Kentucky Downs Handicapping Contest

Handicapping Contest for NHC Includes Old Friends Stakes at Kentucky Downs

The National Handicapping Championship (NHC) is the richest and most prestigious handicapping tournament in the world and the culmination of a series of more than 150 sanctioned NHC Tour event qualifiers held throughout the year. On September 8 and 10, the National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) and Kentucky Downs are teaming up to give horseplayers a chance to win their way into the National Handicapping Championship.

TNHC 2017hursday is Old Friends Day at Kentucky Downs, and BetAmerica is staging an online contest utilizing only races from Kentucky Downs. Contest players will compete online in races on the turf at Kentucky Downs. That includes the $150,000 Old Friends Stakes in Race 9. The buy-in for the contest is $55, with a maximum of three entries per person and a limit of 400 overall entries.

The contest utilizes a $2 win and place wager on a horse in each race. The top two finishers will receive a seat, along with airfare and hotel, to the NHC at Treasure Island in Las Vegas.

“This is the ultimate win-win-win,” said C.J. Johnsen, Kentucky Downs’s live-racing director and a past NHC qualifier. “Our mantra is that Kentucky Downs is the horseplayer’s race Track, and this is a contest for a cause.”

Profits from the contest will go to Old Friends, the non-profit thoroughbred retirement center that specializes in taking horses after their racing or breeding careers are over while providing fans an up-close look at some of the sport’s most accomplished horses. Old Friends, founded by longtime horseplayer and former Boston Globe film critic Michael Blowen, is headquartered in Georgetown, Ky., with satellite facilities at Kentucky Downs itself and in New York.

“Once they pay out the prize money, what’s left over we get,” Blowen said. “As a lifelong handicapper, I think it’s a great idea. Things at Kentucky Downs couldn’t get going better. I was totally surprised, absolutely flabbergasted — and of course very, very grateful.”

Kentucky Downs, with its full fields and low takeout, offers handicappers the best overall value in American racing.

On Saturday, September 10 players will have an opportunity to play in an on-site event at Kentucky Downs during its ninth annual Kentucky Downs Turf Handicapping Challenge. The entry fee is $200 (maximum two entries), with $100 going to the player’s bankroll and the rest to the prize pool. Contestants keep their remaining bankroll at the tournament’s conclusion. The top three also will receive a $400 travel voucher and hotel accommodations.

Kentucky Downs will add a fourth NHC berth if there are at least 160 entries. Players wager $5 each to win and place on one horse in all of the 10 Kentucky Downs races that day. There are no caps on payouts.

“We like giving our players who don’t win one of the top prizes at least a chance to go home with some money,” said Johnsen, “We choose not to have a cap because with our field sizes averaging more than 10 horses per race and 16-percent takeout on straight wagers, some very good horses are going to pay terrific prices. The contest player who can ferret out winners at more than 20-1 odds should be rewarded, not penalized.”

Practical Joke Wins Hopeful Stakes in Photo Finish

In a photo finish, 2-1 Hopeful Stakes (gr. I) second-choice favorite Practical Joke edged out Royal Copy and Pretty Boy Flash for the win. The winning time in the seven-furlong race was 1:23.39. Practical_Joke

Classic Empire was the 8-5 favorite, but he wheeled out coming out of the gates, unseating jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. and was immediately vanned off the track. Once that happened, it was apparent Practical Joke was the horse to beat. But longshots Royal Copy (15-1) and Pretty Boy Flash (25-1) didn’t make it easy. They broke out early and swapped leads at the start. Their back-and-forth took place all the way through the first six furlongs, but Practical Joke was making headway in the middle of the track. He collared them in the final jumps.

“He’s got tactical speed, he can run close to the pace, and he fired when I asked him to run,” said jockey Jose Ortiz. “The pace was pretty slow. I thought about taking the lead as soon as we broke because I knew we were going so slow. But something told me, don’t do it, and the trip worked out perfect.

“He was running the whole way. He gave me a great turn of foot when I got him in the clear but the other two horses were in front and they kept fighting a little bit. As soon as he put a head in front, he kept going.”

Practical Joke is trained by Chad Brown and the win was his 40th at Saratoga. Ortiz notched his 65th win, both taking the lead in their respective categories. For the win, Practical Joke paid $6.20, $3.90, and $3.20. Second-place Royal Copy returned $13.40 and $7.10. Third-place Pretty Boy Flash paid $8.10.

Bernard Baruch Handicap Preview

Bernard Baruch Handicap Precedes Hopeful on Labor Day

A field of 10 will take to the turf in the Grade II, $250,000 Bernard Baruch Handicap on closing day at Saratoga Monday. The holiday stakes turf race for 3-year-olds and up going 1 1/16 miles will be followed by the Grade 1, $350,000 Hopeful Stakes for 2-year-olds.

Ring Weekend is the 5/2 favorite and he endured a tough trip when pinched early as the favorite in the Grade I Fourstardave, finishing sixth and last on August 20. The 5-year-old son of Tapit was second by a nose to Takeover Target in the Grade II Dixie on May 21 at Pimlico. John Velazquez will ride and carry co-high weight of 118 pounds. His trainer, Graham Motion likes his development.

Saratoga Cold Couble“He seems to be coming into form and if he can run back to his Dixie race he should be very competitive.”

War Dancer was pace and position compromised and steadied around the turn last time out before getting room to run and finished third in the Grade III Oceanport at Monmouth. The 6-year-old by War Front will break from the far outside here, but should be able to sit back and make one run on more firm turf. The 8-1 price is attractive and worth inclusion in win and exotic betting.

Jay Gatsby (9/2) was wide most the way but surged late to narrowly miss in the Lure last time out. The 4-year-old gray by Giant’s Causeway gets re-united with Javier Castellano, and with an honestly run race, he should get the proper setup.

“I think he’s a legitimate contender and has to improve, but it looks like he’s been getting there and moving forward little by little,” said trainer James Jerkens.

Takeover Target (3/1) has the top combo of leading rider and trainer Jose Ortiz and Chad Brown. He’s a Grade II winner in the Hall of Fame and was forth in the June 18 Poker Stakes. He scratched from the Fourstardave when the turf turned up firm, but he should make a late move.

Dubai Sky is speedy having won the Spiral Stakes at Turfway Park in March, then was off until July 1 when he returned to the turf to win an optional claimer at Churchill Downs. He could play out as the controlling front-runner with aggressive handling; very playable with Bill Mott training him along with War Dancer.

Take the Stand (ARG) is 5-1 and another Bill Mott trained colt and contender. The Argentine-bred 5-year-old was second by a neck in the Grade III Tampa Bay Stakes followed by a win in the Grade II Muniz Memorial at the Fair Grounds in March. He was off until August when he set the pace in the Arlington Million before faltering, but breezed four furlongs well August 28 and should break out front from the rail.

Your final chance to wager and win at Saratoga is Labor Day, and the Bernard Baruch Handicap is Race 9 with post time at 5:08 pm ET.

Horse Jockey Wgt Trainer M/L
1 Take the Stand (ARG) Edgar S. Prado 117 William I. Mott 5/1
2 Ring Weekend (KY) John R. Velazquez 118 H. Graham Motion 5/2
3 Natchez (KY) Luis Saez 112 D. Wayne Lukas 30/1
4 Dubai Sky (KY) Jose Lezcano 115 William I. Mott 15/1
5 Takeover Target (KY) Jose L. Ortiz 118 Chad C. Brown 3/1
6 Solemn Tribute (ON) Irad Ortiz, Jr. 116 Brian A. Lynch 12/1
7 Farhaan (KY) Junior Alvarado 112 Carlos F. Martin 15/1
8 Jay Gatsby (KY) Javier Castellano 116 James A. Jerkens 9/2
9 Reporting Star (FL) Florent Geroux 116 Elizabeth Voss 20/1
10 War Dancer (KY) Manuel Franco 115 William I. Mott 8/1
Cathryn Sophia 2016 Princess of Sylmar

Cathryn Sophia Back To Winning At Parx

Three-year old filly Cathryn Sophia stormed the Princess of Sylmar Stakes on Saturday to earn her second victory at Parx Racing, and her sixth overall. It wasn’t even a contest as the John Servis trainee took care of the work. Jockey Paco Lopez was just along for the ride as the daughter of Street Boss won by a convincing 6 1/2 lengths.

The 2016 Princess of Sylmar wasn’t expected to be much of a contest. Cathryn Sophia was the 1/9 favorite, and waited patiently to break after Eighth Wonder and Disco Rose helped set a slogging pace on a fast track. The group hit fractions of :24.38, :48.05 and 1:12.56 before the landslide favorite decided to pick up the speed and overtake her rivals down the homestretch.

With the victory, Cathryn Sophia was worth $2.20, $2.10, and $2.10. Disco Rose brought $6.20 and $3.00 while Linda Mimi paid out $2.40 in show. Queen Esther was fourth, followed by a fading Eighth Wonder who outlasted Tenggara in last.

Now with a record of 6-0-2 in eight starts, Cathryn Sophia has turned in to quite the profit generator for owner Cash is King. With over $1.1 million in earnings, the three-year old has more than justified herself as a worthy stakes runner finishing no less than third in any of her starts. She has previously lost to fellow contender Carina Mia at the Acorn, while getting caught by longshot Weep No More at the Ashland where she finished just behind Rachel’s Valentina.

Now, however, everything seems to be back on track and the tune-up represented by the Princess of Sylmar has served its purpose.

Next up for Cathryn Sophia is the Cotillion, a 1 1/16th mile drag race against Songbird who has reasserted herself as the three-year old filly to beat. The long term plan for her seems to be the Breeders’ Cup Distaff, but a lot will depend on how she fares against the undefeated queen of her age class on September 24th.

2016 Del Mar Derby Preview

2016 Del Mar Derby Has Giant Field

This year’s Del Mar Derby has an aburdly large field, and you’ll probably remember some of the big names from the Triple Crown and derby trail. This is the final leg of the Del Mar turf series, and the winners from the first two installments will feature in this one as well. Those are Monster Bea, who won the Oceanside Stakes, and Free Rose, the winner of the La Jolla Handicap.

To be fair, Monster Bea finsihed fourth at the La Jolla which is the most recent of the two races. Other competitors from that race are Lucky Byran (2nd), Moonlight Drive (3rd), Dressed in Hermes (6th), Edaban (7th) and Mr. Roary (8th).

Aracature and Diplodocus were the 5th and 6th horses at the Oceanside and will return for the final leg of this turf series to see if they can improve their status.

Rounding out the field at the Del Mar Derby are Ralis, an eighth placer at the Belmont Derby earlier this summer, and I’malreadythere who fell to 5th at the Sham Stakes. They are more than likely going to enter this race as the longshots.

The three unknown quantities of the Del Mar Derby are Blackjackcat, Curlin Rules and Materialistic who are all coming off of maiden special weights or allowance wins. Curlin Rules feels like the most promising of the options, mostly because of his pedigree (you guessed it!) and is probably worth a fun flier bet to win.

Finally, there are two horses who are worth serious consideration since regaining their confidence at lesser races. Trojan Nation, an outside fan favorite from the derby trail, won a maiden special weight recently and has invigored his stock.

Gold Rush Dancer is another horse to keep tabs on at the Del Mar Derby after winning the Real Good Deal. I would like this three-year old under Vann Belvoir’s guidance a lot more if he wasn’t coming off the rail out of the first post. He’s the best rated competitor in this race outside of Free Rose who will likely grade out as the preference of the oddsmakers in this race.

Any combination of Free Rose, Curlin Rules and Gold Rush Dancer presents as the logical choice and this wild race should be a fitting end to a highly entertaining turf series at Del Mar.

Del Mar Derby – Sunday, September 4th (8:30pm EST)
1 1/8 Miles — 3 Year Olds — $250,000

PP Horse Jockey Wgt Trainer M/L
1 Gold Rush Dancer (CA) Flavien Prat 122 Vann Belvoir
2 Blackjackcat (KY) Mike E. Smith 122 Mark Glatt
3 Mr. Roary (KY) Edwin A. Maldonado 122 George Papaprodromou
4 Moonlight Drive (ITY) Rafael Bejarano 122 Bob Baffert
5 I’malreadythere (FL) Tiago Josue Pereira 122 Jerry Hollendorfer
6 Curlin Rules (KY) Tyler Baze 122 John W. Sadler
7 Arcature (KY) Martin Garcia 122 Simon Callaghan
8 Monster Bea (KY) Gary L. Stevens 122 Peter Miller
9 Dressed in Hermes (KY) Kent J. Desormeaux 122 Janet Armstrong
10 Trojan Nation (KY) Drayden Van Dyke 122 Patrick Gallagher
11 Free Rose (KY) Norberto Arroyo, Jr. 122 Richard Baltas
12 Lucky Bryan (KY) Victor Espinoza 122 John W. Sadler
13 Ralis (CA) Mario Gutierrez 122 Doug F. O’Neill
14 Diplodocus (KY) Jamie Theriot 122 Richard Baltas
15 Ebadan (IRE) Santiago Gonzalez 122 Neil D. Drysdale
16 Materialistic (KY) Ignacio Puglisi 122 Peter Eurton

Can A Long Shot Take Down Frosted in the Woodward?

Bettors Banking on Favorite Frosted in Woodward

Frosted offers no value in Saturday’s Woodward Stakes at Saratoga, but that won’t stop bettors from lining up on the Tapit colt at 3-5 odds. Jockey Joel Rosaria has ridden Frosted since his 2015 win in the Wood Memorial, and a win Saturday would be his seventh win and push his earnings over $4,000,000.

Clearly Frosted looks like he should win the Woodward, which is a softer field than his recent win in the Whitney Stakes over this track August 8. In fact, six of the last eight Woodward winners came out of the Whitney. And Frosted’s victory by better than 14 lengths in the Met Mile in June was a dominating performance. While Frosted did run second behind Triple Crown winner American Pharoah in last year’s Belmont Stakes, recall he finished fifth in the Dubai World Cup this year when California Chrome was best. The runner up in that race was Mubtaahij, who is now the 5-1 choice in the Woodward. His trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, who also trains Frosted, believes Mubtaahij is ready to run a big race.

“I think he has improved since the Suburban,” McLaughlin said of Mubtaahij. “Since being here, he’s been doing really well. Irad feels like he knows him better now after riding him last time, (that he) learned a little something about him, so we’ll see how it goes. We think he’s going to run big.”

If you’re looking for a long shot, consider the trio below and consider in your exacta, trifecta and superfecta wagering.

Samraat (10-1) is a classy New York-bred who ran in both the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes in 2014 but was not healthy last year. He showed in his recent run in the Suburban that he’s back when nearly going wire-to-wire at 11-1 odds before beaten by a neck by Effinex. That was a mile and a quarter, so he may hold up here.

Breaking Lucky (20-1) gets our attention at long odds having finished in the money in his last six races over the past year and is one to include in the exotics. He’s run credibly on dirt in the past, and in his last three at Woodbine he’s run well including winning the Grade III Seagram Cup last out on Polytrack.with a stalk and pounce win at 1 1/16 miles.

Shaman Ghost (12-1) breaks from the rale having finished fifth in the Suburban last out at 3-1. He won the Brooklyn Invitational in June finishing ahead of Samraat that day. He’ll get Lasix for the first time and a new rider in Javier Castellano and is in good at an overlay.

Saratoga Race Course, Saturday, September 03, 2016, Race 10

  • 1 1/8m
  • Dirt
  • $600,000
  • 3 yo’s & up
  • 5:46 PM (local)
PP Horse Jockey Wgt Trainer M/L
1 1Shaman Ghost (ON) Javier Castellano 120 James A. Jerkens 12/1
2 2Breaking Lucky (ON) Luis Contreras 120 Reade Baker 20/1
3 3Frosted (KY) Joel Rosario 124 Kiaran P. McLaughlin 1/2
4 4Bradester (KY) Joe Bravo 122 Eddie Kenneally 6/1
5 5Catholic Cowboy (FL) Luis Saez 118 Nicholas P. Zito 20/1
6 6Samraat (NY) Jose L. Ortiz 118 Richard A. Violette, Jr. 10/1
7 7Tale of Verve (KY) John R. Velazquez 118 Dallas Stewart 30/1
8 8Tapin Mojo (KY) Manuel Franco 118 Naipaul Chatterpaul 50/1
9 9Mubtaahij (IRE) Irad Ortiz, Jr. 118 Kiaran P. McLaughlin 5/1





Equestricon Planned for August 2017

The first ever international horseracing convention and trade show dubbed “Equestricon” will take place in Saratoga Springs, New York in August of 2017, according to event organizers who made the announcement earlier today. It will run from August 13th to the 15th and be held in the Saratoga Springs City Center. Equestricon

Equestricon will bring together horseplayers, stakeholders, and racing fans in what the organizers of the event are saying will be in “an atmosphere of non-stop entertainment and lively discussion”.

“Above all else, we are focused on one thing: the racing fan,” said Equestricon co-founder Dan Tordjman. “Equestricon is committed to creating an extremely fun and unprecedented outlet for any and all racing enthusiasts to engage with the sport like never before.”

Features of the event includes: live music, meet-and-greets with racing starts of past and present, a racing arcade, autograph signings, a fashion showcase, product demonstrations, a social media lounge, and exhibitor booths, just to name a few.

There will also be two-way panel discussions, town halls, and breakout sessions that will touch on a number of topics such as racing photography, social media, handicapping, aftercare, and marketing.

Horse owners and breeders Justin Nicholson and Kathryn Sharp are also involved with the event. “On a grand scale, we’re building the foundation upon which the industry can unite, meet face-to-face with its fans and end-users, and present the sport of racing as a cohesive entertainment industry,” said Sharp. “Long-term, we envision Equestricon becoming the ultimate showcase for–and celebration of–advances in the areas of aftercare, technology, marketing, fan development, and more.”

Final Friday at Saratoga – Two Turf Sprints

Closing Weekend at Saratoga with Picks and Analysis in Friday’s Turf Races

The final weekend of the Saratoga meet concludes Monday, September 5 on Labor Day. Friday’s card is not too enticing, but let’s look at a  pair of 5 ½ furlong turf sprints in the sixth and eighth race.

Friday, September 2

#2 Bellavais (8-1) is a well-bred Tapit colt making his debut in Race No. 6. He’s also a half to Grade I winner Winter Memories. Bellavais is working super strong for trainer James Toner with a solid pattern over the track that includes five furlongs in 59.98 and three furlongs in 36.85 in his final tune-up August 28.  Wide open with full field, consider at 8-1 with Franco aboard.

#7 Black Canary is the favorite at 2-1 and also training super for Mark Casse and is well meant against a mediocre group. Black Canary is by War Front, a top early win sire. In early August he breezed three furlongs in 36.56 and his final tune-up was four furlongs in 48.58.

#9 K J Warrior (4-1) is debuting for trainer Steve Asmussen, but drills have been slow. #3 Take a Stroll (12-1) is a half to turf winner Son of Oahu and should take to the turf quite nicely. The fillies last work was 8/19 going five furlongs in 102.80; the fourth best of 37 that day. #4 Orecchiette (7/2) has slow works but a good combo with trainer Todd Pletcher and rider Javier Castellano. Include. #8 Foreign Affair (8-1) probably better at longer.

Race No. 8 is a $25,000 claimer also at 5 ½ furlongs on the turf. A full field of 12 #3 Goodbye Sorrow (3-1) was a game second last time out and has also strung four races together telling us she’s healthy, and now facing the worst group she’s ever lined up against. She’ll get to the lead at the quarter pole with few late threats. The one to beat. #6 Sunrise Kitty (7-2) is also stringing four races together, and was third behind Goodbye Sorrow last time out and is versatile. She’ll likely sit just off the flank of the top pick throughout, easy to find a win down the lane here. #8 Two Pump (4-1) drops in class and rallied gamely late two back for trainer David Jacobson and now switches surface. She will benefit if the pace heats up.

Check out the scratches and changes for Friday’s races at Saratoga, along with all the entries and post times for today’s races.