Sunday, August 28, 2011

Weekend Handicapping: Pacific Classic Rematch

Yesterday we saw two interesting races.  The comeback of Uncle Mo in the Bishop and the disappearing act of Coil, Ruler on Ice and Shackleford in the Travers.  There is no doubt that Uncle Mo is an outstanding colt after that performance yesterday.  He ran a strong race and just got caught by Caleb’s Posse.  We should expect a big fall campaign from Uncle Mo.  The Travers for me was a disappointment, not because Coil lost but it seemed the whole race was flat.  I admit that I’m not convinced Stay Thirsty is “all that”.  I still think of him as a “horse for courses” type only winning at Saratoga.  What did surprise me was how the top three were totally no factors in that race.   Since Hurricane Irene has shut down the east coast racing for the day, all eyes fall on Del Mar.

So today I will attempt to make sense of the $1,000,000 Del Mar Pacific Classic (G1), 3YO+ going a mile and quarter over the synthetic track.  We have the rematch of Twirling Candy and Game On Dude, a top turf horse in Acclamation trying the synthetic again, some shippers and horses still trying to find their level.  Let’s take a look ….


#9 Game On Dude ML 3/1 & #10 Twirling Candy ML 5/2:  I’m putting them together for it’s a tossup.  They’re G1 winners, excellent connections, top level Beyer’s, strong consistent workouts.  They’re both fast and like to be at or near the front and wouldn’t be surprised to see a repeat of the Hollywood Gold Cup.  In trying to find something, the only thing, and this is a stretch, is that Chantal Sutherland due to her suspensions, might be a bit out of the groove.  Other than that, take the one you like and play it.  Or pass and find the upset horse.

#5 Acclamation ML 5/1:  This is an interesting situation.  Here you have the premier turf horse going back to synthetic which he hasn’t done well on and switches to PVal (leaving Talamo in the Jockey room).  You have to consider him for he knows how to win, has done okay on the Del Mar surface back in the day.  He likes to lead, but this isn’t turf and will be interesting to see where Valenzuela rates him. Bottom line you can’t ignore a back to back G1 winner, including this distance regardless of track surface.  If the ML holds anywhere near 5/1 would take him as the value play.

Dark Horses:

#2  Jeranimo ML 12/1:  Has won at the G2 level last year and a second in the Read(G1).  He is another turf specialist with a decent synthetic history(3 of 13 and 8 ITM) .  Just not sure which horse will show up.  Consistent Beyer’s and has been working out fine over the surface.  Is a presser and could be there if the pace disintegrates.  In the exotics for sure.

#6 Setsuko ML 8/1:  This colt has left our hearts broken at the 8th pole how many times?  He has been nibbling at the winners circle for sometime at all levels.  He is closer and if all the speed in this race falls apart then it should be his day.   Would like to see him have his break through race, can it be today or do watch him near miss again?

“Bombs Away”

#1 Don Cavallo ML 8/1:  Has won at the G3 level last out, Beyer’s increasing each race, a winner on synthetic at Woodbine.  Attfield is one of the craftiest trainers around and brings Woodbines top jock, Contreras with him for this race.  He can do the distance and can lead or rate off the pace.  I would think he would let Twirling Candy and Game On Dude fight it out and take them out down the stretch.  Like a lot of these types he is facing some tough horses today and will need a top effort, and he seems to be finding his form right now.  A dangerous one.

Right now I see this race being between Twirling Candy and Game On Dude but then of late who knows, it has been a strange summer.   It will be interesting to see how Acclamation handles the synthetic, can Setsuko finally win at this level or does Don Cavallo surprise us all?


9 - 10 - 5

I’ll be posting the selections for Balmoral Guaranteed $25,000 Pick 4 this evening.  Last night the Pick 4 paid over $5500 and I got clobbered for the first time no finishers ugghh!.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Weekend Handicapping: Travers a "Graveyard of Favorites"?

I finally decided for the Weekend Handicap to focus on the Travers.   What I like about this race is we have a rematch of the Haskell, a couple of shippers and a handful of lightly raced 3YO’s that have been coming along nicely.  This mix usually spells an upset and what have they been calling Saratoga?  “The Graveyard of Favorites”.

So let’s get started,  going to look at three contenders, an outsider and the “Bombs Away” choice.   When you look at this field you notice there is only one deep closer (JW Blue), one true speed horse (Shackleford) and the rest are pressers.  That makes for an interesting pace scenario and when going this distance of a mile and quarter pace will be everything.  It will be fun to see who goes with Shackleford, would be surprised if they let him take off.


1.        #7 Coil  ML 3/1:  Seems to have gotten lost in the Stay Thirsty hoopla and the “how good” is Ruler on Ice and Shackleford debate.  Baffert has one heck of a 3YO here and fits this spot nicely.  Has won at the G1 and G3 level and near miss at the Swaps(G2).  In the Haskell (G1) showed how tough he is coming off a bad start to take down the front running Shackleford.   His Beyer’s have been three consecutive 96’s which is nice and his workouts tightened up.  The only concern I have is there has been some grumbling from the Kentucky and West Coast trainers that their horses haven’t liked the Saratoga surface.  Not sure if that is anecdotal or not but might be a factor.  One thing for certain, Coil will be at the wire no matter what.

2.       # 10 Shackleford  ML 9/2:  Here is the speed and we all know it.  I’m not concerned about the distance that many are, this all comes down to the pace.  If Castanon rides him like he did in the Haskell and Preakness he will have a good chance to win this race.  What I really like is his form, notice he has developed a three step improvement pattern in his Beyer’s.  This race would be the third race from his off number at the Belmont.  Have a sneaky suspicion he may get it done today.

3.       #9 Stay Thirsty ML 5/2:  I know he won the Gotham(G3) and the Jim Dandy (G2) and is a Pletcher horse.  Had a monster 106 last out and seems to be in a groove right now.   What I see is a 3YO that has a pretty consistent bounce pattern in his Beyer’s, his two Graded wins were over horses of less caliber and when he has faced this bunch he has been beaten soundly (excluding the Belmont on a sloppy day).  He will be in the hunt but don’t see him taking it from Coil or Shackleford. He might confirm the "Graveyard" hype.


1.       #4 Ruler on Ice ML 6/1:   Not sure what to make of him.  2 of his 3 wins have come over off tracks; his Beyer’s are high and low and show no pattern.  Even his racing style is inconsistent.  He can go the distance and has raced well against good company.  The pace is going to determine if he is there at the end.  He is a classic “what if” horse, if everything fall’s  in place, and he sticks close, he might just swing by them all.  Dangerous in the race but not sure he can cover the first three.

“Bombs Away’:

#6 Raison d’Etat ML 10/1:  I admit I’m a sucker for lightly raced 3YO with great pedigrees stepping up in class.  He may be way over his head today, but his Beyer’s are moving up nicely, workouts have been crisp and have to respect Bill Mott when brings a horse in to a field like this.   I also like Eddie Castro in these races, and to that point he switched off Rattlesnake Bridge to stay with this one.    Not sure if there was a prior commitment, but just an angle to think about.

Selection:  7 – 10 – 9

Tonight I will be blogging the selections for tonight’s  $20,000 Guaranteed Pick 4 at Balmoral.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Weekend Handicapping: Taking to the Sky at Woodbine today

Yesterday we saw two great filly races, the Alabama (G1 at Saratoga on dirt) and the Del Mar Oaks (G1 at Del Mar on turf).  I think we all can agree is that there is no clear cut 3YO filly champion in either division.  There was no huge upsets, but just two fillies had their turn, Royal Delta winning with a strong closing performance over It’s Tricky and Summer Soiree holding off Star Billing and Nereid by a half a length.  Most are disappointed that the filly division doesn’t have a dominating filly, but I believe it’s better for racing to have a contentious group fighting it out all season.  It holds the racing fans interest and can attract new fans to the sport. 

Today, we head north to Canada and will handicap the Sky Classic (G2) for 3YO+ going 1 ¼ miles on turf.  There is a field of 6 entered, and as of this writing no scratches.  It’s a strong field; several have raced against each other and taken turns beating each other as well.  I will be listing the contenders in order and inside that list will be my “Bombs Away” selection.  This race is very competitive and of the six, five could easily claim victory.  Here we go,

1.       #5 Musketier ML 9/2:  This tough, Roger Attfield trained,  9YO should bounce back from the Nijinsky, as that race might have been a touch too short for him. You could also argue that his 109 Beyer from winning the Singspiel would not be duplicated.  I will look at the Nijinsky effort a good one but he bounced.    His record shows he likes to go long, winning the Singspiel(G3) and the Elkhorn(G2) over a mile and a half .  Back to 1 ¼ is more suitable and look for De Silva (17% winning record on turf) to have him a bit closer this time. 

2.       #4 Fifty Proof ML 2/1:  He is having a great 5YO campaign winning 2 of 4 and placing 2nd in the other two races.  His last two were near misses, the last finishing 2nd in the Nijinsky.  Likes to get to the front and dictate the pace and see no different here.  His Beyer’s are improving steadily, (101-98-95-88) and looks in good form with 2 5f works since the Nijinsky.   Louis Contreras stays on top for Ian Black, Contreras wins 22% of his turf races.  The only reason I didn’t place him #1 I’m biased against beaten favorites.  The statistics on “beaten favorites” winning on their next outing is very low, around 16%. 

3.       #2 Grassy ML 5/2:  He hasn’t raced since finishing 2nd to Musketier in the Singspiel, but his workouts show he is in good form and has won coming off a layoff before.  Clement has a good track record winning with horses coming off their layoffs, over 20%. The other factors that I like about him is that if Kara’s Orientation hooks up with Fifty Proof and the pace begins to wilt, then Grassy will roll right by them.  Only Musketier and Hailstone have comparable closing Beyer’s. The Woodbine has been playing equal to all styles on the bias, so we have to respect this closer.  Also, a switch to Husbands, who has been red hot the last weeks and wins 21% on turf with a positive ROI.  This horse is dangerous and wouldn’t be surprised to see him take it. 

4.       #6 Hailstone ML 10/1:  My “Bombs Away” selection.  He really isn’t the classic longshot here but more like the forgotten horse.  Had a near miss in the Nijinsky finishing 3rd out by a length.  No wins at the Graded level but has been close.  This 5YO colt has only 8 races under his belt and is in the money 5 of them.  His Beyer’s have been consistent and 2 solid works since the Nijinsky.  He could still be developing and might not be ready for this group, but the distance might play right into his hands.   Great pedigree and is the wild card here today.

5.       #3 Smart Bid ML 9/5:  Some might question why I have this Graham Motion trained horse rated so low.  Has won at this level and a near miss in a G1 back in February at Gulfstream.  So what’s there no to like?  A fair question, but going to hang my hat on that he has never won at this distance, seems to have struggled of late,  Prado has a low turf win percentage (5% on 200+ mounts), and could be way wrong here but don’t see his front end style working with Fifty Proof and Kara’s Orientation.  He has won once in his last nine, always near or on the board but not sure if he is a true winner like some of the other’s today.  Might make me look foolish in the end, but don’t see him in the winner’s circle today.

Race ranking:  5-4-2

Will be blogging at with the selections for the Guaranteed $25,000 Pick 4 at Balmoral Park.  Hit it last night for a tidy $294.00 on a $27 ticket!  Good luck today and let’s cash tickets. 

Friday, August 19, 2011

Weekend Handicapping: Grass Burners in Del Mar Oaks Saturday

In a previous blog I stated I wasn’t going to handicap the Alabama because I was a big It’s Tricky fan and it would be slanted selection.  I mentioned that I was going to handicap the Del Mar Oaks for Saturday and then put it out of mind.  At the time, I was busy handicapping Monmouth for another group and working the Pick 4 at Balmoral.  I will admit I had no idea who was even in the Del Mar Oaks until I opened my Bris PP’s.  As I scanned the line up all I could do was mutter, WOW, and thought can I change my mind and do the Alabama? 
Not being one to dodge a challenge, I dug in and took a long look at the 8th Race, Del Mar Oaks (G1), going  1 1/8th  over the turf, for 3YO fillies and a purse of $250,000.  It’s a field of 10 with 2 also eligible.  Before I go through the contenders and the like, I would say if you are an angle player pick one.  There is cutting back in distance, several jockey changes, beaten favorite, bounce pattern and long layoff.   Oh, almost forgot the last angle, throw a dart at the entries.

After going through it over and over and changing my mind a dozen times, I settled on 7 horses. I normally rank 3 as contenders, 3 as dark horses and 1 “Bombs Away”.  For the Del Mar Oaks, it will be a bit different. I will rank 7 horses, the first 3 are my favorites and the next 4 are winners but for various reasons think they are vulnerable.  In truth, I’m splitting hairs for this line up is outstanding.  One last thing, what makes this race so neat, is no matter what you go with you’ll  get a good price! Even the ML favorite, Summer Soiree is at 5/2 and not even sure she will go off as the favorite, but will take 5/2 with this group any day.

Here we go:

1.       #9 Nereid  ML 5-1:   Won the G1 American Oaks in a dead heat with Cambina and  4 others in this race right on her heels.  She went to the front in the American and held it until the wire, with her cutting back a 1/8th,  I see no reason she can’t do it again. Sherriffs wins 42% with winners of last race and Talamo is hot on turf.  Three good 5f workouts and her Beyer’s have improved each race and no signs of a bounce.  She could wire this field.

2.       #10 Up In Time ML 8-1:  I liked this filly in the San Clemente (G2) but thought she might be one more race away.  She beat the undefeated Sarah’s Secret and rated nicely off the pace and took control and won by 1 ¼ , her runout was good and with the extra distance today she could run right by all the speed in this race if they melt down. Strong workouts and Bejarano rides her again for Simon Callaghan.

3.       #5 Sarah’s Secret ML 12-1:  Most will be surprised with her sitting in the third selection.  She is also my “Bombers Away” pick.  The question is why here?  This is more of an angle play.  She was the beaten favorite in the San Clemente(G2), she raced close and never fired.  Not sure why, there didn’t seem to be an excuse.     Here is the play; Kathy Walsh has an excellent record with graded stakes, and beaten favorites.  She made a big switch in jockeys, taking Flores off and puts Rosario up.  Granted her Beyer’s don’t match up with the rest, but just have a feeling she will bounce back. She will be near the front,  but she needs rate off Nereid not run with her.

4.       #7 Cambina ML 3-1:  She is a strong closer and caught Nereid at the wire in the American Oaks.  In watching the tape, she actually got jammed up in the lane and then rallied.  It makes you think she could have taken it clearly.  I put her 4th, due to the large group of speed and I don’t see them all crumbling.  Also this is a large field and closers can get into trouble clearing a bevy of horses or has to go wide.  Interesting thing is, Bonde puts Garrett Gomez back on, he has 3 straight wins back at Santa Anita with her.  Check the turf bias.

5.      #4  Bizzy Caroline ML 8-1:  In the American Oaks she rode right on Nereid’s hip and did nothing.  Most labeled it a no excuse effort and not sure what happened but she was there at the end.  The 5th place finish does not reflect that she was only ¾ of length behind the dead heat finishers.  McPeek doesn’t have a great win % this season on graded stakes but he has Cruz back on from her Churchill Downs days, where she won the Regret(G3).   With her speed and cut back in distance she could surprise.

6.     #3  Summer Soiree ML 5-2:  There is no doubt this filly can win. She has 4 wins and the closest one was her maiden when she won by 6 ¼ lengths.  She has been off for 50+ days but has won coming off longer layoffs.  Excellent turf trainer in Graham Motion. So why not here?  Her speed figures are not consistent, a touch of a bouncer and she is meeting a tougher group. Not convinced.

7.    #2   Star Billing ML 5-1:  This is her 5th start and she seems to be always on the board regardless if it’s G1, G2 or G3.  She was right there in the American Oaks placing 3rd off by a nose.  The concern is her speed figures tend to bounce up and down so not sure the consistency is there yet.  She loses Rosario for Espinosa, who does well on turf in his own right, but Rosario going to the Kathy Walsh filly says something.  I do like this filly and one of those “gut” feelings that this could be her breakthrough race.

There is tons of speed in this race (4 Beyers at 100, 1 at 101), strong closers and 6 of them are within 6 points on the Bris Net Prime Power rankings.  It should be an exciting race and wouldn’t be surprised if we see another blanket finish like the American Oaks.  Photo finish hold all tickets! 

Good luck and will be handicapping the Sky Classic from Woodbine for Sunday.  You can read my blog at

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

How Do You Handicap?

Some use pen and paper, some use software, some use sheets, some use trainer stats, some use figs, some bet physicality. It is quite simply, the greatest (in my opinion) part of being a horse bettor.

Hello Race Fans asked several horseplayers what they do when they handicap, and the interesting article is a must-read..

How do you handicap? Let them know in their comments section.

This sounds like a good question for our next HANA survey!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Weekend Handicapping: Mabee too much speed @ DelMar today

At my blog site yesterday, I shared some insights on handicapping European horses from Night School.  Little did I realize that the Arlington turf races would become a mini laboratory.  In the morning the turf was rated firm and by race time due to thunderstorms it became yielding.  One of the tips from Night School was that Euro horses generally race on soft turf courses.  At that time the Secretariat was about to start and was part of the Sovereign Stables Challenge Contest.  I originally liked Wilcox Inn, but when I saw Ziyard(IRE) being a first time starter with a strong resume overseas, I switched.  The result was a strong race and almost held off Treasure Beach. Paid $8.20 to place!  Carrying that philosophy through the Beverly D and the Million, it was almost too easy.  I did ignore the European Bounce caution, thinking the soft turf would feel like home again.  Stacelita(FR) romps the Beverly D for $5.60 and Cape Blanco(IRE) takes the Million and pays $6.20. Nice paydays for quality race horses. 

For Sunday August 14, 2011, the race today for Weekend Handicap is the JC Mabee(G2) at DelMar.  It is for 3YO + fillies and mares on turf covering 1 1/8 miles.  Field of 8 and of them 6 could claim to be contenders.  This is race is highly contentious and loads of speed. 


1.       #4 Malibu Pier ML 5-1:  I know this might be a surprise to some.  This Malibu Moon 4YO through A.P. Indy just feels right for this race.  She has won at this level going longer, Carla Gaines wins 20% of her stakes races and Brice Blanc has ridden her to 2 of her 3 wins this season.  Her Beyers are not as high as the others but runs consistently in the high 90’s.  She looks to be in top form (strong workout on the 10th), great pedigree for the turf and intuition says yes today.

2.       #1 Harmonious ML 5-2:  Came in 2nd after a 4 month layoff and raced her best Beyer of 99.  She has won at the G1 level and Sherriffs wins 33% of his stakes races. Rosario the hot jockey at Del Mar rides her again.  We can expect to see a big effort today on the 2nd off a layoff.

3.       #5 Wasted Tears ML 5-1: She has won 12 of 20 lifetime, has been a success at all levels of Graded races, won once at this distance and has consistent Beyer’s. She takes off at the start and has the ability to wire it, the only question with all the speed in this race, can she control the pace.  Another plus is when Bert Evans places one of his horses in a stakes race they usually win.  The only downside, and this is a minor point but David Flores is having a wretched Del Mar meet. He has had only 4 wins in 60 mounts.  He is a great jockey and wins a good deal on turf, it’s his first time on Wasted Tears.

Outsiders:  Not going to use dark horses today for these 2 gals having every right to be in the top 3.  #2 Cozie Rosie ML: 7-2 and #7 Celtic Princess  ML3-1:  Both horses are fast, great connections and have won at this level.   The trouble I have is neither have won at this distance, pedigree suggest they can, but with this classy field they could get in trouble.  It wouldn’t surprise if either won, of the two Celtic Princess seems ready to go.

“Bombs Away”:  #8 Medaglia  D’amour ML 12-1:  This 6YO hasn’t raced in a year, last winning the Wilshire (G3) by 1 ¼.  Strong pedigree for this distance, top 90 Beyer’s and Talamo up (wins 21% on Turf).  The angle here is she won her maiden after a 5 month layoff on first time turf.  2 of her 3 wins she stretched her lead coming to the wire. 

In the end, with all this speed, it will be interesting to see which lady is still standing!

Selections:  4-1-5

Have a great day and see you all next weekend! 

Friday, August 12, 2011

Weekend Handicapping: Millions of questions will be answered at Arlington

Living in Chicago, it’s only fitting that the Weekend Handicapping will start with the Arlington Million.   The race will cover 1 ¼ miles over the turf and is rated a Grade 1.  There is a field of 10 and some interesting match ups with this field.  We have the rematch of Cape Blanco and Gio Ponti from the ManoWar at Belmont.  Two more invaders, Zack Hall and Wigmore Hall trying to duplicate Cape Blanco’s efforts and three hard knocking horses (Tajaaweed, Rahystrada and Mission Approved) wanting to make their own statement in this race.   With all that said, let’s try to make some sense of it …


1.      #7 Cape Blanco:  Comes to the US with a respectable resume, and his first time out scores an impressive 2 length victory in the ManoWar over Gio Ponti (the favorite) and Mission Approved.  He is a lightly raced 4YO, great pedigree for the turf and has won 7 of 13 lifetime.  The key question is, can he duplicate that effort or did he catch the field napping at Belmont? One race doesn't make a career, but he is off to an impressive start.

2.      #5 Gio Ponti:  I’m placing him here out of respect for his great career.  Not sure if he is rounding into form or is the 6YO beginning to lose a step to the younger horses.  We could argue the Manhattan (losing to Mission Approved) was the result of the trip to Dubai and then the ManoWar was a bounce off that effort.  He has had two nice works, and if the speed in this race falters he definitely can pick this field apart.  After Saturday, I think we will get a clear picture which direction Gio Ponti is headed.  He is my sentimental favorite.  Would enjoy watching him mow this field down.

3.      #8 Mission Approved:  This wasn’t easy.  I could easily argue Tajaaweed or even Dean’s Kitten here, but Mission Approved has shown he can run with these two.  Beating Gio Ponti at this distance wire to wire two back and has the top turf Beyer (104) over the last two races.  Cutting back in distance and his ability to go all the way from the gate makes him an attractive selection.  He has Cape Blanco on his inside and how well he gets to the front will dictate if he will carry the day.

Dark Horses:  Not sure you can call Tajaaweed and Dean’s Kitten dark horses.  That label really applies to Zack Hall and Wigmore Hall.  Of the two, Tajaaweed seems ready to break through at the G1 level.  Last out won impressively in the Arlington Handicap (G3) by 1 ½ and seems prepped perfectly for this one.  Going to play the jockey angle here too, Graham wins over 16% on turf and has ridden Tajaaweed very well the last two times.  Lastly , Tajaaweed has been in the money 4 of 5 times at Arlington with 2 wins.

“Bombs Away”:   It’s not really fair to call #1 Rahystrada a bomber in this race.  He has won 2 of 3 here at Arlington, has raced well all over the country, and has a sharpshooter jockey in Sheldon Russell.  Add improving Beyers (100 – 102) and he can rate off the pace or sit back and close.  This versatility makes him dangerous.  The last time I called a horse dangerous was Downhill Diva and she won at Del Mar.  He is hard to pass up.  This race is part of the Sovereign Handicap Challenge, I am participating in it and will make him my selection based on value.

The race has plenty of front end speed, some versatile horses that can rate and several strong closers.  Does the US standard bearer have one left in him?  Do we give it away to the overseas invaders or does one of the upstarts steal the Million? As a horserace lover, going to go with Gio Ponti showing he still has it.

Selections: 5 – 7 – 8  

You can read my blog at

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Balmoral Park Pick 4 Pools Reach Record Levels. Larry Lederman Big M Benefit

Chicago racing analyst Michael Antoniades informs us that Balmoral Park's pick 4 pools have reached "A" track status in July, with pools in the $30,000 range. Since lowering the takeout from 25% to 15% in 2010, the track has promoted its new pick 4 with verve, showing other tracks what can be done. In early 2010, pools averaged less than $7500 most evenings.

Harness players can get free past performances for the pick 4 at, and Michael's top-notch analysis can be found at

Big M Press Release on Larry Lederman Benefit

We'll be playing into this race, and we hope you do too!

This Saturday, August 13, harness fans are encouraged to bet an extra $5 on the fifth race at Meadowlands Racetrack to help harness announcer Larry Lederman as he undergoes treatment for a malignant brain tumor.

The Meadowlands Racetrack and the Standardbred Breeders and Owners Association of New Jersey will donate all net profits from both on-track and simulcast wagering on the fifth race to help defray Lederman’s medical expenses.

Lederman’s quick wit and trademark baritone have made him a fan favorite at racetracks such as Garden State Park, Atlantic City and Freehold. He will call the fifth race Saturday night using his famous impersonations of other track announcers. Fans can vote for the race callers they would like to hear him impersonate on Meadowlands Racetrack's Facebook Fan Page or by emailing Lederman will sign autographs and pose for photos at the Kahuna Wedge Deck from 7-8 p.m.

A doo wop concert and classic car show are also on tap for Saturday night. Bill Haley's Comets ("Rock Around The Clock," "Shake Rattle and Roll") and The Rip Chords ("Hey Little Cobra) will perform beginning at 6 p.m. The concert is included in the $1 general admission fee.

(The Meadowlands)

Monday, August 8, 2011

Slots Wealth Should be Shared: Scranton Times-Tribune Editorial

If you visit a chat board, or look at comments on blogs, horseplayers will invariably say "slots have killed horse racing". Mainly this perspective comes from the fact that while one-third of all purses come from slots, most slot states do not promote racing, nor lower the takeout with any of that windfall.

An editorial in a Pennsylvania newspaper agrees, and asks some tough questions to the state's legislators:

"From the outset, rescuing the racing business was a dubious excuse to launch a massive new gambling industry. Now that the gambling industry is in place, however, the Legislature should ensure that gamblers and taxpayers get a fair shake by decreasing the legal maximum takeout rate from 35 percent to something akin to the far lower national average."

The narrative is changing from "gamblers" to "gamblers and taxpayers", which we at HANA feel is a strong (and accurate) message in slots states. It would be welcoming to see mandatory set-asides for marketing racing, and lowering the takeout in slots jurisdictions. What do you think?

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Weekend Handicapping: Brigand and Night Tides Best Pals? Only Baffert knows ...

Before we start on Sundays feature race, would like to do a quick recap of the West Virginia Derby (G2).  Prayer for Relief had a beautiful trip and Bejarano placed him perfectly and took control at the right time.  I was impressed with Rush Now, like I said I gave him a long look, he showed a lot going on the lead and never folded trying to hold off Prayer for Relief. Dreamy Kid was a disappointment, not that he finished poorly but he never fired.  The concern was a regression off that big Swaps effort and today it happened.  Awesome Bet, my value play, seemed set nicely by Garcia but when he swung wide he checked up and then it was too late.  He did rush up but Pray for Relief had closed it out by then.

Race for Sunday,  August 7, 2011:  8th Race at Del Mar, Best Pal Stakes ($150K) for 2YO’s going 6 1/2f on Synthetic.  I was taught a long time ago when handicapping 2YO’s its Pedigree, Trainer and workouts.   The good news is Pletcher is not here, the bad news is Baffert has two entries and Hollendorfer has one.  Pedigrees look solid and all have good workouts and seem fit and ready to go.  There appears to be one solid choice and several upsetter’s, but like all lightly raced 2 YO’s  you just never know.

1.       #7 Brigand (Baffert/G.Gomez):  2 races under his belt and finished 2nd in the Hollywood Juvenile (G3) to Majestic City.  I watched the video and he looked strong making his move down the rail to take 2nd from Night Tide, but by then Majestic City was long gone.  His connections paid $925,000 at the OBS 2YO sale, so you can imagine they have big plans for him.  Good Beyer's. Not sure of his pedigree but his G3 performance warrants him to be the favorite.

2.       #2 Creative Cause (Harrington/Bejarano): Broke his maiden in July by 4 1/2 lengths.  His sire is Giant Causeway, who is highly ranked for producing 2YO winners.   He brought $135,000 at the Keeneland September Yearling sale.  Some 2YO handicappers look for a horse that was sold for more than the published stud fee.  Giant Causeway fee is $85,000.  His speed numbers say he can stay with Brigand.  Two good workouts since winning.  Likes to go to the front and fits here, and could wire this field.

3.       #5 Galex (Hollendorfer/Talamo):  Has the same sire as Brigand, Flatter.   He sold at FTK October Yearling sale for $31,000 against stud fee of $7500.  He is shipping in from GG/PLN and last out finished 2nd in a state bred stakes race.  He has two workouts at Del Mar and both were excellent.  I spotted him for several reasons:  Hollendorfer is one of the top 2YO trainers, consistent speed and a liberal “come and go” angle last out.  First call: 5th 1 ¼  Second Call: 2nd 1 ½ Third call: 4th  4 ½ and finished 2nd by 2 ¼.   

Dark Horses:  #4 Night Tides (Baffert/Garcia):  Finished 3rd to Majestic City and Brigand in the Hollywood Park Juvenile (G3).  He set the pace and clipped nice fractions, but when challenged by Brigand and Majestic City, he let them go, didn’t see him dig in nor looked tired. It might have been a bounce from his maiden win, if so, he could surprise.  He is out of an excellent sire, Malibu Moon.   #1 I’ll Have Another (O’Neill/Rosario):  This is an intriguing horse, his dam is out of Arch, who is a top 2YO sire.  Doug O’Neill brings his 2YO’s in ready to go, won his maiden with super Beyer’s, working well at Del Mar.  If I had to look for angle with this colt, it’s that Rosario is staying with him.  Rosario had ridden Brigand in the (G3) Juvenile and now passes up riding the favorite, with an almost certain payday for a second time starter.  Maybe something or maybe nothing but it’s interesting.  I didn’t have the ML for this race at the time of this writing, but if the price is right, #1 I’ll Have Another will be my value pick.

“Bombs Away”:  #3 Mighty Monsoon (Bonde/V. Espinoza):  This 2YO is out of Forestry and has 3 races to its resume and shipping in from GG/PLN.  Pedestrian speed figures and Galex finished ahead of him last out.  This is a trainer play, Bonde is known to bring in solid 2 YO’s to Del Mar, a bullet 4f workout and Espinoza is having a nice season.  

Final Selections:  7- 2 - 5 - 1

My blog is at and will be participating in the NHC/HorseTourney tomorrow. So everybody good luck and may all your tickets be cashed.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Weekend Handicapping: Awesome Dreams and Prayers at the West Virginia Derby

Before I do my introductions, I would like to thank the Board of Director’s for giving me the opportunity to handicap races for the membership over the coming weekends.  It is a great honor.  To the folks that don’t know me, I go by the moniker, the-Clocker.  I reside in Chicago, have been around horseracing since a small boy and participate on the NHC tour.  I also blog at  you’re welcome to visit and share thoughts and ideas on handicapping.   I’m always open to new techniques/angles and anything to become better at the craft.

The race of the day for Saturday, August 6, 2011:  West Virginia Derby (G2), purse of $750,000 for 3YO’s going 1 1/8 mile over a dirt oval.  I know the first reaction is why not the Whitney? Or any other of the G1’s for Saturday?  What excited me about this race was the concept of having 10 top trainers/jockeys at a neutral track vying for a huge purse.  Just look at the line up and you will see what I mean.  It is also a group of unheralded 3YO colts, so it give us a chance to see some interesting horses in a wide open event and that means value.  Value = large mutual

What I will do is review 3 contenders; highlight some dark horses and then the “Bombs Away” choice.  So here we go!

1.      #8  Dreamy Kid (Drysdale/Talamo) ML 7-2:  He fits the conditions and class.  The only G2 winner, winning the Swaps (beating Coil at this distance) at Hollywood Park. This should give him the class edge. Has won 2 of 4 this season and the work out pattern suggest he is ready to go.  The only concern is form regression, which he has shown in the past, but he may have out grown that based on his last two outings.  Would be nice to get him at 7-2 but who are we kidding?  He will be beaten down to 3-2 at least.

2.      #1   Prayer for Relief (Baffert/Bejarano) ML 5-2:  Off to a great 3YO campaign going 2 for 2 and winning the Iowa Derby (G3).  What’s not to like?  Baffert is running hot right now, Bejarano wins 23% on Baffert mounts, and the colt has won two in a row and strong work patterns.  We could quibble about being a front runner over a 1 1/8th, can his form cycle sustain itself and how good was the Iowa Derby?  If I had to choose one concern it would be running style,  if he goes to the front does he have enough in the tank to hold the rest back? Could be the favorite based on the Baffert aura right now.

3.      #4 Awesome Bet (Asmussen/Alan Garcia) ML 6-1:  This was tough, there are three other horses I could argue fit here, and did look long and hard at Rush Now.  The keys for me is that he is coming off a good win in the Barbaro (100K @Del), beating Rush Now and Meistersinger (who won recently by 10 lengths in an allowance race against older horses). Strong speed numbers off of Equibase data, and Asmussen seems to sneak in and steal these types of races.  This will be my value play at 6-1 or higher.   

Dark Horses:  #5 Rush Now(Dutrow/C.Velasquez), #3 Little Drama (Fawkes/Carmouche) and #2 Infrattini (McGee/C.Borel) .  Each has a claim to win it, and would lean closer to Little Drama based on 2 fine showings in G2 races (Swale @GP 3rd) and (Hutcheson @GP 3rd).   After that good luck.  The more I looked the more it got muddy.

“Bombs Away” Play:  #10 Fred High (Tullock/Parker) ML 30-1 and it will go higher:  When you look at the PP’s, don’t shake your head.  This choice is pure gimmick.  Going to base it on the connections.  Tim is a WVA trainer, and has won 22 stakes races.  Deshawn Parker rides at Mountaineer and wins at a 24% clip, 53% ITM (side note he is one of the leading jockey’s in wins nationally).  If you look at the track layout, it’s not a perfect oval. That first turn is tighter than the other one, and going to figure Parker knows how to keep his colt out of trouble and might surprise them all.  One final note on this colt, 7 races and 6 ITM, he knows how to find the board.  In your exotics for sure.

Final Ratings:  #8 - #1 - #4 - #3    

Good luck and see you tomorrow!

Weekend Handicapping will be a weekly feature here at HANA Blog. If you'd like to contribute like John has please send us an email at

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Penn National Lowers Takeout on a Few Bets

Via the Thoroughbred Times:

Penn National received approval to reduce the takeout on its pick 3, pick 4, and pick 5 wagers to 25% from an onerous 29%. The pick 5 is a new bet that the track will offer on Friday and Saturday nights only. The minimum for each wager is $.50.

Note: If any tracks are offering lower takeouts, or have new player-friendly promotions for bettors, please email us at and we'll let our members know.