WEEKLY DIGEST: Woodbine and NFL Week 2

We’re back for a second go-around, and this week’s horse racing action takes me to Woodbine. A track I was fortunate enough to go to back in June, Saturday’s card features three Grade 1 races and a bunch of full fields elsewhere on the program. As a reminder, Woodbine’s wagering menu includes multi-race wagers at 20-cent minimums, rather than 50, which allows folks to go a bit deeper.

Meanwhile, Week 2 of the NFL is already underway. From an optics standpoint, there aren’t a lot of eye-catching matchups on Sunday’s slate. However, a few spreads hit me as extremely bettable.

Let’s dive in!


Woodbine, Race 6: A field of 12 2-year-olds will go two turns. #10 STATE OF MIND is the 3-1 morning line favorite, and I don’t think she’s totally illogical. However, the far outside post is a problem, and 3-1 just hits me as too short a price.

I much prefer fellow second-time starter #5 BIJOU BABY. She debuted going six furlongs, and given that she’s a daughter of turf stayer Point of Entry, chances are that isn’t what she wants to do. Still, she made up a lot of ground while closing into a pretty slow pace. I’m expecting significant improvement given the experience and the added distance.

If you want to go even deeper, #3 OUR LIBERTY BELLE isn’t without a shot at a big price. She hasn’t run well in two turf starts, but her works over the synthetic course are pretty sharp and she adds blinkers in her first two-turn outing. Bijou Baby is my top pick, but I’ll have this one on a few tickets, too.

Woodbine, Race 9: This is the Grade 1 Woodbine Mile, and the headliner here is #5 MODERN GAMES. The last time he shipped overseas was for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf. Things went great for him, as he won, but not for those who bet on him, as he was declared a non-starter following a head-scratching series of events.

A repeat of his runner-up finish in the Group 1 Sussex Stakes would give Modern Games a big chance, but the likely price seems too short. I prefer two others.

My top pick is #2 IVAR. He’s clearly had his issues, judging by the layoff lines, but when he’s right, he’s a handful. He’s finished up close in back-to-back editions of the Breeders’ Cup Mile, and he should get plenty of pace to run at in this spot.

I’ll also pose a question: Is Modern Games that much better than fellow European runner #4 FINEST SOUND? Their Timeform ratings are pretty similar, and the latter runner will be at least five times the price. Jockey Andrea Atzeni has had success over this turf course in the past, and I think this one’s live.

Woodbine, Race 10: Simply put, I want no part of any runner coming out of the Catch A Glimpse. I’m simply not impressed by the race and very much prefer a new face in the Grade 1 Natalma.

#3 G LAURIE was very impressive in winning her debut by six lengths. Graham Motion’s runners aren’t always fully cranked at first asking, but she drew away powerfully, and that day’s third-place finisher has since come back to win.

I know the speed figures weren’t particularly kind to that race, but I’m banking on there being far more in the tank. Add in that I’m just not crazy about this field in general, and I think G Laurie represents a very attractive betting proposition.



Bucs -2.5 over Saints: This spread has come down over the past few days as a result of some injury-related uncertainty on the Tampa Bay offense. However, while I’ll admit the injury report is unsettling, I think this is a “buy low” opportunity.

Tampa Bay’s defense swarmed the Cowboys last Sunday night. Even before Dak Prescott left the game, Dallas couldn’t get anything going the entire game. Tom Brady may not have all of his weapons on Sunday, but I don’t think he needs them. I’ll take the Bucs in a slow-paced game where their defense gets a chance to shine.

Panthers/Giants OVER 43.5: I’m not exactly bullish about offenses led by Baker Mayfield and Daniel Jones, but both of these teams face significantly weaker defenses than the ones they lined up against in Week 1. Saquon Barkley looked healthy in Big Blue’s stunning win over Tennessee, and Mayfield was at least able to engineer a few good drives against a solid Cleveland defense.

43.5 just seems a bit low to me. It’s possible this becomes a game of attrition and I look pretty silly, but I’ll gamble that each offense appreciates a bit of class relief, to steal a horse racing term. 27-17 is a winner, and that seems likely enough for me to take a shot.

Bears +10 over Packers: I watched all of the Bears’ season opener last weekend. It was ugly. Soldier Field’s turf was a mess, and for the first half, Chicago’s offense was, too. However, they did at least rally to win, and the Bears then sat back and watched the Vikings decimate Gang Green.

Mind you, I’m not saying Chicago is a likely winner. I think Green Bay is significantly sharper in the second week of the season. However, there are question marks here, especially with the Packers’ wide receiver corps. I think it’s likely Green Bay wins, but double-digits just seems like too big a spread.

Vikings +2.5 over Eagles: The second of two games on Monday comes to us from Philadelphia. The Eagles won their lid-lifter, but they survived some anxious moments against a Detroit Lions team that still has some work to do.

I’m not sold on any NFC East team. The Eagles may be the best of the bunch, but I’m eager to take the points with a Vikings team that seems to boast a higher-powered offense, even in a road game. The money line (Minnesota is between +115 and +125 as of this writing) may be worth a small shot, too.

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: 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!


$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.


$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.

Woodbine Analysis, Selections, and Tickets: Canadian International, E.P. Taylor Day (10/15/17)

Sunday is Canadian International Day at Woodbine, and while that turf marathon and its sister race, the E.P. Taylor, aren’t quite as big as they were a generation ago, the two Grade 1 affairs headline a stacked card with plenty of wagering opportunities. Longtime readers of mine know I’m a sucker for the 20-cent minimum bets on multi-race wagers, and I’ve got three such tickets ahead of Sunday’s card. Let’s get to it!

$0.20 Pick Five: Race #2

R2: 3,4,8,9
R3: 10
R4: 4,5,9
R5: 2,7,8,9
R6: 1,2,7

144 Bets, $28.80

The first of my three tickets comes in the early Pick Five. My strategy is to spread around one key single, which doubles as my best bet of the day.

We’ll start off in the second race, a tricky maiden claiming event. The two favorites, #3 RELEASETHE GLACKEN and #4 CRIMSON RING, both have major questions to answer. The former ran well last time out but doesn’t have much of a resume to speak of other than that effort, while the latter was bet against better horses last month and didn’t run a jump. I’ll use both, and I’m also going to throw in #8 LAILAS PRINCESS and #9 SHEEGWEEHA. Lailas Princess has a few sharp efforts sprinting on synthetic at this level, while Sheegweeha has improved in every start and could benefit from the outside draw.

My best bet of the day comes in the third race. This is a maiden race for 2-year-olds, and I’m all-in on #10 WHERE’S ANTHONY, who had a lot go wrong in his debut last month. He broke slowly and encountered plenty of traffic, but he still rallied to finish third, beaten less than three lengths. Improvement is logical at second asking, especially for a barn whose recent numbers with second-time starters are strong. Per DRF Formulator, trainer Scott Fairlie is 3-for-11 over the past two years with such runners, and if you only include races contested on the synthetic track, that number goes to 3-for-9. Long story short: If Where’s Anthony doesn’t win, I lose.

I’m chalk-heavy in the fourth race. #4 GIADA VEGAS will likely be favored, but she’s a type that finds ways to lose. I have to use her, but I’m also using #5 YOU’RE MINE and #9 SNIPPY. The former has run well three times for a strong local barn, while the latter took a big step forward at second asking and should be prominent early.

The fifth race is a maiden event for 2-year-old fillies, and I’m going pretty deep. #2 EESTI STAR and #8 MAXIXE will both take money, but their trainers’ horses often need a race or two to get going, so I wanted coverage. I found it with #7 LADY WITH CLASS and #9 SWEET SILENT SOUL. Lady With Class has two OK races to her credit, while Sweet Silent Soul goes out for a barn on a recent hot streak and could benefit from the outside draw.

If we’re still alive, we’ll look to score by going three-deep in the sixth. This is the Grade 2 Nearctic, and it’s drawn an interesting field of turf sprinters. It’s another race where I’m chalk-heavy. #7 COTAI GLORY is a European getting Lasix for the first time and is probably the one to beat, but #1 DOWSE’S BEACH and #2 WHITE FLAG are both in strong form and could win with their best efforts.

$0.20 Pick Four: Race #4

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

72 Bets, $14.40

The first three legs of the early Pick Four are the same as the last three legs of the early Pick Five. I’ll finish this wager off by using both fillies entered in the Grade 3 Ontario Derby. #8 HOLY HELENA returns to her preferred synthetic surface, on which she won this year’s Queen’s Plate, while #2 GRIZZEL has run up against some very good horses and is 2-for-2 on Woodbine’s synthetic footing. I think one of them beats the boys, and hopefully, we’re cashing after it happens.

$0.20 Pick Four: Race #9

R9: 3,4,6,8
R10: 4,8,9,10
R11: 4,9,10
R12: 5,8,11

144 Bets, $28.80

There’s also a late Pick Five wager that starts in the eighth, but in all honesty, I couldn’t put together a ticket that I felt comfortable playing. That race is not easy, and I couldn’t narrow down the rest of the ticket. As such, I’ll bypass that wager for this one, which boasts a guaranteed pool of $250,000.

As you can see, I’ve got plenty of coverage in all four legs, and the opening leg, the Grade 1 E.P. Taylor, may be the most wide-open race on the entire card. #6 NEZWAAH and #8 BLOND ME both have big chances coming over from Europe, and if the former runs back to her Group 1 score two back, she probably wins. However, #3 QUIDURA and #4 RAINHA DA BATERIA both love this turf course, and I need to use them. The latter seems like a big overlay at 10-1 on the morning line, especially since she hasn’t run a bad race in her last six starts, three of which came at the Grade 1 level. However, I’m against #7 RAIN GODDESS, who will likely take money shipping in for Aidan O’Brien. Her Timeform numbers simply don’t stack up to the Euros that will surround her in the starting gate, and I’ve spread elsewhere, so I’ll try to beat her (even though it wouldn’t be stunning if she went off favored in this race).

The 10th race is the Canadian International, and this is another event where the European contingent looks tough. I’m using all three of them: #4 IDAHO, #9 ERUPT, and #10 CHEMICAL CHANGE, who may be underbet despite running pretty much the exact same race every time out and getting Lasix for the first time. I’ll also throw in #8 MESSI, who was very unlucky in the Grade 1 Northern Dancer. He could’ve won that race with a better trip, and I’ll give him one more shot.

I’m three-deep in each of the last two races, and I’m using a few prices. My top pick in the 11th is #10 SEVENCOMINGOUT, who tried tougher company last time out after a solid debut. He’s back at the right level and will be tough if he runs back to the September 16th effort. I’m using #4 THIRD MAN IN as well, although he’s developing a habit of collecting smaller checks. Most notably, though, I’m throwing in #9 RASTA MAN, who’s been off a while but has been working well and has a few previous efforts that would fit in with this group. He’s 20-1 on the morning line, and that could be a knockout horse in this sequence.

We’ll finish with a claiming event going seven furlongs, and while I’m using one of the likely favorites, I’m also throwing in two big prices. #8 INCREDIBLE DEE has run well in each of his past two starts at this level and route, but his lone win came with a perfect trip, so he’s no cinch. Meanwhile, #5 WILSHIRE STAR (15-1) and #11 SPANISH EXPRESS (20-1) were must-uses for me, especially at their likely prices. Wilshire Star has run his best races at this route, while Spanish Express is an example of one of my favorite angles, the “toss two” theory. That occurs when a horse runs a bad race, goes to the sidelines, and needs his return race as a tightener. If you go back to the races he ran in May of this year, Spanish Express more than fits here, and he could be a massive price on the tote board.

A Tribute to a Friend, Plus Woodbine Mile Day Analysis, Selections, and Tickets

We’ll get to my tickets and analysis for Woodbine in a few minutes. However, there’s a more pressing matter that I need to address, and unfortunately, it’s not an easy one to talk about.

The press corps covering horse racing in New York has thinned out significantly in recent years. Some people have retired, others have been laid off, and a few, yes, have passed away. It’s tough to see that happen, and it’s not getting any simpler to deal with.

Mike Jarboe was a longtime copy editor for The Albany Times Union, and has been one of that paper’s featured handicappers. He retired from his full-time post last year, but still handicapped daily this past Saratoga season. That isn’t easy for anyone to do, but, without getting too far into it (out of respect for Mike and his family), he’s been battling some serious health problems of late.

Mike’s one of the most respected men in the Saratoga press box, and probably the only member of the press corps that could seriously challenge me in a Pedro the Press Box Master Chef hot dog-eating contest. In addition, he’s a world-class fiddle player and an even better human being. He’s in the club of people that had a million chances to tell me to shut up and never did, and anyone that’s ever rubbed shoulders with him came away better for the experience.

On Labor Day, Saratoga named a race after Mike, and he was in the winner’s circle with a number of family members and close friends. I wish I could’ve been there, as that was a tremendous gesture. However, there is one thing I can propose, and hopefully, it’s something Mike would appreciate.

Every year, newspaper handicappers across several publications attempt the same arduous task: Pick the most winners possible in Saratoga’s 40-day, 400-race meet. If you think it’s easy, or that luck matters more than skill, you’re wrong. It’s a mental grind, as it should be, because being the best of the best is a point of pride for whoever is able to do it.

I’m using this space to propose an idea to the leadership groups of several different papers, namely The Saratogian, The Albany Times Union, The Daily Gazette, The Saratoga Special, and any New York City papers that still have a daily handicapper picking every race on every Saratoga card. I would like all of us to come together in recognition of someone that’s done a lot of good, and for the leading handicapper across print media at all Saratoga meets going forward to be recognized with the Mike Jarboe Award.

(Quick aside: If you think this is me proposing an award so I can win it, you’re missing the point entirely. This is me attempting to appropriately honor a friend whose contributions I greatly respect.)

We can all hash out the details later as to what the award actually is. Maybe it’s a trophy, or a plaque, or a wrestling-style championship belt (my close friends and colleagues already know which one I’m voting for). In all seriousness, though, I motion that we all come together to celebrate someone who dedicated decades of service to Saratoga and the Albany print media, and I think it’s a cause we can all get behind. Who knows? Perhaps those close to Mike can recommend a charity we could all donate to in some way, shape, or form.

At any rate: Mike, if you’re reading this, thanks for everything you did, and thanks for never telling this motor-mouthed, fresh-faced kid to shut up.

– – – – –


$0.20 Pick Five: Race #2

R2: 6,8
R3: 3,10
R4: 1,4,5,8,10
R5: 3,4,8
R6: 1,2,7

180 Bets, $36

I’ve mentioned it before, but I love Woodbine’s 20-cent minimums on multi-race exotics. It makes challenging sequences much more playable, and because everyone’s playing for 20 cents, the difference in payoffs isn’t nearly as much as one might think. This is good, because this is a VERY difficult card, one that starts with a tough early Pick Five sequence.

I don’t trust likely second race favorite Forestella, who’s 0-for-10 with six seconds. She could win, and I’m using her, but my top pick is first-time starter Crimson Ring, a filly that boasts a flashy recent workout and top local rider Eurico Da Silva. I’ll also go two-deep in the third, using likely chalk Avie’s Mineshaft and Mark Casse runner Loopety Loo, the latter of which was a good second in a stakes race last time out.

I thought the fourth race was incredibly difficult, and if you’ve got a single elsewhere in the sequence, you may want to buy this race. Hopefully, going five-deep here is enough. Finally, I’m three-deep in the last two legs. The Grade 3 Bold Venture changed significantly with the scratch of likely favorite Good Bye Greg, and I’m playing against new likely favorite Unbridled Juan, who’s never struck me as a sprinter. I’m three-deep there, and hopefully we can finish off a nice score with a price.

$0.20 Pick Four: Race #4

R4: 1,4,5,8,10
R5: 3,4,8
R6: 1,7
R7: 1,2,5,6,7

150 Bets, $30

The first two legs of this ticket are the same as legs three and four of my early Pick Five. I used Boreal Spirit in the Pick Five, but not here. If you want to use him and spend some extra money, feel free. However, I thought the seventh race was extremely tough, and I opted to spread there. That’s another race where, if you’ve got conviction elsewhere in the sequence, you may want to punch the “ALL” button and give yourself some security if you get to the payoff leg.

$0.20 Pick Five/$0.20 Pick Four

R8: 1
R9: 2,7,9
R10: 4,8
R11: 2,4,5,7,9,10
R12: 1,2,6,7,10

180 Bets, $36

The Pick Five starts in the eighth, and the Pick Four begins in the ninth. I’m singling Quidura in the eighth, the Grade 2 Canadian, and I’d venture to say that I’m not alone. She’ll be one of the shortest prices on the entire card, and if she repeats her Diana effort, where she was beaten a head by Lady Eli, she’s going to be extremely difficult to beat.

The ninth is a maiden claimer that’s been jammed into the sequence. Conquest Swagman takes a big drop in class for solid connections and may be favored, but my top pick there is Red Chill, another class-dropper whose last race on turf seems like a throw-out. The tenth race is the Grade 1 Northern Dancer, and while some might single European shipper Hawkbill, I’m going to add Messi, whose lone start on this turf course was incredibly impressive. He’s inconsistent, but if the good Messi shows up, he’s got a big shot.

That brings us to the last two legs, both of which are wide-open races with big fields. I’m six-deep in the 11th, a claiming event, and several horses I’m using are prices. Bear’sway certainly wins if he’s right, but he takes an alarming drop in class and hasn’t been the same horse we saw in 2015 and early-2016. I want coverage here, for sure, and hopefully we’ll get a price home.

The last leg is the main event. This is the Grade 1 Woodbine Mile, and it’s drawn a tremendous field with several European invaders. My top pick is Lancaster Bomber, whose only North American start was a strong second behind Oscar Performance in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf. He’s chased some of the top 3-year-olds in Europe this year, and he benefits from a huge weight break (he’ll tote just 112 pounds and get as many as 12 pounds from his rivals). I don’t love him (as evidenced by me going five-deep!), but 9/2 is a pretty square price on a horse that’s shown he can compete against some of the world’s best horses.

$0.20 Jackpot Hi 5: Race #13

1st: 2,4,5,10
2nd: 2,4,5,10
3rd: 2,4,5,10
4th: 1,2,4,5,6,10,13
5th: 1,2,4,5,6,10,13

288 Bets, $57.60

I don’t usually play these sorts of wagers, but Woodbine’s 20-cent Jackpot Hi 5 boasts a mandatory payout, so I’ve put a ticket together if you’re interested. This is NOT an easy race, but I was able to separate four “A” horses and three additional “B” horses from the rest of the field. This is a bit more expensive than I’d have preferred, but the pool size will certainly merit taking a swing. If you’re playing, I’d advise a syndicate ticket to maximize the covered combinations.