• The best in action

    POSTED Jul 31, 2012
    Race fans received a treat this weekend as the best horses in training in three different divisions strutted their stuff: female turfer Winter Memories in the Diana, male sprinter Amazombie in the Bing Crosby, and three-year-old male Paynter in the Haskell.

    It was a rare weekend in that it delivered on the promise of a promotional video America's Best Racing released touting the excitement that awaits race fans between the Triple Crown and Breeders' Cup World Championships.

    The TCI boys agreed, gushing praise on both Amazombie and Paynter.


    They didn't touch on Winter Memories, but I'll do that here since I have a long history of commentating on the brilliant filly.

    I loved Winter Memories' Diana, calling it the best performance in a career that had already included six graded stakes wins. The way she kept in touch with Tapitsfly and so effortlessly took command turning for home to me was a big improvement over previous runs (even in victory) when she had more of a slingshot style. This maturity has led to better performance, as she earned a 104 BRIS Speed Rating in the romp.


    As impressive as she was, I still have a difficult time slotting her among my most likely Breeders' Cup winners because A) the Euros are so much of a question mark, and B) Saratoga does seem to be her preferred surface. Still, repeats of the Diana going forward would make her very tough to beat.

    Most likely 2012 Breeders' Cup winners
    1.Redeened; 2. Groupie Doll; 3. St. Nicholas Abbey; 4. Amazombie; 5. Royal Delta

    The top two remain the same from my initial ranking, but I've boosted St. Nicholas Abbey of his third behind Danedream and Nathanial in less than optimum conditions and added Amazombie, who definitely seems the best of the Breeders' Cup Sprint types in a year when the top speedballs look more suited to middle-distance races (e.g. Shackleford). I moved Royal Delta into the fifth spot because I think her Delaware Handicap was enough to show she'd be up against it in the Classic, but I do see her as much the best against her own sex.
  • Cotolo’s Harness Review, News And Notes

    POSTED Jul 28, 2012
    We were very busy on the weekend; Friday and Saturday offered us more than a few shots at profits. And, we were tweeting live for the Meadows on the afternoon card, July 28, and for evening paces and Hambo elims at the Meadowlands that night. 

    Let’s cover this in chronological order, with the tweets and the blog choices included. 

    The frosh elims on Friday, July 27 at the Meadowlands delivered only two seconds for us. Fashion Blizzard (5-2) was second in the second Peter Haughton elim for the colt trotters. In the Merrie Annabelle, Lady Riviera (7-1) was second in the second elim for the fillies. The other colt elim found our choice, Fico, sixth and the other filly elim found our choice, UP Tadys Donato, breaking at the start and being eliminated. 

    Saturday at the Meadows was grueling for bargain hunters as we were fourth (14-1) and then third (6-1) in the first two races while prohibitive choices were flying home. That trend continued but for a 5-1 shot in Race 5.  

    We were gifted a low-priced overlay with Ideal A Little, paying $5.80, winning like she should have been 4-5 (fair odds for us). Then we were second-placed-third with Darena Hanover and the public attacked again with favorites. 

    Our Adios Final choice, A Rocknroll Dance, defeated the huge favorite, Sweet Lou, but his astounding fractions, including a 1:19.2 three-quarters, opened up a late spot for Bolt The Duer, who beat him at 10-1 at the wire. (Photo left by Chris Gooden) 

    Our final tweet, Destiny’s Chance, won and paid a delicious $11.20, one of the best prices on the day’s program. 

    Our Meadowlands coverage began with a bang as we gave out High Noon, who won the opener and paid $11.80.  

    Our “Oaks” elim choices included a win by the obvious Check Me Out ($2.10) and a third with Personal Style.  

    The Hambletonian elims found us mostly in contention, with all of our choices finishing third, making the final. Prestidigitator was third in the first elim; My Mvp was third in the second elim; and Gym Tan Laundry was third in the nightcap. Read the details of those races at the archives of all the divisional action from Hambo-eligibles at Hambletonian Society’s exclusive section.  

    We took Hurrikane Kingcole in the second New Jersey Classic elim and by that race the rain was pelting the track. He went off the huge favorite at 4-5 and he won easily regardless of the downpour in 1:48.3.

    News And Notes

    Monday afternoon, July 30, Monticello Raceway presents The Munich Mile, a special event including only drivers of German extraction. Among the cast are Wim Paal, William Harmon, Mike Merton, Peter Kleinhans, Greg Decker, Jr., Keith Haase, Cory Stratton and Greg Merton. The Munich Mile post time is 1:50 p.m., Race 4 on the 13-event program.
    The countdown to the 2012 edition of the Sobeys Gold Cup & Saucer continued Saturday July 28 at Charlottetown Driving Park in the Maritimes. The story on the scene has been three-year-old pacing gelding Kingdome Come for trainer Bo Ford.

    Trials for the Gold Cup & Saucer are set for Saturday, Aug. 11 and Monday, Aug. 13, with the final on Saturday, Aug.18. We will offer our analysis of the event and the programs at this blog for TwinSpires exclusively.
    In the swarm of stakes this time of year the Battle of Lake Erie at Northfield Park last week was buried in the bettor’s agenda. Sadly, we missed it too, along with a chance to beat the two-time champ Foiled Again. He lost to Classic Rock Nroll, who paid better than 10-1.

    In the $111,500 mile, Classic Rock Nroll also beat Aracache Hanover, Flipper J, Trick Man, Valentino and Something For Doc for trainer Tony O’Sullivan. The winning time of 1:50.3 was a lifetime mark for the five year-old pacer.

    It’s going to become a landmark year for world marks. At the end of the season we are willing to wager that 2012 produced more world records than any year at least in the past decade. Some popular horses are breaking world records, like Anndrovette, who stormed to a mark of 1:48.1 at Mohawk last week. Lesser-known battlers, like pacing mare Big MacDeal, got into the record books at Pocono with a 1:49.1 mile. The size of the track doesn’t seem to matter, the marks are falling quickly. Even freshmen are making mince meat of marks made by former froshes, including green trotters.

    Million-dollar-earning pacer Clear Vision suffered a slight suspensory pull, according to trainer Ron Burke. The six-year-old stable mate of Foiled Again will take a hiatus, as Burke said he does not want to aggravate the injury.

    The racing career of Mr Feelgood is over. The pacer, who we nabbed as the 2006 Little Brown Jug winner more than a month before he won (on the old YouBet blog), was shipped to Australasia for a productive season as an older pacer. He won the 2009 Inter Dominion Championship, arguably Down Under’s greatest test for side-steppers. He retired with career earnings of $3.4 million. He will stand stud at Yirribee Stud in New South Wales. He stood one season in the USA, leaving a very small crop and via frozen semen left another 17 foals in Australasia while still racing.

    Extraordinary Extras

    We invite you to enjoy our musings on other standardbred topics at my Hoof Beats blog titled Vast Performances. Every weekend as part of that blog we we offer Balmoral Pick-4-and-win picks at the USTA’s Strategic Wagering Program page which includes suggested win bets. Last week we hit with Blueridgevalentino at $6.80.

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

    Get onto our mailing list. We’re beginning to contact people with information to help you play for profit. By clicking here you will be added to the list and be secure as a member (we do not share the emails with anyone). Free stuff is coming your way.

    Cartoon by Thom Pye
  • A Tale of Two Horses

    POSTED Jul 26, 2012
    In sports, when a team or individual triumphs in dubious fashion it is known as “winning ugly.”

    This past Saturday, Royal Delta and Acclamation could relate.

    Although both are considered strong candidates for Horse of the Year Honors — at least by some — neither impressed me last weekend.

    Let’s start with Acclamation.

    (Click on image to enlarge)

    After cruising to an easy victory in the Charles Whittingham Memorial Handicap in his six-year-old debut at Hollywood Park, last year’s top older male made it seven-for-his-last-seven with a front-running score in the Eddie Read at Del Mar.

    (Click on image to enlarge)

    And therein lies the problem: Acclamation has won seven straight races (five of them versus Grade I company) on or near the lead… yet, he’s hardly had to break a sweat in the early stages to do it.

    Over the past year, the son of Unusual Heat has recorded a string of ridiculously soft early speed rations (see key below), including a +7 in the 2012 Eddie Read, a +4 in the 2012 Whittingham and +4 in the 2011 C. L. Hirsch. Worse, he’s beaten a total of just 42 horses in his last ten starts and there is evidence to suggest that, if pressed for more speed early, Acclamation will fold like Adam Scott in the British Open.

    When he’s recorded a +1 ESR or lower (faster), the Donald Warren trainee is one-for-four — the one being last year’s Pacific Classic on Del Mar’s all-weather surface, which typically produces slightly better ESRs than turf.

    With speedsters like Bodemeister, Game On Dude, Paynter and a number of others waiting in the wings, Acclamation is surely going to have to show more early foot to compete for another Eclipse Award this year.

    Early speed — or, specifically, the lack thereof — is also at the heart of Royal Delta’s problem.

    (Click on image to enlarge)

    In my last column I noted that the daughter of Empire Maker “needs to prove she can rally from further off the pace than she’s accustomed to or show that she can duplicate the strong (-4) LSR that she earned last time after exerting herself more in the early stages.”

    In the Delaware Handicap, she did neither.

    (Click on image to enlarge)
    Instead, Royal Delta demonstrated once again that she’s vulnerable in races featuring a strong pace, as she barely held of Tiz Miz Sue by a neck.

    William Mott’s stable star has now won just two of her last five races (this includes Saturday’s Delaware Handicap) featuring a -5 ESR pace or less; she’s four-for-five in races featuring a slower pace.

    Again, I refer to Bodemeister, Game On Dude, Paynter, et al.

    Royal Delta is talented, but she’s going to need to improve greatly to keep the string of female Horse of the Year winners alive. At this point, I’m betting against it.

    (Click on image to enlarge)
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  • Giant Weeks Begin For Glamour Trotters And Pacers

    POSTED Jul 25, 2012
    The glamour-boys and girls of both gaits go for more gold this weekend. The pacing colts gather at the Meadows in another $600,000 mile, The Adios Pace, with the femmes going in the Adioo Volo. It is the last day of the Grand Circuit meet at the Pennsylvania oval and it looks like tooth-and-nail battles a brew. Sophs bred in New Jersey battle for berths in the New Jersey Classic and Miss New Jersey final with elims at the Meadowlands on July 28. 

    It is also Hambletonian elims day on July 28, where the colt and filly trotters set up the finals for Aug. 3. We will be working the Meadowlands live on Aug. 3, with tweets and reports and updates, etcetera, TwinSpires being the only on-site coverage, in association with the Hambletonian Society and the Meadowlands

    For an analysis of the elims, go to our exclusive Hambletonian Trail. The result stories (and archived reports of all the eligibles performances in stakes since May) are at the Hambletonian Society.  

    Froshes fight for early fame in the Peter Haughton and Merrie Annabelle elims, as well as a soph Sweetheart prep at the Meadowlands on July 27.  

    Adios And More

    The Adios Pace at the Meadows may present some value as the betting scales will be tipped toward Sweet Lou (photo left), the hometown colt with the hometown favorite driver, Dave Palone (click here for interview). He won his elim last week in the same fashion as he won his Meadowlands Pace elim, with A Rocknroll Dance coming at him. In the final for the “Pace,” of course, Sweet Lou was no match for our choice, the “Dance.”

    Sweet Lou is the likely chalk on his home turf but we don’t like him to win the final. We like to see a repeat of the “Pace,” giving the final to A Rocknroll Dance. He never gets lucky in his stakes eliminations. He was interfered with in the North America Cup, locked at the cones till the final 16th in the Pace and went a first-over mile against Sweet Lou in last week’s contest. A Rocknroll Dance, this time, will take the lead and pace a hole in the wind from the first eighth till the race has finished. He is a tough colt and he doesn’t let anyone get the lead easily if he wants it.  

    Thinking Out Loud will be a factor in the Adios trifecta and perhaps the second element of the exacta. He is a hard closer and raced unusually in the Pace, going first over after getting away third. He will have to sit mid-pack or last to be able to close well and finish in the top three but should get a piece of it as the group dismisses Sweet Lou.  

    To enhance the Adios card for bettors, the Meadows’ late Pick 4 (Races 10-13) will offer a guaranteed $15,000 pool and the Pick 3, spanning Races 12-14, will carry a $7,500 guaranteed pool, both offered in association with the United States Trotting Association Strategic Wagering Initiative.  

    Saturday’s powerful card also features three additional Grand Circuit stakes: the $150,000 (est.) Adioo Volo for soph-filly pacers, the $100,000 (est.) Gov. Lawrence for freshman colt pacers and the $100,000 (est.) Catherine Baker Knoll for frosh filly pacers. First post for the 18-race program is 12:20 p.m. We will be tweeting updates and pics @FrankCotolo and @RayCotolo on Twitter, so click to follow the afternoon action.  

    Frosh Fight Club

    It’s a big week for frosh stakes, too, as the Hambo weekend at the Meadowlands hosts the usual array of stakes elims, though two events will got straight to finals (the Sweetheart for filly pacers hosts a prep on this program, July 27).

    The Peter Haughton stake brings together next year’s Hambo hopefuls, frosh colt trotters that hope to nail this and the Breeders Crown so that all eyes will be on them for returning at three.

    Steffan Lind, who won a Hambo a few years back with Scarlett Knight, his Scandinavian wonderboy trotter, trains Fico, a Credit Winner colt that has been strong and steady in Mohawk qualifiers. His first start at the Meadowlands was impressive from post 8 and he should improve here, where he will show true class if he has any. The crowd will go heavy on the Jimmy Takter duo, for sure.

    The second elim for the boys presents a field that is tightly represented by its talent and you could listen to a case made for any one of them to win. Looking for value, however, should lean on the green colts that could improve with lesser credentials to support their growth. This is why Fashion Blizzard gets our eye here. Trainer Jim Campbell has been doing very well with trotters based on his association with the Pennsylvania-based Fashion Farms and this Credit Winner son may be far better than his single win in two starts. We assume the crowd will be looking at the Takter horse and the coupled pair of Deweycheatmnhowes from the Schnittker barn, giving Jim’s colt a bit of bargain in the odds.

    The two Merrie Annabelle elims are full fields of fresh frosh fillies and in the first, pay attention to the young career of Lady Rivera for a possible price. While the crowd gets excited by the Deweycheatmnhowe and Chocolatier products, this Sand Vic gal comes off a dynamic state-bred win at Monticello and has already won at the Meadowlands.

    In the second “Merrie,” UF Tadys Donato is hot enough to burn the fractions after a storming Pocono Downs victory. The other Donato Hanover filly will get a lot of attention in the pools but others here can lure bettors, giving “UF” a good send-off win price.

    ‘Jersey’ Giants

    State-breds cover the elims for the New Jersey Classic (colt pacers) and the Miss New Jersey (filly pacers) on the big Saturday night Meadowlands car.  

    In the first mile for the colts, Verdad comes back after two tough trips to get back into the glamour-boy division’s headlines and had a good shot at a decent price here. Time To Roll has raced with the best of them and the class-hounds of wagering won’t let him escape from favoritism. This is good for bargain hunters who have carefully watched Verdad since we had him at 5-1 and he won here three back.  

    In the second colt outing is Hurrikane Kingcole, who we loved in his Adio elim but was caught wide around the first turn as Bakin On The Beach made a break. So he could not get the spot he wanted. He might not be ignored in the wagering this week after winning the Pace Consolation but he is a mighty threat here.  

    The filly to keep in your sites in the sole elim of the “Miss” is Blackjack Princess. We haven’t given up on this one and we want to be there when she paces the mile we expect from her. This could be that mile and at a price. There are 11 going to post, the top eight get into next week’s final.

    Ray Cotolo contributed to this edition.
  • Giving money away

    That cool breeze on a hot summer weekend of racing was the windfall some TwinSpires.com players experienced for Letting 8 Ride and Beating the Champ in two separate contests this summer worth tens of thousands of dollars.

    Not since week 1 of Let 8 Ride Delta Downs edition had players won more money than Brian B. & Dimitrije R. did by parlaying an $8 win bet on race 8 on Thursday, July 19, at Arlington into $1,322 each by Sunday, July 22.

    A new Let 8 RIde game starts Thursday at Arlington, and all you have to do to play is place an $8 win wager (multiple entries are accepted) on the eighth race (click here for free PPs). If your wager wins then you advance to Friday's eighth race. Advance to Saturday ($500) and Sunday ($1,000) for a chance to share in other prizes.

    Beat The Champ was similarly lucrative for 55 players who received 18k+ TSC Elite points each for beating the champ in the weekly prize and earned valuable dollars toward the contest's top prize of $5,000 for not only beating the champ but also all other players.

    The weekly game--with a share of 1-million points up for grabs for those who beat The Champ--starts each Saturday with a race each from Saratoga and Del Mar and continues through Sunday with two more races (one each from Saratoga and Del Mar). You must wager $10 to win on all designated races to qualify for the weekly prize.

    The summer-long game ends the final weekend of the Saratoga and Del Mar meetings, which means there's plenty of time to jump on it--especially since The Champ only accumulated $47 in winnings the first weekend. One 4-to-1 winner he doesn't have and you're already beating The Champ (scoring based on your first $10 win wager in the designated contest races).
  • Cotolo’s Harness Review, News And Notes

    POSTED Jul 21, 2012
    Grappling with freshmen and sophomores on both gaits this past weekend presented us with a good number of plays. However, we were snaked by some longer shots than our longshots and some favorites where we hoped for upsets.  

    The Adios elims got us one winner but he turned out to be a loser with a winning entrymate. Allstar Legend was our choice but he lost to his stable partner Bettor’s Edge, who we liked a few weeks ago in a Meadowlands Pace elim. To make the win bitter, the entry paid a paltry $4.40. “Allstar” finished fourth to make the final. 

    The first Adios elim was a favorite’s delight with hometown colt Sweet Lou (photo below by Chris Gooden), winning over A Rocknroll Dance. Our choice, Hurrikane Kingcole, went off much lower than we thought and finished fourth.  

    Sweet Lou and Bettor’s Edge join A Rocknroll Dance, Thinking Out Loud, Hurrikane Kingcole, Bolt The Duer, Breakin The Law and Allstar Legend in the final next week. 

    Lack of luck followed us to Canada. In the Maple Leaf Trot at Mohawk our choice Winning Mister broke early and was eliminated. Mister Herbie beat the big favorite Chapter Seven at 8-1.  

    Our Roses Are Red choice, Cee Cee N, was not up to beating Anndrovette, who beat the favorite Put On A Show at 13-1. 

    A 29-1 shot won the Lawrence Sheppard, beating the favorite Doctor Butch. Hail The Taxi paid $72 while our choice, Scalped, had a tough time of the mile and watched all of his foes cross the finish line before him. 

    On Friday at Yonkers a mishap turned the tables on a huge favorite and handed us a fine win. In the New York Sires Stakes (NYSS) for frosh-colt trotters, the huge favorite, Tirade Hanover, won with our choice, Explosive Action, coming in second. However, “Tirade” was placed from first to second after judges penalized his stretch ride due to stepping into the pylons. Our choice became a winner worth $12.40 and ignited a “hard-way” exacta with the favorite, paying $55. Luck matters and sometimes it pays off.  

    Our other NYSS choices were Brookroaddonnie (scratched), Sant Time (fourth at 20-1), Order By Keeper (third at 5-2), Wannacmyguns (second at 6-1). 

    In the frosh Tompkins-Geers that same evening, at Tioga, we scored with the colt Don’t Ya Know, who paid $7.70.  

    Our other Tioga pics were Simpletwistoffate (seventh at 39-1) and Cool Their Jets (fifth at 9-1).  

    Soph-colt-and-filly trotting stakes from July 21 are available at our exclusive Hambletonian Trail blog. The reviews of those events and archives of all that has happened since May are at the Hambletonian Society site.

    News And Notes

    It became official the other day that Check Me Out, the dynamic soph-filly trotter that has been devastating every member of her division, will not race with the boys in the Hambletonian.
    Ray Schnittker, trainer, driver and co-owner of Check Me Out, took the path of least resistance, to say the least, announcing his filly will race in the Hambletonian Oaks, not the main event with the colts and geldings.
    He told reporters he thinks it is the best thing for the horse. “I’d hate for her to get over her head or have to really kill herself to win.”
    Schnittker said he was worried she might be “barbecued somewhere along the line [against the boys]” but still thought that “nine out of ten times” she could beat most of the glamour-boy colts.
    All of the elim actions for the main event and the fillies will be covered live on our Twitter accounts, with an analysis of each at our Hambletonian Trail blog. As well, we will be live at the Meadowlands for both finals and the rest of the stakes-full card.
    On Monday, July 23, Batavia Downs opens its 66th season of harness racing. A bigger signature race, a new first race post time and Sunday afternoon racing in August are some of the changes at America’s oldest lighted harness track.
    The Robert J. Kane Memorial Invitational Pace offers a $50,000 purse this season on Oct. 6. A total of six matinees will be offered, including all four Sundays in August. The other two afternoon race cards are Labor Day and Columbus Day. Post time for all matinees remains at 1:15 p.m. with racing gates opening at 12 p.m.
    Racing will be Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays amd Saturdays at night for the first two weeks with Sundays replacing Mondays in August. Twelve races will be carded nightly except for Saturdays’ 13-race programs.
    Changes were made to the wagering menu; the minimum on trifectas has been lowered to 50 cents. However a $1 wager is required. One dollar daily double wagers are also offered.
    Superfecta wagering is on races with the exception of one and seven. The Pick 4 has been moved to the third race and the late-late double moves to the last two races nightly. The popular Pick 6 begins on race seven.
    North America’s leading dash winning harness racing driver in 2011, Dan Noble, will make his Batavia debut on opening night. Noble led all drivers last year with 773 wins. He currently sits fourth this year with 320 wins. Shawn Gray, currently the leading driver at Buffalo Raceway, will be racing stock at Batavia for the first time.
    Extraordinary Extras

    We invite you to enjoy our musings on other standardbred topics at my Hoof Beats blog titled Vast Performances. Every weekend as part of that blog we we offer Balmoral Pick-4-and-win picks at the USTA’s Strategic Wagering Program page which includes suggested win bets.  

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

    Get onto our mailing list. We’re beginning to contact people with information to help you play for profit. By clicking here you will be added to the list and be secure as a member (we do not share the emails with anyone). Free stuff is coming your way.

    Cartoon by Thom Pye
  • Beat the man to be The Man at TwinSpires

    POSTED Jul 20, 2012
    National Handicapping Championship winner Michael Beychok has channeled his inner Ric Flair in inviting TwinSpires.com players to "be the man" by "beating the man", but it could be Beychok's adversaries who say "Wooooo" by beating the champ and earning their share of $20,000.

    The contest starts this week with the openings of Saratoga Race Course and Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, and it continues each weekend through Sunday, September 2. To participate simply make a $10 win wager on each of designated contest races. Players who "beat the champ" each week will share 1-million TSC Elite points while those who finish in the top 50 among all players over the course of the seven-week game will share in cash prizes, and those who "beat the champ" in that group are eligible for additional bonuses.

    “If you want to be the best you have to beat the best, and this is your chance,” Beychok said. "This should be great fun, and it will certainly keep me dialed in to some of my favorite racing of the year.”

    “2012 NHC Champion Michael Beychok has been on a great run since qualifying for the NHC on TwinSpires.com last November and taking the NHC’s $1-million top prize in January,” Jeremy Clemons, TwinSpires.com Vice President of Marketing, said.  “We are excited to give our players a chance to showcase their skills and knowledge and reward them with lucrative prizes all for making TwinSpires.com their home to play summer’s best racing."

    In addition to the TwinSpires.com contest page, players and fans can interact with participants in real time on Twitter, as TwinSpires will post Beychok's selections at post time for each race using the handle @The__Champ__, and Beychok himself is on Twitter @MBeychok.

    Interested in qualifying for the NHC this January in Las Vegas? Visit the TwinSpires Online Handicapping Series page to learn how for as little as $10. The July 28 tournament features two seats to the NHC.
  • The ones we've been waiting for

    POSTED Jul 19, 2012
    Del Mar opened yesterday, Saratoga opens tomorrow, and outside the Triple Crown races (especially the Kentucky Derby) and the Breeders' Cup World Championships no events in racing match the anticipation fans have for these premiere meetings.

    The absolute best racing occurs later in both meets, but there is Grade 1 racing on tap from both facilities this Saturday: The CCA Oaks at Saratoga and the Eddie Read at Del Mar.

    Joel Cunningham and I talked last week on Triple Crown Insider about the open nature of the current three-year-old filly division. I can't call Grace Hall the leader at this point without a Grade 1 win, but she is my most likely champion at this stage following her Delaware Oaks romp. Still, the CCA Oaks will certainly have a say regarding the division's leader, especially if either Zo Impressive or In Lingerie add another graded stakes to their resume.

    I went with a longshot, however, in Yara, who already won big this year as a longshot when defeating Grace Hall at Gulfstream Park. Is she the most likely winner of this race? Of course not, I think Disposablepleasure is, but I do think Yara will be completely overlooked relative to her chances, and I'm looking forward to playing her across the board.

    As for the Eddie Read, I'm hoping Acclamation continues to strut his stuff on a Grade 1 stage. He won't be underappreciated in this race, and is a likely underlay given the short field and only one real alternative to beat him, but in the big picture he is an overlooked horse as defending champion older male. Repeating in that category will be a tall order, but an Eddie Read win certain makes him the leading North American turf horse.

    Just like two weeks ago when the Grade 2 Suburban was more interesting than the Grade 1 Hollywood Gold Cup, the best race of the weekend is neither of the aforementioned Grade 1 tilts but the Grade 2 Delaware Handicap featuring a rematch between Royal Delta and Awesome Maria. I give the wagering nod to the latter, who already defeated Royal Delta earlier this year and figures to be twice the price.
  • Hello Adios, Freshmen Harmonizing

    POSTED Jul 18, 2012
    It was always a post-Hambletonian feature but now the race for the orchids by glamour-boy soph pacers comes to us shortly after the Meadowlands Pace and before the August trotting classic. It’s the Adios Pace, a classic, still presented at its founding track, the Meadows, and still featuring great horses and a history of great wagering opportunities.  

    The whole week at the Meadows offers terrific wagering as the Grand Circuit stops and presents fierce competition in the fresh-frosh categories. This is a big week that harness fans should be ready to engage with a full TwinSpires account load.

    At Yonkers Raceway the Lawrence Sheppard Final brings pacing youngsters to the forefront, along with frosh-colt trotters in New York Sires Stakes action and more greenies [sic] go in Tompkins-Geers events at Tioga Downs. 

    Elders pace through the fire of the season, too. Mohawk features the Maple Leaf Trot and mare pacers in the Roses Are Red, two finals with tight fields and guaranteed overlays. 

    Also on July 14, Hambo-hopefuls clash in Tompkins-Geers and Canadian Breeders Championships to further convince connections if they are prepared to drop into the box for the Hambo elims. For an analysis of those events, go to our exclusive Hambletonian Trail. The result stories (and archived reports of all the eligibles performances in stakes since May) are at the Hambletonian Society.  

    Adios Amigos

    Eighteen of harness racing’s top soph-colt pacers—including North America Cup-winner Thinking Out Loud, Meadowlands Pace champion A Rocknroll Dance and Sweet Lou—compete in July 21’s eliminations for the $600,000 Delvin Miller Adios at the Meadows.

    The powerful fields fill two divisions of nine. The four top finishers in each division return Saturday, July 28, for the final. 

    The first division features the two colts that won the two top stakes for their kind this season: Thinking Out Loud in post 9 and A Rocknroll Dance in post 8. Meadowlands Pace Consolation-winner Hurrikane Kingcole, whose mile was 1:47.3, goes from post 7. Sweet Lou leaves from post 4 in this mighty first elim. 

    Trainers Ron Burke (Sweet Lou, Breakin The Law) and Bob McIntosh (Thinking Out Loud, Dapper Dude) have two Adios hopefuls apiece while Brittany Farms is part owner of four Adios participants, necessitating a wagering entry in each elim. In Race 4, Escape The News and One Through Ten are coupled while All Star Legend and Bettor’s Edge are paired as a Race 6 entry. 

    The elimination fields with post positions, head numbers and tentative driver assignments are as follows:

    First Elimination, Race 4  

    Post Position Head Number Horse Driver

    1 1 Escape The News David Miller

    2 2 EZ Noah Dave Palone

    3 3 Special Forces Dave Palone

    4 4 Sweet Lou Dave Palone

    5 5 Bakin On The Beach Jim Morrill, Jr.

    6 1A One Through Ten Jim Morrill, Jr.

    7 6 Hurrikane Kingcole Daniel Dube

    8 7 A Rocknroll Dance Yannick Gingras

    9 8 Thinking Out Loud Randy Waples

    Second Elimination, Race 6

    1 2 Bolt The Duer Mark McDonald

    2 3 Star Recruit Mike Wilder

    3 4 McAttaboy David Miller

    4 1 All Star Legend Jim Morrill, Jr.

    5 5 Breakin The Law Dave Palone

    6 6 Ezpass Hanover Brian Zendt

    7 7 Hillbilly Hanover Ron Pierce

    8 8 Dapper Dude John Campbell

    9 1A Bettor’s Edge Jim Morrill, Jr.  

    There are many scenarios to choose from in division one but remember that the addition of Hurrikane Kingcole changes the complexion of the field. He didn’t get into the Meadowlands Pace final but was all over the mile in the consolation and may be ready to take that speed to another level here. Don’t be surprised if a speed duel does not surface and they are all chasing “Kingcole” to a remarkable world-record victory.  

    Division two could find Allstar Legend in a great spot to upset. He was third in the “Pace,” launching a speedy start from post 10 that was sustained well considering the field. That could have been a flare for the kind of speed he can use late here if he tucks behind Bolt The Duer, who will try to steal this but is coming off a disappointing Pace performance.  

    Sheppard’s Flock

    The Lawrence Sheppard Pace, long a Yonkers Raceway feature for two-year-old colts returned to the grounds last Saturday night after a nine-year hiatus. A trio of $25,000 eliminations with six contestants each led into this Saturday’s final, worth $119,000.  

    Doctor Butch was the fastest elim winner with a 1:55.2 mile. However, the Linda Toscano colt got the 8 hole for the final. Scalped and OK Fame won the other elims, in 1:56.1 and 1:56.3, respectively.  

    Morning-line favoritism went to Rocnrolwilneverdie, who, as the 3-5 choice while losing to Scalped a week ago, ending up third. The son of Rocknroll Hanover is trained by Chris Ryder.  

    The field for the final is 1-Dealmaker; 2-Rocnrolwilneverdie; 3-A Bettor World; 4-Scalped; 5-Americasgottalent; 6-OK Fame; 7-Hail the Taxi; 8-Doctor Butch. 

    We like Scalped again, especially with Doctor Butch on the outside.  

    Launching Careers

    At Yonkers on Friday, a sextet of NYSS events, each worth $48,016, could include the 2013 Hambo champ. But first things first; let’s look at who has a shot to win each of these with some bargain win prices.

    Division 1: From the first crop of Crazed, who was second to Deweycheatumnhowe in the Hambo, comes Tirade Hanover. He opened eyes in NYSS competition two back, winning in 1:57. Then he broke in his next race but everyone is hot on him. We think Explosive Action is on a course to improve and will offer a decent price as a foe who can beat “Tirade” even if that one doesn’t break.

    Division 2: If Brookroaddonnie’s qualifiers at Monticello mean anything, he can be used against the obvious choice here, Theraputic. Monticello’s a half mile, so disregard slow winning times, and add Cat Manzi at the reins and this one may have some trot.

    Division 3: Sand Time’s failure at Buffalo can be dismissed; his effort at Vernon may be the reliable evidence for a victory here. Malabar Man-son Columbia Lion will get loads of dough with George Brennan up, so go with Parker and Sand Time for the buck.

    Division 4: Fashion Blizzard is the obvious choice but Jimmy Takter has Order By Keeper coming from the wood and his Meadowlands win deserves attention. His morning line of 4-1 may broadcast a major overlay here.

    Division 5: Wannacmyguns was fabulous trying to maintain the lead wide at Buffalo last out and gets the post advantage over the probable public choice, Creditora, who leaves with trainer Trond Smedshammer from post 7.

    Division 6: Noble Flight broke and recovered at Buffalo last week, racing well enough to get third. This is his second time out after two qualifiers in Canada and he has every right to improve with a win at second crack.   

    Grand Circuiting

    Tompkins-Geers Stakes are staples for two- and three-year-olds during the Grand Circuit season and are once again at Tioga Downs. The freshmen go on July 20.  

    In the first filly division for youngsters, keep an eye on odds for Simpletwistoffate. She could break her maiden here against the obvious favorite, Shebestingin, who has not seen a loss in a pair of starts.  

    Colts are up next in Race 6. It is the single division, worth $71,266, a bunch for the little guys. Joe Holloway’s Don’t Ya Know comes into this as Joe’s barn continues aflame with talent. With first-time starters, oddly enough pacers from the Ackerman barn, Joe’s steed could offer value winning bigger than most expect.

    Race 8 brings on more fillies and a possible upset looms from Cool Their Jets. We expect a catbird-seat ride that can easily overcome the obvious choice, Mcarma, who is bound to shoot out for the lead and try to take the field wire to wire.  

    Canadian Traffic

    In the $750,000 Maple Leaf Trot for older horses at Mohawk, Daylon Magician and Chapter Seven will take a lot of the betting cash. But Winning Mister looks to rebound after a disappointing effort in the Titan Cup. As long as he doesn’t use himself up early, he’ll be strong and could upset. 

    Also watch Windsong Geant. Coming off a strong victory from post 10 in a Preferred mile here, this classy trotter will look for redemption after a failed effort as Canada’s electorate for the Elitoppet. 

    Older mares are on tap in the $391,000 Roses Are Red Final. Royal Cee Cee N draws a great post to carve a pocket trip. In the elimination, she paced a first-over mile, settling for fourth. Making it a better trip could mean a win this week. 

    Premiering this week for Saturdays is the TwinSpires-Meadowlands zero-takeout Late Pick 4 Saturday.

    Ray Cotolo contributed to this edition.
  • Making a Fair Odds Line

    Recently, I’ve been getting quite a few inquiries about fair odds lines — mainly, how does a horseplayer go about making one and what are they good for?

    Let’s kick off the discussion with the last question — after all, what’s the use in creating something without first knowing what it does (trust me, I’ve seen enough science fiction movies to know this is a terrible idea)? Simply put, a fair odds line provides gamblers with a means of making rational wagering decisions.

    For example, most players know that betting to win on a horse that is 2-5 or less doesn’t make a lot of sense. To make any money on such steeds, a gambler would need to cash at least 71 percent of the time, which is extremely unlikely (not to mention the fact that the place and show payoffs would probably be just as high if not higher than the win return, making a win bet look that much more foolish).

    Yet very few punters take the next logical step and assign specific minimum betting odds to all (or even some) of the race contenders.

    This is where a fair odds line comes in.

    A fair odds line attempts to quantify a handicapper’s feelings about a particular race and provide a framework for better money management decisions. Statements like “I knew I should have used that horse” are, theoretically at least, foreign to one who employs a fair odds line on a regular basis.

    This is because bets are made — or not made — depending on whether the horse in question is an overlay (post-time odds greater than its fair odds) or underlay (post-time odds less than its fair odds). As a result, the angst of deciding whether or not to include a horse in one’s wagers is, in effect, made by the betting public.

    So, without further ado, let’s move on to the main course — constructing the line:

    A) For every horse, assign odds that you think are fair. If it helps, use the morning line as a guide.

    B) Convert these odds to a percentage. Because I am such a kindhearted guy, I have included a chart, as well as a link to an Excel spreadsheet program, to make this process easier.

    C) Add all the individual percentages together to get the total line percentage. If this number is exactly 100 percent (plus or minus a few tenths of a point due to rounding discrepancies), you have what is known as a “true” line, which is what I personally strive for.

    However, many value handicappers like to mirror the tote board and include takeout and breakage in the equation. In this case, a total line percentage of up to 125 percent is OK. Beyond that, though, I would suggest re-calculating or massaging your fair odds. Perhaps the horse you listed at 2-1 should be 5-2 instead. Maybe a couple of the horses you tabbed at 15-1 should really be 20-1. Continue making adjustments like this until the total line percentage meets your goal.

    (Click on image to enlarge)
    Click HERE to get your free Fair Odds Calculator.

    Actually using the fair odds line is a piece of cake: just concentrate on betting overlays and eliminating underlays.

    Of course, I’m aware of the fact that this is easier said than done and will almost surely require practice and a fair amount of patience. Underlays you tossed will win — sometimes at or above their fair odds, thanks to an influx of late money into the pool; overlays you wagered on will magically transform into underlays for the same reason.

    But don’t give up. Remember, most gamblers lose because they bet too many underlays. The legendary punter George E. Smith (“Pittsburg Phil”) said it best when he noted: “You cannot be a successful horse player if you are going to get the worst of the price all the time.”

    Fair odds ensure that you don’t.

    Now, before I leave this subject there are two important things to consider as you move along the path toward becoming a value bettor:

    1) A horse is not an overlay or underlay just because your fair odds say it is. After all, your line could be — and in many cases is — wrong.
    Don’t get overly cocky and dismiss the crowd’s opinion entirely. If a horse that you think should be 5-2 is 20-1 on the board, ask yourself why. Is there something you missed, a factor that you weighted too heavily or too lightly? In other words, look for errors in your calculations before you rush to the windows to bet your life savings.

    Also, be sure to test your fair odds. They should win at the rate you say they do. What’s more, they should keep winning at that rate (or very close to it) as the actual odds vary. If your 2-1 shots win a third of the time overall, but only one percent of the time when the horse is a supposed overlay, you’ve definitely got a problem.

    2) In regard to your fair odds line itself, it pays to keep in mind something that betting guru Dick Mitchell learned in the course of his fair odds studies. After years of trying to find a line that adequately reflected the performance of the top three wagering choices (again, contrary to what racetrack charlatans proclaim, the betting pools are generally efficient), Mitchell heard a television commentator discuss the “80/20 rule.”
    First advanced by business consultant Joseph M. Juran, the 80/20 rule, or Pareto Principle, is the notion that 80 percent of all consequences stem from just 20 percent of all causes. 20 percent of the world’s population control 80 percent of its resources, 20 percent of the people on Earth possess 80 percent of the talent (not necessarily the same 20 percent, mind you) and so forth and so on.
    From a betting standpoint, Mitchell realized that a fair odds line should reflect that same fundamental truth. Hence, he began assigning 80 percent of his ratings to his top contenders and the remaining 20 percent to the rest of the field — with great success.
    I bring this up because many rookie line makers will find that their fair odds are too similar — a lot of 3-1, 4-1 and 6-1 chances — and not very reflective of real-life betting tendencies (which should always be one of the goals). By reassigning 80 percent (or thereabouts) of the probabilities to one’s top choices, this can be avoided.
    Anyway, hopefully this helps aspiring value bettors become more proficient at their craft and, as Pittsburg Phil said, avoid getting the “worst of the price all the time.”

    Delaware Handicap Lures Royal Delta, Awesome Maria

    Just as last year’s Delaware Handicap produced a thrilling showdown between the two top older females in training — Blind Luck and eventual Horse of the Year Havre de Grace — many race fans are hoping the 2012 edition does likewise.

    On paper at least, the prospect of that looks promising, as last year’s BC Ladies Classic winner Royal Delta squares off with Awesome Maria, the mare that beat her by eight resounding lengths at Gulfstream Park earlier this year.

    On the other hand, both Royal Delta and Awesome Maria have questions to answer. 

    With a decent pace expected given the presence of Cash For Clunkers and Love And Pride in the field, the former needs to prove she can rally from further off the pace than she’s accustomed to or show that she can duplicate the strong (-4) LSR that she earned last time after exerting herself more in the early stages.

    (Click on image to enlarge)
    The latter, meanwhile, needs to rebound from one of the worst races of her career (99 Brisnet speed figure and a woeful -14 LSR) and, for that matter, demonstrate that she’s as good as she was in 2011.

    (Click on image to enlarge)

    (Click on image to enlarge)