• Cotolo’s Harness Review, News And Notes

    POSTED Sep 30, 2012
    The Red Mile’s Grand Circuit meet is the focus of the sport for the next two weeks. The weekend was filled with Bluegrass stakes for two- and three-year-olds of both gaits.  

    Our campaign began on Friday, where we tried to beat favorites that were spot-on fast and furious. We had a 6-1 second with Deadliest Catch, who completed the $24 exacta with a favorite. Beyond that we were fourth with Here’s Johnny, had a breaker that finished off the board and a scratch with Arctic Tale. 

    Saturday got lucky for us as a disqualification placed our choice, Rockin Amadeus first in another Bluegrass event, paying $10. Captaintreacherous won again later paying two and change.  

    Three others we gave out finished second: Sir Richard Z Tam (2-1), Dedi’s Dragon (2-1) and Bettor’s Edge (7-1). Rockaround Sue (48-1) finished third. 

    Sunday, Sept. 30’s Bluegrass features were for soph-colt and soph-filly trotters. Our only strike was mild and, as it turned out, quite predictable. Guccio won a colt split as the dead-on choice, paying $2.40. In the other colt episodes, Gym Tan Laundry (3-1) was fourth and Beer Summit (3-1) got fifth. 

    The fillies also handed over an obvious choice as Check Me Out broke her own world record and won, paying $2.80 in one split. Bluff (7-5) skipped a bit at the top but recovered to finish third and Personal Style (3-2) broke at three-quarters while charging in second and finished sixth. 

    The final weekend of The Red Mile’s Grand Circuit meet presents the age-old Kentucky Futurity episodes for colts and fillies of the soph-trotting ilk. The events are embedded in harness racing history (for some info, click here) and is one of the last outposts for heat racing. 

    The Hambletonian crews will be aboard, most of them engaged in heat racing for the first time, which could provoke any number of upsets. We will be covering the events with complete analysis’ in our preview blog this week, including the exclusive Breeders Crown Countdown blog. 

    Other top events are on the agenda for two- and three-year-olds of both gaits and some other divisions. These are the last big races before eight divisions drop into the box for the Breeders Crown elims. Stay with us at TwinSpires for great harness-betting action and stabs at the best prices the sport offers. 

    Review all of the season’s great harness action at the archives we produce at Hambletonian Society’s page.

    News And Notes

    The biggest news this week is that the Breeders Crown series will return to Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs in 2013. We were on site in 2010 at the Pennsylvania track to report on both weekends—elims and finals—and hope to be there again with the press corps next year, exclusively for TwinSpires in league with the Hambletonian Society, which handles the series. We will cover this year’s series at Woodbine live but not on site.

    Tom Charters, president of the Hambletonian Society, was enthusiastic about the partnership.

    “The opportunity to return to Pocono Downs in 2013 is very exciting,” he said. “Mohegan Sun and the Pennsylvania horsemen were terrific hosts in 2010.

    “Building on that memorable record-breaking night [in 2010], the Hambletonian Society is looking forward to partnering with them again on what will be a spectacular event for the entire harness industry.”

    Pocono was the first track to host all 12 races on a single program, worth $6 million.

    Western Fair in Canada opens Oct. 12 with a 7:05 p.m. EST post. The London, Ontario oval will host racing every Monday and Tuesday at 4:05 p.m. and Friday and Saturday nights at 7:05 p.m. through Dec. 31. The first major race on the schedule will be the $200,000 (est.) Forest City Pace for pacing mares, slated for Saturday, Nov. 17.

    Herve Filion has accepted an invitation from Rideau-Carleton Raceway to drive on its Sunday, Oct. 7 program. The 72-year-old will make his first Canadian driving appearance in over a decade.

    Filion, a native of Quebec, has spent most of his life living and racing in New York. He sits second in North American in lifetime victories with 15,180, his record being surpassed this year by Dave Palone. His career earnings are nearly $90 million.

    In the standardbred industry’s Top Ten poll, the filly Check Me Out continues to maintain first place. It is uncommon for a soph-filly trotter to hold the first spot, no less keep it for as long as has Ray Schnittker’s dynamic filly.

    One horse that is eligible but won’t be racing in the Breeders Crown is For A Dancer. The soph-filly trotters connections announced they are retiring her for health reasons. She had a pretty good go at the races at two and three. She won the Lady Suffolk in May and an Empire Breeders Classic elim and final in June but she was never a challenge to the division’s super filly, Check Me Out. 

    Extraordinary Extras

    Indulge in many 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 Saturday’s ticket produced two winners, Gibbs ($10.60) and Whistle Pig ($13.40). 

    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 and receive a free copy of a classic horseracing fiction book by clicking here.  

    Check out special podcasts available for beginners and veterans of harness betting, a new series available free so you can learn more to bet more and win more at TwinSpires. Click here.

    Cartoon by Thom Pye
  • Time to shine, the TCI weekend preview

    POSTED Sep 28, 2012
    If San Pablo wins the Jockey Club Gold Cup then Joel Cunningham of PM Advertising will shine my shoes on next week's preview.

    I'll stop short of calling San Pablo the most likely winner of the East Coast's most prestigious race for older males, but he's certainly likely enough given his expected price, and even though Todd Pletcher's name is usually enough to attract attention that may not be the case in the JCGC since San Pablo is not one of the race's six Grade 1 winners.

    I'm as interested in the Jockey Club Gold Cup for who will win this race as for what it can mean to the Horse of the Year picture. As Rolly Hoyt said on Twitter, "only [a] couple [of] runners left with potentially historically significant seasons to merit [a] vote over undefeated dual classic winner" I'll Have Another.

    I disagree in the sense that I'll Have Another is the default Horse of the Year option, but I agree in the sense that people banging the Horse of the Year drum without running in Horse of the Year races puzzle me.

    For instance, even with a Breeders' Cup Classic win, I'd be hard-pressed to vote for Mucho Macho Man as Horse of the Year since that would mark his only Grade 1 win, but horses like Camelot, Dullahan, Fort Larned, Frankel, Game On Dude, Hymn Book, Ron The Greek, and Wise Dan are no brainers to me as Horse of the Year if they win out, and that last win comes in the Breeders' Cup Classic.

    Other potential Breeders' Cup Classic winners might have to do more if their connections want the gold statuette. Mucho Macho Man, for instance, could go in the Clark. If Wise Dan won the Mile then the Clark could give him the boost he needs.

    I realize I'm mostly alone not only in my zest for the Eclipse Awards but assigning "standings" to each division this far out from the end of the season (and granted, my "standings" are as loosely defined as the voting guidelines themselves), but Eclipse Awards help quantify the prestige horses run for (they also run for money).

    No Breeders' Cup Classic winner has earned Horse of the Year honors since Curlin in 2007, and this weekend's races will go a long way to define which Classic entrants can claim the gold statue with a win on November 3 at Santa Anita Park.

  • Thinking Small

    POSTED Sep 27, 2012
    I’ve had a bad couple of weeks on the betting front.

    My best handicapping angles and methods have taken an extended vacation from winning and, for the first time since I started betting seriously, I lost my head on Monday and turned a small losing day into a major red-ink debacle.

    But I realized something as my selections were spitting out the bit at the 1/8-pole (or, perhaps, I re-realized something): I don’t handle losing very well… and that’s probably never going to change.

    For better or for worse, we are who we are. Unlike the man or woman “trapped inside” a body of the opposite gender, no amount of surgery can help folks like me reach the sane bettor within — that little voice pleading with us not to bet the eighth race at Thistledown simply because our fifth-race “goodthing” at Arlington Park imploded like Vince Young’s pro football career.

    We can kick ourselves for being idiots in this regard — a surgeon may be able to help with a shoe trapped... well, someplace it’s not supposed to be trapped — but, ultimately, overcoming psychological issues, habits and addictions is no easy feat (just witness Dr. Drew’s “success” rate).

    It is especially difficult when one is trying to change a single aspect of their behavior, but not the behavior as a whole. For example, while most of us would probably agree that one can avoid alcoholism by not drinking, how many of us believe that an alcoholic can successfully manage his/her addiction simply by drinking less?  

    In other words, there is a difference between quitting and controlling. Yet, the latter is what sound money management at the racetrack is all about: passing bad races, seeking value, taking the good with the bad — still gambling, just smart gambling.

    So, with this in mind, I have decided to steal a page from Howard Sartin’s book.

    Who is Howard Sartin, you ask? Well, in addition to being a very controversial figure, Howard “Doc” Sartin was the founder of the Sartin Methodology, a form of pace analysis still used by many handicappers today.

    According to Sartin, in 1975 he was asked to counsel a group of truck drivers who were also degenerate gamblers. Rather than preach abstinence or attempt to delve into the roots of their destructive behavior, however, Sartin took a different tact, a tact that became the rallying cry of his methodology.

    Sartin realized that this group of truck drivers had a problem with gambling not because of the gambling per se, but rather because they lost money as a result of it. Hence, his novel solution: “The cure for losing is winning.”

    Of course, this is tantamount to Sigmund Freud telling women that the cure for one of his better known theories is to consult that surgeon I was talking about earlier. On the surface, such a notion seems silly, almost childish. Of course, the cure for winning is losing! The cure for baldness is hair, but that doesn’t help guys with receding hair lines, does it?

    Still, there is something to what Sartin says, something even a little profound. The fact is my batty betting is always triggered by the same thing — losing. When I’m winning, I wager like a pro. I treasure every dollar earned and every dollar bet; I structure my bets based on the value they offer; I pass races that appear to be dubious (for whatever reason).

    When I’m in the throes of a losing streak, I do the opposite. I throw money around like I’m Floyd Mayweather at a strip club; I let the tote board alone dictate value; I froth at the mouth. (That last bit isn’t true, but it conveys my demeanor rather well, I think).

    Hence, it seems to me that I have two options if I want to wager successfully: 1) Quit betting irrationally during extended losing streaks; 2) Avoid extended losing streaks.

    As you might expect, I’ve tried the former time and time again with varying degrees of failure, but the latter? Not so much. So, just for grins, I decided to look into it.

    Of course, the first thing that came to mind as I pondered how to avoid extended losing streaks was finding ways to increase my success rate (a higher percentage of wins equals a lower percentage of losers and, as a result, fewer long losing streaks).

    Toward this end, I looked at the average winning odds of my best methods and found that, with few exceptions, most were in the 5-1 area. My “Top LSR” method, for example, has averaged a $12.70 mutuel this month and a 51.4 percent ROI, which sounds great until one considers that method selections have won just 23.8 percent of the time and are 0-for-9 since Sept. 16.

    This got me to thinking: What if I restricted my play — at least the bulk of my play — to horses with lower odds. Clearly, I’d still be looking for overlays (this must always be the case if one hopes to win long term), but by focusing on shorter prices, I’d surely cash more tickets, right?

    To test this theory, I used my Win Factor Report (computerized fair odds line) and looked for the following:

    A) Fair Odds of less than 3-1.
    B) An in-the-money (third or better) finish last time (within seven weeks of today’s race).
    C) A 25 percent Win Rate or higher.
    D) A 0.25 Class Rating or greater.
    E) Last-race Brisnet speed figure equal to or better than today’s par.

    I then added the crucial ingredient to this small-overlay concoction: morning line odds or post-time odds greater than the horse’s fair odds, but less than 5-1.

    (Click on image to enlarge)

    Somewhat surprisingly, the morning-line odds criterion produced better numbers (40 percent winners, 24.7 percent ROI in August and September) than the post-time odds criterion did (38.0 percent winners, 14.1 percent ROI), but both techniques provided an abundance of profits, as well as consistency.

    So, the next time you find yourself in the midst of a wagering slump, give this lower-odds approach a try. It won’t make you rich in a day, but it might keep you from going mad... as you gradually pile up the profits.

    FREE Past Performances for 'Super Saturday'

    Click the link below to get your free Brisnet past performances, including my speed rations (ESRs and LSRs) for the six graded stakes races at Belmont Park on Saturday, Sept. 29, 2012

    Belmont Park Past Performances with Simon Speed Rations and WFR Fair Odds

  • Using herd dynamics in handicapping

    editor's note: The Thomas Herding Technique two-year-olds patterns of motion analysis report is available at Brisnet.com and profiles many of the juveniles who competed in maiden races at Del Mar & Saratoga this summer as well as stakes races throughout North America. What follows below is a guest blog from Kerry Thomas regarding how handicappers can apply THT's insight to wagering on two-year-old races. For a sample of the THT 2yo PoMA report, click here (.pdf).

    Two decades ago, when I was studying wild Mustangs in the Bighorn Mountains, I had no idea I’d someday use what I learned about equine communication and herd dynamics to write a handicapping blog.

    But here I am after my theories on herd dynamics and emotional conformation, which are actually just nature’s way, helped pick the longshot winners of the most recent two Kentucky Derbys: Animal Kingdom and I’ll Have Another.

    I'll be the first to admit I am not a handicapper, but I can look at a group of horses in motion on a racetrack or in a pasture and tell you which one is the leader, dominating the others and literally controlling their motion with its presence.

    My company, Thomas Herding Technique, is not strictly a handicapping company by any means, but the handicapping information has turned out to be a valuable byproduct of my research. Herd dynamics are real, and they can provide a wealth of information for people looking to predict how a race will turn out or understand why horses run in certain ways.

    Brisnet.com asked me to write this blog to coincide with the launch of the 2012 THT Two-year-olds Patterns-in-Motion Report. That page includes a detailed sample from the report, previous comments on the aforementionedKentucky Derby winners, and this year's report itself.
    The report was produced by carefully watching (and re-watching from multiple angles!) almost two months of two-year-old races at the top summer tracks in America. I analyzed more than 120 races, mostly at Del Mar and Saratoga. The report runs from mid-July through mid-September and was designed as a scouting report for the fall two-year-old races and beyond.

    Think of it as a talent evaluation of the racehorse’s mind. A horse’s psychology--its mental aptitude--is an extremely important part of a racehorse. It’s also one of the least appreciated and understood. One of my favorite sayings is, “The mental capacity of the equine controls the physical output of the athlete.”

    When physical ability is even remotely equal, the mental makeup of an athlete usually makes the difference between winners and losers.

    The reads on distance aptitude in the report are among the most practical nuggets of information for owners, horsemen, and handicappers. A horse’s mental makeup is the single largest contributing factor to its distance profile.

    From a betting standpoint, I recommend looking for opportunities to bet the horses I identify as having high group herd dynamics and those with good time-in-motion skills when they are going a mile or more around two turns, especially in big, competitive fields. Likewise, look to bet against the horses I identify as being overloaded in individual dynamic or those with sprinter profiles when they try to run in longer races and in bigger fields.

    Horses that profile out leaning toward the individual dynamic tend to burn their energy up quicker in big fields, in herd chaos traffic, and in positional/pace battles with other individual dynamic horses.

    Big group dynamic horses are always higher on the herd structure than the big individual dynamics. That is the way it is in nature, and that is the way it plays out on the racetrack, especially as the distances increase.

    One of the great thing about using herd dynamics as part of your handicapping equation is that no one else is looking at horses in this way, and the odds sometimes will be very generous.

    Ultimately, the pilot of the ship is the horse’s mind, and by betting on horses with strong minds and understanding why horses run the way they do, you’ll be putting yourself at an advantage.
  • Autumn Almanac

    POSTED Sep 26, 2012
    This week the Grand Circuit arrives as the leaves turn orange and the grass stays blue, so to speak, in Lexington, Kentucky. The other color involved is red—The Red Mile. Thanks to Nick Salvi, who is representing the two-week GC stint, we have a lot of the important facts concerning the first big weekend of harness racing. And thanks to veteran equine photographer Tom Tanner, we have the photo accompanying this blog:

    Freshmen Follies

    Frosh colt trotters and filly pacers take the stage as the main attraction of a 12- race program on Friday evening, Sept. 28. 

    The trotting colts go in four nine-horse divisions, each worth $101,000.  

    The first highlights Kentucky-bred star Mystical Dew, recently the American National winner in Illinois. Also getting high marks in the field are Longwell, Major Athens and Pine Credit. Bound to be overlooked is one of two maidens, Here’s Johnny. The Ross Croghan-trained son of Deweycheatumnhowe has been racing well enough to cash two big checks in only three starts and may awaken at a price. 

    The second colt split brings Fashion Blizzard from a big win at Yonkers to take on eight others, including My Man Can and recent winner Jacks To Open. We suggest the 9 horse, Arctic Tale, who won’t get the action he deserves due to the trio just mentioned.  

    Caveat Emptor leads split three for Ray Schnittker but this is a tough group. No doubt Spider Blue Chip will haunt Ray’s charge and Possessed Fashion is bred for speed. Give your support to whichever is least wagered upon; it doesn’t look like a major upset here. 

    The colt-trot nightcap is a tight fit, with three maidens and six that have only won a single race. We’ll go with the Chocolatier maiden from the rail, Deadliest Catch. John Duer’s lightly raced fella has one second to his resume but here, on good behavior, he could win his first. Certainly Duer in the bike will help bring the price up. 

    Pacing fillies race in a trio of nines, each for $108,700. The first division features the recent world-record setting I Luv The Nitelife, once again taking on Parlee Beach. We suspect the price play is Miss Madi M from the wood.  

    The second division pits Authorize and Carol’s Desire in an evenly matched field, though the former is bound to go off the public choice. Want Answers from the rail should be in the mix as the best candidate for an upset. 

    In the final filly race, Nikki Beach comes in off a win and now she faces three-time winner South Pacific. For a price, consider Real Mozartist from the rail, with Yannick Gingras probably wanting to be the engineer on the engine all the way.
    Saturday’s frosh presentations on the 12-race card are Bluegrass colt pacers in five divisions for purses over $425,000.  

    Trainer Tony Alagna has brought Captaintreacherous to Kentucky where the headliner continues his campaign. The Somebeachsomewhere colt has three sub-1:50 wins to his credit and comes into his Bluegrass division from a brief freshening. For us, this is the point where there is no competition worth supporting. Let’s watch and see how fast he goes this time. 

    Earlier on the program, Bob McIntosh has Dress The Part primed for this Bluegrass division but once again we go with Dedi’s Dragon, a colt on the improve from the Ron Burke stable.  

    In the third division Fool Me Once makes his stateside debut for trainer Mark Austin but we will be all over Sir Richard Z Tam for the Lachance boys.

    Next, we will take back Rockin Amadeus, who was second for us up north at 14-1. He might not be near that this week but he could make a cool exacta with Teresa’s Beach sitting behind him.

    The fifth freshman split could also belong to an Alagna property—Wake Up Peter. Red-hot Scott Zeron is up and this colt will be fired up from post 2, for sure, though the price is negotiable.

    Saturday’s Sophomore Sizzlers

    The big Saturday card also hosts three-year-old pacing colts and most of the marquee players arrived to race for $100,000 in each of the two Bluegrass divisions. This season, members of this division have been scorching the miles, many managing to break the three-quarters record but failing to knock that final quarter out of the park. This has made for some swift opportunists and longshots.

    Thinking Out Loud tries to regain some respect since losing everything after the $1-million North America Cup. He will again meet the foes that have been beating him, including A Rocknroll Dance. However, sharp from Ohio comes Bettor’s Edge and he certainly cannot be ignored as the upset here. As well, beware of Pet Rock, who devoured horses in Ohio, just not the “Jug” crowd.

    In division two Bolt The Duer, one of the “swift opportunists and longshots” (remember this year’s Adios?) meets Sweet Lou again and if that one can fire too quickly for three-quarters, “Bolt” has another chance at being super fast. He cannot do it on his own (at least he has not shown he can), so he will stalk the apparent leader, “Lou.”

    We don’t know what happened to Dapper Dude in the Jug but it did not seem to be a general flaw. He can bounce from that defeat and be much better here, especially if he takes the Bolt route, saving ground and doing what he did in Canada with a wide and stealthy close.

    The pacing fillies split into a pair of $70,000 divisions.

    Jugette-winner Darena Hanover takes on first-heat Shelliscape and the top filly, Romantic Moment, as well as Pennsylvania-heroine Big Mc Deal. Let’s take Ramalama again, though she bombed in Ohio.
    The other split features the veritable American Jewel, facing off against Economy Terror and the darling of New Jersey, Sarandon Blue Chip. There is one way to go against the trio and that is to give Rockaround Sue another shot at an upset, too. She was all right in Ohio but her trip cost her dearly. On this oval she may prove much better. 
    More race analysis’s from The Red Mile will appear at the Breeders Crown Countdown as soon as Sunday’s races are drawn. Always check the exclusive blog that, along with the Hambletonian Society and TwinSpires, covers major activity in that could affect the 2012 series of champion-making events, again this year on a single card at Woodbine. Keep up to date on great betting opportunities that don’t appear in the regular TwinSpires blog.
    Ray Cotolo contributed to this edition.
  • Include Me Out left out

    In a year of "wide open" Eclipse Award divisions, one filly routinely gets left out of division leader discussions, and that's Include Me Out, whose pairs of Grade 1 and Grade 2 wins easily stands tallest among her peers in the older female division.

    No other older female has multiple Grade 1 wins routing, and the two fillies who would most likely be favored in the Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic--Awesome Feather and Royal Delta--have no Grade 1 wins among them this year. Both champions are competitive at the Grade 1 level, but it is past time for them to show us that this year.

    Include Me Out should have the clearest cut path to an Eclipse Award, but that she doesn't enforces trainer Ron Ellis's feeling that her reputation (or lack of one) is the victim of an "East Coast bias" among the press.

    "To tell you the truth, I've been a little insulted by the lack of respect my filly has gotten," Ellis said Tuesday during America's Best Racing's weekly media teleconference. "She's proven she's the best filly on the West Coast. ... Usually when [East Coast horses] hook our California horses, reality sets in. It just feels like we're not getting as much credit."

    It's widely accepted that if Awesome Feather were to win the Breeders' Cup Ladies Classic that she would deserve champion older female honors, and that is an idea that flies only because she is based on the East Coast. If a West Coast-based or Midwest-based older female won the Ladies' Classic off a restricted and listed stakes win then we'd be hearing about all the weak competition she faced all year.

    Truth be told, I see Awesome Feather as the most likely winner of the Ladies' Classic at this point, and she certainly could go on to win another important race in the fall to seal a championship (and maybe even Horse of the Year with a Clark victory?), but to think that the Ladies' Classic would be enough for an Eclipse is ridiculous.

    Don't get me wrong, Include Me Out still has to prove it, and here's how:

    1. Win the Breeders' Cup Ladies Classic on November 2 at Santa Anita Park. Obviously if she does this, she's the older female champion unless someone from that division were to win the Breeders' Cup Classic.

    2. Win the Zenyatta Stakes on Saturday at Santa Anita with no other Grade 1 winner winning the Ladies' Classic. You wouldn't know it by the buzz she gets, but Royal Delta hasn't won a Grade 1 race this year, and needs to sweep the Beldame & Ladie's Classic to get my Eclipse Award vote. I'd also vote for any multiple Grade 1-winning Ladies Classic winner over Include Me Out even if the latter wins the Zenyatta.

    "Most accomplished" does not mean "fastest" or "best", but it is a mantle that deserves respect, and I agree with Ron Ellis that Include Me Out isn't getting enough respect as a two-time Grade 1 winner and four-time graded stakes winner this year. In an era when so many fans lament abbreviated campaigns, Ellis's frustration that Include Me Out isn't viewed as a divisional leader certainly has merit in the face of Awesome Feather's exultation off two non-graded stakes wins.

    I'm cheerleading for Include Me Out now because I'm not sure she'll be at the top of this division by the end of the year. Truth be told, I'm for Amani in the Zenyatta, Royal Delta in the Beldame, and one of those two in the Ladies' Classic even though I think Awesome Feather is the most likely winner. So, yeah, Include Me Out is up against it the next five weeks, but that doesn't mean she deserves to be ignored now. She's a major player in the division, and ignoring her in the wagering going forward doesn't mean her accomplishments should be ignored now.
  • Cotolo’s Harness Review, News And Notes

    POSTED Sep 22, 2012
    Wednesday, Sept. 19 and Thursday, Sept. 20 at Delaware, Ohio, resulted in a parade of public choices. That, as our readers know, is not the kind of atmosphere where we thrive.  

    On Sept. 19, Jugette day, the first or second choices in 17 races won 65 percent of the time. That was just an overture to Little Brown Jug day, when there were 20 races, with 85 percent going to the top two choices.  

    On “Jug” day we scored only in The Ms Versatility Final, where Frenchfrysnvinegar won and paid $7.60 (one of the second choices) and our old pal Pantholops finished second at 45-1. That was a perfecta worth $192.20.  

    Of the two outsiders we suggested to present the best value in the Milton Final on Sept. 22 at Mohawk, Rocklamation came through, paying $48.50.  

    The New York Sires Stakes finals at Yonkers on Sept. 22 produced three races where we suggested plays. Two of three won.
    Coraggioso took the soph-colt trot mile and paid $11.  

    Major Bombay, who we backed unsuccessfully in the Jug only a few days ago, caught our eye in this mile and he won it, paying $18.

    News And Notes

    Frosh-pacing-superstar Captaintreacherous got a taste of The Red Mile on Sept. 20 in a morning qualifier. The colt is in preparation for Grand Circuit stakes engagements in Lexington, Kentucky.

    Tim Tetrick sent the Tony Alagna-trained-Captaintreacherous to the lead from post 4 and rated the colt through fractions of :29.4, :58.2 and 1:27, sending him home in :26 for a 1:53 mile. Stablemate Emeritus Maximus and Sir Richard Z Tam were 3 lengths behind.

    Captaintreacherous is aiming to wipe out another field, this time in the Bluegrass Series on Sept. 29 and the International Stallion Stakes on Oct. 6. After a second in his career debut on July 20 at the Meadowlands, the Somebeachsomewhere colt won five races, including three in sub-1:50. He has banked $741,337 at two so far, well on target to make it a million-dollar season and hope to come back sound at three.

    After being away from the races for almost a year, $1.6-million winner Define The World returned to his home track of Kawartha Downs to qualify in 2:00.2. The seven-year-old trotter has recovered from knee surgery. He was Canada’s representative to the Oslo Grand Prix in Norway and the Elitlopp in Sweden in 2010 and 2011; he was off since November of last year. John Bax trains him.

    Pompano Park opened its 48th season of live harness racing on Sept. 19. Racing has a 7:05 p.m. post time. The south Florida oval’s racing schedule includes 140 programs from mid-September through the end of June. Programs will be conducted on Wednesday and Saturday nights for the first three weeks with Mondays being added beginning Oct. 8.

    From Nov. 20 through April 6 Pompano will race four nights a week (except Christmas Eve, Christmas and New Year’s Day) with the addition of Tuesday evenings. The balance of April and the month of May will revert to a three-nights-a-week schedule with the season ending in June with programs two nights each week.

    The Breeders Crown is the next target for all the top horses in their divisions. Click here to get to  the exclusive Breeders Crown Countdown blog.

    Extraordinary Extras

    Indulge in many 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 and receive a free copy of a classic horseracing fiction book by clicking here.  

    Check out special podcasts available for beginners and veterans of harness betting, a new series available free so you can learn more to bet more and win more at TwinSpires. Click here.
     Cartoon by Thom Pye
  • Weekend Value

    I talk a lot about value betting, so, in this week’s column, I thought I would graphically illustrate what I’ve been jabbering about.

    I’m going to do that by taking a peek at some of the marquee — and a few not-so-marquee — races on Saturday and offer my betting suggestions and fair odds. Let’s start with the ninth race at Belmont Park, the Grade II Gallant Bloom Handicap:

    (Click on image to enlarge)

    Many will view this event as a virtual match race between the millionaires in the field, Turbulent Descent and Musical Romance… I’m not so sure.

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    To begin with, I’m not convinced that Musical Romance is the same horse she was last year. Notice that in her last five races of 2011, the daughter of Concorde’s Tune recorded exactly one “poor” late speed ration (figure of -15 or less, highlighted in red in the past performances above). Yet, this year, poor LSRs have become the norm — regardless of track or surface.

    The 11-1 fair odds assigned by my Win Factor Report (a computerized fair odds line) might be a little high; on the other hand, I think the 5-2 morning line is definitely too low.

    As for Turbulent Descent, she loves to win, loves the distance and is entering this race with — horns and trumpets, please — some conditioning, which was not the case the last time she faced Musical Romance in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint.

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    On the negative side, Turbulent Descent simply isn’t very fast and her LSRs are just mediocre. I believe she’s the on to beat, but I’d try to get value by betting the exacta as follows:

    10-8 (at fair odds of 14/1)
    10-4 (16/1)
    10-9 (21/1)
    8-10 (21/1)
    8-4 (76/1)
    8-9 (101/1)

    Next, let’s move on to Parx Racing where a couple of $1 million purses are up for grabs (yes, you read that right).

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    We’ll start with what might be the most anticipated event of the day — the Grade I Cotillion Stakes.

    Since it drew only four entrants, let’s take a look at each one:

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    COMMENTS: The maiden win was impressive, but the subsequent route efforts have been just so-so. James Toner trainee is likely to offer some value, but I have a hard time picturing her in the winner’s circle barring major improvement.

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    COMMENTS: What makes Questing especially tough is that, although she certainly runs fast early, she runs even faster — relatively speaking — late, as evidenced by the fact that she’s recorded three consecutive positive pace profiles (see the “Profile” column above). Add to that a field of rivals without much early zip and it’s easy to understand why Questing is 1/1 on the morning line.

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    COMMENTS: On the plus side, this undefeated daughter of Smart Strike tops my Win Factor ratings. On the negative side, My Miss Aurelia and jockey Corey Nakatani will need to take matters into their own hands — early — if they are to have any chance of springing the minor upset. The nice thing is Steve Asmussen’s stable star does have the early foot to put pressure on Questing, the question is: do the horse, and the connections, have the will?

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    COMMENTS: Her one race on dirt produced speed and pace figures that simply aren’t good enough to win this. Yeah, maybe if Questing and My Miss Aurelia fight tooth-and-nail for the lead, Dixie Strike stands a shot, but I don’t see that happening.

    In the 10th race at Parx, the Grade II Pennsylvania Derby, it looks like Alpha is going to get yet another soft pace to close into. I’d take anything over 7-5 faster than you can say “Acclamation.” I’d look for value in the exacta, using 7-Csaba and 8-Macho Macho underneath at fair odds of 12-1 on both combinations.

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