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2.22.2024:

Frank Carulli: Tampa Bay Downs Pick 4 Analysis | Friday, February 23, 2024

The road to Tampa Bay Downs’ $8,338 Pick 6 Jackpot carryover pool this Friday, Feb. 23, will go through the 50-cent Late Pick 4 that shapes up this way: TAM 6th race (2:56 p.m. EST) -- HOLLYWOOD CLOSEUP’S first try on conventional dirt wasn’t bad. He was unhurried to the far turn, advanced steadily while wide to mid-stretch and flattened out. He gets in light-weighted again, gets a better post and should get a livelier pace to rally into. TUCKER ROAD is 0-for-9 on conventional dirt but he dueled a long way when third last out and exited three consecutive main-track routes that produced two winners each late last year. TAM 7th race (3:27 p.m. EST) -- MR EXTENSION steps up off the claim but is a must use as a value play in his third start this year. He stalked odds-on favorite Yes I’m A Beast (9-23, $244k), came under a drive near the top of the stretch and did well to hold second. His performance was upgraded when the winner came back with a wire-to-wire score in an $8,000 starter allowance. BUFF HELLO, the beaten favorite in four of his last five starts, class drops after a vet-voided claim, sheds 10 pounds and draws a good post to use his tactical speed from, but he’s too risky of a solo play in the Pick 4. ROGER McQUEEN was claimed for the seventh time since last February and looms an upset possibility on his best effort for a barn that won with 2 of 3 claims at the current meet. IMTAKINITTOTHEBANK broke through with a well-deserved victory after he dueled and just missed in two prior 6F sprints, one against MR EXTENSION and the other from post 10 against next-out, class-rising repeater Fly Fly Away. TAM 8h race (4:03 p.m. EST) -- Good recent form and six-figure bankrolls abound in this 6-1/2F starter allowance that drew eight entrants with a combined 42-for-176 record on a fast track. Hit the ‘ALL’ button. TAM 9th race (4:40 p.m. EST) -- I’M STILL BRAVE gained late but settled for second best behind 3-to-5 Victory Line at 5-1/2F on a day that featured five wire-to-wire winners. BACK TO REALITY ranged up 4-wide for the stretch drive, raced a bit headstrong in the lane as the beaten favorite, now adds blinkers for his second start off the claim. Suggested 50-Cent Ticket TAM 6th Race: 2, 4 TAM 7th Race: 1, 3, 5, 8 TAM 8th Race: ALL TAM 9th Race: 1, 7 Cost for 50-cent ticket: $64

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2.22.2024:

1/ST POST: Why Play Today? Thursday, February 22, 2024

EXTRA INCENTIVES Bet $100, Get $10 | Fraser Downs (harness) | Al Cimaglia Video AnalysisFebruary $20K Sweepstakes | win up to a $1,000 betting voucher TOURNAMENT TIME $40 Gulfstream Feeder | details NOTABLE CARRYOVERS Jackpot Pick 6 | $319,303 | Gulfstream Park | begins Race 4 | 1:39 pm ET Pick 5 | $22,580 | Turf Paradise | begins Race 4 | 4:19 pm ET | 1/ST BET AI Picks Jackpot Pick 6 | $55,789 | Turfway Park | begins Race 4 | 7:25 pm ET 1/ST BET AI MOST LIKELY GULFSTREAM WINNER Gulfstream | Race 8 | 3:39 pm ET | #2 Steel Racer (31%) KEY RACES Turf Paradise | Race 5 | 5:49 pm ET | Luke Kruytbosch Stakes LONGSHOT RACE ALERT FROM BETMIX Gulfstream Park | Race 5 | 2:09 pm ET Fair Grounds | Race 5 | 3:45 pm ET Turfway | Race 7 | 8:55 pm ET TRAINERS TO WATCH Anthony Farrior | Mahoning Valley | all 4 entrants 4-1 or less morning line DID YOU SEE? Yesterday | Parx, Tampa, Penn National | trainer Jamie Ness, 7 wins from 10 starters Yesterday | Gulfstream Park | jockey Jose Ortiz | 3 wins, 1 second from 8 mounts PUT US ON YOUR HANDICAPPING TEAM 1/ST BET AI Picks: Turf Paradise $22K Pick 5 Carryover | Thursday, February 22, 2024 Frank Carulli & Brian W. Spencer Thursday best bets available in Xpressbet.com member’s section

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2.22.2024:

1/ST BET AI Picks: Turf Paradise $22K Pick 5 Carryover | Thursday, February 22, 2024

Turf Paradise’s Thursday card includes a $22,580 pick 5 carryover. The sequence begins in Race 4 (scheduled post time 4:19 pm ET) of the 8-race card. The only stakes race in the nation today, the $60,000 Luke Kruytbosch Stakes, will be the second leg of the sequence. To assist your handicapping, selections provided by the 1/ST BET app measure each contender against the 10 leading factors for each race. The 1/ST BET app looks at 52 handicapping factors and more than 200,000 past races to determine its AI selections. You can use the automated handicapping factors, or create your own factor filters to incorporate angles you prefer. Full-card selections can be found in the 1/ST BET app. Turf Paradise // Race 4 // allowance #1 Found My Ball (5-2 ML) // 25% Win Projection #4 I Am Freaky Fast (7-2 ML) // 20% Win Projection Comments: Couple of logical players separate a bit from the four others in this field who are clumped between 12-15%. Turf Paradise // Race 5 // $60,000 Luke Krutybosch Stakes #8 Lite Ranchin Kid (7-2 ML) // 28% Win Projection #1 Sharp Lorenzo (3-1 ML) // 22% Win Projection Comments: Top pair rate 11 points or more higher than the others and are top two morning-line choices. It’s a formful start on a focused ticket through two legs. Turf Paradise // Race 6 // starter-optional claiming #2 Criminal Record (5-1 ML) // 29% Win Projection Comments: Clear-cut single at a very attractive price in the morning line at 5-1, #2 Criminal Record rates 13 points higher than any of his other six rivals. Turf Paradise // Race 7 // claiming #1 Gopher Gold (7-2 ML) // 24% Win Projection #4 Last Martini (3-1 ML) // 21% Win Projection #5 Mad Luther (5-1 ML) // 16% Win Projection #6 East Rand (5-2 ML) // 15% Win Projection Comments: Field of 7 might require some depth, but smaller budgets and more focused tickets could stick with the top pair only, which would eliminate the morning line favorite among the cuts. Turf Paradise // Race 8 // maiden-optional claiming #4 Northern Linchpin (5-1 ML) // 29% Win Projection Comments: Not only does #4 Northern Linchpin have the biggest spread of 15 points to the competition compared to any other race in the pick 5 today, but his six rivals are nearly inseparable between 10-14% each. This is clearly another single according to the algorithm.

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2.22.2024:

$25,000 Exacta-Thon Picks for Oaklawn | Saturday, February 24, 2024

The $25,000 Exacta-Thon from 1/ST BET and Xpressbet on Saturday at Oaklawn Park gives the kind of boost every horseplayer should love. Hit exactas … win more money than other players. It’s that simple. As you play Saturday’s 12-race card that features the Rebel, Razorback and Honeybee Stakes, give extra consideration to exacta bets. That’s because players at 1/ST BET and Xpressbet who cash any exacta combination in at least 6 of the 12 Oaklawn races on Saturday will share in an additional $20,000 in free cash. The player(s) who hit the most exactas on the day will be rewarded with their share of an additional $5,000. Sound too good to be true? Last week’s $25,000 late pick five Hit & Split at Fair Grounds saw 11 players on our platforms bag more than $2,200 each in addition to their parimutuel winnings. Barring scratches, I’ve got $56 worth of exactas spread out over the 12-race program to attack – some that could elicit big returns, others that could help hit the Exacta-Thon’s 6-win threshold. Oaklawn // Race 1 Notable: You won’t see a horse get much worse of a trip than #6 Footprint got in a tough allowance on January 28 – and still missed by only a head to two runners coming back in today’s Rebel Stakes. Use him to split the two favorites who look logical. JP’s Exacta-Thon Plays: Key-box 6 with 4,7 ($4 for $1) Oaklawn // Race 2 Notable: Horses at Oaklawn missed 11 days of training due to weather in January, so I give extra credit to a few here coming out of races on February 3 as they’ve had a chance to gather more fitness in a shorter amount of time than the others. #5 Run Jalen Run, #7 Excitable Boy and #9 Daily Grind are that trio ... and two of them are double-digit odds in the morning line. JP’s Exacta-Thon Plays: Box 5-7-9 ($6 for $1) Oaklawn // Race 3 Notable: Not every race entices a horseplayer to get cute. This one looks straightforward with #3 Motown Dynamic and #7 Cruise Missile as standout favorites. Not the kind of exacta I’m betting on a normal day, but for Exacta-Thon purposes, this might be an easy pickup for 1 of your 6 races needed. JP’s Exacta-Thon Plays: Box 3-7 ($2 for $1) Oaklawn // Race 4 Notable: On a fast track, #2 Gunflash could bounce back with a much-improved effort. If it comes up wet on Saturday, you’re on your own in this race. He’s the key for me along with a couple of horses with strong career records of landing on the exacta ticket, #10 WW Scout’s Honor (64%) and #11 Favorite Outlaw (69%). JP’s Exacta-Thon Plays: Key-Box 2 with 10,11 ($4 for $1) Oaklawn // Race 5 Notable: Excited to tackle this race with two prices, #3 Tap the Champagne (10-1 ML) and #10 Who’s Ticket (15-1 ML). Both stretch out from sprint to route and have classy pedigrees and hints of ability. Get one of these on top and we’re looking at a chance to score nicely with #11 My Favorite Girl running late and #8 Enigmatic getting a slightly better post draw than she’s been accustomed. JP’s Exacta-Thon Plays: Part-Wheel 3,10 with 3,10,11,8 ($6 for $1) Oaklawn // Race 6 Notable: #4 Mr. Keating is well-drawn for his two sprints and then a route form cycle, one of the favorite handicapping angles of my podcast partner Jeff Siegel. At 8-1 morning line, he’s not only a good win bet, but the key to my exactas in this mile. JP’s Exacta-Thon Plays: Part-Wheel 4 with 8,6 ($2 for $1) Oaklawn // Race 7 Notable: Field of 12 shows just 10 combined career starts among these maidens, but even so it’s rare to see debut horses run 1-2. First-time starters #10 Snow Flurry and #11 Queen Mallard have shown morning promise for capable barns, though the former’s trainer is more apt to win at first asking than the latter. #3 Linnie Mae and #4 Haulin Ice ran decent races first time out and make sense in a race that I’m not keen on trusting. Let’s try rookies over experience and see what happens. JP’s Exacta-Thon Plays: Part-Wheel 10,11 over 3,4 ($4 for $1) Oaklawn // Race 8 // Carousel Notable: From a pace standpoint, I expect this 6-furlong sprint to fly early and give a late-runner the best chance to win. #8 Zeitlos not only is the morning line favorite, but also gets the perfect set-up in front of her. The best horse with the right setup rarely gives back the advantage. Looking for #7 Mucho Macho Girl to get tied up in the pace tussle and perhaps fade out of the exacta to boost the payoff. JP’s Exacta-Thon Plays: Part-Wheel 8 with 9,2,3 ($3 for $1) Oaklawn // Race 9 // Honeybee Stakes Notable: Heavily favored #6 West Omaha  (pictured above) should be extremely hard to beat in this spot. #2 Band of Gold and #1 Alys Beach are the logical contenders behind her, but I’m looking at #7 Lemon Muffin (30-1 ML) as a longshot to consider for the exactas. She’s run second in four straight maiden races in sprints and stretches out off of a series of bullet workouts. Let’s see what she’s got at a price. On a typical day, I’d play heavily 6-7 and bypass the shorter prices, but for the Exacta-Thon, the other combinations appear worth the extra $2 total to get you perhaps over the hump and into the bonus money. JP’s Exacta-Thon Plays: Part-Wheel 6 with 7,2,1 ($3 for $1) Oaklawn // Race 10 // Razorback Stakes Notable: One of the toughest races and best betting chances anywhere in America on Saturday, this field of 13 has many possible twists. I’ll use 6 of them in all in various combinations, but keyed around only #8 Magic Tap, my top choice shortening in distance and #11 Notary, who is in absolute peak form. Magic Tap is my preferred of the pair, and as written up in the Race of the Week commentary, I’ll be playing a larger ticket with that one in the first spot; and a smaller ticket with Notary in the first spot. JP’s Exacta-Thon Plays: Part-Wheel 8,11 with 8,11,9,13,1,5 ($10 for $1) Oaklawn // Race 11 // Rebel Stakes Notable: Longshot play #9 Lagynos comes in fresher than those from the Southwest Stakes just 3 weeks ago and I’m rolling the dice that heavy favorite #7 Timberlake will offer poor value having never won around 2 turns. Definitely want to get win money on any horse that you like in any race at a big price like Lagynos, but in terms of the Exacta-Thon, I’ll spread with several chances if he runs first or second. JP’s Exacta-Thon Plays: Key-Box 9 with 6,11,13,7,1 ($10 for $1) Oaklawn // Race 12 Notable: #7 Crushed It is going to be a big favorite, but note he’s run second at 6-5 and 4-5 odds in his 2 starts. The preferred play is #2 Give Me a Reason, a regally bred colt with a great post draw and adding Lasix. I don’t see a lot of value in this race, but the favored pair are the way to go in the promotion. JP’s Exacta-Thon Plays: Box 2-7 ($2 for $1)

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2.22.2024:

Jon White: A New Kentucky Derby No. 1, Plus Rebel Stakes Picks

There is a new No. 1 on my Kentucky Derby Top 10. Fierceness is relinquishing that position this week. I wrote this last week: “I’m thinking that there is a good chance whoever wins the Risen Star will take over the top spot next week.” Inasmuch as it was Sierra Leone who won Fair Grounds’ Grade II Risen Star last Saturday (Feb. 17), he’s the new No. 1 on my Kentucky Derby Top 10 this week, right? Wrong. Look, I give Sierra Leone a lot of credit for his Risen Star victory. First of all, he won a 1 1/8-mile race while returning from a layoff. He was making his first start since Dec. 2. Second, it was just his third career start. Third, it’s not easy to win a race when rallying from far back when the pace isn’t fast, as was the case in the Risen Star. And fourth, he prevailed despite running on a sloppy track that was pretty much a mess. It certainly appears to me that Sierra Leone will appreciate going a furlong longer in the 150th running of $5 million Kentucky Derby on May 4. I think Sierra Leone is a very good colt. But is he a potential superstar? Maybe he is. But at this point, I’d say probably not. Right now, the one 3-year-old in this country who has the look of a budding superstar to me is Nysos, who has won all three of his career starts by a combined 26 3/4 lengths. In his 2024 debut, Nysos was scintillating. He won Santa Anita’s Grade III Robert B. Lewis Stakes by 7 1/2 lengths on Feb. 3. If Nysos were eligible for the Kentuckyj Derby, he would definitely be No. 1 on my Top 10. But he is not eligible. Nysos is ranked No. 1 in this week’s NTRA Top Three-Year-Old Poll. I’m one of the 28 voters who put him in the top spot in the poll. Sierra Leone received four first-place votes. If I put Sierra Leone at No. 1 on my NTRA ballot this week, then why isn’t he No. 1 on my Kentucky Derby Top 10? Good question. My NTRA votes from 1 to 10 are based primarily on what a horse has accomplished. I put Sierra Leone at No. 1 on my ballot because I think he deserves it after winning the Risen Star, which arguably attracted the strongest field in any graded stakes race for 3-year-olds so far in 2024. My Kentucky Derby Top 10 is a ranking of how I currently see a horse’s chances of winning that particular race. In other words, if the Kentucky Derby were held this week, the horse I rank No 1 is the one I feel has the best chance at this moment in time of winning the roses, while No. 2 has the next-best chance, and so on. It’s understandable that Sierra Leone is going to top many Kentucky Derby lists following his win in the Risen Star. Heck, I very nearly put Sierra Leone at No. 1 on my Kentucky Derby Top 10 this week. But I didn’t. If it’s not Sierra Leone, then who is the new No. 1 on my Kentucky Derby Top 10? After giving it considerable thought, I have put Japan’s Forever Young (pictured above, center) in the top spot this week. That’s because as of right now, he is my choice to win the Kentucky Derby. I wrote last week: “How good is Forever Young? I think he might be as good as, or possibly better than, Derma Sotogake, who as a 3-year-old last year finished second to White Abarrio in the Grade I BC Classic.” Forever Young was three for three last year in Japan. I think the Real Steel colt is a potential superstar. Evidently I’m not the only one who believes this. “Is Forever Young the next superstar for [trainer] Yoshito Yahagi?” Naohiro Goda wrote in a report from Japan posted this past Sunday on BloodHorse.com. “The 3-year-old should give us the answer to this question at Riyadh Feb. 24, when he tries to extend his unbeaten record to four in the Grade III Saudi Derby at Riyadh.” I think any Japanese racehorse being talked about as being a possible superstar should command considerable respect. That’s because of the tremendous success Japanese horses have exhibited in recent years when competing on the world stage. Daily Racing Form’s Marcus Hersh wrote this week: “Even as Japanese racehorses have ascended over the last decade, becoming the most powerful force in international competition, the race the Japanese most covet, the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, has eluded them. In fact, a Japanese horse easily could win a Kentucky Derby before one wins an Arc. It could happen as soon as this year. “Forever Young at this early stage of his career looks as strong as any Japanese 3-year-old with designs on the Derby. He has won all three of his starts in Japan, won them smashingly, and gets his first real class test Saturday at King Abdulaziz Racecourse in Saudi Arabia.” How much of a force have the Japanese become in Thoroughbred racing? One need not look past the exploits of Japan’s Equinox, a fantastic equine athlete widely regarded as the best racehorse on the planet last year. Why am I so bullish on Forever Young as a colt capable of winning the Kentucky Derby? One reason is the distance of his three races to date. As a 2-year-old in Japan, Forever Young began his racing career with a four-length victory in a maiden race at about 1 1/8 miles. You read that right -- about 1 1/8 miles! In other words, much stamina was required on the part of Forever Young right off the bat. In his next start, Forever Young won his stakes debut by 1 1/2 lengths in a race at the same distance of about 1 1/8 miles. In his final race at 2, Forever Young crushed 11 foes when he won the Zen-Nippon Nisai Yushun by seven lengths at about one mile on Dec. 13. Now he will try to remain undefeated by adding the $1.5 million Saudi Derby to his list of victories. “Last year’s Zen-Nippn Nisai Yushan winner, Derma Sotogake, went on to capture the Group II UAE Derby in Dubai before finishing sixth in the Grade I Kentucky Derby,” Goda wrote. “The connections of Forever Young have expressed interest in running their colt in the March 30 UAE Derby after the Saudi Derby with the hope of securing enough points to make the 2024 Kentucky Derby field.” The DRF’s Hersh confirmed this week that Yahagi has the Kentucky Derby as an objective for Forever Young. “If he can run well in Saudi and then in Dubai, which qualifies him for the Kentucky Derby, then yes, I would like to send him to America to compete in the Triple Crown races,” Yahagi said when answering written questions from Daily Racing Form through an interpreter. Forever Young was being quoted as an odds-on Saudi Derby favorite at 4-5 in England this week by William Hill and most other betting shops. America’s Book’em Danno, who is four for five and won Tampa Bay Downs’ Pasco Stakes by 12 1/2 lengths on Jan. 13, was listed as a 7-1 second choice by William Hill. As yet another indication of how Japanese horses should be taken very seriously nowadays, Mandarin Hero came over from Japan for last year’s Grade I Santa Anita Derby and lost by a scant nose when finishing second to a very good colt in Practical Move. Though Mandarin Hero could finish no better than 12th in the Kentucky Derby, I believe there is a very good chance that Forever Young is a considerably better horse than last year’s Santa Anita Derby runner-up. There were many on the Derma Sotogake bandwagon in last year’s Kentucky Derby after his 5 1/2-length victory in the UAE Derby, but he ran sixth in the Churchill Downs classic. However, I think it’s fair to say Derma Sotogake later showed everyone that he is a top-drawer racehorse with his splendid runner-up effort to the older White Abarrio in the BC Classic. Derma Sotogake is scheduled to have a rematch with White Abarrio this Saturday in the $20 million Saudi Cup. Derma Sotogake is still supposed to run despite suffering an injury to his right eye during his trip from Japan to Saudi Arabia, the Racing Post reported. Another Saudi Cup contender is Grade I Pegasus World Cup winner National Treasure. Post positions for the Saudi Cup were determined Wednesday. White Abarrio drew the rail in the field of 14. National Treasure got post No. 7, while Derma Sotogake drew the 13 spot in the starting gate. Last year’s Saudi Cup was won by Japan’s Panthalassa. Who trained Panthalassa? It was none other than Forever Young’s trainer. In addition to Derma Sotogake, Japan is seeking to win this year’s Saudi Cup with Ushba Tesora (last year’s Group I Dubai World Cup winner who finished fifth in the BC Classic) and Japanese champion dirt horse Lemon Pop, plus Crown Pride and Meisho Hario. Along with White Abarrio and National Treasure, the U.S. is represented in the Saudi Cup by Senor Buscador (seventh in the BC Classic before finishing second in the Pegasus World Cup) and Saudi Crown (recent winner of the Grade III Louisiana Stakes after finishing 10th in the BC Classic). As yet another example of Japan’s increasingly strong presence internationally, not only did Derma Sotogake win the UAE Derby last year, Japanese horses dominated. Derma Sotogake led a 1-2-3-4 finish by Japanese horses. Considering Japan’s prowess all over the globe these days, I can’t help thinking it’s only a matter of time before a Japanese horse does win the Kentucky Derby. And I think Forever Young just might be the one to finally do it. Another Japanese horse eyeing this year’s Kentucky Derby is Ramjet, who won the one-mile Hyacinth Stakes at Tokyo Racecourse last Sunday (Feb. 18). Dismissed at 12-1, he was far back at the top of the stretch and closed with gusto to mow them all down. Ramjet looks like he’s a good 3-year-old, but it appears to me that Forever Young might be a special colt. If Forever Young shows up in the Kentucky Derby with an unblemished record, you can bet there will be lots of people on his bandwagon, a la Derma Sotogake last year. Adding to Forever Young’s chances to win the Run for the Roses is he wouldn’t have to face Nysos or any other talented 3-year-old trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, who has been banned by Churchill Downs Inc. from running horses at any of the tracks it owns. Baffert sent out Medina Spirit to win the 2021 Kentucky Derby. However, the colt was disqualified after he tested positive for the presence of betamethasone, a medication that was legal to use, but not on race day. Following Medina Spirit’s DQ, Churchill Downs banned Baffert from participating at any of its tracks in 2022 and 2023. The suspension was then extended through 2024. As I wrote recently, Churchill Downs’ original two-year suspension of Baffert was, in my view, a whole lot more than a slap on the wrist. It was a severe penalty. Insofar as I’m not aware of Baffert having a single medication violation anywhere during 2022 and 2023, I feel that Churchill’s decision to extend the trainer’s ban through 2024 was grossly unfair. In any case, what about this as a possibility? An undefeated Forever Young wins the Kentucky Derby and then has a showdown with an undefeated Nysos in the Preakness Stakes. What a Preakness that would be! By the way, I consider Forever Young’s trainer to be a huge plus in terms of a possible Kentucky Derby appearance and triumph. Clearly, Yahagi is a great -- I repeat, great -- horseman. A noted earlier, he won last year’s Saudi Cup with Panthalassa. It was quite a feat on Yahagi’s part to have won the world’s richest race with a horse racing on the dirt for the first time. What Yahagi achieved during the Breeders’ Cup was nothing less than extraordinary. He shocked the racing world by winning the BC Distaff with 49-1 longshot Marche Lorraine. Yahagi also won the BC Filly & Mare Turf with 4-1 Loves Only You. Loves Only You then closed out her career by defeating males to win the Group I Hong Kong Cup. Deep Impact, Loves Only You’s sire, won 12 of 14 lifetime starts, earned $7,806,474 and swept the 2005 Japanese Triple Crown. Forever Young is a grandson of Deep Impact. Deep Impact’s sire, Sunday Silence, won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes in 1989 before having his attempt at Triple Crown glory thwarted when he ran second to Easy Goer in the Belmont Stakes. And then, with the 1989 Horse of the Year title on the line, Sunday Silence won a Breeders’ Cup Classic for the ages by a neck over Easy Goer. And so Forever Young not only debuts on my Kentucky Derby Top 10 this week, he does so at No. 1. Maybe Forever Young will go out there and get beat in the Saudi Derby. What then for my Kentucky Derby Top 10? That’s easy. If Forever Young has his bubble of invincibility burst in Saturday’s Saudi Derby, I’ll just put someone else in the top spot on my Top 10 next week. But the feeling here is I won’t have to do that. Meanwhile, Sierra Leone, who was ranked No. 5 last week, moves up to No. 2 on my Kentucky Derby Top 10 this week. Dornach, No. 6 last week, is No. 3 this week. He is a full brother to 2023 Kentucky Derby winner Mage. Don’t forget, when Dornach won Aqueduct’s Grade II Remsen Stakes, he did nose out future Risen Star winner Sierra Leone. Fierceness, the Eclipse Award-winning 2-year-old male who finished third as a 1-5 favorite when making his 2024 debut in Gulfstream’s Grade III Holy Bull Stakes, tumbles to No. 4 this week after being No. 1 last week. Track Phantom, who acquitted himself well to finish second in the Risen Star, moves up to No. 5 this week after being No. 8 last week. Exiting the Top 10 this week is Hall of Fame, who finished seventh in the Risen Star. Below is my Kentucky Derby Top 10 for this week: 1. Forever Young 2. Sierra Leone 3. Dornoch 4. Fierceness 5. Track Phantom 6. Hades 7. Mystik Dan 8. Locked 9. Timberlake 10. Born Noble Bubbling Under My Top 10: Catching Freedom, Conquest Warrior, Drip, Domestic Product, El Grande O, Epic Ride, Hall of Fame, Honor Marie, Just a Touch, Just Steel, Liberal Arts, Lightline, Nash, No More Time, Ramjet, Real Macho, Resilience, Scatify, Snead, Speak Easy, Stretch Ride, Stronghold, The Wine Steward, Tuscan Gold, Tuscan Sky, Uncle Heavy and Victory Avenue. REBEL STAKES SELECTIONS Timberlake, winner of last year’ Grade I Champagne Stakes, heads a field of 13 entered in Oaklawn Park’s Grade II Rebel Stakes, which will be contested at 1 1/16 miles this Saturday (Feb. 24). I’ll try to put this as kindly as I can. It appears that Timberlake’s opposition is not particularly strong, especially considering this race has a purse of $1.25 million. Muth, runner-up in the BC Juvenile and winner of this year’s Grade II San Vicente Stakes, is glaringly absent after having been listed among the expected entrants. Trainer Bob Baffert decided to keep Muth home at Santa Anita rather than ship him to Arkansas for the Rebel. This year’s Rebel is a race that does not call for considerable analysis. On paper, even though Timberlake hasn’t raced since finishing fourth in the BC Juvenile, he is a standout. Quite simply, it’s his race to lose. Appropriately, he is a short price on the morning line. Below are my Rebel Stakes selections: 1. Timberlake (6-5 morning-line favorite) 2. Just Steel (7-2) 3. Dimatic (8-1) 4. Northern Flame (5-1) I will say that while I didn’t pick Carbone first, second, third or fourth, I do think he might be worth putting a few dollars on. He’s 15-1 on the morning line. Yes, Carbone finished seventh in the Grade III Southwest Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on a muddy track Feb. 3. But keep in mind he was the 9-5 favorite in the Southwest after winning the first two starts of his career by eight and four lengths. After Carbone got beat by nearly 22 lengths in the Southwest, he goes from being a 9-5 favorite to 15-1 on the morning line. I wouldn’t bet him in the Rebel at low odds. But I am willing to make a smallish wager on him at around 15-1. As I’ve said it many times, don’t judge a horse too harshly for one bad race. SIERRA LEONE INDIVIDUAL FAVORITE IN FUTURE WAGERING In the wake of his victory in the Risen Star Stakes, Sierra Leone was the 6-1 favorite among 39 individual horses in Pool 4 of Churchill Downs’ Kentucky Derby Future Wager (KDFW) when betting closed last Sunday (Feb 18). The “all other 3-year-olds” option ended up being the actual 5-1 favorite. Interestingly, this option closed as the 2-1 favorite last year in Pool 4 when Forte was the 8-1 favorite among the 39 individual horses. Mage closed at 48-1 in Pool 4 last year. He went on to win the Kentucky Derby at odds of 15-1 on race day. It was in Pool 4 last year that I put $200 on Grade II Los Alamitos Futurity winner Practical Move. “I was not about to miss the boat with Practical Move at a mouth-watering 83-1 in Pool 4, especially after he fired a bullet five-furlong workout in :59.00 at Santa Anita last Saturday,” I wrote for Xpressbet.com. At the time of my Practical Move future wager, he had not made his 2023 debut yet. It looked like an extremely shrewd bet at 83-1 when Practical Move went on to win Santa Anita’s Grade II San Felipe Stakes and Grade I Santa Anita Derby. I had $200 at 83-1 on a horse eventually listed at 10-1 on the Kentucky Derby morning line. If Practical Move had won the roses, I would have made nearly $17,000. Talk about value. But Practical Move didn’t make it to the Kentucky Derby starting gate. He was scratched due to an elevated temperature, according to trainer Tim Yakteen. Talk about disappointment. It turned out that I was more involved with this year’s Pool 4 than I had expected. I put money on Forever Young at 21-1, Mystik Dan also at 21-1, Tuscan Sky at 31-1, Hades at 32-1, Tuscan Gold at 92-1 and Capital Idea at 131-1. Even though I had played Born Noble previously, when I saw him at such a big price, I decided to put more money on him at 79-1. Tuscan Sky, trained by Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher, is two for two. He won a six-furlong maiden sprint by a widening 5 1/4 lengths when debuting on a muddy track Jan. 13 at Aqueduct. He recorded an 89 Beyer Speed Figure. Last Saturday on a sloppy strip, Tuscan Sky splashed home to a two-length win in a 1 1/16-mile allowance race on the Risen Star undercard. The colt by 2019 BC Classic victor Vino Rosso came away from that performance with a 95 Beyer, while Sierra Leone recorded a 90 Beyer for his Risen Star win later in the day. Tuscan Gold, who like Sierra Leone is conditioned by Chad Brown, launched his racing career with a fourth in a one-mile maiden contest at Aqueduct on Nov. 4. The winner of that race was Sierra Leone. In his only other start thus far, Tuscan Gold rolled to a 6 1/4-length win in a 1 1/16-mile maiden race at Gulfstream on Jan. 31. I love having money on Capital Idea at 131-1. I regard it as being similar to the mouth-watering price I got on Practical Move in Pool 4 last year. In his first career start, Capital Idea finished third in a one-mile maiden race at Aqueduct on Dec. 31. The Classic Empire colt subsequently won by 8 1/4 lengths when competing at one mile on a sloppy surface Jan. 28 at the Big A. After recording a 69 Beyer Speed Figure in his debut, Capital Idea improved to an 84 in his maiden graduation. What I find so interesting about Capital Idea are his Thoro-Graph numbers. While I consider Beyer Speed Figures to be a useful tool for horseplayers, I do believe that Thoro-Graph numbers are superior to the Beyers. That’s because Thoro-Graph takes more factors into account than the Beyers. According to Thoro-Graph, “each number on a sheet represents a performance rating arrived at by using time of the race, beaten lengths, ground lost or saved on the turns, weight carried, and any effects wind conditions had on the time of the race.” In the case of the Thoro-Graph numbers, a horse who finished second, or even lower, can get a better number than the winner. This is one of the reasons I believe that Thoro-Graph is better than the Beyers. I consider a Thoro-Graph number to be a much truer reflection of a horse’s performance than a Beyer. Thoro-Graph’s approach reflects the reality that the winner is not necessarily the horse who ran the best race. The winner of a race never gets a lower Beyer Speed Figure than the horse who finished second, the horse who finished second never gets a lower Beyer than the horse who finished third, and so on down through the order of finish. For Capital Idea’s first race, he was assigned a 10 1/4 Thoro-Graph number. He then registered an excellent 2 3/4 in his maiden score. The 2 3/4 figure stacks up quite well against other members of his class. For instance, when Sierra Leone finished second in the Remsen, his Thoro-Graph fig was 4. And that 4 was a much better Thoro-Graph number than Remsen winner Dornach’s 6 for that race. Capital Idea’s 2 3/4 Thoro-Graph number compares favorably to Timberlake, who is expected to be a strong favorite in this Saturday’s Rebel Stakes. Timberlake recorded a 2 when he won the Grade I Champagne Stakes, then matched that number when fourth in the BC Juvenile. Timberlake closed at 15-1 in KDFW Pool 4, which makes Capital Idea’s price of 131-1 look so enticing to me. Below are the final odds reported by Churchill Downs for Pool 4 of the 2024 KDFW: 5-1 All Other 3-Year-Old Colts and Geldings 6-1 Sierra Leone 9-1 Dornoch 15-1 Timberlake 16-1 Fierceness 16-1 Locked 20-1 Track Phantom 21-1 Forever Young 21-1 Mystik Dan 23-1 Knightsbridge 27-1 Just Touch 29-1 Conquest Warrior 31-1 Catching Freedom 31-1 Tuscan Sky 32-1 Hades 33-1 Hall of Fame 36-1 Honor Marie 37-1 Agate Road 41-1 Speak Easy 57-1 Imperial Gun 57-1 Liberal Arts 69-1 Nash 72-1 Uncle Heavy 79-1 Born Noble 79-1 Just Steel 80-1 Domestic Product 83-1 Resilience 92-1 Tuscan Gold 93-1 Deterministic 99-1 Stronghold 105-1 Epic Ride 120-1 Dimatic 121-1 Amante Bianco 131-1 Capital Idea 131-1 Lucky Jeremy 148-1 No More Time 171-1 Real Men Violin 207-1 West Saratoga 220-1 El Grande O 428-1 Lat Long Two more KDFW pools will be conducted this year: March 15-17 (Pool 5) and April 4-6 (Pool 6). The lone Kentucky Oaks Future Wager will coincide with KDFW Pool 5. TOP 10 IN THIS WEEK’S NTRA TOP THOROUGHBRED POLL Four horses on the Top 10 in this week’s NTRA Top Thoroughbred Poll are entered in the $20 million Saudi Cup this Saturday. They are National Treasure (No. 1), White Abarrio (No. 2), Senor Buscador (tied for No. 3) and Saudi Crown (No. 5). Below is the Top 10 in this week’s NTRA Top Thoroughbred Poll Rank Points Horse (First-Place Votes) 1. 299 National Treasure (19) 2. 260 White Abarrio (10) 3. 187 Idiomatic (2) 3. 187 Senior Buscador 5. 177 Saudi Crown 6. 109 Newgrange 7. 87 Warm Heart 8. 85 Didia 9. 64 Speed Boat Beach 10. 41 Arabian Knight TOP 10 IN THIS WEEK’S NTRA TOP THREE-YEAR-OLD POLL After winning the Risen Star Stakes last Saturday, Sierra Leone climbs all the way up to No. 2 in this week’s NTRA Top Three-Year-Old Poll after being No. 9 last week. Undefeated Nysos maintains his hold on the top spot. Below is the Top 10 in this week’s NTRA Top Three-Year-Old Poll: Rank Points Horse (First-Place Votes) 1. 316 Nysos (28) 2. 280 Sierra Leone (4) 3. 169 Track Phantom 4. 157 Muth 5. 145 Fierceness 6. 131 Hades 7. 116 Locked 8. 104 Mystik Dan 9. 95 Dornoch 10. 37 Maymun

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2.21.2024:

Race of the Week: $600K Razorback at Oaklawn | Saturday, February 24, 2024

The Lead: The $600,000 purse of the Razorback Handicap catches the eye, but you quickly learn when scanning the past performances that these are not horses worthy of the lofty pot. But as you get through the 13 of them entered, you realize this could be the best betting race of the weekend anywhere in the US at any level. Some races are fun to watch, but give me the great gamble any day of the week. The Razorback is part of a big card that includes a fantastic Exacta-Thon promotion at 1/ST BET and Xpressbet. On Oaklawn's 12-race Rebel Day card, hit exactas in 6 or more races and claim your share of $20,000 in bonus money amongst other players on those two platforms who also nail the required number of bets. Plus, the player who hits the exacta on the most races on the card wins $5,000. ​Field Depth: PROMISE KEEPER's Grade 3 Peter Pan win is the field's signature score, but that came in 2021. Grade 3-placed runners here include SPEED BIAS, AIN'T LIFE GRAND, OCTANE, and MIDNIGHT RISING. There's no decided class edge among these, though PROMISE KEEPER has kept the slightly best company lines over time. Pace: FROSTED DEPARTURE and SPEED BIAS have early foot from inner post positions and should be sent along with OCTANE and U.S. ARMY in the fray. PROMISE KEEPER is pace-versatile but can also show speed. Look for a pretty quick tempo over the 1-1/16 miles. Our Eyes: Here are my horse-by-horse notes. (COMING SOON) #1-SEIZE THE NIGHT: Runner-up in the Fifth Season as the 2-1 favorite, he'll hope for drier conditions than his last 2 starts on wet tracks. Note all 4 career wins have come on fast dirt. Leading jockey Cristian Torres gets to save ground and try to rally late. #2-FROSTED DEPARTURE: Won the local Renaissance Stakes in 2022 sprinting and wired an allowance field in December here at the Razorback trip. Expect Ramon Vazquez to put him into the race from the outset and see where chips fall for inconsistent sort who has been out of the money in 6 of his last 10 tries. #3-SPEED BIAS: Last year's Pimlico Special runner-up by a nose and Keeneland's Fayette third-place finisher by a neck, he's teased at top levels with his front-running style. Tends to settle for the minor awards even when favored (0-4 as chalk in last 9 attempts). #4-AIN'T LIFE GRAND: Away since a third-place effort in the Grade 3 Cornhusker in July, he ran poorly at Oaklawn last March off a similar, long layoff. Stakes winner locally over this same distance, so it's all about his readiness for trainer Kelly Von Hemel. He's trained consistently with some fast flashes in the a.m. #5-OCTANE: Gulfstream-based Florida-bred makes a shrewd road trip to battle for $600K against a soft cast for that kind of cash. Beaten favorite in the Sunshine Classic last out has to extend a longer stretch run here than he's had at Gulfstream, where similar races end at the sixteenth-pole finish line. He'll make them earn it from near the front given his 17: 7-4-1 record. #6-MIDNIGHT RISING: Career turf/synthetic performer took the dirt for the first time Jan. 6 at Oaklawn and scored a 15-1 upset over a muddy track. Ran respectably in stakes company at Woodbine and Turfway and likely fits on class with these. Expect a midpack bid. #7-U.S. ARMY: He's had the early lead in 5 of his last 6 starts, including a wire-to-wire stakes win at Remington Park. But he backed up at Oaklawn in his local unveiling Jan. 26 in allowance company as the 5-2 favorite, finishing third to Razorback rivals Notary and Escapologist. Distance the question for speedster. #8-MAGIC TAP (pictured above): Half-brother to multiple Grade 1-winning sprinter American Gal has been a stayer of note, cutting back in distance Saturday after 5 consecutive races over 9 furlongs. Fourth in the Grade 1 Pennsylvania Derby when chasing tough Saudi Crown, one of the key players in the $20 million Saudi Cup on Saturday morning (US time). Tyler Gaffalione comes in to ride, reuniting with the Steve Asmussen contender. #9-O P FIRECRACKER: Late-running third in a pair of allowance races at the current meet, son of local standout Will Take Charge steps up into the stakes ranks. Rallied just behind Magic Tap here Jan. 13 over 1-1/8 miles, but both of his wins have come at the Razorback distance. #10-PROMISE KEEPER: The 2021 Peter Pan winner was claimed for $80,000 in September and notched his first victory in more than 2-1/2 years when immediately moving to the Robertino Diodoro barn last out. Led every step of the Fifth Season with the rail draw and small field size; this test promises to be deeper and tougher from a wide draw, while his 7-1 price that day likely shrinks after a fast speed figure. #11-NOTARY: High-percentage trainer Armando Hernandez and owner Antonio Donato went in for a $50,000 claim in July and this Street Sense colt has since rattled off 3 wins and a runner-up from 5 starts. Smoked allowance runners locally on Jan. 26 by 5 widening lengths, including Razorback returnees Escapologist and U.S. Army. In career form. #12-ESCAPOLOGIST: Deep closer was a no-match second to Notary in their Jan. 26 allowance matchup over a muddy track. Kenny McPeek colt has 5 straight finishes in the money in allowance and claiming races and takes a step up in class. From difficult post, he'll likely drop far back to avoid ground loss. Brian Hernandez Jr. comes in from Fair Grounds to reunite, while regular rider Julien Leparoux opts for Octane. ​#13-BOLZY: Recent allowance winner has been off the board in 5 of 7 career starts and has yet to make a stakes bid at age 5. Fantastic pedigree hasn't panned out, by Gun Runner and out of the one of the greatest Oklahoma-bred stakes winners of all-time, She's All In. Earned a huge speed figure last out in a career-best, and has followed up with a Feb. 17 bullet workout in 47-3/5 for a half-mile, so maybe the lightbulb finally switched on. Wretched post, but intrigues some. Most Certain Exotics Contender: No locks in this spot, but the edge goes to MAGIC TAP, who has had 6 straight superfecta finishes. Best Longshot Exotics Contender: BOLZY's last was really good and he has a license to be a stakes horse for a trainer, Donnie Von Hemel, who doesn't just throw one to the wolves. Demand 15-1 or 20-1 from that abysmal post draw, but usable underneath. ​ Sending it in ($100 bankroll): Attacking the exactas with the extra Exacta-Thon promotional incentives. $15 exacta part-wheel MAGIC TAP over OP FIRECRACKER, BOLZY, SEIZE THE NIGHT, NOTARY and OCTANE ($75). $5 exacta part-wheel NOTARY over OP FIRECRACKER, BOLZY, SEIZE THE NIGHT, MAGIC TAP and OCTANE ($25).

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2.21.2024:

Jeremy Plonk: Saudi Cup Post Draw Reaction, Betting Info

Led by Breeders’ Cup Classic / Florida Derby winner White Abarrio and Preakness / Pegasus World Cup champ National Treasure, a field of 14 (with one alternate) entered today for Saturday’s $20 million Saudi Cup, the world’s richest horse race. The sensational lineup also includes Pegasus World Cup runner-up Senor Buscador, Cigar Mile winner Hoist the Gold, Pennsylvania Derby victor Saudi Crown and the expatriated Hollywood Gold Cup winner Defunded. With such American influence, attention on the Saudi Cup will be high when wagering is offered on the full, 9-race card from Riyadh Saturday, beginning at 7 am ET. Advance wagering on the full card from Saudi Arabia on Saturday will be available on both 1/ST BET and Xpressbet beginning Friday at 4 pm ET. Horseplayers betting all of Saturday’s races from Saudi Arabia with 1/ST BET and Xpressbet can enjoy up to a $10 money-back special on win bets that finish second or third. Japan seeks back-to-back Saudi Cup wins after Panthlalassa’s score in the race a year ago, and counters with a lineup that may even be superior to the Americans. Dubai World Cup winner Ushba Tesoro, Breeders’ Cup Classic runner-up Derma Sotogake and Japanese domestic dirt champion horse Lemon Pop are the headline acts. Japan secured 3 of the 6 races for Thoroughbreds on the 2023 Saudi Cup card and 4 of the top 5 placings in the $20 million main event. The only American horse to win the first four Saudi Cup editions was Maximum Security in the 2020 inaugural when besting countrymate Midnight Bisou. Since, winners have been based in the UK, UAE and Japan. The 1-1/8 miles distance of the Saudi Cup makes it a more tempo-driven ‘major’ than the 1-1/4 miles dirt showcases that tap stamina, such as the Dubai World Cup and Breeders’ Cup Classic. The track layout at King Abdulaziz Racecourse makes this a one-turn race with a tremendous run into the only turn, nullifying the significance of the post draw in terms of potential ground loss. There’s plenty of time to get position into the bend. Panthalassa won wire-to-wire last year from the rail draw. The Americans certainly don’t lack for pace with front-running National Treasure, Hoist the Gold and Saudi Crown among the expected early flyers. Defunded comes off an extended layoff and could be fresh early for new connections since moving to the Middle East. He’s drawn just outside Hoist the Gold and National Treasure, who both have top-class speed. Saudi Crown in post 5 is inner-most of those front-runners and could take additional pressure. That group has the potential to hook up and increase the pace tempo. Irad Ortiz Jr. may use a bit more of White Abarrio than usual from a rail draw, but there’s a lot of real estate on the backstretch run. $20 million Grade 1 Saudi Cup // Saturday // King Abdulaziz Racecourse // Post Time 12:40 pm ET US ** Note ** Betting numbers and post positions do not match. Post positions are listed in parentheses behind the betting numbers for each horse. 1 (14)-Carmel Road (Abdullah Albadah // Camilo Ospina) 2 (6)-Crown Pride (Koichi Shintani // Joao Moreira) 3 (9)-Defunded (Abdulaziz Khalid Mishref // Luis Saez) 4 (13)-Derma Sotogake (Hidetaka Otonashi // Christophe Lemaire) 5 (8)-Hoist the Gold (Dallas Stewart // John Velazquez) 6 (2)-Isolate (Doug Watson // Joel Rosario) 7 (3)-Lemon Pop (Hiroyasu Tanaka // Ryusei Sakai) 8 (12)-Meisho Hario (Inao Okada // Suguru Hamanaka) 9 (7)-National Treasure (Bob Baffert // Flavien Prat) 10 (10)-Power in Numbers (Ahmed Mohamoud // Adel Alfouraidi) 11 (5)-Saudi Crown (Brad Cox // Florent Geroux) 12 (4)-Senor Buscador (Todd Fincher // Junior Alvarado) 13 (11)-Ushba Tesoro (Noboru Takagi // Yuga Kawada) 14 (1)-White Abarrio (Rick Dutrow // Irad Ortiz Jr.) 15 (also-eligible)-Scotland Yard (Mutaeb Almulawah // TBD) Wagering Details (with takeout): All Races: $1 Win (17.5%), $1 Place (17.5%), $1 Exacta (19%), 20-cent Trifecta (25%), 10-cent Superfecta (25%) Races 4-9: 50-cent Pick 6 (25%) Races 4-6: 50-cent Pick 3 (25%) Races 7-9: 50-cent Pick 3 (25%) Races 5-6: $1 Daily Double (25%) Races 8-9: $1 Daily Double (25%)

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2.21.2024:

1/ST POST: Why Play Today? Wednesday, February 21, 2024

EXTRA INCENTIVES February $20K Sweepstakes | win up to a $1,000 betting voucher TOURNAMENT TIME $40 Gulfstream Feeder | details NOTABLE CARRYOVERS Jackpot Pick 6 | $286,375 | Gulfstream Park | begins Race 4 | 1:40 pm ET Jackpot Pick 6 | $52,888 | Turfway Park | begins Race 4 | 7:25 pm ET Jackpot Pick 6 | $57,440 | Charles Town | begins Race 3 | 7:57 pm ET 1/ST BET AI MOST LIKELY GULFSTREAM WINNER Gulfstream | Race 1 | 12:10 pm ET | #1 True Martini (31%) LONGSHOT RACE ALERT FROM BETMIX Gulfstream Park | Race 5 | 2:10 pm ET Parx | Race 10 | 4:08 pm ET Turfway | Race 5 | 7:55 pm ET TRAINERS TO WATCH Mike Maker | Gulfstream Park | all 3 entrants 7-2 or less morning line DID YOU SEE? Yesterday | Parx | trainer Guadalupe Guerreo | 3 wins from 3 starters Yesterday | Parx | jockey Ruben Silvera | 3 wins, 1 second from 5 mounts PUT US ON YOUR HANDICAPPING TEAM Frank Carulli & Brian W. Spencer Tuesday best bets available in Xpressbet.com member’s section

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