Sunday, 29 June 2014

Sunday Ajax Downs Selections

Today is Sunday and that means another card of Quarter Horse racing at Ajax Downs! Last week I wasn't so hot, but it's time to try again. Today's card features the $86,200 Picov Maturity, along with two trials to the Ajax John Deere Juvenile Challenge. Here are my program selections for today.

Race 1: 3-5-7
#3 Catch a Heart returned off of a long layoff on June 1st, finishing evenly to be 5th. He does need to improve off of that effort to win, but I can see it. He did win the Alabama Bred Futurity as a two year old. #5 Chiseled in Kisses has a knack for finishing second, he has 10 runner up finishes in his forty career starts. In his last start in 2013 he ran against the super tough Eyesa Zoomn, so this could potentially be an easier spot. This is his first 2014 start and he may need a race before hitting winning stride. #7 Our General Grant is not a solid favourite as his most recent win came in Speed Index company in July, but he does have two starts this season and draws the outside post.

Race 2: 5-3-1
This is the first of two trials for the Ajax John Deere Juvenile Challenge. #5 Speed of Life draws the outside post for her debut, which I see as an asset. Her most recent gate work, 250 yards from the gate in 13.88 shows potential, and you don't get 15-1 on a Davy Ward/Gary McNichol two year old often. #3 Waving Sandy Home is likely the post time favourite, showing a 13.55 250 yard bullet gate workout on June 17th. Her dam was a multiple stakes placed 11-time winner. She should be tough. #1 Fortune Pending is part of an entry for Kim Ito. His most recent workout was solid and Brian Bell will be in the saddle. You have to respect this entry.

Race 3: 1-3-2
This is the second of two trials for the Ajax John Deere Juvenile Challenge. #1 Corona Straw hasn't been the fastest in the workouts. That's a concern, but I do like the inside post in a small field. She's a Texas bred, so I really have to respect her. #3 Ramble On Corona, another Kim Ito trainee with Brian Bell riding, fired a bullet workout on June 11th, 13.76 from the gate. That's tough to ignore. If Corona Straw proves to not be too quick then this filly is the one to beat. #2 Jumping Guitar has three races down in Oklahoma. That's an edge over the unraced competition, but she hasn't shown any talent. That last race at Fair Meadows was sad. I wouldn't bet to win at 2-1 but someone has to round it out.

Race 4: 1-4-2
#1 Eyesa Speedy Simon is the only one in this field who has raced, finishing fourth. Perhaps he can improve off of that and win here. #4 Sycamor Flame worked fairly well on June 4th, 13.89 from the gate. Her dam was Stakes placed as a two year old. #2 Im Aquicktrick is not particularly interesting. She worked fairly well on June 11th, doesn't have a flashy pedigree, but why not try her to round things out at 8-1?

Race 5: 1-2-4
#1 Sugar Bean Perry started the season a neck behind Cruwysn Down Home, who came back to be second to Pegasos One Underpar. He then finished fifth in a very tough starter that included Eyesa Zoomn, Storytime Blue and Tres Okie. Today he draws the rail and gets an easier bunch than last time. He won from the rail back in October. #2 Cruwysn the Arctic is a two time winner this meet. He moves into the Nw4 group and looks to continue his good form. #4 Im Pretty Fames ran a very close second last time, earning a solid 70 speed figure. She hasn't won in a long time, but isn't a toss if you think she can run the effort she ran last time.

Race 6: 3-2-4
This looks like a two horse race to me. #3 Cameron Dash exits a win against a similar condition. He gets a small field than last time. Both of his starts this year have been solid, and I don't see why the momentum would stop here if he breaks well. His main competitor is #2 Jess Carolina, who started her year with a close second in the open mare allowance ranks.  I would pick her to win but she only seems to win against Ontario Sired company. However, her last race is good enough to win this. #4 Carters Secret has been a disappointment this year and last, most recently finishing last in a trial for the Picov Maturity. He should be a decent allowance horse. He's just not the same as he was when he was two.

Race 7: 6-10-5
This is the $86,200 Picov Maturity. #6 Mitford looks for his third win in as many starts this year. He's the best horse if he gets away well, it's as simple as that. I would love to see him keep his streak going. #10 A Plain Brown Rapper had no excuse in his trial, where he was fourth behind Mitford. I still think he's one of the best horses in Ontario, so at 6-1 from the outside post I think he's a player. His two final Hialeah races were so good it's tough not to like him. #5 What Ta Wear ran a very good closing second behind Mitford in their trial. She's a deserving second choice, it wouldn't surprise me at all if she ended up winning a Stakes later this year. I respect her.

Race 8: 5-4-9
#5 Ram Tuff was beaten a 1/2 length in a Picov Derby trial last time, earning a very strong 72 speed figure. That figure and this class drop more than hints he should be able to win this race. #4 Theydontlikemyname is such a hard knocking mare, she almost always runs a respectable race. Her problem is she doesn't win often, going 1-for-14 in her career. Could today be win #2? Definitely. Is it worth a bet at a short price? I would say no. #9 Down Town Sugar was beaten a nose last time, outrunning a few of his competition here. He has some back class, qualifying to last year's Alex Picov Futurity, and has hit the board in four-of-eight starts. He's a factor.

Good luck to everyone playing today! Don't forget that Ajax will have a Canada Day card of racing on Tuesday, featuring several on-track events both during and after racing. Be sure to come out if you can, it will be tons of fun.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Sunday Ajax Downs Selections

Today we've got an eight race program at Ajax Downs. The feature is the first Stakes race of the year, the Picov Derby! We also have a two year race and an open allowance for older horses. Here are my program selections.

Race 1: 5-7-1
#5 Extra Foxy Prince showed speed in his June 10th work, 220 yards in 12.46 from the gate. His dam won her debut easily with a 90 speed index, and won four of her nine starts. Fellow Renee Wilson trainee #7 Sharpe Dressed Man worked 220 from the gate in 12.82 over a sloppy track. His dam also won her debut. He must be considered a threat. #1 Rolling Ring is part of an entry for the McNichols and trainer Davy Ward. The workouts leave something or be desired but these connections are usually a factor with two year olds.

Race 2: 3-4-6
#3 Eyesa Zoomin is such a tough horse here. He won in this class on June 1st, has a super solid record here at Ajax, and has yet to lose going 330 yards. #4 Tres Okey, a ten year old Palomino, was a neck behind #6 Storytime Blue time. Storytime Blue already had a race into her so she had a fitness edge. On their best days, Tres Okey is the faster horse. Storytime Blue will be my third choice, she has hit the board in six of ten starts and draws outside. I just don't think she's fast enough when the other two are on their top game.

Race 3: 2-3-7
#2 Sweet Okey ran a solid third on May 25th. She has every right to improve second time off the layoff. Her biggest competition is #3 Cash In For Sugar, who has run two good races already this year. I think this is a two horse race, #7 Everything Fast can round things out. He has yet to win in 15 starts, but he has plenty of good races and should run well.

Race 4: 2-1-5
#2 Code 36 is the winningest horse in this field with seven career victories. Trainer Lee Baker is two-for-three so far this meet, and this guy's speed figures are very solid. I'll give him the call. #1 Bedem kicked off 2014 facing Mitford. That was a super tough race, he finds more suitable company here. He loves to finish second or third. #5 Down Home Girl didn't do much running on June 1st, but she makes her second start off the layoff and drops in class. I think it's between Code 36 and Bedem for the win, however.

Race 5: 8-9-7
#8 La Push won her seasonal debut on May 25th. It only took her two starts to break her maiden, and in think there is room for her to improve. #9 Mr Eazy is the classiest horse in this race, dropping in class from a Picov Derby trial. I don't think he'll be 8-1 at post time, likely much shorter, but 8-1 is a bad morning line. The only reason I didn't have him on top is because I think La Push has potential to get better as she gets more experience. #7 Waitin For Momma exits a decent third in this condition. The top two choices are tougher than what she's been facing, but she looks better than the rest.

Race 6: 3-1-5
This is a very competitive open Allowance for older horses going 330 yards. #3 The Fdd Map came back to Ajax in winning fashion after a rough winter in Florida. If he can run as well as he did last time he's a great bet at 6-1. #1 Jesswatchme found the Florida company too tough, but should be better back here in Ontario. He shows a very nice 13.53 250 yard gate work coming into this. He's capable. #5 Piranhaaa won against good company on June 1st, beating McM Tres Episode, who went on to win a Picov Maturity trial. He's never missed the board at Ajax. If you're playing the Pick 3 or Pick 4, I strongly recommend going deep in this leg.

Race 7: 3-9-1
The first Stakes event of the season, this is the $104,750 Picov Derby. To me, this race comes down to the top two qualifiers. #3 Mr Victory Six won his trial as the second fastest time, .01 slower than #9 Streakinshagginwagon. Mr Victory Six faced horses who were so much better as a two year old, and now that he has a start over the track I think he'll be the best horse. Streakinshagginwagon certainly is the one who could beat him. He's shown no lack of ability, he did run a very respectable race at Los Alamitos last year. #1 Zip Kode was the other trial winner. She is a three time stakes winner who has a record of 9-6-2-0 here at Ajax. She may not be as fast as the other two trial winners, but she can round things out at 8-1.

Race 8: 10-9-3
#10 Totally Nuts has run several races that are fast enough to win against this bunch, including a third in last year's Maple Leaf Futurity. He draws outside, and it's worth noting that his best race came from the outside gate. #9 Ivy Switch finished a 1/4 length behind Totally Nuts last time. Prior to that she ran a close third in his career debut. She's a player with some improvement. #3 Runaway Cause finished second before being DQd on June 1st. I don't think she's as fast as my top two, but I think she's better than the rest.

Good luck to everyone playing today!

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

A Quick Idea on Bringing ADW Players Back to the Track

I'm pretty sure the majority of us do our betting from an ADW site. Online wagering has become the most convenient and most valuable way to play the races. Many ADWs and rebate shops offer big players (and even some more casual players) value that they cannot get at the track. The world is very internet-centric.
     But I'm curious; is there a way to get ADW players back to the racetrack? Most big tracks have free WiFi now. At least I'm pretty sure they do. Woodbine does, Belmont does, I have to think most of the others do as well. Anyways, if a track has free WiFi, couldn't they partner up with ADWs to offer on track rebates to ADW players? 
     For example, let's say NYRA partnered up with TVG. Players who came to the track, but connected to the NYRA wifi and played through their TVG account would receive a 5% rebate. Maybe this wouldn't attract the biggest of rebate players, but you would have to think it would attract a decent amount of local players who have been choosing to play conveniently from home.
     At the end of the day, playing horses is about making money. If racetracks want players to come back to the track and fill up the stands, they'll need to do something to make the on track wagering experience more profitable.

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Chrome reminds us that there's no such thing as a lock

In the final hundred yards, the Belmont came down to two horses. A strong front runner desperately trying to hang on from a late rallyer.
      But neither of the two horses described was California Chrome, winner of the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness. Instead, the Belmont turned out to be a bit of a replay of the Grade II Peter Pan, with Tonalist finishing ahead of Commissioner.
      California Chrome is a horse that captured the hearts of many. He is a home bred for smaller connections who could run like a monster. Who couldn't like him? Especially after winning the first two legs, he had to be the Triple Crown winner, right? He was a lock.
      No. There is no such thing as a lock, and he reminded us of that today. Horse racing is a very circumstantial game. Anything can happen, and a horse who may be by far the best race can be beaten if things don't go his way.
      If you want to look at just why Chrome was not a lock, let's do just that.

      1. The Belmont's distance of a mile and a half is very trying, especially here in North American where breeding is focused on speed more than stamina. No horse in the race had gone 12 furlongs, therefore no one could know who would be the best going 12 furlongs.

     2. Chrome was making his third start in five weeks. It's difficult for a young horse to go long distances in a tightly packed schedule and always be 100%. Eventually, something has to give. It's simple as that.

     3. He had no local experience, aside from a 1/2 mile work on May 31st. Belmont is a very sandy surface, unlike any track he had raced at before. The top two finishers were both exiting a race here at Belmont.

     We all saw what happened. He finished evenly, flattening out down the stretch. It could happen, and it did. It would have been nice to see history made with a Triple Crown winner, but what happened happened.

     As bettors and fans, we need to remember that nothing is 100% at the racetrack. Bettors need to remember that we are here to find value. Fans need to remember that it's not worth getting your heart broken when your horse loses. Anything can happen. Any horse can lose. We saw that today. Be sure to remember that before you claim any horse is a lock.

Monday, 2 June 2014

Successful Opener at Georgian; a Look at Grand River

Summer officially started for the Ontario Racing Alliance last night as Georgian Downs kicked off their 2014 season. A decent sized crowd of fans showed up to enjoy a relaxed night of racing on what was a gorgeous evening.

Threes A Crowd (5) narrowly defeats
A Boy Named Suuzz (3) in the Georgian opener
      When compared to last year's opening night, Georgian did great yesterday. In 2013 there were 12 races run. Bettors put $101,060 through the windows, averaging $8,421 per race. This year, with 10 races, the handle was $149,230, an average of $14,923 per race. Total handle was up 47.6% and handle per race was up 77.2%. Those are significant increases, especially considering that the fields were fairly short, averaging at 7.7 horses per race. $149,230 still isn't a huge number, it would be nice to see Georgian doing $200,000, but the increases are certainly a good sign. It will be interesting to compare last night's handle to the upcoming Tuesday and Saturday cards from the Innisfil oval.

Fans in the Georgian grandstand
     Last night's card also marked another interesting step forward for the Ontario Racing Alliance, with Georgian installing AmTote wagering machines. AmTote has been at Woodbine & Mohawk for quite a while now, as well as all WEG teletheatres, and will soon be in all the Ontario Alliance tracks. Bettors will be able to play at Woodbine and cash their ticket at Georgian. For more info on the AmTote expansion, click here.

Horses round the clubhouse turn at Georgian
Grand River, the most player-friendly B track in Ontario, kicks off their season tonight. In case you weren't paying attention last year, Grand River lowered a lot of takeout rates in 2013. To be specific, WPS and Exactor went from 21.9% to 16.95% and 20.5%, respectively. Daily Double was lowered from 21.9% to 15%. Pick 4 is also now 15%, down from 24.9%. Those decreases total 23.15%. On top of that, the Elora track added a 15% Super Hi-5. Compare that to Western Fair, the most popular B track in the province, who still charge 21.4% on WPS and 26.3% on Exactors and Doubles, and you realize that Grand River is the track you really should be playing.

     Last year, Grand River's total handle increased 11.5%. Hopefully this year, the momentum will stay strong. Tonight's card has 10 races and an average field size of 8.8. If Georgian Downs could get their handle up 47.6%, Grand River should certainly be able to post some solid numbers. I will likely be playing a few races tonight, so keep up with my Twitter to see how I'm doing.

    I wish Grand River the best of luck with their upcoming season. They are a track that took action to get bettors interested, and they deserve to have success. I hope to see you all playing some great Canadian racing tonight at Grand River.

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Featured Event: The Eclipse + Ajax Downs Selections

Woodbine's second Grade 2 event of the weekend is the $200,000 Eclipse Stakes. The Eclipse is a 1 1/16 mile race for older horses on the polytrack. Today's blog will also feature my program selections for Ajax Downs. Another fun day of racing awaits!

The Eclipse
We have an interesting ML favourite here. #2 Stealcase is certainly logical, but you don't see a horse who finished second behind two of his competitors in his last two races made the favourite. In the prep for this race, he closed into Alpha Bettor's slow fractions, but came up a 1/2 length short. In the Ben Ali at Keeneland, there was no chance of him catching Frac Daddy. But that doesn't mean Stealcase can't win. The pace setup could work out for him, and he likes the Woodbine polytrack. In his other local start, he won the G3 Ontario Derby fairly easily. To his inside is the more likely post time favourite, #1 Alpha Bettor. He started the year out with a win in the aforementioned prep, making a slow lead in a four horse field and holding on. However, that less than impressive win doesn't take anything away from this horse; he is all class. Last year all three of his wins came in Graded Stakes company, including a win in this company. He inherited the lead last time, but he doesn't need it at all. He's best as a stalker. The concern is whether Stein sends him to the front from the rail post. Riders like to do that. Ken McPeek ships one up here, #5 Frac Daddy, who dominated the Ben Ali two back at Keeneland. His race in the G1 Man O' War was respectable as well. In fact, he's run five very credible races in a row. Also note that he's two for two on polytrack. You have to wonder whether he goes to the front or stalks the pace, he's a bit of a wildcard there, although both running styles work for him. The only other horse I see as a win threat is #7 His Race to Win. The only poor race he's run on the Woodbine poly was in the Queen's Plate last year, when the rain poured and he had no shot of making up any ground. That entirely forgiveable. His most recent start was a win in a high level Allowance on the turf at Keeneland. I don't know if he's as fast as the others, but he loves this surface and his trainer is on fire. He's not going to be my pick, but I would put him in the exotics for sure. There really aren't a lot of interesting long shots in this race. #3 Are You Kidding Me is making his first start since winning the G3 Kent down at Delaware, but that was in September and this is a lot tougher. #4 Peyton just doesn't seem like he's capable at this level. You could argue for #6 Really Sharp, he exits win in the G3 Vigil going seven furlongs, he should be a speed factor. I don't think he's as good at this distance though. One you could argue for the exotics, certainly. #8 Awesome Overture was a horse with a lot of hype when he started running against Stakes horses, but he's been nothing but a disappointment. Finally, #9 Hampstead Heath is a nice turf horse, but he's not as good on synthetic and his recent form at Gulfstream raises some concerns. There really aren't any price horses I like a lot. I'm making #5 Frac Daddy my pick due to his impressive Ben Ali win, and his ability to both be a front runner and a stalker. This looks like a fairly chalky race to me.

Ajax Downs Selections
Race 1: 3-5-6
#3 Bye Me One Kool Bud is a Stakes winner who runs well fresh. He won his career debut,  won the Fort Erie Futurity off of a month and a half layoff, and then won his 2013 debut against Nw3 competition. Can he keep his off the layoff streak going? #5 Piranhaaa is also a Stakes winner. He spent the winter racing at Hialeah, where he ran some very good races. He could potentially have a fitness edge. #6 McM Tres Episode ended 2013 finishing a 1/2 length behind Piranhaaa in the Ajax Derby Challenge. He's won half of his local starts and draws outside for hot connections.

Race 2: 6-2-4
#6 Eyesa Zoomn loves Ajax Downs, winning 8 of his 16 local starts with 4 runner up finishes. After a winter at Hialeah, he should be a big factor in this race. #2 Channelislandsflyer also wintered in Florida. He's notorious for finishing 2nd, 7 runner ups in 18 starts. He draws the rail post and should run well. #4 Ourfirstorphan ended 2013 in very good form with a pair of wins and a close second. He fired a bullet 220 yard work on April 28th and could be a factor.

Race 3: 5-6-3
#5 Make Me a Miracle didn't run a particularly great race to kick off 2014, but should improve second time off the layoff. She was quite impressive breaking her maiden back in September.  #6 Fast and Rare Love showed that he has some ability when he qualified for the Alex Picov Futurity. He draws outside and shows a very nice gate work on May 28th. #3 Fastaz Task won his career debut with a solid late rally. In four starts after that he managed to pick up a couple of thirds. I'm not convinced he's as fast as some of the others, but he did run his best race fresh.

Race 4: 7-4-9
#7 Cash in for Sugar ran a good third to start the 2014 season. With an alert break and some improvement second time out, he should be tough in this spot. #4 Ima Good Karma is an unknown in here, making her first start since July 2012. Her career debut was solid, and she's worth a look for the Wilson/Rose combo at 8-1. #9 Sofar Gone finished 5th in Cash in for Sugar's race. He picks up Brian Bell and can improve today.

Race 5: 3-2-6
#3 Streakinlilsis didn't run fantastic in her local debut, but makes her second start off the layoff and catches several Ontario bred/sired class droppers today. #2 Runaway Cause ran some decent races last year, including a trial fast enough to qualify to the All Canadian Futurity. She shows two good works and should run well today. #6 Real Wild finished 6th in the Cash in for Sugar race mentioned earlier. Watch #7 and #9 in a Race 4 to judge how the runners from that race fare.

Race 6: 2-3-5
#2 Catch a Heart hasn't run since 2012, when he was competing in Louisiana. He won the Alabama Bred Futurity. He returns here for Renee Wilson and shows a very fast workout on May 7th. #3 Silken Memories only missed the board once as a two year old, hitting the board in two Stakes. I don't see why this horse should be 10-1. #5 Theydontlikemyname is the only horse in the race with a start this season, and it was a good second. There's no reason why this horse couldn't win today second off the layoff. This is a pretty competitive race.

Race 7: 4-2-6
Today's feature is a nice open Allowance for fillies and mares. #4 What Ta Wear was a dominant winner on opening day. She's a mare with plenty of talent and has the edge of a recent start over her main competition. She could definitely double up in this race. #2 All Wacked Out is a very classy mare. Last year she beat some of Ontario's best in the Ajax Downs Maturity. She's earned over $217,000 in her career and shows no sign of stopping as a 7 year old. #6 First Down the Track almost always runs a solid race, ending the year with a nice win against similar company at this distance. You can't toss her.

Race 8: 3-4-5
#3 Tres Okie won his 2013 debut. The 10 year old palomino has hit the board in 28 of his 53 starts, and still runs solid speed figures. Hopefully he can get career win #10 today. #4 Hi N Dry wintered at Hialeah, ending that meet with a pair of runner up finishes. She's a deserving favourite in this spot. #5 Cole Miner won his 2013 debut easily, albeit against easier competition than he faces today. He's hit the board in 18 of 32 starts. He shows a nice work, and is another addition to a very competitive Optional Claimer.

Good luck to everyone playing today!