The Sam F. Davis, a Rainbow Six Mandatory Payout, Three Pick Fours, and an Interlude: 2/9/19

Before we do a deep dive into the Sam F. Davis, the mandatory Rainbow Six payout at Gulfstream Park, and three other multi-race sequences at tracks from Florida to California, I’m going to attempt to wade into the deep water and go through some stuff that’s been lingering in my subconscious for a week. If you want to scroll down past the next several paragraphs and resume reading at the section marked “TAMPA BAY DOWNS,“ feel free to do so. If you do, though, know that you’re missing the most bizarre “thank you” I’ve ever written.

As those who know me well can attest, I’m cursed, and I’m only half-joking. My mind rarely stops, and sometimes, what it conjures up are some of the weirdest, most whacked-out things known to mankind. There are times where this has worked (every journalism award I’ve ever won), times where it hasn’t (one major track pushing for me to be fired; you’re all going to want to hear that story when I can tell it), and times where the reactions I get generally puzzle everyone (me going into “pro wrestler cutting a promo” mode, as I’m prone to do).

Last Friday was one of those times. I’d just come back from dinner at Vinnie’s, the local dive bar in my neighborhood that prides itself on cheap burgers, bright TV’s, and a juke box with long songs designed to tick people off when you buy them with the “advanced priority” option (my go-to is the 12-minute version of “Papa Was a Rolling Stone”). Before cranking out a 2,700-word column, I took to Twitter.

 

24 hours later, I looked, and that tweet had more likes than anything else I’ve ever tweeted. Please understand that this, for lack of a better phrase, scared the hell out of me.

I beat everyone at Saratoga in 2017, less than six months after being told by someone that I had no use to him/her as any sort of a handicapper. I’ve won awards for the work that I’ve done with several different outlets. I’ve been different combinations of fortunate, proud, and successful at a lot of different things…and me calling myself an old fart who needs help was what got the most attention.

Being scared was the short-term reaction. Some in horse racing genuinely believe that I’m a joke who isn’t to be taken seriously, and I’m sure that group includes some pretty high-profile people. However, what I ultimately realized, in the aftermath of that tweet, is that I’ve got the support of way more people than I ever thought I did.

I can’t really go into too much depth about why that means as much as it does right now (it’s a long story for another time and place). Suffice it to say, though, that when I digested everything, I was pretty moved. I’m not in the horse racing business full-time anymore, so nobody’s paying me to write this stuff. This is a labor of love for me, and between the response to that tweet and the stats I’ve seen on my website, I’ve realized that I’m a very blessed person. I have some value to people who read my stuff, and any writer will tell you that that’s an incredible thing.

To everyone who read this (and those that scrolled down to the next section and are only catching this paragraph by accident), thank you. Now, let’s get to work!

TAMPA BAY DOWNS

Derby Prep: Sam F. Davis Stakes (Grade 3)
Late Pick Four: Races 9-12

The Sam F. Davis Stakes headlines the Saturday card at Tampa Bay Downs, and Kentucky Derby points are on the line. The race drew a field of 10, and it’s headlined by #3 KNICKS GO, who ran second in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile behind Game Winner.

Knicks Go can certainly win this race. His clunker in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club is excusable given the sloppy track he ran on, and he’s working well ahead of his 3-year-old debut. Having said that, there’s a lot of speed in this race, and while Knicks Go doesn’t need the lead to run well, I think he’ll be up close to a very fast pace.

I’m looking elsewhere for my top pick, and I landed on #8 SO ALIVE, a Todd Pletcher trainee that will likely go off much shorter than his 5-1 morning line price. He boasts a win over the Tampa Bay Downs surface, and he’s shown a strong closing kick. His final pre-race work was a bullet earlier this week, and it’s never a bad thing to have Javier Castellano in town to ride.

In addition to those two, I’ll also use a price on some of my wider tickets. #10 STILL DREAMING is a half-brother to Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist, and he stretched out with authority last time out at Laurel Park. The post position is definitely an issue, and he almost certainly has to step up, but logical improvement and some racing luck puts him right there for a piece of it.

$0.50 Pick Four: Race #9

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

60 Bets, $30

The late Pick Four features three stakes races, and it starts with the Suncoast for 3-year-old fillies. I found this race positively confounding, and I had to spread in order to be at all comfortable with getting out of the first leg. Had Rymska’s connections not opted for the Grade 3 Suwanee River at Gulfstream instead of the Endeavour, I’d have hit the “ALL” button, but I had to chop a few horses off the ticket to save money.

Rymska scratching actually opens this sequence up a bit for me, because I don’t like the new favorite. #6 HAWKSMOOR certainly has speed and back class, but she hasn’t run since October, hasn’t won since 2017, and figures to see some opposition up front. My top pick is #2 GET EXPLICIT, who got pretty good near the end of last year, and I’ll also throw in #4 MONTE CRISTA. That runner is a price, but something clearly went wrong two back and her 2019 debut came off a three-month layoff. She showed serious ability last summer, and anything close to the 12-1 morning line would hit me as a considerable overlay.

I’ll go two-deep in the Sam F. Davis (though I’ll likely save with Still Dreaming in doubles), and I’ll go three-deep in the payoff leg. This is a claiming race for older horses going two turns on the turf. I’ll use the two likely favorites, #1 ADIOS NARDO and #6 HUNTSTOWN, as well as #4 AT THE READY, who has run very well over this track, would benefit from a pace meltdown, and could give us some value at anywhere close to his 8-1 morning line price.

GULFSTREAM PARK

$0.20 Pick Six: Race #7

R7: 2,4,5,9,12 (15)
R8: 2
R9: 2,3,4,7,9
R10: 3,5
R11: 4,5,6,8,9
R12: 5

250 Bets, $50

The handicapping puzzle of the day at Gulfstream is the Rainbow Six, which boasts a mandatory payout. Naturally, the folks in Hallandale Beach have put together some incredibly difficult events to decipher, and if you hit, I think you’ll get paid handsomely.

Right off the bat, we have an overflow field in a maiden claiming event. As usual in a race like this, there isn’t much in the way of proven form signed on, so I felt the need to go five-deep. One note: If one of my horses scratches, that opens the door for #15 CROWN ROMANCE to draw in. If that’s the case, I need to have him on the ticket, hence the parentheses above.

The eighth, however, seems much more clear-cut. #2 REAGAN’S ODYSSEY has burned some money of late, but was a good second last time out at this level and goes to the barn of Audrey Maragh, which has been on a hot streak of late with horses first off the claim. I think she’s considerably best in here, and we need to single somewhere given my self-imposed budget, so that’s what we’ll do.

The ninth is a maiden special weight event for 3-year-old fillies, and it starts the late Pick Four (note: if you want to play my last four legs, it would be a $25 Pick Four ticket). This is another spread race for me, as several in here are stretching out in distance. My top selection, though, is a juicy 6-1 on the morning line in her turf debut. That’s #2 EBULLIENT, who’s bred up and down for the lawn and gets Lasix for trainer Michael Matz.

The tenth is a loaded allowance race headlined by a pair of 3-year-olds that could be on their ways to bigger things. The morning line favorite is #3 GLOBAL CAMPAIGN, who was a very impressive debut winner for Stanley Hough. The close second choice is #5 STANDARD DEVIATION, who misfired in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile after running a sneaky-good third in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland. Some may single one or the other, but I’m playing it safe and going two-deep.

The eleventh is the final spread race on my ticket. It’s the El Prado Stakes, and there may be a lot of tickets out there that buy this race. That’s how difficult it is, and for an ungraded stakes race, it drew a very strong field. #5 MR CUB was a close second behind Pegasus World Cup Turf winner Bricks and Mortar last time out, and I’d be stunned if he went off at his 9/2 price. The big price I need to use, though, is #4 SIDING SPRING, whose best races have come over this turf course. He’s simply a different animal in Hallandale Beach, and even though he’s lacking a bit in figures, I need to have him on the ticket.

I hate singling in the last leg of a ticket like this. However, there’s a filly in the finale that I like a fair bit, and she’ll likely be a bit of a price. #5 SUNNY DALE ran evenly in her career debut going two turns last month, and I think she’ll take a big step forward at second asking. John Servis’s horses tend to improve with experience, and she’s bred to be a very good turf horse. It’s tough to debut at two turns, so I’ll take a shot against #1 CAFÉ AMERICANO (the likely favorite). If that one beats me, so be it.

OAKLAWN PARK

$0.50 Pick Four: Race #6

R6: 1,2,11
R7: 1,5,8
R8: 9
R9: 4,5,7,9,10,11

54 Bets, $27

For the second Saturday in a row, Oaklawn’s late Pick Four is a doozy. I’m building it around one horse I really like, and I’m hoping we get a price or two home around that one to make this pay a bit.

The sixth is a $20,000 claiming event. The entry trained by Robertino Diodoro figures to be tough, but I like #11 DOCTOR LEE best. He was fourth against a much better field last time out, and he won three straight races not long ago. 6-1 seems like a square price, and anything close to that would certainly entice a win bet.

I’m also going three-deep in the Saturday feature, the King Cotton Stakes for older sprinters. I can’t get too cute in here, as I’m using the three likely favorites. If #1 WILBO is ready to go off of the long layoff, I think he’s the horse to beat. He won this race last year and has done some of his best running in Hot Springs. He boasts a steady work tab ahead of his return, and I think trainer Chris Hartman (who’s 0 for 13 at the meet as of this writing) could get off the duck in a big, big way.

My single comes in the eighth, an allowance event for older fillies and mares. That single is #9 SPRINGDETTI, who has been working lights-out for trainer Norman McKnight. McKnight is hitting at a 27% clip this meet, and if this mare runs to her works, I think she’ll be very tough.

I’m happy I could single with some degree of confidence in the eighth, because the Saturday finale is a mess. It’s a maiden claimer with a full field, and it includes several runners dropping in class. #10 AUGIE is the likely favorite, and if he’s ready, he probably wins, but he hasn’t run in almost 11 months. If he’s not ready, I have no confidence in much of this group, so I’ll include five others to buy some security.

SANTA ANITA

$0.50 Pick Four: Race #11

R8: 6
R9: 1,3,4,6
R10: 3,5,8,9
R11: 3,5,7,10,11

80 Bets, $40

We’ll finish things off with Santa Anita, and I’ll start with a bit of a rant. The opening leg of the sequence is an optional claiming race for 3-year-olds going six and a half furlongs. Sunday’s feature is the Grade 2 San Vicente for 3-year-old sprinters going seven furlongs. Why was Saturday’s race even carded, especially with the San Vicente struggling for entries? My head hurts.

Several runners in this field likely would’ve taken some play in the latter race, and I’ve singled one of them. #6 MUCH BETTER was part of a contested pace in the Grade 3 Sham, which was won by the fast-closing Gunmetal Gray. That one ran OK when second in the Robert B. Lewis last weekend, and I think Much Better will run…well, much better, on the cutback in distance for Bob Baffert and Mike Smith.

The ninth race is the Grade 2 San Marcos, and while the West Coast turf marathon contingent isn’t any great shakes, I thought this was a fascinating betting race. #3 CHICAGO STYLE and #4 EPICAL will take money, but the former does his best running at Del Mar, and the latter takes a big step up in class and may have to work for the early lead. My top pick is actually #1 UNAPOLOGETIC, who runs for red-hot trainer Bill Spawr, and I’ll also use European invader #6 SEJO, who gets Lasix for the first time after hinting at some potential last year in France.

The tenth is a claiming race for older horses, and your guess is as good as mine with regard to who will be favored. #9 HONEYMOONZ OVER gets that distinction on the morning line, and I’m using him on the drop in class, but the barn is ice-cold this meet, so it’s not like he’s a cinch. Of the bigger prices, #3 CRAZY UNCLE RICK caught my eye. He takes a massive drop out of the allowance ranks to run here, and the last time he ran for a tag on dirt, he jogged. This may wake him up, and if he wins, there’s a chance plenty of tickets get knocked out.

We finish with a maiden race for fillies going down the hill. Naturally, there isn’t much proven hill form signed on (what fun would THAT be?), so I’m spreading and hoping to catch a price. The possible bomb I used here is #10 SPANISH CHANNEL, whose debut was far from bad for an outfit whose firsters tend to need their initial outings. Kent Desormeaux hopping aboard is noteworthy, as is the odds disparity with other runners from that race. #11 SETTLE IT beat Spanish Channel by just a half-length that day, yet the latter is three times the price. I’m hoping Spanish Channel gets ignored, because I think she deserves just as much attention as anyone else in this spot.

ANALYSIS, SELECTIONS, AND TICKETS: Queen’s Plate Day at Woodbine, Mandatory Rainbow 6 Payout at Gulfstream

Some may consider the time between the Belmont Stakes and the start of Saratoga and Del Mar to be a bit slow, but Saturday’s got ample opportunity for a handicapper to make a big score. It’s Queen’s Plate Day at Woodbine, and there’s also a mandatory payout in the Rainbow 6 at Gulfstream Park. I’ve got a ton of tickets below, and with a little bit of luck, we’ll be able to connect with a few and have a big day!

WOODBINE

$0.20 Pick Five: Race #2

R2: 1,5,9
R3: 2,4,6
R4: 2,5,9
R5: 1,4,5
R6: 7,8

162 Bets, $32.40

Yep, handicapping Woodbine means we get to dabble in 20-cent exotic wagers. This isn’t something that could work at all tracks, but at Woodbine, the concept is tremendous. Most people play for this denomination, so the payoff isn’t nearly as low as you’d expect, and you can get meaningful coverage without breaking the bank.

This Pick Five is a tough one, and it begins with a 2-year-old race. Mark Casse has a very strong hand, as #1 SOUL PLANET and #5 LIMONAIA are both logical contenders. I’m also going to use #9 CON ARTIST, who debuts for the Mike Maker barn and sports a flashy half-mile drill on June 23rd. This one may need a bit more ground, but if the most recent work is any indication, she can run a bit.

The second leg is the Charlie Barley Stakes, and I’ve gone three-deep. #4 MACHTREE is a logical favorite off of two strong races on the synthetic main track, but I don’t think he’s a cinch, and he may not even be the most well-meant entry from the Mark Casse barn. I’ll also use #6 RIDE A COMET, who’s undefeated on turf, and #2 BLUEBLOOD, who may have needed the race two back and figures to be prominent early.

The third leg also starts off a Pick Four (more on that later), and #5 ERADICATOR is a sound favorite. He drops way down in class and ran well two back at this level, but his lone win came against a suspect group last October, so I can’t have a ton of faith in him. I’m also including #2 SCRAM CRACKER, who may have figured things out given his recent score off a long layoff, and #9 SOUTHERN GREATNESS, whose record looks much better if you toss the turf races and solely focus on synthetic form.

The fourth leg features a full field of 14 maidens, and this is far from easy. In my Pick Four, I went five-deep, but in an effort to keep this ticket affordable, I whittled my coverage to a trio of horses. #1 BETH’S AURORA responded to the drop in class last time out, while #4 STORMY SUMMER cuts back after showing early speed last time out and #5 MAXIXE is another that should be prominent out of the gate.

The payoff leg is the Grade 2 King Edward, and I’m taking a bit of a stand in this wager (though I’m hedging a bit in the Pick Four, as you’ll see). I respect #3 TOWER OF TEXAS, but his two wins in the last year have come against much weaker groups. In fact, the winner of his last race, #7 CARIBOU CLUB, has turned into one heck of a turf horse, and he’s my top pick. Caribou Club has won four of his last five races, yet is somehow triple the price of Tower of Texas on the morning line. If he’s 6-1 come post time, I want all of it. Additionally, I’ll throw in #8 DELTA PRINCE. Royal Delta’s little brother turned into a strong turf horse last season, and while the long layoff is a bit of a concern, Jimmy Jerkens seems to have this one sitting on a big race, judging by the recent workouts at Belmont Park.

$0.20 Pick Four: Race #4

R4: 2,5,9
R5: 1,4,5,8,12
R6: 3,4,7,8
R7: 2,3

120 Bets, $24

As mentioned, this sequence starts midway through the Pick Five. With that in mind, there’s a lot of overlap, but also some room to add a few horses I didn’t have the budget to use in that sequence.

I’m using the same three horses in the fourth, but adding two in the fifth. #8 FASHION FLIRT has been working very well, but goes out for a trainer that’s winless to this point in the season. This doesn’t appear to be the strongest group, so I at least want to use her in SOME fashion. Additionally, #12 DANCE READY drops in for a tag for the first time. She’s got some speed, and the presence of Eurico da Silva is a plus.

In the sixth, I’ll throw in Tower of Texas, as well as #4 FIRST PREMIO. First Premio is a Mark Casse trainee whose form looks much better if you toss the two dirt races. Simply put, he’s a turf/synthetic horse. The last-out win at Churchill was good, although he stalked a pretty slow pace that day, and while this is a class test and we may not get much value, I did need to throw him in.

The seventh race appears to be a split of the second, as the conditions are exactly the same. In case you haven’t figured it out, I think Mark Casse could be in line for a colossal day, and I’m using both of his runners here. #2 SAILING BY and #3 SI SI TEQUILA can both build on their debuts, and while I’m using a few others in the late Pick Five, those are the horses I consider primary win threats.

$0.20 Pick Five: Race #6

R6: 7,8
R7: 2,3,4,6
R8: 5,7,8
R9: 2,4,6
R10: 4,10

144 Bets, $28.80

I’m solely using my two top picks in the sixth, but I’m spreading in the seventh, since I’ve got room in the budget to do that. I’m throwing in #4 IT’S VENGEANCE, a first-time starter from the Roger Attfield barn, and #6 TRULY HONORED, who ran well first time out. The former may want a bit more distance given the pedigree, and the latter is wheeled back pretty quickly, but this at least gives me a bit more coverage.

The third leg is the Grade 2 Dance Smartly for older fillies and mares. I cannot get past the three likely betting choices in here. #5 HOLY HELENA won last year’s Queen’s Plate, while #7 INFLEXIBILITY and #8 SANTA MONICA ship up for trainer Chad Brown. I think this trio is pretty far above the rest of the field, and I’ll be pretty surprised if another horse wins.

The fourth leg is the Grade 1 Highlander, a turf sprint that’s drawn a fun field. I had to use #2 IMPRIMIS, but while he’s undefeated, he’s never gone beyond five furlongs, and I’m not sure how he’ll like the long stretch at Woodbine. With that in mind, my top pick is #6 LONG ON VALUE, who came back running last time out and ran well here in last year’s Grade 1 Woodbine Mile. Additionally, I’ll throw in #4 HOLDING GOLD, who was caught very wide last time out in the Grade 2 Jaipur and could improve at a square price with a better trip.

This brings us to the main event, the $1 million Queen’s Plate. There are 16 runners, but I’m only going two-deep, and one of the ones I like figures to be a price. My top pick is #10 TELEKINESIS, who has done very little wrong to this point in his career and was a strong winner of the Plate Trial. Mark Casse seems to have been eyeing this race all along, and he could sit a perfect stalking trip just off the pace. The other one I need to use, though, is #4 STRIKE ME DOWN, who’s bred up and down for this distance and has taken a definite step forward as a 3-year-old. That one is 10-1, and given the pedigree (by Tapit, out of a Smart Strike mare), I must use him. If he wins, he’ll drive up the value of this sequence significantly.

GULFSTREAM PARK

$0.20 Rainbow 6: Race #9

R9: 6,7,8,9 (same)
R10: 2,9,10 (or 2,9)
R11: 15 (or 1,4,9,10,13)
R12: 1,2,3 (same)
R13: 8 (same)
R14: 1,4,5 (or 1,5)

108 (or 240) Bets, $21.60 (or $48)

As you can see, there are two different tickets given out. There’s a logical reason for this, as there’s an also-eligible in the third leg that strikes me as a real standout. If that one runs, I think it’s a single. If it doesn’t, that’s a race where you want coverage.

We’ll start off with a maiden claimer, and I don’t like the form of any horse in here that’s run before. I’m using four first-time starters, and of the quartet, I’m most intrigued by #7 BARGAINAIRE, who’s been working pretty well for trainer Ralph Nicks. Nicks can get a horse ready to run first time out, and 4-1 seems like a slight overlay.

Things don’t get much more visually appealing in the second leg, another maiden claimer. This time, they’re going long on the turf. My two primary horses are #2 FRIEND ZONE, who drops down in class, and #9 SPANISH DUDE, who debuted going long (never easy to do) and has several works indicating some potential. On one ticket, I’ve also used #10 ASSERTION, who’s 0 for 15 and drew poorly but seems like a much better horse on turf than on dirt.

The third leg is a pivotal one. If #15 DREAM SATURDAY runs, he’ll likely be a pretty heavy favorite, and for good reason. He won three in a row at this level before being claimed and running over his head in the starter allowance ranks, and while the low-percentage barn is a concern, he doesn’t need to be much to best this group. If he doesn’t run, though, I’m spreading, using five horses in what seems like a wide-open event. If forced to name a top selection, it’d be #13 JERSEY STREET, who’s a bit of a price (10-1) on the morning line. His three starts on non-boggy tracks since the claim have been solid, and he was an OK second at this level last time out.

The fourth leg is the Grade 2 Princess Rooney. Longtime horse for course #1 CURLIN’S APPROVAL will be a short price, and I’m using her, but on figures, she’s taken a bit of a step back from her 2017 form. Her best race wins this, but I can’t just single her against a decent group. #2 MS LOCUST POINT ran against top-class foes in the Grade 1 Madison two back before catching a mess of a track at Pimlico, while #3 MY MISS TAPIT is undefeated going one turn and merits respect.

In the fifth leg, though, I have no such reservations about singling a heavy favorite. That’s #8 X Y JET, who did everything but win last time out in Dubai. It’s taken him a while to get right, but trainer Jorge Navarro has him going in the right direction, and if he’s himself in this spot, everyone else is running for second money.

The payoff leg is another maiden claimer, the third in this sequence. My two primary horses are #1 ALLURSTRA, whose race two back against better wasn’t terrible, and #5 TALKING POINT, who took a step forward last time out and gets Tyler Gaffalione. On one proposed ticket, I’m also using #4 XIROMA, who ran well off the layoff last time out but may want a bit longer than this six-furlong distance.

Analysis, Selections, and Tickets: 2018 Florida Derby Day, PLUS: A Disturbing Trend in Racing That Must End

Before we get into my analysis of Saturday’s Rainbow 6 and late Pick Four sequences at Gulfstream Park, I need to expound on something I’ve been witnessing more and more of as of late. It’s a plague on the sport we enjoy, and it needs to stop.

Earlier this week, the connections of Australian superstar Winx announced that the mare would not ship to Royal Ascot. All hell promptly broke loose on Twitter, with plenty of insult-lobbing from all corners of the world saying that Team Winx was ducking top-class competition.

Horse racing has a major problem, and this situation typifies it. We crave horses that turn into winning machines, ones that strut their stuff on a regular basis and leave no doubt about how good they are. However, when we get horses like that, we’re often very quick to tear them down.

I wrote at length about Wise Dan, who ran into this phenomenon when his connections opted to keep their turf buzzsaw on turf rather than try him on dirt. This is the same concept. Winx has mowed down all comers over the course of her 24-race win streak, including world-class horses like Highland Reel. Why can’t we simply appreciate her for what she’s doing and be glad that we’re seeing her do it?

In a bizarre twist, while some of us insist on this strange behavior, we also spend time building up horses that have lost. Zenyatta gained the most respect not for any of her victories, but in coming up short to Blame in her career finale. Many think Easy Goer was superior to Sunday Silence despite losing three out of four meetings with that rival. Heck, Bodemeister’s stud career was built not on his runaway win in the Arkansas Derby, but off of his LOSS in the Kentucky Derby.

To be fair, part of handicapping involves figuring out horses that can improve off of defeats, and ones coming off of wins that may be vulnerable. That’s part of the pursuit of value that every handicapper undertakes when dissecting a card. However, none of that has any bearing in assessing a horse’s accomplishments during that horse’s career.

Winx is great, and her bona fides are not lessened by her connections opting not to go to Royal Ascot. To those who hurled insults and think those connections owe anything to them beyond doing what they feel is best for their champion, shame on you. You’re pushing an ideology that results in no-win situations for the game, horses, and horsemen, one where champions somehow sully their reputations by not winning as authoritatively as fans think they should.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s take a look at Saturday’s Rainbow 6 sequence at Gulfstream. I’ll dissect the races involved, as well as offer a late Pick Four ticket that gives us a bit more coverage.

$0.20 Rainbow 6: Race #9

R9: 2,5,6,7,8
R10: 7
R11: 1,2,10
R12: 3,6,8,9,12
R13: 2,7,8
R14: 8

225 Bets, $45

If you’re going to play an economical ticket, I think you need at least two singles. I’ll take stands in the second and sixth legs, and hope that I’ve got enough coverage elsewhere.

The ninth is a maiden race going long on turf, and I wish I had the money to buy the race. I’m going five-deep, and while I’m using #7 ART COLLECTION (the 9/5 morning line favorite), I don’t think he’s any cinch, especially going to a cold barn. My top selection is actually #6 DAWOOD, who debuted going nine furlongs. That’s never an easy task, and rating well behind a slow pace certainly didn’t help. Dawood gets Luis Saez here, and he’s bred to be a good one. If he takes a step forward, he’s certainly good enough to win.

My first single comes in the 10th, an optional claiming event that’s drawn some classy horses. The one I really like is #7 READY FOR RYE, whose last race was too bad to be true. He’s shown plenty of ability, and if he’s back to his usual form, I think he’ll be tough to beat. He’s got enough tactical speed to sit close to the pace, and he may get first run turning for home beneath Jose Ortiz.

The third leg is the Grade 3 Honey Fox. #2 LULL and #10 ON LEAVE are both classy horses, but I also need to use #1 GLORY TO KITTEN, who has never lost over this turf course. She does take a step up in class, but I simply can’t throw a horse out that has never tasted defeat at Gulfstream.

The fourth leg is the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Oaks, and I’m taking the stance that this race sets up for a closer. My top pick (and not just because I used to work with a part-owner; hi, Drew!) is #9 PRINCESS WARRIOR, who prepped for this race with an OK effort in the Grade 3 Herecomesthebride on turf. Her record looks much better if you draw a line through the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, and I think she’ll come rolling late.

The 13th is the Grade 2 Pan American, and I’m three-deep. #8 SADLER’S JOY will be favored, and I’m using him, but I hesitate to single a deep closer in spots like these. I’m also using #2 BULLARDS ALLEY and #7 BIGGER PICTURE, and I’m surprised the latter is 6-1 on the morning line. He won the Grade 1 United Nations last year, and while he’s got a strong closing kick, it helps that he can also sit fairly close to the pace.

We finish things off with the Grade 1 Florida Derby, and I’ll hope to cap things off with a single. #8 AUDIBLE ran really well in taking the Grade 2 Holy Bull, and a repeat effort would mean another horse likely has to take a big step forward to beat him. I think he’ll be very tough in here, and hopefully, he can get this ticket home.

$0.50 Pick Four: Race 11

R11: 1,2,3,10
R12: 3,5,6,8,9,12
R13: 2,3,7,8
R14: 8

96 Bets, $48

I’m still singling Audible to end this sequence, but I’ll add a few horses before that in hopes of getting to the payoff leg. I’ll throw in #3 STORMY VICTORIA in the 11th, #5 DAISY in the 12th, and #3 HI HAPPY in the 13th. If you’ve got the money to add these horses into the Rainbow 6, feel free. I wanted to keep the cost of that ticket down to a reasonable level, though, and this was the compromise I came up with.

Analysis, Selections, and Tickets: Holy Bull Day, Gulfstream Park (2/3/18)

Gulfstream Park’s Saturday card is a really fun one to handicap. In addition to the Grade 2 Holy Bull (which awards 10 Kentucky Derby points to the winner), there are also four other graded events on the docket, and the 12-race card contains three different Pick Four sequences. I’ve got three tickets I’ll dive into, and my best bet of the day ends one sequence and starts another. Let’s get to it!

$0.50 Pick Four: Race #2

R2: ALL
R3: 1,4,12
R4: 2,5,6
R5: 6

72 Bets, $36

There’s a Pick Five sequence that starts in the opener, but I want absolutely no part of it. From a handicapping perspective, the second race is a mess, and the first one’s not much clearer.

I’m buying the aforementioned second race, a starter/optional claiming event with many horses that seem to take turns beating one another and a few horses dropping in class. It’s tough to get excited about any of the eight runners in this race, and I’m hitting the “ALL” button, hoping a price kicks this off.

The third is a maiden claiming event going 7 1/2 furlongs on the grass. #12 CABIN JOHN is the 9/5 favorite on the morning line, but the post is dreadful given the short run to the first turn. I’m using him defensively, and my top pick is actually #4 GOING TO THE BEACH, who had a wide trip last time out and should sit a better trip in this spot. I’ll also take a swing and use #1 CREST OF EDEN, a horse bred to love the turf and one that should be forwardly-placed early on.

The fourth is the first graded stakes race of the day. It’s the Grade 3 Swale, and while it only drew a six-horse field, some promising horses showed up. #2 TRICKS TO DOO and #6 STRIKE POWER both come in off of impressive victories, and I’m using both, but don’t sleep on #5 PIVEN, especially given the likely race shape. Unlike many of these runners, Piven has shown an ability to rate, and that could be extremely useful given the seven-furlong distance.

I can afford to spread early, because my best bet of the day runs in the fifth. That’s #6 LITTLE BALTAR, who ran a gigantic race in defeat last time out. He broke from the far outside post in a field of 11, and because of that, he lost ground and had to make a premature move. He was beaten a half-length that day, but here, he gets a favorable draw and should be rolling late over his favorite turf course beneath regular rider Nik Juarez.

$0.50 Pick Four: Race #5

R5: 6
R6: 1,2,4,5
R7: 3,4,6,9,11
R8: 1,2,3,10

80 Bets, $40

The way I’m constructing these tickets, if Little Baltar wins, I could have a big day. He’s a single on this Pick Four ticket as well, and that’s good because the other three races are far from easy.

The sixth is the Grade 3 Sweetest Chant. Trainer Chad Brown has two in here, and if he wins, it’ll be his seventh consecutive score in this race. I’m using both #4 DATA DEPENDENT and #5 SALSA BELLA, and I’ll throw in the 1-3 finishers from last month’s Ginger Brew as well. #1 THEWAYIAM was the winner that day, but #2 ANDINA DEL SUR raced incredibly wide in what was just her second career start, and she’s certainly eligible to improve off of that effort.

We’ll stay on the turf for the seventh, a tricky maiden event. Many of these horses are debuting in this spot, and my top pick is actually a first-time starter. That’s #3 MARCH TO THE ARCH, who’s bred to be a good one. His dam was a Group 2 winner on turf, and his second dam is a full sister to Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom. If he runs to his pedigree, 8-1 is a big overlay, but given all the unknowns in play, I felt a need to spread.

As if that race wasn’t tough enough, the eighth is another maiden race with many firsters. Nine of the 11 entrants are debuting in this spot, which makes for a very tough payoff leg to this sequence. #3 WISELY narrowly gets my top selection. He’s been working very well, and recently drilled with Cache, who was an impressive maiden winner recently. If his morning form comes with him, Wisely could very well be a horse to watch. If not, well, thankfully I’ve got the room to spread a bit.

$0.50 Pick Four: Race #9

R9: 1,2,6,9 (13)
R10: 3,4,6,8
R11: 6,7
R12: 1,7

64 Bets, $32

This sequence has a guaranteed pool of $500,000, and chances are they’ll soar past it. I like this sequence a fair bit, as the field sizes are large and we could see a nice payoff even if four logical horses win.

The ninth is an optional claiming event, and my top pick is a price. That’s 8-1 shot #6 J. S. CHOICE, who I’ve been chasing for a while. He faltered badly last time out, and it’s safe to assume something went wrong because we haven’t seen him in five months. He’s been working well of late, and a repeat of either of his races two or three back against strong, stakes-quality horses would be good enough to put him right there at a nice number. One note: If #13 CONQUEST SANDMAN draws in off the AE list, I’d recommend using him, as his best race is good enough to get him home.

The first of three straight graded stakes races that end the card is the Grade 3 Forward Gal, and I’m against a favorite. #7 MISS MO MENTUM’s three wins came on turf, in an off-the-turf event, and over a very sloppy track. 9/5 seems like way too short a price, and I’ll try to beat her. #3 HEAVENHASMYNIKKI has long been highly thought of by her connections and has run like it, while #4 TAKE CHARGE PAULA won three stakes races last year and #6 VIOLENT TIMES and #8 MY MISS LILLY were both impressive debut winners.

The third leg is the Grade 3 Dania Beach, and #6 UNTAMED DOMAIN figures to be one of the shortest-priced favorites on the card. He was beaten just a length in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, which has proven to be a very live race. He’ll be a popular single, but I also have to use likely second choice #7 GIDU, who ran into a nice horse in his debut and came back to smash maidens at second asking in a very fast time. In case Untamed Domain isn’t fully-cranked (which is possible since the connections have mentioned Derby preps could be in his future), I want some security.

We’ll finish off the card with the Grade 2 Holy Bull. It’s unfortunate that #11 MISSISSIPPI will likely scratch, as I thought he was the best horse in the race (and one that would’ve provided a bit of value to boot). With him out, I can’t get too creative, as I think #1 ENTICED will be tough to beat. Everything about him says he’ll get better as he gets older, and he draws very favorably compared to other horses with some speed. I’ll also use #7 TIZ MISCHIEF, who was second to Enticed last time out and has been working well since arriving in Florida.

Analysis, Selections, and Tickets: Pegasus World Cup Day (1/27/18), PLUS Thoughts on the Breeders’ Cup Derby

Before I dive into extended race-by-race analysis of Saturday’s tremendous Pegasus World Cup Day program at Gulfstream Park, I wanted to expound a bit on what’s become a touchy subject in the horse racing community.

As reported by many sources, the Breeders’ Cup was entertaining the idea of a Breeders’ Cup Derby. The race would be restricted to 3-year-olds, and as a result of this race’s implementation, the Breeders’ Cup Classic would be pushed back to December.

I tweeted my thoughts on this idea a few days ago. If you didn’t see it, it’s below.

Grade 1 races are supposed to be difficult to win. They should mean something when a horse retires and goes off to stud, not be part of a culture where there are so many Grade 1 races that almost every decent horse gets a piece of the pie (especially in years where foal crops are declining). We do not need more Grade 1 races restricted to 3-year-olds, and we certainly do not need them scheduled near the end of the year, when those horses should be testing themselves against older company.

Standing pat, with the current setup as it was run in 2017, is clearly the solution preferred by a wide margin of racing fans. In fact, in spending time on Twitter, I failed to come across a single positive opinion of the Breeders’ Cup Derby. DRF colleague Matt Hegarty reported that the Breeders’ Cup board did not commit to any changes in their meeting Friday, and that’s a relief.

Now that we’ve gotten through that, let’s take a look at Saturday’s 12-race card at Gulfstream Park. It’s headlined by the world’s richest horse race, the $16 million Pegasus World Cup, which doubles as the final race of Horse of the Year Gun Runner before the 2017 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner retires to stud. That race goes as the finale, and there are ample wagering opportunities before Gun Runner and company hit the track.

I’ve got three Pick Four battle plans below the analysis, so if you’re solely interested in those, scroll down. However, with the big fields and juicy prices on tap, I felt each race deserved its own write-up, so that’s what I’m doing. Let’s get started!

RACE #1: Right off the bat, we have what I felt was the toughest race on the card. I’m grateful that Gulfstream carded this one as the opener, which puts it out of all three Pick Four sequences (although it does kick off the early Pick Five).

This is a maiden race for 3-year-old fillies going long on the turf, and there are some first-time starters with flashy pedigrees that bookend the full field of 14. #1 AMERTUME is out of a mare who’s a half to Grade 1 winner First Defence, and her female family traces back to all-time great broodmare Tousseau (who threw Empire Maker and Chester House, among others). Additionally, #14 TOUCH OF GRACE is out of a mare named Sealy Hill, who was one of the top horses in Canada in her heyday. She fetched $275,000 at auction and is trained by Chad Brown, but that post is a killer, and it’s tough to debut going two turns.

I’ll use them both underneath a few horses that have run before. #8 SPECIAL TRIP is my top pick. She was a good second last time out at Belmont, and while she hasn’t run in three months, the past two workouts show she could be sitting on “go.” I’ll also take a bit of a swing with #10 SHOW GIRL, who’s bred to go much longer than the six furlongs she went in her debut. Her recent turf works are lively, she should appreciate the added distance she gets here, and I think she’ll be bet down a bit from her 15-1 morning line. Finally, #12 SMART SHOT is the tepid 7/2 favorite on the morning line, and she was a solid third in her turf debut last month. She could win this, but that last race was a pretty big step up for her, so a bounce is also in question.

RACE #2: This maiden special weight starts the first of three Pick Four sequences. It’ll be contested at a tricky seven-furlong distance, and while that’s a tough route to debut at, two of the four horses I’m using are first-time starters.

#2 CACHE is working impressively ahead of her debut, and she’s bred to be a good one. Her second dam is a full sister to Breeders’ Cup Distaff winner Spain, and this one fetched $500,000 at auction and has appeared to move forward in the mornings for Mark Hennig, who’s hit at an alarming rate with first-time starters of late. I’ll also use fellow debutante #3 TAKECHARGEDELILAH, a Todd Pletcher trainee that’s a half to stakes winner Mo Don’t No.

Of the ones that have run before, I prefer second-time starters #6 MUCHACHA UNO and #8 ROMANTIC MOMENT, both of whom are eligible to improve adding distance off of debuts much shorter than they likely want to go. I’m going against morning line favorite #9 COACH ROCKS, who has had plenty of chances and enjoyed a perfect trip last time out, only to get caught. If that one beats me, I’ll live with it.

RACE #3: This is the first graded stakes race of the day. It’s the Grade 3 La Prevoyante, and seven older mares will go a mile and a half on turf. In my opinion, this race houses the day’s most likely winner. Unfortunately, she won’t be any sort of a price.

#7 APPLE BETTY won a pair of stakes races last year going 12 furlongs, and in doing so, she dispatched several rivals she’ll line up against in this spot. Her tactical speed is a big plus, as is the continued presence of John Velazquez. Anything close to the form she displayed in the Grade 3 Dowager is good enough to win this, and she may even be able to afford a slight regression.

If you want to include another horse, I’d recommend #2 SUMMERSAULT, who’s done some of her best running over this turf course. She won three in a row here last winter/spring, and she may relish a return to her favorite track. However, she’d likely have to improve considerably to defeat Apple Betty.

RACE #4: We go back to the main track for this one, a maiden event with a field of 13 3-year-olds going a one-turn mile. There are some intriguing prospects here, but I think you need to use a shipper that may go off at a big price.

The post-time favorite will likely be #4 PERSONAL TIME or #13 LIFE’S A PARLAY. The first horse mentioned is Orb’s younger brother, and while he hasn’t done a ton of running to date, he could easily wake up with the addition of Lasix. Meanwhile, the outside horse is a second-time starter that ran well in his debut after a rough start.

However, don’t sleep on #10 ROSE’S VISION, who comes to Gulfstream off of a solid (albeit winless) campaign at Woodbine last year. There’s a chance he’s a turf horse in need of a race, but if he can run as well on dirt, his 15-1 morning line odds represent a considerable overlay. He was third behind Dixie Moon two back in a $226,000 stakes race, and if he really was in need of a race, why is he getting Lasix? I think he could be ready to run, and if he can run on dirt, he could shake up the exotics at a large number.

RACE #5: This is the male version of the opener, and it’s almost as wide-open as that race was. In my multi-race tickets, I’m five-deep, and I’ve sprinkled some prices in with the logical contenders.

#3 EMPIRICALLY is a logical favorite. He crossed the wire first in his debut, then ran against stakes foes in each of his next two starts before a brief freshening. His comeback race was fine, and he can win this, but I can’t feel confident trimming this down when he had a nice trip last time out against state-breds and couldn’t get the job done.

Additionally, #6 NEEPAWA exits stakes races at Woodbine and has worked well ahead of his 3-year-old debut, and #7 SARGEANT DRIVE was beaten less than two lengths at this level in his turf debut. They’ll both get bet, but I also need to use two prices. #9 PIANTAGRANE was second at this level last time out despite racing greenly, and #11 GUNNISON adds blinkers and has shown zip in the mornings since his last race.

RACE #6: We’ll shorten things up for the sixth, which is the Ladies’ Turf Sprint. While you probably need to use the two shorter prices drawn to the outside, their bad luck at the post position draw opens things up for a horse that may be a bit more of a price.

My top pick is #3 JUSTA LADY, who comes back to the turf after a lackluster showing in an off-the-turf race two months ago at Churchill Downs. Before that, she notched six straight top-two finishes, including a second behind Morticia in a stakes race at Keeneland. Her 2017 form is certainly good enough to win this, and she could capitalize on many others having to endure wider trips.

I’m not completely against #11 BRANDY’S GIRL and #12 BLUE BAHIA, both of whom are certainly talented enough to win this. Neither needs the lead, which helps, but they may lose significant ground going around the turn. I’ll use them, but Justa Lady is my key horse here, and I’m hoping we get the 6-1 morning line price.

RACE #7: Older horses will go postward in the Grade 3 Fred Hooper. This has attracted 11 milers, and this is another case where the race may set up for a 6-1 shot.

#8 TOMMY MACHO spent most of 2017 running against top-notch competition. A look at his running lines reveals names like Sharp Azteca, Mind Your Biscuits, Drefong, Mor Spirit, and Awesome Slew, and this spot is a significant step down in class. Furthermore, he does his best running at Gulfstream Park, having won stakes races at this level and route in each of the past two seasons, and this race should set up for a closer. He’s my top pick in here, and this may be another case where the large field inflates the prices we see come post time.

I’ll also, reluctantly, be using #1 TALE OF SILENCE. I usually don’t like betting closers on the rail, especially at his likely price, but he could get an ideal setup for his style given the abundance of early speed in this field.

RACE #8: The morning line man thinks this is a two-horse race, and I’m inclined to agree. It’s the Grade 3 W. L. McKnight, and I’m not going deeper than #5 BULLARDS ALLEY and #7 OSCAR NOMINATED.

The former ran well in defeat last time out, when he fell a head short in the two-mile H. Allen Jerkens. His 12-furlong form is evident, and on back class, he’s the horse to beat. Meanwhile, Oscar Nominated threw in a clunker last time out at Aqueduct, but he quietly earned more than $600,000 in each of the past two seasons, and his usual race would definitely give him a big shot.

RACE #9: The late Pick Four starts with the Grade 3 Hurricane Bertie, and it features a local favorite that will likely be a pretty heavy favorite. I’m using her, but there’s another in here that I find interesting.

#7 CURLIN’S APPROVAL is 7-for-11 at Gulfstream Park, and I might argue her best race here came in defeat last time out. She went a bit longer than she probably wants, but she still ran second behind a talented horse (Lewis Bay). She’ll love the cutback to a familiar distance, and if she runs her typical race, others would have to improve to beat her.

However, I’m also intrigued by #1 MARLEY’S FREEDOM, who was last seen running fourth in the Grade 1 La Brea. Unique Bella and Paradise Woods ran 1-2 in that race, so this spot certainly provides some class relief, and the presence of Mike Smith certainly doesn’t hurt. She’s 10-1 on the morning line, and I highly doubt we get that price come post time.

RACE #10: This is the Gulfstream Park Turf Sprint, and I can see this race playing out one of two ways. I think that either the likely favorite goes wire-to-wire, or he gets cooked and a closer picks up the pieces.

If a front-runner wins, that front-runner is most likely to be #8 PAY ANY PRICE. He’s a local favorite, and a distance specialist that has won eight of 10 starts at this distance. He’s an absolute rocket ship out of the gate, and he’ll look to defend his home turf against shippers from around the country.

If Pay Any Price does not win, I don’t think it’s another speed horse that takes the top prize. I think a closer rallies, and that could be one of #6 RAINBOW HEIR, #9 TOMBELAINE, or #11 BLIND AMBITION. Also, while I’m not crazy about him, #7 RICHARD’S BOY did beat Pay Any Price the last time they faced off, so I can’t completely ignore him. At any rate, Pay Any Price is my key horse, but I can’t discount the possibility of him getting worn down trying to make the lead.

RACE #11: We’ll stay on the turf for the South Beach Stakes. With a better draw, the favorite may have been a single for me. However, #11 CELESTINE is parked outside, so while I’m using her, it wouldn’t be shocking if she lost, especially with such a short run to the first turn.

My other two primary horses are #8 PERDONA and #10 STORM THE HILL. Perdona is a price on the morning line (15-1), but she got good in the middle of last year and may have simply hated Woodbine’s synthetic track. She’s got speed and should be forwardly-placed early on, and I’m banking on a return to her mid-2017 form. Meanwhile, Storm the Hill led turning for home last time out before settling for third. That was probably a hair longer than she wants to go, and this cutback should be just what the doctor ordered.

Celestine’s best race certainly wins this, but she’s been off four months and doesn’t draw well, so it won’t be stunning if she’s knocked off. In addition to the two I mentioned, I’ll also have a small piece of #9 STORMY VICTORIA, who was a close-up third behind the talented On Leave last time out. She may be at her best around one turn, but one smaller Pick Four ticket will have her on it.

RACE #12: Here we are at the Pegasus World Cup. #10 GUN RUNNER will be a heavy favorite, and rightfully so. If he’s right, he’s strictly the one to beat, and all indications are that he’s as good as ever heading into his final race.

Much has been made of the post position draw. Gun Runner didn’t draw particularly well given the layout of this route, which features a short run into the first turn. However, if he clears #9 TOAST OF NEW YORK, he should at least sit a manageable trip with regard to ground saved. He doesn’t necessarily need the lead in order to win, as he proved in the Woodward, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him sit just off the pace before pouncing turning for home.

The question is, can any of the frontrunners survive what could be a scorching pace? #4 SHARP AZTECA and #5 COLLECTED will almost certainly gun for the front, while #1 SINGING BULLET, #2 WEST COAST, and #3 STELLAR WIND may vie for the lead as well (and certainly won’t be far off the pace). Add in Toast of New York and #12 GIANT EXPECTATIONS, and you’ve got the makings of a potential pace meltdown.

Of those runners, I most prefer Collected. I understand his run in the Grade 2 San Antonio was not sharp, but I’m treating that race as a throw-out. He didn’t break well, and Mike Smith tried to rate him behind a very slow pace. He should sit his preferred trip today, and like Gun Runner, he may be better at a mile and an eighth than he is at a mile and a quarter.

Many handicappers have insisted on using #6 GUNNEVERA because of the aforementioned pace scenario, and I understand why. He’s a deep closer that loves Gulfstream and will be a big price. However, the closer I’m throwing on one of my Pick Four tickets in case of a complete meltdown is #7 FEAR THE COWBOY, who figures to be an even bigger price. I really liked his win in the Grade 3 Harlan’s Holiday, and that was his second graded stakes win of 2017 at this track. Tyler Gaffalione has ridden very well this meet, and I need to use him at least a little bit in case crazy fractions get posted.

PICK FOUR TICKETS

Early Pick Four: Race #2

R2: 2,3,6,8
R3: 7
R4: 4,10,13
R5: 3,6,7,9,11

60 Bets, $30

I’m trying to extract some value out of Apple Betty, who may be the second shortest price on the entire card. I’ve got some prices on this ticket, and I think there’s room for an early score here.

Middle Pick Four: Race #5

R5: 3,6,7,9,11
R6: 3,11,12
R7: 1,8
R8: 5,7

60 Bets, $30

The scratch of Game Over (who I’d previously used) makes this a more affordable ticket. I was tempted to single Tommy Macho, but ultimately decided I needed to use Tale of Silence as well given the likely race shape.

Late Pick Four: Race #9

I’m going to go a bit different with this. There’s a guaranteed pool of $1 million up for grabs, and I’ve got three tickets that total $40.

Ticket #1

R9: 1,7
R10: 6,8,9,11
R11: 8,10,11
R12: 5,10

48 Bets, $24

This is the main ticket, and if you’re only playing one, this is the one I’d suggest. There are no singles, but it’s a manageable $24 and it’s got the horses I really like on it.

Ticket #2

R9: 7
R10: 8
R11: 8,9,10,11
R12: 2,4,5,7,10

20 Bets, $10

This one singles my top picks in the first two races (Curlin’s Approval and Pay Any Price), while also opening things up a bit in the last two races. It adds Stormy Victoria in the third leg, while also throwing in West Coast, Sharp Azteca, and Fear the Cowboy in the Pegasus.

Ticket #3

R9: 1,7
R10: 7,8
R11: 8,10,11
R12: 10

12 Bets, $6

Finally, this is a skinnier ticket that singles Gun Runner in the Pegasus. It also adds in Richard’s Boy in the second leg, since he’s not covered on the other two tickets.

Long story short: If we can get the 7-8 double home in the ninth and tenth, we’ll be alive to everything halfway through the sequence. Even if Gun Runner wins the Pegasus, the large field sizes ensure that this won’t pay peanuts, and if we can hit it multiple times, that’s great.