The Champagne Stakes (G1) and the Breeders’ Futurity (G1)

Two grade 1 races for 2YO routing this week, with an additional caveat. Both are part of a cross-country P4 with cooperation between Belmont and Keeneland.  The other 2 races are the G1 Shadwell Turf Mile and the G1 Jockey Club Gold Cup. So, that’s a Pick 4 with 4 G1’s — not something you see every day.  We’ll focus here, as we usually do, on the 2YO races — the Breeders’ Cup is tantalizing close, but I encourage everyone to take a look at the full sequence.

Champagne Stakes, 4:13 ET (2:13 MT) 

The Champagne Stakes is run on the dirt at a one-turn mile, so the dynamics are a bit different than the 2-turn route. We’ll hear more about this in the future as the winner (and close finishers) try two turns. This is an extremely wide open race, with many horses attempting the mile for the first time. Good Magic, a $1million son of Curlin, finished a strong second (as the favorite) in his fast debut at 6.5 furlongs. Another fast maiden is Bahamian, a Reddam/Callahan trainee, who hasn’t been favored in his two losses, but still performed strong, especially in his second start. A winner to take note of is Aveenu Malcainu, who has been beating up NY-breds sprinters on his way to a perfect record. Yes, it’s a step-up, but it’s not unheard for a NY-bred to compete among the best, if not be the best, in the country.  Honorable Treasure had a dominant win at 7f, in a race that was taken off the turf. You always need to consider that the field in this affairs are a bit weaker than those carded and run on the dirt. Hazit is another strong maiden winner for the Pletcher-barn.  But I’m going to recommend the horse on the way outside — Firenze Fire. He’s built toward this and done so against the top competition — winning the Sanford and finishing about 4 lengths back in the Hopeful (on a good track). He has a more than capable connections with Servis and Irad Ortiz.

Breeders’ Futurity, 5:10 ET (3:10 MT)

Here, we have 2YO going 1/16 miles on the main track at Keeneland. Keeneland brought their races back to the Kentucky Derby Trail with the reinstallation of dirt a few years back, and it’s great to see. This is a deeper race than the Champagne, with some winners at route distances and some gaudier speed figures. But, if you are looking for a price, there are plenty of maiden winners who could move it to the next level.  Of note, Javier Castellano takes the mount on Ezmosh for Brad Cox, who broke his maiden at a mile at Churchill Downs. You always need to know where Javier is — he’s the best jockey in the US. Ten City has already routed and has faced solid competition all year. But it’s tough to win a 4.5f in April and then routing in the fall. But, in this race, I’m looking at the 2 horses that came out of the Hopeful (along with my pick in the Champagne) — Givemeaminit and Free Drop BillyThe competition from that race easily beats out many of the maiden races that the rest of the field has faced, and I’ll take both of them in a P4.

Good luck playing the races!

Image: Dan H, 2012

Rethinking Multi-Race Exotics

Having a ticket crafted out of various combinations of your “A”, “B,” and “C” rated horses is all the rage in wagering. Generally, you hit your ticket if all of your A’s win, or some combination of A’s & B’s, or A & C’s. Explained by Steven Crist in “Exotic Betting,” (full review here) and the basis for the DRF wagering calculator, this method lets you go deeper for less money in pick four, pick fives, and pick sixes. It is colloquially known as the “Chinese Menu” approach, in reference to Chinese food family-style menus that let you choose a couple of items from column A and B, respectively.

This method — now considered the mainstream approach — is flawed from a value perspective.  By eliminating tickets with multiple longshot horses, you cut out the rarest combinations and those that will pay the most. Many of these combinations can potentially scoop the pool at smaller tracks. Getting into these “soft spots” is where the outsized payoffs are. The proponents of the Chinese Menu approach need to show that the money saved by leaving these combinations off the tickets makes financial sense by giving up chances at year-changing payouts.  It is my experience that they do not.

I prefer the combinations of different levels of “unlikely” in order to maximize return. The greatest payoffs occur when you can combine “very unlikely” (in the eyes of the public, but still a contender) with “only slightly unlikely.”  The tighter the multi-race exotics, the better (Daily Double over Pick 3/Pick 3 over Pick 4 and 5), with the maximum amount of money pushed onto your opinion.  That said, there are many “soft spots” that can bring about outsized returns throughout the longer multi-race exotics.  Knowing how to play these well can make a significant difference in your bottom line.