Saturday, December 9, 2017

Handicappers Corner: CashCall Futurity (G1)

Easy Money in the CashCall Futurity

By: Laurie Ross, IMTBreds

The CashCall Futurity is the last Grade One race of the year held for two-year-old colts, and is a 2018 Kentucky Derby qualifier.  Since the race’s inception in 1981, 16 colts who hit the board in the Futurity have also run in the money in at least one of the Triple Crown races.  Six won the Kentucky Derby and three each the Preakness and Belmont Stakes.  2014’s Los Futurity hero Dortmund finished third in the 2015 Kentucky Derby.

In previous years, the Los Alamitos Futurity drew very strong fields. The late, great Shared Belief kept his win streak intact in ’13, and 2014 Dortmund rallied for an edge of your seat performance. 

Brilliance is the name of the game for this year’s select field of five contenders. Four have won a race by three or more lengths. The fourth, Solomini, was second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.

Easy Money
The well-regarded McKinzie galloped to a 5 1/2 debut victory at Santa Anita, getting his final quarter in 24.62 and his last furlong in 12.84. His final time for seven furlongs was 1:22.70. He showed plenty of ability in his final breeze and looked good, taking aim at a rival and closing ground. He appeared ready to take another step forward.

Could Cash In
Runaway Ghost has done just that in his last two starts, beating rivals by a combined 9 1/4 lengths. The son of Ghostzapper has speed and isn’t afraid to use it, but he’ll have to navigate an extra 2 1/2 furlongs.

Solomini is the class of the field, with a major caveat. The lightly raced son of Curlin is still figuring things out. During his races and breezes, he’s getting by on natural talent but doesn’t show the inclination to pass other horses. He was out-worked in his final two breezes by two unraced stablemates.

Instilled Regard captured his third start by 4 1/4 lengths at Santa Anita, but the son of Arch traveled 1 1/16 miles in a pokey 1:45.76, getting his final quarter in 25.31, and his final 1/16 in 6.44. Instilled Regard has breezed strongly, but regular jock Mike Smith, who piloted the colt in all three starts, sticks with McKinzie.

For Him won a $50K maiden claimer at a mile over the Del Mar dirt in his third start. He followed up with a fourth-place finish in the Zuma Beach Stakes over the Santa Anita turf. The son of hot new sire Violence has shown the ability to lead or press the pace, but his late pace speed figures are poor. He recorded three sharp pre-race three-furlong breezes, but the distance and competition may prove too much.

Unless the post-time longshot surprises, the payouts won’t be worth the bet.
#5 MCKINZIE (6-5)
#3 SOLOMINI (7-5)


Friday, December 1, 2017

Handicapper's Corner: Cigar Mile (G1)

Cigar Mile: A Chance for Redemption for Some

By: Michael Amo, ThoroFan Chairman

The Cigar Mile Handicap (GI) will be run as the last and 10th race on Aqueduct’s Saturday’s card. The race has some intriguing points to consider. The handicap condition provides challenging weight spreads. High weight, Sharp Azteca (125), and low weights, Beasley, Vulcan’s Forge and Summer Revolution (114), show the 11-pound spread. As expected the high weights, Practical Joke (120), Mind Your Biscuits (122) and Sharp Azteca (125) are the morning line favorites. A win for any of these three will mean redemption from last and could put them in contention for Eclipse Award consideration.

The Cigar Mile, the cornerstone of the Aqueduct fall meet and the last Grade 1 race of the year in New York, will be accompanied by a trio of graded stakes: $250,000 Remsen (GII) for 2-year-olds, $250,000 Demoiselle (GII) for 2-year-old fillies, and $200,000 Go For Wand (GIII) for fillies and mares at a mile.

Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile contenders Sharp Azteca and Practical Joke are back on the East coast for a return engagement in a field of 10 for the 29th running of the Grade 1, $750,000 Cigar Mile Handicap presented by NYRA Bets on Saturday at Aqueduct Racetrack. They will be joined by Breeders’ Cup Sprint contender, Mind Your Biscuits.

Yet, there are a few others in the field who may have something to say about the outcome. A main consideration may be track bias. The week ended with the Aqueduct dirt surface favoring horse near or on the lead at the top of the stretch. If that holds throughout Saturday we could have an upset. Here is the field:

Mind Your Biscuits (Posse) is classy and on the improve. But may be at the wrong distance for his best effort. Also, jockey Rosario gave up the mount to ride Practical Joke for Chad Brown. His off the pace running style may be a problem, as well.

Seymourdini (Bernardini) is trying grade one level for the first time. Yet, past performances show him winning 3 of the last 4 by double digit lengths with his last, the Bold Ruler, showing his versatility. Top jockey, Jose Ortiz, stays with him. Could surprise.

Just Call Kenny (JumpStart) ships in from lesser ovals and seems to be off the form shown earlier in the year. Not fast enough to compete.

Tom’s Ready (More Than Ready) ran respectably last out in the Bold Ruler Handicap over a close-favoring-track. Will be running late with new jockey, Mike Smith. Should be in exotics.

Americanize (Concord Point) is another taking a big step up and maybe running for a small share of the purse. However, early speed may make for an interesting ending. Not sure where he will be at the end.

Sharp Azteca (Freud) is very dangerous, although he is conceding weight to others. Will be out running for the lead. New jockey Castellano will have to learn how to save energy for a demanding stretch run. If he can, he will be the one to beat.

Vulcan’s Forge (Giant’s Causeway) is in light, but is not fast enough for these.

Practical Joke (Into Mischief) is always in the mix and should benefit most from a fierce early pace. The Breeders’ Cup Mile was his first attempt against older horses. May need more maturing to win. Rosario’s confidence in him coupled with the success when he rides for Chad Brown gives him a sold chance.

Summer Revolution (Summer Bird) showed great promise in 2016. However, with 10 months off and only one race on the return, it is unlikely that he is ready.

Beasley (Shackleford) has the right running style to do well. His performance in the Bold Ruler Handicap was one of his better. May surprise in the exotics.

As mentioned, there will likely be a 3-horse dual for the lead which should set up for an honest pace. Seymourdini announced in the Bold Ruler he can off the pace. Expect him to back off and let the other two run. With Americanize backing up as stretch approaches Seymourdini will give it a try. Coming after these two will be Practical Joke, Mind Your Biscuits and Tom’s Ready.

Here is how they should finish:
     1.    Seymourdini (# 2)
     2.    Tom’s Ready (# 4)
     3.    Practical Joke (# 8)
     4.    Sharp Azteca (# 6)

$20 win on --- Seymourdini ($2)  ($20)
$20 place on --- Seymourdini (#2) ($20)
$6 Exacta Box --- Seymourdini (#2), Tom’s Ready (#4) and Practical Joke (#8) ($36)
$1 Trifecta Box ---- Seymourdini (#2), Tom’s Ready (#4), Practical Joke (#8) and Sharp Azteca (#6) ($24)

Friday, November 24, 2017

Handicapper's Corner: Hawthorne Gold Cup (G2)

Return of the Hawthorne Gold Cup

By: Nicolle Neulist, Blinkers-Off

After a one-year hiatus, the Hawthorne Gold Cup returns to the racing calendar this year.  Inaugurated in 1928, it carried a Grade 2 from the introduction of grades through its last running in 2015, with the exception of 1997-2000, when it carried a Grade 3.  It was once again changed to a Grade 3 after the 2015 season ended, so this will be its first running back at that level.

Over the years, its winners' list has been replete with Hall of Fame inductees.  Three-time champion older male Sun Beau won the Hawthorne Gold Cup in all three of his championship seasons: 1929, 1930, and 1931.  Equipoise, once a stakes namesake at Arlington (the Hanshin Cup was previously the Equipoise Mile), won the 1933 running despite being bumped around and carried out by Gallant Sir down the stretch.  The mighty Kelso romped through the mud to win the 1960 edition, and Dr. Fager toyed with a hard-trying Whisper Jet to win the Gold Cup in 1967.

Though the Hawthorne Gold Cup has always been a dirt race, some champions of the turf have won it as well.  Round Table, a Hall of Fame inductee and a three-time Eclipse Champion Grass Horse (1957, 1958, 1959), won the Hawthorne Gold Cup in both 1957 and 1958.  Both years his class carried him to easy open-length victories – and both times, past Arlington stakes namesake Swoon's Son came home second.  Buck's Boy, also most famous for his work on the turf, won the 1997 Hawthorne Gold Cup in wire-to-wire fashion.  It was his first career graded stakes victory.  In his next start he would finish fourth in the Breeders' Cup Turf (G1) – but the following year, the Illinois-bred gelding would win two Grade 1 races on turf, including the Breeders' Cup, en route to being named the Eclipse Award winner for Champion Grass Horse of 1998.

Race 6: Hawthorne Gold Cup (G3), three-year-olds and up, one and one quarter miles on the dirt, post time 5:30pm CST

The eight-horse field in the Hawthorne Gold Cup abounds with more questions than answers.  The class of the field comes with Scuba and Eagle; on class, both have arguments at least for a defensive use.   

A mile and a quarter may be short for Scuba, and he has been a bit off form this year.  Eagle has been in a bit better form this year, and gets a bit of a class drop – but, on the other hand, he hasn't proven that he can get a mile and a quarter, and he comes in off a sub-par effort at Churchill, a track over which he has run well in the past.  

 Between the two more favored horses, this space likes Scuba just a little better.  Without a lot of speed in the race, Scuba's forward style should pay dividends. Despite the spotty form, it isn't as if Eagle's form is so rock-solid this year as to allay the distance concerns – Scuba seems a bit more likely to get a better pace setup, and to get the distance.

But, on top?  Both are going to be short prices, and neither provide enough confidence to make them attractive at the likely odds.  This looks like the right place to take a bit of a shot with Futile.   

More than anything, it stands out that Futile absolutely loves to win horse races: though the four-year-old son of Broken Vow has only run twelve times, he has won six times.  

Though Scuba likely sets the early pace, Futile should be close behind, and should get first run if Scuba falters.  Though dam Stormy Kiss was a graded stakes-winning sprinter, and Futile himself started as a sprinter, he has shown through the fall that he can be just as effective going two turns.  

 Of course, there are questions with Futile.  He has been strong at a mile and a sixteenth, but now he stretches all the way out to the Classic distance, a new challenge for him.  Furthermore, there's always a question with a horse going first off the claim away from Mike Maker, because that can be playing with fire.  But, new trainer Chris Hartman is good enough first off the claim to allay that fear (22%, with a positive ROI). 

About as many questions hang over Futile's head as over Scuba's or Eagle's – but unlike the others, the price will be right with Futile.

#2 Futile (6/1)
#8 Scuba (9/5)
#5 Eagle (8/5)

Longshot:  The Gold Cup drew a handful of intriguing locals.  There's classy Hay Dakota, with proven stamina but a far better record on turf.  There's lightly-raced Volgograd, by Classic sire Curlin, but with all sprint underneath.  There's Side Pocket, on a tear but getting a class test.  And, there's the horse to whom Side Pocket's regular pilot Santo Sanjur has defected: #7 Empirestrikesagain (15/1).   

Though Empirestrikesagain was a bit flat last out, it was his first race in five and a half months, and he always needs one off the lay.  Expect him to be sharper here.  He has shown some good form over the Hawthorne dirt, and though his dam was star sprinter Summer Mis, his two-turn form has been good enough to suggest that he took a little bit more after sire Empire Maker or even damsire Summer Squall.  Pace is the question, as Empirestrikesagain's late-running style means he hopes the likes of Futile or Van Damme will make Scuba go too fast early.  But, if he gets a bit of pace and the ones with distance questions sputter late, Empirestrikesagain has the dirt form and the late pace to get a piece of the Gold Cup at boxcar odds.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Handicapper's Corner: Cardinal Handicap (G3)

Cardinal 'Cap Could be a Tricky Play

By: Dylan Jarmulowicz, ThoroFan Member 

The Saturday feature at Churchill Downs is the Grade III Cardinal Handicap. The race is interesting mix of fillies and mares. With a strong possibility of rain, who knows what kind of shape the turf course will be in or how it will play tomorrow. Let’s find some winners! 

Race 10 – 9 Furlongs (1 & ⅛ths Miles Turf) Post Time – 5:24pm (Eastern)
Advance Weather: Rain, 60s

Some of the runners in this field have run well on a moist or yielding turf course so I don’t think that the condition course itself should play as big of a role as it might usually. #12 DONA BRUJA (8/5) will most likely be the favorite and she has fared well since shipping in the US from Argentina. She has a classic turf running style coming from off the pace but she has the speed to put herself in the game right away and from the outside stall that is a plus. Other than a potential short price, there really are not too many negatives about her, you can question if the turf course is soaked maybe it would be less than ideal but I don’t think it’ll be a problem.

#7 BEAULY (5-1) and #9 LINDA (9/2) will the other two who take some money in this race and they’re both very similar to me on paper. They give an honest effort, come from off the pace and neither like to win very much, especially recently. LINDA has run in tougher races but twice recently has failed as a 90 cent on a dollar favorite. BEAULY you can make an excuse for running in races that are probably harder that where she should be placed but runs well every time. She also has gotten stuck out wide in her most recent starts which is never a positive. I’ll use both underneath in exotics. 

My top play is #2 TRICKY ESCAPE (8-1). The inside post should put her in the perfect spot from the settle in from the onset. The potential moist turf course should move her up and she has a nice six-furlong workout. The price is too good for me to turn down while all the other favorites have their share of question marks.  

My Plays:
WIN: 2
EX: 2/1,7,9,12
TRI: 2/1,7,9,12/1,7,9,12
Good Luck!

Friday, November 10, 2017

Handicapper's Corner: Commonwealth Turf (G3)

Mr Cub Can Steal Commonwealth From Mr. Misunderstood

By: Reinier Macatangay, Thoughts on Racing, Life and More

Most handicappers will admit Mr. Misunderstood looks tough to defeat in the $100,000 Commonwealth S. (GIII) on Saturday at Churchill Downs. The expected favorite sports a 6 for 6 grass record, and faces a somewhat soft field in his bid to keep the streak going. Yet, the ML odds of 4/5 are hard to swallow.


Therefore, it is time to search for value in this 1 1/16-mile affair. It is a common scenario in a lot of races, but the value in this race comes from the horse with the favorable pace setup – Mr Cub. 

The son of Artie Schiller is 7-2-1-0 on paper, but a closer inspection reveals an interesting pattern. When Mr Cub is sent for the lead, he fires a decent race. When he attempts a closing bid from behind, he flops.

For example, look at the Oct. 16, Aug. 4 and Sept. 6 efforts. Mr Cub dueled for the lead in all three races, winning twice and losing the other one by half a length. In the loss at Ellis Park, he endured grueling fractions where the leaders went in 46 flat for the half and 1:09 3/5 for six furlongs at also a 1 1/16-mile distance.

Glance at the July 16 Ellis Park loss, where Mr Cub tried to close from nine lengths off the pace. He finished 11th and seven lengths behind. Likewise, in the Nov. 17 race at Churchill, the gelding tried to close from five lengths off the pace in seventh and could do no better than fifth by a little more than four lengths.

This horse stinks with conservative tactics.

Observers might glance at Mr Cub’s disappointing Jefferson Cup effort though, where he faded to fifth after sparring through moderate fractions. The longer 1 1/8-mile distance possibly affected him in that one.

With this pattern in mind and a lack of true speed signed on to the Commonwealth, the connections must be thinking to let him roll again up front. He offers enough value at 6-1 and gets the top endorsement here.

As for Mr. Misunderstood, does anyone really need help from a public handicapper on this horse? Everyone understands 6 for 6. Furthermore, the horse is dominating his races by two or three lengths each time.

If there is any concern for Mr. Misunderstood, it is that his BRIS Speed Ratings (assuming speed figures for turf races are important), do not appear so dominant compared to the rest of the field. When a horse is 4-5 on paper like Mr. Misunderstood, every part of his form needs to be an overwhelming standout.

Finding an alternative to those two horses is difficult. Gorgeous Kitten might improve for the familiar team of trainer Michael Maker and the Ramseys if the colt reverts to more conservative tactics. If he tries to wing it on the lead like in his Ontario Derby (GIII) effort at Woodbine, he will cook both himself and Mr Cub.

The winner of the Ontario Derby, Tiz a Slam, could put in a decent run as well. Note how his fourth-place finish at Indiana Grand came in a one-mile race where the leaders went in 48 4/5 for the half. He had little chance from midpack. The son of Tiznow also managed a runner-up finish in the restricted Queen’s Plate.

Also, Giant Payday is not without a shot as well. He did defeat Mr Cub three races ago at Ellis Park, although the blistering fractions helped set up his run.

Parlor has been a disappointment, and My Bariley likes wet turf.

All of them will chase Mr Cub. Without Gorgeous Kitten to press or a change in tactics from the other contenders, Mr Cub can take the Commonwealth field all the way.


Handigambling ($100)

$30 Win – Mr Cub
$35 Exacta Box ($70 in all) – Mr Cub, Mr. Misunderstood 

Friday, November 3, 2017

Handicapper's Corner: 2017 Breeders' Cup Distaff & Classic

2017 Breeders' Cup Picks

The ThoroFan Handicappers pondered the past performances, diligently watched prep races, and counted the hairs on the tails of all contenders entered in this year's Breeders' Cup Distaff and Classic. Below are their top 3 picks and best longshot bombs.

Breeders’ Cup Distaff
The 1 1/8 mile contest over the Del Mar dirt oval is carded as Race 9. 
Michael Amo
Forever Unbridled
Stellar Wind
Paradise Woods
Abel Tasman

Paradise Woods
Stellar Wind

Forever Unbridled
Stellar Wind

Romantic Vision
Michael Mills

Stellar Wind

Abel Tasman
Champagne Room

Paradise Woods
Forever Unbridled
Stellar Wind
Champagne Room
Stellar Wind
Abel Tasman
Champagne Room

Breeders’ Cup Classic
The 1 1/4 mile Classic may carry Horse of the Year implications. Ten horses, colts and a lone gelding make up the eleven horse field, which is the closing race on Breeders’ Cup Saturday.

Michael Amo
Gun Runner

Gun Runner
West Coast

Gun Runner
West Coast
Michael Mills

Gun Runner

Gun Runner
West Coast
Win the Space
West Coast
Gun Runner

The 2017 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (Grade I) 
By Robert Marks, They're in the Gate (and on Twitter @theyreinthegate)

The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile is a Saturday 11/04/17 held at Del Mar Racetrack where the Surf meets the Turf.  

Here is who we like
Bolt d’Oro
Hard not to like an undefeated colt coming into a race (3-0). Plus 2 of these 3 wins come on the Del Mar surface. We never know how others who have not raced on at Del Mar will fare, so we have to weigh this heavily. On paper the fastest horse in the field.

Free Drop Billy
This Dale Romans trained colt has raced 4 times with 2 wins and 2 place finishes over 3 different tracks. We like his ability and his last race was a win at 1 1/16th mile, so we know he can get the distance. He has looked good all week in workouts- a definite exacta and trifecta use.

US Navy Flag   
This Kentucky bred has raced the most-10 times, all overseas. Now he ships back to the US. Love his experience but don’t quite like the post position and question his ability to get the route. But we are looking for value and if he can get out of the gate quickly he has a chance. Put him in your exotics, especially if his odds float above 10-1 by post time. light raced 4-year-old did run this same race last year, finishing 6th. Has only 1 win in 8 starts, but that one win did come at Woodbine in last year’s Breeders Stakes. He hasn’t raced since May, that being at 1 ¼ miles at Belmont Park. But he has looked good at workouts and could clunk up to grab a piece of the exotics.

Wagering/Betting Handigambling Bankroll: Here is our $100 worth of betting for the race

Exacta Box: $20 Exacta Box ($40)
Trifecta ($10 Box for $60 Total)

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!