• Belmont by Brisnet numbers & my letters

    POSTED May 31, 2012
    Jon Siegel leads the latest edition of Triple Crown Insider acknowledging that I'll Have Another is the fastest horse in the race, and that is the case no matter what numbers you use to gauge these horses' performances.

    But handicapping a horse race isn't only about figuring out who has run fastest, it's about figuring out who will run fastest in this race.

    One of the best handicappers I know, Scott Carson, is great at projecting performances. I don't get quite as specific as he does when plotting a race, but I do use the rudimentary approach of figuring the chances a horse A) improves, B) maintains, or C) goes backward. A+ would be an explosive move, and a C- would be a huge step back.

    I'll Have Another is the easiest of Belmont winners with either an "A+" or "A" performance as defined above. Even a "B" performance means someone would have to improve, and only Dullahan or Paynter could win with their "A" if I'll Have Another fires a "B". Horses like Union Rags and Street Life, meanwhile, would need an "A+".

    The best chance for anyone other than I'll Have Another winning is if the dual classic winner runs a "C". His "off" race from either the Derby or Preakness probably still hits the board and might even win, but that would likely mean some others didn't fire as well.

    One reason I like Optimizer a little bit is he seems to always fire a "B", i.e. maintains his form rather consistently. That's not nearly fast enough normally, and as a top choice I wouldn't like him, but there's enough of a chance that he moves forward with the added distance to prefer him underneath at 20-to-1 than Union Rags, Paynter, or Street Life at lower prices.

    Still, I expect my main strategy (as a personal player, not for the TwinSpires.com Player's Pool) to be to single I'll Have Another in multi-race wagers, bet Dullahan to win, and play a straight I'll Have Another-Dullahan exacta with Optimizer thrown in to some of the gimmicks.

  • Full Agenda For Sophomores

    POSTED May 30, 2012

    It’s a big weekend for sophomores, colts and fillies, pacers and trotters. As June dawns, so do hopes of greatness for the season, now in bloom, for all glamour divisions.  

    As usual this time of the year, we continue to cover the trotting divisions in our exclusive blog, the Hambletonian Trail. Get to TwinSpires for wagering all of the great races leading to the Hambletonian and “Oaks” and read all the result stories at Hambletonian Society’s exclusive “trail” section.  

    This week has already produced seven races, all sires stakes, filled with Hambo hopefuls which we promoted in the trail blog. Bookmark that page, visit it regularly as a multitude of races pour out of the spring-summer schedule leading to one of the biggest days in harness racing, the first Saturday in August.  

    Pacers a-plenty are pounding the limestone on both sides of the borders, including sires stakes in Pennsylvania and New Jersey and the Art Rooney Memorial Pace and Lismore Pace at Yonkers, also sophomore events. The Somebeachsomewhere stakes at Mohawk is a soph-pace open but pits colts and geldings against one another in the first major glamour-boy pace stake of the year.  

    Four-year-old-and-up pacers go for a whopping $200,000 in the Dan Patch at Hoosier Park, the sole pace with a big purse on the weekend agenda for elders.  

    We never give up at Cal-Expo, where TwinSpires-Cal-Expo’s exclusive no-takeout Pick 4 includes races 11 through 14. A detailed report is included below.  

    Keystone Calls

    Pennsylvania Sires Stakes (PASS) offers colt pacers five digits for each division at the Meadows on June 1 as the state-bred series ensues.  

    In the first split, worth $93,645, we lean towards an improving colt, El Bravo. Aaron Merriman will be aboard to take this colt screaming from the gate. Last out he was burned to the half racing against the sub-1:50 Sweet Lou at Pocono. Here he might be about to have his own way, even from start to finish, and at a price.  

    The prodigy himself, Sweet Lou, is the centerpiece of division two. Can he win every race from now on simply on his miracle speed? Time will tell about every race but he is certainly lengths ahead of this group. A pass on this PASS is best. 

    A sharp outsider in split three comes to us in Bakin On The Beach. Toss that last race and his Philly conditioners are worthy of the competition here. This is a ragged group and there is no reason to cry favorite.

    Jersey Jams

    At the Meadowlands on Saturday, June 2, New Jersey Sires Stakes (NJSS) soph colts and fillies finalize the first round of this program with a pair of $150,000 miles (see the NJSS trotters on the trail page).   

    In the colt pace, A Rocknroll Dance is the definite favorite. Brent Montana and I Fought Dalaw may be able to get the best of him, however. Brent Montana always gets into the race but does his best when closing. If he is near the pace late, he may be able to close at a price.

    I Fought Dalaw was an easy winner from post 9 last week but may not get bet as he did then with A Rocknroll Dance in the same field.

    The filly division features Pirouette Hanover, who skipped the second leg after winning the first. Vy Hanover may be able to improve off her poor effort last week. She was boxed in and couldn’t close and seems to do better from posts 2 or 3. She draws post 3 this week and may get the best of these gals.

    ‘Some’ Of A ‘Beach’

    Named after one of the sport’s fastest pacers of all time, the Somebeachsomewhere Stakes on June 2 at Mohawk is an event yet to produce the freak that was Somebeachsomewhere. This is a prep for the $1.5-million North America Cup, which holds elims on June 9. Two $100,000 splits offer cunning colts a chance at living up to his sensational miles.  

    Trainer Casie Coleman brings the Upper Canada Cup-winner, Michaels Power, to one split. She called his performance there “phenomenal” and this lightly raced colt gets to shine in the second division. He may be the key horse to use, though a win bet may not be available at a price worth playing alone. In exotics, then, use Dapper Dude.  

    In the first division, we like Thinking Out Loud and Escape The News, the latter which should offer the best win price. He is Joe Holloway’s charge and in this lighter field of the two divisions could surprise with a big mile.

    ‘Rooney’ And Lismore

     Two compact fields comprise this season’s Art Rooney Pace and Lismore Pace for the glamour boys and girls of pacing at Yonkers Raceway on June 2.  

    Six go in the $306,204 “Rooney.” Hurrikane Kingcole is the top dog here and he doesn’t have much to beat as he becomes better each week. But also on the improve is Pet Rock. Joe Holloway’s student was a disappointment last week but may have better strategic dynamics on the half-mile. Brian Sears is worth adding to the possibility of an upset.  

    The $176,484 Lismore Pace has only five in the field and Handsoffmycookie as the 3-5 morning line choice. Fast and able to steal this, we will still take a chance to beat her with Jamie Sue. Trainer Mark Ford has had this gal cooking so far this season and with a decent trip she may pace away in an upset.

    ‘Patch’-work Pacers

    On Saturday, June 2 some of the top pacers have been invited to the $200,000 Dan Patch four four-year-ols and up at Hoosier Park.

    Golden Receiver is the likely favorite coming into the event. Special T Rocks and Rockincam might be able to get their shot in the spotlight, having good chances of beating the top pacer.

    Special T Rocks beat highly buzzed We Will See in an Invitational at the Meadowlands last week and he did it with ease. He has been a valiant pacer throughout his campaign and his biggest victory may come tonight.

    Rockincam was one of the favorites coming into the Graduate but did not seem right in the final. He comes into this event looking to rebound and may be able to do so with care from post 9.

    Cal Exotic

    Race 10 through Race 13 make up June 1’s no-takeout Pick 4. Let’s look at some likely contenders that could make it a worthy hit.

    Leg 1
    (6) Take No Prisoners was gaining well last week and seems to be fit the best for this outing. There are few cases for the others.

    Leg 2
    (1) Laughs Last was gigantic last Friday, eating up real estate like he was pacing downhill. Why not another big mile? (3) JC’s Lucky Dreamer was not himself as the favorite and may feel better going with these. (7) Gentle Dragon fought hard at 4-1 going three wide to battle.

    Leg 3
    (4) Hezadilly just missed and may not miss here. (6) Muzhik Hanover was a strong-closing second at 5-1 and could topple this bunch with some luck.

    Leg 4
    (5) Paul The Powerful is hard to deny again this week. He was used twice to go wire to wire last out. (6) Bo Knows Power finished seventh but was hard pressed to get the lead early, which was a tiring chore. He may be a better price here; certainly not the choice.

    Ray Cotolo contributed to this edition.
  • Cotolo’s Harness Review, News And Notes

    POSTED May 26, 2012

    The summer heat came rolling in early on this holiday weekend. Our two blogs were not as hot but not without their set of thrills. Our Hambletonian Trail blog delivered two of four winners. For reviews of all Trail races, check the the Hambletonian Society site.  

    Canada’s two stakes for older pacers were won by their respective favorites. Foiled Again won the Molson Pace for the third time in his career at Western Fair. Michael’s Power turned out to be the public choice in Georgia Down’s Upper Canada Cup, winning at 3-5. Our choice, Huxley, was second at 17-1.  

    In the New Jersey Sires Stakes soph pacing quartet at the Meadowlands on May 26 we split the difference with two wins, one in each division. The best hit was with the fillies, when Ideal In Vegas avenged a loss last week with a victory worth $11.80. In the colt splits the crowd ate our winner alive. I Fought Dalaw went off the big choice, paying $3.60. If you estimate that a worthy price, we applaud your win; we passed.  

    At Cal Expo, the no-takeout Pick 4 on May 25 included one winner for us. Our second-leg single, Dancing Barry, won and paid $9.60. Even with a number of favorites missing from the winning ticket, its price was still only $1,509.30. People must be purchasing some very large tickets. 

    From tweets this past week, winners included All Over The World ($17.50) and Kennairn Crystal ($13.40) at Flamboro; Frenchfrysnvinegar ($14.20) at Mohawk. Also, Special T Rocks ($15.60) won at the Meadowlands.

    Connect to Twitter and follow Frank and Ray Cotolo for up-to-the-minute suggestions on wagers at many harness raceways. Then, wager from TwinSpires.

    Get onto our mailing list. Soon we will be offering ways to learn more about playing for profit. Enter your email for free by clicking here.

    Check our Balmoral weekend Pick-4-and-win picks at the USTA’s Strategic Wagering Program page and peruse other various topics on harness racing at my Hoof Beats blog titled Vast Performances.

    News And Notes

    Muscle Hill, the dominating Hambletonian champ in 2009, has been in the stud business since he retired from racing. Speculation on his progeny has been high all over the world (remember that trotting in Europe is far more popular than on these shores). At a yearling sale in Stockholm on May 25, Victory Rain, from the first crop of Muscle Hill, topped the prices at $115,000. Trainer Stefan Hultman bought the colt.

    The issue of speed continues to impress many people in the sport. Granted, the fact that fast horses will always beat slow horses is, in harness racing, debatable. But this season has begun with fiery miles and you can get a good rundown of the atmosphere by reading Tim Bojarski’s blog; click here to read.

    With the Belmont Stakes nearing and a Triple Crown possible from a horse in the hands of a controversial trainer, harness racing took the forefront with a major suspension from a trainer once on top of the heap, Lou Pena.

    New York racing officials joined with New Jersey authorities to come to the conclusion that Mr. Pena be suspended immediately and indefinitely. Pena has amassed more than 1,700 equine drug violations, facing possible revocation of his license to race horses in the Empire State and fines of up to $25,000 per violation (do the math, this is an outrageously high ticket). As well, New York is looking to recover more than $2.5 million in purse monies won by the horses in violation at the time.

    We recall some years back in California when a few trainers were making their bones, so to speak, and one on the list was Lou Pena. Standardbred trainers that have brought their stock east after campaigning successfully on the Pacific coast produced peculiar success stories that have made California harness known as the Wild, Wild West of the sport. This is not to insinuate that harness racing in the west has been a freak factory of players; it is to bring to the attention of all involved that the way the sport is handled on either coast is as different as east and west.

    The great, yet unorthodox trainer Brett Pelling came east from the western frontier, as did many Australasian horsemen, including Brett’s father Brian and top Meadowlands trainer Ross Croghan, who Brett worked for in the Golden State. Noel Daley, who conditioned last year’s Hambo-winner Broad Bahn, was a student of Brett. Natives of the U.S.A., Joe Anderson (two-year suspension) and Paul Blumenfeld (180 days) at the end of 2011, were both heroes on the now defunct California circuit.

    We think all of these horsemen were and are proficient and knowledgeable, two qualities that must include some cunning. Thus, the California connection, so to speak, cannot be verified as any kind of cartel. There is no evidence of anything conspiratory. You might just say there is something in the air.

    We stood up in the press and at state hearings for Brett Pelling when Pennsylvania racing officials accused him of actions we felt were inaccurate, at best. Trainers with unpopular but legal means of conditioning horses should not be indicted for bad behavior in other areas just because no one approved of their methods.

    This is a slippery slope, indeed, and bettors should be aware of the hyperbole related to just who is a cheater and who is an innovator. We’ll have more on this issue to come. If you have any comments as a player, please write to us care of TwinSpires.

    There is good news in trotting. Chapter Seven, last year’s Breeders Crown soph-colt champion caught everyone’s eye in his 2012 debut at the Meadowlands with a 1:51.4 qualifer. Chapter Seven was in front through panels of :29, :57.3, and 1:25 before he scorched home in :26.4 to win by almost 15 lengths. The qualifying mile stands as Chapter Seven’s lifetime mark and opens up another portal of competition for the older trotting set. Kudos to the horse’s connections for not retiring the trotter.

    Neither of the glamour-boy pacers now being closely hailed as this year’s dynamic duo will be racing in the Somebeachsomewhere Stake in Canada. Sweet Lou and A Rocknroll Dance are aiming at bigger things.

    “Lou” trainer Ron Burke said Lou said, “We’ll be at the [million-dollar] North America Cup for sure.”

    Jim Mulinix, trainer of A Rocknroll Dance, said his steed will be racing in the $150,000 New Jersey Sires Stake final on June 2 instead of shipping to Mohawk.

    Watch the Hambletonian Trail blog for previews and the Hambletonian Society website for result stories.

    Cartoon by Thom Pye
  • TwinSpires player scoops $71k Arlington Pick 9

    POSTED May 24, 2012

    Wayne Morgan never had an anxious moment on Wednesday at Arlington Park when cheering home his ninth winner of the Pick 9 sequence.

    One of his three picks, even money favorite Party Vision, opened a clear lead in the stretch, and the only two horses running late were the others on his ticket.

    Party Vision was one of five favorites to win on the nine-race card, including a quartet at 3-to-2 or less, so even with the $54,510 carryover going into Wednesday’s dime Pick 9, Morgan was not expecting a big pay day. Indeed, a $2 parlay on the nine winners would have returned about $25,000, which is only $1,250 for a dime.

    “I figured it’d be something because of the carryover, but I was thinking maybe a few thousand,” said Morgan whose two singles were even money favorite Mai Tai Mama in the first race and 3-to-2 favorite Dreams Die First in the fourth race. “I figured if I hit it on my ticket with all those favorites then other people probably did too.”

    Well, other people didn’t hit it, and Morgan’s $144 play returned $71,334.46 for nine of nine plus another $431.28 for a dozen eight-of-nine consolation tickets worth $35.94 each. By comparison the $1 Pick 6 returned $535.60 despite a parlay value of $835.21.

    “My only other big score was also on a Pick 9,” Morgan said. “That was a Place Pick 9 at Balmoral and paid about $5,000, so I’ve never experienced anything like this.”

    Morgan is a TSC Elite Gold member who wagers through TwinSpires.com and used TwinSpires.com’s mobile interface when placing his winning wagers on Wednesday. Still, the 59-year-old Air Force veteran and father of four says he enjoys making it to live racing when he can.

    “We’ve gone to the Trackside OTBs a few times, but Arlington is a real nice track,” said Morgan, who lives in Naperville, Illinois, about 28 miles southwest of Arlington Park. “I left work early on Wednesday so I could get out there. I’d be remiss if I didn’t thank Allison Sharfman [in Arlington marketing] for all her help when I attend the races or bring my family.”

    Morgan said that he takes a holistic approach to handicapping and doesn’t really favor any particular angle over another, though when pressed said he always takes class into consideration.

    “I like to look at the horses in the race and see what types of horses they’ve been running against—whether they’ve been facing better or worse than this race,” Morgan said.
    Morgan was alone as his score unfolded, and even though he thought he was probably sitting on a decent score going into the last race, he resisted the urge to call anyone because he didn’t want to jinx it. Even when he did call people, though, the veteran horseplayer said most didn’t believe him at first.

    “No one believed me when I told them how much I won on a dime bet,” Morgan said. “To tell the truth, I know it’s a lot of money, but it hasn’t sunk in yet just how much. I know we’ll find something to do with it, but we have no plans yet. I’m sure my kids are thinking of ways.”

    Morgan’s big score follows a similar windfall for TwinSpires players who took down the Solo 6 on April 17 at Sunland Park. One of those players, Julia Kring of Frankfort, Kentucky, hit the bet twice for $31,517.04 each way.
  • Enough About O’Neill


    Doug O'Neill (from bleacherreport.com)
    Of all the headlines I could have used to recap I’ll Have Another’s gutsy win in the Preakness Stakes last weekend — a win that left the sophomore steed a mere jewel short of the coveted Triple Crown — the one I ultimately chose was my least favorite.

    The truth is I’d rather be talking about what a great show I’ll Have Another put on at Pimlico Saturday. I’d rather discuss how the son of Flower Alley overcame Bodemeister’s seemingly insurmountable three-length lead in the final furlong to win going away. I’d rather chat about the career-best 109 Brisnet speed figure that I’ll Have Another earned and the very real possibility that he could become the first horse since Affirmed (in 1978) to win the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes.

    I’d rather talk about anything besides Doug O’Neill.

    (Click to enlarge)
    Unfortunately, I don’t have much choice… because Doug O’Neill, the trainer of I’ll Have Another, is all the mainstream media seems to care about. Even before the colors of his colt’s silks had been painted on the Pimlico weather vane, Doug O’Neill had become the story in the minds of some.

    After I’ll Have Another won the Derby, Joe Drape and Walt Bogdanich, who are fast becoming the “Siskel and Ebert” of the racing industry, documented O’Neill’s transgressions in a story that appeared in The New York Times.

    "Over 14 years and in four different states, O’Neill received more than a dozen violations for giving his horses improper drugs,” Drape and Bogdanich noted. “O’Neill’s horses also have had a tendency to break down. According to an analysis by The New York Times, the horses he trains break down or show signs of injury at more than twice the rate of the national average.”

    The moment the results of the Preakness were declared official, the story was the same: “O’Neill Will Face Scrutiny At Belmont About Drugs” screamed the headline of one AP article I saw.

    Look, I get it. O’Neill’s record is clearly against him, but should that overshadow everything his horse has accomplished?

    Frankly, it’s starting to feel like 2008 all over again.

    (Click to enlarge)
    Remember 2008, the year Big Brown was a “foregone conclusion” to win the Belmont Stakes and, consequently, the Triple Crown?

    Following the revelation that the Rick Dutrow trainee had been given Winstrol (the same anabolic steroid that led to Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson’s disgrace at the 1988 Olympic Games) shortly before the Kentucky Derby — “I give all my horses Winstrol on the 15th of every month,” Dutrow told the New York Daily News — a public backlash prompted the veteran conditioner to abandon the regimen prior to the Preakness and Belmont Stakes.

    But the damage was already done.

    When Big Brown’s Triple Crown hopes went belly-up at Belmont, the speculation that “Brown” was a synthetic freak — and I’m not talking track surface here — ran rampant.

    “He blew away the field at the Kentucky Derby. He made the Preakness field look like circus ponies. But on the day that would solidify his legacy and give racing a respite from intense scrutiny, Big Brown crumbled,” wrote William C. Rhoden in The New York Times. “He crumbled so badly that one could legitimately wonder whether he was nothing but a chemical horse, a paper tiger propped up — and propelled — by steroids.”

    Personally, I think such a supposition is absurd. While steroids can and do improve athletic performance, I’m reasonably certain that even the most potent ‘roids on the planet won’t make a bad player good… or a slow horse fast.

    “Although steroids can improve performance in horses, steroid administration in itself does not assure enhanced performance,” agreed Sid Gustafson, a former thoroughbred attending and examining veterinarian in New York, Washington, and Montana. “Generally speaking, horses are adequately big, strong, and fast enough. Steroid administration is not always a beneficial thing, especially over the long run. There are adverse reactions and side effects aplenty. When the dosage is excessive, or sometimes even with small dosages, difficult behavioral issues often arise. The biggest problem is that horses become hard to manage and handle. They act rank. With horses control is essential to safety and performance. It seemed Big Brown was plenty frisky as he broke out of the gate for the Belmont. Behaviorally and physically, there appeared to be little appearance of a lack of steroids in the big horse’s system.”

    So, in between debating what O’Neill did or did not do, maybe we can find some time — just a little — to give I’ll Have Another some credit?

    There’ll be ample time to question O’Neill’s record later. After all, the Breeders’ Cup is coming up.

    The Bounce That Wasn’t

    All I heard in the two weeks leading up to the Preakness Stakes was how tough it is for today’s thoroughbred to race on 14 days’ rest.

    Thoroughbred Times correspondent and Ragozin Sheets user Bob Ehalt called it a “hardship,” noting that “Saturday's middle jewel of the Triple Crown offers a stumbling point that runs rampant among the top contenders and adds to the mystery of the race.”

    “I'll Have Another was the best and fastest horse in the Run for the Roses,” Ehalt pointed out, but cautioned that with only two weeks rest “it seems unlikely that he'll take another step forward in the Preakness.”

    “In theory, that could make him vulnerable,” Ehalt wrote, “except that the 5-to-2 second choice's chief rivals are also burdened with just two weeks rest.”

    Well, apparently, the Kentucky Derby entrants didn’t get the memo, as I’ll Have Another (first in the Derby), Bodemeister (second) and Creative Cause (fifth) made up the Preakness trifecta. Meanwhile the five well-rested “new shooters” finished fourth, fifth, seventh, eighth and last.

    Since 1992, horses that didn’t wear themselves out in Louisville are now 3-for-128 in Baltimore.

    But, hey, at least they’re not bouncing.

    Weekend Win Factor Plays

    For fun and because I rarely have time to handicap these days, I’ve decided to try something new with my free picks. Instead of offering just win bets every couple of months (or so it seems), I’m going to start providing a wide variety of suggested plays, relying solely on my Win Factor (computerized fair odds) Report. So be sure to check the TwinSpires blog regularly, as I will be posting stuff throughout the week.

    We’ll start with a mythical $1,000 bankroll and I’ll update it as we go along.

    THURSDAY (05/24/12)

    Click HERE to get your free Win Factor Report

    6th Charlottetown: $46 conditional win wager on 1-Windemere Express (minimum odds of 6-5, 0 minutes to post).

    1st Hoosier Park: $46 conditional win wager on 5-Cincinnati Star (7-5, 0 MTP).

    1st River Downs: $4 Daily Double 1,3 with 2.

    2nd River Downs: $1 Trifecta 2 with 3 with ALL. $8 conditional exacta bets 2/3 ($6 minimum payoff on a $1 bet, 0 MTP), 2/4 ($13, 0 MTP) and 2/7 ($14, 0 MTP). $4 conditional exacta bet 3/2 ($9, 0 MTP). $2 conditional exacta bets 4/2 ($22, 0 MTP) and 7/2 ($25, 0 MTP).

    11th Saratoga Harness: $16 conditional win wager on 2-Dirt Road Phil (7-5, 0 MTP). $1 Trifecta 2 with 6 with ALL. $6 conditional exacta bets 2/6 ($15, 0 MTP), 2/3 ($16, 0 MTP) and 2/7 ($23, 0 MTP). $2 conditional exacta bets 6/2 ($18, 0 MTP), 3/2 ($20, 0 MTP) and 7/2 ($30, 0 MTP).

    Total Potential Amount Wagered (before scratches): $183
    Profit/Loss: -$52.00

    FRIDAY (05/25/12)

    Click HERE to get your free Win Factor Report

    5th Emerald Downs: $29 conditional win wager on 5-Epic Cast (minimum odds of 4-5, 0 minutes to post). $5 conditional exacta bets 5/4 ($6 minimum payoff on a $1 bet, 0 MTP), 5/1 ($8, 0 MTP) and 4/5 ($10, 0 MTP).

    2nd Hazel Park: $15 conditional exacta bets 6/3 ($16, 0 MTP), 6/5 ($19, 0 MTP) and 6/2 ($20, 0 MTP).

    8th Hazel Park: $15 conditional win wager on 2-LC Tiffany (2-1, 0 MTP).

    11th Pocono Downs: $5 conditional exacta bets 2/8 ($18 minimum payoff on a $1 bet, 0 MTP), 2/6 ($20, 0 MTP) and 2/4 ($20, 0 MTP).

    5th Harrah's Philadelphia: $8 conditional exacta bets 1/8 ($12, 0 MTP), 8/1 ($13, 0 MTP), 1/6 ($27, 0 MTP), 8/6 ($30, 0 MTP), 1/3 ($27, 0 MTP) and 8/3 ($31, 0 MTP). 

    Total Potential Amount Wagered (before scratches): $167
    Profit/Loss: N/A.
  • Border-To-Border Battles

    POSTED May 23, 2012

    Two big events in the Great White North highlight the upcoming weekend and neither of them takes place in the usual venue. Recently opened Mohawk Raceway holds the undercard, so to speak, for the big stakes action at Western Fair and Georgian Downs. 

    At Western Fair on Friday, May 25, the $300,000 Molson Pace gathers some of our older pacing heroes, while at Georgian Downs on Saturday, May 26, the $600,000 Upper Canada Cup Final is a giant purse for Ontario-sired sophomore pacers. The cards on both of these evenings are stellar. 

    Once again this week we have sires-stakes programs, some covered in our exclusive blog, the Hambletonian Trail. Get to TwinSpires for wagering all of the great races leading to the Hambletonian and “Oaks” and read all the result stories at Hambletonian Society’s exclusive “trail” section.  

    The Meadowlands hosts soph colts and fillies in New Jersey Sires Stakes action again this Saturday as state-breds in those divisions eye the millions on the line in future weeks.  

    We never give up at Cal-Expo, where TwinSpires-Cal-Expo’s exclusive no-takeout Pick 4 includes races 11 through 14. A detailed report is included below.  

    Molson Pace

    Eight of the top older pacers on the continent take on the tough turns and fast traffic at Western Fair in the $300,000 Molson Pace Final on May 25.  

    Foiled Again makes his fourth appearance in this event’s final. He and Atochia are the likely favorites in a talented field that could result in any number of upsets.  

    We see a bargain with Meg Crone’s St Elmo Hero. He has been coming around in form and with the right moves he may be able to get an advantage. He can close and will have to in order to stomp down these fiery studs. Las week he came from post 3 and worked well enough to get here, where he draws the rail. It would be a surprise if he were not in the race from start to finish and no surprise if he commanded the pace and got the best trip to win wire to wire.  

    Also watch for some bargain odds on Richie Silverman’s Razzle Dazzle, a very talented colt on the half-mile. He tried to close in his elimination but couldn’t win. If he starts closing earlier against blistering midway fractions, he may win easily. John Campbell is in the bike, his choice over Clear Vision, who upset Atochia in an elimination. 

    Saturday is the $600,000 Upper Canada Cup at Georgian Downs. Mel Mara is the likely favorite, having impressed us all with a 1:49.3 win in only his second start as a sophomore. 

    An probable outsider, Huxley, may be the horse that can sneak up on this bunch of province-bred pacers. He was shuffled back in his elimination and closed late to get a berth in the final. If he can do that again, he’ll be the major bomber.

    Sophs Sizzling

     At the Meadowlands on Saturday, New Jersey Sires Stakes (NJSS) soph colts and fillies go in round two of the series.  

    We are sticking with last week’s choice, Blackjack Princess, in the first filly split. She finished third in leg one after going wide to the lead in an early speed-burning move. If she can save some ground to Rockin Belle, who should be trying to wire the field, she may have a chance to upset. 

    Next, again, we will take Ideal In Vegas. She was sharp to the half and crowded once she was challenged, finishing fourth as the second choice. Her odds should be better than 2-1 here. 

    In the first NJSS colt division, Bullet Bob has the rail and he should leave for position against some speedy types that could smoke their chances by the half. 

    In split two there could be a decent price on I Fought Dalaw from post 10. He looks like he may improve every bit as much as we forecasted and a sweep of this series is not a stretch of the imagination. Watch the board and make a judgment as to how much that outside post is worth to you.

    Cal Exotic

    Race 11 through Race 14 make up this week’s no-takeout Pick 4. Let’s look at some likely contenders that could make it a worthy hit.

    Leg 1
    (1) Tammy’s War Box was a mild choice last week and going well until broken equipment spoiled the mile. There is not much here to fight, so maybe we can get away with an easy single.

    Leg 2
    (7) Dancing Barry may not fool bettors but it is hard to determine value under these circumstances. This is a non-winners-of-two-races event and since you have to rely on one of these you should make it the one on the improve.

    Leg 3
    (6) Im The Money was gaining late at 7-1, racing better than those odds while finishing third. (8) Whendreamscometrue could wind up with a great trip from post 8 and redeem himself for losing as the choice last week. 

    Leg 4
    (3) Bo Knows Power won a dynamic mile last week, with a lot of early and late strength. It is difficult to think he will bounce here but if he does he could get stymied by (8) Schemes. That one had a tough outside go of it while being well supported at 5-1 and finishing third.

    Ray Cotolo contributed to this edition.
  • Cotolo’s Harness Review, News And Notes

    POSTED May 19, 2012

    It was a busy weekend only due to the action with sophomore colt-and-filly trotters, covered in our exclusive Hambletonian Trail blog. There were sires stakes events at three tracks, with most of the public choices beating our picks and one scratch for us. We are still very much ahead considering how we struck the winner and exacta in the Dexter Cup Final at great prices.  

    Next on the docket for the “Trail” characters are more New Jersey Sires Stakes for glamour boys and girls. You can see the analysis for those races at the Trail blog before they are presented at the Meadowlands on May 25. 

    For reviews of all Trail races, check the the Hambletonian Society site.  

    Also, connect to Twitter and follow Frank and Ray Cotolo for up-to-the-minute suggestions on wagers at many harness raceways. Then, wager from TwinSpires.  

    Get onto our mailing lis. Soon we will be offering ways to learn more about playing for profit. Enter your email for free by clicking here

    We split the eliminations of the Molson Pace at Western Fair on May 18, winning with hometown-hero Aracache Hanover, paying $7. He drew the 7 post for next week’s final. 

    Our choice in the first elim was Atochia, who turned out to be an overwhelming favorite, certainly large enough to pass. He finished second in this five-horse field. Atochia drew the 2 post for the final.

    The Molson Pace at Western Fair will be held on Friday, May 25. We will cover the field in our May 24 blog.  

    New Jersey Sires Stakes action for glamour-boy and filly pacers on May 19 at the Meadowlands offered three splits for colts and two for the girls. 

    The filly stakes left us finishing third with Blackjack Princess and fourth with Ideal In Vegas. Favorites won both of those divisions. 

    The colts were also in public form, so to speak. 

    The return of A Rocknroll Dance turned out to be a sharp mile in division one for the colts. A Rocknroll Dance won at 1-9, with our choice, Ideal Champ, finishing second.

    In the second split, Social Network was off the board and in the third, Pet Rock was second, going off at 1-2, which should have been a pass at those odds.

    At Cal Expo, the no-takeout Pick 4 on May 19 included a monstrous bomb in leg two when Asgoodasioncewas won at 136-1. The other three legs were first or second choices, leg one going to Hi Hi Ho Ho at a paltry $2.60. Even with that huge longshot, the ticket only came back $1,809.80. The pool was a little more than $25,000. 

    From our Cal Expo horses-to-watch list, Red Star Popeye, came back to win, paying $8.20; Preciosita won ($6.00), as did Bo Knows Power ($3.00).  

    From our Balmoral weekend picks we had Galactic Star at $11.40. You can check those picks and other various topics on harness racing at my Hoof Beats blog titled Vast Performances.

    News And Notes

    There is concern again for the shape of four-year-old pacer See You At Peelers.

    Keepers Destiny pulled off a 24-1 upset on May 18, pacing by See You At Peelers in Yonkers Raceway’s $36,000 filly and mare open handicap pace. See You At Peelers was returning to the track after fading badly to lose the final of the Blue Chip Matchmaker at Yonkers as the 4-5 public choice.

    See You At Peelers was done early in the stretch. Driver Ron Pierce said he was hoping the good “Peelers” would show up but it didn’t happen and now she is the talk of the town, so to speak, with speculation ruling.

    A reliable horseman source we talked with, said, “Peelers just ain’t right. She doesn’t score down good and she’s not fluid in her gait. A lot of little things that add up to ouch.”

    Uncle Peter, 2011 Breeders Crown Two-Year-Old Colt Trot victor and one of the top two early Hambo contenders, qualified for the second time, winning in 1:54.1 at the Meadowlands.

    One of trainer Jimmy Takter’s herd of soph trotters on the Hambletonian Trail, he beat last year’s Pennsylvania Sires Stakes champion two-year-old colt trotter Stormin Normand.

    Also on the qualifying agenda was the comeback of $3.9 million earner Won The West, who has been sidelined since finishing second in last year's Canadian Pacing Derby. Won The West, now an eight-year-old, finished fourth behind Ron Burke-stablemate Itrustyou. Than one had a 13-race win streak snapped in the Cam Fella Series earlier this year. Now four, this was his first appearance since that “Derby.”

    The Burke barn also sent out Ole Miss, this year's Damsel Pacing Series champion. The four-year-old paced a 1:53 score.

    Dejarmbro, the swashbuckling soph from last year that was not eligible for the Hambletonian but managed to beat many of the classic’s field over the course of the season, qualified as four-year-old in 1:52.2 for trainer/driver Trond Smedshammer.

    Dejarmbro, in our opinion, has the potential to be a major contender among the stalwart older trotting set this year. If he starts beating some of the veterans while he is four, this guy is going to be explosive when older.

    American Jewel lost her debut at three. Racing in a New York Sires Stakes at Vernon on May 19, the former frosh-filly pacing champ was second to a 15-1 shot.

    Rosecroft Raceway in Maryland, reopened since being purchased by Penn National Gaming, has been holding harness racing a few nights a week. It came to the forefront of the sport, however, as the first track to hold baby races in 2012.

    Baby races feature the debut of freshmen to racing, sometimes offering previews to hot first crops and other times highlighting heroes to come. The purses are low but it is the first time any of these horses race for money.

    At Rosecroft, a Classic Photo filly won the trot and a Cam’s Rocket colt won the pace. The trotter, Photosavvy, was impressive, going first over to win. The pacer, Firecracker Freddie, went wire to wire with only one foe and he broke right at the top.

    Rosecroft races Tuesdays and Saturdays through June 2.

    Watch the Hambletonian Trail blog for previews and the Hambletonian Society website for result stories.

    Thom Pye cartoon
  • The ghosts of Belmonts past

    Will I have Another do what the 11 Derby-Preakness winners in the videos below could not and win the Triple Crown of American Thoroughbred racing by capturing the Belmont Stakes?

  • Preakness a classic struggle between pace, figure, & class handicapping

    POSTED May 18, 2012
    Bodemeister is one of the most polarizing favorites of a major stakes race in quite some time.

    As the 8-to-5 morning line favorite in the Preakness Stakes, we're not talking about lukewarm or mild favorite either. This is a horse who many expect to win the middle jewel of Thoroughbred racing's Triple Crown, and even has respected national handicappers such as Andy Beyer and Bill Finley--two guys not afraid to go against chalk--firmly in the Derby runner-up's corner.

    He has his detractors, of course, but what makes him so polarizing is that many of those who don't like his chances to win (as I don't) also don't necessarily even like him to hit the board. I'm playing the race for Creative Cause, I'll Have Another, or Went the Day Well to win the Preakness. I'll press on that trio in second as well and also include Cozetti, Tiger Walk, and Zetterholm underneath.

    Why no Bodemeister for me while others love him even as the favorite? Well, style of handicapping may play a role.

    If you're a pace handicapper and a fan of cliches, then Bodemeister hits you right between the eyes. If he's not lone speed in this heat, then he's certain to at least be speed of the speed. He shook off Trinniberg and ran champion Hansen off his feet in the Derby, and no one in this race appears to posses that kind of early foot. If anyone does challenge Bodemeister in the first half-mile he is doing so at his own peril.

    But lone speed still has to finish the race. It took a perfect trip for I'll Have Another to catch Bodemeister in the Derby, but the figure handicapper in me says that Bodemeister's effort is neither as impressive as his fast fractions have some believing nor is it an indication of what to expect in the Preakness.

    Bodemeister regressed in the Derby. It just wasn't as fast a race as the Arkansas Derby, and while the raw speed was second best, most figure makers didn't rate his Derby performance among the top three.

    From a form cycle stand point, the Derby WAS the bounce. Some are asking whether Bodemeister will bounce in the Preakness. Well, he already bounced in the Derby. The real question is if he maintains that form or moves even further backward. If the former then he could win this race about 20%-25% of the time making 4-to-1 fair value, but if it's the latter then he is a longshot to win and even 4-to-1 would be an underlay.

    All that is to say that 8-to-5 is too short for me, and I'm leaning in the figure handicapping camp more than the pace one.

    But what of class handicapping? Before the figure renaissance one of the most prevalent forms of handicapping was to assess who beat who and by how much. Bodemeister's two wins have come by a combined 18 3/4 lengths, but his last two losses were both second-place efforts to fellow Preakness entrants Creative Cause and I'll Have Another.

    I made the mistake of betting Summer Applause in the Oaks only to watch the filly who beat her last time out--Believe You Can--win again, and it's not a mistake I plan to repeat in the Preakness on an 8-to-5 shot.

    So you know who I don't like and who I'd like to see win, but let's cut to the chase and see who Toga Tout picks.

  • Sires-Stakes Season In Flower

    POSTED May 16, 2012

    Throughout the Grand Circuit months (May-December), state-bred programs kick in and complement the vast menu of national stakes. Horses, mostly two- and three-year-olds, pick up fame and fortune, if they are good enough, in either or both areas. There are, after all, many horses that are not staked to the big events but are eligible to sires stakes purely on their birth place.

    This week we see sires-stakes programs launching, as they do each year, with a burst of high-priced miles. On the docket we have New Jersey Sires Stakes (NJSS), Pennsylvania Sires Stakes (PASS) New York Sires Stakes (NYSS) and up north, Ontario Sires Stakes (ONSS).

    Some major PASS events were held May 15, which we covered in our exclusive blog, the Hambletonian Trail. NJSS and NYSS that feature soph-colt trotters will be the addendum to this blog at that page.

    Get to TwinSpires for wagering all of the great races leading to the Hambletonian and “Oaks” and read all the result stories at Hambletonian Society’s exclusive “trail” section.

    At Cal-Expo, TwinSpires-Cal-Expo’s exclusive no-takeout Pick 4 again includes races 12 through 15. A detailed report is included below.

    May 14 marked the final card of a seven-month standardbred meets at Woodbine . Harness racing on the WEG circuit moved to Mohawk on May 17. Mohawk has been considered by many horsemen to be one of the most crowd-friendly tracks in North America. Racing is presented Thursday through Saturday nights, plus Monday and Tuesday nights, until Sept. 29. Post time is 7:30 p.m., except for Mondays when the races start at 7:10 p.m. EST. Stay with us weekly on every level to follow the action at Mohawk, which includes Grand Circuit stops and huge stakes.

    Molson Pace Brews

    Pacing stalwarts, Foiled Again will both be at Western Fair on Friday, May 18, for the Molson Pace eliminations. Foiled Again will be battling once again for big money, defending his Molson Pace title in the second of two $20,000 Molson Pace eliminations on the stakes packed card.

    The Molson Pace, the signature race at the London, Ontario, oval, will be contested for $300,000 on Friday, May 25. Horses in the eliminations this Friday compete to earn a berth into the rich final.

    It’s Foiled Again’s fourth appearance in the “Molson.” In 2009 he won his elim but finished fifth in the final. In 2010 he finished second in both his elim and the final and in 2011 he delivered a 3- length victory in his elim and the final.

    The two Molson Pace eliminations drew as follows (some driver assignments are yet to be confirmed). The top four finishers in each return for the final:

    Race 4 – First elimination
    1. Up The Credit – Jody Jamieson
    2. Clear Vision – Yannick Gingras
    3. St Elmo Hero – Jody Jamieson
    4. Atochia – Yannick Gingras
    5. Stonebridge Tonic – Doug McNair

    Race 9 – Second elimination
    1. Aracache Hanover – Doug McNair
    2. Valentino – Jody Jamieson
    3. Foiled Again – Yannick Gingras
    4. Machal Jackson – JR Plante
    5. Razzle Dazzle – John Campbell
    6. Secret Weapon – Scott Young

    The stakes-packed card also features the first Ontario Sires Stakes event of the 2012 racing season, for three-year-old trotting colts (no Hambletonian eligibles are on tap), in three $40,000 Gold Series eliminations as well as several City of London events.

    Most of these older pacers know one another very well, since the division’s stakes have been their homes over the past few years. Atochia comes from winning this year’s “Levy” and has the edge on the first elim, since the other four have not made any headlines lately. For one, Up The Credit is now four and is yet to prove he can handle older types. St Elmo Hero has not lived up to his hype and the other duo doesn’t look to make it much of a contest.

    Gingras could likely take both elims, as Foiled Again faces only one major threat: Aracache Hanover, who has done his best on Canadian turf and from post 1 can make a case for hanging Foiled Again.

    Sophs On Parade

    NJSS miles for glamour-boy pacers are the features May 19 at the Meadowlands. The debut of A Rocknroll Dance is the focus in the first split. The penultimate divisional champ at two, there is little reason to think he won’t be even better this season. But does he need at least one race after a sizzling qualifier? If so, Ideal Champ could be the one to beat him now.

    The second split for the boys has a few familiar names, including our big upset in last season’s Metro Pace, Simply Business. Jimmy Takter’s pacer debuts here and will have to contend with another colt expected to improve: I Fought Delaw. Only Social Network has the recent prowess that can distress returnees and trainer Joe Holloway can pull off a double here (he also trains Ideal Champ).

    The final mile for the colts features Hurrikane Kingcole’s return to the track. He has all the elements to improve at three, only we don’t know if he can do it in his first effort. Pet Rock won at first crack and returns for trainer Virgil Morgan, Jr. with a chance to close on the debuting star.

    In the filly splits, you have to respect the speed presented by Ideal In Vegas, though a good price may not be available in the first division. In the second division, Blackjack Princess may be ready to win at last and be a bargain bet.

    PASS fields and NYSS fields for May 19 were unavailable at press time. Watch for late updates at Twitter.

    Cal Exotic

    Race 12 through Race 15 make up this week’s no-takeout Pick 4. Let’s look at some likely contenders that could make it a worthy hit.

    Leg 1
    With four horses in this that have either won or have been favored to do so, the air is thick with competition. The best victory of the quartet was presented by (8) Hi Hi Ho Ho. His sweep to the top with a wide move and strong mile afterwards indicates he could be ready for another huge trip. If you are brave you can single him but still beware of (3) Schemes and (5) Devilish Donnie. The other previous winner, (9) Carl Lewis N, upset at 24-1 last week and could be left out to reduce the ticket cost.

    Leg 2
    (5) Hell N Damnation was 12-1 last week and raced far better than those odds. He was wide in third place and stormed to devour 5 lengths down the stretch. Such an untiring trip deserves attention in this field. Dare you single him?

    Leg 3
    (5) OK Shark N failed as the favorite and finishing sixth due to a fast early half may bring his odds up a bit. However, he does look best in this field of pacers that seem to finish shorter each trip.

    Leg 4
    (4) Hey Scoob has been disappointing in his most recent pair of starts but may go back and use the talent we saw three back when he was, no doubt, among the best of this ilk. (6) Paul T returns off of a powerful mile where he broke just after the start, regained his gait and tore through more lengths in his attempt to stay in it than most in this field can do without jumping first.

    Ray Cotolo contributed to this edition.