• Autumn Leaves

    POSTED Nov 30, 2011
    Into December, Woodbine manages to crank out a few stakes for Ontario-bred horses that missed the big events the other 11 months. The Autumn Stakes are on the precipace of winter but hold up as playable miles nonetheless. With only next week’s Cleveland Classic left for any major division members (we’ll cover the Northfield event next Thursday), the Autumns take over on the marquee. 

    Meanwhile, we have the Cal-Expo no-takeout Pick 4, a victim of Nature’s tender wrath last week as it was fogged out. And we have more Watch List action and some great stats as compiled by our close standardbred-industry friend, Tim Bojarski.   

    Mild Mixing

    There are still elims carded this weekend at Woodbine for the Autumn Stakes, and on Monday, Dec. 5, two finals go to post on Monday, Dec. 5.

    On Dec. 2, a pair of contests decides the final for soph-filly pacers. It’s the first split we will support, featuring Twin B Miracle. Here is a gal we thought, based on the early part of the season and her frosh career, could make more noise than she made. She may be primed for this, having danced with a lot classier animals than most of her foes in this $25,000 event. 

    On Dec. 3, two elims gather the Autumn Stakes soph-colt-pace’s final field. The Filion-driven colts in both of these elims are ones to follow. Adventure Bound, in the first split, gets the rail and a soft field. In round two, Justlikejessejames appears to be in fine fettle and ready to stomp on these guys. 

    Monday, Dec. 5, soph-colt trotters are hosted in the $60,000 Autumn Stakes Final and frosh-colt pacers meet in a $50,000 conclusion. 

    In the sophs affair, Oaklea Trace was 10-1 in his elim, making two moves to lead and still gaining against the two that beat him to the wire. Also, Vimy Ridge made a pair of moves in his elim and won at 7-2.  

    The freshmen triple should include Pansational, who finished second at 4-1, being nipped at the wire after a strenuous but speedy trip. Twin B Wrangler should return stronger after being a strong choice and Solid Performance gained to be third after a tiring opening quarter racing wide. 

    Bojarski’s Notebook

    Stats from Tim Bojarski, a popular figure in the standardbred press, are always fascinating. Though all statistics of this nature are hardly empirical, your interpretation of them over the long haul is what matters. Tim is accurate and precise compiling data, so here are his findings for your edification or entertainment, however you see it. 

    The hottest harness tracks for betting favorites are Freehold (47 percent) and Northfield (46 percent). Tim calls The Meadows a “diamond in the ruff” for public choices, coming in at only 39 percent (leaving 61 percent to second, third and so on choices). 

    On half-mile tracks, Tim reports that more than 50 percent of the time the rail horse is in the money (Batavia is the high number at 59 percent). The exception is Maywood, where rail horses only hit the board 47.6, with horses from post-position 2 finishing in payoff spots 47.8 percent of the time). 

    Maywood also turns out to be the best play on half-miles for outside-post victories. Post 6 has a 12-percent win figure (in the money 33 percent of the time). Post 7 has a 7.7-percent win clip (in the money 25.5 percent of the time). Post 8 has a 6.7-percent win clip (in the money 21.8 percent of the time).  

    Thanks, Tim. 

    Watch List

    Now, we are looking at last week’s “Watch List” for horses yet to race or being given another shot. Your list can include any and all the tracks you can handle. You can use the TwinSpires Stable Alert feature to get emails of horses you are following on your list. 

    At Balmoral

    Big Gus –broke early leaving from the 10 hole as the second choice.

    Island Tiger –scratched coming into a race as an outside contender.

    Omaha Survivor –was hung for two calls in a good effort. 

    At Batavia

    Race 4

    Count Howie –was a beaten favorite and fried when hung early.

    Gaugin CC –rushed wide to get the early lead, stayed with the group well at 55-1. Dec. 2, Racxe 4

    Rush Of Fools –gained 6 lengths in an early brush, went first over and obviously faded. Dec. 3, Race 6

    Warners Rambaran –dueled outside near the top, dead-heated for fourth at 31-1. Dec. 3, Race 11 ae

    At Northfield

    Fantasy Character –gained 7 lengths, suffered interference and still got second at 30-1.

    Key Western –was hung for three calls and held for third. Dec. 3, Race 8

    Rush N Supreme –had early foot with a strong brush then hung.

    Show Me Glory –was three wide to the top early, held lead to three-quarters and finished fourth at 59-1.   

    Cal Exotic

    The no-takeout late Pick 4 at Cal Expo for Dec. 2 is a challenge, since a mighty fog cancelled last week’s races and left all of the horses entered adrift for a week. Here are our best possibilities for this week, including some of our picks from the fogged-out ticket. 

    Leg 1
    (6) Whitman was a beaten favorite before having to take a week off and should be a sound single here. 

    Leg 2
    (1) Lakers R Electric won in the fog, before it became too dense to race that night. There is no chart of how he raced but we will add him here for good measure along with (4) Columbia Court, who was coming around to a good mile in the new meet. 

    Leg 3

    (7) Schemes has been racing well and could be the overlay needed to make this ticket worth more than 29 cents, so to speak.
    Leg 4
    (6) Heelwin is priming for another big mile and we go again with (7) TJ Beach Poker, who was apt to return last week with power after a troubled trip but was scratched like the rest. As was (8) Jessalillpeace, who the week befgore closed stoutly to be second while being supported at the windows.   

    The ticket: 6/3,4/7/6,7,8  = $2 for $12

     (Ray Cotolo assisted in this edition.)
  • Cotolo’s Harness Review

    POSTED Nov 27, 2011
    Strange and obvious are the two words that cover the major stakes action we discussed in our pre-weekend blog. Also, our no-takeout Pick 4 at Cal-Expo was cancelled. Those are the teased headlines and here now is the news.  

    Saturday’s Forest City for pacing mares on the little mile at Western Fair in Canada was a curious affair. It looked odd from the beginning as six of the eight pacers lined up with two in the second tier. You rarely see horses of this caliber get rolling in such a configuration but this is a half-mile that doesn’t often host such class.  

    The field left the gate with some of the gals four and five wide going for spots, with our choice, last year’s champion, Dreamfair Eternal, staying well off the early pace from post 5. That was a wise decision since the huge favorite, Anndrovette, was bothered behind a breaker heading for a sizzling first quarter of :25.3. Although she got back on the pace, Anndrovette never had much of a shot trying to negotiate the remaining three turns. 

    The 13-1 Voelz Hanover cut the fractions, getting a break to a 1:24 three-quarters and in the short stretch Dreamfair Eternal (7-2) flew home to be third.  (Upper-left photo by Mark Hall)

    Obvious things went on at Dover where the soph-colt pacing Matron Final paired Ron Burke-trained favorites (an entry) Westwardho Hanover and Hugadragon. We were backing an upset, of course, hoping these two could cancel one another out with a fiery duel. Little did we know that our suggested contender, Lookingforadventure, who has been notorious for winning off of duels, would go off anywhere near the ridiculous odds the bettors allowed. 

    Lookingforadventure was 1,189-1.  

    The winner was Hugadragon and the mega-favorite entry paid $2.10, which was the only mutuel allowed. 

    Over at Cal-Expo on Saturday evening, charting the races was becoming more and more difficult. According to the National Weather Service’s Sacramento office, fog “thicker than leftover gravy” was covering the Yuba-Sutter area, “reducing visibility to less than a quarter of a mile in some places.” The driver advisory was not just for people on motor vehicles, as harness drivers on the Cal-Expo mile found themselves racing in the clouds while never leaving the ground. Races 10 through 15 were cancelled, siting obvious dangerous conditions for man and beast traveling the mile oval.  

    Our Watch List reported only one winner, and nothing to brag about, with Charlie Beans at $2.90 at Batavia. Of the others that raced (see the Nov. 24 blog for the list or email me through TwinSpires) Key Western finished second (paying $11.60 to place) and Show Me Glory was sixth at Northfield. Morgan Shark was second at Balmoral. Also at Batavia, Rush Of Fools was in a dead heat for fourth and Warners Rambaran was seventh. They all remain on the list for their next starts.  

    Harness News

    Our TwinSpires Hambletonian-pool winner, Broad Bahn, will be retired. He is going off to stud duty. He follows his nemesis, Manofmanymissions, who also leaves the track to help propagate the breed.
    Pompano Park harness launched its MEGA-9 wager on Nov. 26, offering patrons a chance to win a minimum $5,000 guaranteed pool for a base 10-cent wager. The first night's payout was $13.46 for those selecting seven of nine. The guaranteed minimum pool will be offered every race night through the mandatory payout night of May 5, 2012.
    Northfield Park adds a $30,000 guaranteed Pick-5 pool on Nov. 28. It begins with Race 3 and has a carryover this week of $7,779. The Pick 4 that night includes a $10,000 guarantee beginning with Race 8. The track’s “Pick” events offer a reduced takeout of 14 percent, the lowest in the sport, not counting the TwinSpires-Cal-Expo no-takeout Pick 4 on Saturdays.
    (Cartoon by Thom Pye)

  • Thanksgiving Thoughts

    POSTED Nov 23, 2011
    I love Thanksgiving — family, food, football, flatulence… and, even though it doesn’t start with an “f,” horse racing.

    Seriously, though, it’s a great holiday to reflect on all of life’s blessings — however big or small — and to express one’s appreciation for the people and events that have shaped one’s life.

    So, before I offer some Thanksgiving goodies and Black Friday bargains, let me take a moment to offer my sincerest thanks to:
    * Everybody that reads my columns, comments on my Facebook page and listens to my podcast… without swearing.

    * TwinSpires.com for allowing me to write my columns and produce my podcast… without resorting to swearing… or threatening a lockout.

    * Rapid Redux, for reminding us what the sport is really all about — guts, determination and a will to win greater than the richest purse or fullest field.

    * 99.76 percent of those in the horse racing industry. I know it is popular to criticize racing officials and others intimately involved with the Sport of Kings, but overall they are people who care passionately about the sport and its future… even if it doesn’t always appear so.

    * All the backside workers — hot walkers, exercise riders and other stable helpers — who toil in anonymity. You are the human equivalents of Rapid Redux.
    Now, without further ado, let’s see if we can add some cabbage to the Thanksgiving Day menu…


    (Click on image to enlarge)

    COMMENTS: SENSATIONAL SLAM has a ton of back class, including stakes wins both this year and last, and ran well at this level last time; expect another good effort.

    BET(S): WIN on 12 at odds of 1-1 or greater.

    (Click on image to enlarge)

    COMMENTS: There might be value in the place spot on what appears to be a very strong Repole/Pletcher entry.

    BET(S): PLACE on 1/1X (scratch of 1A is okay).

    (Click on image to enlarge)

    COMMENTS: GALLATIN’S RUN takes a plunge in class for top trainer Joe Woodard. He’s clearly got problems — the horse, that is — but Woodard is very, very good with horses of this type.

    BET(S): WIN on 4 at odds of 9-5 or greater.

    (Click on image to enlarge)

    COMMENTS: V SQUARED is a Win Factor Report Prime Overlay possibility.

    BET(S): WIN on 5 at odds of 3-5 or greater.


    (Click on image to enlarge)

    COMMENTS: STUDLEY is a Win Factor Report Key Selection.

    BET(S): WIN on 4 at odds of 6-5 or greater.

    (Click on image to enlarge)

    COMMENTS: OCEAN SURGE and SPECTACULOUS provide a great “dutch” betting opportunity in this race.

    BET(S): WIN on 10 at odds of 2-1 or greater and/or WIN on 1 at odds of 9-2 or greater.

    (Click on image to enlarge)

    COMMENTS: Looks like good value on CRUISIN WANDA in this spot.

    BET(S): WIN on 1 at odds of 7-5 or greater.

    Derek Simon’s 2011 Free Selection Statistics

    Races (Selections): 67 (74)
    Wins: 25
    Rate: 37.3%
    Return: $170.90
    ROI: +15.47%

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

    Note: Play is restricted to any horse(s) that meet my fair odds requirements (when listed). Multiple qualifying contenders will be bet separately, however, multiple bets will be adjusted to equal a single wager and the payoffs averaged. For example a winning WIN/PLACE wager paying $6.20 on top and $4.30 underneath would count as a single bet paying $5.25 (the average of $6.20 and $4.30).
  • Another Winter Of Harness’ Content

    Into the last month of Y2K plus 11, harness bettors take only two breaks, Thanksgiving and Christmas day. Meanwhile, the race cards ensue, even the Meadowlands is poised to begin a new season as all the king’s horses pace and trot across the birthday line New Year’s Day. It’s getting colder but that just fires up the heats as the world’s most monstrous horses pound the heavy, freezing limestone and cut through all elements winter delivers. There is no better atmosphere for harness racing! 

    This week we re-introduce the Watch List, our personal book of future wagers, while encouraging you to keep your own records, mostly checking on all the overnights as the 2010 season lay bare to the plethora of winter racing across North America.  

    We continue the quest for striking with a Cal Expo no-takeout-Pick-4 winning ticket. The Saturday event is analyzed below. Remember to consider some of our longer shots (3-1 and up) on the ticket for win bets, also. 

    Forest City Mares Meet

    Some star mares from this season will be at The Raceway at Western Fair District this Saturday night for the $195,000 Forest City Pace, the feature event of the Fall Meet at the London, Ontario racetrack. Nine pacing mares that have earned $10.5 million in purses, with five having a million dollars or more in their career bankrolls compete for the title.

    Last year’s edition saw Dreamfair Eternal establish a stakes record of 1:54.3. She’s back to defend her title with he who guided her to the 2010 title, Chris Christoforou.

    Breeders Crown-winner Anndrovette is here with driver Tim Tetrick, who makes his first appearance at Western Fair.

    Here is the field:
    1. Warrawee Koine – Trevor Henry
    2. Voelz Hanover – Mario Baillargeon
    3. Seriously – Jody Jamieson
    4. Ginger And Fred – Trevor Henry
    5. Blissful Smile – Scott Zeron
    6. Dreamfair Eternal – Chris Christoforou
    7. Anndrovette – Tim Tetrick
    8. Chancey Lady – Luc Ouellette
    9. Ticket To Rock – Jody Jamieson

    Anndrovette will be flat on the board, which is not to our liking. We had her before she surged, picking up $19 at her best price. Then the odds sank and she used front speed to win on the big tracks. Leave her out of this and if you get near her morning line of 6-1 on the defending champion, take Dreamfair Eternal. Driver Christoforou won with her here last year and has the experience to take her around the four turns. It could be a satisfying upset.    

    Matron Leftover

    Those pesky glamour-boy pacers take one more shot at each other in a Matron Stakes Final at Dover on Sunday, Nov. 27.

    With Betterthancheddar done after winning the Windy City, only Westwardho Hanover stands in the way of a division title. His Matron elim was a big mile and he will be the choice here along with the other elim winner, Hugadragon.

    An upset is unlikely, making this race a probable pass, but with a pair like this it is not hard to make a case for a burn-out scenario. If that is the case, then Lookinforadventure could be the colt to pick up the pieces for trainer Bruce Saunders. Early in the year, Lookinforadventure was racing well off the pace against dueling speed; he was beginning to look like a mighty contender in the division. But he never got enough to aim for with his closing style. He could make one last statement in this division, which has shared so much of the stakes treasures this season. Take a shot. 

    Watch List

    Once again this year we make you privy to our personal “Watch List,” featuring horses that have earned the right to be taken seriously as valuable wagers in at least their next two races (at the same track we note their performances). Being trip handicappers we search replays and charts for horses that have not been able to overcome adversity or are showing encouraging signs of life in recent miles.  

    Usually, we take any of these back at 4-1 or up but you will judge the betting value; we will report all activity regardless of price. We will follow and follow up on their performances, as well as tell you when they are racing again through this blog or on our Twitter page.  

    Big Gus –broke early leaving from the 10 hole as the second choice

    Island Tiger –scratched coming into a race as an outside contender

    Morgan Shark –closed long and hard to finish a tight third; Nov. 26, Race 8

    Omaha Survivor –was hung for two calls in a good effort

    Charlie Beans –broke twice early, went three wide, held to be a close fourth. Nov. 26 Race 4

    Count Howie –was a beaten favorite and fried when hung early.

    Gaugin CC –rushed wide to get the early lead, stayed with the group well at 55-1.

    Rush Of Fools –gained 6 lengths in an early brush, went first over and obviously faded. Nov. 26, Race 12

    Warners Rambaran –dueled outside near the top, dead-heated for fourth at 31-1. Nov. 26, Race 9

    Fantasy Character –gained 7 lengths, suffered interference and still got second at 30-1.

    Key Western –was hung for three calls and held for third. Nov. 26, race 7

    Rush N Supreme –had early foot with a strong brush then hung.

    Show Me Glory –was three wide to the top early, held lead to three-quarters and finished fourth at 59-1. Nov. 26, Race 6

    Cal Exotic

    The no-takeout late Pick 4 at Cal Expo for Nov. 12 begins with Race 9. Remember to use the best-valued members of this ticket (3-1 and up, for instance) as win bets. 

    Leg 1
    (5) Stanza was second at 4-1 and only lost because of an early wide move to the top. This is a debilitating move on this oval but she still finished second. 

    Leg 2
    (1) TJ Beach Poker had a dull effort after showing off at 13-1 the previous week, finishing a formidable second. He remains an outside contender that should be on the ticket. (4) Jessalillpeace closed stoutly to be second last out while being supported at the windows.  

    Leg 3
    (6) Whitman was not up to snuff as the favorite but we have to consider that a clunker and give him another shot. (8) Devilish Donnie loves this track and is working his way back to win a few in a row.  

    Leg 4
    (5) Girls Lie Too wound up third after making a tiring move to be first early, hanging and tiring at 10-1. But that show of early foot could be a flare that we need to address in this ticket.

    The ticket: 5/1,4/6,8/5  = $2 for $8 

     (Ray Cotolo assisted in this edition.)
    (Horse photos by Lynn Burton)
  • Cotolo’s Harness Review

    POSTED Nov 20, 2011
    It was a hangover week, as I like to call it, one of those late-autumn times after the Breeders Crown when all that is left for the stakes programs are a few events that rarely offer star-studded fields. Before this review, however, let’s go over a practice that continues to present success and will come in handy during the coming months dominated by overnight racing. 

    The problem with suggesting horses to play in any pari-mutuel theater is that most of the time those looking for advice say, “What have you done for me lately?” My contention with this question centers on the definition of “lately.” To a horseplayer, time is a zen-like property, making anything that matters immediate; winning, in other words, is only about what just happened. So, “lately,” as a concept, does not have enough of a time span to defend what may have been done for the audience. 

    This is why a player must keep good notes, as is especially important for TwinSpires harness-blog readers because we hand you immediate winners, and at good prices, but we also deliver winners with “time-release” effects. If you keep good notes and document some of our immediate losers, as well as horses we suggest you play to win even though they are on our Pick-4 tickets, you will find valuable wagers. Horses that win after they appear as suggested contenders in this blog or on our Twitter stream, can be worth the wait. 

    The situation arises again as we revived our ticket suggestions for the non-takeout late Pick 4 on Saturdays at Cal Expo. As we did last year, when we showed a profit for playing the combo by hitting only one Pick 4, we encourage players to follow our choices in the proposed tickets because they make for good win bets the next two times out. This past week two of our ticket participants returned to win at inflated prices. 

    Red Star Penny and Nightscreamer won on Nov. 18. The former paid $28.40 and the latter paid $13. This week our Pick-4 ticket offered one winner, Thouartthegreatest, paying $8.20 (we had this same horse two weeks back at $63). To watch from the Nov. 19 ticket, then, are Elegant Emma N, TJ Beach Poker and Bahama Bay Be.  

    We will emphasize horses to watch during the “off” season in this blog and follow up on their successes or failures. We encourage readers to keep the list handy as they peruse the past performances and wager at TwinSpires.  

    This past week the stakes action provided the hangover theme with events on a Friday night at Maywood. Betterthancheddar, arguably the soph-colt-pacing division winner among harness writers this year, faced a no-contest field at Maywood in the Windy City Pace and won for fun. We challenged with a speedy colt, Onhishonor Hanover, that did not turn on the gas and finished fifth at 25-1.  

    At 4-1 (third choice in the betting), we were second in the initial Galt Trot division with Fox Valley Iliad. He was already a horse to watch from our Hoof Beats assessments of weekend Pick 4s. The other Galt division found us third with Ooga Booga at 33-1. In that event, the favorite, at 50 cents to the dollar, went wire to wire. Put “Ooga” on the watch list (WL) at Maywood or Balmoral. 

    One horse we cannot make excuses for and which comes off the watch list is Dick Mctracy. He lost badly in the Abe Lincoln Trot and also loses our support this season. Although he came over the finish line 10th, he was part of an entry and paid for third place, where his entry mate finished.   

    In the Cinderella Pace, we wound up fourth with Mystical MJ at 10-1 (add to WL) and in the Lester Mckeever we were sixth with Big Daddy Woo Woo at 17-1. 

    Sunday, we suggested two Matron contenders in the soph-colt pace elims. These results were not available at press time. Check our Twitter page on Monday to find out how these two finished. 

    Harness News

    It is time to bid farewell to a number of horses from this season, as well as to anticipate the return of others. 

    First and foremost, we got an exclusive comment from trainer Chris Ryder that Put On A Show, the fabulous filly that scourged her division through the season and won the Breeders Crown at three but suffered duress at four, will return in 2012. Ryder said she is aimed at the Overbid Series at the Meadowlands in February.  

    Ryder also said the Charlie De Vie, a colt trotter this season that you read a lot about in our blogs along the Hambletonian Trail, was stricken with a disease later in the season and turned out. Ryder said that the trotter, who he admitted had gait problems, is a confident sort that would not others by once he took a lead. “Charlie” will return, according to his conditioner, in 2012 and agreed with us that he could be a much better older trotter than he was at three.  

    Crys Dream will be back if all goes well over the New Year month. But the most awaited could be Check Me Out, the frosh-filly trotter aimed at the Hambletonian. Check Me Out opened the 2011 Matron Stakes with a 1:53.2 world record by winning the $18,175 frosh- filly trot for trainer, co-owner Ray Schnittker. She broke in the final and made up 20 lengths to win anyway. Schnittker, aside from lobbying to make her Horse of the Year, says he has her aimed at the colts next year in the coveted Hambletonian.  

    Set to retire to stud are three that we know at press time. Roll With Joe competed well this year but did not dominate the contemptuous division members. He will take on stud duty at New York’s Blue Chip Farms.  

    Daylon Magician, the colt trotter from Canada that made the glamour-boy trotting division a more confusing group by winning top events, goes to Tara Hills Stud in Canada. He is a son of Kadabra, who also stands there. 

    (Exclusive cartoon by Thom Pye)
  • Weekend Handicapping

    POSTED Nov 17, 2011
    Since we’re officially mired in the post-Breeders’ Cup doldrums, with very few big races on the horizon, I figured I would devote this week’s column to handicapping, handicapping and more handicapping.

    Given that my free picks have been awful recently this may, in fact, constitute cruel and unusual punishment… only time will tell.

    Let’s start with the 7th race from the “Big A” on Friday:

    (Click on image to enlarge)

    COMMENTS: The strategy here is to beat the Mike Repole/Todd Pletcher entry 3-HOW DO I WIN. While the son of Corinthian probably deserves to be favored, the morning line of 3-5 is a bit low, especially since How Do I Win had everything his own way last time. Frankly, I think 2-EYE WITNESS is quicker from the gate than the morning line choice; could wire the field. 5-KING AND CRUSADER is the only horse that has shown any aptitude rallying from off the pace.

    BET(S): SHOW on 2 & 5 (looking for a negative show pool).

    Below are some other weekend Win Factor plays…

    FRIDAY (11/18)

    (Click on image to enlarge)

    COMMENTS: 7-TUESDAYS WITH MOM is a Win Factor Report Prime Overlay possibility.

    BET(S): WIN on 7 at odds of 1-2 or greater.

    (Click on image to enlarge)

    COMMENTS: 4-PLAYBOY MANSION is a Win Factor Report Prime Overlay possibility.

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

    (Click on image to enlarge)

    COMMENTS: 5-BEACON BEACH is a Win Factor Report Prime Overlay possibility.

    BET(S): WIN on 5 at odds of 4-5 or greater.

    SATURDAY (11/19)

    (Click on image to enlarge)

    COMMENTS: 5-SOCIALSAUL has recorded blistering early speed rations (ESRs) of -14 and -15 in each of his last two races, yet he’s been beaten by a total of just 3 ¾ lengths in those contests. The pace doesn’t figure to be as demanding on Saturday and I love the fact that Ramon Dominguez is back in the saddle; upset choice.

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

    (Click on image to enlarge)

    COMMENTS: 9-BOBS TIEBREAKER is a Win Factor Report Prime Overlay possibility. 4-MOUNTAIN THUNDER looks like the top threat.

    BET(S): WIN on 9 at odds of 1-1 or greater. WIN on 4 at odds of 9-2 or greater.

    (Click on image to enlarge)

    COMMENTS: 7-RUFFY TRICK is a Win Factor Report Key Selection.

    BET(S): WIN on 7 at odds of 7-5 or greater.

    Derek Simon’s 2011 Free Selection Statistics

    Races (Selections): 61 (67)
    Wins: 22
    Rate: 36.1%
    Return: $156.60
    ROI: +16.87%

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

    Note: Play is restricted to any horse(s) that meet my fair odds requirements (when listed). Multiple qualifying contenders will be bet separately, however, multiple bets will be adjusted to equal a single wager and the payoffs averaged. For example a winning WIN/PLACE wager paying $6.20 on top and $4.30 underneath would count as a single bet paying $5.25 (the average of $6.20 and $4.30).
  • Stakes, Chicago-Style

    POSTED Nov 16, 2011
    Friday in Chicago and Sunday at Dover present sophomores’ swan songs for the season, with some racing for the final time before stud duty (see news in blog on Monday). Maywood is alive with big money for pacers and trotters, while the remaining Matrons go in Delaware on Nov. 20.    

    Our winter campaign continues for the Cal Expo no-takeout Pick 4. The Saturday event is analyzed below. Remember to consider some of our longer shots (3-1 and up) on the ticket for win bets, also. 

    Maywood Milieu

    It’s a rare Friday filled with pumped purses at Maywood. The Galt Stake, for soph-colt trotters, has two divisions worth $50,500 each. These miles are sprinkled with local heroes and national co-stars of the division.  

    In the first split, we like Fox Valley Iliad. Homer Hochstetler’s colt has been very good in high-class events at Maywood and on the Balmoral mile. He has what it takes to beat the favored entry and a tired Live Jazz from the outside. 

    In the second Galt there should be two big favorites, Evil Urges and Mr Web Page. The outside contender is Ooga Booga. Excuses in his last two are noted; he was on the rise before that and may get the trip he needs to spark a big price. 

    Two-year-olds co-star on the bill with the Abe Lincoln Trot Final, worth $127,800. We have supported Dick Mctracy for three races, all of which he was burdened by post and overpowering foes. Here, from the rail, he could do damage and may offer a price. 

    The $175,000 Windy City Pace, though a shadow of its former self, offers little this year as seven less-than-glamorous boy pacers try to outwit the hottest colt in the division over the past few weeks. Betterthancheddar is 3-5 on the morning line, so imagine the money that will be bet on him in all pools involving the Breeders Crown champion. He is looking for his fifth win in a row and a clinch of the division title in a crop that has been evenly matched through the season. 

    So, why shouldn’t this race be a simple pass? First, this event is a breeding ground for upsets—big ones. Second, there is a colt in here that has won a stake as fast as at least one of Betterthancheddar’s victories. We are not speed buffs but at Maywood, given a good trip, Onhishonor Hanover could overthrow the humongous favorite. His 1:50.3 win on this oval is cause for alarm and his odds are cause for a wager against the “machine.”  

    The “Windy” companion stake for fillies is the $70,000 Cinderella. Erv Miller’s Mystical MJ looks to pick up her feet at the right time and steer clear of trouble, which would be the ideal behavior for an upset. Her jumping and travels on the outside have cost her a lot of money but with smart Maywood maneuvering, Marcus Miller could steer her home at a price. 

    In the minor stakes event of the evening, the $35,000 Lester McKeever, we like a horse we gave the locals a few weeks back at 23-1, when he pulled off a 10-hole shocker in a $120,000 event on Balmoral’s Supernight. Big Daddy Woo Woo is back after a clunker and could lay waste this field. You judge the price available if you feel we got this one right.   

    Matron Leftover

    The glamour-boy pacers available for the Matron Stakes meet in two elims on Sunday at Dover. These miles are rife for upset. In elim one, for instance, Mr Tommy Fra is shaping up late, while his main foes, Powerful Mist and Hugadragon, are about ready to call it a season. A good price awaits should we be right. 

    Another good price should accompany an upset in the second chapter, as the crowd devours the win, place and show pools for Westwardho Hanover and Up The Credit, most likely in that order. Our suggested contender—at a price—is Samander. Placed well early, he may save enough ground to beat “Westward” while “Credit” has to deal with coming off the pace and might do it uncovered but tire badly. 

    Cal Exotic

    The no-takeout late Pick 4 at Cal Expo for Nov. 12 begins with Race 9. Remember to use the best-valued members of this ticket (3-1 and up, for instance) as win bets. 

    Leg 1
    (1) Thouartthegreatest scored for us with a $63 win two back. Last week he was the favorite, won, but was disqualified and placed second. From the rail, without a bothersome trip, he should own this mile. 

    Leg 2
    (7) Matty Rose was racing like mad last week and closed at 10-1 to be second. Repeating that behavior could win this. (1) Elegant Emma N likes this track and could be in a great spot to push her season forward. 

    Leg 3
    (2) TJ Beach Poker was gaining ground and showing off at 13-1 last week, finishing a formidable second. He is the outside contender that can bring this ticket to a higher reward spot.  

    Leg 4
    (2) Pureform Misskiss was beaten, as the choice, by a neck in a close one and should not be dismissed. (4) Bahama Bay Be is another Luke Plano special and disappointed last week, though the effort warrants a spot in our ticket. 

    The ticket: 1/1,7/2/2,4 = $2 for $8 

     (Ray Cotolo assisted in this edition.)
  • Public Support Rules Late-Season Stakes

    POSTED Nov 13, 2011
    Over the past decade, the late-season stakes produced fields with reasonable competition, so much that the public’s adoration for the penultimate-stakes winners in the Breeders Crown helped hike some odds for value plays in the Matrons and the Final Fall Four, as well as the Progress Pace.  

    It was an enormously disappointing weekend for anyone counting on late-season upsets, even in the mildest form. The betting public was content with races that included prohibitive favorites, some which were so obvious that the track banned various wagering for fear of losing money. The onslaught of public choices began on Nov. 12.  

    At Dover on Saturday night the cream of the crop buried all Matron comers. The favorites, all sterling members of their divisions, romped. The most impressive was Check Me Out (a pass race for us). The frosh-filly trotter broke during the first half, spotted the field at least 20 lengths and still won!  

    Destiny’s Chance, at 1-9, was the frosh-filly pacing winner, defeating our upset choice, Southwind Joanne. We almost beat the choice in the frosh-colt pacer Matron when our 23-1 Steelhead Hanover challenged the favorite, Heston Blue Chip in late stretch but couldn’t get the job done. From insult to injury: All Star Legend, at 80-1, passed “Steelhead” to take second. Finally, Delano turned out to be a bet at 2-1 but the frosh-colt trotter was short, finishing third.  

    At Balmoral that night, Podges Lady was our choice in the American-National for frosh-filly pacers but she went off at 3-5, forcing a positive pass, as she finished third. Dick Mctracy lost in a strange speed dueling frosh-colt pace mile.  

    Swinging Beauty was a winner but we passed her $3.60 win price in the soph-filly pace. The glamour-boy pacing Am-Nat found our choice, Hugadragon, at 31-1, second to the favorite with an exacta that paid a mere $7.   

    There was no way to play the Messenger since Roll With Joe faced zero competition from only five foes, was the prohibitive choice and won with a jog in a startling 1:52.4 on Yonkers’ half-mile track.  

    Saturday night we managed only one winner in the Cal-Expo no-take-out late Pick 4 when Misty Waters won the final leg, paying $10.60.  

    Sunday, the public pounced again and was prolific.  

    Chester Downs paraded public preferences in each of the Fall Final Four. Our choices finished fourth (Pittypat Hanover), third (Pirouette Hanover) and fourth (Mybrothergeorge). 

    At Dover, Matrons and the Progress Pace Final featured further favorite fire, if you will. The soph-filly pace was such a laugh that the track didn’t offer betting. Drop The Ball, bound to be a monstrous favorite, costing the track a few bob if she won, caused win-betting only in the filly-pace Matron final. It was a smart move because she won.  

    In the filly-trot Matron we won by default, since Crys Dream was coupled with our two choices, Jezzy and Hey Mister. Those two finished sixth and seventh, respectively, paying $5. It was a pass, anyway.  

    Of the two we focused upon in the “Progress,” the near-5-2, Westwardho Hanover, won, paying $6.80. Samander was a bet but finished fifth.  

    There was little redemption in having Big Rigs upset the soph-colt trot, even though he paid $36.80.  That was enough to settle for a weekend wash. Plus, considering how many races we passed, the damage was minimal, as was the excitement. That is all right because we did no damage to our bankroll. As one wise old handicapper once told me about choosing races to play, “Every race you pass, you win.”      

    Harness News

    We spent two days at the Harrisburg yearling sale, meeting with cohorts and monitoring the top-selling youngsters. History was made during the first session when Detour Hanover, a full brother to Donato Hanover, sold for $825,000. That was the highest selling yearling ever. The same buyers bagged pacing colt Some Of The Beach, a full brother to 2008 Horse of the Year Somebeachsomewhere, for $430,000.  

    Those people that feel harness racing is an innocuous stroll in the park for drivers as opposed to the danger jockeys pursue on thoroughbreds should watch Joe, Phil and Pat Hudon escape death in a spill on Nov. 10 at Woodbine. When Joe’s steed veered to the inside and fell hard in late stretch, the blood-related trio was unseated and hurled to the ground from a chain reaction.  

    Luckily, the Hudons walked off the track. The horses were not injured either, but standardbreds can take a beating more easily than drivers. History sadly recalls the deaths of greats Shelly Goudreau and William Haughton among drivers killed during a harness race. Hundreds of drivers have been sidelined with serious injuries in spills over the years, as well. A harness race looks like a harmless exercise but is, in fact, an extremely dangerous event.
    (Cartoon by Thom Pye)
  • And the Horse of the Year Is…

    POSTED Nov 10, 2011
    The 2011 Breeders’ Cup is in the books and, with the conclusion of the two-day turf extravaganza, the year-end Eclipse Awards have all but been decided… or have they?

    Is Musical Romance, 20-1 winner of the Filly & Mare Sprint, the best female sprinter in the land? Is Perfect Shirl, the 27-1 outsider that captured the Filly & Mare Turf, the top female grass horse?

    And, of course, the ultimate question: Is Drosselmeyer, an animal with one previous visit to the winner’s circle this year, really the top older male? Is he the Horse of the Year?

    Yikes. I don’t know about you, but to me, this year’s Horse of the Year competition is kind of like a showdown between Amber and Gary of MTV’s “Teen Mom” for the title of “best parent” — a loser-loser scenario.

    Look, I’m not saying that Drosselmeyer is a bad horse; on the contrary, he was a logical winner of the Classic and a former Grade 1 winner (he won the Belmont Stakes in 2009).

    But there’s no escaping his record of futility prior to American racing’s biggest event this year.

    Not since Cat Thief — that’s right, the legendary Cat Thief — has a horse won the BC Classic with a lower lifetime winning percentage than that of the mighty Drosselmeyer.

    In fact, since 1991, there have been three Classic champions that entered the big event with career winning rates south of 30 percent… not one of them was named Horse of the Year.

    In addition to Cat Thief and Drosselmeyer, Arcangues (1993) and Concern (1994) also shunned the winner’s circle prior to scoring in the Classic.

    Win Factor Report Overlays Score Again

    The Breeders’ Cup overlay betting method that I detailed on my Nov. 3 podcast performed spectacularly well last weekend (which was much appreciated given my own less-than-stellar analysis). The rules of the system are listed below:
    1) Horse must be an overlay on the morning line, i.e. its morning line odds must be greater than or equal to my Win Factor Report (WFR) fair odds.
    2) Animal must have a WFR Form Rating of 20% or greater.
    3) Horse must have at least 10 Rated Starts.
    4) Entrant’s last race must be less than 60 days old.
    5) Eliminate any horse that was the betting favorite in its last start.
    Even with rule 5 tossing 41-1 overlay Afleet Again, who was listed at 11-1 on my Win Factor line, the results were amazing, as the following chart attests to:

    (Click on image to enlarge)

    Now, on the show, I suggested an across-the-board (win/place/show) wagering strategy. Since 2003, a mere $5 win/place/show bet on each of the qualified plays would have produced a profit of $2,017.75.

    (Click on image to enlarge)

    Signs of Hope

    In a recent Facebook post, I mentioned that I saw some encouraging signs regarding the future of the Sport of Kings this past weekend. No, it had nothing to with attendance… or handle… or the television coverage of the two-day Breeders’ Cup event. It had to do with the horses themselves — and the way they are being handled.

    This year, only 11 horses competed in a BC race immediately following a layoff of 60 days or more — the lowest number since 2007. Given the horribly negative ROI that these horses have produced over the past nine years, it seems apparent that a “fresh” horse is a Breeders’ Cup no-no; alas, that message appears to be getting through.

    Oh, and how did this year’s layoff horses perform? Similar to those of years past… they were a combined 0-for-11.

    (Click on image to enlarge)

    Weekend Wagers

    FRIDAY (11/11/11)

    (Click on image to enlarge)

    BET(S): WIN on 2 at odds of 3-5 or greater.

    (Click on image to enlarge)

    BET(S): WIN on 3 at odds of 5-2 or greater.

    SATURDAY (11/12/11)

    (Click on image to enlarge)

    BET(S): WIN on 2 at odds of 2-1 or greater and/or WIN on 9 at odds of 5-1 or greater.

    Visit http://bit.ly/v2Waf3 to get my FREE handicapping reports for this weekend.

    Derek Simon’s 2011 Free Selection Statistics

    Races (Selections): 59 (65)
    Wins: 22
    Rate: 37.3%
    Return: $156.60
    ROI: +20.46%

    (This year's published selections through 11/10/11.)

    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).