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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AQUEDUCT

$0.50 Pick Five: Race #1

R1: 1,2,4,5
R2: 6
R3: 4
R4: ALL
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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DEL MAR

$0.50 Pick Five: Race #1

R1: 1,2,3,9
R2: ALL
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%).

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

Just because the Breeders’ Cup is over doesn’t mean that quality racing has taken a holiday. In fact, Aqueduct, Laurel, and Del Mar all have compelling Saturday cards with plenty of wagering opportunities, and I’ve got multi-race tickets at all three tracks. One caveat: It’s supposed to be very cold on the east coast, and it’s not impossible that turf races get moved to the main track. If that happens, my analysis for the turf races at Aqueduct and Laurel becomes irrelevant.

AQUEDUCT

$0.50 Pick Five: Race #1

R1: 1,2,4,6,9
R2: 3,10
R3: 3,9
R4: 7,12,13
R5: 7

60 Bets, $30

Aqueduct’s bookends, for my money, are two of the three toughest races of the entire day across the three tracks I looked at. If you’ve got deeper pockets and want to punch the “ALL” button to start the Pick Five (or, for that matter, skip the Pick Five and play the early Pick Four), I absolutely get it. I narrowed it down to five horses, and I hope that’s enough coverage.

The second race is a fun turf affair, and your likely favorite is #10 RAPPEL, who breaks from the far outside and drops down in class. The drop is substantial, and he could win, but I need to use #3 JO’S BOLD CAT, who is 8-1 on the morning line despite a few solid tries at this level. That one’s lone win came over this turf course, and I think he could get an ideal setup with plenty of early speed signed on.

I’m also two-deep in the third. #3 GIANTINTHEMOONLITE may go favored off of a few strong recent efforts, and I’m using him, but he’s 2-for-22 lifetime and has not won since October of 2015. My top pick is actually #9 HEAVY MEDDLE, who showed a new dimension last time out when rating at Belmont. The outside draw should help that one, and I love the recent fast works, which aren’t necessarily typical of Bill Mott trainees.

The key to the fourth race, for me, is if #13 WORK OF ART draws in off the AE list. If he does, I think he’s the horse to beat off of an impressive debut where he was a late-running third at big odds. That day’s runner-up has since come back to win, and this barn does well with second-time starters. If he does not draw in, I think it’s a two-horse race between #7 IRON JOHNNY and #12 COLLECTIVE EFFORT, and if my top pick doesn’t run, those will probably be the two wagering favorites.

My best bet on the card is my lone single on this ticket. That’s #7 TROPHY ASSET, the likely favorite in the fifth race. His debut at Belmont was very sharp, and Chad Brown’s barn is white-hot. Further improvement is logical at second asking, and if he doesn’t win, I lose (and chances are, many other tickets lose as well).

$0.50 Pick Four: Race #6

R6: 1,4,5
R7: 5,10
R8: 2,5
R9: 2,3,5,6,7,12,14

84 Bets, $42

I thought this sequence was incredibly tough, and I do not have a single on my ticket. It starts with a 2-year-old maiden race going seven furlongs, and because that’s a tough distance to debut at, all three betting interests have races under their belts. #4 ALLURED and #5 VARIANT PERCEPTION both go out for Chad Brown, while #1 BLINDED VISION did everything but win in his debut. By using Blinded Vision, we also get #1A VINO ROSSO, and of the first-time starters, he’s the one I like most. He fetched $410,000 at auction, and his dam is a half to Belmont Stakes runner-up Commissioner, so he may want this distance right away.

I’m two-deep in the seventh. #10 CLASSIC COVEY may be favored off of two strong wins at Belmont. He’s undefeated since coming back from a long layoff, but I also need to use #5 SLIM SHADEY, who has returned to form for Jason Servis. Both of his two-turn races this past summer were strong, and he returns to such a route in this spot, which boasts a race shape that should favor a closer like him.

The eighth is the Grade 3 Red Smith, and I’m two-deep here as well. #2 MONEY MULTIPLIER could be a popular single, as his effort in the Grade 1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic was too bad to be true. Anything close to his races two or three back would make him tough. Additionally, I’m using #5 OSCAR NOMINATED, who’s quietly had a very strong season despite only winning once. He was last seen running second in the Grade 1 Canadian International, and 8-1 seems like too big a price given his consistency.

If you’ve got deeper pockets and want to buy the ninth, go right ahead. As it stands, I’m using half of this 14-horse field, including several big prices. The price I’m most intrigued by is #14 ST. PATRICK FROST, who finally drops to the appropriate level after struggling against straight maidens most of his career. If you go back to his debut in April here at Aqueduct, though, you see a race that was not horrible. If he can repeat that race, I wouldn’t be stunned to see him in the winner’s circle at a gigantic number.

LAUREL

$0.50 Pick Four: Race #8

R8: 3,4,6
R9: 5
R10: 4,8,10,11
R11: 2,7,8,12

48 Bets, $24

Of the multi-race sequences at Laurel Park, I most prefer the late Pick Four. I think there are some live prices in here, and my single likely won’t be favored.

We start with the James F. Lewis for 2-year-olds, and while some may see this as a two-horse race between #4 BARRY LEE and #6 KOWBOY KARMA. I’m using them both, but I also need to include #3 WHERESHETOLDMETOGO. I’m drawing a line through his effort in the Sapling, which was longer than he wants to go. He’s a sprinter with tactical speed who does not need the lead, and at his likely price, I need to have him on my ticket.

My single comes in the ninth, the Richard W. Small. I respect #4 PAGE MCKENNEY, who will likely be favored, and he’s probably the standard-bearer for war horses that have been around forever and always seem to run well. However, my single is #5 WATERSHED, who spent most of the spring running against some of the best older horses on the east coast. He comes off a layoff to run here, but his workouts are consistent, and his recent bullet workout at Belmont inspires confidence. He’s 9/2 on the morning line, and I’ll be very happy if we get that price.

I’m four-deep in each of the last two races. The tenth is a turf sprint, and while #11 QUALITY TIME could certainly win, that post position is a red flag, and her 0-for-3 record in the U.S. doesn’t exactly inspire confidence. The horse I’m most intrigued by is #4 ISABEL’S ON IT, who flopped in her North American debut after a horrible break. However, she adds blinkers here for one of the top local barns, and if you liked her at 3-1 in her debut (where she had an excuse), how can you not take another shot here when she’ll probably be three or four times that price?

The Saturday finale is a maiden claiming event, and I hope I’m going deep enough. This is another race where, if you’ve got deep pockets or a light ticket elsewhere, it may be wise to punch the “ALL” button. My top pick is a bit of a price. That’s #12 NANNY ROCKS, who showed a bit of speed in her debut against much better at Belmont. Ollie Figgins’s trainees tend to improve with experience, and the outside post position should help her.

DEL MAR

$0.50 Pick Five: Race #1

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

81 Bets, $40.50

This Pick Five is a pretty fun sequence. The fields are short enough to where one can play an affordable ticket, but not so short that there’s no value, plus the favorites (with one possible exception) don’t figure to be very short prices.

The opener is a turf race for state-bred fillies and mares. My top pick is #4 WEATHER MARKET, who’s bred to love the turf and goes out for a barn whose horses tend to improve with experience and surface switches. The two betting favorites, #7 GEE STREET and #8 ROLLING SHADOW, are both logical, although the former is 0-for-9 and has had several prime chances.

My single will be a pretty popular one. #5 DANGEROUSLY CLOSE takes a big drop in class for a barn that’s enjoyed a good start to the meet. She’s shown ample early zip and adds blinkers, and these waters are much shallower than the ones she’s been swimming in to this point in her career.

The third is a maiden race for state-bred 2-year-olds. I went three-deep, and I used the three likely betting choices. #2 VIOLENT RIDGE should improve at second asking, while #6 ISHI goes to the red-hot Peter Miller barn and #7 MAVERICKS gets top gate rider Edwin Maldonado.

The fourth, though, represents a chance to take a swing. While I’m using logical horses #3 RED KING and #8 RUN LIKE RHETT, my top pick is 15-1 on the morning line. That’s #4 CURLY’S WATERFRONT, who I liked a lot last time out. He ran up against a speed-biased turf course that day, and he’s since been gelded by new trainer Reed Saldana. I’m more than willing to take another shot with him, as his best race would make him competitive in this spot.

The fifth race is the Saturday feature, the Grade 3 Bob Hope. If I’m alive, I’ll be alive to the three horses that figure to take money. #2 MOURINHO may have bounced off of a very strong debut and should like the added distance, while #3 RUN AWAY is a three-time stakes winner and #5 BEAUTIFUL SHOT is 2-for-2 and should improve with more experience.

$0.50 Pick Four: Race #6

R6: ALL
R7: 3,8
R8: 3,8
R9: 1,6,10

96 Bets, $48

And here we have what I felt was the toughest sequence of the day. I usually don’t like giving out tickets that exceed $40 in value, but I had to break that soft cap here.

The first leg is the type of race I HATE handicapping. It’s for older horses who have not won a race this year, and I have absolutely no confidence in any of these entrants. Thankfully, this is only a field of eight, not 12 or 14, so hitting the “ALL” button isn’t crippling.

The second leg is a 2-year-old maiden race, and #8 COOL BOBBY will be tough to beat. He missed by a neck in his debut, and this barn does not always have first-time starters fully cranked. I’ll also, though, be using the unfortunately-named #3 PITINO, who fetched $950,000 at auction and has been working lights-out ahead of his debut.

The third leg is a turf sprint, and this figures to be a race where most horses want the lead. #8 TIZANILLUSION makes her local debut and should sit an ideal trip beneath top local turf rider Drayden Van Dyke. On the off chance speed carries, I’ll also use #3 PAINTING CORNERS, who was dueled into submission last time out coming down the hill at Santa Anita.

If we get to the final leg, we’ll be alive to three horses. There’s not much speed in the race, and #10 JONNY’S CHOICE loves Del Mar, so he’s my top pick. I don’t love the post for #1 FREDDIES DREAM, and #6 ROMAN TIZZY gets a negative rider switch, but each horse is talented enough to win with their respective best effort.

2017 Breeders’ Cup: Saturday Analysis, Selections, and Wagering Strategies

Saturday is arguably the biggest day of the year in horse racing. It’s the second day of the Breeders’ Cup, and nine Grade 1 races are on tap, most with year-end championship implications. Furthermore, even the sport’s top horses will be bettable prices (most of them, anyway), which gives the event an extra layer of intrigue. I’ll preview all nine Breeders’ Cup races below, and hopefully, we can work our way to a nice score!

NOTE: To view Friday’s analysis, selections, and wagering strategies, click here.

BREEDERS’ CUP JUVENILE FILLIES

Right away, we’re met with a real head-scratcher. The Juvenile Fillies drew a field of 13 2-year-olds, and there are reasons to like most of them. Furthermore, a few of the betting favorites wound up with post positions that were, to be kind, less than ideal.

I’ll get to a few of them in a moment, but my top pick is #7 MOONSHINE MEMORIES. She’s 3-for-3 in her career, and two of those wins came in Grade 1 races. Her first two-turn effort was a sharp one, as she was comfortably best in the Chandelier at Santa Anita. Additionally, when trainer Simon Callaghan gets a horse good, they tend to stay good. Over the past year (through Wednesday), he’s 8-for-17 with last-out winners on dirt, and she’s worked as though more improvement is in the cards on Saturday.

#1 HEAVENLY LOVE and #13 SEPARATIONOFPOWERS also won important prep races, but they’ll bookend the field after getting the worst of Monday’s never-ending post position draw (shoutout to friend Ed DeRosa, who quipped that they’d brought back the Breeders’ Cup Marathon and renamed it the Breeders’ Cup post position draw!). Both can win, but of this pair, I prefer Separationofpowers, who was very green but still powered away late in the Grade 1 Frizette. She runs like a horse that wants two turns, and if Jose Ortiz can save even a bit of ground early and keep this daughter of Candy Ride out of trouble, she can certainly win.

The wild card in this race (to me, at least), is #11 WONDER GADOT, one of three in here for trainer Mark Casse. She’s 2-for-3 and took a major step forward in winning the Grade 3 Mazarine. The caveat here is that she’s never run on dirt, but her works on dirt at Churchill have been quite good. It would not be a shock if she takes to this surface, one that can be very kind to the early speed she’s shown she possesses.

BREEDERS’ CUP TURF SPRINT

The Turf Sprint has drawn some of the fastest horses in the world to go five furlongs. This includes some sharp European invaders, and your favorite is a horse that has made seven starts across three countries.

That’s #3 LADY AURELIA, and when she’s right, she’s probably the top turf sprinter on the planet. Her effort two back at Ascot in the Group 1 King’s Stand was sensational, and she did everything but win last time out in the Group 1 Nunthorpe. She has plenty of tactical speed but does not need the lead, and all signs point to her sitting a dream trip.

This race, though, features a rematch with #6 MARSHA, who won the Nunthorpe head-bob before finishing second in a Group 1 at Chantilly. She’s incredibly consistent, with 15 top-three finishes in 17 lifetime starts, and her best race is certainly good enough to win this (especially given the addition of Lasix in her North American debut).

Of the horses that have spent most of the year in the U.S., I most like #1 DISCO PARTNER, who has won four of five starts this year. The lone defeat came in the Grade 1 Fourstardave, which was run over a very wet turf course at Saratoga going much longer than he wants to go. The rail draw does not scare me one bit, and in fact, it could be an advantage. Deep closers are traditionally up against it going five furlongs, and this could mean Irad Ortiz Jr. keeps him a bit closer to the pace out of the gate.

Of the horses that may get bet a bit in here, the one I want no part of is #12 PURE SENSATION. If this race were contested at Parx, where he’s been flat-out unbeatable sprinting on turf, he’d be one of the favorites. However, this is a far different surface, and horses breaking from the far outside in Del Mar turf sprints traditionally do not do well. He’s got some speed, but if he goes too fast early on, it probably compromises him turning for home. As such, he’s a bet-against for me at his likely price.

BREEDERS’ CUP FILLY & MARE SPRINT

One of the shortest favorites of the day runs in the Filly & Mare Sprint. While that favorite is my top pick, I don’t think she’s unbeatable, and there may be room for a few prices in the exotics.

#11 UNIQUE BELLA has been sensational, winning her last five starts. She was sidelined for much of the year, but she came back running with a win in last month’s Grade 3 L.A. Woman. Her workouts have been jaw-dropping, and all signs are that she’s ready to go ahead of her biggest test to date.

However, there are reasons to think that she may not be a cinch. Her Beyer Speed Figures don’t tower over this group, although part of that is because of how easily she’s won and how Mike Smith has geared down on her. With that said, he had to ask her in the L.A. Woman, and it’s not like that was a stellar group she beat that day. I’m using her, but I’m not singling her.

#9 FINLEY’SLUCKYCHARM had every excuse to run poorly in the Grade 2 TCA at Keeneland. She broke poorly and rated behind slow early fractions that day, but she still found a way to win. She’s 9-for-12 lifetime with two second-place finishes, and 6-1 seems like an overlay for a horse with her talent.

There are several other contenders, especially if you’re looking for “underneath” horses. #2 PAULASSILVERLINING’s race in the Grade 1 Ballerina was too bad to be true, #8 CONSTELLATION goes to Bob Baffert’s barn and could sit a stalking trip at a great price, and #12 SKYE DIAMONDS hasn’t been beaten in five one-turn outings this season. Yes, Unique Bella is a deserving favorite, but I feel like there are ways to find value in this spot.

BREEDERS’ CUP FILLY & MARE TURF

Due to the configuration of Del Mar, this year’s Filly & Mare Turf will be run at a mile and an eighth, as opposed to its usual distance of a mile and a quarter. This benefits a likely favorite immensely, and the draw also helped that one, too.

Of course, I’m referring to #9 LADY ELI, one of the best stories in racing. She can write an improbable ending Saturday with a win in this race, one that seems likely given her recent form. It’s not like she’s incapable of running well at a mile and a quarter, but she’s probably better going a mile and an eighth. If that was last year’s distance, she probably holds off #10 QUEEN’S TRUST, who nailed her on the wire and returns in search of her second straight Breeders’ Cup victory.

Del Mar’s turf course is a bit quirky, and the horses who like it REALLY like it. With that in mind, I think #6 CAMBODIA merits a long look at a nice price. She won both the Yellow Ribbon and John C. Mabee earlier this year over this turf course, and while this spot represents a class test, it’s clear she does her best running here. At her likely price, I’ll at the very least want her on some of my tickets.

The big loser at the post position draw was #14 RHODODENDRON, who will somehow need to work out a trip from the far outside. Essentially, this is a three-turn race given the chute that the field will exit before coming under the wire the first time, so the far-outside post is unfortunate for this one’s camp. With that in mind, she may very well be talented enough to overcome it. She ran second to top-class fillies Enable and Winter in separate Group 1 races earlier this year before breaking through and nabbing such a win in last month’s Prix de l’Opera. If you’re playing exotics, I still think this talented 3-year-old is a must-use.

BREEDERS’ CUP SPRINT

I think this is the most wide-open race of Saturday’s Breeders’ Cup slate. A logical case can be made for as many as seven of the 10 horses signed on, and I’m very thankful that the folks in power kept this race out of the late Pick Four, as it probably would’ve been an “ALL” race for me. It IS the payoff leg of the early Pick Four, and that fact makes that wager very tricky.

#2 DREFONG won this race last year, and he seems like every bit the horse he was 12 months ago. His erratic behavior in the Bing Crosby is a red flag, but he was extremely impressive when romping in the Grade 1 Forego at Saratoga. Is that enough to make me think he’s a cinch here? Not even close.

We don’t have any idea how good #10 IMPERIAL HINT is. He’s won his last five races and stopped the timer in 1:07 and change when last seen in September. Can he respond to the jump in class and the change in location? #8 ROY H has won four of his last five, and his lone defeat in that stretch was a tough-luck second in the Bing Crosby when he was hindered by a rider-less Drefong. The winner of that race was #9 RANSOM THE MOON, who may have needed his clunker in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Sprint Championship and has worked well since then.

But wait! There’s more. #7 TAKAFUL’s lone loss around one turn came in the Grade 1 Allen Jerkens, and he rebounded from that with a sharp win in the Grade 1 Vosburgh when rating behind talented sprinter El Deal. Furthermore, #5 WHITMORE and #6 MIND YOUR BISCUITS were both highly-regarded earlier in the year, and both could benefit from a pace meltdown (which isn’t out of the realm of possibility given the early speed that’s signed on).

See how one could find this race challenging? I wouldn’t be stunned if Drefong won by daylight, but I also wouldn’t be surprised with any number of other scenarios.

BREEDERS’ CUP MILE

The late Pick Four starts here, and it boasts a guaranteed pool of $3 million. I’d be a fool not to take a shot, and I’ll go out on a limb and say that this race seems like the most likely in the sequence to feature a big price in the winner’s circle.

#10 RIBCHESTER is squarely the one to beat. He’s won three prestigious Group 1 races overseas, and he generally runs the same high-class race every time out, as evidenced by 14 top-three finishes in 15 career starts. His lone start over anything close to a firm turf course this year was a win in the Queen Anne at Royal Ascot, and if he’s ready to run, he’ll be tough.

Having said that, this will be Ribchester’s third race in three different countries in less than two months. If he turns out to be over the top, the door is wide open for an upset. With the race shape setting up for a closer, my second selection is #8 SUEDOIS, who capitalized on a similar scenario last month in the Grade 1 Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland. They flew home over a pretty slow turf course that day, and while he’s done solid work sprinting on turf, there’s evidence that says he may have been a miler all along. He’s 2-for-3 with a second-place finish in starts at eight furlongs, and given the likely fast pace, I think he’s got a big chance.

It wouldn’t be terribly shocking to see #5 WORLD APPROVAL win. He’s won four of his last five starts, and that stretch includes decisive wins in a pair of Grade 1 races at a mile. He’ll likely get first run at the leaders turning for home, and a repeat of the Woodbine Mile would put him right there. If there’s any hesitation here, it’s because the early pace may be quick enough to fry anyone close to it. Additionally, Woodbine form sometimes does not travel well. That’s a one-turn mile with a very long stretch run, and this race is a two-turn affair with a short stretch. It’s a minor strike against him, but it’s worth noting.

In playing my late Pick Four, I want closers that could come flying in the event of a pace meltdown. That includes #4 LANCASTER BOMBER, #7 OM, and #11 BALLAGH ROCKS, all of whom should be going the right way late. I’ll also throw in #12 ROLY POLY, who’s won three of his last four (with all of those races being Group 1 events at a mile) and goes out for the powerful duo of Aidan O’Brien and Ryan Moore. That’s seven of 14, and I haven’t even touched on #1 MIDNIGHT STORM, #2 HEART TO HEART, or #13 BLACKJACKCAT, all of whom are talented enough to win on their respective best days but may not get a scenario conducing such an effort. Midnight Storm and Heart to Heart figure to duke it out early, while Blackjackcat has to negotiate a trip from the 13-hole.

BREEDERS’ CUP JUVENILE

Hey, Breeders’ Cup? You know what we handicappers could really use? How about a race with a consensus single, one that would need to regress considerably off of his best effort in order to lose? Think you could make that happen?

Oh, hey, here we are with the shortest-priced favorite of the entire weekend! That’s #11 BOLT D’ORO, who will likely be shorter than his 9/5 morning line odds in the Juvenile. He’s 3-for-3 and was supremely impressive in the Grade 1 FrontRunner, where he stormed away to win by nearly eight lengths in a very fast time. He earned a 100 Beyer Speed Figure that day, and only one other horse in the race, #3 FIRENZE FIRE, has earned as high as a 90.

Bolt d’Oro would probably need to regress in order to lose, and one of the others would likely need to run a new career-best as well. Is that impossible? No, but it’s pretty unlikely. Bolt d’Oro will be a single for me (and, I imagine, for many others) in the late Pick Four, and if he doesn’t win, I lose.

If you’re hell-bent on playing this race in vertical wagers, the one I’m intrigued by for “underneath” purposes is #1 U S NAVY FLAG, who has established himself as Europe’s top 2-year-old following three consecutive graded stakes wins. He’s never tried dirt before, but his last-out Timeform Rating of 112 translates pretty well to this event and he gets Lasix for the first time. If you think Bolt d’Oro can’t lose and want a bit of a price underneath for a Dave Weaver-style “ice cold exacta,” U S Navy Flag may be worth a shot.

BREEDERS’ CUP TURF

This race was marred by the scratch of #5 ULYSSES, who may have gone off as the favorite. He was fourth in this race last year and seems to have gotten better since then. With his scratch, another European looks much more imposing.

#3 HIGHLAND REEL won this race last year thanks to a heads-up, aggressive ride. Some have said he’s taken a step back this year, but I don’t agree with that assessment. Highland Reel has always done his best running over firmer ground. He’s run five times this year. Only twice this year has he caught ground rated “good” or better, and on both occasions, he’s won Group 1 races. He goes second off the layoff in here, and I think he’s every bit the horse he was a season ago when he went wire-to-wire.

Of the Americans, I most prefer #12 BEACH PATROL, who may have wanted to run marathon races all along. He romped in the Grade 1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic at Belmont last time out, earning a career-high Beyer Speed Figure of 109 in the process. Some regression is possible, and if you’re playing a skinnier Pick Four ticket, I could understand leaving him off. However, he’s the last horse I’m throwing onto mine. I simply can’t justify leaving a Chad Brown trainee that finally seems to have put it all together off of this ticket.

BREEDERS’ CUP CLASSIC

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, children of all ages, this is your main event. $6 million is on the line in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, which doubles as the likely spot where a Horse of the Year will be crowned. Bob Baffert has four in here, including 2016 Classic winner #1 ARROGATE, while Steve Asmussen will saddle #5 GUN RUNNER, who has won his last five stateside starts and was a strong second behind Arrogate in the Dubai World Cup.

I’m not getting cute. I’m using the two horses I mentioned in the late Pick Four, and of the two, I narrowly prefer Gun Runner. The son of Candy Ride has never been better than he is right now, and while he has tactical speed, he can sit off the early leaders and make his move turning for home. The classic distance of a mile and a quarter is a bit of an unknown, but it’s not as much of a problem as it could be. Del Mar’s track configuration is such that the stretch is very short compared to other tracks, and as such, horses that may not get 10 furlongs elsewhere can sometimes get it where the turf meets the surf.

Gun Runner gets my top pick, but I’ll be covered if Arrogate channels his previous form. The rail draw does not concern me, as he won the Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup from a similar post. His lack of an affinity for Del Mar is a concern, for sure, but it isn’t like he ran a horrible race in the Grade 1 Pacific Classic. He earned a 114 Beyer Speed Figure that day, and a similar performance likely puts him right there in this spot.

Of the others who may get bet, the one I do not want any part of on top is #11 COLLECTED. Yes, he won the Pacific Classic at this route. However, there’s other early speed in here, and he won’t have nearly as easy a trip as he did that day. This is a significantly tougher group, and in seeking out key stats, I found a big negative one. Per DRF Formulator, Bob Baffert and Martin Garcia are 0-for-20 together over the past six months with horses going off at odds of 4-1 or higher. That’s a damning statistic, and while I could see Collected hanging on for a piece of it, I’ll be pretty stunned if he fends off all comers once again.

PICK FOUR TICKETS

$0.50 Pick Four: Race #5

R5: 1,3,6
R6: 9,11
R7: 9
R8: ALL

60 Bets, $30

I constructed this ticket to where I could hit the “ALL” button in the Sprint without breaking the bank. Unfortunately, this means I could not include Cambodia in the Filly & Mare Turf. I think she’s got a real shot, but Lady Eli is my top pick, and I feel more comfortable singling her than Unique Bella. If you don’t mind spending an extra $30 (or can narrow the Sprint down), Cambodia is the one I’d encourage you to use, and I will be hedging with her in doubles.

$0.50 Pick Four: Race #9

R9: ALL
R10: 11
R11: 3,12
R12: 1,5

56 Bets, $28

If the Mile is formful, this may not pay much. What I’m banking on is that the $3 million pool will guarantee a reasonable return on investment, even with the consensus single (Bolt d’Oro) in the second leg. With some luck, we’ll get a price home in the Mile, the rest of the sequence will be formful, and we’ll wind up with a nice score.

2017 Breeders’ Cup: Friday Analysis, Selections, and Wagering Strategies

Friday is the first day of the 2017 Breeders’ Cup, and in a lot of ways, the four championship races on tap represent the best of what the event is supposed to offer. With big, talented fields going postward that include some of the top horses in training, it makes for a fun Pick Four sequence, as well as four races with standalone wagering value.

These previews, needless to say, will be a bit more substantial than what you’ve seen from me in the past. I’ll have a Pick Four ticket at the end, but given the subject matter, I feel it appropriate to expound on each race. With that being said, here we go!

BREEDERS’ CUP JUVENILE FILLIES TURF

Five of Europe’s top 2-year-old fillies have come across the pond for this one, and the invaders are led by #2 HAPPILY. She comes in off a pair of Group 1 races, including one against the boys at Chantilly. Only one other European filly in this field can approach her top Timeform rating of 105, and if Happily runs her usual race, she’ll be tough to beat.

The most-bet American runner will probably be #11 RUSHING FALL. She’s 2-for-2, and the Chad Brown trainee most recently captured the Grade 3 Jessamine with a huge late move. She rallied from twelfth to win going away, and there appears to be plenty of pace signed on here. This is a much tougher field than what she’s faced in the past, but based on numbers and the likely race shape, she’s a must-use.

There’s a bigger price signed on that I think merits consideration as well. #6 ORBOLUTION is 20-1 on the morning line, but she’d have been less than half of that if this race was held before the Miss Grillo, and in that race, she had a sneaky-awful trip. She’s a smaller filly who had shined going two turns, but in that one-turn race, she was between horses throughout and clearly intimidated. She tried that day, but it wasn’t her ideal trip or route of ground. She gets a two-turn trip today, and 20-1 is way too big a price.

BREEDERS’ CUP DIRT MILE

The big question here is this: Which version of #6 MOR SPIRIT do we get? His Met Mile win was one of the best races we’ve seen all year long, but he hasn’t run since. A repeat of that effort probably means everyone else is running for second money. However, if he’s not ready, that opens the door for another runner in what turned out to be a pretty salty field.

#8 ACCELERATE is incredibly logical. He’s 3-for-4 at Del Mar, and his lone local loss came in the Pacific Classic, when he chased Collected and Arrogate going longer than he wants to go. There’s no doubt he does his best running over this surface, and his last two workouts indicate that he seems to be ready to fire his best shot.

The other logical horse is #3 SHARP AZTECA. He’s cruised to two straight wins since running a distant second behind Mor Spirit in the Met Mile, although it’s worth noting that he hasn’t beaten much in either of those races. However, I put him behind my top two because of the likely race shape. There’s other early speed signed on, including Mor Spirit’s stablemate, #7 CUPID. Sharp Azteca’s best race puts him right there, but in constructing a multi-race wager during cards like these, you need to take stands somewhere. As such, I’m leaving him off of most of my tickets.

I’m also against #10 PRACTICAL JOKE, who’ll likely get some play. In the defense of the multiple Grade 1 winner, though, it’s not his fault that he was caught between two Breeders’ Cup races. The Sprint’s six-furlong distance is a bit short for him, but this year’s Dirt Mile is a two-turn route, which he’s shown isn’t his best game. He could rally for a piece of it, but I’m looking elsewhere on top.

BREEDERS’ CUP JUVENILE TURF

If you’re constructing a Pick Four ticket, my advice is to take a stand somewhere. Why? Because, for my money, the Juvenile Turf is the most wide-open race of the entire two-day event, and I think you may need to hit the “ALL” button here. I wish I could tell you that I had some kind of confidence in something here. The truth is, I don’t, so instead, I’ll recommend two big prices that I feel merit consideration.

#3 SANDS OF MALI comes over from Europe, and he ran a clunker last time out in a Group 1 behind U S Navy Flag (who we’ll see in Saturday’s Juvenile on dirt). However, he was very sharp in two races before that, including one where he earned a 104 Timeform rating. There’s a very real chance his last-out effort was simply a bounce off a new career-best, and I like that he’s shown tactical speed. This race doesn’t appear to have a lot of early pace signed on, so that gives him a potential advantage if Flavien Prat gets him on or near the lead out of the gate. He’s 30-1 on the morning line, and I think that’s too big a price. If I play a contest on this card, chances are I’ll use him and hope for the best.

#4 CATHOLIC BOY, meanwhile, is 2-for-2 and pulled off a 12-1 upset in a Grade 3 last time out. Jonathan Thomas isn’t a household name, but he’s a former Todd Pletcher assistant who has won 30% of his starts this season. His local work on October 29th was very good, and further progression would make this 12-1 shot a major player.

BREEDERS’ CUP DISTAFF

Friday’s main event is the Distaff, and this could settle the races for several Eclipse Awards. #2 STELLAR WIND and #6 FOREVER UNBRIDLED are the leaders among older female horses, while #4 ABEL TASMAN, #5 ELATE, and #7 PARADISE WOODS could secure 3-year-old filly honors with a victory here.

Personally, I’m of the belief that this year’s group of 3-year-old fillies is subpar. Abel Tasman’s recent middle moves raise a big red flag, while Elate was bred up and down for the 10-furlong Alabama and didn’t beat much in the Beldame while running pretty slowly for the level. Of the 3-year-old fillies in this race, the only one I think has a significant shot is Paradise Woods, and that’s because of the race shape. There isn’t much other early speed here, and over a track that’s traditionally very kind to early speed, that one could be a formidable foe if she’s allowed to coast on an easy lead.

However, she’s not my top pick. That distinction goes to Stellar Wind, who has never lost at Del Mar. She’s 3-for-3 over this track and could sit an ideal stalking trip just off the early speed. I have a great deal of respect for Forever Unbridled, but she may be left with too much to do late given the race shape and track tendencies. With all things considered, I’m singling Stellar Wind and hoping she runs her usual Del Mar race.

PICK FOUR TICKET

$0.50 Pick Four: Race #6

R6: 2,6,11
R7: 6,8
R8: ALL
R9: 2

84 Bets, $42

My thinking here is that Stellar Wind, who is 5/2 on the morning line, almost certainly won’t go off above 3-1. If I’m alive going into the last leg, at worst, those are the odds I’ll get (given how wide-open the Juvenile Turf is). If a price comes in in the third leg and/or Orbolution wins the Juvenile Fillies Turf, I could potentially be alive to a nice, nice score.

There are other ways to make money on the card. For instance, the favorite in the Juvenile Fillies Turf is 7/2, which means exacta wagers could pay well if you’ve got a few horses to key in on. Additionally, if you can narrow down the Juvenile Turf to a few horses, playing doubles starting and ending there could be fruitful given the chaotic odds board we’re likely to see. Simply put, it’s a really good four-race sequence, and hopefully it sets the table for plenty of fireworks on Saturday.

Del Mar Opening Day Analysis, Selections, and Tickets: 7/19/17

Wednesday is opening day at Del Mar. The card is a good one, and it features something that’s been lacking in California of late: Full fields. Connections have saved plenty of bullets for California’s flagship summer meet, and while you can debate the merits of that (yes, this card is great, but I’m sure Santa Anita wishes they didn’t have to cancel days of racing due to low entries!), there’s no doubt that there are plenty of wagering opportunities coming up where the turf meets the surf.

I’ll go race-by-race and give my thoughts. If you’re interested in my Pick Five and Pick Four tickets, they’re at the end of this article (remember, Del Mar does not do an early Pick Four, just one at the end of the card). Let’s get started!

RACE #1: It won’t take long for me to go against a morning line favorite, because I do not like Getoffmyback in the opener. Astute readers may remember that beating Getoffmyback two weeks ago at this level at Santa Anita resulted in me scoring with a $393 Pick Five, and that field may have been worse than what he faces here. He stretches out, but has never hit the board in four starts going long.

I’m keying the horses surrounding him in the starting gate. Our Nation helped set a solid pace three back in his lone route race (which came against better horses), and he still hung on to finish a clear second that day. The class drop should help, and Flavien Prat staying on despite the misfire last time out is a good sign. Additionally, Papa Royale is a “lightbulb” play based off of a strong maiden win at Los Alamitos. He didn’t beat much, but his career record looks considerably better if you toss out the turf races he’s run, and this is a horse that could be figuring things out.

RACE #2: My first strong selection of the day comes here. We won’t get much of a price on Pedro Cerrano, who breaks from the rail for trainer Peter Miller, but there’s a lot to like. Yes, he comes in off a long layoff, but he’s been training very well at San Luis Rey, and because of the layoff, he’s protected in this $20,000 claimer. That’s usually a sign that a horse is doing very well, and given his 2-for-2 record at Del Mar, I think there’s reason to believe a big effort is in the offing. I’m singling Pedro Cerrano in all multi-race exotic wagers, and 2-1 may be a fair price if he runs back to his two local performances from last year.

RACE #3: This is a tricky allowance race featuring many horses with aversions to winning. Over Par likely would’ve been favored despite a 1-for-17 career mark, but he scratched Wednesday morning. If you want to spend some extra money and buy this race in multi-leg wagers, I won’t stop you.

I’ll hope that going two-deep gives me enough coverage. Accountability set a scorching past last time out at Santa Anita, and he should sit a much easier trip in this spot given the relative lack of early speed signed on alongside him. Additionally, Alsatian was a strong second in a $201,000 stakes race two back and has more tactical speed than he showed in his last effort. Hopefully, going three-deep will get me through this race.

RACE #4: The morning line man thinks this is a two-horse race between 9/5 favorite Classy Tune and 2-1 first-time starter Pretty Owl, who represents the Bob Baffert barn. I’m using both, but there are two others I’ll throw in at prices.

It’s great to see Tom Proctor back on the west coast, and he’ll saddle Slim Fit, who ran a strong second in her debut last month at Delaware Park. She dueled through fast fractions over what’s usually a slow track, and if she improves off of that effort (as Proctor-trained second-time starters often do), she’ll be one to respect in here.

I’m also going to use 10-1 shot Literary Critic, a first-time starter trained by Clifford Sise. This one is bred to be a runner. She’s by City Zip and out of a mare named Ain’t She Sweet. Ain’t She Sweet is by Storm Cat, which makes her a full sister to both 2009 Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic winner Life Is Sweet and 2004 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies winner Sweet Catomine. Literary Critic boasts a solid, consistent worktab, and Sise has a sneaky record of late with debuting runners, so I think this one merits inclusion on your tickets.

RACE #5: The first 2-year-old maiden race of the meet is here, and it’s a doozy. Of the 11 horses (including one also-eligible) that are signed on to run, eight will debut in this spot. Morning line favorite Tyfosha chased a next-out stakes winner in her debut and looms large, but I don’t think she’s a cinch.

Bob Baffert, as usual, boasts a flashy first-time starter in the form of Just a Smidge, who’s been working well at Santa Anita. What’s interesting, though, is that Richard Mandella may have a precocious runner of his own in here. That’s Varanasi, a daughter of Jimmy Creed who fetched $385,000 at auction last September. The June 27th workout hints at major talent, and while Mandella’s horses usually get much better with age, anything close to that workout would make her a formidable foe on debut.

I also included Broome, who draws the rail but could have enough talent to overcome what can be a problematic post position for debuting runners. On paper, the pedigree (by Bellamy Road, out of a Closing Argument mare) doesn’t seem like much, but she hammered for a respectable $80,000 earlier this year and has worked pretty well for Peter Miller, whose barn is firing on all cylinders. A closer look at the pedigree reveals that her dam won a small stakes race as a 2-year-old, and she’s thrown a stakes-placed runner already (a filly named Katniss The Victor). If you’re playing a more budget-conscious ticket than the $48 one I have below, maybe you can stomach leaving her off, but I wanted her on it, as she’ll be a price and could possess considerable talent.

RACE #6: I’m very happy this race was the one between the Pick Five and Pick Four, because I was baffled by it when I looked at the form. This is a stakes-quality allowance race, and I could make a case for a number of runners in here.

Moonless Sky has been very impressive since switching to the Eddie Truman barn. She’s won four in a row, including a stakes race against state-breds. She tackles a stakes-quality field here, but she’s got more tactical speed than she showed last time, and 6-1 seems like a very square price on a horse that’s in career form.

The other horse that intrigues me is Family Meeting. Family Meeting is a multiple stakes-winner who had a horrible pace setup last time out at Gulfstream, yet was beaten less than a length. I also liked Frenzified a bit before she scratched.

RACE #7: The Pick Four starts here, and I think most of the talent lines up towards the outside. The two likely favorites (Gato Del Oro and Absolutely Stylish) come in off of maiden wins, and while I’m using both and either could win, I’m by no means married to either of them here.

Giant Expectations took a step forward in two starts at Belmont Park against New York-breds, and Magical Mystery could come flying late to overcome a bad post. I’ll use them both, but I’ll also throw in 12-1 shot Saint Dermot, a pace-dependent closer who could get a dream setup. There’s a lot of early speed on paper, and it could set up for a clunk-up closer to pick up the pieces late. Because of the possibility of that scenario unfolding, I want this longshot on my ticket.

Additional note: Tribal Jewel is on the AE list and needs two scratches to draw in. If one of the above horses scratches and he gets in the field, I’m substituting him in. The likely shape of the race is a concern, but he’s a consistent horse who hasn’t finished off the board in more than a year and won here three times last summer and fall.

RACE #8: This is the traditional opening day feature, the Oceanside Stakes. A full field of 14 3-year-olds will go a mile on the grass, and while a big field like this is usually not a spot to single in, I LOVE the lukewarm morning line favorite.

That’s Bowies Hero, who was last seen running fourth behind eventual Belmont Derby winner Oscar Performance in the Pennine Ridge. The race shape wasn’t kind to this closer that day, and he’s shown what he can do when he gets a pace to run at. He’s a two-time stakes winner that’s been running against much, much better horses, and there should be plenty of pace in front of him in this spot. I like him a lot in this spot, and if we get any sort of a price on him, that’s great.

RACE #9: This is the second 2-year-old race of the day, and fillies will go five furlongs. Unlike the fifth, which features an abundance of first-time starters, this race has some horses we’ve seen before, and I’m using a handful of them.

Likely favorite Spiced Perfection ran a solid second on June 16th, while Smiling Tigress has shown zip in the mornings since a likely-needed unveiling and Streak of Luck was bet before enduring a horrible trip in her debut last month. It wouldn’t be a shock to see any of these horses step forward, but given that none have been overly impressive to this point, I also opted to include a first-time starter…and in this case, she’s a big price.

Tapitha Bonita is 20-1 on the morning line, and the stats of the connections don’t exactly make you scream with confidence. However, the worktab she possesses has some strong moves. Her July 5th move was fifth-fastest of 34, her June 30th drill was fourth-fastest of 35, and her June 17th workout was seventh-fastest of 73. While her pedigree doesn’t jump off the page, and the $6,000 purchase price in January is low, she’s the third foal from the mare to race. Both of her predecessors are full siblings, and both are winners. Given this information, and the quality of the opposition here, I’m happy to throw her onto the ticket, especially at that price.

RACE #10: We end with a puzzler. This is a $16,000 claimer, and a few of these horses make you wonder why they’re running in this spot. Belisarius, for instance, was fifth in last year’s Belmont Gold Cup going two miles on turf…and now, he’s showing up in a $16,000 claimer going a mile on dirt?

I settled on going four-deep. My top pick is Preacher Roe, who’s protected by trainer Mike Puype off a long layoff. Puype excels with such moves, and this gelding’s starts at this level and against similar company have been some of the best of his career.

I’ll reluctantly use 3-1 morning line favorite Private Prospect. I’m not sure he’s capable of such a performance, but his best race certainly wins this (he was third in two Grade 3 races back in 2015), and he’s a candidate for Del Mar’s “ship and win” program, which I’m sure is part of the reason he’s here. Additionally, Shackleford Banks has won five of 11 career dirt starts and would benefit from a pace meltdown (which isn’t out of the question), and 8-1 shot Accelerant is a juicy price given that one’s affinity for two-turn routes of ground. If he repeats the race two back, where he won by more than five lengths, he’s a major player.

– – – – –

$0.50 Pick Five: Race #1

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

64 Bets, $32

– – – – –

$0.50 Pick Four: Race #7

R7: 5,6,7,9,10 (12 in case any scratch and that one draws in)
R8: 4
R9: 4,6,8,9
R10: 3,4,7,9

80 Bets, $40