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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


HALLANDALE BEACH, FL, September 20, 2023 — And it will be an exceptional day for HRI’s Thoroughbred handicapper, too, who makes an exception and plays the Parx Racing this one day annually in an otherwise personal boycott of venues whose parimutuel takeout rates are excessive.

And we shall take a handicapping look-in at the G2 Gallant Bob, always an interesting and contentious sprint at six furlongs. But first this aside.

One would have expected Gunite, who won the G1 Forego at Saratoga, ending Elite Power’s current win streak at seven, to run in this event.

Rather, Steve Asmussen has chosen the ungraded $300,000 Parx Dirt Mile in the race before the Gallant Bob.

Reading the tea leaves, is Asmussen thinking about taking another crack at the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile with Gunite (2-1)? He finished fourth behind Cody’s Wish in last year’s event.

That leaves the Breeders’ Cup Sprint open to the sensationally fast four-year-old filly Echo Zulu. Very Subtle and Safely Kept beat the boys in two of the first seven renewals. Why not turn back the clock?

There’s no question Gunite has a wide class edge but there’s little question that the Parx Dirt Mile is a bridge race. The question is how wide the chasm.

The Gallant Bob has dawn a field of 10 and it’s wide open on paper. Asmussen saddles early line favorite Ryvit (5-2), at this juncture a nice colt but is no Gunite. Perhaps he need not be to win his first Grade 2.

In all probability, multiple Grade 1-winning Pretty Mischievous (2-1) would nail down the Eclipse title for three-year-old filly without even making the trip out West.

A win in the Cotillon would be her fourth at the 1-1/16 miles trip and fourth consecutive Grade 1 after inheriting the victory in Saratoga’s Test Stakes.

The only filly in her path would be Wet Paint but only if she beat her elders in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff, at this juncture an unlikely scenario.

Pretty Mischievous is coming to the Cotillion the right way but it’s no walkover, as four of her eight rivals have a license upset the divisional leader.

Bob Baffert is shipping Reincarnate (3-1) 3,000 miles in search of his fifth Pennsylvania Derby. The post draw did the Los Alamitos Derby winner no favors as he drew the extreme outside in a field of 11.

Even without the terrible draw, the ante post favorite is highly likely to be Saudi Crown (7-2) who announced his presence when narrowly beaten by Forte at Saratoga.

Beaten a nose in both the G3 Dwyer and the G2 Jim Dandy, the Brad Cox-trained gray looks all dressed up for his Grade 1 debut on Saturday. Florent Geroux rides from post three.



The Skinny: If you’re classifying, Gunite wins this one hands down after winning the G1 Forego at Saratoga last out. He likely will stalk early speedster Mish until Tyler presses the button.

But we’re reticent taking Grade 1 winners in an ungraded event next out, even given a $300,000 purse–not with a million and a Grade 1 title on the line in November at Santa Anita.

The two with the best upset chance are Dr Ardito (7-2) and Nimitz Class. The former won his Spa finale around a turn and a half when the leader gave way late and he’s 2-for-3 on wet tracks.

Nimitz Class (9-2) did all the hard work in the G3 Salvator Mile but was run down in the final sixteenth by the last-run perfect-trip-winning favorite. A boxed exacta looking to beat the choice and an odds-dependent straight bet seems the way to go here.

Straight Value: Dr Ardito, 3-1 or greater


The Skinny: Unlike Gunite, who was a tricky read for us, there’s little doubt Steve Asmussen would love to earn a Grade 2 title with Ryvit.

After rattling off five straight, the barn went for the gusto in Saratoga’s G2 Amsterdam but there was no beat the late speedster New York Thunder.

Following that came a 7-furlong sprint at Charlestown, which is a two-turn event around that bull-ring. Today’s it’s a turnback to a trip at which he’s 4-for-5; 5-2 and Tyler, too.

After that it’s wide open. Gordian Knot (5-1) is 6-for-8 with two wins at the trip and gets a stalking trip from his wide draw. Praetorian Guard (10-1) was getting to him last out and has two wins on wet tracks.

Nautical Star (9-2), a sharp winner over sealed slop, ships north from Florida for Saffie, who’s profitable with his shippers and attracts Irad.

The fuzzy in here is Ninetyprcentmaddie (10-1) who gained conditioning in a pace battle in a two-turn Grade 3 now turns back to six furlongs at which he’s 1-for-1. Paco rides him back.

Straight Value: Ryvit, 2-1 or greater. Price Shot: Ninetyprcentmaddie, 10-1 or greater


The Skinny: Saturday’s Cotillion is Pretty Mischievous’ (2-1) race to lose and, at once, her race to nail down the three-year-old filly Eclipse title with her fourth consecutive Grade 1 score.

Only a possible Breeders’ Cup miracle by Wet Paint arguably could stave that off. She is a deserving favorite, a most probable winner, but is no layover.

Standing in her way is Defining Purpose (4-1). The most important meeting of the two came in the storied Kentucky Oaks. In that 9 furlong classic, Defining Purpose battled on or near a very strong pace throughout and kept trying despite tiring.

To her credit, perfectly positioned Pretty Mischievous took full advantage beneath Tyler Gaffalione who’s won seven times in eight rides on the filly. She’s never been defeated since adding blinkers–even if it appeared that streak would end in midstretch of the Test Stakes where fate intervened.

Since the Oaks, Defining Purpose was freshened briefly, responded with a sharp score in the G3 Indiana Oaks, and was a very game third after chasing the pace throughout the 10 furlong-Alabama in a first rate effort.

On Saturday, she will attempt to win for the fourth time in eight starts at today’s trip. She’s worth a win play at anything nearly her early line odds based on the Ky. Oaks trip, with key-boxed exotics including the favorite and Occult (6-1), a monstress winner of the key-race Monmouth Oaks last out. Lots of intrigue here…

Straight Value: Defining Purpose, 4-1 or greater


The Skinny: So, will Bob “Ship East” Baffert win his fifth Pa Derby? We will say this much, either Reincarnate’s (3-1) improving late in the season, responds much better to Juan Hernandez’ handling, or both.

The colt’s Los Al Derby visually was the best effort of his career. From the extreme outside here, he could fall into a comfortable stalking trip, so post 11 does not have to be disqualifying.

Like Pretty Mischievous, this is Saudi Crown’s (7-2) races to lose and it might take a herculean effort to do so. In his fourth lifetime start, he nearly won the Jim Dandy were it not for the nose of Forte and Irad Ortiz’s aggressiveness. The Always Dreaming colt is (4) 2-2-0 in his career, two noses costing him a perfect slate.

Everything is right for him Saturday. Well posted, tactically fast, and game, the spacing is perfect for his return and he has been working right along–five trials since the Jim Dandy, two of the bullet variety.

A wet surface will not be an issue, perhaps it’s even preferable.

Of the remainder, we find West Coast Cowboy (12-1) the most interesting. He returned for Saffie Joseph this summer a fresh horse, promptly winning a Gulfstream allowances.

His next effort was an even, non-threatening run in the Iowa Derby then returned to run quite well when second following a mid-race duel in the G3 WV Derby. Winning Red Route One finally ran to the early season notices, finishing like a wild horse down the center of the track.

Returning from another brief freshening, the Cowboy has had five works since, including a bullet and near bullet at his summer base in Saratoga. Tyler Connor gets the ride back, and the colt has run well on wet tracks thrice.

Saudi Crown is the key, obviously, hopefully optimizing exotically with his rivals above.

Straight Value: Saudi Crown, 2-1 or greater. Price Shot: West Coast Cowboy, 10-1 or greater.

Optional Allowances Race 14

The Skinny: We’re clueless given the spotty form in this 14-horse sprint lineup. On first pass–and we will finalize only after watching the early card unfold–we left five fillies open. In no particular order, our leans are toward Shero (9-2), Cabra Chica (8-1), Wicked Sight (5-1), Comedy Act (4-1) and Confirmed Genius (15-1).

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15 Responses

  1. Since you’re an Insider and have professionally been involved with handicapping, with the noticeable late $$ right at post time, in just about all kinds of races , when does the jockey- rider know that it is a ” Go” ,as I used to hear at Roosevelt Raceway when I was a teen. Does the ‘ signal’ come before the rider gets on the horse, or is he/she waiting for the odds level ? Have there ever been ‘ late seconds changes’ that you and/ or others have witnessed, that is, not today: the plans have changed .Wonder how much pressure does the rider feel !.. Can’t ever forget the yell of ” He’s going! Carmine is going” , which usually meant that he would go to the front, or close to it… Fascinating stuff !! Some things never change.. as the purses keep on increasing.. Can young jockeys handle that pressure, or it acquired with extensive experience ??

  2. Wow, that’s a whole bunch of fretting that borders on paranoia. Not being insulting here, JG. If you truly feel that way, you should walk away from the game.
    But I never forgot when someone asked me back in the day: “Yeah, but if you were in on it, would you stop listening to the ‘info’?”
    Purses are so high, and entanglements with trainers so strong these days, there is no need for jockeys to cash a bet to survive–at least not at the ‘A’ and ‘B’ tracks.
    “Carmine’s going,” hadn’t heard that in a long time. But it was the same if it were Hughie Bell, Buddy Gilmour, Del Insko, George Sholty, the Popfingers, and all the rest.
    The one instance I can remember was hearing that you knew old Sacher Werner was going if he scored down very fast in the preliminaries–Werner loved the front end, if you recall.
    Indeed, I cut my teeth in harness racing at Roosevelt and Yonkers, where they’d get 20,000 fans on the weekend–pre cable TV. Spent plenty of time in the Prominade Cafe and Empire Terrace. Take care of Louie the Maitre d’ and he took care of you.
    Life, betting, was simpler and more fun. The computer boys have seriously curtailed my action, looking more for extreme longshots in low profile spots. But the bettors love the high profile events, as do I, and find them hard to resist.
    Doesn’t it just seem that those late odds crushers are disproportionally right more than they’re wrong…
    In case you were unaware, there are 25 races from the Delaware Country Fairgrounds today.
    Happy Jug Day!

  3. Yes , spent a couple of yrs at Dover USA Air Force Base and also saw that the Belmont at Aquaduct telecast mentioned it, also, a few minutes ago…. ” Leaving the game” is not my intention since many bets are, more or less “automatic” and they cover a good chunk of my main interest$. Delaware remains a good state for harness but since I overlooked its schedule, not having any PPs. Plus not having access to any money boards or props like DD probable payoffs I would just shoot in the dark, which is what some of us do when picking lottery tickets…. .You got me with Hughie Bell and Sacher Warner! Was that horse like Niatross? I used to call it “The Train”, even if Seatrain was my favorite little horse who tried harder but with less success. I’m surprised that you mentioned those names and skipped others like the Houghtons, Dancers… Anyway thanks for the memories.

  4. Mamma mia! What a coincidence ! I just read on the ” Vault” ,whatever that is/was ,that Seatrain had won the Little Brown Jug in 1975 at about this time of the month/week! Unbelievable! Who knew, or remembered !!??! Yes , I really was rooting x that smallish gelding, not knowing much about him. Hey, it happens in all facets of life !

  5. JG, I didn’t forget those guys. Never got to meet Bill Haughton. My late colleague from Newsday, Paul Moran, loved him and had a ton of stories from the times they spent in Florida. Haughton raced at Pompano during the winter.
    I did get to meet Stanley Dancer. When working for SportsChannel, I went down to his farm in New Egypt, NJ. It was a thrill and Stanley was very gracious with a young reporter seeking an interview.
    BTW, the Delaware County Fairgounds is located in Ohio. Go figure.

    1. Still, the state of Delaware was a good place for harness , with some three horse tracks. Spent a long six months in Sandusky, Ohio, right next to Cedar Point, a place for all kinds of Rollercoaster rides overlooking Lake Erie. Best peaches I ever had… Go figure that one, too ! Looks like a NY-bred weekend at the Big A as people are expecting rainy day(s) which means, in which ever races I’m playing , I will , more than likely , go against most favorites. So, they offer Woodbine @Mohawk,Belmont @ Aqueduct Monmouth @ Meadowlands. Got to throw those geography lesson away! Poor GPS! That Abbott & Costello ‘Who’s on First’ bit comes to mind…..

  6. JG, supposed to rain in Philly, too. Let’s see how it goes; have the early races on which to go to school…

  7. With offerings like today’s it is so easy to skip most ,if not all races, especially on a football Sunday . Wonder if that ‘ magical’ AWT would welcome more horses in these fields as I just wrote down three races ,4-6, with ‘ auto’ bets ,without having to watch the races. This is not the ” Belmont” that we treasure in our memories.. not even close !

  8. I wasn’t playing under any circumstances today except for usual GP play, not after my performance yesterday at Parx.

    Having fun watching the Fish–and I thought they would be flat after two division wins on the road. Wrong again… need a pre-BC freshening…

  9. Big props to Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel, having his QB take a knee, turning the ball over on downs, rather than kick a field goal that would have made the Dolphins the highest scoring team in NFL regular season history: Final score Miami 70, Denver 20.

    In this day and age to show class and respect for the game is, well, the woke thing to do.

  10. Off topic, but I need to share this with my fellow HRI perusers. I received a very clever 75th birthday card from my grandsons Everett (8) and Griffin (4). Their Dad assured me that they had picked the card out on the their own.

    “It’s your birthday PAPA, and as “Scotty The Squirrel” would say….you’re not old as long as you can remember where your nuts are.”

    The McDonald Family humor has indeed been passed to the newest generation.

  11. Yes,indeed,but many coaches,of all levels ,would want the record to reward the players hard work and discpline.Denver’ s problems go beyond a has -been,short QB who,after having signed for lots of $$$, at over 32 yrs old, with a nice looking famous wife, a selfish temper while now coached by a ” name” brand who brags about teaching a tough Defense,it is a Wake Up call for the new billionaire investors.There are no easy switches to turn to and pointing fingers could be their only ,bitter,solution.They’re done !!

    1. I adhere to one football rule on all this: Teams are not as good as they look when they win, or as bad as they look when they lose. We’ll see how Denver does the rest of the way.

      I thought the same thing, a record 73 points to reward the players. Well, they know how well they did, they still got the overalll yeardage record and after the game spoke about “we still need to clean up a few things.”

      This is a well-coached bunch that get it and are unselfish, I watched the entire game and felt badly for the Broncs once the game got out of hand, nothing went right. I was just glad to see that class and sportsmanship still matter!

      1. Could not watch one sided games from hockey to football or UFC.I feel as bad as watching one sided little league baseball games. What do they call it,’Pity Rule’ ? Anyway, cannot feel sorry for millionaires playing sports for only an hour,,!! Yesterday, as i had mentioned, pre bet 3 races, hitting the exactas in all 3,from a miserable $6 to an $58 one and then to a $ 45 with an easy $148 triple. Now,this was without knowing who was going ro run or be scratched ,losing only one horse in that process.”If im lying i’m dying” heard many yrs ago,and with that I Am Moving to a state where i can Legally bet my choices without having to wait any company to be a shell, or Trojan horse for me .Not New York but not in the South, either.

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