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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


HALLANDALE BEACH, FL, October 3, 2023 — If this year’s rendition of the Grade 2 Miss Grillo Stakes is not the deepest ever, it’s certainly in the conversation. This field of fillies is so tough that one already has won a Grade 3, beating males in Saratoga’s With Anticipation.

But undefeated Gala Brand–who overcame difficult trips to do so–is but one of six with a good chance to punch their ticket to Santa Anita. Further, there are three more that we split hairs to eliminate from the top of the ticket. If talent is the measure, this group may be better than the boys in the G2 Pilgrim.

I will not bet this race until real odds are posted then, of course, don’t know why I’d bother doing that when the horse I bet with two minutes to post might be half that price as the field races into the lower first turn of the 1-1/16 miles two-turner.

G2 MISS GRILLO: Hard to Justify (10-1), from Team Brown/Prat, will be half that price at post time. Saving ground all the way around in a Spa two-turn debut, things got tight at the half-mile pole where Prat had checked and dropped back. At mid-turn he went from a pull to a drive to get into the race before winning a hard fought stretch battle with Appellate.

Gold Lightning (10-1) will also be bet down for Team Cox/Rosario. He too won at two turn in Spa debut. Steadying inside into the lower first turn, he was hard held saving ground throughout, was far back into headstretch and finished powerfully between rivals for the win. Distance will continue being his friend.

Memorialize (5-1) is clearly fastest on the Thoro Graph scale, was given 45 days recovery by Graham Motion. Slowly away she was far back behind a dawdling pace, made a dazzling 5-wide turn move and finished strongly widening the further she went.

She and the aforementioned Gala Brand–ridden with disdainful confidence by Jose Ortiz in the With Anticipation–raced her final three sixteenths in better than 30 seconds. The latter will be easily spotted given those four long white stockings of hers.

Finally, have no idea what to do with Camila T (6-1) who broke maiden at even money on debut at Monmouth. Not sure of the vanquished in there but this filly broke like a shot to lead, opened ground on her own at the turn, and took command to win by 13 lengths with a final eighth in 12 2/2 without being asked.

As the racetrackers say, she could be any kind, as might any of the above, including sprint winner Life’s An Audible (8-1), who responded from a stretch challenge at the back of the pack under confident handling and delivered with stunning late foot at the end beneath Irad.

Gun to temple, the lean is to Gold Lightning but we will let price be our guide with any of these fillies. We suggest you do the same. If you win a bet on the Miss Grillo, make sure you get paid.

G2 PILGRIM: Which half of the Repole/Viola million-dollar tandem do you prefer; $650K Agate Road (3-1) or $350K Triple Espresso (4-1). Tough choice with each coming off dazzling efforts, both demonstrating a turn of foot to die for.

Agate Road was the more troubled. Breaking from extreme outside post 10, he bore out a few strides at the start and raced greenly 4-5 wide into the first turn. Asked at midturn after being restrained all the way, he launched 7 wide into the lane and from downtown he came, getting up at the wire by a neck to win going away.

Triple Espresso trailed throughout while saving ground following a tardy beginning, he was asked for his best approaching headstretch, the momentum carrying him 6-7 wide into the stretch where he, too, unleashed a furious rally that carried him past 10 rivals but not all 11, finishing second.

But did we mention he ran his final sixteenth in better than 30 seconds while debuting in the Kittens Joy Stakes at Colonial Downs? Jose Ortiz retains the mount.

Others making a favorable impression were Tifareeh (10-1) breaking maiden in second start, his turf debut in a Kentucky Downs mile, prominent most of the way after an alert beginning. He appeared loaded all the way until Declan Cannon cut him loose in the straight. He’s scopey, replete with a long stride.

Flavien Prat gets the ride on Fulmineo (5-1), a Colonial Downs graduate in his turf debut at one mile. Restrained while racing between horses every step of the way, he moved with good position into turn but didn’t start running in earnest until switching over to his correct lead, flying home with an electric turn of late foot.

Like Triple Espresso, Liam’s Journey (15-1) seeks to break maiden. Second in both starts sprinting, he stretches out for Mike Maker, good at these kind of things. Checking out of close quarters with about a half-mile remaining, he launched 4 wide on the turn. Had he not been swapping leads through the KD stretch, he might have gotten there. He leaves from the rail with Manny Franco. Live price shot?


G2 PHOENIX: The oldest sprint run in this country often is a harbinger of good things to come. This year’s edition of the race first run in 1831 features the return of Dubai’s Golden Shaheen winner Sibelius (12-1) who got good at this time last year and is looking to regain that good form. Will history repeat?

The gelded five year old was beaten two lengths in last year’s renewal only this time comes in fresh, just the way he likes it, and trainer Jeremiah O’Dwyer is accommodating that preference. Working bullets in South Florida, he ships into the bluegrass where new rider Luis Saez will be waiting.

His main competition will come from Bango (5-2), who beat him last year in Louisville and won his last five starts when paired with Tyler Gaffalione. Wesley Ward’s Nakatomi (4-1) has been pointed in this direction after having won his return from a layup at Saratoga. He’s 3-for-4 in Lexington and Irad takes the call.

Horizontal bettors figure to include all three in their mix.

G2 JESSAMINE: Harken back to yesterday and our take on the G2 Miss Grillo. Now insert carbon paper. If you think the Belmont turf two turner was wide open, wait until you take a look at this group.

First, half the field 11-filly field are less than two lengths from each other on the Thoro-Graph scale, there are equal parts of speed and stamina, and many of the trips are sights to behind–not just for degree of difficulty but for potential, too.

And going from start one to start two? What could possibly change?

Here are some trip hot takes, from the rail out: Smooth Waves (7-2) drew out breaking maiden and was very professional. Time to Dazzle (5-2) is well named check out her winning debut vs. the boys at Woodbine; yes she made her own good trip but check out how she accelerated late.

Crown Imperial (6-1) could have been swallowed up when surrounded for the stretch run but scored courageously after altering course dramatically to win the Untapable at Kentucky Downs following her nose defeat in the Spa’s Bolton Landing. She knows how to distribute her energy to accommodate the stretch-out.

Toupie (20-1) was a game second to streaking stakes winning male No Nay Mets in a Colonial sprint stakes that has produced three subsequent winners but raced greenly late with awkward lead change. Owns a long pedigree. Ambeyance (15-1) is a well bred Godolphin runner [redundant, I know] who always looked a winner in two-turn maiden breaker at the Pea Patch.

Pharoah’s Wine (12-1) was visually impressive with her late turn of foot to break maiden in high style after relaxing nicely in the early running.

Appellate (10-1), scratched by Todd from the Miss Grillo, was a very game second to Chad’s Worth the Risk in her Spa finale. Prior head loss to Miss Grillo winner Hard to Justify. Buchu (4-1) benefitted from a pocket trip but extended her stride to draw out late. Make sure the filly you bet on will reward you appropriately… waiting for the first flash of the tote…


It will be very difficult for any handicapper to go beyond the favorites Brightwork (9-5) and V V’s Dream (5-2). Brightwork of course is undefeated in four starts, two stakes including the G1 Spinaway. This will be her two turn debut, as it will be for all but one of them, but one has to love how she held the brilliant Ways and Means safe through the stretch. Her pedigree is long enough for this.

V. V’s Dream has been a one-turn mile and the Pocahontas was her coming out party, moving forward off two sprint runs to win the Grade 3 very impressively by nearly 10 without being asked inside the final furlong. Distance clearly was her friend and is the main danger to the favorite.

Of the maiden breakers, ‘V’V’s’ stablemate Shimmering Allure (15-1) was very professional in her maiden win at a mile in Louisville and Alpine Princess (8-1 was also professional, showing class to get up in the final stride in a very competitive 7 furlongs at Saratoga.

Live price shot Alys Beach (20-1) was a too-late good-rally fourth from far back in Brightwork’s Spinaway. She’s worked with purpose since and has a strong bottom side for distance. Trainer Tom Amoss turns the mount over to Flavien Prat.


Got lucky at Santa Anita last Saturday when our $20 investment in the late Pick 5 at Santa Anita returned $424. We’ll lay out the sequence below; horses listed in bold are possible keys and or value plays for vertical bettors. The mandatory payout for the 50-cent Pick 5 begins with Race 4:

2. 4. 6 // 5. 6 // 7. 9. 10. 12 // 2. 8 // 6 = $24

Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Skinny: War Like Goddess (2-1) and Rebel’s Romance (9-5) are classy, deserving favorites but the expected soft ground moves up Soldier Rising (5-1).

Frizette Skinny: Just F Y I (3-1) and Emery (2-1) were very impressive visually , both with an excellent chance to upset favorite Life Talk (9-5).

Belmont Turf Sprint Skinny: Used four of the 12 entered: Today’s Flavor (8-1) made a winning turf debut for George Weaver. Thin White Duke (5-1) is a talented late-kicking New York bred who needs no made-to-order conditions. Wit (6-1) might really appreciate turnback into sprint. Nothing Better (10-1) has done his best racing on this course.

Allowance Sprint Skinny: I’mhavingamoment (2-1) is racing in career form for Bill Mott. Obrigata (4-1) improved dramatically for Linda Rice last out.

Champagne Stakes Skinny: Fierceness (6-5) made one of the more impressive juvenile debuts of 2023; find out more today.

this is a live column and will be updated periodically

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