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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


HALLANDALE BEACH, FL, February 20, 2024 – A refresher for non-Kentucky Derby regulars – if such an animal even exists: The prep schedule is in its “Championship Season,” where victory virtually assures a spot in the 20-horse gate.

Resultingly, Risen Star winner Sierra Leone, the individual leader in the Futures-4 pool at 6-1, has his slip assured at Louisville MAY 4, beating the deepest prep field to date, a race so wide open many handicappers could only guess which would go favorite among several contenders.

No such confusion in Saturday’s $1.25 million Grade 2 Rebel Stakes, which marks the season’s debut of the accomplished Brad Cox trainee Timberlake (6-5), the G1 Champagne winner and fourth finisher behind a freaking Fierceness in the BC Juvenile.

Florent Geroux, who has been aboard for all five career starts, apparently is committed elsewhere, poor health notwithstanding, and will be replaced by the white hot Christian Torres, who has a career strike rate of a lofty 24% with EP tactical kickers.

Meanwhile, Ramon Vasquez was aboard for both Oakland starts and gets along with him quite well. Last out, he finished second by eight lengths to Mystic Dan, who absolutely freaked on the sealed-muddy Southwest surface.

In fact, the Rebel has a clear second choice as well in the Wayne Lukas charge Just Steel (7-2), winner of Churchill’s listed Ed Brown sprint showing good energy distribution, them finishing second in both local starts, the one-mile Smarty Jones and 1-1/16 miles G3 Southwest.

When our research is complete, we will post the Tote Busters© betting grid throughout the week per usual, with Win projections, Best Value plays, and Exotica fillers/savers for the Rebel and other notable races on a loaded Hot Springs program, plus a brief take on last Saturday’s Risen Star.

$20 Million Saudi Cup Goes This Saturday

We caught up with Rick Dutrow in the Middle East, who is with the white horse in Saudi Arabia, putting BC Classic-winning White Abarrio through his final paces:

On his preparation?: “He’s been training super ever since we shod him with glue-on shoes after the Met Mile,” said Dutrow.

On possible tactics?:  “I here there’s plenty of speed in here son we can sit off just like we did in the Whitney and Classic. I don’t know when Irad gets in, he’s supposed to ride here on Friday. The white horse likes it here and he likes the track.”

On his toughest test to date?: It’s only his toughest test because it’s up next. I feel that if he’s himself it’s going to take a Herculean effort to beat him. I haven’t paid any attention as far as looking at the competition. I’m into him.”

Final Thoughts?: They haven’t drawn the race yet and I’m not going to handicap the race. He’s gonna’ go out there, find his competition, and chew their asses up. That’s all there is to it.”

Well alrighty then …

New Derby Futures Favorite Emerges from Pool 4

When Sierra Leone won the Risen Star impressively in his first start at 3, many handicappers believed they found their Derby horse. And they may be right. He made two Herculean late finishes to earn a placing and a win the Remsen Stakes and Risen Star, respectively. Make know mistake, this is a good horse.

However, we’re taking a wait-and-see on the Derby proposition for three reasons. Both his rallies were made on wet surfaces. This comes knowing that the Gun Runners have a 24% strike rate whenever his offspring encounter wet tracks, and that’s pretty heady stuff.

But the accomplished Timberlake makes his anticipated debut in Saturday’s Rebel and Dornoch will be among the favorites for the Fountain of Youth on the following weekend at Gulfstream Park. These two are also good horses. We must see how they fare before lunging into Pool 5 when that comes around next.

OAKLAWN PARK           SATURDAY           FEB 24

GRADE 2 REBEL                                        Race 11

PROJECTED WINNER:  7-TIMBERLAKE  (6-5) Co-fastest on Thoro Graph scale paired tops ending juvenile season, most accomplished (Champagne Stakes). Working bullets including most recent 1:00.20, 2nd fastest of 77 peers to work week of FEB 16, exists key-race BC Juvenile.

BEST VALUE:  JUST STEEL (7-2) Co-fastest figures, good late kick and energy distribution, recent 6 furlongs in 1:15B fastest of five peers to work the distance week of FEB 15, tactical speed and kicks suits speedy race shape

EXOTICA (fillers and/or saver wagers) 3-Common Defense (30-1), 10-Mena (15-1), 4-Tejon Pass (30-1), 5-Magic Grant (50-1).

When more than one horse is listed in any categories, preferences listed in order, presented

Grade 3 HONEYBEE                                 Race 9

PROJECTED WNNER:  6-WEST OMAHA  (7-5) dominant winner of the Silverbulletday and scratched from subsequent FG stakes in favor of this, Cox has lifetime profit after 501 stakes starts according to Brisnet, loses Saez but picks up Torres.

BEST VALUE:  1-ALYS BEACH (10-1) battled head to head when third in key-race G1 Alcibiades ending juvenile campaign but responds better to rating and switch to Leparoux makes sense. Recent 100.80 breeze 8th fastest of 77 peers to work week of FEB 12; Amoss 22% lifetime with shippers.

EXOTICA:  4-Neom Beach (8-1), Band of Gold (2-1)

Grade 3 RAZORBACK Race 10

PROJECTED WINNER: 5-OCTANE (5-1) Markedly improved Bris Late Pace figure despite uncustomary role as pacesetter; two strong works subsequently and Juan Alvarado recently profitable with his shippers and in graded stakes despite low win rate (horses outrunning odds). Better with stalking trip and switch to Leparoux makes sense.

BEST VALUE: 2-FROSTED DEPARTURE (15-1) last on wet track a throw-out [note 0-6 lifetime slate on wet surfaces} but prior first rate; recent 48.00 B move seventh fastest 190 peers to work at Oaklawn the week of FEB 17; well posted with Ramon Vasquez, excellent chance to rebound.

EXOTICA: 4-Ain’t Life Grand (7-2), 3-Speed Bias (6-1), 1-Seize The Night (6-1)


PROJECTED WINNER: 7-CRUSHED IT (6-5) raced well in both starts, earning fastest figures, takes next step going second-time long for Brad Cox, who also is 28% second-Lasix and 31% with beaten favorites, big switch to Christian Torres.

BEST VALUE: 2-GIVE ME A REASON (3-1) is the main danger to upset, has forward momentum fir Asmussen with first-Lasix (barn 22%), fresh and pointed to this, well posted and getting huge switch to Tyler G here.

EXOTICA: 12- Gotta Have Dreams,10-Thousand Springs (12-1), 8-Charleston (15-1)

this is a live column and will be updated throughout the week

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6 Responses

  1. I got the Razorback GIII $ 600,000 numbers without looking at the ML odds ,post positions or future track conditions. Magic Tap ,Promise Keeping, Seize the Night and Ain-t Life Grand, in that same order with the first two alternating on top. Octane ? Can he go the distance again against tougher company and
    on a new track ? Escapologist, my longshot boxed with the other five in an exacta. I like that jockey change. Always liked B Hernandez, Jr. He deserves more , better mounts in big races. Check the Rebel later. Ps:Interesting, long article on Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal edition about a female psychologist becoming addicted to different types of Gambling starting with nocturnal video games and then leading her to almost ruin, something that someone with her studies, and mother of children should know once we believe that we are Responsible Adults. There could be many mini lessons in there for many of us who Do Not know When to Stop and not reach for more Juice (poison),credit, more chances, waiting for Lady Luck, DUE results, Momentum.. It is hard to compare experiences, especially since , like any other types of addicts, we make up fish stories, lying to ourselves…. Since I have only played about a dozen races during the past two weeks, with modest results, I finally hit a cold (hidden) exacta which carried an old twelve race losing spot-bet which it paid over $160 at a $2 clip . With so many short fields, it’s not easy hitting several $ 50 plus gimmicks. Following late $ tabs(excluding cheap maiden races), and it may be worthwhile if boxed with the other four, five $ horses, or just bet it to Place. Even in British, Aussie races could find value, but I will still skip Harness pacers where too many Leavers die trying at the finish line… (Forget about trotters!).

    1. Haven’t finished the work on the Razorback but have narrowed it down to five horses for he win, the first five betting numbers in the program, JG.
      Considering price shot Notary (10) for exotic pools and Midnight Rising (30-1), exiting a kay race producing three next-out winners from five starters thus far.

  2. My Rebel deductions:Timberlake, Just Steel and then a gap with Carbone, Northern Flame , Common Defense and Woodcourt for the crumbs. Timberlake numbers roll all over these other participants , well, at least on paper . Tejon Pass and Lagynos may help some cold closers. Ps:Looking at the Saudi past performances lines…. Is that all there is (someone sang moons ago) ?How can anyone try to decipher anything with such little printed info ? There Has to be more than that ! Am I looking at the wrong places ?

  3. As you see in the Tote Busters analysis, we agree that Timberlake or Just Steel emerge as the most likely winners.

  4. Timberlake did not disappoint. You get the feeling he has more, much more. It’s shaping up as a tremendous 3 year-old crop.

    Nice pick using 3 in exacta.

    1. I share you opinion on that. Need to watch Rebel again for the nuances. Yes, #3 was a huge price; happy to get lucky. Thanks!

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