• SimonSays Handicapping Challenge

    POSTED Apr 30, 2011
    Week 13

    Anthony Kelzenberg

    Race 9 at Churchill Downs (4/30/11):

    BET(S): $60 win, $30 place, $20 show on #9 Born Indy U S A (30/1 ML).

    COMMENTS: She has decent races now and then, especially when she can sit second or third, which probably helps her relax. Her style also fits well at this distance on the Churchill turf course. Added bonuses are a class drop, she's second off a short layoff, and her trainer/jockey team hit over 20% together.

    Garnet Barnsdale

    Race 4 at Woodbine Harness (4/30/11):

    BET(S): $0.20 PICK FOUR 2,3,4,5,7,8 with 2,4,9,10 with 2,3,6,7,8 with 1,2,3,6,9
    $1 PICK FOUR 2,3,4,5,7,8 with 2,4,9,10 with 2,3,6,7,8 with 2

    COMMENTS: Saturday nights have a $100K guarantee on the early Pick 4 and this one looks like it may pay nice.

    Race 11 at Woodbine Harness (4/30/11):

    BET(S): $100 WIN & PACE on #4
    $50 EXACTA BOX 1-4

    COMMENTS: #4 Dimes Dividends suffered a brutal parked-out trip from the 10-hole in his most recent start. His 2 previous wins at Flamboro showed that he is in top shape. He may just get a perfect pocket trip behind likely pacesetter and expected heavy favorite #1 Gotcha Covered who is likely to be overbet down to odds-on with the class drop. There is some value here with #4.

    Chris Hernandez

    Race 8 at Churchill Downs (4/30/11):

    BET(S): $10 WIN on #3 Machen

    José D. De León Alejandro

    Race 9 at Belmont Park (4/30/11):

    BET(S): $2 WIN on #6 Christmas For Liam

    Race 8 at Churchill Downs (4/30/11):

    BET(S): $2 WIN on #6 Dominus

    POSTED Apr 29, 2011
    Frankel reappears on Saturday for his biggest test yet -- the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket. You can bet it at www.twinspires.com. Race 3 at Newmarket on Saturday, 10:10am eastern time.

    I had a chance to virtually sit down with professional gambler Rob Dove this week, and together we went through the field horse-by-horse. Before we get to that, let's do a bit of background about the race for the unitiated. UK fans feel free to skip straight to the analysis.

    The 2000 Guineas is the first leg of the English Triple Crown. The 2000 Guineas is named after the original amount of prize money, a guinea being a unit of currency worth 1.05 British pounds. The race is somewhat analogous to our Derby (“Durbee”), in that it is the first Triple Crown race, and it usually happens the first Saturday in May, though this year it works out to be a week earlier. It is run on a straight one mile course at Newmarket (the Rowley Mile Course). Newmarket just oozes with racing history and is known as “HQ”, the headquarters of British flat racing.

    The second leg of the English Triple Crown is the Derby (“Darby”) at Epsom, run over 1 ½ half miles in early June (usually the same day as the Belmont Stakes but not this year). It is the most prestigious of all the European Classics and carries with it a lot of the same bells and whistles in terms of celebrities and fashion that its eponymous non-homophone USA counterpart does.

    The third leg is a true stayers’ race, the St. Leger Stakes at Doncaster, run at 1 ¾ miles in early to mid September.

    It might surprise American readers to learn that the “Triple Crown” concept in the United Kingdom is largely a dead one. Since 1970, only two horses have won both the Guineas and Derby and no Derby winner has even *entered* the St. Leger in almost 25 years. The problem is that the Leger is too close in proximity to a far more valuable target (in terms of both purse money and especially for breeding purposes), the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp in France.

    On to this year’s 2000 Guineas (odds listed represent a 100% value line):

    #1 BROOX raced exclusively in sprint races at 2, producing figures that wouldn’t have been good enough to win this. It’s hard to think he will improve going farther, especially given the step up in class. 200-1.

    #2 CASAMENTO goes out for Godolphin for the first time -- that’s not always a recipe for improvement. At least he has gone to Mahmood Al Zarooni, who has started the season well. CASAMENTO progressed nicely through his 2yo career, winning his maiden, then finishing 2nd to Pathfork in the Group 1 National Stakes at the Curragh in Ireland. He then won a Group 2 easily before winning impressively (visually and on the clock) at a mile in one of the big 2yo races, the Group 1 Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster (previous winners have included High Chapparal, Authorized, and Motivator, all of whom went on to win the Derby). Casamento looks a type to improve for more distance if he goes the right way for his new connections. He can't be ruled out here but might look even better in a few weeks’ time at Epsom. 14-1.

    #3 DUBAWI GOLD was Listed class (just below Group stakes caliber) as a 2yo and they struggled to get him to settle in his races. Since moving to Richard Hannon’s yard he's won 2 Listed class affairs in nice fashion. In the first one they got him settled out the back and he quickened up nicely to win. In the next race he went straight to the front and jockey Richard Hughes couldn’t get him settled. It looked for all the world like he’d tire badly, but he didn't. However, that form is a long way short of what is required here, but if he settles he could run well and secure a minor placing at a nice number. 50-1.

    #4 FRANKEL is 5-for-5 career so far and has shown amazing natural speed and clocked some fantastic sectionals/final times along the way-- he is a legitimate standout. He vibes like one who will improve even more off a strong pace, thus the presence of a pacemaker again today (it’s also notable that his pacemaker in the Greenham didn’t do the job, running the first quarter in 27:6 seconds according to Dove’s hand-timed sectionals, after which Frankel powered home the rest of the seven panels in 57:6). One problem he may face is his draw. He’s drawn in the opposite side of the gate as his pacemaker and it’s not inconceivable that he might struggle to get cover and settled (he has pulled hard early in most of his races). Everything suggests he is a potential superstar at around a mile but can he handle the big occasion? If his odds are greater than 1-to-2, we just might pay to find out.

    #5 FURY’s claim to fame is his sweet win in the Tattersalls Millions at the end of last year. That race is a valuable prize for horses bought at the big Tattersalls yearling sale. Donatavium won it previously before going on to BC Juvenile Turf success. The ground was soft that day but Fury should be as effective on quicker ground. The bare from of his Millions win leaves him with a good few lengths to find but it was only his second start and we don't really know how good he is yet. The extra furlong should suit as well. He’s a contender if the big horse falters. 20-1.

    #6 HAPPY TODAY probably isn’t good enough. He ran second in the Feilden stakes, a Listed class race. He was close to a soft pace that day and may have been flattered by that. He has tons to find anyway. 500-1.

    #7 LOVING SPIRIT won his maiden impressively on soft ground before running a decent race in his second start. He needs to find a lot and has a pedigree to run better over further. If he runs well here he could be one for the Derby. 200-1.

    #8 NATIVE KHAN won the Group 3 Solario Stakes at 2, then went on to finish 4th behind Casamento in the Racing Post Trophy. There’s no reason to think he is better than that. He came out at 3 and won a weak renewal of the Craven Stakes (the 2nd, Libranno, has come back and been beaten since). He has a lot to find and may be an underlay but at least he's had a prep. 33-1.

    #9 PATHFORK looked excellent as an undefeated 2 year old, culminating with his score in the Group 1 National Stakes over 7 furlongs last September. He beat Casamento and they finished five lengths clear of Zoffany, who had won a Group 1 on his previous start. The form appears rock solid, but it was on soft ground, which Zoffany probably hates and Casamento was making only his 2nd lifetime start so you can maybe project more improvement from him. Pathfork is by Distorted Humor and was supposed to run in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (dirt) but he met a minor setback (not expanded on). There was also talk of him being aimed at the Kentucky Derby but that never materialized. He's wearing a first time tongue tie today, which is worrying (maybe a little breathing problem?), but he's solid enough in the market so must be doing well at home. A tricky one to price up. 14-1.

    #10 is Frankel’s pacemaker, REROUTED, and he is a good horse in his own right. He won a Group 3 at 2 and finished six lengths behind Roderic O'Connor in the Gran Criterium. He has run this season in the European Free Handicap, a Listed class race. He went very hard in front but managed to keep going and just got beat by Pausanius. Dove’s hand-timed sectionals suggested he would have won if he'd gone a bit slower. He is likely to go off too hard again here: they have put first time blinkers on him to make sure of it. One to keep an eye on in the right spot later in the season, and his form will be sufficiently darkened to where we can expect a price. 100-1.

    Aidan O'Brien has won this race four out of last ten years with Henrythenavigator, George Washington, Footstepsinthesand, and Rock of Gibraltar, so has to be respected with whatever he runs. #11 RODERIC O'CONNOR was ignored in the betting on his racecourse debut when he was 3rd but that maiden was pretty hot and he improved tenfold winning next out in an eye-catching performance over Kentucky Derby starter Master of Hounds (who he'd finished behind on debut). He then went on to the prestigious Group 1 Dewhurst Stakes where he was ignored at 25/1 but ran well to finish second. Dove’s sectionals say he set a slowish opening quarter though and may have been flattered by his proximity to Frankel. Next, he went to France and won the Group 1 Gran Criterium in heavy ground. He's got plenty to find with Frankel, but the extra furlong and a winter to grow up may help him close the gap. 16-1.

    #12 SAAMIDD has been hyped to the eyeballs since his impressive maiden score (he was quoted at 25/1 for the 2000 Guineas after that win and is now 33-1). He won his second start in good fashion as well as the Group 2 Champagne Stakes but the form from that has not worked out brilliantly. Next up was the Dewhurst - where he was supplemented for 20,000 GBP and was thought to be a big danger to Frankel. But he didn't want to load and when they broke was beat after a furlong, trailing in last. Will the Godolphin “Boys in Blue” have him back to his best? Will that be good enough anyway? I wouldn’t bet on it. 66-1 (Side note: his young French-based jockey Mickael Barzalona looks like a future star.)

    #13 SLIM SHADEY’s presence in the race begs the question: will the worst horse in the race please stand up?

    BETTING STRATEGY: We could see keying Frankel on top of FURY, CASAMENTO and DUBAWI GOLD in exactas, as well as playing those three over FRANKEL for a smaller amount.
  • Handicapping the Triple Crown

    POSTED Apr 28, 2011
    Once, as I reclined on an easy chair, sipping a Michelob Ultra (gotta watch the carbs) and perusing the past performances from Assiniboia Downs, I was asked to explain what I was doing. Smiling, I took another swig of beer and attempted the impossible.

    “I’m handicapping, trying to pick the winner of a horse race,” I said. “I love crunching the numbers — the trainer/jockey stats, speed and pace figures… the whole nine yards. It’s a great thrill to select a horse and then watch it win, especially at long odds. Yesterday, for example, I liked the…”

    I stopped. Clearly, the Wal-Mart security guard was not a racing fan — nor, I gathered, were the majority of passing shoppers, who looked at me like they’d never seen a guy in a bathrobe hanging out in the furniture department before.

    Needless to say, I haven’t been within 100-150 yards of that Wal-Mart since — I can’t remember precisely what the court order mandates — but I still like to relax when I handicap. And, with the quest for the Triple Crown beginning in earnest next week, now seems like a good time to share my bathrobe betting approach to America’s premier three-race series for three-year-old Thoroughbreds.

    Kentucky Derby
    Where: Churchill Downs (Louisville, Kentucky).
    Race Distance: 1-1/4 miles (10 furlongs).

    Run annually on the first Saturday in May, the Kentucky Derby is, perhaps, the single most recognizable horse race in the world (even Wal-Mart security guards have heard of it). With full fields of up to 20 entrants, heavier-than-usual weight imposts (126 pounds for colts and geldings, 121 pounds for fillies) and a challenging 10-furlong distance, the Derby also represents one of the greatest prognostic puzzles since childproof bottle caps.

    Over the past 31 years, just four betting favorites have worn the roses and double-digit payoffs have abounded, led by Mine That Bird ($103.20 in 2009), Giacomo ($102.60, 2005), Charismatic ($64.60, 1999) and Thunder Gulch ($51.00, 1995).

    Despite the high-flying payoffs, however, consistent winning patterns can still be found. Consider:

    * From 1990 to 2010, nearly half (47 percent) of all Derby winners earned a lifetime-best Brisnet speed rating in their final prep race and 95 percent of them recorded a career top in one of their last three races (Sea Hero in 1993 is the sole exception).

    * Every Derby champ since Iron Liege finished fourth or better in its last race. Interestingly, Iron Liege won in 1957 partly because legendary jockey Bill Shoemaker misjudged the finish line aboard Gallant Man, who consequently lost by a nose.

    * Pay attention fans of Dialed In and Nehro: Since 1975, 23 Derby winners (85 percent) were in front or within five lengths of the leader at the first call of their last race.

    Bottom Betting Line: The key thing to look for in a potential Kentucky Derby winner is improvement. As a friend of mine always says: “Three-year-old horses are like kids in high school, capable of maturing overnight.” When viewed in this light, the upset scores of Charismatic, War Emblem ($43.00) and Funny Cide ($27.60) are not so hard to comprehend, as all three ran much better in their final Derby preps than they had earlier in the year.

    The ability to stick close to the pace is also important. Yeah, people remember the dramatic stretch charges of steeds like Mine That Bird, Ferdinand and Monarchos, but typically such late heroics are the result of early insanity. Ferdinand rallied following a :45-1/5 opening half, while Monarchos waited patiently as Songandaprayer and Balto Star carved out the fastest four- and six-furlong splits in Kentucky Derby history.

    Preakness Stakes
    Where: Pimlico Racecourse (Baltimore, Maryland).
    Race Distance: 1-3/16 miles (9-1/2 furlongs).

    The Preakness Stakes is run just two weeks after the Kentucky Derby and often features a large contingent of Derby runners. Not surprisingly, these horses tend to do very well in Maryland, making the Preakness the most formful of the Triple Crown events. The numbers:

    * From 1932-on (when the order of the Triple Crown series was at last set), 29 of 70 Preakness winners (41 percent) had previously annexed the Kentucky Derby, good for a 7.9 percent return on investment (ROI).

    * In the history of the Preakness Stakes (dating back to 1873), favorites have won close to 50 percent of the time and produced a positive ROI.

    * Over the last 20 years, eight horses improved their latest Brisnet speed figure by five points or more while winning the Run for the Roses. Of those, only one — Silver Charm in 1997 — went on to capture the Preakness.

    Bottom Betting Line: In direct contrast to the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness is all about established form. Sure, improving horses can win — witness Bernardini in 2006 — but, for the most part, Preakness victors are horses that have already proven their quality, i.e. Lookin At Lucky last year.

    Hence, it is wise to start one’s Preakness handicapping by examining the Derby starters in the field. Try to determine which of them were helped or hindered by the way the race was run in Louisville, as Preakness history is replete with form reversals — both positive and negative — resulting from a change of tactics from one Triple Crown race to the next. For instance, after many criticized Gary Stevens for moving too soon into hot fractions in the 2001 Kentucky Derby captured by Monarchos, the veteran jockey kept Point Given well off a much slower pace two weeks later and won for fun in Baltimore.

    Belmont Stakes
    Where: Belmont Park (Elmont, New York).
    Race Distance: 1-1/2 miles (12 furlongs).

    The oldest (it’s been run since 1867) and longest (1-1/2 miles) of the Triple Crown contests, the Belmont Stakes takes place three weeks after the Preakness. In 1973, it provided the backdrop for what was arguably the greatest performance in Thoroughbred racing history, when Secretariat won by 31 lengths in two minutes and 24 seconds — a time that has never been equaled.

    Some interesting facts about the Belmont:

    * Although it’s been called “The Test of Champions,” recent winners of the Belmont Stakes haven’t exactly reminded racing fans of Citation or Seattle Slew. Since 1993, Belmont victors have won just 25.8 percent of their subsequent starts (25-97) — after having won 39.3 percent of their races beforehand (59-150).

    * A few recent bombs notwithstanding, the Belmont Stakes has actually been relatively formful, as the post time favorite has won over 40 percent of the total runnings.

    * Only three of the past 14 Preakness winners who competed in the Belmont posed for pictures afterward (Tabasco Cat in 1994, Point Given in 2001 and Afleet Alex in 2005).

    Bottom Betting Line: Value is the name of the wagering game in the Belmont. Though favorites have performed well in the final leg of the Triple Crown, they have, as a rule, been horribly overbet, leading to a loss of about 21 cents on the dollar. Worse yet, odds-on choices are just 12 of 31 overall and 0 for 7 since 1979. Hence, it is imperative to look for horses that appear better than their quoted odds, i.e. overlays.

    Also, be sure to watch all the contenders’ races leading up to the Belmont and eliminate runners that seem unable to relax or those that are excessively fractious at the gate. Several high-profile Belmont busts, like War Emblem and Smarty Jones, exhibited these toxic traits before attempting to take a bite out of the Big Apple — and all proved rotten to the core.

    The Derby In-Depth

    For more great Kentucky Derby information, be sure to check out “Derek Simon’s 2011 Kentucky Derby Guide,” which will be available through Brisnet starting this weekend. For just $10, you’ll receive:

    * A cornucopia of Kentucky Derby stats (that’s right, a cornucopia).
    * Horse-by-horse analysis.
    * Past performances for each likely entrant, including my own unique pace figures (ESRs and LSRs).
    * Fair betting odds for each contender.
    * Individual pedigree grades and commentaries, as well as in-depth breeding analysis.
    * The much-anticipated results of the Simon Historical Investment Technique for the Kentucky Derby (last year, the method tabbed Super Saver).
    * An updated article on the “Bounce Theory” and how it relates to the Kentucky Derby.
    * My own wagering strategy to make some loot in Louisville.
    * A look back at one of the most controversial Derby finishes in history.
    * Pace analysis of the big race.
  • ‘Levy’ Concludes; Femmes Fight On Two Fronts

    POSTED Apr 27, 2011
    At Yonkers the George Morton Levy Memorial Final and the Bluechip Matchmaker Final are featured as April bows. Soph-filly pacers highlight the Courageous Lady at Northfield and soph-colt pacers strut in Woodbine’s Ontario Spring Stakes Final.

    It’s the last week in the free-for-all harness-handicapping-product offer for “Levy” players, available by clicking here. We hope you took advantage of these tools. Keep watching for more free offers to learn about the Brisnet handicapping products.

    Another visit to the no-takeout late Pick 4 at Cal Expo is in order as we continue to target the best outsiders with the smallest, smartest ticket available anywhere.

    Yonkers Features

    In Saturday, April 30’s $495,000 George Morton Levy Memorial Pacing Series Final, the field, with declared drivers and morning-line odds, is as follows: 1-This is Wyatt (Eric Goodell, 3-1 ), 2-Southern Allie (Dave Miller, 6-5); 3-Blatantly Good (Jason Bartlett, 5-1), 4-Gallant Yankee (Tim Tetrick, 5-1), 5-Real Nice (George Brennan, 6-1); 6-Foiled Again (Yannick Gingras, 6-5), 7-Foreign Officer (Tetrick also listed, 3-1); 8-Giddy Up Lucky (Goodell also listed, 12-1).

    This is Wyatt and Foreign Officer are coupled due to common ownership, while Southern Allie and Foiled Again race coupled due common owner and trainer (Ron Burke).

    Everyone will go for Foiled Again (photo) looking to win this race three years in a row. He took two weeks off from the series’ legs and is poised to pace a big mile. If one horse here has a good shot at fair odds against the defending champ it will be Gallant Yankee. He has been on the board in all but one Levy leg. He is hope for an upset, so watch the odds.

    In the Levy Consolation, it is tough to tell who will be the favorite. But the one that will be in it, hopefully at a good price, is Mr Massimo, who after his strong win last week showed how well he has adjusted to this track.   

    On the same program, Yonkers presents the $301,000 Bluechip Matchmaker Final for pacing mares, with declared drivers and morning-line odds, is as follows: 1-Ginger And Fred (Gingras, 8-5); 2-Save My Shark (Jim Pantaleano, 6-1); 3-Hula's Z Tam (Pat Lachance, 6-1); 4-Tomorrowpan (Dan Dube, 4-1); 5-Breakheart Pass (Tetrick, 10-1); 6-All Spirit (Brennan, 5-1), 7-Giveittoemstaight (Brennan also listed, 12-1); 8-Symphony in Motion (Dube also listed, 15-1)

    Ginger And Fred and Breakheart Pass, both trained by Burke, race uncoupled due to bona fide separate ownership.

    In the Matchmaker, Ginger And Fred will be seeking another championship (she won this race last year). She will be tough to beat but she is beatable. The one that could likely win this is All Spirit. She has gotten some good trips and she may get the best one when all the bucks are on the line.


    In the Matchmaker Consolation, Chancey Lady (photo) will be the likely favorite here as she has done the best in the legs. But one that has struggled all throughout the series is Shangai Lil. She always gets a first over trip and this week she might get a rail trip and make up for the misfortunes.

    ‘Spring’ Ahead

    In the Ontario Spring Stakes Final, Bare Necessity will be the likely favorite; he is undefeated so far this year. But last week, Legends Luck had a hard trip and was interfered when it came time to drive hard.

    He still closed for third at huge odds, but because of the interference, there was a refund. He is green, true, but he has every reason to improve and flashes enough potential to stop the favorite’s winning streak and take a place in the division.

    This is the kind of colt you like to catch early, before he plunges into the public’s favor. He should offer good odds in this, his second stakes appearance (the elim was his first).  

    ‘Lady’ Splits

    There is a pair of divisions in Northfield’s Courageous Lady on Saturday, April 30.

    Ron Burke’s Some Girls Do is the overwhelming choice in the first chapter. Something will have to go very wrong for this gal, from post 2, to lose. Her prohibitive odds will also eat at all exotics, so a pass may be in the works.

    Division two is more competitive on paper. Stash The Cash may have an edge over the two horses bound to get most of the money. With Aaron Merriman aboard, “Stash” has raced already this year, while the two touted gals, I Kill Time and Southwest make their season’s debut.

    Cal Exotic

    Saturday night, April 30, another no-takeout Pick 4, now with a higher guaranteed pool, goes at the California oval from Race 11 through Race 14. This week, leg two, Race 12, is a trot.

    Race 11
    (1) Bo Knows Power was in a recent ticket, tanked, and came back to win next out as a strong favorite, racing big. (6) Long Last Look should not be tossed out because of his recent loss. You cannot count this guy out ever. (7) Powergaiterdotcom was off his game last out but is still a threat.

    Race 12
    (4) Cherry Tree Nicole is a solid single here, having just missed in a strong effort last out.

    Race 13
    (4) Thatsmyson closed wickedly and won, a style that fits this field. (7) Heartland Express is dangerous off of a show finish with some left in the tank.

    Race 14
    (4) One Hot Tamale took a race after we trusted him to be in a Pick-4 combo and that was a huge win. (5) Well Heeled is way better than last week’s performance, letting an 18-1 shot beat him .

    If you want to use all of these, the 167/3/37/45 ticket cost $12.

    Watch List Action

    On Friday at Woodbine, we are considering seven horses. In Race 1 Striker Ray (3); Race 2 Dance Until Dawn (4) and Michelleanas Angel (9); Race 3 Stood Alone (4); Race 4 Lets Rock N Roll (1); Race 8 Palazzo Princess (7) and Race 11 Virtuous Western (1).

    On Saturday at Woodbine, we are considering four horses. In Race 4 Campasser (4) and R Lil King (7); Race 7 Rock Me Amastroes (2) and Race 8 Ericskarri (2).

    (Ray Cotolo assisted in this edition.)
  • Cotolo’s Harness-Weekend Review, 4-25-11

    POSTED Apr 24, 2011
    Friday, April 22, players took on the races at Woodbine and Cal Expo in the first round of the battle for two seats at the National Harness Handicapping Championship (NHHC). The final round is this July, at the Meadowlands if it is open, or at another high-profile harness track to be announced. The next round is May 22 and we will keep you posted on that action, again with late tweets to post time.

    We were not much help to players on April 22. Both tracks offered races unkind to our brand of bet.

    One of our Cal Expo watch-list horses, Freedomize, won late in the program and paid $27. 

    At Woodbine that night our first Ontario Spring Stakes choice, Legend’s Luck, was third at huge odds but taken off the board with all wagers on him refunded. An incident around the final turn that caused interference inspired the judges to make the wager moot. Our second choice in the other elim finished fourth.

    The Matchmaker’s ultimate round of three divisions at Yonkers returned two place horses. The $301,000 final is on April 30.

    Saturday we struck with a good one at Woodbine. Grin For Money came home first, paying $26.80. At Cal Expo, two watch-list horses came back rather short: Bo Knows Power paid $4 and One Hot Tamale paid $3.80. Our Pick-4 ticket did not produce any winners.

    At Yonkers the “Levy” round that decides the final field for April 30 was active in the cashing department, though there were not any bombs. River Shark won ($4.20) and Real Nice was second for a $13.40 exacta. Mr Massimo won, paying $8.50, with our other choice, Gallant Yankee, second (exacta paid $26.40) and our other choice, Forensic Z Tam, getting third (trifecta paid $51.50). 

    We will be tweeting again this Friday, April 29 and Saturday, April 30. Go to Twitter and check to follow me, Frank Cotolo, for last-minute choices at harness races across North America, including Pick-4 suggestions and overlays we find as betting ensues.

    Harness News

    With the Meadowlands still in flux, Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs is prospering, attracting top names in horses and horsemen. This Tuesday, April 26, fillies and mares battle for the largest overnight purse the track has ever offered.

    The $60,000 Open Pace features the likes of millionaire Not Enough, Rock N Soul, Spirit To Spare and Riley Character, to name four. The horsemen competing for all the big dollars on the Pocono programs include Meadowlands regulars John Campbell, Brian Sears and Tim Tetrick.

    Racing at Pocono is presented Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays with a 6:30 p.m. post (EST).

    Trainer Jimmy Takter is touting his sophomore-pacer Grams Legacy (Lisa Photo on left) as a major North America Cup contender, putting the colt into the glamour-boy pacer division mix.

    “My other two colts can’t even touch him now,” Takter said in an exclusive interview with Trot Magazine.

    Grams Legacy raced only five times at two, making just $40,000. In the Woodrow Wilson he broke.

    “He would have won the ‘Wilson,’” said Takter, “but he broke right at the wire. “He was very immature and I stopped early with him.”

    Grams Legacy is a brother of Progress Pace and Oliver Wendell Holmes colt Rockin Image, who earned close to $1 million in 2010.

  • SimonSays Handicapping Challenge

    POSTED Apr 23, 2011
    Week 12

    Anthony Kelzenberg

    Race 5 Keenland (4/23/11)

    BET(S): $100 to win on #3 GIANT ROCKSTAR.
    $20 daily double 3-3.
    $10 daily double 3-4.


    RACE 5 - In my opinion, #3 Giant Rockstar's last race opposition was much tougher than the competition in Saturday's race appears to be, and he was wide on a day when the rail was the faster part of the Polytrack.

    RACE 6 - #3 Wear the Crown is just a good animal and probably will finish better Saturday back in a sprint. That allowance race for "4up" colts and geldings featuring Christmas For Liam was the toughest allowance race of the entire GP meet. #4 E Knows Why has speed an might like the Polytrack.

    Garnet Barnsdale

    Race 7 Keenland (4/23/11)

    BET(S): $200 Exacta 4-3.
    $100 Exacta 3-4.

    COMMENTS: #4 DEAN'S KITTEN who won the $500K Lanes End here last March ran a solid 2nd in a stake at Turfway following a troubled 2011 debut where he lacked room for the entire stretch run. He is primed to run his best race today, and he should closely track some tepid splits set by #3 EXHI then blow by him in the stretch.

    Race 7 Gulfstream Park (4/23/11)

    COMMENTS: EVERYONE and their brother is playing the Rainbow Pick 6 at the Gulf today - so I'm going to try a ticket here on "The Challenge":

    BET(S): $0.10 Rainbow 6 - 1,2,6,8,10,11,12,13 with 2,3,4,7,8,9 with 6,7,10 with 2,3,5,9,10,11 with 3,12 with 6,9,10.

    COMMENTS: #1 EDGE AHEAD showed a little life last time finishing 4th of 12 when dropped to this level. I think he will be up near the pace with the 6f to 7f stretchout and wouldn't be a bit surprised if he led from the outset en-route to a wire-to-wire victory.

    BET(S): $150 to WIN on 1-EDGE AHEAD.

    Chris Hernandez

    No picks.

    José D. De León Alejandro

    Race 4 Keenland (4/23/11)

    BET(S): $2 WIN #5.

    COMMENTS: #5 DYNA WALTZ is training sharply under Sheppard command and the potential conditions of the track today favored her.

    Race 6

    BET(S): $2 WIN #5.

    COMMENTS: #5 EDDIE SET GO is being ridden by Alan Garcia in his 3rd in the cycle form and training very well... And Casper's Touch is going to ruin Silver Medallion efforts to enter into the Derby... hehehehe

  • Going Dutch

    POSTED Apr 21, 2011
    How to make a killing by betting more than one horse

    In honor of the Las Vegas Mob Experience, a new interactive attraction that delves into the history of organized crime and its impact on Sin City, I have decided to discuss a particular betting style that (reputedly) got its name from one of America’s most notorious gangsters, Arthur Flegenheimer.

    Flegenheimer, who was more popularly known as Dutch Schultz — a name derived from the trucking company he once worked for (Schultz Trucking) and the nickname of the company owner’s youngest son (Dutch) — gained notoriety for his involvement in both bootlegging and racketeering during the Prohibition era. Sometimes referred to as Al Capone’s accountant, the truth is Schultz never worked for Capone and, in fact, was based in New York, not Chicago, where Capone plied his “trade.”

    Schultz did know his numbers, though. Upon learning that one of his associates, Jules Modgilewsky, a.k.a. Julie Martin (I know, that’s a pretty weak “a.k.a.”), was skimming money from him, Schultz shot Martin at point-blank range while dining with the gangster and two others at New York’s Harmony Hotel on the evening of March 2, 1935. Although the historical record doesn’t reveal who picked up the check that night, something tells me it wasn’t Schultz.

    According to legend, Schultz was also pretty clever when it came to betting horses. The style of play known as “dutching” is said — although I’m not sure I believe it — to have been conceived by and named after the infamous mobster. In its purest form, dutching is designed to produce an equal amount of profit regardless of which horse wins a particular race. Of course, this can only be accomplished if one is reasonably sure that certain horses will not, or… uh… cannot, cross the wire first. How Schultz and associates attained such a level of confidence is open to debate, but I’m guessing it probably involved an offer that couldn’t be refused.

    Though much harder to implement in a pari-mutuel system where the prices are constantly in a state of flux, dutching has been used in modern times as well. The late Howard Sartin, controversial founder of the “Sartin Methodology,” often advocated betting more than one horse to win in a race and others have done so as well. To me, there are three keys to successful dutching:
    1) The odds must be right. Simply put, the amount wagered by the crowd on all of the horses being dutched cannot exceed 80 percent, or thereabouts, of the win pool (obviously, the lower the percentage, the better). Hence, if one is dutching without knowledge of the actual betting, it is imperative that a trusted morning line be used or that the handicapper is skilled enough to make an accurate line him/herself.

    2) Careful consideration must be given to the type of race and the entrants one chooses to dutch. For example, isolating a couple of need-the-lead frontrunners might not be the wisest thing to do, as they are liable to run each other into the ground and set the race up for another, less-headstrong contender.

    3) The race should feature a maximum of two outstanding entrants or 2-3 top contenders that figure to be massive overlays.
    Using some handpicked races from my Win Factor Report (computerized fair odds line) on Friday, April 22, I will attempt to show readers how one can make a killing by dutching in the New Millennium:

    (Click on image to enlarge)

    COMMENTS: The Win Factor Report Race Rating is a little low (55 percent), but the morning line odds and strength of the contenders compels me to look past that fact.

    BET(S): 63 percent of base wager to WIN on 4, with the remaining 37 percent to WIN on 8.

    (Click on image to enlarge)

    COMMENTS: Given the closeness of the ratings past 5-ANGELS’ SHARE and the low morning line odds (3-1) on the second choice, 9-HAPPENSTANCE, this race is a pass from a dutching standpoint.

    (Click on image to enlarge)

    COMMENTS: This race can be dutched based solely on the generous morning line odds on 2-GOLDEN MENTOR (30-1, although the two Rated Starts are a red flag) and 3-CELENA (10-1).

    BET(S): 64 percent of base wager to WIN on 9; 18 percent of base wager to WIN on both 2 & 3.

    (Click on image to enlarge)

    COMMENTS: This is a great race to dutch, as it features two strong contenders and a high Race Rating.

    BET(S): 71 percent of base wager to WIN on 1; 29 percent of base wager to WIN on 4.

    (Click on image to enlarge)

    COMMENTS: Another good race to dutch, with just two primary contenders.

    BET(S): 66 percent of base wager to WIN on 8; 34 percent of base wager to WIN on 7.

    (Click on image to enlarge)

    COMMENTS: This race is kind of tight among the secondary contenders, but 8-COURSER HANOVER figures to be a nice price and his Win Factor rating is relatively strong.

    BET(S): 75 percent of base wager to WIN on 3; 25 percent of base wager to WIN on 8.
  • Last Chance For ‘Levy’ Challengers

    POSTED Apr 20, 2011
    At Yonkers the George Morton Levy Memorial Pacing Series and the Bluechip Matchmaker series feature the last hopes for the older males and mares to go for the big money in the finals next week.

    For two more weeks, there’s a free-for-all harness-handicapping product for “Levy” players is available by clicking here. Take advantage of these tools which, along with our analyses, have presented you with great information leading to winning tickets.

    Sophomore pacers strut in Woodbine elims for one of the season’s first stakes presenting the young division.

    As usual, we visit the no-takeout late Pick 4 at Cal Expo, where the guaranteed pool has been sweetened and we love the little ticket we are offering.

    The Early Glamour Show

    At Woodbine on April 22, two elimination miles feature six-horse fields that compete for a berth in the Ontario Spring Stakes Final next week. These are green sophomore colt-and-gelding pacers, giving us pause to take some chances.

    While these guys are racing for a good spot in the 2011 glamour division they are apt to surprise us, as well as their conditioners. None of this dozen include the expected stars of soph-colt pacers but that doesn’t mean they can’t begin to make noise among the known and unknown on the long list of eligibles.

    This is why we like the chances of Legend’s Luck in the first split. It will be only his second pari-mutuel race, having qualified at Windsor and placed in a conditioned event at Flamboro as the dead-on choice. In his debut he made a bold three-wide move on that small oval that earned him the place spot. This is a great style for Woodbine. Unraced at two, we have to trust that “Luck” can be far better than shown thus far; catching him on the way up at what may be decent odds (his morning line is 7-1).

    The second split also presents one we like with driver Scott Zeron at the reigns. Billy White Sell has won at Woodbine impressively against a similar, if not better, field. This is the more contentious of the two elims, so the six betting interests may be spread out in the odds, giving “Billy” a fair shake at a price.

    Penultimate ‘Levy’ Chase

    In Saturday, April 23’s first Levy division, Race 4, Foreign Officer returns having dominated this series, including the fastest mile in the round one. But one that will be competitive is Erics Legend N. He should have done better in last week’s round but the slop was a factor. He had trailed the field eating mud throughout and still closed well.

    In the second division, Race 5, Real Nice, who went wire to wire with little respect after winning the week before, takes one more shot. He had sustained a bid after being challenged by Giddy Up Lucky in last week’s win. He will be one to watch, along with River Shark.

    In the third division, Race 6, there is no clear favorite. But one to watch is Keystone Rideau. He has not gotten a break in the series. He was interfered two times in a two-week period. If he doesn’t do well here without an excuse, he may not really be of this caliber. 


    In the fourth division, Race 8, Gallant Yankee will be a heavy favorite and the one to watch. It will be hard to beat this guy. But one that could pull an upset is Mr Massimo. He did well in the slop as he was starting to close and dead-heated at the wire. Also watch Forensic Z Tam.

    In the nightcap, Race 9, Blatantly Good may do better as he gets the rail for a change. But Lahaye definitely showed his skill as he almost won as an upset. Him and “Good” will be the pair to watch. 

    ‘Match’ Makers          

    Friday, April 22, Yonkers presents the last round for contenders of the Bluechip Matchmaker Final for pacing mares.

    In the first division, Race 6, Ticket To Rock will be the likely favorite after her victory last week. But in a field like this, the horse that will likely beat “Rock” is Shangai Lil. Once again last week, she was forced first over and still gained. Also watch Symphony In Motion and Farmers Tuition.

    In the second division, Race 8, Shacked Up will be the likely public choice after she won last week. But one to watch, once again, is Hula’s Z Tam. She always gets pushed back in the field and is forced to close, which she has been doing impressively as well.

    In the last division, Race 9, the two to beat in this field is Ginger And Fred and Chancey Lady. But one to watch is Twin B Tiara. She has always had a bad trip and now, may get a better. Also watch Cannae Cammie.

    Cal Exotic

    Saturday night, April 23, the no-takeout Pick 4, now with a higher guaranteed pool, sends locals to the gate from Race 11 through Race 14.

    Race 11
    (6) Powergaiterdotcom was burned out early last week while carrying the banner of favorite. That 8 hole hurt him as he rushed early and took the lead wide. Though he faces a few coming off wins here, those wins were not so impressive and could help “Power” to go off higher than he should.

    Race 12
    (4) Whoop And Shout made an impressive winning move last out, racing wide to attain the lead and soar in the stretch. Two winners here shared a victory in a dead heat and could wind up burning the first half. I would add (8) OG’s Si Bon as an upset possibility, since he recently closed strongly for second and may have the room late here to make a significant impression.

    Race 13
    (4) Columbia Court was a monster last week, winning by 10 lengths. We will include him but hope that another choice, (7) Check Raisin, proves that his win was far better, though not by as many lengths, and comes home first as the true overlay.

    Race 14
    (5) TJ Beach Poker may seem an unlikely savior to what would be a huge Pick 4 but if his recent effort is not a fluke he should have this field at his mercy by the half. He made two strong moves last week as the choice and almost won. He is a brave and honest single.

    If you want to use all of these, the 6/48/47/5 ticket cost $8.

    Watch List Action

    On Friday at Woodbine, we are considering eight horses. In Race 3 Earlsact (1) and Paiging Kadabra (4); In Race 4 Virtous Western (10); Race 5 Striker Ray (2) and Stonebridge Royal (8); Race 6 Precious Cammill (1) and in Race 7 Whycantiforgetyou (2) and Chief Karen (5).

    On Saturday at Woodbine, we are considering six horses. In Race 6 Rose Run Invader (2) and Ballykeel Mike (4); Race 9 World Away (1), Grin For Money (3) and Piece Of The Rock (4) and in Race 10 First Victor (2).

    (Ray Cotolo assisted in this edition.)
  • Cotolo’s Harness-Weekend Review, 4-18-11

    POSTED Apr 17, 2011
    I am going to begin the update this week with thoughts for players, then review the weekend’s action. The focus for players is the National Harness Handicapping Championship (NHHC), which begins this Friday, April 22.

    TwinSpires is participating by giving players three chances to qualify for two seats in the final round, this July, currently scheduled at the Meadowlands (which everyone hopes will be open and in business for live and simulcasting at that time; see story below).

    For three Fridays, players place wagers at a pair of designated tracks, following the rules (click here for contest details). Next Friday the tracks are Cal-Expo and Woodbine. There are five levels of prizes for participants, so the incentives are plentiful, even if you don’t win a seat at the NHHC final.

    The TwinSpires “harness think tank” is here to help you all, as well. Between our dual weekly blogs, the Facebook page and my live tweets (updates at the designated tracks on the three Fridays), you will be privy to any and all of our experience while you make your decisions on wagers. This will be the hands-on information that has presented many double-digit winners since we carried the shop to TwinSpires from YouBet. 


    This could have been a better weekend in the cashing department but it was not a shutout.

    The watch list at Woodbine struck on Friday, with Mustang Art winning at $16.10 and Bold Barry at $6.

    Friday’s “Matchmaker” brought a lucky strike, as the losing part of an entry resulted in a cold exacta with the other part of the coupling. Up Front Kellie Jo was in league with the winner, her stablemate All Spirit, paying $9.40 to win. Our exacta offering was to use Hula’s Z Tam, which finished second and ignited a $30.80 exacta.

    In the “Levy” series, all five divisions drenched from a Saturday rainstorm, our blog choices were reiterated with a live tweet we delivered before the Pick 4. We offered an inexpensive combo that could not deny the heavy choices. We took these low-priced winners and made our combo worth a bit more than 5-1. Our $6 ticket won and paid $34.60.

    Friday night we also presented a few winners via the Twitter account. We remind you again to follow us live at the track on most Friday and Saturday evenings.

    One of our Cal Expo Pick-4 horses, the single in the last leg, scratched. That turned us off to the entire ticket, which turned out to be a good decision, as none of our suggestions in the first three legs produced.

    Harness News

    It’s odds-on, as I write this, that the Meadowlands will survive the current crisis, according to Jeff Gural, the engine behind the privatization of the sport’s flagship track.

    Mr. Gural was on Sirius XM radio on April 16, after an official shutdown of the track was announced due to the refusal of the tellers’ union to aver to conditions for returning to work. Gural said he thinks the track will survive because the union could wind up cooperating.

    Their refusal, he told Harness Racing Update, “had nothing to do with the issue on the table. This all goes back 10, 15 years to, apparently, something Christie Whitman did to them when she was governor and these guys got a raw deal then.”

    What is up in the air is the extent of the facility’s presentations. It could be open for simulcasting only or the union can come to some agreement with Mr. Gural and his group and the transfer to private ownership would continue. At that point, the state has allowed for only 75 days of live harness racing in 2011.

    Thus, the designated tracks in the NHHC could be altered. Stay up to date at Facebook and via my tweets on the details and where to go on the TwinSpires site for contest changes.

    (Cartoon by Thom Pye)
  • SimonSays Handicapping Challenge

    POSTED Apr 16, 2011
    Week 12

    Anthony Kelzenberg

    Keenland (4/16/11)

    Race 9: $80 WIN on 5-BRILLIANT SPEED.
    Comments: There is some excellent poly success under the second dam and I like Rosario getting on. This horse has not had the best of trips at Gulfstream.

    Garnet Barnsdale

    Woodbine Harness (4/16/11)

    Race 4: $200 WIN on 3-ANDERLECHT.
    Comments: This horse is known to be ready in his 1st start of the year AND shows two qualifiers at Mohawk with sub 27 second kickers - which I don't believe I have ever seen in my lifetime. Hoping for 2/1, but even 3/2 may be an overlay on this one — seriously.

    Chris Hernandez

    Santa Anita (4/16/11)

    Race 7: $10 WIN on 5-EUROGLIDE.
    Comments: Trained well for his return, looked super schooling on Friday and appears to get a preferable race set-up.

    José D. De León Alejandro

    Oaklawn Park (4/16/11)

    Race 8: $2 WIN on 4-MAY DAY ROSE.
    Race 9: $2 WIN on 7-THE OLE GEN.

    Scott Dick

    Keeneland (4/16/11)

    Race 9: $20 WIN/PLACE on 11-CRISMON CHINA.
  • A Derby Contender No Mo

    POSTED Apr 14, 2011
    All last year I gushed about Uncle Mo like a prepubescent girl at a Justin Bieber concert. I noted that his pace figures were the best I’d ever seen from a two-year-old and at night, under a blanket of stars (my wife insisted that I sleep outdoors until I quit gushing), I dreamed the impossible dream. With visions of Citation, Seattle Slew, Affirmed and Secretariat prancing in my head, I imagined that Uncle Mo would win the Triple Crown.

    But that dream has soured.

    Quicker than one could say “unprepared” or “ridiculously light training schedule” or, simply, “Todd Pletcher,” Uncle Mo has fallen from my Derby radar faster than Joe Biden’s eyelids during a recent deficit reduction speech given by his boss, President Barack Obama. (And to think I was made to feel guilty when I nodded off at work once… it’s not like driving a school bus was my career, for heaven’s sake).

    As most racing fans know by now, Uncle Mo, last year’s juvenile champ and this year’s pre-Derby favorite, tasted defeat for the first time in Saturday’s Wood Memorial, when he was third behind Toby’s Corner and Arthur’s Tale as the prohibitive 1-9 favorite. Normally, one loss would not concern me — but it’s the way that “Mo” was defeated that has me crying uncle.

    Look, it’s no secret that I am not a big fan of Todd Pletcher’s training methods and I often lamented that his “kid gloves” approach could prove to be the undoing of Mike Repole’s budding stable star. However, I expected that implosion to occur in the Preakness Stakes, not the Wood.

    Can Uncle Mo bounce back and win the Run for the Roses? Sure, but spare me the comparisons to Secretariat. Yes, “Big Red” lost to a less-than-stellar opponent in Angle Light when he, like Mo, finished third in the 1973 edition of the Wood, but that was Secretariat’s third race as a three-year-old and 12th overall, not his second and fifth respectively. What’s more — and this is crucial — Secretariat rallied off of a slow pace the day he was defeated; Uncle Mo did just the opposite, fading after leading the field through moderate early splits (-4 ESR).

    The significance of this cannot be overstated. Although not as inevitable as death and taxes, leading at the first call of one’s final Derby prep — and not winning — is about as sure a way to get beat in Louisville as there is, short of misjudging the finish line… not like that could ever happen. Since 2000, 13 horses have tried to rebound in the Bluegrass State after setting the pace and losing their last race — only one (Lion Heart) has managed to hit the board. Worse yet, of the 13, three were trained by Todd Pletcher.

    Not exactly the stuff of dreams.

    (Click on image to enlarge)

    Decent Start to ‘Pro’ Career

    While I haven’t exactly been the handicapping version of Blake Griffin, so far, my initial foray into professional betting has gone well. After a relatively strong opening day on Saturday, I struggled a bit with my control on Monday, but regained my composure and have been very disciplined ever since.

    Below is a look at the numbers (remember the dollar totals will not be very impressive initially due to my small starting bankroll of $492.60):

    (Click on image to enlarge)

    Not surprisingly given the rash of low prices I’ve been experiencing lately, it is exotic wagering that has led to all my gains, as the following screenshots from my TwinSpires account amply demonstrate:

    (Click on image to enlarge)

    Blue Grass Stakes and Arkansas Derby Top Weekend Stakes

    The last two Grade I Kentucky Derby preps — the $1 million Arkansas Derby and the $750,000 Blue Grass Stakes — are scheduled to be run on Saturday at Oaklawn Park and Keeneland, respectively. Below is a look at my Win Factor (computerized fair odds) line and Pace Profile Report summary for each race (remember, the fair odds are just a guideline):

    Arkansas Derby

    (Click on image to enlarge)

    (Click on image to enlarge)

    Blue Grass Stakes

    (Click on image to enlarge)

    (Click on image to enlarge)