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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


HALLANDALE BEACH, FL, April 27, 2023 – Churchill Downs opens Saturday night which can only mean one thing: Derby Minus Seven Days.

Cruelly, for those principals associated with Wild On Ice, and for all of racing’s fans, anticipation was blunted upon learning that Wild On Ice, who sustained an injury to his left hind leg while pulling up after a workout, was beyond saving and was euthanized.

Santa Anita Derby show finisher Skinner drew into the race from the Derby also-eligible list.

The only bit of good news was, as of this posting, the long range weather forecast shifted from 50% chance of rain on Oaks day to sunshine with partly sunny skies for Derby Saturday. Here’s hoping…

This weekend’s Tote Busters© betting grids and value plays will include the conclusion of Keeneland Spring, the opener from Churchill, the Memories of Silver at Aqueduct.

Further, as a token of support and props to management, handicapping analysis of Sunday’s Late Pick 3 from Hawthorne where track officials cut parimutuel takeout on straight wagers from 17.5 percent to 12 percent.

Who could have guessed there still are a few track managers, when faced with dire straits, rewarded their bettors and by extension helped themselves? Good on them for having the courage of their convictions and for doing the right thing.

Per Bill Finley’s reporting in Thoroughbred Daily News, the takeout reduction has led to handle of over $2-million on four occasions over 13 race cards since the rake was lowered from an industry standard to an industry low.

Not only did Hawthorne management cut the takeout but also gambled on the theory that less can mean more. Rather than complete with the big boys on Saturday, Hawthorne currently has gone with a two-day race week, closed Saturdays but open for live racing on Sunday.

Resultantly, per-race handle has ridden by nearly 34%. While revenues earned from the straight pools were reduced due to the lower takeout, increased churn fueled handle increases in exactas, trifectas, Pick 3’s and Pick 4’s pools.

As we’ve stated here ad nauseum, lowering takeout results in a universal rebate for everyone.

KEENELAND RACE COURSE                                                  Friday

G3 BEWITCH STAKES                                                   Race 8        

The Skinny: While her work tab appears on the light side for her season’s debut, in Bill Mott we trust: 4-War Like Goddess (3-5) has too much talent and too much class for her rivals here and is taken to win this Grade 3 for the third consecutive year.

We’ll use two of her five rivals in key-box exacta savers: 2-Temple City Terror (9-2) who is 3-for-5 at the trip for white hot Brendan Walsh, and who needed her recent run in Tampa’s G3 Hillsborough, and 5-Personal Best (3-1), for streaking Shug McGaughey and making her third straight run at 12 furlongs, in which she wo and placed.



EXOTICA: Exacta key-box 4 // 2-5.  Exacta Key: 4 // 2-5. Trifecta Key: 4 // 2-5 // 2-5.


The Skinny: Fittingly, the curtain comes down in Lexington with a full-field allowances for three-year-olds on the turf. And to no one’s surprise, 3-Turf King (2-1), from the Chad Brown barn with leading rider Tyler G will take a lot of beating. He showed good speed on Tapeta track on debut and kicked strongly when wheeled into the clear at head-stretch. Turf King exits a race so key it’s produced four next-out winners from five starters. Chad, with a profitable 23% slate first-turf slate, coupled with three sharp local blowouts, he’s seems primed for a repeat.

But must say two others are more intriguing: 6-Laver (12-1) was last seen in Litigate’s G3 Sam F Davis in which he was up against it throughout. Taken out of position entering the first turn, he never recovered but did attempt a middle move entering the far on on the fence but got caught in traffic, finishing with interest while never a threat. Gets first-Lasix, a Rusty Arnold positive angle, and switches to turf ace James Graham. 11-Wico (7-2) showed class to break maiden, winning head-to-head stretch-long battle in Turfway synth finale. Now returning to turf where he raced competitive at inappropriate sprint distances at 2. He moved forward adding Lasix for his 3-year-old debut going two turns, something his pedigree begged for. Now consider that leading trainer Wesley Ward is a 32% profitable in LAY-2 scenarios and is 25% efficient with second-Lasix runners with Johnny V. on the re-ride and the finale doubtlessly will be entertaining


WIN-VALUE PLAY: Betting Laver to win at 10-1 or greater

Exacta Box: 3-6-11. Superfecta Wheel 3.6.11 // 3.6.11 // // Superfecta Wheel: 3.6.11 // // 3.6.11 //



The Skinny: What to do when two Horses to Watch collide? The kneejerk response is better the longer price, generally the proper response. But what if you don’t know which of the Chad Brown maiden-breakers they will favor: 7-Royalty Interest (3-1) or 2-Lady Beth (7-2)? Brown gives the call to Flavien Prat, in town to ride the returning Zandon later on the card.

However, the crowd very likely will side with Royalty Interest since she won on turf, as opposed to Lady Beth’s synth score–lest we forget, however, that Brown is a profitable 22% first-time turf. Who knows, the crowd could go for yet another maiden-debut breaker, Christophe Clement’s 5-Queen Picasso (3-1), virtually the equal of Royalty Interest on the Thoro-Graph scale.


WIN-VALUE PLAY: Lady Beth at 3-1 or greater

EXOTICA: Exacta Box 2-7. Exacta: 2-7 cold. Trifecta Wheel 2.7 // 2.5.7 // 2.5.7.


The Skinny: Whatever your preference, classifying, speed figures, visuals, you will find an easy time finding the best filly in the group, 1-Frank’s Rockette (3-5), as they say, checks all boxes. She won her Gulfstream finale, the G3 Hurricane Birdie, with complete authority and is a heavy favorite to win her 7th race from 16 at this trip and improved her CD record to 3-for-5.

The main danger comes from 5-Pretty Birdie (7) and 6-Coppelia (3-1). Given her recency, the edge goes to Pretty Birdie as the best alternative–if you have an aversion to odds-on favorites.


WIN-VALUE POTENTIAL: Pretty Birdie at 7-2 or greater.

EXOTICA: Exacta: 1-5 cold. Exacta Box: 1-5. Exacta and Trifecta Wheel: 1 // 5-6–and 1 // 5.6 // 5.6


NX1/Optional Race 6

The Skinny: Following three straight place finishes, taking 5-Comiskey Park (9-5) to succeed in this group. Gelded 6-year-old has run his best races here by any measure, exits a key race producing two next-out winners, trainer Armando Hernandez is 26% and profitable in LAY-3 scenarios and his recent blowout was 7th fastest of 52 peers the week of APR 23. 7-Lake Mills (4-1) woke up in a big way when third last out and 4-Twisting Roses (5-1) will love getting back to her favorite venue (12) 7-2-1.


VALUE-WIN POTENTIAL: Twirling Roses at 5-1 or greater

EXOTICA: Exacta Key Box: 5 // 4.7 Exacta Wheel: 5 // 4.7. Trifecta Wheel: 5 // 4.7

NX2/Optional Race 7

MOST PROBABLE WINNER: 7-Wildwood Sicilian (5-2) was very sharp in return

WIN-VALUE POTENTIAL: 6-W W Candy (3-1) drops a notch; trainer 38% profitable in LAY-2 scenario

EXOTICA: Exacta Box 6-7. Cold Exacta 7-6. Trifecta Key: 7 // 1.4.6

NX1 Optional Race 8

MOST PROBABLE WINNER: 8-Wildwood’s Warrior (3-1) very clever claim and placement within a week

WIN-VALUE POTENTIAL: Wildwood’s Warrior to win, if 8-5 or greater is available

EXOTICA: Exacta Key Box: 8 // 6.9. Exacta Wheel: 8 // 6.9. Trifecta Key: 8 // 6.9 // 6.9

Per usual, suggested exotics are at minimums available; straight plays in $2 units

this is a live column, updates throughout the weekend

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