• Bet Optimization

    POSTED Jun 30, 2011
    Everybody (except Bono) that has attempted to profit in any speculative venture — whether its gridiron gambling, playing the ponies or investing in real estate or the stock market — knows that, in order to be successful, one must only wager/invest when the known return(s) exceeds the perceived risk(s). In horseracing circles, this is known as “value betting.”

    It sounds simple. And the majority of literature on the subject seems to imply that value betting is only slightly more difficult than withdrawing money from an ATM machine or explaining the plot of those insipid “Transformers” movies (hot cars, hotter girls and lots of explosions… oh, and some Nazis running about). Of course, if this were truly the case, my local racetrack parking lot would be packed with Corvettes and Ferraris rather than that rusted VW Rabbit with the duct tape trim that I always see while trying to find a spot for my custom import (a chromed out 1985 Yugo).

    The sad truth is the ability to detect value and bet accordingly is one of the most difficult aspects of successful wagering. Contrary to what you may have heard, the sports betting crowd is one of the most informed, best educated around. True, the Kentucky Derby infield would seem to argue against this, but ask your average regular bettor about their sport of choice and most of them will be able to give you highly-detailed information and a persuasive rationale for betting for or against a particular team or individual contestant.

    Now, compare this to the average person with a stock portfolio. During the market boom of the 1990s, many “investors” knew little more than the ticker symbols of the companies whose stocks they were so enthusiastically trading.

    Frankly, finding overlays in sporting events is difficult precisely because there is so much information available to bettors — and the bettors use it. As a result, sports betting markets tend to be fairly efficient. The fact that such-and-such pitcher is 7-1 against teams from the American League West when playing at night in a domed stadium is accounted for (and summarily dismissed if found to be irrelevant). Exclusive information is hard to come by and even harder to profit by, as it invariably has a very short shelf life.

    So how does one find the elusive overlay? Well, not surprisingly, it takes a lot of time and a lot of record-keeping (that giant splash some of you just heard is the sound of half my readers — three people and a trained chimp — jumping ship). Yeah, I know it’s not fun, but to be a successful speculator one must determine his/her rate of success — or lack thereof — under a variety of different circumstances.

    It helps to first make a line. To do this, simply start rating your selections. In pari-mutuel events such as horse racing, it’s best to grade as many contenders as possible. However, don’t feel compelled to assess every entrant. If you don’t know what rating to assign the first-time starter with the nondescript workouts, don’t bother. Consider the horse an “unknown” and move on. The idea is to find your acumen in events and on competitors that offer a basis for making an informed decision. Let’s face it, in some contests, for some people, no such basis exists.

    How you rate each team or entrant is up to you. You can use a number, stars, check marks, etc. Once again, the greater the range of possible ratings, the better. After this has been done, begin recording the results. How do your best plays fare? At what odds do they typically win? How about your second choice? Your third choice? The unknowns?

    Keep your results as detailed as possible. The goal is to find out whether or not your plays are profitable, at what price, and under what conditions. To some, this may be discouraging as they may find that their selections aren't profitable at any odds, under any circumstances. If this is the case, don't fret. It is better to learn such lessons on paper rather than in the unforgiving atmosphere of a racetrack or a sports book. Use the information to become a better handicapper. Why are you losing? Set up hypothetical betting situations and track the results. Perhaps you are putting too much emphasis on speed ratings or class distinctions or running style. Ask yourself what rating you would assign if you ignored these factors.

    Whether you are winning or losing, you should always try to improve your play. You might be surprised at the strengths and weaknesses you can uncover by analyzing your performance in this manner. Now, once you have a fair amount of results to study (at least 100 events, but preferably many, many more), the real work begins… to be continued.
  • Fame, Fortunes Meet Holiday Weekend

    POSTED Jun 29, 2011
    There is a lot more racing on the extended weekend going through July 4, with the traditional official debut of two-year-old stakes. But not all of the racing offers wagering.  

    We will cover the betting agenda, of course, but we will be keeping an eye on the horses racing at Historic Track in Goshen, N.Y., where there is no wagering but the performances of participants could lead to future profits. Also, it is Hall of Fame weekend at the landmark area. If you wish to watch a webcast of the Hall of Fame ceremonies, click here on July 4.   

    Meanwhile, back at the betting ranch, we offer analysis of this weekend’s stakes action with big money on the line for campaigning divisions. And with the Hambletonian a month away, check out our Hambletonian Trail blog and the Hambletonian Society’s exclusive coverage of all the action, before and after, of both divisions.   

    Clash Of The Titans

    The Titan Cup came to the Meadowlands in 1979, where it was presented for a purse of $35,000. The winner was Keystone Pioneer, driven by the late William Haughton. The Titan Cup is now worth over $200,000 to free-for-all trotters. The stakes record is 1:51.2, set by Sand Vic in 2006. This season, we see familiar names from recent years, some have returned from the 2010 edition—Corleone Kosmos, the mare Buck I St Pat, Lucky Jim and Arch Madness.  

    Titan Cup prep-winner Arch Madness was able to rebound after his failed attempt in the $772,485 Elitlopp at Solvalla racecourse. Out of his seven starts this year, he has visited the winner’s circle six times and banked $361,545. “Madness” is undefeated in America this year as well. He has raced in the Titan Cup for the last three consecutive years without winning. The closest he came was in 2008, where he finished second to Corleone Kosmos.  

    “Corleone” will have a new driver again. Corleone was driven to victory by Eric Goodell in 2008 and by John Campbell in 2009 and 2010. DavidMiller picks up the reigns for the 2011 edition, with a good shot as well. Last year, Corleone had issues with breaking stride; this year he has not suffered from the problem and will have a say in the results on July 2 at the Big M. He has competed in the “Titan” for the last five years.  

    The 2009 winner, Lucky Jim (pictured), rebounded this season in a $32,000 Invitational at the Meadowlands with a 1:52.3 mile, defeating Four Starz Speed, who raced in the 2009 Titan. Lucky Jim raced four times this season and won one. In his other three starts, he made bad breaks.  

    The 2011 Titan Cup looks as if Arch Madness will be the heavy favorite. But the horses that are showing the best improvements are Corleone and Neighsay Hanover.  

    Neighsay Hanover stepped up to the free-for-all ranks last year in the Breeders Crown, where he finished third in the Open Trot. He recently raced in the Maxie Lee, where he was off the board. He also raced in the Arthur Cutler and finished third. He is improving against older horses and has done well in his last four starts, finishing first once and third three times. As long as he stays flat, he should finish on the board and can upset.  

    Tioga Tussles

    This year a field of only three soph-colt pacers (two trained by Erv Miller) go in the once strong Grand Circuit stake, the Jersey Cup. The traditional event won’t even be raced in its namesake state. It is non-wagering event at Tioga Downs, New York, on July 2.  

    But the Historic Ladyship attracted 10 fabulous fillies and features wagering.  

    In the mile for soph-filly pacers, it is a tough call picking the public choice, but it may be Shabalabadingdong. That being said, Honky Tonk Woman is the horse to watch. You read that a lot in these blogs but she has yet to peak and is an improving filly at three. She is capable of showing her talent in this event. Also watch Rocklamation.

    Ben Franklin

    In the $500,000 Ben Franklin Final on Sunday, July 3, Ideal Matters is the horse to watch, again. He did well in his elim at Chester at giant odds and appears sound and raring to go in the final.

    One of the choices could be last week’s star, Aracache Hanover, while money will go to Foiled Again as he attempts to race to his early season form. Bettor Sweet has been lightning fast of late and draws post 1. Won The West has to come from the outside but will get strong backing at the windows. Vintage Master has not been off the board in five starts and is taking to FFA competition with fervor.  

    Still, “Ideal” will have the price to target, along with better chances than his odds present.  

    Frosh Follies

    The July 4th weekend is the official launch for frosh stakes and around the ovals plenty of green pacers and trotters of both sex will be displaying their talents and lack of them. It is early to make note of any particular horse but watching these events will certainly be on our agenda, as we assess the performances to use handicapping races to come through the summer.

    The first round of New Jersey Sires Stakes for two-year-old horses gets underway this week at Meadowlands Racetrack. Here is a video, with Bob Heyden asking some of the sport’s leading horsemen how they can tell a two-year-old in training is a future superstar. Click here to watch .

    (Ray Cotolo assisted in this edition.)
  • Cotolo’s Harness-Weekend Review, 6-27-11

    POSTED Jun 26, 2011
    It was a quiet weekend by comparison to many stakes-filled summer days. One event, however, took its place in pacing history. The HoosierCup, an Indiana tradition for the glamour-boy pacers’ calendar, was presented for the last time. This was, indeed, the final final for the half-million dollar race.  

    The Hoosier Cup’s curtain came down memorably for those following our lead, as our choice, Custard The Dragon, won, paying a whopping $18.60. Indeed, he not only defeated the “now” horse, favorite Big Bad John, he also confirmed again our view that this year’s three-year-old pacing crop is talent-deep.  

    Big Bad John was the favorite a week ago, in the North America Cup, but his 2011 winning streak ceased with the efforts of Up The Credit. That one was not at Hoosier Park for their “Cup” but his absence did not cause “Custard” to inherit the Midwest win. Custard is a fine horse and trainer George Teague, Jr. has him battling the others with fervor.  

    Another Teague student, Feel Like A Fool, finished fourth at Hoosier. He is still in the thick of the group, however. As well, Wink N Atcha, also from team Teague, was third and cannot be dismissed this season for some big checks.   

    The others from the crop include Shadyshark Hanover, who lost in a sires stakes at the Meadowlands over the weekend, finishing third to Best Man Hanover and High Noon. “Shady” is not done making noise this season. Rollwithitharry won another sires stakes split that night. Roll With Joe has game, as does Powerful Mist and let us not forget that the magnificent filly pacer, See You At Peelers, is good enough to have beaten some colts already and aims for the Little Brown Jug, not the Jugette.  

    On the trotting scene, we continue our exclusive coverage of races with eligibles for the two August classics, the Hambletonian and Hambletonian Oaks, at the Hambletonian Trail blog.  

    Over the past few weeks we scored with Whitewater Rapids, Jezzy, Tigers Too Good, Rarely Ordinary, VC Chocoholic, Blue Porsche, Crème De Cocoa, Big Rigs, Whatever It Takes, Oh Sweet Baby and Pacific Splash. Not all of those winners were high-paying mutuels but the few that toppled favorites are keeping our pre-classic bankroll healthy.  

    With a month until the eliminations, the possibilities for entries are lessening. Soon at the blog we will be narrowing those possibilities and concentrating on those money-winners that are most likely to show up in the eliminations. And, of course, we hope to be on site at the Meadowlands with tweeting and blogging for much of the big stakes week, as well as Hambletonian day.   

    Follow the blog for previews and the Hambletonian Society web site for result stories and archives.

    Harness News

    Cal Expo will return to action on Aug. 26. The summer-fall meet will go through Dec. 17. The popular no-takeout Pick 4 is scheduled to return, as will our analysis of each week’s fields. We hit once since the special event began through TwinSpires for a profit playing the entire meet. Our goal is to hit twice and maybe more this summer through fall.

    The first three weeks of the meet will offer Friday and Saturday programs, with a three-day-a-week schedule beginning Sept. 15, when cards are presented each Thursday, Friday and Saturday (the only exception is Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 24.

    Plainridge Racecourse has made a few changes. Monday and Tuesday race programs move to a weekly, four-racing program schedule for July and August. Live racing cards begin July 4 to include Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, with a 4 p.m. EST post.

    (Cartoon by Thom Pye)
  • Finding Value in Exactas

    POSTED Jun 23, 2011
    It’s happened to most of us, I'd guess. During the course of our handicapping, we find a horse we love — a steed that leaves us salivating like Doug Hutchison watching Miss Teen USA… with a pair of binoculars.

    Exhibiting all the eagerness of Snooki entering a house of mirrors, we can’t wait to plunk our money down. As the designated race draws nearer and nearer, visions of yacht parties with Donald Trump and Warren Buffet dance in our head. We order a hot dog at the racetrack/OTB concession stand — mainly just to pass the time — and then refuse it when we’re told that Gray Poupon mustard is not available and, no, the concessionaire does not offer a wine list.

    Finally, post time arrives… and our dreams are shattered. The love of our life, our wagering salvation, is a measly 1-5 on the tote. Depressed, we scan the board for other options, maybe bet our second choice and, then, watch in dismay as the 1-5 shot rolls by 10 lengths and sets a new track record in the process. With a depleted bankroll and dour spirits we make our way home and have a hot dog for dinner, minus the mustard we’re out.

    Sound familiar? Well, although such situations can be frustrating, they needn’t be devastating. Remember, at most racetracks, there’s an exacta or exactor (for my Canadian friends), which requires a bettor to pick the first- and second-place finishers in precise order, in nearly every race. Hence, with thoughtful wagering, a punter can improve his/her odds — at least in theory.

    But what is the best approach to betting the exacta? I decided to find out. Using a pool of 280 races run from 2004-present, I examined various techniques. I began by obtaining some preliminary numbers.

    Given that the point of this exercise is to increase one’s ROI — whether that ROI is positive or negative — and understanding that everyone’s handicapping skill varies, I focused on both morning line favorites (horses with the lowest pre-race odds) and morning line longshots (horses with the highest pre-race odds) in my study. I obtained the following results:


    Number (races): 290 (280)
    Winners: 108
    Rate: 37.2%
    Return: $520.40
    ROI: -10.3%
    Avg. Field Size: 9.2


    Number (races): 164 (164)
    Winners: 3
    Rate: 1.8%
    Return: $80.20
    ROI: -75.6%
    Avg. Field Size: 8.8

    Now, it should be noted that the above sample is hardly random. Rather, it is comprised of races rated 75 percent or higher on my Win Factor (computerized fair odds) line — races I’ve determined to be good betting affairs. This was not done on purpose, but instead, because I was too lazy to record exotic payoffs for all of the 6,000+ races in my database. However, the whole idea here is to see whether or not the base numbers can be improved upon with judicious exacta wagering. So, let’s see:

    (Click on image to enlarge)

    In some ways the data is stunning. Although I strongly suspect the biased sample contributed greatly to the positive ROI numbers (even wheeling the morning line favorite produced a 20.9 percent return on investment), the table above does drive home the point that value is generally derived by keying favorites or near-favorites with longer-priced steeds — and not the other way around.

    Derek Simon’s Free Weekend Win Factor Plays

    (Click on image to enlarge)

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

    (Click on image to enlarge)

    BET(S): WIN & PLACE on 1/1A entry at odds of 3-5 or greater.

    (Click on image to enlarge)

    BET(S): WIN on 1 at odds of 4-5 or greater.
  • Pacers, Trotters, Share The Limelight

    POSTED Jun 22, 2011
    It’s back south of the border this week for the mainline artery of harness racing as a number of divisions hold major events in the Midwest and the East.

    Older trotters return to the scene in a prep for the Titan Cup. The field includes Arch Madness, back from his semi-successful jaunt overseas.  

    Soph-colt pacers bred in the Empire State cross paths on the half-mile at Yonkers in sires stakes events on Friday, as does the same division with competitors bred in the Garden State on Saturday on the Meadowlands mile. Glamour-boy colts also contest the $500,000 Hoosier Cup Saturday at Hoosier Park in Indiana.  

    Pacing mares are the highlight in Canada in the $121,000 Ellamony Classic at Flamboro Downs on Saturday. And on Sunday at Chester, elims for the Ben Franklin puts stalwart FFA pacers in the arena.  

    At our exclusive Hambletonian Trail blog, there is info on classic eligibles in action Saturday. First, there is the $500,000 Earl Beal Jr. Memorial for soph-colt trotters at Pocono Downs in northeast Pennsylvania. Then, at Tioga Downs in upstate New York, where the GrandCircuit’s Historic meet moves from its usual haunt at the Meadowlands. This year, Tioga hosts the Historic-Coaching Club Trotting Oaks for soph-year-old filly trotters and the Historic-Dickerson Cup for soph-male trotters on Saturday. Check out the blog late in the week for the scoop on the best on the bill heading for the August classics.  

    Hoosier Harangue

    The half-million dollar Hoosier Cup brings together some of last week’s other Cup colts at Hoosier Park. Big Bad John is here, trying to make up for a poor performance as the favorite in Canada. He is destined to be the choice in this event, too. Also on the bill is our Cup-consolation pick Townslight Hanover, who was disappointing against the second tier of the Cup cast.  

    Our eyes are upon Custard The Dragon for value. Also in the consolation, “Custard” made a big statement from post 8 by soaring to the lead and holding it to three-quarters. He beat Wink N Atcha, also in the Hoosier field. He is the best of two that trainer George Teague has in here. Feel Like A Fool is the other.  

    Meadowlands Mania

    On Friday, June 24, three-year-old filly pacers will square off in two divisions of the New Jersey Sires Stakes (NJSS) at the Meadowlands.  

    In the first division, it looks as if Krispy Apple will be the favorite, as she finished first or second in her eight starts, last week against the mighty gal, See You At Peelers (not here tonight) in the Fan Hanover Final. Although Honky Tonk Woman will get some play, she is the one to watch for value. She likes the Meadowlands and is coming off a victory in the “Fan Consolation” at Mohawk. She is also an improving horse and has not yet shown all she is capable of doing.  

    In the second NJSS division, there is no clear favorite. Still, Rocklamation may be ignored. She had some difficulty at Mohawk and was pulled up. After that, she worked out in a pretty good 1:54 mile. She is improving at three and should do better in here.  

    In the Titan Cup prep, Arch Madness will be the likely choice since he won two of three of his last starts in Europe. He will be the one to beat but looking good against him is Pilgrims Chuckie. The four-year-old from 2010’s Hambletonian Trail had some difficulty in the Maxie Lee at Chester and he raced well last time at the Meadowlands. Although it will be hard to beat “Arch” in this race, also watch Slave Dream, who has had plenty of rest since winning a stakes on this oval. 

    On Saturday, June 25, top New Jersey-bred-colt pacers battle in two divisions of the NJSS at the Meadowlands. In the first division, the likely favorites will be the coupled entry of Line Officer, Rollwithitharry and Howard’s Rock. But Lookinforadventure, disappointing of late, is capable of beating these three at a price. If you throw out his races in Canada, he has done moderately well at the Meadowlands. Maybe he will do better coming back from Canada.  

    In the second division, Shadyshark Hanover seems like he will race like a monster in here. He is coming off a poor performance in the North America Cup, but seeing as now he is going up against a weaker field and they add Lasix for the first time, he should improve off of that last effort. Besides, there was trouble closing from far off the pace on “Cup” night and some good colts raced under par. 

    Ellamony Mares

    The $121,000 Ellamony Classic for mare pacers has two stars: Western Silk and Dreamfair Eternal. The former gets post 2 and the latter post 9. This could be the perfect spot for the 3 horse, Tomorrowpan, to take advantage of the star duo.  

    “Dreamfair” has to display speed and “Silk” will try to compromise it. However, Silk could be a spoiler here, forcing Dreamfair to waste the few steps she may need to win, handing the win to Tomorrowpan, who can  save ground on the speedy half-mile trip around Flamboro Downs. Vote on the upset.  

    Ben Franklin

    On Sunday, June 26, 14 FFA pacers combat in two elims of the Ben Franklin at Chester. The top four in each elim will go to next week’s final.  

    In the first elim, Foiled Again will be the likely favorite for his accomplishments this year and with a rest behind him. Still, he has been a bit vulnerable lately. This is why Ideal Matters is the horse to back for the upset. He won his first start this year at Chester and is as strong as most of these veterans. He has paced with the best at the Meadowlands and will have a good shot. Also watch Gallant Yankee in your exotics.

    In the second elim, Won The West will be a betting magnet after racing the fastest mile mark in Canada, a 1:47.2, last week. He will be the one to beat but Bettor Sweet looks even better. This two-time world champion recently won on the five-eighths at Tioga, where he set a record. He is a tough horse and should show much talent against “West.”

      (Ray Cotolo assisted in this edition.)
  • Cotolo’s Harness-Weekend Review, 6-20-11

    POSTED Jun 19, 2011
    Proof of my assessment of this season’s sophomore-colt pacing crop was displayed in $1.5-million North America Cup on June 18 at Mohawk Raceway. Not only is the talent deep but it appears there is a certain equality to the abilities of the top rung.

    When Up The Credit won the event, exactly as we forecasted (though it was not our choice), the time for the mile shone at 1:49.3. This was not the mark of a dominant member of the division. Run this race a hundred times and any of the other choices would have won.

    “Credit” only paid $6.60. In the field, the wagering reflected the equality of this bunch. Big Bad John, the “now” horse, was the favorite at 9-5; Shadyshark Hanover (our choice) was the third choice at 4-1; Big Jim, finishing third, was 5-1. Then the wagering went, 12-1, 12-1, 32-1, 59-1, 77-1, 92-1. And those final four were arguably underlays.

    The “Consolation” definitely highlighted the next tier of talent in the division, though I would not toss any of these guys out just yet. The 4-1 winner, Bestofbest Hanover, beat a poor field. Even the highly hyped Mystician, the second public choice, only took second with a strain.

    Our choice, Townslight Hanover, was flat in the stretch as were most of the horses all night who tried to gather a challenge being further back than third at three-quarters. That is not an excuse for either of our choices; it just means that we cannot hold too much against a lot of the colts trying to pace late in either of these events. Until a colt proves dominance, we will watch this crop closely, as overlays will surface in future events.

    In our plus column the past week we handed out the Fan Hanover Consolation winner, as Honkey Tonk Woman finally got to the finish line first at $7.50. Then, at Cal Expo, in June 18’s no-takeout Pick 4, we hit three of four. Strangely, the leg we missed, leg four, had an usual three horses going in it and that is the leg that took us out of it. Meanwhile, Code Blue won and paid $17.40, Mr. Avalanche won, paying $8.60 and Gorgeous Forever, a single, won at $4.80.

    As for the glamour-boy-and-girl trotters, our exclusive Hambletonian Trail blog continues to pump out sharp winners and contenders. Follow the analysis’s there and the reviews, results and archives at the Hambletonian Society home page.

    Harness News

    See You At Peelers won her 18th-straight race in the Fan Hanover Final, cracking a stakes record to boot. No one in the soph-filly-pace division has come near to defeating her and she beat a field of boys, albeit a soft field, in the “Rooney.” Trainer Jimmy Takter is aiming her for the Little BrownJug, to battle the boys in heats, no less. This is great for the sport, even though fillies beating colts in harness racing is not the hoopla it is in thoroughbred racing. With the colt division showing no signs of kneeling to a single member yet, “Peelers” is in the perfect position to shine against the boys in a major event. How she preps through a heavy-duty schedule of stakes before September’s Ohio fair will tell a few tales. But if she goes into the “Jug” undefeated, all bets on the boys are off, even if one of them is showing better than the others.

    The anticipation for the next glamour-boy soph pace, the $1-million Meadowlands Pace in July, has already begun. However, the future-book choice, Big Jim, is not on top any longer, given, as we mentioned, the versatility of this group so far in 2011. Also, another high-profile colt from last season’s frosh crop, Fashion Delight, is yet to be heard from in a major event. Mystic Desire is still to battle and Feel Like A Fool is on a good path to improve.

    We’ll be scooping the division and making all we can from its less-than-appreciated members as the season ensues. There is a hunk of stakes remaining and a lot of betting to be done, so stay with us at the blogs, at Facebook and follow me at Twitter for racing tweets and thoughts that give you pause.

    Cartoon by Thom Pye
  • PT Fornatale Reviews Royal Ascot Action for Twinspires.com (SATURDAY)


    (My wife, Susan Van Metre, took most of the photos I posted here through the week. Thanks to her for those. And also for putting up with me)

    Interesting news out of the Hardwicke Stakes on closing day at the Royal Ascot meeting. Trainer Aidan O’Brien suggested the Breeders’ Cup Classic might be a possible late season target for the impressive winner, Await the Dawn. While O’Brien wasn’t surprised at all by his colt’s success, he thinks he’s better under different conditions, “I would say he’s won despite the ground. He’s a daisy cutter, barely moves his legs off the ground.”

    Given O’Brien’s recent lack of success in the USA, it’s not easy to be too sanguine about Await the Dawn’s chances, but it’s certainly a situation to monitor.

    Earlier in the day, O’Brien’s two year old filly Maybe was an impressive winner in the Chesham stakes against the boys, “We were afraid of conditions, we didn’t know what would happen but we always thought she was very smart. She travels very easily, Ryan set her into an easy rhythm. We always thought she’d get further than 6, a mile shouldn’t be a problem.”

    Looking at her pedigree, she shapes to be more of a miler than a middle distance filly. Just after the race, there were varying antepost quotes for her for the 1000 Guineas next season, ranging between 9/2 and 10/1. Personally I’d be up for nabbing anything 8-1 or higher. The time was good all things considered and she sure seems like one for whom further improvement is likely.


    For the week, Dove and I tipped 21 races on the blog. Let’s see how we did, winners in CAPS with tote prices.

    Goldikova, 2d at 11/8
    Astrophysical Jet
    FRANKEL/ZOFFANY exacta, WON, paid $21.60 tote

    Planteur (we did advise taking on So You Think at the odds, but can’t claim this as a winner)
    Gypsy Robin

    BAPAK CHINTA $14.60
    Advised a 3 horse box with Dorcas Lane, Highest, Banimpire. Banimpire was first, Dorcas third but can’t claim this one
    FAME AND GLORY $4.80

    NATHANIEL $7.80 to win
    Lost In The Moment, 2d at 8/1
    NAMIBIAN WON $11.80

    DEACON BLUES, WON $15.80

    Assuming $2 bets, that’s $42 invested for a return of $97.20, that’s an ROI of 231%!
  • Coronation Stakes Sectional Times

    POSTED Jun 17, 2011
    From a pace perspective, the Coronation Stakes was run in interesting fashion. It was a FAST pace overall, but the opening quarter seemed to suggest we might be looking at a crawl: the race as a whole went at 12.9 seconds per furlong on average and the opening quarter went in 16 seconds with no accounting for a run up. But then things changed fast as the pace quickened mightily, especially given the condition of the ground. Furlongs 2-5 went in 48:2 on the soft going and broke down as follows. . .the second furlong was 12 flat. The third was 12.1. From 3-5, they went in just 24:1. From the fifth furlong to the 6th they went in 13.1 as the front of the pack was tiring and the closers were launching their bids. This is where Immortal Verse was really kicking into high gear. When interviewed after the race Mosse said, “When I took my time to wait to pull her out, actually she reacted quicker than I was expecting.” Sure enough, from 2 furlongs out to 1 furlong out, Immortal Verse ran 11.7 going to the front and blowing the race up. Seemingly everyone was tired up the hill as Immortal Verse clocked the final furlong in 12.7. Overall, the data says it was a slow first eighth, fast middle six furlongs, slow last eighth. But there are possible explanations for the slow last eighth: she won geared down and even at that was still drawing away. Also, Mosse said that he thought he got to the front too soon, indicating that maybe she may have been idling in front as well. If she’d kept up her turn of foot she might have won by double digits.

    Technically, you’d have to call IMMORTAL VERSE a slight flow downgrade as things really set up well for her, though I certainly wouldn’t be keen to oppose her in any race with either soft ground or an expected hot pace. The final time was fast, only 2.75 over standard despite ground that seemed to generally be costing the other winners more time per mile than that.

    Many kudos to Rob Dove for noticing the sectionals for her previous race in France, identifying that she came home in :22 flat there in soft, and making her a bet today.
  • PT Fornatale’s Twinspires.com Royal Ascot Preview (SATURDAY)

    Yesterday's near sweep assures that we'll finish the week in the black, but let's try to pad a little. . .in fact, the best opportunity of the week might just be on Closing Day. . .

    Hardwicke Stakes (10:05 a.m.)

    Video here. Call me a chalk-sucking weasel if you will, but after the race I might just be a chalk-sucking weasel headed to the bar to buy a round. The tip is #2 AWAIT THE DAWN, who is a standout on form and figs, acts on soft, and projects to like Ascot. I think he's the real deal and for more info, check the vid.

    Golden Jubilee Stakes (10:45 a.m.)

    I'm feeling #15 BEWITCHED. I make the case here, but one thing I should have mentioned on there that I didn't is that I think value will be created by the presence of STAR WITNESS, who ran well opening day with a slow last furlong through a perfect set up (according to Rob Dove's indispensible sectional times) on very different ground. If he beats me, he beats me. UK punters, you know what to do. Here in the USA, I'll stick with backing Bewitched

    Wokingham Stakes (11:25 a.m.)

    #20 DEACON BLUES looks good on figures, loves the soft ground and the race should set up nicely for him. He's a legit tip but it's certainly true that half the joy in picking him was that I can link to this:

    Duke of Edinburgh (12:00 p.m.)

    Funny enough, the last bet of the week is one of the strongest opinions. #4 MODUN was extemely impressive last time. According to the Dove figures, he was held up off a slow pace there but showed an amazing, sustained burst in the straight to win easily. The form of that race has worked out well, Sir Michael Stoute is a master at bringing these along slowly and Dove and I think MODUN will take this before going on to be a Group 1 horse along the lines of the great Pilsudski (same owner/trainer).
  • PT Fornatale Review Royal Ascot Action for Twinspires.com (FRIDAY)


    If yesterday was Ladies' Day, today was Family Day. But first, let's talk about the King Edward stakes. There was some interesting betting to observe in this one. Our blog tip, Nathaniel, was just above 5/2 in the morning and throughout the day went in to just above 2-1. When the horses arrived in the paddock, Nathaniel was on his toes and sweating visibly between his legs. When the TV commentators noted this, bettors got nervous, and suddenly Nathaniel was 3-1. Trainer John Gosden came on TV and explained that sweating is a trait of this family, and the public bought that, the horse looked happy going out on to the track, and Nathaniel’s price dropped again.

    It just goes to show how much the public likes to bet what they just saw happen.

    As for the race itself, Nathaniel won in visually impressive fashion, looking like a candidate to be the best soft ground 12F 3-year old in the UK today. Interestingly, Gosden mentioned the third English classic, the St. Leger (1 ¾ miles) as the likely target. Personally, I’d like to see what Nathaniel could do pointed for the Arc, as I think he’d rate a puncher’s chance even with a talented group of older horses in training this year.


    Our other video tip was also a winner, Immortal Verse. She reared just after the break, but her jockey, Gerald Mosse, kept her together and got her to switch right off when she got some cover. The pace looked fast as anticipated, and as we speculated, that was just the thing to help her closing kick (Sorry, Dale Romans). She came from last and showed a devastating turn of foot to fly home an easy winner in the end.

    Trainer Robert Collet was over the moon about his filly after the race, and disputed claims that she was temperamental, based on her poor run in the 1000 Guineas at Newmarket, “My filly is easy. I announce that this filly is the best filly I have trained. “

    He put down her trouble at Newmarket to a problem with her head equipment, the blustery day, and the starter!

    He continued, “In the French Guineas things didn’t go to plan so you have to forget that and you have to be really stubborn to come back and prove that this is a Group 1 filly.”

    Prove that he did. Here’s what winning jockey Gerald Mosse had to say, “I believe the pace was good enough for the ground but not that fast. But she was a bit keen so I decided to drop her behind to make sure she was going to be totally relaxed going up the hill. When I took my time to wait to pull her out, actually she reacted quicker than I was expecting, she was coming a bit too quick and I hit the front a bit too fast. I had the race in hand since the 500 (2.5 furlongs from the line).”

    In a little fact that will no doubt be used to impugn the quality of the English 3-year old filly crop, it was another French filly in second, the well-backed Nova Hawk. Nova Hawk was trained by Robert Collet’s son, Rod. It would be the first of two all-family exactas (UK people, read “forecasts”) on the day.


    The other All In The Family result happened just one race later, when Princess Haya’s Beachfire gave John Gosden and William Buick their second winner on the day in the Wolferton Handicap. Hot favorite Green Destiny had big trouble early, getting shut off and shuffled back, and while he had room to make a run in the stretch, I think it’s safe to say the trouble cost him dearly.

    Back in second was another one of our blog tips, Lost in the Moment, owned by Princess Haya’s husband, Sheikh Mohammed. The couple were all smiles in the winner’s enclosure after the race and I have to say I found this a bit surprising. Susan, if you ever beat me in a race at Royal Ascot, I’m going to be SEETHING.

    But my favorite story of the day from Ascot was this:


    And here’s a video for the road, because we haven't done one of those yet this meet:

  • The 'Lock'

    POSTED Jun 16, 2011
    Five years before I was born, in 1962, the late, great Dick Francis wrote his very first novel, “Dead Cert.” A racing correspondent for The Sunday Express of London and former champion jump jockey who rode for Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother in the mid-1950s, Francis was a master storyteller and “Dead Cert” was — and still is — one of my all-time favorite works of fiction.

    The story begins, not surprisingly, with a horse race (most Francis mysteries revolved around the Sport of Kings in some manner) involving Admiral, the “dead cert” (short for “dead certainty”), and the beast’s jockey Bill Davidson.

    In those opening pages, Francis wrote:

    All, in fact, was going as expected. Bill Davidson was about to win his ninety-seventh steeplechase. Admiral, his chestnut horse, was amply proving he was still the best hunter ’chaser in the kingdom, and I, as often before, had been admiring their combined back view for several minutes.

    …We rounded the first part of the bend at the bottom of the racecourse and straightened to jump the next fence. Bill was a good ten lengths in front of me and the other horses, and hadn’t exerted himself. He seldom needed to.

    The attendant at the next fence strolled across the course from the outside to the inside, patting the top of the birch as he went, and ducked under the rails. Bill glanced back over his shoulder and I saw the flash of his teeth as he smiled with satisfaction to see me so far behind. Then he turned his head towards the fence and measured his distance.

    Admiral met the fence perfectly. He rose to it as if flight were not only for the birds.

    And he fell.

    Now, I bring this up not to hook you on the book (although I’m OK with that too) but, rather, to provide a backdrop to an interesting Facebook discussion I took part in this past week. On Wednesday, I posed the question: What is a "lock" to most horseplayers — a horse with a 60 percent chance of winning, 70 percent chance… 80 percent… 90 percent? And how many "locks" meet a player's winning expectations in the long run?

    The answers I received were illuminating. While almost everybody agreed that there is no such thing as a sure thing in racing, few attempted to define what a reasonable alternative might be. In other words, at what point does one take a definitive stand for a particular horse and forsake all others — and at what price? Because here’s the problem: Unless one is turning the game on its head and winning a high percentage of the time at juicy odds — something only those that sell their selections are capable of doing (cough, cough) — hedging with low-priced “locks” only serves to reduce one's return. Hence, such a strategy is rather pointless.

    For example, based on a random sample of my top Win Factor Report (computerized fair odds line) plays that had fair odds of 3-5 or less from 2009 to present, I obtained the following statistics:

    Number: 109
    Winners: 71 (65.1%)
    Return: $236.70
    ROI: +8.58%
    As one can see, the winning rate (65.1 percent) is impressive, indicating that my fair odds do, in fact, correlate with a horse’s actual chance of winning. However, the average mutuel on these super steeds is just a shade above $3.30, meaning that there is precious little leeway for those looking to hedge.

    Yes, I know, one can use these types of horses to anchor one’s exotic wagers; frankly, I like that strategy. But — and this is the kind of but that Sir Mix-A-Lot would probably love — doing so obviously lowers one’s winning percentage; thus, the bet can’t really be called a “lock” anymore, can it?

    Just another example of why money management is half the battle.

    Derek Simon’s Free Weekend Win Factor Plays

    (Click on image to enlarge)

    BET(S): WIN & PLACE on 3 at odds of 2-1 or greater.

    (Click on image to enlarge)

    (Click on image to enlarge)

    COMMENTS: I’ve got mixed feelings about MIDNIGHT INTERLUDE trying grass for the first time. Sure, he’s bred OK — and he’s unquestionably talented — but what constitutes a fair price? Plus, it’s not like this guy was posting great late speed rations (LSRs) on dirt, à la Sidney’s Candy. Hence, I’ll take a stand against him and use TEMPLE’S DOOR and/or WAR PILOT. The former has the best overall turf LSRs in the field, while the latter possesses both early and late lick.

    BET(S): WIN on 5 (at odds of 4-1 or greater) and/or WIN on 2 (at odds of 8-1 or greater).
  • PT Fornatale's Twinspires.com Royal Ascot Preview (FRIDAY

    The week is flying along. . .at least we got a couple winners home and the rain didn't dampen another great day's racing. Let's have a look at Friday's wagering opportunites.

    King Edward Stakes (10:05 a.m.)

    I did a video here but just to reiterate, the tip is #10 NATHANIEL. He fits and his last is better than it looks. The winner was unlucky not to win the Derby and this guy didn't seem to handle the course nor the ground well. Even with Zoffany's big run the other day, Nathaniel is still the horse who has gotten closest to FRANKEL at the line. The other one here for saver/exacta purposes is #7 GLENCADAM GOLD. Showed he stays on well last time and his previous two were uneven runs that were better than they look on the page. Click the video for much more info.

    Coronation Stakes (10:45 a.m.)

    Another vid here. I'm intrigued by #6 IMMORTAL VERSE, the French raider. She had no chance in the French Guineas two back in a race that unfolded at a glacial pace. Her last race was visually impressive on soft-ish ground where she stormed home the last two furlongs in about 22 seconds despite what seemed a moderate (or even slow) pace. The pace ought to be faster here that what she's seen but it's possible that will help her. I'll also likely save with the favorite, #13 TOGETHER, who was second in both the English and Irish Guineas and maybe made the front too quick in each. Again, click the video for much more info.

    Wolferton Handicap (11:25)
    #11 LOST IN THE MOMENT is quite a quirky individual but when he's talented and very good when he's in the mood. He closed very well last time at Chester, a track that front runners track (indeed, the winner and third there were up with pace). He loves soft ground so these conditions suit him. #15 Green Destiny the one to beat but unlikely to show any value at the windows, though a small saver exacta is probably not the worst idea you'll hear from a pundit this meeting.

    Queen's Vase (12:00 p.m.)
    #8 NAMIBIAN looks good on form and speed ratings and goes out for a trainer, Mark Johnston, who gets his horses to stay long distances (via interval training method). Johnston has a great record in this race, plus he gets the assistance of Silvestre de Sousa for the first time, a positive. He's won on soft and is a big strong sort who could grind them out.
  • Ascot Gold Cup Sectional Data

    Another day, another question about a jockey’s ride from my fellow Twitterati . . .

    This time the accusation is that Mickael Barzalona waited too long to make a challenge on the Gold Cup second Opinion Poll. As you’ll see, thanks to Rob Dove’s data and analysis, this claim is more than a little specious.

    The first 6 furlongs were covered in 1:24:2, which is 14 seconds a furlong. . .to divide that up further, the first two furlongs were slightly fast (26.5) and the next 4 were slightly slow (57.7).

    Then we get to a point on the course where we don’t have any markers to work with but visually the pace appears to slow noticeably. About the halfway stage (10F), Geordieland makes his run and injects some pace. He stopped quick 7 furlongs from home. With 6 furlongs to go, they’d run 3:15.3 (That’s 13.95 a furlong).

    Here is how the rest of the race went:

    From 6 out to 5 out: 13.9
    From 5 to 4: 13.2
    From 4 to 3: 13.3
    From 3 to 2: 13.7 (this is the point at which FAME AND GLORY made the front)
    From 2 to 1: 13.8
    From 1 to line: 14.3

    (For those of you scoring along at home, that’s the last 6 furlongs in 1:22:2)

    When evaluated as a whole, it was an amazingly even gallop: 13.9 a furlong. Everyone was tiring at the end. The idea that Mickael Barzalona left it late on OPINION POLL appears to be an unsupportable claim when you look at the data. it looked like OP was making a big late move, but his late move was about a length when they both were tiring. It was a fair race and everyone had his chance. So you see, jockeys know what they are doing sometimes.

    Last thought: the overall time (16 seconds over standard) is not nearly as bad as it seems because of the soft ground magnified by the extreme trip; the pace was slightly stop and start but overall a fair test.
  • PT Fornatale Reviews Thursday's Royal Ascot Action


    Banimpire won the Ribblesdale stakes for trainer Jim Bolger, who has an interesting way of training his emerging star: he races her into shape rather than blowing her out at home.

    Looking through her Banimpire’s form, I feel like it should be something out of DRF Press’ great book, Champions, a PP from the last century -- and I’m talking about EARLY last century. Banimpire’s season started at the Curragh on March 20th. She reappeared April 10th. Then she stopped lollygagging and really got busy with a start May 1st, then another May 11th, May 22nd, June 12th, and now June 16th at Royal Ascot. So that's what? Seven races in 88 days, so a race every 12 days or so?

    Perhaps most interesting of all, it’s not like Jim Bolger is some luddite, old-school-to-a-fault trainer. He’s also on the cutting edge of technology. He uses the new fangled Equine Heart Monitors and his former apprentices include Aidan O’Brien, Tony McCoy and Paul Carberry, suggesting he has plenty to offer promising up-and-comers.

    I’d love to sit down one day and talk horses with him. And I promise not to bring this up.


    Speaking of Aidan O’Brien and heart rate monitors. . .

    There’s no doubt that one of AOB’s many skills is taking very good middle-distance horses and turning them into marathoners (Four-time GC winner Yeats most notably). USA readers, in the UK, middle distance is considered 10F-12F (our marathons). UK marathons are 14F and up, and the Gold Cup is the biggest test of all at 20F. Aidan was asked after the race about how he gets these horses to stay the extra ground, “When horses have so much class, they can often stay. I think class makes them stay. It’s the ultimate test of class when you go that extreme distance.”

    He went on to compliment his horse and rider, “We’re privileged to have [Fame and Glory] really. Jamie [Spencer] had ridden him in his first two and he was very happy and confident with him. He gave him an unbelievable ride.”

    Spencer got the ride because he is contracted to the Mrs. Hay, a part owner in Fame and Glory. He described his journey, “We didn’t go fast early, and I was delighted when I saw Geordie go around the field around the mile and a half, he just injected the pace in. My fella wasn’t keen [ed note for Americans, read "rank"] but because he’s got so much class he was used to going a different pace in the race. He just wanted the injection of pace to make it more comfortable for him. He is a very easy ride, a push button ride. I’m just privileged to ride the horse. I like to thank Dr. Hay and his wife for investing in the horse and Mr. and Mrs, Magnier and Mr. and Mrs Smith and Mr. and Mrs. Tabor. They’ve had the faith and allowed me to ride the horse and all I can say is thank you to them.”

    Hey Jamie, you left one name out there. . .for those who don’t know, Spencer was stable jockey for Aidan O’Brien in 2007 but it didn’t work out. When asked about the irony of winning one at Royal Ascot for his ex-boss, Spencer quipped, “We’re getting on better now.”
  • North America Cup Heads Mohawk Menagerie

    POSTED Jun 15, 2011
    Mohawk Raceway presents one of Canadian harness racing’s biggest programs with the $1.5-million North America Cup in the center ring of multi-stakes action. Making the program all the more tempting, we are offering double Twin Spires Club points on all Mohawk wagering Saturday night, June 18.

    Glamour-boy pacer colts go the mile to take first dibs on top sophomore pacer status. It is not always a test that results in the best soph. The past two “Cup” winners have not aspired to greatness. In fact, it was the losing trip of Rock N Roll Heaven last year that got all the attention and he went on to be Horse of the Year.  

    There is a sister event, the Fan Hanover, for soph-filly pacers, two soph trot stakes –both handled at our exclusive Hambletonian Trail blog—and consolation events worth six-digits each. And we put together another Cal Expo Pick-4 ticket that promises to take a stab at making our current Pick-4 bankroll larger.   

    North America’s Finest

    The field for the 28th $1.5-million Pepsi NorthAmerica Cup features some of the most promising three-year-olds in North America’s division so far this year. It lacks only the female challenger, See You At Peelers. She is taking on her own ilk in the Fan Hanover, though aimed at meeting with the boys in the Little Brown Jug later this year. 

    Cup-elimination-winners Big Bad John, Powerful Mist and Up The Credit got to choose their posts, a perk of elim winners in this format. Powerful Mist chose first and got post 3, Big Bad John chose post 4 and Up The Credit took post 2.

    Elimination-winner Up The Credit has displayed talent on Mohawk’s seven-eighths oval. The Diplomat Stakes champion broke the stakes record in the Somebeachsomewhere Stakes two weeks back with a 1:49 win. In that division, he defeated another elim winner, our choice, Powerful Mist. And of course, world-champion Big Jim, highly touted and highly disappointing in the “Somebeach” and the Cup elim, made it into the final without winning a race.  

    Big Bad John is the “now” horse. He is undefeated in four starts at three, at home in Canada and he dominated in his elim despite a bad trip, winning it by 2 lengths. Trainer Ron Potter said his colt “has a slick gait but to me it’s all about his attitude. Every time he goes out there it’s a fight to him and he’s got the biggest heart, he wants to win. I was really nervous coming into the elimination, I didn’t know what to expect. I’m thrilled to be in the final.”

    Powerful Mist has not been getting the respect he deserves since he lost his “Hempt” wlim and the final at Pocono, going into the event a top choice. He had heavy excuses in both of those races, as we pointed out, and he barely lost to Custard The Dragon in the final. That one didn’t make it into the Cup cast but “Mist” proved us right –even after losing his Somebeach affair –when he devoured his Cup elim field at 5-1.

    In that elim, Mist defeated Big Jim in a 1:50.2. The danger in the final for Mist is the complexity of the trip. Cups are extremely fast races mostly because drivers push their steeds early for position. Speed can burn out quickly in a Cup, handing a mark to a horse that has gotten a comfortable trip along the way (as did Well Said in 2009). Thus, Mist has a shot to take the Cup.

    Big Bad John will probably take favorite status, though not by much, away from Big Jim. The “Bigs,” however, may cancel one another out in a squall of speed. This is where the situation becomes extremely valuable for bettors, as we suggest the contender may be the horse that the season has already forgotten: Shadyshark Hanover.

    Just like Mist, “Shady” has lost respect early in his soph career, based on some terrible trips and the likes of the Bigs. This is one strong and talented colt, though, and an upset at a price looms boldly. Shady made it to the final and gets a good post (see posts below), as well as he comes into the race from a big effort.

    Shady gamely tried to beat Up The Credit in an elim; he just lost by ½ length at the line. His loss to the mega-hot “Credit” has been unpronounced due to the winner’s status, and yet it is as good a race as the winning efforts of the other two elims. Shady was an astounding 7-1 in that race. He actually got the lead for a moment at the seven-eighths pole before Credit used his reserve pace (he had an easier trip) to pass and win.

    Shady is not done showing he was a hot freshman which has come back to make a big impression at three. We touted him before this season began as having a good chance of being better than Big Jim in 2011. His odds will be appetizing, perhaps longer than his chance to win. Shady and Mist could be the darling duo in the end.

    As for Big Jim, trainer James Dean says he is changing tactics, trying to avoid the duel we presume could take place among the Bigs. Dean says Jim won’t go for the lead. “Last week, Phil [Hudon, the driver] said [Jim] was a little warm behind the gate and when he finally moved him [to the front] he couldn’t get him to settle down…Generally he doesn’t get wound up. Last year you could drive him with two fingers.”

    Dean is opting for some gear changes, new to Jim, who is 7-1 on the morning line. No one can predict how this will affect the colt. Also new to the race is driver Phil Hudon. He has never performed in any of the 27 Cups.

    Listed below is the field for the 28th Cup.

    Post Position-Horse-Driver-Trainer-Morning line odds

    1.Big Jim-Phil Hudon-James Dean-7-1
    2.Up The Credit-Jody Jamieson-Carl Jamieson-5-2
    3.Powerful Mist-David Miller-Melvin Wayne Givens-6-1
    4.Big Bad John-Brett Miller-Ron Potter-2-1
    5.Shadyshark Hanover-Tim Tetrick-Erv Miller-5-1
    6.Rockabille-Brian Sears-Dr. Ian Moore-15-1
    7.Roll With Joe-Randall Waples-Ed Hart-8-1
    8.Eighteen-Paul Macdonell-Dr. Ian Moore-25-1
    9.Dutch Richman-Scott Zeron-Erv Miller-30-1
    10.Foreclosure N-Sylvain Filion-Mark Steacy-25-1

    ‘Fan’ Frenzy

    Saturday at Mohawk, eight glamour-girl filly pacers take on See You At Peelers in the $601,000 Fan Hanover Final. “Peelers” towers over her division and has yet to lose a race. But there is no law of the universe forbidding a defeat, so you either pass this race or you support contradiction.

    We handed you last week’s longshot elim winner, What’s New Pussycat, but do not endorse her in the final. Here, two legitimate contenders can find a way to defeat Peelers, even if that comes from Peelers beating herself with an uncharacteristic break or some strange internal incident. Those fillies are Krispy Apple and Pretty Katherine. They will be the second-and-third choices but still offer odds you would never see them get were it not for the presence of Peelers. Beware. 

    Consolation Miles

    The $100,000 Pepsi North America Cup Consolation is tough field to find “toss-outs.” A favorite if not the strong choice could be Mystician. On recent performance, however, we give a decent shot to Townslight Hanover. He was shuffled back last time out and came out when free to get for fourth. He could get a better trip in here with great odds and take down the second-string glamour boys.

    In the $75,000 Fan Hanover Consolation, the field is even, at least by comparison to the fight with Peelers that the first string has to face. There is no clear favorite. Since it is like that, Honky Tonk Woman. She was shuffled back and came up short at the line. She should do better facing this group. The buzz horse is JK Soundofmusic. Don’t be surprised if she puts in a big mile as she is improving by the week. 

    Cal Exotic

    The June 18 no-takeout Pick 4 at Cal Expo is from Race 9 through Race 12.

    Race 9
    (9) Mr Avalanche was a wire-to-wire winner as a favorite last out and could offer some better odds here from the outside post. (10) Twice The Rukas, lost as the choice and gets the far outside which could also up his possible payoff.

    Race 10
    (3) Gorgeous Forever appears to be a sound single here, since the other suspicious contenders are in the two outside posts.

    Race 11
    (6) Looking At You was second at 7-1 last out in an impressive trip that ate up a lot of real estate late. This is the type of style that could win a mile like this, where a false favorite can arise. So, we also include (8) Code Blue, also 7-1 last time with a good effort.

    Race 12
    (3) Rossridge Elberta was strong with an early duel and must be respected here. The same goes for (6) Cinnamon, due to a strong win that can be repeated. As well, this ticket goes unusually deep by adding (8) OG’s Si Bon. This one had a brutal journey as the choice and may be dismissed with good odds only to get a winning trip.

    If you want to use all of these, the 9,10/3/6,8/3,6,8 ticket cost $12 ($1 ticket).

    (Ray Cotolo assisted in this edition.)
  • PT Fornatale Reviews the Sectional Data From the Prince of Wales' Stakes

    SO (what do) YOU THINK (happened)?

    Rob Dove and his editing software have struck again and provided us some sectional data for today’s big one, The Prince of Wales stakes. Many thanks to Dove for his tireless efforts and immense racing knowledge in helping put this post and yesterday’s Frankel piece together.

    Before falling on his sword and taking the blame for So You Think’s defeat, trainer Aidan O’Brien was asked a question: did he think jockey Ryan Moore moved too soon?

    Let’s look at the data we have. Usually when a rider seemingly moves too soon it’s the result of a very fast early pace. In the Prince of Wales we did have a solid early gallop, though not like what we saw in the St. James Palace yesterday (even accounting for the shorter distance). The chasing pack appeared to go about 48.1 (including a RUG, run-up-guesstimation). The pacemaker was probably a second ahead of that. That’s an honest pace for sure. But since the pacemaker was fairly well ignored, you can’t really call it more than that. The early pace can be called slightly fast, as can the middle section of the race where So You Think ran 3f in 37.3 and Rewilding in 37.7.

    When Moore asks So You Think for run, he goes from being about 3 lengths ahead of Rewliding to about 4 lengths ahead of him. This is hardly some maniacal charge, more just the kind of tactical riding you’d expect to see from a jockey who is winding up a stayer. The clock shows he's not even really quickening, just galloping along at the same pace. Debussy tiring created the illusion Moore was throwing it down and going on with it.

    As for the final section of the race, it was only slightly slow. So You Think’s come home furlongs were 12.6/12.6/12.9 up the hill, last three in 38.1. Rewilding went 12.8/12.8/12.4, last three in 37.6.

    So what conclusions can we draw? 1) Ryan Moore rode a great race, got beat by a better horse on the day. 2) The slightly fast/slightly fast/slightly slow flow of the race created optimal conditions to run a fast time 3) Few horses could live up to the hype foist upon So You Think coming in to this race. For a horse foaled on planet Earth, he ran great. And if O’Brien is right about his fitness, he could still turn out to be the superstar some were expecting.
  • PT Fornatale's Twinspires.com Royal Ascot Preview (THURSDAY)

    Let's dive right in. . .

    NORFOLK STAKES (9:30 a.m.)

    #3 BAPAK CHINTA won very impressively at first asking, beating Frederick Engels (who won windsor palace) easily. Rob Dove's sectionals show the early pace was slow but he came home fast so he is an upgrade over his raw form and speed figures, and they're pretty good anyway. He should win this assuming the ground stays good to firm (the trainer is worried he won't like soft ground and there is rain in the forecast).


    I did a video on this race which you can find here but just to recap: I am advising an exacta box on #4 DORCAS LANE (who I might also bet to win), #6 HIGHEST, and #2 BANIMPIRE. If the rains do come, I'd upgrade #6 HIGHEST.

    GOLD CUP (10:45 a.m.)
    Another video for this here, though my opinion has changed a bit with the threat of rain loooking ever more likely. I still like #5 FAME AND GLORY but if the ground is soft I might back off my play on #7 HOLBERG. Damnit Jim, I'm a handicapper not a meterologist.


    This is a very interesting race where I think we can come up with a small play. I'll niblle win and place on #11 MORIARTY. He ran well in Ireland last time, the time before that he quickened up from the rear off a slow pace to just not get up. A visor (blinkers with small eye slits) goes on today for the hot Hannon-Hughes team.

    KING GEORGE V HANDICAP (12:35 p.m.)

    #1 APACHE ran a quick time last time out and looks worth playing along with #5 SUD PACIFIQUE, who Dove had a good sectionals based note on last time, coming from the rear in a slowly run race, where the form appears to be working out well.
  • PT Fornatale Reviews Wednesday's Royal Ascot Action


    Richard Hannon had another fine day on Wednesday at Ascot, winning two races. He took the Jersey Stakes with Strong Suit, who last year was thought of as Hannon’s best two year old. A recent breathing operation has helped him return to form. Hannon was quoted in a postrace interview, “Hughesy said a couple of times [earlier this year] he was gulping pulling up.”

    Jockey Hughes added, “He got the wobbles with me in the Greenham so then we got the camera on him and saw how he was suffering.”

    After the operation, things improved considerably. Hannon reported, “We took him to Kempton to work with Canford Cliffs and he worked brilliant.”

    When asked if his three-year-old miler be taking on four-year-old Canford Cliffs in a real race this year, Hannon replied, “Certainly not.”

    * * *

    After Rewilding’s exciting upset in the Prince of Wales’ Stakes, trainer Mahmood Al Zarooni gave all the credit to the colt’s owner, Sheikh Mohammed, “I have to be honest, it’s not me, it’s him. The training program, everything in the yard. We’re still learning but he’s been here in England a long time.”

    Zarooni confirmed that the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes Ascot next month will be the target for Rewilding.

    In the camp of the second place finisher, the odds-on favorite So You Think, the theme wasn’t credit, but blame. When asked if maybe his rider had moved too soon, Aidan O’Brien stepped in and took full responsibility for the defeat:

    “Because he won his first two so easy I didn’t ask enough of him. He tanked along a bit the first furlongs, got tired the last two furlongs. I would put it down to trainer error, he was not fit enough for this type of race. I didn’t go chasing after him too much. I’m sorry and we’ll go on from here. It was a big, strong, heavy blow after, a fitness blow. I would expect plenty of improvement.”

    On one hand, props to AOB for manning up and saying that. But on the other hand, if the reports out of Ballydoyle (some of them from AOB’s very own twitter account) were accurate, and he was really doing great pre-race and dusting workmates by 15 lengths and whatnot, it seems hard to believe that fitness was the issue. But to play devil's advocate, I suppose it’s possible that 80% of So You Think is good enough to look great on the gallops but not good enough to win what appeared to be a fast run Grade 1 at Royal Ascot. So the jury’s still out on this one.

    One little bit of comic relief courtesy of the BBC before I take my leave. Former champion jockey Willie Carson was VERY excited about So You Think’s chances, encouraging a fellow pundit to bet the last dollar in his wallet on his nose and then suggesting viewers could literally bet their houses on the international superstar. Post race, one of the ex-bookie commentators summed it up nicely, “And THAT’S how easy it is to lose a house.”
  • PT Fornatale's TwinSpires.com Royal Ascot Preview (WEDNESDAY)

    POSTED Jun 14, 2011

    As always, thanks to Rob Dove for his thoughts and insights on both these tips and the video previews. Feel free to follow me on Twitter (@loomsboldly) for up to the second news, tips, and updates about all the goings on at Royal Ascot.

    JERSEY STAKES (9:30 a.m.)

    #3 CODEMASTER ran very big figures (speed and form) in his first start of the season and looks worth a long look. His trainer, Henry Candy, is excellent with sprinters and brings them along slowly. He looks to have improved a lot from 2 to 3 and should take this before going on to bigger things. #7 ORACLE is a possible danger based on his third in the Irish 2000 Guineas if he can build on that.

    WINDSOR FOREST (10:05 a.m.)

    The-likely favorite here is #11 SAJJHAA after her fine second to Midday in her first start this year, but Sajjhaa had a very soft lead that day and it’s likely that Midday was not at her best. We’ll try #12 SETA. Seta showed a nice turn of foot last time off a layoff, and scooted clear of a good field. She's with master handler Luca Cumani and his charges usually improve second off the pine. She's disappointed when upped in class before, but this isn't the strongest Group 2 you’ll ever see.

    PRINCE OF WALES (10:45 a.m.)

    Prince of Wales Vidcast

    ROYAL HUNT CUP (11:25 a.m.)

    This is a very tricky 33 runner handicap, but Dove had a great note on #16 PINTURA last time. He ran a big race last time when being close to a fast pace but still rerallying and then meeting lots of trouble late. He would have had every chance with a clear run. Jockey Jamie Spencer retains the mount and he's worth a shot at 20/1 or higher.

    QUEEN MARY STAKES (1 p.m.)

    Queen Mary Vidcast
  • PT Fornatale Reviews Tuesday's Royal Ascot Action

    (Press Association Images)

    Amazing stuff in the Queen Anne with Canford Cliffs showing that he’s ready for primetime and then some. The time and pace seemed fast to me just visually. Goldikova travelled super well and just got run down by Canford Cliffs on the square. Interesting to note that Cape Blanco seemed to be ridden as a pure pacemaker (the Coolmore boys own him and have bought into Canford Cliffs as well). Of course, Goldikova had a pacemaker of her own so you can’t say that gave Canford Cliffs any edge. Jockey Olivier Peslier reported in two pounds over (seemingly VERY poor form) but I doubt that was the difference so no real controversy for me there. It was just a great race all around and Canford Cliffs was certainly better on the day.

    A few quotes:

    Richard Hannon (trainer of Canford Cliffs): “[Goldikova’s] obviously brilliant, but [Canford Cliffs’] is a good horse and we had to take her on. Two pacemakers in there, he followed the filly. He’s got a good cruising speed and can also quicken. He’s a very special horse.
    These sort don’t come along every day.”

    Richard Hughes (jockey of Canford Cliffs): “A bit of cat and mouse in there. [Peslier] wouldn’t kick, and I couldn’t kick ‘til he kicked.
    He’s the best horse I’ve ever ridden.”

    Freddy Head (trainer of Goldikova): “It’s a tough mile for her here.
    [on the crowd applauding Goldikova coming back, even in defeat] I was thrilled by that. People know horses here and they know good horses and champions.”

    * * *

    As for the ST. JAMES PALACE, Frankel made his move awfully early and his final margin of victory might not reflect his true superiority.
    The best news for Frankel fans, in the words of his rider.

    Tom Queally: “He settled better than he’s ever settled. He’s growing up all the time, more versatile than people think.”

    I think if held up a bit more, the 10 furlong distance will be within his grasp. His trainer indicated that the Sussex Stakes (1 mile versus elders, including Canford Cliffs, could be next) and maybe after that they’d try the Juddmonte International at York at 1 ¼ miles (presumably against Carlton House, maybe So You Think and Planteur).

    Henry Cecil: “The plan was to go just before the bend but he sprinted away. He wasn’t at all tired, he just thought he’d done enough.”

    The strong gallop out suggests that there might be something to Queally and Cecil’s comments, though I do think Frankel would look better late in the race with a little more even energy distribution. I am sticking to my guns that FRANKEL is special, and am hoping we haven’t seen the best of him yet. I’ll update this piece or write a follow up if I gain access to hand-timed sectionals.

    One final note. After the races each day at Royal Ascot, there is a patriotic sing-a-long (no, really). Here is a clip from last year.