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

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


$0.50 Pick Five: Race #1

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

60 Bets, $30

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

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

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

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

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

$0.50 Pick Four: Race #6

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

84 Bets, $42

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

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

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

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


$0.50 Pick Four: Race #8

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

48 Bets, $24

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

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

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

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

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


$0.50 Pick Five: Race #1

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

81 Bets, $40.50

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

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

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

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

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

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

$0.50 Pick Four: Race #6

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

96 Bets, $48

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

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

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

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

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