Weekly Update 7-1-2020

It was an entertaining weekend of racing for the ‘capper, albeit not a profitable one.   Took a beating at the windows, as I had a ton of multi-race sequences but couldn’t squarely connect.

Most Impressive- Tom’s D’Etat – right now to me, old tom is the best horse in training, and was faster than the ultra impressive Midnight Bisou a race before.   I think we may get the chance to see them match up at some point.

Mean Mary has run perhaps the two best races I have seen this year.  She keeps getting dismissed as a ‘speed horse’ but I think what most are overlooking is that great horses run fast.  She’s on the lead because she’s so fast  . . . and hasn’t stopped yet.

He’s back – Firenze Fire cashed in at short odds in the True North.  It wasn’t a field of world beaters, so I would hesitate to put him right at the top of the sprint ranks, but he certainly rates a call as it looks as though the trainer change has not been a significant obstacle.

Over the Top ?    I’m done with Serengeti Empress as a serious win contender.  I’m sure there’s a race she can win somewhere, (which may be at 7F, and/or against less that G1 G2 quality), but I won’t be backing her when she does.  Clearly she was at her best on Oaks day last year when we scored out in the exacta, but I have given too much of that back on her since.

Next Time is the Time:   By My Standards got at best a mediocre trip in the Stephen Foster loss to Tom’s D’Etat.  No shame in losing to the top one, but was 3-4 wide on both turns.  Lanerie subbed for Gabe Saez this time.  I’ll wait for Gabe to get aboard, and will give By My Standards another good look, as he is just behind Tom’s D’Etat and in the conversation for top older horses.   Uni is another one to watch – she may have needed the start for fitness, and couldn’t catch stablemate Newspaperofrecord.   I’d like Uni better at a two turn mile than the winner.

The Ohio Derby looked ripe for chaos, and didn’t disappoint with the Amoss claimer winning.   I didn’t go deep enough there, and busted out of the XC P5 in the opening leg.  I had a couple of playbacks not run well enough, and the big disappointment was Stunning Sky.  Overall I think the Maker barn is cycling down in the moment . . . perhaps later this summer.

The Future is Now

I waded back in on The Kentucky Derby futures, looking for what I believe will be overlaid prices come derby day.  I’m trying to turn a toothpick into a lumberyard.  (I’ll also admit an unnatural fascination with the future bets, but I think there’s also a bit of method to my madness).

With Tiz The Law’s big win in the Belmont, he’s now pretty clearly overbet in every market.    Even as the most likely winner, who wants to take 9/5 in a 20-horse race, especially when there’s three months between now and him actually getting in the gate.

Go west, young man, is the fable of the Horace Greeley story, and exactly what we will do in looking for a nugget of gold.   Honor AP ended up the second choice at 6-1, but even that price wasn’t attractive – but some of the exactas were.   I part wheeled Honor AP with Cezanne, Tiz The Law, Thousand Words, King Guillermo, Dr Post And Basin – essentially the list of remaining contenders that I think are really suited to get the 10 furlongs of the derby.   I’m very confident Honor AP will relish it … and a little luck underneath with have me skipping to the window afterwards.

I placed a straight win bet on Thousand Words.    Perhaps the forgotten horse in the baffert barn after the Oaklawn debacle, he’s been training forwardly at Santa Anita, and is slated to run in the Los Al derby next weekend.  A big run there vaults him solidly back into the picture (and likely the derby starting gate.) he’s bred to get the distance, his grinding style can play at 10f, and he’ll be pounded at the window in the remains pools with a Los Al win.    I saw a 100-1 in Vegas on him a few weeks ago.   Anything close to that at your book is value.

I also have a little Tiz, Thousand Words, Guillermo box – the two really overpriced horses suited for the distance.

But as they say, you can’t eat value.   I’m likely done with the future plays for this year, but I’m confident I’ve created a hand that I’ll look forward to leveraging either for or against on derby day – whenever that may be.



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Up Is Down, Black is White !  Work in Progress Kentucly Derby Rankings, Part 2

Well #2020 applies here, as the jumbled up triple crown trail has opened and closed many doors for contenders.  #1A Charlatan is injured and #2 Nadal has been retired.  Maxfield was set to go to #1 on the list, bit then abruptly was injured.

A less-than-impressive group will be gathering this weekend for the shortened 1-1/8th mile Belmont Stakes, which will hit leadoff on this year’s triple crown trail.  This however, is still a Kentucky Derby ranking, so we look a couple months down the road, and what happens this weekend will inform our next rankings.

The clear-cut number 1 horse at this point is Tiz The Law.  He appears to tower over this Belmont Field this weekend and is anywhere from 6/5 in the morning line to -190 off track.

  1. Honor A.P. – The Santa Anita Derby was just the return race we wanted to see. Moved past Authentic nicely in the stretch, and would appear to relish the further strtechout. He’s very close to Tiz the Law in my mind.
  2. Authentic – His Santa Anita Derby wasn’t terrible, and may have been a productive prep race. I’m not sure that 9 furlongs isn’t his limit, but with a better pace scenario he’s still a major contender and favored over those below in H2H
  3. King Guillermo – Still hasn’t done anything wrong, waiting to see where he shows up next.
  4. Mark my Thousand Words – he resurfaced with a bullet 58 and change workout at Santa Anita last week. He has a pedigree that’s screaming to go long, the last race is a throwout with a stumble at the start. I saw him listed at 100-1 at Circa in Las Vegas and I’m about to hop on a plane.

Honorable mentions include Sole Volante, who could move way up with a big Belmont – the one turn should suit him perfectly, Basin, who needs some slight improvement to be among the best, and Ete Indien, who I believe will win some races this summer, but may ultimately need shorter than 1-1/4 or grass. I have been hopeful that we would see Structor on the dirt, but he’s still only in what appears to be light training, though there is still enough time for a 2-preps to the Derby campaign.  The last one I will mention is Gouverneur Morris, who’s bred for the 10 furlongs and could possibly out grind whoever is left come September.

Belmont Stakes card picks will be posted by Saturday morning.

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Easy Game, Really

Spendthrift and MyRacehorse’s Lane Way looks to break his maiden today in the ninth at Santa Anita Park.  Well bred and well meant, he’s run a couple of speed figs in the 80s and 90s, so he should be a lock today, right.

Not so fast my friend.  Lane Way draws into a field that includes Bob Baffert’s American Code, a firster from American Pharoah/Harmony Lodge, who’s been well touted to date.

So here’s who Lane Way has caught.  In his debut – Nadal.  Race 2 – Charlatan  Race 3 – Shooters Shoot (who was second to Charlatan in the previous race) and now American Code.

Easy game, really  . . .

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… And, we’re back

It has been an interesting few weeks in the world. From a handicapping perspective, Tampa Bay Downs and Oaklawn Park became a bigger part of my play than they ever have. But now it looks like we will have more tracks opening up later this week.

The break from the world has allowed me to watch more races than usual while “working” from home. A couple of thoughts. It hasn’t been that hard to pick up on the new circuits and trends (particularly considering that there’s nothing else to play). A few sessions of $2 win/place and exacta box betting has been enough to lock in on some trends at each track.

Oaklawn favored speed, though the rail and middle have alternated being good; speed bias seems to fade a bit as the day wears on.

Tampa plays very fair on both the dirt and the turf. I have always enjoyed Tampa on the Turf – big fields, and now some bigger name trainers wintering there. In the cheaper races you can find some hidden turf form and pedigrees.

I’ve even taken a couple of little pokes at Fonner and Will Rogers. Took a shot at the big Tom Dinsdale Pick 5 at Fonner, but I’d have had better luck playing Russian Roulette. Playing horses that cheap is much more about appearance and paddock picks to me; my math and other angles fall apart below 10 grand and 50 on the Beyer scale. Below that ‘form’ is a very abstract concept.

While it’s been good to branch out, I’m still looking forward to Belmont and Saratoga, if they can get up and running. Those are the two best meets of the year in my book.

Though next winter, my book will likely expand to more Tampa and Oaklawn when possible – a big “thank you” to them for keeping running and keeping me entertained (and out of the kitchen !)


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Anatomy of a Winner


My handicapping includes many angles.  Day to day, I use the Daily Racing Form as my primary source of data, and I feel the Beyer Speed Figures are still the best tool in the box.  Pace, bias, jockey/trainer, workouts and more are all considered.

But by far, my best handicapping angle are my playbacks (or horse watch, or black book horses, whichever you prefer).

Here’s the anatomy of a recent success.

The race is Race 6 at Gulfstream Park on May 3, 2020.

You may note, I gave this play out for free on my twitter feed a @Turfcapper I’m not a tout per say, but I do like to demonstrate my wares on occasion.

The winner was TOURNESOL (which means sunflower en francais, if you’re wondering).

Here’s my exact trip note from the prevous race – the grammar and style may be choppy at times as the goal is to get them logged, and the shorthand I understand.

Your comments for this horse were: Fanned wide bumped wrapped up GP 3-22-2020 lebron/ Saffie 8f turf oc 50 look for jock upgrade

The trip above can be found at here, but you’ll see the bump completely took the horse off stride and once that occurred, Victor Lebron took good care and piloted Tournesol home safely.  He was moving well before the bump.

The alert came in for this Sunday’s race, and I started salivating.  The checklist:

Runs back in a timely fashion, which rules out injury

No trainer change ?  Check

Jockey Upgrade:  While there is nothing wrong with Victor Lebron, he’s not one of Saffie Joseph’s go-to riders, which indicated to me they were probably giving Tournesol a race for fitness in March, as did the trip that day; wide move –  if he happened to win, great, if not, he’d get a good long hard run to tighten up.   Tyler Gafflalione, who IS a go-to jock for Saffie was named on the horse.  Tyler took sick and was off his mounts mid card.  Imagine the luck to find Irad Ortiz, Jr. without a ride – a double jock upgrade.  What jock the trainer uses can be a strong positive (or negative) indicator. Sometimes there will be some poker played, by Occam’s Razor applies.

Scan the PP’s: Comes back on turf at a similar distance and class, so no fears there.  A check of the PP’s also indicated Secretariat (or no other known monster) entered in this race – so all systems go there.  (A monster opponent wouldn’t take me off the bet, but it may limit it to a smaller play, the upside of beating a big favorite exists and the payout would be commensurate).  If the condition and jockey/trainer are right, it’s pretty much an autobet for me, unless . . . .

Post Time Odds:  Not a strong determinant in my play, unless it dips below 4/5.  We’re here to make money, not win a beauty contest.   The #3 Horse, Toffen was bet hard late, a bit of a pleasant surprise as Tournesol drifts from 5/2 to 4-1 by the time the gate opens.

Standard Bet:   1 unit to win; 1.6 units to place.  Play to your comfort level.  Made a secondary bet, small doubles into Tournesol from the previous race, with my three preferred selections in the fifth race, singled to Tournesol in the 6th.

The Result:   A well-ridden and well-timed trip from Irad, who kept the horse inside until sneaking out at the top of the lane, rallying strongly for the win.    $10.00 win, $4.00 place, $20.70 exacta for a buck.  Let’s go to the window and #CashIt

The Chart:  Available at http://www.equibase.com/static/chart/pdf/GP050320USA6.pdf


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‘Work in Progress’ Kentucky Derby Rankings

With four full months to the Kentucky Derby, here’s my new ‘Work in Progress” Derby rankings.  Eventually I hope to expand this to several other categories, including Handicap, Distaff, Sprint, Turf, and 2-yo rankings, that I’ll update as the big races occur.

With the Arkansas Derby in the bag, and a trepidatious route through Churchill’s planned spring meet, here we go.

  1. Charlatan – I liked the front running score in the Arkansas Derby division. Did exactly what was expected and asked of him, won by a distance. I’m a bit surprised the Beyer came back a little light, but let’s be honest – who did much running behind him

1a. Tiz The Law – Again, has passed every test so far.  Fits on speed numbers.  Read Barclay is going to take him to the Matt Winn, which would hopefully let us see how he handles a fast Churchill track, and seems like they aren’t going to ask him to do to much before the Derby.

  1. Nadal – nothing wrong with the result in his division of the Arkansas Derby. May be flattered when we see the others, particularly King Guillermo, next time out.
  2. Authentic – Again, has answered every test. Would like to see a little more seasoning and prove he’ll get the distance
  3. King Guillermo – This was a pretty good plan B
  4. Basin – Not giving up on him yet . . . was game best of rest in defeat  . .  let’s see what the next couple months bring.

Others to Watch:  Honor AP (needs to get a race in ); Thousand Words (excusing his last with the stumble); Sole Velante (flattered by King Guillermo); Ete Indien (will give him a chance to bounce back from the foot injury); Structor (will he ever run again  . . .  how about on dirt ?)

#KyDerby #KyDerby2020

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Florida Derby

Have done less advance work on the card than planned, but in the Flordia Derby I’ll be taking a shot at Gouvenor Morris, if we get 6-1 or better.

On paper, Tiz The Law should be the best, but with the lone 100 beyer last time being a new top for him, and at a probable 6-5 price, I’d like to see him prove it with another win.

The disparity in last race beyers (87 for GM, 100 for TTL) isn’t overcomable if one of them proves to be a bit off.   GM has a nice improving pattern, and should be set up to run something in the 90s, and any regression, or even traffic trouble for TTL could be the difference.

Lots to be decided today, as Ete Indien can further stamp himself, though he’ll have to overcome the outside post again, and Independence Hall’s last race looks better on paper than video.

Still, win and place bets on Gouvernor Morris, and will use him in the picks alongside Tiz The Law.

Any other brilliant ideas will be on the Twitter feed. Let’s Cash !


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Quarantine Thoughts

TampaBayDownsIt’s been a weird few weeks in the world, and as a handicapper it’s also an odd time amid the indictments of Servis and Navarro, and the spate of track closures.  We don’t know day to day who is running tomorrow, so it’s been tough to get in a handicapping rhythm.  I’ll post later with some plays on the Florida Derby card at Gulfstream Park, but with a mandatory pick 6 payout Saturday, I wouldn’t hold my breath that they will be running on Sunday.

Meanwhile, I was in Florida for a few days business when the world started to shut down.  My schedule got jumbled up, and with a free day on Friday, I finally had the chance to get over to Tampa Bay Downs the Friday before they closed to patrons.

Gotta say, I loved it.  What a nice facility.  From the people at the front door, to the program seller, to the waitress and the ticket takers, everyone was more than nice, very friendly folks.  While I’m sure the impending shut down may have played into it, it was a refreshing atmosphere compared to the grim folks you find some other places.     It seems a perfect facility size for day to day racing, and while I don’t know how recently the interior has been renovated, its centainly clean and modern.

I have loved playing the turf course there on the simulcast for years.  With an interesting mix of pedigrees and some low priced races on the turf, I think you can find some value plays with turf and hidden turf pedigrees.

So Tampa Bay Downs, loved it, and I’ll be back.   Will effort a Tampa Bay Derby weekend with some friends in the future.

Meanwhile, I’ve taken to watching what’s left on TVG, Fairgrounds until it closed.  Made bets at Will Rogers Downs and Fonner Park yesterday.  Couldn’t find them on a map.   Working from home with a lot of TVG in the background.

Going to dig in on the Gulfstream Card for tomorrow.  In this time of uncertainty, I’m going to give a little extra attention to these races.  Kurt Hoover on TVG has often said that these million-dollar races are goals in themselves – that’s never been more true than this year, where the Arkansas Derby may be the premier race of the spring !

A final thought.  I have long advocated for, and enjoyed playing Kentucky Derby Future wagers.  It’s a fun way to track the horses through the road to the derby, and a chance to create some wagering leverage for yourself on Derby day.   However, I think Churchill Downs is COMPLETELY missing the mark by not refunding those wagers in light of the event moving to September.  Literally the terms of the bet were for the race on the first Saturday in May.  It would show good faith for the bets to be refunded, and if they simply offered new pools for the September race, as bettors we would likely roll over most of the money bet into the new pools.    Now I’m not sure how much handle I will direct Churchill’s way, and I’ll be dashing off a letter to the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission later today.




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2019 Recap


After a Dow Jones year (up and down) I’m going to end up booking a small loss for the year, largely based on some terrible and arbitrary play late in the year.

As the year dwindles out tonight, I realize that my playback list also dwindled as we got past the Breeders’ Cup.  This is likely natural, as I do focus on Belmont and Saratoga, so it tends to get robust in the summer time.  On the other hand, I don’t think i have been too skeptical in finding trips and horses to play back, i just don’t think there have been that many.

I made plenty of resolutions a couple of years ago, most of which apply today.

I’m happy with the playbacks.  I’m happy to write in a less-touty manner.  I need to write more often.  In need to handicap off of the form more often, and less quick-capping jockey-trainer combinations.

My theme for 2020 will be “A Beautiful Grind.”

1. I’m going to embrace (even more) the job of tracking trips, and logging them into my stable notes (this clearly slipped late in the year).

2. I’m going to lock in more at my regular and more profitable tracks and try not to get to scattered.

3. I’m going to pound my win/place play backs, because you have to make them pay you when you win.  If anything, I probably under-bet my playbacks.  I need to be sure these are the focus of my bankroll.

4. I solemnly swear i will quick-cap far fewer pick 4s and pick 5s , and that when i do, this money will be a smaller percentage of my play.  The Pick 4 and 5s that I do play will clearly include more (or better) singles, and will have clearly identified a vulnerable favorite or two.

5.  I will split my bankroll into two separate ADWs to better track the playback play and isolate that bankroll.

There you go, the resolutions for 2020.

A few notes from Santa Anita’s opening day Saturday, which turned into a tremendous card with the cancellation on Thursday and Friday.  I haven’t seen the handle numbers, but i could clearly get behind the concept of a big festival day over the Christmas break week – hope it was as good for them as an operator as it was for us as fans and bettors.

Brill looked really good with the hood off on the grass.  Not the classiest group she beat, but perhaps she’s found a home.

Gift Box was as good as previously advertised off the long layoff.  King Abner ran a creditable second and should be very contentious at the G2/3 and Listed stakes levels if spotted well. Phil D’Amato seems to do an excellent job of ambitiously spotting his horses when they are ready to run well – an angle to keep an eye on !

My girl Bellafina may have needed that race off a slight break from the BC, and Victor Espinoza replaced Flavien Prat for the day, and Victor did her no favors going at it hammer and tongs right from the gate.

Tiny Tina is going to jump up and win a good stakes this year.

Omaha Beach is the man.  Damn shame if he’s retired after the Pegasus.  I nailed the tri in that race, and it paid $31.20 with Manny Wah running third. I think that’s a strategy i may implement a bit more when you have such a decisive favorite.  Take a stand underneath and pound it.

Multiple playback Originaire beat me again, running second (and of course, no place bet (9.60) this time.  His style may rarely win, but he picks up a lot of checks.

Hope everyone has a healthy, happy and fruitful 2020 !   Let’s cash some tickets !!!

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They’re Giving Away Money at The Track

They’re giving away money at the racetrack, almost every day. Sometimes you just have to be smart enough to pick it up.

That was the case yesterday as Sadler’s Joy (4.70) rolled in the G3 Red Smith At Aqueduct. You just had to be smart enough to grab it, and this ‘capper wasn’t. I tried to get too clever with a couple of exotic plays, and then at the last minute jumped on Tiz A Slam, to grab some faux ‘value’.

A simple win bet on far and away the best horse in the race would have more than doubled my money for a satisfactory close to Saturday. The horse had skipped the Breeders Cup to be pointed to this spot, and was getting his preferred 3 turn set up, as well as top pilot Javier Castellano. Should have been easy money. You just gotta know when to bend over and pick it up.

Also, how great is it that we have major stakes races named after sportswriters ? A tribute to better times!

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