Parx Grade 1s

Today is the biggest day of the calendar at Parx Racing in Bensalem, where they run the Grade 1 Cotillion for three-year old fillies and the Grade 1 Pennsylvania Derby for three-year old colts, the latter race being run as a Grade 1 for the first time.

West Coast, off his Travers win, heads the Derby and to be honest, I can’t make a strong case for anyone to beat him.

Cotillion Stakes – Race 10 – There is a horse that should be a decent-enough price, however, that we want to play in the Cotillion, and that is #10 Salty (5-1). We liked her in both the Kentucky Oaks and Acorn, and she ran well in both spots, only to get beat by today’s rival #9 Abel Tasmen (8-5) in both. Then Abel Tasmen beat her again in the Coaching Club American Oaks, going nine furlongs at Saratoga.

Let’s look at their three meetings, all Abel Tasmen wins.

Race Margin Notes
Kentucky Oaks 4 Ls Salty stymied in traffic inside, AT clear run outside
Acorn 1 L Salty went wide while AT scraped the rail
CCA Oaks 3.25 Ls Salty had a very tangled beginning, breaking 3-4 L slow

While we ultimately think that Salty will be better, and a potential star, going seven furlongs, we do think she can spring the upset today. While Abel Tasmen did beat her by 3 1/4 lengths in the CCA Oaks, Salty lost at least that much ground after a very tangled start, costing her substantial early position. Then last time, she was a decent third in the 10-furlong Alabama behind the runaway winner Elate (running at Belmont in the Beldame next Saturday). The 1.5 furlong turn-back to this 8.5 furlong distance is huge for Salty and will help narrow, if not close, the gap between her and Abel Tasmen.

Pennsylvania Derby – Race 11 – #4 West Coast (8-5) crushed the field in the Travers and his Los Al Derby was very good too. He’s just getting better over the summer and unless #1 Timeline (5-1) can take a major step forward, which is possible, West Coast just towers over this field. Timeline had a rough start in the Haskell and then rushed up to dispute a fast pace, so you can forgive that one, but are his other races good enough? At least Timeline has more room to improve than #5 Irap (3-1), who did run a good second in the Travers.

The horse we don’t want is #8 Irish War Cry (9-2) who tracked the pace in a good spot well off the rail in the Haskell and then just had nothing. He’s recovered from bad races before, but remember, his Derby was better than it looked since he made a very wide move off what was a good inside. The Haskell-Day rail at Monmouth was probably not the place to be and he stalked the pace well off that bad inside.

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Bird Song Can Upset Sharp Azteca in Kelso

Belmont has two graded stakes races on Saturday, headed by the G2 Kelso Handicap.

Kelso Handicap (G2) – Belmont, Race 9 – #5 Sharp Azteca (4-5) leads the field and will be the controlling speed under Paco Lopez for trainer Jorge Navarro. Over the last five years, Navarro is 5-31 with a $1.01 ROI in NYRA dirt races, and has been dealing with fallout from a video of Navarro and one of his owners that has led to fines and denied entries in some jurisdictions.

Sharp Azteca is obviously a very talented horse by I think typically you want to play against these Navarro runners at short prices outside of Florida and New Jersey. Granted, he did run very well in the Met Mile and should be on what is a pretty slow pace here. Still, there is one big-priced alternative that we want to bet.

#6 Bird Song (12-1) has always been a horse that has been better going one-turn than two, and while he did win the Alysheba at Churchill on Kentucky Oaks Day, he did so riding a gold rail. They stretched him out again in the Foster and he was wrangled back off the pace and everything went awry.

Ian Wilkes then turned him back to six furlongs in the G1 Vanderbilt on July 29th, and unfortunately for Bird Song, the track was strongly-biased towards inside runners, and his very wide run in there gave him no chance to win as El Deal (ironically also trained by Navarro), was easily able to wire the field (and by the way will be a big play against next week in the Vosburgh).

In this race, Bird Song should be able to track Sharp Azteca on the outside and getting back to one mile from six furlongs should suit him well.

We should also mention #4 Divining Rod (2-1), who ran ok in the Forego with very little chance chasing Defrong, the Breeders Cup Sprint favorite, who was wiring the field. Further, Divining Rod was coming back on just 14 days rest in there and has four weeks rest for this race. He is also a possible upsetter, but we just prefer Bird Song and his better price.

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Wednesday at Belmont

(Hopefully this will go better than our Sunday picks at Woodbine who combined to beat exactly zero horses)

Belmont – Race 5 – Assuming they stay on the grass today at Belmont, there is a horse we had put on our watch list that returns today in race five, a two-year old Maiden Special Weight for New York-bred turf runners. #7 Burkie (10-1) made his debut at Saratoga on August 16th and we thought ran very well going five-and-a-half furlongs (he subsequently ran on dirt on September 3rd but that can be forgiven). Burkie broke two lengths slow in his debut, moved up on the turn, then had to dive back towards the inside when horses angled out in front of him and he didn’t get totally clear before flattening out late. It was a better than it looks debut and the winner of that race returned to be beaten three lengths (running sixth of 12) in an open stakes race at Kentucky Downs, improving his figure but six points.

UPDATE – 12:18 PM – Burkie is a vet scratch.

Belmont – Race 8 – Gimma Stakes – #7 Newport Breeze (5-1) ran one of the most bizarre races of the Saratoga meet in the Seeking the Ante on August 25th. She was up on what was a very fast pace before dropping out of contention on the turn. After appearing totally beaten, she re-rallied late and just missed, coming out of nowhere in the last furlong. That race featured a huge pace, and so does this one. She’s drawn well on the outside and the race sets up well for this California-based runner who won an open Maiden Special Weight race at Del Mar, defeating Dancing Belle, who would subsequently finish second in the Grade 2 Sorrento and fourth in the Grade 1 Del Mar Debutante.

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2-Year Old Stakes North of the Border

Let’s go north to Canada where Woodbine will run two key Breeders Cup prep races – the Summer for juvenile turf males and the Natalma for juvenile turf fillies. Both are one-turn miles on the sweeping Woodbine layout.


Summer Stakes – Race 6 – This race features a few horses stretching out in distance after winning sprint races near the front end and should feature  pretty contested pace. Even if a few of the potential speeds rate, which is possible, we’ll still prefer a horse that has experience over a route of ground. That horse is #8 Empirically (8-1) for trainer Roy Lerman (who is looking for his first win of the year). Empirically probably wants even more ground than this – his half-sister Evidently is a solid turf-marathoner. His debut race was solid, though he had a very good trip inside and was DQ’d when coming out in the last furlong. Still, we expect today’s race to set up well for him and he should be a better price than the other logical closer, #1 Untamed Domain (7-2). He’s been a deep closer, but could be closer today adding blinkers. He had some tricky trips in his first two starts but had a pretty clean run in the With Anticipation last time. He was OK in there but it wasn’t a great performance by any stretch.

Natalma Stakes – Race 9 – It’s not too often where you can get Chad Brown at 6-1 and we’ll try #1 Dooder (6-1) in here with that in mind. Dooder is a New York-bred, who ran very well to win her debut race at Saratoga on August 10th against fellow NY-breds. In there, she made the first move while wide after the favorite, then had to wait for a bit in the lane, finally diving back inside and got up to win. It was a pretty solid effort. Our question revolves around the fact that the horses to come out of her debut win to run back did so and saw their figures drop – the runner-up Codrington won a race 15 days later and saw her figure drop 15 points. That is a bit of a concern, but that was on short rest, and visually we still liked Dooder’s race. She’s our pick. The horse to beat is #3 March X Press (5-2) for Todd Pletcher. She was sensational in the Bolton Landing at Saratoga last month – she missed the break, then got bottled up in the stretch, finally got a late seam, and flew home to get the win. The only question is the distance, and even if she’s not a two-turn horse in the future, this one-turn mile feels like it’s in her scope.

These races are sure to send a few to the Breeders Cup and both came up pretty fun tests.

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Saturday Spot Plays

There is some very good racing over the next few weeks. This weekend features two stakes-laded cards at Woodbine, an excellent Sands Point at Belmont, and a stakes-laden card at Laurel. The Pennsylvania Derby and Cotillion highlight the action next week at Parx, and then Breeders Cup prep weekends take us into October.

For Saturday, we’ll try a few spot plays posted here and then come back looking at some multi-race tickets tomorrow in the morning.

Laurel, Race 6 (All Along) – #5 On Leave (2-1) is the likely favorite but this is a pretty contentious group. Three horses come out of the Violet at Monmouth but we’ll oppose them: #6 Gianna’s Dream (6-1), who set a very slow pace in there, #4 Pricedtoperfection (8-1), who pressed the moderate pace and had nothing, and #7 Light Up Our World (7-2) who has had good trips in her US races and could be overbet again. Our picks is #7 Juno (4-1), who ships in from California for Neil Drysdale. Juno has been in some faster-paced California races and meets a field that should deliver a far more moderate pace. She’s the pick.

Laurel, Race 7 (Sensible Lady Turf Dash) – #5 Ginger N Rye (8-5) and #2 Miss Ella (5-2) ran 1-2 in the Smart N Fancy at Saratoga on August 27th and come back on 20 days of rest. In that race, they both got a big pace to attack and rallied up the inside, the place to be on the Saratoga turf course late in the meet. That might make them both a little vulnerable. #6 Everything Lovely (15-1) has some races that are good enough and looks like she went off form, but two-back she was surprisingly rated from the inside and put in tight, then at Saratoga last time she tried to rally inside when the whole race collapsed outside of her. The concern is six furlongs – she’s better going five and five-and-a-half furlongs and that can be a significant difference in these turf sprints. #10 Exaggerated (10-1) is our top pick for trainer Arnaud Delacour. She’s run once since June of 2016, a race in April at Keeneland where she had no shot against Lady Aurelila coming in off a 10-month layoff. Something might have gone wrong since she’s been back on the bench for five more months, but Delacour is 5-19 with a 3.13 ROI in turf sprints on 60-200 day layoffs (DRF Formulator).

Laurel Race 8 (Laurel Turf Cup) – #7 Holiday Star (6-1) had every right to need his money allowance off a 21-month layoff at Saratoga last time and further the race featured a very slow pace that held together. He should be much tighter this time for Graham Motion and is the pick in the Turf Cup. We’ll also use #3 Canessar (4-1), who makes his US debut for Arnaud Delacour.

Continue reading

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Kentucky Downs All-Stakes Pick-4

I thought Flatlined, our play in the Tourist Mile on Wednesday, was going to run by in the last furlong Wednesday, but it was not to be. But Kentucky Downs continues to offer very strong cards, and today’s is no different. An all-stakes pick-4 closes out the card. Let’s take a look.

Race 7 – Ladies Turf – #5 Miss Temple City (1-1) is the deserving favorite, but we weren’t thrilled with her comeback race in the Matchmaker last time. It should be noted that she ran substantially better in the Diana, her first race back after the Ascot trip last year. Our pick is #4 Zipessa (7-2), who in our opinion, is much better going shorter than longer and she will appreciate turning back to a mile. We’ll live and die with those two but Zipessa will be the key to the entire play.

A – 4
B – 5
C – none

Race 8 – Ladies Turf Sprint – Trainer Brendan Walsh is making a very savvy move with #3 Corby (20-1), turning her back out of a mile-70 yard stakes race at Mountaineer into this 6.5 furlong dash. She has some speed and was part of a fast pace last time that collapsed (the two pace rivals finished at the back and one was 3-1) and Corby was just caught in the last furlong. In a tough race, she rates an upset chance at a big price. Of the logicals, we prefer #1 Mississippi Delta (3-1), who made an inside move as the Caress collapsed outside of her last time at Saratoga, but that was going 5.5 furlongs, probably shorter than her best. She has a win over the quirky track (in this race) last year too. #2 Fair Point (7-2) can win but her last race was not good and she might be better going a bit shorter. There are two three-year olds in here: #5 Lull (5-1) and #6 Morticia (9-2). Of the two, we prefer Lull, who ran two good turf sprints last year and ran too good to lose the one-mile San Clemente last time, getting caught late. Morticia has a shot but needs to run faster and she is stretching out a furlong after facing weaker than Lull.

A – 1, 3
B – 5
C – 2, 6

Race 9 – Kentucky Downs Turf Sprint – #1 Commend (4-1) is our top pick, going out for Bill Mott. He had a good trip in his turf sprint allowance win at Saratoga but looked like he won easier than the one-length margin would indicate and he seems to be improving. We also have to use #10 Hogy (5-2), who goes first off the claim for Mike Maker, an outstanding trainer. The distance might be at this limit at this stage, but he’s been facing some tough runners. #5 Boundrant (7-2) could take some money but he’ll be coming from pretty far back and there’s not a ton of pace on paper.

A – 1, 10
B- none
C- none

Race 10 – Kentucky Turf Cup – This is a wide-open race so we’ll cast a pretty wide net, but our top pick is #11 Taghleeb (5-1), one of four Mike Maker entries. It’s possible he was better at Gulfstream, but he’s had some excuses lately, including two-back in the Arlington Handicap when he got stopped cold. Last time, #1 Postulation (9-2) got the jump on him after inheriting the lead but Postulation ran well and is a definite contender in this race. We’re using #8 Bullards Alley (12-1), who did not run well in the St. Leger (featuring Taghleeb and Postulation), but maybe he made the lead a bit too soon at Woodbine two-back and we liked his race, where he had some traffic against some solid Euros going two-miles in the Belmont Gold Cup. #7 Enterprising (3-1) is the favorite off his solid fourth in the Arlington Million, but that race featured a bunched finish and he has to stretch out from 10 furlongs all the way to 12. We’ll use defensively only. #4 Oscar Nominated (7-2) is going to be a short price but didn’t do much running in his last two starts, granted against better. He could win but figures to be an underlay. We’ll throw in #12 Nessy (20-1) who might be in too tough but ran well in the John’s Call at Saratoga last time behind a very slow pace and a wire to wire winner.

A – 1, 8, 11
B – 4
C – 7, 12

Using DRF TicketMaker – we’ll play the 4A ticket for $1.50, the 3A/1B ticket for $1, and the 2A/2B and 3A/1C ticket for 50-cents. The total play is $56. Good luck!

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Tourist Mile – Flatlined Can Spring Upset

Kentucky Downs runs the first card of their five-day meet today, re-scheduled from Saturday after heavy rain. The feature is the $400,000 Tourist Mile and it drew a solid field of nine.

Our pick is #2 Flatlined (6-1) for trainer Scooter Dickey. He ran some good races over the winter at Gulfstream, including a second to Gulfstream-loving Heart to Heart in the El Prado and a win in the G2 Fort Laurderdale. He went way off form at Keeneland and Churchill, in two very deep fields, and probably didn’t handle the soft turf on Derby Day. Either way, he was rested for a few months and then came back in a stakes race at Ellis.

His performance in that race was very impressive. One Mean Man and One Go All Go set a pretty pedestrian pace and Flatlined angled out at the top of the lane and ran them both down, making up nine lengths into a final 5/16ths of a mile run in 28.96 seconds. The race didn’t come back especially fast (90 Beyer) but it was a strong effort and his races from Gulfstream are good enough.

There should be a pretty solid pace in this race as well with #1 Hootenanny (5-1), #3 Shining Copper (3-1), #5 Western Reserve (6-1), and #8 Irish Strait (2-1) all potential pace horses. Irish Strait is the horse we want to play against. He set a very slow pace in wiring the Red Bank and stayed on the better inside and had a good trip in the Monmouth Stakes on Haskell Day. Shining Copper is a talented speed horse but might need one off of the 13-month layoff.

Flatlined is the pick and can spring the upset in the Opening Day feature at Kentucky Downs.

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The Hopeful

This Grade-1 staple for two-year olds at Saratoga wraps up the meet today and is a very competitive and field of eight.

As with the Spinaway from Saturday, a few contenders come out of some gold-rail races, creating horses to oppose at short prices. Let’s take a look at the field.

#1 Mojovation (2-1) – One of our key opinions in this race is to oppose Mojovation. He debuted on Jim Dandy day, which was one of the strongest gold-rail days of the meet. Bet to 4-5 for Todd Pletcher, he was cut out to be good, but not only rode the gold rail, he also got away with a very slow first quarter of 23.31 and will deal with additional pace pressure today. The third place finisher from his debut came back to win but Bourbon Resolution was wide off that gold rail in the July 29th race.

#2 Oskar Blues (10-1) – At 33-1, he was wisely put into the race early by Dylan Davis in his seven-furlong debut, but like Mojovation, benefited from being on the gold rail. The race came back pretty fast, and he does have a win at seven furlongs, but today must deal with additional speed as well.

#3 Firenze Fire (7-2) – He was the solid winner of the July 22nd Sanford Stakes, but had a very good trip in there and only earned a 79 Beyer, which puts him behind several of his rivals today. We’re going to oppose the Sanford horses as a group, especially Firenze Fire at a short price.

#4 Psychoanalyze (15-1) – He ran a very good race to win his debut at Belmont going 5.5 furlongs in June, but didn’t really have an excuse in the Sanford. He is another candidate to be a part of the pace and would be a surprise.

#5 National Flag (9-2) – He was crushed to 3-5 in his debut and was done on the turn but responded with a nice win on Whitney Day, winning what appeared to be a pretty strong race with a good outside-stalking trip. He showed he could sit off the pace and that seems like the trip he’ll be getting today.

#6 Sporting Chance (8-1) – After just getting run down by subsequent Ellis Park stakes winner Dak Attack in his June debut, he won a 5.5 furlong maiden race on July 22nd, overpowering the field going 5.5 furlongs. Plus, he should handle the additional 1.5 furlongs without a problem, being by Tiznow out of a Candy Ride mare. He also has two six-furlong workouts between that race and this one, looking poised for a big performance. The problem for Sporting Chance is the additional pace that he will face here, though he is drawn well outside. He’s an underneath use.

#7 Givemeaminit (12-1) – Here’s our pick. Dallas Stewart runners most often need a start, and when one puts in a big run in their debut, you should take notice. He ran in the Sporting Chance race on July 22nd and put in a huge wide move behind the wire to wire winner as basically the only horse to make a meaningful off-the-pace move. That move was strong, as despite drifting in a bit he was moving very well down to the wire and galloped-out best. The extra 1.5 furlongs should be right up his alley and he will get a lot more pace today than he got last time. Dallas Stewart got one Grade 1 win at the meet when Forever Unbridled won the Personal Ensign on Travers Day and we’re betting him to get another one here.

#8 Free Drop Billy (4-1) – We liked him a bit in the Sanford and he was bet from a 15-1 morning line (which seemed like a good line at the time) to surprising 3-1 favoritism. He ran fine, but swung up outside with dead aim and couldn’t get by Firenze Fire in a race that did not come back especially fast. He’ll get more pace here, which should help, but we prefer Givemeaminit.

The Pick – We’re looking forward to betting Givemeaminit, who should benefit from the expected fast pace and comes out of a strong maiden race where he was the only horse to make a meaningful off-the-pace move. He’ll be a good price too. Let’s finish the meet in style.

We’ll play him with National Flag and Sporting Chance, with a little bit of Free Drop Billy.

Good luck.

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Saturday at the Spa

Let’s look at a couple of spots in the last Saturday of the Saratoga meet.

Race 6 – We’ll have to watch the board in this two-year old, seven-furlong Maiden Special Weight but we’re interested in #6 Bourbon Resolution (8-1) for trainer Ian Wilkes. Bourbon Resolution made a big wide move against a gold rail on July 29th for a trainer whose horses get better with racing. Now set for his third start, he’s poised for a step forward. #7 Venezuela (4-1) for Chad Brown and #2 Biblical (9-2) for Todd Pletcher, a half to Princess of Sylmar, could both take money and if one is extensively bet, we’ll certainly play that one with Bourbon Resolution.

Spinaway Stakes (Race 10) – The two favorites are #1 Separationofpowers (6-5) for Chad Brown, off a blowout debut win, and #4 Pure Silver (1-1), who is 3-3 and won the Adirondack last time. Both are talented, but both rode gold rails in their last starts. Pure Silver was also aided by a very slow pace. Our pick is #3 Lady Ivanka (9-2). She was impressive in her debut win, coming from just off the pace. She did beat a much weaker field (the runner-up came back to run eighth in a Maiden Special Weight race last week), but she’ll be a fair price and the gold rails were strong enough to make the two favorites a bit vulnerable today.


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