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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing

UPDATE FINAL: JULY 4 WEEKEND RACING; BELMONT, GULFSTREAM, AND CHURCHILL COMPLETE

HALLANDALE BEACH, FL, July 1, 2022 – With apologies to the rest of America, it will be a Happy Holiday July 4th weekend for horseplayers throughout the country.

All tracks will endeavor to place their best hooves forward, but especially in New York, Kentucky, and South Florida. Racing in those precincts is listed high on out handicapping and wagering docket.

We begin in New York where both Life Is Good and Speaker’s Corner will effort to get their mojo back as the effort from each were, on balance, disappointing.

The question of Life Is Good’s ability to stay 10 furlongs still lingers after his fourth-place finish in the Dubai World Cup. Those who say it was the trip has a point. Then so does those who argue that it was the Meydan surface.

I’ve known Todd Pletcher since he was an assistant to Wayne Lukas and I never heard him to go out of his way to make excuses, a credible witness.

So, when he says that the surface that night was especially loose that night and that Life Is Good did not handle it. As I watched the race, and subsequent replays, it did appear to cup out from under horse’s hooves.

At the same point, he shortened stride inside the final furlong, so there was that, too.

However, I don’t know what to say about Speaker’s Corner, soundly defeated by Flightline, ranked #1 in America. No disgrace that; no one’s gotten close to doing that.

Junior Alvarado took it to Flightline on the backside of the Met Mile, put him in close quarters, twice. But still appearing handy when Flightline came alongside in a 45-second half-mile, he offered no resistance whatsoever approaching headstretch.

In fact, he began to wobble when Happy Saver came with his late run and could not hold him safe. He didn’t look like the same horse that won the G1 Carter with complete authority.

Speaker’s Corner has won twice going a mile, so it wasn’t the distance. He ran like a horse that regressed off a lifetime top effort.

The questions are multi-faceted. Which of the two efforts are more forgivable? Life Is Good is making his first start since March and the road to Saratoga is getting closer by the day.

Saturday’s Grade 2 John A Nerud looms as a prep event, and Life Is Good (1-2) draws the pole, not an enviable spot. And this could be a test for everyone’s benefit, including new rider Flavien Prat.

Conversely, Speaker’s Corner (6-5) is nearly three months removed from his huge Carter score, he draws outside in a small field, gets a switch to gate whiz Jose Ortiz, and his loss in his fourth go at 7 furlongs would be a first.

The other Saturday feature at Belmont Park is the Grade 3 Dwyer, which marks the return of the young, talented Charge It (4-5), who since the Derby has had surgery to correct a breathing issue.

But he, too, will be under the gun going a mile, also from the rail slip. So, what to do with the Florida Derby runnerup, who has future designs on either the Jersey Shore or upstate New York.

The only conceivable contender, before Friday’s check of performance figures, is Nobokov (6-5), a recent Belmont maiden breaker at 1-1/16 miles.

Pressed throughout a moderately quick pace, he was ridden out, never threatened, and won handily with reserves. Considering the quality of the favorite, this spot is ambitious.

But nothing has been ambitious for the Peter Brant-Chad Brown express at this meeting. Flavien Prat inherits the mount and post 6 is preferable to the rail. Still…

G2 JOHN A NERUD       Race 4

MOST PROBABLE WINNER: Life Is Good

WIN-VALUE PLAY: Speaker’s Corner to win at 2-1 or greater

EXOTICA: Exacta Box Life Is Good and Speaker’s Corner

G3 DWYER          Race 8

MOST PROBABLE WINNER: Charge It

WIN-VALUE PLAY:   NA

EXOTICA: Exacta Box Charge It and Nobokov, extra ticket with Charge It first

GULFSTREAM PARK

G3 SMILE SPRINT Race 7

The Skinny: A look at the figures, trips and company lines, this six horse race comes down the the proven vs. the late developing…

MOST PROBABLE WINNER: Drain the Clock (6-5)

WIN-BET VALUE: Willie Boi (5-2) to win at 3-1 or greater

EXOTICA: Exacta Box ‘Clock’ with Willy Boi.

G2 PRINCESS ROONEY Race 10

The Skinny: Due principally to field size, the Rooney virtually the same handicapping dynamics as the Smile apply, the defending Eclipse champion in his race, Ce Ce (4-5), who absolutely shines at this trip, turning with good spacing and works, vs invading New York trip specialist, Glass Ceiling (7-2).

MOST PROBABLE WINNER: Ce Ce

WIN-VALUE PLAY: Glass Ceiling to win at 3-1 or greater.

EXOTICA: Exacta Box Ce Ce and ‘Glass’. Exacta and Trifecta Wheel both fillies first second and third, adding Make Mischief (6-1) second and third.

CHURCHILL DOWNS

G2 FLEUR DE LIS                 Race 8

The Skinny: A field of only five but it is contentious in that three of this quintet have a legitimate right to win this. Super Quick (2-1) simply freaked at Pimlico, a never-in-doubt display which she won by nearly 15 lengths: last eighth in 12.91 after making all the pace.

We’re forgiving Pauline’s Pearl’s (5-2) last run. Never great from the gate, she raced wide and flat throughout after upsetting Shedaresthedevil (9-5) in a Grade 1. She had recency in her corner. Today, the ‘Devil’ should turn that table around.

MOST PROBABLE WINNER:  Shedaresthedevil

VALUE-WIN PLAY: Super Quick to win at 2-1 or greater.

EXOTICA: Exacta and Trifecta part wheels: Shedaresthedevil and Super Quick first and second with each other, adding Pauline’s Pearl second and third.

KELLY’S LANDING           Race 9

The Skinny: Class should tell in this spot. There are several very sharp and fast sprinters in here but none of them exit three consecutive Grade 1s as Aloha West (2-1) does here.

Following a good third to Jackie’s Warrior, he was no match for Flightline or Speaker’s Corner in the Met Mile—no disgrace that. Bango (5-2) comes from a career best taking the Aristides, and it will be a question of he can duplicate the effort. Well, Greg Foley excels in LAY-3 scenarios and Tyler rides back.

MOST PROBABLE WINNER:  Aloha West (2-1)

VALUE-WIN BET: Aloha West at 2-1 or greater

EXOTICA: Exacta Box Aloha West and Bango. Trifecta Key Aloha West over Bango, Awesome Jerry (8-1) and Kneedeepinsnow (8-1)

G2 STEPHEN FOSTER            Race 10

The Skinny: The race of the day in terms of history and prestige that have drawn seven horses of which a good case can be made for five of them. Bettors will have a choice of two from Brad Cox, G2 winner and G1 placed Mandaloun (2-1) and Caddo River (10-1). The former may hold a class edge but the latter comes off a very sharp score over the track. The rail, Santana, and drops 7 pounds off the recent win.

G1 winner Americanrevolution (7-2) appeared in need of four-year-old debut, racing wide throughout, challenged strongly from between horses in midstretch but tired as if not wound tightly. That was a listed event; this is Grade 2—added together equals improvement.

Olympiad (5-2) needs no introduction in that he’s been a revolution at 4 and Proxy (9-2) rates honorable mention as a dependably competitive sort who fires his best shot but might not be up to these, even with Joel in the boot.

MOST PROBABLE WINNER: Americanrevolution

VALUE-WIN BET: Caddo Rider to win at 5-1 or greater.

EXOTICA: Exacta Box Americanrevolution and Caddo River. Exacta, Trifecta and Superfecta Wheel Americanrevolution and Caddo River first with each other second, third and fourth, adding Olympiad second through fourth, additionally with Proxy and Mandaloun third and fourth.

Exotic bets are suggested at minimums available with straight wagers in $2 units, or multiples thereof

this is a live column that will be updated throughout the weekend

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⚠ Before you comment

Our staff likes nothing better than to engage with the HRI Faithful and provide a forum for interaction on horseracing and sports. In that spirit, please be kind and reasonable; keep the language clean, and the tone civil. Comments from those who cannot comply will be deleted. Thank you.

13 Responses

  1. Do ya’ll know that there are twenty-five plus Thoroughbred race tracks operating today? All ignored by HRI’s Mr. Pricci except three: Belmont, Gulfstream, and Churchill. Everyone of the racetracks offer modern, clean, facilities and certainly better races to wager on than the seven races analyzed by Mr. Pricci: 4th Bel. Life is Good 1/2; 8th Bel. Charge it 4/5; 7th Gulf. Drain the Clock 6/5; Gulf 10th. Ce Ce 4/5. 8th Chur. She Dares the Devil 9/5; 9th Chur. Aloha West 2/1; 10th Chur. Americanrevolution (finally maybe a worthwhile bet) 7/2. Does one need to purchase the Daily Racing Form (did I hear someone say ‘what’s that’?). (where’s the money Alice unless a bettor hooks up these favorites in exotic bets which are difficult to cash).

    1. This is why God made exactas, trifectas, superfectas, and all manner of horizontal wagers.

  2. Wisdom, Generosity, and Sunshine…the three attributes to have in plenty in life Wendell.

    So glad you are covering all the alternative tracks for us. Your sincere concern surely allows for all the ill-advised HRI followers to better diversify the risk of wagering on the odds on runners offered. I’ll probably watch the above selected wagers and join you later in the day in wishing for Pricci to fail. Get those Fosters on ice my friend. There’s simply no opposition offered in recognition of your outstanding intelligence over Mr. Pricci is all. You have demonstrated it in print now so many times over.

    Just wondering Wendel, is there a Twitter account available where we might all be able to follow you? In the “Battle of Wits with Wendell”, John Pricci is simply a far distant “also ran”. Turning the page….

  3. Unsolicited Race 12 CD comment: adding an Ex Box Alejandro and Bourbon Thunder just for a shot at some sunshine.

  4. McD: It’s unfortunate that my commentary does not register with you. You should observe by now that Mr. Pricci, for years, always selects the very top-tier racetracks and always writes about and selects the race with the largest purse and selects, predominately, the blue blood that numerous other turf writers along with the morning line ‘capper have already selected.

    If you are content to wager on a blue blood that the majority of bettors are going to wager on, that is fine with me – it’s your $2.

    As I informed you already, I only cash win bets about 30% of the time. Thus, out of ten wagers, I need to find three plodders who will pay 3-1 or more – not difficult, believe me.

    Yup! Time for another Foster’s and the Red Sox game; and, to watch ‘boggie’ and ‘raffie’ struck out yet again.

  5. There is plenty of analysis to be found on races run at tracks all over the world.

    I limit myself to the venues and wagers that provide the best chance to make a profit.

    Saratoga, Belmont, Aqueduct, Keeneland: WPS 16%
    Santa Anita, Del Mar, Golden Gate, Los Alamitos TB: WPS 15.43%
    Woodbine: WIN 14.95%
    Emerald Downs: WPS 14.7%

    Hastings and Assiniboia also offer attractive WPS takeouts.

    1. A sound approach indeed. Some people like to play Parx, where takeout rates are usurious. Go figure..

  6. Mr. Pricci: God didn’t create exotic wagers, as you suggest; they were created by non-horse players in track management seeking to promote an image closer to what casinos project. Accordingly, the need to learn to handicap a race became insignificant, thus the slow decline in Daily Racing Form circulation as ‘playing the horses’ became a numbers game. Once an astute, serious horse player, you have elected to follow the crowd and now urge your readers to make exotic bets (please, God, right the ship that is now kept afloat by casino dole and blokes who dream of winning a ‘wheel’ or ‘pick five/six’).

  7. Mr. Pricci: Takeout rate for win bets at Parx is 17%; for Belmont 16%. For tri/super at Parx 25%; Bel 24%. For Pick 3/4 Parx 25%; Bel 24%.

    Parx rates are usurious compared to Belmont? Go figure!

  8. These are significant differences that add up over the course of a year.

    Parx

    WPS 17% P5 15%
    DD Ex 20%
    All Other 25%

    Belmont Park

    WPS 16%
    DD Ex 18.5%
    Tri Sup 24%
    P3 P4 24%
    P5 15%
    P6 24% on carryover days 16% on non c/o days

    1. Preaching to the choir here, Dan. Takeout is immutable. The higher the take, the more you lose when you win…

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