Delta Downs Analysis, Selections, and Tickets: 10/18/17 (Opening Night)

Wednesday is opening night at Delta Downs, one of my favorite tracks. The fields are usually pretty large, the multi-race exotics pools are solid, and on top of that, track announcer Don Stevens is one of the nicest, most versatile people in racing. I drafted him in the first-ever fantasy simulcast team draft for a reason (hi, Don!).

I’ve put together a pair of Pick Four tickets for the card, and I found both sequences pretty tricky. That said, here’s how I’ll play them!

$0.50 Pick Four: Race #1

R1: 6
R2: ALL
R3: 3,4
R4: 1,5,8

60 Bets, $30

We start off with a single, and it’s not the type of single I usually play. #6 TAPSTER is 0-for-14 lifetime coming into this maiden race, but he’s been running against high-quality opposition for most of his career. His running lines are dotted with the names of several stakes horses, and he makes his first start for Karl Broberg, who’s one of the best in the game with new acquisitions. It’s a “hold your nose” single for me in some ways, but given the coverage I needed elsewhere, that’s the way things shook out.

Speaking of coverage, you’ll see that I’ve bought the second race, and for good reason. It’s a non-winners-of-two claimer, the type of race good friend Kurt Hoover refers to as “evil.” I did the math, and the 10 runners in the body of the field have lost a combined total of 206 races (if you want to add the two AE’s in there, that number rises to 237). I don’t have a clue who wins here, and hopefully, we get a price home to justify punching the “ALL” button.

I’m two-deep in the third. #3 LIBA looks strong for Broberg after winning first off the claim at Louisiana Downs, while #4 BEST GUESS has shown an affinity for Delta Downs and drops in class after two failed tries against allowance foes. Those two make the most sense to me in another race that’s drawn a full field of 10.

I’ll finish by going three-deep in a competitive claiming event. #5 COUCHE COUCHE figures to be favored, but he’s 0-for-3 at Delta and hasn’t won in a year and a half, so he’s no cinch. I want coverage, and I’ve found it with likely second choice #8 KEYSTONES STRIKE and live 8-1 shot #1 BLUE FORTY TWO, who’s notched three of his four career wins at Delta and gets top local rider Gerard Melancon. If you want to go even deeper, feel free. This isn’t an easy race, but I wanted to keep costs down a bit, so I settled on those three.

$0.50 Pick Four: Race #7

R7: 1,2,3
R8: 1,3,6,7
R9: 2,4,8
R10: 6,7

72 Bets, $36

Before we dive in, it’s worth noting that there’s a 50-cent Pick Five starting in the sixth. If you’re playing that, I think 8-1 shot #6 MISS SID N SAY is a must-use. She’s won her last two dirt starts in runaways, likes Delta, and will be a square price against what I think is a vulnerable favorite (#8 OH DEAR LORD is 0-for-her-last-10, and 3-2 is just too short to take against what turned out to be a solid field for the level).

Moving on, the late Pick Four starts with a pair of wide-open races. I’m three-deep in the seventh and four-deep in the eighth, and I hope that’s deep enough. I honestly can’t tell you who’ll be favored in each of those races, and if you’ve got deeper pockets or an additional single elsewhere, hitting the “ALL” button once or twice may not be a bad strategy.

The ninth features the latest matchup in a cool little rivalry. #2 I HOPE and #8 SOUTHERN WIND have locked up several times, and I’m using both horses. However, neither is my top pick. I don’t think there’s a ton of early speed signed on, so my focus is on #4 IDE STANG YOU, who’s got one way of going. She’ll be flying out of the gate and figures to lead them as long as she can, which could be a while if nobody attempts to go with her.

I had to alter my ticket considerably following the scratch of #8 DARYLSLITTLEENGINE in the tenth. He was a single for me, so I took a horse out of the first leg on my original ticket and settled for going two-deep in the finale. I’ll use #6 WHERE’S CAIN (who’s done some of his best running at Delta) and #7 UNITAS (who could sit a perfect stalking trip just off the speed).

Woodbine Analysis, Selections, and Tickets: Canadian International, E.P. Taylor Day (10/15/17)

Sunday is Canadian International Day at Woodbine, and while that turf marathon and its sister race, the E.P. Taylor, aren’t quite as big as they were a generation ago, the two Grade 1 affairs headline a stacked card with plenty of wagering opportunities. Longtime readers of mine know I’m a sucker for the 20-cent minimum bets on multi-race wagers, and I’ve got three such tickets ahead of Sunday’s card. Let’s get to it!

$0.20 Pick Five: Race #2

R2: 3,4,8,9
R3: 10
R4: 4,5,9
R5: 2,7,8,9
R6: 1,2,7

144 Bets, $28.80

The first of my three tickets comes in the early Pick Five. My strategy is to spread around one key single, which doubles as my best bet of the day.

We’ll start off in the second race, a tricky maiden claiming event. The two favorites, #3 RELEASETHE GLACKEN and #4 CRIMSON RING, both have major questions to answer. The former ran well last time out but doesn’t have much of a resume to speak of other than that effort, while the latter was bet against better horses last month and didn’t run a jump. I’ll use both, and I’m also going to throw in #8 LAILAS PRINCESS and #9 SHEEGWEEHA. Lailas Princess has a few sharp efforts sprinting on synthetic at this level, while Sheegweeha has improved in every start and could benefit from the outside draw.

My best bet of the day comes in the third race. This is a maiden race for 2-year-olds, and I’m all-in on #10 WHERE’S ANTHONY, who had a lot go wrong in his debut last month. He broke slowly and encountered plenty of traffic, but he still rallied to finish third, beaten less than three lengths. Improvement is logical at second asking, especially for a barn whose recent numbers with second-time starters are strong. Per DRF Formulator, trainer Scott Fairlie is 3-for-11 over the past two years with such runners, and if you only include races contested on the synthetic track, that number goes to 3-for-9. Long story short: If Where’s Anthony doesn’t win, I lose.

I’m chalk-heavy in the fourth race. #4 GIADA VEGAS will likely be favored, but she’s a type that finds ways to lose. I have to use her, but I’m also using #5 YOU’RE MINE and #9 SNIPPY. The former has run well three times for a strong local barn, while the latter took a big step forward at second asking and should be prominent early.

The fifth race is a maiden event for 2-year-old fillies, and I’m going pretty deep. #2 EESTI STAR and #8 MAXIXE will both take money, but their trainers’ horses often need a race or two to get going, so I wanted coverage. I found it with #7 LADY WITH CLASS and #9 SWEET SILENT SOUL. Lady With Class has two OK races to her credit, while Sweet Silent Soul goes out for a barn on a recent hot streak and could benefit from the outside draw.

If we’re still alive, we’ll look to score by going three-deep in the sixth. This is the Grade 2 Nearctic, and it’s drawn an interesting field of turf sprinters. It’s another race where I’m chalk-heavy. #7 COTAI GLORY is a European getting Lasix for the first time and is probably the one to beat, but #1 DOWSE’S BEACH and #2 WHITE FLAG are both in strong form and could win with their best efforts.

$0.20 Pick Four: Race #4

R4: 4,5,9
R5: 2,7,8,9
R6: 1,2,7
R7: 2,8

72 Bets, $14.40

The first three legs of the early Pick Four are the same as the last three legs of the early Pick Five. I’ll finish this wager off by using both fillies entered in the Grade 3 Ontario Derby. #8 HOLY HELENA returns to her preferred synthetic surface, on which she won this year’s Queen’s Plate, while #2 GRIZZEL has run up against some very good horses and is 2-for-2 on Woodbine’s synthetic footing. I think one of them beats the boys, and hopefully, we’re cashing after it happens.

$0.20 Pick Four: Race #9

R9: 3,4,6,8
R10: 4,8,9,10
R11: 4,9,10
R12: 5,8,11

144 Bets, $28.80

There’s also a late Pick Five wager that starts in the eighth, but in all honesty, I couldn’t put together a ticket that I felt comfortable playing. That race is not easy, and I couldn’t narrow down the rest of the ticket. As such, I’ll bypass that wager for this one, which boasts a guaranteed pool of $250,000.

As you can see, I’ve got plenty of coverage in all four legs, and the opening leg, the Grade 1 E.P. Taylor, may be the most wide-open race on the entire card. #6 NEZWAAH and #8 BLOND ME both have big chances coming over from Europe, and if the former runs back to her Group 1 score two back, she probably wins. However, #3 QUIDURA and #4 RAINHA DA BATERIA both love this turf course, and I need to use them. The latter seems like a big overlay at 10-1 on the morning line, especially since she hasn’t run a bad race in her last six starts, three of which came at the Grade 1 level. However, I’m against #7 RAIN GODDESS, who will likely take money shipping in for Aidan O’Brien. Her Timeform numbers simply don’t stack up to the Euros that will surround her in the starting gate, and I’ve spread elsewhere, so I’ll try to beat her (even though it wouldn’t be stunning if she went off favored in this race).

The 10th race is the Canadian International, and this is another event where the European contingent looks tough. I’m using all three of them: #4 IDAHO, #9 ERUPT, and #10 CHEMICAL CHANGE, who may be underbet despite running pretty much the exact same race every time out and getting Lasix for the first time. I’ll also throw in #8 MESSI, who was very unlucky in the Grade 1 Northern Dancer. He could’ve won that race with a better trip, and I’ll give him one more shot.

I’m three-deep in each of the last two races, and I’m using a few prices. My top pick in the 11th is #10 SEVENCOMINGOUT, who tried tougher company last time out after a solid debut. He’s back at the right level and will be tough if he runs back to the September 16th effort. I’m using #4 THIRD MAN IN as well, although he’s developing a habit of collecting smaller checks. Most notably, though, I’m throwing in #9 RASTA MAN, who’s been off a while but has been working well and has a few previous efforts that would fit in with this group. He’s 20-1 on the morning line, and that could be a knockout horse in this sequence.

We’ll finish with a claiming event going seven furlongs, and while I’m using one of the likely favorites, I’m also throwing in two big prices. #8 INCREDIBLE DEE has run well in each of his past two starts at this level and route, but his lone win came with a perfect trip, so he’s no cinch. Meanwhile, #5 WILSHIRE STAR (15-1) and #11 SPANISH EXPRESS (20-1) were must-uses for me, especially at their likely prices. Wilshire Star has run his best races at this route, while Spanish Express is an example of one of my favorite angles, the “toss two” theory. That occurs when a horse runs a bad race, goes to the sidelines, and needs his return race as a tightener. If you go back to the races he ran in May of this year, Spanish Express more than fits here, and he could be a massive price on the tote board.

Santa Anita Analysis, Selections, and Tickets: 10/9/17

Since it’s a day off for me and I’ve recovered from a brief bout with the Arkansas Flu (given to me by one of two visiting friends who crashed at my humble Los Angeles abode this past week), I’ve opted to take a ride inland to Santa Anita for their special Monday program (plus dollar sodas and hot dogs!). As such, I’ve written up a few multi-race tickets for those of you playing the races in Arcadia, and here they are!

$0.50 Pick Five: Race #1

R1: 10
R2: 2,7,8
R3: 4,7
R4: 1,4,6,8
R5: 5,6,7,9

96 Bets, $48

This is a very tough Pick Five, and if you’re playing on any sort of a budget, you need to take a stand somewhere. I opted to do so right off the bat in the opener, a $25,000 claimer on the turf. #10 CURLY’S WATERFRONT showed some real talent as a 2-year-old, when he ran fourth in a pair of stakes races. I’m not holding his most recent race against him, as that came off a long layoff going shorter than he probably wants. He drops down in class, and I think he’ll take a sizable step forward.

The second leg is a $12,500 claimer on the dirt, and your likely favorite, #7 STIR FRY, hasn’t run in more than a year. She could win, but I needed coverage elsewhere. #2 BESIDES THE POINT comes back to dirt and drops down in class, while #8 FLOWER HEART DEER ran pretty well two back and gets reacquainted with Evin Roman.

I took a stand in the third against horses coming out of the September 1st race at Del Mar. That was a very slow race, and I just don’t want any part of the ones who ran in it. #4 BOSS MOVE and #7 TWISTED ROSIE were both impressive second-out winners, and this doesn’t seem like an imposing spot in which to try winners for the first time, so I’ll use them both.

I’m four-deep in each of the last two legs, neither of which are easy to handicap. #8 ZURI CHOP will probably be favored in the fourth, but he’s 0-for-11 at Santa Anita, including many tries at this level. I’ll use him, but am by no means confident (especially at his likely price). My top pick is #4 TAIMA THE HAWK, who has several strong races down the hill against higher-class opponents. 8-1 is a very square price on a horse like that, and I think he’s got a big shot. I’ll also throw in #1 YES YES YES and #6 AMERICAN LEAGUE, both of whom have also shown ability coming down the hill.

We finish with a wide-open 2-year-old race. #7 PADDOCK PICK was beaten less than three lengths in a live race at Del Mar and may go favored, but this isn’t an easy spot. Fellow second-time starter #9 SPANISH BAY is bred to be a good one and should improve at second asking, while #5 TALENT SCOUT is a Bob Baffert firster with a good work tab and #6 BEER TAP has too many flashy drills at Santa Anita and San Luis Rey to be 12-1. I think this sequence has the potential to pay very well, and hopefully, we can get this $48 ticket home.

$0.50 Pick Four: Race #6

R6: 1,6,8
R7: 2,6,9,11
R8: 5
R9: 3,4,5,10,11,12,13

84 Bets, $42

This ticket likely won’t cost the full $42, given that #13 GOODTHINGSTAKETIME is an also-eligible in the ninth and needs luck to draw in (if she does, chances are it’s because another horse we used scratched). That said, my thinking here is to build around my best bet of the day, which comes in the eighth.

I’ll start by going three-deep in the Zuma Beach. #6 COUNT ALEXANDER is my top pick coming down from Woodbine, where he chased a very talented horse (Untamed Domain) that will take money in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf. He was beaten just two lengths that day and merits respect here. I’ll also use #1 RESTRAINEDVENGEANCE, who freaked last time out for Val Brinkerhoff, and #8 MY BOY JACK, who ran into Encumbered twice and gets the services of Kent Desormeaux in this spot.

I’m four-deep in the seventh, a tricky maiden claimer. #11 WILLOWS BABE may be favored adding blinkers for Richard Baltas, but it isn’t like she’s set the world on fire to this point, so I want coverage. I’ll get that with #2 INNYMINNIEMINEYMOE, #6 FLY AS A FALCON, and #9 DREAM PROOF, the last of which is a big price. She showed significant zip last time out in her second start, drops down in class, and figures to be prominent early.

My best bet of the day, as mentioned, comes in the eighth, where I will be stunned if we get 5-1 odds on #5 VIBE. At first glance, his 4-for-13 record doesn’t look exceptional. However, if you focus solely on dirt route races, he’s 4-for-8, and one of those losses came in the Grade 3 Ohio Derby, where he had no business running against the likes of Irap and Girvin. He loves Santa Anita, beat slightly-higher-level competition last time out, and looks like the one to beat if he runs his usual race in this spot. Here’s hoping we get the morning line price, but 5/2 or 3-1 is probably more accurate.

If you’ve got a bigger budget than I do, you may want to punch the “ALL” button in the Surfer Girl, which doubles as the Monday finale. I’m going at least six-deep, maybe seven-deep if the aforementioned #13 GOODTHINGSTAKETIME draws in. My top pick, though, is the other Leonard Powell trainee, #11 FATALE BERE. She flashed plenty of talent in three starts overseas and chased a very good filly named Mission Impassible last time out in a one-mile stakes race. The post position isn’t ideal, but she gets Lasix for the first time and would be tough if she brings her European form to the Santa Anita turf course. That said, I have very little conviction in this race, and my advice is to go as deep as you can.

Keeneland Analysis, Selections, and Tickets: 10/7/17

It’s opening weekend at Keeneland, and there are plenty of reasons to be excited. Saturday’s card boasts five consecutive stakes races, as well as some compelling undercard events, and I’ll have three different multi-race tickets to go through.

One quick note before we get started. As you may know, I’ve put together a survey asking for feedback on AndrewChampagne.com, as well as thoughts on a few ideas I’ve got going forward to continue to make this site a resource for handicappers. If you haven’t taken it yet, it only takes a few minutes, and it’s located here.

Anyway, on with the show, starting with the early Pick Four!

– – – – –

$0.50 Pick Four: Race #2

R2: ALL
R3: 1
R4: 2,4,5,7,8
R5: 1,8

50 Bets, $25

Our first horizontal wager begins with a race where, to be honest, I did not have a clue. I think any of the five fillies and mares signed on could win, and analyzing races on the Beard course is not one of my strengths. I’m using them all, and hopefully we get a bit of a price home.

My convictions are much stronger in the third race, which features the debut of a highly-touted 2-year-old. That’s #1 CONQUISTADOR, who fetched $2.45 million at auction earlier this year and has been working lights-out for trainer Mark Casse. Casse and jockey Julien Leparoux are riding high after three wins on Friday, and I don’t think the rest of this field is any great shakes. I’ll single this son of Tiznow, and I’ll be very surprised if we get close to his 3-1 morning line odds (6/5 or 7/5 is probably more likely).

Things get tougher again in the fourth, another 2-year-old race and one that boasts a full field going two turns. I’m five-deep, and while #8 TIZ MISCHIEF merits respect, that was a pretty sizable leap forward from start one to start two, and there could be a bounce coming. I want coverage, and that includes 15-1 shot #4 MEISTERMIND, a half to Mine That Bird and Dullahan who dumped the jockey in his debut. I’m not holding that against him, and if this son of Bodemeister runs to his pedigree, that price is a major overlay.

This sequence ends with the first stakes race of the day. It’s the Grade 2 Woodford going 5 1/2 furlongs on the turf, and I’m two-deep. #8 HOGY may be better than ever, but it’s tough to back one-run closers in these events, and my top pick is #1 CONQUEST PANTHERA. He was seventh in the Grade 1 Woodbine Mile last time out, but finished just two lengths back of runner-up Lancaster Bomber. His best races have come going sprint distances, and I think he could sit an ideal trip just off the early speed.

$0.50 Pick Five: Race #5

R5: 1,3,8
R6: 4
R7: 3,4,6
R8: 2,7,9
R9: 3,10,14

81 Bets, $40.50

There’s a $250,000 guaranteed pool for this wager, so I’ve put a ticket together. It’s built around a horse that will likely be the shortest price of the day, but if we get some prices home around that one, we could score for some serious money.

I added #3 COMMEND in the first leg, which doubles as the payoff leg of the early Pick Four. I’m not sold by either of his wins this year, but he did make Hogy work at Kentucky Downs last time out, so I threw him in here for the sake of coverage. I can afford to do that because I think #4 FINLEY’SLUCKYCHARM will be exceptionally tough to beat in the sixth, the Grade 2 TCA. She’s done very little wrong around one turn, and if she doesn’t win, many tickets will go up in smoke (mine included).

The seventh is the Grade 1 First Lady, and I’m using the three logical horses. #3 DONA BRUJA has been very good since coming to the U.S., and she ran a strong second in the Grade 1 Beverly D. going longer. I think she’ll relish the cutback in distance, but in case she doesn’t, I’ve also got #4 ROCA ROJO and #6 DICKINSON on my ticket. Of those two, I prefer the latter, as the former seems to find trouble more often than I’d like.

The eighth is the Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity, and this is a tough race. I’m taking the stance that the Grade 1 Hopeful is a legitimate race, so I’m using the 2-3 finishers from that event. However, my top pick is #2 EZMOSH, who’s gotten better with each start and graduated with a pretty fast win at Churchill Downs. The inside draw should help him going into the first turn, and the presence of Javier Castellano doesn’t hurt, either.

We’ll look to finish things off in the Grade 1 Shadwell Turf Mile. I’m going deeper on my Pick Four, but I’m using my three top horses here. #10 HEART TO HEART is my top pick and will be tough if he gets loose on the lead. Having said that, I’m also using a few longshots on this ticket. #3 SUEDOIS has spent most of the last two years running against high-level European competition and gets Lasix for the first time, all of which makes him very appealing at 15-1. Add in that his jockey probably had his choice between this one and #7 MONDIALISTE, and you’ve got a genuinely live horse. Another live one is #14 AMERICAN PATRIOT, who won the Grade 1 Maker’s 46 Mile here earlier this year. His trip to Ascot didn’t go well, and his last-out effort was a clunker, but I think both races are throw-outs. Some Americans just don’t like Ascot, and the turf course at Saratoga was a bog the day of the Grade 1 Fourstardave. Despite the horrible post, I’ll give him another shot at a juicy price.

$0.50 Pick Four: Race #6

R6: 4
R7: 3,4,6
R8: 2,3,4,7,9
R9: 3,6,8,10,14

75 Bets, $37.50

The first two legs of my late Pick Four are the same as the second and third legs of the Pick Four. I opted to go deeper in the last two legs, throwing in two additional horses in the Breeders’ Futurity and Shadwell Turf Mile.

I have some reservations about #3 LONE SAILOR and #4 TEN CITY, but both figure to be prices in the third leg. Even though the race was rained off the turf, Lone Sailor ran a smashing race to graduate at Saratoga, and Ten City ran two very good races earlier in the year. His longer races have been just so-so, but there’s a chance he recaptures that form in this spot, and I need to have him on this ticket because of it.

I’ll also add in #6 BALLAGH ROCKS and #8 MISS TEMPLE CITY in the Shadwell. The former was beaten just a half-length at this route in the Maker’s 46 Mile and ran well in each of his last two starts, while the latter won this race last year and certainly has an affinity for this track (even though she may not be the same horse she was a year or two ago).

Belmont Park and Santa Anita Analysis, Selections, and Tickets: 9/30/17

We’re just five weeks away from the 2017 Breeders’ Cup, and while many trainers have opted to rest their stars ahead of the event, Saturday’s cards at Belmont and Santa Anita are packed with great racing and prime wagering opportunities. I’ve got a pair of multi-race exotics tickets at each track, and the likely payoffs are such that, even if only one hits, we’ll likely still be looking at a winning day.

One note before we kick off the analysis: I’ve set up a feedback survey for those who visit the site. Simply put, I want to know more about what you expect from a content perspective, as well as what you like/don’t like and your thoughts on a few additional bells and whistles I’m thinking about adding. It’s my goal to turn this site into a resource for players, and hopefully, I’ve at least taken steps towards that point. The survey is here, and it only takes a few minutes. If you have the time to fill it out, I’d appreciate it greatly.

Now, let’s get down to business!

– – – – –

BELMONT PARK

$0.50 Pick Five: Race #1

R1: 2,7
R2: 4,6,9
R3: 2,4
R4: 2,3,5,7,8
R5: 3

60 Bets, $30

We’ll kick things off with a real puzzler. The opener is a $40,000 maiden claimer, and many of these horses just haven’t done much running. #2 VALDOCCO ran well a few times earlier this year against straight maidens, but that was at Gulfstream, and he’s been away a long time. I used him, but my top pick is #7 RIVER DEEP, who’s shown speed against better horses in the past and attracts John Velazquez. I’m taking a stand against #5 WHY GOD, who may go off lower than his 7/2 morning line due to his connections. Yes, this trainer/jockey combination merits respect, but the workouts at Monmouth are slow, the pedigree indicates that he wants much longer than seven furlongs, and (per DRF Formulator) Chad Brown is 0-for-his last-11 (and 1-for-his-last-21) with first-time starters in maiden claimers.

The second race is a turf sprint, and this is another race where you can go in many different directions. I can’t tell you who’ll be favored, but my top selection is #6 ABBOT, whose lone bad races on turf have come both directly before and directly after a one-year layoff. Joel Rosario hops aboard, and he’s ridden very well to this point in the meet. I’ll also use #4 LONE TRADER, who simply went too far last time out, and #9 SALLISAW, who is bred up and down for turf and has been gelded ahead of his return for a barn that’s done excellent work in turf sprints of late.

I’m using two of the logical contenders in the third race. Both #2 BIBLICAL and #4 ROAD TO MEATH debuted at Saratoga and could improve at second asking for top-notch barns. If I were to use another in here, it would probably be #8 FIRST WARRIOR. He’s bred to be a good one, has worked well since his debut (which he may have needed), and the odds disparity between this one and stablemate #6 AVERY ISLAND will likely be bigger than it should. However, while I may throw that one into a few vertical exotics wagers, I’ll stick with the first two on my Pick Five ticket.

The fourth is a fun turf race, and while I’m using the likely favorite (#3 FUNTASTIC), I didn’t think he was anywhere close to a lock. He did have trouble in his first start against winners, but I didn’t think he beat much two back. I’m most intrigued by the two outside horses. #8 LUNAIRE actually beat Funtastic last time out and has run up against horses like Bricks and Mortar and Frostmourne. He’s my top pick, and I also think you can make a real case for #7 HELLO HOLIDAY, who returns to his favorite turf course and gets Luis Saez. Finally, #2 VIA EGNATIA’s last race is a complete throw-out (he’s a turf horse, not a dirt horse, and running into eventual Allen Jerkens runner-up Takaful didn’t help), and #5 SOGLIO has been gelded since his last start and is another with significant back class.

We’ll finish with a fifth-race single, and probably the shortest price in the sequence. That’s #3 FAVORABLE OUTCOME, who has yet to run a bad race on dirt. He hasn’t been seen since a win in the Grade 2 Swale in February, but he’s been working very well ahead of his return, and anywhere close to his prior dirt efforts would likely beat this group.

$0.50 Pick Four: Race #7

R7: 1,4,6
R8: 5,7,8
R9: 1
R10: 1,3,4,5,6,8,9,10

72 Bets, $36

Yes, I’m singling Elate in the Grade 1 Beldame, but I think this ticket could still pay handsomely. A large reason for that comes in the first leg, the Grade 1 Vosburgh, where I’ll first focus on the two horses I’m NOT using.

#2 EL DEAL made me look good with a runaway win in the Grade 1 Vanderbilt at Saratoga. He’s 3-for-3 since going to the Jorge Navarro barn, and he’s yet to really be tested. However, he’s lining up against plenty of horses with top-end early zip. #3 GREEN GRATTO, #4 TAKAFUL, and possibly #5 MR. CROW will make sure El Deal doesn’t get an easy lead. At his likely short price, given his one-dimensional running style and opposition he’ll face out of the gate, I have to try to beat him. Meanwhile, Mr. Crow takes a huge step up after two runaway wins at Saratoga. Yes, his two 100+ Beyer Speed Figures are big, but this is a sizable test for a horse with just three starts under his belt. Additionally, who, precisely, has he beaten in his wins, and what excuse did he have in his debut?

I’m three-deep here, and while I’ll use Takaful (who figures to benefit from a return to six furlongs), my top pick is #1 STALLWALKIN’ DUDE. He was way too close to the pace in the Forego, and that was just 15 days after a winning effort in an overnight stakes. He ran two strong races at Belmont earlier this year and should get an ideal setup. Another candidate for an ideal setup is #6 CELTIC CHAOS, who I’m throwing on my ticket in case multiple riders of speed horses get crazy and duel each other into submission. This horse may not appear good enough on speed figures, but if any horse benefits from the likely race shape, it’s this deep closer, and I have to have him on my ticket.

The second leg is the Grade 3 Pilgrim for 2-year-olds on the turf. #5 VOTING CONTROL was ultra-impressive in his debut win, which came earlier this meet. Chad Brown’s horses tend to improve at second asking, and such a step forward would make him the one to beat. However, I’m also keen on #8 EVALUATOR, who lost all chance in the With Anticipation following a horrible start, and solely for pace reasons, I’m also using #7 LOOKING READY. He flopped at Finger Lakes, and that’s concerning, but his pedigree is all-turf (by More Than Ready, out of a Giant’s Causeway mare), and he figures to be the main speed here. If he gets comfortable under Irad Ortiz, he may be the one they have to run down turning for home.

As mentioned, #1 ELATE is a single for me in the Grade 1 Beldame. She’s the typical Bill Mott filly that gets better and better as the year goes along, and her win in the Alabama was as impressive as any East Coast-based female horse has turned in this year. She’s helped in this spot, of course, by the lack of a star older filly or mare to run against her. #5 MONEY’SONCHARLOTTE has been managed brilliantly this year by Kelly Breen, but she’s been beating up on far lesser company. She’ll likely get her Grade 1 placing here, and a cold 1-5 exacta may not be a bad play, but I can’t see her beating Elate without monumental improvement.

We finish off the card with the Grade 1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic, and as you can see by my ticket, I think this race could go MANY different directions. I used all but three horses (two of which are Naipaul Chatterpaul-trained longshots, with the other being #7 CHANNEL MAKER, who takes a big step up after two races in the Canadian Triple Crown). #3 OSCAR PERFORMANCE could establish himself as a real Eclipse Award candidate with a win over older horses, but this distance is new to him, and this is a tough field. Many horses exit either the Arlington Million (won by #5 BEACH PATROL) or the Sword Dancer (won by #4 SADLER’S JOY), and don’t sleep on #10 THE GREY GATSBY, who makes his North American debut in search of firm ground for a trainer that can win with a European shipper. It’s a fascinating race, and you’ll likely get a square price on whichever horse you like. Hopefully, we’ll be alive to a nice score!

– – – – –

SANTA ANITA

$0.50 Pick Five: Race #1

R1: ALL
R2: 2
R3: 6,10
R4: 1,5,8,11
R5: 4

96 Bets, $48

If you want to take my last four races and punch the early Pick Four instead, I get it. That’s a $4 wager for a 50-cent increment, and you can play it multiple times for a reasonable investment. However, given the 15% takeout on the Pick Five and the high likelihood of a big price in the first race, this is the ticket I’m putting out.

I do not have a clue in the Saturday opener. This is a maiden race for 2-year-olds going long on the turf, and many of these horses are stepping onto the lawn for the first time. #10 PUBILIUS SYRUS is the morning line favorite and could win, but the last-out stakes race set up perfectly for him, and he did not have an excuse two back against similar company. With so many horses that boast great turf pedigrees, I’m punching the “ALL” button, using all 12 horses, and hoping we get a bomb home (along with, perhaps, a scratch or two to cut down on the cost of the ticket!).

The second race features a horse I’ve got some conviction about. I’m of the belief that #2 SUPREME VENTURE was one of many Peter Miller horses that just did not like Del Mar. Additionally, he was between horses most of the way, which isn’t an easy thing for a fairly-inexperienced horse to deal with. His race here two back against much better was quite good, as was his debut, which came before a long layoff (and yes, his first race back after that is a throw-out). #7 BOLSTER is favored after a romp last time out, but that was against lesser foes and came over a racetrack playing very kind to early speed. I’ll take a stand with Supreme Venture.

The third is another 2-year-old race, and I’ll use the two logical horses. #6 INSTILLED REGARD just missed behind American Pharoah’s little brother in his debut and likely learned a lot from that effort given the slow break. I’m also using #10 MOURINHO, who fetched $625K at auction earlier this year and has been working lights-out for trainer Bob Baffert. If you’re looking for a price underneath, #11 SECULAR NATION may want more ground, but his second dam, Ready’s Gal, was Grade 1-placed as a 2-year-old, and offspring of Distorted Humor can certainly run well at first asking.

The fourth race is probably a second division of the opener, since the conditions are identical. This one was not easy, but I was at least able to narrow it down a little. #1 CHOO CHOO is bred up and down for turf, and certainly not for a sprint at Los Alamitos, so he should improve here. #5 BIG BUZZ and #8 PITCHING have both been chasing Encumbered, a quality turf horse we’ll see later on Saturday in the FrontRunner. Finally, #11 RESTRAINEDVENGEANCE didn’t do anything wrong in his debut, which came in a turf sprint. Val Brinkerhoff has gotten this one recently, and she does great work with new acquisitions. Per DRF Formulator, she’s 6-for-27 with such horses over the past three years (22%), with six additional in-the-money finishes (44%) and a solid ROI ($2.69).

We’ll finish this sequence with a single in Santa Anita’s first Grade 1 of the day. This is the Zenyatta, and I’m giving #4 PARADISE WOODS one more shot. She was awful in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks at 6/5, and she lost all chance at the break in her return at Del Mar last month. However, she’s fired nothing but bullets since coming back to Santa Anita, and much like with Elate in the Beldame, there aren’t any heavy hitters lining up against her. #1 FAITHFULLY does merit respect, but on Paradise Woods’s best day, I don’t think she can run with her.

$0.50 Pick Four: Race #8

R8: 1,4,8
R9: 7,8,10
R10: 5,6,8
R11: 3,5,11

81 Bets, $40.50

This is an all-stakes Pick Four with plenty of potential to pay big. I’m three-deep in each leg, and while some of the likely favorites merit respect, I certainly don’t think any are standouts to be afraid to go against.

The Grade 1 FrontRunner kicks this sequence off, and I’m not getting cute. #4 BOLT D’ORO may be the best 2-year-old male in the country, and he’s bred to love this route. If there’s any hesitation here, it’s because he had a picture-perfect trip rating well behind a hot pace in the Del Mar Futurity. #1 ZATTER ran a great race being so close to that pace, so I have to use him here, and I’m also using the other Bob Baffert trainee, #8 SOLOMINI. He and the runner-up were well clear of the rest of the field in his debut, and he’s bred up and down to go as long as possible.

The second leg is the Grade 1 Rodeo Drive, and there appears to be a metric ton of early speed signed on. As such, I want closers, and all three horses I used should be flying late. #10 GOODYEARFORROSES has been very good this season and has enough tactical speed to get first run turning for home. She’s probably the horse to beat, but both #7 BEAU RECALL and #8 DECKED OUT stand to benefit from the likely race shape. The former just missed in the Grade 1 Del Mar Oaks, and that result may give us some value here (she’s 8-1 ML, but would probably be considerably shorter had she gotten her nose down). Meanwhile, Decked Out may want more give in the ground than she’ll get, but she likely needed her last-out effort and returns to the site of her greatest triumph, which came in the Grade 1 American Oaks.

The third leg is the Grade 1 Awesome Again. #8 CUPID may be the shortest price in this sequence, and he’s probably the one to beat. Having said that, Cupid’s trainer, Bob Baffert, also saddles #6 MUBTAAHIJ, who has been working very well of late. That’s a curious entry, so I’m not as scared of Cupid as I would’ve been had Baffert solely entered him. Additionally, #5 BREAKING LUCKY hasn’t won in a while, but he’s had the bad luck of chasing Gun Runner in each of his last two starts. With all due respect to Cupid, this may be a softer spot, and given the way he’s been training at Woodbine, I think he’s got a big shot beneath Mike Smith.

The payoff leg is the Unzip Me, and this may be the toughest race of the sequence. I took the approach of preferring horses with success on the downhill turf course, and I also threw in one returning to the turf. #3 KENDA and #5 STORM THE HILL both exit the Del Mar Oaks, but both have also run well at this unique configuration in the past and could improve coming back to it. Also, #11 MISS SOUTHERN MISS’s layoff concerns me, but her lone prior turf effort was too good to ignore. She beat some talented fillies in last year’s Surfer Girl, and there should be plenty of speed for her to rate off of in here before being asked for her late kick. Kent Desormeaux riding for his brother is another good sign.