Thursday, October 8, 2015

Handicappers' Corner: The QE II Invitational

By The Turf Queen, A Saturday Horse

The 31st running of the Grade 1 QE 2 Invitational at Keeneland is run this Saturday for 3-year-old fillies and is contested at a mile and 1/8 on the turf. It carries a purse of $500,000, and it is an important prep for the Filly & Mare Breeders Cup Turf.

The weather forecast is calling for a chance of rain on Friday and clearing skies on Saturday. A firm course is expected.

Here is the field of nine fillies, from the rail out.

  1. Mizz Money – A 30-1 longshot Grade 3 winner has been a very useful filly with four wins and two seconds out of eight tries on turf. But she is in tough here.
  2. Prize Exhibit – Multiple Stakes winner on the west coast, she finished fourth to Lady Eli in last year’s Juvenile Fillies Turf. She has improved this season with the addition of blinkers. She has been working well at Santa Anita.
  3. Miss Temple City – A very consistent filly, with the right connections, she is 7-of-8 starts ITM on turf. A second place finish to the highly regarded Lady Eli last year on this course, she will run with Lasix for the first time. Could make the difference…
  4. Her Emmynency – Very game second in the Del Mar Oaks 56 days ago. The freshening may eliminate any “bounce”
  5. Return To Grace –Well bred miss out of filly Champion, Golden Attraction she is 15-1 on the morning line, but the Casse barn has been very live at this meet. Not out of it.
  6. Olorda –Connections do exceptionally well with these Euros, but this one needs a forward step. Blinkers OFF, Lasix ON, a work over the track and first time for Chad. Can’t ignore.
  7. Blond Me – Another Euro who ran well in her initial US start in the Sands Point. Hard to gauge what type of fillies she beat in Europe, however.
  8. Feathered - Out of the Phipps mare Receipt and the family of millionaire Dancing Spree, this speedy filly changed her running style last out with a very nice effort after being covered. Yes, it was just an allowance race, but it is Pletcher/Castellano….
  9. Sentiero Italia – “Path Italy” is the 6-5 favorite and deservingly so as she is coming off bake-to-back Graded Stakes wins. Another barn that is on a hot streak.

Of course you always need to consider if the Euros will like the Keeneland course. It’s anybody’s guess.
Here’s my dime super box ~
Sentiero Italia is in a groove and another effort like her last two will make her tough to beat.
That they took Miss Temple City to Ascot this summer shows what kind of talent her     connections thinks she has.  Maybe Lasix is just what she needs to bring her game to another level.
Return To Grace has really done nothing wrong, and she has a right to be given a chance in this Grade 1.
And I like Feathered‘s last race, maybe she is finally putting it all together.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Handicappers' Corner: Shadwell Turf Mile

Shadwell Turf Mile – The Pizza Man Delivers Late

By Dylan Jarmulowicz,

After opening day on Friday, the Fall Meet at Keeneland heats up with five graded stakes including three Grade I races. Fall racing in Lexington at Keeneland is a mirror image of the Belmont Park Fall Championship Meet, top horses in their final prep races for the Breeders’ Cup (BC) at Keenland later this month. Saturday’s feature is the Grade I $1 million dollar Shadwell Turf Mile. A full field of 13 goes postward on what will probably be a yielding turf course, let’s break it down!

Race 9 – 1 Mile  Post Time – 5:45pm (Eastern)

Advance Weather: Chance of showers, 50s

This race is very interesting and hard to find someone that stands out in this very competitive field. The cool weather and rain in the area on Friday and Saturday changes this race, and in my opinion makes it a little easier to handicap. Kind of unusual for a turf race, there are several horses in here that have speed and like to be on the lead, combine that with what could be a slow and heavy turf course, it could put them at a disadvantage. #3 KING KREESA (8-1), #6 HEART TO HEART (12-1) and #9 BOBBY’S KITTEN (6-1) all like to be up close to the pace. BOBBY’S KITTEN is the only one that I like from the trio of speedsters. He is making his second start of the year after winning last year’s BC Turf Sprint. He fell right in line with the “BC syndrome” off needing a start after winning a BC race and off a long layoff. Also, a mile might not be his best game but he is dangerous and a nice price. 

The horse I really want to talk about is #10 THE PIZZA MAN (8-1). He has won three straight races, has a trainer who is 26% off this type of layoff (46-90 days), loves yielding turf and has the perfect running style for the dynamics of this race. He should be sitting in the second flight and make his wide move at top of the stretch and put his nose down first on the line. He is one game horse and while it may look like he likes more ground, he is two for two at a mile distance. He is my play of the weekend.

#5 DUTCH CONNECTION (4-1) will likely be the post time favorite shipping in from Great Britain. Charles Hills does have good numbers shipping to the U.S. and Europeans have generally dominated US turf horses over the years. I think you have to have him in exotics, but he might like seven furlongs more than a mile and this isn’t an easy spot to ship into off a two month layoff. This race looks like a designed prep for the BC so I’ll play him underneath.
Finally, #13 SEEK AGAIN (6-1) while he doesn’t have a lot of winning in his last few races, he has some nice efforts this year including last time out at Saratoga where he bobbled at the start and almost ran down #4 GRAND ARCH (8-1) on a turf course that was playing like a conveyor belt. I would make sure you have him to round out those exactas, trifectas and superfectas.

My Plays:
EX: 10/5,9,13 & 9/5,10,13
TRI: 5,9,10/5,9,10/5,9,10,13

Good Luck!

Friday, October 2, 2015

Handicappers' Corner: Jockey Club Gold Cup

Jockey Club Gold Cup: A half-dozen aim for the Breeders' Cup Classic

By Robert Marks, They're in the Gate (and on Twitter @theyreinthegate)

The highlight of Super Saturday at Belmont Park this Saturday will be the $1 million Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup for 3-year-olds and upward. The winner gets an automatic berth in the Breeders' Cup Classic. Last year's winner, Tonalist, returns to defend his title. The 1 1/4-mile race on the dirt will be the 10th race on the card this Saturday with a post time of 5:28 pm. The 2015 edition features a small field of six veterans with all but Looks to Spare being familiar faces.

As for the field (listed by Post Position, Name, Trainer Jockey and Morning Line Odds) here is an overview with our betting choices:

1 - Wicked Strong (J. Jerkins, J. Rosario, 6-1) You might remember his race last year in the Gold Cup when he lost his rider Rajiv Maragh. Has been in the money 3 out of 6 races this year but remains winless in 2015. Always tries but hard to see him rising up to take this one.
2 - Coach Inge (Pletcher, I. Ortiz, 5-1) This 4-year-old has raced in 2 Grade 2 races at Belmont in 2015 finishing 1st in the Brooklyn (at 1.5 miles)  and 3rd in the Suburban behind Effinex and Tonalist on July 4th. He will have no problem with the distance and is must use in your exacta and trifecta combinations.
3 - Constitution (Pletcher, J. Castellano, 3-1) This 4-year-old is the likely speed and pacesetter. Lightly races with only 2 starts this year, with the last on the turf at the Spa. A real gamble for me but did win the Grade 1 Donn at Gulfstream back in February.
4 - Effinex (J. Jerkens, J. Alvarado, 6-1) This 4-year-old won the Suburban over 1 1/4-miles at Belmont. Problem is he can be fractious at the gate. Very Dangerous if he loads correctly and keeps his head in game.
5 - Looks to Spare (DiPrima, D. ParkerJ., 30-1) The elder statesman at 5-years-old, with 19 races and six wins including four on the dirt and two on synthetic; but this is a big step up for this horse. A toss for me.
6 - Tonalist (C. Clement, J. Velazquez, 6-5) The 2014 Belmont Stakes winner loves this track with four wins and two seconds out of six starts at Belmont. Clement will have him ready and Velazquez would love to turn the table on Effinex after Tonalist lost by a head to him in the Suburban at Belmont back on July 4. A strong win and exacta play here.
Betting Bankroll: $32

$20 Win Bet: Tonalist
$2 Exact Box: Tonalist, Coach Inge, Effinex =$12

As always, watch the Board and if at the track watch how the horses look in the Paddock and adjust your bets accordingly. Good Luck!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Handicappers' Corner: Champagne S.

Pletcher Ready for Another Champagne Stakes Victory

The Champagne Stakes (G-1), a Breeders’ Cup Challenge race, has been a good benchmark of Breeders’ Cup Juvenile class. In the last fourteen years, three youngsters, War Pass (2007), Uncle Mo (2010) and  Shanghai Bobby (2012) completed the Champagne/Breeders’ Cup double and earned Eclipse Awards. In other years, winners of the one mile Champagne have finished second or third ten times in the Juvenile. 2004 and 2005 saw Champagne runners-up Afleet Alex and Sun King place second and third in the Juvenile.  In 2005, Champagne hero First Samurai and his rival Henny Hughes were second and third in the Breeders’ Cup. In 2013, Champagne victor Havana was second in the Breeders’ Cup.  Last year, Upstart hit the board in both races.

MAGNA LIGHT (Magna Graduate - Kimberlite, by Mineshaft) has the pedigree to handle 1 1/6 miles and beyond, although his front-running style could have him at a disadvantage.  He set the pace in the Sanford Stakes and the colt looked like a sure winner until he crossed the path of Percolator and was disqualified to third place.  The free-running colt was on the lead again in the Hopeful and kept a straight path to no avail, as he was passed in mid-stretch by RALIS. Depending upon how the race sets up, Magna Dancer could either be lone speed or have company up front from Ready Dancer. He could steal the race if he’s lone speed, but I think he’ll wind up with a lesser placing.

RALIS (Square Eddie - Silar Rules, by Ten Most Wanted) Ralis was overlooked in the Hopeful Stakes, as all eyes were on the rematch of Magna Light and Uncle Vinny, who tangled in the Sanford Stakes.  Neither competitor had an excuse as Ralis ran down the pace setter Magna Light to win by a widening 5 32/4 lengths.   The son of Square Eddie ships back from California.  He has the talent, but shipping can take a lot out of a young horse, especially after such a huge race.  He could hit the board, but he’d have to be pretty special to win it.

The Pletcher Entry:
READY DANCER (More Than Ready - Sweettrickydancer, by Green Dancer) has a strong turf pedigree. Despite his turf oriented pedigree, Ready Dancer won his maiden sprinting on dirt. He beat Sail Ahoy by over nine lengths.  He’s a half brother to MIDDIE, a G-3 winner over the lawn who also placed in the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (G-1). His dam won two listed stakes over the lawn.  Ready Dancer has contested the lead in all three starts and could duel with Magna Light on the lead. Todd Pletcher has a collection of six Champagne Stakes trophies.  It never gets old, at least, not for Todd.

A Pedigree Geek’s Musings:
GREENPOINTCRUSADER (Bernardini - Ava Knowsthecode, by Cryptoclearance) was a $575K Keeneland Sept. yearling.  His family is loaded with blacktype.  He’s a full brother to Holy Bull SW and sire ALGORITHMS and a half to the MGSW warriors JUSTIN PHILLIP, SUCCESSFUL MISSION and KEYED ENTRY.  A half sister, ALEX'S ALLURE, won the Senorita S. at two.  Greenpointcrusader is bred to run two turns.  The 5 ½ furlongs of his maiden debut was a bit short for the colt, but he put in a fantastic effort to finish second by a bare head to the ultra-game Saratoga Mischief.  That one returned to place in the Saratoga Special.  Have to include this well-bred colt.

TALE OF S'AVALL (Tale of Ekati - S' Avall, by Awesome Again) won his debut easily in a good 1:10.25 for six furlongs. The colt is closely related to Sail Ahoy. His second dam Breeders' Cup Distaff heroine PLEASANT HOME is a half sister to Sail Away’s dam Matlacha Pass.  Tale Of S'avall has the pedigree to relish classic distances.  He has Formula One inbreeding to the blue hen MAPLEJINSKY as she is his sire’s second dam and she is Tale Of S'avall’s fourth dam. Formula One breeding is accomplished when both the sire and dam are descended from the same distaff family and is a sign of class.  Tale Of S'avall received first time Lasix and he could take another step forward here. 

SAIL AHOY (Bernardini - Matlacha Pass, by Seeking the Gold) made a strong run in his last race to win by a head in a mile maiden race.  This well-bred baby has a classic distance pedigree.  He’s a half brother to Alabama Stakes heroine PINE ISLAND and to the multiple G-1 winning turf router POINT OF ENTRY.  Sail Ahoy carries Phipps family breeding and his distaff line is loaded with champions.  He’s also a close relative to Tale Of S'avall.  Sail Ahoy bounced out of his last race with a sharp four furlong breeze.  If the pace up front is hot, he’ll set sail for the wire, possibly in front.

Superfecta Spoilers?
RAFTING (Tapit - Paiota Falls (Kris S.) won his maiden at the same distance and on the same day as Greenpointcrusader.  However, Rafting’s final time was almost a second slower.    His stakes winning dam is a half sister to Dwyer Stakes winner SPEIGHTSTER and to the graded stakes placed runners Freestyler and West Coast Swing.  Rafting receives first time Lasix, which could help the colt, but his race times don’t stack up to others in here.

SUNNY RIDGE (Holy Bull - Lignum Vitae, by Songandaprayer) has no blacktype in the first 2 generations, but the pretty gray colt’s third dam is multiple graded stakes winner BODACIOUS TATAS.  Sunny Ridge sandwiched a disappointing effort in the Sanford Stakes at Saratoga between a maiden claiming victory and a win in the Sapling Stakes, both at Monmouth.  Was it the track or competition? Maybe he can spoil the exotics, but I don’t see him getting his photo taken in the winner’s circle.

PORTFOLIO MANAGER (Harlan's Holiday - Turn to Lass, by Bright Launch) is a maiden taking on more experienced horses.  He closed for second place after a five wide move in the stretch, closing the gap to finish 1 ¾ lengths behind the winner at Saratoga. His dam is a listed winner and a full sister to the multiple stakes winning veteran SPOTSGONE and to the listed winner LAUNCH A DOUBLE.  The trio own the only notable blacktype in the distaff line.  Portfolio Manager has been holding his own against older workmates in the morning.  I’m inclined to pass, but perhaps Chad Brown can work some magic and the colt will put in a run to hit the board.

Todd Pletcher has monopolized the Champagne Stakes, winning four of the last five editions.  All of his winners were pace setter/pressers.  This year’s Pletcher baby has a similar running style and owns the highest late pace speed figure in the field.  The pedigree geek in me loves Greenpointcrusader, Tale Of S'avall and Sail Ahoy.  The handicapper side says go with the Pletcher horse.  I’ll compromise.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Handicappers' Corner: Joe Hirsch Turf Classic

A Look at the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic

It’s Turf Classic Day at Belmont Park this Saturday with the highlight being the Grade 1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic. It is a mile and a half on turf and a “Win & You’re In” for the Breeders’ Cup Turf.

Named after the legendary Joe Hirsch, a racing columnist and the founding President of the National Turf Writers Association - read more about Joe here.

Let’s take a look at the compact field of 7, from the rail out.

  1. Red Rifle- Is it curious that Javier Castellano jumps back aboard this horse after being the regular rider for Twilight Eclipse? No matter, Red Rifle is a very handy horse who has enjoyed the right kind of trips in his last several starts He switches off nicely, can be in between horses and has a nice turn of foot. Second behind the highly regarded Euro, Flintshire in the Sword Dancer. Two nice maintenance works since his last start, I think Red Rifle is ready for his first Grade One win.

  1. Perfect Title – A “Huddie” contest pick for me this year, who helped with my 10th place finish overall…yes. It’s a very ambitious spot for him. Cut out to be a nice horse early on, he may have found a new life on the turf. If he’s good enough, the added ground won’t hurt him.

  1. Big Blue Kitten – The best of the 3 Chad Brown trainees, where have we seen a Ramsey-Kitten favorite before? This millionaire, Grade One winner is the class of the field and always shows up. He is ITM in 25 of 28 starts, and the deserving favorite.

  1. Twilight Eclipse – Another Grade One winning millionaire and several times the bridesmaid to last year’s Turf Champ, Main Sequence, he picks up Rosario. It would be a surprise if he doesn’t get a piece.

  1. Slumber – Second of the Chad Brown charges, and another millionaire. He’s tried the distance 5 times with no success, but excuses in last two with very troubled trips.  But –Beware- it looks like blinkers have helped this colt.

  1. Quiet Force- Former claimer on the west coast last year, looks to have improved under Maker’s care. Throw out his last on yielding turf which he may have disliked. He is a son of Dynaformer and out of a Royal Academy mare, which indicates he should relish the added ground. Looks like a lot to ask of him however.

  1. Shining Copper- WILL BE SENT. Chad Browns 3rd entry and look for him on the front end. However he needs to carry his speed another quarter of a mile and must hold off the closing kicks of a few very talented campaigners. Hung tough to the fast closing The Pizza Man at Arlington. Strange things happen in turf marathons when a speed horse is left alone on the lead. He’s your horse if you like that dynamic.

My picks:

I like Red Rifle in here and I think it’s his time to shine. He looks to still have some upside. It will take a good trip, as always, in these events.

Very curious about just how much talent Perfect Title has and would not be shocked for him to run very well in here, at a price.

Big Blue Kitten is just so consistent, and he has his partner Jersey Joe in the tack. If there’s a sure thing, you can bet that he will be “right there”

The same can be said for Twilight Eclipse, rarely runs a bad one.

Enjoy Turf Classic Day at Belmont! And, as always, #fastandsafe to all our equine friends.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Handicappers' Corner: Pennsylvania Derby

By Tony Bada Bing

There’s no doubt Saturday’s Grade II Pennsylvania Derby would have had a different look, feel and vibe, if American Pharoah had bypassed his historic attempt at becoming just the second Triple Crown winner to win the Travers Stakes. But alas, he didn’t, falling to former also ran, Keen Ice despite a valiant effort after turning back today’s favorite Frosted at the Graveyard of Champions.

If you do nothing else with the Pennsylvania Derby, please, please toss #3 Frosted from your win bets. The horse is over the top, past his prime performance, and should have won the Jim Dandy, maybe even the Travers if he was good enough. Call me jaded, but I’m turned off by the prospect of Frosted winning at low odds. Take 5-2 or lower if you think he towers over this field, but believe me, he does not.

My stance is to take two horses on top that will likely vie for the lead with Frosted. The problem is I’m not sure which three-year-old will hold on for nine furlongs following a fight for the lead through the first eight. So let’s take two for the multiple race wagers and even two win bets - and why not?

Outside of California, Bob Baffert’s horses travel well to three places with limited starts – Oaklawn, Monomuth and Parx with last year’s coast-to-coast PA Derby winner Bayern among the group. Baffert used that win to springboard Bayern to an unlikely Breeder’s Cup Classic victory. American Pharoah dominated in the Haskell and just about any Baffert first or second-stringer tears up the springs in Arkansas in preparation for the Kentucky Derby or some other minor offerings.

With #6 Gimme the Lute, Baffert has a fast California-bred who is coming off four straight wins. Given most of the success of this son of Midnight Lute has come at one-turn distances, he will likely not be favored at post. At third or fourth betting choice he is a must place at Parx, which tends to run like a merry-go-round on this, it’s biggest stakes day.

While Gimme the Lute doesn’t need the lead, he likely will be close to it with Martin Garcia in the irons. And if another jock tries to slow the pace down up front, Garcia is likely to seize the opportunity to take over. Whether he’s up front or pressing the pace from the three-path, turning for home Gimme the Lute is going to have a chance to take the top prize.

I think it’s worth a healthy bet to see if #2 Island Town freaked over poor competition in winning the Grade III Smarty Jones Stakes at Parx last out or if he’s a late bloomer arriving on the scene as a real threat to the division. Trainer Ian Wilkes is not one to rush his charges into places they don’t belong. Add in the fact that this son of Hard Spun improved dramatically both times jockey Brian Hernandez was in the saddle, and you’ve got a live long shot. Is nine-furlongs too long, I don’t think so.

Toss in some not-ready-for-prime-time contestants in #1 War Story, #4 Iron Fist, #7 Tommy Macho, #8 Battle Midway, #9 Upstart – please don’t get me started and #10 Mr. Z and you can see why I’ve taken two shots with some up-and-coming colts.

The only horse I see as a potential threat to my top two selections is #5 Madefromlucky. He’s a two-time winner at the distance and the lone threat if the front-runners implode. At around 5-1, he’s a good saver bet.

Good luck in however you chose to wager!

Handicappers' Corner: Cotillion Stakes

By Michael Amo, ThoroFan

This rich race for 3-year-olds has a field of solid fillies. Five traveled from the races at Saratoga. The anticipated match-up of that group is between I’m A Chatterbox and Embellish the Lace who finished 1-2 in the grade one Alabama Stakes at Saratoga. However, there are ten others entered who hope the outcome will be different. 

Let’s look at the field.

·         (1) Tara’s Tango ( 8-1) (Unbridled Song) comes in from California with a respectable record. The fact that Mike Smith comes in with her is a good sign. She may be a little below some others in class, but her off the pace style suits this field.
·         (2) Desert Valley (20-1)(Desert Party) is another runner stepping up in company. She likely will be locked into a speed duel with a few others and may back up.
·         (3) Embellish the Lace (4-1) (Super Saver) surprised the players in the 1 ¼ mile Alabama Stakes (GI) with a gate-to-wire win. She broke her maiden easily by 10 ¼ lengths at PARX. Returning to this surface is a plus. Yet it is unlikely she will have her way on the front end in this race.
·         (4) Stroke Play (20-1) (Warrior’s Reward) is based at PARX and trained by the Ramon Preciado who sports a 32% win record at PARX. Although she is stepping up in class, coming off three wins says a lot about her ability. She may surprise and be in the exotics.
·         (5) Take Charge Brandi ( 5-1) (Giant Causeway) tried the prestigious Test Stakes (GI) at Saratoga after a 6 ½ month layoff. She tired badly in the 7 furlong event losing to Cavorting by 24 lengths. She has been working well and may find the 8 ½ furlong distance more to her liking.
·         (6) Pangburn (12-1) (Congrats) ran well in the mud at Saratoga, but will need to step up her game to be competitive here. If she can regain her Oaklawn Park form maybe she will take a piece of the exotics.
·         (7) Peace and War ( 8-1) (War Front) is working gangbusters for trainer Graham Motion who is having a solid meet with a 27% win rate. Her last two races suggest she is returning to form. She lost last out to  54-1 Calamity Kate in the Delaware Oaks (GIII) by 1 ¾ lengths. With a nice closing kick she should be in the chase late.
·         (8) I’M a Chatterbox ( 3-1) (Munnings) came into Saratoga with three wins out of four and ready to run. The best she could do was two second places ---one by disqualification. Her last against Embellish the Lace saw her rate nicely but just miss. Could it be the cold exacta, again?
·         (1A) Keen Pauline (8-1) (Pulpit) was soundly beat by I’m A Chatterbox after a winning effort in the Black Eyed Susan (GII) at Pimlico. She is coupled with Tara’s Tango, both Stonestreet home-breds. With her early speed and Tara’s kick this entry could be formidable.
·         (9) Calamity Kate (10-1) (Yes It’s True) is speedy and will be up front into the Clubhouse turn. After that her fate is suspect, although her last race as the long shot was impressively fast scoring the highest Beyer (94) of her career. Her Beyer number makes her competitive with this field. Not likely to have the lone lead this time.
·         (10) Eskenformoney ( 6-1) (Eskendereya) is showing improvement at the right time. The Monmouth Oaks (GIII) was a tough race seeing two runners come back to win their next race. Trainer Pletcher goes to his A-Team Jockey, John Velasquez, who rode her to a maiden win at Gulfstream Park last December. Although not the fastest of the bunch, she is rounding into form and with benefit from JV’s may hit a new top.
·         (11) Don’tforgetaboutme (15-1) (Malibou Moon) is the other Pletcher runner who is in to keep the pace honest for Eskenformoney. She is improving and has shown ability to run with the pace.

The pace should be fast with five angling for the lead including Embellish the Lace. Parked behind this wave will be four including I’m a Chatterbox. The remaining three will be watching from behind. I’m a Chatterbox looks most likely to benefit from the early pace and should move to control the race in the far turn. As the field heads into the stretch Peace and War with Eskenformoney will moving into contention. At the wire Peace and War will  win with Eskenformoney and I’m a Chatterbox contending for second.

1.      Peace and War (#7)
2.      Eskenformoney (#10)
3.      I’m a Chatterbox (#8)
4.      Stroke Play (#4)

Exacta Box (7,8,10)
Exacta Box (#7&#10)
#7 to win if odds are 7-1 or more
and Exacta Part Wheel #7 with #8,#10

If Stroke Play’s odds are greater than 20-1 bet her to show