Archive | April, 2019

San Francisco Mile and Gold Rush Weekend

26 Apr

An unprecedented stakes six-pack is on tap Saturday at Golden Gate Fields, highlighted by the $250,000 San Francisco Mile (G3-T) over the Albany lawn. A perfect storm was aligning until the Golden 6 Jackpot was scooped by a single winning ticket on Friday, paying a whopping $383,167.30 to one lucky winner.

That takes a little wind out of the sails for those hoping to have a go at nearly $400,000 in dead money Saturday, but the high quality 13-race card should ease some of the pain. I had begun to look at the Pick 6 sequence, starting with race 8, but now that the Jackpot dough is gone, I’m looking mostly at the 10th a featured SF Mile.

A pair of multiple graded stakes winners from SoCal, #1 Bowies Hero (5/2) and #10 River Boyne (3/1), bookend the field of 10, in which only one other horse – #4 Le Ken (5/1) – has even placed in a graded event. This would seem to give them a significant class advantage over this field and class usually finds a way to win on turf.

Of the two, I’m leaning toward River Boyne who boasts a 50% win percentage on the grass (7 for 14) and at this distance (3 for 6). While Bowie’s Hero has probably faced better company, he’s entering off a 251-day layoff and it’s always hard to tell when he’s going to fire his best shot. He also gets Giovanni Franco in the saddle, who’s never ridden him before.

River Boyne has also shown his best coming in second off a layoff, which he is today. The last three times River Boyne has raced second off a layoff he’s improved his Brisnet Speed Figure by 10, 10 and 6 points. He also gets Flavian Prat back in the saddle, who’s ridden him to four victories and a second the last eight times he’s climbed aboard.

Of the horses stepping up in class to challenge this pair, I think #2 Blitzkrieg (6/1) might have a tactical advantage with his early speed and inside post position. Assuming #5 Many Roses (15/1) sets the pace as he did in the last two editions of this race, Blitzkrieg might get a garden stalking trip off his flank. He’s been a new horse since being claimed by the Doug O’Neill barn and comes in with a three-race winning streak in tow, albeit at 6 1/2 furlongs down the hill at Santa Anita. He did break his maiden over this distance in a 50K claimer at Del Mar.

The other potential upsetter I like is #9 Souter (6/1) who enters in top form for the Mark Glatt Stable. He enters of a pair of wins in the optional claiming ranks, two-turning at Santa Anita, and boasts 9 exacta finishes with four wins in 13 starts on turf.

Lastly, I have to respect Ireland’s leading trainer Dermot Weld shipping #5 Wentwood (12/1) over for this race. It’s hard to imagine his connections are coming over just for a holiday. Given most of the majority in here haven’t hit the board in a graded or group event, this gelding isn’t completely in over his head here.

The Verdict:

I have a feeling the classy horses are going to perform well in this one, but I am going to try to get Bowie’s Hero out of the Exacta and key River Boyne over my two price horses in hopes of getting a decent return.

$10 Exacta – #10 River Boyne (3/1) over #2 Blitzkrieg (6/1) and #9 Souter (6/1)
$5 Exacta – #10 River Boyne (3/1) over #5 Wentwood (12/1)

$25 total

Best of luck with your picks this Saturday at Golden Gate.

Calm Before The Storm

20 Apr

By Lucky Kalanges

I like the two weeks between the last Derby preps and the Derby. It gives us a little time to watch the replays of all the prep races and gather as much information as we can about the contenders leading up to Derby week.

I haven’t delved too deeply into all of the latest prep races, but I will say this, nobody has looked as impressive as Omaha Beach has in his last two races. The early move he made to hit the front at the half mile in the Arkansas Derby reminded me a little of Secretariat’s move around the first turn of the 1973 Preakness Stakes.

I’ll leave the replay here so you can see for yourself. He launches a three-wide bid around the first turn and secures the lead by the half, has Improbable breathing down his neck around the far turn and through the stretch, but continues to hold him off without much urging at all, just a couple left-handed taps in deep stretch to prevail by a length.

Improbable did nothing wrong and can certainly move forward off the effort, but with Omaha Beach holding wins over two of Bob Baffert’s three aces (Roadster being the third), he seems like a lock to be the favorite on Derby day barring any training setbacks. And while I am almost always trying to beat the favorite on Derby day, seeing Richard Mandella in the winner’s circle with Omaha Beach wouldn’t exactly break my heart.

In the Lexington Stakes, I was hoping for a better showing from local hero Anothertwistafate, who ran second at even money to 12/1 upset winner Owendale. The eight points he earned for second leaves him with 38, and tied for 22nd overall, which is squarely on the bubble as far as making the Derby field of 20. Trainer Blane Wright said they will wait and see if he qualifies before deciding on whether to enter the Derby or wait until the Preakness, for which he earned a free entry by winning the El Camino Real at Golden Gate.

With the free entry, I’d be inclined to rest up for the Preakness. If he couldn’t win the Lexington Stakes, I think the 20-horse Derby might be a bridge too far.

Speaking of bridges, I’m kind of excited for the stakes six-pack coming up next Saturday at Golden Gate, highlighted by the $250,000 San Francisco Mile (G3-T). I have to work the night shift next Saturday, but I am going to make an effort to stop by GGF and catch as many races as I can before I have to report for duty. With the turf course now open, I stand a much better chance at cashing some tickets as opposed to when they’re running exclusively on the Tapeta.

In addition to the Mile, they’ll be running the $100,000 California Derby, $75,000 California Oaks, $75,000 Golden Poppy (Turf), $75,000 Camilla Urso (Turf), and $75,000 Lost In The Fog Stakes on Saturday, the first day Gold Rush Weekend.

For those so inclined, $25 gets you into the “Golden Gate Get Down,” a live hip-hop and reggae concert headlined by The Grouch and Eligh. The concert area also features an assortment of Cocktails, Beers, and Food Trucks. A Golden Gate hat is included with the concert admission. If I didn’t have to work later in the day, I might take a shot at it if I were fortunate enough to cash a few tickets early in the card.

A pair of ‘hundred-granders’ – the Silky Sullivan and Campanile Stakes – headline the second day of Gold Rush Weekend on Sunday, April 28.

I’ll a

Arkansas Derby and Lexington Review

13 Apr

By Lucky Kalanges

I really like this field in the Arkansas Derby. It’s competitive and there seems to be enough early speed in here to give some of the deeper closers a chance of at least hitting the board at boxcar odds. Throw in a high probability for rain all day in Hot Springs, and it could be a race in which the favorites Improbable (8/5) and Omaha Beach (2/1) are more vulnerable than their morning lines would suggest.

Of the two, I think the high probability of a muddy or sloppy track favors Omaha Beach far more than Improbable simply because the former already has proven he can dominate over a sloppy track, drawing off to win by nine in his maiden victory at Santa Anita on Feb. 2. Furthermore, his natural early speed should keep him out of the kickback whereas Improbable will be buried at the rail and is highly likely to take mud in his face almost immediately after they spring the gates open.

Looking at the replay, Omaha Beach really couldn’t have been more impressive. He didn’t need the lead, but made it without being asked until challenged in deep stretch by Game Winner, who returned to run second to stablemate Roadster last Saturday at Santa Anita. Given his ability to use his tactical speed and the prior nine-length win over the slop, he looks like the one to beat to me. Of the two favorites, I’m siding with him over Improbable, who is bred to like the mud, but hasn’t experienced it yet and might get the worst of it breaking from the rail.

The other logical contender is Long Range Toddy (5/1), who showed great poise in breaking on top in his division of the Rebel, then backing off to track from the rail as a three-way speed duel unfolded. He let Improbable make a five wide move to pass him, and then came off the rail in the stretch to run him down for the win. He benefits here from an outside post that will let Jon Court decide where to place him, and could keep him clear of kickback.

As I type now, the main track at Oaklawn is officially sloppy. Without knowing how the track is going to play and how each horse will handle the off track, I’m going to tread lightly in this one.

For a potential longshots, I am going to take a long look at #7 Galilean (10/1) who I think could get overlooked in the betting and ran a pretty good race last out, finishing third behind Long Range Toddy and Improbable. In that race, he broke a step slow, rushed to the lead and was caught in the middle of the three-horse pace duel up the backstretch. He won that battle and held on gamely for third, beaten only 2 1/4 lengths. With a cleaner break and an ideal stalking trip off the hip of expected pace-setter Gray Attempt (8/1), he might have a chance to outrun his odds today if he takes to the slop.

The only question is whether he takes outside pace pressure from Jersey Agenda (30/1), who has early speed but failed to make the lead last time out.

For closers to blow up the Trifecta or Superfecta, I’d look at Laughing Fox (20/1) who has the right to improve off a poor break last time out and Six Shooter (30/1) who has finished no worse than fourth in his last four starts, with 7 in-the-money finishes in 10 lifetime starts. He a pure plodder, but seems to come running every time.

Consideration for Win bets:

Long Range Toddy at 6/1 or better.
Galilean at 12/1 or better.

I’ll consider some small Exactas using Galilean top and bottom to both Long Range Toddy and Omaha Beach, in an effort to get an over-bet Improbable out of it.

I like Laughing Fox, Six Shooter and Country House in the third hole of the Trifecta or fourth hole of the Super.

A Quick Look At The Lexington

Local hero Anothertwistafate (2/1) is a standout from a speed figure standpoint with a pair of 94s in a field where only one other horse has broken 90. Owendale ran a 91 two starts back at the Fair Grounds. He’ll likely have to rate behind early speed again this time, as Knicks Go (15/1) and Zenden (6/1) will likely duel for the front from the opening bell.

There has been some steam that Knicks Go, who exploded the Keeneland toteboard in last fall’s Breeders’ Futurity at 70/1, is training well over his home track and might be ready to put his two previous clunkers behind him. If he can shake loose up front, he’ll have every chance to prove it.

The one horse I won’t be betting is the 2nd morning-line choice, Harvey Wallbanger (7/2). There’s just no reason to swallow a short price on one-run closer like him.

I don’t have a strong opinion in this one, so I’ll sit back and root for the Bay Area connections to land a spot in the Kentucky Derby.

Best of luck today everybody.

Kentucky Derby Coming Into Focus

12 Apr

By Lucky Kalanges

The combination of the Arkansas Derby and Lexington Stakes this Saturday, as the final two races offering qualifying points for the Kentucky Derby, officially marks the end of the Derby Prep season. When the weekend is over we should have a very good idea of which 20 horses will be heading to the starting gate at Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May.

There’s a lot of intrigue, especially for the California-based barns of Bob Baffert (Improbable), Richard Mandella (Omaha Beach), and Blaine Wright (Anothertwistafate). With only 20 points awarded to first place in the Lexington Stakes, Anothertwistafate is almost in a must-win situation to qualify for the Derby. As a huge fan of the race he ran in the Sunland Derby, I’ll be pulling for him and his Northern California connections. I think he could offer a lot of value on Derby day if he makes the field.

Speaking of Derby Day, we’ll have the usual festivities planned at Pleasanton OTB, including a BBQ Buffet for $17, Mint Juleps and Bloody Marys for $10, and a bucket of four Corona’s for $20 a pop. We’ll be kicking the doors open early, at 7 a.m. for both Kentucky Oaks and Derby Day, May 3 and 4, respectively. If you’re a Turf Club denizen, be sure to secure your table as early as possible, as it is by far our busiest day of the year.

Wood No Good

Looking back at last week’s prep races, it was mostly a weekend to forget for Yours Truly. Like I wrote about last week’s Wood Memorial, I chose to back Tax when he went off at higher odds than Outshine. I was a bit surprised so many people had taken a shine to Outshine, betting him down as low as 5/2 early in the betting, that I immediately turned my attention to Tax. And even though I wanted 6/1 or better, I ended up getting 5.5-to-1 and he ran a strong second to the 5/2 favorite Tacitus.

My hard stand against the Bill Mott trainee killed all my bets in the Wood. While Tacitus has shown the ability to win consistently from off the pace at route distances, the final time of 1:51 1/5 leaves plenty to be desired and I am fairly confident in saying I don’t think the Derby winner is coming out of this race.

Blue Grass Blues

Much like the Wood, I met the same fate the Blue Grass Stakes, when Somelikeithotbrown faded to fourth in the stretch at odds of nearly 10/1. I couldn’t resist the price, bet him to Win, keyed him on top in exotics and was routed again by the favorite, this time Vekoma, who drew off to win impressively by 3 1/2 lengths at 7/5 odds.

There was just no way I was swallowing 7/5 on Vekoma in a full field of 14, so I’ll turn the page and forget about this one as quickly as possible. Sometimes you just pick the wrong races to play beat the favorite, and one of the keys to betting is knowing when to just hold onto your money and watch them run. Saturday was one of those days for me.

Among the most challenging aspects of handicapping races is seeing what’s there as opposed to seeing what you want to see. Let the opportunity grab you by the collar and drag you to the windows. If you don’t feel that pull, it’s time to think twice about getting up at all.

I’ll be back a little later with a look at the Arkansas Derby and the Lexington Stakes.

S.A. Derby, Blue Grass and Wood Make It Good

5 Apr

By Lucky Kalanges

Looking at the three big Kentucky Derby preps this weekend, I figure we might as well get the easiest one out of the way first, that being the $1 million Santa Anita Derby. With a compact field of six, it quickly boils down to Game Winner’s race to lose.

He had some excuses in his last race, trying to reel in Omaha Beach in second division of the Rebel Stakes after a tepid half mile of 47 1/5 while coming off a 90+ days layoff. He should be tighter for this one, gets the favorable outside post for his mid-pack style, and a primary target to chase in Instagrand breaking immediately to his inside.

Based on his lifetime record of four wins and a second in five starts, it seems difficult to envision him not finishing first or second at even money odds or worse.

An interesting pace scenario will play out between Game Winner’s stablemate Roadster (5/2) and Instagrand (3/1). I think the latter has the most pure speed, but it will be interesting to see whether Flavien Prat decides to send for the lead or stalk of off Roadster, who breaks from the rail. I think Instagrand’s best shot is to go to the lead. If he lets Roadster get a loose lead, he might be tough to run down.

Lastly, Nolo Contesto (6/1) chased Roadster home in his season debut after bobbling at the break and owns a win over Omaha Beach who beat Game Winner in the split division of the Rebel.

Final Verdict:

I don’t see a ton of value in here. I think Game Winner could be beaten, but I’m confident about who is going to pull the upset, so I’ll sit back and watch this one. One thing to keep in mind is that Game Winner doesn’t need to win to get into the Derby for Baffert, while Roadster needs a first or second place finish to get on the Derby Points list.

Don’t forget they are forcing out the Rainbow 6 Jackpot on Saturday at Santa Anita, so there’s a juicy $815,939 in dead money in the 20-cent Pick 6 pool.

Wood Memorial

With a not a lot separating the top contenders in this field of 11, I am going to give the edge to one of the better tacticians in John Velazquez aboard Outshine (6/1) for Todd Pletcher. Last we saw this guy, he finished second after chasing a hot pace in the Tampa Bay Derby, which was one by Tacitus (5/2), who is the morning line favorite here. He gets a tough post, but has experience in larger fields have won and finished second in his two starts this year. Hoping third off a layoff is a charm.

In keeping with the recent history of big races being won by maiden-breakers, I am going to give a long look at Hoffa’s Union (6/1) breaking from the three hole. He romped by 15 1/2 lengths in his debut, and I think he can use his early speed to cut the corner and attempt to steal this race on the lead. He’ll need a little luck, however, with a few other early speed types like Not That Brady (20/1) signed on.

Speaking of Not That Brady, he seemed to lose all chance when failing to break in the Gotham, but his Withers effort puts him squarely in the mix against these horses and he’s bound to be forgotten in the betting.

I am going to key both Hoffa’s Union and Not That Brady underneath my top choice in the Exacta, hoping that one of them fails to break and lets the other get a semi-comfortable lead.

Closers Tacitus (5/2) and Haikal (7/2) could get the setups they need here and certainly neither has done much wrong, having combined for 5 wins and a second in seven starts. However, I’ll take a stand against the closers at short prices in this spot.

Tax (9/2) is another one I’ll give a long look at given his tactical speed and rail post, which should allow him to save ground and get a decent trip.

The Verdict:

$20 Win bet on 10 Outshine or 1 Tax, whichever goes off at 6/1 or better.
$5 Exacta Box: 1 Tax and 10 Outshine
$2 Exacta 1 Tax and 10 Outshine with 3 Hoffa’s Union and 7 Not That Brady.
$1 Trifecta 1 Tax, 10 Outshine with 1 Tax, 10 Outshine with 3 Hoffa’s Union, 4 Haikal, 5 Final Jeopardy, 6 Overdeliver, 8 Grumps Little Tots.

Blue Grass Stakes

I don’t like the morning line favorite Vekoma (9/5) much at all in this full field of 14, so I will take a shot at beating him with the rail horse Somelikeithotbrown (10/1). While the latter’s figures are a little light in here, they’ve come over the Turfway polytrack and since he’s out of Big Brown I’m not seeing any reason why he won’t take to the Keeneland dirt.

Breaking from the rail, he has no choice but to fly out of the gate and try to wire this field, which doesn’t have an abundance of early speed. A couple who could pressure my top choice are 10 Lucky Lee (20/1) and 14 Aquidini (30/1). Since the former hasn’t won outside Parx and the latter must fly from the 14 hole, I’ll take my chances with the rail speed and hope for the best.

One horse who might be of interest in exotics is #6 Dream Maker (12/1). He dusted the talented Courtyard in his race two back, and threw a clunker next out when bumped out of the gate. In his two wins he’s virtually circled the field so it seems like he wants to be wide, outside the kickback. He’ll need a clean break and trip to be a factor, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he comes running at double-digit odds.

The Verdict:

$20 Win on 1 Somelikeithotbrown at 8/1 or better.
$.10 Superfecta – 1, 6 with 1, 6 with ALL with ALL

It’s getting late and I have to shut down the OTB, so best of luck this Saturday!




Licking Wounds Before Another Big Saturday

4 Apr

By Lucky Kalanges

Perhaps the best thing about blogging about handicapping and betting horses is that it forces you to put your opinions down on paper. Minus the black and white, it’s too easy to drift from your gut instincts and stumble into new ways to lose money.

I’ve often told friends that I would be better off just telling them who to bet and handing them the money, rather than letting me fumble it away on the walk from our clubhouse box to the betting windows. While I never enjoy being completely wrong about a race, I get far more annoyed when I have opinions or feelings about a race that turn out to be true, only to have a thinner wallet at end of the day. I can accept being wrong. I have a harder time being right and having nothing to show for it.

For a prime example, look no further than last Saturday’s Florida Derby. To set the stage, we shall review this golden nugget I wrote about the eventual runner-up, Bodexpress:

Another longshot is #8 – Bodexpress (30/1) out of Bodemeister. He was left in the wake of Hidden Scroll’s impressive debut, finishing fourth in a field of 14. He then returned to nearly break his maiden at seven furlongs, earning a 91 Beyer figure in the process. He should be up close early and could move forward if he gets a clean trip.

I’ll add to this opinion by saying that, in general, I felt that the pace could be slow because there were really only two true front-runners in the race in Hidden Scroll and Maximum Security, and there had been chatter that the former might try to take back a bit and stalk off the lead. This would have left Maximum Security as the lone speed, but I didn’t bet the race that way.

Despite my thoughts that the pace might be slow, I elevated the chances of closers Code of Honor and Bourbon War by keying them on top in Exactas for larger amounts over Maximum Security, who I keyed in second. I did place one saver Exacta with Maximum Security over Code of Honor, Bourbon War, and Harvey Wallbanger for $1.

The last bet I placed was a $10 Win bet on Maximum Security, which ended up bailing me out, giving me a small profit for the day. But it could have been much better had I just re-read last week’s blog and put Bodexpress on my Exacta ticket.

Check out the replay of the Florida Derby and imagine the pit growing in my stomach as I watched this scene unfold in the control room of Pleasanton OTB.


A horse I had tabbed as a viable longshot finished second at 71.50 to 1 and completed an Exacta with the horse I had bet to Win that returned $257.10.

Fl Derby chart

Needless to say, the night shift at the OTB seemed to pass a little longer than normal. Blunder aside, this is just another illustration of the power of early speed and the tendency of the betting public to elevate the chances of no-hope closers in races without pace – Yours Truly being no exception.

I’m a pro-speed guy, yet I still suffer from this malady!

I hope you saw it clearer than I did and cashed a big ticket.

On to the next big Saturday!