• Cotolo’s Harness Review, News And Notes

    POSTED Jun 30, 2012
    Some big events along the summer stream of stakes were presented over this past weekend. 

    New York Sires Stakes (NYSS) on June 28 at Yonkers produced obvious winners, Romantic Moment at $2.20 and Handsoffmycookie at $2.60. Our other choice, Brownsville Bomber, was second.  

    NYSS at Yonkers on June 29 featured a $7.50 winner: Forever Just. Steelhead Hanover finished second and Breakin The Law was off the board.

    At the Meadowlands on June 29 we lost the Titan Cup to the big favorite, Chapter Seven. Then, on Saturday, we scored in a division of the Reynolds stake with Verdad at $13.60. Our other two Reynolds picks completed a triple, with Gottaseeaboutagirl and Blackjack Princess coming in second and third, respectively.

    Pocono Downs hosted the highlighted stakes of the weekend. We suggested a pass on American Jewel in the James Lynch because we figured she would pay little to nothing and that is what happened; she paid $2.10. 

    In the Ben Franklin Final we were third with Aracache Hanover and Hurrikane Kingcole shocked the crowd when he was burned to a crisp going first over in a scorching three-quarters in the Max Hempt Final to finish off the board. A Rocknroll Dance won at an astounding 17-1.  

    It’s the last month of our exclusive Hambletonian Trail blog. We offer previews of races through the week for both divisions with Hambo hopes, with reviews of those events at the Hambletonian Society site.  

    Every weekend get Balmoral Pick-4-and-win picks at the USTA’s Strategic Wagering Program page which includes suggested win bets. Last week we hit with Sand Starla at $10.80.  

    Also, enjoy our latest harness racing musings and the archive of articles on a host of topics at my Hoof Beats blog, Vast Performances.  

    At Twitter you can easily follow Frank and Ray Cotolo and get up-to-the-minute suggestions for wagers at many harness raceways. As you do, make your decisions and wager from TwinSpires.  

    There is an easy way to get on our mailing list for exciting information to help you play for profit. By clicking here you will be added to the list and be secure as a member of that list (we do not share the emails with anyone).

    News And Notes

    Yonkers Raceway raises the guarantee for its Tuesday late Pick 4 to $25,000 beginning July 3. The late Pick 4 consists of races seven through 10 every racing night.   

    Tioga Downs, in league with the United States Trotting Association’s strategic wagering program, will offer a $5,000 guaranteed Pick 4 each Sunday in July. The Pick 4 will be offered on the last four races of the day on each Sunday afternoon racing program. The post time 1:30 p.m. EST. Tioga Downs began its weekend of live racing action on June 29 at 6:50 p.m. 

    At the most recent USTA annual meeting in February, President Phil Langley appointed a committee of horsemen and track operators to study drug testing and to investigate what the industry can do to improve testing procedures, including providing more financial support.  

    The committee aims to identify and eliminate exotic and unknown drugs suspected as performance enhancers. A very positive development has been the financial support of the Pennsylvania horsemen, who have stepped forward and committed a portion of their revenue to working on processes that will identify strange substances.

    “As this process moves on we will keep the industry up to date with timely reports,” said Langley. 

    The racing schedule at both Tioga and Vernon will change for the upcoming ‘Fourth of July’ holiday week. Tioga picks up an extra live date on Wednesday, July 4.  

    Vernon will race on Tuesday evening July 3 and have a matinee card at 1:15 p.m. on Wednesday, July 4t, then continue with Wednesday evening racing throughout July and August.  

    We promised updates about Sweet Lou and here is the latest. Trainer Ron Burke said that for the July 7 Meadowlands Pace eliminations, “We’re going with aluminum shoes instead of steel shoes,” Burke said. “They may help him be more aggressive.” 

     Burke also let out the hopples for the sophomore colt pacer. “I tried an open bridle but he was too busy with it. He just wanted to play with me.”  

    Burke said he plans to ship the colt to the Meadowlands this week to familiarize him with the track. “We’ll either qualify him there or train him — one or the other,” Burke said. “I want him to go over the track. I don’t think racing on a big track will be an issue. He won at Indiana Downs and the Red Mile at two. I think we’ll see multiple divisions in the Meadowlands Pace. There are some vicious three-year-olds out there. It’s amazing how many good ones … this will prove to be a strong crop.”

    Eric Carlson won his first race at the Meadowlands, a week after Ray Cotolo got an exclusive interview with him. You can read that by clicking here.

    Cartoon by Thom Pye
  • Insider Overlay Underlays

    POSTED Jun 28, 2012
    Although I often talk… and talk… and talk some more about the importance of overlays to one’s betting bottom line, there are instances when underlays — or at least perceived underlays — can be excellent wagers. Take, for example, the 10th race at Los Alamitos on Sunday, July 18, 2010.

    Among the entrants in that $10,000 maiden claiming event for quarter horses going 300 yards, was Ar Firestorm, a two-year-old gelding that had finished dead last, beaten 4 ¾ lengths (the equivalent of about 21 lengths at six furlongs), in his only start. Yet, despite being dismissed at 8-1 on the morning line, Ar Firestorm was heavily supported throughout the wagering, dipping to 3-1 in the final minutes before a rash of late money on the favorite drove his odds up to 9-2 by the time the gates sprung.

    Copyrighted ©2010 by Daily Racing Form, LLC and Equibase Co.
    Reprinted with permission of the copyright owner.
    (Click on image to enlarge)

    Now, years ago, handicapping author and professional gambler Barry Meadow thoroughly debunked the notion of “smart” money — at least as it relates to horses that are bet below their morning line odds. However, even Meadow left the door open for what he termed “mystery money,” or horses “getting hammered for no discernible reason,” which certainly appeared to be the case with Ar Firestorm.

    True, the gelding was dropping from a straight maiden affair to a maiden claiming event, arguably the biggest and most meaningful class drop in all of racing, but outside of that, there wasn’t much to like about the son of Red Fire, was there? 

    Well, on the surface, no, but remember: beauty is only skin deep. If one had taken the time to look beyond the obvious, three things about Ar Firestorm practically leapt off the pages of the past performances:
    1)  He was reasonably well backed (9-1) in his career debut, despite the fact that he faced superior competition that day.
    2)  Eduardo Nicasio was tabbed to ride the youngster. Prior to July 18, 2010, Nicasio had won with four of his five previous mounts for trainer Hector Hernandez. As Adam Sandler might say, “not too shabby.”
    3)  Hernandez was wheeling Ar Firestorm back to the races in just seven days (see above) — a clear indication that he felt the gelding was fit and ready to fire his best shot.
    So, as much as I beat the drum for overlay betting, I must admit, in cases like this, I love to see the horse I’m considering get some respect at the windows, as it suggests that the connections or other “insiders” are putting their money where their mouths are.

    Needless to say, despite breaking slowly for the second time in a row, Ar Firestorm closed with a rush and won impressively, returning $11.40.

    Big Races on the Prairie

    A trio of Grade III stakes races highlights a fantastic card at Prairie Meadows on Saturday. Here’s a look at each one:
    (Click on image to enlarge)
    COMMENTS: Traditionally, Prairie Meadows has been kind to early runners and, in this event, the quickest of the quick appears to be TAPAJO, who is coming off a win in the Panthers Stakes. In that race, Tapajo rated on a brisk pace (-10 early speed ration) and pulled away late to score by 6 ¼ lengths and earn a 92 Brisnet speed figure (today’s par is 97). Her latest work — a slow :51-1/5 for four furlongs — is a bit troubling, but the daughter of Tapit looks like the one to catch if ready. 

    Although ICE CREAM SILENCE beat just two rivals in her latest, including LIVI MAKENZIE who is also in this field, she did it with authority, earning an 89 BSF and -3 late speed ration.

    UPTOWN BERTIE ran great in her latest and would be a huge threat if she can duplicate that effort.

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

    (Click on image to enlarge)
    COMMENTS: Not surprisingly, HANSEN looks dominant in this spot. To begin with, he is the only Grade I winner in the field and he exits the Kentucky Derby, an event that earned a 13.3 Key Race Rating (the Prairie Meadows Mile, which featured both ALSVID and TRUETAP, has the next-highest KRR at 5.3). What’s more, Hansen figures to dictate the pace.

    Frankly, the only betting option in this race is the aforementioned Alsvid, who I would suggest playing to place — just in case there is a negative place pool (likely; there is no show betting) and Hansen finishes out of the top two (unlikely).

    BET(S): PLACE on 2-Alsvid.

    (Click on image to enlarge)
    COMMENTS: Trainer Charles Lopresti has said that he thinks SUCCESSFUL DAN is better than his other stable star, Wise Dan (winner of the Ben Ali and a close second in the Stephen Foster), and, according to my pace figures and the Brisnet speed figures, Lopresti may be right. That said, I’m intrigued by SHADOWBDANCING, who has won five of 11 starts at Prairie Meadows.

    BET(S): WIN on 2-Shadowbdancing at odds of 8-1 or greater.

    (Click on image to enlarge)
    (Click on image to enlarge)

    Derek Simon’s Free Selection Statistics

    Races (Selections): 32 (33)       
    Wins: 8
    Rate: 25.0%     
    Return: $39.90  
    ROI: -39.55%    

    (This year's published selections through 6/28/2012)
  • Looking For Champions

    POSTED Jun 27, 2012
    It’s the time of the season where everyone in the standardbred business watches closely for the cream of the crops. Insiders know the vigil is good business, while smart bettors know they can identify the horses that the public will be following with every cent, leaving overlays upon which to sensationalize.

    Giant races are ahead, including the Meadowlands Pace and, of course, the Hambletonian and all the stakes orbiting that race’s program on the first Saturday in August.

    Hambo-hopefuls continue to battle, colts and fillies, and the classic Yonkers Trot is the next big test. On July 7 (no elims), the $445, 594 event is complemented by the Hudson Filly Trot, worth $185,194. For the analysis of each event, go to our exclusive Hambletonian Trail next week and follow through with result stories (and the archived stories of all the eligibles performances in stakes since May) at the Hambletonian Society.

    Ben Franklin Final

    At Pocono Downs the $500,000 Ben Franklin Final brings together some of the best older pacers, including last year’s late-blossoming Betterthancheddar and the fiery We Will See. These two will likely take most of the wagers.

    Our elim winner from last week, Aracache Hanover, and multiple-stakes-series champ Foiled Again will be looking to pour spoils over the half-million dollar event and at good prices.

    Aracache Hanover did exactly what we thought last week, going first over at the right moment to win. He has yet to reach his peak and looks to continue his winning ways this week.

    Foiled Again was a game third to the likely favorites in the second elimination. He went first over early and cleared the top only to lose it in the stretch. He should get a better trip this week and could blow right by this group.

    Max And James Finals

    Hurrikane Kingcole is much the best in the Max Hempt Final at Pocono on June 30. We will try the same exacta we had in last week’s elimination with I Like Dreamin for second. He will likely get a second- or third-over trip and fan out late to close.

    There is little doubt American Jewel will lose the James Lynch Final. This filly is towering over her division after settling her late-season health problems. This is a good race to pass.

    Soph Fields

    New York Sire Stakes (NYSS) headline Thursday and Friday at Yonkers Raceway, with events for three-year-old pacers of both genders. The sophomore fillies go in the first three races on June 28.

    The opening filly split, worth $111,268, finds recent state-bred winner at Vernon, Brownsville Bomber, headlining and looking tons the best.

    The second $111,268 field presents a battle between NYSS winners New York Kitty, JK Fine Art and Romantic Moment. The latter is the one we will back.

    Handsoffmycookie returns to Yonkers after winning the Lismore earlier in the month. She will be hard to beat in the third division, worth $113,268.

    Friday night features the NYSS colts at three miles worth $113,413 each.

    The opening event features NYSS-proven Breakin’ the Law, sharp though obvious to bettors. And in the second division Forever Just also a local NYSS winner, seems to be the best.

    The nightcap features New York-star pacer Heston Blue Chip, three for three this season, facing Coral Snake, a soph unraced at two, with four soph wins in as many tries. And the good outsider is Steelhead Hanover, who could upset and will probably be the bargain of the three.

    Titans Clash

    The Meadowlands features the best free for all trotters in the Titan Cup Final this Friday, June 29.

    Chapter Seven, who set a world record in the prep last week, which was his first performance at four, will be vying for the prestigious event’s crown, won last year by Arch Madness, who set the all-age world record in that performance and is here to defend that title.

    Winning Mister, who was a game second in the Cutler as well as in the Titan Cup prep, is on board in this field. He may receive some strong betting, but has a great chance.

    Winning Mister usually sets the tempo, so if he goes soft fractions and saves himself for the final half, Chapter Seven will have no shot to catch him.

    Grand Circuit Contests

    Three-year-old colt and filly pacers will contest in the W.N. Reynolds on Saturday at the Meadowlands. This is the first year these Grand Circuit stakes are presented at the Meadowlands; they were once a regular part of the circuit at Pocono Downs.

    In the only division of the filly Reynolds, it is pretty wide open. Blackjack Princess and Gottaseeaboutagirl have the best shots but the worst posts. Blackjack Princess was a game second at 34-1 in the Historic Ladyship at Tioga. Before that, she was third against older mares in an Open at Saratoga. She is improving and may hit her peak this week.  

    Also in contention is Gottaseeaboutagirl. The Meadowlands is the track where she prevailed, not only the most, but at her best. She closed to win the Night Styles against older horses and beat Air Guitar Hanover, along with Blackjack Princess, in the John Simpson Stakes. She should offer a good price.  

    In the first division of the colt Reynolds, E Z Noah is the likely favorite. Delaware-native Flying Instructor will be seeking his first Open stakes win. Racing primarily in the Delaware Owners and Breeders Fund Stakes (DSBF), his best race came in the final on April 9, romping by 8 lengths in 1:51.4 as the 1-9 favorite. He returned in fine style to win two legs of the DSBF at Harrington. He normally sets the pace and he may get a pocket trip as E Z Noah takes the top.  

    In the second division, All Steinam is the likely favorite after recovering from two breaks to finish third to a 184-1 shot at Pocono. Mcerlean and Verdad will likely be ignored in this division. Mcerlean was the pace setter in the second Hempt elimination against Hurrikane Kingcole. He faded to fifth. This speedy three-year-old may get little play and should be game this start.  

    Verdad, our selection in the first Hempt elimination last week, looks for redemption after breaking in the stretch and finishing fourth. Before that, he won against older in non-winners of $13,000 last five. As long as he stays flat, he should show what we expected him to last week.  

    Harness at Hoosier Park is going great guns and so can you when you play the Thursday night programs. TwinSpires players earn 10 TSC Elite Points for all wagers they make on those programs. Also, the Pick 4 features a guaranteed $5,000 pool (races four throuth seven). Post is 5:30 EST.

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

    POSTED Jun 23, 2012
    It was a jam-packed weekend of harness action with most of the focus on Pocono Downs for sophomore pacers and trotters, as well as a few elders pounding it out on the five-eighths mile. Older trotters were featured at the Meadowlands and Vernon Downs pumped out some lucrative state-bred attractions.

    That’s where we began to cash, as the June 22 New York Sires Stakes at Vernon produced a win by Ideal Romance, our choice, paying $10.80. We were second with Escape The News and third with Dynamic Youth in the other splits.

    At Pocono Downs on Saturday, June 23 we were prolific thanks to some fine paying choices in a stakes-laden program that offered a lot of overlays.

    There was a single elim for next week’s James Lynch Final for soph-filly pacers and we were right on the money with our choice, Darena Hanover. She plowed to a sharp win, paying $19.20.

    In the Ben Franklin elims, popular older pacers met to create the field for next week’s final (an event formerly at Chester, now Philadelphia). We were hot on two horses in the first of two elims and the best one came through, as Aracache Hanover stormed home first to pay $18.80.

    We couldn’t go for a price in two events but we managed to pull out some profits through an exacta in the second of the Max Hempt elims. Hurrikane Kingcole was our choice and he won, tied the world record and a track mark in the process, though he only paid $2.80. Our second choice, I Like Dreamin, however, at 11-1, completed an exacta that was a fair price for the combo of odds, paying $23.40.

    In the second James Lynch elim we warned not to bet against American Jewel, to pass or use her as a key, and she won big, breaking the track record and tying a track record as the prohibitive 1-5 choice.  

    The third Max Hempt elim went as suggested with Bolt The Duer winning easily, paying a healthy $6 as the public’s second choice. 

    At the Meadowlands we were with the crowd in the Titan Cup prep as Chapter Seven scored big to pay $3.80, which if you consider the buzz about his debut at four after remarkable qualifiers is a fair price. 

    Our failures for the weekend included the Maywood Pace at Maywood and the Ellamony Final at Flamboro. In both of those races the dead-on favorites made mince meat of our choices. 

    It’s mid way through month two of our exclusive Hambletonian Trail blog and the previews of races through the week for both divisions with Hambo hopes ensues, as do the reviews of those events at the Hambletonian Society site.  

    Every weekend 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 Cinnamon Spider at $9, So Be It at $8.40 and Lady Lakers at $21.80.

    Also, we invite you to enjoy our musings on other standardbred topics at my Hoof Beats blog titled Vast Performances.

    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 now because shortly we will be making available some exciting information to help you play for profit. By clicking here you will be added to the list and be secure as a member of that list (we do not share the emails with anyone).

    News And Notes

    Eric Carlson shipped east and brought his tack to the lucrative arenas. He is making a good impression on the horsemen communities in the tri-state area and Ray Cotolo got an exclusive interview with him. You can read that by clicking here.

    In 2007 we covered the Breeders Crown at the Meadowlands and after the elims we called for a big upset in the sophomore colt pace. We liked Artist’s View in the $550,000 event, suggesting that a speed duel was a likely scenario between Tell All (9-5) and Always A Virgin (2-1). From post 10, Artist’s View (pictured left) went off at 42-1, and when the duel we suspected took the field through blistering fractions, our choice closed, won and paid $86 to win. Making the hit sweeter, we also gave Whatta Hotshot as a possible second, which is where he wound up.

    At eight, Artist’s View has been retired. He earned $788,811 with a mark of 1:49.4 at five. His trainer through that career was Buzzy Sholty. Artist’s View’s dam was Lady Ashee Ann who also produced last year’s Breeders Crown soph champ Betterthancheddar. The son of Artsplace will live in Ohio and his owners are entertaining offers to stand him Down Under.
    At the Meadows, effective July 2, the minimum bet on all Pick 3 and Pick 4 wagers becomes 50 cents. In addition, the track will introduce a second Pick 4 on each card and cancel the 50-50/Pick-5 wager.
    The track will continue to offer 50-cent minimums on all superfectas, available on all races with at least eight wagering interests (with the exception of races that kick off Pick 4s). So, beginning July 2, on a typical 15-race card, bettors will be presented 50-cent minimums on two Pick 4s, four Pick 3s and as many as 13 superfectas.
    Under Pennsylvania law, the minimum bet on any race, regardless of entry level, is $2. For that reason, any Pick 3, Pick 4 or superfecta player must bet at least four combinations at 50 cents to meet the legal requirement.

    Cartoon by Thom Pye
  • Form form and the greatest race ever

    POSTED Jun 22, 2012
    I don't know if playing the races was ever not a numbers game, but social media has certainly heightened the general public's awareness of how a number can indicate performance.

    Within hours of Frankel's scintillating win in the Queen Anne, Timeform released a provisional rating of 147, which is the highest it has ever assigned. Some point to the figure as proof that Frankel is "The Best Ever," but Timeform has no rating for Secretariat's Belmont or Spectacular Bid's world record in the Strub--both of which I have to think would have at least cracked the 140 barrier that no North American race has produced.

    Speaking of the North American Timeform ratings, I tend to think they're deflated. Exhibit "A" is Cigar rated best of all North American horses listed. I don't know which race Cigar earned his 138 in, but I'd be willing to take either Ghostzapper's Woodward or his Breeders' Cup Classic over it, and his Timeform ceiling was 137.  Exhibit "B" is that Ragozin and ThoroGraph figures for foreign horses are routinely slower for European races than our races here. TG's Jerry Brown would attribute this in part to North American medication policies, including the use of Lasix, but overall I do think North America has faster horses than Timeform gives it credit for.

    It's tough if not unfair to compare Spectacular Bid to Frankel with any absoluteness. I'd take Frankel in the Breeders' Cup Mile and Spectacular Bid in the Breeders' Cup Classic. Maybe the San Diego Handicap at 1 1/8 miles on Polytrack is the best test of these two? One thing Spectacular Bid and Frankel do have in common, though, that I really admire from an "all-time great" standpoint is that each was a top-class performer as a two-, three-, and four-year-old.

    Of course there are many ways to rate racehorses and races: speed ratings, performance figures, pace-adjusted speed figures, pace, class, etc. An under appreciated metric is the Brisnet.com Class Rating, which can be found in the Ultimate Past Performances and is a riff on the "who beat who and by how much" system that made Performance Rates popular.

    On a micro level, the Brisnet.com Class Rating is a powerful handicapping tool. I trust it to compartmentalize the class in each race and separate contenders from non contenders. The numbers fit in a tight group (90 for bottom level claimers through 125 for top stakes performers), so small differences mean a lot. E.g., a horse capable of a 120 Class Rating is far superior to one who tops out at 117.

    On a macro level, the Brisnet.com Class Rating can help distinguish between all-time greats. 125 is a superlative figure, and only one horse in the history of the rating has cracked 130: Workforce when winning the 2010 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.

    Frankel's best number is127, which he earned in the Sussex Stakes when defeating multiple Group 1 winner Canford Cliffs by five lengths. Sea The Stars also topped off at 127 for his Coral Eclipse Stakes victory, and he had three other efforts of 125+.

    Ghostzapper is the only horse to appear in the top 19 twice, which he achieved in the aforementioned Woodward (over eventual Horse of the Year Saint Liam) and Breeders' Cup Classic (over Horse of the Year Azeri, defending Classic winner Pleasantly Perfect, eventual Dubai World Cup winner Roses In May, Belmont-Travers winner Birdstone, and multiple Grade 1 winner Funny Cide in stakes record time).Cigar's best was a 126, which he earned in the 1995 Jockey Club Gold Cup, but his five ratings of 125+ is certainly impressive.

    And what of those fabulous females in recent years? Zenyatta notched a 126 in both her Breeders' Cup Classic efforts plus a 125 in her Ladies' Classic. Rachel Alexandra hit the 127 mark twice: the Mother Goose and the Haskell as well as 126 in the Kentucky Oaks and 125 in the Fleur de Lis. Havre de Grace peaked at 125 in both the Woodward and Beldame. Blind Luck never topped 123, but she maintained that pleateau seven times. Royal Delta's recent win earned a 125, which is a career best for the champion.

    I typically use Class Ratings to assess individual performance, but given the historic perspective of this post, it's impossible to ignore the corker that was the 2003 Breeders' Cup Turf, which featured a dead heat between defending winner High Chaparral and Johar with multiple Group 1 winner Falbrav in third.

    Just as "Greatest Racehorse Ever" can mean different things to different people, "Greatest Race Ever" can too, but there's no doubt that this is the best race I've ever seen live, and I certainly would lobby on its behalf for inclusion on a short list of greatest races ever.

  • Frankel, Black Caviar and a Royal Return

    POSTED Jun 21, 2012
    Question: Is Frankel the best horse in the world right now?
    Aanswer: Yes.

    Those who think otherwise obviously didn’t see Frankel overwhelm 10 opponents in the Group I Queen Anne Stakes at Ascot on Tuesday, in a performance so devastating that it earned the son of Galileo a 147 Timeform Rating — the highest in history.

    Those who think otherwise are clearly oblivious to the fact that Frankel covered the mile distance of the Queen Anne in 1:37.85, a time that was 1.15 seconds faster than the “standard” (think par) time — on a day that produced a 0.39 median variant (about 2 lengths slower than standard).

    Those who think otherwise… well, they aren’t really thinking at all.

    To get an idea of just how good Frankel is, take a look at his performance in the Queen Anne, along with the performances of the two horses with the next-best Timeform Ratings in their signature victories:

    Frankel (147)
    2012 Queen Anne Stakes

    Sea Bird (145)
    1965 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe


    Brigadier Gerard (144)
    1971 2000 Guineas

    Black Caviar Looks to Remain Perfect

    And speaking of great horses and Royal Ascot, Black Caviar, the brilliant race mare from the land down under is scheduled to compete at the UK’s premier race meeting this weekend. A perfect 21-for-21 in her career, Black Caviar would undoubtedly strengthen her reputation as the best turf sprinter in the world with a win in the six-furlong Diamond Jubilee Stakes on Saturday.

    Below is my Win Factor analysis of the race:

    (Click on image to enlarge)

    Royal Delta Dominant in Return

    Well, so much for the “Dubai Bounce.” Two weeks after Game On Dude tied his best-ever Brisnet speed figure (109) in the Grade 2 Californian following his trip Dubai for the 2012 Dubai World Cup, Royal Delta dominated five rivals in the Grade 2 Fleur De Lis Handicap at Churchill Downs after exiting the same race.

    More noteworthy, the four-year-old daughter of Empire Maker toted 123 pounds and completed Saturday’s 1 1/8-mile journey in 1:49.49 — a full 1.02 seconds faster than it took Ron the Greek, carrying 119 pounds, to capture the Grade I Stephen Foster (also run at Churchill Downs) 35 minutes later.

    Royal Delta earned a solid -4 late speed ration (LSR) for her efforts, while Ron the Greek earned a very mediocre -12 LSR.

    (Click on image to enlarge)

    Weekend Win Factor Plays

    Thursday (6/21/12)

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    Friday (6/22/12)
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    Saturday (6/23/12)
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  • Ante Up For More Seasonal Stakes

    POSTED Jun 20, 2012
    After last week’s multi-million dollar blowout we still have plenty of five- and six-digit events to go around, as they will this weekend on the harness map. 

    The Maywood Pace gathers soph colts, with that division also highlighted in New York Sires Stakes (NYSS) and Max Hempt elims. Older gals battle in the Ellamony Final at Mohawk and older guys prep for the Titan Cup at the Meadowlands and Ben Franklin Pace at Pocono. 

    Hambo-hopefuls once again fight for big money, this time at Pocono in the Earl Beal, Jr. Final. For that analysis, go to our exclusive Hambletonian Trail sit and follow through with result storied at the Hambletonian Society.  

    Chicago Speed

    The $123,000 Maywood Pace on Friday, June 22, may not hold the stature it did in harness’ glory days but this is still a talent-packed event, though it relies more on locals than national stars. The two elim winners will most likely get the money nods from the crowd but we have to ask a question that could lead to a longshot play.  

    Why is Yankee Doodle Jim 15-1 on the morning line? He made it to the final and has the same record as Uncle Smoothie, one of the probable choices. Our quest for an outside contender raises our eyebrows and points to Yankee Doodle Jim in a race that often produces an unexpected winner.  

    State Of The Sophs

    The state-bred fund deposits a wad of dough Friday at Vernon Downs in NYSS for glamour-boy pacers born in the Empire State. A trio of contests, each worth $44,000, offers a few bargain deals for us. 

    Dynamic Youth is our choice in the first split. He has won twice and had two in-the-money finishes from five starts an earning machine in the division, at least among his peers.  

    Ideal Romance has already shown us some money and in the second split may be the powerhouse play. Watch the odds, though, it would be no surprise if the crowd jumped on him. 

    Finally, Joe Holloway’s Escape The News can go with the national group, though he is still to be confirmed as a major foe. With this group he may be a wonder boy and he may be bargain.

    Mares For Money

    After record-breaking miles in their elims at Flamboro last week, what could stop the Ellamony Classic Final on Saturday, June 23 from going to Rocklamation or Warrawee Koine? The third morning-line choice, Strike An Attitude is only 5-2 and the fourth, Voelz Hanover is 3-1.

    This odds line is so far over 100 percent that a good price for a strong contender looms boldly in a crowd where the longest shot is listed 8-1 and the two probable favorites are both stunningly unexpected upsets in their elims.

    The defending champion, Dreamfair Eternal, deserves better than the 6-1 afforded her on the program. If any wager could be worth it, go with the tried-and-true woman of the event.

    Titan Trial

    The Meadowlands features the best free for all trotters in the Titan Cup this Saturday. All eyes will be on the “unbeatable” Arch Madness. Shipping back to America after a third-place effort in the coveted Elittlop, he seems to be the best. But, he has not met the ranks of Chapter Seven. In what was a weak division for a while, Arch Madness may have his first genuine rival.

    Chapter Seven trotted a magnificent mile in his qualifier. He won by 7 lengths with a :25.4 final quarter. If Arch Madness takes the lead, there is no way he can trot with Chapter Seven of he starts closing as he was recently clocked.

    Pacers To The Max

    Max Hempt was a breeder and owner of the once productive Max Hempt Farm and this stake gets his name after a few incarnations. Still, it is a primary attraction for glamour-boy pacers and it comes in three elim miles this Saturday, June 23.

    The first elimination is by far, the weakest of the duo. Verdad looks like he has a shot. He paced a first-over mile against older, conditioned pacers and won for fun. He draws the rail and looks to be primed to win and go to the final.

    The second elimination features the fast-closing Hurrikane Kingcole. Apparently, his charts show that he paced a 1:18.3 final three-quarters recently, which has been a questioned clocking. He broke in the North America Cup elims and missed the final but on gait there appears no way the colt is getting beat today. You might key him in an exacta if the odds fall too far.

    In his recent effort, I Like Dreamin sat second until he pulled the pocket and brushed to the lead, clearing at the half. He had to fight off Eastwood Blue Chip in a duel around the far turn, where I Like Dreamin prevailed. He can endure a horrible trip and with post 6, may have to.  

    Also put Mortal Zin in the mix. He got a pocket trip going against older, conditioned pacers but was nipped at the line. He should have woken up after that race and be ready to pace this week.  

    A Rocknroll Dance headlines the final elimination. But Bolt The Duer should be ready to go strongly this week. After a second-place effort to Pet Rock in the Art Rooney, he qualified and beat older pacers and looked good doing it.  

    The first James Lynch elimination has to be the most wide-open. Featuring top fillies like Shelliscape and Major Look, it is sure to be a close race. But the bettors will likely miss Darena Hanover. She was first over early, lost the lead and got shuffled for the rest of the mile last out. She snuck through the passing lane late to just miss winning by a nose. Since Pocono has a passing lane, it is possible that if that happens again, she will be there, though she can win with another route.  

    Thunder And Lightning For Ben Franklin

    Two elims for the Ben Franklin Stakes are on the big Saturday Pocono program, featuring some of the giant older pacing horses.

    Bettor Sweet and Aracache Hanover will seek redemption in their elimination. Though they will have to face Clear Vision, a rival from the Bettor’s Delight Final. Although Clear Vision won the Bettor’s Delight, Bettor Sweet was the one that showed he is much the best of the five-eighths ovals.

    Bettor Sweet paced ridiculous fractions in the Bettor’s Delight, going :25.3, :54 (:28.2), 1:21.1 (:27.1) and 1:48.2 (:27.1). All he has to do is get the right trip and unleash the gas he did at Tioga last Sunday afternoon.

    Aracache Hanover may not ship well to the U.S., as he did not prevail in the Graduate or the Bettor’s Delight but he paced a good mile in the Mohawk Gold Cup. Leaving the gate slow, he made up 7 lengths in the mile, with a final quarter of :26.1. That showed that he could close through fierce fractions. But if they are a little softer, possibly he can swoop on by for an upset.

    We Will See and Betterthancheddar headline the second elimination after their one-two finish in the Gold Cup. Ok Commander and Real Nice look to make this an exciting elimination. Although he was against weaker competition, Ok Commander is a misunderstood free-for-all pacer.

    The second Gregg McNair trainee entered in the two elims paced a wicked mile on the North America Cup under card. He got a pocket trip in the Preferred, popped the pocket and paced a sizzling :25.4 final quarter. If they go very fast up front, watch this pacer come flying through the stretch.

    Real Nice also has a good chance. From post 6, he won the Open at Yonkers, leaving fast and never looking back. He has shown that he can handle bad posts and looks to revive his campaign as a free for all pacer after a disappointing effort in the Levy series.

    Harness at Hoosier Park is going great guns and so can you when you play the Thursday night programs. TwinSpires players earn 10 TSC Elite Points for all wagers they make on those programs. Also, the Pick 4 features a guaranteed $5,000 pool (races four throuth seven). Post is 5:30 EST.


    After the North America Cup loss by even-money shot Sweet Lou, trainer Ron Burke made no excuses. Nor did he explain why his speedball was short for the first time. After a few days silence Burke met the press.

    “There are things I can do to help [Sweet Lou],” the trainer said. “He’s starting to grow up even a little bit more, so I plan to tinker with his equipment in the next two weeks.”

    Sweet Lou will not race again until he goes in a Meadowlands Pace elim this July, looking to get into the $1-million final and go back to being his fiery self.

    “I’ll look at hopple length, bridle and shoes to try to get him to stretch out a little bit more, try to get a little bit more out of him,” Burke told Evan Pattak at the Meadows.

    Burke said that he usually doesn’t “let loose” on his sophomores until the Adios Stakes, in August, “but with this one I’ll look for a better way now.”

    Burke confirmed that nothing bad happened to Sweet Lou in the Canadian classic. “He had two tough trips,” he said about his colt’s two races before the final, “and raced well both times.”

    Burke offered his opinion that this is an exceptional soph-colt pacing crop. “There are really five or six great horses … I’ve had a lot of great horses and they all got beat.” He said he still feels that Sweet Lou is the cream of this crop, citing the breathtaking North America Cup Final mile as an example. “The colts who went with him at the beginning of the mile were way back while he was still around at the wire. I’m not losing faith in him.”

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

    POSTED Jun 16, 2012

    The buzz about Sweet Lou’s loss in the North America Cup began even before a row of colts began to eat up the late stretch after a sizzling three panels. As it turned out, the three sweeping closers taking advantage of the fiery fractions were none of the outsiders we suggested could beat Sweet Lou.

    Thinking Out Loud won at 8-1 with Time To Roll second at 9-1 and Dapper Dude completing the trifecta at 15-1. Sweet Lou dragged home fourth.

    One horseman source we talked to shortly after the race said that Sweet Lou “looked sluggish in the stretch. Sluggish in one-forty-seven and four? The way he has dominated [so far] he should have drawn off and not been in a five-horse photo.”

    In our preview blog we mentioned that trainer Ron Burke had said Sweet Lou had gotten over a virus and we made note that there could be remnants of the bug to the colt. Burke had also shown concern in the elim victory, as we quoted him, because Sweet Lou did not draw off to win the race.

    Our source said, “Time to run blood counts, etcetera.”

    At press time Ron Burke made no comments about how Sweet Lou raced or came out of the race. We will follow up on the condition of the pacer in our blogs and tweets this following week.

    The Mohawk undercard didn’t result in any pacing winners based on our suggestions but we scored well with the sophomore trotters, scoring a big win in the Goodtimes with the colt Beer Summit. The trotter paid $19.20.

    The night before, at Pocono, we also scored with a Hambletonian hopeful when Stormin Normand won a Earl Beal, Jr. elim and paid $16.40. He defeated last year’s Breeders Crown winner Uncle Peter and our other choice, My Mvp, came in third. Our choices along with the big favorite Uncle Peter, resulted in a $121 triple.

    At Cal Expo we scored with two of the four winners that helped result in a $221.10 no-takeout Pick 4. Total Up won the first leg but only at $7. We were two for two when a better contribution to the so-far-a-winning combo, Cherry Tree Nicole, won and paid $15.40. We were second and fifth in leg three and third and seventh in the last leg, beaten by lesser odds. Our projected ticket was at least four times the price of the wining combo.

    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.

    Our Hambletonian Trail blog previews Trail races on weekdays as well as weekends for both divisions and reviews those events at the Hambletonian Society site.

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

    Get onto our mailing list now because shortly we will be making available some exciting information to help you play for profit. By clicking here you will be added to the list and be secure as a member of that list (we do not share the emails with anyone).

    News And Notes

    On June 16 trainer Mark Ford tallied his 3,000th victory as a trainer, making him the third youngest trainer to reach that plateau. It happened at Saratoga Raceway with My Gal Mykenna in a conditioned pace. Virgil Morgan, Jr. is the youngest trainer to reach the mark, followed by Bob Belcher.

    At Maywood Park on June 15, two elims were held to cast the field for next week’s $124,000 Maywood Pace. Uncle Smoothie won the first split, going wire to wire easily. He was the dead-on favorite and paid $3.20. NJ’s Big Deal, also the favorite, won the second split, paying $4.20.

    Rockincam, one of the older pacing division stalwarts, didn’t finish in last week’s Bettor’s Delight event at Tioga. Owner Steve Farrell said the five-year-old was a victim of atrial fibrillation, which is an irregular heartbeat. You might recall that this condition is what put See You At Peelers on the road to retirement.

    Earlier in the season we gave you Rockincam when he upset in the Dan Patch at Hoosier. Richard Norman trains Rockincam, a son of the speedy Cambest.

    Cal Expo’s season ended on June 16 and there is still speculation as to when and if the meet will start again. Ownership of the Sacramento harness meet is still in question. We will keep you posted from sources within about the state of the harness community as reports come in.

    The Meadowlands and Pocono Downs and Harrah’s Philadelphia have agreed to alternate dates for their older division events to keep fields full. Each track will host an Open race valued at $50,000 for the best of the divisions to keep the events competitive and loaded with the finest talent.

    The Open pace schedule includes a race at Pocono on July 7, Meadowlands on July 14 and Philadelphia on July 22. The Open mare paces go at Pocono on July17, Meadowlands on Aug. 10 and on Aug. 31 at Philadelphia. The Open trots are at Pocono on July 8, Meadowlands on July 27 and Philadelphia on Aug. 10.

    Cartoon by Thom Pye
  • Multi-race bonanza tonight at Churchill

    As if the Stephen Foster Handicap and three other stakes weren't enough to attract my attention to tonight's Downs After Dark program at Churchill Downs, the Louisville track has made the card even more appealing by adding a Pick 5 and Pick 4 to the proceedings.

    Races 4 and 7 kick off each of the Pick 5s with Pick 4s starting in races 1, 3, 5, and 8. Add rolling Pick 3s and doubles to the mix, and it's a multi-race player's dream especially since the Pick 3s, 4s, and 5s each have a $.50 minimum. TwinSpires.com has gotten in on the act, too, offering a 1-million points bonus on each of the four Pick 4s.

    It's enough horizontal action to make Jenna Jameson jealous, and it also means some races are more important than others. In this case, all eyes will be on the Stephen Foster not only because of its $400,000 purse and likelihood of determining the leader of the older male division but also because it is part of both Pick 5s and two Pick 4s (the Fleur de Lis is also part of both Pick 5s but only one Pick 4).

    The big question when dealing with both Pick 5s and the middle Pick 4 is what to do with Royal Delta whose best makes her the most likely winner of the Fleur de Lis, but we haven't seen her best this year, and she is almost a certain underlay in all wagering pools.

    Sterling Madame is my top pick, as I think she can have it all her own way under a sweetheart weight assignment of 115 (eight less than Royal Delta's impost and five off what she toted three weeks ago at Prairie Meadows).

    I like a couple prices enough in races 4 & 5 that if I beat the favorites there I'd feel silly not having Royal Delta on those tickets, so she's not a complete toss, but between Centre Court and Wise Dan, Royal Delta is the one I most want to play against especially since she's the shortest morning line price of that trio at 4-to-5.