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7.24.2017:

Arrogate, Songbird & the Shark

Racing saw a pair of 1-to-9 shots showcased in the past couple of days, and only one of them delivered. After seeing Arrogate finish fourth in Saturday’s San Diego Handicap, thank goodness that shark beat Michael Phelps on Sunday night. Order seems temporarily restored. Both caused various levels of social media chatter, but Arrogate’s stunning loss in his first start since March’s Dubai World Cup caught horse racing observers completely off guard. Before the race, local newspaper headlines called the race “A Walk in the Park” and 60 Minutes was on hand to do a story on the crowning of the greatest horse since Secretariat. Then Accelerate happened. Heck, so did Donworth. And even Cat Burglar. Arrogate beat only a horse whose jockey lost the irons while coming home fourth of five. It marked one of the most puzzling performances in modern racing history. When Cigar lost his 16-race win streak at the hooves of Dare At Go at Del Mar in 1996, he still ran a solid second while beating G1 winner Siphon by 7 lengths for the minor awards. Zenyatta suffered her only defeat after 19 wins to an accomplished Blame in the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Classic, and was cutting into the margin at that. Rachel Alexandra seemingly lost the will to be exceptional at 4, and still ran second in all three of her defeats that season before retirement. And Big Brown’s shocking retreat at the top of the 2008 Belmont Stakes stretch followed a public bout with bad feet that everyone knew about going into the Triple Crown finale. Also consider a week ago when some questioned the state of affairs with star filly Songbird. All she did was win the G1 Delaware Handicap over 1 ¼ miles and some were ready to pen her career epitaph because the win margin and style of victory weren’t sufficient of greatness. Fast forward to this week: Anyone want to trade explanations and outcomes straight up, Arrogate for Songbird? Yes, we were reminded that horses aren’t machines once again – a factor often forgotten. Nick Zito has said a million times that this game will humble you like no other. But we already knew that, didn’t we? We just chose to suspend reality because, well, we know everything these days. The so-called Information Age has been replaced by the Opinion Age, as I’ve written about in the past few years. The only thing invincible about Arrogate or Songbird or Cigar are the opinions we attach to them. Our overzealousness for greatness is only surpassed by our incessant want to be right. We learned that lesson perhaps as much as any by following the social media reaction in the past two weekends. Songbird had her detractors before the Delaware Handicap as part of a healthy debate of just how good she was and whom she had beaten. Perhaps that hesitation to anoint her was due to the recent regality in the distaff division headed by Zenyatta, Rachel Alexandra, Royal Delta and Beholder. That’s a lot of “all-time” greats to swallow in one division just in the current decade only seven years deep. Plus, Songbird lost to Beholder – albeit a nose – and it’s hard to build an unflappable following knocking off Carina Mia, Paid Up Subscriber and Go Maggie Go. I think she’s a filly for the ages; you’re welcome to disagree. But when Songbird almost lost – yes, almost – it became a firestorm for her critics, who already had an opinionated ax to grind. Today’s Opinion Age starts with a premise and waits for something to happen that would back that take. It’s the same no matter if you’re talking horses, politics or celebrity gossip…from DRF to CNN to TMZ. Arrogate, however, had no such pre-San Diego detractors. That’s why the social media reaction to his loss was bafflement and sympathy. All were either stunned or hoping upon hope that he was not injured, convinced that their opinion of the horse or his infallibility could not possibly have been wrong. There were no pot shots taken at Arrogate for losing as there were for Songbird, who had, in fact, won. It’s not a pretty look when our reaction to reality is solely based on our opinions. It’s further self-enhancing in a world dominated by our constant need to compete with each other for online superiority and promotion from within. Horseplayers should understand this more than anyone else. We have been doing it for centuries at the betting windows. My opinion is superior to yours and we score that by how much we get back on successful backings. But apparently cashing a ticket is not good enough anymore. You must go on social media and flaunt your superior knowledge – or at a minimum dress up your bull-headed opinions as facts. The opposite ways in which the public reacted to Songbird and Arrogate went a long way in highlighting just how much our pre-race feelings impact our post-race analysis. We are waiting for something to happen to enhance what we’ve already declared imaginarily as fact.   Truth is, some people are just lurking, waiting to smell the blood in the water, which is an ironic and fitting conclusion to Shark Week.

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7.23.2017:

Top 3YO Pacers to Clash in Adios Final

Odds-on favorites Huntsville and Fear the Dragon overcame troubled trips to win in their elimination heats of the Delvin Miller Adios Pace for the Orchids and set the stage for a showdown between the respective Meadowlands Pace and North America Cup winners in this Saturday's $400,000 Adios final at the The Meadows. Huntsville (Tim Tetrick) was parked from post 7 through a sizzling :53 half before he won in 1:49.3. Fear the Dragon (David Miller) awaited room in third before he prevailed by a neck in 1:50.3 on a sloppy track. The 3-year-olds pacers have already combined for more than $2 million in earnings. The Adios will be the featured of six Grand Circuit races on the Meadows card that begins at noon. BARTLETT DRIVES 7,000 WINNER Jason Bartlett, the top money-earning driver in North America this year, snapped out of a recent 3-for-35 slump with his 7,000th career victory behind I C Caviar in an $11,000 trot race Sunday at Yonkers Raceway. "Longest three days of my life," said Bartlett, the track's perennial leading driver, "I’m so happy it’s over, and the kids are, too. They were asking me, ‘Daddy, do we have to go to the track again?’" Bartlett, 36, ranks third in North America this year with 332 wins, good for $6.65 million in purses. 'LEGEND' UPHOLDS STATUS IN GERRITY STAKES Bit Of A Legend N (Jordan Stratton) rallied 3-wide on the final turn en route to a 15-1 upset in the $260,000 Joe Gerrity Jr. Memorial Pace at Saratoga Casino Hotel last Saturday, upstaging a runner-up finish behind Wiggle It Jiggleit in last year's race.   Bit Of A Legend, patiently handled off a fast pace, moved from fifth at the head of the stretch to a 2-length victory in 1:503. He triggered a $1,037 exacta payout with late-running Mach It So (34-1) finishing second.

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7.23.2017:

July 23 - Hawthorne Analysis

Hawthorne closes out the weekend with a .50 Late Pick 4 which has a $20,000 guaranteed pool and begins in Race 8. Every night seems to be good night for leading drive Casey Leonard, but on Saturday he had an exceptional performance. Leonard visited the winner's circle in six of the 11 races. Trainer Tom Simmons captured two races, which was best among his peers. Sometimes it is best to look deeper into the highlighted horses, beyond only playing a Pick 4 ticket. On Thursday night, my posted Pick 4 ticket at Hawthorne was good in only three of four legs. But contained in the selections were some nice exactas and trifectas. In Race 7, the highlighted horses were 1-3-5-10 and the .20 trifecta (5-3-10) paid $111.36. The (5-3) exacta paid $203.80 on a $2 bet. In Race 8, the selected horses were 1-8-5 and the $2 exacta (1-8) paid $70.40 while the .20 trifecta hit for $12.88 on a .20 bet. In the final leg only two horse were highlighted, and the (9-7) exacta paid $28.60. It was a very nice payout considering the #9 went off at 3/5. Tonight, my focus will be on the Late Pick 4, comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Race 8 2-Libby's Idea-Has been racing well and now gets post relief. Leonard's choice over two others is a major player. 3-Hope Hotspur-Drops out of stakes company and tries lasix for the 2nd time, might be overlooked at the windows. 7-Roll To Glory-Raced evenly in last but if repeats the 7-9 performance, it could be good enough for a picture. Race 9 2-Rousey Randa-Beaten favorite made a break in last but can knock-off this field if minds manners. 5-Do You Dare-3/2 program favorite is looking for third straight and gets post relief. Major threat, will be a very short price. 10-C Far-Trip dependent 3-year old takes a meaningful drop and if race sets-up could surprise at a square price. Race 10 2-Windian-Will respect off a sharp effort from 8 hole in last. Best effort puts her in the hunt and is 11-1 in the ML. 3-Dune Dame-Leonard couldn't get into the mix in a slow pace in last from the 8 hole...Watch out tonight. 4-Fox Valley Charliz-Came out of same race as #3, slow pace also hurt her. Can improve and Oosting is back in the bike. Race 11 3-Lotta Richess-Doesn't win much but does pass horses in the lane. Should be a big price, and if pace is swift chances go up. 5-Citizen Kane-Oosting takes a seat for Willis and gets a good starting spot. Could be ready for a big try. .50 Late Pick 4 2,3,7,/2,5,10/2,3,4/3,5 Total bet=$27 You can follow me on Twitter @AlCimaglia 

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7.22.2017:

July 22 - Meadowlands Analysis

There will be a 12 race card at the Meadowlands tonight with a .50 Late Pick 4 sequence beginning in Race 7 that has a $50,000 guaranteed pool. Three-year old trotting fillies and colts will be showcased in Race 4 and Race 7 respectively in the Arthur Tompkins Memorial. Leading pilots last night at the Big M were Brett Miller and Yannick Gingras, each had three winners. Trainer Jimmy Takter had a big night with four visits to the winner's circle. Comments and selections below for the Late Pick 4 are based on a fast track. Race 7 4-Dover Dan-Makes a rare start on a one mile-oval but has faced tough customers. Looks like a major player. 5-Southwind Cobra-Gets a favorable post in third start of the year. Burke should have him dialed on high for a big try. Race 8 1-To Beach His Own-Finds the rail at a more comfortable level. Looking for a big effort and is 10-1 in the ML. 2-Odds On Delray-Makes 4th start of year for the Alagna barn and has had excuses. Could be set for an aggressive try. 3-Beyond Delight-Classy 3-year old makes 2nd start after arriving from Mohawk. Program chalk looks like the one to beat. Race 9 3-Checkmate Time-Taking a swing with a Muscle Hill 3-year old making 2nd start after a layoff. Could pop at a square price. 5-Fine Tuned Lady-Winner of 8 of 18 lifetime is sharp and program favorite appears to deserve the billing. 7-Broadway Idole-Mostly toils on a 5/8's oval but best to not overlook as Tetrick steers for Jim Campbell. 8-Princess Aurora-Had a sharp qualifier but hasn't raced since 6/18. Will respect the Takter-Gingras connection. Race 10 4-Mcace Of Arts-Last 2 were on an off track. Thinking a dry track will improve chances and worth a long look with a 10-1 ML. 7-Bettor Chill Out-In from PcD, hasn't raced since 7-4. But now on favorite track, may blast out and surprise at a nice price. 8-Beach Club-Burke-Gingras program chalk looks ready to battle older. Best effort can take this field with the right trip. .50 Late Pick 4 4,5/1,2,3/3,5,7,8/4,7,8 Total bet=$36 You can follow me on Twitter @AlCimaglia 

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7.22.2017:

July 22: Meadowlands Picks

There will be a 12 race card at the Meadowlands tonight with a .50 Late Pick 4 sequence beginning in Race 7 that has a $50,000 guaranteed pool. Three-year old trotting fillies and colts will be showcased in Race 4 and Race 7 respectively in the Arthur Tompkins Memorial. Leading pilots last night at the Big M were Brett Miller and Yannick Gingras, each had three winners. Trainer Jimmy Takter had a big night with four visits to the winner's circle. Comments and selections below for the Late Pick 4 are based on a fast track. Race 7 4-Dover Dan-Makes a rare start on a one mile-oval but has faced tough customers. Looks like a major player. 5-Southwind Cobra-Gets a favorable post in third start of the year. Burke should have him dialed on high for a big try. Race 8 1-To Beach His Own-Finds the rail at a more comfortable level. Looking for a big effort and is 10-1 in the ML. 2-Odds On Delray-Makes 4th start of year for the Alagna barn and has had excuses. Could be set for an aggressive try. 3-Beyond Delight-Classy 3-year old makes 2nd start after arriving from Mohawk. Program chalk looks like the one to beat. Race 9 3-Checkmate Time-Taking a swing with a Muscle Hill 3-year old making 2nd start after a layoff. Could pop at a square price. 5-Fine Tuned Lady-Winner of 8 of 18 lifetime is sharp and program favorite appears to deserve the billing. 7-Broadway Idole-Mostly toils on a 5/8's oval but best to not overlook as Tetrick steers for Jim Campbell. 8-Princess Aurora-Had a sharp qualifier but hasn't raced since 6/18. Will respect the Takter-Gingras connection. Race 10 4-Mcace Of Arts-Last 2 were on an off track. Thinking a dry track will improve chances and worth a long look with a 10-1 ML. 7-Bettor Chill Out-In from PcD, hasn't raced since 7-4. But now on favorite track, may blast out and surprise at a nice price. 8-Beach Club-Burke-Gingras program chalk looks ready to battle older. Best effort can take this field with the right trip. .50 Late Pick 4 4,5/1,2,3/3,5,7,8/4,7,8 Total bet=$36 You can follow me on Twitter @AlCimaglia.   

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7.22.2017:

Lone Star: My Stars of Texas Pick 4 Play

The Stars of Texas are out Saturday at Lone Star Park, and while these won’t be confused with anything going on at either of racing’s summertime spas earlier in the day, there’s plenty of quality in the final four races on the card and a chance to end the day with a decent payoff.The Texas-bred stakes races make up the Late Pick Four. Starting with the 7th, the stakes races include the $50,000 Valor Farm for 3-year-old & up sprinters, the $100,000 Texas Thoroughbred Futurity for the juvenile fillies, the $50,000 Assault for the top older two-turn horses and the $100,000 Texas Thoroughbred Futurity, colts and geldings division.Here’s a look at each of those races, following by a suggested Pick Four ticket.7th Race (Valor Farm Stakes): It might just take two on the ticket to start it off with #9 My Master Plan and #2 Zippit E.  My Master Plan comes off a stakes win in a race that was at a mile on a muddy track. She turns back to six furlongs but is plenty capable at the distance.  Zippet E. twice beat My Master Plan in sprint races earlier and will be a big player on the front end.8th Race (Futurity fillies): Here’s the single on the card as #8 Patrona Margarita will get the play after breaking her maiden vs. open foes at Churchill. That came on debut and she followed with an 8th in the Debutante, also at CD. She went from 5th to 1st in her 4.5-furlong career opener and the ability to pass horses will make her very difficult to hold off here. It’s always a gamble to single a 2-year-old in a lr9th Race (Assault): #1 Supermason was outstanding in his latest as he cruised with an open lead and reported home by nearly seven. That came in an option claiming race and he’s back to stakes company, and he’s performed well vs. such competition on occasion. #5 Texas Chrome is the even-money choice as he has been mostly in graded stakes races. He’s winless since the Oklahoma Derby last fall, but has been 2nd to the likes of Mor Spirit and Danzing Candy. He will be a stout competitor in this one, but Supermason’s front-end speed makes him playable on the ticket.10th Race (Futurity colts & geldings): Here’s the spread race, despite a 7-5 favorite in Galactica. However, there’s plenty of other promising talent and in addition to #7 Galactica, it’s worth fishing around. #9 Aceguitar was tremendous in his debut as he went off by nine. That came on a muddy strip and he has worked very well since. #11 Swift Shock also won his debut in the mud and #12 Almeria was 2nd in his debut at Los Alamitos and hasn’t been out since then. He’s likely to get into the mix vs. fellow state-breds.Suggested Pick Four ticket: 9-2 with 8 with 1-5 with 7-9-11-12 ($8 on a 50-cent ticket). Instead of spreading out in more than a race or two, it’s probably worth it to raise the ticket above the minimum price.

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7.21.2017:

5 Horses I’m Betting on Saratoga Opening Day

One of North America’s most popular and anticipated meets, Saratoga, kicks off this weekend in a big way, with five graded stakes races including the CCA Oaks (G1) and Diana (G1).  Friday’s Opening Day card, which starts at 1PM ET, includes the Lake George (G3) and Schuylerville (G3), as well as several other allowance races that could easily go as stakes events. Bet Saratoga with Xpressbet on Friday and you can win a Split of 1 Million XB Rewards Points!  To win your share, just hit Exacta bets ($2 minimum) on four different races.  Register now to get started in that promotion.  To help get your handicapping started, here are five horses I’m betting Friday at the Spa.  Race 2 - #6 Beaux Arts (4/1) What you see on paper from the field assembled for Friday’s second race won’t knock your socks off.  Of the nine maidens entered to race on the lawn, three started their careers with the dreaded ‘-0’ Beyer Speed Figure, meaning the effort wasn’t even on the scale.  And none of the first-time-starters come from barns that are traditionally ‘win early.’  So what does that leave us?  Not much.  But I am very intrigued by second-time-starter, Beaux Arts (Cash/Arroyo).  The daughter of Freud ran into a buzzsaw named Little Dipper (put her in your virtual stable) in her debut at Monmouth.  Little Dipper blazed 4 ½-furlongs in :51.76 that day, just .83s off the track record.  Beaux Arts held second that day and has the ability to come right back and win.  If nothing else, she’s the best horse on paper.  Race 4 - #8 Takaful (7/2) I jumped on this horse’s bandwagon following his debut last October at Belmont – a snappy 8-length score going 6 ½-furlongs at Belmont.  I bet him back in the Remsen (G2) at 4/5 odds to no avail, and doubled down on him in the Jerome (G3) at even-money.  No dice there, either.  I was off the bandwagon by the time he was 8th, beaten 27-lengths, in the Xpressbet.com Fountain of Youth, but everyone else was too.  He was 14/1 that day.  He’s been off since.  So why am I jumping back on now?  Distance.  Despite being a son of Bernardini, out of a Distorted Humor mare, this horse simply had no interest routing.  Now he cuts back to a sprint and draws an outside post.  Both are winning angles for me.  On top of that, Jose Ortiz is back aboard.  That’s a big deal because he’d ridden the ML fave, Patternrecognition (Brown/Castellano), in that one’s two prior starts.  If Takaful is as talented as his debut indicated, and I think he is, he should show up with a much improved performance on Friday.  Race 7 - #6 Red Rifle (5/1) It’s generally not my preferred angle to bet horses who have gone winless for the last 700+ days, but that’s exactly what I’m doing Friday.  Red Rifle (Pletcher/Velazquez) returns to the scene of his best career races – a victory in the 2015 Bowling Green Handicap (G2) and a runner-up effort behind Flintshire in the 2015 Sword Dancer (G1) – and finds a field void of standouts.  Now a seven-year-old, Red Rifle has been unlucky twice this year, encountering traffic problems twice in three starts.  Rewatching those races, he probably should have won at Gulfstream and could have won at Belmont.  If you’re looking at his PPs, get a little creative and put a line through his wet turf tries – all of a sudden, his form looks a lot more desirable.  If nothing else, he’s a more attractive bet than Highland Sky (Tagg/Castellano), who has failed in consecutive races at 3/5 odds.  Race 8 - #9 Stainless (5/1) With nine horses shipping in from six different tracks, just about anything is possible in this year’s Schuylerville (G2).  And with solid juvenile barns – Pletcher, Asmussen, Salzman, Casse and Clement – represented, this should be a good one.  One thing I look for when betting races with recent maiden winners is whether the horses they’ve beat have come back to do anything.  In your PPs, horses who won ‘next out’ are denoted in italics in the running lines.  That’s the case with Go Astray, who was beaten 4-lengths by Stainless (Pletcher/Velazquez) in a maiden race on May 29 at Gulfstream.  Since then, Go Astray has broken his maiden and was subsequently beaten just 1-length in a stakes race.  As for Stainless herself, I like that Pletcher shipped this horse right up to Saratoga following her debut and think the outside draw is awfully advantageous.  They can track the speed from several lengths back and launch their move on the outside, without fear of running into traffic.  Pletcher and Velazquez have teamed to win the Schuylerville five times, and Stainless has what it takes to make it six.  Race 9 - #7 Party Boat (6/1) This year’s Lake George (G3) attracted a very evenly-matched field of 10 (the other entrant will only run if the race comes off the lawn).  And in races where the talent is so similar, it’s important to look for little clues to help find the winner.  For example, Chubby Star (DePaz/Santana) is a huge overlay at 15/1 for me.  It’s tough to knock a horse who broke from the far outside post (#12) in two straight starts.  It’s impossible to win from out there.  Or, take a look at Fifty Five (Brown/Ortiz), who was beaten just 2-lengths by New Money Honey (who went on to win the Belmont Oaks) on June 8 and beat La Coronel (who raced at Royal Ascot) in March.  But if you like Fifty Five, I think you have to also like Party Boat (Motion/Rosario), who is twice the price.  Party Boat beat Fifty Five in the Memories of Silver Stakes at Aqueduct and while she was second in the Penn Oaks, keep in mind that her rider that day, Feargal Lynch, claimed foul against the winner for interference.  It was disallowed, but you should watch the replay and be the judge. And then ask yourself if you’d feel differently had Party Boat won that race.  Good luck with your wagers!  Be sure to Tweet your best bets of the day to @Xpressbet. 

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7.21.2017:

July 21: Mohawk Harness Picks

Tonight, at Mohawk two and three year old fillies are battling in Ontario Sire Stakes Grass Roots action. The headliner comes in Race 10, a condition event for fillies and mares which carries a $25,000 purse. At Mohawk on Thursday night there were 11 different drivers and trainers who captured races. Of the 11 winners, seven paid $6.10 or less. Last night at Hawthorne my Late Pick 4 ticket came apart in the third leg when the #6 Buster Moon rolled home. Tonight, I will look to be one better than three out of four in the Late Pick 4 at Mohawk which begins in Race 8. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Race 8 4-Hot Spot Hanover-Raced well in last when stepping up to this level. Worth a swing at 8-1 ML. 5-Ms Mac N Cheese-Has been racing well and coming very close. Could finally be ready to pose for a picture. 8-Dazzling Rockette-If Hensley can work a trip and gain striking position could sweep by at a square price. 9-Bernadette-Start is key, but has good gate speed to get a nice seat. If trip is kind can capture 7th win of the year. Race 9 2-Youvegotawaywithme-3-year-old has won 3 of 5 this season and she shouldn't be overlooked. 4-Diamondtoothgertie-Longshot has some talent and Filion takes the reins from the trainer, value play to consider. 8-Stellenbosch-Leading money winner by far in this field is probably the one to beat despite the 8 hole. Race 10 3-LA Delight-Classy 4-year-old makes season debut. Can win off the bench if tight enough. 5-Sandbetweenurtoes-Has been battling tough company and coming close, now is a major player. Race 11 1-Voulez Hanover-Last race winner went in 1:53.1 at GeoD, may be better suited to compete tonight and is 15-1 in the ML. 2-Shadow World-Comes off an easy win at GeoD, but this group looks tougher. Not sure will fulfill the 9/5 role as favorite. 4-Neon Moon-Well-bred daughter of Sportswriter came the last half in 57.1 in qualifier. Best to not overlook tonight. 7-Askmysecretary-Drew off by 4 1/2 at GeoD and went the last half in 56.4. Mach Three filly looks sharp. .20 Pick 4 4,5,8,9/2,4,8/3,5/1,2,4,7 Total bet=$19.20 You can follow me on Twitter @AlCimaglia.

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7.20.2017:

Arrogate Eyes Eight Straight

The wait is almost over.To the delight of a great many racing enthusiasts, Arrogate gets back to business this Saturday at Del Mar in the Grade II San Diego Handicap, a 1 1/16-mile affair that has drawn a field of six. This will be Arrogate’s first start since a sensational last-to-first victory in the Group I, $10 million Dubai World Cup on March 25.Arrogate has won seven in a row since he finished third when making his career debut in a six-furlong maiden sprint at Los Alamitos on April 17, 2016. The Kentucky-bred Unbridled’s Song colt was voted a 2016 Eclipse Award as champion 3-year-old male.What is the distance of the San Diego? It is 1 1/16 miles. That does not bode well for Arrogate’s opponents. Arrogate has never lost when competing in a race at 1 1/16 miles or longer.Of course anything can happen. Even mighty Man o’ War got beat once. As great as Secretariat was, he lost five races. But if Arrogate does not extend his winning streak to eight this Saturday, it will have to rank as one of the most shocking results in Del Mar history. I’d say it probably would be the biggest upset at the seaside establishment since Dare and Go ambushed 1-10 Cigar in the 1996 Pacific Classic to snap Cigar’s 16-race winning streak.After Arrogate’s sparkling seven-furlong drill in 1:25.60 at Santa Anita Park on July 8, he covered six furlongs in an excellent 1:11 flat at the Great Race Place last Saturday in his final workout before the San Diego. Arrogate worked in company with Cat Burglar, who was timed in 1:11.80. Cat Burglar, who also is entered in the San Diego, finished second in the Grade III Precisionist Stakes at Santa Anita on June 24. If you are interested in seeing Arrogate’s July 15 workout, here is a link to it on the XBTV website: http://www.xbtv.com/video/workout/arrogate-outside-worked-6-furlongs-in-111-00-at-santa-anita-park-on-july-15th-2017/Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, who won the Triple Crown in 2015 with American Pharoah, thinks the world of Arrogate. Baffert has called Arrogate an “unbelievable super horse.”Arrogate is unanimously ranked No. 1 nationally in the NTRA Top Thoroughbred Poll. Here is this week’s poll (first-place votes in parenthesis):1. Arrogate (38)2. Gun Runner3. Songbird4. Mor Spirit5. Stellar Wind6. Mind Your Biscuits7. Shaman Ghost8. Lady Eli9. Lady Aurelia10. Keen IceNot surprisingly, Arrogate also is a heavy even-money favorite to win this year’s Grade I Breeders’ Cup Classic at Del Mar on Nov. 4 in the future book at the Wynn Race Book in Las Vegas. Here are those odds as of July 14:1-1 Arrogate7-1 Gun Runner8-1 Shaman Ghost15-1 Songbird18-1 Cloud Computing20-1 Classic Empire20-1 Collected20-1 Keen Ice25-1 Hoppertunity25-1 Mor Spirit30-1 McCraken35-1 Tapwrit40-1 Cupid40-1 Mubtaahij45-1 Irish War Cry45-1 Melatonin45-1 Tu Brutus50-1 Girvin50-1 Midnight Storm50-1 Neolithic50-1 Practical Joke50-1 Senior Investment60-1 Accelerate60-1 Always Dreaming60-1 Churchill60-1 Highland Reel60-1 Malagacy60-1 Thunder Snow65-1 Donworth75-1 American Freedom75-1 Battle of Midway75-1 Epicharus75-1 Irap75-1 Lookin At Lee75-1 Madefromlucky75-1 Timeline75-1 War Decree75-1 War Story75-1 West Coast85-1 Gormley85-1 Gunnevera85-1 Imperative85-1 Lancaster Bomber100-1 Battalion Runner100-1 Long River100-1 Patch100-1 Special Fighter100-1 Uncontested150-1 Guest Suite150-1 Mo TownANOTHER GRADE I VICTORY FOR SONGBIRDSongbird, currently ranked No. 3 nationally in the NTRA Top Thoroughbred Poll, won last Saturday’s Grade I Delaware Handicap as an overwhelming 1-20 favorite. But it wasn’t easy.Encumbered with top weight of 124 pounds in the 1 1/4-mile event, Songbird was asked to spot her four rivals from eight to 13 pounds. The longer a race, the more conceding so much weight can be a hindrance.Mike Smith again had the riding assignment. The Hall of Famer has been aboard Songbird in all 14 of her career starts.Songbird set a moderate early pace while leading by 2 1/2 lengths through preliminary fractions of :24.26 and :48.36. Stalking her was the second choice in the wagering, Martini Glass, who was 21-1. No, that is not a typo as a result of having too many martinis. Other than Songbird, nobody in the race was a shorter price than 21-1.Turning for home, Martini Glass moved up readily to get within about a neck of Songbird, who had been rating nicely for Smith. Songbird pretty easily shrugged off that initial challenge to increase her lead to one length with a furlong to go. But Songbird never could put away Martini Glass during the stretch run. Under left-handed encouragement from Smith in the final furlong, Songbird won by one length in 2:03.96. Martini Glass finished second. Line of Best Fit ended up third, two lengths behind Martini Glass.Trained by Hall of Famer Jerry Hollendorfer, Songbird has been defeated only once in 14 lifetime starts, a nose loss to multiple Eclipse Award winner Beholder in last year’s BC Distaff at Santa Anita. (Songbird now is a multiple Eclipse Award winner herself, having been voted champion 2-year-old filly of 2015 and champion 3-year-old filly of 2016.)When Songbird registered her ninth Grade I win last Saturday, she did have to pack eight pounds more than Martini Glass and 11 more than Line of Best Fit. But it also should be pointed out that neither Martini Glass nor Line of Best Fit has ever won a graded stakes race. In fact, it’s worse than that. Neither Martini Glass nor Line of Best has ever won a single stakes race. In other words, Songbird was not running against anyone close to as good as, say, Stellar Wind or Forever Unbridled.Yes, Songbird did beat both Stellar Wind and Forever Unbridled in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff last year. But keep in mind Stellar Wind had a horrible start that day, while Forever Unbridled finished only 1 1/4 lengths behind Songbird.What some can’t help wondering after Songbird’s first two races this year is whether the Songbird of 2017 is as good as the Songbird of 2016. In her 2017 debut, she did not dazzle when she won Belmont Park’s Grade I Ogden Phipps Stakes by one length at 1 1/16 miles on June 10. But in her defense it was her first race since Nov. 4.And then Songbird had a pretty darn tough time winning the Del Cap by the same margin. But again, in her defense, she was spotting a pretty good chunk of weight to her opponents while going 1 1/4 miles on a track she had never raced on before.With a final time of almost 2:04, I certainly did not expect Songbird’s Beyer Speed Figure for her victory last Saturday to be very good. It wasn’t. The 4-year-old Kentucky-bred daughter of Medaglia d’Oro was assigned a 93 Beyer, down from her 97 in the Phipps.Songbird was good enough last year to register three triple-digit Beyer Speed Figures. She was assigned a 105 when she finished second in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff, a 101 when she won the Cotillion at Parx and also a 101 when she won the Coaching Club American Oaks at Saratoga.Will Songbird get back to the triple-digit Beyer level this year? Maybe. Maybe not. I do know it is not a good idea to ever underestimate a filly who has won 13 of 14 career starts, with her lone blemish a defeat as a 3-year-old by about an inch to an older Beholder.By the way, it sure was wonderful to see Songbird’s 77-year-old owner, Rick Porter (Fox Hill Farms), who has been battling lymphoma, lead his filly into the winner’s circle after the Del Cap. Just two days before the race, Porter had been released from Massachusetts General Hospital after undergoing a clinical trial for his disease.Porter, a Delaware native, has fond memories of going to the races at Delaware Park as a youngster with his parents. The Del Cap is a race Porter has long wanted to win, but he had been zero for two in it until last Saturday. Porter finished fourth with Jostle in the 2001 Del Cap and second with Havre de Grace in the 2011 renewal. Havre de Grace lost by a nose to Blind Luck at the end of a fierce stretch battle.Havre de Grace was voted 2011 Eclipse Awards as Horse of the Year and champion older mare. Blind Luck was voted a 2010 Eclipse Award as champion 3-year-old filly.Larry Jones trained Havre de Grace. Hollendorfer conditioned Blind Luck.Six years after Hollendorfer beat Porter in the 2011 Del Cap, it was none other than Hollendorfer who managed to get a Del Cap victory for Porter with Songbird to fulfill a longtime wish by the owner.EARLY BREEDERS’ CUP DISTAFF ODDSThe Wynn Race Book in Las Vegas has posted its early odds for the BC Distaff at Del Mar on Nov. 3. Songbird is the favorite. Personally, I like Stellar Wind at 4-1. Here are the Wynn’s BC Distaff odds as of July 14:7-5 Songbird4-1 Stellar Wind5-1 Unique Bella8-1 Abel Tasman8-1 Forever Unbridled8-1 Paradise Woods12-1 Vale Dori20-1 Holy Helena22-1 Salty25-1 Unchained Melody30-1 It Tiz Well40-1 Lockdown45-1 Actress60-1 Sweet Loretta75-1 Elate85-1 Moana85-1 My Miss Tapit100-1 Danzatrice100-1 Ever So Clever100-1 Kiriaki100-1 Shane’s Girlfriend100-1 VexatiousMY EARLY HASKELL ODDSI expect Timeline and Irish War Cry to vie for favoritism in Monmouth Park’s Grade I Haskell Invitational at 1 1/8 miles on July 30.Timeline, trained by Chad Brown, is undefeated in four career starts. He won this year’s Grade III Peter Pan Stakes by 3 1/2 lengths on a sloppy track at Belmont Park on May 13 and Grade III Pegasus Stakes by the same margin at Monmouth Park on June 18.Irish War Cry, conditioned by Graham Motion, won this year’s Grade II Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 4 and Grade II Wood Memorial at Aqueduct on April 8. He finished 10th in the Kentucky Derby on May 6 and second in the Belmont Stakes on June 10.These are my early Haskell odds:5-2 Timeline3-1 Irish War Cry7-2 McCraken4-1 Practical Joke8-1 Battle of Midway10-1 Girvin10-1 Hence20-1 Impressive EdgeALL-TIME HASKELL FIELD & MY ODDSMonmouth has announced that to celebrate this year’s 50th running of the Haskell, the track has an All-Time Haskell Great Simulated Race that matches what has been deemed to be the 12 greatest Haskell winners.In post position order, this is the field for the All-Time Haskell Great Simulated Race, along with my odds:1. Skip Away (5-1)2. Holy Bull (4-1)3. Big Brown (15-1)4. Forty Niner (12-1)5. Serena’s Song (30-1)6. Point Given (6-1)7. Bet Twice (12-1)8. Wajima (8-1)9. American Pharoah (5-2)10. War Emblem (20-1)11. Rachel Alexandra (10-1)12. Majestic Light (30-1)

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7.20.2017:

July 20: Hawthorne Harness Picks

Hawthorne will begin their Thursday-Sunday stretch of harness action with a 10-race card. There will be a .50 Pick 5 starting in Race 1 and a .50 Pick 4 will roll in Race 3. The Late .50 Pick 4 sequence with a $10,000 guarantee will be my focus, and it kicks-off in Race 7. The meets leading driver is Casey Leonard who has lofty win percentage of 24.2%. Leonard is credited with 94 wins, which is 26 more than Mike Oosting (68 wins). The leading trainer through 7/19 is Mike Brink who has won 22 races, or 18.49% of his 119 starts. Nelson Willis is second in the trainer's standings winning 19 times in 168 starts. Through 40 race dates the #6 post has accounted for the most wins. Although having seven fewer races than the #1-#5 post positions the #6 starting spot has 64 wins in 427 starts. Next most is the #1 post with 56 wins, followed by the #2 post with 53 wins. Favorites have won 190 of 434 races, which is a 43.78 winning percentage. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Race 7 1-Fox Valley Eli-Last two were better and will consider chances from rail with 2 chalks starting outside. 3-Heaven For Sure-Husted's choice can close well but needs a good steer to gain striking position. 5-Gio Sage-Moves up after a nice win. Appears back in good form after a sick scratch on 6-22, will use at 12- ML. 10-JD Jay Dee-Comes back after a tour at the fairs. Post doesn't help but is sharp and Leonard is back aboard. Race 8 1-Pondas Cutelildude-Speed seems to be there but needs to mind manners. If stays on stride, should be in the hunt. 5-Bermuda Beach Boy-9/5 chalk has burned a lot of money in last 2. Tough to leave out but won't dismiss others. 8-Et Tu Brute-Got on the engine and rolled to the 3/4's in 1:26 and faded. Usually tries, now looking for a different strategy. Race 9 3-Skyway Fireball-Gets post relief and Lackey should be able to work a trip, consider at a square price. 4-Tiny Jim-Still looking for 1st win of '17 but gets class relief and is Leonard's choice. 7-Trail Blazer-Dropped to this level and took a picture, consider for a repeat performance. Race 10 7-Allaboutme Hanover-Has enough speed to hang around and upset the #9 if everything falls into place. 9-Bettor's Promise-Program chalk drops to a more comfortable level. Looks like a major player even from this post. .50 Pick 4 1,3,5,10/1,5,8/3,4,7/7,9 Total bet=$36 You can follow me on Twitter @AlCimaglia.  

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7.20.2017:

Attacking the Spa

Saratoga may be here, but the rules have changed drastically over the years. The one time 24-day sprint has turned into a 40-day marathon. Saratoga isn’t your dad’s little Upstate New York boutique meet anymore. In fact, it’s actually now longer than Belmont Park’s Fall Championship Meet, if you’d believe that. And, while it’s undoubtedly as good as ever, the sheer length of the proceedings toss in yet another potential roadblock for handicapper’s looking to manage a bankroll that figures to be tested to the limit. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some broad guidelines that will help you and your bottom line out in the long run.Expand Your BankrollFirst and foremost, we’re talking about Saratoga, which offers the best racing in the country, with the biggest pools and biggest guaranteed wagers. It also represents almost a daily opportunity to make a lifetime score. Is it extremely difficult? Hell yes. But that shouldn’t take away from the fact that with difficulty comes the potential for great reward. And that’s why you should take the rubber band off the bankroll and toss in a few extra C notes. You’re going to go through prolonged losing streaks, it’s the nature of the beast when you play a track like the Spa, but if you have the ammo to withstand the lulls, you’ll be able to bounce back and still be alive and kicking when the opportunity for a momentum changing hit takes place.Patience is a VirtueAs I mentioned, with the meet now 40 days, it really does put a premium on easing into the proceedings and trying to stretch your bankroll out. And just because, as we talked about above, you’ve now expanded your bankroll, it doesn’t mean you can haphazardly fire with reckless abandon. Whatever the magic number is you have in mind, I would think you also have a limit and a bottom to your well. So, obviously, when you go broke, you don’t get to play anymore. Point being, don’t charge the gates of Union Avenue Friday morning like a chicken with his head cut off and start firing from the hip with little to no abandon. The good thing about Saratoga is that they run about 10 races a day for 40 days; that’s 400 races, or 400 different spots to make a score. Take your time, pick out the spots that work best for you and go after when they do present themselves.Don’t waste money betting on races you either don’t like or races that don’t fit your handicapping strengths. If you’re a horizontal player, don’t be making exacta boxes to pass the time in between the Pk4 sequences. Conversely, if you’re a WPS bettor, or exacta player, there’s no need to be constructing late Pk4 tickets just because the guaranteed pool is a big one. The biggest mistake at the track comes from the inexperienced player who isn’t sure what his strengths and weaknesses are, and spends too much time betting on the latter and not enough time betting on the former.Do Your HomeworkIf you’re taking the time to read this, I’m assuming you’re not the guy (or gal) that buys the Form when you get to the track and then figures out who you’re betting that day. That’s not going to work. Not in the least. You better come prepared and know just what you’re trying to accomplish, and how you’re going to go about it. And that doesn’t happen when you crack the Form for the first time, especially after you crack your first beer. Have a gameplan going in, whether you’re on-site or playing from home, and that will allow you to be more comfortable making adjustments as the day goes by. Scratches, weather, track biases and several other things can alter your handicapping, so you need to be able to have a good overall feel of what you’re betting at the start, so you can ebb and flow once the day begins.For me, watching race replays is where I get the majority of the horses who I’ll be concentrating on, and when there are six racing days in a meet, it’s very important to be caught up and/or not get too far behind because things can snowball. Regardless of how you make hay at the track, you better be prepared well in advance, as things can snowball very quickly once the first race has been run.It’s also a great idea to have all your tickets mapped out, with all the numbers on paper, so you know where you stand going in, and where you need to deviate when a scratch occurs, etc. If you look up at the board and there’s 7 minutes to post and you haven’t figured out the late Pk4, it’s not likely you’re going to in the next 420 seconds. And if you do, well, it’s not going to be as well thought out as it would be if you’d have mapped out a plan of attack the night before or the morning of.Most of the above is hardly anything you haven’t heard before, and I’m certainly not splitting the atom by telling you any of it. But sometimes it’s the easiest, most mundane things that you can forget about, especially when the adrenaline starts flowing and the money starts being thrown around. By having a good plan of attack, you’re going to be better off in the lone run, which will have a direct impact on leaving you with a positive bankroll come 7pm on Labor Day.

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7.19.2017:

Del Mar Doubles as Breeders' Cup Launching Pad

With the Breeders’ Cup at Del Mar this fall, the start of the summer meet where the turf meets the surf kicks off this week with added intrigue. Not only do we get the west coast’s most anticipated social racing season, but also the chance to see a handful of additional stakes horses of the highest order. Getting a race over the track used to be an old school training tactic, but hasn’t been as essential in modern training. But the Breeders’ Cup on the calendar this year makes for an awfully good excuse for an owner to sample the sights, sounds and styles that are Del Mar. If you own a top-class Thoroughbred in nearly any division, a summer Del Mar tune-up would seem to be more than justified in 2017. We saw a massive influx in stakes talent at Keeneland two Fall Meets ago when that venue first hosted the Breeders’ Cup. Don’t be surprised if Del Mar sees a similar spike, although travel to the west coast will make for a bigger geographical hurdle than Keeneland. The juvenile and turf stakes races at Del Mar may be the place where we see the most Breeders’ Cup lead-up influence. The babies have the most to learn by getting a race over a surface and getting acclimated to surroundings. Rather than build habits elsewhere, it makes sense for the fresh faces to be introduced to the process and get some affinity for Del Mar. The 2-year-old dirt fillies’ stakes lineup includes the G2 Sorrento Aug. 5 and the G1 Del Mar Debutante on Sept. 2. The 2-year-old dirt colts/geldings will be featured in the G2 Best Pal Aug. 12 and G1 Del Mar Futurity on Labor Day Sept. 4. The Del Mar Juvenile Turf on Sept. 3 and Juvenile Fillies Turf on Sept. 4 also figure to be key races for the grass division of 2-year-olds. Among the Del Mar turf stakes, the Win & You’re In G2 Del Mar Handicap on Aug. 19 may lure a distinctly better field than it typically does, as could the next-day Del Mar Mile in the BC Turf and Mile divisions, respectively. Also the G2 Yellow Ribbon in the F&M Turf ranks could return to its once-lofty standards on Aug. 5, as could the G2 John C. Mabee on Sept. 2. Both of these races once boasted G1 distaffers on the green. And speaking of green, the Aug. 18 Green Flash for turf sprinters may be the saltiest group we see for $75,000 anywhere in the country this year if BC Turf Sprint hopefuls are sent westward for a spin over the course. And, of course, there’s Arrogate tuning up at Del Mar for the Classic and the usual bevvy of west coast Sprint and Filly & Mare Sprint heavyweights to consider. With trainers opting for more time between starts in the modern era, we’ve seen the Del Mar summer meet to Breeders’ Cup layoff become more common. It all adds up to what should be a memorable 2017 at Del Mar, and it gets underway in earnest Wednesday.

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7.18.2017:

Huntsville by a Head in Meadowlands Pace

Huntsville, last year's 2-year-old champion, continues to be the hunted. He won his first major stakes this season Saturday night, prevailing by a head over main rival Downbytheseaside in the $738,550 Meadowlands Pace. He needed every bit of a lifetime best 1:47.4 clocking to win for the 12th time in 18 starts and keep his perfect string of 1-2 finishes intact. Huntsville has four wins and Downbytheseaside three in eight head-to-head meetings.The fans made Huntsville the 1-to-5 favorite and watched as he brushed past Blood Line before the half-mile marker on the backstretch to take command. He reached the 3/4-mile pole in a demanding 1:20.3 and braced for a challenge of Downbytheseaside (Brian Sears), who gained steadily while first-over and surged late into photo-finish view."My horse was tired late," driver Tim Tetrick said of his fifth Meadowlands Pace victory. "He kept pushing all the way to the wire."Tetrick had an easier time of it in the 159,000 Stanley Dancer Memorial for 3-year-old trotters. He guided 1-to-9 favorite Walner to a 3-1/4-length victory in a stakes-record 1:50.2, setting him up perfectly for the $1 million Hambletonian August 5. He also piloted 3-to-5 favorite Long Tom to victory in the second division. Tetrick won four stakes races on the card, including Nike Franco N ($6.80) in the $201,000 Golden Girls.Hall of Famer David Miller guided Mach It So ($34.60) to the night's biggest upset in the $427,400 William Haughton Memorial, completing a stakes double that began with favorite Agent Q in the $165,700 Mistletoe Shalee.Marion Marauder (Scott Zeron), who won the Trotting Triple Crown in 2016, won the 1-1/8-mile Hambletonian Maturity in 2:05.2.Ariana G (Yannick Gingras, $2.20) and Overdraft (Andy Miller, $16.20) trotted to victory in divisions of the $125,250 Delvin Miller Memorial.

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7.16.2017:

July 16: Hawthorne Harness Picks

Hawthorne will conclude an exciting weekend with the Violet Final as the headline event. In Race 5, a field of nine 3-year-old filly trotters will battle for a share of a $20,000 purse. The Late .50 Pick 4 rolls in Race 8 and will have a $20,000 guaranteed pool. Last night the mandatory payout on the Jackpot Hi-5 created a huge pool of $1,413,238. The lucky winners who selected the correct combination of 7-1-2-8-4 were rewarded with a $64,380.68 payout. My shortfall came in looking past the #8 and not leaning more heavily on the #1. Both horses went off at 30-1 and they boosted the mutuel. The hottest hands belonged to drivers Tim Curtin and Casey Leonard, both steered home three winners. James Horvath Jr. sat on top of the trainer's list with victories in the final two races on the card. Tonight could be different, but horses were coming from behind and winning on Saturday evening. My focus will be on the Late Pick 4 and I'm leaving the 3/2 favorite in Race 9, KTL'S Lucky Strike off my ticket. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Race 8 2-Celebrity Hercules-3rd start after a layoff for this 11-year-old and should be sitting on a big try for Team Leonard. 5-Macie Rae-Oostings steers and gets along well. A big threat to win if can mind manners. 7-Kickinitwithkohler-Drops to a good level for success. With the right trip can close in a hurry. Race 9 4-Clever Upstart-Has been camera shy but drops and gets a good post versus a field without any all-stars. 8-Willy Mouse-Hiteman sticks and he kept this 3-year-old on stride in last. Might be ready for an aggressive effort. 9-Fox Valley Shout-Can close but will need a good steer and then use one big move down the lane to win at a square price. Race 10 5-Phenomenal-Has the speed and can close but needs to get off the gate in better shape. Can surprise if in striking position. 6-Faithful Desire-Knocked out in last with broken equipment. Has the gate speed to get to the top and control race. 7-Fox Valley Charliz-Has been facing better and Oosting should keep this filly in the hunt until the wire. 9-Dune Dame-Racing well and moves up after a sharp win. Outside post brings value and Leonard can work a nice trip. Race 11 3-Roll To Glory-Won last and stays at same level. Likes to roll late and passes foes in the stretch. Will respect repeat chances. 5-Delightfully Wild-Last was good and that came off missing a start. Could be sitting on a big try and get 1st Haw win. 10-Libby's Idea-Leonard's choice, finished 3rd after a rough trip at this level. Post is a challenge but best to not overlook. .50 Late Pick 4 2,5,7,/4,8,9/5,6,7,9/3,5,10 Total bet=$54 Please follow me on Twitter, @AlCimaglia! 

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7.15.2017:

July 15: Meadowlands & Hawthorne Picks; Get 20X Points

There will be an All-Star cast competing in big money stakes races at the Meadowlands tonight. The Late .50 Pick 4 sequence (races 9-12) includes the Meadowlands Pace, the Haughton Memorial, the Golden Girls Free for All and the Stanley Dancer Memorial. The Late Pick 4 will have a guaranteed pool of $75,000. At Hawthorne, the Jackpot Hi-5 is carded as Race 10 and will have a guaranteed pool of $500,000, which includes a $224,190 carryover. To add to the intrigue of the Hi-5 with a mandatory payout, there will be a larger field of 12 pacers battling for a share of a $8,900 purse. It will be interesting to see how much above the $500,000 guarantee the pool will grow. Xpressbet account holders will receive 20x points on the entire Meadowlands card and 20x points for Jackpot Hi-5 wagers at Hawthorne. Race comments and selections at the Big M and Hawthorne are based on a fast track. Meadowlands .50 Late Pick 4 Race 9-Meadowlands Pace-$738,550 4-Huntsville-Fear The Dragon is not in this race and there isn't a logical reason to look towards anyone else. The rest of the field needs to hope for an off-night, otherwise Tim Tetrick just needs to provide a decent steer. Race 10-Haughton Memorial-$427,400 2-All Bets Off-Burke trainee is sharp, quick and can carry speed. Should be in striking position in last 1/8 of the mile. 5-Boston Red Sox-Still looking for 1st win of the year but has been racing well. Will respect chances with a prime post. 6-Rock N' Roll World-Switch to a mile track may make a big difference. Longshot with Sears is worth a long look. 12-Mel Mara-Post is no bargain but loves the track and Callahan has an extra 1/8 of a mile to work a good trip. Race 11-Golden Girls Free For All-$201,000 1-Pure Country-Made over $200k more than Lady Shadow in '16, but this season has been a challenge. Qualified in 1:48 with a 25.4 last 1/4 on 7-1. If tight enough has best shot of knocking off the champ. 10-Lady Shadow-Simply put, this mare is a monster. If on her game she will likely win despite the outside post, as added distance may not matter, may help her cause. Race 12-Stanley Dancer Memorial-$161,500 4-Long Tom-Relinquished the lead in Beal Final at Phl which isn't typical. But winner of 3-4 this year is back on favorite track. 5-What The Hill-Has been out since 6/2 but had 2 nice qualifiers. Will respect Burke-Miller combo and should be ready for a big try. 7-Fly On-2nd start on lasix and 2nd time hoppled for Team Miller. Muscle Hill colt should be ready and will consider at a juicy 15-1 ML. $1.00 Pick 4 4/2,5,6,12/1,10/4,5,7 Total bet=$24 Hawthorne Jackpot Hi-5-$500,000 Guaranteed Pool 2-Naty-Steps us a bit but considering more for a minor share. Sharp enough to stay in the hunt and finish in top 5. 3-Rocknroll Hoochcoo-Back down to a much better level and gets post relief. Best effort makes for a strong contender. 4-Back Stock-Found a way last week to win and thinking a strong effort tonight makes for a Hi-5 finish. 5-Cheekie-With this post and a good steer can find her way to the top of the ticket at a square price. 7-Powerful Pulse-Camera shy this year but at this level with Leonard is a Hi-5 must use. 10-Rocknrol's Image-Been off since 6-17 which is a concern. Oosting's choice should be in the hunt if ready. Also consider #1, #11 and #12 to use underneath for the Hi-5 if betting combinations rather than boxing. $0.20 Jackpot Hi-5 Box 2,3,4,5,7,10 Total bet=$120 You can follow me on Twitter @AlCimaglia. 

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7.15.2017:

How to Make Money Betting the Delaware Handicap

Any longtime bettor will be quick to point out that there’s no sure thing in horse racing.  Man O War lost.  Secretariat lost five times.  More recently, American Pharoah, Zenyatta, Rachel Alexandra and Ghostzapper failed to retire with unblemished records.  Hope of an upset forever springs eternal in this great sport.  After all, you don’t have to be the better horse – you just have to be better on that particular day.  That said, any outcome other than a Songbird victory in Saturday’s Grade 1 Delaware Handicap would be nearly universally regarded as nothing less than an enormous shock.  Songbird is 12-for-13 in his illustrious career, with 8 Grade 1 victories on her resume.  She’s won races at Santa Anita, Saratoga, Del Mar, Belmont and Parx, and her $4.1 million in earnings are $2.7 million more than the combined bankroll of Saturday’s five rivals.  And it took them 110 starts to get there.  Songbird will be piloted in the ‘Del Cap’ by Hall of Famer, Mike Smith, and sits at an unappealing 1/5 on the morning line.  Don’t be surprised if she slips to 1/9 by post time.  All of that makes the question facing horseplayers is a simple one – how can they make money betting such a heavy favorite?  Bets made in the Win, Place and Show pool are tough.  The maximum payout for a Songbird victory is probably $2.20 and she’s nearly a lock to pay $2.10 in the Place and Show pools, assuming Delaware Park chooses to offer Show wagering.  That means a $100 Win bet on Songbird will pay about $110, while a $100 Place bet is going to return $105.  Those are pretty paltry returns for a bet with inherent risk.  As Xpressbet’s Johnny D always says, ‘never bet a lot to win a little.’  So how can you make money on her?  Well the good news is there are more options on the wagering menu than ever before. Delaware offers rolling Doubles and Pick 3’s, as well as Pick 4’s, Trifectas and Superfectas.  Talk about choices!  Plus, you’ve got more information at your fingertips.  Thanks to Probables on the Oddsboard, you know (approximately) what your Double or Exacta is going to pay before you bet it.  Use that information to your benefit when mapping out your wagering approach.  Here are a few ways I think you can get paid while betting Songbird on Saturday: Exacta: Songbird over Martini Glass and Line of Best Fit For the sake of this article, let’s assume Songbird is close to being a ‘sure thing.’  So instead of betting her at 1/9 odds, why not couple her in an Exacta with the likeliest runner ups?  In my opinion those two horses are Line of Best Fit and Martini Glass.  Each is in strong form and both have won races at Delaware before.  I’m going to try to beat the morning line second-choice, Weep No More, who has done absolutely nothing since winning the Grade 1 Ashland last year at odds of 30/1.  Consider keying Songbird over Martini Glass, Line of Best Fit and Weep No More in the Trifecta.  A $5 base wager will cost $30 and should return better than that.  Daily Double: Frostmourne with Songbird In the race prior to the Del Cap, the Grade 3, $200,000 Kent Stakes, Frostmourne looks like a standout.  The Christophe Clement-trainee won the Grade 2 Penn Mile last out and is 3-for-5 in his career.  Joel Rosario is in from New York to ride him, and if he’s able to find clean sailing, he should hit the wire first.  Check out the Double Probables before betting and consider playing a smaller Double with Todd Pletcher’s Master Plan and Songbird to hedge. All-Stakes Pick 4 Delaware’s card features an All-Stakes Pick 4 with a 50-cent minimum.  The good news – your bet isn’t limited to just 50-cents.  Love Songbird and Frostmourne?  Hook them up with a few horses in the first legs and up the ante.  If you bet it at a $5 base and use three horses in the first leg, two in the second and one each in the third and fourth,  your total ticket cost is $30.  And even if the Pick 4 returns $10 for a 50-cent base, you’re getting 10x that.  My ticket would include Adirondack King, Ain’t Got Time and Discreet Lover in the first leg, Chief Lion and Eighty Three in the second and Frostmourne and Songbird in the third and fourth.  Use the same horses in the rolling Pick 3’s with a similar approach.  Bet Against the Bridge Jumpers Bridge Jumpers are bettors who make large Show bets on (generally) heavy favorites.  Like we said, a $100 Place or Show bet on Songbird will pay about $105.  Not much.  But remember, a $10,000 bet will return $11,000.  And a $50,000 bet will pay $55,000.  All of a sudden, that return doesn’t feel as paltry.  And some bettors will take that plunge and make those big bets.  But what happens when those big Show bets lose?  You get paid if you hedged against them.  When Shared Belief was pulled up as the heavy favorite in the 2015 Charles Town Classic, the Show payouts for the first three finishers were $23.20, $71.20 and $45.60.  Had you simply bet $2 to Show on every horse in the field, you’d have turned $18 into $140!  Take a look at the pools on Saturday.  If there’s a huge number bet on Songbird to Place or Show, consider making a bet against that money.  It’s low risk – worst-case scenario is you bet $10 and get back about $4.40.  So while Songbird looks like a ‘sure thing,’ hopefully we can find ways to make a nice return while betting her.  Play the Delaware Handicap Saturday at 5:30PM ET.  First post is 1:15.  Good luck!

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7.14.2017:

Temple Fur Choice in Gulfstream's Treasure Coast

If it’s instant gratification you seek, Temple Fur is probably not for you. This one takes some patience. While bettors will take a speed horse, put down their coin each and every time and hope for the horse to stay, many don’t have the patience for a deep closer the likes of Temple Fur. In earlier times, Temple Fur showed more speed, but more recently, she has dawdled with a capital D. If you’re watching on television, she may spend most of her time off the screen. The beauty of a horse coming from behind and sweeping past the field is a picture we like in horse racing. Unfortunately, a few things have to happen, like speed on the front end going at a moderate to fast pace. Then, carving out of a clear path so momentum isn’t stopped by traffic is paramount. And the best judgment from its pilot is certainly a must. It doesn’t take a race to completely fall apart, but it does take some fractions out front that are favorable to the likes of Temple Fur. Temple Fur gets another chance in Gulfstream’s Treasure Coast Handicap at a mile on turf. It goes as Gulfstream’s 10th, and 14 are scheduled to run it. Among those, Temple Fur, who last saw the cards fall in line on Feb. 20, when she gunned down a similar group in the Mary Todd. It’s been slim pickins since then, mainly due to competition. She was fourth behind Somersault in the G3 Orchid, was fifth vs. male rivals in a 1.5-mile handicap, and most recently was a closing 3rd in an optional claiming race. The turf was “good” that day and didn’t produce much in the form of fast times. Temple Fur followed fractions of :25 2-5 and :51 and wasn’t far off the action. Today gives her the opportunity to get picture taken for the first time in five months. With Luca Panini up, the Temple City filly will be charging. With morning line odds of 8-1 to start out, Temple Fur will be attractive on the board. The race is wide open, as Inside Out as the favorite carries early odds of 9-2. It’ll take some time for her to get involved, but I’m willing to wait for it today. Here’s how I’m playing the Treasure Coast: Win and Place: Temple Fur Exacta Key Box: Temple Fur with Inside Out, King’s Ghost, My Girl Corey 

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7.14.2017:

July 14: Hawthorne Harness Picks

Friday night's Hawthorne card will feature a .50 Late Pick 4 with a $15,000 guaranteed pool. The headline event will come in Race 9, as Illinois bred three-year-old filly pacers battle for a share of a $27,200 purse in the Violet Stakes. Saturday will be a big night for harness racing.  Hawthorne has guaranteed a $500,000 pool for the mandatory payout on the Jackpot Hi-5. Not to be forgotten is a star-studded card at the Meadowlands with the feature being the Crawford Farms Meadowlands Pace for three-year-old pacers.  Xpressbet is offering 20X Points at the Meadowlands and Hawthorne Saturday night.  Tonight, my focus will be on the .50 Late Pick 4. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Race 9 1-Lady's Party-Program chalk has been sharp and last win was impressive. Will be a short price and no missteps allowed. 5-A Real Doozie-No slouch, although hasn't sealed the deal with the #1 or #9 yet. Will respect chance for revenge. 9-Princess Sage-Can win from this post if pace is hot or if finds a good early seat. Post helps value and should be in the hunt. Race 10 1-Lyons Jimmy Dean-If this guy gets a clean journey he could score at a nice price. Will consider from the inside. 6-Dinky Dune-Sizzled the back half in 55.4 in last and could be sitting on a big try. 7-Skim The Top-Has been facing better and should like this company. Skipped a start and should be bet on drop. 9-Mobile Big John-10-year-old steps up after smoking a 54.1 back half. Leonard needs to work a trip and use one big brush. Race 11 2-KC Rambuctious Boy-Steps up after crushing $6,000 claimers, same effort can beat this group. 3-Four Starz Kyle-Was driven hard after a 3-week layoff. Has been facing $10,000 claimers and expecting better tonight. Race 12 3-Feelinlikearockstar-Starts without skipping a week, should be ready. Edge with a favorable post compared to top foes. 8-Sir Mammo-Gets a new pilot and will need a good steer but has a win at this level and is 10-1 in the ML. 9-Account Rollover-Program chalk wins and now steps up. There are question marks as hasn't raced since 6/23. 10-Caffeine Kid-55.1 back half and came 1 length short at this level. Trying hard and needs to be in good striking position. .50 Pick 4 1,5,9/1,6,7,9/2,3/3,8,9,10 Total bet=$48 You can follow me on Twitter @AlCimaglia.

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7.14.2017:

My Friday Belmont Pick 5 Ticket

It’s Closing Week at Belmont Park, which in turn means Saratoga is on the immediate horizon. Which also means you need a flush bankroll for not only the incredible day in and day out betting pools and top-class racing that is coming, but also for the nightlife and added consumption (of all sorts) that comes with it. So, with that in mind, let’s try and pad the bankroll by hitting the Friday Pk5. Race 1: 3upfm 16k N2L at 6 furlongs In a race filled with 1’fers, it’s always best to go with the lightly raced runners who still have a hint of upside. The problem is, most of these look the same on paper, and the favorite, #3 PARTING SHOT, just bombed at the level at Monmouth at 2-1, so why we’re supposed to take that price here is anyone’s guess. Yes, I’ll use her, but I’ll use several others too, especially since the pace looks hot and contested. While it’s hardly a key race in the making, #6 CAUSEWAY CUTIE, #1 PERSKY’S SPIRIT AND #2 VALIANT SPIRIT ran 2-3-4, respectively, at the level here 6/22, and all figure in this weak field, with ‘Persky’s getting top billing since she can close from off the pace. I’ll also use #4 OLD GATITA, who added blinkers that day, set the pace and was a much-improved 5th, as well as longshot closer #7 ONLY ONE WISH, who is improving on figures, makes her third start of the year and should be able to pass some in the lane. Pk5 horses (listed in order of preference): 1-3-7-2-6-4 Race 2: 3upfm MSW at 7 furlongs on the Widener turf While it may look like a spread race on paper, I’m going to use only two, in order to try and narrow things down and not go over budget. Let’s give top billing to #5 EQUALITYFORALL, who was a solid 5th in a DOB debut for Lina Rice, who is a potent 34% with maidens making their second start. Juddmonte homebred #7 BOULE is slowly going the right way for Bill Mott and enters off a close 5th to Inflexibility last time, and with blinkers going on in her third start, it could be go-time today. Obviously, you can use #1 Into Summer, off the big turf wakeup last time at Churchill Downs, and #9 Jaunt, who has some prior form to win this, but both will be underlays, and the former must prove it in NY, while the latter seems to be going the wrong way, is now 0-for-7, and drew wide too. The wildcards are #3 Boom Boom Boom, who is a daughter of More Than Ready and cost 310k, but debuts for a patient Jimmy Toner, and #8 Assertive, who tries turf after burning a ton of money in three dirt starts for Todd Pletcher, so this clearly wasn’t the plan. Pk5 horses: 5-7 Race 3: 3upfm 80k/N3X going 1 1/16 miles on the inner turf Ah, to be Chad Brown. It’s not too often you get to run a GIII winner in an allowance race, but that’s the case with #2 GRAND JETE, who won the Eatontown last time, drew perfectly here and looks far too good for these. If you want to nitpick, you could say “Shouldn’t she be running in Saratoga’s GI Diana in a few weeks?” but, this is a loaded turf barn and Brown may have another Juddmonte miss for that spot. If there’s an upsetter in the bunch, it’s probably either #4 Bar of Gold or #6 All in Fun, but the former was just an OK 4th in her turf debut three-back and the latter seems off form after running a distant 5th to the pick at Monmouth. I’ll take the (expected) free square. Pk5 horses: 2 Race 4: 3up NYB 25k claimer going 6 furlongs It’s tough to separate the main contenders, so I’m not going to try, and will use #7 MIGHTY ZEALOUS (should trip out perfectly), #1 SALTINE WARRIOR (the one to fear late), #3 MANIPULATED (the class and inside speed) and #8 LOVE THAT JAZZ (the outside speed who will get first run). I’m also going to toss in big longshot #6 PEGASUS RED, who wasn’t far behind ‘Zealous last time and should be closing. I’m being stubborn by not using #4 Global Positioning, but Bruce Brown is 3-for-42 at the meet and continues to send out horses who come up empty late. Pk5 horses: 7-1-3-8-6 Race 5: 3upfm NYB MCL 40k going 6 furlongs on the inner turf I’m not brave enough to single #1 RAGAZZA DI PAPA, even though she was a sharp 2nd off the 13-month layoff last time and should only improve off that return, but if you’re on a budget I wouldn’t blame you for doing so. I do think she’s much better than all the proven runners, which is why I’m using #9 GRANDPA’S ARIANNA in her debut, as she’s a daughter of potent turf sire More Than Ready, drew a nice outside attack post and shows a very sharp work 6/15 for George Weaver, who may be ready to go on a tear after a very slow and prolonged start to the meet. If you want more coverage you can look at #10 Shrink, #3 Mazmania, #7 Alyssa and a Lisa and #8 Subtle Grace, but none of them have the look of a filly who can beat the chalk. Pk5 horses: 1-9 The ticket: 1-3-7-2-6-4 with 5-7 with 2 with 7-1-3-8-6 with 1-9 = $60

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7.13.2017:

Stars and Stripes Recap

The 2017 Belmont Park Spring/Summer meeting is about to expire. Take its last breath. Ride off into the sunset. This weekend is the season’s final hurrah. ‘Last call’ before summer dons its most ancient and elegant finery in the form of Saratoga. Some of us can hardly wait. Others are in worse condition than that--from closing day at the Spa until ‘They’re off’ the following July, they yearn, pine and long for the Saratoga season. Finally, thankfully, we all can rejoice! According to Twitter feed photos the place looks great. Tall paddock trees are green. Antique grandstand’s trim is red and white. Oklahoma track’s dirt is brown. The sun, too, has returned, apparently no worse for another year’s wear. But let’s not rush matters. We’ve already waited an eternity for Saratoga to begin again. What’s another week? Besides, we shouldn’t be rude to Belmont Park. The place will develop a complex. Despite its size and majesty it still can’t compete with its summer counterpart. Then again which track can? (OK, let’s get the whole Ginger or Mary Ann discussion out of the way right now: Saratoga or Del Mar?…They’re both fantastic!) Last Saturday, July 8, Belmont Park presented its Stars and Stripes program. Now, that sounds like an event meant to be celebrated on Fourth of July weekend but rescheduled a week later because Aunt Gertie and Uncle Herbert couldn’t make it. However, that’s not the case at all. Belmont suits purposefully avoided proximity to the ‘Fourth’ because they wanted to celebrate America, again, on a national stage all to themselves. Smart.If you’re going to attempt to go stride for stride with one of America’s most ‘explosive’ holidays--even a week after the fact--you had better bring your ‘A’ game. Belmont did. And the weather cooperated. Saturday’s 11-race card was entertaining and intriguing for fans and horseplayers alike showcasing outstanding horseflesh--homemade and from across the pond. Breeders’ Cup again will be held on the left coast the first Friday and Saturday in November but not at Santa Anita. For the first time Del Mar, where the Turf still conveniently Meets the Surf and co-founder Bing Crosby still electronically croons each afternoon, will host the ‘Cup. If you’ve never been to Del Mar racetrack, go there. If you already have visited, return. BC’s your chance. Worrywarts suggest the smaller seaside summer venue won’t capably handle a Breeders’ Cup-sized crowd, but if Keeneland can manage there’s no reason Del Mar can’t. Plus, this is a ‘Home Game’ for BC President and CEO Craig Fravel who cut his industry teeth as Del Mar’s Executive Vice President beginning in 1990.  Of course during Breeders’ Cup at Del Mar there will be racing. And current and emerging stars from Stars and Stripes Day at Belmont (pun intended) will compete for a total of $29 million in purses. We’ve also been informed there will be wagering on Breeders’ Cup, too, including some bread on those Belmont Stars and Stripes winners and losers.On the eve of Saratoga’s opening, the first Friday in November may seem distant but it’s not. Some Breeders’ Cup competitors will only run two or three times more between now and then. That considered, let’s see what actually happened on Stars and Stripes Day at Belmont Park and how those results might affect what happens in November at Del Mar.Practical Joke made a definitive statement that he is a quality colt in the Dwyer Stakes for 3-year-olds only at one mile. What’s not as clear is what might be his favorite distance/layout preference. On the surface he seems best as a one-turn miler. But that may be mostly because he looked so good winning the Dwyer. Trainer Chad Brown will try this guy longer around and two turns and he may handle it. After all, ‘Joke didn’t disgrace himself in the Kentucky Derby (5th), Blue Grass (2nd) or Fountain of Youth (2nd) as a less mature 3-year-old at longer distances around two turns. It’s true that all horses have a certain ‘best’ distance and one mile may be Practical Joke’s optimum. Then again, perhaps we haven’t seen the best from him. Another Dwyer observation is the next chapter in the currently entertaining back and forth between Brown and Todd Pletcher-trained 3-year-olds in big races. Pletcher won the Derby with Always Dreaming, Brown the Preakness with Cloud Computing, Pletcher the Belmont with Tapwrit and Brown the Dwyer with Practical Joke. Mind Your Biscuits made his return to the US from Dubai a winning one with a dominating performance in the Belmont Sprint Championship. For this horseplayer there was some doubt that rookie trainer Chad Summers could have ‘Biscuits ready to fire off a trip to Dubai. That round trip journey sometimes has been a tricky one for veteran trainers to navigate, so concern in this case seemed warranted. It wasn’t. Summers had ‘Biscuits in top shape and the 4-year-old ran away and hid. Drefong, from the Bob Baffert outfit, defeated ‘Biscuits by less than two lengths to win last season’s BC Sprint when both were 3-year-olds. That rematch will be something to see. The rest of the Belmont Sprint Championship field probably isn’t going anywhere special. Unified, a 4-year-old with four wins out of seven starts, was a notable disappointment in the race.The Belmont Oaks boasted an international sensation in Irish-born, French-raced, Chad Brown-trained Sistercharlie. Second by a length after a ‘rough trip’ in the Group 1 Prix de Diane at Chantilly last out the filly started as the 8-5 favorite despite breaking from the far outside in the mile and one-quarter turf race. She ran well to finish second—by a mere neck--but may have found the distance in a foreign land a smidge too short for her best. New Money Honey, winner of the BC Juvenile Filly Turf, continued a successful career with her fourth win in six tries, including a perfect 3-for-3 over the Belmont grass. Like Sistercharlie, French-raced Uni lagged early and closed well to finish third. Trainer Brown dominated the race by saddling the first three finishers. It’s great to see New Money Honey develop and mature and we look forward to watching the Euro invaders acclimate and improve for Brown.The 131st running of the Suburban Handicap—the ninth race on the Stars and Stripes card--was considered by many to include a cinch, a pick six single and free bingo square in the form of Shaman Ghost. After all, this year the 5-year-old son of Ghostzapper already had won the Santa Anita Handicap and Pimlico Special. Who in this field was going to defeat him now? Certainly not Keen Ice. Who? Keen Ice. You remember him. His last win came in August of 2015 when he rained on American Pharoah’s Travers parade. Since then he’s mostly been third or fourth (beaten double digits) in Grade 1 races. Besides the fact that Todd Pletcher trains him and that he’d recently worked two bullet five-eighths, there wasn’t much to suggest he’d win The Suburban. Matt King Coal was the logical second choice because he figured to be on the lead alone early and if he could carry his speed a mile and one-quarter Shaman Ghost might not catch him. But Keen Ice? Really? And in the end it wasn’t even close. As expected ‘Cole took the early lead. ‘Ghost pressed him into the stretch where the former stopped like he’d suddenly been deprived oxygen. ‘Ghost then briefly took over but had no response when ‘Ice came calling. This is all irrelevant in the big picture. Arrogate, who figures to race a week from Saturday at Del Mar in the San Diego Handicap, is the world’s best horse. He’s handily whipped Keen Ice, Shaman Ghost and everyone else. If he makes it to the Breeders’ Cup Classic starting gate he’ll be a cinch, a pick six single and free bingo square. Where have we heard that before?If you’re still reading, fantastic! Because what we have here in the Belmont Derby at a mile and one-quarter on turf is a real Oscar Performance. Like Belmont Oaks winner New Money Honey Oscar Performance last year won the most coveted Breeders’ Cup turf race in his division. Also like her he’s 3-for-3 on Belmont turf. And, again like her, he defeated a pair of European invaders on Stars and Stripes Day--Irish-bred and French-raced Called To The Bar was second and Irish-raced Homesman, fifth in Ascot’s King George V last out, finished third. One area where Oscar Performance and New Money Honey deviate is sex. (That didn’t come out exactly right.) An explanation: New Money Honey is a filly. Oscar Performance is a ridgeling—a male animal with one or both testicles undescended. Whether it’s one or both gonads in hiding, the condition doesn’t appear to hinder ‘Oscar’s performance. He goes to the front and improves his position. Wire-to-wire. Pants on fire! A serious Belmont Derby handicapping question surrounded ‘Oscar’s ability to effectively carry his speed a mile and one-quarter. But that’s why they offer odds. In hindsight 5.50-to-1 that an unopposed Oscar Performance would get the distance was extremely generous. (For the record, I hate ‘hindsight.’ He’s never wrong!)So, before they officially call time of death for the 2017 Belmont Spring/Summer meeting there’s still time to get some wagering licks in. Although don’t expect to catch many headliners in action. Several of them recently performed on Stars and Stripes Day. The rest are waiting for the Spa to open. Just like the rest of us.Race On!

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7.13.2017:

July 13: Mohawk Harness Picks

Tonight at Mohawk three-year-old pacers competing in Ontario Sire Stakes-Grass Roots action will be featured. The .20 Pick 5 with a $40,000 guaranteed pool will begin the evening's card. The Early Pick 4 will roll in Race 4 and has a $50,000 guaranteed pool. My handicapping will focus on the .20 Late Pick 4 which begins in Race 7. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Race 7 3-Dreamfair Mesa-Hasn't looked like much in last 2 but Roy sticks and has faced better company in May-June. 4-They Call Me Gordy-Last race on big track in a quick mile wasn't bad, thinking better will follow tonight. 5-Lovedancinwithyou-Jamieson in the bike so may see a more aggressive drive, company should suit. Race 8 1-Lindy The Kid-Program chalk may get on the engine and never look back, but must mind manners. 2-Silverinyourpocket-12-1 in the ML and looks well worth a swing. Roy steers and has had excuses in last 2. 5-The Dark Shadow-Jamieson's choice is in position to get a long overdue win. 6-All It Takes-1st start since 10/1 was from 8 hole. Team McNair could have Mach Three longshot ready for a big try. Race 9 1-Family Sports-Came home in 57.1 in Qual from 9 hole. Now gets the rail and Henry may gain striking position. 2-Hudson Phil-JMac rolled a .56 last half in Qual from 8 hole. Better post draw and looks like a major threat tonight. 9-Street Boy-Speed looks to be there. Will respect chances and the Coleman-Roy connection doesn't hurt. Race 10 2-Miracle Matty-Open race and tries hard. So this could be the night for a big track win. 3-Dry Creek Lis-Last effort wasn't bad at Moh. Another who tries hard and is in a spot for a photo. 8-Mach Majorette-Has tailed off lately but was driven hard in last and couldn't get top. Cullen may change strategy. 9-Always Reese-Doesn't win often but may get a live cover flow, if so will be rolling late at a nice price. .20 Late Pick 4 3,4,5,/1,2,5,6/1,2,9/2,3,8,9 Total bet=$28.80 You can follow me on Twitter, @AlCimaglia. 

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7.13.2017:

West Coast, Klimt Top Los Al Derby

West Coast, a convincing winner of Belmont Park’s Easy Goer Stakes for Hall of Fame horseman Bob Baffert, and Klimt, a Grade I winner for Baffert last year who now is being trained by Art Sherman, head this Saturday’s Grade III Los Alamitos Derby. Eight are entered in the 1 1/8-miles affair. West Coast is two for two since a narrow defeat in the Grade III Lexington Stakes at Keeneland by a head to Senior Investment on April 15. In Senior Investment’s next start, he finished third behind Cloud Computing and Classic Empire in the Preakness. When West Coast made his next appearance under owner Gary and Mary West’s pink and black silks after the Lexington, he won a 1 1/16-mile allowance/optional claiming race at Santa Anita Park on May 20. The Kentucky-bred Flat Out colt then registered a 3 3/4-length victory in the Easy Goer at the same distance on June 10 while earning a career-best 99 Beyer Speed Figure. Klimt will be making his first start since he ended up eighth in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita last Nov. 5. The Kentucky-bred Quality Road colt won Del Mar’s Grade I Del Mar Futurity and Grade II Best Pal Stakes last year. THREE-YEAR-OLD MALE TITLE UP FOR GRABS I think West Coast has the kind of talent to possibly have a big summer and fall campaign. Perhaps he even can run his way into the conversation for an Eclipse Award as champion 3-year-old male of 2017. In terms of the Eclipse Award in this category, there currently is no clear-cut favorite. Prominent contenders, of course, are the three colts to have each won a Triple Crown race this year -- Always Dreaming, Cloud Computing and Tapwrit. Always Dreaming, the Todd Pletcher-trained Kentucky Derby winner, and Cloud Computing, the Chad Brown-conditioned Preakness Stakes victor, are scheduled to clash in Saratoga’s Grade II Jim Dandy Stakes at 1 1/8 miles on July 29. They both are utilizing the Jim Dandy as a steppingstone to Saratoga’s Grade I, $1.25 million Travers Stakes at 1 1/4 miles on Aug. 26. As for the Pletcher-trained Tapwrit, the plan is for the Belmont Stakes winner to be trained up to the Travers. This means he would not have a race between the June 10 Test of the Champion and the Aug. 26 Midsummer Derby. Another colt who could have a lot to say about the 2017 Eclipse Award in the 3-year-old male category is the Brown-trained Timeline. Undefeated in four career starts, Timeline has won this year’s Grade III Peter Pan Stakes by 3 1/2 lengths on a sloppy track at Belmont Park and Grade III Pegasus Stakes by the same margin at Monmouth Park. Next up for him is Monmouth’s Grade I, $1 million Haskell Invitational at 1 1/8 miles on July 30. The Haskell also is expected to attract the likes of Irish War Cry, McCraken, Battle of Midway and perhaps Classic Empire. Irish War Cry, trained by Graham Motion, has won this year’s Grade II Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park and Grade II Wood Memorial at Aqueduct. He finished 10th in the Kentucky Derby and second in the Belmont. McCraken, conditioned by Ian Wilkes, has won this year’s Grade III Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs and Grade III Matt Winn Stakes at Churchill. He ran eighth in the Kentucky Derby. Battle of Midway, trained by Hall of Famer Jerry Hollendorfer, won this year’s Grade III Affirmed Stakes at Santa Anita by 4 1/4 lengths in his most recent start. He finished third in the Kentucky Derby. Classic Empire, voted a 2016 Eclipse Award as champion 2-year-old male, won this year’s Grade I Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park. He finished fourth despite almost getting knocked down in the initial strides in the Kentucky Derby, lost a close decision when the runner-up in the Preakness, then missed the Belmont due to a foot abscess. FORMERLY THE SWAPS STAKES The Los Alamitos Derby was known as the Swaps Stakes when it was run at Hollywood Park from 1974 through 2013. After Hollywood ceased racing following its 2013 autumn meeting, the Swaps was switched to Los Alamitos and renamed. When contested at Los Alamitos in the last three years, this race has been won by Shared Belief (2014), Gimme Da Lute (2015) and Accelerate (2016). Shared Belief was voted a 2013 Eclipse Award as champion 2-year-old male. He used the 2014 Los Alamitos Derby as a springboard to an impressive 2 3/4-length win that summer vs. older rivals in Del Mar’s Grade I Pacific Classic. I really can’t blame the track for changing the name of the Swaps to have Los Alamitos included in the name of race. But I also can’t help but feel it’s a shame that Swaps, a truly great racehorse, no longer is honored with an important stakes raced named in his honor. Swaps broke numerous world and track records during his illustrious career. He ranks No. 13 on my up-to-date list of the Top 25 Thoroughbreds of the 20th and 21st centuries to have raced in North America: 1. Man o’ War 2. Secretariat 3. Citation 4. Kelso 5. Spectacular Bid 6. Native Dancer 7. Dr. Fager 8. Seattle Slew 9. Count Fleet 10. Affirmed 11. Ruffian 12. Phar Lap 13. Swaps 14. Forego 15. Arrogate 16. American Pharoah 17. Tom Fool 18. Buckpasser 19. Round Table 20. Seabiscuit 21. War Admiral 22. Colin 23. Damascus 24. John Henry 25. Sunday Silence Swaps ranked No. 20 on the BloodHorse’s list of the Top 100 Racehorses of the 20th Century: 1. Man o’ War 2. Secretariat 3. Citation 4. Kelso 5. Count Fleet 6. Dr. Fager 7. Native Dancer 8. Forego 9. Seattle Slew 10. Spectacular Bid 11. Tom Fool 12. Affirmed 13. War Admiral 14. Buckpasser 15. Colin 16. Damascus 17. Round Table 18. Cigar 19. Bold Ruler 20. Swaps “Records were made to be broken. At least that is what Swaps set about doing while he was racing,” Kimberly Herbert wrote for the BloodHorse. “The son of Khaled out of the Beau Pere mare Iron Reward broke track records all over the country at various distances, under heavy weight assignments, and sometimes broke records on the way to breaking records. All in all, he set or equaled six world marks during his career, at one point lowering his own 1 1/16-mile world record by 1 2/5 seconds.” Owned and bred by Rex Ellsworth and trained by Mesh Tenney, Swaps was victorious in 19 of 25 career starts. The California-bred chestnut colt won the 1955 Kentucky Derby by 1 1/2 lengths with Bill Shoemaker in the saddle. Nashua, piloted by Eddie Arcaro, finished second. Swaps, Shoemaker, Nashua and Arcaro are all in the Hall of Fame. In the book “Champions,” Daily Racing Form’s esteemed Joe Hirsch recalled these highlights from Swaps’ 4-year-old campaign in 1956: “He set a world record of 1:39 3/5 for a mile and 70 yards in winning the Broward Handicap at Gulfstream Park under 130 pounds. “He set a world record of 1:33 1/5 for a mile in winning the Argonaut Handicap at Hollywood Park under 128 pounds. “He set a world record of 1:39 for 1 1/16 miles in winning the Inglewood Handicap at Hollywood, carrying 130 pounds. “He set a track record of 1:58 3/5 for 1 1/4 miles in winning the Hollywood Gold Cup under 130 pounds. “He set a world record of 2:38 1/5 for 1 5/8 miles in winning the Sunset Handicap at Hollywood, carrying 130 pounds. “He set a track record of 1:33 2/5 for a mile in winning the Washington Park Handicap under 130 pounds. “He equaled the world record of 1:46 4/5 for 1 1/8 miles in winning the American Handicap at Hollywood under 130 pounds.” At 4, Swaps was voted Horse of the Year and champion handicap horse. A 1977 SWAPS STAKES SHOCKER A throng of 68,115 showed up at Hollywood Park on July 3, 1977, to see Seattle Slew run in the Swaps Stakes. The outstanding equine athlete took a nine-for-nine career record and a historic Triple Crown sweep into the 1 1/4-mile Swaps for owners Karen and Mickey Taylor and Sally and Jim Hill. The Taylors and Hills and just about everybody else expected the Swaps would be yet another win for Seattle Slew. Hence, the son of Bold Reasoning was backed down to 1-5 favoritism. But instead of a Seattle Slew victory, the 1977 Swaps ended up being an epic upset. J.O. Tobin, with Shoemaker aboard, romped to an eight-length triumph at 3-1. During the stretch run, as the overwhelming favorite retreated under Jean Cruguet, track announcer Harry Henson noted in a call that still resonates with many to this day, “Seattle Slew is well beaten.” Seattle Slew finished fourth in the Swaps, 16 lengths behind J.O. Tobin. Earlier in the year, when Seattle Slew had won the Preakness, J.O. Tobin finished fifth, beaten by 5 1/2 lengths. Trainer Billy Turner Jr. did a wonderful job to win the Triple Crown with the high-energy Seattle Slew, a four-footed keg of dynamite. The Swaps turned out to be the colt’s final start at 3. It also was the last start Seattle Slew made for Turner. When Seattle Slew resumed racing early at 4, he had a new trainer, Doug Peterson. Seattle Slew won 14 of 19 career starts. He was voted a total of four Eclipse Awards (champion 2-year-old male in 1976; Horse of the Year and champion 3-year-old male in 1977; champion older male in 1978). KEEN ICE ENDS LOSING STREAK Keen Ice is known best for winning the 2015 Travers at 16-1 when he upset Triple Crown winner American Pharoah. In American Pharoah’s next start after the Travers, he won the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Classic at Keeneland by a resounding 6 1/2 lengths to complete his racing career in which he won nine of 11 starts. Keen Ice finished fourth, 12 1/2 lengths behind American Pharoah, in the BC Classic. That began Keen Ice’s 10-race losing streak that finally came to an end last Saturday when he won Belmont’s Grade II Suburban Stakes at 1 1/4 miles by three lengths at 5-1. Shaman Ghost, the 1-2 favorite, finished second. Follow Me Crev came in third. Dale Romans trained Keen Ice when he ambushed American Pharoah at the Spa. Pletcher now conditions the son of Curlin. Keen Ice was assigned a 106 Beyer Speed Figure for his Suburban victory. The figure matched his career best. He also recorded a 106 when he won the Travers. While Keen Ice deserves credit for succeeding in the Suburban, keep in mind he has been no match for superstar Arrogate the three times they have met. When Arrogate won the Grade I BC Classic at Santa Anita last Nov. 5, Keen Ice finished third and lost by 11 1/4 lengths. When Arrogate won the Grade I Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park earlier this year on Jan. 28, Keen Ice ended up fourth and lost by 11 lengths. When Arrogate won the Group I Dubai World Cup on March 25, Keen Ice finished seventh and lost by 11 3/4 lengths. Arrogate, who has not started since the Dubai World Cup, has been training in marvelous fashion while gearing up for his summer campaign. He drilled seven furlongs in 1:25.60 for Baffert at Santa Anita last Saturday, with a strong one-mile gallop out. Arrogate’s July 8 workout can be seen on the XBTV.com website. Here is the link: http://www.xbtv.com/video/workout/arrogate-worked-7-furlongs-in-125-60-at-santa-anita-park-on-july-8th-2017/ Since finishing third when making his career debut in a six-furlong maiden sprint at Los Alamitos on April 17, 2016, Arrogate has reeled off seven straight victories. He has never lost when racing farther than six furlongs. Baffert has called Arrogate an “unbelievable super horse.” The Kentucky-bred son of Unbridled’s Song is expected to run in Del Mar’s upcoming Grade II San Diego Handicap at 1 1/16 miles on July 22, followed by a start in Del Mar’s Grade I Pacific Classic at 1 1/4 miles on Aug. 19.

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7.11.2017:

Brian Sears Earns Hall of Fame Status

Brian Sears' numbers don't lie. His resume includes three Hambletonian victories, 26 Breeders Crown wins, five consecutive driving titles at the Meadowlands from 2005-09 and North America Driver of the Year honors in 2009. The 49-year-old has more than 9,700 wins in a career that began when he was in high school and his drives have earned more than $178 million in purses. Sears is the only driver to win the Hambletonian and Hambletonian Oaks on the same day -- and he did it twice -- with Muscle Hill and Broadway Schooner in 2009 and Royalty For Life and Bee A Magician in 2013. He also piloted 2005 Horse of the Year Rocknroll Hanover. This Saturday, Sears will seek his third Meadowlands Pace victory when he gets behind Downbytheseaside, the 4-to-1 second choice in the $738,500 race set for 9:34 p.m. EST. It all adds up to a worthy induction into the Harness Racing Hall of Fame earlier this month in Goshen, N.Y. "I never imagined I'd be amongst all the greats in the harness racing Hall of Fame," Sears said. "It's truly an honor." Sears was the only driver to join the Hall of Fame ranks this year, but he wasn't the only inductee. Mr. Muscleman, a $3.6 million earner and three-time division trotting champion, gained the necessary votes by the U.S. Harness Writers' Association, as did 2010 Horse of the Year Rock N Roll Heaven. The Communications Hall of Fame welcomed racing writer Gordon Waterstone and publicist Steve Wolf.

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7.10.2017:

Replace Romance With Creativity

No doubt a romantic view of horse racing exists, and without it, the Sport of Kings would not be the same. But it’s also true that a very unromantic faction greases the entire engine that drives the industry. The nuts-and-bolts of handicapping and betting the races creates all the revenue. It’s the balance of those two parties that provides horse racing such a tricky divide between sport and business. You won’t find agreement on which side is most important even within the same boardroom; hence, we have marketing and operations conflicts on a daily basis. Instead of bowing up and taking a side, the industry most often tries to toe the line between the romantic and unromantic, the sport and the business. What you end up with – as is the case in most every compromise known to man – is a position that’s half-this, half-that, and neither stance fully comes to fruition.  They say in football that if you have two quarterbacks that you really don’t have a quarterback at all. Meaning, if one can’t separate from the other, then neither really is all that good of an option. When you think about horse racing, that’s also fitting. If you can’t figure out if you’re sport or business, chances are you’re not going to showcase either properly.  Talking about “horse racing” in general terms always is a convoluted concept. It’s like saying “football” and not distinguishing between the NFL and Pop Warner teams. “Baseball” is the New York Yankees, as well as the Toledo Mud Hens, but no one even flippantly tries to convince you that they are to be treated and operated the same way. So, why then, would Churchill Downs, Saratoga, Santa Anita and Del Mar, operate under almost identical conditions, rules and strategies as we see at Mountaineer, Delaware, Fairmount and Les Bois Park?  Think about it: these tracks are run under almost blank playbooks – just with different logos on the title page. No one does anything particularly different. They run 8-12 races several days per week under similar takeout prices and wagering formats, occasionally offering a giveaway or concert for on-track fans and stockpile their stakes races and best horses a few times per meet.  Who really is doing anything different? Whether you’re talking the romantic side of racing and festivals of starpower, it’s no different from Belmont (Stars And Stripes Day, Belmont Stakes super stakes card) to Mountaineer (stakes galore for West Virginia Derby); and essentially the price to play the races is the same at Tampa Bay Downs on a weekday as it is on Florida Derby Day at Gulfstream Park.  The real creativity in horse racing seems to be coming from the ADW marketplace, where online wagering sites are aggressively promoting different ways to lure customers. It’s fair to say that the number of new recruits in this field has leveled in the past decade, and that they’re now in a battle amongst each other to bring the existing online players into their fold. But when you talk about rebates, reduced takeout promotions, money back specials, sign-up bonuses, parimutuel-based special contests and more, you’re almost exclusively seeing them from the ADW segment. There have been a few on-track betting attractions like Oaklawn’s reduced show takeout, but they are exceptions to the status quo  Part of that is overhead cost to be sure. It’s infinitely cheaper to run an online operation than the bricks-and-mortar of a racetrack where costs like healthcare, insurance, escalators, elevators, manure removal and dozens of other expenses add up quickly to far more than you think. So it bears to reason that an ADW has more of its operating budget available to promotion and marketing than a racetrack, which has far more mounting costs in operations.  But the creative spirit to do things differently can’t just exist in the ADW market if racetracks are to realize their maximum return in the increasingly competitive marketplaces of both gambling and entertainment. The track that fights to find something effective and new that sticks will be greatly rewarded. The ADW marketplace is offering some positive momentum in terms of fresh ideas. Now it’s the responsibility of the brick-and-mortar racetracks to figure out how to implement them.   The first step would be to realize that the romance is gone. Look in the mirror and realize you are a gaming institution and get on the side of the business model and not the sports model. There’s nothing shameful in admitting that. In fact, there will be great rewards for the first racetrack willing to fully embrace this fact and do something radically different.      

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7.9.2017:

July 9: My Hawthorne Jackpot Hi-5 Ticket

Tonight could be the last time the Jackpot Hi-5 at Hawthorne can be bet until Saturday night. If there isn't a single winner this evening, a mandatory Hi-5 payout will take place in six days and the pool will be frozen until then. Currently the carryover sits at $218,292.601. On Saturday night, there were only three correct Hi-5 tickets and in my opinion all of the winners deserved to take the entire pool. As it turned out the winning combination of (2-5-1-7-9) paid $3,733.36 on a .20 wager. The winner went off at 5-1 followed by 19-1, 60-1, 13-1 and 15-1, as mentioned that seemed good enough to haul in all the chips. Casey Leonard led all drivers with four pictures and Mike Brink sat on the top of the trainer's list with two winners. Last night at Mohawk my posted Early Pick 4 ticket did connect. The winning combination of 3/5/6/7 paid $36.34 on a .20 wager. My focus will be on the Jackpot Hi-5 tonight. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Race 12 1-LK'S Nancy Lee-Obviously not the same horse as last year but deserves consideration to be in the hunt. 2-Delightfully Wild-Trainer has been cold but did win the finale last night. Lackey could seek the top and get a good seat, consider at a square price. 3-Buckle Girl Bobette-Having a great meet and is sharp as a tack. She is a major player again. 5-Blissful Pansy-Steps up, but probably the top threat to #3 and if the last effort can be repeated she will be tough to beat. 8-Libby's Ideal-3 year old would need a few breaks to win. But certainly, deserves Hi-5 consideration even from the 8 hole. .20 Jackpot Hi-5 2/3/5 1/2/3/5 1/2/3/5 1/2/3/5/6/8 1/2/3/4/5/6/7/8 Total bet=$43.20 Join me on Twitter - @AlCimaglia! 

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7.8.2017:

July 8: Mohawk Harness Picks

Saturday night's card at Mohawk will have co-featured Preferred events in Races 3 & 9. In Race 3 six trotters will battle for a share of a $34,000 purse. In Race 10, again it will be a battle for a $34,000 purse when seven pacers go postward. My attention will be on the Early .20 Pick 4 sequence which begins in Race 4. At Hawthorne on Friday night my Early Pick 4 ticket was on target until the last leg when the #2 Piscotty, who was 15-1 in the morning line, was bet down to 7/2 and won. The Early .50 Pick-4 (8/10/2,7/2) did pay $255.65. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Race 4 3-P L Hurricane-Back to a level of past success and is in a more comfortable spot to shine. 8-Bernadette-Program chalk has been facing tough foes and still has banked almost $116k, should be a major player. 9-Dazzling Rockette-Price shot could be brought up by #8 and sweep by late. This barn had a win last night. Race 5 5-Will Take Charge-3-year-old can beat this field but will need a smooth journey. Will respect, but probably a short price. 8-Totally Ripped-Steps up after a rather easy victory. Post will add to the price and has had a nice year thus far. 9-Finish Line-Will respect but mostly because Roy can work a smooth journey. Not a lot of gate speed inside so could gain a good early seat. Race 6 4-Skyway Boomer-Has been sharp as a tack at RidC and fits tonight on the big track. 6-Magnum J-Waples gets a swing in the sulky and he needs to find a trip to get 1st win of year. Fits and could win at a square price. 7-Sir Galahad-Stepped up to this class and had an even effort in last, but Roy sticks and could be sitting on a big try. Race 7 4-Paparazzi Hanover-Gets a favorable post draw at a good level. Should be in the hunt. 7-Vegas Rocks-3rd start since a layoff for a hot barn and drops. Looks like all systems "go". 8-Rockin Finish-Skipped a start but Roy sticks. Thinking a brief rest is what the doctor ordered. .20 Early Pick 4 3,8,9/5,8,9/4,6,7/4,7,8 Total bet=$16.20 You can follow me on Twitter, @AlCimaglia.

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7.7.2017:

Saturday's Prairie Meadows Picks

The huge week of racing at Prairie Meadows continues as the Altoona, Iowa, track on Saturday hosts the Grade 3 $300,000 Prairie Meadows Cornhusker Handicap and the $100,000 Iowa Sprint Handicap. It’s already been a solid group of races as on Thursday the Doug O’Neill-trained and Kyle Frey-ridden Shane’s Girlfriend posted a 2 1-4-length win in the Grade 3 $200,000 Iowa Oaks. On the same card, the Iowa-bred Dreamin scored a one-length win over I’m a Looker and other quality shippers in the $100,000 Saylorville Stakes. Ramon Vazquez had the ride on the Federico Villafranco-trained charge. The Cornhusker, which was a neighborly respect as Prairie Meadows brought it over from Ak-Sar-Ben in Omaha when it closed in the mid-1990s. Dolphus is the deserving favorite after a huge effort against heavy chalk Shaman Ghost in the Pimlico Special. Trainer Jimmy Jerkens has done a bang-up job in the development of the Looking At Lucky colt. Even in defeat, the Pimlico Special was by far the best effort for Dolphus. Rajiv Maragh is in for the ride and Dolphus is ready to take his customary position on the front end. He’ll have to make it nine furlongs. He went 1 3-16th miles at Pimlico. Dolphus set a moderate pace at Pimlico and likely will have more early company. In fact, six of the nine entrants prefer to be on or close to the lead. The pace should set it up for Hawaakom, who at 45-1 was fourth behind Gun Runner in the Grade 1 Stephen Foster at Churchill. Trainer Wesley Hawley has the veteran running well and he has a legit chance to mow them down. Here’s a Suggested Play for the Cornhusker: Win Play: Hawaakom Exotic Plays: Box Hawaakom and Dolphus in Exactas and use each in the first two spots of Trifectas and Superfectas coupled with Shotgun Cowboy, Conquest Windycity, Texas Chrome and Iron Fist Here's a Suggested Play for the Iowa Sprint: Win Play: Wings Locked Up Exotic Play: Exacta Key Box Wings Locked Up with Apprehender and Storm Advisory

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7.7.2017:

July 7: Hawthorne Harness Picks

Friday night's card at Hawthorne will feature a $17,500 guaranteed pool in the Early .50 Pick 4 and a $15,000 guaranteed pool in the Late .50 Pick 4. The Early Pick 4 guarantee came about because of a carryover of $5,607.93. Not to be forgotten by any means is the Jackpot Hi-5 carryover which has ballooned to $194,405.43. On Thursday night the Hawthorne drivers with the hottest hands were Tim Curtin and Mike Oosting, each had two winners. Loralee Johnson led the list of winning trainers with two trips to the winner's circle. Last night, my Late Pick 4 ticket at Mohawk clicked, albeit for a small mutuel. The longshots came in the Early Pick 4 as the Late .20 Pick 4 (7/4/7/7) paid only $27.25. Comments and selection below for the Early Pick 4 are based on a fast track. Race 3 3-My Kind Of Dance-Barn has been cold but this gal had a big 2016. Filly has had excuses, value play if #5-#8 & #9 are off. 5-A Real Doozie-Won last handily after taking lead at the 1/2, from this post has a chance to follow same script. 8-Lady's Party-Program favorite can win with best effort even from the outside starting slot. Race 4 7-Jingle Bell Rocker-Had a rough trip in 1st start in town for a high % barn. Could be sitting on a big try. 8-R Duneshine-Smolin should know this gelding by now. If he can manufacture a good trip this is a beatable field. 10-Mar Dream-Has been stuck outside in 4 of last 5. Usually tries hard and trainer won a couple of races last night. Race 5 2-Dakota Roadster-Program chalk takes a drop and gets post relief. Should be a major player. 5-General George-Blistered the back half in 55.3 to win last by passing a bunch of foes in the lane, should be tough. 9-Want Me-Another who drops in search of a win. Could benefit from brisk fractions, should be rolling late. Race 6 4-Armani Code-Not crazy about the 9/5 ML but should be more comfortable facing this field. 9-You'remyhearthrob -Looks like the speed is there if can mind manners. Price shot is an interesting play. 10-Hart To Heart-Oosting gets the catch drive after this 2 year old had a rough journey in 1st start. Best to not overlook. .50 Pick 4 3,5,8/7,8,10/2,5,9/4,9,10 Total bet=$40.50 You can follow me on Twitter, @AlCimaglia. 

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7.6.2017:

By Any Other Name

“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” –William Shakespeare Hate to disagree with “The Bard” but, as kids say…Not! If you’re gonna name a 2-year-old Thoroughbred filly Diamondsandpearls you had better be positive she can run. Otherwise, why saddle a filly with a handle she can’t possibly match? ‘Diamondsandpearls’ suggests beauty, refinement and elegance. Sophia, Grace and Audrey. Rome, Monaco and Manhattan. Before she’s finished Diamondsandpearls might also add speed and determination to the mix. If you were watching the races from Santa Anita Sunday, July 2, you got a preview of what’s in store. A ‘coming attraction.’ A ‘trailer’ to promote the main event. Based on that sliver of entertainment value, you’re going to want to catch the entire show when it opens nationwide in the Sorrento Stakes, August 5, at Del Mar. Diamondsandpearls debuted as one of those ‘can’t miss’ blockbusters bolstered by media hype, high-profile connections and a massive budget. She was less than even money to succeed. A certain champion. ‘One of the year’s best!’ claimed early reviews. Directed by Bob Baffert and starring Mike Smith—owners of multiple prized statuettes--how could she fail? Easily. It’s happened before. More than once. More often than not, in fact. The ones advertised as ‘the next coming’ seldom work out. Disappointing. Not very good. ‘Straight to video.’ Because they begin so high they often fall flat. The truly great ones surprise you. Like Arrogate in the Travers. What gambling price was the world’s most talented horse that afternoon…11-1? Who knew? Diamondsandpearls may be an exception. The overall number one draft pick that actually exceeds expectations. It happens. Just not very often. Bred by Todd Frederick, Chad Frederick & Phoenix Farm and Racing in Kentucky, she was purchased twice in 2016 at Keeneland auctions--once by Dixon Enterprises in January for $60,000 and then in September by Patrice Miller/EQB, agent for Zayat Stables, for $250,000. In 2017, McKathan Bros--who have history with Zayat, Baffert and a horse named American Pharoah, among others—as agent, consigned Diamondsandpearls to the Ocala Breeders’ Sales in March. Before bidding began she ripped a co-fastest furlong in a rapid 9 4/5 seconds. Watch her OBS Video to sample some pure unadulterated speed. To the untrained eye it’s easy to understand why she brought a sales-topping bid of $1.7 million! Do her hooves even touch the ground? Kerri Radcliffe, as agent, signed the ticket and the Baffert barn became Diamondsandpearls’ next home. Now, a filly’s not the same as a colt…in more ways than the obvious. For example, once retired from an outstanding racing career, a member of the fairer sex won’t function like an equine ATM, entertaining mares at around $100k a visit like some horsey assembly line. A mare becomes a mom—to one foal per year. And, while motherhood is the most important occupation in the world, the pay ain’t so great. Do the math. Dad, who had a very successful career on the racetrack, services roughly 100 mares at a stud fee of around $100k each to the tune of $10 million a year. Mom, who won just as many Grade 1s as dad did, has one foal each year and they sell for…wait for it…a couple of hundred thousand dollars each. And that’s if they’re perfect. Sure, mom’s kids may go on to do great things and she could become worth millions as a broodmare, but she’ll never have the same earning potential as dad. And that’s why paying $1.7 million for a 2-year-old filly is a little crazy, even if you have that kind of money. Where’s the upside? What are the odds that she’s going to be a champion? Do you know how many races she’ll need to win to earn that money back on the track? Must you ask so many questions? Do yourself a favor and use your Xpressbet account to access a replay of Phoenix Thoroughbred III's Diamondsandpearls breaking her maiden in the second race at Santa Anita on July 2. Watch her pop the gate in front. Notice how readily she responds to jockey Mike Smith’s request for speed. Pay particular attention to how effortlessly she does it. Just like the filly we saw at the sale, only better. More mature. Confident instead of cocky. Now, see her ears twitch back and forth like antennae, listening for a potential threat, as if pre-race she’d been warned that a mountain lion was hunting for lunch in Arcadia. In the lane, under minimal urging, she leaves others behind--runner-up six and one-quarter lengths back, five and one-half between that one and the next. Over the years, I’ve seen lots of races and seldom do I pick my head up from a pile of past performance data. Diamondsandpearls caused me to pause. To marvel at her talent. To appreciate her performance as one might a fine wine’s bouquet. I drank it up. And then revisited the replay to enjoy it again. She’s got the talent, the connections and the hype. How can she miss? She can’t. How far will she carry that blazing speed? No one knows for sure, but with Bob Baffert calling the shots she’s got a chance to go as far as she needs to. One thing’s for sure, she’s got the right name. One that definitely will fit a champion. Race On!

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7.6.2017:

July 6: Mohawk Harness Picks

Tonight, at Mohawk 2-year old trotting fillies will be showcased in Ontario Sires Stake action. My focus will be centered on the .20 Late Pick 4 which is a competitive sequence and begins in Race 7. From 6/27-7/3 the hottest driver on the Mohawk circuit was Doug McNair, with eight wins in 33 starts. McNair ranks #2 for the entire meet behind driver Louis Roy. Trainer Bob McIntosh was sizzling during the five-day period winning four of eight starts. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Race 7 1-Burning Hope-Only 1-18 but drops to a comfortable spot and Waples should be close enough to roll by late. 2-Casimir Overdrive-At same class as last when got on the engine and almost lasted. A strong threat tonight. 7-First Car-7-time winner in '17 hasn't taken a picture in a while. McNair in bike on the drop and both should help. 10-Single White Sock-Raced better in last and was bottled up in the stretch. Looking for 1st win in '17, and will be a price. Race 8 1-Gotta Pay To Play-Qualifier was good and from this post should consider chances for a picture in 1st start. 4-Sorceress Seelster-Came home in 58.4 in a qualifier and won by 11 lengths. Seems like they wouldn't have drained tank. 6-Miss Mimi-Sneaky good qualifier and came last half in 58.1. Kadabra filly has a shot at a square price. 8-Ladydini-Another Kadabra gal comes off 2 Q's at VD, last in 2:00.2-1st was only 2:03.3, will respect connections. Race 9 1-Dream of Luck-Made most of a great trip but the win shouldn't be discounted, raced up close in a quick pace. 4-Southwind General-Caught too far back in a brisk pace. Jamieson needs to work a trip to seal the deal. 7-Bills Fella-Trying hard but still winless in '17. Can take a picture with a good cover flow and well-timed move. 9-Mach Deja Vu-On the engine from 7 hole and 54.1 to the 1/2 was too fast. Trip will be key but post adds value. Race 10 7-Where Are We-Come off 2 nice wins at Grvr, McNair's choice over #9 which caught my eye. 9-Always Reese-Trip dependent but racing well enough to be in the mix. Gets JMac tonight and he's been hot. 10-Dorabella-Won last by 7-1/4 in same class. Post makes it tougher but has nice gate speed to gain a good seat. , .20 Late Pick 4 1,2,7,10/1,4,6,8/1,4,7,9/7,9,10 Total bet=$38.40 You can follow me on Twitter, @AlCimaglia.

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7.6.2017:

Belmont’s Not Done Yet

While, for the most part, the heavy lifting at Belmont Park does in fact end with the monster Belmont Stakes card in early June, Saturday marks a fitting finale filled with plenty of fireworks when they run their “Stars and Stripes” card, that features five lucrative stakes, highlighted by a pair of GI for 3yo turfers in the Belmont Derby for the colts and Belmont Oaks for the fillies. Let’s take a brief look at all five stakes, in what is unquestionably a great segue to what will surely be some pure power this summer at Saratoga. Play in Xpressbet's Stars & Stripes Day 1 Million Point Exacta Split! Register and hit Exactas ($2 base minimum) on four races at Belmont this Saturday to win your share.  R6: The GIII Dwyer for 3yos at 1-mileWhile there may be just five entered, the Dwyer offers an exciting matchup between BATTALION RUNNER and PRACTICAL JOKE, who were Triple Crown heavyweights this year and will make their first start since the trail this spring. The edge goes to the former, who has more tactical speed and brilliance than the latter and looks like he could be a crack one-turn miler for Todd Pletcher. PRACTICAL JOKE was a surprisingly good 5th in the Kentucky Derby and is a local GI winner at this trip, and it’s tough to play against Chad Brown, but the gut says he’s not as good as BATTALION RUNNER, not to mention he’s going to be behind him the entire way as well. it’s tough to envision a scenario where either BATTALION RUNNER or PRACTICAL JOKE doesn’t win, but GIUSEPPE THE GREAT was a very good 2nd in the local GII Woody Stephens and does have upside, as that was just his fourth lifetime start for Nick Zito.R7: The GII Belmont Park Sprint Championship for 3yos and up at 7 furlongsIt’s tough to argue with anyone who thinks MINE YOUR BISCUITS isn’t the best one-turn horse in the world on dirt, but I’m coming back to UNIFIED, who beat him in the GII Gulfstream Park Sprint Championship to kick off their year then was a huge disappointment when he couldn’t win a bad renewal of Aqueduct’s GI Carter over longshot GREEN GRATTO. The reason is two-fold, as I still think Unified has a ton of talent and is the better horse, but he also has a huge race flow edge, as he’ll be pressing the speed of GREEN GRATTO in a race where no one else wants to go early. Price players can look to STALLWALKIN’ DUDE, TOMMY MACHO and AWESOME SLEW, but all of them are at the mercy of the pace, and likely not as good as the top pair anyway.R8: The GI Belmont Oaks for 3yo fillies at 1 ¼ miles“Depth” and “competition” come to mind in this 12-horse field, as there as several different ways to go, while having to sift through some European firepower too. I was thinking SISTERCHARLIE was vulnerable to begin with, and the fact she drew the outside stall makes me think she’s even more so, as that 2nd in a subpar renewal of the GI French Oaks isn’t as impressive as it might seem, and the fact she now starts for Chad Brown means she’s be a big underlay too. UNI, Brown’s other Euro import, will offer a lot more value and gets Lasix too (which SISTERCHARLIE doesn’t), and has Irad Ortiz, which is never a bad thing. I don’t do jockey’s musical chairs, but if it’s for you, then take note Ortiz lands on UNI, while john Velazquez, who rarely rides for Brown, is on SISTERCHARLIE. NEW MONEY HONEY is the best of the proven runners, and offers yet another chance for Brown to get a win, but she’ll need to run faster than her walking win in the local prep, the GIII Wonder Again. Coolmore and Aidan O’Brien appear to be sending a third stringer in KEY TO MY HEART, who has been outclassed on the group stakes level in Europe and may simply have had a stall on the plane and decided to walk on, since some of her classier stablemates were already coming for the Derby. In a race where taking a price seems prudent, what’s wrong with BEAU RECALL, who has lost three times to the undefeated star California filly Sircat Sally and has budding superstar Flavien Prat? Sign me up in the 12-1 to 15-1 range.R9: The GII Suburban Handicap for 4yos and up at 1 ¼ milesIf you’re looking for a single in the sequence, then it has to be SHAMAN GHOST, who is arguably the second-best dirt router in the country and wins this easily if he runs back to any of his last three. If there’s a worry, he’s at the mercy of the pace, which will be set by the never been better MATT KING COAL, but the leveler could be the 10 furlongs, which he’s much more suited for. If KEEN ICE wins this race, I don’t, as he’s just a slow, plodding runner who just doesn’t inspire, especially if he’s in the 4-1 range. California invader FOLLOW ME CREV lost to a few Bob Baffert stars in Collected and Cupid in his two most recent runs, but the distant 3rd three-back to SHAMAN GHOST says he’s not a win candidate.R10: The GI Belmont Derby for 3yos at 1 ¼ milesIt’s not often that the Americans have the edge in a stakes like this, but I think that’s the case this year, as the Coolmore runners—HOMESMAN and especially WHITECLIFFSOFDOVER—and also the European CALLED TO THE BAR, seem a bit second tier. I have the most respect for the latter, who has turned into a new horse since going long for Pia Brandt two-back, but I’m siding with the home team in this one. There’s little doubt OSCAR PERFORMANCE is loose on the lead in here, and that worked winning the local prep, the GIII Pennine Ridge, but I have my worries about him going this far. Poor GOOD SAMARITAN seems to always have an excuse, and he had no real chance when he got no pace when 2nd in the Pennine Ridge, but that looks like the case again today, though he always makes a big run. ARKLOW is streaking and is himself since getting to the turf, and is another who will be closing. But the one I want is YOSHIDA, who has been stunning in his last two and should revert to a tactical style that will have him closest to Oscar Performance early. He’s got as much upside as anyone here and seemingly can be placed anywhere, which is a big edge in a race like this.  

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7.5.2017:

Top 10 US Performances of 2017...So Far

Now that it is July, it’s time for this column’s ranking of the Top 10 performances by a Thoroughbred in the United States during the first half of the year. A Thoroughbred’s performance can make my list for a variety of reasons, such as: --A win by a big margin while showing brilliance. --Recording a fast final time and/or speed figure. --Being especially game in victory or defeat. --Overcoming adversity. --Defeating a particularly strong group of opponents. --Carrying more weight than usual and/or spotting considerable weight. --Achieving something historic. The importance of the race itself also plays a role in determining whether or not I believe a performance deserves to make the list. Again, to make this list, it has to be a race run in the United States (hint: not Dubai). And now here is my list of the Top 10 performances from Jan. 1 through June 30: 10. UNIQUE BELLA in the Grade II Las Virgenes Stakes at one mile on dirt Feb. 5. (Owned by Don Alberto Stable; trained by Jerry Hollendorfer; ridden by Mike Smith.) Hammered down to 1-10 favoritism and making her first start in a race around two turns, Unique Bella led by 2 1/2 lengths at the quarter pole. The Pennsylvania-bred Tapit filly then “drew off in the stretch without encouragement,” as accurately noted in the official Equibase chart. She won by 8 3/4 lengths. Left in Unique Bella’s wake was Champagne Room, who was making her first start since winning the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies at Santa Anita on Nov. 5. Champagne Room, the Eclipse Award-winning 2-year-old filly of 2016, was no match for Unique Bella in the 2017 Las Virgenes. 9. CUPID in the Grade I Gold Cup at Santa Anita at 1 1/4 miles on dirt May 27. (Owned by Michael Tabor and Mrs. John Magnier; trained by Bob Baffert; ridden by Rafael Bejarano). Cupid won decisively by 3 1/4 lengths for Hall of Fame trainer Baffert. It was particularly impressive that the 4-year-old Kentucky-bred Tapit colt succeeded in the 1 1/4-mile event at the Grade I level in his first start since Sept. 24. Winning a big race with a horse coming off a long layoff was the sort of thing the late Charlie Whittingham used to do. Interestingly, at Santa Anita during Baffert’s early years as a Thoroughbred trainer in the 1990s, he was stabled next to none other than Whittingham during the final years of that Hall of Fame horseman’s career. Baffert has told me he learned a lot during those years from observing Whittingham, who no doubt would have appreciated what a terrific job Baffert did to have Cupid primed to win the Gold Cup in his initial 2017 start. Cupid had been scheduled to make his 2017 debut in the Grade II Californian on April 22, but missed that race due to a freak mishap. He reportedly slipped and cut a hock while getting a bath about an hour before the race, a gash that required three stitches to close. Baffert won the Californian anyway with Collected. 8. CLOUD COMPUTING in Pimlico’s Grade I Preakness Stakes at 1 3/16 miles on dirt May 20. (Owned by Klaravich Stables and William Lawrence; trained by Chad Brown; ridden by Javier Castellano.) Cloud Computing became just the fourth horse in the last 34 years to win the Preakness without having started in the Kentucky Derby. The others were Red Bullet in 2000, Bernardini in 2006 and Rachel Alexandra in 2009. Castellano has ridden two of the four. Bernardini had been Castellano’s only Preakness win prior to this year. It says a lot about Cloud Computing’s quality that he won the Preakness in just his fourth career start. Even though the Kentucky-bred son of Maclean’s Music had accrued sufficient points to start in the Kentucky Derby, Brown skipped the Run for the Roses with the colt. Brown thought it would be best to have a fresh Cloud Computing in the Preakness running against such not-as-fresh Kentucky Derby contestants as Always Dreaming and Classic Empire. Always Dreaming was sent away as the 6-5 Preakness favorite. Classic Empire was the 2-1 second choice. Cloud Computing did not receive much respect, going off at 13-1. Cloud Computing lurked in third early while Always Dreaming and Classic Empire dueled for the lead though fractions of :23.16, :46.81 and 1:11.00 on a track listed as fast. The track had started out as muddy for the early races on the card before being upgraded to good for the seventh, ninth and 11th races. The track condition was changed again, this time to fast, for the 13th race, the Preakness. When Always Dreaming and Classic Empire battled head-and-head for the lead around the far turn, it appeared they might do so all the way to the finish. But then, turning for home, Classic Empire edged clear. It became evident at that point that Always Dreaming was in deep water. In upper stretch, while Always Dreaming was retreating toward the back of the pack, Classic Empire increased his advantage. With a furlong left to run, last year’s Eclipse Award-winning 2-year-old male sported a three-length lead. But shortly after Classic Empire passed the eighth pole, Cloud Computing emerged to loom a serious threat. Cloud Computing resolutely kept to his task and got up in the final dramatic strides to prevail by a head. Classic Empire had to settle for second. Senior Investment ended up third, 4 3/4 lengths behind Classic Empire. 7. ABEL TASMAN in Churchill Downs’ Grade I Kentucky Oaks at 1 1/8 miles on a sloppy main track May 5. (Owned by China Horse Club International; trained by Bob Baffert; ridden by Mike Smith.) In the April 8 Santa Anita Oaks, Abel Tasman finished second when no match for Paradise Woods, who won by 11 3/4 lengths. That was Abel Tasman’s first start for Baffert, who had taken over training duties from Simon Callaghan. Late last year, when conditioned by Callagahan, Abel Tasman won the Starlet Stakes at Los Alamitos to become a Grade I winner. After the Santa Anita Oaks, Baffert added blinkers to Abel Tasman’s equipment. Fourteenth early in the Kentucky Oaks, the Kentucky-bred daughter of Quality Road generated a powerful rally to win by 1 1/4 lengths at 9-1. Salty finished second, while Benner Island ran third. Paradise Woods came in eleventh as the 6-5 favorite when paying the price for getting embroiled in what turned out to be a suicidal pace duel with Miss Sky Warrior. 6. MASTERY in Santa Anita’s Grade II San Felipe Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on dirt March 11. (Owned by Cheyenne Stables; trained by Bob Baffert; ridden by Mike Smith.) This, to me, was the best performance by a 3-year-old male during the first half of the year. He won by 6 3/4 lengths as a 4-5 favorite while posting a 105 Beyer Speed Figure to remain undefeated in four career starts. Master’s 105 Beyer was the highest figure recorded by a 3-year-old male during the first half of 2017. Unfortunately, Mastery emerged from the San Felipe with a “complete displaced condylar fracture” in his left front ankle, according to the New York Times’ Joe Drape, an injury that knocked the colt out of the Triple Crown races. Mastery required surgery for the insertion of three screws, Drape reported. Baffert won the Triple Crown in 2015 with American Pharoah. If not for Mastery’s injury, I think the talented colt could have taken a serious run at becoming another Triple Crown winner for Baffert. Instead, the Kentucky-bred son of Candy Ride has been retired from racing and will embark on a new career as a stallion at Claiborne Farm in Kentucky. 5. GUN RUNNNER in Churchill Downs’ Grade I Stephen Foster Handicap at 1 1/8 miles on dirt June 17. (Owned by Winchell Thoroughbreds and Three Chimneys Farm; trained by Steve Asmussen; ridden by Florent Geroux.) After Gun Runner finished second in the Group I Dubai World Cup on March 25 when overtaken by superstar Arrogate in the stretch, the Kentucky-bred Candy Ride colt cruised to a seven-length victory as a 1-2 favorite when making his next start in the June 17 Stephen Foster. Gun Runner’s task in the Foster became easier when he seized the advantage at once and nobody took him on early. Even though his rivals essentially handed him the race by permitting him to have it his own way while setting the pace, this still was a praiseworthy performance. “I was loaded the entire trip around there,” Geroux told Churchill’s racing communications. “He was doing everything so easily. This horse is truly unbelievable. He’s one of the best horses I’ve ever ridden. To put forward this type of effort after running in Dubai is so impressive. I was a bit surprised to find myself on a lone lead, but I wasn’t complaining. What a horse.” According to Asmussen, Gun Runner is getting better as he gets older. “We always thought he would get better with age,” the Hall of Fame trainer said. “He’s proving that to us right now. This horse is incredibly special in so many ways.” 4. DISCO PARTNER in Belmont Park’s Grade III Jaipur Stakes at six furlongs on the turf June 10. (Owned by Patricia Generazio; trained by Christophe Clement; ridden by Irad Ortiz Jr.) Eighth early, Disco Partner rocketed home to win by a half-length at 9-2. What made this performance special was the final time posted by the 5-year-old New York-bred son of Disco Rico. “And look at that time – 1:05.67! Holy mackerel!” track announcer Larry Collmus exclaimed immediately after the race was over. “No. 2 Disco Partner was first, No. 4 Green Mask was second, No. 5 Holding Gold was third, No. 3 Pure Sensation was fourth,” Collmus went on to say. “The final time is a new course record -- the fastest six furlongs I think I’ve ever seen, 1:05.67.” Indeed, Disco Partner’s 1:05.67 clocking “established a course, North American, and world record time,” according to official Equibase chart. 3. MOR SPIRIT in Belmont Park’s Grade I Metropolitan Handicap at one mile on dirt June 10. (Owned by Michael Petersen; trained by Bob Baffert; ridden by Mike Smith.) Mor Spirit “contended for command just about from the get-go,” as stated in the official Equibase chart. The 4-year-old Pennsylvania-bred son of Eskendereya vied for the early advantage with Sharp Azteca, then put that rival way after six furlongs. Mor Spirit drew out in the stretch to win by 6 1/4 lengths in a sparkling 1:33.71 as the 5-2 favorite. Not only did Mor Spirit win with authority in splendid time, he defeated a strong group. Sharp Azteca held on well enough to finish second, followed in order by Tommy Macho, Awesome Slew, Economic Model, Rally Cry, Tom’s Ready, Solid Wager, Virtual Machine, Denman’s Call, Mohaymen and Inside Straight. Mor Spirit recorded a career-best 117 Beyer Speed Figure for his Met Mile triumph. 2. PARADISE WOODS in the Grade I Santa Anita Oaks at 1 1/16 miles on dirt April 8. (Owned by Steven Sarkowsky and Pam and Marty Wygod; trained by Richard Mandella; ridden by Flavien Prat.) Paradise Woods seized the lead at once and bowled along smoothly while setting the pace. She clicked off preliminary fractions of :23.46, :47.35, 1:11.48. At the five-sixteenths pole midway on the far turn, Paradise Woods led by 1 1/2 lengths. They would not be able to get anywhere close to her after that. Paradise Woods drew off, with her advantage ballooning to 10 lengths at the eighth pole. That means Paradise Woods’ lead increased by 8 1/2 lengths in just the matter of three-sixteenths of a mile. Paradise Woods received some left-handed encouragement during the stretch run, with Prat then taking his foot completely off the gas pedal toward the end. Completing her 1 1/16-mile journey in 1:42.53, Paradise Woods was all alone at the finish. She won by 11 1/4 lengths at 8-1 in the wagering. “She looked like she was just cruising out there,” Mandella was quoted as saying after the race by Santa Anita publicity. “She took my breath away.” Abel Tasman finished second as the 4-5 favorite. She would go on to win the Grade I Kentucky Oaks and Grade I Acorn Stakes. Paradise Woods’ performance was all the more remarkable because she was taking a giant class leap to the Grade I level off a maiden victory. Not only that, the Kentucky-bred Union Rags filly was stretching out to 1 1/16 miles off a 5 1/2-furlong race. According to Santa Anita publicity, Paradise Woods’ margin of victory was the biggest in the history of the Santa Anita Oaks. Paradise Woods broke the record of 10 1/2 lengths set by Silver Spoon in 1959. Silver Spoon then beat the boys to win the Santa Anita Derby by 2 1/2 lengths before finishing fifth in Tomy Lee’s Kentucky Derby. Royal Orbit, who finished second to Silver Spoon in the Santa Anita Derby, won the Preakness Stakes that year. Silver Spoon was inducted into the national Hall of Fame in 1978. In 1988, Winning Colors won the Santa Anita Oaks by eight lengths before running away to a 7 1/2-length triumph in the Santa Anita Derby. Winning Colors then joined Regret (1915) and Genuine Risk (1980) as the only fillies to ever win the Kentucky Derby. Winning Colors was inducted into the national Hall of Fame in 2000. Beyer Speed Figures for the Santa Anita Oaks go back to 1990. Paradise Woods recorded a 107 Beyer, highest in the history of the race. The previous top Beyer recorded by a Santa Anita Oaks winner was 106 by Serena’s Song in 1995. Serena’s Song was inducted into the national Hall of Fame in 2002. Paradise Woods’ 107 Beyer ranked as the highest by a 3-year-old, male or female, during the first half of 2017. 1. ARROGATE in Gulfstream Park’s Grade I Pegasus World Cup at 1 1/8 miles on dirt June 28. (Owned by Juddmonte Farms; trained by Bob Baffert; ridden by Mike Smith.) The $16 million purse for the inaugural Pegasus World Cup made it the richest race in the history of the sport. Sweeping to the front on the far turn, Arrogate went on to win by 4 3/4 lengths as a 4-5 favorite. Gun Runner finished second, five lengths in front of third-place Neolithic. California Chrome, the 2014 and 2016 Horse of the Year, ran ninth at 6-5 in the final start of his career. This was not just an outstanding performance by Arrogate. It was also a fantastic training job on the part of Hall of Famer Baffert, who had to get the Kentucky-bred Unbridled’s Song colt ready for this race during an extremely wet winter in Southern California. Equibase originally listed Arrogate’s official final time as being 1:47.61. Many believed 1:47.61 was incorrect, that it actually was faster. Gulfstream through the years has had more timing problems than any other major track in the country. Arrogate initially was assigned a 119 Beyer Speed Figure for his Pegasus performance. Three days after the race, Daily Racing Form’s Matt Hegarty reported that Andrew Beyer, the founder of Beyer Speed Figures, said the initial figure given to Arrogate “was changed from a 116 to a 119 after figure-makers, including Randy Moss, hand-timed the race at a time that was significantly faster than the official time of 1:47.61.” No horse earned a Beyer higher than Arrogate’s 119 during the first half of 2017. (Send It In also was assigned a 119 Beyer Speed Figure for his half-length win in Aqueduct’s Grade III Excelsior Stakes at 1 1/4 miles on dirt April 8.) Six days after the Pegasus World Cup, Equibase announced the final time for that race had been changed. “A correction has been made to the official finish time for the 1 1/8-mile Pegasus World Cup (G1) run at Gulfstream Park on January 28, 2017,” an Equibase press release stated. “Upon subsequent detailed review of the race performance data, it has been determined that the winning horse ARROGATE (Unbridled’s Song) finished the race in 1:46.83. The finish time sets a Gulfstream Park track record for the 1 1/8-mile race run on the dirt surface (previous track record at this distance held by LEA at the 2014 Donn Hcp in 1:46.86). “Gulfstream Park employs Trakus for its tracking and timing services…Trakus regrets the incorrect reporting of the finish time and apologizes for any inconvenience caused to our partner, Gulfstream Park, their fans and horsemen, and all industry stakeholders.” Arrogate went on to win the Group I, $10 million Dubai World Cup on March 25 despite a wretched start. It was a performance for the ages. I believe Arrogate’s victory in Dubai was even more impressive than his Pegasus triumph, but his Dubai World Cup performance is not eligible for this list because it did not occur in the United States. If Arrogate’s Dubai World Cup had been eligible, I would have ranked it as the best performance by a Thoroughbred during the first half of 2017.

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7.4.2017:

Harness: Campbell Farewell was Something Special

John Campbell said he is looking forward to the next chapter in his harness racing career. Problem is, there's little room left to build upon his legend. Campbell, 62, began his new role as President and CEO of the Hambletonian Society Saturday. But the sport's most dominant driver ever had business to take care of Friday night and, to no one's surprise, the Hall of Famer went out a big winner. Campbell guided trotters Muscle Hill and Muscle Diamond to victory in the final two pari-mutuel races of his career, much to the delight of family, friends and fans who packed the Meadowlands to take part in the celebration. Campbell signed autographs and memorabilia, posed for pictures, watched a video tribute and, oh yes, enjoyed a piece of his retirement cake at the track where he dominated for the better part of five decades. Those who competed against Campbell on Friday came to the winners' circle to shake hands with the man many of them idolized. "This place has a special place in my heart," Campbell said in a post-race interview. "To go out like this is just incredible. It couldn't have been a better night." Campbell, who burst onto the Meadowlands scene in the late 1970s, retired with 10,667 victories, good for ninth all-time. But when the big money was on the line, Campbell was at his best, winning 48 Breeders Crown races, a record six Hambletonians, seven Meadowlands Pace trophies and six North America Cups. He won 23 races worth at least $1 million and a record $300 million overall. He was named North America's Driver of the Year in 1983, 1988 and 1990 and won Breeders Crowns races in his 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s. He guided Mack Lobell, Artsplace, Cam's Card Shark, Real Desire, Glidemaster and Rock N Roll Heaven to U.S. Horse of the Year honors. "John Campbell is truly the Michael Jordan, Babe Ruth and Wayne Gretzky of harness racing all wrapped into one," said Meadowlands GM Jason Settlemoir. "Nobody has revolutionized our sport more or, more importantly, been a better ambassador and promoter of our industry."

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7.3.2017:

Costly Process of Keeping People Honest

The easy answer is that we need to be tough on crime. The hard part is actually being tough on crime. Much of the time, it’s not the will to do what’s right that gets in the way; it’s the process involved to see it through.The coverage of last week’s trial of trainer Murray Rojas in Pennsylvania court painted a bleak picture of backstretch life, rife with all the makings of the wild, wild west.  Some of it was fact. Some of it was he said-she said. Some of it made you question your allegiance to the game you love and the handicapping process you trust.In the end, though, not guilty was the verdict when it came to the charges of wire fraud and conspiracy. Why a court case borne from the doping of racehorses gets tied into the interstate simulcast act and wire fraud charges is just part of the difficulty in seeing through the levying of sanctions. I am no legal scholar, and, the truth is, it takes a TV judicial trifecta of Alan Dershowitz, Jeffrey Toobin and Judge Andrew Napolitano to even figure this stuff out.Our American court system may be the best in the world, but it certainly does not lack in technicalities. They say there are a thousand ways to lose a horse race and only one way to win it; there may be even fewer ways to come up with a guilty verdict beyond a reasonable doubt.With those daunting odds facing racing commissions trying to do what’s right in most instances, you can see the reason why throwing the book at cheaters is a costly proposition. If a racing organization wanted to clean its house, it will no doubt clean out its bank account long before discernible changes are made in the culture. We talk a lot about how the cheaters are ahead of the testing protocols and always will be. But we rarely talk about how the financial practice of prosecuting or defending charges has spiraled beyond control. This is why slaps on the wrist are commonplace.  If you’re willing to accept a 30-day suspension and move your horses to your assistant’s name in the program, you’re taking a plea bargain of sorts that saves everyone a ton of money on both sides. Of course, the fall-out from that is a public that becomes distrustful of all sides – in a sport that is funded almost exclusively by a public seeking trust in what it’s betting. We all agree we want the cheating out of the sport. But when a nanogram comes into discussion and things like contamination and the iron-clad accuracy of the testing protocols are at play, it’s very easy to raise any semblance of reasonable doubt. And, with that, our legal system will side with the accused as it is programmed to do so.Like I said, I am no legal scholar whatsoever, but I am a voracious reader of the news and supporter of the horse racing industry. That combination has led me to the observation that it’s very hard to throw the book at anyone, and even more expensive to make sure it sticks. Sometimes we need to give the people a break when it comes to pointing fingers, and redirect them to the process. Of course, there’s always more than enough blame to go around.

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7.2.2017:

July 2: Hawthorne Harness Picks

Hawthorne will close-out the weekend with a pair of Dygert Eliminations for trotters as both Race 5 and Race 8 will carry a $12,000 purse. Players should keep in mind, besides the Late Pick 4 with a $20,000 guaranteed pool there is a big carryover in the finale of $178,547 for the Jackpot Hi-5. The drivers with the hottest hands on Saturday night were Casey Leonard and Tim Curtin, with four and three wins respectively. Tonight, my angle is to play against the 2-1 favorite in the opening leg and the 2-1 morning chalk in the third leg of the Late Pick 4. In my view, it makes sense to shy away from the program favorites in those two races and hopefully it will pay to seek more value. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Race 7 8-Shez A Swift-Has found ways to lose this year. 2nd chalk should be a big player tonight. 9-Stephie Clay-Taking a swing with a big price who will be rolling late if there is a quick pace. Race 8- 6-Louscipher-Leonard gets a catch drive on the 3/2 favorite, his race to lose. 8-Trixie's Jethro-This 3-year old likes to win races, so will respect. Chances would improve with a better post draw. Race 9 3-David's Draw-Steps up after a sharp win at 32-1. Not crazy about the 3-1 ML but will respect chances. 5-Betorluckythangood-Oosting's choice and last 2 have been better than the lines look. Could be sitting on a big try. 9-Red Red Redneck-Likes to race up close and besides #3 there's not a lot of gate speed. May get the top and control race. Race 10 2-I Could Care Less-Having a very good meet and fits in here. Looking for a strong effort. 5-All About Cowboys-1st start since 11/12/16 was sharp. Should be better tonight and has had success here in the past. 7-Pridecrest-2-1 program favorite takes a sizeable drop and could be in line for third picture this year. .50 Late Pick 4 8,9/6,8/3,5,9/2,5,7 Total bet=$18 You can follow me on Twitter - @AlCimaglia. 

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7.1.2017:

O Canada, O Woodbine

I’m not sure exactly when bucket lists became en vogue, but it seems like everyone has one these days. If you’ve got one for race tracks, make sure Woodbine outside of Toronto is nestled closely to the top of the list. And if you’re itching for a road trip this weekend, feel free head up there in the coming days, as you won’t find a more hospitable and welcoming group, as well as one heck of a party and some top-class Thoroughbred racing too. Queen’s Plate Weekend has arrived.I’ve been lucky enough to witness the Queen’s Plate—Canada’s answer to the Kentucky Derby—on several different occasions, both as a fan and as a working member of the racing media. This will mark the fifth time I’ve headed north of the border for some July 4th fireworks, yet it never grows old and my excitement never wanes, as it’s one of the best weekends of the year. Woodbine itself is as beautiful a racing plant as we have in North America, from the lush, monstrously expansive turf course that actually encircles the main track (and harness track too) and is unlike anything we have in North America, to the Tapeta racing surface that will host Canada’s oldest and most premier race, run exclusively for 3-year-olds foaled in Canada, to the countless bars and eateries and great vantage points that the track has to offer. If you come to Woodbine and don’t have fun, well, you’re doing something wrong.Queen’s Plate Day is modeled after a lot of our biggest racing days, in that it is celebrated as a huge party, not only for the equine stars it showcases, but also for the thousands of people it attracts, who will dress to the nines and drink their fair share of beer, booze and champagne. But the Churchill Downs and Pimlico infields Woodbine is not. If I blindfolded you and dropped you off, you may think you’re at Royal Ascot on the English countryside, as opposed to the Louisville and Baltimore. A tuxedo and a top hat are just as likely to pop up as jeans and a tee-shirt, or a suit and a tie, which invokes quite a bit of class into a day that can often lead to a headache Sunday morning.As for the racing, the Queen’s Plate itself is a heck of a race, as it annually blends not only the best of Canada, but some invaders who have been foaled in the Great White North, as well as some fillies who distinguished themselves three weeks earlier in the Woodbine Oaks. It’s a fun mix, which is why the race typically gets a full, robust field, where favoritism doesn’t mean a whole heck of a lot and price players often lick their chops. Toss in several other stakes and a deep and competitive racing card, and bettors have arguably the best and most lucrative day of racing until Saratoga opens.There are plenty of things to do and celebrate on July 4th Weekend, and often the festivities at home take center stage, but if you’re looking to check off another box on your bucket list, head north to Woodbine, you won’t be disappointed.

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7.1.2017:

July 1: Mohawk Harness Picks

The Saturday night card at Mohawk features Ontario Sires Stake-Gold Series action in races 2 ,6, and 8 for 3-year-old colts and geldings. It's a solid card throughout which also has a Preferred Pace in Race 3 and Preferred Trot in Race 5, each will carry a $34,000 purse. On Friday night leading drivers Doug McNair and Louis Roy had successful night with three winners each. The posted Late Pick 4 ticket at Hawthorne for Friday night did connect for a modest profit. The (7-7-6-9) combination paid $83.50 on a .50 bet. Tonight, my attention is focused on the Early .20 Pick 4. Comments and selections are based on a fast track. Race 4 1-PL Jackson-Has had trouble winning races this year but is in a spot to excel, company suits. 5-Mohawk Warrior-Looking for 1st win of year but this is a comfortable spot. Roy is up, so no excuses allowed. 8-Par Intended-Value should be there but will need a trip and a brisk pace. If so, can roll late and surprise. Race 5 2-Windsun Revenge-Current form is great and gets a big post edge on major foes. 4-Lookslikeachpndale-Here's the value play. Could upset the apple cart if there is a hot pace and others wear out late. 7-Musical Rythmn-Almost beat #2 in a big effort, started outside and was off 2 weeks. Could be sharper now. 9-Marion Maruader-Interesting as this is 1st start of year on a big track. If ready and trip isn't brutal class should show. Race 6 2-Mc Mach-Looks like a good spot to step forward and win 1st of year at a square price. 6-Richard Hill-Last was even after skipping a start. Looking for a better effort and a more aggressive drive. 8-Sports Column-Does best work racing close to lead. But how easy will it be to find a good seat? Has some gate speed. Race 7 2-Audreys Dream-Has been trying but can't seal the deal, looks like this is a group he can beat from the 2 post. 5-Boomboom Ballykeel-Another searching for a win and finds a soft field. Roy will need to find more down the stretch. 7-Prescotts Hope-Competing well in fast miles and looks like a player tonight. Could be a smooth trip away from a picture. .20 Early Pick 4 1,5,8/2,4,7,9/2,6,8/2,5,7 Total bet=$21.60 Follow me on Twitter - @AlCimaglia.

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6.30.2017:

Three Rules, Awesome Banner Return to Gulfstream

Gulfstream Park’s Summit of Speed returns Saturday and includes many shippers as well as those that have put down roots at Hallandale. It’s important to scope out horses for the course, and it’s doesn’t take super sleuthing to find two that bring their best over the south Florida strip. Three Rules is in the Grade 3 Carry Back Stakes (11th on the 14-race card) and Awesome Banner is in the Grade 3 Smile Sprint (13th). And what may be more impressive is that each went to Pimlico on Preakness Stakes, and despite not winning, gave a good showing and they have their locally based supporters ready to see their return. Three Rules was 5 of 5 at GP last year as a 2-year-old, mostly against restricted company. He moved to open rivals this spring and despite getting a little roughed up by the stellar company gave a good account of himself and was 2nd in the G2 Swale, 3rd in the G2 Fountain of Youth and 5th in the G1 Florida Derby. Three Rules latest was a 3rd in the Chick Lang at Pimlico. He was 3rd as the favorite and now trainer Jose Pinchin has brought him back home where he is now 5 of 8. He’s also reunited with jockey Cornelio Velasquez, who has done the most good on him and was the rider of record during his five-race sweep last summer and fall. Hard to imagine him not being real salty in this seven-furlong test. Hooking him up in exotics with Hunka Burning Love, Mo Cash and Benefactor should bring a payoff, and inclusion in multi-race plays is a must. Likewise, Awesome Banner is back and ready to make his 3rd start for trainer Kenneth Decker. The 4-year-old Awesome of Course colt was a bang-up 3rd behind Whitmore in the Maryland Sprint Stakes. He ran on and lost by a half-length and later was stabled at Laurel thereafter, where he logged two bullet works. He returns to where he’s won 6 of 11 races, and a repeat of his solid 3rd to Whitmore makes him the one to beat. Imperial Hint, Quijote and Delta Bluesman likely will be his strongest competition and are a good fit with Awesome Banner in the exotics and like Three Rules is a big player in the multi-race exotics. Sometimes you can go home again, and Three Rules and Awesome Banner are out to prove it in fine fashion. --- You know it’s a good card if Calgary Cat shows up in the 4th race. That’s what is happening Sunday on the terrific Queen’s Plate card at Woodbine. Calgary Cat is among those set to go in the Grade 2 Hilander Stakes at six furlongs over the turf. You can find horses that can beat Calgary Cat; you might have a problem finding any that try harder. The Hilander has a $250,000 purse, which means if the 7-year-old Ontario-bred son of Cowtown Cat wins his bankroll will topple $1 million. Calgary Cat, under the training guidance of Kevin Attard, has won 12 of 30 starts and $924,997 , and as he’s gotten older, a bit of the high gloss has come off his winning percentage. He’s won two of his last 10 races. Prior to that, he was 10 of 20. Sometimes you can tell more about horse when he loses. It’s not that he loses, it’s that he goes down to defeat in style. Two performances stand out in those 18 races he lost. In his last start, he came from far back and was on the short end of a three-horse photo behind Tower of Texas and Commute. He was six-wide and ninth turning for home, had an impressive through the stretch and lost by a neck. Last fall, when he jumped into the 6.5-furlong Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint, he was 13th, some 12 lengths behind after a half-mile, was 14th in midstretch, and sailed home for 4th, beaten only 2 1-4 lengths by Obviously. Calgary Cat does his best when he has a solid pace in front of him, and he’ll get it Sunday. Jockey Luis Contreras can get him back to the winner’s circle, and if the 5-to-2 odds (from the morning line) aren’t enough, he’s usable in the exotics with Commute, Green Mask and Commend.

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6.30.2017:

June 30: Hawthorne Harness Picks

The Friday night feature at Hawthorne is an Open Pace carded as Race 8 with a $15,000 purse. The Late .50 Pick 4 sequence starts in Race 9 and will have a $15,000 guaranteed pool. On Thursday night in Stickney, James Lackey led all drivers with three wins. Mike Brink finished on top of the trainer's list with two victories. Last night at Mohawk my posted selections were good in the first three legs, including the $25 winner in Race 9. I did not use the post time favorite Dorabella (#6) in Race 10, who was 5-1 in the ML and was bet down to 6/5. The .20 Late Pick 4 (2/1/4/6) paid $87.61. The big winner of the night was the lucky person who snagged the Jackpot Hi-5 (6-5-8-7-3), which paid $43,174.75. Comments and selections below for the Late Pick 4 are based on a fast track. Race 9 4-Polaris N-2nd start for Husted after claim and rolled the back half in 56.1, could be sitting on a big try. 5-Luke's Rocketman-Krueger back in town and catches a live Willis trainee. Last was even after a sick scratch, expecting better. 7-Gorilla Monsoon-Got on the engine and didn't look back in last. When this guy gets good he can stay that way for a while. Race 10 3-Mystical Walter-Not a bad try at this level in last. Not sure about the 3-1 ML but can't overlook in an open race. 4-Dinky Dunne-Was racing well before a sick scratch 2 back. Fits well at this level. 7-Yankee Bounty-Former class horse is seeking 1st win of the year. Needs to grind way to striking position and ramble by. Race 11 2-Pancetta-Steps up after a sharp effort coming off a sick scratch. In a good spot to pick-up 4th win of the year. 3-Extravagant Art-Camera shy gelding did all the heavy lifting in last and fell a neck short. Looks like a major player. 6-Caffeine Kid-Had an even try at this level in last and will look for better now. Curtin's choice over 2 others. Race 12 4-Elite Awards-ML favorite steps up after a sharp effort coming off a sick scratch. Short price but hard to overlook from this post. 5-Uncle Bud-Has a good chance with Leonard to take 1st picture of the year versus this group. 8-Lincoln-Drops into a more comfortable spot and has some gate speed to get a decent seat. Offers some value at 15-1 ML. 9-Brooklynite-Trip dependent 4-year old, so Oosting needs to work a trip. Consider chances even from this post versus a soft field. .50 Late Pick 4 4,5,7/3,4,7/2,3,6/4,5,8,9 Total bet=$54 Please follow me on Twitter, @AlCimaglia.

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6.29.2017:

Guaranteed Winner

A ‘guarantee’ is just hot air unless there’s also a level of commitment or risk attached to it. For example: The tout that released today’s failed ‘guaranteed’ winner happily will share tomorrow’s ‘guaranteed’ winner with disappointed clients at no additional expense. What has he lost in the exchange? Nothing. Where’s the commitment? Where’s the risk? On the other hand, if a tout announces that he will reimburse clients all losing wagers if his ‘guaranteed’ play fails, then…well, that’s a guarantee worth chasing. Politicians love making ‘guarantees.’ They call them ‘campaign promises’ and conveniently forget about them post election, term in and term out. Athletes like to make ‘guarantees,’ too. Number one all-time is Joe Namath’s ’69 Miami poolside prediction three days before Super Bowl III when he guaranteed to reporters that his New York Jets would upset the heavily favored Baltimore Colts. They did 16-7 and the game wasn’t even that close. Joe Willie put his reputation on the line with that bold prediction. Before then many considered him Broadway Joe--more flash than substance. Afterwards, he was destined for the Hall of Fame.A bit more than a decade ago, to help stimulate handle, racetracks began offering and promoting certain ‘guaranteed’ wagering pools. The tactic was inspired by the proven mutuel power of pick six carryover pools—as alluring to horseplayers as sirens to sailors. At first these guarantees were focused on certain pools on marquee days. For example, in 2008, Breeders’ Cup promised a $3 million Ultra Pick 6 pot—then the world’s largest guaranteed pool.The actual total pool for the wager was $2,882,343 and Breeders’ Cup had to chip in to top it off at $3 million. But what’s strange about that shortfall is that before 2008 the Breeders’ Cup pick six pool had exceeded $3 million every year since it’s 2000 inception, and again in every subsequent year except for 2014, when the pooll fell short of a $2.5 million guarantee. So, even though Breeders’ Cup got caught ‘speeding’ in 2008 and again in 2014, their ‘guaranteed’ amounts were rooted in solid past performances. That’s pretty much the case these days. Racetracks accurately estimate what they will handle with certain wagers and then comfortably market ‘guaranteed’ pools without fear of missing the target. It happens, but not very often.First, from a horseplayer’s perspective, a clear distinction should be made between a carryover and a guarantee. They are about as similar as Chuck Schumer and Mitch McConnell—the former are both wagering pools and the latter both senators but that’s where the similarity ends. A carryover includes ‘dead’ money that previously had failed to conquer the wager in question. That money has no claim on today’s pool. It can’t win a share of the pot, but it can be won. On the other hand, a guaranteed pool contains no ‘dead’ money--unless wagering fails to reach the stated guaranteed amount. In that case the difference, contributed by the guarantor, would represent the only ‘dead’ money in the pool. Instances of guaranteed pools failing to meet objectives are less and less common, so guaranteed pools rarely are a source of ‘dead’ money. Tracks are capable of estimating handle projections for particular wagers and understandably are conservative in establishing guarantees for those wagers. For example, Belmont Stakes weekend the track offered an assortment of Guaranteed Wagers. They are listed below with final pool totals in parenthesis: Two-Day Daily Double Guaranteed Wagers $100k New York Stakes – Metropolitan Handicap ($182k)$300k Belmont Gold Cup – Belmont Stakes ($497k)   Friday Guaranteed Wagers $100k Pick 6 ($323k)$500k Late Pick 4 ($1.3 million) Saturday Guaranteed Wagers$500k Pick 5 ($1.2 million)$250k Pick 3 ($418k)$500k Pick 6 ($951k)$1.5 Million Pick 4 ($3.7) As you can see, none of the guarantees were particularly daring. In fact, several fell more than 50% short of final pool totals. So, if racetracks are fairly certain they will hit projected ‘guarantee’ amounts, why do they bother promoting them? Don’t horseplayers see through flimsy guarantees well below actual pool totals? They do, but apparently, the marketing ploy works. Or at least tracks think it does. I must admit that even though I’m not impressed by the prospect of a guaranteed pool, because I realize that handle certainly will eclipse the mark, hearing about a substantial guaranteed number still lures me. Perhaps, at my age, it’s the reminder about the large pool that I most appreciate. Last Saturday, wet weather forced Belmont races off the turn and caused many scratches. In response the track cancelled all ‘guaranteed’ pools. That’s OK by me. Those are extenuating circumstances and under such conditions tracks shouldn’t be forced to reach into their pockets to cover shortfalls.Guaranteed or carryover pot. Know the difference and wager accordingly. Of course, cashing in either pool feels just as good!Race On!     

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6.29.2017:

June 29: Mohawk Harness Picks

Tonight, at Mohawk the .20 Pick 5 will open the card and it will have a $40,000 guaranteed pool. The .20 Early Pick 4 will roll in Race 4 and it has a $50,000 guaranteed pool. The .20 Late Pick 4 will begin in Race 7 and this sequence will be my betting focus. From June 20-26, the hottest driver on the Mohawk circuit was James MacDonald who had seven wins in 35 drives. Trainer Mark Steacy, who often uses MacDonald had five wins in 18 starts. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Race 7 2-Surprise Hanover-Takes a good drop plus Roy is back in the bike and all of that should make a big difference. 5-Cheyenne Ford-4th start after a claim, last was better and now McNair steers. Should be set for a big try. 6-Big Yellow-55.3 back half but pace was slow so couldn't catch leader. Drops to a better spot, should be a square price. 8-Casimir Overdrive-Drops and 3rd start after claim for Puddy and Henry is back in the bike. Contender in an open race. Race 8 1-Nascar Seelster-Off the bench and was a sharp winner in last. Gets a comfortable spot and should like the company. 3-The Dark Shadow-Has had excuses in last 2 and at 6-1 ML could offer some value. 7-Freddy Bear-3-year old has been racing well and McNair should have this colt in the mix to the wire. Race 9 1-Oak Island-Came home in a hurry in last and if McClure can work a trip from the inside could make it 3rd straight. 4-Dream Of Luck-McNair got on the engine in last and came up a little short. Will respect chances for a picture tonight. 7-Mach Deja Vu -Came a head short from 8 hole last time and looks like a player at a nice price now, 8-1 ML. Race 10 1-Bad In Paradise-Back to the big track and Roy returns as well, should be in the hunt but will be a short price. 3-Mack Majorette-5/2 ML chalk is very sharp and Henry drives/trains and owns. Another who should be bet hard. 7-Sparkle-Price shot was used hard from the 8-hole. Jamieson needs to work a trip and find good cover to have a big shot. Late .20 Pick 4 2,5,6,8/1,3,7/1,4,7/1,3,7 Total bet=$21.60 You can follow me on Twitter, @AlCimaglia.

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6.29.2017:

Jon White: My Mid-Year Eclipse Award Ballot

We are almost halfway through 2017. With that in mind, if there were such a thing as Eclipse Awards for the first half of the year, these would be my votes, excluding the 2-year-old, human and steeplechase categories:MID-YEAR THREE-YEAR-OLD MALE: 1. Always Dreaming, 2. Tapwrit, 3. Classic Empire.I think Mastery was best 3-year-old male during the first half of 2017. He won the Grade II San Felipe Stakes by 6 3/4 lengths at Santa Anita Park on March 11 while posting a 105 Beyer Speed Figure to remain undefeated in four career starts. Unfortunately, Mastery emerged from that race with a “complete displaced condylar fracture” in his left front ankle, according to the New York Times’ Joe Drape, an injury that knocked the colt out of the Triple Crown races. Mastery required surgery for the insertion of three screws, Drape reported.Mastery, undefeated in four career starts, has been retired from racing and will embark on a new career as a stallion at famed Claiborne Farm in Kentucky.I am not voting for Mastery in this category because there were other 3-year-olds who accomplished more during the first half of the year. The San Felipe was Mastery’s only 2017 start.Always Dreaming gets my vote off his victories in the Grade I Florida Derby and Grade I Kentucky Derby. The Kentucky Derby is the most important race in this category.Tapwrit won the Grade II Tampa Bay Derby and Grade I Belmont Stakes.Classic Empire’s lone victory during the first half of the year came in the Grade I Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park.MID-YEAR THREE-YEAR-OLD FEMALE: 1. Abel Tasman, 2. Unique Bella, 3. Paradise Woods.Abel Tasman won the Kentucky Oaks and Acorn Stakes at Belmont Park. The way I see it, those two Grade I victories put her at the top of this category.Unique Bella was three for three during the first half of the year, all at Santa Anita. She won the Grade II Santa Ynez Stakes by 7 1/2 lengths, Grade II Las Virgenes Stakes by 8 1/4 lengths and Grade III Santa Ysabel Stakes by 2 1/4 lengths on March 4.While it is true that Unique Bella defeated Abel Tasman in the Santa Ynez, my vote in this category goes to Abel Tasman because she had two Grade I victories during the first half of the year, whereas Unique Bella had none.Paradise Woods was scintillating when she won the Grade I Santa Anita Oaks by 11 3/4 lengths over runner-up Abel Tasman. But then Abel Tasman turned the tables on Paradise Woods in the Kentucky Oaks when Paradise Woods ended up eleventh.MID-YEAR OLDER DIRT MALE: 1. Arrogate, 2. Gun Runner, 3. Mor Spirit.This vote is as easy as it gets. Arrogate is two for two this year while winning races with purses of $12 million and $10 million.In Arrogate’s 2017 debut on Jan. 28, he won the richest Thoroughbred race ever run, the $12 million Pegasus World Cup, by 4 3/4 lengths. His final time of 1:46.83 broke Gulfstream Park’s 1 1/8-mile track record. Finishing ninth was California Chrome, the 2014 and 2016 Horse of the Year.After the Pegasus World Cup, Arrogate overcame a dreadful start to win the Group I, $10 million Dubai World Cup by 2 1/4 lengths in a tremendous performance.Gun Runner won the Grade III Razorback Handicap by 5 3/4 lengths at Oaklawn Park and Grade I Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill by seven lengths. In between those two triumphs, he finished second to Arrogate in the Dubai World Cup.Mor Spirit won the Essex Handicap at Oaklawn, Grade III Steve Sexton Mile at Lone Star Park and Grade I Met Mile at Belmont with authority by 6 1/4 lengths.MID-YEAR OLDER DIRT FEMALE: 1. Stellar Wind, 2. Songbird, 3. Vale Dori.Stellar Wind gets my vote because she accomplished more than Songbird. Stellar Wind won a pair of Grade I events (Apple Blossom Handicap at Oaklawn and Beholder Mile at Santa Anita) while going two for two during the first half of the year. Songbird won a Grade I race (Ogden Phipps Stakes at Belmont) in her only 2017 start to date.Vale Dori won four graded stakes races at Santa Anita during the first half of the year -- Grade II La Canada, Grade II Santa Maria, Grade I Santa Margarita and Grade III Adoration. However, she finished second to Stellar Wind in the Beholder Mile.MID-YEAR MALE SPRINTER: 1. Disco Partner, 2. Whitmore, 3. Roy H.Yes, Mind Your Biscuits won the world’s richest sprint, the Group I Dubai Golden Shaheen, by three lengths. While I do take foreign races into account when voting for Eclipse Awards, I am not voting for Mind Your Biscuits in the category of mid-year male sprinter because he lost his only North American start during the first half of the year. He finished second in the Grade III Gulfstream Park Sprint. He has a very good chance to win the Grade II Belmont Sprint Championship on July 8. If he does win that, he would move to the top in this category for me.The most impressive performance I saw by a sprinter in North America (“in North America” are the key words) was Disco Partner’s victory in Belmont’s Grade III Jaipur Stakes on the turf when he blazed five furlongs in 1:05.67 to establish “a course, North American, and world record time,” according to the official Equibase chart.Whitmore won the Hot Springs Stakes and Grade III Count Fleet Sprint Handicap at Oaklawn as well as the Grade III Maryland Sprint at Pimlico before finishing third in the Grade II True North at Belmont.Roy H won the True North. It was his third straight victory. It also was his first stakes win.MID-YEAR FEMALE SPRINTER: 1. Paulassilverling, 2. Finley’sluckycharm, 3. By the Moon.This vote for me is a no-brainer inasmuch as Paulassilverlining was a dual Grade I winner in her only two starts during the first half of the year. She won the Grade I Madison Stakes at Keeneland and Grade I Humana Distaff at Churchill.Finley’sluckycharm was three for three during the first half of the year, all in stakes races at Churchill. She won the Roxelana, Grade III Winning Colors and Grade III Chicago Handicap.By the Moon won two of three starts during the first half of 2017. After she finished a close second in the Grade II Barbara Fritchie at Laurel, she won both the Grade III Vagrancy Handicap and Grade III Bed o’ Roses at Belmont.MID-YEAR MALE TURF: 1. Bal a Bali, 2. Ascend, 3. Divisidero.Bali a Bali was a dual Grade I winner during the first half of the year while winning two of his three starts. He won the Grade I Kilroe Mile at Santa Anita, ran fifth in the Grade I Turf Classic at Churchill, then rebounded and won the Grade I Shoemaker Mile at the Great Race Place.Ascend and Divisidero each won one most important stakes races on the grass during the first half of the year. Ascend took the Grade I Manhattan at Belmont. Divisidero was victorious in the Grade I Turf Classic at Churchill.MID-YEAR FEMALE TURF: 1. Lady Eli, 2. Zhukova, 3. Dickinson.Lady Eli finished second in the Grade I Jenny Wiley Stakes at Keeneland, then won the Grade I Gamely Stakes at Santa Anita.Zhukova registered a six-length victory vs. males in the Grade I Man o’ War at Belmont.Dickinson won the Grade III Suwannee River at Gulfstream, Grade II Hillsborough at Tampa Bay Downs and Grade I Jenny Wiley at Keeneland by a head over Lady Eli. But then Dickinson finished third in the Grade I Just a Game at Belmont.MID-YEAR HORSE OF THE YEAR: 1. Arrogate.My vote for 2017 Mid-Year Horse of the Year goes to Arrogate. He is gearing up for a summer campaign that might commence with Del Mar’s Grade II San Diego Handicap at 1 1/16 miles on July 22. Whether or not Arrogate starts in the San Diego, Del Mar’s Grade I Pacific Classic at 1 1/4 miles on Aug. 19 definitely is on his agenda.BREEDERS’ CUP CLASSIC FUTURE ODDSWith the first half of 2017 nearly over, racing enthusiasts are starting to look ahead in earnest to the highlight of the second half of the year, the Breeders’ Cup at Del Mar on Nov. 3-4. The most recent BC Classic odds I have received from the Wynn Race Book in Las Vegas had Arrogate listed as the 4-5 favorite as of June 12. Here are my current future odds for 14 BC Classic candidates:4-5 Arrogate8-1 Gun Runner12-1 Shaman Ghost12-1 Cloud Computing12-1 Classic Empire12-1 Mor Spirit15-1 Always Dreaming15-1 Tapwrit20-1 Collected20-1 Cupid20-1 Hoppertunity20-1 Neolithic30-1 Connect30-1 Irish War CryBAFFERT’S DANDY TEAM OF OLDER HORSESHall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert currently has an especially strong “team” of older horses led by Arrogate. It is sort of the equine equivalent of the NBA champions, the Golden State Warriors.Baffert has called Arrogate an “unbelievable super horse.” The Warriors’ Kevin Durant is an “unbelievable super player.”I’ll match up Baffert’s older horses with the Warriors this way:Arrogate = Kevin DurantMor Spirt = Stephen CurryCollected = Klay ThompsonHoppertunity = Draymond GreenCupid = Zaza PachuliaDanzing Candy = Andre Iguodala

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6.27.2017:

There's Only One Herve

Herve Filion, the third-leading driver in North American history, died Thursday at age 77 after a long illness.Filion retired in 2013 with 15,179 wins and 16 year-end driving titles. He was the youngest driver ever to be elected into the U.S. and Canada Hall of Fames in 1975 and 1976, respectively.Filion won his first race at age 13 at Rigaud racetrack in his native province of Quebec. He came to the U.S. in 1961 and was a dominant force at Brandywine, Liberty Bell and other Delaware Valley tracks. In 1968, he became the first driver with 400 wins in a year and re-established the record several times in the years to follow. He guided Nansemond (1971) and Hot Hitter (1979) to Little Brown Jug victories, Graded Singing to victory in the 1986 Maple Leaf Trot and Breeders Crown Mare Trot, and he enjoyed multiple stakes wins behind millionaire Dorunrun Bluegrass, to name a few. Filion finished with $88.4 million in earnings.Filion won his 15,000th race at Dover Downs on Nov. 2, 2003. He was in attendance at the The Meadows on July 5, 2012, when Dave Palone surpassed him as the all-time leader, a gesture Palone will remember forever.“Having him there meant so much to me,” Palone told Ken Weingartner of the U.S. Trotting Association. “He was so supportive and so encouraging when I was getting near the record. He kept telling me I was going to do it. I thought it was cool to have him in my corner. ... To this day it doesn’t seem right to me that I have the record. There’s only one Herve. I don’t think I could ever replace Herve as the legend that he is.”IN THE XPRESSLANE: The Meadowlands will host a retirement celebration for Hall of Famer John Campbell this Friday, June 30, the final night of Campbell's illustrious driving career. The celebration will include an autograph session from 6-7 p.m., a poster giveaway while supplies last, contest giveaways with Campbell-signed memorabilia and a video tribute to the sport's most accomplished driver ever. ... Brent Holland guided Delightful Dragon ($7.40) to a front-end victory in Yonkers Raceway's $40,000 preferred handicap pace last Friday for the 5,000th driving win of his career that began in 1989. ... Hannah Miller won 32 races and represented the U.S. with a second-place finish in the International World Cup in Budapest, Hungary to be named Amateur Driver of the Year for the second consecutive season. ... The USTA will conduct a racing officials accreditation program Nov. 7-14 at the The Meadows in Pennsylvania. Application deadline is October 20. ... Orlando's Rosen Shingle Creek, ranked among the top 20 U.S. meeting hotels by Cvent, will host the 2018 Dan Patch Awards banquet, it was announced recently.

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6.26.2017:

Ascot Underscored What We Already Knew

The buzz around Royal Ascot for we Americans was our new-found desire to be part of England’s biggest racing party. The US contingent was stronger than ever and names like Pletcher, Mott, Motion, Casse and Ward were fitted for top hats and tails. After last week’s royal five-day stand, we may have reaffirmed a few things, but I’m not sure we learned much new.Here’s what we know now – and have for a long time: America can produce the world’s most hellacious sprinters and some awfully precocious juveniles.  Trainer Wesley Ward has shown that on the grandest stage. His filly Lady Aurelia has proven that point single-hoofedly with back-to-back Royal Ascot wins in the Queen Mary at age 2 and the G1 King’s Stand last week as a 3-year-old filly beating elders. The winning distance this time around – just 5 furlongs.If America had sent talented 2-year-olds and sprinters to Ascot for decades, we’d already have it cemented in our racing psyche that we own the dashes and the baby races. One must look no further than the Breeders’ Cup for such affirmation. The world hasn’t been successful in our sprint races for more than three decades now. The fleeting score of Sheikh Albabdou was 26 years ago in the 1991 BC Sprint, the same year of Arazi in the Juvenile. Since the addition of the Filly & Mare Sprint and the Turf Sprint, all success has been domestically grown in the USA. A few international 2-year-olds have found success in the Juvenile, but chiefly in the synthetic era.If the US truly had made a turn of the corner at Royal Ascot, then the success of Tepin last year would have been followed up with more route success overseas. That’s where we’ve always been short of the Europeans and continue to be so. We didn’t make a dent in the prestigious turf races of any distance. Ward has been able to cherry-pick winning spots where the Europeans, quite frankly, aren’t aiming with their best stock. It’s a lot of fun to watch and our nationalistic pride soars. But let’s be realistic in that America had very little influence on the key races overseas.All that goes back to underscore how revolutionary and remarkable last year’s G1 Queen Anne win by Tepin must be held. She did beat the world’s top milers – male and female – that day to kick off the ’16 Royal Ascot meeting. It should go down in history as one of the most appreciated international performances ever by an American racehorse. This year’s Royal Ascot meet only went further in emphasizing that. We don’t suddenly have an international trend post-Tepin. We just have fabulous memories of Tepin and her unique success.

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6.25.2017:

June 25: Hawthorne Harness Picks

Hawthorne will close-out the weekend with a .50 Late Pick 4 that will have a $20,000 guaranteed pool. The feature will come in Race 2, when a field of seven trotters will compete for a share of a $15,000 purse. On Saturday night, my posted Pick 4 ticket came apart in the first leg and went three out of four. The Late .50 Pick 4 (4/2/7/2) paid $190.65. Driver Mike Oosting had the hottest hands as he brought home three winners. On the 12-race card, no trainer had more than one win. Tonight, my attention will be on the Late Pick 4 and the sequence begins in race 7. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Race 7 2-Nevada Bluechip-Caught far back early and couldn't close into a slow pace. Leonard should have better position tonight. 4-Rockinaroundheaven-Had a sharp win on 5/27 and then has had excuses in last 2, with best effort could pull off an upset. 5-Ashlees Cocktail-3-year-old faces older but with the right trip can take a photo. Will respect chances from this post. 10-Northern BB-5/2 ML chalk won last from the inside. Oosting steers tonight, post will be a challenge but can beat this field. Race 8 4-Next Issue-Winner of 3 straight faces similar. Short price (7/5), Leonard steers for very hot trainer, looks like all systems go. 5-Dumas Gram-Probably the best chance to upset the favorite but will need a top effort and some breaks. Race 9 3-Wildcat Hilton-Drop into a comfortable spot and gets a favorable post. Sheehan can work a trip and stay in the hunt. 5-Shotski-5/2 ML favorite likes to race close to the lead and it shouldn't be draining to get an upfront seat. 6-Betorluckythangood-Usually closes well and Oosting may get a trip behind #5 and roll by down the lane. Race 10 2-Delightfully Wild-Lackey can put this grinder into good striking position to use one big move to win at a square price. 7-Pretty Image-3-year-old has been off for 3 weeks but is installed as the 9/5 ML favorite. If ready will be tough to beat. 9-Mimosa Party-2nd chalk has been racing well. It won't be easy from post #9, but Oosting can provide a smooth journey. .50 Late Pick 4 2,4,5,10/4,5/3,5,6/2,7,9 Total bet=$36 Be sure to follow me on Twitter, @AlCimaglia.

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6.24.2017:

June 24: Hawthorne Harness Picks

It's a weekend of guaranteed pools at Hawthorne for the Late Pick 4. Tonight, the .50 Late Pick 4 will have another guaranteed pool of $15,000 and tomorrow the guarantee will be bumped up to $20,0000. The headliner comes in Race 3, a conditioned trot for fillies and mares that are non-winners of 4 races and it will carry an $11,000 purse. It was mentioned last week in my race comments trainer Britney Dillon's barn seemed to be coming around. That turned out to be the case in a big way last night as she won three races and two were at long odds. Driver Tyler Sheehan was in the sulky for two of the three winners and Robert Smolin was the pilot on the other. The .50 Late Pick 4 (10-4-8-9) paid $1936.85 and the payout was boosted by longshot winners in the opening two legs. Tonight, I will take another swing at the Late Pick 4. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Race 9 1-Our Miss Lily-Last was better than it looked and now moves inside a couple of spots. 2-Lovethewayoulook-Program chalk came out of same race as #1, went on the engine and might be rated better tonight. 7-Ashlee's Fine Lady-Took advantage of brisk fractions and rolled by everyone late. Could be taking a picture again. Race 10 2-Fat And Poe-Won last going free legged, that will be the case again. Will string along and respect chances for a repeat. 4-Laurel's Lea-Trying hard despite having 10 hole and racing on an off track. Could be sitting on a big try at a square price. 5-Do You Dare-Was rolling in the back half but was too far back on an off track. 2nd time Leonard, and should be better. 6-Shymaster-2nd chalk, leaving favorite (#3) out, raced well in 1st start on an off track. Now, looks like a major player. Race 11 4-Vintage Babe-Twice beaten favorite steps up but should be in the hunt. Not crazy about short price, ML chalk at 5/2. 6-Phyliss Jean-This 4 year old looks like the one to beat, dropping out of Open company. 7-Fox Valley Charm-Was a bridesmaid in last two, but best to not overlook high percentage barn. Race 12 1-Eternal Grace-Last 2 were better since arriving from Cali. Makes 5th start at Haw, draws inside, and should offer value. 2-Naty-9/5 ML favorite, drops to the bottom rung trying for 1st win in a while. Racked up over $49K in 2016. 7-Fox Valley Ruby-Another grasping for a win. Lackey should have his charge ready and a dry track can help. .50 Late Pick 4 1,2,7/2,4,5,6/4,6,7/1,2,7 Total bet=$21.60 You can follow me on Twitter, @AlCimaglia.

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6.24.2017:

Girvin is Heads Above in Ohio Derby

Let's face it - when ranking the epicenters of thoroughbred racing, Cleveland, Ohio probably doesn't fall very high on the list.  Lexington, Louisville, Arcadia or Saratoga it is not.  But for one day a year at least, it does rank that high.  And that day is this Saturday, as Jack Thistledown Racino hosts the Grade 3, $500,000 Ohio Derby. And with four Kentucky Derby alums entered, along with Hall of Fame jockeys Mike Smith and Kent Desormeaux and conditioner, Steve Asmussen, this year's Ohio Derby looks like a good one.  Maybe this race will never attract the Derby winner.  Or the hot Triple Crown horse.  That's alright.  The Ohio Derby is the kickoff of the (very unofficial) Summer Derby Series, which snakes through Ohio, Indiana, Iowa, West Virginia and Pennsylvania and rewards participating horses with massive purses in graded races.  Without further adieu, let's take a look at this year's Ohio Derby field – 1. Talk Less (Radosevich/Colon) - 12/1 You have to really admire owner, Ron Paolucci.  This is his race.  Most owners have their sights set on the Kentucky Derby.  Or the Travers.  Or the Breeders' Cup.  'Loooch' wants the Ohio Derby.  This is his hometown race.  And he sends out a three-pronged attempt to win it this year.  The first of his entrants is Talk Less, a son of Blame who has won two consecutive races - his first two tries on dirt - since moving to the Jake Radosevich barn.  Those Beyers came back light (68 both times) and this is a big step up in class.  On the bright side, he gets the hottest jockey at Thistledown, 34% rider, Luis Colon, and if you bet him, you get two other horses for free. 1A. Vibe (Hess/Feliciano) - 12/1 The second of the Loooch trio, Vibe kicked off his career in Southern California against the likes of Gormley, Colonel Samson, Term of Art and Klimt.  He's competed in three stakes races, but has yet to find the board in one.  He did win a first-level allowance race at this distance last out at Churchill Downs on a wet, sealed track, but like his stablemates, the water than he's shown capable of handling.  He did earn a 79 Beyer for that Churchill win, and it did come at this 1 1/8-mile distance, so he's checked that box at least. 1X. Game Over (Radosevich/Radosevich) - 12/1 The third of the Loooch entry, Game Over is at least right now, arguably the most talented.  A perfect 2-for-2 in his young career, he has won sprint races at Oaklawn and Churchill, with escalating Beyers (78 to 84) in tow.  That said, what a tough step up in class.  His pedigree - by Mineshaft and out of a Soto mare - indicate the added distance is within his scope, but getting it in a Grade 3 off just two career starts won't be simple.  Worth pointing out that the barn's go-to rider, Luis Colon, was named on Talk Less, but you have to feel a little positive that the barn purchased this one privately after his last start with this race in mind. 2. Irap (O'Neill/Leparoux) - 3/1 It's hard to believe there were much more shocking winners in the 100+ year history of Keeneland's Blue Grass Stakes than Irap, who traveled to Lexington as a maiden and left a Grade 2 winner.  And those who backed him in the Blue Grass were rewarded with odds of 31/1.  But before we admire him for having turned a significant corner, let's remember that his Blue Grass win was sandwiched between big defeats - prior he was 4th, beaten 8 1/2-lengths in the Sunland Derby, and after he was 18th, beaten 40 3/4-lengths in the Kentucky Derby.  I'm of the belief that he took advantage of an easy lead and a speed-favoring strip to win the Blue Grass.  Plus, McCraken not being fully cranked likely helped the cause.  But hey, Irap won and, even better, he reunites with Julien Leparoux here.  It's tough to get a read on the pace scenario, but it shouldn't be fast, which will bolster his chances.  I'm not a huge believer in him, but he is likely the one they'll need to catch when the field turns for home. 3. Untrapped (Asmussen/Santana Jr.) - 9/2 You can't help but admire a horse that has danced every dance this year, as the Ohio Derby will be Untrapped's sixth graded stakes try of the season.  In just under six months, he has finished 2nd in the Risen Star (Gr II) and LeComte (Gr III), 3rd in the Rebel (Gr II), 6th in the Arkansas Derby (Gr I) and 12th in the Kentucky Derby (Gr I).  Unfortunately for the connections, there are no wins in that span and while he has always been well-backed at the windows (the Kentucky Derby was the first race he started at odds higher than 9/1), he hasn't delivered his backers a win since last November.  In my eyes, he's simply a horse that isn't interested in winning races.  Use him in your Trifecta, and maybe your Exacta, but I won't be backing him in the top spot. 4. Sorry Erik (Desormeaux/Desormeaux) - 6/1 The Desormeaux brothers make the trek from Los Angeles to Cleveland with Sorry Erik, a 3-time winning son of Wilburn.  But before we get too giddy about those three wins, it's fair to point out that two of the three came in claiming races (he was claimed for $20,000 in January from Paul Reddam) and the third came in an optional claiming event where he was entered for a tag.  He faced off against Girvin twice this spring at Fair Grounds, but was beaten by 5 1/2-lengths in the Louisiana Derby (Gr II) and 10 1/2-lengths in the Risen Star Stakes (Gr II).  He finished second last out in his comeback race on the turf, a solid performance.  It's also one he'll need to improve upon if he's to factor here.  The 6/1 morning line price feels awfully low and I won't be surprised if he slides up from there. 5. Girvin (Sharp/Smith) - 2/1 For me, this should be the overwhelming Ohio Derby favorite. Yea, he tried the Kentucky Derby with relatively forgettable results - he was 13th, beaten 19 1/2-lengths, under the Spires.  But given the circumstances surrounding that defeat - his foot issues, the sloppy going, speed-favoring track and traffic trouble he encountered that day - make me very willing to toss the Derby.  He's been working with regularity since late-May which leads me to believe his health troubles are behind him, and his Derby jockey - Mike Smith - make a cross-country trip to ride him.  Smith generally doesn't travel for the sake of seeing new cities and when he's in town, he’s generally sitting on a live mount.  If he gets a clean run and Irap doesn't get loose on the lead, I think we're looking at the 2017 Ohio Derby winner. 6. Fast and Accurate (Maker/Houghton) - 8/1 The 17th-place finisher in the Kentucky Derby, Fast and Accurate gets back to dirt racing after a relatively mediocre try in the Arlington Classic (Gr III) last out in Chicago.  He was beaten 8 3/4-lengths that day, which is cause for concern.  His resume is bolstered by a win in the Spiral Stakes (Gr III) at Turfway, a track for which he showed his affinity with two straigh wins last winter.  The problem...he's just 1-for-6 elsewhere.  And he was beaten 28 3/4-lengths and 11 3/4-lengths in his two prior dirt tries.  His only victories have come on the turf and synthetic, and I don't think it's much of a stretch to say that trend will have continued once they've crossed the line Saturday. 7. Hinton (Drury/McKee) - 20/1 The longest shot on the board, Hinton would be quite the shock for conditioner, Thomas Drury Jr.  The son of Candy Ride is 3-for-4 in his young career, but that's where the good news ends.  The wins came against far inferior competition at Belterra Park and Turfway Park, and he's yet to run in a stakes race.  His career high Beyer is just 75 and his lack of early speed and outside draw aren't to his benefit in a race like this.  Veteran jockey, John McKee, has the mount. Top Pick: GIRVIN Today’s Best Bets: Race 8 (Ohio Derby): $5 Trifecta GIRVIN / IRAP, UNTRAPPED / PAOLUCCI ENTRY, IRAP, UNTRAPPED,  SORRY ERIK ($30) Race 5: Late Pick 4 - 5, 7 / 1, 2, 6 / 4 / 3, 5 ($24 for a $2 Bet)  By the way, I’d be remiss to not give a tip of the cap to Justalittlesmoke, who runs in Race 7, the J. William Petro Memorial Handicap, a race for Ohio-bred fillies and mares going 1 1/16-miles.  All horseplayers can appreciate consistency, so check these numbers out.  This mare is 14-for-22 in her career with earnings of $677K.  She’s 12-for-15 on a fast dirt track.  She’s 9-for-14 at Thistledown.  She’s 7-for-9 in 2016 and 2017.  Credit to trainer, Robert Gorham, owner, Mast Thoroughbreds and jockey, Terry Houghton, and all of the people behind the scenes for her remarkable career!  She’s a single in my Pick 4. 

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6.23.2017:

Girvin Attempts to Win Ohio Derby

I’ve never taken lightly the words “The Ohio Derby is this week.” Clearly, you can find a lot more important events during the spring and summer stretch of Thoroughbred horse racing, but the Ohio Derby has always been fun to watch, often doesn’t have a 1-to-9 shot, is very playable, and for a particular afternoon has been the home of some of the greatest, maybe-you-don’t-know-them-now jockeys of a few decades ago.The late, great Sam Maple – younger brother to Hall of Fame rider Eddie Maple and possessor of a terrific set of hands back in the day – in 1979 booted home the Woody Stephens-trained Smarten, a Maryland-bred son of the terrific sire Cyane and owned and bred by Ryehill Farm. He was the paradigm for horses that were not perceived as good enough for the Triple Crown races but were outstanding nonetheless. All Smarten did was reel off six wins in a row after running fourth in the Wood Memorial. In succession, he won the Woodlawn at Pimlico, the Illinois Derby at Sportsman’s Park, the Pennsylvania Derby at Keystone, the Ohio Derby at Thistledown, the American Derby at Arlington, and the Marylander Handicap at Bowie. It took General Assembly, the terrific son of Secretariat, to end Smarten’s streak when he beat him in the Travers Stakes.Along the way many others – some of the greats, some not as well-known – have made the Ohio Derby an interesting spot on the handicapping watch. Other winners of note, just mostly randomly, were Mo Tom (2016, Javier Castellano up), Caleb’s Posse (2011, Eusebio Razo, Jr.), Milwaukee Brew (2000, Michael McCarthy), Frisk Me Now (2007, Eddie King, Jr.), Skip Away (1996, Jose Santos), Broad Brush (1986, Gary Stevens), Skip Trial (1985, Jean Luc-Samyn), At the Threshold (1984, Garth Patterson), Pass the Tab (1981, Antonio Graell), Special Honor (1978, Robert Breen), and Return of a Native (1976, Patterson).Who will place their name in Ohio Derby history of winners is the big question today. On Saturday, a field of nine (a field of seven betting interests, including a triple entry) will try the 1 1-8th miles.It’s a chance for Girvin to get back to winning ways after a 13th-place finish in the Kentucky Derby. Prior to that, he won the Risen Star and Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds, and Mike Smith keeps the mount – not a bad sign after an up-the-track finish.Girvin can get back to the winner’s circle today. It’s a tough field, but he has the tactical speed that makes him a strong player, and again, the Hall of Fame rider on his back does not hurt.Ohio Derby selections: 1) Girvin; 2) Irap; 3) Untrapped; 4) Sorry Erik. Play Girvin at 2-1 or higher; use on top of the three listed here. Also use Irap on top at a backup.

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6.23.2017:

June 23: Hawthorne Harness Picks

For the first time this meet Hawthorne will have a $15,000 guaranteed pool on a Friday night for the Late .50 Pick 4. The sequence will begin in Race 9. The feature event will come in Race 8, and Open Pace for 4 and 5 year olds with a $12,500 purse. My posted ticket for Mohawk's Late Pick 4 for Thursday was a dud and failed to connect in any leg. Fortunately, that doesn't happen very often and the winning combo of 10-6-6-6 paid a very healthy $4,498 on a .20 bet. Last night at Hawthorne, leading driver Casey Leonard continued his dominance with a five-win performance on the 10 race card. Tonight, my focus will be on the Late .50 Pick 4 sequence. Comments and selections below will be based on a fast track. Race 9 1-Fox Valley Pipa-Having a rough '17, finding ways to lose. This is the bottom rung condition, now or never from rail. 6-Whirlwindiplomacy-One move horse needs a trip and has the driver in Leonard to provide a good steer. 7-SGT Grit-Concerned a bit about missing a start. But if ready this 8-year-old can roll by foes down the lane. Race 10 1-Smoke Rings-Fits and Shehan drives for 1st time. If he can provide a good trip, could sweep by at a nice price. 2-Extravagant Art-Gets some needed post relief and Oosting will keep in the hunt. Camera shy but can't overlook. 5-Pancetta-Drops after a sick scratch and finds a field to beat if ready for a big try. 6-Southwind Indy-Came from out East and had a rough trip in 1st start. Journey should be smoother with Leonard in bike. 9-Buddy's Hope-Lackey might get some nice cover to work with and if so could surprise at a square price in an open race. Race 11 2-Caffeine Kid-Steps up after 2 nice starts on lasix. From this post has a good chance to knock off #8. 8-Achilles Blue Chip-ML 9/5 shot drops to a much better level for success. But has had trouble finishing off miles. Race 12 6-He Gone Jack-Warren can put 4 yr old on engine or just behind #9. Needs a big effort to win but price should be juicy. 9-Major Bliss-5 for 5 at Hawthorne and all were convincing. Will need a good steer from out here, but best to not overlook. .50 Pick 4 1,6,7/1,2,5,6,9/2,8/6,9 Total bet=$30 You can follow me on Twitter, @AlCimaglia.

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6.23.2017:

Handicapping Belmont’s Friday P5

With a bit of a lull in racing (on this side of the pond, at least), let’s take a look at Friday’s Pk5 at Belmont, which kicks off their twilight card of racing. Race 1: 3upfm MSW going 7 furlongs on the Widener turf Clearly #2 SPRING FOLLY will take some beating, after an encouraging 3rd going 6 furlongs in her debut, but it’s also not like she’s overwhelming on paper, so I’m not willing to stand alone with her. I don’t pretend to know who Giuseppe Santulli is, but #5 DYNAMICGIANTGIRL has been training unbelievably well and, with Dynaformer on the bottom of her pedigree, has a solid female family, and all that alone is enough to make her a must-use in this modest field. You also have to give #3 KINKY SOX a look, as Roy Lerman will make a wave or two in NY each summer, and this gal ran well against open maidens in Tampa and now runs with Lasix on for the first time on the turf. If you want to spread a bitter deeper, I guess it’s somewhat noteworthy that Javier Castellano gets aboard #1 Fancy Gem for Rudy Rodriguez, but her debut—on the turf—was abysmal, and it’s worth nothing she was 17-1 that day too. Pk5 horses (listed in order of preference): 2-5-3 Race 2: 3up 50k starter-allowance going 1-mile With arguably the trickiest race of the sequence, the only way to truly feel safe would be to hit the ALL-ball, but that’s not in the budget here, so let’s see if we can get home using #1 PLANET TRAILBLAZER, who should like the expected energetic pace and stretch to a mile, and #5 PHAT MAN, who impressed me in his NY debut, may like the half-furlong cutback, and should get first run off the speed too. Obviously #2 Noble and True, #7 Vilma and #6 Cournoyer have big chances, but they all have knocks too, which make them a bit unattractive on a budget ticket. Pk5 horses: 1-5 Race 3: 3up 50k claimer going 6 ½ furlongs Where’s the speed, folks? It’s with #5 DROVER CRAZY, and no one else, and that’s why we’ve found out single, as he looks like a Lone f in a paceless race, will like the drop in class and goes off the claim for Rodriguez and Mike Dubb, who are a potent combo in this type of spot. If you’re spreading, the 1-entry for Robertino Diodoro hits hard, as does ML favorite #3 Luna de Loco for Brad Cox, but they’ll all be chasing the pick early, which will hurt their chances late. Pk5 horse: 5 Race 4: 3up MSW going 1 1/16 miles on the turf I’m not in love with the five chances that #2 NOW IN A DRIVE has had, but his two runs with Lasix have been much, much better, and he did draw perfectly here, so he gets the tepid top nod. Clearly #9 SENTRY is the horse to beat, and has a ton of upside off just two starts, but this post did him no help, and the short price isn’t appealing either. For a longshot, I’m tossing in #8 BUSHMILL’S LEGEND, who didn’t have much of a chance over a quick course in two Gulfstream Park starts, but still ran on nicely from the back, and then simply went too far going 1 ¼ miles in his local debut. Spread tickets can use #5 NINETY ONE ASSAULT and maybe even #1 LUCULLAN, but they seem a decided cut behind the top pair, and maybe even my price play as well. Pk5 horses: 2-9-8 Race 5: 2yo New York-bred MSW going 5 ½ furlongs The definition of a puzzle, but with a single earlier on, we can spread a bit and try to cover as many bases as possible, which is never a bad idea in a race where all 10 runners are 2yo firsters. The three main protagonists look like #4 COLLECTIVE EFFORT, #5 SINGAPORE TRADER and #3 FIVE STAR BUNT, as they all have either trained well (certainly the former), or go for potent connections (the latter two). I’m also going to toss in #2 BAD GUY, who has worked sharply for this, and I just love seeing that stamina-building 5F work last time out. No one else really inspires on paper, as they go for low percentage connections, especially in terms of first-time starters; so if they beat me, so be it. Pk5 horses: 4-5-3-2 The ticket: 2-5-3 with 1-5 with 5 with 2-9-8 with 4-5-3-2 for $36

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6.22.2017:

June 22: Mohawk Harness Picks

The headliners at Mohawk are the Ontario Sires Stakes-Grass Roots series races for three-year-old colts and geldings. As usual the .20 Pick 5 with a $40,000 guaranteed pool starts the program, and the .20 Pick 4 with a $50,000 guaranteed pool will roll in Race 4. During the period from June 13-19 the hottest driver on the Mohawk circuit was Trevor Henry with 12 wins in 45 drives. To no surprise the winningest trainer during the same period was Victor Puddy, who has Henry as his first call driver. My focus this evening will be on the Late .20 Pick 4 which is a challenging sequence. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Race 7 2-Master The View-Still looking for 1st win but has passed horses in the lane in last 2 starts. Could be sitting on a big try. 4-Rodeo Sports-Roy steers for Coleman, gelding has had excuses and now benefits from a good post draw. 5-Dream Of Luck-Raced close to front in a brisk pace in last and now gets McNair. 8-Heza Big Dealer-May get some live cover flow and if pace is quick could sweep by for 2nd win this year. Race 8 1-On A Sunny Day-Winner of 5 of 8 lifetime should be comfortable with these foes. Could surprise at a square price. 4-Safekeeping-4th start of the year for Henriksen and can roll late. Big chance if minds manners. 5-Hill Of A Colt-Muscle Hill 3 year old can dance with these, but not crazy about the 5/2 morning line. Race 9 2-Im The Pied Piper-Program chalk seeks 3rd straight. Rolled home in 55.2 in last and should be in the hunt tonight. 3-Amble Over Hanover-Looking for value and this is 3rd start for trainer after a claim and 2nd start after 2 sick scratches. 4-Red Bugler-10-year-old usually tries hard and barn has been hot. Roy's choice over 2 others and is 10-1 in the morning line. Race 10 2-Brookdale Fletcher-Has raced well at B tracks and 1st start here was even. Interesting play at 8-1 ML, but will need best. 5-The Dark Shadow-Raced hard from the 9 hole and faded. Jamieson is back up and expect better. 8-Bills Fella-5th start of year and last was better. If upswing continues shouldn't be uncomfortable facing this group. .20 Pick 4 2,4,5,8/1,4,5/2,3,4/2,5,8 Total bet=$21.60 You can follow me on Twitter @AlCimaglia

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6.22.2017:

A Royal Pine

Tell me, is it possible to painfully long for a place you’ve visited just once in your life? Apparently, the answer is ‘yes,’ because I pine for Ascot Racecourse in Great Britain. Conceptualized in 1711 by Queen Anne, it’s where some of the world’s most exquisite human and equine flesh has been pressed for over 300 years. Perhaps, as a provincial US-based racing fan, you may recognize Royal Ascot as the house that trainer Wesley Ward built. You wouldn’t be wrong, just misinformed and rather late to the party.Last year, the wife and I traversed the pond to attend Ascot’s opening day. We had a great time and for a dedicated Yankee horseplayer the experience was eye opening. After, I recapped the journey in this space and explained how, for the first time ever, I had purchased a ‘bag’ of champagne for my wife. Actually, it was a bottle of champagne with ice cubes inside a plastic ‘to-go’ container. I found it way cool that English race-goers were considered mature enough to be permitted to meander about unsupervised while toting chilled bottles of bubbly. In contrast, at US sporting events concessionaires often dutifully confiscate caps from newly purchased plastic water bottles!  At Ascot, in addition to portable chilled champagne, there also is plenty of pomp and circumstance topped by The Queen’s daily early arrival via a Royal Procession over a mile-long straightaway. Bookies take action on it--well, more accurately, on the color of The Queen’s hat (one of the few tickets I cashed last year). Wednesday of this week punters assumed they had an edge in the wager. Just a few hours earlier The Queen had made a speech to Parliament in a blue outfit. Smart money assumed that with little time between appearances Her Highness wouldn’t bother changing. Wrong! A yellow chapeau won day-two bread.  Instead of observing The Queen arrive from the racetrack side of the grandstand, next time the wife and I will camp out in the walking ring area for an enhanced view of her and guests. Last year, on opening day, the royal ginger Prince Harry attracted a crowd. My wife was a bit disappointed that we (read ‘she’) didn’t get a good look at Diana’s youngest--a reported ‘hunk.’ Harry’s sister-in-law Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, attended Ascot the day after we had (and again on opening day this year), and we missed seeing her in person. According to my personal international handicap rankings, Kate clearly is listed a few stone above Harry. It should be noted here that The Queen is not merely a colorful empty bonnet. She’s a horse lover, an owner, a breeder and, most importantly, a racing fan! Wednesday afternoon, following a speech to Parliament and with her 96-year-old husband in the hospital, the 91-year-old hustled to make first post at Ascot. Now, that’s not the same as sprinting to catch the bus to Aqueduct in time to play the pick five, but it’s close. Gotta love that dedication to the game! Don’t know if she’s much of a punter, but she’s certainly sharp enough to lose intelligently with the rest of us, if she chooses. In fact, upon their first meeting, The Queen prodded US-based trainer and Ascot regular Wesley Ward for hints about how he gets his young stock to win with such regularity.Alas, no visit to Ascot this year for me. I’m stuck home alone in the basement catching daily Ascot broadcasts on NBCSN beginning at 8:30 am and online with www.xbtv.com starting at 9 am. I’m enjoying the ride and am grateful to have Ascot delivered to my desktop. However, HiDef shots of men in top hats and morning coats, stylish women in dresses and hats, and images of big, beautiful naked horses has me melancholy. I wish I were there. On the big television screen in living color it all looks so wonderful and, since I’ve already been, I know that it’s even better than that. And what great racing! Highland Reel, winner of the Breeders’ Cup Turf last year at Santa Anita, won the Prince of Wales’s Stakes Wednesday at Ascot for trainer Aiden O’Brien and jockey Ryan Moore. Queen’s Trust, winner of the Breeder’s Cup Filly and Mare Turf last season, finished fourth in the same race. Tuesday opening day highlights included a dominant performance from Lady Aurelia for Wesley Ward and Johnny Velazquez in the King’s Stand Stakes. Ward returned Wednesday with jockey Jamie Spencer and Con Te Partiro to upset the Sandringham Handicap field at 20-1! NBCSN’s television coverage has been outstanding, mostly because the network, featuring Nick Luck as anchor, is utilizing the local ITV presentation and not the regular US-based crew. After all, what do they know from a going stick? Wednesday’s broadcast included an up-close and personal view of a farrier changing a shoe on 2-year-old Glastonbury Song (IRE) at the gate just before the horses loaded. The work was so efficient and quick that it amazed this observer who normally waits longer in line at Starbucks for a chai latte!Ascot definitely retains its allure by adhering to a major show business tenet: Always leave ‘em wanting more! With just six races per-per day and a mere five-day race meeting the experience cannot become mundane. It’s doubtful the same can be said for US racing fixtures where 10, 12 or 14-race cards are the norm, five days per week, on a nearly year-round production schedule.Whatever they’re doing over there has worked on me. I can’t wait to return. Until then I’ll have to settle for a long distance love affair with Ascot. Please, join me for racing through Saturday morning. Xpressbet’s got a great ‘no takeout’ promotion on Ascot exactas you should register to receive. And if you ever get the chance, go racing at Ascot. You’ll love it and quickly plan to return.Race On!

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6.22.2017:

Champion 3-Year-Old Male Odds

Now that the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes have come and gone, the race for which 3-year-old eventually will be voted a 2017 Eclipse Award as champion 3-year-old male is wide open.This is in stark contrast to two years ago. Midway through 2015, American Pharoah already had essentially clinched both the Horse of the Year and 3-year-old male titles. Snagging those awards is what typically happens following a rare Triple Crown sweep.A primary reason there currently is no clear-cut leader for champion 3-year-old male of 2017 is a different horse took each of this year’s three Triple Crown events. Always Dreaming won the Kentucky Derby. Cloud Computing captured the Preakness. Tapwrit got the job done in the Belmont.In the last 17 years only three horses have been voted champion 3-year-old male without winning at least one of the three Triple Crown events -- Tiznow in 2000, Will Take Charge in 2013 and Arrogate in 2016. Interestingly, the three Triple Crown races had three different winners in each of those three years, just like this year.In 2000, Fusaichi Pegasus won the Kentucky Derby, Red Bullet the Preakness and Commendable the Belmont. Tiznow did not run in any of the Triple Crown races, yet he ended up being voted champion 3-year-old male following a victory in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.In 2013, Orb won the Kentucky Derby, Oxbow the Preakness and Palace Malice the Belmont. Will Take Charge did run in all three Triple Crown races, though he didn’t run well. He finished eighth in the Kentucky Derby, seventh in the Preakness and 10th in the Belmont. After that, nobody -- with the possible exception of trainer D. Wayne Lukas -- would have given Will Take Charge any chance to get the 3-year-old male title. But after Will Take Charge won both the Travers and Pennsylvania Derby before losing the Breeders’ Cup Classic by a nose to Mucho Macho Man, he was voted champion 3-year-old male.In 2016, Nyquist won the Kentucky Derby, Exaggerator the Preakness and Creator the Belmont. Arrogate did not participate in any of the Triple Crown races, yet he was voted champion 3-year-old male after a record-breaking victory in the Travers Stakes and a Breeders’ Cup Classic win vs. the accomplished older foe California Chrome.Will Always Dreaming, Cloud Computing or Tapwrit go on to be voted champion 3-year-old male of 2017? Or will this year be like 2000, 2013 and 2016, with the title going to a horse who did not win one of the Triple Crown races?Here are my odds in the race for 3-year-old male champion of 2017:5-1 Cloud Computing6-1 Always Dreaming6-1 Classic Empire6-1 Tapwrit6-1 Timeline8-1 Irish War Cry8-1 McCraken8-1 West Coast20-1 American Anthem30-1 Battle of Midway30-1 Lookin At Lee30-1 Patch12-1 All OthersOne reason I decided to make Cloud Computing the lukewarm 5-1 favorite for the 3-year-old male title is he was making just his fourth career start when he won the Preakness by a head over 2-year-old male champ Classic Empire. To win the Preakness with so little racing experience suggests to me that a strong second half of the year campaign might be in store for Cloud Computing.Cloud Computing and Always Dreaming are scheduled to run in the Jim Dandy Stakes at Saratoga on July 29, according to Daily Racing Form’s David Grening. Both colts are expected to use the Jim Dandy as a steppingstone to the Aug. 26 Travers.Classic Empire, Irish War Cry and Timeline are among those eyeing the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park on July 30.Tapwrit is considered a possibility for either the Jim Dandy or Haskell.Meanwhile, McCraken regained his winning ways in the Grade III Matt Winn Stakes at 1 1/16 miles last Saturday at Churchill Downs. Off awkwardly, he rallied from 9 1/2 lengths off the pace to win by 2 1/4 as a 1-5 favorite. His Beyer Speed Figure won’t knock your socks off, though. McCraken was assigned only a 93. The Ghostzapper colt has yet to post a Beyer higher than 95.McCraken won the first four races of his career, including the Grade II Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill Downs at 2 and Grade III Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs in his debut at 3. But then he finished third in the Grade I Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland before ending up eighth at 6-1 in the Kentucky Derby. He came out of the Run for the Roses with a puncture wound to his left hind ankle that likely was sustained in the roughly run opening strides of that race.The day after McCraken took the Matt Winn, Timeline kept his perfect record intact by winning Monmouth’s Grade III Pegasus Stakes by 3 1/2 lengths at 1 1/16 miles. Timeline now is four for four. The Pegasus was the Hard Spun colt’s second stakes victory. He previously had won Belmont’s Grade III Peter Pan on a sloppy track by 3 1/2 lengths May 13.Grening reported that Timeline’s win last Sunday was not without incident. A photo of the finish of the Pegasus showed cuts on Timeline’s right hind leg and his shoe hanging off the bottom of his foot.Timeline “got a cut on his hock and on his right hind leg through the bandage, and he sprung his shoe pretty good,” Chad Brown, the colt’s trainer, said to Grening. “We got [the shoe] off him after the race. He seems like he’s going to be fine.”Timeline was assigned a 99 Beyer Speed Figure for his Pegasus victory. His top Beyer is 101, which was recorded when he won an allowance/optional claiming race at one mile on a sloppy track April 6 at Aqueduct.Always Dreaming recorded a 102 Beyer Speed Figure in the Kentucky Derby, Cloud Computing a 102 in the Preakness and Tapwrit a 103 in the Belmont.HORSE OF THE YEAR PICTURE NOT WIDE OPENUnlike the race for 3-year-old male champion, there is a heavy current favorite for the 2017 Horse of the Year crown in Arrogate, who has been unstoppable in his last seven starts.Arrogate is two for two this year. In his 2017 debut on Jan. 28, Arrogate won the richest Thoroughbred race ever run, the $12 million Pegasus World Cup, by 4 3/4 emphatic lengths. His final time of 1:46.83 broke Gulfstream Park’s 1 1/8-mile track record. California Chrome finished ninth.And then, in an outstanding performance that reaffirmed that Arrogate truly is “one of the ones,” he won the Group I, $10 million Dubai World Cup on March 25 by 2 1/4 lengths despite a dreadful start.Arrogate had another terrific workout last Sunday morning at Santa Anita. He zipped four furlongs in :46 4/5 for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert. It was the fastest of 107 works at the distance. On Steve Byk’s radio program Monday, Baffert said he was “surprised it was a bullet work because it looked like he was just galloping. But he just does it effortlessly. He’s exciting. That’s just him. He’s just this unbelievable super horse.”Baffert continues to get Arrogate ready for a summer campaign that might commence with Del Mar’s Grade II San Diego Handicap at 1 1/16 miles on July 22. Regardless of whether Arrogate starts in the San Diego, Del Mar’s Grade I Pacific Classic at 1 1/4 miles on Aug. 19 definitely is on his agenda.Arrogate was flattered by Gun Runner’s sparkling seven-length win in Churchill’s Grade I Stephen Foster Handicap at 1 1/8 miles last Saturday night. In Gun Runner’s only loss in three starts this year, he finished second to Arrogate in the Dubai World Cup.Gun Runner carried top weight of 124 pounds in the Stephen Foster. He spotted his rivals from five to seven pounds. His final time of 1:47.56 was excellent. It was not far off the track record of 1:47.28 set by Victory Gallop in the 1999 Stephen Foster when he was assigned a 118 Beyer Speed Figure. Gun Runner was deemed to have run a 110 Beyer under the lights last Saturday.Here are my odds in the race for 2017 Horse of the Year:3-5 Arrogate5-1 Gun Runner15-1 Mor Spirit20-1 Always Dreaming20-1 Classic Empire20-1 Cloud Computing20-1 Cupid20-1 Shaman Ghost20-1 Songbird20-1 Tapwrit30-1 Connect30-1 Stellar Wind12-1 All OthersTAPIT A SUPER SPECIAL SIREWhat Tapit has achieved as a Belmont Stakes sire is extraordinary. He has sired three of the last four Belmont winners -- Tonalist in 2014, Creator in 2016 and now Tapwrit in 2017. Frosted, a son of Tapit, finished second to American Pharoah in the 2015 Belmont.The only horse besides Tapit to sire three Belmont Stakes winners in four years was Lexington in the 1880s. Lexington was the sire of Belmont winners General Duke in 1868, Kingfisher in 1870 and Harry Bassett in 1871.Lexington later got a fourth Belmont victory as a sire when Duke of Magenta won the 1878 renewal.Tapit is the first horse to sire three Belmont Stakes winners since mighty Man o’ War. Man o’ War was the sire of Belmont winners American Flag in 1925, Crusader in 1926 and War Admiral in 1937. War Admiral not only won the Belmont for owner Samuel Riddle, he swept the Triple Crown, a feat Man o’ War himself no doubt would have accomplished if only he had been given the opportunity to do so. When Man o’ War was 3, he was not entered in the Kentucky Derby because Riddle felt it was asking too much of a horse to run 1 1/4 miles so early in the year. But 17 years later, when War Admiral was 3, Riddle decided to go ahead and run him in the Kentucky Derby.Tapit is the first horse to sire back-to-back Belmont Stakes winners since Count Fleet. Count Fleet, who won the Triple Crown in 1943, was the sire of Belmont winners Counterpoint in 1951 and One Count in 1952.BELMONT STAKES WINNERS APLENTY IN PEDIGREETwenty-five years ago, Tapit’s paternal grandsire, A.P. Indy, won the Belmont Stakes to extend his winning streak to seven. After A.P. Indy lost his next two starts following the Belmont, he rebounded to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic. He was voted champion 3-year-old male of 1992 and Horse of the Year. A.P. Indy currently has the distinction of being the oldest living Breeders’ Cup Classic winner.A.P. Indy won eight of 11 career starts. Eddie Delahoussaye rode him in all of his races. Eddie D. once told me that he believes A.P. Indy would have won the Triple Crown if he had run in all three races. Delahoussaye’s credibility with me is such that when he said that, I did not doubt him.Unfortunately, A.P. Indy was scratched the morning of the Kentucky Derby due to what originally was thought to be a bruised foot, but what actually turned out to be a blind quarter crack, according to trainer Neil Drysdale. After A.P. Indy missed the Kentucky Derby, he recovered enough from his foot issue to win the Peter Pan at Belmont by 5 1/2 lengths prior to his Belmont triumph.A.P. Indy won the 1 1/2-mile Belmont in the splendid time of 2:26. Tapwrit won this year’s Belmont in 2:30. That means A.P. Indy ran approximately 20 lengths faster in the Belmont than Tapwrit. Creator won the 2016 Belmont in 2:28 and change.These are the fastest final times in the history of the Belmont:2:24.00 Secretariat (1973)2:26.00 A.P. Indy (1992)2:26.00 Easy Goer (1989)2:26.40 Point Given (2001)2:26.40 Risen Star (1988)2:26.60 American Pharoah (2015)2:26.60 Affirmed (1978)Forty years ago, A.P. Indy’s sire, Seattle Slew, won the Belmont Stakes by four lengths. Seattle Slew remains the only horse to sweep the Triple Crown while undefeated, a feat that becomes all the more amazing as the years go by.Many have called 1973 Triple Crown winner Secretariat a failure as a sire. That’s hogwash. Did Secretariat do as well as Seattle Slew as a sire? No. But Secretariat was far from a dud at stud.Secretariat sired such outstanding racehorses as Lady’s Secret, the 1986 Horse of the Year as a filly; Risen Star, the champion 3-year-old male of 1988 when he won the Preakness and Belmont; and General Assembly, who held Saratoga’s 1 1/4-mile track record for 38 years until Arrogate broke it last August.Furthermore, Secretariat was the sire of A.P. Indy’s dam. That means if there had been no Secretariat, there would have been no A.P. Indy, which would mean there would have been no Tapit, which would mean there would have been no Tonalist, Creator or Tapwrit to win three of the last four editions of the Belmont Stakes.

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6.20.2017:

'Dragon' Fires in North America Cup

The pace was hot in the C$1 million Pepsi North America Cup, igniting a fire under Fear the Dragon. The 3-year-old son of Dragon Again rallied furiously in the one-mile pace at Mohawk Racetrack and out-kicked reigning divisional champ Huntsville to win Canada's richest race in lifetime best 1:48.4 Saturday.The two favorites cruised to victory in their Cup eliminations the previous week, but they were content to track in mid-pack as Sports Column, Classic Pro, Fillibuster Hanover and Downbytheseaside all made bids for the lead through a :52.1 half mile, the fastest in track history. Huntsville (Tim Tetrick), the 4-to-5 choice, advanced first-over and Fear The Dragon followed, setting the stage for an epic stretch battle. Fear The Dragon got up on the outside to win by a half-length, giving Hall of Fame driver David Miller his second consecutive Cup victory and fellow Ohioan Brian Brown the biggest win of his training career.“They were rolling up front and my horse was having a hard time keeping up,” said Miller. “He was gapping and I was chasing him and I never really thought we had a shot until the head of the stretch. Then he dug in and traded punches with Huntsville all the way down the stretch. That's why I love this horse. He never gives in."Fear The Dragon improved to 6-for-6 this season for owner Emerald Highlands Farm. He paid $4,90 to win."This is a feeling I've never felt before," said Brown. "It's unexplainable."Fear the Dragon was the night's biggest star, but not the only one as the North America Cup undercard featured five lucrative stakes.Lady Shadow (Yannick Gingras) improved to 32-59 lifetime with her third consecutive victory in the C$365,000 Roses Are Red in 1:48.4.Hannelore Hanover (Gingras) defended her title in the C$253,000 Ambro Flight for trotting mares by 3-1/4 lengths in 1:51.4.Bettors Up (Doug McNair) sprung an 11-1 upset in the $440,000 Fan Hanover for 3-year-old pacing fillies.International Moni (Scott Zeron, $7.60) rallied past odds-on favorite Enterprise en route to victory in the C$251,000 Goodtimes in 1:52.4.McWicked won the C$100,000 Mohawk Gold Cup as Miller employed similar driving tactics to those of Fear the Dragon. 

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6.20.2017:

A Void in Mentors

While handicapping the horse races is not a pastime as difficult as some project it to be, it’s not as simple as showing up at the movie theater, forking over $9 for some M&Ms and taking your seat for 90 minutes. In this pursuit, you're NOT upset if someone gives away the ending; in fact, you hope that they do – with accuracy! Yesterday, it was Father’s Day across America and kids from coast to coast shared the day with proud pops everywhere. My daughter took good care of me, and I hope you were blessed to have had the same experience. Since I work in the racing game, Father’s Day isn’t necessarily a day of the year that we flock to the track. I imagine bakers don’t line up for Fasthnacht and Donut Days on that same line of thinking. Nonetheless, I was highly impressed by the images of packed houses at racetracks all over this great country. Taking Dad to the track remains a big deal, and I love that. But one point has to be made when we talk about the difficulties that horse racing faces in the current world in which we live. True, there is no longer a monopoly on gambling. True, technology has quickened the pace in which we demand our entertainment. Also true, we live in a society that purchases everything on credit and are pitching a game that essentially demands cash by law. Still true, many take offense to entertainment on the backs of animals. All of these are legitimate concerns and rationales when explaining the challenges horse racing faces. But, perhaps because it’s politically incorrect to say so, or just hurts to discuss in frank terms, another major factor is the lack of fathers in the home today. A day like Father’s Day, when everyone goes out of their way to do what Dad wants to do, really makes that a stark visual when you see packed grandstands on a Sunday in June for no other reason. If betting the horses is a game statistically followed closer by men than women, which it is, then it stands to reason that single mothers won’t bring out the same numbers to the track as households with men. Some of my best friends in the game were raised by single moms, and did, indeed, make their way to horse racing. This is not a discussion about personal experiences, nor by any means a commentary on single-parent homes; rather, it’s a discussion of math and population. Over the last 50 years, the US Census Bureau reports that the percentage of children living in two-parent homes has dropped from 88 percent to 69 percent as of 2016. Of single-parent homes, moms take the leadership role in more than 82 percent of those situations compared to single fathers. Consider the percentages in context to population growth as well. There were 193 million people in the US in 1966, according to the Census Bureau, and 322 million in 2016. There are a staggering number of children today growing up in homes without fathers. What might Father’s Day at the racetrack look like in, say, 10 years…20 years…30 years? The discussion of Father’s Day as it pertains to horse racing is not to make any sort of political or judgmental statement. It is to simply note the very chief point that there is a serious lack of mentors out there to pass down the game’s intricacies. The reason we started Night School, the national online fan education program, seven years ago was to bridge the gap of mentorship. We used to joke that we’re everyone’s Uncle Morty. You know, the family member who loved to bet the ponies and passed it down to the next generation. That’s always been squarely in my mind…to help mentor others in pulling up a cyber seat next to future players on the world-wide-apron of sorts. Father’s Day reminded us what a racetrack can look like when generations team together to pack the house. But the other 364 days a year, and the real Census data out there, shows us that in order for handicapping the races to be passed down to the next generation, we’re all going to have to pitch in and take the place of a dwindling number of dads in households across America. It’s not a fun point to talk about, or even admit. But it’s real.

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6.20.2017:

Want an Alternative to Gun Runner? I Can't Find One

My first inclination when handicapping a race is to find a way to beat the favorite. It hasn’t been a bad approach. Favorites win a third of the races. Others win the rest. Sometimes you can’t beat the favorite in the straight pool and have to look for other ways of pari-mutuel success. That will be my approach in the Stephen Foster Handicap Saturday at Churchill Downs. Be my guest if you feel like beating Gun Runner. I don't. The bad news about Gun Runner is that he carries 124 pounds and yields five to nine pounds to his arrivals. That’s the good news, too, that he’s ONLY yielding five to nine pounds. Handicap races aren’t as prevalent as they were a generation ago. Gun Runner has been accustomed to much stronger company (i.e. Arrogate) and in decades past might have tacked a higher impost. Can’t really take the 4-to-5 on Gun Runner for a win ducat, and that means you have to fish around for exotics that would be worth your while. Honorable Duty, mainly due to the rider switch to Javier Castellano, will undoubtedly get his share of play. That might help the Gun Runner price a little, but not much. While using Gun Runner on top, the exacta plays would be to Texas Chrome, Stanford and Bird Song, and trifectas and superfectas with Gun Runner as a key using the same horses, plus Honorable Duty. Gun Runner is deserving of his short price. He’s very good when he’s chasing Arrogate, and he’s deadly against others, it seems. Sometimes you just have to take the short price and make it work in ways other than in the win pool. Finding a Favorite in Gulfstream's Mandatory Payout Rainbow 6 Huge day Saturday at Gulfstream as the track empties its Rainbow Six pool. The first four races of the sequence are fairly wide open, and if you can survive that far, there might be an easier go in the final two. The 10th race brings another appearance by the dependable claimer Capital City and the almost-as-dependable Phish Fan, and the card ends with the Soldier’s Dancer Stakes, which features heavily favored Enterprising. Capital City is always worthy of a spot somewhere on your ticket. The 7-year-old has won 14 of 60 starts, including his last two. Phish Fan, also a 7-year-old, has won 7 of 33 and faced much tougher early in his career. This seven-furlong dash is very playable and in being that deep in the card, it should pack some drama. Enterprising has chased some top graded company and most recently was sixth in the G1 Turf Classic at Churchill on Derby Day. He won the G3 Fair Grounds Handicap and followed with a repeat in the Mervin Muniz Memorial. He hasn’t won in four Gulfstream starts but was second in three of those and did it against strong foes. He will be very, very difficult to beat in the finale.

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6.18.2017:

Expert Picks for Gulfstream's Pick 6 Mandatory Payout

HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Gulfstream Park’s 20-cent Rainbow 6 could climb as high as $5 million Saturday due to a mandatory payout. Saturday’s carryover is $998,088. Gulfstream handicappers Ron Nicoletti, Jason Blewitt and Acacia Courtney look at Saturday’s Rainbow 6 sequence.  Ron Nicoletti We have another exciting and life-altering Rainbow 6 mandatory payout on Saturday with over a $4 million pool expected. My strategy is to always try to find a race where I can ‘single’ a horse so I can add more choices in races that are tougher to handicap. It starts in Race 6, and I’m going 3 deep in the opening leg with Sunshine Smile, Crazy for Sophia and Go Astray. Race 7 is another wide-open affair, so I’m going 4 deep with Schettino, It’s a Given, my longshot Valoordo and Golden Point. Race 8 is another competitive field, so I’m going 3 deep again with Dardo, Annie’s Big Boy and Haybub. Only 2 deep in Race 9 with Yo No Se and Great Skellig. In Race 10 I’m using 3 selections with Crazy Frank C, Magnanimous Mine and Capital City. Finally in Race 11 my single is multiple graded stakes-placed Enterprising, who should be the odds-on choice in the finale. Ron’s Rainbow 6 Ticket R6: 1-2-6 R7: 1-3-7-9 R8: 1-3-7 R9: 8-12 R10: 3-7-9 R11: 3 Total: $43.20  Acacia Courtney Saturday’s Rainbow 6 sequence will cover Races 6 through 11, and I will use a single in the final race to anchor my ticket. My best bet, Enterprising, shipping in from Churchill Downs where he faced Grade 1 company last time out after notching his multiple graded stakes victories at the Fair Grounds in the two races prior, will face eleven other foes in the nightcap, the Soldier’s Dancer Stakes. He is the class of the field and in excellent form for trainer Mike Maker, plus has leading jockey Tyler Gaffalione aboard, who is also very familiar with this horse. The Rainbow 6 starts with a maiden special weight event for two-year-old fillies, and I’ll use a first time starter in Crazy for Sofia as well as the horse with experience, Go Astray. Having my single in the finale allows me to use some coverage in the middle of the sequence, as Races 7, 8, and 9 in particular are great betting affairs with lots of potential for value. I will spread the most in Race 7 using five horses, and hope for some better priced winners in the races leading up to my single. Acacia’s Rainbow 6 Ticket R6: 2-6 R7: 1-8-9-10-11 R8: 1-4-7 R9: 1-8-11-12 R10: 1-3-9 R11: 3 Total: $72.00  Jason Blewitt Two-year-old filly maidens ring in the opening leg of Saturday’s monstrous Rainbow 6 mandatory payout! Only two of the nine fillies entered have raced and a good firster will beat both the experienced Go Astray and Holy Diver. It doesn’t take a genius to see that trainer Antonio Sano has a very “live” runner in Crazy for Sofia, a Mizzen Mast firster who attracted leading jockey Tyler Gaffalione. Sunshine Smiles may get some play as well, given her decent worktab and the presence of an excellent two-year-old sire in Katharos. A big field of 11 awaits players in race 7, a $10,000 claimer on the turf. Little in the ability department separates the majority of this group. Lay It Down had little luck at the draw with his 11 post, but his last couple of races have been good and shortening just a touch to 1 1/16 miles should help him. Vedelago and Golden Point should both run well for excellent barns. In the eighth, Dardo ran a weird but gigantic race first time out. He chased early, suddenly dropped back mid-turn, and then re-rallied late while very green. Considering he caught an extremely wet track and ran so well in his debut, it’s a little surprising Dardo drops in for $10,000. Still, he’s an obvious must-use and will likely find himself a single in more budget-minded plays. Those looking to use another horse may want to look at Mongolian Dancer. If this gelding is going to show anything, it will be in this race as he goes turf to dirt for a trainer (David Kassen) who excels with that move. A dozen turf runners are entered in the ninth on the turf and this leg is a must spread! It’s likely worthwhile to use every bit of Malibu’smostwanted, Yo No Se, Czarmo and Great Skellig. Tough lower-level claimers meet in race 10 at seven furlongs. Let’s Go Ben goes turf to dirt for trainer Keith Bourgeois, who is very dangerous in this spot. Capital City is clearly the gelding to beat, given his current two-race win streak. If he fails to score the hat trick, the aforementioned Let’s Go Ben, Phish Fan and maybe Fenerbahce are dangerous and must-uses. An unforgettable day of racing and Rainbow 6 sequence closes with race 11, the co-featured Soldier’s Dance on the turf. Enterprising is likely to start as a big favorite and single for many players given the top connections in his corner and his classy resume. A B-minus level from Enterprising won’t be good enough to get it done here, but anything above that and close to Enterprising’s best makes him too much racehorse to handle for his foes. Single. Jason’s Rainbow 6 Ticket R6: 1,2 R7: 8,9,10,11 R8: 1,4 R9: 2,8,11,12 R10: 1,3,5,6,9 R11: 3 Total: $64.00

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6.18.2017:

June 17: Mohawk Harness Picks

Tonight, for your wagering pleasure Mohawk will conduct a star studded 15 race card which begins at 6:30 EST. The main event will be in Race 12, the 34th edition of the $1,000,000 Pepsi North America Cup, the richest harness race in North America. Throughout the program there will be six stake races. The Late Pick 4 starts in Race 9 and will have a guaranteed pool of $100,000. Contained in that sequence will be the Fan Hanover Final, the Goodtimes Final, the Roses are Red Final, and last but not least, the North America Cup Final. Last year's Cup winner was the outstanding pacer Betting Line, trained by Cassie Coleman and driven by David Miller. Betting Line equalled the stakes record with a sizzling mile timed in 1:47.4. This year's morning line line favorite will be Huntsville (8/5) who will be driven by Tim Tetrick and is trained by Ray Schnittker. Huntsville has won 10 of 15 lifetime starts, and equalled a personal best mark of 1:49 set at Harrah's Philadelphia on June 1. Xpressbet account holders who hit Mohawk's All Stakes Late Pick 4 will split 1,000,000 in XB Reward Points. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Race 3-Armbro Flight Final-$253,000 4-Hannelore Hannover-World champion mare will down this field if she is close to her best. 3-Charmed Life-Beat #4 in her 1st start this year. Roy steers, that helps but will need a few breaks to come out on top. 7-Broadway Donna-This mare will grind her way into contention, will keep top 2 honest and if they misstep could surprise. Race 5-Mohawk Gold Cup Invitational-$100,000 1-Nirvana Seelster-Razor sharp and if she can make it 4 straight sub 1:50 miles could pop at a nice price. 2-McWicked-Program favorite needs a good steer. Miller may not want to let #1 control pace for too long. 6-Great Vintage-Small track master raced well here last week. 6-1 ML, will respect Gingras and Takter and is a must use. Races 9-12-$100,000 Guaranteed Pick 4-Xpressbet All Stakes Pick 4 to split 1,000,000 XB Reward Points Race 9-Fan Hanover Final-$440,000 4-Idyllic Beach-Winner of >$700k at 2 is off to great start this year. Versatile filly is machine like, her race to lose. 5-Tequila Monday-Odds maker has this 3 year old as the 8/5 favorite. I'll believe she can beat #4 only after it happens. 1-Bettors Up-Home town gal is no slouch. McNair will have her in position if top two aren't at their best. Race 10-Goodtimes Final-$251,000 2-International Moni-Last week in 1st start of year, circled field with a 54.3 back half. Looks sharp enough to win again. 4-Enterprise-ML favorite is 5-5 lifetime. Could stay perfect but I'm thinking both #2 and #6 will make that very difficult. 6-Seven And Seven-Should be tighter this week, and will likely be driven more aggressively. Won the Wellwood here. Race 11-Roses are Red Final-$365,000 4-Lady Shadow-Gingras will drive this mare like she is the best. Unless it is an off-night she will likely be the winner. 3-Nike Hanover-Last 2 were sub-1.50 miles and to knock off #4 will probably need to go at least that fast. 2-Frost Damage Blues-If top two blister each other all the way around, JMac will be coming late and could supply a shocker. Race 12-$1,000,000 Pepsi North America Cup XXIV-Final 2-Downbytheseaside-Wasn't Miller's pick but Sears is just fine. Fractions were sizzling in last win, my choice to upset #3. 3-Huntsville-Toyed with the field in his elimination. Tetrick will be out and going with 8/5 ML chalk when wings fold up. 4-Fear The Dragon-This colt is also razor sharp. May enjoy long stretch more than top 2 and Miller might be able to sweep by.You can follow me on Twitter @AlCimaglia

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6.17.2017:

June 16: Hawthorne Harness Picks

Hawthorne kicks-off the weekend with a big 12 race card. Last night there were not any tickets with the winning Jackpot Hi-5 combo and so the carryover sits at $108,017.06. On Thursday, the meets leading driver Casey Leonard led all pilots with three wins as he snagged Races 4, 5 and 6. Tonight, my focus will be on the Late Pick 4. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Race 9 2-Mar Dream-Looking for a shocker to start Pk 4. Trainer is tossing hints and with a trip could win at a big price. 7-Whirlwindiplomacy-Best effort from the program favorite would be tough to beat. But has been off since 5/25...?? 8-Richess Nestor-Parlayed a good trip into a nice win. If stays sharp can take another picture at a square price. Race 10 3-Just That-Claimed by high % trainer in last and now Leonard steers. A good value if 12 yr. old is dialed on high. 6-Cam's Oracle-Takes a good drop after 2 rough trips. Oosting sticks and should be in the hunt to the wire. 8-Fox Valley Cupid-Closer has 2 runner-up finishes. Needs a brisk pace and that could be the case tonight. Race 11 4-Aimo Hanover-Drops, is Oosting's choice and gets post relief. Program favorite could be sitting on a big try. 7-Boogie Nights-Steps up but set the tone with a brisk pace and was under wraps when crossed wire by 5. Big shot tonight. Race 12 4-Why Ask Why-Drops to a good level and gets post relief. Lackey should be able to work a trip. 5-Part Time-Fits and should get an up-front seat without much sweat. If so can uspet this field. 9-Utah Beach-Oosting takes another shot. Needs a good outer flow but at an 8-1 ML makes for an interesting play. /signupKeep in mind tomorrows $1,000,000 Pepsi North American Cup card at Mohawk will be covered in detail. Xpressbet will be offering a 1-million-point split for account holders who pick the All-Stakes Pick 4. You can follow me on Twitter @AlCimaglia

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6.17.2017:

Churchill Showcases Gun Runner, Forever Unbridled & McCraken

The stars are out this Saturday night at Churchill Downs, as Gun Runner, McCraken, Forever Unbridled, Stanford and Bird Song take center stage. Action gets underway at 6PM ET, and the card is loaded with everything a bettor needs, including an All-Stakes Pick 4 (Races 6 – 9), All-Stakes Pick 5 (Races 5 – 9) and a 20-cent Single 6 Jackpot (Races 4 – 9). We’re getting in on the action with a 1 Million Point All-Stakes Pick 4 Split. Simply Log In and Register to play. The All-Stakes Pick 4 begins at 8:35PM ET Saturday. Here’s how I’m betting it: Race 6 (8:35PM ET) – Wise Dan Stakes (Gr II; 200k) The All-Stakes Pick 4 kicks off with the Grade 2 Wise Dan Stakes, and I’m looking to single right off the bat. #7 PLEUVEN (3/1) is back in top form and loves the Churchill Downs turf oval. He’s 2-for-4 under the ‘Spires and won this race last year. He won the a stakes race here on May 4 and appears to be in the best form of his career. If he runs his best race, I simply don’t see a way for #3 THATCHER STREET (4/1), #4 CHOCOLATE RIDE (5/1) or #5 KASAQUI (6/1) to spring the upset. They’re all ‘nice’ horses but PLEUVEN is simply the best of the bunch right now. Race 7 (9:09PM ET) – Fleur de Lis Handicap (Gr II; 200k) The Fleur de Lis marks the return of star mare, #1 FOREVER UNBRIDLED (4/5), who makes her first start since an exceptional third in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Distaff behind Beholder and Songbird. There isn’t much in this group that can beat her, especially if she runs her race. The only cause for concern – she’s 0-for-2 at Churchill. But one of those races was the Kentucky Oaks, which can be forgiven, and she hasn’t run here since she stepped up her game. #5 BIG WORLD (6/1) is the only other one in here I’d consider. She benefitted from a favorable trip to win the Grade 1 La Troienne on KY Oaks Day, but she is 7-for-11 in her career, with four straight wins. Race 8 (9:43PM ET) – Stephen Foster Handicap (Gr I; 500k) Another race and another heavy favorite. #3 GUN RUNNER (4/5) is in the best form of his career, having won two of his last three starts, including the Clark Handicap here last fall. The only loss in that span? The Grade 1 Dubai World Cup behind Arrogate. I think we can forgive that. Assuming he comes back fine from his trip to Dubai, he should win here. He has the right tactical speed to sit just behind #8 STANFORD (5/1) and #1 BIRD SONG (6/1) and get first run on the closers. I will use #4 HONORABLE DUTY (6/1) as a contingency plan. Javier Castellano rides him for the first time and he’s 2-for-4 at Churchill and had a 3-race winning streak snapped last out by Bird Song in the Grade 2 Alysheba on KY Oaks Day. Race 9 (10:15PM ET) – Regret Stakes (Gr III; 100k) The last leg of the Pick 4, and the one that’s most wide open, is the Grade 3 Regret. I’ll go pretty deep here. My top pick would probably be #12 CHUBBY STAR (5/1), but she couldn’t be more hindered by her outside post. She rallied to finish second last out in the James Murphy Stakes at Pimlico against the boys from a similar outside draw, but it’s not exactly easy to see her winning from out there. So I’m also using #2 SWEEPING PADDY (4/1), #3 LA MANTA GRIS (15/1), #4 PROCTOR’S LEDGE (7/2), #9 SAMEEHA (8/1) and #11 STARR BEAR (8/1). My Ticket Race 6: 7 Race 7: 1 Race 8: 3, 4 Race 9: 2, 3, 4, 9, 11, 12 Ticket Cost ($1 Base): $12.00 

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6.16.2017:

Bam! Pow! Zap!

Last Friday night, Actor Adam West died at age 88. Originally, he became famous for playing the lead role in Batman, a hit campy, classic 1960s ABC television series known for comic book graphical exclamations of “Bam!” “Pow” “Zap!” and more. The role branded West for life and limited opportunities for him in future serious roles. However, despite this apparent case of typecasting, West, reportedly, never was bitter and remained proud and fortunate to have been a part of television history. Of course, the ‘Caped Crusader’ wouldn’t have been nearly as effective fighting crime without trusty sidekick Robin. Bert Ward, now 71, played Robin to West’s Batman on television. The role at times called for Robin to utter silly exclamations always predicated by the word ‘Holy,’ as in “Holy Here We Go Again” or “Holy Egg Shells” or “Holy Davy Jones.” Anyway, you get the point. If so inclined, a comprehensive list of Robin’s 367 ‘Holy’ exclamations can be found on the Internet—along with videos of cats doing everything except…well, I can’t think of anything they’re not doing. Saturday afternoon, on Belmont Stakes Day in the real Gotham City, a different dynamic duo karmically clicked to win four—count ‘em—F-O-U-R—stakes races. ‘Batman’ Bob Baffert spurned cowl and cap for coat and tie to saddle Grade 1, $1.2 Mohegan Sun Metropolitan Mile winner Mor Spirt; Grade 1 $700,000 Acorn winner Abel Tasman; Grade 2 Woody Stephens hero American Anthem and Easy Goer star West Coast. Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith, playing the role of Robin to Baffert’s Batman, donned assorted silks instead of mask and cape to ride all four winners. Smith’s contributions as Robin were indispensable. Of particular note was astute guidance provided Kentucky Oaks heroine Abel Tasman. Gaining ground on the turn for home under a full head of steam, Smith angled the filly toward a freshly hatched opening along the rail. That maneuver proved decisive as ‘Tas determinedly churned home a mere length ahead of Salty. Geometrically speaking, ground saved made all the difference between victory and defeat. When horses run as fast and win by as far as Baffert’s remaining Saturday trio did—Mor Spirit (117 Beyer) by 6 ¼ lengths; West Coast (99 Beyer) by 3 ¾ lengths and American Anthem (102 Beyer) 3 ¼ lengths—it’s understandable for analysts to downplay a jockey’s role. After all, isn’t the room full of guys in white pants that can capably point a fit and fast horse in the proper direction?Yes and no. Discounting Smith’s contribution to the cause would be an error in judgment worthy of a 120-plus Beyer figure—as ludicrous as a suggestion that Batman ever could have succeeded without Robin! A hot jockey subsidizes victory in ways humans can’t comprehend. Horseplayers, on the other hand, get it. If dogs ‘smell’ fear in strangers, it’s only logical that Thoroughbreds ‘sense’ confidence in the saddle. And Smith, in case you haven’t noticed, has been on quite a roll. Lately, he’s won about every big race from California to Florida to New York to Dubai. At 52, he’s riding as well as ever…maybe better. The roster of horses scheduled to occupy the space between his calves and thighs in the next six months is the most impressive ever. Forget the ’27 Yankees. Murderer’s Row’s got nothing on this lineup! Smith’s roster is deeper and more potent than Ruth, Gehrig, Meusel et al because each inning they’ll be banking Benjamins instead of scoring runs. Saturday, Smith also guided Songbird to a measured one-length victory over Paid Up Subscriber in the Grade 1, $750,000 Odgen Phipps for Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer. That victory registered the afternoon’s fifth score by Southern California based runners! The ironic twist is that, just a few days earlier, Santa Anita was forced to abandon Thursday racing because they didn’t have enough entries to fill a suitable racing card. The Stronach Group’s Tim Ritvo, racetrack revivalist from Florida and Maryland, currently is attempting to right a ship that some say has sprung a substantial leak. And yet, on Belmont Stakes day on the other side of the nation in front of the entire racing word, the California contingent bagged five stakes races! Whatever Golden State racing may lack in quantity clearly is made up for in quality! Of course, when it came to the afternoon’s main event the Belmont Stakes, Batman Baffert didn’t have a starter and Robin Smith (there once was a talented female jockey named Robyn Smith who became Mrs. Fred Astaire, but that’s another story) was aboard longshot Meantime. Smith and his mount forced the pace outside of eventual runner up Irish War Cry for a while, but then finished eighth. Tapwrit, who we accurately tabbed as the Belmont winner in this space, had a perfect journey and out-finished Irish War Cry (listed second in this space) on the square to win carnations. Patch (a longshot we didn’t see but had with an ‘All’ trifecta suggestion), finished well clear of Gormley in third. Overall, this season’s Belmont Stakes was about as exciting as a Belmont Stakes minus the possibility of a Triple Crown and missing both Derby and Preakness winners could be. At this point, the crown that goes to the season’s top 3-year-old colt or gelding is far from engraved and anyone with a candidate for the honor can label him ‘valid.’ Always Dreaming (the Derby seems so long ago), Cloud Computing and Tapwrit share the lead, along with reigning 2-year-old champ Classic Empire. However, each has warts. As we embark on the second half of 2017 and an entertaining race for top 3-year-old male honors, one ought to remember these famous words exclaimed by Robin (Mike Smith) to Batman (Bob Baffert) last August in the Saratoga winner’s circle following the Travers, “Holy Arrogate, Batman!” Bam! Pow! Zap! Haskell, Dandy, Travers. As they used to say on television, “Stay Tuned.” Race On! 

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6.13.2017:

All Bets 'On' With This Combo

Matt Kakaley wore his thinking cap. All Bets Off wore his running shoes. Together, they provided the winning formula in Northfield Park's $200,000 Battle of Lake Erie earlier this month. Kakaley did the driving, taking the classy and versatile 6-year-old off the pace in the field of eight. All Bets Off, the even-money favorite, took care of the rest, rallying into torrid pace and wearing down millionaire Luck Be Withyou en route to a 2-1/2-length victory in 1:49.2, the fastest every for 5-year-old and up pacers at the half-mile oval. "I figured the race would rock and roll early," said Kakaley. "I thought I should get away mid-pack and cross my fingers. The trip worked out perfectly for us." Luck Be Withyou (Aaron Merriman), the 9-to-5 second favorite, was gunned to a 5-length lead through a 26-second quarter mile and remained clear through a :52.4 half. As the lead began to dwindle, All Bets Off moved closer and launched a 3-wide bid toward the lead near the 3/4-mile mark. Luck Be Withyou put up a fight, but All Bets Off edged clear in mid stretch toward his 25th victory in 86 starts. All Bets Off, owned by the partnership of Burke Racing Stable, Weaver Bruscemi LLC, Frank Baldachino and Panhellenic Stable, joined Wiggle It Jiggleit as the only other horse to win the track's two signature Grand Circuit events -- the Battle of Lake Erie and Carl Milstein Memorial. But the $2.3 million earner has left perhaps his biggest mark on Kakaley. "All Bets Off is a special horse to me and has really helped further my career to a place I'm not sure it would be without him," he said. All Bets Off wasn't the only Ron Burke-trained star to bask in the Northfield Park spotlight. Foiled Again, harness racing's richest horse and the only three-time Battle of Lake Erie winner, was honored by the track in a pre-race ceremony. The 13-year-old wonder horse was brought to the grandstand apron to greet fans and pose for selfies. IN THE XPRESSLANE: Dr. J Hanover (Doug McNair, $32) paced the fastest mile in Canadian harness racing history when he won a division of the C$67,230 Graduate series in 1:46.4. Trained by Tony Alagna, he broke the record set by 2016 Horse of the Year Always B Miki by 3/5 of a second. ... Trainer Brian Brown and driver David Miller teammed for two victories in the C$50,000 elimination heats for this Saturday's C$1 million Pepsi North America Cup final at Mohawk. Downbytheseaside won in 1:50.4 and Fear the Dragon scored in 1:50, both as the odds-on favorite. Huntsville, no worse than second in any start, won the third division for driver Tim Tetrick in 1:49.1.

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6.11.2017:

June 11: Hawthorne Harness Picks

The Sunday night feature at Hawthorne comes in Race 4 an Open Trot with a compact field of five geldings competing for a $15,000 purse. The .50 Late Pick 4 sequence begins in Race 7 and has a $20,000 guaranteed pool. Last night, Casey Leonard led all pilots with three wins. Comments and selections below for the Late Pick 4 are based on a fast track. Race 7 1-Jaded Truth-Petrelli trainee has been stuck with 8,9,10 hole in last 3. Gets the rail and Leonard tonight. 2-Shotski-First start of the year at same level was sharp, looks to be a major player. 9-Betorluckythangood-Driven aggressively after missing almost 3 weeks and with a good trip could surprise. Race 8 6-Primed N Powerful-Comes off a nice qualifier and if ready, 9-time winner in 2016 will be in the hunt. 8-Macie Rae-Steps up but might not matter after an impressive win on the engine. 9-Rock Hollywood-Drops and fits with this group and post will boost the price. If pace is quick could surprise. Race 9 2-Ashless Cocktail-3-year old will need some breaks but worth including from this post with Leonard at 10-1 ML. 4-Lk's Nancy Lee-Off to a slow start after a nice 2016, but has had some bad trips. Could be sitting on a big try. 7-Mimosa Party-Oosting's choice came a neck short in last and should be a major threat tonight. Race 10 5-Next Issue-Short price chalk steps up after 2 impressive wins and is the biggest threat. 6-Dumas Gram-Will need a big effort to take a picture but appears to have the best shot to upset #5. .50 Late Pick 4 1,2,9/6,8,9/2,4,7/5,6 Total bet=$27 You can follow me on Twitter @AlCimaglia 

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6.10.2017:

Johnny D's 2017 Belmont Stakes Analysis

There’s no Triple Crown on the line. Neither Kentucky Derby nor Preakness winners are competing. Plus, Preakness runner-up and 2-year-old champ Classic Empire wasn’t entered at the last minute because of a hoof abscess. Why are we even discussing this race? Well, for a couple of reasons. First, it’s still the Belmont Stakes—Test of a Champion—and some horse is going to win it and become part of the race’s glorious history. Second, 12 three-year-olds will line up to go a mile and one-half and the favorite’s likely to be around 3-1 odds! We don’t see any other races like that the entire year! Why not try and cash a ticket on one of the most wide-open Belmont Stakes in years? To that end…here’s one man’s horse-by horse opinion of Saturday’s Belmont Stakes field, including post position, trainer, jockey and morning line odds, followed by a suggested $100 wagering strategy for the race. 1. Twisted Tom (Brown/Castellano) - 20/1 This is the same trainer/jockey combination responsible for Preakness upset winner Cloud Computing and more than a couple hundred other New York-based winners: 2017 Eclipse Award winners trainer Chad Brown and jockey Javier Castellano. Twisted Tom did not compete in either the Derby or Preakness, but will make his presence felt in the Belmont Stakes…at least in the early going. He is one of the few Belmont runners with early speed. Drawn on the rail, expect him to use that quickness to his advantage and to hold that position to save ground. How good is he, though, and how far can he effectively travel? Good questions. Based on past performances, he’ll need to step up his game quite a bit in here. He’s won a NY-bred maiden and allowance race, plus a pair of ungraded Laurel Stakes races—none in very fast time. Breeding suggests he might handle a mile and one-half trip. Still, he’s got to improve a lot. 2. Tapwrit (Pletcher/J. Ortiz) - 6/1 This guy, along with Irish War Cry, is the most logical win option. Tapwrit exploded to win the Tampa Bay Derby in March, but didn’t follow through on that promise in the Blue Grass and Kentucky Derby. It should be noted that Tapwrit ran better than it looked in the Kentucky Derby. He was bumped out of the gate, rallied in the middle of the track to move up down the backside, waited between horses briefly in the early stretch, dropped to the rail and finished reasonably well. He’ll have no trouble with a mile and one-half distance. He’s had plenty of time to recover since the Kentucky Derby and that’s historically been an effective pattern for Belmont winners. Trainer Todd Pletcher aims for his third Belmont Stakes win. Count this one ‘in’ whatever you do in the top position. 3. Gormley (Shirreffs/Espinoza) - 8/1 The Santa Anita Derby winner has had his moments in the Golden State. He raced wide in the Kentucky Derby to about split the field in ninth place, but really had no excuse. In fact, jockey Victor Espinoza was asking the colt to keep up around the final turn. That’s about the kind of runner he is… just OK against the best of his crop. He has shown speed on occasions, but connections were happiest when he was taken back off the pace in the Santa Anita Derby. Look for a similar type trip in the Belmont Stakes. His Kentucky Derby winning trainer John Sherriffs didn’t finally decide to send Gormley to New York until after a seven-furlong work at Santa Anita seven days before the big race. He’s a difficult call. He would surprise us with a win, but an in-the-money finish at decent odds isn’t outlandish. 4. J Boys Echo (Romans/Albarado) - 15/1 A strong Grade 3 Gotham Stakes win that produced an impressive triple-digit Beyer Speed Figure put this one on the map in early March. Unfortunately, he’s been missing from the headlines ever since. Fourth out of seven in the Blue Grass at Keeneland and 15th in the Kentucky Derby, J Boys Echo has been training at Churchill Downs with the Belmont Stakes on his schedule. He worked nicely at that track a week out from the race and trainer Dale Romans said it was the best the colt had ever worked. J Boys Echo has no early speed and ought to appreciate the mile and one-half Belmont distance. However, he’ll need to display more of that Gotham talent to threaten. 5. Hollywood Handsome (Stewart/Geroux) - 30/1 Trainer Dallas Stewart has a reputation for having longshots fire on big days. He hopes he lives up to that billing with Hollywood Handsome, although the colt doesn’t appear quite as ‘live’ going in as some of those other surprises. It took ‘Handsome five starts to break his maiden in the mud at Fair Grounds. Since then he has one win in four additional starts—an allowance score at Churchill. He finished a close fourth in the Louisiana Derby and fifth in the Illinois Derby. If he were to win the Belmont Stakes he would be the biggest upset in the career of a trainer that specializes in upsets. 6. Lookin At Lee (Asmussen/I. Ortiz Jr.) - 5/1 We’ve been a fan of Lookin At Lee’s since he closed to finish fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile last November. We backed him in the Arkansas Derby when he was third (we needed him to be second), less than two lengths behind injured prospective Belmont favorite Classic Empire. We backed him when he was second to Always Dreaming in the Kentucky Derby at 33-1 (we missed the exotics) and we backed him when he was fourth in the Preakness Stakes at 9.50-1 (we needed him to finish third). You think we’re going to give up on him now? No way. We’ll use Lookin At Lee again and probably miss cashing again. In case you haven’t noticed, sometimes this game can be incredibly frustrating. He rode a golden rail trip to be second in the Derby and made a huge early run in the Preakness before flattening out a bit late. Six days before the Belmont this guy eagerly worked an uncharacteristically fast four furlongs at Belmont in :48 1/5. Can he win? Yes. However, he hasn’t won a race since August, so a more likely outcome for him would be an in-the-superfecta finish. 7. Irish War Cry (Motion/Maragh) - 7/2 When this colt won the Holy Bull at Gulfstream Feb. 4 yours truly believed he had found his Derby horse. Unfortunately, Irish War Cry laid a huge egg in his next start the Fountain of Youth. Rested for four weeks, Irish War Cry returned to win the Wood Memorial in a romp. Four weeks later he was dispatched at 4.80-1 odds in the Kentucky Derby, raced wide just off the early pace, loomed off the turn for home in second and then faded to finish tenth. Now, with five weeks rest since Louisville, he’s the morning-line favorite to win the Belmont Stakes. The major question horseplayers must answer is: Which Irish War Cry will show up? The one that dominated the Holy Bull at Gulfstream and Wood at Aqueduct, or the one that threw in the towel in the Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream and faded from a fight in the Kentucky Derby? The Belmont Stakes was not on trainer Graham Motion’s original plan for this horse, but the colt was training so well that the trainer thought the horse, “needed to be here.” Can’t love him. Can’t ignore him, either. 8. Senior Investment (McPeek/Hill) - 12/1 He’s an experienced performer with nine lifetime starts. That’s both positive and negative. First, the good news: His last race—third in the Preakness Stakes—was the best of his career. He rallied from off the pace in Baltimore and that suggests he’ll have no issue with the extra Belmont distance. Amazingly, he has increased or paired Beyer Speed Figures in each of his nine races. Is there more improvement in the tank? Now, the bad news: In nine career races, only one figure approaches what will be needed to even threaten in the Belmont Stakes. That last big figure move came in the Preakness and this is quick back off such a big improvement. He might hit the super, but we don’t feel as strongly about him as we do about another improving colt in Multiplier. 9. Meantime (Lynch/Smith) - 151 He has speed and should lead the way for about a mile in the Belmont Stakes. After that he should find the water pretty deep. Pass on him in here. 10. Multiplier (Walsh/Rosario) - 15/1 Look out, folks! This guy’s got some positives and he’s going to be about 20-1 odds! Here we go: He’s only run five times, so he’s got upside. His Beyer Speed Figures and Thoro-Graph numbers have improved or paired in each race! He’s won two of five starts--losing first out by two lengths going a mile and seventy yards in the mud as a nearly 3-1 favorite. The winner that day was Hollywood Handsome, who finished fifth to Multiplier last out in the Illinois Derby and is back in the Belmont. The second time out Multiplier lost by a neck before, in his next two starts, breaking his maiden and winning the Illinois Derby. In the Preakness he moved late along with Lookin At Lee (5-1 ML odds in Belmont Stakes) and closed enough ground to finish sixth, less than five lengths back. He has no speed out of the gate, but will add blinkers for the Belmont Stakes and that might keep him closer early. Also, jockey Joel Rosario got to know him last time and that also will help. He’s a bit slower than the best in here on figs, so we don’t know if this one can actually win the Belmont, but he’s got enough positives to be used in exotics. Look out, folks! 11. Epicharish [JPN] (Hagiwara/Lemaire) - 4/1 An invader from Japan is Sunday Silence’s grandson Epicharis. He’s got Triple Crown royalty in his blood. Second to Thunder Snow in the UAE Derby in Dubai, this one has been pointed toward the Belmont Stakes for months. His connections, no doubt, covet a $1 million bonus should he win the race. Is he good enough? Probably not. He’s won four of five, all in Japan—three wins at two and one at three--at distances from one mile to a mile and one-eighth. His lone defeat came to a weaving Thunder Snow in the final strides of the mile and three-sixteenths UAE Derby. Thunder Snow returned to be pulled up when unruly out of the gate in the Kentucky Derby and then was runner-up on turf in the Group 1 2000 Guineas at one mile in Ireland. Exiting US quarantine about one week before the Belmont and facing the best US-based 3-year-olds at a distance further than he’s ever gone are enough challenges facing Epicharis for us to toss this runner. One positive for him is that he has speed in a race that lacks much of that quality. 12. Patch (Pletcher/Velazquez) - 12/1 The one-eyed wonder attracted significant wagering support in the Kentucky Derby, starting at incredibly low 14-1 odds. Consensus suggests that most of that money came from ‘event players’ attracted to Patch because of his backstory. He finished 14th in the Derby and will need to run better than he ever has to hit the board in here. Note: His trainer/jockey combination was responsible for this year’s Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming. So, he’s got that going for him, which is nice. Bottom Line One to Beat 2. Tapwrit (6-1) Also Must Use 7. Irish War Cry (7/2) Don’t Ignore 6. Lookin At Lee (5-1) Exotic Upset Special 10. Multiplier (15-1) For Tri/Super Lovers 3. Gormley (8-1) 8. Senior Investment (12-1) 4. J Boys Echo (15-1) Suggested Wager Strategy ($104) 10-cent Superfecta ($24) First: 2,7 Second: 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 10 Third: 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 10 Fourth: 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 10 $.50 Cent Trifecta Box ($30) 2, 3, 6, 7, 10 $1 Trifecta ($50) First: 2 Second: 3, 4, 6, 7, 10 Third: All (12 runners) Race On!   

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6.10.2017:

June 10: Mohawk Harness Picks

It's elimination Saturday at Mohawk and the big 13 race card is loaded with talent. On tap is the Roses are Red eliminations for fillies and mares and the Fan Hanover elims for 3-year old fillies. Last but not least, will be eliminations for the $1,000,000 Pepsi North America Cup for 3-year old colts and geldings. I will be playing the Early .20 Pick 4 sequence which will include a Preferred Pace and three elimination events. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Race 4 4-Fool Me Once-Will discount last flat effort at Lon. This is home field and if fires will be a major player. 7-Jims Shark-Versatile and talented and post shouldn't matter too much. Has >$118K in the bank in 2017. 8-Wakizashi Hanover-Can leave as fast as the gate car, could get to top and control things. Tetrick should find a trip. Race 5 3-Soiree Seelster-May not be quite as talented as #7 but should respect chances. Usually tries hard. 7-Idyllic Beach-This filly is 5 for 7 lifetime and it's her race to lose. One issue could be gate speed on the inside. Race 6 2-Call Me Queen Be-Sharp at Pocono but also races well on a big track. Consistent and post position is a benefit. 3-Sandbetweenurtoes-Hometown mare battles and connections deserve respect. Should be in the hunt to the wire. 5-Nike Franco N-8/5 chalk, no doubt deserving of favorite status but at those odds will hope long stretch isn't to her liking. Race 7 3-Action Majesty-Thinking Gingras will work a good trip and can surprise from this post at a square price. 6-Tequila Monday-Small track monster has a big shot and Sears in the bike won't hurt chances. 8-Bettors Up-Local filly likes to compete and if McNair works a smooth journey could pull off the upset. .20 Early Pick 4 4,7,8/3,7/2,3,5/3,6,8 Total bet=$10.80 You can follow me on Twitter @AlCimaglia

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6.10.2017:

My Belmont Pick: Senior Investment

Whichever name gets the circle on your past performance sheets, rest assured no one will question your pick with all that much vim and vigor. Need you be reminded of Palace Malice, Ruler On Ice, Drosselmeyer, Summer Bird, Da’ Tara, Birdstone and Sarava? And that’s just since 2002. Most of those names seem fine today, but did they really look that good going in? The departure of Classic Empire sent most handicappers for a loop. Not that all of us were attaching our wagon to him. On the contrary. If you wanted to beat him, which was my strategy going in, your price is now affected, regardless of the direction you’ve taken. There still are a few that will be overplayed. This is not to say they should be eliminated from any lists. But if you were looking for big prices on Twisted Tom, Tapwrit, J Boys Echo or Senior Investment, you probably won’t get what you thought you were going to get. Another factor on the board is Epicharis. He’s 4-to-1 on the morning line but the veterinary and trainer comments reported likely will chase away some supporters. Those who stick around will likely get a better price that they originally thought.Going on current form and his propensity to close, Senior Investment is the choice here. He’s 12-to-1 on the board, and it would be surprising to get that. Kenny McPeek has the son of Discreetly Mine in top form. The growth he has shown since a sixth-place finish in the Louisiana Derby has put him among the upper crust in the 3-year-old ranks. His narrow win in the less-than-epic Lexington gave him his ticket to Preakness. Bypassing the Kentucky Derby was a wise move as he ran a very good third in Baltimore. I’m hanging my hat on Senior Investment. He’s the central figure in all of my exotics, and his odds will be high enough to allow for him to be a good straight play. Senior Investment has the running style that should suit the 1.5 miles of the Belmont. He’s been closing very well, but a look back into his form indicates he can be closer attendance of the pace. If you’re looking for a horse that is capable of putting down his own times of :24, :48, 1:12, 1:38, 2:03 and 2:29, this is el caballo. There are no delusions here that Senior Investment or any other in here can get remotely close to the top times in Belmont history. It’s clear that this isn’t the strongest bunch to come down the pike. If Senior Investment’s personal fractions are close to those listed, he’ll be three or four lengths off the pace early.Channing Hill keeps the mount on Senior Investment, and that’s a strong positive. Hill is riding very well and Senior Investment’s career has taken a strong turn since he picked up the mount. Belmont Stakes Picks: 1. Senior Investment; 2. Lookin At Lee; 3. Tapwrit; 4. Irish War Cry Win Play: Senior Investment Exacta Key Box: Senior Investment with Lookin At Lee, Tapwrit, Irish War Cry and Gormley Trifecta and Superfecta: Senior Investment and Lookin At Lee in 1st spot, on top of Exacta horses. Potential adds in on bottom slots of exotics: J Boys Echo and Epicharis 

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6.9.2017:

June 9: Hawthorne Harness Picks

Hawthorne kicks-off the weekend with a big 12 race card. The headline event comes in race 2, an Open Pace with a $15,000 purse. The co-feature is in Race 10, an Open III Pace with a $10,000 purse. Through June 7th the leading driver at Hawthorne is Casey Leonard who has a 14 win cushion over Michael Oosting. The leading trainer is Frank Petrelli who has eight wins, one more than Nelson Willis who sits in second place. Petrelli has had only 48 starters compared to 59 for Willis. Trainer Darren Tanneyhill has the best winning percentage with six wins in 10 starts. Trainer Angela Coleman also came out ready, with six wins in 15 attempts. Tonight, the Late Pick 4 begins in Race 9. Comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Race 9 2-Atomic Art-This will be the 4th start at Haw, drops and gets a better post. Team Anderson should be dialed on high. 3-Buff's Image-Can stay inside from this post and use one big move to sweep by. Could be ready for 1st picture of '17. 8-Fox Valley Cupid-Trip dependent and a quick pace will help. Needs to be positioned well turning for home. Can roll late. 10-Luke's Rocketman-Used a 56.2 back half to secure a win from 9 hole in last. Same class, Oosting needs to work a trip. Race 10 2-Dinky Dune-Steps up after 2 wins and a big try from 10 hole. Will need best but value will be there and is very sharp. 3-Best Man Hanover-Positive driver change and Oosting's choice over #1, may seek cover instead of the engine. 4-Skim The Top-Another who steps up after a sharp win. 8-time winner in 2016 and may snag 3rd in a row tonight. 9-Aimo Hanover-This is 3rd start after claim and Leonard steers. If can get to the top easily could pop at a square price. Race 11 2-Uncle Si-Needs to get a a good steer by Sheehan, 4th start since arriving and smoked a 54.2-2nd half in last. 4-Mississippi Rabbit-1st start of year was an even effort. Expecting more, raced well here in '16 and will respect connections. 8-He Gone Jack-Program chalk has been coming close. The company suits and should be a major player. Race 12 1-Lyons Levi Lewis-Was a 25k-30k claimer at Hoosier. Had 2 tough trips from the outside here, now has a shot to upset #4. 4-Mystical Walter-7-year old is racing back into shape and last was very sharp. Looks like the one to beat. .50 Late Pick 4 2,3,8,10/2,3,4,9/2,4,8/1,4 Total bet=$48 You can follow me on Twitter @AlCimaglia 

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6.8.2017:

June 8: Mohawk Harness Picks

Thursday's 10 race card at Mohawk starts off with a bang. In the opener, 3-year old trotting fillies will compete in an Ontario Sires Stake Gold event with a purse of $95,600. In the co-feature third race the same stage will be set for another group of seven young trotter as the girls will battle again for a share of a $95,600 purse. From 5/29-6/5 the hottest driver at Mohawk has been Travis Henry, who racked up eight wins. The trainers who have been most successful over the same period are Tony Alagna and Travis Henry, both accumulated four wins. Alagna's four wins came in only nine starts, while Henry had 15 trainees go postward. Tonight, my focus will be on the .20 Late Pick 4, comments and selections below are based on a fast track. Race 7 1-Black Widow Baby-Off to a slow start in 2017 but has the ability to beat these. JMac needs to work a trip for slow starter. 3-Thatgirlisonfire-Another looking for a win but has been facing tougher foes. Should relish the company. 7-Buttermilk Hanover-1-17 past 2 yrs., price play in an open race. Aggressive drive in last may be a sign of a big try now. 9-Cayo Loco-Compared to others this mare takes a lot of pictures. Has been missing starts but back on normal rotation. Race 8 1-Neils Golden Girl-Had the best 2016 in the field. Hasn't been much in '17 but taking a swing hot Henry gets mare going. 2-Shoot The Thrill-Tried big track in last and was facing tougher. Much better chance to cross wire first at this level. 5-Kamikaze Lindy-Last was better and looking for upswing to continue in 3rd start after a rest. Race 9 1-Bad In Paradise-Will respect connections but Roy will need to work a good trip from rail with slow starter. 2-Mach Majorette-Has been sharp as a tack at this level and program chalk is the one to beat tonight. 3-Flight Of An Angel-Fits class and 3rd start after being claimed by Puddy. Maybe will find a little more late zip. Race 10 2-Sharky Shark-Toss last from 10 hole P. MacDonell has provided good trips and could offer a square price. 3-Rock N Fantasy-Comes back quickly after a win on 6/4 at GeoD, plus now McNair takes another swing and is at 8-1 in ML. 7-Southwind Diesel-Roy's choice over 2 others and sizzled the 2nd half in 53.1 in last. At 8-1 in ML, best to not overlook. .20 Late Pick 4 1,3,7,9/1,2,5/1,2,3/2,3,7 Total bet=$21.60 You can follow me on Twitter @AlCimaglia

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6.8.2017:

A Day for the Ages, Well, Kind of

If you’re a racing fan, you’ve been looking forward to Belmont Stakes Day for months. If you’re a bettor, there’s chance you’ve been looking to this day since Arrogate crossed the line first last November in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. After all, deep fields with competitive, all-star horses in prestigious GI stakes races, surrounded by million dollar betting pools and lucrative horizontal exotics are what the game is all about. And Saturday at Belmont Park, the New York Racing Association delivered the former with aplomb, but it’s the latter that is, sadly, severely lacking. The idea of Belmont Stakes Day becoming a mid-season type of Breeders’ Cup was introduced a few years ago by NYRA and Martin Panza and succeeded and then some, as it gave fans of the sport an opportunity to view the game’s biggest stars, at one the game’s most important race tracks, while offering ginormous purses on some of the sport’s most historic and important races. And it was a game-changer instantly. Once somewhat of an afterthought when a Triple Crown wasn’t on the line, Belmont Stakes Day instantly became a must-see event, with no fewer than six Grade I races being offered, many of which are important, resume-making linchpins on the national calendar. This year is no different, as the GI Ogden Phipps lured two-time champion and future Hall of Famer Songbird, with trainer Jerry Hollendorfer admitting aloud that he could have run last week in Santa Anita’s GI Beholder Mile, but the robust 750k purse of the Phipps lured him to New York. Kentucky Oaks winner Abel Tasman decided to cut back and run in the GI Acorn at a one-turn mile, while divisional leader Dickinson showed up for the GI Just a Game. And of course, that’s without even mentioning large fields with tepid favorites in the GIII Jaipur, GII Woody Stephens, GI Met Mile and GI Manhattan. Oh yeah, and there’s the feature too, the Belmont Stakes, which has a modest field, but is a bettor’s bonanza, with no clear-cut favorite and any number of different ways to go. To say NYRA hit it out the park is an understatement. At least in terms of the equine starts they’ve attracted. If you want to talk about the betting menu offered on what is on the short list of best betting days of the year, well, they hit a swinging bunt back to the pitcher. Where to start? First and foremost, they insulted our intelligence by guaranteeing the Pk5 (races 1-5) at 500k. As a point of reference, last Saturday, on the calm before the storm card, the Pk5, with a light 34 total betting interests, attracted 414k. To guarantee this Saturday’s pool at 500k is laughable and the definition of the easy way out. The could have guaranteed it at $1.5 million and bettors would have flocked to it and then some. It’s the best bet in the game, with a 15% takeout, and offers even the little guy a chance at a monumental score, especially since it’s just a 50-cent base bet. But NYRA didn’t stop there. To make the Pk5 even more insulting, they decided to card the Phipps as R5, which essentially means anyone on a budget gets to single Songbird at 1-100 and turn the sequence into a Pk4. Which, in turn, will also hurt the handle on the race, since, anyone who was looking to make a big investment in the sequence, will pass since there is a lead pipe cinch diluting the payout in the cashout leg.Adding more salt to the wound, the guaranteed 500k Pk6, a bet that no one really plays in New York until it carries over at least one day, if not two (one-day carryover pools at the meet have ranged from 15-25k), kicks off a race later, with a $2 base bet. Bettors who play the Pk6 love a free square, since it adds up quickly at $2 per play, so putting Songbird and the Phipps in the sequence would have been a no-brainer. And that’s before even mentioning they would be giving one of the best, most popular female racehorses in many a year, a little afternoon love and added exposure, instead of allowing her much-anticipated comeback to be held at the grand hour of 1:52pm Saturday afternoon. The race that kicks off the Pk6 is a doozy of a renewal of the Jaipur, which drew 10, of which at least six can win. How cool would it have been to end the Pk5 with that race and turn it into an absolute beast of a sequence? And if they didn’t want to start the Pk6 with Songbird at 1-100, they could have easily used R7, the GII Woody Stephens, to kick off the sequence, since the 11-horse field is another head scratcher. NYRA also refused to schedule a middle Pk4, instead offering up a pair of Friday-Saturday doubles that no one cares about, with guaranteed pools of 100k and 300k, respectively. If you can find anyone who is clamoring to play the New York-Met Mile double (100k), or the Gold Cup-Belmont double(300k), then beers are on me. The guaranteed $1.5 million Pk4, ending with the Belmont, is a monster of a sequence and will easily surpass the number, and I’ll be playing it with both fists and eagerly awaiting the bet. But that’s literally the only one.  NYRA announced a few weeks ago that they would not bring back the Pk5 on 10-race cards, like they had been doing since the last few days of Saratoga. Why, I have no idea, because it did little to cannibalize the late Pk4, but they obviously have their reasons. But how they can’t offer a monster Pk5 ending with the Belmont stakes is beyond my comprehension. We as bettors wait for days like this for months and months, and we ration out our bankrolls out accordingly. Give us a $1 million late Pk5 and $1.5 million late Pk4 and we’ll show you pools of $2 million each. Obviously, I’m missing something, but for the life of me, I have no idea what it is, unless they just don’t want to dip into the world of 15% takeout. I can’t wait for Saturday and have to golf clap to the rafters for the job NYRA has done in bringing about the best-of-the-best in the sport of kings. I just wish they would follow up on the back end too and allow us to bet on it accordingly. 

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6.7.2017:

Jon White's Belmont Stakes Selections

The Belmont Stakes is, of course, a lot more fun when someone is going for a Triple Crown sweep after winning the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes. But not only is there no Triple Crown on the line this Saturday, neither Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming nor Preakness hero Cloud Computing is entered in this Saturday’s Belmont. In a surprise today (Wednesday), probable favorite Classic Empire also was not entered. Last year’s Eclipse Award-winning 2-year-old male will miss the Belmont due to an abscess in the bulb of his right front foot, trainer Mark Casse reported. This is the same foot that was found to have an abscess after Classic Empire finished a well-beaten third as the 1-2 favorite in the Feb. 4 Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park. The Pioneerof the Nile colt would go on to win the April 15 Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park. After the Arkansas Derby, Classic Empire ran fourth in the May 6 Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs despite almost getting knocked down in the initial strides. He then finished second in the Preakness. It has been a frustrating Triple Crown series thus far for yours truly this year. I did not like Always Dreaming in the Kentucky Derby, but he proved me wrong. Always Dreaming, off at 9-2, won that 1 1/4-mile classic by 2 3/4 lengths on a track that Equibase officially labeled as wet-fast. (I think it should have been called sloppy). Thunder Snow was my top pick to win the roses. If he did not win, I thought it might well be Irish War Cry. Much to my chagrin, Thunder Snow decided the Kentucky Derby would be a good time to see if maybe he would rather be a bucking bronco than a racehorse. As for Irish War Cry, he loomed menacingly turning for home, with jockey Rajiv Maragh peeking back, making it appear the rider had a ton of horse under him. But Irish War Cry sputtered down the lane and finished 10th, 16 1/2 lengths behind Always Dreaming. I had not been a believer in Always Dreaming going into the Kentucky Derby. But I did hop on his bandwagon for the 1 3/16-mile Preakness. He headed to Baltimore having won all four of his starts this year by a combined 23 1/4 lengths. I thought he probably would win the Preakness, then move on to the 1 1/2-mile Belmont with a shot at Triple Crown immortality. But once again, Always Dreaming proved me wrong. He was a pace factor until turning for home, then called it a day, eventually ending up eighth as the 6-5 favorite. Lightly raced Cloud Computing, in only his fourth career start, won by a head in a 13-1 upset. Classic Empire, who hounded Always Dreaming early before putting that rival away coming into the stretch, appeared he might well be on his way to a Preakness victory when he had a three-length lead with a furlong to go. But Classic Empire could not quite stave off Cloud Computing’s late bid. To be perfectly candid, this year’s Belmont lost much of its luster due to the absence of Always Dreaming, Cloud Computing and now Classic Empire. A dozen are entered in what shapes up as a wide-open affair. Without further ado, here are my selections for the Belmont: 1. Irish War Cry 2. Epicharis 3. Lookin At Lee 4. Gormley Here’s a horse-by-horse look at the Belmont field, in order of preference, with comments: IRISH WAR CRY (7-2 morning-line favorite): I am going to approach the Belmont by asking this question: If everyone runs their best race, who would win? To me, it would be Irish War Cry. I think the Irish War Cry who took the Holy Bull and the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct has an excellent chance to win the Belmont.But there also is the Irish War Cry who lost the Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream by 21 3/4 lengths and the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs by 16 1/2 lengths. It is difficult to trust Irish War Cry to give a good account of himself this Saturday when he has two resounding 2017 defeats mixed in with his two 2017 victories. Irish War Cry’s performances in the Holy Bull and Wood were flattered by subsequent wins by a couple of his victims in those two races. After Classic Empire finished third in the Holy Bull, he won the Arkansas Derby and almost won the Preakness. After Cloud Computing finished third in the Wood, he won the Preakness. When it comes to the Belmont, a key question always is whether or not a horse has sufficient stamina to succeed at the demanding 1 1/2-mile distance. It is encouraging in this regard that Irish War Cry is by Curlin. Did Curlin win the Belmont? No, but he ran well enough in defeat to win many Belmonts. In 2007, Curlin finished third in the Kentucky Derby and won the Preakness. Sent away as the even-money favorite in the Belmont, he finished second, a head behind the outstanding filly Rags to Riches. How would Curlin look in this year’s Belmont? Talk about a lock. No one in this year’s Belmont field is in the same league as Rags to Riches or Curlin. EPICHARIS (4-1): After winning all four of his starts in his native Japan, he lost the UAE Derby by a scant nose to Thunder Snow. Yes, that’s the same Thunder Snow who tried bucking off jockey Christophe Soumillon in the Run for the Roses. But keep in mind that following Thunder Snow’s Kentucky Derby fiasco, he did redeem himself to some extent by finishing second to Euro star Churchill in a Group I race on the grass in Ireland on May 27. Epicharis could have started in the Kentucky Derby, but his connections thought it would be better to skip that race and have a fresher Epicharis run in the Belmont. Passing the Kentucky Derby would give the colt more time between starts following his hard race in the UAE Derby. Gold Allure, a four-time Group I winner on the dirt in Japan, is the sire of Epicharis. Gold Allure is a son of Sunday Silence, America’s Horse of the Year in 1989. Sunday Silence won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness that year, but then was foiled in his attempt to become a Triple Crown winner when he finished second to Easy Goer in the Belmont. Easy Goer had finished second to Sunday Silence in the two previous legs of the Triple Crown. Late in 1989, Sunday Silence won an epic Breeders’ Cup Classic by a neck over Easy Goer at Gulfstream Park. In one of the biggest blunders in American breeding history, Sunday Silence was not kept in this country for stud duty and became an incredibly successful sire in Japan. One can only imagine how American bloodstock and racing no doubt would have been enhanced had Sunday Silence remained in the U.S.A. Regarding Saturday’s 1 1/2-mile distance of the Belmont, it should be noted that Carnegie is the sire of Epicharis’ dam. Carnegie had the class and stamina to win the prestigious Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at about 1 1/2 miles in 1994 and finish third behind Northern Spur in the Breeders’ Cup in 1995 before becoming a successful sire in a number of countries, most notably New Zealand. Carnegie’s dam, Detroit, won the Arc in 1980. Just last year, Japan’s Lani finished third behind Creator and Destin in the Belmont. Lani lost by only 1 1/2 lengths. LOOKIN AT LEE (5-1): Seventeenth early in the Kentucky Derby, he rallied to finish second at 33-1. Corey Lanerie’s ride was outstanding. Tenth early in the Preakness, Lookin At Lee finished fourth at 9-1. Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen trains Lookin At Lee. Asmussen has said he feels the longer the race the better for this colt. That could be true, though I have found that most winners of the Belmont do not come from way back a la Lookin At Lee. Many times the Belmont winner is someone who possesses tactical speed. Still, I can’t help but admire Lookin At Lee for the way that, race after race, he keeps coming on in the stretch. True, he goes into the Belmont having lost eight in a row since he won the Ellis Park Juvenile on Aug. 6 of last year. But since his triumph at “the Pea Patch,” he has finished worse than fourth only once, making him a superfecta candidate, as usual, in this Saturday’s Belmont. Also to Lookin At Lee’s credit, he will be the only horse this year to run in all three of the Triple Crown events. GORMLEY (8-1): Will we see the “good” Gormley or the “bad” Gormley? The “good” Gormley could be good enough to win this Saturday. Ever since Gormley won the FrontRunner Stakes at Santa Anita last Oct. 1, he has been on a win-every-other-start pattern. If the pattern holds, he will win the Test of the Champion this year. After the FrontRunner, Gormley finished seventh in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. He rebounded to win the Sham Stakes. But then he ran fourth in the San Felipe Stakes. After the San Felipe, he won the Santa Anita Derby. But then he finished ninth in the Kentucky Derby. Gormley’s sire, Malibu Moon, is a son of 1992 Belmont winner A.P. Indy. A.P. Indy is a son of Seattle Slew, who won the 1977 Belmont to complete a Triple Crown sweep. A.P. Indy’s dam is a daughter of 1973 Triple Crown winner Secretariat, whose 31-length Belmont victory in a mind-boggling 2:24 flat is considered by most to be the greatest performance in the history of American racing. A.P. Indy is the sire of aforementioned 2007 Belmont winner Rags to Riches. It is a crime that Rags to Riches, one of only three fillies to ever win the Belmont, is not in the Hall of Fame. Even more absurd, Rags to Riches has yet to even appear on the ballot despite being eligible for the Hall of Fame since 2013. TAPWRIT (6-1): I do think he is an interesting possibility to win. Fifteenth early in the Kentucky Derby after being shuffled back in the initial strides, Tapwrit finished sixth. However, his appeal to me this Saturday is diminished somewhat by the fact he seems to have become a “wise-guy horse,” a horse that is getting more buzz than is probably deserved. Wise-guy horses just do not win very often. SENIOR INVESTMENT (12-1): He won the April 15 Lexington Stakes at Keeneland by a head over a highly regarded Bon Baffert trainee, West Coast. After the Lexington, Senior Investment finished third in the Preakness on May 20, while West Coast won an allowance/optional claiming contest at Santa Anita that same day. West Coast is the 5-2 morning-line favorite in Saturday’s Easy Goer Stakes on the Belmont Stakes undercard. Can Senior Investment pull off an upset in the Belmont? His trainer, Ken McPeek, certainly knows how to win the race with a longshot. McPeek sent out 70-1 Sarava to win the 2002 Belmont. Sarava paid a record $142.50 for a $2 win ticket. I’m still mad at Sarava because I bet $100 to win and $100 to place on Medaglia d’Oro in that Belmont. Medaglia d’Oro, 18-1 in the wagering, finished second and paid $16 to place. MEANTIME (15-1): This son of 2011 Preakness winner Shackleford probably will be a pace factor in this year’s Belmont. He won a 1 1/8-mile maiden race by 7 1/2 lengths on a muddy track April 22 at Keeneland, then ran second in the 1 1/8-mile Peter Pan at Belmont on May 13 when the track was sloppy. Meantime is not without a shot this Saturday, especially with Classic Empire now not in the race. PATCH (12-1): He certainly has an attractive pedigree for the 1 1/2-mile Belmont. He’s a son of 2012 Belmont winner Union Rags. Patch’s dam, Windyindy, is a daughter of a Belmont winner in A.P. Indy. Patch ran second in the Louisiana Derby, not considered one of this year’s strongest stakes races in the lead-up to the Kentucky Derby. He then had a patch of traffic trouble on the far turn, so to speak, and finished 14th. The bottom line is the breeding certainly is there for Patch to do well this Saturday. I just question whether he is good enough to win. Patch also had the misfortunate to draw post 12 for Saturday’s race, this after he had to start from post 20 in the Kentucky Derby. It’s a very tall order to try and win the Belmont with a wide trip. And post 12 greatly increases the possibility that Patch will be wide for much of his journey around the 1 1/2-mile oval. J BOYS ECHO (15-1): Patch finished 14th at 14-1 in the Kentucky Derby, two lengths in front of J Boys Echo, who came in 15th at 47-1. I thought J Boys Echo was a live enough longshot in the Kentucky Derby that I put $5 to win on him out of my $100 bankroll in the Xpressbet Kentucky Derby Wager Guide. When J Boys Echo won the Gotham Stakes by 3 1/2 lengths, he drilled the subsequent winners of the Preakness (Cloud Computing) and Wood Memorial (Irish War Cry). But J Boys Echo just has not done much other than his win in the Gotham. J Boys Echo, a son of Mineshaft, is another runner in this year’s Belmont who is a descendant of 1992 Belmont winner A.P. Indy, 1977 Belmont winner Seattle Slew and 1973 Belmont winner Secretariat. J Boys Echo’s dam, Letgomyecho, is a daughter of Menifee. Sent away as the 5-2 second favorite in the 1999 Belmont, Menifee ended up eighth. Lemon Drop Kid won the 1999 Belmont, with Charismatic finishing third on only three good legs when thwarted in his bid for Triple Crown immortality. TWISTED TOM (20-1): Chad Brown, the 2016 Eclipse Award recipient as outstanding trainer, will have run a different horse in each of the three Triple Crown events this year. Brown was represented in the Kentucky Derby by Practical Joke, who finished fifth at 27-1. Brown then saddled Cloud Computing to win the Preakness, who returned $28.80 for a $2 win wager. Now Brown is running Twisted Tom in the Belmont. Twisted Tom is stepping up in class following back-to-back wins at Laurel in the Private Terms Stakes and Federico Tesio Stakes. It seems to me that he will have to run much better than he did in those races if he’s going to win this Saturday. On the plus side, though, at least Twisted Tom’s dam, Tiffany Twisted, is a daughter of 1995 Belmont winner Thunder Gulch. MULTIPLIER (15-1): Frankly, I will be surprised if this son of The Factor will be much of a factor in the Belmont. Winner of the Xpressbet Illinois Derby, he most recently never threatened in the Preakness when he finished sixth at 19-1. HOLLYWOOD HANDSOME (30-1): In a nutshell, he looks overmatched. Hollywood Handsome is moving way up in class to the Grade I level this Saturday after winning a 1 1/16-mile allowance race at Churchill Downs. He has run in a stakes race twice. Hollywood Handsome finished fourth in the Grade II Louisiana Derby and fifth in the Grade III Xpressbet Illinois Derby. One thing Hollywood Handsome has going for him, though, is Dallas Stewart, a trainer who has quite an impressive record in terms of having a longshot hit the board in a big race. Stewart has done it with Lemons Forever in 2006 (won the Kentucky Oaks at a record 47-1), Macho Again in 2008 (second in the Preakness at 39-1), Golden Soul in 2013 (second in the Kentucky Derby at 34-1), Commanding Curve in 2014 (second in the Kentucky Derby at 37-1) and Tale of Verve in 2016 (second in the Preakness at 28-1). 

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6.6.2017:

Front End Golden in Harrah's Stakes Trifecta

Lady Shadow cast a dark spell on her rivals in the $150,000 Betsy Ross Invitational for pacing mares last week at Harrah's Philadelphia. She rushed to the lead and never looked back en route to a 2-1/2-length victory in 1:49, her 30th win from 57 starts. "She couldn't be any better," said driver Yannick Gingras. Gingras also guided Crazy Wow ($4) to a front-end score in the $150,000 Maxie Lee Invitational for older trotters as part of a stakes trifecta at the 5/8-mile oval. Second in all three starts this year, Crazy Wow, the 3-to-2 favorite, kept going after second choice Tuonoblu Rex ranged up to challenge before he broke stride on the final turn. J L Cruze finished second, 2-3/4 lengths behind Crazy Wow. Four millionaires comprised half the field in the $150,000 Ben Stafford Jr. Invitational, but it was newcomer Mossdale Conner N-- now 4-for-4 in the U.S. after arriving from Australia -- that grabbed the winner's check. Jordan Stratton was in the bike as Mossdale Conner N repelled a challenge by Somewhere in L A through a 55-second middle half and went on to win by 2 lengths over Jins Shark in 1:49. IN THE XPRESSLANE: Timoko (Bjorn Goop) held off French Triple Crown winner Bold Eagle and defending champion Nuncio to win his second Elitlopp at Sovalla racetrack in Sweden in a race record 1:51. ... Beyonces Rockin (Ryan Stahl) paced the fastest mile by a mare in Northfield Park history when she won in the featured open handicap May 27 in 1:51. ... Trainer Rene Allard and driver Simon Allard have made quite an impact at Pocono Downs, so it was only fitting when Simon Allard won his 3,000th race on San Jose Hanover, a horse trained by his brother. ... Mobil Big John (Ryan Anderson, $9) out-dueled favorite Maserati Seelster in the stretch and held off late-running Bestontlie Hanover to win in the $20,000 finals of Hawthorne's Cicero Claiming Series in 1:52.3. ... I Know My Chip (Sam Widger) broke the Hoosier Park track record for older trotters when he stopped the timer in 1:52.1.

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6.5.2017:

Huge Payday Saturday

This past Saturday will go down as one of the highlights of my career in horse racing, and I am not sure I actually saw a single horse live during the day. As master of ceremonies for the fourth Jockeys and Jeans fundraiser at Parx, my attention was focused on the men and women of the saddle and a room chock full of 14 Hall of Famers and the fallen riders we were there to honor. It was a magical afternoon of togetherness, hopefulness and the bonus payoff was an unbelievable trip down memory lane. My thanks to Parx management for inviting me to take part, Rich Romano and Sam Elliott chiefly among them; as well as a tip of the cap to Barry Pearl of Jockeys and Jeans and Nancy LaSala of the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund. Hopefully my jokes hit about 20%, since that’s the strike rate of a top-class rider. As a friend of mine used to remind me often, “They can’t all be winners.” And he was talking about his jokes, not picks. Saturday’s event included a live auction, silent auction, autograph session and more to raise money and awareness for riders who were less fortunate than the 14 Hall of Famers in attendance who were able to walk away from their career. About a quarter-million dollars was expected to be raised when the final tallies come in. Total proceeds raised by the 4 Jockeys and Jeans events will surpass $900,000, according to event officials. Some of legends of the turf I had met and interviewed many times before; others were only names I had read in history books. What a phenomenal opportunity it was to meet them and spend the day. By a loose count, we had more than 70,000 winners from the Hall of Famers in attendance and nearly 100,000 winners when you account for other jockeys in attendance as dignitaries and mere visitors to the historic gathering. Julie Krone made her return to the limelight for the first time in years, and I had the fortune of several wonderful talks with her throughout the day, witnessing how much she was thoroughly enjoying the event. She said she only wished she had done it sooner and could not believe the emotional response she had when meeting the fallen riders and reuniting with the other retired jockeys. It was a heartfelt and fun day for her that included a lot of tears and a lot more laughs. In a room full of legendary men of the saddle, the pint-sized Krone owned the room. She was a star even among stars. Hall of Fame jockeys in attendance, in addition to Krone, included Laffit Pincay Jr., Pat Day, Chris McCarron, Sandy Hawley, Manny Ycaza, Don Pierce, Bobby Ussery, Jorge Velasquez, John Rotz, Bill Boland, Earlie Fires, Braulio Baeza and Ramon Dominguez. We also had Pennsylvania legends Tony Black and Arnold Illiescu in the house. But it was the fallen riders who got the most applause and the most time sharing selfies with the public in a heart-warming portion of the ceremony. It was a treat to meet Jayme LaRocca, Sidney Underwood, Tony Dlugopolski, Sam Boulmetis Jr. and Vincent Amico. Vinnie went out of his way to thank me for being there. But I couldn’t help but think how thankful I was that HE was there and how HIS courage uplifted me. Even I got involved with a donation as part of my opening schtick with Chris McCarron, jokingly burying a grudge I had for 30 years for him beating Bet Twice aboard Alysheba. Later I’d also make a winning silent bid on a big, Mike Smith-autographed and framed Zenyatta portrait from the Apple Blossom. I also came away with a couple of autographed posters from the entire cast of riders – one for me, and one for a special Night School gift later this year. It was a winning day at the track like I’ve never had before – without cashing a single ticket. If you’d like to help out fallen riders, check out JockeysandJeans.com and PDJF.org. 

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6.5.2017:

Jerry Bozzo, 96, Becomes Oldest Winning Trainer

HALLANDALE BEACH, FL - Nonagenarian Jerry Bozzo became the oldest trainer in Thoroughbred history to win a race when he sent out Cotton Tooyah ($5.60) for a 4 ½-length victory in Saturday’s second race at Gulfstream Park. Still actively training a small stable at the age of 96, Bozzo surpassed the record of the late Noble Threewitt, who visited the winner’s circle for the last time two months after celebrating his 95th birthday. Threewitt, who was born Feb. 24, 1911, was credited with being the oldest trainer to win a race when Threeatonce captured a maiden claiming race at Santa Anita on April 22, 2006. “People say to me, ‘What the heck are you doing out there at that age, standing at the rail?’” Bozzo said. “I’m enjoying it – that’s why I’m doing it.” A graduate of Carnegie Tech (now Carnegie Mellon University) and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Bozzo celebrated his 96th birthday last Oct. 25. The retired aeronautical engineer, industrialist and World War II vet sold his Pennsylvania bottle manufacturing company in 1969. He has been breeding and training Thoroughbreds in South Florida since the 1970s. Ridden by Miguel Vasquez, Cotton Tooyah rallied from far off the pace to score decisively in the six-furlong maiden race for $20,000 claimers on a sloppy race. Bozzo had already become the oldest trainer ever to saddle a stakes winner when homebred Flutterby won the Sea Lily at Gulfstream on May 30, 2015 before going on to finish second in the Princess Rooney (G2) and winning two more stakes. Bozzo said his passion for horses has only deepened with age. “I feel like I’m almost related to the horses. It feels so natural to be around them,” Bozzo said. “I want to be around them.” 

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6.2.2017:

Quarter Horses worth a look while you await Belmont Stakes

The Belmont Stakes doesn’t offer implications of a Triple Crown this year, but despite that, the racing world still have plenty of interest and waits for next Saturday to decide American racing’s most grueling 1.5 miles. While you await entries, the past performances and final preps for the Belmont combatants, there’s plenty on the plate elsewhere, especially if you are willing to give Quarter Horse racing a try. Instead of waiting the distance of the Belmont, your result will get back to you in less than 20 seconds. Remington Park in Oklahoma City offers one of the top Quarter Horse days of the entire calendar on Saturday as it hosts the $1.1 million Heritage Place Futurity and the $250,000 Remington Park Invitiational Championship – a pair of Grade 1 races surrounded by a half-dozen other stakes races that help make this one of the more significant days in the sport. Here's a look at what to expect from the shortliners over the Oklahoma City strip: While the Heritage Place Futurity carries more of a purse, it’s hard to beat the Remington Park Invitiational when it comes to top-to-bottom talent. Zoomin Effortlessly, a winner of 15 of 26 lifetime starts and Jessies First Down, defending AQHA Champion and winner of 12 of 29 starts, are probably in for a knockdown, drag out of a test. Despite losing to Jessies First Down in his last two, Zoomin Effortlessly is the slightest of morning line favorites in this one, carrying 7-to-5 on the board to start. Jessies First Down isn’t exactly being ignored as he starts at 3-2. It’s an “either or” on favoritism. Only seven horses are the Invitational but they have power-packed punch as they’ve won 68 of 172 starts and nearly $3.5 million in earnings. That’s stout, considering these weren’t major open futurity winners. They have to pick up nice paychecks, but not overwhelming paydays like those that can make a million or two a pop. Joining the top two are Rockin Disco, Big Lew, Ajs High, Vf Red Surprise and Stevie B First Cash. This field packs a wallop and is worth your time, even if you don’t frequent the Quarter Horse game. Zoomin Effortlessly has the benefit of having a start over this track this year and rates the edge. Jessies First Down has only one start over the Remington track and did not hit the board. He’s certainly done well outside that effort. Remington Invitational picks: 1, Zoomin Effortlessly; 2, Jessies First Down; 3, Ajs High; 4, Big Lew. Heritage Place Futurity picks: 1, Despain GL; 2, Pyc Fun N Fancy; 3, Trace Dynasty; 4, Bird Train. Heritage Place Derby picks: 1, Duponte; 2, Apollitical Scout; 3, Kiss My Heineken; 4, In Class. 

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6.1.2017:

Get the Belmont Guide

The third and final leg of the 2017 Triple Crown is on the horizon next Saturday, June 10 at Belmont Park and no Triple Crown will be on the line. That’s OK with this guy. Racing’s most coveted title is one of the few professional sports honors not presented annually. It’s bestowed purely on a ‘need-to-be-great’ basis. Reserved for those who win it the old fashioned way…it’s earned! Only special Thoroughbreds can turn the triple play and neither this year’s Derby winner Always Dreaming nor Preakness hero Cloud Computing will claim such distinction. Heck, they’re not even bothering to show up for the Belmont and it’s in their backyards. They’re fine animals, no doubt, and we anticipate they will have wonderful careers as Grade 1 performers and sires, but that’s it. They haven’t pledged into the Triple Crown fraternity. Proven worthy. Extra special. Kissed by racing gods. A dozen is all we have. Is sweeping the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes a feat that makes a horse great, or does it take a great horse to win the trio of races? I think the latter. Many outstanding horses have come close to sweeping the series only to fail in the final stage—the Belmont Stakes. Some, like Smarty Jones, survive until the very end, hopes dashed in the final, grueling yards of the most demanding of all championship series. Others, like Big Brown, can’t even make it that far—they win the first two and then crack in the Test of the Champion. Why? Who knows? There are stories of what has happened along the way to this one or that one, but the truth is much simpler: Whatever weakness an otherwise seemingly invincible 3-year-old might possess, three taxing races in five weeks culminating in a mile and one-half slugfest around Big Sandy will expose it. After a 37-year drought, American Pharoah revived the thought that one of the most challenging achievements in all of sport still is attainable. He swept the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes emphatically, easily, like breaking sticks. He was great because he won the Triple Crown, but he won the Triple Crown because he was great! We knew it then, and we know it now. An accomplishment reserved for the very best. Fugazis need not apply. An amazing 52 times a 3-year-old has managed to win the first two legs of the Triple Crown and then lost the Belmont Stakes. Just 16 times have a pair of those races been won non-consecutively. This season neither of those scenarios applies because the Belmont Stakes won’t feature the winner of the Kentucky Derby or winner of the Preakness Stakes. That hasn’t happened since 2012 when Union Rags, trained by Todd Pletcher, won the Belmont. In fact, it’s only happened four times in the last 25 years. Followers of Xpressbet’s Free Belmont Stakes Wager Guide know that. They also know that since 2000, Drosselmeyer (2010), Jazil (2006) and Commendable (2000) are the only other horses that have won Belmont Stakes races minus Derby and Preakness winners. Guide readers also know a lot more interesting Belmont Stats & Trends, too. For example, the shortest-priced Belmont favorite in the last 10 years was the previously mentioned Big Brown at just .30 cents to the dollar. American Pharoah was a better investment at .75 to a buck in 2015, obviously because he won! Since 1940, odds-on Belmont favorites—presumably the most reliable of all favorites--haven’t done that well in the Belmont Stakes with just 13 winners out of 34 starters for a 38% strike rate. That figure ought to be higher. Heck according to the guide, overall starting favorites all-time are 62 out of 148 for a 42% mark! Classic empire, no doubt, will break from the Belmont gate as the public choice. He’s earned that distinction. He started year as the 2-year-old champ, struggled through a variety of issues during the winter, rallied to win the Arkansas Derby, overcame notable trouble to finish fourth in the Kentucky Derby and then did all the dirty work up front in the Preakness before succumbing to Cloud Computing in the final strides. If that doesn’t make him the starting Belmont favorite you can use me as a chorus girl. However, and perhaps most importantly, that doesn’t make Classic Empire the winner of the Belmont Stakes. ‘How’s that again?’ you ask. Look, part of what makes the Triple Crown so difficult to win isn’t just that it’s three grueling races within five weeks…it’s also the stuff comes before the Triple Crown even starts! Training and racing required to get a horse ready or eligible to run in the Derby is taxing—and it’s added to whatever happens during the Triple Crown. In Classic Empire’s case that pre-Derby activity includes another huge effort in the Arkansas Derby April 15—just three weeks before the Kentucky Derby. The adage says that what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. You might want to try telling that to Classic Empire at about the eighth pole a week from Saturday. Then again, he might be too tuckered to listen. What does the Xpressbet Wager Guide have to say about where Belmont winners come from? In the last 38 years there have been 12 veterans of the Derby and Preakness to win the Belmont (31%), 10 Derby participants that skipped the Preakness (26%) and 1 Preakness runner that skipped the Derby (2%). Know which group has won the most Belmont Stakes in the last 38 years? Newcomers. 15 new faces wore blankets of carnations (39%). You still interested in wagering on Classic Empire at a short price? Yeah, I get it. He’s battled hard this season and has earned my respect, too. But, the real question remains, will he carry our money on his nose June 10? Do yourself a favor and get Xpressbet’s Free Belmont Wager Guide. Inside you’ll find plenty of expert analysis, wagering strategies, stats & trends and more info than you can shake a stick at. Plus, it’s free. And ‘free’ is unbeaten! Race On! 

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5.31.2017:

A Great Debut Revisited

Santa Anita Park is called the Great Race Place. And one of the greatest performances by a first-time starter ever seen there occurred in the eighth race on March 19, 2011, when Maclean’s Music was so fast that he seemed to make the palm trees sway. Yes, that’s the same Maclean’s Music whose son Cloud Computing won this year’s Preakness Stakes. That maiden race at Santa Anita in 2011 attracted much interest beforehand because of the sparkling a.m. rehearsals by a pair of first-time starters. Two days before the race, private clocker Toby Turrell went so far as to tell me two colts entered in it had shown so much talent in their workouts that one of them might even run “a historic race.” One of the two highly regarded colts was Flightofalifetime, trained by Bob Baffert and owned by George Bolton, Mike Shustek and Summit Racing. Baffert expected Flightofalifetime to win that 2011 Santa Anita maiden race. Do you know how I know that? The Hall of Fame trainer said it the morning after the race to Roger Stein on his radio show. The other much ballyhooed colt, as noted earlier, was Maclean’s Music, conditioned by Steve Asmussen and owned by the Stonestreet Stables of Jess Jackson and his wife, Barabara Banke. Maclean’s Music was named for the Jacksons’ grandson, who in 2011 was an eighth-grader living in Santa Rosa, Calif. Together, Asmussen and Stonestreet Stables captured three straight Horse of the Year titles (Curlin in 2007 and 2008, Rachel Alexandra in 2009). In the highly anticipated 2011 Santa Anita maiden race, bettors backed Maclean’s Music to 7-5 favoritism. Mike Smith rode him, while Rafael Bejarano piloted Flightofalifetime, a close 9-5 second choice. Maclean’s Music sped the opening quarter in :21.24. Flightofalifetime was just one length behind the front-running Maclean’s Music at that early stage of the race. At the quarter pole, Maclean’s Music led Flightofalifetime by 1 1/2 lengths. Maclean’s Music zipped the first half in an eye-popping :43.48. After that, Maclean’s Music shook clear. Despite running so fast early, Maclean’s Music drew away in the stretch to win by 7 1/2 lengths. Even though the bay colt was taken in hand late, he completed six furlongs in a sizzling 1:07.44 after recording a five-furlong time of :55.05. Flightofalifetime was no match for the winner when the real test came. But he did manage to end up second, three lengths clear of third-place finisher Fiarano, also a first-time starter. Fiarano had received little support in the wagering at 40-1. Proving Terrell prophetic, the performance by Maclean’s Music did indeed turn out to be historic in the sense that he was assigned a 114 Beyer Speed Figure. The 114 broke the record for the highest Beyer ever recorded by a first-time starter since Daily Racing Form began publishing the figures in 1991. The previous top Beyer Speed Figure by a first-time starter had been Formal Gold’s 112 when he won a six-furlong maiden race by 18 3/4 lengths in 1:09.20 at Monmouth Park on June 12, 1996. The huge career debut victory by Formal Gold was not a fluke. In 1997, in what would be the final three races of his career, Formal Gold lost the Whitney Handicap at Saratoga by a nose to Will’s Way before winning the Iselin Handicap by 5 1/4 lengths at Monmouth and the Woodward Stakes by 5 1/2 lengths at Belmont Park. In all three races, Formal Gold defeated Skip Away, who went on to earn acclaim as the 1998 Horse of the Year. Skip Away was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2004. Three days after Maclean’s Music had made such a big splash with his maiden triumph, Asmussen discussed the 3-year-old colt. “For Mr. Jackson, it’s very important for him to breed, have, race and take care of this quality of horse,” Asmussen said. “The patience that they showed in allowing us to let him have all this time to get to this level has paid off in the performance that he gave on Saturday. I think that it is just a sign of things to come. We’re very excited, and we want to manage him carefully because I don’t even think ‘special’ is a good enough description of him.” However, unlike Formal Gold, there would be no stakes victories for Maclean’s Music. In fact, there would not be any more wins at all for him. “His racing future seemed limitless -- and then, that quickly, it was over,” Avalyn Hunter wrote in this year’s May 27 issue of the BloodHorse magazine. “The colt broke a splint bone, and while the splint was removed surgically, complications led to his retirement. With only one start under his belt, he was just another horse who had looked super in a maiden race and then disappeared from sight.” It is perfectly understandable that Baffert believed Flightofalifetime was going to win his first race. The colt’s Beyer Speed Figure for his career debut was a 95. A 95 would be plenty good enough to win a maiden race about 99% of the time. In Flightofalifetime’s next start, he stepped six furlongs in an excellent 1:08.84 to win a maiden race at Santa Anita by 2 1/2 lengths. He would go on to win the Cool Frenchy Stakes at Hollywood Park the following year. MEMORIES OF BIG DEBUTS REKINDLED When Maclean’s Music “hit it out of the park” in a 2011 maiden race, it was one of the most impressive performances by a first-time starter during my lifetime. Four others that readily come to mind for me were the career debut victories by Landaluce, Precisionist, Curlin and Zenyatta. In Landaluce’s first career start, she completed six furlongs in a rapid 1:08 1/5 to win by seven lengths on July 3, 1982. It was believed to be the fastest six-furlong clocking by a 2-year-old in a race around a turn. One week later, Landaluce ran six furlongs even faster. She won the six-furlong Hollywood Lassie Stakes by an astounding 21 lengths in 1:08 flat. From the first crop of Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew, Landaluce never lost in five career starts. Trainer D. Wayne Lukas felt she had a legitimate chance to win the 1983 Kentucky Derby, but sadly and tragically the filly never raced past 1982. On Nov. 28, the day she was supposed to have run in the Grade I, $518,850 Hollywood Starlet Stakes, Landaluce died from a severe bacterial infection. She was voted a 1982 Eclipse Award as champion 2-year-old filly. In Precisionist’s first career start, he won a six-furlong maiden race by 7 1/2 lengths as easily as a horse can win a race on July 13, 1983. It was the beginning of what became a Hall of Fame career. All told, Precisionist won 20 of 46 lifetime starts and earned $3,485,398. Voted an Eclipse Award as champion sprinter in 1985, he was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2003. In addition to Precisionist’s statistics and awards, he received a humongous compliment from the renowned artist Fred Stone. In the 2010 book “Reflections on a Golden Age: The Racing Art of Fred Stone,” Stone said this about Precisionist: “I was awestruck when I saw him. He was the most beautiful horse I have ever painted.” That statement by Stone spoke volumes as he also painted Kelso, Northern Dancer, Nijinsky II, Secretariat, Ruffian, Seattle Slew, Affirmed and Zenyatta, among other greats. Neither Landaluce nor Precisionist were included in the BloodHorse magazine’s Top 100 Racehorses of the 20th Century. I felt they both belonged somewhere on that list. In fact, on my list of the top 100 racehorses of the 20th and 21st centuries to have raced in North America, most recently updated last year, I ranked Landaluce at No. 55 and Precisionist at No. 71. In Curlin’s first career start, he drifted out in the stretch and won a seven-furlong maiden race by 12 3/4 lengths at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 3, 2007, for Shirley Cunningham Jr. and Bill Gallion (Midnight Cry Stables). Afterward, Satish Sanan (Padua Stables), Jess Jackson (Stonestreet Stables) and George Bolton purchased a majority interest in the Smart Strike colt for a reported $3.5 million. Originally conditioned by Helen Pitts, Curlin was transferred to trainer Steve Asmussen after the sale. Curlin would go on to earn $10,501,800 and two Horse of the Year titles during his career. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2014. In Zenyatta’s first career start, she zoomed home to win a 6 1/2-furlong maiden race by three widening lengths after being 12th early on Nov. 22, 2007. It was Thanksgiving. That was the only time in Zenyatta’s extraordinary career that she ran in a race shorter than 1 1/16 miles. The runner-up was a hyped filly by the name of Carmel Coffee, who won her next start. Zenyatta’s maiden performance began a winning streak that reached 19, a sequence that included a victory in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita in 2009, the first female to ever win that race. After Zenyatta’s narrowly lost the Breeders’ Cup Classic to Blame at Churchill Downs in 2010, the big mare was retired from racing with 19 wins from 20 lifetime starts and a 2010 Horse of the Year title. Zenyatta was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2016. While on the subject of impressive career debuts, how about Rubilinda in last Saturday’s seventh race at Belmont? Last early in a six-furlong maiden affair on the turf, Rubilinda rocketed home to win by 3 1/4 widening lengths in 1:08.72 on a less-than-firm turf course rated good. She was assigned an 82 Beyer Speed Figure. Rubilinda, a 3-year-old filly who races for Don Alberto Stable, became the first U.S. winner sired by European superstar Frankel, who never tasted defeat in 14 lifetime starts. Frankel was named after American Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel, who died in 2009. Chad Brown, formerly an assistant trainer with Frankel, conditions Rubilinda, who won one week after Brown sent out the Maclean’s Music colt Cloud Computing to capture the Preakness. After Rubilinda’s victory last Saturday, the New York Racing Association issued these quotes from Brown: “Very impressive. She missed the break there, maybe because of the delay after backing out or something. She broke slow, which was disappointing, and for her to overcome that and win by open lengths, I’m quite impressed. “I had her last year as a 2-year-old in the summer. She had a couple of breezes and started to have some baby issues, nothing major, but she wasn’t quite right. I have a really good client, Don Alberto, and I called him up and he said, ‘No problem, we like her. Let’s bring her home and give her some time to get over it.’ They were nice enough to send her back to me, and here we are. She’s really talented and has patient owners that want to let her develop at her own pace. It was worth the wait.” Belmont track announcer Larry Collmus tweeted: “I think Rubilinda may have been the most impressive first timer I’ve called since Curlin.” A BELIEVER FROM THE GET-GO John Sikura, owner of Hill ‘n’ Dale Farm, was one of those dazzled by Maclean’s Music when he graduated from the maiden ranks at Santa Anita in 2011. Sikura saw the race in a Lexington restaurant. He could not believe a maiden had just exhibited such sheer speed. “There are two horses I’ve seen run that I was just drawn to and thought I had to put something together and stand these horses,” Sikura said to the BloodHorse’s Evan Hammonds in the May 27 issue of the magazine. “The first horse was Candy Ride. I saw him win a Group I [in Argentina] by open lengths. There was an excitement of the people around him at the time and I said, ‘Wow, this horse is different.’ The other was Maclean’s Music…I was convinced he was a superstar racehorse.” One certainly can understand Sikuri being smitten with Candy Ride, who never was beaten in six lifetime starts. In Candy Ride’s career debut, he won a race at about six furlongs on the dirt by 12 lengths. He then won a pair of Group I races at about one mile on the grass by nine and eight lengths. Sikura was especially bowled over by Candy Ride’s final time of 1:31 flat for about one mile the last time he raced in South America. In the U.S., Candy Ride was a two-time graded stakes winner. Trained by Hall of Famer Ron McAnally, Candy Ride won the Grade II American Handicap on the grass at Hollywood Park in 2003. And then, in the final start of his career, he won Del Mar’s Grade I Pacific Classic that year by an emphatic 3 1/4 lengths over Medaglia d’Oro. Candy Ride’s final time of 1:59.11 in the Pacific Classic broke the track record. Candy Ride is the sire of the Asmussen-trained Grade I winner Gun Runner, who finished second to mighty Arrogate this year in the Group I Dubai World Cup on March 25. Gun Runner, who thus far has earned $4,337,800, ranks No. 2 in this week’s NTRA Top Thoroughbred Poll. Arrogate is No. 1. Gun Runner worked five furlongs Monday in :59.80 at Churchill Downs. He is to make his next start in the Grade I Stephen Foster Handicap there on June 17. “He’s an awesome horse,” Asmussen said to Churchill Downs publicity with regard to Gun Runner after his Monday drill. Twirling Candy, a Grade I-winning son of Candy Ride, won Santa Anita’s Grade I Malibu Stakes in 2010 with a 1:19.70 clocking to break the seven-furlong track record set by the great Spectacular Bid in 1980. Twirling Candy sired a pair of graded stakes winners in the past few days. Danzing Candy, a son of Twirling Candy, cruised to a 4 3/4-length triumph for Baffert in Monday’s Grade III Lone Star Park Handicap on a muddy track as a 1-5 favorite. Danzing Candy was assigned a 107 Beyer Speed Figure. Finley’sluckycharm, a daughter of Twirling Candy, proved a punctual 1-5 favorite in Churchill Downs’ Grade III Winning Colors Stakes at six furlongs. She prevailed by 5 1/2 lengths while recording a 98 Beyer Speed Figure. Finley’sluckycharm, trained by Bret Calhoun, has won seven of nine career starts. Baffert also trains Mastery, a Candy Ride colt who won this year’s Grade II San Felipe by 6 3/4 lengths at Santa Anita Park on March 11 while posting a 105 Beyer Speed Figure to remain undefeated in four career starts. At the end of the San Felipe, I felt Mastery was the best 3-year-old male in the country. Unfortunately, he emerged from that race with a “complete displaced condylar fracture” in his left front ankle, according to the New York Times’ Joe Drape, an injury that knocked the colt out of the Triple Crown races. Mastery required surgery for the insertion of three screws, Drape reported. Candy Ride also sired Shared Belief, who was voted a 2013 Eclipse Award as champion 2-year-old male. Without some bad racing luck, Shared Belief might have ended his racing career undefeated a la his sire. As it was, Shared Belief won 10 of 12 lifetime starts and earned $2,932,200. Cloud Computing is from the first crop of Maclean’s Music, who along with Candy Ride stands stud duty in Kentucky at Hill ‘n’ Dale. Maclean’s Music led the 2016 freshman sire’s list by winners with 19, according to Hammonds. Sikura bred Cloud Computing in partnership with his father-in-law, Edward McGhee. Sikura and McGee sold the colt for $200,000 at the 2015 Keeneland September yearling sale to agent Mike Ryan, who was acting on behalf of owners Seth Klarman (Klaravich Stables) and William Lawrence. Cloud Computing was the highest-priced yearling by Maclean’s Music sold in 2015. Cloud Computing, like Maclean’s Music, was victorious in his first career start. After Cloud Computing won a six-furlong maiden race by 1 3/4 lengths on Aqueduct’s inner track this year on Feb. 11, he ran second in the Grade II Gotham on March 4 and third in the Grade II Wood Memorial on April 8. He then won the Preakness on May 20 in only his fourth career start. The $200,000 yearling buy now already is a millionaire, having earned $1,071,000. 

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5.31.2017:

Sacrificing Quality for Quantity

While next Saturday’s Belmont Stakes may lack the Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming and Preakness winner Cloud Computing, there’s little doubt the race is shaping up as a bettor’s bonanza, for many different reasons. And while Classic Empire, who ran a “too good to lose” 2nd in the Preakness, will no doubt be a solid favorite, there’s a lot of different ways to go when you’re talking 1 ½ miles over Big Sandy. With 13 or so shaping up to try the “Test of the Champion,” let’s take a brief look at each of them, and their prospective winning chances. Classic Empire: There’s little doubt he’s the horse to beat, and most likely winner, but geesh, they sure do like to go to the well, don’t they? He’s tough to toss, and his Preakness 2nd was out of this world, but at this point in a season that has gotten very demanding, very fast, regression seems as likely as a move forward. Conquest Mo Money: A potential pace player, he bombed in the Preakness after skipping the Derby, and that wasn’t supposed to happen, as a lot of wiseguys liked his chances in Baltimore. The plus side is that he wasn’t beaten by much when 2nd to Classic Empire in the GI Arkansas Derby, but you’re also allowed to wonder if he’s been exposed a bit and is going the wrong way. Epicharis: The true wildcard from Japan seems to have some class to him and wants to beat you, as his 4-for-5 record suggests, but the fact remains we know nothing about him, especially since Thunder Snow, who beat him in the GI UAE Derby, ran only ran about 27 feet in the Derby before being pulled up. The other worry is that you know he’ll be a big underlay, because the public loves to bet the unknowns, especially when they come from halfway across the world and have gotten a lot of buzz. Gormley: Tactical runner was in contention in the Derby before flattening out but has the running style to win the Belmont, as he’s going to be close throughout and wants to grind you into the ground. Still, his class remains a question mark, as he’s blinked more often than not in a big spot, plus he’s never done anything outside of his home at Santa Anita. Irish War Cry: If you needed him in the Derby, like this handicapper, you were counting your money on the far turn, when he looked about 4-5, especially after Rajiv Maragh kept peeking under his arm for the competition. So, to see him end up 10th is a worry, and whether he was on the wrong part of the track of not, he caved so badly that you have to wonder about his ability to get 12 furlongs. On the face of it, he’s arguably the most talented horse in the race, and who wants to go against Graham Motion going 1 ½ miles, but the gut says this is a bit too far. J Boys Echo: Stretch runner has one huge win and figure in the GIII Gotham, but hasn’t done anything remotely close to that before or since, so it’s tough to think he can make a dent here. It’s also a bit worrisome that he wasn’t originally even going to run here after skipping the Derby, yet has now been rerouted, which is a plan that rarely works. Lookin At Lee: Derby runner-up didn’t really fire when 4th in the Preakness, which lends a lot of momentum to the thinking he simply rode the inside bias in Louisville to a big run. Yes, his grinding style will make him a player here, and Asmussen won this race last year with his clone Creator, but the gut says this guy is second-tier and will be an underlay worth playing against. Meantime: Game runner-up in the local prep, the GII Peter Pan, and he may have won it if he didn’t drift out off the far turn, but wiring the Belmont is never easy, and that’s likely the path he’s taking to the winner’s circle. Still, he’s come a long way in a short period of time, and that was his first start against winners, so he can build off it for sure. Multiplier: Finished a non-threatening 6th in the Preakness and seems out of his element, and he’s not bred for this either, as dad The Factor was best as a sprinter/miler, as was his damsire, Trippi. Patch: A great story, and a lightly-raced, talented runner too, but he really doesn’t belong in here and needs far lesser to threaten. And you know the one eye angle will get played up again, and you’ll have to take another short price, even after the bomb-job in the Derby. Senior Investment: That closing 3rd in the Preakness wasn’t bad at all, though he did get a dream setup to help accomplish it, and it’s doubtful he’ll get the crazy splits he needs in the Belmont to get there first. Still, you know he should like the 1 ½ miles, and will be passing horses late, which is more than you can say for a lot of these. Tapwrit: Stakes winner outran his odds to be 6th in the Derby, with a lot of trouble too, but he’s done nothing but beat up on second tier horses all year and has never really broken through with a big effort on the stopwatch either. If nothing else, Pletcher has had success in this race, but he’ll be an underlay and doesn’t seem as good as the Louisville runs suggests. True Timber: Deserved longshot has never come close to winning a graded stakes race, let alone one like this, so it’s tough to think he can make a dent here, regardless of how modest the field might be. Twisted Tom: Streaking New York-bred won a pair of Laurel stakes and steps way up here, but it’s Chad Brown, so you know he’ll have him primed for the 1 ½ miles, and he’s improving by the day too. And he has to be some sort of a decent price, even though this is a barn that always gets bet hard, so you could do worse than giving him a look in a race where a lot of things will be thrown at the wall, but very few will stick. 

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5.29.2017:

Similar Resumes, Different Perceptions

Resumes and recognition don’t always jive in Thoroughbred racing and the current Triple Crown series brings about a very good example. We have a pair of horses both owning second and fourth-place finishes in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, but you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who thinks their accomplishments are equal. Both Lookin At Lee and Classic Empire have come out of Arkansas with awfully similar resumes in the Triple Crown series through two legs. Lee ran second in Louisville and fourth in Baltimore; Empire posted a fourth in Louisville and runner-up in Baltimore. Most years, you’d take the Derby second over the Preakness second when ranking which horse in a 2-4, 4-2 debate gets your nod. But you won’t find many horseplayers or fans stretched from Kentucky to Maryland to New York willing to put Lookin At Lee on the same level as Classic Empire. I’m not here to make that case either. Lookin At Lee likely benefitted from a firmer rail on Derby Day when rallying on the pine. Classic Empire had his obvious share of trouble in the opener and ran too good to lose on the front battling in the Preakness. And for rubber-match purposes, we don’t have to wait for the Belmont. We can look back a race to Classic Empire’s victory in the Arkansas Derby when Lookin At Lee managed third. But, in fairness, only 1 ½ lengths separated them in Hot Springs. But when you dial back to the 2YO ranks, Classic Empire beat Lookin At Lee twice by 3 and 12 lengths. The gap between these two horses appears to be more than the 2-4, 4-2 finishes in the Triple Crown series suggest. The pendulum swings solidly to the Classic Empire camp. Maybe the Belmont Stakes will further prove that out as Classic Empire figures to be a very solid favorite in the absence of Always Dreaming and Cloud Computing. Then again, Steve Asmussen-trained Creator won last year’s Belmont Stakes with a similar style and even more uncertainty than Looking At Lee. It really would not be a shock if Looking At Lee won the Belmont Stakes. And, even if he does, the Triple Crown series resume will look awfully favorable for him compared to not only Classic Empire, but the entire 3-year-old crop. A horse going 2-4-1 in the Triple Crown would have to be respected up against Always Dreaming’s 1-8 efforts and the single shot fired by Could Computing.Again, I doubt you’ll find anyone ready to move Lookin At Lee to the head of the class after the Belmont Stakes even if draped in white carnations. He will have the resume, but recognition won’t be fast to follow. But Always Dreaming will have to do some more damage to reclaim the recognition – his predecessor Super Saver did not do so in 2010 after a 1-8 performance in the Derby-Preakness and wound up losing the 3YO title to Lookin At Lucky behind wins in the Haskell and Indiana Derby. Lookin At Lucky had a built-in mulligan in the Kentucky Derby after drawing the rail. Folks seem similarly forgiving of Classic Empire after his troubled start at Churchill Downs. It’s ironic now that Classic Empire is in the role of Lookin At Lucky in a recognition race against Lucky’s son, Lookin At Lee. 

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5.27.2017:

Eva London looking like a good one at Gulfstream Park

Gulfstream Park’s Championship Meet has been done for a while now, and while the many of the power stables have moved onto summer ports of call, there’s still plenty of talent to make Hallandale Beach worthy of attention. There remains some alluring talent “on campus.” Look no further than Eva London, a swift Adios Charlie filly. The 4-year-old should be tough on her rivals in the Musical Romance Stakes at seven furlongs on Saturday. She’s 5-to-1 on the morning line but could be lower than that when then enter the starting gate. Angel Penna, Jr., took over the training of the Hardacre Farm’s runner prior to her last start and she responded with a seven-length win in an allowance optional claimer. The fractions for the mile race were legit (:23 2-5, :45 4-5 and 1:10 2-5) and she was right there shortly after the start, put on the pressure, and ultimately drew clear. It took three starts for the Florida-bred filly to really get her legs beneath her. She broke her maiden two races back in front-running style and then followed with the impressive score last time. If you think the talent left town, think again. As impressive as she’s been over her last two, Eva London’s chore will not be simple. Gerald Bennett-trained Royal Jewely (7-2) is a veteran of the Florida stakes races, often alternating between Gulfstream and Tampa. Hola Charlotte, also trained by Penna, blasted optional claimers going 6.5 furlongs last time and reported home in a speedy 1:16. She stretches out a half-furlong today and could be in a pitched battle with her stablemate. Eva London is certainly worth a play at 5-1, probably even so at a much shorter price. The filly can run and if she can score here, expect her to show up in some major races for distaffers up and down the East Coast. The Christmas Past Stakes also is on the card Saturday at Gulfstream and it could be time for the Leo Azpurua, Jr.-trained Somethingelse to get that illusive first stakes win. She has just missed in her last two, with a second and a third, and drew favorably for the 1 1-16th-mile test on the turf. If you can get the 7-to-2 morning line price on the Leroidesanimaux filly, you’ll be getting a bargain. Lone Star Park will garner some attention as Bob Baffert brings in Danzing Candy for the Gr. 3 Lone Star Handicap on Sunday. The Twirling Candy colt has not won a stakes race since the 2016 San Felipe and most recently won an optional claiming test at Santa Anita. With Baffert and Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith invading Grand Prairie, Texas, you can expect a short price on this one. Danzing Candy will start out 7-to-5 on the morning line, while Texas Chrome is expected to get his share of support and is 9-to-5. This probably won’t come easy. Only four others dared to enter, and two of those – Shotgun Kowboy and Texas Chrome – are anything put pushovers. Shotgun Kowboy (4-to-1), owned and trained by C.R. Trout, won a couple of tough optional claiming races at Oaklawn and is up to nearly $900,000 in earnings. Calling the upset here with Texas Chrome, trained by J.R. Caldwell. Texas Chrome was second to Mor Spirit in the Steve Sexton Memorial here. Mor Spirit, of course, is also from the Baffert-Smith combo, and Texas Chrome will try to get even with that powerful outfit. Texas Chrome, a son of Grasshopper who races for Keene Thoroughbreds, looks like he’s getting back his legs. After a ninth in the Breeders’ Cup Classic in November, he came back with a sixth in the Oaklawn Handicap. He perked up with his second in the Sexton and overall has won three of four, with one second, over the Lone Star strip. 

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5.26.2017:

Handicapping Belmont’s Friday Pk5

With two thirds of the Triple Crown behind us, and a brief lull until the Belmont Stakes, let’s try to pad the bankroll by playing Belmont’s Pk5 Friday afternoon. Race 1: 2yo MSW at 5 furlongs on the turf A tough race that will warrant some tote inspection to see who is live and taking money, but on the face of it it looks like a spread race, with firsters #6 FAST BOAT, #4 MORRISON, #7 ARAWAK, #5 HEMP HEMP HURRAY and #2 SIDD FINCH all long on pedigree, connections and, quite possibly, talent. I’ll use them all and hope to get through, as the proven runners just don’t inspire at all. Pk5 horses (in order of preference): 6-4-7-5-2 Race 2: 3upfm optional-claimer at 1 1/16 miles on the turf The long layoff is a bit of a concern for #3 WEKEELA, and obviously she is prepping for something much bigger down the road, but she’s every bit of 2/5 off a trio of GI runs in the US last year and simply lays over what looks like a very modest field on paper, so she’s an easy single. If you’re looking to get cheeky and play against her, then #2 DESIREE CHERRY also drops in class and should get first run, but her recent form hasn’t been much and she’s just not in the same league as the chalk. Pk5 horses: 3 Race 3: 3upfm NYB MSW at 7 furlongs on the turf I’ll come back to #7 SPRING FOLLY, who I played in her debut and may well have won if she had gotten out of traffic earlier in the stretch, though sadly the 12-1 is going to be replaced by about 9-5 today. However, she’s no single, as #1a BARBIE ON A BUDGET has a big pedigree and looks primed for her turf debut after showing some talent in a pair of dirt starts. You have to think #5 SWEET AUGUST LADY can run some too, a she’s by City Zip and they paid 250k for her as a yearling, plus Chad Brown can do no wrong these days and she’s got plenty of works for this. Pk5 horses: 7-1a-5 Race 4: 3upfm MCL (20k) at 7 furlongs It just seems too easy to take #2 THIRTYDAYSINJUNE and move on, but the gut says she’s a bit of a false favorite and may be dressed up off some “big” figures of late. It’s also a bit worrisome that Randi Persaud is an icy 0-for-18 at the meet, so while the drop is big and the field is wretched, let’s use one more with her. And that brings us to #4 COMMUNION MONEY, who has one competitive race showing, but it also happens to be the only one that was on a fast track since being transferred to Gary Contessa, and against this group, that may be good enough. Pk5 horses: 4-2 Race 5: 3up claimer (40k) at 6 furlongs I’m taking a bit of a contrarian view here and playing against the favorites, as there’s a lot of sped entered and they make up most of it, so I’m hoping this one falls apart in the lane and the stalker/closers rule the day. Maybe it’s overthinking things, but seeing Javier Castellano get aboard #6 TOO FAST TO PASS for 3-for-44 Oscar Barrera seems noteworthy, and the latter does show a couple wins off the claim and this veteran can sit the right kind of trip too. As can #5 SIR BOND and #4 LOS BORRACHOS, who enter in good form and have shown they can pass horses in the lane, which is what I’m looking for. Pk5 horses: 6-5-4 The ticket: 6-4-7-5-2 with 3 with 7-1a-5 with 4-2 with 6-5-4 ($45) 

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5.25.2017:

Preakness Win Computes

Cloud Computing’s determined stretch drive past Classic Empire in the 2017 Preakness was exciting, but not necessarily what a majority of 140,000 on-track attendees and millions of television, mobile and online viewers expected. Fans itching for a Sunday Silence/Easy Goer-type Preakness duel between Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming and reigning 2-year-old champ Classic Empire weren’t disappointed, though. They witnessed a genuine horserace. ‘Computing and ‘Empire traded meaningful strides in the lane…mud-covered hoof to mud-covered hoof. And, as we used to say in the schoolyard, ‘A fight’s a fight’--no matter the combatants. In just his fourth lifetime start, Cloud Computing, honed to perfection by trainer Chad Brown, validated connections skipping the Kentucky Derby in lieu of a shot at Preakness glory. That’s something you don’t often see: Connections with a healthy, Kentucky Derby-eligible 3-year-old declining a shot at roses! Each season from January until the first Saturday in May, it seems the only thing that matters to proprietors of living, breathing 3-year-old male Thoroughbreds is earning qualifying points toward spots in the Kentucky Derby starting gate. The Preakness winner accomplished that goal, but connections, particularly Brown, known for expertise with fillies and mares on turf, didn’t think ‘Computing was quite ready for the challenge. And, by all estimation, they were correct. With just three lifetime races, all at Aqueduct—a first-out maiden win in Feb.; a second in the Grade 3 Gotham and a third in the Grade 2 Wood—throwing the son of Maclean’s Music immediately into the Derby would have been like feeding him to the wolves—19 of them to be exact. There’s also the whole ‘Apollo Curse’ thing that decrees: No horse has won the Kentucky Derby without having raced as a two-year-old since Apollo in 1882! Cloud Computing would have had to buck that trend or, as some call it, ‘coincidence.’ Since 1882? I’d call that a rather BIG coincidence. Rava, a character from a Seinfeld episode would disagree. As she emphatically explained to Elaine during an elevator ride, “That’s what a coincidence is! There are no small coincidences and big coincidences!” Of course, if your horse is eligible to start in the Kentucky Derby and you pass on the opportunity to compete in the race and your horse subsequently defeats the Derby winner and everyone else in the Preakness…don’t you wonder—even if just for a fleeting moment—what could have been? A shot at the Triple Crown? Racing royalty? One of a mere baker’s dozen to ever to turn the trick? Just the second horse to do it in nearly 40 years? Apparently, in an effort to avoid even the slightest hint of regret, Cloud Computing’s connections have announced that he probably will skip the Belmont Stakes. That’s perfectly understandable. You can’t lament not winning the Triple Crown when you don’t even compete in two legs of the thing. Following his eighth-place Preakness finish, Derby winner Always Dreaming also seems a Belmont ‘no-show.’ He and Cloud Computing will catch the third leg of the Triple Crown on NBC from the comfort of stalls AT BELMONT PARK! That’s right. Winners of two legs of the Triple Crown are a mere stone’s throw from where Secretariat won by 31 and stopped the timer in 2:24 and they’re staying in the barn. For Tom Durkin’s sake, the Belmont’s in their backyards. They don’t even have to ship to compete. No jet, no van, no trailer hitched to a Dodge RAM truck. They’re forfeiting a ‘home game.’ As the kids say, ‘Whatever.’ For the rest of us the show must go on! Especially in the Big Apple. Besides, I haven’t sung “Theme from New York New York” in at least a year. The pre-Preakness spotlight, which appropriately had centered on Derby winner Always Dreaming and trainer Todd Pletcher, shifted after the race toward victorious Cloud Computing and conditioner Chad Brown. Of all possible combinations of trainers to win the Derby and Preakness, is it mere ‘coincidence’ to see Pletcher yield center stage to Brown? Or, does the Preakness upset signify a subtle shifting of the guard among trainers-- from Pletcher, who will turn the big ‘five-oh’ June 26, to 38-year-old Brown? Last summer, after finishing second to Pletcher in five consecutive seasons, Brown finally surpassed that rival as Saratoga’s leading trainer. As if to punctuate his achievement, Brown saddled a Spa record 40 winners. Pletcher, who had won an incredible six consecutive titles there and an amazing 12 overall, was runner-up with 31 wins. To illustrate how dominant Brown and Pletcher are in upstate New York it should be noted that Kiaran McLaughlin finished third with just 13 winners! On the national stage Brown also has emerged as a major player in another category previously dominated by Pletcher. In January, Brown accepted his first Eclipse Award as the nation’s top trainer. Bob Baffert and Mark Casse were finalists for the award that Pletcher has won seven times, including a stretch of four in a row! A list of early Belmont probables, compiled by Jay Privman of Daily Racing Form, includes Preakness participants Classic Empire, Conquest Mo Money, Lookin At Lee and Senior Investment. ‘Empire clearly is the front-runner as the nation’s best 3-year-old. He overcame severe bumping at the start of the Kentucky Derby and experienced additional indignities to finish fourth. Two weeks later, in Baltimore, he eyeballed favorite Always Dreaming into submission before barely succumbing to Cloud Computing. Conquest Mo Money broke slowly in the Preakness and then didn’t fire at all. Lookin At Lee, rail-run dream trip recipient in the Derby, loomed briefly in the Pimlico stretch, but ran out of punch and was passed late by Senior Investment for third. They both should appreciate the mile and one-half distance. While it’s too early to make a definitive Belmont prediction, we were impressed with Tapwrit’s effort in the Kentucky Derby. In the five weeks since, if he’s developed at all…lookout. Oh, by the way, Todd Pletcher is his trainer. What a coincidence! Race On! 

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5.24.2017:

Preakness Recap

I think it’s fair to say most racing fans are always dreaming to see a Triple Crown sweep. It is a dream that has come true only 12 times, most recently in 2015 with American Pharoah. But any chance for a 2017 Triple Crown sweep came to an end last Saturday in the 142nd running of the Preakness Stakes when Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming threw in the towel turning for home. Always Dreaming was sent away as the 6-5 Preakness favorite. Many, including yours truly, were rather surprised his price was not lower. He had been made a 4-5 favorite on the morning line. I felt that morning-line price was spot on. Ten 3-year-olds were loaded into the Pimlico starting gate to do battle at 1 3/16 miles. According to the official Equibase chart, Always Dreaming “brushed the outside of the gate and had his rider briefly adjust his right iron” at the start. Nevertheless, Always Dreaming actually went to the front at once. Classic Empire, trained by Mark Casse, got away in good order as the 2-1 second choice in the betting. He took it to Always Dreaming right from the beginning. Always Dreaming had a short lead through early fractions of :23.16, :46.81 and 1:11.00 on a track listed as fast. The track had started out as muddy for the races early in the card before being upgraded to good for the seventh, ninth and 11th races. The track condition was changed again, this time to fast, for the 13th race, the Preakness. Going into the far turn, Always Dreaming and Classic Empire fought fiercely for the lead. Cloud Computing lurked in third while racing along the inner rail to save as much ground as possible. It was the exact trip Cloud Computing’s trainer, Chad Brown (the Eclipse Award-winning trainer of 2016), had hoped to see the Kentucky-bred Maclean’s Music colt get. As Always Dreaming and Classic Empire battled head-and-head for the lead around the far turn, it appeared they might do so all the way to the finish. But then, turning for home, Classic Empire edged clear. It became evident at that point that Always Dreaming was in deep water. In upper stretch, while Always Dreaming was retreating toward the back of the pack, Classic Empire increased his advantage. With a furlong left to run, last year’s Eclipse Award-winning 2-year-old male had a healthy three-length lead. It looked like he was well on his way to a Preakness victory. But shortly after Classic Empire passed the eighth pole, Cloud Computing emerged to loom a serious threat. In the final sixteenth, the race had boiled down to this question: Would there be just enough gas left in Classic Empire’s tank for him to stave off Cloud Computing? As it turned out, there was not. Cloud Computing and Javier Castellano (an Eclipse Award recipient in each of the last four years as outstanding jockey and also voted into the Hall of Fame this year) nailed Classic Empire and Julien Leparoux (a 2006 Eclipse Award winner as outstanding apprentice jockey) in the final dramatic yards. Cloud Computing prevailed by a head. Senior Investment came in third, 4 3/4 lengths behind Classic Empire. Lookin At Lee finished fourth to complete a $1 superfecta that returned $8,162.80. Always Dreaming ended up eighth, defeating just two opponents. Some think Leparoux lost the race because “he moved too soon” on Classic Empire. But in the rider’s defense, the Casse camp’s battle plan was to be aggressive from the get-go. The strategy was to put a “full court press” on Always Dreaming so he would not have it all his own way. Win or lose, Leparoux was instructed to be aggressive rather than patient in this race. And what happens? He gets criticized for not being patient and moving too soon. After Always Dreaming began to drop back coming into the stretch, might it have been better if Leparoux had waited just a little bit longer before he pushed the gas pedal all the way to the floor? Maybe. But once they got into the stretch, Classic Empire had every opportunity to win if he was good enough. It was up to the more experienced, more seasoned Classic Empire to repulse a late challenge from the inexperienced, less seasoned Cloud Computing. And the bottom line is Classic Empire could not quite do it. Classic Empire almost got knocked down in the initial strides of the Kentucky Derby, then raced quite wide into the stretch while on his way to finishing fourth. He traveled 75 feet farther than Always Dreaming, according to Trakus. In the Preakness, Classic Empire did not have trouble of any sort. Yet he still did not win. “He ran his race, had a fair shot, just got beat,” Casse was quoted as saying the day after the Preakness in a Daily Racing Form story written by Jay Privman. Casse added that he had no problem with Leparoux’s ride. “Julien rode him perfect,” Casse said. FIRST 2017 DEFEAT FOR ALWAYS DREAMING The Preakness was Always Dreaming’s first loss in five 2017 starts. He had won his previous four races this year by a combined 23 1/4 lengths. But in a dramatic form reversal, Always Dreaming lost the Preakness by 14 lengths. It was the first time he had been beaten when being trained by Todd Pletcher. For whatever reason or reasons, the 2017 Kentucky Derby winner just did not seem to have his mojo last Saturday. Was it because Always Dreaming had just two weeks between races? Running a horse back so soon clearly is something Pletcher is not especially comfortable doing. Indeed, if Always Dreaming had not won the Kentucky Derby, there is a 99.9% chance he would not have even started in the Preakness. Did the Kentucky Derby take more out of Always Dreaming than it had seemed? It is a possibility, though he certainly had given no indication of that in the way he trained up to the Preakness. As for Cloud Computing, it says a lot about his quality that he won the Preakness in just his fourth career start. Brown deserves kudos for having felt it would be best to skip the Kentucky Derby with the lightly raced Cloud Computing, even though the colt had accrued enough points to start. Brown thought it best to have a fresh Cloud Computing in the Preakness vis-a-vis a not-as-fresh duo in Kentucky Derby contestants Always Dreaming and Classic Empire. A so-called new shooter, Cloud Computing became just the fourth horse in the last 34 years to win the Preakness without having started in the Kentucky Derby. The others were Red Bullet in 2000, Bernardini in 2006 and Rachel Alexandra in 2009. Castellano has ridden two of the four. Bernardini had been Castellano’s only Preakness win prior to this year. Cloud Computing is the first horse Brown has ever saddled for the Preakness. It was the trainer’s first win in a Triple Crown race. No doubt there will be more such victories for Brown, a former assistant to the late Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel. Brown paid a compliment to his former boss in a Racing Form story Monday written by David Grening. Brown said he followed a path to the Preakness with Cloud Computing that was inspired by Frankel. “Sitting out, waiting is hard,” Brown said, alluding to the fact that Cloud Computing passed the Kentucky Derby. “[Frankel] was the master of patience and long-term planning. The master.” I am sure the master would be extremely proud that his pupil won this year’s Preakness. I say that as someone who knew Frankel quite well. The Preakness was Cloud Computing’s first stakes win. He races for Seth Klarman’s Klaravich Stables and William Lawrence. This was an especially sweet win for Klarman, who went to the races at Pimlico as a youngster when he lived close to the track. It was “very gratifying” to win the Preakness for “all the hard work everyone puts in at the barn” and for “clients like Seth Klarman and Bill Lawrence, who are so loyal, so supportive and so patient,” Brown said. “To be able to reward them for their confidence in us is probably the most gratifying thing about the whole experience for me personally. They do trust us with a lot of horses, a lot of money invested in our stable and a lot of time spent dealing with good news and bad news. It’s great to be able to give back to them, especially Seth, who is from Baltimore.” I salute fellow Xpressbet Preakness Wager Guide contributor Dick Jerardi. Cloud Computing was Jerardi’s top pick. “Cloud Computing has the look of a horse that could be about ready to explode if he gets the right setup,” Jerardi wrote. Also in the Xpressbet Preakness Wager Guide, Steve Byk saw Cloud Computing as a “value play.” Not only that, Byk was prescient as to how the race would play out. “Cloud Computing could be a beneficiary of any heated duel on the front end and could be a $20 horse.” Cloud Computing paid $28.80 for a $2 win wager. Going into the Preakness, Cloud Computing was eligible to run in a race restricted to non-winners of two races lifetime. I did not like him last Saturday because he not only was trying to become a rare Preakness winner who had not run in the Kentucky Derby, he also had been soundly beaten in New York by a pair of horses who did not fare well in the Run for the Roses. Cloud Computing finished second to J Boys Echo in the Gotham at Aqueduct on March 4, then ran third when Irish War Cry won the Wood Memorial at the Big A on April 8. Irish War Cry and J Boys Echo finished 10th and 15th, respectively, in the May 6 Kentucky Derby. After Cloud Computing completed his 1 3/16-mile Preakness journey in 1:55.98, he was deemed to have run a career-best 102 Beyer Speed Figure. He had recorded Beyers of 96 in the Gotham and 90 in the Wood. Always Dreaming? He followed his career-best 102 Beyer in the Kentucky Derby by plummeting to an 82 in the Preakness. With Always Dreaming assigned a 102 Beyer Speed Figure for his Kentucky Derby win and Cloud Computing likewise recording a 102 for his Preakness victory, I think both probably are lucky that Mastery was not either of these races. Mastery posted a 105 Beyer Speed Figure when he won the San Felipe by 6 3/4 lengths at Santa Anita Park on March 11 to remain undefeated in four career starts. At the end of the San Felipe, it appeared to me that Mastery was the best 3-year-old male in the country. Unfortunately, the son of Candy Ride emerged from the San Felipe with a “complete displaced condylar fracture” in his left front ankle, according to the New York Times’ Joe Drape, an injury that knocked the colt out of the Triple Crown races. Mastery required surgery for the insertion of three screws, Drape reported. It is not hard for me to imagine a scenario in which Mastery won the Santa Anita Derby, Kentucky Derby and Preakness, then headed to the Belmont Stakes with a chance to become a second Triple Crown winner trained by Bob Baffert, who conditioned American Pharoah. But, of course, this is pure conjecture. Here are the Beyer Speed Figures for the Preakness winners going back to 1991: 2017 Cloud Computing (102) 2016 Exaggerator (101) 2015 American Pharoah (102) 2014 California Chrome (105) 2013 Oxbow (106) 2012 I’ll Have Another (109) 2011 Shackleford (104) 2010 Lookin At Lucky (102) 2009 Rachel Alexandra (108) 2008 Big Brown (100) 2007 Curlin (111) 2006 Bernardini (113) 2005 Afleet Alex (112) 2004 Smarty Jones (118) 2003 Funny Cide (114) 2002 War Emblem (109) 2001 Point Given (111) 2000 Red Bullet (109) 1999 Charismatic (107) 1998 Real Quiet (111) 1997 Silver Charm (118) 1996 Louis Quatorze (112) 1995 Timber Country (106) 1994 Tabasco Cat (112) 1993 Prairie Bayou (98) 1992 Pine Bluff (104) 1991 Hansel (117) AMERICAN PHAROAH’S FAULTY FIGURE You may have noticed that Cloud Computing’s 102 Beyer is identical to American Pharoah’s Preakness figure. But American Pharoah’s Preakness was one of six races in 2015 in which I felt a compelling case could be made that his Beyer Speed Figure was lower than it should have been in terms of the excellence of his performance. American Pharoah, ridden by Victor Espinoza, splashed his way to a seven-length Preakness victory on a wet track. American Pharoah was far from all out, with Espinoza feeling it would be prudent to save as much as possible for the colt’s next start, the Belmont Stakes, a demanding 1 1/2-mile race that had spoiled many a Triple Crown attempt. As often noted in this column, when a horse wins a race and is far from all out, that is not taken into consideration in terms of calculating a Beyer Speed Figure. This is one reason why American Pharoah’s Preakness figure does not do him justice. The track condition also played a role in American Pharoah’s Preakness figure not being a true reflection of his performance. The track had been fast all day until a downpour turned it into a sea of slop for the Preakness. Consequently, determining what the Beyer Speed Figure should be for American Pharoah’s Preakness win became a tricky proposition. Jerardi and racing broadcaster Randy Moss are two individuals who, along with Andrew Beyer and others, are responsible for calculating the Beyer Speed Figures. Following American Pharoah’s win that year in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, Jerardi addressed the lack of certainty associated with the 102 Beyer Speed Figure assigned to American Pharoah for the Preakness. “We at Beyer Central explained at the time how much confidence we had in the Preakness Beyer -- not much,” Jerardi wrote. “The one-race monsoon made comparisons with the other races impossible, so it was a one-race variant, never how you want to make numbers. Randy Moss and I thought it could have been a 112. We had our reasons. Frankly, we will never know for sure.” Thus, while the record shows that Cloud Computing’s 102 last Saturday is the same as the Preakness figure for the 2015 Triple Crown winner, I believe that is very misleading. American Pharoah’s Preakness performance, in my opinion, was far superior to Cloud Computing’s. I think a more realistic representation of these two performances numbers-wise would be a 112 or so for American Pharoah, as proposed by Jerardi and Moss, vs. Cloud Computing’s 102. THIS WEEK’S NTRA POLLS With two-thirds of this year’s Triple Crown now in the rearview mirror, Classic Empire tops the latest NTRA Top 3-Year-Old Poll. This poll will conclude following the June 10 Belmont Stakes. Here is this week’s NTRA Top 3-Year-old Poll (first-place votes in parenthesis): 1. Classic Empire (21) 2. Always Dreaming (15) 3. Cloud Computing (3) 4. Lookin At Lee 5. Battle of Midway 6. Irish War Cry 7. Unique Bella 8. McCraken 9. Practical Joke 10. Senior Investment Of the 15 first-place votes for Always Dreaming, one was mine. The way I see it, Always Dreaming currently deserves the top spot because his wins in the Florida Derby and Kentucky Derby trump Classic Empire’s victory in the Arkansas Derby and runner-up finish in the Preakness. Isn’t the Kentucky Derby the most important race in the 3-year-old male division? Meanwhile, Arrogate once again received all of the first-place votes in the latest NTRA Top Thoroughbred Poll. This poll will conclude after the Breeders’ Cup on Nov. 3-4 at Del Mar. Here is this week’s NTRA Top Thoroughbred Poll: 1. Arrogate (44) 2. Gun Runner 3. Shaman Ghost 4. Songbird 5. Stellar Wind 6. Mind Your Biscuits 7. Neolthic 8. Connect 9. Vale Dori 10. Whitmore 

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5.22.2017:

Help Our Fallen Riders

Most years, the Monday after Preakness I turn my attention immediately to the Belmont Stakes. Not this year. That’s because on June 3 – the Saturday before the final jewel in the Triple Crown – I will be the emcee of the fourth annual Jockeys & Jeans Charity Event at Parx Racing near Philadelphia. More than a dozen Hall of Fame jockeys will be in attendance to meet and greet fans, as well as raise a lot of money for fallen riders and the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund. The public is encouraged to join us beginning at noon on June 3 on the third-floor of the Parx clubhouse for a luncheon, autograph session, meet-and-greet and silent auction with incredible racing memorabilia. General admission to the track is free and just a $40 donation for admission to the Jockeys & Jeans event puts you tableside with some of the sport’s all-time greats. Among those Hall of Fame jockeys scheduled to appear – ladies first, of course – include the great Julie Krone, as well as Laffit Pincay, Jr., Ramon Dominguez, Pat Day, Chris McCarron, Jorge Velasquez, Jacinto Vasquez, Edgar Prado, Earlie Fires, Don Pierce, Sandy Hawley, Manny Ycaza, Bobby Ussery, Bill Boland, John Rotz, Tom Walsh, Jerry Fishback and more. It’s such a neat cross-section of contemporary and legendary riders all coming together to be with the fans. I’m in the process of working on my scripts to keep the day flowing and weaving the stories of these Hall of Fame riders. Horses, jockeys and the history they make – no matter how big or small – have become a timestamp in my lifetime. That’s part of my focus on June 3, to share those experiences with the riders and fans in attendance. Do you remember where you were when Laffit Pincay, Jr. guided Swale to the Derby win in 1984? If you’re a racing fan, chances are, you do. Feel free to share your experiences with me by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. document.getElementById('cloak053d46557bd2ce1e912a7e55930c4585').innerHTML = ''; var prefix = 'ma' + 'il' + 'to'; var path = 'hr' + 'ef' + '='; var addy053d46557bd2ce1e912a7e55930c4585 = 'jeremy' + '@'; addy053d46557bd2ce1e912a7e55930c4585 = addy053d46557bd2ce1e912a7e55930c4585 + 'horseplayernow' + '.' + 'com'; var addy_text053d46557bd2ce1e912a7e55930c4585 = 'jeremy' + '@' + 'horseplayernow' + '.' + 'com';document.getElementById('cloak053d46557bd2ce1e912a7e55930c4585').innerHTML += ''+addy_text053d46557bd2ce1e912a7e55930c4585+'';  with your memories of the Hall of Fame riders listed. Maybe they’ll make their way into my script at Jockeys & Jeans! For tickets to the event you can call 717-503-0182 from 9-5 pm ET Mondays through Saturdays. Visit www.jockeysandjeans.com for a link to online ticket purchasing as well as a browse at the silent auction items. I hope to see you in my home state of Pennsylvania on June 3 to support a great cause. More than quarter-million dollars are in our cross-hairs to be raised in a single day to help riders who need it. We’d love for you to help as you can! 

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5.20.2017:

Johnny D's 2017 Preakness Analysis

Below is one man’s humble analysis of the field for the 2017 Preakness Stakes, including post, horse, trainer, jockey and morning line odds. A suggested $2 superfecta wager ($96 total) is offered in The Bottom Line. 1. Multiplier (Walsh/Rosario) - 30-1 The Grade 3 Xpressbet Illinois Derby winner ships to Pimlico fresh from that Hawthorne triumph in his fourth lifetime start. On the plus side, he’s never been worse than third and his Beyer Speed Figures continue to rise. However, three of Multiplier’s four starts were against maiden foes and he often breaks a bit slowly. That won’t help him against this group—by far the toughest he’s ever faced. True, 3-year-olds improve at this time of the year, but he’ll need to move forward again and we don’t think that’s likely in here. 2. Cloud Computing (Brown/Castellano) - 12/1 With just three starts under his girth, Cloud Computing is the most inexperienced runner in the 2017 Preakness. That’s okay. What he lacks in seasoning he makes up for in talent. After breaking maiden in February at Aqueduct, he returned in March to finish second in the Grade 3 Gotham Stakes and third in the Grade 2 Wood Memorial in April. Connections skipped the Derby in order to allow him to mature. In that time he has posted two notable bullet five-furlong works over the Belmont training track in 1:00 1/5—one over a ‘good’ surface and the other over a ‘fast’ track—and a crisp :48 4/5, second-best of 32 at the distance that morning, also over the Belmont training track. Chad Brown, Eclipse Award winning trainer in 2016, ordinarily does not work his horses that fast, so the moves suggest sharpness. Expect Hall of Fame jockey Javier Castellano to put Cloud Computing in a stalking position just behind the Preakness leaders. Is he good enough to put it all together and win the Preakness in just his fourth start? That’s a big ask but, if he’s improved since the Wood, he just might have enough quality to fill a significant exotic slot. 3. Hence (Asmussen/Geroux) - 20/1 Highly regarded in this corner before the Kentucky Derby, Hence didn’t do much running in Louisville. Still, he managed to finish in front of nearly half of the field. Better was anticipated, though. So, what was his excuse? Maybe he didn’t like the sloppy Churchill surface? That’s possible. Upon further review, his normally long, fluid strides appeared compromised on the slippery surface. Can Derby backers trust him to bounce back with a top effort in the Preakness? That’s a difficult call but, at big price, forgiveness fits. Because of his deep closing style he’ll be compromised by a lack of early Pimlico pace, but it’s definitely a positive that trainer Steve Asmussen wheels this one right back in the Preakness. Apparently, based on the conditioner’s post-Derby quotes, he was as confused and disappointed with Hence’s performance as the rest of us. 4. Always Dreaming (Pletcher/Velazquez) - 4/5 Directly after his emphatic triumph in the Kentucky Derby, Always Dreaming moved to stall 40 in the stakes barn at Pimlico—housing traditionally reserved for but not always occupied by the Derby champ. The location was suitable enough for racing legends like Triple Crown winners Secretariat and Seattle Slew and many others but, for a variety of reasons, some trainers choose to stable Derby winners elsewhere. Always Dreaming is the first Derby winner to check into the historic stall since California Chrome in 2014. Honoring tradition, that’s nice. Now, for the important question: How’s Always Dreaming going to perform in the Preakness? Glad you asked. He will be too short a price for a ‘win’ wager, so a horseplayer’s got to find a way to solve the exotic wager puzzle. Is there a chance Always Dreaming will lose? Sure, nothing’s for certain. However, with the unfortunate injury and defection of Royal Mo--a confirmed speed horse—it appears Always Dreaming will have things pretty much his own way from a pace perspective, much like he did in the Kentucky Derby--no real quality speed to go with him and capable closers camped too far behind to catch up. For those attempting to upset him there’s this: Last two times out he has run two incredibly fast races; races that were way faster than anything he’d ever run before. Sometimes that can sap a horse’s strength and knock him out a bit. The quick, two-week turnaround between Derby and Preakness could exacerbate that issue. However, great horses do things that others can’t. Nearly all of the evidence points toward Always Dreaming heading to Belmont Park with a Triple Crown on the line. 5. Classic Empire (Casse/Leparoux) - 3/1 The 2-year-old champ started as third choice in the Kentucky Derby and earned plenty of respect from this horseplayer. Bumped hard out of the gate, Classic Empire raced well back early, closed ground around the turn for home and finished well enough to be fourth. He easily could have given up at any point in the race. Circumstances were not in his favor and yet he kept trying. Following the race, his eye was swollen shut, probably injured by flying mud. His deep closing style isn’t a positive in this Preakness. After all, there’s not a whole lot of pace to chase. However, this guy is quality. He’s overcome significant hurdles in his limited career and continues to fight. It would be difficult to construct exotic wagers without including his number. 6. Gunnevera (Sano/Smith) - 15/1 Impressive Xpressbet Fountain of Youth victor Gunnevera hasn’t duplicated the quality of that March win. He was a well-beaten third in the Florida Derby and, similarly, was distanced in the Kentucky Derby. His Venezuelan connections, including twice-kidnapped trainer Antonio Sano, drew sentimental mutuel support in the Derby and the $16k Keeneland September yearling purchase did the best he could under the circumstances—no pace, off track, crowded field, etc. Mike Smith will replace recent regular rider Javier Castellano in the saddle for the Preakness. That’s a wash, trading one Hall of Fame jock for another. Gunnevera will need more early pace in the Preakness than he’s liable to see, so his chance for success is limited. ‘Gunny’s big adventure in the Xpressbet Fountain of Youth may have been a performance too good to be repeated. Still, it’s the fastest race any Preakness starter has ever run and that deserves respect. 7. Term of Art (O'Neill/Ortiz) - 30/1 He’s another Preakness starter that would benefit from a fast early pace that probably won’t materialize. He broke maiden over Sonneteer (still a maiden but 2nd in Rebel, 4th in Arkansas Derby and 16th in Kentucky Derby) going a mile at Santa Anita in October. Connections then exhibited supreme confidence in the Tiznow colt and entered him in the BC Juvenile, but that didn’t go well and he was beaten nearly 20 lengths. Less than one month later, in his next start, he won the Grade 3, off-the-turf Cecile B. DeMille at Del Mar over a good track. Since then he has been beaten by at least six lengths in four starts. A big Preakness effort would be a major surprise. 8. Senior Investment (McPeek/Hill) - 30/1 This colt upended Keeneland’s Grade 3 Lexington Stakes at odds of 11-1. He rallied from well off the pace that afternoon to score by a head in a blanket finish. While he has won four of his last five starts, he will be a big price in the Preakness. That’s partly because his Lexington score is his only stakes tally. He’s another that would appreciate a contentious early Pimlico pace, but might not get one. Paired or rising Beyer Speed Figures in eight consecutive races are a plus. He hasn’t quite run fast enough yet to figure in the Preakness picture, but longshot players will be hoping for immediate improvement. We’ll challenge him to beat us. 9. Lookin At Lee (Asmussen/Lanerie) - 10/1 We’ve been a fan of this one since November when he closed ground to finish fourth behind 2-year-old champ Classic Empire, highly regarded Not This Time and multiple Grade 1 Stakes winner Practical Joke in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita. He’s yet another Preakness starter with no early speed and Lookin At Lee will be hard pressed to duplicate his perfect, rail skimming Kentucky Derby runnerup performance. While he’s been ‘in the money’ in some important 3-year-old races, ‘Lee hasn’t actually won a race since August at Ellis Park! His Beyer Speed Figures printed in Daily Racing Form past performances have paired or improved in each of 10 career starts! That’s a rare accomplishment. Will he continue to improve and make his presence felt in the Preakness? Possibly in the exotics, but he’ll need the pace to melt in front of him like the Wicked Witch of the West. Tab ‘Lee and Hence--co-Asmussen Preakness starters--for potential Belmont glory. 10. Conquest Mo Money (Hernandez/Carreno) - 15/1 After making the first four starts of his career at Sunland Park, in New Mexico, this son of Uncle Mo took his game to the majors in the Arkansas Derby and nearly pulled off a 17-1 upset. He led deep into the stretch, but was collared late by a determined Classic Empire. Connections decided against posting a $200k supplemental fee to start in the Derby, but will cough up $150k to be eligible to run in the Preakness. Conquest Mo Money finished second in the Sunland Derby to Hence, also a starter in the Preakness. The biggest win in ‘Mo’s short career came in the Mine That Bird Derby at Sunland where he defeated eventual Blue Grass winner Irap. He figures to be racing close to the early Preakness pace and cannot be dismissed from the Charm City exotic picture. Jockey Jorge Carreno is a low-profile journeyman with a single graded stakes tally on his resume. In 101 career North American career victories, trainer Miguel Hernandez has earned less purse money than Preakness second choice Classic Empire has in just eight starts—around $2 million. If you want to root for an underdog in the Preakness then put your hopes firmly behind this colt--a bargain $8,500 purchase as a 2-year-old at the Keeneland November sale. At least he’s got speed in a field lacking that commodity. The Bottom Line Strictly the One to Beat: #4 Always Dreaming Should Run Well: #2 Cloud Computing, #5 Classic Empire Exotic Inclusions: #3 Hence, #6 Gunnevera and #9 Lookin At Lee, #10 Conquest Mo Money Not For Me: #1 Multiplier, #7 Term of Art, #8 Senior Investment Suggested Play: $2 Superfecta ($96) First: 4 Second: 2, 5, 9 Third: 2, 5, 6, 9, 10 Fourth: 2, 3, 5, 6, 9, 10 Race On! 

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5.17.2017:

Nothing Easy in Preakness 142

Any thoughts of Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming enjoying an unpressured trip around Old Hilltop in Saturday’s 142nd edition of the Preakness were erased shortly after 5pm Wednesday evening when Derby 4th-place finisher Classic Empire drew post position 5, one stall to the direct outside of the only horse still with a chance at the Triple Crown. Simply put, Always Dreaming will have his work cut out for him when the gates spring open in the Preakness. Whether it was gamesmanship, strategy, or a designed poker play, the openness of Classic Empire’s connections in saying there will be no free pass in the Preakness is, and they’ll be up on the pace, is, on the face of it, pretty damn cool. It’s basically like an NFL team, who needs a yard on 4th and 1, telling the defense “We’re running it right up the middle, come stop us if you can.” It’s a true show of bravado and confidence, though, as we found out in the Derby, when Classic Empire got slammed at the start, it only takes a few strides for the best laid plans to go to waste. The cool thing here is that said connections said all this before the draw. And now, with Classic Empire directly to the outside of Always Dreaming, it’s going to put the latter in one heck of a precarious position, as he’s likely going to have to run hard every step of the way. Of course, he showed in the Derby that he can do that, through fast early fractions too, and keep on going. But what he has not yet shown is if he can do it on a true racetrack that doesn’t hold a bias (inside on Derby Day), or against a horse who is a hapless longshot, like he did when he tripped out beautifully in the Florida Derby over State of Honor, the same horse who he was tracking in the Derby. And make no mistake folks, State of Honor Classic Empire is not. All of this could have an immediate impact on the rest of the field too, since, if the two best horses in the race go on a tear early, and a match race of sorts breaks out, strong closers like Lookin At Lee and Gunnevera suddenly enter the equation. I’m not so sure a scenario will develop where that happens, but what I am pretty sure of is that Always Dreaming is, for the first time this year, going to be put in a position where he very likely won’t be getting the best of it. And while it’s unfair to compare one Todd Pletcher horse to another, let’s not forget that Super Saver, his other Derby winner, on a very wet track too, was nowhere to be found in the Preakness. And all this is before we mention why we’re all here in the first place; to gamble. And taking 3-5 or so on a horse who is going to be facing an uphill battle and a set of circumstances he’s yet to encounter in any way shape or form, isn’t the way to make money at the race track. *** Lastly, before I go, I’d like to mention that the Horse Player NOW team will once again be at Pimlico Saturday and working with our good friends and ardent supporters at Xpressbet, in the Wagering 101 tent on the infield. It’s a yearly tradition that I’m extremely proud to be a part of, and something I’d like to think goes a long way in helping generate a lot of new fans on one of the rare days in racing when new fans are there to be generated. If you’re on the grounds, please stop by and say hi, check out what we have to offer, and share any opinions you might have as well. And, most importantly, good luck and enjoy a great two days of racing this weekend at Pimlico. 

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