Sunday, 31 May 2015

Ajax Downs Selections May 31

Happy Sunday everyone! Today at Ajax Downs we have a terrific card of eight races, headlined by the first true Stakes event of the year: the Picov Maturity! We also have two divisions of the $20,000 QROOI Overnight Series Maiden Stakes. Last week was a first for me since I started doing the program selections last year: I didn't have a single winner. I'm hoping to change that in a big way today. Fingers crossed! Here are my selections for today's card.

Race 1: 2-4-3
Welcome to Ajax Downs for a terrific card of Quarter Horse racing! Race 1 is the start of the Early Double. #2 CHASING ROYALTY was racing well against some tough horses last year, including Jesskissmytexas and Pegasos One Underpar. As a two year old, she qualified to two Futurities. She is the class of the field and will be tough to beat if she is ready off the layoff. #4 BYE ME ONE KOOL BUD was a Stakes winner at two, a consistently classy three year old, but had a tough season last year, only racing three times and never showing much. If I recall correctly, he was quite fractious pre-race on September 30th. He posted a fast work on May 6th and might be one to look for at a bit of a price. #3 FIESTY ICON ended 2014 with three consecutive wins, two in open allowance races. He is now three years old and will make his seasonal debut against older horses, but if his speed figures hold true he should race well here.

Race 2: 4-6-5
#4 BOLD DASH HOME comes in off the layoff with a terrific looking work on May 25, posting a bullet from the gate under a hand ride. He ended last year with a decent 4th against Mr Victory Six and Streakinshagginwagon, both in today's Picov Maturity (Race 7) and it's worth noting that he did finish first (but was DQ'd) in the 2014 Sunshine State Derby at Hialeah Park. #6 JJ MAXWELL is one of the best Starter Allowance/Claiming horses at Ajax. He ended 2014 with three consecutive wins in Starter Allowance races with very strong speed figures. His April 19 work was on the slow side, but I have to think he's in good order and should be a factor in this group. #5 JESSE JAMES ALIBI was a winner at the $7,000 Starter Allowance level on opening day, breaking fast and just holding on going 250 yards. I'm not sure she's quite as fast as the top two choices, but she may have an edge seeing that she has a start in 2015. The Early Pick 3 is offered here.

Race 3: 6-1-2
#6 SILKS ARISING faced similar company on May 17th, found himself in a tight spot early and rallied for the place. He's got a lot going for him here; he's a two time winner in a field of horses that are all one time winners, several of which have many starts, he's hit the exactor in six of his ten starts and he's made a start this year. #1 SHESASTREAKINCHICK exit a third on September 16 behind Code 36 and Cold Hearted Shark, both respectable Speed Index horses last year. She's not a super consistent sort, but her two works coming into this have been fine and she faces a soft bunch today. #2 KISS ME IM SUGAR finished second behind Im Pretty Fames at this level on opening day. Im Pretty Fames came back to be an even third of five in another Speed Index race last week. This gelding is only one for 20, but he has the highest class rating of the field and a start in 2015. Nothing in this field would surprise me.

Race 4: 3-4-2
This race kicks off the $.20 Pick 4! #3 SELECTIVE MEMORY comes off the layoff with a bullet gate work on May 27. He had a good two year old season, finishing a good fourth in the Alex Picov Memorial Futurity and earning the maiden win. I think 8-1 would be an overlay on him. #4 MOUNTAIN CARTEL raced at this level on opening day, finishing a good second behind Waving Sandy Home (3rd in last year's Alex Picov Memorial Futurity.) Holey Foose came out of that race to finish a good third against a tough group last week. I think this gelding should probably be the favourite, and I do expect him to race well. #2 SITUATION CRITICAL was a bit disappointing on May 17. She didn't really race poorly, but I expect better after seeing how good she had raced at Hialeah. She could certainly show some improvement today.

Pick 4 ticket: 2,3,4,6,7/1/10/5,8,10 $3 for $.20

Race 5: 1-6-10
This is the first split of the QROOI Overnight Series Maiden Stakes. #1 EMBRACE EXTRAVAGENCE has worked twice this season, and looked great in both breezes. She is the full sister to a filly named Now Is Forever, who won a Futurity trial here in 2013 by three lengths before finishing second in the Futurity after a bad break. She was a potential star who we never really got to see develop. This filly certainly looks like she might have the makings to be something good. If she's a good price on the board, take a shot with her. #6 BLAZIN GLORY raced in Oklahoma as a two year old, getting four second place finishes in five starts. She even finished second in a training race before her career debut at Remington Park. She's the class of the field and a likely post time favourite, but I worry she's falling into a pattern of notorious losing. It may be a bit early to tell. #10 DINAHLICIOUS raced in the Ontario Sired QROOI Overnight Maiden Stakes on May 17 and finished a good second behind Random Audit (watch her in Race 1 today.) She broke a bit slow in that race. With a clean break she should put in a solid effort.

Race 6: 10-1-7
This is the second split of the QROOI Overnight Series Maiden Stakes. #10 JESS WANNA HAVE FUN made a few starts at Turf Paradise in Phoenix, AZ last year, including a respectable fifth in the Desert Futurity. I thought her May 13 work was good, and if her speed figures translate here, she should be much the best. #1 CORONAS SPECIAL comes in from Oklahoma where she most recently finished an okay third against $7,500 maiden claimers at Remington Park. That was her first start against older horses, and the move to open maidens at Ajax is probably a sideways class move. We'll see what the Wilson/Williams combo gets out of her. #7 MR JESS EWING was a heavy favourite in one of the Ontario Sired QROOI Overnight Maiden Stakes splits on May 17th, but was fractious in the gate and finished second. He probably would have won if he had behaved. The company gets a bit tougher today now that he has to face some open horses, but he could improve off of the last start a bit. The Late Pick 3 starts here.

Race 7: 5-8-10
This race is the first real Stakes race of the season, the $66,200 Picov Maturity. It's a 300 yard dash for the best older horses on the grounds, and it starts the Late Double. #5 SM CHICKS N GARTERS made his Ajax debut in his trial, where he led most of the way and was just caught by One Famous Glass. I can see him improving in his second start over the surface, and past efforts in Oklahoma leave me with little doubt he could be a serious Stakes horse here. #8 ONE FAMOUS GLASS is the field's highest earner, with over $140,000 in the bank. He raced great in the trial, dueling most of the way and just getting up to catch Sm Chicks N Garters. I always bring up the fact that he was a good fourth in last year's Grade 1 Leo Stakes at Remington Park, because that is a huge feat for a horse who races primarily in Ontario. It's tough to fault this gelding. #10 MITFORD looks to defend his Picov Maturity title, but he's facing a tougher group today than he did last year. He has won seven of his twelve Ajax Downs starts, including the 2013 Alex Picov Memorial Championship, very rarely throwing in a poor effort. He exits a trial win and has to be considered a factor today.

Race 8: 10-9-3
#10 NO MORE SUGAR TONITE raced on May 17 against Random Audit and Dinahlicious (Races 1 and 6 today, respectively.) She broke outwards and made a good rally to be third. She's facing a softer bunch today and should be tough to beat second off the bench. #9 EYE SELECT showed a bit of talent last year, finishing second in a $5,000 maiden claimer. Had that race been on a fast track instead of a sloppy surface, I think she would have been good enough to win. This is a tougher assignment, but I don't think seeing her run a good effort would be a shock. #3 ZOOM ZOOMN was unlucky not to draw in off of the AE list last week as he probably would have won the race he was entered in. He crossed the wire first on two occasions last year, both times being DQ'd. That's something no one else in this field has been able to do, so perhaps he'll be able to beat them there today. Keep him on your tickets.

Good luck to everyone playing today! Thank you for joining us, and we'll see you next week!

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Photos from Illinois Derby Weekend

This is looooooong overdue, but I've finally gotten it done.

      Five or six weeks ago I drove nine hours or so to Chicago for the Illinois Derby at Hawthorne Race Course. It was a great time, Hawthorne is a really nice track for what it is, an inner-city B track, and I got to make stops at Maywood and Balmoral for some harness racing, too. I even drove by Hiawatha Horse Park in Sarnia and the now-defunct Sports Creek Raceway in Michigan, both of which you can see on the highways.

      Don't let naysayers talk bad about Hawthorne, it's not the same palace Arlington is, but it's not supposed to be. I was impressed with it. If you like harness racing, I strongly recommend a trip to Balmoral, too. Lovely track, really nice grandstand, and a cool little museum on the first floor. I really liked the place.

     Here are some of the photos I took in Chicago.

The Hawthorne grandstand after the races on Friday

Maywood Park

Close finish at Maywood

A neat old logo on a window in the dining room
The entrance at Balmoral Park 
Another close harness finish, this one at Balmoral

Yahilwa and Elvis Trujillo win the G3 Sixty Sails Handicap

Whisky Ticket (6) holds off a fast closing Conquest Curlinate (5) to win the G3 Illinois Derby

      This was my second Chicago trip after going to the Arlington Million last summer, and I've had a great time both times. It's definitely a city worth venturing to if you're a racing fan. I'd like to thank Dave Zenner for helping make both trips great experiences. Chicago racing is definitely a lot of fun.

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Ajax Downs Selections May 24

It's Sunday so you know what that means: live racing at Ajax Downs! Seven races on tap today, with plenty of full, competitive fields. It's going to be another great day. Here are my selections for today's card.

Race 1: 5-2-3
Welcome to another day of Quarter Horse racing at Ajax Downs! #5 IM PRETTY FAMES won the first race on opening day under a hand ride. She has an edge over her two biggest threats here as she has a race this season, and has a good shot to be the first two-time winner of the meet. #2 I AM SWEET LOVE ended 2014 with a win against Code 36, who was very tough in the Speed Index ranks last year. She has hit the board in all three of her starts at 250 yards. NOTE that her work on MAY 13 was at 220Y, NOT 250Y. #3 SUGAR BEAN PERRY had an inconsistent 2014, running a few good races but a few even efforts, failing to get a win. His best speed figure of the year came in his first start of the year, so he may have a shot at a minor upset. Early Double wagering is offered here.

Race 2: 2-5-4
Race 2 kicks off the Early Pick 3. #2 FIRST LADY KATY was a debut winner here in September, then went down to Hialeah where she raced against Game Rita (who went on to finish second in a Stakes race) in a Derby trial and then finished a good fourth in a $10,000 claimer against older horses, posting a strong speed figure. #5 MOMMYS SWEET SECRET raced well in all five of her starts last year, ending the season with a pair of wins. She is stepping up in class here. We'll see how she performs here. #4 DOWN TOWN SUGAR had a very solid 2014 campaign which included a fourth place finish in the Ontario Sires Stakes Derby. Speed figure-wise he's a very strong contender; the only concern is that he may need a start off the layoff. His 2014 debut was a weak effort.

Race 3: 4-5-8
#4 EFFORTLESS GAME has raced in Texas and Louisiana and shown promise; she moves into the Renee Wilson barn for her Ontario debut. She has a class edge here and should be tough to beat. #5 CORONA STRAW debuted in a Futurity trial in June, trailing the field of five. That was a tough field, containing Jumping Guitar, who won two Futurities, and Cause Im Dancing, who qualified to two Futurities and managed to win two races. She worked well on May 11th. I expect her to show improvement. #8 JESS SHAKE EM got three runner up finishes (one of which came by DQ) last year, including a second behind First Lady Katy (see race 2), who we know has gone on to show ability. She is certainly a contender in this spot.

Race 4: 3-5-2
Race 4 is the start of the $.20 Pick 4. #3 CARAWAY BLUE raced well against the toughest horses in Ontario last year, including Country Boy Deluxe, One Kool Wave, One Famous Glass and Mitford. He worked a quick 220 in 12.10 in Michigan prepping for this and would be a great bet at 7-1. #5 RECKLESS AN WILD is a multiple Stakes winner who took the win last year's Ontario Sires Stakes Derby. He ended the year in an allowance against older horses on a sloppy track, and raced a respectable third. He looked great in his May 6th work, and I'm expecting a good effort. #2 TTT KELLYS REGAN got two wins at the end of last year's meet, then went to Louisiana Downs for the winter where he had a tougher time competing. He comes back with some winter fitness under his belt, a good breeze on May 6, and a good shot to race well.

Pick 4 ticket: 3,5/3,4/1,5,7,8/1,11(AE) $6.40 ($3.20 with no AE)

Race 5: 3-4-7
#3 HOLEY FOOSE was one of the favourites in a race of this condition on opening day, rallying late to finish third. She stretches out an extra 50 yards today and can improve second off the bench. #4 DEAL A FORTUNE makes his Ontario debut for Renee Wilson here, as well as his debut against older horses. He was a winner at Retama Park for $5,000 maiden claiming last summer, and most recently finished second in the slop in an allowance at Evangeline Downs. If it happens to rain and the track is sloppy, this horse is the likely winner. Either way he's a factor. #7 SPEED OF LIFE showed talent as a two year old, despite some behavior issues that likely hindered her. She was vet scratched on opening day, but will be fine here. We'll see if her two year old promise translates here. Late Pick 3 wagering is offered here.

Race 6: 5-1-8
The Late Double starts in this very competitive race. #5 JESSASTONECOLDCORONA is a longshot I'm going to take a stab with. She raced in a Speed Index race last week going 220, making a late rally between horses. She steps into a tougher class here, and will need to improve to win, but I don't think it's impossible at all. #1 SHADE OF GREY raced a good rallying third on opening day, breaking from the outside gate on a day where the track was arguably inside favouring. The extra 50 yards will work to her benefit. #8 EYESA SPEEDY SIMON is the class of the group, exiting a win in last year's Ontario Sires Stakes. I'm not 100% sure he'll be ready right off the bench, and even if you think he will be you're likely taking a short price, but he's certainly got a good shot here.

Race 7: 1-11(AE)-4
#1 AGAINST THE CURRENT raced a very good third in his second start last year, leaving me to believe he had some talent. He worked on May 13th and looked very good. I'm expecting a big effort. #11 ZOOM ZOOMN actually finished first twice last year, but was DQd both times. He qualified to the Ontario Sires Stakes where he finished an okay fifth. He clearly has some ability and will be dangerous if he draws in off of the AE list. #4 DOWN ON CASH put in some good efforts last year, most notably a second behind Fiesty Icon, who went on to win a pair of allowance races. She should race well here.

Good luck and thank you to everyone joining us today!

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Ajax Downs Selections Sunday May 17

Week #1 of Ajax Downs 2015 is in the books and we head on to our second card of the year. Today we have seven races, highlighted by two trials to the Picov Maturity and two splits of the $20,000 QROOI Ontario Sired Maiden Overnight Stakes. First post is at 12:55. Here are my selections for today's card.

Race 1: 2-5-7
Welcome to Day #2 of the 2015 season at Ajax Downs! #2 SILKS ARISING won two in a row at the end of 2014, a maiden and a Speed Index race, posting speed figures that make him tough in this group. He has hit the exactor in five of his nine career starts. #5 THATSALOTOFSUGAR was a winner last week in an Ontario Sired maiden. The timer malfunctioned, but the unpublished hand time was 12.31 for the 220 yards. She has a fitness edge coming into this race with a start under her belt, and she is a winner at today's distance. Certainly one to consider, especially if the 7-1 estimate holds true. #7 IM AQUICKTRICK had a good 2 year old season, winning twice and qualifying to two Futurities, and now gets to face older horses. She has the highest class rating of the field, and this is a good spot for a young horse to have a chance at beating older right off the bat. The Daily Double starts here.

Race 2: 4-1-6
This race kicks off the early Pick 3. #4 EYESA ZOOMN had a great campaign last year, winning three of his five starts here at Ajax. He's a proven older horse who rarely throws a poor effort with no excuse. Note that Shanley Jackson, a top rider from Indiana and Hialeah, is named to ride. #1 OURFIRSTORPHAN made his seasonal debut last week, but had some trouble at the break and couldn't recover. He's the highest earner of the field, with over $115,000 in the bank, and can get a cleaner break from the rail post. #6 CHANNELISLANDSFLYER has hit the board in 18 of his 26 starts. He was just outnodded for the win last week, and he was very close to many wins last year. He's a very tough horse to leave out.

Race 3: 5-6-1
Race 3 is the first of two trials for the Picov Maturity. #5 SM CHICKS N GARTERS makes Ajax debut after campaigning in Oklahoma. He's a classy sort, coming close to Stakes wins at Will Rogers and Remington. Note that in last year's Jack Brooks Stakes at Remington, he finished about a neck behind a horse named Houdini, who went on to win the G1 Rainbow Derby and finishing third in the G1 All American Derby at Ruidoso Downs. #6 ONE FAMOUS GLASS is one of the most consistent horses in Ontario, winning a pair of Stakes, and going down to Remington last spring and proving himself capable down there. He probably should have been very close in last year's Alexander Picov Memorial Championship but had some bad luck at the break. He's simply one of Ontario's best Quarter Horses. #1 PIRANHAAA ended the 2014 season with a third place finish in the Alexander Picov Memorial Championship. He seems to be improving with age and may be one of the top older horses this year.

Race 4: 4-1-5
Race 4 is the second of two trials for the Picov Maturity, and the start of the $.20 Pick 4. #4 FIRST DOWN THE TRACK ended 2014 in great form, with a second in the Alexander Picov Memorial Championship and a win over One Famous Glass in an allowance race. She worked from the gate on May 11 and looked great. I'm expecting a big effort out of her here. #1 MITFORD looks to defend his title in the Picov Maturity. He's been one of the toughest horses in Ontario since coming here in 2013, but occasionally posts a even start. He worked a bullet on May 4 prepping for this. A serious threat. #5 VARSITY LACE is a bit of an off and on type, but when she's on she's capable of being competitive with these types of horses. Last year she raced well against Mitford, First Down the Track, Country Box Deluxe, The Fdd Map and other tough horses. Use her in your exotics.

Pick 4: 4/2,3,5/2,7/8,9,10 $3.60 for $.20

Race 5: 3-5-2
#3 SITUATION CRITICAL was very even in her first few starts, but got really good down at Hialeah over the winter, ending the South Florida meet with a dominant maiden win. Shanley Jackson, who won with her at Hialeah, is named to ride. #5 LEXIA won last year's Ajax Maiden Challenge, but came up evenly in a NW3 allowance where she was fractious. She returns in the NW2 class with a quick 220 yard breeze on May 4th. #2 SHADASHA came up to Ajax last year to take a try at the Maiden Challenge, finishing second in the trial and fourth in the final. Since then she's put in some good efforts in Iowa and Oklahoma, including a maiden $15,000 claiming win at Prairie Meadows. Perhaps she can turn the tables on Lexia this time. The Late Pick 3 starts here.

Race 6: 2-7-4
Race 6 is the first division of the $20,000 Ontario Sired Maiden QROOI Overnight Stakes. #2 JESS MR EWING showed promise as a two year old, finishing second in a trial and finishing third in the Ontario Sired Futurity. If he's the same horse he was last year, I'd have to think he's the best horse in this field. #7 GRASSHOPPER FLATS debuted in a trial for the Alex Picov Memorial Futurity, finishing fourth behind multiple Stakes winner Jumping Guitar, and tough allowance runner Fiesty Icon. He didn't run after that, and has moved from the Ward barn to the Reid barn. This gelding has potential moving forward. #4 CARAWAYS ZOOMTO FAME may have an edge in this field as the only 4 year old and the only horse with a start this year in the field. I'm having a tough time seeing him winning, he's still a maiden after 13 tries, but I do think he'll perform well enough. The Late Double is offered here.

Race 7: 9-8-10
Race 7 is the second division of the $20,000 Ontario Sired Maiden QROOI Overnight Stakes. #9 RANDOM AUDIT had some issues at the beginning of 2014, but was very close to winning on several occasions come the last two months of the meet. She has experience facing older horses, while most of the field doesn't. She should be tough. #8 DINAHLICIOUS finished second in her career debut behind Sassy N Ready, who went on to qualify for (before being vet scratched from) the Ontario Sired Futurity. There is upside here. #10 NO MORE SUGAR TONITE hasn't been particularly notable thus far in her career, but she's another with experience against older horses. Her work coming into this race was good. She has a chance at a mild upset here.

Good luck to everyone playing today!

Thursday, 14 May 2015

So... Rolling Pick 4s Now?

In the past couple of months I have written a few blog posts about over-cluttered wagering menus. There are a lot of tracks that cram too many exotics, especially multi-race exotics, into the menu that don't offer much value to players and dilute the pool sizes of all wagers.

     Well, Presque Isle Downs may be taking the gold medal for "Too Many Horizontals" home with rolling Pick 4s being added to their wagering menu. I took a look at the entries for their opening day card on Sunday, and there is a Pick 4 starting in every possible race. Then I looked at Monday's entries and it's the same deal.

     I don't know who thought this was a good idea, and I don't want to wax on for too long going on about how bewilderingly confusing this is. All I can say is that rolling Pick 4s are not going to handle well. I don't know any horseplayers who wanted rolling Pick 4s. I don't get it at all.

     Maybe this is a mistake, and the wagering menu has just been misprinted. Maybe I'm completely wrong and there is a serious demand for a Pick 4 in every single race possible. Maybe Presque Isle has found the pulse of the wagering market. Maybe this post will seem completely silly in time, but I'm not holding my breath.

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Ajax Downs Opening Day Selections

The time has come for another season of Quarter Horse racing at Ajax Downs. The weather has gotten nice, the trees are turning green, and the horses will be fast. I'm pleased to be back as the program handicapper at Ajax this year. Last year my selections hit at 36% with a positive ROI, and I'm hoping for an even better 2015. The races start at 12:55 ET, so be sure to tune in and give us a look. Here are my selections for the opener.

Race 1: 2-4-3
Welcome back to another season at Ajax Downs! We kick off 2015 with a Speed Index race. #2 Im Pretty Fames has been posting solid, in company workouts preparing for the new season. The first few months of 2014 went well for her, but towards the end she was facing far tougher horses than she could compete with. She drops into a logical spot here and should perform well. #4 Lolamo had a tough 2014, facing many trial and allowance fields, but showed some good efforts in the claiming ranks. He finds himself eligible for the Speed Index condition, where he fits well. He posted a bullet gate work in 13.42 on April 29, running with a tailwind. #3 Jess Royal Bucks only raced twice in 2014 after tailing off at the end of 2013. If the veteran gelding is going to be competitive, the Speed Index ranks are probably the best place for him to be racing. Daily Double wagering is available here.

Race 2: 1-3-5
Race 2 is a Maiden for three year olds and up. The Early Pick 3 starts here. #1 Cartels Fast Money raced twice at Will Rogers Downs in Oklahoma in the fall, and has now found her way to Ontario. Her first start wasn't bad and her second was quite good. She should be able to find her way to the winner's circle against this company. #3 R Zoomin Lady made her second career start in October, finishing a neck behind Ttt Kellys Regan, who came back to win a $10,000 claiming NW2. She's had two works prepping for the season and has the best chance to upset the US shipper. #5 Caraways Zoomto Fame probably isn't fast enough to win this race, but has an edge to round things out over the other two, as he is an older horse with experience facing older while the others only faced two year olds last year. He has posted several good efforts against lower level maidens, hitting the board in five of his seven starts last year.

Race 3: 1-5-6
The third is a NW2 allowance for Ontario Sired horses. It also starts the $.20 Pick 4. #1 Sofar Gone is the fastest horse in this race based on the speed figures. He scored a decisive maiden win in a ten horse field last year and came back with two very game efforts in NW2 fields. Woodbine regular David Garcia comes into ride. I expect him to be the best horse in the field. #5 Lookin to Be Iconic was also a maiden winner in a ten horse field last year, but came back to race in the same field as Sofar Gone on October 13, racing evenly. She posted a bullet 220 breeze on April 29. She should race well here. #6 Shade of Grey showed talent as a two year old, ending the season with an easy win. She outraced Wild Boyz Victory (also in this field) twice. We'll see how she fares against older horses.

Pick 4 ticket: 1/4/3,5/1,3,4 $1.20 for $.20.

Race 4: 4-6-2
Race 4 is an Ontario Sired Maiden dash, and the start of the Late Pick 3. #4 Eye Select raced a decent second for $5,000 claiming to end the season. That was only her second career start, she faces a very soft bunch today, and she showed the gate speed that you want to win going 220 yards. She should be tough here. #6 Silk Shake has been very even thus far in her career, but has been fairly consistent in the speed figure department and faces an easy group. We'll see how she does here. #2 Flying Secrets is the class of the 3 year olds in this field, qualifying to the Alex Picov Memorial Futurity. His last three performances were very poor. I'm not sure how good he'll be, but as I stated, this is not a tough group of horses.

Race 5: 3-5-6
The fifth is a NW2 allowance race. #3 Bigtime Ticket raced at Hialeah Park over the winter, with a three race campaign against older horses that included a three length maiden $5,000 claiming win. He has both a class and fitness edge over this group. I do not think he should be as high as 9-2 here. #5 Holey Foose raced against some tough company last year, but dropped to the $7,000 claiming ranks in August and scored an easy win. Unfortunately, she was DQd. She was claimed from that race, but the original connections bought her back. They clearly like the horse, and she posted a bullet workout from the gate on April 27. Big threat here. #6 Speed of Life showed promise as a two year old, but had some issues behaving in the paddock that probably hindered her a bit. She looked very good in her April 29 work, and although I'm not sure she can beat older horses right off the bat, she's a filly I expect to have a good campaign this year. Watch out for her. The Late Double starts here.

Race 6: 1-4-3
The opening day card is closed out with a $7,000 starter allowance. #1 Jessies Leaving You is a quick gate breaker, as evident by her win at 110 yards last year. If she's on, she fits well in this group, and she should have an edge at the gate going 250. #4 Ourfirstorphan had a very good 2014, hitting the top two in six out of nine starts and only racing poorly against the top Stakes horses. It's a bit concerning that his only win last year came in a three horse field, but he's clearly talented either way and has to be considered a threat. #3 Cat Vision has a lot of back class, he's the 2012 Alex Picov Memorial Championship winner. Last year he faced allowance and starter allowance company, winning twice and hitting the top three in six out of seven tries. It's very tough to fault an older horse who still tries this hard.

     Good luck to everyone playing today! See you on track!

Saturday, 9 May 2015

You Can Do Good Things With a Little Value

About a month ago the good folks at HANA put up a blog post pointing out that Western Fair Raceway (B harness track in Ontario) had a Super Hi 5 pool that outhandled Gulfstream Park (Major league Thoroughbred track that dominates the winter market) with no carryover.

     Well, the crew at Western Fair did another big one tonight. Tonight's early Hi 5 had a carryover of about $6,000, and it attracted $54,727 in new money, a record single pool for the London oval.

     Western Fair introduced the Hi 5 a couple seasons back. It was one of the first bets in Ontario to offer a 15% takeout and it has grown in popularity as bettors have recognized it's value. It's become a bet worth playing.

     The best way to get people to bet, is to give them a reason to bet. The best reason to bet is having value. If you offer a betting product with good value, it will go a long way for you.

Other Happenings

     Century Downs is open for harness racing, marking the return of racing to Calgary. They've been doing about $70-75k a card, which isn't bad. They've got a $1 minimum Pick 4 with a 15% takeout. You'll see carryovers once in a while, so there'll be some good opportunities there once in a while.

     I got blocked by a guy pretending to be a Grade 1 winning horse today, so that was funny.

     Thistledown pulled a smart move this year, bringing back Monday racing instead of Sundays. The first two Monday cards of the meet have handled a total of $1,765,056. The first two Sunday cards last year did $687,738. 156% more on Mondays.

     Last but certainly not least, live Quarter Horse racing is returning to Ajax Downs on Sunday. I'm returning as the program handicapper this year, and my selections will be posted here. I will also be taking paddock notes and posting them here as well. If you like Quarter Horses and you want to have some fun on a Sunday, check us out.

Sunday, 3 May 2015

The 40 Minute Pick 4: What Happened?

The Meadowlands/Tioga 40 minute Pick 4 was one of the interesting non-Churchill happenings on Derby day. I was thinking of putting in a play but I didn't have time to handicap and was working an OTB.

      The idea was certainly intriguing: a 15% takeout Pick 4, two races the Meadowlands and two races from Tioga, with the whole sequence to be wrapped up in 40 minutes. Simulcast races from Tioga were carded as the 2nd and 4th races at the Meadowlands.

     I obviously didn't get to play, but when I got home I saw some people on Twitter talking about it. I saw some interesting tweets about there being separate pools and a bad payout compared to the win parlay.

    For some reason, Meadowlands Race 2 (simulcast from Tioga Race 2) and Tioga Race 2 were treated as two completely separate races with two completely separate pools. M4 and TgDn3 were the same deal. This is utterly bizarre to me.

    Most of the horses in the races had significantly different odds in the different pools. The pools were both very small. Case in point, Tioga Race 3's winner paid $14.80, and the Meadowlands Race 4's winner paid $37.80. Same horse. Same race. 155% higher payoff at one track.

    Using the Meadowlands' win pays, the $2 parlay paid $1,030.97. Using Tioga's win pays, the parlay paid $639.36. The actual Pick 4 itself paid $157.10 for $1. What happened?

    I really have no idea what to make of the whole thing.  The payout completely baffles me. Maybe the players who bet $23k into the Pick 4 were smart enough to stay away from the messed up win pools and let less skilled bettors dominate them. Maybe it's just a crazy pari-mutual anomaly. I'm not sure. It's certainly strange, though.

    I want to see racing keep trying things like this. I think they can be good wagers, and they're probably marketable. But bugs like separate pools on simulcast races need to be fixed. This could be an alright idea.

     I have to give Gural and his team credit for trying something different. I just hope they try to fix and improve off of it. Racing likes to quit on things that require some effort. I'd like to think they won't just give up.

Pretty Good Derby

Kentucky Derby 141 is in the books with a record attendance of 170,513 and a record handle of $194.3 million.

     I'm always reading what the folks on Twitter are saying, and one of the big pre-Derby concerns was the boxing match in Vegas that was happening after the Derby. There was a lot of chatter going on that there was going to be a lot of money bet on this fight (I don't remember the figures I saw) and that this was going to have a negative impact on the Derby handle. It didn't.

     Churchill put out a great card yesterday, with very competitive undercard races and an average field size of 10.23, up slightly from last year's 9.92. Last year, the average win price was $10.98 and the median win price was $8.80. This year, the average was $15.54 (up 41.5%) and the median was $10 (up 13.6%.) It was a more competitive, interesting card.

     Racing doesn't need to worry about UFC or College basketball. It needs to worry about putting out a strong product. Kentucky Derby 141 was a great betting card. Good betting races will do more for racing than a food truck ever will.

     Now let's talk about the race itself. I thought American Pharoah was very impressive. I'm expecting this year's Triple Crown to be similar to last year's, with Pharoah winning the Preakness and coming up short in the Belmont. I can't fault him at all on yesterday's performance, he didn't save any ground, he stalked the other class horse and the other class horse's biggest rival, and went by them both pretty easily. I'm not going to speculate on how good this year's three year old crop is, but I do think we'll have a fun division up until the Travers and the PA Derby.

     Materiality surprised me. I've always liked him and still do, but I expected a clunker yesterday. Instead, he raced a huge one. I don't know how much that took out of him, he is still pretty inexperienced, after all, but that was impressive. I hope they give him some down time, because I think he's a potential superstar, and I'd hate to see him worn out to quickly.

     I liked Danzig Moon and Frosted and I was happy with the way both of them raced. Danzig Moon really got bounced around in the first 1/4 mile, made an (arguably) premature move with a 1/2 mile left, made up a lot of ground and flattened out. It was a solid race. I highly doubt any of the connections are disappointed with the effort. Assuming they go the Plate route with him, we may have an interesting Queen's Plate on hand this year. Danzig Moon, Ami's Flatter, Conquest Curlinate. I'm looking forward to it.

     This was probably one of my favourite Kentucky Derbies on recent memory. It was just a very exciting race that was a ton of fun to handicap, and thrilling to watch unfold. I enjoyed it, and I'm sure you all did too.