• Millions Featured At Mohawk

    POSTED Aug 31, 2011
    The Great White North takes the spotlight as the second half of the 2011 harness season presents big bucks in Canada, with the $1-million Metro Pace Final for frosh colts at the center of the program. Frosh fillies go for $633,000 in the She’s A Great Lady Final, with consolations for both events at $100,000 each. As well, some of the top older pacing males battle once more, this time in the $832,000 Canadian Pacing Derby. A pair of $120,000-plus Simcoe Stakes for glamour-boy trotters is also incorporated in the rich program.  

    TwinSpires bettors will be getting 10X points on all wagers made at Mohawk on Sept. 3, so make your own millions and score valuable points too.  

    The weekend begins with the Historic Series, moved to Vernon Downs from its long-time home at the Meadowlands in the pre-Gov.-Christie era. We start the long, holiday weekend there, Friday, Sept. 2.   

    Historic Groups

    A staple of the Grand Circuit, the Historic Series is for freshmen. The card is supplemented with two trotting stakes for aged horses and mares, making for a bigger-than-usual night at Vernon Downs.  

    The new faces are becoming a bit familiar. Freshmen are deep into stakes as summer disappears.  

    In the $79,900 Harriman Cup, for instance, our friend Big Chocolate makes another go at getting the first prize at a stake. We like him again and again, in this big field, it looks as if he won’t draw favorite status.  

    In the filly-pacing Goshen Cup ($79,900) we have our eyes on Coast To Coast. This gal has been knocking on the door and cashing some big checks racing with better than these.  

    Linda Toscano’s student looks good in the $61,300 Ladyship for frosh-filly pacers. JK Fine Art could be bet heavily but might also have a co-favorite in this compact field of seven, making her a good bet.  

    There are two $36,000-plus Acorn divisions for frosh-filly trotters, both looking easy if the gals stay flat. However, they could both be better passed considering the ease of Upside Hanover in the first and Shes All In in the second.

    The older performers’ events may shed some overlay magic. Jersey As was getting better with every race and shows up here in a good spot to upset in the Muscle Hill. If lots of money goes elsewhere, and it should, she can be the surprise here. As will Take My Picture in the Credit Winner. One of last year’s hot Hambo contenders, this guy came back strong at four and may be in a spot to derail the great San Pail, along with Lucky Jim and the others.  

    Metro Rocks

    The Canuck bucks flow like wine on the first weekend of September at Mohawk, with freshmen in the center ring.  

    The $1-million Metro Pace Final doesn’t always produce a soph-colt champ but frosh-pacing talent that is unequaled to that point in any season supports every field in its history. This year is no exception. Barring injuries, it is no stretch to imagine every one of these colts will be talked about for a few seasons. So here we have a highly competitive field.  

    Three representatives of sire Rocknroll Hanover are within winning range. D Terminata is improving (we had him twice to win so far and he won both); A Rocknroll Dance got a smooth trip at 20-1 to win an elim and it was not a lucky ride; and Simply Business got to the final by grinding his way through a long journey.  

    The pair of Western Hanover colts, I Fought Dalaw and Ideal Champ, has earned berths here with classy wins. Speed Again, the only product of Dragon Again) shoots stretch fire to threaten all speed involved. The others, Allstar Legend, Hurrikane Kingcole, State Treasurer and Major Bombay, will be hurling themselves into the action one quarter or another.  

    The most likely overlay could be Simply Business, coming from post 9. Jimmy Takter’s pacer is out of the productive mare Cathedra Dot Com, arguably the classiest of all the moms in this field. But if bloodlines do not impress you then just look at the work he did with driver Ron Pierce to get to the final. The post may help the odds and not hinder the trip.  

    The Metro Consolation should belong to Special Blend, the colt that should have been among the best in the final.  

    Cash Contests Continue

    The frosh-pacing fillies in the She’s A Great Lady Final should be a showcase for Pirouette Hanover. She may be the choice from post 10, where she won already (Meadowlands) and with pace to spare. It is hard not to key her, as Ron Pierce should be on her again from post 10; he may sweep the two frosh affairs.  

    The Canadian Pacing Derby is an expensive mile, so expect these stalwarts to dig in deeply for some of the thick bills lining the purse. We nabbed Foiled Again last week in an elim but we have a strong upset possibility to support here with Art Professor. He may be stalking these older fellows with a strategic plan to pounce and can do it. He is intrinsically better than We Will See, who he beat when younger, and gets into this field off of a race that deserves attention.  

    In the Spring Of Hope Invitational we will stick with Anndrovette, who had a lot of trouble last week after a race that should have propelled her to an easy win. Toss out last week’s attempt and she could wire this field at a price. 

    Simcoe Stakes unite some of the Hambo crew and these two miles look to be theaters for familiar names waiting to make a big-money score. 

    Certainly Whiskey Tax, the colt that ruined our Players Pool trifecta in the Hambo (we had the first and third finishers) with a huge longshot place finish, may be ready to score in the $121,644 Simcoe. He won’t go off as long as he did in the Hambo but that is good; some action on him is encouraging. He should still be worth it.  

    Then, Pastor Stephen, who was the early-season Hambo favorite, could swamp this group—the $123,644 Simco—at a price we would never have expected from him.  

    Follow me on Twitter for updates down to the last minute and a whole lot of fun with world news, pop culture and more.

     (Ray Cotolo assisted in this edition.)
  • Cotolo’s Harness-Weekend Review, 8-29-11

    POSTED Aug 29, 2011
    Just as a score of racetracks along the East Coast were forced to close due to the most ambitious hurricane to make landfall in decades, I was forced to watch the trees on my land in southcentral Pennsylvania bend to unnatural angles when Hurricane Irene swept more westward than forecasted. Thousands of citizens in the Susquehanna Valley lost power for more than a day due to the storm. We resorted to ancient forms of communication and creative survival, obviously leaving out the possibility we could connect to the Internet. So we apologize for the late review.  

    Just before we were attacked by 60-plus-miles-an-hour winds on Saturday, Aug. 27, we scored in the first elim of the Canadian Pacing Derby at Mohawk. Foiled Again came back strongly, as we thought he would after his second in the “Haughton” the week before to win and pay $9.60.  

    The second elim presented a problem for our choice, Aracache Hanover as he broke off the gate and though he gallantly strove to make a comeback only 3 lengths off the winner he finished sixth.  

    Then, in the first Metro Stakes elim, we were handed a strong $8.90 win from D Terminata. We picked up the second elim, though Speed Again was the choice, paying $4.60. Our third choice, All Star Legend, was second at 9-1, having been defeated by a 20-1 shot.  

    To no one’s surprise, American Jewel won the first elim of the She’s A Great Lady but did not offer the fine price she paid the week before—she paid $2.30.  

    Much to our surprised, our American-National pick for the colt trotters won as the favorite. We thought GJ Photovictory would provide a two-digit win mutuel for victory but he only returned $5.20. Our filly choice, Lady Rainbow, was third. 

    The night before in the Kindergarten Series legs at Vernon, we had one winner, Sandra Volo, at $6.80.  

    Thank you all for following us on Twitter. Please continue for all harness updates and join if you want to get the kind of info and opinion no other harness-Twitter account offers you. As well, we have some fun.

    Harness News

    It was bound to happen but it happened with a filly we have been touting all summer as Idyllic handed See You At Peelers her first loss, ending her win streak at 22. Idyllic lost all five of her 2011 starts and we liked her in each one because she is a good filly and always races well against this division.  

    The three-year-old sophomore pacing fillies have been dominated by “Peelers” at three, as they were at two and in this race, the $193,150 Nadia Lobell at the Meadows, most of the usual suspects were on hand. But a bad post and a blazing first half took its toll on Peelers and she tired as Idyllic defeated her going first over.  

    Idyllic, however, only paid $12. 

    Trainer Jimmy Takter said that Peelers came out of the race fine. She is still a future-book choice to beat the boys in The Little Brown Jug.

    The great filly that Peelers was being compared to since her winning streak carried from two to three, died just before Peelers streak ended. Fan Hanover was 33.  

    The unique Xtreme Racing program at Georgian Downs took place last weekend. You have to see some of these events to appreciate them, so check them out here. I love when harness racing goes out on a limb and gets creative with what is sometimes a stubborn format. The Xtreme races are great and there should be a lot more of them incorporated into harness track menus across North America.
  • Uncle Mo, the Travers and Hoosier Hooey

    POSTED Aug 25, 2011
    This week’s column is kind of a potpourri of racing stuff. In between making a video for Emma Stone — it seems to be the thing to do these days — I also analyzed some video from Hoosier Park, handicapped the Travers Stakes (in a non-violent way, I assure you) and weighed in on yet another “miracle” associated with Lake Placid.

    Hoosier Hooey?

    On Tuesday, my buddy Scott Dick penned a great column for Horse Racing Nation entitled “Hoosier Park: Juvenile Excitement!” In it, he highlighted a couple of Indiana-based two-year-olds that impressed him (luckily, he has not recorded a creepy YouTube video on the subject… yet).

    The debut performance of one of the horses (Alumni) stood out to me… but not for the reasons one might think.

    (Click on image to enlarge)

    To say that Alumni’s lifetime bow was impressive is like saying the Kardashian-Humphries wedding drew an inordinate amount of media attention — it’s a gross understatement. After all, the son of First Samurai (I’m talking about Alumni, not Kardashian or Humphries) not only won by six resounding lengths — while racing wide, mind you — he also tied a Hoosier Park track record by blitzing five furlongs in 56-4/5 seconds.

    Yet it is that fantastic time that gives me pause.

    Look at the past performances above. Note that the half (four furlongs) was recorded in :46-2/5. This means that Alumni traversed the final eighth of a mile in just a shade over ten seconds. That’s not just fast, that’s Frankel fast — and, remember, Frankel is powered by a “magnum gun,” according to Alan Fraser of the Daily Mail.

    Now, I am presently awaiting a response from Hoosier Park officials regarding the accuracy of the electronic timer that day, but, in the meantime, I broke down the video replay and found that the reported half-mile split appears to be about a second too slow, which I’ve documented below:

    Clearly, Alumni’s performance was impressive… just not as impressive as it looks on paper.

    5th Hoosier Park (08/04/11)

    (Click on image to enlarge)

    School’s Out

    To provide some balance to all the gum clobbering about how Jose Lezcano (rider of Winter Memories) was “schooled” in the Lake Placid, which was run Aug. 21 at Saratoga, I present the following:
    A) The pace of the Lake Placid, as expected, was horrendously slow — a +6 early speed ration (ESR) for early leader Bellamy Star. As a result, the field was a lot more compact than usual. Winter Memories broke from post-position five, meaning her tactical options were limited: She could either race closer to the pace in traffic or drop to the back of the field and be in the clear.

    Now what do you think folks would have said had Lezcano chosen the latter option? If you answered “complained vociferously that he kept Winter Memories too far off a tepid pace,” you are undoubtedly correct.

    B) Hungry Island had the best overall late speed rations (LSRs) coming into the Lake Placid and, in fact, she repeated her most recent figure (+6) in last Sunday’s feature. Meanwhile, Winter Memories recorded a +3 LSR in the Lake Placid, which was an improvement over her previous number (a +1 in the Lake George).
    The bottom line was/is: Bettors that took 2-5 on a horse that hadn’t proven she was fastest in the first place were incredibly foolish and the unreasonable odds should not be held against Lezcano; contrary to what the tote and some over-enthusiastic turf writers said, he was not riding Secretariat.

    (Click on image to enlarge)

    (Click on image to enlarge)

    Weekend Wagers

    (Click on image to enlarge)

    COMMENTS: Do my eyes deceive me or has juvenile champion and onetime Kentucky Derby favorite UNCLE MO had four straight five-furlong workouts? Give trainer Todd Pletcher — or whoever is impersonating him at Saratoga this year — credit. It looks like the son of Indian Charlie will be fit and ready for the Grade I King’s Bishop — and a fit and ready Mo could leave the crowd crying “Uncle.”

    Clearly, FLASHPOINT is the one to beat, but I suspect he’ll get overbet. If I’m wrong, he’s certainly a worthy alternative to the morning line favorite.

    RUNFLATOUT has been working up a storm, figures to be a square price and has a trainer (John Sadler) who is very adept with horses switching surfaces and dropping in distance.

    BET(S): WIN on 7 at odds of 2-1 or greater. SHOW on 3 (hoping for an inordinate amount of show money on Uncle Mo).

    (Click on image to enlarge)

    COMMENTS: I have been incredibly impressed with the fighting spirit that SHACKLEFORD has shown this year, which was on full display in the Haskell on July 31, when the son of Forestry gamely resisted Coil in the stretch before succumbing late. He has the best overall ESRs in Saturday’s field and became my top win contender when, after the post position draw, his trainer Dale Romans said, “I don't think there's anybody quick enough to get in front of him, if we want the lead. From the 10-hole we might try to go and try to open up a couple and see what happens.”

    The aforementioned COIL is the horse I could see pressing “Shack” early, as he had shown a fair amount of early zip before his come-from-behind score in the Haskell. If the Bob Baffert trainee is fully recovered from a reputed eye injury — Baffert insists he is — the consistent Coil could be a major player on Saturday.

    STAY THIRSTY is in good form — maybe too good. Is the dreaded “Pletcher Plunge” looming (witness Hilda’s Passion in the Bed o’ Roses)?

    If you’re seeking an intriguing longshot, look no further that RAISON D’ETAT, a rapidly improving Bill Mott charge. The only problem is Mott is woeful with horses showing ascending Beyer speed figures in graded stakes.

    BET(S): WIN on 10 at odds of 4-1 or greater.

    Derek Simon’s Free Selection Statistics

    Races (Selections): 46 (49)
    Wins: 18
    Rate: 39.1%
    Return: $139.90
    ROI: +42.76%

    (This year's published selections through 08/26/11.)

    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).
  • The Mo-illion dollar question

    The New York Racing Association is guaranteeing that its all-stakes pick four pool on Saturday at Saratoga Race Course generates at least $1,000,000 in handle, meaning at least $740,000 will be available for those who successfully navigate the tricky sequence that begins in race 9 with the Victory Ride Stakes for three-year-old filly sprinters and concludes in race 12 with the Travers Stakes for three-year-old male classic types.

    And while that latter race is not only the main event of a blockbuster 13-race card worth $2,236,000 but also the entire Saratoga meeting, much attention will be on the preceding 11th race, the King's Bishop Stakes for three-year-old male sprinters/middle distance types featuring the return of undefeated two-year-old champion Uncle Mo.

    The Indian Charlie colt, off since suffering his first career defeat on April 9 when third to Toby's Corner and Arthur's Tale in the Wood Memorial Stakes, is the 9-to-5 morning line favorite in the King's Bishop with the multiple graded stakes-winning Flashpoint installed as the 5-to-2 second choice on Eric Donovan's line. The other six horses in the field are between 9-to-2 and 20-to-1.

    To me, it's an either-or race. Either you think Uncle Mo will win and he's the only horse you should use, or you think he won't win and you shouldn't use him at all. His price just leaves no wiggle room to hedge with other horses.

    For the pick fours (there's also a pick four on the last four races of the day) and grand slam purposes, I'm in the Uncle-Mo's-a-winner camp. Using BRIS pace figures, any repeat of any of his first three races, including his career debut when winning a six-furlong maiden special weight race by 14 lengths on Travers day last year, wins this easily. His early pace numbers are right there with Flashpoint, and his late pace numbers are the fastest in the race.

    Think about that.

    At his best, Uncle Mo can duel with Flashpoint going as fast as Flashpoint has gone when winning graded stakes gate-to-wire and still be faster than all of the other "closers" late in the race.

    Going any deeper than Uncle Mo doubles, triples, quadruples, etc. the size of any pick four ticket. If I didn't like him I wouldn't use him at all. Too often people use overbet favorites they don't like as insurance or because they don't want to get beat by a horse like Uncle Mo. My experience is that such strategy certainly costs you value in the long run. A) you're not betting your opinion--a deadly sin of horseplaying; B) you're playing not to lose instead of to win--it's scared money.

    Oddly enough, I'm certainly not looking to talk anyone on Uncle Mo. He'll probably be an underlay in the win pool, but I do think enough people will want to spread around him in the pick fours to create some value in that wager. Overall, I'd rather be deep in the other races and take my chances with the only champion in the sequence.

  • Sophs, Froshes Fightin’ For Big Cash

    POSTED Aug 24, 2011
    This weekend the younger divisions head north, south and west for lots of stakes action and more second-half season prestige. Weekend features begin in New York at Vernon with the launching of the traditional Kindergarten Series legs for frosh trotters of both sexes. The weekend stakes end in New York at Tioga on Sunday, Aug. 28 with soph trotters.  

    On Aug. 28, all races at Tioga earn a TwinSpires player 10X points—10 points for every dollar wagered. The classic “Zweig” stakes is included on the program, bringing together the Hambletonian-class and “Oaks”-class groups.  

    In the middle of the New York, to the north features are stakes at Mohawk and in the Midwesk, a pair of them surface at Balmoral. Let’s get to the suggested contenders in all of the weekend’s presentations.  

    On Monday, Aug. 29 the “standardbred equivalent” to Zenyatta, See You At Peelers, is set to come from post 9 in the Nadia Lobell at the Meadows, looking for her 23rd-straight win.   

    Young Guns

    Friday, Aug. 26, Vernon is the latest home for the Kindergarten Series launch, offering the first program of divisions (others will take place at other tracks).  

    In frosh-colt-trotting action, undefeated Vic Smith should be challenged by our choice, Big Chocolate. He has been racing in the same company as “Vic” but will not be the favorite in this small field, the first division.  

    A Penny Earned will mount a ton of support in the second split but Blazed should go two for two for the Antonacci family as a second choice in the wagering, which is also our choice.  

    The third colt split must belong to the Bruce Saunders-trained Highland Yankee, a first-time starter with a qualifier faster than all the others in the field. It’s an instant play if you agree to what should be a very low win mutuel. Taxman is the horse to watch for an upset in here. He was hung in a New York Sires Stakes event where betting was prohibited. He lost positioning in the stretch but came back to finish second. He may adapt well to the seven-eighths oval.  

    Filly trotters are next, all of them maidens, and the Antonaccis should have the edge with the Donato Hanover gal Alexandria Lindy. Angel Eyes Hanover is one to watch. She worked for the lead in the stretch and cleared approaching the clubhouse turn at Chester. She dueled around the far turn and gave way to Playwear Hanover and had to settle for second. She may do better this week.   

    Then, in filly-division two, Pretend To Be Nice has a mark on a half-mile track and could be overlooked by “speed players.” She is from good connections that are having national trotting stakes success. Sandra Volo could be the betting choice. She won a Stallion Series division at Chester at 26-1.  

    Finally, in filly-division three, a Chocolatier first-time starter, Mrs D, has been qualifying like she wants to add to the sire’s great frosh-filly roster of success (remember Crème De Cocoa, to name one). She gained 16 lengths in a qualifier and trotted the mile in 2:01.2. Take a shot with her. Holier Than Thou deserves some attention, too. She was hung last out and did not fade, so she could be coming up to a good effort.  

    On Saturday night, Aug. 27, Mohawk activates the frosh festivities with elims for the big purses in next week’s Metro Stakes (the pacing colts) and She’s A Great Lady Final (the filly pacers).  

    A score of semi-green colts wish to advance to the million-dollar final, so three elims will adorn the program.    

    In the first Metro elim, Major Bombay will be the likely odds-on favorite. But be warned we don’t respect him as much as many others. The Woodrow Wilson win completely set up for “Bombay,” allowing for him to make a move less impressive than it looked.  

    D Terminata knows the Mohawk surface well and is the one to watch. He lost by a neck to Hurrikane Kingcole, who paced the fastest Nassagaweya division last week. Post 7 should be no problem for him.  

    In the second elim, Speed Again and I Fought Dalaw will be the top betting interests. Shakerattlenrock is the horse to watch. The full brother to Pretty Katherine paced an impressive mile in the Nassagaweya but lost to Speed Again. “Shake” had to wait for room to circle out and was charging after “Again” but had to settle for second.  

    In the final elim, Mel Mara, Hurrikane Kingcole and Special Blend should all be bet well. Allstar Legend, however, will be under bet and is the horse to watch. He gapped cover in the “Wilson” and still made a huge close to finish fifth.   

    In the first She’s A Great Lady, American Jewel is the one to beat. If she is a fair-priced favorite, use her. If she is not, stay away from the race.  

    In the only other elim, the Sweetheart champion Pirouette Hanover is the likely favorite. Podges Lady made two moves in the Sweetheart, one to take the lead and the other to survive first-over pressure, making her the horse to watch. 


    For years, many of the best horses have made one of their stops the American-National stakes in Illinois. This year the stars feature Crys Dream, Lady Rainbow and Wincinnatti.  

    In the $121,500 three-year-old filly American-National, Crys Dream will be heavily bet. But Lady Rainbow could be ignored as is often the case. She was blind-switched in the Hambletonian Oaks and still made a late trot to finish second. She may be the best.  

    In the $108,500 three-year-old colt American-National, Whit and Swan In A Million will be bet. But for value, GJ Photo Victory may bring a price. He beat Illinois’ best trotter, Anthonyskywalker, at Springfield. “Victory” gained 14 lengths on the fair mile and won by 11. He may do even better at Balmoral.  

    Sign Of The ‘Z’

    Some of the Hambo cast returns to Tioga on Sunday, where TwinSpires players get 10X points for every dollar wagered on the program. The feature is the Dr. Harry Zweig Memorial.  

    This event was traditionally the week-after-the-Hambo stakes for this division, when the race was held at the Saratoga, N.Y. fairgrounds. Now it is the feature after The Colonial but still offers a big purse. This year it is estimated at $235,000 and Hambo-champ Bold Bahn is set to return in another joust with Manofmanymissions. This time, Charlie De Vie is also scheduled to race (he didn’t make the Hambo final).  

    The Oaks winner, Bold And Fresh, is reported to be the headliner of the $120,000 (set.) filly “Zweig.” Since no draws were made by press time, please watch our Twitter page for recommendations.   

    Wise Old Pacers

    This stalwart batch of older pacers pound the ovals weekly for the best money in town and here they are doing it again, this time in Canada, earning their berths for the Canadian Pacing Derby Final next week with two elims on Aug. 27.  

    We have to love Foiled Again one more time. He was part of our upset exacta with Alexie Mattosie on closing night the Big M and he was closing near well enough to win and pay more than he ever should pay. He may be a price here, too, in the first elim.  

    The second split is a great place for Aracache Hanover to extend the early foot he displayed last week in New Jersey. Mohawk is a better track than Woodbine to rate a mile wire to wire; so, we feel this guy has a shot at it over the obvious choices. Eliminations are the events for upsets than finals, considering the best horses can lose an elim and still get to the big show. These veterans are well aware of that.  

    Follow me on Twitter for updates down to the last minute.  

     (Ray Cotolo assisted in this edition.)
  • Cotolo’s Harness-Weekend Review, 8-22-11

    POSTED Aug 21, 2011
    It now appears that many harness fans will forever wonder if Manofmanymissions would have passed Broad Bahn in the Hambletonian if the quirky trotter had not begun to run. “Man” won his next outing—from post 10—at the Meadowlands but “Bahn” was absent from that contest. Man faced Bahn on Super Stakes Sunday at Chester this past weekend and beat him soundly. Can you consider it a rivalry? We have to wait for the Breeders Crown to fully appreciate the joust.  

    Our success this weekend was a down-and-dirty call of the William Haughton Memorial, featuring the gutsy free-for-all pacers that have adorned this blog season after season. Our contenders, Alexie Matosie and Foiled Again, finished first and second, respectively. Though we called for the latter to be the winner and the eventual winner to complete the exacta, both were sent off at 8-1, allowing for a box.  

    “Matosie” paid $18.40 to win and the combo paid $93. The way money runs through the “windows” these days, that payoff price seems generous. Many of us who adhere to the standard exacta value chart know that $93 for two 8-1 shots is an underlay. But that chart is now on trial, considering most “fairly calculated” exactas from its columns are near impossible to receive, no less promised in probable payoff flashes. We will accept the $93, since watching the probable payoff flashes did not reveal the final calculation of the actual payoff.  

    We Will See was the huge favorite. As readers of this blog should know, we were not high on that horse as a glamour colt and did not feel he was the best at four against the likes of “Foiled” and the others making up the “Haughton” field. This proved that.  

    Our Super Sunday choices may not have handed you the winner but we did continue to prove this year’s Hambletonian a key race as Charlie De Vie won a Colonial Consolation. Like Man, “Charlie” has had his issues with a smooth gait but when he is at his best he can even beat Man, as he did fair and square this season even though Man broke in the event. Charlie only paid $5.60 but probably should have paid $3.  

    Speaking of winners that should have paid any certain price, we mentioned that See You At Peelers would easily win the Valley Forge Final, tolling her 22nd-straight win, but we never imagined her paying $3.60. Drop The Ball and Krispy Apple both went off around 7-2 and that showed a lot of faith against the soph-pacing filly that has already locked in division honors. We offered Idyllic for the exacta but Krispy Apple got that spot and Idyllic completed the tepid triple, worth $19.40.  

    We were close in the Golden Girls, as Anndrovette took second. Rock N Soul’s performance was a mystery; she did not fire. The favorite, Dreamfair Eternal, who we supported when she was younger and not so popular on the tote, won, setting off a dreary $14 exacta with our upset choice.

    Alsace Hanover took second in the Battle of the Brandywine Final. Oddly enough he was the favorite to Roll With Joe, who beat him and combined for a pocket-change exacta of $15.40.  

    Finally, Shadyshark Hanover got second in a “Battle” consolation, defeated by Wind Me Up, from team Teague. That exacta came back $27.40, a price that looks good compared to some of the offerings we have mentioned.  

    In Canada, one of the Nassagaweya elims was a gift to readers as Special Blend won and paid $14.70. Our other elim choices, Shakerattlenrock and D Terminata, finished second.  

    Like “Peelers,” American Jewel won and paid a surprising $3.90 in her elim for next week’s Eternal Camnation Final.  

    Thank you all for following us on Twitter. Please continue for all harness updates and join if you want to get the kind of info and opinion no other harness-Twitter account offers you. As well, we have some fun.

    Harness News

    Brian Sears won his sixth of seven driving championships when the Meadowlands closed its 2011 season. Following him, in order, were Tim Tetrick, David Miller, Andy Miller, Yannick Gingras, Ron Pierce, Simon Allard, Mike Lachance, John Campbell and Brandon Simpson.

    The Meadowlands closed on Aug. 20 with some tears and memories hovering over the facility. What happens now to the flagship harness raceway?

    Jeff Gural, the head of the new, private group that took the track from the uncaring hands of the state’s governor, is looking ahead to 2012 as things change rapidly with the swampland’s plant. Coming to the Meadowlands are a new head of operations, a new racing schedule and a strong get-tough policy on trainers and/or drivers who do not play by the rules.

    Mr. Gural is interviewing for the person who will run the racing operations. As well, he said he hopes to have a new management team in place shortly.
    When the track re-opens, there’s a chance some familiar horsemen will be asked to race elsewhere. Gural believes integrity is a serious issue for the industry and may chose to keep some people out.

    A new racing program is in the works. Mr. Gural said the track could open the Friday before New Year’s Eve, Dec. 30, or the first week in January. “We’ll still race around 81 days,” he said.

    Construction on the new grandstand will begin around the first of the year, hoping to be completed by May, 2013. The paddock will be redesigned so that horses can ship directly into it instead of a receiving barn.

    (Cartoon by Thom Pye)
  • Woodford Reserve Lake Placid Stakes

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    COMMENTS: Clearly, 5-WINTER MEMORIES is the horse to beat, but I suspect that she will be grossly overbet, so I will look for value on top and in the show pool with 7-HUNGRY ISLAND, whose last race was sensational. The question is: Will she repeat it? Mixed signals. I also think the Indiana shipper 3-TRAC N JAM rates a chance at what is sure to be a monster price.

    BET(S): WIN & SHOW on 7.
  • Derek Simon's Weekend Selections

    POSTED Aug 20, 2011

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    COMMENTS: RANSOM ZIP is a Win Factor Method "Key Selection."
    BET(S): WIN on 4 at odds of 6-5 or greater.

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    COMMENTS: Arabian superstar TM SUPER BIRD has huge speed edge on the rest of the field.
    BET(S): WIN on 7 at odds of 4-5 or greater.

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    COMMENTS: KOKA KOLA OCEAN is a Win Factor Method "Key Selection."
    BET(S): WIN on 5 at odds of 8-5 or greater.

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    COMMENTS: The morning line favorite, WHERE'S STERLING, appears to have some physical issues (although the change of jocks is positive), so I'll cast my lot with ALMA D'ORO, a Todd Pletcher trainee that appears to be on the upswing.

    BET(S): WIN on 4 at odds of 3-1 or greater.

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    COMMENTS: I analyzed this race at the end of my latest podcast. Click HERE to listen.
    BET(S): WIN on 1 at odds of 9-2 or greater.

    Derek Simon’s Free Selection Statistics

    Races (Selections): 42 (45)
    Wins: 15
    Rate: 35.7%
    Return: $104.30
    ROI: +15.89%

    (This year's published selections through 08/19/11.)

    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).
  • Alabama Stakes odds analysis

    POSTED Aug 19, 2011
    I don't normally make an odds line for every race I handicap, but a lively discussion on Twitter Friday morning concerning the Alabama Stakes (click for free BRISnet.com Ultimate PPs) made me take a closer look at the six-filly field, and where the value might be considering I think the public will overvalue the chances of both Its Tricky and Plum Pretty.

    It's a worthwhile exercise because it puts into clearer focus the effect takeout has on a race.

    You would think a third of the field being underlaid (based on your handicapping) would make for overlays elsewhere, but that's not always the case. Don't always assume that because you dislike a favorite that you should automatically love something else. Also, don't just "throw out" a favorite. I'm not in love with It's Tricky, but she's obviously a big win threat (I have her fair odds at 4-to-1). I'll pitch her in most pick Ns, but she'll win the Alabama enough times that if I like a price horse elsewhere in the sequence that I don't want to be against her if I can get a $20 horse home.

    Based on my odds sheet below, I expect the value to be on St. John's River, who I think will be 7-to-2 (my ML) but is fair value at 3-to-1 as a winner of this race 25% of the time.

    In addition to discussion about who will win the race, the Twitterverse also considered who will get bet in the race. I have Inglorious as the fifth choice, but one astute observer thought she'd go postward as the second choice. I don't see how, but we'll see.

    For past performances of the Alabama, click here, and of course wager on TwinSpires.com!
  • The Big Winner

    POSTED Aug 18, 2011
    There are three things that have puzzled man since the beginning of time:

    1) Women.
    2) Women.
    3) The effect of a big win on a thoroughbred racehorse.

    I won’t address the first couple of items — I too continue to be baffled — but I will weigh in on the third point. Awhile back, I published a study I had done on “daylight winners,” which I defined as horses that had won their last start by three lengths or more.

    I settled on that margin of victory because, in his book “Winning at the Races: Computer Discoveries in Thoroughbred Handicapping,” Dr. William Quirin asserted that horses that won their most recent race by at least three lengths were often strong contenders in their subsequent start, which he documented thusly:

    Number: 370
    Winners: 84 (22.7%)
    ROI: -12%

    Although these dominant winners returned a net loss in their following starts, it’s worth noting that Dr. Quirin didn’t insist on any other positive form factors outside of the daylight win.

    But do these impressive numbers still hold true today? After all, Mr. Quirin’s studies took place nearly 30 years ago — back when Beyer figures could only be found scrawled on the Daily Racing Form of the man himself.

    I decided to find out. Let’s first look at horses that simply won their last start — by any margin:

    Number: 7,301
    Winners: 1,178 (16.1%)
    ROI: -24%

    And, now, the horses that triumphed by three lengths or more last time:

    Number: 2,436
    Winners: 484 (19.9%)
    ROI: -17%

    Not exactly inspiring — and quite a bit worse than what Quirin’s original study produced (the product of 30 years aging, perhaps, or a much bigger sample size). So let's “tighten” the rules a bit and consider only those steeds that most recently competed during the past month over today’s general track surface (AWS and dirt or turf):

    Number: 1,638
    Wins: 348 (21.2%)
    ROI: -11%

    Well, that’s better — the stats are much more in line with Quirin’s now — but the results are still decidedly negative. On a whim, I decided to see if purse value had any effect on the digits (while still insisting that the horse last raced over today’s general track surface within the past month):

    Purse of $25,000 or more

    Number: 740
    Wins: 146 (19.7%)
    Average Winning Mutuel: $8.17
    ROI: -19%

    Purse of less than $25,000

    Number: 898
    Wins: 202 (22.5%)
    Average Winning Mutuel: $8.59
    ROI: -3%

    Interesting. It appears that as the purse of the race gets higher, the impact of a big win becomes less pronounced — or, maybe more accurately, the public overplays that particular factor in richer races (note the average winning mutuel).

    So, using what we learned above, I constructed a simple, yet profitable angle centered on the daylight winner:

    * Play is restricted to horses that won their last race by three lengths or more over today’s general track surface (main/turf) within the past 30 days.

    * Today’s purse must be less than $25,000.

    * Horse must be going to post at odds equal to or greater than its morning line price.

    Number: 380
    Wins: 52 (13.7%)
    ROI: +17%

    Granted, the winning rate is akin to that of my beloved Seattle Mariners this season (OK, I’m exaggerating a little), but the return on investment (ROI) is a healthy 17 percent. That’s not the kind of return that would make me want to mortgage the house for betting capital, but it’s not bad for such a straightforward angle.

    Breeding For Speed?

    I keep hearing that U.S. breeders are breeding for speed, yet how does one explain Arlington Million Day (Aug. 13)?

    In the three Grade I turf races that afternoon — the Secretariat, the Beverly D. and the Million — two of the 11 foreign-bred horses competing led after the opening half-mile, compared to just one of the 19 American horses. What's more seven (63.6 percent) of the foreigners were positioned in the top half of the field at the first call versus just six (31.6 percent) of the U.S.-born runners.

    It gets worse. The average early speed ration (ESR) of the foreign-bred steeds was a +6; the Americans averaged a +9.

    If this breeding for “speed” continues, I foresee tracks going back to a tape barrier.

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    FREE Weekend Win Factor Plays

    Click HERE for Saturday's selections.

    For further race analysis and suggested plays, be sure to listen to this week’s “TwinSpires Horse Racing Podcast with Derek Simon” on Friday (live at 1 p.m. Eastern on BlogTalk Radio or archived on iTunes and other podcast directories shortly thereafter).
  • Saturday, Sunday Super-Stakes Lineup

    POSTED Aug 17, 2011
    There is no stopping the stakes action this weekend. The bulk of the features come on Saturday, Aug. 20. The Meadowlands will host a few prime events as it closes its summer run. Mohawk concurs with two traditional frosh contests’ elims to match the Meadowlands’ youngster events (finals next week). Also on Saturday, Saratoga Harness presents two stakes feature for elder pacers and trotters.

    By Sunday it is time for a lot of the season’s stars to appear at Chester Downs for Super Stakes Sunday, featuring the return of the undefeated See You At Peelers and many of the Hambletonian warriors from August’s first weekend.

    The Chester program on Sunday affords you 10X points on every dollar wagered through TwinSpires, so pump up the account with precious extras as you follow the magnificent miles featuring 2011 heroes and heroines.

    Get a free account and follow me on Twitter. It’s informative, educational, witty and wild; it is certainly unlike any other handicapping-oriented stream on the Internet. What is best about it is that it has revealed many harness winners to followers.   


    On Saturday, the Meadowlands and Mohawk are the scenes for a quartet of freshman pacing stakes for both sexes.

    The Meadowlands presents the finals of the Woodrow Wilson for boys and the Sweetheart for girls.

    There are giant favorites in the “Wilson” but, as usual, we want to look elsewhere, especially with freshmen. So, we’re looking for Allstar Legend to upset. This George Teague, Jr. student has only been out four times and has won once. Still, he is the third highest money earner in the selected field. Team Teague has been hot, as well, so there is no reason to feel this youngster isn’t ready to take the big money. In the Sweetheart we have to go, again, with Bettor B Lucky.

    At Mohawk, frosh pacers meet in the Nassagaweya (colts) and Eternal Camnation (fillies) elims.

    For the colts there are three splits. In the first, Shakerattlenrock, a full brother to Pretty Katherine, comes from the Rocknroll Hanover lot and is primed to be on target for a win. Next, Special Blend is by The Panderosa and is imbued with much speed, enough to wire these green colts. He was second at 19-1 in the Dream Maker. Finally, Fenian Hanover should feel at home where his sire, Mach Three, was best at two. D Terminata is a horse to watch. He almost beat Shakerattlenrock in a two-year-old event on August 12. He may be the best horse in this field.

    The fillies go in two miles, with American Jewell bound to race huge in the first and Bound To Rock poised to go to the final with a win.

    Glamour Groups

    Sunday, Aug. 21, Chester Downs’ Super Stakes Sunday offers a half-million dollars in the Battle of the Brandywine for glamour-boy pacers and another 500 grand for the Hambo crowd of trotters in the Colonial Trot.

    The “Battle” brings together some of the hot pacers from the season’s first half. We still like Custard The Dragon, as he always comes through at a good price against the likes of these but we also like Alsace Hanover this time around, though he may not bring the win money “Custard” should offer again. Perhaps these two can combine for a decent exacta, especially if Roll With Joe is third or worse (he will be bet heavily).

    In the Battle’s first consolation, Shadyshark Hanover looks best, even coming off a disappointing race after his giant speed mile on Hambo day. In the second consolation Lookinforadventure deserves another shot. We gave up on him a while back but he seems to have some moves left yet and could pay well.

    The Hambo redux has a twist—Dejarmbro is back to meet foes he could not face in the August classic. Hambo-winner Broad Bahn will try to record a rare double (winning the Hambo then the Colonial) and Hambo-favorite Manofmanymissions (easy winner of the sires stakes final last week) tries to stay flat again and redeem himself with this challenging group.

    Be aware of the Hambo’s third-place finisher, Opening Night, as the Campbell brothers could get this one in a better position to close on all the speed. He was trucking in the Hambo final and would have been second if longshot Whiskey Tax didn’t get a perfect trip behind “Bahn.”

    The only Colonial consolation we like is the one with Charlie De Vie and Fawkes. “Charlie” was good again last out, though finishing third, and could offer overlay status. Fawkes broke in the Hambo but was great in his elim. These two could deliver a healthy exacta either way.  

    In the $350,000 Valley Forge for soph-filly pacers, See You At Peelers hopes to make it nine for nine this season. She has handled all of these gals before so don’t expect much from them; it’s a good fan race, cheering for the streak. As a key, though, use her with Idyllic and What’s New Pussycat.

    The two “Valley” consolations, however, could be valuable investments. Pretty Katherine was a great overlay last week when we had her in an exacta with Myluvmylife. That one isn’t here, so “Kate” could do all the damage. Rocklamation could ignite the exacta. In the other consolation, Rockratese should prevail. 


    Saturday, Aug. 20, the tried-and-true FFA pacers meet in the $523,000 “Haughton” at the Meadowlands. Try to beat We Will See, the obvious favorite after two wins here with the old stalwart Foiled Again. This Ron Burke-trained veteran has not made his last statement for the season and could be huge here and offer a rare double-digit price. Alexie Mattosie could also be in the exotic mix.

    Pacing mares return for the $235,750 Golden Girls, where there is no way we get off of Rock N Soul. She was huge on Hambo day and loves this track when the big money is on the line. Also, Anndrovette could be back on her best behavior now that the purse is thick.

    At Saratoga some familiar New York favorites go to war in the Joe Gerrity, Jr. Memorial for $129,250. It’s a good event for Go Go Solano to finally pop a win. He has been knocking at the door for a while and gets a good spot here with Real Nice having to deal with post 8. Gallant Yankee is also a threat.

    The August Fun Final is the co-feature and some of the best Open trotters in New York are here to joust. One of them is Grain Of Truth. He mainly competes in New York and sometimes ships to Pocono Downs. Coach Fox and T Js Mr Lavec also compete on the New York circuit.

    The Schnittker entry of Grain Of Truth and Winning Fireworks will be heavy betting interests in here. Lorenzo Dream may get some betting and is the horse to watch. He regained 8 lengths in the third leg and came out victorious. The race may set up for him.

    (Ray Cotolo assisted in this edition.)
  • Getting out for the day: last race at Saratoga hangs big balloons

    POSTED Aug 15, 2011
    Saratoga Race Course bettors looking to either pad their bankroll or replenish it on the last race of the day have received that opportunity far more often than not at the current meeting.

    Heading into the final day of the fourth (third full) week of the 40-day meeting, favorites in the last race of the day are batting just 28.57%, and the average win mutuel is $21.40 with a median of $13.80 (see chart at bottom of this post).

    More short term, the get-away race has been a bonanza for those going against the chalk, as the favorite is winless in the last ten nightcaps to balloon the average win mutuel in that timeframe to $32.38 with a median of $16. In the past four days (August 10-14), the last race winners have paid $48.60, $134, $16.40, and $24.80.

    The BRISnet.com Handicapper's Edge Saratoga At a Glance chart indicates that the average win mutuel at the meeting is $13.64, which puts the average last race mutuel 56.9% higher.

    Favorites at the meeting are batting 31%, so the 28.57% last race rate isn't too far off the norm, and neither, really, is them being winless in their last ten tries since 31% winners means 69% losers, and something that has a 69% chance of happening will occur 10 times in a row about 2.4% of the time or the equivalent of a 41-to-1 shot coming in, and since a 66-to-1 won on Saturday we know that's not all that rare!

    A practical application of this is that the last race has helped the $.50 pick four to a robust average payout of $1,842,09 (Saratoga offers two pick fours daily: races 2-5 and the last four). A 1-to-2 favorite won the feature on Sunday, August 14, but the late pick four that started with a $5.30 Pletcher production still managed to pay $366.75 for $.50.

    And all this brings us to today (Monday, August 15) where my going against the likely favorite is sure to end the public choice's ten-race skid in the nightcap, but at least I'll have a story to tell.

    I'm backing #4 Slamming, who trainer Steve Asmussen thought enough of to buy from his clients at the Heiligbrodt Dispersal sale. The sticker that day was $22,000, and she shows up here for $25,000 with Asmussen as a co-owner. I'd normally like a few more workouts off this kind of layoff, but that she was at Lone Star earlier this year tells me she probably was in training off the track at the farm. It's an angle play based on the Asmussen buy, but 4-to-1 would scratch me where I itch.