Category: Horse Racing

2021 Belmont Stakes & Undercard Selections

The Final Jewel of the Triple Crown, the Test of the Champions, the Belmont Stakes always offers excitement and plenty of storylines. While the Derby winner Medina Spirit won’t be here after the suspension of Bob Baffert and his failed bid in the Preakness, we do get Preakness winner Rombauer, 2yo Champion Essential Quality, and a flight of other top quality 3yos. While we may not have a Triple Crown on the line, the August Belmont Memorial Cup will be going to a very deserving champion – one that will join the names of some of histories best horses.

Race 3 – Woody Stephens Stakes (G1)
12:47pm ET | $400,000 | Three Year Olds | 7 Furlongs Dirt
(3) Jackie’s Warrior | (6) Caddo River | (2) Drain the Clock
Jackie’s Warrior returns to the site of his biggest win, the Champagne Stakes last fall, and gets a race that suits so well for him. While he will need to deal with a bit more pace pressure with Caddo River, his form is too tough to test – should be able to escape this race easily with another victory – shaping up to be an excellent one-turn horse. Backing up are Caddo River, who I am excited to see return to one-turn, and Drain the Clock, who comes in well and improving out of many similar races.

Race 4 – Brooklyn Stakes (G2)
1:22pm ET | $400,000 | 4YO and Up | 1 1/2 Miles Dirt
(2) Ry’s the Guy | (7) Ajaaweed | (9) Lone Rock
A wide open affair in the older horse version of the Belmont. One of the oldest races run at Belmont Park, the Brooklyn offers older marathon runners a chance at big money – and joining many historic champions in graded stakes glory in this spot. I have faith that Ry’s the Guy will return to his winning ways in this one. He was just beaten in his return in the Marathon at Churchill Downs last out by Lone Rock, but that was his first back in months. This races sets up well on his form cycle and like the move to Jose Ortiz. Meanwhile, Ajaaweed looks to continue to step up as the races get longer; his pedigree and style screams distance to me – love him in this spot to improve but may still be a race away from winning. Finally, distance is the name of the game for Lone Rock, who may be the best marathoner in the US right now. Should run well, but is stepping up a bit in this spot.

Race 5 – Acorn Stakes (G1)
2:01pm ET| $500,000 | Three Year Old Fillies | 1 Mile Dirt
(2) Obligatory | (3) Miss Brazil | (6) Search Results
There is a ton of speed stacked up in this elite race for three year old fillies – which brings the Eight Belles winner against the Kentucky Oaks runner-up. Could Obligatory go from last to first once again? I hope so – she reeled in the whole field in the Eight Belles and faces a very similar task here with almost everyone else being full of speed. Meanwhile, Miss Brazil – the newcomer of the group, looks to take them all the way after she did just that over this course last out; she has the speed and the talent, but can she beat the tougher class? And I can’t leave Search Results out – the Kentucky Oaks runner-up should be better suited for the one-turn mile than she was for the testing course she saw at Churchill Downs last out.

Race 6 – Jaipur Stakes (G1)
2:41pm ET | $400,000 | 3YO and Up | 6 Furlongs Turf
(4) Fast Boat | (11) Got Stormy | (6) Bound for Nowhere
I loved Fast Boat in the Twin Spires Turf Sprint and will be riding with him again here; this son of City Zip swallowed the field up late to take the race last out and has the running style to win here in a Jaipur that is often won in a blanket finish. I do like the cut back in distance for Got Stormy, who I appreciate far more when she goes sprinting; Mark Casse preps her sprinting with these one mile affairs and then turn her back in distance for very good runs – hopeful for more of that here. And won’t leave Bound for Nowhere off the ticket – he has been an impressive sprinter throughout his career for Wesley Ward, although most of his success has come at Keeneland, and has a win over this course a few years back. He seems to be in good form off his win in the Shakertown last out and will be one to watch if he enters well.

Race 7 – Ogden Phipps Stakes (G1)
3:18pm ET | $500,000 | 4YO and Up F&M | 1 1/16 Miles Dirt
(5) Shedaresthedevil | (6) Water White | (2) Valiance
The unfortunate scratch of Swiss Skydiver means we won’t see the rematch of Swiss Skydiver v Shedaresthedevil v Letruska. This also changes the pace scenario up, which I think favors Shedaresthedevil heavily. She is my top pick here and should run away with the field. I will put Water White underneath as she is one that loves the one turn and has been running well with the best of them; just a few lengths away from competing. And watch out for Valiance – she has been sharp entering this race off the layoff; she upset Shedaresthedevil in the Spinster last fall and proved herself running second to Monomoy Girl in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff – watch out if she turns up well!

Race 8 – Just a Game Stakes (G1)
3:58pm ET | $500,000 | 4YO and Up F&M | 1 Mile Turf
(11) Blowout | (9) Summer Romance | (3) Daddy Is a Legend
The Belmont turf tends to trend towards front runners in mile races and outside of Blowout, there really isn’t anyone looking for the lead. Blowout took them gate to wire impressively in the Churchill Distaff Turf Mile last out and looks to do that again. She is dangerous on the front end and Flavien Prat has got her where she wants to be – this Chad Brown trainee is going to be tough to real back in. Meanwhile Charlie Appleby brings in two, with Summer Romance and Althiqa; when he ships to the US, he does so to win – with nearly a 50% click in wins with his last 7. I would include both on any ticket, but Summer Romance is my top selection coming off the win in the Balanchine; in real good form, the better of the pair, and should enjoy this trip. Finally, Daddy Is a Legend is a longshot for George Weaver that is always well placed; George Weaver had her cranked up well last out in her return to the stable, and she has done her best running at Belmont Park – with a shot at the price.

Race 9 – Metropolitan Handicap (G1)
4:42pm ET | $1,000,000 | 3YO and Up | 1 Mile Dirt
(1) Mischievous Alex | (2) Dr Post | (5) By My Standards
The Carter Handicap winner, Westchester winner, Oaklawn Handicap winner, Churchill Downs runner up, Oaklawn mile winner, and Pegasus World Cup/Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner all line up for a stacked edition of the Met Mile. This competitive field gives us six horses that all have a chance. Personally, I’m playing this as if Knicks Go needs one after his trip to Saudi Arabia, though I will use him in multi-race wagers. Instead, I play with Mischievous Alex – the winner of the Carter last out; he has improved leaps and bounds since switching to Saffie Joseph, Jr. and has some of the best speed in this field. I do play with Dr Post, who has a lot of talent and is entering in good form for Todd Pletcher – this might be a bit tougher in class for him, but he has shown a lot of skill in his past races and will try again here to capture a big one, and with By My Standards, who also shows his best stuff and his pedigree suggests that he will show better when running around one-turn miles.

Race 10 – Manhattan Stakes (G1)
5:38pm ET | $750,000 | 4YO and Up| 1 1/4 Miles Turf
(9) Gufo | (7) Channel Cat | (4) Domestic Spending

Last year’s Hollywood Derby has already given us G1 winners in Domestic Spending and Smooth Like Strait from the top three… now it is Gufo’s turn. He was so close in the Man O’ War last out, but was just short against Channel Cat. He gets a firmer turf than that time here and looks to upset the Pegasus World Cup Turf Winner in Colonel Liam. He won over this course and distance last year in the Belmont Derby and looks to try again here. I’ll be playing with Channel Cat, the winner of the Man O’ War (although no one has done the Man O’ War – Manhattan double since Gio Ponti in 2009), who battled everyone out last out and should get the lone lead here – going to play catch me if you can and not sure who here can other than Gufo. Finally, Domestic Spending is uber tough and I don’t want to be caught in a spot where I don’t include him – he is a winner of three straight, although never this long, and has been improving with each start.

Race 11 – Belmont Stakes (G1)
6:49pm ET | $1,500,000 | Three Year Olds | 1 1/2 Miles Dirt

Race Notes:
1- Bourbonic: One of three for Pletcher here as he looks to take another Belmont Stakes. Bourbonic was the huge upset winner of the Wood Memorial, coming from the clouds to just get up. Bourbonic and Carmouche teamed up again in the Kentucky Derby, but finished well behind in 13th, but did improve down the stretch. His pedigree suggests that he should love the added distance, but the Belmont Stakes isn’t one to win coming from the clouds. If the pace is quick, he has a chance to upset, but otherwise not going to consider him a win factor. However, closers love to peak up in the exotics – so keep him in mind there.
2- Essential Quality: Four of the last ten Belmont Stakes winners have been by Tapit, and a fifth winner is real possible with the 2yo champion. The Kentucky Derby didn’t go as planned after a bumped start and trying to make ground on a very speed favoring course. He finished a solid length back of Medina Spirit. Now, all eyes are on him once again and he has all the inclinations of the Belmont Stakes winner. The way he runs, how he trains, and what his pedigree is, suggests he has this. He should run well here and Brad Cox has a dangerous one here to try and get his first Triple Crown race win.
3- Rombauer: The Preakness winner returns on short rest to try and grab the third jewel in the Belmont Stakes. Not sure he will take to such a long distance, or a race that doesn’t set up with for him with little pace, but he has proven himself a tough one when the pace is slow – just look back on Essential Quality’s Blue Grass. Worth a look, especially in the exotics, and will be an exciting horse to watch throughout the year.
4- Hot Rod Charlie: The Louisiana Derby winner has been getting a lot of attention lately in the lead up for the Belmont Stakes. He finished a solid third last out in the Kentucky Derby after facing traffic and looks to try and change the course here and flip the script. Going to depend a lot on if he can get clear early and really what Flavien Prat (who chooses back on him over Preakness winner Rombauer) does with him early. Just don’t think he wants anything to do with this distance and he has peaked back in Louisiana. Not a play for me.
5- France Go de Ina: The Japanese import tries his hand again at a Triple Crown race and looks for that Belmont Stakes bonus that is available. The Preakness served as a prep for him and now he gears up for this. The Japanese horses have been solid in the past in the Belmont Stakes, including fan favorite Lani a few years ago. Can France Go de Ina add his name to this list of Japanese runners hitting the board? Hard to say – but the prep in him and running style tends to mean he will be up there – huge exotics chance.
6- Known Agenda: The Florida Derby winner has turned out well throughout his career – but really excelled on the switch to Gulfstream Park. Perhaps he is a horse for course, and it could be that, but the move from Gulfstream Park to Belmont Park always seems to work well for Todd Pletcher. While we don’t know who the jockey is after the injury to Irad Ortiz, Jr., Known Agenda has the right running style to be up there at the finish – going to be one that should sit close and try to make a run at the end.
7- Rock Your World: The Santa Anita Derby winner lost all chance last time out when he got off slow and started near the back in the Kentucky Derby. Now, he tries to break well and get to the lead. Even with a slow start, the lack of traffic here should lend itself to allowing Rock Your World to get back on top. He is a dangerous threat in the lead and the Belmont Stakes tends to favor speed. My only major concern would be the lack of stamina on the sire-side, but he does have Empire Maker on the dam-side, which may be enough to allow him to sustain his front running talent all the way around.
8- Overtook: The Peter Pan third place finisher and Withers runner up is well overclassed, but Todd Pletcher has him improving with each start and should do well at the longer distance. I love this horse from marathon races later in his career, and I’ll give him a long look at going here to finish in the money. Blinkers on may help.

Race Selections:
My Belmont Stakes horse is going to be the 2yo Champion, (2) Essential Quality. Everything on paper and everyone on film makes sense here. He is going to be forwardly placed, his pedigree suggests he will love this, his back races suggest so much talent, and he just fits the bill. Brad Cox said months back that this was his Belmont horse, and he may be right. Essential Quality might not pay much but will be worth the play. Outside of him, (6) Known Agenda and (7) Rock Your World should be placed well, with Rock Your World the likely early pace. Both are going to be must uses for me underneath. Rounding out my exotics are led by Rombauer and France Go de Ina. The Preakness winner always runs a solid race and this should be no exception. Meanwhile the Japanese import is going to be looking for a top three finish to get a nice check and getting a much more normal (and stress free) road to this race might do him enough to finish near the front.

2021 Preakness & Undercard Selections

It has definitely been one of the most eventful Preakness weeks in recent memory, and all for something off the track. Yet, with all of the distractions surrounding this race, the Second Jewel of the Triple Crown stands with a field that, while small, is very competitive. We don’t have too many names from the Derby, just a handful, but we have many top quality horses entering the Triple Crown field, including another Bob Baffert in Concert Tour. Meanwhile, Chad Brown takes two bullets at winning another Preakness with entrants Crowded Trade and Risk Taking. And then there is the Coach, D. Wayne Lukas – who most recently won it nearly ten years ago with Oxbow – tries to win this race again with a son of American Pharoah, Ram. Or perhaps the very quirky Japanese import, France Go de Ina, will be the one to come out on top.

Race 1 – Sir Barton
10:30am ET | $100,000 | Three Year Olds | 1 1/16 mi Dirt
(1) The King Cheek | (3) Market Cap | (4) Hozier
As good as Hozier may be class wise, I can’t fathom betting a horse odds on that lost by 19 lengths last out. Instead, going with the speed to the inside, which was key on Friday, with The King Cheek. I scratch out the two bad beats at Aqueduct – it is clear that this sone of Laoban is a bleeder; now staying on Lasix and coming out of a win, this speedy horse should excel with the move up in distance. Market Cap could be a good price on the return to racing and adding of Lasix; maybe not the class of some of the better horses but could be good on the return. Have to include Hozier in any bets, but definitely not one that I’d recommend betting to win.

Race 3 – Chick Lang (G3)
11:41am ET | $200,000 | Three Year Olds | 6 Furlongs Dirt
(2) Mighty Mischief | (4) Jaxon Traveler | (3) Hemp
This is going to be a very quick race – two speedy horses ship in from Oaklawn to try and take this gate to wire. I am going to go with the larger price of the two, Mighty Mischief, who steps into stakes company for the first time; I prefer the jockey here in Ricardo Santana, Jr. who should be much more aggressive to get the lead over Irad Ortiz, Jr. and Jaxon Traveler. As for him, I’ll use him next, as the Bachelor Stakes winner has a lot of sprinting promise. This pair of Steven Asmussen runners both look primed for big things. If for some reason the pace ends up being too much, Hemp would be the one to get the play as a nice stalker who might be fresh enough to pass our tired leaders late and take home this race.

Race 6 – Gallorette (G3)
1:28pm ET | $150,000 | 3YO and Up F&M | 1/16 mi Turf
(5) Mean Mary | (3) Flight Lady | (2) Great Island
Another race with a heavy favorite, the Gallorette has a horse in Mean Mary that is almost impossible to get past. I won’t be betting against her in her seasonal debut. Probable lock to win. To make some money, I will be putting the European import Flighty Lady underneath – a Group One placed horse in France who was a solid winner in debut last out at Aqueduct for Chad Brown; and another Chad Brown in Great Island, who looks to be in good form coming into this race and may improve now being taken off Lasix.

Race 8 – James W. Murphy
2:45pm ET | $100,000 | Three Year Olds | 1 mi Turf
(1) Indian Lake | (5) Extrasexybigdaddee | (7) Charles Chrome
Going to take a big stab at a price on the inside with Indian Lake, the son of Daredevil out of a Stormy Atlantic mare. Love how this pedigree responds to the turf and think this horse, who has been doing well in last two, will take a step up on the surface switch. Perhaps it’s a stab that won’t work, but I’m not sold on this field being competitive with many horses coming out of bad performance of trying turf to see what they got. I’m going to then play with one of the two Michael Trombetta runners with Extrasexybigdaddee, who faced much tougher and was somewhat competitive early last out; gets a much easier field and has a chance to upset this field with Jose Ortiz aboard. Then will continue to play against this heavy favorite here, taking the son of California Chrome on seasonal debut with Charles Chrome – showed a lot of promise as a 2yo and now gets to return off a layoff and finding a spot that should work well for his come from behind running style.

Race 9 – Skipat
3:25pm ET | $100,000 | 3YO and Up F&M | 6 Furlongs Dirt
(6) Dontletsweetfoolya | (8) French Empire | (5) Chub Wagon
Lacey Gaudet looks to steal one with this Maryland-based sprinter; the daughter of Stay Thirsty reeled off five straight sprint victories before faltering in the Barbara Fritchie last out. That was much tougher of a spot than what she will see today, and with a fair bit less pace pressure on the front end. Getting Lasix back and dropping to six furlongs puts her in a real good spot – very live. Then the new addition to the Brad Cox family, French Empire, finds her way in against mostly younger as she moves into stakes company. She found her best stuff sprinting at Oaklawn in live races and looks to improve on the trainers switch. Finally the undefeated Chub Wagon is very tough to get by here – only thing against him is that this is a step up, but he has been dominant each out and will be really tough to beat if he gets a clear easy lead; don’t love the price, but this is one you cannot leave off any ticket.

Race 10 – Jim McKay Turf Sprint
4:05pm ET | $100,000 | 3YO and Up | 5 Furlongs Turf
(1) Boldor | (2) The Connector | (5) Hollis
One of my favorite races year in and year out, the Jim McKay Turf Sprint is a brilliant sprint race that pits some of the speediest turf sprints against one another. This race comes my best bet in the day with Boldor for Steve Asmussen and Ricardo Santana, Jr. While not with a lot of turf experience, this son of Munnings has been very impressive this spring, with a strong victory at the distance at Delta Downs in the Sam’s Town, and then followed up with a win in the King Cotton and a much better than expected 5th in the Hot Springs behind C Z Rocket, Whitmore, and Flagstaff. He then got sent to Keeneland for a very tough allowance, finishing a strong second – I think he follows up these performances with a dominant win here. Underneath, watch out for the Keeneland winner The Connector for Mark Hoffman – strong winner last out and has a lot of good runs at this level and distance; huge perk seeing Jose Ortiz aboard. And don’t doubt Hollis, who might be the speed of the speed here; if he can get the lead, very strong chance he takes them all the way.

Race 11 – Maryland Sprint (G3)
4:41pm ET | $150,000 | 3YO and Up | 6 Furlongs Dirt
(3) Mucho | (8) Special Reserve | (11) Seven Nation Army
This rendition of the Maryland Sprint is loaded with speed – so much so that it is really tough to warrant a play on a front runner. Instead, I land on the former Bill Mott trainee, Mucho, who has shown glimmers of prowess closing in on a fast pace at this level. Should get a better ride this time out with Jose Ortiz and might be one of the few fresh horses running late. Meanwhile his brother Irad has a very live mount in the Mike Maker trained Special Reserve, coming out of the Commonwealth Stakes at Keeneland against a very tough Flagstaff. The cutback in distance and class break should help. And don’t leave Ron Moquett off your ticket as Seven Nation Army ships in from Oaklawn in good form and last time he shipped out of Moquett’s Kentucky-Arkansas circle, he was a winner of the David M. Vance Sprint at Remington Park. Major threat.

Race 12 – Dinner Party (G2)
5:38pm ET | $250,000 | 3YO and Up | 1 1/16 mi Turf
(5) Sacred Life | (8) French Empire | (5) Chub Wagon
I hate to go with the heavy favorite here in the Dinner Party Stakes, but this race sets up well for the Chad Brown trainee who finished third last out in the Maker’s Mark Mile. Sacred Life should be able to sit behind the early pace and round down the leaders on a turf course that has tended to favor well with late runners in these longer races. He outclasses all here and will be a tough competitor to beat. As prices to bolster underneath, I’ll be using the improving Midnight Tea Time, who looked good in victory last out at Keeneland, and the young Kuramata, who makes his fourth career start here.

Race 13 – Preakness (G1)
6:47pm ET | $1,000,000 | Three Year Olds | 1 3/16 mi Dirt

Race Notes:
1- Ram (Ricardo Santana, Jr./D. Wayne Lukas): The six-time Preakness winner D. Wayne Lukas is looking to win a Triple Crown race in five straight decades with a new shooter and son of American Pharoah. The Coach wouldn’t be sending this horse here without at least chance at victory. Although it took eight chances for him to break his maiden, Ram followed up his victory with a second, coasting home at Churchill Downs at the beginning of the month to win easily. The allowance race victory looked professional and showed a lot of promise for this one. He may need a few more starts at this class before becoming competitive, but nothing would surprise me here. His pedigree suggests he will relish this distance, and is one of the few horses in the field to score high points on the pedigree (only Medina Spirit comes close). Worth a long look at a big price to at least hit the exotics.
2- Keepmeinmind (David Cohen/Robertino Diodoro): The Kentucky Derby did not bode well for this son of Laoban. Besides being a deep closer, his slow break and wide position proved too much to overcome; however, he did move up well from 19th to 7th by the end of the race, passing a mix of tired runners and those trying to move forward. Still, that effort combined with his previous performances do not lend much to a chance here.
3- Medina Spirit (John Velazquez/Bob Baffert): It has been an eventful week for the Kentucky Derby winner. Say what you want about what happened this week, but nothing should be taken away from his wire-to-wire victory. Medina Spirit enters trying to win back-to-back and put himself in a spot for a Triple Crown in the Belmont. But to do that, he needs to get past nine rivals that will all be gunning for him. The big problem last out was that no one really went to challenge him early on a very speed favoring course, giving John Velazquez an easy lead and ability to take them all the way. This time, I don’t expect that to be the case, and will be playing against the Derby winner here.
4- Crowded Trade (Javier Castellano/Chad Brown): Skipping the Derby might have been good for the third-place finisher in the Wood Memorial. He had an awful trip last out that made him put in far more effort than he really should have. I expect him to get much better this time around. However, I don’t see much in his pedigree to put him in the mix to win here and likely will be running up the track down the stretch. Chance to catch the exotics, but that is about that.
5- Midnight Bourbon (Irad Ortiz, Jr./Steven Asmussen): Last out is not how you win a horse race. Midnight Bourbon did not have a great start and was pushed well off his preferred spot. Rather than being able to be close to the lead, he chased all the way around, ultimately ending up too far back to make a difference. I’m hoping that Irad Ortiz, Jr. gives him a much more aggressive ride out of the gate and gets him towards the front, where he does his best running. His pedigree suggests that he will do better at much longer, which that combined with his performances may make the case that this is too short of a race for him. Still, very live here if he can get near the front early.
6- Rombauer (Flavien Prat/Michael McCarthy): One of the new shooters here, Rombauer has been getting a lot of talk entering this race. He ran about even last out against Essential Quality and Highly Motivated, before being given a rest up to this race. His best race came two back in the El Camino Real Derby, a winner over the all-weather at Golden Gate Fields. His past running lines suggest he may be better on turf and that this doesn’t fit well for him. A lot of money will go his way, but I just don’t see it.
7- France Go de Ina (Joel Rosario/Hideyuki Mori): Not quite sure what to make of the Japanese import. He was excellent in Japan, taking two strong wins out at Hanshin Racecourse to end last year. However, his debut this year in the UAE Derby left so much to be desired. He never looked right and just had no chance throughout. This week, he has had a few eventful cases of dumping the rider and just doesn’t seem like he wants to be here. But, he has a lot of talent and if he can find a way to keep calm and push forward, will be a horse worth a look for the exotics.
8- Unbridled Honor (Luis Saez/Todd Pletcher): One of the horses to watch here! A very strong runner who charged home and nearly got to King Fury in the slop last out. Getting back to dry dirt should help improve his closing kick and put him on the path to an exotics spot. He has ideal pedigree that has a lot of upside at this distance and race style, and his back form shows he fits right here. With an anticipated fast pace, this race gives him a huge shot at an upset. Must use.
9- Risk Taking (Jose Ortiz/Chad Brown): Scratch last out and you have a solid horse that would’ve been one of the favorites. He bobbled at the start in the Wood Memorial and had no chance after that. He is very dependent on a strong break and that may be his downfall, but Risk Taking has all the things you like to see. His Withers win was impressive, especially winning the way he did with very little going his way. Not sure how he will respond with a tougher class, but Chad Brown has a huge chance to take another Preakness with the same silks that won him his first.
10- Concert Tour (Mike Smith/Bob Baffert): In most years, Concert Tour would be the favorite here. The Rebel winner faltered last out in a duel late, missing out on winning the Arkansas Derby. Some time off seems to do him well as he has been sharp in his recent workouts as he comes back ready to run in the Preakness. Each start he seems to get more impressive and there is little to not like about him. Does Mike Smith capture another Triple Crown race? Very likely with this one. Hard to say no – all depends on if he comes back in form.

Race Selections:
My play ends up on a horse I loved in the Kentucky Derby, (5) Midnight Bourbon. The break cost him all chance last out, but he showed prowess and, with a more aggressive ride, could’ve tested Medina Spirit. I was impressed with how he finished up the race and looked good in the company. He didn’t end up exerting much, unlike the winner, and looks to be mostly fresh. I look for Irad to give a much more aggressive ride, take the race near the front, and try to make every poll a winning one. Both (8) Unbridled Honor and (10) Concert Tour are ones to watch – new shooters here – and either could’ve had favoritism most years. Underneath there is a slew of horses with chance with my favorites of Ram for Lukas and France Go de Ina, who should improve here. Lots to like about this field – and should be a race to make some money too!

2021 Black-Eyed Susan & Undercard Selections

Race 8 | Allaire DuPont Distaff (G3)
3:07pm ET | $150,000 | 3YO and Up F&M | 1 1/8 Mi Dirt
(8) Lucky Stride | (2) Dreamalildreamofu | (6) Mrs. Danvers
Lot of speed in this race with more than half the field going to the front. I’ll take the third place finisher in the Top Flight last out with Lucky Stride. Would’ve placed better had it not been for an awkward break that put her well behind. If she breaks sharp, she should be well placed behind the early speed and her late kick is one to watch. Should enjoy Pimlico. Behind, I’ll use a price in Dreamalildreamofu with Florent Geroux aboard – last out winner of the Latonia at Turfway Park returns in good form and on fire with two easy victories. Good price for a horse that should be one of the better ones in the F&M division this year. Then add in Mrs. Danvers who really needed these last two runs on her return to the races – eligible to improve this out.

Race 9 | The Very One
3:38pm ET | $100,000 | 3YO and Up F&M | 5 Furlongs Turf
(3) Caravel | (2) Gogo Shoes | (10) Dendrobia
Elizabeth Merryman is not a trainer that I’m very familiar with, but she has one horse that has peaked my interest a lot, and enough that Florent Geroux hops aboard. I love Caravel on the cutback in distance – she was spectacular early in her career at 5f and, while stepping up, showed a lot of early pace at longer. The cut back should help her sustain and go gate to wire. Gogo Shoes also is improving and returned to the races well – this is a big step up for her but should enjoy the continued move to sprinting. Finally, taking a price near the outside to hit the board with Dendrobia, who was stealing ground left and right in this race last October; the last two starts have been against tougher and should enjoy the cut back down to her class – not a win contender in the slightest, but chance to hit the board with this hot pace.

Race 10 | Miss Preakness (G3)
4:09pm ET | $150,000 | 3YO Fillies | 6 Furlongs Dirt
(7) Inject | (5) Street Lute | (2) Red Ghost
This is a major step up for this Brad Cox trainee – but Inject looks the part here as she takes on tougher after her strong victory last out at Keeneland. She has come a long way since her 8th place finish in the Pocahontas last fall, improving in each start. The local horse Street Lute is a must use – she has been a top sprinter in her class in the region and looks to show it off against out of town foes. Finally, nothing worse than losing to a Wesley Ward sprinting filly – and Red Ghost looks to play the part – going to be a tough one to beat if she is on her game with John Velazquez aboard.

Race 11 | Hilltop
4:40pm ET | $100,000 | 3YO Fillies | 1 Mi Turf
(5) Bubbles On Ice | (9) Journeytothemoon | (13) Phantom Vision
Christophe Clement has the clear favorite here in Bubbles On Ice, and after her brilliant US debut, it is hard to doubt her. She won the Memories of Silver after a very troubled trip and going wide throughout, needing to make a huge sweeping move to win. Her inside draw should help and now should improve in her second start here. Journeytothemoon makes her first start on turf and honestly that couldn’t be a better move; her pedigree on both sides suggest she will love the turf, and a mile is exactly in what her real chances fall at. If she responds well to the turf, she could be one to hit the board or even win at a price. Last out didn’t go so well for Phantom Vision, but this speedy daughter of Declaration of War should improve upon the step up in distance – her form suggests she is right where she needs to be to possible steal this one.

Race 12 | Pimlico Special (G3)
5:12pm ET | $250,000 | 3YO and Up | 1 3/16 Mi Dirt
(11) Last Judgement | (10) Alwaysmining | (1) Modernist
An up and coming handicap division horse, Last Judgment, looks to be one to contend with the top – he was impressive in victory in the Challenger and then couldn’t hold on last out in the Ghostzapper on what was a tiring course. Now he gets a favoring course and lone speed – a huge matchup for success. Training really well coming into this races is the Maryland-bred Alwaysmining. Although not in the same form as he was a few years ago, this five year old son of Stay Thirsty has put in some very good bullet workouts as we enter into this race – should be sharp and could stalk and pounce. Finally going to put in the Excelsior winner Modernist – loved him last out and should improve off that start.

Race 13 | Black-Eyed Susan (G2)
5:44pm ET | $250,000 | 3YO Fillies | 1 1/8 Mi Dirt
(9) Adventuring | (4) Forever Boss | (1) Army Wife
Could the other top Godolphin 3yo be poised for success on a Triple Crown weekend? Adventuring looks solid entering here off a romping 6.5 length maiden breaking score and then a dominant win in the Bourbonette Oaks. Even though they kept trying to put her on the turf, the dirt has been her home and she has relished it in each start. She fits very well here and should do really well moving forward. I’m very intrigued by Forever Boss as this daughter of Tapiture moves onto conventional dirt for the second time off a huge maiden breaking score at Keeneland. Finally throw in Army Wife and Joel Rosario who should improve on the switch to a more favorable course – has lot of previous races that put her up in the charts.

2021 Kentucky Oaks & Undercard Selections

Kentucky Derby Weekend officially begins with the fillies in the Kentucky Oaks. The run for the lillies caps of a six stakes day that gives us some amazing fillies & mares as well as some nice older horses and turf racing. All of it is an excellent prelude to the Kentucky Derby stakes slate – and some great opportunities to pad the bankroll.

Race 6 – Alysheba Stakes (G2)
1:26pm ET | $400,000 | 4YO and Up | 1 1/16 mi Dirt
(5) Roadster is the speed of the speed here – have blitzed out to an early lead last out in the New Orleans Classic. His drifting out cost him the win there, but I factor that to the time off. He should return to normal form now in his second start off the layoff. (3) Attachment Rate tried sprinting last out but gets back to a route and shows a lot of prowess competing with this class – running style fits well here. (4) Chess Chief offers some value after beating Roadster last out and being not too far from Maxfield two back; Luis Saez chooses him over Attachment Rate.

Race 7 – Edgewood Stakes (G2)
2:09pm ET | $300,000 | 3YO Fillies | 1 1/16 mi Turf
Going to play against the returning Breeders’ Cup winner Aunt Pearl with a horse making her second career North American start in (2) Gift List. Her second in the very tough Appalachian at Keeneland was the ideal prep for me – she should toughness, fought throughout, and just came up short while not letting anyone really pass her. She is eligible to improve in this start. Then comes (6) Aunt Pearl who is the clear class of the field. (5) Line Dancing stands as my longshot – the Sanibel Island looked to be a tough race for its class and one that could prove fruitful for her.

Race 8 – La Troienne Stakes (G1)
3:03pm ET | $500,000 | 4YO and Up Fillies & Mares | 1 1/16 mi Dirt
HAMMER TIME – through the whole world onto (2) Shedaresthedevil. Perfect prep in the Azeri and the second place finisher Letruska came back to upset Monomoy Girl and Swiss Skydiver in the Apple Blossom Handicap. Shedaresthedevil has a chance to be an elite mare this year and winning here will put here right in that spot. (3) Dunbar Road is always a hard trier that seems to always get a piece of the money while (5) Paris Lights is hot right now and should improve returning to a route.

Race 9 – Eight Belles Stakes (G2)
4:04pm ET | $300,000 | 3YO Fillies | 7 Furlongs Dirt
There is a ton of speed here – which makes me think its time to go to someone who can rate, like (6) Slumber Party. Stepped up well last out in the Beaumont and chased a strong leader. Now gets a chance to rate a fast pace and should be one of the few fresh horses left late. (11) Abrogate will benefit from the quick pace and hot leaders while I’m very interested to see what Bill Mott has in (12) Caramel Swirl after that ten length romp last out.

Race 10 – Twin Spires Turf Sprint Stakes (G2)
4:55pm ET | $250,000 | 3YO and Up | 5.5 Furlongs Turf
Last year’s winner (9) Diamond Oops returns and gets a very similar spot with what looks to be an honest pace and what should be a ground saving trip; definitely the class of the field, although current form is the question. Love betting speed here and (11) Carotari is the speed of the pack – going gate to wire will be tough but without a lot of other front end speed, should be in the mix for a lone lead. (8) Fast Boat offers an interesting challenge if he can get back to older graded stakes form.

Race 11 – Kentucky Oaks (G1)
5:51pm ET | $1,250,000 | 3YO Fillies | 1 1/8 mi Dirt
The scratch of Ava’s Grace opens up this race for (6) Travel Column. Sitting as the only speed, the Fair Grounds Oaks winner should easily take them wire-to-wire here. This daughter of Tapit was ultra tough to beat last out and continues to be a high performing filly. As long as she gets the lead and can save ground on the turns, she should have no issue finishing up this start. As for (10) Malathaat, she enters 4 for 4 with a near miss in the Ashland, where she just got up. If she can stay a bit closer to the pace than she was there, she is a dangerous stalker that could pose issues for Travel Column. John Velazquez does get his mount back – having won on her last December in the Demoiselle at Aqueduct. Finally, looking for a price comes in the form of (4) Crazy Beautiful. A closing winner of the Gulfstream Park Oaks, she has been working out real well at Churchill Downs entering this race and has been one of the ones to watch in most of her starts. Her figures are trending in the right direction and if she shows her late burst that she did have last out, she is going to be very tough to beat.

Breeders’ Cup 2020 Friday Analysis

It is the Super Bowl of horse racing this weekend. The Breeders’ Cup World Championships kick off Friday at beautiful Keeneland Racecourse in Lexington, Kentucky with so many championship races and many of the best horses in the world. The action begins with Future Stars Friday, where the next best horses will square off in five championship races. Check out my full Friday analysis below and enjoy the races!

Kentucky Derby Day 2020 Selections

On a farm in Kentucky, or Florida, or Maryland, or California, or Virginia, or even New York, about 20,000 foals looked into the sky and imaged themselves blanketed in roses come May of their three-year old year. Now, only sixteen of those have reached the pinnacle of the dreams, making it to the starting gate under the Twin Spires. In a year unlike any other, a year where the First Saturday in May becomes the First Saturday in September, where Mint Juleps are sipped on the couch rather than track side, where the hats populate twitter rather than the winners circle, and the roar of the crowd is just a little bit farther away. For the breeders, this is a culmination of patience, knowledge, work, and most importantly, hope; for the owners, this is the dream of a lifetime – and one they will never forget; for the trainers, this represents everything going right; and for the jockeys, this is a career defining moment. Everyone wants to be the lucky connection to have their horse enter the gate, and even luckier be the one crossing the finish line first and taking that garland of roses in the winners circle used just once per year.

So now, we stand – distantly – and watch these stars of the sport all take time a chance at immortality – its the Run for the Roses, the Kentucky Derby. This year, it takes a special spot in the calendar… generally the kickoff of the Triple Crown and the culmination of the spring racing schedule… but now it is the second leg, following the shortened Belmont Stakes, and a major prep for the Breeders’ Cup Classic in just two months. To get there, fifteen of these three-year olds will need to get the heavy favorite Tiz the Law, who won that Belmont Stakes in his home state of New York before capturing the Travers Stakes in easy fashion. Since the calendar turned to 2020, he has cruised past his foes race after race, starting in Florida with the Holy Bull-Florida Derby double. And while he had to wait a bit longer to get his spot in Kentucky, he hasn’t disappointed along the way. But now, he has his toughest test – many other top three-year olds are here to contend, including the one to his outside, Authentic, the winner of the Haskell Invitational, or the one to his inside, Honor A.P, the Santa Anita Derby winner. In most years, they would be right up there in odds – but this year is far from like most, and when you have someone as accomplished and as dominant as Tiz the Law – he deserves to be odds on. And then you have the new shooters, the ones that wouldn’t have gotten into the gate had this race been in May, including Shared Belief Stakes winner Thousand Words, hard-trier Mr. Big News, and the ever improving Attachment Rate.

Of course, it wouldn’t be Derby Day without a thrilling supporting card, led by the Old Forester Bourbon Turf Classic and the Derby City Distaff. And even more special, the Iroquois, which will give us a glimpse at some of the horses that may be racing next May. With that, let’s get starting looking at this amazing card of stakes action.

Race 8 – American Turf (G2)
Three-year old turf stars go in this mile and a sixteenth affair. Smooth Like Strait has taken the favorite spot on the morning line following his wins in the War Chant over this course and the La Jolla Handicap at Del Mar; hall of famer John Velazquez gets the call once again and looks to take this in a stalking trip. But he takes on a much tougher group than before. He should be a short price once again, and if the Friday betting was anything, he could be close to even money; I can’t take that. Rather I like the horse to the outside, (8) Fancy Liquor; he has been improving in his last three races on turf, including a win in the Caesars at Indiana Grand. The Indiana Grand form has been holding really well, and he has been trending up in his performances. With Florent Geroux back aboard, he should get out to a clear lead and could coast away wire to wire with this one. Additionally, at a slight price I fancy (3) Sugoi on the step up. Coming out of lesser, he was a sharp winner last out Ellis Park in just his second start in the Michael Tomlinson barn. He didn’t really need to expend anything last time out but was visually impressive. Finally, don’t count out (4) Field Pass, who has made a name for himself as of late. Last out he found a lot of trouble, but if he can get a clear trip, he can contend with just about anyone.

Race 9 – Pat Day Mile (G2)
The old Derby Trial Stakes, the one turn mile, has historically been a speed favoring race. With how speed favoring the main track at Churchill was on Friday, it would not be surprising to see a gate to wire winner. That is where (7) No Parole comes in to this for me. He crushed the Grade One Woody Stephens in June and relishes these one turn sprints. While I do think the one turn race is (6) Tap It To Win‘s specialty, No Parole should be the one leading early and taking the field first down the stretch. I’ll be boxing both of these horses up as they should be the ones dueling at the end.

Race 10 – Iroquois (G3)
Future stars of the sport line up for the Iroquois, shortened back to one mile this year, which brings in eleven two-year olds with a win on their belt. For me, I am going with the Steven Asmussen trained (3) Super Stock, winner last out in the Texas Futurity at third asking. He has speed and prowess and has shown great progression in each subsequent start. Looks to be just a bit more conditioned than the rest of the field.

Race 11 – Churchill Distaff Turf Mile (G2)
This race always holds a special spot for me, where I saw Tepin win back to back and helping add to her amazing legacy, and where I made quite a payday with Coffee Clique leading my trifecta many years ago. This year, we have eight fillies and mares lining up, all looking to get a win on the road to the Breeders’ Cup, including last year’s Distaff Turf winner Beau Recall and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf winner Newspaperofrecord (we all remember how easily she cruised home over this course that day). While Beau Recall was coming into last years in good form, this year she is a bit off her balance and just not looking the same. Meanwhile, (4) Newspaperofrecord is back to her old self after three head scratching efforts, with now wins in the Intercontinental and Just A Game. I like her to cruise here on this effort, even with the jockey change. However, I do think I have to give a long look at (1) She’sonthewarpath, who comes here improving and posting some of the best figures of the group. She should appreciate the mile distance and gets an advantage from the one post. Her turn of foot puts her right there with the rest of them.

Race 12 – Derby City Distaff (G1)
Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint hopefuls go in this elite Grade One, formerly known as the Humana Distaff, to try and take the lead in this division with two months left. The current leader of the pack, the Madison winner Guarana, does not show up here, and instead leave it to many of the horses that finished behind her, including Mia Mischief and Bell’s The One. On the other end, (8) Serengeti Empress returns to the site of one of her greatest wins, when she won the Kentucky Oaks just last year. Now sprinting, she showed she has the stuff in wining the Ballerina last out at Saratoga ahead of Bellafina. I love her stride going the seven furlong trip and think she is a must use on all tickets. I’ll be playing her alongside Churchill Downs lover (6) Sally’s Curlin and Madison runner-up (1) Mia Mischief.

Race 13 – Old Forester Bourbon Turf Classic (G1)
One of the top turf races every year is the Turf Classic on Derby Day! This year is no different, with some of the top turf stars coming to Churchill Downs. Last out, (9) Somelikeithotbrown took the lead and shocked many in his win of the Bernard Baruch last out at Saratoga, taking it gate to wire. He is one of the only ones that shows any forward pace here and, while I’m not a huge fan of the outside post, should get a simliar trip with Gaffalione aboard. I’ll also be playing (8) Sacred Life for Chad Brown, who we have yet to really see at his best… he was pushed forward in class to try the Pegasus World Cup Turf, a valiant forth, and then only really seen storming home in the Oceanport. He could be the next Chad Brown star of the stable. And he has some top back class, finishing second to Ghaiyyath back in 2018 at Longchamp; Ghaiyyath is arguably the best horse on the planet currently.

Race 14 – Kentucky Derby (G1)
Finally, we get to the big one, the Run for the Roses! Let’s go horse by horse through this field:
(1) Finnick the Fierce – scratched
(2) Max Player – been improving well each time and looks better as the races have gotten longer. The switch to Steven Asmussen is positive and should help, but the inside post is far from ideal. While he does seem to be getting better, he also continues to grow more distant from Tiz the Law – not a great sign.
(3) Enforceable – an early bloomer that hasn’t found his stride again. His figures are improving and should be one closing late, but not sure if this track will let him gain much ground.
(4) Storm The Court – the defending Breeders’ Cup Juvenile champion hasn’t shown the same prowess; his try on turf last out was more of a “we don’t know” than a good impression. If he wins, he wins… but I can’t fathom a bet on him.
(5) Major Fed – Finished second in the Indiana Derby last out after a troubled trip. His starts against this class of company haven’t been super endearing, but he may be in better form now. Worth a play depending on the price. Workouts have been a big positive.
(6) King Guillermo – scratched
(7) Money Moves – currently a wise-guy play, this Pletcher trainee will be trying takes company for the first time. It is really telling that he sent him here rather than keeping him at Saratoga for the Jim Dandy. He is worth a shot with a good stalking trip and should break much better than last out. Longshot chance for the exotics.
(8) South Bend – this ones a closer that just keeps getting better. While he had no chance to close last out at Saratoga, he should get a bit better pace in this spot. His figures put him near the top contenders and if he can get a clear run might be able to pick up some of the exotics.
(9) Mr. Big News – an intriguing one for W. Bret Calhoun; he has been training on turf as of late in the lead up for this start. Well beaten in the Blue Grass, the Oaklawn Stakes winner will try to right the ship. I’m excusing his last effort and giving him a chance at some money in the exotics.
(10) Thousand Words – the Shared Belief winner has had an up and down career, with highs like the win in the Los Al Futurity and a complete disaster in the Oaklawn Stakes. Still, he shows up when he needs to. He isn’t perfect, and is still a bit below most of this field, but isn’t one to discount. But, he is a need the lead type, and he won’t get that here.
(11) Necker Island – Chris Hartman loses the blinkers here and takes the third place finisher in the Ellis Park and Indiana Derbies to this one. Necker Island hasn’t been nearly as good as the top three, but taking the blinkers off may help him find his finishing kick – he is always well places late before fading so this could be the changer here. I’ll use him in the exotics.
(12) Sole Volante – he will definitely get overbet here. He had no chance going one turn in the Belmont Stakes and the increase in distance won’t help. Just not cut for this.
(13) Attachment Rate – he is on an upward progressing trend to watch. While he still is looking for his first stakes win, hes been getting better and getting closer with each start, albeit finding trouble. If he can just keep clear of trouble, he has a huge chance to upset here.
(14) Winning Impression – Dallas Stewart finds his longshot in this one. Fourth in the Arkansas Derby, he has been a hard trier in his last two. But with no pace to close in, he had no chance. Should get more pace today and could find himself finishing fast for a chance at the show money.
(15) Ny Traffic – the aptly named New York bred, even if traffic is a thing of the past this year, has been just missing in his last three, with a case of seconditus. But that is just more of a reason to watch out for one that has an extremely good late kick and is sitting on a huge effort. Beware!
(16) Honor A.P. – Mike Smith and John Shirreffs team up with this one, that loves to shift around on the track. He didn’t show much last out in the Shared Belief, but had a lot more winning the Santa Anita Derby. Yet, this will be his first test. I’m just not a fan.
(17) Tiz the Law – the Belmont Stakes winner has not flinched in his attempt to capture the Kentucky Derby. He cruised easily in the Travers Stakes just a month ago and has been training well. There is little that I can knock on him. A star in the making.
(18) Authentic – it was nearly a loss late in the Haskell last out as he just held off a fast closing Ny Traffic. Can this son of Into Mischief go a mile and a quarter? And can he take them gate to wire? Not quite sure.

As you can tell, I’m fully on (17) Tiz the Law and team Barclay Tagg & Sackatoga Stables. It should be a dejavu moment under the Twin Spires. I will be using (15) Ny Traffic, (13) Attachment Rate, and (8) South Bend underneath to get some value. But this should be an easy show for the current leader in the clubhouse.

With that, go grab yourself a Mint Julep, a nice seat, and a spot near the TV cause this should be one exciting Kentucky Derby Day!

Kentucky Oaks Day 2020 Selections

The fillies may be running for the lillies many months after the fact, but a star studded matchup between Gamine and Swiss Skydiver makes this race just as exciting if not even more so than usual. While the Kentucky Oaks headlines the card, it is backed by many races that may have a play on the Breeders Cup in a few months, with the Eight Belles, Edgewood, Alysheba, La Troienne, and Twin Spires Turf Sprint rounding out the stakes action on the day.

Race 8 – Eight Belles (G2)
Three-year old sprinting fillies go here with the winner most likely being aimed at the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint next time out. A field of 7 goes here, including the duel-Grade 3 winner Four Graces. Early speed usually takes control of these types of races at Churchill Downs, and that is exactly the type of style (7) Four Graces is known for; she will be my top pick in here. She will face a tough challenge from the Brad Cox barn with Mundaye Call, who romped to a 7 1/4 length win in the Audubon Oaks at Ellis Park. However, the class edge for Four Graces gives her the edge for me.

Race 9 – Edgewood (G2)
We head to the turf for the next one, as a field of turf three-year old fillies will go the mile distance. Having been won by many fantastic fillies in recent memory, like Concrete Rose and Catch A Glimpse, this is generally one of the classiest races on Oaks Day. The heavy favorite here, without a doubt, is the H. Graham Motion trainee (3) Sharing, the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf champion of last year who turned her Tepin Stakes win earlier this year at Churchill Downs into a runner up effort at Royal Ascot in the Coronation Stakes. She has had blitzing workouts leading up to this race and should be the one coming home clear late. I’d add in (6) Pranked at a price – she has been improving with each effort and showed a lot of tough finishing an off the pace 2nd last out.

Race 10 – Alysheba (G2)
What better way to get prepped for the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Keeneland than on the other side of the commonwealth at Churchill Downs. The Alysheba has some of the top handicap horses in training showing up, including last year’s Classic runner-up and defending Alysheba champ McKinzie, Oaklawn Handicap winner By My Standards, and fan-favorite Bodexpress. For me, (3) Owendale gets the nod; he had a completely wide trip last our in the Stephen Foster which took away all chance, but his Blame Stakes win was ultra impressive. He got time off and has been working well. The inside post will pose well for him. Should get a good run under Florent Geroux. I can’t back By My Standards or McKinzie, both of which had head scratching efforts as of late and just seem like they are lacking the finishing kick recently. (1) Silver Dust on the inside is one that could pose well here; he’s another that got wide and touch runs but moving to the inside and his early speed could give him enough to crack the money.

Race 11 – La Troienne (G1)
Distaffers go in this Grade 1, which drew four last out winners. While Midnight Bisou won’t be showing up here, Vexatious and crew will have to get past Monomoy Girl, winner of nine straight races, including the Ruffian Stakes last out and last year’s Breeders’ Cup Distaff. Can she be beat? Hard to say. She might be another chalk that we will have to eat, as she looks to tough. I have to put (8) Monomoy Girl on top of my tickets – she is an absolute star. But I have some nice prices to put aside her in (7) Lady Kate, winner of the Groupie Doll last out who has a lot of speed to contend, and (5) Risky Mandate, who has been improving each out and is one to watch.

Race 12 – Kentucky Oaks (G1)
Finally it is time for the headliner of the day – the Kentucky Oaks! The routes to this race have been anything but normal, as is par for the course this year. But nonetheless, we have an absolute showdown between Swiss Skydiver, a filly that was aimed at the Investec Oaks for a time, and Gamine, the lightly raced Baffert that ran away with the Acorn on Belmont Stakes day. And don’t leave out the rest of this group, which includes the Santa Ysabel winner Donna Veloce (runner up in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies too), Ashland winner Speech, Indiana Oaks winner Shedaresthedevil, and Monmouth Oaks winner Hopeful Grace. Going horse by horse, (1) Swiss Skydiver shows everything that I’d want in an Oaks winner – the ability to rate, relax, and turn up the gears when needed; she nearly beat the boys in the Blue Grass earlier this Summer and looks tuned up after her Alabama win. As for (2) Tempers Rising, this one should be charging late at the end; with a lot (read: hot hot hot) of pace here, there will be plenty for this closer to run after and should grab a spot in the money. Donna Veloce has been sitting on the sidelines for more than six months, missing much of the action this year and only starting once all year – she has talent, but this long layoff just isn’t the type of pattern for me. Speech is an interesting one; she took the very easy Ashland at Keeneland once Swiss Skydiver defected for the Blue Grass, just one race after beating Speech in the Santa Anita Oaks; she has been second best for much of this year (even when going behind Gamine) and I expect just the same – but should be one to include in exotics. As for Gamine, she has been lights out around one turn this year in the Acorn and the Test, but two turns isn’t necessarily her thing – I don’t know how she will stay on top against a hot pace and down the long Churchill Downs stretch. Bayerness, the aptly named daughter of Bayern, has not shown too much going shorter this year – perhaps she steps up here (but probably not). The Indiana Oaks winner (7) Shedaresthedevil has caught my eye for Brad Cox – she had a mix of results early, with trainer changes of Norm Cassee and Simon Callaghan, but she seems to have found her stride the Cox barn; her Indiana Oaks win was visually impressive and I’m excited to see what she can do with her return to Churchill Downs (a track she loves). Hopeful Growth and Dream Marie on the outside are two coming out of the Monmouth Oaks, but no Monmouth magic is expected for me – both tosses.

Race 13 – Twin Spires Turf Sprint (G2)
One of my favorite races of the weekend every year is the 5.5 furlong dash on the turf – the Twin Spires Turf Sprint. This year horses are coming from pretty much everywhere to tackle this turf sprint, and a major prep for the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint. For me, this race will depend on if (2) Wellabled can go gate to wire – he has the speed to do just that, and has really improved with the switch to turf, but this will be his toughest test yet. If he can’t, (10) Carotari and (4) Bound For Nowhere will be right on his tail to take over late.

There you have it. While it may be a chalky Friday, it is sure to be a good Friday, and a nice prelude day leading up to Saturday’s action of the Kentucky Derby! Enjoy!

Hambletonian Day 2020 Selections

The greatest day in harness racing is finally here! In a year unlike any other, it is such a relief to find a day that is so familiar – Hambletonian Day. While I won’t be on site for the race for the first time in five years, I’ll still be watching and betting from home with a nice bottle of whiskey.

Anyway, this Hambletonian card has 16 races – including 14 stakes – headlined by the 95th edition the Hambletonian, harness racing’s most famous race. One of the best races on tap may be the Sam McKee Memorial Free For All Pace – featuring Breeders’ Crown winners Dancin Lou and American History and the Graduate winner Hurrikane Hanover – which is a wide open championship pacing affair. Also we will see three phenomenal mares, Manchego, Atlanta, and Shartin N in their respective races, including Atlanta once again taking on the boys in the stacked John Cashman Memorial.

With that, let’s get to talking about the races:

Race 1 – N/W $20,000 L5 Pace
The opening race of the day is a nice group of ten going in this non-winners of 20k. Lots of open and preferred handicap horses drop into this spot to start our day off. I do think (5) Angers Bayama is a tough one to beat coming out of his back to back wins at the Meadowlands; Andrew McCarthy stays in the bike aboard a hot horse who truly has been getting better with each go. He is really taking to the big mile track and should be the one here going gate to wire. I’d also look at (4) Shamwow underneath for some value.

Race 2 – Shady Daisy Pace
Now we move into the stakes part of the card, although only five 3yo fillies go in this pacing affair. But no wonder it is short – trying to contend with the Breeders’ Crown and Mistletoe Shalee champ (3) Reflect With Me is no easy task. She has been on a tear since coming back this season and is getting better as the season gets longer. A definite single in this spot.

Race 3 – Dr. John R. Steele Memorial Trot
Our next race brings us to another fabulous female with Breeders’ Crown champion Manchego. We saw the fastest trotting mare ever brush off a similar field last year in the Allerage Farms Mare Trot at the Red Mile enroute to the world record time – and should be doing much the same. (5) Manchego is a freak on the front end, as she proved in the Spirit of Massachusetts last week, winning in world record time. She won this race in a 1:50 over Hannelore Hanover last year and looks to do the same once again. I’ve very much liked what (4) Felicityshagwell S has shown since coming to the US and is still improving. She has been finishing well in her last few and should be able to grab some pieces late.

Race 4 – Continentalvictory Trot
Named for the 1996 Hambletonian winner, this trot for 3yo fillies comes up with former Hambo Oaks hopefuls. The PA invader (6) Dip Me Hanover is who I lean towards here. She ended up facing some very salty PASS races in her last few, but has some great back form against similar that puts her in a good spot here. Another PA invader to watch is (7) Sweet Shirley Mae who comes in off two in the money efforts and looks to get back to a full mile track.

Race 5 – Muscle Hill Trot
Named for the 2009 Hambletonian winner, this Hambletonian prelude features a trotter that I really liked coming out of the NJSS action earlier this year in (9) Jula Trix Treasure. He just didn’t move all that well late against the company in the Tompkins-Geers and Hambo Elim last two out, but does get a lighter test in this start. The other two for me are (6) Beads and (8) Chestnut Hill coming out of Hambletonian eliminations. Beads finished up well in the Stanley Dancer Memorial behind Ready For Moni two back and should get a favorable trip here while Chestnut Hill has a lot of back form to look at as he tries to get back to his winning ways for Nifty Norman.

Race 6 – Jim Doherty Memorial Trot
Something I love about Hambletonian Day is getting to see the future stars of the sport shine in the 2yo stakes affairs. Hypnotic AM captured this race last year with Brian Sears enroute to a Breeders’ Crown third and a start in the Hambletonian Oaks later today. (5) Darlene Hanover pushed through late in the elimination last week and looks to be the one to beat here. She finally broke her maiden last out but was showing a lot of late closing kick in all her starts prior. She will get challenged by the talented (10) Altar, who won the NJSS division earlier this year, but was DQ’ed from 3rd last out in the elimination, ending her two race win streak. Meanwhile (4) Material Girl is knocking on the door and isn’t a trotter to leave off any ticket. And if you are looking for a price, watch out for the very expensive 2yo (9) Ineffable with Brian Sears – he saved a lot in the tank last start and should come out guns blazing.

Race 7 – Sam McKee Memorial Pace
The former US Pacing Championship that has since been renamed for the legendary announcer and all-around fantastic guy Sam McKee, who we lost much too soon, has come up as tough as usual. Multiple high level stakes winners come into this major pacing event ready to take home the ultimate prize. While most will lean on the Breeders’ Crown champ Dancin Lou, I head to (3) Hurrikane Emperor to take down this field again. He is in a similar form cycle as he had in his win in the Graduate last month against similar company and has had two good tuneups in the NJ Maturity legs. He shows his A+ game against top class company and absolutely thrives at the Meadowlands.

Race 8 – Peter Haughton Memorial Trot
Future Hambletonian hopefuls head to the track in this featured 2yo event. This is a pretty wide open affair and you could go in any direction here. I am sticking with (5) Locatelli who comes in off skipping over the eliminations. One of the fresh faces here, this 2yo just came up short closing late in the NJSS division but showed a lot of promise with his good closing kick. He was drawn on the far outside that day which got him shuffled back and out of place early. While Yannick chooses off for (4) Type A, who comes in out of PASS action and is a huge threat, I like Dexter Dunn in this spot trying to get Locatelli towards the front early – major threat here.

Race 9 – Hambletonian Oaks Trot
The first of our featured races of the day, the Hambletonian Oaks could go in just about any direction. (11) Panem gets the second tier draw here, although should be fine as the one she tracks should be trying for the lead early. She has been coming up just short in her last two (Reynolds and Del Miller) but has been showing a really quick turn of foot down the lane late and looks to show that here. She won’t have Ramona Hill to deal with which will be a huge plus for her. I do think that (7) Sorella and (2) Next Level Stuff could get the win here as well, as both have been in great form as of late, but their might be a bit too much jostling up front for me to be confident in either.

Race 10 – John Cashman Memorial Trot
Hambletonian winners Atlanta and Marion Marauder face off once again. Last time they squared off on the same track was at Scioto Downs last year in the Muscle Hill, with Atlanta getting the best of the field. Will we see that again today? I think so. (2) Atlanta is an absolute freak, especially when she gets an inside draw at the Big M. However, she never had to face someone like (7) Gimpanzee, who has been dominant thus far on the season, sweeping his three legs of the Graduate and winning the Hambletonian Maturity. It should be a good duel down the lane between these two champions. My upsetter here would have to be (6) Lindy The Great, who can truly toy with the best of them when he is hot; he can come from the clouds late and should be a threat if there is enough speed on the front end. (btw, don’t count out Jimmy Takter on Hambletonian Day – he finds a way back into the card he dominated for so many years as he drives Don’t Let’em)

Race 11 – Hambletonian
Finally time for the big one – the Hambletonian. The tremendous filly Ramona Hill showed she fits against the boys in her miraculous win from tough trip last week in the elim. Meanwhile, Stanley Dancer winners Ready For Moni and Back Of The Neck draw to the inside and try to take home the top prize. Not to be undone, Breeders’ Crown champion Amigo Volo got back to his winning ways when heading over to PA but wants to get a win here on the biggest of stages, something his sire Father Patrick was unable to do. And it wouldn’t be right without talking about the Ron Burke/Brian Sears entry in Sister Sledge, the other filly in the race, who showed her stuff two back in the Tompkins-Geers; she trotted real well to a solid fourth in the elim last out and looks primed to go. I have really liked (2) Back Of The Neck since the trainer switch from Marcus Melander to Ake Svanstedt. Scotty Z is in the bike and has been getting the most out of this son of Ready Cash; he looked to have put away the field last out in the elim only to find Ramona Hill surging late in style. That wasn’t his 100% and he should have a lot left in the tank for this one. His pace figures put him in really good position here and drawing to the inside should help him hit the front on what should be a speed favoring surface after the rain dries up from Friday night.

Race 12 – Vincennes Trot
An invitational preferred trot, this one is a staple of the Hambletonian undercard (or post card in this case). The ageless Jl Cruze ends up here against a good field of former stakes performers. For me, (1) Muscle M Up is the one to watch. He went up to Plainridge a few back to content against Manchego and Atlanta in the Spirit of Massachusetts, but didn’t get anything going there. Back to the Meadowlands he went and he just needed a race to cool down. He has been going against much tougher company but gets a spot and a draw that should favor him to get the lead and carry it away. Additionally, (2) Mission Accepted with Yannick Gingras in the bike is a dangerous one at a slight price. This is a much easier spot than what he has seen at the Big M and should like the trip he looks to get.

Race 13 – Cane Pace
The first leg of the Pacing Triple Crown brings us a future star of the sport, (6) Tall Dark Stranger. Go back and watch his Meadowlands Pace win and try to tell me that didn’t give you chills. He fought the whole way down the lane against Papi Rob Hanover and wouldn’t give an inch. He had a tune-up effort in the Tompkins-Geers last week to prep him for this start. I love him here and already think he is on to a magical season. A price in this somewhat short field may be (8) Chief Mate – who has been knocking on the door as of late and came up just short in the Adios last out.

Race 14 – Sam McKee Memorial Consolation
Lot’s of excellent pacers tried to get into the Sam McKee but will have to do with the consolation. This race is where I come with two of my biggest prices of the day: (4) Filibuster Hanover and (5) Donttellmeagain. While both are a bit past their prime, they had no chance against the top pacers last out. Yet, against similar company to what they find here, they have excelled as of late. I give them a huge leg up in this field, even at a price. Speed figures put them in a very well verse spot here.

Race 15 – Lady Liberty Pace
The Horse of the Year, Breeders’ Crown Champ, and two-time winner of the Lady Liberty looks to make it three in a row here. (5) Shartin N is by far the best pacing mare in training (if not the best pacer in training) and it isn’t even close. She had a rare defeat two back in the Dorothy Haughton (formerly known as the Golden Girls) but that isn’t anything to worry about. Let’s see if she can do it again.

Race 16 – N/W $10,000 L5 Pace
One last race to close out a tremendous day of harness racing and a very nice sixteen race card. For me, my close out of the day lies in the outside horse, (10) Lets Roll and Corey Callahan. Getting back to the Meadowlands should do this horse well, and the slight drop of class might be exactly what he needs to get back to his winning ways. Hoping to finish the day with a nice price.

Haskell/Meadowlands Pace Day 2020 Selections

It is a huge day in the Garden State! Two of the premier racing days of the year in the state fall together, with Monmouth Park starting the day with the Haskell (G1) and its undercard, including the United Nations (G1), Monmouth Cup (G3), Matchmaker Stakes (G3), Molly Pitcher (G3), and Wolf Hill, and the Meadowlands just up the state finishing with their premier pacing race, the Meadowlands Pace, which completes a huge card of Grand Circuit racing, including the William R. Haughton Memorial and Dorothy Haughton for older pacers and two divisions of the Stanley Dancer Memorial, which will give us a glimpse of our Hambletonian contenders.

With that, let’s go into my selections for all the stakes races on the day (and linked free PPs available as well, presented by Brisnet and Trackmaster/Meadowlands):

Monmouth Park Race 9WinStar Matchmaker (G3)
(2) Feel Glorious – was running on well late in the New York; should favor this course well and is eligible to improve in 2nd start since layoff
(4) Varenka – needed last race at CD to get back in form; has shown strong ability and finds a lighter spot here than last few
(8) Xenobia – posted a great figure in first start of the year against much tougher; has an excellent turn of foot late and should get an ideal trip

Monmouth Park Race 10Monmouth Cup (G3)
(7) Joevia – Suffered from too much pace pressure in last two starts, but has little early challengers this time; loves Monmouth Park and has been improving in his starts this year; will be tough but could pull the upset
(4) Harpers First Ride – Moving up in class here should be no problem; figures put him right in this field and is on the improve in form; strong finishing kick against super slow early paces makes him intriguing
(8) Just Whistle – Had too much to do last out but eligible to return well here; has some of the best figures in the race and gets Joe Bravo aboard.

Monmouth Park Race 11United Nations (G1)
(9) Paret – An absolute standout on form and figures here; has some of the best turf speed in the race and looked really good in his seasonal debut against better – a must use
(8) Corelli – eligible to improve off first domestic start; has good backform from time in GB and should improve with blinkers and lasix added – worth a shot at the price
(5) Aquaphobia – was closing in well in last two and improving on paper; put in good workouts leading up to this and gets Bravo aboard – contender

Monmouth Park Race 12TVG.com Haskell (G1)
(1) Dr Post – my single on the day; complete standout in this field and is coming into this race in really good condition off that :48 flat 4f workout; showed a lot of game talent finishing well in the Belmont Stakes behind Tiz The Law and will enjoy the two turn trip much better
(6) Ny Traffic – should be forwardly placed early and that will greatly improve his changes; hit two monster horses in last two while showing toughness in both races – sharp and gets Paco Lopez aboard for a second straight race
(2) Authentic – his Santa Anita Derby behind Honor A.P. put me off this horse; he has some green left in him and I’m not sold that going a route distance is really his thing, but his talent still towers over much of this field and needs to be considered

Monmouth Park Race 13Wolf Hill
(9) Shekky Shebaz – while I may want to give this runner a first start under the Clement barn, he does seem to be the highest rated horse here; his gate speed is truly spectacular and should give him an edge here on the Monmouth turf
(5) Dubini – needed the last race off the layoff, this one should get better now in second start of the year and the return to Monmouth Park; has the turning kick to catch anyone down the stretch and gets Paco aboard – lot to like on figures too
(2) Lonhtwist – last out was just way too tough for him, but the step down in class is just what he needs as he gets a group he can beat; big striding horse that should take to this turf better than Belmont, which he seems to just not like based on his past runs there – this could be the upsetter

Monmouth Park Race 14Molly Pitcher (G3)
(11) Horologist – heading to the Bill Mott barn might be the best move for this talented filly; she had troubled tips in the Apple Blossom (against much better) and in her runner up finish in the Nellie Morse, but this trip should favor her – and she is 4 for 4 at Monmouth against similar company
(9) Sweet Sami D – had a good return to the races in an OC at Delaware Park but now gets back against the stakes company she ran against last year; her tune-up looked like she still had more to give and should improve stepping here
(5) Vault – Mike Smith has a live runner here after she ran a huge second last month in the Obeah at Delaware Park, though making the decision to come here as opposed to last weekends Delaware Handicap is intriguing; still this looks to be a good spot for her as she continues to improve this year – a possible star in the making for the Brad Cox barn

Meadowlands Race 2 – Miss Versatility Trot Leg 3
(6) Manchego – winning the first leg of this series a few weeks ago over Atlanta before coming back to finish a second to her rival, the Breeders’ Crown Champion doesn’t need to worry about Atlanta here; should cruise to an easy victory in this one
(5) Felicityshagwell S – improved in both of her first PM starts in the US for Ake Svanstedt, this mare has shown promise – maybe this will be the chance she shows what she is worth
(1) Kenziesky Hanover – developing as a great trotter, the Cullipher trained daughter of Cantab Hall has been knocking on the door as of late; the switch to being more forwardly placed, and getting the one hole, should help her stay near the lead in the end

Meadowlands Race 3Del Miller Memorial Trot
(1) Sorella – the PA star made the switch over to NJ when Nancy Takter took over training this year; so far shes been the talk of the town – with three straight wins including a 1:50.2 (26.3 LQ) trotting mile in the Reynolds last out
(5) Panem – Dexter Dunn has had this one trotting fire as of late, keeping up with Sorella last out and winning just two back; this fits her well and if she can improve a bit, might get past her rival as they head towards the Hambletonian Oaks
(8) Hypnotic Am – last year’s Doherty winner came back with two warm up trots against lesser at Tioga and Vernon (and grab some of that NYSS money); she has been a force on the front end and should be dueling with Sorella throughout

Meadowlands Race 4Stanley Dancer Memorial Trot (Div. I)
(6) Back Of The Neck – a last out winner in the Reynolds and finished a good open trot behind Sorella two back (ahead of Synergy and Breeders’ Crown champ Amigo Volo), the Ake Svanstedt Hambletonian hopeful has a lot in the tank; his two straight :26 and change last quarters are eye opening for me and Scott Zeron has been driving very well this year
(5) Play Trix On Me – Linda Toscano brings in a tough NJ-bred trotter by Trixton; crushed through the NJSS company before making the step up in the Reynolds – needed that first trot but showed promise and should move up with Tim Tetrick in the bike
(1) Real Cool Sam – one of the favorite horses on the ground, as named for the late, great Sam McKee, won the Peter Haughton Memorial last year at the Meadowlands before a 4th place finish behind Amigo Volo in the Breeders’ Crown; now he makes his season debut after three straight qualifiers – I want to give him one start, but his talent keeps him up near the top for me

Meadowlands Race 5Stanley Dancer Memorial Trot (Div. II)
(9) Capricornus – the second division is where I find my upset on the day; tried to trot on the front end in the Reynolds last out before tiring like many that day, but just needed that race on the big mile – should step up a bit and take better to the track tonight
(7) El Ideal – last year’s Valley Victory champion returned in the same division of the Reynolds as Capricornus, but was spinning wheels last after being on the front end; I wasn’t a huge fan of how he finished, and looks like he might need on more race, but I don’t want to be the one who left him off my ticket if he trots by everyone
(3) Chestnut Hill – coming back to the big track off a tuneup on the short Pocono Downs course may be what the Nifty Norman trainee needs; he trotted alright two back, but looks to be showing more – improving and moving forward well in last three

Meadowlands Race 6 Mistletoe Shalee Pace
(1) Jk First Lady – the Three Diamonds winner makes her return to stakes company in the fillies version of the Pace; her closing kick is one of the best in the field and her pacing miles turn some heads – in really great condition after the 1:49.4 qualifier and should return to her form she had to end 2019
(2) Peaky Sneaky – right to Jk First Lady’s outside is a Nancy Takter trainee that isn’t one to forget; right there in pacing times, she has been getting better with every start and seems to love the Meadowlands; should be the dueling late
(6) Rocknificent – taking a step back down in class off a win against a bit tougher in the PASS at The Meadows, the daughter of Captaintreacherous returns to the big mile in good form; her figures pose a big challenge for anyone and Zeron in the bike makes her a tough out any time

Meadowlands Race 7William R. Haughton Memorial Pace
(6) Dancin Lou – older pacers take over the card here, although misses some of our leaders from the Graduate series; but we do get 3rd place finisher in the Graduate, Dancin Lou, who has been spinning wheels very quickly in his last few – gets a big lighter test here and should be the one pacing home in fron tat the end
(5) Backstreet Shadow – Tetrick takes the Roll With Joe winner back to the Meadowlands after a qualifier tune up; when given the front lead, he isn’t one to give him up, and although he is going against much tougher here, his figures put him right in the mix
(1) This Is The Plan – the Hoosier Pacing Derby winner is looking to return to the top of open company again, and has the chance here; he showed good promise in the Roll With Joe, but needs the longer track to get going – Meadowlands switch is exactly what he needs

Meadowlands Race 8Hambletonian Maturity Trot
(1) Forbidden Trade – last year’s Hambletonian winner comes back to the site of his biggest success after a pretty good finish to 2019 at Woodbine Mohawk; Zeron give him a good tuneup here last week, trotting clear ahead of Jl Cruze, but now gets his usual stakes company to contend with – lots to like with him
(7) Reign Of Honor – 2020 has been kind to this son of Father Patrick, as he has been trotting well in his three starts and getting better each time; solid post should put him in good position and the elongated 1 1/8 mi should favor his style and late kick
(13) Gimpanzee – would be higher up here if he wan’t coming from behind here; the easy winner of the Graduate series – sweeping two legs and the finals, he is trotting in great form and is one to watch; not sure he will appreciate the added distance and starting from behind against a really great field might not be the best – but one to watch nonetheless

Meadowlands Race 9Meadowlands Pace Final
(5) Tall Dark Stranger – Gingras and Takter team up with one that wowed everyone last year up at Woodbine Mohawk and even moreso last week in the Pace Elim, pacing clear on the front end the whole way without giving an inch; he towers over the field and is the big one to beat tonight
(3) Captain Barbossa – just did what he needed to do in the Elim last week, the Tony Alagna trainee has been improving this year off what was a very nice 2yo season; saw a lot to like in the last three and should be pacing home strong down the stretch
(9) Papi Rob Hanover – the only one to have beaten Tall Dark Stranger in the Breeders’ Crown Elim (and in the final before being DQ’ed to 2nd), this pacer is getting back into form with two good starts to the season; while might be better suited to the small track, the outside post has giving him the ability to keep clear and pace home fast late

Meadowlands Race 10Dorothy Haughton Pace
(4) Kissin In The Sand – beating the 2019 Dan Patch Horse of the Year, Shartin N, won’t be an easy task, but I’ve been far more impressed with the miles that Kissin In The Sand has been pacing to start the year; she looks like she developed into a monster pacing mare and excited to see how she does a year older
(2) Shartin N – winner of this race (as the Golden Girls last year) helped her on her Horse of the Year campaign, but that was last year; her early starts this year have just been easy cruises against lesser (much like she did to start last year), which may mean she is beatable; if she is on – she will be dominant, but that scratch out of last time gives me enough to not put her on top, but still a must use in this spot
(3) Trillions Hanover – pacing behind Kissin In The Sand last out, she had a great tune-up for this major race; she is growing up well as a 4yo now and I think she might be the best of the rest here