Charles Town race analysis & picks, race 2-9, 10-12-19

I joined the latest contest from The Racing Biz, with 8 of the 9 races on the Charles Town card today as part of it.
Contestants get to use 2 sets of entries. I’m going with winners in set 1, 2nd place predictions in set 2. Here’s how I’m going to play them, prior to seeing scratches and changes.

Race 2:
2-4-8: Killa Dee, Loving Touch, Scottish Man. Overlays: Merry Merry Mojo.
Scottish Man the value horse behind chalk. Had to shake off considerable rust, being away 6 months and not only facing older horses for the first time, but also getting blinkers for the first time too. He was never in the race, that one a 4.5 furlong effort here at CT. I say he bounces back, and gets some room and patience to close late. The pace will need to be somewhat slow by the far turn for this to happen.

Race 3: 8-10-5 The Better One, Twirling Owen, Manarola. Overlays: The Better One, Q’s Song
The Better One is still a maiden after 2 4.5 furlong races, against statebred fillies.She made modest gain from the back vs the leader last time out and also improved at 1st call, first race after a nearly 3 month layoff. I have to think there is more in the tank.

Race 4: 9-2-5 Parisian Diva, Sherwood Lady, Ocean Lilly. Overlays are the latter two: Sherwood Lady is a pure sprinter and has the best tactical speed of the race. She owns two wins from stretching out in distance, and happens to be the lone filly stretching out here. For the 7 furlong distance, sprinters have a nice advantage, winning 42% of the time, matched with a 16% strike for all horses running in the first 3 posts. Ocean Lilly cuts back from a route race last time, and she had shown some gain vs leader again 29k allowance horses here last month.

Race 5: 4-6-1 Dr. Tucker, Ihearyouknockin, Grumpelstiltskin. Dr. Tucker is the lone overlay here. This 6YO gelding has 5 placings in 7 races lifetime, all here. Raced straight off layoff 4 of those times, with 2 wins. Owns 1 prior stretchout win. Gets Jose Mantano back to ride, currently at 23% for the meet. Dr. Tucker has waited since Memorial Day weekend to race again. She’s also the lone late closer, and will need a slow pace throughout, especially late, to contend and win. 4 works in prep, the last 2 being bullets.

Race 6: 5-6-3: Aaron’s Tap, Rescue Five, Blue Plaid. Overlays are the latter two. Rescue Five has runs of 82 to 84 in his last 3 races, best such pattern of this field. Small new top of 84 acheived on 8/31. Stayed in contention last time out in the Last Enchantment here on 9/21, doing so minus the weight allowance for jockey Sunday Diaz Jr the race prior. Blue Plaid had bounced from 77 to 67 in going from statebred to open company and non winners of 3. It’s a bit troubling that this sprinter hasn’t been on the lead for his last three races. Track bias could be helpful: Pure sprinters are winning at a 67% clip for the 4.5 furlong distance.

Race 7: 1-2-6 Prime Lime, Groomed To Rock, Nellysford. All 3 are overlays. I see serious money being made here.
Prime Line has won 3 of her last 4. Set a big new top of 89 last time out. This pure sprinter has the best tactical speed of the field. Last 3 1st call numbers: 97, 98, 91. Waiting since 9/8 to race with the stretchout from 5.5 to 7 furlongs. 2 works at CT in that time frame. Prime Line is my best bet for a win today.
Groomed To Rock has placed in 19 of 31 races lifetime, all at this track. Best AWD numbers (Rock Hound/Chelsea Groomstick, out of Groomstick). Jumped up in pace from 64 to 71 after dropping from 28k allowance horses to 15k statebred optional claimers. Had a somewhat wide turn last race, which may have cost her the win, though maintained some progression on eventual winner throughout.
Nellysford has an interesting up-down pattern in her last 7 races, with the signs pointing up today.

Race 8 10-6-4: Buff’s Eye View, Runnin’toluvya, Jeffery Scott. Overlays: Buff’s Eye View, Jeffery Scott.
Buff’s Eye View barely qualifies as an overlay, given his morning-line odds. Only horse here to be on influence of small new top that’s past year’s best. Ran 83 last time out on 9/21 vs 28k allowance horses who were non-winners of two. Ran wide in the mud in that race, yet still closed to be 2nd. He showed improvement in each call with this 1st effort after 7 weeks away. Only early closer of this field.
Jeffery Scott had run in that same race on 9/21, finishing 5th. He was also running on layoff, tho was away since early May, and did show gain on the leader throughout and at each call.

Race 9: 4-6-1 Brass Magnolia, T Rex Express, Cameron Steel.
Brass Magnolia is the lone overlay. Since a spring overlay, she’s run consistently in the 60s to a high of 71 two races back. Jose Montano returns to ride her. Waiting about a month to stretch out half a furlong. 2 fast works here at CT in prep.

ThoroEnduro (Remington Park) contest picks, 9/29/19

I’m still towards the back of the pack in this year’s ThoroEnduro contest at Remington Park. Not faring well with winners, but have scored with a few longshot, and managed to stay consistent with payouts.
Today is OK Derby Day, with 6 contest races: 3,4, and 10 through 13. Here’s my take:

Race 3: 7-8-9…Valiant Defender, Pickens, Southgate.
Overlays: Valiant Defender, TC’s Image.
Valiant Defender owns the best AWD numbers coming in (Stay Thirsty/Northern Deputy, by Deputy Commander). All 3 lifetime races at 71 or 72, winning his maiden debut at Lone Star, then 2nd in the El Joven at Retama, 5th last out in the Sunday Silence. I have to give him points for consistency. Plus, he’s the lone early closer here, and did nicely last out vs leader at 2nd call.
TC’s Image was 4th in the EL Joven, his debut on turf, and also did well vs leader. Laid off 6 weeks since, slight bounce risk.

Race 4 picks: 11-2-7… Cayman a Bikini, Keetonville and Brilliant Stew. These 3 are all overlays.
Cayman a Bikini set the best distance and turf speed of the field, a 90, 2 races back vs optional claimers for 15k. That was on 8/14 at Retama, making her 2 for 2 on turf lifetime. Switches back to Sasha Risenhoover as well as turf here.
Keetonville has a prior 1st-off-layoff victory. Best work tab of the field with 6 of them since early May. Showed some backstretch gain last time out.
Brilliant Slew achieved her lifetime best of 90 2 races back last month at Retama, matched with an 88 since. She’s proven to be the true speed of the field; last 3 numbers are 88, 90, 70. Even her 88 could have been faster, as she ran just a bit wide at the turn, but contended throughout.

Race 10: 1-3-5: Spring Steen, Poets Dreamed, Brave Daisey.
Poets Dreamed is the lone overlay here. Never mind the 30-1 odds; she won her debut vs 100k maidens at Oaklawn in April, 75 BRIS. Followed up with an 81 vs 34k allowance horses here last month. Both were on dirt tho neither in optimal, fast conditions. The trip last out was somewhat eventful, with a bumpy start from the gate, and a wide trip around the turn, yet still showed some fight at the end. Only early closer in the field.

Race 11 picks: 4-1-11 Lookin At Lee, Keep Quiet, Net Gain. Overlays are Lookin at Lee and Net Gain.
Lookin at Lee won the Albuquerque Downs Handicap last time with small new top of 102, 2 races back. This late closer has the best tactical speed of the field. Last 3 stretch call numbers: 112, 100, 91. 4 works at RP since the Governor’s Cup on 8/23, 1 bullet amidst them.
Net Gain I mainly value for consistency. Last 3 BRIS numbers: 94, 89, 93. In fact, in the last 10 races, going back a year, he’s ranged from 86 to 96.

OK Derby: 9-10-4 Long Range Toddy, Mucho Gusto, Sleepy Eyes Todd.
Overlays: Long Range Toddy, Chess Chief, Sleepy Eyes Todd

Long Range Toddy’s lifetime wins include the Grade 2 Rebel, and 3 races here: The Springboard Mile, the Clever Trevor and his 2nd maiden race. 3 wins in 4 races here, with a top speed of 89 in the Springboard. Off since the Indiana (Downs) Derby on 7/13(briefly leader halfway through), he’s posted 4 RP works, last one a bullet. This is my best bet of the day.

Chess Chief hasn’t proven much since his maiden victory at Fair Grounds in March. He did post a lifetime best 99 last time out in the Travers, despite finishing 8th. Last 3 BRIS: 99, 91, 94. Only worried about a bounce here.
Sleepy Eyes Todd has 3 wins in 5, and debuts in Graded company as well as this 9-furlong distance. Won last time out with a 102 at Canterbury, good track, vs 25k optional claimers. David Cabrera is back in the saddle for him; this plus the familiarity of running at RP should be helpful.

Race 13: 11-3-10…Smart Lassie, Trixie Racer, Twirling Around. Overlays: Smart Lassie, Twiring Around, Tap and Spin, and Lone Star Lady.

Smart Lassie I judge on the relative quick trip, a 67 BRIS from her lone start. It was a slightly wide trip, that race here 10 days ago, though still gained a bit at 2nd call, and finished 4th.

Twirling Around took a bounce after graduating from maiden company and debuting both on turf, Retama, and at a route. She’d be expect to bounce back, cutting back to a sprint and a slightly smaller class.

Lone Star Lady took 3 tries to break maiden status and did so with a n 11-length win last out at Retama in August, 82 BRIS. Should do well with the 2nd small increase in distance and the 45 day layoff.

Tap and Spin ships from Lone Star, winning her maiden debut, then a distance 9th in a 100k event. Laid off since mid-July, she’s got 5 RP works, 3 of them very fast.

Delaware Park racecard analysis, picks for 9/25/19

I’ve passively observed the horse racing industry these past 3 months, and am not sure I can fully embrace it again, due in no small part to the ongoing controversies over full disclosure of improprieties re multiple parties. Combine that with my non-DAW status here in Texas, and I suddenly feel very disenchanted.
Maybe it’s a good thing. Having been involved in some way with horses since 2008, lost considerably more than won in most years, and yet still held hope that my approach to handicapping would be rather profitable, if not at least fruitful. If I had continued to reside in WA, my stance might be rather different.
So…..why bother keep this website or continue to follow? I suppose I like to see how the house of cards will fall….how the shell game continues to deceive those of us on the outside of the boardrooms.
If I ever move out of state, and into a DAW-friendly locale, I just may embrace the sport whole again, but will be more cautious about what’s happening with this fragile sport. I truly hope that it doesn’t go the way of greyhound racing, surely tarnished by the plight of humane treatment (and the lack thereof) for dogs.  Congressional Representative Eddie Lucio III had introduced a bill re regulation of horse racing, but that may have died in debate and not made it to a vote.

I also still like the occasional free handicapping tournament, and have thoughts on one such contest that takes place at Delaware Park. It’s the monthly free contest offered by The Racing Biz, the same folks from whom I won a contest and neat swag, back in 2016.. I’m also alive in the early going at Remington Park’s ThoroEnduro contest.
I will most likely opt out of following the Derby and Oaks Future Wagers, given my legal status. I could choose to be totally selfless and do the work of strategizing for you all, but for this blogger, I’d rather give you my take plus put up my money to back it up, even if I do lose it all like I did this year. It feels embarrassing but I still want to rest my laurels on past success, where I did make some nice scores and actually profit.

The Enlightened Trails did play out in early September as usual. The Trail charts will definitely get updated. As mentioned an earlier post, Serengeti Empress’ win in the KY Oaks justified my further concern for the sport, as she was no factor in my own Trails. She is a filly who never won the best race for a track that would properly represent in the Oaks, actually winning the race. This is the only time an outsider to my Trails actually won.

Let’s see how the 8 race card looks at Delaware. Rules for the contest: 1 pick, mythical $2 win/place wager, mutuel payouts determine winner, top 3 win prizes.
Race 1: 5-6-7. Lone overlay here, Given Achance, has top trainer Hugh McMahon. 2 months away from action, this sprinter has a modest pattern in pace, scoring in the 60’s. 2 works at Delaware, 1 a bullet. Track bias heavily favors front speed.
Race 2: 3-6-4 I like Stars in the Park as first-time starter due to my bias for his workouts leading up to the race. No other horse here seems close. Not exactly a true wagering race, either. Another grandson of AP Indy, has one of the better trainers at this track.

Race 3: 5-7-2 Unclenedwhodrank my top value play and 2nd overall. Best AWD numbers here (Cal Nation/Southafrican Queen, out of the South African-bred Horse Chestnut). Ever since his winter/spring layoff and return back, he’s put up mixed numbers, yet his last 2 races, both with current jockey Raul Mena, see him make a nice comeback to his best scores. Last 3 races: 69, 71, 67 BRIS.

Race 4: 12k claimers sprint on the turf here. No access to past performances for this one, so I opted to go with the best jockey/trainer win % combo. Mr. Maurice gets the nod here.

Race 5; 3-4-6. I predict a chalky finish, tho the ranked big longshot, True Prosperity may be the one value threat. 2 races back, this filly ran her lifetime best of 76 at this distance. She failed first time on turf and slight class upgrade shipping from Monmouth to Belmont. She tries again at the distance, comes back to dirt, and is the lone late closer of this field. She will have to rely on a fast pace early that slows up somewhat later for her to capitalize.

Race 6 involves 17k claimers at 6 furlongs on the dirt. No PPs here either. I did choose #2, Hoskins, featuring the connections of Halliday and Ness.

7th race feature: 1-6-4. Yowza Yowza Yowza (surely you remember this title from the 70s disco tune?) is my big overall upset on this card. His 84 last time out in similar class and conditions here was likely helped by his recent introduction to blinkers. Prior race was his 1st such outing, and he promptly beat 36k allowance runners at 8.5 furlongs. Taking a nother cutback in distance here, he also gets back Johan Rosado in the saddle, and has the low-carrying weight of 117 (this for having no wins in the last month). Only early closer of the field; he’d need fast fractions late to contend and win. I say it will happens, given the relative amount of speed in the field. Not to be outdone is another longshot, Frio Factor, who improved nicely at each call last time out first after layoff and switch to turf, along with 4 length gain on the leader by 2nd call.

8th race: 3-8-5 Orbidore adds blinkers for the first time. Has run between 53 and 60 all 3 lifetime starts. Gained a few lengths last time time vs leader before tiring out. Sergeant Azer, off 2 months, posted 3 works at Parx in prep, one pretty fast. Stylemeister as worst horse per odds might surprise. He has the best AWD numbers of the field (Bodemeister/Glamour and Style, out of Dynaformer).

TVG Super 5 selections, 1/9/19

All races take place at Gulfstream Park. I need to hit 4 winners out of my top selections to share in a $5k prize.

Race 6: Non-winners of 2, $6250 tag, for fillies/mares 4YO bred in FL. They go 1 mile on the dirt. Top 3 here are She’s No Joke, Zarabanda and Jordy’s Ready.
Zarabanda is one of two overlays here at 30-1. 9 weeks removed from her lifetime best of 76, she’s yet to win at GP; 4 times in the money out of 11 here. Track bias suits her perfectly here. In 50 races at the mile distance here, sprinters have won 42%, and 20% on the rail. The only downside is that she hasn’t been anywhere near the lead in her last 3 races. I still like here to be in the top 3 and produce some value here among the chalk. The other overlay is Casual Caro. Slow but consistent pace pattern in her last 3 races, and also posted her lifetime best 4 races ago.
Race 7 is for 50k FL maidens, going a mile on the turf course. Top 3 are He’s No Lemon, Social Currency and Medina Ridge. I’m actually quite split between Medina Ridge and Clint Maroon, tho I’ll give the edge to the former due to his first-time-Lasix status. Clint Maroon rates well having been away for 3 months. He’s No Lemon actually serves as the relative favorite but at weak morning-line odds of 4-1; this suggests good prices are to be had, regardless of the result. He easily leads in terms of lifetime best scores for distance, track and surface, and had to overcome a slow start despite his 85 speed figure. He returns 2nd after layoff after cutting back in distance and scoring better at all call points. Medina Ridge, in addition to adding Lasix, has put in a bunch of works since his maiden debut on 9/8 at Belmont, with a bullet on 12/8 and 2 fast ones since.

Race 8 is for non-winners of 3, fillies/mares 4YO+, 1 mile on the man track, $6250 claimers. Top 3 are Draft, Special Counsel, Michelle’z Laugh. No overlays to be found here. Michelle’z Laugh might be the best value play. Only horse still under influence of he lifetime best mark, sent on 10/31 at nearby GPW, a 76 score. Earned 5 lb weight allowance, carrying just 116. Waiting 2 weeks to stretch out.
Risk of being overbet: Draft has a win first off layoff, and is an easy mark for her pace numbers and work tab.
Underbet: Michelle’z Laugh.
This may prove to be the other race that contains some decent value. Could be a nice rolling double with race 7.

Race 9 is a 5-furlong turf sprint for fillies/mares 4YO+, non-winners of 2, optional claimers at the $62500 level. 2 of the 7 here are up for a tag. Top 3 here are 2 logical favorites in Brandy’s Girl and Escapade, followed by Dominance. No overlays here.
Dominance should get a favorable look, having great pure sprinter speed, plus the best speed pattern of the field. He also owns 2 shipper victories.
Underbet play: Fairyland could be classifield as both a bounce and recovery play, based on her last 3 races. Hasn’t seen the lead in her last 3 races. 1 shipper victory. Could factor at a mid-range price.

Race 10: 3YO FL filly maidens take to the turf for the finale. 5 furlong sprint, 25k level. Top 3 are Alpilles, Matzo Bella and longshot Glory Roll. The latter is an overlay, as is Allez Allez and the also-eligible Sweepeno.
Glory Roll has blinkers removed in just her 2nd lifetime start. First was a distant 8th place finish here in September, 6 furlongs on the main track. With the 3 month layoff she’s put up some good works, including a bullet on 1/3. Allez Allez showed some promise in her last start vs 16k maidens at GPW 2 months ago, gaining decently on the leader early before faltering by the stretch. If first-time starter Sweepeno draws into the field, she might be one to consider, as she debuts at a $25k tag here.
Underbet: Despite 7/2 at morning-line, Matzo Bella might become a price play. She does have best speed figures for distance, surface and track, and a quick troubled trip last time out. She gets a 5-pound break here at 115. Also, 2nd after layoff, she improved at first call.

Remington Park stakes analysis, 9/30/18

Even though I temporarily am ‘in the barn’
with the ThoroEnduro contest at
Remington Park, and am missing out on
the 6 races all-stakes contest day, I
decided to give you my picks and analysis
for the 6 races:

6th race is the Red Earth Stakes, 7.5
furlongs on the turf course, open to
3YOs+ OK foals. Top 3 are 3-9-
7….favored Pacific Typhoon, then longshot
overlays Night Strike and Tenspeed.
Curmit is another overlay here.
I actually have both overlays very close in
this one. Night Strike I like on the strength
of his most recent race, facing OK breds at
the 43k allowance level. It was a slow
paced race for this deep closer, who stayed
closed to the lead in this 8-horse field. He
had improved 5 points at 1st call from his
last effort 2.5 months prior, and improved
a bit at 2nd call within the race.
Tenspeed has a very similar
pattern…improvement 6 weeks after layoff
at 1st call, and a gain of 2.5 lengths at 2nd
call in his last race vs 10k claimers. Gets
positive trainer change to Lynn Chleborad,
currently at 24% wins.
Curmit could bounce back in pace after
acheiving his lifetime best of 89 2 races
back last December. He bounced to 79
last out to begin his 4YO campaign route-
to-sprint. He’s the lone early closer of this
field. He might require a fast pace to win.

7th is the David M Vance Stakes, 150k
purse for 3YO+ going 6 furlongs. Top 3
are 2 of the favorites in Pop Keenan and
Welder, followed by Devil’s Halo. Leadem
in Ken is the lone overlay. 7-2-3
Devil’s Halo has 2 wins in 4 lifetime, his
maiden debut at the 58k level, then an 87k
allowance with a 94 BRIS score. He remains
under influence from that score and
should run back to it. Leadem in Ken gets
positive jockey switch to Israel Hernandez,
with whom he has 2 recent wins, tho
hasn’t been part of the RP meet. Early-
presser horses have won 15 of 42 races at
6 furlongs during the meet so far. Posts 4
-7 are winning 15% of them.

9th is when we really get going with the
values. This is
the Bob Barry Memorial Stake, for
fillies/mares 3YO+ going 7.5 furlongs on
turf, for a purse of 70k. Top 3 are 8-7-4..
Fiddler’s Tsumai, Just Leave and Penguini.
Overlays: Fiddler’s Tsunami, Penguini,
MImi’s Money, Rosie O’Prado and Sunday
Night Miss.
Fiddler’s Tsumani as an early.-presser has
the best tactical speed of the field. Recent
pattern of BRIS scores: 86, 84, 80.
Finished 4th and wide last time but well vs
40k horses in a 5-furlong allowance race,
just her 2nd time on turf.
Penguini was 6th in this race last year.
This race serves as her 6YO debut. She’s
done a number of works here since
October, last one very fast at 4 furlongs.
Mimi’s Money could benefit from track
bias. In 7 turf sprints during this meet, late
closers have won 2; 18% winners have
come from posts 4-7.
Rosie O’Prado owns strong AWD numbers
here (Paddy O’Prado/Nashwan Rose from
GB, out of Nashwan). Carries the low
weight of 112 in this field due to non-
winners allowance and 3YO status.
Improved at 2nd call upon her 3YO debut
just 2 weeks ago here.
Sunday Night Miss did well in her 4YO
debut, improving 11 points at 2nd call
since her prior race, and closed up 2
lengths against the leader then, winning by
1.5 lengths in a 46k allowance race vs
fellow OK fillies.

10th race is the Remington Park Oaks,
Grade 3 event for 3YO fillies, an 8.5
furlong race, with a 200k purse. Top 3 are
10-5-3…Hold Her Tight, She’s a Julie and
Remedy.
Hold Her Tight is one of the 2 overlays.
Prior winner fresh off layoff. Track bias
from small sample can benefit the outside
post. Busy worktab with 3 bullets in prep.
Remedy recovered in pace progress 4 races
after layoff and the beginning of her 3YO
season. 91 winner last time out vs 25k
optional-claimer, running on dirt following
2 on turf. That 91 is her new lifetime best
tho could bounce from there. She is the
lone sprinter of the field.

11th is the marquee race, the Oklahoma
Derby. This event is Grade 3 for 3YOs, 9
furlongs on dirt, for a $400k purse. Top e
are 3-1-11….Believe in Royalty, Lionite
and First Mondays.
Believe in Royalty is an overlay here.
Winner last tims in Iowa Derby with an 88.
Waiting the longest of this field to stretch
out. 4 works in prep with 1 very fast.
Improved well vs leader at 2nd call last
time out.
First Mondays owns the best pace pattern
of the field. He has 3 lifetime runs, with
BRIS scores of 93, 94, 94, and 2 wins plus
a 3rd. 3rd last time out in the Grade 3
Smarty Jones.

12th is the Ricks Memorial, 8.5 furlongs
on turf for fillies/mares 3YO+, 75k purse.
Top 3 are 1-6-8, all longshot overlays:
Little Code, Titled, Strive.
Little Code receives great training in prep
from Steve Asmussen, a 23% winner here.
Drops 4 lbs here, a move that granted
Little Code a win 2 races back. 3 works in
prep, last 2 being very fast.
Titled comes out of her lifetime best, a
small new top of 86. This early/presser
has the best tactical speed of the field. Ran
6th with an 86 in a 50k ungraded stakes
event last time out, tho could have done
better if it weren’t for traffic issues.
Strive was reclaimed by 18% winner Donnie
Von Hemel. Best distance, track and turf
speed of the field, a 94, which was
achieved in last year’s running of this race.

TVG Super 8 contest picks 9/22/18

I thought I would enter the TVG Super 8 contest, having the work day off. 5 wins out of the 8 earns me cash. For brevity’s sake I’ll focus on my actual pick, the win horse. Here’s how I see them:

Belmont race 5: Statebred 25k maidens going 6.5 furlongs on dirt, 33k purse. Top 3 are 5-3-4. The Vow Is Lit gets blinkers for the first time while also debuting at a sprint. Last race was here 3 months ago, against older horses. He seemed to make up some ground against the leading horse by the 2nd call, helped by a very past pace. Very good work tab coming in. Longshot play to begin.

Belmont race 6: 25k claimers, 3YO+, going 7 furlongs on turf, $50k purse. Top 3: 9-10-3 Canarsie Kid last ran on 8/6, and has the longest layoff of those who are stretching out. That race on 8/6 at Saratoga saw him run 6-wide with an 89 BRIS score.

Gulfstream Park race 8 I didn’t find free PPs for, so I leaned to Equibase and their latest stats for jockeys and trainers per track. I combined the win% for both sides. Best combo here belongs to #3, Straightaway May.  25% wins this meet for Gallegos.

Laurel Park race 10: Frank J De Francis Memorial Dash. Grade 3 event, 6 furlongs, 3YO+. Purse $250k. Top 3: 3-5-4. Colonel Sharp in the money 7 of her last 8. He’s also the lone early closer. Nice, steady race last out enroute to his 6th lifetime win, and a 75 BRIS.

Gulfstream Park race 10: $6250 claimers going 1 mile, $17k purse. Top 3:12-9-6
America’s Simmard as a late closer made a big move from 1st to 2nd call last time out, closing late but ran rather wide, still finishing 6th. I’m banking on a better effort today, considering that he ran on a sloppy track that day and matched his maiden debut from a year ago with a 72 BRIS.

Laurel Park, race 11 is the Grade 1, 9 furlong Pennsylvania Derby, for leading 3YOs. Purse of 1000k. Top 3: 2-10-3 Hofburg, 2nd in the Florida Derby, then 7th in the Run for all those Roses, 3rd in the Belmont, won the restricted ungraded Curlin Stakes last time out 2 months ago, 105 BRIS. With the chance of rain in PA today, and considering his success on an off track, it legitimizes his pattern of triple-digit scores. 5 workouts since the Curlin, all at Saratoga, 2 bullets.

Belmont Park race 9: 40k claimers going 7 furlongs, fillies/mares non winners of 2.Purse of $42k. Top 3: 6-1-7 Havana Affair gets back blinkers today. Only early speed in this field. Couldn’t sustain last time despite flat pace. She might need or otherwise need to set fast pace for any chance.

Belmont Park race 10: 40k statebred filly maidens going 6 furlongs on the inner turf course, 41k purse. Top 3: 8-12-2. Ma Mo has competed decently against other NY-bred fillies in 4 races, peaking at 77 two races back, matched with 75 cutting back to 5.5 furlongs. Last race saw him get off to a stumbling start but overcame this to finish 3rd and close. I like the pace pattern.

2018 Travers Stakes (plus stakes undercard) analysis & selections

Travers Day is upon us, and with some cool ties to
the Breeders Cup Challenge Series. The Travers
itself, plus the Personal Ensign for the fillies, are 2
races that award automatic entries for winners of
those races. I suppose the others have to buy their
way in.
I have, as promised, the results of my handicapping
covering the Travers Stakes and the 4 stakes races
for its undercard (the Ballston Spa, which runs after,
is not included. Should that be considered the
‘post-card’ event?).
H ALLEN JERKENS STAKES: Grade 1, 7 furlongs,
3YOs, $500k purse.
Top 3 are 8-3-1: Firenze Fire, Engage, Promises
Fulfilled. Projected overlays: Seven Triumphs.
With the ML favored Firenze Fire ahead in my picks,
this is likely a race to pass up. I will say that Seven
Triumphs does warrant some attention. He switches
from Belmont after a 6 week layoff. He’s been 1st or
2nd first after layoff in 3rd lifetime situations. Won
a $100k optional claimer event on a sloppy
Churchill track late May, returning to his 2YO best
speeds. One of several with great worktabs: 4
works in all, all at Saratoga, 2 bullets. 2nd last time
out in the Grade 3 Dwyer. Closed on the leader by .5
lengths at 2nd call. I say to use him with my top 3.
Odds prediction: Firenze Fire is the lone mover.
Being an early main favorite, he should be taking a
ton of money. Wager at your peril.

PERSONAL ENSIGN STAKES: Grade 1, 9 furlongs,
3YO+ fillies, mares, $700k. Top 3: 6-3-4: Elate,
Fuhriously Kissed, Wow Cat. Overlays: Fuhriously
Kissed, and She Takes Heart.
Just a 6-horse field, and the front half taking most
of the money here. I will take the gamble on the 2
double-digit longshots. Fuhriously Kissed is the
one I see for a possible upset under the ML favored
Elate. 3 of 19 lifetime who hasn’t won since an
optional claimer race last summer at the Spa.
Generally mixed blessings since, with 3 3rd-place
finishes in stakes races. Despite his pace pattern
around 90, I like that he has a pattern at all, unlike
his peers here. Also he’s the lone late closer.
She Takes Heart set a huge lifetime best of 98,while
finishing 2nd in the Add Elegance, improving a ton
from the Princess Rooney late June. Despite the
bounce risk, I’ll play here. Also, do note the track
bias. Half of the 9-furlong races run on the Spa dirt
track have been won by sprinters. 18% of horses in
posts 1-3 at this distance have won.
Odds prediction: Only one trend here, and it seems
that Elate, morning-lane favorite, will actually take
less money. She is potentially bouncing back in
pace after 3 double digit scores, and is the lone
horse to excel at 2nd call vs leader last time out.
Pretty good race to wager.

BALLERINA STAKES: Grade 1, $500k purse, 7
furlongs, for fillies/mares 3YO+. Top 3 are 9-4-
5…Highway Star, Cairenn, Finley’sluckycharm.
Overlays: Highway Star, Cairenn, Union Strike.
Undoubtedly a very attractive race to wager.
Highway Star was 2nd in 4 of her last 5 races, and
last won in last year’s Grade 2 Gallant Bloom Stakes
with a 96. Finally surpassed this with a 100 last
time out in the Grade 3 Bed O’ Roses at Belmont,
June 8. That score matched her lifetime best. She
actually could have won that race had she not run
3-4 wide in pursuit of Lewis Bay. Best works of this
field: 4 in all, 3 at Saratoga, 1 with a bullet.
Cairenn, following trainer switch to Graham Motion
from 25% winner Mark Reid, has run her best
lifetime races…98 running 3rd in the Bed O’ Roses,
then a 93 in a 75k stakes race, then 97 in a 100k
stakes event early this month at the Spa. Last win
came on 4/2, vs 25k optional claimers. I am a fan
of the recent pace pattern.
Union Strike is just out of the barn of Alvin Ruis,
and into the company of Steve Asmussen, winning
at a 21% clip. Last win was in April of 2017, in the
Santa Paula at Santa Anita. Not much success in
Graded company since those races, save a 2nd
place finish in last year’s Eight Belles at Churchill.
She’s the lone late closer of the field.
Odds movement: Two of the prominently favored
horses should be taking more than usual:
Finley’sluckycharm, and Lewis Bay. Meanwhile, two
others might get ignored by the public: the
aforementioned Union Strike, and longest of
longshots in Tequilita. Tequilita has very steady
fast pace figures 4 races into her 4YO career, since
a 6 month layoff.

Update: Following this morning’s scratch of Highway Star, I’m going with Cairenn, Finley’sluckycharm, and Union Strike as my new top 3. Overlays are the same.

FOREGO STAKES: Grade 1, $600k purse, 7 furlongs
for 3YO+. Top 3 here are 7-8-1: Warrior’s Club,
City of Light, and Limousine Liberal. Overlays:
Warrior’s Club. Last win was the Commonwealth,
Grade 3 event at Keeneland back in April. Finished
2nd in the Churchill Downs Stakes with a 99, 10th
in the Metropolitan with a 92, 3rd in the Kelly’s
Landing with a small new top of 101, and 2nd last
out in the AG Vanderbilt a month ago, with a 100. I
like the paired up high scores, even if it comes at a
bit of a bounce risk. Ran a bit wide in the
Vanderbilt, and might have ran a faster race off the
slightly fast pace. D Wayne Lukas has done well
with her since that effort; she’s a month away from
the track, longest layoff of those stretching out
here.
Odds movement: I don’t like longshot No Dozing or
4th ML choice CZ Rocket, but both threaten to take
a lot more $ than normal, more so than in the other
races on this undercard. No Dozing exploded to a
104 last time out a month ago, and is quite the
bounce risk. CZ Rocket did likewise last time out
while winning the Kellys Lounge, but his
connections haven’t run at Saratoga this meet, and
also face a bounce. Tough call as she’s got the best
speed rating for the distance, a huge 108. As for
those who may take less money, Whitmore, who is
3rd ML choice, could be ignored. Good pedigree
compared to these (Pleasantly Perfect/Melody’s
Spirit, out of Scat Daddy) I’d still key Warrior’s Club
among the threatening chalk in another possible
upset.

SWORD DANCER STAKES: 12 furlongs on Saratoga’s
inner turf course. Grade 1, $1000k purse for 3YO+.
Top 2 here are easily the favored Sadler’s Joy
(lukewarm ML edge at 7-2) and Funtastic. I can’t
separate those behind them, mainly Spring Quality
and longshot Revved Up, who appears to be the
lone overlay here.
Revved Up could shake up this relatively chalky
field. He goes from Shug McGaughey’s barn to Jorge
Abreu’s (16 to 19%). Last won in November in an
80k optional claimer, with a year’s best 98. Mixed
blessings since: 3rd in the River City, 6th in the
Gulfstream Park Turf, 9th in the Muzin Memorial,
4th in a 100k OC race, and 2nd last out in the
Arlington Handicap. Owns at least one win first off
layoff. 5 works in prep…all at the Spa, tho none
very fast. This late closer did improve on the leader
last time out, and does need a fast pace late to set
up a win.
Odds movement: Lots of money flying about here..
Horses that I predict to be bet down: Funtastic, plus
longshots Glorious Empire and Highland Sky.
Glorious Empire is just off his lifetime of 98, paired
with a 93 prior to that, 2 straight wins. Highland
Sky has had very similar story, a new small top of
99, plus a similar run of 94 last out.
Horses getting ignored here include Hi Happy and
Bigger Picture, 2 good value horses. Hi Happy
could be the sleeper of the Travers undercard.
Started his 6YO career with a 3rd place in the GP
Turf, 1st race after switch from Felipe Souza to 17%
Todd Pletcher. Won the Pan American and Man
O’War with 101s. 3rd in the Manhattan with a 96,
then bounced to a 90 in the Bowling Green last
month here. I’m rooting for him to do a nice
bounceback. I also like his last 3 2nd call numbers
very much…111, 102, 95.
Bigger Picture is the lone early closer here. Also, he
ran a 97 in the Bowling Green last time out, and ran
it increasingly wide throughout the 11-furlong
race.

TRAVERS: 10 furlongs of championship racing,
$1250k purse for leading 3YOs. Top 3 are Vino
Rosso, Wonder Gadot, and King Zachary. Overlays:
Vino Rosso, King Zachary, Mendelssohn. This is
the other major race today worth playing.
Vino Rosso, following his triumph in the Wood
Memorial with a 102, bounced to 91 in the KY
Derby, then up again to 105 in the Belmont, then
down again to 93 last time in the Jim Dandy just a
month ago. Uptick again? Sure, why not? I’ll figure
he’ll return right back to triple digits.
Wonder Gadot, carrying 121 to the boys’ 126, may
have the edge right there. She was 2nd in the
Fantasy Stakes with an 84, peaked to a 102 in the
KY Oaks, was 2nd in the Woodbine Oaks with a 91,
then won the Queen’s Plate with a 98, and also the
Prince of Wales with an 88. Also choosing the
bounceback angle here.
King Zachary was 6th in the Wood Memorial, then
won a 75k OC race, also won the Matt Winn at
Churchill with a lifetime best 99, then bounced
again to 93 while finishing 4th in the Indiana Derby.
Best AWD numbers of these (Curlin/On My Way,
out of Giant’s Causeway). Owns the best work tab
too: 4 works, 3 at the Spa, 2 very fast, 1 a bullet.
Mendelssohn won last year’s BC Juvenile Turf, then
the UAE Derby and Dubai World Cup. Finished last
in the KY Derby, and then 3rd in the Grade 3 Dwyer
in early July. Might bounce from that 90 effort last
time, tho he’s waited longest of those stretching
out.
Odds: I see outright longshot Trigger Warning
taking more $. He’d put up a 99 and 96 as a new
pair of tops. He placed in the Indiana and Ohio
Derbies. Prior to that, he won the 100k Tom Ridge,
and a 28k allowance. I don’t like him but he’s
bound to get bet down by others. Meistermind will
get some attention, too. A lifetime router, it took
him 5 tries to break maiden. Then he paired up that
95 score with a 90 last time on a muddy Saratoga
track. I think he’s being set up for a bounce today.

Wonder Gadot naturally deserves attention for being
the filly, but it won’t translate into $. The savvy
horseplayers will definitely give her a favorable look
but most will sense she’s got too much to
overcome.

Update: Following the scratch of Meistermind, my top 3 are basically the same, with a new order of Vino Rosso, King Zachary, Wonder Gadot. Overlays remain the same.