet will be on EAGLE SONG, but my likeliest winner is ANOTHERTWISTAFATE.The Play: Win bets on EAGLE SONG and ANOTHERTWISTAFATE and Exactas and Trifectas with those two over KING OF SPEED, KINGLY, MAYOR COBB and MORE ICE. Royal Delta Stakes #1 TEQUILITA (8/5) is 5-for-19 in her career, but two of those wins came in three starts at Gulfstream Park.  She loves her surroundings in South Florida and should run big. #7 BLAMED (5/2) can take this field a long way. She didn’t get over the slop well in the G3 Hurricane Bertie on Pegasus Day but that’s alright. The weather in Florida is supposed to clear up before Saturday. If she finds herself alone on the lead, look out. #5 JALA JALA (12/1) would be a great story. She’s a two time winner on Caribbean Classic Day and her connections decided to hang out in South Florida this time around. Hope it works out.The Play: Keep it simple. Exacta Box JALA JALA, BERNED and TEQUILITA. Barbara Fritchie StakesSeveral inches of snow are expected in Maryland on Saturday, so keep an eye out for scratches and changes.  #2 LATE NIGHT POW WOW is a remarkable 10-for-11 in her career with the only defeat coming in a 4 1/2-furlong dash at Charles Town in April 2018.  The WV-bred daughter of little-known stallion Fiber Sonde is a perfect 2-for-2 at Laurel and, in most years, a race like this would go through her.  But not so fast this time around.  #1 SPICED PERFECTION ships in from Southern California off a win in the G1 La Brea Stakes on Santa Anita Opening Day.  She has won her last three dirt races and brings a ton of class in for this race.  #8 MS LOCUST POINT has the most early speed and they’ll need to catch her.  She won this last year by more than 4-lengths.  I think the streak ends now for LATE NIGHT POW WOW and will bet accordingly.The Play: Exacta Box SPICED PERFECTION, DAWN THE DESTROYER and MS LOCUST POINT.  Rachel Alexandra Stakes With #10 CHASING YESTERDAY (5/2) expected to scratch per trainer Bob Baffert, this year’s Rachel Alexandra is anyone’s best guess.  You can make a case for most of them.  #3 SERENGETI EMPRESS (6/1) is probably the quickest of these and she won the G2 Pocahontas by a ridiculous 19-lengths in September.  She didn’t show up in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, though, and note that her regular jock (Corey Lanerie) is in town but not listed to ride.  #4 POSITIVE SPIRIT won the G2 Demoiselle by 10-lengths, but she’s tough to love.  They crawled around the track that day (1 1/8 miles in 1:56.01) and that may have just been a bad race (the Remsen, run two hours later, went in 1:51.34). #6 OXY LADY (6/1) has an outside shot. She ran well in the G1 Starlet at Los Alamitos and would appreciate a quick pace, which is expected.  Two of the fillies she raced against at Los Al (Enaya Alrabb, Mother Mother) ran very well since against the divisional leader Bellafina. The Play: Win/Place bet on OXY LADY and box her up in an Exacta with SERENGETI EMPRESS and ERES TU.Risen Star StakesAs the first 85 Point Race on the Road to the Kentucky Derby, the Risen Star Stakes is essentially a ‘Win & You’re In’ prep for the Run for the Roses.  The winner receives 50 Points, which is more than enough to safely claim a spot in the gate on the First Saturday in May.  The favorite for the Risen Star is WAR OF WILL (5/2).  He’s been incredible since switching from turf-to-dirt and if he can overcome a far outside post (he’ll likely break from Post #13 as #13 KINGLY is expected to scratch.  That’ll still make for a wide trip, but WAR OF WILL should overcome it.  I expect a big run out of #10 LIMONITE (10/1) and both #1 PLUS QUE PARFAIT (10/1) and #3 MR. MONEY (12/1) drew well and will get involved late.  The Play: Play an Exacta with WAR OF WILL over PLUS QUE PARFAIT, MR. MONEY and LIMONITE. Santa Monica StakesProbably the weekend’s best race.  You’ve got three G1 winners (#1 PARADISE WOODS, #3 MARLEY’S FREEDOM - pictured above - and #4 DREAM TREE), two G2 winners (#2 SELCOURT, #5 MOPOTISM) and a G3 winner (#6 ESCAPE CLAUSE)…talk about a full house!  With SELCOURT, PARADISE WOODS and DREAM TREE in the field, the pace is going to be hot. That plays incredibly well for MARLEY’S FREEDOM, the beaten favorite in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint. That’s OK though.  She sandwiched that race with five victories, including a G1 Ballerina win at Saratoga.  This race has the potential to fall into her lap and she’s well suited to run 7-furlongs.My colleague, Jeremy Plonk, made this his Xpressbet Race of the Week.  Check out his analysis and $100 wagering strategy. The Play: Exactas and Trifectas with MARLEY’S FREEDOM over SELCOURT, DREAM TREE and ESCAPE CLAUSE.

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2.14.2019:

Weekly Bankroll Builder: February 15 Stronach 5 Picks

Last week’s Stronach 5, which had an increased guaranteed pool of $100,000, easily blew past it and reached almost $200,000, so obviously word is out and interest is building. To refresh, the Stronach 5 is a Pk5 wager spread across as many as four tracks and three surfaces (dirt, Tapeta and turf), inside of 45 minutes, with a $1 minimum and ridiculously low 12% takeout. I’ll be putting together some prospective tickets in this space each week for a wager that is undoubtedly as good as it gets for the bettors. *** Please take note that this analysis is done upwards of 48 hours in advance, so obviously weather, track conditions and especially late scratches can and will have an effect. Please check back around 4pm Friday for an update, as well as on Twitter. *** Leg 1: Gulfstream Park R8 (4:10 ET) – 4upfm Florida-bred AOC at 6 furlongs The opener is filled with speed (take note of the track condition as well, as there’s been heavy rains in the area all week), so I’ll look for the stalkers who have shown they can pass horses late. An alert beginning would help the chances of #7 R TRUE TALENT (6-1), who blew the start last time and didn’t fire off the long break but should improve mightily off that tightener, and this outside attack post will help too. An outside stalking trip seems in line for #6 QUEEN NEKIA (6-1) as well, and she showed she fits on the local circuit when 2nd to a rousing winner last time, while well clear of a next-out winner too. Lastly, I’ll go inside to #1 HELLO JULIET (7-2), who is a bit tougher to trust but really woke up in the mud when 2nd last time and has run well on dry land before, so she too is in the mix from close range. Pk5 A horses (listed in order of preference): 7,6,1 It’s important to check the scratches, since if one of the two B’s scratches it will really elevate the chances of the other, and move them to the A-line. The fact that #5 THERE GOES BELLA (3-1) is drawn outside #3 THREAT (4-1) gives her a big edge, as both gals want to go early, and the former wired by the length of the stretch last time, while the latter set a hot pace and held 3rd. I’m also tossing in #8 FLORA FANTASY (8-1), who has been nibbling of late and has no speed, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing in here. Pk5 B horses: 5,3,8 Leg 2: Laurel Park R9 (4:35 ET) – 4up allowance at 7 furlongs The prospect of an honest pace would set up #7 COUSIN JIMMY (6-1), who rises in class off a restricted local win last time but fits nicely on figures and will enjoy the race flow. The same can be said with the wildcard, #2 AUTOSTRADE (5-2), who hasn’t been out since July, returns as a first-time gelding, and makes his first start for Motion, but showed high promise in four starts last year and wins this if he’s ready for a barn that is a big 25% off this kind of extended layoff. Pk5 A horses: 7,2 It would be a bit too bold to toss #4 WON AND DONE (3-1), since he brings big form from Parx for Gonzalez, who is 25% on the year, but the gut says he’ll face some other pace pressure, so wiring this tougher group might be a bit much to ask, hence his spot on the second rung. Pk5 B horses: 4 Leg 3: Santa Anita R4 (5:00 ET) – 4upfm 16k MCL at 5 � furlongs The ML doesn’t make sense in this race, so I’m not sure how “bold” my single of #6 SECRET OFFER is, since she can’t possibly be 5-1 off her return from 361 days on the shelf, when a close 6th in her dirt debut, against much better than she meets here, especially since she should only improve off that and meets an extremely weak crew. Pk5 A horses: 6 Not only am I quite confident in my single, I can’t justify using anyone else in here, especially since I like to keep these tickets on a relatively modest budget. Case in point, #1 Sweetener (3-1) will have to run hard every step of the way and meets speed to her outside, so she looks vulnerable at short odds (though she’d be my first B); #4 Crackling Bread (7-2) could be sitting just off the pace with the blinkers going on, but why would today be the day for a breakthrough after 14 losses and seven underneath finishes; #5 Factorize (5-2) hasn’t been out since 8/17, has a high of a 33 Beyer in two dirt starts, and Miller rides 7-pound apprentice Diaz, who has not ridden in the afternoon all year; lastly, #7 Gio Pronto (7-2), who cost 2k way back in 2015, debuts for 16k for Baltas, who is a somewhat unbelievable 1-for-41 with firsters. So yeah, suddenly Secret Offer is looking a lot better (albeit at half of that 5-1 ML). Pk5 B horses: NONE Leg 4: Gulfstream Park R11 (5:42 ET) – 4up 12.5k MCL at 5  furlongs The second single in the sequence is #11 ACCOUNTANT Q (4-1), who got run off his feet when 6th on the turf last time but wins this with either of is last two dirt races, drew perfectly, and meets a crew filled with question marks and lifetime refusers. Pk5 A horses: 11 I don’t like using an abundance of B’s when I have a single, as they can make the ticket go up exponentially, so I’m only going with #2 STARSHIP TAXI (9-2), since he chased and tired behind ‘Q last time, in what was his first start since April, when he ran twice against MSW fields on the dirt. If you want more food for thought, then #1 Vaughan (5-1) will close late, though he’s never tried the dirt and is 0-for-18 lifetime and #8 Dr Dudley (8-1) was a much-improved 2nd last time and would be a player if he doesn’t regress. Pk5 B horses: 2 Leg 5: Golden Gate Fields R5 (5:53 ET) – 4upfm allowance at 1-mile Tough sledding in the finale, as it’s wide open with no clear-cut favorite, but it does have pace, which is why I’m looking for this to fall into the lap of the stalker/closers late. My top pick is #1 ZIARAH (8-1), who drew perfectly, has been 3rd sprinting in both US starts, and should save all the ground on the stretchout for Badilla, who is 4-for-11 sprint-to-route. A more energetic pace will help #2 GETTING SIDEWAYS (6-1), who closed late to get 3rd behind a slow pace when returning to two turns, as well as #9 RENNY’S LADY (8-1), who was just a half-length back in 4th, in what was her US debut, first start since June, and first start for Badilla as well. We round out the quartet with #5 MUSIC BABE (4-1), who doubled up in very fast time over 12.5k starter-allowance gals last time and doesn’t seem outgunned on the rise. Pk5 A horses: 1,2,9,5 If someone is going to survive a pace battle it might be #6 OF NOTE (7-2), an easy winner for 20k last time who now goes off the claim for Rivelli, but improving off Herbertson (27%) isn’t easy, and this is a rise in class for a gal who catches speed on both sides. Pk5 B horses: 6 The tickets: Main Ticket: 7,6,1 with 7,2 with 6 with 11 with 1,2,9,5 = $24Leg 1 B Backup: 5,3,8 with 7,2 with 6 with 11 with 1,2,9,5 = $24Leg 2 B Backup: 7,6,1 with 4 with 6 with 11 with 1,2,9,5 = $12Leg 4 B Backup: 7,6,1 with 7,2 with 6 with 2 with 1,2,9,5 = $24Leg 5 B Backup: 7,6,1 with 7,2 with 6 with 11 with 6 = $6

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2.14.2019:

War of Will Heads Bulky Risen Star Field

War of Will, coming off a sparkling four-length victory in the Grade III Lecomte Stakes, heads a field of 15, including one horse on the also-eligible list, entered in this Saturday’s Grade II Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots. Trained by Mark Casse, War of Will drew the disadvantageous 14 post. “Obviously the post is outside,” Casse said. “But we’d rather be outside than inside. He’s got enough speed so he’ll get over. And if he’s as good as we think he is, it shouldn’t matter.” When Casse said “it shouldn’t matter,” it brought to mind what happened when Hall of Fame trainer John Nerud sent Dr. Fager from New York to California for Hollywood Park’s 1968 Californian Stakes. The conditions for the Californian that year were so complicated that even an MIT graduate would have had difficulty determining how much weight a horse was supposed to carry. At the time, Bob Benoit was Hollywood Park’s director of publicity. “When Dr. Fager was entered in the Californian,” Benoit told me years later, “he was entered with the wrong weight.” According to Bob Hebert’s recap of the Californian in the BloodHorse magazine, Nerud had entered Dr. Fager with 124 pounds. “When the racing office re-checked the weights,” Benoit said, “they found a mistake had been made. Dr. Fager was going to have to carry 130.” Benoit said he was given the unenviable task of having to phone Nerud to tell him that Dr. Fager would be carrying 130 instead of 124. Years later, Benoit told me the phone conversation with Nerud went like this: Benoit: “I have some bad news regarding Dr. Fager.” Nerud: “What? Did something happen to the horse on the plane?” Benoit: “No, no. As far as I know, the horse is fine.” Nerud: “Then what’s the bad news?” Benoit: “Well, there was a mistake made regarding the weight Dr. Fager has to carry.” Nerud: “Is that right? How much does he have to carry?” Benoit: “130.” After a few seconds of silence, Nerud said: “It won’t matter.” Click. Nerud was right. It didn’t matter. Despite being burdened with 130 pounds, Dr. Fager won the Californian with authority by three lengths as one of his victories during one of the greatest single seasons by a Thoroughbred in American racing history. In 1968, Dr. Fager was voted champion sprinter, champion handicap horse, co-champion grass horse and Horse of the Year. He is the only horse to win four titles in a single year. “Dr. Fager set and tied records from seven furlongs to 1 1/4 miles, slashing the mile mark to 1:32 1/5 en route,” Charles Hatton wrote of Dr. Fager’s 1968 campaign in the American Racing Manual. “He did everything with flair, though he was not tested at cup routes and his stamina was not incorruptible by the iconoclasts. His prodigal wire to wire speed, his impartiality concerning track conditions, his bravery under fire and his ability to make light of enervating weights, elicited widespread acclaim.” Dr. Fager ranks No. 7 on my list of the Top 100 Racehorses of the 20th and 21st Centuries to have raced in North America, behind only No. 1 Man o’ War, No. 2 Secretariat, No. 3 Citation, No. 4 Kelso, No. 5 Spectacular Bid and No. 6 Native Dancer. Getting back to the 1 1/16-mile Risen Star, there was some good news for War of Will last Sunday. Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert tweeted that Kingly, who had drawn post 13, would not be shipped from California to Louisiana for the Risen Star. Kingly, a Kentucky-bred Tapit colt, now is to compete in this Saturday’s Grade III El Camino Real Derby. Thirteen have been entered in this 1 1/8-mile race, which will be contested on Golden Gate’s synthetic surface. In Kingly’s two lifetime starts, he won a maiden special weight race at Del Mar on Dec. 1 before finishing second in an allowance/optional claiming affair on a sloppy track Jan. 31 at Santa Anita. He is a half-brother to New Year’s Day, who won the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Juvenile in 2013 for Baffert. Kingly also is a full brother to multiple Grade II winner Moyahmen. With Kingly out of the Risen Star, the worst it will be for War of Will is post 13. And if there are any additional defections, War of Will will get to move even further inside. War of Will’s first four races all were on the grass. Three of those four starts came in graded stakes races while he still was a maiden. He finished second in the Grade I Summer at Woodbine, fourth in the Grade III Bourbon at Keeneland and fifth in the Grade I BC Juvenile Turf at Churchill Downs. Casse has said he believes War of Will might have won the BC Juvenile Turf if not for his extremely wide trip. After the BC Juvenile Turf, the decision was made to find out what War of Will could do in a race on the dirt. In his final start at 2, the Kentucky-bred War Front colt splashed his way to a five-length win in a 1 1/16-mile maiden special weight race on a sloppy track Nov. 24 at Churchill. He posted a final time of 1:45.45. On that same track that same day, Signalman won the Grade II Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at the same distance in 1:45.29. In War of Will’s first start at 3, he won the Lecomte by completing one mile and seventy yards in 1:43.44, proving he could excel on a fast track. Earlier on that card, Needs Supervision won the Silverbulletday Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at the same distance in 1:45.43. Casse has gone so far as to say he believes War of Will “is an absolute superstar.” After the Lecomte, Casse recalled that he had told some friends about a month ago that he felt he had “a big chance” to win the Kentucky Derby this year with War of Will. The veteran trainer added that he doesn’t usually “say things like that, so that tells you what I think of him.” War of Will is the Risen Star morning-line favorite at 5-2. The 6-1 second choice is Owendale. Trained by Brad Cox, Owendale won an allowance/optional claiming race by 1 1/2 lengths at the Fair Grounds on Jan. 17 on a wet track rated as good. That Jan. 27 race was run at the same distance as the Lecomte. Owendale, a Kentucky-bred Into Mischief colt, recorded a 91 Beyer Speed Figure in his Jan. 17 triumph. War of Will was credited with a 94 Beyer in the Lecomte. Country House, listed at 20-1 on the Risen Star morning line, intrigues me as someone who looks capable of making his presence felt. Hall of Famer Bill Mott trains the Kentucky-bred Lookin At Lucky colt. In Country House’s third career start, he was hammered down to 3-5 favoritism in a 1 1/16-mile maiden special weight race at Gulfstream Park. Well behind early after swerving inward sharply in the initial strides from the inside post, he rallied to win going away by 3 1/2 lengths. While he recorded only a 70 Beyer Speed Figure, it nevertheless was an impressive effort considering the poor start. In fact, the comment in Country House’s past performance line is “slow early, impressive.” As for War of Will, he ranks No. 5 on my Kentucky Derby list going into this Saturday’s Risen Star. This is my current Top 10: 1. Game Winner2. Improbable3. Instagrand4. Hidden Scroll5. War of Will6. Mucho7. Signalman8. Mucho Gusto9. Omaha Beach10. Vekoma GAME WINNER 5-1 IN FUTURE WAGER As expected, the “All Others” option ended up being the favorite in Pool Two of the 2019 Kentucky Derby Future Wager (KDFW) that was conducted last week. “All Others” closed at 5-2. Also as expected, in terms of individual horses, Game Winner wound up being the favorite, closing at 5-1. Here were the final odds for Pool Two of the KDFW: 5-2 All Others5-1 Game Winner7-1 Hidden Scroll7-1 Improbable10-1 Instagrand17-1 War of Will22-1 Coliseum22-1 Global Campaign23-1 Mucho Gusto28-1 Harvey Wallbanger28-1 Signalman31-1 Bourbon War34-1 Gunmetal Gray35-1 Win Win Win38-1 Maximus Mischief40-1 Network Effect41-1 Vekoma60-1 Limonite63-1 Tax78-1 Knicks Go96-1 Tacitus104-1 Gray Attempt111-1 Owendale118-1 Walking Thunder War of Will is one of three individual horses in Pool Two of the KDFW who are entered in this Saturday’s Risen Star. The other two are Limonite and Owendale. There is bad news for anyone who bet Coliseum, who closed at 22-1 in Pool Two. Coliseum, trained by Baffert, finished third as the 3-5 favorite in last Saturday’s Grade II San Vicente Stakes at Santa Anita. Baffert announced Tuesday that Coliseum now is off the Kentucky Derby trail. “I’m going to reboot him, kick him out for 30 days,” Baffert told Daily Racing Form’s Brad Free. “We know he’s good, but he doesn’t want to train. He’s sour.” When Coliseum was unveiled at Santa Anita last Nov. 17, he won a maiden race by 6 3/4 lengths as a 1-2 favorite. But the Kentucky-bred Tapit colt then ran sixth as a 3-5 favorite in Santa Anita’s Grade III Sham Stakes on Jan. 5. In the San Vicente, he finished 6 1/2 lengths behind the victorious Sparky Ville. Coliseum certainly was hyped prior to his Nov. 17 debut. In John Cherwa’s Los Angeles Times horse racing newsletter last Nov. 11, he listed the Kentucky Derby odds at that time put out by the betting website Bovada. Game Winner was the 8-1 favorite, with Instagrand next at 16-1. Even though Coliseum had not raced yet, he was 20-1. Also at 20-1 were Improbable, Knicks Go and Rowayton. Knicks Go disappointed in his 2019 debut last Saturday at Tampa Bay Downs. He finished fifth as the 9-5 favorite in the Grade III Sam F. Davis Stakes at 1 1/16 miles. Well Defined led all the way and prevailed by 2 3/4 lengths for trainer Kathleen O’Connell. A Florida-bred With Distinction gelding, Well Defined recorded a career-best 93 Beyer Speed Figure. It is interesting to compare the odds in Pool One of the KDFW that closed last Nov. 25 with Pool Two. In Pool One, the “All Other 3-Year-Old Males” option was the 6-5 favorite and Game Winner was the 5-2 favorite among the individual horses. Coliseum, who earlier in November had won at first asking, and Instagrand were each 10-1. Here were the final odds for Pool One of the 2019 KDFW: 6-5 All Other 3-Year-Old Males5-1 Game Winner10-1 Coliseum10-1 Instagrand17-1 Improbable18-1 Code of Honor26-1 Maximus Mischief30-1 Signalman32-1 Roadster36-1 Vekoma43-1 Magic On Tap44-1 Knicks Go44-1 Mucho46-1 Tale of the Union47-1 Mucho Gusto53-1 King for a Day53-1 Uncle Benny59-1 Cairo Cat59-1 Network Effect66-1 All 3-Year-Old Fillies72-1 Dunph76-1 Gunmetal Gray88-1 Epic Dreamer117-1 Preamble WILL RAGS TO RICHES GET ON THE BALLOT? The National Museum of Racing will announce the 2019 contemporary Hall of Fame finalists via press release Thursday at 11 a.m. Eastern Time. These finalists will be presented to the nationwide voting panel for Hall of Fame consideration. Will this be the year that Rags to Riches finally is put on the ballot by the Hall of Fame’s nominating committee? I sure hope so. Rags to Riches is one of only four fillies to have won a Triple Crown race in the last 95 years. The four are Genuine Risk (who won the 1980 Kentucky Derby), Winning Colors (1988 Kentucky Derby), Rags to Riches (2007 Belmont Stakes) and Rachel Alexandra (2009 Preakness). Genuine Risk, Winning Colors and Rachel Alexandra are in the Hall of Fame. All three certainly deserve it. Is Rags to Riches in the Hall of Fame? Nope. Rags to Riches first became eligible for Hall of Fame induction in 2013. But not only did the nominating committee fail to put Rags to Riches on the ballot in 2013, she also has not appeared on the ballot in 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018. This is absurd. Will Rags to Riches again be a no-show on the 2019 Hall of Fame ballot? Or will the nominating committee at long last get it right this year? WINX LOOKS TO EXTEND LONG WINNING STREAK Australia’s mighty Winx bids for her 30th consecutive victory when she runs in Saturday’s Group II Apollo Stakes at Royal Randwick. The word from Down Under is Winx will race three more times this year before being retired. After the Apollo, Winx is expected to start in the Group I Chipping Norton Stakes on March 2, the Group I George Ryder Stakes on March 23, then then Group I Queen Elizabeth Stakes on April 13. Winx won the prestigious Group I Cox Plate for an unprecedented fourth time last year. Will her extraordinary winning streak continue in Saturday’s Apollo? If she does get beat, it really can’t be attributed to an Apollo curse. That’s because Winx already has won the Apollo twice, first in 2016 and again in 2017. The renowned mare did not start in the Apollo last year because her regular rider, Hugh Bowman, was suspended at the time. THIS WEEK’S NTRA POLLS Here is the Top 10 for this week’s NTRA Top Thoroughbred Poll: Rank Horse (First-Place Votes) 1. City of Light (27)2. Monomoy Girl (4)3. Roy H4. Battle of Midway5. Bricks and Mortar6. Accelerate7. McKinzie8. Seeking the Soul9. Sistercharlie10. Game Winner Here is the Top 10 for this week’s NTRA Top 3-Year-Old Poll: Rank Horse (First-Place Votes) 1. Game Winner (28)2. Improbable (3)3. War of Will4. Mucho Gusto (1)5. Instagrand6. Hidden Scroll7. Signalman7. Gunmetal Gray9. Tax10. Harvey Wallbanger

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2.12.2019:

Harness Highlights: Kadabra Trots Into O’Brien Award Spotlight

Abra Kadabra, a magic wand cast a spell on the 2018 O’Brien Awards. Kadabra, who stands at Tara Hills Stud in Ontario, sired five of Canada’s 12 divisional champions in 2018. His offspring earned $7.4 million and excelled in trotting races throughout North America. The winners were: Emoticon Hanover (Older Trotting Mare), who won her second Breeders Crown title; Will Take Charge (Older Trotting Horse), who topped $1 million in career earnings; Ontario Sire Stakes Super Final winners Forbidden Trade (2yo Trotting Colt) and Run Director (3yo Trotting Colt); and $241,000 earner Illusioneesta (3yo Trotting Filly). Trainer Casie Coleman trained two O’Brien Award Winners, including McWicked, a runaway winner as the Somebeachsomewhere Horse of the Year. McWicked won the Breeders Crown Open Pace, scored his most lucrative of several major stakes victories in the $600,000 Canadian Pacing Derby and topped $4 million in lifetime earnings with 12 wins in 19 starts. Coleman also trained Stag Party, winner of the $890,000 Metro Pace and 2-Year-Old Pacing Colt honors. Tall Drink Hanover swept the Whenuwishuponastar and Shes A Great Lady series’ and the The Ice Dutchess did the same in the Peaceful Way series to earn top 2-year-old filly pacing and trotting trophies, respectively. Trainer of the Year Richard Moreau (315 wins, $4.6 million in earnings) and Driver of the Year Louis-Phillipe Roy (416 wins, $7.4 million in earnings) had a big hand in the success of $834,000 earner, Ontario Sire Stakes stalwart and champion 3-Year-Old Pacing Colt Jimmy Freight. Shower Play paced 1:50.2 in the Fan Hanover finals en route to becoming 3-Year-Old Pacing Filly champion, while Exhilarated won 11 times in a taxing 44-race season to be named top Older Pacing Mare. Conspicuous by her absence in the O’Brien Awards voting was Hambletonian winner Atlanta. She was disqualified from consideration because her trainer, Rick Zeron, was serving 1 180-day suspension. Standardbred Canada’s O’Brien Award eligibility policy states: “An O’Brien Award will not be presented to any individual or entity who has served, or is currently serving a penalty for a continued period of 180 days or more.”

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2.12.2019:

Feb 12: Pompano Park Pick 4 Analysis

Pompano Park has an 8-race card on tap tonight with the feature coming in Race 6, a condition pace with a $5,500 purse. The 0.50 Pick 4 begins in Race 5, and it continues to gain popularity. The sequence has a $15,000 guaranteed pool, a low 12% takeout and will be my focus. As often is the case Wally Hennessey was the driver with the hottest hands, but last night he made only two trips to the winner's circle. All eight races on the card were won by different trainers. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Race 5 1-Direct Route-Will look to beat this tepid ML chalk but couldn't leave out versus this crew. LT mark is on a 5/8's at Phl. 2-Expo-Will excuse last start with a break, this is the best shot in a long time for an overdue win. 3-Undercover Bro-Another with an early miscue, but now MacDonald's back, can save ground and look to rally late. 7-Innovative Force-Is more sure-footed than others and it doesn't hurt to have Hennessey who can work a trip. Race 6 2-Rockin Desire-9-time winner in '18 is in a more comfortable spot. Could be sitting on a big try. 3-Highly Spirit-Winner of 2 out of 3 at this class will be bet very hard again, likes the engine and should get there. 4-Layer Cake-Could get the pocket behind #3, if back class shows it could be picture time. Race 7 1-De Valeria-4-race win streak was snapped, but now sheds the 8-hole. If fires best shot it should be good enough. 5-Dontcloseyoureyes-Will need to make the most of post 5, if so, Wally can get a trip and stay in the hunt. 6-Rose Run Samantha-Beat 8k claimers here in the fall. A quick pace helps, needs some breaks but best to respect. Race 8 1-Legend Field-9-year-old could get a pocket trip behind #5, will take a swing at 15-1 in the ML. 5-Deli-Craze-ML chalk takes a good drop in class and really has no excuse, but doesn't take many pictures. 9-Trotalot-Zeron needs to find a trip to be in striking range late, this isn't a strong field so will respect chances. 0.50 Pick 4 1,2,3,7/2,3,4/1,5,6/1,5,9 Total Bet=$54 Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia

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2.11.2019:

Monday, February 11: Mohawk Park Early Pick 4 Analysis

Woodbine Mohawk Park has a competitive 11-race card scheduled for tonight. The feature will roll in Race 10, a Preferred Trot with a $34,000 purse. The headliner from a wagering standpoint is the Early 0.20 Pick 4 with a $50,000 guaranteed pool. That sequence begins in Race 4 and will be my focus. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Race 4 3-Surf Report-In good form, did race on 1-31 which could be an advantage over others to help snag 3rd straight. 5-Arazi-The post draw helps and should be forwardly placed, looks to be in the hunt with a fair trip. 8-Kwicky Kwanzaa-1st time Shepherd, Roy steers, could be handled aggressively and close into a stiff pace. Race 5 2-Big Rich -Won in this spot 2 back with Roy, tough to ignore the same outcome. 4-Cue Hall-Back down to a better level and JMac has some options for hot barn. 7-Odds On Amethyst-Can beat these at a square price but will need a sharp steer. Race 6 4-Lone Wolf Terror-Bet hard in last 3 and delivered on Thurs., went the back half in 56.2 and best to respect. 6-Shoe Shine-Racing well and got on the engine to win last, same formula could be followed tonight. 7-Crocadile Canyon-Another Shepherd claim, Henry gets back aboard and he knows well, could score at a square price. Race 7 4-Charlie Is A Joker-Has had excuses but now races back in 9-days, will take a swing at 10-1 in the ML. 5-Parkhill Nonstop-Bet down and faded in last after trying the engine, should be in line for a stalking trip. 7-Setanta-Breaking issues but qualified and put in a flat line, could be sitting on a big try at a nice price. 9-Caufield-Even effort on 2-1 was 1st race since 8-28 at PcD, could be ready for a big try in 2nd start for Gallucci. My Ticket Race 4) 3,5,8 Race 5) 2,4,7 Race 6) 4,6,7 Race 7) 4,5,7,9 Total Ticket Cost) $21.60 for $0.20Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia 

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2.11.2019:

Buster Douglas Anniversary Spurs Upset Dreams

On this date in 1990, boxer James “Buster” Douglas did the unthinkable when he decked heavyweight champion and phenom Mike Tyson as a 41-1 underdog. It was a glorious kickoff to sports in the decade of the 1990s. A few months later, we’d witness Mrs. Genter get the hugs of Carl Nafzger and the tears of America as Unbridled wore the roses. Little did we know then that the entire decade of the 1990s, just as the 1980s, would see favorites get blanked in the Kentucky Derby. We love a great upset in horse racing, but the Derby has been absent of them for the past six years. Consecutive favorites Orb, California Chrome, American Pharoah, Nyquist, Always Dreaming and Justify have numbed us to the potential for chaos. We haven’t seen anything like this parade of chalk in our lifetimes; six in a row haven’t won since the late 1800s, after all. It’s hard to believe that in 2015, I was already itching for a Derby upset. As part of the NBC Sports research team, I was then pitching a story about what we had already started to miss with the formful results. The producers nixed the idea; it never made the air. But reading today of the Douglas-Tyson anniversary got me thinking again, just what it might take to see another puzzler on the first Saturday in May. Pardon the all caps (that’s TV script style), but here’s the 2015 NBC piece I pitched as we think about historic upsets on a historic anniversary: ANATOMY OF A DERBY UPSET BACK-TO-BACK KENTUCKY DERBY FAVORITES HAVE BASKED IN THE ROSES, ORB AND CALIFORNIA CHROME, LENDING CALM TO AMERICA’S MOST CHAOTIC HORSE RACE. BUT FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO BELIEVE IN MIRACLES ON ICE, AND THE UPPER CUT OF JAMES ‘BUSTER’ DOUGLAS, THE NEXT UPSET MAY ONLY BE A MILE AND ONE-QUARTER AWAY. THIS DERBY MARKS THE 10TH ANNIVERSARY OF ONE OF ITS MOST UNLIKLIEST OF WINNERS, A 50-TO-1 OUTSIDER NAMED GIACOMO. THE UNHERALDED GREY, IRONICALLY OWNED BY A&M RECORDS CO-FOUNDER JERRY MOSS…AND NAMED FOR THE SON OF MUSICAL GREAT ‘STING’…PROVED TO BE ONE OF THE BIGGEST ONE-HIT WONDERS IN THE RACE’S HISTORY. A $1 WINNING TICKET ON THE TOP 4 FINISHERS IN DERBY NUMBER 131 WAS WORTH MORE THAN $860,000. A 50-TO-1 KENTUCKY DERBY WINNER HAD NOT BEEN SEEN IN 92 YEARS BEFORE GIACOMO LIT UP THE CHURCHILL DOWNS TOTEBOARD. BUT YOU DIDN’T HAVE TO WAIT LONG FOR LIGHTNING TO STRIKE AGAIN. JUST FOUR YEARS LATER, ANOTHER 50-1 SHOT … MINE THAT BIRD … SPLASHED UP THE RAIL TO BAFFLE THE EXPERTS AND SET THE DERBY AXIS ON TILT. WERE HORSES LIKE GIACOMO AND MINE THAT BIRD RANDOM POSSIBILITIES, OR MIGHT THERE BE AN ANATOMY OF THE UPSET IN THE KENTUCKY DERBY? EACH OF THE FOUR LARGEST UPSETS IN KENTUCKY DERBY HISTORY OCCURRED IN YEARS AFTER A FAVORITE HAD SCORED. GIACOMO FOLLOWED SMARTY JONES, MINE THAT BIRD FOLLOWED BIG BROWN....EVEN 91-1 DONERAIL BOASTED HIS RECORD RETURN THE YEAR AFTER AN ODDS-ON FAVORITE TALLIED THE 1912 DERBY. JUST WHEN THE PUBLIC THINKS IT HAS THE DERBY DIALED IN, THE ORDER CAN BE SHAKEN IN HISTORIC WAVES. OVER-CONFIDENCE HAS NO KENTUCKY HOME ON THE FIRST SATURDAY IN MAY. ANOTHER FACTOR SHARED BY THE DERBY’S BIGGEST UPSETTERS IS A LATE-RUNNING STYLE. AMERICAN HORSEPLAYERS ARE DRAWN TO SPEED LIKE A MAGNET, AND THOSE WHO RALLY FROM FAR BACK OFTEN ARE CONSIDERED TOO SLOW FOR PRIME TIME. OF THE TOP 5 UPSETTERS IN KENTUCKY DERBY HISTORY, THEIR AVERAGE POSITION IN A 20-HORSE RACE COLLECTIVELY WOULD HAVE BEEN 15TH IN THE EARLY RUNNING. MINE THAT BIRD EMERGED FROM 19TH, GIACOMO FROM 18TH, IN MOST RECENT EXAMPLES. AND FINALLY, A DERBY BOMB DOESN’T GET DROPPED WITHOUT A SKILLED PILOT. OF THE FIVE LARGEST KENTUCKY DERBY UPSETS OF THE LAST HALF-CENTURY, ALL FIVE WERE RIDDEN BY JOCKEYS WHO WOULD GO ON TO BE ENSHIRED IN THE HALL OF FAME. CURRENT NAMES LIKE CALVIN BOREL, MIKE SMITH AND GARY STEVENS, ALONG WITH PAST LEGENDS LIKE BOBBY USSERY AND CHRIS ANTLEY. IT TAKES ALL THE STARS TO ALIGN IN THE LOUISVILLE SKYLINE. I hope you enjoyed this look back, and perhaps look ahead to bigger prices on the horizon. Who knows, after six years of over-flowing chalk, over-confidence on this coming first Saturday in May might be at an all-time high? If so, put up your dukes, Buster. 

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2.9.2019:

Saturday, February 9: Cal Expo Pick 4 Analysis

Cal Expo has an 11-race card scheduled with the main event coming in Race 8, the Marvin Shapiro Final with an $8,400 purse. The headliner from a betting standpoint is the 0.20 Pick 4 which also begins in Race 8. That sequence has a $40,000 guaranteed pool with a 16% takeout, and it will be my focus. The drivers with the hottest hands last night at Cal Expo were James Kennedy and Lemoyne Svendsen with two wins each. On the 10-race card no trainer had more than one trip to the winner's circle. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Race 8 1-Swagasaurusrex-Needs a trip and can get one from here, best to respect at this level. 7-Fly Away-Often close but doesn't seal the deal, using versus this crew. 8-Imma Tank-Has had excuses, doesn't show a win on an off-track, can score at a square price with a dry strip. 9-Mortgage My Villa-Should like the company, can grind way around and chances go up with a quick pace. Race 9 5-Scary Harry-Wary of a judges scratch after a break but this guy has won before under a similar set-up. 7-Mr Varsity-Trip dependent but usually tries hard for Team Plano and best to not overlook. 8-Justabitcrazy-9-time winner in '18 fits versus this group. Post adds to the price and can pop at a nice odds. Race 10 4-Silent Rescue-Likes to race close to the lead and should have no trouble getting that trip, drops to a level to shine. 7-Coz And Effect-1st time in the Kennedy barn and they have been hot, plus gets a positive driver change. 9-Hi Ho's Little Rev-Failed as an odds on favorite but has never won on an off-track. Can make amends at a better price. Race 11 1-Cowboys Dirtyboots-Having a good year and from this spot could trip out to win for the 3rd time in 2019. 3-Who Dat Love-Form has been dull but looking for a wake-up as now Svendsen is between the pipes for Johnson. 7-Musician-Not much gate speed inside so Lackey could blast out, price shot can compete at this class with a trip. My Ticket Race 8) 1,7,8,9 Race 9) 5,7,8 Race 10) 4,7,9 Race 11) 1,3,7 Total Ticket Cost) $21.60 for $0.20Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia. 

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2.9.2019:

Knicks Go set for comeback at Tampa Bay, heads tough Pick 4

Knicks Go put himself into the conversation when it came to top 2-year-olds last fall as he made a huge pari-mutuel dent in a couple of Grade 1 races. After a gate to wire 5.5-length score in the Breeders’ Futurity (at a mere 70-to-1) at Keeneland, he rolled right back with second behind champion Game Winner in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs (40-1). The Ben Colebrook-trained Paynter colt on Saturday makes his 1st start of 2019 in the Gr. 3 Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs, and after a disappointing 11th- place finish in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill, his connections are hopeful he can get back to top form. The Sam F. Davis leads to the Tampa Bay Derby, which ultimately leads to the Kentucky Derby. It’s a solid race year after year, and this season it’s no different. The race is the 11th on the card and the third leg of the late Pick 4, which, as usual, piques our interest. If Knicks Go gets back to that front-running energy that put him among the top 2-year-olds in the country last year, he’ll make short work of these. But, being that this is 1st of the year, he might carry some vulnerability. A potential upsetter is So Alive from the Todd Pletcher barn. He has won two of three and prepped for this with a win on Jan. 6. He has worked well since then and seemed to have really come back to life after an off-the-board since to end 2018 at Churchill. Knicks Go and So Alive are both on the suggested Pick 4 ticket. This ticket is contingent on Rymska scratching from the 10th race (Endeavor Stakes) and running in Gulfstream’s Suwannee River Stakes instead. Here’s the suggested ticket for the late Pick 4 at Tampa Bay Downs:Race 9) #1 Her Royal Highness, #2 Winning Envelope, #3 Tapit’s Princess, #9 Sweet Diane.Race 10) #2 Get Explicit, #3 Bonnie Arch, #5 Conquest Hardcandy, #6 Hawksmoor, #11 Bombshell.Race 11) #3 Knicks Go, #8 So Alive.Race 12) #1 Adios Nardo, #4 At the Ready, #8 Gray Dude.50-cent Pick 4: 1-2-3-9 with 2-3-5-6-11 with 3-8 with 1-4-8. ($60)

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2.8.2019:

Friday, February 8: Meadowlands Pick 4 Analysis

The Meadowlands has a big 13-race card set to go this evening and it looks like the weather will cooperate. The feature rolls in Race 7, a Preferred Handicap Trot with a $21,000 purse. The very popular 0.50 Pick 4 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-Kak's Shark Attack-Needs a trip, leaves from the 3-hole and should be in position, could be sitting on a big try. 6-January A-Nice effort in 1st U.S start, if steps up the effort a bit will be a player here. 7-Bettim Jackie-Won 1st start in Burke's barn in impressive fashion, likes to win and best to respect. 8-Seaswift Joy N-NZ invader had an even effort in 1st U.S. start. This is the 2nd start on Lasix and should be in the hunt. Race 9 1-Downundermatter-Beaten favorite drops to the class of recent success, may make amends tonight. 7-Con Air Hall-Camera shy 6-year-old could be a player, McCarthy takes a turn and that can help. 9-Can Do-Not much gate speed inside. A. Naps can blast out and get a good seat, as I shoot against the ML chalk #8. Race 10 2-Big Lis-Steps up after a big try from 10-hole, still fits and Lasix has seemed to help. 3-The Spinster N-Won, steps up and 2nd time Lasix. Tripped out in last and could get a pocket ride behind #2. 6-Fancy Creek Jolene-Has faced better and this is a spot to shine, can take a picture at a square price. Race 11 1-Big Expense-Drops and the rail should help the cause, main foes drew outside. 8-Arch Credit-Dropped and was used hard from the 9-hole in last. Could leave and get a good seat and rally late. 9-Newcastle-9/5 ML chalk makes 1st Big M start for a hot barn, does show a win at this track but post could hurt cause. My Ticket Race 8) 1,6,7,8 Race 9) 1,7,9 Race 10) 2,3,6 Race 11) 1,8,9  Total Ticket Cost) $54 for $0.50Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia.

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2.7.2019:

Weekly Bankroll Builder: February 8 Stronach 5 Picks

Big doings in this week’s Stronach 5, as the pool is now guaranteed at $100,000, and players can expect it to easily surpass that and potentially approach $150,000. 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 (4:35 ET) – 4upfm 5k at 7 furlongs The opening leg depends a lot about how you feel towards #9 PRESTONS PRINCESS (3-1), who has faced better in two starts off the Ness claim and has yet to run on a fast track; the drop will help a lot, and you have to think she might improve in a big way on dry land, so I’ll single her in a field that doesn’t have much. Pk5 A horses (listed in order of preference): 9 The only other horse I’m interested in is #6 LETMESLIDEBYYOU (8-1), since she looked like a new horse with an easy win on the cutback last time and will be closing late at a nice price. Yes, #1 Holiday Magician (5-2), #3 Given Achance (4-1), and #4 Greasedlightning (5-1) are all viable alternatives, but seem to have a lot of knocks too. Pk5 B horses: 6 Leg 2: Gulfstream Park R10 (4:40 ET) – 4up 6.25k N3L at 1-mile This could be the most likely spot for budget players to single, as #1 KELLY TOUGH (9-5) is clearly the horse to beat off the Marcial Navarro claim after running a fast 2nd at the level last time, but I also don’t trust him, since there’s a lot of speed to his outside and he hasn’t won in eight starts, so I’m looking elsewhere, at least on top. Which brings me to #6 MANHATTAN PROJECT (8-1), who has run only 10 times and rises in class off a solid track and distance win in the N2L ranks last time, will get some pace to rally into, and will be a square price too, and I never think it’s a bad thing to take a class riser off a win in spots like these, as they are usually littered with a group of refusers. Pk5 A horses: 6,1 I don’t love #8 HIGH FLYING GUY (9-2), or his 2-for-23 record with 15 underneath finishes, but he too will like the race flow after hitting the board in his last two at the level, and he does lure Saez, so just maybe that puts him over the hump. Pk5 B horses: 8 Leg 3: Santa Anita R4 (5:00 ET) – 4upfm MSW at 6 1/2 furlongs (turf) It sure looks like #7 FICANAS (6-1) is ready to roll off a May layoff, as her AM drills are off the charts, and with Rosario named, she figures to mean business from a perfect draw for going down the hill. The best of those with current form is #2 MAGICAL GRAY (5-2), but at 0-for-5 her chances are adding up, though this might be the type of vulnerable field she’ll finally break through against. Pk5 A horses: 7,2 The wildcard is clearly #3 PERSEPOLIS (3-1), who didn’t do a lot of running over a bog going two turns at Keeneland for Chad Brown and now heads west and runs down the hill for Mandella; Prat is here and the works are solid, though this barn is 0-for-10 with newcomers, so she could need one (and longer too). You could go deeper here, though I’m not sure #1 Mela Jones (10-1) can wire from the inside, and there’s a ton of other speed here, which could also claim lightly raced dirt runner #6 Tivat (6-1), as well as #8 Storming Lady (4-1), who goes off the claim from McCarthy for Marquez and is another who has had her chances. Pk5 B horses: 3 Leg 4: Gulfstream Park R11 (5:13 ET) – 4up 30k N3L* at 1-mile (turf) Good luck here, as this looks like a toughie and rates as a spread, or at least as deep as your bankroll will allow you to go. My top pick—with little conviction—is #6 TIPSY KITTEN (9-2), who posted two big figures over the course this summer and now runs as a first-time gelding off a brief respite. If you toss out the yielding run without blinkers two-back then #3 MILES OF HUMOR (6-1) fits nicely from close range, at a price, from a ground-saving draw. The post really hurts the chances of #11 BLACK SEA, but his turf races are as good or better than anyone here and he was just a close 2nd against slightly better over the course and distance, so he’s tough not to include. And if you like ‘Sea then you have to like #8 BALTIC ART (8-1), since he wasn’t far behind in 3rd last time and drew a tad better too, and will be a much better price as well. Pk5 A horses: 6,3,11,8 I’m going to leave it at the top quartet and call it a day, as they seem better than the rest and all have a stalking/closing in a race where it looks like there will be an energetic pace. It’s worth noting, however, that #13 Jojo’s Dream (4-1) and #15 Giant Run (5-2) have to be used in some way, shape, or form, terrible posts and all, should they draw in off the AE list. Pk5 B horses: NONE Leg 5: Golden Gate Fields R5 (5:45 ET) – 3yo 12.5k MCL at 5 1/2 furlongs I’ll take a little stab in the finale with #3 BREAK THE LINE (8-1), who has been going two turns, drops in class, and should have plenty of foundation for this sprint, while making just his second start over the local Tapeta. The obvious horse to beat is #5 SIR LAUGHALOT (2-1), who goes turf-to-dirt, cuts back to one-turn, and has never been in this cheap, while holding his own against tons better. Pk5 A horses: 3,5 The backups are a lot tougher to trust, but #8 FULL OF GOLD (15-1) outran his odds on debut and can move forward, while #1 LUCKY’S LAST SONG (3-1) is a big underlay and will have to wire from the rail, but could shake out as the speed of the speed.Pk5 B horses: 8,1 The tickets: Main Ticket: 9 with 6,1 with 7,2 with 6,3,11,8 with 3,5 = $32Leg 1 B Backup: 6 with 6,1 with 7,2 with 6,3,11,8 with 3,5 = $32Leg 2 B Backup: 9 with 8 with 7,2 with 6,3,11,8 with 3,5 = $16Leg 3 B Backup: 9 with 6,1 with 3 with 6,3,11,8 with 3,5 = $16Leg 5 B Backup: 9 with 6,1 with 7,2 with 6,3,11,8 with 8,1 = $32

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2.7.2019:

Busy Saturday in Florida: Gulfstream Pick 6 & Tampa Stakes Bonanza

Last weekend was Santa Anita’s time to shine (weather notwithstanding) as they featured a monster Saturday card showcasing top older horses like McKinzie and Battle of Midway, stellar sophomores in the form of Mucho Gusto and Gunmetal Gray and a massive Pick 6 Mandatory Payout that captivated bettors from around the world.  This Saturday is Florida’s moment in the (hopefully literal) sun.  Saturday’s action at Gulfstream is headlined by a potentially massive Rainbow 6 Mandatory Payout.  The carryover into Thursday’s race was $1,342,034 and if that goes unclaimed before Saturday everything will be paid out then.  Plus, Saturday’s Gulfstream card features a pair of stakes – the Grade 3 Suwannee River and the ungraded El Prado.  First post is 12:00PM ET and the Pick 6 starts with Race 7 at 3:07PM ET.Not to be outdone or overlooked, the folks at Tampa Bay Downs have also put together a fine card Saturday, featuring four stakes races, headlined by the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis Stakes, a key prep race on the path to the Kentucky Derby.  My Gulfstream Pick 6 Mandatory Payout Ticket Here's a quick rundown of the horses I'm using on my ticket for Gulfstream's Mandatory Payout Rainbow 6 on Saturday. Race 7 – Maiden Claiming #4 Valid Exchange (9/5) – Ran well against tougher in a pair of turf sprints but dropped like an anchor in the lone dirt try.  #5 Drill Down Dude (8/1) – Firster debuts for a solid barn and has Tyler Gaffalione in the irons. He should be able to run a little. #11 In Gus We Trust (12/1) – Gets top local jock Luis Saez and will try to run them all down late.  Daunting task and he’ll need some help up front. Race 8 - Claiming #2 Reagan’s Odyssey (8/5) – Rates the likeliest winner but she has dropped five straight at short odds.  Positive barn switch is a help. #9 Dynatown (5/2) – Was beaten just a neck last time and drops in class and gets Johnny V.  Have to think she’ll be ready to roll and is a nice alternative to the fave. Race 9 - Maiden Special Weight #1 Miahsolomiah (12/1) – Ran a decent race in her debut and moves from Irad Ortiz Jr. to Luis Saez for her first route try.  Drew perfectly and would not be a surprise. #3 On the Town (6/1) – Finally gets to string together back-to-back races and that could make a big difference for this well-bred daughter of More Than Ready. #4 Clause (4/1) – Chad Brown/Irad Ortiz Jr. on the turf.  We’ve heard this story before. Note that Ortiz gets off the 1 and 3 to ride this one for his go-to-trainer. #9 Can’t Buy Me Love (7/2) – Came running in a similar race on January 12 and should fire another big shot today.  Race 10 - Allowance #3 Global Campaign (7/5) – Was a poorly-kept secret in his debut at January 5, going off at even-money and romping by nearly 6.  This is a logical ‘next step.’  #5 Standard Deviation (9/5) – Plenty of speed to his inside and he’ll try to gun ‘em down late.  Steps out of a pair of G1s and he ran a lot better than it looks in the Breeders’ Futurity. Race 11 - El Prado Stakes #5 Mr Cub (9/2) – Fired a huge shot when second behind eventual Pegasus World Cup Turf winner Bricks and Mortar on December 22.  If he does that again, he wins. #8 Hembree (7/2) – Mike Maker-charge won a G2 last year but hasn’t routed in a while.  He’ll need the pace to come back to him, but that’s possible. #11 Cowboy Culture (20/1) – Why not?  He won stakes races in his old barn and came running late to score in his first start for Norm Casse.  He may want more ground. #12 Uncle B (15/1) – Has won 5-of-12 at Gulfstream and is in the best form of his career.  Anything is possible. Race 12 - Maiden Special Weight #1 Café Americano (3/1) – Too nervous to single in this spot but she looks like the real deal.  Chad Brown, Irad Oritz Jr., Peter Brant, Medaglia d’Oro…checks all the boxes. #11 Lady Worthington (7/2) – Ran huge in her debut but faltered in the second start on December 22.  Gets a jock change to Johnny Velazquez and she’s been working lights out. Total Ticket Cost = $57.60   Knicks Go Headlines Sam F. Davis Stakes Kentucky Derby Points are up for grabs in the Sam F. Davis Stakes Saturday at Tampa Bay Downs.  The headline horse is Knicks Go (pictured above), who was the shocking 70/1 winner of the Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland in October and he followed that race up with a runner-up performance in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Churchill.  He faces stiff competition in the ‘Davis, including likely pacesetter Well Defined and Todd Pletcher’s So Alive.  Bet the Sam F. Davis as Race 11 Saturday, at 5:25PM ET.Plus, the Sam F. Davis is part of our Money-Back Guarantee on the Preps promotion.  Make a $10 Win bet on the race and we’ll refund it if your horse finishes 2nd or 3rd.   Tampa Bay Downs 1 Million Point Late Pick 4 Split We’re offering a 1 Million Point Split on Saturday’s Late Pick 4 at Tampa Bay Downs.  The sequence gets underway with Race 9 (4:22PM ET) and includes the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis, the Grade 3 Endeavour and the Suncoast Stakes.  Make a winning bet on the Late Pick 4 to Split 1 Million XB Rewards Points!

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2.7.2019:

Old Guys Rule

With a trio of 3-year-old stakes races on tap Saturday it would have been reasonable to expect one of those to emerge as the afternoon’s highlight. ‘Reasonable,’ but incorrect. While the Grade 2 Fasig-Tipton Holy Bull at Gulfstream, the Grade 3 Bob Lewis at Santa Anita, and the Grade 3 Withers at Aqueduct, in different ways each provided interesting results, the Grade 2 San Pasqual at Santa Anita for older horses stole the show. Battle of Midway, a 5-year-old horse--5 races removed from a truncated stud career in which he consistently missed the bullseye--latched onto favored McKinzie’s hip from the outset--while three-wide over a soggy, sloppy surface. He never let go. McKenzie, for his part, stalked pacesetter Giant Expectations, and took over when the real running started. Immediately, Battle of Midway and jockey Flavian Pratt moved to hook McKinzie and Hall of Fame partner Mike Smith. For the length of the stretch those two traded body blows; neither surrendering an inch. Finally, in the concluding yards, ‘Midway moved away from his foe. Besides providing proof that these two warriors immediately could help to fill a void atop the older division created by week-old retirements of City of Light and Accelerate, the San Pasqual also enhanced the emergence of 26-year-old jockey Flavian Prat. No secret to any SoCal racing observer, Prat already has proven his worth as a top rider. However, he hasn’t quite established himself as an international big-game hunter alongside youthful, Eclipse-winning, flying Oritz brothers. Out-gunning ‘Big Money’ Mike Smith and a Bob Baffert-trained odds-on favorite in a graded stakes will launch Prat into the pilot stratosphere quickly. Prat directed Battle of Midway to sit directly off McKinzie’s flank—taking the fight to ‘the horse to beat.’ Confidence in the ability and fitness of one’s mount is required for a rider to engage an odds-on Baffert runner from the break. It also demands a rider’s conviction in his own capability to get the job done when chips are down. Smith, as fine a jockey as we’ve ever seen, waited patiently before striking McKinzie with the whip near the finish. One assumes the rider felt his mount was giving all, so why hit him? Also, when Smith finally did stroke McKinzie with that famous left-handed reminder the horse responded by wringing his tail, as he has since he was 2. Perhaps, McKinzie detests being hit? Imagine that. As for the sophomores--the golden boys of horse racing and the ones general sports fans meet each May--Mucho Gusto easily won the Robert Lewis at Santa Anita over the same sloppy track as the San Pasqual. His partner Joe Talamo, who seems to recently have gained a toehold in the powerful Bob Baffert stable, was able to relax the son of Mucho Macho Man early and in the lane and they powered home with generous, freewheeling strides, ears pricked at the finish. The colt probably relished the sloppy track, but he’s now won 3 of 4 races with improved Beyer Speed figures in each outing. As for Mucho Gusto’s long-term divisional outlook? Forget where Mucho Gusto ranks on Baffert’s overflowing soph roster. Apparently, according to Baffert in a post-race interview Mucho Gusto represents the ‘B-team’ for owner Michael Lund Peterson. Tale of the Union, who broke maiden at Del Mar, is presumably Lund’s ‘first stringer.’ Those that wagered correctly on the Withers at Aqueduct got an early ‘Tax return’ in the form of a $6.20 mutuel payoff. Tax, a son of Arch out of Toll, stumbled at the start, but quickly recovered to be near the early lead. From the rail post Tax and jockey Junior Alvarado rode pine the entire race behind two speed horses into the stretch. That’s where things got a bit tight. Jockey and gelding showed admirable courage by slipping through a narrow opening between the rail and eventual runner-up Not That Brady. Since the margin of victory was small, the inside maneuver probably made the difference between victory and defeat. Claimed at Keeneland for $50,000 out of his second start by trainer Danny Gargan, Tax was third behind Maximus Mischief in the Grade 2 Remsen. While Tax employs a desirable stalking style and now has won at a mile and one-eighth, he seemed desperate to get to the wire. His jockey reported that once on the lead his mount began gawking, but the diminishing margin seemed more than that to this observer. At this stage, a mile and one-quarter appears a stretch for him. Gulfstream Park’s Fasig-Tipton Holy Bull was supposed to be a coronation of sorts for unbeaten Maximus Mischief. In three starts he’s never behind anyone at any point of call except once second by a half-length at the start. His three wins were by 8 ¾ , 6, and 2 ¼ lengths and the son of Into Mischief was odds-on to take a giant step forward Saturday. Before the race, regular jockey and Parx standout Frankie Pennington was replaced in the saddle by Eclipse Award winner Jose Ortiz. Presumably, the switch was made in anticipation of Maximus Mischief competing in major stakes races further along the Triple Crown trail. Unfortunately, nothing Maximum Mischief did Saturday bodes well for his future. He acted unruly before the race, left the gate with disinterest, and never picked up his hooves. We’re all entitled to have a bad day, but one has to wonder if the colt’s slow-paced Remsen wire-job was fool’s gold after all. Taking full advantage of the favorite’s no-show was Harvey Wallbanger, a Congrats colt purchased by trainer Ken McPeek for $50,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Keeneland July sale. He closed along the inside from last at mouth-watering odds of 30-1 to upset the apple cart. Obviously, that price was too large on a runner who’d never been worse than second in four previous starts—three times as the favorite! A bullet :47 3/5 breeze—best of 32—at Gulfstream also could have been a clue to the colt’s readiness. What probably influenced horseplayers to wager elsewhere was Harvey Wallbanger’s pedestrian speed figs. However, as we’re reminded each year at this time, 3-year-olds can and do improve dramatically. Conversely, sometimes they don’t improve and are surpassed by developing foes. Tossing shade on the race was the runner-up appearance of 129-1 runner-up Everfast. Usually, when a huge longshot finishes second in a graded stakes race there’s reason to doubt the race’s overall quality. When odds-on Maximum Mischief and second choice Mihos misfired, the race became a wide-open affair. This is an exciting time of the year. From now until the first Saturday in May horseplayers will earnestly mine for Kentucky Derby gems. Just about each Saturday from now on will feature sophomore races with critical Louisville implications. However, on this first Saturday in February, when there were 3 such tests, old guys ruled and promised that this season’s older division will recover from recent retirements just fine. Race On!

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2.6.2019:

Maximus Mischief No Longer Undefeated

“An undefeated racehorse has an aura of invincibility.” That phrase, written many years ago by the fabulous turf writer Charles Hatton, came to mind when I happened to notice that No. 1, No. 2, No. 3 and No. 4 on my Kentucky Derby Top 10 list this week are all undefeated…so far. Here is my current Kentucky Derby Top 10: 1. Game Winner2. Improbable3. Instagrand4. Hidden Scroll5. War of Will6. Mucho7. Signalman8. Mucho Gusto9. Omaha Beach10. Vekoma Maximus Mischief went into last Saturday’s Grade II Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park with, yes, an aura of invincibility. But after the race, he no longer has an unblemished record. Sent away as a 4-5 favorite after winning his first three career starts by a combined 17 lengths, Maximus Mischief finished third in the 1 1/16-mile Holy Bull. Harvey Wallbanger rallied from far back in the field of nine to prevail by one length. As another example of how Hatton had a special way with words, he wrote in 1963 that a 2-year-old sensation by the name of Raise a Native had “worked down the Belmont backstretch this morning. The trees swayed.” Let’s just say that Harvey Wallbanger was far from making any trees sway in the Holy Bull. The final time was 1:43.69. Harvey Wallbanger was dismissed in the wagering at 29-1. Another Hattonism: Harvey Wallbanger paid a “rags to riches” $61.20 to win. Everfast finished second in the Holy Bull at 128-1. Would there be a Hattonism for that? You bet. One of Hatton’s phrases for such a gigantic longshot would be Everfast was “virtually ignored in the tote.” Maximus Mischief, trained by Butch Reid, did get washy before the Holy Bull. It also was the Into Mischief colt’s first race since winning Aqueduct’s Grade II Remsen Stakes by 2 1/4 lengths at 1 1/8 miles on Dec. 1. The morning after the Holy Bull, Reid reported in the Gulfstream Park notes that Maximus Mischief “came out of the race very well. He was a little tired this morning, so maybe I didn’t have him quite as tight as I thought I did. He came out of it fine and ate his dinner last night, but walked a little quiet this morning. I’m going to say he got a lot out of that race yesterday and it’s going to set him up perfectly for the next spot.” The “next spot” for Maximus Mischief, according to Reid, will be Gulfstream’s Grade II Fountain of Youth Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on March 2. It’s not as if Maximus Mischief lost the Holy Bull by a lot. He finished only 1 1/2 lengths behind the winner. But the Holy Bull was not a strong race from a Beyer Speed Figure perspective. Harvey Wallbanger was credited with a modest 85 Beyer. Maximus Mischief recorded a career-worst 83 after figures of 94 in his career debut, 98 in his second start and 97 in the Remsen. Daily Racing Form’s Jay Privman wrote that “the overall quality of the Holy Bull certainly is questionable regarding Derby contenders. The winning fig was allowance-class, and the heavy favorite, Maximus Mischief, regressed off his Remsen win. Anyone exiting this race will have to improve significantly in coming months.” I made the decision to drop Maximus Mischief all the way out of the Top 10 this week after he was No. 4 last week. One of the main reasons for doing this is he failed to get the job done the first time he really did not get it pretty much all his own way. But Maximus Mischief does have the opportunity to earn his way back onto the Top 10 if he can regain his winning ways in the Fountain of Youth. One aspect to the result of the Holy Bull is I see it as a boost to Signalman. Ken McPeek trains both Signalman and Harvey Wallbanger. At this point, I think Signalman is the better of the two, though it always must be kept in mind that things certainly can change dramatically during the first few months of the year as some 3-year-olds get better while others do not. Signalman finished a respectable third in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Churchill last Nov. 2. That race was won by Game Winner, who is at the top of my Kentucky Derby Top 10. In Signalman’s final start at 2, he won the Grade II Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes on a sloppy strip Nov. 24 at Churchill Downs. McPeek recently said “he really liked” what he saw from Signalman on that occasion. “We asked him for speed early and he did that, then overcame a bunch of trouble,” McPeek said. “You have to do that in May [in the Kentucky Derby], don’t you? You have to work through traffic. He seems to understand what to do.” According to McPeek, Signalman is “extremely smart. And for a big horse, he’s fast.” Signalman exhibited some of that zip last Saturday when he worked four furlongs in a near-bullet :46 3/5 at Gulfstream. McPeek said it was a mistake for the General Quarters colt to work that fast. An unwanted fast drill like that is not a catastrophe when it does not occur close to a race. Signalman is not scheduled to make his first 2019 start until early next month in the Fountain of Youth. Game Winner, trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, worked five furlongs in 1:03.40 at Santa Anita last Wednesday. According to Baffert, the Candy Man colt is headed to Santa Anita’s Grade II San Felipe Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on March 9 for his 2019 debut. Game Winner was voted a 2018 Eclipse Award as champion 2-year-old male. Baffert also trains the undefeated Improbable, winner of the Street Sense Stakes at Churchill last Nov. 2 and Grade I Los Alamitos Futurity on Dec. 8 in his most recent start. The City Zip colt zipped five furlongs last Friday in a bullet :58.40 drill at Santa Anita. As for my current Kentucky Derby list, No. 1 Game Winner, No. 2 Improbable, No. 3 Instagrand and No. 4 Hidden Scroll all have that aforementioned “aura of invincibility” at this time. They are a combined 10 for 10. Game Winner is four for four. Improbable is three for three. Instagrand is two for two. Hidden Scroll is one for one. Another Baffert-trained 3-year-old, Mucho Gusto, moves up a notch this week to No. 8 after splish-splashing his way to a 4 3/4-length victory as the 3-5 favorite in Santa Anita’s Grade III Robert B. Lewis Stakes at 1 1/16 miles last Saturday. The Mucho Macho Man colt recorded a 90 Beyer Speed Figure. Mucho Gusto now has three wins from four lifetime starts. His Lewis triumph flattered Improbable. In Mucho Gusto’s only defeat, he finished second in the Los Al Futurity when no match for Improbable, with five lengths separating the pair at the end of that 1 1/16-mile race. Tax is among a plethora of 3-year-olds lurking below my Top 10. He won Aqueduct’s Grade III Withers Stakes at 1 1/8 miles last Saturday. Tax stumbled at the start, found himself briefly in claustrophobic quarters (yet another of Hatton’s phrases from time to time) in upper stretch and won by a small margin in a three-horse driving finish. Favored at 2-1, Tax completed his journey in 1:50.23. He recorded a commendable 96 Beyer Speed Figure. Not That Brady and Our Braintrust finished second and third, respectively. Not That Brady came out and bumped Our Braintrust three-sixteenths from the finish, then those two brushed each other a number of times the rest of the way. No change was made to the original order of finish after a stewards’ inquiry and an objection against Not That Brady lodged by the trainer of Our Braintrust, Mark Casse. Tax was making his 2019 debut in the Withers. In his final 2018 start, he finished third behind Maximus Mischief and Network Effect in the Remsen. 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. Network Effect, who is in Florida with three-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Chad Brown, exited my Top 10 last week due to the lack of a recent workout. He had not had a recorded workout since his five-furlong move in 1:01.80 on Jan. 13 at Palm Meadows. Network Effect very nearly moved back onto my Top 10 after he worked four furlongs Monday at Palm Meadows in :49.60. In his final start at 2, Network Effect ran second to Maximus Mischief in the Remsen. HATTON PLAYED KEY ROLE IN AMERICAN TRIPLE CROWN When I was young and read as much of Charles Hatton’s “furlongs of copy” I possibly could, I loved a myriad of his wonderful phrases, such as “furlongs of copy.” For me, even the word “myriad” has a Hatton connection. The first time I can remember seeing that word in print was when it had been used by Hatton in something he had written in the American Racing Manual. And like many words Charles Arthur Hatton used, I had to look it up. In a way, though my major at Eastern Washington University was journalism, what really expanded my vocabulary back then was all the reading I did as a serious student of the University of Hatton. Hatton’s “erudite, lively writing elevated Thoroughbred racing to the classics during a time when horse racing was the most popular sport in the country,” Ryan Goldberg wrote in an outstanding 2012 profile of the man for the Daily Racing Form. “The charm and enjoyment of Hatton’s work lies in its time-machine quality. It takes you back to that grander time. From 1930 until months before his death [on March 15, 1975], Hatton wrote thousands of columns, most of which are lost to history save for the Keeneland library.” Well, I have a couple of boxes filled with Racing Forms from the 1960s and 1970s, Racing Forms that I’ve saved specifically because Hatton’s columns are in them. “Some of his best prose,” Goldberg continued, “can be found in the essays he wrote for the American Racing Manual, from 1949 through 1974. Slightly more available, they are a definitive source; there is no other place where the history of that golden era is so beautifully and fully told.” Yes, I have every one of those American Racing Manuals from 1949 through 1974. Did you know that Hatton is recognized as being the person chiefly responsible for linking the three races that we now refer to as this country’s Triple Crown? This from the Encyclopedia Britannica: “The concept of an American Triple Crown was popularized in great part through the writings of Charles Hatton, a columnist for the Daily Racing Form. He frequently used the term Triple Crown in reference to the three races [Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes] in the 1930s, and as the term caught on, more and more owners and trainers began to prepare specifically for these contests. By the 1940s, newspapers were routinely using the term. The Triple Crown title was formally proclaimed in December 1950 at the annual awards dinner of the Thoroughbred Racing Associations in New York and retroactively awarded to Sir Barton, the first horse to win all three races in 1919.” In my high school days, it was a rarity when I did not read Hatton in the morning while eating breakfast. My mother does not drive. She never has. In those years whenever I drove my mother somewhere, I often asked (okay, I insisted) that she read Hatton aloud from an American Racing Manual. And I continued to soak up all the Hatton that I possibly could after I first started working for the Racing Form as a chart-caller and writer in the Pacific Northwest in 1974. One morning in the summer of 1975 in the publicity office at Playfair Race Course in Spokane, Wash., Jim Price asked me out of the blue if I was familiar with Hatton’s work. Price at that time was the track announcer and a fine writer in his own right as the track’s publicity director. I responded by saying that not only was I familiar with Hatton, I idolized him. After Price admitted that he also was a big Hatton fan, he reached for the 1974 American Racing Manual on his desk. Opening it at random, Price started reading aloud. All these years later, I can still remember that Price started reading what Hatton had written about Riva Ridge following his 1973 campaign at the age of 4. In particular, I remember this passage: “Riva Ridge won five of nine engagements last season, which is nice going for a handicapper, especially one who has problems and is unhappy in wet weather. He earned $212,602 and joined the sport’s millionaires with a total of $1,111,497. His stud potential was syndicated at $5,120,000. “We do not quote these facts for support, as a drunk uses a lamppost, but for illumination. At the height of his fascination and power, Riva Ridge was a brilliant entertainer, though he sometimes appeared frightfully irresponsible. “Whoever saw it will never forget his Brooklyn. He turned imminent defeat into victory when he condescended to get on the bit in the final frenetic strides, setting a world 1 3/16-mile mark of 1:52 2/5. He carried 127 pounds and repulsed True Knight a thrusting head in desperate finish, conceding his rival 10 pounds.” Price stopped reading. He closed the book. We then looked at each other and shook our heads, awed by what had just been read. We marveled in particular at “as a drunk uses a lamppost.” I worked at Delta Downs as a chart-caller for the Racing Form in 1976, filling in for the vacationing Dave Wilson. One morning Hatton’s name came up in the racing office. Much like what had happened at Playfair the year before, Wilson suddenly had an American Racing Manual in his hands. Before he opened the book, Wilson said one of the finest things he had ever read in his entire life was what Hatton had written regarding Secretariat’s conformation as a 2-year-old. To a group of 10 or so that had gathered around Wilson in the racing office, he proceeded to read aloud what Hatton written about Secretariat. Born in New Albany, Ind., on May 20, 1905, Hatton often visited Churchill Downs as a youngster. Hatton once wrote that he was “playing hooky from school” when he witnessed Sotemia set the world record of 7:10 4/5 at Churchill in 1912. According to Goldberg, “Hatton’s strongest opinion” was in his hesitation to use the word “great.” It was a term “seasoned, discriminating turfmen rarely employ,” Hatton wrote in his profile of 1953 Horse of the Year Tom Fool. But after Secretariat won the 1973 Kentucky Derby to break Northern Dancer’s track record by three-fifths of a second, Hatton felt that if there was ever a time to use the word “great,” this was it. Thus, Hatton banged out the following on his typewriter (for those of you who do not know what that is, it’s what we writers, once upon a time, would use to do our work before computers came along): “Great is a term we seldom have occasion to employ. But this Derby was the greatest. The greatest of all its winners gave the greatest performance in its annals before the greatest audience ever when Secretariat reduced this ‘greatest two minutes in sports’ to 1:59 2/5. “The Derby marked the only time this senior citizen of the turf has had occasion to think departed friends of Man o’ War’s era missed anything.” As for the epic 1973 Belmont Stakes, in one of my boxes filled with Hatton’s columns, I found a yellowed column the master of prose had written after Secretariat’s 31-length tour de force to become the first Triple Crown winner in 25 years. The headline: Horse of the Century. “BELMONT PARK, Elmont, N.Y. -- From the tintype days of Old Rosebud, high buttoned shoes and livery stables, to the jet propelled present, one has seen a whole cavalcade of champions. It may sound very loud to say, but we incline to agree with Ken Noe Jr.: Secretariat is the Horse of the Century. “He not only won the Triple Crown. He eclipsed the Derby and Belmont records and, as far as we are concerned, the Preakness record as well, since he was timed privately in 1:53 2/5 by Daily Racing Form. “In the Derby he ran a final quarter in :23 1/5 and set a mark of 1:59 2/5. In the Belmont, he smoked Sham over in a match, then really went to running. “His fractions were: :12 1/5, :23 3/5, :46 2/5, 1:09 4/5, 1:22, 1:34 1/5, 1:46 1/5, 1:59, 2:11 1/5 and 2:24. “Catching sight of the teletimer the last sixteenth, [jockey Ron] Turcotte determined: ‘They weren’t going to rob him of this record.’ And all the fractions were Secretariat’s.” Hatton went on to write: “Time is by no means the only element in a horse’s quality, but it is a measurable one. The surface here is perhaps a second faster nowadays. And yet: “Based on comparative times for the Belmont, Secretariat was beating Citation 21 lengths, Count Fleet 21 lengths, War Admiral 23 lengths, Omaha 33 lengths, Assault 34 lengths, Whirlaway 35 lengths and Gallant Fox 38 lengths. “The track is not all that much faster. Secretariat is faster.”As Goldberg pointed out, Hatton rarely used the word “great.” But in terms of those who have ever written about horse racing, the word “great” certainly applies to Charles Hatton. In fact, the belief here is he ranks as the greatest of them all. 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. 369 City of Light (36)2. 295 Monomoy Girl (5)3. 267 Roy H4. 224 Battle of Midway (1)5. 220 Bricks and Mortar6. 208 Accelerate7. 154 McKinzie8. 141 Seeking the Soul9. 86 Sistercharlie10. 76 Game Winner Here is the Top 10 for this week’s NTRA Top 3-Year-Old Poll: Rank Points Horse (First-Place Votes) 1. 405 Game Winner (37)2. 350 Improbable (3)3. 273 War of Will (1)4. 220 Mucho Gusto5. 163 Instagrand6. 135 Knicks Go7. 118 Hidden Scroll7. 102 Signalman9. 88 Gunmetal Gray10. 66 Tax

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2.5.2019:

Melander A ‘Star’ In The Making

Marcus Melander always had the pedigree to become a top trainer with trotters. Now he has the resume to back it. Melander, 26, was named winner of the Rising Star Award by the U.S. Harness Writers Association for a remarkable 2018 season in which he handled two $500,000 freshman earners and a $1 million race winner. Gimpanzee not only swept through the New York Sire Stakes championships without a loss, he won the $600,000 Breeders Crown 2-Year-Old Trot, defeating multiple stakes-winning stablemate Green Manalishi S in the $600,000 final at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. Melander’s first Breeders Crown triumph came on the heels of Crazy Wow’s 31-1 upset win in the C$651,000 Maple Leaf Trot at Woodbine and Cruzado Dela Noche’s 35-1 shocker in the $1 million International Trot at Yonkers Raceway. Cruzado Dela Noche wore the colors of Anders Strom’s Courant Inc. in becoming Sweden’s sixth International winner. Melander took over the training of Cruzado Dela Noche in the summer and ran him off a four-month layoff with two qualifying victories. Cruzado Dela Noche raced in Sweden for Melander’s uncle, Stephan Melander, himself a winner of the International, Hambletonian and Prix d’Amerique in his illustrious career. Marcus Melander also worked for Hall of Famer Jimmy Takter before going out on his own. HENNESSEY REACHES 10,000-WIN MILESTONE Wally Hennessey became the 17th driver in North America history to win 10,000 races when Prince Of Fame won Jan. 23 at Pompano Park. Hennessey, 62, launched his career in 1975 and led all North America drivers with a .440 UDRS rating last year. He won seven New York Sire Stakes championships on June 13, 1992, at Buffalo Raceway, the same year he guided America’s Pastime to victory in the $778,800 Woodrow Wilson Pace at the Meadowlands. He also won the 1996 Hambletonian Oaks and 1998 Breeders Crown with Moni Maker, one of the best trotters of all time. Hennessey was inducted into the U.S. Racing Hall of Fame in 2007 and the Canadian Hall of Fame in 2014. Hennessey joins Dave Palone, Tony Morgan, Herve Filion, Cat Manzi, David Miller, Dave Magee, Billy Parker Jr., Walter Case Jr., Aaron Merriman, Tim Tetrick, John Campbell, Mike Lachance, Kevin Wallis, Peter Wrenn, George Brennan and Brian Sears in the 10,000 win club. SUPER WEEKEND FOR BURKE BRIGADE Maybe next year New Jersey will have a Super Bowl prop with the number of points scored in the game versus number of wins by trainer Ron Burke and driver Yannick Gingras at the Meadowlands. The dynamic duo teamed for 11 wins covering the Friday at Saturday cards at the Big M, and Gingras won seven races Friday, one short of the track record. Burke, the perennial leader in North America, sent out 14 starters last weekend and 11 won, all with Gingras in the bike. Eight were odds-on favorites, Bettim Jackie ($7.80) was part of an entry, and Fireball ($11.80) and Ginger Tree Marty ($8.60) won back-to-back to give bettors some value if they rode the streak. 

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2.5.2019:

Feb 5: Pompano Park Pick 4 Analysis

The Pompano Park feature rolls in Race 5, a condition pace for fillies and mares with a $10,000 purse. The 0.50 Pick 4 sequence with a $15,000 guaranteed pool and a 12% takeout also begins in Race 5. Last night the Pick 4 pool was in excess of $34,000. My posted ticket on Monday was correct in three of four legs and I will focus on fully connecting tonight. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Race 5 3-Lusty Delight-Has raced back into good form and will use at 10-1 in the ML in an interesting race. 5-Rockin Desire-Can leave well enough to get a pocket trip behind the ML chalk #6 and use one brush down the lane. 6-Azure Seelster-Has been facing some tough mares and this should be a spot to shine. Race 6 2-Con House-Needs to mind matters but if so, can compete versus this crew and at a square price. 5-Prince Of Minto-Plano's choice has been freshened up, 0-20 in '18 is an issue, but tuned up well and was used twice during qualifier. 8-Crazy Ponda-Needs a trip but will respect chances even from 8-hole, likes the track and this race is wide open. Race 7 4-Winyard Hanover-Winner of 9 out of 61 at the Pomp gets Hennessey, drops and should like the company. 6-Big Jer-Comes off a win to make 3rd PPk start, 10-year-old seems to have benefited from a few months off. Race 8 2-Machin Marley-In a more comfortable spot and Hennessey takes a swing, could trip out behind the favorite. 3-Post Time Terror-Been popular at the claiming box and looks to make it 3 straight, program chalk looks the part. 9-Barynya A-Couldn't get top in last but has the gate speed to be put into play here, best to respect classy competitor. 0.50 Pick 4 3,5,6/2,5,8/4,6/2,3,9 Total Bet=$27 Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia

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2.4.2019:

Monday, February 4: Pompano Park Pick 4 Analysis

The co-features at Pompano Park this evening roll in Race 7 and Race 8, two Open Handicaps each with a $10,000 purse. My focus will be on the popular 0.50 Pick 4 sequence which begins in Race 6. It will have a $15,000 guaranteed pool and an industry low 12% takeout. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Race 6 1-Bet The Moon-10-1 in the ML and worth a swing, knows how to win and Santeramo can work a trip. 3-Thefreedomfightern-Simons trainee is 1st time Lasix and looks like a player, the start will be key. 5-Panocchio-9-year-old isn't what he was but is good enough to take a picture tonight, could get on the engine. 9-The Onlyest One-10-year-old has some class, so will respect. Post is an issue as a few others could be leaving. Race 7 4-Carolina Beach-Classy and starts inside of #6, if fires it looks like a trip to the winner's circle is happening. 6-Wakiki Beach A-Will need best to down #4, likely will be leaving but has been off 13-days. Race 8 3-Freakonomics-Classy mare hasn't raced since 11-24 but tuned up well and Croghan usually sends them out ready. 5-Tay Tay M-Will toss last but Krueger will need to work a trip. Great starting spot and could pop at big odds. 7-Western Stepp-Should find a good early seat without having to work very hard, using instead of #8. Race 9 2-Mickey Blu-Looking for a price and an aggressive steer, has a shot in a suspect field. 4-Royal Engagement-Should like the company and gets post relief. Looks like a player at a square price. 6-Skyway Hurricane-Comes off an easy win but steps up to a class that has been a challenge. 7-Always Ya Baby-Claimed on 1-21, now makes 2nd start at same tag as claim, will be bet and I like others more. My Ticket Race 6) 1,3,5,9 Race 7) 4,6 Race 8) 3,5,7 Race 9) 2,4,6,7  Total Ticket Cost) $48 for $0.50Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia 

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2.4.2019:

Racing Hasn't Seen a Brady-Belichick (and Won't)

Tom Brady and Bill Belichick have proven to be about as good a jockey-trainer combo as we’ve ever seen in sports. Sunday’s ninth Super Bowl appearance and sixth trophy testify to that for the NFL’s premier player-coach relationship. Their rare air may include few tandems in history, perhaps Michael Jordan and Phil Jackson, or Bill Russell and Red Auerbach, both in the NBA. Baseball’s Yankees had some historic runs with Yogi Berra and Casey Stengel of yesteryear, and Derek Jeter and Joe Torre in more recent times. But those didn’t match this length of success. (Don’t ask me about hockey!)Horse racing’s great combinations of player (jockey) and coach (trainer) also have been a part of our fabric. Their relationship can be a bit more strained than those of the team sports. Contracts rarely exist, so commitment may be as fickle as your preference to chocolate or vanilla. It’s really the ultimate free agency. As team sports have become more fluid in player and coach movement, we’re going to see less and less of the Brady & Belichick tandems. Not that nine Super Bowls are in the works for anyone for sure in the future, but even the longevity. Two decades with the same team even individually for a player or coach was thought to have expired with the likes of Cal Ripken and Tom Landry.Horse racing’s closest current comparable to Brady & Belichick has to be jockey John Velazquez and trainer Todd Pletcher. They won their first race together in April of 1996 with a horse named Rare Rock. That was a foreshadowing name as their relationship has been both rare and a rock. When they finally reached the sport’s pinnacle in tandem, the 2017 Kentucky Derby with Always Dreaming, they had already won more than 1,600 races together, including the 2007 Belmont Stakes with the historic filly Rags to Riches.Over the years, Javier Castellano has worked closely with the powerful Pletcher operation and at times it’s difficult to discern the gap between the main rider Velazquez and the virtually main rider Castellano. Brady rarely had another A-lister nipping at his heels on the depth chart, but there have been the likes of Matt Cassel and Jimmy Garappolo. But most often it’s been Johnny V riding shotgun with Pletcher in their successes.The gap between Velazquez-Pletcher and any other player-coach combo in horse racing is vast. The aforementioned Castellano has had great first-call success with the championship barn of Chad Brown. They won a Preakness together with Cloud Computing in 2017 just two weeks after the Velazquez-Pletcher Derby score for Always Dreaming. Castellano-Brown have combined for four Breeders’ Cup victories since 2012, so there’s time to build on that legacy. But there’s young Irad Ortiz entrenched in the Brown barn as well, meaning a Brady-Belichick like run for Castellano-Brown will have stout competition and seems nearly impossible to materialize.Bob Baffert has had that 20-year run atop the spot like Belichick. He won his first Triple Crown race in 1997 with Silver Charm and hasn’t slowed up a bit. But he’s never enjoyed the patient partnership to find the yin to his yang. His Kentucky Derby winners have been ridden by Gary Stevens (Silver Charm), Kent Desormeaux (Real Quiet), Victor Espinoza (War Emblem, American Pharoah) and Mike Smith (Justify). Espinoza has had the most success with Baffert in the Triple Crown, winning 5 races together, but they’ve been on and off together more times than Billy Martin and Reggie Jackson to further our coach-player analogies.The ultimate ‘coach’ in racing has been D. Wayne Lukas, figuratively and literally. He won his first Triple Crown race with Codex in 1980 and still has some fastballs to fire, winning the 2013 Preakness with Oxbow most recently on the biggest stage. The cool thing here is that Lukas’ first Kentucky Derby win came in 1988 with the filly Winning Colors, and his most recent TC victory by the aforementioned Oxbow some 25 years later. The common thread? Jockey Gary Stevens piloted both; the first at age 25, the second at a ripe 50. Stevens recently retired, but not before he and Lukas did some amazing things together. They won the Kentucky Derby with not only Winning Colors, but also with Thunder Gulch, who in 1995 added the Belmont Stakes. But their big-stage success wasn’t always exclusive. Stevens had almost equal success with Baffert in the Triple Crown, and Lukas plied Pat Day on a stout portion of his biggest wins. It’s almost unthinkable that their 31 combined Breeders’ Cup victories (Lukas 20, Stevens 11) don’t include a single score together. It’s hard to talk Brady-Belichick with that being known.Horse racing’s way back machine may take you to Eddie Arcaro riding for Ben Jones, who teamed to win the Kentucky Derby four times. But even they weren’t infallible. In the height of their dominance in the run for the roses, Arcaro rode Hoop Jr. to the 1945 victory over Jones and Calumet’s runner-up Pot O’ Luck. Imagine Brady doing that to Belichick?

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2.2.2019:

Saturday February 2: Meadowlands Pick 4 Analysis

Tonight's feature at the Meadowlands is carded as Race 8, a condition pace with a $17,000 purse. The 0.50 Pick 4 sequence also begins in Race 8, it has a $50,000 guaranteed pool with a 15% takeout and will be my focus. The driver with the hottest hands at the Big M on Friday was Yannick Gingras who had a huge night. Gingras won seven times on the 13-race card over a sloppy track. To no surprise trainer Ron Burke was the top conditioner with five trips to the winner's circle. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Race 8 2-Rock the Night-Drops to same class as win on 1-12 which was from same post, in the hunt at t 8-1 in the ML. 4-Bell I Know-In fine form and same set-up as #2, could be sitting on a big try. 8-Ideal Jimmy-Versatile 6-yr-old has been bet hard, outside post makes the price and M. Miller has been driving well. Race 9 1-Jacksrluckytoo-Steps up but if can utilize inside draw and avoid a slow start could surprise at a square price. 4-Spicebomb-Was bet in last start at this level but had a rough trip, should get a better journey tonight. 9-Smileandsaycheese-Even effort in last, gets Carlson back and that should help but needs a trip to take a picture. Race 10 1-More Dragon-Drops to a level to shine, likes the engine and should be able to get aboard without much strain. 2-Electric Western-Has had excuses, drops, gets post relief and Andy Miller takes a spin, using here and in gimmicks. 7-Aslan-Drops to lowest level in a while, even efforts against better and no excuses allowed tonight. Race 11 3-B Well-3rd start since leaving PPk and draws inside on the big track, looks like a player in a tough race. 6-Nobes Finesse-Positive driver change as Gingras steers and he has been on fire, could surprise at a square price. 7-Sword Ofthe Spirit-Has been camera shy but fits here, looking for an aggressive try. 8-Frankandjoanne-Came the last 1/2 in 55.2 in a better effort, is only 1-31 at the Big M but will use versus this crew. My Ticket Race 8) 2,4,8 Race 9) 1,4,9 Race 10) 1,2,7 Race 11) 3,6,7,8 Total Bet=$54 for $0.50Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia.

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2.2.2019:

Early free-for-all in Holy Bull could bring a late surprise

It’s the first Saturday in February, which means it’s three month till the first Saturday in May, which means . . . Ah, you know the rest. This is the time of year when the 3-year-old picture just begins to get really interesting, and those races at Gulfstream Park gets as much attention as big races at other ports of call. The G2 Holy Bull Stakes is the Hallandale headliner, and the heads that do now generally hang on through the prep season and often end up in the Kentucky Derby. The pretenders are weeded out and today is a start for those with the cred to mix it up. Maximus Mischief is the even-money favorite and will attempt to keep his unbeaten record in tracks. Through three starts at Parx (twice) and Aqueduct (a win in the G2 Remsen), he’s been behind ONCE at any of the calls. He’s an Into Mischief and from an Songandaprayer mare, Reina Maria, so speed is not a problem. So when he goes longer distances than today’s 1 1-16th miles, he’ll be tested. But won’t they all? Maximus Mischief, trained by Robert Reid, Jr., will be ridden by Jose Ortiz for the first time, and it’s difficult to find a hotter rider. While Maximus Mischief clearly has the credentials to wear the favorite’s cap, but there is no shortage of quality opponents. The Holy Bull is loaded with speed, and if it turns into a free-for-all early on, there’s a good chance the local star Garter and Tie benefit the most and unleash an effective late run. Maximus Mischief will be a single on many tickets, and upset will launch the payoff into orbit. In addition to having Maximus Mischief on the suggested Pick 4 tickets, Garter and Tie, Epic Dreamer and Mihos will be represented. Here’s the suggested ticket for the late Pick 4 at Gulfstream Park: Race 9) #3 Fashion Faux Pas, #4 Feedback.Race 10) #4 High Crime, #5 Call Paul, #11 Country Singer.Race 11) #1 Garter and Tie, #3 Epic Dreamer, #6 Mihos, #8 Maximus Mischief.Race 12) #1 Honest Mischief, #5 Uncle Jamo, #7 Soldado, #8 Beau Luminarie, #9 Compound It.50-cent Pick 4: 3-4 with 4-5-11 with 1-3-6-8 with 1-5-7-8-9 ($60).

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2.1.2019:

Friday Febuary 1: Cal Expo Pick 4 Analysis

Cal Expo has an 11-race card ready to roll tonight. The feature comes in Race 4, an Open Trot with a $6,500 Purse. The 0.20 Pick 4 sequence begins in Race 8, it has a $30,000 guaranteed pool with a 16% takeout and will be my focus. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Race 8 2-Laissez Moi Passer-Finds another easy spot, should make it 2 in a row, but 8-year-old doesn't always show up. 4-Hi Ho's Little Rev-Drops and can beat #2 if firing on all cylinders. Race 9 1-Cowboys Dirtyboots-Raced big in last at 3/2 but fell short, can make amends tonight. 4-Who Dat Love-Trip dependent but this is a spot to shine. 6-Oh Yeah-In good form and can roll late. Plano has choices, should get into striking distance or could leave. 7-A Bay Bay-Burned out and faded in last. 12-year old could grind way around and at 10-1 in the ML is worth a swing. Race 10 1-Bettor Lady-ML chalk drops to a comfortable spot and Plano gets back in the bike. 5-Surprisingly Sweet-Big effort to win last with a 56.2 last 1/2, faces many of same. 6-Burn My Villa-Drops out of Opens and gets Sobey back, expecting better. Race 11 3-Lincoln-Been a while since a picture but last was better and now makes 4th start in Cornelison barn. 4-Silent Rescue-Drops to the level of past success, looks like a player. 6-Walker Meister-Has had excuses and might be overlooked at the windows, best to respect connections. My Ticket Race 8) 2,4 Race 9) 1,4,6,7 Race 10) 1,5,6 Race 11) 3,4,6 Total Ticket Cost) $14.40 for $0.20Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia

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1.31.2019:

Santa Anita Saturday – Rainbow 6 Mandatory Payout Picks + Promotions

It’s another great Saturday in the racing world and, at Xpressbet, we’re especially excited for Santa Anita’s Saturday slate.  It includes a number of great reasons to play, including a Pick 6 Mandatory Payout, Money-Back Guarantee, 1 Million Point Split and a pair of great stakes races.First post Saturday is 3:00PM ET and the Rainbow Pick 6 starts with Race 5, at 5:23PM ET.  The Late Pick 4 starts with Race 7 at 6:23PM ET.   I’d be remiss if I didn’t bring track condition into things.  Santa Anita is expecting rain this weekend, so keep an eye out for scratches and changes.  Saturday’s 10-race card was (smartly) void of any turf races, but conditions are still worth watching.  I recommend following @SAPublicity, @Quigleys_Corner and @FrankMirahmadi on Twitter for the latest.    PICK 6 MANDATORY PAYOUT TICKET Santa Anita’s Rainbow 6 has been growing for the entirety of the meet and track officials received permission to host a mandatory payout this Saturday, February 2.  That means ‘everything must go’ in Arcadia!  Heading into Thursday’s card the Pick 6 carryover was $1,469,847 (with a $2 Million Guaranteed Single Winner Payout) and, assuming nobody hits it Thursday or Friday, the pool should come close to $10 Million on Saturday.  For those collecting XB Rewards Points, we’re offering 6X Points on Saturday’s Santa Anita Rainbow 6.  Here’s my ticket.  I’ve handicapped for a wet track.Race 5 – Maiden Special Weight #5 OMAHA BEACH is impossible to trust.  He’s been a heavy favorite in all four of his races and he’s managed to lose every time.  Some tickets will single him here, but I can’t.  He’s burned way too much money.  #1 POLAR drew the rail and is a first-time-starter going 7 furlongs (never easy) but I love the workouts and like that Mike McCarthy named Drayden Van Dyke to ride.  Plus, McCarthy hasn’t had a good horse for about a week, so he’s due.  #8 ONE BAD BOY should improve off his first start and looks to be capable enough to win here.  By the way, keep an eye on the odds here.  If #2 KOA or #6 AIR BOSS is taking money, you should probably throw them in.Race 6 – Robert B. Lewis Stakes (Gr III)I wasn’t overly impressed with #4 GUNMETAL GRAY in the G3 Sham Stakes on January 5.  Succinctly, I thought that was a bad field and the race turned upside down when Coliseum didn’t fire.  I needed to see more form ‘GRAY, though, as he lagged well behind and grinded out the win.  #5 MUCHO GUSTO is yet another Baffert horse.  They're everywhere.  He was no match for Improbable in the G1 Los Alamitos Futurity, but he’ll be the one to catch turning for home.  Race 7 – Maiden ClaimingHard to make heads or tails of this $30K Maiden Claiming race so I’ll ensure my way through by hitting the ALL button.  The established horses haven’t shown much, but none of the first-time-starters come from aggressive ‘win early’ barns.  Tough race.Race 8 – Maiden Special Weight#5 MY MANDATE was beaten a nose sprinting on the turf on January 5 and, despite that being his best race to date, I don’t think needs to be on the turf to win.  He’s run decent races on the dirt, but just not winning ones.  #1 TIME IS NOW goes out for Mandella/Prat and while the barn is conservative I like that they’ve gone to a go-to jock.  A half-sister, Wemissfrankie, won multiple G1s as a juvenile and set a track record at Del Mar on debut.  #3 SCALPER is a second-tier Baffert horse but this field isn’t too salty.  Use him.    Also worth taking a shot with #9 YOUNG PHILLIP, a firster for Phil D’Amato.  He drew outside, which is a plus.Race 9 – San Pasqual Stakes (Gr II)Need a single on the ticket and #7 MCKINZIE is it for me.  I respect #8 BATTLE OF MIDWAY and #3 DABSTER but when MCKINZIE is right, he’s one of the premier horses in the world.  I’m going to put a line through his 12th place Breeders’ Cup Classic finish.  He was put through the grinder early with quick opening fractions on a tiring track and the race just fell apart.  I thought Mike Smith was a little more aggressive than necessary that day, but it was also just MCKINZIE’s second start since March, so he was liable to get tired.  BATTLE OF MIDWAY’s reputation was inflated when he won the 2017 Breeders’ Cup Dirt mile at 14/1 odds, but, outside of that race, he’s been more of a G3 performer.  Race 10 – Claiming N2LThe nightcap is a cheap claiming race and in events like this I like to identify horses plummeting in class.  #10 CAYATE drops from a $25K tag to a $12K tag, adds Joel Rosario and is strictly the horse to beat.  His 1-for-19 record makes him impossible to single but he’s never run against a field this weak.  #1 CANDYMAN GARRET goes first out for Jeff Mullins and I expect Tyler Baze to gun him from the rail post.  They’ll have to pass him.  #5 ISEE IT IN HIS EYES ran a strong race at this level last out and was just in against a buzzsaw.  No harm in finishing second that day.  My TicketRace 5: 1, 5, 8Race 6: 4, 5Race 7: ALLRace 8: 1, 3, 5, 9Race 9: 7Race 10: 1, 5, 10 Ticket Cost: $144I realize $144 is an expensive ticket and I don’t blame anyone who tries to pare it down from there.  The obvious place to cut is from Race 7 (where I hit the All button), but also look at Race 6.  If you can build a strong opinion between Gunmetal Gray and Mucho Gusto, you can cut your ticket in half by just removing one horse.    ROBERT LEWIS STAKES MONEY-BACK GUARANTEE Can’t split hair between Gunmetal Gray and Mucho Gusto?  Or maybe you like a longshot, such as Nolo Contesto or Magnificent McCool?  Guess what…for our Money-Back Guarantee, it almost doesn’t matter!  That’s because we’re giving your money back, up to $10, if your horse finishes 2nd or 3rd in 23 key Triple Crown prep races this year.  This weekend’s ‘Money-Back’ races are the Lewis, the Withers at Aqueduct and the Holy Bull at Gulfstream.  Check out our Money-Back Guarantee page for all the details.    1 MILLION POINT LATE PICK 4 SPLIT You know we love our 1 Million Point Splits at Xpressbet and this Saturday is no different.  We’re offering a ‘Million Point Split’ to anyone who cashes on the Late Pick 4, which covers Races 7 – 10.  Based on my above Pick 6 ticket, I’m recommending a $60 play.  Let’s try to get a price home in the first leg! 

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1.31.2019:

Weekly Bankroll Builder: February 1 Stronach 5 Picks

We’re back to battle this week with another go at the 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 (4:35 ET) – 4up 10k MCL at 6 furlongs I’m not trying to get too cute in the opening leg, as the logical seem a slight cut above. I’ll try for the mike surprise with #2 HUNTIN’THEHOLIDAYS on the drop and hopefully a return to a fast main track, as that 3rd here at the level two-back came in a very fast heat. If he delivers his best then #5 YOUNG AMERICAN will be tough, and he’s another who may like a fast main track a bit better. Pk5 A horses (listed in order of preference): 2,5 If there’s a price player it may be #3 PROMOTE, who goes off the claim for Maldonado (19%), has won two straight, and could get set up in a race with some speed. Pk5 B horses: 3 Leg 2: Gulfstream Park R10 (4:41 ET) – 4up 60k Starter Stakes at 7 furlongs In a race that looks like a match race (at best), I’ll go with expected pace presser #3 FERGIELICIOIS, who drew well to be outside #2 THERE GOES BELLA, drops in class, and gets Irad. The latter is the horse to beat, but improving off the claim from Walder might be tough for Abarrio, though there’s little doubt she’ll take some catching. Pk5 A horses: 3,2 No one else comes remotely close to the top-2, so we’ll go in alone. Pk5 B horses: NONE Leg 3: Santa Anita R4 (5:00 ET) – 4up Ca-bred MSW at 1-mile (turf) The drop from Cal-bred MSW does is a big one, but yikes there’s a ton of speed here, so just maybe this falls apart late, which is why I’m trying to blow it up with #3 DESERT MOVIE, who needs to step up off this first two but fits the race profile. The other stretch runner is #2 CAPTAIN BUZZKILL, who will Be way back but ran well on the dirt last time and may build off that. The horse to beat is #8 COIL TO STRIKE, and he’s got upside off just two starts and drew outside the other speed too, so he’s a must-use. Lastly, if #6 SOUL OWNER can settle better than he did last time he may be able to run back to the sharp 2nd he was two-back against better. Pk5 A horses: 3,2,8,6 Down below we have #9 AWESOME AMANDA, who has upside and was just 2nd to a repeat winner, though this wide draw hurts, and #7 SEA’S JOURNEY, who should improve off the return from an 11-month break, as well as the drop, but adds blinkers and seems destined to get fried. Pk5 B horses: 9,7 Leg 4: Gulfstream Park R101 (5:12 ET) – 3yof 60k Starter Stakes at 1-mile (turf) In what looks like a spread race, I’ll go for a little surprise on #8 SLOT RECEIVER, who was up late to win in his first start for Duarte, who can do no wrong at the meet, and while facing winners is never easy, there’s plenty of upside here and he should get some pace to rally into as well. The more logicals are #5 FOUR KNIGHTS and #7 RESILIENCY, who both drop, though neither really seem all that trustworthy and will be overbet too. Pk5 A horses: 8,5,7 We’ll have a few backups in #2 AFFLUENTIAL and #4 NAUTICAL BUOY, as the former drew well and was a close 3rd at the level last time, while the latter goes off the claim for Dobles, who has been known to move them up, and there’s some back form to work with too, which helps negate the bad run from a terrible draw last time. Pk5 B horses: 2,4 Leg 5: Golden Gate Fields R5 (5:45 ET) – 3yo MSW at 1-mile I’m going to try for a very aggressive single to end it in #1 FOXY LOVER, who steps ways up but did close with a rush to win going shorter last time, gets a great pace setup here, and takes a confident rise by Hollendorfer, who rarely runs them where they don’t belong. Pk5 A horses: 1 That great pace setup should come from #2 One Eyed Mama and #4 Raiderette, as the former wired the latter last time, but I’m just hoping for some major regression today for ‘Mama off several strong runs. Also, with speedster #5 Handful of Pearls drawn to their outside, it just looks supersonic early. Pk5 B horses: NONE The tickets: Main Ticket: 2,5 with 3,2 with 3,2,8,6 with 8,5,7 with 1 = $48Leg 1 B Backup: 3 with 3,2 with 3,2,8,6 with 8,5,7 with 1 = $24Leg 3 B Backup: 2,5 with 3,2 with 9,7 with 8,5,7 with 1 = $24Leg 4 B Backup: 2,5 with 3,2 with 3,2,8,6 with 2,4 with 1 = $32

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1.30.2019:

An Extraordinary Feat Largely Unnoticed

Trainer Bob Baffert has done something in the sport of Thoroughbred racing that has not received anywhere close to the attention it deserves. In fact, it has not received much attention at all. If something similar had happened in the NFL, NBA or MLB, it would be a very big deal. But in horse racing, it’s barely a blip on the radar. Last Thursday at the Eclipse Awards dinner held at Gulfstream Park, Justify was crowned the sport’s 2018 Horse of the Year. It was also announced that the undefeated Triple Crown winner had been voted the champion 3-year-old male of 2018. Justify is Baffert’s ninth 3-year-old male champion. This is truly a monumental achievement when viewed in a historical context. In the Eclipse Awards era that began in 1971, nobody has trained more than three 3-year-old male champions other than Baffert. Since 1971, only four trainers have trained two or more 3-year-old male champions. The four trainers – all Hall of Famers -- are Laz Barrera, Woody Stephens, D. Wayne Lukas and Baffert. Barrera’s two 3-year-old male champions were Bold Forbes in 1976 and Affirmed in 1978. Stephens’ two 3-year-old male champions were Conquistador Cielo in 1982 and Swale in 1984. Lukas’ three 3-year-old male champions were Thunder Gulch in 1995, Charismatic in 1999 and Will Take Charge in 2013. Baffert’s nine 3-year-old male champions were Silver Charm in 1977, Real Quiet in 1998, Point Given in 2001, War Emblem in 2002, Lookin At Lucky in 2010, American Pharoah in 2015, Arrogate in 2016, West Coast in 2017 and Justify in 2018. But what about before the Eclipse Awards began? How does Baffert’s total of nine 3-year-old male champions stack up among trainers prior to 1971? Daily Racing Form first conducted voting for champions in 1937. From 1937 through 1970, only two trainers had more than two 3-year-old male champions. The two -- both Hall of Famers -- were Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons and Elliott Burch. Fitzsimmons’ three 3-year-old male champions were Granville in 1936, Nashua in 1955 and Bold Ruler in 1957. Burch’s three 3-year-old male champions were Sword Dancer in 1959, Arts and Letters in 1969 and Key to the Mint in 1972. Thus, Baffert is far ahead of all trainers since 1937 with his nine 3-year-old male champions. Yet virtually nothing has been written or said about this. But wait, there’s more. Justify became Baffert’s fourth consecutive 3-year-old male champion. Again, when put into a historical context, this is mind-boggling. No other trainer since 1937 other than Baffert has had even two straight 3-year-old male champions. Can Baffert in 2019 extend his streak to five consecutive 3-year-old male champions? It is a distinct possibility. A slew of talented 3-year-old colts currently reside at the powerful Baffert barn, a contingent headed by 2018 Eclipse Award-winning male Game Winner and the “who-knows-how-good-he-might-be” Grade I winner Improbable. Of course, making history is nothing new for Baffert. The white-haired horseman is one of only two trainers to have won the Triple Crown more than once. Baffert has accomplished it twice, first with American Pharoah, then with Justify. Fitzsimmons also did it twice, first with Gallant Fox in 1930 and then with Gallant Fox’s son Omaha in 1935. I sure would not put it past Baffert to someday make it an unprecedented triple of Triple Crown sweeps. There just can be no denying that Baffert ranks right up there with the sport’s all-time great trainers, not just in the U.S., but in the entire world. UPDATED KENTUCKY DERBY TOP 10 The top two 3-year-olds on my Kentucky Derby Top 10 list this week are both trained by -- you guessed it -- Baffert. Game Winner remains at the top, with Improbable right behind. Here is my Kentucky Derby Top 10: 1. Game Winner2. Improbable3. Instagrand4. Maximus Mischief5. Hidden Scroll6. War of Will7. Mucho8. Vekoma9. Mucho Gusto10. Signalman Hidden Scroll, trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott, debuts this week at No. 5 after his 14-length victory at first asking in a one-mile race on a sloppy track last Saturday at Gulfstream Park. Many showered the Kentucky-bred colt with superlatives following his maiden performance. Mott has not one, but two highly regarded 3-year-olds who look like they could make their presence felt in the Kentucky Derby. He also conditions No. 7 Mucho, who is gearing up at Payson Park in Florida for his first 2019 start. Mucho romped home a 9 3/4-length winner in a six-furlong maiden special weight race at Saratoga last Aug. 4 before finishing second in the Grade I Hopeful Stakes there in what would be his final start at 2. As for Hidden Scroll, Mott unsuccessfully attempted to get four different riders for the colt’s career debut, according to Daily Racing Form’s Jay Privman. All four had a previous commitment. Mott finally was able to get Joel Rosario, who was in town from Southern California to ride Catapult (who finished fourth in the $6.7 million Pegasus World Cup Turf) and Accelerate (who ran third in the $9 million Pegasus World Cup). Rosario certainly was fortunate to be in the right place at the right time to ride such an exciting 3-year-old. Hidden Scroll was assigned a 104 Beyer Speed Figure. It was just about a year ago that Justify burst on the scene at Santa Anita Park as a 3-year-old when he won a seven-furlong maiden special weight race by 9 1/2 lengths and was credited with a 104 Beyer. Justify subsequently won the Grade I Santa Anita Derby, Grade I Kentucky Derby, Grade I Preakness Stakes and Grade I Belmont Stakes. Justify became this country’s 13th Triple Crown winner. Justify also was the first horse to win the Kentucky Derby without racing as a 2-year-old since Apollo in 1882. Just a year after Justify broke the so-called Apollo curse, will Hidden Scroll likewise win the Kentucky Derby without having started at 2? One certainly can’t rule it out in light of Hidden Scroll’s debut performance. While I was watching Hidden Scroll last Saturday, a couple of other smashing Gulfstream debut victories from back in the day came to mind. In February 2007, Curlin registered a 12 3/4-length triumph and recorded a 102 Beyer Speed Figure in a seven-furlong maiden special weight race when unveiled at Gulfstream. Though he did not win the Kentucky Derby, finishing third behind Street Sense and Hard Spun (sire of Hidden Scroll), Curlin did become Horse of the Year in 2007 and again in 2008. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2014. In January 1997, when Pulpit made his initial career start, he recorded an even higher debut Beyer Speed Figure than Hidden Scroll, Justify and Curlin. Pulpit won a seven-furlong maiden race at Gulfstream by 7 1/2 lengths and posted a 107 Beyer. Pulpit would go on to finish fourth behind Silver Charm, Captain Bodgit and Free House in the Kentucky Derby. The day after the Run for the Roses, a radiograph performed by Dr. Forest Northrup revealed a small displaced chip in Pulpit’s left knee. “I feel the chip significantly hampered Pulpit’s performance in the Derby,” Frank Brothers, Pulpit’s trainer, was quoted as saying in the BloodHorse magazine. Pulpit never raced again. He became a prominent sire at the renowned Claiborne Farm in Kentucky. Pulpit is the maternal grandsire of the aforementioned Mott trainee Mucho. Two horses on my current Kentucky Derby Top 10 list are scheduled to be in action this Saturday. No. 4 Maximus Mischief makes his 2019 debut in Gulfstream’s Grade II Holy Bull Stakes at 1 1/16 miles. No. 9 Mucho Gusto begins his 2019 campaign in Santa Anita’s Grade III Robert B. Lewis Stakes at the same distance. Maximus Mischief, trained by Butch Reid, has won all three of his starts by a combined 17 lengths. After a pair of victories at Parx Racing, the Kentucky-bred Into Mischief colt won Aqueduct’s Grade II Remsen Stakes at 1 1/8 miles by 2 1/4 lengths last Dec. 1 in his final start at 2. Mucho Gusto, trained by Baffert, has won two of three career starts. The Kentucky-bred Mucho Macho Man colt won a six-furlong maiden special weight race at Los Alamitos last Sept. 20. Next, Mucho Gusto took Del Mar’s Grade III Bob Hope Stakes at seven furlongs on Nov. 17. He then ran second to Improbable in the Grade I Los Alamitos Futurity at 1 1/16 miles on Dec. 8. FIRST NTRA POLLS OF 2019 The National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) this week released its first national polls of 2019. The NTRA Top Thoroughbred Poll is conducted weekly through the Monday following the Breeders’ Cup, which this year will be held at Santa Anita. As for the NTRA Top 3-Year-Poll, it is conducted weekly through the Monday following the Belmont Stakes. Members of the media who regularly cover Thoroughbred racing cast votes for their Top 10 horses, with points awarded on a 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 basis. Accelerate topped the final NTRA Top Thoroughbred Poll of 2018. He also received more first-place votes in that poll than Justify. Nevertheless, it was Justify who was voted the Eclipse Award as 2018 Horse of the Year. This was the final Top 10 in the 2018 Top Thoroughbred Poll last Nov. 5: Rank Points Horse (First-Place Votes) 1. 437 Accelerate (24)2. 380 Justify (19)3. 357 Monomoy Girl4. 234 Sistercharlie5. 218 City of Light5. 218 Enable (3)7. 205 Roy H8. 100 Game Winner9. 65 Newspaperofrecord10. 61 Yoshida Also receiving votes: Stormy Liberal (46 points), Gunnevera (45), Mind Your Biscuits (37), Thunder Snow (28), Jaywalk (20), Catholic Boy (16), Diversify (13), Audible (10), Imperial Hint (9), Mendelssohn (5), Bee Jersey (4), Magical (4), Whitmore (4), Midnight Bisou (3), Abel Tasman (2), Promises Fulfilled (2), Wow Cat (2), Catalina Cruiser (1), Expert Eye (1), Marley’s Freedom (1), Unique Bella (1), Vasilika (1). Here is this week’s first NTRA Top Thoroughbred Poll of 2019: Rank Points Horse (First-Place Votes) 1. 300 City of Light (32)2. 191 Monomoy Girl3. 183 Accelerate4. 181 Roy H5. 150 Bricks and Mortar6. 117 McKinzie7. 106 Seeking the Soul8. 50 Game Winner9. 41 Sistercharlie10. 40 Bravazo Others receiving votes: Midnight Bisou (30 points), Stormy Liberal (30), World of Trouble (26), Unique Bella (23), Catholic Boy (21), Audible (15), Improbable (13), Jaywalk (13), Magic Wand (13), Enable (10), Gunnevera (9), Imperial Hint (8), West Coast (8), Zulu Alpha (8), Bellafina (7), Diversify (5), Newspaperofrecord (5), Whitmore (5), Aztec Sense (4), Bigger Picture (4), Delta Prince (4), Dream Pauline (4), Vasilika (3), Marley’s Freedom (2), Next Shares (2), Promises Fulfilled (2), Rushing Fall (2), Si Que Es Buena (2), War of Will (2), Abel Tasman (1), Bellavais (1), Caribou Club (1), Leofric (1), Mysistercharlie (1), Shamrock Rose (1). Here is this week’s first NTRA Top 3-Year-Old Poll of 2019: Rank Points Horse (First-Place Votes) 1. 317 Game Winner (29)2. 262 Improbable (3)3. 173 War of Will4. 158 Maximus Mischief5. 121 Instagrand6. 106 Knicks Go7. 88 Hidden Scroll7. 88 Signalman9. 85 Gunmetal Gray10. 50 Mind Control Others receiving votes: Vekoma (35 points), Bellafina (32), Mihos (31), Jaywalk (30), Gray Attempt (20), Win Win Win (19), Mucho (18), Complexity (13), Code of Honor (11), Galilean (11), Mucho Gusto (11), Network Effect (11), Newspaperofrecord (11), Chasing Yesterday (7), Coliseum (6), Country House (5), Federal Case (5), Lucky Lee (5), Wicked Indeed (4), Hog Creek Hustle (3), Long Range Toddy (3), Nolo Contesto (3), Tax (3), Tacitus (3), Flor de La Mar (2), Jersey Agenda (2), Nitrous (2), Owendale (2), Roadster (2), Bulletin (1), Gun It (1). ECLIPSE AWARD PREDICTIONS SCOREBOARD When I made my annual Eclipse Award predictions last week, I said that, for me, the male turf horse category was toughest of all to try and predict the winner. “Even though there are only three finalists to choose from, I feel like it will be a miracle if I get it correct,” I wrote. It turned out that I was right that I probably would be wrong. I predicted Glorious Empire would be voted the 2018 Eclipse Award as champion male turf horse. The award went to Stormy Liberal. It turned out to be my only wrong prediction. The first year that I made Eclipse Award predictions in this column was for the racing that was conducted in 2011. Now including 2018, my Eclipse Award predictions have proven to be correct 92.6% of the time: 2011: 15 correct, 2 wrong2012: 16 correct, 1 wrong2013: 16 correct, 1 wrong2014: 17 correct, 0 wrong2015: 14 correct, 3 wrong2016: 16 correct, 1 wrong2017: 16 correct, 1 wrong2018: 16 correct, 1 wrong Total: 126 correct, 10 wrong

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1.30.2019:

Pegasus Steps Forward

City of Light’s dominating Pegasus World Cup Invitational score Saturday puts him alongside previous race winners in what ultimately could become an equine pantheon. As the third winner of the fledgling event ‘Light joins previous Pegasus champs Arrogate and Gun Runner, both considered the best active dirt horses in the world when they won the race. Pre-2019 Pegasus, Accelerate wore that crown. By then end of the afternoon, however, when everyone was soaked to the socks, the coronet was transferred to sit between City of Light’s ears. City of Light’s appellation now is cemented in history alongside Arrogate’s and Gun Runner’s as Pegasus champs. But where does the son of Quality Road’s name rank on a list of all-time great horses? Is he ‘one-of-the-ones’ or merely ‘one that got good’ at the most opportune time? The appropriate answer has to be that we didn’t see enough of City at Light’s best to rank him among the all-time greats. However, there remains a sneaky suspicion that the 5-year-old retired just when he was about to wreak havoc on the Grade 1 stakes calendar. By parlaying BC Mile-to-Pegasus wins City of Light vaulted to the head of the handicap class. His combination of speed and tractability made him a very difficult out. Shortly after the race, Like Arrogate and Gun Runner, Accelerate and City of Light car-pooled north to Lexington to assume careers as popular suitors. Because ‘Light proved his mettle from seven furlongs in Arcadia, CA to a mile and one-eighth in Hallandale Beach, FL, he should be popular at stud. Simultaneously bidding ‘farewell’ to the sport’s top two older horses (plus the hurried 2018 departure of Jusify) can’t be good for racing business or for the sport’s fan base. But, at this point, shouldn’t racing enthusiasts be accustomed to premature ‘farewells?’ Stars have been hastily exiting stage-left for decades and we’ve always have found immediate if not equal substitutes. Top horses will emerge in 2019. We just don’t know who they are yet. While City of Light and connections posed for pictures, the real winner Saturday was the Pegasus event. In addition to developing into the sport’s newest, richest, crowning achievement, Pegasus has become the swan song of choice for the best in US-based dirt horses. Buoyed by a new turf event to compliment the dirt version, the entire stakes-laden Gulfstream Park card originally promised to deliver an outstanding watching and wagering Saturday diversion. Unfortunately, Mother Nature elected to crash the party. Heavy rain forced a few early races off turf and compromised both main and grass surfaces. Early speed proved indispensable as gaining significant ground in the stretch on the sloppy/sealed main track proved improbable. The soggy footing clearly aided some and discouraged others. Despite the conditions (or perhaps because of them) the afternoon produced incredibly formful results featuring depressed multi-leg payoffs shared by the masses. It’s difficult to assess if fast and firm footing would have provided an upset or two along the way, but it’s clear proceedings would have been infinitely more interesting. What can one do, though? Racing is an outdoor sport at the mercy of the elements—even in south Florida. A major undercard highlight was the absolutely smashing debut of Hidden Scroll, a 3-year-old son of Hard Spun trained by Hall-of-Fame conditioner Bill Mott. ‘Scroll took the early lead, set a solid pace and drew clear in the lane by double-digits. The performance caused visions of Kentucky Derby sugarplums to dance in some heads. However, even though Justify last year cracked the over 100-year-old Apollo curse that demands a 3-year-old Derby contender first perform at age 2, it’s still a consideration. As powerful as Hidden Scroll looked there are reasons to temper his Derby-winning chances. The ‘off’ track may have helped him and hindered others, contributing to the large winning margin. Also, ‘Scroll missed some time in 2018 due to injury and a view of the race head-on shows that he paddles his left front leg a bit. Certainly, none of this excludes ‘Scroll from winning the Kentucky Derby, but we’ve seen similar first-out electrifying performances fail to translate into long-term success. The maiden voyage lineup in the Pegasus World Cup Turf won’t be ranked among the world’s best collections of turf performers, but it’s a fine start and results point to a bright future for the race. Here’s why: Chad Brown, a trainer with unquestionably the deepest turf roster in the nation, conditioned winner Bricks and Mortar. The 5-year-old approached the race perfectly, having had a December 22 Gulfstream prep after a 14-month layoff. The December winning effort was the fastest of his career and he hadn’t lost in 2 previous outings over the Gulfstream turf. A fit-and-ready horse-for-the-course conditioned by the nation’s best--that’s a dangerous recipe. Brown, who’s won the Eclipse Award as the nation’s top trainer in the last 3 consecutive years, will want to win this race again…and again. Magic Wand, a 4-year-old filly from Aiden O’Brien’s powerful European-based stable, finished second. Connections took advantage of a massive break in weights for her to carry 112 pounds to 124 for male counterparts. Five pounds of that advantage was a sex allowance and there was a 7-pound non-Lasix deduction. Previously, Magic Wand had finished second in 2 of 3 starts in France in the Prix de l’Opera Longines and Qatar Prix Vermille—both Group 1s against fillies. Last out she was fourth, beaten less than 3 lengths, in the BC Filly & Mare Turf behind Sistercharlie another Chad Brown-trained charge. While Pegasus Turf doesn’t neatly fit into the European racing schedule, a $7 million purse and near success in 2019 demands that future accommodations be made for the race. Aerolithe, a 5-year-old mare from Japan, also enjoyed a light impost of 112 but didn’t fire. However, what really matters to the Pegasus brand is that she was there. Race organizers actively will pursue future entries from Japan in a specific attempt to qualify the race for inclusion on the coveted Japanese wagering menu. Additional US-based Pegasus Turf performers included Delta Prince, a Canadian Grade 2 winner; Catapult, runner-up in the BC Mile; Fahan Mura, Grade 3 Robert Frankel winner; Next Shares, Grade 2 San Gabriel winner; Channel Maker, Grade 1 Turf Classic hero at Belmont; and Yoshida, Grade 1 Turf Classic winner at Churchill. It was a representative, but not outstanding gathering. The inaugural edition of the Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational was announced in September and that late pronouncement caught owners and trainers by surprise. Campaigns previously had been established and the race was part of no one’s annual plan. With the event now firmly positioned on the calendar there will be sufficient time for trainers like Chad Brown, Aiden O’Brien et al to point their very best competitors toward future renewals. Therefore, expect the quality of Pegasus Turf participants to escalate accordingly and to attract overflowing fields in the future. It’s taken 3 years, various tweaks and tens of millions of dollars for Frank Stronach’s Pegasus World Cup concept to gain solid footing on the American racing calendar. The event took another forward step in 2019 while overcoming some nasty weather. This horseplayer is grateful to The Stronach Group for its commitment to racing and entertainment. Full disclosure notes that TSG signs my paychecks. Still, the sport can use all the big days it can muster and there aren’t many being created from scratch like Pegasus. Besides, when it comes to innovation and massive investment in the sport the question remains: If not TSG then who? Race On!

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1.28.2019:

Harness Highlights: Anatomy Of A 109-Race Winner Part 2

Foiled Again was forced into retirement January 1, but the now 15-year-old gelding left an indelible mark in harness racing annals. He compiled a 331/109-70-46 record and earned an all-time record $7,635,588 in purse money. Part 2 of our two-part series on his illustrious career also reveals: Foiled Again paid $14.60 to win in his debut on Oct. 12, 2006 at Freehold with Jim Marshall III in the bike. Only three other times did he pay more than that to win. He returned $30.40 for a $2 bet when he won the 2012 Canadian Pacing Derby. He was best at half-mile tracks, winning 35 times at Yonkers and a combined 25 at Harrington, Batavia, Northfield Park, Saratoga Raceway, Western Fair and Freehold. But he also won 18 times at 5/8-mile Harrah’s Chester/Philadelphia and won conquered stakes foes at larger ovals like the Meadowlands, Woodbine-Mohawk Park and Indiana Downs. The photo-finish camera revealed that Foiled Again won five races by a nose, five by a head, nine by a neck and 14 more by less than one length. He won 25 times when starting from the rail and at least 10 times from posts 1 through 6. He won three consecutive Dan Patch Awards as champion older pace from 2011-13, a fete rivaled only by Hall of Famer Rambling Willie, who won 128 times. In 2013, he became the oldest horse to win a Breeders Crown race, when he won the $500,000 Open Pace at Pocono Downs at age 9. His performance in the George Morton Levy Memorial Pacing Series at Yonkers is unparalleled. He won 22 of 40 races in the Levy from 2009-16, including back-to-back wins in the 2009 and 2010 Levy final. He won the Battle of Lake Erie at Northfield Park three times and boasts multiple stakes wins in the Molson Pace at Western Fair, Indiana Pacing Derby at Indiana Downs and Bobby Quillen Memorial at Harrington, to name a few. He won 21 stakes of $100,000 or more. His most lucrative score was in the $787,000 Canadian Pacing Derby at Mohawk in 2012, when he surpassed Gallo Blue Chip as the all-time leading money earner ($4.35 million). He paced 22 winning miles in 1:50 or faster. His best time was 1:48 in the 2013 Ben Franklin elimination at Pocono Downs, the same year he won the Breeders Crown final at the Pennsylvania track in 1:49.2.

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1.28.2019:

Monday, January 28th: Pompano Park Pick 5 Analysis

Pompano Park will garner a great deal of interest tonight and it is well deserved. On Sunday, after a $190 winner captured the opening race in the Pick 5 sequence there was only one live ticket going into Race 5. Unfortunately for the ticket holder the #2-Southern Swagger came up just short and finished second. That resulted in a $23,805 carryover which led to a hefty $80,000 guaranteed pool and that sequence will be my focus. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Race 1 2-Pumpkinspicelatte-2nd ML choice has been facing better and starts inside of main foe. 4-Stonebridge Pearl-9/5 ML chalk isn't a model of consistency, but this is a comfortable to spot, best to respect. Race 2 1-Walk Two Moons-In form, could get a jewel of a trip following the odds on favorite #2 and roll by late. 2-Metro Glide-7/5 chalk is Hennessey's choice, dropped and popped, now steps-up but it may not matter. 6-Layer Cake-Price play should enjoy the company and MacDonald can work a trip from this post. Race 3 2-Post Time Terror-3rd start since being claimed back by Beckwith gets post relief and look like a major player. 4-Mystical Bay-9-1 shot may leave and get a 2-hole trip behind #5 the 6/5 ML chalk, using here and in gimmicks. 5-Northern Dali-Worked hard in last 2 to get an early seat, Hennessey should have an easier time getting to wood. Race 4 3-Rock N Roll Rosie-Gets Hennessey between the pipes after a tough trip and should be forwardly placed. 4-Rockin Desire-This gal is no slouch, fits and likes to win, best to respect. 5-Galarina-13-time winner in '18 can take a picture but start will be key. Could get on engine and not look back. Race 5 4-Fox Valley Salsa-Doesn't always fire its best shot, but if so, this is a spot to take top honors. 6-McCovey Cove N-Winner of 8 out of 40 in "18 has been a bridesmaid 3 straight times, that could change tonight. 8-Always Ya Baby-2-1 chalk is back in Lareau barn as Hennessey steers, post is tough but will respect connections. My Ticket Race 1) 2,4 Race 2) 1,2,6 Race 3) 2,4,5 Race 4) 3,4,5 Race 5) 4,6,8  Total Ticket Cost) $81 for $0.50Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia

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1.28.2019:

Kent Desormeaux’s 6000th Win Offers Introspection

To baseball fans in San Francisco, Barry Bonds may rate as iconic to a generation as Babe Ruth. Those torn between Wilt Chamberlain, Michael Jordan and Lebron James often are separated by age and geography as much as they are points and championships. Greatness, you see, comes with a heavy dose of personal perspective. Kent Desormeaux won his 6,000th career race Sunday at Santa Anita. The 2004 Hall of Fame inductee boasts seven Triple Crown wins and a trio of those coming in the Kentucky Derby. He’s No. 16 on the all-time wins list and No. 6 in mount earnings. Those credentials assure Desormeaux a place among the all-time greats in the printed word. But among the back talk in the racing press and vicious world of social media, Kent Desormeaux more often is characterized for his missteps than his milestones. Issues with alcoholism and reliability have painted a good portion of his career in an unfortunate manner. The events are the events, and how people perceive you most often is a product of both them and you. So there’s truth to the furrowed brows when it comes to Kent Desormeaux. But it also matters as much when you came along, and where you came from, when it comes to how you view Desormeaux. Kent Desormeaux and I share moments in time that are difficult to break. A year apart in age, I got to see his career ascension up close and a coming of age that mirrored my own. From his arrival in Maryland full-time in 1987, we were teenagers loving a game reserved for folks our fathers’ and grandfathers’ ages. True, I was just a horseplayers’ son deep into the practice myself, roaming the apron and trying to photo bomb winner’s circle pictures. Desormeaux, well, he was setting the Maryland racing scene and record books on fire. They called him “The Kid” during those years in Maryland. Part of it was his young age; but mostly because people in the Mid-Atlantic were clueless to Cajun pronunciations of his Louisiana roots. Desormeaux? Are you kidding? “The Kid” was easier. Back then feeble attempts at his name in Maryland settled on “DESSER-mo” though you even got an occasional railbird further off the mark with “DESSER-mex.” I don’t recall him becoming the actual “de-SORE-mo” during those years. Desormeaux dominated my high school years in Maryland before heading to California in 1990. That was the same year I left the region for college in Oklahoma. Simulcasting would soon become a thing and I could follow Desormeaux’s success out west while playing at Remington Park. In prior generations, when a Maryland riding great like Chris McCarron left town for richer prizes, you only could follow them in the Triple Crown-type races … or whatever preps Jim McKay spun on Wide World of Sports. As my career took hold in racing and Desormeaux’s continued to rise, I was fortunate enough to work his first Kentucky Derby score in 1998 with Real Quiet. I was there again 2 years later with Fusaichi Pegasus and again in 2008 when Big Brown delivered. None of those were “my” horses, per se; in fact, I bet against all three. But each time Desormeaux won, I took some pride in him being “my” rider over the course of our lifetimes. Kent Desormeaux certainly has had his share of problems in and out of the saddle. If you’re under the age of 35, you’re probably more in tune with those than his superstardom. And if you live in New York or Florida or Kentucky and play the horses regularly, it’s easy to recall the social media moments of discontent as much as the talent displayed. Those who follow Maryland and California know better. They may not be any less frustrated with how some things turned out, but they are far more forgiving. The way we perceive the greats often are rooted in time and place. If Kent Desormeaux was never your guy, you may not get that. But think of your favorite athletes in any sport. I’ll bet they and their memories immediately take you to a time and place that’s near and dear. So, a hearty congrats on No. 6,000 to “The Kid!” After all, if he can still be a kid, so can I.

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1.26.2019:

Jan 26: Cal Expo Pick 4 Analysis

There is a strong 11-race card set to roll tonight at Cal Expo. The feature comes in Race 6, the Robert Gordon Final with a purse of $9,800. The signature bet is the 0.20 Pick 4 which has a $40,000 guaranteed pool. That sequence starts in Race 8 and will be my focus. On Friday at Cal Expo Steve Wiseman was the pilot with the hottest hands steering home four winners. Trainer Kathy Plested took top honors with four trips to the winner's circle. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Race 8 5-Magnifique-Hard-knocking mare will need best, but Plano has options from this post and should be a square price. 6-Capitol Hill-Will toss last, had excuses and was off 2 weeks, could be sitting on a big try. 7-Brighten Your Life-ML chalk took the long way around and then broke in last start, should be heard from tonight. 8-Mispanderosajones-Raced big from the 5-hole to win, post makes the price but may have trouble if speed is holding. Race 9 1-Place At The Beach-Usually in the hunt, from here could stay live and trip out. Will shoot against ML chalk #4. 5-Moonshinenmonkeys-Steps up after a win but this field isn't out of reach and might be overlooked at the windows. 7-Chilma-Moved up in last but track was off, is 0-9 on a wet surface. Tonight could be different at 8-1 in the ML. 8-Cenalta Cougar-Beat some of these on 1-4 and then faced better. Will needs a trip but will use and is also 8-1. Race 10 1-Whatchamacallum-Beaten favorite went the last 1/2 in 56.2, dull pace hurt on an off-track, best to respect. 3-Coz And Effect-Takes a good drop and this is a spot to shine for program favorite. Race 11 3-Lumberjack Willie-9/5 ML chalk caught the right bunch in last and scored, will respect but like others more. 6-Walker Meister-Fits and last was better than line looks. Needs a trip but Kennedy sticks and that should help. 7-Cenalta Eclipse-Put in a flat line and was better. Now makes 2nd start for Clements, will use at 6-1 in the ML. 0.20 Pick 4 5,6,7,8/1,5,7,8/1,3/3,6,7 Total Bet=$19.20 Be sure to check out the money back offer today on 1st and 2nd place finishers for the Pegasus World Cup and Pegasus World Cup Turf. Offer is good for Xpressbet account holders who register. Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia

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1.26.2019:

Accelerate has company on World Cup leg of Pick 4 ticket

Accelerate checks all the boxes for today’s Pegasus World Cup and will be very, very difficult to beat in the 1 1-8th-mile test around the Gulfstream Park track. Is there a chance to beat him? Of course. There’s always a chance. He hasn’t had many off days lately (actually none) and the probability of him bringing less than his ‘A’ game is low. Gun Runner was the 2018 winner, and Accelerate could be on a par with one. If not, he’s not far back. It’s difficult to find a weakness in his game, and in his last four, it’s impossible. No horse has the career momentum like Accelerate. Do we single him in the Pegasus World Cup? No shame in doing that, for sure. But I’m throwing in a second horse on the ticket: Gunnevera. The pace of the race should be very lively, thanks to City of Light (the last to beat Accelerate, by a neck in the Oaklawn Handicap), Tom’s d’Etat, True Timber and Patternrecognition, mainly. Tom’s d’Etat only is successful when he on or very near the front end, True Timber is mostly a sprinter whose best mile effort was a second to Patternrecognition, who also is in this and another gate-to-wire tough. Accelerate will be under the guidance of Joel Rosario, who was aboard in his last three after the injury to regular pilot Victor Espinoza. It would be difficult to map out a better scenario for him, as the pace should be rapid, and once he engages the leaders, he can put them away when called upon. The biggest challenge could be locally based Gunnevera, who was a fast-closing second to Accelerate in the Classic. Irad Ortiz, fresh off an Eclipse Award win, took over the riding chores on Gunnevera in the Classic and keeps the mount today. Here’s the suggested ticket for the late Pick 4 at Gulfstream Park: Race 9) #1 Coal Front, #2 Storm Advisory, #4 Breaking Lucky, #6 Aztec Sense.Race 10) #2 Soglio, #4 Zulu Alpha, #7 Canessar, #8 Hunting Horn.Race 11) #1 Magic Wand, #5 Next Shares, #7 Bricks and Mortar, #9 Catapult.Race 12) #5 Accelerate, #8 Gunnevera.50-cent Pick 4: 1-2-4-6 with 2-4-7-8 with 1-5-7-9 and 5-8 ($64)

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1.25.2019:

Friday, January 25: Meadowlands Pick 4 Analysis

Tonight's card at the Big M has 13 races on tap with the feature coming in Race 3, a condition trot with a $16,000 purse. The popular 0.50 Pick 4 begins in Race 8, it is a competitive sequence with a $50,000 guaranteed pool and will be my focus. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Race 8 2-Starsaboveallerage-Gets an inside starting slot at the right class with a positive driver change, using. 4-Di Oggi-Qualifier was good after a hiatus but that was 3 weeks ago, if ready will be a player. 9-Arch Credit-Back down to the level of past success, post makes the price and A. Miller can work a trip. Race 9 5-Eyore Hanover-Was bet last week from the 10-hole when dropped, draws well and fits. 7-Illinimight-Will toss last on a night with a few breaks, if races back to previous start it could be good enough. 8-Cant U Spell-3rd start off the bench, driver needs to work a trip but if so, can close fast at a price. Race 10 2-Rock On The Hill-Recent form has been dull but this could be a drop and pop wake-up call. 3-Urbanite Hanover-In from Fhld and drops to a spot to shine, best to respect and has had Big M success. 7-In Your Eye-3rd start for Mann, drops, needs live cover but gets some post relief and should be a square price. 9-Waltzacrossthewire-Looking for a repeat win, post draw makes it more of a challenge but now adds M. Miller. Race 11 1-Iron Dome-Part of entry comes off a break but M. Miller sticks and could grind around for an overdue win. 4-Sergeant Seelster-Risky because of many X's on the page but if minds manners has the talent to take a picture. 9-Photo King-In great form and is seeking 2nd straight win from 10-hole, major player and Callahan knows well.  My TicketRace 8) 2,4,9 Race 9) 5,7,8 Race 10) 2,3,7,9 Race 11) 1,4,9  Total Ticket Cost) $54 for $0.50 Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia.

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1.25.2019:

Weekly Bankroll Builder: January 25 Stronach 5 Ticket

Let’s try to build off our success last week, which saw a $30 ticket turn into $584. 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 (4:35 ET) – 4up 10k MCL at 6 furlongs We start with a race with a ton of speed that looks destined to fall apart, so I’m going to hope that 0-for-12 runner #7 SEVENTYSEVEN FORCE (7-2) finally breaks through, as he has run well in five starts for Talley, though I readily admit he’s mighty tough to trust. I’m also going to use the wildcard, #9 NONNO PIETRO (8-1) who hasn’t run since October when he sprinted on the Tapeta at GG and will now try dirt for the first time for Lynch, who is just 1-for-20 with newcomers to the barn, but, if nothing else, this runner has plenty of upside and decent form off those two Northern Ca. starts. Pk5 A horses (listed in order of preference): 7,9 Fellow lifetime maiden #11 ZEPHYR TRAIN (6-1) is essentially a slower version of ‘Force, but he does have a hint of a rating gear, which will give him first run, so I’m begrudgingly using him. I have no idea where #12 BUSTER’S BROTHER’S (6-1) last race came from, but a repeat might win this, and he’s drawn wide enough that he will likely assume a stalking position. I may be bold (or stupid, or both), but I’m not using either #1 The Mason Factor (3-1) or #8 Telecommunication (6-1), as they will be way overbet off bad runs and they look like they will be pace casualties too. Pk5 B horses: 11,12 Leg 2: Gulfstream Park R10 (4:41 ET) – 4up 60k Starter Stakes at 7 furlongs In what looks like a pretty straight forward class play, the seemingly universal single in the sequence is #5 UNO MAS MODELA (6-5), who held his own in the GIII Mr. Prospector last time, won a claiming crown stakes here two-back, and also aired in a CD stakes three-back, and the fact he gets 7Fs and a field with enough early speed says he’ll have no problem getting up in time. Pk5 A horses: 5 No one in here has the firepower of the favorite, so we’ll go it alone. If you’re looking for a backup or two, #4 Nominal Dollars (12-1) can close and may get overlooked, while his Navarro stablemate #8 Whyruawesome (5-1) will get first run and looked good beating lesser in fast time in his last. Pk5 B horses: NONE Leg 3: Santa Anita R4 (5:00 ET) – 4up Ca-bred MSW at 1-mile (turf) A tough 8-pack, as no one stands out, but another race that figures to have a contested pace, which has me looking for a mild upset on the rail with #1 BOUNCING AROUND (8-1), who is lightly raced and has run just once on turf—a close 5th two-back—and will now run on the grass with blinkers for the first time. A stalking gear will make #2 COOL YOUR JETS (5-2) a handful, as he can sit off the speed and get first run, though he’s 0-for-8 with five slices, so he’s no lock. The price play is #5 SINGLE ME OUT (12-1), since he’s run just twice, improved a lot last time, and makes the pivotal third start of his career. Pk5 A horses: 1,2,5 It’s probably obvious I have no real opinion in this race, so I’ll also use #6 PALERMO STYLE (4-1), #4 OSTINI (3-1), and #7 RECKLESS GRAVITY (6-1), who all have their merits, as well as races that put them in the mix here. Pk5 B horses: 6,4,7 Leg 4: Gulfstream Park R101 (5:12 ET) – 3yof 60k Starter Stakes at 1-mile (turf) A huge jock upgrade to Saez and a trouble-free trip could help #5 DAH PHILLY (8-1) post the mild surprise after a rough trip here in her last, when she was 4th to a few of these at huge odds in her return to the turf. A good trip looks in the cards for #7 ISADORABLE AIDA (3-1), who was well clear of the pick when 3rd last time and figures to be just off the speed while trying to make amends for coming up short as the favorite last time, and drawing a bit better today will help. Pk5 A horses: 5,7 The draw is ideal for #6 YAKO (7-2), who should be able to spy the speed and get first run, and she did beat the top pair last time, but the worry is that she’ll still get a bit fried late, so she’s only making the ticket as a backup, especially since she got blitzed by ‘Aida two-back. Initially I tried to make a case for #2 Sister Peacock (9-2) as the speed of the speed on the stretch to two turns in her turf debut, but I can’t pull the trigger with some heat to her outside, even though there’s no doubt she’ll make the front. Pk5 B horses: 6 Leg 5: Golden Gate Fields R5 (5:45 ET) – 3yo MSW at 1-mile If #2 NO NAME FRED (9-5) runs back to his last he wins this, but it was on turf, and his Tapeta 4th two-back was no great shakes, so I’m not willing to sit alone with him, even though he’s clearly the one to beat. I’m also going to use #3 SARNI (7-2), who chased a hot pace sprinting on debut and was a close 2nd, and may now rate a Lone F on the stretchout, which he’s bred to love. Pk5 A horses: 2,3 The rest seem to be stuck in place, with little to no upside, so we’ll limit the ticket to A-level runners only, though those spreading deeper can look to #4 Jimmy G (10-1) and #7 Classy Chasie (5-1). Pk5 B horses: NONE Main Ticket: 7,9 with 5 with 1,2,5 with 5,7 with 2,3 = $24 Leg 1 B Backup: 11,12 with 5 with 1,2,5 with 5,7 with 2,3 = $24 Leg 3 B Backup: 7,9 with 5 with 6,4,7 with 5,7 with 2,3 = $24 Leg 4 B Backup: 7,9 with 5 with 1,2,5 with 6 with 2,3 = $12 

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1.24.2019:

Pegasus Turf, Dirt, Snoop & Pick 4

Late Saturday night, after 10 horses have competed in the inaugural running of the $7 million Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational and 12 others have met in the third edition of the $9 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational, and following an evening with rapper Snoop Dogg and DJ Mark Ronson in the Pegasus LIV Stretch Village, TSG chairman and president Belinda Stronach will pick up a very large tab. As any ‘playa’ knows, South Florida ‘game’ ain’t cheap. South Beach, home to some of the world’s most popular hot spots, is a mere stone’s throw from Gulfstream Park so, ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ is a challenge.  However, this expenditure is far from wasted. It’s an investment in Gulfstream Park, the Pegasus brand and horseracing in general. So far, the concept appears to be working with appeal aimed at a varied demographic. This is the third Pegasus renewal and it’s definitely the most anticipated. Previous versions have attracted the world’s top dirt horses in Arrogate and Gun Runner. That’s the case again this year as Accelerate, the top-rated active dirt runner, fills his position in the starting gate. But Pegasus buzz is greater this time around—regarding the races and the after party. This year, the addition of a $7 million Pegasus turf race in an interesting twist. As with any maiden voyage there will be a learning curve. In this case, that’s horsemen becoming familiar with the race and its position on the calendar so that they can aim charges at it in the future. It wasn’t long ago that despite its massive purse the dirt version required a similar introduction period. Familiarity is particularly important when considering European-based runners—usually shut down from November until spring. This year there is one representative from across the pond in the Aiden O’Brien-trained filly Magic Wand. She has a legitimate chance to win, but in a year or two this race will become a target instead of an afterthought for Euros and horsemen worldwide. Aerolithe, another female invader this year, comes from Japan, an extremely positive sign. While now firmly established the original dirt version of the Pegasus World Cup Invitational could use a good old-fashioned upset. You know, the kind where the heavy favorite runs well, but is nipped in the final strides by a speedy, worthy foe carrying less weight. There’s a tiny hint that that could happen this year because, from stall to stall, this is by far the deepest Pegasus field. Some would argue that Accelerate isn’t as dominating a presence as either Arrogate or Gun Runner so he hasn’t scared the competition away. That could be partially true. But Accelerate’s formidable enough and the structure of Pegasus entry fees and purse distribution demands competitors finish ‘in the money’ or lose connections chunks of cash.  And that’s how it should be. Like in the old days when ‘My horse is faster than yours’ was the battle cry and purses were completely generated by owners. Horseplayers will enjoy an outstanding card jam-packed with stakes races. The afternoon’s final pick 4 features a guaranteed $1 million pool and the popular Rainbow Six wager could have a $500,000-plus pot. Xpressbet account holders can enjoy a variety of promotional wagering opportunities. Players can get cash back (up to $25) if backed runners finish either second or third in the Pegasus dirt or turf. Plus, players can collect a share of a 5 million point split! A $25 minimum win wager on the winner of the Pegasus turf and Pegasus dirt makes players eligible for a 1 million split each. Hitting either early or late pick 4 wagers earns a share of 1 million points each. Winning exacta wagers on four different races on the card also will earn a share of 1 million points. Please visit Promotions for complete information on all offers. In an effort to hit Saturday’s Gulfstream late pick 4 for cash and a share of 1 million points, here’s one man’s view of Saturday’s Gulfstream late pick 4 wager: 9th Race - Fred W. Hooper #1 Coal Front is the one to beat. He’s favored and seems like a solid single. Let’s start there.  For a complete rundown on this race and all the Gulfstream action please check out Xpressbet’s Free Pegasus Wager Guide available on the website. 10th Race - W. L McKnight Have to admit this race seems completely wide open. We’re going to suggest hitting the ‘All’ button for this race in hopes that a nuclear bomb lands in the winner’s circle. If favorites Coal Front and Accelerate win (and they should), players are going to need something to ‘juice’ the ticket. That help might come in this race. 11th Race - Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational European invader #1 Magic Wand gets the top nod in here based on her second placings in the Prix de l’Opera Longines and Quatar Prix Vermille both at Longchamp. Most recently she was fourth, less than three lengths behind Sistercharlie in the BC Filly & Mare Turf.  #2 Yoshida can’t be ignored. Following success on the dirt—a Woodward win and a close fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Classic—he returns to the grass where he’s won 4 of 10 starts. #5 Next Shares has earned respect by winning 3 of his last 4, including the Grade 1 Shadwell Turf Mile. He’s got a recent score Jan. 5 in the San Gabriel at Santa Anita. #7 Bricks and Mortar has to be respected. He hails from Chad Brown stable and is 2 for 2 at Gulfstream Park. He’s also 5 for 7 on turf and fresh off a sharp allowance win at Gulfstream. #8 Delta Prince is a relatively lightly-raced 6-year-old with 4 wins in 11 starts. He’s had success over the Gulfstream turf with 2 wins in 3 starts. Forget his last race which was on dirt with blinkers that will be removed for this. He recently worked six furlongs at Palm Meadows in 1:10! #9 Catapult is a real trier that hasn’t been off the board since June 2017 at Belmont Park. Distance could be a question mark with this one, but he has won at a mile and one-eighth. Trainer John Sadler could have a monster earnings day if Catapult and Accelerate are successful. 12th Race Pegasus World Cup Invitational #5 Accelerate is the fastest horse in this race. He’s got enough speed to be close to the early pace and substantial determination in the lane. There’s a reason (actually several reasons) why this horse is in the running for Horse of the Year honors. He’s clearly the one to beat. #3 City of Light is drawn inside Accelerate and likely will go for the early lead. He could have some company up front, but if the heat isn’t too intense, he could be difficult for the favorite to run down in the lane. While we believe that Accelerate will get the job done, City of Light seems to have the best chance of pulling off the upset. The .50 Late Pick 4 Ticket ($48) Race 9 #1 Race 10 All (16 runners) Race 11 #1, #2, #5, #7, #8, #9 Race 12 #5 (Double the ticket price to $96 by adding #3) Race On!

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1.24.2019:

Jan 24: Pompano Park Pick 4 Analysis

Tonight, Pompano Park has a 10-race card scheduled with the feature coming in Race 3, a 5/8-mile Dash for the Cash with a $10,000 purse. The 0.50 Pick 4 begins in Race 6, it has a $15,000 guaranteed pool with a low 12% takeout, and it will be my focus. The big news from Wednesday in south Florida was driver Wally Hennessey captured four races and picked up win number 10,000. Hennessey steered home #5 Prince Of Fame in the finale to hit the milestone. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Race 6 3-Surreal Syrah-Has had issues but comes back after a tune-up on 1-21, should be in the mix if tight enough. 4-Diamond Eyes-Broke in 2 of last 3 but now gets Hennessey who has a lot of success holding bad actors together. 6-Heavenly Evelyn-2nd time Lasix and gets post relief, that's enough to take a swing versus this bunch. 7-Fantasy Official-Has been close but can't seal the deal. In a suspect field best to respect compete level. 8-Anytime Anyplace-4-1 in ML is in form and a use but hasn't started farther out than Post 4 since 10/3. Race 7 1-Jagger Rocks-0-8 but could have more speed than anyone and could make the most of the post draw. 3-Roundtable-Doesn't like to pass but from this spot may be able to roll by after a cozy trip. 5-Travis-5-year-old doesn't like to win but is not alone in this field. Krueger could trip out and is 9-1 in the ML. 8-Super Fine Credit-Looking for a more aggressive try, was Byron's choice over #4 and should be a price.  Race 8 6-Brookletsjustified-Has been struggling but now Hennessey steers, 7/5 in ML in a soft field, should be in the mix. 7-You Got Trumped-Paced 56.1 in the last 1/2 from the 8-hole and is a player if Simons can provide a good steer.  Race 9 3-Damion Diesel Hahn-Saratoga invader drops, makes 3rd Pomp start, should be in the hunt and will be bet hard. 6-My Friskie Boy-This guy drops to a nice spot and has a good chance to knock-off #3, the 3/2 ML chalk. 0.50 Pick 4: 3,4,6,7,8/1,3,5,8/6,7/3,6 Total Bet=$40 Check me out on Twitter,@AlCimaglia.

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1.23.2019:

Eddie Olczyk’s Pegasus World Cup Thoughts

In its brief history, the Pegasus World Cup has developed quite a reputation for showdowns. In 2017, it was Arrogate and California Chrome. Last year, Gun Runner vs. West Coast filled the marquee. Saturday we get Breeders’ Cup divisional winners ACCELERATE and CITY OF LIGHT. You don’t necessarily have to separate them, thanks to exotic wagering, but it won’t hurt your potential payoff to try. These are the four runners I’ll be focused on in the $9 million finale: SEEKING THE SOUL: Longshot outran his odds when fifth in this race last year and he dances all the big dances. He showed in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile when second to CITY OF LIGHT that he is faster than his running style suggests. That could help him over a Gulfstream track that probably will play fast on Pegasus World Cup Day. ACCELERATE: The Breeders’ Cup Classic may have been the best chance to beat him. From an outside draw that day and with trainer John Sadler’s historical struggles in the BC, ACCELERATE seemed a vulnerable favorite off a so-so final prep. But now we know he can win on the road, and that Sadler with the right horse can be just fine outside of his California base, too. He will face some new challengers this time, but there’s no reason to think his career finale will stray too far from his record of 6 wins and 2 seconds in his last 8 starts. CITY OF LIGHT: We know this one travels well and matches up well, winning the G2 Oaklawn Handicap over ACCELERATE and the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile at Churchill Downs over SEEKING THE SOUL. Gulfstream Park-based jockey Javier Castellano and an inner-post draw in the 3-hole both will benefit his chances with a short run into the clubhouse turn. He should easily clear BRAVAZO and SOMETHING AWESOME to his inside. CITY OF LIGHT had a 3-pound advantage on ACCELERATE in the Oaklawn Handicap, but will carry equal weight of 124 pounds in the Pegasus World Cup. GUNNEVERA: Ever-steady, the late runner did us well a year ago by rallying for third in this race at 13-1. His summer-fall included runner-up bids in the Woodward and Breeders’ Cup Classic to horses in the spotlight today – Pegasus World Cup Turf contender Yoshida and World Cup favorite ACCELERATE. You’ll notice GUNNEVERA is a bit more tactical than most think; in his races at Gulfstream, he has stayed several lengths closer to the pace than he has at other tracks. Let’s see where Irad Ortiz, Jr. puts him down the backstretch. Betting-wise, I’m hoping for a split. Trifectas using the favorites in the top two spots won’t pay boxcars, so the best chance for a bigger return will be to work the pricier horses in-between ACCELERATE and CITY OF LIGHT. I’m looking forward to a busy day Saturday with the NBC Sports telecast and second of two days in the Pegasus World Cup Betting Championship. I was fortunate enough to win the contest last year when GUNNEVERA and SEEKING THE SOUL were my longshot hopes to get in the trifecta behind favorites Gun Runner and West Coast. Let’s see if lightning can strike twice. Good luck!

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1.23.2019:

Jon White's Eclipse Award Predictions

The 2018 Eclipse Award finalists were revealed earlier this month. The winners in each category will be announced at Gulfstream Park on Thursday at the 48th annual Eclipse Awards dinner presented by The Stronach Group, Daily Racing Form and Breeders’ Cup. The first year that I made Eclipse Award predictions in this column was for the racing that was conducted in 2011. Through the years, my Eclipse Award predictions have proven to be correct 92.4% of the time: 2011: 15 correct, 2 wrong 2012: 16 correct, 1 wrong 2013: 16 correct, 1 wrong 2014: 17 correct, 0 wrong 2015: 14 correct, 3 wrong 2016: 16 correct, 1 wrong 2017: 16 correct, 1 wrong Total: 110 correct, 9 wrong Remember, these are my predictions, not who I think should win or who I voted for. And now here are my predictions for the 2018 Eclipse Awards: 2-YEAR-OLD MALE Finalists (alphabetically): Game Winner, Improbable, Knicks Go Predicted Winner: Game Winner This category, folks, is a slam-dunk. The award no doubt will go to undefeated Game Winner, winner of three Grade I races, including the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. 2-YEAR-OLD FILLY Finalists: Bellafina, Jaywalk, Newspaperofrecord Predicted Winner: Jaywalk This category is not a slam-dunk. I could see the award going to either Jaywalk or Newspaperofrecord. Jaywalk won four of five starts. She took the Grade I Frizette by 5 3/4 lengths and Grade I BC Juvenile Fillies by 5 1/4 lengths. Newspaperofrecord, who did all of her racing on turf, won all three starts by margins of 6 3/4, 6 1/2 and 6 3/4 lengths. She was victorious in a pair of stakes races, the Grade II Miss Grillo and Grade I BC Juvenile Fillies Turf. This, for me, is one of the tougher calls this year. I am going with Jaywalk to get the Eclipse Award in this category. But I won’t be shocked if I am wrong. 3-YEAR-OLD MALE Finalists: Catholic Boy, Justify, McKinzie Predicted Winner: Justify The award in this category undoubtedly will go to undefeated Triple Crown winner Justify. He is a finalist for Horse of the Year, along with Accelerate and Monomoy Girl. 3-YEAR-OLD FILLY Finalists: Midnight Bisou, Monomoy Girl, Rushing Fall Predicted Winner: Monomoy Girl Considering Monomoy Girl is a finalist for Horse of the Year, I make her a 1-20 favorite to get the Eclipse Award as champion 3-year-old filly. She was a five-time Grade I winner (Ashland, Kentucky Oaks, Acorn, Coaching Club American Oaks and BC Distaff). OLDER DIRT MALE Finalists: Accelerate, City of Light, Gun Runner Predicted Winner: Accelerate Inasmuch as Accelerate is a finalist for Horse of the Year, I believe it is a certainty he will get the award as champion older dirt male. OLDER DIRT FEMALE Finalists: Abel Tasman, Marley’s Freedom, Unique Bella Predicted Winner: Unique Bella After Abel Tasman won the Grade I Ogden Phipps in June and Grade I Personal Ensign in August, she was in a prime position to get the award in this category. But then she went off form -- way off form -- in her final two starts of the year. She lost the Grade I Zenyatta in September by 10 1/2 lengths when she finished fifth, then lost the Grade I BC Distaff in November by 22 lengths when she ended up 11th. Unique Bella was retired after a victory in late July. But I think she probably will get the Eclipse Award in this category off her two Grade I victories (Santa Maria and Clement L. Hirsch) in conjunction with her overall consistency (four starts, three wins and a second). MALE SPRINTER Finalists: Imperial Hint, Roy H, Stormy Liberal Predicted Winner: Roy H “You can take it to the bank that Roy H will get this one,” I wrote a year ago regarding the 2017 male sprint category. And Roy H, who won the Grade I BC Sprint in 2017, did indeed get the 2017 Eclipse Award as champion male sprinter. I say once again that you can take it to the bank that Roy H will get the 2018 Eclipse Award as champion male sprinter. He won a pair of Grade I races in 2018 (Santa Anita Sprint Championship and BC Sprint). FEMALE SPRINTER Finalists: Finley’sluckycharm, Marley’s Freedom, Shamrock Rose Predicted Winner: Shamrock Rose Shamrock Rose put together a four-race winning streak that was highlighted by victories in the Grade II Raven Run and Grade I BC Filly & Mare Sprint. I think that will be sufficient for her to get the Eclipse Award in this category. MALE TURF Finalists: Expert Eye, Glorious Empire, Stormy Liberal Predicted Winner: Glorious Empire This, to me, is the toughest of all categories to try and predict the winner. Even though there are only three finalists to choose from, I feel like it will be a miracle if I get it correct. Any one of the three finalists might get it. All three have pluses and minuses. Expert Eye’s plus is he won the Grade I BC Mile. His minus is that was his lone start in North America. Glorious Empire’s pluses are he won a Grade I race (Sword Dancer) and two Grade II races (Bowling Green and Fort Lauderdale). His minuses are that one of his Grade II wins was a dead heat and, in his most important start of the year, he was eased in the Grade I BC Turf. Stormy Liberal’s plus is he put together a four-race winning streak, including a pair of graded stakes races, the Grade III Eddie D. and Grade I BC Turf Sprint. His minus is he raced exclusively in grass sprints. As Bob Ehalt explained in an article he wrote for Thoroughbred Racing Commentary, “the turf sprint division lacks an abundance of robust stakes.” I voted for Expert Eye. Ehalt voted for Glorious Empire. And I can tell from what I have read and heard there were plenty of votes for Stormy Liberal. With zero confidence, I’ll predict the Eclipse Award will go to Glorious Empire. FEMALE TURF Finalists: A Raving Beauty, Enable, Sistercharlie Predicted Winner: Sistercharlie This award definitely will go to either Enable or Sistercharlie. Enable followed a second Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe trumph by becoming the first horse to ever win the Group I Arc and Grade I BC Turf in the same year. But as in the case of Expert Eye in the male turf category, some will hold it against Enable that she made just one North American start. Sistercharlie won four Grade I races. She took the Jenny Wily, Diana, Beverly D. and BC Filly & Mare Turf. I think Sistercharlie’s body of work in North America will trump Enable’s one, albeit impressive, North American victory. STEEPLECHASE Finalists: Jury Duty, Optimus Prime, Zanjabeel Predicted Winner: Zanjabeel TRAINER Finalists: Steve Asmussen, Bob Baffert, Chad Brown Predicted Winner: Chad Brown JOCKEY Finalists: Irad Ortiz Jr., Jose Ortiz, Mike Smith Predicted Winner: Irad Ortiz Jr. APPRENTICE JOCKEY Finalists: Reylu Gutierrez, Weston Hamilton, Edgar Morales Predicted Winner: Weston Hamilton OWNER Finalists: Peter Brant; Hronis Racing; WinStar Farm, China Horse Club, Starlight Racing and Head of Plains Partners Predicted Winner: Hronis Racing BREEDER Finalists: Mike Abraham, John D. Gunther, WinStar Farm Predicted Winner: John D. Gunther HORSE OF THE YEAR Finalists: Accelerate, Justify, Monomoy Girl Predicted Winner: Justify This definitely comes down to either Accelerate or Justify. I think it’s fair to say that most people thought the 2018 Horse of the Year title was decided on June 9, the day that Justify became the sport’s 13th Triple Crown winner. However, to Accelerate’s credit, he put together a campaign that no doubt is going to draw some Horse of the Year support. But as I wrote a number of times during the year here at Xpressbet.com, history tells us that, no matter what Accelerate did, it was going to be an uphill battle for him to topple a Triple Crown winner for Horse of the Year. Sir Barton in 1919, Gallant Fox in 1930 and Omaha in 1935 won the Triple Crown prior to Granville becoming the first Horse of the Year in 1937. Any way you slice it, what does not bode well for Accelerate’s chances to become the 2018 Horse of the Year is that since Granville, all nine Triple Crown winners prior to this year have been voted that season’s Horse of the Year. How important is a Triple Crown sweep with Horse of the Year voters? Consider what happened in 1978. Affirmed won the 1978 Triple Crown. Seattle Slew defeated Affirmed both times they met in 1978. But despite Affirmed losing both times to Seattle Slew, it was Affirmed who was voted 1978 Horse of the Year. As for Justify, not only did he sweep the Triple Crown, he achieved a plethora of firsts. --No other horse in the 144-year history of the Kentucky Derby won it after running the first quarter-mile as fast as Justify did (:22.24). --Justify defeated nine opponents in the Belmont Stakes. No Triple Crown winner ever beat that many rivals in the Belmont. --Justify defeated 19 opponents in the Kentucky Derby, seven in the Preakness and nine in the Belmont, a total of 35 in the three classics, more than any other Triple Crown winner. Accelerate did put together a 2018 campaign worthy of a Horse of the Year. He joined Lava Man (2006) and Game On Dude (2013) as the only three horses to win Southern California’s three major events for older horses in the same year-- the Grade I Santa Anita Handicap, Grade I Gold Cup at Santa Anita and Grade I Pacific Classic. All three races of those races were contested at 1 1/4 miles. Accelerate won the Pacific Classic by a record 12 1/2 lengths. It seems some are going to hold it against Justify that he did not race after June. That’s fair. After all, it’s called Horse of the Year not Horse of the Half-Year. Accelerate raced from Feb. 3 to Nov. 3. Justify raced from Feb. 18 to June 9. But keep in mind it’s not as if Accelerate won more races than Justify. They each won six races during 2018. As I said, I think Accelerate is going to get some Horse of the Year support. But I also think it will be Justify whose name is announced Thursday as having been voted the 2018 Horse of the Year. 

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1.22.2019:

Harness Highlights: Anatomy Of A 109-Race Winner (Part 1)

Foiled Again was forced into retirement January 1, but the now 15-year-old gelding left an indelible mark in harness racing annals. He compiled a 331/109-70-46 record and earned an all-time record $7,635,588 in purse money. Part 1 of our two-part series on his illustrious career also reveals:  * Foiled Again is one of 15 pacers to win 100 races, but his earnings are more than the 14 others combined. He won his 100th race at Harrah’s Philadelphia on July 9, 2018.  * He won races at 22 tracks, spanning 12 racing seasons. He made at least 22 starts the last 11 years. He started 39 times in 2008, the year trainer Ron Burke took over his reigns for owners Sylvia Burke, Mark Weaver, Mike Bruscemi and JJK Stables (Joseph Koury Jr., Kevin Koury and their father, the late Joseph Koury Sr.). He visited 18 tracks on his 2018 Farewell Tour.  * He won 10 or more races in a year six times. He won 15 in 2009, the only time he ever he was put up through disqualification. Foiled Again won six in a row in 2009 and 2013-14. He finished first or second in 19 consecutive races from August 2009 to May 2010. His longest winless streak was 17 races as a 3-year-old in 2007.  * Yannick Gingras was in the bike for 64 of Foiled Again’s victories. Matt Kakaley won eight times and Dave Palone, Jason Bartlett and John Baggitt Jr. won five each. In all, eighteen drivers had a hand in his success.  * Foiled Again was favored to win 116 times and part of a favored entry 22 more. He led at every call in a race 53 times, 36 as the odds-on favorite. 

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1.21.2019:

Monday Jan 21: Mohawk Park Pick 5 Analysis

The feature at Mohawk Park rolls in Race 7, a condition trot with a $25,000 purse. The very popular 0.50 Pick 5 starts the action, it has a $50,000 guaranteed pool and will be my focus. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Race 1 2-Nasty Rumor-Suspect ML chalk is 0-29 but has been passing horses and this is a spot to get an overdue win. 5-Chickie Love-Will respect in 1st start for Shepherd barn after claim, Roy may get an easy lead and find a soft 1/4. 7-Jordies Hope-Should like the company and McClure could find some live cover, this mare knows how to win. Race 2 2-On The Sly-Raced well and now steps up but could be up to the challenge from this post. 4-Mystery Bet-8-year-old was in too tough in last 2, back down to level of recent success. 7-Pepe Di Jesolo-Impressive win in last and can repeat, well worth a swing at 9/2 in the ML. Race 3 2-Mystical Mission-Found life and trotted a 56.4 last half, needs a trip but should be a decent price. 3-Flying Isa N-11-time winner in 2018 had no chance after broken equipment and gets Roy tonight. 6-Musical Spell-Price shot was used more aggressively on a fast track in last and raced well, will be rolling late. 8-Parkhill Nonstop-ML chalk drops to a spot to shine, should be in the hunt with a good cover flow. Race 4 3-Think Again-Has burned a lot of money in last 2 but sheds the 9 & 10 post plus was off 21 days before last start. 4-Prince Giovanni-1st start for Giles after a claim and easy win, Roy steers and look like a player. 5-Lone Wolf Terror-Odds on favorite was used hard early, can makes amends for Drury-Auciello. Race 5 5-R U Talkin-Won for fun on 1/10 and should offer a stiffer challenge to #7 than in first career start. 7-Arukidnme Cabbie-Winner of 2 straight has returned to action in a big way, aims for 3rd straight, one to beat. 0.20 Pick 5 2,5,7/2,4,7/2,3,6,8/3,4,5/5,7 Total Bet=$43.20 Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia. 

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1.21.2019:

20-Somethings Saddled with Success

The old guys still have something to offer in the saddle, but there’s a solid youth movement going on atop the national jockey standings. Nine of the top 16 riders in terms of mount earnings in 2018 were in their 20s, including the highly visible Ortiz Brothers at No. 1 and 2. What Jose (age 25) and Irad Ortiz, Jr. (26) are doing is horse racing’s version of the early careers of tennis’ Venus and Serena Williams. But the boys have quite a few ‘Grand Slam’ titles to accumulate before they get mentioned seriously in that kind of conversation. The Williams Sisters have 30+ Grand Slams, after all. Irad has a Belmont Stakes and five Breeders’ Cup scores in his growing trophy case. Jose has a Belmont, two Breeders’ Cups and an Eclipse Award. But in the confines of horse racing, the Ortiz Brothers are the undisputed leaders of the current youth movement among jockeys. Not only were they 1-2 in the national money chase last year, they were $4 million-plus ahead of the next-closest jockey, 41-year-old Javier Castellano. Veterans like Castellano aren’t going away just yet. The national starpower lost Gary Stevens to retirement in recent months, but still boasts the ageless Mike Smith (53) and John Velazquez (47). Kent Desormeaux doesn’t ride what he once did, but is still a Top 40 rider in the national standings nearing his 49th birthday. On Saturday at Fair Grounds, Tyler Gaffalione (24) took another small step toward his ascension in this conversation and industry. The Grade 3 Lecomte Stakes isn’t scrapbook material in a Hall of Fame career, but finding a potential Triple Crown contender absolutely can fast track you to recognition. Gaffalione may have that with War of Will, an impressive winner in New Orleans for Mark Casse. No one will jump the gun and declare War of Will the next great horse, nor Gaffalione the heir apparent to Mike Smith. But guys like Calvin Borel and Victor Espinoza had outstanding careers advanced to Hall of Fame status by massive amounts of success in the Triple Crown. It matters to win here. Getting that big horse is the next natural step for Gaffalione, as he’s proven he can be a leading rider at major meets like Keeneland and Gulfstream Park. Obviously success in New York or California also comes as requisites to lead this industry. But being the leading rider in New York means unseating not one, but two Ortiz kin. And in California, Flavien Prat (26) doesn’t look to be going anywhere soon as the west’s top dog. Veteran star Joel Rosario has ventured to the coast this year, so we’ll see if he’s able to unseat Prat before thinking it can be done by another 20-something. The Ortiz Brothers, Gaffalione and Prat are less than half of that youthful nine-pack mentioned that shared the national Top 16 standings for earnings last year. It also included Manny Franco (24), Luis Saez (26), Ricardo Santana Jr. (26), Drayden Van Dyke (24) and Dylan Davis (25). This is an amazing group of nine riders all aged 24-26, so close together in experience and potential for decades of peer dominance. They are slightly beyond the age where you wonder if they’re too young for success. These are young men, not teenagers and college-aged guys who may not handle success as well. Some are husbands and fathers. There’s not a lot of negative press about them off the track. It’s interesting that there was a six-year spacing in age between Smith to Velazquez to Castellano. Yet, they’ve stood the test of time together and remain the sport’s three biggest big-race riders to date. But this current youth movement has the brothers a year apart and nine leading riders all within two years of age. That’s remarkable and could set the table for a long and promising run. There are some quality riders in their 30s (the aforementioned Rosario, Florent Geroux, Julien Leparoux, Junior Alvarado among them), but it seems highly plausible the torch of this sport will be passed not 6 years apart in age this time, but closer to 15 or 20. And that next generation of leading riders will be around for a long, long time.

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1.19.2019:

Saturday, January 19: Cal Expo Pick 4 Analysis

Cal Expo has an 11-race card scheduled with the feature coming in Race 8, an Open Pace for fillies and mares with a $7,000 purse. The 0.20 Pick 4 sequence starts in Race 8, it has a $40,000 guaranteed pool with a 16% takeout and will be my focus. The driver with the hottest hands last night at Cal Expo was Ryan Grundy with three winners. The top conditioner on the card was Kathy Plested with three trips to the winner's circle. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Race 8 2-Burn My Villa-Steps up but mare knows how to win and could prove so at a square price. 3-Bettor Lady-Nipped #2 in last, moves up, Lackey steers tonight and starts inside of main foes. 7-Capitol Hill-Winner of 3 out of 5 deserves respect, skipped a start but gets some post relief and Wiseman sticks. 8-Outrageousdelightn-Winner last week at this class will be challenged from 8-hole but not out of this. Race 9 4-Moonshinenmonkeys-Kennedy steers and may improve on the last trip, looks like a major player. 5-La Diva De Rosa-Magee's choice over #2 and #4, drops to a low level looking for a win, this is go time. 8-Greekona-Gaps in starts are a concern but will take a swing for a price and respect connections. Race 10 3-Poorlittlerichgirl-Nice win in last and wasn't the best of trips, can stay good for another picture. 5-Nutmegs Desire-Blasted out but faded, may get the top again, take control and not look back. 6-Shez A Swift-Camera shy but comes off a win which was an improved effort, will respect chances for an encore. Race 11 3-Cenalta Glory-3-year-old broke maiden in last, might be able to handle the older foes in this field. 5-Twin B Delightful-Came the last 1/2 in .58 in a much-improved effort for the win, can take another photo here. 7-Sun Beau Toughie-Last 2 were better and is in the hunt with the right trip. My Ticket Race 8) 2,3,7,8 Race 9) 4,5,8 Race 10) 3,5,6 Race 11) 3,5,7 Total Ticket Cost) $21.60 for $0.20 Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia.

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1.19.2019:

Sunshine Millions Classic a free-for-all in Gulfstream Pick 4

Saturday is Sunshine Millions Day at Gulfstream Park and two of the four stakes are in the Late Pick 4, which gives the closing part of the card quite a punch. The late Pick 4 incudes the Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Stakes (10th race) and the Sunshine Million Classic (11th) and each is loaded. Earlier in the card, the fleet XY Jet heads the field in the Sprint Stakes (4th) and accomplished distance performers go in the Turf Stakes (6th). There’s plenty to like about the Pick 4, including a salty allowance race to kick off the sequence and a solid $16,000 claiming turf race to end it in the 12th. The 9th is a tremendous seven-furlong allowance race that including a Chad Brown trainee who was very impressive in his only start, which came over the Gulfstream strip. On March 17, 2018, he rolled from just off the pace and won going away. He’s had a work tab since early November and it looks like the time is right for his return. He’s definitely worthy of being on the suggested ticket but is not alone. Articulator was second in his last two and claimed for $50,000 by the Jorge Navarro barn. He was second in his only local appearance and looks ready to revert to the form he had at Oaklawn, where he won three races last year. The Filly and Mare Stakes is a challenge for fans of Starship Jubilee, who won this race last year. She rates the edge on paper and is a must-use on the ticket, but out of the No. 13 post is she a single? Can’t go there on this ticket. Several others are in good form and can get favorable trips. Also on this ticket are Picara, Warrantly, Florida Fuego and Southern Sis. An upset of the favorite Starship Jubilee can set up a good overall payoff. The Classic is another strong challenge to your ticket-making skills. Forevamo, Mr. Jordan, Noble Drama and Souper Tapit are worthy of inclusion. Forevamo won the Zia Championship in November and Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen sent him in from his Fair Grounds headquarters. Mr. Jordan usually runs well at Gulfstream and it’s always a tough decision to throw him out, so we won’t. Noble Drama looks like the best closing threat and should get a favorable pace setup. Also, Souper Tapit comes in off an easy score in a race that came off the turf. He sticks to the main track and can carve out a good trip here. Claimers on the turf round out the card and the trio of Tweet Kitten, Neoclassic and Cut to Order all have a late turn of foot and will be the key players in the charge to the wire. Here’s the suggested ticket for the late Pick 4 at Gulfstream Park:Race 9) #1 Central Command, #4 Articulator.Race 10) #2 Picara, #4 Warranty, #6 Florida Fuego, #10 Southern Sis, #13 Starship Jubilee. Race 11) #2 Forevamo, #4 Mr. Jordan, #6 Noble Drama, #8 Souper Tapit.Race 12) #3 Tweet Kitten, #8 Neoclassic, #12 Cut to Order.50-cent Pick 4: 1-4 with 2-4-6-10-13 with 2-4-6-8 and 3-8-12 ($60)

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1.18.2019:

Friday, January 18: Meadowlands Pick 4 Analysis

The Meadowland's has a competitive 14-race card ready to roll tonight. The feature is carded as Race 2, a Preferred Handicap Trot with a $21,000 purse. The signature wager at the Big M is the 0.50 Pick 4 which starts in Race 8 and has a $50,000 guaranteed pool. That wager has a low 15% takeout and will be my focus. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Race 8 2-Sheer Talent-In a race without much form, this mare has a chance to get a trip and take a picture. 4-Icommandmyspirit-9-year-old has had excuses but now meets a beatable bunch. 5-Northern Swift-5/2 program chalk finally draws well and looks to be the one to beat. 8-Big Chute-Mohawk invader passed horses down the lane at 56-1, may find live cover and should be a big price. Race 9 2-Marion Gondolier-Should be a player at this class, may look to get on the engine. 3-Tag Up And Go-Qualified well but has been off since 12/2, likes the Big M and fits if ready. 5-Tour De Lindy-Lots of X's on the page but last was better and knows how to win, could pop at a square price. 6-Illinimight-Even effort in last but put in a flat line, looking for better tonight. Race 10 4-Fox Valley Bailey-Will toss last after being used hard, can snag a win if races back to previous 2 starts. 6-Hepburn Hanover-Usually in the mix and comes off an easy win from the rail, looks like a major player. 9-Dangerousprecedent-Callahan will likely blast out. If he can get the top and find a soft quarter, chances go up. Race 11 1-Downundermatter-Hasn't won often but has had success at the Big M and should like the company. 6-Starsaboveallerage-Beaten favorite comes back in 7-days, should be tighter and could make amends. My Ticket Race 8) 2,4,5,8 Race 9) 2,3,5,6 Race 10) 4,6,9 Race 11) 1,6 Total Ticket Cost) $48 for $0.50Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia

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1.17.2019:

Jan 17: Pompano Park Pick 4 Analysis

Pompano Park has a 9-race card set to roll tonight with the feature coming in Race 3, an Open 5/8-mile dash for the cash with a $10,000 purse. The 0.50 Pick 4 sequence has a $10,000 guaranteed pool, it begins in Race 6 and will be my focus. The Pompano payouts for the Pick 4, Pick 5 and Pick 6 have been hefty in January. Last night a big money payout happened again as the 0.20 Hi-5 (8-4-7-6-2) paid $35,483.50. On Wednesday, the drivers with the hottest hands at Pompano were Rick Plano and Wally Hennessey each with two wins. The leading trainer on the card was Rick Plano with two trips to the winner's circle. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Race 6 1-Bass Player-Best can win this but 7/5 ML chalk has trouble staying flat, using but beware. 5-F Twenty Two-Searching for an overdue win, and this is the lowest level in a long time, should be a player. Race 7 2-Kreacher-Hennessey steered in last and tripped out, strong chance for another picture versus soft field. 7-King Corona-Swinging for a price, has excuses but does have the speed to get off the gate and stay close. Race 8 2-Jay Jay-3/2 program chalk is sharp and gets needed post relief. 8-Night Stick-3-year-old steps up and post draw is an issue, may still have the best shot at beating #2. Race 9 4-Evening Play-Looks like a spot to shine, has faced better and could get a way at a nice price, using. 5-Shrinkwrap-9/5 favorite draws well and steps up, an encore victory could be in the cards. 6-Oberlin-Camera shy but has been trying hard and now Ingraham steers, could trip out behind #5. 0.50 Pick 4 1,5/2,7/2,8/4,5,6 Total Bet=$12 Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia

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1.17.2019:

Sunshine Millions Saturday at Gulfstream + My Late Pick 4 Ticket

The Sunshine Millions is Saturday at Gulfstream Park and, for those of us living in the path of Winter Storm Harper, should serve as a very welcome distraction from impending cold, snow and rain that is hitting parts of the country.  After all, a little ‘sunshine’ never hurts, right?  No longer the California vs Florida Slugfest that it used to be, the Sunshine Millions is now a $600,000 showcase for the nation’s top Florida-bred horses.   And despite losing the California-breds, this event seems to be as healthy as ever.  Top Florida-breds like X Y Jet, Starship Jubilee, Mr. Jordan and Big Changes are scheduled to run and, as always, Gulfstream’s wager menu is loaded with great opportunities including the 20-cent Rainbow 6, 15% takeout Pick 5’s and exciting Pick 4’s.  In fact, we’re so pumped for Saturday’s races that we’re offering a 1 Million XB Reward Point Split for anyone that hits the Late Pick 4 (Races 9 – 12).  Here are my thoughts on each of the Sunshine Millions races, as well as my Late Pick 4 ticket:Race 4 – Sunshine Millions Sprint - $100,000The star of the day looks to be Jorge Navarro’s X Y JET, who has been one of North America’s premier sprinters for the last few years.  A two-time Sunshine Millions Sprint winner, he’s also finished second in the Grade 1 Dubai Golden Shaheen twice and he’s bankrolled $1.5 million in just 22 starts.  The last time we saw him, he won the Grade 3 Smile Sprint here on June 30.  The post position draw may not have been kind to him, though, as he’s a ‘need the lead’ type stuck inside.  If he breaks and gets out to a lead, it’s game over.  But if they pressure him early he could be in trouble.  That’s why RAY’SWARRIOR could be the key to this race.  He just blew the doors off a field in a claiming race here on December 19 and, based on recent fractions, he might be as fast early as X Y JET.  He’s tough to beat when he makes the lead and, given he drew an outside post, he’s in the perfect spot to ‘take it to’ X Y JET early.  It’s hard to envision one of those two of those not winning this, but I’m not willing to just hand this race to X Y JET.Race 6 – Sunshine Millions Turf - $150,000Let’s make the assumption that Brad Cox’s BIG CHANGES races here instead of in the race he’s cross-entered in Saturday at the Fair Grounds.  This is a serious racehorse that is in top form.  He’s 9-for-23 in his career and won three stakes races last year (and five overall) without running at the same track twice.  His passport has stamps from Indiana Grand, Evangeline, Mountaineer, Louisiana Downs, Keeneland, Churchill and the Fair Grounds.  Not too shabby.  If he runs here, he’s the horse to beat.  If this race falls apart early – and there’s plenty of speed signed on, both SECOND MATE and ARCHER ROAD should benefit.  SECOND MATE finished third in this race last year and was just claimed by Jorge Abreu, who does a great job with horses like this.  ARCHER ROAD is 5-for-15 in his career at Gulfstream.Race 10 – Sunshine Millions Filly & Mare Turf - $150,000If you’re the trainer of STARSHIP JUBILEE, you’ve got to be wondering if you’re cursed.  Last out, she drew the impossible #12 post in the Claiming Crown Tiara Stakes and, amazingly, she’s marooned further outside this time in post #13.  She’s the best horse in this field, but that’s a lot to overcome.  She won this race last year (from post #4) and won the Grade 2 Canadian Stakes at Woodbine in September.  If ground loss from the outside post gets to her, MRS. RAMONA G. will benefit.  She has won three straight allowance races (and 4-of-6 overall on turf) and will be ridden by Gulfstream’s top jock, Luis Saez.  How far she wants to run is still in question and this will be the longest race of her life, but she successfully navigated 2-turn racing last out.  Todd Pletcher’s PICARA, comfortably nestled in post #2 should also benefit from a ground-saving trip.Race 11 – Sunshine Millions Classic - $200,000 The ‘big one’ Saturday attracted a field of eight, headlined by South Florida stalwarts MR. JORDAN and JAY’S WAY, as well as imports DALMORE and FOREVAMO, who will be making their first starts locally.  MR. JORDAN is a remarkable 10-for-34 in his career but is a shocking 1-for-17 at Gulfstream, including two runner-up efforts in this race.  He’s not quite as good as he used to be (he’s seven after all) but he’s still in sharp form.  JAY’S WAY won this race last year but his completely out of form.DALMORE racked up the frequent flyer miles last season.  He raced in California, Arkansas, Iowa, New York, Kentucky and Maryland and was twice a runner-up in a stakes race.  He’s a solid performer with a big heart and he should benefit from an inside draw.  Expect Irad Ortiz Jr. to try and hold position to save ground throughout.  SOUPER TAPIT is the ‘now’ horse.  He decimated a field of five by 9-lengths in an off-the-turf race on December 16 and is a Grade 3 winner way back in 2017 at Woodbine.  Dirt appears to be his preferred surface and he should be able to sit back and relax under John Velazquez as DALMORE and JAY’S WAY duke it out in front of him.For another take on the Sunshine Millions Classic, complete with analysis and wagering strategies, check out Jeremy Plonk’s Xpressbet Race of the Week article.My Late Pick 4 TicketHere’s how I’m playing the Late Pick 4, which includes the Sunshine Millions Filly & Mare Turf (Race 10) and Sunshine Millions Classic (Race 11).Race 9 #1 Central Command (9/5) #2 Magic Tapit (6/1) #3 Star Juancho (5/1) #6 Empire Power (12/1) Race 10 #2 Picara (8/1) #8 Mrs. Ramona G. (6/1) #10 Southern Sis (8/1) #13 Starship Jubilee (9/5) Race 11 #1 Dalmore (4/1) #8 Souper Tapit (2/1) Race 12 #3 Tweet Kitten (3/1) #5 Mission Driven (5/1) #8 Neoclassic (4/1) Ticket Cost - $48.00 for 50-cents.

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1.16.2019:

Weekly Bankroll Builder: January 18 Stronach 5 Picks

It’s time to continue our weekly look at the 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: Gulfstream Park R8 (4:10 ET) – 4upfm AOC at 1-mile (turf) I don’t have a strong opinion in the opening leg, which is why I’ll use five, with the hopes that will be enough to get me through. I think an inside draw and getting back to turf will help #3 ROMANTIC MOMENT (8-1), who (go figure) is incorrectly priced on the ML and may well go favored based on her tactical speed and grass form last year. If no one goes with #7 MITCHELL ROAD (5-1) she may forget to stop, much like she did against lesser at Aqu when last seen. The posts are just terrible for both #11 TAPERGE (4-1), who had big 3yo form for Brown and now makes her first start for Motion off a 14-month layoff, and #10 DROP DEAD RED (10-1), a very fast 2nd in a small Laurel stakes two-back, so tread lightly, though obviously both figure on their best. Lastly, I’ll use the class-dropping #5 FINESS BERE (6-1), who was a fringe stakes player as a 3yo in So Cal last year for Baffert and could be a more mature filly off the June break for Walsh, who is 23% first-time in his barn. Pk5 A horses (listed in order of preference): 3,7,11,10,5 If I don’t get it done with the five-pack above, I don’t deserve to win, though #1 Notapradaprice (6-1) would be next on the list, though she never wins. Pk5 B horses: NONE Leg 2: Laurel Park R9 (4:35 ET) – 4up 5k N3L at 7 furlongs It seems like #3 DO YAHWANNA SALSA (8-5) has found a group he can handle, as he’s clearly best on paper, drops stiffly in class, and should like the 7 F’s too, though I feel like we’ve said this before in the Laurel low-priced claimers and lost, so I won’t go it alone. That brings us to #10 SWING STEP (6-1), who won in the mud last time against lesser and steps up, but note he did add blinkers that day too and showed a lot more focus early, and with just five starts he still has upside, which is more than the pick can say. Pk5 A horses: 3 I’m not sure if there’s enough speed to set up the late run of #9 BEST SURPRISE (7-2) but the added ground will help, and if the pick doesn’t fire, then she’s next on the totem pole. Pk5 B horses: 9 Leg 3: Gulfstream Park R9 (5:00 ET) – 3yo AOC at 1 1/16 miles A drop in class and stakes experience figure to have #6 BOURBON WAR (7-2) primed for his 3yo bow, and that stellar debut win says he’s a name to remember as winter turns to spring for a Hennig barn that was aces here last year. Pk5 A horses: 6 Call me a skeptic on #3 CUTTING HUMOR (3-1), who wasn’t threatening in two starts on the big circuits then added blinkers and won off going two turns at GPW when last seen; yes, it’s Pletcher at GP, but I’ll make this one prove it while limiting to him to a backup role. I’m leery of #4 Award Winner (4-1), an impressive gate-to-wire winner in the slop here last month, but I have a lot of confidence in the pick, so I’ll just have one backup here. Pk5 B horses: 3 Leg 4: Gulfstream Park R10 (5:12 ET) – 3f 20k MCL at 1-mile (turf) When the 8-5 ML favorite is a NY-bred who is 0-for-5 I think you’re allowed to look around, which is what I’ll do with #8 TAILADIOS (10-1), who ran deceptively well sprinting on debut, will like the stretchout, and is worth the risk/reward. Yes, you have to use #6 MOLLY’S PARTY (8-5), as her NY turf form is best here, but she is in open waters now, is dangled for 20k, and is a short price, so there are reasons for concern too. I’ll also use #1 RIVER OF FIRE (7-2), who has been just OK in two starts for Pletcher but drew best of all, still has upside, and will save all the ground under Saez. Pk5 A horses: 8,6,1 Being unraced in a spot like this is never a bad thing, so let’s use #9 BAY RIVER (12-1), who has a slew of works for Walsh, a decent enough 9% with firsters, and a potent 32% with Gaffalione aboard. I’ll also toss in #7 KINDHEARTED KOTA (9-2), since Sano has gotten going o flate after a terrible start and reaches for Irad, so there may be some intent here too, on a gal who isn’t too far out of this on figures. Pk5 B horses: 9,7 Leg 5: Santa Anita R4 (5:30 ET) – 4up MSW at 1-mile (turf) I’m not a fan of maidens who have had their chances and are short-priced favorites, but it finally looks like it’s time for #7 SELLWOOD (9-5), who is simply a better horse than his rivals, off his last four turf starts (all 2nd-place finishes), and won’t have to improve to beat this group. Pk5 A horses: 7 I won’t kill anyone who wants more coverage or wants to try to beat what could be a lifetime maiden in the making, so #1 Englander (5-1), #2 Big Buzz (7-2), #3 Arch Anthem (5-1), #5 Cajun Treasure (5-1), and #6 Lomu (8-1) all warrant looks, but all seem a cut below, at least at this point in their development. Pk5 B horses: NONE The tickets: Main Ticket: 3,7,11,10,5 with 3,10 with 6 with 8,6,1 with 7 = $30Leg 2 B Backup: 3,7,11,10,5 with 9 with 6 with 8,6,1 with 7 = $15Leg 3 B Backup: 3,7,11,10,5 with 3,10 with 3 with 8,6,1 with 7 = $30Leg 4 B Backup: 3,7,11,10,5 with 3,10 with 6 with 9,7 with 7 = $20

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1.16.2019:

Saturday's Lecomte Attracts Big Field

The next steps on the Road to the 2019 Kentucky Derby will be taken this Saturday in New Orleans when the Grade III Lecomte Stakes is renewed at the venerable Fair Grounds. How wide open is this year’s Lecomte? Plus Que Parfait has been pegged as a lukewarm 9-2 favorite on Mike Diliberto’s morning line. To be contested at one mile and 70 yards, the Lecomte has drawn a bulky field of 15, including one also eligible. Here are my selections: 1. War of Will (5-1 morning line)2. Plus Que Parfait (9-2)3. Roiland (12-1)4. Mr. Money (5-1) As a maiden, War of Will did not disgrace himself in three graded stakes races on the turf last year for owner Gary Barber and trainer Mark Casse. War of Will ran second to the highly regarded Fog of War in the Grade I Summer Stakes at Woodbine on Sept. 16 and a close fourth in the Grade III Bourbon Stakes at Keeneland on Oct. 7, then finished fifth in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Churchill Downs on Nov. 2. I interpret the three starts by War of Will in graded stakes races as a maiden last year as reflecting the very high opinion Barber and Casse have of this Kentucky-bred War Front colt. In War of Will’s final 2018 appearance under silks, he splashed home an impressive five-length winner in a 1 1/16-mile maiden special weight race on a sloppy main track Nov. 24 at Churchill. That was his first start on dirt. Maybe War of Will just relished the sloppy going and won’t be all that good on a dry track. But who knows? What if War of Will is even better on a dry track? That can’t be ruled out at this point. In any case, his workouts leading up to the Lecomte indicate to me that he might be primed to run a big race this Saturday on either a dry or wet track. These are his five recorded works at the Fair Grounds: Dec. 17, 4 furlongs (track fast) in :49.00 (10th fastest of 57)Dec. 23, 5 furlongs (track fast) in 1:00.20 (2nd fastest of 51)Dec. 30, 5 furlongs (track sloppy) in 1:01.20 (fastest of 23)Jan. 05, 5 furlongs (track fast ) in :59.60 (2nd fastest of 76)Jan. 12, 4 furlongs (track fast) in :48.00 (3rd fastest of 145) Instilled Regard, coming off the Grade I Los Alamitos CashCall Futurity in which he finished third and was moved up to second via the DQ of Solomini, was sent to Louisiana and won the 2018 Lecomte by 3 3/4 lengths. Instilled Regard would go on to finish fourth behind Justify, Good Magic and Audible in the Kentucky Derby. Two of the last four Lecomte winners exited the Grade II Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill. This could bode well for Plus Que Parfait and Roiland, who ended up second and fifth, respectively, in the Kentucky Jockey Club last Nov. 24. International Star finished fourth in the 2014 Kentucky Jockey Club and went on to win the 2015 Lecomte. Mo Tom ran third in the 2015 Kentucky Jockey Club and later captured the 2016 Lecomte. Plus Que Parfait figures to have a big say in this Saturday’s Lecomte. I certainly will not be surprised if he wins. The Kentucky-bred Point of Entry colt was eleventh early in the Kentucky Jockey Club, then rallied to finish second at 14-1, a neck behind Signalman on a sloppy track. Brendan Walsh conditions Plus Que Parfait, who had a sharp four-furlong workout last Saturday in :48.00 at the Fair Grounds. Roiland came on to finish fifth at 42-1 in the Kentucky Jockey Club after being last early in the field of 14. Tom Amoss trains the Kentucky-bred Successful Appeal colt. Two Lecomte runners exit the Grade I BC Juvenile at Churchill on Nov. 2. They are Mr. Money, who finished fourth at 41-1, and Tight Ten, who came in ninth at 35-1. Keep in mind the BC Juvenile has proven to be a productive race. Three BC Juvenile runners have been next-out stakes winners: Signalman, Gunmetal Gray and Mind Control. Signalman finished third in the BC Juvenile, then won the Kentucky Jockey Club. Gunmetal Gray ran fifth in the BC Juvenile, then won the Grade III Sham Stakes at Santa Anita on Jan. 5. Mind Control finished seventh in the BC Juvenile, then won the Jerome Stakes at Aqueduct on Jan. 1. THIS WEEK’S KENTUCKY DERBY TOP 10 Game Winner, trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, currently holds the top spot on my Kentucky Derby Top 10 list. The Kentucky-bred Candy Ride colt, who won the aforementioned productive BC Juvenile to complete a four-for-four 2018 campaign, is odds-on to be voted a 2018 Eclipse Award as champion 2-year-old male. In Ed Golden’s Santa Anita stable notes last Sunday, Baffert said his plan, “if all goes well,” is for Game Winner to make his 2019 debut in Santa Anita’s Grade II San Felipe Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on March 9. Here is this week’s Kentucky Derby Top 10: 1. Game Winner2. Improbable3. Instagrand4. Maximus Mischief5. Mucho6. Vekoma7. Network Effect8. Mucho Gusto9. Signalman10. Mihos A BRIEF CONVERSATION WITH JEFF BRIDGES When the Hollywood Foreign Press Association honored actor Jeff Bridges with the Cecil B. deMille Award at this year’s Golden Globes, I thought back to an autumn morning in 2002 at Santa Anita when I was introduced to him. Before I relate my brief conversation with Bridges, let me give you some background. While I was in Las Vegas in February 2002, I noticed that Came Home was 100-1 in the Kentucky Derby future book on the board at the Barbary Coast. Sometimes the price on the board does not match the price you get when you go to make your bet. Thus, I wanted to make sure that was the price before making a wager. “What price do you have on Came Home to win the Kentucky Derby?” I asked the teller. “He’s 100-1,” he replied. Hearing that, I put down a crisp $100 bill. “How much of that do you want to bet, sir?” the teller asked. “All of it.” That meant that if Came Home did come home first in the 2002 Kentucky Derby, I was going to win $10,000. When I made my bet in Vegas, Came Home already had made one start that year. He had won Santa Anita’s Grade II San Vicente Stakes at seven furlongs by four lengths. He then won Santa Anita’s Grade II San Rafael Stakes at one mile by three lengths on March 2 and the Grade I Santa Anita Derby at 1 1/8 miles by 2 1/4 lengths on April 6. But, alas, Came Home did not win the Kentucky Derby. Sent off at 8-1, he raced close up early before finishing sixth at 8-1, while War Emblem won by four lengths at 20-1. Later that year on Aug. 25, I was at Emerald Downs to be one of the commentators on the Fox Sports Northwest telecast of the Grade III Longacres Mile. The Pacific Classic was run that same afternoon at Del Mar. While the horses were on the track for the Pacific Classic, I was in the conference room at Emerald, doing research for the Longacres Mile. Sitting across the table from me was ESPN’s Chris Lincoln. “I am going to be sick if Came Home wins the Pacific Classic,” I said to Lincoln. “Why is that?” he asked. “Because I had $100 on him at 100-1 in the future book for the Kentucky Derby,” I said. “I would have won $10,000 if Came Home had won the Kentucky Derby. But War Emblem won the Kentucky Derby. And now War Emblem and Came Home are running against each other again in the Pacific Classic. So I will be sick if Came Home wins today.” War Emblem finished sixth in the Pacific Classic as the 6-5 favorite. Came Home did win by three-quarters of a length at 10-1. When Came Home reached the finish line in front, I pounded my fist on the conference table. As I recall, there were maybe seven or eight people in the conference room to watch the Pacific Classic. “Okay everybody,” Lincoln said. “Take all sharp objects away from Jon White.” Despite being bummed out by seeing Came Home win and beat the Kentucky Derby winner, I couldn’t help chuckling when Lincoln said that. Came Home, trained by Paco Gonzalez, would race once more before going to stud. The Gone West colt started in the 2002 BC Classic at Arlington Park on Oct. 26. Voloponi won the BC Classic that year. Came Home finished 10th. Four days before the BC Classic, Came Home had what would be the final workout of his career. I was at the Gonzalez barn at Santa Anita that morning to watch the work. Trudy McCaffery, one of Came Home’s owners, also was there. McCaffery introduced me to Bridges, who also was there to see Came Home’s workout. McCaffery and Bridges were friends. At that time, Bridges was preparing for his upcoming role as Charles S. Howard, the owner of Seabiscuit, in the 2003 film about the 1940 Santa Anita Handicap winner. McCaffery had known about my Kentucky Derby future book wager on Came Home. As we all accompanied Came Home to the track from the barn on that October morning, McCaffery asked me to tell Bridges about that bet. I told Bridges that I had put $100 on Came Home in the Kentucky Derby future book at 100-1. If Came Home had won the race, I would have won $10,000. I went on to say that, unfortunately for me, Came Home did not win the Kentucky Derby. But he then won the Pacific Classic at Del Mar, beating the Kentucky Derby winner, War Emblem. As we walked along, Bridges seemed to be listening intently to what I was saying. After I was finished with my tale, he waited a bit before he said anything. He seemed to be processing what I had just told him. After a few minutes, Bridges said, “Let me get this straight. You bet $100 on Came Home in the Kentucky Derby at 100-1?” “That’s right,” I replied. “And if Came Home had won the Kentucky Derby, you would have won $10,000?” “Yep.” “And then Came Home beat the Kentucky Derby winner at Del Mar?” I said that also was correct. Bridges paused, shook his head, and then said, “Man, I really feel for you.”

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1.15.2019:

Harness Highlights: Merryman-Go-Round Continued In 2018

Aaron Merriman, who commutes 270 miles on most days to drive at two tracks, said at some point that “the grind … gets to you.” He did not specify when that happened. Truth be told, Merriman handled his busy schedule by piling up more record numbers in 2018. He won 1,141 races while competing primarily at the The Meadows in Pennsylvania in the afternoon and Northfield Park in Ohio at night. He won his 10,000th race in March, his fourth consecutive North America dash title and became the first driver ever with back-to-back 1,000-win seasons. He finished third with $10.5 million in earnings, trailing only $200 million career earner Tim Tetrick (13.5 million in 2018) and last year’s winner Yannick Gingras ($11.7 million in 2018). Merriman won his sixth Northfield Park title, overshadowing Ronnie Wrenn Jr., who finished in the Top 12 in three national categories – wins (2nd, 728), earnings (12th, $6.7 million) and UDRS (9th). George Napolitano Jr., the leading driver at Harrah’s Philadelphia and Pocono Downs in Pennsylvania, finished third with 665 wins and won his first Breeders’ Crown race on trotter Homicide Hunter. Jason Bartlett enjoyed another blockbuster season, winning his eighth Yonkers Raceway title en route to $100 million in career earnings and Top 10 national rankings in wins (6th, 523) and purses (5th, $9.6 million). Bartlett started this year where he left off, sweeping both $44,000 feature races at Yonkers last Saturday. Hall of Famer David Miller added $9.8 million in earnings to hold down the No. 2 spot all-time ($232 million) behind John Campbell. Miller was the regular driver for leading Horse of the Year candidate McWicked. Pompano Park leader Wally Hennessey posted a 1275/382-216-177 record, good for a .440 UDRS that led everyone with 500 or more starts. Ohio native Dan Noble, the 2012 dash champion, finished fifth with 546 wins and he won the $25,000 North America Drivers Championship at Miami Valley Raceway last week to ring in 2019. Noble, who grew up 25 miles from the track, won with Desire’s Lady ($18.40) and finished in the money four times in the final day, eight-race competition.

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1.14.2019:

Kyler Murray Story Teaches Broader Lesson

Few of us will ever know what it’s like to be Kyler Murray. For the non-sports fan, he’s the reigning college football Heisman Trophy winner from Oklahoma who this spring also was made the No. 9 overall pick in the major league baseball draft by the Oakland Athletics. Oh, to be so young, so gifted and so financially set for life. Talks heated up this past weekend between his agent and league officials whether Murray would choose to pursue a career in professional baseball, football or possibly both. While there are pros and cons to both, the mere discussion of them kept ringing a bell for me on one side of the debate. As a lifetime professional in the horse racing industry, I could not help but think how similar we are to baseball. Football remains king in the American sports landscape with professional basketball a clear and distant second. Baseball, which once ruled the roost during simpler and slower times, has lost some of its cerebral connection with a society that can’t go 10 seconds in line at Walgreens without checking its phone for scoring updates. Once upon a time, baseball, boxing and horse racing had its grip on Americana and the legendary storytellers of its time like Red Smith. But times have changed. Baseball has fallen to No. 3 in the professional pecking order, while boxing and horse racing have become niches that aren’t even atop their broader niches. MMA has more hip and social pull than boxing among the fighting sports, and NASCAR literally has passed the ponies among those entertaining around ovals at high speeds. If you want to take the horse racing is a gambling industry and not sport, the regional casinos have swept the business landscape and sports betting is about to produce a tidal wave. The discussion of racing’s slippage on the national landscape has been made many times before and the comparison to baseball and boxing is nothing new over the past few decades. In actuality, it was the recent, nuanced discussion of Murray’s individual future in football or baseball that kept ringing bells with me as a horseplayer and industry guy. For Kyler Murray, his decision of baseball or football comes down to a few very common refrains that we know all too much about: patience, tolerance and reward. Baseball will require far more patience and tolerance, while the reward is a two-fold situation. Drafted baseball prospects go through the minor league system, spending long days and nights on buses and playing in front of 500 fans. In a regular scenario, Murray would need to display at least 2-3 more years of patience before seeing a major league opportunity in baseball. In football, he’s on an NFL roster before the first snap of the first preseason game and practicing alongside future Hall of Famers. He’s back slinging a football (or even holding a clipboard) in front of 75,000 fans from the start. Not only does baseball require far more career patience than football, but it’s also a game that requires a tremendous amount of mental tolerance. Great baseball players will fail 7 of 10 times, even in the lower minor leagues, trying to bat around .300 and earn a call up to the next level. Baseball teams will lose 60-80 times per season in the minors, all the way up to an astounding 115 losses for the Baltimore Orioles in MLB a year ago. Baseball is a game predicated on failure, where success just over 50/50 makes you a good ballclub and over 30/70 makes you a valued individual. Consider that, as a star football QB, Kyler Murray completed just a tick below 70/30 of his passes and has been a 90/10 team winner his entire life. A good day at the ballpark is 180 degrees different than a good day on the gridiron. He’ll get 4-5 at bats a day to prove he’s worthy of the major leagues in baseball, where football will allot him 20-30 pass attempts per game before people start thinking he can or can’t play at this level. And finally, there’s the reward factor. Mentally, what makes him happiest? And financially, which profession will pay him the most bang for his buck? Murray has been on the record saying that he enjoys baseball, but there’s nothing like those Texas Friday Night Lights of his high school championship days or an autumn Saturday on the football field. In order for baseball to become more rewarding for him, the A’s will have to sway him financially in a way that an NFL team may not. You see, the story of Kyler Murray is one to which we in horse racing absolutely can relate. We’re in a traditional American sport that must conjure up a way to compete with more mainstream influences. Fighting to hold some position in a society that’s moving away from our core provides a mammoth challenge. Other games are faster, more powerful, more instantly gratifying. Patience and tolerance are two things further fleeting from society. Rewards are not only expected in our society, they are entitlements. That’s not me talking; that’s the culture. Horse racing must figure out ways to alleviate its customer base’s need for patience, lower their tolerance for losing, and, all the while, provide competitive rewards (emotionally and financially). It may sound like a tremendous burden, but the answers blare off the page. You solve these problems with more frequent bets (patience); easier bets to cash (tolerance); and lower takeout with improved kickback programs (rewards). Kyler Murray got a $4.66 million signing bonus this spring to play major league baseball, but opted to put it off in order to play another season of collegiate football. Now, unless the A’s put up substantially more money, his improved football draft stock figures to change his career path. Football offers him a career requiring less patience, less tolerance for failure and more mental and, likely financial, rewards. Not every potential horse racing customer comes to the track looking like Kyler Murray; that’s for sure. But they all come from the same society that’s telling us they want things faster, easier and more rewarding to their personalities and wallets.

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1.14.2019:

Monday, January 14: Mohawk Park Pick 5 Analysis

Tonight's feature at Woodbine Mohawk Park rolls in Race 8, a Preferred Trot with a $34,000 purse. The 0.20 Pick 5 sequence kicks-off the card, it has a $50,000 guaranteed pool and will be my focus. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Race 1 1-St James Gate-McClure drives for 1st time in a while, needs a good steer and to avoid a very slow start. 2-Hemi Seelster-Jamieson's choice over 2 others, will toss last and look for a trip on the engine. 10-Exemplar-Should get a good early seat, not much gate speed in here and best could beat this crew. Race 2 2-Fox Valley Riviera-Don't like the 0-18, but this is a spot to shine and should be in contention throughout. 3-Major Comfort- Off track hasn't helped plus bad post draws but sitting in a nice spot here, can roll late. 5-Ramblintime-Faces easier, also hasn't relished an off track, could be sitting on a big try on a dry track. Race 3 3-Tragically Zip-Gets post relief and a dry surface should help, could pop at a square price with the right trip. 4-Legal Bettor-Could also improve on a fast track, short field won't hurt and might be driven more aggressively 7-The Colonel-Has been trying hard to take a picture, short field should also help and may close the fastest. Race 4 8-Tomy Terror-Made every call a winning one last week and same path could be followed tonight. 9-Jenkins Creek-Chances are will drop in behind or in front of #8 and they will battle down the lane. Race 5 5-Meadowbranch Memo-Thinking the 2, 3 and 8 may blast out, if pace is hot Cullen can find cover and roll by. 7-Fly Beyond-Sharp form and will respect connections, this race could set up nicely for competitive 5-year-old. My Ticket Race 1) 1,2,10 Race 2) 2,3,5 Race 3) 3,4,7 Race 4) 8,9 Race 5) 5,7 Total Ticket Cost) $21.60 for $0.20Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia.

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1.12.2019:

Saturday, January 12: Cal Expo Pick 4 Analysis

Cal Expo has a 12-race card scheduled with the feature coming in Race 6, the Roberts Staats Final. The one-mile pace for mares with a $9,600 purse is in honor of Bob Staats who died in 2011 and was a prominent owner-breeder in California. The co-feature this evening rolls in Race 8 an Open Handicap Pace with a $7,000 purse. The main event on the betting menu also begins in Race 8, the 0.20 Pick 4 sequence with a $40,000 guaranteed pool and a 16% takeout, it will be my focus. On Friday the driver with the hottest hands at Cal Expo was Luke Plano with four winners. As for conditioners, trainer Kathy Plested took four pictures while Luke Plano made three trips to the winner's circle. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Race 8 3-I'm An Athlete-Will toss last from the 8-hole into a soft pace, usually in the hunt at this class. 5-King Of The Crop-Came the last 1/2 in .55 in 1st start since 8/18, could be sitting on a big try. 8-Icy Blue Scooter-Has been 1st or 2nd in 4 tries here since adding Lasix, 9/5 chalk is extra sharp. Race 9 2-Gravelsinmytravel- 0-5 at CalX but drops to a better spot and from this post should stay in the mix. 3-Dontdoubtthelakers-Steps up a notch after a strong place finish on an off track and now gets Plano for 1st time. 4-Contemporay Legend-Won last by 9 in the slop and has been tough all meet, this field is tougher but will respect. 5-Fly Away-10-year-old has been tossing hints, loves the track and will respect connections. Race 10 1-Peekaboo Tattoo-Dropped and popped in last, could score an encore versus this bunch, leaving ML chalk #7 out. 3-Outlawintriguedbyu-2nd start in Plested barn, wasn't Wiseman's pick but Svendsen should keep in striking range. 6-La Diva De Rosa-Price shot, gets a ++ driver change and looking for an aggressive steer, 3rd time on Lasix. Race 11 2-Along Came Jane-Looking for an aggressive try from Magee, a dry track should help, could win at a square price. 5-Burn My Villa-Came off 2 wins and then had a tough trip in the slop. Best to respect 11-time winner in 2018. 7-Bettor Lady-Makes 3rd start off the bench, drops out of Opens and Plano steers. Winner of 7 of 20 at CalX. My Ticket Race 8) 3,5,8 Race 9) 2,3,4,5 Race 10) 1,3,6 Race 11) 2,5,7  Total Ticket Cost) $21.60 for $0.20Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia 

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1.12.2019:

Heart to Heart not acting his age; heads GP late Pick 4

Heart to Heart is 4-5 in the Gr. 3 Tropical Park Turf Stakes Saturday at Gulfstream Park, and while he have a few years to go before he gets into the John Henry category when it comes to age, one thing’s for sure: Here’s been around. The English Channel horse is now an 8-year-old and has done an exemplary job in his battle against Father Time. Owner Terry Hamilton and trainer Bryan Lynch have seen their stable veteran do some amazing things over the years. He was a $25,000 yearling and has won 15 of 38 for $2 million in earnings and in 2018 he was in six races – five Grade 1s and another Grade 2. He has a clear class advantage but the Tropical Turf does have some capable entrants. The Tropical Turf is the opening leg of the late Pick 4, which runs from races 9 through 12. If Heart to Heart can run back to his Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap win will be next to impossible to beat. His last two of 2017, however, were not good, as he gave way in the Fourstardave and Shadwell Turf. He’s clearly the one to beat, but a fishing expedition for a sizable Pick 4 brings me to two others as well – White Flag and Doctor Mounty. White Flag, trained by Christophe Clement, is 7-2 and comes in off a win in the Turf Sprint Championship at Aqueduct. His success (5 of 13, $426,303) has come in sprints and he’s faced with a two-turn mile today. He could be a serious thorn in the side of Heart to Heart on the front end. Heart to Heart is a front-ender all the way and will have to respond to the company. In the event those two hurt each other’s chances with fast fractions, Doctor Mounty (10-1) could bring some late heat. He’s shown rallies in two of his last three and gets a jockey change to Javier Castellano. Here’s the suggested ticket for the late Pick 4 at Gulfstream Park: Race 9) #2 White Flag, #4 Doctor Mounty, #6 Heart to Heart.Race 10) #1 Camgo, #5 Brainstorm, #8 No Rules.Race 11) #3 Bombshell, #4 Valedictorian.Race 12) #2 War Cabinet, #3 Cured by Kitten, #6 Come on City, #7 Sweet Sting, #8 Nantucket Red, #9 Blue Collar.50-cent Pick 4: 2-4-6 with 1-5-8 with 3-4 and 2-3-6-7-8-9 ($54)

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1.11.2019:

Friday, January 11: Meadowlands Pick 4 Analysis

There are 14 races ready to roll tonight at the Meadowlands. The feature is carded as Race 2, a Preferred Trot with a $21,000 purse. The 0.50 Pick 4 sequence begins in Race 8, it has a $50,000 guaranteed pool with a 15% takeout and will be my focus. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Race 8 3-Mandela Blue Chip-2nd ML chalk drops to a spot to shine and comes off a better effort. 6-Mikey Likes It-15-1 shot finds a field to beat, needs a good cover flow and can roll late. 7-Uhlan Noir-Looking for a better effort on a dry track, 11-year-old should like the company. Race 9 5-Derf Hanover-Program chalk is winner of last 2 on an off track, tough to leave out, likes to compete. 6-Miss Ruby-Has been racing well and with the right trip should stay in the hunt. 7-Exs And Ohs-Beat many of these in last, can roll late and will respect chances for 3rd straight. Race 10 1-Hepburn Hanover-Last was good even though off 21 days, rail should help ML chalk. 8-Lady Of Heaven-Winless in 2018, will pass horses but too late, can win if it in striking range. 10-Fox Valley Bailey-Steps up and is very sharp, post won't help but this isn't a group of all-stars. Race 11 2-Starsaboveallerage-Grinder gets post relief, needs a trip but this is a field that could be caught. 3-Bastille-1st Big M start from 8-hole wasn't bad, will use from the inside at 10-1 in the ML. 6-Illinimight-Il. bred for Team Miller can finish off a mile if stays flat, can contend at a square price. 8-Eyore Hanover-Not the best on an off track, fits better on the drop if ready after a sick scratch. 0.50 Pick 4  My Ticket Race 8) 3,6,7 Race 9) 5,6,7 Race 10) 1,8,10 Total Ticket Cost) $54 for $0.50Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia 

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1.10.2019:

Jan 10: Mohawk Park Early Pick 4 Analysis

Tonight, Mohawk Park has a 10-race card scheduled and the Early 0.20 Pick 4 begins in Race 4. This sequence is an interesting challenge with many horses returning from the holiday break. The Early Pick 4 has a $50,000 guaranteed pool and will be my focus. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Race 4 3-Real Wicked-Tuned up at FlmD on 1/3, Henry steers and back down to where claimed on 11/15, will use. 6-Kwicky Kwanzza-McClure steers Moreau trainee who fits at this level, ML chalk should be in the hunt. 9-Cheyenne Ford-Post makes it more difficult but could grind it out, current form is sharp. Race 5 2-Regal Magician-Qualified and also put in a flat line, if minds manners can win at a square price. 3-Hanks Tank-Program chalk tries Lasix, Moreau's barn has been cold so far but still best to respect here. 6-Mighty Nicky-Last was better and McClure sticks, looks to be a player at this level. 7-Ramas Last Son-Will take a swing there's enough pace that this closer could pop at nice odds. Race 6 5-Just Wave Goodbye-2nd time Lasix and 1st start was better, should be battling #7 to the wire. 7-No Hablo Ingles-Comes off a sharp qualifier and 3-year-old could make his debut a winning one. Race 7 1-Test Ride-Has had seconditis, but knows how to win and could benefit from the post draw. 8-Shoe Shine-Looking for an aggressive start, if finds an up-front seat may surprise at a square price. 9-Think Again-Another likely to blast out, will respect winner of 3 of last 4 but needs a smooth journey. 10-Late Night-Makes 3rd start for Johnson, last was better but like others will need a good trip. 0.20 Early Pick 4 3,6,9/2,3,6,7/5,7/1,8,9,10 Total Bet=$19.20 Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia.

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1.9.2019:

Jon White's First Kentucky Derby Top 10 of 2019

And down the road we go! The Jerome Stakes at Aqueduct on Jan. 1 and the Grade III Sham Stakes at Santa Anita last Saturday were the first two 2019 races on the Road to the Kentucky Derby. The Road to the Kentucky Derby is a 35-race series that awards points to the Top 4 finishers in each race. The horses to accumulate the most points in those 35 races earn a starting berth in the 145th running of the Run for the Roses at Churchill Downs on May 4. The field for the 1 1/4-mile Kentucky Derby has been limited to 20 starters since 1975. It was decided to cap the field at 20 after the 23-horse “demolition derby” in 1974, a race in which there were traffic problems galore. Little Current had a horrendous trip and finished fifth, then won the Preakness Stakes by seven lengths and the Belmont Stakes by the same margin. The Jerome and Sham each offered 10 Kentucky Derby points for a win, 4 for second, 2 for third and 1 for fourth. Mind Control took the Grade I Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga last Sept. 3 before finishing seventh in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs on Nov. 2. The Kentucky-bred Stay Thirsty colt then rebounded to register a 1 1/2-length victory as the 3-2 favorite in the one-mile Jerome. Mind Control, trained by Greg Sacco, was credited with an 88 Beyer Speed Figure for his Jerome triumph. Gunmetal Gray, conditioned by Hall of Famer Jerry Hollendorfer, rallied from last in a field of seven to win the one-mile Sham by one length at 7-2. The Kentucky-bred Exchange Rate colt was assigned a rather meek 82 Beyer. Mind Control’s win in the Sham and Gunmetal Gray’s victory in the Sham both flatter Game Winner. Game Winner beat Mind Control by 18 1/4 lengths in the BC Juvenile. Game Winner defeated Gunmetal Gray not once, but twice last year. Gunmetal Gray finished second, 4 1/2 lengths behind Game Winner, in the Grade I American Pharoah Stakes at Santa Anita last Sept. 29. Gunmetal Gray then ended up fifth, 12 1/2 lengths behind Game Winner, in the BC Juvenile. The big disappointment in the Sham was Coliseum. The Kentucky-bred Tapit colt, trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, kicked off his racing career on Nov. 17 with a 6 3/4-length win in a seven-furlong maiden special weight race at Del Mar. Off his sparkling maiden score, Coliseum was bet down to 3-5 favoritism in the Sham. But he did not break alertly to exit the gate last, became rank early, raced wide throughout and finished sixth. While Coliseum seems to have much talent, it looks like he also is very much a work in progress for Baffert. Now that the initial two 2019 races on the Road to the Kentucky Derby have been decided, here is my first Kentucky Derby Top 10 list of the year: 1. GAME WINNER. I believe he deserves the top spot in that he is undefeated in four career starts, including three Grade I victories. The Kentucky-bred Candy Ride colt is odds-on to be voted a 2018 Eclipse Award as champion 2-year-old male. Game Winner is part of the extremely strong hand Baffert is holding at this time vis-a-vis the Kentucky Derby. Game Winner had his first recorded workout of the year Wednesday morning at Santa Anita, three furlongs in :35.20. Daily Racing Form’s Steve Andersen reported that Baffert timed Game Winner galloping out four furlongs in :47.20. 2. IMPROBABLE. Undefeated in three career starts, including an emphatic five-length win in the Grade I Los Alamitos Futurity, he also resides in the powerful Baffert barn at Santa Anita. The sky appears to be the limit for the Kentucky-bred son of City Zip. I really like this colt and was very tempted to put him at No. 1. He worked three furlongs Wednesday at Santa Anita in :38.00. 3. INSTAGRAND. He is undefeated and untested in two career starts. The Kentucky-bred Into Mischief colt, trained by Hollendorfer, won by 10 lengths when unveiled in a five-furlong maiden special weight race at Los Alamitos last June 29. He then won Del Mar’s Grade II Best Pal Stakes by 10 1/4 lengths at six furlongs on Aug. 11. After the Best Pal, the decision was made that he would not race again in 2018. How good is Instagrand? It appears the sky is the limit. Could this be Hollendorfer’s first Kentucky Derby winner? That would not surprise me. Instagrand has had a pair of three-furlong workouts (:38.80 on Dec. 30, :37.20 on Jan. 5) since returning to Hollendorfer’s Santa Anita barn. On Steve Byk’s radio program At the Races, Hollendorfer said Monday that Instagrand “has done beautifully in his first two workouts and now we have him scheduled to go his first half a mile coming back off the layoff.” Hollendorfer added that while Instagrand “gained weight when he was out, it wasn’t too much weight. I think he will come around pretty fast. So we’ll see where we land with Instagrand. I think he’s a really interesting colt.” 4. MAXIMUS MISCHIEF. He is undefeated in three career starts. After a pair of wins at Parx Racing by 8 3/4 and six lengths, he took Aqueduct’s Grade II Remsen Stakes by 2 1/4 lengths at 1 1/8 miles on Dec. 1 for trainer Butch Reid. Maximus Mischief has reminded some of Smarty Jones, who likewise began his career with a pair of impressive victories at Parx (then known as Philadelphia Park). Smarty Jones won both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness in 2004. 5. MUCHO. An eye-catching 9 3/4-length winner of a six-furlong maiden special weight race at Saratoga last Aug. 4, he then finished second as the favorite at a bit over even money in the Grade I Hopeful Stakes there on Sept. 3. The Kentucky-bred Blame colt has not raced since the Hopeful. Hall of Famer Bill Mott trains Mucho, who recorded his first 2019 workout last Sunday, three furlongs in :38.60 at Payson Park in Florida. The big maiden win at 2 + Mott = a potentially scary colt at 3. 6. VEKOMA. He’s undefeated in two career starts. When he won Aqueduct’s Grade III Nashua Stakes by 1 3/4 lengths at one mile last Nov. 4 as the 2-1 favorite, he posted a 97 Beyer Speed Figure. George Weaver trains the Kentucky-bred Candy Ride colt. 7. NETWORK EFFECT. He finished second to Vekoma in the Grade III Nashua and second to Maximus Mischief in the Grade II Remsen. Chad Brown conditions the Florida-bred Mark Valeski colt. 8. MUCHO GUSTO. Yet another good one for Baffert. The Kentucky-bred Mucho Macho Man colt won Del Mar’s Grade III Bob Hope Stakes on Nov. 17 before finishing second to Improbable in the Grade I Los Al Futurity. 9. SIGNALMAN. After finishing third in the Grade I BC Juvenile, he rallied on a sloppy track to win Churchill’s Grade II Kentucky Jockey Club by a neck at 1 1/16 miles on Nov. 24. Ken McPeek trains the Kentucky-bred General Quarters colt. 10. MIHOS. In his three career starts, his Beyer Speed Figures certainly are going in the right direction -- a 78, then an 80, then a 90. He finished third in a six-furlong maiden special weight race at Belmont Park last Sept. 23. The Kentucky-bred Cairo Prince colt subsequently won a six-furlong maiden special weight race at Aqueduct on Nov. 24. He then came from off the pace to win Gulfstream Park’s one-mile Mucho Macho Man Stakes by a neck last Saturday for trainer Jimmy Jerkens. The vanquished in the Mucho Macho Man included 4-5 favorite Code of Honor, who finished a well-beaten fourth. ON THE BUBBLE (in alphabetical order): Code of Honor, Coliseum, Galilean, Gray Attempt, Gun It, Gunmetal Gray, King for a Day, Knicks Go, Limonite, Mind Control, Plus Que Parfait, Roadster, Trophy Chaser, War of Will. The next race on the Road to the Kentucky Derby is the Grade III Lecomte Stakes, which is scheduled for one mile and 70 yards at the Fair Grounds on Jan. 19. SHAM: UNLUCKY TO BE BORN IN 1970 The Sham Stakes at Santa Anita last Saturday was named in honor of the 1973 Santa Anita Derby winner. Only three horses are considered to have run 1 1/4 miles under 2:00 in the Kentucky Derby. Secretariat and Monarchos ran that fast and won. Sham, despite running that fast, lost. In 1973, Secretariat posted a final time of 1:59 2/5 to break Churchill Downs’ track record of 2:00 established by Northern Dancer in 1964. It was not until 2001 that another horse took the Run for the Roses with a time under 2:00. Monarchos won the race in 1:59 4/5 (1:59.97 in hundredths). Prior to the start of the 1973 renewal, Sham banged his head on the gate so hard that he reportedly knocked two teeth knocked out. Despite that, Sham finished second, 2 1/2 lengths behind Secretariat. Going by the often-used formula that a fifth of a second equals a length, Sham is estimated to have run 1 1/4 miles in under 2:00 because he lost by less than three lengths. Phil Dandrea, author of the book “Sham,” has estimated the gap between Secretariat and Sham at 0.348 seconds based on the CBS footage of the race in which Sham crosses the finish 10 frames behind Secretariat. At a rate of 29.97 frames per second, it translates into a gap of 0.34 seconds between the two horses at the finish. As Secretariat’s winning time of 1:59 2/5 in fifths is the equivalent to a time between 1:59.40 and 1:59.59 in hundredths, Sham’s time can be estimated between 1:59.74 and 1:59.93. Any way you slice it, for Sham to run so fast and have to settle for second makes his Kentucky Derby one of the finest performances in defeat in American racing history. Earlier in 1973, Sham and jockey Laffit Pincay Jr. had collaborated to win the 1 1/8-mile Santa Anita Derby by 2 1/2 lengths in 1:47 flat to equal the stakes record set by Lucky Debonair in 1965. Sham’s 1:47 clocking was just three-fifths off the track record. In the Kentucky Derby, Sham took the lead turning for home after effortlessly going past early pacesetter Shecky Greene (who would go on to be voted a 1973 Eclipse Award as champion sprinter). “I thought for sure I had it won at the head of the stretch,” Pincay later told me when I interviewed him for a 1982 article that I wrote that appeared in the Thoroughbred Record magazine. Sham “was really running. I mean, he was really running hard. I could feel the speed in the horse, and I thought, ‘I don’t care who’s coming. We’re not gonna get beat.’ ” But Sham did get beat, even though he is calculated to have run his final quarter-mile in :23 3/5, one of the fastest in the history of the race. Much to Pincay’s amazement, Secretariat motored right on by Sham in the stretch. “When I saw Secretariat next to me, I couldn’t believe it,” Pincay said. “I couldn’t believe that he was going faster than we were going, because my horse was really trying.” The problem for Sham was, despite his final quarter in :23 3/5, he happened to be born the same year as Secretariat, who ran the last quarter of the Kentucky Derby in an extraordinary :23. Secretariat, ridden by Ron Turcotte and trained by Lucien Laurin, drew away from Sham in the final furlong. Our Native ended up third, eight lengths behind Sham. The huge gap back to third further illustrated what fantastic races both Secretariat and Sham ran. Finishing fourth was Forego, who would go on to be voted Horse of the Year in 1974, 1975 and 1976 as one of the greatest geldings of all time. It is clear that Sham’s effort was good enough to win almost any other Kentucky Derby. Many forget that Sham had outrun Secretariat before the Kentucky Derby when they clashed in the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct. No doubt one reason the Wood tends to be forgotten is that neither Secretariat nor Sham won it. Angle Light, also trained by Laurin, was permitted to set a moderate pace (:24 3/5, :48 1/5, 1:12 1/5 and 1:36 4/5) and just held on to win the Wood by a head while completing 1 1/8 miles in 1:49 4/5. Sham gained in the final furlong, but he could not quite catch Angel Light. Secretariat finished third, four lengths behind Sham. As an indication of how far off form Secretariat was in the Wood, he would set a world record of 1:45 2/5 for 1 1/8 miles when he won the Marlboro Cup at Belmont Park later that year. Secretariat and Angle Light were coupled in the wagering in the Wood. That meant those who had bet on Secretariat to win were still able to cash when Angle Light prevailed. A $2 win ticket on Secretariat-Angle Light paid $2.60. Sham went off as the 5-2 second choice in the wagering. In the book “Big Red of Meadow Stable: Secretariat, the Making of a Champion,” Bill Nack noted that many people had come out to Aqueduct for the Wood “expecting to witness the flight of a superhorse.” However, when Secretariat lost, lots of folks at the Big A did not like what they had seen. Some in the crowd were so bitterly disappointed that Secretariat got beat they voiced their displeasure to Turcotte as he made his way back to the jockeys’ room. “You bum, Turcotte. You got $6 million worth of horse and you rode him like manure.” “Whatsah mattah, Ronnie, you fall asleep out there?” “That’s the last time you’ll ever ride that horse.” “Where are the stewards?” said another. “A 1-5 shot runs like he’s 50-1.” Two weeks later, Turcotte and Secretariat redeemed themselves with a gigantic exclamation point when they won the Kentucky Derby in record time. Secretariat and Angle Light again were coupled in the wagering in the first leg of the Triple Crown, going off as a slight 3-2 favorite over Sham at 8-5. Another two weeks later, Secretariat polished off his rivals in the Preakness while doing so in a rather unorthodox manner. Last early in the field of six, Secretariat “made a spectacular run to take command entering the backstretch,” as stated in the Daily Racing Form chart. When Secretariat made such a powerful move so early in the race, Pincay was licking his chops. He thought an early move like that undoubtedly would take a toll on Secretariat late in the stretch. “When Secretariat went to the front on the first turn, I thought Ronnie had moved too soon,” Pincay told me. “But he knew his horse. He knew what he was doing.” Sham ran his heart out down the stretch, but could never close the gap on Secretariat, who prevailed by the same margin as in the Kentucky Derby, 2 1/2 lengths. Pincay said he felt that Sham “ran a super race” in the Preakness “because I could tell he wasn’t going sound. And I didn’t want him to run in the Belmont, either. I told the assistant trainer that, to me, Sham wasn’t sound going into the [Belmont]. To tell the truth, I didn’t think he was going to run in the Belmont. But he did.” SECRETRIAT ORGINALLY ROBBED OF PREAKNESS RECORD Secretariat raced for Meadow Stable, owned by Penny Chenery, who at the time went by her then married name of Penny Tweedy. Due in large part to Chenery’s tireless efforts, Secretariat now holds the record for having run the fastest Preakness in history with a final time of 1:53 flat. But he would not get credit for this record until 2012. The final time for the 1973 Preakness originally was posted as 1:55, but many people knew at once that was wrong. In fact, there had been an electric timer malfunction. Daily Racing Form’s highly respected clocker, Gene “Frenchy” Schwartz, and another Racing Form clocker, Frank Robinson, told the Racing Form’s executive columnist, Joe Hirsch, that they had both timed Secretariat in 1:53 2/5, which would have broken Canonero II’s track record of 1:54. In his book on Secretariat, Nack wrote this of the final time for the 1973 Preakness: “The discrepancy would never be resolved, though the proof would be overwhelming in favor of the faster clocking. Pimlico officials, conceding that the electric timer had malfunctioned, would later accept the time belatedly reported to them by the track’s official timer, E.T. McClean, who claimed he had timed Secretariat in 1:54 2/5. Later still, behind the impetus of handicapper Steve Davidowitz, the Maryland Racing Commission held a hearing on the matter and listened to testimony presented by CBS-TV, among others, that Secretariat had beaten Canonero’s track record…But despite the time reported by two veteran Racing Form clockers, and despite the evidence presented by CBS-TV, the racing commission would finally decide to keep McClean’s time as official.” The Racing Form, for the only time in its history, decided to note for the record its disagreement with an official clocking in one of its race charts. In the Racing’s Form’s Preakness chart, under the official race time of 1:54, it states: “Daily Racing Form Time 1:53 2/5 New Track Record.” Canonero II’s time of 1:54 in 1971 stood as the Preakness record until Gate Dancer’s 1:53 3/5 clocking in 1984. And then, in 1985, Tank’s Prospect posted a record Preakness time of 1:53 2/5, a clocking matched by Louis Quatorze in 1996 and Curlin in 2007. Tank’s Prospect, Louis Quatorze and Curlin shared the 1:53 2/5 record for the fastest Preakness in history until the outcome of a special hearing held by the Maryland Racing Commission on June 19, 2012. Chenery and Tom Chuckas, the president of Pimlico, had asked for the meeting in order to present evidence using modern technology in conjunction with videotape of the race that they felt proved that Secretariat’s final time was faster than 1:54 2/5. The evidence was so compelling that the commissioners deliberated for only about 10 minutes before announcing the vote had been 7-0 to change Secretariat’s official Preakness time to 1:53, a stakes record. Thus, a longstanding injustice in Thoroughbred racing finally was rectified. When the Maryland Racing Commission announced its decision to change Secretariat’s time to a Preakness record 1:53, Chenery, 90 at the time, could not contain her delight with the decision. She let out a cheer. A BELMONT PERFORMANCE FOR THE AGES Round four between Secretariat and Sham occurred in the 1973 Belmont Stakes on June 9. I still have my copy of the Los Angeles edition of the Racing Form for that race. When I pulled it out this week to look at its yellowed pages, I was struck by what Frank “Pancho” Martin had predicted to Joe Hirsch. “Martin predicts an exceptionally fast renewal of the Belmont, the winner possibly equaling or surpassing Gallant Man’s track record of 2:26 3/5, established in the Belmont of 1957,” Hirsch wrote. Hirsch quoted Martin as saying, “The track has been fast here this meeting. Ordinary horses are running fast, and Secretariat and Sham are no ordinary horses. If the pace is real, a record may be set.” Talk about prescient. Five started in the 1973 Belmont. Secretariat and Sham dueled for the early lead through fractions of :23 3/5, :46 1/5 and 1:09 4/5, a scorching pace for a 1 1/2-mile race. After six furlongs, Sham cracked. Secretariat went on to win by a ridiculous 31 lengths in what many consider the greatest performance by a Thoroughbred in the history of the sport in this country. What many do not realize is it was McClean’s gaffe in timing the Preakness that is a major reason why Secretariat won the Belmont by such a humongous margin. If Secretariat had been recognized with setting a track record in the Preakness, as he should have been, there is a very good chance that Turcotte would have taken him in hand during the last part of the Belmont. Secretariat would have coasted home to win by a much smaller margin than he did. McClean’s blunder was a key reason why Secretariat won the Belmont not by something like 15 or maybe 20 lengths instead of by 31. Years ago, when I talked to Turcotte about the 1973 Belmont Stakes, he admitted that he did not ease up on Secretariat during part of the Belmont because he felt Secretariat had been cheated out of a track record in the Preakness. Turcotte said he did not want to take any chances of that happening again. “Were you looking at the timer in the infield during the final furlong of the Belmont?” I asked Turcotte. “Oh, I was,” he replied. “I was definitely looking at the timer. I was looking at the teletimer because I was not racing against any horse. All I was racing against was the clock at that point.” Secretariat’s final time of 2:24 obliterated Gallant Man’s track record set in 1957 by 2 3/5 seconds. Secretariat’s 2:24 not only is a Belmont Park track record that likely will never be broken, it remains the fastest 1 1/2 miles ever run by a horse on dirt. Sham finished last in the Belmont, 45 1/4 lengths behind Secretariat. Sham never raced again. As a result of the 2012 decision to change Secretariat’s official final Preakness time to 1:53 flat, he currently is credited as having run the fastest Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont in history, a magnificent accomplishment. As for Sham, one can only wonder what might have happened if he had been born in some other year.

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1.9.2019:

Weekly Bankroll Builder: January 11 Stronach 5 Picks

It’s time to continue our weekly look at the 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 (4:35 ET) – 3upfm 5k at 1-mile The opener leg may have 10 horses but it doesn’t have a lot of quality, which is why I only need stiff dropper #8 GREASEDLIGHTNING (3-1), who has been facing much better and holding her own, and #10 SPLENDOR GAL (5-2), who dropped and aired for 5k last time and hits hard right back. Pk5 A horses (listed in order of preference): 8,10 No one else seems qualified to win and the top pair may be in the 8-5 and 9-5 range, so there will be no backups, though #9 Beatubyachubinose (8-1) does enter off a win, if nothing else. Pk5 B horses: NONE Leg 2: Gulfstream Park R9 (4:41 ET) – 4up 30k claimer at 6 furlongs “Pace makes the race” comes to mind here, so I’ll be looking for the stalker/closers who have shown they can sit and pass horses late, as this one seems destined to fall apart in the lane. The list starts with #5 STORMING MY WAY (6-1), who was a distant 2nd to a romping winner but ahead of several of these in a local 12/19 race at the level and gets a huge jock switch to Irad. He may have been just 5th to the top pick last time, but #5 SPRINGMEIER (12-1) was making his first start in 15 months and surely needed the run, so he can move up here. Lastly, #8 FRENCH QUARTER (12-1) was 4th in the 12/19 race and is another who should relish all the heat up front. The rail draw really hurts #1 UNBRIDLED OUTLAW (4-1), who is the class but might be forced to go early, but if he can settle some then he’s got a huge chance at this reduced level, and if you toss the sloppy run last time, his form really points to him as the one to beat. Pk5 A horses: 5,6,8,1 There are several others in here with the form to win this but they all seem destined to cancel each other out on the front end, which is why I’m OK leaving them off any tickets. Pk5 B horses: NONE Leg 3: Santa Anita R4 (5:00 ET) – 4upfm MSW at 1 1/8 miles (turf) I have a hard time trusting #5 SUTRO (5-2), who is certainly a must-use and the gal to beat but always seems to find one better, as evidenced by her three straight 2nd-place runs. My top pick is the new shooter, #10 MINUTE MILE (6-1), which doesn’t seem a bad angle in this spot, and with Van Dyke aboard and a good 2nd showing on the synthetic at Lingfield, and the fact Gallagher adds Lasix for her US debut, you have to think she’s ready for a biggie. I’ll also use #9 THE NINE O (10-1), who was a close 5th to Sutro on 11/23, which was her turf debut, and the fact it came off a 10-month layoff says to expect better today. Pk5 A horses: 10,5,9 The backups offer a mixed bag, as #6 DECORATING (4-1) wasn’t far behind Sutro when 3rd on 11/23 but may not have another forward move in her, while #4 KAYDETRE (8-1) really regressed when 6th on 11/23, but the former does still have a bit of upside and the latter was a fast 3rd two-back, so there are a few positives, wich warrant inclusion. Pk5 B horses: 6,4 Leg 4: Gulfstream Park R10 (5:12 ET) – 4up 50k MCL at 1 1/16 miles (turf) This looks impossible on paper but there are a lot of cracks in several would-be contenders, so I’m going to be bold and go relatively short, with just #8 A I INITIATIVE (6-1) and #3 TERYN IT UP (4-1), as the former has a ton of upside off just three starts and goes off the Reynolds claim (26%), while the latter has been facing better in a slew of MSW starts, is clearly best on figures too, and drew well on the drop. Pk5 A horses: 8,3 The lone backup is #11 HEZA KITTEN (10-1), who ran better than it looked from an impossible draw going a mile last time and could be a bit sharper late with blinkers added today for a Serpe barn that is off to a great start to its meet. You could go a lot deeper than I did, but there are issues too, as #1 Confidence Level (9-2) is a 4yo debuting for a tag for Brown, #9 Crime Lab (8-1) drops from the MSW ranks off the break and Shug rides Hernandez, which is a bit disconcerting, and #6 Mjolnir (5-1) would be a huge underlay at this price and wasn’t impressing anyone in his turf starts. Pk5 B horses: 11 Leg 5: Golden Gate Fields R5 (5:47 ET) – 4up 20k N2L at 1-mile The finale is all about what you want to do with #1 DEFIANTLY (5-2), who is the best horse but was just 2nd at odds-on last time and now meets a slew who are close to him on paper. You have to use him but you don’t have to love him. I’ll also use #8 MAXINAMILLION (4-1), who was a close 4th to the pick last time and seemingly benefits today since the pace looks slow and he’ll sit a nice outside pressing trip. Pk5 A horses: 1,8 The rest here all look the same on paper and I don’t want to go too deep with a heavy favorite in the mix, who I’m already not even singling, so we’ll stand alone. Obviously #2 Six Cider (8-1) figures, as he split my top pair last time, but his lack of speed will hurt him here. The same can be said for #4 Aztec Warrior (3-1), who ran in place last time on the turf and didn’t have any late kick, and that figures the same again today in what looks like a slow-paced heat. Pk5 B horses: NONE The tickets: Main Ticket: 8,10 with 5,6,8,1 with 10,5,9 with 8,3 with 1,8 = $96Leg 3 B Backup: 8,10 with 5,6,8,1 with 6,4 with 8,3 with 1,8 = $64Leg 4 B Backup: 8,10 with 5,6,8,1 with 10,5,9 with 11 with 1,8 = $48

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1.8.2019:

Harness Highlights: Amazon' Goes Out Year's Biggest Winner

Southwind Amazon paid a big price for success in 2018. The 8-year-old pacer was often assigned outside posts while competing primarily against open company at half-mile Northfield Park. But none of it mattered in the end. Southwind Amazon won 22 times in 38 starts to become North America’s winningest horse. He is owned by Ameer Najor, trained by Paul Holtzman and Ronnie Wrenn Jr. was his regular driver. He won on the day after Christmas to hold off three 20-race winners –Sock It Away, Spicey Victor and Windsong Leo – for year-end honors. McWicked, a top contender for Horse of the Year honors, earned $1.575 million to lead all Standardbreds. His 1:46.2 mile was the fastest, but six others – American History, Courtly Choice, Donttellmeagain, Double A. Mint, Western Joe and Kissin In The Sand – paced sub-1:48 miles to enter the record books, too. The 3-year-old trotting class produced four millionaires – Hambletonian winner Atlanta, Crystal Fashion, Met’s Hall and Six Pack. Shartin N became the first female pacer to earn $1 million in a season, and multiple stakes-winner Dorsoduro Hanover rounded out the list of seven-figure earners.   BURKE ADDS MORE CHAPTERS TO RECORD BOOK Ron Burke rewrote his own record book last year. He became North America’s leading trainer for the 10th consecutive year and his stable earned more than $20 million for the sixth straight season. He also trained iron horse Foiled Again, who was forced into retirement at age 14 with 109 wins and the biggest bankroll ($7.6 million) in harness racing history. Hall of Fame trainer Jimmy Takter, 58, announced his retirement at the end of 2018. His stable topped $8 million in earnings for the sixth year in a row. Manchego kept alive Takter’s streak of five Hambletonian Oaks victories and Tactical Landing romped in the 3-year-old Colt Pace to give Takter his record 34th Breeders’ Crown win. Rene Allard, the leading trainer at Pocono Downs and Yonkers, ranked second nationally with 365 wins and third with $6.3 million in earnings. Richard Moreau, Scott DiDomenico and Erv Miller ranked in the Top 10 in both categories. John Macdonald compiled a 590/151-108-75 record to become the only trainer with a .400 UTRS rating with at least 500 starters. Julie Miller enjoyed a big year with Top 15 finishes in wins (15th, 150), earnings (4th, $4.5 million) and UTRS (3rd, .375).

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1.7.2019:

Monday, January 7: Mohawk Park Early Pick 4 Analysis

There is a 10-race card set to go at Mohawk Park tonight with the feature coming in Race 8, a Preferred Trot with a $34,000 purse. The Early 0.20 Pick 4 rolls 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-Real Willy-Has improved under Moreau and will need a top effort, but best to not overlook. 4-R Bazingga-Slow starter has a big chance for a picture but needs to be in better striking range than in last. 8-Stolen Art-Flew home off a soft pace, now gets JMac back and is looking to make it 3 out of last 4. Race 5 1-Phil The Thrill-Tuned up with a nice qualifier versus a fine stakes horse, gets a big post edge over main foes. 8-Its Just Too Much-Filion takes a seat for Roy and faces easier, this is a spot to shine if minds manners. 9-Lone Wolf Terror-On the lead and broke in last at this class, should like the company, dangerous if stays flat. Race 6 4-Buzz-Will take a swing this guy gets the on engine without much strain and can carry speed further tonight. 6-PL Jill-Will use at a 10-1 in the ML and leave #5 out. Gets post relief, should get a better trip and can beat these. 7-Kameran Hanover-Steps up after a nice win, upswing could continue at a square price. Race 7 5-Ideal Jet-ML chalk knows how to win and takes a good drop. Should relish the company and be a major player. 9-Tymal Peacemaker-Filion steers and gets off a Moreau trainee, can roll late with the right trip. 10-Officer Jones-Similar to #9 and could find some good cover following that 5-year-old and upset the chalk. My Ticket Race 4) 2,4,8 Race 5) 1,8,9 Race 6) 4,6,7 Race 7) 5,9,10 Total Ticket Cost) $16.20 for $0.20Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia 

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1.7.2019:

Pegasus Provides Classic Encores

Opinions may vary on the Pegasus World Cup, but one fact cannot be disputed. January’s big-money race has kept the Breeders’ Cup Classic champ in the game for an encore. Accelerate drilled this past weekend at Santa Anita toward the $9 million feature on Jan. 26 at Gulfstream. He remains on course to become the third reigning Classic winner in the World Cup’s three-year history to appear. The 2017 inaugural saw Breeders’ Cup Classic 1-2 finishers Arrogate and California Chrome in a memorable rematch that no other race in America could have produced. The days of two horses of that ilk meeting in the Santa Anita Handicap are long gone with big money and easy travel prevalent elsewhere. For California Chrome, it was a true career swansong, and for racing fans it provided one last chance to see one of the greats. Arrogate won the battle, of course, but racing fans were the biggest winners. Last year’s Pegasus World Cup saw Classic winner Gun Runner return to action in successful fashion. And, like California Chrome, it was a one-and-done chance post-Breeders’ Cup to offer an encore. In fact, the 2018 Pegasus featured the 1-2-3-4 finishers from the fall’s Classic, one-upping the inaugural PWC which boasted the Classic’s 1-2-3 alumni. Just as Arrogate did the previous year, Gun Runner made it 2-for-2 in the Pegasus for fellow Classic winners. Had the Pegasus World Cup existed a year earlier, it’s quite possible the 2016 version would have featured American Pharoah, who swept the ’15 Triple Crown and Breeders’ Cup Classic before being retired to stud. That’s not far-fetched considering Ahmed Zayat’s desire to run his stable star throughout the summer and into the fall.   While the Dubai World Cup also offers astronomical money, it’s 2 months later in the season and a far greater stretch from the Breeders’ Cup in November to keep in serious training. It also gets closer and closer to the potential breeding season. Accelerate comes into the 2019 Pegasus World Cup on a four-race winning streak, all at the Grade 1 level. His lone defeat in seven starts last year came at the heels of City of Light in the Oaklawn Handicap. Sure enough, the lure of the PWC is expected to bring about that rematch. City of Light would go on to win the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile by season’s end. So we’re looking at a pair of Breeders’ Cup champions expected in the starting gate Jan. 26, not to mention another Classic 1-2 rematch with Gunnevera among the probables. Beyond Accelerate, Gunnevera and City of Light, the 2019 Pegasus World Cup also is expected to attract the likes of Bravazo, Audible, Seeking the Soul, Patternrecognition, Something Awesome, True Timber and the unbeaten Mexican Triple Crown and Caribbean Classic winner Kukulkan (to be ridden by the great Frankie Dettori). Tom’s d’Etat also was added to the mix this past weekend.  Meanwhile, Yoshida, fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, has been confirmed for the $7 million Pegasus World Cup Turf on the undercard, where Japanese Group 1 winner Aerolithe adds international intrigue. Be sure to get up-to-date workout videos from Florida and California, as well as interviews, for the Pegasus World Cup preparations at https://www.xbtv.com/video-on-demand/pegasusworldcup2019/. Among the videos is “A Candid Conversation with Trainer John Sadler” of Accelerate fame.

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1.5.2019:

Saturday, January 5: Cal Expo Pick 4 Analysis

Tonight, Cal Expo has a 12-race card set to roll with the feature coming in Race 7, a fillies and mares Open Pace with a $7,000 purse. The 0.20 Pick 4 with a $40,000 guaranteed pool and a 16% takeout begins in Race 8, it will be my focus. On Friday at the Big M the posted Pick 4 ticket came apart in the last leg, I will look to improve on three out of four tonight. The drivers with the hottest hands at Cal Expo last night were James Kennedy and Nathan Sobey who each steered home four winners. Trainer Gordon Empey led the conditioners with three pictures. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Race 8 1-Dandy's Dududdidudu-Found a way from the rail to get a rare win, will respect chances for a repeat. 6-Nutmegs Desire-Looks to be in the hunt as twice beaten favorite can make amends tonight. 7-Rockinaroundheaven-Just missed from the 7-hole, fits again and should be tough. 9-Poorlittlerichjgirl-11-year-old is in fine form and knows how to grind it out, best to respect even from the 9 post. Race 9 1-Hi Ho Houdini-Lackey's choice over #2 is 3rd time Lasix and could step-up and win at a square price. 6-Dontdoubtthelakers-Doesn't win often but this is a more comfortable spot and Svendsen takes a seat. 9-John MD-Sobey barn has been doing well and last was better, chance for a price shot if Lasix finally takes hold. Race 10 4-Mighty Fine Hi Ho-Magee's choice over 2 others, 3-1 ML chalk should be in the hunt. 6-A Bay Bay-Check getter just missed in last, consistent old-timer deserves respect. 9-Caviart Spencer-Closed nicely off a nice trip from 10-hole to beat #6 and others, an encore could be in the cards. Race 11 6-Getter Queen Flush-Plano's choice gets some post relief and looks like a major player. 7-Along Came Jane-Drops and can beat this field at a square price with the right trip.  8-Surprisingly Sweet-Steps up off 2 straight wins, circled the field and flew late, can cope with this post.  My TicketRace 8) 1,6,7,9 Race 9) 1,6,9 Race 10) 4,6,9 Race 11) 6,7,8  Total Ticket Cost) $21.60 for $0.20 Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia

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1.5.2019:

Code Of Honor Has Quality Company In Gulfstream Headliner

Gulfstream Park is a place where 3-year-olds begin to separate themselves this time of the year. Some move on to the important preps for the Florida Derby, and ultimately the Kentucky Derby, while some others are right below that level. Saturday’s feature and 10th on the card is the $100,000 Mucho Macho Man Stakes at the one-turn mile. There are only six horses in it, and a case can be made for five of them. Code of Honor is the 7-to-5 favorite and makes his 1st of the year after finished 2nd to Complexity in the Champagne Stakes. He broke his maiden at Saratoga in his only other start and trainer Shug McGaughey has worked him once a week over the past month and has seen the Noble Mission colt become sharp and race ready. Well Defined, trained by Kathleen O’Connell, won the In Reality Stakes vs. Florida-breds and then tried the big guns in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. He flashed speed and retreated after a half-mile. He’s back after two months off and warrants attention over this strip. Garter and Tie is another solid Florida-bred and finished 2nd to Well Defined. He won a pair of stakes races here – including an score in the open Smooth Air Stakes and will be the beneficiary if the front runners go at a breakneck pace. He’s the value play and starts out at 6-1 on the board. Trophy Chaser is another locally successful runner and got plenty of attention when he broke his maiden by 15. After running 5th in the Champagne, the Juan Avila stable rep was 2nd to Improbable in the Street Sense Stakes on the Breeders’ Cup undercard on the first of the two days at Churchill. Mihos is the 5th worth a look as he comes in off a maiden score at Aqueduct. In his debut he was 3rd behind Vekoma and Epic Dreamer in a terrific maiden race at Belmont. Jose Ortiz picks up the mount for trainer James Jerkens and will get his share of support. My Ticket Race 8) #3 Themanbehindtheman, #4 Gio Dude, #9 Inchesky, #10 Andronikos.Race 9) #9 Henley’s Joy.Race 10) #1 Garter and Tie, #2 Well Defined, #3 Trophy Chaser, #4 Code of Honor, #6 Mihos.Race 11) #3 Skychief, #5 Wild One Forever, #9 Betterment. Total Ticket Cost) $30 for $0.50

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1.4.2019:

Friday, January 4: Meadowlands Pick 4 Analysis

The Meadowlands starts 2019 with 13 races on the program and rolling daily doubles can be bet throughout the card. The 0.50 Pick 5 with a $25,000 guaranteed pool rolls in Race 1. The 0.50 Pick 4 sequence gets underway 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 1A-Kak's Shark Attack-Burned out in a quick pace in the slop, should get a good trip and be in the hunt. 5-Penpal-In good form, a dry track and Callahan steering should help, winner in 9 of 31 at the Big M. 8-Delightfulmemphisn-Classy mare has the gate speed to be in striking range, looks like a major player. Race 9 1-Can Do-10-year-old can race big at times, this is the type of field that could bring out the best. 4-Possessed Fashion-Lightly raced 9-year-old has had excuses and drops to a better spot. 6-Texican-Another who drops and should be better but doesn't like to pass horses down the lane. 9-Star Studded Cast-Has enough gate speed to get into the mix, comes off a scratch but will use versus this crew. Race 10 4-Chromeo-Trainer takes a seat and that may help, needs to mind manners, if so, has a shot at a square price. 6-Rubber Duck-Program chalk drops to a spot to shine and can win on the big track. 9-Fearless Man-2 qualifiers in the slop were good, should like the company if ready for a top effort. Race 11 3-Mccito-Does best work when on the lead or close to it, likely to get on the engine or in the 2-hole. 6-David The Saint-Starting to improve for Team Ginsburg, could be sitting on a big try. My Ticket Race 8) 1,5,8 Race 9) 1,4,6,9 Race 10) 4,6,9 Race 11) 3,6  Total Ticket Cost) $36 for $0.50Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia. 

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1.3.2019:

Sham, Mucho Macho Man Kickoff 2019 Triple Crown Preps

Racing fans are in for a treat this weekend as two of the bigger names on the Triple Crown Trail – Coliseum and Code of Honor – are both in action Saturday.  Code of Honor kicks off his ‘Road to the Roses’ in Gulfstream’s $100,000 Mucho Macho Man Stakes, while Coliseum kicks it into high gear for Bob Baffert in Santa Anita’s Grade 3, $100,000 Sham Stakes.  Also on tap this weekend are four other stakes races for three-year-olds including the $100,000 Kittens Joy on the lawn, featuring Henley’s Joy, and the $100,000 Ginger Brew for fillies, starring Pivottina.  In addition to the Sham, Santa Anita’s Saturday card includes the G2 San Gabriel Stakes.  My colleague, Jeremy Plonk, took a look at that race in his weekly Xpressbet Race of the Week analysis.  On the tournaments front, I highly recommend checking out our $50,000 Beat the Host tournament.   It’s free to register and only costs $40 a week in wagers to play.  Take on expert handicappers like Jeremy Plonk, Millie Ball, Jon White and Eddie Olczyk to win $2,500 every Saturday in January and February.  Plus, for those looking to go to the NHC, you can play in Santa Anita’s NHC Super Qualifier online with Xpressbet.  An NHC Seat will be awarded for every 15 registrants.  But enough of the commercials – here’s a look at the Sham and Mucho Macho Man! Grade 3 Sham Stakes (Santa Anita, Race 9 – 7:04PM ET)1 Mile Dirt (Two-Turn) – 3YOOf this weekend’s top two Triple Crown Trail races, the Sham has a little more direct bearing on the Kentucky Derby as qualifying points are on the line for the top four finishers.  And that makes sense.  Past winners of the Sham include Goldencents, Bob and John, Colonel John, Tapizar, Gormley and McKinzie and nearly all went on to either bigger and better. Past Sham place/show finishers include Empire Maker, Giacomo, Secret Circle and Borrego. As is the case with most California races, Bob Baffert leads all conditioners with five prior wins, including the 2018 edition with McKinzie.  Top Contenders Coliseum (Baffert/Talamo) – You’ve got to start the analysis with Coliseum, the impressive son of Tapit that Bob Baffert sent out to a 6 3/4-length maiden win on November 17.  This horse was bred to be a star and his debut had to solidify Godolphin’s high hopes for him.  He’ll have a target on his back for sure. Gunmetal Gray (Hollendorfer/Smith) – This writer expected much more of Gunmetal Gray in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile that I’m not sure what to think anymore.  He was unable to do anything in a race that completely fell apart up front and that has me scratching my head.  Flavien Prat is out as jockey as Hollendorfer goes to Big Money Mike Smith gets the mount.  Gray Magician (Miller/Prat) – Ran huge in his first start around two turns and his first start with Peter Miller last out, winning by 9 1/2-lengths at Del Mar on November 24.  This is a big class step but you can’t argue that he deserves to be here. Race OutlookColiseum drew really well in PP5 and that’ll allow Joe Talamo to read the break and ride accordingly.  He should be forward placed, but he doesn’t strike as a ‘need the lead’ type of runner.  He’ll be in the top flight, but wouldn’t’ be surprised if he sits just off Savagery early, who adds blinkers and has plenty of early foot.  Gunmetal Gray won’t be as far out of it as he was in the Breeders’ Cup and perhaps he’s more of a grinder that wears down horses.  He may not have the natural ‘spurt’ of a closer, so for now I’ll use him underneath. Betting Strategy Key Coliseum above Gunmetal Gray and Gray Magician in all vertical bets for a chalky, yet potentially profitable, payout. Play a smaller ‘saver’ ticket with Gunmetal Gray and Gray Magician over Coliseum. Single Coliseum over in multi-race exotics. Mucho Macho Man Stakes (Gulfstream, Race 10 – 4:41PM ET)1 Mile Dirt (One-Turn) – 3YOOriginally contested as the Gulfstream Park Derby and renamed in 2015 the 2013 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner, the Mucho Macho Man Stakes has frequently catered to stretch-out sprinters that ultimately had little impact on the Triple Crown races.  2013 winner, Itsmyluckyday, is probably the most notable alum as he used this race as a springboard to a victory in the G3 Holy Bull, and runner-up performances in both the G1 Preakness and G1 Florida Derby.  Another notable runner was 2014 runner-up Wildcat Red.  He went on to win the G2 Fountain of Youth, finish second in the G1 Florida Derby and ultimately run 18th in the Kentucky Derby.  Top Contenders Code of Honor (McGaughey/Velazquez) – Son of Noble Mission was poised to be a clear second betting choice in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile before he spiked a temperature the day of the race.  He won his debut so he runs well fresh and he came within 3-lengths of winning the G1 Champagne despite stumbling at the start.  You just have to wonder if he’s fully cranked for this, knowing bigger races are down the line and that he hasn’t raced since October. Well Defined (O’Connell/Montavo) – Represented Florida in a speed-laden edition of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and failed to make a mark that day 9/1 odds.  That was significant backing for a horse that had run at Gulfstream against restricted company and have to think the plan here is for Carlos Montalvo to put him on the lead at all costs.  Mihos (Jerkens/J. Ortiz) – Made easy work of a maiden field on November 24 at Aqueduct and he’s a hard-to-ignore closer in a field with plenty of speed.  He’s a son of 2014 G2 Holy Bull winner, Cairo Prince, and his dam, Dust and Diamonds, won the G3 Sugar Swirl at Gulfstream in 2012.  Race OutlookI’m going to bet that Well Defined goes straight to the lead, but my hope is that Gladiator King, who won the 6-furlong Inaugural Stakes at Tampa last out in nearly gate-to-wire fashion, keeps him company from the outside.  That would set things up perfectly for the off the pacers, including Mihos and Code of Honor, who probably doesn’t have the early foot of some of these despite wiring a field on debut.  Garter and Tie would need a complete pace breakdown, but worth noting he has already defeated Well Defined. Betting Strategy Play a Mihos/Code of Honor Exacta Box heavily. Play Trifectas with Mihos and Code of Honor over Garter and Tie, Well Defined and Trophy Chaser. Use Mihos and Code of Honor in multi-race exotics.

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1.3.2019:

Jan 3: Pompano Park Pick 4 Analysis

The feature at Pompano Park rolls in Race 3, a 5/8-mile dash for the cash when seven pacers will battle for a share of a $10,000 purse. The 0.50 Pick 4 sequence with a $10,000 guaranteed pool begins in Race 6, it has a very low 12% takeout and will be my focus. The driver with the hottest hands at Pompano on Wednesday night was Wally Hennessey with three wins. The top conditioner was Dan Hennessey with two trips to the winner's circle. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Race 6 4-Krinda-Hennessey steers 8/5 ML chalk, winner of 3 straight should be the odds-on choice as in last 2. 8-Step Beyond-Has the gate speed to duck in behind #4, might trip out behind the chalk and make it 2 in a row. Race 7 4-Bet The Moon-Made more in 2018 than 5 of these combined, drops and makes 3rd start for McDonald. 5-Sir Globalop Z Tam-Merton should keep 10-year-old in play versus this soft field. Race 8 5-Fantasy Official-Gets a post edge and has gate speed, that might be enough to finally close the deal. 6-Starcasim-Not much gate speed so will need a trip, will respect but needs best to top #5 and #7. 7-Prairie Foolish-Post is the challenge but could grind it out, similar to #6 but has a win versus others mentioned. Race 9 3-Hora Star-Could trip out in the 2-hole behind the chalk and rally late. 6-Mister Special T-Odds on favorite has won last 3, should get the top again, only question is if 4-year-old can last. 10-Big CC's Rock-Will need some luck from here, but in form and if trip worked out could pop at a nice price. $1.00 Pick 4 4,8/4,5/5,6,7/3,6,10 Total Bet=$36 Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia

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1.3.2019:

Weekly Bankroll Builder: January 4 Stronach 5 Picks

We ring in the New Year with another go at the 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 (4:35 ET) – 3f starter-optional claimer at 6 furlongs It sure looks like #7 NINE MARTINIS is going to be tough in the opening leg, as she drops in class off a good 5th in the Maryland Juvenile Fillies Championship last time, in what was her first start against winners after a fast debut win, and her first start off the claim for Lauer, who obviously liked what he had to move her up that much. Yes, she’s in against open foes here, but there’s really no one to fear and she can probably regress and still win. I contemplated using #6 ZIRA on the B-line, but she really impressed in her debut win for Lawrence, figures to improve off that and has a world of upside too, so just in case the chalk stubs her toe, we’ll have another waiting in the wings. Pk5 A horses (listed in order of preference): 7,6 The two gals above are clearly the two to beat, and have the biggest room for improvement too, so there will be no backups. If you’re on a deeper budget or looking for a few others prices, then you could also give a look to #3 Yesterdaysplan and #4 Past Perfect, though they seem a cut below. Pk5 B horses: NONE Leg 2: Gulfstream Park R9 (4:41 ET) – 4up 6.25k claimer at 1-mile While this heat may look a bit inscrutable on paper there does seem to be a ton of speed, which is why I’ll side with the stalker/closers who have shown the ability to pass horses in the lane. I’ll start with a bit of an unknown in #2 CONGRUITY, who has done all his good work on turf but can rate, has been in solid form, and looked good winning last time too. My next two won last time but now go off the claim for lesser connections—#5 OVER PROMISED and #8 EXCLUSIVE ZIP—though they both fit the race profile and the former is a re-claim, while the latter has won three straight with ease for two different barns. Pk5 A horses: 2,5,8 The rest seem a bit of a mixed bag that could very well compromise each other’s chances on or just off the early lead, so tread lightly here. the only one I’ll use is #7 CHOVANES, since he drops in class and did well to draw outside a lot of the other speed. Pk5 B horses: 7 Leg 3: Santa Anita R4 (5:03 ET) – 4upfm 50k starter-allowance at 1-mile (turf) With several of these coming out of the same 11/9 race at this level it might not be a bad idea to go elsewhere, and #6 DRIFT AWAY should trip out beautifully off the inside speed if #3 Untouched Elegance, so she gets the call off a decent 6th against a nice prospect in Amandine last time in an AOC. It’s tough to separate #2 FOXTAIL and #8 TAKE A LEAP, as the latter beat the former by a half-length 11/9, though I’ll swap them in order of preference here, since ‘Tail drew better and has more tactical speed too. Pk5 A horses: 6,2,8 I’d like to think I can get through this race with the trio above, so I’ll call it a day, though obviously Untouched Elegance is a speed danger, while #4 Trust Fund Kitty wasn’t far behind in the 11/9 race. Pk5 B horses: NONE Leg 4: Gulfstream Park R10 (5:12 ET) – 3f 25k MCL at 5 furlongs (turf) Normally I find turf sprints next to impossible, but in this one I’m going to be aggressive and single #1 LILLIE’S HEAT, who has worked big for Norm Casse, who has proven to be sharp with firsters (14%) and lures Jose Ortiz to ride, so there’s some intent here too—there’s also a weak group ready to oppose her, so I’m thinking she’s in a good spot, rail and all. It’s noteworthy that Pompay tried to get #7 TRACY ANN’S LEGACY on the turf last time, and even more noteworthy she puts her back on it today after she ran so big to be 2nd to a romping winner on the dirt, so you have to think she fits nicely here, from a perfect attack post too. Pk5 A horses: 1,7 De La Cerda does the same as Pompay with #10 SALSITA ROJA, though she was 2 ¾ lengths behind that miss last time, so I’ll use her as a backup, while admitting she would be no surprise. Pk5 B horses: 10 Leg 5: Golden Gate Fields R5 (5:47 ET) – 3yo MSW at 1-mile (turf) There’s little doubt that #4 SHADRACK will be tough, as he already won on the turf in his debut here, only to be DQ’d, and while this is a tougher race, he showed last time when he was a fast 2nd on the Tapeta that he can contend in the MSW ranks too. It will be interesting to see if the money comes in on #9 ATMOSPHERIC, since he cost 650k as a yearling, a giant price for a son of Orb, and will be wearing the Godolphin blue, though his morning works are very slow and the fact he’s with Harty and not McLaughlin or someone else, says he may be slow in the afternoon as well; I’m going to use him and hope like heck he’s not 11-1 or so after the first toe flash. Pk5 A horses: 4,9 The So Cal form of #6 CARBON ZERO has me a bit intrigued, even though his figures are slow and he lacks early speed, but this isn’t much of a class rise, so he’ll stand alone as a backup. Pk5 B horses: 6 The tickets: Main Ticket: 7,6 with 2,5,8 with 6,2,8 with 1,7 with 4,9 = $72Leg 2 B Backup: 7,6 with 7 with 6,2,8 with 1,7 with 4,9 = $24Leg 4 B Backup: 7,6 with 2,5,8 with 6,2,8 with 10 with 4,9 = $36Leg 5 B Backup: 7,6 with 2,5,8 with 6,2,8 with 1,7 with 6 = $36

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1.2.2019:

Jon White's Top 10 Performances of 2018

Inasmuch as the 2019 racing season now has commenced, it is time for my list of the Top 10 performances by a Thoroughbred in the United States during 2018. This marks the 15th year that I have compiled such a list for Xpressbet.com. A Thoroughbred’s performance can make my list for a variety of reasons, such as: --A win by a big margin while showing brilliance. --Recording a fast final time and/or speed figure. --Being especially game in victory or defeat. --Overcoming adversity. --Defeating a particularly strong group of opponents. --Carrying more weight than usual and/or spotting considerable weight. --Achieving something historic. The importance of the race itself also plays a role in determining whether or not I believe a performance deserves to make the list. And now, drumroll please, here is my list of the Top 10 performances by a Thoroughbred in the U.S. during 2018: 10. JUSTIFY in the Grade I Santa Anita Derby at 1 1/8 miles on dirt April 7. (Owned by WinStar Farm, China Horse Club, Head of Plains Partners and Starlight Racing; trained by Bob Baffert; ridden by Mike Smith.) The Santa Anita Derby originally was to have been a rematch between Bolt d’Oro and McKinzie. Baffert trains McKinzie. But McKinzie missed the Santa Anita Derby due to a hind leg injury. Baffert then called an audible and decided to run Justify in the Santa Anita Derby instead of the Grade I Arkansas Derby a week later at Oaklawn Park as originally planned. I installed Justify as the 4-5 morning-line favorite for the Santa Anita Derby. There evidently were those surprised that I had made a horse to have raced only twice the morning-line favorite for the 1 1/8 Santa Anita Derby. Even Baffert questioned what I had done. “I can’t believe Jon White made him the favorite. He’s letting his emotions get to him,” Baffert said on the Lousville radio program Inside Churchill Downs. In the Los Angeles Times, Baffert was quoted by John Cherwa as saying about the Santa Anita Derby morning line: “I don’t see making my horse 4-5. He’s only had two races.” As it turned out, Justify was bet down to 4-5 favoritism in the Santa Anita Derby, with Bolt d’Oro the second choice at even money. Justify led from start to finish. He ran each quarter in :23 4/5, :23 4/5, :24 3/5 and :24 2/5 before a last eighth in :12 3/5 for a final 1 1/8-mile time of 1:49 3/5 (1:49.72). The race time 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 big figure that reflected the slower-than-usual surface as quantified by the track variant. Justify’s 107 would turn out to be the highest Beyer of his six-race career. I wrote this about the Santa Anita Derby: “Bolt d’Oro took not one, but two runs at Justify in the final three furlongs. For Justify, in just his third lifetime start, to turn back two serious challenges by the more seasoned, more battle-tested and classy Bolt d’Oro is further proof that Justify is super special.” Justify won by three lengths. Bolt d’Oro finished second. Two days after the Santa Anita Derby on Steve Byk’s radio show At the Races, Baffert said that Justify “won that on just sheer, raw talent. He’s just a phenomenal talent. This horse just has so many gears.” I wrote this following the Santa Anita Derby: “You know what’s really scary? Baffert and Smith both have expressed the view that Justify is still learning and that there is room for further improvement. This is very bad news for those who will be trying to beat the grand-looking Kentucky-bred Scat Daddy colt on May 5 in the Kentucky Derby at 1 1/4 miles.” As it turned out, they not only were unable to beat Justify in the Kentucky Derby, they also couldn’t beat him in the Preakness and Belmont. 9. CITY OF LIGHT in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile at one mile on dirt Nov. 3 at Churchill Downs. (Owned by Mr. and Mrs. William K. Warren Jr.; trained by Michael McCarthy; ridden by Javier Castellano.) Going into the BC Dirt Mile, much attention was focused on Catalina Cruiser, undefeated in four career starts in Southern California while winning by margins of 2 1/4, 2 1/4, 6 3/4 and 7 1/4 lengths. Those 6 3/4-length and 7 1/4-length victories had come in Grade II races at Del Mar. I heard more than one person say they would have picked Catalina Cruiser to win the BC Classic if he had run in that race instead of the BC Dirt Mile. Not surprisingly, Catalina Cruiser was hammered down to 4-5 favoritism in the BC Dirt Mile. City of Light, who had trained splendidly, went off as the 5-2 second choice and was my pick to win in my Breeders’ Cup selections for Xpressbet.com. City of Light darted to the early lead. While setting the pace, he recorded fractions of :22.64, :45.16, 1:09.03 and 1:20.97. Three in front with a furlong remaining, City of Light maintained a daylight advantage the rest of the way and won by 2 3/4 lengths in a sparkling 1:33.83. Catalina Cruiser? He did not get off to an alert start, raced close up early, then faltered after six furlongs to finish sixth, 17 1/2 lengths behind City of Light. 8. ACCELERATE in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Classic at 1 1/4 miles on dirt Nov. 3 at Churchill Downs. (Owned by Hronis Racing; trained by John Sadler; ridden by Joel Rosario.) Accelerate won the richest Breeders’ Cup race, the $6 million Classic, by one length as the 5-2 favorite while defeating 13 rivals after breaking from post 14. Some have expressed the view that Accelerate did not beat much. But while I believe it was not the strongest BC Classic field ever assembled, I think it was a pretty darn good one. Accelerate defeated seven multiple G1 winners (Thunder Snow, Yoshida, West Coast, Mind Your Biscuits, McKinzie, Catholic Boy and Roaring Lion) and three G1 winners (Mendelssohn, Discreet Lover and Pavel). 7. ENABLE in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Turf at 1 1/2 miles on turf Nov. 3 at Churchill Downs. (Owned by Juddmonte Farms; trained by John Gosden; ridden by Frankie Dettori.) Found was the first horse to win both Europe’s most coveted race, the Group I Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, and the BC Turf. She took the 2015 BC Turf, then won the 2016 Arc before finishing third in the 2016 BC Turf. The magnificent 4-year-old filly Enable in 2018 became the first horse to win both races in the same year. Prior to 2018, seven times an Arc winner had come to this country to run in the BC Turf that same season. All seven times they had lost. These are the Arc winners to have started in the BC Turf the same year: 2017 Enable (1st in BC Turf)2016 Found (3rd in BC Turf)2015 Golden Horn (2nd in BC Turf)2007 Dylan Thomas (5th in BC Turf)1992 Subotica (5th in BC Turf)1990 Saumarez (5th in BC Turf)1987 Trempolino (2nd in BC Turf)1986 Dancing Brace (4th in BC Turf) Following Enable’s brilliant performance as a 3-year-old to win the Arc by 2 1/2 lengths at Chantilly in 2017, she was not retired. Her main 2018 goal was to try for a second Arc victory. But a knee injury precluded Enable from racing in 2018 until she won the Group III September Stakes by 3 1/2 lengths at 1 1/2 miles on a synthetic surface at Kempton on Sept. 8. With just that one 2018 race under her belt, Enable subsequently won another Arc, this time by a neck when having to stave off the onrushing 3-year-old filly Sea of Class. Keep in mind Enable won her second Arc on Oct. 7 despite being sick for a time after her Sept. 8 race in England. Gosden then shipped Enable to the United States for the BC Turf. Backed down to 4-5 favoritism, Enable was fanned extremely wide coming out of the final turn. Dettori later explained that he kept Enable so wide in the belief that the ground was better toward the outside of a grass course that was not firm. The Equibase chart listed the course as “good” for the BC Turf. Despite racing so very wide, Enable won by three-quarters of a length in 2:32.65. Magical gave it a marvelous try, but ultimately had to settle for second. There was a huge gap of nine lengths back to Sadler’s Joy, who finished third in the field of 13. 6. ACCELERATE in Del Mar’s Grade I Pacific Classic at 1 1/4 miles on dirt Aug. 18. (Owned by Hronis Racing; trained by John Sadler; ridden by Joel Rosario.) Accelerate annihilated them. Close up early while sitting in third, Accelerate took the lead going into the far turn and quickly widened on the bend. Eight lengths in front with a furlong to go, he continued to increase his advantage while coming down the lane. “And it is all Accelerate, clear by double figures with a sixteenth of a mile to go!” Del Mar track announcer Trevor Denman said during his stretch call. Accelerate ultimately reached the finish 12 1/2 lengths in front. It was largest margin of victory in the 26-year history of the race, obliterating the record of 8 1/2 lengths that had been set by Game On Dude in 2013. After completing his Pacific Classic trip in 2:01.83, Accelerate returned $2.80, the lowest win mutuel in the history of the race. The previous record had been $3 when Gentlemen won in 1997. Accelerate joined Lava Man (2006) and Game On Dude (2013) as the only three to win Southern California’s three major events for older horses -- Santa Anita Handicap, Gold Cup at Santa Anita and Pacific Classic -- in the same year. All three races are contested at 1 1/4 miles. 5. NEWSPAPEROFRECORD in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf at one mile on turf Nov. 2 at Churchill Downs. (Owned by Klaravich Stables; trained by Chad Brown; ridden by Irad Ortiz Jr.) Lady Eli was undeniably one of the best female grass runners we have seen in this country during this decade. A multiple Grade I winner, she won 10 of 14 lifetime starts and was voted a 2017 Eclipse Award as champion female turf horse. But as good as Lady Eli was, I don’t think she was as good as Newspaperofrecord, who won all three of her 2018 races in superlative fashion. As I wrote after the BC Juvenile Fillies Turf, Newspaperofrecord appears to be an enormously talented young filly. To me, she looks like a 2018 version on the grass of Landaluce in 1982 on the dirt. Landaluce in 1982 won her first three races by margins of seven, 21 and 6 1/2 lengths. Newspaperofrecord in 2018 has won her three races by margins of 6 3/4, 6 1/2 and 6 3/4 lengths. Sadly, after Landaluce won two more races in 1982 by 10 and two lengths, she died that year on Nov. 28 from a severe bacterial infection. An autopsy showed that Landaluce succumbed to Escherichia coli, more commonly known as E. coli. From the first crop of 1977 Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew, Landaluce was voted a 1982 Eclipse Award as champion 2-year-old filly. Newspaperofrecord’s 6 3/4-length triumph at the Breeders’ Cup was breathtaking. On a grass course that was not close to firm (listed as “yielding” by Equibase), she led all the way. In front by a commanding 5 1/2 lengths with a furlong to go, she was “geared down through the final seventy yards while proving much the best,” according to the Equibase chart. On the same card, Line of Duty was all out to win the Grade I BC Juvenile Turf for colts and geldings by a half-length. He completed 1 1/16 miles on the grass in 1:40.06. Newspaperofrecord, though far from all out, put a final time of 1:39.00 on the board. Line of Duty was credited with an 83 Beyer Speed Figure, much lower than Newspaperofrecord’s 96. Jerry Brown is the owner of Thoro-Graph. As I have said many times, I consider Thoro-Graph’s figures to be superior to Beyer Speed Figures. Newspaperofrecord is “clearly the best 2-year-old grass filly we have seen since we started making figures,” Jerry Brown said. 4. GUN RUNNER in Gulfstream Park’s Grade I Pegasus World Cup Invitational at 1 1/8 miles on dirt Jan. 27. (Owned by Winchell Thoroughbreds and Three Chimneys Farm; trained by Steve Asmussen; ridden by Florent Geroux.) In Gun Runner’s final 2017 start, he won the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Classic by 2 1/4 lengths at Del Mar on Nov. 4. I ranked it as the top performance by a Thoroughbred in the United States in 2017. Gun Runner was voted 2017 Eclipse Awards as Horse of the Year and champion older male. Gun Runner raced one more time before being retired to stud. He made his farewell under silks in the world’s richest race, the $16 million, Pegasus World Cup, early in 2018. Sent off as an even-money favorite in the Grade I event, Gun Runner had the misfortunate to draw post 10, which is dreadful at Gulfstream because of the abbreviated run to the first turn. Off alertly, Gun Runner was a pace factor from the outset. Despite the middle part of the race being demanding in that the second quarter was run in :23.20 and the third quarter in :23.60, Gun Runner bounded home in the stretch to win by 2 1/2 lengths in an excellent 1:47.41. Finishing second was West Coast, while Gunnevera ended up third in the field of 12. “I’m so impressed for him to come through like he did today, to overcome the draw,” Asmussen said after Gun Runner’s Pegasus victory. “I’m just so proud of the horse. What a special horse. It’s the cherry on the top, this one.” When Gun Runner won last year’s BC Classic, he was assigned a career-best 117 Beyer Speed Figure. He recorded an even higher Beyer in the Pegasus, a 120. The 120 ranked as the biggest Beyer Speed Figure recorded in 2018. 3. JUSTIFY in Pimlico’s Grade I Preakness Stakes at 1 3/16 miles on a sloppy main track May 19. (Owned by WinStar Farm, China Horse Club, Head of Plains Partners and Starlight Racing; trained by Bob Baffert; ridden by Mike Smith.) When American Pharoah swept the Triple Crown in 2015, the race he came the closest to losing of the three was the Kentucky Derby, which he won by one length. He then won the Preakness by seven lengths and Belmont by 5 1/2 lengths. When Justify swept the Triple Crown in 2018, the race he came closest to losing of the three was the Preakness, which he won by a half-length. But Justify’s performance was a whole lot better than his margin of victory suggests. He never got a breather at any point during the entire 1 3/16 miles. Few horses can win any race, let alone a Triple Crown race, without ever getting a breather. Good Magic and jockey Jose Ortiz took it to Justify right away. The next day on Mike Willman’s radio program Thoroughbred Los Angeles, Smith talked about how the Preakness early on turned into a match race between Justify and Good Magic. “After we went underneath the wire the first time, the race was on,” Smith said, adding that it pretty much was a match race “from all the way down the backside, around the [far] turn, until I finally put him away [in the final sixteenth].” Smith went on to say that in the final sixteenth, after they had put away Good Magic, he was trying to ask Justify as little as possible while still winning the race. “I peeked under my shoulder and didn’t see anybody,” Smith said. “I just wanted to get him home safe and sound. I didn’t want to get after him or make him do any more than he had to do. And maybe I was trying to save him a little too much. I made it a little closer than I liked to. But the good ones find a way to get it done. It takes a whole lot to do what he did. That was his fifth race. That’s pretty incredible. “If I had kept my foot on the gas, he would have won by farther. I had Good Magic beaten. Of course, I wasn’t expecting anyone to come flying the way the [D. Wayne] Lukas horse [Bravazo] did. [Bravazo] ran a tremendous race.” This year’s Preakness long will be remembered for being run in a rather eerie London-like fog. As for the condition of the track, Smith said it was “very slippery, very slick.” Smith said Justify was “slipping a lot” while having to “fight with Good Magic” for most of the race. Smith also said that more than once, Justify jumped tracks that were on the wet surface. “They pull a ramp over [the track] so the people can walk back and forth [into the infield] and that leaves these tracks,” Smith said. “And man, he jumped the tracks crossing under the wire the first time.” A wonderful photo tweeted by Barbara Livingston showed Justify from a head-on angle with all four of his legs off the ground as he was jumping the tracks coming through the stretch the first time. Smith said Justify also “jumped some tracks on the backside.” It was evident that the inside paths were the worst part of the track all day at Pimlico. The jockeys rode every main-track race as if an invisible rail existed a few paths out from the actual rail. Good Magic and Ortiz were several paths away from the inside rail on the backstretch while racing to the inside of Justify and Smith. “He kept floating me out, floating me out, floating me out,” Smith said of Ortiz. Rather than hold his ground, Smith said he allowed himself to be continually floated out because he “was trying not to get into any kind of a bumping match” and that he “was trying to stay clear and clean.” While many were disappointed that Justify did not win by more than he did, Smith was impressed that the colt was able to prevail when tested more than he ever had been before. “This is a horse who was in a dogfight for a good seven-eighths of a mile and still held off the competition,” Smith said. “We should be commending him and not looking at him winning by only half a length. He showed more to me than drawing off and winning by 10. That was very impressive for him to get into a dogfight and prevail. We’ve seen him draw off and win so many times that you didn’t know what would happen when someone looked him in the eye.” 2. JUSTIFY in Belmont Park’s Grade I Belmont Stakes at 1 1/2 miles on dirt June 9. (Owned by WinStar Farm, China Horse Club, Head of Plains Partners and Starlight Racing; trained by Bob Baffert; ridden by Mike Smith.) One of the many reasons Justify never tasted defeat during his racing career is he pretty much would do whatever his rider wanted him to do during a race. A prime example of this occurred when he led past every pole and won the Belmont by 1 3/4 lengths to join the exclusive club of 13 Triple Crown winners. When the rider decided it was time to step on the gas pedal, Justify accelerated. And Justify would do so without getting headstrong or rank. He would do it willingly. Conversely, when the rider felt it prudent to ease off on the gas pedal, Justify would decelerate. And when asked to slow down, Justify would not exhibit the resentment that one sometimes will see from a fast runner who detests being rated. There really could be no better cooperation between a horse and rider than what existed between Justify and Mike Smith in the Belmont Stakes. Smith felt it necessary to utilize Justify’s speed away from the gate. Consequently, Justify stepped the first quarter in :23.37, which was pretty quick so early in a 1 1/2-mile race. But after that initial quarter, when Smith decided it would be prudent to ease off the gas pedal, Justify went along with the idea. The big colt got into a nice, comfortable rhythm while clicking off a second quarter in :24.74 and third quarter in :25.10. After that :25.10 quarter, Smith then asked Justify to go quicker, which the 4-5 favorite readily did by going his fourth quarter in :24.88 and fifth quarter in :24.81. Justify ran the first 1 1/4 miles of the Belmont in 2:02.90. That put him two lengths in front at the quarter pole. With a furlong to go, Justify still led by two lengths. After Gronkowski’s tardy start, he trailed early, 14 lengths off Justify’s pace. Gronkowski rallied strongly to reach second and loom a threat at the eighth pole. Justify was able to hold Gronkowski at bay throughout the final furlong. Justify ran his sixth and final quarter in :25.28. The final time was 2:28.18. In the Belmont Stakes, Justify: --Completed a sweep of this country’s Triple Crown, just the 13th horse to achieve this coveted feat and only the second horse to do it in the last 40 years. --Became the first horse in history to sweep the Triple Crown without having raced as a 2-year-old. --Set a record for defeating the most opponents in the Belmont of any Triple Crown winner. --Broke the record for defeating the most total starters in the three races of any Triple Crown winner. These are the number of opponents each Triple Crown winner defeated in the Belmont Stakes: 9 Justify (2018)7 American Pharoah (2015)7 Seattle Slew (1977)7 Citation (1948)6 Assault (1946)6 War Admiral (1937)4 Affirmed (1978)4 Secretariat (1973)4 Omaha (1935)3 Whirlaway (1941)3 Gallant Fox (1930)2 Count Fleet (1943)2 Sir Barton (1919) This is how many starters combined each Triple Crown winner defeated in the series: 35 Justify (2018)32 War Admiral (1937)31 American Pharoah (2015)31 Assault (1946)29 Seattle Slew (1977)28 Omaha (1935)27 Gallant Fox (1930)24 Sir Barton (1919)21 Secretariat (1973)20 Affirmed (1978)20 Whirlaway (1941)15 Citation (1948)14 Count Fleet (1943) 1. JUSTIFY in Churchill Downs’ Grade I Kentucky Derby at 1 1/4 miles on a sloppy main track May 5. (Owned by WinStar Farm, China Horse Club, Head of Plains Partners and Starlight Racing; trained by Bob Baffert; ridden by Mike Smith.) Television commentator Randy Moss articulated just how outstanding Justify’s performance was by observing that no horse in the 144-year history of the Kentucky Derby had won it after running the first quarter as fast as he did. Justify was breathing down Promises Fulfilled’s neck when that rival set a torrid early pace, with the opening quarter in :22.24 and half in :45.77. Those fractions certainly took a toll on Promises Fulfilled, who faltered badly. He finished 15th and lost by 39 3/4 lengths. Keep in mind Promises Fulfilled is not a bum. He was good enough to win Gulfstream Park’s Grade II Fountain of Youth Stakes by 2 1/4 lengths at 1 1/16 miles in early March. Promises Fufilled would go on to win Saratoga’s Grade II Amsterdam Stakes at 6 1/2 furlongs on July 28, Saratoga’s Grade I H. Allen Jerkens Stakes at seven furlongs and Keeneland’s Grade II Phoenix Stakes at six furlongs. But even though Justify ran so fast early in the Kentucky Derby, he still was able to flex his considerable muscles in the homestretch and maintained a clear lead throughout the final furlong. He won by 2 1/2 lengths in 2:04.20. Good Magic finished second. He ran his heart out all the way down the stretch while trying to close the gap on Justify. Good Magic was the Eclipse Award-winning 2-year-old male of 2017. Good Magic won Keeneland’s Grade II Blue Grass Stakes in early April and had trained sharply up to the Run for the Roses. For Justify to stave off such a quality foe during the final furlong is another reason this was such a terrific performance. Justify became the first horse to win the Kentucky Derby without having raced at 2 since Apollo in 1882. He thus thumbed his nose at the so-called “Apollo curse.” After “Big Money” Mike Smith rode Justify in the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont, the Hall of Fame rider was asked by Bill Finley which of the three victories was the most impressive. “I think it was the Kentucky Derby because those were the fastest fractions and he actually set them along with the Dale Romans horse, Promises Fulfilled,” Smith said in a June 19 story written by Finley in the Thoroughbred Daily News. “There have been faster fractions, I believe, in the Derby, but none of those horses went on to win. He set those fractions and won.” And so it is that I rank Justify’s Kentucky Derby victory as the best 2018 performance by a Thoroughbred in this country. I am sure there are those who are of the opinion that some other 2018 performance was the best by a Thoroughbred in this country. Others may question whether Justify’s Kentucky Derby, Belmont and Preakness should rank 1-2-3. After all, he did not break a track or stakes record in those three races. He did not win those races by huge margins. His speed figures won’t knock your socks off. But an important component of this annual list always has been the historic context of a particular performance. Justify’s Triple Crown sweep without having raced as a 2-year-old was unprecedented. I think such an achievement not only merits considerable praise, it lends additional significance to each of those three performances.   These have been my top performances of the year going back to 2004: 2004 Ghostzapper in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Classic2005 Afleet Alex in the Grade I Preakness Stakes2006 Barbaro in the Grade I Kentucky Derby2007 Rags to Riches in the Grade I Belmont Stakes2008 Big Brown in the Grade I Kentucky Derby2009 Zenyatta in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Classic2010 Blame in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Classic2011 Animal Kingdom in the Grade I Kentucky Derby2012 I’ll Have Another in the Grade I Preakness2013 Dreaming of Julia in the Grade II Gulfstream Park Oaks2014 Wise Dan in the Grade II Bernard Baruch Handicap2015 American Pharoah in the Grade I Belmont Stakes2016 Arrogate in the Grade I Travers Stakes2017 Gun Runner in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Classic2018 Justify in the Grade I Kentucky Derby

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1.2.2019:

Harness Highlights: Takter Tops the Charts as an All-Time Great

It’s safe to say Jimmy Takter went out on top as a harness racing trainer. It’s more accurate to say he went out over the top. Takter, 58, entered his self-imposed January 1 retirement with an unrivaled, three-decade run of sheer excellence. His name was synonymous with the sport’s biggest races – and he has 2,100 wins, $130 million in purse earnings, six Trainer of the Year trophies and a 2012 Hall of Fame induction to prove it. Takter won a record 34 Breeders Crown races, in addition to four Hambletonians, five consecutive Hambletonian Oaks and a Little Brown Jug, to name a few of the lucrative, six-figure stakes races. His stable earned more than $8 million the last six years and $40 million over time at the Meadowlands, the most recognized harness track in North America. Trotters flourished under Takter’s care. Moni Maker ($5.58 million) was a two-time Horse of the Year and the sport’s richest female ever. Malabar Man gave Takter his first Hambletonian victory in 1997. Lifetime Pursuit/Trixton and Ariana G/Pinkman gave Takter an unprecedented Hambletonian/Oaks double in 2014-15. Shake It Cerry became the first female to trot a sub-1:50 mile at the Meadowlands in 2015, the same year the The Bank sprung an upset in the Breeders Crown 3YO Trot to give Takter six Breeders Crown wins on the 12-race card at Woodbine. Manchego kept the five-year Oaks winning streak alive for Takter and driver Yannick Gingras when she trotted to a stakes-record 1:50 last year. But Takter could handle pacers, too. Pure Country earned more than $2 million in becoming the first female pacer to win the Dan Patch Award at ages 2, 3 and 4. Always B Miki paced a world-record 1:46 mile in the 2017 Allerage Farms Stakes at the Red Mile en route to becoming Horse of the Year. It all adds up to a career that by anyone’s standards was over the top.

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12.31.2018:

Get Ready to Beat This Host

Xpressbet’s popular $50,000 Beat the Host handicapping contest returns this Saturday and the bullseye will be on my back. That’s good news for you as I took the duck last year in the 8 races … if you believe in history repeating itself. But it is bad news for you if you believe in the law of averages, as going 0-for-8 again seems a longshot. As the sports announcers love to say in cliche, “Something’s gotta give!” Beat the Host is made up of 8 races as selected by the weekly host, divided between Gulfstream Park and Santa Anita. Admittedly, Gulfstream is my weak suit. I’ve tried and tried over the years, but it’s never been a circuit at which I can gain solid comfort. Santa Anita will almost always present the races that I feel more in tune with in my handicapping. We’re allowed to swing the race pendulum 5-3 in one direction if we choose instead of the even 4-4 split. Wednesday’s entries for Saturday will determine that for me, but if you’re handicapping the handicapper, expect a heavier dose of SA. But, then again, maybe I’m bluffing to throw you off your game early in the week? Stay tuned. Contest races will be posted at Xpressbet.com by 5 pm ET each Friday. The 8 weekly hosts this season also include (in order of appearance): Millie Ball of XBTV, Jon White of Santa Anita/Xpressbet, Jeff Siegel of XBTV, Steve Byk of SiriusXM At The Races, Ron Nicoletti of Gulfstream Park, Tom Quigley of Santa Anita and Eddie Olcyzk of NBC Sports/Xpressbet. That I’m batting leadoff obviously is not an homage to the baseball tradition of putting your fastest player at the top of the scorecard. With Beat the Host, it’s strictly about the $5 win bet each race that actually gets put into your wagering account. The real money counts as well as how those dollars stack up vs. the host for contest purposes. But we’re not talking about horses who might hit the board, just strictly winners; and that changes the handicapping dynamic. I’ll be much less interested in horses running against the apparent race shape than I normally would be. If the race looks like a speed-player’s paradise, a talented closer won’t be on my radar …. rallying along for second or third matters not. And, of course, the flipside in terms of pace. But I won’t have the luxury of seeing how the track plays, weather changes, hot connections or even the common courtesy of seeing the toteboard. You’ll know my bankroll total, my bets and how much they’ll pay as post time approaches. You get to fire at that $34 horse when you’re $32 behind. All the advantages truly are in the players’ corner vs. the host. Maybe that’s all true. Or, maybe I’m giving you my best Lou Holtz speech early in the week, telling you how much mighty Notre Dame fears their opponent from Northwest Valley Tech this Saturday? Then again, you have last year’s record to go on. And it was very much Northwest Valley Tech. Sign-up now to get in the game or to learn more about the contest: https://www.xpressbet.com/beat-the-host

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12.29.2018:

Charles Town has Saturday Mandatory Pick 6 Payout, $252,508 Carryover

It’s mandatory payout time at Charles Town as they’ve announced that their Rainbow 6 wager is in ‘everything must go’ mode on Saturday, December 29.  This is a sequence I’ve personally been chasing for the last few months, so hopefully I’ll get lucky and hit big on payout day!  The carryover into Saturday’s card is $252,508 and racing gets underway from Charles Town at 7:00PM ET.  The Pick 6 starts with Race 3, at 7:57PM ET, and includes six solid races, including a strong allowance and three races for West Virginia-bred maidens.  As always, the toughest part of these sequences is deciding which races to single and which races to go deep in.  I think I’ve found a solid mix of the two in my recommended ticket.  Here it is:  Race 3 – Maiden ClaimingThese state-bred maiden claiming races are incredibly difficult to handicap as most of the entrants hate to win races.  #2 WHY NOT ANNIE (3/1) is always well backed, but she’s 0-for-19.  #4 ACROSS AMERICA (2/1) is ‘only’ 0-for-10, but she hasn’t raced in a year.  #3 MS BEAR (9/2) ran OK in her debut at this level and she should move forward from that.  #7 LIL SWEETHEART appears best in dashes like this and I’m glad she’s outside drawn.  May want to include #1 CORKY COWGIRL (12/1) simply because she’s a first time starter and it wouldn’t take a worldbeater to win this.Pick 6 Horse(s): #1 Corky Cowgirl, #2 Why Not Annie, #3 Ms Bear, #4 Across America, #7 Lil Sweetheart Race 4 – ClaimingJeff Runco is the top trainer and he sends out #5 CHERUBIM here for his second start off the layoff.  He usually runs well at Charles Town and is 2-for-4 racing at this level.  He’s very dangerous for owner Rockingham Ranch and their famous turquoise silks.  The only other horse that would have a prayer is #6 TO THE STARS.  He romped in a muddy track race here on November 17 but he’d need an easy lead and I don’t see him getting one unless there are a few scratches. Pick 6 Horse(s): #5 Cherubim Race 5 – Maiden Special WeightHard to take the 2/1 ML price offered on #6 POSEIDON’S BLUFF (2/1) as he’s 0-for-11 at Charles Town, racing primarily in this type of race.  She’s been better of late, but there just isn’t much to like on her resume.  And if it rains, look out.  She’s worse on an off track.  #7 GATTOLOTTACHARM (3/1) is always in the picture and she seems to have slightly better credentials than POSEIDON’S BLUFF, but she’s 0-for-13 locally and, again, it’s tough to trust a horse like this.  #5 GORGEOUS ROAD hasn’t quite been able to keep up in shorter races and this could be the perfect spot for her as she stretches around two turns.Pick 6 Horse(s): #3 My Exotic Lady, #5 Gorgeous Road, #7 Gattolottacharm Race 6 – ClaimingThey’re dashing 4 1/2-furlongs in the sixth and that means we need to ticket horses that are quick early. #2 MANINTHEMOON (2/1) is a bad price and he was just beaten in a tougher race, but this field isn’t as solid.  #6 FOR THE LOVE (5/2) and #7 LIGHTS ON (9/2) drew better and will be able to pressure him throughout, so let’s go deeper than the 2/1 favorite and try to get a $10 horse home.Pick 6 Horse(s): #2 Maninthemoon, #6 For the Love, #7 Lights On Race 7 – AllowanceYou’ve almost always got to find a single or two in these wagers and my second single is #8 DARK EMPRESS (7/5). She is simply much better than this field and should win for fun.  She beat a similar field in her last race by 4-lengths at even-money.Pick 6 Horse(s): #8 Dark EmpressRace 8 – Maiden ClaimingThe nightcap/get out leg is a maiden claiming race loaded with fillies and mares that are absolutely allergic to winning.  #3 HELEN’S PITCH (9/5) is the ML favorite but she’s never hit the board in three races and wasn’t overly impressive last time out.  #7 GOT ANY QUESTIONS (4/1) is the lone first-time-starter in the field and she wouldn’t have to be much of a runner to beat these.  I’ll (almost surely) regret paying to add #5 NIK NIK’S CASTLE (7/2) to my ticket.  She’s 0-for-34 in her career but this field is just so mediocre that it’s not impossible to think #35 would be the lucky one. I’ll toss in some others because this field is so weak, but those are my big three.Pick 6 Horse(s): #2 Dawn’s House, #3 Helen’s Pitch, #5 Nik Nik’s Castle, #7 Got Any Questions, #8 Wind and StormMy TicketRace 3 – 1, 2, 3, 4, 7 Race 4 – 5Race 5 – 3, 5, 7 Race 6 – 2, 6, 7 Race 7 – 8 Race 8 – 2, 3, 5, 7, 8 Ticket Cost – $45.00

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12.29.2018:

Al Cimaglia: Dec 29: Cal Expo Pick 4 Analysis

Tonight's headliner at Cal Expo rolls in Race 4, the Bill Conlin Pace with a $8,400 purse. Conlin was a long-time sportswriter in Sacramento who passed away in 1997 at the age of 84. Conlin was an avid harness racing fan and it was one of his favorite sports to cover. The 12-race card has a 0.20 Pick 4 which begins in Race 8 and has a 16% takeout with a $40,000 guaranteed pool. That competitive sequence will be my focus as I try to improve on three out of four for Friday's ticket. The 5/10/4/5 winning combination paid $91.78 on a 0.20 wager. Last night at Cal Expo the drivers with the hottest hands were James Kennedy, Gerald Longo, Dean Magee, Luke Plano and Mooney Svendsen each recording two victories. There was not a trainer on the card who had more than one trip to the winner's circle. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Race 8 4-Gorgeous For Real-Form hasn't been great but this field may bring out the best in competitive 4-year-old. 5-Why Ask Why-Grundy drives for Plano barn, this guy appears to have a better chance than #2 which Plano owns. 7-Icy Blue Shotter-Sobey may find a better cover flow in 3rd CalX try and grind his way to the wire. Race 9 1-Dandy's Dududidudu-Needs an efficient trip and some luck. Racing better and could trip out at a price. 5-Awesum World-Looking for a more aggressive effort and should be in the hunt to the wire. 6-Nutmegs Desire-Has had consistent efforts versus the same crew and will respect connections again tonight. 8-Poorlittlerichgirl-Plano found the live cover needed in last, when 10-year-old gets good can stay that way for a while. Race 10 3-I'm Blue Too-Winner of 3 straight but this time stays at the same class, has been too good to ignore. 4-Best Dream Seeker-Price shot does best work with an up-close seat and that could be in the cards here. 5-Blue Star Maverick-Looking for 1st win since back in town, steps down to a more comfortable spot and draws well. 6-Burntisland Billy-Drops to a better level for success, could blast out and pop at long odds. Race 11 3-Bettor In The Bank-Slow starter gets a new pilot and can win at a square price if within striking range at the 1/2. 4-Justabitcrazy-Got to top and had a sharp win for Team Grundy, not much gate speed here, could get on the engine again. 9-Last Dragon-Has been facing Open Company and Lackey could get the 11-year-old a good early seat and rally late. 0.20 Pick 4 4,5,7/1,5,6,8/3,4,5,6/3,4,9 Total Bet=$28.80 Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia 

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12.29.2018:

Gulfstream Pick 4 Big on Turf, Distance

It’s about the turf and distance in the Pick 4 Saturday at Gulfstream Park. It some cases, it’s lots and lots of distance. All four races (Races 8-11) in the sequence are on the turf and range from two at 1 1-16th miles to one at 1 3-16th miles and the featured H. Allen Jerkens Stakes at a challenging two miles. The Jerkens – carded as the 10th race – has a lot of legit options, as do the first two races of the Pick 4. Anyone looking to trim the ticket could find the Tropical Park Derby (11th) as the best opportunity. Sniper Kitten and Breaking the Rules look like the most qualified to get it done. The Tropical Park Oaks starts it off in the 8th with a solid group of fillies. Too Cool to Dance is a lukewarm 7-2 morning line choice – a higher-than usual price for a Chad Brown favorite. A field of 14 is set, leaving a lot of options. Along with Too Cool to Dance, the suggested ticket includes Hogans Holiday, Andina Del Sur and Angel of Mischief. The millionaire Holy Helena is due to get back to good form, and after a long string of graded stakes appearances, she seems well suited for the Via Borghese Stakes. The 1 3-16th-mile distance is not a problem for the 2017 Queens Plate winner. She began 2018 with three straight wins – two over the Gulfstream turf – and lost her next four. While she has a class advantage, she was a distant third in two of those four and was the off-the-board in the other two. She has company on this ticket as Tricky Escape, Si Que Es Buena and Danceland are capable of getting the trip. The Jerkens has 14 runners going the 16 furlongs and Soglio is the 9-5 favorite off a nose loss to Village King in the Red Smith. Soglio is clearly worthy of inclusion on the ticket, but several in here are good turf routers. Archer Road has won four of his last six and paid $27.20 and $34 in two of those. He won a 1 1-2-mile stakes race at GP and looks like he only gets better with distance. Like Archer Road, Camp Creek is a price play in this marathon. He won going 2 1-4 miles at Woodbine and that is an eye-opener when you’re poring through past performances looking at prime candidates in a two-mile race. Nessy is the fourth on the card in the Jerkens. He’s been out of form in graded races and is likely to improve in this journey. Here’s the suggested ticket for the late Pick 4 at Gulfstream Park:Race 8) #1 Too Cool to Dance, #3 Hogans Holiday, #7 Andina Del Sur, #13 Angel of Mischief.Race 9) #3 Holy Helena, #4 Tricky Escape, #6 Si Que Es Buena., #7 Danceland.Race 10) #3 Soglio, #6 Archer Road, #8 Camp Creek, #11 Nessy.Race 11) #1 Sniper Kitten, #4 Breaking the Rules.50-cent Pick 4: 1-3-7-13 with 3-4-6-7 with 3-6-8-11 with 1-4 ($64).

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12.28.2018:

Friday, December 28: Cal Expo Pick 4 Analysis

Cal Expo begins its Winter-Spring meet tonight with a 12-race card. The feature comes in Race 5, a Fillies and Mares Open II Pace with a $6,000 purse. The 0.20 Pick 4 sequence with a $30,000 guaranteed pool starts in Race 8 and will be my focus. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Race 8 5-Surprisingly Sweet-Had a 55.3 back half in last start to sweep the field for a win at this class, major player again. 6-Gran Sam-Also scorched the 2nd half but was nipped by #5, may even the score this evening. 7-Boozer Bruiser-Slow starter could benefit from a quicker pace, there a couple who may blast out of the gate. Race 9 2-Tornado Henry-In the mix versus this bunch, Svendsen may work a better trip and find some cover. 3-Lincoln-Needs a trip but last was better than the line shows, worth a swing at 9-1 in the ML. 10-Caviart Spencer-Thinking the #8 will blast out and set a quick pace, that could work well for Kennedy's choice. Race 10 3-Firstdibbs-One move type who comes off a win by staying on the rail, fits again and could get a similar journey. 4-In For The Chase-Game win against many of these on 12/14, looking for a similar effort here. 5-Mortgage My Villa-Usually around the money and now gets Sobey the regular pilot back, can win at a square price. 6-Wizards Of Odds-2nd start for Pacheco and was Plano's choice, will respect chances. Race 11 3-Who Dat Love-Has won 2 of 4 starts for Johnson and in a spot to surprise chalks with best effort. 4-Smoke Rings-This is a better spot for Plested trainee and Svendsen should work a trip from this post. 6-Mighty Fine Hi Ho-ML chalk looking for 1st win of the meet, similar to #4 and could see a strong try tonight. My Ticket 0.20 Pick 4  Race 8) 5,6,7 Race 9) 2,3,10 Race 10) 3,4,5,6 Race 11) 3,4,6  Total Ticket Cost) $21.60 for $0.20Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia

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12.27.2018:

Eclipse the Competition

In less than a month, many in the racing industry will congregate at Gulfstream Park in balmy South Florida for the third running of the $9 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational. That rich race and a new $7 million Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational will be decided on the track and turf course, respectively. The night before the race, all industry eyes, ears, noses and throats will be riveted on the 48th Annual Eclipse Awards ceremony presented by Daily Racing Form, Breeders’ Cup and The Stronach Group. Those trinkets will be awarded according to ballots cast by members of the NTRA, Daily Racing Form and the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters. Like any industry awards banquet, the Eclipse Awards soiree features elation, disappointment and drunkenness. Witness gracious winners, sore losers and those who demand that they really don’t care about awards. Hardware holders will dance the night away. Empty-handed will exit abruptly and on the way out remind that tomorrow morning’s first set is imminent. There will be lots of speeches. Long ones, short ones, good ones and bad ones. If we’re really lucky, there will be one epically bad speech. You know the kind, where the recipient has had a cocktail or two, is awake several hours past usual bedtime and hasn’t commandeered a microphone since the youngest’s wedding day. Once they get rolling, they’re difficult to stop, bounding along Like a Super Ball down Lombard Street. It’s forgivable if at some point someone in the audience exclaims, ‘loose horse!’ But, inside Gulfstream’s Sport of Kings Ballroom, no outriders are in sight. When someone hits center stage with a mic at the Eclipse Awards it’s Katie bar the door. They might say anything…and take a long time to do it. It’s often an engaging exercise for racing insiders to handicap breeders, owners, trainers and jockeys beforehand and to assign odds on which recipient is most likely to ‘go rogue.’ It’s fun and, frankly, is the kind of innovative wager the sport ought to introduce. Oh, and don’t worry about defining the winner…at night’s conclusion, it will be obvious. In order to make an incredibly memorable donkey out of one’s self while accepting an Eclipse Award it’s a pre-requisite that one actually wins a trophy. So, in an effort to aid your Eclipse Award speech handicapping, here’s a look at one man’s opinion as to which connections might victoriously ascend the stage. Steeplechase Yours truly feels borderline unqualified to vote in this category. I haven’t seen any of the candidates race in person, on television or online. I can interpret past performance lines (although my current ADW balance might disagree), so I will offer an opinion on which horse owns the best credentials. Zanjabeel (GB) won two Grade 1 races and earned the second most money this season. In four starts, he never was worse than second. 2-Year-Old Male Game Winner is a cinch. He was unbeaten in four starts, including three Grade 1 victories. This award will propel owners Gary and Mary West and trainer Bob Baffert to center stage.  They’re certainly experienced connections, but that’s the great thing about the Eclipse Awards…you just never know what might happen! 2-Year-Old Filly This is a difficult division to call and the statuette could go to either the connections of Jaywalk or Newspaperofrecord. The former reeled off four consecutive wins, including 2 Grade 1s in the Frizette and BC Juvenile Fillies. The latter raced exclusively on turf and is unbeaten in 3 starts, including the Grade 1 BC Juvenile Fillies Turf. She is a superstar and absolutely dominated foes this season. Can’t wait to see her in ’19. But because US racing is more about dirt than turf, we’ll call Jaywalk as the winner here. That result could send Chuck Zacney and Leonard Green to the stage along with trainer John Servis. 3-Year-Old Male Justify in a romp. Let’s hope all of his connections don’t wish to speak. That would take a while. 3-Year-Old Filly Not much drama here, either. Monomoy Girl’s best. Like Justify, she also has a collection of owners, but Michael Dubb might take the mic. Get used to seeing trainer Brad Cox on stage. Chances are he’ll be accepting more of these awards in the future. Older Dirt Male Easy call in this division, too, and a chance to welcome the Hronis brothers—Kosta and Pete—to the Eclipse stage to accept Accelerate’s prize. Will be interesting to hear what they have to say, especially with the critical Horse of the Year award still to come. Kosta usually represents. Trainer John Sadler and the Hronis brothers accepted for Stellar Wind’s Eclipse in 2015. Older Dirt Female Unique Bella gets the nod here, even though she exited the scene in late July. She won 3 of 4 starts with 1 second and claimed a pair of Grade 1 wins. She’s owned by Don Alberto Stable, a Chilean-based outfit, and is trained by Hall-of-Fame resident Jerry Hollendorfer. Take note: Unassuming ‘Dorf has a surprisingly sharp sense of humor. However, he’s more difficult to coax from his shell than a frightened turtle. We can only hope. Male Sprint Lean toward Roy H, but the vote could go another way. ‘H won the Grade 1 BC Sprint and the Grade 1 Santa Anita Sprint Championship, as well as the Grade 2 Palos Verdes. He was three-quarters of a length away from winning the Dubai Golden Shaheen and was second to Ransom the Moon in the Bing Crosby, both Grade 1 races. Perhaps squeezed out of an award in this category is BC Mile winner City of Light. His 2018 sprint record isn’t outstanding, so he falls through divisional cracks. Roy H’s stablemate Stormy Liberal won four of seven starts, including the BC Turf Sprint, but his work was done on grass instead of dirt—see Newspaperofrecord. Female Sprint Marley’s Freedom gets my vote, even though she failed at short odds in the BC F&M Sprint. Rancho Santa Fe residents Ron and Barbara Perry are the owners of Cicero Farms LLC. Ron was described by TDN’s Dan Ross as, “a slick, quick talker who can marry into a dizzying stream of consciousness the seemingly unmarried jargons of the bloodstock and corporate worlds.” Now, that’s a guy I would pay to hear accept an Eclipse award. Bob Baffert trains Marley’s Freedom. Male Turf Must I vote for a horse in this division? It wasn’t North America’s finest group. I’ll defeault to Expert Eye, winner of the BC Mile in his only US start. Glorious Empire added to his solid 3-win season with a December Gulfstream score, but he didn’t show up at Churchill for the BC Turf. Catapult had a solid year—2 wins in 4 starts with 2 seconds—but he narrowly lost to Expert Eye in the Mile. ‘Eye is owned by Juddmonte and is trained by Sir Michael Stoute. Would rate those connections as rank outsiders in the race for Eclipse Award speech infamy. Female Turf Enable is best. That’s back-to-back category victories for Juddmonte. She’s trained by John Gosden, a class act and a million-to-one odds to hog the mic. Sistercharlie had a super season—4 wins and a second in 5 starts, including 4 Grade 1s. If owner Peter Brant and trainer Chad Brown end up on stage for this one, it will be OK with me. Trainer For me, it’s either Chad Brown or Bob Baffert. I’ll go with the latter because he won the Triple Crown with Justify. Training a Triple Crown winner doesn’t automatically earn an Eclipse, but it helps. What Baffert accomplished with Justify in such a short timeframe was truly amazing. Jockey Pick an Ortiz, any Oritz. We’ll go with Irad, Jr. this year. Apprentice Jockey Wow! Through 12/2/18 just 24 wins separated the top 7 apprentice riders. At this writing, Edgar Morales and Weston Hamilton lead all apprentices in earnings and wins. The former lost his bug November 16 and the latter still claims the allowance. It’s a coin flip between these two. Owner Through 12/26, Hronis Racing LLC leads all North American owners with $7,328,575. They also pay feed bills for 2018 BC Classic winner Accelerate and a host of others. It’s easy for me to vote for them as top Owners, especially since I can’t vote for Accelerate as Horse of the Year. Breeder John D. Gunther earned my vote. Through December 2, just 22 Glennwood Farm-bred runners had accounted for 29 wins out of 118 starts--7 of those wins in Graded Stakes and 4 in Grade 1s. Justify is Glennwood’s most celebrated graduate, but the tiny farm also accounted for an additional Kentucky Derby starter in Vino Rosso and a European Grade 1 success in Without Parole. It’s sometimes a difficult choice: vote for major breeders who rack up huge numbers and hundreds of starters, or go with a smaller outfit that enjoyed a sensational season? Horse of the Year Justify. If you want to know why, read this: https://www.xpressbet.com/component/content/article/11-xb360/xb-blog/3735-just-the-best  Happy New Year! Race On!

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12.27.2018:

Jon White's 2018 Eclipse Award Choices

Below is how I am planning to fill out my official Eclipse Award ballot for 2018, with the caveat that my decisions will not become absolutely final until the entire year is over. That is why I will not be submitting my ballot until after racing this Monday (Dec. 31) is completed. TWO-YEAR-OLD MALE: 1. Game Winner, 2. Improbable, 3. Maximus Mischief This was an easy vote for me. Game Winner did all that was asked of him during a campaign in which he won all four starts. After a 5 3/4-length maiden special weight victory at Del Mar on Aug. 18, he won the Grade I Del Mar Futurity by 1 1/2 lengths, Grade I American Pharoah Stakes at Santa Anita by 4 1/2 lengths and Grade I Breeders’ Cup Juvenile by 2 1/4 lengths at Churchill Downs. Improbable was three for three during the year. After a narrow maiden special weight win at Santa Anita on Sept. 29, he won the Street Sense Stakes by 7 1/4 lengths at Churchill on the Breeders’ Cup undercard and Grade I Los Alamitos CashCall Futurity by five lengths. Maximus Mischief, like Improbable, was three for three during the year. After wins at Parx Racing by 8 3/4 and six lengths, he registered a 2 1/4-length triumph in the Grade II Remsen Stakes at Aqueduct. TWO-YEAR-OLD FEMALE: 1. Jaywalk, 2. Newspaperofrecord, Chasing Yesterday It was a difficult decision to go with either Jaywalk or Newspaperofrecord. Jaywalk finished second at first asking at Monmouth Park, then reeled off four consecutive victories. In her final two starts of the year, she won with authority at the Grade I level. She took the Grade I Frizette by 5 3/4 lengths at Belmont Park and Grade I BC Juvenile Fillies. Newspaperofrecord actually impressed me more than Jaywalk. Newspaperofrecord was dazzling while winning each of her three 2018 starts, all on the grass. After a 6 3/4-length maiden special weight win at Saratoga on Aug. 19, she took the Grade II Miss Grillo by 6 1/2 lengths at Belmont and Grade I BC Juvenile Fillies Turf by 6 3/4 lengths. But what Jaywalk accomplished on the dirt trumped what Newspaperofrecord on the turf in terms of my vote in this category. Except Chasing Yesterday’s hiccup when she finished seventh in the Grade I Spinaway Stakes at Saratoga, the daughter of Tapit was perfect in 2018. The half-sister to Triple Crown winner American Pharoah took the Anoakia Stakes at Santa Anita, Desi Arnaz Stakes at Del Mar and Grade I Starlet Stakes at Los Alamitos. THREE-YEAR-OLD MALE: 1. Justify, 2. Catholic Boy, McKinzie Justify burst on the scene with a 9 1/2-length maiden special weight win when unveiled at Santa Anita on Feb. 18. He then won an allowance/optional claiming race by 6 1/2 lengths in the mud at Santa Anita on March 11. After that, he rattled off four straight Grade I victories. He won the Grade I Santa Anita Derby by three lengths, Grade I Kentucky Derby by 2 1/2 lengths on a sloppy track, Grade I Preakness Stakes by a half-length on another sloppy strip and Grade I Belmont Stakes by 1 3/4 lengths. He became America’s 13th Triple Crown winner. Catholic Boy had the class and versatility to post Grade I victories on both turf and dirt in 2018. He won the Grade I Belmont Derby on the grass and Grade I Travers Stakes at Saratoga on the dirt. McKinzie won the Grade I Pennsylvania Derby at Parx, then finished 12th in the BC Classic. He rebounded from his disappointing performance in the BC Classic with a resounding 4 3/4-length victory in the Grade I Malibu Stakes at Santa Anita. THREE-YEAR-OLD FEMALE: 1. Monomoy Girl, 2. Midnight Bisou, 3. Rushing Fall This was an easy choice for me. Monomoy Girl had an outstanding 2018 campaign, winning six times and finishing second once in seven starts. She won the Grade II Rachel Alexandra Stakes at the Fair Grounds, Grade I Ashland Stakes at Keeneland, Grade I Kentucky Oaks at Churchill, Grade I Acorn Stakes at Belmont, Grade I Coaching Club American Oaks at Saratoga and Grade I BC Distaff. Monomoy Girl’s lone 2018 defeat came when, in a controversial decision by the Stewards, she finished first but was disqualified and placed second in the Grade I Cotillion at Parx. Midnight Bisou was a dual Grade I winner in 2018. She was awarded the victory in the Grade I Cotillion via Monomoy Girl’s DQ. Midnight Bisou also won the Grade I Santa Anita Oaks. However, Monomoy Girl defeated Midnight Bisou in the Grade I Kentucky Oaks, Grade I CCA Oaks and Grade I BC Distaff. I gave the nod to Rushing Fall over Shamrock Rose for third. They both won a Grade I race this year. Rushing Fall took the Grade I Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup on the turf at Keeneland. Shamrock Rose won the Grade I BC Filly & Mare Sprint. OLDER DIRT MALE: 1. Accelerate, 2. City of Light, 3. Gun Runner Accelerate had a terrific 2018. He won the Grade II San Pasqual Stakes at Santa Anita in February, Grade I Santa Anita Handicap in March, Grade I Gold Cup at Santa Anita in May, Grade I Pacific Classic by a record 12 1/2 lengths at Del Mar in August and Grade I Awesome Again Stakes at Santa Anita in September. And then, for icing on the cake, he won the Grade I BC Classic in November. City of Light handed Accelerate his lone 2018 defeat. That was when City of Light took the Grade II Oaklawn Handicap by a neck in April, with Accelerate having to settle for second. But when they met in the Gold Cup at Santa Anita, Accelerate beat City of Light. Accelerate won five Grade I races in 2018 compared to two Grade I victories for City of Light (Triple Bend Stakes at Santa Anita and BC Dirt Mile). At the Breeders’ Cup, Accelerate won the biggest race, the Classic, compared to City of Light’s triumph in the Dirt Mile. As for third in this category, I opted for Gun Runner, who won the Grade I Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream in his lone 2018 start. I gave him the nod over Diversify, whose only Grade I win in 2018 came in the Whitney Stakes at Saratoga. OLDER DIRT FEMALE: 1. Unique Bella, 2. Abel Tasman, 3. Wow Cat Not a strong year for this category. Unique Bella ran only four times in 2018, but that still was once more than Forever Unbridled when she was voted the 2017 Eclipse Award as champion older dirt female. Unique Bella won the Grade II Santa Maria Stakes and Grade I Beholder Mile, both at Santa Anita, as well as the Grade I Clement L. Hirsch Stakes at Del Mar. Her sole 2018 loss came when she finished second in the Grade I Apple Blossom Handicap at Oaklawn Park. After Abel Tasman won back-to-back Grade I races, the Ogden Phipps Stakes at Belmont and Personal Ensign Stakes at Saratoga, she became the favorite to get the 2019 Eclipse Award in this category. But then she went off form, losing the Grade I Zenyatta Stakes at Santa Anita by 10 1/2 lengths and Grade I BC Distaff by 22 lengths. Wow Cat won the Grade I Beldame Stakes at Belmont by 3 1/2 lengths. She then proved that victory was not a fluke by finishing a respectable second in the BC Distaff. MALE SPRINTER: 1. Roy H, 2. Imperial Hint, 3. Army Mule Roy H was an easy choice. He captured the Grade II Palos Verdes Stakes and Grade I Santa Anita Sprint Championship at the Great Race Place before becoming a repeat Breeders’ Cup winner in the Grade I Sprint. Imperial Hint also was a double Grade I winner in 2018. He took the Alfred G. Vanderbilt Stakes at Saratoga and Vosburgh Stakes at Belmont before finishing third behind Roy H and Whitmore in the Grade I BC Sprint. Army Mule only started twice in 2018, but he ran lights out both times. He won a six-furlong allowance/optional claiming race at Gulfstream by 7 1/2 lengths in 1:08.87 and the Grade I Carter Handicap at Aqueduct when he sped seven furlongs in 1:20.94. FEMALE SPRINTER: 1. Shamrock Rose, 2. Marley’s Freedom, 3. Finley’sluckycharm Shamrock Rose lost her first three starts of 2018, then won four straight. In her final two outings of the year, she took the Grade II Raven Run Stakes at Keeneland and Grade I BC Filly & Mare Sprint in a 25-1 upset. Marley’s Freedom was sent away as the 4-5 favorite in the BC Filly & Mare Sprint. She finished fourth, a half-length behind the victorious Shamrock Rose. Marley’s Freedom’s biggest 2018 win came in the Grade I Ballerina Stakes at Saratoga. Finely’sluckycharm won a pair of graded stakes races during the year. She took the Grade I Madison at Keeneland and Grade II Honorable Miss Handicap at Saratoga. MALE TURF: 1. Expert Eye, 2. Heart to Heart, 3. Stormy Liberal This category, for me, is a real head-scratcher this year. Inasmuch as no male grass performer in this country became a clear leader in the male turf division, I decided to go with Expert Eye, who shipped from Europe to win the Grade I BC Mile. Heart to Heart did win two Grade I races during the year (Gulfstream Park Turf and Maker’s 46 Mile at Keeneland). Yes, Stormy Liberal is a sprinter. But he did win four in a row. His most significant victories came in the Grade III Eddie D. Stakes at Santa Anita and Grade I BC Turf Sprint at Churchill. FEMALE TURF: 1. Sistercharlie, 2. Enable, 3. Uni I voted for Expert Eye as champion male turf runner even though he ran only once in this country. While Enable was extremely impressive in winning the Grade I BC Turf in her only U.S. start, the big difference in the female turf division is Sistercharlie won four Grade I races in this country this year (Jenny Wiley at Keeneland, Diana at Saratoga, Beverly D. at Arlington Park and BC Filly & Mare Turf). What Enable accomplished to win all three of her starts this year was nothing short of sensational. After winning a Group III race at 1 1/2 miles in England in a 2018 debut delayed by a knee injury, she became a rare two-time winner of the Group I Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in France. And then Enable became the first horse to win both the Arc and the BC Turf in the same year. Found won both races, but not in the same year. Found took the BC Turf in 2015 and the Arc in 2016. Uni was four for four during the year. Her two graded stakes wins came in the Grade III Noble Damsel at Belmont and Grade I Matriarch at Del Mar. STEEPLECHASE: 1. Zanjabeel, 2. Jury, 3. Optimus Prime. TRAINER: 1. Bob Baffert, 2. Chad Brown, 3. Brad Cox. JOCKEY: 1. Irad Ortiz Jr., 2. Jose Ortiz, 3. Mike Smith. APPRENTICE JOCKEY: 1. Edgar Morales, 2. Weston Hamilton, 3. Asseal Espinoza. OWNER: 1. Hronis Racing, 2. WinStar Farm & China Horse Club & Starlight Racing & Head of Plains Partners, 3. Peter Brant. BREEDER: 1. WinStar Farm, 2. Besilu Stables, 3. Fred W. Hertrich III & John D. Fielding. HORSE OF THE YEAR: 1. Justify, 2. Accelerate, 3. Monomoy Girl. When people look back 10, 20, 50 or even 100 years from now, what will they remember most from what took place on the American racing stage in 2018? Will they remember 2018 for being the year that Accelerate won the Breeders’ Cup Classic? I believe there is a much better chance they will remember 2018 for being the year that Justify became the first Triple Crown winner in the history of the sport who did not race as a 2-year-old. What one race does everyone in this country want to win the most? It’s the Kentucky Derby. And what does everyone in American racing want to accomplish even more than win the Kentucky Derby? It’s to win the Triple Crown, which is exactly what Justify did. Sir Barton in 1919, Gallant Fox in 1930 and Omaha in 1935 won the Triple Crown prior to Granville becoming Daily Racing Form’s first Horse of the Year in 1937. Since Granville, all nine Triple Crown winners prior to this year have been voted that season’s Horse of the Year. Has the Triple Crown lost stature since 1978? Would you not think that after the older Seattle Slew beat Affirmed both times they met in 1978, it was Seattle Slew who was voted Horse of the Year? Nope. Thanks mainly to the importance attached to a Triple Crown sweep, 1978 Triple Crown winner Affirmed was voted that season’s Horse of the Year despite twice finishing behind Seattle Slew that fall. In terms of who should be the 2018 Horse of the Year, some feel it’s a big deal that Accelerate raced from Feb. 3 to Nov. 3. But how many races did Accelerate win this year? He won six, the same number as Justify, who crammed those victories into a time frame from Feb. 18 to June 9. Accelerate did win five Grade I races, one more than Justify. Thus, the edge does go to Accelerate as far as that goes. But Accelerate did not have an unblemished record. He did lose once, whereas nobody defeated Justify in 2018. Some now knock Justify by saying he didn’t beat much. Granted, the leading 3-year-old males of 2018 did not cover themselves in glory during the second half of the season. But I would not say that Accelerate exactly beat a who’s who of racing in 2018, either. Accelerate did win four times at what is often referred to as the classic American distance of 1 1/4 miles. That’s impressive. But I think it’s also impressive that Justify managed to win at distances ranging from seven furlongs to 1 1/2 miles. Accelerate deserves credit for all his wins coming in races either for 3-year-olds and upward or 4-year-olds and upward, whereas all of Justify’s victory came in races restricted to 3-year-olds. It certainly would strengthen Justify’s case to be voted Horse of the Year if he had won a race against his elders, a la fellow 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, who concluded his racing career with an emphatic 6 1/2-length triumph vs. older foes in the BC Classic. But while Justify raced exclusively against 3-year-olds, he does deserve praise for becoming the first Kentucky Derby winner who did not race at 2 since Apollo in 1882. Not only that, Justify set a couple of Triple Crown records when he won the Belmont Stakes. Justify now holds the record for defeating the most opponents in the Belmont Stakes of any Triple Crown winner. This is how many opponents the 13 Triple Crown winners have defeated in the Belmont: 9 Justify (2018) 7 American Pharoah (2015) 7 Seattle Slew (1977) 7 Citation (1948) 6 Assault (1946) 6 War Admiral (1937) 4 Affirmed (1978) 4 Secretariat (1973) 4 Omaha (1935) 3 Whirlaway (1941) 3 Gallant Fox (1930) 2 Count Fleet (1943) 2 Sir Barton (1919) Justify also now holds the record for defeating the most total starters in the three Triple Crown races. This is how many starters combined each Triple Crown defeated in the series: 35 Justify (2018) 32 War Admiral (1937) 31 American Pharoah (2015) 31 Assault (1946) 29 Seattle Slew (1977) 28 Omaha (1935) 27 Gallant Fox (1930) 24 Sir Barton (1919) 21 Secretariat (1973) 20 Affirmed (1978) 20 Whirlaway (1941) 15 Citation (1948) 14 Count Fleet (1943) I don’t disagree that both Justify and Accelerate boast a Horse of the Year resume. But if there had been no American Pharoah and Justify had ended a 40-year Triple Crown drought, I think Justify would have been a slam-dunk to be voted Horse of the Year. In other words, Justify is paying something of a price for coming along so soon after American Pharoah swept the Triple Crown in 2015. Is this fair to Justify? My 2018 Horse of the Year vote pretty much boils down to what Southern California handicapper Bob Ike said when discussing Accelerate vs. Justify a few weeks ago. “Accelerate had a true Horse of the Year campaign,” Ike said. “But Justify had a historic campaign.”

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12.27.2018:

Al Cimaglia: Dec 27-Meadowlands Pick 4 Analysis

Tonight's feature at the Meadowlands rolls in Race 6, a $25,000 claiming pace for three and four-year-olds with a $12,500 purse. The 0.50 Pick 5 has a $25,000 guaranteed pool and the sequence begins in Race 2. The 0.50 Pick 4 starts in Race 7, it has a $35,000 guaranteed pool with a 15% takeout and will be my focus. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Race 7 1-CC Big Boy Sam-Back down to the class of recent success, gets a favorable post and will be tough if fires. 3-An The Thunderrolls-Tries the big track after recent sharp efforts, if the trip sets-up could pop at a square price. 6-Drunken Terror-Knows how to compete at the Big M and will use at 10-1 in the ML. Race 8 2-Smooth Mocha-Racing well and comes off a sharp win in the slop, and encore could be in the cards. 4-Spanish Art-Was caught by #2 in last after a giant try from the 8-hole, major player tonight. Race 9 5-Redline Rusty-Camera shy 3-year-old had a nice effort from 8-hole in slop, will take a swing at 15-1 in the ML. 6-Dancing Rusty-1st start for Lounsbury barn, looking for some improvement and will respect versus this crew. 9-About The Benjamns-Has gate speed and start will be key. Needs an aggressive steer for best chance to win. Race 10 3-That's My Opinion-Has been off since 12/4 but has won 22% of Big M starts and this isn't a group of all-stars. 4-Frankie Boy-In from RcR and will need best effort to win but has the post for Dunn to keep in striking range. 5-Bright Future-Last in the slop was good for a horse that doesn't relish the goo, best to respect Husted trainee. 6-Always A Diamond-Philly invader drops, has a 52.3 mark here and should like the company. 0.50 Pick 4 1,3,6/2,4/5,6,9/3,4,5,6 Total Bet=$36 Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia

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12.27.2018:

Santa Anita Saturday Full Card Picks feat. American Oaks & Frankel Stakes

Santa Anita’s Opening Day card is in the books and, from a wagering perspective, it couldn’t have gone any smoother.  Handle was up a remarkable 18.5% over last year, with huge fields and exciting finishes.  It was great to see McKinzie strut his stuff in the Malibu and I can’t wait to see what he’s able to accomplish in 2019.  Pegasus? Dubai? Breeders’ Cup? Have to assume all options are on the table.But enough about Opening Day.  Let’s take a look at Saturday, where a pair of graded stakes races headline the card.  Three-year-old fillies are on display in the Grade 1 American Oaks and older fillies and mares look for Grade 3 glory in the Robert J. Frankel Stakes.  From a betting perspective, there is a $1,000,000 Single Winner Guarantee on the 20-cent Rainbow Pick 6 and the Early and Late Pick 4 will surely be popular bets for horseplayers.  Plus, the Early Pick 5 has an industry low 14% takeout that can’t be ignored.First post at Santa Anita is 3:00PM ET.  Here are my picks.  Race 1 – Maiden Special WeightTough little turf MSW to start off the card and the problem I see is none of these have really ever run a race that screams ‘bet me next time!’ Horses like MY SWEET BABOO, MERCY MERCY, STYLIN OCEAN and HELLO BUBBLES have all been relatively flat down the lane…and they’re the favorites.  What if we take a bit of a shot with TRUFFALINO?  She broke slowly in her debut at Del Mar on November 10 and pretty much raced with the field throughout.  She wasn’t bet much that day but perhaps she’ll run better this time around.  The price should be right.1. Truffalino (12/1)2. Hello Bubbles (4/1)3. My Sweet Baboo (5/2)Race 2 – Claiming Tyler Baze is a phenomenal gate jockey and he just seems to have the ability to comfortably put his horses in front.  If he can do that here with CAIIFORNIA CLONE, they might be tough to catch.  He sent her to the front in a similar race at Los Alamitos last out, but she got tired that day and couldn’t quite hold on.  This is her second start off the layoff and let’s see what she has in the tank this time around.  Joel Rosario picks up the mount on FACTS MATTER and that’s the one I’d use in the Exacta with CAIIFORNIA CLONE.  1. Caiifornia Clone (7/2)2. Facts Matter (2/1)3. Rolls Royce Deal (12/1)Race 3 – Maiden ClaimingCalifornia-breds take center stage and I’m putting my money on NAOMI FRALEY, who goes out for Bill Morey after a solid debut at Los Alamitos.  She only missed by a length and a half that day and earned a decent Beyer (55) in the process.  That’s the highest dirt figure of anyone in the field.  COMEGOWITHME adds Lasix and should be on the front from the outside, so I’m intrigued by that one, along with A DIME FOR ME, who ran well in her debut on November 30 at Del Mar.1. Naomi Fraley (3/1)2. A Dime for Me (5/1)3. Comegowithme (8/1)Race 4 – Grade 3 Robert J. Frankel Stakes ($150,000)Interesting race as the two fillies that have dominated this division of late, Vasilika and Cambodia, aren’t signed on.  FAHAN MURA probably has the most raw talent of these, but she’s practically a runoff speedster and this distance is pushing her limit. She does love Santa Anita (5-for-6 here in her career) but she’s just impossible to trust. EXCELLENT SUNSET is probably a safer bet.  She finished ahead of several of these in the Kathryn Crosby at Del Mar in November and just got swallowed up in a massive field last out in the Grade 1 Matriarch as she attempted to close from last.  She’ll have a better go of it this time around.  1. Excellent Sunset (7/2)2. Escape Clause (7/2)3. Fahan Mura (5/2)Race 5 – ClaimingAs a bettor, Bill Spawr is a trainer I’ve come to appreciate.  His horses always just seem to be well placed and they always seem to run how they should.  He doesn’t have the deepest or most talented barn on the Santa Anita backside, but his horses do well.  His entrant here, MATRICULATE, is 4-for-16 at Santa Anita and he got a good sharpener last out at Del Mar after breaking from the rail.  He moves to a better post this time (#5) and is the likeliest of these in my book.  PAPA TURF is the only other horse I’m looking at.  I loved his win two back here, but it’s interesting that he made the lead so easily that day and has never really done that in the last year.  I think he needs to make the front in order to win and MONTEREY SHALE, BOY HOWDY or WHISKEY GINGER could beat him to the punch.    1. Matriculate (7/2)2. Will Tell (8/1)3. Whiskey Ginger (5/1)Race 6 – Claiming Let’s go all or nothing with Isidro Tamayo’s J T’S A.T.M., who bring a precarious ‘need the lead’ style to this race.  He’s been running up at Golden Gate in tougher races and this is actually the first time they’ve entered him for a tag.  He has enough speed to go to the front early and if he’s able to shake clear, I don’t know if I see anyone in here besides MADARNAS that can catch him late.  And that one is far out of form and may not be ready to run anything close to a winning race.1. J T’s A.T.M. (5/1)2. Treasure Hunter (4/1)3. Madarnas (5/1)Race 7 – Maiden Claiming GLEYBER hasn’t had much luck in his career as he’s now made the front three times before plummeting back through the field.  Granted, those races came against open MSW competition and now he drops in for a $30,000 claiming tag, so he’ll do better here.  VIOLENT BEHAVIOR gets a little extra ground after coming up just short in two straight races and I think she’s a logical top pick.  Impossible to pick a first-time starter in a race like this without seeing the horse but have to think BACHCHAN may have a say here.  He’s a homebred for Kaleem Shah and before we worry too much about starting his career in for a tag, he’s a modestly bred son of Concord Point and Shah might just be trying to get some good numbers into the stallion.  1. Violent Behavior (7/2)2. Bachchan (10/1)3. Gleyber (6/1)Race 8 – Grade 1 American Oaks ($300,000)Really nice edition of this race with PAVED getting back in against three-year-olds after making her last two starts against Grade 1 older fillies and mares.  She ran great to split Vasilika and Cambodia in the Rodeo Drive Stakes here but was no match for the world’s best in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf on November 3.  That’s OK, though.  Nobody in here is that good and she’s the filly to beat on paper.  The only concern is a lack of speed, which could benefit CALIFORNIAGOLDRUSH.  She made an early move to win the Grade 2 Sands Point at Saratoga in September and the only concern is whether she’ll be ready off the layoff.  My colleague, Jeremy Plonk, sees this race a little differently.  Here is his analysis and $100 betting strategy as part of his Xpressbet Race of the Week article.  1. Paved (3/1)2. Californiagoldrush (5/2)3. Colonia (6/1)Race 9 – Starter Allowance Have to expect this field will be scorching the track early, so my approach is to either bet the ‘speed of the speed’ or focus on a closer that can pass horses.  Not sold on many of the speed horses, so I’ll look for the latter.  KID CANTINA will take some money due to a ‘troubled’ chart comment in his last but I think you could argue that he balked at going through a hole up the inside and he didn’t really explode when they found racing room.  MAYAN WARRIOR nearly won a much tougher turf race at Del Mar, but what does that mean for today?  He doesn’t have to have the lead, but his inside draw (Post 2) could force their hand.  ORACLE OF OMAHA drew best and should get a good tracking trip from behind the speed.  1. Oracle of Omaha (5/2)2. Mayan Warrior (5/1)3. Kid Cantina (6/1)Race 10 – Maiden Claiming This is a nice little turf dash down the hill and I think STORMING LADY has a huge chance to take this field gate-to-wire.  I hate betting maidens who continue to fail as the favorite (just as this filly has) but she should get a great setup here.  Plus, I love the jockey switch to Joel Rosario.  STRENGTHINNUMBERS could complete a very formful Exacta. She’s run well here before but she’s pace dependent and I just have a hard time betting closers on this course.  Of the more ‘under the radar’ horses, how about BREEZY BEE? She ran great off a year-long layoff at Del Mar and will move forward here.  1. Storming Lady (3/1)2. Breezy Bee (6/1)3. Strengthinnumbers (7/2)

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12.26.2018:

Weekly Bankroll Builder: December 28 Stronach 5 Picks

The Stronach 5, guaranteed at 50k, becomes that much more appealing this week, as the Great Race Place—Santa Anita—has opened and will be adding an influx of solid races to the fray, while also (hopefully) offering some fast and firm ones as well. 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 R10 (4:41 ET) – 3up 16k N2L at 1 1/16 miles (turf) The opener is a toughie, as it’s littered with several who look the same on paper, a sketchy favorite, and a few class droppers that hate winning, which spells “spread” to me. If nothing else, #5 JEGOS FIRE woke way up on the barn change to Lerman last time and had a ton of trouble too, so he’s a must-use. The same goes with the dropping #3 GOLDEN DECISION, who may be 1-for-23 lifetime, but has been facing better and owns the best figures too, as well as #9 SOMETHING BIRD, who is 1-for-20 but gets Irad and is another with “big” figures and drops too. I’ll also use #11 BLASPHEMY, who has run very well in both turf starts for Fawkes and doesn’t come out of any of the races his main rivals do, which isn’t a bad thing at all (only this post keeps him from being a lot higher on the list). To get a bit more coverage let’s toss in #6 SKY KNIGHT, who wasn’t far behind ‘Fire last time and has run big in his last two on turf, as well as #7 STURGEON, who has some serious speed and was 4th, just a neck behind ‘Knight last time. Pk5 A horses (listed in order of preference): 5,3,9,11,6,7 *** PLEASE NOTE that to keep the cost of the backups tickets down, I’ll only use 5,3,9,11 as the A’s on those tickets. *** There will be no backups here, since I’ll take the mindset that if I can’t get through with six of them, then I don’t deserve to win anyway. Pk5 B horses: NONE Leg 2: Gulfstream Park R11 (5:12 ET) – 2f 20k MCL at 1 1/16 miles (turf) I don’t know if #4 BALLY SQUALL is the smartest single but she gets the nod, as she has been meeting tons better in Kentucky and her lone turf run was against MSW foes on debut, something that McPeek never wins at with turfers, so this drop is a seismic one. Pk5 A horses: 4 When you single in a race like this it usually means you could use a fleet of backups, but that’s simply not cost-conducive, so we’ll keep it at a minimum and go with #1 MESA MADEIRA, who was a good 2nd at the level last time, #8 NARROWS BRIDGE, a speedy sort who was a close 3rd to that one, and #5 BEGIN, who lures Irad and gets back to the turf for De La Cerda. Pk5 B horses: 1,8,5 Leg 3: Golden Gate Fields R4 (5:15 ET) – 3up 5k MCL at 5 furlongs I love taking lightly raced runners who have yet to show they are allergic to winning in races like these, so it’s easy to land on #5 HARLEY’S PRIDE, who drops stiffly in class, has run well in both local starts, and is just 0-for-3 lifetime; you could do worse than singling here. however, with McCanna hitting at 17% with firsters and #4 KIAWAH KING showing a slew of works for his debut, he’s going to be on the top line as well, since he won’t have to be a monster to have a bug say here. Pk5 A horses: 5,4 I’m not going to use anyone else here, as the next logicals are #8 Dynamic Duo and #10 Starting Lineup, who were 2-3, respectively, in a 12/7 race at the level here, but are also a combined 0-for-54, so there’s no way they get any of my money. If you do want someone out of that race then it’s probably #7 Oureaglehaslanded, as he sped off to a 3-length lead and wasn’t beaten much by either when 4th, and has run “just” eight times, though it’s unlikely the top choice lets him get that far away early this time. Pk5 B horses: NONE Leg 4: Santa Anita R5 (5:30 ET) – 3upm 12.5k N2L at 6 furlongs A slight drop in class and a fast main track should both help #6 DESIRED EDGE, since he didn’t fire while tackling winners at LRC last time but likely wins this off that MCL win two-back. The other most likely winner is #10 ONE UPPER, who has big figures but spots a bit of an edge to the top pick, as he’s the one taking on winners for the first time today. Pk5 A horses: 6,10 Its tough to really like anyone else after the top-2, though #3 PEACHY did show some life when a distant 2nd last time, will get more speed to rally into on the cutback to one-turn today, and should have a bit more late focus with the blinkers added too, so let’s use her in a supporting roll. Pk5 B horses: 3 Leg 5: Santa Anita R6 (6:00 ET) – 3up Optional-Claimer at 1 1/8 miles (turf) It’s no surprise the finale is impossible, as this kind of race out west usually is, so this is another where spreading as deep as your bankroll allows is the way to go. Starting with the pace and working backwards finds us seemingly with enough of it, as 5,6,9 all figure to be energetic early, so I’ll side towards the stalker/closers who have shown they can pass runners late. That list starts with #1 STARTING BLOC, who was a fast-closing 2nd at the level last time, in a fast race on paper to boot, and will save all the ground here, though he does cut back in distance. I’m worried a cutback in distance won’t help #3 YA GOTTA WANNA either, but with Plat riding it helps alleviate the worry on a runner who was GII-placed two-back. The drop from the graded ranks will obviously agree with #6 KAZAN, and he will be flying late, but it is worth nothing those races were against 3yos only, and he does meet older today. If there is a piece of the pace puzzle that may survive it’s #4 WHOOP WHOOP, who chased a crazy pace last time, made first run, and was a close 3rd, just a length behind ‘Bloc, so he’ll obviously relish the cutback here too. Pk5 A horses: 1,3,6,4 *** PLEASE NOTE that to keep the cost of the Leg 2 backup ticket down, I’ll only use 1,3 as the A’s on those tickets. *** I’m not sure if #2 ECKERSLEY is good enough, but he’s another who will like the pace and save all the ground, so I’ll toss him and his late rally in at a nice price. Pk5 B horses: 2 The tickets: Main Ticket: 5,3,9,11,6,7 with 4 with 5,4 with 6,10 with 1,3,6,4 = $96Leg 2 B Backup: 5,3,9,11 with 1,8,5 with 5,4 with 6,10 with 1,3 = $96Leg 4 B Backup: 5,3,9,11 with 4 with 5,4 with 3 with 1,3,6,4 = $32Leg 5 B Backup: 5,3,9,11 with 4 with 6,10 with 2 = $8

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12.26.2018:

Wednesday, December 26: Woodbine Mohawk Park Late Pick 4 Picks

It's Boxing Day in Canada which means Woodbine Mohawk Park has an 11-race card on tap with the first post at 1:00 PM EST. The headliners this afternoon are the Niagara Final in Race 6 and the Valley Victory Final which goes postward in Race 9. The action starts in Race 1 with the 0.20 Pick 5 which has a $50,000 guaranteed pool. The 0.20 Early Pick 4 rolls in Race 4 and it also has a $50,000 guaranteed pool. My focus will be on the Late Pick 4 sequence which begins in Race 8. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Race 8 1-Fly Beyond-Looking for a more aggressive start, knows how to win and should be in the hunt versus this group. 2-On A Sunny Day-Program chalk makes 3rd start on Lasix, draws well and last was better. 5-Meadowbranch Memo-If in striking range at the 1/2 could surprise this crew at double digit odds. 6-Major Muscle-Made most of a great trip and notched 6th victory of year, could handle class hike at a nice price. Race 9 4-Legal Power-McNair's choice over 2, likes the engine but hasn't been able to last, main foe of #6, will respect. 6-Phantom Seelster-Winner of 5 straight against this kind does just enough to win and is a must use. Race 10 2-Etruscan Hanover-Caught a great trip into a slow pace, maybe a wake-up call win, and fits with this bunch. 3-Try Try Again-Takes a good drop, this is a spot to shine but has found ways to lose, no excuses allowed now. 4-Mystical Mission-Racing better and could handle the bump up in class, lots of question marks in this race. 8-Hemi Seelster-1st start off bench was against better, can get on the engine versus these and control race. Race 11 1-Captain Dragon-Spotty form but at 10-1 in the ML may get sucked around and sweep by down the lane. 4-Mister Godrow-1st start for Giles barn and JMac may fit this horse to a tee, will use at a square price. 6-Osiris Blue Chip-Similar effort as win back on 11/22 could be enough, has had excuses. 8-Shadow Of Lindy-Took back in last in the slop, can blast out to get on the engine, has the best gate speed. 0.20 Late Pick 4 1,2,5,6/4,6/2,3,4,8/1,4,6,8 Total Bet=$25.60 Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia

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12.23.2018:

Dec 23: Pompano Park Pick 4 Analysis

Tonight, the feature at Pompano Park rolls in Race 8, an Open II Pace with a $9,000 purse. My focus will be on the 0.50 Pick 4 sequence which begins in Race 6, it has a $15,000 guaranteed pool and a low 12% takeout. Last night at Mohawk, there was a dead heat for fourth place in the Jackpot Hi-5 race. The 5-8-1-6-12 combination paid $6,750.61 on a 0.20 bet, while the 5-8-1-12-6 ticket returned $8,166.66. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Race 6 1-PC's Alleyway-Has been giving up the lead late, maybe can find a soft 1/4 and this is not a strong bunch. 5-Crazy Ponda-Not sure about the 9/5 ML, 1-27 is an issue but still fits with this bunch. 6-Skyway Priss-Off since 12-2, winner of 3 of 10 in 2018 should be in the hunt if ready in a formless race. 9-Fair Glider-Looking for a price and 10-1 shot could grind it out in 2nd start for new trainer. Race 7 1-Modern Reflection-Steps up after a nice try, can win with best effort and should be a square price. 2-The Onlyest One-Comes off a sick scratch and makes 3rd start for Oakes. Last was better and best to respect. 8-Waikiki Beach A-Even effort in 1st PPk but was off 3 weeks. Looking for better, has gate speed to get a good seat. Race 8 1-Sporty Redhot-Winner of last 2 and Hennessey's choice, steps up but likes the engine and draws the wood. 2-Mc Mach-Steps up after a nice win and now gets post relief, Plano could work a trip from here. 4-Andreios Kardia-Beaten chalk raced well off a sick scratch, cold be sitting on a big try. Race 9 3-Bowedfortyova-Raced well in a dash after being off a few weeks, gets Campbell back and should be tighter. 4-E R Melvin-Drops and has been trying hard, could win this at a square price with a trip. 0.50 Pick 4 1,5,6,9/1,2,8/1,2,4/3,4 Total Bet=$36 Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia

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12.23.2018:

Navigating Wednesday's Santa Anita Opener

Wednesday’s opening day card at Santa Anita includes a late pick five that boasts a quartet of graded stakes races. A 14-horse capacity Grade 1 Malibu highlights the sequence, and it’s a field size of that magnitude that makes this pick five as potentially rewarding as it is daunting. Let’s take it from the top. The Grade 1 La Brea for 3-year-old fillies opens the sequence. Unbeaten Dream Tree is 5-for-5 and likely closes in the 7-to-5 or 8-to-5 range. The chief challenge comes from Wesley Ward shipper Happy Like A Fool. It’s hard to get beyond 2-deep in this leg. Sophomore turf milers are up next in the Grade 2 Mathis Brothers Mile. French import Sejo makes his first start for John Sadler, while Todd Pletcher and Steve Asmussen bring the up-and-down Gidu and Combatant west. That trio provides a fresh attack on west coast divisional stalwart River Boyne. He’s been so tough in these ranks all season. Elder handicap division runners meet in the Grade 2 San Antonio. Battle of Midway appears to have gotten his A-game back after a couple rehearsals off the comeback. He and Dabster rematch off a head decision at Del Mar in the Native Diver. Battle of Midway has done his best running at Santa Anita and figures the stronger of the two this time again. In fact, this would be my single. The 16 candles on the Grade 1 Malibu cake will be limited to 14, but you have to be impressed with the massive field size collected. McKinzie likely goes favored, but the reduction to 7 furlongs certainly opens the door. Trainer Bob Baffert even sends out reinforcements with Nero, Solomini and Ax Man (not to mention AE Super Sol). Don’t sleep on the talented sprinter Copper Bullet for Steve Asmussen. The recent history of the Malibu has leaned much more to sprinters than the distance sorts looking for a Grade 1 swan song at 3. That’s where I’ll focus. The finale is a 1-1/8 miles turf allowance with another large field of 12. Deep closer Avalanche has drawn wide in the 12-hole, but with his running style that can be an edge as he avoids all the horses scrumming for position and settles closer to the rail by the clubhouse turn. Horses drawn inside here have the speed and could hook up, setting the table for a closer. I’ll blend the top late runners with the best of the front pack. Here’s my suggested ticket for Santa Anita’s Wednesday late pick five. Race 6) #5 Dream Tree, #1 Happy Like a Fool Race 7) #5 River Boyne, #1 Sejo, #3 Gidu, #10 Shivermetimbers Race 8) #2 Battle of Midway Race 9) #3 Copper Bullet, #5 Identity Politics, #8 Nero Race 10) #12 Avalanche, #9 Red King, #4 Acker 50-cent Pick 5: 5-1 with 5-1-3-10 with 2 with 3-5-8 with 12-9-4 ($36 ticket)

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12.22.2018:

Harness Highlights: Dan Patch Divisional Champs Named

For the 12 days of Christmas, the U.S. Harness Writers Association announced six champion pacers and trotters of 2018. The winners, to be honored at the Dan Patch Awards banquet in Orlando in February, are: OLDER MALE PACER: S S G Stable’s McWicked, top-ranked in the sport’s year-end poll, dominated the voting, just as he did in winning six stakes races worth at least $250,000 and earning $1.57 million for the year. The Casie Coleman-trainee appears the front-runner for Horse of the Year honors. OLDER MALE TROTTER: It was an October to remember for Homicide Hunter, who followed a world-record 1:48.4 victory in the Allerage Farms Open at the Red Mile with a winning rally in the $500,000 Breeders Crown. Chris Oakes trains Homicide Hunter for Michelle and Al Crawford’s Crawford Farms Racing. OLDER FEMALE PACER: Shartin N received all but one first-place vote from 130 ballots cast. She won 19 of 24 starts overall, the $270,000 Breeders Crown, and five consecutive races to close as the first pacing mare to earn $1 million in a season. Jim King Jr. trains Shartin N for co-owners Richard Poillucci and Jo Ann Looney-King. OLDER FEMALE TROTTER: Marvin Katz and Al Libfeld’s Ariana G defeated male rivals in all five of her wins, including the $405,850 Hambletonian Maturity, $250,000 Graduate Series final and the $250,000 Dayton Trotting Derby. Hall of Fame trainer Jimmy Takter will retire with his 34th Dan Patch Award champion. 3YO MALE PACER: The well-traveled Dorsoduro Hanover won the $530,000 Breeders Crown, and $400,000 Delvin Miller Adios and finished second in the Meadowlands Pace and Little Brown Jug to earn championship status. He earned $1.28 million for owners Burke Racing Stable, the partnership of Jerry Silva, Theresa Silva, Purnel Jones Jr. and Elizabeth Jones, the partnership of Mark Weaver and Mike Bruscemi and Wingfield Five (Bradley, Charles, Kimberly, Robert and Thomas Wingfield). 3YO MALE TROTTER: Six Pack scratched sick from the Breeders Crown, but he dominated throughout the year to emerge the winner in a talent-laden division. He won the $620,000 Kentucky Futurity in a world-record 1:49.1 and the $500,000 Yonkers Trot en route to an 11-15 record and millionaire status for trainer Ake Svanstedt and co-owners Lars Berg, Jeff Gural’s Little E LLC and Tomas Olofsson’s Tall Kalmar FF. 3YO FEMALE PACER: Kissin In The Sand finished first or second in all 15 starts and her stirring victory in the $300,000 James Lynch Memorial at Pocono Downs was one of four, six-figure stakes wins for owner Marvin Katz and Bud Hatfield’s Hatfield Stable. 3YO FEMALE TROTTER: Atlanta, the first filly to win the $1 million Hambletonian this century, received the highest percentage of votes (96.3 percent). She also won the $320,000 Kentucky Filly Futurity and $238,613 Empire Breeders Classic and ran second in the Breeders Crown to earn a division-leading $1 million for the father-son combo of trainer Rick Zeron and driver Scott Zeron. Co-owners include Brad Grant, Howare Taylor, Michelle and Al Crawford’s Crawford Farms and William Holland’s Holland Racing Stable. 2YO MALE PACER: Breeders Crown winner Captain Crunch (6-10, $616k) gave trainer Nancy Johansson her second divisional champion. He is owned by 3 Brothers Stable (Alan, Ron and Steve Katz), Christina Takter, Norman and Robert Aerenson’s Rojan Stable, and Judy and Buck Chaffee’s Caviart Farms. 2YO MALE TROTTER: Gimpanzee proved more than the King of New York. He won six preliminary heats and the $225,000 sire stakes final before he remained unbeaten in the $600,000 Breeders Crown. Marcus Melander trained Gimpanzee for Anders Strom’s Courant Inc. 2YO FEMALE TROTTER: Step aside Manchego, you have company as the only prior undefeated champion in this division. Woodside Charm was unbeaten – and mostly unchallenged – in winning all seven starts for owner-trainer Verlin Yoder. She romped in the $600,000 Breeders Crown and became the fastest freshman trotter on a half-mile track with a 1:53.4 win at Saratoga. 2YO FEMALE PACER: Warrawee Ubeaut (7-12, $646k) complemented her Breeders Crown win with a world-record 1:48.3 in the Stallion Stakes at the Red Mile. Trainer Ron Burke’s second Dan Patch winner of the year is owned by Sylvia Burke’s Burke Racing Stable, Phil Collura, the partnership of Mark Weaver and Mike Bruscemi and the partnership of Jerry Silva, Theresa Silva, Purnel Jones Jr. and Elizabeth Jones.

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12.22.2018:

Saturday, December 22: Mohawk Jackpot Hi-5 Analysis

There is a mandatory payout at Mohawk Park tonight on the Jackpot Hi-5 and the carryover currently sits at $352,873.10. The Hi-5 rolls in Race 10 when an oversized field of 12 condition pacers battle for a share of a $24,000 purse. There are different schools of thought on how to allocate your betting dollars when there is a giant pool in a mandatory payout situation. My thinking is your betting risk in terms of dollars spent may increase as the pool expands but risk-reward parameters are still important. There are so many different ways to construct a bet for the Hi-5 I thought it would be best to write comments on the entire field without posting a ticket. As usually seems to be the case on mandatory payout night at Mohawk there aren't a lot of tosses and many horses appear to have a shot to hit the four or five slots on the ticket. So, it is very easy for ticket cost to go sky high. How someone wagers on the Hi-5 should be determined by how much risk they want to take, like with any other bet. On Friday night the drivers with the hottest hands at Mohawk were Jonathon Drury, Phil Hudon and Bob McClure who all made two trips to the winner's circle. No trainer on the card had more than one winner. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. 1-Champagne Phil (8-10)-This could be a spot to shine, drops to a better level and gets the wood, best to respect. 2-Nickle Bag (12-1)-Gets post relief but form is suspect, would need to improve to hit the bottom of Hi-5 ticket. 3-Ideal Jet (9/2)-Back to a better level, using underneath but thinking a win isn't in the cards. 4-Bills Fella (5-1)-Has been bet hard and will likely again, best to use although won't be at the top of my ticket. 5-Heza Thrill N (8-1)-Hasn't taken frequent pictures this year but is a use tonight and could win it all. 6-McKinney (10-1)-Not a top 3 candidate but can pace to the wire, if all the stars aligned could hit bottom of ticket. 7-Make Some Luck (6-1)-Only 6 starts this year and off close to a month, lots of question marks, looks like a toss. 8-East End (10-1)-May blast out and stay in the hunt, will use as a Hi-5 participant, needs the right trip to win. 9-Acting Out (10-1)-Should like the company, will respect connections and use. Could surprise with a trip. 10-Some Playa (15-1)-Seems in deep and post won't help the cause, looks like a toss. 11-Walter Mitty (10-1)-Not a win candidate from this post but with some racing luck could hit the bottom of ticket. 12-Shades Of Bay (8-1)-Henry & Budd have a high win %, should be a square price and in the mix with a trip. Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia 

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12.22.2018:

Rugged Mr. Prospector Stakes a Pick 4 draw at Gulfstream

The Grade 3 Mr. Prospector Stakes Saturday at Gulfstream Park looks like a real free-for-all, and some of that might be due to the absence of XY Jet, who won it in two of the last three years.Uno Mas Modelo is the 2-to-1 morning line favorite, but this one could go in many different ways, and that makes it a decent race in the late Pick 4. Trained by Anthony Quartarolo, Uno Mas Modelo has won two straight, including the Claiming Crown Rapid Transit Stakes at Gulfstream on Dec. 1 and the Bet On Sunshine at Churchill Downs. He’s won five of his last 11 and has turned into an outstanding sprint. Other than being outrun in the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup, his recent form has been stellar. However, he’s not the only one on the improve or the only one with some outstanding performances, and it makes for an exciting seven-furlong race. Storm Advisory, also trained by Quartarolo, is the price play in the Mr. Prospector. There are a couple of races on his form that show bad losses, but he’s a big player much of the time and his best can make him a contender in this one. Loooch Racing Stables claimed Storm Advisory for $80,000 at Churchill Downs in September and followed with an easy win at Thistledown and then the unsuccessful appearance in the Grade 1 Clark Handicap. This will be Storm Advisory’s third race for the current connections. Coal Front, trained by Todd Pletcher, should improve in his second start off a 14-month layoff. He won the Grade 3 Gallant Bob at Parx in September, 2007, and then was off until the Grade 3 Bold Ruler at Aqueduct on Nov. 2 of this year. He set the pace for a half-mile and tired, and since then he’s trained well during the past month and can be on or very close to the lead throughout. Storm Advisory, Uno Mas Modelo and Coal Front are being used on this suggested ticket. The Mr. Prospector is the third leg in the sequence and 10th of 11 on the card. Here’s the suggested ticket for the late Pick 4:Race 8) #1 R Happy Ending, #2 Tap Tap Taparoo, #5 A Bit of Mischief, #8 Curluck, #10 First Appeal.Race 9) #2 Revved Up, #7 Irish Strait, #9 Shakhimat, #10 Bricks and Mortar.Race 10) #3 Storm Advisory, #8 Uno Mas Modelo, #11 Coal Front.Race 11) #1 Race Me Home, #4 Who’s Your Drama.50-cent Pick 4: 1-2-5-8-10 with 2-7-9-10 with 3-8-11 with 1-4 ($60).

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12.21.2018:

Friday, December 21: Meadowlands Pick 4 Analysis

Tonight, at the Meadowlands the feature will roll in Race 7, a Preferred Handicap Trot with a purse of $20,000. Also, as part of the 14-race card is the 0.50 Pick 4 sequence which begins in Race 8. The Pick 4 will have a $50,000 guaranteed pool and will be my focus. On Friday at the Big M the drivers with the hottest hands were Andy Miller, Dexter Dunn and William Mann, each having two wins. The top conditioner on the card was trainer William Mann with two pictures. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Race 8 5-Dudsealady-First time at the Big M but has banked >$172K this year and will respect connections. 6-Brazuca-Gingras will likely put in play early and with a top effort could get first Big M win. 7-Fancy Creek Jolene-Racing well but fell short, B. Miller should work a trip and be in the hunt at the wire. Race 9 5-Star Studded Cast-Looking for A. Miller to be able to find more down the lane in 2nd Big M start. 6-Arch Credit-Gets post relief in 4th start with the Marino barn, has missed a start but that has helped in the past. Race 10 5-Mccito-Took a season's mark here on 12/3 and Gingras may blast out and make every call a winning one. 6-Cheyenne Reider-Has been trying hard and new pilot Callahan can work a more favorable trip. Race 11 3-D GS Elsa-Seems to be brave when on the engine and might be able to get the top without much effort. 4-Followthewind N-Back to the Big M and in a spot to shine, best to respect chances for Dunn-Auciello. 8-Filly Forty Seven-Sharp effort in 1st start after almost a month off, should be tighter and looks like a major player. 9-A Plus-3rd start for Burke and if Gingras can work a trip may surprise at a nice price. My Ticket Race 8) 5,6,7 Race 9) 5,6 Race 10) 5,6 Race 11) 3,4,8,9 Total Ticket Cost) $24 for $0.50Check me out on Twitter, @AlCimaglia

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12.20.2018:

Dec 20: Meadowlands Pick 4 Analysis

Thursday night's harness action at the Meadowlands consists of a 10-race card. The 0.50 Pick 5 sequence with a guaranteed pool of $25,000 begins in Race 2. The 0.50 Pick 4 rolls in Race 7, it has a $35,000 guaranteed pool with a low 15% takeout and it will be my focus. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Race 7 3-Beast Mode-In from YR and should like the company, if takes to the track could be tough down the lane. 4-Major War-No stranger to this class, may have finally found a field to beat, will take a swing at 15-1 in the ML. 8-Sports Vision-Steps up after a sharp win, could get on the engine and take another picture. Race 8 2-Ideal Candidate-12-year-old knows the way to winner's circle but has only 1 Big M win, looks like a player. 4-Dancing Rusty-Steps down after an even try versus $10K claimers, this is a better spot to shine. 5-E L Dartsmyboy-Needs a trip and a quick pace, if so, may close fastest of all. 9-Wellwesaid-Will need some help but raced well in a quick mile, using at 10-1 in ML versus this crew. Race 9 1-Persuasive Hanover-0-21 in '18 is cause for concern, but usually tries hard, Dunn sticks and this is a soft bunch. 2-American Image-Makes a rare Big M start, Surick trainee fits with the group and deserves some respect. 5-Lady Of Heaven-Smith needs to find some live cover, if so, could sweep by and pick-up 1st win of 2018. Race 10 8-Spanish Art-Gets a ++ driver change, tries hard and will respect connections, might be sitting on a big try. 9-Abbeylara-Winner of 3 of last 4 is the one to beat, could grind it out from this post and make it 3 straight. 10-Medoland Jate-Can beat this field with a top effort and post adds to the price. 0.50 Pick 4 3,4,8/2,4,5,9/1,2,5/8,9,10 Total Bet=$54

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12.20.2018:

Just The Best

In the debate surrounding whether Accelerate or Justify should be voted a coveted gold statue as Thoroughbred racing’s 2018 Horse of the Year, count this writer squarely in Justify’s camp. He’s just the best. And here’s why… Accelerate had an outstanding season February until November. He raced 7 times, once each month, except for in January, June, July, October and December. 5 races came at Southern California tracks—4 at Santa Anita and 1 at Del Mar. He shipped outside of California twice--to Arkansas for the Oaklawn Handicap and to Kentucky for the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs.  He won 6 races; 5 Grade 1s. His lone defeat came by a mere neck against BC Mile winner City of Light in the Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap. No foe ever got within smelling distance again. In fact, in 6 other races, only 2 foes ever finished within 2 lengths of Accelerate—in the first and last races of the season. Prime Attraction lost to him by 1 ¾-lengths in the San Pasqual in February and Gunnevera got within 1 length of him in the Classic in November.  Clearly, Accelerate had a Horse-of-the-Year caliber season; the kind of campaign racing purists love because it extended throughout the year. However, there is one subtle omission on Accelerate’s 2018 resume: Why didn’t he begin the year in late January by chasing the nation’s richest purse in the Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park? Good question. And there’s an equally good answer. Accelerate’s trainer John Sadler, is a crafty horseman and his management of Accelerate has been impeccable. Sadler wasn’t going to begin an anticipated Eclipse Award campaign by shipping his horse nearly 3,000 miles to meet Gun Runner in a race they couldn’t win. Instead, Sadler (and Accelerate) remained ‘home’ at Santa Anita to take the Grade 2 San Pasqual February 3. Throughout the year, Accelerate played mostly ‘home’ games, comfortably within walking distance of his Santa Anita stall. Brilliant! Southern California dirt racing is the best in the world. Horses leave the friendly confines of the San Gabriel Valley, circle the globe, and more often than not return with hardware. In case you hadn’t noticed, the 2018 Horse of the Year title will go to a SoCal-based dirt runner. Bob Baffert-trained, SoCal-based athletes dominate major Big Apple main track races like the Patriots do the NFL’s AFC East. Other SoCal trainers, Hall of Famer Jerry Hollendorfer, Peter Miller, Sadler and youngster Michael McCarthy recently have enjoyed main track, cross-country shipping success. However, in 2018, Accelerate and City of Light aside, the SoCal handicap division was a bit weak. There are past performances for 13 runners in the Eclipse Award voting packet for the Older Dirt Male category. Only 4 horses were based primarily in SoCal: Accelerate, City of Light, Pavel and West Coast. That begs the question: In winning 5 SoCal races, who did Accelerate defeat? In the San Pasqual he handled Prime Attraction (winless in 2018); in the Santa Anita Handicap he dominated Mubtaahij (winless in 2018); in the Gold Cup he manhandled Dr. Dorr (a 3-time 2018 winner, including the Grade 2 Californian); in the Pacific Classic he romped over Pavel (1-for-7 in ’18 with a Grade 1 Stephen Foster win); and in the Awesome Again he bettered West Coast (winless in ’18). Beyond the Golden State, Accelerate lost to City of Light (multiple Grade 1 winner in ’18) in Arkansas and outfinished Gunnevera (an allowance winner in ’18) in Kentucky. That roster of victims isn’t exactly Murderer’s Row. In fact, it may more closely approximate the Bum of the Month Club. But a horse can only beat those who line up against him and Accelerate whipped everyone he faced except for one by a neck and that horse ultimately won the BC Mile! Can’t knock that record. A Horse-of-the-Year vote for Accelerate is a vote for a very talented horse, expertly managed by a superb trainer, and owned by Hronis Racing--a sporting and dedicated outfit that in a relatively short time has aggressively embraced the sport. It’s good stuff. All of it. And in this corner…wearing the white and green silks of…wait a minute…they switched ‘em, again. Red with yellow stars? No matter. Even covered in Baltimore mud they always came home first. 6-out-of-6 times. Mid-February until early June. 112 days. Count ‘em. Not much time. I’ve had rashes that lasted longer. Justify, we hardly knew ya. Maiden, Allowance, Santa Anita Derby, Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont. That’s it. Unbeaten, untied and unscored upon. Completes a baker’s dozen of Triple Crown winners since 1919. Is the first in 135 years to do it without racing at 2. Detractors denegrate Justify’s competition. They say he never beat older horses. True. Then again, he never faced them either. It’s difficult to imagine that he would have lost to any of the horses Accelerate defeated, although we’ll never know for sure. Another knock against Justify is the quality of his 3-year-old foes. ‘A bad crop,’ they say, shaking heads like despondent farmers at harvest. In hindsight, they may have a point. The 2018 sophomore class did not distinguish itself, although one of them won the Haskell (Good Magic) and another took the Travers (Catholic Boy). Scam! Those races are restricted to 3-year-olds. No one in the group ever made a splash against older runners. However, earlier in the year, approaching the Kentucky Derby, the same folks that now bash Justify’s classmates were promoting them as first rate—one of the most talented ever. Remember? 2-year-old champ and Blue Grass winner Good Magic, Holy Bull and Florida Derby winner Audible, unbeaten Magnum Moon, UAE Derby freak Mendelssohn and even late-developing Hofburg all had staunch pre-Derby supporters. As a group they seemed quite formidable. Then Justify throttled ‘em in Louisville. In Baltimore, he grabbed Good Magic by the collar and shoved him against a wall. I think. Although it was difficult to tell through the fog. When matters cleared in the stretch, there was Justify all alone. Bravazo, who ultimately produced the most complete 3-year-old resume, closed well to throw a minor scare into the Baffert camp; all except Justify’s jockey Mike Smith, who later said his horse had plenty left. In the Belmont, again against Bravazo, the only co-survivor of the first two legs, and a few other ‘cowards,’ that had rested during the Charm City gathering, it simply was a case of ‘catch me if you can.’ They couldn’t. For decades, prominent horsemen have explained that during the Triple Crown a horse doesn’t compete against other horses as much as he tangles with history, the calendar, the series itself—three Grade 1 races at different tracks and at assorted distances stuffed into a five-week pressure cooker! That’s why winning the Triple Crown remains one of the greatest achievements in all of sport. No doubt, American Pharoah’s Triple Crown sweep 3 years ago that ended a 37-year-long drought dimmed slightly the glow of Justify’s triumph. The latter’s sudden, seemingly premature retirement also caused some negative sentiment. Not for me. Yours truly won’t criticize an owner or breeder for removing a horse from competition in order to make a buck in the breeding shed. That’s the upside. Why they play the game in the first place. Figure roughly 100 covers at $200k a pop for a decade or so! Do the math. Then, in the face of that windfall, truthfully admit how ‘sporting’ you’d be. How you’d be thrilled to pay astronomical insurance premiums for the privilege of rolling the dice on the racetrack morning and afternoon. C’mon, man! And, as my grandmother used to say, ‘God forbid, something happens.’ What then? Would a hefty insurance settlement really compensate for the loss of a champion and for the absence of his genes in future generations? Bottom line: Accelerate delivered a gold statue-worthy season. Unfortunately, in a brief, bright moment Justify rewrote the sport’s history. Thanks for reading each week. Happy Holidays to you and yours! Race On!

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12.20.2018:

Big Saturday of Stakes at Gulfstream, Fair Grounds & Aqueduct

As we sprint toward the holidays this weekend, the horse racing calendar is slowly creeping toward prep season.  There aren’t any massive Triple Crown or Pegasus preps scheduled for this weekend, but last Sunday’s Springboard Mile may have (or may not have) shed some light on the Triple Crown prep scene in the Midwest, while the Fair Grounds has a pair of minor Saturday stakes that could pave the way to the Louisiana Derby and Fair Grounds Oaks.  On the guys’ side of things, the Fair Grounds’ Sugar Bowl Stakes is full of decent horses, including late runners Super Steed and Hog Creek Hustle.  Whether they ultimately are able to stretch from 6 furlongs to 1 1/4 miles is up for a debate later, but they should be primed to run big this afternoon.And on top of that, the Fair Grounds has an enticing All-Stakes Pick 4 (Races 7 – 10) on Saturday that kicks off at 4:24PM ET.  I’ll be playing it, and I hope you decide to as well.  See below for my picks and brief analysis on those races.The Fair Grounds isn’t the only track with stakes racing this weekend.  Gulfstream is hosting a Grade 3 – the Mr. Prospector – while Aqueduct has the Queens County and the Gravesend on Sunday.  Nobody is in action Monday or Tuesday and Santa Anita returns Wednesday with a massive card featuring four graded stakes, including the Malibu and La Brea.  Here is a preview – and some picks – for this Saturday’s action at Fair Grounds, Gulfstream and Aqueduct.    Gulfstream Park   Our first stop Saturday is Gulfstream Park, where our good friends in South Florida continue to put their best foot forward.  We have to tip our cap to the Xpressbet customer who took down Wednesday’s Rainbow 6 and the $580,000 payday that went with it.  As for Saturday’s races, I’m really looking forward to Races 8 and 9.  Race 8 is an incredibly deep open turf allowance race that attracted talented horses like G2 winner Bricks and Mortar, multiple graded stakes winner Shakhimat, G3 winner Irish Strait and stakes winners Mr Cub and Zennor.  If this race had a Grade 3 designation and a $100,000 purse, nobody would bat an eye.   Zennor will be my top pick here and I’ll play him in an Exacta Box with Bricks and Mortar.  Zennor should benefit greatly from an inside draw and he’s just getting back into form after missing a year.  Race 9 is the Grade 3 Mr. Prospector Stakes and I’m going ‘all in’ on Uno Mas Modelo.  He broke terribly last out in the Claiming Crown Rapid Transit Stakes but still circled wide and got up at the fwire.  He’s won five straight sprint races (including two stakes) and he’s going to bet a perfect setup here as Conquest Big E, Coal Front (pictured above), Kroy and Heartwood will guarantee a fast early pace.  My colleague, Jeremy Plonk, made the Mr. Prospector his Race of the Week.  Here's his analysis and $100 Betting Strategy. Those two race are the first legs of the Late Pick 4 and are also included in the Late Pick 5 and Rainbow 6.   Fair Grounds   I love cards like the Saturday slate that the Fair Grounds has served up for us.  14 races.  Six stakes.  Rolling Pick 3’s.  Four Pick 4’s.  And a partridge and a pear tree (sorry, low hanging fruit and I couldn’t resist).  Here’s a pick for all six stakes races, and 30 words of rationale or less.  Race 3 (2:26PM ET) – Bonapaw Stakes ($75K) – 5 1/2 Furlongs (Turf)My Pick: #6 Kitten’s Cat (5/1)Expected faves Wynn Time and Switzerland have no turf form (combined 0-for-1) and Kitten’s Cat has finished in the Tri in 15-of-20 turf races. Race 7 (4:24PM ET) – Letellier Memorial Stakes ($75K) – 6 Furlongs (Dirt)My Pick: #10 Unholy Alliance (9/2)Speed-laden field is likely to come back to the closers and the best of them is Unholy Alliance, who goes out for leading Fair Grounds trainer, Brad Cox. Race 8 (4:53PM ET) – Blushing K.D. Stakes ($75K) – 1 1/16 Miles (Turf)My Pick: #4 Dubara (GB) (6/1) I’ve been chasing this filly since she showed up at Ellis in July and she might finally mow them down late if she gets the right pace to close into.  Race 9 (5:22PM ET) – Tenacious Stakes ($75K) – 1 Mile 70 Yards (Dirt)My Pick: #7 Tom’s d’Etat (9/5)He’s won 5-of-8 races and this is a soft spot for him to make his stakes debut. He should win this and go on to bigger and better next time.  Race 10 (5:51PM ET) – Buddy Diliberto Memorial Stakes ($75K) – 1 1/16 Miles (Turf)My Pick: #5 Big Changes (3/1)He loves to win races and he’s trained and ridden by the best – Brad Cox and Florent Geroux.  He should sit second and then pounce on Great Wide Open. Race 11 (6:20PM ET) – Sugar Bowl Stakes ($75K) – 6 FurlongsMy Pick: #9 Super SteedBroke miserably in his last race and still won by 6-lengths.  A tardy start would be a huge problem here but otherwise it looks like smooth sailing.    Aqueduct   The stakes aren’t quite as high at Aqueduct Saturday but I’d be remiss if I didn’t bring up the $125,000 Queens County Stakes, which attracted a big field of ten, including G3 winner Name Changer and Godolphin’s Exulting.  On paper, just about any of these could win but I’m going to hitch my wagon to Name Changer.  He’s a G3 winner and exits a really solid edition of the Pennsylvania Derby Championship Stakes, where he was beaten by Aztec Sense, who went on to win the Claiming Crown Jewel.  I’ll have him on my ticket, along with Degrom, who is improving for John Servis and Todd Pletcher’s duo of Bal Harbor and Bonus Points. 

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12.20.2018:

Weekly Bankroll Builder: December 21 Stronach 5 Picks

We forge on with this week’s Stronach 5, which looks impossible early, so a bit payoff could be in the offing. 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 (3:50 ET) – 2f 25k MCL at 6 furlongs As mentioned, the first two legs are a bear, so I’ll be spreading as deep as I can, which is why I’ll have four A’s and four B’s. The drop from the MSW ranks and running with second-time blinkers should help #8 WEEKEND FLYER (8-1), who was a distant 9th behind a repeat winner off the Frock claim last time. Toss the slop run last time from #7 YESTERDAYSPLAN (4-1) and she’s got form good enough to win this, and the fact she now goes off the Gonzalez claim (30%) says she may blow up here. The MSW drop, cutback to one turn, and running second-time Lasix all should help #3 ALLISON K (6-1), who still has plenty of upside after just two starts. Lastly, #11 SILVER SIDES (10-1) will offer value and goes off the claim for Geralis, which is a small but so far potent 2-for-4 angle. Pk5 A horses (listed in order of preference): 8,7,3,11 Firsters #4 CORE AND JAS (15-1) AND #1 DINNER BABY (6-1) lack experience but start for Gorham and Ness, respectively, and both have big numbers with firsters (22% and 25%), so don’t ignore them, especially if the money shows. The price will be underlaid on #5 ROSURI (9-2), who may well win one of these, but seems to be running in place, while #13 TUFFY’S WAY (10-1) continues to drop to find her level and isn’t without hope on paper. Pk5 B horses: 4,1,5,13 Leg 2: Gulfstream Park R8 (4:05 ET) – 2f 12.5k MCL at 5 ½ furlongs This is more a line in the sand race, as you could use seemingly dozens here or go small, and I’ll narrow it to two on the top line; #4 ONE’S NEVER ENOUGH (15-1) and #7 ENOUGHANDTHENSOME (7-2). Don’t get scared by the ML on the former (she may be favored), as it’s ridiculously off (go figure at GP), as this gal drops from an MSW at FL, where she earned a solid figure (for this group), and now heads into Figgins’ barn, a huge upgrade over former trainer Breed. The latter also hits hard on her modest form and probably wins this with any of her three prior runs. Pk5 A horses: 4,7 If #1 DANAL (8-1) didn’t draw the rail she’d be an A, but this is a tough spot for a runner who may duel the entire way. Conversely, the outside draw helps #9 MADELYN’S DANCER (4-1), who has nine chances but still hits hard against a group like this. Pk5 B horses: 1,9 Leg 3: Laurel Park R9 (4:21 ET) – 3upfm 12.5k N2L* at 5 ½ furlongs With a lot of coverage early I’m just taking the two best runners here and hoping they get me through, as #5 KATIE’S REWARD (3-1) and #6 ON THE HOP (5-2) just look best of a weak bunch, both have speed to sit a trip, and exit solid local runs at the level. Pk5 A horses: 5,6 Obviously you can use more here, as #8 Musabaga (10-1), #9 Rockin Ruth (9-2), #4 Shipmans Magic (8-1), #7 Doit for Spite (10-1) all have their merits, but I’ll make them all prove it over the top pair, who simply look better. Pk5 B horses: NONE Leg 4: Gulfstream Park R9 (4:36 ET) – 3up Florida breds AOC at 1-mile (turf) This is another deep race and I’ll only go to the top line, as #1 EXPECTED RULER (4-1), #2 SEATTLE TREASURE (4-1), #8 BLUE LUTE (7-2), and #9 ZAP DADDY (3-1) look a cut above, but the former two get a huge edge on the post draw, while the latter take all the worst of it from the parking lot, with an extremely quick run to the first turn. Pk5 A horses: 1,2,8,9 You could also use #5 Trumpi (8-1), as his Midwest form is close to these, but he does face older for the first time and has just one win, so let’s make him prove it. Pk5 B horses: NONE Leg 5: Gulfstream Park R10 (5:06 ET) – 3up 12.5k MCL at 5 ½ furlongs I’m not in love with 0-for-10 runners but I think #4 SENSATIONAL ZIP (4-1) is