• Cotolo’s Harness-Weekend Review, 2-28-11

    POSTED Feb 27, 2011
    This week, once again, our strength with the Cal Expo watch list lifted our profits and saved us from our loss of value at the Meadowlands, with only minor success at Northfield and Pompano.

    The star of the list was Freedomize, a winner at the California mile track on Saturday, Feb. 26, after our endorsement over the weeks, twice as a single in the no-takeout late Pick 4. Waiting for an opportunity to suit his style, Freedomize failed until last weekend when he won and paid $42.40.

    Also returning for victories from the Cal list were Satire ($16) and Haggin Oaks ($13.40).

    Two winners appeared in the Pick 4: Star Time Kid ($3.80) and Myra’s Hiho ($8.80). Smartly, we went with a simple $8 ticket, losing as the payoff came back a measly $86.20.

    At Northfield, Gordie How won ($7.40), while Gramma’s Guy and Blueridge Tooquick were second, Cherokee Ryder third, and the other two off the board.

    Pompano presented us with our old pal Daley Deposit Only at $5.

    Our Meadowlands Pick 4 contenders raced miserably. But we had the right idea in mind as most of the public choices failed and the winning ticket came back at almost three grand.    

    Horse Of The Year
    To no one’s surprise, the U.S. Harness Writers Association announced that Rock N Roll Heaven is the 2010 Horse of the Year. “Heaven” received 123 of 131 votes for the honor.
    The fabulous sophomore was also named Pacer of the Year.
    Heaven completed his career with a 10-race winning streak that included a world-record performance in the Little Brown Jug. The colt was driven primarily by Daniel Dube, was trained by Bruce Saunders and is owned by Frank Bellino. Heaven won 16 of 21 races and earned $2.15 million. 
    In addition to the “Jug,” which he won in consecutive heats with back-to-back world-record-equaling 1:49.2 miles, Heaven’s victories included the Breeders Crown (pictured), Tattersalls Pace, Battle of the Brandywine and Messenger Stakes. 

    Track News

    Georgian Downs opens on March 1 for 105 days of harness racing. The track will feature a $2.5-million stakes season, including the Upper Canada Cup, Masters Stakes and Earl Rowe Memorial Cup.

    The season spans 10 months and will include the popular Xtreme Horsepower program in late August. Racing is presented Tuesday and Saturday evenings through the end of the year. Post time is 7:25 p.m. Eastern. Wednesday evenings will be added in October through December and Sundays will be added solely for October.
    At Balmoral Park on Feb. 26, St Elmo Hero (photo by David Baum) won his 24th-straight race, adding the Illinois track to his roster of territories. It was never a contest as “Hero” took the lead and stormed down harness racing’s longest stretch to win in 1:50 on the surface rated “good.”
    Robert Smolin drove the son of Western Hero, getting to three-quarters in a blistering 1:21.4. “We were going faster than I wanted,” Robert said, “because he was so revved up.”
    The small field was nowhere near talented enough to take on the five-year-old pacer, trained by Charles Eustis III. Hero continues to chase the immortal Bret Hanover, the stalwart pacer that began his career with 35-straight victories.
  • SimonSays Handicapping Challenge

    POSTED Feb 25, 2011
    Week 5

    Anthony Kelzenberg

    Gulfstream Park (02/26/11)
    Race 10 * 9.0 Furlongs * Dirt

    1-SOLDAT possesses good speed, an inside post, fitness, a win over the track and a trainer that wants to win.

    BET(S): $100 to WIN on 1.

    For the fun of it, Anthony has also put together a $216 ticket (before scratches — if any) for those chasing the $203,977 Classix carryover at Oaklawn Park on Friday (2/25). This ticket will NOT be included in Anthony’s Challenge stats.

    Race 3: 4,12,2,1
    Race 4: 6,10,1
    Race 5: 6,1,4
    Race 6: 10,2,7
    Race 7: 4
    Race 8: 8

    José D. De León Alejandro

    All plays are for Saturday (02/26/11):

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

    4-It’s My Party
    3-Special Kid
    6-Fusa Code

    COMMENTS: SPECIAL KID and FUSA CODE seem to be the class of the field based on the groups they have been facing. However, the former came out of a maiden win and the latter is still a maiden. Therefore, IT'S MY PARTY is the pick. His best speed figure is the best in here; only 2 BRIS points below the par. Also, trainer Chris Hartman is the man in Sunland Park — very effective and a great combo with the jockey. This is a consistent colt with affinity for the track.

    BET(S): $10 WIN on 4

    Turf Paradise
    Race 8 * 1-1/16 Miles * Dirt

    1-Indian Winter
    8-The Great Caper

    COMMENTS: INDIAN WINTER had a legitimate chance in the San Vicente from a handicapping standpoint, therefore, he is the best bet on the Turf Paradise card. He has the best figures and great pedigree for the distance. Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer is a great shipper and very effective with first-time routers and with horses competing in non-graded stakes. THE GREAT CAPER is dangerous at the price. It switches to a higher % trainer who has been very hot in the last 14 days. The Great Caper’s latest workout was good and he could be ready to fire.

    BET(S): $20 WIN on 1 and $10 PLACE on 8. $2 Exacta Box 1,8 with 1,3,7,8.

    Santa Anita Park
    Race 7 * 1 Mile * Turf

    5-Bran Jammas
    2-Evening Jewel
    7-Unzip Me

    COMMENTS: From a handicapping standpoint, EVENING JEWEL and UNZIP ME are the best in here — the class of the field. However, I will take a chance with Bran Jammas at a price. I liked her last time, when she was off slowly from the gate and then saved ground. In that race, she repeated her best speed figure (91, Evening Jewel's best is 94 on the lawn). This is her third start off of a layoff (her trainer has a 10% ROI with this angle) and she should be ready to record a lifetime-best BRIS figure. She has a sharp workout for this one, showing that the trip to Finger Lakes did not hurt and she switches to Garret Gomez.

    BET(S): $10 WIN on 5.

    Gulfstream Park
    Race 8 * 1 Mile * Dirt

    4-Oh Carole

    COMMENTS: I really think Dancinginherdreams is the best filly out there. She is something special and looks very fit for this one coming off a bullet work. She is expected to improve in her second start following a layoff. However, from a handicapping standpoint, Oh Carole is a super value play. She ran the same day (in the 2nd race) as the Forward Gal (the last race of most of the best fillies here). The fractions for the 2nd race that day were :22.1, :45 and 1:09.2 and the final time was 1:15.3. The fractions for the Forward Gal were :22.1, :44.3, 1:09.1 and the final time was 1:22.4. The BRIS figure for Oh Carole was 103 and for Pomeroys Pistol it was 95. In my book, this is VALUE. She is undefeated and eligible to improve with a patient and intelligent jockey.

    BET(S): $10 WIN on 4

    Gulfstream Park
    Race 9 * 7 Furlongs * Dirt

    7-Leave of Absence
    3-Travelin Man

    COMMENTS: Travelin Man could be something special, at least sprinting. His speed figure in his debut was amazing. However, I will stay in the bandwagon of Leave of Absence in his 3rd off the layoff and 1st time blinkers. He comes off of a bullet drill and Maragh sticks with him. His price will be awesome. We have a lot of speed here and my pick may enjoy a nice stalking trip outside the speed. Before the Spectacular Bid Stakes, Derek Simon considered Leave of Absence “one of the few” in that field that “could have a say on the Triple Crown trail.” The race produced a long shot and he was second in a bad handicapping race. He returned in the Holy Bull, but was squeezed back early and never recovered. The blinkers will be the difference here.

    BET(S): $10 WIN on 7

    Gulfstream Park
    Race 10 * 1-1/8 Miles * Dirt

    7-To Honor and Serve

    COMMENTS: To Honor and Serve tops my early list of preferred colts that hope to be Derby bound. He is going to crush this field.

    BET(S): $50 WIN on 7

    Jon Luman

    I'm going to try to take advantage of the extra Saturday competition by going to the exacta.

    All selections at Gulfstream Park (2/26/11):

    Race 1
    $2 EXACTA BOX 4,5,6,9.

    Race 2
    $2 EXACTA BOX 1,6,7,9.

    Race 3
    $2 EXACTA BOX 2,3,5,6.

    Race 4
    $0.10 Superfecta Box 2,4,5,7,12.

    Race 5
    $2 EXACTA BOX 2,3,8,10.

    Race 6
    $2 EXACTA BOX 1,2,3,10.

    Race 7
    $2 EXACTA BOX 1,6,9,13.

    Race 8
    $2 EXACTA BOX 2,4,5,9.

    Race 9
    $2 EXACTA BOX 1,2,3,10.

    Rationale: If 10-Royal Currier, looks sharp on Saturday, I'll be tempted for a win bet here. With the outside post, he might be able to cruise to a position without fighting for it.

    Race 10
    $2 EXACTA BOX 1,2,7,8.

    Rationale: If I were betting to win, I'd be inclined to back 7-To Honor and Serve; he has the best rating here, and could romp if not pushed early.

    Race 11
    $2 EXACTA BOX 8,9,13,14.

    Garnet Barnsdale

    Here are my pick-4 plays for Friday and Saturday with some brief comments regarding strategy.

    Plays for Woodbine Harness (02/25/11):

    Race 4
    $1 PICK FOUR 1,4,5,9 with 9 with ALL with 1 ($40) & $0.20 PICK FOUR ALL with 9 with ALL with 1 ($20).

    COMMENTS: A co-worker of mine owns the 9-horse in race 5 (Dakota Noc) and was supremely confident regarding his chances today. The #1 in race 7 (Goodbadandugly N) had a tough first-over tightener after missing 5 weeks — looks good in here.

    Race 10
    $1 PICK FOUR 2,5,6 with 9 with all with 6,7 ($42).

    COMMENTS: The 9-horse in the 11th backed up slightly on a night where closers were winning EVERYTHING. Double J guns him out here. 6,7 in 13th dropping big-time and look best.

    Plays for Fraser Downs (02/25/11):

    Race 6
    $10 PICK FOUR 5 with 2,3,7 with 4 with 1,2,4 ($90).

    COMMENTS: If you have access to PPs for Fraser, check out the #5 in the 6th — improved SEVEN seconds in three weeks off a claim by Eddie Hensley.

    Plays for Woodbine Harness (02/26/11):

    Race 4
    $1 PICK FOUR 1,6,9,10 with 3,4,5,6,7 with 6,7,10 with 9 ($60).

    COMMENTS: #9 in race 7 (Celebrity Cowboy) looks much the best with the class drop; hoping to hook him up with a price or two.

    Race 10
    $0.20 PICK FOUR 8 with ALL with 1,3,5,6,8 with 5,6,7,8 ($40).

    COMMENTS: 8-Winter Blues makes third start for the Montini Barn without much to beat; looking for bombs in the other legs.

    $40 EXACTA 8 with 1,7 & $5 TRIFECTA 8 with 1,7 with 1,2,7 ($100)
  • Pick 4 Picks A Plenty

    POSTED Feb 23, 2011
    Just because there is no stakes action this weekend doesn’t mean the harness opportunities cease. Indeed, tracks across North America will be offering a plethora of programs filled with win, place, show and exotic investments.

    On the exotic calendar, once again, are the popular Pick 4s. Specifically, the no-takeout late Pick 4 on Saturday at Cal Expo and the Meadowlands’ Saturday Pick 4 with TwinSpires’ 10-percent bonus.

    Here is a look at our suggested contenders for the Meadowlands and Cal Expo exotics, along with some other weekend material from our personal watch lists. Each week we peruse charts and watch replays at various tracks, compiling horses that should come back in their next race or two and produce a solid win with a great price. When we aren’t letting you in on those contenders here, we announce them on the TwinSpires Facebook page. If you aren’t connected over there yet, log on and get started.

    Pick-4 Meadowlands Mania

    The $100,000-guaranteed Pick 4 will continue through the rest of the winter meet (through March). With the 15-percent takeout on the Pick 4, we remind you that on TwinSpires you get a 10-percent bonus.

    Race 6
    (2) Spy N makes a slight step up into this class after an outside trip with the winds blowing 40-plus-miles-per-hour against the backstretch. He could be better tonight. (5) Grab Your Keys went for the front on that same windy night, was challenged and dropped out of the race; moving inside here should help.

    Race 7
    (3) Picture Me just lost to Q Rock on President’s Day by a nose. This step up may not hurt this guy. (8) Super Eighty Eight is stepping down after a rough outside trip where he was pressured and may come back with a better journey. (10) Hay Goodlooking did not show his full potential just yet and may even though he is stepping up after an outside trip in high winds. This guy will be a longshot.

    Race 8
    (3) Mypanmar is in a good class for him, moves to the  rail and may upset. (4) Woodstock Hanover has back class from the Meadowlands last year and almost got the win last week from post 10. Hard to believe he will be off the board.

    Race 9
    (2) Laguna Beach almost got the win last week. In this field he will likely be part of the triple. (9) Killer Quakes always has rough trips, having to close but if he gets in the cover flow he could upset.

    This ticket is worth $24. Add or subtract horses to fit your budget.

    Cal Exotic

    Race 11
    (1) Wrangler Reward was in a duel last week with (4) Star Time Kid. The latter won the duel as the favorite in a strong performance. But “Reward” challenged at 29-1 and surely cannot be left out of this ticket.

    Race 12
    (7) Hell N Damnation has won two straight and may go for the hat trick in a field filled with foes sporting disappointing recent performances. Dare you single this one?

    Race 13
    (6) Peter Hot Tail has had a good season thus far and last week, at 16-1, he made one of the powerful moves that have served him well. He finished third. This field seems chock full of short horses, a plus for “Peter” as well as for (7) El Real Grande, who put in a clunker and deserves another shot. 

    Race 14
    (4) Heartbreak Ridge closed well at 4-1 against last week’s favorite, (5) Myra’s Hi Ho, who was second. These two should handle this field.  

    Our ticket is an ideal $8 toss at the big pool.      

    Watch List Action

    At Pompano on Feb. 26, we are considering two horses. In Race 7, Daley Deposit Only (6) and in Race 9, Western Artwork (7).

    At Northfield Park, we are considering six horses. In Race 1, Blueridge Tooquick (1); in Race 3, Gramma’s Guy (5); in Race 4, Gordie How (2); in Race 6, Genesis See Ya (7); in Race11, Fueled N Waiting (8); and in Race 12, Cherokee Ryder (5).
  • FREE Weekend Selections


    Aqueduct (02/24/11)
    Race 5 * 8.0 Furlongs * Dirt

    6-Cody Samora
    Fair Odds: 4-5
    2-Annual Appeal
    Fair Odds: 6-1
    4-River Fancy
    Fair Odds: 12-1

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

    Meydan Racecourse (02/24/11)
    Race 6 * 9.5 Furlongs * Synthetic

    3-Mahbooba (4/5)
    Fair Odds: 1-1
    5-Khawlah (4/1)
    Fair Odds: 9-2
    6-Empire Rose (8/1)
    Fair Odds: 8-1

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

    Laurel Park (02/24/11)
    Race 2 * 8.0 Furlongs * Dirt

    5-Fix You (4/5)
    Fair Odds: 3-5
    6-Girls’ Getaway (4/1)
    Fair Odds: 6-1
    1-Joepaul’streasure (10/1)
    Fair Odds: 10-1

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

    Oaklawn Park (02/24/11)
    Race 2 * 6.0 Furlongs * Dirt

    3-Thunder Hookey (5/2)
    Fair Odds: 5-2
    5-Last Corona (3/2)
    Fair Odds: 8-5
    7-Willow Creek (9/5)
    Fair Odds: 6-1

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


    Penn National (02/25/11)
    Race 3 * 5.5 Furlongs * Dirt

    4-Comet of Love (2/1)
    Fair Odds: 4-5
    5-World Gone Wrong (5/2)
    Fair Odds: 9-2
    2-Fancy Up (3/1)
    Fair Odds: 6-1

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


    Gulfstream Park (02/26/11)
    Race 8 * 8.0 Furlongs * Dirt

    9-Dancinginherdreams (5/2)
    Fair Odds: 2-1
    1-Mending Hearts (10/1)
    Fair Odds: 8-1
    5-R Heat Lightning (3/1)
    Fair Odds: 4-1

    COMMENTS: Although her three-year-old bow in the Forward Gal Stakes only netted DANCINGINHERDREAMS a -17 late speed ration (LSR), both of her juvenile efforts were outstanding and the daughter of Tapit figures to move forward today. MENDING HEART recorded the best last-race LSR in a maiden win over this track on Jan. 7. Since then, she’s had a series of slow four-furlong drills in preparation for her stakes debut; could light up the tote board. R HEAT LIGHTNING had a very rough trip last time and seems poised for improvement.

    BET(S): WIN on 9 at odds of 2-1 or greater and/or PLACE on 1 at odds of 8-1 or greater.

    Gulfstream Park (02/26/11)
    Race 10 * 9.0 Furlongs * Dirt

    5-Bowman’s Causeway (20/1)
    Fair Odds: 8-1
    7-To Honor And Serve (8/5)
    Fair Odds: 2-1
    1-Soldat (2/1)
    Fair Odds: 5-2

    COMMENTS: The top two morning line choices — To Honor and Serve and Soldat — deserve the respect they are getting, but appear to offer little in the way of value. Hence, I will take a shot with the rapidly-improving BOWMAN’S CAUSEWAY, who rallied strongly to break his maiden on Feb. 11 under jockey Ryan Curatolo, who apparently broke a 0-for-70 streak with horses going to post at odds of 10-1 or greater that day (Bowman’s Causeway was 13-1). On Saturday, Julien Leparoux will be aboard the son of Giant’s Causeway, yet the price figures to be just as enticing. It looks as though TO HONOR AND SERVE will be able to control the pace in here and that makes him tough. SOLDAT should be stalking the morning line favorite throughout and, as his -3 last-race LSR proves, he can motor late.

    BET(S): WIN on 5 at odds of 8-1 or greater.

    Sunland Park (02/26/11)
    Race 8 * 8.0 Furlongs * Dirt

    1-Manes (4/1)
    Fair Odds: 5-2
    6-Rumor Is (10/1)
    Fair Odds: 9-2
    3-Jarett’s Fool
    Fair Odds: 6-1

    COMMENTS: MANES last race was even more impressive than her 7 ½-length margin of victory would indicate, as she recorded a 72 Brisnet speed rating (today’s race par is 71) and a -7 late speed ration (LSR). The daughter of Proud Irish figures to get a good trip today and looks like the one to beat. Trainer Todd Fincher sends out recent acquisition RUMOR IS for a second time and all the signs point to an improved effort. JARETT’S FOOL could be tough if she can grab the early lead.

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

    Sunland Park (02/26/11)
    Race 10 * 8.5 Furlongs * Dirt

    3-Special Kid (5/2)
    Fair Odds: 5-2
    6-Fusa Code (6/1)
    Fair Odds: 9-2
    4-It’s My Party (6/1)
    Fair Odds: 7-2

    COMMENTS: This race will be discussed on Friday’s “SimonSays Racing Podcast.”

    BET(S): WIN on 3 at odds of 5-2 or greater and/or WIN on 6 at odds of 9-2 or greater.

    Derek Simon’s Free Selection Statistics

    Races (Selections): 16 (18)
    Wins: 6
    Rate: 37.5%
    Return: $49.70
    ROI: +38.06%

    (This year's published selections through 02/23/11.)

    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 Numbers Don’t Lie

    Recently, while engaged in one of those mind-numbing Facebook arguments that makes one want to seek out Mark Zuckerberg and beat him senseless with a licorice twist, my brother was accused of being “too logical.” Now, to me, that’s kind of like criticizing someone for being too good-looking and, since were twins, I’ll go ahead and charge my bro with that crime as well. But, seriously, how is being too logical a problem?

    I’ve heard similar ridiculous rants in horseracing circles, where handicappers like myself are sometimes chastised for being too numbers-oriented.

    “A horse isn’t a number,” certain racing folks, many of whom have been struggling for years to program the clocks on their microwave, cry. “Handicapping is more than just evaluating figures.”

    Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know, just like art and music can’t be boiled down to numbers and decisions can’t be reduced to a series of ones and zeroes. The only trouble is they can. Show me a great technological or intellectual breakthrough and I’ll show you numbers… ninety-nine times out of 100.

    When Albert Einstein published his Theory of General Relativity in 1915, he asserted that, despite having no resting mass, light was nonetheless affected by gravity — and he expressed this belief (and many others, I might add) in the form of equations. However, Einstein’s numerical representation of light’s behavior wasn’t actually proven until four years later when, on May 29, 1919, British astrophysicist
    Arthur Eddington observed that the sun’s gravity did, in fact, bend starlight just as Einstein predicted it would.

    Yet Einstein was far from the first to use numbers as a means of understanding or predicting universal/world events. Game theory, a branch of applied mathematics dedicated to finding solutions to strategic scenarios with competing interests, traces its theoretical roots to before the American Revolution. In a letter to Pierre-Remond de Montmort, a French mathematician, dated Nov. 13, 1713, British ambassador James Waldegrave detailed the first known statistical solution to a two-person game — in this case, “le Her,” a game of cards. (Isn’t it heartening to know that, even in the 1700s, politicians were focusing on the grave issues of the day?)

    In modern times, game theory has gained widespread acceptance. In 2005, college professors Thomas Schelling and Robert Aumann won the Nobel Prize in economics for their work in the field and, in a 2007 piece for ScienceNews entitled “Mathematical Fortune-Telling,” columnist Julie Rehmeyer detailed how NYU Professor Bruce Bueno de Mesquita was using game theory to predict political outcomes.

    According to Rehmeyer, “two independent evaluations, one by academics and one by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), have both shown that about 90 percent of [Bueno de Mesquita’s] predictions have been accurate.”

    That humans would turn to numbers and mathematics to solve some of life’s great mysteries should hardly come as a surprise; the fact is, as observational beings, we stink. Scientific American recently pointed out that, “since the 1990s, when DNA testing was first introduced, Innocence Project researchers have reported that 73 percent of the 239 convictions overturned through DNA testing were based on eyewitness testimony. One third of these overturned cases rested on the testimony of two or more mistaken eyewitnesses.”

    Think about that for a second. If observations carrying the weight of a criminal conviction can be wrong so often, how many times do you think one’s impression of something as inconsequential as a horse race might be in error? Of course, the “experts” will say that being a trainer’s son or daughter, having years of experience on the backstretch, or the fact that they watched the movie “Dreamer” half a dozen times makes them an authority on thoroughbred handicapping… but does it really?

    Following impressive wins in the Las Virgenes and Santa Anita Oaks and a third-place finish in the Ashland, Balance was made the 8-5 favorite when she headed a full field of 14 in the Kentucky Oaks on May 6, 2006. According to trainer David Hofmans, his filly was “the best horse out there” and jockey Victor Espinoza called Balance’s final Oaks blowout — 1:11-3/5 for six furlongs — the best workout he’d ever taken part in.

    (Click on image to enlarge)

    Nonetheless, for fig followers, there was trouble in paradise. To begin with, Balance’s last-race late speed ration (LSR) was a horrendous -26. True, that number was earned on Keeneland’s old dirt strip that sometimes acted like a conveyor belt, favoring frontrunners in much the same manner that Santa Anita’s new main track does today. But even if Balance had won the Ashland, her speed and pace numbers would have been nothing to write home about. Worse, the poor LSR in that event followed an excellent -5 that the daughter of Thunder Gulch had recorded in the Santa Anita Oaks.

    But here’s the really damning thing: the past performances suggest that Balance had some physical issues and while I am no fan of layoffs, I can’t help but wonder whether or not that superior Oaks speed ration knocked the delicate filly off her game a little bit. Notice too that the Ashland was Balance’s first race without Phenylbutazone, or Bute, which, when administered, is denoted by a capital “B” preceding the odds in the Brisnet past performances (see the green highlighted column above). Although hindsight is 20-20, it’s worth observing that Balance never won — and hit the board only once — in her four tries without Bute.

    Clearly, though, Hofmans and Espinoza, two racetrack veterans, never saw these warning signs or, if they did, they made public statements contrary to what they believed — and I’m certainly not accusing them of that (even though we all know such things do happen from time to time). The point here is that numbers and analysis have led us (I hope) to a conclusion that mere observation, even by those “in the know,” would not have.

    Needless to say, after making a brief bid around the final turn, Balance ran up the track in the Kentucky Oaks. Her LSR was a woeful -28.

    Potential Kentucky Derby Starters Whose Numbers Don’t Match the Hype

    (Click on image to enlarge)

    COMMENTS: To hear some people talk, this Nick Zito trainee is the second-coming of Secretariat, yet his speed and pace figures simply don’t support such a conclusion… at least not yet. Dialed In has demonstrated the ability to make up ground on the turn, which is great, but his lack of experience coupled with his ho-hum figs are keeping me off the bandwagon for now.

    (Click on image to enlarge)

    COMMENTS: Both of his juvenile races were good, but Sway Away’s hard-charging second behind The Factor in the San Vicente on Feb. 20 was more of an optical illusion than an awe-inspiring effort. Like Dialed In, the son of Afleet Alex definitely has a lot of upside potential; whether or not he realizes it remains to be seen.

    FREE Weekend Picks

    Click HERE to get all my free plays for Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

  • Cotolo’s harness-weekend review, 2-21-11

    POSTED Feb 20, 2011
    This week Cal Expo produced only two return wins from our watch list and both were nabbed by the public. Red Star Gilda returned to pay the most, $6.40, while Hell N Damnation fooled no one, paying $4.20.

    The list had a few big winners at The Meadows. This past weekend Andovermetreasure paid $14.80 after a dramatic finish that lasted the entire stretch drive. Two others from watch lists at The Meadows that were not reported here last week were DVC Givemeattitude, $22.60, and  Dragon’s Blood, $21.20.

    At the Meadowlands we were aware that the favorites in the weekend series’ finals would be hard to beat but we tried to do so (see “Prices” paragraph below). In the Tender Loving Care Final (TLC), the favorite we mentioned, Some Girls Do, won for fun and our prospective upset entry, Mystical Diva was second at 19-1, completing an exacta worth $29.60 if you took “Diva” for second to the 2-5 choice or boxed them.

    Though we never suggest playing to place, we know some players take our longer priced suggestions and play them to place as well as to win. Considering there was no show betting in the TLC, $6.60 to place was very good.

    The Cape & Cutter Final went to Laughandbehappy, no surprise to anyone. Our choices were seventh and eighth and remain on our Meadowlands watch list.

    Saturday, the same scenarios appeared. Meirs Hanover destroyed the Exit 16W crew almost odds-on and Allthatglitrsisgold, that big winner for us late last season when we warned of his improvement (Lisa Photo on left), won the Aquarius for fun at a rather generous 2-1. Our choice was coupled with the place horse, so, again, if you handled the exacta with the mild favorite and the “entry,” boxed or straight, you got back $22.40.

    Our “suggested contenders” are all about cashing in for the best prices we can expect. It is unfortunate that we cannot be on the spot when we release them or our watch list candidates, so we become victim to the splash of money that is sucked into the pool late in the wagering of races.

    This is why some of our recommendations win at very low prices. We remind you, however, that low prices are subjective. For the most part, many more of the horses we follow that win pay over two digits but we do take credit for the others, since there are times we personally assess lower possible payoffs as value (see Aquarius explanation above).

    Playing horses we present as viable investments at 4-1 or up has been a tried-and-true profit-making plan since we began consulting six years ago at the ill-fated Youbet. It is still a sound policy now that we are at TwinSpires. Our suggested bets offering $10 or more since we began this blog have been enough to make a profit at the harness races if they were all you wagered.

    That is including the fact that we urge you follow horses that lose the first time off our lists and win the first time off our lists, much of which we described in last week’s blog.

    So even though how you use our suggestions leaves the judgment up to you, be aware that we are very sure about some horses being favorites and promising low prices, which is why we look for the horse with the best chance to upset at a better price and those are the horses that we print here.

    Track news
    A few weeks back, when TwinSpires carried the Prix d'Amerique from Vincennes in France, this side of the pond got a look at a genuine champion, Ready Cash. The trotter won the coveted race as the public choice, which is no easy task in that event.

    Last week, Ready Cash was invited to race in the sport’s seasonal championships, the Breeders Crown. This week, Ready Cash’s connections accepted.

    The “Crown” races in 2011 will all go on the same night, as they did in 2010, only it will be at Woodbine, not in America. We hope to bring you the Crown this year as we did last season, live, either from Canada or via streaming on the ‘net to TwinSpires.
    Simon Allard, a regular at Ontario’s ‘B’tracks, has settled at Woodbine and is becoming a major force there. The 28-year-old reinsman is currently third among all drivers there with 29 wins, merely a dozen or so behind leading driver Jody Jamieson.

    Players should know that Allard has been a flat-bet profit at Woodbine but only due to two wins over the past two weeks that shattered the toteboard. These two wins paid $74.90 and $71.50 and made up for his losses along the way. Those being ignored, his average win price since Feb. 7 is $6.35. The highest odds in that percentage were 5-1. So beware of the hubbub, Allard is not showering backers with a majority of big prices.
  • Saturday Selections

    Fair Grounds (02/19/11)
    Race 4 * 5.5 Furlongs * Turf

    3-Sweetsouthernmoon (8/1)
    Fair Odds: 6-1
    1-Due Date (8/5)
    Fair Odds: 2-1
    2-Delano (6/1)
    Fair Odds: 9-2

    COMMENT(S): This race appears to be relatively contentious, although I get the feeling most of the betting will fall on Due Date and/or Delano. Hence, I’ll take a shot with a price horse, SWEETSOUTHERNMOON, who I believe is improving and showed a great late kick while breaking her turf maiden at Louisiana Downs in September. DUE DATE is clearly the one to beat, but enters this race off of a 63-day layoff and tends to hit or miss; at the price, I’ll say he misses. DELANO is getting good and would be worth a wager if the price is right.

    (Click on image to enlarge)

    BET(S): WIN/PLACE on 3 at odds of 6-1 or greater.

    Fair Grounds (02/19/11)
    Race 10 * 8.5 Furlongs * Dirt

    6-Machen (6/1)
    Fair Odds: 3-1
    5-Mucho Macho Man (4/1)
    Fair Odds: 5-1
    1-Rogue Romance (3/1)
    Fair Odds: 9-2

    COMMENT(S): MACHEN has already demonstrated that he has a nice late kick and I’m hoping that the rankness he exhibited last time was due to the slow pace — a scenario that is highly unlikely to unfold today. Given a mid-pack trip, I think the son of Distorted Humor can mow them all down late. MUCHO MACHO MAN sheds the blinkers today, which I think is a wise move in light of today’s probable brisk pace. If he runs back to his Grade 2 Nashua effort, “Macho Man” will be tough. ROGUE ROMANCE looks to be using this race solely as a prep, but he’s got talent and should be closing late.

    BET(S): WIN on 6 at odds of 3-1 or greater.

    Derek Simon’s Free Selection Statistics

    Races (Selections): 15 (17)
    Wins: 6
    Rate: 40.0%
    Return: $49.70
    ROI: +46.18%

    (This year's published selections through 02/18/11.)

    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).
  • SimonSays Handicapping Challenge

    Week 4

    Anthony Kelzenberg

    Selections from Rosehill (Australia) on 2/18/11:

    Race 1B

    5-ABOUND gets a 4-pound weight shift (which can matter because the finish is up a grade) and she might be able to turn the tables on main rival 1-HELMET, who got away with murder on the front end and put up a below average speed figure for the level.
    BET(S): 10 units to WIN on 5.

    Race 2B
    9-EXPLOITABLE DOUBT has a great record and is competitive on speed figures. 4-BELTANE has won his last two races nicely.

    BET(S): 10 units to WIN on 9. 4-unit EXACTA BOX 4-9.

    Race 3B

    9-KILLIAN is a good animal that is lightly weighted and may have some improvement in him.

    BET(S): 10 units to WIN on 9.

    Selections from Flemington (Australia) on 2/18/11:

    Race 3A
    Flemington is the track where the Melbourne Cup is run. More importantly, it has a "straight course" (no turn) that plays very nicely to early speed AND classy closers if the pace is fair. Mid-pack runners are generally doomed because they can't get a clean run in the race.

    15-KWASSA KWASSA (30/1) has run well "down the straight" and has sprinter speed. He's definitely a wire-to-wire candidate. 9-I'M DISCRETE (4/1) and 13-PREVENTABLE (12/1) will get first run in what largely looks to be a paceless race. Time to box the speed horses in the exacta and hope something good happens.

    BET(S): 15 units to WIN on 15. 8 units to WIN on 13. 2-unit EXACTA BOX 9,13,15.

    Race 6A
    7-BLACK CAVIAR is the fastest sprinter in the world and 2-GRAND DUELS is in top form. He could have won his last by more lengths but his rider saved something for this race.

    BET(S): 24-unit EXACTA 7-2 and 6-unit EXACTA 2-7.

    José D. De León Alejandro

    Aqueduct (2/19/11)
    Race 3 * 6F * Dirt


    COMMENTS: Todd Pletcher, class drop, blinkers-on and second start in the cycle. Just what the doctor ordered!

    BETS: $20 to WIN on 4.

    Aqueduct (2/19/11)
    Race 5 * 6 Furlongs * Dirt

    2-Im a Mosaic Rocker

    COMMENTS: He is a horse-for-the-course at a big price; not too far from the main contenders here.

    BETS: $5 across the board (WIN, PLACE & SHOW) on 2.

    Gulfstream Park (2/19/11)
    Race 6 * 6.5 Furlongs * Dirt

    6-Saigon Story

    COMMENTS: SAIGON STORY is looking very well in the mornings and Zito fires better bullets after the debut malefice. SIMBAMANGU enjoys a better post position than in his last race. He had tons of problems that time and still fired a good race. ESCORT has a great connections and it is not too far from the best here. TURNOFTHECAT is again inside, but the talent is there.

    BETS: $5 to WIN on 6. $1 EXACTA BOX 6,12 with 1,6,10,12.

    Gulfstream Park (2/19/11)
    Race 7 * 1-1/16 Miles * Turf


    COMMENTS: Hopefully, she is not going to be too wide in this one; dropping to a more comfortable spot.

    BETS: $5 to WIN & PLACE on 4.

    Gulfstream Park (2/19/11)
    Race 10 * 1-3/8 Miles * Turf

    4-Free Fighter
    12-Al Khali
    7-Prince Will I Am

    COMMENTS: At his big potential price, FREE FIGHTER has the best PF figure of the race and his BRIS figures are among the best. He is training like a monster ready to fire and, running his best, he is right here with the best. MUSKETIER is the horse to beat along with AL KHALI, both the class of the field. PRINCE WILL I AM may become a real deal this year while maturing even more.

    BETS: $5 across the board (WIN, PLACE & SHOW) on 4. $0.10 SUPERFECTA BOX on 4,6,7,10,12.

    Fair Grounds (2/19/11)
    Race 5 * 6 Furlongs * Dirt

    1-Moontune Missy

    COMMENTS: MOONTUNE MISSY has a very hot jockey (in the last 2 weeks) aboard and it is trained by a very hot trainer (also, in the last 2 weeks). Amoss is very effective with blinkers for the 1st time, running a horse for the first time under his training and shipping. Her figures are right there among the top. Rail post is winning at 21% clip.

    BETS: $20 WIN on 1.

    Fair Grounds (2/19/11)
    Race 8 * 1-1/16 Miles * Dirt


    COMMENTS: Good price for a horse that comes from a key race in a very good effort. His figures are among the top here. He enjoys this course and rail post is winning at 29% clip. The jockey is on fire!

    BETS: $20 WIN on 2.

    Fair Grounds (2/19/11)
    Race 9 * 1-1/8 Miles * Turf

    10-Loup Breton

    COMMENTS: JOINEM is a talent in development. This is his 3rd start of the cycle in a course he enjoy with a prospective pace he will also enjoy. He is training much better for this one evidencing his improvement.

    BETS: $10 WIN & PLACE on 7. $1 EXACTA BOX 7,10 with 1,5,6,7,10,11.

    Santa Anita Park (2/19/11)
    Race 3 * 1-1/2 Miles * Turf

    4-Juniper Pass

    COMMENTS: I just have a feeling he can be a major player here. He is improving and the conditions will be favoring a longshot!

    BETS: $5 across the board (WIN, PLACE & SHOW) on 4.

    Jon Luman

    All selections at Gulfstream Park (2/19/11):

    Race 1
    $20 to WIN on 5-Sharper Lisa.
    Reasoning: Still love the able longshot.

    Race 2
    $20 to WIN on 7-Cancerbero.
    Reasoning: Should have the kick late.

    Race 3
    $20 to WIN on 2-Platinum Futures.
    Reasoning: Love the odds, hoping for some positive early speed control.

    Race 4
    $20 to WIN on 10-Pray for Action.
    Reasoning: Good bet at the odds. Should have an early speed advantage to overcome post.

    Race 5
    $20 to WIN on 2-Zhivago.
    Reasoning: This one has had the most practice at this distance.

    Race 6
    $20 WIN on 1-Turnofthecat.
    Reasoning: Lowest rating; I like less early speed at this distance.

    Race 7
    $20 WIN on 10-To the Point.
    Reasoning: A tough race to call, a calvary charge from the quarter pole if #7 doesn't steal it with a wire job. I like #10 to have a little more run in the stretch.

    Race 8
    $20 WIN on 5-Billy Smart.
    Reasoning: Okay, I'm going for another speedball on the lawn. I find the odds irresistible even though #6 shows great balance here.

    Race 9
    $20 WIN on 6-Catch a Thief.
    Reasoning: I think #6 will stay out of the battle for the lead and take advantage of it.

    Race 10
    $20 WIN on 1-Pool Play.
    Reasoning: Give me slow for turf marathons. #1 has also had some practice at longer distance.

    Race 11
    $20 WIN on 6-Prado Dash.
    Reasoning: I like the balance of early and late run, and the odds.


    Bet $80 win, $40 place and $20 show (or any other graduated amount one feels comfortable with) on all qualified selections. Only those choices going to post at odds of 6-1 or greater should be played.

    Selections from Gulfstream Park (2/20/11):

    Race 4
    7-Middle of the Nite

    Race 7
    4-Our Champion

    Race 9
    7-Why Tonto

    Race 11

    Selections from Oaklawn Park (2/20/11):

    Race 7
    3-Storming Suzy

    Race 8
    2-Stout Hope

    Race 9
    1-Cosmo Girl

    Race 10
    11-Sharp Angle
  • Pacer Finals Featured

    POSTED Feb 16, 2011
    The second round of winter-series finals are the sport’s weekend features and once again they are at the Meadowlands.

    On Friday, Feb. 18, there are the finals for the Tender Loving Care and Cape & Cutter (C&C). Saturday, Feb. 19 features the ultimate fields for the Jr. Trendsetter, Exit 16W and Aquarius.

    We also cover the Meadowlands $100,000 guaranteed Pick 4 with the TwinSpires 10-percent bonus and offer our suggested contenders for the Cal Expo no-takeout Pick 4, both Saturday exotics. Plus, another look into our watch list material.

    Series Stoppers

    In the Exit 16W final, Summer Camp, as he has been in the legs, will still be the obvious choice. Even with his untimely break last week, he may prove more than capabile in this event.

    But the main ones to watch are Thunder’s Fury and Ponda River. “Ponda” had a tough outside trip from the second tier and can be up to a big race. Thunder’s Fury had a hard time coming from the outside in leg two, so moving to the rail here may help.

    The final of the Aquarius is the toughest of all the finals. Some performers were good in series legs, then struggled and then came back to race magificent the next week. The only ones we could find that may offer value are Art Professor and Malicious. The latter comes off a good trip last week and Art Professor came off the slop and finished second. There could be a case for any one in this field to win, so use your judgment if you play the race based on the lack of public support.

    In the Jr. Trendsetter, Hot Shot Lawyer could be the upset choice. He recently made a move to the lead, was shuffled back and came back strongly to get second. Joe Palz and Mojo Terror will be the likely public choices in this field. Also watch for a big move from Cobalt Man.

    In the Tender Loving Care, Some Girls Do will be the heavily bet favorite. But the public should ignore Mystical Diva, who figures since she has had some rough trips; things might go her way in this.

    Last of all, the C&C final has also been a tough one to figure. Still, the one to watch here is Shangai Lil, who is slowly regaining her form from last season. She closed well last week but settled for fourth. She will come from the 5 hole here, which may help her.

    Pick-4 Meadowlands Mania

    Race 6-(6) Malicious came up after Code Word left the field, by just beating Allthatgltrsisgold, he could be tough to beat at a price. (8) Art Professor raced well over a fast track after coming off the slop.

    Race 7-(1) Hot Shot Lawyer made two moves last week and still finished second. If he gets a good trip he is the valued upset choice. (9) Cobalt Man was gelded last week and got his first victory but the post here may hurt.

    Race 8-(1) Thunderfist made good late move last time out and could go back to back. (4) Got It Seeled N was a victim of interference last week and could show what he’s got this week.

    Race 9-(1) Corky Baran finally steps down in to a good class and gets the rail, which may help the longshot. (3) Zepplin Blue Chip could do better this week; the step down may help.

    Our ticket is $16, throw out horses and add if needed.

    Cal Exotic
    This week’s quartet of races making up the no-takeout late Pick 4 at Cal Expo are sprinkled with local repeat winners, horses coming off of peculiar and unproductive trips and a few that have been rested. Again, we remind you to treat our suggested contenders as individual win bets as well as adding them to your ticket. You be the judge of which are worth the plays based on odds.

    Race 10 – Satire (5) soared late to make up a ton of ground but was a beaten favorite, coming in second to the rail horse here, Little Box Out. That one had a perfect trip and is not expected to repeat. Bob Lee (7) also showed dangerous late foot in his last and was well played at 4-1.   

    Race 11 – This could be the toughest leg, with only a few recent trips that deserve notice. The long-awaited wakeup of Freedomize (5) could happen in this weak field. At 7-1 last out he was hung badly through three calls. El Real Grande (4) can also be used coming from condender status in last week’s ticket and a race where he finished third, also at 7-1.

    Race 12 – Two return winners (The Future and Columbia Court) are in this field but neither won very impressively. So, check out the best failing trips from last week with Jet Tet Tet (4), Mad River Hanover (8) and Big Guy Two Win (1). “Jet” was third, closing strongly late at 13-1; “Mad” won the week before last and was still in top shape when he came second from far back last week; “Big” has tough early foot and was hung while leading before fading from the effort.

    Race 13 – Two more of last week’s winners show up here. Thatsmyson (1) looked best and was powerful at 2-1. Closing well and finishing second, TJ Beach Poker (2) deserves a shot here.   

    Our ticket reads: 5,7/5,4/4,8,1/1,2, which is $24.    

    Watch List Action

    At Pompano on Feb. 19, we are considering two horses. In Race 3, Daley Deposit Only (3) and in Race 4, Gentleman Friend (9). At The Meadows on Feb. 18, we have Summer Hope (2) in Race 2; Andovermetreasure (5) in Race 9; and RC Curiosity (6) in Race 13.
  • The 'Future' is Now

    This weekend marks the debut of the first Kentucky Derby Future Wager (Pool 1). The pari-mutuel bet, which has been offered since 1999, runs from Feb. 18-20 and provides punters with the opportunity to lock in some very attractive prices on potential Derby starters. The pool consists of 24 wagering interests — 23 individual steeds and the mutuel field, which is comprised of all the remaining three-year-olds in training. In the past 12 years, five “field” horses from Pool 1 have gone on to wear the roses, good for a 57.5 percent return on investment (ROI).

    (click on image to enlarge)

    *Member of the mutuel field.

    Below is a look at some of the horses I’ve got my eye on:

    137th Kentucky Derby
    Brisnet Speed Rating Par: 107
    Median Late Speed Ration (LSR): -7
    (click on images below to enlarge)

    Comments: There are several things to like about this guy, starting with his ability to gain ground on the turn, which he demonstrated in his lifetime bow at Remington Park and, again, on Jan. 15 at Oaklawn Park.

    Best LSR: -2
    Fair Odds: 4-1 (field)

    Comments: Son of A.P. Indy earned a -12 early speed ration (ESR) in his first Kentucky route and then, reminiscent of Super Saver, he improved greatly in his second tour of Churchill Downs on Oct. 31, when he rated off a slow pace and garnered a -1 LSR. Trainer Todd Pletcher broke his losing skein last year, is it Steve Asmussen’s turn this year?

    Best LSR: -1
    Fair Odds: 40-1

    Comments: Right now, he’s not as good as some of the other contenders but Beamer appears to be headed in the right direction and could be at his peak come the first Saturday in May.

    Best LSR: -8
    Fair Odds: 4-1 (field)

    Comments: Sure, the Beyer Boys seem to think he’s a little slow, but the way Super Saver’s little brother won in Florida convinced me that he’s a talent to be reckoned with.

    Best LSR: -3
    Fair Odds: 25-1

    Comments: Yeah, I know, the Peter Miller trainee has already accumulated 11 lifetime starts — the last Derby winner to have raced more prior to the first Saturday in May was Charismatic in 1999 — and, true, “Comma” didn’t exactly look like a champion in his sophomore debut, but there’s light at the end of the tunnel. The son of Bwana Charlie (true, that’s another negative) clearly needed his last race and he has a nice blend of early and late speed. Plus, some of his efforts as a two-year-old were simply spectacular.

    Best LSR: -6 (AWS)
    Fair Odds: 15-1

    Comments: In my mind, this lightly-raced colt still has a ton to prove — remember, winning the Kentucky Derby isn’t necessarily about talent — but, at the very least, one can be relatively confident that Dialed In will be in the starting gate at Churchill Downs on May 7 (barring injury). Still, I think this guy is very likely to be an underlay in this weekend’s pool.

    Best LSR: -6
    Fair Odds: 20-1

    Comments: He deserves respect if only for his consistency.

    Best LSR: -8
    Fair Odds: 30-1

    Comments: Very similar to Gourmet Dinner in some respects; his solid effort in the CashCall Futurity buys him a little more time on the contender’s list.

    Best LSR: -3 (AWS)
    Fair Odds: 30-1

    Comments: Son of Smoke Glacken has some distance questions to answer and he needs to prove he can come off the pace, but he’s got some things to like — most notably a Hall of Fame trainer (Jerry Hollendorfer).

    Best LSR: +3* (AWS)
    Fair Odds: 4-1 (field)
    *Rated on an easy lead (-1 ESR)

    Comments: Jaycito’s Norfolk win was very impressive, making him a fringe contender for the Run for the Roses.

    Best LSR: -2 (AWS)
    Fair Odds: 50-1

    Comments: He’s been the easiest of winners in each of his two career starts, but he’s very light on seasoning and is almost sure to be a pool underlay if he captures the Risen Star as expected.

    Best LSR: +1
    Fair Odds: 20-1

    Comments: Out of 1995 Kentucky Derby winner Thunder Gulch, Monzon looked great capturing the Count Fleet and then, not surprisingly, regressed in the Sam F. Davis. He hinted at ability as a juvenile and will be interesting to watch going forward.

    Best LSR: -3
    Fair Odds: 4-1 (field)

    Comments: If this horse can learn to come off the pace — a big “if,” to be sure — he could be a factor at Churchill Downs.

    Best LSR: +1*
    Fair Odds: 4-1 (field)
    *Set slow pace (-1 ESR)

    Comments: Given that Pluck is owned by Team Valor, an aggressive ownership group, I would think that he’ll at least be given a shot on the main track at some point.

    Best LSR: +2 (turf)
    Fair Odds: 4-1 (field)

    Comments: His breeding is terrible for a horse seeking to go 10 furlongs — assuming that the son of Pomeroy is, in fact, bluegrass bound. That said, the sophomore gelding has talent and deserves some consideration.

    Best LSR: +3*
    Fair Odds: 4-1 (field)
    *Rated on a very slow pace (+4 ESR)

    Comments: NY-bred has steadily progressed since breaking his maiden in an off-the-turf affair at Aqueduct on Nov. 6.

    Best LSR: -2
    Fair Odds: 4-1 (field)

    Comments: My “sleeper” pick among all of this year’s potential Derby contenders, Sherriff Cogburn has yet to be challenged in two lifetime starts and he has earned some excellent pace figures as well. The question is, where is he… and is he even on the Derby trail?

    Best LSR: 0 (zero)
    Fair Odds: 4-1 (field)

    Comments: I can’t say he looks like a potential Derby winner at this point, but he does look like the type that could easily hit the board; needs to demonstrate he can handle dirt.

    Best LSR: -6 (AWS)
    Fair Odds: 40-1

    Comments: Kiaran McLaughlin protégé is very talented, as witnessed by his stellar performances on both dirt and grass. He’s also got tactical speed and a fantastic late kick. What’s more the 108 Brisnet speed figure he earned in his last start — a romping allowance tally — exceeds the Derby par… and it’s only February.

    Best LSR: -3*
    Fair Odds: 25-1
    *Rated on a slow pace (-1 ESR)

    Comments: His only poor performance came in the Delta Downs Jackpot over a bullring that many horses have difficulty adjusting to. Sweet Ducky showed ability as a two-year-old and has every right to move forward at age three.

    Best LSR: -2
    Fair Odds: 30-1

    Comments: Had trouble in his stakes debut when fourth behind Sweet Ducky in the Garden State Stakes and then blew away a decent field in the Display at Woodbine. Son of Tiznow is the kind of horse that could get lost in the shuffle, but he’s one that sharp players will definitely want to keep on the radar screen.

    Best LSR: -3 (AWS)
    Fair Odds: 30-1

    Comments: From the standpoint of talent, connections and conditioning as a two-year-old, this guy looks like a prime Kentucky contender, but his performance in the Remsen gives me pause. That race was To Honor And Serve’s first around two turns and produced an LSR of –10 — not bad, but somewhat low when compared to some of his main could-be Derby rivals. Whether or not the Bill Mott trainee learns to come off the pace will ultimately decide his fate, I believe.

    Best LSR: +1*
    Fair Odds: 15-1
    *Set a very slow pace (+2 ESR)

    Comments: Another very talented “other” horse that merits a long look. His maiden breaker at Laurel on Nov. 25 was one for the ages and his Brisnet speed figures continue to show steady upward progress.

    Best LSR: -1
    Fair Odds: 4-1 (field)

    Comments: I’ve noted before that Uncle Mo’s debut was among the best I’ve ever seen. Actually, it was among the best I’ve never seen, as “Mo” recorded a 110 Brisnet speed rating (the Kentucky Derby par is 107) and a -3 LSR — the latter of which was better than the debut number of Affirmed, Seattle Slew, Spectacular Bid and, yes, even Secretariat. And nothing the son of Indian Charlie has done since then makes me think he is anything less than a potential superstar. That said, as we saw last year with Eskendereya (another horse I was very high on), a lot can happen on the Triple Crown trail — most of them not good. Still, this guy is clearly the one to beat on the first Saturday in May.

    Best LSR: -2
    Fair Odds: 5-2

    Comments: This guy improved a ton over the course of his three starts last year, but needs to prove he can transfer that form to dirt.

    Best LSR: 0 (zero)
    Fair Odds: 4-1 (field)

    Honorable Mention: Dancinginherdreams will likely go in the Kentucky Oaks but, make no mistake, she’s a runner and would be a factor if she chooses to tackle the boys.

  • Cotolo’s harness-weekend review, 2-14-11

    Cal Expo once again proved to be the most productive place for our suggestions, including horses returning to win for the first or second time from our Cal X watch list. At the Meadowlands we had a minor success and The Meadows no success but as followers of this blog know, we don’t give up easily on the contenders we follow and we shun from those obvious public choices we know can beat us but offer no value.

    Let’s start with the success out west. Friday, Feb. 11, Showmurs won for the second time off of our watch list, this time paying $10.20. Then, Saturday night, Feb. 12, Red Star Gilda made it to the winners’ circle, paying $12.60. Sandra Hotspur repeated a win, though she was a massive choice with only a $4.40 win mutuel.

    In the race after “Sandra” won, Cruisersluckyseven won for us, paying a generous $9.40. Following that, Hell N Damnation got home first, paying $6.40.

    At the Meadowlands a dead heat with a 12-1 shot belittled our only success, this one in the second leg of the Aquarius Series. Whiskey Pete paid only $4.40 while being matched in speed with Art Professor. That one, which came from our Meadowlands watch list a week or so back, paid only $11.40 as a dual winner.

    You might have had the exacta one way or another had you relied on the lists. With “Art” atop, it paid $58.40. The other way paid $33 and change.

    Watch lists
    We claim winners from horses we have on our watch lists even if they lose the first time out from that list. Our lists demand following a horse at least twice after its appearance on a list (as your personal lists should require).

    Also, if a horse wins at first crack off the list, look for a comeback next out. It is not uncommon for us to have a first-time winner from the list that comes back a few more times to win. Sometimes, those horses pay as much as they paid the first time, sometimes more and sometimes less.

    Judgment of play is up to you. Each of us measures value somewhat differently. Some horses we back are worth it at 2-1 while others can easily be passed. We are not suggesting you don’t handicap a race featuring horses from our lists; we just urge you to emphasize their appearance and assess value yourself.

    We will continue to share with you our personal watch-list contents but don’t rely on us as your sole source. You need to watch races and set up your own lists, keeping vigil on the horses you find failed because of legitimate trouble or because they were simply poor public choices.

    Trust your own evaluations. The more replays you watch and the more charts you read the better your “eye” for trips becomes and that will lead to playing severe overlays, which is the road to profits.

    Track news
    The Meadows 2011 stakes schedule is an estimated $7.86 million, including the pacing glamour boys’ Adios Pace, this year on Saturday, July 30.

    There is a $50,000 Adios consolation this year, as well as the filly version, the Adioo Volo, all part of Grand Circuit week, which kicks off Monday, July 25.

    One card does not a study make, however, a look at the winning routes of horses at Yonkers on Feb. 12, going the 1 1/16-miles distance, shows that the nature of harness racing is intact if the race is “standard” or expanded.

    The jury is not back yet with a decision that the extra real estate is making a big difference in the advantages and disadvantages of post positions on the little raceway. In fact, a look at the races last week revealed a rather ordinary configuration of wins. That is, speed was generally productive and closers managed to make up ground when speed went awry. In simple terms, the trip mattered every bit as much as it does in 1-mile races on any size track.

    This in itself may wind up to be the edge, though it seems the public has been on target with its choices. On Saturday night, the public choice won five of 12, was second twice in 12, was third three times in 12 and was out of the money only twice. Our advice for playing Yonkers is keep your eyes on the trips, like you should do anywhere else at any distance races.