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.

FAIR GROUNDS

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.

GOLDEN GATE FIELDS

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.

LAUREL PARK

$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.

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.

2019 Pegasus World Cup Day: Analysis, Selections, and Tickets (1/26/19)

Saturday is Pegasus World Cup Day at Gulfstream Park, and with it comes an incredible card with an awesome wagering menu. There are three Pick Fours, plus a pair of Pick Fives, and there shouldn’t be any shortage of opportunities at value.

I’ll have full-card analysis in the form of several multi-race wagers (the early Pick Five, and the middle and late Pick Fours). If you came here Friday night or early Saturday morning, you saw analysis for a track that wasn’t hammered by rain. Unfortunately, the skies have opened up, which means I had to make some changes.

Enough chit-chat; let’s get down to business!

$0.50 Pick Five: Race #1

R1: ALL
R2: 9
R3: 4
R4: 3,4,7,10,13
R5: 4,7

70 Bets, $35

If you want to play the early Pick Four, I think you can do so very cheaply. Here, we’re buying the first leg (an off-the-turf maiden race) in hopes of getting a price up to spice up the potential payoff.

I’ll take my first stand of the day in the second race. This is an optional claiming event, and I really like #9 SOUPER WISH. If you toss his race three back, which was his first outing in 17 months, he’s never run a bad race, and it helps that the second-place finisher from his last-out win came back to win himself. He’s 4-1 on the morning line, and I’d see that as a pretty significant overlay (anything 5/2 and up would entice a pretty significant win bet).

The third race is the Gulfstream Park Turf Sprint, which I hope they rename since it’s now off the turf. Unfortunately, I can’t see anyone beating #4 WORLD OF TROUBLE, who will likely be the shortest price of the day against a very small field. This was a much more intriguing race on turf, and I think it’s now a “free square” in any multi-race exotics you play.

The fourth is a puzzling maiden special weight event for 3-year-olds going a mile. I’m going five-deep, and I’m making the conscious decision to throw out #6 SAMARONTI, the 4-1 morning line favorite. DRF’s workout reports say that he hasn’t been working as impressively as stablemate #10 HIGH AMPLITUDE, who I’m using but in no way in love with. Of the ones I used, I most prefer the one that may be the biggest price. That’s #7 TRIPWIRE, who ran well against stakes company at Woodbine and has every right to move forward on dirt. We know the distance won’t be a problem, and the experience edge could be a big plus.

If we’re alive going into the fifth, we’ll be two-deep to finish it off. This is the Ladies’ Turf Sprint, which is now off the turf. I’m going two-deep and using #4 CHERRY LODGE and #7 RAZORBACK LADY, both of whom have shown talent (and substantial early zip) in prior dirt starts. Like the third leg, this was a much more intriguing race on the turf (where I thought #2 MIZ MAYHEM had a big shot at a nice price), but this is what we’re left with.

$0.50 Pick Four: Race #5

R5: 4,7
R6: 1,5,9,12
R7: 2,4,5,8
R8: 9

32 Bets, $16

My aim here is pretty simple. I’m trying to get to one of my best bets of the day in the last leg, and hoping we can get a price or two home before that one to make this pay a bit.

This starts in the fifth race, which I’ve profiled above. If you want to buy the race, the ticket is still a reasonable $40, but I’ll attempt to keep the cost down and use the same two horses that finish off my early Pick Five.

The sixth is the South Beach Stakes for older fillies and mares, and thankfully, this is still on the turf. The short run into the first turn makes things difficult for likely favorite #12 ROAD TO VICTORY, so I need to go a bit deeper. My top pick is actually #9 DOLCE LILI, who comes back to the turf and got pretty good last year for Bill Mott. With the turf course wet, I’ll substitute #1 FIRE KEY for the scratched #13 CAPLA TEMPTRESS, as that one has run her best races over turf courses with give in the ground. I’ll also use a big price in the form of #5 LOVER’S KEY. She takes a big jump up in class, but loves this route of ground and may be flying late for a barn that’s enjoyed a very strong meet to this point.

The seventh is the Grade 3 Hurricane Bertie. I’m using the four likely favorites, but while #4 SHAMROCK ROSE may be tough, I don’t think she’s unbeatable. There isn’t a ton of early speed in here, which could set things up for either #5 BLAMED or #8 STORMY EMBRACE to steal it on the front end. If there’s a speed duel, #2 DREAM PAULINE could also be running late, and if she runs back to her win in the Grade 3 Sugar Swirl, she may be tough to hold off.

All of this leads to the eighth race, the Grade 3 La Prevoyante. Making a morning line is an incredibly difficult, thankless job, but I think the morning line man got this one very, very wrong. #9 SANTA MONICA is the 7/2 second choice on the morning line, and if she goes off much above 2-1 or 5/2, I’ll be shocked. She ran well against top-notch competition all year last year before a dud in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf, and her lone race at this 12-furlong distance was a very impressive win at Keeneland last spring. I’m not crazy about the rest of this field, and I’ll take a stand here. If Santa Monica doesn’t win, I lose.

$0.50 Pick Four: Race #9

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

80 Bets, $40

And now, the fun starts. This Pick Four is hard, but if you hit it, I think there’s a chance at a real financial windfall.

We’ll start in the ninth, the Grade 3 Fred Hooper. This race suffered a major defection earlier in the week, as #1 COAL FRONT is expected to scratch. I’m going two-deep, and my top selection is the other Todd Pletcher trainee, #8 COPPER TOWN. I’m throwing out the Grade 1 Cigar Mile, and if he runs back to his races before that, he’ll be formidable. I’ll also use #6 AZTEC SENSE, a win machine trained by Jorge Navarro who cuts back to one turn. #4 BREAKING LUCKY was originally on my ticket, but he’s not the same horse on a wet track, so I’ll throw him out and add another horse in the second leg.

The tenth is the Grade 3 W. L. McKnight, and I think it sets up for a frontrunner. As such, my top selection is #8 HUNTING HORN, who’s shown some speed in the past and gets some class relief after chasing Enable twice late last year. I’ll also use #2 SOGLIO and #4 ZULU ALPHA, in addition to #9 HUNTER O’RILEY, who would be way too big a price at 20-1. He comes off a long layoff, but has been working steadily and is a first-time gelding who has run well at this distance before.

That brings us to the Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup Turf. This may not be the strongest Grade 1 for the purse it’s offering, but it’s an incredibly difficult betting race. #2 YOSHIDA is the horse to beat, but this may be a hair further than he wants to run. I can make cases for eight or nine of the 10 horses in this race, so I’ll happily buy it and hope for a price.

And with all of that said and done, we’ve reached the Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup. #5 ACCELERATE burned me in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, and maybe it’s foolish to go against him again. Having said that, #3 CITY OF LIGHT beat him on the square at this distance in last year’s Oaklawn Handicap, and I’d argue that his Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile win was more impressive than Accelerate’s Classic triumph. The off track is an unknown, but he’s bred to like it (a 413 off-track Tomlinson figure gives me some confidence). I’m backing him in hopes of a mild upset, and if we cash, chances are it’ll be for a nice chunk of change.

2018 BREEDERS’ CUP: Saturday Analysis, Selections, Betting Strategies, and Tickets

The 2018 Breeders’ Cup is upon us. While Friday’s program features races for 2-year-olds, Saturday’s slate focuses on older horses, and is headlined by the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic. World-class horses like Enable, Monomoy Girl, Abel Tasman, Accelerate, and others will be in action, and each race brings with it plenty of potential to make some money.

If you didn’t see my write-up of Friday’s card, it’s available here. This will follow the same template, as I’ll give A, B, and C horses, expound with some analysis, and provide tips for betting each individual race on a $20ish budget. At the end, I’ll dive into the multi-race exotics sequences and offer a few tickets for wagers that are likely to boast pools of several million dollars.

It’s a great betting program, and there’s a lot to decipher, so let’s get to it!

BREEDERS’ CUP FILLY AND MARE SPRINT

A’s: 13
B’s: 5,10
C’s: 8,11,14

We’ll start off the day with a favorite that seems very imposing on paper, for a variety of different reasons. It’s not exciting, and starting off with an 8/5 shot that will likely drift down towards even money won’t win me any awards for bravery, but #13 MARLEY’S FREEDOM seems much the best and should be bet as such.

Let’s approach this from a variety of different angles. Marley’s Freedom has won four in a row, and in that stretch, she hasn’t seriously been tested. Bob Baffert has her in career-best form, and the recent bullet workout indicates she’s fully loaded for this race. Furthermore, there appears to be a lot of speed signed on, and that should set up for this one’s closing kick. The outside draw is cushy, and while it wouldn’t necessarily be shocking if she lost, it would be a mild surprise.

If Marley’s Freedom doesn’t win, I don’t have a clue who does. I’m taking the stand that the race sets up for a closer, and because of that, my two B horses are ones that don’t need the lead. #5 GOLDEN MISCHIEF has won three in a row and turned in a very strong workout on Sunday (the best of 113 at the distance), while #10 HIGHWAY STAR is a closer that would benefit from the likely pace scenario. That one seems a cut below my top two choices, but if they go :44 for the opening half-mile, Jose Ortiz will be smiling widely aboard this consistent mare.

Two of my C horses are speed horses that need a lot to go right, but could hang on for a share. #8 MIA MISCHIEF has finished worse than second just once in 10 career starts, while #11 FINLEY’SLUCKYCHARM loves Churchill Downs and may have bounced last time out. Having said that, both need the lead to run their best, and the latter has misfired twice in her last three outings. I’ll also lightly use 20-1 shot #14 SHAMROCK ROSE, who capitalized when the Grade 2 Raven Run fell apart. The quick turnaround isn’t ideal, but she could get that race shape again, and if you’re playing tri’s and supers, she may be worth throwing on the bottom rungs of those wagers.

Betting on a Budget

I’ll key the chalk on top of my two B horses in exactas. Ideally, I’d like to key Marley’s Freedom in doubles, but the Turf Sprint is an absolute mess, so I’m trying to steer far clear of it.

$10 exactas: 13 with 5,10 ($20)

BREEDERS’ CUP TURF SPRINT

A’s: 14
B’s: 7,9,10
C’s: 2,4,5

Good freaking luck, folks! I found the Turf Sprint to be the toughest race of the entire Breeders’ Cup program, and there’s a real chance that I’m passing this race if the tote board isn’t displaying odds I like on my top choice.

I hate the post position #14 CONQUEST TSUNAMI drew, but he certainly looks like the controlling speed in this race. #11 WORLD OF TROUBLE has speed, to be sure, but Conquest Tsunami is lightning quick and cuts back to a distance that should be more to his liking. His only poor race for trainer Peter Miller was going much further than he wanted to, and if he can clear the field (which I think he can), I think he’s got a big, big shot.

If he doesn’t clear the field…well, then it’s anyone’s guess who wins. The two morning line favorites, #5 DISCO PARTNER and #9 STORMY LIBERAL, both have a history of not running as well outside of their home states (though the latter ran very, very well in Dubai earlier this year, his duds at Belmont and Hong Kong can’t just be ignored).

Stormy Liberal is a B horse for me, as are two European invaders that are prices on the morning line. #7 LOST TREASURE has hit another gear late in his 3-year-old season, as he’s put up three straight Timeform Ratings of 112 or higher coming into this race. Meanwhile, #10 HAVANA GREY would move way up if this race was contested over soft going (which seems likely). His form over firmer going is no great shakes, but he won a Group 1 over yielding ground at The Curragh two back and gets Lasix. Both Euros are 20-1 morning line, and while I think they’ll both drift down, anything 15-1 or higher would hit me as an overlay.

Disco Partner is one of three C horses. The second is #2 BUCCHERO, a consistent, hard-knocking sort that’s very easy to root for. He may be a cut below the top tier, but he always tries hard and is usually going the right way late. Finally, I’ll include #4 VISION PERFECT, strictly because Jason Servis is one of the top trainers in the country when it comes to turf sprints. He hits with 33% of such runners, and Javier Castellano’s presence can’t be ignored (especially considering he doesn’t ride much for this outfit).

Betting on a Budget

Conquest Tsunami is 6-1 on the morning line, and that seems fair. Anything above 9/2 would make him an OK win/place play, and 8-1 or higher would be a significant overlay. If not, I’m likely passing the race.

$5 win/place: 14 (conditional on him being 9/2 or higher)

BREEDERS’ CUP DIRT MILE

A’s: 1
B’s: 10
C’s: 6,9

Like many, I’m seeing the Dirt Mile as a two-horse race between #1 CITY OF LIGHT and #10 CATALINA CRUISER. The former is the only horse to top Accelerate to this point in the year, but comes in off of two straight defeats. The latter, meanwhile, is a perfect 4-for-4, and was last seen running away from a pair of Grade 2 fields at Del Mar this summer.

I’m siding with City of Light. The most damning reason is a statistic that will be cited ad nauseum between now and Saturday: Trainer John Sadler is 0 for 41 with Breeders’ Cup runners. To be fair, he had a few tough beats with Stellar Wind in the 2015 and 2016 Distaffs, but this isn’t an 0 for 7 or 0 for 8 stat. This is a significant sample size, and if I’ve got a reason to go against a Sadler trainee, I’m going to do it.

My thinking here is that Catalina Cruiser, as talented as he may be, hasn’t really beaten anyone. Yes, he beat Battle of Midway in the Pat O’Brien, but that one was making his first start since the 2017 Breeders’ Cup and absolutely needed the race. As Dirt Miles go, this race isn’t bad. City of Light is a two-time Grade 1 winner, and my two C horses exit what I feel was a live prep race (the Grade 3 Ack Ack at this route). Catalina Cruiser may be a freak, and I won’t be stunned if he beats me, but I’ll take slightly better odds on a horse that this distance should hit right between the eyes.

#6 SEEKING THE SOUL won the Ack Ack, and his connections were hoping he’d make the Classic. However, he wouldn’t have drawn in off the AE list, so they settled for running here. This is his favorite track, and he’d benefit from a fast pace. I also need to consider #9 GIANT EXPECTATIONS, who may have needed the Ack Ack coming off a six-month layoff. He has a tendency to find trouble, and that’s a red flag sometimes, but he could easily improve off of that effort, and his best would certainly be good enough to hit the board.

Betting on a Budget

I’ll key City of Light on top of trifectas that include my other horses underneath. Additionally, I’ll play a small, cold double singling both City of Light and a live longshot in the Filly and Mare Turf.

$3 trifectas: 1 with 6,9,10 with 6,9,10 ($18)
$5 double: 1 with 14 ($5)

BREEDERS’ CUP FILLY AND MARE TURF

A’s: 3,6,14
B’s: 10
C’s: N/A

I have very few hardcore tenets when it comes to the Breeders’ Cup, but this race emphasizes one of them: Never, ever, ever, ever bet against Frankie Dettori when he’s on a live turf horse.

Here, he rides #14 EZIYRA, who’s 15-1 on the morning line but may be considerably shorter come post time. She’s won four of her last five starts, and the lone defeat came in the Group 1 Yorkshire Oaks, when she was third behind an all-world talent in Sea of Class. She’s never finished worse than third in 11 career starts, soft turf will not be a problem, she likes this distance, and she’s got arguably the best turf rider in the world on her. 15-1 would be a ridiculous overlay, and anything over 8-1 would be more than fair.

The other two A horses are the two likely favorites. #3 WILD ILLUSION is a three-time Group 1 winner, while #6 SISTERCHARLIE has flourished since coming to America last summer. She’s a head away from being undefeated this year, and while she does stretch out in distance a bit, she’s won going similar routes of ground overseas, so I don’t see it as an issue. These favorites are legitimate, and I think they’re both must-uses in any multi-race exotics ticket you come up with.

Aidan O’Brien can’t be ignored here, as he saddles possible third choice #10 MAGIC WAND. She hasn’t won in a while but has kept tremendous company, running in Group 1 races in five of her last six starts. Here’s what I don’t get, though. Three back, she was fifth in the Group 1 Yorkshire Oaks. You know who was third that day? Eziyra. Eziyra is three times the price of Magic Wand on the morning line, and while a lot of that has to do with the O’Brien factor, it’s a ridiculous disparity. The bigger that is come post time, the more value this race has to this handicapper.

Betting on a Budget

I’ll box my top three horses in exactas and lean on Eziyra in a few other wagers. I’m splurging a bit compared to other races, but Eziyra is my price play of the weekend.

$2 exacta box: 3,6,14 ($12)
$1 exacta key box: 14 with 3,6,10 ($6)
$3 win/place: 14
$6 double: 14 with 5

BREEDERS’ CUP SPRINT

A’s: 5
B’s: N/A
C’s: 1,8,9

This race houses one of the easiest horses in the country to root for. That’s #5 IMPERIAL HINT, who will likely be a pretty heavy favorite. A horse christened by many as “a little rocket ship,” he ran second in this race last year and has since won four of five starts. His last two have been brilliant victories in Grade 1 company, and it certainly seems like he would need to regress for another runner to win.

That’s not to say he can’t lose, though. If Imperial Hint takes a step back, a number of others could potentially pick up the pieces. If the track is fair, and if closers are making up ground, #1 WHITMORE has a big shot to capitalize on a favorable pace scenario. There’s an abundance of early speed (as there is in most renewals of this race), and while the rail draw isn’t ideal, if the frontrunners post a sub-:44 opening half-mile, that could set things up perfectly for this Grade 1-winning closer.

#9 ROY H won last year’s renewal of this race, and comes in off a victory in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Sprint Championship. His best effort could absolutely win this race, but it’s fair to wonder if he’s lost a step from his brilliant campaign a season ago. He does have the right running style to succeed here, as he doesn’t necessarily need the lead in order to run well. Having said that, he may need to run back to last year’s Breeders’ Cup Sprint effort to get the job done here, and in his first start at this track, off of a few races that weren’t his best, I’m not sure that’s in the cards.

The other horse I need to use in vertical exotics is #8 LIMOUSINE LIBERAL, who loves this strip and is another that could be going well late. He’s won six of eight local starts, and while he may not be quite as talented as some others in this field, he’s done his best running at Churchill Downs and will be a bit of a price. I don’t think he wins, but it wouldn’t shock me if he closed late for second or third at a nice number.

Betting on a Budget

I’m going to try to keep Roy H out of the top two, as an exacta involving the two favorites won’t pay much. I’ll key Imperial Hint on top in exactas with the other two horses I’m using, as they should be big enough prices to make the wager pay reasonably well.

$10 exactas: 5 with 1,8 ($20)

BREEDERS’ CUP MILE

A’s: 5,7,8
B’s: 2,14
C’s: 1,4,10,13

The Breeders’ Cup Mile has taken a number of hits to it this year. Most notably, several top European runners that were pointed to the event (Alpha Centauri and Laurens, to name two) did not ship, and the American group of milers has largely been pretty subpar.

This is good news for gamblers, though, as the assemblage of runners makes for a fascinating betting race. Whatever horse you like is going to be a square price, and if you’re right, you’ll be in line for a nice score.

The thing that jumped out at me, in looking at this race, is a real lack of early speed. #5 OSCAR PERFORMANCE has capitalized on a number of these scenarios in the past, and there’s a chance he’ll once again be gifted an easy lead early on. He’s shown he can’t be left alone on the front end, but it certainly doesn’t seem like many others want to be on or near the lead early. If there’s a concern here, it’s that he may not like give in the ground, but given that he won’t be a short price, that doesn’t scare me.

Remember my Frankie Dettori mantra? That’s part of the reason #7 EXPERT EYE is one of my top picks. He’s competed against some of the best milers in Europe this year and gets Lasix for trainer Sir Michael Stoute. While it’s a bit concerning that most of his best efforts have come at seven furlongs (not a mile), this isn’t the best Breeders’ Cup Mile field, and he’s certainly good enough to win. I like #8 I CAN FLY for similar reasons, as she’s coming off a tough beat at the hands of top European runner Roaring Lion in the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II at Ascot. She’s another that gets Lasix in her first North American start, and she’s shown she can be effective over softer going, which is another big plus.

#2 NEXT SHARES seems to have realized his potential. After running second and third in a pair of Grade 1 events earlier this year, he’s won two in a row, and his win in the Grade 1 Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland was very good. I’m not sure he can repeat that type of performance, but he’s in career-best form, and that has to be respected to a certain extent. My other B horse is #14 MUSTASHRY, and I wanted to like him more than I do. He’s won five of his last seven starts and gets Lasix for Stoute, but the post is a killer and he’s clearly much better over firm ground than soft ground. If the turf course dries out, he’ll be a major player. If not, he’ll have a fair bit to overcome, despite what appears to be a world of talent.

Three of my four C horses are European runners. #1 ONE MASTER was a 47-1 upset winner of the Group 1 Prix de la Foret at Longchamp, while #4 POLYDREAM stretches out for Freddie Head of Goldikova fame and #13 GUSTAV KLIMT has spent most of his career earning minor awards in Group 1 races for Aidan O’Brien. Finally, #10 CATAPULT is a John Sadler trainee who’s won a pair of graded stakes races on the West Coast. It’s tough to be too enthusiastic about Sadler at this event given the previously-mentioned 0-for-41 mark, but he’s in career-best form and entering a wide-open race, so I couldn’t just ignore him.

Betting on a Budget

In multi-race wagers, I’m spreading. In vertical wagers, I’m gambling that Oscar Performance will get left alone and have every chance to earn his second Breeders’ Cup victory. I’ll use him in exactas above and below my A and B horses and hope I’m right.

$4 exactas: 5 with 2,7,8,14 ($16)
$2 exactas: 2,7,8,14 with 5 ($8)

BREEDERS’ CUP DISTAFF

A’s: 2
B’s: 10
C’s: 7,11

I’m supposed to see this race as a matchup between likely Champion 3-Year-Old Filly #10 MONOMOY GIRL and last year’s Eclipse Award winner, #2 ABEL TASMAN. I don’t. I respect Monomoy Girl and what she’s accomplished, but I love Abel Tasman in this spot, and I’m happy to explain why.

Yes, Abel Tasman’s run in the Grade 1 Zenyatta was absolutely horrible. With that in mind, though, a look at her running lines hints that something bigger was in play. She’s just 1 for 4 at Santa Anita, and the lone win was in an unremarkable maiden race. It’s a bit weird to say, but perhaps she just does not like Santa Anita as much as other tracks.

She needed her seasonal debut in the Grade 1 La Troienne, but her races two and three back were smashing. A return to that form would absolutely make her the one to beat, and it would make her 7/2 morning line price a significant overlay. Bluntly, I think she should be favored here, and I’ll be happy to plunk down my money if she isn’t.

I don’t even like Monomoy Girl for second in here. #10 BLUE PRIZE has gotten quite good, having won three in a row and four of her last five. She took an abrupt right turn in the stretch of the Grade 1 Spinster at Keeneland, but still held on to win that day beneath Joe Bravo, who rides her back in this race. She’s 3 for 5 at Churchill Downs, with two second-place finishes, and I don’t think she’s ever been better than she is right now.

My two C horses are the two 3-year-old fillies. Monomoy Girl merits respect. She’s never finished worse than second, she’s got plenty of tactical speed, and if she’s left alone, she could get brave. Meanwhile, #7 MIDNIGHT BISOU was put up to first in the Grade 1 Cotillion last time out and figures to be running well late. Having said all of that, I’m just not sold on the quality of this year’s group of 3-year-old fillies. #5 WONDER GADOT is seen as one of the top three or four in the division, and her two wins this year were both against restricted company in Canada. I suppose either of those two fillies could win, but if they do, a lot of my tickets will turn into confetti.

Betting on a Budget

This one’s pretty simple. While I’ll hedge a bit in my Pick Five ticket, from a single-race standpoint, I’m riding or dying with Abel Tasman and hoping that the Zenyatta was an isolated incident. I’ll play a cold double to my best bet of the afternoon, which should come as no surprise.

$20 double: 2 with 2

BREEDERS’ CUP TURF

A’s: 2
B’s: N/A
C’s: 12

We’ve come to my best bet of the weekend. It’s a popular one, and it’s not on a ridiculous price. In fact, #2 ENABLE may be the shortest price on the entire Breeders’ Cup program. Having said that, she is an extraordinary talent that provides star power to an event that desperately needs it, and I think she’ll be incredibly formidable in the Turf.

Enable has won back-to-back editions of the Group 1 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, the richest race in Europe. She’s done so over world-class groups that have included the likes of last year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf winner (#1 TALISMANIC), Sea of Class, and Ulysses (who would’ve been favored in last year’s renewal, but scratched the day of the race). No Arc winner has ever added this race, but she seems leaps and bounds better than this group, and she’d need to seriously regress in order for someone else to catch her.

The only horse that may be able to capitalize if this scenario unfolds, I think, is fellow European invader #12 WALDGEIST, who was beaten by a bit less than two lengths in the Arc. Before that, he had reeled off four consecutive wins in France, including one in the Group 1 Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud. He’s run well over soft going in the past, and conditioner Andre Fabre is no stranger to success on this stage.

Betting on a Budget

I’ll channel former TVG colleague Dave Weaver and put together an ice-cold exacta in an attempt to get some value out of Enable.

$20 exacta: 2 with 12

BREEDERS’ CUP CLASSIC

A’s: 1,6,7
B’s: 3,10,11
C’s: 4,9

I’m saving my biggest stand of the weekend for the weekend’s biggest race. This is the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic, and I’ve mentioned eight horses without talking about #14 ACCELERATE, the race’s 5/2 morning line favorite.

I respect what Accelerate’s done to this point in the year. However, I have major questions about the fields he’s beaten. The older horse division in Southern California has been sorely lacking in talent all year long. Yes, he beat #7 WEST COAST in the Grade 1 Awesome Again, but that was West Coast’s first start in six months, and by trainer Bob Baffert’s own admission, he didn’t have the horse fully cranked for that race. Am I supposed to be excited by wins over Mubtaahij, #8 PAVEL, and a running-way-too-far City of Light? Add in Sadler’s putrid record at this event, plus Accelerate’s inexplicable no-show in last year’s Dirt Mile (which, I may add, was contested at his favorite track), and I’ll happily try to beat him.

I understand this may be completely unexpected, but Bob Baffert has a powerful hand in the Classic. Now that you’ve all picked your jaws up off the floor following that stunning revelation, let’s look at #6 MCKINZIE and #7 WEST COAST. Both can win, though I prefer the latter since he’s shown he can run well at this distance. They’ll likely be this race’s second and third choices in some order, and justifiably so.

My other A horse is this race’s ultimate wild card. We all remember #1 THUNDER SNOW doing his impression of an angry bull at a rodeo during the 2017 Kentucky Derby, and when he’s bad, he’s REALLY bad. When he’s good, though, he’s one of the best horses in training. He may have ridden a track bias to his smashing score in the Grade 1 Dubai World Cup, but he’s also a Group 1 winner on turf, and he showed some flexibility when second in the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup. At his likely price, I need him on my tickets.

#3 CATHOLIC BOY is an interesting case. He was terrific when smashing the field in the Grade 1 Travers, and by all accounts, he’s looked strong in the mornings. I’m not quite sure he’s fast enough to contend with my top three, but he’s in strong form, and at least we know he can get the distance. That last tidbit isn’t necessarily the case with regard to #10 YOSHIDA and #11 MIND YOUR BISCUITS, who both come into this race off of sharp wins at a mile and an eighth but are unproven beyond that route. Talent isn’t the question with regard to these horses. It’s strictly a matter of if they’ll get the distance, or if their closing kicks will be dulled a bit by the extra eighth of a mile.

My two C horses are fun ones to root for. #4 GUNNEVERA was a late-running second behind Yoshida in the Woodward, and the faster they go early, the more he’ll like it. That’s in stark contrast to #9 MENDELSSOHN, the well-traveled Aidan O’Brien trainee who held on for third despite pressing a ridiculously-fast pace in the Jockey Club Gold Cup. He was also second to Catholic Boy in the Travers, and it’s not inconceivable to think he’ll be the one they have to run down going into the far turn. How far he may be in contention after that, though, is anyone’s guess.

Betting on a Budget

No Accelerate for me, but the question is, how does one try to beat the favorite? I’m going to box my top three picks in exactas, and because he’ll likely be the biggest price of the trio, I’ll have a small win-place bet on Thunder Snow. Between this and all my multi-race exotics tickets that will not have Accelerate on them, if he loses, I want to be in position to make money.

$4 exacta box: 1,6,7 ($24)
$3 win/place: 1 ($6)

MULTI-RACE EXOTICS

$0.50 Pick Four: Race #4

R4: 2,4,5,7,9,10,14
R5: 1,10
R6: 3,6,10,14
R7: 5

56 Bets, $28

Spread, two-horse race, mini-spread (with my top pick being a 15-1 shot), then Imperial Hint to finish it out. Of the multi-race tickets I intend to play, this isn’t the one I’m most excited about, but if we get a price or two home in the first and/or third legs, this could still provide an OK return.

$2 Pick Six: Race #6

R6: 3,6,14
R7: 5
R8: 2,5,7,8,14
R9: 2
R10: 2
R11: 1,3,6,7

60 Bets, $120

I don’t usually play Pick Six tickets, simply because my fairly-small budget doesn’t allow for them. Having said that, this is a fairly economical ticket with three singles (two of heavy favorites, one of 7/2 second choice Abel Tasman) and a few “spread” races. If you’re a Pick Six player on a budget, or a group that wants a ticket they can split X different ways, this is the one I’d suggest.

$0.50 Pick Five: Race #7

R7: 5
R8: 2,5,7,8,14
R9: 2,7,10,11
R10: 2
R11: 1,3,6,7

80 Bets, $40

My two singles will be popular. My hope is that we’ll knock out some tickets in my spread races. Note that I did go a bit deeper in the Distaff on this ticket. This is simply because only going five-deep in the Mile gives me a bit of budgetary room.

$0.50 Pick Four: Race #8

R8: ALL
R9: 2
R10: 2
R11: 1,3,6,7,10,11

84 Bets, $42

Simply put, if this goes big price, Abel Tasman, Enable, logical horse that isn’t Accelerate, this has the potential to pay big money. I’m six-deep without the favorite in the final leg, so if I’m alive, chances are it’ll be to a nice chunk of change (provided we can beat the favorite with a mid-priced alternative).

2018 BREEDERS’ CUP: Friday Analysis, Selections, Betting Strategies, and Tickets

The 2018 Breeders’ Cup is upon us. The first of two days of action at Churchill Downs consists of five 2-year-old races, and several of the fields make for real puzzles.

This year’s analysis features insight on my top selections, as well as multi-race tickets for certain sequences and single-race betting strategies for those on a budget. There are prices that come in every year in these races, and hopefully, we’ll be able to catch a few of them.

Here we go!

BREEDERS’ CUP JUVENILE TURF SPRINT

A’s: 2,4,7
B’s: 8,10,11
C’s: 1,9

We kick things off with a race few people seemed to ask for, yet one that was miles better than the idea of a Breeders’ Cup Derby and an event staggered over several months (it is our duty as horse racing fans to never, ever, ever forget how dumb those concepts were). This race drew a field of 12, and many of the top contenders are ones coming from across the pond.

I’d be pretty surprised if the 9/2 morning line odds hold up on #2 SOLDIER’S CALL, because he seems like the class of the field. Through seven career starts, he’s yet to run a bad race, and he won a pair of graded stakes races before finishing a close-up third in a Group 1 at Longchamp in France. He’ll get Lasix in this race, which often moves European runners up considerably, and he should be in the mix from the get-go. If he runs the type of race he’s run in Europe, he’ll be tough to beat.

If he doesn’t, though, I think there’s room for a price. Of the American-based runners, I’m most interested in #4 STILLWATER COVE, who cuts back in distance after running a deceptively good race in the Grade 1 Natalma at Woodbine. She led going into Woodbine’s ridiculously long stretch, but faded to fifth in the final furlong. This distance, which she won at two starts ago at Saratoga, should be much more to her liking, and it doesn’t hurt that that day’s rider is back aboard in this race. She’s one of four in here trained by Wesley Ward, and his quartet also includes Royal Ascot winner #7 SHANG SHANG SHANG, who hasn’t run since that event. Having said that, she’s worked well ahead of her return to the races and certainly seems like one of the likely pace-setters in here.

Many of my secondary runners are European imports. Aidan O’Brien will saddle both #8 SERGEI PROKOFIEV and #10 SO PERFECT, and neither would be a shock (though I think it’s telling that Ryan Moore lands on the former following his Group 3 triumph at Newmarket). Having said that, the one I may be most intrigued by, especially given the likelihood for a softer turf course, is #11 QUEEN OF BERMUDA. On firmer going, this filly isn’t anything special. However, she moves way up on a wet turf course, and was just a length behind So Perfect earlier this year over “good to soft” going at Chantilly. Keep her in mind if the skies open up this week, especially given the presence of Flavien Prat and the chance that she’ll be a huge price compared to some of her fellow invaders.

Finally, while I don’t love morning line favorite #1 STRIKE SILVER or #9 CHELSEA CLOISTERS, I feel the need to at least use them as C horses. The former hasn’t run a bad race in three lifetime starts, but I’m not crazy about the race he exits at Keeneland (which seemed to fall apart late). Meanwhile, the latter has run well in her last three starts, but hasn’t won since her debut at Keeneland and almost certainly needs to step it up from a figure perspective.

Betting on a Budget

I’ll use Soldier’s Call in exactas above and below my A and B horses. Additionally, if the turf course comes up wet, I’ll throw an across-the-board bet on Queen of Bermuda, since her likely price will almost certainly be an overlay.

$2 exacta part wheel: 2 w/4,7,8,10,11 ($10)
$1 exacta part wheel: 4,7,8,10,11 w/2 ($5)
$2 WPS: 11 ($6)

BREEDERS’ CUP JUVENILE FILLIES TURF

A’s: 3,6
B’s: 4
C’s: 1,5,12

One of the heavier favorites of the weekend will run here. That’s #6 NEWSPAPEROFRECORD, the Chad Brown trainee that has looked exceptional in a pair of victories in New York. She has ample tactical speed in a race that otherwise seems pretty light on it, and from a Beyer Speed Figure standpoint, she towers over her American counterparts. Only two other runners in the field have Beyers of higher than 78, and she’s never run worse than that. A repeat of the Grade 2 Miss Grillo would make her tough, and improvement would make her very formidable.

Of the Europeans coming across the Atlantic to take her on, I most prefer #3 LILY’S CANDLE, who has improved with every start and most recently captured a Group 1 at Longchamp. She overcame a bit of trouble that day when rated off the pace, and she’s 2-for-2 at a mile, so we know the distance won’t be a problem. We’re likely to get somewhere close to the 8-1 morning line price, and that hits me as a bit of an overlay given the talent she’s shown.

The Euro that’s most likely to be bet is #4 JUST WONDERFUL, an Aidan O’Brien trainee that exits a Group 2 score at Newmarket. She’s shown a strong turn of foot, and her best race makes her a contender, but I’m concerned about the likely race shape. She may need more pace than she figures to get, and while the connections merit respect, I’m more partial to Lily’s Candle, who has shown more of an ability to be close to the pace.

If you have the budget to go deeper, there are a few potential prices to consider. #5 LA PELOSA rallied from way back to take the Grade 1 Natalma in her North American debut, while #12 SUMMERING has worked very well since a disappointing showing at Santa Anita and should be forwardly placed. Finally, #1 CONCRETE ROSE is 2-for-2 to this point in her career, and while I’m not crazy about the group she beat in the Grade 2 Jessamine, it’s not out of the question to think she’ll be fairly close to a moderate early pace given the rail draw.

Betting on a Budget

I’ll box my A and B horses in exactas, and throw those horses on top of the two longshots I put in my third tier in smaller exactas as a saver play.

$3 exacta box: 3,4,6 ($18)
$1 exactas: 3,4,6 with 5,12 ($6)

BREEDERS’ CUP JUVENILE FILLIES

A’s: 4,8
B’s: 2,10
C’s: 7

I found this race to be the most puzzling of the Friday quintet. None of the favorites give me too much confidence, and of the horses that will likely be bigger prices, only one really piques my interest.

That longshot is #8 SIPPICAN HARBOR, who has been training up to this race since a smashing win in the Grade 1 Spinaway at Saratoga. While the first quarter-mile of that race was swift, the interior splits actually weren’t that fast, so her last-to-first rally wasn’t entirely the result of a race totally falling apart. I wish Joel Rosario had kept the mount, but Irad Ortiz, Jr., is no slouch, and there’s a lot of speed signed on in a race with many runners that have questions about how far they want to go. If nothing else, this one will be going the right direction late, and that could be enough.

Of the shorter prices, the one I like most is #4 RESTLESS RIDER, who exits a win in the Grade 1 Alcibiades at Keeneland. She’s yet to run a bad race, and she’s bred to run all day long. Perhaps most importantly, she does not need the lead to run well, and she could get first run at the tiring pacesetters turning for home. She was second in the Spinaway behind my top selection, but the move to two turns could help her turn the tables in this spot.

My two second-tier horses are quite similar. #10 BELLAFINA is the likely favorite, and she’s done very little wrong to this point. She hasn’t come home particularly quickly in either of her last two starts, and that’s a concern in a race with plenty of other early speed signed on, but I suppose there’s a chance she could grind her other rivals into submission. Another one that will want to be on or near the lead early is #2 SERENGETI EMPRESS, who exits a pair of runaway wins for trainer Tom Amoss. She, too, went fast early in her last start, which she won by nearly 20 lengths, and it certainly helps that she’s shown she likes this track. However, she didn’t beat much at all in that race, and this is certainly a step up in class.

The other horse likely to take significant money at the windows is #7 JAYWALK. She went wire-to-wire in the Grade 1 Frizette, and did so in a sharp time, but I’ve got some doubts. She’s bred for speed, up and down, being by Cross Traffic and out of an Orientate mare, and I’m not sure she wants to go two turns. Furthermore, that track at Belmont played very quick and was extremely kind to early speed, so it wasn’t a shock that she got out in front and improved her positioning. She’s not completely without a chance, but 7/2 seems like an underlay.

Betting on a Budget

I won’t be playing this race too heavily, and I’ll be spreading in my pick four (which I’ll dive into later). I simply don’t have a ton of conviction, and thankfully, there’s no rule saying one HAS to play every race on a card. Having said that, if Sippican Harbor is 8-1 or higher, I’ll have a win/place bet on her and hope she can pick up the pieces.

$10 win/place: 8

BREEDERS’ CUP JUVENILE TURF

A’s: 3,5
B’s: 2,4,14
C’s: 1

The post position draw made this race very interesting. #14 ANTHONY VAN DYCK drew the far outside post, and while he may be talented enough to overcome it, there’s a chance he gets parked wide going significantly further than he has to this point in his career.

With that in mind, I’ll look to another European as my top selection. That’s #5 LINE OF DUTY, who has won two in a row for trainer Charles Appleby. He’s bred to go long and get better as he gets older, and true to form, he’s 2-for-2 going a mile or longer and has taken significant steps forward in every start. Lasix will be added, and the tactical speed this one possesses could mean a perfect trip at a nice price. He may drift down a few ticks from the 10-1 morning line, but anything at or above 6-1 seems fair.

My other “A horse” figures to be prominent early in a race that doesn’t seem to have much zip. That’s #3 MUCH BETTER, and while it’s been a while since Bob Baffert had a serious turf runner on his hands, this one could be any kind. After a nice maiden win at Del Mar, he tried two turns on turf and went very fast early on. Despite posting a :45 and change opening half-mile, though, he held well for second and was more than two lengths clear of the third-place finisher. He shouldn’t have to go nearly as fast early on, and he could get brave if he’s left alone beneath red-hot rider Drayden Van Dyke.

Anthony Van Dyck can certainly win, and I need to have him on my wider tickets. It’s tough to ignore three straight triple-digit Timeform Ratings, and Aidan O’Brien has to be respected with a good horse in good form. I’ll also throw in a pair of last-out Belmont winners. #2 UNCLE BENNY showed a new dimension in taking the Futurity and is bred to love the added distance, while #4 FORTY UNDER is 2-for-2 on turf (with both wins coming at a distance of ground).

If you have room in your budget, and want to throw in another price, you can do worse than #1 ARTHUR KITT. He chased a solid pace in a Group 2 at Newmarket last time out and gets Lasix here. His second behind eventual Group 1 winner Too Darn Hot two back was pretty good, and his price figures to be inflated given the last-out dud.

Betting on a Budget

While I’ll have Anthony Van Dyck on my pick four ticket, I’ll try to beat him in my smaller wagers. I’ll start $10 doubles with my two “A horses” and single my top pick in the Juvenile.

$10 doubles: 3,5 w/9 ($20)

BREEDERS’ CUP JUVENILE

A’s: 9
B’s:
C’s: 8,11

We arrive at the day’s main event, and it houses my best bet of the day. That’s #9 GAME WINNER, the likely favorite in the Juvenile. He’s 3-for-3 with a pair of Grade 1 wins to his credit, and he proved he could get this distance with a romp in the American Pharoah last time out. He’s worked well since that race, and he’d need to regress off of that effort to lose this race.

I’m going against #6 COMPLEXITY, who figures to be the second choice. Much like Jaywalk, he rode a speed-friendly track to a win in the Grade 1 Champagne, and there are distance questions given his pedigree. He shouldn’t be alone on the front end, and for that reason, I prefer others underneath.

The two I’d recommend using behind my top pick are #8 STANDARD DEVIATION and #11 CODE OF HONOR. The former had a sneaky-awful trip in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland. He didn’t break well, took tons of dirt going into the first turn, and had to set well off of a moderate early pace going a route that included a short stretch run. He did well to salvage third money, and unlike others, the distance won’t get him beat here. I think he has a real chance to outrun his odds and punch up some of the exotic payoffs.

Code of Honor, meanwhile, will likely be this race’s “wise guy horse.” He broke terribly in the Champagne, and rallied from last to be second behind Complexity. Trainer Shug McGaughey doesn’t rush his horses along, so the ambitious spotting is a huge vote of confidence. The post position isn’t ideal, but he’s worked well and has shown versatility, both of which make him one to respect.

Betting on a Budget

I’ll keep this simple and key my best bet on top of my two underneath horses in cold exactas.

$10 exactas: 9 w/8,11 ($20)

MULTI-RACE TICKETS

I’ll focus on the Pick Four starting in the Juvenile Fillies Turf. I can’t, in good conscience, offer a Pick Five encompassing all of these races. Such a single ticket would simply cost too much money, and I can’t give out a ticket I wouldn’t feel comfortable playing on my own. If you feel like constructing one within your budget, plug my A, B, and C horses into DRF TicketMaker, and that’ll spit out a number of different combinations you can pick and choose from. Having said that, here’s the Pick Four.

$0.50 Pick Four: Race #6

R6: 3,4,6
R7: 2,4,8,10
R8: 1,2,3,4,5,14
R9: 9

72 Bets, $36

This ticket uses all of my A and B horses, and also uses a C horse in the Juvenile Turf (simply because he’s a big price and I can afford to throw him in). Game Winner will be a popular single, but if we can get a price or two home along the way, this could still pay pretty handsomely and set us up well going into Saturday.