Belmont & Maidens for Friday Afternoon

Some overlap as I have a several maiden plays at Belmont today. Two plays that I gave out on Twitter earlier:

Belmont 4: I liked Mineral Water (6-1) to sit a good trip and grind on home with the extra 1/2 furlong. Improved since layoff, it’s not the toughest field, and the price should be good enough to take a shot. Result: 2nd to favorite.

Belmont 5: I took a gut shot with Dangerous Lad (12-1). He’s a fast enough turf horse who likes the distance in a field with lots of questions. Result: Led into the homestretch, but passed by closers in final 100 yards. Upset winner at 13-1 in Which Market.

Here’s the plays coming up:

Belmont 7: In the Footsteps drops down in the second start off the layoff for Linda Rice. Willing to forgive last as too short and at a different track. Price might be nice with a 6-1 morning line, but some key scratches could effect the price. Playable down to 4-1, but not below.

Belmont 9: I like Neilinger (6-1) for the Contessa barn. Running lines suggest that she should appreciate the stretchout.  I’ll be at 4-1 or better. Momma’s Favorite is also worth a longshot look at 12-1. Paco Lopez rides for this other Monmouth invader. Another who could benefit from the stretchout. Will take shot at 8-1 or better.

Update: Neilinger is scratched. Will still take flyer on Momma’s Favorite. I’m also going to add Trensita (10-1) for Michael Matz who usually has them ready for their second time on turf.

Laurel 9: Nest of Pirates (and not because it’s National Talk Like a Pirate Day) at 6-1. The two likely favorites, both NY-invaders, have closed into some fairly sharp paces. Nest of Pirates, however, has done in with some softer paces. One decent turf effort already in past, and goes for a trainer that excels off the layoff. Playable at 3-1.




Day 4: The Final Five from Ellis

Taking on the final five of the “dozen maiden” races that I’ve been playing this week in a quest for value. I’ll be live-tweeting about them, so be sure to follow me on twitter @alldayracing.

The races are:

  • Race 2: $5K Maiden Claiming, Purse: $9K,  8f, Older.
  • Race 3: $30K Maiden Claiming, Purse: $14.5K, 6f, Older.
  • Race 4: Maiden Allowance, Purse: $33K, 5.5f, 2 year old, turf.
  • Race 5: $16K Maiden Claiming, Purse: $13.5K,  8f, Older.
  • Race 9: Maiden Allowance, Purse: $33K, 8f, Older, turf

I’ll also be recapping the maiden races — complete with charts and analysis — next week.  Good luck today!

Image: Dennis Forgione, “Anyone Back There?” Copyright 2014

Day Three: “Ils Sont Partis” — 3 Maiden Races from Evangeline Downs

Three maidens from Evangeline Downs are on tap for the third day of the dozen maiden races. At these lower purse levels, you’ll find far different fields — complete with many quick eliminations — from those at Saratoga and Del Mar. The story-lines require a bit of digging, but are just as compelling to the fan of the game.

Race 3: $12.5K Maiden Claiming, Purse: $15K, 8f, LA-bred, Older, Turf, 7:38 PM ET

At smaller tracks (and at all tracks, really), you should never toss a horse based on the morning line. Inside information often moves horses, and sometimes the line is quite off. It’s not unheard of to see several 15/1 or greater lines reduced to 5/2 throughout a card.  This is a fun level, too — and one that we see again in “split” in Race 7.  You’re essentially asking inexpensive horses to do something that they are likely not bred for — turf and distance.  It creates some variability that often leads to value.

The only horse with proven speed on the turf is Dance War (#2, 6-1). The rest are all question-marks and are trying the turf for the first time. It’s quite possible that one of them will take to the turf —  Uncle Carl (#3, 8-1) has some pedigree reasons to do so — although that often is built into the public’s price.  So the key question to this race is:

What is likelihood that the other runner’s in the race will not take to the turf and also that Dance War will run his race after a dull effort last time?

Selection: I’ll take my chances with Dance War, with these connections, at 9-2 or above.

Race 5: $7.5K Maiden Claiming, Purse: $8K, 7f, Older, 8:32 PM ET

By far, one of the most interesting stats I’ve seen recently came out of this race. Red Delta (#5, 8-1) is out of A.P. Delta who only wins with an impossibly low 1% of his first-time-starters.This is still a shockingly low percentage Granted, Red Delta is a five-year old, so this may, in theory, apply a bit less. That said, the only winner on debut for A.P. Delta went off at 8/5 odds. Thunder Bill (#7, 2-1) is 0 for 25.  Mouton goes with apprentice Odilon Martinez and hopes to finally find the winner’s circle today.  He might, but these horses tend to be bad bets. I much prefer Mr. Rossini (#10,5-1) on the outside. It’s only his seventh career start as well. He’ll go out for the lead and likely is rounding back into form. Tee Top Cat (#12, 30-1) is not that much worse than these and might be worth a flyer.

Selection:  It’s Mr. Rossini at 3-1 or greater.

Race 7: $12.5K Maiden Claiming, Purse: $15K, 8f, LA-bred, Older, Turf, 9:27 PM ET

See Race 5 for analysis of this level. There’s a bit more proven turf speed in this maiden, but Throwsomelimeonit (#6, 2-1) has been a new horse since taking to the turf.  The most speed on paper puts him on top. Fitz Perfectly (#9, 7/2) is interesting and could very well steal this on the front end, if he takes to the turf.

Selection:  I’ll take Throwsomelimeonit. There’s always risk after two big efforts, but both of those were against fields in which he was an outsider (at least according to the odds). He figures well in this group, and he’s a solid play down to a legitimate favorite’s bottom level price of 8/5.

Image:  Jason Howell, “Evangeline Downs.” Copyright 2009.


Day Two: Arlington Park’s 7th Race

Today, it’s the fourth of twelve maiden races I’m covering this week.  You can see the full schedule here:

Arlington Park, Race 7, $25K Maiden Claiming, Purse: $15.5K, 8f, Older, Turf.

4:54 P.M. ET

The Field:

Prince Warrior (#1, 7/2) enters the Conor Murphy barn after making up some ground against straight maidens at Tampa and Gulfstream. The company should be easier today — although neither of these, especially Gulfstream in the summer, is top level. Kilted (#2, 9/2) was outrun early at 5f last time out, but stretches out today for the first time on the turf. At a decent price, this is a bit of potentially positive uncertainty.  He’ll need to improve significantly, but there’s reason to believe that he can. Risk and Return (#3, 5/2) has the highest turf speed so far. But the connections aren’t inspiring, and I tend not to like any offspring of  Kitten’s Joy that isn’t campaigned by the Ramseys. They tend to be overbet by the public.  Gata Yat (#5, 6-1) is making a consecutive start for the first time in almost 2 years.  Still seems a race away, but worth a look.  My Man Mumbles (#6, 15-1) has some terrible workouts. Maragon (#8, 4-1) and Freedom Peace Love (#4, 6-1) would need slow races by everyone else to have a shot. Typically, those are bad bets.

Selection: I’ll take the upside with Kilted at 4/1 or better. Prince Warrior is the major threat.

Image: Jason Ernst, “Breakaway.” Copyright 2007.

Day One: Maiden Races at the Mountain

Today is the first day of my value-driven dozen maiden races that I described here.  I chose a variety of maiden races from “other” tracks (not Saratoga/not Del Mar) — looking for a few cards that had several. I haven’t previewed the races before selecting them, so we’ll see if there’s value. Based on the type of race, however, I’m hopeful that we’ll find it.

8:32 ET:

Race 5: $5K Maiden Claiming, Purse: $8.1K, 5.5f, Older, Fillies


Pencil Pusher (#2, 6/1) returns to the right level and surface after a conditioning foray for trainer Edward Clouston. It’s a weak race and should fit well with a fit horse. Should be a nice price.  Distinct Spirit (#3, 7/2) is 0 for 34 and has already spent significant time at this level. Certainly possible, but these types are terrible bets. Heat Box (#7, 3/1) drops from showing from brief speed against allowance maidens. A contender, but the merits are obvious to the public.

Selection: Pencil Pusher at 7/2 or better.

8:55 ET:

Race 6: Maiden Allowance, Purse: $19.4K, 6f, 3 year olds, Fillies.


Harold Jordan seems to have a two-horse stable, and both are entered here.  Of the two, Harlan’s Affair (#1, 9/5) has shown decent enough speed to win here. He’s the fastest so far in the field, but I’m not sure the distance is right. Still a strong chance, however. Guera Rachera (#3, 10/1) woke up in her last start, making a nice middle move at Belterra Park. Lacey the Spartan (#7, 5/1) makes the second start off the claim for Israel Garcia. Might be a tad bit too slow, but certainly figures with these connections. Brooks Gift (#8, 2/1) was sharp first time for Burley Clouston. A bit easier pace today should find the winner’s circle.

Selection:  This is a race that is very odds dependent. I expect the public to bet Brooks Gift heavily, although Lacey the Spartan could get a large amount of support. It’s also difficult to predict what the public will do with the entry — and which one goes. That said, I’ll play Brooks Gift at 5/2 or greater, which I don’t expect. I might also look at playing Guera Ranchera underneath, depending on payouts.

Update: Scratch Guera Rachera.  I’ll single Brooks Gift in the P5.

9:18 ET

Race 7: Maiden Allowance, Purse: $19.4K, 8f, Older.

Tiztactical (#1, 5/2) ran a solid race off the long layoff last time out.  The trainer’s percentages are low, but it’s a small sample, and his horse’s typically run well. Il Mangia Troppo (#2, 7/2) adds blinkers, but has been a bit short at this level. Prestigious Cat (#3, 6-1) moves off the turf after his debut. Throw out the last — this horse very well may be much better than we saw. Also throw out the last for Cute Boy (#4, 3-1), who figures on the return to dirt. Still, it’s quite difficult to claim at $5K and win at the maiden allowance level. Twisted Zing (#5, 12-1) has reason to improve with the stretchout and had an excuse with his bad start last race at the wrong distance. He may very well be over 20-1. Tip of the Hat (#6, 9/2) has sufficient back speed, but hasn’t shown anything in the Clark barn. Most likely, he’ll be overbet.

Selection:  This is the deepest race of the three and multi-race wagers should probably reflect this fact. I don’t think I’ll find value on Tiztactical, even with the plethora of contenders.  Instead, I’ll split a win bet between two likely longshots — Prestigious Cat and Twisted Zing.

Update: Twisted Zing is scratched. On another look, I’ve really warmed to Tiztactical as a legitimate favorite and will also single him in a P5. 

Image: Robert Hensley, “DSC_4693e.” Copyright 2010.

Searching for Summer Value: Maidens by the Dozen

Saratoga and Del Mar are fun meets. The fields are deep, the connections are typically solid, and horses are usually well-meant. Everybody wants to spend a few minutes in the respective winner’s circle. As a result, eliminations —  horses that rank nothing more than a “true longshot chance” — are much more difficult to find.  But, while these marquee meets proceed, value opportunities in beatable races still abound around the country. One place to find these value opportunities is in lower-level maiden races, where you can often eliminate a sizable portion of the field and also find many false (as well as legitimate) favorites. 

As a counter to the big-money meets, I’m going to focus on finding value in these types of races this week (and probably next). I’m making my own card of twelve maiden races from the next four days. You’ll notice I’ve highlighted the purse value in the race below.  This often serves as a great proxy for comparing different levels of maidens. Here the schedule for the rest of this week:

Wednesday, August 6: Mountaineer Race Track can be a rewarding venue for those who pay careful attention to small gradations in class. I’ll focus on:

  • Race 5: $5K Maiden Claiming, Purse: $8.1K, 5.5f, Older, Fillies
  • Race 6: Maiden Allowance, Purse: $19.4K, 6f, 3 year olds, Fillies.
  • Race 7: Maiden Allowance, Purse: $19.4K, 8f, Older.

Thursday, August 7: I’ll take a quick dive into Arlington Park for one of my favorite levels:

  • Race 7: $25K Maiden Claiming, Purse: $15.5K, 8f, Older, Turf.

Friday, August 8: Evangeline Downs always has deep fields — with plenty of eliminations. I’ll take a look at:

  • Race 3: $12.5K Maiden Claiming, Purse: $15K, 8f, LA-bred, Older, Turf
  • Race 5: $7.5K Maiden Claiming, Purse: $8K, 7f, Older.
  • Race 7: $12.5K Maiden Claiming, Purse: $15K, 8f, LA-bred, Older, Turf

Saturday, August 9: Ellis Park has maidens galore on Saturday.  Five maiden races from the across the spectrum, including:

  • Race 2: $5K Maiden Claiming, Purse: $9K,  8f, Older.
  • Race 3: $30K Maiden Claiming, Purse: $14.5K, 6f, Older.
  • Race 4: Maiden Allowance, Purse: $33K, 5.5f, 2 year old, turf.
  • Race 5: $16K Maiden Claiming, Purse: $13.5K,  8f, Older.
  • Race 9: Maiden Allowance, Purse: $33K, 8f, Older, turf

(and, of course, the GIII Gardenia Stakes for those who want to play something other than maidens!)

Good luck this week!

Image: Five Furlongs, “The Pegasus Stakes.” Copyright 2010.

Reviewing Maiden Claiming Week: Favorites, Plays, and Surprises

This past week, the Race of the Day focused on the maiden claiming ranks from around the country. There was still a good variety of races, with three different surfaces, four different tracks, three different distances, and, of course, a race for two years olds to cap it off.  Let’s review by looking at the charts, along with the predicted/actual favorite, whether I believed the favorite was risky, what plays I suggested, and the biggest surprise out of the race.

I track these because I like to assess the accuracy of  both my predictions about the public’s behavior and whether the favored horse is beatable.  Sometimes, these indicators can tell you more about your handicapping than temporary fluctuations (both positive and negative) in your ROI.  Notable surprises are both interesting, but also useful in future handicapping. Enjoy!

Monday, June 16:  Presque Isle Downs, 7th race, 6½ Furlongs, Dirt, PA-Bred Maiden Claiming $12.5K, 3 and up, Purse: $13,000.

  • Predicted and Actual Favorite:  1/1A   Little Drummer/Burning Point 2/5
  • Favorite Status:  Beatable
  • Play/Rationale:  Textbook Blues (9/2) and Mission Man (9/1) as second time against artificial surface with improvement in first effort.
  • Winner:  Favorite
  • Notable Surprise:  Money Eyed Boy’s sire, Jet Star, had his first starter on artificial surface, which could bode well for the Pennsylvania sire at Presque Isle.

Screenshot 2014-06-21 10.23.12 Wednesday, June 18:  Mountaineer Racetrack,1st race, 1 Mile, Dirt, Maiden Claiming $5K, 3 and up, Purse: $8.1K.

  • Predicted and Actual Favorite:  Peekaboo Vision (1/2)
  • Favorite Status:  Beatable
  • Play/Rationale: Diamond Mind at 5-1 as a well-meant first-time starter with heavy risks on other contenders
  • Winner: Heza Belfast
  • Notable Surprise:  Hezabelfast was 0 for 26 with six seconds and nine thirds.  But he just rolled on by Peekaboo Vision and Diamond Mind, who had led in the stretch before tiring late.  That’s horse racing!

Screenshot 2014-06-21 10.35.32 Thursday, June 19:  Belmont Park, 5th race, 1 Mile, Inner Turf, Maiden Claiming $40K, 3 and up, Purse $41K.

  • Predicted and Actual Favorite:  Corinthian Summer (Even)
  • Favorite Status:  Beatable
  • Play/Rationale:  Shoot for the fences — Azorian and Hooping — with the beatable favorite taking way too much money.
  • Winner: Plated
  • Notable Surprise:  The “extreme cutback” from over 2 miles by Plated.  For those curious, FX is twice a year day-long meet in Charlottesville, VA for jumpers.  Learn something new every race!

Screenshot 2014-06-21 10.37.18 Friday, June 20:  Lone Star Park, 6th Race, 5 Furlongs, Maiden Claiming $20K, 2 year olds, Purse $12K.

  • Predicted and Actual Favorite:  Prime Pilot
  • Favorite Status:  Very Legitimate
  • Play/Rationale:  Prime Pilot — legitimate favorite that was playable down to even money.  Combine with Pick 3’s and Pick 4’s.
  • Winner: Favorite
  • Notable Surprise: The stronger part of the #1 entry, Nonobaby, was scratched by the track vet before the race, making it easier for Prime Pilot to romp.

Screenshot 2014-06-21 10.41.59 All charts are: Copyright 2014 Equibase Company, LLC.

Lone Star Park, 6th Race, Coverage begins at 9:40 ET on Twitter.

Race of the Day, June 20

Lone Star Park, 6th Race, 5 Furlongs, Maiden Claiming $20K, 2 year olds, Purse $12K. 

We’ll wrap up Maiden Claiming week here on All Day Racing with a visit  to Lone Star Park, site of the 2004 Breeders Cup.  You might remember that Ghostzapper was awesome.  A solid card kicks off the weekend with some Friday evening action.  I’ll focus on the 6th race — maiden claiming two-year olds going a short 5 furlongs.

What you need to know about 2 year old Maiden Claiming:

#1:  The conventional wisdom  for two-year old maiden claiming is to view every horse with skepticism.  Why? Because nobody would offer a 2-year old for sale — this early in their career — if they were a decent horse.  There’s some truth in this for sure, but it’s incomplete. Many of these horses typically are bred for very early speed with little stamina.  They are fast-ish early, but likely won’t develop  to excel beyond their two-year old campaign.  They are placed in this level not because they are not good, but because this is the best place for them to win early.  Offering them for sale is just part of the game for not-so-fast horses.

#2:  As with all two-year old races, there are some trainers that excel at juvenile horses. Nationally, Wesley Ward comes to mind, as does Steve Asmussen and Jerry Hollendorfer. This could be a result of a special penchant for trainers youngsters, or simply be landing precocious two-year old in the barn.  But, either way, past success with babies usually portends future success.

#3:  While it may seem suspect to offer a young, unproven horse for sale, many horses at this level originally cost less — sometimes much less — than the claiming price.  This, of course, ignores the real cost of raising a horse, but it the relationship between the purchase price/stud fee and claiming price tends to be a good measure of who might just be a bit better, especially for first-time starters.

#4:  Two-year old races tend to be among the most formful of races.  This goes against the conventional racetrack wisdom that young horses tend to be erratic.  In fact, according to Brisnet, of the 8 of the 9 most recent winners at this level were 5/1 or lower.

Five Facts about the Runners:

  1. Prime Pilot (#5, 2-1) is the likely favorite.  His race last time out was good enough to win here, if repeated.  He drops from the maiden allowance level — along with several others.  I rarely say this, but he’s a legitimate favorite!
  2. The entry of Nonobaby and Broken Zipper (#1-1A, 3-1) will likely scratch one.  Conditioner Jack Bruner trains well with two-year old and can get it done at this level.  He’s not the best with first-timers, though, and it could be difficult for either entrant today.  I like Nonobaby better than Broken Zipper, with a sharp recent workout and good sprint breeding.
  3. Chatain Pass (#6, 10-1) has a chance to run well.  Young does well with his first-time starters and there’s some decent win-early pedigree here. But up top seems like asking too much from him.
  4. Time for Taylor (#4, 5-1) doesn’t have the pedigree to show speed early, and likely needs more racing.  Pish can win with two-year olds, but typically not first out at the claiming level.
  5. The entry of Witt’s Tax Day and Witt’s Runner (#2, 4-1) drop from maiden allowances. Both are a little too slow, and if the entry runs, they will likely be overbet, given their actual combined chances.

What I’m thinking of playing:

I almost always try to beat a favorite, but it’s hard to see Prime Pilot having much trouble with this group.  Some decent works at the track, but more importantly, an actual earned speed rating fast enough to win here.  I’ll probably try to link up in a multi-race wager — the late Pick 4 starts with this race.

Coverage starts at 9:40 ET on Twitter @alldayracing.

Belmont Park, Race 5, Coverage on Twitter at 3:10 P.M. ET

Race of the Day, June 19

Belmont Park, 5th race, 1 Mile, Inner Turf, Maiden Claiming $40K, 3 and up, Purse $41K.

Today, it’s back to N.Y. for the first time since the Belmont Stakes. Great racing there everyday.  Plus, it’s another installment in Maiden Claiming week!  I love Maiden Claimers. Tons of risky favorites and lots of horses that need miracles to win.  It can set up for great value in mid-odds. 

Here’s what you need to know about the fifth from Belmont:

5 facts:

  1. Corinthian Summer (#8, 2-1) continues his drop through the maiden claiming ranks.  Did make up some nice ground in the middle of last race, but should be overbet because of connections.
  2. Azorian (#1A, 10-1) stays in the race as, perhaps, the most important pace factor.  Easy fractions could see an improvement to the Winner’s Circle, but demand at least 6-1.
  3. Dividend (#7, 3-1) adds blinkers in a curious move for a horse that made up almost 21 lengths in a previous start.  Ian Wilkes struggles with this angle, but Dividend’s last workout — presumably with blinkers — has to be encouraging.  I wouldn’t go much past 6-1 with him.
  4. Plated (#6, 5-1)  cuts back from 2 1/8 miles in his last start.  Not something you see everyday — perhaps underneath and late.
  5. Hooping (#4, 6-1) would need more today, but certainly has a shot.  His experience in lower-leveling claiming at Gulfstream Park ($16K) will likely keep the price relatively fair.

The Key Questions:

  • How heavy a favorite is Corinthian Summer?  The lower the price, the better for value elsewhere.  Public overbet!
  • Does Azorian improve with an easier pace?  It’s a tough angle to nail, but one that can pay well in the right circumstances with value odds.
  • How does Dividend react to the blinkers?   Wilkes struggles with this angle.
  • Does Hooping do enough to win?  Sometimes the winner doesn’t have angles, but just enough speed when others don’t fire.

What I’m thinking of playing:

I’ll likely take a stands against both Corinthian Summer and Dividend. Azorian should be be the play, but only at  6-1 or better. Good luck!

Tune in at @alldayracing on Twitter for coverage starting at 3:10 P.M. ET. See you then!

Mountaineer, June 18, 8:40 PM on Twitter

Race of the Day, June 18

Mountaineer Race Track, Maiden Claiming $5K, 6F, 3 and up.

Here’s what you need to know to prepare for the Race of the Day.

Five Facts:

  1. Diamond Mind finds his way to the racetrack for the capable Jeff Radosevich barn.  Good breeding for these and certainly figures against a lackluster group.
  1. Pekaboo Vision is the possible favorite, but has some risk as he tries six furlongs – not his best distance.  He might be on form and best all (but Diamond Mind) easily.  Speed and rail bias can be huge at Mountaineer, so it makes sense to watch at least a few races (or replays) to get a sense of how the track is playing. Also the excellent track handicappers usually tune you in to this fact on the live feed from Mountaineer.
  1. Dark Winter comes off a short layoff – something his trainer excels at.   He would need to improve and likely needs longer.  Note: nothing on the worktab since coming into the barn.  Likely not reported  – perhaps a late workout will be added.
  1. Imperial George gets a long look.  Too slow at Charles Town is meaningless for the Mountaineer surface.  A horse can hate Charles Town, but can love Mountaineer.  If anything, hating Charles Town makes it more likely that you will at least like Mountaineer.  Rarely do horses like both, but sometimes they like neither, which could be the case here (absent bias).
  1. Hezabelfast is 0 for 26.  But along the way he’s had six second and nine thirds.  This is a horse that does not want to cross the finish line first.  Very little value on top.

The rest all have longshot chances, but no likely value.


  • Is Diamond Mind ready to go?  If so, he should win easily against all but an improved Dark Winter or Pekaboo Vision.
  • Is Pekaboo Vision improved out of that last race?  If so, then the extra furlong might not be a huge challenge.  This is about form – a difficult handicapping factor to discern on paper.
  • How is the track playing?  Speed and/or rail bias – different at different distances at Mountaineer can be strong, but often difficult to predict.
  • Is Dark Winter in shape of the layoff?  If so, he still needs improvement, which still means he should be in the middle-range odds (6/1 – 10/1).  Ultimately, this need for improvement makes his value questionable.

What I’m thinking of playing:

Diamond Mind is probably my pick up top, unless he hovers too low.  I’d play him at 4-1 or higher; there are always reasons a horse debuts for $5k at Mountaineer. I’ll also take a look at how the track is playing.  As said, bias can be huge at Mountaineer,  in which case I’d probably go with Pekaboo Vision down to 5-2..  I’d take stands against Hezabelfast winning for those who play vertical exotics or, better yet, in exchange betting.  That might be the safest pick with the best return of them all.

Tune in @alldayracing on twitter beginning at 8:40 P.M. ET for live coverage of the race of the day.  See you then!