NY HotList Methodology/Blog Archive

Welcome to the dawn of a new era here at InterBets.com and Catskill Off-Track Betting.
I’m Bob Ehalt and for more than 40 years I’ve been involved with New York racing as a turf writer, handicapper, owner and avid fan. You might know me from my recent work for ntra.com, Thoroughbred Times or ESPN New York.com. But today I’m delighted to introduce a new and innovative daily handicapping feature that will be available free of charge to InterBets and Catskill OTB customers beginning on Saturday.
It’s called the New York Hot List and it’s your ticket to a wealth of valuable handicapping information – including a novel monitoring of late betting swings – as well as a daily supply of selections and horses to watch at New York Racing Association tracks.
My goal in creating the New York Hot List was to provide a multi-faceted handicapping tool and I’m confident both novice and experienced players will find much to like about it.
The NY Hot List starts with a daily review of NYRA races in which we pick out the runners most likely to turn in a strong effort in their next start and categorize them into four different lists of horses to watch. Then on each day of racing at either Belmont, Saratoga or Aqueduct we’ll provide a listing of our horses running that day as well as some insights on how to play them and who to use them with in the exotics.
The lists are lettered A, B, C and D and it’s as simple as a-b-c to follow them.
The A List is our preferred list of horses to watch based on trips, pace, track bias and final time. The B List is our secondary group of horses culled from the same criteria.
The C and D Lists make the NY Hot List unique as they provide a first-of-its-kind breakdown of late betting swings. Horses whose odds drop by two or more notches in the final 5 minutes of wagering (i.e. 5-2 to 9-5) and finish first through third are placed on the C List. The D list is for horses whose odds drop and finish fourth or worse.
Aside from just listing the horses, the daily reviews feature a brief write-up on each horse so that you can make your own judgments and build a stable of horses watch based on what you read in our analysis.
Best of all, as an InterBets/Catskill OTB customer you will have free and exclusive access to all of this content – which is quite a deal at a time when fast food joints charge you $1.29 for items on the dollar menu. The daily reviews, which generally take a couple of days to prepare, will be sent via email if you send us an e-mail request to “> . As for the selections and list of horses running back, they will be available each NYRA racing day at interbets.com – just click the handicappers banner.
Once you check out the daily reviews and selections, you’ll see how beneficial they can be. If you’re simply looking for a few live horses to bet on, the NY Hot List will give you plenty of options. If you’re a savvy pro looking for some extra tidbits of information to help find one more horse for your triple box or Pick Six ticket, the NY Hot List could be your answer.
So make sure you visit again Saturday for the first set of selections and horses to watch and then return Sunday and each racing day after that for the extra edge you’ll get on a daily basis from the NY Hot List.
Looking ahead, in the coming weeks we’ll add features like cumulative lettered lists for the past three months and late wagering statistics for each trainer so that you’ll know what to do when you notice that a horse’s odds are starting to sink.
One quick hint: when a horse trained by Richard Violette, Carlos Martin or Kiaran McLaughlin take a late plunge on the tote board, pay attention – pay close attention.
In addition, each Friday in this spot, either yours truly or my partner in this venture, Shawn Rychling, an experienced NYRA observer and handicapper for more than 20 years, will post a blog on the key weekend races and offer our early thoughts on some of the NY Hot List horses running that weekend.
If I’ve done my job and piqued your interest in the NY Hot List, you can contact “> to make sure you get the NY Hot List daily reviews emailed to you on a regular basis.
You can also contact me at nyhotlist@interbets.com with any questions you might have about the NY Hot List.
I’m looking forward to hearing from you and enjoying a great ride with you, thanks to InterBets.com and Catskill OTB.
Bob Ehalt, an award-winning turf writer and handicapper based in Connecticut, is the co-founder of the New York Hot List. His blog at ntra.com received the 2009 Breeders’ Cup award for Outstanding Social Media. He can be reached at nyhotlist@interbets.com.



By Shawn Rychling

Hard to believe, but we have just a little more than two weeks to go in the 2017 Saratoga meet, and heading into this weekend we’ll have just a mere 15 racing days remaining on the schedule.

With the revised Saratoga schedule of the past couple of years we are just coming off a weekend that served as a little break in the major stakes action. Don’t get us wrong, there was some excellent racing last weekend including great 2-year-old stakes for the colts and fillies alike.

This week we jump back in with perhaps the top race for fillies at the entire meet. Naturally, we are talking the 137th running of the Alabama for 3-year-old fillies.  The race is 1 ¼ miles on the main track.

It is an interesting, if not eclectic group of horses that have signed on for the race. New Money Honey breaking from the rail and Holy Helena going from post 2 are being touted as two of the favorites in the race, but they have glaring question marks.

New Money Honey has won 4 of her 6 career starts, including a pair of Grade 1 events. But all of her starts have come on turf and the Alabama will be her dirt debut.  He sire is Medaglia d’Oro who won the Travers on dirt at the same distance, so we’ll see.

Holy Helena has won three in a row and the last two have been much faster than what the ‘Honey’ has done. However, this one has run her best on a synthetic surface.

Meanwhile, Unchained Melody has gotten faster every race posting a speed figure of 100 last time in winning the Grade-I Mother Goose.  She is the only horse in the Alabama Field to hit triple digits in speed figures, but she is being asked to run much longer.

The Alabama seems ripe for an upset and the Hot List is going to look for #4 Lockdown to give us some value. She has also gotten faster each race and while she lost to Unchained Melody in the Mother Goose she was a close third to Abel Tasman in the Kentucky Oaks when she had a horrid trip.

No other contender in here has faced Abel Tasman, perhaps the best filly in the country and is skipping this race. The morning line on Lockdown is 5-1 and we’ll look for her to move up from there.  Play her in all three slots in the trifecta with the favorites we mentioned.

Good luck and we are looking forward to Travers Day next week as the Saratoga meet winds down.

Get all the Hot List picks and analysis on the Interbets site right here. Good luck!



Filly tackles the boys in Saratoga’s Fourstardave

By Bob Ehalt

There’s no such thing as a dull weekend at Saratoga, but this weekend is certainly the weakest of the seven during the 40-day meet in terms of star power.

Nevertheless it still promises to be an interesting Saturday at the Spa with a Grade 1 stakes highlighting the card.

The $500,000 Fourstardave Handicap tops the card, bringing together seven grass runners for the one-mile turf stakes.

Adding some intrigue to the race is a 4-year-old filly, Sassy Little Lila, who will be tackling the boys over the Spa’s inner turf course.

After finishing sixth in her career debut in June of 2016, Sassy Little Lila has finished no worse than second in her next seven starts. Trained by Brad Cox, Sassy Little Lila finished second in her three most recent stakes appearances, the Grade 1 Just a Game at Belmont Park, Grade 1 American Oaks at Santa Anita, and the Winter Memories at Aqueduct.

She’s tackled some top-notch fillies and mares, but will be facing even tougher competition against some seasoned turf runners.

Heading the list is Time Test, the 8-5 favorite who was last seen finishing second in the mile-and-a-quarter Grade 1 Manhattan on the Belmont Stakes undercard. The Juddmonte Farms 5-year-old was also second by a nose in the Grade 3 Fort Marcy while making his U.S. debut.

The field also includes Disco Partner (2-1), who has won three straight stakes. In his previous start, the 5-year-old won the Forbidden Apple at a mile and prior to that he captured the six-furlong Jaipur in blazing fast time of 1:05 3/5 for six furlongs.

Like Time Test, World Approval is cutting back in distance from the 10-furlong Manhattan to a one-mile distance in Saturday’s stakes. A 5-year-old who prefers to run on or near the lead, World Approval will face faster fractions than normal in the Fourstardave but in a field of just six, he might not face intense pressure on the front end.

The rest of the field includes Ballagh Rocks (10-1) and American Patriot (6-1), who is making his first start since finishing 11th in a stakes at Royal Ascot in June.

Weekend Hideaway is a main track only entrant.

Saturday’s card also includes the $200,000 Adirondack for 2-year-old fillies with Pure Silver (2-1), Sly Roxy (5-2) and Limited View (4-1) the top contenders.

On Sunday, the $200,000 Saratoga Special headlines the card, while Monday’s card features the $100,000 Saratoga Dew for fillies and mares at a mile and an eighth on the main track.

As for next weekend at Saratoga, the tempo picks up with Saturday’s 136th edition of the famed $600,000 Alabama Stakes for 3-year-old fillies topping a card that also includes the $300,000 Lake Placid for 3-year-old fillies on the turf.



By Shawn Rychling

The oddest of 3-year-old seasons took another couple of contorted twists and turns last week after upsets were pulled off in the Jim Dandy and Haskell, the two major preps for the Travers coming up at Saratoga on Saturday, Aug. 26.

In Saratoga the Jim Dandy was supposed to be a showdown between Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming and Preakness winner Cloud Computing, and in way the race was just that – but for only about 7 of the 9 furlongs.

Always Dreaming went out to a comfortable lead in very average fractions while Cloud Computing sat a few lengths off the pace. The Preakness winner came after the Derby winner at the 3/8th pole and they dueled to the 3/16th before Good Samaritan put in one of the most surprising rallies in quite some time.

Good Samaritan had never raced on the dirt and looked every bit a turf specialist trailing by 12 lengths with 5 furlongs to run. He didn’t get much closer on the far turn, but kicked into high gear swinging 5-wide at the quarter pole and charging to the front to win going away.

The Bill Mott-trainee answered the question of whether he can run on dirt and the Hot List picked this guy simply because of the weakness of the 3-year-old division this year and the fact that Good Samaritan had been racing against arguably more talented horses than Always Dreaming and Cloud Computing had beaten this year.

Down on the Jersey Shore a deeper field went postward in the Haskell with a number of Kentucky-Derby starters taking on the late-blooming Timeline who skipped the Triple-Crown series. Timeline came in unbeaten in four starts and then got into an early speed duel with the highly-touted Irish War Cry.

Much like the Jim Dandy winner, Girvin sat back in last, but moved earlier heading into the turn running in tandem with McCracken. The two of them advanced with McCracken going first and opening up before Girvin rallied on the outside and won by a nose. Irish War Cry and Timeline faded to fourth and fifth after not running all that fast early.

So for the Travers – the Midsummer Derby – a wide open race is shaping up.  It will be hard not to like both Good Samaritan and Girvin coming in as both would probably prefer 10 furlongs to nine.  And waiting for them will be Tapwrit, the Belmont Stakes winner, who has obviously proven he can get 12 furlongs.

Plenty of Saratoga action this weekend with another big Saturday, including the Test for 3-year-old fillies and Gun Runner facing Keen Ice in the Whitney. Get all the Hot List picks and analysis on the Interbets site right here. Good luck!



Top 3-year-olds return in Jim Dandy, Haskell

By Bob Ehalt

When last seen, the stars of the 3-year-old crop were busy dividing all three legs of the Triple Crown and leaving the division championship up for grabs.

That all changes this weekend, when most of the year’s best 3-year-olds will clash in a pair of stakes that should set the stage for a wild free-for-all in the Travers at Saratoga on Aug 26.

Through Saturday’s Jim Dandy at Saratoga and the Haskell at Monmouth on Sunday, the 3-year-old division will get a much needed dose of clarity after a Triple Crown season with three different horses winning the three races.

The Jim Dandy has the smaller field but the most star power. The $600,000 Grade 2 stakes pits Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming against Preakness winner Cloud Computing in a rematch of their May 20 meeting at Pimlico in the second leg of the Triple Crown. After winning the Kentucky Derby by 2 ¾ lengths, Always Dreaming faltered in the Preakness and faded to eighth as Cloud Computing prevailed by a head.

Neither horse has raced since then and both have targeted the Jim Dandy as their stepping stone to the Travers, giving Saturday’s stakes a Grade 1 feel.

“Anytime you have the Kentucky Derby winner running you don’t want to get beat,” said Todd Pletcher, who trains Always Dreaming, the even-money favorite in the Jim Dandy. “But it’s something we thought a lot about between the Preakness and now and we wanted to get here not just with a fresh horse, but a horse hopefully fit enough to run a mile and an eighth.

“It’s always a delicate balance when you’re trying to freshen a horse up, and have him ready for a race like the Jim Dandy. You know you have to be fit and prepared for it, but you also want to hopefully have something to build on, and something left in the tank for the Travers. I think we’ve been able to accomplish that in the time off after the Preakness.”

Trainer Chad Brown opted to skip the Belmont Stakes after Cloud Computing’s Preakness win, believing the mile and a half distance did not suit him. But Saturday’s nine-furlong test should be perfect for the 3-year-old and set the stage for a classic showdown.

Cloud Computing was pegged as the 6-5 second choice in the morning line.

Pavel, Giuseppe the Great and Good Samaritan round out the field.

The $1 million Haskell attracted a field of seven and boasts a more competitive field than the Jim Dandy.

Irish War Cry, the Belmont Stakes runner-up, is the 5-2 favorite in a field with no weak links.

Heading the competition is the undefeated Timeline, Dwyer winner Practical Joke, McCraken, who took the Grade 3 Matt Winn in his last start, and Battle of Midway, who was third in the Kentucky Derby and is coming off a win in the Grade 3 Affirmed at Santa Anita.

The field also includes Girvin, who lost by a nose in the Ohio Derby, and Iowa Derby winner Hence.

“We’re very excited to be here. The Haskell was always our goal for the summer with Irish War Cry,” trainer Graham Motion said. “He had a tough race in the Belmont, and we were very proud of him, but he came out well and he has not missed any training.”

Timeless, who is a perfect 4-for-4 for Brown, comes off an impressive win at Monmouth in the Pegasus.

“I’ve had my eye on the Haskell for him a long time,” Brown said. “He’s had a race over the track now, and I think a mile and an eighth will be his best trip. He won the Pegasus easily, but he overcame a sprung shoe and early bumping to do it. He’s a tough horse, but he has to come with his ‘A’ game Sunday.”

The same goes for all of the top 3-year-olds running on a star-studded weekend when nothing short of their “A” game will do.



By Shawn Rychling

Just like a young child bounding down the stairs on Christmas morning to a bounty of gifts under the tree, we horseplayers awake Friday morning to unwrap the first of 40 racing days at Saratoga Race Course from now through Labor Day.

Yes indeed, the meet of the year has finally arrived and this year we look forward to 69 stakes races with more than $18 million in purses up for grabs. Eighteen of those stakes are of the Grade I variety including the highlight of the meet, the $1.25 million Travers – the Midsummer Derby – for 3-year-olds on Saturday, Aug. 26.  That day will feature six Grade-I races and a Grade-II in the climax of the meeting.

Opening weekend features five graded stakes, including the Grade-I Coaching Club American Oaks for 3-year-old fillies.  And we have also have the first by 2-year-old stakes of the year in the Grade-III Schuylerville on Friday for fillies and Grade-III Sanford for colts.

Saturday’s Sanford looks like an even matchup with only maiden winners competing with Hot List horse Admiral Jimmy a possible value play at 4-1 on the morning line. He ran third in an overnight stakes last time and is one of only two horses in the field to have taken on winners.  Psychoanalyze is on the rail, owns the best speed figure in the field, and did beat a next-out winner in that race.

Sunday’s Coaching Club looks like an exciting rematch of the Acorn between top-two finishers Abel Tasman and Salty. The former has taken a huge step forward since Bob Baffert took over as her conditioner and the work she put in a week ago in preps for the race was stellar.  This one may be a fun race to just sit back and enjoy.

Sadly, it appears we will not be seeing Baffert’s super horse Arrogate at the Spa this summer.  His coming out party was the 14-length, wire-to-wire romp in the Travers last year, but he will be staying on the west coast this summer. Baffert has his star ready for Saturday’s San Diego Handicap at Del Mar and then the Pacific Classic at the same track on Aug. 19.  Not a bad plan since the Breeders’ Cup Classic is at Del Mar this year on Nov. 4.

So it begins, the first of seven weekends at Saratoga kicks off Friday at 1 p.m. Don’t forget, you can get all the Hot List picks and analysis on the Interbets site right here. Good luck, and enjoy the meet!



Songbird flies east for Del ‘Cap

By Bob Ehalt

As the countdown to Saratoga drops into single digits, the final weekend of its spring/summer meet will play out at Belmont Park.

Yet before the curtain goes down on Belmont Park on Sunday and glorious Saratoga opens on July 21, on Saturday at Delaware Park racing fans will get a chance to see the sport’s leading lady.

The mighty Songbird has flapped her wings and traveled east to Delaware, where she will take flight under jockey Mike Smith in the $750,000 Delaware Handicap.

The practically perfect 4-year-old filly will bring a record of 12 wins in 13 starts into the mile and a quarter test, with her lone loss coming in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Distaff when she lost by an inch to Beholder.

A length winner of the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps at Belmont Park in her first start since the Breeders’ Cup, Songbird will have to stretch out to 10 furlongs in the Del ‘Cap, but that’s hardly beyond her scope. She handled that distance before with aplomb, winning by seven lengths in last year’s Grade 1 Alabama at Saratoga.

Traveling cross-country should also pose little problem for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer’s two-time Eclipse Award winner. Of the West Coast-based filly’s 12 wins, five of them were registered at tracks east of the Mississippi River.

Only five rivals turned out to face the 1-5 morning-line favorite, with the main threats figuring to be Weep No More (6-1) and Martini Glass (8-1).

Weep No More finished no better than fourth in her last five starts, but before that captured the Grade 1 Ashland at Keeneland last spring. Martini Glass is coming off a solid effort over the racetrack – an important factor on a quirky Delaware surface. The 4-year-old filly was second by a neck in the $100,000 Obeah Stakes.

Meanwhile, at Belmont, the meet will close with a pair of stakes on Saturday, the $150,000 Forbidden Apple and $100,000 Rockville Centre, and the $100,000 Lynbrook on Sunday.

After that, the bags will be packed, the horses loaded on to the trucks, and the scene will shift to the incomparable Saratoga, which opens Friday with the $150,000 Lake George and $150,000 Schuylerville ushering in the eagerly awaited 40-day meet in upstate New York.



By Shawn Rychling

We here at the Hot List hope everyone had a great Independence Day and celebrated with fireworks and cookouts and get-togethers with family and friends. Most importantly, we hope you all took a moment to thank the founders of this great nation for their foresight in crafting the Declaration of Independence and laying the groundwork for the formation of the greatest nation on Earth.

NYRA celebrated the holiday, which fell on Tuesday, with a rare 6-day week of cards running Thursday-Tuesday. We return for a Friday-Sunday schedule this week with a total of only seven race days remaining for the Belmont spring meet. And Saratoga is set to open in just two weeks on Friday, July 21.

NYRA is billing Belmont’s Saturday card as the Stars and Stripes Festival with five graded stakes totaling $3.7 million in purses. Let’s dive in and analyze the all-stakes Pick 4 with a guaranteed pool of $500,000.

Race 7: 6-Green Gratto is a horse we love and why not after his win in the Carter three starts back at 54-1.  He has been inconsistent, but it is intriguing that connections have enticed Irad Ortiz to climb aboard. Very dangerous if he gets to the front and that bullet in :46.1 two weeks ago is eye-popping. 7-Unified couldn’t catch Green Gratto last time, but runs his best off the type of layoff he comes in with here. 1-Stallwalkin’ Dude is banking on our top two picks to get involved in a suicide duel so he can close with an extra furlong to run today. 2-Mind Your Biscuits may be the horse to beat, but first race back from Dubai is never easy.

Race 8: 8-New Money Honey comes in off a Grade-II win and is 2 for 2 over the Belmont turf. 12-Sistercharlie is the other Chad Brown entrant in here and he is 26 percent with horses making the North American debut. 9-Dynatail is an improving horse and would be a surprise, but is worth using in exotics. 10-Fifty Five looks a notch slower than these, but Chad Brown is always dangerous on the grass. 3-Beau Recall may be getting better as distances get longer.

Race 9: 6-Shaman Ghost is the horse to beat off excellent string of five straight 100-plus speed figs. 3-Sunny Ridge looks a step slower than top threats, but we like the turnback after a solid, career-best equaling performance last time going 10 furlongs. 1-Keen Ice has been working well since return from Dubai. 2-Matt King Coal enters off a career best race.

Race 10: 3-Oscar Performance loves Belmont and is the pick here off recent form. 2-Ticonderoga has improved in 2017 and Brown/Castellano combo turns a profit with huge sample size. 7-Yoshida has shown steady improvement. 6-Arklow enters off career best and barn is solid off a layoff. 9-Big Score has been competitive in these types of stakes.

The grid:                      A                     B                     C

Race 7                         2,6                   1,7                   x

Race 8                         8, 12                9                      3, 10

Race 9                         6                      1                      2, 3

Race 10                       3                      2, 7                  6, 9

Don’t forget, you can get all the Hot List analysis for this weekend’s Belmont Park action on the Interbets site right here.

Good luck, and see you at Saratoga in 14 days!



Mother Goose kicks off holiday weekend at Belmont

By Bob Ehalt

The New York Racing Association will not light the fuse on its main batch of pyrotechnics until next Saturday, but the days leading up to the Stars and Stripes Festival on July 8 should nonetheless be lively.

On Saturday at Belmont Stakes, 3-year-old fillies will take center stage with the $250,000 Mother Goose Stakes.

The Grade 2 feature attracted a competitive field of seven, which features a pair of horses who were longshots on a sloppy track in the Kentucky Oaks but proved to be main contenders.

Lockdown, the 2-1 morning-line favorite in the Mother Goose, had a nightmare of a trip in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks. She was in tight and steadied at the start, then was steadied again and blocked on the final turn before bumping with a rival and then surging through a hole while jockey Jose Ortiz lost his whip.

In spite of all that, Lockdown still managed to finish third at 36-1 odds in just her fifth career start and figures to move forward off a demanding and highly educational performance.

No worse than third in five career starts, Lockdown won the Busanda earlier in the year.

Her main competition should come from Vexatious, a filly who was fourth in the Oaks at a 40-1 price.

Trained by Californian Neil Drysdale, Vexatious made a strong, wide move into second at mid-stretch but hung in the final furlong and settled for fourth behind the victorious Abel Tasman.

Prior to the Oaks, Vexatious was third in both the Fantasy and Fair Grounds Oaks.

The two favorites will be challenged by not one, not two, but three fillies from trainer Todd Pletcher.

Heading the trio is Lights of Medina (10-1), who was second by a head in the Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan at Pimlico, which was also contested on a wet track.

Pletcher will also send out My Miss Tapit (6-1), a winner of her two career starts at Gulfstream Park, and Moana (8-1), who was fifth in the Black-Eyed Susan.

The rest of the field includes impressive allowance winner Unchained Melody (7-2) and Spanish Harlem, who won by 29 ¾ lengths in her last start on dirt, which was a Belmont allowance race washed off the turf and contested on a sloppy main track.

Saturday’s card will also include the $100,000 Perfect Sting, a one-mile turf stakes for fillies and mares.

To no one’s surprise, trainer Chad Brown will saddle three of the nine starters, Conquest Babayaga (3-1), Off Limits (4-1) and Ancient Secret (6-1).

The morning-line favorite, however, is On Leave (5-2), a 4-year-old trained by Shug McGaughey who was second in the Gallorette at Pimlico in her 2017 debut.

As for the holiday schedule, there will be racing at Belmont Park through Tuesday, which just so happens to be July 4. After dark days on Wednesday and Thursday, racing will resume on Friday, with five graded stakes the following day on the July 8 Stars and Stars Festival card.



By Shawn Rychling

With this year’s Belmont Stakes taking place fortnight ago, a very weak renewal of the Triple Crown series gets smaller and smaller in our rear view mirror. And as I sit writing on a Friday afternoon, it is exactly four weeks until Opening Say at Saratoga – which is like an adult Christmas for the horseplayer and should be a national holiday.  But much more on this year’s Spa meet in upcoming blogs.

Back to the Triple Crown.

So far, the entire 3-year-old campaign has been one disappointment after another.  Seemingly average colts took turns beating each other all during the prep races and each of the three Classic races were semi-letdowns as all three winners basically won on perfect trips and the supposed coming out parties for talented horses never materialized.

In a way, this year was similar to last year – although the overall talent level feels thinner this year. As we look to the 3YO races in the summer, Always Dreaming, Irish War Cry, Cloud Computing and Tapwrit figure to return to action as well as a decent second tier.  The Jim Dandy, Haskell, and Travers figure to be wide open betting races.

Recall what happened last year when Arrogate came out of nowhere to destroy the Travers field we thought was deep and has never looked back, defeating California Chrome twice and than taking the Dubai World Cup.

Not to say this horse is a good as Arrogate, but there is a late-blooming 3-year-old that will be tough to deal with this summer.

Timeline, trained by the recent King of Saratoga Chad Brown, is 4 for 4 in his career after taking the Grade III Betfair Pegasus last Sunday at Monmouth.  Timeline seemed to win the race effortlessly under Javier Castellano, taking the lead into the first turn and ticking off three sub-24 second ¼ miles, and then running a breezy 24.49 for his fourth ¼ as he opened up on the field in the stretch.

Timeline won by an expanding 3 ½ lengths at odds of 1-9 posting a speed figure of 99.  He took the Peter Pan in May and Brown smartly skipped the Belmont to give his horse some more seasoning.  Throw in this horse and the Haskell/Jim Dandy and Travers weekends look mighty interesting this summer.

Don’t forget, you can get all the Hot List analysis for this weekend’s Belmont Park action on the Interbets site right here. We have 19 horses entered for Saturday with plenty of betting options.  Good luck, and see you at Saratoga in 28 days!



Triple Crown creates only confusion among 3-year-olds

By Bob Ehalt

The 2017 Triple Crown season has come and gone and basically what we definitively learned about this year’s 3-year-old class in the last five weeks involves the distaff division.

With Unique Bella sidelined, Abel Tasman moved to the head of her class by taking the Kentucky Oaks and then the Acorn at Belmont Park last weekend for trainer Bob Baffert.

Meanwhile, the guys accounted for three different winners in the three Triple Crown races, leaving the second half of the year to clear up the confusion and determine who will walk off with the Eclipse Award as the division champ.

Always Dreaming owns a slight edge with a pair of Grade 1 wins in the Kentucky Derby and the Florida Derby. His weak, eighth-place finish in the Preakness, however, did little to help his cause as the standout in the division.

The Haskell, Travers and Pennsylvania Derby figure to be the races that will account for a revised pecking order, and Cloud Computing, who captured the Preakness, and Belmont Stakes winner Tapwrit along with Preakness runner-up Classic Empire and Belmont runner-up Irish War Cry will be major players in the race to the title.

And don’t sleep on American Anthem or West Coast, two colts Baffert shipped to New York along with Abel Tasman who then won the Woody Stephens and Easy Goer, respectively.

In case the memory is foggy, at this time last year there were three different Triple Crowns winners and Baffert had a horse in his barn named Arrogate who was a little less than two weeks removed from winning a maiden race at Santa Anita.

Now he’s the No. 1 horse in the world.

Asking him to duplicate his magic with Arrogate might be asking a bit much, but before anyone reaches any conclusions about the quality of the 3-year-old class and what it has in store for us, it would wise to let Mr. Baffert have his say as the summer and fall unfolds.

You can usually expect something profound from him.

As for this weekend at Belmont Park, Saturday’s card is a bit of a letdown after last weekend’s 10-stakes extravaganza. The lone stakes is the $100,000 Dancin Renee, a six-furlong sprint for fillies and mares bred in New York with a small field of five.

The speedy Clipthecouponannie promises to be a heavy favorite. The 4-year-old filly has won five of six starts, including the Skipat at Pimlico in her last outing, and is the even money choice in the morning line.

The main threats should come from Absatootly and Court Dancer.

Absatootly (5-2) captured the Primonetta at Laurel in her last start, while Court Dancer was beaten by a neck in an open allowance race.

Both of them, along with Clipthecouponannie, possess a nice turn of early speed, which could help the cause of the two late-running longshots, Wonderment (10-1) and Super Allison (15-1).

Admittedly, it’s not the most compelling Saturday featured race of the year, but take heart, folks. Saratoga is just five weeks away.



By Shawn Rychling

Belmont Day has arrived for the New York Racing Association and old Belmont Park.

NYRA is pulling out all the stops with perhaps its biggest day of racing for the year except for perhaps Travers Day at Saratoga or what has been called Breeders’ Cup Preview Day in the fall at Belmont. On Saturday at Belmont Park, NYRA has scheduled 10 stakes, nine of them graded, with six Grade 1 events, and $7.2 million in purses on the line.

Some highlights prior to the Belmont Stakes – which closes out the stakes as race 11 on the 13-race card – include the Grade 2 Brooklyn and we have to mention Tu Brutus and a pair of gaudy speed figures he posted in his last two races. A 118 at Aqueduct when, incredibly, he ran second, and then the 109 he posted in taking an overnight stakes at Belmont on May 7. Send It In, the horse that beat Tu Brutus in the Excelsior on April 8 with a 119 fig, is also entered here and has been laid off since that race.

The biggest star entered on Saturday has to be Songbird who returns for her first start since the Breeders’ Cup Distaff and her first career defeat back on Nov. 4. Jerry Hollendorfer’s 4-year-old filly is 11 for 12 in her career with $3.7 million in earnings. The race is the Ogden Phipps at 1 1/16 miles around one turn. That is something different for Songbird, but she drilled 4 furlongs in 46 and 2/5 seconds Tuesday which was a best-of-25 bullet, so she’ll be ready.

Race 9 is the 124th running of the Met Mile and it looks to be a race between Mor Spirit and Sharp Azteca, but this race is always exciting and can usually have a surprising result.

Then we get to the 11th race, the featured Belmont Stakes and its 149th running. And it’s a good thing NYRA has made this a big racing day because the feature is a bit lacking in excitement. Derby winner Always Dreaming and Preakness winner Cloud Computing are skipping the Belmont and Preakness runnerup Classic Empire is out with an injury.

The default favorite is Irish War Cry who has a pair of 101 speed figures this year when he won the Holy Bull and Wood Memorial. In the Kentucky Derby, he had a wide and stressful journey over a sloppy track and ran out of gas at the quarter pole. With a fast track expected this one should be on his game.

An intriguing entry is that of Japanese invader Epicharis, but he became less interesting after it was learned he was treated for lameness in his right front leg this week. So, Epicharis may be a scratch and make Irish War Cry look even stronger. Post time for the Belmont is 6:37 p.m.

Even if the feature may be uninspiring, NYRA has put together a great card and has numerous guaranteed wagers, including a $500,000 pick 5 starting in race 1; a $250,000 pick 3 beginning in race 3; a $500,000 pick 6 starting in race 6; and $1.5 million guaranteed pick 4 starting in race 8 and ending with the Belmont.

Don’t forget, you can get all the Hot List analysis for this weekend’s Belmont Park action on the Interbets site right here. Our Belmont Stakes pick is included.



Racing Festival beefs up Belmont Week

By Bob Ehalt

There’s just one graded stakes on Saturday’s card at Belmont Park, which is pretty much the calm before the storm.

If you’re feeling the blues about Always Dreaming’s crushed Triple Crown bid, don’t fret. While a Triple Crown will not on the line next week, Saturday’s Belmont Stakes and the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival will ease the sting of a failed Triple Crown bid with a package of 19 stakes from Thursday to Sunday at the picturesque Elmont, N.Y., track.

The spectacular June 10 card on Belmont Stakes Day is well-known with its 10 stakes, nine of them graded and six of them Grade 1’s. You can reel them off:  the Belmont, the Met Mile, the Ogden Phipps, Manhattan, Just A Game and Acorn. They’re races that will feature stars such as the sensational filly Songbird, Preakness runner-up Classic Empire and Bob Baffert’s Kentucky Oaks winner Abel Tasman.

Yet as much as any red-blooded gambler will want to build a big bankroll for the June 10 card, this time a chunk of cash should be saved for Thursday and most definitely Friday of Belmont Stakes week.

While there was previously a smattering of stakes in the days before the Belmont, this year there’s truly a racing festival with a total of eight stakes on the Thursday and Friday cards.

After a dark day on Wednesday, racing resumes on Thursday with a trio of stakes, two of them graded. The package includes the Grade 3 $250,000 Intercontinental, a turf sprint for females, the Grade 3 $200,000 Wonder Again on turf for 3-year-old fillies, and the $150,000 Astoria for 2-year-old fillies.

On Friday, the card will include five stakes, four of them graded, worth $1.45 million.

The richest one is the Grade 2 $500,000 New York, another turf stakes for fillies and mares. There’s also the Grade 3 $250,000 Bed o’ Roses, Grade 2 $150,000 True North and $150,000 Tremont.

The most intriguing stakes promises to be the Grade 3 $400,000 Belmont Gold Cup, a two-mile turf stakes and the only graded stakes in the nation at that distance.

And after all that, it will be time for the Belmont Stakes and the industry’s best card of racing outside of the Breeders’ Cup.

The Belmont Stakes might be a week away, but don’t forget that there’s a lot more than one big race next week. There’s actually a festival that should provide fans with a few days of great racing and give them a great reason to spend some quality playing the races.

$200K Pennine Ridge tops Saturday card

As for that singular stakes on Saturday, the featured race is the Grade 3 $200,000 Pennine Ridge for 3-year-old males on the turf.

Good Samaritan, who missed by a length despite an extremely wide trip in the Grade 2 American Turf at Churchill Downs on Derby Day, is the 8-5 favorite for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott.

The main threats include California shipper Bowies Hero (7-2), Oscar Performance (4-1), Ticonderoga (6-1) and Secretary At War (8-1).



By Shawn Rychling

Going into last week’s Preakness Stakes it looked to be a match race between Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming and fourth-place Derby finisher Classic Empire. And it was just that for about 7 furlongs.

The favored pair raced neck-and-neck until they were coming off the far turn when Classic Empire began to pull away. Always Dreaming began dropping back at the quarter pole and had completely chucked it by the 3/16th.

Classic Empire looked like a winner at the 1/8th pole, but by that time Cloud Computing was coming up along the outside and bearing down on the leader.  Cloud Computing was making just the fourth start of his career for trainer Chad Brown. He broke his maiden in his debut on Feb. 11 and then ran second in the Gotham and third in the Wood Memorial after getting bet down to 2-1.  This writer actually liked him a little in both races, but overlooked him in the Preakness.

In the Preakness, Classic Empire appeared to be the easy winner at the 1/8th pole.  So much so that I had taken my eye off him and was looking for the longshot I played – Multiplier – but he just had too much ground to make up.

Meanwhile, Cloud Computing had been rating on the rail just a couple lengths behind the leaders for the first 6 furlongs. A dream trip as many alluded to after the race. Jockey Javier Castellano then guided Cloud Computing to the outside around a fading Always Dreaming and had him rallying, but he was running greenly, first coming in, and then bearing out.  Finally at about the 1/16th he straightened it out and charged past a fading Classic Empire to get the upset win.

So that kills any Triple Crown for this year and make it a 2-year drought since American Pharoah pulled it off in 2015. And that comes as no surprise since this crop of 3-year-olds looks like an evenly matched bunch of above-average horses.  There could be a late bloomer like last year when Arrogate came out of nowhere, blew away the Travers field, and hasn’t looked back.

Closer on the horizon is the Belmont Stakes in two weeks and Chad Brown may have a dilemma. The local prep for the Belmont, the Peter Pan, was run two weeks ago and Brown’s other late bloomer, Timeline, took the race by 3 ½ lengths after dueling much of the way with Meantime.  Both of those colts may have Belmont aspirations after the Peter Pan duel which came over a sloppy race track.  Timeline by the way is now 3 for 3 and his first race wasn’t until March 4. His jockey: Javier Castellano.  So both trainer and rider will have decisions to make. But why not go forward with so few horses looking ready to run a mile-and-half on June 10. And we will have more on the race as it gets closer.

Don’t forget, you can get all the Hot List analysis for this weekend’s Belmont Park action on the Interbets site right here.  It’s a three-day weekend at the track with a special Monday card. And don’t forget that Saratoga will open in just 56 days!



Always Dreaming 4-5 favorite in Preakness

By Bob Ehalt

It took 37 years for the most recent Triple Crown winner to appear on the scene.

Could we be looking at another one just two years later?

We’ll know more Saturday when Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming continues his bid to become the 13th Triple Crown champion.

The son of Bodemeister was pegged Wednesday as the 4-5 morning-line favorite over nine rivals in Saturday’s Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course, where he’ll shoot for a fifth straight win and try to keep his Triple Crown hopes alive.

With four of those foes returning from the Kentucky Derby and the other five lacking a Grade 1 stakes win, Always Dreaming holds a strong hand and should be tough to beat in the mile and three-sixteenth Preakness. Especially since he just might have an easier time on the front end in the shorter Preakness than the mile and a quarter Kentucky Derby.

In the Derby, contested on a wet-fast track, Always Dreaming was second behind a fast opening half-mile of 46.53 seconds and still managed to pull way and win by 2 ¾ lengths for trainer Todd Pletcher’s second win in the Run for the Roses.

Yet in the Preakness, without Battle of Midway, State of Honor and Irish War Cry to fuel a hot pace as they did in the Derby, the only entrant with enough early speed to push Always Dreaming is Arkansas Derby runner-up Conquest Mo Money, who skipped the Derby.

A soft pace is surely bad news for Always Dreaming’s main rivals, 2-year-old champion Classic Empire (3-1), who was a troubled fourth in the Derby, and Looking At Lee (10-1), who rallied from 16th to finish second in the Run for the Roses.

Always Dreaming landed post four at Wednesday’s draw, while Classic Empire will break next to him from post five.

“We’ll hope for a good break,” said Mark Casse, who trains Classic Empire. “Always Dreaming is obviously a very good horse. We just want a fair shot at him. Conquest Mo Money (post 10) will probably show speed from the outside and Always Dreaming will be right there, but if we break running, we can be there, too. It’s a good post. I wouldn’t have wanted to be right down on the rail, and I prefer not to have been on the outside. The post position wasn’t that big a deal. But I think it’s nice (that the two favorites are next to each other). It’s nice for the fans, for everybody. Hopefully they both have good trips, break well. It could be interesting. They might go right at it from the start.



By Shawn Rychling

Months of angst and speculation on the Kentucky Derby came down to 2 minutes and 3 ½ seconds of largely unexciting horse racing last Saturday at Churchill Downs.

It was unexciting because the winner, Always Dreaming, was just dominant, making it look easy splashing through the sloppy track at Churchill Downs to take the 143rd Run for the Roses. The Todd Pletcher-trained colt broke alertly from post 5 and took an early lead. He gave up the front, but saved ground around the first turn. Jockey John Velazquez moved his mount into the 2-path down the backside for clear sailing, the dueled with rivals around the far turn and then warded off all challenges and pulled away late to win by about 3 lengths. The best evidence of Always Dreaming’s dominance was that he came back relatively clean while the rest of the horses were caked in mud.

The win marked the continuance of the trend of favorites winning the Kentucky Derby which have dons so now for five straight years.  The second choice, Irish War Cry was compromised by the outside post he had.  He veered in badly at the start, bumping with rivals as he was hustled away to get position. Unfortunately he would up about 4-wide around the first turn as the early fractions were a fast 22.70 and 46.53, with his wide path meaning he ran even faster than that to keep up. Jockey Rajiv Maragh kept his horse wide down the backstretch and he pulled alongside Always Dreaming on the far turn, but could not go on with the rally and fading to 10th.

Third choice Classic Empire was bumped and wiped out pretty badly at the start as the result of a domino effect from Irish War Cry’s veering in. He recovered from that to rate well back and rally through traffic.  He was about 5-wide and getting bumped in the stretch, but continued driving to get fourth.  Off this effort it’s easy to like Classic Empire in the Preakness on a dry track and considering it would be his third start off a layoff.

Irish War Cry isn’t going to run at Pimlico, but another Derby horse to take a closer look at would be runnerup Lookin at Lee. He was one of the few horses to come from far back and make a late impact.  The Steve Asmussen-trainee was no match for the winner, but has run well in his last two and the fact that he has 10 starts is a positive.

Yet another horse returning at Pimlico will be Gunnevera who ran 7th in the mud at Churchill after not running over a wet track since his career debut last June.

It looks like a field of 10 for the Preakness with 5 Derby starters coming back and 5 ‘new shooters’ likely to round out the field.  Much more on the Preakness next week and Always Dreaming’s quest for the Triple Crown.

Don’t forget, you can get all the Hot List analysis for this weekend’s Belmont Park action on the Interbets site right here.  Several graded stakes are on tap as the racing really heats up with summer just around the corner. And Saratoga will open in just 70 days!



Rain adds to Derby confusion

By Bob Ehalt

While the people inside a jammed Churchill Downs will be singing about the sun shining bright on an old Kentucky home, there’s considerable doubt over the sun actually shining in Kentucky on Saturday.

Persistent rain and the possibility of a wet track have added even more confusion to an already baffling edition of the Kentucky Derby (6:46 p.m., NBC-TV) in which at least 10 of the 20 entrants have a legitimate chance of crossing the wire first.

The tricky part involving the weather is that only 10 of the 20 starters have ever raced on a wet track. That means half the field is untested on a sloppy track and educated guesses will have to be made to determine whether that horse likes or detests wet going.

Breaking that number down, only two of the 10 – 2-year-old champion Classic Empire and Lookin At Lee – have raced on a wet track at Churchill Downs. Classic Empire won that race, which was the first start of his career, while Lookin At Lee was a distant second in the Iroquois Stakes.

For chalk players, that nugget of information should be welcomed news as Classic Empire figures to be the betting favorite.

Yet after four straight years with the favorite prevailing in the Run for the Roses, it might be time for change.

While a wet track could help Classic Empire, he comes into the $2 million Derby on somewhat shaky grounds. Though he won the Arkansas Derby to secure a spot in the field, that was one of the few things that went right for him since February. Prior to that, Classic Empire was a well-beaten third in the Holy Bull, had to deal with a foot abscess and achy back, and balked at training on occasion. It was until mid-March, when trainer Mark Casse sent Classic Empire to the farm where the colt was raised, that the Eclipse Award winner started training like a champion again and then captured the Arkansas Derby.

Though the Arkansas Derby vaulted Classic Empire back to the top of the 3-year-old division, the overriding concern is whether all of that lost training time will come back to haunt him in a grueling 10-furlong test such as the Derby. On an emotional level, a win would be a great story, but for handicappers there’s not much wagering value in backing him.

Instead a better play would be Irish War Cry. He beat Classic Empire in the Holy Bull, showing how good he can be when he’s at his best, but then he turned in a clunker in the Fountain of Youth.

As much as the Fountain of Youth was a setback, he quickly bounced back and won the Wood Memorial convincingly.

Granted the Wood has not been a major player on the Triple Crown circuit – the last time a horse from the Wood finished in the top three at the Derby was 2003 – but a case could also be made that New York’s definitive prep is overdue to produce a Triple Crown star.

Drawing post 17 produced another troubling statistic since no one has ever won the Derby from there. The goose egg stands at 0-for-38 and it’s the only one of the 20 posts without at least one win.  But when you consider that the spot before it, post 16, has three wins and five top four finishes in the last 16 editions of the Derby with either 19 or 20 starters, the hope is that the figure is just a statistical anomaly.

Yes, hope.

For second we’ll take Gunnevera, whose only bad race at three was a result of the outside post in the Florida Derby, and we’ll round out the superfecta with Tapwrit and then State of Honor.

We’ll leave out Classic Empire, but if the track comes wet, we’ll probably head back to the drawing board … and start singing about how rainy days in Kentucky get me down.

Good luck, folks.

Early opening at branch locations

As a reminder, all Interbets locations will open at 10 a.m. on Friday and Saturday and advance wagering on the Derby will be available on Friday.

If you can’t make it to the branch office near you, then let your cell phone bring the races to you through the Interbets Mobile App. You can download it here:




One week to go…and nowhere to go

By Shawn Rychling

The horse racing calendar takes a promising turn this weekend as Belmont Park opens on Friday which means the Kentucky Derby is just one week away.

That’s right, the 143rd Run for the Roses is right around the corner and the field of 20 looks pretty much set with maybe one or two defections still to come, but the real contenders are all slated to stay in at this point.

Looking at the field, the only conclusion one can make is that the race is as wide open as it has been in years. The Derby preps have been notable for their lack of outstanding performances.  There have been some good performances and plenty of disappointments. It may be that we have been spoiled by the last couple of years with American Pharoah topping a seemingly talented bunch in 2015 and then undefeated Nyquist looking solid amongst other quality opponents last year.

This year, there appears to be chaos. Arkansas Derby winner and 2-year-old champion Classic Empire is probably the favorite by default. He won the Arkansas impressively coming from off the pace and through a bit of traffic. However, that race was just his second since he won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile back in November and the race doesn’t feel like a huge step forward for this colt. Then again, he may go off as high as 5-1 which would be a bargain.

Always Dreaming has won three in a row including the Florida Derby in his last start which was his stakes debut. He stalked an honest pace in that race which is often a winning strategy at Churchill Downs on the First Saturday in May.

The hope in this corner is that those two horses get most of the betting attention and that the odds stay even fatter on Irish War Cry.  He followed a solid win in the Holy Bull with a first-class stinker in the Fountain of Youth, but returned to look very good in the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct.  He was about 3-wide the entire trip that day, sitting just off a solid pace and he still had plenty left to zoom past the leader and win going away.  No horse that failed this spring returned to run as well as Irish War Cry. Even more to like is the fact that he posted 101 speed figures in both the Holy Bull and the Wood. Those are the highest in the Derby field.  Also, the Derby will be his fifth start in four months. Compare that with Classic Empire making just his third start in 6 months and it’s easy to conclude which of the two will be the sharper horse.  The thinking here is Irish War Cry at possible odds of 10-1. That would be nice.

As usual, the Derby will have some playable longshots. Gunnevera comes to mind as a horse that likes to come from off the pace. And I am leaning in an odd direction with Hence whose stock went up when Irap upset the Blue Grass field. Hence beat Irap soundly in the Sunland Park Derby.

Much more to come on the Derby next week!

Don’t forget, you can get all the Hot List analysis for this weekend’s Belmont Park opening on the Interbets site right here.  Full fields and plenty of turf racing on tap with the forecast looking great.



By Bob Ehalt

There’s some different about this weekend that Thoroughbred racing fans have not seen since late January.

The curtain has come down on the Kentucky Derby prep season and now the racing world will be focusing on studying past performances of the race’s top 20 contenders until May 6, a.k.a. The First Saturday in May, arrives.

In the meantime, there are some diversion such as the two stakes on Saturday that help to close out the final weekend of the New York Racing Association’s marathon Aqueduct that dates back to Nov. 4.

The nine-race card features a pair of diverse stakes, the $100,000 Woodhaven on the turf and the $100,000 New York Stallion Stakes for New York State-breds.

The Woodhaven, at a mile and a sixteenth, attracted a field of seven 3-year-olds, though two of them were entered as main track only entrants who can run only if the race is taken off the turf.

The 7-5 favorite is Frostmourne, who is making his 3-year-old debut after closing out 2016 with a victory in the Awad Stakes on Oct. 29 at Belmont Park.

Trained by Christophe Clement, Frostmourne has won two of his three career starts, taking a maiden race and finishing fourth in the Grade 3 Pilgrim in his second start.

His main competition should come from Secretary of War, who is coming off a sharp maiden win at Gulfstream Park. A son of War Front, Secretary of War posted a 2 ¼-length victory for trainer Jimmy Jerkens to earn himself in a spot in Saturday’s stakes.

The rest of the field includes Royal by Nature, Bird’s Eye View and Shamsaan as well as main track only entrants Bonus Points and Outplay.

The Woodhaven will be contested as the third race of the day.

The New York Stallion Stakes drew seven 3-year-old fillies topped by Bluegrass Flag (2-1) and Noble Freud (6-5).

Bluegrass Flag looms the post-time favorite as she was last seen romping by six lengths in an open stakes, the Cicada. Prior to that, she was second in the Franklin Square, a state-bred stakes.

Noble Freud has only started once, but made an auspicious debut when she drew off to a six-length win in an open maiden race at Oaklawn Park.

A share of her was sold to Head of Plains Partners after that race and she transferred to trainer Chad Brown’s barn. She has been training at Belmont Park since mid-March and will be tested for class in her stakes debut.

Aqueduct’s meet will come to an end Sunday, and racing will take a brief vacation until Friday, April 28, when Belmont Park and the Triple Crown will be another week closer to its much-anticipated start.



Derby picture remains a very fuzzy one

By Shawn Rychling

The final big day of Kentucky Derby prep races is behind us and handicappers have to think this year’s Derby is a real head-scratcher. Maybe we were spoiled by the last couple years when we had a few clear cut favorites at the top of the 3-year-old division heading into the First Saturday in May, but it sure seems this year is a bigger crapshoot than usual. Just about every horse that has shown something has faltered in their very next chance at moving forward.

In a review of last week’s three major preps, it would seem that Irish War Cry, the Wood Memorial winner, came out looking the best and may have to be one of the favorites for the Derby. He got a wide trip early, but pressed the pace and went on with a nice rally to win by 3 lengths and earn a 101 speed figure. Irish War Cry had won all three of his career starts, including the Holy Bull, before getting beaten 21 lengths in the Fountain of Youth.  He rebounded nicely in the Wood so perhaps the F of Y debacle was an aberration.

In the Blue Grass, it’s hard to figure out what happened down there in Keeneland. Long shot Irap took the race at odds of 31-1, outdueling Practical Joke in the stretch as the Chad Brown-colt just could not get by the winner in the final furlong.  Practical Joke has lost three times now since taking the Champagne at Belmont in October.  The Derby would be his third start this year off a layoff since the BC Juvenile and Brown knows what he is doing so he may actually offer some value in Louisville, but we’ll see.

Out in California, the Santa Anita Derby was easily the weakest of Saturday’s three prep races. Gormley sat several lengths off an early 3-way duel that covered a half-mile in 46.55. He then moved on the turn and swung 3-wide, but needed every last stride to get past the frontrunner for the victory. After that opening half, Gormley should have been flying home, but the final 3 furlongs took 40.24 seconds to run.  I don’t want any of the horses out of that race in Louisville.

On to this weekend and one more major prep to go and that is Saturday’s Grade I Arkansas Derby on closing day at Oaklawn Park.  This race has been won by future Derby winners.  American Pharoah and Smarty Jones are two that come to mind.

This year we have two prime horses to watch in the packed field of 12. Undefeated Malagacy draws the far outside post for Todd Pletcher. He won the Rebel at Oaklawn his last start. With the huge post position disadvantage, he may not have to win to punch his ticket to Churchill Downs.  If he does, watch out, but he would also be trying to become first horse to win the Derby without a race as a 2-year-old since Apollo in 1882.  Classic Empire won the BC Juvenile with a 102 speed figure, but ran third in the Holy Bull. He draws the inside post 2 for Mark Casse and Julien Leparoux. All eyes will be watching this one.

To be sure, there is no American Pharoah or Arrogate in this year’s 3-year-old crop, and an upset at Oaklawn on Saturday would make the Derby a wild betting affair.  When we wake up Easter Sunday, it will be just 20 days until the Run for the Roses.

Don’t forget, you can get all the Hot List analysis for this weekend’s Aqueduct action on the Interbets site right here. And remember, NYRA is off for Easter.

Saratoga race course opens in just 113 days.



It’s Super Saturday for Kentucky Derby hopefuls

By Bob Ehalt

The Super Saturday of the Kentucky Derby prep season has arrived and by nightfall Saturday, the chase for the 2017 Triple Crown should have much more definition to it.

Three major stakes – the Wood Memorial, Blue Grass and Santa Anita Derby – highlight Saturday’s action and provide the focus for televised coverage on NBCSN from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

All three races offer 100-40-20-10 points in the Road to the Kentucky Derby series, adding to their importance as the top two finishers in each race will be assured of a spot in the Run of the Roses.

Of the three, the Blue Grass at Keeneland should attract the most interest.

McCraken, ranked No. 1 in the latest National Thoroughbred Racing Association 3-year-old poll, heads a field of seven. Trained by Ian Wilkes, the undefeated McCraken won the Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay Downs in his last start but missed the Tampa Bay Derby due to a minor injury and will be making just his second start as a 3-year-old.

With a limited slate of races under his belt, McCracken will need a solid effort in the Blue Grass to gain the kind of conditioning that will make him a major factor at the Derby’s demanding mile and a quarter distance.

“The goal is the first Saturday in May (for the Kentucky Derby), and he doesn’t have to win this race,” Wilkes said about McCraken. “I don’t want to put that pressure on the horse. If he gets the right race and moves forward, we’ll be fine.”

A 7-5 morning line favorite, McCraken will face his most formidable challenge from Tapwrit, the colt who finished second to him in the Davis. In McCraken’s absence, Tapwrit turned in a stellar effort and won the Tampa Bay Derby by 4 ½ lengths for trainer Todd Pletcher.

Tapwrit, the 5-2 second choice, was fifth in the NTRA poll.

Other main threats include Practical Joke (7-2) and Gotham winner J Boys Echo (4-1).

At Aqueduct, the Wood Memorial tops a 12-race card with five graded stakes.

The $750,000 Wood drew a field of eight and it will be vital to each of their Kentucky Derby hopes since none of them have enough points at the moment to crack the 20-horse field for the opening leg of the Triple Crown.

The 2-1 favorite is Battalion Runner, who will be making just his fourth career start for Pletcher and first in a stakes. In his last start, Battalion Runner captured a Gulfstream Park allowance race as a 1-5 favorite.

“It’s New York’s premier prep for the Kentucky Derby, so it’s a race on our radar each year,” Pletcher said. “So, we try to pick out a horse that will fit from a timing perspective.  I thought (Battalion Runner) ran well his first time around two turns (in his last start). Beasley (the runner-up in that race) is a highly regarded horse. I felt like he finished up well, and those two were pretty far clear of the third-place horse. It was a productive race for him and he showed the ability to stretch out in distance.”

The 5-2 second choice is Cloud Computing, who was second in the Gotham while making just his second career start.

“He would definitely have to be bucking history. There is a reason horses have been successful in this race with a foundation at 2,” trainer Chad Brown said. “But this horse is so talented, and he deserves a chance to put himself in the conversation.

“It’s an ever-changing sport. Things change over time,” he added. “Sometimes horses get on a conventional path to big races. I’m patient by nature with horses. He comes into the Wood off of five weeks rest. It looks like there is enough speed on paper to create an honest race. Cloud Computing will have to run his career best to win, but we have a horse coming in the right way.”

The field also includes two horses hoping to regain their stature in the 3-year-old division, Irish War Cry (7-2) and Mo Town (6-1).

Irish War Cry won the Holy Bull, beating 2-year-old champ Classic Empire, but then lost by 21 ¾ lengths in the Fountain of Youth and will try to rebound on Saturday.

Mo Town won the Remsen at Aqueduct last November, but showed little in his 3-year-old debut, finishing fifth in the Risen Star at Fair Grounds. With a switch to Javier Castellano in the saddle and a return to the friendly confines of the Big A, a reversal form would not be out of the question.

At Santa Anita, the main event is the $1 million Santa Anita Derby.

What figured to be a small field has grown considerably due to an injury to Mastery as 13 horses were entered, with seven of them trained by either Bob Baffert or Doug O’Neill.

One of them has even been trained by both men in the last few months – and he’s the favorite in the race.

Iliad was pegged as the 7-2 choice after finishing a distant second to Mastery in the San Felipe. Shifted from Baffert’s barn to O’Neill’s earlier in the year by owner Kaleem Shah, Iliad was a 3 1/2-length of the Grade 2 San Vicente in his previous start.

He’ll be joined in the Santa Anita by uncoupled stablemates Term of Art (12-1), So Conflated (15-1) and Milton Freewater (30-1).

Baffert’s trio is headed by Reach the World (5-1), a runner-up in an allowance race to Santa Anita Derby starter Battle of Midway (5-1), and American Anthem (5-1), who is coming off a dismal try in the Rebel Stakes.

The Hall of Fame trainer will also send out longshot Irish Freedom (20-1).

Another major contender is Gormley (9-2), who was fourth in the San Felipe.

Gormley (16th) and Iliad (19th) are both among the Top 20 for a spot in the Derby at the moment, but they, like a large number of horses on Saturday, will most likely need more points to solidify their spot in the race on everyone’s mind these days.

Which one?

Tune in on the first Saturday in May for the answer.



Arrogate awesome; Pair of Derby preps Saturday

By Shawn Rychling

Well, we made it. Made it through the long, hard slog that is winter in New York racing.  We have endured the inner track since early December and a month of 3-day race weeks as NYRA deals with smaller roster of available horses in March.

If you are reading this on Friday, then you are preparing for the re-opening of the main track at Aqueduct and it will be our first foray over that surface in 2017.  Saturday is the New York Claiming Championship featuring 9 races with the best claiming horses, which are the backbone of racing on any circuit. This weekend will be just a tease for next Saturday’s Wood Memorial for 3-year-olds, the marquee Kentucky Derby-prep in New York.

This Saturday will feature two Derby preps in other parts of the country with the Florida Derby at Gulfstream and the Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds.

But before we analyze those races a quick word on what we saw in Dubai last Saturday. Simply put, Arrogate is not of this world. He is the Super Horse. The 4-year-old was squeezed back to last at the start and then came all the way back through the field to run down the frontrunners.  If you haven’t seen the replay, then you need to. It was a jaw-dropping rally and it is beyond rare to see horses that can win on the front end, rating, and from dead last.  Arrogate has done all three and we can’t wait until his next start.

On to the Derby preps and it’s fair to say that each race has a clear cut favorite. In the Florida Derby at Gulfstream the discussion begins and ends with Gunnevera. The winner of the Fountain of Youth drew the far outside – post 11 in an 11-horse field. There is some fretting by some observers, but Gunnevera’s late-running style may be perfect for the post position. He came from last in two recent wins – the Fountain of Youth and Delta Jackpot. If jockey Javier Castellano takes back to last and waits for the big run, then we may see a repeat of his last race.

It is difficult to say where the competition will come from for Gunnevera.  On the rail is State of Honor.  The Mark Casse-trained colt ran 2nd and 3rd in Derby preps at Tampa Bay Downs. Battalion Runner has won two in a row, but this is his stakes debut. Three Rules was third in the Fountain of Youth and is 5 for 7 lifetime at Gulfstream.

Meanwhile, at Fair Grounds, it is hard to look past Girvin in the Louisiana Derby. He moved forward in the Risen Star which was a second-off-a-layoff start, and another improvement would make him tough to beat and stamp his passport to Louisville. Guest Suite may be the top threat in here after he also moved forward in the Risen Star. Pletcher has a deep barn this spring and he has Patch on the rail who went from a 64 fig in his debut to an 89 in breaking his maiden last time.

Enjoy the Derby preps this week and look forward to preps next week at Aqueduct, Keeneland, and Santa Anita.

Don’t forget, you can get all the Hot List analysis for this weekend’s Aqueduct action on the Interbets site right here.

Saratoga race course opens in just 113 days.



It’s Arrogate vs. ‘The World’

By Bob Ehalt

It’s called the Dubai World Cup and quite fittingly it will showcase the world’s best horse.

Juddmonte Farms’ Arrogate is the standout in a field of 14 that will assemble at Meydan Race Course in Dubai for the $10 million Dubai World Cup on Saturday. He’ll take aim at a fourth straight Grade 1 stakes win, attempting to extend a streak that started with the Travers and continued with the Breeders’ Cup Classic and the Pegasus World Cup.

The 4-year-old colt won those three races by a combined 18 ¾ lengths, twice beating two-time Horse of the Year California Chrome, to establish himself as a worthy successor to the superstar role filled by California Chrome and American Pharoah the last few years.

Now, after putting together an unprecedented winning streak, the son of Unbridled’s Song will take his show-stopping act on the road to face international competition in a race that was the world’s richest until the Pegasus was launched.

Trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, Arrogate has drilled sharply for Saturday’s test and seems poised for yet another sensational effort.

“This horse has been so good to me,” Baffert said, “and hopefully we will know after the race just how great he is.”

A prohibitive 1-3 favorite, Arrogate will take on five rivals from the United States, all of whom are the only entrants listed at lower than 30-1.

Heading that group is Gun Runner, who missed the Pegasus due to quarantine issues at Fair Grounds Racetrack.

A 4-year-old, Gun Runner (8-1) breezed to a 5 3/4-length victory in the Grade 3 Razorback Handicap in his lone 2017 start. A winner of the Grade 1 Clark last year, Gun Runner finished third in the Travers, 15 lengths behind the victorious Arrogate.

The other U.S. starters include Keen Ice (20-1), who was fourth in the Pegasus and defeated American Pharoah in the 2015 Travers, Neolithic (20-1), who was third in the Pegasus, Hoppertunity (15-1), winner of last year’s Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup, and Mubtaahij (8-1), who was fourth in the 2015 Belmont Stakes and finished second in a prep race in Meydan last month.

The leading candidates from overseas are Special Fighter and the Japanese duo of Awardee and Apollo Kentucky, all of whom are 30-1 in the morning line.

The field also includes Japan’s quirky Lani, whose zany antics provided a sideshow to his 2016 Triple Crown campaign in which he ran in all three classic and finished third in the Belmont Stakes.

With post time scheduled for 12:45 p.m. Eastern time, the mile and a quarter test will be televised on NBC.

Interbets.com wagering on the Dubai World Cup begins with advance wagering on Friday.



By Shawn Rychling

Before we delve into horse racing with our weekly blog we must wish everyone in the Interbets/Catskill OTB universe a Happy St. Patrick’s Day!  We’re all Irish today and we hope you enjoy a green beer and some corned beef and cabbage.

And also, we would be remiss if we didn’t wish you all the Luck of the Irish in making your Aqueduct selections this weekend and hope you enjoy full cards at the Big A.

Speaking of those full cards at Aqueduct there are fewer of them in Ozone Park this March as compared to last year, and that’s because NYRA has gone to a 3-day schedule of racing – just Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

NYRA has cited the small average field sizes in March as a 10-year trend going back to the days when 5-day race weeks were conducted.  Last year, during March average field size was a paltry 6.89 horses per race during 4-day weeks.

Since the first weekend in March say a Thursday cancellation was not a ‘scheduled’ 3-day week, we’ll use only last week to compare.  From March 10-12 there were 223 starters for 27 races or 8.25 per race. That is a nice improvement.

But while it is true that starters per race are up, we took a look at handle for the first two weekends vs. the same days last year.  We found that all-sources handle was not only down about 6% overall for the 6 days, but that it was down every single day in 2017 over 2016.

That is not a good trend, especially if field size is up. Now, the weather was very cold and may have kept on-track handle down as well as attendance at some other Northeast outlets that take a lot of bets for NYRA. This new trend may be a concern for NYRA, and we will be watching it closely.

This weekend brings some more bad news for NYRA with rain and snow in the forecast for Saturday. That being said, a pretty competitive 9-race card is on tap with the featured Correction Stakes at 6 furlongs for fillies 4 years old and up. This race seems wide open with Clothes Fall Off and Hot City Girl the favorites, and Hot List horses Disco Chick and Ultimate Holiday offering some value.

After this weekend we’ll have just 3 more days on the inner track until the Aqueduct main track opens Friday, March 31

Don’t forget, you can get all the Hot List analysis for this weekend’s Aqueduct action on the Interbets site right here.

Saratoga race course opens in just 127 days.



Tom Fool heads Saturday card at Aqueduct

By Bob Ehalt

There might be snow and icy conditions in the forecast, but winter is indeed approaching an end.

A sure sign of that can be seen at Aqueduct Racetrack where the featured race is a $200,000 Grade 3 stakes that could just as easily be contested in the spring at Belmont Park, the Tom Fool Handicap.

Sassicaia is the 3-1 morning-line favorite in the six furlong stakes, but the most intriguing starter is the 7-year-old New Jersey-bred Green Grotto.

A veteran of 51 career starts, Green Grotto is coming off a gutsy victory by a head in the Grade 3 Toboggan Handicap over Aqueduct’s inner track. Though he’s earned $859,538 in his career, the son of Here’s Zealous thrives on the inner track, winning five of 18 starts with three seconds and four thirds for earnings of slightly more than $330,000.

“He’s a consistent horse and we haven’t done anything special with him,” said Gaston Grant, who trains the 7-2 second choice in the morning line. “I’m only an overseer but he’s tough. He came out of the (Toboggan) pretty good and he’s proven this is home ground and that he loves the inner track.”

The Tom Fool also serves as a rematch for All Star Red (4-1), who finished second to Green Grotto in the Toboggan.

“Last time he ran a pretty good race,” trainer Rudy Rodriguez said. “We know that Green Gratto is a very solid horse. Our horse had everything go his way. Perfect ride, saved ground, no excuses. We just got beat by a better horse and will look to turn the tables around this time.”

Rodriguez also trains Sassicaia, who returned from a 10-month layoff and finished a useful second by 1 ½ lengths to the front-running Chief Lion in a Feb. 17 allowance race at the Big A. Prior to the layoff, Sassicaia opened his 2016 campaign with a victory in the Toboggan then was sixth in the Grade 1 Carter before heading to the sidelines.

“The race is tough, but I thought he needed a race the other day and he ran very well,” Rodriguez said. “There’s a lot of speed so hopefully he can come from the back and pick up the pieces. Hopefully he can put himself in good position and take it from there.”

Chief Lion (6-1) is also entered in the Tom Fool and figures to be battling with Green Grotto and The Great War (10-1) for the early lead in the six furlong test.

The field also includes Spartiatis (6-1), Zayat Stables’ King Kranz (12-1) and Sir Rockport (20-1).

Sunday’s card at Aqueduct features the star of this winter’s meet, Send It In. Already a two-time stakes winner over the inner track, Send It In will chase a hat trick when he figures to be a solid favorite in the $125,000 Stymie Stakes.

Trained by Todd Pletcher and owned by Paul Pompa Jr., Send It In has won seven of his last nine starts, capped by his recent wins in the Haynesfield and Alex Robb.



By Shawn Rychling

What a difference a week makes here in the Northeast as following a mild end to February, March has been ushered in with some dreary weather and cold temperatures. NYRA lost a day of racing in perfect sunshine on Thursday when high winds cancelled the card at Aqueduct with safety of the horses and jockeys the issue.

Aqueduct will have 3 more racing days this weekend and that means for the next 5 weeks, NYRA will conduct just three days of racing on a Friday-Sunday schedule.

This being the first weekend of March, we have a pair of Kentucky Derby prep races on tap with Grade-III Gotham at Aqueduct and the Grade-II Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream.

In the Gotham, El Areeb enters on a 4-race win streak, including a 4-length triumph in the Withers last time and an 11-length win in Jerome two starts back. So this grey colt, trained by Maryland-based Cathal Lynch and ridden by Trevor McCarthy, will try to make it 3 for 3 in the Aqueduct Derby prep races,

The problem with El Areeb is that he hasn’t moved forward much from a speed figure perspective despite the win streak.  So we may look for a horse to improve. True Timber ran second to El Areeb in the Withers and that performance came despite a bad stumble when leaving the gate. After the stumble he rushed up to take the lead and held it until about the quarter pole before giving way to the winner, but held the place spot.  The final speed figure was a nice move forward for True Timber and Kiaran McLaughlin has him training well with best-of-52 bullet work a week ago.

Meanwhile, J Boys Echo also moved forward in the Withers and it came off a 2 ½-month freshening and while taking the overland route so look for him to improve second time off the bench. Cloud Computing makes just his second career start and breaks from the outside, but broke his maiden last time with a faster debut than the contenders ran so a sharp forward move makes him tough and you can’t overlook Chad Brown.

Down in Florida we have the Fountain of Youth and the 2017 debut of Practical Joke going out for Chad Brown. This one finished third in his last start at the BC Juvenile in November. The two main threats appear to be Irish War Cry and Gunnevera which ran 1-2 in the Holy Bull, respectively.  A value play may be Takaful which showed some promise breaking its maiden with a 93 figure at Belmont in October and McLaughlin has him training very well.

That’s a look at the Derby preps for this week and don’t forget, you can get all the Hot List analysis for this weekend’s Aqueduct action on the Interbets site right here.

Saratoga race course opens in just 141 days.



Busher an acid test for Full House

By Bob Ehalt

Jumping from the maiden ranks to an allowance race can be a tough challenge for some horses.

Actually, it’s probably most horses.

So what does that say about moving from a maiden race to a stakes race?

It certainly happens frequently in 2-year-old races where allowance races are few and far between.

Naturally, as horses grow older it happens less often, which helps to explain what’s happening in Saturday’s Busher Stakes at Aqueduct.

The center of attention in the $150,000 stakes for 3-year-old fillies is Full House and the mile and a sixteenth stakes should answer some pertinent questions about her – and we’re not talking about whether she was named by a fan of poker or the old television show with Danny, Joey and Uncle Jesse.

Full House enters the Busher off a highly impressive maiden win when she romped by 13 ¾ lengths at Aqueduct on Feb. 4.

The one-mile maiden race marked Full House’s third start but it was her first around two turns and she relished the stretchout, grabbing the early lead for the first time and then pouring it on until she was all alone at the finish line.

The competition promises to be far more formidable on Saturday, when trainer Jimmy Jerkens will get some insight as to whether he has a filly who ran like a freak on a winter day or who can be a force in the 3-year-old filly division as the year progresses.

She’s one of five fillies in the field who are coming off maiden wins, though none of them posted their initial win in a manner as convincing as Full House. Among them is Thirstforthecup, who hails from the barn of trainer Todd Pletcher that houses an abundance of talented 3-year-olds – of both sexes.

Full House figures to get a demanding test from a far more experienced rival in Yorkiepoo Princess. In her last start the speedy daughter of Kantharos posted a lopsided 7 ½-length win in the $100,000 Ruthless Stakes, giving her back-to-back stakes wins.

Both of those stakes victories came in six furlong races at Aqueduct in which Yorkiepoo Princess led most of the way and won by a combined margin of slightly more than 10 lengths. The Busher will give her chance to prove herself around two turns in stakes company, with a likely battle between her and Full House on the front end figuring to play a key role in deciding the outcome.

The added distance of the Busher could be beneficial for a trio of fillies who finished behind Yorkiepoo Princess in the Ruthless. Tiz Rae Anna, Banty’s Girl and Bride Street wound up second, third and fourth, respectively, in that race and should get a better set up under Saturday’s two-turn conditions.

The field also includes No Sweat, who was third in Busanda at a mile and 70-yard distance.

For her, it was her first race after a maiden win – something to keep in mind while weighing the chances of Full House and four other maiden winners in the Busher field.



By Shawn Rychling

Don’t look now, but there are only 11 days left in February and the Aqueduct inner track meet is chugging along nicely following some bad weather last week which saw a cancellation on Thursday due to a snowstorm that became a blizzard for several areas of the Northeast.  That was followed by a heavy rain event on Sunday which made for a chalky day on the tote board with the exception of the finale in which Fleeting Gold paid $31 to win.

There have been only three cancellations so far during this winter season at Aqueduct, but we still have 32 days left until spring, and even after that we can get some of the white stuff.  NYRA got some luck with this weekend, however, with some very nice weather expected for this time of year and temperatures climbing to the low 60s by Sunday.  Just in time too, as Aqueduct stages a rare 5-day race week, adding a Monday card on Presidents’ Day.

Let’s dive right in and take a look at the late Pick 4 for Saturday’s card:

Race 6 – 5-Monte Man is a ‘C’ on the Hot List and was really hampered by a wide rally last time. 3-Watch the Tie gets a ‘B’ from us and figures to improve in second start off a layoff.  1-Cold Gone Hot was much-improved last time when trying the inner for the first time. 6-Lucky Town has run some pretty good numbers in allowance races earlier in his career on turf, but that can translate to the inner.

Race 7 – 10-We Did has a tough outside post but speed figures are comparable to this group and 12-1 ML seems like a big overlay. 9-Pop the Hood steps up, but really moved forward last time and is 2 for 3 over the inner track. 5-Bluegrass Prevails has hit the board in 5 of 6 starts over the inner and career best came over this strip last March. 2-Riff Raff is somewhat interesting with jockey upgrade.

Race 8 – 6-Hot City Girl may be the one to beat off a string of stakes starts. 2-Play Me a Memory has won 3 of last 4 starts. 4-Flatterywillgetyou loves the inner track and forward move would make her a player. 5-Court Dancer is 4 for 9 lifetime over the inner track.

Race 9 – 9-Appealing Henry earned an ‘A’ last time recovering from a stumbling start to be second 2-Cespedes may be the one to beat off recent speed figures and big class drop. 7-Mission Trip was decent in his debut running a close up third and is eligible to improve. 6-Martino appears to be best of the rest.

Don’t forget, you can get all the Hot List analysis for this weekend’s Aqueduct action on the Interbets site right here.

Saratoga race course opens in just 151 days.



Gulfstream stakes heat up weekend

By Bob Ehalt

With much of the Northeast digging out after a winter storm, racing fans can at least feel some heat from racing at Gulfstream Park.

There’s a trio of stakes on tap at the Hallandale Beach, Florida, track, two of them on turf.

Yet it’s the dirt stakes that has the most appeal.

The $350,000 Gulfstream Park Handicap drew nine starters, including some who could be major players in Grade 1 stakes later in the year.

The 5-2 morning-line favorite is Sharp Azteca, who in his last start was a game second in the Grade 1 Malibu Stakes at Santa Anita. Blessed with keen early speed, the Jorge Navarro-trained colt looks like the one to catch and beat in the mile stakes.

“This is the best I’ve seen him,” Navarro said. “He’s matured a lot. He should run pretty good. He’s been training good and he came out of his last race really good. We pointed him for this race. We’ll try to keep him at a one-turn mile. I think that’s going to be his best distance. We took him to California and nothing seemed to bother him. He was eating good after the race and training really good for the race. He put on weight, and he looks like a stallion. He’s a 4-year-old now and he’s a beautiful-looking animal.

“I think California did him really good. Don’t get me wrong, he looks exactly the same as he did when he came from California. He’s been doing everything nice and easy. I’m expecting a big race from him.”

Zulu, who was injured after a losing effort as the favorite in last year’s Blue Grass Stakes, is the 3-1 second choice in the Grade 2 stakes after taking a minor stakes in his comeback race in December.

The one-time Triple Crown candidate was second last year in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth and has made four of his five careers starts at Gulfstream Park with a slate of three wins and a second for trainer Todd Pletcher.

Another Pletcher starter, Tommy Macho, is the 7-2 third choice. The 5-year-old horse is coming off an impressive 5 ¾ length victory in the Grade 3 Hal’s Hope at Gulfstream on Jan. 14. He won the Grade 3 Fred Hooper at Gulfstream last year.

Other top contenders in the field include Awesome Slew (10-1), who is making his first start for trainer Mark Casse, Awesome Banner (12-1), Squadron A (8-1) and Blofeld (10-1).

The Grade 1 stakes on the 12-race card is the $350,000 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap, which drew a field of eight, topped by Divisidero,  the 2-1 morning-line choice.

Divisidero was a wide third in last month’s Grade 2 Fort Lauderdale at Gulfstream, his first start in seven months.

A sharp blowout last weekend indicates the son of Kitten’s Joy should be able to build off his impressive comeback try.

Beach Patrol was pegged as the 5-2 second choice.

Trained by Chad Brown, Beach Patrol won the Grade 1 Secretariat in August. Now four, he is coming off a runner-up finish in the Grade 1 Hollywood Derby in December.

“I freshened him up a little bit. He’s been breezing nicely at Palm Meadows,” Brown said. “It’s his first start of the year, and it’s a little bit hard to come off a bit of a break into a Grade 1 and face older horses for the first time, but I think he is a really talented horse. I think a mile and an eighth is perfect for him. He’s a really neat horse to be around. He has a lot of class. I think what we have learned with Beach Patrol is him getting a clean break. If the horse can get a clean break and be very forwardly placed, that is where he prefers to do his running.”

The Grade 3 Suwannee River is a $150,000 turf stakes for fillies and mares with Sandiva the 5-2 morning-line choice in a race that will serve as her final start before heading to the breeding shed.

Goldy Espony, despite not starting in more than a year, is the 3-1 second choice.



By Shawn Rychling

Bob Baffert is living some kind of charmed life isn’t he?

The inaugural $12 Pegasus World Cup went off at Gulfstream Park last week and Baffert’s new superhorse not only won, but did so in a fashion that cemented his position as the best horse in training over the past 6 months.  And he earned about $7 million dollars for less than 2 minutes of work!

Arrogate was calmly ridden by Mike Smith rating along the rail and then, after they ran a half mile in front of him in 46.14 seconds, Arrogate responded when asked and made it look easy.  He tipped outside into the 3-path, passed the leader, putting daylight between himself and that one by the 3/8th pole. Arrogate just expanded from there under no more than a vigorous hand ride (Smith might have hit him once with a left-handed whip) and was actually geared down late.

It was the third-straight win for Arrogate in three of the sport’s richest races – the Travers, Breeders’ Cup Classic, and Pegasus. And after a second look at the Pegasus with the Trackus system at Gulfstream, the final time was adjusted downward by .78 seconds meaning that Arrogate set a track record with a time of 1:46.83.  In the Travers, he ran a track record of 1:59.36.  So Arrogate now owns two track records – at Saratoga and Gulfstream – and he just turned four!

The Pegasus was supposed to be a showdown between California Chrome, the 2014 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner, and Arrogate, but that never materialized as ‘Chrome’ broke from post 12 and was just too wide early to settle in and be a factor.  He faded to 9th after chasing a hot early pace in the 4-path. That was California Chrome’s second straight loss to Arrogate – the first was much closer as Chrome led until the final strides and coming in the BC Classic.  Prior to that race, Chrome had not been beaten since March of 2015. Chrome went right to the breeding shed after the Pegasus and he should be saluted on a tremendous career and his connections should be heralded as well for racing him as a 6-year-old.

As for the superhorse, Arrogate. All this comes for trainer Bob Baffert just a little over a year after he won the Triple Crown with the dominant American Pharoah, who also went on to romp in the BC Classic in his final race last year.  Not to mention, Arrogate was wearing a special shoe to treat an abscess on his foot which occurred between the Breeders’ Cup and Pegasus. Arrogate has won on the lead like in the Travers and from off the pace while rating professionally in both the Classic and Pegasus.  It will be interesting to see where this horse goes from here. He was a late bloomer due to some minor injuries, which his sire was prone to, but Baffert knows how to pick his spots and maximize a horse’s performance without overworking him.  A superstar 4-year-old season would be fun to watch.

Back to Aqueduct where winter marches on and it’s now February!  The sun is up longer and we are creeping toward spring. And Saturday marks the second of the four Derby preps at Aqueduct as the Grade-III Withers goes off.  El Areeb is the favorite after an 11-length romp in the Jerome, the opening Derby prep for 2017.  But there are plenty of horses in the field with room to improve including True Timber who ran pretty evenly against El Areeb in the Jerome, but can improve on a fast track. Apartfromthecrowd moved forward sharply to break his maiden last time and we like his chances to improve.

Don’t forget, you can get all the Hot List analysis for this weekend’s Aqueduct action on the Interbets site right here.

Just 168 days until Saratoga opens!



Pegasus offers a classic showdown

By Bob Ehalt

Your opinion about the Pegasus World Cup no doubt hinges on your point of view.

If you’re looking for a great betting race with plenty of value spread around, you might be disappointed.

Even with a field of 12 in place for Saturday’s $12 million epic, there are realistically only two horses worthy of a big bet and even with a large field the two favorites will be priced in the neighborhood of 6-5 to 3-2.

That’s hardly value.

There will be several horses at odds of 50-1, but if you are going to bet them to win, or even place, good luck to you. You’ll need it.

Now if you want to see a sensational race between two of the best horses we’ve seen in years, then the Pegasus has proven to be a decisive winner in his initial start.

With two-time Horse of the Year California Chrome facing Arrogate, the now 4-year-old who defeated him in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, the Pegasus will give us one last look at these two champions battling each other.

It’s a special matchup and it never would have happened if not for Frank Stronach, the founder and Honorary Chairman of The Stronach Group, who envisioned the race and made it happen.

Without the Pegasus, California Chrome would have been retired to stud after the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Now, if he can overcome post 12, he will get a chance to leave the racetrack on a winning note while avenging his loss to Arrogate, who drew the rail.

“Well, you know we’ve had some outside, inside posts. You know, you can’t make any excuses,” said Art Sherman, who trains North America’s all-time earnings leader. “The only good thing I thought about this, we won’t have to be in the starting gate long. ‘Chrome’ is ‘Chrome.’ He’s got tactical speed. I was hoping we might get closer inside. We can overcome all this, believe me. I’m sure (jockey Victor Espinoza) will ride a great race on him. I’m looking forward to it.

“He looks super right now. I couldn’t be more satisfied. I watched his work the other day . . . He amazes me every time I watch him. He’s a once-in-a-lifetime horse.”

While California Chrome had a prep race for the Pegasus – a romp in a Los Alamitos stakes – Arrogate has not raced since his half-length victory over “Chrome” in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. That’s a 12-week layoff, which could be worrisome, except that trainer Bob Baffert was able to have Arrogate razor-sharp for the Breeders’ Cup after a 10-week break.

“He wouldn’t have gotten on that plane (from California) unless he was super cherry,” Baffert said.  “I don’t know if I have an edge (from the rail). If we don’t break, we don’t have an edge. (California Chrome) has a lot of speed and all the horses on the outside they’re not really quick away from there. He’s much quicker, so I would say he has a little bit of an edge. ‘Chrome’ likes to be on the outside in the clear. If he was on the inside in the one and broke a little slow and got behind horses he’s not effective at all. He needs to be in the clear, so that’s probably a better draw for him.”

There are 10 other horses in the field and the best of them might be Keen Ice, the horse who stunned American Pharoah in the 2015 Travers. He was third in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Yet he was more than 10 lengths behind California Chrome and is pegged at 12-1 in the morning line for a race one furlong shorter than the BC Classic – which does not help his cause.

He’s been known to spring an upset, but beating California Chrome AND Arrogate might be an assignment even more difficult than upending a Triple Crown champion.

In a sense, those words alone say all that needs to be said about the Pegasus.

It’s going to be a great race.



By Shawn Rychling

Don’t look now, but we have hit mid- (dare I say late-) January and NYRA is plugging away with the inner track meet at Aqueduct.

After a weekend lost to a snowstorm and sharp cold front, the old track in Ozone Park recovered last week with a strong 5-day schedule which included an extra day of racing for the Martin Luther King holiday on Monday.  Due to the cancellations — which have reached three since the inner track opened in early December — bettors were treated to an excellent lineup last weekend which featured an average of 9 betting interests per race across the three days.  The high number of betting options resulted in a double carryover in the Pick 6 which went unhit on Sunday and Monday.  Pick 6 players went into Friday with a little more than $84,000 already in the pool. Good luck if you are playing the Pick 6 and let’s hope it carried over again into Saturday’s card where the Hot List has several of the races in the sequence fleshed out.

Let’s take a look back at last weekend as an old friend took a stakes race. Green Gratto broke from the rail in the Grade-III Toboggan at 6 furlongs and took a short lead setting fractions of 22.60; 45.64; and 57.67.  He then gamely held on turning back the cavalry charge to win by a neck in 1:10.74.

Green Gratto is a horse we have loved forever thanks to his blazing early speed and ability to hang on.  His career seemed to reach its peak about 14 months ago – on Thanksgiving Day 2015 – when he electrified a holiday crowd at Aqueduct taking the Gr. III Fall Highweight by a head. He was classic Green Gratto that day going to the front in fractions of 22.29, 44.71 and a remarkable 56.87 running that 5th furlong in an unheard of 12.16!  He dug deep under jockey Kendrick Carmouche to win by a head. He posted a 101 speed figure that day, but improved in his next start with a 107 in winning the Gravesend.

Since then though, Green Gratto has been somewhat mediocre with one win in 13 starts before the Toboggan, and that came in a minor stakes at Delaware Park.  But he was second in the Gravesend and drilled two bullet works leading into the Toboggan and he turned the tables on Stallwalkin’ Dude in winning that race.  That victory may signal a return to top form for Green Gratto which would be a nice thing for modest connections of owner/trainer Grant Gaston who had only 36 starters in 2016. We’ll look for Green Gratto next in the Grade III Tom Fool at 6 furlongs on March 11.

Don’t forget, the Hot List has full cards at the Big A from Friday through Sunday and you can get all of our analysis on the Interbets site right here.

Just 182 days until Saratoga opens!



Will it be a Sweet 16 for Royal Posse?

By Bob Ehalt

Consistency is a highly coveted virtue in horse racing, and when it comes to reeling off one sharp effort after another it’s hard to find someone like Royal Posse.

Since running second on May 31, 2015 and being claimed for $20,000 by trainer Rudy Rodriguez on behalf of owner Michael Dubb, Royal Posse has put together a phenomenal streak of 15 straight races in which he finished first or second – the last 12 of them coming in stakes.

On Saturday, the 6-year-old New York State-bred gelding will put that streak on the line, while seeking a fifth straight win to boot, when he headlines the $125,000 Jazil Stakes at Aqueduct.

After becoming a millionaire in his last race – a half-length victory in the Claiming Crown Jewel Stakes at Gulfstream Park – Royal Posse was pegged as a 7-5 favorite in a field of six. Though the old adage says good things don’t last forever, the prospect of a Sweet Sixteen for Royal Posse seems likely in a race in which he was second a year ago.

Royal Posse will be ridden by Irad Ortiz Jr. in the mile-and-70-yard stakes.

The main rivals figure to be Bay of Plenty (5-2), who is coming off an awful effort on a wet track in the Queens County Stakes, and Doyouknowsomething (7-2) who was last seen posting a victory by a neck in quick time over Send It In, who won a state-bred stakes in his next start.

The rest of the field includes Res Judicata (12-1), Sunny Ridge (6-1) and Grasshoppin (20-1).

Saturday’s Aqueduct card also features the $100,000 Ruthless, a six-furlong stakes for 3-year-old fillies.

Yorkiepoo Princess, the 2-1 morning-line choice, figures to be the favorite off a solid victory in the Furlough Stakes in her last start.

The speedy filly is not just the only stakes winner in a field of seven, but four of her rivals are coming off a win in a maiden race.

Two of those recent winners should be the main competition for the Ed Barker-trained filly. Bride Street (5-2) was a front-running of her debut on Nov. 27 at Aqueduct, while Waves of Blue (3-1) also went gate-to-wire in her debut, winning over a sloppy track at Gulfstream.

The field also includes Banty’s Girl (8-1), a closer who might benefit from a quick pace, Treatherlikeastar (15-1), Tiz Rae Anna (6-1) and Kissin Cassie (30-1).

The Busanda will be contested as the third race on the nine-race card. The Jazil is slated for the fifth race of the day.



By Shawn Rychling

We said good bye to 2016 last week and hello to 2017…Happy New Year!  It was out with the old and in with new last Saturday at midnight and in the world of horse racing it was one huge collective birthday party as all 2-year-old Thoroughbreds turned 3 and a select few turned their attention to the future and the first Saturday in May at Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby.

And it took just one day for NYRA to start its major Derby Prep schedule as 3-year-olds went to the post last Monday for the Grade-III Jerome Stakes at 1 mile and 70 yards over the inner track.

Takaful, trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, went off the even-money favorite, while mid-Atlantic invader El Areeb was the 5-2 second choice.  The two rivals dueled down the backstretch with El Areeb on the outside.  Midway on the far turn, at about the 3/8th pole, El Areeb jockey Trevor McCarthy asked for more and his horse found another gear pulling away and never looking back in a marvelous 11-length romp.

However, the win may have been more visually impressive than anything else.  After moderate early fractions, El Areeb and Takaful crawled through 6 furlongs in 1:14.39 and a mile in a snail’s pace of 1:41.63 with each successive the quarter-mile times through a mile were 23.28, 24.83, 26.28 and 27.24.  That was SLOW with a capital ‘S,’

Certainly the inner track plays slower than the main track and it didn’t help that a steady rain from the midpoint of the card made for a muddy, sealed racing surface.

Takaful may have hated the surface fading to last after a slow pace, but he also flopped a bit after leading in the Remsen on Thanksgiving weekend so that’s two poor races in a row.

The Aqueduct inner track is quirky so we’ll have to see what conclusions we can draw from the Jerome. Perhaps El Areeb will validate his Jerome win with a win in the Withers on Saturday, Feb. 4. They were far back, but Bonus Points, True Timber and Win With Pride ran second, third and fourth respectively to El Areeb.  Perhaps one or more will mature a month from now and maybe find a track more to their liking.  Either way, this year’s 3-year-old crop has just started down the long Kentucky Derby trail and we have 5 months before the Run for the Roses.

Don’t forget the Hot List has full cards at the Big A from Friday through Sunday this week and you can get all of our analysis on the Interbets site right here.

Good luck and once again Happy New Year to all of our fans.



Arrogate rings in the new year

By Bob Ehalt

A new year is around the corner and 2017 is scheduled to begin in grand style.

America’s latest wonder horse, Arrogate, will usher in 2017 on Sunday when he runs in the Grade 2 $200,000 San Pasqual at Santa Anita Park.

The Juddmonte Farms colt will face just four rivals, which is hardly surprising given Arrogate’s performances in his last two starts.

The mile-and-a-sixteenth San Pasqual will be Arrogate’s first race since his sensational victory over California Chrome by a half-length in the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic – a race in which the two superstars crossed the wire more than 10 lengths ahead of third-place finisher Keen Ice.

Before that, Arrogate burst on to the scene with a monstrous 13 ½-length victory in the Grade 1 Travers, winning in track record time for trainer Bob Baffert.

Now the San Pasqual will serve as his final prep for a scheduled appearance in the $12 million Pegasus World Cup on Jan. 28 at Gulfstream Park – a race in which he and California Chrome will be heavily favored, if all goes as expected on Sunday.

“The San Pasqual will be his hard work,” Baffert said. “From here on out with the rain, things are going to be spotty, so you’ve got to go. I want to get a race into him, but it’s not going to be easy. There are some nice horses in (the San Pasqual).”

The main challenger figures to be Midnight Storm. Primarily a turf runner for trainer Phil D’Amato, he switched back to the main track for the Grade 3 Native Diver last month and won by nearly eight lengths. If he can turn in another strong performance on Sunday it would make him a highly attractive Pegasus candidate to the five stakeholders – each of whom paid $1 million for a spot in the race – who are still searching for a horse to run the race.

The same can be said for the other three starters, Prospect Park, Dalmore and Accelerate. Just finishing within a length or two of Arrogate would bring Pegasus suitors to their owners’ doorstep.

At Aqueduct, 2017 kicks off on Sunday with the $100,000 Lost in the Fog, a six-furlong sprint for 3-year-olds. Then on a special Monday card, there’s a reminder that it’s never too early to talk about the Kentucky Derby. The featured stakes is the 147th running of the Jerome Stakes, a mile and 70 yards test for 3-year-olds that awards points in the Road to the Kentucky Derby series to the top four finishers.



While Aqueduct is on hiatus and there is almost* no racing this upcoming weekend our tireless Hot List Team is taking a much needed
break for the weekend. There is no new blog this week. It’s a great time to remember how it all started. Posted (above) is the original
NY Hot List Interbets Blog from June 2011. Enjoy & happy holidays to you and yours.

*Remember Laurel IS racing this Saturday, December 24, post time 12 noon. Interbets Account wagering and some OTBs will be open for wagering.
Limited branches open Saturday, December 24 – 12 noon – 4:00pm - Park Avenue – Nanuet, Middletown, Arlington, Brewster, Johnson City



By Shawn Rychling

Before we get going on this week’s blog entry all of us here at the New York Hot List want to wish all of you fans of New York racing a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you and your family – no matter what holiday you celebrate – and also a Happy New Year. Christmas is just about a week away and here’s hoping Santa Claus leaves plenty of winners under your tree or in your stocking for 2017!

We are just over a week into the inner track winter meet at Aqueduct and we’ve already seen a little of everything. Take last Thursday for example.  The first three races – and 4 of the first 6 – were won in wire-to-wire fashion. The inner track has always had a reputation for favoring speed and frontrunners and that Thursday card certainly kept that reputation intact.

In addition to the speed bias, the card finished with longshots winning the last two races at 70-1 and 19-1 respectively.  And those two results sent the Pick 6 into a 4-day carryover with a pool of more than $837,000. Wouldn’t you know, the pick 6 was finally hit the next day in a chalk-stuffed sequence that saw favorites winning 4 of the first 6 races and not a single winner going off at better than odds of 7-2.  The winning combination paid a mere $2,934 from a pool that topped $2.7 million!  Obviously a ton of winning tickets were out there.

As for this week, we’ve already seen a staple of the Aqueduct winter – a cancellation!  Thursday’s card was nixed after a cold front plunged temperatures and brought some high winds. With the forecast for more cold Friday and snow this weekend we could see at least one more cancellation.

And after the weekend NYRA is taking an extended Christmas break as Aqueduct will go dark from Dec. 19-28 and be back in action on Thursday Dec. 29.  The stakes schedule is out and the Derby Trail in N.Y. will start Monday Jan. 2 with the Grade III Jerome for 3 year-olds at 1 mile and 70 yards.

More on the stakes and 2017 schedule in future blogs.

Don’t forget – weather permitting – the Hot List has full cards at the Big A from Friday through Sunday and you can get all of our analysis on the Interbets site right here.

Good luck and once again Happy Holidays to all of our fans!



Garland of Roses tops first inner track weekend

By Bob Ehalt

The inner track is now open at Aqueduct, bringing with it the official start of winter for New York racing.

You can say goodbye to seven furlong and one-turn mile races as sprints will top out at six furlongs, including Saturday’s featured race at the Big A, the $125,000 Garland of Roses for fillies and mares.

The six-furlong test attracted a field of seven, headed by an odds-on favorite who was competitive in Grade 1 stakes at the Breeders’ Cup and in the seemingly long-ago days of Saratoga.

Paulassilverlining was last seen finishing third behind Finest City in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint at Santa Anita, largely explaining why she was pegged as a huge 2-5 favorite in the morning line.

Before that, she won the Grade 2 Prioress at Belmont and was a close fifth in the Grade 1 Ballerina at Saratoga.

A repeat of any of those efforts should put her in the winner’s circle on Saturday.

Trained by Michelle Nevin and owned by Vincent Scuderi, the 4-year-old Paulassilverlining has won four of eight starts this year while earning $605,000.

The main competition could come from Kelsocait (6-1), a 3-year-old filly coming off a disastrous stakes debut.

In the Safely Kept at Laurel, Kelsocait stumbled at the start of the seven-furlong stakes but was still rushed up to battle for the lead and paid a steep price. Second after the opening quarter-mile, she steadily faded after that and wound up 13th and last, some 51 lengths behind the winner.

Since that Nov. 19 fiasco, Kelsocait has put in a pair of bullet works and figure to be the pacesetter from the rail.

The other main threats in the field include Disco Chick (8-1) and Black Mission Fig (10-1).

Back in September, Black Mission Fig beat Disco Chick by 3 ¼ lengths in a $100,000 stakes at Parx, then was second in an allowance race in her most recent start.

Disco Chick is coming off a third behind the fleet Stonetastic in the Pumkin Pie at Belmont. Prior to that she was third in the Grade 2 Honorable Miss at Saratoga, the same race in which Paulassilverlining finished second.

Unfortunately, she finished 12 lengths behind Saturday’s odds-on choice.

The rest of the field includes My Savannah Belle (15-1), Old Valyria (20-1) and Callista (12-1).

Sunday’s card at Aqueduct features the $100,000 Bay Ridge Stakes for fillies and mares bred in New York State at mile and a sixth.



By Shawn Rychling

All of us here at the Hot List hope you and your family had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday.  In addition to a little early horse racing action at Aqueduct, hopefully your day included the 3 Fs…food, family and football.  By now you’ve finished that last turkey sandwich and leftover pumpkin pie and it’s on to wandering aimlessly through the shopping mall while listening to Christmas music in the background and trying to get to your shopping done!

Meanwhile, racing at Aqueduct will continue through Sunday, December 18 when the track begins a 10-day Christmas break returning on Thursday, Dec. 29. It looks like we’ll be on the main track and turf into next week as well.  If I had to make a wager I would say the inner track opens on Wednesday, Dec. 15 – but we’ll see.

The Hot List has a full slate of horses entered for Saturday’s card – 16 to be exact – so let’s take a closer look at the late Pick 4

Race 6: 3-Will Did It has really upped his game since the claim by Jacobson winning 3 of 5 races. He has run third in the other two starts for the Jake and the speed figures are on the upswing. 4-Summer Revolution loves the AM, drilling a bullet every time he’s been clocked in the morning and his worst races were against a much tougher group. We last saw 1-Whitmore in the Kentucky Derby, and 7-Eye Luv Lulu gets some class relief off a race we can toss after a poor start.

Race 7: 8-Bibbo is the Hot List horse in this race and is stepping up off a strong second. Appears to be facing a much-tougher field than usual in here. 2-Tricked Up goes out in third career start for Chad Brown. 6-Three Perfections was all out to beat a 91-1 shot last time. 3-Ross J Dawg and 4-Runaway Posse are always competitive.

Race 8: The Go For Wand is a Grade III event and 3-Bar of Gold has had trouble in this company of late, but got a measure of confidence back last time with an 18-length romp. That race was restricted to New York breds, however. 7-High Ridge Road is a value play in here having stepped up her game since Linda Rice took over. 4-Wonder Gal is graded-stakes placed and enters off a brutal trip in the Breeders’ Cup. 5-Highway Star has won two straight, but is facing tougher.

9th race – 8-Silly Numbers tossed the rider in her career debut, but rebounded nicely last time and figures to be at her best in career start No. 3. Meanwhile, 11-Emiliana’s Hope was rallying nicely on the inside last time, but was blocked by a fading leader. 2-Cha Cha Heels comes out of same race as our top two picks and only fell a neck short in that race. 6-McSweetie seems to prefer the grass if her last race is any indication.

Pick 4 Grid

A                     B                     C

Race 6                         3, 4                  7                      1

Race 7                         2                      3, 4, 6              8

Race 8                         3, 7                  4                      5

Race 9                         8, 11                2                      6

Don’t forget, the Hot List has full cards at the Big A from Friday through Sunday and you can get all of our analysis on the Interbets site right here.



Cigar Mile closes out NYRA’s Grade 1 stakes

By Bob Ehalt

The end of a great run comes Saturday when the final Grade 1 stakes of the 2016 New York Racing Association season will be contested.

The $500,000 Cigar Mile Handicap closes out a slate of Grade 1 stakes that started with the Wood Memorial in April and featured such classics as Creator’s win by a nose in the Belmont Stakes and Arrogate’s victory by the length of the stretch in the Travers.

One of four graded stakes on Saturday’s graded stakes at the Big A, the Cigar Mile drew a large field of 10, topped by Anchor Down, the 2-1 morning-line favorite.

The 5-year-old ridgling is coming off a two-length score in the Grade 2 Kelso, a mile test at Belmont Park in which he defeated Tamarkuz, who went on to win the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile.

“He’s been successful at different distances but it seems like his forte is a one-turn mile,” said trainer Todd Pletcher, a four-time winner of the Cigar Mile. “Anytime you can run a solid 1:33 mile, you’re in rarefied territory and that’s part of the reason why we decided to wait for the Cigar Mile instead of taking him to the Breeders’ Cup.”

The main competition in the Grade 1 contest is expected to come from Connect (5-2), a Chad Brown-trained 3-year-old who has not raced since September when he captured the Grade 2 Pennsylvania Derby.

Other major threats include Economic Model (6-1), Threefiveindia (6-1) and Diving Rod (8-1).

Two-year-olds will also share Saturday’s stage with a pair of Grade 2 stakes at a mile and an eighth.

The $300,000 Remsen for males features the stakes debut of Takaful (7-5), an eight-length winner of his career debut in a 6 ½-furlong sprint on Oct. 29.

“It’s a big step up from a maiden to a Grade 2 and it’s a big step up from 6 ½ (furlongs) to a mile and an eighth, but he’s certainly a Grade 2 type,” trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said. “The distance is a little bit of a concern but we don’t have a lot of options, so we’re going to give it go. We’ve missed out on a (longer) prep, but we can’t do anything about that so we’re going to hope for the best.”

The list of key contenders also includes No Dozing (4-1), who was fourth behind Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Classic Empire in the Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland, and Mo Town (5-1), who breezed by seven lengths in a maiden race.

The $300,000 Demoiselle wound up with a field of nine with Jamyson ‘n Ginger (5-2), Miss Sky Warrior (3-1) and Libby’s Tail (7-2) figuring to vie for favoritism.

The card also includes the $250,000 Comely, a Grade 3 stakes at a mile and an eighth for 3-year-old fillies.

Lewis Bay, who was third earlier in the year in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks and took the Grade 3 Turnback the Alarm Stakes in her last start for Brown, is the 8-5 favorite.

“She ran very well in her last race,” Brown said. “She showed a new dimension going to the lead, but she’s always been a pretty versatile horse and she’s been consistent all year. We’re looking forward to seeing how she can run off that last effort.”

Unbridled Mo, a winner of four straight races capped by the $200,000 Remington Park Oaks, is the 2-1 second choice in a field of seven.



By Shawn Rychling

The Breeders’ Cup was two weeks ago and went off on the same day that NYRA racing moved to its cozy little winter home, Aqueduct Race Track. Just saying the word ‘Aqueduct’ makes it sound like an uninviting place. Compare that to the smooth and serene sound of ‘Saratoga Race Course’ and ‘Belmont Park’ and you almost can hear the difference in the places. ‘Aqueduct’ just sounds prickly, cold, inconvenient.

It wasn’t always that way, as Aqueduct was once thought to be the crown jewel of New York racing.  According to NYRA’s web page, Aqueduct opened way back in 1894 on property that belonged to Brooklyn Water Works and housed a conduit that brought water to New York City.  Hence the name, ‘Aqueduct’

The track was closed in 1955 and re-opened in 1959 after a $34.5 million renovation. Opening day was Sept. 14, 1959 and a crowd of 42,473 came out to see the shiny new track.  When was the last time you remember a crowd that big at the Big A?

Other tidbits we learned on NYRA.com: Aqueduct hosted the Belmont Stakes from 1963-’68 while Belmont Park was being renovated. And in 1975, the winterized inner dirt track opened replacing the inner turf course.  That strip will open for this winter’s meet soon – sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

And even though we poke fun at Aqueduct, the overwhelming majority of NYRA’s racing takes place at the winter track. It’s open from the first week in November through the last week in April, a full six months.

This year, The Big A opened on Friday, Nov. 4 on the main track where the 1-mile races are still around just one turn. Over the first couple weeks it seems like closers on the outside have down very well, but don’t forget that inner track plays much differently.

On to this weekend and the Hot List has a full card on Saturday with 15 horses set to go postward.  There is one race that really interests me and that is Race 8, the Artie Schiller overnight stakes. The Hot List has Blacktype which has two graded wins in his last three starts.

But it’s a horse not on out list we want to mention as well. Macagone is a horse we have liked often and he merits a long look here at 15-1 on the morning line.  His last two races should be tossed. Last time he ran over the slop in a stakes taken off the turf, and two back he was out of his element shipping into Laurel Park.  He is a step slower on paper than the top rivals in here, but if he can get to the front he may be tough to run down.

Don’t forget, the Hot List has full cards at the Big A from Friday through Sunday and you can get all of our analysis on the Interbets site right here.

And have a Happy Thanksgiving!



Classic races highlight Breeders’ Cup

By Bob Ehalt

Another Breeders’ Cup is in the books, and it was surely one to remember.

The centerpiece races of each day were gems.

Friday’s Breeders’ Cup Distaff was an epic. A prolonged duel between an undefeated 3-year-old filly in the favored Songbird and a 6-year-old, 3-time champion in Beholder that went down to the last stride and was decided by about an inch, or less.

Beholder was the third choice in the race because she had lost her last two races against Distaff rival Stellar Wind and there was some thought she had seen better days.

Yet in the final start of a Hall of Fame-worthy career, she turned in the most gallant start of her career as she staged a back-and-forth duel with the unwavering Songbird that she captured by a nose.

In Saturday’s $6 million Classic, it was another battle between youth and experience.

This time it was the 5-year-old California Chrome, the nation’s all-time leading money leader, against the 3-year-old sensation Arrogate, who was last seen winning the Travers at Saratoga by 13 ½ lengths.

California Chrome was sent off as a 4-5 favorite, with the popular notion being that Arrogate could never reproduce an effort to match the Travers off a 10-week layoff.

Yet a year ago trainer Bob Baffert pulled off a very similar trick. After American Pharoah was beaten in the Travers, he spent the next two months returning him to top form without the benefit of a prep race and was rewarded with a decisive victory in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

This time, he also had Arrogate ready for a top-notch effort off a long layoff. After setting the pace in the Travers, Arrogate waited in mid-pack until the final turn then went after the front-running California Chrome at the top of the stretch.

For a while, California Chrome looked like he would hold the Juddmonte Farms colt at bay, but in the final 50 yards, Arrogate surged past him and posted a half-length victory.

Those were the two most important races, but there were some other great battles including the BC Filly and Mare Turf, where Lady Eli suffered a heart-breaking loss by a nose, the BC Mile, a race in which Tepin turned in a solid effort but settled for second due to a wide trip, and the BC Juvenile where Classic Empire held off Not This Time to clinch the 2-year-old championship.

They were two highly memorable two days at Santa Anita that showed just how exciting and exhilarating racing can be at its very best.

Pair of graded stakes at Aqueduct

While championships were decided at the Breeders’ Cup, there’s still some interesting New York stakes on the schedule before 2017 rolls around.

Two of them – both Grade 3 stakes – are on Saturday’s card at Aqueduct.

The first is the $200,000 Red Smith Handicap on turf that attracted a full field of 12.

Wake Forest, who was third in the Grade 1 Canadian International, is the 8-5 favorite with Messi (5-1), Danish Dynaformer (5-1) and Bigger Picture (6-1) the main threats.

The $150,000 Discovery for 3-year-olds attracted a field of 11, topped by another horse from Brown’s barn, Gift Box, the 3-1 favorite who was fourth in the Travers.

Adulator (7-2), coming off a pair of seconds in an allowance race, and Governor Malibu (4-1), who was fourth in the Belmont Stakes, are the key contenders according to the morning line, though a couple of others to watch include Wild About Deb (15-1), My Man Sam (8-1) and Sunny Ridge (20-1) in what looms as a fun betting race.

Not as much fun as the Breeders’ Cup races, but that kind of drama and excitement comes around only once a year and after last weekend, let’s just say there will be plenty of memories to help pass the time.




By Shawn Rychling

The World Series just wrapped up with an exciting Game 7 from Cleveland with the Chicago Cubs winning their first world championship since 1908. It took 108 years for the Cubs to get back on top and it took 10 innings in the seventh game for them to beat a team that hadn’t won the Series since 1948 – that’s 68 years!

I mention this because just two days later we have the annual World Series of horse racing – The Breeders’ Cup – set to begin Friday at Santa Anita.  A total of 13 races for $20.5 million on purses will go to post with four set for Friday as an appetizer and the main course served up on Saturday with another nine contests including the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Many of these races are inscrutable, especially the juvenile turf events.  We’ll take a look at the last four races of the two days and the late pick 4 which ends with the Classic – and possibly a free square with California Chrome.

Race 9, Turf: (4) Flintshire is the horse to beat after getting stuck behind a slow pace last time over a yielding turf which he obviously hated. (10) Found and (12) Highland Reel are the two European threats. (9) Money Multiplier hasn’t been far off our top pick in recent starts and may have a fighting chance. (5) Ashleyluvssugar has won 4 of 7 over this course, including two straight in Grade-II company. (3) Ectot defeated Flintshire last time, but won’t get that same setup today.

Race 10, Filly and Mare Sprint: (2) Haveyougoneaway has done everything right since the Morley barn took over, working her way up from state-bred stakes winner to Grade-I champ and we see no reason to bet against her in this spot. (3) Tara’s Tango does her best work here at Santa Anita and barn will have her ready third off a layoff. (8) Carina Mia moves up if only for the fact that she doesn’t have to run against Songbird. (10) Wavell Avenue has done little since winning this race last year, but could wake up here if she gets fast pace to close into.

11th race, Mile: (8) Tepin stubbed her toe last time and we’ll take her to turn tables on rival and win the 14th race of her career. (2) Alice Springs has come into her own last two starts and seems a square price at 4-1 on the morning line. (9) Ironicus lacks a start over this course, but may be value play of the day when you look at consistency over last five starts. (11) Ring Weekend is worth a long look in this spot with a win at Santa Anita to his credit as well as several triple-digit speed figures of late. (13) Midnight Storm loves both the distance and this particular turf course.

12th race, Classic: (4) California Chrome is impossible to bet against in this spot off six wins in a row that have looked easy at times, and a 5 for 8 career mark at Santa Anita. (9) Hoppertunity had been getting beat by ‘Chrome’ for months and then went to New York and took the Gold Cup so we have to take him to hit the board in this spot. (10) Arrogate has to regress off that record-shattering Travers doesn’t he? Well, he’s been off since then and that helps prevent a bounce and who’s better at getting a horse to fire off the bench than Baffert? (2) Frosted is tough to figure out especially at 10 furlongs, but he was much the best in the Woodward after a horrid start and McLaughlin comes close to Baffert for winning off a layoff and his horse loves the long respites. (1) Effinex just drafted in behind American Pharoah last year to take second in this race easily.  Maybe he can threaten once again and connections are high on him.

Pick 4 Grid

A                     B                     C

R9                   4                      10, 12              3, 5, 9

R10                 2                      3, 8                  10

R11                 2, 8                  9                      11, 13

R12                 4                      9                      1, 2, 10

Strategy: Lean heavily on Flintshire in the 9th and California Chrome in the 12th in your Pick 4 wagering. The All A ticket is one you can really load up on since the A column has three singles.  You might consider playing some tickets with ‘C’ selection from two races since that could maximize profit.

So enjoy the final big day weekend of racing for 2016 because then we can roll into Aqueduct in earnest since NYRA opened up that track on Friday. The Hot List has full cards at the Big A from Friday through Sunday and you can get all of our analysis on the Interbets site right here.



Bye-bye Belmont, hello Breeders’ Cup

By Bob Ehalt

The fun is about to begin.

A week from now, the Breeders’ Cup will be underway and the 33rd edition of the World Championships will be nothing short of spectacular.

Starting on Friday afternoon Nov. 4 and continuing through Saturday evening Nov. 5 at Santa Anita Park, 13 Breeders’ Cup races will put the battle for 2016 championships into a much sharper focus.

But that is indeed fodder for another week and for now, the focus of weekend racing is saying goodbye to Belmont Park and ushering in the marathon 6-month meet at Aqueduct.

The final days of the Belmont meet will be contested this weekend, starting with Saturday’s card that features three stakes, two of them graded.

Up first is the Grade 3 $200,000 Turn Back the Alarm Stakes, a mile and a sixteenth test for fillies and mares.

The heavy favorite is Lewis Bay, the 6-5 morning-line choice. She was fourth at seven furlongs in the Grade 1 Test at Saratoga in her last start, but before that in races at a mile and a sixteenth and a mile and an eighth, she was second in the Grade 1 Mother Goose, third in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks and was victorious in the Grade 2 Gazelle.

She’s also trained by Chad Brown, which is a big plus these days.

The main threats in a field of seven are Rachel’s Temper (5-1) and Eskenformoney (4-1).

The $100,000 Awad is a mile turf test for 2-year-olds, topped by Royal by Nature (3-1), who was fourth in the Grade 3 Bourbon at Keeneland.

Key contenders in the race are Heaven Is Waiting (4-1), who was a troubled sixth in the Bourbon for Brown, and Harlan’s Harmony, who was fifth in the one-mile Grade 2 Summer Stakes at Woodbine and won a sprint stakes at Saratoga in his last two starts on turf.

The $200,000 Grade 3 Bold Ruler is the ninth of 10 races on the Saturday card, and brings together 13 classy sprinters.

Economic Model, trained by Brown, is the 3-1 favorite in a competitive field. The 3-year-old was second in the Grade 1 King’s Bishop at Saturday’s seven-furlong distance in his last start and before that was second in the Grade 3 Dwyer at a mile and won the ungraded Easy Goer.

Stallwalkin’ Dude (7-2), who was second in the Grade 1 Vosburgh and third in the Grade 1 Forego in his two previous starts, looks like the one to fear in a bulky field.

Ami’s Flatter (5-1), third behind A.P. Indian in the Grade 2 Phoenix at Keeneland, Touchofstarquality (5-1), who has been racing in stakes at a mile or more, and Threefiveindia (6-1), third in the Grade 3 Gallant Bob Stakes at Parx for Brown, also deserve attention.

First-race post time for Saturday’s card is 12:55 p.m.

Following Sunday’s final card of the fall meet, New York racing will take a few days off before resuming at Aqueduct on Friday, Nov. 4, the same day as the starting gates pop open in California for the Breeders’ Cup.

Catskill OTB branches to open at 11 on Nov. 5

Speaking of which, Catskill OTB and Interbets customers should note that branch offices will be open at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 5, for the year’s biggest day of racing.

Advance wagering on Saturday’s Breeders’ Cup will be available on Friday.

As for the cards at Santa Anita, first post on Friday is 2:25 p.m. Eastern time. The first Breeders’ Cup race will be the $1 million Juvenile Turf at 5:25 p.m.

Saturday’s card starts at 1:15 p.m., with nine Breeders’ Cup races starting with the $2 million Juvenile Fillies at 3:05 p.m.



By Shawn Rychling

Just two weeks until the Breeders’ Cup and the two-day extravaganza at Santa Anita. And, oddly enough, just two weeks until Aqueduct opens which happens on Friday, Nov. 4 — the same day the Breeders’ Cup gets underway.

That leaves us with only seven days of racing left at Belmont Park and this Saturday is the final ‘big’ day on the calendar as NYRA presents the Empire Showcase with New York breds on display in a jam-packed, 11-race card with eight stakes for state breds worth a total of $1.75 million.

Also on the Saturday card and perhaps for the final time this year is the late Pick 5  NYRA introduced the bet on closing weekend at Saratoga, but has only offered it a few times at Belmont this fall — probably because the usual 9-race cards aren’t conducive to offering two Pick 5 wagers on the same day.

That said, lets take a look at Saturday’s late Pick 5 and give you some ideas on crafting a winning ticket. The bet begins in the 7th race.

Race 7: (2) Haul Anchor enters off a bullet work and was real strong in her last two tries. (4) Gold for the King is the one to beat off his last race. (5) Mission Command is a contender off the two back race. (8) Pat on the Back and (9) Mr. Buff may be viable longshots.

Race 8: (8) Super Surprise looks like the one to beat off his last two starts. (6) Highway Star has moved forward last two starts and has three wins in a row. (1) Bar of Gold figures the break through against state breds. (5) Jules N Rome enters off a win in similar stakes.

Race 9: (12) Fourstar Crook has been a new horse since late last year and will try for seventh consecutive win. (11) The Tea Cups looks like a major player and possible overlay in this field. She has really stepped up last two starts and should roll third off a layoff.  (1) Selenite has been pretty solid over his last four starts and finished just behind our top pick last time out. (10) Old Harbor is 4 for 12 lifetime at Belmont with a second and two thirds and just won a minor stakes at Delaware Park.

Race 10: (2) Governor Malibu romped to a big win getting major class relief last time. (1) Wake Up in Malibu enters off a triple-digit speed figure. (6) Royal Posse has hit the board on 12 straight races and 7 of 8 at Belmont Park.

Race 11: (2) Lover’s Key made nice forward move when trying turf last time. (6) Discreet Image has two strong seconds in short career and should fire on start No. 3. (5) Five Each Way looks like live first-time starter. (10) Karen Kan is an MTO with big chance if rains come

Pick 5 Grid

A                     B                     C

R7                   2, 4                  5                      8, 9

R8                   8                      1, 6                  5

R9                   11, 12              1,                     10

R10                 1, 2                  6                      –

R11                 2, 10*              6                      5

* – MTO

Enjoy the final big day at Belmont for 2016 and don’t forget, the Hot List has full cards at Belmont on Saturday, Sunday. You can get all of our analysis on the Interbets site right here.



Futurity, Pebbles rock the card at Belmont

By Bob Ehalt

The calm before the storm has taken hold in racing and it will be that way for the next few weeks.

After last weekend’s Super Saturday at Belmont and Fall Stars Weekend at Keeneland, all of the major Breeders’ Cup preps are in the books and from now through the Nov. 4-5 event at Santa Anita, the sport’s focus will turn toward training for the world championships.

Yet even without prestigious Grade 1 stakes on the menu, there are some entertaining contests on tap at Belmont on Saturday to help pass the time until the Breeders’ Cup.

The first one is the $200,000 Futurity, a six-furlong test for 2-year-olds.

Scheduled as the third race on the card, the sprint attracted just five starters and four of them are coming off maiden victories.

Theory was the most impressive of that bunch, romping by 5 ½ lengths in a stellar July 30 debut at Saratoga that stamped him as a 7-5 morning-line favorite. Trained by Todd Pletcher, Theory was a candidate for the Grade 1 Hopeful at Saratoga until he was sidelined by a foot bruise, but turned in a sharp 1:00.50 workout on Monday, indicating his readiness for Saturday’s race.

“I thought he worked great,” Pletcher said. “As soon as I watched him work, I entered him (in the Futurity). I feel good (about the race). He’s had four good breezes since he got here. We’re fortunate that we got to work around the weather a little bit. Everything has gone according to plan.”

Another first-out winner, Moves Like Ali (2-1), and Reckling (4-1), who captured his second start, shape up as the main competition in the Grade 3 stakes.

Later on the card, in the eighth race, turf fillies will vie for a $200,000 purse in the one-mile Pebbles.

A field of 14 3-year-old fillies, including a main track only entrant, was entered, topped by two fillies from the prolific barn of trainer Chad Brown.

Ancient Secret, the 3-1 favorite, triumphed in her first four starts, including the Grade 2 Lake George at Saratoga, but then finished seventh as an odds-on favorite in the Grade 3 Ontario Colleen at Woodbine on Sept. 24.

Since that initial setback the daughter Kantharos put in a modest 49 seconds workout on Oct. 8 to prepare for Saturday’s race.

The second choice is Brown’s French-bred filly She’s Doesn’t Mind, who is winless in four U.S. starts but was never worse than third in those efforts and was second last time out in the Riskaverse Stakes.

Other top contenders include Stella Rose (5-1), who was hurt by a wide trip while making her stakes debut in the G3 Commonwealth Oaks at Laurel and could rebound in this spot; Zayat Stable’s Insta Erma (6-1), who will be seeking a third straight win in her stakes debut; Thundering Sky (8-1), a close third in the Ontario Colleen; Believe In Bertie (10-1), who was second in a $200,000 turf stakes at Indiana Grand; and Ultra Brat (12-1), who will stretching out after winning a six-furlong stakes in her turf debut.



By Shawn Rychling

Our thoughts and prayers are with our friends in Florida this weekend as Hurricane Matthew spins its way along the state’s Atlantic Coast with winds in the vicinity of 120 mph.

Earlier in the week, forecasters thought we might get at least a glancing blow and some much-needed rain from Matthew as it weakened and tracked up the coast. However, the storm is only going to make it to the South Carolina/Georgia border before stalling and even doing a u-turn out in the ocean.

That is good news for horse racing fans in our area as we’ll have beautiful weather for Super Saturday at Belmont Park which features six graded stakes — including 5 Grade-I events — and the return of several horses we haven’t seen since Saratoga as they try to tune up for starts in the Breeders’ Cup a month from now.

Also making a reappearance at a NYRA track this Saturday is the Late Pick 5, a wager that got a trial run over Labor Day weekend at the Spa.  With that in mind we’ll give you some analysis on that bet which begins in race 7:

Race 7: (5) Pure Sensation is the one to beat off those last two wins and Clement is on fire here. (3) Long on Value may have found his best stride in these turf sprints. (2) Disco Partner loves Belmont Park and enters off a career-best effort. (10) Green Mask seems to underachieve, but likes Belmont and may be ready for top effort third off a layoff.

Race 8: (3) Syndergaard has basically destroyed both fields he has raced against and should even improve here in third career start. (1) Practical Joke was very game in winning the Hopeful on closing day at the Spa. (5) Favorable Outcome romped in his debut and it’s impossible to overlook a Chad Brown horse. (4) Lookin at Blessing is only one in here with a win at this race’s longer distance and Nick Zito’s horses have been running well at this meet.

Race 9: (6) Annals of Time (C) overcame a horrible start last time to come up just short. (1) Camelot Kitten is 2 for 3 over the Belmont grass. (10) Beach Patrol has hit the board in 7 of his 8 starts and has been racing against some salty fields. (5) Inspector Lynley posted a career-best speed fig in taking a Grade III last time.

Race 10: (6) Effinex prefers this strip to Saratoga and should be freshened up enough since the Whitney to be sitting on one of his better efforts. (2) Mubtaahij was a close third to our top pick in their last meeting which took place here at Belmont and have to think this one can move forward second off a freshening. (3) Hoppertunity will be thrilled today when he walks into the paddock and doesn’t see California Chrome as his races have been fast enough to beat just about everybody else. (1) Protonico is 2 for 2 at Belmont and should be sharper in second start off a 9 1/2-month hiatus.

Race 11: (9) Lead by Example has improved in his last three starts and barn is red hot right now. (6) Mr Harlan has run second in his last two races under the tutelage of Linda Rice. (8) Ordinaire has speed figures to compete, but may lack the necessary stamina. (2) Unrepenting steps up in class, but did romp by 11 lengths and has two bullet works since.

Pick 5 Grid

A                     B                     C

R7                   5                      2,3                   10

R8                   3                      1,5                   10

R9                   1,6                   10                    5

R10                 2,6                   3                      1

R11                 9                      6                      2,8,11,12

So enjoy Super Saturday at Belmont Park, but don’t forget those in harm’s way in the Hurricane zone. You can get all of our picks and analysis on the Interbets site right here.



California Chrome tops busy weekend of BC preps

By Bob Ehalt

The calendar turns to October on Saturday, and as those pages turn the focus on the Breeders’ Cup becomes more intense.

The first of back-to-back weekends stuffed to the gills with BC preps takes place with major Grade 1 stakes in both California and New York.

California boasts the bigger stars on this weekend, led by America’s top-ranked horse and Horse of the Year favorite and a preview of one of the most eagerly awaited clashes during the two-day Breeders’ Cup bonanza at Santa Anita on Nov. 4 and 5.

The big horse is, of course, California Chrome, who will put in his final prep for the Breeders’ Cup Classic by running in Saturday’s $300,000 Grade 1 Awesome Again at Santa Anita.

As one would expect from North America’s all-time earnings leader, California Chrome is an odds-on 2-5 favorite from the rail as he seeks a sixth-straight win during a perfect 2016 season.

When last seen, California Chrome was demolishing Beholder and Dortmund in a much-anticipated showdown in the $1 million Pacific Classic, and his six rivals on Saturday are facing quite the uphill struggle based on the 2014 Kentucky Derby-Preakness winner’s 5-length win at Del Mar.

“I can’t believe we got the rail again, but if he comes away running, we should be OK. You’ve got to see how the race unfolds,” trainer Art Sherman said. “A mile and an eighth is going to be a little bit different. You have no gaps to go by, but he should come away from there running. He looks awful good, physically. Dortmund, I’m sure he’s going to send him this time. (Trainer Bob Baffert) put blinkers on him. But my horse runs his best race coming off the pace. People don’t realize that. He’s a horse that likes to stalk. If they’re going fast the first part, he’ll be in the catbird seat, I hope. They better be ready turning for home, I can tell you that.”

The main competition is expected to come from the Baffert-trained duo of Dortmund and Hoppertunity.

Before finishing third to California Chrome in the Pacific Classic, Dortmund (5-2) was second by a half-length to the 2014 Horse of the Year in the Grade 2 San Diego.

The 5-year-old Hoppertunity (6-1) has earned more than $2.2 million in his career but has won just one of his last 12 races with four seconds and three thirds in that span.

The Grade 1 $300,000 Zenyatta looms a more competitive and exciting race with Eclipse Award champions Beholder and Stellar Wind squaring off for the third time since June 4.

Beholder, a 3-time champion and last year’s top older filly or mare, beat Stellar Wind by a length and a half in the Grade 1 Vanity on June 4. But then Stellar Wind evened the score as the 2015 champion 3-year-old filly beat Beholder by a half-length in the Clement L. Hirsch.

As glittering of a matchup as the Zenyatta promises to be, in the background there’s any even bigger showdown down the road when Beholder and/or Stellar Wind tangle with the undefeated 3-year-old filly Songbird in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff on Friday, Nov. 4.

The rest of Saturday’s Santa Anita card includes the Grade 1 Front Runner for 2-year-old males, topped by Baffert’s Klimt, the Grade 1 Chandelier for 2-year-old fillies, with American Pharoah’s full sister American Cleopatra, and the Grade 1 Rodeo Drive for turf fillies and mares.

At Belmont Park, Saturday’s card features one of the nation’s top turf stars, Flintshire.

The 6-year-old is the standout in the Grade 1 $500,000 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic, where only three rivals turned out to challenge him – and one of them is a stablemate in trainer Chad Brown’s barn.

Later on the 11-race card, the Grade 1 $350,000 Vosburgh for sprinters will bring together multiple Grade 1 winner A.P. Indian and X Y Jet, who has not raced since March when he was second in the $2 million Dubai Golden Shaheen on the Dubai World Cup program.

The day’s third Grade 1 stakes is the Grade 1 $400,000 Beldame for fillies and mares with Forever Unbridled, Paola Queen and Off the Tracks as the main contenders.

The card also includes the Grade 2 Gallant Bloom for filly and mare sprinters and the Grade 3 Pilgrim, a turf stakes for 2-year-olds.

It’s a huge weekend but the excitement is far from over. Next weekend, there’s Super Saturday at Belmont – with eight stakes topped by the Jockey Club Gold Cup – and Keeneland opens with its Fall Star Weekend.

The weather may be turning colder, but, fear not, the racing action is definitely heating up.

Interbets.com to offer Hot List Keeneland picks

As an added bonus for Interbets.com handicappers, the New York Hot List team will be providing free Keeneland selections throughout the 17-day meet that begins Friday, Oct. 7.

Just visit http://www.interbets.com/racing/otb/news/todays-picks/ each racing day to find out who is “Hot” at Keeneland – and Belmont Park, too!



By Shawn Rychling

Just four weeks after Arrogate shocked us with a track-record victory in the Travers Stakes, and five weeks after Songbird’s romp in the Alabama, most of the country’s top 3-year-old colts and fillies are back in action.

Parx Racing is set for its marquee day of the year hosting a huge field in the Pennsylvania Derby for the 3YO males and the Cotillion for 3YO filly Songbird and five brave rivals signed on to face the undefeated star.

The Pa. Derby has attracted a nearly full field including Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist plus Preakness & Haskell winner Exaggerator. Other notable entrants are Gun Runner, Connect, Summer Revolution, Cupid and My Man Sam.

Nyquist skipped the Travers after two straight defeats in the Preakness and Haskell. Both of those races were on wet tracks and Nyquist got involved in early speed duels rather than sitting back to stalk just off the lead as he did in Louisville. A ton of speed entered here so he should just let them go and settle in good position. There is no rain in Saturday’s forecast and Doug O’Neill has had this horse ready to fire off two other extended layoffs.

Gun Runner ran the best race of those entered here out of the Travers and there was no catching the winner that day especially after he broke from post 13. This guy has great tactical speed and cutting back a furlong here is a big deal.

Connect was a little overmatched in the Travers, but also had a bad start and a wide finish and like Gun Runner was helpless behind the record-shattering Arrogate.  He has less experience than his rivals, but sire was also a late-bloomer so he has a plenty of room for improvement, and Chad Brown should have him ready third off a layoff.

Summer Revolution is interesting as he makes only his fourth career start and first beyond 7 furlongs.  Best to ignore the King’s Bishop as the winner just stole that one after setting a meandering early pace.  Rudy Rodriguez has been working this horse with speed in mind so we’ll see if he can get to the lead.

Cupid is another speedster who will probably send as well and just add to the possible suicide pace up front.

My Man Sam has disappointed in his last few starts, but may finally get the hotly-contested pace he needs to best take advantage of his closing style and is a must-use on deep exotics.

Exaggerator is a horse you just can’t play over a dry track, but with all the speed entered here you never know.

Here’s how we see the Pennsylvania Derby:

  1. Nyquist
  2. Connect
  3. Gun Runner
  4. My Man Sam

Planning to play Summer Revolution heavily in exotics as well, with lighter use of Exaggerator.

The Pa. Derby is Race 11 at Parx coming right after the Cotillion as Songbird goes for her 11th straight win and stay perfect for her career.  Expect a tougher race for her than the Alabama since it’s shorter and Carina Mia returns after giving her a tussle in the Coaching Club on opening weekend at Saratoga. And don’t forget Kentucky Oaks winner Cathryn Sophia who is also 2 for 2 in her career over the Parx track which is important since it can be a quirky surface.

So enjoy some top 3-year-old racing as the calendar gets closer to the Breeders’ Cup. And don’t forget, the Hot List has full cards at Belmont on Saturday and Sunday. You can get all of our analysis on the Interbets site right here.



Tepin headlines $1 million Ricoh Woodbine Mile

By Bob Ehalt

The Breeders’ Cup is drawing closer and on Saturday one of the stars of last year’s world championships will try to take a big step toward defending her title.

The mighty mare Tepin is the standout in Saturday’s $1 million Ricoh Woodbine Mile as she seeks her eighth straight victory, a streak that dates back to October.

A seven-length victory in the Grade 1 First Lady started the parade of turf wins and was followed by one of the jewels in that stretch, a 2 ½-length score against males in the Breeders’ Cup Mile.

She’s been unbeaten since then and her last appearance was surely one of her best effort as she won the Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot, once again beating males.

Yet that June 14 race marked Tepin’s last start and her three-month gap between races could be a sign that the Woodbine might be more of a much-needed prep for the Breeders’ Cup than a race in which she might once again dominate her rivals. Her connections, though, insist that Tepin is heading into the race in top form.

“(Tepin) settled in perfect, as expected,” said Norm Casse, an assistant to and son of trainer Mark Casse. “That’s one of the things that makes her so special. She can go and do these things and never miss a beat. She was really happy yesterday and seems really happy this morning. I just wanted her to go out there and warm up a little bit and show a little of that energy she’s been showing at Saratoga the past month. She looked really good.”

The morning line bodes well for Tepin as she was pegged an odds-on 1-2 favorite over her seven male rivals, and the competition she faces is surely not as tough as it will be come November in the Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita.

The main competition figures to be Mutakayyef, a shipper from overseas who in his last start was third to one of Europe’s top stars, Postponed, in the Grade 1 Juddmonte International at York. Listed at 7-2 in the morning line, the 5-year-old gelding was victorious in a pair of stakes at Saturday’s mile distance prior to the 1 5/16-mile Juddmonte.

After that, no one was listed at less than 10-1 in the morning line. Arod, a 5-year-old horse, not the retired Yankees slugger, was priced as the 10-1 third-choice off a third-place finish in a Group 3 stakes at Goodwood in England.

After that, the most formidable rivals would seem to be Full Mast (12-1), who was third in the Lure Stakes at Saratoga, and Glenville Gardens (20-1), who is coming off a win in the Grade 2 Play the King Stakes, a prep for Saturday’s race.

The 12-race card also includes the Grade 3 $150,000 Ontario Derby, Grade 2 $300,000 Canadian, featuring Dacita, and Europe’s Steip Amach, and the Grade 1 $300,000 Northern Dancer, with Big Blue Kitten and four horses coming out of the Arlington Million, Wake Forest, World Approval, The Pizza Man and Danish Dynaformer.

All of Saturday’s Woodbine stakes, except the Ontario, are on turf, and as one might expect, it could be another big day for trainer Chad Brown. The Saratoga training champ does not have a starter in the Woodbine Mile, but will send out Dacita (2-1) and Rainha Da Bacteria (3-1) in the Canadian and Wake Forest (5-2) and Big Blue Kitten (4-1) in the Northern Dancer.



By Shawn Rychling

The calendar may say that summer ends on September 22, but any horse racing fan knows it ends on Labor Day – otherwise known as Closing Day at Saratoga. The real hardcore fans, like yours truly, will tell you that summer actually ends the moment after the Travers winner gets his picture taken and is unsaddled to begin his long walk back to the barn.

So here we are two weeks into fall if you will and Opening Weekend for Belmont Park’s Fall Championship Meet. NYRA is set to run 42 stakes over a 38-day meet with nearly $11 million in purse money up for grabs in those stakes. It’s hard to believe Belmont fall is now 2 days SHORTER than the Saratoga stand!

The two biggest days come on successive Saturdays in October beginning the 1st of the month with five graded stakes headlined by the Grade I Joe Hirsch Turf Classic which may be the next spot for Flintshire, the world’s top turf horse. One week later, on October 8, NYRA will showcase seven graded stakes including the Grade I Jockey Club Gold Cup at a mile-and-a-quarter which is likely to see the return of Frosted as he gets ready for a showdown with California Chrome in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.  The day also features the Grade I Champagne for 2-year-olds at a mile.

Two weeks later New York breds take center in eight stakes highlighted by the $300,000 Empire Classic.

The time is now to enjoy some great racing at Belmont as some of the best horses in the country prep for the Breeders’ Cup. Get your fill because before you know it, we’ll be on the inner track at Aqueduct!

Late Pick 5 an interesting experiment

During the final weekend of the Saratoga meet, NYRA tinkered with its already crowded wagering menu by introducing a late Pick 5 held over the final five races on the card.

The early returns were positive as the late Pick 5 averaged more than $726,000 on each of the last four days. When combined with the Pick 4 wagering the pools, total handle increased by 30-44 percent compared to the last fours days of 2015 when NYRA offered only the late Pick 4.

The Pick 5 is a popular bet in New York with low takeout of just 15 percent, but had been offered on just the first 5 races since 2013.

A closer look, however, also shows that handle for the late Pick 4 last weekend was down significantly compared to 2015 – anywhere from 4 percent to 32 percent each day.  Since NYRA’s total take is up, the new Pick 5 seems good for business, but NYRA runs the risk of alienating some of its smaller players.  As a frequent Pick 4 player, I had some interest in playing the Pick 5 but it has proven to be a little beyond what my bankroll can tolerate despite the 50-cent minimum.  So far, NYRA isn’t offering the late Pick 5 at Belmont and we’ll keep on eye on it.

Don’t forget, the Hot List has full cards at Belmont on Saturday, Sunday. You can get all of our analysis on the Interbets site right here.



Frosted tops final Saturday card at Saratoga

By Bob Ehalt

In the most recent National Thoroughbred Racing Association Top 10 poll, California Chrome received all of the first-place votes, except for one.

That single voter sided with Frosted, who can verify that faith in him on Saturday when he faces eight rivals in the $600,000 Woodward Stakes on the final Saturday of the all-too-short 2016 Saratoga meet.

Second to American Pharoah in last year’s Belmont Stakes, Frosted blossomed into a star this year.

After a fifth-place finish behind California Chrome in the Dubai World Cup, Frosted returned home to the United States and demolished a stellar field of Grade 1 rivals when he recorded a record-breaking 14 ¼-length victory in the prestigious Metropolitan Handicap.

In his most recent start, Frosted captured another of New York’s premier stakes when he posted a front-running, two-length score in the Grade 1 Whitney Stakes.

Now, in the Spa’s mile and an eighth Grade 1 stakes, he’ll try to move one step closer to a rematch with California Chrome at the Breeders’ Cup when he takes aim at a third straight victory.

“Frosted’s doing great since his last race, we’re looking forward to Saturday,” said trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. “His last race wasn’t a ‘wow’ off-the-charts race on numbers and things, so we thought we could run back in four weeks.

“The thinking is that it’s 60 days to the Breeders’ Cup. That’s not to say we won’t run back in the Jockey Club Gold Cup. If he’s tearing the barn down like he has been, we might do both. But (owner) Sheik Mohammed is involved with the decision-making, so I don’t know. Right now, we’re giving ourselves a good chance to get 60 days to the Breeders’ Cup.”

While McLaughlin has two horses lined up to start in the Woodward and Frosted is the stronger half of the two, it doesn’t mean the trainer’s other starter is merely a rabbit.

The late-running Mubtaahij, who was fourth in last year’s Belmont Stakes, moved to McLaughlin’s barn after finishing second in the Dubai World Cup. He was third behind Effinex in the Grade 2 Suburban in his first try for his new trainer and could be a more formidable foe on Saturday.

“I think he has improved since the Suburban,” McLaughlin said of Mubtaahij. “Since being here, he’s been doing really well. (Jockey Irad Ortiz Jr.) feels like he knows him better now after riding him last time, (that he) learned a little something about him, so we’ll see how it goes. We think he’s going to run big.”

The main competition for McLaughlin’s separately owned entry figures to come from Bradester, who won the Grade 1 Stephen Foster at Churchill Downs in front-running fashion two starts back. The speedy 6-year-old won the Grade 2 Monmouth Cup in his last race and looms as the one who can pose the biggest problem for Frosted on the front end.

The field of nine also includes Shaman Ghost, who adds Lasix after finishing fifth in the Suburban Handicap. Prior to that disappointing try, the son of Ghostzapper was victorious in the mile and a half Grade 2 Brooklyn for trainer Jimmy Jerkens.

Saturday’s card also includes a second Grade 1 stakes, the Spinaway, a $350,000 showcase for 2-year-old fillies.

The Todd Pletcher-trained Sweet Loretta, a convincing winner of the Schulyerville, will seek her second stakes win at the meet in the seven-furlong stakes.

Impressive Spa maiden winners Runaway Doll and Cherry Lodge plus Debutante victor Pretty City Dancer shape up as the main rivals.



By Shawn Rychling

The 2016 Saratoga meet comes to its annual climax on Saturday with Travers Day and the 147th running of the Midsummer Derby.  This year’s race is the 11th on a tremendous 13-race extravaganza that includes six Grade-I stakes and a Grade-II event which have been placed from races 6-12 on the card. There are three Pick 4 wagering opportunities and a $250,000 guaranteed Pick 6.

Highlights on the Travers undercard include the Grade I Sword Dancer with Flintshire back to defend his 2015 win off a eye-popping late run won him the Bowling Green back on July 30.

Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint winner Wavell Avenue goes out in the loaded Grade I Ballerina and the always exciting Grade-I King’s Bishop has drawn 13 three-year-olds for a demanding 7-furlong sprint.

In the featured Travers we have quite a contrast from last year when Triple-Crown winner American Pharoah was in town for what many thought would be a coronation.  Instead, he was upset by Keen Ice while being so game in defeat he actually may have enhanced his reputation.

This year, the 3-year-olds have beaten up on each other with different horses winning each of the Triple Crown races with the parity continuing into the summer.

With that in mind the Travers has filled with the maximum of 14 horses for the first time since 1977.  And looking at the past performances I can make a case for more than half the field, which I do below in post-position order:

2-America Freedom: Trainer Bob Baffert is back in the Travers this year despite the loss by American Pharoah.  He has American Freedom and Arrogate who breaks from the rail. ‘Freedom’ proved he could run at this level in the Haskell and has been improving every race.  He may get away to an easy lead with other speeds starting from further out.

4-Governor Malibu: Has shown propensity to run on late and was blocked in the stretch during the Belmont. Could get a very fast pace and would not be a big surprise under that scenario.

7- Exaggerator: Will be the favorite and perhaps the most-likely winner off the Haskell win. But with his liking of wet tracks it’s fair to bet against him for the win at a short price.

8-Destin: Apparently dull effort in the Jim Dandy may have been aided by his 3-wide trip on a day when the rail seemed like a golden one. Not a single horse trying to close from the 2-path out that day gained any ground in the stretch. Breaking from post 8 he may get perfect stalking position he loves as speed goes by on either side and that makes him top value in the race at 10-1 on the morning line.

10-Connect: Has the look of late bloomers that have habit of winning this race (think Thunder Rumble, Will’s Way, Deputy Commander and V.E. Day among others).  Can’t argue with his trainer and has moved forward every start.

12-Creator: Asmussen has said this horse was using the Jim Dandy as a prep so we can toss that one and can obviously run all day with Belmont win.  Should also get fast early pace to close into, unlike the Dandy.

13-Laoban: OK, probably the least likely of these to win and breaking from post 13 doesn’t help considering front-running score last time.  However, he does go third off a layoff and may be even fitter than his last race and trainer insists he doesn’t need the lead. And don’t forget this barn nearly stole this race three years ago with 31-1 shot Moreno.

14-Gun Runner: Ran third in the Derby and just seems to fly under the radar.  Likes to stalk so he will be hard-pressed to get position from widest post, but he has a long run to the first turn here. We can also toss the Haskell since he hates the mud.

Our NY Hot List Pick:

  1. Connect
  2. Destin
  3. Creator
  4. Exaggerator

Good luck with a wide-open Travers and an excellent day of racing at Saratoga.  Where else would you rather be on the last Saturday in August?

Don’t forget, the Hot List has full cards at Saratoga on Saturday, Sunday and Monday and you can get all of our analysis on the Interbets site right here.



Pacific Classic showdown a test worthy of the Breeders’ Cup Classic

By Bob Ehalt

Anytime an undefeated, superstar filly such as Songbird runs, she’s usually the main attraction of the weekend.

But on Saturday, when Songbird attempts to become a perfect 10-for-10 while facing six overmatched rivals in the $600,000 Alabama Stakes at Saratoga, the biggest – by far – race of the day will take place at the other end of the country.

While Saturday’s race is properly known as the $1 million Pacific Classic, it has enough razzle and dazzle to pass for the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

It will be 2014 Horse of the Year California Chrome vs. the 3-time champion mare Beholder vs. Dortmund in a no-holds-barred slugfest over 10 furlongs that has taken shape as the 2016’s Race of the Year.

California Chrome may be the early frontrunner for Horse of the Year honors, but the 8-5 favorite figures to be severely tested in a bid for his fifth straight win.

North America’s all-time leader with earnings of $12.6 million, California Chrome comes off a demanding effort in the San Diego at Del Mar, which served as his first race since a decisive victory in the $10 million Dubai World Cup. The California-bred tracked the pace-setting Dortmund in the July 23 race and hooked him on the final turn, but was unable to edge away until the final 100 yards when he posted a half-length victory.

While the victory was surprisingly hard-fought it was California Chrome’s first start since the March 26 Dubai World Cup and that effort should have him in top form for Saturday’s test.

Dortmund was coming off an even longer layoff as the San Diego marked the 4-year-old’s first race since Nov. 28 when he romped in the Grade 3 Native Diver at Santa Anita. The 5-2 second choice’s chances of moving forward, however, could be compromised by a five-pound weight shift in California Chrome’s favor, plus expected early pressure from Beholder in the early stages.

Beholder (3-1) was the undisputed Queen of the older filly and mare division until her eight-race winning streak came to an end with a stunning loss to Stellar Wind in Del Mar’s Clement L. Hirsch on July 30.

A year ago, Beholder captured the Hirsch by seven lengths and then blew away her male rivals in the Pacific Classic, winning by an astonishing 8 ¼ lengths. While she enters this year’s race on a decidedly different note, in all likelihood the Hirsch was just a prep for Saturday’s race and trainer Richard Mandella will have her ready for a sharp effort in her first meeting with “California” and his loyal “Chromies.”

As much as that trio towers over the other six starters, the possibility of a costly speed duel gives the others a puncher’s chance. Dalmore (20-1), an improving 3-year-old, Imperative (20-1) and Hoppertunity (8-1) stand the best chances of playing the role of spoiler.

The Pacific Classic will serve as the ninth race on an 11-race card with a scheduled post time of 9:15 p.m. Eastern time.

Meanwhile, there promises to be far less drama at Saratoga, where Songbird is a prohibitive 1-5 favorite in the Alabama.

While the famed mile and a quarter stakes will be the longest test of her brilliant career, the added distance seems the least of Songbird’s worries after an ultra-impressive 5 ¼-length win over a determined Carina Mia in the Coaching Club American Oaks at Saratoga on July 24.

Of her six foes, Go Maggie Go (8-1) seems the most worthy challenger, but she and everyone else will need plenty of help from a racetrack known as the Graveyard of Champions to reel in Songbird.

Also on Saturday’s Saratoga card is the Grade 1 Fourstardave, which was rescheduled after last Saturday’s cancellation at the Spa.

Tourist is a 5-2 favorite over eight rivals in the mile test over the Spa’s inner turf course.



By Shawn Rychling

This just in from the ‘time flies when you’re having fun’ department: Saturday marks the halfway point of the Saratoga meet, Day 20 of 40.  The feature is the Grade I Fourstardave at a mile on the inner turf for 3-year-olds and up with the Grade II Adirondack for 2YO filly sprinters on the undercard.

A look at those races a little later, but as we come to the midway point of the meet we have to take a look back and a look ahead to the second half.

We mentioned Songbird in this space two weeks ago after she made it 9 for 9 in her career in the Coaching Club and she is ready to race back next week in the Alabama while stretching out to 1 ¼ miles. With the 3-year-old division on the male side in disarray it would be nice to see this filly take on the boys in the Travers, but it just isn’t going to happen.

And speaking of those 3-year-olds, it was two weeks ago when the results of the Jim Dandy and Haskell just threw the Travers up for grabs. In the Dandy at the Spa, the favorites let the maiden Laoban get away to an easy lead in fractions of 24.56, 49.07 and 1:12.46. That allowed the frontrunner to run the final 3 furlongs in an impressive 35.93 and hold off his challengers which included the Belmont Stakes exacta – Destin and Creator – as well as the solid Mohaymen and Governor Malibu. All five of these Jim Dandy horses we mentioned are probable if not definite for the Travers. .

On the Jersey Shore the Haskell was billed as a rematch of the Kentucky Derby trifecta as Nyquist, Exaggerator and Gun Runner hooked up.  They were joined by Bob Baffert’s American Freedom as the trainer tried to win the Haskell once again.

The track came up sloppy and while Nyquist and American Freedom dueled early, they gave way to Exaggerator who has benefitted from wet tracks in his last three wins – the Santa Anita Derby, Preakness and Haskell.

The day before the Jim Dandy saw Connect and Gift Box ran 1-2 in the Curlin at Saratoga and both are pointing to the Travers. Throw in Mo Tom who scratched out of the West Virginia Derby last week and perhaps Cupid who won that race at odds-on and the Travers looks like a wide-open race with a full-field of betting options.

And before we look ahead we have to mention Frosted and his huge win in the Whitney following up the 14-length romp in the Met Mile at Belmont. Last Saturday in the Whitney he zoomed to the front from between rivals and set the pace in fractions of 23.11, 46.42 and 109.65.  He turned back the early challengers at the 3/8ths pole and was ridden out in hand by jockey Joel Rosario. One would think the Woodward, on closing weekend at the Spa, would be the next logical start for Frosted, but trainer Kiaran McLaughlin has said his horse is better with more time off between races so there is talk of Frosted training up to the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Now back to this Saturday at Saratoga where we have the Grade II Adirondack for juvenile fillies as Race 9, followed by the Grade I Fourstardave in Race 10 for 3YO and up turf runners.

The weather is a little iffy with a 70 percent chance for thunderstorms in the forecast throughout Saturday afternoon so that may throw the feature into disarray as well as many of the other grass races.  That said, it seems like Takeover Target and Tourist are good bets over a firm turf or if the races stays on over the off going on the grass.  Ring Weekend on the outside is also a threat with Weekend Hideaway the major player if the rain pans out with a 4 for 5 career mark over a wet track.

Enjoy the halfway point of the meet and don’t forget the Hot List will has horses set to run at Saratoga on Saturday, Sunday and Monday and you can get all of our analysis on the Interbets site right here.



Frosted heads $1.25 million Whitney at Saratoga

By Bob Ehalt

If there’s one sure thing about Saturday’s $1.25 million Whitney Stakes at Saratoga, it’s that Frosted will not run as fast as he did in his last race.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that someone will run faster than him, either.

Frosted heads a talented group of six older runners in the Grade 1 mile-and-an-eighth test in his first appearance since the most dazzling performance of the year – on any continent. The 4-year-old son of Tapit ran off the screen in romping to a record-breaking 14 ½-length victory in the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap in a blistering final time of 1:32 3/5 for a mile.

According to Daily Racing Form’s Beyer Speed Figures, Frosted’s effort amounted to a 123, a figure rarely seen these days. Considering that Frosted had never earned a BSF higher than 106 before that, and that a length amounts to about two points on the BSF scale, his performance was almost freakish.

And unless he sprouts wings like Pegasus, don’t expect an encore on Saturday in the 89th edition of the Whitney.

“We didn’t know he would run so well (at a one-turn mile) until after,” trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said about a colt who had been best known previously for pressing American Pharoah in last year’s Travers and opening the door for Keen Ice to spring a huge upset. “(The Met Mile) was a ‘wow’ race. It was an unbelievable race that day.”

While an encore seems utterly unlikely, the Met Mile was such an overpowering effort that the Godolphin Racing colt could probably regress about five lengths (or 10 BSF points) and still win the race. All of which explains why he’s a heavy 3-5 morning line favorite over five rivals.

“The time to the Met Mile was very important,” McLaughlin said. “(He had) 70 days, he was back with (jockey Joel Rosario), back with Lasix, but the timing, I thought, was the most important thing. Last year, we were running often. So the time was key and now we have time again, about eight weeks. He doesn’t act like he needs it but it looks like he’s better with a little time.”

The main threat should be Effinex (7-2), who returned to top form in early July when he posted a second straight victory in the Grade 2 Suburban at Belmont Park. Second to American Pharoah in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic, Effinex closed 2015 with a victory in the Grade 1 Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs but then was third as a 7-5 favorite in the G1 Santa Anita Handicap.

Effinex avenged his loss to Melatonin at Santa Anita by defeating that rival in the Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap but then was a disappointing sixth in the Stephen Foster in his start before the Suburban.

The rest of the field includes Zayat Stables’ El Kabeir (20-1), Comfort (8-1), Upstart (10-1) and Noble Bird (10-1).

The Whitney will be the 10th race on an outstanding 11-race card that also includes the Grade 1 $500,000 Test Stakes, the Grade 3 $200,000 Waya, the $100,000 De La Rose and the $100,000 Lure.

It promises to be a lively day of racing with several top stars in action, but if you’re looking for another 14-length victory by Frosted, there’s only one place to turn: Saratoga’s replay center where you can watch the Met Mile over and over again and marvel at something very rare indeed.



By Shawn Rychling

The first week of Saratoga – which was really a long, 4-day weekend from Friday to Monday – is behind us, as are the first Wednesday and Thursday cards of the meeting.  In those opening six days we’ve been treated to numerous longshot winners as well as a sterling performance by a true champion, and we are looking for more of the same this weekend as we kick off the next 34 days of racing at the Spa!

What can you say about the race that undefeated Songbird ran in the Coaching Club American Oaks on Sunday?  She grabbed a short lead early and held it until Carina Mia challenged her on the far turn pulling up alongside the 1-5 favorite.  It seemed for a short time that Songbird toyed with her rival and then just began to draw off to win by 5 and making it look easy.  Not until that race had any horse been within 6 lengths of her at the final call heading into the stretch. Songbird has now won all 9 of her starts and Saratoga fans may be treated to her again in the Alabama on August 20.

This weekend brings us another champion as Flintshire is scheduled to run in the Grade-II Bowling Green at 1 3/8 miles over the inner turf on Saturday. He posted a 114 speed figure over the same course to win last year’s Grade-I Sword Dancer on Travers Day. We may see another coronation like the one we saw from Songbird on Sunday.

Also on Saturday is the Grade-II Jim Dandy for 3 year olds as many of the best get back to the track for the first time since the Belmont Stakes. The Dandy will be a rematch between three of the top finishers in Belmont – Creator, Destin and Governor Malibu

Creator is a quintessential late-runner that needed every bit of the 12 furlongs of the Belmont Stakes to run down Destin at the wire.  Governor Malibu meanwhile had his rally stymied twice in the stretch and just could not find running room. He may offer the best value in the field.

And we can’t overlook Mohaymen in the Jim Dandy.  He was the Kentucky Derby favorite until the debacle in the Florida Derby against Nyquist.  Mohaymen ran a dull race at Churchill Downs, but has been freshened up since and how can we bet against Kiaran McLaughlin who is an eye-popping 7 for 10 over the first six days of the Saratoga meet.

Don’t forget the Hot List will have full cards at Saratoga on Saturday, Sunday and Monday and you can get all of our analysis on the Interbets site right here.



California Chrome, Songbird top weekend stakes

By Bob Ehalt

And now it’s double the fun.

Last Friday’s opening day at Del Mar raised the curtain on the meets that add unrivaled excitement to summer racing, and now on Friday it’s Saratoga’s turn to the join the mix.

With both Del Mar and Saratoga open this weekend, there will be no shortage of graded stakes and stars on display.

While Saratoga celebrates the start of its 40-day meet, the most anticipated race of the weekend takes place at Del Mar on Saturday.

California Chrome, the No. 1 horse in the NTRA national poll and North America’s all-time earnings leader, will make his first start since his decisive victory in the $10 million Dubai World Cup when he headlines the $200,000 San Diego Handicap.

The Grade 2 mile-and-a-sixteenth stakes will be California Chrome’s first race since March 26 and will be the colt’s prep race for his showdown with the champion mare Beholder in the $1 million Pacific Classic on Aug. 20 at Del Mar.

He’ll surely need a solid effort Saturday to post his fourth straight victory as the 2014 Horse of the Year will have to concede weight to several tough challengers.

Among them is Dortmund, who was considered by some as the equal of stablemate American Pharoah prior to last year’s Kentucky Derby.

While American Pharoah went on to become the 12th Triple Crown champion, Dortmund finished third in the Kentucky Derby and then was beset with physical ailments. Sidelined from May until October, he won two stakes prior to the end of the year but then suffered some more setbacks that have kept him away from the races since Nov. 28.

Trained by Bob Baffert, Dortmund has been training sharply for his comeback effort and, after drawing post two, he looms as the early pace-setter.

The other major threats include Win the Space, who was second in the Grade 1 Gold Cup at Santa Anita, multiple graded stakes winner Hard Aces, who was third in the Gold Cup, and the California-bred Soi Phet.

Also on Saturday, the featured race at Saratoga will be the Grade 1 Diana, a turf test for fillies and mares.

Heading the field is Miss Temple City, who beat males in the Grade 1 Maker’s 46 Mile and then shipped to England and finished fourth in a Grade 2 stakes at Royal Ascot.

She’ll face nine rivals, including four trained by Chad Brown: Wekeela, Mrs McDougal, Dacita and Rainha Da Bateria.

The first of seven Saturday cards at the Spa also includes the $150,000 Sanford Stakes for 2-year-olds.

Saratoga will take over the national spotlight on Sunday when the undefeated 3-year-old Songbird will headline the Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks.

And that’s just the opening weekend at the Spa.

There’s plenty of action yet to come during what promises to be an outstanding summer of racing at BOTH Saratoga and Del Mar.

Aren’t those words so delightful to hear!



By Shawn Rychling

Ask any adult and what they tell you is definitely true.  As you get older every day, every week, every month and every year goes faster than the one before it.

And so it seems that every year, Opening Day at Saratoga gets here quicker than the year before.

It seems like the inner track just opened a month ago and the Triple Crown began a week ago and yet, here we are just one week – 7 short days – from the start of the 148th Saratoga meet which runs for 6 ½ weeks and features 40 racing days from July 22 through Labor Day, September 5th.

Just this weekend remains for the Belmont spring meet and then NYRA will pack up and be off until Friday as everyone heads north to the foot of the Adirondacks.

Maybe it’s the length of the meet that makes the wait for next year seem shorter.  Instead of a full year, we only have to wait 45 weeks from Labor Day until next year’s opener.  It isn’t a year is it?  Whatever the reason, the meet goes by quicker every year and Travers Day flies by faster too, despite the fact that they run races now from 11:35 a.m. until about 7:30 p.m. on that day!

So if you can, kick back starting next Friday and enjoy as much of the best racing meet as you can. It’s like an oasis in the increasing desert of the sports world and we’ll have plenty to write about in this space.

Two horses to watch

The waning days of the Belmont meet bring us two horses that stand out.  The first one, Fish Trappe Road, ran last Saturday in the Dwyer and stalked a moderate pace before blowing past the field to win by a comfortable two lengths defeating Economic Model which took the shorter route on the rail.

Fish Trappe Road was on the early Derby Trail in Louisiana, but did not stack up in the Grade III LeComte.  But after 12 weeks off he won an allowance on Derby day at Churchill and then was second in the Woody Stephens on Belmont Day before the Dwyer win.  Perhaps this late-bloomer can make some noise among his peers.  Could the Jim Dandy be next for this New York bred?

The other horse to watch runs Saturday and that’s 2-year-old Runaway Lute. He makes just his second career start in the Rockville Centre stakes for New York breds.  He took his debut by 12 lengths and if he can win this race by a decent margin we may see him back in an open stakes try at Saratoga.

Don’t forget we have full cards at Belmont Park on Saturday and Sunday and you can get all of our analysis on the Interbets site right here.

And then it’s on to Saratoga!



‘Stars’ & ‘Stripes’ come together in Belmont stakes festival

By Bob Ehalt

The Fourth of July has come and gone, but the fireworks will be lit on Saturday at Belmont Park.

In daylight, mind you!

Graded stakes will be in abundance during Belmont’s Stars and Stripes Festival, that features six graded stakes worth a combined $3.8 million.

The main events, at least in terms of purse money, are a pair of Grade 1 million dollar turf races for 3-year-olds, the $1,250,000 Belmont Derby and the $1 million Belmont Oaks.

Both races offer an intriguing blend of American and international talent among large fields.

The Belmont Derby attracted a field of 13 to contest the mile and a quarter test over the inner turf course, and it’s Europeans who have filled the starring roles.

The 7-2 favorite is a European-based and owned colt with a New York name, Long Island Sound. Trained by Aidan O’Brien, the son of War Front was third in a Group 3 stakes at Royal Ascot in his last start.

O’Brien also trains the 4-1 second choice Deauville, who was 11th in the Group 1 Investec Derby but was beaten by a neck prior to that in a Group 2 stakes.

Another European horse with all-American name, Humphrey Bogart, is the 5-1 third choice off a sixth in the Group 2 King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot.

The American contingent is topped by Camelot Kitten, from the barn of owner Ken Ramsey and the nation’s top turf trainer, Chad Brown. The late-running son of Kitten’s Joy is coming off a pair of graded stakes wins, including the Grade 3 Pennine Ridge at Belmont Park in a blanket finish in his last outing.

Highland Sky (8-1), who was second by a neck in the Pennine Ridge, Call Provision (10-1), who was another nose back in third, and Toughest ’Ombre (30-1), who was a neck back in fourth, will return from that June 4 stakes to tackle Camelot Kitten once again – and the Europeans.

The Belmont Oaks also attracted a field of 13, though in this mile and a quarter contest, the likely favorite hails from the Red, White and Blue of the United States of America.

The speedy Catch a Glimpse (2-1) is undefeated in seven starts on turf and was last seen defeating the boys in the Grade 3 Penn Mile at Penn National.

Her main rival appears to be another European from O’Brien’s star-studded barn, Ballydoyle (3-1). The 3-year-old daughter of Galileo has raced in prestigious Group 1 stakes in her two 2016 starts, finishing sixth in the Prix de Diane Longines and second in the QUIPCO 1000 Guineas.

Other top contenders include Time and Motion (6-1) and Harmonize (10-1), who finished 1-2 in the $200,000 Wonder Again at Belmont.

In between the two turf stakes, which will be run as the eighth and 10th races on an 11-race card, is the $500,000 Suburban Handicap.

The Grade 2 mile and a quarter test drew eight starters, led by Effinex, who beat Belmont Stakes winner Tonalist to capture the 2015 Suburban. Effinex ended last year with a win in the Grade 1 Clark and a second behind American Pharoah in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, but has enjoyed only mild success in 2016 with a sixth in the Grade 1 Foster and third in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap sandwiched around a win in the Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap.

The main threats include Mubtaahij (7-2), who was second behind California Chrome in the $10 million Dubai World Cup, makes his first start in the United States since a fourth-place finish in the 2015 Belmont Stakes, and Eagle (5-1), who was second in the Foster.

All three races will be televised on NBC in an hour-and-a-half program that starts at 4:30 p.m., and if that’s not enough action for you, the card also includes the $500,000 Dwyer Stakes, $400,000 Belmont Sprint Championship and the $150,000 Victory Ride.

Racing fans, enjoy your holiday.



By Shawn Rychling

July has begun as of this writing and that puts us into the home stretch of our Saratoga countdown with only 21 days until Opening Day at the Spa for the historic track’s 148th meeting.

It’s never too early to look ahead to Saratoga and we’ll do just that by mentioning that this year’s 40-day affair will include 37 graded stakes, including 18 Grade-I events.

The centerpiece of the meet is, as usual, the Grade I Travers Stakes – the Midsummer Derby – set for Saturday Aug. 27.  It’s of course for 3-year-olds at a mile-and-a-quarter with a purse of $1.25 million. It’s impossible to forget last year’s renewal when Keen Ice upset Triple-Crown winner American Pharoah preserving the Spa’s notoriety as the Graveyard of Favorites.

After a Triple-Crown series that saw three different winners this spring the 3-year-old division is wide open which will give the Travers a different kind of excitement this year, but one that is just as valid that last year’s race had.

Travers Day will feature six Grade-I stakes in all and a Grade II making it one of the best days of racing for the entire year that any track can offer.

Earlier in the meet will be the traditional prep for the Travers – The Jim Dandy – at a 1 1/8 miles. That race is set for July 30 which is a big day in its own right at Saratoga with five graded stakes.  In addition to the Jim Dandy is the Grade I Vanderbilt for older sprinters and Grade II Amsterdam at 6 ½ furlongs as 3-year-old sprinter will prep for the King’s Bishop on Travers Day.

So get ready, July 22 is Opening Day at Saratoga and we can’t wait!

But as we look ahead to our favorite time of year we still have some exciting racing at Belmont Park.  This weekend brings the Grade-I Mother Goose for 3YO fillies at a mile-and-a-sixteenth around one turn on Saturday.

Off the Tracks is the Hot List horse in that race and interesting entry for Todd Pletcher as she returns after only 3 weeks off a career best when she was second in the Acorn on the Belmont Stakes undercard. She had some traffic in the stretch that day and would be potential value play here if she moves up from her 3-1 morning line odds.

She will have to contend with regally-bred stablemate Rachel’s Valentina another Pletcher charge that is looking to revert to form after an OK effort in the Kentucky Oaks.  The Bernardini-Rachel Alexandra filly is 4—1-2-0 in Grade-I stakes and will make her fifth straight start this level. The Mother Goose is one of 7 Saturday races that has a Hot List horse on Saturday.

Next Saturday at Belmont promises to be even better with the Stars and Stripes Festival on Saturday July 9.  It features six graded stakes including the Belmont Derby and Oaks Invitationals. Both are Grade 1 events on the turf and go for purses of $1.25 million and $1 million respectively.

July 9 also features the Grade 2 Suburban on the dirt for older horses and the Grade 3 Dwyer for 3-year-olds on the dirt. When that day is over we’ll be less than two weeks to the Spa opener!

Don’t forget we have full cards at Belmont Park on Saturday, Sunday and Monday and you can get all of our analysis on the Interbets site right here.



Gold Cup a chance for Californians to shine

By Bob Ehalt

A week ago, the East Coast second team got its chance.

While California Chrome, Beholder and Frosted rate as the leaders of the older generation on dirt, in last Saturday’s Grade 1 Stephen Foster at Churchill Downs horses such as Effinex and Eagle hoped to move into the discussion among the division’s Top 5 but had those hopes smashed when 9-1 shot Bradester prevailed.

Now it’s the West Coast’s turn.

In Saturday’s $500,000 Gold Cup at Santa Anita, the West Coast’s second string – a group featuring the likes of Hoppertunity, Melatonin and Second Summer – will try to prove that they deserve a chance to tackle the big boys and gals later in the summer or fall in prestigious tests such as the $1 million Pacific Classic.

Hoppertunity was pegged as the 3-1 favorite after finishing third behind California Chrome in the world’s biggest race, the $10 million Dubai World Cup in March.

Trained by Bob Baffert, Hoppertunity is remarkably consistent but has struggled to a post a victory in a significant Grade 1 stakes. In his last 12 starts, he’s tackled Grade 1 company on six occasions with no wins but three seconds, two thirds and a fourth.

Baffert, though, told Daily Racing Form on Thursday that he was uncertain if Hoppertunity would run in the mile and a quarter Gold Cup.

If he doesn’t, that would leave Melatonin as the likely favorite and probable pacesetter.

Winner of the Santa Anita Handicap over the same track and at the same distance as Saturday’s race, Melatonin is coming off a runner-up finish in the Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap behind Effinex. With 8-1 shot Lieutenant Colonel the only other starter with sharp early lead, a soft pace could make Melatonin, the 7-2 second choice, tough to catch in the final furlong.

The field of eight also includes Second Summer (4-1) and Bal a Bali (9-2), along with 2015 Gold Cup winner Hard Aces (6-1) and 2014 Charles Town Classic winner Imperative (8-1).

Second Summer comes in off three straight wins, capped by a length victory in the Grade 2 Californian over Hard Aces (6-1) and Lieutenant Colonel.

Bal a Bali is the X factor in the race as the 6-year-old horse will be making his 32nd start but his first on dirt. A stakes winner at a mile and a half in his native Brazil in 2014, he was last seen finishing fourth in the Grade 2 Whittingham Stakes at a mile and a quarter on turf at Santa Anita.

The field is rounded out by Win the Space (20-1), who took an allowance race in May.

At Belmont Park on Saturday, distaff sprinters will take center stage for the $150,000 Grade 3 Bed o’Roses Handicap.

Wavell Avenue, winner of last year’s Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint for trainer Chad Brown, is the 6-5 favorite and 123-pound highweight.

The seven-furlong Grade 3 stakes will serve as Wavell Avenue’s third start of the year, coming on the heels of a fourth-place finish in the Grade 1 Humana Distaff and a third in the Grade 1 Madison at Keeneland.

Bar of Gold (4-1) shapes up as the main threat in the small field of six. Winner of last year’s Grade 1 Test at three, Bar of Gold exits a sharp victory in a $200,000 stakes for New York State-breds and will carry only 117 pounds, giving her a six-pound weight break over Wavell Avenue.



By Shawn Rychling

With no Triple Crown on the line, there was a lack of hype for this year’s edition of the Belmont Stakes, but for what it lacked in historical significance, the race made up for in excitement and eventual bettability.

Going in, the race looked to be Exaggerator in a breeze.  He was easily in the best form in his last three starts with wins in the Preakness and Santa Anita Derby – sandwiching a hard-closing second to Nyquist in the Kentucky Derby.  Fair questions going in however were Exaggerator’s ability to rate just off the lead as well as whether he is just a notch better over an off track.

As for the rest of the field, there were few rivals who showed any prior penchant for rating on or near the lead – which is a must to win the Belmont – so if Exaggerator could hang close he may just prevail as the sharper and better horse. The one horse in whose rating skills we were confident was Destin and he got the perfect trip behind speedster Gettysburg who was a safe bet to fade.

Several of the prime contenders had styles that just don’t work for winning the Belmont. They were deep closers who all showed a habit of losing touch with the leaders by anywhere from 15-20 lengths. The question was which of these horses could change their style and contend. That horse would be Creator who was a manageable 8 lengths behind with a mile to go and just 3 ½ off the lead with a half-mile to run.

As the race unfolded, Destin let Gettysburg go on the lead through moderate fractions while hanging back in second waiting to move. Meanwhile, Exaggerator was caught nearly 4-wide on the first turn while trying to stay close and was wide on the far turn as well which just did him in.  He faded to 11th.

Creator grabbed a spot in midpack and was nudged along by Irad Ortiz.  He moved up a few spots down the backstretch to get position and then continued to rate until the final furlong.

Destin made his move outside the quarter pole pulling alongside Gettysburg and then running by the pacesetter and widening his lead to almost two lengths,

Destin looked like a winner, but Ortiz waited patiently on Creator making his move at the last possible minute to run down Destin in a thrilling photo finish.

Rounding out the trifecta was the surprising Lani who may have run the best race.  He was next-to-last, 12 lengths back heading into the backstretch and then ran past about 5 horses with a nice burst of energy to get into midpack. He then went on to move 4-wide on the far turn and then slipped out into the 6-path to close with good energy and get the show.

That trifecta included horses of 16-1, 8-1 and 12-1 and paid a whopping $2,751!

One other note:  Governor Malibu got a fabulous ground-saving ride from Joel Rosario and was completely shut off in the stretch when trying to get through with a late rally. He is a late-bloomer to watch as the 3-year-old division looks wide open with the Haskell, Jim Dandy and Travers coming up this summer.

Don’t forget we have full cards at Belmont Park on Saturday and Sunday and you can get all of our analysis on the Interbets site right here.

With the Triple Crown in our rearview mirror the countdown is on with only 35 days until Saratoga!



Spoiled showdown leads to great betting race in the Belmont

By Bob Ehalt

There will not be an eagerly showdown in Saturday’s Belmont Stakes.

That went by the boards when Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist was pulled out of the race after coming down with a high white blood cell count following his third-place finish in the Preakness.

That left Preakness winner and Derby runner-up Exaggerator as a prohibitive favorite in the mile and a half “Test of the Champion,” yet don’t let that fool you into thinking the final jewel in the Triple Crown has morphed into a bland betting race.

If anything, as much as the Belmont can be viewed as Exaggerator and 12 other horses, there’s about thismuch difference among most of the horses in that dozen, and even Exaggerator might be vulnerable.

It will, after all, be the fourth race in nine weeks for Exaggerator, and even though trainer Keith Desormeaux marvels at the way his colt recovers quickly from tough races, he’s not a machine. At some point fatigue will set in and it could come to the fore early Saturday evening (6:37 p.m. post time, NBC TV).

Yet the odds, at least in the morning line, argue against that. Exaggerator was installed as an 9-5 favorite at Wednesday’s post position when he landed the 11th spot in the starting gate, and realistically he’ll probably be closer to 6-5 by post time.

Looking at Exaggerator’s last three races also bodes well for his chances as he won the Santa Anita Derby by a decisive 6 ¼ lengths, was second by 1 ¼ lengths in the Kentucky Derby and prevailed in the Preakness by 3 ½ lengths. Both of those wins came on wet, sloppy racetracks, yet his overall record (5 wins, 3 2nds, 1 3rd in 11 starts with $2,971,120 in earnings) stamp him as an amazingly consistent performer and the one horse in the field who can run a “B” race and still land in the winner’s circle.

Everyone else will need to be on their “A” game Saturday to prevail and, since everyone will be tackling a 12-furlong distance for the first time, that makes boxing your choices in the exotics the best wagering strategy.

Especially with so many inviting choices at long odds.

The best of these appears to be Brody’s Cause. He’s listed at 20-1 in the morning line, which might seem appropriate for a horse that finished seventh at 24-1 odds in the Kentucky Derby. Yet this son of Giant’s Causeway won the Grade 1 Blue Grass Stakes in his previous start and appears to be a long-winded sort who can pass some tired horses at the end and figure in the exotics.

Then there’s the case of Destin, who’s the third choice at 6-1. He turned in a huge effort in winning the Tampa Bay Derby on March 12 but then did not race again until the Derby on May 7 when he was father back in the pack than usual and wound up sixth.

With five more weeks of rest since then, Destin is definitely a fresh horse and if jockey Javier Castellano can keep him closer to the pace on Saturday, he might work out a great trip and be a major threat.

After that, two stone-cold closers are worth long looks. Suddenbreakingnews was fifth in the Derby after a rough trip and is priced at 10-1 in the morning line. Creator was 13th, also after a rough trip, and is also 10-1. Neither has the stalking running style of a prototypical Belmont Stakes winner, yet that doesn’t mean one of them can’t sneak into the picture and grab the final spot in the triple or superfecta.

Since it’s a toss-up between those two and Creator looms a longer price on the toteboard, he gets the nod for fourth on Saturday. Beating runner-up Suddenbreakingnews by 1 ¼ lengths in his Arkansas Derby victory is the capper in Creator’s behalf.

So from here it’s Exaggerator, Brody’s Cause, Destin and Creator comprising the superfecta – which I’ll box, just to be safe.

There may not be an epic showdown in the Belmont Stakes, but at least there’s a pretty good betting race, and there’s never anything wrong with that.



By Shawn Rychling

June has arrived and for the racing calendar it means we have 2 legs of the Triple Crown behind us as we look ahead to next Saturday’s Belmont Stakes on what is the year’s biggest day of racing in New York.

Last year at this time, we were waiting on American Pharoah’s successful bid for the Triple Crown. But this year there will be no repeat of that feat after Exaggerator took the Preakness Stakes, defeating Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist.

The field for the Belmont is starting to come together with Exaggerator the headliner after his Preakness win.  Nyquist spiked a fever after his third-place showing at Pimlico and he will skip the Belmont and prep for a summer campaign that we hope will include either Monmouth or Saratoga or both.

As of now, eight horses are on a definite track for the Belmont including Exaggerator with at least four horses that ran in the Derby, but skipped the Preakness – Brody’s Cause, Creator, Destin and Suddenbreakingnews – on the list of likely Belmont runners. It may be counter intuitive, but running in the Derby and skipping the Preakness is rarely a recipe for winning the Belmont Stakes, so if you are looking for a horse to upset Exaggerator perhaps a horse like Cherry Wine or Governor Malibu will be your pick.

This observer was hoping that Gun Runner would show up at Belmont because his stalking style is ideal for a 12-furlong race. As it is, perhaps Destin can get a front-running trip and have something left and get to the winner’s circle. We’ll have much more on the Belmont next week after the field is set and post positions drawn.

Favorites winning at usual clip

The first month of the Belmont meet seemed to bring numerous Pick 6 carryover days and some big-priced winners so we wondered if post-time favorites were winning less often than usual. To our surprise, some quick research revealed that in the 217 races run between April 29 and May 30 at Belmont, 80 post-time favorites had won.  That works out to 36.8 percent which is slightly above the 30 percent or about one-third of favorites that win nationwide.  Fascinating to see that even as Pick 6 bettors are often not coming up with the correct horses on many days. It is true that fewer people play the Pick 6 due to the $2 minimum bet and the advent of the Pick 5 wager.  That’s an interesting analysis we may take a look at in the future.

Don’t forget we have full cards at Belmont Park on Saturday and Sunday and you can get all of our analysis on the Interbets site right here.

Only 49 days until Saratoga!



Rollercoaster ride on the Triple Crown trail

By Bob Ehalt

The rollercoaster nature of horse racing was put on full display in the last week.

No sooner did the sport have a bone fide rivalry on its hands than it went on hiatus.

While Exaggerator’s victory in last Saturday’s Preakness put an end to Nyquist’s unbeaten record and Triple Crown bid, it did open the door for some great racing in the days ahead.

After all, after losing in his first four cracks at Nyquist and finishing second to the 2-year-old champion in the Kentucky Derby, Exaggerator finally put some excitement into the matchup by recording a victory on his side of the ledger.

There was some conjecture that a wet, sloppy racetrack was the reason behind Nyquist’s third-place finish  and Exaggerator’s victory, and there was a buzz over initial word that both horses were headed to the Belmont Stakes for a rubber match which promised to determine whether the Preakness was a mirage or the start of a new trend.

Unfortunately the excitement of a mile and a half battle royal died down rather quickly when it was announced early this week that Nyquist would skip the Belmont due to an elevated white cell count.

While there’s hope that Nyquist will return for the summer classics, the final jewel of the Triple Crown became somewhat anti-climactic without the prospect of the Kentucky Derby winner in the starting gate.

Of course that doesn’t mean you should pencil in the afternoon of June 11 for a day at the beach. The Belmont Stakes Day card will be the best program of racing in 2016 other than the Breeders’ Cup.

Plus, the Belmont will be an interesting test for Exaggerator, especially if Mother Nature does not rain on everyone’s parade like she did for the Preakness.

Cherry Wine and Stradivari, who were second and fourth, respectively, in the Preakness and Suddenbreakingnews, who was fifth in the Kentucky Derby, shape up as the main rivals in the famed Test of a Champion.

Nyquist would have made it a blockbuster, but it was not to be.

Such is life in horse racing.

Hot List seminar Saturday at Pearl River

There’s a fine slate of racing on tap at Belmont Park this weekend, highlighted by Monday’s New York State-bred stakes bonanza.



By Shawn Rychling

Well, after all the analysis, hype, gnashing of teeth and debate over which horse would win this year’s Kentucky Derby the top three choices of the betting public – Nyquist, Exaggerator and Gun Runner – ran 1-2-3 at Churchill Downs in the 142nd renewal of the Run for Roses.

Nyquist stayed unbeaten and is now 8 for 8 in his career after a very impressive win at Churchill Downs as he raced wide through a half mile in :45.72 and three-quarters in 1:10.40. He made his move on the turn, swallowing up Gun Runner just after the ¼ pole. From there Nyquist expanded his lead through the final 3/16ths before holding off the late-charging Exaggerator.

Fast forward two weeks later to Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore and Saturday’s 141st Preakness – the second jewel of racing’s Triple Crown.  Besides Exaggerator, Lani – who finished 9th in the Derby – is the only other rival from two weeks ago to take on Nyquist again. That horse is 30-1 in the Preakness morning line as this one shapes up to be a 2-horse race.

Here is how the Hot List sees the Preakness:

  1. Nyquist
  2. Exaggerator
  3. Cherry Wine
  4. Collected

Heavy rain is forecast for Baltimore on Saturday afternoon and that figures to help Nyquist’s front-running or stalking up-close style that he prefers. And don’t forget that he cruised to victory in the Florida Derby over a wet track. Nyquist also seemed to win the Derby so effortlessly that he should have something left in the tank for the Preakness.

Look for Nyquist to let the speedsters on either side of him – Uncle Lino and Awesome Speed – go to the lead early. There may be some danger in this as you may have 2 to 3 others trying to get the front from wider posts and Nyquist doesn’t want to be behind too many horses getting mud kicked in his face.

Exaggerator earned his best-ever speed figure over the slop when he won the Santa Anita Derby from well off the pace so this race may set up perfectly for him. He will have fewer horses to pass than he did two weeks ago at Churchill Downs, but will also have 1/16th of a mile less real estate in which to do it.

Cherry Wine is a deep closer who should be able to get a piece after all the speed up front melts down.

Collected is one of those speed horses that will vie for position early and trainer Bob Baffert would love to derail a triple-crown bid.

Stradivari is the other horse worth looking at. He may regress off the huge jump he made on performance last time out, but with only three career starts under his belt he may have room to improve and he appears to like the off going.

So there is a look at the Preakness and don’t forget we have full cards at Belmont Park on Saturday and Sunday and you can get all of our analysis on the Interbets site right here.

It’s only 62 days until Saratoga!



Nyquist sparks Triple Crown dreams

By Bob Ehalt

One jewel in the Triple Crown is now in place.

Yet as much as we are looking at a one down, two to go proposition, it could just easily be a done deal.

Go back in time to 2015, when American Pharoah surged in the stretch to post a one-length victory in the Kentucky Derby. There was a school of thought that after  working so hard to win in his third start of the year, that the competition would catch up with him in the final two jewels of the series.

Yeah, right.

In both the Preakness and Belmont Stakes, American Pharoah romped to even more one-sided victories to become the first Triple Crown winner in 37 years.

As it turned out, his rivals had their chance to beat a less than 100-percent American Pharoah in the Derby, and they were not up to challenge.

After that, it was not just game, but set and match as well.

Back to this year, the undefeated Nyquist also came into the Derby with just two 2016 starts – and one of them was a sprint stakes.

Perhaps he, like American Pharoah came into the Derby needing that third start of the year to reach top form.

If he did, then get ready to go back-to-back and belly-to-belly at the Belmont.

In winning under mild urging by 1 1/4 lengths, Nyquist and jockey Mario Gutierrez crossed the finish line with something left in the tank that should come in handy at the Preakness and Belmont Stakes.

He should be extremely difficult to beat in the shorter Preakness next Saturday, and after that, it could be 2015 all over again.

American Pharoah proved that a Triple Crown sweep in this era is hardly an impossibility, though it takes a very special horse to notch those three straight classic wins. American Pharoah proved his class by winning the 2-year-old championship and capturing nine of 11 starts, with the lone losses coming in an inexplicably dull loss in his career debut and a gutsy runner-up finish in the Travers at the Graveyard of Champions, Saratoga.

Nyquist owns a perfect 8-for-8 record, which is highlighted by last Saturday’s victory in the Run for the Roses and also includes a 2-year-old championship.

Until Saturday, respect has been elusive for Nyquist. Despite that undefeated record, he was not the favorite in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Nor was he the favorite in the Florida Derby – his final Kentucky Derby prep – when the betting public sided with the then-undefeated Mohaymen, who would finish fourth in the both the Florida Derby and Kentucky Derby.

But now his accomplishments put him alongside some of the sport’s greatest champions. He’s not a flash-in-the-pan like 50-1 2009 Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird.

At this point in May, the last 3-year-old to mirror Nyquist with a championship, undefeated record and Kentucky Derby victory was none other than Seattle Slew in 1977.

That’s certainly select company and there’s no reason to dismiss it as hype. Eight wins, five of them in Grade 1 stakes, in eight starts is nothing to sneeze at. It’s a sign of greatness. The same type of greatness we saw in American Pharoah.

Whether we see that same type of majestic coronation at this year’s Belmont Stakes is the pertinent question. There will not be the same fanatical response to the end of a 37-year drought at this year’s race as there was a year ago. But there could be greatness

We’ll know more in four weeks, but for now there’s already a rather familiar look to 2016 and chances are the Preakness will only magnify it.



By Shawn Rychling

We have arrived at the First Saturday in May and that can mean only one thing and that’s the Run for the Roses – the Kentucky Derby – as 3 year-olds run a mile-and-a-quarter for the first time in their lives.  The site is Churchill Downs in Louisville and this year is the 142nd running of the country’s most popular horse race.  And may I rain my personal scorn down upon those who would schedule weddings, dance recitals or graduations on the First Saturday in May. You should know better!

Let’s dive right in with the Hot List pick for the Derby.

  1. Nyquist
  2. Mohaymen
  3. Outwork
  4. My Man Sam

We’ll go with Nyquist on top and while that isn’t going out on a limb how can we pick against the 7 for 7 favorite when he has beaten just about every major contender that is entered today.  The two preps can be an issue for most horses, and we aren’t crazy about one of them being at only 7 furlongs, but we’ll go with the favorite.

Mohaymen We’ll draw a line through his last race because he has to be better than that. A fast track on Derby Day may give him the duel with Nyquist that never really materialized in the Florida Derby.

Outwork won a slower-than-slow Wood Memorial, but he was pushing the pace and held on over a muddy race track.  Have to think he is only getting better and will push the pace again.

My Man Sam has just four starts, but the late kick he showed in the Blue Grass may come in handy here with a fast early pace.

So there you have the official Hot List Kentucky Derby selection which you can view right here.  Now some notes on some viable long shots.

Destin: If you like Outwork it is hard not to like the horse that beat him in the Tampa Bay Derby while becoming only the fourth Derby horse to earn a 100-plus speed figure prior to today’s race. The knock against him is that he hasn’t raced since that performance and enters off an 8-week hiatus.

Brody’s Cause: We like My Man Sam and this one beat that one to win the Blue Grass. Prefers to run in Kentucky so we’ll toss the Tampa Bay debacle and his one-run rallying style is one that numerous Derby winners have used to win the roses.

Mor Spirit: The Bob-Baffert entrant is flying under the radar after Danzing Candy and Exaggerator overshadowed him in the last two Derby preps at Santa Anita. That said, those results were certainly a little fluky and Mor Spirit may be the most consistent horse of the three and may be sitting on a big effort.

Creator: Made impressive late run to win the Arkansas Derby and has impressed in training, but tough to work out closing trip from post 3.

Danzing Candy: Speedster went too fast in the slop at Santa Anita last time, but may use too much energy to clear the field from post 20.  But hey, Big Brown won it from that same stall!

So there is a look at the Kentucky Derby and don’t forget we have full cards at Belmont Park on Saturday and Sunday and you can get all of our analysis on the Interbets site right here.

And just 76 days until Opening Day at Saratoga!



Opening weekends at Belmont, Churchill Downs

By Bob Ehalt

With the days before next Saturday’s Kentucky Derby dwindling down to a precious few, some invigorating signs of the season at hand will take place this weekend.

Belmont Park opens for its spring meet on Friday, which features the crown jewel of the New York racing season when the 148th Belmont Stakes will be contested on June 11.

On Saturday evening at 6 p.m., the curtain goes up in Kentucky, where Churchill Downs will begin its meet, one week in advance of the electrifying 142nd Kentucky Derby.

Get the mint juleps on ice, folks.

At Belmont, the opening weekend is highlighted by Saturday’s Elusive Quality, a seven-furlong turf stakes.

Green Mask, who lost by a little less than a length in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint, is the 2-1 morning-line favorite in a field of 12 that includes two main track only entrants.

A 5-year-old gelding trained by Wesley Ward, Green Mask is coming off an eighth-place finish in the $2.3 million Hong King Sprint in December. He’s been working sharply lately and in Ward has a trainer who is a master at getting a horse ready for a sharp effort after a layoff.

The race also features a rite of spring with the 2016 debut of two venerable New York State-bred turf runners, King Kreesa (4-1) and Kharafa (10-1). The two have squared off five times, with King Kreesa holding a slight 3-2 edge.

King Kreesa has not raced since October, when he finished sixth in the Grade 1 Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland. Though the 7-year-old gelding failed to win a state-bred stakes last year, he did triumph in the Grade 3 Poker Stakes and the $150,000 Forbidden Apple.

Kharafa, also a 7-year-old gelding, won three of seven starts in 2015, including the $122,000 Ashley T. Cole for state-breds.

At Churchill Downs, what used to be the opening day Derby Trial at a mile has given way to the $100,000 William Walker, a six-furlong sprint for 3-year-olds.

Only five were entered and the distance should be a great tonic for Toews On Ice. A winner of three straight sprint stakes for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, he  finished second to stablemate Mor Spirit in the Grade 1 mile and a sixteenth Los Alamitos Futurity and then sixth in the one-mile Smarty Jones at Oaklawn Park in mid-January.

Toews On ice, a 6-5 favorite in the Walker, hasn’t raced since the Smarty Jones, but turned in a sizzling 1:10 3/5 gate work at Santa Anita on April 20 before shipping east and should be poised for a sharp effort in his turnback to a sprint Saturday.

The main challenger figures to be Sheikh of Sheikhs, who finished fourth behind Kentucky Derby favorite Nyquist and Santa Anita Derby winner Exaggerator in the seven-furlong Grade 2 San Vicente on Feb. 15 at Santa Anita.

He was also third in the Grade 3 Hutcheson at Gulfstream Park.

Like Toews On Ice, Sheikh of Sheikhs prefers to run on or near the lead and even though there’s just five starters, there should be a spirited battle for the lead among four of them that should determine who will be the last horse standing at the finish line.

Derby advance wagering starts Friday

Looking ahead to next week, there’s no excuse for getting shut out with your Kentucky Derby wagers as advance wagering on  the Run for the Roses will begin Friday afternoon May 6.

On Derby Day, you can make plans for an early start to the day as Catskill OTB/Interbets outlets will open at 10 a.m.

Happy handicapping.



By Shawn Rychling

We’re just two weeks away from the 142nd running of the Kentucky Derby and even with all the major prep races having been run, the Derby picture remains a little fuzzy.  Much of that is due to the fact that the three major preps – the Florida Derby, Wood Memorial and Santa Anita Derby – were run over very wet racetracks.

The track condition, along with the pace scenario has served us to question the strong performance of Exaggerator in the Santa Anita Derby.  And the wet track at Gulfstream seemed to hold down the speed figures for Nyquist and Mohaymen who really seemed to hate the footing that day. Then we have puzzling horses like Brody’s Cause who flopped badly in the Tampa Bay Derby, but rebounded to take the Blue Grass as he loves to run in the state of the Kentucky. With all that in mind let’s list and analyze some of the horses we are focusing on as the Derby approaches and we’ll do so in the order in which these horses interest us the most.  The odds are courtesy of allhorseracing.com

Destin (9-1): The Todd Pletcher trained colt won the Sam F. Davis and Tampa Bay Derby both at Tampa Bay downs in his only two preps for the Kentucky Derby. The TB Derby earned him a Beyer fig of 100 one of just a few 3-digit figs earned this spring by a Derby hopeful.  If you watch that race he was 3-wide all the way around track stalking the leader up close and then charging to victory. An impressive race, but now he will train up to the Derby so the 8-week layoff may be a question, but the stalking style is a good one to have for a 20-horse field at Churchill Downs. Hoping to get 15-1 on race day for this colt.

Mohaymen (7-1): What to make of his Florida Derby.  Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin says he just hated the surface and he had a wide trip before he faded after pulling alongside Nyquist at the ¼ pole.  But why couldn’t he go on and hold the place? Word is that he loves the surface at Churchill Downs and is training superbly, so we’ll see.  We’d like to get better than 7-1.

Brody’s Cause (15-1): A lot of people were high on this horse until the flop at Tampa Bay Downs, but he redeemed himself with a huge closing win in the Blue Grass and he is worth a long look on value because all 3 of his wins have come in the state of Kentucky, including his career debut and maiden-breaker at Churchill Downs.

Nyquist (7-2): Has proven himself to be the best horse for now, but you have to wonder about only 2 preps with one of them at just 7 furlongs.  Will he have enough fitness to get 1 ¼ miles over the demanding Churchill surface?  And should we take less than 3-1 on him with those question marks?

Danzing Candy (15-1): Went way too fast in the Santa Anita Derby, especially over the slop.  Much better the race before and if he can get fractions of :46 or so and 1:11 and change while on the lead, he may never be caught at Churchill Downs.

Mor Spirit (9-1): View here is that he’s the best horse coming out of California and we should not be fueled by the pace and slop-aided win by Exaggerator in the Santa Anita Derby.  This horse has three preps at more than a mile and is in the care of Bob Baffert so a big effort in Louisville is quite possible.

My Man Sam (17-1): Rumor has it trainer Chad Brown is high on this late bloomer. He has three long preps as well so fitness won’t be an issue.  Late runner could be big underlay on May 7 and look out if can work out a trip.

So there is a look at some of the hopefuls we like for the Kentucky Derby on May 7 and don’t forget we have full cards at Aqueduct on Saturday and Sunday and you can get all of our Aqueduct analysis on the Interbets site right here.

And just 90 days until Opening Day at Saratoga!



Road to the Derby comes to an end

By Bob Ehalt

There are two Kentucky Derby prep races left.

Guess who has the big horse in the most important one?

Yes, trainer Bob Baffert will send out 2-1 favorite Cupid in Saturday’s $1 million Arkansas Derby (7:18 p.m. post time), tying to duplicate the events of a year ago.

For those with short memories, it was a victory in the Arkansas Derby that catapulted Baffert and Zayat Stables’ American Pharoah to their historic Triple Crown season.

While a sweep of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes is setting an almost impossible bar for Cupid to clear, capturing the Arkansas Derby is a far more realistic task.

The gray son of Tapit is coming off a stellar effort over the track when he won the Grade 2 Rebel on March 22. In his stakes debut, Cupid set the pace and appeared vulnerable at the top of the stretch when Whitmore ranged up alongside him. Yet the gray colt showed some grit in the final furlong as he edged clear to prevail by a length and a quarter.

“I haven’t seen Cupid regress,” Baffert said. “He’s come back (from the Rebel) well. He’s worked well. He went an easy half-mile, so he looks ready. I like what I saw.  (Jockey Martin Garcia) is excited about the race and so am I.”

The late-running duo of Whitmore (10-1) and Creator (9-2), who were second and third, respectively, in the Rebel, return to face Cupid. Yet a key factor in handicapping the mile and an eighth test involves how much pressure the favorite will receive on the front end from challengers such as Gettysburg (6-1), Dazzling Gem (12-1) and Unbridled Outlaw (10-1).

Another major threat in the race should be Suddenbreakingnews (5-1), who finished a troubled fifth in the Rebel as a 5-2 favorite.

As the final major race in the Road to the Kentucky Derby series, the Arkansas Derby offers 100-40-20-10 points to the first four finishers. Cupid already has a spot in the Derby field wrapped up thanks to the 50 points he received for winning the Rebel, but all of the other 11 starters will need points from Saturday’s race in order to keep their hopes alive of running in the opening leg of the Triple Crown.

The closing day card at Oaklawn also includes the $750,000 Oaklawn Park Handicap for older horses. The mile and an eighth Grade 2 stakes drew an outstanding field that includes Santa Anita Handicap winner Melatonin (7-2).

Effinex, the 121-pound highweight who was third behind Melatonin in the Big ’Cap, is listed as the 2-1 morning line favorite in a field that also includes Razorback victor Upstart (7-2) and Gulfstream Park Handicap winner Blofeld (4-1).

The final Derby prep also takes place on Saturday in the form of the $150, 000 Lexington Stakes at Keeneland (4:59 p.m. post time).  A field of 10 is entered but each of them will need help above and beyond the race to crack the Derby field.

The Lexington offers only 10-4-2-1 points and Swipe has the most points among the 10 starters with 12. Even with a victory in the Lexington, the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile runner-up would be below the current cutoff of 32 points and would need defections from the top 20 in the standings or a field of less than 20 in order to run in the Derby.

Swipe, who has not raced since the Breeders’ Cup in October, is the 9-5 favorite in the Lexington, with Collected the 2-1 second choice.

Winner of a $400,000 stakes at Sunland Park in his last start, Collected is trained by none other than Baffert, who could be poised to have a big day on the last day before horse racing’s really big day.

No surprise there, eh?



By Shawn Rychling

We’re just a month out from the Kentucky Derby on May 7 at Churchill Downs in Louisville and this Saturday is the biggest day for Derby preps on the calendar with three races set to go off around the country.

We’ll take a look at all of those races, but first a look back at last Saturday’s Florida Derby and clash of undefeated Kentucky Derby hopefuls Nyquist and Mohaymen. Some early afternoon rain showers left the Gulfstream track a little wet and was perhaps the reason the long-awaited duel between Nyquist and Mohaymen never really got going.

Breaking from post 4 Nyquist got to the front and never really looked back shaking off Mohaymen at the ¼ pole and going on for the victory.  Mohaymen broke from post 9 and was kept in the clear but about 3- 4-wide around the track and was almost 5-wide on the far turn.  Perhaps that extra expense of energy and the wet track three of Mohaymen.

In the end, neither Mohaymen nor Nyquist was all that impressive as the winning speed figure was just a 94 while Mohaymen posted a lowly 80. So with that in mind the Florida Derby result makes this weekend’s all the more interesting as we try to separate the Kentucky Derby contenders from the pretenders.

One of the major preps will take place right here in New York at Aqueduct as NYRA hosts the 92nd running of the Wood Memorial with an interesting and talented field assembled.

The favorite is likely to be Shagaf who enters off an impressive win in the Gotham and is a perfect 3 for 3 in his career. Trainer Chad Brown is confident his horse will be better as the races get longer and he stretches out 1/16th of a mile for this race.

Two others to watch in here are Outwork and Matt King Coal. The former was very game to run second in the Tampa Bay Derby and Todd Pletcher turns him around to race here four weeks later. If he can win it will point him to Churchill Downs and gives us an even stronger positive view of Tampa Bay Derby winner Destin.  Matt King Coal has won his last two and hit the board in all four of his starts. He faces by far his toughest task, but the three 90-plus speed figures make him interesting as Linda Rice tries for a Derby entrant.

The Hot List gives you a longshot for the Wood in Adventist. His figures aren’t far off Shagaf who he lost to in the Gotham and the trips in his last two races haven’t been great. He could make some usual 3-year-old improvement in just his fourth career starts and be right in the mix at 10-1 in the morning line. And we’ll just mention Flexibility who has something to prove and is returning to main track which he prefers.

In Saturday’s other Derby preps, we’ll watch Zulu in the Blue Grass at Keeneland with Danzing Candy, Mor Spirit and Exaggerator. Get ready for a big day of racing as the results of last week’s Florida Derby have opened things up for the Kentucky Derby.

Remember, you can get all of our Aqueduct analysis on the Interbets site right here.



Top 3-year-old stars clash in Florida Derby

By Bob Ehalt

It’s not the Kentucky Derby, but it just might be the next best thing.

Nyquist, the undefeated champion from the West, versus Mohaymen, the undefeated challenger from the East.

A mile and an eighth test that will leave one of them sporting their first career loss – unless, of course, there’s a dead-heat – and crown the winner as the favorite to win the Kentucky Derby.

That’s what’s at stake on Saturday when an epic clash of the nation’s top two 3-year-olds takes place in the $1 million Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park.

“This is why you get up early and go to the barn, for opportunities like this. To have our colt No. 2 and Mohaymen No. 1 and have that matchup five weeks before the Kentucky Derby is awesome,” said Doug O’Neill, who trains Nyquist. “I think it’s awesome for the sport and exciting for all the connections.”

Paul Reddam’s Nyquist is indeed the division’s reigning 2-year-old champion but he has only raced once this year, taking the seven-furlong San Vicente at Santa Anita, and Shadwell Stable’s Mohaymen has moved to the top of most 3-year-old polls, based on two-turn victories in the Holy Bull and the Fountain of Youth, both at Gulfstream.

“It’s what it’s all about. You put the best with the best and you see who’s the best,” Rick Nichols, Shadwell’s U.S. racing manager, told the Thoroughbred Racing  Commentary website. “That’s the fun of (a race like the Florida Derby). (Shadwell owner Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum) is such a great sportsman and he enjoys that aspect of it so much, be it win, lose or draw. That’s what it’s all about.  Prove your product on the racetrack and then bring them home and breed them. It hasn’t changed for hundreds of years.

“It will be interesting to see how it turns out. I can understand (Nyquist’s) reason for coming. If they win, they get a million dollar bonus (for being purchased at the Ocala 2-year-old last year). If we win, we get a big smile on our face and that would be worth a million dollars to us. It’s (Mohaymen’s) home track, we have home field advantage. He obviously likes the track. He’s comfortable at the track and in the paddock. It’s all working so why make a change?”

With Mohaymen having more seasoning in 2016 and home track advantage, Shadwell’s $2.2 million yearling purchase was pegged at even money in the morning line, rating as a slight favorite over Nyquist, who was listed at 6-5.

As much as the Florida Derby has taken shape as a match race, eight other 3-year-olds will oppose the two undefeated rivals. The main threat among them appears to be Fellowship, who was third behind Mohaymen in both the Fountain of Youth and Holy Bull.

“He’s good. He’d better be doing good if he’s going to run against them,” said Stanley Gold, who trains Fellowship. “Obviously, we’ve got our work cut out for us. We’re running against the two best. I’m not going to look for a race somewhere else to avoid them. He gives us reason for optimism. We got beat by one of the top two twice, but he ran good.”

The Florida Derby has a 6:48 p.m. post time and caps a star-studded 14-race card with seven graded stakes.

The card also includes the  $150,000 Skip Away Stakes, $250,000 Gulfstream Park Oaks, $200,000 Appleton Stakes,  $200,000 Orchid Stakes, $300,000 Honey Fox Stakes and $200,000 Pan American Stakes.

It may be the first Saturday in April, but when the starting gates open in the Florida Derby, don’t be surprised if it feels more like May in Kentucky.



By Shawn Rychling

Just six weeks to go until the First Saturday in May and the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs in Louisville and the top contenders for this year’s Run for the Roses is beginning to shake itself out.

Last week it was trainer Bob Baffert throwing in with another hopeful when Cupid went wire-to-wire in winning the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park and remember that American Pharoah took the Arkansas path to Churchill Downs last spring.

This week, Fair Grounds will take center stage with the Grade-II Louisiana Derby which promises to be an entertaining and competitive race.

Leading the way is Gun Runner who returns after winning the Risen Star at Fair Grounds five weeks ago with an impressive stalking trip. The Candy Ride colt trained by Steve Asmussen has won 3 of 4 starts in his short career and makes only his second start as a 3-year-old on Saturday. Gun Runner has the rail and should get good stalking position as he allows some of the speed to run past him into the first turn.

Also back for more is Mo Tom who ran third to Gun Runner in the Risen Star and might have done better if not for having to check hard in the stretch. Mo Tom has 3 wins and 3 shows in 6 career starts, but the Uncle Mo offspring has a bad habit of falling too far behind and that is never good in these races with double-digit sized fields.

Forevamo is one of three Uncle Mo colts entered here and he was a surprising second in the Risen Star at 40-1 and may be hard pressed to duplicate that race starting from post 11.

Greenpointcrusader is the new shooter in New Orleans after running second to Mohaymen in the Holy Bull at Gulfstream. He has plenty of stamina pedigree on his father’s side, but has yet to win around two turns.  He may be overbet after that place against the Derby favorite, but if he wins it says a lot for him and Mohaymen.

A couple of longshots are worth a look in here.  First is Candy My Boy who led the Risen Star for nearly 7 furlongs before fading slightly to fourth. He has improved with each race and moving in six slots to the 5 post may help the cause as he was ridden hard to clear the field last time from post 11.

The other value horse to mention here is Dazzling Gem who is 2 for 2 in his short career, but improved significantly last time and goes out for trainer Brad Cox who is winning at a 35-percent clip at Fair Grounds.  The third career start is usually a horse’s best effort and this one has shown tactical speed which will help him in this field.

In the end we see this one as Candy My Boy going out to an easier than he had in the Risen Star and then waiting for stalkers like Greenpointcrusader and Gun Runner to take their shots with Mo Tom coming from the clouds.

We’ll go with the class pick as Greenpointcrusader runs down Candy My Boy followed by Gun Runner and Mo Tom.

Good luck to all this weekend and back in New York we have 9 horses entered for Saturday which is the only day of racing in New York this weekend as NYRA closes down for Easter Sunday.  And we wish all of you who observe it a Happy Easter as Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Remember, you can get all of our Aqueduct analysis on the Interbets site right here.



Correction heads Aqueduct card

By Bob Ehalt

The weather has been warmer. Clocks have been moved forward. But it’s still technically winter, and on Saturday at Aqueduct there’s a stakes that definitely fits into the January-February mold.

The $125,000 Correction tops the nine-race card at Aqueduct and it’s standard fare over the inner track. The six-furlong sprint attracted a field of only five, but three of them are logical contenders.

The favorite is Paulassilverlining, who was pegged at 6-5 in the morning line. She was a decisive winner of her last start, romping by 9 ¼ lengths in exceptionally fast time for Aqueduct’s inner track. After running third in a pair of stakes at Laurel off a seven-month layoff, the 4-year-old filly took that Feb. 11 allowance race in 1:10 2/5 for six furlongs, and the key question in regards to Saturday’s race is whether she will bounce off that big effort or turn in a similar performance in the Correction.

The second choice at 7-5 is Clothes Fell Off, who is coming off a runner-up finish in a stakes against tougher competition than Paulassilverlining faced. The 4-year-old filly finished second in the Grade 2 Barbara Fritchie and will be tough to beat if she runs equally well on Saturday. Overall, she has been either first (three times) or second (six) in 10 career starts, though she enters the Correction in search of her first stakes victory.

Their main competition will most likely come from Willet (5-1), an 8-year-old New York State-bred mare with multiple stakes wins and $853,400 in career earnings. The daughter of Jump Start usually does her best running in the final furlongs, a style that usually does not translate well to the inner track. Yet in six starts over the Big A’s winter-time surface, she has compiled a record of three wins, a second and two thirds.

Shaping up as an interesting longshot is Momameamaria (12-1), who will try to rebound after finishing nearly 16 lengths behind Paulassilverlining in that Feb. 11 allowance race. Her lone appearance in a stakes was a 10th-place finish in the Grade 2 Forward Gal back in Jan. 2015, but in three races against Clothes Fell Off she beat that rival twice, including a Dec. 17 allowance race t Aqueduct.

She shapes up as the likely pacesetter in the six-furlong race, and if the Feb. 11 race was merely a glitch she could be tough to catch in a small field.

My Savannah Belle captured the Xtra Heat Stakes in her last start, but that came nearly a year ago, on March 21, and though she has been working sharply of late, she might not be ready for stakes competition after such a long layoff.

Looking ahead, once spring arrives, the big day at Aqueduct is April 9 when New York’s definitive Kentucky Derby prep, the Grade 1 Wood Memorial, heads an impressive card with four other stakes: the Grade 1 Carter, Grade 2 Gazelle, Grade 3 Bay Shore and Grade 3 Excelsior.



By Shawn Rychling

What a week of spring and sometimes near-summer like weather we have enjoyed here in the Northeast and it makes us think of those August days at the foot of the Adirondacks in Saratoga…oh…well…back to reality as we are still in March with the official first day of spring still more than a week from now – and still 132 days until Saratoga opens.

And we have plenty of racing between now and Saratoga as the Kentucky Derby beckons just eight short weeks from now.  New York was a focal point for the Run for the Roses last week as the Derby Trail wound through New York as Aqueduct hosted some top 3-year-olds in the Gotham Stakes.

It shaped up as competitive race as Withers winner Sunny Ridge was sent out with Adventist – the bad-trip show horse from that race.  He was joined by new shooter Shagaf who came in at 2 for 2 in his short career for Chad Brown.

And it was an interesting race among those three and a longshot that set the pace over a speed biased track.

It was Laoban, the longshot, who was hustled to the lead into the clubhouse turn and held it through honest fractions. Sunny Ridge stalked closest of the top four finishers and took a run at the leader drawing even at the quarter pole before giving way late in the stretch.

Shagaf and jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr. had saved ground deftly running along the biased rail before pulling out wide after the ¼ pole and brushing with Adventist who had fought his way through traffic to rally wide.

Shagaf outran Adventist and then bore down on the leaders, running past them in final 1/16th to get the victory. Laoban took advantage of the rail bias to hold the place while Adventist finished up well after a troubled trip to get third.  Sunny Ridge faded to fourth which may confirm his connections’ reticence to stamp their own horse as a major Derby contender.

Shagaf had come in 2 for 2 in short career for Chad Brown and this was a nice victory, but it came in a slow final time. He is unbeaten, but needs to improve in the Wood to be a major Derby threat.  But watch out for this one as the summer progresses.

Adventist would be the other horse to watch in here.  He really had troubled trips in both the Withers and Gotham so we may like the value he provides at this level going forward and should be favored on any drop in class.

A couple of nice Derby preps this weekend with Mor Spirit facing Exaggerator in the San Felipe at Santa Anita and Brody’s Cause headlining the Tampa Bay Derby.

Back at Aqueduct, the Hot List will have picks and analysis for Saturday and Sunday racing, and you can get all of that on the Interbets site right here.

And don’t forget to set your clocks ahead Saturday night!



Sunny Ridge vs. Shadwell’s Shagaf in Gotham

By Bob Ehalt

It might not be Mohaymen vs. Nyquist.

We’ll have to wait until the Florida Derby on April 2 for that epic showdown.

Yet on Saturday afternoon over Aqueduct’s inner track, an undefeated Shadwell Stable runner will face a top Triple Crown contender.

Only in this instance it will be Shadwell’s Shagaf, who is a perfect 2-for-2, tackling Sunny Ridge and six other rivals in the $400,000 Gotham Stakes.

Trained by Chad Brown, Shagaf, the 3-1 morning-line favorite, will be making his stakes debut after breaking his maiden by six lengths on Aqueduct’s main track and registering a two-length score at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 29.

“He flew up (to New York) yesterday and he has been adjusting well since he’s arrived,” Brown said. “He has good positional speed and I’m sure (Jockey Irad Ortiz Jr.) will place him where he needs to be during the race.”

While much more will be known about Shagaf after Saturday’s litmus test in the mile and a sixteenth Grade 3 stakes, Sunny Ridge (7-2) has a heavy dose of stakes seasoning. When last seen, he was victorious in the Grade 3 Jerome over the Big A’s inner track, which enhanced a record that was already solid.

In the Jerome, Sunny Ridge not only beat fellow Gotham starter Adventist (4-1), who was third, but also Flexibility, who was fourth in the Jerome after finishing second to Mohaymen in his two previous races. It also represented a nice step forward after runner-up finishes in the Grade 3 Delta Downs Jackpot and Grade 1 Champagne, and a victory on Saturday would boost his stock as a leading contender for … the Preakness.

Yes, at a time of year when most horsemen contract Kentucky Derby fever, Sunny Ridge’s owner, Dennis Drazin, and trainer, Jason Servis, are quite willing to avoid Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May regardless of how their son of Holy Bull fares in his next few races.

“The game plan right now is skip the Derby, run in the Preakness and Belmont, give him a break, and then run in the Haskell (at Monmouth Park),” said Drazin, who is a key adviser to the group that operates Monmouth, “Everyone wants to know what’s next, but first he’s got to run on Saturday. I think he’ll get 1 ¼ miles, 1 ½ miles. He’s a gelding, and hopefully he’ll have a long career. He could be a horse who runs until he’s eight or nine, so you want to make sure you don’t press him. Jason feels the horse will tell us what he’s capable of.”

The field includes other intriguing contenders in Rally Cry (5-1), who had a rough trip while finishing third behind Shagaf in the Gulfstream allowance race, Conquest Big E (6-1), who ships in from Florida after finishing fourth behind Mohaymen in the Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream, and Mo Power (6-1), who is coming off a maiden win at Gulfstream.

Longshots Laoban (10-1), who was third in the Sham Stakes at Santa Anita, and Vincento (20-1) round out the field.

The Gotham, with a 4:50 p.m. post time, is one of two stakes on the 10-race card, joining the $150,000 Heavenly Prize for older fillies and mares. Cali Star, coming off a runner-up finish in the Grade 3 Houston Ladies Classic, is the 8-5 favorite in the mile and a sixteenth test.



By Shawn Rychling

With such a mild and nearly snow-free winter, it’s hard to believe we are almost to the end of February. And as spring nears we are that much closer to this year’s Kentucky Derby.

The First Saturday in May falls on the 7th in 2016 – the latest it can be – and as usual we have a wide open Kentucky Derby as we look at it from about 10 weeks out.

Right now, I’d have to say there are three groups of contenders.  The top group, in my opinion, has just one horse and that’s Mohaymen. He has won all four starts in his career and blew away the field in the Holy Bull last month in his three-year-old debut.  He is the favorite as of now and alone in that group. Mohaymen is set to run Saturday in the Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream and we’ll have more on that later.

The second group has the undefeated Nyquist and the once-beaten Mor Sprit, who are a notch below Mohaymen at this time.

The third group contains everyone else and after last week’s Risen Star stakes at Fair Grounds a pair of horses have bubbled up to the top of that group for now. Gun Runner won the race and did so coming off a layoff since finishing fourth in the Kentucky Jockey Club in November at Churchill. He won by stalking some legit speed, taking over at the 1/8th pole and holding off a couple of closers.

One of those closers was Mo Tom, who came in off a win in a January 3YO stakes at Fair Grounds.  He looks like a quality horse after having to weave through traffic and check hard at the 3/16th pole as he was trying to slip through on the rail.  Unaffected he continued to run on for the show.

Two other longshots may be worth noting and they are Forevamo who closed into a sharp pace to get second at 40-1. He may be a late bloomer for Al Stall and is another colt by Uncle Mo whose progeny seem to be everywhere of late. The other is Candy My Boy who the Hot List touted going into the race.  He set a solid pace after getting used hard early from post 13 and faded only slightly to finish fourth just 2 ¼ links off the lead.  The wide post was tough on this horse, but he was game coming in off two wins in just a maiden and optional claimer.

As for this week’s big prep, Mohaymen will be the heavy favorite in the Fountain of Youth. He is 4 for 4 in his career and should be able to sit comfortably behind a three-way speed duel up front. Awesome Banner, fastest of Mohaymen’s rivals, may get away from the other speedsters, but may also scratch and run in the Tampa Bay Derby in two weeks. Going in it’s only a 6-horse field which kind of tells you the respect Mohaymen has and we’ll see if he can keep his perfect record intact.

Back at Aqueduct, the Hot List will have picks and analysis for Saturday and Sunday racing, and you can get all of that on the Interbets site right here.

And don’t forget, we have only 146 days until the opener at Saratoga!



State-bred fillies clash in Big A’s Franklin Square

By Bob Ehalt

There’s a stakes for 3-year-olds at Aqueduct on Saturday, but don’t expect to see any of the six starters on the first Friday in May at Churchill Downs.

The day’s featured $125,000 Franklin Square may be for 3-year-olds, but it’s a sprint stakes restricted to fillies bred in New York State and has attracted the type of cast one would expect to find on the Big A’s inner track in February – with a few exceptions.

The 7-5 favorite is an exciting, undefeated young runner named Clipthecouponannie from the barn of perennial Eclipse Award-winning trainer Todd Pletcher.

While the Franklin Square will mark Clipthecouponannie’s stakes debut, she has been unchallenged in her first two starts. She won her career debut by 4 ¾ lengths and then romped by five lengths in an allowance race on Jan. 28.

Irad Ortiz Jr. will be aboard owner Mike Repole’s homebred daughter of Uncle Mo.

Right behind her, the 8-5 second choice is Frosty Margarita, who has proven to be a tigress in the state-bred ranks. In seven career starts, all against state-breds, she has never been worse than second and owns a three-race winning streak.

When last seen, she was prevailing in the Maddie May Stakes by a nose at a distance of a mile and 70 yards.

On Saturday, she’ll cut back to six furlongs, the same distance she won at in her two previous starts, a New York Stallion Series stakes and the Key Cents Stakes.

Adding to intrigue is another undefeated runner, Wonderment. While she is also 2-for-2, she has not raced since capturing the Lynbrook Stakes on July 19 at Belmont Park. Whether she will be razor sharp after a 7-month layoff is a big question mark, though she has been training nicely at Oaklawn Park in recent weeks for her 3-year-old debut.

The field of six is rounded out by a trio of longshots, Absatootly (8-1), who was 21 ½ lengths behind Frosty Margarita in the Maddie May, Stones of Navarone (15-1) and Red Atlantic (30-1).

Next Saturday, a more traditional 3-year-old stake will be on tap at Aqueduct with the $400,000 Gotham Stakes.

The mile-and-a-sixteenth test is part of the Road to the Kentucky Derby series with the winner getting 50 points, which should lock up a spot for that runner in the Run for the Roses.



By Shawn Rychling

Greetings from all of us here at the New York Hot List and welcome to winter!  We hope you can stay warm in this weekend’s deep freeze and we wonder how many Aqueduct cards will become victims of the cold temperatures.  There is a special Monday card scheduled for the Presidents’ Day holiday so we’ll wait and see.  Have to figure Saturday will go off as planned with Sunday and Monday up in the air. Stay tuned!

The cold won’t be an issue in Southern California as Santa Anita prepares for the 3-year-old debut of one of the top contenders for this year’s Kentucky Derby.

Santa Anita is where the undefeated Nyquist will run in the San Vicente Stakes in his first start since he overcame an impossible trip to win the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile in October.

Interesting that connections are starting him here in a one-turn race at just 7 furlongs, but it reflects some old-school thinking by trainer Doug O’Neill as he builds up the Uncle Mo colt to longer distances along the Derby trail. The 2-year-old champion has a Grade II and three Grade I wins under his belt and all eyes will be on him on Monday at Santa Anita.

The Santa Anita track can favor speed, and Nyquist will have to stay close – which he has done in the past.  An interesting speedster entered here is Malibu Sunset.  Unraced at 2, the Bob Baffert colt won his debut by 10 lengths at Fair Grounds just two weeks ago. He ran off quickly despite a bump at the start and was geared down in the stretch.  He is a late bloomer and with Baffert you never know what his Derby plans are so this one may still be a contender and is bred for distance from classic-winning sire Bernardini.

One other Derby contender will go in the San Vicente and that is Exaggerator. He is 3 for 6 lifetime and was fourth to Nyquist in BC Juvenile before winning the Delta Jackpot by a neck over a good horse in Sunny Ridge who returned to win the Withers at Aqueduct two weeks ago. The San Vicente is shaping up to be an interesting race with three horses looking for a ticket to another Derby prep.

Back at Aqueduct, the Hot List is coming off a week in which we gave out 9 winners from 35 starters for a 26 percent winning percentage. On Saturday the Hot List has 11 horses entered for Saturday with an interesting value pair of Fox Rules and Good Luck Gus in the featured 8th race stakes. So enjoy your Saturday and you can get our picks and analysis for Aqueduct on the Interbets site right here.

As for Sunday and Monday, we’ll have to wait to see if the frigid temperatures force NYRA to cancel.

Here is something to warm you up this weekend: Just 160 days until the opener at Saratoga!



Keen Ice faces some heat in Donn

By Bob Ehalt

While fans will no longer be treated to the racetrack brilliance of American Pharoah, memories of a horse who was the 12th Triple Crown winner as well as the first Grand Slam winner will be resurrected on Saturday.

Donegal Racing’s Keen Ice, who beat American Pharoah in the mile and a quarter Travers at Saratoga, heads a field of eight in the $500,000 Donn Handicap at Gulfstream Park.

The only horse to finish ahead of American Pharoah in 2015, Keen Ice was installed as the 5-2 favorite in the mile and an eighth Grade 1 stakes that will serve as the 13th and final race of a busy, stakes-filled day at Gulfstream (5:53 p.m. post).

“I feel like this is his year,” trainer Dale Romans said about Keen Ice. “I think he could be as good a handicap horse as there is in the country.”

The 121-pound highweight, Keen Ice will give away between three and seven pounds to his rivals in a race that does not exactly suit his closing style in regards to the nine-furlong distance and a Gulfstream surface that can often be kind to speed horses.

There’s also the question of intent hovering over the favorite. As much as a victory in the Donn would enhance Keen Ice’s resume – and beef up his owners’ wallets – the Donn is also serving as a prep for Keen Ice’s planned start in the $10 million Dubai World Cup.

Considering what’s ahead, and how the 4-year-old has not raced since a one-length loss in the nine-furlong Grade 1 Clark at Churchill Downs on Nov. 27, there’s a good chance Romans may not have the son of two-time Horse of the Year Curlin primed for a top effort.

“We’ll pretty much go to Dubai either way,” Romans said. “For his first time out (in 2016), we’re not going to fault him if he doesn’t run his best. The way he’s training, I’m expecting some big races out of him.”

While Keen Ice is the lone Grade 1 winner on dirt in the field, he will face a salty group of challengers who could get the first jump on him if he does not stay closer to the pace than usual.

Topping that list is Mshawish (7-2), a Grade 1 winner on turf who switched over to the main track for the first time for his last two starts. Most recently he captured the Grade 3 Hal’s Hope t Gulfstream at a flat mile and lost by a length and a quarter to Tonalist in the Grade 1 Cigar Mile at Aqueduct.

The added distance of the Donn should not be a major hurdle for Mshawish based on his victory in the nine-furlong Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap last year.

Another major threat is Valid, who finished a neck behind Mshawish in the Hal’s Hope. Listed at 6-1 in the morning line, the 6-year-old horse loves Gulfstream, as evidenced by a record of six wins and three seconds in 12 starts at the Florida oval, and should have a big say in the final outcome.

Mshawish is one of three uncoupled Todd Pletcher-trained starters in the Donn. Joining him are stablemates Madefromlucky, who finished three-quarters of a length behind Valid in the Harlan’s Holiday at Gulfstream in December, and Itsaknockout, who was ninth in last year’s Kentucky Derby but returned from a seven-month layoff to capture an allowance race in impressive fashion last month.

The field also features Closing Bell (15-1), a stakes winner on turf who posted his maiden win on dirt, Mexikoma (8-1), who was last seen winning the $250,000 Sunshine Millions Classic at Gulfstream, and Financial Modeling (10-1), who won the Queens County at Aqueduct in December.

The Donn is positioned as the closing act in a stellar card that also features the $350,000 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap in race 12, with 4-5 favorite The Pizza Man, the $75,000 Ladies Turf Sprint in race four, $100,000 Grade 3 Fred W. Hooper in race five, the Grade 3 $150,000 Suwannee River in race six, and the $75,000 Gulfstream Park Turf Sprint in race 10.

In California, 3-year-olds will try to move a step closer to the Kentucky Derby through strong showings in the $150,000 Robert B. Lewis at Santa Anita on Saturday.

Points in the Road to the Kentucky Derby series will be allocated on a 10-4-2-1 basis to the first four finishers.

Heading the field is Mor Spirit, the 8-5 favorite who ended 2015 by winning the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Futurity for trainer Bob Baffert. Prior to that, Mor Spirit was second in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill Downs and already is eighth on the Road to the Kentucky Derby list with 14 points.

The 5-2 second choice in the mile and a sixteenth test is the undefeated I Will Score who is making his stakes debut for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer of Shared Belief fame.

The race also features the Baffert-trained Let’s Meet in Rio (6-1), who was a fast-closing second in the Sham at a mile, Dressed in Hermes (6-1), a graded stakes winner on turf, and Uncle Lino (5-1), who was a pair of heads behind I Will Score last time out.



By Shawn Rychling

Hard to believe but after a brief cold snap and huge snowstorm we are getting a bit of a January thaw here on the east coast.  That is a welcome relief and something we never saw last winter at all.

As we get some warm weather this week we‘ll dive right into the prep races for this year’s Kentucky Derby with Aqueduct home to a big race Saturday – the 136th running of the Withers. Meanwhile, down