Getting past Tonalist & Wicked Strong in the Jim Dandy

Tonalist looks really tough in the Jim Dandy. He’s been training great, and, of course, he’s the Belmont winner.  By advanced metrics, his Belmont was quite fantastic and, when all is said and done, he could be the best horse of his generation. The Wood Memorial winner Wicked Strong is also quite fast and accomplished. He’s trained by the sizzling Jimmy Jerkins, who won the Curlin Stakes yesterday with V-E Day and is having a very good year.

That said, there’s always a chance that horses don’t perform up to expectations, and it’s typically often greater than you think. Perhaps Tonalist will turn out to be a fast horse that just loves Belmont. Wicked Strong could just be a plodder who likes to gets up for second or third, unless the pace is unreal.  We don’t know the answer to these questions yet.

If it happens and the two favorites lose, the payoffs, especially in multi-race exotics like the Pick 4, will be great. Part of finding longshots is looking for “upside,” or figuring out what would need to happen for a certain horse to win. This type of thinking can often help you to get past horses that seem like “sure things.” These horses still would likely need some improvement and/or misfires by the top two, so price accordingly.

Legend (#2, 12-1):  Solid, who has grown up nicely in last two starts. Seems likely to get involved early.

Upset scenario: He could get a very nice pace — especially for 9f — as the likely pacesetter. And he’s a son of Tiznow.

Headline: “Legend stole it!”

Ulanbator (#3, 15-1): He’s been a bit of a “wise guy” horse, but hasn’t had quite enough in the stretch.

Upset scenario: Added distance leads to an easier pace and more left for the stretch. Unlikely given sire, but Ian Wilkes knows what is doing. How much do you trust him?

Headline: “Ulanbator loved the distance!”

Kid Cruz (#5, 8-1): He’s quite well-accomplished with five lifetime wins, including two GIII’s. Seems better at 8.5f.

Upset scenario:  He’s simply a much improved horse since the Preakness, and half furlong doesn’t make a difference as he matured. He doesn’t need the improvement that some of the others do.

Headline: “Kid Cruz just loves to win!”

Commanding Curve (#7, 5-1): He’s best known so far for his second in the Kentucky Derby. He reportedly wasn’t training great for the Belmont.

Upset scenario: He’s rested after the grueling Triple Crown Trail, and he matches or improves upon his Derby performance.

Headline: “Rested Commanding Curve recaptures Derby form!”

Image: “Jim Dandy.” Copyright 2011.



Four Value-Seeking Questions for the Curlin Stakes

The Curlin Stakes, run at 9f at Saratoga, is ungraded and has a purse of $100K. Along with the Jim Dandy on Saturday, it is a prelude to the Travers Stakes, and the Curlin is especially attractive for late-developing three year olds. To preview, I present four questions that may help you to find a value selection by looking at horses that are morning line of 8-1 or greater that may still have a chance. These questions are designed to help you assess that chance. In fact, it’s not so much the answer that’s important, but the question. Questions typically equal uncertainty, which can then be priced for value.

  1. What kind of horse will the regally-bred Charge Now (#5, 10-1) be? Overhyped coming into the Iowa Derby, he still ran a relatively productive race after that strangely slow Belmont allowance. Even if you don’t toss that race, he still has every chance to be great. But always demand a price if you’re betting on improvement, especially solely on pedigree. It’s dangerous territory, and typically priced well by the public.
  2. Do you trust the speed of Joint Custody (#9, 6-1)? It was earned at a different track, but under relatively similar purse conditions. Yet, as with the public, I tend to find that mid-atlantic speed carries quite poorly to these events. Is there any reason to think that Joint Custody will bring his speed north?
  3. Will Viva Majorca (#2, 12-1) appreciate the added distance, or is he merely a closing sprinter? Pace players may be enticed, and it could very well fall apart. But, beware, it’s not always a given that the style will translate over from sprints to routes. Most, but not all, stretch-outs are built into the price.
  4. V.E. Day (#7, 20-1) had a terrific comeback last time over the turf and has done very little wrong in his two attempts this year. How will he take to the Saratoga dirt? Certainly have to trust the sharp Jerkins, but he may not know, either. Indeed, it’s a great spot to try something new, especially with the Travers just a few weeks away. He certainly has a competitive chance in here, but make sure you get at least a double-digit price.

Good luck, and I’ll be covering the race live on twitter @alldayracing. Image: Banamine, “Curlin.” Copyright 2007. Creative Commons 2.0.

The Ohio Derby

I’ll kick off the late-season coverage of three-year olds with a trip to the center of the sports world — and my hometown — of Cleveland, Ohio. On Saturday, Thistledown Racino hosts the Ohio Derby,  with a very nice field of twelve and a purse of $300,000.  One familiar name from the Triple Crown trail, which, while fun for fans, can help to create value elsewhere. Run now at eight and a half furlongs, it was contested for most of its history at 9 furlongs. Some nice historical winners of the race:

  • 1924: Black Gold
  • 1979: Smarten
  • 1986: Broad Brush
  • 1995: Petitionville
  • 1996: Skip Away
  • 2004: Brass Hat
  • 2006: Deputy Glitters
  • 2011: Caleb’s Posse

This year’s edition features some very well-bred horses. The race begins with Almost Famous (#4, 7-2) who comes off a decent effort on a hot pace in the Matt Winn Stakes. Popular rider Calvin Borel gets the mount; this horse will certainly get the public’s attention. If he runs anywhere near the race he did off the layoff, he’ll win by open lengths. But that race on May 24 at Churchill Downs stands as an aberration on the PP. Other than that day, Almost Famous has been a good, but not great horse.  A good place for visual handicapping, especially if you have notes of his appearance at earlier races.  Remember it’s not so much how they look, but how they look compared to their previous appearances.  Nevertheless, be wary of a low price on him, especially with this deep field. Jessica’s Star (#9, 4-1) ships in after an impressive performance in the Iowa Derby.  He’s done very little wrong in his career, with game efforts on debut and even in the lone turf try. Certainly figures here, and may be overlooked with some of the other names.  East Hall (#12, 5-1) arrives after being a warrior through the winter in Florida. He was always a notch below the best and may still be a notch below these. Harry’s Holiday (#5, 8-1)  returns to the races for the first time since finishing 16th in the Kentucky Derby.  Here’s what I said about him on that day:

Maybe the easiest elimination of all the horses.  He does have a win over the track — although it was in a lower-level maiden event.   He qualified with a second-place finish in the Spiral, which isn’t that impressive of a prep race, and he’s hasn’t run close to fast enough to win this race. There’s a line between a good longshot (who has flaws but can win) and a bad longshot (who just isn’t fast enough).

I certainly didn’t like him that day, and I don’t feel much better about him today.  Seems a notch below these, and he’ll be overbet.

Bump Start (#3, 12/1) under the talented Deshawn Parker makes a step up in class.  He’s routed before, but this will be his first route of the three-year old season. Certainly worth a long look by anyone wanting a big price. Cleburne (#7, 12/1) comes in for Dale Romans and Donegal Racing. He’s lightly raced and would need a huge step forward to win here, but this horse has potential to be a good one. Still, I’d sit out one — let him show you on the track first.  Mushu (#10, 20-1)Larcenyinmyheart (#1, 15-1)  and Avgolemono (#8, 20-1) all carry local hopes.  Larcenyinmyheart comes in on a four-race winning streak since the claim and ship to Thistledown.  He’d be a great story, but seems unlikely. Mushu could like the stretchout, but would need improvement.  Brothersofthetime (#2, 8-1), Saa Mi (#11, 15-1) and Russelin (#6, 10-1) have chances, especially if no one moves forward, but rate outsider chances at best.

Key questions:

1. Does Almost Famous repeat that lifetime best performance?  If so, the race is over.

2. Does Cleburne step up off the layoff? He won the Iroquois last year and certainly has reason to be a good one. Has potential to be the best of the bunch. Can he be his best today?

3. Will a local horse hit the board? Mushu is interesting on the stretch-out .  Lately, Larcenyinmyheart is a win machine. Could be some nice value underneath for exotics players.

4. How does Bump Start handle the stretch-out? Last race was very nice, but he’d need to move forward yet again.  Still could offer some value, especially at high odds.

What I’m thinking of playing:

I expect Almost Famous to take a bunch of money as the post time favorite.  I’ll let him beat me, especially at a low price. Jessica’s Star is interesting under David Mello. He always makes a good showing, and might sit right off a hot pace. Anything over 5-1 is nice, which is possible if Harry’s Holiday and Cleburne take money.  Bump Start rates a look, but it’s a huge step up in class. Certainly worth looking at above 20-1.

Coverage of the Ohio Derby on @alldayracing on twitter!

Good luck!

Image: Nicholas Eckhart, “Thistledown Racino.” Copyright 2014. 

The Three Year Old Division: What’s on Tap?

Mainstream coverage of three year olds unfortunately tends to wane after the Belmont Stakes.  But the second-half of the season provides just as many terrific story lines as the Derby trail. The Triple Crown participants join up with new contenders, who typically are either late-developing or may have missed time due to injury.

It’s important to note that there are two informal divisions of three-year olds. The first is generally a Grade I path through either the Haskell at Monmouth and the Travers at Saratoga and then joining older horses in September and eventually for the Breeders’ Cup Classic. The second involves a number of Grade II, Grade III, or ungraded stakes races, such as the Ohio Derby and West Virginia Derby.

Here are the key races coming up.  Note the amazing weekend of July 25-27 with three races, including the G1 Haskell.  Check back here for further coverage of the division!


July 19: Ohio Derby, Thistledown Racino, 8.5f, $300k

July 25: Curlin Stakes, Saratoga Race Course,  9f, $100K

July 26: Jim Dandy Stakes, Saratoga Race Course,  9f, Grade II, $600K

July 27: Haskell Invitational, Monmouth Park,  9f, Grade I, $1M

August 2:  West Virginia Derby, Mountaineer Race Track, 9f, Grade II, $750K

August 23: Travers Stakes, Saratoga Race Course, 10f, Grade I, $1.25M

September 1: Smarty Jones Stakes, Parx Racing,  about 8.5f, $300K

September 6:  Super Derby, Louisiana Downs, 9f, $500K

September 20: Pennsylvania Derby, Parx Racing,  GII, 9f, $1M

September 28: Oklahoma Derby, Remington Park, September 28, GIII, 9f $400K

October 4: The Indiana Derby, Indiana Downs,  October 4, G2, 8.5f, $500K


Donnie Ray Jones, “Horse Race – Louisiana Downs”, Copyright 2011.



The Iowa Derby (Grade III)

You can often find value in these late season three-year-old stakes races, often simply by betting against horses that ran in the Triple Crown.  The public recognizes the name and overbets on this reason alone.  This strategy, however, still requires finding either a late developing three-year old.  Often, you can find them in horses that may have missed the Triple Crown due to injury, but usually you can find them in stamina horses that are now beginning to fully develop.  I like to demand recent form and speed, however.  Betting simply on the hope of improvement is a recipe for losses.


  • Vicar’s in Trouble (#8, 3/1) is certainly the most accomplished of the field, but will be overbet, given the Derby experience and past speed.   Will try to do it on the front end.  Needs to be sharp off the layoff.
  • Charge Now (#5, 8-1) emerged out of a Belmont allowance that I previewed and recapped.  He was much the best on paper in that race, but didn’t have to do too much.  The speed figure came back low, and even if that wasn’t a top effort, he’d still have to improve to win here.
  • Embellishing Bob (#1, 7-2) is my pick.  He’s been plenty fast sprinting and beat (by legitimate DQ) hot horse Bayern in the Derby Trial before being trounced by him in the Woody Stephens.  I like the stretch out and the mile work.
  • Russelin (#2, 10/1) goes for conditioner Chris Hartman.  Old Fashioned is an emerging sire and this one has nice speed and style. Still seems like a bit much to find his way to the top.
  • Six Spot (#3, 5-1) should be moved up if the track is wet – a possibility with thunderstorms likely tomorrow — but not otherwise


What I’m thinking of betting:

I like Embellishing Bob at anywhere over 3-1.  I expect that you’ll get this price on the likely second choice as Vicar’s in Trouble will likely get tons of action.  Six Spot deserves a look if the track is wet.   I haven’t seen enough speed from Charge Now to support him here.  I’ve heard Travers for him, but I’ll wait to see more.

Tune in on Twitter at 10:00 ET on Saturday night for coverage of the full slate of Stakes races from Prairie Meadows.  See you then!

Belmont Park, Race 7, Coverage begins at 4:10 P.M. ET

Wednesday, June 25: Race of the Day, Belmont Park,  Race 7, 1 Mile. 1st Level Allowance, plus claiming. 3 year old only. Purse: Purse $77K. 

A sizable purse is on the line for a solid group of 3-year olds routing at Belmont Park.  The scheduling and distance of this race are an ideal for the start of a Travers Stakes campaign, so we could very well see someone of note emerge from this group.

  • Venetian Mask (#2, 5/2) starts off an dominant seven furlong maiden score at Parx.  A son of Pulpit, out of a Carson City mare, this horse should fit the distance perfectly. He’s been training well and adds Rosario.  Legitimate, but this is a deep field.
  • Protonico (#6, 4/1) who joins the Pletcher barn after a brief two-year old campaign that showed promise.  Pletcher is taking the blinker offs — always a sharp move.  A strong win here off the layoff could have Protonico pointed towards the Travers.   Always worth a paddock look of the layoff and trainer change.
  • Big Guy Ian (#3, 6-1) has done very little wrong in his career.  He ran decently in the famed February 22nd allowance at Gulfstream in which Constitution beat eventual Belmont Stakes winner Tonalist and Wood Memorial winner Wicked Strong.  Possibly prepping for later today — seems to want longer.  Could see him down the road.
  • All My Memories (#4, 8-1) came into his own last race for Jason Servis, winning impressively over this track.  There’s no reason this one can’t win today and could offer great value for those who bet longshots.
  • Magic Cash (#5, 6-1) comes into the Tony Dutrow barn.  A son of Tapit out of a Storm Cat mare, this horse could be a star.  Training lights-out at Fair Hill, he’d still need an improved performance to win here, but that’s not an unreasonable task.
  • Lietenant Seany O (#1, 3-1) has been finishing second for the Jacobson barn as of late.  Solid, but Jacobson’s runners typically lose form the more they run.  With a tough field here, I’d think he’ll be overbet.

What I’m thinking of betting:

I’ll take a good look at Protoncio and listen to @maggiewolfndale’s analysis, especially with the layoff and trainer change.  The potential is sky-high with this one.   There are still lots of chances, so I’d need to see a decent price of around 4-1 to win.  All My Memories is also probably worth a small bet — especially through multi-race exotics — over 10-1 to win.


Belmont Park, Race 3, 2:05 PM ET

Race of the Day

Belmont Park, Elmont, NY, Race 3, 2:05 PM ET

First-Level Allowance, 1 1/16 miles, 3 year olds, Purse: $77K

An impressive purse is on the line for five three year olds in the third race from Belmont Park. Roman Approval (#1, 6-1) has scratched.

It’s quite possible that we’ll see some stakes runners emerge from this race, with the a slew of competitive graded events still on tap for the second half of the summer.  The race starts with the even-morning morning-line favorite Charge Now (#2, 1/1) for William Mott.  Charge Now is a son of Tiznow.  A Winstar farm homebred, he’s out of the same mare as Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver, Supercharger.  He’s bred for greatness and has shown speed on the track in his short career.

Getting past Charge Now is difficult, but Lieutenant Seany O (#4, 5-1) has been racing well since in the David Jacobson barn.  He returns to a route — his preferred distance.  He certainly could be a factor today and rates an outside threat to Charge Now. Long Water (#6, 3-1)  is a Kiaran McLaughlin trained, Darley home-bred that has finally begun to touch his potential.  Nevertheless, he’s a bit slower than either Charge Now or Lieutenant Seany O.  Howl (#5, 12-1) comes out of a maiden claiming win and is a bit too slow.  However, he excelled in his first try on the Belmont dirt track, and could put in another solid effort today.  Steve Came Through (#3, 30-1) is outclassed.


  1. Will Charge Now emerge as a contender in the three-year old division? He’s well-bred and has shown good speed on the track.  A superb performance will vault him up the charts.
  2. How will Lieutenant Seany O appreciate the added distance?  He’s been a new horse for Jacobsen, and could very well win if Charge Now does not improve.
  3. Is Howl a potential Belmont Park “Horse for Course”?  It’s one explanation of his improvement last time, although he’s still likely too slow here.


Charge Now should be the best in the race.  But Lieutenant Seany O offers some serious upside at a price, and certainly is a strong contender for second.  We’ll check the exacta prices during our livehost @alldayracing on twitter.