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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


Hallandale Beach, December 29, 2022 — No more warmup acts. No more “Derbies” run for two-year-olds that belies to the textbook definition of Derby, “a race for three year olds.”

However, patience will be required to see a newly turned three-year-old, come New Year’s Sunday, with the renewal of the Mucho Macho Man Stakes at a flat mile.

All six stakes, including the graded events, are jumping off points, four of the races are on dirt, two scheduled for turf; two sprints and four turn-turners.

But make no mistake, these races can stand on their own.

Of the half-dozen, two are significant because you can’t have a Pegasus Preview Weekend without preps for the World Cup Invitational and the Pegasus Invitational Turf. Enter the G3 Harlan’s Holiday and G2 Fort Lauderdale, respectively.

The 1-1/16 miles Harlan’s Holiday is a half furlong shorter than the Pegasus World Cup. The race includes last-dance 3-year-olds, Simplification and Skippylongstocking.

The most, interesting of the eight entrants, however, is 5-year-old Chilean star import, O’Connor, a winner of half his 18 starts in his native land.

Of greater import was winning his U.S. debut here October 16 by six drawing-off lengths, his first run since April 30. He goes from the rail Saturday for the team of Saffie Joseph Jr. and Edgard Zayas.

Check out O’Clonnor’s 7th race on that day. He was most impressive finishing ahead of next-out winner Octane. He has good spacing into this prep and is a deserving early line choice at 8-5 despite the classy presence of the two sophomores.

The Fort Lauderdale at 9 furlongs marks the return of course-loving Colonel Liam, whose next defeat in Hallandale would be his first in his fourth run here. He was last seen in the Dubai World Cup, March 26.

Obviously, he was stopped on for a reason, one being to prepare for the rich Pegasus Turf on a course he dreams about. While getting class relief, Todd Pletcher will rely on the 5-year-old’s class to get him set.

Starting from slip #12, it will be up to Irad Ortiz Jr. to figure something out. At this trip, at least there’s a good run into the first turn. He, too, is flattered as an 8-5 early line choice.

In addition to those program lynchpins, are the 7-furlong G3 Mr Prospector, the 6-furlong G3 Sugar Swirl, the one-mile G3 Suwannee River for older fillies on grass, and the Rampart on the dirt for older female milers.

In addition to Sunday’s Mucho Macho Man, two other races for newly turned threes are the one-mile Cash Run for fillies and the 6-furlong Limehouse for the sprint set.

Per usual, HRI will have handicapping coverage and betting grids for the six featured races throughout the weekend, starting immediately with the G3 Sugar Swirl, Saturday’s third event.

The other five stakes will go as races six through 10. A turf two-turner will complete the Rainbow Six Jackpot with a guaranteed pool of $250,000.



The Skinny: It’s near heresy to call a filly with a lifetime slate (24) 9-9-3 disappointing but all those runner-up finishes dim her brilliance considering all those races were within reach. Away since the BC F&M Sprint, 4-Frank’s Rockette (4-5) obviously gets class relief and suitably turns back. Of the four with the best chance, she stands out, the one with Gulfstream experience with a win and second in two local starts–the placing in this race last year. Luis Saez won on the Mott filly two back and will be seeking revenge for the connections.


EARLY LINE VALUE: 5-Edie Meeny Miny Mo (6-1)

EXOTICA: Cold Exacta: 4-6. Exacta Wheel 4 // 1.5.6 [1-Joyful Cadence-5/1, 6-Coppelia-9/2. Trifecta Key: 4 // 1.5.6. Trifecta Wheel: 1.5.6 // 4 // 1.5.6


The Skinny: The first of several wide open races in today’s stakes lineup but, having said that, does Saffie Joseph Jr. have this race surrounded? Parimutuelly speaking, we hope so. 2-Allworthy (3-1) is dropping out of a pair of Grade 2s and mate 8-Music City Star (10-1) was claimed on October and saved to make his barn debut here, where she’s 1-for-1 at the trip beneath Jose Ortiz–today’s scenario. 7-Maryquitecontrary (3-1) is 4-for-5 lifetime, all in Hallandale. She’s slower but improving incrementally.



EXOTICA and STRAIGHT WAGERS: Exacta Box: 2-7-8. Win-Value Play: Music City Star to win at 6-1 or greater.


The Skinny: No excuse, just keeping it real. I could not safely eliminate any of the 10 entered. We narrowed it down to six: 2-Diamond Wow (20-1), 3-Bay Storm (3-1), 4-Keeper of Time (12-1), 7-Stolen Time (9-2) and 10-Lady Rockstar (4-1). Have been waiting for Diamond Wow to show the ability demonstrated in her first two starts; likes this course and attracts Rosario. Bay Storm peaked in the Kentucky Downs Ladies Sprint and has been freshened for this. Tactical speed and inside draw with Jose Ortiz. Stolen Holiday is very late developing and was a recent Grade 3 winner; Shug pointed her here. Lady Rockstar came into her own at 4; Brendan Walsh (also saddling Keeper of Time) is profitable off long layups–but Irad’s going to need to drop in somewhere. 1-Scottish Star (5-2) is a throw-in because it’s Todd, the rail, and Saez. (This race gives the Mr Prospector a run for its money as the most difficult one on the card).



EXOTICA and STRAIGHT WAGERS: Exacta Key-Box 3 // Win-Value Play: Diamond Wow to win at 8-1 or greater.


The Skinny: Managed to whittle this 12-horse 7-furlong dash down to five — and another race in which we’re avoiding an early line favorite. Here are some questions and a few of these actually come with answers. Will 4-Pappacap (4-1) look around and get brave when he doesn’t see the likes of Jack Christopher, White Abarrio or Epicenter in stalls nearby? Will the good 7-Prevalance(9-2) show up now that he’s back at his favorite venue? Even with recovery time, did the recent huge Thoro-Graph figure at Parx take too much out of 8-Uncle Ernie (6-1)? Apparently Irad doesn’t think so. Which is the better price shot: uber sharp 5-Steal Sunshine (15-1) or GP-loving 9-Dean Delivers (15-1)? Since the likely race shape will flatter their style, could bet both at anything close to the early line. If you’re sensing that this will be yet another game time decision for us, you’re a keen observer.


EARLY-LINE VALUE: As above, either Steal Sunshine or Dean Delivers

EXOTICA and STRAIGHT WAGERS: Exacta Key-Box: 4 // Exacta Key-Box: 7 // Trifecta Wheel: // // 4. Win-Value Plays: Steal Sunshine to win at 10-1 or greater. Dean Delivers to win at 12-1 or greater


The Skinny: Wise guys from all over the country can’t wait to bet against 12-Colonel Liam (8-5) who is using this race as a bridge to the Pegasus World Cup Turf. Someone please cue Lee Corso. I’m in no hurry, either… I know: It’s a prep, not on original dance card, away since March, post 12. Well, his next loss here will be his first, he’s a three-time winner at the trip, and there’s a decent run before reaching the first turn, with season stakes-race record-breaker. Must be used at least defensively; too much class, too much Todd to ignore. Mike Maker starts a pair in here, each with an upset chance: recent claim, hard-hitting, distance-handling 4-Shadow Splinx (12-1), and 10-King Cause (5-1) capable of putting the field to sleep if left to his own devices. 7-City Man (9-2) is a late running New York-bred win machine. The most interesting runner here, however, is 3-Pao Alto (12-1). Is he good enough? at those odds I’ll pay to find out because of the respect due trainer Graham Motion and turf ace Jorge Ruiz with a pocket trip possible.



EXOTICA and Straight Wagers: Exacta Key-Box 12 // Exacta Box: 3-4-10. Superfecta Key 12 // Betting Pao Alto to win at 8-1 or greater.


The Skinny: Either you’re an 1-O’Connor (8-5) fan or your not. Until I see him beaten in the U.S., I’m on board. I find it impossible not to be when a horse carries the following resume: (19) 10-5-2, worthy of a Chilean champion. Let’s see what the America future holds starting at 4:40 pm Saturday. But you decide. Check out his U.S. debut win at Gulfstream Park, OCT 16, Race 7. [Replay provided in video section on the HRI homepage]. Yes, O’Connor meets a couple of salty sophomore track lovers in stablemate 7-Skippylongstocking (4-1), and 4-Simplification (5-1). The rail going two turns at this trip is valuable when used properly. We expect Edgard Zayas to break quickly and cleanly and establish position in the 2- or 3-path or risk getting boxed in by rivals. Zayas needs to ride him like he’s on the best horse because until beaten here, he is.


EARLY LINE VALUE: Simplification

EXOTICA and STRAIGHT WAGERS: Exacta 1-4. Exacta Wheel 1 // 4.7. Trifecta Key 1 // 4.7.8. [8-Clapton (8-1)]. Betting O’Connor to win, no price restrictions.

Suggested exotic plays are at minimums available. Straight wagers should be in $2 units or higher.

live column will be updated throughout the weekend

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11 Responses

  1. Could this STAT be true? Sonny Leon riding Michael Maker `s horses at a 40 % winning clip ?? Wonder what the ROI might be…. Yes,Dettori`s Three wins at Santa Anita Opening Day,and a glorious,profitable one at that in which people were packed like sardines it reminded me of crowds that we would only see in movies or when Secretariat was running..It was Refreshing for a few hours. Baffert will agree……………..

  2. This is terrific. Very much looking forward to the entire weekend at Gulf.
    What’s the turf like, has there been rain this week?
    Any noticeable biases on either the turf or dirt?
    I’ll watch tomorrow’s racing to see if I notice anything significant.
    Good luck to you and all players.

    1. Yeah, it’s quite a show GP is putting on Den, probably be in the walking ring all day looking at them!
      Den, for me, biases are always a day to day thing. So watch races Friday and make your best read,
      GP has really been babying the new turf course. Personally, I would do the same.
      And besides, I’ve learned a little about handling Tapeta but, like racetracks, tendencies can vary from track to track. I suppose atmospherics has its impact, however uniform the surfaces…
      A safe and speed journey to your charges as well!

  3. It was an interesting DEC 26 JG.
    Happy that SA showed signs of throwback enthusiasm –even if it turns out to be some aberration– it was good to see.
    Mentioned before I’m going to really enjoy the Frankie roadshow; truly one of the greats of all time.
    I saw that BB won five. I’m no fan, bit great work with Country Grammer and for winning a title-in my view-with Taiba…

  4. P.S. Excited about tomorrow at GP and, of course, damn! These races are tough! Will be price shopping at the betting market…

    1. It’s a great debate, McD. You know I’ve been on Epicenter all year but Taiba (3 G1s), and Modern Games (2 G1s, beating elders twice), in my view, accomplished more. Arguably, maybe Cyberknife, too, (2 G1s and narrow BC Dirt Mile placing vs. older).
      Do believe this is the toughest Eclipse choice I can remember–in any division.
      Voting deadline is Tuesday, Will publish our ballot, as I have each year I was eligible to vote, by latest Monday.

  5. Turning back the pages to your days at Newsday John, in 1980 you collected a readers survey for the HOY nominations in a Sunday column that ended in a readership survey draw. It was my vote to abstain from voting that sealed the tie. Half the participants voted for Spectacular Bid, while half voted for, I am thinking, Affirmed. I withheld my from Bid vote based on the fact that while Bid was more than likely the most deserving in 1980, he had never won a “competitive” event at a mile and a half in Belmont. Winter’s Tale was his only remaining competition at a mile and a half, and his withdrawal resulted in a walkover.

    Hard to fault Modern Games this year as well, but how can a victory at a mile be compared vs the classic distances? As for Taiba, when competing vs Epicenter, I will submit the body of work leans heavily to Epicenter being the more brilliant. My one two, would be Epicenter over Cyberknife for top three year old. I will buy the way be rooting for a Cyberknife victory in the Pegasus in four weeks out.

  6. I cannot dispute your reasoning, McD. As to Modern Games, there is precedent for turf horses to be recognized in open divisions. As to Epicenter vs. Taiba, if they both brought their ‘A’ games to a 10 furlong dogfight, I don’t know who would win.
    I have two more days before filing my vote and still don’t know who my champion three year old will be… In fairness, there should be vote splitting, as was permitted back in the day. But elections aren’t always fair, are they.

  7. Regarding the subject of elections and fairness, consider the latest oxymoron now in view with the 2023 Congress being sworn into office.

    “The Honorable Congressman George Santos.” What a contradiction and insult.

    A correct address would call for “The Oxymoron Honorable Congressman George Santos from the GOP of Nassau County, New York.”

    Should be interesting following the New York money that put him into office.

    Elections are not always fair indeed John, but the deafening silence from the GOP is even worse.

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