Category Archives: Selections

Daily selections from racetracks around the county

Saratoga Jul 18 – Late Pick-4

Update: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times in the Pick-4. The best of times because I hit it, the worst of times because the scratches had it paying $89. In the 7th race Tiz Sardonic Joe threw a shoe before the race. They decided to let him run, but for purse money only. As expected the #8 Joe’s Blazing Aaron sprinted to the lead and wired the field with “Shoeless Joe” making a race out of it for second. Monument Hill picked up the payoff place. So everyone who had the 3 wound up with the 8, which kept a lot of the crowd alive for the Pick-4. The 8th race had four early scratches so a field of only seven went postward. As expected Adventure Love led all the way around the track with Kiss Me Lola second and Ballerina Belle third. The 9th race went to Tourist with Ring Weekend second and Storming Inti third. The 10th race was my strongest play, Jet Majesty. Jet Majesty was hanging around as the second choice to Winter Wish, but unfortunately Winter Wish went cuckoo for cocoa puffs in the paddock and was scratched. So all the Winter Wish money went to Jet Majesty, dropping the Pick-4 pay from $160 to $89. It may have been closer to $300 if Tiz Sardonic Joe stayed in the 7th race and won and Winter Wish stayed in the 10th and won. But, it was a hit to start the season. 

Opening day at the Spa is always testing for handicappers. Shippers from different tracks, layoff horses that have been prepping for Saratoga, and horses hoping to carry over Belmont form. You have to love that the late pick-4 has mostly full fields entered. I’d be shocked if the late pick-4 wasn’t a big one.

Race 7

There is a lot of ambiguity in this race. #2 Monument Hill has a lot of positives. George Weaver does well at Saratoga, the horse seems to be at the right class and distance, his pace figures are competitive, he has a second over the track, and he should be able to establish good position from the inside post on the tighter-turned inner turf course. #8 Joe’s Blazing Aaron should go off as the favorite. With his natural speed he should be able to clear the horses to his inside, but that hard run to the first turn might take something out of him. He is 0 for 7 at the distance and 0 for 2 on the Saratoga turf. On the positive side, Michael Maker and Javier Castellano have formed a potent combination, and there is no reason to worry about the layoff since late May. Still, with only one win in the last two years, I wouldn’t call him a standout. I suspect either he wires the field or airballs. #3 Tiz Sardonic Joe is a lightly raced 5 year-old that seems to be in good condition. He was black type stakes placed a little over a year ago and is 2 for 3 on the Saratoga Turf. Having Frankie Dettori up can’t hurt. If you are going deep in your pick-4’s, the #4, #5, and #7 at least have the potential to upset.

Race 8

Because of Saratoga’s configuration, turf sprint races are run at the 5 1/2 furlong distance. #10 Ballerina Belle might be the best closer in the race, but she may have trouble if she doesn’t get a good early position. If she is no more than three or four back entering the turn, she could run by them all. #3 Adventure Love is a turf sprint specialist who gets the services of Frankie Dettori. She comes off a strong win at Arlington Park at today’s distance. Her pace figure makes her competitive and she should be able to establish a strategic position. #4 Kiss Me Lola has a win and a close second on the Saratoga turf and lately has been staying well in turf sprints. If she runs back to last year’s Saratoga’s winning race, she should notch her second win. The five year-old mare #1 Zamquick just broke her maiden at five furlongs and could improve now that she’s learned to win.

Race 9

#1 Storming Inti and #5 Tourist should vie for favoritism, and rightly so. #1 Storming Inti is for 4 for 9 lifetime and is graded stakes placed. He’s had a consistent career and even has a third at Saratoga. #5 Tourist won his first race for winners in hand by open lengths. Since switching the horse to the turf trainer Billy Mott has seen the horse blossom. She will be very tough today. #7 Ring Weekend has been way over his head since winning the Tampa Bay Derby. He does have a nice second on the Gulfstream Park turf and trainer Graham Motion seems to have put him in a more reasonable spot. #2 Cabo Cat is also well spotted and has been very competitive in his last three.

Race 10

The nightcap  is a 1 1/16 mile turf maiden for state-breds. In these races it either looks obvious or totally chaotic. Today it is closer to chaos.  If you read my piece an angle handicapping, you would know one of the strongest angles, especially in maiden races, is betting a horse with figures from the previous year higher than any other horse has from this year. #9 Jet Majesty fits that bill. The Wesley Ward trainee opened up her career in a turf sprint at Belmont and ran respectably. She then came back a month later and finished third by a length to males before laying up over the winter. Ward does well with layoff horses and the switch from Abel Lezcano to Frankie Dettori is about as positive as it gets. The rest of the field all have their negative and positives. #1 Resolutely hasn’t started since last year at Saratoga, but does have a third over the course. #8 Winter Wish had an eventful race last time, being steadied at the start and racing six wide into the stretch.  She has figures that should put her in the mix. #11 Chasing Paradise has raced consistently over the turf and should do well if she gains good early position. #5 Traipse in Utopia was well over her head the last time but should be charging at the end.

Belmont 9th July 13

Update: Well it helps to get the scratches correct. Apparently in my world 6 looks a lot like 8. It is corrected below. 2 took the lead in the stretch and was handily run down by the 3. 1 took heavy win action and held on for third with the six picking up fourth. It was a $106 exacta. If you went for the 2/3 it could have made your day. 

It seemed fitting to do the final race at Belmont until September. It is a 6-furlong, $40,000 optional claiming race for state-bred fillies that are essentially NW3.

1-White Sangria. Running style – early speed with an ability to track. White Sangria has been rested since finishing second in a 5-furlong sprint at GP last march. Her pace figures at the distance are competitive and she is three of four in the money on the Belmont turf.

2-One Time Only. Running style – should be more of a presser in this race. One Time Only has done most of her racing at SA. Her pace figures are definitely competitive, although the Santa Anita turf is far different than the Belmont turf.

3-Invading Humor. Running style – should be pressing in this race. Horse is two of three in the money on the BEL lawn. She is coming out of state-bred optional claimers. Her pace figures put her in the mix.

4-Fancy Boss. Running style – Fancy Boss should be close to the early pace and at 10-1 M/L is interesting.

5-Penthouse Party. Scratched

6-Desert Bliss. Running style – sustained pace, closer. She is a 2 for 27 horse that seems to get a lot of seconds, thirds and fourths. Maybe a superfecta play.

7-Marcy. Running style – seems to prefer the midpack/presser role. She is 2 for 25 and zero for five on the Belmont turf. She’d be a surprise winner for me.

8-Lumineuse. Scratched

9-Image of Noon. Running Style – more a sustained/closer type. At only 6-1 M/L she is hard to really get pumped up over, but she wouldn’t be a shock.

10-Uncle Southern. Running style – another early speed horse with and ability to sit in position and make a move in the stretch. She is two for two in the money on the BEL turf.

So here is how the running style breaks down.

Early speed – 1, 4, 10

Presser – 2, 3, 7

Sustained/closer – 6, 9

If you look at the turf sprints from Saturday, horses on or near the lead did best. The best of the front-runners is the 4, although the 1 and 10 look like they will be happy to volley up front. The 4 also has the best pace figure with the 1 a close second. Both the 3 and 7 are coming out of the May 21 race where the 10 finished second by a nose. I downgraded the 2 on my odds line because she doesn’t have a Belmont turf start, but that doesn’t mean I don’t think she is a prime contender. If she runs to her SA form she may win by open lengths.

Here is an odds line that doesn’t violate the pari-mutuel requirement like the morning line does. It also reflects the fact that I think the race is competitive.

Horse         Odds Line

  1.                   5-1
  2.                   9-2
  3.                   6-1
  4.                   4-1
  5. SCR
  6.                 15-1
  7.                 50-1
  8. SCR
  9.                   6-1
  10.                   9-2

No horse stands out on paper here. I think 4 looks good to fill one of the first three positions. If the 2 runs back to her SA form, she looks like another strong In the money possibility. The 3 may be the overlay. Some combination of 1, 2, 3, 4, and 10 seem a cinch to make up the superfecta. Find your overlay and good luck.

Belmont July 11 – Early Daily Double

Update: I certainly handicapped the hell out of the first race. The fact that every NYRA handicapper seemed to be picking the 6 should have been a clue. The 3 was gasping in the stretch, a pretty negative sign if you ask me. The 5 looked like a horse that needed conditioning. I don’t generally prefer horses like the 6, but if there was ever a field designed for him to win, I guess this was it. In the second, the 7 powered past the first timer and went on to win comfortably. The 7 was close to a win bet and really ran like a favorite should. The 5 was acting up at the gate and finished well back. The 3 was with the leaders to the stretch, but gradually lost position. The 1 seemed to be getting significant action but was a total airball. I’d watch for the 2 next time – she made a minor move around the turn so perhaps she is returning to her winter form. So one out of two in the double that paid $20.20. 

Both races have two contenders that look very solid.

Based on Seth Abrams reminding me about Howard Sartin, I pulled out my copy of Modern Pace Handicapping and did the Sartin analysis for Race 1.

Horse                                                    EP            SP          AP          FX       

  1. I Want You to Know           57.86   57.02     57.31     57.54
  2. Sun Bear                                     57.78   56.41     56.87     56.67
  3. Rigby                                            58.21   57.54     57.79     58.38
  4. Straight Fox                             57.44   56.96     56.94     56.69
  5. Hope Still Springs                58.46   57.50     57.83     58.00
  6. Buckeye Heart                       57.96   57.29     57.51     57.25

In each of the Sartin calculations, either the 3 or the 5 is top or second best. So let’s construct our odds table. I’m going to make the 5 a slight favorite. He is the “new shooter” and would be best based on his Maryland races. He also picks up Irad Ortiz, one of the jockeys fighting for the riding title. The 3, 4, and 6 have some recent experience racing against each other and the results are a little ambiguous. What I like about the 3 is his win percentage – an eye-popping 13 for 33 – and his natural speed. You have to worry about him stealing the race.The 6 looks more like he prefers being close to the winner but not in front, so I’m going to discount his win potential. The 1 seems to have done his best running on the Aqueduct inner dirt, and I tend to discount those horses until they show potential on the Belmont surface. The 4 looks a cut below the 3, 5, and 6. The 2 is dropping in class, but he’s 3 for 53. I just can’t get past that stat.

Horse               My Win Odds     Bet Odds

  1.                          19-1                             NA
  2.                          30-1                             NA
  3.                            8-5                             5-2
  4.                          15-1                             NA
  5.                            6-5                             2-1
  6.                            9-1                          20-1

 

Fair Pay Exacta                1         2         3        4          5        6         

  1.                                                       NA     NA    NA    NA    NA
  2.                                            NA                NA    NA    NA    NA
  3.                                            NA    NA                86      10     50
  4.                                            NA    NA    NA               NA     NA
  5.                                            NA    NA        8     60                 38
  6.                                            NA    NA     57    NA                67

In the second it once again looks like a two-horse race, but being a MSW you have to consider potential chaos. The 3, Sublime, ran a new top last out and has had 47 days to recover. He geta the high-percentage combination of Kieran McLaughlin and Javier Castellano. The 7, Successful Runner, is a 6-start maiden with three seconds and three thirds. With only six starts you can’t label the horse as a professional maiden, but it is some cause for concern. The crowd is nowhere near done backing this horse, and she may be overbet. Still, she should be the controlling pace. The 1, Giant Slayer, came out first on the turf and wasn’t particularly inspiring, but the surface switch and the one race of experience certainly allow for win possibilities. The 2, Aggrandizement, seemed to be getting better in the winter but has been off 139 days. I’m going to take a stand against her.

The 4, Rare Eagle, has an excuse in his last (turf) but still doesn’t seem like a good win prospect. Could hit a back hole. The 5, Stockholder, is a one start maiden and her first was neither inspiring nor horrible. She wouldn’t be a complete surprise, but I’d need more information than what is in the Racing Form. The 6, Sea Raven has nothing to recommend. The 8, Three Alarm Fire, is a first time with a small percentage on the morning line.

Horse                     My Win Odds                  Bet Odds          

  1.                                    9-1                                       18-1
  2.                                 15-1                                          NA
  3.                                    2-1                                          7-2
  4.                                 12-1                                          NA
  5.                                    9-1                                       18-1
  6.                                 30-1                                         NA
  7.                                    5-2                                         4-1
  8.                                  11-1                                        NA

I didn’t fill out all the spaces in the DD. Just those that have the win possible horses.

Daily Double Fair Pay

xxxxxxx1            2          3           4            5           6         7          8

  1.            70                       27                       70                   27
  2.            59                      19                        59                  19

There it is. Now go make some money.

Belmont Race 2 – July 6, 2014

UPDATE: Send the Limo did establish an easy lead on fractions of :49.83 and 1:13.96. Despite having a three length lead at the eighth pole, she was caught near the wire by Coriander and wound up beaten a neck. Lemon and Honey was third. Coriander went off at 6-5, Send the Limo went off at 2-1, and Lemon and Honey went off at almost 7-2, so on my line there was no win bet. The exacta paid $11.60, so it was a good bet at track odds but no bet on my line.The trifecta was $22.20 and given there were only three horses to play, could have represented an investment.

The 2nd is a $25,000 claiming race for NW2 lifetime.

The scratch of #7 Morethanawarning will substantially alter the betting in the race given he was the morning line favorite. Here is my odds line for the six remaining runners.

Number   My Odds     Bet Odds

  1.                15-1                     X
  2.                12-1                     X
  3.                   3-1                 9-2
  4.                12-1                     X
  5.                  3-1                  9-2
  6.                 8-5                   5-2

For the most part I am discounting the win chances of 1, 2, and 4. 1 is a 26 start horse with one win, definitely not a win type. 2 has 18 starts with one win, although it did come on the turf. However, she is coming off state-bred claimers at a slightly lower price and is trained by the 1 for 56 Joseph Parker. 4 hasn’t shown much since her maiden win at Calder in January. She is also conditioned by a low percentage trainer.

That leaves only three contenders. #3 Coriander was more of a front running type in 2013. Lately she has not shown an ability to get out of the gate, and her latest workout doesn’t seem to indicate they are trying to put speed back into her. John Hertler claimed the horse two races back, and jumped her up twice into state-bred allowances. This condition is really not that much lower. She had pace figures last year that would have topped this field, and if Hertler has her wound up, she could light the board.

#5 Lemon and Honey was claimed last out by Gary Contessa, who lately wins with only 9% of his first claims. Lemon and Honey is another horse that looked far more promising at the end of 2013. She was showing good speed in most of her races and then all of a sudden decided to take up at the back of fields. She went favorite in her last race and improved position mildly to finish second. If Contessa asks jockey Saez to prompt the pace, she may have enough stretch kick to get the win.

#6 Send the Limo looks to be the clear speed of the race. She may get slightly overlooked because her last race was a maiden claimer, but she likely fits at his class. She wired a nine horse field at Monmouth in her last, and there doesn’t seem to be any reason she can’t look to do it again. Rudy Rodriguez and Jose Ortiz at hitting at a 13% rate, and unless one of the other runners decides to keep the 6 from loafing along on a clear lead up front, she will have every chance to win. She has only four lifetime starts, so she is not yet in the professional NW2 ranks.

$2 Exacta Fair Pay

3-5     $35             3-6     $23

5-3     $35            5-6      $23

6-3     $19            6-5      $19

Belmont Oaks – July 5

Today’s 9th at Belmont is the Belmont Oaks Invitational. Up until last year it was known as the Garden City and run in September.

If you read my previous bogs on turf racing, you’ll know that the Europeans are vastly superior overall. The have stronger turf sires, more competitive races and are used to running longer distances in firm or soft conditions. Their training and racing schedules don’t suffer because of the vagaries of weather.

You’ll also remember that the big reasons the Europeans come to America to race are softer competition, availability of Lasix, AND THE LIGHTER WEIGHTS CARRIED IN AMERICAN STAKES.

This race is no different. One of the up and coming American runners, My Conquestadory was scratched this morning, making it a ten horse field. There are four European entrants: Goldy Espony, Flying Jib, Xcellence, and Wonderfully. Minorette started her career in Europe but has raced this year in America.

Of the four Europeans the standout is Xcellence. Xcellence is by Canadian Horse of the Year Champs Elysees out of the French mare Xanadu Bliss. Excellence is bred for distance on both sides of her pedigree. She will have no issue with the mile and a quarter distance. Xcellence has a Group 3 win, and two in-the-money finishes in Group 1 races. Clearly she has the French betting public befuddled because despite finishing in the top three in her last five races she has regularly been at double digit odds. Jockey Gérald Mossé is well known in international circles and comes over to accept the mount on Xcellence. In her last, the Prix de Diane Longines, she ran a very game race, taking the lead in the stretch and losing the place by only a head in the very fast time of 2:05.37 for the 1 5/16 miles. She easily tops the field in terms of figures, gets a 5-pound weight break from her European races, has one workout over the track, and has a perfect middle post. She’ll be the favorite, but if you get 5-2 I think that is fair odds.

Of the other Europeans, Goldy Espony gets the Chad Brown angle. Brown’s horses won this race the past two years when it was the Garden City. In 2013 Alterlite shipped over from Europe to win, and Goldy Espony tries to do the same thing. Goldy Espony has two good positives – she’s been the mile and a quarter multiple times and she is a Group 3 winner. She also get first Lasix. On the negative side, her first try with Group 1 horses was very disappointing. At 10-1 she may be worth a few dollars to win and in the exotics.

Flying Jib is by Oasis Dream, a sire by Green Desert. Green Desert is well known as a superior sire of turf sprinters, and Flying Jib looks like he may be a good one. I think the mile and a quarter might be too long, but she should have a lot to say about the pace.

Wonderfully’s sire Galileo was one of the great racehorses of the early 21st century. Wonderfully has been racing against top competition in Europe, but at distances less than a mile. She certainly has the breeding to make a mile and a quarter, but she has looked overmatched in her last three Group 1 starts. She was soundly beaten this May by the aforementioned Xcellence. Given she is trained by the renowned Aidan O’Brian, she cannot be dismissed out of hand, but she has a lot to prove here.

Given the scratch of My Coquestadory, the best of the American runners is Room Service. She has won her last three Graded races, including the Grade 1 Santa Anita Oaks in her last. She is listed at 3-1 on the morning line, perhaps a bit of an underlay, but she has won at the distance and until she runs a bad race deserves consideration.

My selections are 7-3-1, and I may throw 8 into the exotics.

Belmont July 4 – Daily Double races 1-2

Race 1

With rain already turning the turf yielding and more rain expected this afternoon, races at Belmont could turn out to be unpredictable.

In the first race, four out of the seven scheduled starters are coming out of the mile and a quarter maiden on June 8, and the separation between them is fairly small. #2 Truly Mizzed probably has the best early foot of the four runners, but she is no rabbit. In that Jun 8 race she was close to a “somnabulent” pace, as Tom Durkin” described it, had the lead briefly in the stretch and kicked it in. She is a seven start maiden who hasn’t yet achieved favoritism. Joel Rosario sticks with her and that is a positive. So is the fact that the horses 1-2 in the early going both faded badly, and the winner came from dead last. Take note the temporary rail was not up that day, so you can’t adjust the time for that. I don’t think she is impossible, but how much easier does she need it?

Of the other three Jun 8 horses, Antrim Colleen almost got by everyone, Dynesque had plenty of chance to do more than finish 6th, as did Indy’s Millions.

High Heel Kitten, Queens Parade and Indy’s Millions also raced together at the today’s distance on May 16. Queen’s Parade snagged the place by closing better than either of the other two runners. The temporary rail was out 27 for the May 16 race.

My selection has to be #3 Queen’s Parade, with #2 Truly Mizzed and #6 Antrim Collection in close tow.

This state bred, filly maiden event is at 6 furlongs on the dirt. On paper it seems to be a battle between Kleptocrat and Star Grazing. Star Grazing is making her 2014 debut and she is probably best in this race. She ran a pace figure as a two-year old higher than any other horse in the race and has been working well for the Jimmy Jerkens barn.

Kleptocrat is owned and trained by Charlton Baker, who is quietly having a respectable Belmont meeting. Although she is coming out of a $40,000 maiden claiming, she fits well in this field. Charlton Baker also has Miz Sweet. The two Baker horses worked in company on June  25, skipping across 4 furlongs in 48 2/5.

#1A Star Grazing will go favorite and looks very strong. #3 Kleptocrat has a shot based on her first out.

Daily Doubles

$15   3/1A

$5      2,6/1A

$2      2,3,6/3

Total $31

Belmont Late Pick-4 July 3

7 th Race

#2 Distorted Dream is the fastest horse in the race. Unfortunately the 1 for 16 record, no wins on the dirt, no experience on the wet creates concerns. On the other hand he seems to have enough speed to get good position early. #3 Official has good positives. Pace presser, good sustained energy, exceptional wet track breeding, and only six starts with a win and place.. Also fits the conditions perfectly. #5 Pin and Win has lots of outs. Love the last race, consistent pace figures in 2014. At 12-1 he’s on my tickets. #6 Coldwater Flat, #7 Lane Allen and #9 Stowe are low start horses so always worth a look in a NW2.

“A” Horses – 3,5

“B” Horses – 2

“C” Horses – 7,9

Race 8

Looks like a WYSIWYG race to me.  Some combination of #2 Chocolat City, #4 Discreet Force, #6 Ah Gaga.

Race 9

Stays on the yielding turf. #1 Desert Bliss mostly a non-win type but is 13 out of 15 in the money on Belmont Turf. At 10-1 worth a look in the backholes. #2 Strike Accord also seems to prefer finishing 2nd/3rd, but just missed on favored BEL surface in her last. Pace figure puts her in the mix. 3YO #4 Irish Sweepstakes ran a lifetime best when switched to the Belmont turf. Has 2 wins from 6 starts, has turf specialist Jose Lezcano up. #6 Caribean Beat will be coming at the end and has the pace figure to nail the win. Just won on the yielding turf at AQU in April. #7 Miz Orwell is a solid state-bred that also has a nice closing kick.

“A” Horses – 4,6,7

“B” Horses – 2

“C” Horses 1,8

Race 10

If it stays on the turf, 11 are scheduled to go to the post. Of the horses that have started, #4 Skipping looks very tough. Has the speed and shouldn’t have any problems on the turf.  Clement’s go-to turf guy Irad Ortiz rides. Other experienced runners #9 Orient Harbor and #12 Illapa certainly could have a say in the outcome. None of the first timers seems to have caught the interest of the line-maker, but that doesn’t mean they are outless. Ignore the other Clement runner #11 Miadora with turf jockey par excellence Castellano aboard at your own peril.

“A” Horses – 4,9,12

“B” Horses – 11

“C” Horses – 10

Late Pick-4 Belmont June 29

Every time I think the pick-4 is an indecipherable mess, the longest price in the sequence is 3-1. At first glance this looks like a pick-4 with plenty of upset possibilities, but here goes.

RACE 6

In my opinion, there is no stickout in the 6th. #2 Sacred Ground is listed as the morning line favorite off a 42 day rest and a drop to the lowest claiming level he’s seen since January 2013. Sacred Ground is a 7 year-old horse who has been a steady earner in the low claiming ranks. He is placed correctly in this race and the distance should be no issue, but he may lack enough pace to run at. He certainly has a chance but I wouldn’t make him better than a 20% probability.

#6 Seeker should be the speed here. There is no reason why the five year-old gelding shouldn’t be able to establish his own fractions and hang on in the stretch. He won a $20,000 claiming mile race on May 23 in front running style, came back on the turf, and is back on his favored dirt surface today.

The #4 No Brakes had zero wins from 13 starts in 2013, but already has two wins this year, albeit at Charles Town and Pimlico. The hard-knocking nine year-old gelding wouldn’t be a complete surprise.

“A” Horses -2, 6

“B” Horse – 4

Race 7

This race is another tricky event. In the nine horse field there are only a couple of horses I don’t think have a chance of crossing under the wire first.

#5 The Brothers War shipped over from Europe in 2013 and finished third in a turf sprint at Saratoga. The well-bred son of War Front clunked in a minor stakes sprint at GP and faded to third after setting the pace in a 7-furlong OC turf sprint in his last. He looked like he needed the conditioning, but could get seriously compromised if he tries to stay with some of the other speed in the race.  Still, at 6-1 he could make the pick-4.

#1 Hear the Footsteps is at his correct level today and should find the distance to his liking. His closing style shouldn’t hurt him in this field. #3 Morpheus, half-brother to the great Frankel, is another shipper from Europe making his third start in the States. The 4 year-old still looks like he has some improve left in him, and wouldn’t be a total surprise. #4 Marriedtothemusic has the best figure in the race but has never started on the turf. He is another with early speed and could wind up setting the race up for a closer. #9 Spring Sky as only won once in his last 13 starts, but did just miss at today’s class and distance on May 16. He is another one who looks like he wants to prompt the pace.

# 2 Honorable Dylan get a look simply because he is at the right level, and he raced well in his turf sprint debut on May 16. Perhaps today he turns the tables on Hear the Foorsteps and Spring to the Sky.

“A” Horse – 5

“B” Horses – 1,3,4,9

“C” Horse – 2

Race 8

This race is super-competitive and even the longest shot on the morning line, West Coast Chick wouldn’t be a total shock. Five of the seven starters appear to be front-running types, and the other two are more pressers than closers. Only one of the starters has ever won a Graded stakes, Miss Behaviour.

#3 Milam is the morning line favorite, and although her pace figures put her near the bottom of the field, she may have an advantage because of her running style. She comes out after finishing a close second in the 8 Belles on Derby Day. The winner of that race, Fiftyshadesofgold, is multiple stakes-placed and would be 5 for 7 if not for some horse called Untapable. #2 Miss Behaviour comes off a front-running victory in the Ms Preakness and seems to be able to run without keeping her nose in front of a field. Todd Pletcher’s #6 Red Velvet wired a short stakes field in her last and has every right to keep improving.

#1 Isabelle has yet to face open competition, but was impressive in winning a state-bred stakes last out. #4 Street Story has to be considered because if the front runners falter she is most likely to pick up the pieces.

“A” Horses – 2,3,6

“B” Horses – 1,4

“C” Horses – 5,7

Race 9

The nightcap is one of those typical NY state-bred maiden races on the turf where horses either look possible or horrible, but nobody sticks out.

I’m going to look for horses who don’t have many starts, but have at least shown some potential. My choices are the #8 Zafiro Azul and #10 Josie’s Prospect. Both ran competitive figures in the same race on June 12, Josie’s Prospect on the front and Zafiro Azul making an impressive closing run. Of the two other horses coming out of that race, #2 Nanoon was strangled in the early going and had nothing left for a stretch drive, and #5 Sweetest Peach showed nothing at all.

#7 Transplendid was approaching professional maiden status when she fell and was vanned off in her last start of 2013. If she returns to her best form she has a chance to finish in front. Lil’ Zilla is also returning off a nine month plus layoff with a new trainer in tow. She is dropping from straight state-bred maidens, should have no problem with the distance and has a better pace figure as a two year-old than any other horse has as a three year-old. At 6-1 it is tough to ignore her.

“A” Horses – 8,10

“B” Horses – 7,9

“C” Horse – 2

Belmont Early Pick-4 Saturday June 28

With Untapable looking like a a very short-priced single in the fourth race, the question is whether we can come up with some price horses in the other three events to make the investment worthwhile.

The second race is a bottom level maiden claiming dirt sprint where five of the nine runners are NY breds and there are two first timers. I feel fairly confident pitching Naughty Matilda, Chichita,  and Desert Valentine.

#9 Tordita is almost certainly going to be the post-time favorite. She seems more suited to the dirt than turf or synthetic, the combination of trainer Bruce  Brown and jockey Javier Castellano is hitting at a 30% rate, and her figures are tops in this field.

#7 Moon Map has done her best running on a fast dirt track, and has figures slightly below Tordita. She should be one of the runners coming at the end.

#1 Discreet Malena is the interesting horse. I don’t think she’ll go off at 10-1, but she does seem to be racing into shape. She had two total clunkers on the turf in 2013, but came out on the dirt in 2014, showed some front in her first start and held her speed well in her next start, beating #2 Hot On Ice in the process. If she’s rounding into the top of her form she may just wire this cheap field.

“A” Horse – #9 Tordita

“B” Horses – #1 Discreet Malena, #7 Moon Map

“C” Horses – #2 Not On Ice, #5 Home to Carrowkeel, #6 Untiltherewasyou

The third race is one of those open $40,000 claiming toughies at 6 furlongs on the turf. Eight runners are scheduled to start, and I’m not sure anyone is completely outless. #1 Chelsea Road is listed as the 2-1 favorite, but I’m going to give the nod to #4 Harbingerofthings. The 5YO mare is well suited to the turf and in 2013 was a steady earner with 6 of 11 in the money. Her last two races showed approaching condition, even though she was racing on a muddy Pimlico surface and the synthetic at Presque Isle.  I think today she is back on form and I’m expecting Michael Trombetta to have her wound up and ready to run.

There is not a lot of pure speed in the race.  #2 Kilknockagain and #3 Starship Gambler will probably inherit the front, with the rest of the field following in close order. It should be a wild finish and I’d just be guessing if I offered a cold trifecta.

“A” Horse – #4 Harbinger of Things

“B” Horses – #2 Kilknockagain, #1 Chelsea Road

“C” Horses – the remainder of the field

The last leg of the early Pick-4 is a $40,000 Maiden Claiming event for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles on the turf. It is another mess of a race, and a case can be made for a number of runners. #5 Winner’s Legacy is listed as the morning line favorite. She has the past performance of a horse with physical issues,  and her last three races appear uninspiring at best. I’m going elsewhere for this race.

In this sort of race I look for horses that have a small number of starts and something positive going for them. The closest prospect is the #1 Acrostic. In May 2013 Acrostic gave a bang-up effort in a $65K maiden claimer, and then spent a year on the sidelines. She returned a month ago in a six furlong sprint, breaking slowly but making an encouraging five-wide move around the turn and finishing with decent energy. Acrostic’s chances may depend on the break, but if she  establishes a good tracking spot going into the first turn, she has every right to wind up a winner.

#2 Lifeguard on Duty also has the pattern, although she seems a step behind Acrostic. She ran a good race in her last run of 2013 at Laurel, and Anthony Dutrow is a high percentage trainer who does well with horses coming off long layoffs.

#8 Shaikha and #4 Kevin’s Kool Kat both have the look of professional maidens. Too many starts, and a high percentage of second place finishes, although Shaikha clearly has the best numbers of the field.

None of the remaining runners has much to recommend.

“A” Horses – #1 Acrostic, #2 Lifeguard on Duty

“B” Horse – # 8 Sheikha

“C” Horses – #5 Winner’s Legacy, #4 Kevin’s Kool Kat

Mother Goose Stakes at Belmont

Six horses are scheduled to contest the 2014 renewal of the Mother Goose Stakes this Saturday at Belmont. The overwhelming and deserving favorite in this field of six is the Steve Asmussen trained Untapable, listed at 1-5 on the morning line. 1-5 translates into an 83% chance of winning. If you are intrigued enough by the other horses to take a stand against Untapable, you are assured of a decent return for an upset. The problem is, nobody seems to be in Untapable’s current league.

Untapable made an auspicious debut at Churchill Downs last June as the 2.40-1 second choice, comfortably winning a 5.5 furlong race. She wheeled back two and a half months later, taking the Grade 2 Pocahontas. She followed that with a disaster in the Breeder’s Cup Juvenile Fillies, and finished 2013 with a rather dull effort in the Hollywood Starlet.

What a difference 2014 brought. Untapable has won three consecutive Graded stakes, the last win coming at Churchill Downs in the Kentucky Oaks. Nobody has been closer than four and a half lengths at the wire. Untapable should be fully primed on Saturday. She is a versatile runner and has shown the ability to press or track and leave a field in her wake.

Are there any negatives? Not many. Rosie Napravnik, Untapable’s regular rider, is out with a shoulder injury and has been replaced by the very capable Johhny Velasquez. She has never raced on the Belmont surface, and it is occasionally the case that a horse will find the Big Sandy less to their liking.

So if you want to play the race, what do you do? There is no show betting, but I don’t think the bridge jumpers will have any hesitation about slamming Untapable in the place pool.  That leaves a few combination bets – the exacta, trifecta, pick-3 and early pick-4. In an article I wrote for Horseplayer Magazine, I mentioned that if you can turn a 1-5 shot into an 8-5 or higher shot by playing a cold exacta, or an even longer shot by playing a cold trifecta, it’s worth taking a plunge.

So who would you put on the bottom of an exacta or trifecta with Untapable? Let’s go through the other runners. House Rules needed four tries to break her maiden, but then finished second in a pair of Grade 2 races at Gulfstream, finishing ahead of other runners America and Stopchargingmaria in the process. However, she showed  very little in the Grade 1 Acorn at Belmont. Her closing style may work in her favor but given she’ll likely be bet a little, I’m going to look elsewhere.

Princess Violet is a lightly raced New York state-bred with three sprint races under her belt. She should bolt to the front, but otherwise I’m not really finding a reason to consider her in the back hole.

America is still eligible for a NW2 race and has been beaten by both Stopchargingmaria and House Rules. I can’t see why the tables might turn on Saturday.

Stopchargingmaria is a solid Grade 2 horse and her win in the Black-Eyed Susan showed a lot of growth. She raced as a two-year old at Belmont, finishing a respectable third in the Frizette, so I don’t think the track will be a problem. You can’t ignore the Pletcher-Castellano combination. They consistently hit at 30% or greater in stakes races. She seems fairly clear as the second best runner, but it’s hard to imagine more than a $4 exacta with Untapable on top. Still, it’s a long way better than 1-5.

The horse that intrigues me is Aqua Regia, and if Princess Violet wasn’t in the race I’d be inclined to really hit the Untapable-Aqua Regia exacta. She just won her NW1X race at Belmont, pressing from the second spot and finishing well. She has plenty of tactical speed, but doesn’t seem to be a “need to lead” type. If she doesn’t let Princess Violet burn her out early, she may have a couple of lengths on everyone but Untapable turning for home, and have enough heart to hang on to the place. She has the feel of one of those horses that still has a lot of room for improvement, and fits a pattern that has historically been successful at Belmont. Plus, she is likely to go off somewhere near her 20-1 morning line.

I don’t think there are a lot of decisions in here. If Untapable runs her race, everyone else is competing for second, and the Untapable-Stopchargingmaria exacta will probably pay a miniscule price. Unless something intervenes, I’m inclined to try to make money by betting a straight Untapable-Aqua Regia exacta.

I’ll blog tomorrow about the pick-3 and pick-4 prospects.