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.

Bodexpress

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!

Florida Derby and Huge Mandatory Payout at Gulfstream

29 Mar

By Lucky Kalanges

I’ll get on to the Florida Derby in a bit, but figured I might as well take a small victory lap having tabbed my first winner of the blog last Sunday in Sunland Derby winner Cutting Humor. It was one of those races that unfolded exactly how I imagined it would with the winner tracking the three-wide speed duel early, overtaking the leaders and just having enough to hold off the ultra-game Anothertwistafate to round out a $17 Exacta for a buck, which I had also tabbed.

Unfortunately, when the winner got pounded from his morning-line of 8/1 to 2/1 as the horses loaded into the gate, I got turned off and passed the race. It will be interesting to see if Anothertwistafate has enough points to make the Derby field, as he was probably best considering he backed out of the middle of the three-wide speed duel around the first turn, had to wait a bit coming around the second turn before swinging out four-wide to get running room in the stretch, came running and nearly nailed the winner on the wire.

He could offer big value on Derby day if he makes the field.

Florida Derby Day and the Rainbow Mandatory Payout

In case you weren’t away Gulfstream Park will be forcing out it’s $2.66 million Rainbow 6 Jackpot on Saturday’s Florida Derby card, which makes it almost a must-play day of racing if you’ve got the time. Time is actually a bigger obstacle for me now than money when it comes to betting the races. If I don’t handicap in advance, I don’t play. While I was hoping to get an advance look at the Rainbow 6 races, 9-13 on the card, I don’t feel like I’ve done enough homework to comment extensively on any of them except the Florida Derby.

I might play a very small Rainbow 6 ticket nonetheless. When there’s that much dead money being forced out, it’s almost a no-brainer to put in a small ticket.

As for the Florida Derby, I think I am going to take the same tack I did last time with John Velazquez in a stalking position behind an expected speed duel between #1 – Hidden Scroll (5/2) and #7 – Maximum Security (9/2). Desperate for Derby points, Hidden Scroll is stuck either having to gun for the lead or rating behind Maximum Security. I think doing the latter would be a mistake, as his best chance is to use his best asset, his gate speed, to get early position.

The problem is, he could be compromised again by pace pressure, which proved to be his undoing last time out. As for Maximum Security, the Jason Servis-trained freak has won by open lengths each time out, but now stretches out from seven to nine furlongs, trying two turns for the first time, which isn’t an easy task.

This leaves me looking at a trio of horses coming from off the pace: #9 – Code of Honor (3/1), #4 – Bourbon War (7/2) and #3 – Harvey Wallbanger (15/1). The first two ran down Hidden Scroll last time with Bourbon War having to rally six-wide while Code of Honor skimmed the rail. Like last time, I think Velazquez will be in a prime position to make first run on the leaders as they turn for home and it comes down again to who gets the better trip.

I also like the fact that Irad Ortiz jumps off Maximum Security to ride Bourbon War. I think I will end up playing the board on this one, backing the one of these two that goes off at higher odds. With heavy money expected on Hidden Scroll, I think 4/1 or 5/1 isn’t impossible on either of these two contenders.

For the Exacta, I am going to bank on the Jason Servis colt playing like the Energizer Bunny, to keep “going and going” to hang on for second. To me, all the value is trying to get Hidden Scroll out of the Exacta.

I’ll try to do that by playing #4 – Bourbon War and #9 – Code of Honor over #7 Maximum Security. I’ll also play a smaller ticket reversed, with Maximum Security on top in case he keeps on running through the wire.  It’s quite possible that, if he and Hidden Scroll don’t hook up on the lead early, that one of the two survives for the win, as I don’t see too many with the talent in here to make them run faster.

As for horses that could round out the Trifecta, #3 – Harvey Wallbanger (15/1) has an attractive morning line and proved he could win from off the pace two-turning over this track last time out in the Holy Bull. He’s done very little wrong have either won or finished second in his five starts, and the more I think about it, the more I can see tossing him into my Exactas at a decent price. For some reason, the Holy Bull isn’t getting the respect that the Fountain of Youth is and it could just all come down to recency bias.

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.

It’s past midnight here at the OTB, so I’ve got to close up shop. Best of luck with in the Florida Derby and Rainbow 6 if you’re playing.

 

Sueno No Bueno, Here Comes The Sunland!

23 Mar

By Lucky Kalanges

I didn’t have a strong opinion in the Louisiana Derby, although I did end up putting $20 on the nose of Sueno after I caught a glimpse of him on the racetrack. I’m no expert on physical handicapping, but I thought he looked dynamite on the track.

No Bueno.

Aside from Sueno, my biggest failure was not giving any thought of Gabriel Saez, the regular rider of my longshot pick, Mr. Money (50/1), moving over to the other William Calhoun entry, By My Standards. When By My Standards got up to win by 3/4 of a length at 22/1 odds, it was time to go back to the DRF PPs to see what I had missed. Beyond the rider switch, which was huge given the horses were coming out of the same barn and Saez had ridden Mr. Money in all five of his starts, there were a couple more reasons to like him.

First, he had never finished worse than third in fields of 10 or 11 horses in each of his four starts. I tend to elevate a horse who has competed well in – fields compared to fields of just five or six. Second, he had split next out winners in his debut, and had competed against next out winners in his next two starts before finally breaking his maiden impressively in his fourth try. Finally, his maiden breaking speed figure of 78 was only a point shy of Mr. Money’s last out 79.

The clues were there, I just didn’t look hard enough.

Still, it’s never easy to back a maiden winner in the last Derby prep of the season at any track. This serves as another reminder of how wide open this Kentucky Derby picture is with just six weeks before the first Saturday in May.

Here Comes The Sunland

I’m kind of excited to see the locally trained Antohertwistafate (3/1) try the traditional dirt again in Sunday’s Sunland Derby. He could not have been more impressive in taking the El Camino Derby at Golden Gate in mid-February. He clearly has a high cruising speed and figures to have a big say in the outcome of New Mexico’s richest thoroughbred race if he can avoid running a clunker on dirt, as he did in his six furlong debut at Santa Anita.

Unfortunately, he has other speed to contend with on either side of him in the starting gate, the primary concern being Bob Baffert’s second stringer, Mucho Gusto, who’s been installed as the 8/5 favorite breaking from the rail. Mucho Gusto owns the best last race dirt Beyer, a 90, and jockey Joe Talamo will probably have to hit the gas pedal right out of the gate to establish position heading into the first turn.

Adding potential fuel to the pace fire is Mine That Bird winner, Hustle Up, who has won eight of 10, is four for four over this track, and also does his best running on the front end. With all three horses hell bent on getting the lead, a hot pace seems likely to unfold.

With that in mind, I am going to look to the outside of the speedballs breaking from the first three gates for a potential upset winner. That horse is #5 – Cutting Humor (8/1).

I like this guy for some of the same reasons I could have liked By My Standards. First, Todd Pletcher ships him in after a 7th place finish in the Southwest Stakes, in which he ran behind eventual Rebel winner Long Range Toddy and yesterday’s third place La. Derby finisher, Sueno. He actually went off favored in that race at 2/1, so he was well-regarded in the betting.

Next, in his race two back he finished second to Bourbon War, who came a couple of jumps short of winning the Fountain of Youth stakes in his next start. Finally, this is his third start off a layoff, he gets Johnny V. and should be able to work out a perfect stalking trip breaking from post five behind the early speed to his inside.

I’ll back him to Win at his morning line of 8/1 or better, and I’m going to try to get the Baffert favorite out of the Exacta, using Anothertwistafate, Wicked Indeed (6/1) and the deep closer Pasamonte Man (20/1) underneath my top choice.

That should wrap up the weekend for me.

Just as a reminder, Santa Anita resumes racing on Friday, March 29, and with the cancellation of racing at Los Alamitos this weekend, we will again be offering FREE NIGHT ADMISSION this Sunday night, with $3 Nightlines. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank our night crew who kicked off this weekend by betting 67% and 19% more than they did last year on the same Friday and Saturday nights, even without Los Alamitos!

Thanks again for playing with us at Pleasanton OTB.

Is the Battle of New Orleans All War of Will?

22 Mar

By Lucky Kalanges

While closing day is officially Sunday, the $1 million Louisiana Derby (G2) effectively puts the bow on the winter thoroughbred meeting at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans. The 6/5 morning-line favorite, with good reason, is War of Will who enters his final Kentucky Derby prep coming off two strong performances over this track in the Lecomte and Risen Star Stakes, which he won by four and two and a quarter lengths, respectively.

Both efforts were picture perfect, trouble-free stalking trips, in which he used his natural early speed to establish a good stalking position, engaged the leaders without being asked while rounding the far turn, and drew away when he was finally asked for run in the stretch. He seems to fit the mold of the last five or six Kentucky Derby winners to a tee.

All that said, there are a couple of horses who could pull the upset, much like Long Range Toddy and Omaha Beach did in last week’s dual division of the Rebel Stakes. The one thing the competition doesn’t have going for it is War of Will isn’t coming in off a 90-day layoff, and shouldn’t be “short.”

To me, the two most logical horses to pull the upset are both 8/1 on the morning line. I’ll start with the horse I think has the best shot and that is #4 – Sueno. I liked his effort in the Southwest Stakes in which he was full of run early, had to check a little bit behind horses on the backstretch, sat patiently while horses moved all around him from the backstretch around the far turn, finally got clear and came running to grab second behind 62/1 winner Super Steed.

I think Sueno and his rider Corey Lanerie, showed a lot of poise in that race, and were flattered when third place finisher Long Range Toddy came back to upset Improbable in the Rebel Stakes. With an over abundance of deep closers signed on in this race, I think he’ll probably get a much cleaner trip and doesn’t have to improve much from the 89 Beyer Speed Figure he earned in the Southwest to match War of Will’s 92 last out. Finally, his last three starts in which he finished first, second and second came at three different tracks, so travelling doesn’t seem to be an issue.

The other contender I am interested in is Todd Pletcher’s Spinoff (8/1). The son of Hard Spun is bred to run early and showed it by romping over a short Optional Claiming field at Tampa by 11 lengths off a six month layoff. He gets the class test here, but does catch a field without a lot of early speed and shouldn’t have much trouble either securing the lead or sitting off potential pace-setter Lemniscate (15/1). From there, it will just be a matter of how slow he can go on the front end and how far he can carry his speed.

Longshots:

#7 – Mr. Money (20/1) moved with War of Will last time from about a length behind, was clobbered in the stretch by a fast closing Country House and faded to seventh. His Risen Star effort came off a three-month layoff, prior to which he had finished a respectable fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile behind Game Winner. He should get another mid-pack trip this time in which he’ll get another jump on the deep closers. He could make some noise if he can improve second off the layoff.

If you’re looking for horses to clunk up the Trifecta and Superfecta, I’d look at these three:

#3 Limonite (20/1) – second off a layoff for Asmussen at 20/1.
#9 Bankit (20/1) – Asmussen, Irad Ortiz at 20/1
#11 Hog Creek Hustle (12/1) – Had some trouble in the Risen Star, gets and outside post and possibly a cleaner trip.

I see absolutely no value in backing the deep closer, Country House (9/2), as the expected second choice in this race. Just too much has to go his way for him to win or even hit the board, and it’s just not worth swallowing a short price on a deep closer like him.

The verdict:

In the end, I don’t see much keeping War of Will from either winning for finishing second in this race. There isn’t much pace in here and he should be able to work out a decent stalking trip, perhaps even a better trip than last time from the six hole. I expect Lemniscate and/or Spinoff will be War of Will’s target on the front end.

If Spinoff is ready to make another nine-point Beyer leap, it’s quite possible he could run away with it. He should have every chance to win on the front end.

Sueno could be the “now” horse for the Keith Desormeaux barn. I expect him to be just off the pace and to be a factor when the real running begins around the far turn.

Since I don’t have a strong reason to stand against War of Will in this one, I’ll consider small Win bets on either Sueno or Spinoff should one of the two drift up to 10/1 or better. I think Spinoff could go off as low as 5/1, which might make Sueno drift up or vice-versa.

I will consider a $5 Trifecta on War of Will over Spinoff, Sueno (2nd) over Mr. Money (3rd) for $10 as a pure action bet.

With an extra day to look at Sunday’s Sunland Derby, I am going to take it and will see you back here Saturday night. Until then, best of luck with your bets.

Rebel Review and La. Derby/Sunland Preview

21 Mar

By Lucky Kalanges

It didn’t take long for me to realize I took my Rebel stand in the wrong race.

The first division of the Rebel was one of those times when the horse you key in second in the Exacta was better than the horse you assumed was going to win. Of course, I am talking about Long Range Toddy running down Improbable to prevail by a neck.

As I mentioned in my last blog post, I was interested in Long Range Toddy as an underneath Exacta horse and I played it exactly that way, Improbable over Long Range Toddy straight up. Basically, I was settling for an 8-to-1 return on my money, which I thought was acceptable for betting for the best horse in the field other than Improbable to finish second.

Of course, in my infinite wisdom, I had no interest in the 22.80-to-1 payoff in the unlikely event my key horse proved best. Nope, didn’t need it. Improbable was going to win!

And as I was listening to the race call, I got that dreaded feeling you get when your longshot is closing fast and – like an idiot! – you didn’t box that Exacta!

While it wasn’t the best way to kick off my day, I’d been here before and we still had the second division of the Rebel to come. I had high hopes that Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Champ, Game Winner, was going down and this Braintrust was going to clean up with his straight Win bet on the nose of Our Braintrust, who was sent to post at a generous 9/1.

What happened was another case of “Right Idea, Wrong Horse.” Game Winner did lose by the slimmest of margins, a nose, to 9/2 second choice Omaha Beach, while Our Braintrust got a wide trip, folded like a cheap suit and staggered home last. I am bit slow to catch on, but I think it’s now safe to assume the Withers – the race that Our Braintrust exited – is extremely suspect, as none of its top three finishers have performed well in their next starts.

On To New Orleans and Sunland Park

This week the Road to the Kentucky Derby stops Saturday in New Orleans and Sunday at Sunland Park, New Mexico. On Saturday, War of Will attempts to sweep the Bayou Route to Louisville in the $1 million Louisiana Derby. And on Sunday, El Camino Derby winner Anothertwistafate seeks to punch the Blaine Wright barn’s ticket to Churchill Downs in the $800,000 Sunland Park Derby.

Since switching from turf to dirt, War of Will has been as impressive as any horse I’ve seen thus far on the Derby trail, winning both the Lecomte and Risen Star relatively easily from a wide, stalking position. Check out the replay by clicking the link above. He’s a big, imposing figure, and seems to catch a bit of a break without an abundance of early speed in this heat as well. He should be able to secure his usual stalking trip just behind the leaders, and open up on the closers as he’s done the last two times around the Crescent City oval.

There are a couple horses who could put War of Will’s three-race winning streak in jeopardy, however, and I’ll be back Friday with a quick look at this race, and to assess our local hero’s chances in the Sunland Park Derby. As usual, you can watch and wager on both races this weekend at Pleasanton OTB.

FREE NIGHT ADMISSION as Los Alamitos Takes A Week Off

Los Alamitos recently announced that it will be closed this Friday through Sunday night for track maintenance. With the late announcement, we’re going to take the opportunity to offer FREE Night Admission this week at Pleasanton OTB. Come out Friday, Saturday or Sunday night after 4 p.m. and admission is FREE OF CHARGE.

If quarter horses are your game, we’ve got Remington Park both Friday and Saturday night. They have among the fullest fields of quarter horses I’ve seen recently, which makes for a great betting product.

Japanese racing also returns Saturday night, and we’ve got full fields of horses on the grass from Australia, as always, every Friday, Saturday and Sunday night.

If the sulkies are your game, Cal Expo, Meadowlands and Woodbine-Mohawk are the main course on Friday and Saturday nights. We hope to see you out at Pleasanton OTB this weekend.

Come say “hi” to Linda and Yours Truly behind the counter.