Breeder’s Cup Saturday

It’s been an amazingly busy couple of days for me. I spent most of the morning checking the workouts and gallops, and talking to a lot of different connections. The good news?  I didn’t find anyone who didn’t like their horse’s chances.  The bad news? I didn’t find anyone who didn’t like their horse’s chances.

Some brief thoughts on Saturday.

Juvenile Fillies 12-2-4-11

Angela Renee broke her maiden at SAR, finished second to the well regarded Cavorting in the Adirondack, but was thrashed on a sloppy trac in the Spinaway. She rebounded to take the Chandler at SA. The field strength of the Chandler was no better than average, but Angela Renee’s win was convincing. If you are searching for a “local” horse, this one fits the bill.

Conquest Eclipse was second in the Del Mar Debutante to the highly respected Sunset Glow, and second again to Angela Renee last out. She’d have to have developed a lot in a month to reverse the tables, but her workouts have been good.

Puca took three races to break her maiden but look at the trainer. Mott horses rarely win at first asking, and that maiden score was emphatic. Could be one of those two year olds that just pulled herself together.

Wonder Gal was second in the Frizette, a major prep for this race. On the other hand, it was in the slop and Tiz Wonderful runners seem to freak on the wet track. Plus she was taken by Angela Renee in the Adirondack. It was a good Frizette for her, but how much do you believe she reverses the tables on the fast dirt.

Top Decile finished second in the Alcibiades, coming from another zip code to almost nail the winner. That is a key prep race and with a clean break and an ability to establish position, she could grab a piece.

By the Moon was decimated by Condo Commando in the Spinaway, but convincingly won the Frizette. The last two races were in the slop, so we’re guessing a little on how much the horse could improve on a fast track. Michelle Nevin is relatively unkknown on other circuits, but in New York she is a well-respected horsewoman. 6-1 ML would be a good price to find out if she’s the best.

Filly and Mare Turf     10-2-5-6

Abaco finished second in the Flower Bowl and won the Ballston Spa and she’s probably in as good a shape as she can be in. I’m not pronouncing her totally outless, but I think there are better places to put your money.

Just the Judge came here from Ireland and England to run in the Beverly D at Arlington. That was a good race for her, and she followed that with a nice win on the turf at Woodbine in the Grade 1 E P Taylor. She was having trouble cracking through in European Group races, and while any of the Euros is worth considering, there are a few worth considering more.

Dank won this race last year, but the Dank that showed up looked like a horse ready to win. Doesn’t seem to be the same Dank this year.

Dayatthespa won the First Lady at a mile last out, and while she’s a great middle distance runner, she hasn’t been this far. She a quality horse with a first rate trainer, but at 1 1/4 miles, I’m thinking more to one of the distance specialists. Still, she should have the lead and speed can always upset.

Secret Gesture hasn’t won a Group race this year, and her regular rider takes off to go to Just the Judge. She’s a Euro, and that makes her better than a lot of the Americans. Still, I’d like to see more of the will to win.

Fiesolana is primarily a sprinter/miler, although she has one win at the distance. She’s a solid group horse and passed the mile, a race in which she’d get a lot of consideration, to go in this event. She can’t be dismissed out of hand, but she might find herself wanting in the stretch. I think she’s the interesting longshot.

Stephanie’s Kitten always runs competitively but doesn’t always have the greatest of trips. She’s experiencedand has been working well and in my opinion is the best the Americans have.

Filly and Mare Sprint     6-5-1-3

Sweet Reason ran second to Untapable in the Cotillion, and by the time this one goes off, we’ll know how well Unytapable did. She won the Test and the Acorn, and really looks to be one of the major contenders.

Stonetastic was dominating at six furlongs in the Prioress, and continued her eye-opening string with a strong run in the TCA. She hasn’t run 7 Furlongs yet, but she shouldn’t have trouble with it. She’s on my wonder list.

Artemis Argotera has been lights out this summer and fall. After doing nothing in the Grade 1 Acorn, she demolished an OC $40K field, then came right back to blister a group of 8 in the Grade 1 Ballerina. She prepped in the Gallant Bloom, which almost proved too short for her. She seems like the now horse.

Leigh Court won the TCA a month ago at Keeneland after making her 2014 debut in the Grade 3 Seaway on the poly track at Woodbine. /She obviously loves the poly track, but is still two out of three on the dirt, three for three at the distance, and has beaten a couple of these already. You have to believe the abbreviated 20014 campaign was all about this race, so she is a major contender.

Judy the Beauty is listed at 5-2, and why not given she finished second here last year. She only beat a field of four last out. She’s one out of eight on the fast dirt with six seconds. Not likely the winner at those odds, but could factor in the lesser awards.

Living the Life came to life with th addition of Lasix. She’s got a Grade 2 at Presque Isle, and not group wins showing in her European poly track races. Could surprise, but I don’t think you can spend a lot of money finding out.

Turf Sprint     10-1-6-12

Reneesgotzip is aptly named. The five year old daughter of City Zip is looking to make up for last year’s heartbreaking loss. She’s had two races this year and it is clear Peter Miller has had only one thing on his mind – redemption. She’s plenty fast and in 15 lifetime starts she’s only been out of the money once.

Silentio is one of those horses that always looks good and finishes third. That’s probably the best he can hope for today.

Tightend Touchdown dead heated with Reneesgotzip last year and despite the fact he looks pretty much the same as last year when he went off 18-1, I just can’t bring myself to put the horse on top.

Bobby’s Kitten is by far the most interesting horse in the race. He came up just short in the Woodbine Mile. He’s obviously not a mile and a quarter horse, and he seems to favor the mile, but he did run a great race in last year’s juvenile on this turf course. I think he has to be on some tickets.

Home Run Kitten came from the coulds to win on the SA downhill last out. He 4 for 6 on the turf and 2 for 2 on the downhill course. Given the quirkiness of the course experience counts and that makes him a major contender.

Undrafted ran a decent race at Kentucky Downs and the race before that he ran a close fourth in the Grade 1 Darley Cup. He’s not completely outless – one of a few that would be no surprise.

Caspar Netscher got Lasix and became a new horse. The Nearctic wasn’t a particularly fast race, but it was a breakthrough for Caspar. I don’t know if he is good enough to win this – you have to decide that the Lasix has made a new horse of him – but he’s another that wouldn’t shock me.

No Nay Never had two group wins as a two year old and a grade 3 win in his last out. He’s not getting a great amount of buzz but I watched him work this morning and he looked great on the track. Three year olds can improve with big jumps later in the year and he might be one that does.

Juvenile     12-9-1-13

Calculator inherits the West Coast banner with the scratch of American Pharoah. No reason he can’t carry it all the way home.

The Great War is the foreign invader. He has no graded wins, but he is trained by Aiden O’Brien. Lasix may give him a gear he has’t found overseas.

Carpe Diem pounded the Breeder’s Futruity field at Keeneland in a nice time. He should volley with Daredevil for favoritism.

Daredevil won the Champagne on a soggy course. He’s done everything right so far and the Toddster is killer in graded stakes.

Upstart finished second on the Belmont goo last out in the Champagne. He certainly did well on the fast SAR track and if he gets a dry dirt tomorrow he might be best.


Telescope leaads a strong European contingent this year. He’s has gone against the best Europe has and has more than held his own. He’s only got one Group 2 score this year, but don’t be fooled. He is a Group 1 competitor who comes to the race looking ready.

Twilight Eclipse has struggled to break through the win column lately, but has been achingly close in some quality Grade 1 races. I don’t think he is quite in the same league as the Euros, but he is a solid and reliable turf runner.

Imagining is another that is good enough to race at the Grade 1 level but is most likely to be mid pack at the wire.

Brown Panther really came into his own when he drew away from a talented St. Ledger field.. He’s rated just a step behind the best in Europe, but that doesn’t mean his chances are limited here.

Flintshire has the same good news and bad news. He ran a bang-up race in the Arc to the highly regarded Treve, and often horses pointed at the Arc flop when shipped to the U.S. He has the talent and the connections to win, but I’m hesitant to pull the trigger, even though Fabre suggests he’s been point at the BC all along.

Hardest Core won the Arlington Million, beating less than the same Magician in the process. Where he found that race is a good question, but I think his winning streak ends today.

Chiquita looks a cut below the best in Europe but does add Lasix. Perhaps that jumps him up enough to grab a piece.

Main Sequence is a Kentucky bred that started his career in Britain but came home to reel off three straight Grade 1 victories, the most definitive one by a neck. He could be the best of the Americans, but I think he has trouble running by the Euros.

Big John B hasn’t gotten the big figures that some of the others have, but he does have a run over the course. Looks like an outsider, but might have enough talent to sneak into a back hole.

Sprint     6-4-8-10

Secret Circle won the race here and it certainly looks like Baffert has him looking directly at the bullseye for this race. The last time the horse did something really wrong – well, never. Leave him out at your own risk.

Private Zone won the Vosburgh impressively in only his second start of the year. I think he’s been pointed at the race, but as he showed last year, his form didn’t translate well to Santa Anita and the BC field.

Rich Tapestry was knocking around on the turf and poly track in Hong Kong and the UAE occasionally running lights out. Then he shipped to SA and hung on for a tough win against no less than Goldencents. If you’re measured by the company you keep Rich Tapestry is highly measured indeed. Everything is looking like a go for him.

Palace is a quality American sprinter and would be no surprise at all if he hit the wire first at SA.

Salutos Amigos is to be saluted for making the trip to California. He convincingly won the Bold Ruler on a good track, and although David Jacobson was excited enough to get him entered at the last minute, I think the bubble bursts today.

Big Macher was shredded by Goldencents in the Pat O’Brien after holding him off in the Bing Crosby. So which Big Macher shows up today? I’m betting it’s the one that likes Santa Anita. Expect a much bigger race from him today.

Fast Anna was a courageous second in the King’s Bishop followed by another second in the Gallant Bob. She’s never been up against this sort of field though and I think that cooks her goose.

Bourbon Courage has been getting some buzz, and although there just aren’t enough races written for good sprinters, his only win this year was in an OC $80K. Not enough for me.

Mile   5-4-9-10

Obviously is four for nine on the SA turf and although he has the speed to carry the day, I think this field is a little too strong to let him slip away..

Veda is one of those maddening 3 year old French fillies that has you kicking yourself whenever they win a race like this. If she wins I’ll be kicking myself again.

Mustajeeb has not been overraced – only 7 starts. He’s been beautifully managed and I don’t think we’ve seen near the depth of his talent yet.

Toronado is the best the Euros have in this race. He’s been pointed at it all year and adds Lasix just in case. Hard to see a scenario where he is not one of the ones at the wire.

Trade Storm is a nice horse. He’s not Toronado on British soil, but he travels fairly well. I have low expectations here.

Anodin, unfortunately, is not his sister Goldikova. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t have chances. Euro analysts like the horse at a mile. Seven furlongs is just a bit too short. He’s only listed at 6-1 ML. That should tell you something.

Summer Front is trained by the always dangerous Christophe Clement. He has a second over the SA turf and five of seven wins at the distance. Longshot possibility.

Classic     11-6-9-12

I’ll make this one quick. There are a few horses getting buzz including Cigar Street, Zivo, and of course California Chrome. Here is my race guarantee. One of the NBC cameras will be on Steve Coburn, the owner of Chrome, and someone is going to be shoving a microphone in his face, win or lose. I think most of us are rooting for a loss and another stupid rant.  Tonalist showed he has come into his own and is simply the best horse in the race. Forget the “he can only win at Belmont” line. That’s mainly people looking for a reason to bet against him. He looks every bit a classic winner to me. You can’t knock Shared Belief, and his last race showed he is everything you want a race horse to be. His odds will be too low for me, but that doesn’t mean I don’t believe he has a big chance. Toast of New York is that sentimental European pick. All I know is that the Euros think he belongs here, and if he hits it will be at big odds. Why not. Finally, the other buzz horse is Candy Boy, a three year old getting good at exactly the right time of the year. At 20- 1 ML he can make the exotics. Do I think Bayern and Moreno kill each other on the front? Not necessarily. Moreno will be happy to track Bayern and if Bayern gets soft fractions, it could be deja vu all over again. Zivo is probably the best of the older horses, and while all the talk is for one of the three year olds, Zivo has quietly had an outstanding year. If he wins I may not get rich but I’ll feel good for a NY bred winning the big one. California Chrome – what can I say. I’m not a believer. But he won on the biggest stage earlier this year and if he wins again he’ll have shown the world it was no fluke.

Other Breeder’s Cup Races October 31

Juvenile Turf

1 Wet Sail – Has a good Timeform European rating. Has been improving each race. A few down sides though. He hasn’t been the distance, he’s been racing at lesser British tracks, and he has no Group races. He does get Jamie Spencer and that is a plus.

2 Daddy D T – Won the Oak Tree Juvenile coming from well off the pace. Tried pressing a little closer in the Front Runner and had no response in the stretch. He would be a surprise.

3 Luck of the Kitten – Four races, two wins and two place finishes. He has a race over the track and that is a plus, but he has the look of a horse that might need to improve some to beat this group.

4 Commemorative – has a Group 3 win at Newmarket at good odds. Has run well at the distance. He’s not without a chance here.

5 Hootenanny – Group 1 placed in France last out. Another that hasn’t been the distance, and although her race figure from the Prix Mornay is impressive, I always think it is hard to negotiate the turns for the first time. Perhaps the best of the Euro entries,

6 Conquest Typhoon – Won the Summer Stakes at Woodbine, although not in a particularly impressive time. However, the turf was yielding that day. He has a nice turn of speed and should establish  good position. I believe he is much better than his 12-1 ML suggests.

7 War Entry – Lots of seven furlong races but only one win in a seven race career. On the up side, he’s been in nothing but Group races since June, he gets Lasix for the first tiem, and is trained by the crafty Aidan O’Brien. On the down side, he’s had a rough campaign and hasn’t really had a training break since early this year. I think the trip from France to the West Coast has to take a lot of what he has left out of him.

8 Offering Plan – Chad Brown trainee broke his maiden in fine fashion at a mile and a sixteenth and ran respectably in the Grade 3 Pilgrim. In that race he was wide most of the way and didn’t have a lot left for the stretch. He’s well overlayed at 20-1 ML and I believe can be used.

9 Aktabantay – Criticized by the European experts for laziness, especially after finish sixth in his last race in France. He seems to have problems with focus, but I haven’t seen a note to put blinkers on. Does add first Lasix thought. He looks mildly interesting, and may be the best of the Euro runners.

10 Startup Nation – Another Chad Brown horse. He finished fourth in the Pilgrim after easily winning the With Anticipation. He shows a good stretch kick and can’t be discounted here.

11 Imperia – Winner of the Pilgrim and exactly the sort of horse you look for in this race. Lightly raced, maturing at the right time, and has a good style for this race. Very tempting if he goes off near his ML odds.

12 International Star – broke his maiden on the turf, ran a distant second in a NY state-bred stakes, the returned to the grass and finished second in the With Anticipation. A month ago he won the Grey Stakes on the synthetic at Woodbine. He is getting better with each race, and that is one of the things you look for in two year olds. Could surprise at a price.

13 Lawn Ranger – Best name in the race. He’s riding a two race winning streak, his last the Grade 3 Bourbon at Keeneland. Has the character and the right style, but I don’t think he is quite at this level.

14 Danny Boy – Is maturing but I don’t think he’s quite there yet.

Of the North Americans, Luck of the Kitten is the best locally based horse, Conquest Typhoon has a lot of tactical speed and goes for the very good Casse/Husbands combination, and Offering Plan and Startup Nation have a lot of upside and one of the best trainers around. All things considered, Kieran McLaughlin’s Imperia looks best of the North American runners.

Of the Europeans, Hootenany looks to be the best, but Commemorative and Aktabantay have reasonable possibilities.


Dirt Mile

The contenders are Goldencents, Carve, Pants on Fire, Bronzo, Fed Biz and Tapiture.

Goldencents, the defending champion, rarely runs a bad race and has already proven he likes the new Santa Anita dirt, missing by a desperate nose in the SA Sprint Championship to Rich Tapestry at six furlongs. Goldencents is usually thought of as a horse that prefers races between seven furlongs and a mile, and he has two wins and two seconds at eight furlongs. It is a little disconcerting that he had a clear lead in the stretch but was outfinished by Rich Tapestry, although to be fair, once he caught Rich Tapestry’s figure he did seem to dig in a little more and almost came back to nab the win. He’s only had one race at a mile this year, finishing second to a very talented (at the time) Palace Malice. On the up side, he has been working lights out over the SA dirt. As far as I am concerned, he is the king until someone dethrones him and while 6-5 might be a little enthusiastic, it’s hard to imagine he isn’t going to be in the mix at the end.

Carve is the interesting horse in this race. He’s not as fast as Goldencents – who is – but he’s quietly had a nice season with four wins in eight starts. He’s superbly bred for a mile, and although he’s not beaten a field of this quality, I’ll give him a shot to make the exacta or trifecta.

Pants On Fire is a hard-knocking six year-old for trainer Kelly Breen. He went in this race last year and was really decimated by the better horses. Still, he’s about as good as he’s going to get, coming off a win in a stakes at Charles Town. He gives a good effort every time, and although he doesn’t have the ability of Goldencents, a minor piece is not out of the question.

Bronzo is the X-factor here. The Chilean-bred is by Kentucky Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus, and has run some very good times in South America. Will that translate to North America? Is he as good as the American runners? I don’t have a definitive answer, but I am willing to risk a few saver tickets just in case.

Fed Biz shapes up as the main competition to Goldencents for the win. He was beaten soundly by the champion in the seven furlong Pat O’Brien on the synthetic track at Del Mar. He’s improved a lot as a five year old, and finishing second to the favorite in the Classic is good for a horse’s resume. He’s three of six at the distance, and looks like he’s coming to the race at the top of his game. Of course he’s not going to have a stablemate to bother Goldencents so he’s going to have to do it on his own.

Tapiture – Second to Bayern in Pennsylvania Derby and winner of the West Virginia Derby at Mountaineer. He’s only had one race at a mile – a maiden affair at Churchill in which he finished second – so this is going to be a bit of a guessing game. He’s a Tapit, which means he should enjoy the distance. He’s been at Santa Anita for a month, and should be well acclimated. What I don’t really like? He hasn’t raced again this quality of older horse. You have to decide how much of a risk it will be to count on Rosie Napravnik to keep him out of trouble and rolling in the stretch, or even if he is good enough to be competitive here.

You can’t bet against Goldencents and at his likely probable odds he won’t be much value. He’s clearly the best horse on paper, but there are a few who won’t be ready to concede the coronation, including Fed Biz and Tapiture. There are a couple of price horses, including Carve and Bronzo, that could make for a nice paying exacta.



The contenders are Iotapa, Ria Antonia, Untapable and Close Hatches.

Iotapa has run nothing but graded races this year, and in seven starts has three wins, three seconds, and a third. She ran a monstrous race in the Vanity and came back with a nice win on the Del Mar synthetic in the Clement Hirsch. Her race in the Zenyatta was troubled. When she missed the break she was forced to park on the rail behind horses. Beholder, winner of the race was wide down the backstretch and made the winning move around the turn. Iotapa was not really boxed in, but by the time she was clear enough to make a move, Tiz Midnight  had bounded away and Beholder had full momentum. The problem in this race is twofold for Iotapa. First, Tiz Midnight is just to Iotapa’s inside and there is no reason to expect Tiz Midnight won’t try to run the same race as she did in the Zenyatta. Second, Close Hatches will be looking to run to the front from the far outside, and Close Hatches is a far better horse than Tiz Midnight. For Iotapa to win, she’ll have to relax and let the other two horses beat themselves up. It’s a big chore.

Don’t Tell Sophia won the Spinster at Keeneland last out, coming from last to easily win the race. She likes the distance – she’s two for three – and she looks to be in great shape. She may not be better than Untapable or Close Hatches, but if she gets a pace setup she might run by them all.

Untapable is the best three year old filly in training. Other than a debacle in Haskell, she’s done absolutely nothing wrong this year. She has a perfect running style for the race. There are two negatives. First, she hasn’t raced against the likes of Iotapa and Close Hatches. Second, she’s only been in races with three year olds and I’d have liked to have seen a race against older. Still, she’ll be the favorite and off her best race she looks like a winner.

Close Hatches is listed as the ML second choice and she may be up against it from the 11 post. She lost the Spinster last out at 1-5 when she was challenged by Rio Antonia. Not only is she likely to get challenged up front, but she’ll have to do her running outside of horses. In fairness, she is four out of five this year against Grade 1 competition, but given he fade last race and the probably hot pace in this one, I think she is a vulnerable favorite.

Untapable looks like the best horse in the field. She’ll be in the A position coming into the stretch and should have first run at the pacesetters. Don’t Tell Sophia has a good closing kick and used it powerfully in the Spinster. Between Iotapa and Close Hatches, it’s not unreasonable to expect one of them to hang on for a piece.

Breeder’s Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf

This was the race I did for Horseplayer Magazine for three years running, so I have a pretty fair idea of the prep races and the strength of the fillies.

The Europeans have always dominated the traditional Breeder’s Cup turf events. However, until the 2012 version, exactly the opposite was true in the Juvenile Fillies Turf. In the inaugural running in 2008, European imports Beyond Our Reach and April Pride were no factors, finishing last and second to last, respectively, although the Aiden O’Bren-trained Heart Shaped came a jump short of catching long-shot winner Maram.

In 2009, race favorite Lillie Langtry could manage no better than an eighth place finish, the best of any Euro runner. The next year wasn’t much more productive, with the Europeans finishing fifth, seventh, eleventh, and dead last. In 2011 three European fillies made the trip, and again they disappointed their backers, finishing fourth, eighth, and a seemingly predictable last.

Things changed – a little bit anyway – in 2012 when the Breeder’s Cup banned the use of race-day Lasix in the juvenile races. Five European based horses ran in the Juvenile Fillies Turf and one of them, Flotilla, won the race. The other four, The Gold Cheongsam, Waterway Run, Sky Lantern, and Infana Braca finished between 5th and 10th, the same sort of result the Euros achieved in the previous years.

Euro’s who are good enough to win the best European races don’t often ship to the Breeder’s Cup, and some of the horses that have run well in races like the Arc de Triomphe don’t often have fuel left in the tank for the Breeder’s Cup. On the other hand, some of the also rans in big races are competitive with the North American runners. With the two year-old fillies, almost every top European juvenile has far more interest in the top European three year-old races and passes the Breeder’s Cup. In 2012, Flotilla came out of a fourth place finish in the Group 1 Prix Marcel Boussac at Longchamp. I remember in doing the analysis in Horseplayer I noted that the Boussac horses would warrant serious consideration, both because of the field quality and the fact that the horses have to negotiate turns, but unfortunately I didn’t have the results of the race before the press deadline. The best of the Euros was supposed to be Sky Lantern, winner of the Group 1 Moyglare Stud Stakes. He managed no better than 8th. So it was somewhat good news and the same old news. Yes, a Euro won the race, but the contingent in general ran as mediocre as they had in previous years.

In 2013 another European won. Chriselliam had won the ungraded Ascendant Stakes and the very highly regarded Group 1 Shadwell Fillies Mile at Newmarket before shipping to Santa Anita. As I had mentioned in the Horseplayer article, no horses had shipped to the Breeder’s Cup off the Shadwell Mile, but given the quality of the race if one did she would merit serious consideration. Interestingly, that Breeder’s Cup win for Chriselliam was the last time the horse raced. Interpret that as you will. You might argue that Testa Rossi was European, but I think she lost that distinction when she shipped over early to win the Miss Grillo at Belmont. Otherwise, the other two true Europeans, Vorda and Al Thakira, finished seventh and dead last, about the spots we’ve expected to see them.

The Europeans have had two disadvantages in this race. Until Sky Lantern and Chriselliam, most of the best European two year-olds had no interest in disrupting the highly lucrative European three year-old campaign. Realistically, Flotilla was not considered one of the top two year-old fillies. Second, most of the Europeans have not gone around two turns, or for that matter even one turn. Most of the seven furlong and mile races are on the straight, and experience around turns is crucial to the success of two year olds trying routes at one mile tracks. The only European exception was Flotilla who had to navigate the twists at Longchamp and came ready to deal with the turns.

This year Lasix is back and I’m going to make a bold statement. The Europeans are more likely to be back in mid-pack than leading the way to the wire.

The key prep races for the Juvenile Fillies Turf are the Moyglare Stud Stakes at the Curragh in Ireland; the 8-furlong Natalma Stakes at Woddbine; the Shadwell Fillies Mile at Newmarket; the Miss Grillo at Belmont; and the Jessamine at Keeneland. In terms of impact the best North American finishers have either come out of the Miss Grillo or the Natalma, although the Jessamine has produced some in the money finishers.

The prep races in California, the Surfer Girl and the Oak Tree Juvenile Fillies Turf at Del Mar, have not been around as long as the primary stakes, but given they provide experience on West Coast turf courses, runners coming out of those races may ultimately prove to be  factors. The down sides – neither race has graded status and the quality of runners is at least a cut below the graded races at Belmont, Woodbine, and Keenland.

Let’s look at the North American contenders.

Conquest Harlanate – Winner of the Grade 2 Natalma and conditioned by Canadian training wizard Mark Casse. She’s been around two turns and has won on both the turf and the poly track. Don’t let the figure from the Natalma discourage you from backing her – that was a bouncy turf course that day and there were only two turf races. One was the Summer Stakes and it went almost a second slower than the Natalma. She has a nice pressing style and a powerful closing kick. She looks to be one of the top three domestic contenders.

Isabella Sings – She was the second place finisher in the Natalma and is trained by Todd Pletcher. As good a trainer as Pletcher is, he hasn’t really stood out in the Breeder’s Cup. However, Isabella Sings is a real contender here. In the Natalma she was wide around the far turn, took the lead entering the stretch and did everything she could to hold off Conquest Harlanate, ultimately losing by a neck. She wouldn’t have to improve much to turn the tables.

Lady Eli – Trained by the other East Coast sharpie, Chad Brown. She won the Miss Grillo convincingly, running the last 3/16 in about 29 seconds. That’s exceptional time for two year old fillies. She is lightly raced – she broke her maiden at a mile and a sixteenth at Saratoga and and came right back to win the Miss Grillo. Brown has kept her on edge with some nice breezes on the turf. She is the other in the top three contingent.

Quality Rocks – ran a nice one in the Jessamine in her first try on the turf. She’s decently bred for the surface and other than getting caught by Rainha Da Batera, she’s done little wrong. Still, I think she might not be good enough in this field.

Rainha Da Bateria – came from the last to win the Jessamine. That was a strangely run race with Cool Comfort running his own race for a while and the field sweeping up around the turn. The 8th by 14 Rainha Da Bateria shows for the first two calls was really more like 8th by 6 behind the horse setting the pace for the main pack, Quality Rocks. The race was ambiguous in terms of quality – Quality Rocks won the Arlington-Washington Futurity, but Cool Comfort, Fila Primera and Walking the Kitten were all coming out of their maiden races. I’m thinking the horse is in the second tier, and if the pace is easy, she has fewer chances if she comes from the clouds again. Still, she could be any kind.

Sunset Glow –  After winning the Del Mar Debutante and the Sorrento on the poly track, trainer Wesley Ward shipped her to Keeneland with his eye on the Alcibiades, but she never got to run and that has to be concerning. She started her career at Presque Isle and moved to Belmont where she broke her maiden at five furlongs on the good turf. From there she shipped to Ascot where she finished second in the Group 3 Albany stakes on the soft turf and then back to Del Mar. She seemed to be the top 2 year-old filly in training on the West Coast, and that alone should give her some respect, but given she hasn’t been around two turns and she missed her prep, I’m going to pass on including her.

Of the North American Runners, I think Lady Eli, Conquest Harlanate, and Isabella Sings have the best chances. 

Now for the European Horses.

Osaila – Finished fifth in the Moyglare Stud Stakes at the Curragh and then came back to win the Tattersalls Millions 2YO Fillies Trophy at Newmarket. She was not that well regarded in the Moyglare, but ran decently, although she never threatened to crack the top three. She’s obviously a cut below the best the UK has to offer, and like a lot of the Euros she hasn’t gotten to run around two turns. The TimeForm analyst gives her the equivalent of a strong allowance horse rating, and does note she is precocious, having started her career in June. She’s similar to the Euro winner Flotilla in the sense that she finished out of the money in a high quality race and it would not be irrational to use her. I just think a win is a lot to ask for today.

Qualify – She’s admittedly a cut below the best Europe has to offer and really rates no higher than Osailla. She finished toward the back of the pack in the Moyglare, although she did win a Group 3 before shipping over here. She’s conditioned by the crafty Aidan O’Brien and that’s a big plus. Still, she has the look of a lot of the horses O’Brien has failed with in this race. Seems with the Lasix back perhaps the Euros have decided not to send their best over.

Sivoliere – switches to Chad Brown for this one and Brown is a 30% trainer with horses trying the North American turf for the first time. She’s another with a good allowance horse rating, and it really depends on how much you think Brown can improve the horse as to whether you throw her in your horizontals and verticals. I’m betting she will get no better than a minor award, and she doesn’t seem really solid for that.

Prize Exhibit – one of the Euro’s who drew in. She’s had a lot of starts with no wins in Group races. She just seems more likely to take the spot Euros have finished in more than any other – last – than crack the top three.

The betting strategy for the Juvenile Fillies Turf seems to boil down to one factor: favorites have not done well, but the horses that have won have done well in one of the major preps. Just remember one thing – these are two year olds and big improvement from race to race defines the group.

Belmont October 26

Last day for BEL. I’ll be publishing my Breeder’s Cup analysis on Thursday. Good luck to everyone today. Looks like a lot of competitive races which means there should be plenty of value. The turf is still listed as good three days after the rain.

Race 1

Another race where I had to work hard to whittle the contenders down. 1,2,3,7,8,9,10 and 11 all got some consideration. This is a race full of positives and negatives on most of the horses. I’ll admit I spent a lot of time on the race and still couldn’t come up with anything definitive.

  • 9 Summation Time – Clement trainee ran a nice race in his MSW debut at MTH, then laid off for a month and a half and returned in a $65K MCL at SAR. In both of those races he had issues, being steadied at the start in his first and was rank throughout in his second. I suspect he was off since the middle of August to deal with the behavior issues. He’s got the best pace figures in the field and drops down to $40K MCL in search of a win. The negative – why do you drop a $250K 2 year old purchase to $40k? Since nobody took the horse last out for $65 perhaps Clement figures he’s safe at this level. It definitely keeps me from getting overexcited about the horse. I like that Irad stays, especially since he is fighting for the BEL jockey title. He’s a lot like Big Lute was for me yesterday – if he runs his race he’ll be hard to beat. But he’s no cinch.
  • 3 Road to Rockport – started poorly on a sloppy track but showed some interest. Adds blinkers today and I think Jimmy Jerkens is past his cool streak. Not well bred for the turf, but as I’ve noted at 6F turf breeding is secondary to natural speed. If the two Clement runners flop he is the likely beneficiary. I’d think twice before leaving him out of your pick 3/5
  • 8 Artie Crasher – has a great series of workouts but I have to wonder why Cannizzo is starting the horse at $40K. If he runs to the promise he’s shown in the morning he could be a factor.
  • 1 Tree Fire – listed at 20-1 on the ML, and he might be higher at post time. Has three races on the turf and in two of them he finished within two lengths of the winner. He cuts back in distance to 6F from a mile and a sixteenth and adds blinkers. Two big negatives – a 1 for 44 trainer and a 1 for 7 jockey. Of course that mostly explains why he is 20-1 ML.
  • 10 Smoke Police hasn’t been on the turf yet but he is decently bred for the turf and Chad Brown is a first rate turf trainer. 14 Gu Gu Beans is a money burner that you can use in the back holes in exotics.

Race 2

  • 3 Red Guard – Bernardini is not known as a turf sire, but this horse went ridiculously wide in his last and still managed to close furiously in the stretch, losing it all by 2 1/2. I have no idea why Lezcano chose to manage the horse that way, and I would hope he runs a better tactical race today.
  • 1 Zennor – has not been on the turf but has a lot of speed and adds Lasix for today’s race. If he takes to the lawn he should be a big factor.
  • 5 Tweet Kitten – Chad Brown firster is very well bred for a mile on the turf. Usual set of steady works for the debut. I think he’s the better of the two Brown runners (6 Takeover Target being the other) but we’ll find out today.
  • 7 Escondido – runs for Pletcher and Velasquez, a deadly combination for years. Ran a very nice race second out at BEL and despite not having sterling turf breeding, he seems to have taken to it. Perhaps he is more of a pressing router than a sprinter, but today we’ll find out.

Race 3

  • 5 Savvy Sassy – demolished a field in the mud a month ago and has thrown in a sharp workout 5 days ago. Will be a big favorite and probably deservedly so. If she runs a similar race she will be hard to beat.
  • 1 Dear Mama – nobody was going to beat Princess Violet last race. She had plenty of early foot and today adds blinkers in an effort to focus that speed. Really looks like the only competition to the 5.
  • 7 Storm Swept – was off a year and came out in the Princess Violet race where she had no chance. She may improve today but I don’t think that will be enough to turn the tables on the 1.

Race 4

  • 1 True Romance – came about as close as you can to winning his debut. Cuts back half a furlong. Has a big figure advantage.
  • 4 Royale Rose – Ran behind likely 3rd race favorite Savvy Sassy in the mud last time and looks second best here.
  • 2 Loving Lorri – wasn’t far behind Royale Rose in the Savvy Sassy race and probably winds up in the same place today.

Race 5

  • 10 Vision Perfect – ran second in the Grade 3 Pilgrim and cuts back a sixteenth of a mile to the distance at which he broke his maiden. That being said, his figures are not well superior to others in the race, but on paper he certainly looks like the pacesetter and the one to catch.
  • 5 Zandar – broke his maiden at 7F and it looks like the longer the race the more he’ll like it. His figure is competitive  with the two mentioned above and he will be better odds.
  • 3 A Lot – Mott trainee ran a strong race after hitting the gate and going wide into the stretch. Another that will improve at the distance.  I want to be clear that I think these four runners are close to each other and the race will be decided by pace and position.
  • 2 One Eyed Ray – broke his maiden on the turf at BEL, then shipped to Laurel for a stakes where he finished second. He’s fairly close with regard to figures and two year olds can improve by leaps with each start. Like that he seems to be getting better.

Race 6

  • 7 Shankopotomus – Very ambiguous choice. On his best race he is the fastest horse in here. In his last race he pulled up and walked off. He was claimed by Sciacca who gave him two works in late September before shutting him down. Not hard to guess something is not right with the horse. Let’s be realistic – horses racing at the bottom claiming level are invariably there because of physical issues, but if he runs his best he’s a big contender.
  • 1/1a B Shanny/Love to Run – these horses have a lot going for them. Jacobson seems to be winning with about everything he throws on the track. Both have recently been with far superior animals. Finally, the pace figures are only slightly behind Shankopotomus. Are the main inheritors if 7 falters. If there is a scratch Love to Run is the better of the two.
  • 8 Tummel – lost all chance at the break last out but before that was very competitive with these sorts. Like the numbers and like his proclivity to run competitively. Big shot to be part of the exotics.
  • 3X  Summit County – Englehart scratched what I thought was the stronger part of the entry and I like the angle where where the leaves weaker of the two. Plus, his figures are fairly competitive.

Race 7

Nobody looks totally chanceless in this race. There are a lot of horses struggling to find good form but there is quite a mixture of surface and distance changes and class changes.

  • 8 Rumble Doll – has won two of her last three including a trip over the yielding turf at today’s distance. I’m not thrilled about the plodding style, but she has really taken to the turf and she has a good win percentage. At 12-1 ML how can I pass.
  • 5 Jet Majesty – broke her maiden on the turf, then wound up on two off dirt tracks. Has a lot of speed but will have to contend with Nicole’s Miss El on the front end. I don’t think she is a need to lead type and should have the first run in the stretch.
  • 2 Neck of the Moon – Brown/Ortiz combo about as good as it gets. Only has three starts this year, and in her last really had no shot after trouble at the start and getting shuffled on the turn. Has plenty of outs today.
  • 9 Lady’s Lunar  Luck – 0 for 6 this year, but has been competitive and has been with much better recently enough that it still shows in her pp’s. Should like the cutback to 7F and the drop to statebred OC. If she finds her stride today she is dangerous.

Race 8

  • 4 Energy Spirit – Broke his maiden in fine fashion a month ago for Pletcher despite an awkward start. Moves to the next condition.
  • 6 Adirondack Dancer – hasn’t won this year but has been competitive in all his races. Has the talent and I’ll give him one more chance.
  • 9 Ironicus – only has three starts which gives the horse a lot of up side. Don’t really care for the plodding style, but is likely to be coming in the stretch. Just have to hope the pace is to his advantage. McGaughey is 15% with the long layoff and he and Roasario have had some nice success this year.
  • 12 Ocala Jim – maybe a bit up against it from the outside post but loves the distance and definitely fits the class level. No surprise if he succeeds here.

Race 9     Turn Back The Alarm     Grade 3     6-1-2-7

  • 1 Tapit’s World – Has been racing with Grade 3 horses at CD, DEL and ELP.  Moves to the Michelle Nevin barn for today’s run. Is 2 for 4 at the distance, but hasn’t been on the BEL dirt. I think you have to give her serious consideration.
  • 2 Dame Dorothy – 3 for 3 for Pletcher, the last a restricted stakes at Presque Isle. Doesn’t seem to care what the surface is, she just runs. Until she does something wrong, deserves support.
  • 3 Moment in Dixie – takes the blinkers off, but I’m not sure that will help.  No wins this year but a couple of close finishes. Minor award at best.
  • 4 Flores Island – has a win on the BEL dirt. Won her last over a sloppy track at at GP in her first race in 6 months. I think she’s better than the 20-1 ML although I don’t think she is a likely winner.
  • 5 Teen Pauline – speedster has won her last three for Pletcher, including the Grade 2 Top Flight. Unfortunately that race was almost 7 months ago. 2 for 2 at the distance but 0 for 2 on the BEL dirt. I’m banking on the fact that early speed has not held up well in dirt routes and looking elsewhere for the win.
  • 6 Endless Chatter – third place finisher in the Beldame but before that won three in a row. Chad Brown trainee has the right style , likes the distance and is ok at BEL.
  • 7 Toasting – mainly been running in graded events, although her two wins this year came in a restricted stakes and an allowance. Was actually only a length and a half out of third in the Beldame. I think she’ll appreciate the cutback in distance.
  • 8 Catch My Drift – three wins in four starts. Only loss was in the Grade 1 Alabama and she didn’t run badly in that race. The other Chad Brown trainee gets Johnny V to ride. Tough not to like a little, but looks like she may be a cut below the best in here.

Race 10

  • 2 Blistering Strike – let’s finish it up with a bomb. She’s 20- 1 on the ML. Only has 6 starts, one sprint win. This race appears to be full of speed so I’m playing the race to look a little more at the closers. She drops from a $50K NW3 to a $25K NW2. Really looks about as good as any.
  • 9 Perfect Step – hasn’t raced in two years and will be making her U.S. debut. If she runs like her three year old season, she might win for fun. Have to respect Chad Brown’s ability to get horses ready. There are enough question marks that I couldn’t put her on top. One of those single or toss out horses
  • 12 William’sluckygray – One of the speedsters in the race. Will have to gun from the outside post. I’m counting on the cut back to 6F to only help her out, but a killing pace could compromise her chances.
  • 1 Saratoga Karaoke – has been knocking around at $40K NW2 and drops a level. Finished in from of the 12 last out and has a good chance to catch a piece.

The Four Most Important Questions When Handicapping

This is a repost of an article from earlier this summer but

Only four, you say? Well of course there is a lot more to handicapping than what I’m going to say below, but if you don’t know these four things, you’ll be starting in a hole.

At today’s distance and surface, what style is winning? Most of us have a way of assigning running style to a horse. I use early, presser, sustained in the following way.

E – normally runs on the lead
EP – will run on or very near the lead
PE – usually won’t take the lead but will be within a length or two of the frontrunner
P – prefers running just off the pace
PS – will be midpack but prefers running on from off the pace
SP – prefers running from the back with a closing style
S – a plodder early, will make up ground in the stretch
Let’s look at the last week of the Belmont spring meeting.

Dirt Sprints – E=2, P=7, S=3
Dirt Routes – E=4, P=5, S=2
Turf Sprints – E=7, P=4, S=0
Turf Routes – E=4, P=5, S=3

This gives us a recent track profile (for all the good it will do considering the meet ended Sunday). In dirt sprint races, horses just off the pace do best. In dirt routes, generally the same, although speed holds up a bit better. In turf sprints the sustained runners could not crack the win column, with the early speed and pressing types dominating. In turf routes the pattern seems to be more even, so any style has a chance to win.

Next we want to look at the placement of the horse in relation to the rail. On Sunday July 13 the track seemed to play fair for dirt runners, neither favoring the rail or mid-track runners. Usually when biases develop they are short-lived, often related to weather incidents. When I look at biases, I generally will look at two things: how does the track play in off-weather conditions and how does the track play immediately after a weather incident? So if we were playing Belmont today, we’d be most interested in early speed/presser types in sprints, pressers in dirt routes and presser/sustained in turf routes and generally we aren’t going to be concerned about post position as long as our choice can get an attacking position.

Which race do I use to evaluate my horse? Most people look at a horse’s last race, and it is important to look at the last race. But if it is not at today’s distance or surface, we may want to use another race for our evaluation. When we get to questions three and four, this will become clearer.

Generally I want to look for a recent race that is at (or within a half furlong of) today’s distance, on today’s surface, where the horse won or finished within a couple of lengths of the winner. It is usually the case that the shorter the race, the higher the number, so I want to know how well a horse runs at today’s distance. Does that mean I use a race from a year ago, or even two months ago? Only if I think it is really representative. At the end of the day, the condition a horse is currently in trumps all else.

Now if you are evaluating a horse who has been off for a while, you should look at any similar comeback races on the past performance in addition to other competitive races. The Racing Form and Timeform U.S.can give you lifetime past performances. The Racing Form and Timeform U.S. also give you statistical information on trainer success with layoff horses.

Races where the horse gets a good number but where the horse was far back are generally not going to be as useful as races where the horse was competitive. It is often the case that the better horses “pull” a runner along with them, and you often see this in horse coming from higher classes into lower class races. I just don’t trust a figure earned from a race where a horse ran eighth by 10 lengths.

Finally, you have to make an overall evaluation of the horse’s interest in winning. When you see a maiden with the lifetime record of 17-0-6-6, no matter what the horse’s figure, you have to steeply discount the winning probability, even if the horse has a top figure.

How fast can my horse run? I want to know what my horse is capable of running when he is at his best. If my horse ran his best race today, would he be competitive? Which begs the last question

Can my horse run a winning race today? At this point you have most of the basic information you need to answer the important questions. Does my horse have the right running style? Do I think he is fast enough to win? Is he in good enough condition to win?

There are other factors, of course. Trainer or jockey may influence your handicapping. Moving up or down the class ladder (negative or positive class drops, e.g.) can be worth evaluating. Track condition could be critical. Changes in equipment or medication or a move to a new barn have to be considered. But the essential task of handicapping is to find the horse you believe will run fastest today.

Belmont October 25

Second to last day at BEL. I’ll do today and tomorrow, but then it’s all Breeder’s Cup all the time,

Race 1

  • 5 Big Lute – interesting horse. Off his best he demolishes this field. Was claimed by Jacobson for $40K in a race where he pulled up. He wasn’t vanned off, a good thing, but he’s been vacationing for four months. Before that he was racing competitively with higher quality animals. The drop to $16K is concerning, but perhaps the potential claiming trainers will see the drop negative enough to avoid putting in a claim.
  • 3 Artemus Paperboy – Broke his maiden two back on a muddy track and has been competitive around this level since then. Doesn’t approach Big Lute’s numbers but is a clear second best on the numbers.
  • 4 Stalagmite – claimed by Englehart two back and was jumped up to a $50K starter allowance, and then  to a NW1X on a muddy track which he obviously didn’t prefer. If the track is realtively dry he improves enough to be a factor.

Race 2

This race is a competitive affair and I initially considered 6 horses for the win slot.

  • 9 Greywalls – Didn’t run well first out on a sloppy track, came back on the grass and ran a much improved race, and then actually set the pace in the Miss Grillo. She has the necessary experience and this is an easier spot by far than the Miss Grillo.
  • 5 Consumer Credit – Ran into trouble in the lane her first out on the turf, then ran a nice race on a sloppy track. Back on the turf today and should be prepped for her best.
  • 1 Neilinger – was not at her best on a sloppy track last out, but before that was well enough regarded to start in a stakes race at MTH. Back on the turf today and an improved performance is likely.
  • 8 Twist’n Bake – ran a very nice tracking race first out for George Weaver. Weaver has been cool most of the BEL meet, but is still a quality conditioner. Has nice tactical speed and should be in a good spot coming into the stretch.

Race 3     The Bold Ruler     Grade 3     6-4-2-1

  • 1 Confrontation – Was outmatched in the Forego but prior to that was running some nice figures with optional claimers. Has been freshened for almost two months . Likes BEL and is 1 for 2 at the distance.
  • 2 Romansh – Nothing but graded races this year and clearly he’s a cut below Grade 1 or 2. Only has one race at 7F and didn’t finish in the money. Could be the X factor in this race considering he’s with easier.
  • 3 Sage Valley- Rudy Rodriquez trainee hasn’t shown ability against this type in 2014 and could be up against it in this field.
  • 4 Salutos Amigos – ran respectably in the Grade 1 Vosburgh, the True North and the Belmont Sprint. Jacobson has been having an exceptional fall meeting and this horse has as good a chance as any to take the race.
  • 5 Joe Tess – has had a respectable 2014 and on his best day he would be competitive. Just don’t think today is that day.
  • 6 River Rocks – Early speed type just missed in the Grade 2 Kelso at a mile and cuts back to 7F today. Definitely improved from his 3 year old to 4 year old season but 7F is about his limit. Still, he’s two for three at the distance and will have to be caught to be defeated.
  • 7 Cease – Ambitious placing for Jason Servis. No wins for the horse in 2014 , but his last was his best in a while. Wouldn’t be a complete shock, but one of the less likely horses.

Race 4

Update: The race is now off the turf. 16 Demo scratches in and would be in the mix

  • 5 A Marked Man – drops in for a price for Linda Rice. Was a little short routing last out and should benefit from the cutback to 7F
  • 9 Luv Dakota Skye – was off a year and needed his last. Another one dropping from MSW to claimers. There are a lot of horses clustered around the same number and he’s one of them.
  • 3 Spa City Treasure – five starts and three seconds. Faded slightly in the stretch at 7F last out, but she should benefit from that race.
  • 6 Domer – Despite the horrible looking race last out, Clement is pretty effective dirt to turf. That first race was completely troubled, and the drop from MSW to claimers should be helpful. Could be any kind.

Race 5

This race is another ultra-competitive affair. I looked at seven horses and believe me it wasn’t easy settling on four.

  • 9 With Expression – Good at the distance and likes the BEL turf. Raced on the yielding turf last out and showed a little bit more of a pressing style. Some other speed to contend with so it will be all about pace and position.
  • 10 Frogman Mel – took a two and a half month hiatus and came back at 7F. Ran a useful race and should improve some today. He’s at the right claiming price.
  • 12 Coexist – was off 7 months and came back with a nice race on the yielding turf at BEL. That race should tighten him. Has a nice figure but has to overcome a tendency to finish in the money instead of winning.
  • 1 Permanent Campaign – was in against much better at SAR and perhaps the yielding turf at BEL was not to his liking. He’s in the right spot today.

Race 6

Another competitive affair. Anyone that says otherwise must have a better crystal ball than I do.

  • 10 Blue Pigeon – has been looking to break through at this level all year. Obviously as good as any horse in the race but needs to find a way to pass them all in the stretch.
  • 8 Bajan Summer – I speak Spanish decently, and I would pronounce the name BAA-han. Don’t ask me why I care if Imbriale says BAY-jan but it just strikes me as funny. What is a BAY-jan anyway? That being said, he’s another that has been trying to crack the winning code this year. He’s got the same plusses and minuses as a number in here and if he is hooked up with one of the other horses looking for a second win, it will be interesting to see which one prevails.
  • 2 Macgone – Nipped Blue Pigeon last out and should be fighting again in the stretch. Castellano stays and that is a positive.
  • 3 Oklahoma Den – a bit of a stretch but already has a second win, albeit against lesser. Seems to be a little more of a distance horse, but has potential to finish in the money.

Race 7

  • 10 Street Jersey – nice series of works since finishing third as the favorite last race. I always downgrade a 2 year old coming from the rail, mainly because it can be intimidating to have 10 horses storming to your outside. Breaking from the 10 post is preferable as long as he breaks and gets a decent striking position.
  • 9 Classy Class – first timer for McLaughlin has a nice series of breezes, last one from the gate. Irad climbs aboard looking for a jockey title. Looks like all systems are go.
  • 7 Unbridled Hero – Kimmel is 5 for 25 first time out and Unbridled’s progeny have been fair in their two year old season. Kimmel and Alvarado have been 29% at BEL.
  • 3 Because I’m Happy – had a wide trip in the mud last out and almost ran by everyone except the winner. Wouldn’t have to improve much to contend for the win.

Race 8     The Chelsea Flower   6-2-4-1

  • 1 My Cara Mia – broke slowly and was wide in the Miss Grillo and not a factor. Her first race was strong and she adds Lasix today.
  • 2 Skinner Box – Ran a nice one in the Natalma, and that is usually a strong race for 2 year old turf fillies. She had some trouble at the start  in the Miss Grillo, but with a better break today I’m looking for her to be one of the horses battling to the wire.
  • 3 Phoenix Park – Puts blinkers on and tries the turf for the first time. Despite running in some nice Grade 2 races, hasn’t really shown she can compete with this type, much less on the turf.
  • 4 Margaret Reay – Ran lights out in the Miss Grillo at 50-1 but is still a maiden. Still, she’s run good enough to win against some good horses and has a big chance today.
  • 5 Quick Reward – just doesn’t look good enough to crack the board in this field.
  • 6 Miss Chatelaine – Very nice maiden win for Clement. With Maragh on the sidelines, a hot Joel Rosario gets the mount. Has a big task today, but I’m betting he’s up to it.
  • 7 Majestic Bloom – Foundered in a minor stakes at Laurel and doesn’t look good enough to win here.
  • 8 Amazing Anne – Has some nice breeding and won a state-bred maiden race comfortably but doesn’t look fast enough to threaten this field.
  • 9 Path – Would not be a surprise. Has a nice number but I’ve got others ahead of her.

Race 9

  • 4 Leroy Jr. – Last two on the turf were ok, but his maiden win at AQU was exceptional. Back on the dirt today. He’s five years old and obviously has some physical issues, but he couldn’t have a better trainer than Chad Brown. If he runs to last year’s dirt race he wins for fun.
  • 12 Giantinthemoonlight – Nice maiden win in May at BEL and ran second to Cuantos last out. May get caught behind another monster runner today, but if Leroy doesn’t put in a good run, this one has the next best shot.
  • 2 Seal Team Four – was claimed last out by Dutrow and he ambitiously brings him back in a NW1X. Has better prospects than you might initially think.
  • 6 Groupthink – five seconds in eight starts makes him a good prospect to get a piece, no so much for the win.

Race 10

  • 10 Classic Aussie – two thirds in two starts, one on the inner turf, one on an off the turf affair, one at a mile, one at 6F. Today is 7f on the Widener turf and it sounds like a good combination.
  • 8 Miss Matzoball – switched to the turf last out and ran a good one. Bred to sprint and has the best figure of any in here.
  • 5 Forma’s Joy – Ran a nice five and a half furlong race on the turf at SAR first out and then went to FL for a state-bred stakes on the dirt. Didn’t much take to that surface so we’ll look for the return to turf as something that will bring out the best in her.
  • 4 Not Now Joanie – first timer for George Weaver. Has been working regularly and gets the high percentage jockey Rosario. At 10-1 worth considering.

Belmont October 24

We’re off the turf again. How about spending a few bucks putting a proper drainage system in the turf?

Race 1     9-8-10-3

Both of the MTOs were vanned off after their last race, 7 Touching My Toes at SAR in July and 10 China Gold last year at AQU. Neither one looks particularly dominant here, especially given China Gold demolished a MSW field by 6, was switched to the Linda Rice barn (a trainer who I think prides herself on rehabilitating injured horses), and is dropped to $40K claimers today. 9 Verisimilitude had some trouble at the gate in his first two starts and drops down today for Steve Asmussen. He should be able to handle the moist track.

Race 2     2-4-7-5

2 Private Label has a high wet track rating and ran a good race first out on the dirt. 4 Guggenheim has a good figure, a high wet track rating, and a nice second last time out. His works say he’s ready. 7 Jazz Player had a little trouble last out but has a string of very impressive works since that race. He’s a big threat today. 5 Talent show takes the blinkers off. Was claimed last out by Greg Sacco and may catch a piece.

Race 3      10-2-9-11

10 Private show held the lead last out before faltering in the stretch. Adds Lasix today. Albertrani horses usually need a race. 2 Flight to Quality is a first timer for Todd Pletcher. Has a high wet track rating, and Speightstown is productive with 2 year olds. 9 Whatever You Want ran well in the MCL ranks last time and could catch a piece. 11 Amazon King is a firster for Chad Brown who is always dangerous with debut maidens.

Race 4     9-1a-7-3

9 Lunar Rover ran away from a field on a muddy SAR track in July and led most of the way in the Ontario Derby. 1a Sublime has a high wet track rating; took some time for him to break his maiden, but perhaps now that he knows how to win he’ll keep it up. 7 Sea Raven won at SAR on a sloppy track and came back at BEL in September to finish third. Has some talent. 3 First Bid is the other MTO and is one for three on the wet track.

Race 5     8-6-9-10

8 Zo Zo woke up when dropped to MCL last time and could improve enough to win this event. 6 Harlan’s Six has had a lot of trouble in her three races and with a clean trip the drop from MSW could be enough for her to turn things around. 9 Midnight Champagne takes the blinkers off today. Had a poor start last out but rushed up and stayed wide  before tiring in the stretch. 10 Runningtheshow is a firster for Nick Zito. Has a good series of works for her debut.

Race 6     2-1-9-8

2 Saint Finian was claimed two back by Terranova and stays in for a switch to the muddy dirt. Has the wet track rating to do well, and drops down a notch today. 1 Three for Me was running well in the slop at SAR when he clipped heels. Should improve today. 9 Kodiak Kody has some good dirt races, although none on a wet track. Has the figures to compete. 8 Sunlover not much on the win end but has better prospects to be in the money.

Race 7     5-8-6-1

5 Touch of Paradise adds Lasix in his third start. Stretches out today for Albertrani. 8 Organic Gemini is a first timer for Steve Asmussen. Has an immense wet track rating and a nice series of works. 6 Interior Secretary had a troubled beginning in his first out. Was bet a bit in that race. Love the workout since that one. 1 Kool Kat Strut made a nice close in his last race, adds Lasix today.

Race 8     9-3-4-5

9 Round has a win and two thirds lifetime. Had a troubled start last out but maintained interest to the end. Rosario/Mott combination hits at 24%. 3 Duval has looked good at Parx and CD. Has plenty of tactical speed and has 3 thirds in four starts on a wet track. 4 Big Guy Ian has been in with tougher and is entered today at a level he can win. Johnny V in the saddle is an upgrade. 5 Dyker Beach is a useful horse with a lot of trouble cracking the winners circle. Finished second in half his starts and is a good prospect to get a piece of the purse.

Race 9     6-9

6 Associate is great on wet tracks and with only three other entrants should get bet way down. 9 Great Attack should complete the exacta.

Race 10   6-8-9-1

6 Chase This Bandit was second on a sloppy track last out . No reason not to expect an equally good run today. 8 Hundred Percent puts the blinkers on today. Last race was better than looked, especially since Thank You came back in two stakes races. 9 Risky Sour goes firs time for Patrick Kelly. He hasn’t been particularly effective but I like the breeding and I like the workouts. 1 Freud firsters have been fairlyeffective. Ryerson nothing special first time out, but neither is this field.

Belmont October 23

Another card washed off the turf on a sloppy main track. But, as yesterday showed, there will be opportunities.

Race 1

  • 7 Piscesbymoonlight – has a high wet track rating, but has only a win and a second on a wet track. He has good early speed, and although he’s  been a little heartless in the stretch, the slight class drop could be enough to propel him to the wire.
  • 5 Wellington Wizard – never been on a wet track but has enormous wet track breeding. Dutrow has been a little snake-bit at BEL but has a big shot here.
  • 2 Call Wil – won his only race taken off the turf at TAM, although the track was listed as fast. Klesaris/Arroyo has been hitting at 25%.

Race 2

  • 1 Gypsum Johnny – drops from MSW into the claiming ranks. Didn’t break quickly enough in his last, but did show some interest in his maiden race in the slop.
  • 7 Igotthediscoinme – was coming well and fell only half a length short in his first race. Was bet in that race and that is a positive sign.
  • 4 Jacapo – Hushion trainee didn’t get out last time and raced wide around the track. Drops from MSW to MCL this race. Good wet track rating.

Race 3

  • 3 Genre – Pletcher trainee has been working steadily for debut. 8-1 ML on a Pletcher horse is odd, but enough positives to put her on top.
  • 8 Sierra Olivia – ran well in the mud last out for Pletcher. Monster wet track rating. Improvement here could get the win.
  • 5 Profess – another Mott trainee. Didn’t look great in the slop first out at MTH, improved a ton on the turf second time. Mott moved her back to the dirt and didn’t scratch in the slop.
  • 7 Summer House – showed speed last out in the mud but faded badly in the stretch. Great wet track rating and some very nice works leading up to this.

Race 4

  • 4 Golden Itiz – actually has no races on a wet track and is 0 for 10 this year, but his last four races have been on the turf, a surface he actually has had no success on. He’s done ok on the BEL dirt and has a good wet track rating. Upset possibility
  • 8 Joan’s Choice – has one win in six tries on the wet track. David Jacobson trainee ran a dull race in the mud last out, but has been fairly steady this year. Probably not value at 2-1, but has good chances.
  • 3 Conspiracy – a third in two wet track races. Contessa claimed him for $25K two back, jumped him up and brings him back down today. Like the move.
  • 1 Sacred Ground – one of the other MTOs that looks good. 8 of 12 in the money on a wet track gives his good outs here.

Race 5

  • 2 Inaflash – easily wired a $12500 field last out and switched barns to Neal Terraciano, a very low profile trainer. Not a bad wet track record, 7-1-2-1. Fast work two weeks ago, and a good work right before that.
  • 6 Coast of Sangria – claimed last out by Sydney Dutrow. Has a wet track win.
  • 8 Rettalfa – David Cannizzo claimed her last out and moves her up in price slightly. Has been consistent this year as a 4 year old.

Race 6

  • 7 My Super Nova – second in her maiden debut, came back in a state-bred stakes in the mud and ran second. Nice wet track rating.  Looks very strong here.
  • 8 First Service – raced wide around the track in her last and gave it up in the stretch. Mike Hushion has been hot lately. Has a monster wet track rating.
  • 11 Hush Now – Made a nice improvement in her second start and cuts back in distance today. Live longshot
  • 10 Barrel of Dreams – first timer for Hertler has been working well. Should like a wet track.

Race 7

  • 2 Encryption – From the Haskell to an OC$75. Seems to have trouble cracking the winner’s circle but has the best figures in the race. Have to use him.
  • 12 Againsome – 2 seconds in 2 tries on a wet track. Has been consistent this year and looks well suited for the mile.
  • 13 Jigsaw – won in the slop last out and was claimed by Linda Rice. He looks a step below Encryption, but the slop has a way of equalizing.
  • 4 Roman Approval – a win and three seconds on a wet track. Castellano/Maker 29%

Race 8

  • 1 Goodtolook – is much more suited to the 1 1/16 mile distance. Contessa gave him a couple of months off and brought him back with steady breezes. 2 for 6 wins on the wet track. 10-1 ML is an attractive price.
  • 8 Gridley Here – won last out at BEL after switching from the turf. Has run much better on the dirt, looks to be in great shape, and Rosario sticks with him.
  • 10 Cousin Michael – consistent over the spring and summer. Jacobson gave the horse two months off and jumps him up a grade. 4 for 4 in the money on the wet track, although no wins. Seems to be hard-trying every time out.
  • 3 Saturday Appeal – Lots of second place finishes, but is 2 for 6 winning on a wet track. Should be somewhere in the mix.

Race 9

  • 14 Maura’s Pass – has been turfing but improved a lot when dropped to MCL. Actually didn’t run horribly in her dirt debut.
  • 16 Roman Reign – Ran a good one in the slop last out. Seems better suited for the dirt. Off only a week, but being an old-school guy I don’t mind this trainer move.
  • 10 Ainteasybeinggreen – was off a year, came out three weeks ago and set the pace the the stretch. Speed isn’t her problem – stamina is – but perhaps the drop from MSW helps.
  • 5 Lil’ Zilla –  nothing but turf to this point, but she has been close in a few tries. Has decent figures and that may be enough for her to get a piece.

Belmont October 22

Races are off the turf today so lots of scratches


  • 4 Quarla – second on a wet track last out to Untiltherwasyou. Claimed by Jimmy Klesaris and wheeled back at the same price after two months on the shelf.
  • 7 Time For Harlan – Drops back to the $40K level where she just missed at a mile on the turf
  • 6 P J’s Enigma – Most of her starts have been on the dirt at MTH. Has decent turf breeding
  • 8 Path to Power – puts the blinkers on. Has a strong set of works after being off for close to two months

Race 2

  • 4 Lady Doris – gets in as an MTO for Abby Adsit. Has a third on a wet track
  • 8 Bartiromo – drops down in search of a win. One uninspiring dirt race, but has good figures
  • 9 Queenofzeenile – Moves up slightly after winning last out. Very high wet track rating
  • 3 Eurokay by Me – surprise winner last time. I don’t expect a win this time, but she does have a tendency to finish in the money

Race 3 (in-depth analysis race of the day)    6-1-2-3

  • 1 Ziggy Moondust – Looked like a winner at 7F in the mud but hit a wall in the stretch. A month between workouts is not a good sign, but given the drop in price and the wet track he’s got a shot. Looks like a delicate horse with physical issues, but at least Cornelio stays.
  • 2 Shinnecock Bay – Mostly a turf runner but did have a third on the dirt at SAR after a troubled trip. Could be part of the exacta
  • 3 Keen’s Cupla – Mediocre races on the dirt. Had a troubled trip last out and could improve.
  • 4 Miroc – Scratched
  • 5 Greg’s Fourwheeler – not much to recommend unless the blinkers made a big imprivement
  • 6 Man of Mystery – Has a number of positives. Very high wet track rating, high rating at the distance, was only a length and a quarter back in his debut, and has some nice workouts leading up to this race. If he goes off anywhere near his ML, load up.
  • 7 Flat Leaver – Not much of a debut on the dirt and not much better on the turf. Very high wet track rating though, and with Husion could surprise.

Race 4

  • 4 Bossy Saratoga – Looks much better on the dirt than she did on the poly. Has good tactical speed and a good wet track rating.
  • 6 Wraith – one win in 10 starts and three seconds in a row. Extraordinary wet track rating, although she only has a third in two wet track starts.
  • 1 Prize Taker – hasn’t shown a lot of heart in the stretch but seems to like finishing up close. Long hiatus and Charlton Baker is 29% off long layoffs. Two thirds in four starts at BEL.
  • 3 Lovely Elle – Broke her maiden last out at Parx but didn’t look bad first time at SAR. Allen Iwinski used to be a major force as a trainer but has cut back alot in the last few years. Very high wet track rating.

Race 5

  • 9 Political Farce – freaked in the mud last time to break an 0 for 15 skein. If he likes the slop that much perhaps he keeps the streak going today
  • 5 Grand Strand – Tried NW1X last out but drops to a $40K event and gets in as an MTO. Claimed by the hot Rudy Rodriguez two back. Good wet track rating.
  • 1a Perfect Stormy – one win on a race washed off the turf. Lots of starts, doesn’t appear to be a win type.
  • 11 King Gettigan – one of the other MTO’s. Won last out, and maybe that helped him turn a corner.

Race 6

  • 7 Caleb’s a Survivor – Good figures at FL and at 15-1 he’ll be the longshot play of the day.
  • 3 Futurazo – hard-knowcking 8 year old showed well at BEL last out. In fact, is 4 of 6 in the money at BEL and 3 for 9 this year. Has a few useful races in the slop.
  • 4 Wildniteattheopera – third lifetime start with a win and a second already. Hennig has been hot lately.
  • 8 One More Chief – finished well in the mud last out at BEL. A win and a third in three starts on the wet track. Englehart seems to have improved the horse substantially after the claim two back.

Race 7

  • 9 Glacken’s Gift – MTO looked good breaking her maiden after a year on the shelf. Lots of tactical speed and a big figure last out. Big wet track rating.
  • 2 Love and Marriage – Chad Brown leaves her in on the off track. Perhaps it is the exceptional off-track rating. No surprise if she wins.
  • 13 Get Gorgeous – Second on a sloppy BEL track last out and 3 of 5 in the money on wet tracks lifetime.
  • 4 Medaglia D’Argento – in as an MTO. Perhaps a step below the best in here, but still can grab a small piece

Race 8

  • 4 The Rhythmisright – 3 thirds in three tries on a wet track. Hushion trainee has been doing most of his running at this level. Like the ML odds.
  • 1 Cuantos – Getting through his conditions in good order. Good work 3 weeks ago. Nice speed, but not a need to lead sort. We’ll see if he likes the slop.
  • 9 Sol The Feud – good figures in his last two starts. Place right at OC$40K
  • 8 Half Nelson – seems to like finishing second and third but does have the tactical speed to make a race of it.

Race 9

  • 9 Queen to Be – Hasn’t fared so well with the big boys but has been tough at PEN. Drops down to a level where she should be competitive. Pletcher/Castellano is always dangerous.
  • 10 Tacones – one for two on the wet surface. Switches barns to Bernardo Callejas
  • 2 Manhattan Gin – usually shows speed and on a wet track that can be dangerous.

Betting Menus Approaching Cheesecake Factory Size

Since I’ve gotten a lot of new followers lately I’m going to post some of my older articles. Enjoy.

Are you thinking about betting the second at Belmont today? If so, you have the choice of win, place, show, exacta, quinella, trifecta, superfecta, pick-3, pick-4, AND a double. That’s 10 separate pools into which you can spread your money. If that isn’t enough, you can get into the pick-5 in race 1, the pick-6 in race 5 or perhaps the coolest bet in racing, the Grand Slam in race 6. I guess the theory is that all those choices cover every type of bettor who might show up, and for large tracks with large handles it may work, but at smaller tracks it’s a bad idea all the way around.

And remember. Most people don’t have a computer program identifying pool inefficiencies. The vast majority of the race day crowd relies on habit or experience to get into a pool.

When Arapahoe Park reopened in 1992 after an eight year hiatus they made a great decision when they decided to drop the quinella and instead offer a $1 exacta box. Same two dollar bet and a collection as long as your horses finished first and second in either order, and it accomplished something important. It made the exacta pool larger than it would have been otherwise, and at smaller tracks pool size is critical. At that time dog racing in Colorado was king, and the king of dog racing bets was the quinella. People were literally flummoxed by the absence of the quinella, complaining to the point where Arapahoe was forced to eventually bring it back. It’s been downhill from there.

As someone once said, you can’t save people from themselves.

Even if you couldn’t make a $1 exacta bet, quinellas shouldn’t be offered. How many times have you seen the longer shot win the race and have the quinella pay $20 and the exacta $60? The point is that when the longer shot wins, you want a premium for your combination bet. With a single first/second pool, you have a much better chance at getting a fair pay. Plus you don’t have to go through the mind numbing exercise of checking the payoffs in two pools to figure out where the inefficiencies are (assuming you don’t have some software doing that for you). The last point is that at the smaller tracks, too much of the action happens in the last five minutes and the pools can be highly volatile as bettors search for the overlays. At least if there is only one pool there is a chance the pool might stabilize a little sooner and you’ll come closer to getting the payoff you expected when you bet.

Frankly, the quinella should go the way of the horse and buggy. Tracks should weather the storm and eventually people will forget the quinella.

The next bet they should get rid of is the show bet. The show bet caters to two segments of the betting public: people who go to the track with $20 and want to come home with $20 and the big dollar bettors who are happy to take 5% on their money. It’s a 19th century bet, which makes little sense considering we are well into the 21st century. You want to make the stingy bettors happy? Have a win pool and a combined place/show pool like you see in venues outside the United States. Again, at the smaller tracks, this can only help stabilize pools.

Other bets can be offered based on track handle. Saratoga, Belmont, and Santa Anita can pretty much offer as many bets as they please, even though they still dilute pools unnecessarily. Still, remember that most of the super-exotic pools are dominated by the latge bettors and syndicates, and most of the betting public is simply donating to their cause. I would argue all day long that one gigantic exacta pool benefits big and small bettor alike.

The larger tracks have a built in dilemma when it comes to which bettor to cater to. The small player has a much better chance at hitting the easier combinations – doubles, exactas, maybe even trifectas. But as you get to the more exotic bets such as the superfecta or picks-4,5,6, small bettors are most often just donating money to the pool. For every “small guy hits pick-6 with $32 ticket” story, there are a hundred where some whale investing $15,000 hits it. There are 5,040 combinations in a 10-horse race superfecta. Even if half of them are improbable, who has the bankroll to cover 2,520 combinations, even at 10 cents a ticket? This problem is exacerbated at the small tracks.

At Arapahoe Park yesterday, the total handle was around $68,000 for 11 races. That’s not $68,000 a race. That’s $68,000 total. The superfecta in race 11 paid $627.60 for a 7-3-ALL-ALL ticket of which there was exactly one $2 (or two $1) ticket holder. Arapahoe doesn’t have 10 cent superfectas because, as they discovered, the total pool would be about $200. This also means if you had the 7-3-5-ALL or the 7-3-5-4 you would have collected…that’s right, $627.60. How much money should you put into a pool where you will collect $627.60 if you snag the whole thing? Arapahoe offers superfectas because everybody else does, but frankly they would have been better off just building the trifecta or exacta pools.

I know this is unkind, but I have pretty much never run into an ardent racegoer who doesn’t complain that management may understand the actual operation of a track, but precious few actually understand the pari-mutuel aspect. The standard answer to any question is, because that is what the fans/owners/trainers ask for. They are helpless against the onslaught of those who demand 10 betting pools a race.

Offering a ridiculous number of pools is not in the interest of the average bettor. The only time they prosper is when the favorites come in. Otherwise most bettors are just feeding the anti-Robin Hoods – stealing from the poor to give to the rich.

Ray Paulick quoted Charles Cella, Oaklawn Park track owner in 1988 opining that exotic wagering was the worst thing in the world. That’s a silly opinion, but the larger point is well taken. Too many bets pull money away from the pools where the average bettor may have success. I’d challenge the larger tracks to undertake an experiment. Take a Wednesday and have win and place/show betting, exactas, and trifectas on every race, three pick-3’s, one pick-4, two daily doubles, two superfectas and a pick-6.

Check out this great blog on exotic betting by Ray Paulick