Sunday, 27 July 2014

Featured Event: The Haskell Invitational + Ajax Downs Selections

So I didn't pick the winner of the Jim Dandy yesterday, shockingly enough, but I'm back again to try to pick a winner in the Grade I, $1,000,000 Haskell Invitational from Monmouth Park. And then try to pick ten winners at Ajax Downs! Let's start with a look at the Haskell.

Here's a race with several horses that seem to have some hype behind them. First off, the filly taking on males #7 Untapable. She's looking for her fifth consecutive win, exiting romps in the Grade I Mother Goose at Belmont, and the Grade I Kentucky Oaks. There are a lot of things going for her in this race, she's got a great stalking style that will allow her to take advantage of a quick, contested early pace, she knows how to win and can do it easily, her speed figures are all big. The thing you've got to question is can she beat the boys. I don't think she'll have a problem taking on males, and I do think she's the most likely winner of this race. However, the 2-1 ML estimate is entirely too high in my opinion, you're looking at probably 4-5 on her. As a gambling proposition, in the off chance she is overwhelmed by males, I wouldn't want to take that. If she does go off at 2-1, I think she's very playable, but since that's so unlikely I think you have to look elsewhere. The other big hype horse is 5-2 ML second choice #2 Bayern. The first thing about this horse to note: he's very quick early. It's almost certain that he will be very involved in the pace of this race. The second thing to note is that he's yet to find success going further than a mile. In the Arkansas Derby he set the pace, but had little to offer in the final furlong, finishing third by 5 1/4 lengths. Two starts later, he tried to change his running style in the Preakness. That didn't work out at all for him, offering nothing at any point in the race, finishing second to last. However, he was very impressive when cutting back to seven furlongs in the Woody Stephens. He went a suicidal opening quarter taking pressure, got clear after that, still going ridiculous fractions, and drew off by over seven lengths. And Belmont was not super speed favouring that day. It was a stunning effort. But coming off such a huge race, stretching out to a route again, and catching a race with other speed, can I endorse him? Nope. I don't like him here at all. I think yesterday's Amsterdam at Saratoga would have been a better option, but I understand why the connections are trying him here. Who else is potentially a part of the early pace? To Bayern's inside is #1 Encryption. He set the early fractions in the Pegasus and the Long Branch, a well beaten second in the Pegasus and third by three lengths in the Long Branch. He's not a win factor in my opinion, his role is to duel with Bayern. That's about all there is to say about him. #6 Social Inclusion is a bit of a question mark as to whether or not he'll show early speed. He's definitely fast, but I feel the connections want him to settle a bit. They're taking him off lasix, a move I fully endorse, and he didn't make the front in the Woody Stephens, but that may have been caused by his wide post. Based on his Preakness run I think they're trying to make him get comfortable coming from off the pace. However, if Edgar asks him too he can show the speed he needs to be on the front here. I think a stalking position is more likely. #8 Wildcat Red is the final speed ball of the race. Besides a try in the Kentucky Derby, he's raced exclusively over the speed-favouring Gulfstream oval, where he's found plenty of success. At Gulfstream he's been able to take a lot of pace pressure and hold on, but will he be able to do it without a super speed friendly surface? And will he be able to do it if he's four-wide early? I'm not a huge fan of his chances today. We've got four horses left. #3 Albano exits a romp in the Pegasus here at Monmouth. He stalked the pace, made a move and drew off. Looks great on paper, but it was a five horse field. Pass at 6-1. #4 Irish You Well was running well in Graded Stakes before breaking his maiden, third in the Illinois Derby and the Peter Pan behind eventual Belmont winner Tonalist. He came to Monmouth in June, scored an easy maiden win, then held off Just Call Kenny to win the Long Branch. I'm a bigger advocate of #5 Just Call Kenny, he hadn't run since January when he ran in the Long Branch, he sat in a good spot and he ran a very game race. He makes his second run off the layoff here, he should like the extra 1/16th, and as a lightly raced horse you have to think there's potential development to be had. Finally we come to #9 Medal Count, my horse in the Derby and the Belmont. He ran a very nice race in the Belmont to be third by a length. His run in the Derby was very nice too, he was starting a nice rally but got cut off by Danza. He's definitely a horse with talent, and I would like to see him win to avenge the other times I've picked him, but I don't like horses coming out of the Belmont. I find a lot of horses don't fire coming out of that race. I also think his 8-1 ML is a bit higher than what he'll actually go off at. So I'm jumping off the bandwagon today. I'm going to make Just Call Kenny the pick here. Untapable looks very tough, I said earlier that she's the most likely winner and I stand by it, but if I had to bet this race Just Call Kenny would be my horse. He's got potential to move upwards, he'll offer a decent price, he has a local race. We'll see how much talent he has.

Here are my selections for today's card of racing at Ajax Downs!

Race 1: 5-2-4
Short field of five to kick off the day, and we have a horse who looks like he should be a runaway winner. #5 Rising Up the Charts has run two solid races against tougher company this year, and now gets a field he looks like he can beat up on. His class rating is the highest in the field by 21 points. He's drawn outside. The only knock against him is that he has not won since 2012, but neither has anyone else in this field. #2 The Choochinator is a horse you have to cheer for, he's a 12 year old who has been racing here since the track was still called Picov Downs. He's lost his winning form, but last year he did qualify to the Ontario Sired Maturity where he ran fourth, which gives him a class edge over most of these. #4 Eye Paid is only two for 39 in her career, but she has finished second or third 16 times. Her three starts this year have been okay, she should be good enough to round things out.

Race 2: 6-5-4
We've got a full field of two year old maidens to wrap up the early Double and to kick off the early Pick 3. #6 Cc Fire N Ice was sent off as the favourite in her debut on July 13th and ran a respectable fourth. Chelsey Willick, currently the second leading rider and winningest jockey percentage-wise, takes the mount today. This gelding can definitely improve second time out. #5 Down On Cash debuts here for trainer Kim Ito. She shows three gate workouts prepping for this, most notably 13.86 on June 17th. Her dam was a multiple stakes placed winner of eight races who earned $97,518. There's some potential here. #4 Super Sweet Herman has raced twice so far, showing nothing in his debut, but improving to be third on July 6th. Helen Vanek takes the mount today; she won three races last week including the John Deere Juvenile Challenge.

Race 3: 3-9-2
#3 Fastaz Task kicked off the season with a very game fourth place finish against open allowance NW2 company. Today he takes a significant drop back into Ontario Sired company, and drops in for the $5,000 claiming price he broke his maiden at. In his second start off of the layoff he's definitely a factor. #9 Wild What finished fourth in an Ontario Sired NW2 allowance last time, breaking from the same outside post he gets today. The class drop into $5,000 claiming should be beneficial. #2 Sun N Ice finished sixths in the same race Wild What finished fourth in last time. Prior to that start this filly broke her maiden for a $10,000 tag. She will find success in the claiming ranks. I just question if she can beat the top two today.

Race 4: 3-5-1
Today's feature is an open Allowance for Ontario breds going 400 yards, and we've got a tough looking favourite here. #3 Caraway Blue ran a good second behind a horse called Country Boy Deluxe last time. Country Boy Deluxe came back to win again last week. Caraway Blue won two stakes races last year, has missed the exactor once in seven tries going 400 yard, and just appears to outclass this field. #5 Andaley Okey has won two of her four starts this year, and actually managed to finish ahead of Caraway Blue back in October. However, her races this year have been against much easier company, and she will need to step her game up to pull an upset here. #1 Carter's Secret was the star two year old of 2012, but his three year old campaign left something to be desired and this year has not been any better. He has picked up a pair of show cheques this year, and I don't see why he can't hit the board today. Don't forget that this race kicks off the $.20 Pick 4.

Race 5: 6-4-2
#6 A Shore Thing finished second as the favourite last time, but it was his first start of the season; he didn't win his seasonal debut last year either. He kept some tough company last year, running in several stakes races before wintering at Hialeah Park. I'll give him the call to win second off the layoff again. #4 Eye Go Streakin exits a sixth place finish in the Picov Derby, a very tough race. He won a small stake down at Hialeah over the winter, albeit by disqualification. He definitely has a recent class edge that will make him tough here. #2 Jj Maxwell is a nice horse, he's won five times and hit the board in 13 of his 19 starts, but I have to question him a bit here. He kicked off the season back on opening day running against the top level. He returns nine weeks later and drops in for a $7,000 claiming tag. That's a bit of a red flag. Regardless, I do respect him and if he is on his game he is a factor here.

Race 6: 3-2-1
#3 Extravagant Moves has run two very good races against tougher company this year. She hasn't won in a long time, but this is an easier spot than what she's been facing, and at 5-1 I think she's got a good shot to break the losing streak today. #2 Our General Grant finished a good second in a $3,000 optional claiming field last time. That race makes him a factor here, but he's been a beaten favourite in three of his last four starts. From a gambling perspective, that's usually a sign of a bad bet. Regardless, I respect him here. #1 Winners Spirit makes his 2014 debut here for trainer Lee Baker. I question if he's as fast as some of the others, but last year he won his first start of the season breaking from the rail post. History probably won't repeat itself today, but this horse can run well here.

Race 7: 4-2-7
Here's a race that's not particularly easy to handicap, Ontario Sired $3,000 claiming maidens. #4 Im a Lil Magic always seems to break well and get run down late. She almost held on two starts ago at 300 yards. Today she cuts back to 250, and with a clean break the shorter distance may be all she needs to get the job done. #2 Mr Chicks Man put forth a career best effort in her seasonal debut on Canada Day, running a good second and beating next out winner Mommyssweetsecret. He will probably go off as the favourite, and he is deserving. #7 Intheeyeofahurricane also posted a career best effort last time, dropping to today's $3,000 tag and holding second. This group is tougher, but I think she can round the tri out.

Race 8: 4-5-1
This race kicks off the late Pick 3. #4 Eye Aint No Angel debuts here for Jason Pascoe and Cory Spataro. He shows a nice gate work in 13.73 getting ready for that, and his dam was a six time winner back. I'll give him a chance at an upset here. #5 Random Audit was my pick back on July 13th, but she was vet scratched in that race. However, they got a nice 13.79 gate work out of her on July 23rd, and she gets to face Ontario Breds in her second start. We'll see how she does today. #1 Strawflyin Bodacious ran a decent fourth back on opening day. She draws the rail today, the post where she finished third in her debut from. It's worth noting that Renee Wilson's go-to rider Daniel Rose is not listed to ride her, or anything else in this race for that matter.

Race 9: 5-7-4
#5 I Like Chics won at first asking on June 8th and came back to run a close third in a competitive group of NW2. I like this lightly raced five year old, he shows some potential to be a handy little horse. #7 Halee Hath No Fury is another Renee Wilson horse making its first start since opening day. She actually won the first race of the season after knocking on the door throughout 2013. She posted a bullet workout on July 2nd, 220 yards in 11.83, and has to be considered a factor. #4 Noisyboy debuted against I Like Chics and ran a close second. He then came back to win against Ontario Sired maidens. Today he has to face tougher company, but again, he's lightly raced and has shown some promise. Don't forget to play the Late Double!

Race 10: 10-4-6
#10 Ttt Kellys Regan debuted here back in October and finished a close second. They then took him down to Hialeah for the winter, where he ran a few respectable races. After Hialeah, he was shipped out to Louisiana Downs for a try against fellow Louisiana breds, and he ran third. They brought him back to Ontario and tried him in a Picov Derby trial. That was tough company, and he did not get a good break that day. Now he draws outside, gets back into an easier spot, and shows a nice 13.74 gate work on July 16th. My choice for a minor upset. #4 Totally Nuts has hit the board in two of his three tries this year. He's Stakes-placed, something no one else in this field can say, and is in solid form. Respect. #6 Runaway Cause finished a head in front of Totally Nuts on June 22nd and has run twice against tougher horses since then. She has shown some ability and gate speed, but I question her ability to hold the lead much further than 300 yards.

Good luck to everyone playing today!

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Saratoga & Del Mar: Pick 5 vs Pick 6

This is something I looked into out of curiosity. After six days of racing at both tracks, here is the total handle for the low takeout Pick 5s and the Pick 6s at Saratoga and Del Mar.

Saratoga P5 Handle: $1,875,477
Avg Pool: $312,579.50
Takeout: $281,321.55

Saratoga P6 Handle: $778,986
Avg Pool: $129,831
Takeout: $160,416.22

Del Mar P5 Handle: $3,130,175
Avg Pool: $521,695.83
Takeout: $438,223.58

Del Mar P6 Handle: $2,096,407
Avg Pool: $349,401
Takeout: $496,429.09

     This is the first year Saratoga has had the low takeout Pick 5, and it is proving to be quite successful. The Pick 6 has been unlucky thus far, as it has only had two small carryovers. The Pick 6 pool doesn't grow as fast in New York as it does in California. Now the average pool size and revenue will increase when the Pick 6 gets a few larger carryovers, but the Pick 5 is doing very well at this point.

     At Del Mar, the Pick 6 is generating more revenue than the Pick 5 at this point. They have had three carryovers so far, and like I said above, the Pick 6 gets bigger pools on the West Coast. One thing I've noticed is that Del Mar has an ad in the Daily Racing Form for the Pick 4 and Pick 6, without a mention of the Pick 5. Despite it's lack of advertisement, it is outdoing the Pick 6 in the handle department, and if the Pick 6 has a Saratoga-esque run of no carryovers, there's a good chance takeout in the Pick 5 will be on par with the Pick 6.

     We'll see how handle and takeout on these wagers go throughout the meet. It is an interesting this to look at.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

A Basic Introduction to the Mathematics of Takeout

Hypothetical situation:
     You and nine friends place a friendly wager on something happening. Whatever the situation, you all put $500 on yourselves winning. You have a pool of $5,000. Since this is a friendly wager, there is no takeout, and whoever wins will take the entire $5,000.
      Now let's take this same situation, but apply it to horse racing, where there is takeout. You all go to the track, and you each bet $500 on a different horse in this ten horse field. You also happen to be the only people wagering. The pool, again, is $5,000, but this time the track is taking their cut. Let's say the cut is 20%. $1,000 is taken from the pool, leaving $4,000 to go to the winner. This leaves each of the ten horses at a 7-1 price. If the takeout was nothing, like in the friendly wager, each horse goes off at 9-1. If the rake is 10%, each horse goes off at 8-1.
      Let's apply this situation to a few different racetracks.

      Northlands Park offers the lowest win takeout in North America, at 14.5%. In the 10 horse, $5,000 pool situation, $4,275 is left for the winner. Each horse goes off at 7.55-1. A $2 win bet would return $17.10.

     In California, win takeout is 15.43%. This will make for some fun math. After takeout, $4,228.50 is left for the winner. Each horse goes off at 7.457-1. A $2 win bet returns $16.914, but that would be rounded down to $16.90.

     In New York, and at Keeneland and Kentucky Downs, win takeout is 16%. After takeout, $4,200 is left for the winner. Each horse goes off at 7.4-1. $2 win bet returns $16.80.

    At Churchill, win takeout was raised to 17.5% for the spring meet. After takeout, $4,125 is left for the winner. Each horse goes off at 7.25-1. $2 win bet returns $16.50.

    Finally, we'll look at Turf Paradise. They're a popular weekday track, and they feature North America's highest win takeout, 20.75%. After takeout, $3,962.50 is left for the winner. Each horse goes off at 6.925-1. A $2 win bet returns $15.85. I'm not sure if that would be rounded up or down.

    Just to throw in an Ontario Harness comparison, Western Fair is our most popular B-track. Their win takeout is 21.4%. Grand River, on the other hand, takes 16.95%. At Western Fair, a $2 win bet in this situation returns $15.70. At Grand River, the $2 win bet pays $16.60.

    Now of course, these differences seem like nothing, but you need to remember that an extra $1 does make a difference to a $2 bettor. If you're a $20 bettor, your $20 win bet in this situation pays $6 more at Northlands than at Churchill. That extra $6 allows that bettor to invest a bit more into an exotic wager later in the day. At the very least, he can buy lunch.

     Lower takeout leads to higher payoffs. There's no way around it. If you're a bettor, your job is to find value. A big part of finding value is the part that everyone understands, finding horses offering odds higher than they should be offering, overlays. However, betting into pools that will return more money to the player is another important part in finding value.

    Don't bet into a high rake pool when you can get better value elsewhere.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Featured Event: The Rainbow Futurity + Ajax Downs Selections

This was a must-do for me as I missed the Ruidoso Futurity. Here we are today with the second leg of Quarter Horse racing's Triple Crown, the Grade I, $900,000 Rainbow Futurity. The top ten fastest qualifiers from the July 3rd & 4th trials line up for a 400 yard dash at Ruidoso Downs. These are some of the best juveniles the sport has to offer, and one superstar makes this a must-watch. Let's take a look.

    The heavy favourite in this race, and a deserving favourite at that, is #10 Kiss My Hocks. You could tell this horse was special right from the beginning, breaking the 330 yard track record at Sam Houston in his first start. He has since gone undefeated in five tries, including wins in the Grade II Sam Houston Futurity and the Grade I Ruidoso Futurity. His win in the Ruidoso made him this year's triple crown contender, and he looks quite tough here in the second leg. He won his trial for this race by an incredibly easy 3 1/2 lengths, earning a 104 speed figure with a final time of 19.481. He's got the outside post today, which gives him a good shot to get away cleanly and win. He looks super tough, and I can't see him getting beat.If he ended up going off at his 7-5 ML, I would think he would be worth a win play, but he's more likely going to be 2-5. However, I do think there's some longshot value in the exotics. There are three horses other than Kiss My Hocks with a ML under 10-1, and of them there one I respect and one I think are worth trying to toss. 3-1 second choice #9 JM Miracle has been very nice in his three career starts, which consist of two trial victories and a runner up finish behind Kiss My Hocks in the Ruidoso Futurity. He's one of two in this field who managed to qualify while running into a headwind. He crushed his trial by 2 3/4 lengths. He's very respectable. Is there any value using him for second in exotics? No, absolutely not, but he's definitely not a toss. The other three horses who figure to take win play, #4 Wild Sixes Cartel, #5 Bodacious Eagle, and #6 Boi George are definitely worth trying to get out of the exotics. Definitely exactor tosses for me.Wild Sixes Cartel held on by only a nose to win her trial, and the horse who almost caught her was not fast enough to qualify. That tells you something right there. Bodacious Eagle finished third in the Ruidoso Futurity, but he was yielding. He drew off in his trial win, but he had a great post, and again, no one he beat managed to qualify, and isn't running in the Rainbow Juvenile. Then there's Boi George, who's claim to fame is winning the West Texas Futurity at Sunland. That was all well and good, but he had the outside post on an extremely outside favouring racetrack that day. He is 0-for-2 since coming to Ruidoso, and doesn't look like a good play at 6-1 whatsoever. So who are the horses who do look to offer value? In 400 yard races at Ruidoso, the inside three posts have won 59% of the races this meet. Out of curiosity's sake, let's look at the three inside runners. #1 Redemption Star broke from the rail in his trial win to hold off Boi George. His only other start was a Maiden at Remington where he was bumped at the start and finished seventh. That's a respectable record, and he's 20-1. To his outside is his stablemate #2 Logans Zoomin,  who was the second fastest qualifier. He outran two fellow qualifiers in his trial, #3 Trendi and #8 Tempting Valor. That means he beat a nice field, and he earned a 100 speed figure doing it. He's also 20-1. Then there's Trendi, who bobbled at the break in that trial and rallied for second. Before the Rainbow Futurity trials, Trendi won a Ruidoso Futurity trial where he was knocked sideways at the break. He's 15-1 today. These are three horses, all at big odds, all breaking from statistically strong posts, and all with logical shots. If you don't think Kiss My Hocks gets beat, these are the horses to play for second in the exactor. If you want to try and beat Kiss My Hocks, these are the logical horses to try and do it with.

Also running today is Ajax Downs. Today we've got a great 10 race card featuring three AQHA Challenge races, the AQHA Maiden Challenge, the John Deere Juvenile Challenge and the Adequan Derby Challenge. The winners of Juvenile Challenge and the Derby Challenge will receive berths to run in the Challenge Championships at Prairie Meadows in October. Here are my program selections for today's races.

Race 1: 8-1-6
#8 Jess Watch Me has finished third in his last two starts, both at the top level. He faces much easier company today and should be quite tough. #1 Cheever started 2014 off finishing fourth behind Mitford. He then dropped to the same condition he faces today, where he got beat a neck after stumbling at the break. There's no reason he can't run well with a clean break. #6 Chiseled in Kisses likes to run game races without being good enough to win. At 10-1 he can round out the triactor.

Race 2: 2-4-7
#2 Kissmyfortunatedash kicked the season off breaking her maiden, then ran in a trial for Picov Derby. He finished 4th in her trial and was fast enough to qualify but was not competitive in the final. This is significantly easier company. #4 Down Town Sugar exits a pair of runner up finishes in this condition. His last race speed figure of 69 makes him look very tough. #7 Waitin for Mama finished second against an open NW2 group last time. This is easier, but he is not particularly consistent.

Race 3: 4-3-7
#4 Cr Blowinbyeyawl showed speed in his June 25th gate workout, 250 yards in 13.78, the 3rd fastest work of the day. I have to respect him. #3 A Mere Outlaw is an Oklahoma bred. His most recent gate workout went in 14.03, not as quick as the top choice but still not bad. #7 Jess Shake Em is the only one in here with race experience, finishing fourth on July 6th. She can improve second time out.

Race 4: 5-6-3
#5 Illbegoneflying has posted two fast gate works getting ready for her debut. She seems worth a shot at 8-1. #6 Down N Tough and #3 Jess as Sweet as You finished very close together in their June 22nd debut. They have race experience and can round things out. I would recommend going deep if you are playing the Pick 4.

Race 5: 5-4-1#5 Eyesa Zoomn is two for two at the meet and is always super tough to beat at Ajax. It will take a bad break to beat him today. #4 Kool N Kinda Special finished third against a very tough bunch in his first start of the season, and then came back to finish second by a neck with a late close. He has an extra 20 yards to work with today which should be beneficial. #10 Jessies Leaving You exits a win against $7,000 claiming NW3. This is a step up, but she ran a good race against allowance company to start the year; she fits in starter allowance company.

Race 6: 2-6-3
The first of three AQHA Challenge races today, this is the $26,970 AQHA Maiden Challenge. #2 Mr Victory Six looks very tough. He showed class in Texas as a two year old and finished second running against a bias in the Picov Derby. #6 Bb Milliondollarbaby was the other trial winner to this exent, going 0.04 faster than Mr Victory Six. She has back class, but I still believe Mr Victory Six has more talent. #3 Lexia finished second to Mr Victory Six in their trial. She has hit the board in half of her starts and qualified to the John Deere Juvenile Challenge last year. I think she is the best of the rest.

Race 7: 7-3-6
This is an open allowance for older horses going 400 yards. #7 Feature My News improved in his second local start, finishing second to Piranhaaa. I still think this horse has potential to be one of the best in Ontario, hopefully today he can put it all together. #3 The Fdd Map won two back, but finished evenly last time. He's a local favourite and can never be totally discounted. #6 McM Tres Episode won a trial to the Picov Maturity and ended up finishing fifth in the final. That was his first time finishing off the board at Ajax. Today he gets in easier and should be a factor.

Race 8: 8-6-2
The second of three AQHA Challenge races today, the is the $24,840 John Deere Juvenile Challenge. #8 Speed of Life was so impressive winning her trial that it's tough to imagine her getting beat. Go watch the replay and see what I mean. #6 Fortune Pending and #2 Waving Sandy Home finished second and third behind the top choice. I don't like the horses coming out of the other trial, so I'm looking for a repeat of the Speed of Life trial.

Race 9: 10-9-2
The third and final of our AQHA Challenge races, the $29,340 Adequan Derby Challenge. #10 Streakinshagginwagon has yet to be defeated this year in three starts, including a win in the Picov Derby. He breaks from the outside post today and will be tough to beat. #9 Zip Kode was dominant as a two year but has not had as much luck this year. She finished second to Streakinshagginwagon in their trial. She's still quite talented and should grab a cheque today. #2 Ivory Injun was the other trial winner. He was a stakes winner at two, has hit the board in six of eight starts, and looks good today.

Race 10: 3-2-9
#3 Dick Greyson raced twice as a two year old, catching tough fields in both tries. This year, he has raced once and ran a good third. With some second time off the bench improvement, he has an upset chance. #2 Everything Fast has hit the board in four of his last five tries. The ability to at least be close is something most in this field do not have. #9 Wild About Nellie is the morning line favourite, but she only hits my top three because she looks better than the rest. She finished fourth last time, catches a soft bunch today and has a decent draw. She could win, but I wouldn't bet her at too short a price.

Good luck to everyone playing today!

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Ajax Downs Selections July 13th

It's Sunday which means we have another card Quarter Horse racing from Ajax Downs! We've got eight races today, highlighted by an open allowance for older Ontario Sired horses. Here are my program selections for today.

Race 1: 7-2-3
#7 Chiseled in Kisses ended 2013 in a tough starter allowance where he was fourth beaten 3/4 of a length. He draws outside for his season debut and catches a soft field today. #2 Extravagant Moves kicked off the season running a good fourth in a 110 yard dash. When she runs at the levels she belongs at, she is almost always close. Her speed figures suggest that she is a factor. #3 Catch a Heart is making his third start at Ajax. He showed great improvement in his second local start and should be good enough to round things out.

Race 2: 3-2-4
#3 Ramble on Corona debuted in a John Deere Juvenile Challenge trial where she finished fourth, beaten only a neck for third. She flashed some gate speed in that race, so the cut back to 250 yards and the class drop to Ontario Sired maidens should be big assets to her. #2 Sharpe Dressed Man finished a good second in his June 22nd debut. He can improve in his second career start, the debut was very solid. #4 CC Fire N Ice makes 13.58 on June 17th. That kind of speed makes him a factor.

Race 3: 1-8-10
#1 Sugar Bean Perry has raced twice from the rail post and has gotten a win and, most recently, a second. In his last start he broke very well but was run down late. The cutback to 300 yards, a distance at which his record is 3-2-0-0, should help him. #8 Zoomin On Ice is the obvious class of the field, racing most recently in the Picov Derby. He has been fast enough to qualify for three Stakes races in his career, and should be very tough taking the drop in class. #10 Fast and Rare Love ran a good second in his 2014 debut. Last year he qualified to the Alexander Picov Futurity, so he does have some class. He breaks from the outside today, and while he may not be as quick as the top two, he should run well.

Race 4: 5-1-4
We kick off today's $.20 Pick 4 with a competitive $3,000 claiming group. #5 Carbello drops into this class after an even fifth going 110 yards. Prior to that effort, he ran second behind Mitford, who recently won the Picov Maturity. He should appreciate this class drop. #1 Tres Okie is a tough ten year old who has hit the board in 30 of his 55 career starts. He finished third against a very tough Starter Allowance field last time and should not be discounted. #4 Code 36 made his first start of the season against a conditioned group of claimers for this tag, and ran a good third. He tends to run a similar effort in his second start off the layoff as his first, so he should be good enough to round things out here.

Race 5: 1-4-2
#1 Silken Memories makes a big drop in class from a Picov Derby trial where he faced Mr Victory Six, to maiden $5,000 claiming. With an alert break from the rail post, he should be a factor. #4 Lynch Full Flight finished a good third in a straight Maiden last time. The class drop makes him the one to beat. #2 Mommyssweetsecret dropped in for $5,000 last time and ran third. This bunch is tougher than the ones she faced last time, but she always seems to be in the mix no matter what level she's at.

Race 6: 1-6-5
#1 Silken Memories is unquestionably the horse to beat here. She ran a very good third in the Picov Derby last time, and now gets to face Non winners of three. She's multiple stakes placed, she can hold her own against the best, and she's missed the board only once. Very tough to beat. #6 Channelislandsflyer is a longshot I like for second. He's tried 110 yards in his last two starts, but now gets back to a standard distance. On June 1st he finished third behind Eyesa Zoomn, one of the toughest horses who races at Ajax. This gelding ran some decent races in Florida over the winter as well, and can definitely outrun his 15-1 odds. #5 Sign It Down finished a close second behind Silken Memories two back before coming back to win a NW2 easily. She really turned her career around last fall and is a logical contender today.

Race 7: 4-1-2
Today's feature is a $17,000 open Allowance for older Ontario Sired runners. #4  Not Looking to Shake raced against Mitford and What Ta Wear among other nice horses in the Picov Maturity last time. While that was not a stellar effort on his part, he did play with these Ontario Sired runners back on May 25th. #1 Pegasos One Underpar was beaten a neck going 110 yards on Canada Day, and now returns to Ontario Sired company. Two back he wo in this class in the final stride, but prior to that he was well beaten by Not Looking to Shake. However, he has beaten him in the past and has to be considered here. #2 Cruwysn Down Home is not a deserving favourite, but does have some talent. Most recently, he was beaten a nose by Pegasos One Underpar. Prior to that he won a conditioned Allowance event. He seems better than the two other runners I have not discussed, easily.

Race 8: 3-10-5
#3 Random Audit had an early lead in his debut, but raced greenly and ended up eighth. Now that he has a race, I expect a straighter run from this filly. She did show the gate speed that you want for 220 yards, and takes a big class drop. #10 An Icy Secret was outdone for the $5,000 tag last time so now takes the final drop to $3,000. She ran a speed figure last time that makes her tough here, draws outside and makes her second start off the layoff. A deserving favourite. #5 Sweet Okey had no run whatsoever las time, certainly cause for concern. The race prior to that, third by a neck against an Ontario Sired Maiden group makes her competitive here, and it wouldn't shock me to see her run a much better race than that no effort last time.

Good luck to everyone playing today!

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

What's Next for Lexie Lou?

Now, this is just my speculation. Let me get that out of the way.

Lexie Lou got the crowd going when she made her move on the final turn in the Queen's Plate, and kept the drive going to get the win. The filly beat the boys. It was a fantastic race. The nice thing about fillies who beat boys on a high level is that they develop fan bases.

     So where does the 155th Queen's Plate winner go next?

After the race, trainer Mark Casse was quoted as saying "I honestly feel like this filly could run with any three year old filly in North America," making Untaple the exception. When questioned about going to Fort Erie on July 29th for the Prince of Wales, Casse said "A third race in a short time, a surface she's never been over. We'll see." That doesn't give fans much hope of a try for the Canadian Triple Crown. Then things got a bit interesting. "She may end up going to California. They have synthetic out there, she may want to try and go defend her crown south of the border."

     So Del Mar seems like a distinct possibility, due to their synthetic surface. Looking at Del Mar's Stakes schedule, there are two races that she could go in. On August 16th, there's the Grade 1 Del Mar Oaks going nine furlongs on the turf. I have no doubt this filly will run on the turf in the future. However, Casse is already planning on running My Conquestadory in the Del Mar Oaks, and a Grade 1 doesn't seem like a wise spot for Lexie Lou's Graded Stakes debut. Two weeks later on August 31st, there's the Grade III Torrey Pines. It's a $100,000 race going a mile on the poly. To me, a logical Graded Stakes debut. 

     The other big possibility in my mind is the final leg of the Canadian Triple Crown, the $500,000 Breeder's Stakes, going twelve furlongs on the Woodbine turf on August 17th. Like I said, I don't doubt that she will race on turf in the future. The Breeder's, like the Plate, is restricted to Canadian breds, and it's purse is larger than the Del Mar Oaks and the Torrey Pines combined. They don't have to leave the province. The only question is the distance, she did seem to be getting maybe a bit tired in the final yards of the Plate. However, it's not as though any of the other three year old Canadian breds are proven at twelve furlongs.

     I'm going to predict that Lexie Lou stays in Ontario for her next start and races in the Breeder's Stakes. To me, it makes more sense than going to California. After the Breeder's, I predict she gets some more time off, then goes to Keeneland for the Grade 3 Valley View. 

     Again, just my speculation. It should be fun to watch this filly develop as she starts testing the water against tougher company. I certainly don't think her career will be limited to Woodbine.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Queen's Plate 2014

It's that time of the year! We've got prestige, history, and great racing today. The Canadian Triple Crown kicks off with the 155th running of the Queen's Plate. The best Canadian bred three year olds will line up to go a mile and a quarter over the Woodbine polytrack. While it may not be the Kentucky Derby, the Queen's Plate is probably my favourite race of the year. Woodbine really is a special place to me and I love when everyone stops to tune in and appreciate the great things happening here. Let's take a look at this year's running of the Queen's Plate.

The star of the race has to be 8-5 morning line favourite #6 We Miss Artie, and he is certainly a deserving favourite. Undefeated on synthetic, this Grade 1 winner came to Woodbine three weeks ago to run in the Plate Trial, and he completely toyed with that field. It certainly wasn't the strongest bunch, but he was eased up at the wire and looked so good. He may have only won by 3/4 of a length, but he may have been the easiest winner of the season. He's a two time Graded a Stakes winner, he competed in the a Kentucky Derby (and ran well) and simply looks the horse to beat. However, it's tough for me to choose a chalky favourite in a 15 horse field. I'm by no means suggesting toss him, but for win value I want to look elsewhere. The obvious second choice is the filly #14 Lexie Lou. She was an easy winner in the Woodbine Oaks with a stalking trip behind a fast pacesetter. She went quite a bit faster than We Miss Artie that day, but she also wasn't being eased up on like he was. That doesn't change that she was an impressive winner, and she shouldn't have an issue with ten furlongs; Sligo Bay is a good sire for distance. She seems good enough to take on the boys. She's very hard to knock, but again, I want some value in a race like this. Now, let's start with the toss outs. #1 Cap in Hand, #3 Athenian Guard, #5 Man O' Bear, #7 Majestic Sunset, #9 Heart to Heart, #11 One Destiny, #12 Tower of Texas#13 Niigon Express, and #15 Ami's Holiday. I don't feel any of these horses are talented enough to be a factor in this race. Let's take a look at what I have left as potential upset win picks, starting from the inside. #2 Coltimus Prime doesn't consistently run great races, but he does have some runs that make me like him. Take not of his fifth place finish in the Grade 1 Blue Grass at Keeneland, it was better than it looks on paper. He's not a major win threat, but he should like the distance and if things go his way, he does have a shot. I do think he's better than Niigon Express, despite the fact that Niigon Express did come out on top on May 11th. #4 Asserting Bear finished first in the Marine Stakes last time, but was DQd. He does have a nice finishing drive, and some class. Go watch his replay in the Grade 3 Spiral. He had a terrible trip and had a great rally to be beaten only two lengths by We Miss Artie. I genuinely believe that if he hadn't gotten such a tough trip, he would have won that race. His run in the Blue Grass was less than impressive, but he drew the rail which may not have been particularly helpful. Again, he seems to want the distance. He just needs to prove he has the talent to beat the favourites. #8 Lions Bay has won two of his three career starts, all facing Ontario Sired company. Running him here may be a bit too much to ask, but his late drive is impressive, and as a Sligo Bay he should like ten furlongs. I don't really see him winning, but at 30-1 I see no reason to leave him out of the exotics. Finally, #10 Matador won't be my play at 8-1, I don't think he's near good enough to warrant those odds, but I don't mind him as a horse. They gave him an easy prep in a very soft fist level allowance last time. My big problem is that he has two wins, and neither really suggests that he's good enough for this sort of race. He won the Cup and Saucer last year on the front end over a yielding course, which is lovely until you realize that the Woodbine turf almost always favours speed when it gets wet. Then he won that aforementioned allowance, but it was a field of nobodies. I do think he's talented, I do think he can run a good race. However, I wouldn't bet him to win with your money at 8-1. Looking at the four I narrowed it down to as possible upsets, my choice is fairly easy. Asserting Bear seems like the one who could do it. Like I said, I do think he could have beaten We Miss Artie in the Spiral if he had gotten a good trip. He does need to run a career best effort to win, but it's not impossible and I am willing to risk it at 10-1. We Miss Artie and Lexie Lou are very tough horses, and seeing either of them win would be no surprise to anyone. But let's hope that Asserting Bear can pull us an upset in the 155th Queen's Plate.

Don't forget the great wagering opportunities available today. The early Pick 4 starts in Race 4 and has a guaranteed pool of $100,000. The late Pick 4 starts in Race 9, and is guaranteed at $250,000. Perhaps best of all, we have a mandatory payout in the 15% takeout, $.20 Hi-5 in the Queen's Plate, with a carryover of $262,596. Takeout on Win bets is very low at 14.95%. There is some great value to be had.
Also remember that we have three Graded Stakes on the card, the Grade 2 Dance Smartly, the Grade 3 Singspiel and the Grade 2 Highlander. All three of those races are contested over the fantastic E. P. Taylor turf course, and should make for some fantastic races.

I'm not entirely done yet. Since it's Sunday, that means another card of Quarter Horse racing from Ajax Downs. Today's card features two trials for the Adequan Ajax Derby Challenge, along with an open allowance for older horses. Here are my program selections for the nine race card. 

Race 1: 1-3-2
Two year old maidens kick off today's card of racing. #1 First Prize Oscar is part of an entry for owner/trainer Renee Wilson. This Oklahoma bred gelding worked 220 yards from the gate in a nice 12.29 on July 2nd, and the barn's main rider Daniel Wayne Rose has the call. The entry give you two for the price of one, which may be beneficial with these two year olds. #3 Rolling Ring was favoured to win his debut against Ontario Sired company, but lost all chance when the rider lost his irons. I think we can certainly expect improvement from the Davy Ward trainee. #2 The Doo Is Flying has not been flashy in her workouts, but she hasn't been bad either. Most recently, she went 250 yards from the gate in 14.06. She could round it out, or even win it. We can't really know with inexperienced two year olds.

Race 2: 5-2-3
This race looks like it could go to almost anyone. #5 Jess Blue First returns to Ontario after a stint in Oklahoma, where he actually ran some decent races. Both of his wins come here at Ajax, and the difference in class cant hurt. #2 I Am Sweet Love made her 2014 debut running against a decent bunch of Ontario Sired NW2 allowance horse. Class wise it was a good race, and he could improve second time off the layoff. However, it will be tough for her as a one time winner facing two time winners. #3 Jessies Leaving You also drops in class from $10,000 optional claiming. This horse probably would have had a great 2013 if she didn't catch so many tough fields, racing against horses like Mitford, Piranhaaa and Betty Gun. She runs her race when she has a shot, which I think she does.

Race 3: 6-2-9
#6 Sammies Rocket ran a very good second in this debut. If that ability proves to be true, and he improves now that he has a start, he's the one to beat. #2 Arizona Bennie debuts here for trainer Greg Watson with Chelsey Willick riding. He shows a nice work, 250 yards in 13.61 from the gate. At 10-1 he could even be worth a chance as an upset winner. #9 Redwing Mill debuted on June 22nd and finished 4th from the same outside gate he draws today. I don't know how good that race was but there is room to improve into a solid, competitive runner.

Race 4: 3-2-7
#3 A Shore Thing should not be 10-1 at post time, but he's a great play if he is. He makes his first start of the Ajax season after a winter at Hialeah, where won a $7,500 claimed in impressive fashion. He's been given two workouts to prep for this race, and both have been very good. On top of that, he's run solid races against the best horses in the province. He's a very nice horse. #2 Ourfirstorphan has run second in both of his starts this year, but he's been beaten by very nice horses in Eyesa Zoomn and The Fdd Map. Besides A Shore Thing he gets an easier spot here and is a win threat. #7 Cat Vision surprised me with how well he ran last time, finishing second to a decent horse in Storeytime Blue. This is a tougher bunch, and he's probably not as fast, but from the outside post he should be good enough to pick up a cheque.

Race 5: 4-3-5
This is the first of two trials for the Adequan Ajax Downs Derby Challenge. #4 Shazoomin Rose comes to us from Oklahoma. She qualified to the Oklahoma Derby, a very tough, top quality race, and finished second in the Valley Junction Futurity at Prairie Meadows last year. Forgive her last start, she probably didn't like the slop. I love her class, 10-1 would be a very playable price on her. #3 Well Worth It raced in Idaho and California as a two year old, where she hit the board in a pair of stakes. She then found her way to Indiana Grand, where she finished second in a first level allowance after an awkward start. She is also quite classy and certainly warrants a look. #5 Ivory Injun won last year's All Canadian Futurity. He qualified to the Picov Derby where he wasn't a factor. He should be good enough to round things out behind the new arrivals.

Race 6: 1-5-4
This is the second of two trials for the Adequan Ajax Downs Derby Challenge. #1 Bold Six Love had a huge late run to be fourth in the Picov Derby last time. He's finished first in both of his starts at 400 yards, including the Sunshine State Derby at Hialeah. Perhaps the extra distance is what he needs to win. #5 Streakinshagginwaggon won the Picov Derby with a late rally. He really seems to have woken up this year and definitely deserves to be the favourite, but he will likely be much lower than 3-1 come post time. #4 Zip Kode broke well from the rail in the Picov Derby, but faded late on a day where the inside was at a disadvantage. It was forgivable, and this filly is a three time stakes winner. We'll see how she does on a fairer racetrack.

Race 7: 6-1-4
#6 Kool N Kinda Special finished third against a tough pair of runners last time, Piranhaaa and McM Tres Episode. This is a much softer spot, and I have to think he's the horse to beat. #1 Andaley Okey tried a Picov Maturity trial last time, and beat only one. It can easily be forgiven that she couldn't beat those horses, Mitford is the champ and the rest were very nice, and note that this mare is the winningest horse in this race with 7 career victories. The class drop is key for her. #4 Hurricane Alexandra finished last in Kool N Kinda Special's last race, but she may have just needed a start as it was her first start of the season. She did end 2013 with a pair of wins in the Speed Index condition, and I don't mind her at all as a longshot for the triactor.

Race 8: 3-2-4
Today's feature is an open allowance for the older horses going 350 yards. #3 Feature My News didn't live up to the high expectations I had for him in his last start, but maybe he just needed a start over the surface. He's got a lot of back class, nice speed figures, and could improve and get the win today. #2 Jesswatchme finished third going 330 last time. He tends to get better as the distances get longer, and he has the right to improve second off the layoff. We'll see how much late kick he has. #4 Piranhaaa raced an even fifth in Jesswatchme's last race, and I don't know why. He is a Stakes winner, and he's about 10 speed figure points faster than his last race. If his real talent shows he should be right there.

Race 9: 2-9-1
#2 Noisyboy ran second in his debut behind I Like Chics, who came back to run a good third in a competitive NW2. The second lifetime start usually gets a good horse to show improvement, and he also gets to drop from open to Ontario Bred maidens. He could be tough. #9 Shake Those Flies debuts here for trainer Joe Tavares. This filly shows a 250 yard gate work in 13.97. With a clean break and a straight run, why not try her at a price? She could have some talent. #1 Another Shark has had a few close runs in his nine races, most recently a second behind a mare named Wild Roze, who was becoming a bit of a notorious loser. He's also been beaten by Everything Fast, another notorious loser who shows up as an also eligible here, three times. I think this gelding is a vulnerable favourite, but he has hit the board in five of his nine starts, so I'm not going to totally toss him.

Good luck to everyone playing today. It is sure to be a fantastic day of racing!

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Ajax Downs Canada Day Selections

Happy Canada Day everyone! For the holiday practically every track in Canada is racing, and Ajax Downs is no exception. We have a seven race program for you today which features a 110 yard Gridiron Gallop and a pair of trials for the AQHA Maiden Challenge. There are plenty of on-track attractions as well. We hope you can spend the day with us! Here are my selections for the card.

Race 1: 4-1-3
#4 Cash in for Sugar probably should have won her last race but stumbled at the start, losing all chance. If she breaks well today she's the one to beat. #1 Im a Lil Magic dropped down to $10,000 maiden claiming last time and was beaten only a head. The added class relief should help her, but I'm not sure an extra 30 yards will. Regardless, not one to toss. #3 Mommyssweetsecret finished fourth in Im a Lil Magic's last race, a respectable run. Again, the added class relief should help. She may also improve in her third start of the season.

Race 2: 4-3-6
This is the first of two trials for the AQHA Maiden Challenge. #4 Shadasha comes to us by way of Remington Park, where most recently she was beaten only 1/2 a length. The class relief should be key for her #3 Bb Milliondollarbaby is not actually a maiden, finding the win at Indiana last time. She has some class, qualifiying to last year's Heritage Place Derby. This race is between these two in my opinion. #6 Ms Kool O Toole was beaten a neck against local company back on May 25th in her career debut. She draws outside and makes sense to round things out.

Race 3: 3-1-4
This is the second of two trials for the AQHA Maiden Challenge. #3 Mr Victory Six is undeniably the horse to beat here. If he hadn't have been on the inside part of the track in the Picov Derby, I think he would have won. That day was quite outside favouring. I think he's probably the best three year old in Ontario. This should be a cakewalk. #1 Runaway Cause has been close in her last few starts. So long as she likes the rail she should be able to pick up a cheque. #4 Cantcatchthissecret had no excuse on her Picov Derby trial. This is easier company, perhaps she will run better second time off the layoff.

Race 4: 5-2-6

#5 I Like Chics debuted in winning fashion on June 8th. If this five year old continues to grow as he gains experience, he will be tough to beat. #2 Shesastreakinkid ran a good third against a fairly tough group last time. She does make her second start off the layoff, her last race was very good, but her record of 15-1-1-1 is a concern. #6 Copper State Queen makes her second start off the layoff. She isn't a winning type, but she does it the board reasonably consistently, so I will give her a shot to round it out.

Race 5: 6-7-1

#6 Chasing Royalty has had two starts this season, both in the open Ontario Sired Allowance ranks and both have been very good. She drops into NW3 company and is the one to beat. #7 Not Too Much exits a third against similar company. She is a Stakes winner and she draws outside, but she will need to improve off of her last effort in order to win. #1 Oh Gary started the season with a win against ON sired NW2 allowance horses, and then faced a field of open Allowance horses. That bunch was way too tough for him and it shows in his last place finish. He is the kind who likes to be close and can definitely hit the board at a bit of a price.

Race 6: 7-1-8

This week's feature is a $21,000, 110 yard 'Gridiron Gallop!' #7 Rising Up the Charts is winless at the distance, but in October he finished a good second to 110 yard specialist Slick Little Beduino. He hasn't gotten a win in a long time, but today could be the day he returns to the winner's circle. #1 One Kool Wave likes 110 yards, winning three of four tries at the distance. He draws the rail, which he won impressively from on May 18th. He's tough, but looking for some more value in a race like this may be smart. #8 Jesse James Alibi has won three of her last five starts, including a run at this distance last time. Her 110 yard win was probably not fast enough to win against these, but there's a chance she improves second time off the layoff. 

Race 7: 3-7-4

#3 Imaflysmashingbaby ran alright against open Maidens last time after being beaten only a neck against Ontario Sired runners in his previous starts. The speed figures for his two races this year suggest he is narrowly the fastest horse in this group. #7 Apache Bo is a first time starter for Renee Wilson and Daniel Wayne Rose who shows a 220 yard gate workout in 12.37, very respectable. He certainly doesn't have to beat much here and he's 15-1. #4 Wild About Nellie has not had much luck from the gate this year. She hasn't shown a lot of ability, but this is one of the easier maiden fields so she can round it out; she doesn't deserve favourite status, however.

Have a great Canada Day!