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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


By Keith Pettyjohn — Even though there aren’t many Graded Stakes Races on tap this weekend, there are a few potentially nice rewards available for those who can piece together the handicapping puzzles that comprise Kentucky Downs’ 11-race card Saturday.

This track has earned its reputation for presenting some of the most competitive turf races in the United States. With its European-style layout, massive purses, and large fields, it’s a handicapper’s dream that, if you’re not smart and lucky, could become your worst nightmare.

If you love grass racing, this is the track for you. And for those times when you can connect all he handicapping dots, you will get rewarded handsomely.  

On Saturday, our focus will be the $1-million Grade 3 Kentucky Turf Cup going a mile and a half.

The morning line favorite and most likely winner of the race is #10 Zulu Alpha. This veteran won last year’s renewal and earned a Class-Based Performance Rating, a GSR, of 104.

Indeed, Zulu Alpha is quite the pro, winning several graded stakes races in his career while compiling 12 victories in 34 starts with earnings of over $2-million.

In winning his last, the G2 Elkhorn Stakes at Keeneland, he earned a 103 Performance Rating, placing him ahead of his main rivals #2 Red Knight, #5 Arklow and #6 Postulation.

Our “Play-At-A-Price” choice in this race is #12, Hierarchy, listed at 10-1 on the early line and should be all of that at post time.

After returning from a three-month break in May, he has been improving, taking forward incremental steps, the key to proper development.

In that return on May 25th, he earned what was his lifetime best Class-Based Performance Rating of 91 in a classified allowance race at Churchill Downs going a mile and 1/16th.

Subsequently, he moved forward again, winning with a GSR of 94 in another strong Churchill classified allowances going a mile and 1/8th.

Last time out he was second in a listed stakes at Ellis Park at a mile and a quarter, moving forward yet again to a 99, losing to Factor This by a half length. And note that Factor This returned to finish second to Digital Age in the CD Turf Classic, earning a 106.

In his last three races, Hierarchy has been running longer distances and improving his Performance Ratings each time vs. tougher rivals. Joe Sharp, already a dual winner at the meet, will have him set for another class and distance rise.

There may not be any racing from the New York or Southern California this weekend but there’s still plenty of excellent racing on tap with many opportunities to find value plays.

It Only Takes One

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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.

11 Responses

  1. Zulu A. won the last race chasing 1:18 at 6F and over 1:43 at the mile pole,not an interesting race to brag about or watch.. Some horses who could have challenged him won’t be there. so basically you’re picking the second M L choice. Red Knight in the exacta with Z.A.

  2. Actually I’m picking Hierarchy to hit the board as stated in the article. I’m expecting him to make another move forward and I’m also expecting him to go off at odds higher than the listed 10-1 morning line.

    QUESTION: What’s your analysis of this race?

  3. Keith, I too was waiting for CPA’s response.

    So easy to throw darts from afar and not go on the record yourself.

    Clearly, we’re not all as smart as CPA and we could always benefit from other perspectives, such as not sure everyone knows how difficult it is for figures to improve while moving up in class and distance.

    For the HRI Faithful who appreciate the effort, thanks.

    1. So easy to try to BS your way out of being an awful picker.Take a serious peek at all of your picks and then tell yourself that you’re satisfied!Lowering expectations is not enough. Hitting t
      hem once in a while has become your nightmare. You even stated that this Kentucky track has a good turf? Compared to which other track,Laurel,Pa,Delaware ? What are you talking about? This second rate Turf,even before the rains came down,is spotty,uneven and it has a ” Hill” ! Secondary British and Australian tracks are better than this KDowns with a $ Million race. Pricci is the same guy who used his wife as an ” Entry” to out vote Russ Harris as ( Long Island) New York favorite handicapper.Enough said for both of you. So ,KP, or JP,what excuse,or reason you have this type for shooting blanks,again ? Will anybody buy it,I mean,anyone with any logical consideration,,after the other futile ” shots in the dark” ?? Where are Jerry Bossert.,Dave Liftin when some normal bettors need them ? KP,give it up,even if you’re someone

      else’s alter ego. Contrarian Pix & Algorithms,thus CPA

  4. John, Why bother throwing darts when you can effect greater damage with a shot gun approach. Surprised that Photos by Toni wasn’t targeted as well. I actually had a pretty enjoyable day. Reading both your analysis, and Keith’s article as well, I had a good handle on how I wanted to address the card. I would have had a better day had I not screwed up, and mistyped the third and fourth position superfecta numbers on race 10. Cost me a $30 ten cent super as my $2.40 corrected ticket was too late and already closed out by the time I hit send. They were off by the time I looked up from my tablet. Any hoot, you guys saved me from the boredom involved with thatching the front lawn today. I thank you both as I took a break every half hour to watch another race. No big scores for me today, but I enjoyed watching nonetheless. I had three Win Wagers and one exacta collected as well. I’ll post my account for Wendell on your column John.

    Keith, Seemed obvious your overall intent was to point out the improvement with Hierarchy’s last few outs. You words to me seemed cautiously optimistic. I used John’s analysis and added Hierarchy to fill out my TRi and SF wagers. I know you always close with “It only takes one”, but knowing of your understudy days spent with Cary Foitas, I will simply exit with John’ recall of Cary’s admonition that “Most good bets loose.” Don’t be overwhelmed by the negativity Keith. The anonymity of a message board is also but a false power, much the same as the fake news we are subjected to daily. In the end, all pretty simplistic in nature, and not hard to read through at all.

    P.S. As a youngster in the game of the early sixties, at times even the price of a racing form was a stretch. Ah, but if you had only two spare nickles, you could travel to the track with Pricci & Harris both in hand. Twenty bucks in your pocket, and your horizons were golden. Still feel that way today with full trust in what I read at HRI.

  5. CPA, you need to disagree respectfully or, as I so threaten but am reluctant to do, you will be deleted. Keith did not BS his way out of anything. People can read his response to your commentary beneath his column and decide for themselves.

    If that crack about Toni was meant to be funny, it was not. And this popularity “feud” between Dr Harris and myself is imaginary, a delusion of Trumpian proportions.

    Don’t bring up Toni’s name again. Perhaps we can have this discussion face to face one day. If you’re ever make it to SoFLa, LMK. Will meet you at Gulfstream Park.

    Might be time to take a page out of Ray Paulick’s book and publish rules for proper commenting.

  6. Meanwhile, let me take this opportunity to apologize to the HRI Faithful.

    It must be very tiresome reading these pointless exchanges. It’s hard enough writing columns, doing handicapping analysis, researching, posting and editing without wasting time on intramural nonsense.

    I have no wish to continue in my roll as comments police. If only it weren’t necessary …

  7. TTT

    Dear Mr. Pettyjohn:

    Being a fellow “awful picker” (you can’t make this shit up), must tell you that in my opinion awful pickers are a rare breed; no matter their age or physical appearance, they all have testicles of leather. If they didn’t, they would soon drown in the deep river of ubiquitous stupidity.

    Those of us who calculate ratings using past performance information, realize that our numbers do not provide “the winner,” but rather, an indication of the probable race outcome, and is a tremendous tool in prognosticating what might transpire in the future. My top number often runs out of the money, as does any top number calculated by any algorithmic formula. In fact, if I was to play my top number exclusively, would soon quit the game, as so often it comes up as a short-priced sucker bet.

    A horse that is sent off at $19.60-1 can lose 18 times, then win the 19th try and you make a profit. In fact, when playing a horse that goes off at such odds, I expect to lose many races. In fact, look forward to losing them. As Mr. Pettyjohn says, it only takes one.

    Arklow had a good trip yesterday, so many of the others not forwardly placed were getting huge globs of turf in their face due to the rain that had fallen.

    The above is Kindergarten stuff, but perhaps needed to be said.

    Keep writing, keep calculating, keep handicapping.

    Big Ted
    Awful Picker

    1. Thanks “Big Ted”

      As a fellow figure maker you know how daunting the task can be and how many nights we’ve had to burn the midnight oils and the candles at both ends. Thanks for chiming in. You keep up the good work as well

  8. You know what “CPA”???

    You might be right. No, seriously. I may be an awful picker of horses that have a 10-1 morning line or better in Graded Stakes Races that are going to hit the board and help the exotics to pay better. The first problem that I have is that there’s nothing or no one for me to compare it to. As far as I know, it’s only been done by one person in one place….ME!!!… on HRI. So it appears to be content that you can’t get anywhere else.

    Now, let’s look at the picks. I have posted six “Play-At-A-Price” picks. Two of them have hit the board. So that is a 33% strike rate. Is that good, bad, great or awful as you put it? Hmmm…good question. I truly don’t know. But since you thing that they are so awful, what you could do is to eliminate me picks from your play and you’d be right 67% of the time. HEY, THERE AN ANGLE!!!

    Next, in my other picks I took a stand against two 3-5 shots that the racing world was betting with gusto. I took Swiss Skydiver to beat Gamine. Which she did yet still lost the race. And I took Authentic to beat Tiz The Law. Which he did and paid $18.80. So one for two when trying to pick a winner to beat a 3-5 shot in two of America’s top races. 50% strike rate there. (I’ll stand in line at the bank and do this one all day)

    So that brings me to my proposition to you. Every Friday I post that “Play-At-A-Price” pick. You post a pick below it in the Comments Section (respectfully of course). It can be any Graded Stakes race that Saturday of your choosing. The horse must have a Morning Line of 10-1 or greater (it just cannot be the same pick). Each time our horse wins we get 4 points, runs second 3 points, runs third 2 points and runs fourth 1 point. At the end of ten weeks, if you score is equal to mine or if your score is greater than mine…..I WILL SEND YOU $100!!!

    If my score is greater than yours than you send me…..NOT A DAMN THING!!! (That’s $100 to $0. You can’t beat those odds).

    Just post two comments here on this website:
    1) It was harder than it looked
    2) Keith’s picks suck, but mine suck even more

    That’s $100 that you can put toward your own bets, money that you can put towards recouping what you lost on my picks or here’s an idea, put it towards a plane ticket to meet John out at Gulfstream Park.

    So in all seriousness, yes it is a real challenge and yes I really will send you a $100. Are you up to the challenge?

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