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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


HALLANDALE BEACH, FL, February 16, 2022 – In last week’s Sam F Davis advance we mentioned that the Grade 3 mile and a sixteenth on paper was the most competitive Derby prep offered to date. The honor didn’t last long.

Has anyone seen the entries for Saturday’s G2 Risen Star, for which atmospherics are forecast to be perfect: precipitation Thursday, drying winds on Friday, with a bright sunny day in the offing for raceday.

Six of the 14 entered are either graded-stakes winners or are stakes placed. Three are trained by Brad Cox, who currently has four of the 12 top Derby points qualifiers, matching Steve Asmussen-trained troika–one shipping in from SoCal and out of the barn of Bob Baffert.

Todd Pletcher, who currently has two of the top dozen Derby points earners, uncharacteristically has entered a maiden, Crupi, the only colt with experience at today’s nine-furlong trip. Crupi finished second to Classic Catch that day, the latter most recently a good-finish third in the Davis.

Per usual, there is a race for fillies on a major Derby prep card and that’s the G2 Rachel Alexandra, the start of the late double on the Fair Grounds 13-race program that will host six stakes in all, the last five going as a Late Pick 5.

The Rachel Alexandra is most intriguing. While it has drawn only six entrants the surmise is the short field is the result of undefeated and brilliant Hoosier Philly making her three-year-old debut.

While Oaks points are available in this mile and a sixteenth run, note that Tom Amoss’ filly is an 11-1 third choice in Kentucky Derby Futures Pool 4 that closed Sunday, behind “All Others” at 2-1 and juvenile champion Forte at 8-1.

We think that price is sophomoric but obviously someone believes strongly that not only will she enter the Derby but has a great chance to win it. But first things first as we anxiously await her sophomore debut.

The Risen Star is a fascinating race. We researched the form and video of the leading contenders and discovered that on the Thoro-Graph scale, while some a faster than the others, eight of the 14 are forward-looking–which could make for a very interesting superfecta mix.


G2 RISEN STAR                                                             Race 13

The Skinny: Here’s a thumbnail sketch of those eight runners listed in post-position order with early line odds:

2-SINGLE RULER (30-1) Made a three-point forward move from his previous top, earning a figure fairly competitive with the favorites here. But that was a maiden breaker. Will his lack of stakes experience hurt here? Class, or lack thereof, can jump up and bite you but Keith Desormeaux has a history of board-hitting with price shots in Triple Crown events and this guy could fill out the bottom of a superfecta.

4-DETERMINEDLY (8-1) has clearly improved at 3, earning consistent figures by pairing up his last four starts. Stakes placed and an allowance winner of his last while setting the pace, he races better from close-up with targets in front of him. Mark Casse has been here before as this is where War of Will prepared his his classics run. Note however than Luis Saez jumps off and onto another here.

5-HARLOCAP (8-1) Baffert maiden breaker out west on JAN 22 now in Asmussen’s barn and this one obviously needs Derby points. Johnny V. along for the ride signals that owner intent here. He showed speed and broke maiden in third start following two placings after breaking slowly each time. Interestingly, the top three are within a few lengths of each other.

6-ANGEL OF EMPIRE (8-1) Finished second to stablemate, the undefeated Victory Formation in last which was his stakes debut. He galloped out strongest of all past the wire following his too-late stretch bid. Slower than the three above here but never has gone back on dirt. Saez opts for the Cox trainee who has good spacing into this.

8-TAPIT’S CONQUEST (6-1) also never has gone backward on figures and is fast enough to compete with the best here. Likely to improve in second start off a fairly lengthy freshening. Stable rider Geroux is aloft and we foresee another forward move in this spot. Early line odds at post time would be a gift.

9-CURLY JACK (8-1) is a graded stakes winner and is also graded stakes placed for Hoosier Philly’s trainer. He makes his three year old here as a fresh runner after tailing off at the end of his juvenile year. Amoss and Edgar Morales have been a very productive team, but the colt must show he’s back to his best form by making the transition from 2 to 3.

10-TWO PHIL’S (8-1): We know this race is wide open but a fifth 8-1 shot on the early line? Anyway, he’s never regressed in six lifetime starts, is a multiple stakes winner—one graded—and the co-owner of the fastest last-out figure. Further, he was a good second in season’s debut to Instant Coffee, one of the division’s leaders, and is very likely to benefit here with his tactical speed and kick. Rivelli and Lovebury are a profitable Midwest tandem.

12-CRUPI 15-1) After finishing second in his juvenile finale at this trip, he made a long, sustained run following a poor start in three year old debut, earning the co-fastest last race figure going a flat-mile at Aqueduct. Talented maiden is a typical long-winded Curlin colt who will enjoy the stretch-out. A regression is possible and Pletcher knows this, but he’s chosen this spot to break maiden after five money finishes. He taps strong-finishing FG mainstay, James Graham.

13-VICTORY FORMATION (3-1) is yet another never to have taken a backward step winning all career starts over three disparate surfaces. His forward-figure profile has lots of room for development and is seven weeks fresh into this. A victory just might be enough to jump-start Flavien Prat out of his prolonged 2023 slump. Visually impressive winner of Oaklawn’s Smarty Jones has worked bullets and near-bullets entering this; a deserving favorite.

MOST PROBABLE WINNER: Taking 5-1 or greater to win on Two Phil’s

POTENTIAL PRICE PLAY: Considering Angel of Empire and/or Crupi in the 8-1 or more

EXOTICA: Using both of Cox’s other entrants; Tapit’s Conquest and Victory Formation in exactas


The Skinny: The logical favorites were easily found at first blush: 6-Happy American (7-2) and 8-Mr. Wireless (5-1), who finished a neck apart in the G3 Louisiana Stakes prepping for this more lucrative assignment. It was a second straight score for the Pessin charge who pays for that win, picking up two pounds for this (124) while the Calhoun runner drops two (118). I don’t get it but that’s the stakes condition, as opposed to an old-fashion handicap. On figures, both lay over this group.

But we’re going another way, though we have a hard time settling on 7-Pioneer of Medina (9-2) or Hoist the Gold (8-1). ‘Medina’ was a good second last out to Skippylongstocking who suffered a bit of a wide trip in the G1 Pegasus subsequently. Logic dictates ‘Medina’ will move forward as Saez rides him back a third time, hoping the Pletcher runner enjoys returning to NOLA where he won last year.

However, we’re also taking 1-Hoist the Gold, a good third in the G1 Malibu behind Taiba to close his 3YO season. This will be an experiment as he’s never raced beyond 7 furlongs. But he is pole-sitting for Dallas Stewart, is reacquainted with Brian Hernandez, aboard for his victory here a year ago, and has all two-turn pedigree one needs for the trip. And wouldn’t it be fitting if Mineshaft’s son got the money here?

MOST PROBABLE WINNER: Would take Pioneer of Medina at greater than 3-1.

BEST VALUE: Hoist the Gold at 6-1 or better.

EXOTICA: Using these two in the Late Pick 4s and will use Happy American and Mr. Wireless in exactas


The Skinny: Interesting race in that you can make a case for all eight or none at all. We’ll take half a loaf into the Pick 4 battle: 2-Two Emmys (3-1), Gentle Soul (7-2) 6-Pixelate (8-1) and Bay Street Money (6-1).

Two Emmys have won over this course, half of his four starts at the trip and has beaten better on his best go. Further, trainer Hugh Robertson is profitable in LAY-2 scenarios, the case here. The video review hinted that his recent return from a layup was intended as a prep for this, and the added sixteenth suits his talents well.

Conversely, the horse that beat him did so for the meet’s leading trainer and owns the field’s best recent form. And he loves this course, sporting a 3-for-4 record. But neither sides of his pedigree suggests he will appreciate the stretch-out. He’s a P4 must-use but we have no interest in betting hm straight.

The two left are the most intriguing. Pixelate is in the “class of the race” discussion, benefits from a switch to Saez for Michael Stidham, 22% effective with fresh runners and sports a recent breeze that was fifth fastest of 72 workers that week.

The other is Bay Street Money that has improved since the barn switch to Mike Maker, who beater weaker twice then suffered a tough trip in his mile return to the races in which he rallied strongly late and galloped out past the group after the wire. Tyler G. suits this rallier well who blew out strongly at his SoFla base.

POTENTIAL STRAIGHT VALUE PLAYS: Pixelate and/or Bay Street Money to win at 6-1 or greater.

EXOTICA: Using Gentle Soul and Two Emmys defensively in exactas, particularly the latter.


The Skinny: Two diametrically opposed approaches. If race video is your thing, undefeated 2-Hoosier Philly (6-5) already is high on your Kentucky Oaks list. If speed figures at the measure, you know that 4-Chop Chop (8-5( owns the fastest Thoro Graph figure and that 6-Miracle (12-1) is not that far behind the favorite.

Hoosier Philly is a good horse. Check her juvenile finale video and you will agree; she is dominating and her trainer Tom Amoss has has we have not asked her to run yet. “We didn’t have to,” he told Ron Flatter on his podcast Friday morning, “You never know what will happen when they do.” Amoss dodged the question about whether he’s considering a Kentucky Derby run, justifiably taking a let’s-wait-and-see position. She’s had only three published workouts for her seasons’ debut; all bullets.

Chop Chop’s top-figure effort came in her recent prep for this, over this track, and Brad Cox adds blinkers for today’s encounter. If she’s beaten by the favorite, she will not go quietly. Miracle makes her first start for Todd Pletcher in this spot and showed improved early speed when blinkers were added last out. The best record in this matchup belongs to 5-Pretty Mischievous who is 3-for-4 lifetime., including a win over the track. Her lone defeat? She finished third in the G2 Golden Rod, 5-1/4 lengths behind Hoosier Philly.


EXOTICA: Cold exacta 2-5

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10 Responses

  1. This is the time of year when racing fans are looking for that special, once in a generation horse. 3-for-3 lifetime on 3 different tracks makes Victory Formation my choice to win on a 4th track.

    Two Phil’s has won on 3 different tracks, as has Private Creed (all turf) – his daddy, Jimmy Creed, won (8 to 1) the Grade I Malibu Stakes at Santa Anita on Dec. 26, 2012.

  2. Dan, good historical note, thank you!

    Agree that your two runners are the most formidable of the group, but both needed to work out reasonable trips from the wide draws.

    This is a time of year I love, trying to get into the minds of trainers, their reasoning for choosing the posts they do.

    The best of them play chess. If they know their horse’s true ability, they are at least one move ahead of their rivals. Still others are in find-out mode, just like fans and horseplayers.

    I certainly will await game time before making a wager, given so many live horses in the Risen Star. Great card tomorrow and happy about projected dry track…

  3. Happy New Year!
    Saturday February 18, 2023
    Fair Grounds

    6th race- Trail Ridge Road (6-1)
    Play with the 2, 5,6

    10th race-Mr. Wireless ( the right pounds does it)
    Play with the 3, 6, 7

    11th race-Two Emmys(bb)
    Play with the 1, 6,7

    12th race-Chop Chop
    Play with the 2,6

    13th race- #10 Two Phils (8-1)
    #2 Single Ruler(30-1)
    #8 Tapit’s Conques(6-1)
    #12 Crupi(15-1)
    Let’s go get the bad guys and may all come home safely. Vin
    Ps. I did this from my phone. Hope it’s ok

    1. The bad guys have been put on notice.

      Not only OK but excellent Vincent… a safe and speedy journey to all, indeed.

  4. Luis Saez rode in 12 races at FG today. He had 3 winners, plus a 2nd place horse who was part of an entry with the winner. A $2 win bet on all Saez horses returned 4 winning tickets (Comparative 3.60, Gutzy (POE) 5.20, Pioneer of Medina 7.60, Angel of Empire 29.40) A net profit of 21.80 (91%).

    You make money and get the thrill of him pulling it out of the fire in the final race. What more can you ask for ?

    1. Indeed, the last race odds entering the gate I saw on the winner was 18-1.After he won I thought “watch, he’ll be 13-1.” Bingo. Sorry, I hate sore winners but I must lament; can’t believe the exacta split with Two Phil’s, who had no excuse to blow the place at 6-1. Some beats are harder than others Dan–this was one of them. Luis rode a perfect race.

  5. Read your Empire finished out better than all in his last and sadly John I used your comment only in an ex box with Tapit’s Conquest and V.F. No way did I have the place runner today. Thought of Mark Berner when reading your narrative as well. I always enjoyed Mark’s comments as well when at Newsday on who finished out well. Always great info on exacta wagers. Wish Mark would visit back if only for the T.C. Prep’s. Please tell him he is still missed.

  6. NO ONE wants to hear my sad stories, McD. To the contrary, there’s much schadenfreude in the world when it comes to the plight of the public handicapper; some would rather root against. Then that’s life, yes?

    Anyway, I must curse my bad fortune yesterday. As stated earlier, to be split in an exacta box of the top choice to two longshot runners but to be split another price shot–an implausible stretch, though not impossible–stung. But perhaps I buried the lead.

    Played a series of Pick 4s and the woeful performances by Hoosier Philly and Chop Chop in the Rachel costs us dearly. But the fault was mine.

    We talked about the horse with “the best record in this matchup belongs to5-Pretty Mischievous,” recommending a cold exacta 2-5 exacta, this “wise guy” outsmarted himself.

    One of our tenets is to not use a third choice in the top slot when there are TWO horses to beat… he said following a missed $1,400 Pick 4 later.

    Humbling game, indeed.

    I cut and pasted your comment in an email to Mark but, begging your pardon, we won’t promise you a rose garden.

  7. Just think of all the trouble you might get into with an extra $1,400 in your pockets, lol. Turning the page John, but know there are many of us who are not rooting against you. Speaking of dumb and dumber, I canceled a $5 WIn ticket on Empire just to reach for the exacta, when I really didn’t like VF at 2-1 from Post 13. Such is racing. As for the filly stumbling out of the gate, that simply reinforces the concept of why “they still have to run the race”. At the end of the day, still glad we are able to play is all. Just think of the poor people caught up in the insanity of war each day.

  8. Ditto on all counts McD, and you probably don’t need me to tell you this but canceling a straight bet on a horse–that was 17-1 going into the gate but 13-1 coming out–is not good policy whatever the circumstances. I got caught many times doing the same. Now I don’t even cancel “wrong horse” bets figuring karma was against me–or with me–right from the jump…

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