How to Bet the Quality Derby Week Maiden Races at Churchill Downs

The Twin Spires at Churchill Downs - Coady Photography The Kentucky Derby, Kentucky Oaks and 11 other graded stakes races are the obvious highlights at Churchill Downs this week, but racing’s future will also be on display in a series of quality maiden special weight races. Across Friday and Saturday, five special weight events—three on dirt, two on turf—will be conducted over a variety of distances. The participants might be winless, but these competitive races could serve as springboards [...]

Spot Plays for Southwest Stakes Day at Oaklawn Park

Jack Van Berg breaking his maiden at Churchill Downs - Coady Photography High-class Monday racing action isn’t common, but Oaklawn Park is making an exception by scheduling three graded stakes races for February 18, Presidents’ Day. It’s a fun card with a lot of options, so let’s go through the fields and look for some spot plays…. Race 3: Maiden Special Weight There are some promising first-time starters in this race, including #1 Good as Money (a Calumet [...]

Spot Plays for Risen Star Day at Fair Grounds

Synchrony winning the 2018 Fair Grounds Handicap (gr. III) - Hodges Photography/Lou Hodges, Jr. Planning to watch and wager on the Risen Star Stakes (gr. II) this Saturday at Fair Grounds? Don’t forget to check out the other appealing races on the card! I’ve already shared my thoughts on the Risen Star, but that’s just one of the dozen races on the agenda. After going over the rest of the card, I’ve found four other spot plays throughout [...]

Picks and Plays for Sunshine Millions Day

X Y Jet winning the Smile Sprint Stakes (gr. II) - Photo by Coglianese Photos/Kenny Martin The annual Sunshine Millions program at Gulfstream Park might not be quite what it was a decade or so ago, when there were more races and bigger purses, but the four races scheduled for Saturday are shaping up to be competitive events with some high-quality participants. I’ve gone through the card and come up with a few spot plays totaling $100. Feel [...]

Using Trainer Angles in Handicapping, Part 5

Bob Baffert at Saratoga - Photo by Courtney Heeney/Coglianese Photography You’ve probably heard the talk—the talk of how trainer Bob Baffert has become essentially unbeatable with his two-year-olds. Maybe “unbeatable” is a bit of a stretch, but it isn’t far from the truth either. In 2018, Baffert’s two-year-olds compiled an otherworldly 32-for-62 record—that’s 52% wins—and when you consider that Baffert frequently runs two horses against each other, his record for the year was nothing short of jaw-dropping. So [...]

Award Winner Looks Prize-Worthy in Gulfstream Maiden Race

Gulfstream Park (Coglianese Photos) It’s well known that Todd Pletcher is tough to beat at Gulfstream Park, where he has been the leading trainer at the winter/spring Championship Meet on fifteen occasions. Pletcher is particularly tough with his two-year-olds and three-year-olds, which is why it comes as no surprise to see Pletcher with two entrants in Saturday’s seventh race at Gulfstream, a one-mile maiden special weight for two-year-olds. But does this mean that handicappers should simply concede that [...]

Keeler Johnson’s Post-Breeders’ Cup Santa Anita Spot Plays

Santa Anita - Photo by © Breeders' Cup/Todd Buchanan 2014 If the Breeders’ Cup has you in the mood for playing the races and you find that you’re not ready to call it quits at the end of the Saturday card, never fear—there’s plenty more memorable racing on Sunday, including a nice card at Santa Anita that features two graded stakes races. After looking over the day’s events, I’ve come up with a few spot plays to consider, [...]

Del Mar and Saratoga 2yos Analysis: Grade 1s Close Out the Meets

Instagrand winning the Best Pal Stakes (gr. II) at Del Mar - © BENOIT PHOTO Although we’re nearing the conclusions of the 2018 summer meets at Del Mar and Saratoga, there’s still plenty of top-notch juvenile racing still to come. In fact, the meets are going to end with a bang in that respect! Saturday will see fillies take the stage in the Del Mar Debutante (gr. I) at Del Mar and the Spinaway Stakes (gr. I) at [...]

Del Mar 2yos Analysis: Instagrand Wins Like a Future Superstar

Instagrand winning the Best Pal Stakes (gr. II) at Del Mar - © BENOIT PHOTO Budding superstar? Beast in the making? Future Kentucky Derby winner? Perhaps it’s too early to bestow such lofty praise upon Instagrand, but this two-year-old son of Into Mischief was nothing less than breathtaking while winning Saturday’s $200,000 Best Pal Stakes (gr. II) at Del Mar in a dominant manner strikingly reminiscent of his maiden victory at Los Alamitos. With Drayden Van Dyke in [...]

Saratoga 2yos Analysis: Chad Brown On the Rise

The fourth weekend of the Saratoga meet featured a couple more graded stakes races for juveniles, including one that was essentially the definition of a closer-favoring race. The action kicked off on Saturday with the $200,000 Adirondack Stakes (gr. II), a 6 ½-furlong sprint for fillies contested over a drying-out main track labeled “good.” The track was a bit tiresome as a result, so you can imagine what happened when race favorite Lyrical Lady and longshot Mucho Amor wound up [...]