Kentucky Derby Preps, Pick Four Tickets, and Standing Up for a Friend: 2/16/19

At my heart, I’d like to believe I’m a good person. I think most people that have met me and gotten to know me would conclude that, and I’m always going to attempt to do the right thing (regardless of if that’s the easy thing).

It’s in this vein that I’m going to attempt to decipher something that happened to a friend of mine last weekend. Mind you, I was away most of the day Saturday, so I’m seeing and hearing this second-hand, but if I’ve got this right, it’s one of the dumbest things I’ve heard since the heyday of the Breeders’ Cup Derby (disclaimer: if I don’t have this right, please correct me in the comment section or via email).

The friend in question is Gulfstream Park track announcer Pete Aiello. Whether or not he wants everyone else to know this or not is unclear, but Pete’s one of the best people I’ve met in racing. He’s a jolly, fun-loving guy without a mean-spirited bone in his body, and he doesn’t need me defending him in this instance (though I’m doing it anyway because it’s my website and I feel like it).

Last Saturday’s draw at Gulfstream Park was a mandatory payout in the Rainbow Six, and here’s where things get weird. According to tweets from Pete, someone from Gulfstream Park called the booth prior to the Saturday finale, gave him a range of payouts in the Rainbow Six, and told him to pump up those totals. Like a good soldier, Pete did what he was told.

As he did this, the Gulfstream Park simulcast feed, per several outraged members of the horse racing Twitterverse, did not show the payouts next to the horses in question. This has happened multiple times in previous mandatory payout situations, with tracks either being too slow to provide this information or, if you’re more conspiracy-minded, willingly withholding the information in question.

Whatever you believe about the track is one thing. I don’t know what goes on in those circles. If you want to be angry about the track not showing will-pays on its simulcast feed, go right ahead. It’s 2019. That this technology does not exist (or, even worse, if it exists and is not employed) is puzzling.

However, as in way too many situations in racing, the messenger was vilified. In this case, that was Pete, and some on Twitter went so far as to blame him for the situation. Here are several steps that show why this is a bad, bad idea.

Step 1: One of Pete Aiello’s superiors relayed information to the booth.

Step 2: Pete Aiello relayed that information to the audience.

Step 3: Pete Aiello does not control the Gulfstream Park simulcast feed.

That third step is the one that’ll kill you. As I’ve mentioned, Pete doesn’t need me to defend him, and if he’s angry at me for doing so, I’ll apologize to him, via phone, in the voice of Snitsky yelling, “IT WASN’T MY FAULT!,” after kicking a baby into the crowd. Having said that, I’m always going to stick up for the good guys, especially when those good guys have done a lot for me.

Anyway, now that I’ve gotten an unasked-for defense and an obscure wrestling reference out of the way, let’s focus on Saturday’s racing, shall we? We’ve got a pair of Kentucky Derby prep races on tap, as well as a few interesting Pick Four sequences at Fair Grounds and Laurel Park that I’ll take a crack at.


Derby Prep: Risen Star Stakes, Race #12
Late Pick Four: Races 9-12

We’ve got a full field of 14 signed on for the Risen Star, even after the scratch of #13 KINGLY, who’s headed to Golden Gate Fields for the El Camino Real Derby (more on him, and that race, later). Many runners in here exit the Grade 3 LeComte, which was won by #14 WAR OF WILL. That post position is a real problem, and while he might be good enough to overcome it, I’m looking elsewhere on top.

My top pick is #8 OWENDALE, who has come into his own as a 3-year-old for trainer Brad Cox. He’s taken substantial steps forward in each of his starts this season, and while he’s got tactical speed, he doesn’t need the lead to run well, and that’s a big plus.

War of Will will be on most of my tickets as well, and I’ll also throw in a pair of bigger-priced entrants. #1 PLUS QUE PARFAIT didn’t break well in the LeComte, and did enough before that to merit a second chance. Finally, #3 MR. MONEY was fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and has been working well for Bret Calhoun. A logical step forward in his 3-year-old debut could put him right there at a price.

$0.50 Pick Four: Race #9

R9: 2,5,9
R10: 9
R11: 1,9
R12: 1,3,8,14

24 Bets, $12

I’m going to try to play this sequence pretty cheaply. I think there’s room to make some money with an economical ticket, and I’ve built mine around a single that is perfect over the Fair Grounds turf course.

The ninth is the Grade 3 Mineshaft Handicap for older horses. I’m going three-deep to start things off, and my top pick is #2 HARLAN PUNCH. When he’s good, he’s really good, and trainer Brad Cox is running hot right now. I’ll also throw in #5 LONE SAILOR and #9 FLAMEAWAY, both of whom come in off of layoffs ahead of their 4-year-old debuts.

The tenth is the Grade 3 Fair Grounds Handicap, and I’m not getting cute. #9 SYNCHRONY is 3-for-3 at Fair Grounds and ran two sensational races here a season ago. There’s plenty of pace in here to set up for his late kick, and I highly doubt he’ll be the 3-1 morning line price come post time. If he is, that will merit a win bet.

The 11th is the Grade 2 Rachel Alexandra, and the race took a big hit when #10 CHASING YESTERDAY did not ship in for trainer Bob Baffert. With her out of the picture, the likely favorite is #9 NEEDS SUPERVISION, who has won three in a row. I’m using her, and I’ll also throw in #1 MOLTO BELLA, who was impressive last time out and boasts a much more impressive resume if you draw a line through the Grade 2 Demoiselle over Aqueduct’s demanding, slow surface.


Derby Prep: El Camino Real Derby, Race #7

Handicapping synthetic tracks isn’t really my strength. Having said that, this is a heck of a betting race, with a 13-horse field and a morning line favorite I don’t like.

That’s #9 KINGLY, who ships up to Northern California for Bob Baffert. He hasn’t done much wrong, having won at first asking and run second in his first start against winners. His best could be good enough to win this, but at his likely price, I’m going to take a swing against him.

The likely second choice is #4 ANOTHERTWISTAFATE, and if I can get 5/2 odds, I’ll happily take them. He’s been very, very good in two starts over this track, and for how big the field is, there isn’t much speed signed on. I think he could sit a dream trip, and if he’s left alone on the front end, he could be very tough to run down late.

I’ll use that one with a pair of Santa Anita shippers. #5 THE CREEP ran very well in his lone start on synthetic, when he ran second to Sueno in the Gold Rush Stakes, and he’ll likely be a price because he hasn’t won in a while. Additionally, #7 EAGLE SONG won twice over synthetic tracks in Ireland, and if that form carries over, he could have a big say in the outcome.


$0.50 Pick Four: Race #7

R7: 2,3,11
R8: 2,6,7,13
R9: 1,2,3,4,10
R10: 4

60 Bets, $30

Laurel Park’s Saturday card is a fun one. The late Pick Four boasts a trio of stakes races, two of which are graded, and I think there’s room to make some money here despite a likely short-priced favorite in the last leg. Note: If you saw this Friday night or early Saturday morning, the ticket has been modified following scratches.

The seventh is the John B. Campbell Stakes, and it took a hit with four scratches Saturday morning. I’m going three-deep, and without much early speed in the race, #2 JOHNNY JUMP UP could sit an ideal trip on the front end. He’s won two in a row, and I think he’ll be the one they have to catch turning for home.

The eighth is the Grade 3 General George for older male sprinters. 2018 General George winner #13 SOMETHING AWESOME is back to defend his title after a failed run in the Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup, and I’m using him, but I prefer another closer on top. That’s #6 STILL HAVING FUN, who loves this distance and attracts Flavien Prat (who’s in town for the day).

The ninth is the Grade 3 Barbara Fritchie for older fillies and mares, and I thought this race was completely wide-open. #1 SPICED PERFECTION makes her first start for Peter Miller after being privately purchased following her win in the Grade 1 La Brea, but she’s never run outside of California, and I’m not exactly sure what she beat last time. I’m five-deep, and I really, really hope I’m deep enough.

I spread in the first three legs because I felt I could single with confidence in the Saturday finale. This is an allowance event, and I think #4 VELOCITA BRILLANTE may be the shortest price in the entire sequence. She’s won two in a row and was very sharp last time out. This field doesn’t appear to be that strong, and trainer Claudio Gonzalez is hitting at a 28% clip this meet as of this writing. I’ll try to get some prices home in the first three legs before relying on the chalk to finish things off.

Analysis, Selections, and Tickets: Fair Grounds, Santa Anita (1/13/18)

Saturday is the first big day of the season at Fair Grounds. Kentucky Derby points are on the line in the Lecomte, which has drawn a full field of horses from across the country. Additionally, I also found the Saturday card at Santa Anita to be an interesting puzzle, and I’ve got my fair share of action there as well.

Without further ado, let’s get to it!


$0.50 Pick Four: Race #2

R2: 8,12
R3: 1,3,7
R5: 4

72 Bets, $36

In both of these Pick Four sequences, I’m hoping to bolster value on shorter-priced singles by finding some prices early. This is especially so in the early Pick Four, where my single may be the shortest price on this entire card.

The second race is an allowance event on turf that drew a full field. #12 MAGIC JOAN would’ve probably been a single for me with a better post. Her debut was very good, and she followed that up with a strong second in a swiftly-run race over Aqueduct’s fairly-slow turf course. However, I’m also throwing in a big price. #8 NUTCRACKER SUITE makes her North American debut and adds Lasix, which is often a huge addition. The works two and three back hint at talent, and it wouldn’t be the biggest shock in the world if she was ready to run in her North American unveiling.

The third is a maiden race for 3-year-olds, and while I respect #3 FASCILITATOR and am using him, my top pick is an 8-1 shot. #7 NOLA WIN was second in his debut, and trainer Dallas Stewart’s horses aren’t usually fully cranked at first asking. The winner that day is an exciting prospect, and the most recent workout (third-fastest of 144 at the distance that day) says he’s taken a step forward since that race. I’ll also throw in #1 NEW COLOSSUS despite the rail draw. His workouts are sharp, and he’s got the pedigree to be very good (his second dam is a full sister to General Challenge).

Singling late in the sequence means I can buy coverage in the fourth, which I found to be the toughest race of the day. This is a 12-horse field, and I need to use all of them. The morning line favorite is 4-1, which should tell you all you need to know about this group. Not much would surprise me, and hopefully we’ll get a price home.

The fifth race is the Duncan Kenner, and my single is 4/5 favorite #4 YOCKEY’S WARRIOR, who’s simply a different horse at Fair Grounds. He’s won five of his last six races, with the lone loss coming in a Grade 3 at Keeneland. This isn’t a bad field, but a repeat of his last-out victory would make him extremely difficult to beat.

$0.50 Pick Four: Race #7

R7: 1,2,5,7
R8: 1,2,3,5,6,9
R9: 5,10,12
R10: 5

72 Bets, $36

This late Pick Four features four stakes races, including the Grade 3 Lecomte. As mentioned, my strategy is to get to my best bet of the sequence, which I’ve singled in the payoff leg.

The seventh is the Silverbulletday for 3-year-old fillies, and for an ungraded stakes race, it came up VERY tough. Three horses ran in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, and I’m using them all. However, I also need to throw in #5 STELLAR MOON. She’s bred up and down for two turns, and she finally gets such a route here. At her price, and with her breeding, I need to have her on my ticket.

The eighth is the Colonel E.R. Bradley on turf, and like most of the grass races on the card, I thought this was wide-open. My top pick is #5 TOWER OF TEXAS, who didn’t have a great trip when third in the Grade 3 Tropical Turf. With more racing luck, he may have won that day, and I need to use him. However, with such a big field, I also wouldn’t be shocked with another troubled trip, so I need to spread.

The ninth is the Lecomte, and I’m using the two likely favorites plus a middle-priced horse. #10 INSTILLED REGARD ran well in the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Futurity, and #12 PRINCIPE GUILHERME is 2-for-2 and has yet to be tested. In addition to those two, #5 KOWBOY KARMA also merits respect. His longer races are fine, and the Larry Jones barn must be respected in these spots.

All of this leads up to the Louisiana Stakes, where I’m singling a horse that could have a big year. That’s #5 THE PLAYER, who won the Grade 2 Fayette two back before a misfire in the Grade 1 Clark. He’s run up against better horses recently, and the work tab is very impressive. He’s definitely the horse to beat, and with his tactical speed, he could sit a dream trip just off the speed and get first run when the real running starts.


$0.50 Pick Four: Race #2

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

54 Bets, $27

Usually, I give out an early Pick Five ticket. However, I simply can’t give one out that’s within a budget I feel comfortable with. With that in mind, I’ve opted to focus on the early Pick Four instead.

The second race is a maiden claiming event. #2 SOUL SOUND may go off favored, but I have my doubts. She’s not the only class-dropper in this field. #4 TOPAZ TIME has back races that make her competitive, and #5 DEL MAR DIVA gets a positive rider switch and sports a flashy recent workout over this track.

I think Bob Baffert wins the third race. The question is, with which one of his three runners? I’m using all of them, and this ticket may come down in cost a bit, as Baffert tends to scratch some runners of his in this sort of situation. Of the three I used, I’m most intrigued by #1 CURLY’S ROCKET, who has worked well following a disappointing debut. The rail draw doesn’t help, but he may be mature enough to overcome it.

The fourth race is a fun turf event with several stakes-quality runners. My top pick is #7 UNAPOLOGETIC, who gets Mike Smith in this spot. He generally runs the same race every time out, and he was beaten two lengths last time out by Editore, who won his next start after that before finishing third in the Grade 2 San Gabriel. I’m also using #6 A RED TIE DAY, who loves this turf course. He’s won just once since October of 2016, but several of his starts in that timespan have come against much better competition.

The fifth is a $12,500 claimer, and it’s drawn a lot of familiar faces from the circuit. I’m three-deep, and I’m using three logical horses. #3 MR. SHOOK drops way down in class, #4 DUKES UP makes his first start for new trainer Doug O’Neill, and #7 CITY STEEL returns to his favorite track and will run for his lowest tag since at least 2016.

$0.50 Pick Four: Race #6

R6: 2,7
R7: 1,5,7,10
R8: 2
R9: 8,9

16 Bets, $8

My strategy here is pretty simple, as I’m attempting to extract some value from a horse that will likely be an odds-on favorite. I am, however, using some prices elsewhere, so there’s a chance we get a solid return on investment.

The sixth is a sprint down the hill, and I like a 6-1 shot on top. #2 DOC CURLIN has never run a bad race at this route, and the addition of Evin Roman is a big plus. I’ll also use #7 MOONLIGHT DRIVE, a horse I’ve always liked since his flashy win in his North American debut. He’s hit the board in a pair of graded stakes races, and the horses he’s lost to are high-class thoroughbreds. While Doc Curlin is my top pick, and a horse I was admittedly tempted to single based on the price, I couldn’t go forward without using this Bob Baffert trainee as well.

The seventh is a bottom-level claiming event for older horses going six furlongs. #10 LAMBO LUXX may be favored, but I don’t think he’s a cinch. He didn’t beat much last time out at Los Alamitos, and his most recent race here at Santa Anita (which came over a track considerably slower than the Santa Anita strip he’s won over in the past) was not good. I’ll use him, but I want some coverage elsewhere. #1 PAT THE BEAR has tons of early speed, #5 CHROMIUM has improved since dropping to this level two back, and #7 PRIVATE PROSPECT takes a big drop off of a controversial race Sunday.

My single will be a popular one. #2 MAJESTIC HEAT looms large in the Grade 2 La Canada, and she’s emerged as a high-quality dirt horse since trying the surface two back. At some point, she’ll face the heavyweights of this division, but this group seems a cut below those. If she doesn’t win, I lose, and I imagine many tickets go up in smoke.

We finish the card with another race down the hill. This one is for $25,000 claimers, and my top pick takes a steep drop in class. #8 COASTLINE was beaten less than two lengths two back in the Grade 3 Eddie D, and some of his best races have come at this route. His best race wins this, but just in case he’s tailing off, I’m also using #9 GENERAL IKE, who did everything but win in his lone downhill race to date, which came for a $40,000 tag. He didn’t break well last time out at Del Mar, and the outside post position is a big plus.

ANALYSIS: Florida Derby, Louisiana Derby, and Pick Four tickets


By many measures, #11 Gunnevera is the best horse in the race. He was a runaway winner of the Fountain of Youth, and he should have plenty of pace in front of him to set up for his late kick. However, the post position fogs things up just a bit. With such a short run to the first turn, it will be imperative for all-world jockey Javier Castellano to get inside quickly and save as much ground as possible.

As such, Gunnevera, while imposing, is no cinch, and my strategy will be to use him, but not key him. The other horse I will use heavily is #1 State of Honor, who draws very favorably given his early speed. The Mark Casse trainee ran third behind McCraken two back and second behind Tapwrit last out, so there’s back class here. I’m not quite sure we’ll get his 8-1 morning line odds, but he won’t be one of the top two choices, and if he can capitalize on Three Rules’s outside post position and get a jump on that rival, he could lead them a long way.

I will key those two horses on top of a few others in the exotics. I’m by no means in love with likely second choice #4 Always Dreaming, who has had perfect trips in his last two outings, but it’s prudent to use that one underneath as a saver. I’ll round out some of my wagers with a few longshots, one of whom is a big price. #7 Unbridled Holiday was third behind Always Dreaming in that one’s last race, but surrendered a lot of ground while racing wide that day. He’s 30-1 on the morning line and may go off a bigger price than that, but he adds blinkers, had a big work on March 25th, and could absolutely clunk up for a piece of it. Additionally, #8 Impressive Edge tries two turns for the first time after an impressive win going seven furlongs last time out. If there’s competition up front, he’ll certainly be one of the ones to benefit the most.


$4 exacta box: 1,11 – $8
$1 exacta key: 1,11/1,4,7,8,11 – $8
$0.10 superfecta: 1,11/1,4,7,8,11/1,4,7,8,11/1,4,7,8,11 – $4.80


This one seems pretty formful on paper. #8 Girvin won the Risen Star by a clear margin, and he’s very much the horse to beat. The third and fourth-place finishers will try him again in this spot, as will a few new shooters.

I can only see one horse in here potentially beating your likely heavy favorite. That’s #6 Guest Suite, who was left with far too much to do in the Risen Star. He rallied to finish fourth, but seems to have come out of the race extremely well. He’s posted three excellent works for trainer Neil Howard, and it’s not illogical to think that a horse who has improved in every race to date will continue to do so.


$10 exacta box: 6,8 – $20


$0.50 Pick Four: Race #2, Gulfstream Park

R2: 3,4,9,11,12
R3: 1,6
R4: 2,3
R5: 1,4

40 bets, $20

RATIONALE: The second at Gulfstream may be the best betting race on the card, with several class-droppers getting horrible posts. Meanwhile, I think a few longshots, specifically #3 Bella Sunrise and #4 Lover’s Key, have big shots in there. The second leg is a tough race to decipher, but #1 Capital City is very appealing if you can forgive his last-out clunker, and #6 Over the Limit cuts back to a sprint and won three in a row very recently. If the last two races are formful, I think this could be a fruitful Pick Four.

$0.50 Pick Four: Race #7, Gulfstream Park

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

12 bets, $6

RATIONALE: I think the first leg sets up for a stone closer, and my top pick is actually #6 The Truth or Else, who sits at a square 10-1 on the morning line. If you toss out his two-turn races, which are mostly duds, you’re left with a horse that stacks up much more favorably than what his standing will likely be on the tote board. I’m spreading in the eighth (if you want to spend a few extra bucks and hit the “ALL” button, go ahead), and I’m finishing with two popular singles. #6 Luke’s Alley goes in allowance company in the ninth, while #5 Celestine looms large in the 10th given her talent and likely nature as the race’s lone speed. It may not pay much, but if we get some value in the first two legs, I think the payoff could surprise you.

$0.50 Pick Four: Race #8, Fair Grounds

R9: 1,6,8,11
R10: 6
R11: 6,8

80 bets, $40

RATIONALE: I’m maxing out my usual $40 budget here, because the first two races are TOUGH. There are 10 runners in the New Orleans, and I could make a convincing case for seven or eight of them. The Muniz Memorial Handicap is no joke, either, and while I like #8 Kasaqui a fair bit, there are others there you need to use that have ample experience over this turf course (plus 15-1 shot #11 Special Ops, since his last two races have been excellent and he should be flying late). I’ll single #6 Farrell in the Fair Grounds Oaks, and I’ll use my top two in the Louisiana Derby to finish things out.