If you’ve been played by Bruce Willis in a movie, befriended professional wrestlers and MMA fighters, and garnered respect from some of the most grizzled veterans in the gambling world, chances are you’ve lived a full life. Unfortunately, the full life I’m referencing ended Wednesday.
Alan Denkenson passed away after a long battle with cancer. He started out as a bookmaker in New York and New Jersey, and after serving a prison sentence for that, moved to Las Vegas and established himself as a sharp bettor. I tweeted a link to an interview he did with VSIN in 2020, and if you haven’t seen that, it’s worth a read.
I never knew the man they called “Dink.” I wish I had. A lot of people I like and respect posted heartfelt tributes to him on social media, and for good reason. The gambling world lost an incredibly smart man, and by all accounts, he was a good man, too.
WEDNESDAY’S RESULTS: My Pick Three fizzled when it turned out I had the wrong alternative to a beatable favorite in the middle leg. However, both singles won, and playing $15 win tickets on those runners allowed me to turn a $51.50 profit.
THURSDAY’S PLAY: I’ll focus on the seventh, where #6 MASABEEH hits me as a very interesting value play. In addition to a $10 win bet, I’ll play $3 exactas using her on top of #2 BELLA CONCHITA, #4 COMMAND POINT, and #9 DREAM OF CHANGE, as well as $2 exactas with Masabeeh beneath that trio. I’ll also have a $5 cold double starting in the sixth that singles #6 INFLATION NATION to start and Masabeeh to finish.
TOTAL WAGERED: $30.
Best Bet: Sirius Light, Race 3
Longshot: Gucci Boy, Race 6
#6 SCORPION’S REVENGE: Came from way back to win a listed stakes race last time out, and he’s 3-for-3 going 2 1/4 miles or longer over fences. This 2 3/8-mile trip should hit him right between the eyes, and I think he’ll be tough to hold off; #2 FREDDY FLINTSHIRE: Made it two in a row with a solid score over allowance foes earlier this summer. He goes out for one of the top barns on the steeplechase circuit, gets one of the top riders, and is a major player provided he takes to the added distance; #5 DECISIVE TRIUMPH: Hasn’t won in a while but has hit the board four times in as many starts this season, all in stakes races. Most recently, he was second in the Kiser a few weeks ago, and he figures to be prominent from the jump (no pun intended).
#1 RAGTIME BLUES: Is ultra-consistent with six top-three finishes in his last six starts, including a second-place effort going longer last time out. The cutback to six furlongs should suit him, and he’s a candidate to sit a perfect stalking trip just off the speed; #2 BRONX BOMBER: Looms large on speed figures, as he usually does, and he’ll likely be favored here. However, he’s 0-for-6 in his career over this track, and he’s 1-for-18 dating back to the start of 2021. I’m hesitant to trust him too much, especially at a short price; #7 CASALSA: Is a proven early speed threat and goes first off the claim for Peter Walder, who can win with new acquisitions. The far outside draw should be a big plus, and he’s done some of his best running with today’s pilot, Luis Saez, in the irons.
Bourbon and Honey
#4 SIRIUS LIGHT: Came flying late after a rough beginning to be second last time out in her first turf race. Not only does this race figure to set up for her running style, it figures to do so with some of the ones she beat last time out likely to dictate terms again. A smoother journey could make her tough to hold off; #8 BOURBON AND HONEY: Debuted in an off-the-turf race at Horseshoe Indiana and was third behind a pair of next-out winners. The pedigree says she wants grass, and she has every right to improve at second asking for a barn that’s going very well right now; #6 INFLUENTIALOUS: Set the early pace last time out before fading to fourth in the race my top pick exits. Top speed rider Kendrick Carmouche retains the mount, and I expect her to be prominent from the jump once again.
#4 VALUE ENGINEERING: Ran well when third last time out in his 2022 bow and has every right to be sharper second off the bench. The recent bullet drill over the Oklahoma turf course indicates he’s doing well, and he should get plenty of pace to run at; #6 STREET READY: Did almost all of the work up front last time out and got nailed on the wire by Soldier Rising, who came back to run third in the Grade 1 Sword Dancer. That day’s jockey rides back, and the slight cutback in distance should be a welcome one; #5 BYE BYE MELVIN: Came up just a neck short in his first start since June of 2021 when fourth in a stakes-caliber optional claimer. The blinkers come off, but John Velazquez stays on, and this Grade 3 winner merits respect even if he may not be alone up front.
Bees and Honey
W W Fitzy
#4 BEES AND HONEY: Gets significant class relief after running fourth in the Grade 2 Delaware Handicap. She captured the Grade 3 Comely late last year, and this is probably the weakest field she’s faced since winning that event; #3 SWEET WILLEMINA: Stretches out to two turns, but she’s shown she can handle such a trip and is a closer in what looks like a race with plenty of early speed. The race shape favors her, and she’s a hard-knocking mare that’s won 12 of 33 lifetime starts; #6 W W FITZY: Faded to finish a distant third last time out in a race out of the Wilson chute. She’ll likely be very prominent early on again in this spot, but the presence of fellow speedster #2 FAMILY TIME means she may have to work hard to clear this bunch from her outside post.
#6 INFLATION NATION: Did everything but win in his debut, when he lost a photo and finished more than six lengths clear of the third-place finisher. There are some promising first-time starters in here, but he’s the one to beat if he runs back to that performance; #10 ANTARES: Makes his debut for Wesley Ward, which automatically merits attention. The far outside post is a problem, but this American Pharoah gelding is kin to a stakes-place turfer and boasts an eye-catching turf work on August 12th; #3 GUCCI BOY: Is worth a look at a bonkers price. This son of Hard Spun is out of a mare that won first time out at this route. That dam went on to place in a stakes race, and the work tab has some hints that say this one can run a bit.
Dream of Change
#6 MASABEEH: Was a close-up third at this level and route last time out and gets a notable rider switch to Jose Ortiz for this event. This race doesn’t have a ton of early speed signed on, and Ortiz, an aggressive rider, should be able to put this filly in an ideal spot going into the first turn; #9 DREAM OF CHANGE: Just missed in a first-level allowance race at Monmouth Park last time out and figures to be favored given the powerful connections involved. However, her speed figures aren’t overwhelming, and that wasn’t the best field she faced last time out. She can win, but her likely price hits me as a bit of an underlay; #2 BELLA CONCHITA: Made a middle move last time out and flattened out late after going wide turning for home. Perhaps she needs more pace than she’ll get here, but I do think she’s better than the last-out performance might indicate.
Short Summer Dress
#1 SHORT SUMMER DRESS: Takes a big class drop to run here for local, aggressive connections that are probably eager to find the winner’s circle a few times between now and Monday evening. She was a good third against a tougher group of optional claimers last time out, and that day’s runner-up has since come back to win; #2 ROSSA VELOCE: Ran too poorly to be true last time out, when she faltered as a 7/5 favorite. She comes back in this spot for new trainer Michelle Nevin, and unlike many others in here, she doesn’t need the lead in order to run well. A return to her early-2022 form gives her a shot at a nice price; #4 MELTING SNOW: Is winless in five 2022 starts but was claimed by a sharp outfit last time out and could benefit from a hot pace. The faster they go early, the better this one’s chances figure to be, and I don’t think they’ll be walking up front.
Tell Me When
Ticker Tape Home
#1 TELL ME WHEN: Has run well in a pair of outings, including one earlier this meet when she was second behind a very well-meant runner in an off-the-turf race. She’s worked consistently since that effort, and I think further improvement is in the offing here; #11 COWICHAN: Needs a scratch to draw in but merits plenty of respect if she does. She was beaten just a half-length in a similar spot earlier this summer, and she’s improved in all three of her starts to date for trainer Wesley Ward; #4 TICKER TAPE HOME: May have bounced or gone too far last time out, when she faded to finish eighth at a pretty short price going two turns. She cuts back to a sprint, and anything close to her debut effort from early-July at Woodbine would make her formidable for Hall of Fame trainer Mark Casse.
Leave No Trace (MTO)
Be Your Best
#6 BE YOUR BEST: Debuted with a smashing performance against a decent group, one where her 3 1/4-length win was rewarded with a 70 Beyer Speed Figure. This barn doesn’t always have firsters fully-cranked, so that effort’s a notable one. A similar trip may make her tough to fend off in the P.G. Johnson; #1 LADY JASMINE: Won first time out for another outfit whose runners tend to improve with experience. John Velazquez sees fit to ride back, and she may have enough speed to use the inside draw to her advantage; #8 RECOGNIZE: Took a significant step forward when switched to the turf last time out and comes back here on short rest for a pretty patient barn. I’m interpreting that as a sign of confidence, and she may be able to clear most of her rivals early on.
Got the Gold
Once a Giant
#8 POWER AGENDA: Was through early last time out, but gets one more chance from me in a wide-open Thursday finale. He got stuck dueling on the inside, which wasn’t the place to be on this track that day. The outside draw should help him here, and Luis Saez riding back is a point in his favor; #3 GOT THE GOLD: Might have been a bit too close to the pace last time out when sixth at this route in mid-August. His prior local effort was a decent second against a similar bunch, and I think he’ll have some speed to chase and potentially reel in here; #9 ONCE A GIANT: Ran fourth at this level going a mile in July and was claimed out of that race by a barn hitting with 28% of new acquisitions. He’s since put forth a big half-mile drill in mid-August, and he’s a contender if he runs back to his lone winning effort (which came at Aqueduct back in April).