Anyone Hiring? Plus: Analysis, Selections, and Pick Four Tickets (3/9/19)

First, the unpleasant tidbit that you may have already heard: I’m out of a job.

Back in November, I was hired by MOAC, a blockchain company based in Silicon Valley. This came two months after my job at The Daily Racing Form was transitioned from full-time to part-time. Unfortunately, earlier this week, I was informed that the company had dissolved its marketing team. As such, for the second time in six months, I’m actively searching for work.

Please let me stress that this isn’t a funeral or a pity party. Due in large part to the best support system anyone could ever hope to have, I’m confident I’ll land on my feet. However, if you happen to be out there looking for a horse racing, content creation, social/digital media, and/or marketing professional, I’d love to chat with you. You can reach out either via Twitter or this site’s “contact” feature.

Regardless of external circumstances, writers will always write, and semi-professional horseplayers will always give opinions about playing horses in a semi-professional manner. That’s why I’m here. We’ve got three Kentucky Derby preps coming up this weekend, and I’ll also be dissecting the associated Pick Four sequences.

There’s a lot to go through, so let’s get to it!


Kentucky Derby Prep: Gotham S. (G3), Race 10
Late Pick Four: Races 8-11

We’ll start off at The Big A, which features, for my money, the strongest renewal of the Gotham Stakes in many years. It anchors a terrific all-stakes Pick Four, and it features one of the most talked-about 3-year-olds in the country.

That’s #6 INSTAGRAND, who ships cross-country for Hall of Famer Jerry Hollendorfer. How good was he as a 2-year-old? Based on Beyer Speed Figures, he likely doesn’t have to improve at all to beat this solid group, and any sort of improvement would make the even-money morning line look like a real overlay. He’s worked well of late, and while the added distance is always a question mark, his breeding suggests a one-turn mile will not be a problem.

As a handicapper, I want to find a reason to go against him, but I can’t. Simply put, I think he’s much more talented than the group lining up against him. There’s a lot of speed signed on, to be sure, but I don’t think he needs the lead in order to win. I think he’ll likely sit off the speed and be in prime position going into the turn. With that sort of trip, I don’t think he loses.

If you insist on trying to beat the chalk, the most intriguing alternative strikes me as #5 HAIKAL, who may be the race’s true lone closer. He hasn’t run particularly fast, but based on the pace scenario, he’ll likely have much more left in the tank late than most of the opposition. The faster they go early, the better he’ll like it, and because of that, the play may be a Dave Weaver-style “ice cold exacta” using Instagrand on top of this 6-1 shot.

$0.50 Pick Four: Race #8

R9: 2,7,8
R10: 6
R11: 3,7,12

63 Bets, $31.50

While Instagrand figures to be very tough to beat, I do think there’s value in the late Pick Four. I’ll try to get a price or two home along with my Gotham single to make this pay a bit.

We’ll be guaranteed to get to the second leg, as I’m buying the Grade 3 Tom Fool. I thought this was a confounding race with a foggy pace scenario and a vulnerable favorite. #3 SKYLER’S SCRAMJET ran well twice here earlier in the meet, but hasn’t won since this race last year and may not be the same horse. With a fairly short field of seven, buying this race doesn’t result in an overpriced ticket.

The ninth is the Stymie Stakes for older horses, and it’s drawn a fun field for the level. #2 SUNNY RIDGE can certainly win, as can the returning #8 VINO ROSSO, but I’m pretty intrigued by a price. That’s #7 SHIVERMETIMBERS, who has run in some tough races out west. A scan of his running lines reveals an abundance of graded stakes-caliber horses, and all three of his wins have come at this one-mile distance. I doubt we’ll get his morning line price of 12-1, but if he wins, it’s likely that a lot of Pick Four tickets get knocked out.

We’ll hope to be alive to three horses in the finale, the Busher Stakes for 3-year-old fillies. I’m taking a bit of a shot here, as I don’t like favorite #10 PLEASE FLATTER ME or second choice #11 ALWAYS SHOPPING. The former gets a huge class and distance test and likely won’t be alone in wanting the lead, while the latter is likely better going two turns and wants much further than this one-mile distance. Of the two Todd Pletcher trainees, I prefer #12 ORRA MOOR, who has been impressive in back-to-back wins at Gulfstream Park. I’ll also use #3 OXY LADY, who won at this route back in November, and #7 FILLY JOEL, who cuts back to one turn after showing two turns may be a bit further than she wants to go.


Kentucky Derby Prep: Tampa Bay Derby (G2), Race 11
Late Pick Four: Races 9-12

The Tampa Bay Derby serves as the main event on a terrific card. The race drew a field of 11, and I think it’s a great betting race because I don’t like the morning line favorite.

I acknowledge that #7 WIN WIN WIN was very impressive in winning the Pasco Stakes. However, that race fell apart, and I don’t think he beat much. He’s never been two turns, and at his likely short price, I’m going to try to beat him.

#4 DREAM MAKER, like most offspring of Tapit, likely needed some time to grow up. Judging by his smashing win last month at Fair Grounds, he’s come a long way from two duds in stakes company last year. If he builds off of that last-out effort, I think he’s the one to beat, and we may get a bit of a price given the large field signed on.

The early pace is going to be interesting. If #5 WELL DEFINED gets an easy lead, he’ll likely be tough to catch. His win in the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis here was very good, and a repeat effort puts him right there. My slight hesitation here is due to the presence of #11 ZENDEN, who may be sent hard from the gate and could present some pace pressure. However, I need to have Well Defined on my tickets, just in case Zenden either doesn’t clear from his outside post or is rated in his first two-turn effort.

$0.50 Pick Four: Race #9

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

40 Bets, $20

Unfortunately, I don’t think there’s much room for huge prices in this sequence, so I made an effort to keep the cost of my ticket down. Still, the field sizes involve hint that we could get a surprising return on investment if we cash.

The ninth is the Grade 2 Hillsborough for older distaffers on turf. I’m using the two likely favorites in #2 HAWKSMOOR and #7 RYMSKA. I do prefer the latter, as Hawksmoor may want a touch shorter than this nine-furlong distance, but these two certainly seem to be the class of this group.

The best betting race of the sequence is probably the second leg. It’s the Grade 3 Florida Oaks for 3-year-old fillies, and I had to spread. #5 CONCRETE ROSE and #10 STELLAR AGENT both have talent, but they’re also making their 2019 debuts. I’m most intrigued by #3 WINTER SUNSET, who’s bred to be a really nice filly and is 2-for-2 coming into her graded stakes debut.

After the Tampa Bay Derby, the finale is a $25,000 claimer on the grass. Likely favorite #5 TRUMPI’s record looks significantly better if you toss the races at Gulfstream Park, which boasts a surface that simply may not agree with him. He adds blinkers in his first start for Dale Bennett, and he seems like the horse to beat. I’ll also use #10 SIMMARDSTRIKE, who drops in for a tag and may relish the cutback from nine furlongs to a mile. The outside post is a problem, but he could be rolling late at a fair price.


Kentucky Derby Prep: Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3), Race 11
Late Pick Four: Races 9-12

It’s never easy to predict which horses will like a synthetic track, which makes the Jeff Ruby an incredibly tricky affair to handicap. The likely favorite is #10 SOMELIKEITHOTBROWN, who first came onto the scene winning a race at the wrong distance at Saratoga (never forget) and has since won the local prep for this race, the Battaglia.

He’s certainly good enough to win, and I need him on my tickets. However, there’s another I need to use, and it’s one of those “first-time synthetic” horses. That’s #3 FIVE STAR GENERAL, who figures to be the main speed in this race. He didn’t break well in the Sam F. Davis, but won two off-the-turf races in a row before that, including a stakes race at Aqueduct. They’ve clearly wanted to get on turf for a while, and that’s often a sign that a horse will like a synthetic track. Somelikeithotbrown may be better, but I need to use Five Star General in case he gets brave on the front end.

$0.50 Pick Four: Race #9

R9: 1,8
R10: 3,5,6,11
R11: 3,10
R12: 1,6,7,10

64 Bets, $32

The Jeff Ruby is one of three stakes races in this sequence, which seems to present some value given the big fields and lack of heavy favorites (save for Somelikeithotbrown). Hopefully, my $32 ticket provides enough coverage.

We’ll start off with the Kentucky Cup Classic for older horses, and I’m using the bookends. #1 NUN THE LESS makes lots of sense given his two-back win over similar foes, and he’ll likely go favored, but my top selection is actually #8 LANIER, who seems like the race’s lone speed. He wants to go longer than he ran last time out, and I think he could get very comfortable on the front end. He was just a length behind Nun the Less two back, and that was with a respectable pace. If they go slower (and I think they will), this one could wire them at a fair price.

The second leg is the Bourbonette Oaks, and like the Jeff Ruby, it’s attracted several out-of-town shippers. My top pick is #5 INTO TROUBLE, whose lone start on a synthetic surface was a last-to-first score at Arlington in September. However, I do think there’s room for a price. #3 BIRDIE was very impressive last time out at this route, while #6 RED ROUNDER’s last race at Fair Grounds seems like a throw-out. Finally, #11 DIVA DAY is bred up and down for this trip and could improve off of a debut win at a big price for a top local barn.

We’ll hope to be alive to four horses to finish this off. #7 BYE BYE BULLY’S may be favored, but I don’t think she’ll be her 8/5 price given the large field. 5/2 or so seems much more likely, and while she could easily win, I can’t simply rely on her alone in the payoff leg. #1 GOLDEN LOCH had a wide trip when second at this route last time out, and second-time starters #6 LYNDA D and #10 SAILOR’S CAP could easily step forward here at big prices.

Kentucky Derby Preps and Pick Fours: 2/2/19 (Aqueduct, Gulfstream, Santa Anita, and Oaklawn)

For my money, the road to the 2019 Kentucky Derby truly kicks off Saturday, with three prep races scattered across the country. Aqueduct hosts the Grade 3 Withers, Gulfstream Park has the Grade 2 Holy Bull, and Santa Anita boasts the Grade 3 Robert Lewis.

I’ll be profiling each of these prep races in-depth, and I’ll also be taking looks at each track’s late Pick Four sequence. The Derby preps are fun races, the Pick Fours are fun sequences, and I think you can find ways to spend your Saturday cashing some good-sized tickets. In addition, following a Friday night request from the one and only Vic Stauffer (and several other Twitter followers), I’ll also have a ticket for the late Pick Four at Oaklawn Park.

Enough talk; on with the show!

Kentucky Derby Prep: Withers (Grade 3), Race 9
Late Pick Four: Races 7-10

The Withers drew a field of seven, and on the surface, it doesn’t seem like an A-list prep race. Having said that, that doesn’t mean it’s a bad betting race. In fact, I think this may be the best betting race of the preps because of the likely race shape.

Of the seven runners here, five have shown that they want to be on or near the lead on dirt, and one comes in with more credentials on a synthetic track than on dirt. The lone outlier is #6 OUR BRAINTRUST, who stretches out to two turns for the first time and has shown an ability to rate. He was a good second in the Jerome last time out behind the talented Mind Control, who won last year’s Grade 1 Hopeful. That day’s third-place finisher was well-beaten, and since that race, he’s been transferred to the barn of Mark Casse, who is hitting at an excellent rate first off the trainer switch. Our Braintrust is 6-1 on the morning line, and I hope we get that price.

The morning line favorite is #1 TAX, who outran his odds when third in the Grade 2 Remsen. I’m not quite sure why he was 17-1 that day given his pedigree (which screams that he wants to go long), but he ran well when finishing behind Maximus Mischief and Network Effect. The possibility of a bounce is there, and he may be close to a fairly strong early pace, but a repeat performance at the same route would make him pretty tough to beat.

$0.50 Pick Four: Race #7

R7: 2,4
R8: 1,2,5,7,9,10
R9: 1,6
R10: 4,7

48 Bets, $24

Admittedly, I don’t play Aqueduct a lot. The fields are usually short, and the surface is sometimes on the quirky side. However, I love this Pick Four sequence. There are several big prices on my ticket, and if you can solve the puzzle, I think you’ll be in line for a nice score.

The seventh is a $10,000 claiming event for older horses. #2 T LOVES A FIGHT drops back down in class, to a similar level he won at two starts ago. His best race is certainly good enough to win, but given how bad his misfires are, I can’t single him with confidence. I also need to use likely second choice #4 PROFESSOR SNAPE, who led every step of the way last time out after being claimed back by Gary Gullo. He loves Aqueduct, and Gullo seems to get the best out of him.

The eighth is a confounding betting race, and I felt the need to spread. It’s an optional claiming event, and I think several big prices could potentially win it. #5 HOKULEA has run well at this route this meet, #7 FLEET IRISH drops in class, and #10 NEW YORK HERO was too far back last time out after winning two in a row late last year. I’ve used some shorter-priced horses, sure, but if there’s a race where a big price comes in in this sequence, I think it’s this one.

The Withers is the third leg, and the finale is a $16,000 claimer that features many horses light on recent form. #2 HOT MESA was an impressive winner last time out, but he’s shown nothing that says he can repeat that performance in his first try against winners. Instead, I’ll use #4 I LOVE JAXSON, who likely gets a fast track after two duds on off going, and #7 QUEST FOR FIRE, who drops to what’s likely the appropriate level and figures to be the main speed while adding blinkers for Ray Handal.

Kentucky Derby Prep: Holy Bull (Grade 2), Race 11
Late Pick Four: Races 9-12

The central question in the Holy Bull is this: How good do you think #8 MAXIMUS MISCHIEF is? If you buy the hype, he’s possibly a multi-race exotics single. If you don’t, the race becomes a fascinating kaleidoscope of up-and-coming horses traversing Gulfstream’s 1 1/16-mile route (which features a short stretch that often helps frontrunners).

I don’t hate Maximus Mischief, but this seems like the right spot to go against a heavy favorite. His Remsen win was solid, and it resulted in the latest high Beyer Speed Figure for the son of Into Mischief, but they went pretty slow early on. He’ll certainly need to go faster against this group, which features at least five other horses that figure to be sent out of the gate. A sub-:23 opening quarter isn’t out of the question. Can he go that fast early and have something left late in his first start over this track? Maybe he can, but I don’t think that’s a scenario where you want to be all-in on a short price.

I wasn’t huge on #6 MIHOS’s win in the Mucho Macho Man last month. I thought he sat a dream trip in a race where the pace collapsed. Having said that, such a scenario could easily come about once again here, and if the track isn’t overly speed-favoring, I think he’s got a big shot to mow them all down once again. He’s improved with every start to this point for a very talented horseman in Jimmy Jerkens, and it never hurts to have the services of Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez.

I also need to use #2 FEDERAL CASE. Like Mihos, I wasn’t blown away by his last-out win going a mile. He stalked a slow pace in a short field and prevailed by a neck when heavily favored in his first start for Todd Pletcher. However, he’s trained lights-out since that race, one he may have needed off a bit of a freshening. He doesn’t necessarily need the lead, and his sustained running style could be a fit in a race with tons of speed up front.

If you want to throw Maximus Mischief into multi-race exotics, I can’t disparage that too much. If I was making top-three picks (as I do for The Pink Sheet every summer), he’d be third, and I can see scenarios where he wins. Perhaps he’s a legitimate horse that can overcome the likely pace scenario and continue on the road to Louisville. However, I’ll take a small swing against him on most of my tickets, including this one…

$0.50 Pick Four: Race #9

R9: 4
R10: 4,5,8,9,11
R11: 2,6
R12: 1,3,5,7,8

50 Bets, $25

The late Pick Four features three graded stakes races and a mess of a finale with many first-time starters. I’m using a popular single in the first leg, and I’m hoping to get a price or two home along the way on a reasonably-sized ticket.

My best bet of the day comes in the ninth, the Grade 3 Forward Gal for 3-year-old fillies. I thought #4 FEEDBACK was the best 2-year-old filly I saw on dirt all meet last summer at Saratoga. She’s been on the sidelines since a dominant debut win in August, but she’s been working well for Chad Brown and comes up against a field that, I think, came up extremely light for the level. She may not need to move forward at all off of that performance to beat these, so I’ll single and move on.

The second leg is the Grade 3 Swale, which drew a field of 11 3-year-old males going seven furlongs. There’s a ton of early speed signed on here, and as a result, my top pick is #9 ZENDEN, one of the few horses in here that doesn’t need to be on or near the lead in order to run well. This trainer-jockey combination has been lights-out at the meet, and the horse has done nothing wrong to this point. It’s a good field, so I felt the need to spread, but if the race collapses for this 8-1 shot, it’ll significantly raise the potential for a nice score.

After going two-deep in the Holy Bull without using Maximus Mischief, we’ll look to finish off the sequence by spreading in the finale. Only two of the 11 entrants have experience, so I can’t zero in with any confidence. #1 HONEST MISCHIEF will likely be favored given the tremendous pedigree (by Into Mischief, out of Honest Lady), but the rail draw isn’t ideal for a first-time starter, and other debuting runners in here are working well, too. I also needed to use 30-1 bomb #3 SKY SOLO, who at least showed significant early speed in his debut at Laurel Park. I needed to spend the extra $5 to put him on the ticket on the off-chance he moves forward off of that debut (which isn’t out of the question, judging by a solid work January 30th).

Kentucky Derby Prep: Robert B. Lewis (Grade 3), Race 6
Late Pick Four: Races 7-10

Heads up: Rain is in the forecast for Saturday in Arcadia, so plan for an off track. Also, because the Lewis drew just a six-horse field, they kept it out of the late Pick Four (although it’s in the Rainbow Six, which boasts a mandatory payout).

I can’t get too creative in the Lewis. #5 MUCHO GUSTO seems like the lone serious speed in the race, and I think he’ll be all alone going into the first turn. If he’s allowed to dictate terms like that, it could take a career-best performance from one of the other runners to top him. That doesn’t mean he can’t lose, but I do think it’s unlikely.

I respect #6 NOLO CONTESTO, who graduated last time out after the rider lost an iron in his December debut. He’s been training very well and has the pedigree to move forward as he gets older. He’s my second selection, as I’m going against #4 GUNMETAL GRAY. Yes, that one’s rally in the Grade 3 Sham was visually impressive, but they crawled home that day, and that race’s heavy favorite (Coliseum) failed to fire. I think Gunmetal Gray has serious talent, and that he may be a serious factor in other prep races down the line. However, this one doesn’t seem to set up for him, and I can’t use him on top.

$0.50 Pick Four: Race #7

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

24 Bets, $12

This didn’t strike me as the most intriguing multi-race sequence of the day. I feel there’s a free square in the ninth, and that the finale has three likely winners most tickets will include. Having said that, it seems like a spot where one can play a $12-$16 ticket and hope for a return in the $80-$100 range. Considering the likely odds of said free square, that’s not a bad value play.

The seventh is a maiden claimer, and the morning line screams, “WE HAVE NO IDEA WHO’LL BE FAVORED.” In this case, my sentiments mirror those of Jon White. I’m four-deep without using the top two choices on that line, and I’ll give #5 TOBY TIME another shot on top. I liked him a bit in his debut against maiden special weight foes, and he ran like he needed the race when chasing a sharp runaway winner. Chuck Treece’s first-time starters often need their unveiling, and these are shallower waters.

The eighth is a maiden event for 3-year-olds. #5 MY MANDATE comes back to dirt after just missing going down the hill, and he seems like the main speed in the race. He’s probably the most likely winner, but I needed to use #9 YOUNG PHILLIP as well. He boasts a steady string of five-furlong workouts for Phil D’Amato, and his pedigree says he’ll love a wet track. The outside draw is a plus, and Heriberto Figueroa has been riding very well this meet. 10-1 seems like way too big a price on that one.

The ninth is the Grade 2 San Pasqual, and I can’t get past #7 MCKINZIE. After the retirements of City of Light and Accelerate (ugh), I think he’s the top older dirt horse in the country going a route of ground. His Malibu win was exceptional, and while I respect the solid, consistent #8 BATTLE OF MIDWAY, that one may have to run his best race since the 2017 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile to top the runner to his inside.

We finish things off with a claiming race for older sprinters. I’m using the three morning line favorites, and my top choice is #1 CANDYMAN GARRET. It’s safe to assume something went wrong on September 1st at Del Mar, because we haven’t seen him since then. He’s got several strong works on the tab for Jeff Mullins, and if you toss that clunker, his form looks much, much stronger. If he’s ready to go, I think it’s likely he wires the field.

Kentucky Derby Prep: None (though there IS an Oaks prep!)
Late Pick Four: Races 6-9

$0.50 Pick Four: Race #6

R6: 1,2,4,5
R7: 1,2,3,6,9
R8: 4
R9: 2,6,7,8

80 Bets, $40

I can see why so many people wanted to hear my take on this, because this sequence is HARD. Even with a worthy favorite in the Saturday feature, this could still pay well given that the other three legs are awesome betting races.

The sixth is a claiming races for older horses going a mile. It drew a full field of 12, and I think the divide between the contenders and non-contenders is pretty significant. Of the four I’m using, I’m most intrigued by #5 SECRET HOUSE, who seems like the main speed in a race that doesn’t have much of it. He drops down in class, thumped a similar-quality field two back at Churchill Downs, and ran well in several races here last year.

The seventh is an optional claimer that drew what seems like a strong field for the level. My top pick is a bit of a price, although I think the 10-1 morning line is going to come down a bit. #6 GETTYSBURG has won two in a row for Chris Hartman and has lots of early speed. Joe Bravo should be able to negotiate a friendly trip, and if speed is holding, I think he could be very tough at a bit of a price.

The eighth is the Martha Washington for 3-year-old fillies. There’s a lot of speed signed on, and it just happens that the morning line choice is one of the race’s few closers. That’s #4 SUNSET WISH, who’s won three in a row for Michael Stidham and was impressive in a stakes race at Delta last month. Two turns hasn’t been a problem for her, and further progression would make her very tough to beat.

We’ll finish with a tricky maiden event that, like a few other races in this sequence, will go with a full field. I’m four-deep, and #8 C DUB is my top selection. He’s shown plenty of speed, seems to be coming into this in good form given the work tab, and makes his first start as a gelding. However, I also think #7 KANSAS CITY ZIP is incredibly live at a price. He debuted running an OK fourth in a fast race for the level, and then was bumped after the start going longer last time out. This barn is off to a good start at the meet, and logical forward progression would put him right there.

Analysis, Selections, and Tickets: Kentucky Derby Preps and Pick Four Sequences, PLUS: A STRANGE Week

We’ll get to my analysis of the three Kentucky Derby prep races, and the Pick Four sequences that contain them, shortly. However, I first need to start out by saying…well, by saying that it’s been a REALLY weird week.

It started with a small right-wing blog picking up a letter that I wrote to WRGB, the Sinclair-owned TV station in my former hometown of Albany, N.Y., criticizing their airing of the company-wide message they were roundly panned for last week. This was not a political stance, but one coming from the point of view of a journalist with a conscience (yes, we exist). Naturally, this got contorted to their desired degree of spin, and that made for a number of interesting conversations with people.

As strange as that was, the truly bizarre stuff happened Thursday. Those of you who truly know me know the kind of person I am. However, over the past 13 months, I’ve had some fun on Twitter occasionally morphing into a character that took several forms depending on what was being discussed. Most of the time, I was puffing my ample chest out over a successful season at Saratoga, begging for Beemie Award consideration (hi, Jason), or otherwise doing my best to troll people I liked.

Some people picked up on what I was doing right away (oddly, most of them are fellow diehard professional wrestling fans who appreciate someone cutting a good promo!). However, thanks to several people I like and respect a great deal (likely much more than they want me to, in all honesty), I caught wind that my perception among certain horse racing people was that of a pompous buffoon who actually believed his own hype. That necessitated the below tweet, which you’ve likely seen by now.

If you think, for one solitary second, that I truly believe my own hype, you’re misguided. What you’ve seen over the past 13 months was a gimmick constructed thanks to a fateful conversation that I’ve mentioned before on this website. I came to the conclusion that, if certain people were going to believe I was an unbelievably strong personality (to the point of that being anything but a compliment), I was going to have as much fun with it as I could.

The “128 winners at Saratoga” stuff? That was inspired by “Married With Children” protagonist/American hero Al Bundy’s rants centering around “four touchdowns in a single game.” Since I’ve mentioned that, I feel the need to include this.

You’re welcome. Anyway, the “best to never win a Beemie Award” stuff, and all the posturing that happened there? That was entirely the result of much too much time spent watching professional wrestling with arrogant bad guys who always seemed to have the best lines at their disposal. With said “strong personality” at my disposal (and by the way, can you tell that was a REALLY bad choice of words by an unnamed person yet?), it was natural to portray this character as a rebel.

If you fell for that and thought that was a 100% accurate representation of me in real-life, that means I probably did a heck of a job with the gimmick, but it also means that I need to pull the curtain back. As I’ve told a few people over the past few days, I’m a slightly introverted nerd who has no problem with self-deprecating humor. I’m incredibly fortunate to have my job and the professional respect that I have for doing what I do, and not a day goes by where I don’t consider myself genuinely blessed to be in that position.

As the tweet above says, if what you’re reading is analysis, or my thoughts on a race, that’s me, as I am. If you think that the person pandering for Beemie consideration or doing a Santino Marella victory celebration is actually who I am, know that it isn’t. Many of you out there got the gist of what I was doing (including a few people that have done a lot for me simply by existing), but enough of you didn’t, so I needed to expound on that before we went further.

Now that we’re 700 words into this article, let’s dive into some Saturday analysis! We’ve got three Kentucky Derby prep races scheduled, and they all come within fun late Pick Four sequences at their respective tracks. I’ll take a look at all three, and we’ll go in alphabetical order of tracks, so we’ll start in New York.


$0.50 Pick Four: Race #8

R8: 2,3,4,5,6,9,11
R9: 3,4,5
R10: 5,9
R11: 2

42 Bets, $21

As a heads-up, this ticket assumes that the 11th race stays on the turf. If it doesn’t, this ticket is rendered obsolete, as I don’t have a clue who wins if it’s run on the main track. However, for now, it’s a fun sequence that I think you can play for cheap.

The Grade 1 Carter Handicap kicks things off, and I thought this was the toughest race of the sequence. If you want to buy the race, I understand, but I only went seven-deep so as to keep the cost of the ticket down (if it chalks out, it won’t pay much). #2 ARMY MULE and #11 AWESOME SLEW figure to take most of the action, but I needed to use several others as well. That includes many logical contenders, as well as 20-1 shot #6 PETROV, whose recent slate looks much better if you can bring yourself to draw a line through that clunker two back. This is a flexible runner campaigned by savvy connections, and I needed him on my ticket.

The ninth is the Grade 3 Bay Shore for 3-year-olds going seven furlongs. #4 NATIONAL FLAG and #5 ENGAGE will take much of the money, but I thought #3 JUSTAHOLIC was intriguing at his 8-1 morning line price. He’s stepped forward in every start to date and topped a decent Todd Pletcher trainee last time out at Tampa. This barn has done terrific work with a limited number of runners, and it’s interesting to see them show up in this spot far from home.

The 10th is the Grade 2 Wood Memorial (and seriously, can we begrudgingly admit that the graded stakes committee got it right with the downgrade?). #5 ENTICED will be a popular single off of his win in the Grade 3 Gotham, and he could easily make it two in a row. However, I also needed to use #9 VINO ROSSO, who wants every bit of this distance and may have bounced last time out off of a career-best effort two back. We may get a bit of a price on him today, and it’s not inconceivable to think he’s sitting on a big effort.

The 11th is the aforementioned turf race, and if it stays on the grass, I think #2 ASTOUNDING will be tough to beat. He’s been running against much better horses since going to Jason Servis’s barn in 2016, and this spot represents significant class relief. His most recent effort wasn’t good, but that came on dirt off of a layoff. This is the route he wants, and if he gets a good trip, I think he’s going to be formidable (even at a short price). If he doesn’t win, I don’t know who does.


$0.50 Pick Four: Race #7

R7: 2,5,7,10,12,13
R8: 2,8,10,11,12
R9: 1
R10: 4,10,11

90 Bets, $45

A few notes before we start: First of all, this ticket is obviously contingent on Keeneland running this card in the first place. I have no insider knowledge, nor have I ever claimed to, but if the winter storm barreling towards Kentucky is as bad as some forecasts are claiming, this could get dicey. Additionally, if the first leg comes off the turf, my ticket is irrelevant.

Good? Good. We’ll kick it off with the Grade 2 Shakertown, which has drawn a field of 14 turf sprinters. #13 DISCO PARTNER is the 5/2 morning line favorite, and I think he can win, but he’ll need to negotiate a trip from a tough post in his first start since the Breeders’ Cup to do so. I’m using many others as well, including #12 BOUND FOR NOWHERE, who’s 3-for-3 in America and was a credible fourth in last year’s Group 1 Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot. If you toss the effort two back at Deauville, he more than fits with this group, and I’ve got a tough time believing this Wesley Ward trainee will be 20-1 when the gates are sprung.

The eighth is the Grade 1 Madison, which is shaping up to be a tremendous race. It’s drawn Grade 1-quality fillies and mares and a field of 13, which makes things very tricky. I went five-deep and used most of the main contenders. My top pick is #11 AMERICAN GAL, who I think may have been the best 3-year-old filly in the country last year when healthy. She’s been off since a dominant performance in the Grade 1 Test, but she’s been working well for Simon Callaghan and has handled shipping east with aplomb in the past. If she’s right, I think she’ll be tough.

The ninth race is the Grade 1 Ashland, and it features one of the top 3-year-old fillies in the country. That’s #1 MONOMOY GIRL, who figures to be one of the favorites for next month’s Kentucky Oaks. There isn’t much other early speed in the race, and I think she’ll be able to dictate the terms all the way around. I respect #2 ESKIMO KISSES, but Monomoy Girl seems like a different kind of filly, and she’s an easy single for me.

We’ll finish with the main event, as the 10th is the Blue Grass, which doubles as the race that I analyzed for this week’s DRF Derby Countdown Weekly Guide. You can find my thoughts there (as well as my preferred single-race wagering strategy), but to summarize, I think #4 KANTHAKA is very appealing at a price. I’ll also use likely favorite #11 GOOD MAGIC, and I’ll defensively use #10 FREE DROP BILLY, just in case he returns to the form he showed last year at Keeneland when he won the Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity.


$0.50 Pick Four: Race #9

R9: 3,6
R10: 3,5,6,7,9
R11: 3
R12: 1,2,4,6,7,10

60 Bets, $30

I’ve got a gripe to address before we start. Santa Anita has three stakes races being run outside of this Pick Four sequence (not counting the Arabian race that ends the day), which ends with an optional claiming event. It’s still a juicy sequence that could pay more than it should given the possibility of several short-priced winners, but why the lack of an all-stakes Pick Four on a big day? I’m sure there’s a logical business reason for this, but from a fan’s perspective, this doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.

Anyway, onward and upward. The ninth is the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby, and I’m not getting cute. I’m using #3 BOLT D’ORO and #6 JUSTIFY, like pretty much every other ticket on the planet. Simply put, I think these are two of the top four 3-year-olds on the road to the Kentucky Derby right now, and I can’t rationalize throwing anyone else in.

I’m spreading in the 10th, the Grade 2 Royal Heroine. I would really like #6 ENOLA GRAY and #9 SASSY LITTLE LILA if it was solely one of them running, but while I think either could win, the scenario of them speeding away early and getting run down is certainly possible. As such, I’m using a number of closers, including #3 BEAU RECALL, who was the very last horse I threw onto the ticket. I don’t like that she seems to enjoy running second or third, but this race sets up for her, as it does for fellow closers #5 THUNDERING SKY and #7 MADAME STRIPES.

I wish I could give you an interesting alternative to #3 MIDNIGHT BISOU in the 11th, the Grade 1 Santa Anita Oaks. However, I can’t do that. I think she may be the best 3-year-old filly in training right now, and the way she’s moving forward with every start leads me to believe she’s sitting on a big effort. The ample early speed in here is a plus, and I will be stunned if we get 6/5 on her at post time. If we do, I think that’s a considerable overlay.

As mentioned, an optional claimer ends this sequence, and it’s a tough betting race. If you’ve got the budget to buy the race, by all means do that. I settled on going six-deep, and while I used likely favorites #1 LASEEN and #2 PANTSONFIRE, I’m not in love with either. If I had to make a top pick, it’d be #7 THE TULIP, who lost her action two back and should be rolling late at a bit of a price following her win last time out. I also have to use 15-1 shot #4 MS WAKAYA, who’s run into some sharp horses in her prior tries going long on turf. She’s got some tactical speed, which isn’t abundant in this field, and I wouldn’t be shocked if apprentice jockey Franklin Ceballos boots her to the front early and sees how long she can stay there.

Analysis, Selections, and Tickets: Aqueduct and Gulfstream Park (12/2/17)

Saturday is a big day at both Aqueduct and Gulfstream Park. Aqueduct houses a card with four stakes races, including the Grade 1 Cigar Mile, while Gulfstream Park opens its championship meet with the Claiming Crown program. Both slates are incredibly challenging, and if you hit even one multi-race ticket, chances are you’ll walk away with a profit. Here’s how I’ll attack both cards.


$0.50 Pick Five: Race #1

R1: 2,3,4,5
R2: 4,5,10
R3: 1
R4: 6,7,10,12
R5: 1,3

96 Bets, $48

I generally don’t like going much over $40 with my tickets, but I felt a need to with both of my stabs at Aqueduct. Even with a single in the middle leg of the Pick Five, it’s not a cheap ticket, but hopefully, we can get this home.

I’m four-deep in the opening leg, and for good reason. #5 BLACK SEA will probably be favored, but he probably wants to go longer, and it’s a bit alarming that he’s in for a claiming tag. I’ll use him, but I want other coverage. Of note, #3 WAR BOND is one of only a few in here that wants this specific distance. His win two back was solid, and he’s attracted Jose Ortiz.

I’m using the three logical horses in the second. Many of these horses haven’t won in a while, so I’ll take one horse second off a layoff (#4 LEAH’S DREAM), a second that makes her second start off the claim for a good barn (#5 FAIR REGIS), and a class-dropper that should appreciate the relief (#10 ANNA RAE).

My single comes in the third, and while it’s partially out of necessity, there’s also a benefit to it. I think both parts of the David Jacobson entry (#1 DOCS LEGACY and #1A ANY QUESTIONS) can win, and I need a single somewhere to keep the cost of my ticket down, so here we go.

I thought the fourth race was fascinating. It’s a turf sprint for state-bred maidens, and while some horses that figure to take money make sense, I also had to include a 15-1 shot. That’s #6 LUNE LAKE, who didn’t break well in her debut for a barn whose horses usually need a race or two to get going. In addition, she’s bred to like the turf, as her second dam, Nicole’s Dream, was a freakish turf sprinter who won multiple stakes races going short on grass. I think she’s a must-use, especially at her likely price.

I’ll hope to finish this off with one of the two favorites in the fifth. #1 FOLLOW THE SIGNS was claimed by a good barn (and from a good barn) following a romp last time out, while #3 MINSKY MOMENT showed an affinity for the turf when a sharp second last time out at Belmont.

$0.50 Pick Four: Race #7

R7: 5,9,11,12
R8: 1,3,5
R9: 3,5
R10: 2,5,6,8

96 Bets, $48

We open with a wide-open 2-year-old maiden race. I’m four-deep, and I easily could have gone much deeper. My reluctant top pick is #11 SCATBACK, who ran well enough in two turf sprints at Saratoga earlier this year and gets Javier Castellano, but this race could unfold any number of ways. If you can afford to go deeper, you may want to do that.

The second leg is the Grade 2 Demoiselle. It’s sometimes tough to decipher which 2-year-olds want to go nine furlongs, but I think the morning line man got this one right. #1 DAISY and #3 WONDER GADOT have both looked talented and will be bet, but I also had to use #5 INDY UNION, who’s bred up and down to go long and relished the stretchout at Belmont when romping over maidens in October. She’s by Union Rags and out of an A.P. Indy mare, so two turns should be right up her alley.

I’m two-deep in the Grade 2 Remsen. #3 AVERY ISLAND may be favored and has talent, but if #5 CATHOLIC BOY can transfer his turf form to dirt, he’ll be the one to beat. He encountered some trouble when fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Turf, and while he probably wasn’t beating Mendelssohn with a clean trip, he could’ve conceivably been second. This is a good spot to take a shot on dirt, and his races have shown that the distance won’t be his undoing.

The Cigar Mile is the main event, and it doubles as the payoff leg of the sequence. I came into the race thinking the two main contenders were #6 SHARP AZTECA and #8 PRACTICAL JOKE, but upon further review, I had to use two others as well. #2 SEYMOURDINI had a nightmare trip in the Grade 3 Bold Ruler and should improve second off the layoff, and #5 AMERICANIZE has not finished worse than second in eight races he’s finished. That one was an impressive winner of the Damascus Stakes, and when Simon Callaghan gets a horse on the right track, they tend to stay there. At 12-1, I need him on my ticket.


$0.50 Pick Five: Race #1

R1: 3,4,5
R2: 6,7,10
R3: 6
R4: 2,8,11,12
R5: 1,5

72 Bets, $36

And there we go with the antics (hi, Pete!). This Pick Five struck me as the hardest sequence to decipher among both cards I looked at, and if there’s any consolation, it’s that Gulfstream has a 4-of-5 payout in this sequence.

The meet opener is a turf race for maidens, and I’m going three-deep. My top pick is #5 REALLY PROUD, who took a step forward at second asking last time out. She showed tactical speed and has worked well since then, so more improvement could be in the cards.

I’m also three-deep in the second leg. #6 MENDED ships east and is going for her 10th consecutive win. Her two recent dirt races were just fine, but 2-1 seems awfully short in such a big field. I’ll also use #7 DELUSIONAL K K, who’s won two of her last three, and #10 AMALUNA, who does her best running here and was impressive at this route two back.

I’ve got a “separator single” in the third leg. I know I’m supposed to like the Todd Pletcher tandem of #3 HYNDFORD and #9 ANIMAL KINGSTON, but if one was the goods, why are two entered in the same spot? I’m taking a swing with a 10-1 first-time starter that’s bred to be talented. #6 THE ROBERT has been working well at Churchill Downs and is a half-brother to four winners. Trainer Eddie Kenneally can win with first-time starters, and I’m not overly impressed with the horses that have run before. If this horse wins, we’ll be alive to a nice, nice score.

I’m four-deep in the fourth, a race with plenty of early speed signed on. While speed is usually good at Gulfstream, I had to throw in 15-1 shot #11 EXPRESS JET just in case the race falls apart. Toss the races contested over a wet track, and this closer looks much, much better.

If we’re alive into the fifth, we’ll be two-deep there. #1 BLUE BAHIA is ultra-consistent and has never been better, while #5 EILA loves Gulfstream and returns to her favorite track. Her recent form hasn’t been great, but Gulfstream is a far different turf course than Aqueduct, and she could relish her familiar stomping grounds.

$0.50 Pick Four: Race #8

R8: 4,7,12
R9: 5,9,10,11,12
R10: 4
R11: 5,6,7,11

60 Bets, $30

The late Pick Four kicks off with the Rapid Transit. #4 SHAFT OF LIGHT won this race by daylight last time out, and he merits respect. However, #7 MANHATTAN MISCHIEF has plenty of early speed and could keep him company early. I’m using both speed horses, and, in the event the race breaks down, I’m also using #12 COXSWAIN, a 20-1 shot that loves this track and should be flying late.

The ninth is a wide-open turf race, and I’m five-deep. #9 STARSHIP JUBILEE has been racing against much better at Woodbine and could win, but Woodbine form sometimes doesn’t translate elsewhere. She won here a few times earlier in the year, but this isn’t an easy field, and if she doesn’t win, I don’t know who does, so I went deep.

I took a completely different approach in the 10th. #4 BLACK TIDE has one way of going. He’ll go to the front, open up, and lead for as long as he can. This race doesn’t have much other quality speed signed on, so he could sit a picture-perfect trip on a track that often plays kindly to early speed. As such, he’s a single for me.

I’ll go four-deep to finish things off. #6 GIGANTIC BREEZE won a Grade 2 at Woodbine last time out, and if his form translates to dirt, he’ll definitely be the one to beat. However, I’m also using a few prices, and if one of them gets home, we’ll get paid off in a big way.

Analysis, Selections, and Tickets: Aqueduct and Del Mar (11/18/17)

I really like the Saturday cards at Aqueduct and Del Mar. I find the multi-race sequences at both tracks very challenging, and if you hit, I think you’ll be rewarded handsomely.

One quick note: Next week, I’ll be in Las Vegas for Thanksgiving/my 29th birthday, and I’ll be writing a few articles from there for this site with racing and sports bets, as well as any amusing anecdotes I may have from my travels. If you’re looking for stuff that’s sordid, that won’t be my speed. I’m happily taken, so I don’t do clubs, I don’t do pools, and I certainly do not interact with the people outside of casinos whipping cards around. I’m an old-school degenerate who believes in things like the blackjack grandfather clause, all-you-can-eat buffets (especially when someone else is paying; hi, Dad!), meeting random groups of outgoing people in sports books, and (best of all) backdoor covers. If any or all of that intrigues you, chances are you’ll like what I’ll be posting.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at Aqueduct and Del Mar, and try to get some seed money for the trip!

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$0.50 Pick Five: Race #1

R1: 1,2,4,5
R2: 6
R3: 4
R5: 6,9

80 Bets, $40

We start off the Saturday card at Aqueduct with a tricky claiming event. I’m going four-deep, and I hope that’s enough. I’m most intrigued by #4 HARDLY MATE, who came from way back last time out to win going away in her first start with Lasix. Yes, it took a class drop to get her into the winner’s circle, but she ran into at least two next-out winners two back, and there’s reason to believe she’s getting better with experience.

I’ve got two straight singles in the second and third legs. #6 GANGBUSTERS ships up to New York for the second race, and I like her a lot. She’s raced very wide in each of her last two outings, and it’s not like this is a stellar field. #5 LADY BY CHOICE is the 7/5 favorite, but she goes to a lower-percentage barn and drops down in class. I think that’s a favorite you should try to beat, and that’s what I’m trying to do.

My third-leg single will be a popular one. #4 SCHIVARELLI makes his first start off the claim for Rudy Rodriguez following a race where he had a strange trip. At one point, he was six-wide in a seven-horse field, and he was still beaten less than two lengths. His usual race would make him very difficult to beat, and given my approach to the fourth race, I had to take another stand somewhere.

That fourth race, for my money, is the toughest race on Saturday’s Aqueduct program. It’s an incredibly competitive turf event, and I didn’t have a clue. Thanks to my two singles, I can buy the race, so if we get through my cold double, we’ll be one leg away from cashing.

The fifth race is a turf sprint for New York-breds, and I went two-deep to finish things out. #9 MISSION COMMAND took to the turf well last time out, running away with a claiming race at Belmont. Javier Castellano rides back, and I’m using him, but my top pick is actually #6 PSYCHIC ENERGY, who probably found seven furlongs a bit too long last time out. His four races before that effort were all quite good, and in those races, he beat several horses that also show up in this spot. Hopefully, he can win and get this ticket home at a bit of a price.

$0.50 Pick Four: Race #6

R6: 4,5,6,9,11
R7: 6,7
R8: 5,9
R9: 4,10,12,13

80 Bets, $40

I did not think this was an easy sequence. The bookends of this sequence could go any number of different ways, and if you’ve got deeper pockets or a mid-sequence single, the “ALL” button may be your friend.

The sixth is a maiden event on the turf, and a number of these exit the same few races. #9 UNLEVERAGED will likely be favored in his debut for Chad Brown, but I thought there were others in here with big chances. Of note, #11 WICKED TRICK ran really well at bonkers odds in his debut at Kentucky Downs and was the victim of a surface switch last time out in the Grade 3 Bourbon at Keeneland. He’s 10-1 on the morning line, and that seems like way too big a price.

I’m using the two favorites in the two middle legs. I prefer #6 SCARLY CHARLY over #7 WILL DID IT in the seventh, largely due to the class drop and the switch to Joel Rosario. Meanwhile, in the eighth (the Artie Schiller), I think the only entrant that can beat #9 DELTA PRINCE is #5 BLACKTYPE, who seeks his third consecutive victory.

That brings us to the finale, which boasts a field of 14 maidens. #13 MISS HOT STONES seems logical on paper, but she was beaten at 1/2 at this level last time out. Maybe she’s just better than these, and I’m using her, but I can’t back her with any enthusiasm. The first-time starter that most intrigues me is #12 QUEENOFEVERYTHING, who’s been working very well at Saratoga and attracts Jose Ortiz. If Miss Hot Stones does not fire, it’s anyone’s race, and the works lead me to believe this daughter of Pomeroy could have some talent.

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$0.50 Pick Five: Race #1

R1: 1,2,3,9
R3: 3
R4: 8
R5: 2,3

64 Bets, $32

Right off the bat, I’m going against a likely favorite. That’s #4 LITTLE JUANITO, who’s made a career out of collecting minor checks. He’s had chances, he’s taken money, and at this point, I’m going to try to beat him. The three horses to his inside will all get some play, but #9 DRAMATIC VICTORY is my price play at 20-1. She runs against the boys here and showed speed in her debut down the hill. She faded, but Kent Desormeaux did not persevere with her when he knew she was beaten. Here, she gets top gate rider Edwin Maldonado, and she may be the one they’ve got to catch turning for home.

If we get the likely favorite beat in the opener, we’ll be two-fifths of the way home. I found the second race fascinating, and I needed maximum coverage. None of the eight entrants would be a shock, so I’m sitting back and hoping for a price.

Like at Aqueduct, I’ve got a cold double on my Pick Five ticket. My first single may be the shortest-priced favorite of the day. That’s #3 HELEN’S TIGER, who drops in for a tag and has back form. Anything close to her race two back would make her incredibly difficult to beat, and even her race three back would probably be good enough. If you can forgive the last-out clunker, which may have just been a bounce, she looks tough.

The fourth is a grass grab bag, and I’m taking a stand with #8 JERSEY’S HEAT. He improved considerably at second asking, and despite some trouble negotiating the dirt crossing, he rallied for third and earned a 67 Beyer Speed Figure. A repeat is probably good enough to win in this spot, which doesn’t feature many other horses with proven turf form. If he doesn’t win, I don’t know who does.

The payoff leg is the Saturday feature at Del Mar. It’s the $100,000 Desi Arnaz, and I’m taking a stand against another likely favorite. #6 DREAM TREE was all-out at 4/5 last time out, and while she could improve, the Bob Baffert barn is ice-cold this meet, and I’ll look elsewhere. #2 MS BAD BEHAVIOR chased two top-class fillies in her first two starts before breaking through last time out, and in that race, she overcame some trouble, which is encouraging. I’ll also use #3 MIDNIGHT BISOU, who nearly caught Dream Tree in her debut and attracts Rafael Bejarano.

$0.50 Pick Four: Race #6

R6: 1,3,6,7,9
R7: 4,5
R8: 3,4,8,9
R9: 1,8

80 Bets, $40

Yep, another Pick Four ticket with no singles. I think you need lots of coverage, and nowhere is that more evident than in the sixth. This is a wide-open turf sprint, and I’ve gone five-deep. I’m most intrigued by #7 BOWIE, who almost definitely needed her last race off a long layoff and figures to be the main speed in this spot. She could easily take a leap forward for Richard Mandella, and if she does, she could start off the sequence at a price.

I’ll use the two favorites in the seventh, a confusing starter allowance with many horses that have not won in a while. #4 PARTY HOSTESS just missed last time out and runs for red-hot trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, while #5 GO ON MARY has significant back class and lost all chance at the break last time out.

We go back to the turf for the eighth race, and while #4 RADIO SILENCE may be the buzz horse, I don’t think he’s unbeatable. There isn’t much quality speed signed on, and that could bode well for #3 FLY TO MARS, who cruised home in his turf debut and could get first run at the tiring pace-setters around the far turn.

Finally, I’ll use the bookends in the Saturday finale. #1 BRADDOCK generally runs the same race every time out, while #8 MAKE IT A TRIPLE loves Del Mar and is wheeled right back by trainer Mike Machowsky, who has quietly had a very strong year (he’s hitting at 20%).