• Déjà vu All Over Again

    POSTED Mar 31, 2011
    Two years ago at a second tier track in a state known more for its college sports stars than its equine athletes, a horse named Kelly Leak won a nondescript Kentucky Derby prep. Although it carried a healthy $900,000 purse at the time, the Sunland Derby wasn’t even graded (today, it offers an $800,000 purse and has been accorded Grade III status… go figure). Yet, in many ways, the lack of respect made sense. After all, since its inaugural running in 2003 until 2008, the New Mexico feature had sent a grand total of just one entrant – Sort It Out in ’05 – to the big dance on the first Saturday in May. In fact, calling it a Kentucky Derby prep was probably overly optimistic, if not downright silly.

    All that changed on March 29, 2009. Not because of Kelly Leak; after his victory in the desert, the son of Runaway Groom won just one of 11 subsequent starts — and that was an optional claiming event on the turf at Santa Anita. No, the horse that gave the Sunland Derby the legitimacy that prize money alone could not was Mine That Bird. After finishing fourth at Sunland Park, the little horse that could shocked the world with a stunning victory at Churchill Downs, paying $103.20 to win — the second-highest mutuel return in Kentucky Derby history (Donerail paid $184.90 in 1913).

    2009 Sunland Derby

    Now, I must admit I was as stunned as race caller Tom Durkin when Mine That Bird crossed the wire first in the 2009 Run for the Roses. But I didn’t think it was a fluke… well, at least not after some time had passed and I was able to process what I had seen. In the heat of the moment, I was willing to believe nearly anything. In fact, in the hours and days following Mine That Bird’s 6 3/4-length Derby romp, my faith in logic and reason was so shaken that I was on the verge of helping O.J. Simpson find the “real” killer of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman. I watched “Baywatch” that evening and found the plot riveting. In short, I was really messed up.

    However, I soon realized that the 2009 Kentucky Derby result was not as improbable as it first appeared, nor was the Sunland Derby that year the horrible prep that I initially believed it to be. One thing the ’09 Sunland Derby featured was an incredibly fast pace — and Mine That Bird contested that pace while racing four-wide on the final turn. In fact, the son of Birdstone’s -14 early speed ration (ESR) in New Mexico was the best such recent figure in the entire Kentucky Derby field. True, the gelding’s speed figure in that race was on the light side (just an 88 Brisnet speed figure, well below the 107 Kentucky Derby par), but that was obviously due to the blistering early splits.

    Well, as Yogi Berra once said it’s looking like “déjà vu all over again.” Take a gander at the past performances of the 2009 Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird and Astrology, a Steve Asmussen trainee that is seeking Derby glory this year:

    (Click on image to enlarge)

    Look familiar? To me, the similarities are startling — right down to the weak overall speed figures that both horses display. The only difference is that the Sunland Derby was Mine That Bird’s final Kentucky Derby prep, whereas it was Astrology’s first.

    2011 Sunland Derby

    In any event, you can bet I’ll be keeping a close eye on the son of A.P. Indy when he makes his next start. Who knows, the winner of this year’s Kentucky Derby may be written in the stars.

    Back to the Future III

    This weekend, the third and final Kentucky Derby future wagering pool will be offered through TwinSpires.com and other venues. Visit www.twinspires.com/content/kyderbyfuture3 to get free past performances for all of the pool contenders.
  • Yonkers Series Ensues With Another Sextet

    POSTED Mar 30, 2011
    Veteran pacing males continue in the crowded and talented George Morton Levy Memorial Pacing Series at Yonkers on Saturday, April 2. Another six, 1-mile divisions add to another stakes-series-filled Yonkers weekend, which includes the continuing of the Sagamore Hill, Bluechip Matchmaker and Petticoat series.

    ‘Levy’ Leg Two

    With $50,000 on the line in each division of the Levy again this Saturday, the Free-For-Allers battle to earn a chance at the April 30 final. This week’s free-for-all harness-handicapping product for “Levy” players is available by clicking here. Take advantage of these tools, which will be available every Saturday during the series.

    In the first division of the Levy series, Race 6, the likely favorite Foreign Officer will be tough to beat again. He went the fastest of all divisions last week, winning in 1:52.4. The one to watch though is Legal Litigator. He had to go three wide as Mainland Key N broke and interfered with most of the field.

    In the second division, Race 7, Valentino is the horse to beat and is the likely favorite. He closed to finish fourth in round one, after being shuffled to the back of the field. Watch for good odds on Southern Allie for an upset. She was badly hung but was still able to hold on for third.

    In the third division, Race 8, Blatantly Good will likely take the bulk of the public’s money after winning last week. The one to beat in this field, though, is Poker Hat. He broke last time and still came and during the worst trip you can ever have he returned to the mix of the race and was hung. Also dangerous are Real Celebration and for value with these two in exotics, Forensic Z Tam.

    In Race 9, the fourth division, Lahaye will likely be the public choice. He won the first leg easily, which is why the horse to beat him is Mainland Key N. If he stays flat, which he should, he will be a fierce competitor.

    In the evening’s penultimate division, Race 10, there is no clear favorite as we see. But the one to watch for value here is Classic Rock Nroll. He was hung for two quarters and still finished third. He will be tough.

    In the last division, Race 11, Foiled Again will be tough to beat as he looks to sweep the legs and go for another championship. The one that will try to beat him is Trueys Legacy. He had trouble racing from the outside last time. Moving inside will be a huge help.

    Matching Winners         

    Friday, April 1, Yonkers presents the second round of the Bluechip Matchmaker.

    In the first division, Race 8, On The Glass will be the likely favorite. Last week, she closed hard to just lose to Save My Shark by a length. The one that could upset in this field is Twin B Tiara. Last time, she was hung in the second fastest quarter of the race, :28.4 at three-quarters. Park Avenue and Omen Hanover parked her out.

    In the next division, Race 9, Symphony In Motion should get the favorite spot and is the horse to watch in this race. She was hung far behind the leader and faltered to fifth in round one. Brian Sears takes back the drive for trainer Mark Harder. Also watch Jasperthat A. She was shuffled back and found cover in the middle of the race. She closed to finish third.

    In the third of four divisions, Race 11, Ginger And Fred is coming off a sharp win in the first leg. The 2010 series winner got her first win of the new season. But the one to watch is Hula’s Z Tam. She closed late at the end of the race to dead heat for third. Also watch Ramona Disomma. She was shuffled back and came on strongly in the last hundred yards. But she had to settle for fourth.

    In the nightcap, Race 12, Save My Shark will be the likely favorite after beating On The Glass. She went wire to wire, winning in 1:54.4. A horse that will be competitive here is Farmers Tuition. She was hung last week and dead heated with Hula’s Z Tam as they were gaining on Tomorrowpan.

    Canadian Finals

    In the Youthful Stakes Final at Woodbine, the two horses the public will not ignore are the elimination winners, Calgary Seelster and I’m Feelin Good. But one they will ignore is Fox Valley Yukon. He was shuffled back and closed to finish second to Calgary Seelster in one elim. Also watch Cobalt Man. He went a fast opening quarter and gave way but should do better with the big dough on the line.

    In the Spring Pacing Championship, April 2, Alexie Mattosie looks like the public choice but we are keeping an eye on Lisagain. The best he has done in stakes races was in Canada. Also in the mix, you cannot count out Hypnotic Blue Chip.

    Cal Exotic

    Race 11
    (2) Gentle Dragon was third while well backed and picks up some uneven competitors in this race. (8) Incredible Gambler should race better against these than he did placing as the favorite last out to the 9 horse here. 

    Race 12
    (3) Natty Lite was a dead heat for second last out and may go off at better odds here, where it looks like easy pickings.

    Race 13
    (3) Don’t Dally Witch was in our ticket last week and fired for the lead from the outside at 8-1, leading a good piece of the mile. (7) Messina raced better than 36-1 and looms the outsider than could topple tickets.     

    Race 14
    (1) Alias Jones closed so strongly last week that this week he looks best in an unimpressive field.

    If you want to use all of these, the ticket cost $8.

    Watch List Action

    We are considering six horses in the Sagamore Hill series, round two at Yonkers, April 2. In Race 1, Cooperstown Kid (1); Race 2, P L Dragon (1); Race 3, Dragon Laws (5); Race 4, Electrofire (3) and (6) Untold Legend and Race 5, Army Hanover (4).

    In the Petticoat on April 1, we are considering seven horses. In Race 1, Nanette Hall (1); Race 2, Four Starz Roe (6) and Free Fi Girl (3); Race 4, Hank’s Queen (3) and Sir Jillian Z Tam (4); Race 5, Moving Art (7) and Race 6, My Juliana’s Girl (3).

    (Ray Cotolo assisted in this edition.)
  • Net Pool Pricing Revised

    NOTE: Some time ago, I wrote about Net Pool Pricing (NPP). Given some recent inquiries I’ve received following my generally unsuccessful attempts to take advantage of NPP in the inaugural “Score with Simon” pool, I thought now might be a good time to revisit the subject.

    With new bets littering the horse wagering landscape like bruised egos at a sports fantasy camp, perhaps the greatest boon to pari-mutuel bettors — Net Pool Pricing (NPP) — was greeted with little fanfare when it was first introduced to an American audience as a result of the 1996 Breeders’ Cup, which was held at Woodbine race course.

    Arguably the biggest Canadian import since John Candy, NPP allows for different breakage, takeout and currency exchange rates to exist harmoniously within the same pool — something that has become increasingly more important as simulcast betting continues to expand globally. Yet, Net Pool Pricing didn’t become the norm at most U.S. tracks until just a few years ago.

    “I believe the first track to use Net Pool Pricing in the U.S. was Arlington Park — and they started in 2004,” noted Liz Bracken, vice president and director of simulcast sales and content acquisition for the New York Racing Association (NYRA). “Net Pool Pricing was instituted at all NYRA tracks approximately October 19, 2005.

    “I remember it was about a week before the Breeders' Cup that we held at Belmont that year,” Bracken added.

    While NPP has had little effect on win bettors, those seeking value in the place and show pools have surely noticed a positive change, especially in races featuring a heavy favorite. Because the amount returned to winning ticket holders is divided after the takeout and currency adjustments have already been accounted for, the days of severely discounted place and show payoffs on every horse whenever a chalky choice hits the board have become a thing of the past.

    Take, for example, the Grade III Victory Ride Stakes run at Saratoga on Aug. 23, 2008. Listed below are the top three finishers in that race, along with their closing pool totals:

    Win: $32,786 ($27,868 minus 15% take)
    Place: $13,378 ($11,371)
    Show: $11,522 ($9,793)

    Win: $278,912 ($237,075)
    Place: $50,252 ($42,714)
    Show: $178,658 ($151,859)

    Win: $ 53,736 ($45,675)
    Place: $19,798 ($16,828)
    Show: $12,245 ($10,408)

    Win: $477,850 ($406,172)
    Place: $128,267 ($109,026)
    Show: $233,093 ($198,129)

    Using the “old school” method of computing win, place and show payoffs, the various odds are computed thusly:

    Porte Bonheur
    Win odds: ($406,172-$32,786)/$32,786= 11.35 (adjusted for nickel breakage).
    Place odds: ($109,026-$13,378-$50,252)/2/$13,378= 1.65.
    Show odds: ($198,129-$11,522-$178,658-$12,245)/3/$11,522= 0.05 (minimum legal odds).

    Place odds: ($109,026-$13,378-$50,252)/2/$50,252= 0.45.
    Show odds: ($198,129-$11,522-$178,658-$12,245)/3/$178,658= 0.05.

    Informed Decision
    Show odds: ($198,129-$11,522-$178,658-$12,245)/3/$12,245= 0.05.

    With net pool pricing, the approximate odds are as follows:

    Porte Bonheur
    Win odds: (($406,172-$27,868)/$27,868+1) x (1-0.15)-1= 11.35 (adjusted for nickel breakage).
    Place odds: (($109,026-$11,371-$42,714)/2/$11,371+1) x (1-0.15)-1= 1.90.
    Show odds: (($198,129-$9,793-$151,859-$10,408)/3/$9,793+1) x (1-0.15)-1= 0.60.

    Place odds: (($109,026-$11,371-$42,714)/2/$42,714+1) x (1-0.15)-1= 0.35.
    Show odds: (($198,129-$9,793-$151,859-$10,408)/3/$151,859+1) x (1-0.15)-1= 0.05.

    Informed Decision
    Show odds: (($198,129-$9,793-$151,859-$10,408)/3/$10,408+1) x (1-0.15)-1= 0.55.

    Notice that, under the NPP model, only the place and show odds on Indyanne are lower than those computed before, while the corresponding odds on Porte Bonheur and Informed Decision are considerably higher. This is particularly significant to show bettors, as it allows value-oriented players to find viable alternatives to a heavy favorite without needing them to win. Such was the case in the 2008 Preakness Stakes when Big Brown paid $2.40 straight, while the show returns on Macho Again and Icabad Crane checked in at $10.40 and $5.60 respectively.

    But the real bonanza for bettors occurs when the chalk finishes off the board (worse than third). Suppose, instead of finishing second in the Victory Ride, Indyanne had finished out of the money and Palanka City, who finished fourth, had grabbed the show honors. What would that have done to the payoffs? Take a look:

    Show: $8,311 ($7,064)

    Porte Bonheur
    Show odds: (($198,129-$9,793-$10,408-$7,064)/3/$9,793+1) x (1-0.15)-1= 4.75.

    Informed Decision
    Show odds: (($198,129-$9,793-$10,408-$7,064)/3/$10,408+1) x (1-0.15)-1= 4.50.

    Palanka City
    Show odds: (($198,129-$9,793-$10,408-$7,064)/3/$7,064+1) x (1-0.15)-1= 6.70.

    In this scenario, Pete Bonheur returns $11.50 to show and Informed Decision, $11.00. Given that most negative pools — those requiring the track to kick in money in order to compensate winning bettors — are generated in short fields, these types of generous payoffs add a whole new twist to value wagering, as they provide horseplayers with a relatively high-percentage method of beating the races.

    Under NPP, simply by limiting one’s wagering to the best one or two non-favored entrants in races featuring a negative place or show pool, sharp handicappers can realistically expect to break even or show a slight loss while holding out for the occasional windfall that puts them solidly in the black.
  • Cotolo’s Harness-Weekend Review, 3-28-11

    POSTED Mar 27, 2011
    With good news circulating about the survival of the Meadowlands came a sweeping run on favorites in the final weekend before the hiatus. Sure, there were some wild priced winners here and there but only when the public choices met circumstances that were too challenging for them to overcome.

    Meanwhile, on the left coast, the Cal-Expo latest quartet of standardbreds making up the races in the no-takeout late Pick 4 every Saturday, were a cool blend of public choices and mistakes.

    From past contenders in our campaign to hit the Pick 4 came a clear winner we had included in past tickets for the exotic recently. On Saturday, March 26, El Grande Real got the trip we hoped for and won fair and square (the favorite raced evenly but was clearly not the best and not in trouble), paying $43.40.

    In the Pick 4 we handed you half of the winning combination, with a generously priced Heelwin taking the first leg at $12.60 and an obvious choice in the last leg, Nikoleta, paying $5.60.

    At Yonkers, where the pacing parade brought horses and mares to major spring series, the public choices were strong and delivered. Our only choice contender was Starspangledpanner in a division of the Sagamore Hill and we never expected him to have such a strong backing.

    Our “Levy” choices were all in the mix but not in the winner’s circle. In fact, the only top choice we endorsed, River Shark, wound up third to a 7-2 shot, the highest paying Levy winner of the series’ sextet that night.

    Rounding up our suggestions, Go Go Solano finished second (exacta with favorite was $16.80); Blueridge Western took the place (exacta with favorite was $6.50); Real Nice was third. The Mohegan Sun, a horse we are still watching, broke and was eliminated.

    Continue to take advantage of getting free harness products at TwinSpires for the Levy series, which takes place in divisions for the next four Saturdays before a final on April 30. TwinSpires makes it possible to introduce you to the many handicapping products available at Brisnet. Check for details on playing the Free For All series with tools free for all by clicking here.

    Harness News

    The Prix d’Amerique winner, Real Cash, is slated to be among the field of the 2011 Breeders Crown as of this writing. From France, where Real Cash has been a local sensation, comes another trotter, Rapide Lebel, a six-year-old that just won his ninth-straight race at Vincennes.

    He traversed the 1 11/16-miles event on March 26 in 1:55.4 as the 1-5 choice. He won the race despite getting rough-gaited, according to reports, twice. His trainer is Sebastian Guarto, who may be looking at meeting Real Cash and other top aged trotters in Canada for the “Crown.” The trotter goes to Sweden next, in search of his 10th-straight win.

    Speaking of aged trotters, Trond Smedshammer’s Arch Madness made his 2011 debut on March 25, winning at 5-2 in an Open Handicap Trot. Trond held the reins to win in 1:53.4 at Chester Downs. “Arch” is seven and should be a major contender in the division’s battles that will lead to the Crown.

    Another veteran trotter, Corleone Kosmos, qualified in Florida recently. He has not been on the track since July 2010. He has been plagued with physical problems. Tom Haughton is handling the nine-year-old. We’ll keep an eye on his progress, as he may have a lot of muscle left for racing.

    Woodbine has made a slight change in post times. Until the meet’s end on May 16, the first race will begin at 7:30 p.m. (EST), 20 minutes later than before, except for Mondays, which remain at 7:10 p.m.

    (Cartoon by Thom Pye)
  • Pacers Stampede At Yonkers

    POSTED Mar 23, 2011
    This weekend older pacing males race their guts out as the George Morton Levy Memorial Pacing Series starts on Saturday, March 26 at Yonkers wit six, 1-mile divisions (remember that stakes do not race the 1 1/16-miles distance). The big Yonkers weekend begins the day before with the Bluechip Matchmaker series’ start.

    March is almost over, so take advantage of getting free harness past performances at TwinSpires. As well, the “Levy” series makes it possible to introduce you to the many handicapping products available at Brisnet. Check the home page for details on playing the Free For All series with tools free for all.

    The Meadowlands Racetrack’s spring break begins after the March 26 program. Dark during the month of April, racing resumes on Saturday, May 7, with Thursday-Saturday night cards through Hambletonian day, Saturday, Aug. 6.  A special matinee will be raced on Mother’s Day, Sunday, May 8 (post time 1:10 p.m.).  Weekend-only cards will be raced the two weeks following the Hambletonian, Aug. 12-13 and Aug. 19-20. More about stakes coverage leading to and for the Hambletonian is pending. Keep watching this blog and the TwinSpires Facebook page for details.

    Super Sextet

    Here is our analysis of the six divisions opening the six-week event.

    Levy Race 7
    Dreamlands Art (4) is one of Ron Burke’s series campaigners, coming from the trainer’s hot stable at the Meadows. “Art” is ready for this and could come through with a price.
    Foreign Officer (1) was one of the top three-year-old pacers last year and should be in it. Wholly Louy (2) returns to the series where he has done best.

    Levy Race 8
    Real Nice (7) loves this track and this series, playing a longshot role in exotics as well as winning legs more than once. He should be a good price here with two-time defending series champ Foiled Again on the plyons.
    Whackamole Hanover (2) is looking to go three for four. The outsider could be Poker Hat (5), expected to race better than he has recently.

    Levy Race 9
    Go Go Solano (1) is a New York-bred champ who can battle with the best of this group. He is bound to pick up some big cash in the series even if he doesn’t make it to the end, so grab what he may offer now.
    Southwind Lynx (5) loves Yonkers and returns after doing well at Dover. Valentino (8) comes to Yonkers for the first time in the Surick barn. Last year, this horse almost beat One More Laugh in the Cleveland Classic at 10-1. 
    Levy Race 10
    The Mohegan Pan (3) has had some rough miles at the Meadowlands while being heavily backed. This could be the place for him and hopefully he will be ignored on the board.
    Legal Litigator (7) comes back after losing here in his last start. Pangiorno (1) comes off a good qualifier in 1:53.1. The one to watch is Forensic Z Tam (5), who meets less aggressive field then he is used to facing.

    Levy Race 11
    Bluegrass Western (4) does not promise a good price here but may be ready for a giant mile. Shoobee’s Place (2) comes to get his first victory in 2011. Southern Allie (5) struggled at the Meadowlands and comes back to Yonkers after breaking issues. The one to watch is This Is Wyatt (1), coming off a win in the Open Handicap at Yonkers; he has won four of six this year.

    Levy Race 12
    There is no reason to deny River Shark (1). He is arguably the best FFA member this season thus far. His prohibitive price makes him a key, not a win bet. 

    Matching Winners         

    Friday, March 25’s first division of the Matchmaker presents Headpoles R Us, who has dominated the Open class at Yonkers. Chancey Lady is coming in after struggling in the Overbid series at the Big M. But the one to watch is Hannah Isabel (3). She already has experience on the half-mile, winning twice and taking a season’s mark of 1:55.4.

    In the second division, Ginger And Fred returns to defend her series title. Run On Luck is coming in for the Casie Coleman stable. The one to watch is Ramona Disomma (1). She comes to a different track and gets George Brennan, the driver who drove her to victory in the Overbid, where she defeated Ginger And Fred, in 2010.

    In the penultimate division, Matron winner Ticket To Rock makes her 2011 debut. Ticket To Rock was one of many filly pacers who dominated at the Grand Circuit at the Red Mile. Hula’s Z Tam comes to get her first win in 2011. This New York Sires Stakes champ had trouble in her last start. I-lady comes off an upset and a stakes record in the Damsel at Woodbine. The one to watch is Hula’s Z Tam (3). 

    In the closer, Jasperthat A comes back to her home track. She had been at the Meadowlands for Invitationals, the Cape & Cutter and Overbid. Western Graduate has had trouble on two turns all year and On The Glass comes back to this series. The one to watch is Jasperthat A (1). She should be a bit more comfortable on the half-mile.

    Meadowlands Pick 4

    The $100,000 guaranteed Pick 4 at the Meadowlands for the winter meet comes to a close this Saturday. Don’t forget there is a 10-percent bonus when playing the Pick 4 on TwinSpires.

    Race 6
    (5) Dinner Guest made two moves last week and still managed to finish third, he is dangerous.

    Race 7
    (1) Majestic Jackpot made a good move last time in higher company and finished second. Moving to the rail will help. (7) Up Front Mustang has some class relief and has done better in higher company than this.

    Race 8
    (2) Bestnotlie Hanover was hung last week and steps down to a good condition for him. (6) Camshaft Hanover also steps down in class; he just couldn’t catch the leader to finish fourth last out. He has power and might show it tonight. (8) Super Eighty Eight was nosed at the wire to finish second in this condition from the same post.

    Race 9
    (1) Ol’ Man River moves to the inside after getting an outside trip. He could do better. (3) Basilio Blue Chip has been good all year. He made two moves last week but finished second.

    The price of this ticket is $12. Add or subtract horses to fit your budget.

    Cal Expo Pick 4

    Saturday, March 26 it's another shot at the no-takeout late Pick 4 at Cal Expo.

    Race 11
    (2) Heelwin was a sharp second last week to a good winner. (8) Perfect Magic was in a marred race but swept almost a dozen lengths to the top during the maylay.  

    Race 12
    (7) Jet Tet Tet should return with a win in this field of breakers, layoff horses and poor performances.

    Race 13
    (6) Pedal Pad was the beaten favorite last week in a better group than this, losing due to an overland journey. Another single.  

    Race 14
    (3) Nikoleta should have won but held for second. (8) Don’t Dally Witch shocked with a sharp-closing second at 24-1

    If you want to use all of these, the ticket cost $8. You can add to it but we like it so much we may buy it twice.

    Watch List Action

    We are considering five horses in the Petticoat Series at Yonkers on Friday. In Race 1 Evil Eva (1); Race 2, Virgin Mary (1); Race 3, Lightning Lucy (3); Race 4, Moving Art (5) and Race 5, Nanette Hall (5).

    Then on Saturday, we are considering six horses for the Sagamore Hill. In Race 1, Hasta Luego (7); Race 2, Starspangledpanner (7); Race 3, Park Lane Western (1); Race 4, Untold Legend (3); Race 5, Incredible Ben (2) and Race 6, Diamond Dust (5).

    (Ray Cotolo assisted in this edition.)
  • $25,000 Profit in 30-40 Days?

    I’m pleased to announce that the “Score with Simon” promotion kicks off this week. For those too busy catching up on old episodes of “Pretty Little Liars” and “The Vampire Diaries” to notice or care, i.e. my wife and kids, let me explain. “Score with Simon” is basically a weekly pari-mutuel mutual fund, capped at $10,000, that allows TwinSpires customers to wager along with me on a variety of races each Saturday. I’ll handle all of the handicapping duties, as well as make all of the wagering decisions. The only thing TwinSpires clients need to do is buy into the pool (for as little as $10) and be prepared to praise me for winning weekends or curse me for losing ones — a “win-win” situation, according to one of my many sick and twisted Facebook friends.

    Unfortunately, there are some drawbacks to this arrangement:

    1) The bets have to be in well before post time (denying me the knowledge of scratches or, in some cases, surface switches).

    2) I will not be able to use my fair odds and, thus, will have to guess which horses are likely to be overlays and which figure to be underlays.

    3) All pool participants will know who and what I’m betting; hence, I run the (great) risk of becoming a modern-day Robert Saunders Dowst.

    NOTE: A lawyer by trade, Robert Saunders Dowst discovered a way to beat the races, which he published in “Profits on Horses” and Esquire magazine in 1937. The Dowst Consistency System produced 315 qualified plays, 108 winners (34.3 percent) and a healthy return on investment (ROI) of 30.2 percent from Jan. 20, 1937 to Oct. 13, 1937. However, as more and more players learned of Dowst’s success and hitched their wagons to his star, the system quit working.

    Of course, there’s nothing that can be done in regard to points 1 & 2, but the Dowst effect can, at the very least, be minimized… with a little help from my friends. If you invest in the pool, I beg of you: do not share the information you receive with anybody else — not even an imaginary friend or inquisitive sock puppet. Also, if you simply must bet the picks on your own (outside of the group), please do so in ways not specified on the “Score with Simon” ticket. In other words, if the SWS wager is to win and place on The Green Monkey, go ahead and use the horse in the exacta, trifecta, pick three, etc. — just avoid the win and place pools.

    Now, for my part, I make everybody that participates in the assorted weekly pools this promise: I will give my very best handicapping and wagering effort. Furthermore, I have set a rather lofty goal. Many of you will remember — and, perhaps like me, were inspired by — Andrew Beyer’s book “My $50,000 Year at the Races,” in which Beyer detailed the year he won 50-large betting on thoroughbreds. Well, I’m only going to have 30-40 betting days available to me, but based on a variety of calculations and a few prayers, I am setting a profit target of $25,000 by the end of the year (provided the promotion runs that long). Obviously this is ambitious, maybe even foolhardy, but I always say a handicapper needs to be bold and confident in his/her abilities — and I am both. In fact, I just got a blood transfusion from some guy named Sheen and I now believe that anything is possible, especially the impossible.

    Exotic Betting

    One of the first things I did upon learning about the aforementioned “Score with Simon” promotion was buy a trench coat and learn everything I could about the various Colombian Cartels. Then, once the promotion was fully explained to me and I realized that I’d made a few faulty assumptions, I determined to study exotic wagering, using my Win Factor Report (computerized fair odds line) as a guidepost. The following is a video presentation detailing that study.

    P.S. I kept the trench coat.

    No More Speed

    Last week, I discussed the erosion of early speed in the Kentucky Derby and I noted that many of today’s riders seem to have adopted the “European approach, i.e. a moderate beginning followed by a flying finish,” which I traced to the scheduling of more grass and AWS races. A peek at some of this year’s graded Derby preps to date compared to those from 2007, the year prior to the CHRB mandate requiring that California switch from dirt to synthetic surfaces, shows that this erosion is widespread:

    (Click on image to enlarge)

    Notice that only at Santa Anita, and to a lesser degree Oaklawn Park (The Factor earned a -6 ESR in his Rebel romp), does early speed still reign supreme. And let’s be honest: much of what we’re seeing at the Great Race Place is due to jockeys urging their mounts out of the gate to take advantage of a supposed bias said to be propelling horses to victory like one of those old Hot Wheels Turbo Boosters.

    What’s interesting to me is what this “new” emphasis on speed in California will mean in Kentucky on the first Saturday in May. Something tells me that Derby preps in the Golden State (at least those at Santa Anita) have become relevant again.

    Early Speed Ration (ESR): A measurement of a horse’s early energy expenditure in relation to the total race requirements. The lower the figure, the greater the horse’s early exertion in that event.

    * Demanding (-15)
    * Brisk (-10)
    * Moderate (-5)
    * Soft (0)
  • Cotolo’s Harness-Weekend Review, 3-21-11

    POSTED Mar 20, 2011
    A mild weekend in the harness game for some players is when the public takes away all of the edges that seemed secure during the handicapping process. A lot of players wind up passing races they thought might be profitable, as we did this past weekend, due to prices we did not entirely expect.

    All that surfaced in the overlay department took place in a single race at Yonkers on Saturday, March 19. In last Thursday’s blog we mentioned watching for Park Lane Western in one of the Sagamore divisions. That Saturday on the TwinSpires Facebook page, we also mentioned Hasta Luego in that same race.

    Hasta Luego wound up the winner, paying $18 and Park Lane Western finished second, igniting an $89.50 exacta.

    This is another reason we urge players to make note of the official blog watch-list horses as well as keep up to date with last-minute additions and changes at the TwinSpires Facebook page. That hit alone saved the weekend from a string of chalky winners.

    In the parade of passed-on favorites (for us) was Lorrie Please ($3.10), Tuff Enuff Hanover ($3.30) and Andy Baran ($3.30) at Yonkers. (Tom Berg photo above.)

    Also coming in short was Red Star Wild One ($5.80) in the first leg of our attempt to nail the Cal Expo non-takeout late Pick 4. That investment was lessened with a scratch in leg four. However, our choices raced miserably, especially our single, Freedomize. Still ahead on our Pick 4 campaign at the California oval, we will continue to strike with moderate tickets, a tactic that has proven successful.

    At the Meadowlands we miscalculated the Overbid Final. Our early interpretation, involving a long price and good race from Cuz She Can, was half correct; she was a long price (23-1). However, she was a suggested contender based upon what we thought would be short prices on Not Enough and Laughandbehappy.

    Those two turned out to be not so obvious to the public. Not Enough was the favorite but at 8-5. We were figuring even money on her. As well, Laughandbehappy was sent away at 7-1, a gigantic price for this productive mare. Although we couldn’t take credit for the win by “Enough” and the second-place finish for “Laugh,” we hope you followed the “spirit” of our laws of play here and used the top two we mentioned somehow. The exacta came back generously, at $35.60.

    All of your decisions should include the reality of immediate circumstances. Our price predictions are not always correct and cannot always be correct considering the time our choices are made. We insist upon followers to make their own decisions about passing and playing races based on the actual closing odds.

    That being written, our Cam Fella Final choice, Web Cam, was a victim at 66-1 of Meirs Hanover, whom we admitted was the horse to beat and who was the horse that could not be beaten. We never have a problem in a case like that race, where we are trying to upset the dominant horse. That is a pass or play with low expectations.

    To prove that point, we draw your attention to the Damsel Stakes, where our 24-1 LH Nenia was dead last after a gallant first-over journey to three-quarters, while the race’s two top choices were defeated by the unpredictably magic trip of  I Lady at 23-1.

    So the pendulum swings both ways with attempts to defeat the heavy choices, in stakes or overnights; it never matters. In the long run, however, the cut-and-dry longshot targets, when pitted against the underlay favorites, are the best plays. And our suggested contenders and watch-list results clearly defend this.

    Harness News

    Freehold Raceway’s racing schedule for the balance of its winter-spring meet includes harness action Wednesday through Saturday. Then in April the track will go to a three- day-a-week schedule, with programs on Thursday through Saturday. The $80,000 Lady Suffolk Trot on May 6 and the $160,000 Dexter Cup Final on May 7 will highlight the meet as the Grand Circuit races for 2011 begin. Racing will continue through May 21 with a 12:30 p.m. (EST) post.

    Pompano normally ends its season in May but this year the Florida harness track will race through mid-July. With Pocono Downs opening in April, some of the usual Pennsylvania-based horsemen at Pompano will have to decide if and when to return north before July. Top drivers and trainers, like the Napolitanos, spend the off-Pocono months down south, as does Joe Pavia, Jr. and others who regularly score in the Keystone State.

    Slave Dream, last year's Nat Ray champ, won a qualifier at Mohawk to launch his return to the elder-trot ranks. He had not raced since October of 2010. His trainer, Frank O'Reilly, drove the six-year-old gelding to a win by 2 lengths in 1:58.1.

    The horse we loved in last year’s Breeders Crown, Triumphant Caviar, also won a qualifier in his 2011 debut. He should be a strong rival to “Slave” in this year's free for all trot stakes. This guy went gate to wire to win by more than 4 lengths in 1:57.1 with trainer Chris Beaver in the bike.

    Tom Pye cartoon
  • SimonSays Handicapping Challenge

    POSTED Mar 18, 2011
    Week 8

    Anthony Kelzenberg

    All selections for Friday (3/18):

    Race 5A (Rosehill)
    40 units to win on #1 DESCARADO (5/2 ML in a 7 horse field).

    Comments: Descarado gets a HUGE jockey switch to Nash Rawiller, who wins at over 40% with trainer Gai Waterhouse. In addition, in his last race Descarado was ridden by an apprentice jockey with an awkward 6 wide trip - that is death in Australia. A "conspiracy theorist" might even venture that Gai told the apprentice jock to go 5 or 6 wide to get in extra conditioning. Despite this, the race's "even money" ML favorite, Maluckyday, saved most of the ground in the same comeback race and only beat Descarado by one length!! I really like Descarado's chances here.

    Race 7A (Rosehill)
    60 units to win on #1 Melito (4/1 ML in a 17 horse field).
    7 units exacta 1(Melito) with 7(Aloha).
    3 units exacta 7 with 1.

    Comments: #1 Melito has been facing the best sprinters (male and female) in Sydney. Switches to Gerald Ryan's "go to" jock Hugh Bowman. Faces fillies and mares only today in a "Restricted Group 1" on a track she likes (6-2-2-1). The effort at WAF (Warick Farm) might best be ignored and I rate her off the 19th February effort when she crushed stalwart sprinting mare Hot Danish.

    #7 Aloha is a very, very tall and muscular filly that has been putting up very competitive speed figures on the Melbourne-area tracks while winning 4 races in a row. Certainly on form Aloha is extremely dangerous. The distance is perfect for her, but often it is difficult for horses used to going left-handed (the Melbourne and North American direction) to all of a sudden race right-handed (the Sydney direction). That is the main reason I am placing Melito on top, as Aloha is probably the better athlete and value players may be tempted by her 6/1 ML.

    José D. De León Alejandro

    All picks for Saturday (3/19):

    Race 1 * 6 Furlongs * Dirt

    6-Dealing Lucky

    BET: $50 WIN on 7

    Race 3 * 1-1/8 Miles * Dirt

    1-Wishful Tomcat

    BET: $100 WIN on 1

    Race 5 * 1 Mile 70 Yards * Dirt

    3-Miami Hammer

    BET: $50 WIN on 3

    Race 7 * 6 Furlongs * Dirt

    6-Ground Force
    5-Master Splash

    BETS: $20 WIN on 5 and 6; $20 SECOND on 5 and 6; Pick 4: 5-6-7/1-2-4-5/5/2

    Race 9 * 6 Furlongs * Dirt

    5-Quantum Miss

    BET: $100 WIN on 5

    Gulfstream Park
    Race 3 * 1 Mile * Dirt

    5-Cal Nation

    BET: $100 WIN on 5

    Gulfstream Park
    Race 10 * 7 Furlongs * Dirt

    5-Hilda's Passion

    BET: $100 WIN on 5

    Fair Grounds
    Race 9 *5.5 Furlongs * Turf

    4-Wild About Marie
    6-Leopard Rock

    BETS: $10 WIN on 4; $10 PLACE on 11; $1Exacta Box 4-6-11

    Oaklawn Park
    Race 10 * 1-1/16 Miles * Dirt

    6-The Factor
    5-J.P.s Gusto
    9-Sway Away

    BETS: $100 WIN on 6; $100 ($2) Exacta Box: 5,6,9; $1 Trifecta Box: 5-6-9

    Tampa Bay Downs
    Race 9 * 1-1/16 Miles * Turf

    6-Voodoo Swinge
    1-Takes North
    7-Double Partner

    BETS: $10 WIN and $10 PLACE on 6 and 10; $1 Exacta Box: 1,6,7,10; $0.50 Trifecta Box: 1,3,6,7,10

    Turf Paradise
    Race 8 * 1 mile * Turf

    6-Doc Can Dance
    5-The Great Caper
    1-Cactus Breeze

    BETS: $10 WIN on 1,5,6; $1 Exacta Box: 1,5,6,

    Jon Lunman

    All selections at Gulfstream Park (3/4/11):

    Race 1
    SUPERFECTA BOX 2-5-7-8.

    SUPERFECTA BOX 1-4-5-7.

    Race 3
    SUPERFECTA BOX 1-6-8-10.

    Race 4
    SUPERFECTA BOX 1-2-6-8.

    Race 5
    SUPERFECTA BOX 1-3-4-7.

    Race 6
    SUPERFECTA BOX 2-5-7-9.

    Race 7
    SUPERFECTA BOX 5-6-9-10.

    Race 8
    SUPERFECTA BOX 1-3-5-11.

    Race 9
    SUPERFECTA BOX 3-4-6-12.

    Race 10
    SUPERFECTA BOX 2-6-8-12.

    Garnet Barnsdale

    Plays for Friday (3/18):

    Woodbine Harness

    Race 3: $20 ex box 4-5. Both horses may benefit from an early speed duel. If the #4, Dakota Noc wins, look for me, my wife son and sisters in the Winner's Circle!

    Race 6: There are 2 unbeaten horses squaring off in the Damsel Final and the #3-Speed to Spare and #4 Didrickson tower over this field. Gonna play some tris and supers. $20 Tri 3,4/3,4/1
    $2 Super 3,4/3,4/1,6,7,9/1,6,7,9; $4 Super 3,4/3,4/1/2,6,7,8,9; $4 Super 3,4/3,4/2,6,7,8,9/1.

    Race 8: The #5, Margarita Man raced creditably from the 10-hole vs. the VERY hot EW Fisher last time. The night's best handles these with ease (no chance he closes at the 9/2 m/l though) $100 Win #5; $2 Pick 4 - 5/ALL/3,4,5,6/8; $1 Pick 4 - 5/ALL/3,4,5,6/7.

    Race 11: The #8, She Just Rocks got the predicted agressive steer and won via a hugely brave first-over journey. She need only fear the #7, wish Away, if anyone, in this field. $30 Exacta 8-7, $20 exacta 7-8; $5 Tri 8/7/1,3,4,6,9; $5 Tri 8/1,3,4,6,9/7, $4tri 7/8/1,3,4,6,9; $2 Tri 7/1,3,4,6,9/8; $2 Super 8/7/1,3,4,6,9/1,3,4,6,9 $2 Super 8/1,3,4,6,9/7/1,3,4,6,9

    Saturday selections (3/19):

    Oaklawn Park Race 10 (The Rebel Stakes): Like my friend Tony Kelzenburg, I believe THE FACTOR is gonna open some people's eyes today and thrust himself clearly into the Derby picture. The bets - $200 Win 6. $20 exactas 6/1,10; $4 tri 6/1,10/all $4 tri 6/all/1,10.

    Woodbine Harness Race 6: This race looks fairly easy in that the 5 looks like a lock, and the 3 and 9 look much better than the rest for the minor placings. $40 Tri 5/9/3,6,7 $40 Tri 5/3/6,7,9; $20 Tri 5/3,6,7/9; $20 Tri 5/6,7,9/3; $5 super 5/3/6,7,9/6,7,9; $5 super 5/9/3,6,7/3,6,7; $5 Super 5/3,9/3,9/6,7.


  • Weekend Wagers

    Aqueduct (03/18/11)
    Race 5 * 6.0 Furlongs * Dirt

    5-Honor Hymn (2/1)
    Fair Odds: 2-1
    6-Proud Zoe (8/5)
    Fair Odds: 5-2
    4-Fivefifteen (20/1)
    Fair Odds: 15-1

    COMMENTS: I really like HONOR HYMN’s last race as a prep for this one. The daughter of Songandaprayer recorded an outrageously quick -16 early speed ration (ESR) while opening up a six-length lead at the first call of her first route try and now ships back to Aqueduct where she’s raced well (without winning) before. What’s more jockey Angel Arroya, who’s won 18 of his past 44 pairings with trainer Ramon Preciado, ships with her.

    BET(S): WIN on 5 at odds of 2-1 or greater.

    Freehold Raceway (03/18/11)
    Race 1 * 8.0 Furlongs * Pace

    1-Qtee Hanover (6/5)
    Fair Odds: 6-5
    6-Sweet Jane (5/1)
    Fair Odds: 5-1
    2-Duckie’s Delite (4/1)
    Fair Odds: 6-1

    COMMENTS: QTEE HANOVER is a Win Factor Report (WFR) “Key Selection.”

    BET(S): WIN on 1 at odds of 6-5 or greater.

    Parx Racing (03/19/11)
    Race 5 * 6.5 Furlongs * Dirt

    2-Hope Affirmed (2/1)
    Fair Odds: 1-1
    5-Irreconcilable (5/1)
    Fair Odds: 6-1
    4-Conga Bella (3/1)
    Fair Odds: 6-1

    COMMENTS: HOPE AFFIRMED is a WFR “Key Selection.”

    BET(S): WIN on 2 at odds of 1-1 or greater.

    Derek Simon’s Free Selection Statistics

    Races (Selections): 24 (26)
    Wins: 8
    Rate: 33.3%
    Return: $68.05
    ROI: +30.87%

    (This year's published selections through 03/17/11.)

    Note: Play is restricted to any horse(s) that meet my fair odds requirements (when listed). Multiple qualifying contenders will be bet separately, however, multiple bets will be adjusted to equal a single wager and the payoffs averaged. For example a winning WIN/PLACE wager paying $6.20 on top and $4.30 underneath would count as a single bet paying $5.25 (the average of $6.20 and $4.30).
  • Not far away now. . .


    While the Grand National may be more popular for betting, in sporting terms, the Gold Cup is the biggest race in England. In fact, you can make a good case that the Gold Cup is the greatest race in the world. My fourth appearance at the Cheltenham Festival came in 2006 and the Gold Cup was run on St. Patrick's Day. The winner was the Irish-trained WAR OF ATTRITION. I took a little money out of the race and afterwards, the party was on.

    Speaking of parties, the Tuesday night scene at the Plough was happening. It's an amazingly small place, with low ceilings, a couple of nooks, two french-door type drink stations instead of a traditional bar, and a large beer garden out back. There were people everywhere, all of them racing fans, many over from Ireland. The plan was to have a pint (or two) of real ale there, then to move on to somwhere for dinner. But there was a wrench in the works: no taxis for hours and the one restaurant in walking distance was fully booked.

    Enter a nice, very familiar looking Irish guy behind me in line waiting to get a drink. He offered me use of his personal driver and then refused to allow me to pay for the round. As I waited for the car, his identity started to dawn on me. He told me he'd ridden in America for Miles Valentine, and had broken his leg at Camden. I still couldn't quite connect the dots. The car arrived, I got in, and Frank the Driver solved the mystery for me. My benefactor was none other than Mouse Morris, trainer of War of Attrition.

    On to today's tips. As I mentioned before, the card looks a little tricky but I have a couple of bets I'll put on this morning and then I'll adjust and come up with a few more things via twitter (@loomsboldly) based on paddock ideas, the ground etc.

    In Race 3, the Albert Novices' Hurdle (run at 3 miles), I like the looks of #3 BOB'S WORTH. He is undefeated over hurdles, loves it around Cheltenham, and the form of his last is looking good with Rock On Ruby running a strong second to Mouse Morris' First Lieutenant in the shorter Novice Hurdle Grade 1 on Wednesday.

    In the big one, Race 4, the Gold Cup (a 3 mile, 2.5 furlong steeplechase), my main bet will be on #5 IMPERIAL COMMANDER. He won this race last year, goes really well fresh, and is a bona fide member of the Cheltenham horse-for-course club (have you figured out yet that that's a big deal to me?). Denman and Kauto Star (both past Gold Cup winners) are incredibly cool horses and I'll be thrilled to cheer them on if they're in with shots, but I feel like they'll both be short enough relative to their chances.

    If you're looking for a longshot flyer in the Gold Cup, take a long look at #3 CHINA ROCK. He could still be improving, should like the ground, will be an big price. Did I mention he was trained by Mouse Morris?

    What an amazing pleasure it was to be there live to watch BIG BUCK'S charge up the hill to win his third World Hurdle yesterday. There were a couple of moments where it looked liked GRAND CRUS would get him, but he just kept finding more in a supremely brave and classy performance. For me, that was the sporting highlight of the week. BIG BUCK'S is truly an all-time great.

    It was also amazingly cool to see JUNIOR, who I'd seen win a flat race at Royal Ascot, win a jump race at Cheltenham. Next stop for him: The Grand National at Aintree. Perhaps the connections should pay to send me to Aintree. I am his good luck charm, after all.

    But before I start planning my trip to Liverpool, there is still one day left of the Festival. And it's not just any day, it's Gold Cup Day. I have two Gold Cup stories to tell. I'll tell one via video (you have to watch this twice. Once for my story, once for the dude heckling me):

    I'll be back in a bit with the other Gold Cup related story and also with some thoughts on today's tricky card.

  • Warm Up

    POSTED Mar 17, 2011
  • Riders Up

  • A Queue at the Bookies



    The featured Grade 1 on Day 3 of the Festival is the World Hurdle -- a marathon at 3 miles -- and it goes as Cheltenham Race 4 for the Twinspires betting. It shapes up to be a real corker, pitting the two-time winner of this race, #4 BIG BUCK'S against the up-and-coming #8 GRAND GRUS (as a 6-year old he still qualifies as on the young side for a Festival runner, you gotta love it). BIG BUCK'S has run ten in a row and loves it here. I'm going to cast my lot with him.

    Race 3, The Ryanair Chase (Grade 1), is a 2 mile 5 furlong steeplechase. I have been a fan of #6 KALAHARI KING for a long time, and have cashed on him before at the Festival (he hasn't won but has multiple Grade 1 placings). I feel like you can conjure various excuses for his last few runs and warrants a look here today at a course where he's run some big races. I may hedge and weight my bet on the place side.

    The nightcap is Race 6, the Kim Muir Challenge Cup, a handicap chase. The Cheltenham handicaps are generally super-confusing events with huge spreads in weight that are hard for me to feel too confident about. But this race features a horse I've been an avid fan of for years. My friend, ace bloodstock agent and Eclipse-winning journalist Sean Clancy, first noticed #12 JUNIOR way back in 2007. Had he won at the Festival in 2008, we'd have gotten enough to buy a used car. By the time he scored for us at Royal Ascot on the flat this past June, our haul was down to a used tricycle. But that didn't matter -- it was great to see the old boy finally achieve some of the greatness we had long predicted for him.

    I've heard some handicappers crab the jumping game because speed figures are hard to use when it comes to finding winners. But that just makes other handicapping factors more important, things like trips. Consider JUNIOR'S journey last time, where he won the pace battle (with stablemate Chartreux, the favorite for Race 2 today, the Printemps hurdle) but lost the war when the race was won by a closer. I think his day to obtain Festival glory is today and I'll be backing him.
  • Series Start And Conclude All Weekend

    POSTED Mar 16, 2011
    This Friday, March 18, and Saturday, March 19, are stakes-heavy nights as series end and series begin. The Meadowlands nears its April break (as of this writing, to return in May) with a couple of series finals. Woodbine hosts the Damsel and the Cam Fella finals and Yonkers starts its stakes season with legs of the Petticoat and Sagamore Hill series.

    March is only half over, so all harness past performances are still free at TwinSpires and we will analyze more exotic action for you from the Meadowlands and Cal Expo.


    In the $129,000 final of the Overbid on March 18, nine of this season’s best free-for-all mare pacers attempt to put top dollars in their young 2011 earnings account. Laughandbehappy will be all out for the best share of the purse, although she seems to be starting to lose her edge. Still, she will probably share favoritism with Not Enough, who is racing sharp so far this season.

    We draw your attention to Cuz She Can, a veteran of this series. She was third two seasons ago and is best this time of year to pull an upset.

    On Saturday night, March 19, it may not be the luck of the Irish that wins the $100,000 Four Leaf Clover Final for Valentino. He put in a super mile last week, going a pair of :26.4 quarters without breaking a sweat. On his back, look for Code Word, who was hung badly last week, and Get It Now, who lost at the wire last week after winning the first leg.


    Friday, March 18, the four- and five-year-old pacing mares storm a mile in the $100,000 Damsel Stake Final.

    Because Ardor Locke gets post 9 here and Didrickson will be a wild underlay, we like LH Nenia at a price. She was 6-1 coming in second in her elim and should be that much if not more from post 1. Those three could be the triactor elements and that combination would not be a bad payoff, so consider it.

    Saturday, March 19’s $100,000 Cam Fella Final is being touted as a coronation for Meirs Hanover, who everyone feels is the best older pacer right now. But this division is still developing and though “Meirs” is sharp, this field could produce big numbers.

    In the solo elimination, Web Cam (6) made a move to get cover on the outside and wound up inheriting the first-over spot, ruining what may have been a major wake-up journey for the 65-1 shot. In this final, it would not be a surprise to see Web Cam work out a trip that would be considered a shocker by some. Beware; this could be a monstrous upset.  Sniper Seelster (2) could be in the mix, even though last week’s effort was disappointing.


    The stakes season launches on Friday at Yonkers with the first leg of the Petticoat Series. Remember that all stakes events go at the 1-mile distance on the half-mile oval. There are seven Petticoat divisions. Some of the hot entries include Lorrie Please, Summer Snow, Party Dream, Keystone Katherine and Carrie Ann.

    On Saturday, the older male pacers battle in leg one of the Sagamore Pacing Series. There are also secen divisions. Some of the hot entries include Cheyenne Oxe, Park Lane Western, Tuff Enuff Hanover and Andy Baran.

    Not all of these should go to post as choices, so watch the toteboard.

    Pick-4 Meadowlands Mania

    Race 6
    (2) Southern Ally lost a qualifier to Hypnotic Blue Chip at the Meadowlands after some trouble racing at Yonkers. Southwestern Dream (4) is a former Four Leaf Clover champ stepping down. Dinner Guest (8) just held on last week and picks up Simon Allard for the ride.

    Race 7
    (1) Really Rockin won in this condition a few weeks back. Spy N (5) had a rough journey last week and could make amends.

    Race 8
    (2) Mighty Young Joe has taken to the two-turn events, coming off a powerful enough win to step up and be a single.

    Race 9
    (1) Sequoiahs Spirit N was second at 18-1 at this class and could make Stacy Chiodo’s horses win two straight legs of this exotic (“Joe” is her horse in Race 8). Cold Hard Cash was second last week even with interference, going first time out for new trainer Chris Marino.

    This is a $12 ticket; add or subtract horses to suit your budget.

    Cal Exotic

    Race 11
    (5) Red Star Wild One has awoken since claimed by Gene Vallandingham last month and can repeat off a sharp win. KB’s Cousin (6) made two strong moves last week and got second. These two look strong, especially since the probable favorites (a beaten choice and a return winner) are coming out of the outside two spots.

    Race 12
    (2) Freedomize failed as the choice last week, closing well to get the place spot and looks like a single in a very poor field, according to recent form.

    Race 13
    (3) Long Last Look continues to win sans support. He paid 7-1 in last week’s Pick-4 leg after two wins. Bo Knows Power (5) was second closing well last week and is sharp now. Whitesand Lord (6) put in a mighty wire-to-wire effort as the choice and returns to attempt a repeat performance.     

    Race 14
    (4) Cruiserluckyseven closed too late at 2-1 and only got third. Gee Gee Cryil Lee (5) had to grind first over and was passed by horses traveling easier trips.

    If you want to use all of these, the ticket cost $24.

    (Ray Cotolo assisted in this edition.)

    A few years ago, I saw a chalkboard sign outside a pub in Cheltenham:



    Scotland vs France


    Arsenal vs AC Milan

    Horse Racing

    England vs Ireland

    The England vs Ireland of course was referring to the Cheltenham festival. I've heard it estimated that at least 15,000 Irish people show up for the Festival each year and I believe it -- check out the scene in Guinness Village if you don't believe me. One of the many special things about this meet is that while for most of the year, Irish horses stay in Ireland and English horses stay in England, here they come together and compete against each other. There are still many more English horses than Irish ones, but often the race favorites come from across the way and that fosters a real sense of competition. And while betting winners takes precedence over everything here but the pureness of the sport itself, there is definitely a bit of nationalistic pride, especially on the Irish side, when one of their team gets unsaddled in the winner's enclosure.

    Let me tell you: there was plenty of that pride on course today, when Irish based runners took the first six races of the day. The easy line was that St. Patrick's Day came a day early. But it was really more than that -- because St. Patrick's Day comes once a year. Irish horses winning a remarkable six pack in a row at Cheltenham has never happened before and who knows when it will happen again. The biggest Irish favorite of the day, Big Zeb, did not go in. But that did little to dampen the mood. And the party is sure to continue through the night and well into tomorrow.

    I'll post some more thoughts in this space tomorrow. And if you haven't signed up for my Twitter feed yet (@loomsboldly), you might consider doing so. I tipped up FIRST LIEUTENANT, who paid $16, and CARLITO BRIGANTE, who paid a remarkable $66.20 on twinspires, via tweet today. I'll do my best to suss out a few more winners tomorrow.