• Cotolo’s Harness Review, News And Notes

    POSTED Aug 31, 2013

    One big winner and a slew of participating contenders in exotics made up the first two days of the holiday weekend of harness racing. The horses-to-watch list was filled with in-the-money finishers this week—in fact most of the horses listed were first, second or third. 
     
    The biggest event of the weekend was the Metro Stakes for frosh colts at Mohawk and for the third-straight year we handed readers the winner. On Aug. 31, however, the public overlooked the winner as Boomboom Ballykeel won and paid $23. 
     
    The favorite, Western Vintage, was second and the exactor came back $66. There was a two-sulky careening in the stretch that caused an opening for a 45-1 shot to finish third. Anyone playing a triactor with an “ALL” for the third spot (a play we never endorse) lucked into a $1,318.80 triactor. 
     
    In the Metro Consolation, our choice, Somewhere In LA, closed the favorite but was not able to negotiate a second-over trip and finished fifth. One of the colts we liked last week in a Metro elim, Carracci Hanover, finished second in this consolation at 36-1, paying $17.90 to place and $8 to show.
     
    In the Simcoes at Mohawk we were third with High Bridge, who also closed a favorite. The horse we thought would be the public choice, Lindys Tru Grit, won. There is a case where finding the value far after we hit our deadline changes the wager. Oddly enough, “Grit” paid $9.20. Sheesh. 
     
    The second Simcoe was a surprise, as we highly regarded Bluto and loved him at post time odds of 6-1. But a tough trip found him getting the lead on the outside at three-quarters, only to hang and finish fifth. The favorite won. 
     
    Both of our suggestions in the frosh-filly final at Mohawk were off the board. Ali Blue was fourth and Bahama Blue was eighth. The huge favorite won the She’s A Great Lady Final. 
     
    In the Canadian Pacing Derby, A Rocknroll Dance (2-1) did not bounce, winning sternly against a strong field where Sweet Lou (one of our choices) made an unusual break and Pet Rock finished off the board. 
     
    The Breeders Crown Countdown blog, the Hambletonian Society and TwinSpires’ bettors’ aid for handicapping top contenders’ events heading toward the October classics, is live. Check it out each week in league with our Thursday TwinSpires blog. 
     
    H2W RESULTS 
     
    $17.20 Wisenheimer, Tioga
    $11.40 OK Amelia, Ocean
    $8.80 Indefinite Leave, Ocean
    $4.80 Livelikeurdying, The Red Mile
    $2.90 Wishing Stone, Yonkers
    $2.10 Tyra, Yonkers
     
    The following are the horses that finished second or third along with their post-time odds. Special notes on those finishes follow. 
     
    Seconds:
    Sesmet (3-1), Ocean; Jk Black Beauty (20-1), Yonkers; Springforth (7-1), Yonkers; Strong Hope (5-2), Tioga; So Surreal (3-5), Philadelphia; Deo Gloria (14-1), The Red Mile; Free Parkin Behind (11-1), Maywood; Kansas Wildcat (5-1), Maywood
     
     
    Thirds:
    Dontmeswiththebest (19-1), Philadelphia; Caviat Shelly (9-1), Philadelphia; Innovation (5-2), Maywood
     
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~  
     
    News And Notes
     
    The Meadows resumes live racing Tuesday, Sept. 3 after a two-week hiatus for track restoration. Major improvements to the racing surface feature restored banking of turns and “a limestone-silica composition expected to be more resilient in rain and snow,” according to track authorities. Also, the Pennsylvania oval offers a new racing schedule.
     
    With only two exceptions, the Meadows will offer exclusive day racing through the end of the year with a 12:55 p.m. post time for each card. Bettors will also notice other changes, including 10-horse fields. The track will offer as many as eight races per week with 10-horse fields, the outside horse leaving from the second tier.
     
    “Races with trailers should be more challenging to handicap,” said Meadows Racing President Mike Jeannot. “We expect that to provide bigger payoffs and more carryovers in our Pick Four, Pick Five and Superfecta wagers.”
     
    The Meadows’ live racing program in September includes a rich menu of stakes highlighted by the $1.2 million Pennsylvania Sires Stakes championships on Friday, Sept. 13. The program will include a $250,000 championship and a $50,000 consolation for each of four divisions for three-year-olds. First post Sept. 13 is 6:55 p.m.
     
    Rosecroft Raceway will open for another meet. The first program is set for Sept. 14. Live harness will be offered every Tuesday and Saturday evenings with a 7:25 p.m. post through Dec. 21.
     
    Colonial Downs, the only one-turn mile in harness racing, begins a 24-program meet on Sept. 18, racing through Oct. 27. Post is at 1 p.m. on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays. Top events for the meet include the Horace Martin Memorial, the Good Ole USA, the Parkers’ Memorial, the Juniors, Virginia Harness Horsemens Association miles, the Delmarva and the U Gotta Win One Now. 
     
    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
  • Introducing our first big winner: Rick Hausman takes down Jackpot5

    POSTED Aug 30, 2013
    Rick Hausman had a busy Sunday: drop his daughter off at college and play the Pacific Classic Stakes day card from Del Mar.

    And, oh, yeah: in between those big events he hit TwinSpires.com's new bet, the Jackpot 5, for $31,676.80 on a $243 ticket.


    "I knew I was four-for-four going into the final leg but didn't think I'd have the only ticket when the favorite won," Hausman said. "The favorite won, of course, and I figured all I had was 12 tickets for the show payoff and was hoping I got my money back on the bet. When I saw my account balance I couldn't believe it, and my my wife and I started dancing around like schoolchildren."

    Hausman won $31,552 for having the lone jackpot ticket (all five winners) and an additional $124.80 for having 12 show combinations. He's played the bet three times and has won on it each time, so he's definitely playing it again this weekend, though probably laying off Friday.

    "I'm a weekend player," Hausman said. "Work is going really well right now, so I like to focus on that then put my energy into playing on the weekends. I don't want to jinx myself, but I'm three-for-three playing this bet, so I got to keep playing, right?"

    Hausman's rainmaker from his Jackpot sequence was Catduel in race 8 from Calder (leg 2). The Chelsey Cat gelding was returning to turf after being rained off in his last two starts, and of his previous eight lifetime starts, his best Brisnet.com Speed Rating had come on the turf. Catduel outclosed 4-to-5 favorite Ant Hill (who Hausman also used) to set the wheels in motion for his big score.

    "I thought for sure with two horses paying less than $5 that there'd be other winners, but I guess [Catduel] was a real separator," said Hausman, who credits his grandmother and stockbroker David Foster--better known as owner-breeder of 1983 Kentucky Derby winner Sunny's Halo--with teaching him out to handicap.

    "My grandmother bred and raced horses, and I used to love going to the track with her and talking to her about racing," Hausman said. "I went to the 1997 Breeders' Cup at Woodbine and had the fortune of happening to sit with Sunny's Halo's owner [Foster].

    "He was old by then and died the next year. He wasn't seeing very well, so he told me to tell him who I liked and he'd bet. Well, at the end of the day he asked me how I did, and I said, 'Not to well; I hope you did better,' and he said to me, 'Kid, you're a great handicapper but a lousy bettor; I made $3,000 today betting your picks.'

    "And ever since then I've paid close attention to how I bet my picks. I always bet a top pick to win if he's 6-to-1 or better, and I used to bet every wager offered but realized I was doing better with the Pick 4s and 5s, so I stick with those. It certainly paid off with the Jackpot."

    The $31,676 score was Hausman's second-biggest to date. Amazingly, his bigger score also came on Pacific Classic day when Skimming in 2000 helped key a $53,112 payout for the San Diego-area businessman.

    TwinSpires.com offers the Jackpot 5 wager Friday through Sunday on its website. The bet kicks off this weekend's action with a $10,000 carryover. 80% of the pool goes to the show payoff with the other 20% toward the jackpot. Brisnet.com offers FREE Ultimate Past Performances and Daily Selections full-card analysis for the sequence every day.
  • The Truth About the Pick Three

    POSTED
    At one time, the goal of most racetrack gamblers — if they had a goal at all — was to pick winners. Read any handicapping book published before Al Gore invented the Internet (when a “cell phone” was still a phone used by prison inmates) and you’ll see what I mean.

    In the original “Betting Thoroughbreds,” for example, Steve Davidowitz discusses Beyer speed figures — then produced by the man himself and not the Daily Racing Form — by relating how they affected his success rate.

    “In the first season, the results said 176 winners in 310 picks. Fifty-three percent,” Davidowitz wrote. “A flat bet profit in all categories.”

    Nowhere in his book does Davidowitz mention what that flat-bet profit, or return on investment (ROI), was. That’s because, back then, it didn’t matter. The assumption was that if one could “out-pick” the crowd, one would win.

    Two decades later, Andrew Beyer realized how wrong this premise had been.


    “At Gulfstream Park in 1990, all of my worst fears about the nature of the pari-mutuel competition materialized,” the dean of speed-figure handicapping wrote. “My speed figures — which had now advanced into the computer age — had never been so refined. I was watching races, assessing individual horses’ efforts, and detecting track biases more astutely than ever before. I was handling my money and my emotions with skill and maturity — a great step forward from the time I punched a hole through the wall of Gulfstream’s press box in a rage over an unjust disqualification. I felt that I was at the very top of my game as a gambler. And still I couldn’t win. My lack of success was due not to bad luck or photo finishes or any of the other traumas that plague all horseplayers. My frustration was best demonstrated by some of the winners I picked — by horses like Memorable Skier.”

    Beyer went on to say that Memorable Skier had finished out of the money (worse than third) in all of his nine career races against maiden competition and was now facing winners, which, under normal circumstances, would make the horse an instant toss for most handicappers.


    “But his speed figures were competitive and, in his last start, [Memorable Skier] had been forced to race wide on a track with a strong rail-favoring bias,” Beyer explained. “Now he was running again on a day when the rail was an advantage, and he had drawn post position 5, with four slow-breaking horses inside him. I concluded that the maiden would be able to drop to the rail and lead all the way. When I went to the track that day, prepared to make a killing, I thought Memorable Skier embodied all of the handicapping skills I had spent a lifetime learning.

    “The race went just as I expected,” Beyer went on. “Memorable Skier popped out of the gate, angled to the rail, led all the way to win by six lengths — and paid $6.20. A pitiful $6.20.

    “Even at a track heavily populated by tourists and retirees, the betting public had become smart and well-informed,” Beyer concluded.

    While I don’t necessarily believe that the crowd had suddenly become “smart and well-informed” (I think that was always the case to a certain degree), it is noteworthy that Beyer was complaining about Memorable Skier’s price after the race had been run (and he had presumably bet). Outside of his reference to making “a killing,” he gave no indication as what his expectations were before the race.

    Fast forward another 20 years and little has changed in the minds of some handicappers. Despite declining field sizes, arguably fewer quality races, drugs (both legal and illegal) and a host of other new variables to muddle the handicapping picture, many folks analyze races today like they did when Sheena Easton won a Grammy for Best New Artist — they focus entirely on picking the winner.

    Of course, many realize, as Beyer did, that prices are not what they once were on standout horses, particularly those with a speed or class edge. Enter the horizontal wager: the pick-3, pick-4, pick-5 and pick-6.

    Because these types of bets focus almost entirely on picking the race winner, bettors flock to them like foam fingers to Miley Cyrus. But are these kinds of bets such a great deal? Personally, I have my doubts, so I decided to conduct a little test.

    I looked at my database stats for Saratoga during the first week of August in an effort to determine whether or not pick-3 wagering, in particular, made more sense (and more dollars, for that matter) than straight win betting.

    First, because so many pick-three bettors are looking to beat the favorite in one or more of the legs, I checked to see how the post-time favorite in pick-3 sequences fared over the studied period (Aug. 1-5):
    Favorites: 49
    Winners: 12
    Win Rate: 24.5%
    ROI: -36.43%
    Next, I determined what the average $2 pick-3 returned:
    Avg. Pick-3 Payoff (46 sequences): $353.78
    Then, I computed what a simple $2 parlay on the same races would have produced:
    Avg. Three-Race Parlay (46 sequences, same races as above): $295.90
    “Ah-ha,” I can hear some of you exclaim. “You see, you see (you’re a very excitable lot), the pick-3 offers better value than a parlay” (which is typically the argument for pick-3 wagering).

    OK, that’s true; has been for many years. This is due to the fact that the pick-3 pool extracts takeout and breakage, albeit at a higher rate, just once, whereas each race in a three-race parlay is subject to the track and government’s wrath.

    What this viewpoint ignores is something that economists refer to as “opportunity costs,” or the foregone benefits of other options. And I would argue that those benefits, in many cases, are better than those offered by the pick-three.

    Permit me to explain: Let’s say that you like Horse A, at, say, 4-5 odds, in a particular race. But because of the short price, you decide to bet a pick-3 singling Horse A in the opening leg. Assuming that Horse A wins, what kind of a return do you need to beat the resulting $3.60 payoff?

    Many of you will say $3.61… and many of you would be wrong. A $3.61 payoff assumes a single $2 bet and a 100 percent strike rate in each of the two remaining legs of the pick-3… which could only be guaranteed if one were to cover all the possible combinations.

    So, for the sake of argument, let’s pretend there are eight horses in each of the last two legs of our mythical pick-3. Assuming that we hit the “ALL” button, our ticket cost now stands at $128 ($2 x 1 x 8 x 8). Hence, we would need a pick-3 payoff of $230.40 to match (not exceed) what a corresponding $128 win bet on Horse A would have returned.

    This is not good news considering that the three pick-3’s in my study that led off with an odds-on winner returned an average of $166.47. Granted, a three-race sample is hardly proof of concept, but it’s not encouraging either.

    “But Derek,” I hear some of you complaining, “nobody hits the ‘ALL’ button on two legs, especially with a big favorite leading off.”
    A valid point, but keep in mind: The minute one starts limiting the pick-3 combinations, one’s winning percentage goes down. So what started as a high percentage play on a 4-5 shot now becomes a much lower-percentage one.

    And that uncertainty must be taken into account if one is playing for profit and not just the gratification of having a winning ticket.

    Are You Ready For Some Football?

    With the kickoff of the NFL season on Thursday, I thought I would re-post a video I did for Youbet.com a few years ago. 

    video
  • pace in your face with a can of mace

    POSTED
    Pace handicapping is actually a two-step process. The question is not "How fast will they go," but (in the case of front runners), "How fast can this horse go and still win?"

    "A lot of pace in the race" doesn't set the race up for a closer if three front runners are gassed after a :22 first quarter and :45 half but a fourth horse is able to run those fractions and still come home in :24 for 1:09 for six furlongs. A closer five lengths off that pace would have to come home in :23 for a chance, and that's no easy task.

    As countless handicapping books have told me (and by countless, I mean I'm too lazy to count them, not that it's an infinite number), the idea that most closers (on dirt) run faster late than early is an illusion. I won't say most horses do their "best" running early, but it's certainly the fastest part of the race more often than not, which is why so-called speed biases have more to do with the animals contesting the race than the surface itself, but I digress because that's off the topic of Mucho Macho Man and Lea winning the Woodward and Forego Stakes (links to FREE Brisnet.com Ultimate Past Performances), respectively, on Saturday at Saratoga Race Course--the summer place to be celebrating 150 years of aristocratic merriment in the foothill of the Adirondack Mountains.


    Mucho Macho Man likes fighting for lead
    Admittedly, Mucho Macho Man is a bit of a price play, as I don't see him as the most likely winner of the race, but I do see him as likely a winner of the other obvious horses (in alphabetical order) Flat Out, Paynter, and Successful Dan (Alpha & Ron The Greek can beat me). So if your fair odds on Flat Out, Paynter, and Successful Dan are 3-to-1 then Mucho Macho Man figures nicely at 4-to-1 (that leaves a 19-to-1 chance that either of "can beat me" horses actually beat me).

    So what does Mucho Macho Man have to do to win? Well, he's done it six times in his career, and every time he's been either on the lead or in second place after the first quarter mile. Put another way, he's winless in nine starts when not first or second after a quarter mile and 6-for-15 when in that position.

    Can he be there on Saturday in the Woodward? The Brisnet.com pace figures easily say yes. With Fort Larned out, Paynter and Mucho Macho Man are tied for the best early pace last race figure. Early pace measures from the start to the first call, and it's several points back to Flat Out and the rest.

    Like most high-class animals racing in quality races, Mucho Macho Man goes faster for the first six furlongs than he does for the first half mile. His E2 pace rating (start to second call) was 109 last time, but that's not even close to what he's capable of. When he won the Suburban last year he popped a 100 through half a mile and then a 117 through six furlongs and kept on going.

    I'm betting on the come here, because there is no guarantee he'll keep on going this time, but I do think there's a better than 20% chance that he does, and that makes him a good play.

    Take a look at the race summary below and check out how Mucho Macho Man stacks up against the rest in average and best pace. Is he a standout? No, but considering the prices I think he's the obvious bet.



    The Forego is a different situation, as I'm playing against the speed in this race, but I don't think Lea is as much of a stretch as everyone else.



    Lea was everyone's sexy pick to upset Horse of the Year Wise Dan in both the Firecracker and Fourstardave Handicaps. He was 9-to-2 in both attempts and never really threatened the dual champion with a now-eight-race winning streak. He'll be at least double (and more likely triple) that price in the Forego with a lot of positive angles in play, including going turf to dirt on the cut back.

    It's also worth noting that his best race came in a one-turn dirt affair. Granted, that was off the turf on a sloppy track, but there is no reason to think that Lea can't fulfill his promise with a Grade 1 win here.

    WAGERING STRATEGY: I'll play Lea across the board. There's no reason to get cute in exotics when he'll be a square price and you'll get paid just for hitting the board. As for the Woodward, Mucho Macho Man is a win-place candidate.

    As for multiple-race wagers, there's an all-graded-stakes Pick 3 that begins with the Bernard Baruch, and Silver Max is a single for me in there and a win bet at odds of 8-to-5 or better (I'll single him down to even money). I'll play him with ALL in the Forego and the aforementioned quartet in the Woodward for $32. I'll also give myself a chance to really by right by playing Silver Max-Lea and Lea-Mucho Macho Man doubles.

    Good luck!
  • So easy a caveman could do it

    POSTED
    Playing 25,000 combinations in the Pick 6 doesn't guarantee victory (believe me, I know), but it does allow you to be fast and loose with the opinions.

    The question is, do you try to be really right in 1 or 2 races or sorta right in all the races?

    As a self-described disciple of Steven Crist and his ABC method of tackling multi-race wagers, I more often lean toward the former, but sometimes the better play (at least in retrospect!) is to just be sort of right on all races (the Crist-called caveman approach).

    The Players Pool is a fun and educational opportunity for TwinSpires.com customers, and since I'm one of those myself I try to have fun and learn from it as well. So what did I learn from yesterday's shut out?

    Don't force strong opinions.

    In leg 1, we leaned heavily on 4, 9, 11. The 4 finished second as the favorite but never really threatened the winner, who we didn't use on a backup that had two others. I'm fine with leaning on the three we did, but if not them then we should have gone deeper on the main back up.

    In leg 2, we didn't lean on anyone, really, going five deep to catch the shortest price in the sequence in $4.10 Kingston Bay. This literally was the worst-case scenario for us because leg 1 winner Nuffsaidnuffsaid was the shortest price of the horses we didn't have on multiple tickets, and we coupled her with the favorite on a ticket that started all with all.

    This was a deflating beginning because even though we were "live" it was tough to envision a scenario in which we could profit considering we were now down to two singles who both would be favored.

    So what could we have done differently?

    Well, we had leg 3 mostly right. Sure, we were four deep, but we were right to go against the favorite. We were wrong on our single in leg 4 (Roses For Romney) but the two we used on the backup ticket both hit the tri, including winner Lady's Lunar Luck. Leg 5 we thought only Racetrack Romance couldn't win, and the longest shot on the board obliged with a last-place finish.

    Leg 6 is where we should made the most of a contrarian opinion. I leaned on favored #4 Brandys Secret because I did see her as the most likely winner, but the feeling was if she didn't win any of them could, and indeed, the longest shot on the board Hunters Forward got it done at nearly 35-to-1.

    So how could we have stringed these together? Well, we couldn't have leaning on both Roses For Romney and Brandys Secret. Even leaning on one or the other was a path to ruin. We basically made it so one of them had to win, and given the air of vulnerability we thought both had, that probably wasn't the best approach with this size bankroll.

    In retrospect, I think we could have "gotten there" going 8 deep in leg 1 (again, acknowledging that we liked 4, 9, 11 most but after that there were 5 others that made sense and 4 who didn't). Leg 2 probably should have been our single if we had any, but this works even with the same quartet we did use. Leg 3 we were four deep. Leg 4 we use our single plus the two from the back up. Leg 5 we use them all except the overmatched 4, and then we use them all in leg 6.

    This approach basically is playing AGAINST the two favorites we ended up singling, but if we thought they were fair value at even money then they're still both going to lose 25% of the time. That's 3-to-1 odds, and this 8x4x4x3x6x10 approach would have returned about 9-to-1.

    Which approach to take is at the heart of every players pool. There was a pool in late June in which we decided to go against a big favorite. That favorite won, and while we "hit" for 6/6 the wager lost money. This time we decided to go with the favorites and crapped out.

    The game is humbling in that way, but at least when you do connect on wagers like this they usually cover the losses!
  • Charge Of The Pace Brigade

    POSTED Aug 28, 2013

    The Labor Day weekend in the United States is the traditional end of summer and special racing will ensue through Monday, Sept. 2, with stakes around the ovals and a focus on Saturday, Aug. 31, at Mohawk Raceway in Canada.
     
    More live horses are projected in our exclusive horses to watch (H2W) list from tracks around North America.
     
    TwinSpires offers special bonuses for Hoosier Park throughout the harness meet. Check out the Hoosier details here. 
     
    Metromania 
     
    Saturday, Aug. 31, Mohawk presents the premier event for frosh colt pacers, The Metro Stakes. Once a million-dollar affair for the green group, it is now worth $683,000, still the most for the division at this point in the season. Three elim winners lead the final field though no colt threatens as Captaintreacherous did last year. 
     
    Arthur Blue Chip, Let’s Drink To It and Western Vintage will share favoritism as the elim winners. “Arthur” was our choice in the Nassagawaya the week before the elims ($17.20) and in his Metro elim ($4.20). He may be the rightful first choice here but could loom an overlay. As the crowd bets speed, it is difficult to know which of these colts can be faster than the other since their elim wins were a tick off of one another. 
     
    With all of the speed the three elim winners offer, we call your attention to the colt we liked last week at 3-1, Boomboom Ballykeel. He was second by a hair to Let’s Drink To It after that one took the lead from him. An outsider to consider is Luck Be Withyou, who put in a whopping second at 12-1; he could be the closer if the surface is unkind to the speed of the speed or a duel ensues. 
     
    The Metro Consolation could go to Somewhere In LA, another $17 colt we gave you in the Nassagaweya. But he didn’t make the final, presenting a dull elim mile. Look for him here to have a better chance and better odds. 
     
    ‘Lady’-killers
     
    The She’s A Great Lady Final pits two elim winners against some surprise foes, including our choice last week, Bahama Blue, who was second to Precocious Beauty at 74-1. The former will most likely be the public choice but watch out for Ali Blue, last week’s favorite that rode wide and just made the final, finishing fourth to longshot Beach Gal. “Ali” may be better off starting from the outside (post 9), just to the side of “Bahama.” With “Beauty,” these three could deliver the triactor.
     
    Older pacers battle in the Canadian Pacing Derby Final, with action that involves a field of October-classic hopefuls so to see our analysis and work on your wagers, Go to Breeders Crown Countdown.
     
    Simcoe Stakes
     
    Over $120,000 is on the line for glamour-boy trotters in the Simcoe Stakes splits. Fresh from Vernon and the “Zweig” wars, a couple of colts and a couple more from Hambo action take to the gate for round one at Mohawk on the big Saturday program.
     
    We are ready to give High Bridge another shot. The price should be right, with Lindys Tru Grit the most likely favorite off his win at Vernon last week. Jimmy Takter’s fickle trotter was our Players’ Pool bet in the Hambo final and he disappointed greatly. But he returned to be second recently and could be the best here just on the company he has been keeping.
     
    The second set of Simcoens [sic] may have to bow to Bluto and we cannot choose around him, even if his price is slim. The Jimmy Takter trotter has raced with the top tier and is a world better than the rest of these.
     
    Raising ‘Cane’
     
    On Labor Day, Monday, Sept. 2, Tioga presents the age-old classic, The Cane Pace. The biggest feature of this torn-down-stakes event (the years have not been kind to this once sterling member of the stakes calendar, with many great horses passing it for more lucrative miles) is Captaintreacherous. To host the greatest soph pacer to come along in more than a decade is a big plus for the feature.
     
    The wagering could provide, once again, that strange contingent that has been anti-“Captain” from the season’s start. Why? Because for the first time this season Captain comes to a race off of a loss. It was a meager defeat but so many were waiting for it and now wager with unfounded confidence that the Captain has been demoted. He has not, of course, and if the wagers are spread out to make the Captain 4-5 or more, you will have the same bargain we offered you when he won the million-dollar races and paid over $4.
     
    In fact, we can be bold enough to predict that Captain’s Cane mile will present enough room between he and the place horse to hold a Tyler Swift concert. Watch the odds, closely.
     
    Freshmen Prospects
     
    On Friday, Aug. 30, Harrah’s Philadelphia hosts divisions of the Goshen Cup and Debutante stakes for two-year-olds. There are five of these Grand Circuit miles worth around $40,000 each on the program. Check the Philadelphia list on the H2W below for our suggested contenders. New York Sires Stakes soph-filly pacers for Yonkers’ program on Aug. 30 also appear as H2W members below.
     
    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. 
     
    H2W    
     
    Batavia
    8/30/13, Windsong Destroyer R1     
     
    Maywood
    8/30/13, Free Parkin Behind R3; Major Challenge R4; Kansas Wildcat R7; Innovation R10 
     
    Ocean
    8/30/13, OK Amelia R3; Desmet R4; Muddy Slippers R8; Indefinite Leave R9
     
    Philadelphia
    8/30/13, Tyra R3; Kingofthejungle R4; Dontmeswiththebest R6; So Surreal R9; Caviat Shelly R11 
     
    Pocono
    8/31/13, +Raging Grin R5
     
    The Red Mile
    8/31/13, +Deo Gloria R5; Livelikeurdying R11; Title Shot R11; Cladslastimpression R11
     
    Tioga
    8/31/13, +Strong Hope R4; +Wisenheimer R7 
     
    Yonkers
     
    8/30/13, My Shiyen R1; Jk Black Beauty R 3; Springforth R4; Wishing Stone R8; +Fox Valley Sage R10 

    Ray Cotolo contributed to this edition.
  • Game On Dude still the country's best horse

    POSTED Aug 26, 2013
    The results of this weekend's races--despite the favorite rolling in the Pacific Classic Stakes and an upset in the Travers--did nothing to change my thoughts on the championship picture for Horse of the Year and three-year-old male, respectively.

    Game On Dude is still in the Horse of the Year drivers seat by virtue of his third Grade 1 win--all at 1 1/4 miles and on three different surfaces. Wise Dan could have five Grade 1 wins by the end of the year, but it will be impossible to deny Game On Dude Eclipse Awards as Horse of the Year and champion older male if he finally gets his Breeders' Cup Classic (he'd have won both awards in 2011 or 2012 with a win in that race).

    I've had Game On Dude "ranked" on top since his Hollywood Gold Cup win, and he'll stay there unless he loses the Breeders' Cup.

    And Orb is still the top three-year-old male by virtue of his Kentucky and Florida Derby wins to go along with blacktype in the Belmont and Travers Stakes. Palace Malice remains in second with the Belmont and Jim Dandy wins, but is in a position of needing to win races to dethrone Orb. "Much the best" fourth-place finishes won't cut it--even in great races like the Jockey Club Gold Cup or Breeders' Cup Classic.

    Speaking of Palace Malice and the Travers, him rounding out the superfecta has to be the most celebrated fourth-place finish in the history of the Turf outside Jazil and Brother Derek dead heating for fourth in the 2006 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands. I don't disagree that he was among the best in the race, but I don't think he was "much the best" nor do I think he'll never lose to his peers again.

    Orb (my pick) had absolutely no excuse considering the trip. He flattened and somehow held on for show (this description works well for his Belmont as well), but unlike the Belmont when he was a gassed horse racing for the sixth time in five months, he probably needed this race. I'm not giving up on him--especially if he shows up in the Jockey Club Gold Cup in the 10-to-1 range.

    Will Take Charge ran well considering how he had to get there, and he ran fast. I guess all this praise of the winner, third-, and fourth-place finishers means I should love Moreno, too, but I'm just not sold.

    As for Will Take Charge's championship aspirations, it comes down to winning. I still have him behind Verrazano on the three-year-old depth chart. The Travers is a real nice race to win but that and the Rebel doesn't usurp a Wood Memorial-Haskell double, though another graded win probably would--especially if it comes against older.

    My America's Best Racing/ESPN poll for the week is:

    1. Game On Dude, 2. Wise Dan, 3. Royal Delta, 4. Cross Traffic, 5. Obviously, 6. Point of Entry, 7. Sahara Sky, 8. Fort Larned, 9. Flat Out, 10. Successful Dan.

    Biggest race this coming weekend is the Woodward.
  • Cotolo’s Harness Review, News And Notes

    POSTED Aug 25, 2013

    A mildly successful harness-betting weekend resulted from our Thursday blog, though certainly not one of our more prosperous efforts. This weekend’s choices spilled over into Sunday night, which is why this blog was posted later than usual. 
     
    At Vernon on Sunday many of the Hambletonian characters from both sexes met for consolations and finals in the traditional post-Hambo “Zweig” stakes. 
     
    The glamour-boy trotters went to post in the $360,000 Zwieg Memorial, with Hambo-winner Royalty For Life getting the worst outside post, 8, as he has in three of four of his recent starts (he won the Hambletonian elim heat from post 8 and the final from post 1). 
     
    With no trouble getting to the top and no certain challenge, Royalty For Life won the Zweig at 6-5. Our choice, Aperfectyankee (14-1), was off the board. 
     
    The filly Zweig final was handed to you in the entry of Mistery Woman and Shared Past. The stablemates finished first and second, respectively, to pay $3.60. 
     
    Miss Steele, our choice, was third in the filly consolation and Hamdalla was last in the colt consolation. 
     
    The Mohawk elims for next week’s major stakes—there were five—produced a few profitable situations. Our Metro Stakes elims featured a single winner in three miles with Arthur Blue Chip, who paid $4.20. We gave out this horse in last week’s Nassagaweya when he paid $17.20, this week the crowd caught on and dowsed any chance of a good price. 
     
    Though we did not hit a winner in the Shes A Great Lady elims, we were second to dead-on favorite Precocious Beauty in the first elim with Bahama Blue. Our choice went off at 75-1 and paid $24.20 to place and $7 to show. With the $3-win favorite, the exactor paid a whopping $90.50. 
     
    In the elims for the Canadian Pacing Derby for older male pacers, we were second with Sweet Lou (2-1) and off the board with Pet Rock. The Pet Rock elim featured a startling return to form for A Rocknroll Dance, whose soph career was well documented here along with a few big wins we endorsed, including the 2012 Meadowlands Pace. He has had a great deal of problems beginning with the latter part of his soph season and was dull starting his four-year-old season. He won off a fast pace at Northfield a few weeks ago but at Mohawk in the second “Derby” elim he won in a remarkable 1:47.4, a Canadian- and world-speed record. The crowd had much more confidence in him than we did and sent him off at 3-2. 
     
    The first elim also surprised us as Bolt The Duer scored in a rare wire-to-wire victory. Both of these steeds meet Foiled Again, Aracache Hanover, Heston Blue Chip and Atochia, none of which needed to qualify in elims, in next week’s huge final.
     
    The Breeders Crown Countdown blog, the Hambletonian Society and TwinSpires’ bettors’ aid for handicapping top contenders’ events heading toward the October classics, is live. Check it out each week in league with our Thursday TwinSpires blog. 
     
    H2W
     
    $6.90 EL Rock, Yonkers
    $3.00 Ma Chere Hall, The Red Mile
    $3.00 Gift Of Honor, Running Aces
     
    The following are the horses that finished second or third along with their post-time odds. Special notes on those finishes follow.    
     
    Seconds:
    There were no seconds this week.  
     
    Thirds:
    Steph’s Place (5-1), Running Aces; Native Roots (5-1), Batavia 
     
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
     
    News And Notes
     
    There are still many decisions to be made by connections of glamour-boy pacers as to which of them will be going to Ohio for the Little Brown Jug in September. Sunshine Beach’s trainer, Mark Steacy, told reporter Gordon Waterstone the colt might not drop into the box for the classic. However, the fact that he beat Captaintreacherous at Pocono has team Steacy thinking twice.
     
    Captaintreacherous remained atop the list of possible contenders, of course, but there was very little interest, according to sources, about the champ taking on the fair track’s four turns in a pair of heats. But that was never the reason for not wanting to go; his connections site a very busy stakes schedule aside from the “Jug.”
     
    Without those two, the Jug fields could still be filled with the most talent to drop in the box in a few seasons. Possible but not commited colts include Adios-winner Sunfire Blue Chip; Rockin Amadeus, Twilight Bonfire; Johny Rock, Mach It So; Vegas Vacation, Odds On Equuleus and Wake Up Peter.
     
    Harness racing will return to Freehold Raceway on Thursday, Aug. 29. Racing will take place on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays plus a special holiday card on Labor Day, Monday, Sept. 2. First-race post is 12:30 p.m.
     
    The new addition to the wagering menu is a 50-cent trifecta. Freehold will participate in the USTA Strategic Wagering Program with a $5,000 guaranteed Early Pick 4 pool (Races 2-5).  
     
    The Freehold stakes program for August through October features New Jersey Sire Stakes Green Acres divisions for all ages and gaits, the Lou Babic paces and the Standardbred Breeders & Owners Association of New Jersey-sponsored Helen along with the Charles Smith trots and Marion and Harold Dancer trots and New Jersey Futurity Stakes.
     
    Alberta, Canada’s major standardbred sire, As Promised, passed away at the age of 24. For many years, As Promised was a champion the racetrack and in the breeding shed. Purchased by Keith Clark and partners in 1990, As Promised was well-bred but not a perfect standardbred specimen. Clark, a top Alberta trainer and driver, said, “He had a crooked hind leg.” Crooked or not, As Promised went on to win nine of 10 races as a freshman and $32,800. The colt came close to dying in California early in his sophmore season but recovered to dominate the Alberta circuit.
     
    “He was pretty much unbeatable at home,” said Clark.
     
    Running out of competition in Western Canada, As Promised was shipped to the Meadowlands where he took his lifetime best 1:50.2 win mark. Clark campaigned As Promised through the age of seven when he retired with 71 wins, multiple stakes titles and earnings of over $669,000. Clark ended up selling him because the stallion was getting busy as a stud and “I just didn't have time for him. 
     
    In 2003, As Promised was the leading sire of three-year-olds in North America in the category of average earnings with $71,238. His popularity as a sire propelled him to be Canada’s most prolific stallion, breeding 307 mares in 2005 for a North American record.
     
    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