2018 Woodbine Mile Day Analysis, Selections, and Tickets

I’m back!

I took a break of a few weeks after Saratoga. Some of this was for burnout-related reasons. Handicapping every race, every day, six days a week takes a toll, and I simply needed a respite. Unfortunately, some of this is also related to stuff I’m dealing with. I don’t really feel comfortable disclosing too much right now, other than I’m fine health-wise, friends and members of my family are fine health-wise, and I’m going to be okay long-term (I think).

Anyway, what drew me back to handicapping was Saturday’s card at Woodbine. I really enjoy looking at their biggest days. Fields are large, the quality of racing is excellent, and, perhaps best of all, their multi-race exotic bets are in 20-cent increments. This may sound gimmicky, but it’s actually brilliant. Everyone plays at that level, so the payout disparity between that and 50-cent increments at other tracks isn’t nearly as large as you may think, and that allows handicappers the luxury of going a bit deeper than usual or not having to risk as much money playing combinations.

Woodbine Mile Day is always a good time, and I’ll dive into both Pick Four sequences on the 12-race program. Both sequences boast guaranteed pools, and I think they offer exciting value propositions, so let’s get to it!

$0.20 PICK FOUR: RACE #4

R4: 3,5,6
R5: 1,4,5
R6: 1,2
R7: 1,2,4

54 Bets, $10.80

We kick off this sequence with what might be the best betting race on the card. It’s a lucrative allowance event, but while I’m using likely favorite #6 SAY THE WORD, I’m far from in love with him. Yes, he was second in a $400,000 stakes race last time out, and a repeat of that effort probably wins, but his best races have come on turf, not the synthetic surface he’ll run on here. He’s actually my third choice, and my top two are prices.

#3 AMBERWOOD is my top pick in here. His 2018 form may not look great, but I’m tossing his last-out effort entirely. He had a miserable trip that day, and it’s probably not a coincidence that a rider change was made. Patrick Husbands rode him to two victories here last season, and even a repeat of his two-back effort could make this 15-1 shot a contender for top honors. I also need to use #5 DIVINE DANCE, who has a knack for finding the winner’s circle. He’s won six times in his last nine starts, and while he gets a class test here, it’s not like he’s facing any monsters. He goes second off the layoff for a small barn that’s done quite well this meet, and his 8-1 odds hit me as an overlay.

The fifth is also intriguing. #1 GLACIER has gotten quite good since being switched to the synthetic track for top local horseman Norman McKnight, and he’s my top pick. The other must-use in this race for me, though, is 10-1 shot #5 SAN NICOLA THUNDER, a consistent sort that finished less than two lengths behind my top pick last time out. He exits some fast races, and it’s not inconceivable to think he could pop up at a price here. Finally, I’ll reluctantly throw in #4 CIRCLE OF FRIENDS, who earned a big Beyer Speed Figure last time out but had a dream trip that day. I think he’ll be an underlay in the win pool, but if one of my bombs wins the first leg, this one takes the second, and he knocks me out of the sequence, I’ll feel horrible.

The sixth race is the Sweet Briar Too Stakes, and I can’t get too creative here. 5/2 second choice #1 MOONLIT PROMISE is my top pick on the slight class drop following eight straight tries against graded competition. She had a horrible trip in the Grade 3 Seaway last time out, and a cleaner journey would make her tough to beat. I also used #2 CODE WARRIOR, who benefited from a perfect front-running trip last time out and could do so again here. For a $100,000 stakes race going 6 1/2 furlongs, there isn’t a ton of tactical speed signed on, and she could get brave if left alone on the front end.

The payoff leg is an allowance race for older fillies and mares that also starts a Pick Five sequence. I’ll look to finish out this Pick Four with one of four runners. #2 LISA’S ESCARPMENT and #4 MYSTIC NILE will take money, and I also need to use #1 ALICE’S WAR, who comes back to the main track after a rough start last time out on turf. Her race two back was pretty good, and the rail draw could mean she’s up pretty close to what figures to be a slow early pace. With that kind of trip, she could be right there at a bit of a price.

$0.20 PICK FOUR: RACE #8

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

108 Bets, $21.60

This is the late Pick Four, and they’re not messing around, as it starts with the Grade 1, $800,000 Woodbine Mile. I’m using the two logical favorites, #3 DELTA PRINCE and #7 OSCAR PERFORMANCE, while slightly preferring the latter. He was pulled up in the Arlington Million, but he’s worked very well since then, and we may get a slightly-inflated price based on that journey. I also felt a need to use #1 GOOD SAMARITAN, who comes back to the grass and goes a route of ground he should love. I think he’s better now than he was when he chased Oscar Performance at two and three, and 10-1 just seems like way too big a price.

Leg two is the Grade 2 Canadian for fillies and mares. I nearly singled #3 INFLEXIBILITY, who’s been running against some of the top turf distaffers in the country (most of whom reside in her shedrow). She certainly seems like the one to beat, but I can’t discount the possibility of #1 DARING DUCHESS getting brave from her inside post and having plenty left for the stretch run. When she gets that trip, she’s tough, and with the 20-cent increment, it makes no sense to leave her off this ticket.

The third leg is the Grade 3 Bold Venture, and it could feature the shortest-priced horse on the card. That’s #3 PINK LLOYD, the reigning Canadian Horse of the Year. He could win, but I don’t think he’s a cinch. He fell at this route three back to #6 KINGSPORT, who has since added another stakes win to his collection. I’m also going to throw in #10 SWEET LITTLE MAN, who was a very good third in the Grade 2 Play The King behind two horses contesting the Woodbine Mile.

We finish off the sequence with the Grade 1 Northern Dancer. Last year’s renewal of this race gave me nightmares. I needed 3/5 favorite #5 HAWKBILL badly, and he was run down after setting a very manageable early pace. He’s back for another go, and he’ll likely be a pretty heavy favorite, but why should I have unshakable confidence in him if he couldn’t capitalize on a perfect trip last year over what seems like a weaker group?

I’m using him, but I won’t single him again; far from it, actually, as I’m going six-deep. #1 MEKHTAAL may be figuring things out, #3 UTMOST won the Grade 2 Sky Classic here last time out, #6 TIZ A SLAM has gotten good for Hall of Famer Roger Attfield, #9 ENGLISH ILLUSION took a big step forward in stakes company last time out, and #10 PATTERSON CROSS has shown ample ability in the past and should be flying late down Woodbine’s long stretch. I think this is a tremendous betting race, and it anchors a Pick Four sequence that could pay very generously.

ANALYSIS, SELECTIONS, AND TICKETS: Stars and Stripes Day, Belmont Park (7/7/18)

Saturday is Stars and Stripes Day at Belmont Park, and it marks the beginning of the end of Belmont’s spring-summer meet. Some of the best horses on the grounds will be in action, and several stakes races drew shippers from as far away as Europe. I’ve got several multi-race tickets, and there’s a chance we’ll be able to build a nice stake ahead of the upcoming Saratoga meet. Let’s get to it!

$0.50 Pick Five: Race #1

R1: 4
R2: 2,5,6,7,9
R3: 8
R4: 1,3,5,6
R5: 5,6,7,8

80 Bets, $40

This ticket is built around a pair of horses that will likely be consensus singles. However, if we can get a price or two home around them, this could return a healthy sum.

The first single comes in the opener, a maiden race for 2-year-olds. That’s #4 SOCIAL PARANOIA, the lone entrant in this field with experience. He was a close-up second last time out behind Fully Loaded, who came back to win an allowance event Friday at Gulfstream Park. Any improvement off of his debut would make the 6/5 morning line favorite tough to beat.

The second race is an optional claimer that could double as a minor stakes race almost anywhere else in the country. #6 BREAKING THE RULES is the tepid morning line favorite, but he’s no cinch, and there are a few mid-level prices with big shots. #2 LIFE IN SHAMBLES ran against some tough competition at Aqueduct last winter, while #9 STREET VISION is 2 for 2 since being claimed by David Jacobson. I think both are must-uses in what strikes me as a fascinating event.

The third race, however, seems much more clear-cut. #8 AMERICAN GURU will likely be a heavy favorite, and for good reason. He’s a nose away from being undefeated, and based on the numbers, he’d have to regress pretty significantly off of his last two starts for the others to have a shot.

The fourth is a turf route contested at the 10-furlong route we’ll see in two Grade 1 races later on in the program. #5 RED KNIGHT seems logical, but all of his wins came against state-breds, so I can’t simply single him and move on. A horse that intrigues me at a bit of a price is #1 COUNTY COURT, who won impressively two back before rating in a paceless event in May. A return to the two-back form would make him a contender, and at 6-1 on the morning line, he could knock out plenty of tickets.

The payoff leg is a tricky allowance race, and you’ll want to go as deep as you can. #6 NIGEL’S DESTINY is the morning line favorite, but steps up in class off of a win over a weak field. I’ll use him, but I prefer #8 MR. DOUGIE FRESH, who was a close-up second in a fast race for the level last time out. Additionally, #7 FALLINGINLOVEAGAIN is worth a look at a big price. He won first time out (albeit against weaker foes), has been working well since coming to New York, and attracts Javier Castellano.

$0.50 Pick Five/Pick Four: Race #6/#7

R6: 3,6
– – –
R7: 1,2,4
R8: 1,3,4,5,6,10
R9: 8
R10: 3,4,7

108/54 Bets, $54/$27

There’s no lag time, as we end one Pick Five before quickly starting another. Important note: The Pick Five is only available through one ADW website. If you prefer to play a Pick Four, simply act as though the sixth-race selections don’t exist (which chops the ticket price in half).

The sixth race is the Grade 3 Dwyer, and I’m not getting cute. #6 MENDELSSOHN is my top pick, as I simply think the Kentucky Derby is an absolute throw-out. He was eliminated at the start, and he will be tough if he breaks cleanly here. I’ll also use #3 RUGBYMAN, who adds blinkers after a tough beat in the Easy Goer on Belmont Stakes Day.

The seventh is the Grade 2 Belmont Sprint Championship. #1 LIMOUSINE LIBERAL and #2 WHITMORE are world-class sprinters, but the horse to bet may be #4 SHAFT OF LIGHT, who cuts back after a tough beat in the Grade 3 Salvator Mile. For such a high-profile sprint, there isn’t much early speed signed on. If Shaft of Light gets out early, he could be tough to catch when the real running starts.

The eighth is the Grade 1 Belmont Oaks, and this struck me as the best betting race on the card. You’ll get a price on whatever horse(s) you like, and I felt the need to go deep. The longshot of the group is #3 PAVED, who’s 12-1 on the morning line but runs like a horse that will appreciate the 10-furlong distance. She’s got enough tactical speed to not be too far back early, and if she shows the late kick she displayed in the Grade 2 Honeymoon, she’ll have a big shot.

My single comes in the ninth, the Grade 2 Suburban. Bob Baffert has two in here, but while #5 DR. DORR is the morning line favorite, I prefer #8 HOPPERTUNITY, who’s 2 for 2 at Belmont and won the 2016 Jockey Club Gold Cup at this route of ground. His lone loss this season came over a speed-favoring track in the Grade 2 Alysheba, and even if he’s lost a step at age 7, I think he’s the horse to beat if he fires his best shot. He’s 9/2 on the morning line, and I’m hoping we get that price.

The payoff leg is the Grade 1 Belmont Derby, and I’m going three-deep. #7 CATHOLIC BOY and #3 ANALYZE IT finished 1-2 in the local prep for this race, and both could win, but European shipper #4 HUNTING HORN looks very dangerous. He’s improved with every start to this point in his career, and his recent Group 3 win was incredibly impressive. I’m always partial to European shippers adding Lasix, as he does, and I need to have him on my tickets.

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.

2018 Belmont Stakes: Analysis, Selections, Tickets, and Unpopular Opinions

Let’s get one crucifixion-inducing opinion out of the way right now: If Justify loses the Belmont Stakes, thus failing to win horse racing’s Triple Crown, there’s a chance I make a LOT of money.

In my heart, I want Justify to channel Secretariat and guzzle the field with the type of performance where he could stop at King Umberto’s for a slice and a Jay Privman handshake going around the first turn, chow down on the backstretch, burp a few times around the far turn, and win by 20. If I’ve said this once, I’ve said it a thousand times: Horse racing needs stars, and if Justify can go from an unraced maiden to a Triple Crown winner in less than four months, he’ll ascend to a level few equines of the past century have reached.

From a gambling standpoint, though, I think it’s worth trying to beat him (as I also explained following the Preakness). The old gambling adage says to never bet a horse, as the favorite, to do something it’s never done before. The Belmont will be Justify’s sixth start in less than four months, and it will be contested at the grueling distance of a mile and a half against a sizable field, some of whom are bred up and down for this trip (more on two of them later). His Preakness wasn’t atrocious, but it was certainly a step back from his prior efforts. If he brings his Kentucky Derby form with him Saturday, maybe the race is for second. If he brings his Preakness form, where he edged two longshots by less than a length (one of which he dusted two weeks prior), then the race is much more wide-open than the odds board will say it is.

For those reasons, I think it’s prudent to take a swing against Justify in the Belmont. If Justify wins, I’ll consider my $40 money well-spent to ensure racing’s pantheon of greats opens its doors to another one, and I’ll cheer right along with the racing public. However, if one of the two horses I’m using in the all-stakes Pick Four wins, I stand to make, to quote former TVG colleague Todd Schrupp, racks on racks on racks (hi, Todd!).

We’ll dive into that Pick Four later, but first, we’ll talk about the races that comprise the early Pick Five. I like that sequence, and it’s one where you may be rewarded handsomely even without the presence of big prices. Let’s take a look!

$0.50 Pick Five: Race #1

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

64 Bets, $32

I don’t have singles on my ticket, and that’s by design. I think many of these races can be whittled down to just two horses, with the second being the most wide-open of the bunch.

I couldn’t get past the two likely favorites in the opener, as #1 LA MONEDA and #6 WAR CANOE look like the ones to beat. The former comes back to turf after a race she probably needed off the long layoff, while the latter outran her 38-1 odds when third in a state-bred stakes race last month and gets class relief here.

The second race is the Easy Goer, which last year was won by eventual champion West Coast. I can’t see a horse in here getting that good by year’s end, but it’s a solid group. #2 MASK looks imposing if you can forgive his clunker in the Grade 3 Pat Day Mile, which was in a bog off of a four-month break. I’m using him, but I don’t think he’s any sort of a cinch. #3 RUGBYMAN graduated by a city block last time out, #6 BREAKING THE RULES is 2 for 2 and bred up and down for distance, and #7 DARK VADER comes in off a lifetime-best effort in a classy optional claimer (the third-place finisher came back to win a Cal-bred stakes race).

Race #3 is the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps for older fillies and mares. #6 ABEL TASMAN is a must-use. She’ll be favored and appears to be working with a purpose since her seasonal debut, where she ran fourth in the Grade 1 La Troienne. We know she can handle Belmont, and Bob Baffert may have her fully cranked. However, I also need to use #4 PACIFIC WIND. She’s 2 for 2 since coming to the Chad Brown barn, and one of those wins came in the Grade 2 Ruffian. If you toss out last year’s Grade 2 Bayakoa over a quirky Los Alamitos surface, she’s undefeated on dirt, and I think she could give last year’s Champion 3-Year-Old Filly all she can handle.

The fourth is the Grade 1 Acorn. #3 MONOMOY GIRL may be the shortest-priced favorite on the card, and that includes Justify in the Belmont. She’s emerged as the top 3-year-old filly in the country, but I have enough reservations here to where I cannot single her and move on. I think she’s a two-turn horse, and her lone one-turn race on dirt, while a win, came over a soft field. The other one I need to have on my ticket is #7 TALK VEUVE TO ME, who ran really well when second in the Grade 2 Eight Belles. She was nearly five lengths clear of the third-place finisher that day, and I don’t think this distance will be a problem. The outside post helps her, and she’ll certainly be a playable price.

The payoff leg is the Grade 2 Brooklyn for older horses going a mile and a half. #9 WAR STORY won this race last year and has done tremendous work when placed in the right spots (also known as steering clear of Gun Runner). He was very impressive in this race a season ago, and a repeat effort would make him tough. The only horse I could see beating him is #3 HARD STUDY, who is a perfect 6 for 6 over fast dirt tracks and exits a runaway win in the Flat Out, which serves as Belmont’s local prep for this event.

$0.50 Pick Four: Race #8

R8: 1,3,4,5,7
R9: 2,4,10,11
R10: 1,10
R11: 4,8

80 Bets, $40

Yep, not only am I tossing Justify, but I’m also trying to beat Mind Your Biscuits in the Grade 1 Met Mile. I’ll talk a bit more about that when we get to that race.

The eighth is the Grade 1 Just a Game, and I don’t have a clue. I spread pretty deep in here, and if I could’ve afforded to buy the race, I would have done so. Chad Brown’s got a few strong runners in here, as both #3 OFF LIMITS and #7 A RAVING BEAUTY could win. Depending on how the turf course is playing, though, #4 LULL could be dangerous. She’s the main early speed in this race, and Belmont’s turf course tends to be very kind to horses that are forwardly-positioned. If she’s allowed to dictate terms, she could forget to stop, and if that happens, we’ll start this wager off with a mild upset.

The ninth is the Grade 1 Met Mile, and as mentioned, I’m against #1 MIND YOUR BISCUITS. Yes, he ran a colossal race in Dubai, when he rallied from well back on a track that had been favoring speed for weeks. Having said that, his record at this distance isn’t great. He was second in the Grade 1 Cigar Mile last year, and he ran OK that day, but he actually lost ground to Sharp Azteca late, which isn’t what you want to see from a closer. The rail draw also presents a problem, and it’s not like there’s much early speed signed on.

I’m going four-deep without using that one, and my top pick is a big price on the morning line. That’s #4 MCCRAKEN, who’s perfect at this distance, has been pointed to this race for months by his connections, and could be sitting on a big performance second off of the long layoff. #10 BEE JERSEY seems like the main speed, and #11 AWESOME SLEW never seems to run a bad race, so I had to use them both. Finally, I threw #2 BOLT D’ORO on my ticket as well. If you toss out the Kentucky Derby, where he was not persevered with late, he fits with this group, and he’s been working lights-out at Keeneland since that effort.

I couldn’t get past the two Chad Brown trainees in the 10th, the Grade 1 Manhattan. #1 ROBERT BRUCE and #10 BEACH PATROL look like the best horses in here, and while the former can certainly win, I prefer the latter. The Grade 1 Turf Classic at Churchill Downs was contested over one of the wettest turf courses we’ve seen over the past several years, and Beach Patrol ran a game second in a race that doubled as his first start in six months while going shorter than he probably wants to go. This trip should be more to his liking, and if he’s fully-cranked, I think he’ll be tough to beat.

This brings us to the Belmont Stakes. You already know that I’m taking a stand against Justify. Instead, I’ll rely on top pick #4 HOFBURG, who’s bred up and down for this trip and had a ton of trouble in the Kentucky Derby, and #8 VINO ROSSO, whose one-paced style and distance-oriented pedigree make him a natural fit for this race. Perhaps they need Justify to regress, but if that happens and this ticket hits, it’s entirely possible we’re looking at a massive score by my modest standards.

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!

BELMONT PARK

$0.50 Pick Five: Race #1

R1: 2,5
R2: ALL
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.

SANTA ANITA

$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.

MONMOUTH PARK

$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.