Analysis, Selections, and Tickets: May 26th, 2018 (Belmont, Santa Anita, Monmouth)

We’ve got two weeks left to go until Justify attempts to become horse racing’s 13th Triple Crown winner. However, there’s plenty of good racing coming up Saturday. Santa Anita’s slate is headlined by a pair of Grade 1 races, Belmont Park has an appealing 10-race card, and Monmouth Park boasts 13 events (four of which are stakes). There’s a lot to cover, so let’s get to it!


$0.50 Pick Five: Race #1

R1: 2,5
R3: 5,6,7
R4: 3
R5: 6,7

60 Bets, $30

We start off the card with a maiden claimer, and this strikes me as a two-horse race. #2 PLAYWRIGHT and #5 RUMBLES OF THUNDER will take most of the money, and I can’t find any other alternatives in this field.

The second leg, though, is completely wide-open despite boasting just a field of five horses. #5 CLASSIC COVEY may be favored, but he’s winless in his last four outings and could be a bounce candidate off a lifetime-best effort when third in the Grade 2 Pan American. I’m hitting the ALL button and hoping for a bit of chaos.

I almost completely went against the 4/5 morning line favorite in the third race. That’s #5 RIDE ON FAITH, who’s 0-for-12 and goes out for the ice-cold Nick Zito barn. Ultimately, though, I opted to use the horse defensively since I had room in my budget to do so. I most prefer #6 GIO LUCKY and #7 CURLIN’S NEW MOON. Both take class drops to run here, and I think that could wake them up.

My single will likely be a popular one. That’s #3 CHARNLEY RIVER, who’s 8/5 on the morning line and could go off shorter than that in the fourth. He aired when entered for a tag two back before being burned out on the front end against much better last time out. I think he’ll be very tough to beat if he fires his best shot.

We finish similar to how we started. I think the fifth is a two-horse race between the two likely favorites. In this case, those horses are class-dropper #6 POLAR CITY and #7 FLATEXCEL, who just missed at this level last time out and looks much better if you toss the three off-track races. I prefer the latter, who’s a bit more of a price, but using both seems most prudent here for the sake of coverage on the end.

$0.50 Pick Four: Race #7

R7: 1,3,5,8,11,12,13
R8: 3,7
R9: 3,5,6
R10: 4,6

84 Bets, $42

Full disclosure: This ticket likely will not cost $42. #13 WAY SMART is an also-eligible in the first leg, and he may not run. If all seven horses I’m using in the seventh run, it’s a $42 wager, but each scratch brings the ticket down six dollars.

That event, as you can imply, struck me as the most wide-open of the sequence. It’s a turf sprint for state-breds, and I thought many in here had big shots to run well. #8 MENTALITY may be favored given her back class, but she’s dropped four races in a row and is no cinch. The longshot of the bunch I used is #3 MISS MYSTIQUE, who’s 20-1 on the morning line. She’s stakes-placed on dirt, so there’s some talent there, and with Johannesburg on the top of her pedigree and Malibu Moon on the bottom, there’s potential for her to like the grass. I needed her on the ticket, especially in a race where there don’t seem to be any monsters signed on.

I was tempted to single #3 BIG GUY IAN in the second leg, a $16,000 claimer. He seems like the main speed in here, but he’s also burned some money of late and is 0-for-5 at Belmont Park. With all of that in mind, I also had to use #7 CERRO, a hard-knocking veteran dropping in class for aggressive connections. It seems like he detested Aqueduct, as his last two starts were too bad to be true. I think there’s a chance he wakes up here, and those two clunkers could mean he does so at an overlaid price.

The third leg is the feature, the Paradise Creek Stakes for 3-year-olds going seven furlongs on turf. #5 GIDU will likely be favored, and his best race probably wins this, but this is a prep race for Royal Ascot, not the goal. With that in mind, I’ll also throw in #3 CURLIN’S HONOR, who’s perfect aside from a misfire in the Grade 2 Rebel, and #6 AMBASSADOR JIM, who may be the lone closer in a race with lots of early speed.

We finish with, to be blunt, a real mess of a race. It’s a maiden claimer for turf sprinters, and I went two-deep. #4 WILD WILLIAM is a first-time starter with solid breeding that catches a weak field, while #6 CAUSFORCELEBRATION just missed last time out at this level in his first start off the bench. I can’t get past those two, and I need to keep the cost of my ticket down anyway.


$0.50 Pick Five: Race #1

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

54 Bets, $27

This is an interesting Pick Five sequence. The field sizes won’t knock your socks off or anything, but these are five intriguing betting races with very little in the way of prohibitive favorites. With that in mind, we could conceivably hit this for a nice score without having any true bombs on the ticket.

I’ll start off by going three-deep in the opener, a $35,000 claimer on the grass. #3 SPITFIRE has run well twice at this level, and if you toss the career debut, he’s yet to run a bad race on turf. I’m also using #4 SWINGING STAR, who gets Rafael Bejarano off a win over lesser company, and #5 DEFIANTLY, who had an adventurous trip when favored last time out.

We have to single somewhere, and the horse I landed on is the 5/2 favorite in the second race. That’s #6 ISEE IT IN HISEYES, who came back running off the bench last time out to be an OK third against similar company. The blinkers come on, and I think he’ll love cutting back to 5 1/2 furlongs after tiring a bit going a furlong further than that last time out. If he’s allowed to dictate terms early, he may be tough late.

If you’ve got a bigger budget and want to buy the third race, that could be smart. It’s a field of six, and I think most of the horses in here look live. I settled on going three-deep, and I’m eager to see how #5 QUEEN LAILA responds following the claim by David Jacobson last time out.

I’m only two-deep in the fourth, which drew a full field of 10 maidens to go long on the turf. My top selection is #4 JAZAALAH, who I think will relish the cutback to a mile. I’ll also defensively use 3-1 morning line favorite #5 ROCKIN READY, who’s been second three straight times and could be approaching now-or-never status.

We finish off the sequence with the Grade 1 Gold Cup at Santa Anita. Three horses appear to be head and shoulders above the rest here, and I’m using all of them. #2 ACCELERATE, #4 CITY OF LIGHT, and #5 DR. DORR seem best of this bunch, and because I’m fairly thin elsewhere, I can afford to use them all here.

$0.50 Pick Four: Race #6

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

32 Bets, $16

This is the first of two sequences in a row where I’ve constructed a cheaper ticket because I don’t think it’ll pay much. With that in mind, my single is my best bet of the day, and if we can extract ANY value from it, I’ll be pretty happy.

That’s #6 ITSINTHEPOST, who’s 6/5 in the Grade 2 Charles Whittingham. Simply put, this is the same bunch of horses this gelding has been beating up on for a while now, and I can’t see a reason for any of them to turn the tables here. He’ll likely be odds-on, and he should be, as it would take a significant form reversal for someone to beat him.

The second leg will also feature a heavy favorite, but I can’t single him. That’s #7 BABY GRONK, who disappointed at 1/2 last time out. I’m using him, but I also need to throw in #2 FASHIONABLY FAST, who was vanned off following his most recent race on March 10th. It’s safe to assume something went wrong that day, so I’m tossing it out and going off of his debut effort, which was pretty sharp. If he runs back to that race, I think he’s got a big chance.

Going fairly narrow early allows me to spread late. I’m four-deep in the Grade 1 Gamely, where several horses I’m using likely need a fast pace. If one materializes, #1 MADAM DANCEALOT and #6 BEAU RECALL figure to be tough. If it doesn’t, #7 HAWKSMOOR and #8 MADAME STRIPES may have something left late.

We end the card with a maiden claiming event, and this may be the best betting race on the card. #7 IT’S A NEW YEAR is the 7/2 morning line choice, but he may be best going two turns, not one. I’ll use him, but I also need to use several other logical horses, ones that could be significantly bigger prices.


$0.50 Pick Five: Race #9

R9: 4
R10: 2,3,4,5,8,10
R11: 2,3
R12: 2,3,7
R13: 6

36 Bets, $18

Monmouth has a $100,000 bonus to be paid out if this wager is hit by a single winning ticket. Having said that, I’m not holding my breath on only one person cashing out. It looks pretty chalky, but the good news is that I think you can play a ticket for a very reasonable price. If we can get singles home on each end and beat favorites between them, we could be looking at a nice score.

The first race of the sequence is the John J. Reilly for New Jersey-breds. I’m very hesitant to criticize morning line makers, and Monmouth’s line is usually very strong, but this one seems off. #4 CHUBLICIOUS has thumped many of these rivals in the past and returns to his favorite surface after a few productive starts at Fair Grounds. If he runs back to his form from last year’s event, he’s going to be very tough to beat. He’s 5/2 on the morning line, but I think he’ll be 6/5 or 7/5 when the gates are sprung, and if he’s higher than that, I’ll need to have a straight win bet, too.

The second leg, the Boiling Springs, is much more difficult. If you’ve got deeper pockets and want to hit the “ALL” button, I get it (that would make my suggested ticket $30 instead of $18). I simply wanted to keep the cost of my ticket down, which meant tossing four of the 10 runners in the field. I’m still using the logical horses in here, so as long as nothing crazy happens, we’ve got a really good chance of advancing without buying the race.

The third leg is the Grade 3 Salvator Mile, and I was able to narrow this down to two horses. My top pick is #2 SHAFT OF LIGHT, who seems like the main speed in here. I think he’s faster than #4 CHIP LEADER (who I don’t like at all after a perfect-trip defeat in the Ben Ali), and he should be able to dictate terms early. I also need to use #3 SUNNY RIDGE, who always runs well here and has kept strong company throughout his career.

The fourth leg is the Grade 2 Monmouth, and as usual, Chad Brown holds a strong hand in this turf race. #2 PROJECTED and #3 MONEY MULTIPLIER can both win, but my top pick is #7 FROSTMOURNE, who exits the Grade 1 Makers 46 Mile at Keeneland. He probably wants a bit further than that, and he gets an additional furlong here. We may get a fair price given Brown’s 1-2 punch, and if he wins, it could spice up the eventual payout.

If we’re alive going into the Saturday finale, we’ll ride or die with #6 DISRUPTOR, who seems like the lone early speed horse in this $7,500 claimer. He won’t be a price (2-1 ML), but his last two races at Gulfstream were sharp in relation to what he’ll face here, and if he gets a comfortable lead going into the far turn, I think he’ll be tough to catch late.

A Letter to Zenyatta and Ziconic Fans, Plus Santa Anita Analysis for 5/27/17

Dear Zenyatta/Ziconic Fans,

There’s something you should know before reading the rest of this letter, and, by extension, my analysis into Saturday’s card at Santa Anita. I am NOT a Zenyatta hater.

I have a deep respect for what the great mare was able to do. I was among the Hall of Fame voters that put her and fellow legendary female Rachel Alexandra in on the very first ballot. Furthermore, in an age where horse racing is in desperate need of stars, few are hoping harder that Zenyatta’s offspring can run than I am.

Ziconic is no bum, and part of his inability to win one yet hasn’t been his fault. He ran into eventual multiple graded stakes winner Dalmore twice in early-2016, and then, in his fourth lifetime start, he was beaten into submission by a little-known gray horse named Arrogate, who would later emerge as the top dirt horse in the world.

However, this is where I urge you all to breathe very deeply, because here’s where the gambler in me comes out.

It is my belief that any money wagered on Ziconic to win Saturday’s finale at Santa Anita…is dumb money.

(pausing to allow objects to be thrown in my general direction)

OK, done now? Good.

Anyway, here’s my logic. Ziconic’s fatal flaw throughout his career has been an inability to break well from the starting gate. In his six starts, he’s been closer than eight lengths behind at the first point of call just once. With that in mind, the rail draw is a huge problem. Not only will Ziconic likely concede considerable ground from the word “go” in Saturday’s finale, but he’ll probably have to check back sharply while doing so. Furthermore, the race itself has positively ZERO known early pace to speak of (more on this later). If you subscribe to the notion that pace makes the race, Ziconic is up against it, and would be even with a better post position.

Consider all of these facts, and then consider Ziconic’s likely price at the betting windows. A 3-1 morning line is conservative, given the Zenyatta fans that follow the horse and will bet with their hearts at the windows. My guess is that Ziconic goes off somewhere between 8/5 and 2-1, and I simply cannot endorse a win bet on a slow-breaking closer in a paceless race contested on a surface that is often very kind to early speed at that short of a mutuel.

I had a Twitter follower comment once that wagering on Ziconic was akin to placing flowers on the Zenyatta statue in the paddock at Santa Anita. I’m not heartless. I get that argument. However, as a horseplayer, I wake up every day in search of the elusive property known as value. When Ziconic (and before him, Cozmic One) is hammered at the windows to the point of being a monstrous underlay, value exists with the rest of the field.

If Ziconic blooms at a later age and turns into a star, nobody will be happier than yours truly. I work in social media, after all, and that story would play REALLY well. With that in mind, he’ll likely be bet like he towers over the field he faces Saturday. The facts show that he doesn’t.

Best wishes,

(braces for a social media backlash of epic proportions)

$0.50 Pick Five: Race #1, Santa Anita

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

48 bets, $24

This Pick Five ticket (which also includes the skeleton of a $12 early Pick Four ticket that begins in the second race) is built around the singling of Stormy Liberal in the Grade 3 Daytona. The Peter Miller trainee has four wins and two seconds in his last six starts, and has won three in a row going down the hill. The far outside post is a huge plus, and I think he’ll be tough to beat in that short field.

The other legs, though, are not easy. If One I’m Running To channels his 2-year-old form, he likely wins the opener comfortably, but coming off a long layoff and running for a $12,500 tag after thumping $50,000 maiden claimers last fall is a big red flag. As such, I also used Bitte, whose last race is a throwout given his slow start. A repeat of his races two and three back would make him a major player.

The second race is a mess, so I spread there before singling Stormy Liberal in the third leg (if you’ve got the budget to hit the “ALL” button, go ahead; I opted to keep the cost of the ticket down a bit). I settled on only using two horses in the fourth. Honor and Courage may be the only speed horse in the race, while Acker was a solid second in his debut and has the pedigree to love a two-turn route of ground. Finally, I was tempted to single Lady Eli in the Grade 1 Gamely, but I also had to use Avenge, who may be the race’s lone early speed horse. The latter has been working well, and all signs point to a big performance.

$0.50 Pick Four: Race #6, Santa Anita

R6: 3,4,8,9
R7: 3,4,8,9
R8: 1,2
R9: 5,10

64 bets, $32

Given the guaranteed pool and the wide-open fields, this is a Pick Four that could pay very generously. I spread in the first two races, and several horses I used are fairly big prices on the morning line.

The sixth is an optional claimer that looks much more like a stakes race. Taman Guard seems like the horse to beat, and when he’s on his game, he’s very good. However, he hasn’t run in nine months, and the post position isn’t great, so I added some more coverage. Texas Two Step should improve with the re-addition of blinkers, Boy Howdy’s two races this season for red-hot trainer Bill Spawr have been solid, and don’t overlook Pioneerof the West. He’s 20-1 on the line, and while he comes in off a long layoff, his best race would be competitive in this spot. Vladimir Cerin can win with horses coming in off this kind of a freshening, and he’d be a knockout horse.

I’m using the same numbers in the second leg, the Grade 2 Monrovia. Illuminant and Enola Gray merit respect, but Watch This Cat gets off the dreaded rail (which hurt her badly last time out against several rivals that also show up here), and Anita Partner has crossed under the wire first on four straight occasions, three of which have come in races contested at this route.

I’m going against Midnight Storm in the Grade 1 Gold Cup at Santa Anita. There seems to be a lot of early speed signed on, and 10 furlongs may be just a hair further than he wants to go. American Freedom makes his second start off the layoff for Bob Baffert, while Follow Me Crev is in good form and should get plenty of pace to run at. If Midnight Storm wins, I lose, but if one of those two horses can beat him, many tickets go up in smoke, and I stand to benefit from it.

Finally, we come to the nightcap. This is the Ziconic race, and I’ll try to beat him with two horses, one of which is his stablemate. Oregon seems like the horse to beat based on his last-out effort. He didn’t get a great trip that day, but rallied to finish second in his first start around two turns. His race down the hill two back suggests he may have a bit more tactical speed than he showed in his most recent outing, and I also like the May 20th workout, which was sixth-fastest of 67 at the distance that morning. I’m also going to use Ample Sufficiency, who may very well be the speed in this race by default. He was 0-for-7 overseas, but he was beaten just a length in a Group 2 as a 2-year-old, and he gets Lasix for the first time in his U.S. debut. If Tyler Baze is aggressive out of the gate, this newcomer could lead them a long way.