• Cotolo’s Harness Review, News And Notes

    POSTED Sep 29, 2013

    It was a jam-packed weekend with Kentucky harness action and New York prestige, going Friday through Sunday. Here’s how it turned out for our suggested contenders at The Red Mile, Yonkers and the tracks from our horses-to-watch (H2W) list. 
    Kentucky Grand Circuit action began well for us on Sept. 27,  as we nabbed each of the Bluegrass Stakes for frosh-colt trotters, with the prices increasing as each win developed. Father Patrick won but only paid $2.10 (a price beginning to look like an overlay considering the colt’s magnificent record). Then, Oddson Almethyst went off the top choice, something we did not predict, and paid $4. The best hit was next, as Outburst won and paid $16.20. 
    At our The Breeders Crown Countdown blog we analyzed the New York Sires Stakes Championships at Yonkers Saturday night, where eight finals were worth $225,000 each. Our contenders did, indeed, turn out to be live entries but some went off favorites and to our chagrin, lost anyway. We had three winners, including the outrageously obvious He’s Watching ($2.10), Fool Me Once ($2.70) and one of the four second-highest paying winners, Social Scene ($10.20). Three others were second, one was third and the other broke and was eliminated at the start. 
    The countdown blog, in cooperation with the Hambletonian Society and TwinSpires, is your exclusive bettors’ aid for handicapping top contenders’ events heading toward the October classics. Check it out each week in league with our Thursday TwinSpires blog as we become closer to our live coverage of the eliminations and finals from Pocono Downs on Oct. 12 and Oct. 19. 
    Saturday at The Red Mile we once again backed Captaintreacherous (photo above), who put in his speediest effort to date, a 1:47.1 victory ($2.10). To hear Ray Cotolo's call of the race, click here.
    Our other Saturday choices resulted in just two thirds with Carracci Hanover and Wake Up Peter.
    Sunday at The Red Mile produced two seconds with Shared Past, the favorite, and Lindy’s True Grit at a surprising 29-1 ($8.20 to place). There were two thirds with Deadliest Catch and Mistery Woman. 
    $13.00 Blackwalls, Batavia
    $5.00 Littlebitofthunder, Rosecroft
    $3.00 Greg And Flex, Maywood
    The following are the horses that finished second or third along with their post-time odds. Special notes on those finishes follow. 
    Hit The Hill (9-1), Rosecroft; Blissfull Jessie (5-2), Northfield; Saywhatuneedtosay (2-1), Freehold
    Iemma Machine Baby (10-1), Northfield; Mythical Hall (16-1), Batavia; Skyway Titan (9-1), Maywood; Usefull Hanoer (6-1), Freehold
    News And Notes
    San Pail, one of the best trotters bred in Canada, makes his return to the track after more than a year, on Monday night at Mohawk. He only has five rivals in the $34,000 Preferred Trot, but the quintet includes Intimidate, arguably one of this season’s hot square-steppers. The Quebec owned four-year-old demanded attention last fall when he captured the Breeders Crown Final against a group including Hambletonian winner Market Share. Intimidate comes into the race with a four race winning streak which includes the $214,000 Credit Winner at Vernon where he defeated the best older trotters in North America. Trainer Luc Blais tried to race San Pail this year but he broke stride repeatedly.
    Another Canadian harness facility is in danger of extinction with the future of Hiawatha Horse Park looking bleak. “There’s no compensation for us. Just close your business down and basically file bankruptcy," said Hiawatha owner Jim Henderson. He laments the uncertainty of his track in a story noting that there is enough in their purse pool to operate for another two years but that will depend on the government. To read the story, and watch the video, please click here.
    What about changing harness racing’s Triple Crown? Many people don’t even know there are Triple Crowns for pacers and trotters, no less that a horse has to participate six races, at least, to win a “Crown.” Click here for a controversial essay about the sport’s business and the value of holding Triple Crowns.
    We have not been counting but we are aware that this season is already responsible for numerous world-record miles on all sized tracks. The industry puts speed at a high premium but, as readers of our material over the years know, the record-breakers are sometimes spotty performers and many of them get a speed badge based on the efforts of another horse’s shortcomings. Truly fast horses, ones that break records by cutting all the fractions and dismissing challenges (Captaintreacherous, I Luv The Nitelife and Father Patrick this season as examples) are the truly fastest in the sport and deserve holding speed badges. And, all in all, only the earned speed records matter when it comes to handicapping. Don’t be fooled by fast times; just be frightened by truly fast horses. 
    The progeny of trotting sires continue to be popular and ultra-valuable overseas. Offspring from Donato Hanover and Cantab Hall fetched the top prices at yearling sales in Italy and Sweden this week. In Italy the colt Toronto AS was sold for $265,000. He is a Donato Hanover product. In Sweden the filly Charlene Am, by Cantab Hall was sold for $95,000. Charlene Am was sold on the first day of the Swedish Kriterium sale. The average price of $22,500 was equal to last year but fillies were more in demand this year and the average price for fillies rose by 44 percent. 
    Pompano Park is set to kick off its 50th anniversary pari-mutuel season on Saturday, Oct. 5. This season will feature new wagering options as well as several new faces on the track. There will be a Pick-5 wager to go along with a Pick 3 and Pick 4. 
    Some of the new stables expected for competition include those of Jim Hardy, Chris Lems, Dave Stratton, Bruce Clarke, Jimmy Whittemore and Greg Wright. Returning stables include stock from Mike Deters, Wally Hennessey, Jim McDonald, Bruce Ranger, Joe Pavia, Jr. and Rick Plano. An addition of Sunday racing will begin in mid-November. 
    Extraordinary Extras 
    Indulge in many 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 your TwinSpires accounts. 

    Ray Cotolo contributed to this blog.

    Cartoons by Thom Pye
  • Super Saturday

    POSTED Sep 28, 2013

    It’s “Super Saturday,” a day when numerous Breeders’ Cup (yes, it’s that time of year already) preps take place. Below is a look at some of the action from Belmont Park:

    5th Belmont Park
    $400,000 purse. 1-1/8 miles (dirt).

    Let me start by noting that the Beldame is an invitational race and, given the field, I have to assume that my invitation to run was lost in the mail. Outside of the two marquee names – Royal Delta and Princess of Sylmar — the remaining contenders have a 14-for-75 record between them. Even worse, three of the four are exiting horrendous preps.

    Using my Key Race Ratings (the higher the number, the better), here are the last-race figures for each of the Beldame entrants:

    1-Roman Invader (0.9 in a restricted stakes)
    2-Princess of Sylmar (5.0 in the Grade I Alabama)
    3-And Why Not (2.0 in a restricted stakes)
    4-Royal Delta (2.5 in the Grade I Personal Ensign)
    5-Centring (2.5 in the Grade I Personal Ensign)
    6-Lady Cohiba (1.0 in an ungraded stakes race)

    Now, it’s tough enough to jump up in class and beat the likes of a Princess Sylmar or Royal Delta, but to do so after having faced the equine version of pro wrestling “jobbers” last time…

    To me, this race comes down to two things: 1) pace and 2) current form.

    On the pace front, I have a sneaking suspicion that Roman Invader might grab the early lead. She’s on the rail with a good “gate jockey” aboard — Junior Alvarado (21 percent win rate with “E/P” types according to Brisnet.com) — and her -6 last-race early speed ration (ESR) is on par with Royal Delta’s recent numbers. Lady Cohiba, the other early runner, is stuck outside and doesn’t always show speed.

    As a result, I think the pace will be honest at the very least.

    In terms of current form, I give Princess of Sylmar a slight edge. As I pointed out on my latest podcast, at this point in their respective careers, the 3.5-year-old daughter of Majestic Warrior actually has slightly more upside than the 5.6-year-old Royal Delta does, based on a study of age and performance conducted by college professor and horse owner Marshall Gramm. The fact that the youngster is getting three pounds from her elder rival is just icing on the cake.

    To me, betting the Beldame is all about price. Below are my fair odds and some brief — very brief — comments:

    1-Roman Invader (15-1): The only horse I give a shot to upset the favorites if she gets the early lead.
    2-Princess of Sylmar (9-5): She’s getting all the buzz, but might, indeed, be the value play.
    3-And Why Not (50-1): Because she’s not very good. Question answered.
    4-Royal Delta (1-1): Clearly the one to beat, but she’s not invulnerable.
    5-Centring (20-1): Can pick up the stragglers late.
    6-Lady Cohiba (15-1): Reasonably talented, but will need to work out a trip. Worth considering at a price.

    6th Belmont Park
    $400,000 purse. 1 mile (dirt).

    This race features the ridiculously-talented Graydar making his first start since annexing the Grade 2 New Orleans Handicap on March 30. Below are my fair odds and thoughts:

    1-Easter Gift (3-1 entry): He faced next-to-nothing in the Alydar (1.0 KRR), although his speed and pace figures in that race were OK.
    2-Graydar (6-5): The one to beat, but last time he came off a layoff of this magnitude, he laid an egg.
    3-Praetereo (8-1): He’s improved since being acquired by Drawing Away Stables and looks like an overlay.
    1A-Jackson Bend (3-1 entry): This guy has banked over $1.7 million in his career, but his recent LSRs have been just so-so.
    4-Hym Book (8-1): He dons blinkers for the first time, which might help given the average ESR of -1 in the Kelso… but I doubt it.
    5-Souper Speedy (7-2): Looks like the probable pacesetter and he did earn a zero LSR in the Remsen as a juvenile… interesting.
    6-Brujo de Olleros (10-1): Faced much lesser last time, but won in convincing fashion, earning a late speed ration (LSR) of -4.

    7th Belmont Park
    $400,000 purse. 6 furlongs (dirt).

    1-Forty Tales (6-1): This guy suffers from two fatal flaws: 1) No early speed and 2) No late speed. Yet he’s 7-2 on the morning line. I’ll pass.
    2-Justin Phillip (5-1): He usually runs well, but he’s no win machine. Looks like an underlay to me.
    3-Bahamian Squall (8-1): Solid ESRs in Florida and finished second to Justin Phillip last time despite a troubled trip; could improve.
    4-Strapping Groom (5-1): It’s doubtful this guy will be able to get away with the soft fractions he recorded in the Forego (-3 ESR), but he’s not a need-the-lead type — he has ability.
    5-The Lumber Guy (7-2): Defending champ looks primed to defend his crown. Yeah, his last race stunk, but it was clearly a prep for today. Trainer Michael Hushion is great with horses making their second start off of a layoff and The Lumber Guy’s workouts have been sizzling.
    6-Palace (15-1): Beat my top contender last time and has to be considered, if only for a minor award.
    7-Candyman E (20-1): Ranks fourth in speed, fifth in ESRs and sixth in LSRs. Not impossible, but definitely a reach.
    8-Private Zone (4-1): There’s not a lot of early lick in this race and this dude is dead-game; big shot at what figures to be a fair price. (At press time, 16 of the 26 six-furlong races carded at Belmont Park during the current fall meet had been won in wire-to-wire fashion.)

    8th Belmont Park
    $600,000 purse. 1-1/4 miles (inner turf).

    1-Tannery (1/1 entry): Part of an entry with Laughing. This gal is the ying to the latter’s yang — a deep closer with good LSRs.
    2-Mystical Star (6-1): This girl has consistently outrun her breeding and could be tough given the right pace scenario.
    3-Somali Lemonade (8-1): Doesn’t win much — just 3-of-14 lifetime — but she’s usually in the hunt.
    4-Valiant Girl (15-1): Captured an ungraded stakes in mediocre time in her most recent outing; needs to show more.
    5-Kissable (12-1): Favored in the Waya* last time and had tons of trouble… the problem is her previous efforts don’t look good enough, even if one puts an “X” through that race.
    6-Qushchi (4-1): Looks to be improving. The only question is today’s distance, which — believe it or not — is shorter than any of Qushchi’s previous tries.
    1A-Laughing (1-1 entry): She’s the only Group I or Grade I winner in the field and she figures to be on the engine in soft fractions once again — should prove tough to overhaul.
    7-White Rose (20-1): This filly ranks second in overall LSRs and I think she has a reasonable upset chance despite the 20-1 fair odds I assigned her.

    * The Brisnet speed figure for the Waya appears to be an aberration. Handle with care.

    9th Belmont Park
    $600,000 purse. 1-1/2 miles (turf).

    3-Nutello (8-1): Bid and faded in his US debut, hinting at an improved performance today.
    1-Imagining (7-2 entry): Blinkers went on last time and they led to a stellar performance in the restricted Idle Rich Stakes.
    2-Big Blue Kitten (8-5 entry): Only out-of-the-money finish came at Ascot. Other than that, this five-year-old son of Kitten’s Joy has been a model of consistency. The one to beat.
    4-Slumber (10-1): Has started exactly two times since Nov. 27, 2011.
    2B-Real Solution (8-5): I’m still not sold on the Arlington Million champ, but he adds to the strength of the Ramsey entry.
    5-Twilight Eclipse (4-1): This guy has a bad habit of hanging in the stretch, but he’s unquestionably talented.
    1A-Boisterous (7-2 entry): He’s been favored in eight of his last 10 starts, including two (of three) Grade I events, which tells you all you need to know about how good this horse is.
    2X-Joes Blazing Aaron (8-5 entry): Son of Graeme Hall could be the key to the race. How can a horse that was just claimed be the key to a Grade I contest, you ask? Well, it’s because the Ken and Sarah Ramsey-owned gelding is likely in this race to do one thing — ensure a decent pace for his more esteemed entry mates. And his latest ESRs — a -7 in a 5 ½-furlong sprint (hey, there’s a good prep for today’s 12-furlong tilt) and a -8 in a 1 1/16-mile affair — lead me to believe Joes Blazing Aaron is up to the task.
    6-King Kressa (10-1): I would like this guy if it weren’t for the presence of the horse I just talked about, Joes Blazing Aaron. Simply put, King Kressa appears to be a need-the-lead type and he will surely face pace pressure today.
    7-Little Mike (12-1): He’s another frontrunner, but one that I think has seen his better days. Needs to be respected based on his past class, but I’d insist on a price if you’re betting on last year’s BC Turf champ to hit the board for the first time in 2013.

    10th Belmont Park
    $600,000 purse. 1-1/4 miles (dirt).

    1-Ron the Greek (15-1): Appears to have lost a step, as both his speed figures and LSRs have been mediocre (at best) of late.
    2-Orb (3-1): It’s time for the Kentucky Derby champ to put up or tell his supporters to shut up… and I think he might just do the former. If one takes the (reasonable) view that the son of Malibu Moon was short in the Travers, one is left with an inescapable conclusion: that was a heck of an effort. Not only did Orb earn a 108 Brisnet speed rating in that Grade I affair — the best last-race number in the field — but his -3 LSR is also tops. A potentially slow pace is the only drawback.
    3-Last Gunfighter (8-1): His effort in the Pimlico Special could win this… but his last two tries temper my enthusiasm.
    4-Vitoria Olimpica (20-1): The field he beat in the ungraded Alydar was only slightly stronger than the Jacksonville Jaguars’ defense… or offense… or special teams… you get the picture. That said, his speed and pace digits from that race were pretty good — and he’s got the right running style.
    5-Alpha (10-1): After more bad runs than a pair of panty hose in a rose garden (hey, it’s late and I’m scrambling to get this column finished), Alpha annexed the Grade I Woodward in gutty fashion. On the down side, the son of Bernardini was able to draw clear early lead while recording a -1 ESR that day — don’t think he’ll have that luxury today.
    6-Flat Out (6-1): Seven-year-old is ultra-consistent, but he has the look of a major underlay today.
    7-Palace Malice (7-2): His versatility leads me to believe he is among the best three-year-olds in training — if not the best. However, I wonder how much his outstanding effort in the Travers — he stumbled at the start, raced wide and came charging late — took out of him.
    8-Cross Traffic (3-1): Once again, the fact that Todd Pletcher trains the speediest frontrunners in the race (à la the Travers) creates headaches for handicappers. My suspicion is this guy will be sent and Palace Malice will stalk, but who knows? If Cross Traffic does set the pace, how fast he goes early will likely determine the outcome of the Jockey Club Gold Cup. Personally, I’m a bit dubious of Cross Traffic’s ability to handle 10 furlongs and would not bet him at odds of less than 7-2.

    FREE Brisnet Past Performances

    In honor of "Super Saturday," I'm teaming with TwinSpires and Brisnet to offer free past performances, featuring my pace figures, for some of the bigger races at Belmont Park and Santa Anita on Sept. 28, 2013. Enjoy!

    Belmont Park (races 5-10)
    Santa Anita Park (races 7-10)

  • The Ultimate guide to betting entries

    POSTED Sep 27, 2013
    I've lamented before about the horseplayer compulsion to pick THE winner, and nothing upsets that need more than coupled entries.

    When it comes to the pari-mutuel pool, though, you don't get extra credit for saying Real Solution will win the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic rather than "the Ramsey entry." The flipside benefit to that is even if you're wrong then you can still get paid of Big Blue Kitten or Joe's Blazing Aaron win.

    The biggest reason touts don't like coupled entries is because they think it automatically hurts their value. Yes, if you like the less likely winner of a coupled entry, then you will undoubtedly get a lower price, but does that mean you're getting less value?

    In the case of the Flower Bowl where I see Laughing as the most likely winner but Tannery as the best chance for an upset, the answer is NO. In the case of the Hirsch where I see Big Blue Kitten as a far more likely winner than either of his entrymates, the answer is YES.

    Let's look at the Flower Bowl where the aforementioned Alan Goldberg-trained duo of Laughing and Tannery is 8-to-5 on the morning line. Those odds represent a 38.5% chance of either winning. If you see Laughing as a 5-to-2 choice (28.5%) then that leaves a 10% chance for Tannery, or fair odds of 9-to-1.

    Both prices are overlays to me, as I see Laughing winning this race 33% of the time for fair odds of 2-to-1 and Tannery getting the job done 20% of the time for fair odds of 4-to-1. Even if the entry is 3-to-2 then Tannery would have to be 6-to-1 individually to offer better value (Bet 100 races, the entry wins 53 times and pays $5 for $265. Alone, Tannery wins 20 times and pays $14 for $280. If she's 5-to-1 then the return is only $240).

    But I do most of my betting in the pick "N" pools, and in this case the Flower Bowl entry makes things easier on me because I like both horses and can now single. This is the opposite situation as the Hirsch where I think coupling the Ramsey horses lowers my expected value on them while increasing it dramatically on Slumber, who I like second off the year layoff.

    Individually, I could make a case for either Big Blue Kitten or Real Solution at a certain price, but I think their coupling will make them a betting interest that people feel they "have to use" in the multis, and while either winning wouldn't shock me, I just don't think the value is there when I like a horse better, anyway.

    The other race on the stakes portion of the Belmont card with coupled entries is the Kelso Handicap that includes the Lapenta-owned duo of Easter Gift and Jackson Bend. Neither would be favored individually, and getting "two for one" with these appeals to me since I don't fully trust Graydar off the bench giving weight. Souper Speedy will also be on my tickets.

    There are no coupled entries in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, which is too bad from a wagering standpoint because I think coupling the Mott and Pletcher horses (Flat Out and Ron The Greek for the former and Cross Traffic, Palace Malice, and Vitoria Olimpica for the latter) would inflate the price on others, including my top pick Last Gunfighter.

    Palace Malice has actually run faster than Cross Traffic has early on occasion (e.g. the 1 1/4-mile Kentucky Derby), but based on their last couple races I think it's fair to assume Cross Traffic will have the lead down the backstretch.

    Palace Malice, Orb, and Flat Out will try to get to the leader before Last Gunfighter does, but at 10-to-1 I'm hoping a sort of "pressers duel" develops between those three and that they go too quickly on that expansive far turn. That leaves Ron The Greek and Last Gunfighter to close, and I'll take the latter, though for the Pick 4 I'll use Flat Out as an "A" as well.

    That was a lot to go over, so let me make sure I'm clear about my picks (especially since they're not all listed above!): Royal Delta (Beldame), Souper Speedy (Kelso), Strapping Groom (Vosburgh), Santulli/Goldberg entry (Flower Bowl), Slumber (Hirsch), Last Gunfighter (JCGC), Mucho Macho Man (Awesome Again), Cleveland Indians (American League Wildcard contender).

    Want even more insight? Check out Joel Cunningham in that Breeders' Cup purple!

  • Our Old Kentucky Home

    POSTED Sep 25, 2013

    The harness scene changes this month’s end to the prosaic, pastoral Kentucky, adorned with golden plumes of wildflowers and deep with equine history. Some of the year’s best pacers and trotters ship to Lexington for the traditional Grand Circuit meeting at The Red Mile. It’s the last stop before the Breeders Crown and the stars are coming south for the big cash events on the two-turn mile with the clay-colored surface. 
    We pick up the action for week one on Friday, Sept. 27 and guide you through Sunday, Sept. 29 as week one presents Bluegrass Stakes for two- and three-year-olds and Allerage Stakes for the older set. The Sunday, Sept. 29 contenders’ list appears in the H2W list under The Red Mile below.
    Don’t forget to check out the horses-to-watch (H2W) list below for live contenders in overnights all over North America. The exclusive list is hot with possibilities for win, place, show and exotics—however you use them, use them. The H2W produces some mighty prices and excellent exotic elements that boost combo prices.
    TwinSpires offers special bonuses for Hoosier Park throughout the harness meet. Check out the Hoosier details here. 
    Our featured Breeders Crown Countdown event this week is coverage of eligibles from the Sept. 28 New York Sires Stakes Champion races at Yonkers Raceway. For that analysis to help you with your wagering decisions, Go to Breeders Crown Countdown.

    Friday’s Bluegrass

    Three divisions each of the Bluegrass Stakes for frosh-colt trotters and filly pacers adorn the Sept. 27 program. The top stars of the divisions are on hand to compete for total purses over a half-million dollar. 

    The colt trotters’ trio of stakes each has a seven-colt field for a purse of $90,100. 

    In the first split, Father Patrick, one of the season’s top division-dominating steeds, comes off of two spectacular races, both wins (William Wellwood Memorial elim and final at Mohawk). He has lost only one of eight starts in his career and that was a photo-for-win second in an overnight at The Meadowlands. He is simply the best of the young trottin’ boys and impossible to bet on or against. Look for exotics. 

    In round two for the colts, six foes try to beat the obvious public choice, Exodus Hanover. He is worth aiming at with an upset, preferably Odds On Amethyst. He has speed and does not have to face “Patrick” here and may go wire to wire at a decent price.

    In the colts’ finale, we have to look for Outburst to overcome Southwind Spirit. The latter may offer no odds to whet a bet while Outburst is improving and could take the winner’s photo for trainer Noel Daley.

    The pacing fillies will race for just shy of $260,000 in their triptych. Precocious Beauty is the star of the first split and she will leave from post 8 to continue a recent ruling of this division. Her 1:50.2 speed badge is almost creepy for this division. However, due to post 9, Somethinincredible may be the overlooked contender and therefore the best bet in a strong field that will test Precocious Beauty to her limit. 

    In the second filly pacing round, Caviat Shelly is a budding daughter of Somebeachsomewhere, whose frosh product in both sex categories are doing far better than most are being wagered to do. Take her here, her post only increases the value.

    Finally, split three leads us again to an outside post as we give Bahama Blue another chance to join the Somebeachsomewhere-winning-frosh club and, again, with a near-guaranteed double-digit price for the support.

    Saturday In The Bluegrass 

    Somewhere Fancy won’t take as much money as he should but this frosh-colt pacer is ready for prime-time action. His recent Mohawk mile is monstrous, though he lost, but it shows that trainer Linda Toscano has high hopes for this good colt.

    Next on the frosh-colt pacing agenda, we have to go with Let’s Drink On It. Coming off two brutal trips, he may race back to his Metro elim win, which is a race that beats them all here. He might not fool many bettors for all his class, so you may wish to key him on top in exotics if you don’t like the win price, especially since chaos rules in all that follow him home if he is first.

    Again for $77,000-plus, the third frosh-colt pace offers a possible outsider with the Tony Alagna-trained Gold Rocks. He is in great form but may not be given the respect he deserves for winning the Lou Babic elim and final, no less his big race at Freehold before coming here, where he was third as the dead-on choice after a horrid trip around four turns. He has the breeding, for sure, and should offer the price we like.

    Speaking of prices, next for this division comes Carracci Hanover. Bound to be a longshot, he has not proven unworthy of his second place finish two back at 36-1. His Champlain Stakes fifth was not a bad race and the bettors knew it, reducing him to 13-1. Watch out for him here, he could surprise and leave maiden status.

    Soph-filly pacers are also in flight with with a single $122,000 event. There are no easy pickings in round one for these gals. A case can be made for many of the 11 involved. That being written, judge the value of Aunt Caroline for yourself. She is in fine fettle for this and shows signs of being a good earner.

    Soph-colt pacers, those glamour boys, also go at it again, this time in two $95,500 Bluegrass Stakes this Saturday. What we have here, of course, in the first split for them is another arena for the fabulous Captaintreacherous. It’s a far better field to conquer than last week’s timid group at Hoosier but this year’s soph colt pacer has added glitter to the glamour division and should be able to handle them with little effort. Can you scrape up a worth exacta or triple from his highness? That’s your business; we are going to watch and revel in the magnificence of this guy.

    Split two is another shot for one of our “Jug” choices, Wake Up Peter. Still looking for his first win this season he has been batting with the big boys as trainer Tony Alagna’s other colt, pacing in the shadow of Captaintreacherous. Toss out his Jug from post 8 and give this guy another chance to pace his Cane Pace mile, which here would win it over these and pay off well.

    H2W Legend

    Review our choices and follow the wagering at the prescribed track. These are possible contenders we have judged from reviewing races.

    The horses’ names are listed beneath the name of the track after the date they will be racing. The race in which they are entered (R and race number) follows. If a + is in front of a horse’s name it means it is appearing on the list for the second (and last time) because it failed to win the first time it appeared. An “ae” signals the horse is entered but on the also-eligible list. Types of wagering on any of the H2W listed horses are based on your judgment. If you have any questions, email us at TwinSpires.


    9/27/13, Armbro Barnes R1; +Mythical Hall R4; +Haste R4
    9/28/13, Blackwalls R5

    9/28/13, +Useful Hanover R5; +Saywhatuneedtosay ae R8; +Newsam R9

    9/27/13, Moira’s Bliss R13
    9/28/13, +Livelikeurdying R9; +Surf La R12

    9/26/13, Greg And Flex R3; Skyway Titan R7
    9/27/13, Zeller’s Island R8

    9/27/13, +Bohemian Spell R12

    9/27/13, Flying Lucia R1; +Bench’s Beauty R2; Iemma Machine Baby R3; Twinky R4; +Masked Lover R8; +Blissfull Jessie R9; Felicia Hall R10; Twin B Shasta R13

    Red Mile
    9/29/13, Shared Past R5; Mister Herbie R7; Clear Vision R9; Mistery Woman R10; Deadliest Catch R11; Lindy's Tru Grit R12; Lauderdale R13

    9/28/13, +Hit The Hill R4; Techno Paysan R4; Crown Time Yooray R7; +Littlebitofthunder R12

    9/28/13, +St Lads Speedy ae R3

    Ray Cotolo contributed to this edition. 

    Top photo by Thom Pye
  • Cotolo’s Harness Review, News And Notes

    POSTED Sep 21, 2013

    Before the weekend results and news, here is how the best of our suggested contenders did at the Delaware County Fair meet from Sunday, Sept. 15 through Thursday, Sept. 19 (Little Brown Jug day). All horses are in order of price paid, highest to lowest amounts, with show prices included for place horses. 


    Kennairnmachmagic, $18.60
    Supreme Day, $8.40
    Lismaraslady, $7.80
    Future Night Train, $5.60
    I Luv The Nitelife, $3.20


    Jerseylicious, $5.40, $3.80
    Crown Time Keeper, $5.00, $5.00
    Coffeecake Hanover, $3.20


    Emeritus Maximus, $5.00
    Wake Up Peter, $3.80
    Mannerism, $3.60
    Sailer Eddie, $3.60
    Zambrano, $3.00
    Milliron Pete, $2.60

    Our highest priced winner, if played with the race favorite in an exacta (perfecta), paid $48.20. The Jugette first elim heat exacta paid $9.60. 
    With the bridge-jumpers out in full force—$215,000 in the show pool—Captaintreacherous swayed home wire to wire at Hoosier on Sept. 21 in 1:49.4. The brilliant pacer faced practically nothing like the talent he has beaten this season in a display much like a qualifier. 
    We supported two trotters to strongly contend the Centaur Trotting Classic at Hoosier and the better-paying steed won. Uncle Peter was all out late and won, paying $15.40. 
    At our The Breeders Crown Countdown blog we analyzed the Milton Final at Mohawk with aplomb, nabbing Rocklamation with a correct scenario of failed speed late. The crafty closer paid $27.10. 
    The countdown blog, in cooperation with the Hambletonian Society and TwinSpires, is your exclusive bettors’ aid for handicapping top contenders’ events heading toward the October classics.  Check it out each week in league with our Thursday TwinSpires blog.


    $15.20 Lady Ashlyn, Northfield
    $4.60 Shadowonthebeach, Rosecroft
    $4.40 Painite, Vernon
    $3.00 Michael’s Dream, Rosecroft 


    The following are the horses that finished second or third along with their post-time odds. Special notes on those finishes follow. 


    Townline Kriss (9-1), Northfield; Livelikeurdying (5-1), Lebanon    


    Masked Lover (22-1), Northfield; Caveat Empton (8-5), Vernon; Leg Up (10-1), Freehold 

    Oddly enough, one of our list members at Lebanon, Big Ben’s Canyon, was beaten by Milliron Pete, who you can see above was one of our Ohio contenders. Also, “Canyon” went off higher than any horse we ever included on the H2W. Canyon finished seventh at 385-1. 
    News And Notes
    A horse we gave out last year when he won and paid the best price to date of his career (winning the Art Rooney Final at Yonkers) is now the fastest winner on a half-mile track in the history of the sport. At the Delaware County Fairground, on Little Brown Jug day, Pet Rock nipped A Rocknroll Dance to win the Winbak Pace in 1:48.1. Now a four-year-old, Pet Rock holds the world record for a mile, five-eighths and half, all established within the past two months. 
    The connections of Hambletonian-winner Royalty For Life skipped action in Ohio and announced the colt will compete at The Red Mile in the Kentucky Futurity on Sunday, Oct. 6. 
    Trainer George Duchame told Kathy Parker of Horsemen & Fair World about the plans. After the colt won the Hambletonian, Ducharme mapped out a conservative schedule for the trotter, with a start in the Bluegrass the first week at Lexington and then skipping the Kentucky Futurity. Royalty For Life’s powerful victory in the Canadian Trotting Classic prompted the change in plans. 
    Trainer Chuck Sylvester also plans for Pennsylvania Sires Stakes champion and Hambo third-place finisher Spider Blue Chip, who lost in Ohio, to compete in the “Futurity.” And Creatine, who we supported in the TwinSpires Player Pool when he won an elim for the Hambo at 5-1, will also start in the Futurity.
    Googoo Gaagaa, last year’s trotting star with a pacing sire, was upset in a FFA trot at Maryland’s Great Frederick Fair. Cool Colby defeated “Goo,” whose owner-trainer is Richard Hans (he also drove Goo). The 2012 sensation, who was defeating all the Hambo contenders before August (not having a trotting sire, Goo was never eligible to the classic race), Goo had health issues that dowsed his sophomore season. At four he has not had much success, racing mostly in his home state of Maryland. 
    Last Sunday was the final night of live harness racing at Toledo’s Raceway Park, an historic half-mile track actie since opening in 1959. Among various events throughout the evening were guest announcers who had called the action at Raceway Park, including Sam McKee, Steve Cross, John Pawlak, Ayers Ratliff and Ron Sobczack. Two brand new harness tracks are being built in Ohio and will offer better purses and increased opportunities to the Ohio horse industry than had Raceway. The 2014 racing season will be held at a brand new facility, Hollywood Gaming at Dayton Raceway.
    Extraordinary Extras
    Indulge in many 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 your TwinSpires accounts.  


    Cartoons by Thom Pye
  • Handicapping Made Easy

    Awhile back I discussed how one could use past odds and purse values to quickly handicap a horse race. Today, I want to expound upon that idea.

    It is little secret that the betting crowd is the best at determining which horses are likely to perform well and, conversely, which horses are likely to perform not-so-well in a particular race. Like most speculative markets, the pari-mutuel market is generally efficient. Anybody who thinks a 30-1 shot wins as often as a 3-1 shot hasn’t gone to the racetrack very much… or has been sniffing too much horse manure.

    Simply put, the odds are meaningful — and not just today’s odds. The odds in a horse’s past races are important too, because, in a very real sense, they reflect the animal’s realistic chance of winning the race(s) in question. What’s more, for those trying to assess a horse’s talent, the odds offer a great way to do so — quickly and efficiently.

    Take, for example, the third race at Belmont Park on Friday, Sept. 20. 

    For a key to the past performances posted below, click HERE.

    (Click on image to enlarge)

    Without looking at the tote board, class figures or any other traditional gauge of ability, one can see that Shanghai Bobby is the horse to beat. By concentrating on each horse’s last three races and finding its median odds, a picture of the race contention begins to develop:

    3-Shanghai Bobby (1.3)
    2-Dads Caps (1.9)
    4-Purple Egg (2.4)
    1-Slan Abhaile (3.1)
    5-Tenango (3.4)

    Now, let’s throw median purse value* into the mix and see what happens:

    3-Shanghai Bobby ($1 million)
    4-Purple Egg ($85K)
    1-Slan Abhaile ($82K)
    5-Tenango ($82K)
    2-Dads Caps ($62K)

    *Any means of assessing the class of the races can be used; purse values are just easy and straightforward.

    Given this data, it’s pretty easy to see why Shanghai Bobby was made the 3-5 favorite. Not surprisingly, he won and paid $3.20.

    I know what you’re thinking: Sure Derek, finding a 3-5 shot is easy… but it doesn’t pay for a three-day-old hot dog at the concession stand. Can the same kind of analysis ferret out a price horse or two?

    Oh ye of little faith. Let’s take a look at the eighth race on Friday’s card:

    (Click on image to enlarge)

    Median Odds

    6-Ol Donyo (2.1)
    7-Saturday Nthe Park (2.2)
    5-Girl Code (3.2)
    2-Flash Forward (4.5)
    3-Ruby Lips (8.9)
    4-Toasting (19.1)
    1-Let Me Entertain U (58.3)

    Median Purse Value

    4-Toasting ($300K)
    1-Let Me Entertain U ($250K)
    2-Flash Forward ($100K)
    3-Ruby Lips ($100K)
    5-Girl Code ($85K)
    6-Ol Donyo ($60K)
    7-Saturday Nthe Park ($49K)

    In this case, the picture is not so clear, as the horses with lower median odds have been competing for lesser purses and vice-versa. Hence, I would not take the past odds at face value, but would, instead, add the rankings in each category to see if that helps clear things up:

    6-Ol Donyo (1+6= 7)
    7-Saturday Nthe Park (2+7= 9)
    5-Girl Code (3+5= 8)
    2-Flash Forward (4+3= 7)
    3-Ruby Lips (5+4= 9)
    4-Toasting (6+1= 7)
    1-Let Me Entertain U (7+2= 9)

    It does. Ol Donyo, Flash Forward and Toasting are all tied for the best overall ranking (7) and, thus, using median past odds as the tie-breaker, the former would be the play, with Flash Forward the second choice and Toasting the third selection.

    The race finished 6-2-7, with Ol Donyo paying a generous $16.40 to win and the Ol Donyo-Flash Forward $2 exacta returning $37.40.

    Give this method a try on some races this weekend and see what you think—it’s fun, easy… and, at least on Friday at Belmont Park, profitable.

    Pace Profile Play of the Week

    (Click on image to enlarge)

    Both my Pace Profile Report and Win Factor Report list Triple A. Rating as a vulnerable favorite, so I’ll try to beat him in both the win pool and the exotics. The horse I like the most is 4-SAILOR GULLY, a six-year-old gelding making just his second start since Sept. 14, 2011. Races at today’s distance (5 ½ furlongs) at Penn National are typically won by speed horses (surprise, surprise) and Sailor Gully may be the quickest of the quick. The son of Stormy Atlantic earned a -11 early speed ration (ESR) in his comeback race and held on well to finish third — on the turf, a surface that is most kind to horses with a late kick. The 70-day layoff since that race concerns me, but trainer Michael Pappada is top-notch, especially with horses dropping in class off of a good effort (40 percent wins in 15 tries).

    I’m also intrigued by 7-SMALL GIANT, who was claimed back by trainer David Wells for $6,250 after he lost him (via the claim box) for $4,000 to conditioner John Locke on Aug. 1. Small Giant has great tactical speed and has faced — and beaten — tougher in the past.

    Suggested Play(s): EXACTA 4,7 with 1,3,4,7.