2018 BREEDERS’ CUP: Saturday Analysis, Selections, Betting Strategies, and Tickets

The 2018 Breeders’ Cup is upon us. While Friday’s program features races for 2-year-olds, Saturday’s slate focuses on older horses, and is headlined by the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic. World-class horses like Enable, Monomoy Girl, Abel Tasman, Accelerate, and others will be in action, and each race brings with it plenty of potential to make some money.

If you didn’t see my write-up of Friday’s card, it’s available here. This will follow the same template, as I’ll give A, B, and C horses, expound with some analysis, and provide tips for betting each individual race on a $20ish budget. At the end, I’ll dive into the multi-race exotics sequences and offer a few tickets for wagers that are likely to boast pools of several million dollars.

It’s a great betting program, and there’s a lot to decipher, so let’s get to it!

BREEDERS’ CUP FILLY AND MARE SPRINT

A’s: 13
B’s: 5,10
C’s: 8,11,14

We’ll start off the day with a favorite that seems very imposing on paper, for a variety of different reasons. It’s not exciting, and starting off with an 8/5 shot that will likely drift down towards even money won’t win me any awards for bravery, but #13 MARLEY’S FREEDOM seems much the best and should be bet as such.

Let’s approach this from a variety of different angles. Marley’s Freedom has won four in a row, and in that stretch, she hasn’t seriously been tested. Bob Baffert has her in career-best form, and the recent bullet workout indicates she’s fully loaded for this race. Furthermore, there appears to be a lot of speed signed on, and that should set up for this one’s closing kick. The outside draw is cushy, and while it wouldn’t necessarily be shocking if she lost, it would be a mild surprise.

If Marley’s Freedom doesn’t win, I don’t have a clue who does. I’m taking the stand that the race sets up for a closer, and because of that, my two B horses are ones that don’t need the lead. #5 GOLDEN MISCHIEF has won three in a row and turned in a very strong workout on Sunday (the best of 113 at the distance), while #10 HIGHWAY STAR is a closer that would benefit from the likely pace scenario. That one seems a cut below my top two choices, but if they go :44 for the opening half-mile, Jose Ortiz will be smiling widely aboard this consistent mare.

Two of my C horses are speed horses that need a lot to go right, but could hang on for a share. #8 MIA MISCHIEF has finished worse than second just once in 10 career starts, while #11 FINLEY’SLUCKYCHARM loves Churchill Downs and may have bounced last time out. Having said that, both need the lead to run their best, and the latter has misfired twice in her last three outings. I’ll also lightly use 20-1 shot #14 SHAMROCK ROSE, who capitalized when the Grade 2 Raven Run fell apart. The quick turnaround isn’t ideal, but she could get that race shape again, and if you’re playing tri’s and supers, she may be worth throwing on the bottom rungs of those wagers.

Betting on a Budget

I’ll key the chalk on top of my two B horses in exactas. Ideally, I’d like to key Marley’s Freedom in doubles, but the Turf Sprint is an absolute mess, so I’m trying to steer far clear of it.

$10 exactas: 13 with 5,10 ($20)

BREEDERS’ CUP TURF SPRINT

A’s: 14
B’s: 7,9,10
C’s: 2,4,5

Good freaking luck, folks! I found the Turf Sprint to be the toughest race of the entire Breeders’ Cup program, and there’s a real chance that I’m passing this race if the tote board isn’t displaying odds I like on my top choice.

I hate the post position #14 CONQUEST TSUNAMI drew, but he certainly looks like the controlling speed in this race. #11 WORLD OF TROUBLE has speed, to be sure, but Conquest Tsunami is lightning quick and cuts back to a distance that should be more to his liking. His only poor race for trainer Peter Miller was going much further than he wanted to, and if he can clear the field (which I think he can), I think he’s got a big, big shot.

If he doesn’t clear the field…well, then it’s anyone’s guess who wins. The two morning line favorites, #5 DISCO PARTNER and #9 STORMY LIBERAL, both have a history of not running as well outside of their home states (though the latter ran very, very well in Dubai earlier this year, his duds at Belmont and Hong Kong can’t just be ignored).

Stormy Liberal is a B horse for me, as are two European invaders that are prices on the morning line. #7 LOST TREASURE has hit another gear late in his 3-year-old season, as he’s put up three straight Timeform Ratings of 112 or higher coming into this race. Meanwhile, #10 HAVANA GREY would move way up if this race was contested over soft going (which seems likely). His form over firmer going is no great shakes, but he won a Group 1 over yielding ground at The Curragh two back and gets Lasix. Both Euros are 20-1 morning line, and while I think they’ll both drift down, anything 15-1 or higher would hit me as an overlay.

Disco Partner is one of three C horses. The second is #2 BUCCHERO, a consistent, hard-knocking sort that’s very easy to root for. He may be a cut below the top tier, but he always tries hard and is usually going the right way late. Finally, I’ll include #4 VISION PERFECT, strictly because Jason Servis is one of the top trainers in the country when it comes to turf sprints. He hits with 33% of such runners, and Javier Castellano’s presence can’t be ignored (especially considering he doesn’t ride much for this outfit).

Betting on a Budget

Conquest Tsunami is 6-1 on the morning line, and that seems fair. Anything above 9/2 would make him an OK win/place play, and 8-1 or higher would be a significant overlay. If not, I’m likely passing the race.

$5 win/place: 14 (conditional on him being 9/2 or higher)

BREEDERS’ CUP DIRT MILE

A’s: 1
B’s: 10
C’s: 6,9

Like many, I’m seeing the Dirt Mile as a two-horse race between #1 CITY OF LIGHT and #10 CATALINA CRUISER. The former is the only horse to top Accelerate to this point in the year, but comes in off of two straight defeats. The latter, meanwhile, is a perfect 4-for-4, and was last seen running away from a pair of Grade 2 fields at Del Mar this summer.

I’m siding with City of Light. The most damning reason is a statistic that will be cited ad nauseum between now and Saturday: Trainer John Sadler is 0 for 41 with Breeders’ Cup runners. To be fair, he had a few tough beats with Stellar Wind in the 2015 and 2016 Distaffs, but this isn’t an 0 for 7 or 0 for 8 stat. This is a significant sample size, and if I’ve got a reason to go against a Sadler trainee, I’m going to do it.

My thinking here is that Catalina Cruiser, as talented as he may be, hasn’t really beaten anyone. Yes, he beat Battle of Midway in the Pat O’Brien, but that one was making his first start since the 2017 Breeders’ Cup and absolutely needed the race. As Dirt Miles go, this race isn’t bad. City of Light is a two-time Grade 1 winner, and my two C horses exit what I feel was a live prep race (the Grade 3 Ack Ack at this route). Catalina Cruiser may be a freak, and I won’t be stunned if he beats me, but I’ll take slightly better odds on a horse that this distance should hit right between the eyes.

#6 SEEKING THE SOUL won the Ack Ack, and his connections were hoping he’d make the Classic. However, he wouldn’t have drawn in off the AE list, so they settled for running here. This is his favorite track, and he’d benefit from a fast pace. I also need to consider #9 GIANT EXPECTATIONS, who may have needed the Ack Ack coming off a six-month layoff. He has a tendency to find trouble, and that’s a red flag sometimes, but he could easily improve off of that effort, and his best would certainly be good enough to hit the board.

Betting on a Budget

I’ll key City of Light on top of trifectas that include my other horses underneath. Additionally, I’ll play a small, cold double singling both City of Light and a live longshot in the Filly and Mare Turf.

$3 trifectas: 1 with 6,9,10 with 6,9,10 ($18)
$5 double: 1 with 14 ($5)

BREEDERS’ CUP FILLY AND MARE TURF

A’s: 3,6,14
B’s: 10
C’s: N/A

I have very few hardcore tenets when it comes to the Breeders’ Cup, but this race emphasizes one of them: Never, ever, ever, ever bet against Frankie Dettori when he’s on a live turf horse.

Here, he rides #14 EZIYRA, who’s 15-1 on the morning line but may be considerably shorter come post time. She’s won four of her last five starts, and the lone defeat came in the Group 1 Yorkshire Oaks, when she was third behind an all-world talent in Sea of Class. She’s never finished worse than third in 11 career starts, soft turf will not be a problem, she likes this distance, and she’s got arguably the best turf rider in the world on her. 15-1 would be a ridiculous overlay, and anything over 8-1 would be more than fair.

The other two A horses are the two likely favorites. #3 WILD ILLUSION is a three-time Group 1 winner, while #6 SISTERCHARLIE has flourished since coming to America last summer. She’s a head away from being undefeated this year, and while she does stretch out in distance a bit, she’s won going similar routes of ground overseas, so I don’t see it as an issue. These favorites are legitimate, and I think they’re both must-uses in any multi-race exotics ticket you come up with.

Aidan O’Brien can’t be ignored here, as he saddles possible third choice #10 MAGIC WAND. She hasn’t won in a while but has kept tremendous company, running in Group 1 races in five of her last six starts. Here’s what I don’t get, though. Three back, she was fifth in the Group 1 Yorkshire Oaks. You know who was third that day? Eziyra. Eziyra is three times the price of Magic Wand on the morning line, and while a lot of that has to do with the O’Brien factor, it’s a ridiculous disparity. The bigger that is come post time, the more value this race has to this handicapper.

Betting on a Budget

I’ll box my top three horses in exactas and lean on Eziyra in a few other wagers. I’m splurging a bit compared to other races, but Eziyra is my price play of the weekend.

$2 exacta box: 3,6,14 ($12)
$1 exacta key box: 14 with 3,6,10 ($6)
$3 win/place: 14
$6 double: 14 with 5

BREEDERS’ CUP SPRINT

A’s: 5
B’s: N/A
C’s: 1,8,9

This race houses one of the easiest horses in the country to root for. That’s #5 IMPERIAL HINT, who will likely be a pretty heavy favorite. A horse christened by many as “a little rocket ship,” he ran second in this race last year and has since won four of five starts. His last two have been brilliant victories in Grade 1 company, and it certainly seems like he would need to regress for another runner to win.

That’s not to say he can’t lose, though. If Imperial Hint takes a step back, a number of others could potentially pick up the pieces. If the track is fair, and if closers are making up ground, #1 WHITMORE has a big shot to capitalize on a favorable pace scenario. There’s an abundance of early speed (as there is in most renewals of this race), and while the rail draw isn’t ideal, if the frontrunners post a sub-:44 opening half-mile, that could set things up perfectly for this Grade 1-winning closer.

#9 ROY H won last year’s renewal of this race, and comes in off a victory in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Sprint Championship. His best effort could absolutely win this race, but it’s fair to wonder if he’s lost a step from his brilliant campaign a season ago. He does have the right running style to succeed here, as he doesn’t necessarily need the lead in order to run well. Having said that, he may need to run back to last year’s Breeders’ Cup Sprint effort to get the job done here, and in his first start at this track, off of a few races that weren’t his best, I’m not sure that’s in the cards.

The other horse I need to use in vertical exotics is #8 LIMOUSINE LIBERAL, who loves this strip and is another that could be going well late. He’s won six of eight local starts, and while he may not be quite as talented as some others in this field, he’s done his best running at Churchill Downs and will be a bit of a price. I don’t think he wins, but it wouldn’t shock me if he closed late for second or third at a nice number.

Betting on a Budget

I’m going to try to keep Roy H out of the top two, as an exacta involving the two favorites won’t pay much. I’ll key Imperial Hint on top in exactas with the other two horses I’m using, as they should be big enough prices to make the wager pay reasonably well.

$10 exactas: 5 with 1,8 ($20)

BREEDERS’ CUP MILE

A’s: 5,7,8
B’s: 2,14
C’s: 1,4,10,13

The Breeders’ Cup Mile has taken a number of hits to it this year. Most notably, several top European runners that were pointed to the event (Alpha Centauri and Laurens, to name two) did not ship, and the American group of milers has largely been pretty subpar.

This is good news for gamblers, though, as the assemblage of runners makes for a fascinating betting race. Whatever horse you like is going to be a square price, and if you’re right, you’ll be in line for a nice score.

The thing that jumped out at me, in looking at this race, is a real lack of early speed. #5 OSCAR PERFORMANCE has capitalized on a number of these scenarios in the past, and there’s a chance he’ll once again be gifted an easy lead early on. He’s shown he can’t be left alone on the front end, but it certainly doesn’t seem like many others want to be on or near the lead early. If there’s a concern here, it’s that he may not like give in the ground, but given that he won’t be a short price, that doesn’t scare me.

Remember my Frankie Dettori mantra? That’s part of the reason #7 EXPERT EYE is one of my top picks. He’s competed against some of the best milers in Europe this year and gets Lasix for trainer Sir Michael Stoute. While it’s a bit concerning that most of his best efforts have come at seven furlongs (not a mile), this isn’t the best Breeders’ Cup Mile field, and he’s certainly good enough to win. I like #8 I CAN FLY for similar reasons, as she’s coming off a tough beat at the hands of top European runner Roaring Lion in the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II at Ascot. She’s another that gets Lasix in her first North American start, and she’s shown she can be effective over softer going, which is another big plus.

#2 NEXT SHARES seems to have realized his potential. After running second and third in a pair of Grade 1 events earlier this year, he’s won two in a row, and his win in the Grade 1 Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland was very good. I’m not sure he can repeat that type of performance, but he’s in career-best form, and that has to be respected to a certain extent. My other B horse is #14 MUSTASHRY, and I wanted to like him more than I do. He’s won five of his last seven starts and gets Lasix for Stoute, but the post is a killer and he’s clearly much better over firm ground than soft ground. If the turf course dries out, he’ll be a major player. If not, he’ll have a fair bit to overcome, despite what appears to be a world of talent.

Three of my four C horses are European runners. #1 ONE MASTER was a 47-1 upset winner of the Group 1 Prix de la Foret at Longchamp, while #4 POLYDREAM stretches out for Freddie Head of Goldikova fame and #13 GUSTAV KLIMT has spent most of his career earning minor awards in Group 1 races for Aidan O’Brien. Finally, #10 CATAPULT is a John Sadler trainee who’s won a pair of graded stakes races on the West Coast. It’s tough to be too enthusiastic about Sadler at this event given the previously-mentioned 0-for-41 mark, but he’s in career-best form and entering a wide-open race, so I couldn’t just ignore him.

Betting on a Budget

In multi-race wagers, I’m spreading. In vertical wagers, I’m gambling that Oscar Performance will get left alone and have every chance to earn his second Breeders’ Cup victory. I’ll use him in exactas above and below my A and B horses and hope I’m right.

$4 exactas: 5 with 2,7,8,14 ($16)
$2 exactas: 2,7,8,14 with 5 ($8)

BREEDERS’ CUP DISTAFF

A’s: 2
B’s: 10
C’s: 7,11

I’m supposed to see this race as a matchup between likely Champion 3-Year-Old Filly #10 MONOMOY GIRL and last year’s Eclipse Award winner, #2 ABEL TASMAN. I don’t. I respect Monomoy Girl and what she’s accomplished, but I love Abel Tasman in this spot, and I’m happy to explain why.

Yes, Abel Tasman’s run in the Grade 1 Zenyatta was absolutely horrible. With that in mind, though, a look at her running lines hints that something bigger was in play. She’s just 1 for 4 at Santa Anita, and the lone win was in an unremarkable maiden race. It’s a bit weird to say, but perhaps she just does not like Santa Anita as much as other tracks.

She needed her seasonal debut in the Grade 1 La Troienne, but her races two and three back were smashing. A return to that form would absolutely make her the one to beat, and it would make her 7/2 morning line price a significant overlay. Bluntly, I think she should be favored here, and I’ll be happy to plunk down my money if she isn’t.

I don’t even like Monomoy Girl for second in here. #10 BLUE PRIZE has gotten quite good, having won three in a row and four of her last five. She took an abrupt right turn in the stretch of the Grade 1 Spinster at Keeneland, but still held on to win that day beneath Joe Bravo, who rides her back in this race. She’s 3 for 5 at Churchill Downs, with two second-place finishes, and I don’t think she’s ever been better than she is right now.

My two C horses are the two 3-year-old fillies. Monomoy Girl merits respect. She’s never finished worse than second, she’s got plenty of tactical speed, and if she’s left alone, she could get brave. Meanwhile, #7 MIDNIGHT BISOU was put up to first in the Grade 1 Cotillion last time out and figures to be running well late. Having said all of that, I’m just not sold on the quality of this year’s group of 3-year-old fillies. #5 WONDER GADOT is seen as one of the top three or four in the division, and her two wins this year were both against restricted company in Canada. I suppose either of those two fillies could win, but if they do, a lot of my tickets will turn into confetti.

Betting on a Budget

This one’s pretty simple. While I’ll hedge a bit in my Pick Five ticket, from a single-race standpoint, I’m riding or dying with Abel Tasman and hoping that the Zenyatta was an isolated incident. I’ll play a cold double to my best bet of the afternoon, which should come as no surprise.

$20 double: 2 with 2

BREEDERS’ CUP TURF

A’s: 2
B’s: N/A
C’s: 12

We’ve come to my best bet of the weekend. It’s a popular one, and it’s not on a ridiculous price. In fact, #2 ENABLE may be the shortest price on the entire Breeders’ Cup program. Having said that, she is an extraordinary talent that provides star power to an event that desperately needs it, and I think she’ll be incredibly formidable in the Turf.

Enable has won back-to-back editions of the Group 1 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, the richest race in Europe. She’s done so over world-class groups that have included the likes of last year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf winner (#1 TALISMANIC), Sea of Class, and Ulysses (who would’ve been favored in last year’s renewal, but scratched the day of the race). No Arc winner has ever added this race, but she seems leaps and bounds better than this group, and she’d need to seriously regress in order for someone else to catch her.

The only horse that may be able to capitalize if this scenario unfolds, I think, is fellow European invader #12 WALDGEIST, who was beaten by a bit less than two lengths in the Arc. Before that, he had reeled off four consecutive wins in France, including one in the Group 1 Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud. He’s run well over soft going in the past, and conditioner Andre Fabre is no stranger to success on this stage.

Betting on a Budget

I’ll channel former TVG colleague Dave Weaver and put together an ice-cold exacta in an attempt to get some value out of Enable.

$20 exacta: 2 with 12

BREEDERS’ CUP CLASSIC

A’s: 1,6,7
B’s: 3,10,11
C’s: 4,9

I’m saving my biggest stand of the weekend for the weekend’s biggest race. This is the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic, and I’ve mentioned eight horses without talking about #14 ACCELERATE, the race’s 5/2 morning line favorite.

I respect what Accelerate’s done to this point in the year. However, I have major questions about the fields he’s beaten. The older horse division in Southern California has been sorely lacking in talent all year long. Yes, he beat #7 WEST COAST in the Grade 1 Awesome Again, but that was West Coast’s first start in six months, and by trainer Bob Baffert’s own admission, he didn’t have the horse fully cranked for that race. Am I supposed to be excited by wins over Mubtaahij, #8 PAVEL, and a running-way-too-far City of Light? Add in Sadler’s putrid record at this event, plus Accelerate’s inexplicable no-show in last year’s Dirt Mile (which, I may add, was contested at his favorite track), and I’ll happily try to beat him.

I understand this may be completely unexpected, but Bob Baffert has a powerful hand in the Classic. Now that you’ve all picked your jaws up off the floor following that stunning revelation, let’s look at #6 MCKINZIE and #7 WEST COAST. Both can win, though I prefer the latter since he’s shown he can run well at this distance. They’ll likely be this race’s second and third choices in some order, and justifiably so.

My other A horse is this race’s ultimate wild card. We all remember #1 THUNDER SNOW doing his impression of an angry bull at a rodeo during the 2017 Kentucky Derby, and when he’s bad, he’s REALLY bad. When he’s good, though, he’s one of the best horses in training. He may have ridden a track bias to his smashing score in the Grade 1 Dubai World Cup, but he’s also a Group 1 winner on turf, and he showed some flexibility when second in the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup. At his likely price, I need him on my tickets.

#3 CATHOLIC BOY is an interesting case. He was terrific when smashing the field in the Grade 1 Travers, and by all accounts, he’s looked strong in the mornings. I’m not quite sure he’s fast enough to contend with my top three, but he’s in strong form, and at least we know he can get the distance. That last tidbit isn’t necessarily the case with regard to #10 YOSHIDA and #11 MIND YOUR BISCUITS, who both come into this race off of sharp wins at a mile and an eighth but are unproven beyond that route. Talent isn’t the question with regard to these horses. It’s strictly a matter of if they’ll get the distance, or if their closing kicks will be dulled a bit by the extra eighth of a mile.

My two C horses are fun ones to root for. #4 GUNNEVERA was a late-running second behind Yoshida in the Woodward, and the faster they go early, the more he’ll like it. That’s in stark contrast to #9 MENDELSSOHN, the well-traveled Aidan O’Brien trainee who held on for third despite pressing a ridiculously-fast pace in the Jockey Club Gold Cup. He was also second to Catholic Boy in the Travers, and it’s not inconceivable to think he’ll be the one they have to run down going into the far turn. How far he may be in contention after that, though, is anyone’s guess.

Betting on a Budget

No Accelerate for me, but the question is, how does one try to beat the favorite? I’m going to box my top three picks in exactas, and because he’ll likely be the biggest price of the trio, I’ll have a small win-place bet on Thunder Snow. Between this and all my multi-race exotics tickets that will not have Accelerate on them, if he loses, I want to be in position to make money.

$4 exacta box: 1,6,7 ($24)
$3 win/place: 1 ($6)

MULTI-RACE EXOTICS

$0.50 Pick Four: Race #4

R4: 2,4,5,7,9,10,14
R5: 1,10
R6: 3,6,10,14
R7: 5

56 Bets, $28

Spread, two-horse race, mini-spread (with my top pick being a 15-1 shot), then Imperial Hint to finish it out. Of the multi-race tickets I intend to play, this isn’t the one I’m most excited about, but if we get a price or two home in the first and/or third legs, this could still provide an OK return.

$2 Pick Six: Race #6

R6: 3,6,14
R7: 5
R8: 2,5,7,8,14
R9: 2
R10: 2
R11: 1,3,6,7

60 Bets, $120

I don’t usually play Pick Six tickets, simply because my fairly-small budget doesn’t allow for them. Having said that, this is a fairly economical ticket with three singles (two of heavy favorites, one of 7/2 second choice Abel Tasman) and a few “spread” races. If you’re a Pick Six player on a budget, or a group that wants a ticket they can split X different ways, this is the one I’d suggest.

$0.50 Pick Five: Race #7

R7: 5
R8: 2,5,7,8,14
R9: 2,7,10,11
R10: 2
R11: 1,3,6,7

80 Bets, $40

My two singles will be popular. My hope is that we’ll knock out some tickets in my spread races. Note that I did go a bit deeper in the Distaff on this ticket. This is simply because only going five-deep in the Mile gives me a bit of budgetary room.

$0.50 Pick Four: Race #8

R8: ALL
R9: 2
R10: 2
R11: 1,3,6,7,10,11

84 Bets, $42

Simply put, if this goes big price, Abel Tasman, Enable, logical horse that isn’t Accelerate, this has the potential to pay big money. I’m six-deep without the favorite in the final leg, so if I’m alive, chances are it’ll be to a nice chunk of change (provided we can beat the favorite with a mid-priced alternative).

Saratoga Race Course Analysis, Selections, and Bankroll: 8/26/18

BANKROLL

BANKROLL: $1,356.20

A lot of us are very quick to vilify stewards when it appears they get decisions wrong. I think it’s fair to point out when they get things right, especially on big stages.

This was the case in Saturday’s Grade 1 Personal Ensign, where Abel Tasman and Elate made contact in mid-stretch. Social media was split on the final ruling of “no change,” but I thought this was the right call. Abel Tasman did come out, but Elate also came in a bit, and it sure seemed (judging by the head-on) that the eventual winner got the worst of the contact. Either way, it was a fantastic race between two top-notch 4-year-olds, and they’re likely to face off again in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff later this year.

SATURDAY’S RESULTS: I wanted to get some value out of Way Early in the second race, and I did that. Despite that one prevailing at even money, the $6 exacta returned $150 (thanks to longshot Appealing Briefs running second), and we also got a few bucks out of a consolation double payoff when Silver Dust scratched at the gate. In total, the $32 post-scratch investment returned a tidy $159.75.

SUNDAY’S PLAY: I’m going to take a stand against the likely favorite in the third race, as I can’t endorse #4 PARAUARI at short odds given his two duds downstate. I much prefer likely second choice #3 ZORZOR, and I’ll keep things simple with a $30 win bet on that one.

TOTAL WAGERED: $30

ANALYSIS/SELECTIONS

Best Bet: Enliven, Race 5
Longshot: Iron Mast, Race 10

R1

Can’tweallgetalong
Espresso Caliente
Flatexcel

#5 CAN’TWEALLGETALONG: Rallied for third in his first start against winners and could benefit from the likely race shape in this spot. There’s a lot of early speed signed on, and this one’s usual race could leave him in position to capitalize on that; #8 ESPRESSO CALIENTE: Hasn’t won in a while, but drops significantly for this race and may sit a perfect stalking trip from his outside post. Both factors could be enough to wake him up; #2 FLATEXCEL: Went too fast early on last time out and faded badly late. He cuts back in distance and may be the fastest of this bunch out of the gate.

R2

Black Dynamite
Speedy Solution
Miss Rombauer

#12 BLACK DYNAMITE: Merits a long look if she draws in off the AE list. She’s by top turf sire More Than Ready and is a half to Grade 1 winner Killer Graces, who was very precocious; #4 SPEEDY SOLUTION: Ran like a filly that wants to go long in her debut, where she was beaten less than two lengths despite a rough trip. Ward’s numbers with horses stretching out aren’t great, but improvement is logical at second asking; #8 MISS ROMBAUER: Fetched $375,000 at auction earlier this year and looms large for powerhouse connections. If there’s any hesitation here, it’s because it’s not easy to debut going two turns and there are no five-furlong works on the tab.

R3

Zorzor
Parauari
Acoustic

#3 ZORZOR: Drops way down in class for this event, and his best race would make him very tough to beat. He topped allowance foes two back at Churchill Downs, and his flexibility is a big plus; #4 PARAUARI: Is another dropping down in class, and he does so for aggressive connections after a pair of misfires downstate. He hasn’t done much running since coming to the U.S., though, and there won’t be much value to speak of; #1 ACOUSTIC: Hasn’t won in a while, but did take a step forward last time out in his first start for Jason Servis. He was beaten just a half-length that day at this level, and Irad Ortiz, Jr., sees fit to ride back.

R4

Maho Bay
Curiousncuriouser
Nocturnal Mission

#7 MAHO BAY: Was a good second in her local debut last time out and has worked well since then. That was a fast race, and a repeat performance would make her formidable (especially given the cushy outside draw); #3 CURIOUSNCURIOUSER: Missed the break in that race, but romped two back at Belmont in her first start for Chris Englehart. A cleaner break here would make her a contender; #1 NOCTURNAL MISSION: Hasn’t won since her debut in February of 2017, but her local debut wasn’t bad and Javier Castellano sees fit to ride back in this spot.

R5

Enliven
Vomba (2nd dam G1W Cash Run)
Angelia

#8 ENLIVEN: Is out of the Grade 1-winning mare It’s Tricky, which makes her a half to multiple graded stakes-winner Enticed. She’s worked well, and Joe Bravo taking the call could signal that it’s go time; #4 VOMBA: Makes her debut for an outfit that’s very sharp with first-time starters. She’s by all-world sire Candy Ride, and her female family includes second dam Cash Run, who won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies; #3 ANGELIA: Will almost certainly take money based on the Pletcher/Velazquez connections. Her works are OK, and she’s bred to be a runner, but it’s been a very quiet summer for this barn by its lofty standards.

R6

Lunaire
Dr. Edgar
Holiday Bonus

#9 LUNAIRE: Hasn’t won in a while, but could get the benefit of a race with plenty of early speed drawn to his inside. The faster they go early, the better this one’s chances figure to be; #3 DR. EDGAR: Has had his issues, given the layoff lines, but he hasn’t run a bad race in more than two years and comes in off a strong second in his first start for Barclay Tagg. He’s got speed, but can also rate a bit, which opens up the possibility of an ideal stalking trip; #1 HOLIDAY BONUS: Hasn’t found the winner’s circle of late, but cuts back after going much longer last time out. This seems more like the trip he wants, and he’s another that could be moving the right way late.

R7

Myhartblongstodady
Chestnut Street
Way Smart

#7 MYHARTBLONGSTODADY: Missed by a nose at this level last time out, and she nearly got the job done after rallying from 10th in a 12-horse field. She’s drawn favorably here and would benefit from others showing early zip; #11 CHESTNUT STREET: Is the other Chad Brown runner, and she makes her first start against winners. She ran well earlier in the meet and could improve, but the post position is a red flag; #8 WAY SMART: Was third in the race my top pick exits after probably moving a bit too soon. Joe Bravo hops aboard, and he’s made the most of his mounts to this point in the meet.

R8

Proven Reserves
Souper Tapit
Secret House

#6 PROVEN RESERVES: Bounced back from a disappointing run two back with a daylight win earlier in the meet. If he can string two strong races together, he’ll strictly be the one to beat; #3 SOUPER TAPIT: Has run two sharp races in back-to-back off-the-turf events this season. He hasn’t won in more than a year, and this barn is cold, but the last race was strong enough that I can’t ignore him; #5 SECRET HOUSE: Was second as an odds-on favorite last time out and was claimed by Tom Amoss that day. His best race puts him in the mix, but it’s been a long summer for Amoss, who’s 0 for 12 at the meet as of this writing.

R9

Morticia
Epping Forest
Tillie’s Lily

#8 MORTICIA: Was one of many that was likely compromised by the soft going in the Caress Stakes last time out. Her usual race is certainly good enough to win, and we may get a price given the large field; #12 EPPING FOREST: Has won three of her last four coming into this race and figures to be running well late. She may have been my top pick if not for the horrendous post position, and she could very well overcome that; #5 TILLIE’S LILY: Has won four races in a row and will likely go very fast out of the gate. She may not be alone up front, but there’s a chance she’s faster than her opposition and will have plenty left for the stretch run.

R10

Iron Mast
Joe’s Smokin Gun
Powerstroke

#10 IRON MAST: Debuts in this spot for a sharp first-out trainer and is bred to be a solid turf horse. Given the lackluster field, that may be good enough to put him into the winner’s circle at a bit of a price; #8 JOE’S SMOKIN GUN: Is 0 for 12 lifetime and has run second three times in a row coming into this event. He’ll likely be forwardly placed, and that could help, but it’s tough to have too much confidence given the career record; #6 POWERSTROKE: Looks like the main early speed in this race, where he’ll come back to the turf course. I’m not sure how far he wants to go, but the inner turf does tend to move speed horses up a bit.

Analysis, Selections, and Tickets: Pennsylvania Derby Day and Oklahoma Derby Day

We’ll start things off with an unfortunate update. Those of you who dropped by the site last week read about the plight of fellow Saratoga handicapper Mike Jarboe, who at the time was going through some serious health issues. Unfortunately for all of us, Mike passed away a few days ago following a battle with pancreatic cancer.

A Facebook friend of mine started a fundraiser, with proceeds going to a pancreatic cancer research foundation. I’ve donated, and so have several friends of mine in the industry. If you’re able to donate, or want to find out more about the foundation’s efforts, click here.

Rest in peace, Mike. We love you.

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$0.50 Pick Four: Parx (9/23/17)

R8: 2,4,5,6,8,9
R9: 1,4,5,7
R10: 9
R11: 1,4

48 Bets, $24

Full disclosure: I’m aware of the high takeout rate at Parx, and if you don’t want to play the races from there based on that, I absolutely understand. With that in mind, this all-stakes Pick Four should boast a large pool, and this is an affordable stab at it.

If you want to end it singling Abel Tasman and West Coast (which I almost did), hitting the “ALL” button to start things off wouldn’t be a terrible idea. I used six of the nine horses entered, and the morning line favorite (Matt King Coal) was the absolute last horse I threw in. He needs the lead, and there’s a fair amount of early speed to his inside, so this race may not set up well for him.

The ninth is the Grade 3 Gallant Bob, and I thought this was a fun race. The entry of Petrov and Coal Front is a must-use, but I don’t think either horse is anywhere close to a cinch. Excitations and American Pastime are both logical alternatives, and I’ve also thrown in 15-1 shot Running Mate, whose record looks miles better if you draw a line through his lone two-turn effort in the Grade 3 LeComte. These connections mean business when they ship, and I had to have him on the ticket.

I singled Abel Tasman in the Grade 1 Cotillion. There are some solid horses signed on, but if the four-time Grade 1 winner runs her race, I just don’t see her losing. If you want a price underneath in vertical exotics, though, it wouldn’t shock me if Run and Go hits the board. She’s 2-for-2, and with Union Rags on the top of her pedigree, two turns should not be a problem.

West Coast should win the Pennsylvania Derby, and if he does so, he’ll be the unquestioned leader in the race for his division’s Eclipse Award. However, I also used Timeline, whose race in the Haskell was too bad to be true. If he runs back to either the Pegasus or the Peter Pan, I think he’s got a real shot to spring the upset. With that in mind, I doubled up rather than ending with two straight Bob Baffert-trained singles.

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$0.50 Pick Four: Remington Park (9/24/17)

R9: 1,4,10,11
R10: 3,8
R11: 3,8
R12: 2,5,7,8

64 Bets, $32

Sunday’s card at Remington Park is one of the biggest of the season. It’s anchored by the Grade 3 Oklahoma Derby, but there’s plenty of stakes action surrounding that race as well. The track’s put together one heck of a Pick Four sequence, and my ticket doesn’t have a single…well, single.

I’m not convinced 6/5 favorite Gianna’s Dream is a cinch in the opening leg. I’ve used her, but she sat a picture-perfect trip last time out and may not be alone on the lead. I’m also using likely second choice Emerald Pond, but my ticket includes longshots Joyous Thunder and Fazzle Dazzle as well. Both are very consistent horses that would benefit from a battle up front, and I think they’ll both be moving in the right direction when the real running starts.

Ivan Fallunovalot may be the shortest price in the sequence when he runs in the 10th. I almost singled him, but Wilbo is a serious sprinter that ran a good second behind Limousine Liberal two back at Churchill Downs. His best race would put him right there, and he’d benefit from others going with the favorite out of the gate.

The 11th is the Oklahoma Derby, and this was another near-single for me. Battle of Midway broke through with a very strong performance last time out at Del Mar in what doubled as his first outing with blinkers. He’s been a solid horse all year, and he may have put it all together late in his 3-year-old campaign. Still, I had to use Girvin, who’s a feast-or-famine type of horse. When he’s right, as he was in the Haskell, he’s a very good runner. When he isn’t, it’s not pretty to watch. Still, this is a much softer spot than the Travers was, and maybe he just doesn’t want to go a mile and a quarter.

The payoff leg features local favorite Ibaka, who’s won 13 of his 27 lifetime races and four out of five tries on this turf course. I used him, and I wouldn’t be shocked if he wins, but he won’t have it easy up front. I wanted coverage in case he goes too fast early on, as he did in the Oklahoma Turf Classic last October. The winner that day, Runandyrun, also shows up in this spot to run on his favorite turf course, and we may get a price on this stakes-winning closer given the recent form over tracks he probably didn’t care for. I’m also using Pacific Typhoon and Perfect to Please. Both Veronica Griggs trainees come in off of strong wins in local preps, and both have big chances in this spot.

Saratoga Race Course Analysis, Selections, and Bankroll: 7/23/17

BANKROLL

BANKROLL: $959

Give many talented jockeys a single multiple Grade 1 winner to ride, and most would be ecstatic. For Mike Smith, it’s another day at the office. He’s in town today to ride Coaching Club American Oaks favorite Abel Tasman, who comes in off of back-to-back Grade 1 wins. Currently, he’s also the regular rider of champions Arrogate and Songbird, as well as likely Allen Jerkens favorite American Anthem, Travers probable West Coast, and sleeping giant Unique Bella, among many others. Nice work if you can get it!

SATURDAY’S RESULTS: Someone knew Voodoo Song was sitting on a big race, judging by the odds plunge that one took in the last flash of the tote board. Unfortunately, I wasn’t that person. My early Pick Four was toast right away, and I dropped $21.

SUNDAY’S PLAY: I’ll focus on my best bet of the day, which comes in the fifth race. #1 THEBIGFUNDAMENTAL may be a short price, but I’ll try to maximize my profit. I’ll put $15 to win on him and single him in $5 doubles that use #2 QUESTEQ, #5 THRICE, and #7 PRADO VISION in a sixth race that seems wide-open on paper.

TOTAL WAGERED: $30

ANALYSIS/SELECTIONS

Best Bet: Thebigfundamental, Race #5
Longshot: Rapid Red, Race #4

R1

Our Girl Abby
Kitty Kat Kate
You People

OUR GIRL ABBY: Tries turf for the first time and has a surprising foundation for such a young horse. With every horse trying two turns for the first time, that could be a big help, and her tactical speed is another plus; KITTY KAT KATE: Merits respect if she draws in off the AE list. Her effort two back was solid, and she’s got the pedigree to stretch out effectively; YOU PEOPLE: Is a first-time starter from a barn whose horses sometimes need a race to get going, but her dam was a Grade 3 winner going long on the turf, and the presence of Jose Ortiz is intriguing. DIRT SELECTIONS: OUR GIRL ABBY, IN THE MOOD, ORBOLUTION.

R2

Tiz Shea D
Scarf It Down
Chubby Master

TIZ SHEA D: Takes a big drop in class, and it would be surprising if this Grade 2 winner was not claimed. He comes back to the dirt, and even a repeat of his 2016 dirt races would make him very tough; SCARF IT DOWN: Makes his first start for new trainer Robertino Diodoro following a win over lesser company at Churchill Downs. Seven furlongs is an unknown, but he could sit a dream trip just off the pace; CHUBBY MASTER: Took a step forward when second at this level downstate. He was a close second at this route last year and could rally for a piece of it at a price.

R3

Mr Classical
Weather Wiz
Uncle Mojo

MR CLASSICAL: Didn’t break well when backed heavily in his debut, but still rallied to finish third behind a stakes-quality runner in Emancipation (Orb’s little brother). He should love this two-turn route of ground and is the one to beat; WEATHER WIZ: Adds Lasix after finishing third in his Independence Day unveiling. His pedigree says he wants as much ground as possible, and improvement is logical at second asking; UNCLE MOJO: Re-rallied to finish second in his first start off a long layoff. He likely needed his debut back in January, and his July 8th bullet indicates he’s coming into this well.

R4

Rapid Red
Main Road
Phi Beta Express

RAPID RED: Gets my nod at a bit of a price in a wide-open starter allowance. He hasn’t run a bad race on dirt, the outside draw is a plus, and while he’s got tactical speed, he doesn’t need the lead in what figures to be a race with plenty of early zip; MAIN ROAD: Makes his first start for trainer Ron Moquett after a pair of sharp races at Churchill Downs. How he’ll take to the Spa is anyone’s guess, but his usual race from Churchill or Oaklawn would put him right there; PHI BETA EXPRESS: Took a big step forward in his local debut earlier this month, leading every step of the way and earning an 87 Beyer Speed Figure. Regression is possible given the departure from his previous form, but he can’t be ignored.

R5

Thebigfundamental
Securitiz
Royal Posse

THEBIGFUNDAMENTAL: Couldn’t have been much more impressive downstate, where he won two in a row by daylight. He tries two turns for the first time, but seems to be one of the few in this field that is going the right way from a form standpoint; SECURITIZ: Ran a big race first off the bench last month and is eligible to improve. He tends to run second a lot, but he’s got several strong local efforts on his resume; ROYAL POSSE: Has struggled of late, and it’s alarming to see him in for the optional claiming tag, but he’s 5-for-7 over this surface, and the change in scenery may wake him up.

R6

Skyline Drive (MTO)
Thrice
Prado Vision

THRICE: Has done very little wrong in three career starts and makes her first start for new trainer George Weaver. She’s won going two turns before and should be flying late; PRADO VISION: Drops back in for a tag after running fourth against better at Churchill. Like my top pick, she’ll benefit if an early speed duel ensues; QUESTEQ: Draw a line through the last-out effort, which came against much better horses and may have been a bounce off of a career-best performance. Castellano returns to ride her, and he’s piloted her to her two top efforts. DIRT SELECTIONS: SKYLINE DRIVE, QUESTEQ, CRIMSON FROST.

R7

Honor Way
Courtmewithcarats
Kissin Cassie

HONOR WAY: Takes a big drop in class after fading to fifth in her first start against winners. Her races against maiden special weight foes were very solid, and she was second here last summer in her unveiling; COURTMEWITHCARATS: Is one of many in here who figure to be gunning for the early lead. She’s improved considerably since moving to trainer Danny Gargan’s barn for her 3-year-old season, and a second straight wire-to-wire win could happen; KISSIN CASSIE: Merits a look underneath at a big price off of some OK performances downstate. As mentioned, there’s a lot of speed signed on, and the faster they go early, the better this closer figures to like it.

R8

Verdant Pastures (MTO)
Lem Me Dance
Table for Six

LEM ME DANCE: Was a debut winner here last summer and has progressed this season, recorded a pair of in-the-money finishes. She tries two turns for the first time, but she had no problem with distance in her most recent outing; TABLE FOR SIX: Has been at this level a long time and seems to enjoy running second or third. She’s a must-use in exotics, though, especially if there’s any zip up front early on; BREE’S GOT HEART: Took a big step forward last time out in her first start over a firm turf course. She’s another who isn’t necessarily a “win type,” but she’s stakes-placed going two turns and isn’t without a shot at a piece of the purse. DIRT SELECTIONS: VERDANT PASTURES, ABOUT THAT BASE, BREE’S GOT HEART.

R9

Summer House (MTO)
Animal Appeal
Miss Katie Mae

ANIMAL APPEAL: Has plenty of early speed and loves this route of ground. Her lone bad race since the start of 2016 came off a long layoff in a stakes race on Preakness weekend, and this is the spot she’ll likely relish; MISS KATIE MAE: Boasts plenty of back class and has run up against several top-class turf sprinters of late. While her recent rash of runner-up finishes is concerning, the faster they go early, the better her chances should be; NITE DELITE: Is another with stakes experience, and she ran several very fast races in Florida earlier this season. DIRT SELECTIONS: SUMMER HOUSE, GINGER N RYE, SPELLKER.

R10

Abel Tasman
Salty
Elate

ABEL TASMAN: Emerged as a top 3-year-old filly with back-to-back Grade 1 wins this past spring. She’s certainly the one to beat, but the relative lack of early speed signed on here could be a concern given her late-running style; SALTY: Threw everything but the kitchen sink at my top pick in the Acorn and was well clear of that day’s third-place finisher. She may prefer one turn, but she’s got plenty of class; ELATE: May be the pace-setter by default here. She was visually impressive when winning a minor stakes at Delaware, and she may get a chance to dictate the early tempo.

R11

River Deep (MTO)
West Point entry
Nile Prince

CHAPIN: May take a taxi to the winner’s circle if he improves off his comeback effort earlier this month at Belmont. It’s not (30,000 pounds of) bananas to think that he’ll improve second off the long layoff; NILE PRINCE: Had no chance in his debut after a horrible start, but he did rally to be beaten just five lengths. That came against a better group, and John Kimmel trainees tend to improve at second asking; PROGNOSTICATION: Has run second in back-to-back races at this level. Two turns is a question mark, but Chad Brown and Jose Ortiz are a powerful combination. DIRT SELECTIONS: RIVER DEEP, COOKIE CRISP, MAJOR FORCE.