• Cotolo’s Harness Review, News And Notes

    POSTED Mar 30, 2014

    It was a decent weekend for our contenders, highlighted by wins and exactas from the horses-to-watch (H2W) list. In the past two weeks we have either contributed to winning exacta combinations (the H2W horse coming in second with the public choice winning, at the most, a boxed investment) or handed winning combos to the player cold (two H2W horses listed in the same race, also based on a boxed investment).

    This week’s cold exacta, at Saratoga (see Tyler below in list of winners), paid $107.50. Also at Saratoga, a contributor (see Village Jackson in row of seconds below), created an exacta worth $71.50. There were five other exacta-contributing H2W horses.

    Our biggest winner of the week was Well Done Hanover at Pocono, paying $41.20. Since the list started for 2014, Well Done Hanover is the fourth horse to pay from $40 to $50.80.

    The 50-cent bonus Pick 4, a weekly play offering a 10-percent-bonus on winning the exotic, was a failure on our part last Wednesday. We offered five suggestions to consider in your ticket and only one finished third.

    The Pick-4 is offered from the fifth to the eighth races every Wednesday evening. We assist with suggestions for your ticket via Twitter -- @FrankCotolo, @TwinSpires and @BuffaloRaceway and implore you not to pass the less-than-obvious contenders in your ticket and as win, place and show possibilities.

    Our contenders in the second leg of the “Levy” and Matchmaker series at Yonkers were involved but unable to win.

    In the quartet of Matchmaker divisions on Friday we were second with Krispy Apple ($2.20, $2.20 ok) and in that same division third with Let’s Go Higher ($5.40). We were out of the money in two other Matchmaker field battles and third with Shelliscape (no show wagering).

    The Levy splits were also unkind, though we missed the 30-1 shot that won a division. Our choices were only good for one exacta contributor when Word Power was third to the favorite entry winner (first and second), presenting an exacta worth $6.50.

    Over at the Meadowlands we scored late with the Horse & Groom Final winner, Hldontghttoyurdrms ($9.40, $6.40, $3.60). Though many of the trotters considered more competitive than our choice broke and were eliminated from contention, our choice was unaffected, going wire to wire smoothly.

    We were fifth in the Clyde Hirt final with Berkentine Hanover at 15-1..

     H2W RESULTS

    The H2W results list across-the-board prices. Also, exactas are included when a H2W horse finishing first or second completes the result with a race favorite or another H2W horse listed in the same race (an asterisk appears when both horses were listed to complete the exacta).

    Winners

    Well Done Hanover, $41.20, $14.20, $9.80, Pocono
    Tyler, $17, $7.80, $4.70 (*Exacta $107.50), Saratoga
    Shax, $8.80, $3.40, $3.80 ok (Exacta $9.20), Cal Expo
    Dreams Are Real, $7.20, $3.80, $2.80 Freehold
    Waywatcher, $7, $3.40, $2.80, Freehold
    Espirit De Kayjay A, $5.40, $3.40, $2.80, Freehold
    Mystical Diva, $4.30, $2.60, $2.30, Yonkers
    Dream On Shorty, $4.20, $3.40, $2.40, Miami Valley
    Mystical Danica, $2.70, $2.10, $2.10 ok, Saratoga

    Seconds

    Notreadytobenice, $12, $7.20, Meadowlands
    Pacific Escape, $10.60, $4, Freehold
    Ideal Choice, $6.60 (no show wagering, Exacta $21.60), Pompano
    Milliondollartorch, $5.80, $3.40 (*Exacta $107.50), Saratoga
    Chepachet, $4.80, $4.60 (Exacta $14.20), Rosecroft
    Chipoffablueblock, $4.80, $3.60 (Exacta $23.60), Dover
    Village Jackson, $4.70, $3.30 (Exacta $71.50), Saratoga
    Kings Point, $3.80, $2.40 (Exacta $16.40), Freehold
    Wild About Eagle, $3.80, $2.60, Cal Expo
    Veto Hanover, $2.90, $2.50, Buffalo
    Doctor Gates, $2.10, $2.50 ok, Buffalo

    Thirds

    TN Starbuck, $4.40, Rosecroft
    Macho Mcgraw, $3.80, Rosecroft
    Lone Raider, $3.20, Rosecroft
    Me Tarzan, $3.20, Cal Expo
    Sentosa Island, $2.40, Meadowlands

    News And Notes

    Seventy three-year-old pacing colt nominees for this year’s North America Cup remain after seven dropped out in the one month between payments. The $1-million final at Mohawk is scheduled for Saturday, June 14. Still sitting on top of the list of nominees is Hes Watching, who set two world records last season along with six track records for trainer David Menary. Though the colt was undefeated last season, he beat no frosh standouts, making his mark on the New York Sires Stakes circuit. Some of those champs never facing Hes Watching are still on the docket, including Arthur Blue Chip, Luck Be Withyou, National Debt  and last year's Metro winner Boom Boom Ballykeel. Another top rookie from last season on the list is Western Vintage, trained by Nancy Johansson. The Pepsi North America Cup eliminations are set for Saturday, June 7. 

    Jim Morrill, Jr. has been banned from driving at Pocono. No specific incident was given as a reason, the powers-that-be just announced his departure. Morrill, who was the third leading driver last year at the racino track, said he has heard no explanations from track management and the only way he knows he is not welcome is because trainers have told him that every time they try to enter a horse with him down as the driver the racing office tells them they must choose someone else.

    As Captaintreacherous gets ready to compete at four in the older division of pacers, trainer Tony Alagna is pleased. Captaintreacherous returned to Alagna’s stable in February after two months of rest at Brittany Farms in Kentucky and is being aimed at a big season beginning in June. Alagna says the colt has matured and put on some more muscle tone. “We’re shooting to qualify sometime at the end of May,” “We’ll set up his schedule after we qualify [in late May],” Alagna said, “but we’ll probably aim for the Meadowlands Maturity [on June 13].”

    Though the “Captain” joined Rocknroll Hanover and Gallo Blue Chip as the only horses to win the Breeders Crown, North America Cup and Meadowlands Pace in the same season, as well as becoming the second horse to win back-to-back Pacer of the Year honors (since Jenna’s Beach Boy), as well as he and joined Niatross as the second horse to accomplish the feat at two and three. But Captaintreachers, clearly one of the best sophomore pacers to hit the track in recent memory, was denied Horse of the Year awards mostly due to a myopic band of industry voters more impressed with soph-trotter Bee A Magician. The stunning filly never lost a race in 2013 by passing all chances to race with the trotting colts and beating the same group of fillies in her division.

    Only a handful of industry journalists, including myself, were disappointed. Even Alagna said the colt deserved the honor. It was a year where arguments could have been made for two other stupendous performers, Father Patrick and I Luv The Nitelife. While covering the major events for TwinSpires and the Hambletonian Society, we coined this quartet The Four Horses of the Apocalypse, dramatically emphasizing what an earthshaking season was presented with four unique talents in it.

    The 2014 stakes schedules for Balmoral and Maywood is finally here. The first major state-bred (ICF) stake will be on May 18 with soph pacing fillies in the $45,000 Violet Stake at Balmoral. There will also be Violet and Cardinal Stakes ICF pacers and trotters on May 25, May 28 and May 31 at Balmoral. Maywood’s first big event will be the $100,000 Filly Maywood Pace for ICF soph fillies on June 13. The $100,000 Maywood Pace for ICF soph pacing colts is on June 20. The first Hanover Stakes at Balmoral will feature a pair of events for soph trotters on June 7. Locals battle in the Southland Festival of Racing at Balmoral on July 26 and July 27. A pair of $50,000 Hanover Stakes for frosh filly pacers go on Aug. 2 at Balmoral, while a pair of $60,000 events for frosh trotters go on Aug. 3. Balmoral hosts ICF champs again with Super Night, on Sept. 13. American-Nationals kick off on Sept. 17.

    October presents the $100,000 Lady Lincoln Stake for frosh trotting fillies (Oct. 1), while their male counterparts battle in the $100,000 Lincoln Land Stake (Oct. 5) at Balmoral. Maywood hosts the $60,000 Cardinal and Violet Stakes for frosh colt and filly pacers on Oct. 3. Saturday (Oct. 11) and Friday (Oct. 17) present some of the best pacers and trotters in the country with the $250,000 American-National soph colt pace, $225,00 American-National soph colt trot, $200,000 American-National Open pace, $180,000 American-National Open trot, $175,000 American-National soph filly pace, $150,000 American-National 3 soph filly trot, $125,000 American-National frosh colt pace and $125,000 American-National frosh filly pace.

    Maywood’s biggest card of the season is just six days later on Oct. 17 with the $225,000 Windy City Pace for soph pacing colts, the $130,000 Abe Lincoln Stake for frosh pacing colts, the $110,00 Galt Trot for soph trotting colts and the $100,000 Cinderella Stake for soph pacing fillies.

    Extraordinary Extras

    Indulge in many standardbred topics at my Hoof Beats blog titled Vast Performances.

    Ray Cotolo contributed to this blog

    Cartoons by Thom Pye

  • Florida Derby Analysis & Fair Grounds Handicapping Reports

    POSTED Mar 28, 2014
    Great weekend of racing on tap! Below is a look at Saturday’s $1 million Florida Derby, along with free handicapping reports for Fair Grounds:

    FLORIDA DERBY (GRADE I)
    3/29/14 Gulfstream Park (race 14)
    1-1/8 miles (dirt).

    1-WILDCAT RED
    Fair Odds: 9-2

    Gutsy win in the Fountain of Youth on Feb. 22, a race in which he battled with General A Rod throughout and prevailed by a head bob. So, the $1 million question is: Was there an early speed bias that day (as so many racing fans and pundits assert)?

    The stats are inconclusive.

    Yes, five of the six dirt races were won by the horse leading at the first call at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 22; however, three of those winners were favored — two quite heavily (even odds and 3-5).

    Still, there’s something else that concerns me about Wildcat Red. We know he’s quick — as a son of D’Wildcat, this is hardly unique — so what’s with the three-furlong drill on March 22? Statistically speaking, this is a huge no-no, particularly in route races (as the table below, culled from one of my databases of past race results, amply demonstrates):


    And don’t be fooled by the fast time of that workout — bullet works at three furlongs produced even worse results than non-bullet works (0.83 IV, 0.74 OBIV).


    2-MATADOR
    Fair Odds: 20-1

    His only win came on the grass and yielded a -13 late speed ration (LSR), which is awful. The blinkers go on today, but it’s hard to get too excited about this guy unless there is a complete pace meltdown.

    3-CAIRO PRINCE
    Fair Odds: 5-2

    The connections are strong, the breeding is strong and this colt hints at greater talent. The only issue I have is the 63-day layoff since his last start in the Holy Bull and the fact that his effort in that race was not as good as it looks on paper.

    Sure, Cairo Prince won that Jan. 25 Grade II affair by 5 ¾ lengths, but the resulting 98 Brisnet speed (BSF) figure and -8 LSR are only so-so.

    Is so-so good enough for a horse that is likely to be favored? I don’t think so.

    4-CONSTITUTION
    Fair Odds: 8-1

    If, in fact, Gulfstream Park featured a main-track early speed bias on Feb. 22, what does that say for this horse, who posted the highest, i.e. slowest, early speed ration (-1) on dirt in wiring the sixth race of the day?

    Granted, the son of Tapit appears to have a lot of upside, but, with Todd Pletcher listed as the trainer, all thoughts of value go down the proverbial drain.

    5-EAST HALL
    Fair Odds: 20-1

    On paper, this gelded son of Graeme Hall looks hopeless, but he’s recorded some LSRs that I think (perhaps foolishly) give him a puncher’s chance if the pace is unduly fast.

    6-GENERAL A ROD
    Fair Odds: 7-2

    Trainer Mike Maker has said this colt represents the “best chance I’ve ever had” to win the Kentucky Derby. Putting aside Maker’s abysmal record in the Run for the Roses for a second, it’s easy to see why the veteran conditioner is so enthusiastic.

    This son of Roman Ruler (I know, that’s a problem) has improved in every start and is as game as they get. Plus, I think he’s better suited to carry his speed than Wildcat Red, whom he dropped a narrow decision to in the Fountain of Youth. Check out the way he galloped out after that race:

    video

    I suspect this guy will get lost in the betting — and he shouldn’t.

    7-ALLSTAR
    Fair Odds: 30-1

    Earned a 78 BSF and -16 LSR in capturing a cheap N1X allowance race at Calder last time. His presence in this race makes me think I should have held my own “pro day” in hopes of making it into the NFL… at the age of 46… with no discernable talent.

    8-SPOT
    Fair Odds: 12-1

    His running style is ideal, but it’s hard for me to get too excited about a closer that earned a -15 LSR in its latest outing. That said, any improvement puts this dude in the hunt.

    Early Speed Ration (ESR): A measurement of a horse’s early energy expenditure in relation to the total race requirements. The lower the figure, the greater the horse’s early exertion in that event.

    -15= Demanding.
    -10= Brisk.
      -5= Moderate.
       0= Soft.

    Late Speed Ration (LSR): A measurement of a horse’s late energy expenditure in relation to the total race requirements. The higher the figure, the greater the horse’s late exertion in that event. Because late speed is calculated at a time when a horse is being asked for his/her maximum effort, LSRs can be a great indication of form as well.

       0= Excellent.
      -5= Good.
    -10= Fair.
    -15= Poor.

    Pace Profile: A simple comparison between a horse’s LSR and the ESR of the race in which it was earned. Positive profiles are greatly desired.

    Note: ESRs and LSRs recorded on turf or all-weather surfaces tend to vary by 5-10 points from those garnered on dirt tracks.

    FREE Fair Grounds Handicapping Reports

    Fair Grounds has a fantastic card scheduled for Saturday, highlighted by the Louisiana Derby and Palace Malice’s return to the bayou in the New Orleans Handicap.

    Below are links to some FREE reports:

  • ‘Levy’ Legs Continue In Lingering Cold

    POSTED Mar 26, 2014
    Spring may be having a slight problem progressing to its natural state of warming temperatures but that isn’t stopping the season’s most exciting early season series from moving into its second of six episodes. Yonkers Raceway’s the George Morton Levy Memorial Pacing Series and the Blue Chip Matchmaker is once again featured this weekend. The ‘Levy’ and Matchmaker march through the last weekend in March on Saturday and Friday, respectively.

    At the Meadowlands on Friday and Saturday, the Horse & Groom trotters and the Clyde Hirt pacers finish their series with a final each.

    Horses to watch (H2W) also parade in their specific order below, as presented exclusively for TwinSpires harness blog readers. Live probable across-the-board and exotic contenders are delivered neatly in the scheme.

    ’Levy’ Continued

    Yonkers Raceway’s Saturday night program focuses on round two of six Levys for the older male pacers. The second leg attracted 29 contestants, a contrast to the 36 entered in the opening leg.

    The first division features only one pacer returning from victory in the opening preliminary, Bettor’s Edge. Both he and the PJ Fraley entry of Validus Deo and Fat Mans Alley, whom will occupy the rail on the gate, will be the attractive forces in the public’s eyes. It’s clear who carries value with them this week. That horse would be Word Power, who went a conservative mile in the opening leg by never leaving the comfort of the pylons. It was sketchy from the get-go on whether or not Word Power would race aggressively, due to it being his first pari-mutual outing in three months. Now that he has a mile under his belt, it is more likely they will try to put Word Power into a stalking spot to try and sweep by horses late. He returns as our outside contender again this week.

    A Ron Burke trio, coincidently putting their noses on the inner three posts of the gate, headlines the second Levy division. That trio includes Escape The News, Itrustyou (a prelim winner) and Special Forces. Since Escape The News and Special Forces both finished last in the opening-round divisions, they’ll be coasting on Itrustyou’s gate-to-wire performance against Yonkers star A J Corbelli. Since Itrustyou may not be any value in the win pool, we’ll take a shot with two improving horses coming from the center of the starter.

    The better of the two is Flem N Em N. He has spent his winter at Yonkers, racing against the median of the class ladder. While he did ship across the river a few times to race against B-class horses at the Meadowlands, he shows a special talent for the half-mile oval. He displayed that talent last week, being the first to challenge Itrustyou for command, gaining 5 lengths to do so. Even then he didn’t quit, only losing 2 lengths through the stretch. There is a great possibility he can improve off that effort, and the price will be good too, given bettors will discriminate due to the outside post.    

    The second horse we’ll use will be one that would provide extremely generous payoffs in the exotics—Keystone Velocity. He made his first racetrack appearance in four months last week due to being plagued with injury and illness scratches. The consecutive scratches put him on layoff until March 14 when he qualified well at Yonkers. Come race day eight days later he gave chase behind Itrustyou as he coasted on the lead. Looking at the form he showed in 2013, he was sharp and could press the pace well. There is a great possibility he can return to that form this week, the difference being that he might travel an easier mile rather than going first over.

    The third division is among one of the speedier, due to A J Corbelli, Sweet Lou and Easy Again. In scenarios such as this, the route to take would be for a stalking horse that may be overlooked. A majority of this category of pacers resides on the outside in nine out of 10 races at Yonkers. To add on to the puzzle of this race, Apprentice Hanover drew the rail. The Ben Wallace trainee will be the likely favorite for his arduous task of racing against fan-favorite Foiled Again.

    With all that being said, there is one horse that fits into the categories of value and will be stalking the leaders: Dancin Yankee. The only way this horse knows how to race is from off the pace, exemplified in the Opens at Dover. The one time he raced on the lead was at Yonkers from post 7, where he still managed to get second. He may be in the right place at the right time but more importantly at the right price.

    The final Levy episode of the night features Foiled Again. Now 10, he continues to be a fan favorite. Yet, the question to be asked is whether or not there is value anywhere else in this event. There is one horse that carries the possibility of defeating Foiled Again and with that, winning at a price. To Foiled Again’s left flank resides Eddie Sweat, an improving four-year-old pacer. Eddie Sweat is a specialist racing from slightly off the lead but was sent for the front last week, taking no prisoners with a :26.3 first quarter. If he stands any chance of beating Foiled Again he will need a tactical drive that gets him just in front at the wire.


    Matchmaker Mares

    The second preliminary of the Matchmaker series commences Friday, featuring 27 mares in four divisions.

    Division one is the best betting affair of the night, with value on the horizon due to key horses from leg one drawing outwards. Such horses include Bettor B Lucky and Swinging Beauty, Burke trainees who traveled first-over journeys in their divisions. Another horse coming in off a notable mile is Krispy Apple. Drawing into the same division as the valiant Somwherovrarainbow, she tactically got away towards the middle of the pack and rode her cover while she dueled with Royal Cee Cee N for command. Because of this battle, Krispy Apple abused the tough work of Somwherovrarainbow and came a nose from a winners’ circle photograph. This week, while she did have all the work paved for her last week, she’ll benefit from drawing into the “weaker” division.

    Let’s Go Higher is a key horse in which to use in the exotics. Last week, she sat third at the pylons while Yagonnakissmeornot drew away from Economy Terror in second. Let’s Go Higher managed to sweep up late at 17-1 to complete the exacta. She draws post 2 this week, making a similar trip very possible.

    A cavalcade of preliminary winners enters into the second division, including Yagonnakissmeornot, Somwherovrarainbow and Summertime Lea. With these inside three most likely to challenge each other for the lead throughout the mile, Feeling You is eligible to upset them. Plagued with a bad post in her first outing of 2014, she was conservatively raced in the first leg of the Matchmaker, coming from third over and closing slightly to finish fifth. As she gets more miles under her belt she will also improve and maybe this week she’ll be placed in the right spot to sweep by the favorites late

    Charisma Hanover and Anndrovette are the ones to beat in division three. Anndrovette had no room to pace until late in the stretch, resulting in a fourth-place finish in her 2014 debut. Charisma Hanover was in the same boat, except she didn’t have as fierce a drive as Anndrovette. If you are willing to bet against these two monsters, Uf Dragon’s Queen is the horse to take. Her last start can be dismissed, as it was her first start back off a layoff. Shown by her lines as a three-year-old, it’s clear she has talent. It’s possible she could win in her second start and she draws into the smallest field, with six noses lining up on the gate.

    The final division has a Burke duo dominating the wagering yet again, this time it’s the entry of Rocklamation and Camille. The two went off as the 1-5 favoriteentry last week, losing to Angels Delight at 7-1. In that same mile came Shelliscape, famous for her sweep by Anndrovette in the Breeders Crown Final on a muggy October night last year. She made her first start of 2014 last week, deserving leniency in significance of the mile. While she draws post 7 this week, her talent in come-from-behind efforts is obvious, and that might be the route to take this week. 

    Meadowlands Moments

    Saturday’s Horse & Groom and Clyde Hirt finals highlight the Meadowlands program.

    The “Hirt” is first with a field of 10 and last week’s bust, Wake Up Peter, drawing the outside post. Even with the 10 hole and the misstep last week, “Peter” should get a lot of play but chances are the pacer leaving to his left, Burkentine Hanover, will be dismissed. We hope that is the situation, since inside of them are a few Hirt winners that will seduce the crowd into thinking this is more of a contest than it may actually be. “Burkentine,” our choice last week, was dynamic from post 10 at 12-1. He could be in that area for betting here, too, making him more than worth the backing.

    Then the Horse & Groom Final finds its probable favorite in a similar position as Peter, leaving from the farthest post. Banker Volo was a winner for us last week but we had no idea when we called him that the fans would bury his part of the pool with bets. A better proposition in the final is an outside contender, Hldontghttoyurdrms. The first plus for us is driver Jonathan Drury, who will repel the crowd since he is not one of the popular names harness bettors adore. Next, the classy Woodbine shipper has had two strong journeys in series legs and is bound to bring value to the pools and promise profit worth more than his chances.

    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

    Buffalo
    3/29/14, Twilight Jack R4; Doctor Gates R5; Unicorn Hanover R6; Veto Hanover—AE—R7; Four Hoof Drive R9

    Cal Expo
    3/28/14, +Love Live Laugh R2; Looks Don’t Count R8; +Wild About Eagle R14
    3/29/14, Early Boy R6; Me Tarzan R9; Shax R10; Split Ticket R10; +Scarboro Hanover R12; +Skyway King R13

    Dover
    3/30/14, +Chipoffablueblock R13

    Freehold
    3/29/14, +Waywatcher R4; +Pacific Escape R5; Espirit De Kay Jay A R6; Dreams Are Real R7; Wildridge Same R10; Kings Point R11 

    Meadowlands
    3/28/14, Notreadytobenice R13
    3/29/14, Sentosa Island R1; Pass The Deck R3; Passionate Terror R5;

    Miami Valley
    3/27/14, +Dream On Shorty R5
    3/30/14, Mama Made Me Blue R10

    Pocono
    3/29/14, +Cajon Hot Spot R2; Republic Of Panama R3; Well Done Hanover R6

    Pompano
    3/29/14, Ideal Choice R1; +Avantage R6; Kennairnmachmagic R7; Mystical Muscles R8

    Rosecroft
    3/29/14, +Lone Raider R6; +Gamblers Vacation R7; +TN Starbuck R7; Chepachet R8; Macho Mcgraw R9; I Turtle R12

    Saratoga
    3/28/14, Mystical Danica R8
    3/29/14, Mystical Danica R1; Milliondollartorch R7; Tyler R7; Village Jackson R10; Wellthereyougo R10; Mambo Italiano R11

    Yonkers
    3/27/14, Mystical Diva R10

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

    POSTED Mar 23, 2014

    The past week was stellar for winners and exactas, not just in raw number but in the prices. Plus, we were one short of nailing the Wednesday, March 19 TwinSpires bonus Pick 4 at Buffalo Raceway. That is where we will begin the parade of profits.

    The 50-cent bonus Pick 4, a weekly play offerint a 10-percent-bonus on winning the exotic, resulted in three of the four winners on March 19. In the first leg we singled Kisses N Kicks ($29.80, $18.80, $5.10); in the second we singled Stonetag ($10.60, $6, $3.30); in the fourth we had two contenders finishing fourth and eighth, respectively; and in the final leg we had two, winning with Good Luck Penny ($12.20, $4.90, $2.70).

    The Pick-4 is offered from the fifth to the eighth races every Wednesday evening. We assist with suggestions for your ticket via Twitter -- @FrankCotolo, @TwinSpires and @BuffaloRaceway and implore you not to pass the less-than-obvious contenders in your ticket and as win, place and show possibilities.

    Our contenders in the feature races this week (not our features, track events) included the first round of “Levy” and Matchmaker series at Yonkers and the Clyde Hirt and Horse & Groom legs at the Meadowlands.

    In the Horse & Groom we gave you Banker Volo ($4.80, $2.60, $2.20) in the second leg after finishing third with Crosbys Clam Bake ($2.20) at 5-1 in the first division, won by the public choice. In the Clyde Hirt we were third with Burkentine Hanover ($3.40) at 12-1 in division one. In the second division, Nathaniel B scratched.

    In the quartet of Matchmaker divisions on Friday at Yonkers we only had one third, Economy Terror ($2.60), finishing fourth, sixth and seventh with mares going off at 38-1, 12-1 and 94-1, respectively.

    Saturday’s Levy divisions were meant to aim at reasonable upsets, considering the five miles were strewn with stars. We came close with one, Malak Uswaad ($6.10, $9.30 ok), second to the public choice at 14-1 (Exacta $18). We picked up a meager win when Sweet Lou finished second ($2.60, $2.10—no show betting) with his entry mate, launching an exacta ($5.50) with our second choice, Pan From Nantucket ($2.10). Dancin Yankee, a second choice in another leg, finished third ($2.40). Our other choices, Word Power (5-1) finished fourth and Bet On The Law (26-1) finished sixth.

    The Levy story of the first round was the return of Foiled Again, who won the fifth division, his debut race of 2014. We will be covering the next five rounds and the finals of both series as spring settles in to a warmer state.

    The horses-to-watch (H2W) list results are below, once again featuring the win, place and show and exacta successes. There were five exactas scored, with one cold and the others combined with race favorites.

    We endorse across-the-board and the exotic plays you can find through the H2W, which is exclusively for your TwinSpires harness bankroll. Use your own judgment and handicapping but of course, consider the H2W horses, as they prove to be in league with good paying exotics and deliver healthy place and show cash when they don’t pick up the top spot.

    H2W RESULTS

    The H2W results list across-the-board prices. Also, exactas are included when a H2W horse finishing first or second completes the result with a race favorite or another H2W horse listed in the same race (an asterisk appears when both horses were listed to complete the exacta).

    Winners

    Mystically Mine, $45.40, $34.40, $13.60, Cal Expo
    Doomsday Hanover, $17, $4.60, $3.20, (Exacta $26.60) Rosecroft
    Skad’s Winner, $14.40, $6.20, $4.20, Pompano
    Missys Diamond, $11, $4, $3.60, (*Exacta $23.40) Cal Expo
    Camilla The Terror, $10.40, $4.40, $4.40 ok, Miami Valley
    RA Shakenbake, $9.50, $3.60, $2.80, (Exacta $22,40) Buffalo
    Coraggioso, $2.90, $2.40, $2.50 ok, Yonkers

    Seconds

    Love Raider, $5.20, $4.20, Rosecroft
    Waldy Jimmy, $5.20, $3.40, Pompano
    Cordealia, $4.20, $3.60, (*Exacta $23.40) Cal Expo
    Wild About Eagle, $3.40, $3.20, (Exacta $5.50) Cal Expo
    Love Live Laugh, $3.20, $2.20, (Exacta $7.40) Cal Expo

     Thirds

    Gambler’s Vacation, $4.20, Rosecroft
    Lust, $4, Cal Expo
    Handsoffmycupcake, $2.80, Meadowlands


    News And Notes

    Despite our contacts in Hollywood, we have not been able to discover specific news about the harness racing movie, “Johnny Longshot.” The Emilio Estevez project began principal shooting in 2013 and even developed a trailer while filming in Ohio. However, its category in the trades was changed to “in development” and promotional activity ceased. Estevez is the director, writer and star, with co-producer credits going to Gil Netter (“Life of Pi”) and Lisa Niendenthal (“Mona Lisa Smile”). There are reports of a script re-write holding up production. Allegedly the story, where Estevez plays harness horseman John West, was being “updated” in October of last year.

    Miami Valley Raceway will race on Monday, April 7, to make up for a weather-related cancellation on Sunday, March 2. With the addition of the make-up program, Miami Valley will be racing six nights a week during the final four weeks of its inaugural season. Tuesday nights will be added beginning April 15. Miami Valley offers three consecutive nights next week (Thursday, Friday and Saturday March 27-29).

    A meeting is slated for March 25 to determine the 2014 race dates for Hiawatha Horse Park, Dresden and Leamington raceways. The three tracks are outside the eight-track standardbred alliance group which are already assured funding for the next five years, and are along with Ottawa and Fort Erie vying for the remaining $8 million from the province to conduct racing (that includes expenses as well as purses). The group is comprised of the two WEG tracks, Mohawk and Woodbine, the two Great Canadian Gaming tracks, Flamboro and Georgian Downs, Hanover, Clinton, Grand River Raceways and Western Fair, so a lot is at stake in the Ontario skirmish for racing dates.

    As spring allows Minnesota to thaw from a frigid winter, the opening of Running Aces nears. Running Aces will conduct a 54-night meet in 2014 with racing beginning Wednesday, May 28 and ending Saturday, Aug. 30. Racing will be conducted every Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday throughout the summer with a 7 p.m. (CST) post time, except for Sundays when the action will begin an hour earlier.

    The 21st season of harness racing at Hoosier Park is set to begin Friday, March 28, with a new post time of 5:15 p.m. (EDT). Racing follows a Friday/Saturday schedule the opening week, a Thursday, Friday, Saturday schedule the second week and then resumes a Tuesday-through-Saturday schedule for the remainder of the meet. With an extended stakes schedule offered for the first time, the racing season goes through Nov. 15.

    Extraordinary Extras

    Indulge in many standardbred topics at my Hoof Beats blog titled Vast Performances.

    Ray Cotolo contributed to this blog

    Cartoons by Thom Pye

  • Analyzing Kentucky Derby Trainers

    POSTED Mar 22, 2014
    Last year, I did a piece on Kentucky Derby trainers. In it, I detailed a unique method I had derived to assess the merits of Derby trainers.

    The piece (and my method) came about following a blog posting by my friend and colleague Ed DeRosa, in which he defended Todd Pletcher’s (then) 1-for-31 record in America’s biggest race.

    “Admittedly, 1-for-31 isn't the most impressive stat,” DeRosa wrote on Feb. 26, 2013, “but it's also an unfair way to couch the opportunities he's had to win America's most famous race because he's only tried 12 times (but with 31 horses).”

    At best (barring any dead heats for the win), Pletcher would be 12-for-31, DeRosa argued. Furthermore, given the large fields that the Run for the Roses typically attracts, Pletcher’s miniscule win rate is to be expected.

    “Pletcher is 1-for-31 (3.2%) in an era when all starters are 13-for-246 (5.3%),” he pointed out. “That makes all starters not trained by Todd Pletcher 12-for-215 (5.6%). Sure, a trainer of his stature could be expected to perform a little better than all starters, but even winning the race a second time gets him to just 6.45%, and we're about to see winning it twice is no easy task let alone the charming third time that would make him a nearly 10% trainer in one of the most difficult races in the world to win.”

    In my original piece, I noted that although I had “no qualm with DeRosa’s math — it’s spot-on — I do take issue with his conclusion, and particularly with the way he approached the subject.

    “Frankly, it’s the same problem I have with the winner of the National Handicapping Championship being awarded an Eclipse Award as Handicapper of the Year: In low-probability events, it is generally more illustrative to look at overall consistency rather than focus solely on winners and losers.”

    “Don’t get me wrong,” I continued, “I’m not taking a shot at past and future winners of the NHC, but there is a reason that there has been no repeat champion since the tournament began in 2000; just like the Kentucky Derby, one’s chances of winning are miniscule. Hence, judging the competence of a handicapper based on whether or not he/she won the National Handicapping Championship is silly. Ditto winning or losing the Derby.”

    I then presented a chart showing a correlation I found between my Win Factor Report Form Ratings (a number from 0 to 100 percent that I use to assess a horse’s finishing position as well as its beaten lengths in a particular contest) and its final Kentucky Derby odds:

    (Click on image to enlarge)

    So, with the above chart in mind, I offer statistics for selected trainers with horses on the 2014 Kentucky Derby trail:

    (Click on image to enlarge)