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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing

UPDATED DIARY FINAL: VANDERBILT AND JIM DANDY INSTANT GRADED STAKES DOUBLE

HALLANDALE BEACH, FL, July 29, 2022 — Saturday’s Grade 2 Jim Dandy Stakes is about two things; motivation and intent. Since this will be yet another rider’s race, given a field of five, let’s cover them all.

Like all serious handicappers, we rely on both art and science. The art is visual observation, the science, provided public analysts courtesy of Thoro-Graph, are performance figures that embellishes a read into condition and development.

Before starting, an admission that I miss my good friend Cary Fotias more with each passing day, for his irascible charm, wit, and genius in defining condition through performance figures viewed through a prism of pace. I miss not seeing horses develop on paper before my very eyes.

A look at the quintessential Travers prep for three year olds at nine furlongs in advance of the 10-furlong Derby of Midsummer, listed in post order with early line odds:

1-WESTERN RIVER (20-1): Actually owns one of the best patterns in the race, the progression beginning when Lasix was added to the blinkers in which he broke maiden on APR 2 at Oaklawn Park. Indeed, the figure he earned winning his last at Churchill Downs matches many of Epicenter’s best.

But we do not trust figures earned at 12 furlongs when those runners are asked to turn-back to nine. Rodolphe Brisset has heated up, and Ricardo Santana needs no introduction to Saratoga, but we must pass on company lines.

2-EPICENTER (3-2): There are two things at work here. First, Steve Asmussen knows that his best chance to regain divisional leadership would be to win the Grade 1 run in Saratoga on Saturday, AUG 27. And with that comes the redemption he wants for the long-time pre-Derby divisional leader. He wants a confident colt going into Travers.

Asmussen wants to win this, too. No one looks askance at $600,000 pots, whatever the grade, but not at the expense of having him spot on for the Travers. But he is smarting; shocked he could lost the Derby after holding Zandon at bay, then followed by the nightmare in Baltimore.

Asmussen’s first instinct was to point a finger at the rider’s choice of tactics. But what was Joel Rosario supposed to do after getting sawed and squeezed before reaching the lower first turn, forcing to to steady his mount?

Save ground, that’s what, which is exactly what Rosario did. And his trip didn’t get much easier after that, especially after Early Voting separated himself from the group in midstretch. Both horse, trainer and, to some extent, the rider, need a W. All have something to prove.

Epicenter never has taken a back step on figures, Then neither has he shown significant development since his breakthrough performance on FEB 19 in New Orleans. All workout reports are first rate.

3-TAWNY PORT (8-1): Stablemate Cyberknife punched his Travers ticket at the Jersey Shore last weekend, but we’re sure Brad Cox wouldn’t mind a little backup plan.

This colt does not have an elite profile, but he comes pretty damn close. He had a horror trip in the Derby and was beaten only 4-1/4 lengths. He returned to win the Ohio Derby next out, and here he is at the Spa. His figures are forward and gets two to four pounds from the three favorites. Gets Irad back but no diuretics.

4-EARLY VOTING (8-5) To us, he’s the now horse despite a 10-week freshening. He owns the fastest race on the page, so the recovery time is good, and he’s working like a true professional. If we want to second-guess, we’ll note that he’s done an awful lot of developing from his DEC 18 debut.

But the Preakness winner is too fast, too tactical and can develop further. Ability and heart is what makes a race horse. Early Voting will be a pace presence; setting or pressing it. A neck separates him from an undefeated four-race career slate.

5-ZANDON (2-1): Trainers would never reveal for public consumption his choice of the better horse for a particular target. My guess is that, in his heart of hearts, Chad Brown believes that Zendon is his best chance to win his first Travers.

Doubtlessly, Saratoga’s co-leading trainer surely is motivated to win the Jim Dandy. But the true intent is to win his first Travers; the Mechanicville native thinks it’s his birthright.

G2 JIM DANDY STAKES Saturday Race 9

FAVORITE: Epicenter

EARLY LINE VALUE: None

STRAIGHT WAGER and EXOTICA: Epicenter to win at 3-2 or greater. Exacta Box: Epicenter and Early Voting, 2-4

CURLIN STAKES FRIDAY Race 7

The Skinny: Technically, this is a a race for “three-year-olds which have never won a graded sweepstakes at a mile or over in 2022.” It just as easily could have read for three-year-olds prepping for the Travers–or better suited to the shorter G1 Pennsylvania Derby–or sophomores with something to prove that they belong among the three-year-old elites. It happens to be a good betting race.

The 2-1 favorite is Creative MINISTER, and rightfully so. Prior to his one-paced fifth in the Belmont, he was a very good third in the Preakness following an impressive allowance score in Louisville. The second choice Artorius (7-2) comes off a strong maiden allowances at Belmont, with Team Chad-Irad.

Our preference is Be Better (4-1), who had a run over the track as a 2-year-old, reappeared at Monmouth this summer going long and is 2-for-2, drawing off with lengthening strides last month. This one goes for Team Todd-Saez and has the look of a horse specifically pointed here. We’ll pay to find out.

DESERVING FAVORITE: Creative Minister

EARLY-LINE VALUE: Golden Glider (8-1)

STRAIGHT WAGER and EXOTICA: Betting Be Better to win at 3-1 of greater. Exacta Box Creative Minister and Better, 7-8. Trifecta Wheel 7 // 8 // 2-5-9. Trifecta Wheel 7 // 2-5-9 //8.

G1 ALFRED G VANDERBILT Saturday Race 8

The Skinny: It’s champion Jackie’s Warrior (1-5) vs. the world. Well, four rivals, anyway. He’s 4-for-4 lifetime at the Spa and 3-for-4 at the trip. Full stop.

Ny Traffic (6-1) has gotten drilled every time he’s tried graded company. We don’t know if it will be any different today but he’s worth considering. Saffie Joseph Jr. has been doing well with his fresh runners and here’s another, training will purpose, with good spacing, and he picks up Irad. It’s horse racing, and one never knows…

MOST PROBABLE WINNER: Jackie’s Warrior

EARLY-LINE VALUE: Ny Traffic (6-1)

STRAIGHT WAGER and EXOTICA: Ny Traffic to win at 5-1 or greater. Exacta Box: 3-4. Instant Double Jackie’s Warrior with Epicenter, 4-2. Trifecta Wheel: 4 // 3 // 2-5. Trifecta Wheel 4 // 2-5 // 3.

When more than one horse is listed in a category, preferences are listed in order. Exotic wagering level suggested are at minimums available; straight wagers at $2 units.

this is a live column that will be updated through the weekend

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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.

17 Responses

  1. The Jim Dandy (Yawn. Where’s the money to be won, Alice?). Five entrants, wow! Two trained by Chad Brown, one by Asmussen, and one by Cox. The other entrant appears to be a filler and the only value in the race; the owner will receive a minimum of $24,000 for finishing last. The monopoly of the top three trainers, year-after-year, continues full throttle! So, what’s the race good for for the blokes betting the race? I guess it could be used in a double, or a pick three. What else?

    I read above that Mr. Pricci is betting on the race if the blue blood is 3-2 or more; and boxing an exacta. What serious horse player chases a 3-2 plodder? Well, his $2 win ticket is subject to takeout of 16% or 32 cents; his exacta box takeout is 74 cents; and, one of the tickets in the box is an automatic loser. Thus, he is wagering $6 and has lost $3.06 before the gates for the race even open (what think, Alice?)!

  2. To repeat, tedious!

    I don’t owe you, or anyone for that matter, an apology for my approach. You see, if you knew what you were talking about, if you really KNEW the facts, you would know that I make straight wagers in proportion to the exotics. Here’s some 411, just for you.

    As an illustration, let’s say I was making a wager that required $5 worth of exotic bets; the straight wager would be $10, thus ensuring a profit if the top selection won. If you didn’t know that, then you didn’t know the facts. Without facts, your suppositions are lies.

    Secondly, you can verify the next statement by any means you like:

    I have been with WNYT-TV Ch, 13, an NBC owned and operated Albany affiliate, as their racing analyst for–I don’t know– 20 years? I select the feature race of the day, at the Saratoga meet only, for their 11 pm “Big Board Sports” segment with sports anchor Rodger Wyland.

    Thus far in 2022, we have made 11 selections through Thursday’s races. The slate reads (11) 4-3-3 across the board. The four winners paid $18.40, 3.70, 8.10 and 3.90. $22 wagered for a $34.10 return. The odds on the three place horses were, 1-1, 6-1 and 6-1.

    My point is you know nothing about facts relating to my work. I’m a public handicapper, since 1977.

    Don’t believe since 2007, HRI launch, you’ve ever made a selection, only criticisms of my approach.

    Get me, Alice?

    If you can’t be honest and balanced, then go troll someplace else; you’re boring my audience.

    Oh, and if you decide to boycott HRI, possibly for the third or fourth time, keep that promise and stay gone. I need people to interact with, racing fans who criticize constructively, something that helps all players.

    We’re a one-man shop and peddle as fast as we can. I don’t have time to waste, to engage with some bitter old horseplayer with nothing but time and Fosters on his hands.

    Enough!

    1. John, here’s my 2 cents (maybe even a quarter) on the matter. I believe that about 14 years of frustration with WMC came rolling through in your latest message and you needlessly boiled over. Here’s why:

      No one in the HRI community – at certainly not you – has to justify how they play the races to any of us. We play “our” way and the money won or lost is our property. On selected days, we can do nothing wrong. At other times, we can get the sharpest betting favorite beat just by siding with it. Lose 100 straight wagers and you might want to ask for some help or choose to play differently but that’s your call.

      WMC, in my opinion, brings a lot to the table. He’s thoughtful, has a world of experience in the game, picks his spots, plays his way, seems to win his fair share and should be allowed to express his opinion here, just like everyone else. You just need to let some of his repeat comments roll of your back – shrug them off – with the understanding that you’re here to Win and will do it your way. Let him criticize, then choose your spots to mount a counterattack or simply stay quiet.

      Just look at all the different personalities that occupy these pages from time to time – like Dan M, Denny, Indulto, JGR, McD, Top Turf Teddy (surely do miss his contributions), Vin O and so many others. Every one brings his style to the conversation. There’s no wrong way to play the game if you consistently make money by doing so.

      As for the 3-2 comment on Epicenter made by WMC, you beat the pari-mutuel system by cashing in on value. Offer me a price like 3-2 on Jackie’s Warrior tomorrow (which you won’t see) and watch me bet and happily collect.

      May your trip to Saratoga, beginning next week, be wonderful and profitable and leave you with many great memories !!!

      1. Just like when news channels repeat and repeat “breaking news,” their assumption is that not every viewer has seen the item, of the feature, whatever it may be.

        Since we’ve gone to our new Saturday format, handicapping readership has increased some. So any newbies should be brought up to speed and not be misled; allowing them to evaluate for themselves. If you don’t like a show, simply change the channel.

        We’re not the only site that takes this view. In fact, some have cut their comment sections entirely. The reason we don’t is because this is an open forum for an exchange of ideas among horseplayers and industry stakeholders, whoever may be interested.

        As Richard Migliore reminds us, Father Time is undefeated. At 78, I, too, am in the fourth quarter, and with that comes some privileges: When one gets fed up with the same old, non-productive drumbeat, it’s time to call it out, which is exactly what I did.

        Overreaction? Maybe. But the time spent here, virtually 24/7/365, is a labor of love, offered for free, my way of giving back to a game that has given me a life. But that doesn’t mean I will take insults from readers who sometimes benefit, sometimes not, sometimes enjoys, for whatever reason.

        If one doesn’t appreciate the effort, they should change the channel. As previously stated, enough is enough!

        1. I get it. The frustration factor with facing the same commentary again and again was just too much to contain. But WMC often makes great sense with some of his thoughts. The five horse fields are difficult to win any real money, claiming races are often easier to handicap than stakes races, some of these 2nd tier tracks offer smart, profitable plays, the last horse in a stakes race sometimes needlessly wins a hefty piece of the purse money, etc. are all quality comments. Yes, this game over the last decade or so has seen a dramatic rise in virtually impossible-to-hit wagers with Pick 4’s, Pick 5’s and Pick 6’s (especially the jackpot types that forces you to be the sole winner to collect). Great way to blow through your betting bankroll in short time without getting a whiff of victory. The tracks love it. They collect your cash in a hurry – greatly aiding total handle – at the expense of tapping out a chunk the players. You’ve railed against some of these lottery-type wagers from time to time and stress churn. Your thoughts and those of WMC are not always mutually exclusive. WMC stays true to the course. He’s not chasing multiple wagers by going 6 deep anywhere, he has the ability to skip tracks and races while many of us will play anything (not me) that moves. In fact, there’s room for everyone’s ideas in here. Take what you like, discard the rest. John, just for the heck of it, find a winner in any non-stakes race run at Finger Lakes or Parx and let us know about it every so often. Be inclusive to as many different wagering approaches as possible and watch as the comments section shows a great depth of winning strategies. Just trying to be constructive here, not destructive.

  3. Incredible racing at Saratoga so far. Enjoyable even while losing.

    SAR 2022: 11 for 31, minus $167, minus 27% ROI

    Wagers for SAR 29JUL2022 (Day 12)

    Race 1 – $20 to WIN on SIDEKICK
    Race 1 – $20 to SHOW on GATE RUNNER
    Race 7 – $20 to WIN on BE BETTER

  4. Thinking about that very thing this morning. I saw that through Thursday, favorites were winning at 30%, a little lower than average. But it’s not because the “Graveyard” is claiming many victims.

    It is, IMO, the result of these races being so competitive, on paper, and on the racetrack. I am enjoying it too, Dan, which speaks to your point.

    A safe and speedy journey to all your steeds this afternoon…

  5. He owns the time factor John, but the Foster’s itself, well he can actually only rent the beer. The take out, or give back, lol, is 100% there. Sound without rebound.

    If the odds become too cost prohibitive in any race John, l will still simply enjoy watching if only as a fan of the sport. Oftentimes
    it even makes sense to take a position against a short price. Good for you standing up for yourself John. Long time overdue. Have a great time at the SPA.

  6. Mr. Pricci: Quite a tangent. Can you recall once, ever, when I have gotten personal with you? I refuse to insult anyone, period! Your writing ‘bitter old horse player with nothing but time on his hands’ is yet another personal attack by you. BTY, you should have written ‘with nothing but time on his hands and a Foster’s in hand’. You also write ‘without facts, your suppositions are lies’. Well, a supposition is a hypothesis which is not a lie. I write only facts, which also are not lies. Finally, you write ‘ if you knew what you were talking about . . . .’ .Whew! I’m really getting hammered – all from commenting on ONE race with five entrants which any serious horse player will avoid, yet you select a race with no value and actually bet the race. It is not unreasonable to think that you, being an astute horse player for years, would offer your readers a more interesting race with potential value, as I believe the objective for horse players is to make money using your sage advice.

    Unfortunate that the readers of HRI are unaware that claiming races are easier to handicap, and that racetracks like Parx, Laurel, Delaware, and Monmouth offer great opportunities to cash a ticket. But, ya’ll are stuck with stake races predominantly involving so-called ‘super trainers Pletcher, Brown, and Asmussen year round.

    Yea, I’ll be eighty-five in a couple of months , all my horse player friends are gone, and the grim reaper is no doubt gaining strides on me (am following Satchel Paige’s advice), so maybe I will stop commenting (do I hear applause).

    1. Never believed that claiming races are generally easier to handicap,for many reasons like drop downs,going up,trainers changes,long layoffs, inconsistent lines,etc especially the bottom dwellers. Usually,i skip those races just like those cheap maidens. As the famous handicapper, Russ Harris used to comment: Is that horse sound? Only his Vet knows for sure ! ” ..Maybe !

    1. I was residing in Delaware when they forced the Casino-track bundle to the taxpayers,,or ” more than a 1000 jobs would be lost” . Just one of the several,if not too many tracks,that are alive,or comatose,thanks to the One arm bandit and other table games.Add Yonkers to that, a ridiculous $ 800 million investment by MGM that is still bleeding money as the competition keeps on growing close to the Big ( rotten) Apple racing and casinos in Elmont and Islandia,LI. Delaware is not an attractive track..it always looks like it is too old,too heavy even if I no longer stop by it.It ain’t worth it. Ditto for the old Keystone track.One thing about these short fields with odds on favorites is the fact that Encourages bettors to play vertical games of chance.I just watch these races and hope that a tertiary horse gets there,in the exacta,my main interest.

  7. Last 8 wagers are 0 for 8. I still have a smile on my face. I’m alive, healthy and watching racing from Saratoga. Proper perspective is necessary during a cold streak.

    An indication of how competitive 2022 has been so far: After 12 racing days, there are 10 jockeys with at least 10 mounts who have a Win % of 10% or greater. In 2021 after 12 racing days, that number was 8 jockeys.

    SAR 2022: 11 for 34, minus $227, minus 33% ROI

    Wagers for SAR 30JUL2022 (Day 13)

    Race 2 – $20 to SHOW on SON OF A BIRCH
    Race 5 – $20 to SHOW on MASKED MARAUDER
    Race 11 – $20 to SHOW on BARLEEWON

  8. One day maybe Tabasco Cat from Eastport Long Island might make a return visit to HRI. Anyone have a way of reaching out to him? He always shared a very enjoyable commentary on the HRI website.

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