SARATOGA RACE COURSE: Analysis, Selections, and Bankroll (8/23/20)


BANKROLL: $691.50

The Grade 1 Diana may not have come up big on field size, but it came up huge on talent. Chad Brown trainees Rushing Fall and Sistercharlie are a combined 20-for-29 lifetime, while Mean Mary has won three graded stakes races in a row and Starship Jubilee is 18-for-36 with $1.6 million in career earnings.

As handicappers, we tend to whine and complain when things aren’t perfect (to be fair, that happens a lot). However, to do that with any credibility in situations that matter, we need to stop and realize when things are good. Yes, six-horse fields are not ideal, but on the other hand, what top-flight horses from this division are missing?

The Sunday feature is a legitimate Grade 1 race with several Breeders’ Cup-caliber horses. I’m really excited to see these older turf distaffers go postward.

SATURDAY’S RESULTS: My Pick Five was cancelled when multiple undercard races came off the turf (remember, all bets for turf races assume they stay there). Happy Hill Lil, meanwhile, was a closer on a day where you wanted your horse to be on or near the lead. I dropped $10.

SUNDAY’S PLAY: I’ll lean on the Grand Slam, since I like #5 SISTERCHARLIE enough to single her in the Diana. My $1 ticket starts in the fifth race and reads as follows: 4,5,7 with 1,2,5 with 1,3 with 5. I’ll also key Sistercharlie in a $10 late double starting in the eighth that singles #3 ALLIED INVASION in the finale.



Best Bet: No Salt, Race 4
Longshot: High Command, Race 5


Uptown Flirt
Black Sand
Simply the Best

#5 UPTOWN FLIRT: Is the lone runner in here with experience going two turns, and she ran just fine in that race. She was third that day, and the runner-up from that event came back to just miss behind a promising Chad Brown trainee a few days ago; #6 BLACK SAND: Is one of many regally-bred Chad Brown runners to debut going long on turf this meet. She certainly could win this, but she comes in off of just three works in the past month, and that means she might need a race; #2 SIMPLY THE BEST: Fetched $175,000 at auction earlier this year and has every right to be a runner. She’s by fast-rising sire Constitution and is a half-sister to a horse named Guns Loaded, who won a Grade 3 on the grass.


Wicksters Dream
Mission Wrapitup

#7 SCORING: Likely needed his last race, which doubled as his first outing since August. He drops back in against claimers of his own age group in this race, and the outside post combined with his tactical speed could give jockey David Cohen plenty of options; #3 WICKSTERS DREAM: Has won two in a row and thumped a weaker group last month at this route. He goes from one astute barn to another, and this is a horse that may be figuring things out on his way up the ladder; #4 MISSION WRAPITUP: Runs for a tag for the first time after fading to fourth against state-bred allowance foes going slightly longer. He’s run well in several state-bred stakes races and is dropped in for the tag by aggressive connections who do this often here.


Fifth Risk
American West
Jade Empress

#5 FIFTH RISK: Comes in off a pair of head-turning works for the legendary Pletcher/Velazquez tag team. She’s by promising young sire Outwork, and if the strong gate drills are any indication, she’s got all the talent it takes to win at first asking; #3 AMERICAN WEST: Hammered for $925,000 last year at Keeneland and is bred to be special. She’s by Curlin and out of Grade 3 winner Jacaranda, who herself is a half-sister to Constitution. The hesitation comes because she initially shipped north to Monmouth, which is where Chad Brown’s second-stringers usually go; #6 JADE EMPRESS: Earned a bullet for her most recent work on August 13th, and she’s got enough solid drills to suggest that wasn’t a fluke. Bill Mott’s runners often need a race or two to get going, and she’s bred to go a bit longer than this route, but if she’s ready, she’s got every right to run well.


No Salt
False Alarm
Supply Sider

#2 NO SALT: Will likely be a very heavy favorite, and for good reason. He ran a good second in his first start for a tag earlier this month, and this doesn’t seem like nearly as strong a group as the one he faced that day; #7 FALSE ALARM: Was very headstrong in the same race my top pick exits, so I’m willing to draw a line through that effort. His two-back race at Belmont was pretty solid, and another run like that likely gets him a big piece of this; #4 SUPPLY SIDER: Took a while to get going last time out but did enough to salvage fourth in his first start around two turns. With only two prior efforts to this point, maybe he’s got more room to improve.


Cold Hard Cash
High Command
Six Percent

#7 COLD HARD CASH: Has a record that looks far better if you toss the two-back effort, one that preceded a layoff of longer than six months. He broke his maiden last time out and tries two turns for the first time here. He’s got plenty of bottom-side distance pedigree, so I think he’ll embrace the added ground; #4 HIGH COMMAND: Hasn’t run in a while and didn’t show much in four outings at Aqueduct, but the return to two turns should be music to his ears. He won four times last fall at Finger Lakes going a similar route, and all of his races at Aqueduct were run at one-turn configurations; #5 SIX PERCENT: Hasn’t won in more than a year but ran an OK third in his first time going two turns last month. This is his third start off of a long layoff, and he could be coming to hand for trainer Jimmy Jerkens.


Madam Deputy (MTO)
Towering Gaze
Silent Empress

#1 TOWERING GAZE: Drops into the maiden claiming ranks for the first time after three OK efforts against state-bred maiden special weight foes. It seems like she’s found a soft group for the level, and this barn has been picking up steam over the past week; #5 SILENT EMPRESS: May not have had the best trip in her debut, when she was boxed in most of the stretch run. I don’t know how much that trouble really cost her, but she’s certainly eligible to improve and Rosario sees fit to ride back; #2 HIGH SCHOOL CRUSH: Just missed against similar last time out and figures to once again do her best running late. Based on figures, she’s a contender, but she’s had plenty of chances and may not get as much early pace as she wants.


Free Enterprise
Big Engine
Pete’s Play Call

#3 FREE ENTERPRISE: Gets one more shot from me after possibly bouncing a bit last time out. He was fifth against a pretty strong group for that level, and that day’s runner-up has since come back to win. Improvement third off the bench wouldn’t be a shock; #1 BIG ENGINE: Always seems to fire and may have run a career-best race last time out. This is another step up in class out of the state-bred ranks, but it’s tough to say he doesn’t deserve a shot against these given his recent form; #6 PETE’S PLAY CALL: Responded to the drop in class with a win last time out, and his new connections step him back up the ladder here. He’s 3-for-3 at Saratoga, and his tactical speed should ensure jockey Luis Saez will be able to work out a favorable trip.


Starship Jubilee
Rushing Fall

#5 SISTERCHARLIE: Likely needed her return to the races in the Grade 2 Ballston Spa, where she was third in a race that was likely shorter than she wants to go. Between the added distance, improved readiness, and the pace scenario, she looms large in her attempt at a third straight win in the Grade 1 Diana; #4 STARSHIP JUBILEE: Ran her win streak to four in a row in the Ballston Spa and has done lots right over the past few seasons. Her recent string of victories includes two at today’s distance, and she may be in career-best form; #3 RUSHING FALL: Has assembled a resume that could get her in the Hall of Fame someday. She’s 10-for-13 lifetime, with Grade 1 wins in four straight seasons, but this may be a bit longer than she wants to go and she may have company up front in the form of #6 MEAN MARY.


Allied Invasion
Nero’s Fiddle

#3 ALLIED INVASION: Ran reasonably well when third in his debut earlier this month. Pay attention to how No Salt, that day’s runner-up, performs in the fourth. A strong performance by him may mean good things for this one; #5 NERO’S FIDDLE: Has run fourth twice against similar foes and gets a big rider switch to Luis Saez. Blinkers come on as well, and I think he may show significantly more early zip than he has in the past; #6 AINTITFUNKYNOW: Didn’t do much running here last month in his first try at this level. His two and three-back efforts at Belmont, though, would make him a major player if he can channel that form; the question is, is he the type of horse that’s better around one turn?

SARATOGA RACE COURSE: Analysis, Selections, and Bankroll (8/22/20)


BANKROLL: $701.50

An excellent piece written by Ray Paulick and Natalie Voss in The Paulick Report implicated trainer Wayne Potts as being in cahoots with Marcus Vitali. According to this article, Potts has been acting as a “paper trainer” for Vitali, whose rap sheet is as long as the newspaper this piece is printed in.

Potts has been barred from running at certain tracks, including Laurel Park, Charles Town, Delaware Park, and Parx. However, the New York Racing Association allowed him to run a horse on Friday’s program. Naturally, that entrant, Our Destiny, won the opener at odds of 9-1.

Optics matter in this sport, perhaps now more than ever. This is a bad look, and is one of many reasons we need some sense of uniformity among circuits around the country. Bad apples need to be thrown out entirely, and those who associate with those bad apples need to be made aware of the consequences of their actions.

FRIDAY’S RESULTS: My Man Flintstone never made the lead and was wrapped up late while well out of it. I dropped $25.

SATURDAY’S PLAY: I’ll primarily focus on the early Pick Five. My 50-cent ticket starts in the opener and reads thusly: 1,3 with 2,4 with 5,6 with 1,6 with 3,7,9. I’ll also put a $10 win bet on my longshot of the day, #8 HAPPY HILL LIL in the sixth.



Best Bet: Sifting Sands, Race 5
Longshot: Happy Hill Lil, Race 6


After Five
My Sea Cottage

#3 AFTER FIVE: Has several very strong works leading up to his unveiling for world-class 2-year-old conditioner Wesley Ward. He’s by strong turf sire The Factor, and looms large as a very logical favorite in the Saturday opener; #1 FOLIAGE: Is bred up and down to be a runner. He’s by Speightstown and out of a mare by Galileo, and the most recent workout on August 13th was a head-turning half-mile drill; #7 MY SEA COTTAGE: Didn’t do much running in his debut downstate, but he’s bred up and down for turf and should improve on what’s likely his desired surface. Joel Rosario sees fit to ride back for Mark Casse.


Macho Jack

#4 AIRTOUCH: Is a puzzling case in his return to the races off a long layoff. Given the multiple breaks, it’s safe to assume he’s had his issues, and this is a big drop, but it’s also far from the strongest $25,000 claimer NYRA will card this summer; #2 MACHO JACK: Took a step forward when breaking his maiden off the bench earlier this month. This is his first outing against winners, but there’s a chance he’s starting to figure things out and, as mentioned, this isn’t a salty spot; #3 KILMARKNOCK: Put forth a career-best effort when topping state-bred maiden claimers a few weeks ago. This is a step up in class, but the barn has done well this meet and he could benefit from a fast pace.


Blindwillie McTell (MTO)
French Reef

#5 FRENCH REEF: Ran a very big race at this route last month to break his maiden. He bucked a trend of front-runners not finishing well by romping that day and earning a 92 Beyer Speed Figure. Any improvement from that race would make him very, very tough; #6 CRYOGENIC: Just missed at this level earlier in the meet and faces several foes he topped that day in this event. He was a bit closer to the pace than usual in that race, and it wouldn’t be shocking to see him rate behind a speed duel here; #1 FAST GETAWAY: Did all the dirty work in the race my second selection exits, but was third beaten a head. The inside draw is a plus given his gate speed, but I doubt he’ll be alone on the front end going into the turn.


Heavy Roller
Super Dude

#6 HEAVY ROLLER: Stretches back out to two turns, drops in class, and lands in a race with plenty of early zip on paper. That seems like exactly the scenario this closer wants, and the faster they go early, the better his chances figure to be; #1 THEBIGFUNDAMENTAL: Is another dropper, and likely needed his return race off a long layoff earlier in the meet. His best efforts have come going long; the question is, is he past his prime as a 7-year-old?; #3 SUPER DUDE: Faded against better horses earlier this summer and is yet another taking a big drop down the class ladder. Based on numbers, he fits, but he’s won just once in the last 10 months and finished behind my top pick earlier this year at Churchill Downs.


Sifting Sands
Mo Mischief (MTO)
Snow’s Island

#3 SIFTING SANDS: Has a world-class turf pedigree, as evidenced by his sky-high 407 turf Tomlinson rating. Seeing turf numbers greater than 400 is very rare, and trainer Chad Brown unveiled a similar horse, Public Sector, with great success last weekend; #7 SNOW’S ISLAND: Is one of two first-time starters trained by Graham Motion, and they both appear well-meant. He’s out of Grade 2 winner Tuttipaesi and has been working consistently ahead of his debut; #9 EXCURSION: Hammered for $325,000 at Keeneland last year and is bred to be any kind. He’s a half-brother to Preakness winner Oxbow, and dam Tizamazing is herself a full sister to both two-time Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Tiznow and multiple graded stakes winner Budroyale.


Happy Hill Lil
Love Me Tomorrow
Shenandoah River

#8 HAPPY HILL LIL: Looks far better if you toss her last-out clunker. She’s worked twice since being eased out of that race, and her two and three-back efforts both indicate she’ll come running late at a big price; #5 LOVE ME TOMORROW: Got what seemed like a perfect setup against similar company last time out but could only manage to hang on for third. She looks like the controlling speed, and she’ll be a pretty short price, but the “fade” pattern she’s established is a big red flag; #7 SHENANDOAH RIVER: Debuts for Kelly Breen and may not have to be much to pick up a check at first asking. Her recent workouts look pretty sharp, and this barn can get horses ready to run right away.


Lonesome Fugitive
Maker entry

#7 LONESOME FUGITIVE: Ran second in a weird race last month that saw a run-off leader set unsustainable fractions. He didn’t run badly in defeat that day and looms large assuming more unconventional events don’t transpire; MAKER ENTRY: I prefer #1 TURN OF EVENTS, who responded to a drop in class with a win last time out. This is a jump back up the ladder, but he’s got plenty of early speed and the rail draw could allow him to make the lead out of the gate; #8 KINGMEISTER: Was third in the race my top pick exits, and that was his first start in six months. Again, the race shape likely won’t repeat itself here, but there’s plenty to like second off the bench for Shug McGaughey.


Winston’s Chance
Repole entry
Growth Engine

#5 WINSTON’S CHANCE: Has never missed the board in four starts at Saratoga. He’s won here twice and was a very good second in a tough race for the level last time out. He could get first run on tiring pace-setters turning for home, and he may be a bit of a price; REPOLE ENTRY: #1 BLEWITT was third behind next-out graded stakes winner Cross Border in the Lubash on turf earlier in the meet. He has speed but doesn’t need the lead to run well, and that’s a good thing given the abundance of early speed in this field; #2 GROWTH ENGINE: Cruised home at Monmouth in her first start since last July and steps up in class here. He could certainly step forward, but Monmouth is usually where Chad Brown keeps his second-stringers and he’ll likely be a short price.


Raging Bull

#6 UNI: Almost certainly needed her return race in the Grade 1 Just A Game downstate. She rated well behind a slow early pace and settled for third that day, but I think she’ll be more fully-cranked here. Last year’s Breeders’ Cup Mile winner looks like the one to hold off late in the Grade 1 Fourstardave; #1 RAGING BULL: Won the Grade 1 Shoemaker Mile two back at Santa Anita and was a close-up third in the Grade 1 Maker’s Mark Mile at Keeneland last time out. He was second in this race a season ago and could certainly win on his best day; #5 HALLADAY: Inexplicably conceded the early lead in the Grade 2 Bernard Baruch last time out, which made no sense considering his impressive front-running scores at Gulfstream two and three back. He’ll need to outbreak #4 GOT STORMY to make the lead, but he’ll be dangerous if he’s allowed to sit his preferred trip.


Scotty Brown

#9 RAKEEZ: Is a reluctant top pick in a tricky Saturday finale. He ran well to break his maiden last time out, but that was in January and he takes a curious drop in for a tag after weeks of works at Monmouth. Still, this isn’t a strong race for the level, and a repeat of his last-out effort likely beats these; #6 SCOTTY BROWN: Seems like the main speed in here and put it all together off a long break last time out at Belmont. That was his first start in more than a year, and he’s run well going two turns on turf in the past; #5 BATTALION: Was second behind a next-out winner early in the meet and drops into the claiming ranks for Bill Mott. He won his only other start against claimers and may not need to be so far back early on in this spot.

Saratoga Race Course Analysis, Selections, and Bankroll: Travers Day (8/26/17)

BANKROLL: $851.50

Happy Travers Day, everyone! Before we get into the antics and shenanigans, I’d genuinely like to wish all of you luck. This may be the best wagering card we see all year in New York, and there’s no shortage of live longshots on the program.

That said, I have to chuckle at NYRA’s “no running” edict. As I mentioned last year around this time, all it apparently takes to turn some at the track into middle school hall monitors is one big day. No running? What about jogging, speed-walking, power-walking, or cantering? Where, precisely, is the line drawn?

FRIDAY’S RESULTS: We extended our winning streak in this section to three by maximizing value on Sunset Ridge. Our Pick Five connected for $1, our Pick Four hit for 50 cents, and our $40 investment returned $155 and change.

SATURDAY’S PLAY: Remember how I said there’s no shortage of longshots? I’ll play four horses to win and place, and it may only take one winner for it to be a profitable day. The horses I’ll put #5 to win and place on are as follows: KABANG (Race 2), PROFITEER (Race 5), WEST COAST (Race 11), and MOHICAN (Race 13).



Best Bet: Songbird, Race 6
Longshot: Kabang, Race 2


Good Magic
High North

GOOD MAGIC: Was a million dollar baby at last year’s Keeneland September sale, and for good reason. He’s by Curlin, and boasts a female family that’s one of the best you’ll ever see. He’s worked to that breeding and should be ready; HAZIT: Is another that’s bred to run and debuts for high-percentage connections. His dam was a graded stakes-winning sprinter, and he’s got every right to be precocious; HIGH NORTH: Is a half to Grade 2 winner Benner Island and has a pair of strong local workouts. Irad Ortiz likely had options, and he lands on this $230k yearling purchase.


Uncle Mojo (MTO)
Focus Group

KABANG: Has won three of his last four, with the most recent victory coming earlier this meet in a swiftly-run starter allowance. There’s some pace signed on here, which bodes well for this one’s late kick; FOCUS GROUP: Broke through at third asking last time out, graduation in a much longer race. Irad stays aboard for Chad Brown, and at least you know the distance shouldn’t be a problem; RICHMOND STREET: Ran a clunker last time out, but that was his second race off a long layoff, so it could’ve just been a bounce. His race two back was solid, and he ran well here twice last summer. DIRT SELECTIONS: UNCLE MOJO, HOLIDAY BONUS, SON OF A SAINT.


Strike Me Down

NEEPAWA: Was a fast-closing third in his debut, which came at this route. The post position is a problem, but of those that have run before, he boasts the most impressive effort; STRIKE ME DOWN: Is bred up and down to be a strong turf horse. His dam won a Grade 2 on turf and threw Grade 3 winner Golden Sabre, and this gray has turned heads in the mornings; CHIRPING: Ran a sneaky race in his debut, rallying late for fifth and showing he likely wants more ground. He gets that in this spot and can’t be ignored at a price.


Candid Desire

OSTROLENKA: Has run some of his best races since being claimed earlier this year by David Jacobson. He was a close-up second at this route against a solid sprinter, and the likely race shape sets up for a closer like him; STICKSSTATELYDUDE: Returns to the races after a nine-month break and has back class that must be respected. This is certainly shorter than he wants to go, but he did break his maiden going six furlongs here as a 2-year-old; CANDID DESIRE: Is another that merits a look given the likely shape of the race (not to mention his likely odds). He ran fourth to Stallwalkin’ Dude last time out after a brief freshening, and a quick look at the running lines shows he beat THREEFIVEINDIA (who could be the favorite or second choice here) three back.


Ray’s The Bar

CLOONTIA: Showed a new dimension last time out, rating well off the leader and rallying to win a lesser allowance race. He steps up in class, but this is a horse that likes to win, and these connections merit respect; PROFITEER: Hasn’t been seen since April, when he trailed in the Grade 3 Transylvania. It’s possible he just didn’t take to the Keeneland turf course, and he’s a major player if he runs back to his other grass races; RAY’S THE BAR: Almost certainly needed his 2017 debut, so I’m drawing a line through it. He’s been gelded since that effort, and he has significant back class.


Forever Unbridled
Going for Broke

SONGBIRD: Is the length of Beholder’s nose away from being undefeated and will go for her 10th Grade 1 victory here. No other rival has the early speed to go with her, and I think she’ll be incredibly tough to run down late; FOREVER UNBRIDLED: Is extremely tough on her best day. Remember, she was beaten less than two lengths by Songbird in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Distaff, and while the race shape doesn’t figure to help her, she could come running late; GOING FOR BROKE: Made stablemate Carina Mia work last time out in the Shine Again, and that distance was shorter than she’s accustomed to going. She chased Songbird in last year’s Alabama and figures to get a piece of this purse as well.


Carina Mia
Highway Star

PAULASSILVERLINING: Has won four in a row, including the Grade 2 Honorable Miss earlier this meet. There’s a shocking lack of early speed signed on here, and she could sit a dream trip on or near a slow pace; CARINA MIA: Fended off a game stablemate at this route earlier in the month and could improve in her second start for Chad Brown. The issue here is that my top selection has beaten her in both of their prior meetings; HIGHWAY STAR: Is 3-for-3 going seven furlongs and chased Songbird and Paid Up Subscriber home last time out in the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps. If you’re looking for a longshot, you could do a lot worse than a horse that’s 7-for-11 lifetime (with one loss coming in a turf race).


American Anthem
Coal Front
Practical Joke

AMERICAN ANTHEM: Returns to New York for his first start since an easy win in the Grade 2 Woody Stephens on Belmont Day. He’s 3-for-3 around one turn, and a repeat of the effort we saw in June would make him very tough to beat; COAL FRONT: Is 3-for-3 and most recently took down the Grade 2 Amsterdam. He showed maturity that day, slowing down to take a breath after setting a fast pace and speeding up again to repel a late challenge. These are deep waters, but he’s given me nothing to knock so far; PRACTICAL JOKE: Missed by a half-length in the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational, finishing behind two horses that will contest the Travers. He won last year’s Grade 1 Hopeful at this route and has improved since then, but the rail draw isn’t ideal.


Mind Your Biscuits
Divining Rod

MIND YOUR BISCUITS: Has developed into one of the top dirt sprinters on the planet. His win in Dubai two back was sensational, and this seven-furlong distance suits him perfectly; DREFONG: Won both the Breeders’ Cup Sprint and King’s Bishop last year, but his 2017 season has not gone smoothly. He dumped Mike Smith in the Bing Crosby, and while horse and rider were fine, the workouts since then have been on the slow side. His best race probably wins, but can he channel that form?; DIVINING ROD: Came back running last time out in his 2017 debut, crushing an overmatched field at Laurel Park. He just missed in last year’s Cigar Mile, and he seems best of the rest here.


Money Multiplier

IDAHO: Was third behind two of Europe’s best horses last time out in a Group 1 at Ascot. Enable may be the best horse in Europe regardless of gender, while Ulysses is eyeing the Breeders’ Cup Turf. By comparison, this is a softer spot, and these connections can ship in and win these races; MONEY MULTIPLIER: Started his 2017 campaign in fine fashion last time out with a Grade 2 win at Monmouth. Improvement is logical second off such a long layoff, and this one was second to Flintshire in last year’s running of this race; ERUPT: Is a cut below Europe’s best, but he won the Grade 1 Canadian International last fall at Woodbine. His effort two back in Group 1 company was solid, and he’s a contender on his best day.


West Coast
Good Samaritan

WEST COAST: Has developed into Bob Baffert’s top 3-year-old colt after back-to-back stakes wins on opposite coasts. His running style suggests he’ll handle this distance just fine, and he gets my top pick in a very confusing renewal of the Travers; GOOD SAMARITAN: Beat the Derby and Preakness winners with an authoritative performance in the Jim Dandy, which doubled as his dirt debut. Figure-wise, that was a new career-best race by a considerable amount, and he could win with a repeat performance; TAPWRIT: Was last seen winning the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes in June. The layoff is a concern, as is the Haskell performance of Belmont runner-up Irish War Cry, but he’s trained well of late and can’t be ignored.


Lady Eli

LADY ELI: Was a surprise entrant in this race following her victory in the Grade 1 Diana. That win came after she and her stablemate (more on her shortly) broke through the starting gate before the race, and she’s strictly the one to beat; ANTONOE: Did not have a good day when last seen, breaking through the gate and sitting a strange trip. Still, she was only beaten a length by my top pick, and her win two back in the Just A Game was scary good; DICKINSON: May inherit the early lead by default. She misfired in the Diana, but her best race certainly gets her a share.


All About Voodoo

MOHICAN: Hasn’t run well in two local starts this summer, but I think you can toss both of those races. The race two back came off a long layoff, and his last-out effort came on dirt. Given the class drop, I think he’s live at a nice price; ALL ABOUT VOODOO: Showed speed earlier in the meet going much longer against a better group. The class drop is sensible, and keep him in mind if Focus Group (that race’s winner) comes back with a good effort in Saturday’s second race; PROGNOSTICATION: Had every chance at this level last time out, but was forced to settle for third in a so-so group. He’ll take money given the connections, and his best race puts him right there, but this may be a spot to shop around for some value.

Belmont Park Analysis, Selections, and Tickets: Stars and Stripes Day (7/8/17)

Saturday is Stars and Stripes Day at Belmont Park, and it’s produced a stellar card with top-quality racing and ample wagering opportunities. I’ll profile the Pick Five and late Pick Four, and hopefully we can build on Tuesday’s success, which included a Pick Five score at Santa Anita. One note: This analysis assumes races scheduled for the turf stay there.

Here’s how I’ll play the card!

$0.50 Pick Five: Race #1

R1: 4
R2: 1,7
R3: 2,8
R4: 1,8,9,10
R5: 1,5,7,11

64 Bets, $32

Don’t get too excited thinking we’ll get a price on my single, because I have a VERY difficult time believing we’ll get 6-1 on Le Pin. This colt hasn’t been seen since a solid December debut, where he faded to third in a race won by eventual stakes winner Classic Rock. He’s bred up and down for the turf and should improve in his second start for trainer Todd Pletcher; if we get the listed odds, I’ll be very happy to bet him.

I think the second and third races each come down to two betting interests. I actually preferred 3-1 second choice Bareeqa to 2-1 favorite Selenite before the latter scratched. I’ll substitute a two-horse entry that could be well-meant. Moving to the middle leg, Base Command and National Flag are entered in the third and look like promising 2-year-olds.

I’ll spread in the last two legs, and in doing so, I’ll be alive to a few big prices. 20-1 bomb Kitty Maddnes steps up in class in the fourth, but does so off of an impressive win in her second start of the year. Another step forward would make her a contender at a big price. Additionally, Arghad has never run a truly bad race in six career starts. The cutback he’ll get in Saturday’s fifth should help this 15-1 shot, and I think he’ll be live at a nice number.

$0.50 Pick Four: Race #7

R7: 2
R8: 7,8,12
R9: 2,6
R10: ALL

66 Bets, $33

This is an all-stakes Pick Four that includes both Grade 1 races on the Saturday program, as well as a pair of Grade 2 affairs that feature some of the best older horses in the country. I’ll start off with a single, as Mind Your Biscuits seems to have a picture-perfect setup in the Belmont Sprint Championship. Green Gratto and Unified will both be gunning for the lead, which should play into the hands of the returning Dubai Golden Shaheen winner. He loves this seven-furlong distance, and I think he’ll be extremely tough to beat.

The eighth is the Belmont Oaks, and I’m using all three of Chad Brown’s entrants (he had four, but Fifty Five scratched). Sistercharlie ran a tremendous race against much better horses overseas last out, while New Money Honey showed a new dimension when racing on the lead in her Wonder Again win and Uni has been training very well. Meanwhile, I was tempted to single Shaman Ghost in the Suburban, as he does figure to be the best horse in the race. However, I can’t shake the possibility of Matt King Coal getting loose on the front end and wiring the field. As such, I had to use him (thankfully, the ticket isn’t too expensive!).

This leads us to the Belmont Derby. It’s the main event of Stars and Stripes Day, $1.2 million is on the line…and I’m waving the white flag. For my money, this is the most wide-open race on the card. I can make a valid case for as many as seven or eight of these runners, and given that I have plenty of room in my budget, I’m going to hit the “ALL” button to buy myself some security. Even if the first few legs are chalky, this Pick Four has solid potential, as the Belmont Derby favorite may not go off much higher than 3-1 or 7/2.

Belmont Park Analysis, Selections, and Tickets (6/24/17), PLUS: Betting the Ohio Derby on a Budget

After responses to an impromptu Twitter poll, I’ve taken a look at Saturday’s card at Belmont Park, as well as the $500,000 Ohio Derby. Unfortunately, the vote was conducted before strong overnight rain swept through Long Island, and as such, the Belmont card has been ravaged by scratches and races taken off the turf. If you came Friday or early Saturday morning, you saw Pick Five and Pick Four tickets that no longer apply. Below are my updated efforts, as well as an attempt to play the Ohio Derby on a $20 budget.

$0.50 Pick Five: Race #1, Belmont Park

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

72 Bets, $36

My opening leg single scratched due to the mud, and two races within the sequence (the third and the fifth) came off the turf. I’m going two-deep to start, using Kissin Cassie and Bellelarama (the latter of whom moves up significantly on a wet track). My original ticket had Giant Ending in the second leg, but I threw her out due to her recent poor race in the slop. I’m still three-deep there, and I likely have the three betting favorites.

We’re down to a field of four in the third race, and I think it’s a match race between Puca and Jewels N Rome. I added Shoot the Gap into the fourth leg (to go along with likely betting favorites Basic Hero and Won’t Burn), and I’m two-deep in the payoff leg. Frostie Anne has strong dirt form (especially if you toss her clunkers over the inner track at Aqueduct, which she clearly does not like), and Treatherlikestar won at first asking on dirt before trying races that were simply too tough.

$0.50 Pick Four: Race #7, Belmont Park

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

40 Bets, $20

I thought this was a great sequence when all races were projected to stay on the turf. However, the last two races (one of which is still on turf) are still extremely wide-open. If we can get a price home in one or both of those races, this could pay more than you think.

I was really looking forward to the seventh when it was on turf, as I didn’t like probable favorite Elenzee. We’re down to a field of four, and main-track-only entrant Broken Engagement looks very tough. There’s no other early speed left in the race, and I think he’ll have things all his own way on the front end at a short price.

The second of two back-to-back singles comes in the Saturday feature. The eighth race is the Wild Applause, and while some quality fillies have signed on, I think Rubilinda could be a different kind of animal. It’s not easy to rate at first asking, but this regally-bred daughter of Frankel did just that and won going away. Improvement is logical at second asking, and I think she could be a very nice turf filly for Chad Brown, who seems to have a barn full of them.

This structure allows us to spread in the last two legs, which is good because, as mentioned, they’re not easy. The two Chad Brown trainees (Call Provision and Converge) may be best in the ninth, but the former comes off a layoff and the latter is untested at this distance, so I opted for a bit more coverage. Meanwhile, the last race is complete and total chaos given the move to dirt. None of these horses have much in the way of proven form, so I’ve bought the race and will hope for a price if we can get to that point.


In handicapping the Ohio Derby, I took the approach that the Kentucky Derby is a complete throw-out for all horses who ran there. None of them ran well that day, for various reasons, and the wet track certainly didn’t make things any easier.

Girvin is certainly a logical favorite, and he’s my top pick and exacta key. His races prior to the Derby were pretty sharp, and much was made about foot issues he had leading up to that race. He’s worked well since the Derby, and most recently fired a five-furlong bullet drill on June 17th.

The other horse I’ll use in my bigger exacta play is Untrapped. He hasn’t won in a while, but I firmly believe he could sit a dream trip in this race. There isn’t much early speed, and he’s shown an ability to be forwardly placed. He’s a decent price (9/2) on the morning line, and he could produce some value in the exotics.

I’ll also throw in the three-horse entry of Talk Less, Vibe, and Game Over, as well as Blue Grass winner Irap. Of the entry, I most prefer Vibe, who has yet to run a bad race in four starts this season and whose speed figures are on an upward trend. I actually took a flyer on him two back at Charles Town, and he ran a sneaky-good race that day at 28-1 considering how much he struggled going into the first turn.

Meanwhile, I’m not crazy about Irap, who may be overbet given his perfect-trip win in the Blue Grass two back. However, with the relative lack of early zip signed on, there’s a chance he gets that trip again. As such, I need to at least throw him into my smaller exacta play.


$4 exacta box: 3,5 ($8)
$2 exacta key box: 5 w/1,2,3 ($12, $20)