• Stars Sprinkle Indiana Stakes

    POSTED Oct 31, 2012
    Believe it or not, the stakes season has not ended in the world of harness racing. Some more big events are on the horizon as 2012 sheds its final layer of skin. This week, the focus is on the Midwest. 

    Indiana harness racing rebounds from the big Breeders Crown weekend with a Nov. 3 program worth nearly a million dollars and featuring some of last week’s big names, as well as a few from the divisions that have shone elsewhere this season.

    We’ll focus on that program in this blog, as harness racing steps back a bit while the focus of horse racing takes the shape of the Breeders’ Cup, two days of thoroughbred racing championships at Santa Anita.

    ‘Derby’ Day

    The $200,000 Indiana Pacing Derby finds seven ornery older pacers on the bill, three of them back from the Breeders Crown Open Pace, won by Bettor Sweet. That trio is Foiled Again, Razzle Dazzle and Foreclosure N. They came from posts 8, 9 and 10, respectively.

    It’s difficult to imagine Foiled Again being upset here after a strong, overland journey in the “Crown,” where Golden Receiver, who had an easy trip, still worked to nose Foiled Again for second.

    Razzle Dazzle had absolutely nothing in that race. Foreclosure N made an outside bid late from live cover and may be the co-star in exotics, though he cannot be tossed out as an upset possibility.

    Iam Bonasera has made a good living in Indiana and will be bet by locals but the value will lay with the team of Foiled Again and Foreclosure N.

    Trottin’ Colt Stars

    The $260,000 Oliver Trotting Classic offers some glamour-boy trotters of national note another shot at a big purse. Hambletonian-favorite Uncle Peter is here, with trainer Jimmy Takter taking the reins. Critics have applauded Takter for being the best guide for the colt, who has been a finicky player all season, according to the trainer-driver. He recently qualified in 1:53 at Pocono to sharpen for this event. 

    Frost Bites K has been a favorite of ours from the moment the Hambletonian Trail brigade set sail in early May. He never made it to the big dance but has been competitive with a steady gait, amassing over $230,000 on the year. That may sound like nothing compared to Market Share’s million but “Frost” has earned it against some tough critters, including the Hambo winner. 

    Big Chocolate has also helped us cash a valuable ticket or two through the stakes battles and is showing some maturity as he nears four.  

    Kentucky Futurity runner-up Appomattox is part of a four-horse entry from Jimmy Takter and Frank Antonacci. Appomattox was seventh in the Crown final. Kentucky Sires Stakes final winner Fusion Man takes on the big boys; Bucket-winner Prayer Session shows up and Upfront Billy, who won at Indiana Downs on Oct. 27 claims home-field advantage.  

    Though this is Uncle Peter’s race to lose, Big Chocolate will offer price and deliver a strong race, we feel, and he gets our support. 

    There is a $50,000 Oliver Trot Consolation earlier in the program. World Cup is finally in a spot where he can use his class in league with his post and win one easily. It has been a disappointing season for the Frank Antonacci colt that showed far more promise than productivity. He may be headed for a big four-year-old season and start it here with a huge victory (you judge the value for his win offerings against six lesser-talented entries).

    The Circle Game

    The Monument Circle is worth $250,000. Look who’s also back from Canada; a few tough glamour-boy pacers who were in the path of a two-race reign by Heston Blue Chip, who won his elim and the final for soph-colt pacers in the “Crown” at Woodbine. Also, here comes A Rocknroll Dance, who did not qualify for the Crown final for his division.

    “Dance” went to the Crown elims after throat surgery, which is the only excuse for his poor performance and an excuse for a few races prior to the procedure that were less than characteristic. Trainer Jim Mulinix sends out Dance as part of a two-horse entry with Cane Pace champion Dynamic Youth. 

    Sweet Lou enters the contest off a smart but unproductive finish in the Crown final for trainer Ron Burke, who will also send Breakin The Law into the fray. Linda Toscano brings Bettor’s Edge, who finished third to “Heston” in Canada and Dapper Dude, who keeps battling this group with vague success, is also on hand.

    Then there is the mystery colt, Hurrikane Kingcole. Over and over he is heralded for his speed and he consistently burns it early or retains it completely in miles where so many have supported a winning effort from him. He never made the Crown final. What he will do with this group cannot be forecast. However, we should expect another fiery try, one that could result in making Dance and “Lou” work harder to dowse it.

    “Hurricane” deserves one more shot at using his speed for victory. You can make a case for Lou, Dance and even Bettor’s Edge but Hurricane may be the value of the bunch if he is ready to pace that mile we have all waited to see.

    Circles Of Fillies

    Eleven soph-filly pacers meet for the $67,400 Circle City mile. It’s a well-mixed group but one stands out for us: Blackjack Princess. She comes off some tough half-mile trips against tougher competition than she meets in this event. She could win on class alone with a strong, clear trip. Her win in the Shady Daisy at Tioga in September was no fluke, except she offered 21-1. We had been watching her and supporting her so we were not surprised. We won’t be surprised this time, either.  

    The Circle City for soph-filly trotters splits into two divisions worth $40,000 and $40,300. In division one we are looking at Northern Miss Hall for a minor upset. We think Canadian Justice will take the majority’s cash, leaving some odds for us to make supporting “Hall” as an overlay. 

    In round two we will let the public have Aunt Mel, an obvious favorite, hoping she will be over-played. This will leave a clear overlay status for Lindmeyourvictory. Her last two races show her fine pedigree and with good placement and a strong finish she could be the major upset of the stakes program.

    Ray Cotolo contributed to this edition.
  • Insider look at Breeders' Cup races

    With 180 horses pre-entered and nearly as many wagering options littered across 15 races, handicapping the Breeders' Cup World Championships can be daunting, but there is help.

    In addition to all the great handicapping information Brisnet.com has available at TwinSpires.com, this blog is a tremendous resource for handicapping insights both in general and on the sport's biggest races each weekend.

    Take a look at the video below for a discussion on horses to watch at this year's Breeders' Cup.

  • Music for handicapping/driving/flying/sitting in traffic

    POSTED Oct 29, 2012
    I used Sunday night to take a break from handicapping and put the finishing touches on my 2012 Breeders' Cup World Championships play list, which I present to you now.

    Although websites such as Mog make the space limitations of CDs and blank tapes non existent, I still try to adhere to a 75-minute play list.

    There is no central theme to the songs other than they are tunes I enjoy. I do try to mix a few current hits (e.g. "Blow Me [One Last Kiss]" & "She's So Mean") as a way of marking the year, but mostly it's just stuff I'm into that when I play it back in 2020 will hopefully remind me of the time I hit the Breeders' Cup Pick 6.

     1. "Break Ya Neck" by Busta Rhymes
     2. "Candy's Room" by Lifter Puller
     3. "Howl" by The Gaslight Anthem
     4. "Ruby Soho" by Rancid
     5. "Adderall" by The Hold Steady
     6. "Float On" by Modest Mouse
     7. "Banditos" by The Refreshments
     8. "Love You When I'm Drunk" by Mika
     9. "The Stars" by Jukebox the Ghost
    10. "Miss Atomic Bomb" by The Killers
    11. "Sometime Around Midnight" by The Airborne Toxic Event
    12. "Superstar" by Tegan & Sara
    13. "The Show" by Lenka
    14. "Puttin On the Ritz" by Taco
    15. "Blow Me (One Last Kiss)" by Pink
    16. "Anything Goes" by Patti Lupone
    17. "She's So Mean" by Matchbox Twenty
    18. "All Kinds of Guns" by Tilly & the Wall
    19. "Programmable Soda" by Tori Amos
    20. "Chips Ahoy" by The Hold Steady
  • Cotolo’s Harness Review, News And Notes

    POSTED Oct 27, 2012
    A dozen races on any night are tough to handle. Who, after all, finds a dozen races, no less on one program, that offer good wagering opportunities? But it was the night of champions, the best of the best in every division, so we approached the dozen Breeders Crown finals at Woodbine on Oct. 27 with all the tools we had available, looking for our usual suspects, overlays, and paying respect to the obvious favorites that seemed undefeatable.  

    What became of the night, we hope, was profitable for you. Our suggested contenders did well, though only one on top offered a victory among a slew of public choices. As well, we were not so adept at the upsets, though one of our second choices wound up to pay the most to win of all the races. 

    Our winner was Wheeling N Dealin, the frosh-colt trotter we thought would continue his win streak to nine races. He did just that, paying $4.20. Our pumped-up overlay exacta did not come through, as Caveat Emptor could only finish fourth. 

    The biggest upset of the night finished with our second choice beating our first. Rockin Amadeus orchestrated a crushing defeat to Captaintreacherous, who came up short with no particular excuse. “Amadeus” won to the tune of a $37 win mutuel. 

    Some voices of handicapping brought up a possibility for that upset, which like a few victories, seemed to favor first-over trips (or, as the case may be, offer a slowing inside lane). Captaintreacherous had little to offer in the last few yards of the mile, uncharacteristic to his style. The strongly favored Chapter Seven won the Open Trot racing the entire mile first over, while the European invader Commander Crowe had an easy trip on top until the same spot where Captaintreacherous tanked. 

    Maven defeated Check Me Out in the soph-filly trot, also by using some first-over tactics against a filly she could not defeat all season on any sized track. Check Me Out also tanked late, finishing third. It was another one of the obvious favorites we put in our first spot.  

    Choices we listed as win plays that were in the thick of the race were Sweet Lou and Golden Receiver, finishing second, and Rebeka Bayama and Market Share, finishing third.  

    Choices we included that finished by completing exactas—as we thought they would, only with different winners—were I Luv The Nightlife and Shelliscape. 

    Our exclusive Breeders Crown Countdown blog will offer closing comments this week, so check in for the aftermath entries. 

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

    News And Notes

    Trainer Jimmy Takter came into the 2012 Breeders Crown (BC) evening as the event’s all-time leader in purse earnings, was elected the Most Valuable Trainer, a title sponsored by Walsh Products. Takter had $6.3 million in BC earnings before he won with three students on Oct. 27: American Jewel, To Dream On and Rockin Amadeus.

    Driver Tim Tetrick became the first driver to win four BC events since the series was held on a single program. He drove Anndrovette, Chapter Seven, American Jewel and Heston Blue Chip to their victories.

    Long-time horse owner/breeder, amateur driver and harness lover Alan Kirschenbaum has died. The 51-year-old was a well-known comedy writer with many successful programs over the years. He was instrumental helping to keep harness racing in California as an activist for standardbred issues in the state. As of this writing the details of his passing are unclear. He was a friend of ours and of this column and we are profoundly affected by his death.

    There will be a new format for major race days this upcoming meet at Dover Downs with the top pace, the $30,000 Preferred pace moving to Thursday this season. On Tuesdays, the feature race will be a $23,000 Filly and Mare Open pace. The week’s top event for trotters, a $23,000 Open, is also now set for Tuesdays.

    Dover Downs’ opening day is Sunday, Nov. 4. The November and December racing schedule is Sundays at 5:30 p.m. and Mondays through Thursdays, post time at 4:30 p.m. During the first two month there is no live racing on Fridays and Saturdays.

    Beginning with the New Year, another race day, Saturday, will be added to the weekly schedule for January and February with Saturday and Sunday post time for weekend racing at 1 p.m. There are no change weekdays.

    All tracks are poised to cancel programs from Monday, Oct. 29 in lieu of the forecasted super storm Sandy, scheduled to hit the East Coast and go west to inland locations. As the area braces for an unprecedented climate trauma, updates will persist as to the continuation of all events.

    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 and for live coverage of the Breeders Crown elims and finals. 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
  • BC Betting Bits

    POSTED Oct 26, 2012

    Blame Edges Zenyatta in the 2009 Breeders' Cup Classic
    Last week, I talked about the misguided notion that big wins lead to big Breeders’ Cup profits — they don’t — and, this week, I want to offer some other tantalizing tidbits about America’s premier showcase for thoroughbred racehorses.

    I’ll start with recent form.

    As I pointed out in the 2012 Breeders’ Cup Betting Guide, a decent last race is essential to BC success. How essential? Since 1999, only two horses — Daylami (1999 Turf) and Midnight Lute (2008 Sprint) — have won a Breeders’ Cup race with a Win Factor Report “Form Rating” of less than 20 percent.

    Horses – 97
    Winners (rate) – 2 (2.1%)
    Return (ROI) – $12.60 (-93.51%)  

    The Win Factor Report is a computerized fair odds line that I created, which will be available to Brisnet.com users when the final entries are known. However, it’s worth noting that, as of this writing, there were 41 potential BC entries with a Form Rating south of 20 percent — including several likely favorites or near-favorites.

    (Click on image to enlarge)
    Let’s move on to what I will call the “home team advantage.”

    It is little secret that, in most professional sports, the home team has a statistical advantage. In fact, a 2007 study conducted by Oliver Entine and
    Dylan Small of the Department of Statistics at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, found that, in the NBA, home teams won nearly 61 percent of the time. In the NFL, the rate was 58 percent; in the NHL, 55 percent; and in Major League Baseball, 53 percent.

    Hence, the logical question: Does this home team advantage extend to thoroughbreds running over their "home track" in the Breeders’ Cup?

    The answer, it seems, is “yes.”

    In the past 13 years, horses that had their final prep at the track hosting the Breeders’ Cup event they were entered in have accumulated the following statistics:

    Horses – 179
    Winners (rate) – 19 (10.6%)*
    Return (ROI) – $457.50 (+27.79%)  

    Now, compare that to horses that last raced at a different track:

    Horses – 1,352
    Winners (rate) – 114 (8.4%)*
    Return (ROI) – $2,708.5 (+0.17%)  

    *There were 133 winners in 132 total races due to a dead-heat in the 2003 Turf.

    These latter numbers get even worse if the shipper’s last workout was also at a different venue:

    Horses – 895
    Winners (rate) – 78 (8.7%)
    Return (ROI) – $1,719.30 (-3.95%)  

    Given that horses are creatures of habit, I don’t think I’m going out on a limb by opining that animals that recently handled conditions similar to those they will encounter at Santa Anita on Nov. 2-3 will probably (as a whole) perform better than those that did not.

    Toward this end, history teaches us that, in Breeders’ Cup competition, steeds that faced large fields last time — since 1999, the average BC field has consisted of 11.8 runners — do much better than those that faced just a handful of rivals, as the following statistics show:


    Horses – 161
    Winners (rate) – 12 (7.5%)
    Return (ROI) – $136.40 (-57.64%)  


    Horses – 476
    Winners (rate) – 39 (8.2%)
    Return (ROI) – $995.30 (+4.55%)  

    Weekend Win Factor Reports

    10/27/12 Woodbine Harness
  • Only at Breeders' Cup

    POSTED Oct 25, 2012
    Any other day in America, if Wise Dan and Point of Entry were a part of a rolling double wager the will pay before the first leg would probably flash $6 on a $2 ticket (i.e., 2-to-1).

    Indeed, a win parlay connecting Point of Entry's Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational triumph ($3.50) with Wise Dan's Shadwell Turf Mile victory ($3.20) returned $5.60.

    So what are the chances that Point of Entry and Wise Dan win the Breeders' Cup Turf and Mile, respectively? According to William Hill it's 14-to-1. Translation: The $2 double with Wise Dan and Point of Entry is paying $30.

    Now, granted, there are a couple variables at play here: 1) William Hill is based in Europe and is likely under valuing American turf form (at least relative to the European shippers), and 2) these are the toughest fields either has faced in their careers.

    Still, the beauty and frustration of Breeders' Cup is that great horses can actually offer value and good horses get completely overlooked.

    As multiple Grade 1 winners in stylish fashion, Wise Dan and Point of Entry are both Horse of the Year candidates and are widely considered to be among the best American horses in training. Yet both will be 2-to-1 at a minimum.

    Imagine any other day of racing in the United States where either of these horses wouldn't be odds on, let alone 2-to-1! Maybe the Kentucky Derby itself where Big Brown, who in retrospect probably should have been 4-to-5, was 9-to-5 from post 20 in 2008.

    The frustrating side of this benefit is that Grade 1 winners win Grade 1 races, and good horses can come up and bite you: Court Vision comes immediately to mind. Of course that also means you get big prices on Grade 1 winners. Brilliant Speed and Pool Play, for instance, will both be at least $50 horses.

    One last thing about Wise Dan and Point of Entry. A six-race parlay on their last six wins (the former has won three straight and the latter five straight, but we'll just take their last three wins each) would return $205, but even if both won on Championships Saturday, they could key a Pick 6 that pays six figures.