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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


HALLANDALE BEACH, FL, May 16, 2023  —  Just when you thought you were out of the deep end of the pool, they pull you back in.

Sound familiar?

GRADE 1 PREAKNESS STAKES, The Second Jewel                    Race 13

The Skinny: Sheets players will tell you that Mage’s Kentucky Derby was a big move forward; it was, nearly 4 points on the Thoro-Graph scale and, of course, he returns on short rest. In his defense the line is tight, also he is lightly raced. Can he pair up? Yes. Can he bounce and win, yes. Can he bounce and withstand a forward move from 8-First Mission (5-2)? Maybe not, and that’s why they run races. Both are good colts. The Derby winner could be something more. On balance, I see no reason why Mage shouldn’t win the Run for the Black-Eyed Susans.

There appear two others that can be regarded serious contenders: 7-Blazing Sevens (6-1) and the speedy, pole sitting National Treasure (4-1). Main speed is always dangerous, but no one is going to steal this Preakness on the lead. Chad Brown has made it a fairly serious habit of winning this race, and Blazing Saddles has been pointed here specifically.

Form holds: 1. Mage. 2. First Mission. 3. Blazing Sevens. 4. National Treasure.


WIN-VALUE PLAY: First Mission at 5-2) or more.

EXOTICA: Exacta Key-Box: 3 // 7.8.  Exacta Wheel: 3 // 7.8.  Trifecta Key: 3 // 1.7.8 // 1.7.8

The Skipat that begins the Late All-Stakes Pick 5 has drawn a field of 10. On the first pass, we left seven fillies open, then five, and hopefully have whittled it down to the three top contenders–two of which are making seasonal debuts. Get the picture?

SKIPAT STAKES                              SATURDAY                                      Race 9

The Skinny: Following a trainer change to top horseman Ned Allard, 2-Beguine (3-1) moved forward in her next two starts ending her season with a game place finish in Aqueduct’s Garland of Roses. Speaking to her class, she was narrowly beaten in the G3 Fantasy going long. She gets the campaign started here with 4YO maturity and Derby winning Javier Castellano on her side. Likely to be a pocket sitter, she fits the flow nicely.

7-Edie Meeny Miny Mo (5-1) is now five. She is long on early speed, has won half of eight lifetime starts and is 2-for-2 at Old Hilltop. Luis Saez will probably take a stalking roll here. 1-Oxana (8-1) has recency and is competitive on the Thoro Graph scale.

3-I’m the Boss of Me (4-1) ships in sharp with Irad. 5-Princess Kokachin (6-1) likes this surface–2-for-3 and loves the game 5-for-10. 9-Olivia 8-Darling (8-1) was good at Tampa this winter and training right along for the Delgado.


WIN-VALUE PLAY:  Edie Meeny Miny Mo to win at 5-1 or greater.

Exacta Box: 1-2-7. Exacta Wheel: 2.7 // 1.2.7. Trifecta Wheel: 2.7 // 1.2.7 // Trifecta Wheel: 2.7 // // 1.2.7

JIM MC KAY TURF SPRINT                                                            Race 10

The Skinny: From competitive sprint to competitive turf sprint and, naturally, there is no shortage of extreme early speed in this 5 furlong dash. We’ve narrowed it down to three principle contenders:

3-Artemus Citylimits (5-2) is a logical favorite based on company lines and the ability to distribute his energy efficiently under these trying circumstances. In the hands of turf ace Mike Maker, we wish he would have been drawn a bit wider for trip purposes, but this is Irad’s problem to solve. He appeared in need of his 6YO debut and was Ortiz took care of him in deep stretch. Thinking pocket rocket here.

10-Coppola (6-1) has gotten good for Dale Romans after the barn change and comes in off a lifetime best and running back in two weeks may be problematical. Johnny will need to figure it out and the outside gives him options. 1-Nothing Better (3-1) won his recent return in New York, the mini-turnback could actually help him here and Horacio Karamanos rode him to victory three back. 8-Greatful Bred (10-1) is an old pro who is at his best when fresh, the case today. He’s been working crisply at Madison Meyers training center and his stalking style and post suits the race shape and local Sheldon Russell has been on a recent tear.


WIN-VALUE PLAY:  Grateful Bred to win at 8-1 or greater

EXOTICA: Exacta Box: 1-3-8-10.  Trifecta Wheel: 3 // 1.8.10 // Trifecta Wheel: 1.8.10 // 3 //

G3 MARYLAND SPRINT                                                                   Race 11

The Skinny: I guess when growing the pool is the goal, throw three chaotic sprints against the parimutuel wall to launch a Pick 5and see what sticks. Again, lots of early glass only this time there are strong ralliers and talented stalkers that hopefully will lead to a formful result, such as it is.

The two favorites are strongest here: 7-Nakatomi (5-2) is getting big time class relief and he has been competitive in tougher company this year—close-up third and fourth in Grade 3 company in his last two; Tyler sticks. 8-Straight No Chaser (3-1) ships in sharp from SA via Oaklawn, exiting a key race producing two next-out winners. He too has been competitive with better this season. Johnny was aboard for his recent open lengths score and rides him back for Dan Blacker.

10-Wondrwherecraigis (4-1) is slowly getting back to his best 4YO form and why not; Brittney Russell is a miracle worker. 4-Al Loves Josie (10-1) owns high early speed but can win from close up and had double trouble in his 7F prep for this now turns back to his best distance and was second vs. state-breds in his lone start here last fall. X-Man marks the spot.


WIN-VALUE PLAY: Al Loves Josie to win at 8-1 or greater.

EXOTICA: Exacta Box: 4-7-8-10. Exacta Wheel: 2.5 // 7.8. Trifecta Wheel 7.8 // // // 7.8 //  [2-Prevalence (8-1) brilliant works with blinkers, switch to Irad; 5-Willy Boi (15-1), also working fast, Irad on, may get back to Florida winter form.

JAMES W MURPHY STAKES                                                  Race 12

The Skinny:  Look, it’s a two-turn route… on turf, an event fans can sink their teeth into. And their money, on the Graham Motion-trained favorite. 9-Nagiroc (8-5) is a worthy favorite. Competitive in three graded stakes, a Grade 3 winner—and third in the Breeders’ Cup at 2. Prat wisely rides him back and Motion adds blinkers, a 19% happenstance and profitable scenario for the barn and the 3YO Lea colt already distributes his energy well.

There are three horses of concern for the favorite.  3-A Western Yarn (10-1) is 2-for-3 on turf and a good third in the Columbia Stakes at Tampa, also with good energy distribution. 7-Kingfish Stevens (8-1) meets tougher but has run well in both lifetime grass runs. Javier takes the call from Carlos Martin, who wins non-graded stakes at a profitable 22% rate. 1-Fantasic Again (3-1) lacks good turf form but last out was third in the G3 Jeff Ruby Steaks; recall that Derby runnerup Two Phil’s beat him by 7-12 lengths when third, beating the four horse by 3 lengths. He has the pole, first Lasix, with Ward and Johnny to show him the way.


WIN-VALUE PLAY: A Western Yarn to win at 8-1 or greater.

EXOTICA: Exacta Key-Box 9 // 1.3.7. Exacta Wheel: 9 // 1.3.7. Trifecta Key:  9 // [4-Top Recruit (15-1) makes turf debut with acceptable pedigree  and top connections Maker and Rosario.


THE VERY ONE STAKES                                                                          Race 9

The Skinny: As you would expect there is an abundance of early speed signed on and if the game is sprinting on grass chances are Wesley Ward will be involved. He runs two and both look live:

9-Her World (7-2) brings a (4) 2-1-1 slate in both surface and trip to this dance in her Pimlico debut. She won her 4YO debut at Keeneland last month and Irad takes a return call. Ward favorite Johnny V. rides 5YO 8-Spicy Marg and appeared in need of her season’s debut; should benefit.

A potential value player is the local 4-Can the Queen (6-1), making her season’s debut looking for a repeat in this race. Last year she had a prep; this year the 7YO mare returns off a series of fast drills. Victor Carrasco has multiple wins on a mare that’s 6-for-14 at the trip and 3-for-5 in Baltimore.

But it’s 2-Train to Artemus (3-1) that will take the most beating. She never had a chance, pinned to the inside throughout and was hard used on the pace in her Captiva Island GP prior. She worked strongly for the Breen/Paco team at her Monmouth base for this.


WIN-VALUE PLAY: Train to Artemus if 5-2 or greater is available; a minimum of 5-1 on ‘Queen’.

EXOTICA: Exacta Key Box: 2 //  Straight Exacta: 2 // 4.58.9.  Trifecta Key-Box: 2 //  [3-Lemon Cunha (15-1) worked strongly for top connections] *[5-Can the Queen (6-1), loves course 3-for-5] *edit made 0517

G3 MISS PREAKNESS STAKES                                                        Race 10

The Skinny: This sprint features a battle between two fillies that appear to be going places, a match within a match and, given the early speed of each, perhaps it will shake out as an actual match race: 

2-Key to Life (2-1) is already a graded stakes winner, having taken the 7f G2 Beaumont last out. Today represents class relief and the turnback suits her talents better. She’s 4-for-5 lifetime all on the engine—and therein lies the challenge.

Nobody loves the Big Game like Coach Parcells and his undefeated New York bred, 6-Maple Leaf Mel (8-5) is looking for her first graded score in open company. She won her season’s debut impressively over fillies she dominated with her speed and class. Is there more there, there? We’re betting yes. We’ll fade the 2-pound pull and outer draw and lay the favorite.


WIN-VALUE PLAY: Maple Leaf Mel at 7-5 or greater

EXOTICA: Exacta Box 2-6.  Cold Exacta 6 // 2.5.7.  Trifecta Wheel 2.6 // 2.6 //1.5.7. *Trifecta Wheel: 2.6. // 1.5.7 // 2.6 [7-Bound by Destiny (30-1) first-time Brittany Russell is 30% and profitable, 1-L Street Lady (20-1] Russell/Toledo team 3-for-5 recently] [5-Topsy (8-1) Asmussen tapping Tyler G]. *edit made 0517

HILLTOP STAKES                                                                            Race 11

The Skinny: 1-Breath Away (2-1) is impossible to knock, 2-for-2 lifetime on grass with similar (7-1/2F) dynamics, has the pole, tactical enough and kicks, forward-looking, good spacing for the Clement/Rosario team. 11-Well Into (5-1) has a similar profile. She’s a tad faster, gets class relief with drop from Grade 2, tactical speed to overcome wide draw, excellent blowout at Keeneland, good switch to Saez for top-ship-in connections. Tough post should ensure value. This spot no layover for either:

2-Aunt Shirley (9-2) set pace before tiring behind ‘Breath’ in season’s debut. Gets first-Lasix and Irad on the re-ride. Chad Brown’s 3-Aspray (8-1) is 2-for-2 lifetime and visually impressed at Tampa last. Mate 8-Up and Down (6-1) won strongly run maiden allowance at KEE, her seasonal debut. 10-After Eight (12-1) ditto re her maiden score four days later at KEE.


WIN-VALUE PLAY: Well Into at 4-1 or more.

EXOTICA: Exacta Key-Box: 1 // 2.3.8*.10.11.  Exacta Key Box: 11 // Super Key: 1 //  Super Key: 11 // * edit correcting program number on 0519

G3 PIMLICO SPECIAL                                                                   Race 12

The Skinny: The Pimlico Special used to be a big deal but latter day dynamics, like the Preakness, have not treated the event kindly. A bigger purses and less competition could revive some of that lost prestige, but I digress:

This looks like an old-fashioned three-horse race two us among 2-Rattle N Roll (9-5), Law Professor (5-1) and a surging Clapton (6-1). Most have heard of Rock N Roll given his classics chase last year and now he may be looking for a higher profile given his “I’m back” effort taking Keeneland G3 Bowling Green at today’s trip. More engaged earlier than in other recent runs, he responded with vigor, appearing ready to take the next step. This is it but he’ll need to shoulder an additional eight pounds (126) to do so.

Since Law Professor (5-2) is 3-for-6 since entering the Atras barn and impressed visually taking both the Queens County and Excelsior in New York. This is his chance to win his first graded stakes since winning the G2 Mathis at SA at 3. Manny Franco, aboard for those two wins, is not letting the 5-year-old out of his sights. 3-Clapton (6-1) has been a SoFla revelation this spring, a game winner of the G3 Ghostzapper on the Florida Derby undercard, and he’s been working up a storm for this.


WIN-VALUE PLAY: Clapton at 5-1 or greater

EXOTICA:  Exacta Box: 2-3-5. Exacta Key Box: 5 // 2.3 //2.3. Trifecta Box:  2-3-5.

G2 BLACK-EYED SUSAN                                                              Race 13

The Skinny: With the enforced Bob Baffert Churchill Downs having served its course, Bullet Bob is free to invade precincts outside Southern California with impunity and it’s good to see the brilliant undefeated 9-Faiza (7-5) at a track in another state. Seeking her sixth victory, fourth graded stakes, this will be her first beyond 1-1/16 miles. She has more than enough pedigree and rider (Prat) for the task. She rates to be and will be closer to 3-5 ante post.

While she stands tallest, she’ll have tougher competition, a larger field and more weight (124) to contend with here. Brad Cox has a good filly in 4-Merlazza (6-1), who’s seeking her first straight and her first graded score. She’ll have no issues with 9 furlongs. 1-Sacred Wish (10-1) was a very good second in the G2 GP Oaks last out and will be trip sitting with Johnny V from the pole. Mr. Pletcher has gate hindered 6-Miracle (10-1) ready to run back to her game effort when second in the G2 Rachel Alexandra in February. She’s bee working bullets and Irad will ride her back.

8-Balpool (8-1) exploded for the Atras/Franco team in her last two–better on the Thoro-Graph scale than the favorite—and could be dictating the terms getting six pounds from the favorite. 10-Taxed (15-1), now in Randy Morse’s hands, has shown marked improvement given 3YO maturity and breezed 5 furlongs in 59 for this at CD May 10.


WIN-VALUE PLAY:  Sacred Wish to win at 8-1 or greater

EXOTICA: Exacta Key-Box: 9 // Exacta Wheel 9 // Trifecta Wheel: 9 // // 3-Hoosier Philly (10-1), worked well, last chance to rebound; 5-Fancy O’Toole (15-1) and 7-Comparative (12-1) is “the other” Pletcher and Cox, respectively].

Suggested Plays are at minimums available and straight wagers in $2 units or multiples thereof

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12 Responses

  1. Never been a fan of this weak link between the Derby and the Belmont ,especially now, when it seems to be between two horses without any strong competition. 3-8,3-8, with 5761 behind plus 3-578,578,57861 x the gimmick. Not my kind of betting, but otherwise, like many bettors do with this Pimlico track, skip it , and bet more on the more classical, entertaining and meaningful Belmont.

  2. Hi John. In the grid for today, in race 11, I think you meant to use #8, Up and Down and not #6. Just an FYI –

  3. Run for the Black-Eyed Susan’s
    13th race at Pimlico
    #6 Miracle(10-1)-gets 6 pound pull in the weights, had trouble last race and race before came 3/4 of a length of oaks winner. Price is right.
    #9 Faiza(7/5)- her record speaks for itself. Baffert/Prat.
    #8 Balpool(8-1)-distance could be an issue but plenty fast enough.
    Saturday May 20,2024
    The Preakness
    Let’s see if we can make it 2 years in a row.
    #1 National Treasure(4-1)-Baffert redemption.
    #3 Mage(8/5)-Never raced at 2, his fifth race in 3.5 months, big forward move last race, you’re gonna have to prove it.
    # 5 Red Route One, #7 Blazing Sevens and #8 First Mission to complete Triples and supers.
    Note: 15/20 years a double digit dog got into the exacta. Food for thought. Race buster could be Red Route One.
    Good luck to all and as always, Let’s go get dem bad guys, Vin

    1. Interesting that the expected scratch of First Mission could aid your choice as I thought that FM would need to put some stalking pressure on National Treasure.

      Interesting, too, that Mage will have to “prove it,” then so will National Treasure have to prove that he belongs with the elite 3YOs, even if this is a weak renewal of racing’s middle jewel.

      A safe and speedy journey to all.

    1. Got the new odds. Horse # 6,with its connection paying the $ 150 k plus fee to enter. How much will influence bettors that the connections “must know something about their horse” otherwise they wouldn’t have bothered. taking the money out, we’ve seen it done before, maybe not for that amount but it may say something about the owner’s sanity or the horse preparedness. Will it influence your bet? $100 is more than this race might deserve…

      1. Charting the Preaknees PPs, find it hard to ignore how many times the inside horse,and especially,Blazing Sevens, #7, have been bumped, bothered ! Like an old, former ‘angle player’ would do I’m using both 1 and 7 on top of, in separate exactas, 356.Thus,1-3567 plus 7-1356, for a total of $40,a nd both to win ,$5, which will my total to $ 200… Much more than I intended to bet part with but cannot ignore thos e “uneven” races with obstacles…. Did anyone check Velazquez’s horse workouts?? Rooting for both gentlemen, JV and JC. Whomever wins, I LL be happy with the results. PS: Yesterday at Belmont: A Two Horse race? It’s a Shame.

  4. If anyone is looking for a late double tomorrow, Wesley Ward’s Funtastic Again looks double tough. I would use the 3,8 and 9 underneath.

  5. Charting the Preakness PPs, find it hard to ignore how many times the inside horse, and especially Blazing Sevens, #7, have been bumped, bothered ! Like an old, former ‘ angle player’ would do I’m using both 1 and 7 on top of , in separate exactas , 356.Thus,1-3567,plus 7-1356, for a total of$ 40,and both to win , $5,which will my total to $ 200… Much more than I intended to bet part with , but cannot ignore those” uneven” races with obstacles…. Did anyone check Velazquez’s horse workouts ?? Rooting for both gentlemen, JV. and JC. Whomever wins, I LL be happy with the results. Ps: Yesterday at Belmont: A Two Horse race? If it was , it’s a Shame, a Racket !!

  6. Despite all the talk about race spacing the Triple Crown and the small Preakness field this week. The second jewel didn’t disappoint. National Treasure and Blazing Sevens gave us an exciting stretch duel. Glad to see Johnny V get his Preakness WIN.
    On to NY and the Belmont…

    1. Happy that you cashed a bet, Anthony.

      While you are correct that the first two finishers–and Mage, too–put on a good show, and that all are as happy for Johnny as they were for Javier two weeks ago, is undeniable. But your conclusion ignores a much bigger, contextual picture. But worry not, you have plenty of company.

      This industry is notorious for putting its head in the sand and ignoring issues that are either inconvenient or threaten the economic status quo. With the exception of the race’s outcome, the event was void of suspense and concern for racing’s best foot forward, the Triple Crown, its appeal reaching beyond those of bettors.

      The race proved one thing, that lone, unchallenged speed is always dangerous but little else with respect to the pecking order of 2023’s three-year-old class.

      Why not simply throw all past performance data into a divisional hopper and have AI figure it out, saving people the time and trouble of actually recognizing a problematic issue and trying to fashion a helpful, big picture solution?

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