By Tony Bada Bing, http://twitter.com/tonycbadabing
American Pharoah is a horse of a lifetime. While I celebrate and appreciate his historic run and thus, his ease at dismantling horses in the three-year-old division, I do not bet 1-5 shots, on principle alone.
If you feel compelled to bet at such low odds, you may wish to stop reading now, as I may anger you as an American Pharoah fan. My task, an important and worthy one, is finding an alternative to getting 20 cents on a wagering dollar. Yeah, I know 20 percent is a fabulous return if we were betting the stock market, but we’re not, so it’s not – at least for me.
Sure you can kid yourself into mastering a Pick 4 sequence singling American Pharoah, tossing in some long shots along with a few logical choices in the three races preceding the Travers Stakes hoping for an even better return, turning 1-5 into 3-1, but don’t come crying to me when your $72 investment returns $45. Nine years ago, Bernardini’s Travers win at 2-5 got you $14.50 for a 50-cent Pick 4 wager. No thanks.
If you really love American Pharoah, as a fan and want him to carry on his winning ways, do yourself a favor and just watch. Better to simply root the son of Pioneerof the Nile home with nothing left to chance except for continued excellence. But, and this is a big but, if American Pharoah regresses at all, doesn’t like the Saratoga dirt, God-forbid takes a misstep or simply has a bad day, you’d be in for a decent score to bet against.
Of course I’m not talking about a $100 win-bet on someone else, but I would consider at least one other horse to use in multi-race exotics in the win position and even a vertical play including American Pharoah underneath. I’m fashioning a Pick 4 without the big horse. A short play for sure, less than $50, but if I’m right at getting the first three winners home and Pharoah falters, then I could get as high as 25-1 on my bet, meaning $1,250 back.
Of course I am setting myself up for ridicule and some Twitter taunting, if as scheduled, American Pharoah romps home a furlong in front under jockey, Victor Espinosa. Nothing ventured, nothing gained or as I also like to say, “God hates a coward.”
I won’t bore you with heavy-duty analysis here, just a few quick quips disqualifying all but one betting choice to take down The King.
#1 Upstart – hard to back a horse losing by 60 lengths in the Kentucky Derby and his return race left something to be desired in the Haskell. Nice horse, but not nice enough to win here.
#2 American Pharoah – Triple Crown champ dominated in his Jersey Shore return and only a bad day keeps him from the chalk-outlined, Travers winner’s circle.
#3 Mid Ocean – gets $45,000 if he finishes eighth, only having to beat two others, so why not enter him? Helps pay the bills for a while…
#5 Frammento – will not get trainer Nick Zito off the Saratoga snide unless he enters him in a non-winners of one allowance instead, probably where this son of Midshipman belongs.
#6 Frosted – had his chance to track down the Champ in Belmont stretch and came up woefully short while finishing second. No disgrace there, but I don’t see a change of placings here, although I think he’s most likely to finish second. Don’t try to extrapolate the logic from the prior statement; it holds none.
#7 Keen Ice – trainer Dale Romans bubbles with optimism with this horse and does get Javier Castellano to ride…still not enough.
#8 Tale of Verve – see Frammento for where he should be racing…
#9 King of New York – simply the wrong stage to run this son of Street Boss at, but who am I to say? Fifth through eighth gets paid, much better than a $100,000 listed stakes, so there’ that.
#10 Smart Transition – trainer John Sheriffs only runs a few he likes at Saratoga and this son of Smart Strike won the Curlin Stakes last out which proved a good prep for last year’s Travers winner, V.E. Day. A strong showing puts him somewhere from second to fourth.
#4 Texas Red – The talented Breeders’ Cup Juvenile champ is the only horse I see winning the Travers with an A-plus effort and anything but from American Pharoah. He won more easily than his ½-length over Frosted indicated in the Jim Dandy when Kent Desmormeaux hot-dogged his ride in the final strides. Something tells me there’s a lot more in the tank for Saturday’s big race, and trainer Keith Desormeaux has spotted his runners well at the Spa. You’re going to get decent odds in the vicinity of 5-1 to 10-1, and he’ll pay double that in the Pick 4 with so many players singling American Pharoah.
A brief look at the other three races that compromise the $1million dollar guaranteed Pick 4 pool.
Race 8: #3 Competitive Edge because you have to take the fastest horse, #2 Grand Bili since horses from Gulfstream have outpaced others that have shipped in, #7 Holy Boss will have the best trip that matches his running style, and #4 Watershed because I find it hard to dismiss a horse Kiaran McLaughlin sends into a Grade 1 stakes off a strong maiden win.
Race 9: #1 Race Day on the cut back and excuse in last, #7 Private Zone because he’ll courageously lead them around the track and likely win if no one challenges him and #5 The Big Beast loves the Spa
Race 10: #2 Flintshire, they didn’t bring him here for nothing, #5 Twilight Eclipse always seems to have a shot, #8 War Dancer should be able to lull the field to sleep if he’s given the front end, #4 Red Rifle will probably not be favored off a good looking stakes win in last and #6 Messi exits off back-to-back stateside wins.
2-3-4-7/1-5-7/2-4-5-6-8/4 - $30 to take a shot against a 1-5 favorite is a reasonable risk-reward scenario for me. Good luck in however you wager!